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Steven J Pemberton

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Working as a software developer; trying to get paid for writing novels. Visit my little corner of the web at . I am the author of The Barefoot Healer young adult fantasy series. You can read the first few chapters of each for free on my website, and buy them from Amazon, or I also have a science fiction novel, Escape Velocity, on sale. Watch a trailer for it at See what I'm up to on Wattpad - I'm willing to give you a free electronic copy of any of my books if you agree to write an honest review of it and post it to at least two sites. Contact me through my Yahoo! profile, saying which book(s) you'd like and which format you'd like them in. I can supply .mobi (Kindle), .epub (most other ereaders) and PDF.

  • Fantasy readers - which of these covers do you dislike least?

    I'm getting ready to release my next book, and am hearing conflicting opinions about which cover to use. If you like fantasy, which of these would be most likely to make you click to find out more?




    If you think they're all crap, that's OK - I'm asking which you think is least crap. If you have any suggestions for improving what's here, I'd be pleased to hear them.

    27 AnswersPolls & Surveys6 years ago
  • Which of these chapter titles do you prefer?

    I'm about to edit a video of myself reading a chapter from one of my books, and have decided the chapter needs a title. I can't decide between:

    "Impossible Reunion"

    "Degrees of Impossibility"

    Assuming you were at all likely to watch a video of an author reading a chapter of a science fiction novel, which of those titles would make you more likely to watch it?

    If anybody wants to read the chapter (and perhaps suggest a better title), it's chapter 7 of this document:

    The chapters in the book don't have titles, but I don't want to call the video just "A reading from Escape Velocity", because there's already a video of me reading another chapter. If I called it "A reading of chapter 7 of Escape Velocity," people might wonder where the readings of chapters 1 to 6 are, and whether they should watch those first.

    13 AnswersBooks & Authors8 years ago
  • Fantasy readers - when you come across a series that's new to you...?

    ...and the book that made you aware of the series is not the first, what do you do (assuming it sounds interesting enough to read)?

    - Start reading from book 1.

    - Read the book that made you aware of the series and then (if you liked it) go and find book 1 and carry on from there.

    - Assume you won't understand it, because you've missed the start, and look for something else to read.

    Assume that if you wanted to start with book 1, it would be easy to find.

    Apologies if this seems like a dumb question. My critique group is currently reading the start of book 3 of my Barefoot Healer series. They're trying to convince me that I shouldn't assume the reader has read the previous books, so we're debating when and how often I should put in references to books 1 and 2, and how much explanation they require.

    (Top suggested category: Sports -> Fantasy Sports. Too obvious, really...)

    18 AnswersBooks & Authors9 years ago
  • Fantasy readers - which of these cover designs is better?

    So the second book in my fantasy series is coming out soon, and I've been trying to come up with a design for the cover. I have a fair idea what I want, but can't decide between two different versions, linked below:

    Which do you think is better - or which would be more likely to make you click through to find out more about the book? Feel free to chip in if you think neither is particularly good...

    I want some continuity with the cover for the first book, which is here: That's the main reason for the blue cast on the second version. Thanks!

    15 AnswersBooks & Authors9 years ago
  • Audiobook lovers - would you listen to ten hours of this?

    I recently made a video of myself reading the first chapter of my fantasy novel, Death & Magic -

    Youtube thumbnail

    I'm considering an audiobook edition of the book, and was wondering whether my voice is sufficiently euphonious for me to narrate it. So, if you're someone who listens to audiobooks, regardless of genre, would you want to listen to ten hours of me reading to you?

    (Don't worry about hurting my feelings - people tell me I mumble and speak too softly. Technology allows me to compensate for that to a degree, but I don't know if it can compensate enough. If you fancy a laugh, turn on the captions or subtitles (the "CC" button at the bottom right) to see what YouTube *thought* I was saying.)

    If you'd rather just listen, an audio-only version is here -


    11 AnswersBooks & Authors9 years ago
  • Readers who shop or browse on Amazon - do you ever use tags?

    If so, do you use tags just to find books you might like, or do you vote on a book's tags, or add your own?

    If you don't use tags, is that because it seems too much effort, or because it doesn't improve the quality of your search results noticeably, or for some other reason I haven't thought of?

    If you shop or browse for books on Amazon and have no idea what tags are or why anyone would care about them, I'd like to know that, to try to get a representative sample.

    Suggested categories:

    Entertainment & Music -> Magazines

    Yahoo! Products -> Yahoo! Shopping

    Beauty & Style -> Fashion & Accessories

    9 AnswersBooks & Authors9 years ago
  • How many of you use Shelfari?

    Now that I have a book on sale in the Kindle Store, Amazon want me to join, claiming that it could help me to promote myself and my book. I've barely heard of this site, and am wondering whether it would be a worthwhile investment of my time.

