Let me pencil in this new year…..

I’m not going to hop aboard the “let’s get excited for the new year” train. In fact, I feel better just penciling the next year into my life at this point. We all know that January 1st thru who knows when will still look and feel very much like 2020 – and I’m actually an optimist! I do hope, though, that at some point in 2021 we can all let out our collective breath because I sure feel like I’ve been holding mine all year.

Like most people, I just scraped through the year. No big accomplishments (I had three book projects planned and none came to fruition). I had to close down my photography studio twice and suffered financially. I endured the parental horrors of online schooling twice this year with all three of my kids and will be going into the new year doing more of the same.

Still, I am hopeful that things will turn around at some point in the new year for me, for you, for everyone – and sooner than later.

My few 2021 plans include: blogging more, reading more, reviewing more, writing more, doing more yoga, spending more time with my kids and family, and just continuing to put my energies towards those things in my life that fulfill me – those things that are ‘ink-worthy’ in my books.

For now, I am grateful to have this platform, to have some readers, some followers and I hope to connect with all of you at some point in the new year!

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 #12 with…filmmaker/writer Leah Solmaz

“Everyone has the ability and capability to do anything. It takes self-belief and patience. That goes hand-in-hand with living your truth. Always create with yourself in mind. Create what you want then if people resonate with it… bonus!”

Introduce yourself.

Hello guys, girls, non-bines, I am Leah Solmaz. I’m primarily an actress, filmmaker, and writer, but I dabble in a lot of other creative activities too. I am currently based in Lichfield, Staffordshire but I’m originally from Birmingham, West Midlands, UK. I lived in County Cavan, Ireland for 9 years and completed the majority of my schooling there. Having lived in both a large, bustling city and a small, country village seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it has definitely given me a broad perspective on life. I’ve definitely experienced the best of both worlds, so to speak and I think it’s helped ground me as a person.

Tell me about your Theosight digital series.

‘Theosight’ is a UK based, comedy, horror, web series that we hope to make sometime next year. I’m the writer, producer, and I also act in it. 

The logline: “Theo’s a skeptic. Riley’s optimistic. Shaun’s dead.”

We released the pilot episode on Halloween which sets up the premise for the series. It was directed and shot by my good friend, Matthew Wood, and stars the amazing Kiah Reeves (The House of Screaming Death, 2017) as Riley, Alex Bourne (writer and director of Clownface, 2019) as Shaun, and myself as Theo. The cast of the pilot also features Lewis Clift (BBC’s Doctors), Craig Godwin aka Fingaz MC, Roger David Francis (The House of Screaming Death), and the very lovely Debbie Brannon as Peg … my favourite characters, in all honesty. Behind the scenes, we had Farhaan S. Sadiq on sound, the brilliant Hans Michael Anselmo Hess composed the music, and we were very lucky to feature the song ‘My Reflection’ by the American/Canadian rock band DeBendetta.

The premise is very much this … Theo, is a grouchy, skeptical woman who discovers she is, in fact, psychic after a strange man follows her home from work one night. That man is Shaun. Shaun is dead. Theo’s charmingly optimistic, roommate, Riley, then comes up with the bright idea to set up a Supernatural Private Investigation service. With the help of a rag-tag bunch of friends they do just that and open themselves up to a world of monsters, ghouls, and demons.
It is very much an ode to one of my favourite, childhood films, ‘The Monster Squad’, and also pays homage to TV shows such as ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, ‘Charmed’, and ‘Scooby Doo’ … believe it or not. I love the fact that in each of those, the main character could never have succeeded without the help of their comrades. 
We genuinely hope people will enjoy it once it’s made and we’ve already received some great feedback from the pilot which you can totally check out for free here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAJCND9EcLw
You can also find and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Where did the idea for your novel Nexus: Book One come from? Any plans for Book Two (or another novel)?

