Author Interview with Sara Snider

Hi everyone! The lovely Sara Snider and I got together the other day (on Facebook – sadly Hong Kong to Sweden is not an easy distance to cross) to chat about her books and her writing, since she has just released A Shadowed Spirit, the sequel to The Thirteenth Tower. It made for a more relaxed, informal interview than what I normally do, which I actually really enjoyed – we talk about Sara’s books, but also about how she uses Myers-Brigg when working on her characters, genre hopping, and her awesome live-writing project, Hazel and Holly. Hope you enjoy!










CJJ: Hey Sara, so this is fun – and different! Live chatting! Ok so can you give me a quick introduction on the Tree and Tower series, for anyone who’s not come across your stuff before?

SS: This is fun and different! Ok, the Tree and Tower series is basically about a young woman searching for answers. Her search invariably leads her into the forest, but her answers don’t always come in the way that she thinks.

CJJ: And book 2 in the series, A Shadowed Spirit, has recently come out, congratulations! That’s exciting. (I just finished it, for you guys reading this, and it was awesome, go check it out). So what pushed you to write a sequel to The Thirteenth Tower, as I know you hadn’t necessarily planned a sequel originally?

SS: Ok, first, I’m glad you enjoyed the story. That means a lot to me. As for why I wrote it, it’s because after the first one was done and people started to read it, they started saying things like, “I’m looking forward to the sequel.” Not, “Is there going to be a sequel?” So I figured I’d better get on that sooner rather than later.

I was always open to the possibility of a sequel, but I hadn’t actively planned on one until then. I do think the first book in the Tree and Tower series stands alone, but there are gaps, and I’m not sure how much of that was “I’ll leave that for a future sequel” and how much was just my own tendency to leave some things unexplained for readers to interpret on their own

CJJ: What about a third book, is that in the works? And how do you write books by the way, do you outline or do you pants?

SS: Yeah there’s going to be a third book – I’m currently working on the first draft. I’m struggling with it because I’m a total pantser. But… for this one, pantsing isn’t working, and I’m going need to plan a bit, and that’s hard for me. I’ve actually gone back and started re-writing the beginning (basically moving events I had late in the book happening sooner).

Part of me feels like I should leave rewriting for the editing process, but it was creating a wall for me in figuring out what happens next. As a pantser, what happened previously plays a big part in what happens next, and if that’s not right I feel like I’m in a weird limbo. So, yeah, doing some hefty re-writing right now.

CJJ: I definitely agree with that: I can’t continue on very far if I know the earlier part of the story is broken. (and I also really like re-writing, so I’m always up for a bit of editing.) Ok so let’s talk about your characters. What’s your process like when creating a new character?

SS: Characters kind of create themselves to a large extent. Addigan popped fully formed (full name and everything, which is really rare for me) into my head. Others sometimes take bit more work.

Jash, for example (he’s a bit of a rogue character who’s teamed up with Addigan), I developed his personality a bit more by putting him through the Myers-Briggs personality test, as his default personality was a bit flat for me.

Doing that illuminated some personality quirks I hadn’t considered, but it also didn’t change the personality he initially formed with in my head. It just further accentuated what someone like him might act like.

CJJ: That’s interesting, I think you’ve mentioned using Myers-Briggs before on your blog. Is it something you use regularly?

SS: I wrote a blog post about it, and this was the first time I had used the test. The blog post talks about Jash, and I also used it on Enon to see if his personality was believable (which it was, according to the test, which was pretty awesome to see).

CJJ: I bet! Would be a bit of a bummer if he hadn’t come out as believable. I really liked Enon by the way 🙂 I take it he’s an introvert? Actually, first could you quickly explain who he is for those who haven’t come across him yet?

Glad you liked him. For those who don’t know: Enon’s a rather quiet, sullen character who joins up with Siyan on team protagonist (with Addigan and Jash on the antagonist side). He’s not to everyone’s taste though, but I knew that when I wrote him (so it makes it extra special when people do like him). Yeah, he’s totally an introvert. ISTJ personality type, if I recall correctly. Which, interestingly, is the exact opposite of my type, other than the introversion part (which is definitely me). I think I’m an INFP.

And I’m not totally obsessed with personality types, but I do think it’s interesting. J

CJJ: Yeah I agree, I love analysing people and personalities! I actually have a little theory about characters, which I don’t think I’ve floated to another writer yet. For me, all my characters are me. I embellish, highlight, or add on aspects, so none of them are exact copies of me, but I can see myself in each and every one (even the not so flattering and not so nice ones – yeesh). Hence the theory, that I’m the sum of all my characters (of course I have many to come still). Do you think that about your characters too, or are they completely separate from you? Like different people?

SS: No, I actually do think that about my characters. I mean they’re not me, but I can totally see parts of myself in all of them. It’s like each one represents a particular aspect of myself in their own way. I talked about this with my sister-in-law and she just looked at me and said, “So, what you’re saying is you’re schizophrenic?” hehe. She was joking, but it was kind of funny. 🙂

CJJ: Haha, to be fair I think all of use writers are a little nuts. So, if you think back to The Thirteenth Tower and A Shadowed Spirit, in what order do ideas come to you? Do you start with a concept for a world, a character, a scene….

SS: I think it’s mostly premise based, if that makes sense. For The Thirteenth Tower, I had an idea for the beginning and end, and then the premise of the strange things happening and what was causing it. And so everything stemmed from that. For A Shadowed Spirit, almost all the ideas came for that one as I wrote it. I had a goal for Siyan, and I had Addigan and what she was trying to do. Everything else came as I wrote it.

The idea for book 3 is basically the consequence of events from the first two books. I looked at what happened in each one and thought, “What do the Magisters think about *that*?” And so that’s given me the premise. I’m still working on the events that follow it.

CJJ: I kind of wish I could start stories from a premise, I sometimes think it would make life a bit easier, or at least more straightforward. I always have to start with characters, though. I’ve tried to create a story from a premise and it never works. Not sure why!

SS: Which is probably why you have the best characters.

CJJ: aw thank you. I do think that’s also why so far my books don’t fit into a straight forward category. the one I finished recently is another mish-mash of genres, and I think I’m going to have to sift through Amazon categories to figure where it belongs! Do you think you’ll always write fantasy, or any plans to genre hop?

And what’s in store after Book 3 is finished? I know you have the Hazel and Holly story going on, any plans for after that?

SS: Genre mish-mashes are awesome in my opinion, but, yeah, a bit of a pain to market. 😉

I sometimes think about writing a science fiction story of some sort. The idea of it intimidates me, because science. But I find, for example, black holes terribly fascinating, and I think it would be fun to write a story that incorporates them somehow.

After book three, I have a vague idea for a creepy archivist I want to pursue. For this one, I don’t have a premise for a story, it’s the character, so that’s a first I guess. The character is pretty vague though. He’s an archivist and he does unsavory things like dig up bodies and collect bones. That’s all I have at the moment.

