My indie milestone

I’ve often read that the average indie author can expect to sell 250 books in their lifetime (or their book’s lifetime). If that’s the case, then I surpassed that milestone this weekend with four sales of my first book, Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird (released May 2019).

Four sales is certainly nothing to write home about, but in this case, it’s just enough to write a blog post about.

In order to get those sales, I tried something new this weekend – I paid for my first ever promotional spot on a mailing list. For $25 I ran a one-day ad with Bargain Booksy to promote my book to their YA audience of email subscribers. I had read a few good reviews and a few not so good reviews, but for $25 I thought it was worth a shot. With a mere four sales in that one day, I certainly didn’t make my money back, but those were the first sales I had had in months (!) and it did push my lifetime sales past that 250 milestone marker that most indie books never surpass, so I took it as a win.

There are some things I will do differently next time (and yes, despite the poor showing, I’ve decided to give it another shot). I’ve since learned that a .99 cent price- point and a better blurb should help boost my results, so cross your fingers for me and Hope!

If you’re interested in trying out a Bargain Booksy promo, here’s some good info to get you started: The Best Way to Promote a Book on Bargain Booksy

If you’ve done a book promo with Bargain booksy or another site, comment or drop me a line (you can email me: melcmoore@hotmail.com) and let me know your results. I’d love to do a fuller, more informative post on this type of advertising in the future.

Other book promo sites can be found here via Written Word

…and if you’re looking for something to read, check out my book, Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird!

My love affair with Kindle unlimited and indie books

I have to admit, it took me a long time to convert from paperback to e-books. For many years after e-readers came out, I held fast to my belief that paper was the best, that the real thing was the real deal, that a book must feel and smell like a book in order for me to enjoy it. But then, three Christmases ago, my husband bought me a Kindle, and with it, a one-month free trial with Kindle unlimited. Skeptically, I eyed this plain black, flat, lifeless electronic device, knowing it would make a terrible addition to my carefully curated bookshelf. Still, having recently joined the Instagram writing community of indies earlier that year, the idea of easily and instantly reading my newfound friend’s books was intriguing. So, after all of the gifts had been opened, and the turkey and all its trimmings had been devoured, I sat down with my phone and my Kindle, opened Instagram, and began filling my new electronic library with Kindle unlimited titles written by my indie friends – and that flat, lifeless device suddenly came to life with a whole new world of reading for me. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Every couple of weeks, I go through my saved Instagram posts of indie books I see in my feed and if they are offered on Kindle unlimited, they just about always get downloaded into my reader (and I always make sure to review them once I’m done! Amazon reviews are the lifeblood of indie author’s, afterall). The ten dollars I spend per month on my Kindle unlimited subscription is honestly one of my best investments in myself. I love the ease and simplicity of downloading the books from Amazon for an instant-read and easy support of my fellow indies. My Kindle has become my own private library and one that is always perfectly lit for late-night reading. Seriously, why can’t all books be gently backlit and why did I wait so long to invite such reading splendor into my life??

If you’re an avid reader who hasn’t discovered the joy of a Kindle unlimited subscription, I highly recommend that you give it a shot!

Here’s what made it into my Kindle this week (and keep in mind that I am in Canada and use amazon.ca, so Kindle unlimited book offerings may be different in other countries):

The Raven’s Poison by Braeden Michael’s

After Me, The Great Flood by Jayson Robert Ducharme

The Girl in the Ivory Dress by Steve Griffin

Echoes of the Gidat by Eme Savage

Going the distance as an indie writer

It’s so easy to get discouraged as an indie writer. It’s a tough industry! Writing is already a difficult and lonely occupation, but then throw in the business side of marketing and hustling and self-promoting yourself, your brand, your book – and all for maybe a handful of sales to your closest friends and family and maybe half a dozen reviews on Amazon (if you’re lucky!). It’s little wonder why so many throw in the towel after a year or two. It breaks my heart every time I see a writer friend give up on their dreams.

It’s difficult to see, but I get it. I totally get it. I have been there sooooo many times myself that I’ve lost count.

But, here’s the thing about choosing to be an indie: it means playing the long game.

Writing and self-publishing, marketing and promoting, growing our platforms and our readership: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The end will not be in sight for a long time, but then again, we shouldn’t be looking for an end.

As writers, we should always be writing.

As “authorpreneurs” (“one who creates a written product, participates in creating their own brand, and actively promotes that brand through a variety of outlets” – Urban Dictionary), we should always be learning about and growing our business.

And there should never be an end to that.

Trust me, as someone who has been self-employed for sixteen years, creating and operating five (soon six) businesses, there is still and always will be much to learn – and that is a good thing!

