Thursday, June 30, 2011

Interview with author C. Lee Brown

Author C. Lee Brown, is the creator of  the Tales of the Bard series, and editor and contributor to A Visitor to Sandahl. Lee wrote and published his first novel, Cable Hornman: The Bard Begins and chose the self publishing route. In this interview we learn about the pros and cons of self publishing. As well, Lee gives readers valuable insight into the process of POD (print on demand) publishing.

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

I'm a newcomer to sci-fi & fantasy writing. I was born in 1948 and raised in Southern Illinois by my mother, a seamstress, and my father, who worked as a mechanic and electrician in a coal mine. My father passed away when I was just fifteen and it was mom and I until I graduated from high school. I was married on my eighteenth birthday, left home, and spent the next twenty-one years in the U.S. Army. My military service, working as an analyst in Army intelligence, was very interesting, but I always had a love of the imagination and the creativity of sci-fi and fantasy books. I attended college at several different institutions through the Army Education Service while on active duty and also attended Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah after retiring from the Army. A world traveler and avid reader, I fondly remember reading major works in the fantasy and sci-fi genre to my children at bedtime. It was this love of the mystical and supernatural that inspired me to write the Tales of the Bard as a legacy for my grandchildren. I had already created a unique fantasy world called Methanasia for the setting of these stories.

Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?

I guess you could say I already have a plot in mind when I start writing a story about Cable Hornman. As the main character in my Tales of the Bard series, I already knew what Cable did from his late teens up to his mid-thirties because he was a character I used in playing games with my kids. I draw upon those games for the plot for my novels and short stories. Once started along the lines of the plot, I often find the story taking on a life of its own as new ideas and twists come to mind. These happen mostly when I interject humor or a particularly nasty creature. The supporting characters of Oskar Zulu, Bar-lo-Mein (the dwarf) and Kaeglius (a Druid monk) were also derived from friends and family icons used in the role-playing games. So I know how they behave and interact with other characters in my stories. Each has their own backstory, which I bring out in increments as the story unfolds. I have enough material for the trilogy and probably six or nine more adventures. And that's just the good guys! I have several villains, not the least of whom is the evil half-Drow, Xthril. These could be used to write a complete rogue’s gallery about Skald Valley, their homeland hidden in the Great Mountains of Methanasia.  

Tell us about your novel(s) and where readers can purchase a copy.

My first book is titled Cable Hornman: The Bard Begins. It is the first in the Tales of the Bard series and introduces readers to Cable Hornman. Cable sets out to avenge his parents’ murder and finds more intrigue than he bargained for as he encounters dwarves, assassins, a giant clay golem and an entire cast of challenging characters. Cable arrives in Smeln, the old capital of the Western Empire, and joins the City Guard to learn fighting skills and weaponry. Cable’s life as a soldier is tough, but he proves his prowess by solving a murder. He becomes obsessed with the lead murder suspect, a part-elf female named Xthril, and his persistence in finding her sends him on a dark chase, as Xthril will stop at nothing to pursue wealth and power. Along the way Cable makes new friends and learns the fellowship of men-in-arms.

Cable Hornman: The Bard Begins is available in soft-cover and kindle on Amazon:

The second book in “The Tales of the Bard” series (Secret of the Druids) is in production and should be out around the end of 2011.

After Cable Hornman, I reached out to several writers in an online writer’s group “The Next Big Writer” and created a short story compendium set in the same fantasy world of Methanasia. It is titled A Visitor to Sandahl. I worked as editor and also contributed a story to the anthology. It is not part of the Cable Hornman storyline but contains interesting, frightening and sometimes humorous tales. Sandahl is a town set in a mountain valley at the crossroads of the continent of Methanasia. It is here that the three great mountain ranges meet and also where the trade routes cross. Most of the writers of these short stories were unpublished and did an excellent job of providing wonderful tales.
A Visitor to Sandahl is available in soft-cover and kindle on Amazon:


How did you come up with the idea for A Visitor to Sandahl?

