In this weeks interview, I'm joined by the one and only Sinead McGuigan. Sinead is the author of 'A Gift and a Curse' and 'Unbound.' Be sure to check out her work!


Welcome, Sinead. How long have you been a poet?

I started writing poetry in 2019.

Where did you get the inspiration for your books? 

My poetry is directly linked to my own personal healing journey from cancer and my past. I write from a deep emotional place and am influenced a lot my women's rights and freedom.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your writing career, so far?

I find it hard to make time to write as much as I would like to, life can get busy so really my greatest challenge is being disciplined more in my creative endeavours.

If you could go back and give your younger self a single piece of writing advice, what would it be?

I used to write as a teenager and certainly I would have wished I hadn't ignored that side of me for so long.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for aspiring writers and poets, right now?

The social media aspect in a sense really is challenging and it can be confusing perhaps to see people with large following and little talent. In Ireland I think there is a certain snobbery almost in what is deemed good poetry

Do you believe that having a strong social media presence leads to more book sales?

It can help absolutely as often it's the only option for self-published authors . I definitely feel it helps me so much and I'm very grateful.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I genuinely don't get writers block but there are periods in which I don't write.

What is your favourite part of the creative process?

When I see a piece of art or feel instantly inspired by a subject and it flows naturally.

If you could collaborate with any other poet or poets on a project, who would it be and why?
I generally collaborate with artists and my main projects are related to women's issues.

What are you working on now?

I am trying to decide what my next book will focus on.

Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?

I really would like to write short stories and perhaps in time a novel.

Have you ever considered writing in another genre?

Yes, certainly fiction and perhaps a healing journal for others.

What marketing tips would you give to someone starting out in their career?

Always be true to yourself and your art. There are different flavours to be explored but write from your authentic self.

Be sure to follow Sinead's writing journey over on @sineadmgpoetry on Instagram.


For today's interview, I'm joined by K.A Finn author of the Broken Cords, Blackjacks, and Nomad series of books. So far, I've only read book one in the Nomad series, so it's clear I have a lot of reading ahead of me. Enjoy!

How long have you been a writer?

I physically started writing my first book in 2011 but the idea was with me for years before that.

Where did you get the inspiration for your books?

It’s different for each series but my sci-fi one was inspired by Star Trek TNG. I watched it all the time and developed my own set of characters as part of that world. A few years later I had created many more characters, too many for the Star Trek ‘fanfic’ world, so I gave them their own.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your writing career, so far?

Marketing! I love writing but I hate marketing my writing. Imposter syndrome also comes into play a bit – especially when I’m working on a brand new series and the doubt series in. I go through phases of thinking this is the best thing I’ve ever written, then flipping to this is total rubbish after I reread it. Trusting yourself and what you’re writing is difficult at times.

If you could go back and give your younger self a single piece of writing advice, what would it be?

I think I’d say not to worry about what people might say about your writing – just do it. I talked myself out of so many ideas or removed whole scenes because I was afraid. I still am at some stage of each book, but not as bad as I was. All that doubt meant my first book took four years to write. If I’d just stopped worrying and doubting, it would have been completed a lot sooner.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser all the way! I tried plotting a few books but I never managed to stick to it. I prefer to let my characters run wild and see what happens. I love being surprised by what they get up to!

What do you think the biggest challenges are for aspiring writers, right now?

I think it’s getting noticed in such a flooded market. It’s relatively ‘easy’ to publish a book nowadays. There are so many books being published every single day it’s difficult to stand out - especially with the rise of AI written books.

It can take me up to a year to write, edit, re-edit, rewrite, format etc one of my books, but I’ve read of other authors using AI to complete a book in a matter of hours. I’m not going to change the way I create my books, but it does makes it difficult to compete.

Do you believe that having a strong social media presence leads to more book sales?

No one will buy your book if they don’t know it exists…unfortunately! As much as I dislike social media dragging me away from my writing, I think it’s absolutely vital if you’re to succeed as an author. You absolutely need to shout about your books over and over again on as many different platforms as possible.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I’ve never actually had writer’s block. At the moment, I am actively writing six books and have started another fifteen or so. If I get stuck on one book, I move to the next one. I have a limited few hours a day to write while my kids are at school, so I can’t afford to waste any of that time staring at the screen. So far I’ve been able to work like this very successfully. If the cyborg from my sci-fi series finds himself on stage with my rockstars, while the vampires watch from the audience, there’s a strong chance I might have become a little confused. So far so good though!

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

I absolutely love holding the completed hardback book in my hand. I read each book numerous times on my Kindle to check for errors before publishing, but holding the physical book, then putting it on my shelf alongside my other books, is the best feeling in the world.

If you could collaborate with any other author on a project, who would it be and why?

Michael Scott. I was addicted to his young adult novels growing up, and read them repeatedly. I still have them on my bookshelf. I love the way he incorporates Irish mythology/fantasy in his books with a modern twist. It was my first introduction to that merging of old and new. It’s something that’s always stuck with me and it’s something I include in my books to a certain extent.

What are you working on now?

Lots and lots of books!

I’m just running through the final edits on my fourth Broken Chords (rockstar romance) book, Crushed Rock. That is due out in a month or so (fingers crossed). I’m also completing the final edits on a new fantasy romance series, North Bound, about a sword swinging, demon fighting Santa. It’s my take on Rise of the Guardians – for adults! Once the rockstar is out of the way, I’ll be finishing up my third vampire Blackjacks series book, then on to some wolf shifters, back to the next rockstar. I’m also planning to finish the seventh book in my sci-fi series. It’s my favourite series and I’ve been neglecting the characters for too long.

Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?

In my over-active imagination I see all my books on TV as massively successful series’. And I would absolutely be left to sort out the casting for the different characters! Realistically though, I would love to have my books on more shelves around the world, in the hands of more readers, and for my fans to still love my books as much as they seem to at the moment.

Have you ever considered writing in another genre?

I began writing sci-fi, then ventured into more romance genres (rockstar, paranormal, and now fantasy). It really depends on the characters that pop into my head and where they want to be situated. I’m just along for the ride.

Pen names – yay or nay?

I use a pen name and always have. I like to remain mysterious!

What marketing tips would you give to someone starting out in their career?

Dedicate one day a week to marketing. I have Marketing Monday. I plan and make any Instagram, Facebook posts, make the images etc and schedule them for the week. If I don’t force myself to do that, I’ll get lost in the writing. Get it over with at the start of the week then spend the rest of the time doing all the fun writing!

To learn more about K.A Finn and her books, check out the below links:

IG: kafinnauthor
FB: kafinnauthor


Today, I'm joined by Chelsea Burke who recently self-published her debut dystopian romance novel Second City. I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy and really enjoyed it. Add to your TBR!

Welcome, Chelsea! How long have you been a writer?

I think I’ve been a writer my whole life, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve actually shared that with anyone. When I was younger I’d write my own stories, or if I’d read a book that didn’t end the way I wanted it to I’d rewrite my own ending. I used to tell my mam that the dream was to move to New York, sit in a coffee shop and write books all day long. I just finally have the confidence to do it… I mean from Tallaght but, alas.

Where did you get the inspiration for your books?

I think just from the many, many books I read. I always found myself thinking ‘I wish this book had this. I wish this happened. I wish this was different.’ So I really just figured out what I felt was missing from all those books and wanted to try write something using those elements. I figured if I feel like these aspects are missing, surely there’s other people who want them too. Also I adore fantasy, but it can be hard to swallow sometimes, hard to follow along. Writing a realistic dystopia kind of felt somewhere in the middle of fantasy and normal romance and that’s what I wanted.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your writing career, so far?

Trying to figure out where Second City fits in the market and in my niche. There are so many amazing romance books and writers out there at the moment and trying to explain what makes Second City special and different and worthy of readers time has been a real personal struggle. Marketing overall I think is the hardest part, but for me it’s more of a ‘where do I fit in in all of this?’ I think it’s some sort of existential crisis. Self-publishing is hard, doing everything on your own is hard. I have no real experience in any of this. That’s the biggest struggle for me.

  If you could go back and give your younger self a single piece of writing advice, what would it be?

STOP WITH THE CLICHES! I love a cliché in a romance book as much as the next person. They’ve become cliches because they work, but in the beginning I thought my writing had to have them or it was awful. Looking back at some of the drafts I’ve abandoned I think they could have been great stories if I had just done my own thing instead of trying to make them like every other book. Starting a book with the main character waking up was my go to. Makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am a pantser with every fibre of my being. I wrote the last chapter of Second City on a whim… then wrote the rest of the book based on that. I literally had no idea what the beginning of my story was. Had no idea why the characters ended up the way they did. I just had that one end scene in my mind and then figured out how to get them there. I hate planning. It definitely does not work for me. I like winging it. For me it feels more natural, a little bit chaotic. I live for chaos.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for aspiring writers, right now?

I think it’s the same as it has always been; getting published. So many more people, like me, are choosing to self-publish because in many ways it really feels like the only option. As all writers know it’s a very lucky few who get traditional publishing deals. It’s something I’d love to achieve one day, but for now just doesn’t seem doable. It’s a big world out there, and a lot of people have stories to tell. Finding a publisher is a tough task.

Do you believe that having a strong social media presence leads to more book sales?

100%. Especially TikTok. The reader presence on TikTok is insane right now. When I was growing up I used to read my books and never tell a soul because reading wasn’t cool. Now? Some of the biggest accounts on TikTok are ‘booktok’ accounts. If you want more sales that’s where you need to be. It’s an amazing community to be a part of. You can really connect with readers and find people who are looking for your type of book specifically. Instagram is brilliant too, but on a smaller scale I’ve found. One viral video on TikTok and your sales can go through the roof. It’s wild.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I read the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas. It is a work of art. If I can’t write I read that series and before I know it all I want to do is write a book that makes other people feel the way that series makes me feel. If you haven’t read it- read it. Seriously. I’m on my millionth re-read right now and it still puts me on the edge of my seat. That’s my cure for writers block. Get inspired.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Writing the ending. I think endings are the most important part of any book. If a book doesn’t end well it ruins it for me. I love (and hate) endings. As I mentioned, I started my debut novel by writing its ending. I lie in bed at night writing endings to stories that don’t exist yet. They’re so fun, and heart breaking, and cathartic. It’s hands down my favourite part. Editing it until its perfect? Delicious.

 If you could collaborate with any other author on a project, who would it be and why?

Stephen King. I’d pay money just to watch him write a story. He just writes like nobody else. When I read IT for the first time when I was young I just didn’t understand how he could write a horror that had me sleeping with the lights on and yet still have me in tears. (I like to pretend that one part in IT never happened, if you don’t know what I’m talking about carry on in blissful ignorance.) I just adore his writing. I’ve read every book he’s ever written and I’d give anything to work with him on something, even if horror isn’t my bag.

What are you working on now?

I have about 5 different manuscripts that are different degrees of finished right now. I like to switch between stories. One of my favourites is a novel with the working title of ‘The Offering.’ It’s a fantasy. Not entirely sure where exactly it’s going yet but I’ll figure it out. I’m also working on the sequel to my debut Second City. Someone once told me that the second book is the hardest you’ll ever write. I believe them. The sequel might just be the death of me.

Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?

In complete honesty I have no idea. Not a clue. I just hope I’m still writing. I hope people are reading what I’m writing and that some of those people feel about my books the way I feel about some of my favourite books. I’m not that great at planning ahead, but I do hope that I reach readers the way other authors have reached me.

Have you ever considered writing in another genre?

I think I’ll always be in romance. Whether that be fantasy romance, contemporary, romance or even just a romance sub plot. I live for it. I can’t see myself writing a book that doesn’t have that. It’s home for me.

Pen names – yay or nay?

I think that depends on where I take my books. Right now I’m okay writing under my own name. I like dark romances though, so if I decide to delve into writing the darker side romance I think I might write under a pen name. I don’t know if I’d like my family to read some of the books I’ve read… never mind if I decided to write something like it. I’ll have to wait and see.

What marketing tips would you give to someone starting out in their career?

Start early! Find your readers and get them excited about your book. ‘Booktok’ is a great community and TikTok is an amazing (and free) way to market your book without too much effort. If you can build up excitement around your book before it’s released you’ll already have some dedicated followers dying to get their hands on it. It’s extremely beneficial.

