Eye of the Beholder – new release!

Eye of the Beholder – new release!

Eye of the Beholder – releasing 14th June 2020!

C H Clepitt presents the first in a new series of queer fairy tale retellings. Eye of the Beholder is the first story in the Magic Mirror series of books which will retell these stories in a different time period, with queer protagonists.

When asked about this new project, Clepitt said:

“Representation matters. It matters so much, and you only realise how much when you eventually have it. Queer theory and queer readings of stories and films developed because queer people wanted to see themselves in stories. They wanted their own happy endings, so they read them into the narrative. This series is going one step further. It’s rewriting the narrative and inserting overt queer rep. We deserve better than hints and readings. We deserve to see ourselves, to have our own stories. That is what I’m hoping to do with this project.

I am also reworking all the aspects that would be problematic to a modern audience. In this retelling of Beauty and the Beast I have taken out the kidnap element and changed lots of other aspects too. If you want to find out more, you’ll just have to read it!”


When pressure from his materialistic children turns Claude into a thief, it is down to his youngest daughter to set things right. Angelique agrees to take her father’s place as prisoner to what she is told is a hideous beast.

Angelique soon discovers that the so-called beast is nothing more than Rosalie, a princess cursed to remain trapped in a castle, unless the curse can be broken, something she assures her is impossible.

Angelique does not believe in the impossible, and sets about trying to find a way to save her new friend, who she is rapidly growing to love.

Eye of the Beholder is the first in a series of queer fairy tale retellings in C H Clepitt’s Magic Mirror Collection.

Chris Tullbane, Galaxy of Authors

Chris Tullbane, Galaxy of Authors

Chris Tullbane author

Chris Tullbane

Out for pre-order: Investigation, Mediation, Vindication!

Buy the books!

In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I started writing when I was 6 or 7, not longer after we’d come back to the USA from Germany. There was an assignment to write a poem for my 3rd grade class and, as kids will do, I took it as an opportunity to tell everyone how unhappy I was to have moved to a new neighborhood. Somehow, the poem rhymed. And the meter wasn’t entirely awful.

As far as fiction is concerned, I received a multi-month severance package in 2013 when I was laid off from my software development job. After a few months of hiking and re-education, I got bored, so I decided to sit down and write something. No outline. No real concept of a plot. All I really had was my main character’s name, John Smith, which was at least vaguely funny to me.

That first draft was a mess (as all first drafts are) but enough of my friends and family enjoyed it that I decided to keep going. I liked being able to talk with people about my stories, and the feedback loop as I sent my wife and friends new pages. Seven years, five books (three unpublished), and two novelettes later, here I am!

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Glen Cook, who was the first fantasy author I read whose prose was both accessible and poetic.

Keith Parkinson, who once spoke about finding the mundane in the fantastic, and vice versa.

Mark Strand, who looked our class in the eye, and told us all we were too young to be worrying about writing poetry and that we should go out and live life instead.

Lastly, the cover for the Storm in Her Smile is strongly influenced by the work of Thierry de Cordier, whose oceanscapes are this incredible blend of power and mystery and passion.

Tell me about your book.

The stakes are real. The mediation isn’t.

John Smith is San Diego’s least successful private investigator. He’s a community college dropout who lives with his parents. He’s a lover of martial arts movies and beer, not necessarily in that order.

What he isn’t is a mediator. Unfortunately, supernatural forces are preparing for war, and the only person who can maintain the peace—and keep San Diego from tumbling into a hell mouth—is a mediator.

Thanks to a yellow pages ad placed when he was drunk, and the fact that every actual mediator in San Diego has been murdered, John Smith is going to have to fill that role.

And that’s when things really get weird…

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have three other ‘finished’ books in the Many Travails of John Smith series which will need some polish before publication, and one quarter-finished book in the Murder of Crows series, which needs to be finished sometime before August if I’m going to be able to release it this fall.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

That’s a tough question. In the abstract, I’m not a fan. I think people should have the right to decide whether or not they want to buy a given book, not a government or some corporation.

