How to Make A Living as a Writer!

Apologies to all my US, NZ and Aussie writer friends, this post is very UK based so won’t apply to most of you, but feel free pick up ideas. 😀

On Wednesday 24th May 2017, I attended my first Society of Authors (SoA) event in Bristol, at the Arnolfini Gallery, a place I used to visit all the time when I was a struggling art student some twenty years ago! In fact, I first saw a young Damien Hirst exhibit his work there before he made it huge with his pickled sharks, and I marvelled at the huge architectural spiders of artist Louise Bourgeois (a thing of fear for an arachnophobe like me!). The Arnolfini itself is perched on the banks of the River Frome in the heart of Bristol and although it has changed a bit (more sleeker than I remember), thankfully it was still recognisable with it’s impressive exhibition spaces and relaxed bohemian vibe. If you’ve never visited it’s well worth a look. In fact the whole of the Bristol Docks/Quayside area is a lovely place to spend some time especially in the summer, very arty with almost an Amsterdam feel to the place with all the boats, barges and canal ferries going up and down the water, the smell of street food wafting through the air, acoustic guitar strumming in the background, cafes and restaurants spilling onto the cobbled streets, now pedestrianised, and of course the Watershed Arts & Media Centre one side of the river and the Arnolfini Gallery the other, linked by the stunning architectural Pero’s Bridge.

The SoA event was a very topical one – ‘How to Make a Living as a Writer’ – something every writer I know would like to do! As most SoA events are centralised in London, a criticism made by one of the members there, I was absolutely determined to attend this rare outside of London event. As usual my body had other ideas…as I had dared to go to a last minute Grimbold Books work/social on the Monday evening which was fab but left me exhausted the following day, I ended up paying for it on the Wednesday. Annoyingly I went to bed on the Tuesday with a migraine, woke up on the Wednesday with a terrible migraine and one that decided to get progressively worse through the day with my usual vertigo and sickness, to the extent that I was then unable to drive and had to ask for a lift in. 😦

The event was upstairs in one of the gallery ‘Reading Rooms’ and one with very little air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year! I was shocked and delighted that the whole thing kicked off with the chair reading a quote from Gareth L. Powell, a brilliant Bristol based writer who I happen to know and who wanted to be there but the tickets had sold out! How weird and wonderful is that?

“There are two kinds of courage. There’s the kind you get from knowing that what you’re doing is right. And there’s the kind you get from knowing its hopeless and wrong, and just not giving a damn.”  ― Gareth L. Powell, The Last Reef

It began with an interesting Q&A session chaired by Sarah Baxter who advises SoA members on publishing contracts and issues, handles literary estates, including print permissions and amateur stage licences. She also administers grants for writers in need including the Authors Contingency Fund, PD James Memorial Fund and Authors Foundation grants. The SoA’s newest contracts advisor, Theo Jones, who used to work for Oxford University Press, also joined her and I had a rather nice chat to him during the break.
During the Q&A various topics were raised including issues about competing titles, the new Amazon buy button (which is worrying a lot of people), the difficulty of earning a living through writing, the rise of celebrity authors and I mentioned the problem of author signings in chains like Waterstones. To my delight I wasn’t the only person who had found a problem trying to get Waterstones to stock books from smaller authors and small presses, as well as indies and how once James Daunt took over Waterstones, their policy changed towards signing events – where now most shops only hold signing events for big celebrity names. Yet another door/opportunity closed to struggling writers. The discussion around celebrity authors was very pertinent and how even well established authors are finding themselves squeezed off the shelves in both bookshops and libraries and are finding it harder to get publishing contracts because celebrities are swamping the market. I myself mentioned the whole Miranda Hart problem I had encountered where I’ve had to completely re-write my entire picture book along with illustrations because her upcoming first foray into children’s fiction is almost exactly the same as my concept. Years of work wasted. Grrrrr. 😦
I kept taking notes and trying to listen as I battled the migraine which was now pounding away behind my eyes with a regular persistence and tried to ignore the rising temptation to vomit. No-one likes throwing up, but vomiting in public is one of my fears. We had a break for refreshments and after a brief chat to Theo Jones I scuttled off to the toilets in the hope of being sick so I’d feel better after. No go. I came back and found myself cornered by an overly enthusiastic writer putting the world to rights. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, although I’m not naturally very social, I can go into my ‘social façade mode’ and chat with the best of them. The problem here though, was that apart from my sweating profusely through a mixture of meds and unbearable heat, this particular woman was actually shouting. Obviously she had a problem hearing above the general chit chat, but shouting in an animated fashion only inches away from my banging migraine was something akin to torture! 😦

