Monday, 25 March 2013

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...Barbara Custer

1. Tell me about your book, Steel Rose, and where you got your inspiration for it? 

Steel Rose features the Kryszka aliens capturing humans and turning them into zombie-like creatures. Alexis becomes a target. Scarred by a nasty marriage that almost killed her, she refuses to trust anyone, including doctors who would save her life. Pain from a disabling illness leaves her feeling vulnerable. When the Kryszka soldiers and later, the zombies, come after her, she is forced to cope or die. Where did I get my inspiration? Around 2000 to 2008, I had severe osteoarthritis in both wrists, necessitating joint reconstruction surgeries. Although I embellished a lot, many of the physical difficulties Alexis had on her job happened in real life. That said, other inspirations were seasoned into Steel Rose. Tom Johnson and I co-authored Alien Worlds, where aliens and humans interacted on a daily basis. City of Brotherly Death came next with its zombies. I got to wondering how an alien doctor would handle my condition. What would I do if zombies broke into my home?

2. If you could interview anyone from your life, living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why? 

I’d like to interview my college instructor, Anne Kaler, the college instructor who inspired my writing. She was great as a teacher. She used to invite students to her home and allowed me to audit a couple of courses. She did a writing group for a while, too.

3. Do you have a writing process? If so describe it.  

I’m at my best when I don’t have an outline. If I try to use an outline, I go character background, and let the character tell me how his or her story should go.

4. What is usually your first thought in the morning? 

Usually, my first thought is that I’d love more sleep. I’m not an early morning person. After I have my breakfast, then I think about my writing projects and what I need to get them done.

5. You’re given one million pounds/dollars/euros, what would you spend it on? 

I’d probably put most of it toward retirement, but I’d also treat myself to a Coach purse. I’d take a writer’s retreat on a beach. A portion would go to my favourite charity. I’d probably take a couple computer courses to be more savvy with certain Web programs.

6. Are you mostly a clean or messy person? 

I cannot tell a lie. Messy. Too much time spent cleaning means less time spent on writing.

7. If someone came up to you and wanted to tell you about an idea or a book they were writing, what would you do? Or what advice would you give? 

If it were horror / thriller / science fantasy, I’d ask that author to pitch the book to me. If their idea was undeveloped, I would steer them to Jonathan Maberry’s Writing a Novel in Nine Months class or a writer’s group. If they had a good idea, but not a genre that I’d want to publish, I’d steer them to or Duotrope where they could find markets.

8. How would you describe yourself in three words? 

Compassionate, imaginative, humorous.

9. How do you react to a bad interview of one of your books? 

I’ve never had a bad interview, but if I did, I’d thank the person who interviewed me and not say anything about it.

10. Are the names of characters in your novels important? 

I think so because the person’s name should connote something about their character. For example, Johnny and Shively are good names for wise guys. Both men with these names in Steel Rose are tough. Mary or Matilda connotes someone who’s pure at heart, like Alexis’s mother.

11. Would you rather write for children or adults? 

I feel more comfortable writing for adults because with juvenile fiction, you have to censor your language and certain scenes. A lot of my stories have horrific scenes (like zombies), and are not always the kind of thing someone might want their 16 year old to read.

12. Have you ever killed someone in a novel and regretted it later? 

No, but if someone made me mad in real life, I have written then into my stories and killed them off via zombies or other means.

13. Which do you find more embarrassing to write, violence or sex? 

I’d have to say sex. Basically, I have to put myself in my character’s head and put aside the conservative me.

14. Who would play you in a film about your life?

Sigourney Weaver. She’s played in a variety of SF and H films

15. What are the most important attributes to staying sane as a writer? 

Go to a critique group. Writing is a lonely profession, so the writers’ meetings are healthy. I also enjoy Jonathan Maberry’s Writers’ Coffeehouse because you can get the skinny on the publishing industry.

16. Do you research your novels? 

All the time. Just tonight, I wrote a scene involving a Jeep, so I had to look up the specs of a Jeep to see if my character would be able to do what she did in her car.

17. What is one of your favourite traditions from your childhood that you would like to pass on to your child? 

The Christmas and Easter baking. I don’t have any children, but if I did, I’d definitely teach them the recipes I learned from my mom. I bake the way my mother did every Christmas and Easter.

18. Say you’re dead but are a ghost? You can’t be seen, can make objects float and walk through walls. What would you do? 