HazelHolly_FC_FNL_BNGCJJ: I’m liking the sound of this guy already – creeps and weirdoes are right up my street! Tell me also about your Hazel and Holly project (for those of you who haven’t come across this before, Sara is writing a serial ‘live’ on her blog, posting a new episode each week.)

SS: Hazel and Holly are basically two witch sisters trying to find their necromancer father who’s trapped their dead mother’s soul in a gaes. They’re trying to find him so he can undo it.

As for when it will be done, I have no idea. I was aiming to finish the first draft of it by the end of this month, but… it’s long. It doesn’t want to end! I’m at 90k words now, estimating (maybe) it’ll finish up around 130k (which will make it the longest story I’ve ever written). Maybe it’s the serialized nature of it, but I’m finding it difficult to wrap things up.

CJJ: Wow, that is HUGE! How have you found the experience of writing in public like that, basically letting people see your first draft?

SS: It’s pretty scary, actually, and it wouldn’t work at all for me for some stories (like the Tree and Tower series, that just wouldn’t work). I think what’s made it work for me with this one was I went into it thinking it was just a story I’d have fun with. Yes, there will be small errors, and potentially crappy writing, but I accepted that and figured just write to have fun!

For the most part, I think it’s worked fairly well. Those who read it seem to be enjoying it, so I suppose that’s something.

CJJ: Absolutely! Well this is all great, thank you so much for the chat Sara!

SS: Thank you, Celine!

A Shadowed Spirit:


She used to be called Emelyn. She used to be nobody. Now she is Siyan—a creature of magic known as an And’estar. But Siyan doesn’t understand what that means, just as she can’t control the power that has woken within her.

Addigan worked her entire life to master the Art of magic and become a respected Magister, only to fail her final test. Scarred and desperate to prove her worth, Addigan pursues rumors of trees of power and a mysterious people called And’estar.

When Siyan heads into the dense and dangerous forest searching for answers, she doesn’t realize Addigan is coming for her. In this twisting chase of hunter against hunted, Addigan must choose how far she is willing to go to prove herself. And Siyan must let go of everything she knows—and everything she loves—if she is to gain control over her power. Even if it kills her.

In a journey that follows the intertwined lives of two women, A Shadowed Spirit is a mystical tale that redefines the boundaries between life and death, dreams and reality, and what one is willing to sacrifice to achieve the happiness she seeks.

A Shadowed Spirit is now available to buy at the following places:

Amazon US     Amazon UK    Apple    Kobo

About the Author:

Sara-headshotSara C. Snider was born and raised in northern California before making the move to Sweden at age 25. She is a published author of two fantasy novels—The Thirteenth Tower and A Shadowed Spirit—and the dark fantasy novella, The Forgotten Web, which won best novella in the 2015 Lyra Contest. She has a bachelor’s degree in Archives and Information Science that is largely being ignored as she pursues writing full-time.

Sara’s writing is heavily influenced by nature where she likes to explore the relationship between man and a greater wild world. Her stories sometimes venture into the surreal and metaphysical, while other times remaining quirky and light-hearted.




Deconstructing Damsport: a round the world tour of the research and inspiration behind the creation of the city

bloodless Assassin EbookPicasso famously said: “Good artists borrow; great artists steal.” I won’t go as far as to say that I’m a great artist, but one of the things I love to do is to steal — and I steal a great deal, from all over the place. So I thought it would be fun to take you through a tour of all the influences and steals that went into creating Damsport, the city in which The Bloodless Assassin takes place.

It’ll come as no surprise that I stole from Victorian London, and I purposefully gave a little nod to Dickens in creating Pip, a cheeky chappy urchin. I won’t discuss the Victorian influences though, as I think they’re quite obvious.

The less obvious steals come from all over the world: Hong Kong, Istanbul, Constantinople, Mumbai, Japan, Cambodia, general 17th century Europe, sort of from Colorado, and Macau, at the current count. Often what I stole is utterly random and I doubt you’d be able to spot the inspirations on your own (if you can, bravo!)

Let’s start with the biggest influence: Hong Kong. I live in Hong Kong and grew up in London, so the first thing I did in creating Damsport was to take Victorian London and push it through a Hong Kong sieve. Hong Kong is the banyan trees that grow everywhere, the humidity, the storms, the crookback streets, the smells, the food, the crush of people in the streets. Regarding the banyan trees, the photos below are taken in central Hong Kong. The top one in particular is in Mid-Levels, one of the most modern and built up parts of Hong Kong. Banyan trees can grow anywhere — including out of walls it seems — and the top photo was the inspiration for the rundown house Rory and Jake lived on top of.



Hong Kong is also part of the inspiration for the Wet Market. Fruit/veg/meat/fish markets in Hong Kong are called Wet Markets, partly because the produce for sale is fresh, partly because the floor is always wet, and it’s best not to think too much about what is in the murk on the ground. Especially when you see the gusto with which fish are eviscerated!

(I have a particular walk when wearing flip flops — apparently — which means that with my heels I flick up any mud/sludge/dirt/etc up the backs of my legs. Yes, I’m that ladylike. My many visits to wet markets over the years have made me far more familiar with the wet filth of the ground than I would have liked. It’s grim. Which was why when I had to describe a market I immediately thought of how wet the floor would be.)

We also went to a Wet Market in Cambodia (in Kampot to be precise) that was covered with a hodgepodge of tarps and bits of plastic stretched overhead. It caught most of the rain (it was summer and rainy season) but the water still dripped through the gaps, so that the entire market seemed to be dripping — you could hear the water drip above the chatter of voices. That gave birth to the ‘dripping’ description of the Damsian Wet Market.




The woman sleeping in a hammock among her cuts of meat in the Damsian Wet Market is real — I stole her wholesale:


The book maze at the edge of the Great Bazaar was stolen from Mumbai book sellers, and I still regret that so little of The Viper and the Urchin takes place among the maze of books — stay tuned, this might be the scene of part of a future story! We discover Damsport’s library in The Black Orchid, and I have a bit of an idea for a story featuring scheming librarians, so it’s very much a possibility.

DSC_0032 DSC_0035

I stole the Old Cistern from Istanbul, and of course I bastardised the Grand Bazaar name, although the Damsian Great Bazaar is nothing like the Istanbul version. I also stole Istanbul’s Blue Mosque to make the baths in Spirepass, and while I was at it, used that kind of architecture to inspire the entire area of Spirepass including its name.

From Wikipedia – the Old Cistern

From Wikipedia – Blue Mosque — inspiration for the Damsian baths.

I purposefully made Damsport a port city so that it could justifiably have a real melting post of influences in terms of its architecture and culture. But in working out its political situation, I turned to Constantinople, another port city. And while there’s nothing actually recognisable from Constantinople in Damsport’s architecture, I used it as inspiration to work out how Damsport would be defended. This led to the creation of the Bottleneck Wall, which led me to the Three Day Battle and to Damsport’s current political situation.

