I have something very cool for you today. To encourage more summer reading, I’ve teamed up with a number of bestselling middle grade authors to offer nine incredible ebooks, all of which are either FREE or just $0.99 each!
I can attest that all of these books are high quality and well reviewed, and you will not be disappointed! These deals are available from August 1-5 and the links are below.
Here is the amazing lineup:
I hope you’re having a great summer!
Who were some of your early inspirations as an author?
For fantasy books, I’ve always loved Neil Gaiman. His middle-grade novels, Coraline and The Graveyard Book, are two of my favourites. In my opinion, the evil “Other Mother” in Coraline is one of the best villains I’ve ever read.
As a kid, I read a ton of Goosebumps books. They are the perfect balance of scary but not too scary for middle-school kids. R. L. Stine has a Masterclass on writing for children, so I jumped on the chance to take it. He explains how to write scary scenes for different age groups, and I found it so helpful.
How did you get started as an author? Did you start by writing books or something else?
As a child, I wrote short stories and poems for my parents. I would make them into little books with construction paper covers. Then at thirteen I wrote my first “novel.” It was not very good, and it definitely was not publishable, but my mom was super cute and supportive. She helped me proofread it, print it all out, and write a query letter. We took the address from a publisher in one of my books and sent it off to them. I received a really kind rejection letter stating that they don’t publish books written by kids, but they wished me all the best. It was pretty cute and one of my favourite childhood memories.
As an adult, I started and stopped many manuscripts. Life took over, and I wrote less and less, but then in my thirties the writing bug hit me again. I started and stopped a few more manuscripts, and then I finally decided to get serious and actually finish my first Starfell book. I took some online courses to motivate me, and I got it done.
What was your inspiration for the Starfell series?
This is going to sound really nerdy, but a Dungeons & Dragons campaign kickstarted my Starfell series. Fable was originally my wild magic sorcerer, and I was asked to write a backstory for her. That turned into a twenty-page document, and then the outline for a novel. I obviously had to change a lot to make it work as a middle-grade book, but that’s where the idea stemmed from.
What draws you to write for middle-grade readers? Do you plan to write for any other audiences too?
When I was that age, books meant a lot to me. I was always introverted and could be painfully shy, and reading was an escape from my anxiety. The books I read then really stuck with me. Those are the stories I remember so well, even now. At that age, they seem to hold a certain kind of magic, so those are the stories I love to tell.
I also write adult books in the small town, sweet romance genre under Jessica Anne Renwick.
Do you do this full time, or is writing more of a part-time gig?
Right now, I write part time. I would like to eventually go full time with it though. For my day job, I am a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. So I am still surrounded by fun stories every day, and I’m grateful I can do that for a living too.
What motivated you to publish independently rather than going the traditional route?
I am an avid-podcast listener. While searching for writing podcasts, I found The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn, and she started me down the rabbit hole of self-publishing podcasts and information. I’ll admit I had some confidence issues at first, but after meeting my editor in person (who also self-publishes her own books), she helped me improve my writing and my belief in it.
At one point, I did have an agent for The Book of Chaos, but it never sold, which I’m okay with. Publishing it myself has taught me so much, and I’ve been able to get it into the hands of a lot of fantastic readers.
What are some of the biggest benefits of being an independent author?
I enjoy having the rights to my own work, my choice in editors and cover designers, and the overall control I have with the books.
What are some of the biggest challenges?
Finding a way to get my books in front of readers is always a challenge without a big marketing budget. Also, not having a traditional publisher’s name behind my books can make it tougher for some people to take a chance on them.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on the fourth book in the Starfell series, the Curse of the Warlock. On July 1, I also had the rights of my short story, The Witch’s Staff, returned to me. It was traditionally published in an anthology by a small press. I’m getting an eBook version of it put together to give away as a freebie for my newsletter subscribers.
To learn more about Jessica and her books, visit her official website.
Pumpkins, book 1 in the Uncanny Icons Series, is now available in hardcover and paperback, but the Kindle version is also available at a discount until it's release on June 28. Reviews are already beginning to roll in, and so far the reaction to the book has been fantastic. Buy your digital copy now!
This month we have a real treat, a bonus interview with storyboard artist turned author Doug Brode. As you'll see below, Doug has worked on a number of high-profile projects over the years, sketching shots alongside top directors like JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson, Jon Favreau, and others. I happened to meet Doug by chance online, and I wound up having the opportunity to edit his new sci-fi novel, The Ship. My personal involvement aside, I thought it was a fantastic read that is sure to appeal to fans of Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Andy Weir, and similar authors.
