Author Spotlight: Emily Moore

an award-winning poet and children book author, as well as a freelance writer and editor.

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Emily Moore.

The many hats she wears include writer, editor, social media manager, student, mom, wife, and volunteer. She loves promotion, marketing, socializing, and getting behind a cause she believes in.

One such cause is supporting local businesses. Most people think this means local shops and farmers markets, but she’d like to encourage others to go beyond that. Check out local artwork, read local authors’ books, buy handmade products and crafts from friends with skills. She hired a young, budding artist to create the cover for ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS, and is excited to be a stepping stone in her artistic career.

She’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Emily, thanks for agreeing to be here today. 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?

Though I’m not typically a reptilian lover, I would absolutely love to connect on a personal level with a dragon. A fire dragon. Or a water dragon… oh, wait, that’s one of my manuscripts in progress!.

Welcome to the growing club! I’m starting to think it’s the preferred pet of quality fantasy writers.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write the full spectrum of children literature, from picture books to young adult novels and series. They are forthcoming! For me, the urge to write stems from wanting to bring an experience to children that makes them feel less alone and hopeless in tough situations as well as bring joy to their lives. My children’s fiction lets them grapple with family dynamics, navigate shifting emotions and friendships, and focus on helping others and allowing kindness and forgiveness into their lives with fun, relatable stories.

I’ve been telling stories since I was young, which my mom caught on cassette tape. Lol. About ten years ago, my daughter started telling lies. I looked up what other cultures used to scare their kids straight, and from that research, my first manuscript developed. My love of writing flowed after that as I submerged into the writing community both close to home and online. I’ve been writing in several capacities since then.

I love that! Turning to stories in order to scare your kid straight! You’ll have to let us know if it worked!

What do you like to read?

Ah, my first love. Reading was an escape route from an emotional childhood. My true love is fantasy in all its forms. Especially retellings and embellished folk lore. Young adult and adult sci-fi also makes me really happy. Classic literature are another of my favorites, and historical fiction in the veins of Jane Austen or Gregory Philippa. Some non-fiction make it into my Goodreads account as well, usually about home, gardening, art, and parenting. I’ve read a few memoirs that I really enjoy, too.

You’re talking my language! I’ve always loved retellings and reimaginings of folk tales and fairy tales. And I’ve recently starting enjoying the occasional memoir…

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

“Write what you know.”

Write what you know. I love the research process and the daydreaming process even more that real life. Learning new things stretches your reality and your plotlines.

That’s awesome. My mother was a high school librarian, so was always happy and ready to help anyone with the research process.

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

“Replace passive verbs with active verbs.”

My writing group jokingly calls me the passive-nazi. While it may offend some people, it’s sort of true.

There are probably more PC ways of saying that, but I totally understand. I know it’s especially nice to have a lot of active verbs in middle grade novels.

Shameless Self-Promotion time! 

When twelve-year-old swindler Dom witnesses a cop’s murder and his boot prints land his bully Taylor in handcuffs, Dom must decide whether to swallow his guilt and let the jerk go to juvie, or take the stand and risk his own life by revealing the truth.

You can buy it NOW on Amazon: Rowdy Days of Dom Sanders.

I’m an award-winning poet and children book author, as well as a freelance writer and editor. I lead my local chapter of the Idaho Writers League.

My shorter pieces have been featured in Hope Paige’s Anthology on loss BREAKING SAD in 2017 and AN OUNCE OF TRUTH, a fundraising anthology for a historic building.

When I’m not telling “Mommy Made stories” to my two daughters or awaiting feedback for my latest manuscript, I can be found off-roading on my four- wheeler, baking something scrumptious, or in a long, plot-refreshing bubble bath.

Be sure to tweet at me, connect with me on Goodreads, catch my posts on Facebook, and subscribe to my blog and website.

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When Writing: How Curiosity, Spirit, and Opportunity Combine To Expose Humanity

Humanity is a complex thing.