At the same time and in regard to new books, a publishing company also has the right to decide not to publish something (either initially or after public uproar has convinced them it would hurt their brand sufficiently). It’s their money, after all!

As far as older books are concerned, I think it’s important to judge them for the era they were written in, and not by today’s standards. What’s seen as acceptable in the 2010-2020s will quite possibly look archaic and possibly even ill-intentioned a few decades from now. When it comes to the old classics, I’m all for some sort of acknowledgement or even warning that they maycontain outdated ideas, language, and beliefs, but I don’t think it serves anyone to pretend that the times in question (or the books written in those times) didn’t happen. History matters, even if just as a measuring stick for where we are now.

Like I said, it’s a tough question to answer. Whatever you do or don’t do, someone will be unhappy.

Tell me about a principal character in your book. What makes them memorable?

Juliette Middleton is one of the vampires assigned to chaperone John prior to the supernatural mediation. After getting kicked out of her House in New York for reasons as-of-yet undetailed, Juliettespent years following punk bands on tour as they crisscrossed the United States, enjoying their music and eating their roadies.

Eventually, she ended up in San Diego, where she became the youngest council member of a brand new vampire House. She’s not the best fighter in the world, and she’s not always the deepest thinker either, but she’s a fount of unending sarcasm who finds John to be the perfect target for pretty much any cutting comment she can think of.

Their ‘frenemy-ship’ becomes one of the cornerstones of the series.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie! I spent quite a while querying lit agents for both series, and made it as far as full-requests on both Investigation, Mediation, Vindication and See These Bonesonly to eventually get rejections 3-8 months later. With See These Bones, I even found an agent who believed in the book. Unfortunately, she didn’t think she could sell it, both because it was too long (130k words instead of 100k) and because I didn’t have the sort of brand and following that would make me a sure bet for one of the big 5 presses.

That conversation convinced me to go the indie route. If I have to build my brand/following myself anyway, I might as well be getting all the benefit from doing so, right? Now that I’ve released two books and two novelettes, I wouldn’t ever think of going back. I enjoy the freedom of being able to make my own choices, and being able to move at a much faster pace.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

It definitely helps. I’m sure there are people so uniquely talented that simply by learning the language, they’re able to turn around and create something masterful, but for the rest of us, reading is a great way to see and understand what works and what doesn’t, informing the choices and style we’ll pursue in our own work.

That said, I don’t do much in the way of careful analysis or studyanymore, at least when it comes to fiction. Most of my learning is done passively as I read, because the truth is, I enjoy books and words. I’d rather lose myself in a story than consciously look for techniques I can copy.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The best aspect of being a writer, to me, is the creative rush when you get deep into the weeds and are cranking out page after page. Finishing a 10+ hour burst of writing madness is kind of like taking a weekend-long martial arts seminar… by the end of it, your brain feels like it’s floating, and you have this sense that for a brief moment, you were acting as a conduit for ideas and knowledge, the effects of which won’t be understood for some time. That’s pretty cool.

I think most authors agree that the worst part of our job is marketing! It’s especially true for indie authors, who are doing everything themselves. I know I’d much rather be writing than looking at ad campaigns, putting together promotional tweets, arranging advance reviews, and all of the other things that are so necessary to make a book a success. But that’s part of the gig… I just wish I was better at it!

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I’m a hybrid. I create outlines for each book, so that I know what needs to happen, when, and why, but I leave them loose, with most of the connective tissue undetailed. That allows me freedom to explore tangents or expand in unexpected directions without completely wrecking the whole structure. It also keeps me from feeling like I’m just filling in the blanks or painting by numbers.

If I was a pure plotter, I’d probably produce books a lot faster… but I’m not sure I’d enjoy writing them nearly as much.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Sort of! I like to plant seeds for future events that will often go unnoticed by readers. On a second read, when they already know what’s coming, they see those seeds and realize I’d been dropping hints all along.

In The Murder of Crows series, I also have one throwaway comment that will be repeated in the sequel for an eventual payoff in book 3. It’s super minor but I’m still excited about it. I keep waiting for someone to notice it in See These Bonesand alert me to what seems to be an error (but is, in fact, intentional), but so far, nobody has.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

For a while, it was martial arts, specifically Bujinkan, although my wife was always better at it than I was. Then both my knees decided they’d had enough, and that was the end of that!

