Tag Archives: writing

Author Highlight: H.T. Lyon

I have another new author lined up. This is part of a series of author interviews. Please check out H.T. Lyon’s website and Twitter.

How much research do you do?

That depends. For hard science fiction I do a lot. If I am trying to describe what life could be like in the near future as we (hopefully) colonise our solar system, then I want it to ring true.

There’s a lot of information available and I learned some amazing stuff. What is most interesting and challenging is when I learn something that invalidates an assumption in my story. Then there’s a little burst of creativity as I work around this. Sometimes I learn amazing stuff that I had never thought of. The immensely abrasive and damaging nature of moon dust came as a surprise and something I needed to take into account. Doing that enriches the story though. For smaller works, I’m less likely to research. Accuracy is less important than the message.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

I do believe that the cover is important. Books are like any other purchase we make. We judge them against other purchases of a similar type. In indie publishing circles, the cover along with the keyword and blurb is probably one of the biggest marketing tools. And for most genres, covers have a look and feel that readers expect. If the cover is too amateurish or has errors, it’s a massive turn off. In fact from what I understand, if you only have the money for one thing, put it into the cover! The web is a visual medium and unless your book takes off on Twitter or something, it will heavily rely on the cover the drag readers in.

How are you publishing this book and why?

I am committed to self-publishing simply because I want to retain the control of my work. That’s very important to me as I am writing to prompt readers to think about the world they live in and I want to make sure that the questions I raise stay strong and aren’t diluted by someone else in the publishing process. A second reason to self-publish is because I don’t want to spend the time and emotional energy going through the traditional publishing process. I prefer to sink that time into more writing. I simply don’t need the validation of having work traditionally published. I have a day job and I’m good at it, I get all the validation I need from that.

Would you or do you use a PR agency?

I don’t think I would use a PR agency. Not unless my work really took off. I’d much rather self-market to get a reasonable fan base and work from there. There seems to be a lot of luck in the writing business and, honestly, I don’t think it would pay off. Certainly it would have a lesser return per dollar than a good cover designer or a competent editor.

What advice would you give young readers who want to become authors?

I would say, get started. Write anything. If you like a television series, then write fan fiction but whatever you do get going. The biggest problem is fear of failure because your writing sucks. The secret is that your first draft will always suck and once you learn that, it’s all ok from there. When you do start, get support for your hobby from other writers and NOT from friends and family. Writing is a long process and non-writers don’t understand that drafts are very rough documents.


H.T. Lyon is a aspiring writer of science fiction. A futurist with a keen interest in where our society is heading, he focuses most of his attention on stories that examine the direction our society is taking or that shows where we could end up. Optimistic by nature, he believes that one day we will look to settle the Solar System as we outgrow our planet and some of his stories examine how this could look. Currently, he has a number of novels underway and some short stories. His aim is to get one of these up and published before the end of the year around the other commitments that exist in his life.

Author Highlight: Dawn Chapman

April is here again. It’s my birthday month, and I’m celebrating with an author interview.

Dawn BookDawn Chapman is the author of The Secret King Series and Director of TSK Productions Ltd.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

It’s almost full time, even with a full time job. I work 7-3pm in the day as my paying job at the moment, and then from 4pm till 9pm I’m working on TSK’s projects.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

Write what you want to. Don’t always try and please others. Get some beta readers you can trust and work had to keep them. If one person says something is wrong you can ignore it, but if 5 people say it… then think about what they’re saying.

Where is your favorite place to write?

A caravan site in Devon. 🙂 I’ve just come back from a weeks holiday there, the other half goes fishing, and I get to create in peace. Love it.

How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?

I would much prefer to write early, but if I’m off, I write all day. Sometimes 16 hours a day.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’ve done both, as part of NaNoWriMo. In fact TSK’s first novel was on the fly. I hadn’t planned anything, and one of my TSK fans for the series, said ‘why don’t you try writing their story before they get to Earth’ and that was it, I thought why not, and I wrote my first 50k in the 30 days. The following 84k I wrote up till my birthday on the 13th december, and the rewriting took TSK’s first book to 103k.