We can be cruel, harsh, and close-minded. We can live in fear for that which is different — people, places, and technology. There is much that is dark and depressing about humanity.

But.

That is not all we are.

And as writers? We do our best work when we explore the darkness that lies within and expose it to the light. When we seek out the good, the bright, and the very hope that we are all born to hold within ourselves.

Honoring the Mars rover, Opportunity

Fifteen years ago, in July of 2003, we sent two small rovers 127 million miles from home to explore Mars for us.

Their names? Spirit and Opportunity.

Intended for a 90-day mission that we hoped would go longer, Spirit lasted over 6 years before a sand trap took them from us.

Carrying on with sampling, photographing, and collecting data without its twin for a total of nearly 15 YEARS, was Opportunity. We lost contact with them in June 2018 during a massive dust storm that covered the entire planet for a month longer than any previous storm Opportunity had yet weathered.

Its final message?

“My battery is low, and it’s getting dark.”

Opportunity (Mars rover)

We’ve been trying for months to reestablish contact, hoping the winds would clear the dust deposited by the storm from its solar arrays, afraid even the hibernation power was too much and the battery was drained too far to come back.

On February 13, 2019, NASA declared Opportunity‘s mission at an end.

On one hand, I feel incredible sadness. Leaving a robot — hungry, alone, in the dark, so far from home?

On the other? Opportunity is a testament to humanity. Like their twin, called Spirit, and younger sibling, Curiosity, they were named for the greater parts of us. Spirit, Curiosity, and the willingness to seize an Opportunity.

We might have hoped for 9 months, but Opportunity traveled further than a marathon runner on their own little wheels, crossing Mars’s surface for us.

The Little Rover That Could.


Faith In Humanity – Tumblr Edition

I don’t think I’ve ever quoted Tumblr on this blog, before, but Opportunity and their siblings are worth it.

These two quotes from Tumblr brought me the comfort I never imagined I would need, after the loss of Opportunity.

No guys you don't understand.

The soil testing equipment on Curiosity makes a buzzing noise, and the pitch of the noise changes depending on what part of an experiment Curiosity is performing, this is the way Curiosity sings to itself.

Some of the finest minds currently alive decided to take incredibly expensive scientific equipment and mess with it until they figured out how to move in just the right way to sing Happy Birthday, then someone made a cake on Curiosity’s Birthday and took it into Mission Control so that a room full of brilliant scientists and engineers could throw a birthday party for a non-autonomous robot 225 million kilometers away and listen to it sing the first song ever sung on Mars, which was Happy Birthday.

This isn't a sad story, this is a happy story about the ridiculousness of humans and the way we love things.  We built a little robot and called it Curiosity and flung it into the stars to go and explore places we can't get to because it's name is in our nature and then just because we could, we taught it how to sing.

That's not sad, that's awesome.

No guys you don’t understand.

“…This isn’t a sad story, this is a happy story about the ridiculousness of humans and the way we love things.  We built a little robot and called it Curiosity and flung it into the stars to go and explore places we can’t get to because it’s name is in our nature and then just because we could, we taught it how to sing.

That’s not sad, that’s awesome.

And

swanjolras Deactivated gosh but like we spent hundreds of years looking up at the stars and wondering “is there anybody out there” and hoping and guessing and imagining because we as a species were so lonely and we wanted friends so bad, we wanted to meet other species and we wanted to talk to them and we wanted to learn from them and to stop being the only people in the universe and we started realizing that things were maybe not going so good for us— we got scared that we were going to blow each other up, we got scared that we were going to break our planet permanently, we got scared that in a hundred years we were all going to be dead and gone and even if there were other people out there, we’d never get to meet them and then we built robots? and we gave them names and we gave them brains made out of silicon and we pretended they were people and we told them hey you wanna go exploring, and of course they did, because we had made them in our own image and maybe in a hundred years we won’t be around any more, maybe yeah the planet will be a mess and we’ll all be dead, and if other people come from the stars we won’t be around to meet them and say hi! how are you! we’re people, too! you’re not alone any more!, maybe we’ll be gone but we built robots, who have beat-up hulls and metal brains, and who have names; and if the other people come and say, who were these people? what were they like? the robots can say, when they made us, they called us discovery; they called us curiosity; they called us explorer; they called us spirit. they must have thought that was important. and they told us to tell you hello. Source:swanjolras-archive #I'm not crying #your mom is crying #science goddammit #people being people