You have quite an impressive resume as a storyboard artist, prop artist, and concept artist. How did you get into that line of work?
I was originally going to be a comic book artist until I saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I was about 19 or 20, and the art design really clicked something in my mind that film might be a more interesting career choice for me. I didn’t really see myself drawing men in tights forever, and film was something which I’d always loved. I moved to LA, got a job as a runner for Joel Silver’s production company, until someone there noticed my art. My first film was House on Haunted Hill around ’98, I think.
What role does a storyboard artist play in the filmmaking process?
I help the director design all the shots, usually for special effects and stunts through the film. Basically, I create a “comic” for the crew so that everyone knows what the shots or effects will look like, long before they shoot them.
How closely do you work with the director?
Very close. I’m there to work with them one on one to clarify their vision so that they can present a clear, shot-for-shot vision to the crew. On most films we usually meet three times a week, and most meetings go about 1.5 hrs.
What are some of the favorite film projects you've worked on?
JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot. Iron Man. Thor. Looper. Planet of the Apes. MIB: International. There’s been a lot, but those all hold very fond memories. And of course, my own series, Forbidden Science, for which I was creator and head writer. That was the best creative experience I’ve ever had. The show had more "T and A" than I’d originally envisioned, but it was an incredible experience seeing my own ideas being filmed and then shown on Cinemax each week. It’s now on Amazon Prime. I’ve been surprised how long of a life one little sexy sci-fi series can have. Even though it only ran one season, it’s been watched all over the world and is still going.
What prompted you to transition into writing?
I always had an interest in storytelling. Sequential art, like comics and storyboards, are storytelling, but they’re someone else’s story usually. With writing it’s 100% your vision, your voice. I left screenwriting because even if someone buys or options your script, it doesn’t mean it will get made. Most of the time it won’t. And I got tired of having a pile of scripts lying around. With a novel, it’s out there for the world to read – which is why I wrote my debut novel, The Ship. I’d had the idea and the twist ending for over ten years. I was saving it for when I was ready to finally write a book.
Tell us about The Ship. What's the premise of the novel?
A young woman awakens within a crashed alien vessel 35 years after being abducted. Basically, I took some of the tropes from the 80’s and 90’s sci-fi horror films and shows and gave them a modern scientific facelift. I loved the X-Files back in the day, along with The Thing and Aliens, and wanted a book with that kind of mystery and excitement.
Do you plan to continue the story in subsequent books?
While The Ship is a stand alone novel, I do have a plan for two sequels.
What attracts you to the sci-fi genre?
Concepts and ideas. I like to play around with some of the old sci-fi tropes I grew up with and give them a modern twist for the 21st century. Today’s sci-fi often seems to be taking real world situations and turn them into a futuristic story. I have no interest in that. Give me big ideas; big concepts and an exciting story with a fast pace, and I’m hooked. That’s what I did with The Ship, so hopefully others are looking for that kind of sci-fi as well.
How does your background in film affect your writing process?
Film and TV taught me to write with a tight structure and keep things contained in both the POV (point of view) and scope, so that the focus is always on the characters. The closer you stick to the characters, the more tense and thrilling the story will be.
What book or film projects are you working on right now?
I’m working on the sequel to The Ship now.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I collect video games and vinyl records. Call of Duty with a Prince record playing is my nirvana.
As mentioned in a previous post, I'm in the process of having the first three books i the Milligan Creek Series converted to audio, narrated by Tanner De Bruyne. He's doing a great job. I just listened to chapter 1 of Unlimited and thought I'd share it here. It was one of my favorite chapters to write, and it's one that I've read aloud hundreds of times at writing workshops, so I was interested Tanner's take. It's so much fun. You can listen to it here. If you want to buy the audiobook for Up the Creek, it's available here.
And so far they're great! Here are a couple of quotes.
Pumpkins is a fast moving thriller suited for readers moving from junior into young adult. It's creepy and foreboding . . .
A story with paranormal pumpkins might sound like it strains credulity a bit too much to make a good story, but Pumpkins, by Kevin Miller pulls it off. I actually had trouble putting it down, and over the two days that I read it, I was actually looking forward to finding time to read so I could see what happened next.
That book is Up the Creek. This reviews comes from Briar's Reviews. A brief excerpt.
These wickedly smart kids (in good ole Canada), grab some canoes and decide to ride the waves in the creek. They get into some seriously funny mischief, getting lost along the way. But, don’t you worry! These boys are geniuses of getting into and out of trouble. Add in Canadian humour, play on words and a book full of pure friendship and you’ve got yourself a real winner!
You can read the full review here.
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life