Friday, August 31, 2012

Please Welcome Jon Pew

Thank you, Jon, for joining me on my blog so we can learn about you and how you got into writing, and everything or anything else you would like your readers to know about you.  Before we get started, would you like to tell us a little bit about the release of your first book, Transition Man?

It has been an amazing experience to publish this book. I had never previously thought of being an author, so it’s a great deal of fun and fulfillment to have the book out and in print. The release has been enormously successful for me and very gratifying.

How did the idea come to you to write this science fiction piece and decide to make it your first book?

I was actually on a staff duty desk on night watch in Virginia at Ft. Eustis while I was waiting to start my school for my military job. I was on that duty for a month so I had plenty of time to think. I was watching some movies and thought they could use a better script writer or at least an original idea and this one just popped into my head. It was my first attempt at writing anything longer than a few pages so it just sort of became my first book.

Hm, Ft. Eustis was where my son went to for his Class A school for logistics.  It was August 2007 if I remember right.  After his boot camp graduation in SC, I drove him to VA for his school.  Beautiful base. Good thing you had some down time that allowed your mind the time to think and come up with your book.

I have fond memories of it and I enjoyed my downtime a great deal.

When did you first start writing? Or how did you get into writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?

I have always loved entertainment in all its forms. Books, however, had never been something I thought to get involved in. I thought myself better suited to movies and ideas on a grand scale. It wasn’t until I listened to my first audio book, the Hobbit by Tolkien that I was inspired by what can be created on paper and viewed on the screen of our minds. After that I admit I started searching for a unique idea to write about, but it took several years before the idea of Griffin and his adventures came to me.

Do you have your book in print as well as in ebook format?

Yes! And that is probably the best thing my publisher, Kristina Jackson at Little Acorns Publishing (LAP), could have done for me. It has kept my fire lit so I could continue to keep up my excitement for writing. Seeing it in paper format was one of the proudest moments of my life. Next to marrying my beautiful wife and enjoying my fantastic kids, I consider it one of my greatest accomplishments.

Yes, holding your printed book in your hands is a wonderful feeling. I always have one or two in my car because I never know who I will run into who might want one.  You might think about getting some bookmarkers made with the cover and a one-sentence blurb on the front, and the buy links on the back (ereader and print buy links) to hand out to anyone and everyone when reading is brought up in a conversation. I sold one of mine to the postmistress as the post office while picking up some books another author sent to me. Never miss an opportunity to hand one out.

Great advice. I’ll do that.

Would you like to tell us what you have learned about writing your book – the formatting, publishing process, the making of your cover, etc.  Anything you’d like to share with your readers on the process of writing and publishing?  

The process is so much more in depth than I first imagined. You can’t just come up with a great idea; the way it moves and flows out of your mind to the page is draining and tiring. And it, most of the time, won’t leave me alone until I finish the entire scene in my head, which can make for long nights. I was very lucky and had several publishers interested in my book, so as far as formatting and the publishing process I had very little to do with it. I helped with my cover and approved the editing and designs but I have to admit that Kristina did most of that work, with my great editor, Lee Porche, who really put a nice polish on the final product.

As far as anything to share with the readers, I love reading and following authors who love their work. The expression a person can use in writing is different than any other media that I am aware of. Reach for your dreams! I did, and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done!

How can your readers find you?

My facebook author page is I do most of my updating through this page. However, I do have a website,

My publisher has me on her site as well.

I do try and tweet, but I am awful at it. I have to say the best way to find me is on the facebook page. I try to update and be online every day, which will change a little when I deploy, but I am still going to try to get online at least three days a week.

I know you are in the military and soon to be deployed again overseas.  Do you find any time to write while you are perhaps enjoying any down time while deployed?  I was in the US Navy for 7 years and spent a year in Iceland. Since I was in during the cold war, I did not get to see any combat time and I understand you may not have any down time while deployed, depending on what your MOS is.  My son spent a year in Iraq while in the Army in 2010, I think, and because of his MOS and being in Baghdad, he had some down time during the day.  But if you do, the readers might like to know how you cope with the war and what you do during any down time, like writing?

Writing has truly been a gift in the de-stressing sphere for me while deployed. On my first rotation last year, I was able to revise Transition Man a couple of times and get some readers to give me opinions on how to tweak this or that. I probably spent two hours a day just unwinding with my imaginary friends. This next deployment trip, I am in a flight company and won’t have nearly as much time as I did on my last trip to the desert, though I am hoping to still get in as much time as I can. As a writer, many will understand if I don’t get time to write; it’s like something is missing and I find myself looking to fill the gap, that’s about the time I really start looking for my computer.

As for other downtime, I enjoy working out, and spending time reading the scriptures, I am a very spiritual person. I also love spending time skypeing and chatting with friends and relatives back home.  And now I find I am trying to keep up with my new fans and their questions about Griffin and the people in the books.

