National Author Day – Year 1

Writing can be a lonely old business, with little cause for celebration – especially for us self-published authors – so when I found out that the first of November was National Author Day, I thought it was time to do something about that. But what, you ask?

Since moving to Leeds I’ve been very aware that the British Library has a facility thirty minutes down the road from me, in Boston Spa. It’s where they keep the national archive, the collection of everything published in the UK which each publisher is required to add to whenever they put anything into print (more on the Legal Deposit scheme later).

It’s where I sent Dexter & Sinister when it came out, and, being a library, it is open to the public, meaning I could go visit my little book baby in person. So I did, but not without seeing if anyone else wanted to come with me first.

Screenshot of a tweet from 30th September stating my intentions to visit Boston Spa.

Now, unsurprisingly, giving people just a month’s notice of an event in one of the lesser-known parts of the world on a weekday during a pandemic, the response was modest, but I did manage to rustle up a few willing participants. Sadly, thanks to said pandemic, that number dwindled on the day to just myself and one other, a chap called Mark Weaver. Still, not to be deterred, I set out that Monday morning in full steampunk get-up to go visit my little book baby in person.

Me in front of the tall, red, British Library sign, white vertical text on a red background. A flagpole to one side flying the union jack. Front gate in the background. Trees either side. Me in black cap, green jacket, white shirt, grey waistcoat, beard neatly trimmed.

It’s strange to think that most people don’t know about the Legal Deposit scheme. If it’s published in the UK, be it book, newspaper, or magazine, the publisher has a legal responsibility to send a copy to the British Library to be stored for future generations. Many people also don’t realise that if you use Amazon KDP, Smashwords, etc., then YOU are the publisher, and it is YOUR responsibility to send in your own work. Amazon may print the books, but you’re the one publishing them.

What the Legal Deposit scheme means is that the British Library holds a copy of literally everything. Every book you’ve ever read, if it was printed in the UK, should be somewhere in their archives. And that meant that not only could I visit my own little opus, but I could visit something by an author that inspired me as well. And so I did.

Can you guess which of the books below was my bonus prize?

Book stack. The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Dexter & Sinister Detecting Agents by Keith W Dickinson. The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. The Colour Of Magic and The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett. The Complete Guide To exploring Your New Planet by Mark Weaver. Things Made Up And Written Down by Mark Weaver.

Before going to the library I reached out to David Clayforth, who runs the Reading Rooms there, to see if he could help arrange things for what I thought at the time would be a much larger group (always plan for the best!). David came through wonderfully, sorting out a room within the Reading Rooms for us to use, checking that we would all be able to get reading passes for the event, and, most importantly, arranging for the books we required to be available. I cannot thank him enough for his help in this.

David also arranged for us to meet with Angie Jude, who runs the Legal Deposit scheme. Angie was very generous in discussing the scheme with us, how it works, what it’s for, and how important it is not just now, but for the future as well.

This is Mark and I meeting with David and Angie. Authors on the left, librarians on the right.

A group shot of four people in masks standing around awkwardly looking at the camera. I wish I could describe it better but that's basically what it is.

We also got to learn a lot about the library itself. How the site is where it is because it’s at a mid-way point between Scotland and the south of England, how it was a munitions factory during the war, and how it is entirely staffed by inmates from a nearby prison (okay, that last one isn’t true, although that is was a group of foreign dignitaries thought when they came to visit apparently, lol).

After Mark got to hand over his latest novel in person (quite possibly a first for Angie, as Legal Deposit Manager),

Mark, a middle aged chap with short hair and glasses, in a blue Hitchhikers 42 t-shirt, hands his novel over to Angie, a woman on similar age in a dark flower print dress.

we then got to spend some time with our little book babies.

Dexter and Sinister, sat on top of The Colour Of Magic.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I chose to say hello to The Colour Of Magic. Terry Pratchett has been such a strong influence on me it’s safe to say that, without him, and his Discworld novels, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have. I often tell people that Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) is the author that showed me how I write, but Terry Pratchett is the one who showed me how I wanted to write, so to be able to pay tribute to that by holding a copy of the book that started it all, and sticking it next to my own published first novel (possibly the one and only time it will happen) was quite special.