    So I have a few questions for you folks:

    1. Do you have an account on Shelfari?

    2. If you don't have an account, had you heard of the site before I mentioned it just now?

    3. If you do have an account, do you use it more for discovering new books and authors, or for discussing books you already know about, or for something else that my dualistic thinking can't comprehend?

    4. Do you have a Kindle (either a real one or the app that lets you read books on your PC or smartphone or iPad)?


    (Suggested category: Education & Reference -> Trivia. Is Yahoo! trying to tell me something?)

    10 AnswersBooks & Authors9 years ago
  • Writers - I feel a complete bozo asking a grammar question, but...?

    ...someone in my critique group has got me second guessing myself. When you write dialogue that you attribute to a named character, which comes first in the dialogue tag - the character name or the verb? That is, which of these examples is correct?

    1. "Hello," said Joe.

    2. "Hello," Joe said.

    If you think both are correct, which is "more" correct? I'd be interested in hearing why you chose the one you did.

    I'd also be interested in knowing which country you live in, as I suspect part of the reason for my disagreement with the critter is that I'm British and she's American.

    28 AnswersBooks & Authors9 years ago
  • YA fantasy readers - do you hate this cover design any less than the last one?

    I'm trying to design a new cover for the book I have on Authonomy. The comments I got on my first attempt last week persuaded me to change direction. So here's the second attempt: You'll notice that I'm thinking of changing the title too...

    My questions are the same as last time:

    - Does it look like the cover of a young adult fantasy novel?

    - (If you read books like that) Would it persuade you to start reading the book, or find out more about it?

    Really, it just has to look better than the current one, which looks like this:

    Something to bear in mind is that Authonomy scales cover images to the size of a postage stamp, so if I use the new one, it's going to look like this:

    And just because you're such deserving people, here's a behind-the-scenes photo: The gunk on my fingertips is out of the grill pan in the kitchen. I knew there was a reason I don't wash the dishes every day...

    14 AnswersBooks & Authors10 years ago
  • A better title than "A Wizard's Daughter"?

    My YA fantasy novel has been called "A Wizard's Daughter" almost since I started it. The problem with the title is that it's a bit too generic - it tells you it's fantasy, and it tells you that the main character is female and (presumably) relatively young, but doesn't tell you anything of what the story is about. So I'm wondering if any of you lovely people have any better ideas. This is the nearest thing I have to a blurb right now:

    "Apprentice wizard Adramal wants nothing more than to be a healer. But when she moves to a new school to complete her training, she discovers that several ritual murders have been committed by magic, threatening the fabric of the world. The evidence points to the killer being one of Adramal’s teachers, and the City Watch recruit her to go undercover to unmask the murderer.

    "The task is more daunting than she anticipated – for apprentices are forbidden from using magic outside the classrooms. Hands tied, she turns to Perinar, the shy librarian whose dusty volumes might hold the secret of the reason for the killings. But can she find what she needs before the killer strikes again or – worse – without blowing her cover and putting her own life in danger?"

    If I have to tell people what it's about, briefly, I describe it as a murder mystery set in a school for wizards, so it might be nice for the title to reflect that in some way.

    A few alternatives I thought of already:

    Deadly Magic

    The Barefoot Healer (this is a nickname that Adramal acquires in the course of the book)

    The Barefoot Detective (a play on The Barefoot Healer)

    Harriet Potter and the Serial Killer of Camelot (this is if I ever have to pitch it to a Hollywood executive)

    Or is it fine as it is?

    (OMG - Y!A put this in the right category!)

    15 AnswersBooks & Authors10 years ago
  • YA fantasy readers - what do you think of this cover design?

    Someone who's designed a lot more book covers than me thought the current cover for my book on Authonomy was a bit... uninspired. So I thought I'd knock up something that better reflects what the book is about, and I'd be grateful for any opinions on it. The current attempt is at:

    A couple of specific questions -

    Does it say loud and clear "this is a young adult fantasy novel"?

    And does it say loud and clear "you must read this"?

    Don't hold back - I'm quite prepared to hear "no to both". I'm aware there's a lot wrong with it on a technical level, but I thought I'd try to figure out whether I'm heading in vaguely the right direction before I spend weeks tweaking the textures and lighting and the way the character's hair falls...

    (Suggested categories: Sports -> Fantasy Sports, Entertainment & Music -> Magazines. Sigh...)

