Friday, March 30, 2012

Interview with author, Natalie Hancock

It's my pleasure to welcome author, Natalie Hancock to my blog today

Tell us something about yourself and how you became a writer.

I’m Natalie Hancock, I was born in Plymouth Devon and moved to Lincoln at a young age. I have been to University of Lincoln, Riseholme College, studying a course on Animal Care, which I did for two years. I now live in the middle of nowhere with my partner, Reece, and our little zoo, which includes my hamster named Crunch, a chinchilla called Hektor and three guinea pigs, Fluff, Smudge and Squig.
We both love animals and hope to have an army of guinea pigs, hamsters and chinchilla’s. Along with a goat.

I started writing when I had this weird, but awesome dream, and because I didn’t want to forget it (which happened a lot) I wrote it down, and I guess I never stopped writing.

The first series I ever wrote was about witches. I tried to get those published but had trouble with con men. So gave up.

It remains to be seen what will happen with those books. They were the first I’d ever written and I would like to get them published so we will see.

After that series, I wrote my first vampire book, which I didn’t finish because I ended up having ideas for a werewolf book, and then another book, this time about demons. I have a lot of unfinished books.

Eternal Darkness is the first vampire erotic book I ever wrote, which was new to me because I kept getting embarrassed over what I was writing. I got over it quickly though!

I am now currently writing the sixth book in the Cursed in Darkness Series.

Tell us about your novel?

Cursed in Darkness is a vampire paranormal romance/erotica series. Eternal Darkness is the first book in the series.

It’s about Layla, a half vampire, half human who is sent to live in the hundred acres of land full of vampires for her own safety. The only problem is she hungers for the vampires’ blood, so when she has lessons with them, not only does she struggle with the hunger raging inside of her, but she has to learn to trust those around her, something she can’t do because she has a dark past, and because of it, she has trouble trusting anyone.

She knows she’s in as much danger inside the land as she was when she was outside the land, and she can’t shake off the feeling that something or someone is watching her, waiting to attack, despite the guards watching her every move.

When she meets one of the tutors, she feels things towards him and wants both his blood and his body, but it’s forbidden to feel the way they do and Layla must fight her feelings otherwise the secrets she desperately wants to remain a secret will get out, and put her in more danger than she already is.

What have you had published to-date?

I’ve only had one book published to date and that’s Eternal Darkness. My next book, Dark Shadows is going to be released April, and Dark Awakening, June.

Tell us a little about your road to publication. Was it a long one? Do you have an agent? In your opinion are they even necessary?

When I decided to get my work published, my lovely sister helped me out a lot—with a LOT of persuasion. She gave me half of a list of publishers to look at while she looked at the other half. She actually did most of the emailing because, once I looked into them, most of the publishers wanted an author who had previously published their works. Or an agent.

When I did get to one that required neither, I emailed the submission form, along with what they asked on the submission and just waited.

After two or three weeks, I began receiving emails from the publishers Shelby had contacted for me. They all said the same thing. “Your work isn’t right for us at this time.” Now that wasn’t because I wasn’t a good writer, because some of the publishers told me they enjoyed what they read, and thought I was a talented writer. It was because my work was over 150k words long.

When the publisher I had emailed, contacted me back, I honestly expected the worst.

I was surprised. She didn’t tell me what the others had. She said, “if you make these changes, I’ll look at your work again.” I was really excited then. It took me a week to split Eternal Darkness into, Eternal Darkness, Dark Shadows and Dark Awakening and once I sent my work off, within two hours, I had a contract and had basically joined the family.

I don’t think an agent is necessary, in my opinion. If your work is good enough, you don’t need one to be published.

How much of the marketing do you do?

Most of it. I know my publisher does some, but it is my job to do the promoting, and I do. I promote every day, as much as I can. It’s hard work but it’ll get me somewhere one day.

Anything you’ve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book?

You get to meet awesome people! Marketing, for me, isn’t about getting more people to buy my book. It’s about meeting new people and getting to know them. If they want to read my book, they will read it. I can’t make people do anything, and it would be a waste of time to even try.