Two very random steals came from Japan. I very much doubt anyone will be able to guess where the Japanese influence is, though. The first is the cats in the Damsian cemetery. I was in Tokyo, wandering about on my own, and I chanced across a cemetery. Now I love cemeteries — I find them fascinating. I went walking around the tombs, and I kept coming across these fat cats, most of them white, bathing in the sun and regarding me with that hostility particular to cats. And I thought there was something delightfully creepy about a hostile cat lounging across a tomb and glaring at me as if telling me to leave.

The fun thing about Fantasy is the ability to take something real and twist it into something fantastical — so these cats became the cats in the Damsian cemetery who are voiceless and who appear only at night.

I also stole an old street sweep from Tokyo. I came across an old man with a broomstick that had to be 2 meters long that he wielded in a semi-circle around him to push dead leaves away. Sadly I didn’t take a photo of him but I thought he was too perfect not to steal. I added the vapour lamps hanging from a pole stuck down the back of his shirt to create the Damsian street sweeps. The sweeps are actually one one of my favourite little details of Damsport.

Closer to home — at least digitally — I stole from a fellow blogger’s blog post: from Sammy over at Bemuzin, which technically means I stole from Colorado, I guess. Back in 2014 she wrote about an exhibition she went to see: the stunning Chihuly Garden Cycle show featuring incredible glass sculptures. I thought glass sculptures was such a wonderful concept that I decided to feature glass sculptures as part of the Revels towards the end of the book.

Speaking of the Revels, another act comes from The House of Dancing Water, an incredible show that I saw in Macau. I stole the masts rising from the water from that show (I won’t say anymore to keep the post spoiler-free). If you’re ever in this part of the world, this is one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen.

I also stole and embellished on 17th century European currency. There was a real problem back then of people shaving or clipping the edges of coins, and then melting all the shavings and clippings and making new coins. This problem is what led to our modern coins having edges with writing or patterns on them, so that if the coins were clipped, it would immediately be obvious. I thought that was a fun detail to steal and I decided that Damsport would have the same problem but would deal with it differently. Since the city has both clipped coins and a quantity of foreign currency flowing through it, the logical thing to do seemed to have them deal in coin weights rather than coin values. The expression ‘making change’ then became a fun literal interpretation: Damsians go to smiths to make change by cutting coins up into smaller pieces.

That said I don’t always realise when I’m stealing, and some steals I can’t identify even now. Crazy Willy and his steamcoach, for example: I have no idea where that came from. Likewise for Susie’s coffeehouse and the butterscotch coffee. I detest coffee, so who knows why that idea popped into my head!

Not all steals are successful, either. My most extensive piece of research came to absolutely nothing. I read a large biography of Isaac Newton’s life when I was thinking about how to develop the science of alchemy for Longinus. Newton didn’t just discover gravity, he was an incredible polymath, but he sadly wasted a lot of his time looking into alchemy and I thought I’d find useful inspiration in his life’s work. Turns out Longinus’ alchemy has nothing to do with Newton’s (not a shocker, in hindsight). Not wanting the time I spent reading Newton’s biography to be a complete waste, I put a little nod to him in the form of the prism found in Dr Corian’s place. It has absolutely no bearing on the story, I doubt anyone noticed or remembered it, but it was a nod from me to me, referring to the research I’d done so I could tell myself that I got at least something out of that book.

I don’t actually think reading that book came to nothing — I got some other stuff from it which might be useful some day. Maybe one day I’ll write a new post like this and tell you one of my characters is partly stolen from Newton’s life. Who knows.

So there you have it, all the steals that went into creating Damsport — at least the ones I can remember. There’s bound to be a great many steals that I’ve forgotten about, and a great many more that I can’t figure out. If you’re curious about any other part of Damsport feel free to ask me in the comments and I’ll see if I can figure out where the inspiration for it came from.


The sequel to The Bloodless AssassinThe Black Orchid also takes place in Damsport, and I’ve added a few more steals — more from Hong Kong (I’m milking the place dry!) a very obvious one from Morocco, and I stole from one of my uncles.

Book 3 in the series is already in the works, but it will take place in a new city and I’m currently creating it (oh such fun!). So far I have influences from Indonesia, more from Hong Kong and Cambodia, a very random steal from Beijing, and an unexpected one from Brittany of all places (a place in France. Papa et Maman — it is indeed from Perros-Guirec). I’ve also taken inspiration from the eyebrows of a singer I really like. I’m hoping to have the third book ready and out by the end of the year, so keep your eyes peeled! In the mean time, if you want to check out The Black Orchid, you can find it here on Amazon. I hope those of you who read it will enjoy it!

PS: I know not everyone reads on Kindle. If you have another kind of e-reader but you want to read The Black Orchid, you can buy it on Amazon, email me the receipt, and I’ll send you an epub instead 🙂 you can find me at celine (at)

Fairytales and Writing processes – an Interview with Emily Witt


Today I have an interview with Emily Witt about her new book, A More Complicated Fairytale. Emily is a lovely blogger friend with A Keyboard and an Open Mind (I love how the blog title lends itself so well to an introduction!) and I’m really happy to be sharing this interview with her today!

AMCFTsmallThanks so much for being on the blog Emily! I wonder if you can begin by telling us a bit about your story, A More Complicated Fairytale.

Thank you for having me! A More Complicated Fairytale is the story of Caitlin, and her begrudging-friendship-turned-romance with Crown Prince Felipe. Felipe takes a shine to Cait when he meets her during a royal festival, and though she’s not as keen on him at first, when he goes to war to avenge the assassination of his older brother, she enlists as a nurse. She ends up taking care of him when he is badly injured and their relationship continues to develop from there.

It is not a re-telling of any specific fairytale and probably has more in common with historical romance than fantasy, apart from the setting being a fictional kingdom. The title is really referencing the idea of a “fairytale romance” that we often read about in relation to celebrities or indeed, royal romances, too.

What inspired you to write this book, do you remember where the original idea for it came from?

I actually got the idea from a dream I had. I was myself in the dream, and my in-dream boyfriend had gone away for a while. I was moping about that, and meanwhile, a prince showed up and wanted to hang out with me, but I just wanted him to go away so that I could continue my moping in peace. This was three years ago now, so I’m lucky to remember that much, but at the time, it must have been a bit clearer and I somehow saw the potential for a romance!

Did any particular authors or films influence you while you were writing the book?

I didn’t realise it at the time, but my main characters, Cait and Prince Felipe, have a very similar dynamic to Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott’s characters in the 1999 movie, Ever After. Given that it’s one of my all-time favourite movies and I re-watch it at least once a year, it’s probably not that surprising they snuck in there.

I was working at the Australian War Memorial at the time I started writing, and often got to read the diaries and letters that got donated to the collection there. Knowing the sorts of things that actually got written by the people caught in the middle of the First and Second World Wars really helped me shape Cait and Felipe’s experiences.

I have to agree with you, Ever After is a great film. I loved Angelica Houston as the evil step mother! That’s so interesting that you worked at the Australian War Memorial. Could you please share some of the letters that you read while working there?