Photo of the prologue to The Colour Of Magic.

Anyway, after visiting with our respective novels, Mark and I parted ways. It was lovely to meet him, and chat books and writing and all that. To share stories and insights, and yes even to moan a little about things, lol. Hopefully next year we can organise something even bigger and better, with more participants, and more aspects for everyone to enjoy.

It’s probably no (cosmic) coincidence that National Author Day is on the same day NaNoWriMo begins. Maybe we can do something in connection with that, bringing together the past and the future. Or possibly we can have some kind of Legal Deposit Amnesty, where authors who have forgotten their Legal Deposit obligations can hand over their novels without fear of arrest from the Library Police. There are so many possibilities!

So, if you’re an author, and you want to be involved next year, follow me on Twitter to be the first to know when National Author Day 2 comes around. And if not, follow me anyway. Who knows, you might like it. 😉

Asking Authors Awkward Questions, with Madeleine Holly-Rosing

In the author spotlight today we have the awesome Madeleine Holly-Rosing, creator of The Boston Metaphysical Society.

Madeleine is well known throughout the steampunk world. A consummate creator and supporter of others, her book on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign is a must read for anyone looking to run a successful campaign of their own. I have a copy sitting on my desktop at this very moment!

Quite what possessed her to put herself through the wringer like this we don’t know, but let’s see how she gets on shall we.

Image of Madeleine Holly-Rosing, author in a graden. Wearing a grey cap, tinted steampunk goggles, a white shirt, and a grey waistcoat.

What was the first novel you ever sat down to write? How old were you at the time?

It was called The Mavens of Magic, a middle-grade fantasy. And no, I’m not going to tell you how old I was. 😊

How old were you when you finally got published? How many novels had you written by then? Which one got published first?

Yup. I’m going to skip that first question. I’ve written only two novels. The first is the one mentioned above and the second was Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets. I self-published that one.

What are your crutch words? Which words do you most overuse?

That would probably be “that.” Hahaha And also, “informed.” I always have to weed those out.

Which character of yours is your favourite, and why? (And why is it never the main character?)

Her name is Beatrice Weldsmore, and she first appears in a novella I wrote called, Steampunk Rat. (The story is in my anthology, Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude.) However, she is one of the main characters in the trilogy I’m working on off and on called, Boston Metaphysical Society: The House Wars.

I like her because she’s a woman of a certain age, powerful, but has a secret that could destroy everything she’s ever worked for. She adheres to the rules only when it suits her or if they work to her advantage. Beatrice is ruthless, but uses that aspect of her personality only when necessary.

How’s your grammar, spelling, and punctuation? What mistakes do you make most often?

OK. Getting better with time and practice. Semi-colons and hyphens are what I screw up the most.

How disciplined are you as an author? Do you have set goals? How often do you fail to meet those goals?

I usually get everything done, eventually. Often the goal post shifts as other priorities take over. Like right now, I’m not writing at all as I’m fulfilling one Kickstarter while running another. My responsibilities to my backers take precedent, which means I won’t run two Kickstarters in a one year again if I can help it.

A handsome man on an overcoat, a black man with tinted goggles, and a woman with an old concertina camera stand on a dock, with a ghostly tall ship in the harbour behind them.

What’s something you hate in other people’s writing that you try to avoid doing in your own but often end up doing anyway because words are hard?

Books that start off too slow. The weird thing is I am a fan of the slow burn. I will hang in there if the characters are interesting, but if not, I’m gone.

If you could go back and change any of your already published work, would you? What would you change, and why?

Yes. In fact, I plan on doing that with my short stories and novellas. I want to go back and re-edit them and then re-publish under a different cover. The grammar and punctuation could use a do over.

Which part of the writing/publishing process do you like the least?