Where can readers find you?

Twitter: @Author_Natalie


Buy links:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with author and actor, Stephen Jared

As an actor Stephen Jared has appeared in feature films and television series, as well as commercials for both radio and television. His writings, including articles and interviews, have appeared in various publications. In 2010, he self-published an adventure novel titled Jack and the Jungle Lion to much critical praise, including an honorable mention in the 2011 Hollywood Book Festival. He is currently at work on a sequel. Together, they will be the first two stories of an extended series.
Various neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles have been called home for more than twenty years. Prior to that, Stephen was a kid in Cincinnati where he excelled at watching a lot of good movies. The Indiana Jones series pointed him in the direction of Hollywood's classic era. Today, his literary works are largely inspired by old-Hollywood and the action-oriented pulps.

Stephen is thrilled to have Solstice Publishing release Ten-A-Week Steale. The idea for the novel came out of a desire to utilize a lifetime of research on early Hollywood, however, it soon evolved into a violent tale about a soldier and a politician who turn from loving brothers to bitter rivals, with the silent film community as a backdrop. Further information about Stephen’s work as an actor and a writer can be found at

Where did the inspiration for your novel, TEN-A-WEEK STEALE, come from?

My whole life I’ve been a massive fan of classic Hollywood films. So, the concoction starts with those old Bogart and Cagney films. Add to that a love of Hollywood history and its most exciting time being the 20s and 30s. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over twenty years. My passions and personal experiences gave me a strong setting, a foundation, a tone. And then I thought, “I wonder if I could write something that took place back then that captures the feel of those old movies, and has relevance to our present day world.” Soldiers and politicians rushed to the forefront of our news over the last several years in a way they hadn’t since the early seventies. I decided to write about a soldier and a politician who are very much opposites, and yet they’re brothers, with silent film-era Hollywood as background.

Tell us a little about your road to publication. Was it a long one? Do you have an agent?

I had a short adventure novel set in the 30s that I knew would never get a chance from a publishing house. So, I self-published it. I managed to get nice reviews, won an Honorable Mention in the Hollywood Book Festival, and was told that only five percent of books submitted received recognition. With Ten-A-Week Steale being a more accessible genre, much closer to proper length, I decided to try for an agent and got only rejection notices. I couldn’t get anyone to read page one. I submitted it to two publishing houses that didn’t require an agent. One was Solstice and they thankfully picked it up. From completing the novel to seeing its release took about eighteen months.

The artwork on your cover is very interesting. Can you tell us a little about the artist?

Atula Siriwardane. He lives in Sri Lanka. I saw a piece of his online and it knocked me out. He worked extremely hard on Ten-A-Week Steale. I’m particular about the cover art – I’d imagine more so than most writers. I think Atula ended up very pleased with the work he did on it, and he should be. He did a terrific job. I wanted something that resembled old-Hollywood movie posters, but with a completely different feel from the previous release. 
What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing?

The years between ’75 and ’85 were incredible for movies. And, as a young boy growing up at that time, I was defenceless against their powers of seduction. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to move from Ohio to Hollywood and take my shot at getting involved. I wrote screenplays for years and came close a couple times but never sold anything. I placed well in a screenplay competition. I wrote at least fifteen screenplays. One day it dawned on me – Hollywood doesn’t make the kind of films I like much anymore. Why am I banging my head against the wall? I had producers tell me they liked my scripts, but that studios wouldn’t be interested. For a long time I ignored this. But at some point my efforts seemed to become ridiculous, especially as almost everything Hollywood was making was part of a brand name. My stories were of no interested to them. Meanwhile, I had been writing some journalistic pieces and getting them published. In 2010, I decided to take one of my old scripts and adapt it as a short adventure novel.
Has your career as an actor helped or hindered you as an author?

