Affirmation

It’s strange how our minds’ work. It has this strange habit of sowing doubts, making us question things we were once confident about. Let me explain . . .

After finally publishing Heart Search, book one: Lost, I was euphoric. My dream of seeing something I’d written on the pages of Amazon had come true and I was riding a wave of triumph; I’d achieved my goal!

I knew early on in the writing of Heart Search: Lost that the story wouldn’t fit into just one book and made the decision to spread it over three. It didn’t faze me in the slightest, at the time, and I looked forward to getting the next section drafted. Once the blog tour was underway, I began making my plans to push forward with it during NaNoWriMo. It would give me the discipline and momentum I needed to get it written quickly, I told myself, and was eager to start.

affirm1

November 1st came and I sat down to write, full of ideas and inspiration, confidence running high, and then my mind decided to throw a spanner in the works.

Despite the fact the story was flowing quite well and I’d written over ten thousand words by the end of day three, I began to doubt my abilities. I suffered a crisis of confidence. Just because I’d successfully written one book, did that automatically mean I would be able to complete another one? Did I have another novel in me? Would I find enough of a story to finish it? Was I a good enough author to write a second book?

doubt

All these questions and more spun around in my head like a Tasmanian devil on crack, and it was a horrible feeling. On one level I truly believed I could achieve this second goal, but those niggling doubts had taken root and the tendrils were spreading. I kept my own counsel during this worrying time, dug my heels in and gave myself a strongly-worded lecture. And I carried on writing.

As the word count grew, and one chapter led to another and another, my confidence began to come back a little at a time. The fears didn’t go away, but instead of letting them overpower me, I took back control. I was determined to prove to myself that I wasn’t a ‘one-trick pony’!

I finished the first draft of Heart Search, book two, on 11th January – just eleven days ago – and have now begun the revisions and edits. I can honestly say I experienced the same sense of achievement and joy as when I finished writing book one; I’d overcome my misgivings, my confidence crisis and affirmed that yes, I did have it in me to produce another novel.

affirm2

I have no idea where the doubts came from or why my mind decided to throw me a major curve ball. What I do know is, I can fight it and win!

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Self-Marketing My Way

The third post to appear on the Heart Search Blog Tour was hosted by the lovely Maree Ward-Russell in New Zealand, home to the film sets of the fantastic Lord of the Rings films (among others, of course, but this series is probably the most famous one filmed in that lovely part of the world). Maree asked me to write about marketing tips and this is what I came up with.

Being an Indie published author means you have to do all your own marketing, right from day one and it’s a daunting task if you’ve never done anything like it before. Although I’ve done a great deal of marketing in my day jobs, marketing yourself online is a whole different story. However, some of the same general rules apply, which are:

1.         Word of mouth / recommendations are the best form of advertising

2.         All consumers (and books/e-books are no different) consciously or subconsciously have one thing in their minds when they see advertising – “what’s in it for me?”

3.         You need to create demand for your product

I’m going to start off with number three first (just to be different) as it’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last couple of months.

I’ve been talking about Heart Search a great deal on Twitter, Facebook and my blog. I’ve also had some really cheap but good quality postcards printed with the book cover on one side and on the reverse are the book blurb and my contact details. These have been handed to people during conversations – as soon as I find out they like to read they get the card shoved in their hands. Even during a recent trip to the hospital, I got chatting to some of the staff and ended up handing out about six cards and one said they would pin it on the staff notice board.

Secondly, I’ve been leaking teasers in advance of the book launch. About three or four weeks prior I revealed the cover and blurb and publicized it and two weeks before I revealed the book trailer, making sure I created anticipation with teasing blog posts leading up to it. But I haven’t done this alone. I decided, the best way to get a buzz going and get people to know about and talk about my book was to run a Blog Tour. I did this well in advance so the people who signed up could also participate in the pre-launch unveilings too.

Obviously, the more people who sign up, the more the word spreads and the more people get to hear about it. The majority of those who signed up for the tour, have also revealed the cover and trailer on their sites/blogs, and publicised it through social media channels. Now if we stop for a moment and think of reach, just from Twitter, let’s assume for a moment that every person who is on the blog tour has 1,000+ followers and there are twenty people of the tour, straight away you’ve reached twenty thousand people. Now if ten per cent of those twenty thousand retweeted the post(s), that has reached the followers of another two thousand people and so the cobweb or network grows of people who now know my book exists.

