Author Spotlight: A.F. Stewart

  • a fantasy and sci-fi fan obsessed with action movies, who is also a dark fiction author and poet.

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to A.F. Stewart

A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion.

A.F., thanks for agreeing to be here today. While most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

It’s probably a bit cliché, but I would definitely love to have a dragon. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be dragonrider and fly through the skies on the back of one of those legendary creatures?

Never apologize! It’s a classic for a reason. I mean, who wouldn’t want to befriend and ride a dragon!

What do you write? And how did you get started?

I write horror and fantasy, mostly inspired by different mythologies and folklore, although with my horror I sometimes delve into true crime for my muse. I’ve been writing for as long as I’ve been able to hold a pen and scribble down coherent words. I started with poetry and short stories before I wrote my first book, making up fantastic tales and strange poems. As far as publishing my writings, I started that back in 2007, in the very beginnings of the indie publishing movement.

I feel such a kinship with all writers who’ve held the storytelling dream from that start. It’s awesome to hear about indie authors who are still going strong!

What do you like to read?

I read across several genres including fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thrillers, and historical fiction. I’ve even been known to read historical romance on occasion. Some of my favourite authors are Guy Gavriel Kay, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and Agatha Christie.

For me, what I’m reading depends on what mood I’m in and where I want a book to take me. My reading preferences are a bit eclectic, and that’s why I love a good genre mashup. Basically, if a book sounds good to me, I’ll read it.

Lovely variety and some of my own favorite names in there.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

You must write every day

That is a ridiculous piece of advice. Yes, some people can write each day, have a disciplined routine, and that’s terrific. For them. That doesn’t work well for me, and I had to accept that and to stop feeling guilty about not writing every day. Some days I don’t feel like writing, so I don’t. Some days I want to do my art instead, so I do. Then some days I sit down and the words flow. I may not be the most consistent writer, but I get it done.

So true! Especially for the majority of writers who have day-jobs. Life happens and writing works better when it’s at your own natural pace.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Don’t edit as you write the first draft.

I look at the first draft as the bare bones of a book. Craft the skeleton of the plot and characters and get the pages written. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect, just finished. The second round is where you start the editing and add
all the good details.

Well, I know I don’t write sparse, but this is something I usually follow. My current work-in-progress is suffering a little because I’ve changed my aim a few times since I started though.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Saga of the Outer Islands is a dark epic fantasy series with a dashing ship captain, high seas magical adventure, sea monsters, and vengeful gods.

Book One: Saga of the Outer Islands

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.

Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed.

His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts.

​​​​​​​What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns…

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.

Past Legends: An Arthurian Fantasy Novel


The Camelot Immortals is a contemporary Arthurian fantasy series inspired by the tales we all know and love with strong snarky heroines, wizards, and witches.

Book One: Past Legends

An immortal witch. A looming magical crisis. A destiny she’s willing to reject.

After centuries of dealing with trouble, Nimue, a former denizen of Camelot, wants a peaceful life. Just a quiet cottage nestled in England’s Lake District and a nightly glass of mead. Too bad her past won’t leave her alone. 

When her friend Iseult appears, bringing news that her old rival Morgawse has been abducted, an impending catastrophe lands on her doorstep. And worse, the wizard responsible is Nimue’s ex, Nostradamus.

Dragged into another adventure despite her misgivings, Nimue confronts her former flame as he wages a desperate quest, only to be thrust deeper into escalating problems. As Nimue struggles to unravel what is happening, she discovers dark secrets that threaten the heart of magical energy. Now it’s her fate to rescue magic for every witch and wizard, including her friends. Except she’s not sure she wants to be magic’s saviour.

Will Nimue step up as champion and save the day? Find out in Past Legends.


Check A.F. Stewart out across the web!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

Week In Review: April 9

In Case You Missed it, here’s the round up of all of my latest content, plus updates from old guests!

Read on if you want to know more.

If not? See you next week with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Coming up this week:

On Youtube: My Lazy Sunday afternoon livestream write-in is back again from 4:30pm-6:30pm EST. Come, hang out, and we’ll probably even do a few productivity sprints.

Content Around The Web:

On Youtube:

  • 9 Terms All Querying Authors Should Know – If you want to be traditionally published, you’re gonna need an agent. Which means — you need to query an agent. Here are 9 terms you’re gonna run into.

