Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Eve of War (Veetu Industries #3) Out Now!

 "The Eve of War", Book 3 in the Veetu Industries Series, is out now!

If you want to play catch up, you can!  
Get 20% off "Mars on the Rise" (Veetu Industries #1) and "Selling Mars" (Veetu Industries #2) for this week only over at Torquere Press's website!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Inspirational Interview - Ngaire Elder

This week, the lovely Ngaire has agreed to an interview. Ngaire, along with a handful of other indie authors, took me under her wing way back when my first book came out. Together they've helped me find my way through the minefield of being an indie author and I'm forever grateful for their love, help, and wonderful words.

As well as writing, Ngaire runs an awesome blog and is always around to dole out advice and beautiful smiles. Please give her a huge, warm welcome!


Hi Ngaire! Thank you for stopping by! Firstly, can you please tell us a little about yourself?

I am a married mother of four magnificent children, originally from Scotland and now settled in Southern Spain, in a small farmhouse, surrounded by lovely plants and animals of all types. I have written three well received children's books as part of a series called The Adventures of Cecilia Spark and look forward to carrying on with that. I am a voracious reader and am rarely without an on-going book and as part of my work as a children's author, I visit schools in Spain and the UK and read to young children, with the express purpose of encouraging literacy, a love of animals and the great outdoors. 

You write the awesome Cecilia Spark series. What inspired you to write them? Was there anyone in particular you wanted to write them for?

Having 4 children I was a major part of their ‘reading-with-mum-to-reading-on-their-own’ transition. The books we read were amazing and I think I was captured by the juvenile fiction category. Furthermore, this age group (roughly 5-8/9 years) is at such a magical stage in their life for discovering books and defining their reading habits and genre that it seemed a natural place to start my writing.

My aim is to encourage children to read and motivate them to explore the great outdoors. I do this by creating a magical world of rivers and forests and mountains, populated with animals big and small. The adventures are bursting with thrills and spills, with a humorous streak running through each chapter. I hope to inspire their imagination and encourage them to get outside and learn more for themselves, or at least, to pick up a book about the natural world in which they live.

They've had an amazing response from pretty much every corner of the globe and I admit that I'm hooked now as well! Your writing is beautiful and flows so easily. How long have you been writing for? When did you decide it was time to publish a book?

Thank you, Rae, for those lovely words of encouragement for my writing. I have been writing since I was a child; I wrote plays! But it wasn’t until about 7 or 8 years ago I managed to find the time to put pen to paper. I wish I had kept those plays, I am sure I would have had a chuckle reading them again.

You're a big advocate for indie authors and we love you for it! What made you decide to go it alone rather than approach a big publisher? If you went to a big publisher, what kind of reactions did you receive?

My time schedule and the fact I cannot work under pressure. I do set myself deadlines, but if I don’t make it I don’t panic because I am not letting anyone down. Compared with, if I was with a BIG publishing house, I dare say if you miss a deadline they wouldn’t be too happy.
I don’t think I could work under that sort of pressure.
And yes, at the start of my writing career I approached a handful of publishers. I received a couple of positive replies but nothing definite, but it didn’t put me off publishing on my own. In fact it made me more determined to succeed!

For you, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being an indie author?

Advantages and disadvantages … let me see. For me the main advantage of being indie is being in control of my work, and keeping all rights to my writing. I have also met some great folks whom I am not afraid to approach and ask for their advice on matters.
The main disadvantage, in my opinion is distribution and not getting the exposure that a traditionally published author does. Some people still stigmatise Indie authors. You have to handle all, or almost all, your own marketing and that can be pretty time consuming.

The lovely Ngaire!

We've seen a huge shift in the publishing industry in the past decade. Where do you see it going in the next 10 years?

I think a gatekeeper to check on quality is inevitable. I also think Amazon, with their purchases of small publishing houses, will grow increasingly into a publisher and not just a broker/intermediary. Lots more little publishing houses will sprout up and audio books - an area I am involved in - will become more and more prevalent in the area. Writers who don't create audiobooks may struggle to sell their work. I think it is going to be a battle, Rae, and more and more authors will struggle to sell books. However, I don't think people will stop writing, but the expectations of earning money for the vast majority of authors will have to be lessened.

The children's market is obviously huge so how do you find being a part of it? What kinds of things do you have to do differently as opposed to someone who writes adult books?

Coming up with an original idea and theme for your stories. Not to be afraid of exploring other avenues, say for example audio books, an area I have ventured into and I am pleased with the result. Children’s authors have to be prepared to interact with kids. So school and library visits should be at the top of the list. Having fun things to do on your website is a must. And being a big kid helps!

