Penny Dreadful

I’ve just returned from a family reunion in Belfast and Dublin and everywhere I went there were reminders of how many great authors and poets have come from the green isles. You could be walking down a street and find a quote from work by Yeats or Oscar Wilde, to name but two, and I found it extremely inspirational.

Some of the places I visited gave me loads of ideas for my next series of books and it goes to show that you can get inspiration from almost anywhere, if only you take the time to look.

Dublin Castle was one such place. I didn’t go inside, it was the events unfolding in the courtyard that caught my attention. There were roped-off areas with old fashioned market stalls; some were the type that were on wheeled carts and others were static. As I looked around at the ‘wares’ it felt like I’d stepped back in time and it was a strange sensation. Suddenly I was in Victorian London and all around me were people dressed from that era. As I stared, drinking in the sights, I could picture certain scenes for my Seven Doors series and I couldn’t wait to write it down.

But what was happening there? Was it an exhibition the castle had staged? No. The reason certain areas were roped off was because an episode of the TV series, Penny Dreadful, was being filmed (although I didn’t realise that until I saw actress Billie Piper dressed in Victorian finery and boom mikes and camera equipment being wheeled or carried into the courtyard).

Rehearsal before filming

Rehearsal before filming

Actresses on the Swing Boats

Actresses on the Swing Boats

Billie Piper waiting for rehearsals to start

Billie Piper waiting for rehearsals to start

Part of the market scenery which sparked my imagination

Part of the market scenery which sparked my imagination

One of the cars used to ferry people to the set had this on their dashboard. This might seem like a stupid photo to take but it's all part of the memory.

One of the cars used to ferry people to the set had this on their dashboard.
This might seem like a stupid photo to take but it’s all part of the memory.

I took a few photos (as you do) and on the bus back to the hotel I took out my little pad and scribbled notes about the objects and scenes which had most inspired me. I know at least some of it will appear in one of the books in my upcoming Seven Doors series, but it certainly won’t be in the first one.

It certainly proves the point about inspiration. You never know what’s around to ignite that spark which sends your imagination into overdrive. So open your eyes, take the time to look around you, and make sure you have a pad and pen handy!

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Guest Post: Inspirational Characters by K J Waters

Inspiration is something that fascinates me. I love how my mind can imagine different places, characters, and creatures totally unbidden and then give me the words to create stories. I often wonder where other authors get their inspiration from and how they craft their characters.

I asked K J Waters, author of the debut novel, Stealing Time, and who I’ve been featuring on here over the last week, what her inspiration is and whether she’d be interested in writing a post on it for me. I won’t say she ripped my arm off, but she was very excited about it. So without further rambling from me, here’s K J’s post on inspiration:

Inspirational Characters

Thank you so much Carlie for letting me pen a guest post for your blog. Carlie asked me to talk about what inspires me to write and how I develop my characters. It’s funny because when I think of my characters I get all warm and fuzzy. They are part of me of course, but so much more than that, they’ve become my dear friends as well.

Let me start with what inspires me to write. I was born with a very creative brain and have used those skills in various ways to bring me joy. As a kid I’d play for hours with my brother and our stuffed animals. He is my Irish twin, only 11 months older than me (well yes, I was a mistake). In high school and college I set aside my animals to pursue art classes and filled my creative brain with water colors, pen and ink, and acrylics. I didn’t ever consider being an author until I decided to quit my job to stay home with my children well after college.

Without the constant demands of my job, I had time to be very creative with the kids, with constant art projects, day trips to fun museums and loads of imaginary play. But at a certain point, my mind started craving more creativity, more of a challenge than finger paints and zoos. The idea for a novel began brewing after the hurricanes hit Florida in August of 2004 and the following summer we were on a road trip driving up the coast from Florida to Maine.

The idea sparked a wild adventure that has come to fruition with my first novel, just released this past December, called Stealing Time. I’m so thrilled to be back writing again after the months of editing and promoting, and I’m working on book two in the Stealing Time trilogy. My inspiration now comes from wanting to spend time with my beloved characters. I’m falling in love with Mike Walsh, and can’t wait to get back to some of the interesting characters that are in this second book. The time travel elements are so much fun to explore and I’ve delved into it a lot more than I had time for in the first book.

