Jane Jago, Galaxy of Authors

Jane Jago, Galaxy of Authors

Jane Jago

‘Never underestimate the ability of the human race to be disgusted.’

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

There was no conscious decision. I have just always written. It’s as natural as breathing.

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

Many. Too many to list. I think every time you read a well-written book it leaves a bit of itself inside you.

Tell me about your book / series.

I have chosen to talk about the Joss and Ben books: Ghosts, lies, and gourmet cooking.

Joss and Ben Beckett run a pub and live a happy fulfilled life. They wouldn’t be at all upset if stuff stopped happening. But at ‘The Fair Maid and Falcon’  very little is as straightforward as it seems.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A lot. I’m not prepared to divulge numbers…

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

It’s pretty pointless. Mind you, writing a banned book seems rather a lucrative ploy.

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

Let’s run with Joss Beckett. She’s a Michelin starred chef who doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Or at least that’s where we start. She is mostly memorable for her warmth, and the occasional outbreak of potty mouth.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie. Because it allows me to make my own choices.

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

No brainer. Read and read, and learn and learn

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

Bad. The times when nobody seems to want to buy your books. Good. Everything else. Except editing, which sucks. And promo, which is a black art.

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

I’m actually neither. I usually have a beginning and an end set. The middle is a bit more fluid. And as to what I think of how anybody else writes, basically I don’t. That’s their bag.

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

Maybe. But if I told you I would have to kill  you.

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

Cooking. I love cooking. Also eating. Hence the pot belly. But. Cake. I need no more excuse than that.

What are you writing at the moment?

Right now I’m answering some questions. *Giggles* Also the eighth Dai and Julia novel with my lovely co-conspirator E.M. Swift-Hook, some short stories, one sequel, a crime novel, and probably something else too…

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

That’s such a stupid generalisation. There is good and dross in every field.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Short fiction. I love the constraints of word count. It makes for taut sparely complex prose and when I get it right I feel so good.

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

No. I’m far too old to move from my armchair. Anyway, Dog wouldn’t let me.

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

Maybe publish earlier in life. Maybe not.

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

I listen to anything that is going on around me. I’m one who cannot write in silence. I am a fan of heavy metal, Gilbert and Sullivan, Dire Straits, and seventies pop, among other bits and pieces. I can never sit still if ‘Born to be Wild’ is playing.

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

That I can concentrate enough to properly format books.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I can swear in at least seven languages.

I once won a prize for being a cute baby.

I am allergic to fish.

Jane, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Dan Melson, Galaxy of Authors

Dan Melson, Galaxy of Authors

Dan Melson

‘Aren’t there any adults on your planet?’

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

I couldn’t not write.

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

Too many to mention them all individually.  Robert Heinlein was probably the strongest single influence, Poul Anderson, H. Beam Piper and many others. Outside of the genre, Rudyard Kipling.

Tell me about your book / series.

The technology is godlike, but the people are still human – or a little bit more.

The technology can move ships millions of light-years in quantum time, keep you young and healthy indefinitely, or destroy unshielded planets almost without noticing.  But it is still a fundamentally human society.  The rulers expect to be around long enough for mistakes to catch up to them personally, and the higher they go, the bigger the consequences of failure.  This forces them to hold each other responsible.

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

Right now, I have 3 that will probably remain forever unpublished, although events in them are referenced in published works.  I have one I’m actively working on, and 7 at the idea to plot and character creation stage.

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

It is without exception pure cowardice.

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

Graciela Juarez begins as a 28 year old college student with a troubled past who is trying to put her life on track.  She has an experience that without spoilers can best be described as a day and a half of massive repeated culture shocks, which break her out of her former mold.  But she retains a talent for finding trouble – or having it find her.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie – I was reading an interview with Christopher Stasheff, a multi New York Times bestseller when that really meant something, and he was talking about how he was no longer politically correct *enough* to land a publishing contract.  But the political gatekeepers can’t keep you from publishing Indie.

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

I think that’s pretty close to the truth – but you can’t just read things you agree with or that stroke your own ego and preferences.  You need to interact with things you disagree with, and play the devil’s advocate.  You need to be merciless about challenging your own comfort zone.

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

The best is when you get direct feedback from the end consumer.   That’s rare in other professions.  The worst is marketing – to try and get folks to pay attention to your work when there are a large and increasing number of very worthy competitors for that attention.

