Monday, June 29, 2015

R.S. Penney: The IAN Interview

I was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario where I attended Saltfleet High School and McMaster University. I've spent most of my life fighting for the little guy in one form or another, advocating for the poor, for environmental sustainability, for minority rights.

Throughout my twenties, I wrote about five novels and threw them all out because they weren't very good. But I improved and honed my skills with each new manuscript. About two years ago, I had an offer from a traditional publishing house, but I chose to go indie instead. Writing is my passion; if I could dedicate myself to one thing, it would be bringing the ideas in my head to life.

IAN. Please tell us about your latest book.

R.C. Penney. Symbiosis is kind of a mix of Star Trek: the Next Generation and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Gene Roddenberry envisioned an optimistic future, a society where racism, sexism and other such prejudices were all a thing of the past, where poverty and deprivation had been eliminated. I was fascinated by the idea of “what would happen if people from that optimistic future Earth had to live side by side with humans from the present day?”

Ten thousand years ago, a very powerful species took primitive humans and scattered them on Earth-like worlds throughout the galaxy. Some of those societies advanced to the point where they developed space-flight; some are peaceful and egalitarian while others are dystopic and violent. The story examines the culture clash between some these worlds with modern-day Earth thrown into the mix.

Anna Lenai is a young Justice Keeper, an officer of the law who pursues a felon into uncharted regions of space and discovers Earth. 

The series focuses on smaller, interpersonal conflicts such as family or relationship drama in addition to the larger conflicts of falling empires and changing political landscapes. Character development is a very important focus; in fact every review I've had mentions the depth and versatility of the characters. 

IAN. Is Symbiosis published in print, e-book or both?

R.C. Penney. Symbiosis and all subsequent Justice Keeper novels will be available in both print and e-book form

IAN. Where can we go to buy a copy of Symbiosis?

R.C. Penney. If you’d like to purchase Symbiosis in paperback, follow this link.

If you want to buy it on the Kindle, follow this link. (Note kindle has a free app for iPads, iPhones and other tablets).

And if you want the kobo version, it’s right here.

IAN. What inspired you to write Symbiosis?

R.C. Penney. When I was fifteen, I was reading a lot of epic fantasy. Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth: that sort of thing. One thing I very much wanted to do was to create a story with two central protagonists, a young man and a young woman. Those characters eventually evolved into Jack Hunter and Anna Lenai.

The other thing I noticed, when I was a teenager reading epic fantasy, was that everybody was white. If you look at Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time or even something a little more modern like Song of Ice and Fire, you'll find that most of the main cast is white. You'll get the odd person of colour, but those are few and far between. So I really wanted to write a story where you had a diverse cast with a wide range of ethnicity. The next character I created eventually became Harry Carlson.

At the time, these characters were all living in an epic fantasy world, but I very quickly grew bored with that idea because I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do with these people. Jack and Anna were living in your typical bucolic fantasy town – you know the one; it looks like Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings – and then something comes along and sweeps them off into an adventure. But I found myself so unenthusiastic about writing that story. One thing I dislike about epic fantasy is that it just takes so long for anything to happen. With the exception of the Hobbit, where the journey is the whole point, I was always thinking “can't we just skip to what happens when they get there?”

One thing I realized I loved in sci-fi/fantasy was seeing characters do ordinary things. Yes, Buffy killed demons, but she also went on dates, did homework, took tests. It makes the characters feel like real people. So I wanted to write characters who had ordinary problems (work, school, family, etc) in addition to the extraordinary problems like saving the world from certain disaster. Put all these things together, and the switch to science-fiction became obvious. 

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

R.C. Penney. An outline? 

God, no! 

I'm the most disorganized person on the planet, but I have this freakishly good memory for certain things like plot points and character bios. And a complete goldfish memory for things like shopping lists. Go figure. I'll step you through the process of how something goes from a flash of inspiration to a finished product. 

I usually write a story around the climax, meaning I come up with the climax first and then fill in the details of what led to that moment afterward. I'm a huge fan of rock music. Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Pretty Reckless: that kind of rock music. So a lot of my good ideas happen when I'm behind the wheel of my car.

Take a random song – let's say Alert Status Red by Matthew Good. I'll hear that song, and suddenly the image of Anna running through an office building and dodging security guards will pop into my head. I usually write down the action sequence at my earliest opportunity. I can hold onto it for a few days, but I like to get a first draft on paper before I lose some of the details.