The marketing and formatting. It takes time away from writing other things.

Aside from book sales and big piles of cash, what does literary success look like to you?

Writing a book that I’m proud of.

Finish this sentence: Reviews are…?

Reviews are a necessary evil. Most of the world believes you must have reviews to be considered a “real” writer. But the fact is, they do help to sell books. However, I’ve gotten to the point where I ignore anything on Goodreads and you should too.

What aspects of steampunk are you not a fan of?

Corsets! I love the way they look, but I’d rather see them on other people and not wear them. hahaha

Which of your books should a new reader start on? Pitch it to us.

The original six-issue graphic novel series in trade paperback about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston. That’s what started it all. Then I’d move to the prequel novel, Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets. However, they can be read in any order as they are both standalone.

Cover for reprint of six issue comic series Boston Metaphysical Society, A black man in a blower hat with goggles on the left, a white man with a half undone neck tie on the right, and a white woman in a pink dress with red hair flying  and fire coming from her hands in the centre.

Thank you to Madeleine for answering my Awkward Questions. If the Boston Metaphysical Society sounds like your kind of thing Madeleine’s running a Kickstarter campaign for her exciting new audio drama, The Ghost Ship, which you can be a part of. Or there’s a reprinting of her original Boston Metaphysical Society six-part comic series coming out later this year from Source Point Press. Get it while it’s hot!

You can also follow Madeleine on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Asking Authors Awkward Questions, with Tiffany Christina Lewis

Ever wondered what authors talk about behind closed doors? What about themselves and their work makes them cringe? What secret sins they whisper of in the dark? Well wonder no more!

Asking Authors Awkward Questions is a new series where I ask some of my author friends the sorts of questions you don’t get asked in your average interview. Questions designed to make them squirm, make them blush, and to maybe, just maybe, get to the heart of what it means to be a writer.

First up on the chopping block is Tiffany Christina Lewis. Tiffany is the author of six books and has been published more than a dozen times in anthologies and magazines. She is also a publisher at Rebellion LIT, where she very kindly published an interview with yours truly a little while back.


Author photo, Tiffany Christina Lewis. A young black woman with dark curly hair, black framed glasses, in a blue hoodie, with a slightly lopsided smile.

What was the first novel you ever sat down to write? How old were you at the time?

The first full length novel I ever wrote was completed around 2009 and I was a fresh, young 24 years old. It was a Romantic Crime Fiction, very Urban and it wasn’t for me. It had kind of a Coldest Winter Ever by Sistah Souljah feel. Basically, a girl falls in love with a drug dealer. I now know that was not really my style, lol.

How old were you when you finally got published? How many novels had you written by then? Which one got published first?

My first book, Inside Out, was published in 2014 with Steamy Trails Publishing and I was 29. I think by then I’d written 2-3 other novels. The other novels weren’t even an option for publishing, in my opinion, so I didn’t share them with my publisher, lol. Back then I was heavy into short stories because I was in a group that used prompts and writing challenges. A few of those shorts were published between 2009 and 2014.

What are your crutch words? Which words do you most overuse?

Aww man, you name it, lol. Recently my editor had to trim down “towards” but I definitely make people “smile” a lot. I have a list of words to trim from my writing but they are more like “was”, “that”, “just” and “like” lol. They are all words that are considered filler or words that “tell” rather than “show”. I’m not obsessed with eliminating “telling” but whenever I can, I like to remove words that don’t improve the story.

Which character of yours is your favourite, and why? (And why is it never the main character?)

I’m lucky to have a ton of characters to pick from more recently. My new release has 8 stories with many different characters. Overall though, my favorite characters are always those who I would love to hang out with. Positive role models who represent my culture best and have fun hobbies. For instance, in my new book Helpless: A Short Story Collection, my favorite character is Gia. She’s an African-American career minded woman like myself. More specifically though, my favorite character is Azlynn Matthews from my Michael Taylor series. She’s caring, smart, funny, but also tough. She’s the kind of person I would want to be my friend.