I’d float each relative a Mylar balloon that says, “I love you.”

19. What three things would you save from a fire at your house? (assume that all your family get out safe.)

1. I’d get my safe that contains important papers. 2. A bag of all my medicines. 3. My flash drive, the one that contains all my writing material.

20. How did you come up with the title for your latest book? 

As her lover Yeron sums it up, Alexis is fragile as a rose because of her health problems, but she has the will of steel. So he nicknames her Steel Rose.

21. What are your current projects? 

The Night to Dawn Magazine issue 23 is coming up, and I’m working on the sequel of Steel Rose, in which Alexis does serious battle with zombies and other monsters. I expect to release a couple of books for other authors through the NTD imprint.

22. If you couldn’t be an author, what career would you chose? 

I’d send in the first team with editing / publishing. It might mean taking a few more English courses.

23. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? 

If I could go back to my early twenties when I write for a couple of years, I’d tell myself not to stop. I’d tell myself not to worry about money, and keep writing and submitting.

24. Someday I want to...? 

Take a ride on a hot air balloon. I’d try a tethered balloon first to see if I really like it, but the hot air balloon is on my bucket list.

25. Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcovers? 

I used to like paperback, but now that I have a Samsung Galaxy, I prefer eBooks. The print in them is spaced differently and easier on the eyes.


Sometimes they come back. At least the Kryszka aliens do. Their leader injects captured humans with a drug, turning them into zombies. Yeron escapes the Kryszka colony, hoping to practice medicine on the humans that fear him. Alexis, a patient, is afraid, too, until his seductive attentions arouse her. Despite his experimental drug, severe arthritis leaves her too weak to handle most guns. The Kryszka troops and zombies who break into the hospital are hungry. Very hungry. How will she fight them?

Silence. Her splints flashed white against the gloom. The footsteps started again, outside the window. Kneeling beside her mother’s bed, she shone her light toward the window. A tunic-clad woman stood outside, silhouetted against the moonlit night. The flashlight kicked too much reflection off the windows to see her face, but the intruder was too short and thin to be Laurel.
The footsteps stopped. The glass shivered. Alexis could hear so much now: the quivering window, the house creaking the way her joints did in the early morning, Robin’s soft weeping from the living room.
She gazed into the ominous night and then the window shattered inward, showering the bed and Alexis with glass slivers. A look up close and personal revealed the intruder’s fiery red eyes, needle-sharp teeth, and crooked snarl of hate. No, not hate...hunger.
“Oh, my God!” she hollered, and her cry betrayed her. Her ankle buckled when she tried to stand and run. She dropped her knife. The Kryszka grabbed her arm and flung her onto the bed.

About Barbara

Barbara lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works full time as a respiratory therapist. When she’s not working with her patients, she’s enjoying a fright flick or working on horror and science fiction tales. Many of her short stories have appeared in numerous small press magazines. In 2004, Barbara became the publisher of Night to Dawn magazine.
Other books by Barbara include Twilight Healer and City of Brotherly Death. She’s also coauthored Alien Worlds and Starship Invasions with Tom Johnson. She enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page, and then blending it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar balloons, and you’ll find her.
To contact her, e-mail her at Visit her at:

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Elusive Agent

So you've struggled through writing that first book. Not as easy as you thought it would be was it. But you should prepare yourself because now comes the really tough part. Getting published. There are several options, self publishing, indie publishing, getting an agent or applying direct to publishing houses (this last one is the hardest to do so its not recommended.) This post is going to focus on getting an agent.

The agent is the most elusive of creatures. In the UK agents seem to work on commission, they take a select number of clients a year. Some after building up a new list can go for years without having to take on a new client at all. The point that has been emphasized to me over and over is that if they don't think they can sell your work and by default get whatever their commission is (which is how they get paid) then your most likely to get a rejection letter.

First things first. I would suggest trundling down to your local Waterstones and purchasing a copy of the above. The Writers and Artists year book, is a listing of all major newspaper, magazine, agent and publishers in the UK and Northern Ireland. A new updated edition comes out every year. This is one of the most valuable tools in finding an agent. Inside you get a list of the agencies over the entirety of the county and information about what they are looking for. More often then not you get their address, email and telephone numbers. A list of their main agents, how to submit to them, and what they do and do not want to receive. We'll take a look at what to submit a little later.