So now that I have that scene, I need a context for it. Generating a context is simply a matter of asking yourself all the logical questions. 

Why is she in the office building?

So I invent an objective. Maybe there's something in the office building she needs to recover. (I'm being vague here to avoid spoilers)

How did she get into the office building?

What sort of security measures would stand in her way? Most major companies use key-card access. So how does she get a key-card? These all lead to extra chapters that fill in the rest of the story. Chapters where we set up the central conflict, inform the reader of the stakes (What happens if Anna loses), and deal with the mini-conflicts like getting past security. 

Now back to square one. Maybe I'm listening to I'm on Fire by Bruce Springsteen, and that song inspires a major turning point in the romance subplot. Again, ask all the logical questions. How did we get here? Why do the characters feel the way they feel? Put the interpersonal plot together with the action plot, and pretty soon you have a novel.

IAN. How long did it take to write Symbiosis?

R.C. Penney. Six months or twelve years, depending on whether or not you count the time I spent learning how to write. The idea has been in my head since high school. I can generally finish a Keepers book in about six months.

IAN. Do you have a specific writing style?

R.C. Penney. I tend to focus on the nuts and bolts of the scene, the specifics of what happens, and then fill in the character's thoughts, feelings and interpretations afterward. The internal monologue is usually the hardest part for me because I'm always asking myself “how do I express this complex idea without sounding pretentious?” And then, of course, you have to add the little touches that make a character unique. Jack's internal monologue tends to include a lot of slang and vernacular; whereas someone like Wesley Pennfield would have a very dry, very formal monologue. Wesley is less likely to use contractions. That sort of thing.

But I focus on the nuts and bolts for a very simple reason; there is a temptation among authors to really get lost in the musings of your character. That can be fun, but if you do it too often, your readers will start skipping ahead to the point where the story picks up again.

IAN. How is Symbiosis different from others in your genre?

R.C. Penney. Before I answer this question, let me just state that “different” does not mean “superior.” I'll tell you what I think makes my book stand out, but there is a tonne of great sci-fi out there, from a tonne of talented authors, both independent and traditionally published.

My series differs from other science fiction novels by its emphasis on blending the ordinary with the extraordinary. Most science fiction I've read focuses on far-off planets or futuristic dystopias – and there is certainly that element to the Keepers Saga – but the characters who inhabit my universe have jobs, families and social lives. There are chapters of Symbiosis that focus on the friction between Jack and his coworkers or Harry's relationship with his kids.

That's not to say that those elements aren't present in other works of science fiction – they most certainly are – but I think it comes down to the setting. Take, for example, the Hunger Games. Even when she's not in the ring, Katniss's everyday life looks nothing like yours or mine. She lives in a world that is so different from our own that it affects every aspect of her life. For that reason, the minutiae of her average day still feels somewhat fantastic. That's one of the best things about the Hunger Games! Everything feels fresh, new and exciting. 

My characters live in a world that looks very much like our own on the surface, a world where all the fantastic elements are hidden from plain view. To my mind, that has the added advantage of making the abnormal all the more striking when it creeps into the everyday lives of my characters. 

IAN. Are there any new authors that have caught your interest?

R.C. Penney. Glenn Soucy.

He has a remarkable ability to blend crisp fast-paced writing with some very creepy plot twists. The action is solid, the characters fleshed out and the pacing spot on. A strong author all around.

Kristal Shaff.

In her latest novel, Krystal has created a fascinating fantasy world with a unique magic system. It's rare for a book to create a world that pulls you in with its attention to detail and compelling characters. Krystal hits both of those targets with pinpoint accuracy. 

IAN. Do you have any advice for other writers?

R.C. Penney. Absolutely.

Be careful about taking advice from other authors. 

By the way, is this a good time to mention that I do a weekly blog where I offer tips and pointers to new writers? No, but in all seriousness, my advice is to be careful about taking advice from other authors, and that applies just as much to me as it does to anyone else.

When I was younger, I used to read interviews from some of my favourite authors about how to write a book. They'd talk about things like the importance of detailed outlines, extensive notes and what have you, and I tried to do it their way. Their way didn't work for me. 

So to those of you who like my books, don't look at what I do and set that as the benchmark for how you should go about writing a novel. When it comes to writing fiction, there are a million ways to get it right and a billion ways to get it wrong. 