Dawn 1

Dawn Chapman has been creating sci fi and fantasy stories for thirty years. Until 2005 when her life and attention turned to scripts, and she started work on The Secret King, a 13 episode Sci Fi TV series, with great passion for this medium.

In 2010, Dawn returned to her first love of prose. She’s been working with coach EJ Runyon who’s encouraged her away from fast paced script writing, to revel in the world of TSK and Letháo as an epic prose space journey.

Where TSK came from.

The Secret King began its journey in 2007 when I broke my hand. I had a dream and that dream became a feature script. I wanted to learn and find likeminded people, so I joined an online writing community, this is where I met one of TSK’s partners Steven Kogan and from that first rough draft of a feature film I began to plot a TV series. I asked Steven if he would like to write inside my world and he accepted, together we penned 13 episodes, and became fast friends over the next few years.

In 2010 I started entering competitions and discovering NaNoWriMo was where I found my second partner, Jaime Bengzon, who also came on board with TSK’s TV series as a character designer. In 2016 we made it official and formed TSK Productions, with the dream of novels, novellas, comics and animation in our sights.

To date the TSK team is 14 strong, and growing. And we just released our first two audioshorts from the series by the talented Holly Adams! –


Visit Dawn on her personal blog – kanundra.com — and —


Check out TSK on the following:

Websites –

Production Website –  www.tskproductions.com

Main TSK Website –  www.thesecretking.com


Twitter –

Production – https://twitter.com/ProductionsTSK

TSK – https://twitter.com/TeamSecretKing


Facebook –

TSK Productions Ltd –


The Secret King Fan Page –


Author Highlight: J.R. Creaden

I’m headed into the new year, and here’s another new author to follow.

JR 1
J.R. Creaden

I’d like to start with a question about you. What is your favorite movie and why?

I have a favorite movie in every genre, so I don’t know where to begin! My favorite science fiction movie is Serenity, because the characters are rich and well-spoken, and the world is complex and challenging. It isn’t only the film itself that I love, but the story behind the film as well—fans coming together to beg Firefly creators and actors to make the movie.
My all-time favorite children’s film is Disney’s Sword in the Stone. The music, the magic, the iconic voices—I watch it at least once a year with my family.

What are you currently working on and what is it about?

I’m currently working on a YA scifi series; the first book is A New Morse Code. It’s about time travel, the ethics of change, and the power of creativity. The story began on a storyboard I built with my children and grew from there. They wanted: robots, aliens, time travel, a space academy, weird planets, and amazing tech; basically, a cross between Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Harry Potter.

ANMC is set in the 31st century of Earth, a thousand years after space travel became common and humans have allied with other species. One time ship is stranded far from Earth in a region of “dead space”—where all life has long been extinct. The ship’s crew must revive the region to find their way home. I aim to please!

JR Book What goals do you have in mind for Contact Files after publishing?

I want to see this story on a screen so badly that I’ll watch anything that comes close to these ideas. Best case scenario for Contact Files would be its adoption by Star Trek franchise. Worst case is I pitch this locally in Atlanta and follow where that leads, even if it means hiring other writers to see the series through to its end faster. I have nine more books in this series, and I could see the first book alone becoming two seasons. What excites me about transforming the story for screen would be the inclusion of other parallel story lines, voices we don’t hear firsthand until late in the series.

Will you use a PR agency when you publish?

I’d have to, whatever route I go. I’m notorious for sticking my foot in my mouth or word vomiting at strangers. For now, my PR consists of my husband reading over my shoulder and saying, “Don’t send that. Seriously, just close the tab and walk away.”

Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

Never give in to brain worms. Brain worms might be your family’s opinion of artists, your high school lit teacher’s opinions on “what makes a good story,” or even your inner critic saying, “You’re not smart enough, dedicated enough, talented enough, ambitious enough to write this story.” Don’t let these critics stop you from doing anything you love, and, if you don’t love it, maybe you should stop. Yes, writing is competitive, and it may be foolhardy to expect your story to be a bestseller, but you can’t compete without finishing, and you can’t know you won’t be successful unless you’ve tried.