So 5 years ago, or it could be 6, in all honesty, but we’ll stick to 5, I had this crazy idea to write and illustrate a dark-fantasy graphic novel. I’m a huge lover of comic books and graphic novels and being in my naïve, mid-twenties I thought to myself … I can do that. Throw in work and other commitments, I found it hard to find time to sit down and actually draw. I’d written half a script for it and planned out thirty to forty pages’ worth of panels but that’s as far as I ever got with it.
The story, as it is now, is very different from how I intended for the graphic novel. Initially, the character of Brianna, was going to be a police detective and Dax, was an unlucky guy who had found himself entangled with some dark characters. There was going to inevitably be a splash of the supernatural in there, but yeah it’s definitely not the same story as I originally planned.
So, having realized just how much time a graphic novel was going to take, and taking from my primary love of filmmaking I then (again rather naively) thought I could turn it into a feature film. I got halfway with the script and realized in order to make it, I’d need a ridiculous budget and I wasn’t willing to change any of it to ensure it could be made cost-effectively.
It was very much put on the back burner until the summer of 2018 which is coincidentally the same time that I came up with the idea for ‘Theosight’. I’d sustained a back injury that meant I actually couldn’t work for 5 months. In being such a creative person, I needed something to take my mind off of the fact that I could barely hobble from my bed to the lounge and back again. 
I stumbled (maybe literally) upon a lot of my old notebooks and came across the graphic novel script for Nexus. I bought a new notebook and whether or not it was painkiller induced, I decided to change everything about the story. I’d always written short stories growing up and I’d always had the itch to write a book so it just clicked. It meant I could tell the story I wanted to without compromising elements for a feature film and the words seemed to flow easier and quicker than sitting down and drawing. It was gloriously serendipitous. I just started writing. Chapter one. Chapter two … three, four … before I knew it I’d made my way to chapter seven.
I was feeling extremely nostalgic being holed up in a small, city apartment and the physical limitations I was experiencing at the time, I’d sort of found myself longing for the open countryside of Ireland so that greatly influenced the world-building side of things and definitely shaped the premise of transporting Brianna from the mundane to the fantastical. For those months, I very much lived vicariously through Brianna, hence turning her into a waitress … I have that on my work resume. 
For anyone with a keen eye, you can very much identify the influences of the book. I definitely drew from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and also from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ but I also have a fascination with the occult and demonology and the concept of angels and devils battling each other for our immortal souls. Nexus is very much an amalgamation of those elements.
It wasn’t until meeting the fantastic, horror writing twins C L Raven, who worked on a feature film I was acting in, Clownface, that I decided to self-publish and they played a huge part in getting Nexus: Book One made. I will forever love them for that. 
I am currently working on the sequel and can honestly say that it’ll be bigger, better, and darker than the first book. 

What challenges do you face as both an indie author and filmmaker?  What specific advantages do you have being involved in both creative realms?

My biggest challenge being indie in both fields is and has been working a day job. I would love to get to the point of replacing the day job with either field. That is definitely the goal but I guess the pros of my current circumstances is valuing time. 
Another pro of being indie is also having creative control. Especially in regards to the writing side of things. With film, if we’re looking at the behind the scenes side of things, you haven’t got to jump through massive hoops in order to make a film, which if you were looking for a larger, more mainstream studio or production company to get a film made, you certainly would which runs the risk of changing the initial story you want to tell. The downside of that is the scheduling side of things, and organizing shoot days to suit everyone involved but it makes it so much easier to have a great cast and crew. So far, I’ve been lucky in the fact that everyone I’ve worked with, in front of or behind the camera has been truly amazing. 
The same applies for self-publishing I’ve found. It’s always good to run your manuscript past an editor to see if there are elements that don’t work but ultimately, it’s your call at the end of the day. With writing a book, bar working with an editor or artist, I do enjoy the working alone aspect which makes the whole process of it very therapeutic. The final product is definitely rewarding. It’s almost an extension of yourself and I think most authors feel a sense of pride and ecstasy in realizing that. 
Working in film, you learn the show don’t tell aspect which has helped in writing Nexus and as an actor, its helped me hone dialogue that is supposed to be spoken. I do tend to read aloud a piece of dialogue to make sure it sounds authentic to a character. Authentic dialogue makes it easier for the audience, film or book, to relate to a character. 

Who or what inspires your creativity?

Life inspires me, as cliche as that sounds. People, places, and very much the unknown of it all too. I’m big into spiritualism, philosophy, psychology, and I enjoy learning about ancient cultures. Literally anything and everything. As gloomy as life may seem at times it’s also so awesome. I think we just have to look a bit harder at times but it’s there. Magic is everywhere. 

Twenty years down the road, what do you want people to take away from your body of creative work? 

I’d like to inspire others to take up whatever creative field they want to pursue. Nothing is impossible. Everyone has the ability and capability to do anything. It takes self-belief and patience. That goes hand in hand with living your truth. Always create with yourself in mind. Create what you want then if people resonate with it… bonus! The fun is very much in the creative stage. Another thing I’d like to inspire in people is to support and promote each other. Creativity is not a competition. It’s a game and like most games the more people the more fun there is to be had. Right? Can I trademark that line? 

What are your upcoming projects?