We returned to our seats for the meat of the matter – a one hour panel discussion on ‘How to Make a Living as a Writer’. Sarah Baxter was joined by Helen Chaloner (CEO of Literature Works*). Helen worked in publishing PR for over nine years, at Penguin Books, Macdonald Publishing and, latterly, at Faber & Faber. She was the National Director of the Arvon Foundation and Chief Executive of Farms for City Children. She is a lover of fiction and principal short story reader for the Bridport Prize. The panel was rounded off by writer and fellow SoA member, Patricia Ferguson, who has published seven novels and a volume of short stories so far, teaches Creative Writing for the University of Bristol, and was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Reading University for three years.

*I admit I’d never heard of Literature Works before – a strategic literature development charity for South West England who are a National Portfolio Organisation of the Arts Council England. Literature Works’ role is to fundraise for the Literature Works Annual Fund, a support and grant scheme providing small awards for literature activity across the region, and where possible securing funding for larger regional projects with delivery partners, advice, advocacy and partnership. There mission is to support, understand and advocate regional literature in all its contexts, for everyone, for all ages, etc.

Sarah Baxter mentioned the South West Writers Directory (Literature Works) and that we should all get ourselves listed on there (something I have done this afternoon). Write Now was also mentioned as an initiative being piloted in Birmingham and Bristol – a scheme to find, mentor and publish new writers with different stories to tell and is in correlation with the BBC Writer’s Room. Writers from communities under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves. It is sponsored by Penguin Random House and I must say, anything that promotes greater diversity on our bookshelves is very welcomed by me.

I’d love to say some magic wands were discussed, some instant thing we can all do to suddenly become full time writers who can pay their bills exclusively through just writing, but if it was discussed, then those were the bits I missed…

Annoyingly, during this most crucial part of the event, I was desperately ill, teeth clenched, mouth clamped shut fighting the urge to barf, and so embarrassingly twice I had to leave in front of everyone. The second time I only just made it to the Arnolfini toilets before projectile vomiting everywhere. The only good thing is that it was with such force that I had no disgusting sick on me, it was like some comedy water canon being switched on. Apologies to the cleaners, I tried my best. 😦

Dear dear…you can imagine the state I was in, trying to concentrate and put on a professional front and write down copious notes for myself and friends while struggling with a howling migraine and nausea. Ugh. NOT my finest hour. I later made my apologies to Sarah Baxter and Poppy Rosenberg who were running the event and they were lovely. Then, exiting as quickly as I could, I found a bench overlooking the harbour, under the dappled shade of a sycamore tree and waited for my ride to pick me up as my head pulsated and swirled as if it were trying to copy Michael Ironside’s exploding cranium in horror film, Scanners.

So, what can I tell you about the outcome of all this?

Well, apart from the fact that you are not alone in struggling to make a living solely from writing, there really were no instant answers.

A few helpful hints were given though to raise your profile, perhaps get financial help and get paying writing work, so I’ll pop them here in no particular order (apologies for any obvious ones):

