Writer’s Awakening- Colin Palmer (2)

Moonlake: So now we return to the interview with Colin Palmer. Hearing about your story with this big company, I definitely felt like they were toying with you. But at least you made a comeback. So how did the comeback come about? Wow, that’s a mouthful there lol.

Colin: Ten years later, in another country surrounded by non-English speakers, I received a minor epiphany, if an epiphany could be considered minor!  I was teaching English and one of my students required specific help in writing computer blogs.  That was almost two years ago and it made me wonder about my own writing.  I had friends, other students of mine in the IT sphere and I asked them about publishers in this country.  Unfortunately, there were very few and none supported foreign languages but two of my students also directed me to a Russian website, Ridero.ru.  The support section of Ridero replied to my email immediately, courteously apologising that they could not assist with English language books but re-directed me to their European website, Ridero.eu which did have an English Department, albeit brand new.

Moonlake: Cool. The ball started rolling from there on, yeah?

Colin: Yep, I studied online publishing, self-publishing and compared many similar sites to Ridero over a period of six months with Ridero becoming the standout because of the enormous amount of free services they provided to the author PLUS an amazing 85% royalty return on sold books.  They also provide free ISBN, non-exclusive contracts and distribute to all the largest online bookshops in Eastern and Western Europe, plus Google Books,  IBooks and ITunes, plus Amazon USA!  Hardcopy and paperback books are available on a print on demand basis direct from Ridero and the author does not need to outlay any money at all.  They do offer professional editing, layout and cover illustration specialists and these you do have to pay to use but their prices are exceedingly cheap compared to western publishers.

Moonlake: Okay, sounds more enticing than Amazon even. How did this venture go?

Colin: Well, everything was looking good, and I went back to writing.  I already had a desktop, my weapon of preferred choice but I also bought a laptop for those times away from home.  I dragged out the portable hard drive and discovered nearly half my stories were written in a Word programme so old even the latest Word had trouble formatting them!  It took days of manually rewriting but it also let me update and edit them even further.  Yes I did try scanning and auto formatting but it made them worse.  I also sought advice from friends in the professional sphere who tried different ideas but all failed to produce good copies.  But I rediscovered the joy of the stories as I rewrote them and it become a pleasure, not a chore.  My oldest novel was the most difficult because of its length more than anything.  I managed to edit off over twenty-five thousand words from that one!

Moonlake: Yep, nothing like time away from it to get a new perspective on things. What happened next?

Colin: Then I began applying my research about self-publishing, create a page or pages on social media, create a website, join like-minded online groups, create a blog, get your name out there, sell yourself, marketing, marketing, marketing!

I sent my first book to Ridero in December 2016, it was available online before Christmas.  I pumped the new book and the site through my Facebook page, through friends, family, I did that for a month and got nothing, zilch, zip.

Moonlake: Hmm… so initial marketing hasn’t been successful, any lessons learnt?

Colin: Lesson learned about family and friends, they will support you verbally, congratulate you if deemed necessary but buy your book, pass on information about your book, and more importantly in self-publishing, provide a review of your book, no, don’t hold your breath.  I sent my second book to Ridero, the one with the heavy editing work completed and did the same with family and friends, doing everything except beg them for shares, reviews, or bless their cotton socks, actual purchases.

Moonlake: So what did you try next, if any?

Colin: I joined Book Review clubs and groups and began making more comment in social media, anything to get my name and product out there.  I was sending out my website and FB author page weekly, sharing a blog post twice a week, and still writing. I finished my third novel and submitted it to Ridero. I kept checking statistics for all the available markets where my books were sold, nothing, no reviews, no sales.  I kept writing.

Some of the groups on social media were turning into a wasted exercise, their questions so blatantly basic and ridiculous that I realised were purely for attention seeking.  I learnt that big groups are not helpful except for socialising and I had no time for that.  I tested each group by placing an appropriate blog answer to one of their basic questions, then monitored the visits to my blog.  It was usually nil, on rare occasions one or two.  Those groups were systematically deleted off my lists.

Moonlake: Yeah, it’s hard to drive traffic from Facebook groups to your site. I usually just use them to network with other writers as opposed to marketing. Then again, I haven’t got any work to market. So what else happened with this first foray into self publishing?

Colin: In mid-May 2017, a friend in Australia sent me a personal message via FB telling me they had searched for my book on Ridero to purchase a hardcopy.  Even with the link I’d provided, he couldn’t find my book or either of the other two NOR receive a return when he put my name into their search engine.  I immediately contacted Ridero and as usual with their correspondence, they immediately replied that they would look into it.  I also tried searching for my book randomly on Google and received only the Amazon US site, so at least they were there!  I tried searching Ridero without entering through my Author Login and found the same thing my friend had – nothing about me or my books.

Moonlake: Oh, that’s a pretty major hit in terms of distribution! How did you resolve it?

Colin: Ridero replied quickly to this situation, very apologetically advising that their search engine had no capacity to find English language books or authors!  They understood the consequences of this and have been frantically working to fix the problem, and nearly every day for the past month I’ve received email updates on their progress.  Finally, just yesterday, 9th of June 2017, they advised that only their Russia based website could deal with the language problem and with my agreement, they would forward my books into the Russian system.  Unfortunately, this means I have to fill out a contract in compliance with Russian Law, an actual real live in the flesh contract which would be mailed to me, online or faxed contracts are considered unlawful.  I will need to do this for the existing books with Ridero and any future books I place with them.  There are currently strict sanctions between this country and Russia and I don’t even know if the mail will come through and if it does, whether my returned contract will be actually returned.

As of yesterday, I am still writing, still editing, and also writing this, my experience as a writer with the traditional publishing world and self-publishing online.  Neither route has been very successful for me but at least I can SEE my books for sale even if nobody is buying them!  Am I giving up again?  No way Jose, the thrill is in the writing, the story coming out in front of my eyes.  My imagination is the author and I am just the tool it uses to get that story out – but damn, isn’t it a amazing to see MY name on a book as the author.  I want more thrills, I want more amazement so for now, I’ll keep plugging at the blogs, and the websites, the groups, and the reviews and hope I start getting some back on my work.

Moonlake: The chase is the reward, as they say. I feel the same way. And I’m always uplifted by other writers’ persistence. Now, looking back, how would you have done things differently or would you have done things differently?

Colin: Oh yes . . . I would have chased the dream beginning when I was at school, where the “bug” began but I had little to no encouragement then except from myself

Moonlake: Well, I guess the interim period wasn’t totally wasted, you put a lot of stuff in that notebook, I think that qualifies as a writer’s journal or idea journal.

Colin: Sadly, I’ve never found that little notebook again though I harbour the hope my daughter still has it with all my manuscripts . . . somewhere . . .

Oh, that’s something I WOULD have changed – technology, I would have saved things better 🙂

Moonlake: Wasn’t finding the notebook the turning point after the big upheaval of your life? Is the notebook lost subsequently after that?

Colin: I found that notebook in the 1990’s. And I should have placed more importance to it because it and the floppy became things of the past – you know, lost their importance

Moonlake: Ah I see, it is subsequent loss. But you turned some of the stuff there into short stories already I thought, those 2 that you got into 1st and 2nd for.