Agents receive literally thousands submissions in a year and of course they won't read all of them. I recommend very vehemently that you read carefully what it is they are looking for. Most companies now have a website where they lay out the condition they want the submission in before they will even consider looking at it. Now (around Easter time) is one of their busy times of year for submissions so competition will be fierce, so you should prepare yourself for the fact that you might a) not hear from them for months regarding your submission and b) have your submission returned with a preprinted letter that clearly indicates that the agent didn't even read it. You can expect to get a lot of no's before someone might say yes. Renounced authors often comment on how long it took them to get someone to say yes to their idea and considering their success now, its often surprising how long the no list for them was.

Do not be put off. No one said it would be easy and if it were easy it wouldn't be worth doing right?

Okay onto submissions. Most agents specify (in the book or on their respective website) what they want. But here are some general rules of thumb.

Enquiring/Covering Letter - A lot of agents want a letter before they ask you to send in your submission. Most will specify what they prefer. Either way your letter needs to sell you and your work without being demanding or cocky or pleading. Be diplomatic. Tell them briefly the important things about your book, what its about, where its set, how long it is and what genre it is. Be to the point as most prefer an enquiring letter to be only one side of A4. If you have trouble setting out a professional letter, the paper-clip tutorial in word can help you through it.

11/2 to 2 line spacing - Agents like to have manuscripts that they can read clearly. If they can't read what you've written then it will go straight into the bin. Harsh but true.

Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation - Read what you are submitting very carefully. Lots of mistakes, typos and such will put an agent off immediately. If your manuscript is going to take a lot of work to polish into a finished book, they often won't take you.

Length - A lot of main stream publishers will not take novellas from people who aren't already clients. They also tend to state the length of the submission, it can vary from the first three chapters, to the first three and the last chapter, to the first 50 pp (printed pages).

SAE - If you want to get your work back you have to pay for the postage. If you're not bothered about having to constantly reprint it then by all means don't include the self addressed envelope. Tell them they are free to shred it if they don't want it.

Details - Make sure your name and details on on the documents. Some recommend having it printed in the header on every page, some seem to think just on the first page is enough. This is entirely up to the individual.

Presentation: Do not staple, bind or enclose your work in a folder. The prefer loose pages, if you must secure them a paper clip will suffice.

Tip: You have to make your work stand out from all the others. One idea is to included a self addressed postcard that they can send back to you to let you know that they've received your work. Make sure to mention it in your enquiry/covering letter, else they might just think your weird.

Best of luck and if you do succeed, remember me fondly.

Sonnet x

Monday, 18 March 2013

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

... Clemy Warner Thompson

1. How do you react to a bad interview of one of your books?

I would have said very badly whilst I was writing my first book, Purest Light, as I was only in my early teens and did not understand the negative and positive points of being a writer, but almost ten years and three books later, I have learnt to accept that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I always look for the positive points in what the review says, remembering that the criticism itself WILL help you improve.

2. Are the names of your characters important?

Not really. Originally, I was planning on using names that translated as the different elements, such as light and air, but as I continued to write through my series, I decided to use the names that came into my head. The ones that had no place in my plans, the ones that just appeared! Its funny, but nearly all of the names I have used are two syllables long. I’ve never really understood why, but thinking about it, perhaps it was because I don’t like writing words that are too difficult to spell!

3. Would you rather write for children or adults?

Definitely adults, or rather young adults!

4. Have you ever killed someone in a novel and regretted it later?

Maybe… I can’t really decide. I killed a character in my first book, one which I hadn’t really developed much, but when she was killed, I got the sudden urge to write more about her. She appeared in book two and Book Three, Darkest Regrets and New Beginnings, as a spirit form, but she took on a much bigger role than I had intended. I didn’t even plan for her to return! Obviously, I hadn’t finished with her development in the story!

5. Which do you find more embarrassing to write, violence or sex?

Neither. I find that both can be difficult to write in their own way.

6. Who would play you in a film about your life?

I can’t think of anybody brunette and mysterious….! Jk

7. What are the most important attributes to staying sane as a writer?

Don’t overdo it. Don’t expect to finish your project in a certain time frame. Keep a sensible goal, but don’t feel defeated if you don’t meet it. If you need a break, take one!

8. Do you research your novels?

As my books are not set in modern day, I have never needed to research anything specific. My latest project is set in modern day though, so I will have to research certain aspects of the character’s journey and their surroundings.