How long will you be gone this time?  When is your tour of duty up and will you re-enlist at the end of your tour?

Right now the plan is a 9 month tour instead of a year, we’ll see about that. As for now, yes I plan to re-enlist when my contract is up, but that isn’t until 2015 so there is still time.

What are you working on now?  Any book(s) you are working on now you’d like to tell us about and when we can expect to see it published?

I have finished the manuscript for the Griffin Chronicles, Transition man is part one. I haven’t decided on a name yet for part two. So I am revising that and getting it ready for editing. I am also starting my next series called True Immortals, it will be several books. The concept behind the story is the people in the bible that have been told they would live on the earth until the end of days, so they are still here.

The bible, however, doesn’t tell us what they are doing so it’s a pretty awesome blank canvas. The first book will deal with Adam and Eve and Cain and Able. In the first part, I will set up my villain, Cain, and I expect this first book to be out next spring.

Griffin Chronicles part two…we’ll see. Keep an eye out for the release dates with LAP or my site.

When you are back home state-side, what do you do to relax?

I love baseball, hanging out with my kids, going to the lake and watching movies. I don’t suppose I have to say reading a good book. Some of my favorites are any by Cussler or Koontz, or some of the modern authors like Paolini, or JK Rowling.  There are many others, but I am not going to list them all. My other new favorite thing is riding motorcycles! When I get home I am getting a new bike, not sure what yet, but I am sure I’ll blog about it when I do. I also enjoy public speaking and inspiring others. Helping people to feel better and try harder is a real reward for me, if I get to help at all.

How do you believe in writer’s block and if so, do you get it and how do you handle it?

Writers block hasn’t been too bad for me. I’m pretty lucky, most of the ideas for my books are fully formed in my mind before I start. But when it has come along, I usually will read a new book and get inspired by the creativity of someone else. That usually gets me going again.

Do you have a blog?

Yes, but I am a novice with blogging. I am trying to learn and get better though. Give us a look and give me any advice you can. I would really love to have an interesting and engaging blog.

Have you entertained the idea of making a video trailer for your book?

Yes, but I don’t know much about it or who to contact. I leave that kinda stuff to my publisher.

Favorite food?

I love just about anything off the grille at Carabba’s, my favorite restaurant.

I have never been there and now that I am back living in the lower 48 I keep seeing lots of commercials for it.  I will have to try it out when I find one.

Don’t hesitate! Get you some of that food! Its da best!

Favorite color?

Big fan of Green.

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what kind?  Do you have a favorite music overall?

I don’t listen while I write, but I do when I think out scenes before I write them. When I wrote Transition Man, I listened to the City of Angels soundtrack, and watched a lot of Ninja Assassin for the music it had.

I am a fan of all kinds of music, from symphony to heavy metal, some of my favorite artists are Holtz,  Pearl Jam, Guns and Roses, Rascal Flats, Harry Connick Jr, and many more.

What is your favorite movie?

Hard to say, kind of a toss up between Star Wars, LOTR, and the Matrix. You might catch a lot of that in my writing style.

Do you have any author’s who influenced you in your writing?

I enjoy many authors and have incorporated many of their techniques in what I try and do. I really enjoy Tolkien’s description, CS Lewis’s bold references to religion in his stories, the action packed Cussler and the steamy, quick, witty fun of Stuart Woods, and have used them all in my writing. I know many more have influenced me, but can’t cover it all.

Do you have a favorite life saying you live by?

I always tell my kids and anyone I speak to, Play to win. By that I mean be proactive and do all you can to succeed. Don’t play the game unless you are trying to win. You may lose, you may get hurt, but if you play to win, you will never have regrets.

Is there a funny or embarrassing moment you could or would like to share with your readers?

I have many! I am a very clumsy person. If I’m not dropping a plate of food in my lap or stumbling and falling it must be an unusual day.

My wife will love this, on our wedding day we had a luncheon after the ceremony before our reception, and while we were at the front getting embarrassed by our fathers, when I turned to say something to her, I knocked both our drinks right in her lap! Luckily she wasn’t wearing her dress, but pretty bad timing on such an important day.

Please tell us anything else you’d like for your readers to know about you, your book, or just life in general.

In general, I say chase your dreams and live in the present. If someone wants something bad enough, they can get it if they put in the hard work to accomplish the task. Dream big, play big, and go big.

Thanks for the opportunity to be on your blog, I appreciate your interest in me and my books. Best of luck to you and God bless.

You're welcome, Jon and thank you so much for chatting with me today and I wish you much success in your writing career.  Also, thank you so much for your service to our country.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Week 10: The Next Big Thing

Thanks to Vickie Johnstone (Vixie’s Stories) for tagging me for 'The Next Big Thing'!

If you have been tagged to participate, you have to answer 10 questions about your WIP (work in progress) and post on your blog. At the bottom of your post, list your five author volunteers who will answer the same 10 questions on their blog the following Wednesday.

