Friday, 6 December 2019

Meet A.A.Warne - Australian Author and Artist

 This week, I interviewed A.A. Warne, who is a creative soul in many ways. Originally an artist, she stumbled across writing at a special time in life. Her covers are brilliant, and you can definitely judge the books by their cover and know you're in for a reading treat.

A. A. Warne writes elaborate, strange, dark, and twisted stories. In other words, speculative fiction.
Located at the bottom of the Blue Mountains in Sydney, Australia, Amanda was born an artist and grew up a painter before deciding to study pottery.
But it wasn't until she found the art of the written word that her universe expanded.
A graduate of Western Sydney University in Arts, Amanda now spends her time wrestling three kids and writing full time.

What was the defining event that made you start writing? 

After I had my first child, I had to give up my art. At the time I was practising pottery and then came along my daughter who never slept day or night. Pottery is a big all-day practice that takes lots of time to get ready and clean up. So I put it aside for a few years and decided to go back to drawing. I planned years of art, complete with drawings within a month. Then I got bored. And it wasn't the boredom where you pick up jogging to kill the time. It was a boredom that got into my soul.
One of my really close friends saw this in me, no matter how hard I tried to hide it. And she threw a book at me. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. She demanded I read it and I laughed at her. I wasn't a reader! I was an artist. But I did it anyway. Each time my daughter went to sleep, I picked up the book and read it. Then I tracked down the next one and read that too. From that moment onwards, I haven't stopped reading.
But the boredom was still there, deep in my soul. I couldn't figure it out. Was this the depression that mum's have after having a baby? No. It wasn't a depression, it wasn't the fact that I was run off my feet with a baby who never slept, the house was always clean, and I had things to do like reading and exercising and eating right. But I wasn't creating!
So I bought a notebook and my favourite type of pen. The only problem was, I had nothing to write. The first page was lines saying something like, "I am writing but I have nothing to say."
Then the dreams started. I dreamt the same dream three nights in a row and bam! I had a story.
Now, I'm telling my brain to stop sending stories! Because I can't juggle so many, but no, I don't think I have control of my imagination. If my imagination had any more control - I wouldn't sleep, eat or do anything but create!

What are you working on now?

Ha! So many projects that you'll wish you had never asked! I'm a scatter brain and with that means I can work on multiple projects at once. Then when I set the editor in place, I buckle down and complete the story.
The Reluctant Wizard is in its last stage and that one is about a boy who gets accepted into an exclusive wizard school, but he realises that the wizards are not what they make out to be.
I've just finished a draft to Dawn of the End and I've commissioned the cover. It's about a prisoner who is transported from one prison to another when the Earth is invaded by an unknown alien entity.
And Michelle and I are mapping out The Hidden Truths Trilogy book two! I know everyone is waiting for that one. For those who are not familiar, it's about a psychic who meets two guys, unbeknown to her that one is a shape-shifting reptilian and the other is in an secret society, and they're at war with each other.
I have just finished a short-story called FrankenSanta where a trinity of Elves accidentally kill Santa Claus and think it's a good idea to bring him back, but Santa isn't the same. It's due out Christmas 2019 and advance readers have said it's hilarious. I had so much fun writing it.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both! I'm totally energised when I do anything creative. I'm a painter, potter, drawer, writer, you name it and I'm creating! If I run out of art supplies, I start knocking down walls and renovating.
But that being said, my creative mind never switches off. I will work myself into the ground. During the beginning stages of a book - when I'm first getting an idea - my mind goes into overdrive. I'm reading non-fiction, writing down conversations, analysing people's faces, body language, architecture, etc! And this is all great techniques to get into the book, but then somewhere between draft and re-write, I hit the exhaustion button.
So to avoid this obsessive behaviour, as energising as it is, I now collect lots of things for many different ideas that will eventually becomes books later on. That way I get excited about a new idea but put that energy into the book I'm currently finishing.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Rules and cliches.
Who invented writing rules? I mean, back off people! First they want us to 'find our voice' and then make sure that voice MUST be 'unique' but wait, jump through a million rules that no one can define? Madness!
Then the cliches - 'Write what you know!' Well then I can honestly, wholeheartedly say that I've been to another planet and explored their culture, plus have a tendency to jump inside people's minds time to time. So does that mean I actually write non-fiction?
Those two aside, there's one massive trap that, even after two published books, still keeps coming up. Judgement. Not the fact that I'm writing or publishing, but the idea that if you're not going to make lots of money or be famous, then why bother! This drives me bonkers. Life is not about money and being famous is a madness in itself. My imagination is vast and I have the ability to express that in art forms, including writing. So for me to create my imagination in form, that's my gift to the planet. And in turn, that is me experiencing life.