Keep yourself busy enough with the writing and the learning and the growing as an indie and soon you ‘ll find that you won’t have any time to become discouraged.

So, keep going!

Some of my favourite websites for writing/ indie inspiration:

www.brainpickings.org

www.writtenwordmedia.com

www.writepublishsell.com

book review: Marielle’s Witch by David Alexanian

Genre: fantasy / urban fantasy / paranormal fantasy / action

Newlink Publishing

To be released: July 1, 2021

After being captivated by Laplace’s Demon, the first book in The Sword Demon series by David Alexanian – in which unassuming university prof, Laplace, unwittingly awakens an ancient evil and is then possessed by the ruthless, sword-wielding demon who goes on to terrorize the streets of Paris – I was eager to dive into my ARC copy of the second book in the series, Marielle’s Witch.

Seamlessly picking up where Laplace’s Demon left off, Marielle’s Witch introduces us to the source of the evil that awoke in the first book. “The demons were the least of your concern,” the evil that is Sakura, proclaims. “The witch is here. She controls them all.” And that she does. Sakura, the Snow Witch, with her platinum blond hair and icy blue eyes, is one vengeful demon with a giant chip on her shoulder and an insatiable appetite for killing with her merciless sword of unrelenting death. Laplace, now freed from his own demon-encounter / possession, must help to fight the newest evil on the block, using his new-found abilities to see and communicate with the spirit world and once again save the streets of Paris from death and destruction,

I was just as captivated by this story as I was with the the first book in the series. The writing is superb. Quick and action-packed, intelligent and humorous at times – and I can’t tell you how much I love and appreciate that the main characters, the heroes, of these book are unassuming, middle-aged intellectuals who handle the demon crisis with poise and grace, and yet remain vulnerable and all-too human and therefore, oh so likeable! Sakura, the Snow Witch, is a bad-ass villain with a lot to prove – and lot of people to kill.

The story ends with a delicious segue into book three and if it is true that the evil of the demon and the witch will never die, then I am all for it! I am a huge fan of this series. I say, keep that evil coming!

Marielle’s Witch will be released July 1st. You can pre-order it here and in the meantime, get your hands on Laplace’s Demon.

I give Marielle’s Witch 5 out of 5 stars, obviously!

Book Review: Dalton Highway by Freddie Ahlin

Dalton Highway by Freddie Ahlin

Genre: Horror / Psychological thriller

Indie release (Sept. 2020)

5 of 5 stars

A nail-biter of suspense and psychological horror, Dalton Highway is a thrill-ride of a read.

Synopsis: With his back up against a financial wall and not wanting to disappoint his wife, trucker Tom Richards takes on the potentially dangerous job driving the 666 km long Dalton Highway through the isolated and often hazardous Alaskan wilderness with his loyal dog, Presley, as his companion. A sudden storm sends the truck crashing off the road, setting Presley loose in the forest with Tom giving chase, but there is something ominous amongst the trees that seems to be chasing them both….

This debut novel by indie author, Freddie Ahlin, is a strong opening piece. Despite a slow start, taking its time to build up Tom’s dilemma and apprehension at taking on the job, once the suspense and action arrived, it was full speed ahead with the story. At times, I was completely absorbed in Tom’s harrowing journey both physically through the unforgiving terrain of Alaska and psychologically as he battles with some mysterious demons of his past, disembodied voices that relentlessly taunt him as he struggles to find his dog and survive the often unforgiving elements. But, like all good psychological thrillers, the reader often struggles with wondering just how much of the terror is in Tom’s head. Who or what are these ghosts that haunt him? Is the forest actually haunted? What if it’s not?? The psychological thrills of this book were stellar and the ending was truly satisfying. Looking forward to reading more by this author!

My books are FREE this weekend!

“I don’t move the stars for just anyone.”

To start the new year on the right foot (eg: with a good book!), all four of my books are FREE this weekend on Amazon (see links in titles and because of a glitch, Elegant Execution will be free on Jan. 2 & 3rd). Go and grab a copy of each Friday, January 1st thru to Sunday, January 3rd and I hope you enjoy!!! Happy 2021!!!!!

Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird: Fourteen year old Hope Quest knows that the abusive life she leads with her alcoholic grandmother is not the only one she’s ever had. With a face full of scars, a heart damaged from a lightning strike as a toddler, and only able to speak in a whisper, Hope is desperate to find her “voice”, to discover the truth of her life.

Encouraged by her cousin, Onyx, to break free from her grandmother’s control, Hope’s life begins to unravel when an attack at a party awakens another secret ability – the power to pull stars from the sky – and opens a terrifying black hole over her lightning scar.