    18 AnswersBooks & Authors10 years ago
  • Any books that use mirrors in this way?

    For my next book, I'm thinking of writing a fantasy novel that makes use of "magic mirrors" (haven't thought of a better name for them yet). These are mirrors that are made in pairs, where each mirror of the pair shows whatever the other one is reflecting. Think of it as the fantasy equivalent of a video phone, except that each mirror can communicate only with the mirror it's paired with. (So if one of the pair gets broken, the other one is useless.)

    What I'd like to know is any books that use mirrors like these as a major part of the plot or setting. It can be a book where a mirror can communicate with any mirror, as readers probably won't make that distinction. I expect readers to say I copied the idea from one of those books (even though I haven't read them). I just want to be sure I'm not copying any of the other stuff in the books, as most of the uses of mirrors like these are probably quite obvious.

    Suggested category: Home & Garden > Cleaning & Laundry. (I'm afraid this is the best laugh I've had all day...)

    8 AnswersBooks & Authors1 decade ago
  • Which animals do you think of as dishonest?

    I'm currently editing a fantasy novel, and there's a place where I've referred to a person who's lying as a "smug toad". It occurred to me that the association between toads and dishonesty is specific to Earth (and maybe to English-speaking cultures), so I ought to try to come up with something different.

    So can anyone think of another animal that you might personify as a habitual liar? Which animals do non-English cultures on Earth see as dishonest? Ideally it should be one that's native to Europe (including the British Isles), because that's what I'm using as a basis for the flora and fauna.

    (Suggested category: Food & Drink -> Vegetarian and Vegan. D'oh...)

    15 AnswersBooks & Authors1 decade ago
  • Naming convention for moons of exoplanets?

    I'm planning a science fiction story that takes place partly on the moon of a gas giant orbiting another star. For the sake of a bit of realism, I want to give it a plausible-sounding official name. As far as I'm aware, no one has yet discovered a body in orbit around an exoplanet. Does anybody have any idea what sort of naming convention astronomers would apply to such a body? Or would they not worry about that question until somebody actually found one?

    If it makes a difference, the gas giant in question is 55 Cancri f.

    4 AnswersAstronomy & Space1 decade ago
  • Opinions about a pitch for a fantasy novel?

    I've just signed up to and am about to upload the start of my novel. I need two pitches, a short one and a long one. Those of you who read fantasy, would the following make you click through to start reading the story? If not, why not?

    Short pitch (has to be no more than 25 words - currently exactly that many):

    Bad: one of your new teachers is a murderer. Worse: you’ve got to work out which one. Worst: while trying not to fall in love.

    Long pitch (has to be no more than 200 words - currently 92)

    Adramal, an apprentice wizard, moves to a new school to complete her training. Several ritual murders have been committed in the city, and the chief investigator suspects the killer is one of Adramal’s new teachers. The teachers have closed ranks, so he persuades Adramal to go undercover for him. Now Adramal has to avoid becoming the next victim - while at the same time resisting her growing attraction to Perinar, the shy, awkward apprentice who’s cataloguing the school’s vast library... whose dusty volumes may yet hold the key to unmasking the killer.

    (First suggested category - Sports -> Fantasy Sports. "Pitch" isn't just what you do to a baseball, Mr Yahoo...)

    14 AnswersBooks & Authors1 decade ago
  • Why does the myth of "poor man's copyright" persist?

    Whenever somebody here posts a question about "how do I copyright my [story|novel|poem|whatever]?" (sometimes even when they don't), at least one of the answers will recommend what's known as a "poor man's copyright". This is where you post a copy of your work to yourself and don't open it when it arrives. Supposedly, if somebody ever copies your work without your permission, the postmark on the envelope proves that whatever is inside the envelope was in your possession on that date. Simple, cheap, effective, right? Well... two out of three ain't bad. It won't stand up in court, and it never has.

    I'm guessing most of the people on Y!A are in the USA. Have a look at this page from the site of the US Copyright Office:

    Towards the bottom, it says about poor man's copyright: "There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration." The Copyright Office is the branch of the government that keeps records of copyrights and who claims to own them, so it doesn't get any more official than that.

    Further up that page, it says: "In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work." So not only is poor man's copyright useless in court, it doesn't even save you the $35 that it costs to register a copyright!

    What about other countries, then? Not all of them have copyright offices. Some of them prefer to let the courts sort it all out. See, for example, this page from the UK's Intellectual Property Office:

    At the bottom, it says: "[A] creator could send himself or herself a copy by special delivery post ... It is important to note, that this does not prove that a work is original or created by you. But it may be useful to be able to show the court that the work was in your possession at a particular date." That's not very encouraging, is it?

    (Both those links came from )

    So why does this myth persist? You'd think that if poor man's copyright worked, at least one person would have successfully used it when trying to protect his copyright. Can anyone point to a case where someone has used it in court and the judge hasn't simply laughed and thrown the case out? Cases that didn't get to court don't count, because the infringer was not being forced to act by someone with the power to impose large payments on him.