I had three things in mind when I decided to do A Visitor to Sandahl. First I wanted to try something that would benefit my friends in the Fantasy, Paranormal and Horror writing circle. So I thought “Why not tempt them with the prospect of getting published?” Second, I felt that if they wrote stories set in my world of Methanasia, it could develop a following of readers. This might increase sales of Cable Hornman. Third, and not the least consideration, I wanted to see what it would be like to create an anthology from a variety of writers. How much work would it be? What ideas for plots would arise? How long does the actual publication process take? I admit I learned a great deal more by putting a book together than I did by writing one. In the end, I learned a lot and we all got to say we are authors.

What was your experience like with collaborative writing? Is it something you would do again?

I really enjoyed the whole thing. It was a lot of work though. I feel much closer to the writers who contributed to the anthology now and am proud of what we created. I’d often read other sci-fi and fantasy anthologies and usually bought the annual “Years best in...” to see what had been picked for inclusion in that year’s list of short stories. I'm seriously considering another book of short stories in the not too distant future. Perhaps I’ll call it Return to Sandahl or Sandahl Revisited.

You’ve chosen self-publishing instead of going the traditional route. Tell us a little about that journey. For instance, what were your reasons for choosing to self-publish and would you do it again? Has it been a successful venture for you?

There were a couple reasons I went with print on demand (POD) company like Create Space I wanted a book and I wanted it fairly quickly. The usual process of finding a publisher can take months or even years. I didn’t really care about making a fortune as a writer. I wanted it to leave as a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I was willing to use some of my own money. I had received a substantial tax refund which coincided with completing the first draft on my book. All things seemed to come together at the right time. I shopped around and decided on which POD company I would use. It has been a success in the sense that I have two vanity books out, but it has also been a very disappointing financial venture. It’s a good thing I’m not writing to bring home the bacon because the books have not taken off like I had hoped and the royalties haven’t covered a tenth of the costs. I spent over $2,000 on the first book and about $3,500 on the second. Last time I checked they have brought in just a couple hundred dollars in royalties. I have a gentlemen’s agreement to share royalties with the other writers on A Visitor to Sandahl once they exceed the cost, but sales have been very slow. “Gotta love what you’re doing to take a loss like that.” There are success stories with self publishing but if you look closely they either had good marketing or were self help type books.

What are some of the pros to self-publishing and what would you say are the cons?

In terms of pros, the author has more control with self publishing. Since it is the author’s money on the line, the author will probably want the work to be the best possible before they release it to the POD. It makes the author pay more attention to the details. The POD works very closely with authors to explain options, services and costs. They usually assign the author a production team that helps all the way through the process. They also try to answer all your questions. If it is something that is not actually their responsibility, they will point you in the right direction.

On the down side, the POD does little to get your work recognized. Their marketing strategy is to place the bulk of the sales strategy on the writer. They send out notices to a wide variety of potential sellers but yours is just one more book on a long list. Also, you have to foot the bill, which can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. It all depends on what services they provide.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out. Someone who’s considering self-publishing?

A new writer should join some type of writer’s circle. There is a wealth of information to be gained just by sharing thoughts and editing each others work. Get organized by setting up different files on your computer. Things like plot-lines, characters, place-names and so forth help you keep the story in good order. Have a backstory for your main characters. These provide sub-plots and interesting insight into these characters. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! As for self publishing, make sure you have enough money to defray the costs. Shop around and see which companies have a good reputation for customer satisfaction. Does the POD usually work with your genre? Look up POD comparisons on-line.

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

Sadly, marketing is probably my weakest facet. There are several resources for marketing books and also many keen ideas on how to get the attention your book needs to be successful. I’m still hoping that people will read A Visitor to Sandahl and develop an interest in other works by the authors who contributed. That group of writers spans the entire globe and the book could eventually become the best marketing tool for our other books.