I have a few feature films lined up, in front of and behind the camera. Advent: A Christmas Anthology, in which I act and I believe it’ll be released around this time next year. Shock Value: Body Horror which is another anthology-style film. I’ll be teaming up with Alex Bourne for one of the stories in that. We are also collaborating on a separate feature and hopefully begin the pre-production stage sometime next year. 
We will be launching a crowd funder sometime in the spring to help get Theosight made. 
I have a couple of short films, acting-wise too. The Other, which is a dramatic piece directed by Will Bradshaw. The second short, I don’t think I can reveal too much about it as of yet but I’m looking forward to working with some familiar faces on that one, from Advent and Clownface. 
In between all of that I’d really like to focus more on my store and fingers crossed, design an awesome collection. I’ll also be finishing Nexus: Book Two and hopefully publishing it mid to late next year.
I say hopefully and fingers crossed to all of that considering this year’s unprecedented guest. 

Where can readers/viewers find you and your work?

Well if anyone is looking for an off-the-wall, dark-fantasy, adventure book then they can find Nexus: Book One here: https://www.azonlinks.com/1656109433

Or follow me on social media

Twitter … https://www.twitter.com/leahsolmaz

 Instagram … https://www.instagram.com/leahsolmaz

Facebook … https://www.facebook.com/theonly.leah...

LinkedIn … https://www.linkedin.com/in/leah-solmaz-4844121aa/

For everything else check out my website…https://www.leahsolmaz.com/

Thank you, Leah!! Be sure to check out her work AND her Author/Filmmaker Series of interviews (which I was honoured to be a part of and then, in turn, was inspired to start The Innovators!)

The Innovators #11 with…The Innovators (aka Interview with the Blog)

Now that The Innovators has ten interviews under its belt and has grown a small (but loyal) audience, it has started to take on a life of its own and has requested that the writer interview It this week. Never being one to turn down an interview request, the writer has obliged. So here we go….

Introduce yourself.

Hi! I’m The Innovators, a weekly interview series that focuses on indie creatives. I came into existence a few months back and since then I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing ten incredibly talented artists, including musicians Gerry Weaver and Preston Bell, writer/poet Jared Kane and indie authors Julia DeBarrioz, Eme Savage, Darren Edden, Billy Middleton, Lee Vockins, RJ Jacobs and Eric Woods.

What drives you, Innovators Blog? What inspires you to do this work?

I’m inspired by creativity! I have an affinity for artists, for their art. I think creation is a human superpower (next to love, of course). Art is a balm to all the hurts of humanity and those who create art need to be supported and encouraged in their continuing quests to bring their imaginings to life. It takes a unique sort of courage to share one’s art, to share those thoughts, feelings, ideas that often come from the darkest, quietest parts of one’s soul and offer it up to the rest of the world for comment or criticism. I wish to play a postive role (albeit a small one) in helping artists, particularly indie authors, to gain exposure and confidence in their work and perhaps themselves too. I want them to know that they are supported, they are heard, they are seen, they are important.

What’s the hardest part about being a blog?

Finding readers, finding an audience, for sure, that’s the toughest part! I am just a small platform, with a small voice. Hopefully, over time, more and more people will see my posts and will share it on their platforms and my audience will grow from there. I really want to get the artists I feature out in front of as many eyes as I possibly can.

Upcoming interviews?

Well, I’m excited to have my first indie filmmaker interview coming up next week with Leah Solmaz and after that, two more talented indie authors: CK Shakleton and Patrick D. Kaiser! I am hoping to continue the writer streak into the new year. I think interviews with John Meredith, MG Unger, Jason Rogers, Tanis Justice, Slate Raven, Freddie Ahlin and O.S. Williams would be cool.

Where can readers find you?

They can find me every Wednesday right here on this blog (www.melanie-ever-moore.com) and on Melanie Ever Moore’s Instagram @m.ever.moore and on her Facebook writer’s page: Realign My Stars (speaking of which, she should probably change that name soon. I mean really, it should have been changed to “The Innovators” months ago….)

Thanks, Innovators Blog!!

The Innovators #10 with…author Eric Woods

It takes time, hard work, and patience as an indie,
and we should never give up on something we love.

Introduce yourself and your books.

Hi, my name is Eric Woods. I am an independent multi-genre author who has published three novels: Pummeled (2018), Dragon’s Blood (2019) and Welcome to Oblivion (2020) along with a collection of stage plays (Playing with the Macabre – 2020) which were written between 1997 and 2003. My interest in writing began in third grade when my class was given the assignment of writing a short story. I became hooked on creating fictional worlds ever since.