Colin: Yes, they did that, and more – ideas from that era still pop up in my head.

Moonlake: I’m pretty sure that the best are still there and more will always be formed as you live and see and experience things. Anyway, let’s ask the closing question for this interview. Overall, how far do you think you have come since your starting point?

Colin: In the last year, my word count has increased massively, the numbers of short stories I’ve completed has almost tripled but my conversion rate from short story to novella or novel has decreased. I put this down to two main reasons. Firstly, there is, for me, relatively new involvement in writing groups, two of which have become favourites because of the support from fellow members and the writing prompts they deliver up on a regular basis. Their encouragement and sharing is fantastic. Secondly, my main WIP is a devilish thing, rhetorically speaking and the MC is refusing to cooperate and make the story flow. As a pantser, I watch the story develop as I write it and this one is confusing me so badly because the protagonist and the antagonist appear to be changing roles! Who I thought was the MC is turning out to be the antagonist. So I keep diverting to my growing short story collection, finishing more and more of them to rest my head! How far have I come? A long, long way over 50 years with this past year being the most productive as far as quality and quantity. I am a much more accomplished writer now than ever before. As it should be, all writers should remain students of the art right through ’til the end!

Moonlake: Well, I think it’s been a fruitful year for you in an overall sense. And everyone lives to learn, especially writers. Well, thank you to Colin and our dedicated readers today. Till next time!

Writer’s Awakening- Colin Palmer (1)

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the Writer’s Awakenings interviews. Today, we have author Colin Palmer with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Colin.

Colin: My name is Colin Palmer and I am a writer!

I’ve been writing fiction for almost all my life, that’s over fifty years. When I was about eight years old, I wrote a short essay at school, like we all have to do when we are school children.  THAT essay, a story, I think the quintessential “What I Did on My Summer Holiday” type of deal, became the catalyst of a writing life.  It wasn’t writing the story but the response from the teacher and some of the students when I read it aloud.  I even remember hearing gasps because my story was a fiction take of my holiday which had actually been quite boring.  I made it exciting with ghosts and goblins and I remember the scary suspense as the words materialised in front of my very eyes.  Some few years later on but still at school, it was the act of creating that became the thrill, not the response from the reader (except me).  To this time, I chase that thrill nearly every single day.

Moonlake: I totally get you- I’m a chaser of the process as opposed to the result too. So when is it that you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way and what are the circumstances?

Colin: When my life changed in a big way. My job, my personal life, everything seemed to go down the toilet all at the same time when in reality it happened over a period of about six years. In that dark place I had to find something positive, something to hold onto and keep me going . . . I found that notebook that I’ve been making little notes of interesting things that I observed in my work that involved a lot of both domestic and international travel, and with that notebook was a floppy disc.  The floppy disc had eventuated because it was “new” technology of the time and whilst at work one day, I had transferred all my jottings, short stories and novel synopsis onto it.  I bought a desktop computer and began – writing, reading, discovering the internet (so painfully slow in those days). That turned my life around.

Moonlake: Sounds good. What happened next after this turning point?

Colin: I managed to finish the first novel even with the distractions of the internet at my fingertips plus I re-edited many of my short stories.  I submitted two short stories into competitions run by separate magazines and managed to win one and receive an honorary mention in the second (accompanied by a personal note informing me that I was the judges favourite but they couldn’t give me first prize because it included printing the winning story in the magazine, however my story, good as it was, was simply too “dark” and unsuitable for publication in their family magazine!)  About the same time, having researched the necessary on the trusty internet, I finally scored an Agent after so many refusals that I’d lost count.  Those days, the 1990’s, all the major publishers only accepted submissions referred from an Agent, no direct submissions were taken from unpublished authors.

Moonlake: That’s exciting! Was it smooth sailing ever afterwards with the agent?

Colin: No. My Agent offered many excuses over the coming months about why she wasn’t submitting my manuscripts to publishers but mostly they were to do with the quality of editing.  So I did a Creative Writing Course as she recommended.  What a waste of a week, complete and utter frustration from an instructor older than God and with ideas from the same vintage.  His catchphrase was  “write what you know” and when I asked how it was possible for the science fiction genre to exist if authors only wrote what they knew, he would laugh and say it wasn’t real writing.  He also required all students to write in a particular way, his way and his way only – anything else was deemed unacceptable.  I failed the course because I refused to toe the line but I did learn some valuable lessons.  I took on board things about sentence structure, plotting, and the most needed editing and I began applying them to my existing stories.

Moonlake: Hmm… I guess there’s still some positive out of that negative experience but yeah, I’m not a fan of sticking to some hard and fast rules in writing. So things weren’t going well for you with an agent, did another turning point come later though and what was it?

Colin: Well, on the internet, I had taken to amending funny emails before sending them on to friends and family.  My quirky and rather sarcastic sense of humour meant some of my amendments should have been subject to censorship (bad words or inflections, not nudity or the like) and besides, I was careful about who I forwarded those emails on to.  But one day, I got an email back from a very well know International Publishing Company enquiring the identity of the person who had sent the attached email, one of mine of course.  I mulled it over for a full day, thinking I was in trouble with copyright or censorship laws before finally responding and admitting it was mine.  As I said earlier, I got discovered!

As it turned out, the Company was looking for a spam writer, still a relatively new employment category then.  The person I was corresponding with asked if I would relocate to Sydney where they would offer me a full time position on a two year basis, that two years to include a six month probationary period.  I refused and told them I was a writer, the emails just for fun.  She asked for some examples of my writing and I asked for some credentials, even then the internet was full of anonymous crooks.  Her credentials were awe inspiring, the Managing Director of Sales and Marketing of the largest international publisher based in Australia so of course I sent off some of my short stories and synopsis for three novels.  She said to give them a week to look at my work.

Two days later she sent another email asking for my phone number, which I gave.  She rang immediately and asked for a personal meeting; she would come to me or they would fly me to Sydney.  I was excited but when I enquired about my writing, she dismissed it and said it was too early to say yet.  I asked why the personal meeting then, she told me she was just being proactive and positive.  I was still very excited of course and accepted but told her she would have to come to me because I couldn’t leave work on such short notice.  She agreed and five days later we met in the luxury surrounds of the Sheraton Mirage Resort on the Gold Coast.  She had all my manuscripts and synopsis and worked through them all one by one with the advice of their substantial editing department plainly evident on every page.  I learnt more about editing in that one day than I had in the previous forty years.

Moonlake: Wow, on a roll here! What happened next?

Colin: I eventually did go to Sydney and was introduced to several influential editors who were incredibly friendly and open but more importantly, familiar with my work.  We discussed this for two days then I was told to get an Agent.  I informed them I had an Agent and after identifying the person, was told they were ineffectual and to get another Agent.  After telling them it had taken nearly four years to find that particular Agent, they said leave it to them and they would appoint an Agent on my behalf.  Go home and wait I was told but you should be very happy with our future proposal, around a month to wait while they processed my now complete manuscripts.

Moonlake: Warning lights are coming up in my brain but please continue.