  • Literature Works – have resources, advice and help for writers.
  • South West Writer’s Directory – its free, get yourself on there! (sorry west country only)
  • Bid writing – Using your transferable skills ie. professional writing expertise in writing for companies, charities and organisations needing a more comprehensive and literate approach to their communications, fundraising and marketing.
  • Join a local writer’s group, not only as a means of fine tuning your own writing but as a networking tool.
  • Royal Literary Fund – The Royal Literary Fund is a UK charity that has been helping authors since 1790. It provides grants and pensions to writers in financial difficulty; it also places writers in universities to help students develop their writing.
  • National Writing Day (June 21st) – get involved with libraries and schools to celebrate this day.
  • Arvon – Was discussed a great deal and the grants and support.
  • Caroline Summerfield was mentioned and The Eugenie Summerfield Children’s Book Prize.
  • The Bath Novel Award was mentioned as well.
  • Mailing lists were discussed as a good way of building your fanbase.
  • It was discussed that as authors we needed to find a way of incentivising publishers to sign authors who are not celebrities, of finding a way to break that repeating cycle which is not only detrimental to professional authors whose sole income is writing, but also in some cases, floods the market with yet more substandard writing!
  • The organisers were very keen to start up a Bristol SoA chapter, as currently, despite there being apparently 481 SoA authors in and around Bristol, there is no Bristol group. I’d certainly be up for joining one, especially if there was a speculative fiction based one (Gareth?). Unfortunately a lot of this discussion and networking no doubt happened in the networking/socialising with drinks portion of the event, held afterwards in the Watershed bar and which I had to leave due to illness. 😦
  • Apparently the average earnings of a writer had now dropped from 18K a year to 11K. I must confess, my earnings from writing is nowhere near this. My illustration work with HarperCollins is the money maker for me, not my writing.
  • Promote your local connections through local libraries, bookshops, schools and writing groups – local radio is a resource as well as newspapers, use them.
  • Put yourself forward to teach creative writing courses at festivals etc. huge amounts of experience are not needed, it can be done with just a single published book under your belt.
  • Podcasting – as a visual means of raising your profile and getting more of your content out there on channels such as YouTube.

There, that seemed to be the majority of what was discussed. 😀

For me, a very handy contact gained, was meeting Judith Gunn who runs the Gloucestershire & Neighbouring Counties SoA group. I explained that unfortunately I’ve never been able to attend any of the meetings and events as they are always held during the day usually on Monday or Tuesday when I’m working. Judith said she had been discussing possibly opening up the group to hold an evening session every so often, so keen members like me who work day jobs, can attend. I certainly think that would be hugely beneficial not only to me, but other SoA writers I know, like lovely fellow fantasy writer, Jules Ironside who was working on Wednesday so couldn’t attend. Watch this space!

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Book Launch Extravaganza! Fight Like A Girl kicks ass…literally!

As I type this my head is still reeling from the awesome Fight Like A Girl events of yesterday. (Apologies now, the word ‘awesome’ will be overused and abused in this post!) For any of you who have been to a book launch or are even trying to organise one yourself, take note – THIS is how it should be done!

The ingredients for a perfect kick-ass book launch:

  1. An awesome book to launch – a brilliantly written and edited piece of fiction with a great cover, which is worth people forking out their hard-earned cash for!
  2. An awesome venue with plenty of room/space, facilities (bar, toilets, stage area for readings/events etc), places to chill, great lighting and sound and easy access.
  3. An awesome collection of writers, reading extracts from their work.
  4. An awesome panel with great Q & A’s for the audience.
  5. A mind-blowing physical display of martials arts and swordplay!
  6. Then of course, book signing from the authors and chances to ask questions.
  7. Throw in a load of lovely food and drinks (free wine and free soft drinks!), a great atmosphere and you have the recipe for the best book launch EVER!!!! 😀

It honestly felt more like a mini-con than a book launch!

Right, back to the day itself. Saturday 2nd April 2016, despite a slightly wet start to the morning, the sun came out and stayed out. My lovely fellow Grimbold author and friend, the uber-talented, Kate Coe, popped over to mine and after an initial hello from my barky boys (my four large white wolfies), we headed off. SAM_8682

The destination was The Hatchet Inn, in the heart of Bristol, dated 1606, a pub I later found out I have a weird personal connection to (more on that later). We arrived and strolled up Park Street to the Boston Tea Party to meet lovely Chris Horner and Tom Miles and the indefatigable Joanne Hall & Roz Clarke, fellow Grimboldians and amazing writers who edited the Fight Like A Girl (FLAG) anthology, contributed an awesome story each as well AND organised the whole amazing book launch event! OMG! I strongly suspect that Jo & Roz are hauled up today in their respective homes, floating in a sea of duvets and doggies, recovering…

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I have to mention the one person who should have been there but couldn’t make it (gritty police work got in the way 😦 ), our wonderful publisher, Sammy HK Smith, one half of Grimbold Books (Zoe Harris is our other lovely publisher) and the Creative Director of its imprint, Kristell Ink, behind the publication of Fight Like A Girl. It was such an amazing day and poor Sammy’s absence was felt as she would have loved the whole thing. ❤ But huge kudos to her, her team did her proud and Kristell Ink did such an amazing job with the book. SAM_8598

After heading back to the pub to finishing setting up, to our delight we noticed that the fabulous cover, designed by the awesome Sarah Anne Langton, actually glows in the dark under a black light! Awesomeness x 10!

