Category Archives: News

What’s happening with IQ generally (not for books)

Reading the Wind Introduction

Reading the Wind

I never thought of myself as a writer.

I read fiction nonstop and even wrote some Tolkien fanfiction, but in my mind, that didn’t make me a writer; I also taught technical writing to college students. About that kind of writing, I counted as an expert. Still, that didn’t make me a writer. People who wrote novels were special. I wasn’t one of them. I didn’t know how to do that. And then, one day, some irresistible urge came calling on the wind, and I decided to try. I say “one day,” but it would be more accurate to say “one year” because it turned out I was right about not knowing how to write a novel.

The Wind Reader was one of the first books I drafted, but it spent years on my hard drive, coming out every so often to be revised using the critical eye and skills I developed as I went to workshops, read how-to books, and drafted several more novels. I gradually built up craft knowledge, but the most important thing I learned is that I was a writer all along.

A writer writes.

There’s no other definition. Publication is nice, but it’s not what makes someone a writer.

On the other hand, publication really is nice!

So when I finally decided The Wind Reader was ready to go out into the world, I looked around for a publisher I could trust with my baby. I wound up submitting to Inspired Quill by following a trail of signs. On a writers’ site, authors wrote that they’d had good experiences there, that this was a publisher that would treat me and my book well. Inspired Quill’s submissions guidelines told me it responded to rejected submissions with a brief critique. That’s unusually generous. Some small presses don’t even send rejections. I thought it would be valuable to get a critique along with my rejection.

But Inspired Quill didn’t send me a rejection.

They sent me an acceptance. As any writer will tell you, this is a Great Moment in Writing.

Before the acceptance was final, however, Sara suggested a Skype interview so see if Inspired Quill and I were a good fit. As any writer will also tell you, there are small presses and then there are small presses. On its website, Inspired Quill describes itself as a “Social Enterprise.” I found that intriguing, and during the interview, Sara elaborated. She sees Inspired Quill as more than simply a publisher that produces a product to sell. Rather, Inspired Quill sees itself as part of the web of community. So, for example, it donates part of its profits to charity and runs subsidized workshops. In a phrase, it hopes to do well by doing good. That fit with the way I wanted to see myself and my work.

I want readers.

I want to sell books. But for me, writing is about more than that. It’s the best way I’ve found to examine human experience and touch the human heart. I believe I can do that in partnership with Inspired Quill.

Full Steampunk Ahead

Full Steam(punk) Ahead!

After much procrastination, I’ve returned with a new book in tow and Inspired Quill has been nice enough to take me back. So, what is this new book? Well, it’s a sequel to The Adventures of Alan Shaw, my globe-spanning Steampunk adventure. What’s taken so damned long? I think my procrastination was probably due to a little Authorial Anxiety (for which there should be AA meetings). Having never written a sequel before, my nerves were wracked. However, it’s turned out to be a very different and brilliant experience.

It really starts with the end of the last book, of course.

Is there anything more to say? Does Alan have any more story to tell? Thankfully, the answer was yes. By the end of the first book, Alan was only just beginning to get into his stride as an adventurer. He’d also learnt a lot about the world. He’d lost love and seen exactly how badly things can go when you rush in headlong. His final adventure left him with some very tough emotions to deal with. So, the second novel had a purpose.

What happened to Alan after he leaves his friends and family in the dust as he takes the Great Trunk Road through India alone? Well, you’re about to find out.

It’s been a great ride, coming back to Alan, and possibly the most fun I’ve had writing a book. There’s just something about a character you love, and love putting through their paces. Make no mistake, Alan’s penchant for finding trouble isn’t going away as he grows older. If anything, it’s getting worse. The villains are also getting less obvious. How do you do the right thing when the lines are getting blurry? And with the introduction of a new character in the shape of Meredith “Merry” Rockett, the straight-talking pilot, I think we’re about to find out things about Alan that he doesn’t even know himself.

I honestly can’t wait to hear what you all think of this book. I’m twitching with anticipation.

Steampunk-ing around the UK

Of course, there’s the inevitable touring, signing and event-attending going on throughout the year as I warm up to the release of the new novel. I already have Yorkshire Cosplay Convention, Scarborough Sci-Fi, several Steampunk-related events and a maelstrom of smaller readings, signings and hi-jinks to be getting up to.

I’ve also been delving into non-fiction.