Tell me about “The Amalgam”

The Amalgam is the universe by which my stories live and breathe, and the ultimate plan is to publish 10 novels within this universe. I also included the play collection as part of The Amalgam, as characters from several of those pieces will pop in from time to time in the novels. The Amalgam was inspired by a couple things – the Stephen King Dark Tower universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both tell multiple tales but they all occur within the same world, there is a supreme antagonist that oversees the chaos, and many stories and characters come together at the end. The Amalgam will culminate with the 10th novel, where many characters from the other stories come together to face off with the primary antagonist of the universe.

You’ve written in both the drama and horror genres. Which do you most prefer to write in? To read? Why?

My dream as a writer has always been to write in the horror and suspense genres. I grew up on 1980’s slasher films and have loved horror movies since I was a kid. In grade school when we were assigned to write short stories in class, I always went with a scary and suspenseful story. It is just what I have always been drawn to. Horror is also my preferred choice when reading, although I have expanded my choices in the last year as I have gotten to know more and more independent authors. With PUMMELED (my first novel), I took a somewhat personal approach and used themes that were personal to me. That book was somewhat of a release for me, but it also shattered a decades long feeling that I couldn’t complete a full-length novel.

Who or what inspires your writing/creativity?

Stephen King is my horror inspiration. I read Pet Sematary in middle school and was hooked after that. I am also fascinated by dreams. Both Welcome to Oblivion and my next novel were initially inspired by dreams. With WTO, I recall a dream of being lost inside a dark, giant mansion and not being able to find my way out. I felt the presence of something following me but saw only a shadow.

You are a great supporter of other indie authors. Tell me what draws you to support other writers and why do you think it’s important to do so?

I do not see other indie authors as competition. I know how hard it is to get noticed as an author. It is not only a challenge just completing the first draft of a story, but the tiresome, never-ending process of editing, revising, and finding others willing to read and give feedback is an intense process. Followed up with the actual publishing procedure, and authors have already put in endless hours just in the hopes of getting a few eyes on their work. Independent authors and artists love their creations, and it is likely that they have been discouraged by others as they hone their craft. If I can help them along the way, that is what I will do.

What is your biggest challenge in being an indie? How do you overcome it (or have you/can you)?

As with any independent author, artist, singer, etc., the challenge is getting people to notice your work. There are literally thousands of independent authors around the world with easier access to self-publish now than ever before. So, the challenge is growing a fanbase who can find your work and take a chance. It is also a challenge being able to put up with rejections and bad reviews. The only way to overcome any challenges is to fight through them and not become too discouraged. It takes time, hard work, and patience as an indie, and we should never give up on something we love.

What is your superpower? What is your writing kryptonite?

I believe my superpower is being able to create unique, entertaining, and chilling stories that leave my readers wanting more. My kryptonite is time. It took me decades to finally break the barrier and finish my first novel, and I write whenever I have free time. But free time is not always the easiest thing to come by. Along with my full-time job, I am also a freelance writer. During the months of March through October, I serve as the tour guide for the local Lincoln Ghost Walk several nights a week.

What are your upcoming projects?

I will publish my 4th novel, Clippings, in March. It is uniquely formatted and not your traditional tale. The chapters are written in various forms of media communication (newspaper articles, blog posts, newscast transcripts, e-mails, etc.). I am even recruiting people who wish to have their images appear in the articles as “characters.” My 5th novel (PUMMELED: Submission) is tentatively scheduled for a Thanksgiving 2021 release. I am still working on the first draft of that one.

Where can readers find you?

At: www.ericwoodsauthor.com on Instagram @eric_woods_author and on Facebook

Thanks Eric!!

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!!

The Innovators #8 with….author/poet Jared Kane

This week, I’m excited to feature my favourite author, Jared Kane. His novels (Decline, Mya and The Underside of Wars) are some of the most thought-provoking and beautifully written books that I have come across since my university days studying English lit. He is also an incredibly talented poet who crafts some of the most profoundly dark and stirring poems found on social media today. Read on to find out more…

Introduce yourself and your work.

I’m Jared Kane, a writer of books, short stories, and poetry. I’ve had poetry published by both online and print publications. My novels are currently self-published, and are regrettably in the corner, unwilling to raise their hands to draw attention to themselves. They don’t want to be noticed at this party because they make the most noise, but because they are the most beautiful and profound thinkers in the group. Sometimes those types stay in the corner and are never discovered.

Explain the significance of your Instagram handle, Whirlpool of Crows.