Below, are the answers to my WIP (without a good title - HELP!!!!), and the five volunteers are listed below with links to their blogs. Head over to theirs next Wednesday, August 29th to read all about their answers.

1. What is the working title of your book?
The old one is ‘Love Enternally’ but today, 20 years later, I am not liking that title.  Here are some others I am entertaining:

          Liza’s Pinkerton Man                                                   Liza’s Outlaw Hunter
          Liza and the Cowboy                                                   Liza’s Cowboy Traveler
          Liza’s Outlaw Hunter and Belle Starr.  

Actually, I might have to run a contest to have the readers come up with a title.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I love studying western history, from about 1840s to 1900s. I got interested in it while researching my ancestry and learning that on my father’s father’s mother’s side there was not only one US Deputy Marshall, but two in Oklahoma Territory. One was a Marshall for 20 years in the Choctaw Nation. I like to write, I like to read historical romances with time travelling so I came up with the idea my heroine is an historical romance author researching her ancestors and ends up travelling back in time. She ends up meeting some of her ancestors of the law and as well as some who are outlaws and she must find a way to keep Ross, a man she is falling in love with from finding her most famous ancestor and keep him from killing her. Ross is a lawmen of the west who hunts down famous outlaws of the time. 

3. What genre does your book fall under?
Time Travel Historical Cowboy Romantic Suspense or what I call the TTHCRS.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
          Elizabeth 'Liza' (Starr) Love - Kate Capshaw
          Ross Lambert – A hunky, deep voiced man like Sam Elliott, only younger.
          Janie (Liza’s niece she is raising) – new child actor
          Sara Lambert – new child actor
          Belle Starr (Myra Maybelle Shirley) – myself, lol.  I’m a good shot with a gun.
          Bud Shirley (Belle’s brother who taught her how to shoot) – no idea
          Cole Younger (Belle’s friend she grew up with) – no idea
          Jesse James – no idea

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When Liza Starr Love, an historical romance author, travels back in time with her main characters, she must prevent them from altering the future - and try to save the life of her infamous ancestor:  Belle Starr.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will probably be self-published, unless it draws the attention of an agency or publisher. Then I  might entertain looking at a contract, but it has to be a good one where they do most of the marketing and promoting of the book, like it used to be done back in the 1970s and 1980s. Also, the uploading of the ebook has to be double checked more than once to make sure the formatting did not get changed, all indents, line spacing, chapter headings, etc. are where they are supposed to be and didn't get changed during the upload. 

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Unfortunately, I am not done yet. This book started about 20 years ago and got put on hold when life, marriage, raising kids, divorce, US disaster, unemployment, possible bankruptcy, and general survival got in the way of wanting to write. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I need to do more research, I have no idea. Since reading June Lund Shiplett's two books (see below) back in the early 1980s, I have not seen any other books of this genre, but I wasn't looking either. Probably because I was in the US Navy from 1981 to 1988 and I kind of quit reading romances during that time.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
June Lund Shiplett (RIP) wrote two historical time travel books titled 'Journey to Yesterday' and 'Return to Yesterday'. I fell in love with her writing and where she took me in those two books. I knew, after reading them, that I wanted to write books like this. She was a great writer of this new genre of the time.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
That if I ever get it finished, there might be room for a series of these characters. I hear series are books readers love to read. It would depend on how well this book was received by the readers. I can see Liza pursuing other ancestors back in time with the man she falls in love with in this first book.

Tagged for next week - you're it!

Thank you -

Laurie E. Boris

Delle Jacobs

Rhonda Hopkins

Lisa Vandiver

Carole Foley Bellacera

*** Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) ***

Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them. It's that simple.

Ten interview questions for The Next Big Thing
1. What is the working title of your book?
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Please Welcome Hugh Ashton

Thank you for joining me on my blog today, Hugh, so we can learn about you and how you got into writing, and everything or anything else you would like your readers to know about you.  Before we get started, Hugh, would you like to give us a quick list of all your books available for purchase and where we might find them?

I have three full-length novels available as self-published books:
  • Beneath Gray Skies – an alternative history in which the American Civil War was never fought, and the Confederacy survives as a pariah state into the 1920s.
  • At the Sharpe End – a techno-thriller set in 2008 Tokyo
  • Red Wheels Turning – a prequel to Beneath Gray Skies, set in pre-Revolutionary Russia

At the start of this year, I signed with Inknbeans Press. The original intention was to publish
  • Tales of Old Japanese – 5 short stories about older Japanese people

However, almost as a joke, on January 3 this year (2012), I wrote a Sherlock Holmes pastiche (this is the technical term among Sherlockians for a Holmes story written in the style of the original) – The Odessa Business – Inknbeans picked it up, and asked me to write a couple more shorts. These three became:
  • Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD  - three stories published at the end of January, then followed by:
  • More from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD – another three published a little more than a month later, and then:
  • Secrets from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD – four stories published about June

By the time this chat gets published, they will be joined by
  • The Darlington Substitution – a full-length Holmes novel  

All available from the usual suspects – and I have a Web site at and another at - you can even order signed copies from me!