To learn more about Chelsea and her writing journey, check out her social media and website links below:






This week, I'm joined by Owen Quinn, a Northern Ireland based writer and author of the Zombie Blues and Time Warriors series of books. He also has big plans to be the first Irish Doctor Who, so keep an eye out!

Hey Owen, thanks for dropping by! How long have you been a writer?

 Forever it seems. Without sounding arrogant, it’s something I was born with, and life keeps getting in the way of that as a fulltime occupation reducing me to a daydreaming night owl creating new worlds while our world sleeps.

 If there’s a story in me then it literally will not me rest until it comes out on the page. No bloody wonder I have suitcases under my eyes. My first primary school teacher first saw it when she put a story about lambs in a field in the staffroom for all to see. I thought to my young self, I quite like being the centre of attention and telling stories, so I never really stopped.


Where did you get the inspiration for your books?

 I got really tired of seeing shit on television that was dressed as sci-fi. So, as I was a fan of Doctor Who, I knew if I wrote a story for them, they would take it straight away and hail me as a new talent on the rise. From there on I would be headhunted to write for other shows and movies and spend the rest of my days living the dream.

Oh, to be a naïve fifteen-year-old. I wrote my Doctor Who story all by hand and even drew the cover for the Target novelisation, but they sent it back as they didn’t take handwritten submissions. So, the Time Warriors was born thanks to Doctor Who.

 Zombie Blues came from a question I had about the Walking Dead. I wondered why Morgan’s wife came to her house and tried to open the door. She stared through the peep hole. I wondered what if the original person was still there trapped and helpless. Why would they be trapped I wondered? Then I figured it out and Zombie Blues, now in its third book, was born.



What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your writing career, so far?

 Two things: time and cliques. How do you write a book when you have bills to pay? You can’t write while the kids need feeding and raising as well as giving enough attention to your spouse or partner. The house needs cleaning, you have to turn up to work but in your head is that dream that if your book hits the big time then you can have that time.

 There are too many people out there who think if you ask for advice/help with your writing that it will somehow impact their dreams of sipping champagne on a yacht with one hand and typing the new blockbuster with the other while their butler rubs suncream on their forehead. You’ll find these people are loners or surrounded by people that tell them what they want to hear even when the shit is running off the page. That’s why I was very isolationist for many years until I found people that weren’t so insular.


If you could go back and give your younger self a single piece of writing advice, what would it be?

 I’m still learning but click on these links to see what I would tell me:


Are you a plotter or a pantser?

 Aren’t all fiction writers a hybrid consisting of each? I get an idea and start writing but along the way plot points change or a character goes left instead of right when it wasn’t your intention. Book 4 of the Time Warriors Tempest delivered a plot twist that once it hit me seemed so obvious and was quite smug about it when I read the finished result lol.

 Remember that writing controls you. It tells you when to start and when to end. We are puppets dancing to its tune. Like Patrick Swayze tormenting Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, we get the reviews and maybe the dosh but it makes our fingers do the walking.



What do you think the biggest challenges are for aspiring writers, right now?

 Fitting life around your writing and fucking sharks out to exploit you. Gone are the days of big advances from publishers. The world as it is has changed the playing field for us all years ago.

Look at any supermarket selection of books and it’s big names or celebrity autobiographies. The term celebrity sadly includes those wank sticks from reality television which has also impacted quality television drama. Yet we have the greatest resource for new and editing fiction right here in self-publishers which is tarnished by the ability to publish any old shit with a thousand typos and again those telling them how great their writing is when it really deserves to be used as toilet paper. Then you have these publishers that charge you to publish their book.

 Let that sink in.

 When you see bad singers pleading with Simon Cowell for a chance to go through to the following round, you cringe. But in the writing world you have exactly the same thing. People are desperate to get the JK Rowling level of success and will pay these publishers to publish their book. In their minds this gives them a credibility that is short-lived if it ever really lived at all. You get little in return. You need to have multiple social media platforms pushing your book.

 You are doing all the work and you are being asked to give sums between £4000 to £8000 to them. They didn’t sit up all night writing. They didn’t do your editing. They don’t push your social media. They didn’t pay someone to design your cover. They didn’t help you format or learn how to format Kindles. But this desperation to be JK Rowling makes people do dumb things. I’ve been tempted several times with contracts on the table, but I like my testicles where they are and not having them ripped off by my wife for plunging us in debt. 


Do you believe that having a strong social media presence leads to more book sales?

 No, not at all. It is so much more but again without networking and reaching out for help, they are paths most aspiring writers miss. It’s about networking. It’s about learning how to format. It’s about learning what platform to publish on. What happens to that platform if a publisher suddenly comes along?

 You need friends that can draw, design, and help edit leaving you to write the story. You do edit along the way, but you need more than one pair of eyes to get where you want to be. You on the other hand have to develop a thick skin.

 Listen to criticism, take, and learn from the feedback. Pass your knowledge on as every day there are writers of all ages starting their first book with no idea what’s in store. Put visuals and videos on your social media but remember the work behind a simple post to Facebook or Instagram. Listen to your in inner voice. If something doesn’t sit right with you, sort it. And never ever publish until you’re very sure there are no typos, and everything is as you want it to be. Why would you buy a mistake riddled book when you wouldn’t buy a faulty kettle? It won’t be perfect, you might still miss things but with technology today, it is resolved literally over night with no real impart to anything else.


How do you deal with writer’s block?

 Click here for that answer


What is your favourite part of the writing process?

 It’s when you get feedback from someone who would not normally read e.g. sci-fi books and they tell you they loved your work. I don’t tell people my work is good. I need them to tell me it struck a chord with them. Then I know I’ve done something right. Someone totally bored of the sci-fi genre read the first Time Warriors and it reignited their love of sci-fi which is humbling. The Time Warriors One school teacher read Vegetarian Zombie to her class of primary school children, and they got so aminated about zombies, I was, and still am delighted. Similarly, I got lovely feedback on No Dentures Zombie making people laugh out loud.



If you could collaborate with any other author on a project, who would it be and why?

 I don’t do collaborations because I’m such a control freak. Only I know the story and I can be very reactive to someone interfering. Although I would like to hear the late Manny Coto, Harlan Ellison, and Garth Ennis’ take on a Time Warriors story. Ellison and Coto especially wrote sci-fi with a heart that the audience could identify with. That’s how I’ve always pitched the Time Warriors.


What are you working on now?

 Two new Time Warriors books, a new children’s anthology, and comedy book which I hope will work. Verbal and visual comedy is easier than written ones from a character people have never heard of.


Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?

 I want it to be a career rather than a constant struggle to put new books out for little return. I have a quality product but it’s always trying to break that mainstream barrier.



Have you ever considered writing in another genre?

 I’m writing a children’s book or novella, whatever the word count is will determine that and a comedy which I’ve never done before. I have made people cry with the beginning of Experiment 4 in the first Time Warriors book First Footsteps so time to laugh too.


Pen names – yay or nay?

 HELL NO! For the work you put in and the struggle to publish a book, you want people to know it is you. On a selfish and probably petty note, I want to show all those fuckers who ran me down and bullied me for my love of sci-fi that what they belittled me over for years is a world that is no longer for geeks and nerds but inspires children of all ages to be artists and writers and movie makers, not drunks and wasting life for fear of social ridicule.


What marketing tips would you give to someone starting out in their career?

 Buy my books and see what sci-fi with humanity is. See life through the eyes of a zombie wracked with love, regret, fear, inspiration, and a belief that together humanity can overcome anything in Zombie Blues. Other than that, write your book and if it doesn’t make an impact, do another and another until your writing is done. If by chance you make it big with your twentieth book, your other nineteen, which inwardly you considered failures, are now a marketable product that can hopefully touch peoples’ lives. You’re not just writing for yourself even though you think you are; you’re writing for the people out there too afraid of a blank screen with a story burning inside of them.

 I am a resident of Northern Ireland and have been a life long science fiction and horror fan.  I am the creator of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues books. I infamously fell and broke his shoulder at his first Walker Stalker convention. I am a keen photographer and also have a secret desire to be the first Irish Doctor Who. 


To kick off the first in a series of interviews with Irish writers, creators, and poets, I'm delighted to introduce Derek Power. Derek is the author of the 'Filthy Henry' series and a fellow BFS award nominee for our collaboration on 'Sky Breaker: Tales of the Wanderer.' Enjoy!

Hey Derek, welcome! How long have you been a writer?

            I began writing a little during college years, but mostly short stories. There was a contest ran in the college paper, they provided a line and you had to write a story that was 1000 words long. I entered, it won, and I didn’t write again properly until maybe 2013. That was when I had the idea for my first Filthy Henry novel, and I’ve been pretty much writing ever since.

Where did you get the inspiration for your books?

For Filthy Henry the inspiration comes from a few sources, mostly the ancient myths and legends of Celtic Ireland and then whatever modern day type stuff I can bring in to make the story work. A lot of the background characters in the Filthy novels are based on people in my life and one or two strangers who asked me at a convention if they could be in a novel. I’ve also drawn on my favourite authors/writers and seen the type of stories that they craft and wondered if I could do something in a similar vein.

Me and Derek at ComicCon 2022

What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your writing career, so far?

In writing, nothing much really. I seem to be able to write whenever I want and I’ve a notebook full of ideas. Are they all winners, who is to say, but they are stacking up so that I usually have the next three books plotted out before I start working on something. For me it is the marketing side of things. Being an indie author is great, but the marketing is a full time job and you can copy/paste the formula of somebody successful you’ve seen online and it just doesn’t work the same for you. That bit can be the big challenge.

If you could go back and give your younger self a single piece of writing advice, what would it be?

One of the hardest things I had to learn when working on the first Filthy Henry novel is that you don’t need to get your sentence right first time. I must have spent about a month working on the perfect ‘first few pages’ instead of just writing the first draft and then editing over and over. If I could go back to the early days of writing that’s the advice I’d give myself, just write the bloody story and let the following drafts be used for refining and tweaking and making things perfect. Then, when you are just about ready to give up because you don’t think any more edits will help you have a finished novel.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Big time plotter, I have no idea how people pants a book. I need my outline, my chapter outlines to ensure the overall plot points get hit in the right spots, all that good stuff. That isn’t to say that I stick to the plot outline rigidly, sometimes you will have a great idea only as the story unfolds before you and the plot will need to be adjusted and tweaked. I think that’s the happy middle ground between the plotters and the pantsers.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for aspiring writers, right now?

There could be a few. I know when I first started out I Googled ‘How long is a short novel’ and set that as my minimum word target. It felt like a huge mountain to climb, but the trick is if you do a little every day that word count gets bigger and bigger. Marketing is definitely a big challenge, even if you are good at it, because it takes up time. Time that could be used on writing. Plus people will try and predict trends, which they shouldn’t. Write the story you want to write and let the trends come and go.

Do you believe that having a strong social media presence leads to more book sales?

I’m not entirely sure on this one. Some people swear by having a Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram - but followers do not automatically translate into readers and book sales. My Twitter, for example, has a respectable six hundred followers, but I haven’t seen that translate into sales in the least. However a good ad campaign can bring in more followers on social. I know a lot of people who seem to get some success for sales based on social followers, but I dunno. Jury is still out with me on that one. I will say that I think social media is a great way for writers to keep in touch with readers that probably replaced the old ‘fan mail’ of the pre-internet days. From that perspective it is important to maybe even focus on just one social media platform and really work it well.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I’m lucky in that I haven’t been hit by this yet in all my years writing. I generally come up with an idea quick, refine it with a bit of my process, then start writing. The only block that I have when it comes to writing is there aren’t enough hours in the day to work, family and write…with sleep being needed somewhere there too.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

I do enjoy the plotting stage. Sometimes my plot outlines can run into double digits of pages as I build out the story and world around it. I often wonder if I shouldn’t include the plot pages as a bonus in the back of the book so people can see them. As one person said after reading the third Filthy Henry novel, there are versions of the book that exist that nobody ever sees because I will edit and cut and add and change. They said it made them jealous, even though they enjoyed the finished piece.

If you could collaborate with any other author on a project, who would it be and why?

Well I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with yourself on one and that was fantastic fun. If I could go with another one, I’d go with Philip K. Dick. He wrote my all time favourite sci fi novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ (which was turned into Blade Runner) and I’d love to write a story with his unique approach. Somehow nobody has been able to reproduce the mad methods he used to get an average person suddenly involved in an otherworldly situation.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually on a few projects at the minute because idle hands are something I don’t like. I’m writing a sci-fi story for a contest I stumbled upon online. I’m doing up a Filthy Henry case file, which is a short story that never gets published in print but appears on the podcast for Filthy Henry that a friend of mine produces. I’m writing the plot outline for a screenplay and also working on a one act play to enter into the Drama League of Ireland contest. I think I have a nap scheduled there somewhere as well.

Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?

Probably still pumping out Filthy Henry novels. The novels are written in such a way that you can read one and get a fully self contained story with all the information required in that book, but also easily part of the shared and growing world that Filthy inhabits. Ideally I’d like to see more sales happening, but I have to figure that out and maybe cut back on some writing to do the promoting.

Have you ever considered writing in another genre?

So Filthy Henry is comedy-fantasy with a detective spin. I’ve written a sci-fi story with a detective as the main character. I’ve written a real world story that is a crime/detective one - I think I’m trying to create an ‘omni detective’ genre that all my books would fit into.

Pen names – yay or nay?

When I started out I thought nay, but as I’ve branched out into different genres I have reconsidered. I think a pen name can be good if a writer doesn’t want to risk polluting their fanbase. If you had written a lot of comedy novels the last thing you want your fans to do is get annoyed that your new one is a murder mystery, so maybe a pen name per genre and then use your real name for the main genre.

What marketing tips would you give to someone starting out in their career?

Hire somebody who knows that world, because there are grifters online who will promise you the deal of a lifetime for a mere two hundred euro and you get all their tricks and it comes to nothing (speaking from experience sadly).

Derek Power is the mind behind Filthy Henry, the fairy detective. Born and bred in Dublin, he current lives in Skerries with his family. He predominately focuses on comedy-fantasy works, but has dabbled in sci-fi noir with his novel 'Duplex Tempus'. When not writing he spends his days refreshing the inbox wondering when Hollywood is going to come knocking for the film rights to his books.  

Books in one handy place:
Podcast (audio book version of the first three novels):


I had the pleasure of attending the launch of We Stand With Ukraine on the 3rd of May. The event took place in Hodges Figgis bookshop in Dublin, and it was fantastic to see so many people gathered to support it.

We Stand With Ukraine is an anthology of poems and prose written by protesters who’ve picketed the Russian embassy here in Dublin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What struck me most was that these were all ordinary people. All with different backgrounds, walks of life, and professions. One thing bound them all. From the moment they heard about the invasion, they wanted to do something.

Without any organisation or central leadership, ordinary people banded together to amplify the voices of Ukrainian civilians. Regardless of the weather, they engaged in peaceful protest outside the Russian embassy. They may not have been able to influence the outcome of such an unjust and cruel war, but they were determined it will never be forgotten.

The anthology came about as a suggestion from my good friend, writer, poet, and protester Helen Dwyer. She wanted to document the thoughts and outlooks of such a diverse group of people, to better understand why they were there and what they hoped to achieve. After some discussions, most of the protesters signed on to write a little bit about their experiences. One goal drove them. All proceeds and royalties from book sales of We Stand With Ukraine, go to Ukrainian Action, a registered non-profit organisation built to get much needed funds to Ukrainian civilians in need.

The book launch was a moving event. Protesters read excerpts of their work and spoke of their heartbreak at the suffering of so many civilians. Members of the Ukrainian community in Ireland spoke of the horror inflicted on their country and thanked everyone who refused to remain silent and continued speak out against the crimes of the Russian war machine.

I’m still reading the anthology. What I have read is a powerful account of people shocked by the invasion who are determined to exercise their democratic right to protest. There’s a clear distinction between the corrupt leadership of the Russian Federation and the Russian people, who don’t even have the right to speak out against the war without suffering criminal charges.
There’s hope, too. Optimism that Ukraine will prevail, this horrible war will end, and tyranny will be brought down, as it has been so many times in the past.

We Stand with Ukraine is available now for Mercier Press and all good bookshops:


Hey there! I know what you’re thinking… it’s been a while, right? Close to three years since I last typed up a blog post. It’s something as a writer I know I need to get better at. The challenge for me is stepping away from a writing project and typing up a few hundred words on what I’ve been up to. I’d rather write eight thousand words in my WIP than eight hundred talking about it! But anyways… here goes…

If you’ve been keeping tabs of my adventures via social media (links below if you’re not), the last few years have been hectic, to say the least. Following the release of Blood Red Sand, I switched focus to two projects that had been rolling around in my brain for quite a while.

The first one was The Truceless War, a sci-fi retelling of the First Punic War between the Romans and Carthaginians. This is where my love of history took a hold, as I read history books for fun. The First Punic War isn’t as widely recorded as the much more well known second one (Hannibal Barca crossing the Alps with elephants etc). There were only four recorded pitched battles in twenty-three years.

Most of the action took place as skirmishes, ambushes, sieges, and naval battles which I adhered to for The Truceless War (excluding some creative licence). Imagine the above with high-powered lasers, energy shields, massive war machines, artillery, jet bombers, and my trademark blood and guts style of writing.

Split between four POV characters, The Truceless War explores a galaxy colonised by humans on the verge of war. The newly united Romaii Republic casts its envious gaze on the riches of the Punic Trade Empire and gears up for an invasion of the planet Sicilia. Caught up in the ensuing battle, young Amilcara Barca witnesses her mother’s brutal murder. For the next two decades, she forges herself into a warrior and political leader, determined to seek revenge and make the Romaii invaders pay.

My next project was Lizard Skin and Sharpened Steel. This one is a sword and shields fantasy set in a medieval world where dinosaurs exist on an isolated continent known as ‘the landmass.’ The Dead Mudder mercenary legion are dispatched by the Hipernian king to locate and retrieve the eggs of one of the most feared native beasts the kingjaws.

Aided by a young native woman named Boy and her surrogate father known only as Sir, mercenary leader Dustn must lead his soldiers into uncharted jungles. Despite their battlefield experience, the Dead Mudders suffer horrendous casualties facing the killer beasts that stalk the landmass and risk everything to satisfy a king’s whim.

Both projects are edited, polished, and good to go, so I’m aiming to self-publish them either later this year or early 2024. For the most part, it’s just a matter of time, something I don’t have in abundance between a full-time job, a full-time family and of course, my non-stop writing projects. If I can force myself to stay committed to blog updates, hopefully I’ll have more news on these over the coming weeks/months as I’m eager to get them out there.

Next up, we have Sky Breaker: Tales of the Wanderer. This was an anthology crafted between me and some of the rising stars of the Irish and UK indie writing scene. I had a lot of fun sitting down and chatting with so many talented writers. Together, we built a shared fantasy world across different eras and technology levels. Every story is bound together by strange rifts and tears in the fabric of reality and a mysterious copper-eyed character called the Wanderer.

My short story for this was The Righteous Old Guard, a brutal military fantasy which centred on a bunch of elderly religious zealots who massacre their own young people they believe to have fallen under the Wanderer’s spell. In a bid to exterminate the rift, they battle into the heart of the Wanderer’s camp and attempt to destroy it with a large quantity of explosives. There’s something for everyone in this anthology, so if you’re into a variety of fantasy sub-genre short stories, check it out.

Blood Red Steel (the third book in my Big Red series) is due out on 3rd October of this year and I’m looking forward to sharing it. Set two years after the events of Blood Red Sand, we’re once again reunited with the beleaguered Second Battalion who are faced with one final mission. Defend Forward Base Zulu at all costs. So far, I’ve gotten some great feedback from ARC readers, so I can’t wait to see what fans of the series think!

Last of all, I’ve finally finished work on the long-awaited Born Red, fourth book in the series and direct sequel to Big Red. If you’ve caught any of my interviews, panels, or podcasts over the last three years, I’ve been teasing this one for a while. I’ve gone through six different drafts, constantly tweaking the story until I was one hundred percent satisfied. I’m glad to say, I’ve reached that point, so now it’s off to my publisher!

Overall, it’s been a productive few years and I’ve no plans to stop anytime soon. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me. More updates to follow!

- DL

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Damien Larkin is an Irish science fiction and fantasy author. His military sci-fi novels Big Red and Blood Red Sand were longlisted for BSFA awards. He served for seven years in the Irish Reserve Defence Forces and lives in Dublin, Ireland.



I'm joined again today by Owen Quinn author of The Time Warriors and Zombie Blues series. He's sharing a short story from his first book Zombie Blues entitled Cross Dresser Zombie. Check it out!

The day the zombies rose will be remembered for just that; the rise of the
But for me, it was the day I could shed my skin and be the person I had
always wanted to be for the entire world to see. Just like everything else
in my life, the timing sucked.
Now my undead ass is walking the city without even the dignity of the
heels I had chosen. My left shoe is missing while the right one seems
stuck on with its broken heel. I think my ankle is twisted though or I have
a cracked toe. Now when I walk, all 6 foot of my bulky frame is up and
down like an Amsterdam tart. Add to that my wig is twisted on my head
so the right side of my face has a permanent auburn covering, I look like
Frankenstein’s frigging granny. Instead of becoming a butterfly, I became
something that was slapped up the face with a frying pan.

But I digress. Let me start at the beginning which also became my end.
First up, my name is Frank Malone, resident of Belfast all my life. I have
never married but shagged my way round the town. I came close a couple
of times but never bothered. I play darts, love a pint and the craic with the
lads. I’m a cage fighter and charity worker. I’ve a hard man rep, afraid of
no one and would knock the bollocks clean out of anyone that looked at
me the wrong way. When people look at me they see the black leather
jacket, baldy head and the gold chains. They see a hardman.

But when I look in the mirror I see someone else entirely. No one knows,
no one has ever even suspected, not even my ma, and she’s sharp as a pin.
At forty six, it’s not a big deal these days but it reduces me to jelly to
think if anyone found out.
I like wearing women’s clothes. Simple as that.

Maybe I’ve always been this way. I’m not gay nor have any intentions of
getting the three piece out and a gas oven put in. I like shagging but the
feel of those clothes on my body just makes me so content. When I look
at myself in the mirror in full get up, it’s my world. Problem is, that world
has never left my bedroom or mouth. My ma stays out of my room
because I bung her the money for bingo 4 times a week so I can become
Majella. Those times when she isn’t there are heaven and I can try
different outfits without fear of her walking in. Other people’s privacy is
not a priority for my ma as most of you will probably identify with when
it comes to mothers.

I’m not sure when it became part of me but it was always there. I never
looked at my ma’s catalogue in the same way as she did. I flicked through
the women’s section and wondered what it would feel like to be dressed
as they were. It looked so elegant and comfortable that I yearned for it.
But my body didn’t exactly shout model material. I was bald, hairy chest
and back and caught between muscle and sagginess in the waist area.
The first time I remember putting on a pair of knickers was when I was
shagging Fiona Fisher when I was seventeen. I was staying at her place
and been dating for a few months. As I said, I’m not gay. I love sex with
women and Fiona was a goer. She would lick my bald head when she got
excited and all I could picture was her slipping a wig on my bonnet.

Anyway, I got up for a piss and was standing there trying to hit the side
of the bowl so she couldn’t hear the crash of urine on water. (It sounds
louder somehow at three in the morning.)
As I washed my hands, I saw knickers and a bra drying on the

My heart raced. My breathing quickened. The compulsion was too much.
I had to do it. Trembling, I slipped her knickers on first and stared at
myself in the mirror barely containing my excitement. They were far too
small but it felt right. It felt normal to me. I slipped on her bra next even
though it didn’t fit and couldn’t believe the rush I felt. This was what I
had been missing all my life.

Quickly and reluctantly I put them back on the radiator as I found them
and was so turned on I went back into the bed and woke her up for
another round.

It was easier after that. I could go into shops and pretend I was buying for
the girlfriend but all six foot of bulky me couldn’t wait to get home and
try them on. I even started going to the gym to slim down. My secret
stash grew quickly but lived in the back of the wardrobe. But I couldn’t
bring myself to go public for fear of shame and ridicule. The image of
people laughing and sniggering behind your back was far more terrifying
than any cage fighter. It would be worse for my ma. Those witches in the
bingo hall loved nothing more than to gossip and ridicule people.

I almost told Fiona but finished with her instead. I couldn’t afford anyone
finding out. Like a teenager discovering masturbation, Majella stayed a
bedroom secret behind a locked door.
But it was like a pressure cooker inside me, bursting to get out. I wanted
nothing more than to walk down the street and show the world who I
really was. So I decided to do exactly that. It only took me twenty plus
odd years.
The day was planned to the last detail like something out of Mission
Impossible. Nothing was left to chance, all avenues were thought of.
Outfit was chosen, makeup packed and it was all systems go.
The big day began in the changing rooms of a well known clothing store.
I went into the men’s changing rooms. My heart was racing as I opened
my bag. This was it.