Given how incredibly difficult it is to succeed in either profession, I might have been better off focusing on just one. A narrow, tunnel-vision determination is necessary, unless you’re super-connected. That said, I think I’m a better actor thanks to being a writer, and I think my writing has been informed by my acting in a positive way too. Also, on a personal level, I think both professions come with a risk of leap-from-a-tall-building madness. For years, when I received disappointment from one, I would simply focus on the other. Perhaps as a consequence, I’m still standing.  

As a veteran actor, you must have some interesting stories. Would you care to share one with our readers?

I played a small role in Seabiscuit. It was a huge thrill to be on-set in period costume with those stars, and perhaps most meaningful to me – Steven Spielberg was there. His friends Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, who produced all the Indiana Jones films, produced Seabiscuit. These people were directly responsible for me dreaming of a career as an actor and storyteller. Here I am on their set shooting a film that takes place in the thirties! Almost a year later, the film was a couple weeks from release and I couldn’t wait. One Wednesday morning I got a call saying I was cut from the film. It was a pacing issue – the little scene I was in slowed the film and the runtime was already long. It was crushing. Three hours later I got a call from my agent giving me information for a commercial audition for the next day. It was for a fast-food chain called Jack in the Box. I had zero enthusiasm for this at first because I was still upset. But a voice inside me said, “You’ll get this, and it’ll make up for the loss of Seabiscuit.” I’m not a deeply religious person, not metaphysical, never have premonitions about anything, so it was a very strange thing to have a voice that spoke with such certainty. I hadn’t been doing commercials. It was June and this was my third commercial audition for the year. It’s not uncommon to audition for a hundred commercials and get nothing. Anyway, it turned into a job that stretched over seven years. I ended up doing nearly twenty commercials for them. It changed my life. You never know what’s around the corner. It’s like the Sinatra song goes, “Riding high in April, shot down in May!” except in Hollywood it’s more like, “Riding high at two, shot down by four!” That’s life.  

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I just hope to be working hard. I like to work. Not working is difficult for me. I also hope that five years from now comes slowly. The previous five years went by in a flash.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Hemmingway once said that a writer should eliminate the favorite lines and see if the story still makes sense. That had a big impact on me. Basically I think what he’s saying is the same advice given to actors, which is to make the work disappear. One should never see the work an actor does in a performance. Same thing with writing. If the reader glimpses the writer’s efforts it becomes a distraction. Acting should look effortless. Writing is the same. You want it to appear as if it came about spontaneously. I hear people all the time complain that this actor or that actress just plays himself or herself and is the same in every movie. If great acting was all about becoming someone else, someone far removed from who they were in their last performance then Meryl Streep would be the only decent acting talent on the planet. Watch You’ve Got Mail. Look at how spontaneous Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan seem. Consider that every line they utter was done multiple times from multiple angles over and over and over again – and yet the work is invisible.   

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Honestly, nothing comes to mind. When weaknesses are mentioned I try to learn and feel grateful to be learning. When strengths are mentioned I just think, “Yep, I know. Pretty amazing, huh?”

Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.

I write with old-Hollywood in mind. It’s a big romantic language. It doesn’t shy from being sentimental. It goes for the throat. I think subtlety has a place of course, but it’s also a little over-rated. People often feel smart to discover the barely perceptible things, and they like that. But I’m not interested in massaging anyone’s intellect. I want to make readers feel something. I want to make them laugh and cry. I want to punch them in the gut. I want to remind them they’re alive.    

Where can your readers follow you? (include all the purchase links and social media links you want)

I’m easily found on Amazon, Solstice Publishing, Facebook, Twitter (@stephen_jared) – and my own website,

Thank you, Stephen, for stopping by and best of luck with all your endeavors :D

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Publishing Audio Books with guest blogger Wayne Zurl

Publishing Audio Books & eBooks at the Same Time

(Or: How to Sell Virtually Unsellable Novelettes)

Playing second fiddle to James Patterson shouldn’t be all that troubling to a new author trying to peddle his first novel. And for me, it wasn’t. It was educational.

I finished my first book, A NEW PROSPECT, late in 2006 and began making the rounds, querying agents interested in mysteries and police procedurals. As the rejection letters trickled in, I wrote shorter mysteries for practice.