I think our favorites are never our mains because as humans we crave support. Our support characters are made to cradle and care for our main characters and we would love to have someone rock solid like that by our sides too, if we don’t already.

How’s your grammar, spelling, and punctuation? What mistakes do you make most often?

Commas are my enemy and my friend. They are definitely the ones I screw up most of all. I try very hard to spell correctly, but dictionaries are always at my right hand. Grammar is not even real. I just try to write good English whenever I can, lol.

How disciplined are you as an author? Do you have set goals? How often do you fail to meet those goals?

I am as disciplined as a human who is very determined to be a full time author. Humans can be very undisciplined sometimes and I have that in me. I think my lack of discipline can occasionally come from overworking because again, I want to be a full time author. I also don’t want to work for anyone else so this forces me into pushing myself hard. This creates those “undisciplined” days where I watch four movies in one day and never touch my laptop.

I don’t do “goals” because they upset my anxiety. It’s not realistic to think I have no goals, but I keep my goals and dreams a little more lofty, this gives me the opportunity to instead set easy to manage tasks which will automatically help me achieve those goals. For instance, if I have a sales goal, I’ll set it for the year. This gives me 12 months to achieve it. I then make tiny tasks that are more tailored to getting my book in reader’s hands as opposed to torturing myself with how much money I made each week.

With this method, I don’t feel like I fail often. My bigger goals may fall short, but I’m constantly moving towards those goals because my tasks are being met and I’m really trying my best every single day. It makes me feel good, despite my long-term goal not being met.

What’s something you hate in other people’s writing that you try to avoid doing in your own but often end up doing anyway because words are hard?

Repetition. I detest repetition. I think it’s the kind of thing that bothers readers (not every reader) and I don’t wanna see it ever! Yet, I still find repetition in my work. For instance, I don’t want to see the same word in close proximity to another (outside of and, the, but, etc.). For instance, if two characters smile at one another after dialogue, I do not want to see the word smile in each of their dialogue tags. I want the author to vary their word usage.

While I was in editing for my May release, I was finishing the eBook in March and sure enough, I had people smiling and smiling and smiling, all in the same paragraph. It’s annoying to me because it distracts from the story and I don’t want that for my readers.

If you could go back and change any of your already published work, would you? What would you change, and why?

So far, the only thing I would change would be the format of my third book. I made the book 6×9 but all my other titles are 5×8. It looks kinda cool on the shelf right now, but in the future, all my books will be 5×8, so eventually I have to change it.

As for storylines, I’m very proud of them all and I wouldn’t change anything.

Which part of the writing/publishing process do you like the least?

I hate formatting so much. Editing, I actually love because it helps me grow as an author and brings me closer to my major plan of writing full time, even though I think it’s the part of writing most hated by other authors. Lol.

Formatting my upcoming release has been a sh*t sandwich. Can I curse on your blog? Lol. Seriously, it was very challenging. I ended up buying Vellum which changed everything. I hope on my next book I’ll have a better method for working through formatting.

If you could write anything you wanted and guarantee it would get published, no questions asked, what would it be? What’s stopping you from writing it right now?

I don’t think I have anything like that… I don’t seek traditional publishing, at all, so for me I can publish anything I want and it would get published, lol. I don’t have any controversial views that I want to share (as far as I know) so no one can stop me publishing from that angle either.

Finish this sentence: Reviews are…?

Reviews are a reflection of a readers feelings related to a book and are not a personal attack against an author. Usually, lol.

There are cases where a reader adamantly disagrees with an author and will take personal attacks against them, but in most cases, reviewers are writing to let other readers know how they felt about the book and that is all they really want to do.

Written communication can be misunderstood, so I always try not to take reviews personally.

Which of your books should a new reader start on? Pitch it to us.

