Saturday, 16 February 2019

Welcome to the Weird West - and a Kickstarter to explore


Last year, as readers of the blog may know, I had my first Weird West tale published - The Clockwork Cowboy in the Hideous Progeny anthology from Writerpunk Press. It was my first step into a Wild West frontier remade into a world where anything was possible - and it's a world which Diane Morrison has been exploring for some time. She stops by the blog to chat about the genre - just as she is closing in on the finishing line for a Kickstarter for an anthology in the genre, Gunsmoke & Dragonfire. 



Welcome, Diane! So the anthology is a Weird West fistful of tales – so what is Weird West?

Weird West is what you call it when Westerns meet the supernatural. TV Tropes has an excellent definition and explanation on their website, and Cat Rambo and I discussed it in an interview I did for my last Kickstarter. More often than not, this will be a horrific element, like zombie cowboys, or ghosts, or Lovecraftian monsters. But it could also be in the form of traditional high fantasy elements – like, say, replacing horses with unicorns. That’s much less common though; people are surprised when I tell them this is what I write.

What’s the thing you love most about the genre? What is it that fires your imagination when reading through all the stories?

That’s a good question. I don’t think I can answer it in a single paragraph.

I have always loved places where genre boxes break down. Life never fits in boxes; why should fiction?

Westerns tend to be gritty. They’re nasty, violent, depend heavily on unreliable narrators, and are often morally ambiguous. Even when they weren’t intended to be, they nevertheless end up being so in a modern context – nobody thinks “Cowboy and Indian” stories are heroic anymore, and they never were.

Fantasy – at least, classic high fantasy – is often criticized because it tends to be whimsical and hopeful, with clearly-defined paths of right and wrong. I’m not saying any of that is a bad thing, even if it were entirely true (which it isn’t.) What’s wrong with a hopeful tale of people trying to do good in the world once in a while? What’s wrong with a little escapism, where anything might happen and anything is possible?

But the place where the two meet… now, that’s interesting. The Fantasy uplifts the Western, and the Western grounds the Fantasy.

We think we know Westerns. We think we know the rules. But suppose that instead of slinging guns, people sling spells? Or perhaps the menace that controls the town isn’t Black Bart and his gang; it’s something much more ancient and alien? Or maybe the cowboys are herding giant bugs instead of cattle? Now, anything at all can happen, and all the rules go right out the window!

The best stories don’t just contain elements of both genres; they successfully combine thematic elements of both genres. There are natural places where they meld. Tales of wandering gunmen have a lot in common with tales of knights errant or ronin stories. Tales of “taming the wilderness” gain even greater weight when applied to alternate dimensions or other planets. I wrote a bit about that in the Foreword for this book.




Regular blog visitors Ricardo Victoria and Brent A. Harris are both part of the anthology - and you can see their chat with Diane Morrison above.

Is this a new genre or have writers of the past sauntered their way through these valleys before?

Oh no, it’s not new. It’s just uncommon for some reason. Maybe people hear the idea and are skeptical, so they don’t give it a chance? Arguably, Robert E. Howard might be considered the founder of the genre, with his 1932 story “The Horror from the Mound,” although I’m sure ghost stories that took place in Western settings must have predated him. That’s why I chose to include a Howard story in the anthology, although only a few were available to the public domain. I had to settle on a Solomon Kane story, as opposed to one of the more obvious Weird Westerns that he wrote, but it works!



What drew you into writing in the genre?

Okay, true story? I wanted to write about a D&D paladin who wasn’t a traditional knight-in-shining-armour. I thought about how such a character might manifest in different time periods. How would their weapons change with the technology? How would the code that they live and die to defend change?

Then I read Wizard and Glass, the fourth book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga, and the first one in which we got to see the protagonist in his youth, when the crumbling mythical kingdom of Gilead still stood. And I thought: What was it like to be a gunslinger in Gilead before it began to crumble? What would have happened if Camelot had survived into the early Industrial Age?