These days, I like to go out for walks when I can and my body feels up to it. When that’s not possible, I’ll listen to music outside in the shade.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m making hurried, last-minute revisions to Investigation, Mediation, Vindication—I just got the author proof and always want to do another edit pass when I see the words in print—before its May 19th release. I’m also trying to plow ahead with Red Right Hand, the sequel to See These Bones.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I think that, like most overly broad statements, it needs qualification.

The barrier for entry is low for indie books, so there are a lot of them, and it’s true that many are badly written and never passed through an editor’s hands. So yeah, the averages might skew downward, from pure numbers alone. At the same time, I’ve read some fabulous indie books that were polished to an inch of their lives and equal to anything in the upper echelon of traditionally published fiction.

On the other side of things, I’ve noticed more and more typos in recent traditionally published books. I think we’ve also all read books where we wondered how exactly the author managed to convince one of the big 5 presses to publish it. Sometimes, traditional publishing just means you already have a name or know a guy, and is no indicator as to actual quality.

My rule for both is to check the writing sample, if one is available. Generally, that’s all it takes to see if there are any issues with grammar, spelling, or style. As for plot and character… well, those require a deeper read so there’s not much you can do unless you have reviewers you trust. I’ve read a few books where the author’s voice was fantastic, the characters were likeable, the editing was excellent (from a pure copy perspective)… and then the plot laid an egg 75% of the way through.

What can you do? Writing is hard!

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Science Fiction, Fantasy, speculative fiction, and whatever else they are calling it these days. I like being able to put my own twist on reality. My world-building on the page can be fairlylight, as I write in first person, and lean heavily on the unreliability (and often willful blindness) of my narrators, but I still spend quite a bit of time figuring out details that may never be directly divulged. That process of first creating the puzzle and then slowly piecing it together definitely satisfies a creative need.

Also, it’s just fun to play with expectations and to be able to throw in something completely off the wall (like a vegetable demigod!) if I feel like it.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

Nope! See These Bones’ world is a post-apocalyptic charnel house, where having superpowers is one of the few paths to a good life… and even then, only if it’s the right power and you’re born in or can escape to the Free States.

Investigation, Mediation, Vindication, being an urban fantasy, is just a slightly skewed version of our world, but I don’t think I’d want to live in a world of chupacabras, crab assassins, goblins, or vampires… especially with humans being the bottom rung on the power ladder.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Revise your story until it’s perfect. Than revise it again. I don’t regret the years I spent querying agents because I used those years to edit and to write new books, but I would have had an easier road if I’d spent more time upfront on revisions instead of charging on to subsequent books in the series.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I would love to have absolute silence when I’m writing… which is, of course, an impossibility. (I’d wear noise canceling headphones, but they’d distract me too.) I live in a new community and it has been a construction area for the last year and will likely remain one for the next year, so I’m learning to shut out noise as best I can. Even so… no music!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I did a lot of research on San Diego for Investigation, Mediation, Vindication and its sequels and was surprised just how violent the town’s history was. From the 1979 Cleveland Elementary School shooting that became the subject of the Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays to the 1980s McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro, to the time someone stole a tank (!!) and drove it down the freeway… It definitely made me see the city with new eyes.

Tell me three unique things about you.

In the mid-90s, as a college student in Baltimore, I attended a party in Kansas that was being held for players of a Norwegian-based MUD (the text-based precursors to MMORPGs). There, I met the woman I’d been trading emails with, a grad student from UCLA, and promptly fell in love. A little over two years later, we were married, and 23 years further down the line, we remain very happily so. At that time, meeting someone online was actually considered weird!

My dad was an officer in the US Army, so I spent a number of years overseas as a child/teenager, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany and Madrid, Spain. I loved both cities.

Thanks to a dedicated bar space and an incredibly indulgent wife, I have roughly 75 different whiskies. My goal is to eventually have at least one bottle of every Octomore release. We just discovered online whisky auctions, so financial doom is nigh.