A lot of people want to write children's books. What would your advice be to anyone who's starting out in the industry? Are there any pitfalls that you'd advise them to keep an eye out for?

Don’t try and do things yourself you cannot carry off. See your vision clearly in your mind’s eye. If you have a vision, the story will flow naturally and you should have no problems. If you are just joining in a trend, this will show in your work and you will struggle. Invest in a decent illustrator. Make lots of friends on the social networks and never, ever put a sock in the toaster!
Pitfalls, if I have come across any they have not impacted upon me greatly …

Finally, tell us about your books and let us know where to find you online!

My children’s series is an action and adventure series called The Adventures of Cecilia Spark. To date there are 3 books in the series: Brimstone Forest, the Mystical Mountains of Terra, and Dragon’s Star.
All books are available as an ebook, paperback and audio book. The series is suitable for boys and girls aged 5-10 years old. The younger children will enjoy hearing the stories being read to them whilst looking at the fabulous illustrations (Peter Maddocks).
Another recent publication is My Nature Friends which is an A-Z picture book and was wonderfully illustrated by my daughter, Fearn. I am so proud of her.

I love the research stage for Cecilia Spark’s adventures and I endeavour to base parts of the story on real places; magical and unique locations in our world. In book 2 – The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: the Mystical Mountains of Terra – one place I was drawn to whilst researching for this adventure was the mangroves in Brazil, in particular the Bahia region, and the lake scene at the Mystical Mountains, was inspired by Lake Baikal in Russia.
Given this I believe every child that reads a Cecilia Spark adventure will not only enjoy the thrills and spills but will also learn about the world we live in and the importance of friendship.

All books are available from Amazon and other online book shops.

For the audio books in the series:

My website is a great place to explore -

My blog where you’ll read the latest news and indie writer/artist spotlights -

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Inspirational Interview - Emm Roy

To counteract some of the dark issues I write about, I like to find people, photos, articles, and quotes which make the world a lighter, brighter, and much nicer place to live. This week I've been honoured to speak to Emm Roy. Emm runs Pleasestopbeingsad over on Tumblr. I discovered her blog a couple of months ago and check in every day for a dose of cute and happiness. Her doodles and advice reach thousands of people and if you need a pick-me-up, or just want to smile a bit more, her blog is guaranteed to do it. Without further ado, please welcome her to the blog!


"Firstly, tell us a little about yourself."

Hi! I’m a 22 year old French Canadian illustrator. I like cats and drinking a lot of coffee.

“You run the amazing Tumblr blog Pleasestopbeingsad. What inspired you to start it?”

Thanks! It wasn’t always the way it is now. It started because I was in a bad place, and I thought it would be helpful if I had a drawing diary to chronicle my progress as I tried to heal and get out of that bad place. I also wanted to let my friends know how I was doing, so I decided to put it online in blog form instead of keeping a more traditional paperback diary. Eventually, it started getting popular, and I decided to switch the focus of the blog so it would be more about helping people and less about my personal journey.

“Your wonderful doodles make a lot of people smile. What inspired you to start drawing? What do you use to make them? On average how many do you draw a day?”

Again, thank you. I’ve been drawing for as far as I can remember. When I was younger, I was one of those kids who was always drawing in class or skipping class to draw. I mainly draw using a wacom bamboo create tablet and photoshop cs6. It’s hard to tell how many I make a day. “A lot” would be my best guess.

“Sometimes you speak about your daily life. Do you make time to draw every day? Is it an “Okay, for the next hour this is what I’m going to do”? Or do you just sit down and go for it whenever the mood takes you?”
I’m very into scheduling. I make schedules and I plan things so that I can be more efficient and maximize my productivity. Drawing is currently my only source of income, so I always make sure to organize my schedule so that I draw at least 40 hours every week. To be honest though, I’m always so excited about drawing and creating work that my biggest problem is scheduling myself time for rest and breaks. I find it a lot easier to draw than not to draw.

“What advice would you give to someone who wants to be creative but finds themselves with a block? How do you deal with creative blocks?”
I think one of the easiest way to be blocked is to set your expectations too high. I have friends who are very talented, but they want everything they make to be perfect, and as soon as they make a mistake or they reach a hard step, they start getting nervous and unhappy about what they’re doing, and they’re no longer enjoying it as much. It’s important to allow yourself to fail. I think people should try to make bad art just for the sake of it sometimes. It’s fun and it helps put perfectionism in perspective. I’m also a big fan of drawing and painting with other people. It’s an amazing feeling to be alone with your thoughts while working on a painting, but company can be a lot of fun too. I’m also a big fan of taking breaks. Everyone needs to recharge sometimes. It’s okay. You’re not any less of an artist if you need to stop making art for a week.

