How’s Your Gas Mileage? How To Be a Hybrid Author by Melissa Bowersock

It used to be that there was one path an author could follow to publication: find an agent, pitch your manuscript to a traditional publishing house, sign a contract, and get published. Pretty straight-forward, much like buying a car. You narrowed down your choices by style of car, color and options, you bought the thing, and drove it off the lot.

Easy, huh?

Not anymore. Now we’ve got a zillion options for powering a car: regular gas, diesel, electric, hybrid, flex fuel. Having these options is a two-edged sword: we have lots to choose from, but the decision-making process gets a bit tougher because we need to research all the options to know which one is the best fit.

Publishing is much the same. That one avenue to publication has turned into a superhighway complete with onramps, off-ramps, overpasses, bypasses and cloverleafs. It’s sometimes hard to know which is the right way to go.

I got into the game back in the 1980s when that one clear path was the only way to go. Through an agent, I sold my first two books to a NY house and was *ta da* traditionally published. All well and good, although the experience was not quite the joyful satisfaction I had dreamed about. The publisher changed the titles of both books, chose the cover designs, and the only editing process consisted of asking me to either add or delete x number of pages in order to make the page count. But, true to their word, the books were published, they appeared in book stores, grocery stores and drug stores and I made a little money.

making money

Enter the 90s, and the rules started to change. The traditional big houses got more and more gunshy; they were less inclined to gamble on a new, or little-known name. The good news was that the entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well, and small presses were springing up like weeds to take up the slack. Or rather, they were making tracks in the weeds, carving out their own dirt roads to the promised land. Suddenly there were a few more options for authors, although some of those dirt roads were bumpy and some took longer and more convoluted paths to get where the author wanted to go.


Breaking into new genres my original publisher had no interest in, I hooked up with a few of those small presses. One contracted with me to do only an e-book of my satire of romance novels. Another picked up a contemporary romance and did both a paperback and a Kindle version.

Then I learned about CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing company, in the mid-2000s and decided to give it a go. The first time through the process had a steep learning curve. Formatting the book to the finished size with chapter headings, page numbers, and headers, creating the cover, uploading the files and then proofing the final product were all huge steps, and I did quite a dance around my mistakes before I broke through to the finish line. But in the end, I did it—I self-published my first book. And it looked good.


Next challenge was converting the book for Kindle. Again, there was a learning curve, but after the formatting experience I’d already been through, it wasn’t that difficult. Now I was an e-book publisher, as well. Reading through several of the writers’ forums online, I heard about Smashwords, an independent e-book publisher that would provide digital formats for all the other e-readers out there beside Kindle. More learning curves, but I followed their extensive guidelines, plowed through it and converted most of my books for all readers. I had all the options covered.

And that’s the best part about being a hybrid author. When you buy a car, you’re pretty much stuck with that engine system, be it gas, diesel, electric or some combination thereof. But as authors, we have a plethora of choices to choose from—one, two, or all of the above. We can keep going the traditional route or we can branch off into any of multiple directions dependent on how much time, effort and money we are comfortable putting into it. If we have multiple books, we can publish each in a separate manner. If we have only one book, we can still divide the print and digital versions into separate processes. The opportunities and the combinations are unlimited, and many authors are mixing and matching as their wants and needs dictate.

What’s the best way for you to go? Do your homework, research the options and choose the path that fits. Don’t limit yourself to old school thinking; find the option that gets the best mileage for your work, and kick that engine into overdrive!

Featured Author – TD McKinnon

Thomas 11.07.2013 at the beach!Today an author with an intriguing background visits me. I’ve even gotten him to answer one question that I just had to ask. 

Hi TD,

Thanks for jumping out of the plane to answer a couple questions of mine.

I’d like to start with a few about you as a person. If that’s okay with you?

Sure, Lucy… After all that’s why I came halfway around the world.

You do have a funny accent for an Aussie. How come you don’t exactly sound like Crocodile Dundee?

While it is true that I live in Australia, well… Tasmania actually, and some would argue that they are two totally different places, but I digress… I am an Australian citizen, but I was born in Scotland and I was thirty years of age before I moved to Australia. So as my wife, Zoë, would say: I’m more Sean Connery than Paul Hogan.

Oh, that explains a lot. 🙂 What place attracts you most? The highlands, or the beautiful vistas of Tasmania?

Well… Tasmania can be beautiful, but I must admit that my very blood cries out for the mystical beauty of the Scottish Highlands. They say that home is where the heart is, and my heart sometimes yearns for the Highlands of Scotland.

By the by, what is an executive close protection operative?