Colin: One thing I had divulged to them was that time permitting, I used to write about three thousand words per day and over a period of a month, I was around fifty thousand words and sometimes more.  They considered this prolific and ask me to prove it to them by finishing my current work in progress (WIP) whilst submitting daily updates about word count and weekly submissions of my actual work.  I finished the novel in about ten days and was greeted with congratulations and the identity of my new “Agent”, a person who I never met or even corresponded with.  I was further advised that my writing speed would mean a possible enhanced proposal but the proposal was actually delayed again due to absences of key personnel from the office.

After around two months, they finally advised me that unfortunately, they had another “new kid on the block” and that I would not be offered a contract at this time however, I should contact my Agent as they believed there was another publishing offer available.  Of course I contacted my “Agent”, to be told she had no knowledge of me or my work.  I appraised her of the situation and she said she would investigate and get back to me, which to her credit, she did do.  She got copies of my work from the publisher and information about the other offer, which was a small firm located in New Zealand with no international affiliations.  The Agent also told me she was not in a position to represent me as my genre was not in keeping with her normal practice.

I was devastated.  I was right back to where I’d been four months earlier, no Agent and no idea where to go.  I did another writing course which proved marginally better than the first and kept on applying for Agents.   I was writing, reading and applying new editing skills to my work.  But the devastation kept coming back to bite me and in turn, my writing suffered so much that I actually stopped.  I saved everything and put it away for another decade.  I gave up….

Moonlake: Okay, readers, we won’t challenge your short attention span anymore than the previous interviews so this one will be parcelled into two. And no, I’m not doing the devilish thing which is to let you all wait another week for the second part.

No-show Alpha/Beta Readers: What do you do?

I do nothing (besides trying to contact them to find out why and show understanding if that’s due to their life circumstances and basically letting it go). Seriously, then why blog about this, you say? Well, while I basically just accept it as an occurrence that I have to be prepared for as a writer, this doesn’t mean that I cannot develop workarounds to this problem.

So what’re my workarounds? Well, firstly, I’m going to ‘over-call’ for alpha/beta readers. Some people set a definite number for how many alpha/betas they want. I don’t except for making it an odd number so that if they don’t disagree in their feedback on the same point on my work, I can always go for the majority. So my ‘over-calling’ is just to put up a request on as many places as I can get my hands on: within my own social circle, on multiple Facebook groups basically as things stand now.

The next part of the workaround is at a more microscopic level, based on a personal observation: those who came on board explicitly for a swap arrangement is less likely to be a no-show alpha/beta. So the take-away is, be prepared to invest in reading others’ work if you want reliable, dedicated feedback on yours.

Is my workarounds a cure for all? No, it isn’t, and I don’t believe in such things existing because everyone is different, unique. I’ve heard of writers going through what a daunting task it is to alpha/beta read with each alpha/beta before they formalise an agreement and that’s a feasible alternative approach to mine. And actually, it’s in relation to this other alternative approach that partially inspires this particular post.

I won’t bore you with details on the actual incident but let’s just say that I think this alternative approach can lead to a misunderstanding that a writer has no trust in his/her alpha/betas before the alpha/beta even has an opportunity to display their reliability through deeds (as I experienced myself when I signed up to be a beta-reader, I end up as a beta-reader for this author eventually but at one point, I seriously felt we had gone off on the wrong footing with each other and I called off my expression of interest) and I never see a value in a relationship or correspondence of any kind where the starting point is already one of apprehension and mistrust. This is just my personal opinion, of course, and heavily influenced by personal experiences. I believe in “to each his/her own.” And if you would like to comment on this particular aspect of dealing with a no-show alpha/beta reader, I’m all ears.

Writer’s Awakening- Mandy Melanson

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the Writer’s Awakenings interviews. Today, we have Mandy Melanson with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Mandy.

Mandy: First off, I’m a single mom to 3 amazing kids. I think I’ve always been a writer. I can remember making up stories in my head even as a small child. I was seven-years-old when I put my first story on paper, though. It was fully illustrated in crayon on construction paper that was tied together with rainbow colored yarn. It was horrible, but it was the start.

Moonlake: Despite you claiming that it was horrible, I can see that you have a fond memory for this first story of yours *wink*. I guess like many writers I interviewed before, real life probably came in between you and writing since this point. So when is it that you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way and what are the circumstances?

Mandy: I’m pursuing my state teaching certification in Language Arts and it was in one of my classes that my instructor discussed my writing with me privately and said that I had a story to share with the world and she believed this was my calling.

Moonlake: Did you manage to capitalise on some of your writing in this class later on, you know, turn into short stories or novels?

Mandy: Yes, in a way. During that class I wrote pieces that eventually morphed into backstory for some of the characters in my novels. So it isn’t directly in the story but it’s definitely related to it.

Moonlake: That’s still a good use for them, after all the actual story is only 10% what we writers have to work out in our head about the various elements underlying the story. So what happened after you got this encouragement from the instructor?

Mandy: After finishing her class I decided to seek out writing groups. I joined Elements of Genre Writing and found some of my dearest friends in this business through that group. I later started Rhetoric Askew with some of those friends. I’ve been encouraged by them and I hope that the sentiment is returned.

Moonlake: Ah, finding like-minded peers is very important as I learnt first hand. So how do you think founding Rhetoric Askew, an anthology series, has helped you as a writer?

Mandy: It has helped tremendously because I’ve learned how to look at a piece from an editor and publisher perspective. Being able to look at my work objectively has helped me edit and polish my stories instead of being over protective of them, I’ve learned how to improve them.

Moonlake: Cool, you can never use less objectivity when it comes to editing. Looking back, how would you have done things differently or would you have done things differently?

Mandy: At this point, I think the only thing I would do different is start pursuing writing as a career sooner.

Moonlake: I hear this said a lot in prior interviews and on some days I felt like this too. *smile* So overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?

Mandy: I think writing is a constant learning process. Of course, I’ve learned and grown since beginning with construction paper and crayon but you never reach a point in writing that you feel like you have your feet solid on the ground. That’s the beauty of the process. It’s fluid and constantly changing. I find that even with my current project which will be my debut novel, A Mother’s Instinct, that I’m learning things about writing and the business as I go. I hope I always continue to learn and never reach a point that I think I have no where else to go, that would just be depressing.

Moonlake: Well said, I agree completely. Now, do you want to tease us a little on your debut novel or is it too early yet?

Mandy: Oh, my debut novel is something I’m very excited about. It’s called A Mother’s Instinct. I can’t give too much away, but I can tell you that it’s a fine line between murder and justice. My character, Detective Ryan Woodward, learns that the hard way when a vigilante comes to town.

Moonlake: Okay, what about social media? Do you want us to start following you now? If so, please share the details with us.

Mandy: Not for myself personally but please join us at Rhetoric Askew on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/551246565025153/

And http://www.rhetoricaskew.com

Writer’s Awakening- Murray Taylor

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the Writer’s Awakenings interviews. Today, we have author Murray Taylor with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Murray.

Murray: Well I’m a student studying education and English from a rural-suburban background. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, from silly stories as a kid to screenplays or video game role-plays in high-school. I guess what made me take up more serious writing was a difficult change in my life that I needed a distraction from. What started as a revision of an old novel idea has turned into a serious project.

Moonlake: Well, you pre-empted the questions that leads us into the next part of the interview, which is about when you first took up writing as a serious pursuit and the circumstances associated with it. So what’s this old novel idea about and what about it drew you so much that you took it up again?