My world is a very different one now, but those were the thoughts that formed the seed of the idea. I didn’t even discover the term “Weird West” until my first story was already out. But the more I read, the more I loved it, and the more I wanted to share the genre and get others interested in it too!


Check out the trailer for the book above! 

Apart from backing the Kickstarter – obviously! – and your own series that there’s a link for below, where’s a great place to start reading?

Thanks for the plug! Also thanks for supporting us!

But okay, seriously: there’s a lot of amazing stuff out there, and you’ve probably already read it or seen it, but you didn’t know what to call it. You asked where to start reading so I’ll limit myself to print. I’ve already mentioned Robert E. Howard’s classic Weird West stories, and many of his Solomon Kane stories also cross into the genre. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series might be the most ambitious Weird Western ever written. H.P. Lovecraft took a stab at it in a ghostwritten story for Zealia Bishop in 1940 called “The Mound.”



Louis L’Amour even tried his hand in his novel The Haunted Mesa. David Gemmell wrote one called Wolf in Shadow that has a post-apocalyptic/magical take, and Joe R. Lansdale wrote Dead in the West. There’s also the multi-authored Deadlands series, including a novel called Deadlands: Boneyard by Nebula winner Seanan McGuire. Nebula-nominee & SFWA President Cat Rambo also writes Weird Westerns, Delilah S. Dawson has written several in the popular Shadow series under the pen name Lila Bowen, and Gemma Files’ Hexslinger series is a lot of fun! And in comics you’ve got Jonah Hex, Solomon Kane, Wild Wild West, and so forth. I’m sure there’s many more I’ve forgotten and will regret having done so later, but that’ll keep you busy for a while.

I’d like to add that I’m not the only writer in this anthology who does Weird West on the regular. Zach Chapman’s story is part of his Spellslinger story series, some of which have been published elsewhere; and Milo James Fowler gave us one of his Coyote Cal stories.

Many thanks for visiting, Diane, glad to have you call by. Good luck with the project, I can't wait to read it. 

Listen to regular blog visitor Rob Edwards narrate one of the stories from the anthology, Lonesome, by Carrie Gessner, at his Storycast podcast here

Check out Diane being interviewed by R Daniel Lester about the anthology for more details here.

To back the anthology on Kickstarter, go to its campaign page here.

Authors featured in the anthology

Robert Lee Beers - A hardboiled P.I. and his partner must find their way back to the present from 1906 San Francisco before the Big One hits, dodging gunslingers and the risk of changing history, with only a drunken misanthropic wizard to help them...
James Blakey - A sheriff must question a colourful cast of characters to discover who has stolen a unicorn rancher's herd...
Laurence Raphael Brothers - A barkeep hopes for a chance at revenge against a band of outlaws, but the help he receives may not be natural...
Zach Chapman - A card-cheating Spellslinger must duel a mysterious Green Gunslinger to his damnation or salvation...
Sara Codair - Two Martian sheriffs must stop a gang of outlaws from stealing a settlement's precious water, if they can keep their marriage together long enough to do it...
Eric S. Fomley - A marshal comes to town seeking an outlaw, but neither he nor the outlaw are the ordinary kind...
Milo James Fowler – Heroic Coyote Cal, the witch Donna Jamieson, and his faithful sidekick Big Yap, must stop a monster from ravaging the livestock and people of a town in the western desert...
Ron S. Friedman - A WWI pilot shot down over the Amazon must survive Germans, crazy scientists, the jungle and dinosaurs...
Carrie Gessner - An elven veteran is called back to face her demons when a little girl is snatched to serve the army that destroyed her...
Paul Alex Gray - The heir to the Bourbon Throne must earn coin in America to overthrow the French Republic and reclaim his birthright, so he builds a fantastic contraption to aid him...
Jude-Marie Green - Sorceress Jane Smith knows her partner Donna Quick is quite mad, but she follows her anyway...
Brent A. Harris - Marshal Bass Reeves has been asked for help by a desperate frontier settlement beleaguered by a dragon...
Ethan Hedman - A wandering gunfighter inherits an enchanted weapon, but it's broken...
Joachim Heijndermans - Two outlaws hole up in a quiet town full of terrified townsfolk, but all is not as it seems...
Russell Hemmell - Two investigators must discover why an entire colony in the Kuiper Belt has disappeared, leaving nothing but an anachronistic western frontier town in its place...
Liam Hogan - A young outlaw is hunted by an implacable mechanical foe...
G. Scott Huggins - A blacksmith with ghostly allies receives an unusual, and dangerous, client...
Sean Jones - The last Norse descendant in North America, who swears vengeance on the Comanche for killing his wife and village, is given supernatural aid by the Navajo...
Mackenzie Kincaid - Junior died helping Pa maintain the fence against the Somethings, so now 12-year-old Jane must take his place...
R. Daniel Lester - An old tap-dancing celebrity defaults on the payments for his magical shoes, and a repo agent has come to collect...
Diane Morrison - Two young elven Gunslingers must stop a cannibal spirit before it, or the blizzard it brings, kills everyone they know...
Diana L. Paxson - A painter journeys to the Rockies to paint landscapes, and stumbles upon an ancient mystery...
Claire Ryan - Rollo is going to get her giant slug herd in to market, come hell or high water, monster or no monster...
Ricardo Victoria - An ex-spellslinger has taken up a career as a travelling salesbeing of a newfangled weapon called a "rifle"...
Stanley B. Webb - A U.S. Marshal must stop a notorious outlaw who may or may not be a dragon...