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Yes! You're probably going to laugh because I live in Australia, but I get 'winter block'! Ha! Like bears, I go into hibernation. I wish I could sleep for the duration of winter because I'm slow, sluggish and tired. Luckily winter here only last about twelve weeks and then bang! Straight back to warmer weather and I'm energised and creating again.
Very rarely do I read one book at a time. I have about five or six non-fiction books where I'm cross referencing or picking up to throw my imagination a curve ball and I don't let the writer control my ideas.
I do only read one fiction book at a time. That way I can dive into the story and let the writer lead me along the emotional rollercoasters.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I have no idea what readers want and I think it's a slippery slope to judge it in the fantasy world. I understand that genres like romance have their tropes and done right can be replicated but fantasy is boundless. And how do you cater for a never-ending possibility?
Originality is an interesting concept. For me, I try to feed my imagination possibilities: Nothing is impossible. Everything is true. And there is no such thing as limitations.
Now apply that to anything! And all of a sudden reality gets turned upside down and that's where new stuff comes from. Feeding the imagination allows us to see and experience and feel the world in a totally different way and that's what I do to generate my ideas.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

For me, nothing is off-limits. I finished my degree in Arts a couple of years ago. I do plan on starting my Masters soon but first I wanted to know where I stood in the world. I read and research other's arguments, opinions, beliefs, etc. and I needed to know where I stood, what my beliefs are and if I had opinions.
See I have a tendency to take a don't-pick-sides perception, which sounds odd but that's just me. What I do is see an idea from every different aspect possible. I like to know what's going on, what's not being said or seen, outside forces and this is applied from the micro and day-to-day stuff right to the big macro and universal stuff.
So when I graduated, I started reading everything. History, geography, conspiracy theories, science, biographies, etc. Then my interest diverted and I went into the history of science and all it's different branches.
At the moment I'm really focused on the unknown. What do we have evidence for but we don't know or understand it. So that takes me down the route of pyramids. Harmonic vibration healing. Hypnosis therapy. Ancient sites and architecture. etc. So I still research very widely and pull ideas out from all different places and apply them to whatever idea I feel that suits best. That's the best thing about planning a huge series or lots of different stories because I could read one research book and have content for five stories.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Now you're really going to laugh. I am more comfortable at writing a male's voice and character than I am a female one. Gender is a learnt behaviour. We socialise our children from birth into proper 'girl' or proper 'boy' behaviour. And it's so ingrained into our society that we often don't realise that we're doing it. I hear it all the time, 'oh, he's such a boy' or 'because he's a boy' and that means females can't do the same?
I grew up surrounded by boys. Three across the road, two next door and my own brother. My mother is not a girly-girl either. She often had to save my father from spiders while he took off screaming. Now as an adult and with my own husband, I often laugh at how we swap gender roles. You can always find him baking cupcakes while I'm renovating the house.
So when it comes to writing, I easily jump into the man's head. Woman are complicated. They often are motivated by emotions or justify things through emotions. While men have the ability to disconnect emotionally and get things done. I tend to do that myself and I think that's because of my very-masculine upbringing.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Not in Heavy Dirty Soul or Concealed Power. But my upcoming books, yes! And lots of them. In Dawn of the End, it's a ten-book series that kick-starts a huge mega series. There is a lot planned out and then there is a fair amount of grey area that I'm still yet to explore. Essentially, I'm knitting together all of humanity's secrets that I've been researching. I can't give anything away because these secrets are super juicy, however Dawn of the End gives away one of the most intriguing ones.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

Heck yeah! Writer's block occurs so many different ways. I got it once during a really bad sickness that had me in hospital on and off for months. I couldn't even form a thought in my mind. It was like my mind had terminated. I was devastated. I thought my life was over. The doctor didn't sympathise with me. He didn't understand that my imagination is life and how all of a sudden was I not able to access it. But really I needed time to heal. Once my body healed, my mind went into overdrive and ten years later I'm still trying to catch up.
I tend to slow down on the writing around the times I catch a cold or feel a little sluggish from overdoing life in general, but now I've learnt to take time off, heal properly and by doing so my mind will catch up again.
So for me it's about the body, but for my writing friends it's about their minds. I feel like I don't run out of ideas because I'm constantly feeding my brain fresh content. If I see something that is interesting, I explore it. If a book grabs my attention, I buy it. If I'm fascinated by something, no matter how small, it becomes part of my office decor. Stimuli is key for writers - ideas, visuals, smelly candles, soft clothing, craft books, whatever. I feed my brain like I feed my body food. Then it has enough energy to produce another story.

Quick quiz:
Favourite food: Strawberries
Favourite drink: Coffee... black!
Silliest saying: Not silly, but a constant saying of mine is: Nothing ever happens until it all happens at once.
Best holiday spot: Love the bush when it's beside the water
Favourite song at the moment: Loving Post Malone right now - Blame it on me
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? Mostly a plotter, but if I have a section that I haven't planned out, I pants it out when I get to it.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Star Wars, but love them both
Best superpower: Any that has a consequence
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Sell everything I own except what I can fit in a backpack and walk around the planet.

Heavy Dirty Soul and Concealed Power
Genre:  Speculative fiction - heavy on fantasy

Concealed Power:
For centuries, Earth has served as the battleground for a secret war between a reptilian alien species and the clandestine human organization dedicated to eradicating this extraterrestrial threat. But when a single woman becomes the focal point of this brutal conflict, the fate of the planet alters forever...

Life hasn't been easy for Riley Anbar since her grandmother's death. Between struggling to run the family business, dealing with troubling psychic visions, and puzzling over unanswered questions about the parents she never knew, Riley is doing her best just to get by. After a pair of chance encounters with two mysterious men, Riley finds herself thrust into danger as both human and alien forces converge on her once-ordinary life.

But in this war, there is no clear boundary between good and evil. Both factions are determined to use Riley for their own ends, and they're willing to endanger everyone around her to achieve their goals. Caught between the two men who have captured her heart and the secrets of her own past, what choice will Riley make when she discovers neither side is in the right?