What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

My current work in progress is Secret of the Druids. It picks up the story of Cable Hornman after he leaves the City Watch in Smeln. He travels to Sandahl in between the stories and meets up with an old magician named Lorenzo (the Great). This story begins with Cable and Lorenzo travelling west through the pass from Sandahl to Vinberg. The small town of Vinberg is also home to Vining, the great hall and homeland of the High Druid Council. Cable has been summoned there by Ravenlock, enroute to a marriage of his elf friend. The city of the elf’s, Lodi, is just a short journey south of Vinberg. Cable Hornman in this tale is more mature, an accomplished swordsman, he’s learned a variety of skills useful to a young adventurer. He is joined by his old comrades Oskar and Bar-lo-Mein. He meets and befriends a new character named Kaeglius, a young druid monk. Of course they will have trouble with some evil-doers and maybe even rescue a damsel. You will have to read the story to find out, but I will let one cat out of the bag. Oskar Zulu will find a love interest in this tale. Cable’s motive for seeing the druids is to better understand magic and master his own powers. The full title will be Cable Hornman: The Secret of the Druids. It will be book two in “The Tales of the Bard”.

Thank you, Lee for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience...Jeanne

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is this my Lola?

My editor has been assigned, but I'm, still waiting on cover art for Invisible. In the meantime, I am thrilled to use the image below as my 'stand-in' cover art until the final version is produced by the publisher.

The artwork is courtesy of a talented cover artist named Tirzah. She's recently started a website for affordable and amazing cover art. If you're looking for a consciencious and talented artist, Tirzah's your gal. Check out her site at

I love it! Thank you, Tirzah.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Interview with author Susan Stec

Recently, I've had the honor of interviewing, Susan Stec, the author of the recently released The Grateful Undead: They're so Vein. They're so Vein is not your typical vampire story. Susan writes with humor and originality, using real life family members as the characters in her novels. In doing so, she gives the reader wonderful characters with big personalities, drawing us in and giving us a laugh all at the same time. Her writing is fresh and original. There's no one out there quite like Susan Stec. She's a true original and I encourage readers to pick up a copy of They're so Vein, the first of her trilogy. Check out the book trailer above.

Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer

I love fantasy, especially urban fantasy. And even more so if it's humorous.

When I turned fifty, I started to have this crazy dream every night: Sexy vamp waltzes through the French doors of my bedroom balcony, and after an erotically charged interlude, he fangs me, which just happened to clock me back about 30 years. Then the rest of the zany non-estrogen producing women in my family burst into my bedroom asking for a piece of the action. I woke laughing, and got out a pad and a pen.

After I cut the girls loose in my world there was no dragging them back out again! My dreams became filled with fanged fiascos and they mentally pushed me toward the computer every morning, fighting to get out.

Tell us about your novel

First off, They're So Vein is NOT your teenaged daughter's vampire story. It starts out when a cheeky, potty-mouthed tyke takes a bite out of the protagonist, Susan, in a public bathroom. Vanity being the mainstay in this zany family of senior citizens, they all want a piece of the action. Susan looked twenty-five…they looked…well…old.

A domino effect quickly ensues, leaving only Jeni, Susan's oldest daughter, the sole voice of reason. The amateur vampires, with only dime store literature to guide them, swiftly find out feedin' ain't easy…not with five new immortals on the loose.

Susan's Bible-toting sister, JoAnn, inadvertently turns a raccoon into a ‘vampoon’ — talk about screwing up the whole eco-system. PETA would be so pissed. Fanged critters start parading around the neighborhood like a conga line in front of a buffet at the Golden Coral. The day the Jehovah witnesses show up at the door…well that wasn't pretty, everyone felt so bad…

Then Susan's vamped-out eighty-three-year old mother, mixing blood with pleasure, begins to seize, with gusto, the moments she'd missed in her sexually-deficient life. Problem is, she loses a few warm bodies along the way.

