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:


An Interview with Ravven — Steampunk and Fantasy Digital Artist

I’m really excited about today’s interview. Most of you will remember my book cover (it’s in the sidebar for anyone new to the blog), which was designed by the wonderful Ravven. Well today I’m interviewing her about her creative process.

As someone who has is utterly unable to do anything visual, be it digitally or otherwise, I found it really interesting to dig a little into what goes on behind the scenes when creating digital art. Before we get stuck into the interview, I wanted to showcase one photo in particular that really struck a chord with me. It’s called Medusa in the Boudoir:

Medusa in the Boudoir

Medusa in the Boudoir

Isn’t it wonderful? I saw it and went *wow* — and immediately contacted Ravven to see if she’d be free to do my book cover (lucky for me she was.) This is by far my favourite piece. It’s not just that it’s beautiful, or that it looks like a painting — it’s the story and the emotion that emanates from it that I really love. Anyway, enough of my gushing. On with the interview!

Thanks for taking part in the interview Ravven, and for being on the blog today! Now obviously you do book covers, but you also create pieces of digital art that are unrelated to any book. How do you start working on these kinds of project? Do you already have a full idea in mind of what you want to create and how it will look, or do you get inspired by coming across a particular photo/object/model and build the art work around that? 

I am usually inspired by images, which is why the personal art is easier. When you’re working on a cover you are usually working to a very defined brief, so of course it isn’t as free-flowing. On the other hand, it is when you work within a set of constraints and requirements that the challenge becomes really interesting – sometimes you end up with something very special that you may not have come up with on your own. At its best, a cover is a collaboration between the author’s ideas and the vision of the artist. It’s why I love this work!

At times I need to take a step back and just let the creative batteries recharge before I begin doing commercial work again. It’s nice to have the freedom to do that and I feel very fortunate! This feels like the best of both worlds.

In relation to your question, personal pieces usually start with a central stock image that I fall in love with. Sometimes I want to do something around a concept (loneliness, etc.) but usually I just fall in love with a stunning image and want to create something with it.

The thing that really struck me about your art is that there’s such a sense of story to it (such as in the Dollmaker photo on the left). Of course, cover designs will have that element of story, but even projects that are unrelated to any book seem to be a moment in a story. When I look at them I want to sit down and write the story I can see lurking behind the artwork. Is this something you set out to do? Do you try to create a story or characters, or is it purely visual for you?



For me it is very visual, but the image won’t work unless it develops a story. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it feels as though it unfolds as you work on it and becomes something more – often something that you didn’t originally intend it to! It’s probably a lot like a writer pantsing rather than plotting. Unless it becomes something much deeper than you originally intended, it won’t be as successful. It may be a pretty image, but won’t have any emotion to it.

That makes perfect sense. I think that happens with any creative process, even if there is a plan or outline beforehand. Art in whatever form always seems to take on a life of its own after a while.

Do you only work in digital, or do you also work with more traditional / analog methods? If you work with more than one medium, which is your favourite and which is the most challenging?

Currently I work almost exclusively in digital. I used to do all watercolour (actually, pen and ink overlaid with watercolour), but currently I only work digitally. My drawing skills aren’t at a professional level and never will be, so I can’t satisfy my love of photo-realism. 🙂 Years ago I worked in the art department of a high-end photo studio in Los Angeles and I learned a lot about retouching and subtly enhancing or changing a face. I still use a lot of those skills now, but the work is done in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. Much easier than working with photo dyes or working on negatives!

Madonna of the Desert

Do you take inspiration from other art forms, like film/books/music/video games?

Always. I think that as creatives of any kind we always take in inspiration from everything that we see and experience. Books, movies, games, art – everything goes into the subconscious hopper and becomes new ideas. There are a lot of movies that mean a great deal to me because they’re so gorgeous visually, such as the Jennifer Lopez movie The Cell. Admittedly not the best film ever (more of a guilty pleasure), but such a dreamlike gorgeous movie!


Could you give us a very quick walkthrough of the process of creating a piece of digital art?