During the blog tour which is running from 8-31 October, there will be a minimum of two and a maximum of four different blog posts appearing every single day throughout the tour; reviews (which will be posted to Amazon and Goodreads as well), interviews, excerpts and guest posts like this one, plus a giveaway (and everyone loves to get something for nothing! Yes I’ve had to spend some money to put the giveaway together, but I believe it’s money well spent, especially if it has the desired effect of bringing my book to the attention of more people). Each posted blog item will be publicised and so the cobweb/network grows again.

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Okay, let’s now look at number one – Word of Mouth/Recommendations. This is something I have little control over. If people love my book, they will tweet about it or share it on Facebook/other social media platforms and they will tell their friends. Hopefully, this will result in more sales. What I can do is use social media platforms to publicise good reviews. If someone gives me a five star review, you can bet I’ll be sharing it on all my social media sites and the more I get the more I’m going to share it. I’ll be taking a key phrase from a review which showcases the book at its best and tell everyone what this reviewer said – after all, a five star review is a recommendation and I have to capitalise on it!

If I get messages from people saying how much they enjoyed my book, I’m going to ask them politely if they would recommend it to their friends and maybe even write a review. A review doesn’t have to be 200 words long; it can be one or two sentences just saying something like “I loved this book and would recommend it to everyone” and ask them to give me a star rating. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?

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Right, now let’s look at number two, which in some ways is the hardest. Everyone has different expectations from a book; some like lots of suspense, others like twists and turns, and some like lots of description so they can connect with the characters and scene. I have no way of knowing what people’s expectations are, what drives them toward a particular book so again reviews play a part in this. A well-written review is worth its weight in gold as it will usually say whether they loved the suspense/twists and turns/description, so by taking those phrases and publicising them, I’m going to be meeting the needs of those people who look for that particular characteristic.

The rest of this one is guesswork. I’m going to be picking out key sentences or phrases from the book which will address the main needs of the consumer and publicising them. I’ll be mixing them up so one day I’ll pick something descriptive, another day a little suspense and so on. One of those is going to strike a chord with someone who’ll be interested enough to want to look at the book blurb and then you have a potential sale.

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I think networking plays a large part in getting your name and your book out to a wider audience. I have joined groups who are only interested in Fantasy and Paranormal. I’m making friends within those groups and publicising my book with them. Lo and behold, I begin to create another set of cobwebs within each group, just like with the Blog Tour.

I also think making myself accessible to my readership is very important. I will never turn away or ignore a reader who takes the time to contact me. If they’ve had enough faith in me to spend their hard-earned cash buying my book, the very least I can do is give them some of my time in return. In fact I’m seriously considering setting up a page on my website for that very purpose.

Finally, I will be running a few special offers and doing a little bit of advertising on those sites where I feel I’m going to get maximum exposure without it breaking the bank!

This ‘list’ is not exhaustive and I’m sure I’ll learn more as I progress, but I happen to think it’s a damn good place to start.

What are your thoughts on marketing? Have you got any marketing tips you’d like to share?

A Different World #BlogFlash2012

Hi. We’re now over half way through #BlogFlash2012 as it’s Day 16 (it seems to be going so fast!). Today’s prompt is A Different World. I’m not going to introduce my piece today, I’m going to let it speak for itself. I hope you like it.

 

A Different World

In some ways I think everyone has ideas about how they’d like to live in a different world. Being a fantasy author, I can dream up all sorts of fantastical worlds.

A fantasy world

But right now I’m looking at the world we live in. Given the chance, I’d make our world different.

Our world

In my different world abject poverty wouldn’t exist; everyone would have enough money to live comfortably, able to pay all their bills and eat properly. Everyone would be equal.

In my world there’d be cures for every disease and no one would suffer pain.

Peace would reign; war wouldn’t exist.

Maybe I’m a dreamer (I am a writer so . . .), but wouldn’t it be great?

What about you?

 

Books #BlogFlash2012

Hi. It’s Day 15 and the #BlogFlash prompt today is Books. I could wax lyrical about books from sun up to sun down as I’ve loved books ever since I learned to read &*? years ago. I originally wrote a piece about what books mean to me, but I cast it aside and rewrote something more entertaining for you. I hope you like it.

 

Books

 

I picked up the book lovingly, examining it. The shininess of the cover, the uncreased spine, the feel of each new page, even the smell impacted on my senses.

I got comfortable and began to read, absorbing myself in the wonderful world and getting to know the characters intimately. I travelled with them, shared their laughter and tears and helped them with their chores. They were my friends now.

I turned another page, engrossed and there was my name. The author had chosen my name for a character. I read on and the world appeared even more real; I could feel the soft breeze, smell the scents and hear my new friends talking to me. I looked around and all I could see was this strange yet wonderful world created by the writer’s imagination.