Publish date: April 2019
Publisher: A. A. Warne

Heavy Dirty Soul:
A love that transcends Death. A curse that defies Time.
Bold, independent Ivy is a witch. In a time of rampant hysteria against witchcraft, Ivy is an easy target.
After she wins the heart of Thomas, the town's most eligible bachelor, Ivy's rivals burn her at the stake.
Her death unleashes a powerful curse, forcing Ivy and Thomas to relive their doomed romance throughout the ages.
But this is no love story...

Publish date: May 2019
Publisher: A. A. Warne

Find more about A.A. Warne at her sites and links below



Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Meet LJ Kendall - Australian Author

“L. J. Kendall failed to drown on five separate occasions on Sydney's northern beaches.  He worked in the IT R&D field while extremely happily married for 30 years to an adventurous mediaeval scholar 22 years his senior until her death in 2014.”

Series title: The Leeth Dossier
Vol 1: Wild Thing
Vol 2: Harsh Lessons
Vol 3: Shadow Hunt
Vol 4: Violent Causes

Genre:  cross-genre: sci-fi/fantasy


Book 1:
In 2036, magic returned to a world which neither needed nor wanted it.  Years later, an unusual young child is acquired by Dr Alex Harmon for his magic research at the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction.  He sets Sara to hunting an imaginary creature, unaware it is both real and far more dangerous than anyone could know.

Publish date: Ebook: Dec 2015, 1st pbk Mar 2016
Publisher: Self-published

What’s the basic plot of your book or series?  
In The Leeth Dossier, a cross-genre sci-fi/fantasy series set around 2060, events at the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction turns a ruthless researcher's naive young guinea pig, Sara, into the deadly assassin, Leeth.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Originality, but being aware of readers.  My main focus is on making my characters real: letting them be themselves and get into and out of trouble.  Second to that, I try to meet readers’ expectations. Several reviewers described my first book or two as “brave”.  And Leeth is very real to me: I’m writing the series to bring her to life (and for me, to find out what happens to her).

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
The series is very much a continuous series with deep connections through and across all the books. They follow my MC – a loveable assassin – with a continuing and developing cast of characters and plots. The gaps between the books vary betweens hours and days, or maybe weeks.
For an author starting out, I’ve done many things unwisely – learning my craft with a novel, rather than short stories; and then writing not just a single book, or even a  short series, but a lengthy one. (I can’t see myself wrapping up all the major plot arcs and character development in less than ten books.)

 How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t think the publishing part of the work has changed my process at all.  I suppose I’m more aware of the things I need to do around the writing that’s not actual writing or editing.  But finishing my first book taught me how valuable it would be to involve my editor at the outset, to get some feedback on the sketchy outline of the book.  Nowadays I also allow plenty of time for the structural edit and later rechecks and polishing.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The two key things are my cover designs from Mirella de Santana (in Brazil) and the developmental edits from my Editor, (in Ireland).  If I had to pick just one, I’d say the money paid to my editor.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Probably talking my way out of being bullied.

What does literary success look like to you?
I consider myself ahead if the number of hours of enjoyment my books generate, exceeds the number of hours I spent creating them.  I think I’ve put about 12,000 hours into creating the first four books, so if I assume it takes about eight hours to read one, then I’d need about 1500 readers.
Of course I’d like many more people to find and enjoy them.
But the best success would be to one day have a reader tell me that Leeth’s example helped them through a low point in their lives – that they took heart from Leeth’s story, and refused to give in or give up.

How many hours a day do you write?
It varies through the phase of the book.  While I’m writing the first draft, I generally average about ten hours a day, six days a week.  I ease off during the month or two I spend editing and revising before sending it to my editor.  After sending it off I generally shift over to the publishing and marketing side of things, blogging more and more social media, and beginning to plan the launch and learning more about what I need to do on the business side.

How do you select the names of your characters?
I put a lot of thought into the names.  Names have a network of meaning attached to them, etymologically and through connection with famous figures.  So I try to  find names that help me get inside the character.  Names are super important; they’re a bit magical.  Recently I was trying my hand at writing a short film script, and discovered I couldn’t continue when one of the characters stepped on stage until I’d named them properly – the instant I did, the words flowed.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read them all.  The good ones help me feel appreciated and understood.  I get a little burst of pleasure to know someone enjoyed my book.  For the bad ones, I think I can tell when it’s from someone who should not have read the book (my books aren’t for the faint-hearted), and more rarely from someone who’s just being destructive.  I’m happy to receive constructive criticism, and that’s much more common.  I learn from the constructive ones. E.g. if a reviewer misinterprets something, it tells me I need to be more overt.  Recently, in book 4 a reviewer complained Leeth was growing too slowly as a character, which may mean I need to somehow signal that Leeth’s personal journey of growth will be a slow one, covering many books.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes.  But more plot foreshadowing than ‘Easter eggs’.

