IAM15 Interview…with Mel Cusick-Jones

IAM 2015 - TopperHello! Welcome to our fourth annual Indie Author Month on Aside from Writing – I hope you enjoy what we have coming up over the next few weeks in July and get to meet some great new authors, seeing their thoughts and experiences on what it is like to be an indie writer these days.

As you’ll probably know, I’m one of the main bloggers for the site, along with my author buddy Tony Talbot. This year, we decided that one of us would open the event as the ‘author of the day’, with the other closing the event at the end of the month.

One thing I realised we’d never done on here, was actually interview ourselves. We’ve interviewed loads of authors over the last few years, particularly during the Indie Author event months, but neither Tony nor I had ever featured in a ‘proper’ interview on the blog. So, for my first feature of the day, I’m doing a snapshot interview with myself 🙂 It’s a lot more normal than it sounds and not at all Taxi Driver scary. Promise.

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A genie grants you three writing-related wishes: what would you wish for and why?

Firstly, I would wish for the little writing cave of my dreams…a cosy little room, with the walls all lined with bookshelves. There would be a nice, comfy couch for my dog to lie on and snooze the hours away as I work. There are some french windows in the room that lead to a garden outside and my desk in next to it… silly items and knick-knacks from my current mini-cave would be on the wall above my desk, to keep inspiring me as I day dream looking out of the window.

My second ‘big’ wish would be, that when I talk through scenes and dialogue in my head, that they magically appear in a notebook ready to use. I can’t count how many good things I’ve thought of and not remembered because I couldn’t write them down at the time. I’ve tried using a dictaphone, but something goes wrong between my head and my mouth and what gets recorded is just a terrible, flat version of what I was thinking of originally!

Final wish would be for an editing fairy…someone else that perfectly edits and finalises my finished work! That’s always the longest part of the project for me.

How do you react to a bad review?

It’s feedback, so generally I try to take any learning points from what’s said and apply that to my work. There’s several improvements (I think) I’ve made to my writing style and editing over the last few years since I started getting reviews of my books. Without the feedback, which wasn’t always given in the nicest of ways, I might not have seen the issue and improved. If you get a ranty review, you might not get anything that useful from it for improving your work, and in those cases I just kind of shrug and get on with something else. Everyone likes different things and I’ve had my share of DNF books that I’ve not enjoyed, so I can understand it from the reader side of things too.

Cirque de la Nuit coverWhat are you working on at the moment – do you have any other books in the works?

My current project is outside the ‘Ambrosia Sequence’ series, which I’ve been working on for the last few years and released the first two books so far – although I am about two-thirds of the way through the third book ‘Outlanders’ and I need to get back to working on it at some point! At the moment, I’m focusing on writing a stand-alone YA paranormal mystery ‘Cirque de la Nuit’ about a uni student who finds herself in the middle of supernatural gang warfare, after a visit to the mysterious Cirque de la Nuit. A bit of change from sci-fi related dystopian, but hopefully people will enjoy it when it’s ready to release.

What inspired you to want to become a writer?

The main inspiration is that I’ve always loved reading and disappearing off into other people’s stories. Because of that, I’ve always dabbled with writing: short stories, couple of plays (don’t ask!) and then when I finished studying English at uni, I started writing as a hobby. The first few things I wrote were really terrible and it took a lot of practice to actually write a full book with beginning, middle, end…sounds daft, but ask most authors and they’ll tell you that they didn’t just sit down and run off a perfect first draft. The first few books I wrote still sit in my laptop and may (with lots of revision) some day be worthy of release…

Who is your favourite character from Cirque de la Nuit and why?

At the moment, my favourite character is Alexander – the vampire ringmaster who gets Beth (the main character whose POV we read the story in) involved in the first place. He is probably the character, aside from Beth, who changes the most during the story. That said, I really like Mikhail, especially when you get him and Beth sparring off one another – I love sarcastic banter!

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Mel Cusick-JonesWant to know more? Check out the links!

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Melanie-Cusick-Jones/214124072009513

Twitter @melabupa     Author Blog http://melcj.com/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5395324.Melanie_Cusick_Jones

Cover Reveal – Cirque de la Nuit

My latest work update posted yesterday on my author blog, with cover reveal and blurb – take a look and let me know what you think of my latest WiP 🙂

Mel Cusick-Jones

Latest update from my current project Cirque de la Nuit – here’s the book cover and blurb. Let me know what you think – everything is a work in progress at this stage! 🙂

Cirque de la Nuit cover

When Beth Woodall wins a night at the circus, she’s looking forward to an evening of entertainment and excitement – she never expected she would become the main attraction…

Nothing is as it seems at the Cirque de la Nuit, a mystifying extravaganza staged by vampires, werewolves and a whole host of other worldly creatures. Backstage are secrets no one could guess, especially not Beth, the sceptic. But, once she sees behind the costumes and bright lights, even she has to wonder if there is something more dangerous lurking behind the scenes. Perhaps, even that the colourful characters are more fact than fiction…

“Ladies and gentlemen, beasts and night creatures – please take your seats, for…

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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.

