Indie Author Month 2013 – Aaaaaaaand, we out!

Guest Feature

All done! 

So, it’s June 1st, which means Indie Month is done for our second year…

We hope you’ve enjoyed finding out about new books and authors, reading the guest posts about why people write, and possibly found some new stories to add to your own reading lists this summer. For us, it has been a pleasure hosting such a lovely, and enthusiastic, group of authors. They’ve tweeted and re-blogged the event all over the place, and come back to check out the other authors regularly – thank you for taking part so actively.

Our giveaway winner has now been selected – congratulations to Karen E 🙂 our email is on its way to you, as I type!

This year, we featured more authors than in 2012, and were able to offer each a different type of post, so we hope you liked seeing something different. The posts attracted just under 2000 views in the month, which was also more than last year, so overall – we’re happy.

Thanks again for taking part – hopefully see you next year!

Mel x


IAM Guest Post…Why I Write Indie

Guest Feature

We’re nearly at the end of Indie Author Month – IAM2013 – and to close the event we’ll be featuring some special posts today from the authors who contribute most frequently to Aside from Writing. For our first feature of the last day, regular Tony Talbot is here to tell us why he is an indie author. 


Believe it or not, way back in the mists of time (I’m talking pre-2009), there was a mark of shame upon certain writers.

This mark meant they wandered the literary world, lost and forgotten, their voices echoing, unheard. They were The Unworthy, the ones who failed the climb The Five Steps of Publishing. Instead, they toiled in the mines and the valleys and could only look at the shining lights on the summits, dreaming and writing their dreams.

They were The Self-Published.

They all dreamed of one thing, these lost men and women. They dreamed that one day they would find themselves the most precious gifts of all – an agent and a publisher – and their voices would be heard across the world.

Those on the mountains scorned those below. Not good enough, they would shout, loud enough to be heard in the valleys and the mines. The insults would fly from the hills: Self-published! Vanity Press! Might as well throw your money away! No one wants to read what you’ve written! Not for us!

The music makers and the dreamers of dreams below would tell themselves anyway that they were good, they were worthy, that one day They Would Find an Agent, that someday their voices would be heard. They told themselves that, and toiled on.

And so it began to change. There were whispers of rebellion down in the mines. Fires were Kindled. Words were Smashed. In Nooks and crannies down in the dark, things began to change. Slowly at first, but they changed.

The men and women of the valleys slowly stormed the hillside Palaces of The Agents, broke down the Gates of The Publishers and simply rolled over them. No longer would they be needed.

The Lost had found the power of digital light in their hands, and the light was good, the light was powerful. The light had set them free.


I was one of those who toiled in the valleys and looked skyward. I was one of those who dreamt of agents and publishers, of seeing my name on a bookshelf in a bookstore (They still had those in 2010, would you believe).

For a while, I think I was getting there. I jumped through all the hoops the agents wanted, some of them incredibly restrictive: Submit only one story at once, double spaced, one sided, loose leaf, first three chapters only, Times New Roman size 12. We do not accept emails. (Seriously. What century were these people in?)

I got a few interesting replies, but if an agent looks at an extract and thinks it won’t sell a million copies, they aren’t interested, and they weren’t. Fair enough; they have mortgages to pay like the rest of us, but what that lead to was a blinkered vision of what they wanted.

You have a short story of 3000 words? Forget it.

Book of Poems? Hold the phone away from your ear until I stop laughing.

Want to publish your book on the 19th century sewage system of Vienna? No chance.

And it was a stigma, that’s what the writing magazines and books called it, a mark on your failings as a writer and human being if you couldn’t get an agent and had to…(rinses out mouth)…self-publish.

It was a dark time for the rebellion.


It took me a while to realise I didn’t need an agent. I’d already written two books and was starting a third when I read a magazine article about electronic self-publishing. That was when I decided to join the revolution and storm the gates. (This same magazine was one of those who looked down upon the self-published as the lowest of the low – I picked it up again recently, and how their tune has changed!)

So I joined Amazon’s publishing program. I joined Smashwords. Later, I joined Goodreads and Facebook and Twitter and Booklikes, and I did guest posts and blog tours and all the other electronic stuff I do alongside making people and places up for fun. I joined them because I wanted to be in the revolution. I joined them because I wanted my voice to be heard.


I self-published my first short story on Amazon – The Trunk – on Christmas Day, 2010. Mainly because my mother-in-law had received a Kindle for Christmas and I wanted to see if I could send her the story, and it seemed a good place to start, with something small like that.

Something small. The Trunk is a VERY short story – about 2000 words – about a small boy who hides from the Holocaust. No conventional publisher would ever have touched it; there would be no profit in printing something that short.