s

“… maybe in a hundred years we won’t be around any more … but we built robots, who have beat-up hulls and metal brains, and who have names; and if the other people come and say, who were these people? what were they like?

the robots can say, when they made us, they called us discovery; they called us curiosity; they called us explorer; they called us spirit. they must have thought that was important.

and they told us to tell you hello.”

Source: DEACTIVATED: swanjolras-archive#I’m not crying#your mom is crying#science goddammit#people being people

Imbuing Your Writing With The Best Of Humanity

Curiosity is the ability for a writer (or their characters) to wonder. To think, what-if? Curiosity makes them want to explore. Makes them wonder why things are the way they are and if there’s a way to change them. Curiosity makes them want to know how things work.

Spirit is the energy and motivation to find out. You can wonder all you want, but without spirit, the questions will remain unanswered in your head.

And opportunity? That’s when spirit, curiosity, and timing match up. You can have all the spirit and curiosity about the stars above, but without access to telescopes and science, it’s hard to learn more about them. You can wonder all you want about the fairy world, but unless you find a door, you’ll never get the opportunity to explore.

Opportunity and spirit can take your characters, (and the rest of us), far beyond their abilities and their plans, to a point where they can achieve so much more than they ever dreamed possible.


How do you incorporate humanity in your writing?

Do you focus on the negatives?

Or do you allow the best of us to peek through the darkness and shine a beacon of hope?

If you’re a reader, which part speaks strongest to you?

Author Spotlight: Mike Jeavons

 A writer and YouTuber from the UK

Mike Jeavons

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Mike Jeavons.

He’s a writer and YouTuber from the UK, currently studying for a Masters degree in creative writing. In the past, he’s written for film, radio, web series, a little TV. The self-published author of two children’s books and his latest book, VIRAL, (not recommended for young readers) which debuted February 7th and is for adult readers only.

He’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Mike, thanks for agreeing to be here today. 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?

A Niffler would be a great pet – not only are they cute, but they also have a knack for stealing valuable things. Who wouldn’t want a cute creature which frequently brings you gold??

I also think cheetahs are awesome. If I could domesticate a cheetah without fearing it might eat the postman or something, I would definitely adopt one.

Well, I’m not sure what a niffler says about your moral code…but at least you don’t want a murderous pet. So, at least there’s that.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I have quite a colourful history when it comes to writing.

Back in 2003, I wrote a novel called The Man at Fourteen Winchester Drive, a sort of YA/NA novel about a man who befriends the creepy old guy next door. I self-published the book on a website called Great Unpublished (which later was bought by Amazon and sort of became CreateSpace), and it was so poorly produced if you opened the book too wide pages would fall out. It was incredibly rewarding to see all that work become a book I could hold in my hand, but I was a stupid teenager and I didn’t know what beta readers, editors or proofreaders were, so the book is littered with errors.

I’ve learned a lot since then, so my next self-publishing effort came about a decade later with The Secret Circle of Imaginary Friends and its sequel The Imaginary Friends and the Box of Desires. Both are MG books, and are some of my favourite things I’ve written – writing for younger audiences is so much fun.

That’s not to say I didn’t have an amazing time writing Viral, my latest, an adult humour novel with a few sci-fi elements. The book flew out of my fingers, and with the help of Unbound and some generous supporters, the book is now available to read on paperback and ebook.

I’ve never been prouder of a piece of work.