Without putting a grey spot on our re-acquaintance here, I have a long-term history with depression which has both fuelled and felled my writing over the years. With that in mind, I have decided to share my experiences by releasing a free e-book called Down Days (www.downdays.org if you fancy taking a look). The idea was to give an honest insight into mental health issues where people who need it wouldn’t have to worry about buying it. To shatter the stigmas around mental health, profit should be furthest from our minds. Attached to an ongoing blog, Down Days has been a universally positive experience.

The fear of sharing my soul has been banished by the support, camaraderie and gratitude of people who have read this first attempt at non-fic, and have taken something away for themselves. I’ve learnt that, even though I love making things up, sometimes the truth is just more powerful.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to.

If only to explain why Alan has taken so damned long to get off his backside (or rather, me).

Of course, Inspired Quill have been good to me over the years. They took a chance on my first steampunk novel, Greaveburn, when I was just about to give up on it, and liked the old short stories enough to publish them as the Not Before Bed collection. Alan, of course, found his home here, too. Now it only seems right that we set off on the next lap together and I’m hoping that you readers will come along for a jog into adventure. We’ve got a long way to go and so many more stories to tell. For now, for me, it’s back to the keyboard. These books aren’t going to write themselves (more’s the pity).

Thanks for reading everyone.

Stay strange.

Embrace The Weird.

To learn more about Craig’s previous titles, you can check them out here: Greaveburn, The Adventures of Alan Shaw, Not Before Bed.

Eighteen To One

Honestly, I can’t remember a time where reading and writing weren’t part of my life.

I’ve written many short stories in my time, but my two proudest writing achievements are the novels I’ve completed. The first one I began writing at about sixteen. In the end, I wasn’t pleased with the final product and decided to table it, but I still acknowledge the amount of dedication it took to complete a novel at such a young age. Completely hand-written to boot!

Back in May 2009, I was struck with another idea that refused to stay silent. Over the following few years, I poured everything I could into creating a story I would be proud of. And in August 2013, two days before my birthday, I finished the first draft of Eighteen Lives. After the vital help of editors and friends, the manuscript was molded into something I felt was worthy of publication.

Query letters to agents were sent right away. Unfortunately, they didn’t share my enthusiasm and passion for the project. Brushing myself off, I once again tucked myself away into the editing cave, toiling away at the manuscript.

This was when I met EJ Runyon. We’d meet once or twice a week for writing consultations, during which she taught me many invaluable lessons about writing that ended up completely transforming Eighteen Lives.

Following up a comment from EJ, I perused the Inspired Quill website, and found a publisher with integrity – who treated their writers with respect and didn’t put profits before people. I’m so glad that I decided to submit my manuscript. I’ll never forget the moment that the acceptance email popped into my inbox for as long as I live.

So now, here I am, introducing myself to all of you. It’s so surreal to be doing this. There were days where I thought I’d never see my lifelong dream of becoming a published author come true. But I pressed on undeterred anyway. Because I had/have this unshakable feeling that Eighteen Lives is a story that the world will love to hear, even if I didn’t always believe I would be the best one to tell it.

But now, with the help of Inspired Quill, and all of you reading this, I think Eighteen Lives will become something very special. And I can’t thank everyone that believed in me enough for that.

The Long And Short Of It

While we have open submissions for a month or so each year, Inspired Quill has also been known to reach out to amazing talent: to network, to interview, and – just sometimes – to ask if they’d consider a publishing deal with a not-for-profit small press. And – just sometimes – magic happens.


Oh gosh. What to say in this blog?

Hello, my name is James and I write lots and lots of very very short stories. I call them microfiction, but you could probably call them flash fiction. Whatever you call them, they are simply strange little snapshots into other worlds, full of magic and aliens and monsters and love and trauma.

I started writing them years ago, mainly just to get into the habit, and began releasing them on social media in the hope that they may amuse a few friends.

Long story short (as that is kinda my thing), they liked them. In some cases, they really liked them. Some people laughed. Some people even cried. And (because I’m powered by tears) that gave me the confidence to write more frequently and, well, now I write a little story every day on my tumblr. Now even strangers read them. And I keep a running tally of the number of times that my words manage to make someone cry their own tears (#sorrynotsorry).

So, I am incredibly and utterly grateful to Inspired Quill, for taking a chance on me in the hopes that a whole bunch of new strangers might read and enjoy my stories.