JR 3JR began her authorial career as a child disgruntled with song lyrics. After some early success with poetry and essays, she spent decades distracted by songwriting and academia until her story dreams became too interesting to keep to myself. A Major Shift, JR’s first novel (rife with first-time novelist problems to solve), may permanently be “under revision,” but her current YA scifi project will soon be ready for public consumption or vivisection. Her goal is to share stories that inspire readers to embrace cultural diversity, the promise of science, and the value of humor and imagination to build a future that’s more Star Trek and less 1984. When she’s not writing, JR enjoys exchanging “your mama” jokes with her children, floating in lakes, and slaying virtual dragons.

JR 2
Visit J.R. Creaden online at:

her website: Ever Forward With JR Creaden

Facebook: J.R. Creaden

Twitter: JessCreaden

Author Highlight: Heather Hayden

My featured author this month is Heather Hayden, and her book Upgrade will be released soon.

Because I am excited about the upcoming book, let’s start with the questions.

Your current WIP is called Upgrade. Could you share a bit about it?

Upgrade is the sequel to Augment, a YA science fiction I published in March 2015. The sequel has been long coming, but I’m pleased with how it’s turned out—it’s currently in the last stages of revision. Upgrade continues the adventures of Viki, a teenage girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI who likes to use an avatar of a cat. Here’s the (still rough/in-progress) back cover blurb:

In this sequel to Augment, sixteen-year-old Viki’s uneventful summer ends when she and her AI friend Halle are contacted by a rogue AI called Talbot. A surprise visit from an old adversary soon casts suspicion on the rogue and its intentions, and Viki and Halle find themselves caught up in another investigation—this time, as the investigators.

Viki struggles to balance the investigation, homework, and her social life—the latter renewed by a blossoming friendship with a recent transfer student, Darnell. Meanwhile, Halle is torn between helping a fellow AI and stopping a potentially dangerous fugitive. Several cyborgs are missing from the military laboratory. Talbot denies having anything to do with the theft, but Halle isn’t sure whether to trust the other AI. After all, Talbot was developed to control the cyborgs.

As accusations fly, Halle and Viki search for the truth about Talbot—and in the process, uncover something surprising about Darnell. The truth could destroy Viki’s new friendship and place the entire world in grave danger.

For those who haven’t read Augment, could you tell us something about Viki and Halle? Why does Viki love running so much? Why does Halle choose a cat form, instead of something else?

When she was young, Viki was in a bad accident (it’s never explained exactly what) and she gets implants—two in her legs and one in her brain. It took years of physical therapy before she could run again, so being able to do so reminds her of all the freedom she has now.

Halle likes cats. It admires them for their independence and intelligence. (If Viki’s family was okay with it, the AI would probably adopt several, but unfortunately her mother is allergic to furry animals.) When it was inspired by game avatars to start using one for interacting with Viki, Halle chose the form of a cat. Its coat color does change, usually depending on Halle’s mood, and sometimes just for fun.

You’ve created an in-depth world with a very sophisticated AI. I like how Halle has her own human type personality yet stays detached such as not accepting a gender. Tell me about your process. How do you brainstorm story ideas?

Sometimes I’ll bounce ideas back and forth with my sister—she’s a great sounding board and we can frequently solve a lot of plot holes during a walk. Most of the time, though, an idea just comes to me and I sit down and write it. Inspiration can come from pretty much anywhere—a song, a conversation, a line in a book or movie. I just have to be sure to write the idea down before it flits away again.

So what happens if the idea comes in a dream or while you are driving? Do you wait until you get home and have a computer handy, do you pull out notebooks, do you dictate to your phone? How do you end up writing the ideas down?

Although we have a couple of typewriters floating around, I don’t use them frequently. They’re fun and look cool but you have to type everything up again afterwards! So 99.99% of my writing happens on my laptop, where I keep everything organized and have the internet on hand to look something up if need be (unless, of course, I’m somewhere without internet. Too bad the Cloud from the Augment series doesn’t exist!)