Characters

Carlie asked me how I develop my characters. Ronnie is the main character in Stealing Time and I’d have to say she is about 80% me, with a dash of … hmmmm, not really sure, but there has to be someone else in there. It was easy to make her love the water, because it is something I’m passionate about, and I can say she reacts the way I would in many of her situations, at least as far as I can imagine being back in time and in trouble.

Steph, the second main character in my trilogy, is another story. She is based on one of my best friends who moved away from me years ago. It is my way of spending time with her now that she is gone. I don’t think she is exactly like my friend, because we’ve grown apart somewhat, but it is how I think of her and how she would act in similar situations.

When I developed Jeffrey, Ronnie’s boyfriend, I had to go with what I knew about men. He is a mixture of the good and bad of a few people in my life. It really surprised me that I would enjoy writing from the male perspective so much. Some of my best friends are men, and I love seeing the world through their eyes. Writing from Jeffrey’s perspective has given me a new window into their minds, and from what male readers have told me they really identify with how I’ve written them. Which is a huge relief!

In book two I began writing Mike Walsh, Ronnie’s boss, as the good parts of the same person that Jeffrey is based on but had to diverge enough to make the two characters very different. They have completely different motivations and views in their roles in my book. The other way are very different is that Jeffrey pretty much listens to me and does as he’s told. Mike has his own ideas. He’s hijacked my story on numerous occasions and it has shocked me as some of the twists and turns that have spiced up the story. I gotta say, he’s really grown on me and if I could make him into a real person my husband would be in big trouble. I guess that’s a writer for you, always making up stuff and often glad it’s not real.

As for Mathias in the first book, an Austrian man from the 18 century, I pretty much had to go on a big fat guess on how he would act. You don’t really run into many men from that time period these days. I have a friend who read the book and reported, much to my surprise, that he had a really good friend from Germany who was so much like Mathias in how he acted and thought. Maybe, just maybe, I tapped into some special time travel skill to mind meld with these characters in a different realm. Hey, I’m a writer I can think outside of the box on anything if I want.

The side characters are a mish mash of people I run into in my real life – a waitress, a PTA mom, an old boss. On several occasions I’ve created a character not really knowing him well, but as he develops into a full blown personality I meet someone who is ridiculously like that person I crafted. It has definitely freaked me out. This happened with Nick in the first book.  

I’m really curious to learn how other authors create their characters and see if my approach is standard operating procedure, or if, as I often do, I’ve created something completely different.

Thank you again Carlie for allowing me to spew on and on about my inspirations and character development. I’d love to talk to you about how you created your well-loved characters in the Heart Search series.

I’d be only too happy to talk about my characters with you, K J!.

It was a real pleasure for me to feature K J on my blog during this last week and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Don’t forget, if you’d like a copy of Stealing Time, click here for all the buy links from the Book Launch post!

KJWaters-Front Cover for blogkj pic

Book launch: Forbidden Road by Connie J Jasperson

Every so often I come across a book that resonates deep in my soul – I’m sure that’s happened to you too! One of those books was Tower of Bones by Connie J Jasperson. Most of you know I love fantasy books more than any other genre and this book certainly didn’t disappoint!

I started getting to know Connie through a mutual friend and was delighted when she asked me to edit book two in the series, Forbidden Road. This was truly a labour of love for me; having enjoyed Tower of Bones so much I read it twice back-to-back, it gave me enormous joy to be able to read and work on the follow up. This has been the most comprehensive editing job I’ve had and it took a while to reach the finish line, but what made it all the more enjoyable was working with a consummate professional who I have come to respect and consider a dear friend.

Tomorrow this fabulous book is being launched and I can honestly say I’m almost as excited as Connie! Of course, being the editor has a few perks, one of which is being able to give you, my wonderful followers, an exclusive cover and trailer reveal PLUS an interview with the lovely lady! I’ve also managed to twist her arm to allow me to share an excerpt from Forbidden Road with you. So without further rambling from me . . . here is the amazing cover, which was designed by Ceri Clark.

FR Cover bigger

Now for the trailer:

Intrigued yet??? Here’s the blurb:

A ray of light shone on Edwin. Of its own volition the sword Leviathan raised itself aloft to the Goddess. A bell tolled deep and clear, ringing through Edwin’s bones, ringing to his heels and resonating to his very soul, sealing him, binding him. Fervently he swore to wield Leviathan in service to the Goddess and Neveyah.  He was alive with the sound of the bell. The beauty of it was almost unbearable.