I went through a couple before I landed on this one, and really, I only stuck with this one because it is how many first found me. It’s four syllables of seventeen of a haiku I wrote: a whirlpool of crows / swirls above, justifying / our murderousness. It also features in my first novel, Decline. And I have it tattooed on my arm.

Your first novel, Decline, reads very much like poetry. Tell me why you were inspired to write it like that and why a nameless/anonymous protagonist?

I wanted Decline to differ from all the other post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories out there. I conceived the story before the glut of post-apocalyptic media hit our shelves and screens, but by the time I finished it, a lot of these stories were already out there. So, I took inspiration from a Salman Rushdie book I read once—I’m not sure if I even liked the actual book that much, but the manner in which he wrote it, it felt like you could pull out any random paragraph, arrange it like a poem, and a beautiful poem it would be. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. So, I set about writing Decline with a different mindset: to couch the story in poetic language.

The nameless protagonist is a bit of a shameless homage to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Also, the novel is very “stream of consciousness”, like the reader is inside the narrator’s head, hearing what he hears, and seeing what he sees. I feel like his name would be superfluous, and maybe even colour the reader’s impression of him (everyone knows a John, or a Dave, or a Dominic—maybe less so the latter—and if the narrator was “John”, the reader might see their John’s face or hear their John’s features).

Explain the meaning and significance of the quote “Temporis Destruit Omne – Time Destroys Everything” as it applies to your second novel, Mya.

Temporis Destruit Omne is another one of my tattoos now—I hope there’s no Latin scholars out there who pipe in about how terrible my translation is.

Mya is a very intimate book. Without getting into spoilers, “Time Destroys Everything” guides most of what happens in the narrative. It’s a very intimate belief and feeling of mine: it doesn’t matter what you build, what you create, who you become, it will all crumble to nothing in time.

There is no such thing as history and future, past and present—aside from what your senses are perceiving right this moment (itself an interpretation of the mind), everything else is dust or in a state of either becoming dust. A character in Mya proposes the theory of Eternalism, which is a sort of answer to this philosophy. Eternalism is the belief that past, present, and future all exist at once and are equally real (to put it mildly, this is the nutshell version, and I’m absolutely not an expert). This is reassuring in a way: all those times you had, or wish you’d had, they’re all out there still and possible, even if you will never return to them again.

The Underside of Wars protagonist, Matthew Talbot, is a writer frustrated with the state of the literary world and its inability to appreciate his work or give him his “break.” How much of that comes from your own experience as an indie author?

Underside is maybe my most personal book. This will be a very vulnerable answer.

The main character grapples with a lot of things I do, thinks some things I think, feels some things that I feel. Matthew’s experience does reflect my personal experience to some degree when it comes to personality shortcomings and substance abuse. He’s a bit of a cipher. While Matthew is supremely confident in his abilities, that confidence is so shaky that he’s fundamentally unable to accept being unsuccessful, or for success to look different than he always imagined. I am very confident in my ideas, my writing, and what I’ve created. And it can be very hard to accept being passed over. It’s all the more devastating to accept the possibility that I may never be successful (insofar as I define “success”). If that comes to pass, what else is there? There’s a lot more plot in Matthew’s journey, but those quandaries and principles are pretty central.

You’ve described your three novels as a trilogy. With different characters and storylines, how do they fit in/ mesh together as a trilogy? Do they need to be read in a specific order?

I call them my Apocalypse Trilogy. It’s more like they exist in the same universe, and fall somewhere on the same timeline. There’s no direct connection between them except for some easter eggs in Underside that point to it taking place a certain amount of time after Mya. If there was an order, it would be Mya, Underside, then Decline. They absolutely do not have to be read in that order. Though that’s not a bad order in which to read them. A new reader would probably find the language in Mya and Underside more accessible. Then, hopefully after they’ve read those two, they’d be willing to undertake the challenge of reading Decline.

What role does music play in your creative process? What else inspires your creativity? What bands/artists are currently on your writing playlist?

Music is everything to me. Life without music would be food without taste. I have a psychological dependence on music, sort of the way someone can become addicted to gambling: like a gambler feels a shot of dopamine when they pull the slot lever down, so do I feel a surge of dopamine when I hear the music I love.

I always match up a song with what I’m writing. If it’s a sad moment, I play a sad song. If an action sequence, I play a more aggressive song, and so on. I know some writers have difficulty focusing when they’re listening to music, and especially music with lyrics, but I don’t hear the lyrics. All I hear is mood.