What was your hardest scene to write?
The scene in the first book immediately after Leeth’s magic unfolds, and Harmon get just how he wants.  At that point Leeth still has a bare inkling of how deeply he’s been manipulating her.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I figure about 3000 hours of work.  Partly it depends on the length, but it’s not that simple.  I think book 4 was over 4000.  I can write very fast – e.g. after some discussion about splitting the MS for book 2 in half, I spent 10 days plotting new stuff to make a satisfying story – 24 new scenes.  I then wrote those over the next 11 days, a total of 44k words.  So I can be fast, when doing my first draft. Structural edits take a month or few, after I get the detailed feedback from my editor.  From there I spend a couple of months polishing, copy-editing, and then polishing.  I also try to do what I call an “oomph” analysis, where I self-rate each chapter on Character Development, Plot development, World building, Pace, Tension, Emotion, Humour.
I’m still trying to work out what that tells me!

Do you believe in writer’s block? 
Yes and no.  I think there are many, many things you can do to induce writer’s block.  But once you get a feel for what the main ones are, and how to harness your unconscious, you can avoid it.
After dead silence from publishers with the unsolicited MS, and as my day job grew stressful, I stalled for ten years by trying to visualise a certain scene I wanted to write.  But since learning about the Unconscious Thought Theory, writer’s block has been a thing of the past.
Oh: and in book 4, I finally reached the scene I’d been wanting to write, and it turned out very well I feel. (NB: it’s the scene in the nightclub, Sybarus.)

Quick quiz:
Favourite food: lobster mornay
Favourite drink:  fresh-squeezed OJ. Alcoholic: butterscotch schnapps.
Silliest saying: What could possibly go wrong?
Best holiday spot: a coral island.
Favourite song at the moment: Castles, by Freya Riding
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? Pantser.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: LOTR
Best superpower: Do What I Say.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Finish writing my series,

What’s the hardest thing about promoting your books?
It’s so hard to pick just one thing – I’m increasingly coming to feel that no one at all deeply understands how the marketing of books works.  It’s a big, complex problem.  But for me specifically, I think the hardest thing is that I can’t just try to attract any and all readers, because the key relationship at the heart of the first two books is the one between Leeth and the researcher who ‘acquires’ her, and they delve into some deep and dark waters.  My books are a mix of dark and light, but they’re not for everyone. I’m experimenting now with the summary/warning message:
"An abusive childhood creates a disturbingly innocent killer, who through a few precious friendships and her own strength and courage, slowly changes to something far more."




Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Australian Author: Aiki Flinthart

Aiki has 12 published speculative fiction novels and one non-fiction, and has edited 2 anthologies of short stories. Her stories have been shortlisted for the Australian Aurealis awards, and twice top-8 finalists in the USA Writers of the Future competition. When not writing, she does hero-approved activities such as martial arts, knife-throwing, archery, lute-playing, and belly-dancing.

Her latest book, a historical fantasy called Blackbirds Sing (a Ruadhan Sidhe novel) is due for publication on 1st December. Check it out at the end of the interview.

Aiki, thanks for joining us today. What was the defining event that made you start writing? 

I’ve always written stories. Early on it was terrible romances. But when my son was about 8 we realised he was dyslexic and he struggled to read fat stories like Harry Potter etc, even though he wanted to. So I wrote a series of 5 books for him, entitled 80AD. They’re a portal/gamer fantasy series set in an online computer game that sucks two YA kids into 80AD Britain (then, 80AD Sweden, 80AD Egypt, 80AD India, and finally 80AD China). My son and his friends loved them so much that I decided to publish them. Having NO clue what I was doing, I threw them up on Smashwords and Amazon. They went a bit crazy and have had about 400 000 downloads. I still get fan mail from kids of 10 through to grandparents of 60+ from all over the world. 
So then I decided I really should learn how to write better and maybe take a crack at this writing thing a bit more seriously. Which reminds me – I really should go back and re-edit those stories!

What is your writing Kryptonite?

My own insecurities. Even though I’ve learned heaps about the craft of writing since 80AD came out, I still feel like I need to learn how to writer better. Sometimes that makes it hard to write; that feeling of not being good enough. 

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Neither, to be honest. I just write what I want to read. I’m not in this to be rich or famous. I just like to tell stories. If I can tell a story that explores a theme important to me, then I can be reasonably sure there will be a few people out there who like it, too. I tried writing to market and hated what I wrote. As soon as I start focussing on economics it all goes very badly in the creative side of things. I have to stay true to what I love (Although I do realise there are people who can both write directly to a current economic target-market, AND love writing those stories. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.)

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Great question. Who’s to say what’s a ‘strongly felt’ emotion and what’s not? It’s so subjective. I’m quite logical and pragmatic, myself. While it’s true I do have difficulty understanding people who react very dramatically to things, it doesn’t stop me from writing them as characters. As a writer, you have to be able to write people who are NOT you, otherwise all your characters are just…you. 
Observe how people behave. Study and read psychology books. Ask people how they think and feel. It’s just another type of research. 

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’m part of a hugely supportive writing group where we actually get together and see each other face to face! Can you believe it, in this day and age? It gives us all people we trust to give good feedback, beta-readers we can rely on, people who can help us nut out stubborn plot issues, or just people who will cheer our successes and commiserate with our failures. We all need a tribe. A good writers group helps you through the tough times and gives you inspiration to write better and to help others succeed.

What’s your favourite scene you’ve written?