In some folk’s minds, the word bodyguard conjures up a kind of thuggish picture, and I suppose that can be the case; but as in everything there are gradients. A celebrity, or anyone who considers they might need general protection, might employ a bodyguard: someone to be their shadow, follow them around and step in if or when the need should arise. A specific threat, usually within a limited time frame, might warrant the services of a professional, ‘close protection operative’ to determine the ‘threat level’ and the measures that should be taken to minimise that level. Kevin Costner’s portrayal of a bodyguard, in the movie of the same name, is a pretty accurate picture of a professional ‘close protection operative’; however, the job of a CPO and a bodyguard is to protect someone’s life.

I loved that film! Sooo, romantic. *swoons a bit even though she doesn’t really like either Kevin Costner, nor What’s her face.*

Would you like to return to any time or place in your past?

In general, I live in the present and look forward; anything else is redundant. Having said that, the magic of music sometimes transports me back to a time when I was a teenage paratrooper, stationed in England in the ‘swinging sixties.

How did you end up in Indies Unlimited? And do you think you would have been where you are now in your writing career without them?

I found Indies Unlimited, quite by chance, about eighteen months ago; at the time, it was a fledgling site, with a fresh and honest outlook. The staff, and especially the Helmsman, Stephen Hise and his First Officer, KS Brooks, were warm, talented and extremely endearing. I’ve always been pretty much a loner, but over the years I’ve looked at many writers’ communities, even tarried for a short while (emphasis there is on short). It comes down to much more than personalities though; more to do with the attitude that is encouraged at IU, nurtured even. After participating in some of IU’s many activities, I received, as Stephen put it, “A modest proposal,” to become a contributing author at Indies Unlimited; I’ve been comfortably nestled there ever since.

I am now part of a network of writers who, quite apart from being talented, proven, professionals, are such a great bunch of people. Certainly my knowledge of the industry, in regard to the independent author, has grown exponentially, and therefore my decisions, in regard to things like marketing et cetera, are better informed. I dearly love all my fellow IU minions (for anyone who is not familiar with the concept of Indies Unlimited being the Death Star, captained by the Evil Mastermind, crewed by his minions, with a plan to take over the world, one reader at a time, you might not know that minions is a term of endearment) and will always be grateful for the opportunity to be counted among their number.

It is great to see that good things can happen when Indies band together. 🙂 

Thanks for showing us a bit of the person behind the author, but now for the stuff dreams are made of. Books! To be precise, yours!

What is the title of the book you would like to talk about?

Terra Nullius’ is an historical fiction based on a true story: the European invaders came and they proclaimed the land (Tasmania) ‘Terra Nullius’ (land belonging to no-one), and therefore theirs for the taking; and while systematically, murdering, raping and pillaging the Caretakers, appropriating their young women as concubines and inadvertently, spreading their exotic diseases, they devastated the Caretakers number into extinction in about seventy years.

Cover Terra

The prophesy said Trucannini would be the last to leave for the Dreaming; however, while the warrior chief, Mannalargenna, and the warrior woman/freedom fighter, Tarenenorerer, were resolved to fight to the very last, the diminutive, intelligent and long suffering Trucannini was determined to negotiate a safe path for her people. 

I’d just like to add that everything I write gets very personal; Terra Nullius was no exception. After discovering the little mentioned, sanitised, official, colonially biased, account of this particular part of Tasmania’s history, the disenfranchised spirits of those first nation people of Tasmania began visiting me in my dreams. Nightly, they lined up to give me their version of that period, and not until the book was completed did they leave me alone.  

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

I usually have a working title, while I’m writing, which never ends up being the actual title. For instance, Terra Nullius began as ‘The Caretakers’, but the title is perfect. My wife, Zoë, is my business partner (manager, editor, computer whiz, cover artist, public speaking coach and on and on), and has been a professional dancer, singer, actor all of her life, is an enormous help and has a lot of input; we usually brainstorm for the titles.

If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?

I don’t think that Terra Nullius could be slotted into any other genre but historical fiction; however my other books were not so easily pigeonholed. For instance ‘Heather Skye Wilson is The Psychic Warrior’ is labeled a speculative fiction. In fact, reviewing it, Lynne Cantwell said, ‘This is kind of an odd book.  I would put it squarely in the sci-fi quadrant of the speculative fiction roundhouse, except for a “whoa!” twist at the very end that kind of made me wonder what McKinnon was on when he wrote it.  And I mean that in a good way.’

Can you tell me how you celebrate finally getting that tricky chapter (or para) right?

Oh, I don’t know… that would depend on how difficult it had been and how long I’d sweated over it. I might dance a little jig, or more accurately a ‘highland fling’.