On the Podcast “Writing Tips and Writerly Musings”:

On The Blog (In Case You Missed It):

  • 9 Terms All Querying Authors Should Know – If you want to be traditionally published, you’re gonna need an agent. Which means — you need to query an agent. Here are 9 terms you’re gonna run into.

Events:

None this week.

The League: Nemesis Rising, Books 1-3 | Sherrilyn Kenyon | Macmillan

What I’ve Been Reading:

I read a couple Sherrilyn (Kenyon) McQueen The League stories I missed, and reread the rest.

New Works By Previous Guests!

Charles E. Gannon and Robert E. Waters’s book: 1636: Calabar’s War was released April 6th. (From the Ring of Fire series).



a reddish/orange tulip with yellow tips.

9 Terms All Querying Authors Should Know

The road to traditional publication is a long one. Once you (and your beta-readers) have taken your novel as far as you can, it’s as polished as you can make it, and you’re ready to share it with the world, the next step is typically finding a literary agent with a process known as querying.

While these are the common definitions for these terms, they are not uniform across the board, and you may find people using these terms for different things.

For those who’ve never queried a novel, here are 9 terms you’ll probably encounter along the way.

1. Querying

What exactly is querying, is probably the first question you have in this process. I’ve talked about this extensively, but querying is the process by which you select an agent, compose a query letter, send it to the agent, and then wait for a response. Many agents ask for more than just a query letter. On the agency’s submissions page, they will describe what they want. A query package may include: X number of pages from your manuscript, a synopsis (1-3 pages), a pitch or logline, knowledge of the target audience, or more.

Originally, people would mail letters to the agencies. Some agents still accept mail, but most have moved to email or even electronic forms.

2. The Query Letter

In America, the query letter is typically 3-4 paragraphs, 2 describing the story’s main character’s stakes and goals, 1 with the manuscript’s stats and any comparison novels, and 1 with a short biography of any relevant information.

If the agency you’re looking at requests a cover letter, it’ll be similar to a query letter, but the story part of the letter will typically just be one to two sentences.

3. Comps

A ‘comp’ or ‘comparison novel’ is a novel that gives the agent a feel for what your manuscript is like. Traditional comps are typically less than 3 years old and in your genre, avoiding any wildly popular novels. (You don’t want to say you’ve got ‘The Next Hunger Games’ or something of that nature.) You can also use older comps with things such as “the court politics of BOOK A with the humor of BOOK B.”

4. Pitch or Logline

While pitches can be longer than a traditional logline, your pitch, or ‘elevator pitch’ is the 30-second version of your story, something pithy and tweetable. This is ineffably easier if you have something that is “high concept”. “She’s a war-hardened soldier, he’s a street-rat who’s made it big as a chef, together, they fight crime.” Or “Cinderella meets Pitch Perfect in a futuristic rags-to-riches battle of the choruses.”

5. High Concept vs Low Concept stories

High concept stories have easy to describe plots and those pithy pitches. Low concept stories are typically more character driven than plot focused, and harder to condense.

6. Slush Pile

Despite the name, a slush pile is neither a stack of slushie drinks, nor plowed snow piled by the side of the road. Any unsolicited query (or, in the short story world of magazines and anthologies — unsolicited submissions) is dubbed part of the ‘slush pile’. Agents have author clients that they are beholden to, and only a small percentage of their time is spent looking for more clients. Often getting dozens to hundreds of query letter submissions a week, the slush pile can easily get away from a busy agent. Reading these piles is sometimes even relegated to interns and agents-in-training.

7. Submissions

Submissions are when you send the full story to a publisher. If you’re looking to publish a short story, you’re going to be ‘submitting’ to them, not ‘querying’ them. When you have an agent , (or if you find a publisher that accepts unagented manuscripts), they’re submitting your manuscript to the publishing houses on your behalf.

8. SASE

In the old-school world of physically mailing your manuscript to agents, printing was also rather expensive. So, most authors who wanted the manuscript returned to them if the agent said ‘no’ would include a “self-addressed and stamped envelope” — a SASE for the agency to return the manuscript at no cost to the agency.

9. R&R

Sadly, in the querying process, this doesn’t usually mean “rest and relaxation.”

