Guest Blogger – TD McKinnon To Be or Not To Be An Author

To Be Or Not To Be An Author

Can I, indeed can any of us, afford to be an author? We, each of us, come to writing for our own reasons; or at least think we do, and at varying times in our lives we finally get to it (the writing). There are those who come to it early in life never to waver from the path, but… let not those lucky few feel superior.

I, of course, speak only for myself but I’m sure there will be a host of you who concur; those who, like me, knew from an early age that inherently you were a writer, but somehow life didn’t seem conducive to following the writerly way as you were pulled this way and that: appeasing parents, peers, lovers, partners, family obligations, financial commitments, and so on and on… However for the rest of your life, until picking up the quill so to speak, you were haunted by the narratives that crawl and scutter around the canyons of your mind, where lurks your vast imagination, spilling forth at times in inappropriate form and place until, that is, you give that imagination an avenue of expression; elsewise go mad…er.

Some of you will not be surprised when I say that many writers write only for themselves, their outpourings never seeing the light of day. This is a great pity, if for no other reason than those writers will probably never reach their full potential: honing any craft is a process that is generally helped, not by practice only but, by perfect practice, and nothing encourages perfect practice like the possibility of exposure to scrutiny.

Some may say, and I must admit to having acquiesced at times, that there are far too many so called writers on the scene flooding the market now, because ePublising makes the act of publishing so amenable. The standard of material that does come to light varies considerably, and that’s acceptable; not everyone is a Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway, McKinnon, Tolstoy or Twain. The only thing I have to say about that part of the equation is, ‘If you are going to ePublish, make damn sure it is the best product you’ve got.’

Gone are the days, if indeed they ever were for ninety percent of the writerly community, of being picked up by one of the ‘Big Six’, or is it five or four now? What does it really matter, like the Pacific Islanders endangered by rising sea levels, the publishing establishments of yester year are scrambling for positions in a disappearing landscape.

By the time you have penned your masterpiece (we won’t talk about how many hours, months and years that may take), had it vetted, with all the editing and prepublication costs that incurs, and gone through whatever publishing trip you buy into; even ePublishing – assuming you do everything yourself and it goes off without a hitch – is going to cost you in ‘time spent’. Also, regardless of which publishing trail you follow (whether you are an independent or not) the major part of the marketing (more time and money) is your responsibility.

Unless you are a well-established, best-selling author with lucrative film deals pending, one way or another, in varying degrees of time, money and energy, it is going to cost you. So, my initial question, ‘Can I afford to be an author?’ is a pertinent one. The answer for me is simple, I cannot afford not to be an author; on it my sanity depends!



Can you?

By T.D. McKinnon


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 🙂