Ooh, gosh, good question! I haven’t worked there in a couple of years now, so I’m having to cast back a bit. I do remember a couple of occasions where the family had all the letters in date order in a folder and whatnot, and the last letter was completely innocuous, and then you’d read a family member’s label on the plastic sleeve that this was the last letter they wrote home. It was always very jarring. There was one from a soldier in Vietnam to his best friend – I’m not sure if he was killed very early in the action or what the situation was, but this was the only letter he wrote home and he was killed while the letter was still in transit. I was warned when I first started in that position that I should probably keep a box of tissues on my desk, and with good reason!

On the other hand, as a Doctor Who fan, it made me ridiculously happy to discover an actual Captain Jack Harkness who fought with the Australian Army in WW2 And there was also the reference to some Australian soldiers being put on court martial for stealing watermelons in Cairo, which I thought was hilarious. So it wasn’t all terrible!

Haha, watermelon thieving – that’s a niche crime! I can imagine that the letters must have been quite poignant or difficult to read at times, though. What’s your writing process like? Do you outline or pants? Any particular writerly rituals you could share with us?

I tend to pants my first draft, but it lacks a lot of details. Once I know how to get from A to B, I set about filling in the gaps. Between the first and last drafts, AMCF doubled in length.

I keep a spreadsheet with my daily word counts all added up in there. On days I write over 200 words, I make the row green, and on days I don’t write, I make it red. In theory, it’s supposed to be visual inspiration, seeing all the green and the increasing totals, though sometimes when I go through a period of not writing much, it can get a bit depressing!

What was your favourite part of the story to write? And what was the hardest part to write?

There’s a scene just after Cait starts getting on better with Felipe, where he is showing her some of the special items the royal family has in its library, including the Nardowyn equivalent of an illuminated medieval manuscript of their religion’s sacred text. I’m a librarian by day, so having my two leads bonding over an item like that made me happy.

Having said all of that, I think actually creating a religion was one of the hardest things to do. I knew it would be difficult, and originally tried to create an entirely religion-free world, but it just felt a bit empty. Religion doesn’t dominate my characters’ lives but it’s good having it there as something that informs them.

If you could go back in time to your previous self about to start writing this book, what advice would you give her?

Hmm, good question! The first thing that comes to mind is to tell her to stop stressing about Cait’s name and just roll with it (Cait went through quite a few names, and I wasted quite a bit of valuable writing time poring over lists of names trying to choose something that felt “right”).The other thing would be to stop putting things off because I was nervous. I always took forever to send early drafts to readers or to answer my cover artist’s questions. I’m hoping that now I sort of know what I’m doing, the next book won’t take three years from conception to publication!

I can totally sympathise with the whole putting things off because of nerves — I went through the same thing with my first book! Well thank you so much answering all those questions Emily! 

A More Complicated Fairytale is now available to pre-order on Amazon


Most of the young women in Nardowyn swoon over Crown Prince Felipe, but Caitlin has never seen the appeal. When she catches his eye during a royal festival, she has little choice but to begrudgingly go along with his attempts to form a friendship between them, and soon learns that there is more to him than meets the eye.

When Felipe goes to war to avenge the death of his brother, Cait enlists as a nurse to be nearer to him. Here, Cait’s connection to the prince will put her in more danger than she can imagine. But Cait’s never been one to take the easy way out, so if her life is going to turn into some sort of fairy tale, with a prince and a happily ever after, it’s no surprise it will be a more complicated one.

A More Complicated Fairytale — Cover Reveal

Hi guys! Today I’m excited to be part of Emily Witt’s (she of the Keyboard and the Open Mind) cover reveal for her new book, A More Complicated Fairytale. She’s a lovely blogger friend, and I’m so excited for her new book coming out.

So over to you, Emily!


Title: A More Complicated Fairytale

Author: Emily Witt

Release day: April 02, 2016


Most of the young women in Nardowyn swoon over Crown Prince Felipe, but Caitlin has never seen the appeal. When she catches his eye during a royal festival, she has little choice but to begrudgingly go along with his attempts to form a friendship between them, and soon learns that there is more to him than meets the eye.

When Felipe goes to war to avenge the death of his brother, Cait enlists as a nurse to be nearer to him. Here, Cait’s connection to the prince will put her in more danger than she can imagine. But Cait’s never been one to take the easy way out, so if her life is going to turn into some sort of fairy tale, with a prince and a happily ever after, it’s no surprise it will be a more complicated one.

author-photoAuthor Bio:

Emily has been writing since the age of six, but only recently developed the skill of finishing the projects that she starts (and even then, only sometimes). She is currently studying for a Masters in Museum and Heritage Studies and works at the National Library of Australia. In her spare time she can be found watching Doctor Who or curled up on the couch with a hot chocolate and a good book.

You can visit her blog for more information:

And also her Facebook page:

Cover design: Thanks to the very awesome K. L. Schwengel –


Towards the middle of the afternoon, they came across a wooden stage with a banner across the top bearing the words ‘Alfonso the Magnificent, Grand Illusionist’. On the stage, a man was describing the great feats of illusion that the crowds would witness when the show started in ten minutes. Neither Cait nor Ava had ever seen a magic show before, so they bought tickets and found themselves good seats.

For the next three-quarters of an hour, they witnessed mind-reading, card tricks and even a woman being sawn in half! Even Cait had been on the edge of her seat for that finale.

When Alfonso the Magnificent had taken his final bows and disappeared from the stage, Cait turned to Ava. “What did you think?” she asked.

“That was spectacular!” Ava replied. “How do you think he did that last one?”

“There were two women in the box,” said a hooded man who had been sitting on Cait’s other side. “That’s the only way it could be done.”

“Do you think so?” Ava leaned across Cait a little to speak to the man and in doing so, recognised the face under the hood. She sat back again, quickly. “Cait, it’s -”

The cloaked man held up a finger to quickly quiet her. “Please don’t give me away. I’m trying to avoid my guards at the moment.”

He lowered his hood and Cait realised why Ava had been so surprised. She looked at Ava. “Well, won’t Ginny and Bridget be jealous?” She looked back to Prince Felipe with a wry smile. “Our younger sisters are big fans of yours, your Highness. We tried telling them it was unlikely any of us would see you here, but they kept their hopes up. I’m sure they’re going to be frightfully upset about this.”

“Well, I suppose you were right to discourage them. I’m not supposed to be spending my time at magic shows designed to entertain the masses. In fact, I believe I should be dining with the Princess Royal of Brellalan at this very moment.”

“Then why aren’t you?”

Cait didn’t mean to ask such a direct – and perhaps slightly accusatory – question, not to the prince, but it was out of her mouth before she could remind herself who she was talking to.

The prince did not seem too perturbed, though. “Have you ever had to spend time with women who have been raised only to aspire to one day marry a prince?”

“I can’t say that I have, Your Highness.”

“Then count yourself lucky. I would much rather spend my time at magic shows in the company of such charming ladies as you and your friend, than dining with any of them.”

As he spoke the words, a yell was heard behind them, and the prince looked up with a start. Someone shouted “There!” and a group of red-uniformed men of the palace guard pointed towards Cait, Ava and Prince Felipe.