Find out more about Diane's own series, the Wyrd West Chronicles, at her website here.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

A new story coming soon in the Gods of Clay anthology

There's a story I've not been able to talk about for a while - a story of which I'm very proud. And now I can tell you all about it. 

Cold Was The Ground is a new short story by me and it's going to be published in the forthcoming anthology Gods of Clay, published by that fine crew over at the SciFi Roundtable. 

Check out the cover, by the ever talented Ian Bristow. 


The anthology considers the nature of life, the nature of intelligence - and questions what makes gods what they are. Is faith born out of legend, conditioning or something else? Are gods born out of legend? Or are some of our gods built out of nuts and bolts?

These are some of the questions that swirl through the pages of the book, and there are some great tales. I had the delight of being able to read through the book ahead of its release - and write a foreword to it - and I can promise you some sizzling stories. Far be it for me to pick favourites, but I really, really enjoyed the first story in the book, from Jeanette O'Hagan. Wait... did I just pick a favourite? Shh, I think I got away with it.

The book is available to pre-order now right here: mybook.to/godsofclay



It's a privilege to be alongside such talented authors - my own story is set on a distant world, but inspired by a figure from closer to Earth.

The story was inspired by the music of Blind Willie Johnson, and particularly his song Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground.

Blind Willie lost his sight as a boy - the story goes that his stepmother threw lye in his face, robbing him of his sight forevermore. Yet he learned to play the guitar, and he sang blues gospel as he travelled from town to town, through the roads and byways of the southern US, his slide guitar garnering fans along the way. He died in 1945, contracting a fever after living in the ruins of his house even after it was burned down.



And that's it, right? Well, not quite. Years later, when Carl Sagan was tasked with putting together a selection of music to put on the golden record to be placed inside Voyager, to carry the sounds of mankind to the stars, he turned to the work of Blind Willie Johnson. Track 14, disk 2, the penultimate track. Blind Willie Johnson's voice still travelling, no longer on the roads and byways, but to the stars themselves.

Here's the track. Enjoy.

 

Friday, 25 January 2019

Adventures in audio - my stories take to the airwaves


It's been a fun week for me this week - because not one, but two of my stories have been recorded as podcasts, and they're free for you to listen to!

First out of the gate this week was Rob Edwards with his regular Storycast show. He recorded my story The Secret War, which you may remember from the Tales From Alternate Earths anthology. It's set in London in the 1890s, and tells the real story behind a very famous tale. Well, what could have been the real story...



I love listening to Rob's podcasts so I was delighted when he asked if he might read one of my stories on his show. Many thanks, Rob.

You can listen to it over on his Storycast website - and the link to the story is here: http://www.storycastrob.co.uk/?p=episode&name=2019-01-21_33_mag_10_secret_war.mp3

If you enjoy it - and I hope you do - then it's in great company in the Alternate Earths anthology. You might want to take a peek at that for some more smashing stories, including one by Rob himself. That's available at mybook.to/alternate.

Already delighted with that, I was also tickled pink when LA Rivers asked for submissions to her podcast. She has a great voice for podcasting, and her show is a nice, warm, welcoming slice of cool to chat about books and enjoy literature.



She reads my story Professor Algernon Whitlock's Exotic and Fabulous Grand Tour of the Underworld, from the Tales From The Underground anthology, as an expedition led by the redoubtable Professor Whitlock takes on some of the most challenging caves known to mankind - and relive a journey he took in his youth.

You can listen to that right here thanks to an embed - but I heartily recommend you call by her website too, right here.



Tales From The Underground is available on Amazon at mybook.to/Uground.

Lastly, as I'm rounding these up, I would be remiss not to mention a previous story of mine recorded for a podcast - CB Droege recorded my flash fiction piece The Last Post some time ago and it's also still available to hear.

You can find that over on his website at https://www.patreon.com/posts/ffp-0216-last-11763292.

Thank you very much to all three - and you can keep up with each of their podcasts by following them on Twitter at the links below.

Rob Edwards: https://twitter.com/StorycastRob
LA Rivers: https://twitter.com/nights_la
CB Droege: https://twitter.com/CBDroege

Happy listening, one and all! EDIT: Oh, and one more thing! Wait, I feel Columbo just called by here. A little while ago, Rob interviewed me about a host of topics. And you can watch that right here:

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

COVER REVEAL: The Lynching Calendar, by Jessica Starks

Every once in a while, we get a request here at Altered Instinct to take part in a cover reveal, or a book launch in some fashion - and sometimes those requests slot right in to our readership's kind of books, and sometimes they sit up and make you pay attention even if it's not your usual genre. Today we're pleased to introduce a book that fits the latter category. We've not read it ourselves here at the blog, but we're certainly intrigued to read more about a very challenging time in our history. Take a look.

Altered Instinct is pleased to share the cover of Jessica Starks’ debut book, The Lynching Calendar, with you.





Genre: Literary Historical Fiction
Publication Date: October 18, 2019


About The Book


False Accusations.
Toxic Love.
Fear of the Misunderstood.
Innocence Lost.
Internal Torture that Lasts for a Lifetime.


The Lynching Calendar gives readers a sneak peek into one of America's darkest times. History tends to tell the story from one perspective, but what if we had the chance to hear the story from those involved? The Lynching Calendar allows us a chance to hear the full story and show that, no matter what the circumstance may be, there is more than one side to every story.




About The Author


Jessica Starks is a small business owner and professional writer who enjoys expressing herself creatively. The Mississippi native is also a genealogist by hobby who appreciates the stories of her ancestors.  


Connect Socially





THE LYNCHING CALENDAR, a literary historical fiction piece from debut author Jessica Starks is coming #Oct18!

Learn More Here: https://thepenandtheneedle.blogspot.com/2019/01/cover-reveal-lynching-calendar-by.html

Saturday, 12 January 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Fulcrum of Odysseus, by Eric Michael Craig; Star Liner, by Scott Branchfield; Glimpses anthology; Broadswords and Blasters issue 1; Murder Most Mundane, by Mad Robot Comics



Welcome back, all - I've been struck by a little post-Christmas bug the past few days, which wasn't so good for cracking on with work, but sure helped me zip through some of my current reading. We have sci-fi, fantasy - and another graphic novel to review this week. 


Star Liner, by Scott Branchfield

There's a classic feel to this deep space tale from Scott Branchfield. It's like one of those smashing 70s or 80s sci-fi tales I used to devour from the library such as Andre Norton or Alan Dean Foster.
The premise is fairly simple - Jan is an entertainer recruited to help guests aboard a luxury space liner pass the time as they face a journey of months between stars.
It's a fairly slow start, as Jan meets his fellow crew members, learns the layout of the ship... and then things unravel quickly, with a murder on board. Suspicion points Jan's way, but that murder is just the beginning as events spiral out of control. Jan starts out having to clear his name, but soon will be faced with a fight for his life itself.
Branchfield really ratchets up the tension as the book goes along, with the tale moving at a real pace after that initial start.
By the end, you're really rooting for the characters... well, most of them. One or two you're happy to see come to a gruesome fate!

AI Rating: 4/5

Star Liner is available on Amazon here


Fulcrum of Odysseus, by Eric Michael Craig

If you're thinking the author's name is familiar, you're right - I reviewed the first book in this series just a week ago. The second book is out already, and the third book coming soon - so I expect you'll see another review soon too! 
Fulcrum of Odysseus picks up where the first book, Legacy of Pandora, left off - with Chancellor Kathryn Roja on the run from the Union fleet and the crew of the Jakob Waltz perched on the edge of a mystery that may be bigger than the conflicts tearing apart human society elsewhere in the solar system. The Jakob Waltz section of the story more and more reminds me of epics such as Greg Bear's Eon - but it's just part of the whole picture. 
You really need to read book one rather than drop into the middle of events here, but the story is all the better for doing so, as characters that seemed to be minor players in the first book come into their own, stepping up into the limelight and the battle for political supremacy engulfing mankind. 
There's a lot to love here - but one thing I particularly have to note is the dialogue, filled with altered future dialect and phrasing that seems odd at first but enriches the setting. 
Roja drops a little into the background of the saga in this book as events elsewhere dominate, but ends up... well, that would be telling. What I will tell you is that I'm very much looking forward to book three. 

AI Rating: 5/5
Fulcrum of Odysseus is available on Amazon here.


Glimpses: 16 Short Fantasy Stories

I do love reading short story anthologies - but I'm afraid this one felt a little undercooked. 
From the start, it hit a stumble - the opening story, The Killing Fields, by Sarah KL Wilson, is little more than a vignette set in her larger universe. Throw in a bit of weirdness in that the empire in the story is very much Oriental in nature but is headed by a woman with a Scottish-sounding name (without any explanation of how the two come together) and it's an awkward read. 
The anthology stays awkward throughout - the fantasy focus isn't always very tight (one story even diving off into Lovecraftian lore), resolutions are a bit too quick and easy, and a few too many are footnotes to a larger universe without really giving us a grasp of the setting in the story itself. 
Some are plain silly - The Wolf of Wool Street starts with a parody of having unwanted religious guests coming knocking at the door before introducing us to a werewolf by the name of... Woger. Who has a grandfather called Wandolph. It's a bit heavy-handed. 
My favourite story from the anthology came quite late on - Dance of Swords by JC Kang is another encounter with Eastern fantasy, but done far better, as a dancer turns would-be assassin, losing herself in the power of her music even as she edges closer to vanquishing a dictator. It's without doubt the highlight of an overall disappointing collection. 

AI Rating: 2/5

Glimpses is available on Amazon here.



Broadswords and Blasters Issue 1

Broadswords and Blasters is a blast from the past in many ways - a two-fisted return to pulp fantasy and sci-fi, and it's jolly good fun. 
As ever with anthologies, some tales find favour more than others, and one or two definitely missed the spot for me. A bit too much wish-fulfilling sex here and there, and one story that if it was adapted into a roleplaying game would plausibly have the title Pincers & Penises. But hey. 
One of the stories is a two-parter, the second part being in issue 2, which was probably a bit of a mistake to include but such are the lessons one learns when trying something new.
I really enjoyed the story The Executioner's Daughter, about a young woman trying to take on the hood of her father, while Dead Men Tell Tales was a clever little sci-fi tale by Dave D'Alessio. 
Perhaps the best tale of all though was the sparkling Saturday Night Science, by Michael M Jones, a full-on interdimensional romp of a first date between two women geniuses with occasional teasing about light bondage included. It's witty, it's joyful and it's really quite touching by the end. 
I like the joie de vivre and all out fun in this magazine - and the team's philosophy as spelled out in the foreword. At the time of writing, I think they are eight issues in - I'll certainly be back for more. 

AI Rating: 4/5

Broadswords and Blasters Issue 1 is available on Amazon here



Graphic novels and comics
Murder Most Mundane, by Ash Deadman, Matt Hardy, Clark Bint, Edward Bentley and Robin Jones

I picked up Murder Most Mundane from the Kickstarter run by its publisher, Mad Robot Comics - and it's a corker of a read. 
Take a dash of Wicker Man, a sprinkling of Midsomer Murders and the slightest smidge of Hot Fuzz and you have the story, in which a big-town police officer fallen on hard times winds up in a tiny, sleepy village. 
And then the killings start. 
Gruesome and witty by turn, the deaths that stalk the streets of the village of Fadfield get progressively more inventive, and come faster and faster. There are hints too that something strange is going on - is this the work of just one killer? Or is everyone in the village in on it? 
The artwork by Clark Bint is great too - and one particular shot of the detective and his sidekick walking up the street while every curtain twitches sets the mood perfectly. 
This is the best I've read yet from Mad Robot Comics - and deservedly gets five stars. 

AI Rating 5/5

Murder Most Mundane is available on the Mad Robot Comics website

Sunday, 6 January 2019

MEET THE AUTHOR: Get to know writer, artist and musician Ian Bristow


Ian Bristow is a talented man. He's an author, and also an artist - the creator behind a number of covers for books that have featured right here in this blog. Add to that being a musician and... well, I might be a tad jealous of such an array of skills! He stopped by the blog to say hi and to chat about his work. Meet Ian Bristow. 



Hi Ian, and welcome to Altered Instinct!

You’re an artist, a writer, a composer… that’s a pretty wide range of talents right there! Many a creator struggles to find time for one thing to do – when you get free time, what’s most often your gut thing to do from those three? 

I think music is my main go-to when I have free time, as I am a freelance artist and part-time author.  So, essentially, music is the only one of the three with no monetary attachments, leaving me free to truly relax when I create.



A time lapse video of Ian's work in progress for his painting Mage

Have you formal training in any of the disciplines or self-taught – how did you come to each of those? 

I’ve had formal training in all three, via college and also one on one tutelage. That said, I self-educate on a regular basis. It is not enough to merely take some classes and expect to grow in any area of life without further exploration and effort. Practice is key to any skill. Take an athlete, for example. Footballers don’t have a great touch on the ball or send a perfect pass to their teammate 60 yards away without training for hours on end. I came to art as a very young child. Colors fascinated me. I came to music as a young child as well. My mom taught me piano from the age of 5 to 10, when I started playing clarinet, which I put down to start playing guitar (I was 13). Writing, however, did not become part of my life until my late 20s. I wanted to illustrate a book for younger children and asked my sister to write one, she never did, so I sort of just wrote it myself. The story evolved into the Conner’s Odyssey trilogy and hilariously, I never ended up using my illustrations in the final version. Funny old world, in’it?


The first book in Ian's Conner's Odyssey trilogy

Tell us a little about your most recent writing project – what is it called, and what is it about? Give us your elevator pitch to make us fall in love with it! 

The title is Instinct Theory: First Contact. It’s about the first mission into interstellar space to study an earth-like planet discovered in another star system. Here’s a brief pitch: Though known by few, Earth’s ability to sustain human life has nearly been exhausted. The Federation’s quest to find a new host planet has finally paid off, and a small team of experts—ignorant to the urgency of their mission—has been sent to explore the new world prior to settlement. But to what lengths will the Federation go to keep their secret? Murder? Genocide? Or is no price too high to pay?

What inspired the story? 

My Cultural Anthropology class was the first inspiration. I thought, how cool would it be to have the opportunity to be the first person charged with studying the culture of another race of sentient beings? And the answer was—write a book…

Without spoilers, what was one of your favourite moments of the story to write? What was it that made you enjoy that section so much? 

One of my favorite moments to write was introducing my MC to the fact that another planet had been discovered with sentient life, and that the federation wanted her to be part of the team to go and study this life. As a cultural anthropologist, there would be no greater accolade. This moment came early in the story and really gave me the opportunity to dig into the MC’s character in a way that made writing her from then on feel unforced.


Ian says: "Prelude to Winter is a piece I did to reacquaint myself with good old fashion landscape work."

What were some of your favourite books to read as a child? Which were the first books you remember falling in love with? 

I really loved the Redwall series. Brian Jacques’ creativity was astounding.  I also enjoyed the Hobbit and LOTR books a ton. Outside of that, I’m a bit foggy on the stuff I read. I actually spent a great deal more time outside as a child. That or building Legos and drawing.

Who are your favourite authors to read? And in a similar vein, who are the artists who influenced you? 

Wow, this is tough. I really enjoy Patrick Rothfuss, Tolkien, Crichton, Rowling (Harry Potter only), and of course, the aforementioned Brian Jacques. There are plenty of others, of course.  The artists who inspired me growing up were any involved in Disney productions, my mom, and Bob Ross. As I’ve gotten older, that has not changed, but others have been added to the list.



This piece was created as an exploration of creature design, and how texture, focus and light can help bring a level of realism to the work.

What has been your favourite reaction to your work – be it writing, art or music? 

Any time I get the sense that I have inspired another person to create, I feel wholly satisfied. And of course, when someone goes out of their way to tell me they loved my book, or music or painting, that never gets old either.

2019 is upon us now - what’s coming up for you this year? Any big landmarks you’re aiming for? 
Publishing my WIP. I’ve been working on it for quite a long time and still have much work to do, so if I can release this year, I’ll be very pleased. I’m working towards a fall release.


Ian's novel Hunting Darkness

What has been your biggest challenge as a writer? What hurdles have you had to overcome, and what helped you to do so? 

My biggest challenge has been recognizing that each time I feel I’ve reached a goal in my craft, it merely opens my eyes to a new set of issues I need to address. It’s as if each time I rein in one writerly issue, I’m awarded a pair of goggles that highlights the next issue with florescent paint. This journey is one with rest stops, and some might even have accommodations like peer approval or fan acquisition, but then you have to get back on the road and keep to the quest, lest you stay there forever and stagnate. The main hurdle I’ve overcome is acceptance of the issue I’ve just spoken about, and the thing that helped me do so was my peers. Other folks who are going through the same thing and able to offer solution-oriented empathy, not sympathy for something they know little about.



Taking art to the streets - Ian Bristow creating some chalk art

Marketing is always a challenge for writers – to share the love, what have you found the most useful tip for spreading the word about books? 

Marketing… A word that strikes fear in the hearts of all who live paycheck to paycheck. I have very little money, and as a result, I am quite dreadful at marketing. I could market my book or eat dinner… It’s like that for many of us indies. But I know what I would do if I did have that bit of financial padding, and that would be to hire a PR expert, set up regular ads on Amazon, and create high-end advertising material, such as professional trailers with industry-leading production, etc. And above all, it’s a rinse and repeat thing. You don’t get the sale the first or hundredth time a potential reader sees your book in the ocean of options. They need to have that opportunity to buy over and over and over again.

Where can readers follow you to find out more about your work? 

They can check out my website http://iancbristow.com or follow me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/iancbristow/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/Ian_Bristow.
And if they have a taste for art, they can look me up on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFCuKj0oVoo9hIsSrZlv_fg/videos?view_as=subscriber

A traditional question here at Altered Instinct – what are you reading at present, and what is the best book you’ve read in the past year? 

I am currently reading Light’s Rise by Yvette Bostic. The best book I read in the last year was Mistrust and Treason by E.M. Swift-Hook.

Many thanks, Ian - a delight to have you call by the blog. Good luck with that WIP! 

* A painting by Ian inspired one of my own flash fiction pieces - which you can read, and see the art that sparked it, right here.