In the IRON-FIRE-STEEL series it was the climactic gladiator-style battle scene in the slave-games my heroine was trying to win. A huge stadium full of people. Badguys trying to kill her. She and her companions had to hastily form a combat-ready team from a group of reluctant fellow-slaves and try to defeat other teams of slaves. It involved throwing crappy knives, standing on a pile of dead bodies, and a lot of cool action sequences. My husband, when he read it, actually punched the air and said ‘Yesss!’ at the end.
In the Blackbirds Sing, stories, I think it was the second-last story – the climax again where all the women come together in a last-ditch attempt to save Queen Elizabeth of York and the young baby Prince Arthur. That one made my husband cry, so I figure I did my job.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When I first read Black Beauty in about Grade 2 and bawled my eyes out over it. And every time I re-read it, I cried again. And when I discovered science fiction and fantasy novels and was transported into other worlds that I could practically see and taste. Plus, I think I learned more useful information from fiction than I ever did at school.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

My pet peeve is writing advice that says ‘write everything in very plain language’. I don’t believe in dumbing language down. You can use interesting language and still be understood. I DO think you need to write to your genre and audience. Because I write fantasy and sci-fi mostly, I have no issues with adding in the occasional unusual or tricky word. If it’s well done and in context, your reader will work it out without being jarred out of the story. So for me, the trick is balancing the modern demand for faster books with minimal ‘infodump’ against the need for fantasy writing to be more eloquent and descriptive.

What does literary success look like to you?

I’ve been back and forth with myself on this topic. Having been in the industry a while now, I’ve come to realise that it’s a fool’s game to chase any kind of external measure of success. But it’s not easy. We’re naturally a tribal animal. Approval of others is hardwired into our brains because (historically) without the approval/acceptance of our tribe, we die. I try to keep my WHY in front of mind to subdue the little voices telling me success is more good reviews and acceptance by bigger publishers. As long as I remember WHY I write – to explore themes that are important to me and tell stories I love – then that’s literary success to me.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I’m a scientist by training, and a highly logical, organised person by inclination. So my tendency is to over-research rather than under. But I’ll usually research the basics before I start writing, then details as I write and need to worldbuild. When I was writing IRON, I had to spend quite a bit of time researching alternative technologies for things like building materials that didn’t require iron, chalk, fossil fuels, flint, etc, because the planet of that series was terraformed and had no history of life - therefore no significant iron deposits and no other resources resulting from a history of life. 
But my next book that’s coming out – Blackbirds Sing – required a LOT of research and planning. It’s set in 1486 London, and I wanted to get that right. I researched so much that I found a mistake in the official map of London for 1520. To confirm it I contacted the Tower of London Archivist, then sent the evidence to the mapmaking company. The cartographer agreed (he was lovely) and is now changing the map.

All ridiculous amounts of research and so much of it never makes it into the story. But such deep rabbitholes of interesting stuff!

How do you select the names of your characters? 

All different ways. Alere, the heroine from IRON, came from the name of a work customer’s company. Her story jumped into my head full-blown with her name. Jade and Phoenix from the 80AD series are deliberately-chosen Easter eggs that are significant to the entire plotline and their own, personal character arcs. Rowan, in the Shadows trilogy, has several layers – the Irish version, ‘Ruadhan’ means red-headed child, and she has auburn hair. But Rowan was also a wood meant to help ward off the fae/faery folk – the sidhe – of which she turns out to be one. And the names of all the various women in Blackbirds Sing took me ages to research as I had to find at least 24 medieval/Tudor female names that were distinct from each other so they wouldn’t get mixed up.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? 

Wait, what? You mean there are authors who get to JUST write and don’t have to work? Damn! I run a full-time business as well. No rest for the insane writers, unfortunately.

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

Oh, yes. That part of the fun of research. Hiding Easter eggs is such fun. Especially when you get emails from readers who DO find them. Sometimes I forget I’ve done it, then a reader points it out and I get a little thrill as well and get to think – hey, that was pretty damned clever.

Does your family support your career as a writer?  

Definitely. My husband is amazingly supportive. He’s always my first (and very biased) beta reader. I know if I can make him cry, I’m probably on track with the emotional content. My son loved my 80AD series and his enthusiasm helped convince me that I could do this writing thing.

How long on average does it take you to write a book? 

The 80AD series was very parttime, so it was 5 books written over about 3 years. IRON, FIRE, and STEEL took about 2 years because it involved so much research and I was learning a lot about writing. The Shadows trilogy took about a year and a half for all three. Because the first one got re-written three times as I learned about story structure. Blackbirds Sing took 7 months. It’s made up of 25 interlinked short stories that each affect the overarching plot of an attempt to kill Henry Tudor, King Henry VII. Which was VERY tricky to get right.

I have a quick quiz for you, Aiki.

Favourite food: heart-killing heavily salted hot chips/fries

Favourite drink: Non-alcoholic – oldfashioned lemonade (not softdrink); alcoholic, a good gin & tonic with cucumber

Silliest saying: Mine or someone else’s? You’d probably have to ask someone else what mine is. No idea. 

Best holiday spot: Venice was pretty good. As was Florence. But China was pretty amazing, too. 

Favourite song at the moment: Pretty much always : Broadsword, from Jethro Tull.

With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? In between. I know what the major story beats are likely to be, and I have a clear idea of the ending (like a big movie set-piece in my head). The bits in between though…

Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: This is not an Either-Or question. Both. And Star Trek. And and and and

Best superpower: Invisibility, combined with kickass martial arts skills (which are not a superpower). (as long as the invisibility included all clothing and weapons)

Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Go into orbit around Earth in a shuttle and see the Earth from space. Unfortunately, I do get VERY motion sick, so that one might not happen.