Glancing back at Cait and Ava, the prince quickly stood and replaced his hood over his head. “It’s been lovely,” he said with a nod, and then leapt across three benches and off in the opposite direction to the guards. They shouted again and ran after him, but Cait saw him quickly blend in with the crowds and silently wished the guards luck. They were probably going to need it.

Speakeasies and the Roaring Twenties: an interview with Sarah Zama

Hi everyone! It’s been a little while since I’ve done an author interview, but today I’m super excited to bring you an interview I did with Sarah Zama, she of The Old Shelter blog. She’s got a wonderful new book, Give in to the Feeling coming out and today she’s here to tell us about the research that went into it.

Thanks for being on the blog today Sarah – I’m so excited to be interviewing you! Could you start by telling us a bit about your story Give in to the Feeling? 

Thanks Celine, I’m excited to be here too. I’ve been following your series of fantasy interviews dreaming one day I’d appear in it too. I’m so excited to be here at last.

Since we writers are encouraged to write the blurb for our story in case anyone will ask what’s it about, I suppose this is a great occasion to use just that.

Chicago 1924

Susie has never thought she might want more. More than being Simon’s woman. More than the lush life he’s given her when she came from China. More than the carefree nights of dance in his speakeasy.

Simon has never asked her anything in return but her loyalty. Not a big price.

Until that night.

When Blood enters Simon’s speakeasy, and Susie dances with him, she discovers there’s a completely new world beyond the things she owns and the she’s allowed to do. A world where she can be her own woman, where she can be the woman she’s supposed to be. A world of sharing and self-expression she has never glimpsed.

But she’s still Simon’s woman, and he won’t allow her to forget it.

Soon Susie discovers there’s more than two men fighting over her in the confrontation between Blood and Simon. There’s a fight breaking through the walls of the real world, into the spirit world where Susie’s freedom may mean life or death for one of them. And if Susie gives in, she will lose more than just her heart.

At its heart, Give in to the Feeling is a story of self-discovery. A coming of age, if you will, but with a fantasy twist… which is to be expected from me!

Give in to the Feeling takes place in a speakeasy in Chicago during the Prohibition era, which makes for a wonderful setting. For anyone not familiar with the era, can you tell us about speakeasies?

a1ae6a72c67e252d52196ddef3025862The funniest thing about speakeasies is that nobody really knows much about them. They had been around for quite sometime before Prohibition. National Prohibition went into effect in 1920, but before that, there had been state prohibition or temperance laws everywhere in the U.S. for decades. This means even before National Prohibition, people in certain states couldn’t freely drink alcohol. Speakeasies provided this opportunity, although under wraps and away from the public eyes. Everything was kept as secret as possible. In fact, one of the theories about the origin of the name ‘speakeasy’ is that owners would invite customers (who of course became quite loud after a few drinks) to ‘speak easy’ so not to be heard and discovered.

speakeasy_1These kind of places already existed in the second half of the 1800s, though what we think about when we hear the word ‘speakeasy’ today is Prohibition incarnation of them and the reason is that speakeasies proliferated at an astounding rate during the 1920s.

There were all kind of speakeasy around the U.S. As it was said, all you needed was a room, two people and a bottle of liquor, and that’s exactly what happened in most little towns. Speakeasies were often rooms in private houses where people would gather to drink (producing and consuming one’s own liquor wasn’t illegal, mind you. But if you charged for that… well, that was a different story).

In larger cities, speakeasy could take up any form, including very exclusive restaurants where food was served and shows where offered. These places were hardly secret. One journalist related that it took him about two minutes to find out where a speakeasy was in NYC (he jump out the train and into a cab, and the cab driver asked him whether he fancied a drink in special place). True, there were places that used passwords and membership cards so to shrink the possibility that a Prohibition agent slipped inside unnoticed, but most places just bribed police and agents, so they didn’t really bother about secrecy.

Could you share your favourite / most interesting tidbit from your research into this time period?

I know this not very exciting, but what surprised me more about my research was discovering how much the Twenties were like our own time.

It was a time of shocking change, fast modernization, clash of cultures, phobias of any form of ‘otherness’. It was a time of coping with a life that changed so fast it was hard to adjust to. Attitudes of young people that were so new and different they felt alien. A sense that old, reliable values were crumbling away.

Sounds familiar?

I was also impressed by how much young people of the Twenties looked like us.

I was worried about this aspect of life. Give in to the Feeling and my trilogy are both set largely in a speakeasy, which were places frequented mostly by young people looking for booze and wild jazz dances. But we’re talking young people of nearly a century ago. What would they be like? What would they do? How would they think?

Well, turned out they looked and thought and acted like us a lot more than young people of the subsequent three or four decades did. The Great Depression and then the war years were huge setbacks for any social advancement that started in the Twenties.

A reader of my AtoZ Challege of last year, which was about the Twenties, commented that she thought a few of the things I was talking about started in the Sixties. Not so. That was merely the time when things caught up.

What books (other than yours of course!) or films would you recommend for anyone new to stories set in that time period.

In terms of novels, there’s no competition. My favourite era author is Langston Hughes, who was one of the frontmen of the Harlem Renaissance. If the devil ever showed up offering me to gain Hughes’s writing qualities, I’d give him anything he would ask in return.

Langston Hughes’s style is simply wonderful. Vivid. You can see and smell and hear what he writes, that’s how powerful his prose is. His sight was so keen he could see deep inside his characters. He’s absolutely fantastic.

He was mostly a poet, but he wrote shorts stories and novels too. My favourite is a short story titled Father and Son, the story of a white father and the son he had with his black house maiden. Heart wrenching. All the characters in the story are so strong-willed and so focused you know it can’t possible go well for any of them.







In terms of book about the era, the first to spring to mind is always Last Call by Daniel Okrent. That’s one of the newest book about Prohibition and one of the more thoroughly researched. Michael Perrish’s Anxious Decades is my favourite book about the Twenties. It actually covers both Twenties and Thirties, but the Twenties section is the best, in my opinion. Very essential, it doesn’t really go into mush details on anything, but it does touch on all most important aspects and events of the time.

I also enjoyed Erin Chapman’s Prove it on Me a lot. This is an examination of the social position of black women in the Twenties, one that sometimes was very far and different from the flapper’s life.

As for film, Underworld, a silent film of 1927, is my absolute favourite. I know a lot of people thinks silent films are boring and stupid, too simple in comparison with moderns ones.

That’s because they have never watch one.

I found it really interesting that your characters were Chinese and American Indian – it made for a really interesting mix of cultures. Did the decision to do this spring purely from story, or were there large communities of Chinese and American Indian in Chicago during that time?

It mostly happened by chance. Seriously.

The very first idea for Blood and Michael’s stories came to me from Michael Jackson’s video Smooth Criminal (which is one of my favourite videos and songs ever). In that video the lead female dancer is an Asian girl. I just took the two characters as they were and put them in my story.