“You give out a lot of wonderful advice and I always find myself smiling whenever I see it. If you could give one piece of advice to everyone, what would it be?”

Be kind, but don’t mistake kindness for letting people treat you badly. There is nothing mean about standing up for yourself or putting yourself first. It only means that you’re extending your kindness to yourself.

“Many people will agree that the world’s not a great place at the moment. What do you think could be done to make it better?”

People need to be more considerate. So often we hurt people, not because we’re bad people or because we want to hurt them, but because we simply haven’t taken the time to fully consider the consequences of our actions (or lack thereof). I think we need to pause and reflect more on how we’re affecting the world. I believe that positive change can happen, but I believe that it happens in small steps. I don’t expect to end poverty, but I can donate a few dollars to someone who needs it. I don’t expect to end bigotry, but I can tell someone when their actions are hurting me, and I can listen when they tell me that my actions are hurting them. I’m a big fan of the idea that small steps are still important steps.

“The doodles are available in books! Where can we find them?!”

Right now, they’re only available on (

“More importantly, where can we find you online?”

you can find me at where I doodle little things to make people happy
or at where I draw things about my life. 


 Thank you so much, Emm! And everyone else, go and check her blog! Go now! You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Keep Moving

Sometimes we have to leave our comfort zones to realise what we want from life. Sometimes we have to stand on the outside and look in to see the changes we need to make.

Which was partly why I went to Vegas. Yes, it has been on my “To Travel To” list for about a decade. But I needed to get away. Needed to look at myself in another light. Needed to let off some of the steam which has been boiling away for the past few years.

Sunrise in Vegas

Everything always looks more exciting when we're there. When we're a tourist we can well imagine ourselves living in the place we're visiting. And many of us chase that dream. A few days after I arrived back from the States a friend of mine moved to LA.

So I've made the decision to change my life. It's been a long time coming but I needed something to kick start it. I needed a change of perspective to see what I have and what I want from life. And boy did I get the kick up the arse that I needed!

British small town life isn't all that great. It's pretty much like anywhere in the world. There's not a lot to do, bands frequently pass you by for the bigger draw of London 100 miles away. Shops are closing faster than they're opening, and the ones that are open don't stock anything you need (Unless you need more greeting cards than you can shake a stick at, clothes that will fall apart after one wash, and more mobile phones than you'll ever need in one lifetime). Jobs are few and far between and the ones you can find don't offer much in the way of promotion or pay. Yes, I know it's like this all over the world. But are the prospects better outside of what I know?

I don't know, which is why I'm trying. I'm still writing but, at the same time, I'm applying for jobs all over the world. I'm looking for new places to live. I want new experiences and I have very little tying me down to where I live now. And I definitely don't want to get to the end of my life thinking, “I wish I'd done that.”

So I'm going to do it. I'm going to knuckle up, get rid of my insecurities and go. It's a big world out there and I don't want to miss any of it.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Sound City

If you're a film or music buff, chances are you've come across the stunning Sound City documentary. The film is Dave Grohl's love letter to a studio which nearly went to the wall, a building which has played host to some of the most famous musicians in history. Fleetwood Mac, Rick Springfield, Buckingham Nicks, Nine Inch Nails, REO Speedwagon, Tom Petty and, of course, Nirvana have all graced the studio.

As we were planning a trip to LA, one of our party (thanks, Kirri!) decided to get in touch with the original owners to see if we could visit and take a look around. All we were told was to turn up before mid-day.

So we did.

They've kept the famous painted sign which welcomes you to the studios. Driving beneath it, you feel a sense of calm and anticipation. How many people have driven through that driveway? How many of them are the same people you now see screaming around a stage in front of 80,000 people? How did they feel when they first arrived? Were they excited? Nervous? Inspired?

We chose to drive up the ramp and onto the parking lot on top of the building, before we realised that actually, we probably should have parked right outside the studio. Oh well...

First port of call was to knock on the door of Fairfax Recordings. The building, unlike the rest of them, is now blue (The others have retained their famous cream colouring). The door was answered by a nervous looking young man who had no idea who we were looking for but kindly allowed us to use the bathroom and clear a few bottles of water from the fridge. Finally, we discovered that Sandy, our contact, hadn't yet arrived on the site.