Like this? fling gif

Or more like this?

highland fling

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

Marketing is a hard one to get right; I would go so far as to say that there is no single, failsafe, magic, marketing trick. As an Indie – actually, unless you’re a Stephen King or a JK Rowling (already a household brand) – you need to cover all the bases: all social media networks, and there is a mindboggling and ever growing number of those. Of course the new breed of blogger reviewer and interviewer sites, like your own, Lucy, are a huge asset and we, serious Indie authors, owe you and your ilk a huge debt of gratitude.

*grins* Why thank you Mister McKinnon.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

Actually, at this stage in my life, I find food and drink more of a hindrance: having to stop what I’m doing to refuel, so to speak; I often forget. That wasn’t always the case; out of necessity, I have always been a fairly healthy eater. I led a busy, active lifestyle until I moved here, to Tasmania, to concentrate on my writing almost nine years ago. I still try to work out daily (my martial arts routines), which stimulates my appetite. Of course there is the occasional bar of dark chocolate. As far as drink (alcohol) goes; I’m a Scotsman and so I had a running start, and I was five years in the British Parachute Regiment, where drinking was the standard way to cut loose, let off steam, but these days I really don’t partake; except for the odd occasion (Christmas, birthdays, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve), Robert Burns night, finish of book night) when I might have a glass of single malt.

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

Fresh Tasmanian salmon, braised in fresh lemon juice, crushed fresh garlic and freshly ground black peppercorns, served on a bed of brown rice, with steamed broccoli and baby carrots.

ecstatic minions

Even the minions like that!

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

I was too sick to do anything but sleep.

Okay, I’ll buy that, since no author before you came up with a simple straight forward ‘could be true’ excuse. 🙂

And finally why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard slaving over a manuscript?

I was seven years old when the school principal said, ‘We have a budding author in our midst!’ It was to be fifty years before I published my first book. I spent most of my life doing stuff I could do, because I felt I had to, to provide financial security for the family; now I do what I have always wanted to do (slave over a hot keyboard) and wouldn’t want it any other way.

Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. But please no cat’s, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

I do have a lot of what you might call secrets, and some of them are whoppers, but they’re secrets for a reason. What good are secrets that everyone knows about? What I will tell you is that two of my five published books are memoirs and, until you read them, there are some dirty little secrets buried there. For instance in ‘I was a Teenage Devil’ I inadvertently walk into a predator’s trap; I describe how my fear turned to anger and then to a cold, calculating rage; that’s when I decided to kill him.

Woah! Hahahaha. Thank you Thomas for taking the time for this interview and your great answers. If in future you have news, or feel the need to share a secret … *wink* Feel free to contact me.

For now I’ll give the readers a taste of Terra Nullius by sharing the trailer and an excerpt.


When the European invaders came they proclaimed the land ‘Terra Nullius’ (‘uninhabited land’; therefore theirs for the taking); and while systematically, murdering, raping and pillaging the Caretakers’, appropriating their young women as concubines, they also, inadvertently, spread their exotic diseases; devastating the Caretakers number into extinction.

The prophesy said she would be the last to leave for the Dreaming but while others, like the warrior chief, Mannalargenna, and the warrior woman/freedom fighter, Tarenenorerer, were resolved to fight to the very last; the diminutive, intelligent and long suffering Trucannini determined to negotiate a safe path for her people.  

 All that’s left for me to share now are few places where they can badger you personally for more info. 🙂

For those who are really tech-savvy, I have the mobile site grcode too 🙂

Book Blast – 9 Killer Thrillers


9 thrillers. 9 authors. Some of the top names in the genre. An unprecedented value for a limited time. These are not samples – they are complete bestselling thriller novels from reader favorites at an incredible holiday price of:
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Counter Currents by Shaun McLaughlin

Final counter cover Jan 29.indd


Counter Currents, the 2013 silver medal winner for Historical Literature Fiction – Modern (set 1500-1940 AD) from by Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards, unfolds during the Patriot War, an almost forgotten border conflict, where rebels attacked Canada 13 times from the USA. Among the raiders was Bill Johnston, the St. Lawrence River historical legend.


Ryan, 19, arrives in colonial Canada at the outbreak of the 1838 Patriot War. He is drawn into Bill Johnston’s world of smuggling and secret societies set in the beauty and grandeur of the Thousand Islands. Ryan falls for Johnston’s daughter, Kate, and is coached by her older cousin Ada on how to capture Kate’s heart. Ada develops feelings for Ryan and he in turn grapples with his attraction to Ada.