On a book cover project, I’ll normally start with models first. I do quite a lot of mockups for all the models that I think might work, but usually only a few backgrounds/environments. The models are composited with the background to give a feel of what the overall cover will look like, but usually they don’t all have the correct hair or clothing – piecing that together is very time-consuming and I don’t do it at this stage. I have text on the image mainly as a placeholder so I’m not tempted to fill that area up with detail, but it will all be changed later on.

Once a model has been chosen, I’ll do a much more finished version with the correct clothing and hair. This goes back to the author for approval before I start the final paint layers – this will give all of the detail, highlights, shadows, etc. Then we have a final round of mockups with different fonts and text treatments, and we’re close to done. I covered this in more detail here:

Thank you so much for being on the blog today Ravven! I really enjoyed chatting with you. 

Desert Warrior - Ravven

Desert Warrior – Ravven

If anyone’s looking for book covers, I can’t recommend Ravven enough. She currently has a selection of beautiful pre-designed covers that you can find here. Even if you’re not a writer looking for a cover, you can have a browse through her art portfolio here. Finally, you can find out more about Ravven’s custom book covers here.

Connect with Ravven: 


Political Machinations in Ancient Greece… An Interview with Nicholas Rossis

Today I have an interview that I’m very excited to share with you. I talk to Nicholas Rossis about his book Pearseus: Rise of the Prince and we discuss politics in Ancient Greece, what life was like for women in Athens, and much more.

The interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do. And now, on with the interview!

Thanks for taking part in the interview Nicholas, and for being on the blog today! Tell us first a little bit about your book.

cover_rise_800Hi Celine, many thanks for having me here! I assume you’re referring to Pearseus? Its concept came to me after reading Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series, followed by Jim Lacey’s The First Clash and Herodotus’ Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia, which describe the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC.

Marathon Bay is a 20’ drive from my home, and I’d often visited the tomb where the ancient Athenians buried their dead, so I thought at the time, “wouldn’t it be great if someone did what Martin did for medieval England, only with the story of Greece vs. Persia? And in space? How cool would that be?” Then it occurred to me: so, what’s stopping me from writing it?

I have to admit it’s the first time I’ve come across a book that mixes science-fiction with Ancient Greek culture — but it works very well! 

Can you tell me a little about the kind of research you did into Ancient Greece? What are the most interesting/random facts you unearthed? Were there any books or websites that were particularly useful in your research?

I’m so glad to hear it worked for you! Pearseus follows the overall story arc of Herodotus’ seminal work, Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia, which describes the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC. Only, my book is set in the future. While researching it, I read Lacey’s book, Herodotus and a lot of Wikipedia articles.

An interesting factoid: I had originally chosen the title Perseus for the series, but a good friend of mine, Mike Cardwell, asked me if I had considered how many other books are titled Perseus on Amazon. A quick search revealed over 10,000 books with that name! Obviously, something had to change, and it occurred to me to make it Pearseus instead, using a pun to justify the change.

As for facts I unearthed during my research, they’re too many to list here. One particularly interesting fact, which I did not mention in Pearseus, concerns the role of women. In Athens, women were little more than property.  They had no voting rights, nor were they allowed a life outside the home.  As soon as a girl reached puberty, she was locked up until she got married.  After that, a woman’s place was at home, raising her children and taking care of her husband.  What would get people arrested nowadays, was common practice back then.

Strangely enough, it was the prostitutes who enjoyed freedom.  Much like the famous courtisanes, their 19th century French counterparts, or the Japanese geishas, these were women of exceptional beauty, skilled in oratory and philosophy.  In the deeply chauvinistic Athenian society, men freely fraternized with them at the famous symposia, or dinner parties, before returning to their home and loving wives.

Prostitutes were highly educated, had the right to possess property of their own and often escorted kings and philosophers.  Their clients included legendary Pericles and Socrates; cities built temples in their honor and showered them in gold.  This, in a city where it was considered a deadly insult to the husband if his wife was caught even conversing with another man.

If you’re interested in the subject, I have written a post dedicated just to that aspect of Greek society, called The Real Women of Pearseus.

That’s quite incredible about Athen’s double standards as far as women go. It sounds like life was far better for the prostitutes! (I highly recommend Nicholas’ article on women in Ancient Greece by the way, the part about Spart is fascinating) 

The world you created is full of political intrigue and scheming politicians. How did you go about creating all those complex alliances and betrayals, political deals and manoeuvres?