Murray: I have always loved world building and the fantasy genre and the novel idea started simply as an idea for a city. More specifically, a city in Minecraft. It was divided into three by a sibling rivalry. That idea turned into stories of life in this city, the three siblings grew personalities, adopted philosophies etc. When I stopped playing Minecraft, these characters stuck with me. I started outlining a novel and wrote inconsistently for years on it.

Moonlake: Ah, world building games like Minecraft are a great inspiration. So what happened next?

Murray: I had my life planned out for the next four-five years and things were smooth when a lot of ruptures around relationships, family, friends and mental health threw me off. I grew nostalgic, looking to the past for comfort. Even after so many years, I still envisioned these characters talking to each other, pursuing their goals, overcoming adversity so while I struggled to rebuild my life, I started rebuilding theirs. I joined writing groups to learn to become a better writer and friends who read the first few chapters thought I was on to something good, so I kept at it.

My goal is to publish, whether it is successful or not. I want to know I accomplished my four year dream.

Moonlake: That sounds very positive and publishing is a dream worth pursuing. Now how far along are you now in terms of this novel?

Murray: So as it stands I am aiming for between 60-80 chapters and am sitting on 21. Though, I’m considering releasing the story in three parts as ebooks and then combining them for a final edition for both ebooks and print. Each block of around 20 chapters are self-contained and can be considered a story on their own, and sit at around 90k words so I believe this method will allow readers to sink into the world early, give me a better understanding of the industry before printing a novel and be a low-cost low-risk investment to an unknown author.

Though truth be told, I have not worked on the story for a couple of weeks nor plan to until late August. I have started writing short stories for submission, the first called ‘Admissions of an Addict’ which I’m entering in a local writing competition and one called ‘Cruel Odds’ for an anthology series. As it stands the first has been sent to an editor and the second is preparing for its first beta-reading phase.

Moonlake: Well, it’s okay to do what I call some side projects while keeping the long-term goal in mind. So looking back, would you have done things differently along your writer’s journey and if so, what?

Murray: I think the two major things I would have changed are consistency and scale of project.

When I say I have worked on it for four years, out of those four years I perhaps only put between 6-12 months worth of work into it. Although I don’t believe in the literal interpretation of ‘write X words a day’ I feel developing a habit rather than burning myself out in bursts would have kept me writing.

The second was the scale of the project. At the time I was a nineteen year old with little writing experience wanting to self-publish a best-selling novel. It was also more than writing, it was designing maps, forms of government, covers etc. I wish I just focused on learning how to write good stories rather than how to be a one-man creative machine.

Moonlake: Well, as it happens, I do subscribe to this “write X words a day” mantra, it’s about consistency of effort and self-discipline for me. But I also give myself leeways, like if I don’t meet the set daily goal, then I would put down the reason why in the notes column on the document where I track my daily progress. As for scale of the project, I think you gotta follow your heart. For me, my one true love will always be LOTR and my mind naturally conceives of stories that take on a series form. I think I will just roll with that. But I get what you mean, it’s perhaps a bit ambitious for a 19 year old. But well, I’m thinking that you learnt a lot from such experiences of poring over the meta aspects of a world.

Murray: I agree with what the ‘X words’ intention is, but I don’t take it literally. Like if I spent a day editing a 2500 word story I may have only physically typed 200ish words but I have put conscious effort into the work. If I spend a day pulling all the dialogue and role-playing a scene with a friend to see if the dialogue is convincing and interesting, I’d consider that conscious effort into the story without typing a word

Moonlake: Yeah, that’s what I mean with this notes column, it’s a means of to track down why you haven’t met your daily wordcount goals so it’s not just a numbers game, the goals. You set a wordcount goal to motivate yourself but you also recognise that progress on a story isn’t just about the word count. But think we detracted a bit off the theme for this interview. Overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point, as a writer?

Murray: When I started I had a rough 10 chapter novel which I constantly kept editing without further progress being made. It has been a few months since I have taken writing seriously and that story is now 21 chapters long, a lot tighter, and I have 2 short stories nearing completion. I feel the progress I have made is promising and everything is happening so fast. Though it is more than just the physical work, I have made many great productive friendships through writing and I feel really connected to the evolving community. I feel I have grown more as a writer in these months than I have for years and I find my work constantly improving. I constantly reread my old work and think ‘Ugh that sentence is terrible, what was I thinking?’ and although it can be disheartening, it shows that I am learning more and more what good writing is. That progress is hard to measure.

Moonlake: I agree on the hard to measure bit but you’ve made an adept summary. Well, all the best to the your current works. Now, if we want to follow you, how can we do that?

Murray: My website mmataylor.com has links to my social media accounts and blog. I am most active on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Moonlake: Okay, thank you. That concludes our interview for today and I thank you for your time.

Murray: *thumb up*

Writer’s Awakening- Richard Fisher

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the 5th episode of Writer’s Awakenings. Today, we have author Richard Fisher with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Richard.

Richard: Hi! Thank you so much for inviting me!

Moonlake: My pleasure actually since I get to hear stories about how authors start.

Richard: My journey actually began long before I began the actual process of writing, only I was unaware of it. My imagination has always gotten me into various degrees of trouble, especially when I was in elementary school.

My mind wandered and meandered so much! So, I jumped into reading to keep it busy and I was hooked on the written word! It began with C.S. Lewis actually and by the 6th or 7th grade I was reading James Clavell and his Shogun novels.

Moonlake: Ah, I think I’ve heard the same before from other authors, very natural for a child whose mind is creative in a completely unhindered way. And yes, we all tend to be book lovers!

Richard: I believed everyone’s imaginations were just as active. I just hadn’t found the outlet yet.

I then jumped to wanting to pursue illustration, but sadly my skills in artistry were lacking…. and that was one of those hidden blessings. Thankfully!

Moonlake: Well, we can’t all be jacks of all trades. I also can’t draw.

Richard: Nope, I’m horrible at guitar, too!

Moonlake: Ditto on music. So when was it that you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way and what was the circumstances associated with it?

Richard: Actually I wanted to give it a try about 25 years ago, but was discouraged from it by my then girlfriend, who wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. So I just headed back to school for a little while, and learned that I didn’t want to chase either of those and quit and began “kind of” learning how to properly outline a book.

Moonlake: Learning through what means?

Richard: Back in those days it was via the libraries. Just read what I could find, but there really wasn’t much out there on the topic of writing, so I kind of gave up.

Moonlake: Oh, I see, reading self-helps.

Richard: I then discovered Writers’ Digest! I loooooove that magazine!

Moonlake: Ah, the turning point. Where to next?

Richard: Then life got in the way. The only thing I wrote seriously was a short story on a dare in 2000. I had an individual who worked for me tell me that I couldn’t, so I wrote a story called “The Huntress” for her.

I actually have that one on my blog as a reminder for me.

It was the only story I wrote until recently, since I was busy working and couldn’t figure out how to work in a social life, job and everything else life throws at us.

Moonlake: A bet as a start, that’s interesting, but any start is a good start. So the ball started rolling from that initial short story?

Richard: Not really. I put off writing for keeping up with life, actually. Then came Feb 2016. I got laid off from the oil and gas industry, where I was working and decided that it was the perfect time to write my Great American Novel.