All I could think about was the throngs of people I walked through to get
here. Would they notice or would I melt into the crowds? But in the end it
didn’t matter.
All that mattered was that Majella was about to go public.

I ran a hand over the outfit I’d chosen feeling elated. It was a red jacket
with open neck white blouse with knee length skirt to match. Black
stockings with a shiny black pair of heels completed it. A necklace with a
thin gold chain rounded it off nicely as I applied my make up.

I remember staring in the mirror, heart pumping as I began to strip. Piece
by piece, Majella formed right in front of me and when I bowed my head
to put my wig on, I paused. I shut my eyes before raising my head. I
nervously opened them, slower than I should have and looked in the
mirror. I couldn’t have been happier as I looked myself up and down. I
never looked better even if I did say so myself. I let out a deep breath, not
and realizing I was holding my breath fearfully. What if I didn’t like what
I saw? What if I really was the freak I thought people would see me as? I
was delighted to see I wasn’t.

Suddenly there was a searing pain in my calf. Half in shock and half in
horror, I let out a scream of pain and swore like a trooper in a most
unladylike fashion. As I stumbled, I saw some bitch on her front had
crawled under the curtain and took a chunk out of my leg. She was little
more than a teenager dressed like a chav. I fell back trying to shake her
off but the cramped cubicle left me bouncing of the mirrored wall instead
cracking it with the impact.

Inhuman eyes looked at me as she drooled and snapped trying to chew on
me some more. Blood was smeared around her thin lips. I don’t know
whether it was fear or adrenalin or what but I somehow managed to kick
her in the face which for my size and cramped space was a bloody
miracle. I kicked for all my worth, my stiletto sinking into the cow’s
skull. Blood spurted everywhere from her head and my leg. I saw her
gasp and slump forward before I passed out too.

I don’t know how long had passed but when I came too, it was like
waking from the hangover from hell. My tongue felt like a shrivelled
sausage roll and I could only make guttural noises. I thought to myself
that’s weird as I struggled to my half shoeless feet. I felt shaky at best and
lurched from the changing cubicle almost tripping over the corpse with
the stiletto hat. Bitch, I thought to myself. My mind was fuzzy, strange
urges filling it, propelling me towards the exit. Part of me was saying to
get my heels on to complete my outfit but I was moving out of hunger. I
barely noticed the shop was wrecked and blood stained the floors and
walls. All I knew was I could smell human flesh and how like chicken it
seemed. I needed it, I craved it and there was nothing I wouldn’t do to
have it.

A myriad of questions flashed through my mind. Where were the
shoppers? Why wasn’t I being noticed? A six foot man in women’s
clothes should have drawn curt sniggers and hidden laughs even in this
day and age and yet…nothing. There was fire and screaming. There was
whimpering and munching. The street was a canvas of fear and chaos and
here I was, now in full Majella mode, lurching amid it like a virgin in a
whore house.

I felt like crying. This was supposed to be my big day, my coming out.
This was the day when the world would meet Majella and my secret life
would shred away like cobwebs in the wind. It was supposed to be red
carpet and fireworks, a statement that I had a rightful place in the world
where I didn’t have to hide in shadows or run from phobic narrow
minded attacks.

I was Majella, ready or not, here I come bitches!
But instead I went unnoticed, just another shoddy figure amid the other
bloody shuffling shoddy figures, all driven by the need for chicken.
Instead of shouting from the rooftops, all I could do was gurgle like those
off the telly. My outfit is ruined by the way which I ain’t happy about and
my tights are laddered like nobody’s business. The event that was to be
Majella has been reduced to nothing special. All I can think about apart
from chicken, is I should have had the balls to come out as Majella years
before. All my fears of being ridiculed and shamed because I wanted to
wear women’s clothes were dust now. They seemed pointless, a curse
that kept me from being who I truly was. How ironic that now as a
zombie, I can finally walk the streets as I always wanted to.

And not one person can ever take notice. I’m just ordinary Joe/Majella
Bloggs. I’m just a rotting hulk of regret now, trapped in this body until all
the chicken in the world has been eaten.

If by some miracle, humans survive, I really hope the new generation
learn to grab life by the horns and just go with it. Do what you want today
kids: don’t let anyone stop you. Fear of other people’s opinions kept me
back and now here I am – cross dressing zombie. Don’t be like me: live
life. Stand up and shout to the world that this is who you are. Savour
every moment before all the chicken runs out.
So if you ever see a zombie, don’t look at us just as the undead. We’re
not, well we are but we’re people too inside afflicted by this condition,
helpless at what we do because of a trick of nature.
And I suppose that if you read all our stories, you’ll see there’s a very real
truth to life: never judge by appearances and live for today.
Maybe some good will come out of this. Maybe the apocalypse will wake
people up and live as they should. Perhaps some day the new generation
of mankind will be open to people like me who don’t have to live in the
shadows. If that day truly comes, then living like this will be a small price to pay.

Owen Quinn is a resident of Northern Ireland and has been a lifelong science fiction and horror fan. He is a keen photographer from an early age. `His desire to write for his favourite show Doctor Who at the age of fifteen led to the birth of the Time Warriors series. He is the creator of both the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues books.

Story from Zombie Blues Volume 1 available here at


Today, I'm joined by Owen Quinn author of The Time Warriors and Zombie Blues series. He's sharing a short story set in the Star Trek universe right after Jean-Luc Picard is assimilated by the Borg to become Locutus of Borg. Check it out!

Jean Luc Picard was gone and Locutus of Borg now stood in his place!
Guinan stood in shock at the turn of events. The Borg, that terror that scratched her
nightmares, had returned and taken Jean Luc Picard. To many Picard was a legend, an
indestructible oasis in the midst of any tempest. He was the one they turned to; the
one that held this ship together. What would happen now that thread had been pulled?
How soon before the tight tapestry that consisted of the Enterprise crew's unfaltering
faith in him withered? If it crumbled too much then the fight with the Borg would be
over before it began. First Earth then the entire Federation would be assimilated; an
ocean of hopeful flames being extinguished with one cold deathly breath.

Closing her dark almond shaped eyes, Guinan breathed deeply letting her mind reach
out to her shipmates. She could feel the subdued fear and disbelief. It took a lot for
her to push down her own horror at this turn of events. While she knew the bridge
crew were maintaining a brave face for the sake of the crew, that crown lay heavier on
Will Riker most of all. He was now Captain with a first officer in the shape of Shelby
nipping at his heels for the captaincy he had shied away from for so long. Add to that
he had just given (thankfully an unsuccessful one) the chance to blow the abomination
out of the stars that now wore Picard's face. Regardless of the mechanical implants the
crew still saw their captain no matter what he called himself. If the Borg could
convert the best of them so easily then no one really stood a chance. Any battle and
the massacre of thousands at Wolf 359 were mere spit against the wind than a
historically remembered battle of the brave. It would be easier to surrender and allow
everything they were become part of the Borg Collective. It washed through Guinan
as she returned her expressionless gaze to the star filled vista out the window of Ten

The entire future rested on a spin of this coin and yet she knew that it wasn't over. She
kept a secret that could not be revealed until the time was right. Part of her roared at
the Fates that this was wrong but she had to find a way to salvage the situation. The
stench of hopelessness wafted the corridors of the flagship like decaying wraiths
seeking a place for their souls to rest. Riker was not thinking like a captain. The
bridge crew could see nothing beyond the fact they had just tried to kill their captain.
They were leaderless and swimming in treacle. Even the promotion thirsty Shelby
was thinking of how she could get skip to the top of the ladder if she found a solution
to all this. Troi was overwhelmed by the waves of despair. Worf was cursing his own
failure as were Geordi and Wesley. Parents held their children close, terrified these
young ones'; futures would be taken away. With a gasp, Guinan heard a mother sob to
her husband, 'Never again a lullaby.'
No! she vowed.
Although she could not yet see it there was a way to save the day. The Borg would be
defeated and Picard would be restored. She knew it. She had seen it. For a moment
Guinan stared at her own reflection in the window. She held her own gaze as it
suddenly came to her. All the crew needed was a nudge in the right direction. The
answer lay within them; all it would take is someone that had seen the hidden future
her shipmates could not know. Phasers and photon torpedoes would not solve this; it
would take the crew to look at things differently. Allowing herself a sly smile at the
memory of the moment Picard and she first met (oh Jean Luc if only you knew but
soon old friend), Guinan's course was set. She had the key to salvation with the
knowledge she had kept hidden for all these years. She somehow knew the future she
had seen was closer than she knew.
"Ok Locutus, here they come," she whispered. She knew where the wounded Riker
would be and what he was thinking. Ignited by this new spark of hope, Guinan glided
out of Ten Forward formulating a plan as she went. There will be lullabies again she
promised. Despair had been replaced by thoughts of Data's severed head and Mark

Owen Quinn is a resident of Northern Ireland and has been a lifelong science fiction and horror fan. He is a keen photographer from an early age. `His desire to write for his favourite show Doctor Who at the age of fifteen led to the birth of the Time Warriors series. He is the creator of both the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues books.


Today, I'm joined by Canadian author C.D. Gallant-King. I've had the pleasure of ARC-reading his latest book "Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space" (out today) and I loved it. Read the full interview below for writing tips, more about C.D's writing style and giving out free hugs and cupcakes on a street corner...

Welcome C.D! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I just turned 40 (holy crap!). I’m Canadian, from the island province of Newfoundland, which you
and your readers should be familiar with. At eighteen I moved to Toronto to study theatre, and I
completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts. I haven’t set foot inside a theatre since.
In my life I’ve been a stock boy, an actor, a marketing coordinator, a stage manager, a lighting
designer, a print shop manager, a retail supervisor, a trainer, an executive assistant, a
bookkeeper, and currently I push papers around for the government. I also once spent an
afternoon handing out free hugs and cupcakes on a street corner. Through all of it I’ve written
stories, but to be honest the writing doesn’t pay much better than the cupcakes.
In addition to reading books and telling stories I like playing games, especially if they involve
funny-shaped dice and talking in silly voices, and I’m also very partial to the noble and ancient
art of professional wrestling. I also buy lots of Star Wars toys and pretend they’re for my kids.
When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve always been a writer. It’s not a decision, it just kinda happens, like getting run over by a
I decided to become a “published” writer in about 2004, except no one wanted my book. I don’t
blame them, it wasn’t very good.
Finally, in 2015 as I approached my 35 th birthday, I finally made the plunge to self-publish.
Everyone was doing it, why shouldn’t I get a chance? I never expected to make much money or
win accolades, but I thought I could at least entertain a few people with my stories, and I did. So
I’ve kept it up, because that’s who I am now.
So, what have you written?
I’ve written about a dozen novels and tons of short stories, but most of them are still sitting in
the basement in the little room under the stairs I affectionately call The Closet. I’ve self-
published three of those novels - Ten Thousand Days, Hell Comes to Hogtown, and the newest,
Psycho Hose Beast from Outer Space. I supposed all of them are some blend of “urban
fantasy,” but Days leans more toward fantasy and romance while Hogtown and Hose Beast lean
(really hard) into comedy and horror.
My short fiction has appeared in several Strangely Funny anthologies from Mystery and Horror,
a couple of collections from Dancing Lemur Press, and an upcoming issue of The Weird and
Whatnot. I also have a series of dark comic fantasy short-stories available called Werebear vs.
Landopus. They’re kind of weird and grotesque, but if you’re into really foul-mouthed dwarves,
brutally maimed heroes and jokes about bodily fluids, then have I got a treat for you!