The rejections kept piling up and I kept writing. After I finished a half-dozen stories, all of them in the 8,000 to 11,000 word range, I developed a bright idea. I’d try to sell them, too. So, I tried Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Strand, and a couple others. No takers with the first one. Okay, said I, try a different story. Still no takers, but one acquisitions editor did have the courtesy to write back and tell me why no one wanted to buy what I was offering.

He said most mainstream mystery magazines wanted short stories, preferably less than 3,500 words. I had submitted a novelette. (Defined as between 7,500 and 17,500 words) He further stated, “Everybody writes novelettes and we do publish them, but only one a year.” That offered a little hope. Then he unloaded his full compliment of bombs. “But if we’ve got a bunch of them sitting here and it’s between you and James Patterson, who do you think we’re going to pick?”

Enough said. These people are in the business of selling magazines not giving new guys a break unless they can make a buck at it. So, I took the hint, continued to try and interest someone in A NEW PROSPECT, and I kept on writing for practice.

Then somewhere, I can’t remember where, I ran across Mind Wings Audio. They were looking for authors who could supply stories between 7,800 and 11,000 words destined to translate into fifty-five to seventy minute “commuter” audio books on compact discs. I blinked a few times and thought something had just been dropped from heaven.

I looked at their retail website at and saw a list of CDs in many genres, my field of mystery & crime and detectives being only two. And not only did they offer these audio books as CDs, but also as MP3 downloads (I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I learned) and more formats of eBooks than I knew existed.

At that time Mind Wings was less than a year old, but I thought it looked promising and I had nothing to lose, so I jumped directly to their submissions site at and began filling in the blanks on their submissions template. I gave them a 100 word summary, a short biography, and copied and pasted one of my Sam Jenkins mysteries called A LABOR DAY MURDER. Then I sat back and waited.

Two months later, I received a greetings letter. No, I wasn’t being drafted again; they welcomed me to the Mind Wings family and offered a contract. And yes, I accepted it.

This is what I learned about the operation:

Minds Wings is NOT an organization selling services to independent authors who want to produce audio books. They are a publishing business that only makes money if your stories sell. The literature they choose to produce is read by professional actors— members of AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and is simultaneously published and marketed in various eBook formats. The authors pay nothing to see their works as audios or electronic books.

The process begins with a professional editor sprucing up your manuscript. Authors are asked for opinions on the corrections and suggestions made by the editor. Once the manuscript is finalized, a finished copy is sent to an actor to read and record.

Then the author reviews a “proof’ recording and comments on what he or she hears. This is the time to correct any pronunciation errors or make suggestions or requests on accents or other vocal characteristics.

During the edits and recording process, an artist draws up one or more possibilities for the cover art. Here again, the author has input on what’s used. I think Rachelle, the artist Mind Wings uses, is exceptional and so far I’ve been pleased with all the covers assigned to my books.

After the CD is “cut” (notice how I’m getting into the industry lingo?) and the release date arrives, you receive a printed copy of your novelette and five complimentary CDs.

What happens next? Do you have to take your audio/eBook and format it and load it into a bunch of seller’s websites? NO. Mind Wings does that for you. They’re the professionals—you’re the writer. And remember, you pay for nothing. (Unless you want more than five CDs and then you may purchase them at an author’s discount) Remember, you only provide the writing and get paid 8% of the selling price after an audio is purchased and 50% of eBook sales. I receive my checks faithfully every quarter and a 1099 form just before income tax time.

Why produce an audio book? Do people buy them? From my experience, yes. And I believe it depends on locale to determine how many will sell. People in New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and other big towns spend hours in traffic going to and from work. Many of these commuters like to hear stories while they drive. They buy one hour audio books. People in Cody, Wyoming may only take ten minutes getting to the job. They may be content with the local news and weather.

My statements tell me people buy more MP3 downloads than CDs. They are less expensive and apparently everyone but me knows about this technology and has an MP3. The eBooks also sell very well. At less than two bucks a pop, these novelettes are a bargain. I’ve found mine formatted for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, iPod, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, blueberry, gooseberry, and other things about which I have no comprehension.