I do have Dragon Naturally Speaking, which I’ve used a few times, but dictation is frustrating when I have to remember to tell it punctuation and it keeps misunderstanding me. And I also write a bit longhand, usually when I don’t have access to a computer and need to get something down before I forget it. My wrists have issues and long periods of longhand make my right one hurt a lot, so I try to avoid that. Keyboards don’t seem to bother me, thankfully!

I personally like the feel of writing a story out longhand. There is something comforting about the motion of writing. When you do write longhand, what’s your favorite kind of pen or pencil to use?

I have a lovely blue ballpoint pen my grandfather made me, which is my current favorite. Someday I’d love to use a fountain pen, though, or even a quill pen, because they look stylish.


KODAK Digital Still Camera

Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. In March 2015 she published her first novella, Augment, a YA science fiction story filled with excitement, danger, and the strength of friendship. She immediately began work on its sequel, Upgrade, which continues the adventures of Viki, a girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI. You can learn more about Heather and her stories through her blog and her Twitter, both of which consist of equal amounts of writerly things and random stuff she’s interested in.

Author Highlight: Jim Moran

This is the first in a series of author interviews that will be featured on my blog. These are authors I have the pleasure of workshopping with and who have their own works to present.

According to Jim, he is a random guy on the Internet who accidentally fell into this whole “writing” thing. He is terribly inexperienced in virtually every aspect of the writing endeavor, and is currently just making things up as he goes. What fun! He has a blog.

I’d add that he is a new author working on a epic space opera. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his process and the industry in general.

Jim, for your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I don’t really have a preference.

I certainly don’t fetishize paper books to the extent that some people are wont to do. But I do like a full bookshelf. And I like the permanence of traditional books. I also like the idea that, if I drop what I’m reading into the bathtub, I’ll only be out like six dollars.

On the other hand, ebooks are incredibly convenient. And easy on the storage! Once, when I moved across the country into a house with less storage, I ended up donating like eight boxes full of old books. It was a little heartbreaking, and something that didn’t need to happen if they’d all been on a little chip.

I also enjoy audio books, for those tasks that require physical effort but not a lot of mental effort. Like yard work, or the treadmill.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Heh. “Average” implies more than a single data point. And since I’m still neck-deep in my revision process for Book 1, I’m not sure I even have that single data point yet. I don’t think I’m the guy to offer insight on this particular question.

Do you proofread and edit your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

Doesn’t everybody proofread their own stuff? Does anybody just knock out a first draft and then immediately fire it off to their agent or click “Upload Story” or whatever? Am I naïve to ask?

As for getting somebody else, my personal adventure started in a critique group, and they’ve done a good and thorough job with critiquing at both a high level (concepts, motivations, plot points, etc.) and a low level (spelling, grammar, word choice, etc.)

Is that the same thing? Something tells me that’s not the same thing. I haven’t hired out a professional editor or anything, if that’s the question. I don’t really intend to, as I’m not entirely sure what kind of value an editor would bring, beyond my critique group and my own revisions, that would justify the expense.

Perhaps I’m not as educated in this part of the process as I should be. And I’m certainly not perfect. So I guess I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

Having yet to go through either process myself, I don’t really have any experience to draw on when answering this question, and I think noob conjecture probably won’t be very helpful. Given that, I think both methods are totally viable, and it’s fantastic to have such a wealth of options available.

What do you think of “trailers” for books, and will you create one for your own work?

Speaking as a member of the audience, I was never really one for book trailers. Perhaps it’s because my book buying decisions have never really been subject to marketing influence in general. At least, nothing noticeable, and certainly nothing so overt as a trailer. I generally just peruse a bookstore, read the backs of a few books, maybe select a random page and glance at the writing style. Every once in a while, I’ll read a book that somebody gives me, or I’ll buy a book that somebody recommends (and who’s taste in reading I know and trust.)

But I’ve never seen an ad for a book and thought “I’d better go buy that.” From what few book trailers I’ve seen, they just seem like louder, more colorful, and more obnoxious versions of the ads that I already ignore.

