Category Archives: Writing

Interview with Author Nicholas Woode-Smith

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – I read and reviewed the science fiction novel Fall of Zona Nox in March of this year. Afterwards, I reached out to the author, Nicholas Woode-Smith,  requesting an interview. He graciously accepted. 

* * *

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Woode-Smith: I have always adored coming up with stories and interesting worlds. This started in school, when I used to come up with scenarios and worlds for my friends. Later on, I started playing video games. In particular, a game called Spore: Galactic Adventures. The game allowed the player to craft scenarios and stories for other players to enjoy. I created a series of sci-fi stories, detailing the exploits of birdmen warriors, pig-headed merchants, and an army of masked troopers.

The story-telling capacity of the game had its limits, but I still had more stories to tell. So, I decided that I wanted to write. And it seemed I became half-way decent at it.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Woode-Smith: The first book I remember ever creating was a little illustrated book with a stapled spine. It was based directly off the 1st level of an old game called Age of Mythology and was a gift for my grandparents. Not sure where it is now.

Myself: It seems that video games had a significant impact on your early writing efforts. Do you think that video games are a way to stimulate the imagination?

Woode-Smith: Definitely! Games are like any other form of escapism, with one crucial addition. While you are definitely being inspired and gaining ideas from books, film and TV, it is ultimately a linear and passive experience. When in video games, you are actively participating in the story, making choices and shaping your experience. What is that but storytelling? Video games, at least for me, were my first foray into storytelling.

Myself:  What was your favorite class in High School?

Woode-Smith: Definitely history. History, when studied properly, is essentially just a story. It’s a narrative of humankind and I find it fascinating to this day.

Myself: That is an interesting way to look at history. I too find it fascinating.What is your academic and work background?

Woode-Smith: I studied politics, philosophy, and economic history at the University of Cape Town. I have worked as a social media director for a non-profit, and a managing editor for a political commentary website. I write non-fiction articles commenting on politics and economics in South Africa. My main job is my fiction writing.

Myself: That is a bit backwards from most authors I have spoken with. They have to make writing their second job. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Woode-Smith: Cape Town, South Africa. The real-life location of Hope City, the setting of my Kat Drummond Series. 

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

Woode-Smith: Definitely. My urban fantasy series, Kat Drummond, is set in Cape Town. And people familiar with the city can see the flavour of the city infused into my writing.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Woode-Smith: I love video games and have been playing a wide variety of games since a young age. I also enjoy painting, building and playing Warhammer 40k. Of course, I enjoy reading as well. Fantasy, sci-fi, and history.

Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?

Woode-Smith: Probably a Goosebumps. Maybe Narnia. I loved both.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Woode-Smith: I was lucky to have parents who instilled in me a love of reading. I read constantly growing up.

Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory?

Woode-Smith: The Rift War Saga by Raymond Feist. I adored this series and it definitely had a profound influence on my writing.

Myself: What have you read recently?

Woode-Smith: The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. A true horror.

Myself: What is your favorite genre and book?

Woode-Smith: Fantasy has a special place in my heart. But, I’d consider Catch-22 to probably be my favourite book. 

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Woode-Smith: I have cultivated a habit of reading before bed. So, I struggle to read anywhere but in bed.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Woode-Smith: I prefer paper but don’t mind reading on my Kindle. I struggle with audiobooks.

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?

Woode-Smith: I recommend Catch-22 to everyone. It’s an amazing book.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Woode-Smith: My dream is for my books and my worlds to become a part of the lives of my readers. I’d love for a fandom to develop around my books, with my stories eventually making their way into series, games and other mediums.

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Woode-Smith: I adore fantasy and sci-fi. Reading it, playing it, and watching it. So, it was easy to pick my genres.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Woode-Smith: A combination of inspiration from games, film, other books, and real world history.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Woode-Smith: I am an intense outliner. I like to create a scene by scene outline before I begin writing in earnest.

Myself: Do you ever find yourself ‘becoming’ one of your characters as you write?