My 2nd book, Stitches, is the best place for a reader to start in my Crime Fiction series. This book has many story lines, including multiple murder investigations, a personal life story with my main character, Michael, and it is the book that introduces all my major characters for the continuation of the series including his new partner, a love interest and a major antagonist to the series. Book one is great, and it should be read but I’ve made a lot of permanent introductions in book two that will carry readers through the series.

Cover. Steamy Trails presents Stitches. A dark cover with red text. A young man in white t shirt and furry hoodie looks out over the name of the book, whilst an inner city street at night stretches out below him.

But! I think if readers want to be introduced to me and my writing style, my new book does that very well. In Helpless, there are stories in five different genres. It is the best writing of my career for sure, because its recent, lol. But also, the stories are deeply personal to me because they all have female main characters.

These eight stories of women kicking ass are my opposition to the tropes of true crime. As much as I love true crime, women are often just represented as victims. The strong, smart, caring, and even wicked women in my book exemplify what women are and can be. I’m proud of it for that, but additionally, as I said it’s some of my best writing and gives a taste of what I can do in multiple genres.

Aside from book sales and big piles of cash, what does literary success look like to you?

Being known for my skills as an author. I work very hard to know and use writing rules to my advantage. I work hard to craft stories that my readers will devour without being distracted by my ineptitude, and more so than money, the best feeling is when a reader tells you how much they loved your work and why. When that happens, I know I’ve done my job.


My thanks to Tiffany for being the first to answer my Awkward Questions. Her latest novel, Helpless: A Short Story Collection, is available to buy now!

If you want to find out more about Tiffany and her work you can do so via her website, via Goodreads, or on Twitter, where she can be found lending her support to the writing community on a daily basis.

Author, Promote Thyself!

I was about to start this post with “Sadly, these days, it’s not enough for an author to write an awesome book to become successful, you have to be an awesome self promoter as well,” but then I realised that self promotion and writing have always gone hand in hand.

One of the reasons Charles Dickens became so famous was his flair for self promotion. He would go on tours and do stage readings, both here and in America, his novels would be serialised in newspapers and magazines, and he was all about the author branding in everything that he did (ever heard the term ‘Dickensian’ before?)

None of this is surprising since Charles Dickens was very much the original self-published author.

I’m not a big fan of the self promotion side of things, it does not come naturally to me, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s there, and it needs to be dealt with. Luckily, I have a variety of skills, an array of half remembered techniques that I can draw upon to make things that will (hopefully) get people’s attention.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve done, along with a few others I have in the works. Maybe they will inspire you to a few ideas of your own.

The Basics

An author needs their own website, and they need to be on social media.

Now, before everyone gets up in arms about that statement, let me explain. You don’t need a massive social media following to be a successful author. You don’t need any kind of social media presence at all in fact. BUT, if you’re going to promote yourself you damn sure need a platform on which to put all that self promotion, and in general social media is the place to do it.

I have a website (this one), Twitter, and Instagram, the three of which I use on a regular basis. I also have a Facebook account, but its sole purpose is to funnel people to my other accounts. I don’t use Facebook, and I’m not about to start now, but it’s where people go to find people, so you need to have some kind of presence there.

Concentrate on the sites you will actually use, and then do them well. Engage, interact, make friends and gather followers. Be genuine and honest, and don’t make it all about you. It’s called “social” media after all.

The only people who can afford to ignore social media are the already rich and famous, and that’s because their marketing departments do it all for them. They may not be into social media, but you can be damn sure their brand manager is.

Except, of course, most of them are on social media. Do you think Neil Gaiman tweets because he needs the sales? No. But he does it anyway, because he likes to share, and he enjoys engaging with the fans. He just happens to take the time to promote his work while he’s there too, no doubt leading to more book sales along the way.

Be Different

A tweet saying “Buy my Book!” with a link will get you zero sales, pretty much. Why should I buy your book? What’s in it for me? What is it even about?

I made some promotional images when my book came out, with a few different quotes that I thought would appeal to different readers in different ways. Whenever I promote my book I try and use one of them to give people a taste of what they might find inside, and to get them hooked, if possible, on wanting to read more.