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

I’m a plotter, but not obsessive.  I want to know the main characters, the main opponent, the basic story I want to tell, and the principle gates I intend to go through in telling that story.  But particularly in the stories with connections to the Empire of Humanity, I’ve become used to the characters stepping up and telling me, “Wait, I thought of something better!” and them being correct.  This has happened in every one of my novels except the first.

I don’t understand how real ‘seat of the pants’ writing can really work.  That said, any opinions I would express have obviously been formed in ignorance.

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

Judging by the reviews, a lot more than I thought I did.

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

History, particularly military and economic history.  I’ve been nuts for it since my teens.  Computer gaming, when I have the time. Math and physics and economics.

What are you writing at the moment?

Setting The Board, Book Three of Preparations for War.  The Empire discovered a planet (near Earth) where the fractal demons were breeding humans to have the same genetic augmentation that is propagating through the gene pool of the Empire.  This planet is useful for Imperial agents as an access point to the realms of the fractal demons, and it will be for the war that is eventually coming as well.  But in the meantime, the human inhabitants of the planet are demonic slaves, and there are some people who are determined to help them better their lot, which includes the main characters of the series, Joseph Bernard and his native wife Asina.

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

It depends upon the Indie book.  Some are guilty of that, others are not.  It largely depends upon how much effort the author makes.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Science fiction.  It my favorite genre to read, and my mind seems to like asking the basic questions that define science fiction: What if, if this goes on, etcetera.

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

Absolutely.  The Empire of Humanity is a wonderful place to be one of the common folk.

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

I would tell myself to start self-publishing earlier, so I’d have more stories out by now.

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

Not generally.  I’ll listen while I’m thinking about story ideas, which is generally while I’m driving or doing other chores.  My music collection can best be described as eclectic.  Rock, Pop, Country, musical soundtracks, and classical.

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

That the characters would stand up and give me better ideas once I spent a certain amount of time developing them, and that I’ve learned to enjoy the story being hijacked thus.  Petra in Fountains of Aescalon was originally a minor character, and she hijacked the story twice, becoming second in importance only to the main protagonist.  Grace has hijacked her stories any number of times.  Etcetera.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I try to write stories for people that think.

My first novel was published when I was 52.

I have far more ideas in the pipeline than I will ever have time to write.

Dan, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Arthur Dux Bellorum release!

Arthur Dux Bellorum release!

Arthur Dux Bellorum – a new release from Tim Walker!

From the ruins of post-Roman Britain, a warrior arises to unite a troubled land.

Britain in the late Fifth Century is a troubled place – riven with tribal infighting and beset by invaders in search of plunder and settlement. King Uther is dead, and his daughter, Morgana, seizes the crown for her infant son, Mordred. Merlyn’s attempt to present Arthur as the true son and heir of Uther is scorned, and the bewildered teenager finds himself in prison. Here our story begins…

Arthur finds friends in unexpected quarters and together they flee. Travelling through a fractured landscape of tribal conflict and suspicion, they attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, whilst keeping a wary eye on Saxon invaders menacing the shoreline. Arthur’s reputation as a fearsome warrior grows as he learns the harsh lessons needed to survive and acquire the skills of a dux bellorum, a lord of war.

Excerpt from Arthur Dux Bellorum

Artorius (the young Arthur), Merlyn and Gawain are on the run from Mordred’s men and take to the Ridgeway path to escape their pursuers….

They set out early in a steady drizzle, leading their horses along the sheep herders’ path that wound upwards. “It is dry underfoot,” Merlyn explained to Artorius, “because of the white rock that devours the rain. We can expect to see travellers and drovers of sheep who use this path for safety as you can see a long distance in all directions. Bandits, bears, wolves and even storms can be seen approaching. There are few trees or bushes on top of the ridge. It is cold and windy because it is exposed, but it offers safety and a direct route towards the north and east. Ancient peoples live here, unaffected by the Roman occupation, and may offer us hospitality.” He stopped briefly to catch his breath, then continued, “…and the way is marked by ancient forts where our forebears protected themselves from attack by men, wild animals, giants and dragons.”

With aching legs, they reached the top of the hill and saw they were at the start of a long upland ridge that snaked into the distance before them. They were now below blue skies and above low, scudding white clouds.

“We have ascended to the heavens,” Gawain gasped in awe, as they mounted their horses.

“Follow me in single rank and keep your eyes open for movement of horsemen below,” Merlyn said, leading the line. The wind had died and their way was pleasant along a worn dirt track, lined by tufts of hardy moor grass and sage scrub, undulating across the ridgeback. After an hour they saw burial mounds on a high plateau, with sheep grazing about them and an indifferent boy sunning himself on a hillock. He briefly looked up as they slipped by, although his dog gave chase to the skittish horses. Shortly after they came upon their first hill fort.