Michael came from my interests. When I started planning the trilogy, six years ago, I was already very much into Indian cultures. Michael just happened one day and that’s when everything went into place for my story.

There wasn’t a big community of Chinese in Chicago. Large Asian communities were on the East Cost, but the Midwest? Not so much. In fact Chinese people in Chicago were so few it was hardly considered a community at all.

Indians just didn’t leave reservations at the time. In fact, the Twenties is probably one of the bleakest times in the history of any American Indian people. They were shrinking in numbers. Most of the old leaders were dead or dying and there weren’t new ones taking up their place. The U:S. was employing any policy to disband unity and crush cultural proud. Nearly all Indian religious practices were outlawed. Children were taken from families and sent to boarding school, were a large number died and more just became whitewashed. Indians were recognised citizen of the U.S. only in 1924, the same year as Give in to the Feeling takes place. Michael probably doesn’t know he’s a U.S. citizen.

It was very hard. Things only started to get a little better in the Thirties with Roosevelt’s New Deal.

So, I suppose it wasn’t too smart of me to choose characters who were so unlikely to be there. But I promise there is an explanation for that in the story.

In your story you mention beliefs held by the Chinese and American Indians about spirits. Did this come from your imagination or is it based on real cultural beliefs and superstitions?

As well as I tried to be as accurate as possible with the historical setting, I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible with the ‘spirit’ world.

I did go after cultural belief that could make sense in my setting and to the characters I was handling. Luckily, it looks like cultural beliefs about the spirit world seem to touch across culture, so I could envision quite an organic fantasy incarnation of my spirit world staying close enough to actual cultural beliefs.

I was also lucky enough to have first person experience of the cultures present in my story.

When I live in Dublin, I shared my apartment with four other girls and one of them was Chinese. I have to admit Susie own a lot to my Chinese friend.

On the online workshop I was a member of, I met a Mohawk woman who was willing to share knowledge about Indian cultures. I couldn’t believe my good luck. Over the past four years, we’ve become friends and I’m very aware that my story would be – and especially feel – a lot different if I hadn’t met her.

I did read a lot as research for my story, but these personal experience were fundamental. I really think researching Ghost Trilogy has been an enriching personal experience.

I’m a big fan of your blog, over at The Old Shelter, which, for anyone new to it, is stuffed with interesting posts about the prohibition era and DieselPunk. Can you first tell us about DieselPunk as a genre and share some of your favourite reads/films in the genre? 

If I have to be honest, I discovered Dieselpunk by mere chance, but the moment I learned about it, I was hooked. It was very strange, because I was already writing something that could be considered Dieselpunk, only I didn’t know it. In a way, it was like finding my home, you know.

Dieselpunk is a speculative genre that mixes settings of the diesel era and punk elements. There is actually some debate about the definition, but I adhere to Larry Amyett’s ideas. The diesel era goes from the late 1910s (WWI included) to the early 1950s and the story can be set in our world or in a world inspired by this period’s history and events.

The punk element is something more allusive. Many fans think the punk element is the fantasy element. Amyett admits that the fantasy element may be what punks the story up, but the concept is broader. For him, the punk element is a subversive element that may come in many different fashions. If it questions reality how we know it or if it shows it in a different, new way, even if it isn’t fantasy, then it punks the story up and create Dieselpunk.

It’s a more complex (and to me, more satisfying) definition than “it’s Steampunk, but with machines working on internal combustion rather than steam” which you do find on quite a few Dieselpunk blogs and forums.

I wrote about my idea of Dieselpunk in a blog about International Dieselpunk Day, if you are interested to look a bit deeper into the question.

Dieselpunk today is mostly a visual genre. Novels are still in small numbers, mostly located in the self-publishing market. There are authors who are becoming quite popular (I think Ari Marmell, Charles A. Cornell, Bard Constantin, but mostly they are popular inside the community.







Visual stories are a different beast. There are dieselpunk stories that are popular films, some of which broke into the mainstream arena. Indian Jones’s films are probably the most popular of them all, but recently there have been Captain American the First Avenger and the spin-off tv series Agent Carter (which is hugely popular inside the dieselpunk community).

You also do a great post series called The New Woman’s New Look, about how women changed during the 20s and 30s. What’s your favourite thing/tidbit you uncovered when researching the posts? 

I’m having a lot of fun with this series, and the reason I enjoy it so much is that I’m discovering so many things about ourselves. Many things we take for granted appeared in the Twenties for the first time. And as I like to say, history always makes sense. There is always a reason why things happen, and what happened in the Twenties define the entirety of the 20th century.

The history of women is only one of the many changes society went through in that time, but it speaks of a deeper change happening inside the society. Only a small number of women were flappers: they were all a certain age (college student), they mostly belong to a certain class (middle and upper-middle class), they all had time and money on their hands. Many, many women didn’t have all these characteristics at the same time.

Still, when we think to women in the Twenties, we automatically think to the flapper. We think to the fashion and the dances, to bob air and heavy make-up. Women drinking and smoking. Women discovering their sexuality. All of this did happened – to a small number of women. But even women who weren’t actively involved in the change, even men, even older people, all where affected by the evolution of feeling s and ways of thinking the flapper was the more shocking expression of.

As I explained in my first The New Women’s New Look article, the changing fashion and attitude so prominent in the flapper speaks of a wider change in society. A change that went far deeper than women’s look and went right to the core of relationship between genders and ages, between the past and the present. A new way to understand life, closer to what we feel today. What allowed the emergence of the flapper was a profound change in heart and mind that was also the birthing place of society as we understand it today. It’s a lot more than just fashion.

Well thank you so much for taking part Sarah, it was great to have you on the blog! 

Give in to the Feeling – by Sarah Zama

Chicago 1924

Susie has never thought she might want more. More than being Simon’s woman. More than the lush life he’s given her when she came from China. More than the carefree nights of dance in his speakeasy.
Simon has never asked her anything in return but her loyalty. Not a big price.
Until that night.

When Blood enters Simon’s speakeasy, and Susie dances with him, she discovers there’s a completely new world beyond the things she owns and the things she’s allowed to do. A world where she can be her own woman, where she can be the woman she’s supposed to be. A world of sharing and self-expression she has never glimpsed.
But she’s still Simon’s woman, and he won’t allow her to forget it.

Soon Susie will discover there’s more than two men fighting over her in the confrontation between Blood and Simon. There’s a fight breaking through the wall of the real world, into the spirit world where Susie’s freedom may mean life or death for one of them. And if Susie gives in, she will lose more than just her heart and happiness.

Now available for pre-order on:


Sarah Zama was born in Isola della scala (Verona – Italy) where she still lives. She started writing at nine – blame it over her teacher’s effort to turn her students into readers – and in the 1990s she contributed steadily to magazines and independent publishers on both sides of the Atlantic.
After a pause, in early 2010s she went back to writing with a new mindset. The internet allowed her to get in touch with fellow authors around the globe, hone her writing techniques in online workshops and finally find her home in the dieselpunk community.