Ultimately, your job – the job of any artist, in fact – is to create an emotional connection with your audience. The nuts and bolts like smooth prose, clever plot twists and snappy dialogue are just tools to achieve that end. Doing these things poorly will damage your emotional connection – so you do want to learn to do them well – but there are so many ways to do them well.

IAN. Who designed the cover?

R.C. Penney. His name is Mason Matlock. If you're interested in his services, you can contact him at .

IAN. Tell us about your next work in progress.

R.C. Penney. The next novel I will be publishing is called Friction, and it's the direct sequel to Symbiosis. The novel is already complete and is currently in editing. I expect a release date in the early fall.

I don't want to get too deep into the details for fear of spoilers, but Friction deals with a terrorist group trying to break up the uneasy alliance between the planets in our corner of the galaxy.

Just last week, I completed the first half of Entanglement, the third book in the Justice Keepers Saga. This book features some shady things going on in the outskirts of our solar system, forcing our heroes to go investigate.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

L. R. W. Lee Releases Book Four the Andy Smithson Series

The wait is over! Book Four in the Andy Smithson series is finally here!

In Resurrection of the Phoenix’s Grace, Andy finds that Abaddon will stop at nothing to capture and punish him for thwarting his plans for eternal life for yet a third time. But, when Methuselah unexpectedly extends in Mom's hand while in Texas, something it has never done for him, it triggers more revelations about her past. 
After a frustrating and, at times, terrifying year, Andy returns to Oomaldee and joins Hans' quest to locate the only surviving heir to the throne of Cromlech. In the process, Andy and company discover the Giant's Ring, the center of Cromlech's healing powers, has been destroyed by Abaddon's evil sorcerer. The situation grows dire when Andy finds that the phoenix who rose from that land millennia before has returned to be reborn and the evil mage has trapped her inside the decimated Ring. Without the freedom to collect the materials she needs to build a pyre, she will die. Andy knows failure is not an option for he needs a feather from this phoenix as the next ingredient to break the curse. Will Andy and his friends free the phoenix in time? Will they be able to fix the Ring and restore Cromlech's healing powers? Will Andy collect a phoenix feather?

You won’t want to miss the non-stop action, drama and thrills on this adventure that is Resurrection of the Phoenix’s Grace!

"I really enjoyed this book! The author writes a thrilling action-adventure story that keeps you on the edge of your bean bag chair. I will admit, I stayed up late reading this book - it was that good! L. R. W. Lee has a talent for writing fantasy. The story flows well and has plenty of action to keep the reader wanting more. A great read!" 
                                                            - Erik Weibel, This Kid Reviews Books (Erik is 14)
                                                              Erik awarded the book 5 Bookworms! 
"L. R. W. Lee's best book of the Andy Smithson series to date!"
                                                           - Richard Weatherly, Author 

Purchase Kindle and Paperback

Book Five: Vision of the Griffin’s Heart (Andy Smithson series) is coming Winter 2015.

Watch L. R. W. Lee discuss Resurrection of the Phoenix’s Grace on Book Nerd Paradise on YouTube at

Book One

eBook 1, Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury is now FREE. Pick up a copy at Smashwords, Kobo, Google, B&N.

Listen to the FREE podcast of Book 1 by L. R. W. Lee on Podiobooks 
Book one is also available in paperback.

Book Two

Book 2, Andy Smithson: Venom of the Serpent's Cunning is available in Kindle and Paperback.

Download the professionally recorded audiobook at Amazon
It’s only $1.99 if you download the eBook first…Savings of $16!

Book Three

Book 3, Andy Smithson: Disgrace of the Unicorn’s Honor is available in Kindle and Paperback.

Prequel Novella

Power of the Heir’s Passion is available in Kindle and Paperback

Download the professionally recorded audiobook at Amazon
It’s only $1.99 if you download the eBook for $.99 first…Savings of $1!

L. R. W. Lee writes to teach her readers principles that can transform their lives – overcoming frustration, impatience, fear and more. She also shows why responsibility, diligence and dignity are the keys to true success in life. L. R. W. Lee lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband, daughter and son.