Perhaps I’m not part of the demographic that this kind of thing speaks to.

See more insights from Jim Moran on his blog, “An Executor’s Work.”

Project status

Ok. I’m checking in with current progress.

Tiny At Large: I stopped sending out new queries in February and ran her through three more betas. I want to have edits/revisions done within the next month or so. No major revisions were suggested but everyone wants more from the ending. Can do.

Distilled: This one went through some betas and is in the process of another. Revisions to be done but unknown when. Then I think I am done with this one. I will start putting a query together to see what happens.

An Ogreish Wedding: This one is scheduled for beta in May. I’m not sure it will ever go anywhere. It’s a super quick read and lighthearted. There isn’t much substance to it though.

4 Brothers: I finished chapter 15 of the planned 32. So half done. Yay. I also have feedback on the first 6 chapters and feel almost kind of confident enough to move forward.

The Wilds: Chapter 4 of a planned 33 done. So far away from being done, but I am focusing on the brothers mainly.

Shorts: My guilt partner and I are challenging each other to write flash fiction pieces. I have now completed two. I am looking for feedback on them to see if they are garbage or worth sending out. I haven’t focused on short pieces in the past, so this is a new and exciting adventure.


That’s where my writing stands.

Failing Word Count

I write sparse.

To date, my longest draft has been about 58k. I then edited it down to 52k. On revision, my longest work is 55k. To me, these numbers will not get me published.

So while I have works at different stages of revision/beta/editing/querying, I am working on drafting some new stories. Why stop with just one or a few?

One of the stories I am drafting is actually one I started in 2012 with an online class by Brandon Sanderson called Write About Dragons. I had never written past chapter 4 in any version because that is when I realized I needed better outlining techniques. Now, I have drug out the revised outline and started writing on it.

That was when I found out I have a failing word count. Back before I knew how to create story structure, my early chapters on this story were 2-3k words. Now I struggle to get 1.5k words per scene/chapter. This means a story I originally hoped to make 65k words with 33 chapters, is now likely to be around 49k.

I’m a little lost about what I need to do to get my word counts up. Some of the suggestions I have gathered from conferences and craft books:

–more sub plots (I always like this idea, but it never seems to get me the word count I want and I hesitate about giving every novel a romance arc. While I love a good romance, I don’t need a romance in a thriller.)

–fleshing out settings/descriptions (I figure this is good for a few thousand words, but I wouldn’t want description to add 20% of my novel. Ouch)

–adding a scene/character

My beta readers tell me I need to spend more words on creating a solid ending. So that is my current goal in many of my revisions. I am trying to also make it a larger focus in my outlining so maybe I don’t have to create new ends during revision.

Anyway, what’s on my mind today: word counts

Old Novels, New Outlines, a Mess

I have been stuck recently. I’m not getting anywhere fast with the projects I am working on. Here’s the bullet point update:

  • Tiny At Large — no responses from the 25 queries so I am having two more betas read it now to see how to improve
  • Distilled (formerly Nik’s story) — went through a three person beta. I want to have revisions done by April, but who knows if it will happen
  • 4 Brothers — 13 chapters are written, but I hit a confidence block, and I think the whole thing needs to be re-outlined from a single POV and the store split into a series so each brother can have more attention. I’m playing with the idea of it being a romance series. Thus I am frightened and have people reading the first 13 chapters to see if a huge overhaul is the best idea.

So because I am stalled out, here is what I have done:

  • Pulled out a Nano novel from 2013 — its actually pretty good but way to short. It’s actually 43k, but I may have at least one other person read it to see if it should be polished up. I think it has at least one subplot that can be emphasized and probably a few scene added to the main plot and there is some character depth that needs to be added.
  • Started drafting an old outline — my fish story is revived. Saleen and Rudd will have their adventure one way or another. I started scene 2/chapter 2 this morning, but it took me all week to write chapter/scene 1.
  • Continued outlining on the OCD cleaner piece, possible novel 2 for Distilled and possible novel 2 for Tiny At Large

I’ve probably got too many things happening now, so I will have to see if I can juggle it all.