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I should also say that one of the main reasons the book launch was SUCH a huge success was that the book in question, Fight Like A Girl (FLAG), really is such an amazing book, it kind of sells itself! I rarely comment on other books, because frankly I’m not a reviewer and I lack the confidence to assess other people’s writing, I’d much rather leave that to others who know more than I do, but in this case, I have to make an exception. There simply aren’t enough accolades to describe it – an awesome anthology of kick ass fiction by some of the best female genre writers from around the country, writing about strong female characters, assassins, pilots, warriors, killers, archers, mercenaries, you name it, these women are deadly and mean business. No fluff, no touchy feeling stuff here. If you had any preconceived stereotypes about women writers writing fantasy and sci-fiction – leave them at the door, Fight Like A Girl, will blow you away! SAM_8677SAM_8676

The doors opened at 1pm and in came the people. Within minutes the whole place was absolutely packed! So many lovely people to mention…a big shout out to Gareth L Powell and his lovely wife and daughter, Fantasy Faction‘s very own Marc Aplin, Jonathan L Howard, Pete Sutton, Ian Millsted, Mark Robinson (my fellow Star Wars fan), the lovely Heather Ashley & Claire M Carter, the awesome Claire Ayres (of BrizzleLass Blog) who wrote the first awesome review of Fight Like A Girl and loved my story! (THANK YOU!). Lovely to see John Bav, Anne-Mhairi Simpson & Richard Bendall, Desiree Fischer, Jon Dowling (who always cracks me up), the lovely Emily Turner (Elegant Emily) who is a fab new intern at Grimbold, and the very dapper, Scott Lewis who is such an awesome guy and bought a copy of White Mountain too, thank you Scott! 😀

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I was also thrilled to finally meet the Spymaster General and Robin, AFE Smith, from our Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) group from Authonomy, who met in 2010 and are not only still great friends but have written a charity anthology together. Meeting Anna for the first time was lovely, she is SUCH a lovely person and such an amazing writer herself who has signed with Harper Voyager and whose second book, GoldenFire is out in July this year! Then it was also lovely to meet my old mate, Will Macmillan Jones, another AWBer, who had travelled all the way from deepest darkest Wales. Thanks matey! 😀

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Then, of course, I have to mention my fellow awesome Fight Like A Girl authors who made it to the launch, the awesomely amazing Juliet E McKenna, Danie Ware, Gaie Sebold, Joanne Hall, Roz Clarke, Dolly Garland, Fran Terminiello, Lou Morgan and KT Davies. (Nadine West was getting married at the time so couldn’t make it for obvious reasons! Congrats to her and Adam!) SAM_8603

People chatted as the food and wine flowed. Joanne & Roz did a fab introduction and this was followed by the first reading of the day, the amazing Lou Morgan reading an extract from her story, Archer 57, which was utterly brilliant! Then a break…*gulp* then it was my turn! I read a short extract from my story, Silent Running, and had to smile at the audience reaction to one of the grisly parts! 😀 12928120_579666122188911_2427319853639567376_n[1]

After my reading there was a brilliant panel moderated by the lovely Cheryl Myfanwy Morgan, who like Joanne Hall, seems to know everyone in the SFF community in the southwest!

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The panel, with Joanne Hall, KT Davies, Cheryl, Gaie Sebold and Dolly Garland, were discussing the role of women in SFF fiction, both as writers and readers, the bias which female writers face from a male dominated genre and a public which isn’t always willing to look beyond the stereotype to give female SFF fiction a try and the importance of having strong female characters in fiction. The question of discoverability for female writers, a topic which Joanne Hall has blogged about extensively (please check out her awesome blog: Joanne Hall’s Blog – Hierath)

12931087_579665982188925_3061819945994639525_n[1]Then, after a break of more food, wine, chat and laughter, it was Danie Ware’s reading, from her story, Unnatural History. It was epic, awesome, breath-taking!

Finally, the part of the book launch everyone had been salivating for…Juliet E McKenna’s martials arts display and Fran Terminiello’s swordplay!

