Self-published authors I support, and why

Over the last few years I’ve got to know several authors who have chosen to publish their stories themselves. I thought I would share with you who they are, and why I unreservedly read their work. So, in no particular order:

J.C. Cassels

I came across Cassels through SFFS, the blog ring that I began four years ago. She was “just another member of the crew” until one day she approached me, asking if I could edit her novel. It was the first novel I edited, and her first publication. Both of us can now see how green we were back then, but even so, if a reader of Sovran’s Pawn and the sequel, Hero’s End, doesn’t fall in love with Blade Devon, then there is something seriously wrong with the wiring of said reader. And by the way, Hero’s End… is a book that leaves me stuck in book-hangover. It bowled me over when I “edited” it – by which I mean that it was so well-written that there was relatively little editing to do. Cassels and I have since become very good friends, and I can’t wait for the final instalment of the series.

Rachel Leigh Smith

I met Rachel through the SFR Brigade. Relatively randomly, she sent me a draft of a book she’d written. My Name is A’yen. To my shame, it took me well over 8 months before I cracked it open. I read the first few pages, and she had me hooked. Fortunately, I contacted her there and then. She told me to stop reading, as she had a final draft she wanted me to proofread! I have now proofread her first three novels, and I can tell you, this is one author worth following. Her books will captivate you, wring your heart out, then put it back together again. And don’t forget that book-hangover. I finished book three last night and have yet to come back into the real world.

Nicholas Sansbury Smith

I read Nick’s first book for review. While the concept of the story was excellent, the execution left much to be desired. A short while later, Nick self-published his second novel, ORBS. Now let me tell you something. This is one author who learned his lessons! This second novel was such a contrast to the first that I’ve lapped up every piece of Nick’s work since. He’s one of the best action thriller (post-apocalyptic, horror) writers out there I’ve picked up. And even as the ORBS series has been picked up by a publisher, he is still self-publishing. And there’s little/no difference in quality between the new self-published series and the ORBS series.

Patrick Stutzman

Patrick appeared on the SFFS blog ring at about the same time as J.C. Cassels. At some point, he approached me to edit his third novel, Alone in the Crowd. The book turned out well, and he brought Alone in the Universe to me. Another author who is learning as he goes along. Many of the issues that had been present in Alone in the Crowd were simply not there in Universe. I admire an author who is willing to learn – and who has an impressive imagination!

Peter Vialls

A friend mentioned on Facebook that a friend of his had written a book and was anyone willing to read and review it. I picked up Sorrel in Scarlet and was hooked. It’s not often I do this, but I offered to edit the next book in the series. Peter took me up on my offer, and we worked together on the last two books of the series. What captivated me about these books, and Peter’s work in general, is the unique settings (and associated action). Peter’s imagination goes to interesting places, and it’s a challenge to figure out where it’s going next. And his characters always have a lovely sense of humour.

Pippa Jay

Jay’s work is among the few that I buy as soon as it’s published (with the odd rare exception), and I’ve read everything she’s got out there. She was good to start with, but her writing is now approaching brilliance. Her last few publications totally bowled me over. I’ve had to edit this post as I initially thought she had only one self-published work, but she since corrected me that she had five. The quality was such that I didn’t notice the difference between her indie works and her self-pubbed works; a very high standard!!

Faith Matters: God Made the Call

I’ve heard of Christians who see technology as evil. I don’t, and I’ll tell you one of the reasons why.

I can’t remember now how old I was, perhaps eighteen or nineteen. I had bought my first mobile with my own money, a Motorola, which kept me in touch with friends and distant family.

One day I was at home and my mobile rang. I was the other end of the house, in the kitchen, and by the time I reached my phone, the caller had cut off. On seeing on the screen that my youth leader, by then a good friend, had called, I went to the landline to call her back. She was a bit surprised to hear from me, but said there was something I could help her with: she was at the scene of a fatal accident at least an hour or so’s drive from town. Being a trained nurse, she was helping as she could, but they needed an ambulance. And there was the fatality, and could I please let the family concerned know. I got off the phone, called for an ambulance to go out to the accident, then steeled myself to phone the family (unknown to me, and in a different city) to inform them that a member of their family had passed away. Those two tasks done – the latter not an easy one, mind – I kept in touch with my friend , to ensure she had everything she needed.

Later on, we compared notes. The uppermost question in both our minds was, how was it I’d called her just when she needed me? Fact was, she had had NO credit on her phone at the time (not being on a contract), and this was before the days when one could make an emergency call without credit. This was also the reason no-one had been able to call an ambulance or notify the family. The evidence was, my phone’s call list insisted I had received a call from her mobile.

For us, there was only one answer: God made the call.