Your At the Sharpe End sounds like one I might be interested as well as your Red Wheels Turning.  I say the latter because I studied Russian language for six months while in the US Navy.  When I have time from my own writing, I will have to look into your Sherlock Holmes series, they sound interesting, too.

Well, I tend to write about the past, because I live in Japan – we can talk about that a little later – and I am out of touch with the society of the UK or the US. It somehow seems easier for me to research the past than it is for me to write realistically about modern society in the West. So Red Wheels Turning and the Holmes books are naturals. I wish my Russian was better – I envy people who can speak it and read it. I can really only spell things out from the original documents. There’s a lot of material I would like to have available to me for research and background, but I can’t read it.

When did you first start writing? Or how did you get into writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?

I have written fiction for a long time, but I have made my living from writing non-fiction for over quarter of a century. Technical writing, magazine articles, reports, and the like. Writing as a craft, as opposed to an art, gives you control over the tools of your trade – words. Random streams of consciousness and “letting it all out” are not my style at all – I’m a craftsman, not an artist.

When did you publish your first book?

The first novel I published (not the first I wrote) was published in 2008 – written in 2006, if I remember rightly. It spent over a year with an agent trying to sell it – and I then decided to self-publish through Lulu. I had a lot of fun doing that, and I learned a lot from going with Lulu, which I parlayed into experience with Lightning Source. It was written as the result of a slow summer (being self-employed, you get these dry spells from time to time) and I used the time productively, I think. It was either that or surf the Web endlessly and waste my time.

Can we turn that the other way round? Yes, I make ebook versions of my writing available as well as print. I am old-fashioned, and I live in an old-fashioned country where ebooks hardly exist. I own a Kobo, but I prefer paper. It’s cheap enough now to produce a print book. You’re cutting yourself off from a potential audience if you ignore paper. It’s too easy to live in the Facebook/Twitter world and the blogosphere and imagine that the whole world is like you. Remember, even in the largest e-reader market, only about 1/3 of the population owns an e-reader. Also, I think there is a real advantage in producing a paper version – you see the work with new eyes. And no, I don’t think 99c books are a Good Thing. 99c for short stories, maybe, but not for novels.

I sell between two and three times as many ebooks as I do paper copies – don’t know what this says about my readership, but it’s a very different ratio from that of many others.

I totally agree with you about how authors are missing out if they do not put their books to print. There are still a lot of readers out there that prefer paper and can’t afford an ereader device. I sell more in print than I do ebooks and that could be because of where I set it, but don’t really know.

I think it has to do with the genre as well. Holmes readers are a pretty traditional lot, on the whole. Maybe your readers, too, though romance is typically a good market for the ebook readers, I believe. But you learn so much about your writing from the process of getting it ready for print.

How do you feel about the formatting process with print and/or ebook?  Do you do your own and if not, how do you get help for this to be accomplished?

I love typography. I do typesetting myself for my books using Adobe’s InDesign – I’m learning how InDesign works for ebooks as well. Otherwise I use Calibre or the Smashwords Meatgrinder. Microsoft Word is not a suitable tool to use for print design – it’s like knocking in screws with a hammer. Sorry, you’re getting me on one of my hobby horses. Many self-published paper books look self-published, simply because they don’t look or feel right – if a book is worth paying money for, then you as the author/publisher should be prepared to spend some time making it look “right” (whatever that means). I am lucky in that Inknbeans goes along with this philosophy, and we work together to make the books as attractive as possible. We have worked hard to make The Darlington Substitution mimic the look and feel of the original Strand Magazine stories, using slightly oddball fonts and typography (by modern standards) to achieve that goal.

I have always been curious as to how you came about to be living in Japan? That is one country I would love to visit and may have to add it to my bucket list.

I came here in 1988 to write manuals for a major electronics manufacturer at a documentation subcontractor of that company. It was a renewable 2-year contract. I stayed with the company for 6 years, went to work for Japan’s first ISP for a year, putting in UNIX hosts, and then after a couple of false starts went self–employed as a tech writer/journalist/speechwriter, etc. I choose words and put them in order for my living, in other words. Some day, I will be able to put down “author” or “fiction writer” as a profession. Right now, until a noticeable proportion of my income is derived from selling my fiction, that would be pretentious.

Oh, and I have been married to a Japanese lady, Yoshiko, for the past 19 years.

And so it seems you like Japan enough to stay. May I ask you where you moved from; where did you grow up?

I’m British. I was born in Kent, closer to France than to London, in fact, but we moved around a bit inside England (never lived in Wales or Scotland). I took my degree at Cambridge, and I stayed there after I had graduated – it was an exciting time to be around, if you were into computers. All the “home computer” makers were around at that time in “Silicon Fen”, as it was known. How much of all of that has rubbed off on me, I am not sure. I’m much more British than American, anyway, but I am bilingual in a lot of my non-fiction writing.