Escaping with Onyx and their motley group of punk friends to attend a three day music festival, StarFEST, Hope discovers her long-lost brother is Blackbird, an enigmatic rock star, who leads her down a dark and dangerous path to self-discovery.

Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning: Picks up exactly where book 1 left off after Hope’s tumulutous experience at StarFEST ,where she encountered Blackbird and discovered both her star-moving abilities and her dark history with him, she must now navigate life with the knowledge of her strange origins while her unique abilities continue to grow and strengthen. The arrival of a new photography teacher at school presents new challenges when Hope learns there is more to her family than Lennon let on. With her 15th birthday looming, Hope discovers that the family cult is seeking her return. Will Lennon come “out of the dark” to help save her from the family he took her from as a toddler or will Hope be able to find the strength to save herself?

Elegant Execution is my first poetry and dance photography collection and is a very personal piece of work created as a way to heal from childhood trauma and abandonment.

The Stars Went Out was my follow up collection of poetry and my dance photography. It is a blend of literary and visual art, creating a unique and memorable dreamscape.

My Indie Reads of 2020

Indie books, for me, are the hidden gems of the literary world. You need to be open-minded, curious, daring and willing to dig around a bit to strike gold and unearth those true underrated, unappreciated treasures that are out there just waiting to be found….

Since starting my own indie author journey in 2019, I have read (almost exclusively) indie books. For the most part, the indie/ self-published books I’ve read have not lived up to the stereotype of being poorly written/poorly edited/ and “no wonder they can’t get published traditionally!” idea. This is just not the case with most indie books! Some, yes, absolutely, but for the most part, the indie books I’ve read have been quite impressive and certainly deserving of a wider audience, which is why I’ve started this blog.

Here are the gems I discovered this year, along with short blurbs from the reviews I posted (and in some cases, am still in the process of posting) for them on Amazon and Goodreads.

My 2020 Indie Reads & Gems:

The Underside Of Wars by Jared Kane

“The Underside of Wars is so beautifully and eloquently written (even the depraved parts!) that[the] prose often reads like poetry. [Kane’s] books are not the usual “easy read” fare so often found on bookshelves now. [His] writing and themes truly challenge the reader on many levels – as art should! At times this book, the writing, the story, literally took my breath away – especially the last few dark chapters and that ending!!”

Agents of Odd: Woodrush Towers by S.P. Rowell

This will be my first reviewed book of 2021, but in the meantime, let me say this book was an absolute thrill ride: full of paranormal scares and delights and a truly unique storyline that I absolutely loved.

The Future of the Present Past by Darren Edden

“Smart, highly engaging and seamlessly written, The Future of the Present Past is an excellent follow-up to The Mirror of Our Creation. I am not much of a science fiction fan, but like its predecessor, this book doesn’t bog the reader down with the science and instead focuses more on the fiction and does so in a really entertaining and relatable way with likeable characters and wonderful pacing. The storyline truly gives you something to think about long after you’ve finished reading.”

Tales from the Dark Heart Emporium by Richard Long

“It had been many years since I’d read a horror novel and this book of short, dark stories brought me right back into the fold. Chilling and creepy with just enough gore to satiate. Some of these stories definitely make those little hairs on the back of your neck stand up – a sure sign of a great read and a fabulous write.”

Roosevelt’s River An Edward Prince Adventure (book 4) by C.K. Shackleton

“Roosevelt’s River more than proved to be another fantastic installment in the Edward Prince series! Like the previous three books, there’s a nice blend of fiction, history and globe-trotting adventure to be had!”

Bring Them Home by Julia DeBarrioz

Another fabulous installment of Dakota Del Toro series. One of my favourite heroines in quite some time. And those vampires are always so hot!

Lives of E by H.P. Burman

“I found the idea of the book very intriguing – a man getting electrocuted by a quantum computer and then waking up day after day in different realities of himself, stuck in a multiverse loop that he doesn’t know how to escape. It was a very ambitious undertaking of the author to plot this story out with so many storylines and versions of the protagonist and his friends going on…this was a solid book…looking forward to the sequel!”

Dalton Highway by Freddie Ahlin

A psychological thriller that often leaves you wondering how much is happening outside, in the Alaskan wilderness, and how much is happening inside the protagonist’s head.

Bottom Feeders by Jerry Roth

Wonderfully dark and creepy psychological horror set in a jail where one of the inmates may just be the Devil himself.

Pummeled by Eric Woods

“This book is an epic coming-of-age journey. Bree Aniston is a great protagonist, a strong female lead who navigates the underside of humanity with both grit and grace.”