Cover Reveal: Zombie Girl



Hi all! A while back I had the opportunity to beta read this YA story for Pippa (yes, I know, not quite my usual fare, but I can digress, right?), so I’m quite excited (see my tail wagging, anyone?) to share it’s progress with you. And as you can see, it’s got a cover.

First up, here’s the blurb:

Imagine waking up to find the world has ended, but unfortunately you’re not alone…

For Connor Innis, awakening from a year-long coma with no memories, no ability to move, and unable to speak was bad enough. Then he learns that a bioweapon set off a zombie apocalypse—for real—while he was sleeping, and the world he can’t even remember no longer exists.

Rehabilitation might be torture, but far worse awaits him outside. All too soon, the hospital Mentor declares him fit to leave but with nothing to go home to except a city full of mindless, flesh-eating monsters. That is, until he forms a strange relationship with the one he nicknames ‘Zombie Girl’.

And now I’ll give you the cover.



To whet your appetite further, here is the opening to the book.

He woke to sensations of warmth and heaviness. The relentless thump, thump of a heartbeat and the rushing sound of someone breathing unsteadily. It took time to recognize the heartbeat as his own, to connect the breathing to air moving in and out of his own chest.

How long had he been asleep?

He didn’t remember going to bed. He couldn’t open his eyes. Confusion muddled his thoughts. Wait. Why can’t I move?

Panic set his pulse racing, but a weight held him down. He choked on something pressing at the back of his throat. Nothing responded as he struggled to move. Damn, am I paralyzed? Trapped under something?

“Please try to remain calm. You are perfectly safe.”

Remain calm? What the fuck does this moron expect?

“Please try to calm yourself.”

He couldn’t place a gender to the voice, and the flat unemotional tone meant it was probably synthetic. What were they called? Mentors. That was it. An artificial entity called a Mentor. The knowledge seeped into his awareness like blood oozing through a shallow cut.

His struggles weren’t getting him anywhere except a quick trip to a heart attack. He forced himself to take slow breaths, to steady himself. Not because the voice said so, but because there was nothing else he could do. He swallowed, painfully aware of the pressure of a tube in his nose and down his throat. He tried to talk, and heard a weird gurgle instead of words.

“Please relax. Do not attempt to move or speak at this time. Once you are calm, I will explain your situation fully.”

So there you have it.

Thanks for letting me share your cover, Pippa. Looking forward to whatever happens next!


Ditching the Daily…

A couple of days ago I started clearing out my email account. Not for any particular reason. Just removing all the chaff, really. It’s crazy how many emails one can store up in nine years…

One of the things I realised, due to an email landing in my inbox where I could see it instead of diverting directly into a folder, was that I receive some daily emails that I *never* read. I’m not good at “daily”, whether it’s devotional books, emails, desktop calendars (my current one says 9th Feb…*goes to take a few sheets off*), blog posts, stories… the one that was in the inbox was from a website mailing list that mails out science fiction short stories every day. Yeah. I didn’t even get to reading those.

There is, however, one thing (apart from hygiene-related and social media, I have to admit) that I do manage to commit to daily, and that’s reading my Bible. Unless I’m totally wiped out, I am able to keep up with the reading plan I follow. So why carry around the rest of the baggage? I’m no longer going to even attempt to follow “dailies”. If one comes up that I follow, then fine, but I’m not going to beat myself over the head about them.

Print Release: Restless in Peaceville


My friend Pippa Jay told me that one of her previous releases, a YA (Young Adult, for those wondering) paranormal called Restless in Peaceville, is coming out in print today. I’ve already seen her lurking on Facebook with print copies of it, and it looks beautiful (if one can call a book about zombies that…).

This book is one of very few first-person-voiced stories where the voice didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the book. So here’s an extract from near the beginning, to demonstrate.

I suppose I should count myself lucky they hadn’t started carving me up, and that I’d gone for an overdose rather than throwing myself in front of a truck or out of a window. I’m in damn good condition…for a corpse. Still in one piece as far as I can ascertain, and that ain’t easy to determine, let me tell you. You know how an arm or a leg goes after you’ve sat on it for a while, cutting off the circulation? But before the blood flow starts again and you get pins and needles? That numb heaviness? My whole body is like that. Like every part of me is full of lead.

Also, the not breathing is weird. I take a couple of breaths out of habit, for the familiar feeling of air moving in and out of my chest. After that I don’t bother. It takes too much concentration and there are other things I need to focus on. Like, what do I do next, for instance?

So, what, I’m just gonna lie here?
It’s an option, but I’d probably give the next person who opens up my drawer a heart attack. I don’t want another death on my conscience. Not when I already have my own.

There you go. Beautiful, isn’t it? I just love the self-deprecating tone, as well as the fresh perspective on the… death?… of a zombie (can’t say ‘life’ now, can I?).

I’ll leave you with the full print cover and the description of the book.