When I was stationed in Iceland in 1981, I got a chance to go to England. We landed first at Mildenhall Air Force Base, then took a train from Shippea Hill Train Station passing Cambridge and on into London. Seeing Cambridge was a wonderful opportunity, but wished I had more time then to have gotten off the train to take a tour of it; it is such a beautiful, awe-inspiring University. I have to tell you my father was a computer programmer, but he studied computer science in Oklahoma, not Cambridge. 

Do you have any advice for a person wanting to get their book(s) published?

I take it that by “get their book published" you mean something other than self-publishing? In order to attract a publisher, whether it is a smaller, independent publisher such as Inknbeans, or whether you are talking about a more traditional larger publisher, you should make sure that your work is as good as possible. This is not just a matter of running the file through a spell-checker, obviously. It may be that you have told such a good story that an agent or publisher will be prepared to overlook obvious mechanical difficulties such as poor grammar, spelling and so on. The odds are, however, that they will not. After all, if it takes a lot of work to turn the manuscript into a finished book, thereby eating up resources and money, it is unlikely that the manuscript will be selected for publication if there is another manuscript with a story equally as good, requiring far less work to turn it into a viable product.

It is worth reading and understanding the different rules that publishers and agents impose on authors. Some of these may seem arbitrary, and they may well be intended to reduce the height of the slush pile that sits on the desk of every agent and editor. If you have faith in your own work, though, then play by the rules. I've been on both sides of the fence, as a self-published author, as well as a writer writing to deadlines and following imposed editorial standards. You learn by doing. Having articles that you have written come back with a load of red pen scribbled all over them helps you to learn the craft of writing, as opposed to the art of imagination.

I'm not saying that self-publishing should be a last resort–there are many good reasons why you may wish to put your work out by yourself–but do make sure this is not purely an exercise in vanity. In the case of my first book, I was very reluctant to self-publish. In fact, I would never have considered self-publishing had it not been for the fact that a professional literary agent had believed in the book enough to try to sell it to major publishers. The fact that she could not sell it was regarded by both her and me as more a lack of opportunity (working out of Japan, one's options are somewhat limited) than as a fundamental flaw in the book itself. In any event, the book was professionally read by a number of readers who suggested changes and corrections. The first edition that I produced contained far too many typographical errors etc. (at least 20 in a 300 page book, which is far too many!) and I didn't carry out the proofreading stage as I should have done. I learned my lesson with the next two books that I produced.

How can your readers find you?

Simply Google my name. Seriously, I have websites all over the place, some dedicated to a particular title or series, and I have a blog of sorts. I'm a reasonably public figure, as far as the Internet is concerned, anyway.

You sound like me. I started out making websites for my genealogy research, which is still online, but sadly in need of an update. And before I did my own, I used the templates out their other websites offered and I think those earlier sites still exist so if someone googled my name they would find me there as well.

Isn’t that the thing about being a writer? There are just too many writers out there, and you have to make sure that your name turns up as often as possible. Having said that, there are things I write which don’t have my name on, for various reasons – these are news or opinion pieces for the most part.

What do you do to get your books out to readers?  Do you spend a lot of time on promotion and social media?

Far too much time on these things – I use Twitter, and I pump out messages which I like to call “creative spam”. They contain quotes from the books and reviews and links to the Web site. They get retweeted and favorited, so they obviously have some sort of impact on those who read them.

What are you working on now? Any book(s) you are working on now you’d like to tell us about and when we can expect to see it published?

The Sherlock Holmes titles have taken up a lot of my time since the beginning of this year. They have been extremely rewarding and I have enjoyed writing them a lot, but they have taken me away from the historical novel (well, actually it's alternative history) that I was writing and got interrupted by Sherlock. This book is called Gold on the Tracks, and is set in Russia in 1920, immediately following the Bolshevik revolution. Lenin has been assassinated, and Trotsky has outmaneuvered Stalin to take control of the Central Committee. There is a trainload of gold and treasure making its way along the trans-Siberian railway (this is actually real historical fact) and the Bolsheviks, the White Russians, the British, the Japanese, the Americans, and the Confederates (in this alternative universe, the Confederacy has split from the Union without a war) are all squabbling and fighting in the wastes of Siberia and Mongolia in order to get control of this treasure. There is a lot of historical fact mixed with fiction in this book, and I am having enormous fun researching it and writing it.

I would love to read this one too, just because of the Russian history and having studied maps of the country when I studied the language. I look forward to seeing this one so you must keep me posted to its publication date. If you ever need a beta reader, I’d love to volunteer my services. 