In that regard, I have thousands of songs on my writing playlist—it all depends what type of dopamine hit I need at the time! For example, Decline is a quiet, sad, philosophical post-apocalyptic novel, so my playlist for that book included a lot of Lycia for the quiet, sad moments. For the more heartbreaking moments, the playlist would become more aggressively despondent, like Psyclon Nine’s “Under the Judas Tree”. Mya was very much influenced by songs from Yendri, while Underside is more raw, and had music from Amenra and Black Mare (see Black Mare’s “Ingress to Form”). Right at this moment in the block universe, I’m cycling through those three playlists (I still keep a separate playlist for each book on iTunes) as I write these answers.

What else inspires my creativity? Maybe everything, maybe nothing. I’m usually most inspired when I feel a lugubrious emptiness. It’s a profound need that feels deeply hollow. Ironically, it’s difficult to write at those times, because my mind will conjure up the same words and lines over and over. Instead, I’m most productive during times of (and I’m paraphrasing . . . someone . . . I can’t remember who, and I don’t remember the quote well enough to search it) sober reflection on past inspiration.

I’m sure you’re the cosmic love-child of dead poets. Who do you think they are ? What writing talents have you inherited from each of them?

I love this question. Anything that makes me turn around and consider my bookshelves is welcome. It’s like returning to nature after the city.

I’ll say William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy, which is starting right at the beginning. From Wordsworth, I gained a sense of wonder at nature and a feeling for romanticism that is much more vast than our current crass concept of “romance”. From Thomas Hardy, I inherited a dark and tragic outlook. One is basically a response to the other. Hardy probably continues to have the most influence on my writing. His books can be one thing for 300 pages, and then deliver a gut punch out of nowhere in the last chapter (or last two pages in the case of The Woodlanders) that makes you completely re-evaluate your feelings about the entire book.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work? Do you prefer they read your novels or your poems or both? If they only read one of your books, which one would you most recommend?

I hope that my work evokes an emotional response from readers. The best books I’ve read, I’ll put down and feel different afterwards. The light will be a different warmth, and everything around me will look a little different than it did before. Sometimes this feeling lasts a few hours, a few days, sometimes it’s forever. I want my writing to land on that spectrum for readers. Honestly, as I veer back to the question of “success” that came up several questions back, that is true success. If I can make a reader feel that way, then let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

If I had to choose, I’d rather my readers read my novels. But I don’t write long-form poetry, so read both! Depending on the reader, they might want to start with Underside or Mya because they may go down easier to start.

Where can readers find you?

Readers can find me on Instagram @whirlpool_of_crows, where I post poems and other blurbs, while The Underside of Wars, Mya and Decline are all available on Amazon.

Thanks, Jared!!

Go check out his books…

The Innovators #7 with…author Lee Vockins

Introduce yourself and your books.

Yo, I’m Lee (also known as Lee A. Vockins). I’m a published writer, independent author and soon-to-be accredited life coach. For the past two years I had a novella available on Amazon (The Hunter: Monster Within), but it is currently unpublished so I can make some major changes. Although a successful release, it wasn’t quite up to my recent standards or writing ability. Us creatives are fickle creatures, right? Always striving for perfection.

Tell me about your book, The Hunter: Monster Within

The Hunter: Monster Within is a dark fantasy tale of monsters and magic and hope. It follows the journey of the enigmatic Azerius, and his inner struggle for power. He hunts those that lurk in the shadow, but only by harnessing something dark within himself. He has some interesting friends; oddities, supernatural and mysterious, much like himself. In my introduction to the series, Monster Within, Azerius embarks on the ultimate hunt. A challenge, perhaps, but something far more sinister waits just beyond. A challenge that he never could have anticipated… himself.

I wrote this book when I was going through a lot of struggle. It was my anchor and my means to vent. There’s a lot of darkness within, but it comes from somewhere true. On the surface, it’s a gore-smothered dark fantasy, but beneath, it’s a story about embracing difference, and those that are different. It’s a story of finding strength and hope, no matter how bad that inner struggle may seem.

Unfortunately, the re-write of the book isn’t quite ready yet, but it is in the works, and is looking more like what I intended it to be.

What role does creativity play in your life? What other creative ventures / hobbies do you have besides writing? Who or what inspires you?

Creativity, I find, is something that I must do, and I’m sure that many others can relate with this. It’s part of my being. My mind is always coming up with new ideas that I just need to put to page. It’s my vent and my escape, but also the thing that makes me feel most alive.