Juliet E McKenna, apart from being a very accomplished and well known SFF writer on the national and international stage and running the fabulous FantasyCon, which we at Grimbold Books had such an epic time at last October, also happens to be a 3rd dan black belt in Aikido! She went on to demonstrate some basic self-defence and Akido moves. Wow! SAM_8673

Then the amazing Fran Terminiello and her friend, Liz, demonstrated duelling and sword fighting techniques from the Renaissance onwards, with a range of rapiers, long swords, short swords, daggers, even scythes! OMG!!! Totally amazing stuff, all of it! 😀 Talk about ‘Fight Like A Girl’, these women were fighting like total bad-asses! SAM_8650

After all the excitement, we had the group book signing, where the lines were huge and we all sat and signed the FLAG books to very eager and enthusiastic readers and chatted away. We sold loads of books, in fact, almost ran out! All-in-all, it was a totally amazing day and an amazing experience! 12417894_1264280650268033_7439142051687648971_n[1]

A HUGE thank you to Sammy, Jo, Roz and everyone involved in this event and getting this book to publication. Wow! 😀

Finally, I found out a strange fact from my mum…we have a personal family connection to the Hatchet Inn! Yes, apparently my Great Aunt Grace, married a man called Reg Hillier, part of ‘The Hillier Brothers’, who were well known in Bristol and ran the house removals and antiques dealers and actually lived next door to the Hatchet Inn, which is now part of the inn itself! In 1967 her house was demolished and the Hatchet Inn was rebuilt that side, where her house had been! How weird is that?!!! 😀

Wow…what a day!

Do yourself a favour, a pick up a copy of Fight Like A Girl, for the best kick-ass SFF fiction! 😀

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😀 xxx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Joanne Hall!

This is a very special post and the tenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the last few weeks I’ve been focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although summer is over, there are still great promos and bargains to be had running into Autumn, so grab yourself something special before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our tenth author interview and a rather special edition this one – a truly multi-talented lady, terrific writer, fantasy aficionado and the founder/creator and head honcho of BristolCon…the cosmically cool…

Joanne Hall

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Joanne, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Tea bags, a towel (of course), pens and paper, sunblock and my dog (I’m allowed to take my dog, right? I’m not going off into the wilds of space without her…)

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

– photos of family and friends, Barnaby, the teddy bear I’ve had since I was five, and my laptop. I know that’s not five things. 🙂

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

It would depend on what the life forms were – I’m currently reading Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time and the intelligent alien life forms are spiders as big as your leg. Don’t fancy meeting them much… But if they weren’t too insecty / arachnid-y and didn’t want to kill me, I’d probably be ok with meeting them.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

– Only five? Meanie! If I leave my leg behind can I take six? No? Ok, I would take The Lord of the Rings, Dune, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, The Copper Promise by Jen Williams and The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov. These are all hefty books that would be good for smacking the local wildlife into a coma (just in case), and at a pinch I could build a house out of them, and they’re all awesome. 🙂

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

These lists of book and albums are subject to change without notice, right? Generation Terrorists – Manic Street Preachers (I could not conceive of living in a world where I could never listen to the Manics again), Five Leaves Left –Nick Drake, 100 Broken Windows – Idlewild, Two Suns – Bat For Lashes and Dog Man Star by Suede. I realise anyone reading this list will probably now be able to work out my age down to the nearest six months, but I don’t care about being Down With The Kids. Anyway, it’s my planet… 😉

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Can I have vodka and coke, please?

Joanne, as well as being a very talented writer yourself, you are also founder and chair of extraordinary fantasy convention, BristolCon (coming up next week! – Sept 26th 2015). Over the years as BristolCon has blossomed into an ever bigger event, you have had some very prestigious writers and artists attending, from Mark Lawrence (Broken Empire), legendary fantasy illustrator, Jim Burns, to Jasper Fforde who sat on several panels. If you could choose ANY fantasy or sci-fi writer from the past or present to attend BristolCon and share a plate of nachos with, who would it be and why?