Lol – I have my ancestors to thank for that. Will you believe that most of the stranger stories are based in actual history? For example, my character, Sol, is an amalgamation of Solon, Athens’ first law-giver, and Peisistratos, a cunning politician who usurped power and used it to end decades of civil strife. His reformations lay behind Athens’ classical glory, helped by Solon’s wise laws.

These men are considered heroes of classical Greece, but only after growing up did I realize the devious lengths to which they went to ensure their triumph over their political opponents. For example, Peisistratos was a ruthless, cunning dictator who staged an assassination attempt against himself. And Solon pretending for a whole year to be mad, so he would excused when he spoke in favor of war – a crime punishable by death by Draco’s laws.

The history of Pearseus includes one population colonising another’s territory. Did you base this on the the colonisation of a particular country on Earth?

Some readers have speculated that the First are based on native Americans, and I can see why. There is an influence there, as witnessed by the small-scale warring between tribes and the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

However, most of my descriptions stem from a combination of prehistoric beliefs in Mother Earth (The Lady worshipped by the First) and the Scythians; a warlike tribe that populated Thrace and the Black Sea in antiquity. This is where truth and fiction divert, of course, as the Persian king Cyrus was in fact killed while fighting the Scythians. Unless something changes dramatically, I’d like to avoid this fate for my Cyrus!

There are a number of large scale battles in this story, with tactics that bring to mind Sun Tzu’s Art of War. In fact one of your characters, Parad, recites a few strategy of war quotes. Are they real or made up? And how did you go about planning those battles? Did you research any particular Grecian or European wars for inspiration?

Most of the quotes are real, and taken from either the Art of War or the Tao Te Ching; one of my favorite books, which I have translated into Greek. I did research a lot of battles, such as the Battle of Golden Spurs. The main battle between the Loyalists and Parad was based on a stratagem by Alexander the Great. He crossed the river Aly at night (yes, that’s the river’s actual name) to emerge from behind the Persians and launch a surprise attack.

The idea of using a herd of buffalos to break up the enemy’s formations is all mine, though.

Then, the war between Scorpio and the Argonites is based on the actual war between Sparta and Argos. The Spartans had noticed that Argos was mimicking their commands, so used it to their advantage to crush them. When Argos’ warriors fled, they hid in a sacred woods. Unable to enter, the Spartans lured the survivors out by falsely suggesting that their families had ransomed their safety. The Spartans then killed them one by one as they emerged from the woods.

I love reading history because it really is stranger than fiction…

We are introduced to Tie, a priestess of Themis, and she explains a little about the religion — or rather the ideal, that so many people in your world worship. Where did the inspiration come from for this religion?

Religion and philosophy play a huge part in Pearseus, so I’m really glad that you ask. Some concepts, such as the soul splitting up upon entering the multiverse is all my own, just like the concept of the Iota.

More than anything, I wanted to show that our actions stem from our beliefs, and that these are heavily influenced by religion. At first, I had wanted to address this from an unusual point of view; that of the future of religions. For example, how would Buddhists, Christians and Muslims get along, if forced to cohabit? You can see a hint of that in the Shared temples.

However, I soon realized I was opening a can of worms. There was no way I could write something like that without offending pretty much everyone. After much thought, I chose instead to create a new religion, based on the ancient Greek worship of Themis; the Titan goddess of divine law and order. This tied in nicely with the concept of the limits of power and the claims to justice made by virtually every ruler in history.

“Justice without compassion is but tyranny” is not just a clever phrase; to me it’s a way of living. A religion based on that concept had to be a good one, but I also wanted to show how easy it is to corrupt a religion. In Endgame, the last book in the series, the new head priest, Alexander does just that.

Thank you so much for coming on the blog today Nicholas, that was so interesting! 

Pearseus: Rise of the Prince by Nicholas Rossis


Humanity starts all over again on Pearseus, a distant planet.

Cyrus, the young son of general Parad, is abducted by Justice Styx, ruler of the Capital. She orders a cruel death for the child, thinking this will spare her a foretold death in his hands. But Cyrus escapes with the help of the First – Pearseus’ indigenous people.