Connect with L. R. W. at: Twitter   Website   Facebook
For more about author L. R. W. Lee:

Friday, May 8, 2015

Rik Stone: The IAN Interview

Rik Stone worked in shipyards in the North East of England before going into the Merchant Navy. Eventually, he yearned for change and studying seemed a good way to get it so he worked through the lower level stuff and then on to gaining a BSc. degree in Mathematics and Computing. But he loved reading fiction and had always harbored a secret ambition to write it. In his younger days such aspirations weren’t realistic, but an early retirement at the age of fifty provided the opening he wanted and he began pursuing the dream seriously. First came the debut novel, Birth of an Assassin, and more recently, The Turkish Connection, the second in the series.

The Independent Author Network. Hi Rik. Please tell us about your latest book.

Rik Stone. The Turkish Connection is the second in the series to Birth of an Assassin. While Jez, the protagonist in the first book, is dealing with the events thrust upon him in Russia, Mehmet, a young Turk, is caught up in the backwash of those same actions in Turkey.

Only eight years old and Mehmet is thrown into a life where he battles to survive the murky Istanbul of 1951. On a daily basis, he is forced to learn the skills of thievery and violence alongside other street children caught in the same trap. Every evening he curls up under a stinking jetty in a waterway off the Bosporus Strait, yearning to break free from the life inflicted on him by his drunken, womanizing father, but little knowing that his father’s rotting body lies at the bottom of those same waters.

Adulthood comes before Mehmet finds out that it wasn’t fate that had taken control of his life as a boy, but a very real nemesis. The man in question; a powerful crime lord who has support in the highest places within the Turkish government. Can Mehmet compete with such an opponent or has his life been doomed from the start?

IAN. Is The Turkish Connection published in print, e-book or both?

R.S. The Turkish Connection is available in paperback now and the ebook version is scheduled for release on the 28th of May.

IAN. Where can we go to buy The Turkish Connection?

IAN. What inspired you to write The Turkish Connection?

R.S. I’ve toured Turkey fairly extensively. I love its exotic atmosphere and was able to imagine being back there as I wrote.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

R.S. I start with a beginning, middle and end in three paragraphs. I write towards the latter two introducing relevant sub-plots as I go.

IAN. How long did it take to write The Turkish Connection?

R.S. At around nine months I had completed the fourth draft, but I am a habitual tinkerer so the months stretched out to twelve.

IAN. Do you have a specific writing style?

R.S. I like to keep things simple in terms of wording. When I read a thriller, there is nothing worse than stopping to look up the meaning of words; it kills the pace and hauls the reader back to reality.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your books?

R.S. My intention is not only to thrill, I want the reader to walk away satisfied, and yet sad to lose the characters they’ve grown to know.

IAN. How much of The Turkish Connection is realistic?

R.S. I think all thrillers have a touch of the improbable otherwise the protagonists wouldn’t survive. However, I have no trouble believing the story could have happened.

IAN. Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

R.S. I take life’s experiences and grossly exaggerate them; to the point the experiences become unrecognizable to me.

IAN. How is your book different from others in your genre?

R.S. Probably the setting, protagonist and that it is more believable than most. Also, it seems the norm to make the hero a European or an American, but people are the same everywhere, living the same lives and having the same aspirations, albeit they have different levels of finance, so why can’t they have heroes too?

IAN. Do you see writing as a career?

R.S. I think about and develop my work in every situation I find myself in, it is all consuming, so writing is not my career, it is my life.

IAN. Who designed the cover?

R.S. Even if I can’t actually see the picture, I have a full brief in my mind of what it should look like; I know, that hardly makes sense. I write the brief down and hand it over to the professionals,, and after a couple of prototypes we end up at the same place.

IAN. Do you have any advice for other writers?

R.S. The hardest part of writing is the promotional aspect and there are times it will get you down. When that happens, forget about marketing and lose yourself in writing until the woes are gone; it works for me.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

R.S. I’m in the final drafts of book three in the series and hope to have it out at the end of this year.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Mother’s Day Message from the Authors of “Secret Storms: A Mother and Daughter, Lost then Found”

When we were featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network, then the Katie Couric show, and after that, the Jeff Probst show, we had to recount the story of our book (which is the story of our lives) over and over again. While we were honored by the opportunities and propelled by the desire to share our story in order to give hope to those in need of it, it was a daunting emotional roller coaster. Secret Storms is, in the words of one of its readers, “a riveting, profound book,” but one in which there are many extremes of feeling.