Magician’s Mayhem by Slate R. Raven

“A very dark and twisted tale with a dash of the supernatural to keep you guessing and a whole lot of mutilations to keep your skin crawling.”

Broadening by William Shabass

“At just twenty pages long, this well-written little book is a promising beginning to a fun and exciting adventure which I look forward to continuing.”

Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning by Melanie Ever Moore

And for my final read of the year, I’m doing some self-promotion of my own little gem, the second part of my Hope Quest trilogy, a dark, supernatural, coming of age YA story. This review was not written by me (but was very much appreciated by me!):

“I can safely say, I don’t think anything like this exists, and a lot more people need to read this for the mix of friendship, family, unbeknownst powers, and gut-wrenching moments that all intertwine into a lovely picture of beautiful art.”

The Innovators #14 with…author C.K. Shackleton

Like any other effort, writing has its fun components, but my advice would be to view the activity of writing as work. Actual work. Changing your perspective that writing is actually going to require true, consistent effort from you in the form of real work ethic will lead to more tangible results.

Introduce yourself and your books.

My author name is C.K. Shackleton.  I am the author of 4 books (so far) in the fast-paced and fun Edward Prince Adventure Series.  In publication order, they are “The Mystery of Coronado Cay, “The Bolshevik Ballerina,” “The Lost Idol of Ishtar” and most recently, “Roosevelt’s River.”  I’ve published other fiction and non-fiction books under other names, but the Edward Prince books were by far, the most fun to write.

Tell me about Edward Prince:  who or what inspired him? Is he a hero or an anti-hero?

I believe Edward Prince is a hero.  There are plenty of deconstructed, post-modern anti-heroes in current literature and pop culture right now and plenty more are being created everyday.  I like a lot of their stories, but a character created in our time that fits the mold of a “pre-modern, traditional” hero like Prince could be seen as anachronistic if not ironic.  I’m totally fine with that.
Edward Prince is always searching for the truth and more importantly, he seems to be willing to sacrifice his own comfort and in some cases, risk his life to get to it.  Prince was born in the last quarter of the 19th Century as the Victorian Era in most parts of the world started to make way for the Edwardian Era.  To me, that is probably one of the most fascinating times in history as new technological achievements intersected with humanity’s relentless ambition to explore the vast and mysterious corners and cultures of the Earth.  I wanted to tap into that excitement through the eyes of someone like Edward Prince.  To me, he is the culmination of those explorers, innovators and artists of that time, who kept throwing off the shackles of earlier convention and rigid thinking and pressed forward to discover something new.  
I suppose my inspiration for creating him is an amalgamation of fictional heroes from that era, like Edgar Rice Burroghs’s Tarzan and John Carter and certainly from the lesser-known protagonist, Charles Marlow in two of Joseph Conrad’s books.  The “cool under pressure” approach that Prince occasionally displays was borrowed from Ian Fleming’s James Bond (007).  I finished reading the original series a few years ago and always thought Fleming had an interesting insight into the mind of 007 facing odds greater than what most people would ever know.  As for real life examples, I think Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Shackleton were big influences.  Neither of those men lived to a relatively old age, but both experienced more adventure in their adult lives than most people on the planet.
By no means is Prince perfect.  There are times when he makes mistakes in judgment, drawing the wrong conclusions and losing his cool, like anyone would do under stressful circumstances.  He also seems to be afraid of committing to others in the long-term and that is possibly connected to the loss of a loved one early on in his adult life.  I think the idea of the flawed hero, who is still a hero, was really brought to the forefront by Stan Lee, the visionary behind most Marvel Comics characters, like Spider-man, Iron Man and the Hulk.  These flaws were present, but never inhibited the characters from accomplishing their mission.  
One other fictional inspiration that I drew from for the last Edward Prince book was Idris Elba’s character Detective Chief Inspector John Luther in the excellent British television series “Luther.”  DCI Luther is philosophical, observant, occasionally misunderstood and usually a little ahead of the rest of the pack he’s surrounded by and that seems to be an advantage.  Luther always found himself in difficult situations that required bending the rules and sometimes that meant going off to do his own thing.  I suppose those themes coincided with a slightly older, somewhat more world-weary Edward Prince in “Roosevelt’s River.” 
I’ve had adventures of my own, spending my childhood growing up in two different countries and then in my adult life doing business with people from so many cultures and economic classes.  As an author, you can draw from that area of your life so much when you’re trying to create something that feels authentic and rings true to the reader.

Why historical fiction?  What compels you to write in that genre?