  • gallery of book quotes that are rather long

These were originally a teaser campaign, but I repurposed them as general promotional items.

Anything you can do to make yourself stand out, to differentiate yourself from everybody else, can only work in your favour.

People Will Always Take Two Minutes To Watch A Video

There’s a reason Tik Tok is doing so well. People will watch and share a short video much more readily than they will a piece of text. The same goes from images. They’ll share a picture (like the ones above) before they’ll share just the words by themselves. It’s annoying, but that’s the way it is.

Due to the pandemic, the launch of my debut novel had to be a lot more virtual than I would have like. Thankfully, I had a few video editing skills that I could fall back on to at least make something memorable to mark the occasion.

I made those two videos for the Asylum (Sanctuary) Steampunk Festival, who very graciously agreed to allow my book launch to be part of their festival. I used my little pocket-sized digital camera that also records video, I recorded the audio on my phone using the headset mic I got free with my Playstation 4, and I edited it on a free piece of software called OpenShot, with images and audio I got from royalty free websites and and the Youtube audio library (since that was where it would be hosted).

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a decent video, you just have to know what you want, then come up with a way to get it. The more you do it the better you’ll become. Just practise and see what happens. You can always change it again if it doesn’t look how you want it to.

My launch video took three days to shoot because the fireworks looked pathetic. I had to reshoot a bunch of stuff around me setting them off, then insert all the library footage, then record extra audio to fill in the gaps I had in the footage I had shot. NB: My top tip for making good video is have good audio! Seriously, people will watch a blank screen if the audio is good (radio plays), but if they can’t hear what people are saying they’ll tune out fairly quickly and go watch something else. Good audio is like spell checking your novel, no one will notice if you get it right, but if you mess it up they’ll lose interest faster than you can say, “How many l’s are there in parallellolellolellogram?”

Also, your videos don’t have to be one shot, single use, promotional items either. I’ve posted these on my own Youtube channel as a sort of video archive. Maybe they’ll catch someone’s attention, and maybe they won’t. Who knows. It cost me nothing to put them up there, so why not find out.

Think Outside The Box

You’re swiping through Tik Tok, and it’s all talking head after talking head after talking head. Then someone appears on screen in a full skull make-up and you pause, wondering what’s going on? At that point the make-up has done its job.

Anything you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd is a good thing. Anything you can do to build on your brand, and pull in more potential readers, also good.

At the time of writing this post I’m working on a few things that aren’t novels, but will hopefully expand the world of Dexter & Sinister beyond the page to a wider audience.

I’m looking into doing a video version of Dexter vs. Mr Nibbles, as a precursor to possibly doing the whole book as a series of ten minute videos on Youtube (something which my friend Matt has started doing to great effect). I also might turn the audio into an audio book, but that’s something I have yet to delve into seriously.

I’ve started work as well on a board game, the details of which I can’t go into yet. It’d be steampunk themed, and set (as much possible) in the world of Hammersmyth, expanding its “universe” a little and hopefully drawing in fans who might not have tried the books otherwise.

Like I said before, anything you can do to make your creation larger and more inviting, the better.

Do What you Gotta Do

Really, there are no rules about all this. You should do whatever you can to get eyeballs on your work. I’ve been featured on people’s blogs, done giveaways, been a guest speaker on podcasts and online events. I tweet, I put up photos, and I write blog posts like this, all to make connections with people.

And I do my newsletter, which to me is the most valuable tool of all. Not only does it all me to connect with people, giving them an insight into my personal life, but it also makes me do more writing, because if I don’t write, I don’t have anything to write about at the end of the month (which for an author would be a pretty poor show, let me tell you).

Do what you gotta do. Get out there. Get seen. Make connections, make friends, make progress in your work. And don’t worry about whether you are where you think you “need” to be. All such goals are an illusion. So long as you have more in the artistic bank tomorrow than you had yesterday, then you’re doing alright as far as I’m concerned.