It was just before 11am. We were closing in on our deadline of mid-day so we decided to take a walk. We found a Denny's a short way up the road and debated what to do. We were hot, tired, and jet lagged. We'd driven for 4 hours. If we didn't get in we'd at least been on the property. We'd driven, and walked, beneath the famous sign and we'd seen a wall of records from many of the artists who'd worked there.

But... There's always a but. What if we didn't try again? We'd regret it for the rest of our lives.

We made the decision to go back and try again. Besides, there was no harm, right? So we trudged back and took another stab at the door. This time it was answered by the wonderful Sandy and we were welcomed in like long lost friends! Suddenly we were standing in the offices and looking around in awe. There were photographs mounted on wooden plaques (what people would be given before the invention of the gold record) and too many other things to take in. Much to our delight, Tom, the founder and owner, was around. Again, there was another big welcome and any nerves we'd been feeling melted away. We were happy and excited. We'd travelled half way around the world for this moment and it felt like every crazy dream you've ever had was coming true.

It was time and, with fluttering hearts, we made our way back to the blue building. The film gives you the sense that the offices and studios are in one building. They're not. You drive under the sign and find yourself in a parking lot with buildings on three sides. The front buildings house the offices while the ones in the back contain the studios. Facing the U-shaped building, the part with the drum room is to your left, while the ones straight ahead and to the right are now leased to other companies (Sandy made the comment that they've gone from leasing studios to leasing property).

We went back through the large, frosted glass door and met the young man we'd originally spoken to. Gone are the brown, carpeted walls. A few of the non-supporting walls have been knocked down to open the space up. You find yourself in a large, white area with a kitchen to your right and a snug, containing books, records, and couches, straight ahead. To your left is a large door.

You're taken to the door and let in. Your head snaps back and your jaw hits the floor. This is the room you've heard so much about. This is the room which is famed for recording drums in (bands, most notably Metallica, have done “blind tests” on such rooms. A piece of drum sound is recorded and sent back to the band. They then choose where to records based on that sound. Metallica recorded “Death Magnetic” at Sound City based purely on the snippet they heard).

And it's not changed. From the black and white photos you've seen, to the film, to actually standing in it, not one inch of it has been altered. No one knows exactly why the room sounds like it does. Some attribute it the building once having been used for making amplification. Others say it's because of whatever was used in the brickwork. Whatever it is, the room has a presence.

The door's closed behind you and a pressure closes around you. Your ears pop. Part of it is to do with it being a studio and it needing to be somewhat soundproof. The rest of it I can only place on the people who have passed though it. Their essence, their blood, sweat, and tears have soaked into the walls and left behind an undeniable presence. You can feel them in the air and see their ghostly images wandering back and forth. As my brother said, rooms like that have a personality all of their own. It's an inspiring place and I'm not sorry to say that I cried while I was there. I could have spent many days just sitting in that room and soaking up the atmosphere. I feel that some of my best work would have come from just being there and I'm desperately trying to cling on to the feelings and emotions which barreled through me.

Typical f-ing drummer. Just stands around and lets everyone else set up for them!

The control room, compared to many, feels basic. It was refreshing, a beautiful break from the constant glare of computers. Again, it's remained the same as it's always been. The famous Neve desk is no longer there, having been bought by Grohl when the studio was closing down. They do have another analogue desk and, much to my excitement, a two inch tape machine. I hadn't seen one of those since my early film-making days and I stared at it like a long lost friend. 

We were blessed to be witnesses to a hundred different stories of the people who've been through the studio. We learned a lot and I'm forever grateful to Sandy and Tom for letting us invade their space for an hour. Tom returned to see us off and handed out hugs and smiles like they were candy. It was an experience which I hope, one day, to relive. Fingers crossed, our musical family will wind up there one day. Until then, I'll hold on to my photos, my Sound City shirt (Thanks, Sandy!), my DVD, and my precious memories. Next time, I hope to be working there, with the people who feel like a home away from home. A family, bonded together by their love of music.

In 2011, Sound City ceased commercial operations. Thanks to the film, and the resurgence in interest, the studios are now operated by Fairfax Recordings. The famous drum room is still there. It's still analogue (but they do have a ProTools rig). The Neve desk, which features so heavily in the documentary it's pretty much the main character, is now owned by Grohl. So you'll have to go and knock on his front door if you want to use that.

If you haven't seen the film, go and watch it. It really is a love letter, not just to the studio, but to music in general.