Woode-Smith: Probably. But I always adore it when the characters are their own separate individuals. When it feels like I’m truly interacting with a thinking being, that is when I’m pleased with my writing. So, my goal is for me to not become them, but for them to become their own persons.

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete the first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Woode-Smith: Usually 1-2 months. This is more because I’m balancing my time between marketing and my freelance writing. If I could dedicate more time to writing, then I would be able to churn out a book reliably once a month.

Myself: That is an impressive writing schedule.How much research do you put into a novel?

Woode-Smith: A reasonable amount. A lot of the time, I am basing my writing off research I’ve already done.

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Woode-Smith: Hardest thing about writing is self-doubt. It’s incredibly easy to doubt one’s own abilities, and this leads to low enthusiasm, inconsistency and, at worst, giving up. Easiest is getting better. Just keep practicing, learning, reading and honing the craft and you will improve.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Woode-Smith: Just write. I know this sounds trite, but there is no better advice. Just keep writing, practicing, honing the craft. And most importantly, don’t overthink the writing. Perfection is a scam. It doesn’t exist. If someone out there enjoys reading your own, it is perfect enough.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Woode-Smith: There are 14 main novels in the Kat Drummond Series, with two side novels. In the past, I published 9 sci-fi novels but I unpublished them so I could re-write and combine them into 4 novels. 

Myself: Looking at your website you have a very aggressive schedule for future Warpmancer book releases. Is that the rate which you normally produce a new work?

Woode-Smith: Warpmancer is mostly already written. Books 1 – 3 are already written, with book 4 being 50% done. I am spending most of this year re-writing the existing books and then writing the final 2 and a half books. As I mentioned before, I can produce a book in 1-2 months. So, it is at my general rate.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Woode-Smith: I am currently working on the latter half of book 4 of the Warpmancer Saga, Conquest of the Defiant.

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Woode-Smith: The best ways to get in touch would be to sign up to my newsletter and my Facebook group. Links below:

Product Review: Language Tool

(See my other Web Tool related posts) – I like trying out new writing tools when I see them. I came across Language Tool recently. Language Tool is an Open Source project similar to the Hemmingway Editor. The project receives financial support from two European sources. The European Union and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Language Tool is free to use for documents up to 20,000 characters. You can access it through the website or you can install add-ons. The add-ons are available for:

  • the Firefox and Chrome browsers
  • Google Docs
  • Microsoft Word
  • Libre Office
  • a list of others

Language Tool checks your writing in more than 20 languages. It includes grammar, style, and spell checking. To handle documents up to 40,000 characters in length you can upgrade to the Premium version. The Premium version of Language Tool costs $59/year or $4.92 /month.

I have been a user of two other writing tools for a while now. The Hemmingway Editor and the Grammarly plug-in for Safari. I wanted to compare the results of these three tools so I entered the same text in each and checked the results.

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In the images above the same text is shown in Language Tool, Hemmingway, and Grammarly. As you can see from those images, the results are different for each tool. In my opinion, Language Tool is the least useful of the three.

In my workflow, I enter text first in Hemmingway. Once I have resolved what it has flagged, I paste the results into the web interface for WordPress. I then address what Grammarly has found.



  • Multilanguage
  • Web portal and App add-ons
  • up to 20000 characters
  • Free



  • no add-on for the Safari browser
  • Not as good as Hemmingway or Grammarly


Today is Author’s Day and begins NaNoWriMo

National Author's Day

(See my other Writing related posts) – Today is National Author’s Day, a day to celebrate your favorite authors and the books they have created. You can help recognize it by purchasing books from your favorite author and/or sharing information about your favorite books and authors on social media.

You may want to look at some of the Author Interviews I have posted.

Today is also the beginning of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Are you trying your hand at authoring a novel this month? This is a great opportunity to dive in and write that novel you have been thinking about.

Thinking about putting your ideas down on paper? You might find the article “How to Plot and Write a Novel With 12 Free Templates & Worksheets” of interest. This article gives several suggestions as to how you can get started.

My NaNoWriMo 2018 Effort is Over

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I have had an interest in trying to write for some time. This year, I decided to make a commitment and try my hand during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month). Some 58,000 words later I have wrapped up my very rough first draft.