As every fiber of his being resonated, a voice proclaimed “Now begins the quest in earnest. Send now the heroes four to the Shadowed Land. Beware! Beloved, the true task for which you were born begins.  The storm rages, the door opens upon the field of battle. In grief recall the Forbidden Road. The Beloved Hero will rise on the day of redemption. Mist and shadows shroud the truth, but the Hero Foretold shall one day set them free.”

Tears coursed down his cheeks and falling to his knees, Edwin’s eyes were blinded by the radiance of the bell’s tolling through his heart, mind and soul. The knowledge he was loved, overwhelming in its intensity, flooded his being.

Thus begins the Quest of a lifetime. Sorrow, peril and magic await in the Valley of Mal Evol.

I’m going to keep you waiting a bit for the excerpt and tease you with the interview – especially as it talks a little more about Forbidden Road!

Me: Hi and welcome, Connie. Congratulations on the launch of Forbidden Road – are you as excited as I am?

CJJ: Yes, it’s been a long time coming and I’m glad the day is finally here.

Me: So am I!! Can you tell us a little about your new book?

CJJ: Forbidden Road takes up six years after the end of Tower of Bones, and continues Edwin’s story. Many changes have occurred and many more loom on the horizon. They are all family men, and they have careers—things that are all affected by this quest. Joining Edwin, Friedr and Christoph on their quest to shield the heart of Neveyah and heal the land is Zan, Christoph’s adopted son.

Me:  Do you have a favourite character? If so, who and why?

CJJ: I’m in love with all four of them, especially now they are settled men.  They each have their own strengths and that is what makes this series so much fun to write.

Me: I know what you mean – I love all of them too! How many more books are you planning for this series?

CJJ: One more in the Tower of Bones Series, working title is ‘Valley of Sorrows’. There is a prequel in the works currently about 75% done. Once all of these are complete I will begin working on the ‘Hero’ series, of which the final book is outlined.

Me: Ooo, exciting! How did writing Forbidden Road compare with writing Tower of Bones, the first book in the series?

CJJ: Both books fell out of my head faster than I could write them down.  With Forbidden Road I had an editor as soon as the first draft was finished (gosh, you may know her!) and that made the whole process so much easier.

Me: I can’t think who you’re referring to, *tries to look innocent*. Are any of the characters based, however loosely, on anyone you know?

CJJ: I doubt it—so far as I know they are based on people I would LIKE to know, and began life as characters for a an old-school computer game that was planned to proceed along the lines of the early Final Fantasy games, and like the modern Aveyond games. That fell through, but I had fallen in love with the story and it became Tower of Bones.

Me: It’s a shame the game fell through, but think what we would have missed if the book had never been written . . .  Anyway, what are you working on at the moment?

CJJ: I am working on Mountains of the Moon. This is Edwin’s grandfather’s story and is a bit of a comedy; it’s being written as a stand-alone novel, as Tower of Bones was. I am trying to get that one finished, because John Farmer’s flashbacks in Valley of Sorrows concern events surrounding the fates of several characters from that book. I have the basic story of Valley of Sorrows all done, but in order to flesh it out I need to finish Mountains of the Moon.

Me: I can’t wait to get my hands on these two! I know you’re a big music lover; who are your favourite artists to have playing when you write?

CJJ: In truth, I am obsessed with Ritchie Blackmore in all his incarnations, such as Rainbow and Deep Purple.  I love his current band Blackmore’s Night. My other obsession is Robert Plant in all his various incarnations too! But besides Ritchie and Robert, my iPod has everything from Adele to the Zombies in it, and I have seventeen days’ worth of music, which if I began playing it end to end would never repeat itself.  My daughter, Meg Clear’s music is very high on my faves list!

Me: I love Meg’s music too! Is there any one author who has influenced your writing?

CJJ: I think the late Anne McCaffrey has had the greatest influence on me, but all the great fantasy and early sci-fi writers are alive and well in my subconscious mind.

Me: What made you pick fantasy as your genre to write?

CJJ: I’ve never been fond of reality, truthfully. I guess that since I live in the real world, I don’t need to vacation here!

Me: I can SO relate to that and what a great way to explain it! What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the last 12 months?