David, a young servant, is joined by an ethereal entity. Together, they escape the Capital and join Cyrus and the First. They all become embroiled in the complex political and philosophical factions of a multi-dimensional world. To their surprise, they have a key role to play in saving the planet’s inhabitants from annihilation.

Now Available:

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Nicholas has also just released a new book: Infinite Waters: 9+1 Speculative Fiction Short Stories. It’s available on Amazon and is free on Kindle Unlimited. The anthology includes the following stories:



  1. Infinite Waters“: A woman seeks her future at a carnival. She discovers more than she expected.”
  2. The Things We Do for Lust“: Beware of Greek gods bearing gifts.
  3. James’ Life“: A man with nothing to look forward to but oblivion, discovers it’s not that easy to escape his life.
  4. Two’s a Crowd“: Blood runs thicker than water. Especially when you spill it.
  5. What’s in a Name?“: A pleasure cruise to the moon has an unexpected ending.
  6. The Lucky Bastard“: How far will the luckiest man alive go to escape his luck?
  7. “A Twist of the Tail“: A confused woman meanders through a sleepy town. But not all is as it seems.
  8. Is There a Doctor in the House?“: A high school student just loves to experiment.
  9. Sex and Dinner“: A timeless combination. Or is it?
  10. Would You Like Flies With That?“: Nothing’s scarier than a supermarket.
  11. The Hand of God“: Nothing has prepared this grizzly veteran for a meeting with his god*.
    (* first published in The Power of Six)

About the author:

book photo NR_1000Nicholas C. Rossis lives to write and does so from his cottage on the edge of a magical forest in Athens, Greece. When not composing epic fantasies or short sci-fi stories, he chats with fans and colleagues, writes blog posts, walks his dog, and enjoys the antics of two silly cats, one of whom claims his lap as home. His children’s book, Runaway Smile, earned a finalist slot in the 2015 International Book Awards.

What readers are saying about Nick’s fantasies:

“Most avid readers still have books from their childhood which they read over and over again. ‘Runaway Smile’ has joined the list.”

“From the very first sentence I realized I was not reading a book, I was going on an adventure.”

For more on Nick or just to chat, visit him on:


Playing with Swords and Creepy Swamps… An Interview with Lori MacLaughlin

Today I have an interview with fellow blogger Lori MacLaughlin, and we talk about her Fantasy saga Lady, Thy Name is Trouble.

The interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do. And now, on with the interview!

Thanks for taking part and being on the blog today Lori! Could you please start by telling us a bit about your book?

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 15.32.02Thanks so much for having me here, Celine! Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble is a fantasy adventure novel with a side of romance. Main characters Tara and Laraina Triannon are sword-for-hire sisters, whose exploits are legendary. They get caught in the middle of a surprise invasion of the Dhanarran kingdom, but they manage to escape, along with Dhanarra’s playboy prince (Laraina’s current lover) and a young sorceress whose spells never work quite right.

The invading general sends his executioner, the Butcher, after them, a terrifying wolf-like assassin no one has ever escaped, to keep them from warning the neighboring kingdoms of the general’s marauding ways.

While on the run from the Butcher, they enlist the aid of Jovan Trevillion, a mysterious rogue with an agenda of his own. Sparks fly between Jovan and Tara, though she tries her best to snuff them out, having been burned badly by another handsome rogue in the past.

Many dangers and soul-searching moments test their endurance as they fight to save themselves and the neighboring kingdoms. Through it all, Tara is tormented by nightmares caused by the use of her long-hidden magic. An evil Being, caught in a centuries-old trap, seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams.

Tara must find a way to stop the marauding general’s quest for vengeance, save herself and her companions from the Butcher, and somehow prevent the evil being from destroying her mind and escaping to annihilate the world of Alltyyr.

Looking at the general research you did for Lady Thy Name is Trouble, what are the most interesting/random facts you uncovered?

Most of the research I did for this book revolved around the sword fighting and the army battles. I wanted them to be believable, but, since this is a fantasy, I didn’t want to be tied down by real time period expectations in terms of weapons and tactics. I’ve always been fascinated by swords. The most interesting fact, to me, was that most medieval swords weighed between 2.5 and 4 pounds. Even the two-handed great swords generally weighed between 5 and 8 pounds. The idea that these swords required Arnold Schwarzenegger-type strength to wield is a myth.