I enjoy a lot of different genres of fiction, such as science fiction, thrillers, graphic novels, TPBs along with the occasional Steampunk book.  However, in writing my books, I followed the advice to write the book you’ve always wanted to read and I took that to heart.  I’ve loved studying history since I was a kid.  I think people who find history boring or learning about historical events to be dry have never had the right teachers or had it presented in a way that made it relatable.  History is messy, it is sometimes murky and it has lately been controversial, but it is rarely uninteresting.  
In The Edward Prince Adventure Series, I wanted to experiment with putting some real-life historical people with my fictional characters connecting the places and events, but never losing the pace.  I’d like to think I was able to do that with some success in all of the books to one degree or another. 

Why have you chosen to write Edward’s adventures as serialized short stories?  How does that add to the overall theme/vibe/feel of the series?

Serialized fiction has been around for a long time going all the way back to before Dickens.  However, as a fan of Ian Fleming’s 007 series, I’ve always admired how there was this underlying thread that was consistent to Bond’s character throughout the series that reflected on his ongoing relationships with the characters of M and Miss Moneypenny.  In the books, Bond struggles with killing someone and seems to never lose that angst.  He also seems to see himself as a civil servant first and always appears to put hedonistic pleasures such as food, women and alcohol second.  He is even married briefly in my favorite of the books, but even that ends in tragedy.  Unfortunately, the films have never captured that vision fully.  Instead, we’re treated to a Bond that is bedding a woman every 30 minutes, driving expensive luxury cars, shooting everything up in sight and wearing tuxedos.  Don’t get me wrong, they are enjoyable to watch, but most of them divert away from the essence of what I think Fleming was trying to do.  I also like that Bond aged in the books as well.
So my reasons for writing these as serialized stories came from that notion of what I read in Fleming’s books.  Also, I was a big reader of comic books growing up and no one wrote cliffhangers and serialized fiction like some of those comic book creators, who wanted you to come back for more every month.  There was also another little-known series that probably played a role in all of this work called “The Great Brain” by John Fitzgerald.  As a kid, I read every single one of those books and they were based in true-to-life settings, but likely embellished for entertainment purposes.  Serialized fiction is all around us in every medium.
I think in today’s world of distraction and a zillion things competing for a reader’s attention, writing these shorter books seemed to be a natural response to all of that stimulus.  I trust that readers are sophisticated and imaginative enough to fill in the gaps.  My focus in writing these books has always been to keep the reader engaged from start to finish.  Therefore, action first, dialogue second and brief descriptions third.  I try to maintain my allergy to writing a lot of exposition.  You’ll also notice that I don’t spend too much time plumbing the depths of Prince’s soul or any other character for that matter.  The goal has always been to give the reader a satisfying adventure that touches on the lives of real people from history along with places and events connected to them.  

Is there some recent history that you think Edward could / should re-write or be a part of?  What is it?  What would he do? 

I think Edward Prince, a character who is committed to seeing the mission through, but figuring out how to do the right thing at every turn, even if it is to his disadvantage, is a timeless idea.  I think someone like him would always be the kind of person you’d want on your side, whether it was during the Second World War, the Vietnam War or the events of September 11th, 2001.  I think that commitment to doing what is right in the face of fear and loss is one of the prime traits that makes him a hero.  I think he’s also someone who aspires to serve something bigger than himself or his own ego.  There are men and women all around us who are like that.  You don’t have to agree with them or the way they think, but they are real and they are reliable.  That being said, I think if we had more people like that, society wouldn’t quite be in the same chaotic state it is today.  

Who or what inspires your creativity?  What gets in the way of it? 

Anyone who reads the Edward Prince series will see that I love history and I love adventure.  In each Edward Prince story, a germ was taken from an event or real person’s life and then expanded upon.  That means that L. Frank Baum really was staying the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego at the time “The Mystery of Coronado Cay” takes place, Lenin really was hiding out in Paris, licking his figurative wounds from his failed 1905 coup of Russia as “The Bolshevik Ballerina” happens, T.E. Lawrence was investigating cool archeological finds in the Middle East before serving in the First World War alongside a cholera outbreak that had happened at that time and in that area, as depicted in “The Lost Idol of Ishtar” and Theodore Roosevelt did take that crazy trip on the River of Doubt with Colonel Rondon and his son Kermit, as shown in “Roosevelt’s River.”  I wove in other characters into each book that were based on other less-notable people in history.  Of course, each adventure takes a fictional course, but I’d like to think that since we don’t know every moment of each of these people’s lives, the possibilities are endless.  
Modern-day Lebanese-American philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb made a career out of telling the layman about randomness and it can affect us daily.  I remember when I first approached Taleb’s work in “The Black Swan,” it was a real challenge and I found it vexing.  Over time, I discovered that one of the main themes to his writings is that there is so little that is in your control and the sooner you can accept that and prepare for it, the sooner you will be at peace with yourself and the world around you.  He would bristle at that kind of summary.  It takes a lot of work to get to that mental and emotional state though.  In many ways, Taleb was my “gateway drug” into studying philosophy. 