Since 2010 she’s been working at a trilogy set in Chicago in 1926, historically as accurate as possible but also (as all her stories are) definitely fantasy. She’s currently seeking representation for the first book in the Ghost Trilogy, Ghostly Smell Around.
In 2016, her first book comes out, Give in to the Feeling.

She’s worked for QuiEdit, publisher and bookseller in Verona, for the last ten years.
She also maintain a blog, The Old Shelter, where she regularly blogs about the Roaring Twenties and anything dieselpunk.

How to choose the right editor and editing service, and other great tips with Sue Archer

Today I’m really happy to be interviewing a blogger a lot of you know: Sue Archer, from Doorway Between Worlds. She has recently launched her new freelance editing business, and today she shares with us some tips and ideas on how writers can select the right editor and editing service for them. I’ve already worked with Sue on a short story and will be working with her on the sequel to The Viper and the Urchin once it’s ready, so I’m very excited to share some of Sue’s expertise with you today.

First of all, thanks for taking part, Sue, and for being on the blog today! Tell us a little about yourself and your editing background. 

Thanks for having me on your blog, Celine! It’s great to have the opportunity to chat with you about editing and share some tips with your readers.

It’s so hard to talk about yourself, isn’t it? I’ll do my best. Here’s my story: When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a fantasy novelist, and pursued a Masters degree in English. Like most people who graduate from school, I had no clue about what to do next, but I did know I had to find a job. So I put my fiction writing dream on hold for a while. Instead, I worked in various communications-related roles (technical writer, communications trainer, marketing strategist) where I did a lot of writing and editing.

Gradually, I realized that helping other people write well was even more exciting for me than creating my own stories. So I took courses in editing from Ryerson University’s graduate publishing program, joined Editors Canada, and began applying all the editing skills I had learned over the years towards a new role — freelance editor. Now I help self-publishing authors to polish their writing, and it’s been such a rewarding experience for me.

For anyone interested by the way, the photo to the left is a heavily edited page of Flaubert’s Un Coeur Simple. Goes to show, even literary masters need editing — which is quite reassuring for us mere mortals!

So, Sue, can you give us an overview of the different types of editing there are?

This is such an interesting question, because there are many different terms for editing out there — they vary widely between countries and even between editors. This can make it very hard for writers to know exactly what they are getting. So here’s my first tip — make sure you find out what the exact scope of the “editing” is when you are signing up for editing services.

In general, there are four different levels of editing.

The first level is what’s normally called developmental, structural, or substantive editing. This is a comprehensive hands-on edit of the manuscript content — the “big picture” editing. It involves reorganizing the structure to improve the flow and identifying where content can be added, removed, or changed. In the case of developmental editing, it can also mean working with a book proposal and helping the author write the content from scratch.

The second level is known as stylistic editing. While the substantive edit is at the manuscript level, the stylistic edit is at the paragraph level. In a stylistic edit, paragraphs and sentences are edited to improve transitions, clarify meaning, and eliminate jargon. You may not see this term very often, since this work is usually combined with either the substantive edit or the copy edit.

The copy edit (or line edit) is the third level of editing. The purpose of a copy edit is to eliminate errors and establish consistency throughout the manuscript. This involves editing for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It can also mean checking the manuscript for internal consistency, including the consistency of facts (such as place names and timelines).

The final level is proofreading. This term in particular gets misused a lot, because writers often say they need a “proofread” when what they really need is a copy edit. In traditional publishing, a proofread is the final read-through of the proofs before the work is published. At this point, the manuscript has been typeset and is ready for printing. The proofreader makes sure any changes made by the copy editor were added in correctly, the coding has been done correctly, and that page layouts, page breaks, running heads, and other design-related items are all in place. Many editors do not proofread, since it’s a very specific design-related task.

79693940_24be0eb86e_zHow should a writer decide which editing service is going to be right for her? 

This one can be hard to figure out, since the writer may be too close to the manuscript to know exactly what it needs. I know many of my editing colleagues get requests for a “light copy edit” and discover that the manuscript needs a lot of substantive work for it to be publishable. As you can imagine, this makes for a challenging conversation!

A great way to figure out what your draft needs is to pay for a manuscript assessment. This is a service where the editor writes a report outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript and recommends changes. The editor can point out structural, stylistic, and grammar-related issues. This is perfect for writers who are more hands-on and would like to do most of the work themselves before paying for any actual editing.

For the editing services themselves, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you determine what you need:

How confident are you about what you know? If you’ve learned about story structure and characterization and practiced it in your writing, then you may not need a substantive edit. If you know your grammar inside and out, then you may not need a heavy copy edit (although you will still need some form of copy edit, since we all miss errors in our own work — even editors!).

Are you focused on accessing a market for your work? A qualified substantive editor can recommend changes based on your genre and target audience to help you gain more readers or attract a publisher, if those are your goals.

Are you open to substantial changes in your story? If you’d prefer to have your content largely untouched, and you are only trying to prevent errors, then a copy edit is the way to go.

Whatever you decide, make sure that you and your editor agree on what is needed before the work starts.

Finding the right editor is equally as important as deciding on the kind of editing a manuscript needs, so how should writers go about choosing the right editor for them? Any tips on things to look out for, or questions to ask?

The number one thing you need to find out is whether your editor is qualified to edit your particular manuscript. Having an educational background in English, for example, is not the same as knowing how to edit. Confirm whether your editor has taken any editing training or completed any editing certifications. Editors who take their work seriously are often affiliated with professional associations, such as Editors Canada, the Editorial Freelancers Association (U.S.), or the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (UK).

Ideally, you want someone who has editing experience within your genre, particularly if you are looking for substantive or stylistic editing.

I’d also ask for references or testimonials from previous clients. Probably the best way of finding a qualified editor is through word of mouth. If you like someone’s work, ask who edited it and whether the author would recommend that editor.

Another thing to think about is whether your editor acts like a professional service provider. Think about what you typically look for when hiring anyone to do a service for you. Editing is no different. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is the editor’s online presence consistent with what you would expect from a professional business owner?
  • Is the editor responsive to your questions?
  • Does the editor ask you questions to help determine your specific needs?
  • Are services clearly outlined, with terms and conditions provided in some form of contract for your review and approval?

Ideally you want to have a collaborative relationship with your editor. So the final consideration is whether you “click” with the editor on a personal level. You need to picture yourself working with this person. Do you like the tone of the emails you receive? Does the editor seem genuinely interested in you and your work?

To confirm that you’ve picked the right person, I would recommend asking for a sample edit before committing to anything. Most editors will edit a small sample of your work either for free (which I currently do) or for a nominal fee. A sample edit will help you confirm whether your editor is a good fit for you.

6946253448_0413828369_zEditing is generally the biggest initial outlay for an independent author. It can be a bit daunting spending all that money before the book is even published, and some people may struggle with that cost. Any suggestions on ways authors and editors can help reduce that cost?

The most important thing you can do (as an author) is to self-edit your manuscript thoroughly before submitting it for professional editing. The less time it takes someone to edit your manuscript, the less cost to you. So instead of rushing out to get editing done when you finish your writing, let your draft sit for a while and then go back to it. You’ll have the objectivity to spot things you missed the first time around (or the second, or the third). And please don’t forget to spell check!