CJJ: You may laugh, but I finally figured out how to make the brushes rotate on my carpet shampooer, and that has helped me immensely!  I clean house when I hit the wall on my writing and need to organize my thoughts. I’ve always found cleaning to be conducive to daydreaming, and all my books begin as daydreams.  SO—having the shampooer that’s working properly has been awesome for my creative genius!

Me: May laugh? Only a huge amount of side-splitting guffaws echoing around the room right now! That’s certainly not what I was expecting, but I think it’s brilliant. Anything which helps the creative juices to flow is a good thing, right? Okay, a couple of fun ones to finish off . . .

You’re throwing a dinner party and can invite any three people, living, dead or fictional to join you and your guests. Who would they be and why?

CJJ: Roger Zelazney, L.E. Modesitt Jr. and Fritz Lieber.  Three great fantasy authors, all of whom have awesome male heroes. Only Modesitt is still alive, and of the three, only his characters are not misogynists. Nevertheless, I would love to hear them discuss the craft of writing from their viewpoints. Can you imagine the dinner conversation?

Me: OMG it would be awesome! Finally, if you could be a fictional character for a day, who would you be and why?

CJJ: I would be Uhura from the original Star Trek, because she got to play with the boys and she could talk to every species they met.

Me: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit me today. I’ve loved having you here! I wish you every success with your wonderful new book!

CJJ: Thank you for inviting me!

Okay, okay, I’ve teased you long enough and can’t hold it back any longer. Here is the EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Forbidden Road, just for you:

“Why does the land change so radically here?” Zan finally asked Edwin. “This is the worst road I’ve ever seen!”

“Tauron’s poison is nearly at the door,” replied Edwin, wondering what was bothering Zan. “It’s a mere fifty leagues away from the gap now. I thought you understood. We’ll be in Tauron’s Mal Evol in three days.”

“I knew it on one level, but I guess I didn’t understand what it meant,” replied Zan, feeling temporarily dismayed by the grim reality of the landscape. “I guess I was thinking of the adventure, not the reality. I was thinking it’d be like Aelfrid Firesword, all fun and adventure, with no worry.”

 “Actually, Aelfrid Firesword’s life must’ve been terribly difficult,” said Edwin, walking next to Zan. “Think about it. He was forced to kill his closest friend who’d become a rogue mage and gone over to Tauron. Can you imagine how you’d feel if, say, I went over to Tauron? How would you protect the people of Neveyah from me? What would you do?”

“I never thought about that aspect of the story,” Zan admitted. “Making those sorts of decisions, having to kill someone you love in order to protect others you love, I can’t imagine what that was like for Aelfrid.” He sighed. “But I’d do it, if I was forced to. I think it’d kill me, though.”

“I know.” Edwin clasped Zan’s shoulder. “Daryk was the most famous of the Dark-Mages, but most people don’t know he fought desperately against Tauron’s minions at Aelfrid’s side when the two of them first came into their powers. He worshipped Aeos, and loved Neveyah with all his heart. It never occurred to either Aelfrid or Daryk he would ever fall to Tauron, but there was no Temple, and no vows to protect him from Tauron’s blandishments. There was no college to teach young mages how to use their magic, so they had to learn how to control the build-up of chi and avoid the madness by gaining apprenticeships to older mages. Daryk was lured away from their kind master by a mindbender who was under Tauron’s spell. It was because of Aelfrid’s grief over the loss of the man who’d been closer than a brother, and his struggle to save the other mages still loyal to Aeos that Aeoven and the Temple exist today. Without Aelfrid we wouldn’t have the augmentations allowing us access to greater chi reserves, nor would we bind ourselves to the Goddess with the vows. It must’ve been a terribly hard time to live through.”

“I see what you mean,” admitted Zan. “As a kid I read all the stories, and just thought it was all good against evil, romance and happy endings. But maybe it’s just the way the bards tell it.”

Edwin laughed. “It wouldn’t be a good story if it was all dirt, bug bites and poor sanitary conditions now, would it?”

Forbidden Road will be available on Kindle from Amazon tomorrow (on both sides of the pond), with the paperback following soon.

Connie J JaspersonConnie J Jasperson lives and writes in Olympia, Washington.  Somewhat like the ‘Brady Bunch’, she and her husband share five children, eleven grandchildren and a love of good food and great music.

Tower of Bones Series – Planned for release in February 2013 is the second book in the series, Forbidden Road, the sequel to the best-selling epic-fantasy, Tower of Bones.