Wow, children’s books and books about…porn-based, computer viruses killing people. I like to mix up the ages of my audience, but I’m not sure I could pull it off!

What do you like to read?

Like with my writing, I read quite a wide variety as well. I love YA, I’ve recently been reading the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. I also love work by Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling.

Solid choices for any contemporary science-fiction, horror, or fantasy writer.

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

“Just write, then go back and edit later.”

Quite often I hear people telling writers not to edit along the way. This eats me up inside. If I’ve written something, then five minutes later I read it and decide that it’s terrible, then there’s no way I’m going to let it set there on the page being bad. I’m going to have to change it, reword it, develop it or cut it altogether.

Yes, you don’t want to get bogged down with the line edits whilst you’re still getting the story on the page, but you need to be producing the best possible work that you can.

I’ve read work from writers who have just blurted things out with no regard for how it reads, and I’d hate to be the one to have to go back and edit that.

Ha! I’m definitely one of those ‘just write’ people. But! I’m not a total pantser and I usually manage to actually use at least some of those paragraphs (or pages. Or chapters!), once they’ve been reworked.

SIDENOTE: My readers can’t tell, but I know. You’re also one of those people who HATE the Oxford comma. Luckily, on my blog, no one can see you skipping commas!

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

The knowledge that I am a writer.

So often you see people claiming, “I’m an aspiring writer.” Have you ever written something creatively?

Then you’re not an aspiring writer, you’re a writer! Take ‘aspiring’ out of your bio right now.

You may not be a professional, full-time writer (very few people are) but you are most definitely a writer. Embrace it!

Shameless Self-Promotion time! 

Viral is my first adult novel, and it is out now!

It’s a funny, rude, exciting adventure through internet culture, memes, and viral videos. I wanted to write a book which continuously raises the stakes, and I think with Viral I’ve done just that!

Check it out on Amazon UK  and Amazon US !

You can also catch me on Twitter and YouTube.

How I Finally Gave In and Set Up My Own Newsletter Using MailChimp

Well, that was more complicated (and a little $$) than expected.

Until Monday, I Thought I Didn’t Need An Actual Email List

If you’re like me, you keep hearing how you’re supposed to cultivate that whole ’email list’ thing.

One problem.

I hate email. I like to read, archive, and keep my inbox under 25 items–aiming for Zero Inbox.

Besides! WordPress lets people sign-up with their emails, so they can get the updates that way. Right?

Apparently, I missed a small little detail.

When I FINALLY (after like 4 years) re-signed up to see what my email looked like? I learned You’ve Got To Have A WordPress Account To Subscribe!

Don’t get me wrong. When I set up my blog, four years ago, I checked out the first several emails, to make sure they looked fine. But? I had a wordpress account, so I didn’t even notice.

Besides? If I want to check out my blog, I view it on an RSS feed.

What’s an RSS Feed?

It’s a way to follow blogs and get all their updates — like Facebook, only you’re following Blogs, not individuals. Tumblr is actually an RSS Feed, but you can only follow other Tumblr blogs.

Whoops!

I know that’s gonna turn off people who don’t want ANOTHER account.

That’s When I Realized I Needed An ACTUAL Email Newsletter

I did some quick googling, and went with the one I saw most recommended, most used, and was FREE! (At least with my level of followers…)

So, next thing I know, I’ve got a freebie MailChimp account (so long as my mailing has fewer than 2,000 emails a month, I don’t have to pay a thing!) Plus, they promise a seamless experience when you switch to the paid levels. $10-$30 bucks until I have over 2,500 followers. [Sign up HERE!]

I went to the website, created an account, set up some groups, and then?

I created an automated welcome email and weekly RSS feed emails.

That’s when I notice something.

They’re posting my HOME ADDRESS. Eep! Not really something I want to provide to any online stalker. With a note that says US anti-spam law REQUIRES an address on any sort of mass emailing.

Sad trombone!