Do you have any odd writing habits?
I write on the bus, does that count? Before COVID, I had a very long commute to and from work
every day, so to make use of that time I spent a lot of it writing. Hell Comes to Hogtown was
written and edited almost exclusively with my laptop balanced on my knees on an Ottawa city
bus. Some people might find it distracting, but with my iPod blaring in my ears and my focus on
my screen I don’t even notice it anymore. I get so “in the zone” that sometimes I nearly missed
my stop.
Even before the pandemic I had been riding the bus less, so I took to different tactics. Psycho
Hose Beast From Outer Space was written almost entirely on my phone, with me tapping out
paragraphs whenever I had a few free moments - waiting for appointments, on break at work,
sitting with my kids while they fell asleep. I don’t have a ton of free time, so you have to make
every minute count.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

Absolutely. I even tend to leave it between rounds of editing/revision. The longer you stare at
something the harder it is to be objective and worse, j
Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?
ust reading it becomes a chore. I have
fallen asleep both reading and listening to my own work, and it’s embarrassing. You don’t ever
want to end up at that point.
So after you’ve spent several months writing a draft, take some time off to write something else
or read a few books or do whatever you need to do to recharge your brain. You want to come
back at it with fresh eyes and renewed interest. You will care more about it when you feel like
the words are at least a little less stale, and it’s not the tenth time you’ve read them in a week.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing as far as content?
Do you mean things I find difficult to write? Not many. I’m not bothered by sex, violence,
profanity and such, which you can probably tell if you read any of my work. I don’t get upset by
killing characters or anything like that. Character death is a necessary part of a story, and one of
a writer’s tools. It would be like getting upset by having to type the letter “q.”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing as far as content?

Do you mean things I find difficult to write? Not many. I’m not bothered by sex, violence,
profanity and such, which you can probably tell if you read any of my work. I don’t get upset by
killing characters or anything like that. Character death is a necessary part of a story, and one of
a writer’s tools. It would be like getting upset by having to type the letter “q.”
I will admit that lately I’ve been a little apprehensive about stuff involving children. Not about
writing for children, I love writing children’s stories, but about combining my aforementioned sex,
violence and profanity with kids. Being a relatively new parent with small kids leaves that as a
slightly sensitive subject to me. I know, however, that it’s also a sensitive subject with many
other people, so it may at some point be a topic worth exploring. I probably will write about it
someday, it’s just a little too fresh and raw on my mind right now.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

What to do: Just write. I know that sounds dumb, and clichéd, but I hear about so many people
who are “writing” a novel but never seem to finish it. Put words down on paper and see what
happens. This leads directly to…
What not to do: Everything else. Stop second-guessing yourself, wondering whether it’s “good
enough”; it doesn’t matter, just put something down, you can fix it later. Stop worrying about
covers and marketing and maps when you don’t have a story to go with it. Stop spending so
much time on message boards, talking about writing; all those words are wasted, they could be
going into your manuscript. Stop world-building and calculating the air speed and wing-beats
per minute of dragons in your universe. None of it will matter if no one ever reads the book
because you’ve never finished it. And stop reading advice about writing from people who don’t
know what they’re talking about.
Wait a minute…

C.D. Gallant-King writes comic horror and fantasy stories in a variety of settings and genres. He
is a proud Newfoundlander and Canadian currently living in Ottawa, Ontario. He holds a
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre. He lived in Toronto for 10 years and tried to be an actor and a
rock star, but we don't talk about that. He is now a happy husband and father of two.
C.D. has previously published two novels, and a third book, PSYCHO HOSE BEAST FROM
OUTER SPACE, is set to be released September 28. His book HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN
was a semi-finalist in Mark Lawrence’s 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. His work has also
appeared four times in Mystery & Horror's STRANGELY FUNNY anthologies of comic horror
stories, an upcoming issue of The Weird and Whatnot magazine, and in two anthologies from
Dancing Lemur Press.

Newfoundland, Canada, 1992.
Gale Harbour hasn’t seen any excitement since the military abandoned the base there thirty
years ago, unless you count the Tuesday night 2-for-1 video rentals at Jerry's Video Shack. So
when a dead body turns up floating in the town water supply, all evidence seems to point to a
boring accident.
Niall, Pius and Harper are dealing with pre-teen awkwardness in the last days of summer before
the start of high school. The same night the body is found, the three of them witness unusual
lights in the sky over the bay.
Is it a coincidence? Are the lights connected to the rapidly-increasing string of mysterious
deaths? And what does the creepy old lady at the nursing home have to do with it?
There is an evil older than time hidden deep beneath the waters of the North Atlantic. It is
hungry, and vengeful, and it has its sights set on Gale Harbour to begin its path of destruction.
All that stands in its way are a group of kids who would rather be playing Street Fighter II...



Today, I'm joined by author Scott Coon. This is a fascinating article about planet building. Enjoy!

I love Star Wars but someone needs to explain Endor. A moon should not be all forest—no polar caps, jungles, or deserts. It's fun but unrealistic. Icy Hoth and desert Tatooine make more sense. But life-sustaining planets can be—and actually are—much more interesting than these mono-climates. 


Our Earth formed when two planets collided, leaving us with a wobbling tilted axis and a huge moon. With our moon, four seasons, and ice ages, we may be unique in our galaxy. We would be strange and interesting to other peoples. If you’re a Sci-Fi or Fantasy writer, you can create a planet that's strange and interesting to us humans by considering its satellites, star, orbit and axis. 


Our moon is our only satellite. If it were much bigger, Earth and Luna would not be planet and moon but planet and planet orbiting a central point. Luna causes our tides and has protected us from meteors. In contrast, Mars, our sister planet, has two asteroid-like moons. Saturn and Jupiter have rings that are continuously raining meteors on their planets. The moon and the north star have played import rolls in our civilization. How would a ring affect the development of a society or navigation? 

Our yellow sun is in a minority of stars. The most common star is the Red Dwarf, outnumbering all other stars in our galaxy three to one. One in twenty Red Dwarves have a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, an orbital distance where liquid water forms. If your sci-fi story visits several solar systems, I recommend you make some of them Red Dwarves. But don't forget about all the other types like Red Giants and Brown Dwarves. Study them and go beyond the yellow.


Orbit and axis come together to create the seasons—or lack thereof. Our seasons are caused by our tilted axis. For half of our orbit, the north is titled toward the sun and the south away, causing the opposite seasons of the hemispheres. The wobble of our axis causes our ice ages. But our orbit is mostly circular, so it has little effect. On a planet with a vertical axis and elliptical orbit, the seasons would be in sync, all regions experiencing winter at the same time when the planet was farthest from its sun. On a world with a vertical axis and circular orbit, no seasons would exist. Weather would only change by latitude.


In Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, the planet experienced the destruction of its moon, sending its axis rolling, causing the unpredictable winters that define their society. Try imaging worlds with different tilts, wobbles, and orbits. Then try imagining one with none of it, not even a spin. This is called tidal locking—one side is always day, the other always night. The day side would be desert while the night is tundra. In between, where water melted off the glaciers into the broiling wasteland, a ribbon of life could arise. Who would these creatures be? How would they explore the extreme sides of their planet?


Around some gas giants, moons are squeezed and stretched by the planet's gravity, creating heat that could support life without the benefit of a Goldilocks Zone. There are orphaned planets, wandering between the stars that could have such moons. Dark Eden by Chris Beckett is set on a plant flung away from its star and its galaxy. It drifts through darkness, its atmosphere heated by the biochemical reactions of the life that evolved on it. 


Scientific theories and pure imagination can take planet building even further. Somewhere between a planet and a spaceship is the Dyson Sphere, a shell constructed around a star in the Goldilocks Zone. This scientific theory appears in science fiction, including Star Trek TNG's episode Relics. In Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford, Cup World is a half Dyson Sphere. Fantasy stories can break the planet standard altogether. In Discworld and other works by Terry Pratchett, the planet is on the back of a turtle swimming through space. As absurd as this may be, Pratchett creates rules for his world and follows them. The result is interesting and entertaining. And it's not a mono-climate.

Scott Coon has been published in various magazines and has won accolades for his short stories. He served for six years in the U.S. Army as an Intelligence Analyst, including a tour in Kuwait where he received the Joint Service Achievement Award. Now a software developer for a major bank, Scott brings his computer and military experience into his work, along with a sense of spectacle. See his website for links to his published shorts and his papers on the art and business of writing.

LOST HELIX by Scott Coon, a sci-fi adventure/mystery. Available for Pre-Order Now! When his dad goes missing, DJ finds a file containing evidence of a secret war of industrial sabotage, a file encrypted by his dad using DJ's song Lost Helix. Caught in a crossfire of lies, DJ must find his father and the mother he never knew.

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I know, I know… I haven’t put up a blog post in a while. It’s not you, it’s me!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; I’d rather write four thousand words than four hundred. I can craft battle scenes, create new characters and worlds, and destroy them with ease. But the thought of writing a few hundred words about myself or what I’m up to makes me want to throw myself onto the ground like my five-year-old son after I tell him we’ve run out of yogurt… Anyway, enough of that and let’s dive right into it!

The last few months have been exceptionally busy. I’ve watched the British and Irish Writing Community grow from strength to strength and witnessed our online magazine Bard of the Isles continue to expand. We’ve added more members to our community and leadership team and have a dozen projects in the pipeline to support and promote fellow writers across these beautiful islands. With three issues of Bards under our belt, we’re still receiving some fantastic short story submissions, articles, and interviews. With Issue 4 out as of yesterday, we’ve expanded our offerings and opened up a poetry section. We’ve also announced the first ever BIWC prize for indie authors with the finalists due to be announced at BIWCcon in October!

Big Red, my debut Irish military science fiction novel, also got a brief moment in the limelight. Thanks to fans and supporters, Big Red reached the longlist for the BSFA award for Best Novel released in 2019. There were some serious heavy-hitters on that list and some fantastic works – just to see my name alongside them was a massive win.

Big Red was also a year old on the 14th May. A continued thank you to everyone who’s checked out my debut Irish science fiction novel and left a review. A year later and my mind is still blown by the level of support I’ve gotten!

On the writing front, things have taken an interesting twist. This year, I started on a project using the working title ‘Oceania’, a military science fiction set seventy years after humanity colonises a water world. My publisher Diane from Dancing Lemur Press had previously asked for a short story set in the Big Red universe. Setting Oceania aside, I crafted a 13k word story entitled ‘Blood Red Sand’ which covered one of the pivotal backstories in Big Red, namely the Allied invasion of Mars in 1954 and the Battle of New Berlin.

It was a lot of fun delving back into the universe of Big Red. One of the things fans of the novel had said to me on more than one occasion was that they wanted more insight into the action and the actual battles. It’s a fair point because as Big Red was told from the POV of an unreliable narrator, it can be a bit trickier to capture the wider action from a platoon, company, or battalion-sized operation. Blood Red Sand gave me the opportunity to switch to a third person POV and explore the Allied invasion from the perspective of the invading Mars Expeditionary force and the defending Wehrmacht.

Needless to say, I was thrilled by my publisher’s reaction to the story. Rather than launch it as a standalone prequel short story, she suggested developing it into a novel in its own right, which gave me a boost. Three months later, Blood Red Sand stands at slightly over 100k words and is sitting in the hands of my amazingly talented proofreader and editor Monique. I’m sure I still have a bit more to go to polish it off, but I really enjoyed writing this project and especially answering some of the questions fans of Big Red had brought forward.

For those that have read Big Red, I’ve covered a good few topics ranging from the origins of the Hollow Programme to the Mars Occupation Force and the Compression Matrix, as well as some insight into the background of the so-called Natives. Although some of those burning questions have been answered, I couldn’t resist leaving a few threads open, while creating a few new ones…

I have a few more writing projects scheduled for this year and a lot more exciting news coming your way. Stay tuned and stay safe!



To celebrate the launch of his STONE MAN AND THE TRAIL OF TEARS on 8th October, I'm pleased to host a guest article from author Charles Suddeth. I learned about the Choctaw and their donation to Ireland during the Great Famine back when I was in Primary school and it's a story that has always stayed with me. 

The Choctaw

By Charles Suddeth


The Choctaw call themselves Hacha hatak, River People. In 1492, they lived primarily in the state of Mississippi. Contrary to views about most Native Americans, the Choctaw were farmers. The three sisters—corn, beans, and squash/pumpkins were their staple crops. They lived in chukka, houses covered in mud and grass. They were Mound Builders who they lived in towns Their temples were located on earthen mounds similar to pyramids.


In the 1830s, the US federal government sent several tribes west to the state of Oklahoma to make room for white settlers. Many Native Americans died, so it was called the Trail of Tears. The Choctaw Trail of Tears took place over 3 years: falls of 1831, 1832, and 1833. About 16,000 Choctaw went west. In 1831, a blizzard hit, and food supplies were scarce. Many Choctaw starved to death. In 1832, cholera hit. At least 2,500 Choctaw died, so when the Irish famine hit a few years later, the Choctaw knew of the horrors of starvation.