Girl trapped in a strange world

Gone was my lounge, my furniture, my ornaments and photographs. I peeped through a small window and there it was only I wasn’t curled up on the sofa. A plain black book, all the shininess gone from the jacket lay where I had sat.

 

 

 

 

The Boomerang Effect

When I finished my first draft of Heart Search and the initial euphoria had worn off a little, I gave my raw manuscript to my editor, Maria Johnson, to smooth out the rough edges. At that time, I had no real idea of what was involved and the true ‘boomerang effect’ (as I affectionately call it) my novel would be involved in.

Maria skilfully and professionally guided me through the process, giving explanations, good constructive criticism and recommendations along the way. By the time Heart Search: Lost was ready for submission, I’d learnt so much about the process, how hard a good editor has to work and the importance of building a good working relationship between author and editor.

Now, one of my nicknames is ‘Hawkeye’, mainly because if something is lost on a carpet or furniture, no matter how small, I’d be the one to find it. So where is this leading? Be patient, I’m getting there! Lol.

I was reading a book on Kindle and began to notice various grammatical errors, words missing and the like. The author was a contact of mine on Twitter and I sent her a polite Direct Message mentioning I’d found errors in her book. She sent me her email address and asked if I would tell her what I’d found, which I did. This was the start of a lovely friendship between Alison DeLuca and me.

After she’d written her third novel, she asked me to beta read and line edit it for her. I not only did that, but also gave her feedback and suggestions for structural changes. Alison and I worked well together and our friendship has grown as a result. Alison was very happy with the work I’d done for her and has recommended me to some of her author friends.

Now I’m editing the third novel of Connie J Jasperson (on Alison’s recommendation). This time I’m doing more than just line editing. Connie warned me her manuscript was, in her words, “very raw” and needed a lot of work.

When you edit you have to look at so many things; attention to detail, as well as a good grasp of grammar is a must. These are the sorts of things an editor must look for, apart from the obvious spelling mistakes:

  • Repetition of words and phrases within a sentence and/or paragraph
  • Over-use of words – ‘that’ being the most common
  • Sentence structure – does the sentence flow? How does it sound when read aloud? If it doesn’t flow then it need changing and then you make recommendations of how to improve it
  • Extraneous words
  • Grammar – this is more than just having commas in the right places. It also involves looking at over-use of exclamation marks, seeing where two short sentences could be joined and what punctuation is required to do it successfully
  • Dialogue – has it been written too formally (as in the ‘Queen’s English’) or is it realistic?

These are just a few examples of what a good editor will do for you, but in each case there should be an explanation for the author as to why something isn’t working as well as suggestions for improving it. I can’t stress how important this bit is. How can a writer learn and grow if they don’t know why something they’ve written is wrong or why it doesn’t flow? And as for the suggestions to improve a particular section, this gives the author ideas of how they can correct it in their own words.

Some authors think an editor should just go ahead and make the changes for them, rewriting sections as necessary, but what they fail to understand is no one can imitate an author’s voice. Of course I could make changes to Connie’s manuscript, but would it read differently to the rest of the novel? Of course it would! Connie has her ‘voice’ and I have mine.

Anyway, having finished the first round of edits (I’ve been sending them to Connie a chapter at a time); along with an overall feedback on the novel, we are now starting Round Two. And this is where the Boomerang Effect comes into play.

No editor is infallible and whilst they will try their very best to capture everything first time around, there are the occasional holes in the net and bits do slip through. Now Connie has made the changes based on my first set of comments, I’m now going through it again to check there’s nothing I’ve missed and this time to look at any sections within the story that slow it down or aren’t really needed. I will make my recommendations and it’s then up to Connie whether she accepts them or not. At the end of the day, it’s the author’s choice to accept or reject suggestions an editor makes. It’s their baby and they’ve poured their heart and soul onto the pages so it has to be their decision.

Again, we have the Boomerang Effect. After this second round, I will have a final check over before Connie sends it to someone she trusts to beta read it and ask them for constructive criticism and feedback on the overall story. At this point, the author can take it upon themselves to make changes suggested by the beta reader or discuss them with her editor before making the changes – again her choice. However, it’s very important for the author to save each version of the manuscript under a different name so if something doesn’t work, they have a reference point to go back to and, if necessary, restore an original phrase/sentence/paragraph.

So what happens next? Yep, you’ve guessed it – the manuscript Boomerang’s its way back to the editor for final checking before it goes to the publisher. [I can’t wait for this to be published – it’s an AMAZING novel!!]