    Why does the myth persist? Why is there so much ignorance in the world?

    (First suggested category - Society & Culture -> Mythology & Folklore. More appropriate than I know?)

    10 AnswersBooks & Authors1 decade ago
  • What could I call this type of document?

    I'm writing a fantasy novel, in which the heroine is a wizard who's been seconded to one of her country's embassies. People working for the embassy have what I call "diplomatic privilege", where they're subject to the law of their own country, not the law of the country where the embassy is. This is like diplomatic immunity in the real world, and stops the local police from harassing diplomats when relations between the countries are going badly.

    Diplomats carry a document that proves they're diplomats, and I now find I need a name for this. At first, I thought "warrant card," but a warrant authorises a person to do something, whereas this document exempts a person from doing certain things, or removes obligations he would otherwise have. As I was writing this question, I thought "privilege card," but that sounds like something from a supermarket loyalty scheme. I don't want a made-up word, because this is a concept that exists in the real world.

    So - any ideas?

    (Suggested categories: Computers & Internet > Software; Yahoo! Products > Yahoo! Mail > Attachments & Photos)

    5 AnswersBooks & Authors1 decade ago
  • Opinions about the beginning of a fantasy story?

    What do you folks think of the following beginning for a story? Does it hold your interest? If you get to the end of it, do you want to know what happens next?

    Please note that I speak British English, not American. That should account for any misspellings or phrases that sound odd. There are a lot of italics in this piece, but since Y!A doesn't allow them, I've indicated them /like this./

    Observant readers might notice that neither character has a name. That isn't deliberate; I just haven't got around to choosing any yet.

    A great rush of air came upon him from above, knocking him to the ground. A shadow blotted out the sun. As the wind subsided, he became aware of a large, hulking presence in front of him, heavy beyond mere physical mass. Expecting it to be the last thing he ever did, he looked up.

    The tip of the dragon's nose was about three feet in front of him. It was hard to be sure from this angle, but he estimated that its head alone was longer than he was tall. It was covered in jet black scales, ranging in size from smaller than his fingernail to bigger than his fist. According to legend, dragons slowly changed colour over their lives. The black ones were the oldest - and the most deadly.

    It looked at him dispassionately. Its eyes were the palest gold, with a narrow vertical slit in the middle, black as the bottom of the ocean. He felt as though that was what he was looking at; the pupils seemed deep enough to contain worlds. He recalled that legend also said you should never look into a dragon's eyes...

    The dragon shifted its weight slightly, and its nostrils dilated. He felt air moving past him as it breathed in. This was it, then. He wondered how long it would be before the others noticed he was missing and whether, if they came up here to look for him, they would work out the meaning of the blackened patch of grass where he was now lying.

    /Man-thing./ The voice reverberated inside his skull. The legends were right about that, too: dragons had no voices like humans, but spoke directly with their minds. What the legends hadn't mentioned was that the dragon's mind-speech was incredibly loud. Perhaps he should move further away? Given his present circumstances, that might not be a wise move.

    /Crawling,/ said the dragon. /Grovelling, as befits your kind. If you were another dragon, I should kill you for this insult. Yet one such as you is scarcely worth that trouble./

    The dragon paused and breathed out. His head felt as though he was reeling from blows. The ground seemed to be spinning underneath him. Still, he had survived a lot longer than he had expected to after the dragon's arrival. At the moment, he wasn't sure whether that was a good thing. Carefully and distinctly, he began to frame words in his mind.

    /O great dragon,/ he said, /I offer my most humble apologies for disturbing you./

    /It speaks!/ The dragon seemed quite startled. Its pupils widened fractionally.

    /Indeed, o great dragon,/ he replied. /I have made some study of the ways of your kind, but there is, of course, much of which I am still ignorant. I assure you that I mean no offence by it. For instance, I would be most grateful to learn the correct manner of addressing you./

    /Polite, too./ There was an uncomfortable pause. He imagined that the dragons had never had to consider such a question, at least not when it was being asked by a human. /"O great dragon" will suffice,/ it said eventually.

    /Perhaps, o great dragon, you wish to know why I summoned you here./

    /You did not summon me,/ said the dragon, and he sensed restrained anger behind the words. /I chose to come./

    /As you wish, o great dragon./ He bowed his head.

    /Look at me,/ said the dragon, and he complied. He knew that he couldn't have disobeyed. /I am nevertheless curious to know why a man-thing happens to be on this hilltop, far from its own kind, at the very same moment that I choose to visit it./

    /That is quite simple to explain, o great dragon. I wish to propose an alliance./

    16 AnswersBooks & Authors1 decade ago