9. What are books for?

To escape your life!

10. Are you jealous of other writers?

Jealous is not the right word… I wish I was as well known as a few authors are, but I realise that I am only a beginner compared to them. To be known by my writing is my goal for the future. I have to keep realistic and work towards my goal steadily.

11. What would you do with a million ping pong balls?

What an odd thought… My instinct was to reply by saying ‘shove them in a cupboard’ but I would rather give them to someone who would make use of them, like an artist.

12. Do you believe in love at first sight?

I believe in attraction at first sight. Love develops over time.

13. What’s your favourite book and why?

I love Alyson Noel. I have all of her books. There’s not a chance that I can choose just one of them!

14. What do you like most about writing?

I like the fact that my writing has proven that I can actually start and finish something!

15. What’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done or ever done for you?

That has to be the fact that my brother, Estaban, has never given up believing in me. He is my inspiration and I couldn’t ask for anything different.

16. What is one of your favourite traditions from your childhood that you would like to pass on to your child?

Favourite traditions are a tricky one. The jewellery of the family always passes to the next female generation, and we always keep small mementos from family holidays and visits that will never be repeated, but I would always say that the most important tradition is family itself, keeping it together.

17. Is Elvis really dead?

Yes, no doubt!

18. How do you overcome writer’s block?

Well, I simply wait until my mind is rested, until I get the buzz for writing again. It’s as simple as that.

19. What is your favourite quote?

‘Light cannot shine without Shadow.’ I wrote it one day as part of a piece of dialogue. The character was saying it to give their comrade hope, so they had the courage to keep fighting even when tainted by Darkness, and the words stayed in my mind. They gave me the courage to keep writing.

20. Say you’re dead but a ghost? You can’t be seen, can make objects float and walk through walls. What would you do?

I’d travel to all of the places that I’d never been before. I’d visit Graceland and the pyramids of Giza. I suppose I would haunt a few people as well, those that tried to knock me down in my life! J

21. What three things would you save from a fire at your house? (Assume that all of your family get out safe)

What would I save if my family were safe? Hmmm, I would have to say everything associated with my books. I have original manuscripts and draft character sketches, even newspaper articles where I have been interviewed. I would have to save all of that!

22. If you could ask your favourite author one question, who would it be and what would you ask?

I would ask Alyson Noel if she knew that she was always going to be a writer.

23. How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

My latest title is New Beginnings. The story ends perfectly and the characters finally get the ending that they deserve. New Beginnings marks the end of my first series, but the beginning of the next. My books have ended, but my imagination has not.


When a brother and sister from a small village fall upon an angel, blessed with the ability to fly and conjure magic, they are thrown into a world beyond their understanding, and so begin to venture from their simple lives into a war between Light and Darkness. They come to realise that their lives were never mapped out as simple mortal destinies, but rather that of two warriors, with a fate to end the unseen suffering of the land.
Along the path that they decide to follow, they meet further Seraphim and others who offer their help, but not everything is gained; friends and family are lost. Their very souls and hearts, and that of their friends, are thrown into an aeon old war between Light and Darkness. Filled with feelings unknown to them, they must decide which element is to be superior and survive from their seemingly never ending task. 
Will they reach the edge of their world to restore the balance, or will they fall and be defeated by Darkness? 

Click on the covers to go to the relevant facebook pages.

About Clemy
(In her own words)

I was born in Shropshire in the West Midlands in 1991 where I am still currently living, growing up alongside one younger and three older brothers. 
Books and writing was an interest that I began to develop from the first years of secondary school, and on my thirteenth birthday, I began to plan and design the idea to write a fantasy novel. I finished secondary school with high GCSE's and then went on into further education to study English and all aspects of art and design. After six years of writing, planning and overall editing of the book, it was successfully completed, containing over 82,000 words, and self published in the first week of 2011. 
With high expectations in myself, I immediately began to write a second novel in the series, while keeping my art and design a part of the process. The achievement of completing the first novel 'Purest Light,' allowed the ideas of the second to flow much easier and it was completed by early 2012. As I was writing the third and final book, New Beginnings, at the same time, the series was finished by its publication in 2012/ 13. Writing is now a part of my everyday and I have started on my newest project, Shadows, which is also planned to be the first of three. Only time will tell. 

Website for the complete series: