Letters To Writers

For 2018 Nanowrimo, a writer friend of mine decided she was going to do something different for her project; she wrote letters. She picked people she loved, people she resented, people who hurt her and she wrote every single one a letter. And then with a private website and password, she invited the people who’s letters she had written if they wanted to read them. She also invited them to respond, if they’d like, no matter what she’d written.

I was a little unsurprised I had a letter.

We had roleplayed for years together, discussed many creative topics, but along the way there were other things too, and I had no idea what she had in store for me. I considered shortening these to a few key phrases and decided not to, because it would devalue the letter.

I would also like to ask that you read all the through, because at the end I’m going to ask something of you.

 

Dear Eleanor,

Where do I begin? You’ve been such a huge influence on my life that the task of summarising it all in a letter, while simultaneously giving each section the time and attention it deserves, is a little daunting. It doesn’t help that you’re a fellow author. Maybe that’s where I should start.
You are, without a doubt, the first woman I’ve ever known personally that I have looked up to. That might sound harsh given that my mother exists, but that relationship is what it is. I lover her, but I don’t admire her. I admire your writing ability, but more than that, I admire your storytelling ability. They sound related, and to an extent they are, but they’re also vastly different. I am proud to say that the tattoo running down your back is, in my opinion, an apt description. Writers put words on the page. Sometimes they do it for themselves, sometimes they do it at the behest of others, but overall that is all they are paid to do. Storytellers bring words to life. Whether written or spoken, storytellers use words to bring others into another world. Storytellers are empaths and hypnotists. They steal you away from your own world and put you in someone else’s head. You are all of that and more.
Your co-workers might have called you ‘Wikipedia’, but you know what? Fuck them. Not because they’re obviously jealous of the wealth of knowledge that incredible brain of yours can hold, but because you need that knowledge. Being called Wikipedia isn’t an insult, it’s an achievement. What use is an ignorant writer? None, to anybody. Wikipedia is the repository of human knowledge about our universe. Each page of each novel you write is another entry in yours. I’m more than simply astounded by your incredible wit and knowledge, I’m jealous. You seem to know such a variety of information about every subject, and you won’t stop using it to worm your way out of every damn situation I throw at you as a GM.
I knew from that start you’d be a nightmare player to deal with, and I was absolutely right. I looked at every problem, every conflict, from multiple angles before I let you loose on them. Yet you still managed to outsmart me every time. There was always some legal loophole you knew about, or a trick with casement windows. Your personal repository of information is more than impressive, it’s downright unfair. It’s the entire reason I keep meaning to read more of your books. I’m more than a little ashamed about the fact that I never get around to it. I must have read the first five chapters of Hidden Monastery four or five times now. Life just keeps getting in the way.
I might be shockingly terrible at keeping up with your books, but I think I might have finally figured out why. As incredible as it would be to read your stories, to go visit the world that exists only in the Last Prophecy series, why would I ever settle for reading? Why would I read someone else’s account, listen to their adventure, when I have been an active protagonist in your story and fought your villains head on? Why read about anything you can go visit yourself?
I might not have been all that successful at times, and I had an almost comical habit of getting kidnapped (I still blame you for that. I’ll get my revenge somehow, someday.) but I have never felt more awesome and powerful. It was like living the most coherent and clever lucid dream. I don’t know if I could ever replace that magic with the written word. Or, maybe I’m a selfish little shit who doesn’t devote nearly enough time to supporting her friend’s projects. Obviously, I like my version better.

You are, without a doubt, the older sibling I never had. Maybe it’s because you have sisters of your own, but you seem so adept at guiding me through life. I never had anyone like that growing up. I had my mum, of course, but she’s always had her own problems to deal with, whether it be her mental or physical health. I don’t blame her for not being available, but I do sometimes wish I’d had older friends around that I could have looked up to instead. Well, I guess better late than never.
In the past, I’ve been the ones my friends came to for advice. I don’t know why. Maybe back then I talked a lot less, made me seem like I was a good listener. I still am a good listener, I just don’t have as many people around who are comfortable about opening up. I’m glad I’ve had you around to open up to. I know, for the most part, it tends to be for writing advice, but even then you could have told me to bugger off and you never do. You’re always there to help, no matter what it is or how busy you are.
There’s one incident in particular I should probably call to your attention, because I think your advice and perspective was what finally woke me up to what was going on. A few years ago I talked to you about some of the problems Lauren was dealing with. One of our mutual friends was making her feel miserable, and after talking to you I realised he was also being abusive. I thought he was just a self-obsessed idiot who couldn’t see her point of view. It wasn’t until a year later that I realised the situation was so much worse. I obviously won’t go anymore into that because it’s Lauren’s business, but I would have stayed blind if it weren’t for you.
To carry on from that, my experience with Lauren’s situation, and the advice you gave me then, helped prepare me for my own. Another letter in this book tells that story. Which I suppose I’ll have to trust you to read because you’ve never judged be before now… (Who am I kidding? You’re going to smack me and call me an idiot… but then you’ll probably name an RPG villain after him and let me kill him, so it will be fine in the end.) Anyway, there’s not much point in repeating it here. What I will say, though, is that it’s incredible how difficult it is to perceive these things from the inside. It took distance and a whole lot of perspective to realise what that person was doing to me. I don’t think I’d ever have figured it out without the variety of examples you provided me with when I was talking to you over Skype that day. And without the self-confidence you’ve restored in me, I don’t know if I could have stood up to fight any of those battles.

More than just an incredible storyteller and advice-giver, though, you are my friend. I value that more than all of the rest combined. Those features are what make you an incredible example of a human being, an overachiever, someone the world should know about. They’re not why I love having you in my life so much. I haven’t even begun to cover your compassion, humour and vulnerability yet. Oh yes, we’re going through all of that still. I’ve got at least another five hundred words to wax lyrical about you. I’m not going to waste them.


I’ve talked a little about this already when I mentioned receiving advice from you, but I feel the topic does beg its own paragraph. On top of everything else, you are an astoundingly kind woman. I don’t think a lot of people realise it at first because they get too intimidated by your powerful personality. Anyone who does get close enough, however, can see the heart inside the oncoming storm. (Yes, I did just compare you to the Doctor. You are the only person I could ever find worthy of that comparison. I mean, come on… the knowledge of all these concepts completely alien to me, taking me on wild adventures, talking your way out of just about any problem but being more than willing to fight when it comes down to it? I just have one request. Don’t make me be Amy Pond.) Someone who can get as angry as you do about things could only do that by feeling an incredible amount of love.
You’ve demonstrated this quality to me countless times, so it’s not like anyone just needs to take my word for it. You took me, and especially Emily, under your wing right from the start. Like a mama lioness you were ready to defend us against the world if we needed it. We rarely did, or we let ourselves think we didn’t, but I want you to know the effort is always appreciated. So is telling us that, day or night, if we ever ended up stranded or in trouble we were to call you rather than suffer. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had someone I could rely on like that.


And, of course, it wouldn’t be a true exploration of the wonders of your personality without your sense of humour. For someone so clever and confident you tell jokes like a cheeky schoolgirl who’s just realised the teacher isn’t looking. You laugh like you’re just happy to be part of the group. Sometimes it makes me wonder if you used to be just like me, and then through some incredible power of metamorphosis you managed to turn into a superhero.
Just like a good superhero, sometimes you really do seem invulnerable, beyond human. You do too good a job of holding yourself up, pretending everything is fine. Even through all the stress you’ve dealt with over the past few years, and the heartbreak of losing your father-in-law, you carry on like it’s nothing. Maybe it’s because I don’t see you often enough to see that side of you, or maybe it’s because only Lucas and your close family get to see it. Either way, to me you are invulnerable and immortal. Occasionally I read posts about you crying, or you tell me about it yourself, and it just seems impossible. Of course, I know you’re human. I’ve just talked about the incredible capacity of your heart. I guess I fall too easily into looking at you as someone incapable of showing weakness.

Next time you visit those of us you left behind on Earth when you ascended to godhood, I’m sure everything will be exactly the same as it once was. I have no doubt that we’ll pick up exactly where we left off the last time we spoke, discussing novel ideas, roleplaying plans, and the infuriating reality of being a woman in the modern world. I’ll enjoy teasing you about your overused turns of phrase (Get it? Turns!) and you can wind me up about that time when, supposedly, drunk me tried to lay claim on your husband. At least I know your relationship is secure enough that both of you can continue to wind me up about that. (I almost died the first time he came to give me a lift and said, “I’m here, honey.”)

It’s incredible how big an impact you have had on my life. I’m so fortunate to have you in it, eternally blessed by your friendship every day that it lasts. And I have no doubt that it will last many, many more. It would take a miraculous feat of stupidity for me to somehow lose your friendship, and I don’t think even I’m capable of pulling it off. So I guess we’re stuck with each other for the foreseeable future – me with your infuriating intelligence and you with my peculiar penchant for wanting to date your villains.

All my love,

Lorna

 

 

 

It was Christmas Day that I read this letter.

I was blown away. The day had actually been a very ordinary day for me, and this was by far one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received. I sat staring at the screen, disbelief o the tip of my tongue. To add to it, another friend of mine came along and said to me that I’d been there during a very dark time, that I was incredibly kind, and that I had helped them a lot. He doesn’t normally say these things, not quite so eloquently, and in such detail, and I couldn’t believe how many years had passed and he hadn’t said a thing, but wanted to now.

I didn’t believe it. I was sitting there, unable to deny or escape the truth of what these two wonderful people where saying about me. I was crying, this can’t be true, this isn’t true. It threatened to shred away so many doubts, so I showed my husband, asking why I was sitting there on Christmas day blubbering like an idiot. He just said; well of course its true, they wrote it.

And it was only fair to respond in kind, to tell Lorna how important she was to me. To make sure my friend knew that he’d been there for me too. So I wrote letters back, especially to Lorna, and after I’d given it a lot of thought, I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

 

Dear Lorna Honey, (sorry, couldn’t be helped),

 

I was wordless. For weeks. I kept coming back to this and wondering over and over how was I ever to respond? You have beyond humbled me, and at first I thought I did not deserve such praise.

Reading through the letter again, I have a response for every paragraph, every sentence, every word.

I can’t not, so I’ll take you down a memory I don’t think you ever saw.

I started writing books as a little girl, and go figure it was Disney princesses with no prince, I loved Aurora and the Wicked Queen’s evilness (indicative much?). I read Enid Blyton and made my own Faraway Tree in my head. And in a very big way I have one very special woman to thank for that. I know your mother has had her challenges in life, and she’s not necessarily into the same things as you, but I was lucky in that regard.

My mother read aloud to us all the time. Nearly ever night. I can’t count the books she’s read to us, it’s a library full of them. Hundreds at the very least, Lord of the Rings twice, and I boast about that but it also doesn’t express how rich my childhood was with fiction. I devoured books, and when we moved to a big city I found Goosebumps and horror in my local library. When I hit my teens not even my father’s books where safe, and one bored afternoon I picked up Terry Pratchett because the covers were weird. I think I tore through them all in a matter of days. I read to Kill a Mocking Bird in one night at school, and the teacher had us open our books to start reading in class the next day and I put my hand up and said I’d already read it. She didn’t believe me, until I threatened to tell the ending to the class. She looked flustered, didn’t know what to do, to her it was just a book, but it wasn’t to me. All my classmates stared at me, and that’s when I knew I was different. Truly different. It was the first time I was okay with that, and I was already fifteen.

After that, my weird reading and writing quirks were made a mockery of by most of my year level, and it made me a much different person than the one you know now, for a very long time.

Yes, in some ways I think we were a lot alike, and I wish there was some sort of clock where I could reset time and have gone to school with you, because I like to think we could have been besties. Because all the while you were complimenting me in that letter, you talked about times that were so dark and hopeless for me. Running those games was one of the few things that grounded me, and I am SO very glad you two walked into my games. You talk about my confidence, and I have to tell you the first time I walked into game shack I hid behind Lucas. I’m not good at making new friends.

But when we all sat down together, that game just worked. It was by far one of the most magical roleplaying experiences, but come to think of it, most of the games we’re in weren’t just amazing because of me, and as the saying goes it takes two to tango.

I saw so much of myself in you at first, and then I realised how horrendously wrong that was. At your age I was alternatively shy, confrontive, aggressive, and superior with my knowledge. I didn’t know how else to be because I was always ostracised for being me.

Yet there you were, doing you, with far more kindness and compassion than I had at your age.

And I’ll tell you the biggest secret of all. I envy you.

I wish I’d made your choices, I wish I’d been braver, I wish I’d started this journey sooner, and not wasted all that time and energy on fruitless things that didn’t matter.

You are such a beautifully complex person that no Dr’s companion does you justice, you’ll be a doctor in your own right one day.

Because I’ve seen you plan, I’ve seen you set your sights on what you want, and I know that you’re going to make it. It might not feel like it, but you are doing all the right/write things. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

My experience might have overwhelmed you at first, but I’ve got a lot of years on you, and I suspect by the time you get here your knowledge will far outshine mine, but most importantly, your achievements.

So now to the hard part.

I didn’t read the other letters. I didn’t have to. I knew there was something going on you weren’t telling me. And I’m sorry I was wrapped up in other things and couldn’t be there for you. That is all.

I have always tried to answer yours and Emily’s questions carefully, and with the due consideration they deserved, knowing, or at least hoping, that you would make the right choices. I was never afraid for you because even if you made the wrong one, you would still get through it, because you are unbreakable. Bend perhaps, sway maybe, but I don’t believe you can ever be torn down.

You will never be judged by me for mistakes you have made or decisions you regret, because I have all those and more in spades. And you’ll keep making them, friends, family, lovers, there are a host of bad decisions out there waiting for you. You’ll make them in anger, and frustration, and perhaps regret. But this is the way it is. This is where my experience comes from. Kindness is not an innate talent one naturally takes unless you are already predisposed to be like that. Kindness, compassion, and support are learned because you have suffered, you’ve seen it, and you want it to stop.

You will never be able to fix every problem. Finish every story. Read every book.

Things will slip and slide, life will get in the way.

I have weakness as do you, but we have strengths too.

You are so very brave. I was so proud of you when you finished your degree. More than you will ever know. I thought to myself; she did what you always wanted to, what you should have done. I should have followed that little girl’s dreams of being a writer, and instead I believed I needed to get a degree to get a job.

And here you are, getting a degree in writing, conquering Nanowrimo ingeniously, working on your creatively talents with the relentless pursuit I can only admire, and envy.

You fight standards and expectations and forge your own, you are a warrior in your own right. You are a dancer with words and expression, a fire I want to see burn on until I am gone. You are the person I wanted to be, and so if anything you said about me rings true, know that I see it in you.

I hope one day a young woman, bright and intelligent, writes you a letter like that, so you understand what a profound difference you’ve made on my life.

Never give up on you, because you are so beautiful inside, and you have so much yet I hope to see.

With all the love in the world,

Nor

 

 

Afterwards I decided that I needed to do something more. I couldn’t just let these letters lie, I needed to spread Lorna’s message, about how much we admire and love other people and you never know when that’s going to tear down walls of lies inside a persons own mind, or give them the courage to keep going, or save their life.

So I’m asking you to do it. Write someone a letter, with all the words of a creator, a sorcerer over a cauldron concocting fairy tales and stories among the stars, write a letter to someone who needs your magic.

To another author you admire, a painter who you love, and it doesn’t matter if they are famous or not, a person you’ve met in real life or not. Write them a letter. Tell them what you meant to them. There is not enough love and caring in this world and if you can take the time to read this far then please, take the time to tell someone else how important they are to you. You will never ever know how desperately they need to hear it.

creativity is intelligence having fun.

Helping Writers

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Its come about thanks to a Twitter post that my Book Tour schedule is full for the rest of year, and my Author Interviews are also heavily booked, so I wanted to ask that if you are a writer with a website you help too.


So, where to start?


This is both the easiest and the hardest part. You just get started, you open your website and start posting. Six months ago I hadn’t started this, and now I’m fully booked. You’ve just got to knuckle down, send out a well tagged tweet, and wait and see.


Plus… you know… I’m a writer too, you could ask me… *ahem* Moving on…


There may be other ways to do this, but I just went to other people’s websites, worked out how I wanted to set it up on mine, and got the pages ready. I use WordPress, and I am not great at it but I’ve got mine trucking along. The more you use it, the more you learn and get better.


Start by setting up your pages for Book Tours, and Author Interviews. Feel free to explore mine and other author websites on how they’ve gone about this. I also have another sub-section for archived author interviews. Then I have a space specifically for Indie and Traditionally published book reviews, which also has an archive. The reason I have separated the two is because I don’t want to show I read just one type, I want to show I read widely, and not every book is perfect. I’ll go into how I post reviews, both good and bad.


Draw up a Google spreadsheet/Excel/preferred scheduler and work out how often do you want to post. Once a month? Once a week? I do mine twice a fortnight, because I work full time and it does take a bit of time to put it up. I’m getting faster the more I post, but a Book Tour post will take about 30mins, and an Author Interview about an hour. Sometimes its less but I’m slower because I’m careful.


I therefore have two lines, for two times of the month, and then the corresponding months at the top of the column. Yes, I’m drilling down into basics but not everyone is familiar or comfortable with excel/spreadsheets.


On a second tab I list the name, email address, links, a marker whether I’ve emailed them and whether I’ve received all the relevant information I need to make the post at the time. I then have a folder in my emails for correspondence for Book Tours & Author interviews as two separate folders to help me stay organised.


Once you have your schedule ready for both you can do the following;


  1. Book Tour


This is easy, put a post up on Twitter offering spots on your website. Take it as first in first served and close it off quickly once you are booked up.

I then put the twitter tag against its date in my schedule, grab the details off the person via a DM, and send them an email with all the info I need. This is a drafted email I copy and past to save on time. It asks for the following information;


  • Book Cover
  • Blurb
  • Book link to Amazon (or most commonly used publishing site)
  • An author pic and short bio


I usually have word restrictions to make sure people don’t go overboard, it also helps to say to people that most blurbs are about 150 words, (fantasy 180). If people’s blurbs are longer you can politely let them know that, some people just dont know. If you or anyone you know is struggling with a blurb, put out feelers in your community to ask for help, or come to me, I am always happy to help.


Once they’ve emailed you, mark it off on the spreadsheet, and make sure to post it on the date. You can go to my website or just Google search Book Tours to get an idea of what other sites are doing and how they are displaying this information.


  1. Author Interviews


This is pretty much the same as the above, I have a drafted letter and enter people as I book them on the spreadsheet. For the interview of course, there are questions too. Its good to have something less formal and more customizable as a first or final question. The others are then pretty standard about writing, but find your own way of asking questions. Think about what you want someone to ask of you in your writing.


Limiting the word count here is paramount. Some writers can waffle on for hours about absolutely nothing, including yours truly.


You can also check out mine and other author websites for how they manage interviews.


      3. Book Reviews


This is not a service I offer.


I will sometimes give away reviews, but its rare.


The reason being is that there are a lot of authors who go out woefully under prepared, and that’s on their manuscript alone. I feel that way about my first novella, and so will be pulling it down off Amazon in the coming weeks, and offering it for free on my website. Its not a bad story, but it’s a slow world and character build.


I write fiction that likes to amble along beside you, not come up and punch you in the face.


We all write differently, and we all read different styles, we are allowed to not like everything we write and read.


Therefore when you go to start reviewing, be prepared for negative reactions. Not everyone is going to like, appreciate, or want your feedback. I have been dragged down into petty arguments by people who didn’t like what I thought of their book.


So I buy the book on Amazon usually, sometimes Kobo, and I leave a review on my website, Goodreads, & Amazon/Kobo.


I always try to use the critique sandwich; good stuff, bad stuff, different good stuff. It’s a great format, but points out issues to the writer.


When I first started writing I needed that desperately, and still do to a large extent. Beta readers are usually people you know, and in turn will be kinder. Someone’s who paid for your book is going to be far less so. You don’t need to be cruel, but you also don’t have to shower praise over it.


This is why I leave reviews for both Traditional and Self published books, because I like to make the clear distinction I dont see them any differently. I’m here for the story. I will rarely pick on editing unless its truly dreadful, and a deterrent to the book. I also don’t usually post anything less than 3 stars, and my reasons for doing so are that its seems cruel not to find anything nice about the story. Most stories that make it to any form of publication have something redeemable about them. When I come across a book that I’d rate that low, I am usually very specific in my review as to why.


If you are going to offer reviews please be prepared to expect a backlash if you give a book a less than savoury review, especially when its badly articulated and lacking in itself. If you are going to upset an author its better to phrase it well, and kindly, so they take the advice on board and look to improve themselves, rather than be bitter and tear you down in return. Which has happened to me. It was vile and unpleasant and its why I’m stressing that you be careful when doing this.


Here is the other thing to be wary of ⸺ some authors will refuse anything other than five stars.


This is why I prefer the anonymity of picking and choosing what I will and wont review, it doesn’t give the author a choice. This is just my preference however, how you want to review is up to you, its your website, and your reviewing platforms.


The most important thing to remember is that you dont have to do all of this, or do it this way. Go out and explore, work out what you want to get out of this, and how you want to go about doing that. All I get is the warm glow that I’m helping, and added benefit of website traffic. But mostly the warm glow.


My aim as always been to help other writers, with whatever I can, as much as I can. Will you join me?


Write the Darkness Within

“I don’t know how you did it.”

 

The compliment came when I announced I’d completed my 2018 goal of writing six books. They didn’t know how I did it. Thinking back, neither do I.

 

I normally write a blog post at the end of the year about my accomplishments and hopes for New Year, like it was a wondrous learning experience. I save the post for New Years Eve, an achievement of great pride, to tally up that I at least had something to show, and would finish on a note of peace and hope.

 

Laying claim to six books sounds like I had an awesome year, it would have been a great post.

 

I did not have a good year. I didn’t want to write that post.

 

I had a very bad year that has been proceeded by several bad years and my writing suffered for it. I’d swing between writing something great, the editor has said no major changes to A Phantom Presence, which was a first for me. But for him to then say that To Chase a Prophecy was not Ok, I think I rewrote it twice.

 

And I didn’t get those books to him on time, or in the condition they *should* have been up in. Because of all the real world distractions that dragged me down, and left me feeling used, hopeless, and above all tired.

 

So how did I write those books? With sadness. With despair. With a wellspring of unquenchable rage that this was all I had in the world that mattered, and it mattered to few more than to me.

 

It consumed me.

 

It was my waking wrathful thoughts and my bitter night time regret.

 

I sat at the computer when I was hot, tired, dirty, mind blank, with nothing left except that that burning anger at the world and all the things in it that had gone wrong.

 

My work wasn’t a reflection of my mood. It was what drove the stories I intended to write.

 

I burned through words as I tried in vain to exhaust the endless anger within me. All it did was tally up a word count I wasn’t trying to prove to anyone, not even myself. I’d write over ten thousand words a day and shrug it off as thought it was nothing, because to me, it was just what I needed to do.

 

There is no other way to get word counts like this, and if I have gained anything from it, it’s the ability to sit down at a computer and write ten thousand words in a day. Day after day. I am not proud of that because when I was writing those words, all that mattered was the story, the all encompassing desire to write ceaselessly on.

 

So if you need advice on how to sit down and write six books in a year, if you need motivation pull you through that work in progress, I don’t have it. I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone.

 

Because underneath all that rage, all that wrath, all that energy I had nowhere else to direct, I found I was made of a one very simple component.

 

Determination.

 

Where I had failed at so many things, had so much taken away, this was mine.

 

No one could take it from me, no one could stop me, and no one could tell me I was wrong.

 

I lit up words, destroyed people, created endless streams of nonsense tangled in tales that were from waking nightmares and bitter memories. And I made it beautiful, but my own.

 

No one can tell you how to write.

 

No one has a magic wand on a best seller.

 

No one knows the story like you do, and no one can write it like you will.

 

Write from the darkness within, and you’ll find what you need. I know I did.

 

There is always something to be thankful for.

Book Marketing

I am going to preface this by stating I don’t have all the answers.

 

There is a lot of information out there that doesn’t tell you certain things, like signing up with certain marketing companies doesn’t work unless you write their genre, or your book isn’t ready, or you write a series. And most of all as an indie author, I made a lot of mistakes I am hoping to show you how to avoid.

 

Here is what I have learned, and I know its worked because I have sold books. Not recently but when I release and follow this plan its worked very well for me, and I’ve done it 3 times now for 2 novellas and one book, that sold a thousand copies in its opening month.

 

Here is what I have learned about marketing my book to get that kind of response, and its simple, and stupid, but I learned a lot of this the hard way.

 

  1. Is your book ready?

 

No really.  Yes its been edited, yes its been gone over a million times by you and your editor, and a few beta readers, but is it *really* ready? I made the mistake all three times of rushing to my publishing goals rather than the book goals. I’ve backed off the last year to get it right, and I’ll still have made mistakes. One book I 100% thought was ready I haven’t published because it needs a rewrite, even though it got good feedback. I can just feel it. This is also the reason why trad published books take so friggin long to come out. They write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, copy edit, beta read, review, polish, re-beta, test, review, edit, polish… on and on until it is flawless.

Look at your book and ask if you’ve given it the same kind of love. You might not be able to do all of that, but you can do a lot of it. I recommend GOOD creative critics and beta readers, and Pro-Writing Aid, even if you do have an editor. We all miss stuff.

 

  1. Covers

 

This irks me a lot. There is nothing worse than looking at a really good book and people with terribly covers saying “But the cover shouldn’t matter! You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!”

 

Why not? You do it. You aren’t going to touch a book with a terrible cover, you aren’t even going to read the blurb. But here is the thing I do get. Finding people to do good covers at a price that don’t look like something out of a high school project is hard. Fiverr covers tend to be very hit and miss, and more miss, or you can spend close to $300US to get a good photoshop one.

 

There are two solutions here: Finding decently priced cover designers who sell predesigned covers at lower rates, & Gimp.

 

The first, I can recommend Violeta’s current page and her Christmas giveaway. She’s a kind person, and her prices are very reasonable. There are others out there, but you have to know who to go for yourself.

 

If you are going to use Gimp I can tell you two things; its frustrating but worth it. I recently ran into very tight financial situation because we are trying to buy a house and just couldn’t afford a cover artist. I have spent a lot of time looking at covers in my genre, and ended up designing my own, which is the last one below.

 

 

 

No, isn’t as good, but it does at least fit with the theme, and it wasn’t too hard after I followed a lot of tutorials. The most important thing about this though, is to be absolutely sure that the images you are using are fine for ebook commercial use. That is NOT a can of worms you want to mess with.

 

  1. Blurb

 

This is the other way you are going to hook your reader after your cover has engaged attention as it’s a LOT harder than it looks. I am happy to help rewrite blurbs but I’ve found these simple rules work:

 

  • Limit of 150 words (180 for fantasy)
  • Hook first and last
  • Read the top 20 blurbs of your genre for flow and feel

 

There really isn’t much more to it than this, but it is important. Also get feedback for posting, say it aloud, review and polish. Its your first impression for your audience.

 

  1. Pick your Price

 

This may sound easy but its getting much harder. You don’t want to make your book too much but you want to be sure its not free. The trouble is that people are assuming the content isn’t very good if its only 99c, but how else to break into reader groups if you don’t make it as affordable as possible?

This is where promos come in handy, and you can get a lot of downloads for a free weekend, but you are better off advertising a more expensive book for a 99c weekend and then running a series of promos.

Check what everyone else is advertising in the top 100, and don’t forget to lower your pre-order price and up it when it goes live to what you  want it to be.

 

  1. Get your platforms in order

 

Website, Facebook, Twitter. You should have all three and while its hard to maintain them all, its worth it for exposure. If you’re struggling for content look at what other people are posting and offering. What are you talking about? How are you helping? There are numerous articles about how to create engaging content, but most of all you’ve got to work out what works for you.

 

KEY POINT: Do a lot of research on what tags to use and when, check trending tags, reach out and grow your circle.

 

 

So now that’s the basics sorted, how to get it actually out there?

  1. Books Go Social

 

I owe an awful lot to what I know about self publishing to Books Go Social Facebook groups. They offer a lot of entry level stuff that is super helpful they have a dedicated and friendly team, all under the wonderful Laurence O’Bryan and his thoughtfulness. There are a lot of media groups out there, but I generally found that just being part of the community they created and engaging some of their services was a great introduction to self publishing on a marketing level. You can also ask questions, get feedback on blurbs and covers, they offer a helpful service to upgrade your cover at a good price, and generally it’s a great learning field.

 

Here is the thing though, not every part of them is for you. Its great for books that are one off’s but not for series, but series are hard to market when the whole thing isn’t out. If you sign up to their Netgalley offers make sure to get a couple of months worth as while it is worth it, you need a couple of months, because people read slowly, take their time, and you need it to still be there for them.

 

They also have reviewing sections which are great for getting (NOT SWAPPING) reviews.

 

  1. Reviews

 

Apparently you are supposed to get a magical unicorn that farts rainbows at 30 reviews. I heard recently that Amazon had upped it to 50, which doesn’t surprise me giving the amount of services that sell reviews (do NOT  do this, ever, or swap, its against T&Cs).

 

giphy

 

So how to get reviews?

 

ARCs, Goodread giveaways, groups like BGS, Netgally, competitions for free copies on your social media sites. You have to work at it, its hard, and don’t expect everyone to give you a review, you quite often wont get one.

 

But you can ask, just don’t be pushy about it.

 

 

  1. Author Support Services

 

 

There are a lot of great services out there, but here are two I have used frequently in the past.

 

Alliance of Independent Authors is a great source of up to date clear information about what’s happening in the market. I am not a member, but will be next year.

 

You will see their members floating around and not only do I love these people I’ve seen them monitor and watch situations where people are buying reviews, faking popularity and other such great services that spoil it for the rest of us.

 

The best thing about them was that they had a complete list of safe websites to get promos from. It was absolutely golden, because it did 2 things. It helped you find good websites to advertise on, and which ones were dodgy as all get out.

 

The other cool one is Authors Unlimited and this very helpful and concise article about getting going.

 

  1. Promotions

 

This is the *HARDEST* sell (puns totally intended) because you have to spend money. After all the work you’ve done spending money seems like a complete pocket suck of the precious money you have for book selling. If you want your book out there though, it doesn’t hurt.

 

You basically need to plan months in advance for a promo weekend, book in with hosts of email services that for small fees will list or discounted (99c) or free book on their weekend newsletter. This is THE way to advertise for romance. It also gives you time to rack up the reviews.

 

There is also the magical BookBub deals, but I won’t go into it, because that isn’t for beginners. You need to have been doing this a while to get one, and they are VERY expensive.

 

 

  1. Books… write a lot of books.

 

A self published author who writes full time recently offered to answer questions. And I asked her how she does it full time, what was the kicker?

 

A book EVERY 3 to 4 months.

 

That is a lot of time, and so we return to point one of polish, review, edit, revise.

One book is never going to be enough all by itself. I know a lot of traditionally published authors turning to self pubbing for the books that their agents or publishers didn’t like the sound of, and they already have the reading base because of their traditionally published books.

 

So no matter how ready you think you are, you might not be. And that’s OK. This is a long game, and if you are here to make a lot of money then you aren’t my kind of writer. If you are telling stories you are doing what you love, even if its just a hobby for now, and if you want to get self published, you need to get to a point where you can release every 3 to 4 months, and you can’t do that if you stop writing.

 

So what are you going to do?

 

A writer's mind is never emptyInside rage demons, devils, and doubts

 

A Successful Author

The first time I was asked when would I call myself a successful author, the answer was easy; if I was writing full time it meant people where buying enough of my book that I could do what I wanted.

 

That was when I started four years ago.

 

It doesn’t feel that long, but an aeon of time has passed, so much of my life has changed. Much of it not for the better. And now I know how incredibly wrong I was.

 

I read over and over on Twitter about people making it, they get agents, advances from publishers and all the while a host of “aspiring” authors sit in the wings, clutching their precious creation of fiction, and weep for the day it will be them too.

 

It started to make me sad, seeing so many of them, and knowing I was one among the throng.

 

How could I possibly hope to be a successful author if I couldn’t even publish my books. After 3 very hard years I still only had half of what I wanted out there for readers.

 

One full time self-published writer told me she released a book every three to four months.

 

I hadn’t done that, I spent years in a vacuum of tragedy, seeking to find definition in a life that wasn’t of my choosing, of potentially being barren, of everything that was wrong and everyone in it who laughed at my aspirations.

 

Worse still, I started to see other stories that didn’t have a magical happy ending.

 

About how people’s books were given that gold status; sold to a publisher.

 

But then the advances they got, what happened to them afterwards, it was rare anyone truly made it on one book alone. I started to question what “making it” really meant.

 

Then other stories came out, how the publisher didn’t want another book from that author, how the author lost their way, the golden moment, a brief passage. More and more you read how authors make on average less than ten thousand a year. It doesn’t matter the currency, only that it’s not enough to be a full time author.

 

Authors who’d won awards for books they’d written previously, but worked in mediocre jobs because a publishing contract isn’t a magic wand that changes your life.

 

My idea of success was dwindling with every tweet I read, every article on what it meant to finally make it, only to fall down when no one was interested in your stories anymore.

 

Even the so called full time authors lived in perpetual fear that they weren’t real. They called it imposter syndrome, and even the thousands of reassurances from fans, readers, and writers alike did little to abate it returning in a matter of days in another self-depreciating tweet.

 

If traditional publishing wasn’t the way then what was?