Fine. I’ll get a P.O. Box.

But wait.

Worn stop sign, in front of trees, a solid white wall half hiding a brick building.
Photo by Mwabonje on Pexels.com

It needs a physical address?

A little research later and I found a nearby Post Office that also lets you use their street address. I sign up online, pay, and… need to go in, in person, to get the key and show ID.

I pop on over on my lunch break, during this gorgeous 68′ February flash-spring and present my Passport and Driver’s License. Only 2 people ahead of me in line.

After a short wait, I hand over my papers. Only problem. I moved last year and my driver’s license is out of date– despite me updating them.

I dash out to my car and rifle through my glove box. My insurance card doesn’t have an address on it. But wait, what’s this folded piece of paper. My voter information sheet, telling me where to vote? Does it count as my voter ID?

I bring it back in, fingers crossed. With no line, I beeline to the counter and hand it over.

Does she accept it?

YES!

A few signatures later (and $92 for 12+1 free month, otherwise known as $7 a month), I now have a PO Box. She gets me two keys to test and hands me the paper with the street address to use.

Fun Fact:

It’s a different zip code than the street address of the normal post office.

Long story short — I now have a PO box with a street address and an email newsletter.

(Now I can use THAT when I win random twitter contests, instead of giving my mailing address to strangers.)

Quick Humble-Brag Break

I’m well on my way to hitting my reading goal for this year, with 16 books already under my belt.

And? Last Friday, I talked to my new mentor on the phone.

Mentor? Tell me more, Morgan.

I sent in a mentee application just before New Years to the Broad Universe‘s debut program and found out I was selected two Saturdays ago. We’d been emailing back and forth for a week, before we finally talked to start making a plan and for her to critique my 1st chapter.

That poor chapter’s been critiqued SOO many times. But, getting enough world building that no one is confused, without overwhelming them with info-dumps is a hard balance — and likely in a different place for every reader. I’ve got a little more work to do there.

As you know, I was planning on a little polishing and tossing her back into the query trenches. I’m sighing a little and getting ready to delve back into a full revision. Oh well. I’ve got high hopes and a guide, this time.

But! Back to MailChimp.

Getting Started With Groups On MailChimp

After MailChimp walked me through setting up, I knew I wanted custom email levels. I HATE stores that send either 7 emails a week or NOTHING. So, I looked around and figured out how to set up GROUPS.

Step 1: Open the list

Go to the Lists tab (create one for everyone who's received a welcome email if you don't have one yet), and select the list.

Go to the Lists tab (create one for everyone who’s received a welcome email if you don’t have one yet), and select the list.

Step 2: Manage your contacts

Select the 'Manage Contacts' drop down.

Select the ‘Manage Contacts’ drop down.

Step 3: Select ‘Groups’

Step 4: Create your groups

Click 'Show Groups'. Then, select 'Add Group' and name it as you wish. If you do this early, like I did, you won't have to add contacts manually, they'll be prompted when they sign up!

Click ‘Show Groups’. Then, select ‘Add Group’ and name it as you wish. If you do this early, like I did, you won’t have to add contacts manually, they’ll be prompted when they sign up!

And Ta-daaa! You’ve created groups, so people only get the emails they’re interested in.

My groups are:

  • Everything! (which I’m sure is what most people want *winks*)
  • Weekly Blog posts — which I plan to only send out once a week with all my newest blog posts inside
  • Occasional Updates — if I have news or such that I’d like to share with a targeted audience
  • And a group I like to call, “Actually Published Something“, for those people who support my writing, but don’t care about the details. Just let them know when I have something new coming out.

Creating The Actual EMAILS

MailChimp made this SUPER easy, with its built-in templates. But, there’s still a decent number of steps. You ready?

Step 1: Create A Campaign

We start off by selecting the 'Create Campaign' button.

We start off by selecting the ‘Create Campaign’ button.