Merlyn called a halt by the gates of the wooden stockade, the tell-tale curls of smoke signalling that it was occupied. “I’ll go ahead with Varden to speak to the occupants,” he said, dismounting. They approached and pushed the unguarded gate open, slipping inside.

Artorius sought out Gawain and asked, “Do you believe Merlyn’s story that I’m Uther’s one true son?”

Gawain smiled and replied, “Yes Artorius, I believe it. I cannot say I have evidence, for although Hector was my fellow knight, I did not see him again after Uther sent him into retirement to his farm in the west, and Merlyn also disappeared from court at that time. But you have the look of Uther – his dark and searching eyes, the same unruly hair and shape of his face. He was bigger in the body, mind, but there is still time.” Gawain squeezed Artorius’s bicep and they shared a laugh. Artorius was mildly content with his answer, but reserved his judgement.

Varden beckoned them to come to the gate and they filed into the fort. Inside, there were two wooden huts built on to the stockade side, a pen with an assortment of animals, and some crude thatched huts in a semi-circle facing a fireplace with a cauldron bubbling over it. About twenty people – family groups – turned and stared at them. Merlyn was deep in conversation with a bearded druid and they stood waiting patiently.

“You are welcome, friends of Merlyn,” the older druid said, indicating that they should tether their horses on the fence of the pen. Dirty children came running with arms fully of hay for the horses. Drying animal skins and clay pots, and sods of peat cut for burning were the only signs of industry in the place. They were invited to sit by the women, who served elderberry-infused water in wooden beakers to quench their thirst.

“We shall eat and rest for an hour and then continue,” Merlyn said, unpacking some object from his saddlebags and entering the hut of the druid.

Varden saw the quizzical look on Artorius’s face and whispered, “Best not to ask.”

“Is Merlyn a druid?” the curious youth asked.

The burly soldier jabbed a stick at a tuft of moor grass and considered his reply. “He often seeks out the company of lonely druids hidden in remote places. They are rarely seen in towns, where Christian priests would round on them and publicly denounce them. And so Merlyn goes creeping around in swamps and wooded places. But he is not a druid, although he shares some of their beliefs. I think he is searching for something or someone.”

Artorius regarded his companion with a quizzical expression. “Why do you think he is searching for someone or something, and who or what?”

Varden laughed, drawing the attention of others. “That I do not know, nor dare to ask. All I know is that he says he is guided by visions and the wisdom he finds in books and scripts – and he has an understanding of our world and what lies in the hearts of men beyond that of ordinary folk. Remember, he was an advisor to two kings.”

They shared some biscuits with the silent locals, in exchange for a bowl of meat and vegetable broth.It was clear they cared not for conversation, offering one-word responses when spoken to, or sometimes merely nodding in the direction of the druid’s hut.

“There is not much joy here,” Gawain muttered, drawing a snigger from Artorius.

Author Biography

Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. His background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in Fifth Century Britain), in 2015, starting with Abandoned, set at the time the Romans left Britain. This was extensively revised and re-launched as a second edition in 2018.

Book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published in 2017 and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018). The adventure continues in March 2019 in the fourth book, Arthur, Dux Bellorum.

His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories,Thames Valley Tales. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London.These stories combine his love of history with his experiences of living in London and various Thames Valley towns.

In 2016 he published his first novel, a dystopian political thriller,Devil Gate Dawn, following exposure through the Amazon Scout programme. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, followed In 2018 by a second adventure, Charly & The Superheroes.

Twitter basics for authors – what is Twitter?

Twitter basics for authors – what is Twitter?

What is Twitter?

First seen / guest blog on Ryder Author Resources

Twitter bills itself as a micro-blogging service. If you’re looking at that and thinking ‘that’s just great, I’ve already got a website, an actual blog, and an Amazon page – I need more things to keep updated like a hole in my head’, keep reading.

Don’t think of Twitter as ‘oh dear god, not another one’ and start thinking of it as an authors’ coffee bar. Or Irish Pub. Or drum circle. Wherever you go to talk shop and meet like-minded people.

What Twitter probably won’t do for you is get you a ton of eager new readers. I’ll be absolutely up-front about that. My following on Twitter is over 9,000, and I sincerely doubt I’ve sold more than a couple of books there. It’s not a place to set a series of ‘hey, my book’s awesome, buy it here!!!’ posts and forget about it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.