I’m happy to say Connie and I have built a lovely friendship as well as a great working relationship. She can see by the way I’ve managed the first round of edits, the loving care with which I’ve treated her ‘baby’, and appreciates the way I’ve handled the constructive criticism with kindness. Connie is a joy to work with, as Alison was; they are both consummate professionals when it comes to their writing and it shows in the way they’ve responded to the editing I’ve done for them.

Most of what I’m able to do with editing, I learned from my own editor and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude, one I may never be able to repay.

One final word of caution, to those considering undertaking an editing job for someone, be prepared to spend humungous amounts of time and maybe even put your own projects on hold. Editing is a time consuming job if done with the loving care each manuscript deserves and you can’t duck when that Boomerang comes flying back!

Every Cloud . . .

Sometimes bad things happen to us in our lives and being human, tend to ask “why me?” and “what have I done to deserve this?” And I’m no different. However, it’s how we handle the situation that defines who we really are.

When tragedy of whatever scale strikes, we always think of ourselves first, and then the impact on our immediate family. Our first thought is never “Well, there’s always someone worse off than me!”

As some of you may know, I have a back condition. This is due to two accidents I had in 2005, one of which was a nasty car crash. However, after the initial recovery, I was able to continue with my daily life without it impacting too much. Extreme sports were out, but I wasn’t too bothered – I never fancied bungee- jumping anyway! Every now and again, my back would play up, but after treatment I was able to carry on again and didn’t think much of it . . . until twelve weeks ago.

Now, before you think, ‘aww she’s after sympathy’, let me assure you it’s the farthest thing from my mind. I’m not going to mention how much my back has deteriorated or the amount of pain I’m in – this isn’t what this post is all about. It’s about finding your silver lining in the black cloud that sometimes hovers above our heads.

When I was at school, I met a lovely girl called Theresa. She was a victim of Thalidomide and was born with no arms. I never once saw her without a smile on her face. She taught herself to write and paint with her feet. Her writing was more like calligraphy; it was beautiful and far beyond anything I could achieve even after loads of practice. Her paintings were stunning in their detail and use of colour and looking at them, you would never in a million years think they’d been painted by someone with no hands or arms. She turned her ‘disability’ into a positive – she found her silver lining.

If we look around us, every day we see small miracles where people have turned adversity into something amazing and positive for them and their families. You only have to think of the athletes taking part in the Paralympic Games in two months as prime examples.

So where do I fit into this? Twelve weeks ago, my back went ‘into meltdown’ as I’m calling it. None of my usual treatment was working, the pain began to increase significantly and now complications have set in which is preventing me from going to work and has reduced my mobility.

Not long after these problems began to escalate, I was asked by an author friend of mine, if I would line edit her latest novel. I agreed, but warned her it would take some time as I would need to fit it around the day job and my own writing. She was fine with this and duly sent over the first draft of her manuscript.

I made a start on it (she did warn me it was raw and needed quite a bit of work), but progress was slow. I was struggling to juggle my time between the editing, my writing, running a writing group and keeping up with my social media connections. So fate (or whatever you want to call it) intervened. The doctor signed me as ‘unfit for work’.

It may have been a bit of a double-edged sword, but I found the thread of my silver lining and, like a kite taken up by the wind, I’m not letting go! I now have the time to concentrate on the editing and have time left over for writing and everything else I need to do.

And yes, despite my worsening condition and the pain with goes with it, working on the editing and writing Heart Search 2, helps take my mind off my suffering and I’m coping with a smile on my face.

The old saying ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ is so true – you just need to open your eyes to look for it!

 

A Writer’s Journey

I’ve loved to read as far back as I can remember. I had a lonely childhood and immersed myself in the wonderful tales spun like magic on the pages in my hands. The characters became my playmates when I was unable to see my friends for whatever reason.

It’s funny though – I never once stopped to think about the authors or the process they go through to get that wonderful gift into my hands. Obviously I knew someone had sat down and lovingly created the story, but in my ignorance I didn’t stop to think about them as people.

I would go into the library in school or town or into my local bookshop and see row upon row of hardback and paperback capsules of knowledge, wonderful worlds and people and pure escapism. I would pick books off the shelves and consume the synopsis on the back, letting my imagination ride over green fields ringed with trees that spoke and animals that were almost human, when seeing words like ‘magic’, ‘castle’, ‘witches’, ‘fairies’ etc.