Chris, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Galaxy of Authors: Keyla Damaer

Galaxy of Authors: Keyla Damaer

Keyla Damaer

‘Farewell, wherever you fare.’ ~J.R.R. Tolkien

Buy the books!

In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I don’t have an answer to that. I’ve been writing since I could. Words can be magic if combined in the right way.
A few months back at my parents’ house, I found stories I wrote when I was a teen. They’re garbage, of course, but the desire to put down words has always been there. I could say that I write because I must and when I don’t, I feel sick. I write for myself stories that I would like to read.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Indeed. When I was a kid, I used to read sci-fi books in Italian. I don’t recall the authors or the books though. I suppose the first one to influence me was Marion Zimmer Bradley with her Darkover saga, for the science fiction part. Then, when I started reading in English, I discovered Asimov, Clarke, Adams, and others. Yet, don’t expect to read hard sci-fi. Too much technobabble bores me, and for this reason, I limit it as much as I can in my stories. Also, I’m not a scientist and I prefer to write something scientifically inaccurate.

Tell me about your book / series.

Some people say to never trust a spy.

The Parallels is the first installment of The Sehnsucht Series. The keyword here is Sehnsucht, a German word for “The inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what” to quote C.S. Lewis; a yearning for a far, familiar, non-earthly land one can identify as one’s home. It’s the longing for something or someone unattainable, Utopian, that possibly doesn’t exist. All my characters, mostly aliens, suffer from this ‘syndrome’ in a way or another.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Book two, three, and four of The Sehsnsucht Series are all in first draft stage. They all require heavy editing and a great deal of rewriting. Last year, I wrote some short stories that I intend to publish in an anthology introducing the readers to my world. Right now, my critique group is reading them and one by one I’m sending them to beta readers. It’s going to take a while before they’ll be out.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

Books are a free-speech medium. They shouldn’t be banned even if they offend a group of people. Whether that group is big or small doesn’t matter. We live in a world that has become too sensitive. I’m not afraid to use words to tell stories. No one should. Besides, I come from a country where education is free for everyone. Mind that in this context, free means affordable for everyone. No one needs to get loans to have a college degree here. Culture should be available for everyone at a fair and affordable price.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Halazar is an alien female and a soldier. She has lived all her life in times of war and always fought for her people. She deeply believes in duty and justice and will have to choose between them.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I’m independent. Mostly, because I write for myself, I write what I would like to read. I don’t want to be told what to write and how. I don’t want others to be responsible for the marketing choices for my stories. Just this month, I received two offers from two minor publishing houses without prompting them. I refused. I’m not saying I’d say no to a good deal. I’m just saying I don’t want to waste time waiting for it. If someone likes my work, it’s out there. They can reach out for me. In the meantime, I’ll be my own employer.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

Absolutely. How can anyone write without reading?

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The answer to this question changes in time. A couple of years ago it would have been different from now and in a couple of years, it may change again. Right now, my worst enemy is marketing. I’m still trying to figure it out.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?


Probably more a plotter than a panster. There have been times when I sat and wrote a scene I hadn’t planned just because it came out of my head that way. I wrote Lanees’s final chapter in The Parallels like this. It wasn’t planned at all. I was watching the news, something grim I still remember vividly, and boom. I imagined the final scene in all its details, and the next day I wrote it. Of course, I edited it a few times before it reached its final shape.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

If we’re talking about Easter Eggs, they’re filled with it. If we’re talking about details only a few people will notice, I hope not.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

Reading, travelling, gardening, meeting new people, and drawing. I’m not really talented with that, but I drew all the symbols in my Series. I also drew my characters and then sent those drawings to my cover artist who used them to create The Parallels’ stunning cover you can see.

What are you writing at the moment?