Moonlake: Ah, a stressful happening financial-wise and if you are like me, mentally. But an opportune development for your writing.

Richard: Absolutely!

Moonlake: So what prompted the focus back into writing?

Richard: Kind of a weird path. I began writing “Reapers of Souls & Magic” in April of last year and completed it this past May.

Moonlake: You’re very quick. This novel went very smoothly for you? What is it about?

Richard: I love epic fantasy! This story explores the premise of “fallen” dieties and how they become fallen. I gave the gods a desire, they gave my creationist race a purpose, and they totally messed everything up! LOL

Moonlake: So you think it’s basically the story coinciding with your own reading interests that made it a smooth sailing?

Richard: Oh absolutely! If you’re an avid reader, I’m sure you will see hints of the authors that impacted me!

I think CS Lewis, Michael Moorcock, L. Ron Hubbard, R.A. Salvatore as well as Asminov, Bradbury, Clavell and Lovecraft.

Moonlake: Well, I love epic fantasy myself and LOTR. But I must admit that deities is a bit of a trope that I don’t enjoy in fantasy series. Basically sick of every epic struggle being ultimately a divine struggle and mortals were the pawns in this divine game. I mean, can’t humans get into trouble fighting each other without divine interference?

Richard: The Gods here just started the ball rolling…and it follows the Greek Myths in that those in my realm give them power over the other Gods. But they are not heavily involved.

Moonlake: Okay, I like that type of divine involvement in fantasy series.

Richard: The book is mostly about the choices, good and bad, and why we make them, or those that circumstances force us to make. Only in a fantasy world where they have more impact and repercussion.

Moonlake: Yep, love books that explore such a theme, that’s one of the reasons why I love fantasy.

Richard: I wanted to explore the “human condition” through “non-humans”.

Moonlake: Ah, so that’s your own new twist on fantasy, is it?

Richard: Kind of. I also use it to explore the “what ifs” of science….multiverses as well.

Moonlake: Okay, I see. So this work also has part sci-fi elements?

Richard: There is a VERY TINY amount of sci-fi so I can introduce the characters from our world into theirs. But the impact travels throughout ALL of the multiverses.

The “butterfly effect” throughout existence! LOL

Moonlake: Okay, the multiverse concept reminds me of Moorcock certainly who you mentioned were one of your inspirations.

Richard: Yes. Absolutely!

Moonlake: So when is it due out?

Richard: It’s scheduled for a September 30th release date. We are halfway through the formal editing process now.

Moonlake: Now, if you were to look back, would you have done anything in your writer’s journey differently and if so, what?

Richard: I would have ignored everything and everyone else and started doing it way back in my teens…. I think I would be much further along in my knowledge of the writing craft itself.

Moonlake: Right, you would have less life experiences back then but to make up for it, more time to learn and experiment. Is that the only regret?

Richard: I think I’m very lucky to have gotten this far this quickly, frankly.

That’s very true! Absolutely…but as one gains experience in life, is one able to write about it freely without worry of “the other people”? Or does that stay with us forever?

I believe that even the young have valid things to say. Will they say it in a relatable manner? Maybe, maybe not. Kind of depends upon each individual, don’t you think?

Beside, my youth was pretty dramatic…LOL

Moonlake: Well, I think there are two sides to this. That’s the emotion side which tends to cool as time goes on from the initial happening of an event, an experience. But writing is also about perspective, and while a young perspective is as interesting as an elder one with more life experiences, I think that the wisdom that comes with ages potentially allows you to dig deeper into things. But yeah, like you said, depends on the individual really.

Richard: I agree with you 100%!

Moonlake: So overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?

Richard: Tremendously! I actually finished a book! Not a lot of people can actually say that, so that was like a journey across country. LOL Long and arduous…lol. But very satisfying!

Moonlake: Yep, agreed.

Richard: I’ve been asked to get another ready for Oct and then the sequel to Reapers comes out in Jan/Feb timeframe, so I’ll be very busy the next few months! Continuing my journey, but going globetrotting now! LOL

Moonlake: Sounds like exciting prospects publication wise. Now, if we want to follow you, how can we do that?

Richard: Thanks for asking! I have an author’s page on FB, a WordPress blog, and I am active on Twitter as well!




Moonlake: Okay then, our interview today’s drawing to a close and I would like to thank Richard for your time today.

Richard: Thank you so much for asking me to share with you! I hope you enjoy the read when my book comes out!

Moonlake: Sure, and thanks to our readers today. Till next week!

Writer’s Awakening- Samantha Beardon

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the 4th episode of Writer’s Awakenings. Today, we have author Samantha Beardon with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Sam.

Sam: I am a qualified nurse with a long career working mostly in the UK. I also paint and dye silk. I started writing seriously two and a half years ago when I wrote a novel. I had always wanted to write but life got in the way. Marriage and a career as a nurse took up my time. I wrote but mostly essays for courses and research for my masters. I had hobbies of an artistic nature but never seriously found the time to write.

Moonlake: So what are the circumstances that first drove you to pursue writing in a serious way?

Sam: What spurred me into action was talking to people on a word game site and finding the parallel life of internet relationships and sexting. I found it amazing that people playing a recreational word game should talk and fall in love without ever meeting. That unhappy people in failed relationships should think the ideal partner was waiting online, with no baggage or ulterior motives.

Moonlake: It’s an interesting phenomenon, one that I wasn’t aware of. What exactly is sexting? Never came across the term before.

Sam: Basically men wanting to chat with the idea of either a sexual meet or a cyber sex event.

Moonlake: Well, one learns something new every day. Sorry for the interruption over definition, now please continue on with the story on how this observation over a real life phenomenon led you into writing.

Sam: I listened to many people’s stories, witnessed lots of unhappiness and even got hit upon by predatory males. I have done a fair bit of studying around beliefs, behaviour and relationships and it gave me the idea to write a novel based in that cyber world. I know now that the behaviour is happening on most internet sites.

Once I had started writing and forming my characters, one wrote poetry. Poetry is not something I have read or taken an interest in particularly. I decided to write some for Eve and found I could put together a pretty good poem. So that launched my career as a poet. I have since produced a poetry book called Caught in Passion and I am about to produce a second book. I am choosing the poems now.

Moonlake: That’s interesting that you started a poet career based off the characters for a story instead of working on the story itself. So what happened to this story? Did that just fall by the wayside?

Sam: No, I finished the novel I just talked about. I wrote the poetry alongside it and still write a poem most days.

Moonlake: Okay, it’s good to hear that poetry and story writing are complementing each other in your case. And now I would like to hear more about your reflection on that first novel.

Sam: Well, I did not do a writing course, I had read lots of books and just wanted to write the story, that was in my head. I outlined the four main characters roughly. My premise was of a man chatting to several women on line, just for fun. Following these relationships and having him fall in love with one of the women unexpectedly. I had decided who it would be and I made her the main character in the story.

That was the totality of my planning. Off I went writing a chapter at a time each, from the view of one of the characters. All went well until one of the lesser characters became a stalker unexpectedly. Not only did I have to stop and research stalking …that is scary! I had rethink the dynamics of my work. This meant changing the lead character Rick to become the main character. It meant rewriting portions of the completed manuscript and changing chapter orders.