This has been a fun adventure for me. Now all I have to do is spend some time, a lot of time, editing and polishing what I have written. In the meantime, I can get back to posting more and getting out and exploring more of Singapore.

Fifty Word Fantasy: Trick and Treat

Reading – A great Flash Fiction for Halloween

Aethereal Engineer

Old Mrs. Emmons accepted the candy gift. “Oh! I always wanted to go trick-or-treating, but my father hated Halloween…”

She ate the caramel, felt dizzy, and then was as young as the little witch handing her a pumpkin bucket and black cat costume.

“Then let’s not waste tonight, Mrs. Emmons!”

Copyright © 2018 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.

Discover more of my Fifty Word Fantasies.

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NaNoWriMo is About to Start – Count Your Words in Pages

Tech Tips – NaNoWriMo begins November 1. Are you ready?

Haven’t heard about NaNoWriMo? That stands for “National Novel Writing Month” which is November of every year. As their website states:

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

If you happen to be using a Mac or iPad and the included Pages software to write your novel, how do you keep track of the words you have set down? That is easy on both devices.


On your Mac:

Open Pages to the document where you are writing your novel

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Select View in the Menu bar, then Show Word Count

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Now at the bottom of your window will appear the running word count in your document.


On your iPad 

  1. Open Pages to the document where you are writing your novel


Click on the View Options icon in the Menu Bar

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In the drop-down menu, click the slider switch to enable Word Count to be displayed. Once that is done, the document statistics will be displayed in a small bubble at the top of the page. The default, as shown above, is Page Count.


Now click on that Page Count bubble and you get another drop-down menu to chose which statistic about the document you wish to display. Click on Words.


Now the Word Count will be displayed at the top of the screen while you are in the document.

See my other Mac/OS X and iOS articles


Do You Know the Difference Between a Short Story, a Novelette, a Novella, ​and a Novel?


Reading – As you know if you follow my Blog, I read a lot. Some short stories, a few novellas, but mostly novels. But having said that, what does that really mean? I have had the general notion of what a short story, a novella, and a novel are, but I wondered if there was some sort of official definition.

When I looked at “Word Count” in Wikipedia what I see is this definition:

Classification Word Count
Novel 40000 or more
Novella 17500 – 39999
Novelette 7500 – 17499
Short Story less than 7500

These are actually the classifications used by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for each category of its Nebula award, so not exactly an official definition. Elsewhere I have read that The New Yorker in 2012, defined the novella as being between roughly 20,000 and 40,000 words[1].

Classification Word Count
Novel 55000 – 300000
Novella 30000 – 50000
Short Story 1500 – 30000


I see where Writer’s Digest has these slightly different classifications [1,2]. Then there is also the even smaller classification of Flash Fiction for works from 53 to 1000 words [3, 4]. Others classify a Novella as 20000 to 50000 [4].

Regardless of which classification you choose to follow, these do give general guidelines for the length of various works. So the National Novel Writing Month goal of 50000 words written during the month of November abides by these classifications. Are you going to sign up and try your hand during NANOWRIMO this year?


  1. What Is the Difference Between a Novella and a Short Story?
  2. What Is the Difference Between Novels, Novellas & Short Stories?
  3. Differences Between a Short Story, Novelette, Novella, & a Novel
  4. Short Story, Novella, Novel – what’s the difference?

Interview with Author Michael A. Rothman


Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the science fiction thriller “Primordial Threat”. After my review, I was able to contact the author, Michael A. Rothman, and arrange an interview with him

= = =

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Rothman: I was a reluctant writer. It started with my kids. I used to tell them stories at night, mostly made up epic fantasy stories and to keep things straight, I began writing the ideas down so I could read it the next day, week, month. Eventually, that turned into entire books.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Rothman: The first stories turned into the “Prophecies Series” and it was well received by others. I’d note that the two kids in those stories are named Ryan and Aaron. It isn’t a coincidence that those are the names of my kids.

Myself: I am sure that they have been thrilled with being the ‘stars’ in that series. What is your academic and work background?