Step 2: Select Campaign Type

In this case, I'm looking for EMAILS.

In this case, I’m looking for EMAILS.

Step 3: Automate This Thing!

I set up 2 types of Automated emails, a simple confirmation/welcome email, and a weekly blog feed. In this case, I'll be showing the RSS feed, because it's a bit tricker, but the flow is nearly identical. So, select the 'Automated' tab, and then pick your email type.

I set up 2 types of Automated emails, a simple confirmation/welcome email, and a weekly blog feed.

In this case, I’ll be showing the RSS feed, because it’s a bit tricker, but the flow is nearly identical. So, select the ‘Automated’ tab, and then pick your email type.

Step 4: Name Your (Email) Campaign

Set a name for the campaign and select the list you're using. (Luckily, you've already got that list set up!)

Set a name for the campaign and select the list you’re using. (Luckily, you’ve already got that list set up!)

Step 5: Map Your Feed and Schedule It

1 - Enter the RSS feed address. Typically, your address plus "\feed", but if you're not sure, just put in the URL and MailChimp will check for you.
2. Set the email period - daily, weekly, monthly..., set the time of day, and set the days of the week you'd like to email (IF there is something new.)
3. I saw complaints about poor quality images in the email feed, and saw recommendations to UNSELECT the 'Resize RSS feed images', so I did that.
  1. Enter the RSS feed address. Typically, your address plus “\feed”, but if you’re not sure, just put in the URL and MailChimp will check for you.
  2. Set the email period – daily, weekly, monthly…, set the time of day, and set the days of the week you’d like to email (IF there is something new.)
  3. I saw complaints about poor quality images in the email feed, and saw recommendations to UNSELECT the ‘Resize RSS feed images’, so I did that.

Step 6: Select Which Group Gets This Email

1 - Decide who gets this email: everyone? a segment/tag? or a group? I've got my groups set up, so that's what I choose.
2 - Select the question under 'Groups': "Which emails would you like to get", then select the modifier, and the groups they're in. Maybe this email should only go to people who selected Occasional Updates AND Actually Published Something?  But no. I went with "one of" and "Weekly Blogposts.
3 - Click DONE!
.
  1. Decide who gets this email: everyone? a segment/tag? or a group? I’ve got my groups set up, so that’s what I choose.
  2. Select the question under ‘Groups’:
    1. “Which emails would you like to get”
    2. Select the modifier, and the groups they’re in.
      1. Maybe this email should only go to people who selected Occasional Updates AND Actually Published Something?
      2. But no. I went with “one of” and “Weekly Blogposts.
  3. Click DONE!

Step 7: Select Your Campaign Options

To be honest, I didn't know what all of these options were and just sort of used my best judgment.


To be honest, I didn’t know what all of these options were and just sort of used my best judgment.

  • I like stats (that are free)
  • I’m happy to have formatted contact names — especially if it lowers the odds I’ll be tossed in the SPAM folder.
  • As my blog already retweets to twitter and facebook, I didn’t need those options.
  • I did select auto-convert video because of posts like this one with youtube embedded.

Step 8: Select Your Template

I like the basic template. I don't want fancy columns that end up with emails about 3 words across and an eternity's worth of scrolling. I wanted it simple and clean. So, I selected the basic template and hit 'next'.

I like the basic template. I don’t want fancy columns that end up with emails about 3 words across and an eternity’s worth of scrolling. I wanted it simple and clean.

So, I selected the basic template and hit ‘next’.

Step 9: Add Content To Your Email

For this example, I dragged the 'RSS Items' content block onto the email preview and then 'Social Share' (whoops, image has the wrong one circled), so people can easily share links to my blog if they liked the post. Put it in an order that makes sense to you.

For this example, I dragged the ‘RSS Items’ content block onto the email preview and then ‘Social Share’ (whoops, image has the wrong one circled), so people can easily share links to my blog if they liked the post.

Put it in an order that makes sense to you.