Moonlake: Wow, that’s a lot of work but you expect that for a major re-write.

Sam: If I had produced a story outline with more planning, I might not have had to do that, a lightbulb moment!

Moonlake: I’ve always been a planner but then you can always plan more. So what happened next?

Sam: Completed the manuscript and proof read it 50 times, always finding mistakes I had missed. Confident I was on top of it I gave it to beta readers and got mainly good feedback. So I published the book on Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace. It sold some copies and I started thinking about book two. I decided to do a belated writing course because I knew I had made the writing process hard on myself.

Having started the course, I realised there were still fundamental issues with the book. The book had surprisingly, a handful of good reviews. But the issues started to niggle me and so I have taken the book off sale and I employed a professional editor to go through it. I am in the process of considering her suggestions and implementing them. Then I will re-release.

Moonlake: Are you still going to do book 2 based off the sexting idea?

Sam: Yes, I am although this is a fairly low key part of the book. I am continuing the lives of two of the protagonists and there is a thriller element within book two. Their conversations including some sexting is part of the story.

Moonlake: Okay, sounds interesting. Actually, I thought book 1 had already turned into part thriller given the stalker character.

Sam: Yes, it has. The protagonist in book 1 is an ex special forces operative with the Australian army sniper and surveillance, he now works as a financial advisor in Perth. But has continued doing special ops occasionally. In book two he is involved in a special operation in London.

Moonlake: Interesting. Do you have an idea when the re-release of book 1 will be and how publication-ready is book 2?

Sam: Book two is about three quarters written so probably six months. I am undecided whether to re release book one in a month or to hang on for another two and issue it free on kindle for ten days as a taster before the release if work two. I think that is the most likely scenario.

Moonlake: Yeah, I would go for the latter route too though I don’t have much personal experience myself. But that sounds good. Now, looking back, how would you have done things differently or would you have done things differently?

Sam: Would I do things differently yes. I would always use an editor. The process of producing a good book is only partly about having a great story. Good editing is essential. I would also choose my beta readers with more care. I will plan more as I learnt that solid planning is important, but I am a panster more than a planner and I will always let my story go the way my characters wish it.

Moonlake: So overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?

Sam: I have been and l am still on a huge learning curve and adoring every minute of it. The craft and skill of authorship are huge and my skills are developing.

Moonlake: Okay, I think that brings us to the conclusion of this interview. Thank you for your time today, Sam. And I learnt something new today.

Sam: Thank you for inviting me to share time on your blog, Moonlake Ku. It has been a pleasure to talk to you. Both reading and writing gives one the chance to meet nice people that one otherwise would never meet in this world.

Moonlake: Agreed. Thanks to our readers today. We will meet again another time.

Writer’s Awakening- Lyman Rate

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the 3rd episode of Writer’s Awakenings. Today, we have author Lyman Rate with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Lyman.

Lyman: My name is Lyman Rate and I am from Kansas. I didn’t really start writing until 2014 and I did it merely at the challenge of my wife who was my girlfriend at the time. She challenged me to try and write a 50,000 word book during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November) and I felt I wanted to try it.

Moonlake: And what happened to that first NaNo book?

Lyman: That first book become the first book of my military Series – Ghost One and is titled Operation: Jaguar.

Moonlake: Oh great, wasn’t expecting that as most writers usually have false starts. But for you, it seems like your way into writing was a pretty smooth one once you decided to try it!

Lyman: I took time to think about what I wanted to write and I decided to use my military background as a catalyst.

Moonlake: Ah, the write what you know. So when is it that you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way and what are the circumstances?

Lyman: I really looked at it seriously when I finished the first book and was about 2/3rd the way through writing book two. I knew I was enjoying writing and as such I wanted to keep writing.

Moonlake: Now, your journey into writing itself sounded smooth and easy. How about the transition to a writer from whatever job you were doing- are you a FT writer now?, was that as smooth and easy as the journey into writing?

Lyman: I wouldn’t say I’m a full time writer yet. I would love to be, but right now I need my full time job and use that to supplement my writing. So far, I’ve had to make adjustments in my writing schedule to work around my full work schedule, but it’s been manageable.

Moonlake: That’s heartening to hear. What are some of your tricks in terms of time management? A lot of people with a passion for writing and FT job at the same time often cite lack of time as an obstacle for them so I’m asking on their behalf.

Lyman: The key is looking at the schedule you have (be it work, school, etc) and then finding a time when you can dedicate to writing. For me I work evenings and I set 2 hours after I get off work to write. I’m awake enough and wired after work this fits me well. If I can’t write after I get off, I resort to option 2 or 3.

Option 2 is to get up early and write for an hour and option 3 is to stop everything I’m doing 1.5 hours before I go to work and that is my writing time. Having multiple options is huge as it allows me to have another means to still find time to write.

Moonlake: Okay, sounds like a sensible and not hard to implement procedure.
Looking back, how would you have done things differently or would you have done things differently?

Lyman: I’m a pantser, so I write as I go and do very little planning. That being said, there have been times I wished I would do more planning, so I do that when I need it. That is the biggest difference.

Moonlake: Interesting, would love to know more about planning versus pantsing but that will be worthy of an entire interview on its own. So onto the concluding part of this interview: Overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?

Lyman: From the initial point, I have learned quite a bit about grammar and writing techniques. I have also become very aware of how to write with emotion whereas I wasn’t doing that very much when I first started. My writing style and technique have both improved and that shows in the edits I receive back from the editor each time I finish a book.

Moonlake: On the writing with emotion, have you found a trick that allows you to do them more easily or do you think this is an ability that came to you through practice?

Lyman: Writing with emotion wasn’t easy. Someone finally spoke to me in a simple way that it just finally clicked. They said: “Write like you speak and feel. Make yourself be your character in some form and use their body and voice to mimic yours. How would you feel in situations? When you know, write it out how you feel it.”

Moonlake: I see, wise words. So what have you been working on lately?

Lyman: Currently I am working on my newest series, War of A Thousand Years. It is a fantasy series that currently is projected to be a six or seven book series. This series will follow the Chosen One as she becomes of age, learns about her duties as the Chosen One, and her objective to end the thousand year war that has been going on.

Moonlake: Sounds like an epic, which is my main staple in terms of book consumption. How is that going in terms of publication-readiness?

Lyman: I was fortunate to find a publisher and currently the first book is with the editor for the second round. The hope is the first book will be available towards the end of this year. If not, will be ready and available beginning of 2018.

Moonlake: Sounds great, I look forward to its official release. Now, if we want to follow you, how can we do that?

Lyman: You could follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlymanrate/
On twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorLymanRate
or my website: http://www.authorlymanrate.com

Moonlake: Okay then, all the best for your forthcoming release and this brings our interview today to a close. Thank you, Lyman, for your time.

Lyman: Thank you very much! It was a pleasure to do it!

Moonlake: Mine pleasure as the interviewer too. Thanks also to our readers today. See you all next time.

Writer’s Awakening- Helen Patrice

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the second episode of Writer’s Awakenings. Today, we have author Helen Patrice with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Helen.