Rothman: I have advanced degrees in STEM disciplines. I’m not publicly specific about which disciplines, because nowadays, what I write is deeply technical, but written so as to make science approachable by all. And if I were to say I’m a botanist, or biologist or whatever – that in some people’s minds would lend credibility in one discipline but take away from others.

Let’s just say I’m an expert on the sciences and have friends in academia. I always vet the science I write about, whether it’s by my own knowledge/research or others.

Myself: I am glad to hear that you too come from a STEM background. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Rothman: Pacific Northwest of the US. I have lived in many parts of the US and world.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Rothman: Cooking and hanging out with my family.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?

Rothman: In my younger days, I used to compete at table tennis (ping pong). Yes, even played at the US open eons ago.

Myself: That is an interesting tidbit about yourself. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?

Rothman: The Hobbit

Myself: You set the bar high with your first read. Did you read much growing up?

Rothman: All the time

Myself: What have you read recently?

Rothman: I rarely read for pleasure nowadays, but more for research. I’ve been reading a lot of Child, Cussler, and recently got turned onto a fun series called the Bobiverse.

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Rothman: As a child, epic fantasy and science fiction. Nowadays, I read SF and thrillers. Tolkien, of course, was one of my formative authors, as was Asimov. Now, I really enjoy Baldacci, Child, and Cussler.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Rothman: Nowadays, I “read” during my commute. Which means audiobooks are my friends.

Myself: Do you strictly listen to audiobooks now? Do you read books on paper or eBooks?

Rothman: Audiobooks all the way. Otherwise, I do have a weak spot for paperbacks.

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Rothman: I’ve always had an abundance of ideas, which usually leaks out in my work. I’ve simply added other venues for the ideas, such as writing.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Rothman: Dominate the world?

In all seriousness, to be read by as many as possible – and to make reading enjoyable for more people. I want to have science be approachable and interesting to those who might not otherwise find it interesting.

One of the best compliment I ever received was, “I felt like I’d learned things after reading Primordial Threat.”

Myself: Bringing a better understanding of science to readers is both a worthy goal and admirable accomplishment. Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Rothman: I’m sure there is, but I don’t try to emulate anyone. I’m sort of a good idea thief. If I like certain approaches or ideas in a book I’m reading, I’ll almost certainly adopt it for my own purposes.

I suppose I’m a reflection of my reading, as are many authors.

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Rothman: I write mostly SF and thrillers today. I enjoy those tales because it allows me to mix action/adventure with technology.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Rothman: An abundance of God-given creativity.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Rothman: Rough outline and then pantsing from there on in.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Rothman: Usually awake at 5am write for two hours and then head to work. And weekends a bit more time. That usually allows me to create/edit two full-sized novels a year.

Myself: Completing two novels per year is an impressive writing regimen. About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Rothman: First draft two months. Revisions four months.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Rothman: A LOT.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Rothman: Microsoft word.

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Rothman: Starting and ending a writing session. Both are the hardest and easiest.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Rothman: You’ll write a million words before you start to be good. Get started, and don’t give up.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Rothman: I have seven books published, though anyone looking will only find two under M.A. Rothman, since my focus is thriller and SF.

I wrote under my full name Michael A. Rothman a series of YA novels that are epic fantasy for my kids to enjoy.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Rothman: Working on a book for the second half of 2019.

I will release one SF/technothriller and one mainstream thriller a year. I’ve already completed the book coming out in the first half of 2019, it’s a medical thriller known as “Darwin’s Cipher”.


Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Rothman: They should contact me through my website

How to Read While You Write

Reading – I came across a couple of interesting YouTube videos today. These together give 12 suggestions as to why you should read while you are writing, but also how you can work reading into your writing schedule.

While I have yet (I keep wanting to start, just haven’t made the time yet) begun to try and write myself, I thought these young ladies had some good ideas in general on how to read more.

The first video is by Emily Bourne.

The second video is by Katie Wilson.

As NANOWRIMO 2018 is rapidly approaching, perhaps I will take advantage of some of Emily’s YouTube post on how to write and get myself prepared for a running start when NANOWRIMO begins November 1.