I also researched castle terminology to learn more about different types of castles and what the various parts were called, such as barbicans (stone buildings with towers and portcullises, used as gatehouses), battlements (the walkway along the top of a defensive wall for fighting or guard patrol), and murder holes (holes or trapdoors that allowed for attacking the area below). One thing I discovered is that the raised sections that look like teeth on top of the parapet (the low wall atop the curtain wall that protects the battlements) have their own name. They’re called merlons, and the spaces between the merlons are embrasures. Rows of alternating merlons and embrasures are called crenellations. I found it odd that an empty space had a specific name.

That’s interesting about the embrasures – it’s also a French word that means the same as in English, but it also means the empty space within a window frame or doorway (it’s still very much used nowadays.) I guess it must be a leftover from the time the Normans ruled England back in the 11th century. 

Your main character, Tara, is forever getting herself into fights and brawls, which is very entertaining! How did you go about writing the fight scenes?

I broke the scenes down into individual movements and choreographed them in my head, again, wanting to be realistic but unorthodox, too. Tara is not a classically trained sword fighter, by any means. She learned how to handle a sword from a pirate/smuggler who rarely ever followed any rules.

The best part was acting out the scenes (sort of, since I was by myself) to see if they worked and made sense. I own a few full-size swords that are meant to be decorative, but are a whole lot of fun to play with.

You and Charles Yallowitz ought to exchange notes on acting out fight scenes (he does it too!) I love that you own swords — between you and Charles, I’m feeling very inadequate with my lack of acting out fight scenes and my non owning of swords. What kind of swords do you have by the way? 

I have a few replicas of ceremonial swords belonging to historical figures, such as Sir Francis Drake and Charlemagne, a Viking dagger, and a collection of miniatures (about 12 inches long) representing swords through the ages. I used to collect them a long time ago when I had a little extra money to spend. If I ever find myself in that position again, I’d love to get some of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings blades. They are breathtaking.

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Replica of Charlemagne’s sword, taken by Kari Jo Spear

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Replica of Sir Francis Drake’s sword, taken by Kari Jo Spear

I can understand why you’d act out your fight scenes with those swords – they’re beautiful!

Your characters travel through a rather terrifying place called the Bog, which is populated by all sorts of horrid creatures, including lots of spider (eep!) How did you go about creating such a place — did you use any real or fictional places for inspiration?

I created the creepiest place I could think of, somewhere I definitely would not want to go, and filled it with creatures I would NOT want to meet — particularly the spiders. Just writing about them gave me the willies. The Bog isn’t based on any real place, per se, but I did look at a lot of spooky swamp photos online, some of which were real, some artistically rendered.






Do you have any particular books or websites you go to for inspiration when you need to research something for a story?

One of the books I own that has been useful is The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference published by Writer’s Digest Books. I’ve also found the Lord of the Rings to be inspirational. The battle scenes from those movies are awe-inspiring. I’ve taken bits and pieces from other sword fights I’ve seen in the movies and on TV and incorporated them into my mental library of maneuvers I draw on when choreographing a scene. Things I learned in the self-defense martial arts classes I took a few years ago sometimes make their way into my stories, as well.







As far as websites go, I don’t have any particular one I go to for information. I type key words for what I need to research into a search engine and start reading. It’s absolutely amazing what you can find online.

That’s very true. Well, thank you so much for being here today Lori! 

Lady, Thy Name is Trouble, by Lori MacLaughlin

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Trouble is Tara Triannon’s middle name. As swords for hire, Tara and her sister Laraina thrive on the danger. But a surprise invasion throws them into chaos… and trouble on a whole new level. Pursued by the Butcher, a terrifying assassin more wolf than man, Tara and Laraina must get a prince marked for death and a young, inept sorceress to safety. There’s only one problem – eluding the Butcher has never been done. Aided by a secretive soldier of fortune, they flee the relentless hunter.

Gifted with magic and cursed by nightmares that are all too real, Tara must stop an army led by a madman and fend off an evil Being caught in a centuries-old trap who seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams – all while keeping one step ahead of the Butcher.

Now Available at: 


Book Trailer:

About the author:

LoriLMacLaughlinLori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She’s been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids’ shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she’s not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.