If I could choose ANY fantasy or SF writer to attend BristolCon? Only one? I can’t choose one, thought I’d love to see Tolkien and CS Lewis on a panel together… Some of the people I would most like to see at BristolCon are the people who narrowly missed out – people who we would be falling over ourselves to ask if only we’d had the chance. So Iain M Banks, Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett… But most especially our friend Colin Harvey, who was instrumental in setting up the very first BristolCon but was taken from us suddenly in 2011. If there was any writer in the world I’d love to share a plate of nachos and a pint with one more time, it would be Colin.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

Spark, a mage-trained boy, kills his master and goes on the run in the biggest city in the world, where he is pursued by rival criminal gangs who want to take advantage of his uncontrolled powers. When his wild magic cracks the world and unleashes a horde of demons on the unsuspecting city, Spark has to turn to his pursuers for help, unleashing a conflict that could bring about the end of the world. (from Jo’s new novel, ‘Spark and Carousel’, which has it’s global launch at BristolCon next week!)

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Reading, writing, exploring with my dog and enjoying being out in nature. And trying not to get eaten by monsters!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

– My boyfriend (unless he could come with me), cheese on toast, shopping for books, trash TV and Twitter.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Bigotry, guns, David Cameron, Ricky Gervais and cucumbers.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Beyond the big important killing Hitler type things, you mean? I would have liked to spend more time with my grandad. He used to make up stories for me when I was little, and by the time I had books coming out he was a little too far gone to understand what was going on.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Like a shot, provided I haven’t been eaten by anything so far…

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Well, obviously everyone published by Kristell Ink – that goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway. 🙂 Outside the confines of KI, I’d recommend Fran Jacobs, author of The Shadow Seer, and Fox Spirit author Margret Helgasdottir (The Stars Seem So far Away) , while at Kristell Ink, while I’d like to recommend everybody, I’ll just have to pick out three… ooh, hard question! I would say Deb E Howell if you like westerns and steampunk, Steven Poore if you like High Fantasy, and Paige Daniels if you like SF and cyberpunk.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Always know where your towel is. Though I think somebody already said that… Celebrate the things you enjoy, whether they’re “cool” or not. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Write what interests you, and enjoy writing – publication is a bonus, money even more so. And eat cake.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

Lyra and meJoanne Hall in her own words…

– I live in Bristol with my dog and my boyfriend, where I write words, eat cake, and help organise BristolCon. My inspirations are my grandfather, as well as David Gemmell, Diana Wynne Jones, old castles, nature, weird bits of architecture and anything I find interesting. I’m published by Kristell Ink, who are awesome and lovely – they have published two volumes of The Art of Forgetting, and my third book with them, Spark and Carousel, is released on September 26th – launching at BristolCon with cake and wine and bombastic intro music! That’s if I can get back from this darn planet in time….

Bio:

Joanne Hall lives in Bristol, England, with her partner. She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen, and gave up a sensible (boring) job in insurance to be a full time writer, to the despair of her mother. She dabbled in music journalism, and enjoys going to gigs and the cinema, and reading.

Her first three novels, which made up the New Kingdom Trilogy, were published by Epress Online. Since then she has had to move house to make more room for books. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, including “Dark Spires” and “Future Bristol”, as well as a number of magazines. A collection of short stories, “The Feline Queen” was published by Wolfsinger Publications in April 2011, and her latest novel, “The Art of Forgetting” was published by Kristell Ink in two volumes in 2013 /14, and the first volume has been longlisted for the 2014 Tiptree Award. With Roz Clarke, she has co-edited two anthologies, “Colinthology” and “Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion.”

She is also one of the founders of Bristolcon. Her blog can be found at www.hierath.co.uk, and she’s always happy to hear from readers.

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Amazon US

spark-and-carousel-front-cover-digitalLatest Book Blurb:

Spark and Carousel

On the run after the death of his mentor, wild with untamed magic, Spark arrives in the city of Cape Carey, where his untapped talents make him the target for rival criminal gangs. His guide through the intrigues of the Cape Carey underworld is Carousel, a wire-walker and a thief, who takes him under her wing.
Elvienne and Kayall ride south to the city, hunting the lost fosterling of their murdered friend. Their mission is to track down a killer, and prevent Spark’s magic from spiralling out of control. They need to find him before he falls into the hands of those who would exploit his raw talent for their own gain, who would force Spark to confront a power he is not ready to handle.
Wealthy Allorise Carey has her own plans for both Spark and Carousel, and the sudden arrival of the mages throws all her carefully-laid plans into disarray, as she unleashes a terrible evil onto the streets of the unsuspecting city. An evil only Spark’s magic can control, if she can track him down…

(Available September 26th!)