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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

Tony’s Review: The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, Melanie Cusick-Jones

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3/5

The sequel to Hope’s Daughter follows Balik’s storyline through the same events of the first book, told from his POV.

It’s an interesting choice for a sequel, and it fills in a lot of the blanks from the first book. I really liked Balik’s logical self-sufficient approach to life, and his approach to solving problems. He learns that trusting someone isn’t a weakness, but a strength – indeed, towards the end of the book, Cassie has to save him.

The world building was as strong as Hope’s Daughter, and this time we got to see more of the way the station worked. At the climax of the book, there’s a brutal torture sequence that makes me glad I’ve never upset the author enough to be interrogated by her!

It’s obvious Cusick-Jones has done her homework on medical and technological procedures – all the technology and biological information seem logical and consistent with what’s going on.

The pacing was good as well, the characters always on the move and the chapters never lingering too long.

It did suffer a little though, from knowing what was going on in Hope’s Daughter, and knowing how it played out. Although the books can be read in any order, you really need to read Hope’s Daughter first. For instance, the characters mention The Collective, which won’t mean anything if you hadn’t read HD.

There were a few typos that caught my eye as well – the most jarring was when Cassie says her friends have gone to the retirement quarter, not the marriage quarter, and there were a few run-on sentences that needed full stops and not commas – but nothing too major.

Looking forward to seeing where Cusick-Jones goes with the next book in the series!

IAM Cover Reveal…Outlanders by Mel Cusick-Jones

OUTLANDERS - Cover

Outlanders by Melanie Cusick-Jones

Due for release in late 2013, Outlanders is the third novel from The Ambrosia Sequence. 

I’m really excited to share – for the VERY FIRST TIME – the cover and synopsis for Outlanders…And to be doing this as the first feature of Indie Author Month 2013 is even better! This book has been coming for a long while, as I’ve written a lot of it alongside The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, and been planning the final two books in the Ambrosia Sequence so that everything fits together.

To be so close to releasing this has been a big step forward for me, and I did commit to 2013 being a ‘writing’ year and less of a ‘reading and blogging’ one – because everything takes time and I needed to focus on the writing if I ever want to be finished!

Well, I’ll let you take a look at the synopsis now – there’s also a brand new book trailer for Outlanders that you might want to check out:

YOUTUBE – http://youtu.be/_BL61bUWng8

And now, I need to get back to writing 🙂
Mel x

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OUTLANDERS 

Life on the Space Station Hope was simple: grow up, fall in love and die — quickly. But life does not always do what you expect.

Escaping to Earth was supposed to be a new beginning for Cassie and Balik, but when their craft is shot-down Cassie finds herself alone in the ruins of the former United Kingdom, known colloquially now as The Island.

Whilst Islanders live by the rules of the government, some people choose to exist outside government control, fending for themselves: Outlanders. Badly injured in the crash, Cassie is taken in and protected by an Outlander group, despite their suspicions about this mysterious stranger. And on The Island, you do need protection, because the government military is not the worse thing out there… Goblins are the outcasts no one wanted: the people with no skills to make them productive Islanders, or the criminals who had once been punished as part of the old society. Now they govern themselves and the only principles they respect are violence and power.

In this harsh new world Cassie realises that her fight for survival on the SS Hope was just the beginning. The choices she has to make now will challenge her ability to weigh survival against humanity, and balance life over love.

Preview samples and more info available at http://cusick-jones.com

Remember…you could win an ARC of  Outlanders in the event giveaway, as well as the first books in the series: Hope’s Daughter and The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, so make sure you’ve entered to win! Follow us on Facebook / Twitter and get vocal on the Indie Author Event comments to earn yourself additional entry points 🙂 

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 Gimme 10 – Author Mini-Interview

Please answer each question in 10 words or less – that’s what makes it tough but fun! 🙂

Where do you find your inspiration? All types of people, books, life, films, family and love.

What is your favourite aspect of The Rainbow Maker’s TaleI love seeing things from Balik’s POV

Who is your favourite character from The Rainbow Maker’s Tale and why? It has to be Balik (this time) it’s his turn

What are you working on now? Finalising the Rainbow Maker’s Tale for the summer release and then working on Outlanders, which is Book 3 in the series.

What do you love about most about writing? Solving character’s problems – the freedom to go wherever you want

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About the Author

Melanie is one of the main bloggers for Aside from Writing, and set up the blog in early 2012.

 After graduating from The University of Sheffield with an English Literature Masters in 2003, Melanie has been writing fiction – time permitting – ever since.

The Ambrosia Sequence (started in 2008) and The Elementals (begun in 2004) are both ongoing, extended projects each containing several novels, aimed primarily at young adults and hover somewhere in the middle of sci-fi, futuristic and fantasy genres. Hope’s Daughter, released in December 2011, was her debut novel and the first of The Ambrosia Sequence, with the sequel – Outlanders – due in late 2013.