Book two of The Sehnsucht Series. It begins where the first one ended and introduces some new characters. The main character changes too. This time it’s going to be a Manderian male.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Some indie books are badly edited, and their covers scream amateur all over the place. The cover is the first step into marketing because it’s the first thing the reader will see. The second is the blurb, and the third is the content of the book, if they ever get to that point. Authors shouldn’t publish a novel until it has been edited unless they’re really good at self-editing. I know some of them. I also know editors are expensive if they’re good, but we need them. I must say, and this pleases me deeply, that the majority of the indie books I read do not have this problem, and I’ve read a great deal of indie books in the last two years.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Sci-fi and that’s what I write. Like I said before, I grew reading this genre and I’ve always been fascinated by space. I can cry if I spot the ISS passing over my head and I get all emotional when I recognise a planet in our night sky. If I win the lottery, I’m gonna buy an expansive telescope.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?


As a human, I wouldn’t want to live in Manderian space. Manderians, the alien species featuring in The Sehnsucht Series, don’t fancy Terrans. They tend to be xenophobic, some more some less. They’re also at war against Earth—or Terra Prime as they call it—and the other planets allied with Earth.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Confront yourself with other authors, let them read your story and listen to their advice. And most of all, hire an editor. A developmental one can be helpful to make you understand where you’re going and where you can’t go. Those can be very expensive, but they can light up your path. Read a lot and practice. Write, write, write. Do it every day, every moment that you can.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

Sometimes I do. When writing, I prefer classical music, especially Ludovico Einaudi. When I’m self-editing the first draft I prefer silence. When working on the editor’s suggestions anything will do. Pop, rock, usually something from the ‘80s or ‘90s. I don’t listen to a great deal of contemporary music.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I learnt many things while creating my stories and I think the most important one is that we aren’t alone. I found a great number of people willing to help and I also helped many more. I don’t do it with the expectation they will do something for me. One can learn a great deal even from others’ mistakes. Cooperation with other authors in my same shoes encouraged me to do better. It still does.

Tell me three unique things about you.

  1. I’m Italian but I write in English.
  2. I’m not a chocolate fan.
  3. I can dream entire scenes of my stories.

Keyla, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Privacy online

Privacy online

Privacy online for authors (and ordinary entities)

Online privacy sometimes seems a bit like the Fountain of Youth: everyone wants a piece, and no-one really knows how to get there because it’s at least partly alchemy.

Not so.

We’re coming up on Data Privacy Day, so here are a few really-to-relatively simple things you can do, as an absolutely standard-model human being, optionally one who writes, to improve your online privacy without doing anything drastic, like trying to delete your online footprint. No mermaid tears required.

Disclosure: Who died and elected me privacy god? I work in data privacy and compliance, BUT nothing I say here represents the company I work for.

The concept of TANSTAAFL, first

For them as haven’t read their Heinlein, I’m going to introduce you to a really key concept around ‘free’ services (online or anywhere else).

That concept is TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). Facebook is not free. Facebook is suctioning up your data and selling to anyone who’ll pay. That airport ‘free’ WiFi is not free for broadly similar reasons.

‘Free’ apps that promise to give you marvelous selfie filters and want access to your location, your contacts, and everything else? Nope! They’re not free either. You’re just paying them in data – yours, and if you give them access to that coveted Contacts list, your friends’ data, as well.

Get a VPN

Yes, really. A VPN (virtual private network) basically gives data moving to and from your device Star Trek shields as far as the unauthorised are concerned. It’s the go-to for some additional privacy online.

In slightly more technical terms, it encrypts your data. It slows data transmission down slightly, which is why people with slow Internet to begin with aren’t huge converts to VPN, but it means that no one can see what you’re up to. This is especially worth it in situations like mobile phones and those oh-so-tempting ‘free’ WiFis in cafes and airports. Put a VPN from a reputable provider on your cell phone. Put it on your home computer. Put it on your tablet.

Techradar’s Top 10 VPN services (I personally disagree with the inclusion of NordVPN, which had a breach a few months back, but I guess there’s nothing like publicly-bitten, really paranoid thereafter…)

You don’t have to give up Netflix or Fitbit. Better VPNs work with Netflix, and if you don’t want to shell out but do want Netflix, you can take the dumb-but-practical route and switch the thing off while you binge on The Witcher. Fitbit throws the occasional shit-fit about VPNs, but switching regions is a simple fix that takes all of a few seconds.