Helen: It started with me loving being read to as a little girl, and then once I learned to read, starting to soak up books. I laugh now to think that I was put in the Remedial Reading Programme, because it was thought I couldn’t read, when in fact, I was just too shy to read out loud in class, even to the teacher. But I first wrote a story at age 10, I think, when I saw the movie PLANET OF THE APES on TV, and both loved it to bits, and thought there was a lack of women in it (what a proto-feminist, Bechdel tester I was, even in 1974). So next day, I sat down and rewrote the story so that the female astronaut lived and was much smarter than Charlton Heston. From there, it wasn’t much of leap to try my hand at my own version of ‘Wuthering Heights’, followed by ‘The Great Houdini’ telemovie. I soaked up TV, and turned it into what I wanted. I didn’t know this was fan fiction.

Moonlake: When did you actually find out, about the term fan fiction?

Helen: I discovered fan fiction proper age 16, through a Star Trek fanzine called SPOCK, and wrote for it until about age 30, I think. Issues 21-60 anyway. It was a great place to practice storytelling, and iron out a lot of my narrative hiccoughs. Eventually, I wanted my own characters, so I moved on from fan fiction. I’ll never regret those years though. I had the time of my life as a fan writer, and in fandom in general.

Moonlake: Is that all of the writing you’ve been doing in that time?

Helen: No, I was first professionally published in The Age, in 1981, age 17, and just shy of my last HSC exam. Ms Bighead Helen was convinced she’d be running The Age by 1985, and nearly failed her Politics exam as a result of ‘not needing to study’. I didn’t get published again until 1984 (rather sobering), and my first pro fiction not until perhaps 1986.

I had a steady rate of publication in literary journals after that, until 1989, when I became a mother, and it blew my writing career out of the water.

Moonlake: How long did the motherhood hold up your writing career and what was the recovery like?

Helen: How long? That’s a debatable answer. On some levels, I’d say a few years. On others, it’s still ongoing. Certainly, post-natal depression exacerbated what seems to be a tendency to depression anyway. Possibly a genetic predisposition, as I think my mother was depressed, and quite possibly my grandmother. Certain female members of my extended family have also suffered repeated, or occacional bouts of depression. Post-natal depression segued into chronic ongoing depression, as I wasn’t diagnosed until 2008, and had my first baby in 1989.

Moonlake: Oh, that’s a long period! But I guess your recovery didn’t take that long? You did come back to writing before 08?

Helen: Those early years with small babies are tough on every parent, but I felt I’d been totally denatured, down pas the cellular level and into sub-atomic particles. Who I was prior to December 1989 disappeared into a sea of nappies, and who I became was a long process of re-discovery. I was so shattered in 1990 and 1991 that my best friend and mentor Rosemary Nissen (later Rosemary Nissen Wade) suggested that I write haiku, just as a way of keeping touch with myself. I did try that, and started keeping a journal around 1993 I think. I wrote some articles then for Mother And Baby, and Melbourne Child, which were well-received.

Moonlake: I see, well short prose like haikus keep you in touch with writing and it’s a good thing that Rosemary suggested it. Same with article writing. So, what happened next?

Helen: Later, I enrolled first in the Myths and Symbols class at Holmesglen Tafe, as a way of…I dunno…I said it was a way of feeding my non-existent writing, but really, it was somewhere to go once a week that didn’t involve children. I started saving my own life, and mind. I started a post-apocalyptic novel set in Melbourne, but it never went beyond a few thousand words. I had a lot to say, but it wasn’t going to be science fiction. My daughter was diagnosed with a severe-profound hearing impairment and I entered the world of disability, hearing aids, ears, and Taralye Early Intervention Centre.

My son was diagnosed with a hearing impairment at 5 months, so by the end of 1992, I was totally immersed in this strange, foreign world of disability. I enrolled in Short Story Writing after Myths and Symbols, both with legendary tutor Mike Slusher, and he helped me keep my writing alive for a while.

I wrote some short stories, some of which were published in Aurealis and ASIM. I guess I could continue going through the long litany of what I wrote, and when, but I’m not sure that’s called for. I have eked out a writing life along the edges of survival. I’ve raised two kids as a single mother. My daughter is now 27, my other adult offspring is 25. I have three grandchildren by my daughter. My other child also has autism, and a mild intellectual impairment. I’ve written a memoir about raising the younger one, but that’s on hiatus. It’s difficult to write and revise a memoir about something that you’re still living.

Moonlake: Helen, I think the next part of the interview is already partially covered by your previous answers. But to delve into things in more specific details, I’m going to ask you what are the circumstances in which you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way?


Helen: A question that makes me squirm a little. In my arrogant youth, I was all about publication, and went about it in an almost robotic fashion. Write the story, rewrite the story, send it out, send it out, send it out, bingo, publication. The rejection slips didn’t bother me. It was just part of the business.

Once I became a mother, and suffered pretty severe post-natal depression, it was like that tough dinosaur hide was torn off me, and these days, it’s much harder for me to send anything out into the world. If I’d kept going the way I was, I dunno, maybe I’d be a Carmel Bird, or a Marge Piercy by now. Who knows.

But I didn’t, and in a lot of ways, I’m still a beginner. My yoga practice helps me constantly return to beginner’s mind.

Of late, and by that I mean the last six months, I’ve been following Angela Slatter online, since reading her excellent book VIGIL. I am enamoured not only of her talent, but her business-like way of going about her writing. She’s a ‘write every day’ author, and far-seeing in terms of her plans. Even as her second book is coming out, she is well into the third, and still submitting stories, as well as appearing at science fiction and fantasy conventions. She’s inspired me to finally, at age 53, get serious again, and decide that if I want even a quarter of the success of an Angela, a Carmel, a Marge, then I need to get my arse into gear.

It hasn’t hurt, either, that various tarot readings in the past four years, and a couple of tea leaf readings recently have all shouted ‘get your arse in gear, woman!’ either.

Moonlake: Now, looking back, would you have done anything differently, and what?

Hmm, that’s a tough one, because so much of what I did revolves around my mental state, and if I hadn’t become a mother, then I wouldn’t have had all that incredible life-at-the-coalface experience, I wouldn’t have my two great children, nor my wonderful grandchildren. Sure, I wish I hadn’t copped post-natal depression. I wish I didn’t have depression, and anxiety, and fibromyalgia. But I do, and that’s that.

I wish perhaps I’d kept up my storytelling short fiction, and been braver there. I wish I’d written through those early years as a mother and gotten serious much sooner. But I didn’t, and I’m here now, and if I’m lucky, I have another 40 years or so to go full tilt at my writing, and see where it takes me.

Moonlake: Overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?

Helen: How long is a piece of string? I’m no longer writing little fan fictions and keeping them in a school suitcase under the bed, so that’s something. I made quite a name for myself as a fan writer in the 80’s, and was nominated for Best Fan Writer a few times. I dabbled in Harry Potter fan fiction in that long period between books 4 and 5, and had a lot of fun on fanfic.net for a while. I had a very big following in Scandinavia, with fans begging for new stories that messed with all the beloved fan tropes. Oh, I do love messing with tropes.

Moonlake: Wow, a Scandinavian fans base!

Helen: Yeah, I’d get the most entertaining and bizarre feedback on my fan fiction stories from that part of the world. I had quite the following of people waiting for my next story. I dunno. Maybe with all those long cold dark months, there’s not much else to do but read fan fiction? I also had a bundle of fans in the States. They liked my actual writing more, but didn’t so much like me sending up their beloved tropes.