Getting listed on some sites takes longer than others. Amazon appears immediately. Kobo requires more than one title be submitted at a time, so that shows up later. But basically, sooner or later, my stuff appears at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Omni Lit, Books on Board, Apple, Sony, Smashwords, Kobo, and maybe a few more.

Was it worth the effort? There was no effort—apart from writing the story and doing your share of the post-publication marketing. The more places your stories are sold, the more chances Mind Wings has to recoup their expenses and start collecting the full 92% of their piece of the pie. They have as much vested interest as you.

Mind Wings has sent me contracts for eleven Sam Jenkins mysteries. Nine are in circulation with two more in the hopper. Coincidentally, I’ve just finished a 10,800 word story called THE BUTLERS DID IT which I’ve submitted and am awaiting the word. It’s a Christmas story that begins with a bank robbery and takes Sam and his FBI friends deep into the coal country of southeast Kentucky hunting a fugitive. I hope the people at Mind Wings like this one, too.

Am I making a huge amount of money? No. But my royalty checks allow me to take my wife to lunch whenever I want. And my ego is constantly massaged. Thousands of people have heard what I have to say.

Five of my novelettes made it to the publisher’s best seller list. A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE remained there for thirteen months. SCRAP METAL & MURDER was the biggest seller yet and according to a recent royalty statement, five titles are now on the top ten eBook list.

Would I recommend that other authors submit their stories to Mind Wings Audio? You bet. What have you got to lose? If you’re not selected, you spent only minutes on the computer—you haven’t invested a dime.

If you are one of those chosen, you’re provided with the services of a professional editor, a talented cover artist, and you can make a quick trip to the Office Depot and, with a clear conscience, get business cards printed calling yourself a published author.

By the way, a small independent press picked up A NEW PROSPECT and traditionally published it in hard copy and eBook. In May 2011, it won an Indie and was named best mystery of the year.

My second full-length novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, is due out in hardback on St. Patrick’s Day, and number three, HEROES & LOVERS, is, at this moment, being edited and scheduled for release later in 2012 or early next year.

About A Leprechaun’s Lament

A stipulation of the Patriot Act gave Chief Sam Jenkins an easy job; investigate all the civilians working for the Prospect Police Department. But what looked like a routine chore to the gritty ex-New York detective, turned into a nightmare. Preliminary inquiries reveal a middle-aged employee didn’t exist prior to 1975.

Murray McGuire spent the second half of his life repairing office equipment for the small city of Prospect, Tennessee, but the police can’t find a trace of the first half.

After uncovering nothing but dead ends during the background investigation and frustrations running at flood level, Jenkins finds his subject lying face down in a Smoky Mountain creek bed—murdered assassination-style.

By calling in favors from old friends and new acquaintances, the chief enlists help from a local FBI agent, a deputy director of the CIA, British intelligence services, and the Irish Garda to learn the man’s real identity and uncover the trail of an international killer seeking revenge in the Great Smoky Mountains.

About Wayne

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Twelve (12) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. His first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and even see photos of the area where the stories take place.


Barnes & Noble:

Monday, March 12, 2012


Great Minds Think Aloud Literary Community will be publishing "The Spirit Archer" by Mike Evers, the release date is 3/16/2012. This novel will be available in all e-book format on Amazon and in print at CreateSpace.

I was born in Singapore way back in 1970 and spent my formative years in Wales after my family moved there from Australia in 1976.  I’ve since resided in numerous places, including: Sussex, Kent and Poland. After school I did a BA in History at the University of Wales, Swansea; and later, a Masters’ degree in International Conflict Analysis at the University of Kent at Canterbury.  This has given me an educational background which I have for the most part managed to avoid capitalizing upon - so far.

I currently live in West Yorkshire with my wife Joanne and son Joseph. I spend a few days a week teaching English in a local college. This is a career I have been doing for 12 years or so and it was in doing a certificate in education in Huddersfield that brought me to the area in 2004.