Even when writing my own short stories I still never considered all the hard work each and every author does in order to get their fabulous stories onto those library and bookshop shelves. In my naiveté, I guess I thought they wrote the stories, took them to a printer and voila, out pops a book.

You know, it wasn’t until I wrote Heart Search: Lost that I finally understood.

It took me 9-months to write the first draft, most of that while holding down a full-time job, teaching two nights a week and looking after a home and my daughter. It took my editor about 2-months to get through it (she was working on other things at the time as well), then I had the first round of revisions to do. I then edited the manuscript myself to check all my revisions worked before sending it out to an alpha reader.

My alpha reader doesn’t normally read novels in the Fantasy genre, so perhaps I was taking a bit of a gamble . . . but then again, maybe not . . . SHE LOVED IT!! She gave me some very useful feedback, which was great, but the fact that she loved what I’d written gave me a tremendous boost. It gave me hope that maybe I was quite good at this, that my writing had some value and was entertaining.

Taking the feedback I received, I revised and edited again before sending it to a beta reader. This lady is a friend who is also a senior editor at a US publishing company. I trusted her, not only with my manuscript, but also impartial and honest feedback. That was exactly what I got! She suggested structural changes for some of the chapters and a few other things that I hadn’t really thought too much about. She was (and still is) incredibly supportive of me and my work and what makes it even more amazing – Alison and I have never met in person! (This is a whole other story for another blog post – maybe . . .).

So back I went again and revised for the third, or was it fourth time, implementing Alison’s insightful suggestions. I then gave it to my editor again and whip in hand, told her I needed it back within two weeks. She gave me one of her ‘looks’ (you know the one – peering over the top of her specs, eyebrows raised and lips slightly pursed in disapproval – I can see you picturing it now!), and said she’d do her best. Bless her heart, Maria (my editor) pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and got it done within the two weeks. Thankfully I only had minimal changes to make and then it was done.

Then the hard work really started. Oh, please don’t get me wrong; writing the novel, doing revision after revision after revision, edits etc., is hard work, but because you have so much of yourself invested in the plotlines and characters, it’s more a labour of love. What I’m talking about is the next phase of the process – trying to get published.

The first thing to do is decide which route is right for you and the research in itself is quite time consuming. There’s traditional publishing with an agent; traditional publishing without an agent (very tricky to get a deal, especially these days); independent publishers – printed books; independent publishers – ebooks; or self-publishing.

Having decided which route you want to take, you then need to research the submission guidelines for each agent/publisher you want to submit to and ensure that you stick rigidly to their guidelines. Each one is a little different so you have to tailor the next stages to their precise requirements.

The next stage is to write a synopsis of your book. This is not a chapter by chapter account, more a page or two giving the main story line, highlights, and most importantly, the ending. This document has to grab the publisher or agent’s interest so needs to be written, revised, revised again and edited to ensure excellent grammar and spelling.

Then comes the query letter which includes a one-paragraph synopsis of your novel. Again grammar and spelling is of the utmost importance, but more than this, the letter has to be professional, succinct and powerful enough for the agent/publisher to want to read your entire novel (you only normally send the first couple of chapters at this stage). More revisions and editing until this is the best it can possibly be.

Finally, you need to write a short biography. They don’t want your life history so a short paragraph about you will do.

Having done all the above it’s time to bite the bullet and submit your work to your chosen agent/publisher. And wait. And wait. And wait.

This is the stage I’m currently at. I decided to try the traditional publishing route through an agent. I picked the agent carefully, followed their submission guidelines and sent everything off on Friday 13th April (Friday 13th??? I know – crazy right?!). I’m now waiting in a densely populated place called Hope. I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ll get picked up by the first agent I approach, but who knows? Maybe I’ve done everything right. Maybe they will like what I’ve sent them enough to want to see my entire manuscript (all 152,000 words of it). And maybe they won’t.

It’s all a learning curve and I’m strong enough to face rejection if that’s what comes my way. I have other options and a plan in place should they not accept me. Whatever happens, I’m not giving up. I’ve already started writing book 2 and have plans for a third novel to round off the story. I’m going to keep trying to get my work out there and hope that my writing will give another person the same level of enjoyment and entertainment that I’ve taken for granted for too many years.

This post would not be complete without acknowledging the three people who got me this far.

My alpha reader and best friend, Jakki

My wonderful editor, Maria http://twitter.com/Maria7627

 

My dear friend and beta reader, Alison DeLuca (author of The Night Watchman Express & Devil’s Kitchen and senior editor at Fantasy Island Book Publishing)

http://twitter.com/AlisonDeLuca