Billy’s Revenge SeriesBook 1 The Last Good Knight is a medieval fantasy. Book 2, Huw, the Bard is planned for release in 2013.

A collection of fairy tales and short-stories, Tales from the Dreamtime is also scheduled to be released in 2013.

Catch Connie on her blog at http://conniejjasperson.wordpress.com

 

 

Reflections

First off – Happy New Year to you all. I wish you health, happiness and success in all your endeavours.

looking back

 

In the first few days of a new year, most people are making resolutions and setting goals, and whilst I do that, I also take some time to reflect on the year just passed and ask myself some questions:

 

What was my biggest trial during 2012?

This would have to be the major problem with my spine. The first signs appeared mid-February, but by the third week in April, it had deteriorated to the extent I could no longer work, drive my car, dance, sit for longer than half an hour, stand for more than fifteen minutes, bend, and needed a stick to help me walk. Suddenly I was taking medication by the handful (or that’s how it seemed); muscle relaxants, pain killers, anti-inflamatories and nerve blockers were thrown down my neck in the vain hope they would take the pain away. Yeah, they took the edge off, but that was about it. The doctor could have given me stronger tablets, but I really didn’t want to become a barely-functioning zombie.

There were two things which helped me through this nightmare (until I had surgery at the end of September) – my daughter and my writing. It was because of both I refused the more powerful drugs. My writing and editing work kept me sane; in my writing I was able to immerse myself in the world I was creating, and in between I had the honour of editing fantastic novels by Connie J Jasperson, Johanna Garth, Alison DeLuca and Nicole Antonia Carson; Johanna’s (Losing Hope), Alison’s (Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special) and Nicole’s (Yum) are already available, and Connie’s (Forbidden Road) is due to be published within the next couple of months. In the rare times I wasn’t writing or editing, my lovely daughter kept my spirits up.

What was my biggest achievement?

Without a doubt, the publication of Heart Search: Lost through Myrrdin Publishing Group. The joy I felt seeing it up on Amazon for the very first time was indescribable; I still get a buzz from it three months after the launch! When the paperback arrived, I turned it over and over in my hands, scarcely able to believe my dream of publishing a book had come true, especially after the difficult time I had trying to get it written in the first place.

What was my greatest challenge?

I think this would have to be organising and running the blog tour to celebrate the launch of Heart Search: Lost. I’d never done one before so was feeling my way with it a bit, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve. I also wanted to combine the tour with a giveaway, so had to choose and design the items too. I wanted each participating blog to have original guest posts and excerpts – if people were kind enough to support my launch, the very least I could do was ensure they had exclusive pieces to share with their followers.

I had some wonderful people supporting me on the tour, a number of which have become dear friends as a result. The fact that the tour began just ten days after the surgery on my spine, when I could only sit for 10-15 minutes at a time, increased the challenge. I had 17 guest posts to write, 14 interviews, and to pick out 20 suitable excerpts. Add this to the actual administration of the tour, the launch itself and all the requisite publicity, it would be fair to say it was a challenge I wondered if I could rise to. I managed it, somehow, mainly by ignoring doctor’s orders and sitting for longer than I should have done!

What was unexpected?

Finding myself holding the reins of a writers group! I had only been a member of Writebulb for about four months when the leader and last remaining founder had to bow out. It had taken me quite a while to find a group I was happy in and I didn’t want to see it close. I volunteered to take over and have been running Writebulb ever since.

I’m proud of the achievements of the group since I took over. Apart from myself, others have published their work for the first time and collectively we published a charity anthology, The Other Way Is Essex, to raise money for our local hospice.

What surprised me the most?

People! To be more specific, how wonderfully supportive my fellow authors, bloggers, followers and readers were. Every member of Myrrdin Publishing were incredible and I’ve found some wonderful new friends as well as very talented authors. The Heart Search Blog Tour crew were all fantastic, most going out of their way to help publicise all the activities/posts/reviews etc as well as their own and offering me loads of encouragement. My fellow writers at Writebulb have been responsive and supportive of my leadership and ideas. Last, but by no means least, my wonderful readers who have given me such fabulous feedback on my debut novel.

What have I learned?