Outside of history and Taleb’s work, I enjoy watching movies and television when I can, listening to music, reading fiction and non-fiction and studying the ethical side of philosophy.  After all is said and done though, I think my biggest inspiration for creativity comes from looking at the world around me.  Relationships with family and friends, interactions with nature and just pondering the universe around me are very important and can be an endless source for creativity.  

What is your biggest challenge in being an indie author? How do you overcome it?

For every indie author, I think there are always a number of challenges, such as time management, motivation and organization.  To me, the one that loomed as large as those I just mentioned has always been self-doubt. The way I overcame that self-doubt was to dig deeper into myself and rediscover why I started writing in the first place.  Of course, it was about writing stories I wanted to read, but it also had to do with letting go of the results and expectations tied to the results.  I can’t force people to like my work or even to read my work in the first place.  This became a more dominant thought as I wrote more fiction and each book was published.  It became about writing for myself and in a way that ultimately, I was satisfied with the outcome. If a reader feels the results of my work are satisfactory too, then I consider it a win.  

Best piece of advice for up-and-coming writers? 

Film Director Kevin Smith once said that after “Clerks” premiered at Sundance he had received quite a bit of praise, but the most poignant was when someone came up to him and congratulated him on “finishing it.”  That’s always stuck with him and I’ve always remembered it too.
So many writer projects remain unfinished in their various forms and if this happens too frequently, the writer will likely develop the habit of not finishing any projects.  Like any other effort, writing has its fun components, but my advice would be to view the activity of writing as work.  Actual work.  Changing your perspective that writing is actually going to require true, consistent effort from you in the form of real work ethic will lead to more tangible results.  This will require some planning from the writer, some research and writing outlines.  My ultimate message is to never give up and to figure out how to finish your projects, even the ones you ultimately decide no one will see.  
I believe that you should never let perfect be the enemy of good and never let good be the enemy of done.  

What do you most want for readers to take away from your work?

Honestly, with the Edward Prince books and my other works of fiction, I like to keep some of the areas of prose sparse for a simple reason.  I like the idea that subtext is all around the story and that I don’t have to explain every single thing to my readers.  They get to use their imagination and their own reasoning abilities to put some things together.  Therefore, what they take away from each book and each story is theirs to keep.  
I hope they feel inspired to go out and do something good for other people.  True heroism is found in simple service.  I write characters who are trying to do the right thing for a reason.  Even more, I hope readers just enjoy the adventure!

Upcoming projects?  Where can readers find you?

If people read the books in The Edward Prince Adventure Series in the order published, starting with “The Mystery of Coronado Cay,” they will find Edward Prince avoided certain making choices that he ultimately began to resolve at the end of “Roosevelt’s River” and it seemed to mark the end of his adventures and his career as a roving, globe-trotting newspaper reporter.  However, I have been loosely outlining book 5 in the series (which would take place only a couple years later) and I have another one planned thereafter.  Both of those books will feature prominent people from history and will follow the same format.  Prince will be a few years older, but hopefully a bit wiser.  I also have plans to publish work under other author names in both the fiction and non-fiction category.  

I have limited time in my day for social media and updates, so I don’t maintain a website as C.K. Shackleton or a Twitter account, but people can find me on Instagram and Facebook where I share updates and news on projects I am putting out there: 
Instagram – @ckshackletonauthor    Facebook – @C.K. Shackleton
They are always welcome to reach out to me through those mediums.  

The Innovators #13 with…author Patrick Kaiser

I want to use whatever platform I am blessed with to shed light on the multiple facets of autism. All the struggles that come with it and the unexpected gifts. I want to make the beauty of it all known to the world.”

Introduce yourself.

My name is Patrick Kaiser. I am a 29 year old indie author with autism from Kansas City, MO. I started writing when I was in the 6th grade. At the time, Christopher Paolini – the author of Eragon – was just beginning to gain recognition. His story of being a 15 year old best-selling author spoke to me. I’d always had a good imagination and loved telling stories. Learning that I could earn money doing so just clenched it. I began reading heavily and studying anything and everything I could on how to write good stories and how to get published. In high school I developed an interest in poetry. I’ve never had any formal training even to this day, but according to my friends, family, and teachers I had a gift for it. I began writing a ton of one-off poems that were honestly pretty dark and depressing. Being a social outcast due to my autism made me very cynical and depressed which was exhibited in my writing.