Use Multi-factor Authentication

Also known as two-factor authentication, 2FA, MFA…just for the love of all the squishy, squirmy deities, DO NOT use the text message option for 2FA unless there really is nothing else. (Reason: SIM card jacking, among others.)

Basically, humans are fallible. If you can remember a password, someone else can break it. If you happen to be dumb enough to use login: admin, password: admin, you end up shelling out billions in ‘we fucked up’ money. Multi-factor auth means that someone needs your login, your password, AND something else (that’s where that ‘multi’ comes in).

MFA comes in many forms. You can use an app on your phone, like Google Authenticator. You can buy a physical key, like a Yubikey. Your fingerprint can form a part of MFA. It can, gods help us all, be a text message with a code in it.

Because MFA is an extra step in the login process, a lot of people moan about it. Feel free to moan all you want, just use it. Use the method that makes the most sense for you, that takes the least time and effort (for me, that’s my phone and Google Auth. For you, it may be a Yubikey on your keyring. Whatever blows your skirt up).

Get a password manager

You remember how, just up above, I said humans are fallible, and if you can remember it, someone else can break it? Yeah, that. Well, newsflash, that 123qwerty password isn’t secure. Keeping your super-hard-to-remember password on a Post-It under your keyboard isn’t secure. Keeping an Excel sheet on your desktop with your logins and passwords isn’t secure. Setting all your favourite shopping sites to keep you logged in until the world ends, no, is not secure.

But remembering all those symbols and numbers and upper and lower case passwords is hard! Yes, it is. Sometimes adulting sucks. Sometimes, you can find a really easy easy way around the suckage. Password managers are suck-avoidance. A lot also offer a ‘free’ option. (Yes, I do remember what I said about TANSTAAFL.)

PC Mag’s Top 10 Password managers for 2020

A semi-decent variant, like LastPass, will plug into your browser of choice, have an app, let you add logins and passwords, auto-launch sites for you, generate secure passwords, and auto-update your settings when you change a password.

A password manager, effectively, means you need one decent password that you put the brain sweat into remembering, and use MFA with it, and the password manager manages all the rest of them. Awesome, right?

Don’t auto-accept cookies

…most places in the first world, with the exception of the USA, have laws that say you aren’t obliged to. Large companies, for the most part, aren’t big fans of those laws, which is why when you go hunting in ‘select options’ in cookie banners (assuming there even is an option to select or decline), you’ll often have to dig down to find the options, or decline with each third party site individually. (Hint: a lot of those companies will have hidden any options they offer equally thoroughly.)

WTF are cookies anyway? Cookies are tiny files (we’re talking bytes here, not MB), that a site drops on your device. Some of them are harmless, the equivalent of ‘we want to remember you prefer the French-language site so you don’t have to tell us every time’. Some of them sit there and do nasty things like tell every other site you land on where you’ve been, what you did, what you’re interested in buying today (ever wondered how you can look at a new kitchen whisk on Amazon and get hit with adverts for domestic appliances everywhere for the next six months? That ain’t alchemy either).

So now we’ve covered why companies aren’t keen on laws that say they shouldn’t track you and market shit to you without your actual consent…how do you exercise those anti-cookie rights? Well, unfortunately, cookies are such an established part of the internet that in a lot of cases, and especially if you deal with a lot of US sites outside California, the answer is ‘you can’t’. In the EEA, companies are obliged to provide you specific information about what cookies they want to place and get your active, specific, and informed consent to any marketing cookies. A lot of them don’t, either because they’re trying to figure out how, can’t afford a good solution, or just don’t want to and hope they don’t get a DPA land on them before they get set up.

Three simple things you can do that will help:

  1. Use incognito browsing. You’ll encounter a lot of shrieking from sites that can’t identify you on sight, but that can be educational too.
  2. Delete your cookies periodically (say, at least once a week, if you can’t be bothered to do it after each online session. There’s security consciousness and there’s masochism…)
  3. There’s a browser app called Consent-O-Matic developed by a team of privacy researchers in Denmark (after they found out all about the shadier cookie practices out there), where you install it, tell it you want to let people see which pages you spend time on and don’t want to be tracked by online advertisers for the rest of your life, (for example) and when it comes across a cookie tool it can handshake with, it sets those options for you. I recommend it.