Blackbirds Sing (a Ruadhan Sidhe novel)
Genre:  Historical fantasy

Four-and-twenty extraordinary women; one chance to save a kingdom. Early in the reign of Henry Tudor, King Henry VII, his seat on the throne of England is threatened by York loyalists. The only thing standing in their way is a four-hundred-year-old sidhe who just wants to be left alone, and a group of London women with a lot to lose if England is plunged back into war. But it is 1486, and women have no power, no money, and no ability to fight back against injustice. 
Become immersed in the perilous lives of these women, as told through the medium of 25 interwoven short stories. A baker who can’t pay her church tithe; a prostitute selling her daughter’s virginity to pay her debts; a nun forced out into the world after 30 years; laundress whose son is murdered; a lady’s maid hiding her Jewish culture; a blind musician running a frightening marriage; a child-thief protecting her brother; and more. Each story is a piece in the puzzle. Each woman faces her own trials and sacrifices as she contributes her small part towards the attempt to protect King Henry and his wife, Elizabeth of York. 
Because if they fail, England will once again be thrust into civil war between the Yorks and Lancasters.

Aiki's other books.... Click on the books to check them out.

Friday, 15 November 2019

My Readers Asked Me About Dead Cell

Detective Brianna Cogan and
Psychic Investigator Craig Ramsey
Occasionally some of my readers ask me questions about my Craig Ramsey series. Without fail, the questions usually turn to Emily (Craig Ramsey's fiesty spirit companion). One reader described her attitude to Craig as "possessive"; I laughed at possibly unintended pun.

So I asked the folks on my Facebook Page to put their questions together.

Here are the most common questions (so far).

How long did it to take to write Dead Cell?
Some time after I released my Twelve Strokes of Midnight, I sat and wrote MOST of the headline for an adventure thriller. I think I started the first chapter in April 2016. The final draft I finished in late October 2016.

Where did you get the idea for Dead Cell?
One morning, on the way to my office, I passed a slow motorist on the Ipswich Motorway. He was travelling at least 20kph under the limit so annoyed a lot of others. This ignorant creature remained oblivious to everyone else on the road. Then I saw him laugh, one hand holding a mobile to his ear. Some believe they’re safer by slowing down to talk.
Not always.
So as I passed this dork, I fantasised about killing him. How would I do it? A gun? No, too clunky if I shot him while driving past him. An electromagnetic pulse to disable his pacemaker? Hmmm.
I wouldn’t want to be caught. Killing him and any other other driver selfish enough not to leave their phone off would need subtle but obvious message... make it look accidental.
Then I thought of the perfect assassin who could do it. A killer that obsessed would need skill and intelligence.
By the time I reached the office, I had everything in the assassin’s characteristics planned.
I had to write about it.

Emily F
In your book Dead Cell you shared that Craig’s lovely Scottish spirit companion Emily had children in a previous life that died young. I really like Emily’s character. Are you planning to write more about her previous life and her connection to Craig? I would love to hear more about the cheeky Emily.

Yes, I love Emily too. What a woman! (The picture attached is one of the closest pictures I've found to illustrate her ... although I originally based her personality around Karen Gillan's character Amy Pond from Doctor Who)

More of Emily’s past life (well, one of them) will come to light. I’ve been toying with a short story to illustrate how your favourite spirit companion met Craig Ramsey.

In Dead Cell, Craig tells how he remembers his first meeting with Emily when he was in high school. But that’s not how it really happened.

There was that one time not long after his parents died when he was 18 months old. He doesn’t remember it... yet.

But that’s only in his current life.

Emily’s life ended in Scotland’s Jacobite era. She knew Rob Roy, she said in Demon Blade. And yes, she had at least one child — and her best friend had a child too.... and spoilers.

Yes, Emily’s story will unfold as will her connection with Craig AND Brianna — and how they connect with each other. Readers will also remember a conversation between Turner and Emily that occurred in Demon Blade. The hint of a "great mission" dropped, and it involves Emily, Turner, Craig, Brianna, and a few others.


If you haven't caught up with Psychic Investigator Craig Ramsey and his friends, please click on the books below and grab a copy.

 Buy Dead Cell at your favourite digital storeBuy Demon Blade at your favourite digital bookstore

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Meet Nick Winters: Australian Author

Meet Nick Winters!

Nick Winters was born in Australia and grew up in sunny Brisbane Queensland. He discovered his love for stories and writing at an early age. Nick studied drama and writing in Australia, New York, and Los Angeles, where he developed a strong affection for Hollywood. He has travelled widely in Europe and the United States. Nick loves movies, mountains, beaches, music, animals and travelling. HOLLYWOOD SCENT is his debut novel.

Nick, thanks for joining me. Do you have a pen name and why?
I do have pen name Nick Winters, I came up with it in Los Angeles, and all my acting and writing friends thought it was a great name, so I went with it. It sounds nice and is far more easy to pronounce than my real last name.

What other writing have you done?
I have written several short films, and 2 full length feature film scripts.

What makes your writing unique compared to others in the genre?
I feel I have a rather simplistic 'once upon a time'kind of style, that can change very fst and become intense.