Senior year I was introduced to the idea of verse novels with Ellen Hopkin’s books. I loved the concept, but could never get into the books. Free verse is just bland to me and the stories told in most verse novels weren’t fun to read for me. They were so gritty and real with characters I just couldn’t relate to. The constant themes of drug abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and social politics were so blah. Not to make light of the real life instances of those experiences, they’re horrific beyond measure and absolutely unforgivable, but I always preferred to read to escape reality. I wanted books that married my love of poetry with the sort of stories I loved – Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Hunger Games – but I never found any that met that threshold. When I was 25, I started to experiment with the idea of writing those sort of books. At the time, I was still super unconfident and self conscious, always wanting to write those books, but always finding some reason to tell myself I wasn’t good enough. Over the next few years I grew and matured, became more confident the more I studied. I found info on Indie publishing and how viable it was, courtesy of the success story of Amanda Hocking, who is considered the matriarch of current Indie publishing. She made millions in a matter of months after years of being rejected by traditional publishing companies. In 2019 I decided to be brave. I had a backlog of poems I’d written over the years, more positive than my high school endeavors, so I slapped ’em together, did a little research and self published my first 2 poetry collections on Amazon in February of that year. Almost two years later here we are: seven books out with number eight releasing in Febrary 2021.

Tell me about your books.

My first trilogy, Crimson Minds, involves a psychic gang war in modern day Chicago as the backdrop for a murder mystery. It covers themes of identity: are we the product of our circumstances or our choices – nature vs nurture, are are we beholdened and defined by our past or can we make an effort to rise above and grasp a better future than the one we’re told we can’t change.

My newest book, Frost, is the start of a new series and deals with family: is family determined by blood or by choice? Genocide, hatred, & racism –just because you’re at the top of the food chain does that mean you’re infallible? Are those that are different by no choice of their own lesser simply because of that fact?

All of these themes are set against the backdrop of an action thriller and are told completely through poetry.

So far, it seems to be working for me.

You identify yourself as an “Autism Advocate.”  What does that role entail?

I just want to use whatever platform I am blessed with to shed light on the multiple facets of autism. All the struggles that come with it and the unexpected gifts. I want to make the beauty of it all known to the world. I also want to help support the friends and family of those who are diagnosed. Living with autism is hard, no doubt, and living with those living with autism is harder still, and those people deserve just as much support as those diagnosed.

What role does your advocacy for autism play in your writing?

It’s mainly just the other half of what I’m trying to accomplish. I hope one day my writing can help and entertain those with autism, and I hope that my support of the autism community can result in my work reaching new readers.

The hashtag #makeitecho appears on your website.  What does it mean / refer to?

For a few years I had a Youtube channel where I posted videos of my one-off poems. It was called EchoVerse Productions and our tag line was “Love is the mission statement. Let’s #MakeItEcho!” I’m still trying spread that mantra. I want to spread entertainment, peace and love with my writing, while making you think.

Who or what inspires your creativity?  What or who do you hope to inspire with your work?

I get super inspired by Japanese anime and Japanese culture. The Japanese tell such great stories, that are super entertaining while touching on sensitive themes. My goal is to tell similar stories with my works. I’d like to inspire evolution within the Verse novel community. I constantly read and hear that verse is only suited to the realistic and gritty kind of stories, I want to flip that notion on it’s head. I’d also like to become a great source of inspiration for those on the autism spectrum. I want them to know that they’re more than their diagnosis.

Tell me about your online shop. What merch can be found there?

I sell tee-shirts, mugs, blankets and a lot more with designs influenced by my writing, all at affordable prices.

Upcoming projects? 

My current wip is called Sight and it is book 2 of my current series. I also have a new series planned to start in early 2022 about a robin hood in space kinda story. Hunger Games mixed with Firefly, if you will.

Where can readers find you and your work?

You can find me on social media @authorpdkaiser (Facebook & Instagram).

My website: www.authorpdkaiser.com

And: Amazon.com/author/patrickdkaiser

Thanks, Patrick!!

The Innovators #9 with…author RJ Jacobs

Clear writing awakens a sense of recognition for me and brings a richer understanding of the lives going on around me.

Introduce yourself and your books.

I’m RJ Jacobs, a psychologist and author in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve published two novels: And Then You Were Gone (2019) and Somewhere in the Dark, which came out in August. I’ve lived in Nashville since 2003 and see patients as part of a multi-speciality medical practice.