My interests are fairly varied and include reading pretty much anything. I particularly enjoy reading historical accounts and fiction with a magical angle.  My early influences include JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Roald Dahl, Raymond Feist and David Eddings. My later influences are far too eclectic to mention, but include George Orwell, James Herriot and Michel Foucault. I also enjoy gaming (especially First Person Shooters and RPGs) on PC and PS3.

As an author I usually write Fantasy or Urban Fantasy, quite often with a twist.  My first novel - The Chaosifier - mixes fantasy, adventure, humour and philosophy in a modern day setting. For various reasons it is unavailable at the moment, but I plan to re-publish a 2nd edition in the not too distant future. My most recent work, the novella ‘The Spirit Archer’ brings a different angle to one of the most famous characters in English legend. I have aimed these books at teens and young adults in particular – though older readers have told me they’ve enjoyed them greatly too. I enjoy working with GMTA and really love the passion and enthusiasm they bring to the publishing process.


Some secrets are meant to be shared; and a boy’s encounter with England’s most legendary archer will change his life forever. 

In 1237, a man journeys to a priory in Yorkshire to seek refuge and treatment for battle wounds.   He is betrayed and murdered. His final, dying act is to fire an arrow through a window, asking to be buried where it lands.

Nearly eight hundred years later, a schoolboy’s incredible discovery will lead to a friendship that will alter his life forever.

And he’ll hear some tales and secrets of England’s most legendary archer of all.


Mike Evers will have other books available in the coming months with GMTA Independent Publishing.


TWITTER: @Mike_Evers

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What inspires author, Robin P. Waldrop to write

Robin P. Waldrop hails from Miami, but lives in Alabama with best friend, business partner, and husband, John. She is a mother of five, grandmother of five, and owner of a variety of different animals.

When she’s not working at her business with her husband she’s found at her computer where she breathes life into all the wonderful characters that are born from her vivid imagination.
She is an award-winning author who enjoys writing edgy YA paranormal/Urban Fantasy, and FBI suspense/thriller novels and short stories. Always a voracious reader with an unapologetic television addiction, Robin still searches for the perfect cup of coffee.

What Inspires Me to Write

My oldest daughter and I are big readers and we swap books all the time. We were talking just the other day about what inspired me to start writing, and why. After careful thought I realized all I could think of was how ideas just sort of come to me. And if I don’t quickly get them on paper they soon start to haunt my every waking moment. Seriously.

Before I wrote my first novel, Twisted, I kept having a reoccurring dream about a hard core young woman going around arresting sadistic killers and making the world a safer place. It was only a dream, so I really didn’t think too much about it until I found myself obsessing while awake. The more I thought about her, the more real she became. It was literally driving me batty, but I still did nothing but continue to read.

I had also joined a book club and it just happened that this particular monthly read was a suspense/thriller about an FBI agent. I was so excited, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the book. What a let down it turned out to be. It had to be one of the worst books ever written. I’m so not even joking. As soon as I began reading I quickly noticed the prose was choppy at best. I thought, well, it will get better. Just keep going. So I did. The more I attempted to read, the more frustrated I became.

I didn’t even make to the end of the first chapter before flinging it across the room. my husband asked me what was wrong and I told him how terrible it was and that even I could write better than that. I mean this was a book that made it through professional editors and agents, and eventually publishing. It was awful.

My husband, being the calm rational one, told me to go write something better. I figured he was teasing, which he does quite often, so I laughed sarcastically, but I guess the thought stuck in the back of my mind, because for weeks I thought about little else. I prayed about it for a while, then one Sunday afternoon I walked into the house after church, went to my bedroom, and sat down in front of my computer.

Four months later I finished my first novel, Twisted. That was a year and a half and two novels ago. So I guess you could say my love for reading a good book was my inspiration to write. Now, I’m hooked and when I have one of those dreams or nightmares that stick with me long after I’ve awaken, a huge smile spreads across my face because I know the beginning of my next novel has just been born.