That's when the Morizzio Cartel pulled out the big fangs, mailed out rules and demanded a meeting. And although the girls were ready to stomp their new stilettos right over their 1,500-year-old rules, they end up paying for their infractions, big time.

Being assigned to Critter Control for an eternity wasn't what any of them had signed up for. Especially with the protagonist's six-year-old nemesis, Christopher, as a partner.

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

I do not have an agent— queried a few— but it didn't pan out. Couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong so I started following agents on twitter, and personal blogs. At the time, all I heard in my genre were agents and editors saying, "If I have to read one more query with vampires or werewolves I'm gonna puke! Come on people! Can you say, 'original'?"

I queried during the 'Twilight' craze, when the market was flooded with vampire books. I was about to give up. Instead I put the book aside, waited a year, bucked up and wrote two more books in the series. Then I began to query again. Only this time I bypassed the agents and went right to small press publishers. Black Matrix Publishing offered me a contract about three months later in July 2010, and it has been an absolute pleasure working with Guy Kenyon. The novel was released in April 2011. I was very impressed with the edits, communication was easy, personal input with regards to cover art, marketing, and edits were promptly addressed, all questions were answered. I'm very pleased with my publishing choice so far. Guy is now in the process of marketing the book.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?

I dream them. I wake up with an idea, and then start typing. The characters fill in the pages one night at a time. I've tried to do outlines, but after tossing so many attempts I just sit back and let my characters do the work for me. Not like they aren't gonna do that anyway. Not like I have any real control in the situation. They've even changed the plot mid book, like when the legendary blood countess shows up in the second book! That was not the story I had in mind at all. I woke up and there she was, wreaking all kinds of havoc from inside her freakin' mirror!

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on a young adult book, unFAIRYly Marked. It's about fairies who are being humanized with teen-toys. Cell phones, computers, video games, bug vehicles, etc. My poor main character drives a darner moth— it's a predator— and he eats the other vehicles (which are also insects), as if she doesn't have it bad enough being the only half-breed in Terra Fae Nova. But things aren't what they seem to be, the elders have a plan for this generation of children. The story brings up issues with drugs, bullying, friendship, trust, interracial families, sexual tension, and of course being the underdog.

How much of the marketing do you do?

I blog, FaceBook, get on Twitter occasionally, and work a site called BookBlogs. I leave my Amazon page, blog address, and a few other addresses on everything I send or do over the Internet. If I review a book on Amazon, I add my addresses at the bottom. If I respond on a blog, I pop in the addresses. Email, yep, you got it. I've gone out locally and handed out business cards, got some local book stores to order, the two small libraries in my area also have a copy. I told my family I was getting indelible markers so I can hit the restroom at Wal-mart next week. Sandwich board in front of the local retirement homes, too much?

Anything youve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book?


Is your book available as an eBook?

Yes, every major online eBook retailer for numerous devices such as Amazon's Kindle, the Nook from Barnes & Noble, Apple's iPad, pdfs, Android phones and many others. The process was easy for me — Guy did all the work. He had them up within days of the release of the book. I would definitely go ebook! I believe they are the future.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Write for you, not for the market you think will be available when your work is completed. Have patience, try new ideas. Join a local writing group or one on the Internet like The Next Big Writer and be open minded about critiques because those readers help you not only understand your market, but help get your book ready to query. If you think two heads are better than one, try 20.

As a writer we all face rejection, any advice on how to deal with it?

All I can say is that I grew a really hard layer of skin that first year with all the rejections. It's a tough market out there, and although I really wanted to see my books in print, I think holding on to the fact that I write for me and the women in my family is what got me through it. However, there is nothing like seeing your name on Amazon! Makes you feel special.

Whats your writing schedule like?

I try to write at least a chapter a week now that I'm published. Used to be able to crank out two, three a week, but marketing is taking up more than half of my time now. I'd say I write about 12 - 24 hours a week and market or build relationships the remainder of my work week which is usually around 40 hours during the summer and lots more in the winter.