What came first in your life: writing or psychology? 

I actually started out as an English major as an undergraduate at University of Florida, then switched to Psychology in my Sophomore year. Still, I really enjoyed writing and kept on when I had time, usually on breaks. Of course I had no idea how to construct a story when I was starting out but, the early experience in finding a rhythm to my writing and creating a habit of putting words down became really helpful later on. 

How does your role as a psychologist influence your role as a writer? 

Clinical work is always interesting. One thing I can say that’s a real advantage of being a psychologist: the day-to-day is never dull. Stories I hear sometimes stimulate my imagination. I don’t want patients to think I’m transcribing what they say into my novels, because obviously I wouldn’t, but I have to admit some of what I’ve heard has started me thinking, “what if . . .”

How does your role as a writer influence your role as a psychologist?

There’s a psychotherapeutic technique called narrative therapy that essentially helps patients transform difficult experiences by re-imagining them, by seeing contexts differently, and by encouraging greater sense of imagination and creativity in developing outcomes. I’d like to think that being a writer has helped my therapy work by giving me a clearer sense of how to guide a process like that. 

How do you find the time to write novels AND maintain a private practice?  What is your writing/ creative process?

Finding time is one of the biggest challenges. There’s always so much to do! I live with my family which helps balance my perspective but also is a tremendous time commitment. Sometimes, I have to write what I can, or whenever there’s a free moment. There was an evening last year when I wrote in the hallway of my daughter’s middle school while she was cheerleading by using the notes function of my iPhone. You just have to do your best and try to get something accomplished even if it’s minimal progress. Usually the best times for my writing are early in the morning or in the evenings, when my kids do their homework. Sometimes it seems like we each find a quiet space to do our own “homework.”

Besides psychology, what else influences and drives your writing?   Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired constantly, particularly by contemporary writers who capture American culture in ways that I’ve observed before but had never named in my own mind. Clear writing awakens a sense of recognition for me and brings a richer understanding of the lives going on around me. I had that sense when I read Angie Kim’s novel, Miracle Creek, last year. There were paragraphs in her book I read repeatedly to make sure I was fully taking them in. I’m reading Leave the World Behind, right now, and have a similar feeling. I like reading the work of writers who are simply better than I am. 

Most self-published authors would love to know how you got your books published by a traditional publisher.  Please share your secret!

I lucked out by connecting with an incredible agent, Rachel Ekstrom Courage, who is with Folio Literary Agency. When I was starting out, I didn’t understand the difference between writing and publishing, and she’s helped guide me along the way. 

As a traditionally published novelist, how does your marketing work?  Does your publisher handle it?  Do you?  Or is it a mix of both?  

It’s a mix of both. Working with Crooked Lane has been fantastic. At the same time, I’m always trying to find new ways of marketing the books. There are a lot of books in the world and people have limited time to read, so discoverability is the challenge for most writers. This year has been especially tricky because in-person events have either been cancelled of reimagined in virtual formats. Still, people are continuing to read, which is an advantage writers have over say, filmmakers or musicians. I’m in Nashville, and I know a number of musicians who are having a tough time not being able to play shows. It’s hard, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully we’ll all use this time to get better at what we do. 

What is your best advice to struggling writers who want to throw in the towel after receiving yet another rejection letter for their work.

I think the secret is to find a writing process that’s enjoyable and repeat it over and over again. Rejection is part of it, for sure. It’s not personal. Writers do well when they’re able to hear feedback non-defensively and try to incorporate it into their storytelling. 

What do you most want readers to take from your books?  Do you recommend your books to clients or leave them on a table in your office?

I’ve given away a few copies to patients who are interested, but my writing rarely comes up, to be honest. The focus in my office is on the patient and most of the time there’s no reason to get into my ambitions as a writer. 

I hope readers find the stories moving and fun to read at the same time. Enjoyment, I’ve learned this year, is a need

What upcoming projects do you have in the works?  Where can readers find you?

Right now I’m writing a book set in the evacuated Florida Keys following a hurricane. The main character is a former horror movie actress searching for her family. As the story unfolds, she starts to suspect the circumstances resemble the film she starred in. A lot of people are intrigued by horror as a genre, but the book is written as a psychological suspense/thriller novel. In the same way that The Woman in Cabin 10 isn’t about the cruise ship industry, horror films and their conventions provide more of a backdrop for the story. It should be a lot of fun. 

I’m easy to find on my website: RJJacobsauthor.com or on Instagram @rjjacobs75 or on Facebook. 

Thanks, RJ!!