Loads! I’ve learned to stare adversity in the face and find a coping mechanism to deal with pain (admitedly doing something I love and would have done anyway, but still . . .). I’ve been honing my craft, trying to improve my writing, so as to give my readers better quality stories to enjoy. I’ve learned how wonderfully supportive other authors and my blog and social media followers are. Finally, although I’ve been writing since I was a child, I’ve come to realise it’s a much bigger part of my life than I ever expected and I can never stop doing what I love so much!

 

 

My ‘Made It Moment’

I was recently asked by Jenny Milchman to write a ‘Made It Moment’ for her blog. My first reaction was “I haven’t ‘made it’, so what could I write about?”. But then I got to thinking and realised that my ‘Made It Moment’ is more to do with how I feel about my writing and not society’s view of success. It was quite pivotal for me – the realisation that I had actually fulfilled a major goal in my writing career was a major breakthrough and has boosted my self-confidence no end.

After the post was published earlier last week, I was amazed by the comments it received. Some of them made me feel I was not alone in the struggle I had in completing my first novel, Heart Search: Lost, and each one was supportive of me as a person and a writer. I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to comment and show me such support!

My ‘Made It Moment’ is quite emotional on more than one level, but I wanted to share my story. If it gives even one person hope and inspiration then all the angst I felt writing it will be worthwhile. So, without further ado, here it is (alternatively you can view the original on Jenny Milchman’s blog by clicking on this link http://www.jennymilchman.com/blog/2012/12/18/made-it-moment-carlie-cullen/ and see the introduction and comments first hand)

“Isn’t it funny how it’s easier to believe the bad stuff people say to you than the positive?

Two years ago, when in the early stages of working on Heart Search: Lost, my dream of writing a novel and getting it published was almost dashed by someone who, instead of being a supportive husband, took great delight in putting me down. Phrases like, “What are you wasting your time doing that for?” and “Do you honestly think anyone will pay good money to read that crap?” and “If you’re so bored that you want to write, you should go out and get a second job!” and finally, “You’re living in a dream world – no one’s going to publish anything you write!” haunted me on a daily basis.

I’d been writing since I was a child and it was such a huge part of my life. It was my emotional escape and outlet, plus it gave me a great deal of pleasure. When I decided to write my first novel, I was excited and full of ideas. I wasn’t naïve enough to think I would land a publishing deal with the ‘big six’ (although I hoped it might be a possibility one day), but that didn’t stop me. I had a goal, one which fired me and drove me on to achieve something I dreamed about – to see my book on Amazon.

As the taunts and disparaging remarks continued, I began to get worn down. My self-esteem fell through the floor and I doubted myself and my abilities. My writing began to suffer and I started to believe I would fail before I’d even reached a quarter of the way through. But I had a shining light in my life, someone who believed in me and my writing ability, someone who encouraged/cajoled/pestered me to get each new chapter written – my wonderful daughter. She took to grabbing my laptop every time I left the room, to read what I’d just written, and upon returning was greeted with the phrase, “Where’s the next bit?” It became like a mantra. She loved the story and was eager to see where I was taking the characters next. She encouraged me right up until the final words were written, which was two months after the marriage ended and we moved out.

Just under a year later, after several rounds of editing, my book, Heart Search, book one: Lost was up on Amazon. I had achieved my goal and I felt like a kid at Christmas, faced with a pile of gaily wrapped presents. My heart soared and I was filled with joy. I’d proved the doubter wrong when, at the end of the first day, I had achieved sales on both sides of the Atlantic. If ever there was a time to flip someone ‘the bird’, that would have been it!

My daughter and I looked at the screen and she hugged me, saying, “I knew you could do it, Mum, and I’m so proud of you!” “

After I finished writing this, I realised I hadn’t only written it for other writers or aspiring authors, I’d written it for readers too. I think it’s important for readers to understand what happens behind the scenes, to see writers as real people with hopes, aspirations and rocky roads to negotiate. Once a reader connects with an author, it’s a wonderful relationship which can span many years and one I treasure.

 

My 5 Top Tips for New Authors

Getting back to the posts from the Heart Search Blog Tour, Elaine Hillson was my next fabulous host. She asked me for my 5 top tips for new authors. I could have written more than five to be honest, but I think these are the most pertinent and important.

Writing, like any skill, needs to be honed. You need to study the craft and never stop learning. I could spend ages giving you the benefit of my experiences, and it’s all useful stuff, but I’m going to pass that by and talk about things you need to ponder once you’ve finished your manuscript.