Circumstances drive Ryan into a web of piracy and rebellion. Each step Ryan takes closer to a peaceful life as Kate’s husband is matched by deeper entanglement in a glorious but lost cause. Tugged by the opposing currents of romance and war, Ryan struggles to reconcile his family history, his duty and his heart. The story builds on real events surrounding the Patriot War and stays close to historic facts. It is history illuminated by fiction.

About the author

shaun-blogShaun J. McLaughlin has authored books on history and historical fiction, using both a traditional publisher and self-publishing. He maintains a publishing blog and history blogs on the 1838 Patriot War and Bill Johnston, the Thousand Islands legend. A researcher, journalist and technical writer for over thirty years, with a master’s degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, he lives on a hobby farm in Eastern Ontario. Now a semiretired freelance writer, he focuses on fiction and nonfiction writing projects.

More about Shaun can be found on the Raiders and Rebels imprint blog.

Black Eagle Inn by Christoph Fisher

b3-full book


The Black Eagle Inn (Three Nations Trilogy Book 3)

The Black Eagle Inn is an old established Restaurant and Farm business in the sleepy Bavarian countryside outside of Heimkirchen. Childless Anna Hinterberger has fought hard to make it her own and keep it running through WWII. Religion and rivalry divide her family as one of her nephews, Markus has got her heart and another nephew, Lukas got her ear. Her husband Herbert is still missing and for the wider family life in post-war Germany also has some unexpected challenges in store.

Once again Fischer tells a family saga with war in the far background and weaves the political and religious into the personal. Being the third in the Three Nations Trilogy this book offers another perspective on war, its impact on people and the themes of nations and identity.

Become a fan on Facebook, or on Goodreads

author 2About the author

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; ‘Sebastian’ in May 2013.He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

I’ve asked him to tell me more about what drove him to write this.


Early feedback to my third book in the Three Nations Trilogy stated that it would probably be of most interest for people with a German heritage. As author I had to ask myself: could this novel bear relevance and interest for other people and non-German readers? The answer is yes.

I was born 25 years after the end of the war. Our history lessons at school ended with the year 1945. One of the most urgent and important questions remained unanswered for me: How did a country with so much shame and horror in its past recover and move forward? How could it? I don’t think anything can ever make up for what has happened and nobody can forgive or atone for the collective guilt. But can the new generation ever deservedly rid itself of the stigma the previous generation has brought to the country?

Apart from the actual family story in my book I hope a great point of interest will be the way different characters carry on with their life and develop their philosophies, outlooks and politics. De-nazification, restructuring of a political landscape and implementation of new state leaders are issues the book touches upon. Only ten years after the end of the war a wave of Italian and Turkish Immigrants filled the hole in the German employment market, but how did the Nation respond to those foreigners (named Gastarbeiter)? Ten years after that a new right wing party formed and threatened to tip the political balance and bring new shame to the nation.

The Sixties brought the Bader Meinhoff Complex, student revolts and many family conflicts instigated by the generation born after WWII. Many of those were disillusioned with politics and turned violent. It took a new generation of politicians to instigate a modernisation of German society.

The year of my birth Chancellor Willy Brand famously fell on his knees in Warsaw, humbly honouring a monument for the victims Warsaw Uprising. An important symbolic gesture after previous governments tried too hastily to move on from the dark past. My book covers a lot of ground about post war Germany and should be interesting for those whose knowledge of Germany also ends with 1945. We know about the Nuremberg Trials and the Nazi’s on the run in South America, but what about the little man, guilty or not? What does he do with this broken country?

What is your personal experience with the issues in the book?

I grew up with the first generation of children of mixed marriages and Gastarbeiter families and I experienced them being treated badly by some but also very welcoming by others. I grew up in times of a United Europe, exchange students and pop music from Italy, France, Britain and America. For me other nations and cultures were never anything but an exciting cultural enrichment and I adored the people in my generation who had a similar vision and worked hard to make such a mentality part of a modern Germany.

Of the three books THE BLACK EAGLE INN is the one that is closest to my own life experience although I was born around the time the story ends. While all three books deal with family sagas vaguely similar to some of my ancestors, this story takes place in an environment and times that I know almost first hand. Yet, there were an awful lot of facts that I only learnt about while researching the foundations for the book. I hope it helps to understand more about the path of the German people from its past to the current state.

Christoph isn’t only an author, but he’s an avid reader too, and one who writes great reviews. If you are interested in his work and his reviews check him out on:

The Book of Faces, his site, or his blog

As a closure on this I would like to ask the readers what they think can be done to approve acceptance of mixed marriages, or if they ever encountered negativity about the subject.