Calling all geeks! What 3 things should a newbie to the world of fantasy and sci-fi know in order to get along? (a cry for help from the Missus)

Imagine turning up at a Marvel fancy dress party dressed in a batman costume. Knowing the conventions in the universe of all things Science Fiction and Fantasy are, at this moment in time, more than a little beyond me. Which normally wouldn’t be a problem. I have had a great relationship with Mike for 21 years despite my ineptitude in this field and his total immersion in it, but here’s my dilemma:

I find myself starting a publishing venture in an area which is (dare I say it out loud?) totally outside my realm of expertise and any good business person would tell you, that’s a fairly silly idea…well it is if you want to be successful in it at any rate.

No longer can I shrug off talk of light saber colours and duck out of the debate of why Episode 1 was the worst idea ever because now I actually need to know my stuff.  So I need to learn and learn fast. Mike has tried over the years to induct me into this elite club but I am still only a Padawan at best.

How do I know what’s cool? How do I avoid the inevitable faux par’s at conventions? How do I discern a Rivendale elf from one from Lothlorien, and does it matter?

So I’m calling all geeks (respectfully), would you help a damsel in distress?

What are the top 3 things I absolutely need to know about Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic Fans and this alternate reality?  All help gratefully received.

A quick update on progress, book 2, choosing editors and comissioning artists

It’s that time again for a quick update. The most exciting news this week is that Mike has finished the first draft of Book 2 ‘The Story of Eris’! Final word count 98,641. Woohoo! We celebrated with a bottle of the bubbly stuff.

It’s now sitting on my desk for first edit before getting it out to beta readers most likely in the New Year.


Mike has nearly finished first re-writes of the first manuscript, The Spirit Room’ before it goes to beta readers on 1st December. We will be having our first play with the new Scrivener software later in the week to get it all formatted properly for Kindle.

We’ve found an editor

We are also absolutely delighted that the fabulous Novel DoctorSteve Parolini has agreed to work with Mike on his first manuscript. We know how vital having a professional and expert eye is to the success of the book and Steve comes very highly recommended. He’s not available until April, which pushes the launch back slightly, but we recon it’s worth the wait.

Choosing an editor was an interesting process and it was really helpful to pick up some tips from various blogs on what sort of thing to bear in mind.

Firstly we wanted to make sure that we had a personal recommendation from someone we trust. Steve came recommended by a friend Joanna Penn who really knows her stuff and had experience of working with Steve on her first novel Pentecost.

It was important to work with someone with experience in Mikes Genre, the right professional credentials and good feedback. There was lots of choice out there and a fairly wide range of pricing options. Some people pricing on the basis of word count, others depending on time it took to edit and others on the type of package that you went for.

Once we had decided who we would like to work with we then needed to check that Steve wanted to work with us. I sent him an email with a brief intro to Mike, a link to this blog and the draft back blurb for the novel so he could get an idea of what it was about. He then asked us for a sample first 30 pages which we sent over and from that he said he’d like to work on the book. The whole process took a couple of days and we were of course really pleased, if a little nervious at the prospect of working with Steve next year.

We have opted in the first instance for his editorial review service at what we thought was a very reasonable $600US. Depending on what he comes back with we may then decide to go for the slightly terrifyingly titled “Red pen of life and death” option, which is a far more detailed line edit, but mike needs a few more gigs over the next few months to put the pennies in the bank for that one.

From what we have read/heard/picked up on the writers grapevine, when working on a limited budget it really pays to invest in a quality edit and a professional cover artist. So that’s where we’ve chosen to invest initially. Meaning my desires for fancy logos and web branding will have to wait a bit until we’ve got a couple of books on the virtual shelves.

For more detail, theres a great article on vetting an independent editor on the Writer Beware blog here.

Sourcing an artist

We rather serendipitously met a very talented local artist at our favourite independent local coffee shop @cafeafrica. We got chatting about possibilities at a really successful first meeting and as a result he is doing some funky stuff with the crow image for the web banner. All being well, he’ll move onto the logo and other artwork for the site after Christmas. We will hopefully be putting sample artwork on the blog for some feedback so watch this space. I’m also looking into professional cover designers for the series.

So what now? After finishing re-writes of book 1, Mike is having a couple of weeks off the main manuscripts to write a novella that will be available as a free download. A trip into the big smoke the other week also provided some inspiration for a number of short stories that wont be part of the Planets or Assembly series so no rest for the wicked.

My warmest as ever and good luck to those doing NaNoWriMo this month




Mrs Cairns writes – The Journey Continues, weekly writing targets, sorting the blog and the joys of twitter

As promised in my first post on ‘our journey so far’, here’s a bit on how the marketing/publishing process is going.

As I may have mentioned before, Mike is the talent and I’m the brains, or rather marketing brawn, behind the scenes. Which is rather odd for me as I’ve spent the last 10 years anywhere but behind the scenes as an inspirational speaker, facilitator and coach. I’ve got to say I rather like it, not least because I get to dish out the work 🙂

Mike has had his usual weekly target of 10,000 words on the current book, book two of The Unseen trilogy and at the same time embarking on the free download for the website. It started off as the beginners guide to fantasy and he’s written some great stuff. Having reviewed it together this weekend we think that what he’s done so far will end up on the blog and that he’ll be writing a novella as the download, so that will take a little longer than originally planned.