What Twitter has done for me is find me my cover designer, my logo designer, various reviewers, and a lot of fellow authors with excellent tips and experience to share. It’s where I met the author group I mostly work with for joint promotions and blog hops.

Getting started on Twitter

Start small, grasshopper. Get an account, if you haven’t already.

Head over to https://twitter.com/ and sign up. If you’re creating this account primarily for author-related stuff, do yourself a favour and pick a ‘handle’ (the part that comes after the @) that has something to do with your author name. Don’t use a book or series title, unless you plan to start and keep up a new account for each book or series you launch.

Now set up your profile. You’ll need a short bio, an author photo, or at least something that you’re willing to be represented by (a lot of people won’t follow back blank profiles), and a header image. If you head on over to my profile, https://twitter.com/steel_jo, you’ll see I’ve used a book banner for my header, but you don’t have to. They’re easy to change.

Don’t put your website link in your bio – that takes up valuable real estate and you get a separate spot for it in set-up. On the other hand, if you have a link other than your website that you want permanent pride of place for, get it a shortlink (see bitly.com, for example) and stick it in.

Do use hashtags in your bio – not enough to overwhelm it, but two or three are fine and make you easier to find. Write horror? Try something like ‘writing #horror, living da dream’. Like marathons? Hashtag it. The hashtags make you searchable. Rumours keep running around Twitter that the hashtags are no longer necessary, but I’ve been there 8 years and I haven’t seen any actual footprints of that particular change, so for a whole extra character, I’d hang onto them.

Hashtags are also the basis for Twitter chats, where you can tweet with people real-time. Learn more about that here.

Is this thing on? Nothing’s happening

Yes, it is, and now you’ve got, or possibly tweaked, your account, let’s get stuck in.

Twitter is all about how many people you follow, and how many people follow you. It’s not like Facebook, where ‘friending’ someone you don’t know and have never met makes you a stalker.

So, if you just started your account, let’s head out to find you some people to chat with. Two options: up at the top right, you’ll see a ‘search’ option. If you know some people, type them in there and follow them. If you don’t, then type ‘#amwriting’ in there. You’ll see a page come up with ‘top’, ‘latest’, ‘people’, etc. Head on over to ‘People’ and follow some of the people whose bios make you grin. Once you run out of those, try another search – I write #scifi, so I’d type that into search and repeat the exercise.

Don’t get upset if not everyone follows you back – some of them will, and that’ll get you started, and it’ll give Twitter something to work with for that section on the right-hand side of your profile headed ‘People to follow’.

As a regular exercise for Twitter, I recommend taking twenty minutes each weekend, and finding 50 or so new people to follow. The following weekend, unfollow all the folks who haven’t followed you back, rinse, and repeat.

Get Tweeting

Following people is all very well, but if you never add any content, followers evaporate fast, so start Tweeting. Top right on your profile, right by the search option, you’ll find the ‘Tweet’ button.

Tweets can contain text (obviously), photos, .gifs, and polls. The character limit is currently 280. Let’s start simply and give you a tweet to ‘pin’ on your profile.

Put together something you’d like people to see as soon as they land on your profile (don’t repeat your bio), something like an intro to your work. ‘Hey, nice to meet you, I’m exploring what happened in #Oz after the Tin Man found his #heart – come and meet the cast!’ plus a website link, for example.

Once you click ‘Tweet’ it’ll show up on your profile. Usually, things you write, or retweet, show up in reverse chronological order, so your older Tweets vanish pretty quickly. To keep a Tweet at the top of your profile, click the little downwards-pointing arrow at the top right corner of the Tweet. You’ll see ‘share’, ‘copy’, ’embed’, and ‘pin’ options. Click ‘pin to your profile’.

It’s considered polite to retweet pinned posts if you’re visiting someone’s profile – it gives their tweet a boost, and lets them know you’re alive, while putting content in your feed. Win-win. Change out your pinned post fairly regularly – at least once a month. Your followers should get a notification when it changes, which gets it a bit more traction than your run-of-the-mill ‘Whoops, there goes my #coffee’ posts.

Pro tip – Twitter lists

So you’ve found Jensen Ackles’s profile, and followed him, and you’re watching Twitter with baited breath for the moment he follows you back. Sorry, ain’t never going to happen. Doesn’t mean you can’t follow him, but you don’t actually have to follow him or have him follow you to see what he’s posting on Twitter.

Enter lists, my favourite thing on Twitter after the .gif wars.