That’s all, folks…

So, hopefully I’ve now scared the shit out of you and you’re off to investigate the wonderful options for trying to keep people from peering through your online windows. It’s a brave new world.

The good news is, 107 of the world’s 210(ish) officially recognised countries already have some form of privacy law in place as of 2019, and more are looking into one, so things are improving. We’re just in that lovely Twilight Zone where legislators take a couple of years to consult, draft, and pass laws protecting you, and a good hacker team can get into a system in under 18 minutes (yes, that’s minutes, with an ‘m’.)

In case after reading all that you feel in need a good, solid dose of escapism (here’s the TANSTAAFL in action part) – my sci-fi box set is on Kindle Unlimited, featuring interstellar mercenary cults, pretzel politics, and enough dirty fighting to bring a tear to your eye. Fund a starving author to write more escapism.

J I Rogers, Galaxy of Authors

J I Rogers, Galaxy of Authors

J. I. Rogers

‘If you don’t like what you’re reading then write something that you’d want to.’

Buy the books!

In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I can’t remember a time where I didn’t have concepts for stories; as an artist, it’s difficult not to create them while you’re working on a project. I did my first concept art for “The Korpes File Series” in 1985 as I was thinking about heading off to art school in Vancouver. I did, I took film animation (pre-CGI) at Emily Carr College of Art and Design but didn’t complete the degree. I spent the next couple of decades working, raising a family, doing the sci-fi and fantasy convention circuit as an artist, and running ‘pencil and paper’ role-playing games for my friends.

When I moved back to the small town my parents live in my gaming outlet ended, and the voices in my head got bored.

In 2012 I did a bit of world-building / concept art for a game designing friend of mine, and everything fell into place. Two weeks after that project concluded I signed up for NaNoWriMo, and I haven’t stopped since.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

I read many genres, and as an artist, I appreciate a lot of styles. Indie or traditionally published?

Traditionally published: Jaime Hernandez, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffery, Orson Scott Card, D. C. Montana, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. J. Cherryh, R. A. MacAvoy, Arthur Conan Doyle, Iain Banks, William Gibson, Spider Robinson, Neil Gaiman, Mercedes Lackey, George Orwell, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Barbara Hambly.

Indie: I plan to publish a list of indie authors that have influenced me on my website later this year – and give them some well-deserved recognition. Releasing names now would act as a spoiler.

Tell me about your series.

“Genetic throwback seeks kindred souls for illegal antics that will‘transform’ the existing corporatocracy; voices in my head need not apply.” ~ Nash X. Korpes

The closest definition I could come up with for “The Korpes File Series” would be that it’s a blend of dystopian and science fiction elements. There’s a healthy dollop of space opera mixed in as well; I’m a fan of character-driven plot. Summing it up, the story is set against a dystopian sci-fi backdrop, and told from multiple point-of-views, and centers around the main character’s experiences as a genetic anomaly. The protagonists and antagonists each offer clues that ultimately reveal the dark machinations behind the scenes. It contains everything from Aliens hiding in plain sight to a toxic, sentient Jungle that’s inexorably encroaching on the known world.

The Korpes File – Book 1

“It’s dangerous to be Diasporan, and Technician Nash Korpes knows this only too well. As a ‘throwback’ he was coveted by the shadowy Korlune Military Research and Development for his genetics, and he’s spent more time in Med-Bays than he has at work. When he’s torn from those he loves by an act of war he seeks to make sense of it all and uncovers a nemesis that threatens them all.”

The Korpes Agenda – Book 2

“Something dark is stirring in Korlune, and there’s only one person who sees it; brilliant, but haunted, Master-Tech Nash Korpes. Freshly escaped from the clutches of Korlune Military Research and Development he finds safety within the ranks of tech giant Harlo-Fyre. As the line between friend and foe blurs and friction between Korlune’s military factions reach boiling point, Nash is forced to act.”