Today, the Choctaw have 3 federal reservations, small ones in Mississippi and Louisiana, and the main reservation in Oklahoma. Smaller, state-recognized bands also exist in Alabama (1 band), Louisianan (4 bands), Mississippi (1 band), and Texas (1 band). The Choctaw language is still spoken. The Choctaw national sport is ishtaboli, stickball, a type of lacrosse. “Okla” means “people” and “homa” means red—the state of Oklahoma is Choctaw for Red People.


Though I am of Cherokee descent, my great-great grandfather never signed a government roll, so I cannot claim Cherokee citizenship. The Cherokee and Choctaw have many similarities. Both were Mound Builders, farmers, suffered on the Trail of Tears, wore turbans (this surprises many people), and today, they meet yearly for stickball games.


As the Choctaw say, Yakoke. Thank you.

Charles Suddeth has published poetry, picture books, middle reader’s books, young adult thrillers, and adult mysteries in English, Cherokee, and Turkish. He is active with Green River Writers and leads a monthly SCBWI Social. He lives in Louisville and teaches for the Jefferson County Schools. 


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Driven to Stone Man’s trail...


After U.S. soldiers attack twelve-year-old Tsatsi’s Cherokee village, his family flees to the Smokey Mountains. Facing storms, flood, and hunger, they’re forced to go where Stone Man, a monstrous giant, is rumored to live. 


His family seeks shelter in an abandoned village, but soldiers hunt them down. Tsatsi and his sister Sali escape, but Sali falls ill and is kidnapped by Stone Man. Tsatsi gives chase and confronts the giant, only to learn this monster isn’t what he seems.


Their journey is a dangerous one. Will Tsatsi find the strength to become a Cherokee warrior? And will they ever find their family?


Print ISBN 9781939844620

EBook ISBN 9781939844651

Release date – October 8, 2019


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This week, I'm pleased to host the CassaSeries book tour by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Alex has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the award-winning site, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife. Find out more about this series below!

Where Did the Book’s Titles Come From?

CassaStar was the working story of the original version of the first book. I’m not sure where it came from – possibly Star Wars and Star Trek had an influence. My publisher liked the title though as it was original.

The names of the next two books became a play on the first one. I had no idea what to call the second book and sent it to my publisher without a title. They made several suggestions and I felt CassaFire fit that story best. When it came time for the third one, I selected from the previous suggestions. Since it was the final book in the trilogy and involved a galaxy-wide war and threatening situation, CassaStorm became the title.

The boxed eBook set eventually became CassaSeries, and when my short story set before CassaStar begins was published, I called it CassaDawn. There’s also a short story in another anthology called CassaFate and I’m currently working on another book tentatively titled CassaDark.

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CassaStar Series Prequel

By Alex J Cavanaugh

Genre: SciFi Adventure, Space Opera 


The prequel to the Amazon best-selling Cassa series!

A pilot in training...

Fighting the odds, Byron is determined to complete Cosbolt training and join the Cassan space fleet. Poised at the top of his class, only one situation holds him back–his inability to work with anyone in the cockpit. Byron’s excellent piloting skills won’t be enough without a good navigator… 


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CassaStar Series Book 1 


To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…


Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.


Much to Byron’s chagrin the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.


As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

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CassaStar Series Book 2


From the Amazon best-selling author - CassaStar was just the beginning…


The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.


The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities.  


To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…


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Book Trailer


CassaStar Series Book 3


A storm gathers across the galaxy…


Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.


After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.


Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…


“With a talent for worldbuilding and a compelling cast of characters, Alex J. Cavanaugh combines high powered space battles and the challenges of family dynamics to provide readers a space opera with heart.” - Elizabeth S. Craig, author of the Southern Quilting and Myrtle Clover mysteries

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Trilogy in boxed eBook set:


Get the CassaSeries Boxed Set Here! 

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Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a platform that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She's very passionate about indie publishing and helping authors achieve their dreams! her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing as much she can.

You may have heard the stat that up to 81% of Americans think they have a book in them — a book they want to write, that is, not a manuscript lurking in their intestines somewhere. (Sorry for the mental image.) Extrapolating from that figure, we can assume that roughly 4 out of 5 people reading this right now have an idea for a book — and some of you may have already taken steps toward making it a reality!

But before you excitedly tell all your friends about the Great American Novel you’re going to write, or order new business cards that say “[Your Name]: Professional Author,” you should sit down and evaluate your expectations for this process. Writing a book is infinitely easier said than done, and if you don’t know what’s in store for you, you’ll find yourself discouraged before you’ve even begun. That’s why I want to share these five key things to know about writing a book — so you’ll be prepared to meet each challenge that crops up along the way.

1. Dedication is more important than talent

Perhaps the number-one misconception about writing a book is that talent is the most important factor. While I have no doubt that many of you are brilliant writers — and that your potential will blossom into tangible triumph as you write your book — you can’t rely on talent alone to propel you through 300 pages. For that, you’ll need an entirely different ingredient: dedication.

It’s easy enough to say you’re committed to writing a book, and even to plan a rigorous writing routine that carves out blocks of writing time every day. However, when the hour comes to actually write, it’s a lot more difficult to force yourself to do it… over and over again, especially on the days when it doesn’t feel fun or rewarding, but like a total slog.

This is where dedication comes in. If you’re not 100% dedicated to finishing your book, you’re simply not going to make it. Most great writers have talent, yes, but they also have dedication in spades. For example, Stephen King writes 2,000 words every single day, even on holidays. Maya Angelou supposedly aimed for 2,500, famously declaring, “Nothing will work unless you do.” And countless renowned writers through the ages, from Franz Kafka to Ursula K. Le Guin to Danielle Steel, have gotten up early and/or gone to bed late so they could bank some extra writing time.

If you’re just starting out, forget about artistry and perfection; these things will naturally be honed with practice. But unless you’re able to truly dedicate your time and effort to a project, you may as well call it quits right now.

2. You need to outline (at least a little) before you start

Another potentially crippling misconception is that you don’t need to outline your book before you write, because you can always “figure things out along the way.” While I completely understand if you’re more of a pantser than a plotter — I consider myself a pantser, in fact — writing your first book is a huge undertaking and you'll almost certainly need an outline to guide you through it. After all, you wouldn’t try to build a house without blueprints, would you? (If you answered, “Sure, why not!” remind me never to hire you as my contractor.)

In any case, even if it seems unnecessary right now, trust me that your outline will become your lifeline as you delve deeper into your book. It will help you remember important events, character arcs, and themes you want to incorporate throughout the story. And if you get stuck and start to despair, you can always return to your outline for encouragement and inspiration.

At the bare minimum, this outline should include a few lines for each major plot point, perhaps with offshooting notes about other elements or thoughts you may have as you’re brainstorming. I’d definitely recommend the “web” structure or snowflake method for fellow pantsers, as these allow for the most flexibility. But of course, no outline is set in stone — feel free to change it as you come up with new ideas, or leave parts of it blank if you’re not sure what should happen. The important thing is that you have one, so you can refer back to it when need be.

3. Steel yourself for setbacks — especially in the middle

Once you actually begin writing, with a prepared outline and true dedication to your work, you’ll probably feel incredibly excited about your project and the possibilities it holds. You may still have a few kinks to work out, but in all likelihood, this energy will carry you through the first few chapters — possibly to the midpoint of your book.

Unfortunately, the midpoint is often where even the most dedicated writers start to falter. You might suddenly register a gaping plothole, realize you’ve neglected one of your characters, or simply run out of creative steam. Setbacks like these are always discouraging, but especially when you’re right in the thick of it: far enough along that major revisions seem impossible to enact, yet not close enough to the finish line to give you that final burst of motivation.

When you get stuck in the middle of your book, you have two options — you can either work through doggedly, or take a break. Be careful with either of these, as the first can cause burnout, while the second can all-too-easily lead to giving up. However, if you can figure out which works for you (hint: it’s usually the opposite of what you want to do), you’ll surely find your way out of this literary labyrinth you’ve created.

I personally find that taking a break, while at the same time setting concrete limits, works best for me. If I lose my footing in a project, I take a week — no longer — to work on other pieces and enjoy my hobbies. Most of the time, this incubation period is exactly what I need to solve the problem that’s been plaguing me. By the time I get back to writing a week later, I’m fully unblocked, recharged, and more than ready to get back to work.

4. Feedback from other people is your best friend

You know how I just said that what you want to do is usually the opposite of what you should do? Well, that advice also applies to asking for feedback (and exercising, but I digress). 95% of writers I’ve met, including myself, are highly reluctant to show their work to anyone. This is extremely understandable — after all, if you’ve chosen this path, it probably means that writing is near and dear to your heart, and even a single word of criticism can feel like a crushing blow.

But once you’ve finished the first draft of your book, it’s time to toughen up and do it anyway. Friends, family, fellow writers: these are all invaluable sources of feedback as you transition into your next draft. They’ll confirm what you need to fix or change, and point out issues you never would’ve noticed by yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to show your book to everyone you know, but if you can pick a handful of advisors to give you feedback, it will be a huge help in avoiding bigger problems — like scathing reviews from actual critics — down the line.

And after you’ve shown the book to your personal contacts, consider getting a professional beta reader or editor to take a look. Fair warning: their feedback will likely be less considerate than your friends’, but more honest and helpful overall. These pros know what they’re doing, and you can trust their opinions, even if you don’t always feel good about them. Just keep in mind that, no matter how painful the process, listening to feedback will ultimately result in a better book.

5. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of publishing

Congrats! You’ve made it through the first, second, maybe even third or fourth draft of your manuscript, and it’s finally finished. What are you going to do next?

You might just pop some champagne and close your ridiculously long Google Doc forever, satisfied in the knowledge that you achieved your goal. But if you’re like most authors, you’ll probably want people to read your book — which means, of course, publishing it.

Traditional publishing can sometimes seem so lengthy, complex, and filled with rejection that you may feel it’s futile from the start. However, if you break it down into bite-sized pieces, it’s much more manageable (and definitely worthwhile if you can get signed with a major publisher)! You can start by querying agents and submitting your manuscript to slush piles, and if you have success, move into additional edits and negotiations from there.

That said, if you don’t care about trad-pub “prestige” and just want to get your book out in the world, self-publishing is also a very viable option! It’s easy to self-publish a book on Amazon, and with just a bit of research, you can learn how to market your book independently as well. But whichever path you choose, remember my very first tip: if you dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to your ambitions, you’ll find that you can accomplish almost anything.


I always tend to start my blog posts with some reference to how busy I’ve been. I tried to come up with some other way of starting this post, but the truth is; I have indeed been kept busy. So, without further ado, it’s time for a quick catch up and a progress report!

Probably my most exciting piece of news is that I’ll be attending Titancon 2019 in Belfast 24th-25th August. I’m really excited about this as I’ve never been able to attend a con before. To top if off, I’ll be doing a book signing at the con and hosting a talk about Twitter pitches for aspiring writers.

For those of you who’ve followed my journey from the start, you’ll remember I got a lot of interest for Big Red during last year’s #IWSGpit. Not only was that the first time publishers had ever expressed an interest in my work, but it also allowed me to land a traditional publishing deal with my amazing publisher.

I’ve talked about Twitter pitch events during various radio, magazine, and newspaper interviews and I’m still amazed by people’s reactions. I know a lot of people in the Twitter writing community are aware of these events, but there’s still a lot of writers out there who aren’t. Just like any other form of querying, participation doesn’t automatically guarantee success, but it does open up your work to a whole load of potential matches. I’m really looking forward to chatting about this and hopefully pointing a few aspiring writers in the right direction.

In other news, the British/Irish Writing Community has nearly finished work on our very first e-zine and website. We’ve opened submissions to writers from all across Ireland and UK and some of the short stories we’ve received have been mind-blowingly good. Thanks again to everyone who’s gotten involved! I really can’t wait to share the very first issue with everyone. Also, keep an eye out for my own short story ‘The Republic of Inishdearg’. More details on that soon!

Last of all, I’m making steady progress on my current WIP. I’ve had a few mini projects over the last few months that slowed things down , but I’m glad to say I’ve thrown myself full steam into it again. I’m roughly halfway through the first draft now, which I’m aiming to have done early to mid-September. I’ll leak some details about it in a future post, so stay tuned!

That’s all from me for this week, folks. I’ve plenty more good news to share with you soon, so watch this space!