What made you choose this genre?
The idea for this book came to me whilst living in Hollywood, and I have always loved thrillers, and supernatural stuff, so thats where it came from.

What’s the story behind your book title?
I had a friend who worked in a large famous perfume store in LA, I would watch her selling expensive perfume to beautiful women, and if you read the story you will soon know the signifigance of the title.

What’s the basic plot of your book or series?
A beautiful screen siren who perished in the 1950's and is hell bent on becoming a huge movie star,bigger than she ever was in her first life.

Which scene from your book do you like best and why?
Probably the huge supernatural show down between teh two main characters, Lillian and Helen, it is ultra classic good versue evil with all kinds fury and witchcraft going on.

Which is your favourite character and why?
Probably Detective Karson, he is a bit like Clint Eastwood, and those old no nonsense tough guy cops from the old 70's movies, he lives and breathes police work and always gets his man...or woman.

What are you working on now?
A novella, LOST SOUL its about 33,000 words, which is much smaller than HOLLYWOOD SCENT which is 96,000 words. LOST SOUL is a romantic ghost story about a young woman, an artist who has a traumatic experience and later finds herself moving to a large old house in the country to heal, which happens to be haunted.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
In 2006 I visited Oscar Wilde's grave at Pere Lachaise, France, and his neighbour is Jim Morrison of the Doors, I laid flowers at both their graves and thanked them for their words. It was a very moving experience, and that cemetery is just amazing.

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
To me, probably that so many good unknown writers get ignored, declined, and passed over simply because they do not have 'pedigree' or rather...a long background in journalism, TV, or a famous last name, or they are not a sports star or politician etc...I understand that those things sell, and that is why those people usually get picked up by publishers and have sizeable advances thrown at them, but its a shame that so many writers with great stories will never really get out there or get a traditional book deal because they are just Tom the baker, or Susie the nurse etc...if you get my drift. But that's the world we live in. Thank goodness for self publishing, and those 'Gatekeepers'do not get to control everything now.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Professional editing, no doubt about it. If you can afford it, pay for a pro editor, structural, copy edit, the lot.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My first story was a little story we had to do for English class in about grade 4, we also had to read it in front of the class. I wrote a funny story about two boys who travel in a time machine back to the dinosaur days and get chased by dinosaurs. The class thought it was hilarious, and the teacher was so impressed she had the story printed in the school newsletter. It made me a little celebrity for a couple of weeks, so I first realised you could touch people with the written word way back then I guess.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A panther, I love how they are dark, sleek, and can be so elusive but then explode into action and take their prey and make a huge impact. They have a deadly elegance about them too.

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I would probably have furthered my education a little more with writing in particular.

Quick quiz:

Favourite food: CHINESE
Favourite drink: GINGER BEER
Favourite song at the moment: METAL GURU- T REX
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: STAR WARS
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: LIVE BY THE OCEAN FOR A GOOD LENGTH OF TIME.


Be careful what you wish for…

Screen siren Lillian Kelly turns to witchcraft in her twisted quest for eternal youth. But she becomes greedy and displeases the dark forces, who imprison her wicked soul in a perfume bottle.
Decades later, lonely dressmaker Helen Elliot makes a special wish to the Hollywood Sign. “I want some magic in my life… I want to be beautiful and to be loved.” Her wish is answered when Helen is gifted with the beguiling bottle filled with supernatural scent.
A dizzying ride ensues as she becomes part of Hollywood’s elite, an exclusive circle of the ultra-rich and famous.
Soon, Helen is living out all her wildest romantic fantasies in a world of unimaginable luxury. However, she realises there may be a deadly price to pay for her wish, as she faces a showdown with the ruthless Lillian, who will stop at nothing for a second chance at life.

Publish date: JULY 2019

Saturday, 9 November 2019

A Harsh Reality: Your Funeral

How many people will appear at your funeral?
Once it was common for lots of friends and family attend a funeral service. You could count on how strong the connection was between the deceased and the attendees.
These days with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest, it's hard to say. I have plenty of followers, but how many are real friends? I figure I'd probably have far less at my funeral than my forebears because human social behaviour has radically changed in less than twenty years.
Social media has skewed reality to a point that many, especially in younger generations, have no idea about true friendship. They're less resilient, quick to block, slow to consider actions and consequences, and far too swift in the false security of their devices' keypads.
It's time for all of us to consider our off-line relationships, how we treat the people we love, how we respect them, and how we let challenges strengthen us instead of cowering behind block buttons.

The image above is used without permission and is copyright to

Thursday, 7 November 2019

I Interview Australian Author Karen Simpson Nikakis

Karen Simpson Nikakis grew up in a small town in NE Victoria, Australia, and spent her childhood riding horses through the Australian bush, which created a love of the natural landscape. Her working life was spent in the Education Industries where she undertook an MEd(Hons) in the purpose of dragons in fantasy, and a PhD in Campbell's monomyth applied to the female hero. Her studies woke an interest in the hero's psychological journey, which is often expressed through metaphor and symbolism. She coined the term Deep Fantasy to describe it. Karen has been writing full time since mid 2016.

Her Deep Fantasy book, I Heard the Wolf Call My Name, is due out in early November.