Joanne’s other great books, also available at Waterstones and Amazon!

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Thank you, Joanne. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing galactic explorer has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Katie Alford!

This is the sixth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, check out their titles to still grab a great bargain before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our sixth author interview…the cosmically awesome and talented…

Katie Alford

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Katie, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

A hunting rifle, although I probably wouldn’t hit anything with it. A lighter, a must for lighting fires to cook the beasts caught with the rifle. A homing beacon, how else will I eventually get rescued? An axe, to chop down trees and make a shelter/ fence to keep away any savage alien beasts. Rope, to tie the shelter together. We’ve all learnt from poor Eeyore that just piling logs together never ends well.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My chocolate stash – It would probably feed me for a month. My laptop – Can’t live without that. A solar powered charger for said laptop, otherwise it wouldn’t last long. My phone, I have a number of unread e books on it which should keep my entertained until rescue. My teddy bear, because I’ve had her since I was born and would hate for her to go up in flames. Plus, should I be attacked by a savage alien beast I could use her as bait, sneak around behind said beast and blast its head off.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Depends how attractive they are. A little eye candy would make being marooned more bearable.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  1. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Oh, damn it! I forgot my towel.The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkozski. I’ve got no interesting excuse for this one.
  2. The thickest Twilight book, because I’ll be needing something to light the fire with.
  3. One of the Disc World novels. I can’t choose a favourite that would damn my soul forever. I’d grab whichever one is closest to hand.
  4. The Day of the Triffids, because after rereading that book my situation wouldn’t seem so bad.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  1. Queen’s Greatest Hits, so I can rock out the new world.
  2. The Heart of Everything by Within Temptation
  3. Cult by Apocalyptica
  4. Dark Passion Play by Nightwish
  5. The Macarena, because it would be fun to teach the dance to the native inhabitants and then upload the video to you tube when I get back, because let’s face it, aliens dancing the Macarena is sure to go viral.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Coco-cola because caffeine is a necessity for a writer. I couldn’t possibly live without it.

Random comet question: Bella or Katniss?

Who is Bella and Katniss? Are they going to eat me for not knowing?

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

It’s a tale of two great powers in time: Atlantis with their academics and time conservation teams and the Norse, a new rising power. The Norse’s emergence sends technological ripples out through the time steam, disturbing its peaceful waters and diverting the flow through some of the most pivotal moments in history.  After decades of quiet time watching, the Atlanteans are caught off guard by the violent changes surging down the time stream, threatening to destroy all known civilisations, even that of Atlantis itself. The Atlanteans soon find themselves battling not just to save the world but also its history. Yes, I was sad enough to make it exactly 100 words…

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Fast food outlets, I don’t think they deliver to deep space. Google Maps, very useful in avoiding getting lost. Steam Store, how am I supposed to buy new games without it? Computer repair shop, when I inevitable drop my laptop into viscous goo and realise there’s nowhere to get it fixed in deep space. The super market, because hunting beasts to live is hard work.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Cold callers – Haha! Can’t get me here! Party political broadcasts, if I want to indulge in a blatant work of fiction I’ll watch a film. Apple products – IPhones and IPads should all be shot into the nearest black hole. Frozen, because nearly every post on my facebook page mentions it and I don’t have children so I should be sheltered from it.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans):What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

I would go back in time and tell myself to pick up my Magic the Gathering decks as well before jumping into the life pod.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Depends how attractive the aliens are really.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Well there are my favourite two Kristell Ink Books, In Search of Gods and Heroes By Sammy HK Smith and Darkspire Reaches by CN Lesley.

Terry K Simpson has written many fine books including his The Quintessence Cycle Series. How he manages to churn so many out, I’ve yet to discover.

Kat Hawthorne is a very talented writer and has had both novels and a number of short stories published. Her website also looks fantastic.

And last but not least, the latest Kristell Ink release Green Sky and Sparks by Kate Coe. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’s fantastic.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Just because everyone else has read a certain book, it doesn’t mean you have to read it too.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

PhotoKMAlford2Katie Alford in her own words…

I write fantasy Sci-Fi and Steampunk and love playing computer games, strictly for inspirational purposes of course. I’m also a Digital Artist and create both 2D and 3D Computer Generated art. I even modelled and animated my own book trailer found here: Book Trailer

My publisher is Grimbold Books which have published many exceptionally good titles. You can browse them right here: Grimbold Books

Bio:

Katie was born in London and raised in Bristol. After a number of years in Middlesbrough, where she gained three degrees in 3d modelling and digital art subjects, she moved back to London, where she currently resides.