It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and it’s great to be back!

I had a busy few weeks after Big Red’s launch which didn’t leave a lot of time for blogging. Thankfully, things have started to settle down a bit. For the first time in what feels like an eternity, I have time to dive back into a few different projects, some of which I’m hoping to share with you soon…

The first project I wanted to take on is this blog. I’ve since rebranded it from (the not-so-original name of) ‘My Blog’ to the ‘Mars Occupation Force – Press Office’. Whereas beforehand I wrote a bit about Big Red and my journey so far, I’m now looking to expand my horizons.

Over the last few months, I’ve had the chance to delve into so many fantastic military sci-fi and Irish sci-fi and fantasy books. My goal is to expand on these topics a bit more and shine a spotlight on some amazing novels and topics you may already know about, as well as some you may not have heard of.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet and talk with some fantastic Irish sci-fi and fantasy writers, who I’m hoping to guilt into dropping by on this blog to say hello. It’s been an amazing year for Irish SFF writers and I’m really excited about seeing what the rest of the year holds in store!

For anyone who’s been following along, The British/Irish Writing Community has also been taking our next steps towards global domination. We’ve spent the last few months throwing around ideas and seeing what we can do as a community. Finally, we’ve decided to launch our own quarterly magazine.

It’s still early days on this but we’ve had a lot of interest so far. Our overall plan is to use this platform to highlight and promote the fantastic works of Irish and British writers of all levels who write speculative fiction. There’s no official launch date in sight, but if you know anyone who’s interested, have them check us out on FB or Twitter!

Hopefully I’ll have more details on the above topics in my next blog post. In the meantime, if any writers out there are looking to do a guest post/interview for an up-and-coming launch or just for the fun of it, let me know in the comments below. I’ve learned a lot from the community and I’m looking forward to giving back.

There’s more to come soon, so stay tuned!


Big Red has landed!

It’s been a long few months, but everything was worth it to launch Big Red surrounded by so many friends, family, and well-wishers. A massive thank you to everyone who came out to show their support and to everyone who’s picked up a paperback of Big Red or downloaded the eBook.

My mind is still blown from the events of the last few weeks. Coming from relative obscurity, it was a surreal experience to suddenly find myself doing radio and newspaper interviews (with a magazine interview coming up soon). I’ve even been approached with an invitation to work on a very interesting project… but more on that later…

It’s been a long journey to get here. There were times when I felt like giving up, but every time that thought popped into my head, I pushed it straight back out again. It’s normal to experience fear, especially if you’re doing something that takes you way out of your comfort zone. What matters most is what we do with that fear. I had a picture as clear as day in my mind; I wanted to see Big Red sitting on a bookshelf (although hopefully, not for too long!) No matter how tired, exhausted, or frazzled I felt, I pushed forward. The moment I saw Big Red sitting on a bookshelf in the Gutter Bookshop on 14th May, I knew everything was worth it!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey. From my family, friends, and colleagues in the Irish Writers Union and British Irish Writing Community to every single person who has purchased Big Red. Thank you for putting up with me and for helping me to create the latest addition to the ever-growing library of Irish sci-fi.

It’s been a rollercoaster and I look forward to sharing more stories with you in the future.

Thank you!

Click here to order a copy of Big Red now:


This week, speculative fiction writer Phil Parker has kindly volunteered to do up an article on incubation and developing ideas. Phil's debut 'The Bastard from Fairyland' is one of my favorite novels I've read this year and I couldn't recommend it highly enough. Enjoy!

The next time you get stuck for an idea and find the whole process so frustrating you want to commit random acts of violence, stop and let things incubate. Nature does it so well. New life arrives in an egg but it needs to be warmed up to encourage growth. Even then, life needs to chip away at the hard shell that’s provided protection during the incubation process, until it finally arrives into the world.

Ideas don’t just happen, they need incubation too.

If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you’ll know this episode well. Sheldon tries to apply Wave Theory to a particular problem which eludes him. He tries all sorts of comical methods -  using peas and lima beans then later, organising the plastic balls in a kids’ playcentre’s ball pit. In the end he takes on menial work (doing Penny’s job!) and, when he drops a tray of dirty crockery, the resulting mess provides the answer.

Sheldon used a method called Divergent Incubation. By taking a break from the creative process, to do something which doesn’t challenge the brain, the synapses continue the thinking process, undisturbed by new stimuli. Or from going around and around in frustrating circles. Refreshed and renewed, when you revisit the topic, your brain has caught up and found the answer.

Think of it like this: the brain is like a computer and sometimes we can demand so much of its processing systems, that it starts to buffer. It can’t cope with the pressure we place on it. As writers we demand a lot from our brains. Ideas that offer the next plot twist, the means to define a character or describe a location, the challenge of choosing the right words, reflecting on the story’s tone, pace and rhythms. On top of that come the emotional and personal issues that complicate everything: the crippling self-doubt, the stress of cramming your writing into the spare hour when family and work don’t demand it.

It's not surprising the brain starts to buffer, is it?

Divergent Incubation comes in different forms, it can include sleep. I know lots of authors have woken up with ideas or dreamed them. Paul McCartney conceived his hit Yesterday in his sleep!

If you’re a “pantser” I think that pressure is even greater. We force ourselves into situations in our story where we don’t know what’s going to happen next. John Keats called it Negative Keepability, the ability to stay in a space where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, it’s a willingness to chase down ideas that may lead somewhere. We believe (or just hope beyond all reason) that the experience of pursuing an idea will influence the next step in the story.  It can generate as much despair as it triggers excitement but when that despair strikes – and it will – this is when you need to step back and give your brain that chance to process things, to buffer.

So next time you get stuck for ideas, let them incubate. Go do the washing up, clean your home, sweep the leaves off the patio. Not only will it benefit your writing, you may find your Significant Other is grateful for this sudden burst of industry too. When they ask you why – tell them you’re incubating - and watch their reaction.

It took eight years of messing around with his story before Phil Parker published it himself. It was only when he was selected to join the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course that he developed the confidence to pursue this goal. Since then he's learned a lot. Some of it he's outlined in this post. He's still trying to make sense of the rest.



Welcome to Part Two of the Big Red back story. This one picks up where the last one left off, so dive right in and enjoy!

The first concrete evidence that the Nazis had escaped the war came about in 1947, just outside of Roswell, New Mexico. In the wreckage of a crashed spaceship, Airforce investigators found the bodies of two human pilots- later identified as high-ranking SS members - thought to have died on the Eastern Front.

This prompted alarm within military and government circles that an invasion from technologically superior Nazi forces was imminent. In response, President Truman ordered the creation of a covert organisation known as ‘Majestic 12’. Given wide-ranging powers, this group began reverse engineering the downed spacecraft, directing government policy and overseeing a massive public disinformation campaign to cover up the truth. For the remainder of the 1940s, Nazi incursions into Allied airspace continued, although no direct hostile actions were taken by the aggressors. This led many within the Truman administration and Majestic 12 to believe that these fly-bys were either shows of strength or meant to test the capabilities of the enemy’s fighter-sized craft.

By early 1950, the construction of Earth’s first interstellar fleet of ships was midway under construction when Majestic 12 reported that the Third Reich leadership had opened negotiations with the USSR. Unwilling to admit to Stalin about the existence of the new fleet under construction, President Truman secretly ordered Majestic 12 to open a back channel with the exiled German forces to learn of their intentions.

To buy time, the President ordered these unofficial talks to be dragged out for as long as possible, while Majestic 12 stepped up their efforts in building the new interstellar fleet. These negotiations came to a head in March 1952 when Stalin made public his infamous ‘Stalin note’. This note called for a reunified Germany, free elections and the subsequent withdrawal of all Allied forces. The US and their allies publicly rejected the Stalin note, seeing it as the first possible step in a Nazi attempt to return to Germany from exile and re-establish a militarised National Socialist state.

Infuriated, the Third Reich leadership ordered an aggressive show of force, culminating in the 1952 UFO Washington Incident. Between the period of 12th – 29th July 1952, there were multiple sightings of UFO’s over America’s capital (including the White House). Determined not to back down, President Truman opened secret negotiations with Stalin and confirmed the existence of an American interstellar fleet of ships. After a series of long drawn out negotiations, the two sides agreed to form a united front against Nazi aggression and began planning an invasion of Mars.

Despite mutual shows of good faith, neither side could agree on the make up or composition of the ground forces needed to conquer the German colonies on Mars. Stalin feared a blow to his prestige if it ever became public that American forces were victorious in Earth’s first interstellar war, while Truman worried about a Soviet presence on Mars once hostilities ceased.

As a compromise, it was agreed that although the fleet would remain nominally under US control and both sides would commit support personnel and military attachés, the necessary manpower would need to come from third parties. Both sides reluctantly agreed to a joint British-French task force. This new group would be known as the Mars Expeditionary Force (MEF).

In early 1953, the Mars Expeditionary Force set off on its mission and arrived on Mars in March 1954. Although the initial landing of MEF soldiers and supplies went according to plan, the fleet was practically annihilated in a series of daring suicide attacks by Nazi spacecraft. These actions left the MEF soldiers effectively cut off from re-supply or escape and forced them into a do-or-die action to seize the German colonies.

The Battle for Mars had begun.

That’s all for this week folks! I had thought about doing a Part Three on this subject, but delving into the world of Big Red again has given me too many ideas that I’m not going to share just yet…

I have some announcements coming up to do with Big Red’s launch on 14th May, so stay tuned!


For today's post, I've been lucky enough to have an interview with fellow British Irish Writing Community member and Indie author Matthew Olney. Matthew lives in Worcester with his wife Chloe. By day he works as a content creator but at night he writes novels. An avid gamer and supporter of the mighty Leicester City FC, he is a fan of most things geeky.

He is author of the Sundered Crown Saga, The First Fear, Blood of Kings and the Terran Defenders series.

1    How long have you been a writer?

I’ve been a writer in some form I think all my life. When I was little, I would tell stories to my classmates and I’d even make my own comic books that I would then sell for 2p a pop. As I got older, I became an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy but it wasn’t until I left uni and faced a tough period of my life that I sat down and wrote a novel. With a background in journalism I eventually ended up in the world of marketing and now work as a content creator for a cybersecurity company. I literally write for a living.

Where did you get the inspiration for your books?

Real world events and history are my main inspiration. For the fantasy side of things, I’ve been inspired by books, games and movies. I think Morrowind was my biggest inspiration for taking the plunge into the genre. Bernard Cornwell however is my biggest inspiration. I love his writing style and I try to emulate that when I can.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your writing career, so far?

Learning the tricks of the trade, I guess. An indy author has to do everything themselves and finding editors, cover artists and proofers that you can trust is a massive challenge. Also, it’s expensive. The old adage of having to spend money to make money is true. Also, getting that first inevitable 1-star review for things that are out of your control takes some getting used to. You learn a lot about yourself in this game, especially about your pride and how you react to things.

If you could go back and give your younger self a single piece of writing advice, what would it be?

My advice would be not to rush. I wish that I’d written complete series before hitting publish.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’ve tried to be a plotter but it never works out. A pantser for sure. Letting characters and plots run free can lead to some very fun and interesting scenarios.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for aspiring writers, right now?

The competition and getting noticed for sure. The downside as well as a positive is the advent of self-publishing has resulted in a flood that drowns out some pretty good talent. I always wonder how many awesome stories are lost in the crowd. Authors themselves have done no favours by selling their works so cheap either. Readers now expect or demand books to either be free or ridiculously cheap to the point that from a monetary viewpoint it’s just not worth it.

Do you believe that having a strong social media presence leads to more book sales?

I’d like to think so but I’ve never been able to prove it does. I think a strong mailing list and mailing list swaps with other authors in your genre is the most effective way to generate sales.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I covered this topic in a blog post recently. You can read my advice at -

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

World building is my favourite part of the process. I love letting my imagination run free and coming with entire histories and cultures. Map making too is great fun and it allows me to express my more artistic side.

If you could collaborate with any other author on a project, who would it be and why?

I’ve worked with other authors on a few projects over the years and I think there’s plans for a fantasy anthology via the British Writers Community on Facebook. I did have plans to do a big expanded universe that incorporated several authors books so there could be cross overs of characters etc. In Quest for the Sundered Crown I worked with Rob May, the author of the Dragon Killer books and there is a brief crossover in it between the two series major characters. I’d love to more things like that and with magic the possibilities are endless.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on three projects at the moment. My main focus is completing the Empowered Ones Book Two, the sequel to my SPFBO 2018 entry The First Fear. I’m also working on Book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga and have started on as yet to be revealed series.

Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?

Probably the same place I am now to be honest, unless I catch a big break. The ultimate goal is to be able to write books for a living, but for now, I learn and keep chipping away. Practice makes perfect and all that.

Have you ever considered writing in another genre?

I’ve dabbled in many genres including science fiction with my Terran Defenders books and historical fiction with Blood of Kings. I’d love to move more into historical fiction once my fantasy series are completed.

Pen names – yay or nay?

Nay. I have too big an ego to not want to take credit for hard work!

What marketing tips would you give to someone starting out in their career?

It’s a minefield. Never use a service that promises the earth. Sadly, many of the book promo sites are no longer very effective so put all your effort into the promised land that is a Bookbub US promotion. I’ve seen it work and it’s the only one that does.

You can find all of Matthew’s books at –


I posted previously about the world-building involved in creating Big Red, giving some insight into where I got the ideas from and what inspired me. With just over sixty days to go until Big Red lands in a book shop near you, I wanted to dive a bit into the background, giving readers a better insight into the fictional back story and history. A lot of these events took place before the characters of Big Red arrived on Mars, but in a lot of ways these events shaped their surroundings and environment. So, here goes!

As World War 2 drew to a close in Europe, Nazi scientists perfected a revolutionary new form of long-range interstellar travel. Having been used to establish secret research facilities on Mars in the 1930s, this was hailed by an increasingly deteriorating Hitler as a chance to turn the tide on the Allies.

Hampering the Nazi leadership was the fact that this technology was based on unknown origins and couldn’t be operated to transport troops to any point on Earth. As the Russians advanced to the gates of Berlin, an increasing number of high-ranking party officials began to break with Hitler’s fantastical beliefs of a final victory and contemplated using this new technology as a chance to escape. With the Russian forces emerging victorious in the brutal Battle of Berlin, the last remnants of the Third Reich escaped the slaughter and retreated to the only place the Allies couldn’t reach them – Mars.

On Mars, the Nazis had long since established formal relations with the indigenous population dubbed “The Natives”. These Natives were an agrarian society, primarily living underground in subterranean communities. Although they had an awareness and even an understanding of technology, they had forsaken it to pursue a more idyllic life based on community, hard work and family.

Believing the lies of the new German settlers that they were fleeing genocidal persecution back on Earth, the Natives readily allowed the Nazis to excavate the planet in search of technologies left over by the forebearers of the Natives. Rumoured to be a powerful and technologically advanced civilisation, the Nazis believed that this would give them the upper hand in their quest to reconquer not just Germany, but the entire world…

That’s all for this week, folks! In the next post, I’ll detail pivotal events in the Big Red story covering the (historically documented) 1947 Roswell UFO Incident, the 1952 Washington UFO incident and the 1952 Stalin note.

These events together serve as a catalyst for the Allied response to German plans to stage a comeback and the 1954 Allied invasion of Mars (culminating in the oft-referenced “Battle of New Berlin”).

Stay tuned and don’t forget – Big Red lands on the 14th May!


“You want to become a writer? Are you drunk?”

That was one of the many reactions I received after I made the conscious decision to take writing seriously. I can’t blame anyone for reacting like that – prior to September 2017, I had never once openly expressed an interest in writing. It was always something I’d considered doing when I had more time. When my children are more settled in school, when things get quieter in work, when the latest season of Game of Thrones is over. The list of reasons not to write grew longer and longer.

Then, in September 2017 something happened. For years I juggled parenthood, working and building my app development side-project. After one particular project went south, a moment of clarity struck me when I asked myself what I wanted to do. Did I want to spend every spare hour continuing to build and develop apps? I thought about that question over and over until I came to a realisation.

Deep down, app development was nothing more than a means to an end. I wanted to grow my app portfolio for no other reason than to increase my income. That would then allow me to quit my job and focus on what I really wanted to do – write. From that moment, an idea crystallised. Rather than spending what little free time I had doing something that I may have been good at but realistically, had no interest in, I decided to start writing.

The transition wasn’t easy, but I did have a head start. Prior to forming my first app development company two years previously, I had written roughly thirty pages of a story based on a vivid dream I had. I dusted this story off, re-read and edited it and then I wrote a single sentence. From that sentence a paragraph was born, followed by an entire chapter.

I became possessed, spending every (extremely rare) moment of peace and quiet dragging a story out of me. It was something I had been thinking about for years, something that I had torn apart and put back together so many times, that it felt more realistic than the real world.

Determined not to rest until I had this story completed, I worked furiously around the clock, eventually finishing it two hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve 2017. The sense of satisfaction from drafting a 100,000-word story struck me like a hammer. It almost felt like an out-of-body experience as I read through it. Through sheer force of will, I had ignored every desire to relax, laze about and waste my time and instead, had built an entire world from scratch.

It isn’t easy and there are times when the last thing in the world I want to do is write. I sometimes think back to September 2017 and wonder what things would have been like if I didn’t have that epiphany. There would have been no self-publishing journey, no countless hours of bashing away at a keyboard, no publishing deal and certainly no Big Red.

I could easily have kept on developing apps and who knows where I’d be with that now. The most important thing is that I’m happy. I’m glad I made that decision. I’m glad I spent months sacrificing my free time to write Big Red. I’m glad I have the opportunity to be a writer.

And no, I’m not drunk. (Well… Not that drunk…)


Like most of my writing projects, Big Red started as a dream. I’ve always had an overactive imagination, which is something that’s followed me into sleep. It’s rare that I don’t have vivid dreams (or nightmares) that I can easily recount the following morning.

When I woke up, I wrote roughly two pages describing what I had dreamt about. It wasn’t much and I didn’t know it at the time, but that became the basis for the first two chapters of Big Red. I can still remember seeing rows upon rows of fold-out beds with soldiers laid out on them, screaming and howling out in pain and agony. Dressed in an army uniform myself, I walked past them before looking up and seeing a swirling, crisp image of the planet Mars. To say this dream impacted me would be an understatement.

I played around with the idea for months, trying to figure out the context. What were those soldiers screaming about? Why Mars?

While doing day-to-day errands the idea played on my mind. I created characters and their backgrounds. I read up on interstellar colonisation and exploration and kept track of the growing attempts to put a manned crew on Mars. I considered setting Big Red in the future, at a time when we had the mainstream technology to do the things that so many people dream of. But that didn’t feel right.

I thought back to my years in primary school. One of my teachers once quipped his belief that our current level of technology is far more advanced than most people realise. In a two-minute ramble, he told us that, in his opinion, technology is released to the masses decades after being developed behind the scenes by various shadowy government organisations.

Was he wrong? I have no idea. I enjoy reading conspiracy theories with an open mind, but I never bought into the idea that some international cabal was trying to control us. Still, I took his idea and looked at Big Red through his lens. What if (in 2018/2019) humanity already had the ability to travel between the stars and establish colonies? What if those colonies have been there for decades? What would that be like?

And with that thought, the background story for Big Red was born. It took further research to develop and flesh it out. I wanted the history of the colonies to be based (as much as possible) on real life events and fears, even if that history wasn’t directly dealt with in Big Red.

Being a bit of a history buff, I remembered reading about the Nazis V1 and V2 rocket programs during WW2 and the fear and terror this newfound technology brought. I studied up on it and read about how the Russians and Americans both rounded up these Nazi scientists post war and quietly put them to work.

Using that and the still ongoing fascination with the theory that Hitler escaped as jump-off points, I created a background where the last remnants of the third Reich used their advanced technology and escaped to Mars.

Stories like that have been done before, but the events in Big Red don’t deal with this. Instead, it takes place decades after the Allies victoriously crush the Nazi threat (following the historically documented “1952 Washington UFO phenomena”) with their 1954 invasion of Mars.

The characters in Big Red learn all this, shortly after realising they’ve been abducted. As fascinating as it is to them to learn about this alternate history, these events don’t impact them directly. The aftermath does.

The simmering racial tensions between descendants of the Nazis, Mars-born Allied colonists and the Earth-born soldiers that protect and police them is a vital aspect to the overall story and one that brings dire consequences.

To think, all of that started with a dream.


It took eight years of messing around with his story before Phil Parker published it himself. It was only when he was selected to join the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course that he developed the confidence to pursue this goal. Since then he's learned a lot. Some of it he's outlined in this post. He's still trying to make sense of the rest.

On January 15th 2018, I joined Twitter. My intention was to prepare the ground for when I published my Knights’ Protocol trilogy, which would be three months later. The date represents the moment I committed to starting a new career.

Which sounds grand and laudable perhaps, except I had no idea what I was doing. I’d suffered enough, trying the traditional route to publishing so decided to tread my own path and self-publish. I’ve learned a huge amount in the last year, THREE lessons stand out.


Research – get familiar with the landscape.

I spent a lot of time researching which marketplace I wanted to use. There’s lots of advice out there, it’s conflicting as you might expect, so that meant having to compare and contrast, like at school. It’s potentially the biggest decision anyone makes so choosing carefully is essential.

I found Tom Corson-Knowles’ The Kindle Publishing Bible to be a great help. It explained issues such as devising saleable titles, writing book descriptions that sell, how to get reviews (ethically) and promotional campaigns. It’s objective too. Kindle Direct Publishing pages will save you time and increase your awareness too I found.


Navigate the jungle of social media

I’ve met people who only Follow agents and publishers. I’ve found the greatest benefit comes from a network of folk who will support you, share similar values and experiences – people you’d call friends in the real world!

I don’t just click Follow to anyone either. I check profiles, see what they’re posting. That way you network will always remain focused on the topics you want to see in your feed.

I prefer Twitter. It’s easy to use and concise in its content. I went through Follower lists of the people I Followed to identify like-minded folk. I discovered software that helped me analyse my data to sharpen up my account – Manage Flitter is the best. It’s free if you only have one account and can help you work efficiently.

I suffer Facebook. I dislike its endless pressure to advertise and haven’t found that it works anyway. It didn’t help that my first book, The Bastard from Fairyland, caused them to ban my adverts for the use of profane language! However, Facebook does have useful forums you can join, some of which help promote your work.

Finally, to get real traction, you need to spend time on these platforms. It is a commitment but it does pay off in the long run. People get to know about you, they buy your books on the back of it. Spread yourself too thin (over several platforms) or only log in occasionally, and you don’t get the relationships you need. It’s like any friendship!


 Appearance is Everything – get noticed on your journey

It took me six months to learn this lesson! You’re not the only one on a journey with your book. That old adage about not judging a book by its cover doesn’t apply in this context! People do judge! Plus, you need to stand out. The answer?

Get your book designed professionally. I tried to cut corners, bought images and used Amazon’s book cover systems and thought I was being clever. They were crap. I look at the originals even now and shudder in embarrassment. Yes, it will cost money but you will recoup it in the long run.

 Tom Parker (@papagaeio) designed mine. These people think in visual media, as writers we use the written word. Tom asked me for an outline of the books but also their themes, backgrounds, even one-word definitions. (I gave him Rage for my first book and I suggest you see what he did with it!).



A few final thoughts:

1.      Writing is a lonely business. The internet is changing that. There are online groups you can join but social media offers you forums where you can share ideas, concerns and general chat with others who are just like you. It is not infested with trolls.

2.      Get people to review your work – but check them out first. Make sure they are bone fide reviewers, people who consistently offer constructive comments. There are people – even businesses – who offer to do this for you but I recommend forming relationships with bloggers, it’s more honest and rewarding.

3.      The hashtag is a wonderful tool to identify networks and themes. Such as #BritishIrishWritingCommunity

4.      Don’t spend all your time on social media plugging your book. You’ll annoy people. Promote others, they’ll do the same for you. Show you’re a person first, a book-selling author second!

Good luck with your writing and your career as an author!



2018 has been a rollercoaster!

Just a little over a year ago, I sat where I’m sitting now having penned my first novel. It still needed a lot of work, but after an exhausting few months, I had done the impossible. The story that bubbled and boiled for so long was finally here and I had no plans on resting until I shared it with the world.

I submitted it to various publishers and literary agents, but after three months and dozens of template rejection emails, I decided to self-publish. I read every blog and article I could find and after putting together a marketing plan, I unleashed my story into the world. It did surprisingly well for the first few weeks, before ultimately crashing and burning.