You’ll notice, in your Twitter profile or the ‘Home’ view, you’ve got the search box, a little round photo of you, and the ‘Tweet’ button in a row up the top right? Click once on that round photo, and you’ll get a drop-down menu. Second on that menu is the ‘Lists’ option.

Lists are collections of people whose content you want to see. You don’t have to follow people you add to a list, and they don’t have to be following you.

Lists are important, because once you pass about 200 people you’re following, your Twitter ‘Home’ feed updates so frequently you’ll never catch up on everything that happened while you were at work.

However, if you add people whose posts (Tweets) you really want to keep up with on to a list, you can browse whatever they had to say once you’re at home with your feet up.

I keep a list of people who post useful marketing tips, a list of my close friends, a list of people I publicise with – you get the idea.

Be a real person

Even if your Twitter account is primarily for your writing, don’t just blast your books there. Be a person. Tweet about the asshat who barged in line and kept you from your vital coffee and how you went mutant zombie killer on her ass before you woke up with your cheek stuck to the Starbucks table. Tweet about your pets, or your travel plans, or what you’re reading, or how much editing sucks.

Retweet other people’s posts. It gets you good cess, and inclines them to help you out by doing the same (that pinned post is really helpful for busy people – it give them something of yours to retweet without having to skim down twenty retweets in your feed).

Join a few chats, if you can. If you see an interesting news article, use the Twitter share option – or if there isn’t one, you can usually copy and paste the link into a Tweet.

The golden rule is something like 5% blasting your stuff and 95% everything else. You can play with that a little – if you blog, for example, I recommend retweeting older posts that are still relevant once in a while – it gives your feed content and boosts engagement with your website, but make sure it’s not a constant stream of ‘my books are awesome, buy my books!’.

Oh, and do check your Tweets *before* you post. There’s nothing like typos in a post designed to showcase what a great writer you are to make people wonder, and there’s no ‘edit’ function in Twitter – you wear it or you delete it, and even deleting can’t make it unseen by anyone who’s already viewed it. It’s worth taking a few seconds to proofread.

Have fun!

Ryder Author Resources

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Twitter chats and how to find them

Twitter chats and how to find them

WTF are Twitter chats, anyway?

Twitter chats are based on hashtags. If you’ve spent more than five minutes on Twitter, you’ve noticed that Tweets fly past with #amwriting, or #IDGAF embedded in them or stuck on the end.

Sometimes, a hashtag is just that – a way to find related content across the whole wide Twitterverse. Need inspiration? Search for #quoteoftheday and you’ll find as many Tree of Life moments as you can stomach. Want to find out what #Jlo’s been up to? There you go. Feeling like a walk on the dark side of life? #INTJ.

A Twitter chat is when a group of Twitter users schedule a time to discuss something together under a specific hashtag. They tag all their Tweets with that hashtag, and people online and looking at that hashtag can see what they’ve said and respond.

Why should I take part in Twitter chats?

It’s a great way to meet like-minded fellow-travellers and learn new things. As an indie author, I haven’t met a lot of readers on Twitter, but I’ve met many writers, marketers, artists, and subject matter experts – quite often, via a chat or a hashtag. If you participate in chats, you may make friends and gain followers, both directly through the chat and if someone retweets your nugget of wisdom.

Basically, exposure, exposure, exposure.

What are some good Twitter chats for writers?

Excellent question. Another good question is ‘How do you define good?’. Personally I like chats with plenty of participation that aren’t so rigid that I feel awkward chiming in, so here are a few to drop by and try.

  • Sundays, 6 PM – 7 pm GMT: #happywritingchat does pretty much what it says on the tin – writers having fun and writing irresponsibly.
  • Mondays, 9 PM – 10 PM GMT: #sparklybadgersunite is a chat for writers of all stripes to meet up and discuss what they’re working on, what they’re reading, and what they’re watching. It’s informal, fun, and occasionally degenerates into epic .gif wars.
  • Wednesdays, 2 AM – 3 AM GMT: #bookmarketingchat is a chat focussed on (you guessed it) book marketing.
  • Wednesdays, 1 AM – 2 AM GMT: #authorconfessionchat – it’s good to experiment with new writing ideas, and to confess your results. #authorconfessionchat also runs daily author challenges; check out the schedule for each month on the moderators’ profiles and have fun!

If you search for five minutes on Google, you’ll find a lot more, but these are active as of early 2019 and well worth an hour. You’ll meet new people and have a chance to try some writing challenges.

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