She loves playing computer games, watching anime and art and writing. She is a member of both the Kingswood Writers Group and the Greenacre Writers Group, who run the annual Finchley Literary Festival. She is really good at starting novels but not so good at finishing them, with her in progress works now into double figures.

As a day job, she works as an admin assistant which gives her many boring hours to contemplate her evening’s writing. She has won a number of short story competitions but recently realised it was taking precious time away from her novel writing and so stopped entering them, but she does now sometimes judge them instead.

The current genres she has written works in include fantasy, sci fi, steampunk, dark fantasy, folklore and detective and she has recently dabbled a bit in poetry, she is not intending to take that any further, it just seemed a good idea at the time.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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Latest Book Blurb:

For over a hundred years Atlantis, a culture of academics, has ruled the flow of time. It’s only travellers, they sought to conserve its flow and research and document the many cultures that span it. During that time, the only ripples threatening disturbance were the mischievous pranks of a few rebellious teenagers. In particular, those of a Hayden Edward Lywen whose constant pranks kept the Department of Time Conservation or DTC in high anxiety as their overworked operative Professor Lokyne was forced to run back and forth through time, restoring the timeline again and again.

Tired and rundown by the constant battle with his students, little did Lokyne know that he would soon be yearning the simplicity of dealing with rowdy teenagers. As a threat soon emerged far beyond those he’d dealt with before; a threat that would rewrite the whole of known history and plunge Atlantis into a war for which they were ill equipped and inexperienced. Can Atlantis find a way to fight back in time to stop their own culture being wiped from history, or is a new era dawning, as all cultures will eventually come to an end?

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Oh look, is that a rescue ship I see? I hope it reaches me before that pack of vicious, alien wildlife catches up with me. I guess I ate too many of their friends.

Lol, thank you, Katie. Yes, congratulations, you are survivor! A passing medical frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

BristolCon Fringe – May 18th 2015 – Sophie E Tallis and Ben Galley

The brilliant maestro herself, Joanne Hall, fantasy writer extraordinaire has organised this Bristol Fringe event which I’m thrilled to be involved in. Thanks Joanne! 😀

Joanne Hall

It’s nearly Fringe Time again, and on May 18th the BristolCon Fringe will be hosting Kristell Ink author Sophie E Tallis (White Mountain), and self-publishing whizz and Emaneska series author Ben Galley. It’s going to be a good one, so don’t miss it!

If you’d like to come along the event starts at 7.30 at the back room of the Shakespeare Tavern on Prince Street, central Bristol. It’s a free event and everyone is welcome – just turn up and say hi, grab a pint and a pudding and listen to some excellent fantasy readings.

You can join the BristolCon Fringe Facebook group here :

https://www.facebook.com/bristolconfringe

Fringe events are heaps of fun, and open to all, so feel free to come along!

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BristolCon 2014 – From My Side of the Lanyard

I was lucky enough to go to BristolCon this past weekend, and wow was I glad I did! What a fabulous day, full of cool people, cool books, cool artwork, amazingly cool panels and goodies and the mistress of cool herself, the maestro of events, Joanne Hall, chairman of BristolCon, who knows absolutely EVERYONE! 😀

Joanne Hall

Blog and tweets are appearing on the subject of the BristolCon Just Gone, so I thought I’d add my humble thoughts to the pile. I have a rather different view of BristolCon from that of being an ordinary member or guest, because it’s partly my baby (though I share it with my wonderful Concom, of course). Flirtations with disaster this year mainly involved the cancellation, non-appearance, late-running, double booking, driverless and wrong sized VANS – please don’t talk to me about vans without at least buying me a stiff drink first for about the next 18 months…

Vans aside (that’s the part you lot don’t see!) the biggest disaster this year was the non-running of the Infamous BristolCon Quiz, due to Quizmaster Nick being taken ill during the afternoon and having to go home. Wishing Nick all the best and hoping he gets better soon (emergency Minions have been dispatched…

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