I’ve made about $40 from sales of The Trunk, but more importantly to me, there hasn’t been more than two months when I haven’t sold at least a copy. I’m as delighted to sell one a month as when I sell twenty.

Even more important to me, I’ve had reviewers comment that it made them cry. My writing is out there, it’s in the world and making people cry, it’s making them think. I’m pretty proud of that and not ashamed to say it.

And not an Agent in sight.


The Agents told me I was not good enough, that self-publishers were the lowest of the low, with no talent and no voice. The people who matter – the readers – tell me the opposite, again and again.

Yes, I stormed The Palace of The Agents. I screamed with the rest of The Lost that we are good enough. We will be heard across the world.

I’m proud to be an Indie. Hear me roar.

IAM Book of the Day…A Case of Poisons, Hazel West

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

Our featured author today is Hazel West – you may remember her from our February feature on her novel On a Foreign Field. Her latest book A Case of Poisons is due for release on 3rd June, today you can find out more about her in one of our special ‘This or That’ interviews.


Hero or Villain? Sometimes, really awesome villains are harder to lose than really awesome heroes.

Pirates or Zombies? Pirates! And no, I don’t care for zombie pirates overmuch.

 Popcorn or Chocolate? Chocolate, extra dark.

London or New York? London!

 Classical or Pop? Classical; seriously most of my favorite music is way older than me.

 Elf or Dwarf? Well, if I narrow it down to Orlando Bloom or Richard Armatage, then I’m afraid I would have to choose Dwarves.

James Bond or Jason Bourne? Jason Bourne—love a guy who gets the job done without being constantly distracted by the local female life.

Early Bird or Night Owl? Night Owl, but does it still count on those nights I stay up till dawn working on something?


About the Author

I’m Hazel B. West, a self published author who currently has four published titles Freedom Come All Ye, Ballad of the Highwayman, On a Foreign Field, and By Blood or By Bond (along with it’s companion backstories) and the upcoming Anthony Maxwell steampunk mystery series. I love English, Scottish and Irish history, and use my research to write historical novels.

 Apart from being a writer, I love to read, sketch, listen to music as well as play my instruments, and drink coffee. I’m a history buff and bibliophile and would love to hike in the mountains if I didn’t live in Florida.


A Case of PoisonsAnthony Maxwell is a private investigator, a consultant for the mostly incompetent inspectors at Scotland Yard, on occasion a writer, and always a lover of coffee. He has been working small cases for several years to pay the bills when he’s introduced to the first multiple murder case of his career early one morning, when a witness catches a man trying to unload a body to bury in a nearby graveyard. Soon the first body is joined by three more in the course of a single morning and Anthony knows this is no ordinary serial murder case. And why is the murderer targeting beggars and urchin children? If that wasn’t cause enough to worry, all the victims are covered with horrible wounds and show signs of exotic poisoning. Anthony, along with his partners Tobias—an ex-broadsman and well-know charmer—and Scamp—a street smart and talented young woman—work to find out who is murdering the helpless beggars and children in such horrifying ways. The first book in this new Victorian steampunk series takes the three companions to the limits of their abilities as they go up against canny murderers, bruisers who appear invincible, anarchist groups, and even ancient British royalty in the biggest case Anthony Maxwell has ever worked in his career.


Want to know more? Check out the links!




Anthony Maxwell’s Facebook Page:


Purchase Links:

IAM Interview…Richard Phillips aka Richie Earl

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

Our featured author today is Richard Phillips. This morning we featured a preview of his second book Return to Finndragon’s Den, which launches today – now you can find out more about him in one of our special ‘This or That’ interviews.


Finndragon Banner


Half-Empty or Half-Full? Half-full every time. I’m an optimist and always look on the bright side.

Cats or Dogs? I just love dogs. I have a rescue dog named Benson who’s nearly 10 years old now. Many of the characters in the Tales of Finndragon series are based on people I know, and there’s a dog called Bones who’s based on Benson.

Heads or Tails? There’s a saying where I come from: ‘Tails never fails for Wales.’

Reading or Writing? There’s never enough time in the day to do both. At the moment writing is taking up so much of my free time, that I haven’t read a book for a about a month.

James Bond or Jason Bourne? I must be the only person who doesn’t like James Bond. I can remember watching Roger Moore use a load of crocodiles as stepping stones when I was kid. I thought it was so unrealistic. I like stories, however fantastical to be believable, with rules that can’t be broken.

Summer or Winter? I love the sun, but unfortunately winter seems to last twice as long as summer in Wales.

City or Country? I live in a town, but the countryside is literally on my doorstep. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve spent many happy days exploring the wonderful landscape. I drew inspiration for my novels from the ancient site of Morlais Castle, a 13th century castle within 2 miles of my home. There is very little trace left these days.

Early Bird or Night Owl? I’ve always been an insomniac, even more so since I started writing, often staying awake past 2am. The trouble is I have children to get to school and a day job which gets me out of bed by 7am.


About the Author

My name is Richard Phillips and I write Young Adult Fantasy novels, under the pen name Richie Earl. I self-published my first novel, The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse, as an ebook on Amazon in December 2011 and recently on Smashwords. It is the first book in a two part series entitled Tales of Finndragon. I had an offer of a publishing deal from a small Welsh publisher, with regards to book 1 over sixteen months ago, but I haven’t signed as yet. The publisher applied to the Welsh Book Council for a grant to help with the cost of publication, which was declined last summer.


Any reader who likes to lose themselves in a fantastical new world will fall in love with The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse. The protagonists are ordinary children without any special abilities, longing to find their missing father and resume their normal family life. The children discover an ancient scroll relating to a fifteen hundred year old Welsh legend and another clue of a photograph in their father’s belongings. So they set off to find him in the cursed Kingdom of Morgannwg. Their epic quest brings them into contact with medieval knights, wizards and magical creatures. It is a story of heroism underpinned by family values. Book 1 has a cliff-hanger ending, leaving readers thirsting for more. I am sure that fans of Harry Potter would be enthralled by these books.


I have to admit that I was very naive when I first self-published. Over the last twelve months I have started to build my platform, and I now have a growing presence on Twitter (@finndragons), Facebook (Tales of Finndragon)and Goodreads. As well as the two novels, I have two as yet unpublished children’s picture books written in verse and a collection of poetry.


The second book, Return to Finndragon’s Den., is out on 29th May. It will be released as both an ebook and paperback, with a paperback version of book 1 also to become available. I’m also preparing separate versions of both books for the US market.


I am 47 years old and have worked as a Registered Nurse since 1985, currently employed by the Welsh Blood Service. I am married with three young children and managed to write my novels despite my hectic work and family life. My children were the inspiration for these books, and I based the leading characters on them.


I enjoy running, having completed the past two Cardiff Half Marathons. I also enjoy cycling when I have the time and I recently been joined by my two youngest children on a regular 10 mile ride.



Want to know more? Check out the links!


The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse on Amazon


Return to Finndragon’s Den link will be available from May 29th.


Twitter @finndragons


Facebook Tales of Finndragon



IAM Book of the Day…Tales of Finndragon

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

Our featured author is Richard Phillips, and he’s joining us today for the launch of his second book Return to Finndragon’s Den. Let’s find out more about him and his books!


Finndragon Banner

The series starts with The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse

Three children racing against time, desperately searching for their missing father.

A medieval kingdom cursed by an evil wizard.

An ancient legend beneath our very feet.

The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse is the first book in a unique, two book fantasy adventure series and is a fast paced, engaging and thrilling page turner. The story races along with plenty of twists and turns as it heads for the prophesized confrontation between the children and the evil Finndragon himself.

Combining wizardry and magic with modern technology and containing magical animals and terrible demons, The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse is a rollercoaster of emotions that will make you laugh out loud and then fight to hold back the tears, as the children race against time to rescue their father. In doing so they have to kill Finndragon and put an end to the dreadful curse.


The story continues today with the release of Return to Finndragon’s Den…

Finndragon book 2


My name is Richard Phillips and I have written a YA fantasy series entitled Tales of Finndragon, under the pen name Richie Earl. Book 1, The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse, was launched December 2011 and has had some excellent reviews. Book 2, Return to Finndragon’s Den, is to be launched May 29th on Kindle and a week later in paperback.

I’ve lived all my life in Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, which is quite a large town by Welsh standards. I’m a family man and have been married to Angela for sixteen years and have three children: Katie 13, Lucy 9 and Jonathan 7, who have inspired and encouraged me to write. The family is completed by Benson, a rescue dog who has been with us for nine years. I have based the main characters in the story upon my children.

Writing has been in my blood since an early age, when I particularly enjoyed writing poetry. A talent inspired by my late grandmother. At the time I wrote for my own pleasure and was reluctant to share my work with even close family and friends.

I did start a YA sci-fi novel many years ago, which I will come back to soon. Following the sudden death of a close friend, I wrote a collection of stories about our adventures which I’ll publish in the future. But for the time being I want to concentrate on writing what I love the most – YA fantasy where I can let my boundless imagination run wild. My next project is an apocalyptic, time-changing sci-fi/fantasy adventure for young adults.

I’ve also written two picture books, in rhyme, for younger children. I haven’t decided what to do with these as yet as I’m unsure whether to find an illustrator myself, or to seek an agent or publisher.

I have to juggle my writing schedule with a busy work and family life. I qualified as a nurse over twenty years ago and currently work for the Welsh Blood Service, which involves travelling to various towns across South Wales collecting blood donations.

When I’m not writing or promoting my book, I like to occasionally work-out in the gym, I run regularly and enjoy cycling, particularly with Lucy and Jonathan. I’ve completed the last two Cardiff Half Marathons and I’ve entered the event again this year.


Want to know more? Check out the links! (Website)

@finndragons (Twitter) (Goodreads Author)

IAM Interview…with Jack Croxall

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

Our featured author today is Jack Croxall. We recently spotted a review of Jack’s book Tethers on Goodreads and liked the look of it so much that it’s in our ‘To Read’ pile now. You can expect a review of Tethers in the near future on the blog, but in the meantime, why not find out more about Jack and his writing in today’s interview. Enjoy! 


Jack Croxall - Author Photo Born in High Wycombe, Jack Croxall now lives in rural Nottinghamshire with his chocolate Labrador, Archie. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Nottingham and currently toils away as a science writer in between working on his books.

 If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world, which would it be?

That’s easy! I’d live in Lyra’s universe from His Dark Materials because everyone gets a daemon (a physical, animal representation of your soul). In the meantime, it’s great fun trying to work out what yours might be. I think mine would be a heron because I’m patient, persistent and I love water!

You’ve found a time machine on your driveway this morning – where are you going to go in it?

I think I’d probably go back to the time of the dinosaurs, if I managed to not get eaten, I could come back and tell everyone what colour they were!

How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?

I jumped around the room madly waving my arms! I wasn’t even alone at the time :S

What inspired you to want to become a writer?

In 2011 I was diagnosed with CFS and subsequently found myself housebound for a number of months. I had always felt I had a novel in me, but suddenly I had the time to produce it. My illness also influenced the mindset of my central characters, Karl and Esther; they are frustrated at being stranded in their small town with no way out to explore the wider world. This frustration was no doubt born from my own aggravations at being unable to get out and do anything.

What has been your most rewarding experience since being published?

Definitely seeing people talk about my characters (in reviews or on social networks for example). They lived exclusively inside my head for so long but having other people meet, enjoy and talk about their company triggers a feeling like no other.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

Maybe …

How do you react to a bad review?

Sadly, bad reviews are perhaps inevitable but it doesn’t stop them hurting! Obviously not everyone is going to like your book, which is completely fine, you just have to find a way of hardening yourself to them!

Is there a song you could list as the theme song for your book?

I can’t really think of one particular song, but I have put together a playlist of songs I listened to whilst writing the book. You can check it out here:

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Can I give two instead? Firstly, read as widely as you can – not exclusively stuff from the genre you write in. I’m not just talking about fiction either; blogs, newspaper articles, pamphlets, menus, billboards, DVD boxes, E-mails, all can be sources of great writing – you need to absorb as much of it as you can! Secondly, get involved with the larger writing community. With social networking it’s never been easier and most writers really are wonderfully supportive. I’ve found talking to fellow book/writing types incredibly helpful so, please, get involved; my twitter handle is @JackCroxall – if you’re interested, add me for a chat!

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.

Because there is so much more at stake than the central characters realise!


Tethers Cover
In the wake of a cold Victorian winter, two teenagers discover an anonymous journal filled with strange passages and bizarre scribblings.

The journal soon draws them into a covert and sinister conspiracy, a conspiracy centred around an otherworldly artefact with the power to change everything …

Karl and Esther have spent almost every day of their thirteen years in the quiet market town of Shraye. Stifled by their rural surroundings and frustrated by their unfulfilled ambitions, they find the allure of the journal’s mysterious pages impossible to ignore. The book seems to be beckoning them away from Shraye, away from their homes and towards the coast where an unsolved disappearance has set in motion a dark chain of events.

The voyage the teenagers soon find themselves undertaking is one of desperate importance and true peril; it will change the way they see the world, and each other, forever.

Reviewers’ Comments:

The story begins with a break away from home that is reminiscent of the exploration stories of Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome, the kids find themselves on a metaphorical rollercoaster cart racing down the tracks. And the brakes are off. Sword fights, pistols, unfortunate deaths and curious objects, the plot thickens with every twist and turn. Suddenly Blyton meets H.G. Wells, and a brilliantly paced steampunk tale of machinery and science-based magic unfolds. (Charlotte Morris – MuggleNet)

Somewhere between Pullman’s Sally Lockhart mysteries and Moonfleet sits Tethers, a rip-roaring debut novel. Sharply written with well observed characters that you can root for, Tethers has you turning pages faster that Ronald MacDonald can throw out burgers. (Sharon Sant – author of the Sky Song trilogy).


Want to know more? Check out the links!

Add on Goodreads:

Buy the book

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

Connect with the Author

Goodreads profile:

IAM Guest Post…The Joy of Sampling

Guest Feature

Today on Indie Author Month we welcome author Sara Zaske as our guest. Sara is an expat American writer living in Berlin, Germany. Her debut novel, The First, is available at all places that sell fabulous books. She’s currently revising a scorcher of a second novel called, Spitfire. You can visit her book blog at YA Fantastic Book Review.


The Joy of Sampling

I’ll admit it. I’m a serial sampler.

I often cruise Amazon or Smashwords to download free samples of books. I probably have hundreds on my Kindle. Of course, I’m a book blogger, a writer, and an all-round reading addict, but I think every reader should sample books with the same abandon.

Why sample? Because you can. When you pick up a book at a bookstore, what’s the first thing you do? Look at the cover? Read the flap stuff? I open it and read the first line or paragraph. For me, it’s the only way to tell if it’s going to be a good book. Usually though, I like to read 10-20 pages before I decide to get it. But by then, the bookstore employees are looking at me funny.

With ebooks, you can read the first couple chapters of nearly any book that catches your eye and read them at your leisure. This is one of the best ways to discover Indie authors because let’s be honest, there’s a lot of chaff out there in both traditional and Indie publishing world. And who wants to spend time and money on a dud?

No Kindle? No problem. Even if you don’t have an ereader, you can sample books on your computer, iPad or smartphone. Smashwords allows you to sample books in almost any format. And Amazon has free apps that will turn almost any device into an ereader. (So does B&N, see the image next to Nook book buy link: example.)

Of course, sampling is super easy if you have a Kindle or a Nook. Just click Send sample on the right of a Amazon Kindle book page (example), or the Get Free Sample link next to the Buy Now button on Barnes & Noble (example).

What to look for in a sample? I probably don’t have to tell you. You know it when you read it. But here are some of the things I look for:

Grabber opening—Sets up an interesting problem from the get go, usually in the very first line

Great character— A main character who is sympathetic but flawed (problems are always more interesting than perfection)

Voice—A confident storyteller who makes no mistakes, earns my trust, and generally gives me the feeling that my imaginiation is in good hands

Start Now! A great place to begin sampling is right in front of you: this very blog. Cruise the Indie author postings from this month, click their links, download free samples, and start reading.

The First by Sara ZaskeI’ll give you a taste right now. Here are the opening lines from my YA urban fantasy novel, The First:

“I should have never gone to the new girl’s house. The walls didn’t need to melt, and the ground didn’t have to disappear under my feet to know that I should have stayed far away from Violet Starkey . . .“

Want more? Download a longer free sample of The First from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords)

IAM Excerpt…Waiting for the Storm

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

Our featured author today is Marie Landry and we’re excited to be showcasing an excerpt from her latest novel Waiting for the Storm. Marie has featured with us on Aside From Writing several times since she released her debut novel in early 2012, and she is a firm favourite 🙂 

Waiting for the Storm

~Meet the Family~
From WAITING FOR THE STORM by Marie Landry

I asked him to start the water for the pasta while I assembled the salad. We’d made enough food to feed about half a dozen people, even though I wasn’t sure anyone else would be joining us.

As if on cue, Ella entered the kitchen and froze when she saw Ezra standing at the stove. Her eyes roved over him from head to toe, and a wolfish smile overtook her face.

“Hi there,” she said, sashaying further into the kitchen and stopping a few feet from Ezra. She struck what I’m sure she thought was a sexy pose, with her hand on her hip. “Who’s this?”

I was ridiculously pleased to see that Ezra didn’t look impressed by Ella. I figured that said a lot, considering my sister was wearing about the shortest dress I’d ever seen, baring an almost indecent amount of perfectly tanned skin.

“This is Ezra,” I said when he didn’t answer right away. “Ezra, this is my sister El…Gabriella.”

“Ezra,” she said slowly, eyeing him like he was a big piece of man candy. “What a cool name. Where’d you get it?”

“I’ve always had it,” he said, and I couldn’t help the snicker that rose to my lips.

Ella shot me a nasty look, her sexy smile fading. “A funny one,” she said, turning back to Ezra. “I like that.”

Ezra smiled, but it wasn’t one of the knock-your-socks off smiles he’d been giving me all day. I’d seen guys give girls that smile—the kind that didn’t reach their eyes—when they were giving them the brush off.

“Ezra’s staying for dinner,” I told Ella. “It should be ready in about ten minutes.”

“Oh, what a shame,” Ella said, looking at Ezra as if he was the one who’d spoken. “I’d love to stay but I already made plans with Caroline from next door.”

“That’s too bad,” Ezra said, shooting me a surreptitious look of relief.

Ella must have seen the look that passed between us because her expression turned sour. She covered it quickly, and said to me, “It’s so good to see you making friends, Charlotte.” Her tone was sweet, and she spoke slowly, as if she were talking to a very small child. “It’s not healthy for you to spend so much time alone. I worry about you, you know.”

She brushed past me, patting my shoulder and sending a dazzling smile in Ezra’s direction. “You kids have fun. Don’t wait up!”

I turned quickly toward the stove, stirring the sauce with new vigor as I tried to avoid looking at Ezra.

“What a bitch,” he muttered.

I looked over at him and almost laughed when I saw that he’d clapped a hand over his mouth.

“I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “That was so inappropriate. She’s your sister, and…”

“She is a bitch,” I agreed, surprised to hear the words coming from my mouth. I’d thought them often enough over the last few months, but I’d never said them out loud.

Ezra looked relieved, and when he smiled it was one of those genuine knock-your-socks-off smiles that made my heart stutter. “I’ve never understood why people feel it’s necessary to cut others down in order to make themselves feel better,” he said. “But especially when it comes to family. I…I heard what she said last night. On the beach. I couldn’t see your face, but I knew you heard her, too.”

I sighed. I’d been hoping he hadn’t heard what Ella said to that guy. And yet, it didn’t seem to change the way Ezra felt about me. He’d still talked to me today, and he was still here now.

“She just…” I shrugged, uncertain how to explain the odd relationship between Ella and me. “I don’t even know anymore. We used to be close when we were younger. Things just got messed up somewhere along the way.”

Ezra nodded. “I can understand that,” he said quietly.

His expression was so earnest I wanted to pour my heart out to him and tell him everything that was on my mind—my mom’s illness, how my dad was acting so strange, my sister’s resentment toward me, my fears and insecurities and uncertainty over my own future.

But then I remembered that we’d only just met, and you didn’t dump all your crap on someone you’d just met. I had no idea if he was just being nice to me, as the new girl in town who happened to be the daughter of his mother’s childhood best friend, or if he was interested in being friends…or dare I even consider something more?

Either way, I wasn’t going to unload on him until I was sure.

We finished making dinner, and I got out three pasta dishes. I was about to go in search of Dad when he peeked his head into the kitchen.

“Oh, Charlotte. And…Ezra, is it?”

“Yes, sir,” Ezra said.

“I thought I heard voices. And smelled…” He looked toward the stovetop and I suddenly remembered that alfredo had been one of Mom’s specialties. She’d taught me how to make it before she got sick, and it was one of Dad’s favourites.

“We were just about to eat,” I told him. “Why don’t you join us?”

He shook his head slowly. “I’m not hungry.” He looked exhausted, even though I knew he spent a lot of time sleeping lately. Or maybe he was pretending to sleep so he wouldn’t have to deal with Ella and me, or the rest of the world. “I’ll eat later. I’m just working in my room if you need me.”

“Okay, Dad,” I said, feeling slightly deflated. I thought maybe having Ezra there would have made a difference; that Dad would make more of an effort with someone else around. Clearly I was wrong.

Dad looked between us, nodding his head absently. He gave an equally absent smile and headed back to his bedroom.

“Well…” I said after I’d heard Dad’s door click shut. “That’s my family.” My voice wavered a little on the last word, and I turned away.

“Hey.” Ezra laid his hands lightly on my shoulders. “It’s okay.”

It wasn’t, but the way he said it almost made me believe it was true. He gently turned me around so I was facing him. With him standing so close, I realized how big he was—tall, broad, and muscular. He had to be at least six feet tall, and he ducked down slightly so we were eye to eye.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes…no. I don’t know. Things are just so…” I let out a noise of frustration, unable to voice all the thoughts swirling through my mind. “The way my dad was just now—that’s how he’s been since before my mom even died. It’s gotten worse in the last week, though. He hardly speaks to me, he barely eats, he sleeps a lot, he’s just…he’s here, but not here. He’s just sort of…checked out, you know?”

Ezra’s eyes darkened, and he nodded. “I do know.” I waited for him to say more, but once again, he didn’t elaborate.

“I just wish I could have some normalcy,” I said.

“Well, I can’t promise you normal,” Ezra said with a crooked smile, “but I can try to make sure you have some fun this summer. Does that sound like a good compromise?”

I blew out a long breath that ended on a light laugh. “Yeah. That does sound like a good compromise. Thank you, Ezra.” Since his hands were already on my shoulders, I impulsively closed the small gap between us and hugged him.

He stiffened for a moment, and I automatically started to pull back, feeling my cheeks flush with embarrassment. He drew me back, keeping his arms loose around me, but it didn’t escape my attention that our bodies fit perfectly together.

“Charlotte?” he whispered, his breath tickling my ear.


“Can we eat now? I’m starving.”

I shoved him away, glad the moment hadn’t had a chance to turn awkward. After being introduced to my crazy life, the least I could do was feed him.


Marie’s novel Blue Sky Days is also out now!

Would you like to know more? Check out the links! 

Debut novel, Blue Sky Days, available now on Amazon and Smashwords
Blog: Ramblings of a Daydreamer Author blog: Marie Landry, Author
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IAM Guest Post…Why I Write Indie

Guest Feature

We’re now heading into the final stretch of Indie Author Month – IAM2013. Today, we’re welcoming back author Michael Cargill to the blog; some of you will know the name from previous reviews of his books Underneath, Shades of Grey and our forthcoming review of Jake. Michael featured in our first Indie event in 2012  and being an all-round nice chap, we were very happy to invite him back to join us again this year. Enough from me – let’s find out what Michael has to say on the subject of Indie writing. 


Why I Write Indie, by Michael Cargill

Ah, what a question.  Well, it’s not really a question I don’t think – but when the Aside from Writing peeps sent me a list of things to talk about, this particular option had a question mark at the end of it.

For the moment, let’s assume that the lovely ladies at Aside are correct in everything that they do, and it is actually a question.  Let’s imagine that I’m sat in a coffee shop and Lady Aside is thrusting a pencil up my nostril, demanding an answer to a question that has been bugging her for years.

“Michael Cargill, why do you write indie?  You must tell me before 1st May, otherwise WordPress are shutting me down.”

To be honest, it’s something of an odd question to ask.  It’s a bit like asking me why I get up at six o clock each morning and go to work.  Ultimately it’s because I have to do it, rather than because I have a burning desire to purposefully do things the hard way.  That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it, because I do (enjoy writing, that is.  Getting up for work is a complete arse), but believe me when I say that it’s not all romance and unlimited goblets of wine.

It’s probably easier to talk about the positive sides of being an indie writer.  First up: I’m my own boss, which means I can do whatever I want (unless I’m at work).  There’s no deadlines for me to concern myself with.  I don’t have a legion of editors, agents, and grape-peelers harassing me about upcoming milestones that need to be hit.  In fact, editors are probably the worst out of that lot.  They smell, they want to shove pencils up your nose, and they never seem to stop talking about apostrophes and continuity errors.

And quite frankly, who the hell needs any of that?  I’m a creative (well, unless I’m at work), yeah?  I need my space, I need to sit down and experience time as it slips through my fingers.  It’s no good shackling me down with all your talk of calendar appointments and contracts.  That’s for Nazis (well, unless it’s me who organised a meeting to discuss a pay rise at work).

Another nifty little thing about being an indie writer is how close you can be to your readers.  Yes, all three of them.

Goodreads is where most of my interaction with readers goes on.  It’s a nifty little place where friends and foes can be made in a matter of minutes (such is life on the Internet), and it’s something of a thrill when someone sends me a message to say how much they enjoyed one of my books.  In fact, even Lady Aside herself went to the trouble of sending me a message by Twitter about one of my books.  I didn’t reply immediately, as I was on the toilet playing Angry Birds at the time, but hey!  That’s just another example of why being an indie writer can be so good – I’m doing my own thing, in my own time.  Does Stephen King have that kind of luxury?  Of course he doesn’t.  He has publicists doing it all for him and no doubt they badger him at all times of the day:

“Ooooh, Steve, what’s your favourite colour?  Amazon want to know.”

“Ooooh, Steve, do you like quail’s eggs?  The Queen is putting together next week’s breakfast menu at Buckingham Palace.”

God, can you imagine it?  What an utter pain in the backside life as a fully-fledged millionaire writer must be.  No doubt he’s got a Dyson Airblade up in his bathroom, but he never gets a chance to play around with it.

So, er, yeah.  Indie writing, then.  It’s good, it’s fun, and it offers a chance of being able to live the writer’s dream.  Every day that I trudge into work, there’s a little ray of hope reminding me that it might just be the very last time I have to do it.

I won’t be giving it up any time soon.

(Note from Lady Aside – Michael is correct, our heading list was not correctly phrased as a question. The person responsible for this administrative error is being suitably punished: they have to locate all the incorrectly positioned apostrophes in every take away and cafe menu in the UK…they may not be back for a long time.)


Want to know more about Michael? Check out his links!

Blog –

Twitter – @MichaelCargill1   Facebook

The Books…

Author Page on Goodreads

 Trailer for Underneath


UK Amazon

IAM Guest Post…What Do Teens Look For in a Book?

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

Reading is a central part to so many people’s lives. The gift of reading has positively impacted everyone who has learned to enjoy and value this marvelous treasure. I know from personal experience that books offer a refuge from the cares of the world. I have also discovered that books nourish the imagination and help dreams to flourish.

When I asked my American Literature professor, who used to teach elementary school, if he noticed any difference between students who read for fun and students who did not, he immediately replied that he noticed a very great difference. He said that children who could sit down with a book and read for hours at a time were generally more disciplined than those who never made themselves finish one. He also said that students who read are better at concentrating in school. In short, reading improves students’ abilities in school.

But what about the benefits that appeal to a person’s sense of enjoyment – such as, can reading be fun? Since my books are aimed mostly at preteens and early teens, I sent a three-question survey to a fifth grade class to see what they thought of reading. Most of these children are ten to eleven years old. I also sent the same survey to two college friends of mine who both plan to teach English when they graduate.

On the survey, I first asked them to name the three most important things they look for in a good book. Few of the fifth graders could contain their answer to merely three things; most of them mentioned four or five elements. One young lady said that she preferred the kind of books that are so intense they cannot be put down and have to be finished in one day. Another young lady agreed with her that a good book “makes you not want to stop reading.”

Some listed elements they looked for in the content of the book, and to no surprise of mine, action and adventure were the most popular. One girl listed six items she enjoyed in a book, and four of them were connected to battles. A young man agreed that fighting and action make a book exciting. A second young man also had a list of elements that made a good story, with action and adventure topping the list.

The college students who answered this question were more critical, but their answers were a little more varied. One focused almost entirely on the story, saying the narrative had to be creative, comprehensible, and thought-provoking. The other required good mechanics, “because bad mechanics are distracting.”

My second question asked them to remember a book they had read that had a particular impact on their life. I was amazed that so many of the fifth graders could recall the first book they read that made reading enjoyable. One young man mentioned reading The Boxcar Children in school and finding an entire series that he wanted to read. A young lady mentioned a series that convinced her to read more because it contained humor and action; another girl mentioned Go, Dogs, Go, which she read many times. Another gentleman remembered the first book he ever read – about a hedgehog and a swimming pool. Someone else mentioned reading Treasure Island. That was amazing to me, because I did not read Treasure Island until I was a freshman in high school – but then, maybe I was a unique case.

Others name books that taught them values. One girl described a book that taught her never to give up on her dreams. Someone else recalled a book that taught about love and self-control. Some others enjoy a more technical education from books. A young man said he liked nonfiction books regarding animals, because then he learns new things. Still others enjoyed books about action and adventure. One mentioned the Magic Tree House series, while someone else values fantasy books in general.

Another common answer – which I can most easily relate too – were those who mentioned books that swept them away to other worlds. One girl named the series The 39 Clues, saying it took her around the world by making her imagination “go wild.” A young man mentioned Shark Wars, which takes him into the ocean. In my experience, I always find that books that create their own world are the most fun to read.

The two college students told me about books that helped them understand stories better. One said that while there were many books dear to her, The Silmarillion showed her how to appreciate the effort that goes into writing. The other mentioned a book called Orcs, by Stan Nicholls, that showed him how important the perspective is to the story.

My third question asked how life might be different without books. The answers were generally curt, to the point, and horrified, from both the college students and the fifth graders. Several fifth graders mentioned a lack of learning, and how spelling and grammar would be so much harder. One girl said life would be harder because “you would be wrecking your brains by watching T.V. All day.” Several others mentioned not knowing what to do for free time. A young man claimed there would be no interest in anything without books. A young lady said life would have no meaning and there could be no happiness without books. Another girl said if there were no books, “I would have invented books so I could read them.”

For the college students, these questions had the longest answers. One could not imagine life without reading. She supposed life would be fairly normal but completely different; she also supposed that a lack of books might make her less thoughtful and more superficial. The other said he would be bored and “Plane rides would be unbearable.” He also mentioned that he would not have the insights into other people that he gained through reading. In my own experience, I know that reading expanded my world, and it absolutely increased my understanding of people. Characters in books often reveal thoughts, emotions, and fears that people in real life never let show.

I also know that without books, I could never do what I love best, which is write stories. Another fifth grader agreed with me when she said “If there were no books in my life … I would never have a dream about being an author.” I and thousands of other authors are completely beholden to books, but we aren’t the only ones. Out of all the fifth graders who answered my survey, only one expressed a wish to become an author. I also noticed that none of them had anything bad to say about the impact of books in their lives. Books are a wonderful, positive influence on everyone – not just authors.

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Marta Stahfeld is nineteen and going to college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. She hopes to be a teacher one day. Aside from college, where she is working on a History/Literature double major, she is writing book three in the Darkwoods series, as well as a series of short stories about the characters from the series.