I have written in many forms over my years; game design, poetry, music. I have also played guitar since I was about 18 and I like to paint now and again (although I’m not very good). I love photography, especially when I’m out walking among nature, as many have probably seen on my Instagram. Oh, and graphic design, narration, and video editing. So, I’m quite the creative…

And who and what inspires me? My simple answer to this would be anything and everything. The world and all the souls on it. Nature. History. Books. Art. TV and movies and music. However, one of my biggest influences for my writing is H. P. Lovecraft. I grew up reading the Nerconomicon and all the tales of C’thulu, and you’ll probably see that reflect among my works of fiction.

You are open about your mental health struggles on your blog. Tell me why you feel that is important to be open about, to write about, to share.

I feel that it’s important for me to be open about my mental health because I need people to know that there is light in the darkness. I need people to know that there is every chance of getting back to a positive state of mind, no matter how lost they may feel. I’m hoping that by reading about some of my personal struggles, and how I got to where I am now, they will continue to fight.

I also want to push through a lot of the stigma out there surrounding the subject. Like, medication is bad for you or men aren’t allowed to show emotion or cry… these constructed mentalities need to stop, because they are dangerous for the people that are struggling. It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to just be yourself.

You identify as a Stoic. Tell me why. What role does Stoicism play in your writing/creativity?

I’ve been studying philosophy for about a year now, and among the ancient philosophy’s, Stoicism has resonated with me the most. The main reason for this, I believe, is that it builds upon much of what I have already practiced. Stoicism has influenced much of modern-day talking therapies, and as such, the study of it caught my interest. I already knew much of it, without the knowledge of its origin.

The philosophy helps me with my focus, routine, and ability to control my emotion. It enforces a daily ritual of self-reflection. It has taught me to let go of objects and relationships that weren’t serving my potential. It has taught me to accept fate and know that everything happens for a reason.

And that’s just the surface of it; I could talk about this subject for hours. But, for purposes of my creativity, it has mainly helped me with my daily routine and my confidence. One of the main points of Stoicism is to realise what we can and cannot control. So, what I can control is the effort I put into my work. What I cannot control is how others will perceive it. This gives me great confidence in my work because I know that everything that I do is to my potential. I have done what I can, the rest is up to fate.

What is the best part about being an indie writer for you? The hardest/most frustrating part?

I love being an indie writer. I love the absolute freedom to create and not having to worry about what might appeal to the mainstream. I absolutely write for me, and that is a powerful feeling. I love the marketing and business side of it. I love connecting with the community and developing new ideas to promote with them.

Have to be honest, I’m just having fun with it. I haven’t found anything hard or frustrating… yet.

If you got locked in a library overnight what section would you be found sleeping in? What books will be surrounding you?

That’s a difficult one. So much choice! My taste in books is extremely broad. But, to make the most out of being locked in a library, I would probably be found in the philosophy section. There is still much about the subject that I wish to learn and many philosophers that I am yet to learn from.

What upcoming projects are you working on? Where can readers find you and your work?

Aside from The Hunter: Monster Within, I am also working on the follow up book to the series. I like to write as ideas come to me, so always have multiple projects on the go. In terms of fiction, I also have a short story and poetry collection that I’m putting together.

Alongside all this, I’m writing some non-fic on self-care, incorporating my knowledge and experience of philosophy, psychology, and spirituality. I don’t like to put dates on the releases of anything, but I will definitely have something out by the end of next year.

You can find me and my work on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads.

My Website is http://www.lavockins.com.

Thanks Lee!! Looking forward to your next releases!

The Innovators #6 with….author Darren Edden

Introduce yourself and your books…

Hi, I am Darren Edden, I live in the UK and I write science fiction but also currently working on a thriller and dark fantasy just to broaden my scope.
My debut novel was The Mirror of our Creation, a science fiction novel about a signal received from the orbit of Jupiter and four individuals who come together, all having their own interests in the signal and find themselves making first contact. Whilst this is happening there is also a pandemic sweeping the world (written pre Covid!) and the novel dips into the governments handling this and how this links to the main story spliced with intermittent snapshots of global news. The aliens in this story are not what you expect and soon the intrepid foursome realise humanity is not what all it seems to be…

Why science fiction?  What compels you to write in that genre? Favourite sci-fi book and movie or tv show?

A good question, it all started when I was a child and watched shows like the original Star Trek (repeated by the way), Gerry Anderson and his Captain Scarlet/Thunderbirds creations, The Bionic Man series, all these and much more filled my head with imagination and wonder. I find comfort in the ability to escape reality and create something new and wonderful I can retreat to, its always a blank canvas, a new world, a new universe… I read a lot of science fiction as well as other genres but I don’t have a favourite book, authors yes, George Mann, David Brin, and James Herbert (horror). Favourite film is Bladerunner, it captures a mood of the future that seems tangible and real, as regards TV shows its actually Supernatural and Doctor Who.