Step 10: Decide How Wordy Your Email Should Be

Decide how much of your blog post you want displayed in the email. I opted for 'Full Content."

Decide how much of your blog post you want displayed in the email. I opted for ‘Full Content.”

I’m torn here: I’m not huge on busy emails, so I’d probably prefer the Titles, or Excerpts. But. This isn’t for me. People who want an email are likely people who don’t want to go to my blog all the time. I have to remember that not everyone consumes the internet the way I do.

Maybe I should set up 2 ‘weekly blogpost’ emails — one full text and one not?

Then? You just confirm the email and hit publish! And you’re email is ready to go. You can pause and edit it at any time, without messing up the feed.

AND! Best of all? You can preview the upcoming emails.

If you’re interested in signing up for this awesome newsletter/blog update, there’s a bar at the bottom of my webpage, and a tab-link on my facebook author page I also set up. But, I figured I gave you enough step-by-step directions for today.

How I finally gave in and set up my own newsletter

Do YOU have an email list?
If so, do you have any tips for a newbie?
If not, are you contemplating one now?

Author Spotlight: Simon Graeme

Today’s Author Spotlight is: Simon Graeme

 – A dark fantasy writer and artist.


***

Simon Graeme

Readers, let’s welcome to my blog, Simon. A dark-fantasy writer and artist for well over twenty years. He has a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and was awarded an Honorable Mention in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest in 2015. In March 2018, he survived a stroke that spurred him to get his writing career back on track and actually start aiming for publication.

He’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Simon, thanks for agreeing to be here today. 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?

I would kinda like to have a luck dragon. The Neverending Story was a big influence on me as a kid and Falkor was the shit. Part giant-pink-dog that could talk and a freakin’ dragon. Can we add cleaning up its poops to the no worries list?

I’m a huge fan as well. I realized last year that a- they were super cool and b – there was no reason NOT to add water-dragon-puppies to my world (inspired by Falkor), so I did.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write fantasy and dabble in sci-fi but everything I write ends up with a touch of horror, hence claiming the genre dark fantasy.

I was twisted by likes of Clive Barker and Stephen King as a teen and grew up in a haunted house so it only makes sense that I would lean to the dark side. I was also a kid that was terrified of the dark (still am) and I had to have this strong sense that good would triumph over evil. You learn a lot about faith when you have to pray and keep a Bible on your bed at night just to be able to close your eyes long enough to sleep. I clung to the notion of guardian angels as a kid really hard. I think you can find all these influences in my work.

Over-active imaginations are good things for writers to have. But they are bad when paired with nyctophobia. I think I developed a curiosity about the dark and the things that hid there as a coping mechanism. That curiosity expanded into an obsession with the paranormal in my early adult life.

Perhaps my writing is a later stage of learning to cope with all that trauma.
Who knows. I still struggle with one question: is it really fear of the dark if you live in a real haunted house?

I started writing in high school when I became obsessed with comic books and decided to create my own. I’m a decent artist but I’ve never mastered the comic book style. I did write backstories for all my characters and I really enjoyed that. It evolved into long-form prose in college but I didn’t get serious until my late 20s. I’m 42 now.

It took me five years to finish my first novel. It was a vampire horror novel that explored the question, “What monsters would vampires fear?” It was an interesting concept but total garbage, but it taught me a lot.

One piece of writing advice I always offer to newer writers is to get to work and write a shitty novel. Maybe the first one will be good but it’s doubtful. You’ll learn so much about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer that you will know what to work on.

Read read read about the craft. Any and everything you can get your hands on. I recommend screenwriters focused stuff for learning to plot effectively. Then go write a less shitty novel. Chances of this one being good are so much increased. If not, write more books. Pro tip: don’t self-publish any of the shitty ones. Just let them die. It’s harsh advice but the best thing for your writing development. I promise.