How do you go on living when your entire world has been destroyed?
Jax and Matiu are just twelve years old and in bird-form when their island home blows-up killing everyone on it. Jax thinks he is the only survivor until he comes face to face with Matiu ten years later. The military needs shifters for a crucial mission but Jax refuses. He has spent ten long years burying his horrific past and he isn’t about to resurrect it.
On the last remaining island of Iolana, Anahera sets out on ohaku, the vision-quest where her skin-spirit animal will be revealed to transform her into an Ikaika, a protector of her people. She dreams of finding the white-wolf but when Jax flees the military’s brutality and crashes onto her island, she finds him instead.
To save him, she must break ohaku and risk becoming wairua, a ghost neither one thing nor another, but a greater danger confronts them both.
The forces that blew Jax’s island out of existence now threaten Iolana as well, and time is running out . . .

Publish date:November 2019
Publisher: SOV Media

Hi, Karen, thanks for joining us.

What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Firstly, understand that writing is a process and you are doing something magical by getting your ideas/vision into words in the first place, but there are many steps after this first one, of developing and refining your story. Enjoy the process and don't be hard on yourself. Above all, see the story out to the end. Don't abandon any project, no matter how disappointing you feel it is. All writing is worth doing and will build your craft.

How do you handle writer’s block?

I use music a lot. Sometimes, hearing a particular piece of music will trigger the story in the first place, but I use music with visuals too, which can give me a sense of the character's emotions. I struggled with the final book in Angel Caste (a five book series) and played Metallica's 'And Nothing Else Matters'  over and over again to sort out the ending. I find music really powerful.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

I come from an academic background so craft is really important to me: clean, concise sentences which use language well. I try not to waste the reader's time and energy by over-writing. 'Less is more', is true of good writing but at the end of the day, the story should be accessible to the reader. Books are written for readers, not for the writer to show off their skill.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

I am a pantser, so I only have a vague idea of the plot when I begin. But with The Third Moon, I thought it would be interesting to write a story about what happens to the losers of a war (most stories are about the winners). I was also interested in inherited memories. Once I started though, I was mostly interested in the hero (Warrain). However I start, characters quickly become paramount to me. I live and breathe them until their stories are told.

What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

Success is bringing together all the plot elements satisfactorily so that the hero completes their journey (both physical and psychological).
As a pantser, I let my unconscious run the show, but to successfully complete a meaningful story, I have to consciously bring it all together.
As noted earlier, Angel Caste was a struggle (and exhausting). I knew the angel characters would transcend (die) but not how this would be positive,  and I knew Viv would find the family she longed for (but not how exactly). After Angel Caste, I swore off pantsering and plotted out 30 chapters
of I Heard the Wolf Call My Name, but found it so boring, I used none of it. It seems I will remain a pantser.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I wrote The Kira Chronicles trilogy (published by Allen and Unwin), and when I got the rights back, updated it and released it as a six book series, so I only count that. Angel Caste is a five book series, and The Emerald Serpent, Messenger, The Third Moon and Heart Hunter are all stand alones. I Heard the Wolf Call My Name (a stand alone) will be my 16th Deep Fantasy Book. I have an academic book on dragons (Dragon Tales) and bits of poetry and short stories published too.

Favorite book is a tie between The Third Moon and The Emerald Serpent because I achieved what I wanted to with Warrain and Etaine's psychological journeys.

Your current book, I Heard the Wolf Call My Name, has a wicked-sounding title. What was the inspiration for the story?

I Heard the Wolf Call My Name: I am really interested in initiation rites, especially where a trance is induced and visions experienced.
I am also interested in our relationship with other animals, as we are all part of the same natural world. Lastly, I am interested in the effects of the Western tradition of classifying people as either male/female or heterosexual/homosexual, so I Heard the Wolf Call My Name brings all these things together.

What is the significance of the title?

Anahera hopes her skin-spirit will be the white-wolf so that, metaphorically, it will call her name. Jax resembles a wolf (silver hair, amber eyes), and literally crashes her initiation rite, so is he her skin-spirit? Jax needs to reconnect with his island heritage to fully heal, and the white-wolf only lives on the islands. So, to become whole, Jax must be open to the wolf calling his name too.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

I have spent most of the year travelling (camping in outback Australia for 9 weeks, then 6 days home, then Dublin for Worldcon, London and other places).
I am writing this in Madrid which is why I Heard the Wolf Call My Name is still sitting on my hard drive at home and won't be launched until November, but I have separate pieces of a new series written too. I write them as they come to me completely out of order. The series will be in the English fantasy tradition (lots of oaks and holloways) and gardens will be a central motif, especially the gardens of Eynsham Hall in Oxfordshire which I stumbled on in 2016, and have just revisited. I fear this series will be complex and incredibly hard to write, so I am toying with doing a dragon series for middle grade readers first, under another name. This is called procrastination, I believe!

Where do you draw inspiration from?

For me, visuals (such as photo that captures a particular expression) and music can trigger whole sections of dialogue which then builds into a story. I am interested in pattern-making, how things that
appear random are actually part of something meaningful. Once I notice a 'random' element (almost like a piece of jig-saw puzzle) I want to know what the whole picture is. Sometimes I think the story is already complete, out there in the ether, and writers have to discover it and assemble it in our world.

Thanks for joining me today, Karen, and I wish you all the best with your writing.

Karen shared a link to a favourite song of hers which helped her write the character Jax. Check it out at

Would you like to talk to or check out Karen's work? Here are her details.