I am guessing some time early next year, the way things are going. I intend it to be a decent length – about 150k words or more – but we will see which way the story jumps. It has multiple PoVs, one of which is that of Iosif Vissionarovich Dzhugashvili – better known by a shorter name. I mix real-life and fictional characters freely – alternative history is a lot of fun to write.

What do you do to relax?           

I read and I listen to music. I play music (resonator guitars and lap steel guitars mainly). I also take photographs, but I hardly count myself on a level with many of the professional photographers but I know and work with. I find that photography it is actually good for my writing because it forces me to look at things in more detail than I would otherwise, and possibly more importantly than that, to consider objects against the background. It's quite easy to take an image of an interesting object, but the real skill in making that into a good photograph it is to choose the angle where the interesting object is thrown into relief and stands out. It's the same with writing. If the background is too “busy" and there is too much detail, then whatever you are describing will get lost against it.

I love photography as well, studied it in high school for a couple of years and even worked on the school newspaper, but sadly as life progressed, it was not something I breathed life into or further studied. Now it is more of a hobby, though I am proud to post my pictures.

That basically describes me. I sometimes manage to sell a picture or two to go with a magazine article I write, etc.

How do you handle stress or writers block?

I scream and I panic for a little–a few minutes or so–and then I return to what I was doing. Writer's block is a fairly rare phenomenon as far as I'm concerned. I can typically type one word after another without too much effort–it's not something that afflicts me too often.

Do you have a blog?

Yes I do, but it is very irregular. It's more in the nature of announcements and advertisements and occasionally my thoughts on things.

Do you have a Youtube video trailer for your books? Do you make them or do you have someone else?

I do, and I am not quite sure why. Do they help to sell books? I don't know, but they're fun to make using tools like iMovie and so on. Check out the one for my audiobook version of The Bradfield Push on or for example.

Do you have a favorite character from one of your books?

I've got increasingly fond of Dr Watson as time has gone on and I have explored his character further. He's more than just a brainless sidekick to the super-intelligent Sherlock Holmes. He has many redeeming features and wonderful characteristics of his own, which tend to get overlooked. He is brave, fantastically loyal to his friends and to his ideals. He's not without a sense of humor (though he tends to be rather disconcerted by Holmes' somewhat quirky actions) and he has a gift for telling a story, which even Holmes admits adds to the interest of the cases that he describes.

Favorite food?

I really enjoy good Indian curries. It used to be almost impossible to get real Indian food here in Japan, but now there are a lot of North Indian and Nepali restaurants, and even some South Indian places now (dosa and idli and sambar!). I also love most Japanese food, as long as it‘s dead and does not try to get off the plate under its own power. And real cheese. Again, this is something that was almost impossible to get in Japan and has recently become available, even if it is a little expensive at times.

I've noticed that food & drink often seem to play quite a significant role in my stories. Obviously food is quite important to me in a way that I don't really want to admit!

Oh, yes I love the Indian food and love curries in almost any ethnic food if not overly done with the curry. Food, for some reason, played a part in my first book—I included a recipe for my mother’s chili.

I think it’s a good thing to include. There’s a lot of food in At the Sharpe End, Japanese and Indian – Kenneth Sharpe, like me, enjoys cooking. And Holmes and Watson also enjoy their food – that’s in Arthur Conan Doyle, not just my impression. Indeed, food plays a central role in a few of my stories – the case of James Phillimore in Secrets from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD features professional chefs as protagonists.

Favorite color?

I don't know. Do I have one? Blue?

Favorite movie?

I have to say that I really like the Maltese Falcon. I tend to watch it with the book in my hand. The dialogue is chiefly copied directly from the book. Even though Humphrey Bogart looks nothing like Sam Spade, as described in the book, he manages to portray the character almost perfectly.

Favorite music?

Almost anything, but my modern musical knowledge stops at about 1990. I probably have not heard of and almost certainly not heard any musician or band that you may care to mention since then. I'm not too keen on rap, hip-hop or any related genres of music, though. I'm perfectly happy listening to Mozart followed by U2, followed by Hank Williams. Favorite music is probably Johann Sebastian Bach, but I've decided that the music I want for my funeral is Henry Purcell's “Music for the funeral of Queen Mary". Wonderfully melancholy music, and very, very English.

Yes, I have to say rap is one of the worst to have to listen to anywhere, and will probably get some people not appreciating my comment, but we all have an opinion whether it is about someone's book or a type of music or the meaning of a word.

It’s not something I enjoy, put it that way.

Do you have a favorite life saying you live by?

I suppose it's the Golden Rule. And it would be more correct to say that I try to live by it then that I actually live by it, I suppose.

Is there a funny or embarrassing moment you could or would like to share with your readers?

OK, here’s a funny moment. I was having lunch a few years back with a friend in Tokyo, and we were discussing “what do you do if you meet a famous person?” I was talking about the time I was introduced to Sir Simon Rattle (conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the time, now with the Berlin Philharmonic) and how he is a very approachable person. We walked back from lunch to the place we were both walking, and walking along the street towards us was… Sir Simon Rattle – he was with the Berlin Phil playing some concerts – I had no idea! I stopped him and said hello, of course. Now what are the odds of something like that happening? Of all the gin-joints in all the world…

Please tell us anything else you’d like for your readers to know about you, your books, or just life in general.