I’d like to be able to say that when IQ said they might be interested, I played it cool and rationally thought through my options. But that would be a massive lie, because as soon as I read through IQ’s mission statement and checked out the previous titles, I knew that I’d found a home. Their progressive, ethical and social ethos is just so totally my jam – this is obvs the place for me.

One of the great things that Sara [IQ boss lady] has already done for me is that she’s gotten me to look at the themes of my work. She’s helped me put it into focus. Having written so many bits of microfiction, what on earth is it that ties them all together? For me, it’s surprising people. Taking tropes and twisting them until they spark and start to feel new again.

A big way that I end up doing this is with female characters. Taking traditional damsels in distress and turning them into badass heroes. Or taking wicked witches and remoulding them as tragic heroines. Taking fairy tale princesses and giving them the chance to grab the story by the scruff of the neck and steer it somewhere new…

So that’s what I decided I wanted my first collection to be about. And that’s the book that IQ have been so amazing to help me put together.

It’s a book about heroines. About badass women. Tragic women. Interesting women. Powerful women. Women with desires and failings and power.

And I think it’s a book that fits with what Inspired Quill is trying to do: in that it’s engaged with the world around it, while also being a thoroughly engaging read.

It’s called Heroine Chic. It’s coming out in 2017.

And I really hope you like it.

Open Submissions – 2016!

It’s that time of year again!

For the month of May, we’re opening submissions to, well, everyone. All details can be found on our Submissions page – we don’t believe in making you jump through pointless hoops, so it’s a pretty simple process, and there’s even a direct email address for you to contact if you have any questions.

We respond to every submission we receive within a month of you sending it across, so there’s no waiting around, wondering if we actually got it, or worrying that you didn’t get our response. In fact, if it’s been more than a month and you haven’t heard from us, we encourage you to get back in touch to see where we are in the process of looking over your work!

Why should I trust you?

That’s a great question, and with the sheer number of ‘vanity-lite’ and ‘slap a pre-made cover on and go’ presses out there, it’s more important than ever to make sure you get the right fit when it comes to a publisher that will get the most of your work.

We’ve created a full document just for answering this question, where we look into our ethos and positive points…and also (*Spoiler Alert!*) actually let you in on the areas we still need to improve upon. Hey, we’re not perfect, but at least we’re striving forward towards better quality and growth instead of treating our authors like meal-tickets!

Check It Out Here!

I don’t have anything to submit – can I still ask a question?

Of course! We love seeing the inbox full of committed, enthusiastic writers. Sara has even been known to hop onto Skype or the telephone for half an hour to talk through things with writers who have nothing to do with Inspired Quill. So if you have a query about the industry in general, throw it our way! If we don’t know the answer, we promise not to make stuff up – we’ll point you in the direction of some great resources.

Good luck!

We look forward to hearing from you, and please spread the word! If you have friends who are writers we’d love to hear from them.

Welcome Back…Matthew!

I’m incredibly proud to announce…

…that Inspired Quill have agreed to publish my third book. Very good news, isn’t it?

I’m actually incredibly excited, and it’s hard to portray that emotion over a blog post without using lots and lots of exclamation marks, which I don’t propose to do any time soon. The book itself is a science-fiction story about a prison planet and its inhabitants. I shan’t say any more at the moment, as there’s some serious editing to be done, and that’s entirely normal, but suffice to say that it’s a big departure from my previous fantasy books.

The History:

I was first published back in 2011 by IQ after being accepted just six months earlier. I was in the rather privileged position of being the second author that IQ signed up, and the first to be published. That’s an honour I don’t downplay, and am still thrilled to accept that banner.

I remember getting that first offer over email from Sara (The Boss) one Saturday, when I was having a coffee with a friend, and it pinged through to my phone. Being the anti-social sod that I am, I glanced at the email and saw Sara’s offer – I actually became speechless for a few moments, which is a rarity in itself. I called my mum, and she won’t mind me saying that she cried a little bit; sorry, mum.

I don’t honestly remember where I first came across IQ, but I remember being impressed with the ethos that Sara was imbuing within the social enterprise that she was just creating; ethical conduct, a passion for innovation and a love of words. That hit the mark with me, and that acceptance began an excellent relationship.

It’s been a learning curve for both of us; since that first book, Sara’s been able to adapt her publishing processes to catch things earlier, make the editing process more exhaustive and get more engagement and publicity for the works. She’s also proved to be a willing listener; whenever I’ve wanted to talk, she’s allowed me the chance, and whenever’s she’s had an idea, I’ve respected her views, as I know she’s considered her opinion carefully.

On & Up:

Book three of my publishing career so far is thrilling; the first two books featured the same books and the same world, whereas now I get the chance to explore something new and different – a new world, a new backstory and new characters. The book itself won’t be out until later on in 2017, but that’s fine; there’s plenty to do before that.

So thank you to everyone who have supported me this far; my family, my friends, readers and fellow geeks – oh, and Inspired Quill, naturally. A very positive future ahead, I think!

Happy Birthday, IQ!

Can you remember exactly how you felt exactly five years ago today?

I can.

It was a heady mix of “Heck yeah!” and “Why did I do this, that was a really dumb thing to do. Oh no.

I was living with my grandparents at the time, home from University on Easter Break, and as they handed me my mail, I couldn’t stop grinning.

You see, today (five years ago) was the day that I got my legal business setup certificate for Inspired Quill.

It’s pretty hard to tally up just how much blood, sweat and tears have gone into this publishing house. (Literally – all three!) It’s never been a full-time job for me, but that has never made my dedication any less to this press and the – quite frankly – phenomenal people who have both helped me to create this amazing place, and the supportive, kick-butt authors who decided to let us help bring their work to the wider world.

So, as always, I like to look forward more than back, and I have some super exciting news for you all.

Today marks the launch of the ‘Inspired Quill eWorkshops’. Take a look below at the promo video for our first ever course: Casual to Committed.

Skills development has always been super-high on our list, and now we have the opportunity to bring important knowledge to the creative community at large. Over the next year, we hope to release 2/3 more courses based on the amount of times I get asked questions about certain topics. Every penny taken from one of these courses will be put straight back into Inspired Quill.

Oh! And since it’s our birthday, the first 100 people to enroll in the course using the code “IQBDay5” will save $100 on the course cost!

VISIT THE COURSE PAGE HERE!

Now all that’s left for me to do is hum ‘Happy Birthday to us’ under my breath. I’d sing it, but I don’t want to harm anyone’s eardrums.

Not A Real Writer?

It’s been a frustrating week for the creative industry.

The losses of some incredible talents have left many of us feeling somewhat bereft and sensitive, and then last Friday a weird hashtag emerged on Twitter: #apparentlynotarealwriter. Finding out where it came from wasn’t too difficult, even if the story’s origin was somewhat disappointing.

In essence, it was a reaction to a Tweet by Neil Gaiman, that read: “clarion.ucsd.edu  is where you apply to go to Clarion. If you want to be a writer, you want to go to Clarion, NEED to go to Clarion.” Considering Clarion is an incredibly expensive writing workshop that Mr. Gaiman himself teaches for, it drew an understandably negative response from a lot of the independent or at-home writers; many of whom may never have access to such high price-tag programs.

He did later clarify that it obviously wasn’t meant in a sense of you can NEVER be a writer if you DON’T go to Clarion, but unfortunately the hit had already been taken and even the postscript Tweets such as “All you need to do to be a writer is to write. Clarion & other such workshops will teach you skills, & help. Some help a little, some a lot” were met with a tone of ‘yeah, but you could have said it better’.

While Twitter may have (once again)been a little too sensitive in this case, it’s nevertheless an indicator of the rawness of the industry’s current situation.

The publishing industry is already demanding and overcrowded, and success can be dependent on a connection happening at a random, so backhanded advice seems to be taken to heart much more quickly than words of encouragement.  Most major publishers require even new authors to already have a sizeable fanbase that guarantees a certain level of sales. Everyone else has to jump up and down and wave to be heard or seen. Writers all care about their work and want to see it bloom.

So what’s the upshot?

Whether it’s out of defiance to the initial slip-of-the-tongue  or in accordance with Mr. Gaiman’s clarification (and to his credit, he has always been supportive of people just writing and being passionate about it, too), we remember that anyone who writes is a writer. But some aren’t ready to call themselves that just yet. So, if you need guidance…

Find things that encourage you to be creative, and write authentically. To coin a phrase from Darth Vader, “Search your feelings, you know it to be true” is a very appropriate way to keep writing: look for the truest meaning you can give to the sentences you write. But, obviously, without spending hours crafting each letter. Keep going, set yourself into a routine, and enjoy what you do, are three important tenets of good writing practice. And they’re all things that you can teach yourself.

Writing workshops do help with the more technical aspects of writing, will give you the tools you need to push forwards with the craft, and are able to give good critical feedback… but these are also resources that you can find yourself – although it will likely take a lot longer to find, digest and master each element if you’re flying solo.

Most importantly, don’t give up, even if someone makes a comment that you ‘NEED’ to do something particular to ‘be’ a writer. The journey to publication can take a long time, but ultimately it’s a path worth taking honestly, in your own words.

New Cohort Member!

I’m Jo Zebedee, a science fiction and fantasy writer based in Northern Ireland.

My debut came out in March 2015, the first of a space opera trilogy called Abendau’s Heir, published by Tickety boo press. It’s set in a vast space world with a big set of characters and looks to pull on the themes of classic space opera and challenge them – especially the ‘invincible chosen one’ theme. Book two is out in March 2016 with book 3 to follow in the autumn. (Since writing this, Abendu’s Heir actually hit the #1 spot on Amazon, go Jo! – Sara)

My second book, Inish Carraig, came out in August 2015, and I self published it. Which makes me one of the trendy hybrid authors out and about, and I quite like that – matching the book to the appropriate vehicle. In this case, it’s paid off as Inish Carraig is doing very well and has opened new avenues for me. It’s also totally different from my Abendau series – it’s set in Belfast after an alien invasion and is written in the Northern Irish venacular (but remains accessible.)

I enjoyed writing a story local to me, and wrote another, this time about dark little fairies who dwell deep in the Antrim Glens. Either that, or my character’s imagining them. That story became Waters and the Wild, which Inspired Quill will be releasing in 2017!

I think it will fit really well with IQ. It’s a cross over into literary fiction, as well as fantasy, and I think the title sits well with others they’ve published. I’m very much looking forward to moving forwards with it and seeing how it takes shape over the next year or so.

But I don’t write all the time! I have kids, and run a consultancy, like to garden, and am busy, busy, busy.

[For more about Jo and the links to her social media, head on over to her Author Page here on the IQ website. Welcome aboard, Jo!]

Welcome…Dan Stride!

Hi to the Inspired Quill readership!

My name is Daniel Stride, and I’m the newest member of this little publishing family (newest and probably most distant – as a New Zealander, I’m literally on the other side of the world). Literature in general, and speculative fiction in particular, has always been an interest of mine – my favourite authors include J.R.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, Clark Ashton Smith, and Stephen Donaldson – so I am both honoured and excited that Inspired Quill has decided to take me up on my first novel, Wise Phuul, which I had been working on since 2007.

In the mundane world, I am in the process of getting admitted to the bar (before you ask, that’s bar in the legal sense, not the alcohol sense), which may or may not explain the reflexive deference to precedent among the inhabitants of the novel. Or at least partly explain it – the Viiminian Empire is inherently an odd place, what with the entire socio-economic-political structure being built around the art (or science) of Necromancy.

Falling (broadly) within the steampunk-flavoured section of the fantasy genre, Wise Phuul started with a premise, namely a world where raising the dead is a universal ability – and I then ran with that premise, in the tradition of science-fiction. What I aimed for was an exploration of both the society itself and the character of its inhabitants. My protagonist, a lowly librarian named Teltö Phuul, regards the undead as no more unusual a sight than a bicycle (I imagine he’d probably be downright confused by Game of Thrones). But, don’t worry, he well and truly gets taken out of his comfort zone; the book is about his literal and metaphorical journey, and Teltö on the last page is a very different creature from Teltö on the first page.

I think some of my other interests worm their way into the story too. One of my hobbies is medieval re-enactment – I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. More specifically, I’m interested in Old Norse poetic forms, so while the setting of Wise Phuul is emphatically not medieval (I may be a Tolkien nut, but faux medieval Europe has been done to death in the genre), you see at least one example of skaldic verse, in English. I’m also a bit of a Finnophile, which manifests itself in some of the naming conventions. Kuolla is the Finnish verb ‘to die’, and one of its forms is kuoli, so calling the capital of a Necromantic Empire Kuolinako seemed appropriate.

I hadn’t previously read an Inspired Quill book – I pretty sure there aren’t any currently stocked in the Dunedin Public Library – but having done a bit of background research, and possessing a functioning social conscience, I am very enthusiastic about being part of a social enterprise. In the cut-throat world of publishing, I think it is genuinely awesome that a firm is dedicated to giving back to the wider community.

Roll on 2016!