Whats your favorite thing and least favorite thing about writing?

My favorite would be typing away and laughing out loud as my characters go all wonky on me. They crack me up with their outbursts and constant surprises. Like who would have thought my Bible-toting sister would have a child with a demon????… Ooops… spoiler for the third book! Dang, maybe you want to edit that out?

My least favorite — writing a damn query! I'm a wordy bitch. One or two paragraphs? Come on!

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

On the cover of Rolling Stone. Ha!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?

That I have five women, a fairy, troll, werewolf, demon, and several sexy immortals living in my brain! And they won't go home!

Any suggestions to help someone become a better writer?

I think writing what moves you, what you have a passion for, what makes you smile, adding personal experience to breathe life into your work makes it easier. Better? Learning from others makes it better.

Where can readers find you? (Include all links you want, facebook, twitter etc....)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why do we write?

As far back as I can remember, I've written. I wrote poems and simple short stories as a child. I wrote horror stories as a teenager (Stephen King was an early influence). I wrote for the college newspaper while working towards my journalism degree. And even though I took a long hiatus to raise my family and work, the urge to write never fully disappeared.

My teenage daughter will enter university in the fall with the hope of earning an English degree so she can be a high school English teacher, but when I make the suggestion that she write a short story, I get a big fat NO.

So, my questions are - what makes us write? Where does this unfailing urge come from? Why do some people love to read but never want to write? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Writing after the contract is signed

Okay, the publication contract for Invisible has been signed and I'm still waiting on an editor to be assigned to me. But in the meantime, what do I do? I've busied myself with social networking, Twitter, Face Book, blogging, trying to create a following (which incidentally is not an easy feat). But what about writing? I don't have the slightest inclination to write. As a matter of fact I'd rather clean my house, give my dog a bath, do the grocery shopping (a chore I revile), flick on the boob tube to watch mindless reality TV - suddenly Cake Boss is the most interesting thing in the world!

Writing after knowing you're on your way to completing your life long dream of having a novel published is HARD. It's as if I've climbed my own personal Mount Everest and reached the summit and now all I want to do is rest. This, however, is not the hallmark of a professional. I'm smart enough to realize that if I ever want to make a living as a writer, I've got to get up off my butt and place said butt in chair and not move until I've been productive.

Anyone want to share words of wisdom? Any helpful hints to get the writing juices flowing?

Coming soon...An interview with author Susan Stec of The Grateful Undead: They're so Vein

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adventures in Publishing

It's been quite some time since I've posted on my blog. Truthfully there wasn't much to say. However, since my last post I've written a young adult book entitled Invisible and have almost completed my first novel Dark Angel. I'd put Dark Angel aside because Invisible was bursting to be born. And now, I'm thrilled to announce Invisible will soon be published by Solstice Publishing. For all those who are interested, I'd like to take you along on my journey to publication.

Invisible is the story of seventeen-year-old, Lola Savullo. Lola's not only freakishly tall, she's a BIG girl and when forced to wear a bathing suit at her summer job as a camp counsellor, she literally wishes herself invisible. Lola struggles with her newfound super power and realizes it isn't about to go away until she finds a way to love herself.

I began writing Invisible in October of 2010 and was finished four months later. This is certainly a record as I've been working on Dark Angel for two years and it's still not done. When the story was as polished as possible I began my search for an agent. Finding an agent is harder than finding a publisher. Although I had many agents request partials and fulls, and even found one willing to give me some personal feedback and an open invitation to send in future manuscripts, I gave up on agents after a few months of looking.

Enter the publisher. Solstice was at the very top of my list and I was fortunate enough to be offered a publishing contract soon after I submitted my manuscript. I signed the contract on June 3, 2011 and am now waiting to be assigned an editor. So far I am very impressed with Solstice's level of professionalism and personal attention.

I'll be back to document my experiences when more stuff happens :) Hope you'll come along for the ride.