Editing and Beta Reading:

It’s incredibly difficult to see our own mistakes in our manuscripts. We see how we want it to read and not how it actually does. It takes a fresh pair of eyes to take our work and turn it into a polished gem. Editors don’t come cheap yet good ones are worth their weight in gold. There are two levels of editing; copy/line editing and full editing.

A copy/line editor will look at grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. They will also look at overused words and repeated sentences beginning with the same word which are too close together. In addition, they check for inconsistencies within your manuscript. They won’t make the changes for you, but will point out where the problems exist and leave you to correct the mistakes.

A full edit will encompass all the above plus a developmental and structural edit. This is where the editor will look at redundant phrases and paragraphs, timelines and the story as a whole. They will suggest changes based on experience and the way the story reads. Ultimately they want to make your manuscript the best it can be for you.

A good editor will gently guide you in bringing your work to ‘submission ready’ status. You may not agree with all the changes an editor suggests, and that’s okay because it’s your right as the author to take or discard their recommendations. But don’t dismiss them out of hand – never forget the editor has the experience you lack, so consider each comment carefully and be prepared to compromise on occasions.

After all the editing, I would always recommend getting a Beta Reader to go through the novel. Pick wisely. This should be someone you trust to give you good honest feedback and criticism, preferably not a family member as they will feel obliged to tell you how wonderful it is because of your relationship with them. It needs to be someone impartial. Take their critique on board. They are, in a way, representative of all the readers who could potentially buy your book. If they find something confusing, lacking in substance or explanation, you can bet other readers will too, so be prepared to rewrite in places and once again, get your editor to check the changes.

The important thing to remember here is by self-publishing a book (if you decide to take that route) which is full of typos, mistakes and bad grammar, you are setting yourself up for bad reviews and a tarnished reputation. Mud sticks!

ISBN’s:

If you plan to publish your novel as an e-book through Kindle only, you don’t need an ISBN. If you decide to go through one of the ‘print on demand’ companies like CreateSpace or Lulu you can get a cheap or free ISBN. However, you are quite limited by where you can make your book available for sale.

Let’s take CreateSpace as an example. You can obtain a free ISBN when you upload your book, but you are limited to their sales channels. Sure you can pay for ‘Extended Distribution’ which would open up further outlets in which your book can be bought, but you cannot go outside of their network and sell your book wherever you want.

By purchasing your own ISBN (please note: you need one for each medium your book is published so if you decide on e-book and paperback, you will need separate ISBN’s for each), you are in control. You own the legal rights to your book which gives you the freedom to select your own sales channels anywhere.

ISBN’s aren’t cheap, but well worth the investment in my humble opinion. I have bought a block of ten through my publishing group, which has worked out very cost effective.

If you are one of the lucky ones who get picked up by a traditional publisher, this is all done for you, but the publisher owns the ISBN not you!

Social Media Platforms:

If you’re not very social media savvy, you better start practicing before your book comes out. Don’t try and spread yourself too thin – just pick a couple which are manageable and start building a following/friends list. These people are the first ones who will be exposed to news of your book and if they like the sound of it, they’ll keep watching you closely. Feed snippets of news of your progress to keep them interested, make and cultivate new online friendships as you never know where it might lead. You can also pick up useful information from other authors recommending editors or beta readers, plus hints, tricks and tips which you can utilise to your advantage.

Blog:

Start your own blog. This is, by far, your most useful platform and what’s more, the vast majority are free! You can utilise this space to allow your potential readers to get to know you and your writing. The more you engage them, the more they will talk about it to their friends and the wider your reach and potential readership becomes.

You don’t have to blog every single day – I don’t. Some authors do, but that is their choice. Set yourself a goal of blogging, say once a fortnight, to begin with (and don’t forget to publicise each post on your social media platforms). If you begin to feel you can increase it to once a week, then do so. You’re the one in control – just make sure you leave enough time for writing outside of this and the previous activities mentioned for Social Media.

And finally . . .

Marketing:

Whichever route you take to publishing, you are still going to have to market yourself. And if you haven’t done it before, it’s quite a daunting task. Look on social media to see what other authors are doing, read blog posts devoted to the subject, research what is available, what is free and what you can afford.