After the stroke, I decided to finish the last novel I was working on. I took it from 23k words in April to 105k in July. That book is my debut novel, Dark Lament and is the first book in The Black Crusade series. It is a dark fantasy novel in a fantasy setting loosely based on the crusades period of our world.

Great advice. If I didn’t love my first manuscript so much, I might even have followed it. But yeah, write progressively less-shitty novels seems pretty good advice to me. I’m sorry about your stroke, but yay for letting it remind you to focus on your goals.

What do you like to read?

I read a lot of non-fiction related to the business of indie publishing and the craft of writing. I’ve probably got fifty books on mythology and history. I enjoy reading about military structure and strategy throughout the ages and I think that shows up in my writing. Brian Lumley, a British horror writer, Stephen King, and Anne Rice were authors that I spent much of my twenties with.

I really enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series, which has been renamed The Last Kingdom to match the Neflix series of the same name, (I really like that too).

I am intrigued by Patrick Rothfus and the Kingkiller Chronicles. He proves that voice and characters can a best seller make. I defy you to tell me the plot of Name of the Wind. You can’t. It doesn’t have one. But I’ve read that book three times and curse him daily for not getting the third book out there fast enough. There is a lesson here but I think it is only meant only for experienced writers, ones who have at least one shitty novel in the trunk.

A pretty solid list of books. My main complaint with the Kingkiller Chronicles is that he gave Kvoth Every Background Possible. Orphan, raised by gypsies, street orphan, child prodigy, musician, magician, teacher’s pet…

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

I don’t accept that plotters and pantsers are all that different.

If you are to finish writing a decent book, which means multiple drafts and editing done, then you will have plotted at some point. It could be on the front end, middle, or after the first draft is finished. The drafting process is different but all writers plot before it’s done.

Also, those who outline heavily at the beginning almost always end up writing something different than planned by the end of the first draft. Characters worth having will always drag you off course. There will be plot holes you didn’t consider at first.

Besides imagination and drive for telling stories, I’ve learned that all writers have mad problem-solving skills in common. That’s the magic of writing a novel.

That’s fascinating! People always talk like those who plot are completely different people than those who pants. But, as a plantser, that’s my sweet-spot anyway, so I’m inclined to agree. 😉

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can’t pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Master the concepts of character, conflict, setting, and resolution (I add the fourth in there).


These are the keys to writing a compelling story.

When I’m developing a story idea it usually starts with setting. Fantasy and sci-fi both have to have a sense of awe or wonder about the setting. Then I develop conflicts for that setting. Dark Lament looks at religious conflict as it is loosely based on the Crusades Period.

Which leads to factions. Who are the major factions driving conflict for the setting?

Next, who in those factions has the most interesting story to tell? Following this, I will never have a story that is uninteresting to someone.

Lastly, the story has to have a satisfying resolution where all promises to the reader are paid off and all major plot threads tied together. You can leave some for the sequel if you do it well. I like to connect things mentioned earlier in the story to things that are now required to finish the story well.

Quality components, made for every story. From chapter books through historic tomes.

Shameless self-promotion.

My first book was just released onFeb 1st, 2019. It’s called Dark Lament and is the first book in The Black Crusade series. It is a dark fantasy novel in a fantasy setting loosely based on the crusades period of our world. You can find it here!

I also have a prequel short story out for free and plan to have book II of the series out by April. I’m writing it right now. There will also be a prequel novel out in April or May which  goes back further than Scion of Darkness.

Please visit my webpage to get a free copy of Scion of Darkness, a short prequel to Dark Lament. It focuses on the characters of Baelen and Marten, when they were younger and tells the story of how they saved a child prophesied to be the doorway through which darkness will one day reclaim the world, the main character of Dark Lament.

You can get Scion of Darkness HERE!

If anyone wishes to interview me, as the wonderful, talented, and beautiful Morgan Hazelwood has, please contact me through one of the avenues listed below:

Simon E. Graeme at Facebook  | TartarusBound | simongraemeauthor@gmail.com