I’m a skeptic. I’ve read and lived through too many bubbles to believe that “this time it’s different” – whatever we are discussing.  I like to think it’s more than just being cynical, though I have to admit there is a touch of cynicism there.  But I’m actually quite a lovable person. Honestly.

Thank you so much, Hugh, for visiting and I wish you much success in your writing.

Thank you for the conversation. It’s been a lot of fun.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Please Welcome M. Edward McNally!

Hi Ed,
Thank you so much for joining me on my blog so we can learn about you and how you got into writing, and everything or anything else you would like your readers to know about you.  Before we get started, would you like to give us a quick list of all your books available for purchase and where we might find them?

Ed: Hi, Jacqueline, thanks for having me. J
Please, call me Jacque or Jac; Jacqueline is so formal and takes too long to type.

Alright, Jac

Let’s see, my main books at this point are an Epic, “Musket & Magic” Fantasy starring a feisty Island Guilder named Tilda Lanai. The series is called The Norothian Cycle, and the first book of four (so far) is called The Sable City. That first one is just on Amazon at the moment, though all will be back on all venues after August (the last free run for it on kindle is August 24th to 26th).

Also, I have a number of short story collections available (mostly “contemporary” pieces), either on my own or as anthologies with some pals. Those are the four volumes of Eddie’s Shorts, plus the Halloween, Holiday, Celtic, and Pride Collections put out by The Eclective. Most of those collections are available for free somewhere (or will be), either directly on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or always on Smashwords.

I loved reading our Eddie’s Shorts.  They were very good short stories.  I need to see if I can write something shorter than 80k words; it’s hard because I tend to talk a lot.  I have not heard of The Eclective.  Can you explain to me what it is?

Ed: Sure, the Eclective is a group of writers working in a number of different genres, who put out short-story collections built around a theme, or at least a holiday, but which leave everybody free to write their own kind of story, be it Sci Fi or YA or Romance or Fantasy or whatever. They are all free on Amazon or elsewhere (or will be as soon as we can make them so).

When did you first start writing? Or how did you get into writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?

Ed: It goes all the way back for me, I think I started writing stories about five penguins (yes, penguins) who worked as private investigators (yes, private investigators) when I was still in grade school. Around 3rd Grade I had a poem for a class assignment published in the local paper (Kansas City Star), and seeing my name in print like that first hooked me seriously. It was the first time I realized that writers were real, live people, as opposed to magical names on the front of the books I loved.

I think I would like your story about penguins.  I like penguins, they’re so cute.  I can remember writing songs when I was a teenager and singing them to myself, but I never took that writing seriously.  Seeing your name in print must have really felt wonderful and that you were someone in 3rd grade.  

When did you publish your first book?

Ed: I put The Sable City out as an “Indie” in March of 2011, after having spent the decade before that not writing, in favor of having one of those “real lives.” Turned out that wasn’t for me. ;-)

Prior to that, I had a number of short stories published in various and sundry small Lit Journals throughout the 1990s.

I think you and I published our books at the same time and that was probably about the time we met online in all the facebook writing groups, which it has been a pleasure to get to know you and go through this publishing cycle with you.  I know how life can get in the way of things we really like to do; I was there going through the same thing.

Do you have your books in print as well as in ebook format?

Ed: Actually I don’t, though I keep meaning to do that. My concentration (such as it is) has really been on the digital format over the last year and a half; that is where I spend my limited marketing time and energy. 

Really, I think you are missing out on print sales, myself.   I have sold more in print than ebooks.  Is there a Hastings store near you?  They sell our books there and welcome book signings. I will be doing a blog post about it, so stay tuned.

Now, how do you feel about the formatting process with print and/or ebook?  Do you do your own and if not, how do you get help for this to be accomplished?

Ed: I started out doing them myself, until finding a good formatter who is worth her weight in gold and has been invaluable in letting me get maps and such into the books. Unless a writer is really computer-competent and comfortable doing everything themself across all the various platforms, I highly recommend paying a good formatter. 

I agree with you, but I still do my own formatting.  It has been pretty easy for me and until someone tells me my books are wacky and totally look off, I guess I will continue to do my own formatting; it’s another expense I can’t afford now that I quit my full time job.

Did you use some kind of mapping software to make the maps for your book?

Ed: I have not, as all my maps were originally done by hand over the course of “building” the world that constitutes my setting, which was a process that took…oh, about ten years. What can I tell you, it was a hobby cheaper than cable. ;-)

What I do now is scan the maps in and just use the old stand-by “Paint” to clean them up, replacing hand-drawn mountain ranges and forests with symbols, written names with text, etc. There is a lot of great mapping software out there, but for me I’d have to almost start over from scratch to make use of it.