Where did the idea for The Mirror of our Creation, with its focus on space and time travel, come from?

This is an interesting question, the idea came from a short story I wrote and published for a short time on Amazon titled The Destiny of Jenny Tutbury. This was about a woman who was visited by travelers from the future to stop her from creating the very thing they used to travel back in time. Once written and published, I found the story intrigued me and I started to plan out what I thought would be a prequel but actually became its own entity with the ending of the book referencing Jenny leading onto the short story.
I have always wanted to write a book about first contact and I wanted it with multiple characters from different backgrounds all living in a not too distant future with subtle advances in technology exist, the pandemic arose as an additional subplot that linked nicely to the main story (not even seeing what was to come in reality). The ending was always in place with the introduction of Jenny at the end to complement the original short story The Destiny of Jenny Tutbury. 
That was when I decided after finishing the first book I would rewrite the short story and turn it into a full-blown novel of its own hence, The Future of the Present Past.

You have some cool extra-terrestrials in the book.  Do you believe in them?

Such a controversial question…yes I do, my version of the aliens was always going to be different. I did not want bug-eyed monsters or the usual stereotype of alien, that was the beauty of my aliens, they were unique and formed part of the twist in the book, maybe touching a little on Arthur C Clarke 2001 but, still different enough. 
The universe is too vast, too wide and too vibrant in colour not to have life elsewhere. I would like to think one day in our future we will be spread enough far and wide to be our own aliens derived from ourselves, now that’s something to think about…

Time-travel is a big theme in your latest book, The Future of the Present Past. What inspired you to focus on that?

I have always been fascinated with time travel and the various concepts that seem to exist, the paradox they cause, and the difference of opinions of what time travel can or cannot do. It is an area that I know has been written again and again so I was mindful I had to approach it differently.
For a while, I have had the title The Future of the Present Past written down with no outlay planned for it and I have always wondered how to use it because it’s a good title. It was only after I had rewritten The Destiny of Jenny Tutbury that I finally found the right use for it. 
Time travel played a huge part in that original short story and I expanded it out even further in the latest book and it was quite hard to keep it grounded and believable whilst not letting the reader get lost between timezones when flipping between characters and places, I didn’t want to write the normal time travel stories, I wanted something fresh and as a writer, I strive to be different using subplots, backstories, etc. and the twists within the story of The future of the Present Past and how it all links with the first book The Mirror of Our Creation is subtle but I think has provided a little bit of uniqueness.

If offered the opportunity to time travel, would you?  If no, why not.  If yes, where and when you go and what would you most like to do once there?

There are so many ways I could answer this as I am a huge fan of Doctor Who, specifically the Russel T Davies years as he brought it back to life with the brilliant Christopher Eccleston and my favourite David Tennant.  I would jump at the chance to time travel and I have always been drawn to the Victorian era for some unknown reason. George Mann provides an excellent alternative Steampunk Britain in the victorian era with his excellent Newbury and Hobbs series of books. It’s the clothes, the scientific discoveries or lack of, the simplistic life without today’s gadgets. Once there I would write and publish, which may not be a good idea as this would create a paradox and….well, maybe I would just travel the world and see it in all its early glory or just hang out with Nikola Tesla.

Who or what inspires your writing?  What advice would you give aspiring indie writers?  

There are two people who inspired me to write: Joss Whedon, with the intricate characterizations he builds into his stories, and Russel T Davies for the way he tells a story and gentle weaves subplots into the main stories. 
As for advice, I self publish because I don’t want to be the next J.K.Rowling or Philip Pullman or even the brilliant and gifted Neil Gaiman, I want to be…Darren Edden and my style of writing. Be original and don’t be afraid to experiment, self publish on platforms like Amazon, it’s free so if it doesn’t work it has only cost you time and not money. Never give up or walk away. I did that and did not lift a pen for five years and have regretted it ever since missing opportunities because my ideas were used by others so you lose the potential to be different and unique.

What do you want readers to take from your work?  Where can readers find you?

Wow that’s a good one to ask, I want readers to be satisfied in what they have read, hopefully I have given them characters to identify with or at least warm towards and a story worth their investment and them wanting to come back for more. 
My work at the moment is exclusive to Amazon and I have made it accessible on Kindle and paperback, moving forward eventually I hope to expand past Amazon and distribute to small independent book shops and sell through my own website but that’s the future.

Thanks Darren!!!

You can find both novels in the Destiny series, The Mirror of Our Creation and The Future of the Present Past on Amazon: