IAM ‘Sorry’ Post…Aside from Writing

I have no idea what’s happened in the last couple of weeks in my email – my only guess is that it has something to do with my inability to use googlemail when I log into it online…

I’ve spent some time in the last couple of weeks, trying to find the information for posts sent back to me by authors to feature. For some reason – the whole conversation on the subject of Indie Month has disappeared from my inbox, along with everything anyone sent, and also everything I sent out. I’ve got a feeling that the new fancy looking googlemail page has let me delete the whole ‘conversation’ rather than the single message I meant to (yes, it’s gmails fault – not mine!)

So – I’m really sorry – if you are one of the authors who sent stuff back – I have no trace of anything!

If you see this and would like to re-send me the stuff, I’ll post as author spotlights – and I promise, I’ll use gmail in the way I normally do and not try logging in online again!

Sorry 😦


IAM Guest Post…Why I Write Indie

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

 Today we have a post from one of the regular Aside From Writing blog authors, Mel Cusick-Jones. Today she tells us what she loves about writing as an indie and why she self-published in the first place.


I’d written for a long time before I published Hope’s Daughter, and even though I had worked on the novel for over two years (part-time around work and the rest of my life!) and taken it through numerous revisions and read-throughs with friends there are basic elements I would change now, especially with an extra 18months of reviews and feedback to take into account. But that’s the best part about reviews, and was the main reason I published the book in the first place…I wanted to know what other people thought of my story.

What I should say is that publishing isn’t what it was once… you can self-publish easily and relatively cheaply (promotion is tough though) where that was not really an option before ebooks came onto the scene.

I published Hope’s Daughter myself because:

I’m really impatient and didn’t do well with the traditional agent/publishing route. What I’d do is get a piece ready, send it away, wait X months and when it came back as a negative would begin something completely different thinking “well if they didn’t like this, maybe they like this” (hence I’d done several books before Hope’s Daughter). I think I’d sent one proposal to three places and Hope’s Daughter to one, before I decided to go the indie route – and that took me five years because of what I did in between.

A friend of mine works in product design and marketing and she agreed that it can be SO subjective whether they take on a project/design or not, and imagines it’s the same with publishing houses. You’ve got to get the individual liking it and then also from a business perspective it must fit with their operating model and where they want to spend their money at any given time – that’s a lot of considerations and a ‘business’ approach for a book. And look at some of the dross publishers do put out, simply because they want to replicate Twilight or another success story!

Personally – that wasn’t what I needed. Of course I’d love to hold a ‘real’ copy of my book in my hands or see it on the shelf in a shop – but the ‘virtual’ world bookshelves aren’t much less exciting. Your first good reviews are no less wonderful because someone’s read your book on a kindle and not in hardcover.

Creative writing is something I do when I’m not working and so it didn’t have to pay the bills (if that’s what you want – good luck – I’ve read that only 5% of authors make a living doing solely that), so when I was happy with the book I put it out there: I wanted to get wider feedback on the book beyond my local readers. And also, I’d written it so ‘why not’? It wasn’t doing anything sat inside the laptop.

And I suppose – from the occasional self-pub success story you see – if you are good, sometimes generating your own readers can demonstrate to publishers that you are viable as an author…without having to wade through dozens of slush piles to show them (also another long shot – but it does happen).

Hope’s Daughter had been through five full MS edits as well as numerous localised ones – so I was happy with the story. Four pre-readers had gone through it and given me feed back. I’d read it so many times I could probably recite scenes from memory – so I did it!

If you are going self-pub, make sure you’re ready to market – ideally before the release of the book – as you can get REALLY bogged down in the writing/publishing side to organise this properly. One of the best prepared launches I saw in 2012 was Marie Landry for Blue Sky Days – she used her network of blogs to ensure there was excitement for the book before release and then a very strong blog tour starting immediately after. Plus – it’s a good book! 🙂

Also – couple of good places to hone your skills – try Miss Lits (I’ve seen them on facebook) – you get to write short or full stories, everyone reads, reviews, etc. and you get constructive feedback, which like Ann says, you can then work on. Also – goodreads groups often have writing areas which you’ll get support and feedback on for your stuff so try there.

Phew – sorry – I got on a bit of a roll there – but hopefully it’s a little helpful and not just waffle. Basically, if you love writing – do it! Get the feedback, take it on board and practice. And when you’re really happy, try whichever route you want to go and that works best for you

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 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 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 – http://michaelcargill.wordpress.com/

Twitter – @MichaelCargill1   Facebook

The Books…

Author Page on Goodreads

 Trailer for Underneath  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUBrxs38Dkc


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.

My Photo

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.

Blog: http://martastahlfeld.blogspot.com/

Website: http://www.darkwoodsbooks.com/index.html



IAM Giveaway!

Guest Feature

Just a quick reminder on here that part of Indie Author Month is the fantastic giveaway from our featured authors! Many of these generous peeps are handing out copies of one or more of their books to give one lucky winner a huge prize that could set up their whole summer of reading! 


If you’ve not already entered to win it’s easy! Head over to the giveaway page at Mel’s website and you can enter absolutely free. So don’t miss out on this great prize, get yourself entered and it could be you walking away with an e-reader full of fantastic books as featured in our event.