When she’s not writing Melanie enjoys the wet weather of the north of England with her dog or disappearing into a book for a few hours (no surprise there then). Unfortunately, all too often the ‘day job’ gets in the way of the nicer things in life!

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

Find the author:

Website – http://cusick-jones.com

Blog – http://melcj.wordpress.com and Aside from Writing!

Facebook – Hope’s Daughter and Mel Cusick-Jones

Twitter @melabupa

Just finished…Hope’s Daughter (Melanie Cusick-Jones) *Spoilers*

Cassie and the remains of humanity live on an immense space station, taken from earth when environmental disaster wipes out the population.

At least that what she’s always been told…with the help of her friend (and then boyfriend) Balik, Cassie explores the dark secret behind Space Station Hope, a revelation that eventually leads to her fleeing for her life.

Although the book was a little slow to get started, I didn’t feel like I wanted to put it down at any point. Mel C-J created a believable world, and a mystery which kept me guessing right up to the last chapters.

Some theories I was flicking through as I was reading included Nineteen-Eighty-Four, Logan’s Run, Soylent Green…Was it even a space station, I wondered?
All of these theories were way off the mark, and close to the end, I wondered if Cassie’s parents were androids, and all of what was happening was benign. Wrong again!

The idea of a space station run by aliens so they can harvest human DNA was done with subtle hints and misdirection. At no point did I guess that was what was happening on the station.

In some places, the editing was a little rushed, and because of that, some of the nice ideas in the book slipped past me. I was too busy trying to figure out the sentence to concentrate on the story. Mel C-J did seem to need more commas so I could get a sense of what’s going on.

That was particularly bad near the end of the book, when Cassie’s father showed up. I think the scenes with him could have been cleaned up quite a bit, and the pacing slowed a little so I could absorb what was going on. I also think a bit more world building to establish the scale of the space station would have helped, and I would have liked to have seen more of the guts of the place, as it were.

I liked all the characters in the book, even breathless Ami and Olivia, who shows her humanity later in the book despite her superficial appearance and personality. Everyone was well rounded and nicely developed. I even felt empathy for the aliens, forced to harvest humans to survive.

In the end, I’d give it 4/5, mainly dropping the star for the grammar errors that needed fixing. But I’m hooked enough to start looking for the sequel!

The Rainbow Maker’s Tale by Mel Cusick-Jones

Due for release in summer 2012. Book 2 in The Ambrosia Sequence. 

Outwardly, Balik is an obedient member of society on Space Station Hope…he follows The Council’s systems, excels at school and seems happy to follow in his parents footsteps…

But Balik’s real life is filled with secrets he can share with no one. As he follows his suspicions about the space station into ever more dangerous territory it seems like his whole world will unravel around him…but he doesn’t understand everything…things are wrong, he is sure of that – but why exactly, he doesn’t know.

When Cassie unexpectedly comes into his life, Balik struggles to find his balance. For years he’s investigated the oddities of the world he lives in, but Cassie makes him question things in a different way… Can he believe in this girl who seems so much a part of the system he distrusts? Would she put a stop to his plans to break out if she knew what he was really up to? Balik can’t be sure of anything – except the fact that he can’t leave her alone.

Remember…you could win an ARC of  The Rainbow Maker’s Tale in the event giveaway, so make sure you’ve entered to win! Follow us on Facebook / Twitter and get vocal on the Indie Author Event comments to earn yourself additional entry points 🙂 

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 Gimme 10 – Mini-Interview

Please answer each question in 10 words or less – that’s what makes it tough but fun! 🙂

Where do you find your inspiration? All types of people, books, life, films, family and love.

What is your favourite aspect of The Rainbow Maker’s TaleI love seeing things from Balik’s POV

Who is your favourite character from The Rainbow Maker’s Tale and why? It has to be Balik (this time) it’s his turn

What are you working on now? Finalising the Rainbow Maker’s Tale for the summer release and then working on Outlanders, which is Book 3 in the series.

What do you love about most about writing? Solving character’s problems – the freedom to go wherever you want

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About the Author

After graduating from The University of Sheffield with an English Literature Masters in 2003, Melanie has been writing fiction – time permitting – ever since.

The Ambrosia Sequence (started in 2008) and The Elementals (begun in 2004) are both ongoing, extended projects each containing several novels, aimed primarily at young adults and hover somewhere in the middle of sci-fi, futuristic and fantasy genres. Hope’s Daughter, released in December 2011, is her debut novel and the first of The Ambrosia Sequence, with the sequel – Outlanders – due in 2012.

When she’s not writing Melanie enjoys the wet weather of the north of England with her dogs or disappearing into a book for a few hours (no surprise there then). Unfortunately, all too often the ‘day job’ gets in the way of the nicer things in life!

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

Find the author:

Website – http://cusick-jones.com

Blog – http://melcj.wordpress.com and Aside from Writing!

Facebook – Hope’s Daughter and Mel Cusick-Jones

Twitter @melabupa

 

Buy the book:

You Tube Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/-JpJLvh9jYg

COMING SOON….