It takes the reader from the staunch, eccentric Main Line of Philadelphia to the Isle of Capri, to Kenya, to Broadway, to Hollywood; from movie, stage and literary stars to regular people leading extraordinary lives; from a little girl with a python and cheetah as pets, to a little girl living with a real-life wicked step-mother, to a young, pregnant and sane woman in a mental hospital. It’s about being adopted, about adopting, and about giving a child up for adoption. But more than all of that, at its core, Secret Storms is about motherhood. About the soul-altering, miracle that is the relationship between parent and child. About the strongest bond humans are capable of forming between each other.

Since publishing the book, we’ve had the honor and privilege of receiving countless letters from readers who feel compelled to share their own stories with us. Extraordinary, often heartbreaking stories. Nowhere more than in the adoption community is it more evident what real maternal love actually is. We’ve learned over and over again through our readers’ stories that motherhood comes in many guises, that selfless love is not just the domain of biological parents, that mothers who don’t get to raise their children are still mothers, that the joys and tragedies of motherhood belong to all women who love their children.

There truly is no higher calling or a more difficult one than the care and nurturing of a child. So today, and every day, we celebrate all mothers. Happy Mother’s Day! -Julie Mannix von Zerneck and Kathy Hatfield

Audiobook, Kindle and Paperback copies of
Secret Storms: A Mother and Daughter, Lost then Found
are available here:
You can find us, befriend us, inspire us and be inspired by us, here:
and here:
And join the conversations we have on our ASK the AUTHORS series, here:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fleur Tamargo: The IAN Interview

I’m from the Philippines, I love writing and public speaking. I’m quite an introvert which is a contradiction since I love public speaking and have no stage fright at all. I love art, and hate convention. When I write something I make sure it’s unique and unpredictable. I don’t like one dimensional characters because in real life, people are most of the time complex, multi-layered creatures.

Independent Author Network: Please tell us about your latest book.

Fleur Tamargo. There was this guy I was infatuated with back in high school. I dreamt about him for several years after his death. That kind of thing continued for more than a decade, and I made a journal where I wrote down all my dreams. After more than a decade of dreaming, I finally decided to make a novel out of it.

Thus, “A Dragonfly’s Dream” is about a girl who gets to be with the man of her dreams (literally, since she can only see and talk to him in her dreams).

A Dragonfly’s Dream is a deep, multi-layered novel. There are a lot of things going on between
the lines, and an analytical reader can pick up a lot of stuff beyond the obvious. But at the same time my readers say that it’s also very light and funny. And of course, romantic.

The cover was done by my very talented niece, Molly Sira and an artist from the U.S., Colleen Sgroi. When my niece saw Colleen Sgroi’s dragonfly painting on the internet, she immediately fell in love with it. I sent an email to Ms. Sgroi and thankfully she agreed to let me use her dragonfly to grace my book cover.

IAN. Is A Dragonfly’s Dream published in print, e-book or both?

F.T. For now, it’s available as an e-book. Though I’m also working on the print version.

IAN. Where can we go to buy A Dragonfly’s Dream?

F.T. For Kindle at Amazon

IAN. What inspired you to write A Dragonfly’s Dream?

F.T. Like I said, this book is based on my own dream journal. I wanted to give life to the dreams I was having.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft? 

F.T. I used an outline. At first, I didn’t know how to go about it, but along the way, I got the idea that every chapter of my book should begin with an entry in my main character’s dream journal.

IAN. How did you come up with the title?

F.T. In some cultures, a dragonfly symbolizes change. Dealing with the past, and dealing with changes is quite a prevalent theme in my book.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading A Dragonfly’s Dream?

F.T. I think I’m going to leave it up to them. Just like my characters, my book is multi-faceted and different readers will see and will come away with different things. But whatever it is, I want it to be something positive.

IAN. How much of the book is realistic?

F.T. It’s a magical realism, but a lot of it is actually quite realistic or based on real life.

IAN. How is A Dragonfly’s Dream different from others in your genre?

F.T. The writing style is different from the mainstream. When I write something I try to make sure that the story flows smoothly, like water. It also introduces some things about my own local culture. It’s not your usual love story.

IAN. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

F.T. My sister published a book on Crimson Romance entitled “How to Wed an Earl.” That inspired me to write my own book.

IAN. Do you have any advice for other writers?

F.T. I believe that all writers need to write. It’s how we express our souls. It’s not just about selling the book. Expressing our true nature this way is actually therapeutic, and it has tremendous benefits on a person’s well-being.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

F.T. I’m working on a historical romance that has its setting in Asia. Like my previous book, I want it to be different from the mainstream.