I’ve just started work on the final draft of book three.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Seven, but there are more flitting around in the belfry. There are currently ten planned for the world of Tamyrh.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I don’t believe in either banning or burning books. I prefer having the option to read or not read work based on my personal assessment as opposed to having it decided for me by a government or a mob, and I believe that others should enjoy that same right. I trust my moral and ethical judgment. Enlightenment comes in many forms, and even the worst books can serve as a caution, lest we forget where we’ve been and what we’re capable of. Our fiction is just as valuable as a time-capsule of an era and should be treated as such.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I went the indie route after researching my options.

My why is simple; I have plans for my work and wish to maintain creative control. There was a time when traditional publishing was the only course outside of vanity presses, but that’s changed. Social media, the ability to create personal websites and use POD services that are credible have placed a lot of power in the hands of the authors.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I absolutely agree. Read multiple genres, traditionally and independently published work, comics/graphic novels, go attend plays and watch a plethora of movies (I suggest International films as well as classics). All of it is fuel for the Muse.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

Worst: Waiting for reviews.
Best: Writing something that someone else loves as much as you do.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I am both. The overarching plot has been set, certain key events are set, but what the protagonists and antagonists do in their free time is somewhat fluid.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Oh yes. My beta-readers and Patrons all have things to look for.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I’m a professional artist, and my Muse happens to love mythological, sci-fi, and fantasy themes. I explore them through illustration, sculpture, and painting.

What are you writing at the moment?

Two more interviews and book three “The Korpes <insert an appropriate word here>” are the other open Word documents on my laptop right now.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

“You’re an author? Who reps you? Oh… You’re self-published? How cute. You’re not a ‘real author’ though, it’s just a hobby.” ~ Something someone has actually said to me.

I’ve encountered a few ‘unreadable’ books by those that hold they can produce a finished product in one draft, but they are not the majority. Everyone has had to up their game with the rise of the ‘indie author’, and I can’t honestly say I know an unprofessional author.

There’s still a snobbery surrounding being traditionally published, but that’s losing its shine as the advantages once offered are dwindling. Now we can access the services of professional editors, formatting software, and cover designers. Social media has made it easier to create and maintain a fanbase. What about the glamour of being offered a book deal and an advance? For myself, I’m not certain money would mollify the control freak in me regarding my current project… Perhaps the next? ?

What is your favorite genre to write, and why?

My Muse is happy writing science fiction right now – probably because my office walls are covered in maps and sketches, and my laptop is filled with story ideas based in my world.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

If I were to there would be caveats, so I guess I’d have to say no. Why? The water is caustic, the jungle is toxic (and sentient), and humanoids require special equipment to survive for longer than a couple of days ‘topside’.

In the Northern country of Korlune, if you aren’t Korlo, you’re Diasporan (refugee) and a second-class citizen. While the Korlo inhabit the larger more modern cluster cities and have access to the best of everything, the Diasporan do not. They live in the rundown stations and mini-cities the Korlo set aside. Trains connect all of the population centers via an elaborate tunnel network, though airborne transports fly between cities.

The Southern country of Ankoresh is on a high desert plateau and receives almost no rain, but sandstorms are a problem. Though they are not as technologically advanced as the Korlo, they have greater numbers and a fine martial tradition. The Ankor and Diasporan populations are more integrated and while things appear better on the surface, underneath there are still elements that still resent the refugees… even after a couple hundred years.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Keep your metadata consistent across all platforms!

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I create soundtracks for writing, and I’ve found downtempo psybient electronica, industrial, and angsty bands from the late 90s and early 2000s inspire my dystopian Muse.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I was surprised and delighted to learn that people like my work.

Tell me three unique things about you.

– I lived in Kenya and Tanzania for a total of six years.
– I’m ambidextrous.
– I’m a bit OCD when it comes to clover patches and find a lot of four-leaf clovers as a result; I suspect I’m an honorary Leprechaun at this point.

J. I., thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!