Some agents don’t say “no” or “yes” immediately. Some see potential in a story, but might email, asking for changes to be made, without offering representation, but asking to see the new version. These are known in the querying industry as “revise and resubmits” or – R&R. Some agents will give feedback without asking for a resubmission, so read carefully whenever you’re given advice. Standard practice is not to requery an agent with the same manuscript — unless it has undergone a massive overhaul. And, even then, it’s suggested to try different agents.


Are there any other terms you’ve run across when querying that those not in the trenches are unfamiliar with?

Let me know!

Week In Review: April 2

In Case You Missed it, here’s the round up of all of my latest content, plus updates from old guests!

Read on if you want to know more.

If not? See you next week with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Coming up this week:

On Youtube: My Lazy Sunday afternoon livestream write-in is back again from 4:30pm-6:30pm EST. Come, hang out, and we’ll probably even do a few productivity sprints.

Content Around The Web:

On Youtube:

  • Top 5 Songs To Query By – I’m back in the querying trenches, sending out my beloved manuscript that I’ve worked over and polished and revised oh so many times. Sending it out and hoping for someone to want it. To love it the way I do.

On the Podcast “Writing Tips and Writerly Musings”:

  • Will You Read My First Chapter? A Rant – I love being supportive and encouraging of my fellow authors, but sometimes, I’ve just got to rant. And one thing that makes me rant is being asked to read a first chapter.

On The Blog (In Case You Missed It):

  • Top 5 Songs To Query – By I’m back in the querying trenches, sending out my beloved manuscript that I’ve worked over and polished and revised oh so many times. Sending it out and hoping for someone to want it. To love it the way I do.
  • Author Spotlight Guest Kevin Buckner: author of dark fantasy and technical consultant for a clinical laboratory shares his writing tips and talks about his debut novel.

Events:

None this week.

What I’ve Been Reading:

Jay Wells’ Prospero’s War series. Plus, I reread a couple of Sherrilyn (Kenyon) McQueen’s The League series.

Prospero's War Series | Jaye Wells

New Works By Previous Guests!

E.W. Cooper’s Murder at the Met came out this week.


Happy Spring!

May be an image of flower and nature

Top 5 Songs To Query By

I’m back in the querying trenches, sending out my beloved manuscript that I’ve worked over and polished and revised oh so many times. Sending it out and hoping for someone to want it. To love it the way I do.

There are many emotional states that a querying author goes through. So, let’s explore a few of them through song.

1. Picking the (hopefully) right agents to query

When you decide you’re ready, you’re usually feeling pretty good about the state of your entire query package — from your opening pages, to your pitch, to your query letter itself. So, you’re researching all the agents. When you find ones that take your genre, that mention your favorite books and/or comp novels for your own manuscript as either favorites or novels that they represented themselves. Whose online biography and social media sounds like they’d be just right for you…

That’s when it’s time to not throw away “My Shot” (Hamilton)

I am not throwin’ away my shot
Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwin’ away my shot

2. While You Wait For That Agent Response

Okay, if nothing else on here BLATANTLY ages me, this song choice probably does. Especially this version. But this is what strums through my head when I hit send to that agent that I carefully picked, carefully selected.

Letters To Cleo’s “I Want You To Want Me”:

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.

3. When You Get That Rejection From That Agent You Thought Was PERFECT

You did your research. They sounded perfect for you.

That’s when your heart starts singing lyrics from The Cardigan’s “Lovefool”

So, I cry and I beg for you to
Love me love me
Say that you love me
Fool me fool me
Go on and fool me
Love me love me
Pretend that you love me
Leave me leave me
Just say that you need me

4. After You Get Yet Another Form Rejection Letter

By now, you’re starting to feel a little panicked. Frustrated. No. More desperate. Surely, some agent has to like your stuff. Right? Maybe you just haven’t found the right one.

That’s when it’s time to break out Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”:

Don’t you want somebody to love [YES]
Don’t you need somebody to love [YES]
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love [Obviously!!]
You better find somebody to love [ I’m TRYING! Hmmmm, maybe this isn’t the right song.]

5. When You Decide You’re Not Giving Up, Today

You’ve gotten rejection after rejection, but you believe in your story and you’re not ready to give up.

That’s when it’s time to break out Rachel Platten’s Fight Song.

But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe
….
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me


This isn’t all the emotional states of a querying author — not by far. What songs do you tie to your emotional state when you send out your manuscript and ask someone to love it.