Welcome to Peaceville, population 2067 and rising…from the grave…

Luke Chester has had enough. He’s the school geek, the girls laugh at him, he’s lost his dead-end job at the pizza place, and in the midst of the world’s messiest divorce his parents don’t even know he exists. An overdose of his mom’s tranquilizers and a stomach full of whiskey should solve all his problems…

But they don’t. Instead, Luke finds himself booted out of the afterlife for not dying a natural death, with nowhere to go but back to his recently vacated corpse and reality. How the hell is he going to pass for one of the living without someone trying to blow his brains out for being one of the undead? 

And it just gets worse. He’s got to fight his own desperate craving to consume the living, evade the weird supernatural hunter who’s having a field day with the new undeads rising, and there’s this creepy black shadow following him around. Add to that the distraction of female fellow undead Annabelle burning to avenge her own murder, and clearly there’s no rest for the wicked. Jeez, all he wanted to do was R.I.P.

Restless In Peaceville is a young adult zombie story with a twist, set in a Louisiana that never was, and released by Lycaon Press on the 20th August, 2014. Add it to your Goodreads shelf HERE. Sign up to Pippa’s no-spam newsletter HERE to stay up to date with releases, cover reveals, sales and giveaways for all her titles and more.

Cover Reveal: Keir by Pippa Jay



Pippa has joined me at the fireside today to show us the new cover for Keir, a novel she first published almost three years ago. Welcome!

Thank you.

First up, where did you get this fabulous cover?

This is the painstaking and devoted work of my cover designer (editor, supporter and friend) Danielle Fine. She’s put an awful lot of time and effort into giving me something I love and that encompassed all the elements I wanted.

What does it say to you, being the person who created these characters?

To me, it sums up the main elements of the story perfectly. It’s very much a character driven SFR, so having the two main characters on the cover reflects that. Because it isn’t heavy SciFi, I think the astronomical background conveys that this is set somewhere otherwordly/alien, and also the paranormal and dark elements in the story without possibly frightening off a non-SF loving reader.

You’ve given us images in our minds for Keir and Quin now. Don’t you think it’s better to let the reader imagine for themselves?

I’m kind of torn on that. I do have a real thing for faces, and it’s something that attracts me to a book as a reader. I think because what I want most from a book is the characters and their conflicts, emotions, and drives. So to me, a face on a cover implies the story is centred on them maybe more than the setting (though I want a good setting too). I know some people prefer to imagine a character, and sometimes the face on the book might not match the character at all, but probably just as many are drawn to it as would be put off. Discussions on covers come up a lot among my colleagues, and the variation (and sometimes complete opposition) in opinions is huge. You really can’t please everyone. So, while I try to aim for something marketable, the cover also has to satisfy me. I spent a long time searching for images for Quin that I felt really represented her, while Dani actually found that image for Keir. She’s worked with me on this book right from the start, so she knows the characters very well, and knows the kind of thing I look for. Funnily enough, a friend sent me a piece of fan art for Keir and Quin, and his interpretation was very close to how I’d always imagined them, so I’m hoping my descriptions mean people will imagine them as they are on the cover regardless.

Thank you so much for joining me, and allowing me to share your new cover with my friends. All the best with the rest of the work in preparation for its release!


And here it is, the new cover of Keir. I know that it’s a book I’d certainly pick up off the shelf based on the cover.


Book Launch: The King’s Mistress



A couple of weeks ago, Rachel Leigh Smith joined me to chat about her upcoming novel, The King’s Mistress, sequel to My Name is A’yen. Well, today is the day the book goes live! I for one cannot wait to read it.


Freedom has a cost. Can A’yen pay it without losing his soul?

Liberation of the enslaved Lokmane begins with the king. A’yen and Fae agree to visit the Hidden, a group of escaped Lokmane, to protect his identity while the Shadows make their move with emancipation acts. But he’s not prepared for the prejudice rampant in the Hidden, or their lack of patience for him. And his new linked bodyguard is unstable to the point A’yen fears for the young man’s sanity.

Upon returning to Titan, A’yen is kidnapped and taken to the largest breeding farm in the galaxy. This time he’ll be himself even if it kills him. His resolve to unite his people grows as he wonders if he’ll live long enough to do it.

With A’yen kidnapped, Fae returns to the Lokmane homeworld seeking the final pieces of what happened two thousand years ago when they were conquered and enslaved. Getting as far away from her father as possible is the only way to keep her from disappearing too.

Separated by light years, A’yen and Fae have to stand alone and fight for their right to live in freedom. No matter the cost.

If you go to Rachel’s author page here on the blog, you can follow the links there to purchase a copy of the book.

Please note: I am not being paid or coerced to advertise for Rachel. I read My Name is A’yen (brilliant book), and I genuinely wish more people could read these fantastic books.