A manuscript assessment is an excellent lower-cost way of getting feedback from an editor if you can’t afford a full substantive edit. Another alternative is a mentoring service. I offer one for writers who are looking for feedback on a particular section of a manuscript or have editing-related questions.

The editing contract is a key tool for controlling your costs. Verify what is included in the service (and confirm it through the sample edit). Some editors charge based on the time they spend on the manuscript rather than by the word or the page. Check to see what the maximum fee will be under the contract, and how things will be renegotiated if more work is needed. For a long-term project, pay attention to cancellation terms. If you are not satisfied with the service as things progress, can you cancel with partial payment?

Editors can help to reduce costs by being up front about all fees and discussing individual needs with the client. A flexible editor will adapt the work to the author’s budget by reducing the number of editing passes or focusing only on items the author is particularly concerned about.

A final word of caution on the topic of cost: You’ll find there is a wide range of fees that are charged for editing. Obviously you will want someone who will fit your budget, but I wouldn’t necessarily go with the lowest bidder. Some editors charge a very low fee per word. This means that the editor needs to work very fast to make a living. And you don’t want an editor who will rush through your manuscript.

How can a writer know whether her manuscript is ready for editing? Do you have any tips or suggestions on how authors can self-edit before sending their manuscript to an editor — any books or resources you could share with us?

I’d be sure to take advantage of beta readers and writing critique groups who can provide you with feedback. Solicit opinions from writers you admire and trust. Your editor should not be the first person who provides you with feedback on your manuscript.

Find out your weaknesses and work on them. If you’re not confident in your grammar, for example, take a current grammar course or refer to a resource like Grammar Girl, the Purdue OWL, or Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman.

There are a few good books out there on self-editing. The best one I have seen so far (and recently reviewed) is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Another popular resource is Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell.








I also recommend using a style sheet when editing your work. A style sheet is a place for capturing stylistic decisions on items such as spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. I have a style sheet template on my website that you can use. A style sheet will help you confirm that you’ve applied the same style consistently throughout your manuscript. In addition to helping you edit, it will save your editor effort (which can reduce your editing costs) and will help you avoid any misunderstandings with your editor about your stylistic preferences.

As a very quick aside for anyone reading this, when Sue told me about her template I immediately downloaded it and started using it for the book I’m currently writing. I had never thought of using something so structured, but as a Fantasy writer who makes up a lot of names for places and people, having some formal method to track spellings is proving to be a big help in reducing typos. For anyone not sure how to use stylesheets, Sue’s article on her website is very helpful.

Thank you for sharing that tip Sue! Anything else you would like to share?

As you can probably tell, I could go on and on about the whole topic of editing. 🙂 I would like to share one final piece of advice: Try to think positively about feedback (which is hard, I know) — and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand the reasons for that feedback.

Speaking of questions, I’m happy to answer any questions about editing in the comments. You can also contact me directly — I’d love to hear from you.

And thanks again, Celine, for hosting me on your blog. I had a great time!

Well thank you for sharing all that information with us, Sue, that was really helpful!

Connect with Sue:





Humour and Murder Mysteries: An Interview with Duncan Whitehead

Today I have an interview with award winning comedic writer, Duncan Whitehead, and we talk about his series of cozy, humorous mysteries The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club. Duncan also write parodies of the news over at The Spoof.

Thanks for being on the blog today Duncan! First, tell us a little bit about yourself and about The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club 

The book is the type of novel that I would read.  Mystery, Humor and a great twist at the end.  I have always loved ‘who dunnits’ and this book is certainly a who dunnit but, also a ‘who did it’ as the actual killer, their motives are not revealed until the victim is killed. I love flashbacks and flash forwards – that tie up a plotline!

The book takes place in Gordonston Park, in Savannah. What was it about this place that made you want to set the book in it? 

I lived in the real Gordonston for a while.  It is a kind of quirky neighborhood.  The park (which does exist) is eery, even during the day.  I spent hours there with my daughter, and that’s when I came up with the idea for the book.

I googled the park, and it does look very creepy – those trees especially!

Did you find yourself ‘borrowing’ expressions or lines of dialogues from what you heard around you in Savannah, or are your characters completely made up? 

Absolutely: I have used phrases, colloquialisms, banter and stories I have heard – I just love the people and their sayings!

Your story also takes place in Bueno Aires and Paris. How did you research both places? 

I lived in Buenos Aires for three years, hence my knowledge of the city and its neighborhoods, or barrios.  I have visited Paris several times – though the Hotel in Paris is made up.

In researching your book, what was the funniest/most random/most interesting thing you came across? 

Well, believe it or not, it was that Hitler (boo) rescued and adopted a dog during the First World War!

I’d heard about that – probably the man’s one and only redeeming feature. I feel sorry for the dog though!

Thanks for taking part Duncan! 

The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club, by Duncan Whitehead


Little is what it seems to be in a leafy Savannah neighborhood as members of an afternoon cocktail and dog walking club mourn a neighbor’s death. Jealousies surface when friends vie for the widower running for mayor. An old woman with an infamous uncle plots to avenge a wrong. Memories haunt a once successful children’s writer. And a model has won the trip of a lifetime.

But a killer lurks and secrets unfold, as does a web of deceit. Is anyone really who he or she seems to be? A mysterious South American, a young Italian count, and a charitable nephew add suspicion and intrigue, as do an enigmatic organization linked to organized crime, a handsome firefighter, and three widows with hidden agendas. What’s a retired accountant’s secret, and why did a former showgirl really have plastic surgery?

The plot thickens, the Georgia temperature rises, and someone is destined for an early unmarked grave. The truth contorts to a climax that leaves readers breathless.

Now Available at:


About the Author:


Winner of the 2013 and 2014 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award and Gold Medalist.

Multi Award Winning Author, Duncan Whitehead hails from the UK and after a successful career in the Royal Navy where he served in British Embassies throughout South America before he joined the world of superyachts.

Eventually retiring to Savannah, Georgia, he began to partake of his greatest passion, writing. Initially writing short stories he finally put pen to paper and wrote THE GORDONSTON LADIES WALKING CLUB, inspired by the quirky characters and eeriness of his new environment. The book, a dark comedy mystery, which boasts an assortment of characters and plot twists, is set in the leafy neighborhood where he once lived.

His passion for comedy saw submissions to many online satire news sites and a stint performing as a stand-up comedian.

Duncan has written over 2,000 spoof and comedy news articles, under various aliases, for an assortment of websites both in the US and the UK.

He has penned further novels; a comedy set in Manhattan, THE RELUCTANT JESUS, published in April 2014 and republished in July 2015. He has also recently released the final book in the Gordonston Ladies Trilogy.   He has also recently published two short stories.

Well known for his charity work, kindness to animals, children and old people; and, of course, his short-lived bullfighting career and his hideous hunchback.


Other Books by the Author: