Indy Fantasy Writers: Alice Gristle!

indyfantasywritersOkay, gentle peeps – you know the drill. This blog is fortunate enough to be able to host a series of interviews with indy fantasy authors, covering various aspects of their work and the self-publishing process. Last week we talked to Richard M. Ankers, and today we will be chatting with the delightfully mischievous Alice Gristle, author of the alternative-history, dark fantasy work The Blood Cup of Clairmont!

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Latest Work: The Blood Cup of Clairmont

The Blood Cup of Clairmont

1. Tell us about your cover. What does it show? Why is this one your favorite?

This is the cover I whipped up for The Blood Cup of Clairmont, my first novella. It’s part of my dark fantasy series that pays homage to (you guessed it!) Castlevania, that pulpiest of all pulpy platformers, where you can bullwhip Dracula. To honour the tradition of cheapness in pulp fiction (or out of laziness?) I spent an entire half hour in creating this cover. However, although I lavished neither time nor resources on it, some thought actually went into conjuring this cover.

First, I love minimalism. Minimalism is beauty. So, I wanted my cover to do as little as possible – just the title, author name, and some stylised element to round off the visual trinity. Canva, the site I worked with, provided these like burger steaks off McD grill.

Second, what colours to use? Black and red were le mot juste. They go well together both visually and thematically. Though I skimped on everything else, I did spend some time choosing the exact shade of red and black. Despite my cheapness and laziness, I have a pretty well-developed aesthetic sense. If I disobey that sense too much, I get a terrible aesthetic hangover, which I have to cure by binge eating chocolate truffles and weeping inside a blanket…

Third, what about continuity? The Blood Cup of Clairmont will have two sister novellas, further detailing the adventures of the Clairmont clan, so the covers need to march in tune. The second novella (hopefully coming out this December) will have a predominantly white cover, while the last novella relies on a combination of blue and black. Like The Blood Cup, they all obey the same principle of minimalism (or laziness). Also, together they suggest the colours of the flag of France, although in reverse. Fitting, since the Clairmont clan originates from France!

I’m actually contradicted about this cover. I’m ashamed of it, because, well, it’s pretty cheap. But at the same time, I’m proud of being ashamed of it. I mean, if this were in print, it would be on poor-quality recycled paper that tears on the first day of reading, and later you’d find it, mangled and coffee-stained, at some BookCrossing shelf, rubbing shoulders with lovely Harlequin romances and the Windows 98 User Manual. Perfectly pulp!

Find out more about what Alice is up to over at:

The Blood Cup of Clairmont can be purchased here


One of the key features of the Airship Wars‘ vessels, is that most are fantasy airships rather than say, diesel punk or ‘balloon-punk’ (I think I just coined that phrase…). Although I still love balloons, and we we have a few of those appearing as well…

However, here are some great ideas of how airships can be constructed from Felonius Monk (not that one) and Neill Richards, which have been instrumental in deciding how to position and describe the “Air Fans” (side sails) we have.


Airship Thumbs by Felonius Monk over at Deviantart.


Airship Concepts by Neill Richards at Artstation.



Indy Fantasy Writers: Richard M. Ankers!

indyfantasywritersToday I am happy to announce a new addition to this blog; guest posts by other indy authors on different aspects of their recent fantasy work. Why? Because indy writers need you! And they rock. One of my first introductions to the indy community came in the form of the small press zines – back in the day when that meant actual printed chapbooks and newsletters sent out by fans to their subscribers all over the world. Fantastic literature by way of punk rock, if you will. Many of those pen-and-paper storyzines have since folded – but the indy tradition has grown with the advent of digital self-publishing.

Every week, I will be featuring a different author talking on one subject, and the first season is “Covers”.

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Covers; they say that you shouldn’t judge a book by them, and yet many of us do. They are the first impression of our work, the hook that draws us in, the bold statement to the world about what secrets they are about to discover.

Without further ado, kicking off this new season is the studious and dedicated dark fantasy author, Richard M. Ankers!

Latest Work Title: Into Eternity

Series Title: The Eternals Series

Into Eternity, by Richard M. Ankers
1. Tell us about your cover. What does it show? Why is this one your favorite?

I was fortunate, although I’m no artist, to have sent some concept sketches with my original book submissions. My publisher took note of the style and had their own artist come up with appropriate covers.

I was most pleased with the final book in the series, Into Eternity, as it depicted the anti-hero, Jean, most accurately. The image of him brooding over a broken world was as good as I could ever have hoped for. There is something about the scene, perhaps its simplicity, that eludes to the story rather than outright forces it upon a reader. I liked this. I also liked Jean’s hands being in his pockets (his ennui is endless and that image speaks volumes.) The cover also allows a little scope for the reader to dream up their own thoughts about the situation. It is far better presenting something like this rather than giving the game away, especially when the final part of a trilogy. What’s the point of reading something if you already know the outcome?

I am, as are most people, drawn to visuals when purchasing a book. There are few things in marketing as important as a cover. I think mine is perfect for the Sci-Fi / Dark Fantasy setting that it describes. Good job, Mister Artist.

Thank you for reading,


By Crom!

Today’s news is brought to you, gentle reader, by the powers of coffee and over-excitement. I should apologize in advance.

As of 5am, my first fantasy ebook Hand of the Storm went live over on Amazon. To say that I was nervous, biting nails and knocking on wood would be an understatement. Just checking in later, then – to see that we’re #1 in our category!


Admittedly; it is a very niche category, for lovers of fantasy pirates, but still. That is what the book is all about, and a victory that I am happy to take. Or a good omen, at least. I’m sure it won’t last long on the top shelf, so at least that will keep my blood pressure down! I am super-humbled by this, as it has been a labor of love for me, and some of those other books in the category are truly great, with some outrageously good covers.

So thank you once again, dear reader.

In Other News:

This blog is to be hosting guest posts! I have tentatively called it an ‘Indy Fantasy Writer’s Guild’ although that might be subject to change over the coming weeks and months. Thanks to the generosity of some great indy authors, I will be showcasing a series of other fantasy worlds and works by my online friends. Every ‘season’ we will feature guest posts on particular aspects of their work – Characters, Inspiration, Covers, Setting etc., and you, dear reader, will be able to see some of the different approaches and techniques that us strange breed of authors have!

To kick us off we will first be discussing Covers, and in no particular order, we have:

Many thanks to the above authors getting involved. If you would like to take part in this series (all free, of course) then please send me a carrier pigeon.

A Fortuitous Find

As a small way of me saying thank you for my present good omen, I want to share with you one of my image-finds that helped inspire The Airship Wars. This amazing bit of artwork by the talented Elsa Kroese is close in feel to Breaker’s Reach, the Air Docks where all of the world’s airships go to die. But Breaker’s Reach is much, much bigger – a wooden fortress rearing over hot plains, with multiple dock-platforms and jetties, rather than just the one we have here.

Landing Dock by Elsa Kroese

Landing Dock by Elsa Kroese

Hand over hand on the rope, Tal climbed the hull of the half-demolished clipper, and as he did so the platforms and buildings of the Eastern Docks came into view, and beyond them, the rest of the wooden fastness that made up Breaker’s Reach.

It was a collection of wooden towers, of sorts, if someone had decided to mount them onto the sides of sheer cliffs, and still wasn’t happy with how low it was. The levels, platforms, jetties and walkways soared hundreds of feet into the air above the cliffs and scrubby plains, constantly keening with the hot winds, and at which the dotted shapes of half-dismantled hulls were shackled.

That’s all for now peeps – more updates and ramblings from me to follow; and stay tuned for some excellent chat with other indy fantasy authors!



Updates: Number-Crunching & News

I was never one of those kids good at maths, hardly surprising, perhaps. It was humanities all the way for me. English Literature and Language, History and Art. Those were the subjects that kept me coming back for more. Not that I don’t like science, mind; I follow the science columns and feeds with the hungry wonder of a specfic writer; time-travelling particles, interconnected, micro-rhizomatic plants that can communicate with each other, the 5-year mission to Mars… But; I was just never very good at the sciency-bit.

Nonetheless, since self-publishing I have discovered the glory of spreadsheets. Or the necessity of spreadsheets. On this crazy adventure I need a method to track contacts, friendly souls, reviewers, and the like. Here’s my simplified process:


 – I like to have a preferred-name column so I can add in their personal name, “Rich” or “Alice” for example, otherwise it seems a bit rude to just have an address!

– A space for their email – even if I have already saved it into an email contact group, because we all know how easily it is for computers and mail servers to crash!

– Website address if they have one, or want to share it with me.

– Date contacted so I can tell if I’m being lax in my responses.

– The Extra columns are for whatever personal group/list I am running. If it’s a reviewer group I might have headings like “ARC Sent?” with a Yes or No in each. Or maybe if it’s a more friendly group I could put in notes like “doesn’t want PDFs!”

And that’s it! Only time will tell if it’s a system that can work in the long term, but for my small starting-out process it’s all golden.

In other news, I decided to opt for TinyLetter for my newsletter service, purely for aesthetic reasons. I know that MailChimp is much bigger, and integrates directly into WordPress – but I like TinyLetter’s philosophy of free + simple. No costs; I doubt I will get over 2000 subscribers, and I like the minimal, text-centred approach. The only bugbear that I have with TinyLetter is that is DOESN’T send out an automatic “Welcome to the List” email, from what I gather :/

(Of course, I need more than 1 subscriber – otherwise I might just go back to sending personal emails from the author! 🙂 )

Other things, in no particular order that I’ve been up to:

Trying to get my Author Central profile up and running.

Organizing the pre-order for Hand of the Storm.

Contacting other indy fantasy writers to become a part of a guest-blog-post writing effort. (If you’re interested, then I would love to hear from you).

All of that leaves not a lot of time for actual writing, which I am very sore about. I’ve left the Quartermaster Gulbrand and Captain Tremaine in dire straits while I get on with some of the backroom work!