Do you have any advice for a person wanting to get their book(s) published?

Ed: You mean to get their book published by a “real” publisher? Not really, other than to recommend if that is the way a writer wants to go, I think they should have a realistic idea of what it is actually like to work in a “traditional” publishing environment. It is not a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, it is no guarantee of having a day-to-day life much different than any “Indie” writer, and it is necessarily going to be a compromise of a lot of your own decision making. Also, finding success as a writer is always going to depend heavily on luck no matter which way you go. But now, maybe for the first time in history, writers have more options of how to seek that success than ever before.   

How can your readers find you?

Ed: I write as M. Edward McNally, and can be found as such on Twitter, Good Reads, Amazon, Smashwords, Google+, etc., and the Norothian Cycle blog is over at

What do you do to get your books out to readers?  Do you spend a lot of time on promotion and social media?

Ed: I did a lot of social media for the first year, which was the first time I opened a facebook account, or did any of the rest of those things. I have been backing away from a lot of it lately as it is hugely time-consuming, but it was absolutely critical to starting out and finding my way around. At this point though, putting more books out there seems to be the thing that works best for me, so I am concentrating on writing, and when I can I will buy an ad on a reputable site like Pixel of Ink or E-reader News Today.

I totally know what you mean about social media being time consuming.  I am fighting with myself over how much I spend on it and how much I need to get off it.  Not sure which devil on my shoulder will win.

What are you working on now?  Any book(s) you are working on now you’d like to tell us about and when we can expect to see it published?

Ed: I am writing the fifth book of the Norothian Cycle (working title, “The Channel War,”) which I hope to have out by the end of the year.

What do you do to relax?

Ed: I still read a lot, though much more history than fiction. And, like many men, I can totally put on a ballgame and space-out for three or four hours. ;-)

Oh, I don’t need a ballgame to space-out for hours.

So tell me how do you handle stress or writers block?

Ed: I think I used up all my writer’s block during the ten years I wasn’t writing. When I think of that lost time now, it keeps me going.

That is a good way of looking at; I can totally relate and I’m not getting any younger. 

Do you have a blog?

Ed: I do, mentioned above, though it is largely a home page for the fantasy series where I post additional maps, background histories, glossaries, stuff like that, though I do run an occasional article or an interview with a fellow author. I also do a weekly column “Ed’s Casual Friday” at Indies Unlimited.

Do you have a Youtube video trailer for your books? Do you make them or do you have someone else?

Ed: I have not done that. Seems weirdly like making a tv ad for people who like to read instead of watching tv.

I know.  I’ve been vacillating about whether or not to make one for mine.  I have a friend that may work on one for me, but it seems really silly to me, too.

Do you have a favorite character from one of your books?

Ed: While the series has an extensive cast of characters, it is built around Matilda Lanai. She’s the heart of all that happens, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have to ask you how you came up with that name?

Ed: Tilda owes her name to a couple sources. First, I “knew” she was from a particular place within my fantasy setting, specifically a chain of islands called Miilark which have some similarities to Polynesia, as well as a bit of “colonial” flavor from the mainland a la Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand. “Matilda” thus comes from the Australian expression “Waltzing Matilda” (or at least from the Pogues’ cover of the song of the same name), while “Lanai” is largely because I lived in an apartment complex called “Bali Lanai” for a while in college.

Within the books, the family name “Lanai” wound up referring to a time period in Miilark when servants lived on the porches of their masters’ great houses, which is Tilda’s family background. Also, a couple “porch” jokes made their way into the narrative, as people sometimes think Tilda is using a fake name when she introduces herself. “Your name is ‘Porch?’ Right, sure it is.”

Oh, ok, I get that.  

Do you have a favorite food?

Ed: So many things I could go with…I’ll say Italian just to have an answer.

What about a favorite color?

Ed: Green, it’s an Irish thing. ;-)

Is there a favorite life saying you live by?

Ed: Yes, but as I’m a pretentious jerk, it’s in Latin. Deus impeditio esuritori nullus. (“No god can stop a hungry man.”)

Is there a funny or embarrassing moment you could or would like to share with your readers?

Ed: Hm. Well, the first time I visited the Grand Canyon as a little kid, I immediately fell over (for no reason, just clumsy) and slid down a short slope to the very edge, where I hit a pine tree.

My Dad, standing nearby, was already trying to figure out how to tell my Mom I fell into the Grand Canyon.

Oh, that is scary. I was there as a little kid too and didn’t get too close.  I don’t have a fear of heights, but I was scared of falling in that canyon.

Please tell us anything else you’d like for your readers to know about you, your books, or just life in general.

Ed: If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. That goes for everything. ;-)

That is so true. Thank you so much for visiting my blog today and I wish you much continued success with your writing, Ed.

Ed: You too, Jacque, it was fun. J