I have an advantage. I’ve had quite a bit of experience in marketing in my ‘day jobs’, so already have the ethos entrenched in the old grey matter. I’ve followed the advice and tips given to you above and orchestrated a marketing plan leading up to and following on from the launch of my novel. I’m told I’ve created a bit of a ‘buzz’ about it on the internet/social media platforms which is what I set out to do. I know my plans aren’t going to generate humungous sales overnight (although it would be nice), but each person who buys my book and enjoys it is likely to recommend it to their friends. Each reader who posts a good review on Amazon or Goodreads is showing the world that they think my novel is a worthwhile buy. All this adds to my credibility as an author and little by little the network expands.

I hope you find these tips useful and I wish you all the very best of luck in your published career!

Wading Through the Publishing River

Michelle Birbeck was my next fabulous hostess on the Heart Search Blog Tour. She wanted me to write on the subject of publishing and this is what I came up with.

You’ve spent untold hours writing your story. You’ve lovingly crafted your character and skilfully designed your plot. Having gone through editing and beta reading, your manuscript is now as perfect as you can make it and now comes the hardest decision of all – how to publish it.

As writers, most of us dream of getting an agent and being contracted to one of the ‘Big Six’ publishers, but it’s not as easy as that, is it?

Basically you have three choices; attempt to get an agent who will tout your masterpiece until you get a publishing contract, go through an Indie Publisher, or self-publish.

Traditional Publishing:

These days, it’s even harder to get an agent than ever. They are inundated by manuscripts and you can wait months for a response. The wait is agonising – I know, I’ve been there! You have to pen a killer query letter which will grab them in the first couple of sentences (no longer than one page), write a single page synopsis which will highlight the most exciting parts of your book and send in two or three chapters for them to consider. Writing a query letter which will have the desired effect is, in some ways, harder than writing the book itself. You need to research your potential agents thoroughly and adhere to their submission requirements to the letter with every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. No mean feat that!

Having done all of that, you send it off with hope in your heart and wait. Several weeks or months later comes the email you’ve been dreading – the rejection. However, if this is your dream, you keep trying other agents and wait some more. It’s like a never-ending circle. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones who gets picked up by an agent, but there’s more waiting in store as your agent suggests possible changes to the book and you may have to re-write sections and then there’s the time to kill while your agent tries to get you a publishing deal. While all this is going on, you are depriving potential readers of your work of art. Still, if that’s your dream you must follow it.

Indie Publishing:

This is a similar process to traditional publishing except that you submit direct to the publisher. Again, you need to do your homework and ensure the publishers you choose want the genre your novel is based in and most of them only accept submission at certain times during the year. If you send your submission in speculatively outside of their ‘open window’, it will either be deleted or thrown away.

Again, it’s important to follow the submission guidelines to the letter, and you still have to wait and be prepared for rejections.

Self-Publishing:

This is, by far, the quickest and easiest way of getting your book out to the public. You can sign up to Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon and upload your manuscript. It’s a simple process and quite quick. If you want a paperback as well, CreateSpace or Lulu are the best, and again the process is simple. You can get free or cheap ISBN numbers through both (an ISBN is not needed for e-book through Kindle, but it does limit the availability – more on that in a minute). However, you may be limited to their distribution networks only.

If you purchase your own ISBN number, you have the flexibility to place your novel in so many more sales channels for either your e-book, paperback or both, and is something I would recommend. However, if you don’t have the time to place your book on Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble et al, you may be content to go with the distribution packages offered by these print on demand companies. Your choice!

One word of caution – don’t think about putting your novel out there before getting it professionally edited. Readers will be put off by typos and inconsistencies and ultimately this could be the kiss of death for your work. The money spent on getting your novel edited will pay off in the long run when weighed up against a tarnished reputation which is unrecoverable.

I’m lucky – I have the best of both worlds! I’m self-published under the banner of an Indie Publisher, Myrddin Publishing Group. This means I own the legal rights to my book and not the publisher, but I have the support of the team behind me.

Whatever you decide to do, you will still have to be prepared to market your book yourself. This takes time and dedication and where some authors fall down – they have no idea where to start. My advice is to look around on social media platforms and see which individuals or companies offer advice on marketing to authors and learn fast. Marketing is a whole different post so I’m not going to go into that now.

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At the end of the day, only you can decide what’s best for you and your book. I have one or two theories of my own which are yet to be put to the test, but ultimately you need to follow your dream. Good luck!

I hope you found this useful!