My focus has been on sorting out the first draft of the website/blog, sourcing an editor and cover designer and of course the day job of looking after Mini-Monkey Cairns.

We know how vital it is to get the brand just right and I must admit I do struggle with the frustration of having the vision of how we want it and not yet being able, due to budget and time constraints, to put it into action.

We hope what we’ve got up at the moment serves as a good first step. The image for the web banner in particular has been a challenge. Eventually we will commission an artist for an original piece but for now we’ve chosen the crows. Crows are storytellers in folklore and we think they’re rather cool.

Relationship marketing efforts are warming up nicely. Mike has well and truly ‘joined the conversation’ on twitter and I’m really proud of him, he’s gone from taking 10 minutes to craft a tweet to using instagram with ease. If you’re on twitter do drop by and say hi, you can find him @cairnswrites

The absolute highlight of this week was when Mike spotted that the amazing Terry Moore was following him! Terry is one of Mikes’ all time heroes, a comic God and the creator of the first comic I ever read. Seriously, he couldn’t stop grinning for ages, it made my heart go fuzzy.

Finally, we have settled on the strapline for Cairns Writes that we hope encapsulates our vision. It started off as the rather throw away “Writings and ramblings of contemporary fantasy author Michael Cairns” and has become “Inspiration for readers and writers”. We wanted to open up the scope of what we were able to share. As well as enabling you to get to know Mike and all the things he loves in his crazy fantasy universe, it’s also so important to us to be able to give something back. To share inspiration, support other writers, to showcase other talent, and to encourage a life long love of story and storytelling. So you’ll see a wider variety of content on the blog and we’ll be adding inspirational images and music down the line too.

Lots more in the pipeline but I’m way over my wordcount so more on another day.

My warmest


Mrs Cairns Writes – Why working with my hubby is so cool

In the Cairns household we consider ourselves to be very lucky, we seem to have found a formula that works for us in both creative and business terms. Mike is the wordsmith and I’m the one in charge 🙂

Seriously though, I love working with Mike, not least because I really believe in him as an author and also because the partnership fulfils many of my core values.  So why is it I think working with my hubby is so cool?

Well, he is a creative genius and that’s a real pleasure to see in action every day. Perhaps more importantly he thinks I’m a creative genius too, in a different way of course (he’s a bit cagey about the details but I’ll take the compliment :)).

But aside from that, our skill sets seem to mesh. I love the entrepreneurial side of being a writer, the visioning, planning, marketing, social media and relationship building, all the things that, as a rather humble introvert, Mike would prefer to shy away from. Mike is great at getting things done, when I set him his weekly targets he actually meets them. He’s consistent (something in my own writing I’ve often struggled with) and he has this amazing ability to fold time – rather handy when working on several manuscripts at once.

My work has always been focused on helping people create the work that they are passionate about and doing it in a way that is wholly authentic for them, so being able to support Mike in making his dreams a reality is a real privilege.

Working closely with someone who really knows you and whose opinion you trust is hugely rewarding. Because we know each other so well we also save a lot of time that might be wasted in long-winded explanations or skirting around important issues, we can just get straight to the important stuff.

Mike gets really excited when he’s writing, and I mean kid in a sweet shop excited, and who doesn’t want to see someone they love so happy in their work?

But what really makes it work…? I get to be the boss and he gets to think he’s the boss. Well we are married after all 🙂

My warmest


Mrs Cairns Writes…The Journey so far

I love blogging, so I’m delighted that Mike has allowed me to be the one keeping you guys posted on how things are going with Cairns Writes. So under the category “Mrs Cairns Writes” you’ll find details of our adventures in publishing. As this is a fairly new venture for us here’s some of the story so far…

The writing.

Mike wrote his first book in The Assembly series in a super speedy 3 months when I was pregnant back in 2011. The working title is The Spirit Room. It’s a fast paced, contemporary fantasy epic.

I was a bit nervous about reading it as I really wanted to be able to tell him that I thought it was fab’. Huge sigh of relief when I actually thought it was really rather good. For 100,000 words it’s a surprisingly quick and easy read with some very compelling characters and it left me with that feeling of wanting to know what happens next.

Book 1 has been through initial proof read and copy edit, courtesy of yours truly and Mike is just finishing re-writes before it goes out to our panel of trusty Beta readers at the end of the month…eeek! Bit nervous about it being out there and I know Mike is not desperately looking forward to any re-writes but needs must if we really want to do it and our readers justice.

Book 2 is taking a little longer than the first, having a baby tends to take over somewhat! So Mike has had to squeeze in writing around his day job and being Papa to Cadence. But he is on track for completing the first draft by the end of October.

Book 3 is already planned out and once re-writes for book 1 are out of the way he’s allowed to start actually writing that proper. Trying to hold him back is like trying to keep a toddler out of a muddy puddle.

More on publishing and marketing progress to come…

Much love & stay inspired