Moonlake: Think we went off base a little, we were talking about your overall progress from the initial point.

Helen: Well, I’m not as successful as I’d like to be, but I’ll get there. I think it’s a continuous journey without an end point.

Moonlake: Yep, it’s definitely a journey as life is a journey. I love this way of conceptualising things. So that brings us to the conclusion of this interview. Thank you for your time today, Helen. Readers, see you all till next time

Writer’s Awakening- Renee Wiseman

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the first episode of Writer’s Awakening. Today, we have author Renee Wiseman with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Renee.

Renee: My journey into writing was a twisted one, because I actually started as a kid. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I started writing to escape my life, especially as things grew worse. As my mom’s condition deteriorated I poured a huge amount of energy into creating a science fiction universe. It was an escape from a reality where the person who meant the most to me was failing and preparing to leave the world. She passed away when I was 14, and by that time I had a novel about half written (I thought.) I finished the novel and tried sending it to some publishers with a query letter I found online. This was in the 90s when the internet was still relatively new, and resources scarce.

Moonlake: How was this first novel received by publishers?

Renee: I got personal responses back from several of the publishers. In hindsight, I should have framed those! One in particular I remember just asked me to expand it by a few thousand words and resubmit. But I was a fragile kid who had just lost her mother and was suffering from low self-esteem. I gave up and poured my writing energy into online roleplaying games instead. I created new worlds that way and spent hours a day on them. They really honed my characterization and world building skills. My interests also shifted from Science Fiction to the fantasy genre. About two years ago it became more difficult to find other players and many of the games I was in closed down. I was left with time on my hands and found an old copy of my manuscript from when I was 15. I cringed when I read some parts of it, but got a niggling idea that maybe I should try it again.

Moonlake: Wow, this sounds amazing, Renee. Just so you know, I’ve recently become a player in a dedicated weekly gaming group but I’m not a Game Master (GM) like you, just a player. But really, it amazes me that as a teenager, you already recognize that being a writer is what you want to be enough that you would actually query agents/publishers.

Renee: I remember it took me over 4 hours to print my book on an old fashioned dot matrix printer. I enclosed the envelope so they’d return the manuscript because it cost so much money for me to produce it. I spent more time on those queries than I spent on my college admission essays.

Moonlake: Oh okay, so you were about 18 when you did the querying? But still amazing.

Renee: 16. I started querying at 16.

Moonlake: Oh, you stuck at querying for 2 years?! Wow, you were very persistent back then.

Renee: My dad always told me I was stubborn.

Moonlake: Lol, stubborn is good when it’s for a good cause. So what eventually happened to this first project?

Renee: Well, eventually I gave it up. I got enough rejections I decided it wasn’t good enough, especially with those around me telling me the same. I put it away. That novel was lost in a hard drive crash years ago, though I still have a paper copy of the manuscript.

Moonlake: Have you looked through this first manuscript since you gave it up just to see how far you’ve come since then and maybe plan about giving it a re-write?

Renee: I did actually. Most writers cringe when they look at something they wrote years ago. I didn’t cringe when I read that one, I fled in terror! That book had its place, but it’ll never see print in anything close to its current form. It helped me confront life issues that I was much too young to deal with. I confronted death in that book, and doing so helped me come to terms with what was happening in my real life. I know now that the world was underdeveloped and many of the characters were superficial. I’m not saying I’ll never rewrite it, in fact my husband wants me to, but I’m much more interested in the fantasy genre now, and I have no shortage of stories there to tell.

Moonlake: On looking through old work, actually I’m someone who routinely goes through old writing of mine just to see them with fresh eyes.  But I can see that if that initial project was just a means for you to deal with your real life situation at that specific time and like you said, the core ideas are under-developed and your interest had moved on, then it’s best to just keep it as a memorandum. So when is it that you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way and what are the circumstances?

Renee: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a kid part of me knew that I was supposed to be doing this. For the past 15 years or so I was content to just share it with a small group of my friends in the form of those online games, but about 2 years ago something in me changed, and I wanted to do something more serious, and more lengthy than a play by email post. I’ve always constructed massive storylines in my games and I just took that to the next level and began doing it largely for myself. Something inspired me, and I began making the time and pouring my energy in that direction instead. Now I have a completed 125K word novel to show for it, with plans for a second book.

Moonlake: Just out of personal curiosity, you said earlier you’ve sunk a lot of your energy into gaming, would you be able to describe more specifically how much time you spent on it?

Renee: At one point I was playing in 22 games, and GMing 5. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on those online games, really. Even now, a group of those friends and I are gaming together in the world I’m creating in my novel. They’re all really excited to read it. Three of them already have.

Moonlake: So I guess the gaming also gives you some natural fans to begin with?

Renee: Yes, it seems I do! And I make sure to put references to those games throughout my works. They are subtle, and things only those involved in the games or plots would recognize. Names of characters or places, or events that happened. As a matter of fact, the plot for my new novel is a plot I ran in one of my RPGs about 10 years ago. I just repurposed, redeveloped and expanded it tremendously.

Moonlake: Ah, additional benefit: recycling of story elements. I’m always fond of recycling too. Now, looking back, how would you have done things differently or would you have done things differently?

Renee: Looking back I would have slapped my teenage self and told her to expand that novel and get it out! I truly regret the time I lost, though I can’t say I fully regret my online gaming years. I have many good friends and great memories that came out of that experience, and working with many characters in one scene taught me how to juggle different voices and points of view. Putting together plots for the games taught me about making plots for books. My settings, descriptions and characterization are all stronger from the input I got from those amazing friends. Looking at my writing then and now I can see how much those skills benefited me. I’m a stronger writer for it.

Moonlake: So overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?

Renee: More than I can easily quantify. When I was a teenager writing that first book, I was learning so much. That was really the first fiction I ever wrote. As part of my Master’s degree I had to write a nonfiction book on history, and doing so taught me many of the technical aspects of writing a book, but holding my work in hard bound form also taught me a feeling of pride and accomplishment that made my gaming experience pale in comparison. That was really my ‘ah hah!’ moment when I said “I love this!” I’m now a far more experienced and sophisticated writer than when I wrote that first book as a teenager.

Moonlake: In terms of your foray into fantasy, how far have you gone in terms publishing? And maybe share your WIP?

Renee: Well, I’m proud to say I have a short story in the upcoming Monsters Vs. Zombies anthology from Stitched Smile Publications. That is due in October. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my novel, tentatively titled “Ayneria’s Call”. This one is about a girl who was born a slave in an empire resembling our historical Rome. She is selected by the Goddess of the Fae to lead the tribes, which leads to a conflict, since she was born and raised among humans, she only wants to be human. But Goddesses aren’t easily turned down, now are they?  I’m currently looking for an agent to represent my novel.

Moonlake: Sounds great, those developments. Now, if we want to follow you on social media, how can we find you?

Renee: https://twitter.com/ReneeMWiseman


Moonlake: Okay then, best of luck for the novel. I think that about wraps up the interview. Thanks for your time today.

Renee: My pleasure.

Moonlake: That’s all for today. Thanks to all of those who read this through.