 

I self-published knowing I’d done it because I’d be rejected by a traditional publishing, but hoping after my 21 book novella series was bought up by the masses a golden contract would be handed to me too.

 

I wasn’t prepared.

 

I published a mediocre novella, followed it up with an OK one, and then published a reasonably good book.

 

It was a learning curve, but I felt like a failure.

 

And I wasn’t the only one. For every indie author I saw out there with a brilliant story, who thought to go alone and self-publishing was the key, many have done it unprepared.

 

Bad book covers. Bad editing. Bad stories read by betas who were friends or fellow authors and didn’t want to be honest about picking up parts of the story that were lacking. Learning that your work needs honesty of good editors and beta readers, that not even the first, second, or third draft is perfect is the hardest, most agonising lesson for new writers. Many don’t listen.

 

Writing the story is possibly the easiest part. Its polishing the script, waiting on it to mature, sitting with it and going over and over it again to make it as perfect as possible that is the hardest thing.

 

I have spent too long bent over my keyboard crying for what might have been to let myself do this anymore. To let someone else’s magical success crush the life out of a story I believe in heart and soul. A person I believe in with everything that I have that has given me strength through the darkest hours of my life.

 

It’s me, I have a purpose, and its being an author.

 

But I had to redefine what I wanted my success to be, in order to be successful.

 

THE DEFINITION OF AN AUTHOR IS A WRITER OF A BOOK.

 

I am NOT asking you, I’m telling you, look it the fuck up.

 

I haven’t written a book. I’ve written many. I will write many more.

 

To be successful at selling a book you have to be a salesperson.

 

To be successful at getting a wider audience you have to be in marketing.

 

To be successful at making money writing you have to be good in business.

 

Being a successful author doesn’t require any of those things.

 

Not all of us will ever be able to “make it” to what our inner hearts believe is success without working incredibly hard, every day, and to a large extent have an inordinate amount of luck.

 

Its become very important to me that I realise if I want to be at peace with the event of never “making it” I have to redefine my answer when someone asks when would I call myself a successful author.

 

I am one.

 

Right now.

 

If you’ve ever written a book you aren’t “aspiring” to anything. You are successful at being an author. And if you’ve ever done it, you will have gone so much further than just about anyone you know. Sit back and think about it, how many people do you know had the tenacity to sit down and write a book?

 

Few.

 

In the greater scheme of things, very few.

 

And if you haven’t written a book yet I want to tell you something. Finally finishing that bastard isn’t going to magically make the world a golden, magical, fantasy. It will be the same world. But you, you, my beautiful, creative, magnificent, writer, will be a successful author.

 

 

Sunset chaser

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide

So you signed up for Nanowrimo… good job!

 

There are a lot of guides out there, so I’m just going to tell you what works for me, take of it what you will.

First things first – Nano isn’t hard… for a vetran writer.  Stephen King says write 2k a day, well you only have to write 1667 for Nano.

 

And you can do that two ways;

Panster – someone who just sits and writes as it comes to them

Plotter – someone who outlines what they are going to write before they do it

 

Generally, I’m a panster but I’ve normally seen the 3D movie version of the story inside my head beforehand… well, at least the scenes that would make it to the trailer for the film.

But for Nano I do a bit of plotting, and its because Nano day in day out can get hard. I normally ask for a week of leave off work just to do it. When you work full time that leave is precious, and I cant think of anywhere I’d rather spend it! This year I can’t do it, so I’m plotting. That way, when I sit at a computer to write, I know exactly what I should be working on.

 

How do you plot Nano?

It devolves down to outlines. I write novellas for Nano. 50k words on a novella is great, and with a prologue and epilogue it leaves me with 16 chapters at 3k a chapter (18 if you aren’t a fan of the prologue epilogue). If you like smaller chapters you can break it down further. So a table for those feeling intimidated;

34 Chapters @ 1500 words per chapter

25 Chapters @ 2000 words per chapter

18 Chapters @ 3000 words per chapter

Anything longer than this can get intimidating and basically be a bit of a time suck that doesn’t evolve into anything useful. You want to keep the general story short, punchy and interesting enough so you can rewrite the scenes with more detail when its done.

 

How do you keep going?

ITS ONLY 1667 WORDS A DAY!

Break it down.

Make it up.

Stretch it out.

Fill it up.

 

Nano is about writing on weekends and busting out 10, 15, 20k words over a weekend. Its about writing 500 words at lunch, first thing before work in the morning, and putting aside TV/gaming binge time to write. With an outline, you put on the write tunes (ahaha… I’m so punny), and you write as much of the scene as possible. That’s what its there for, it’s a guide, and then a ladder, and then when you invariably fall off, (we all do), a crutch towards the end of the month. Sure the story might deviate, but it does keep you focused on writing.

 

But I have writers block!

No, you don’t.

Writers block is a big fat self-doubt lie!

Realistically, characters only have a couple of choices. Think of your story, if you will, as a choose your own adventure book. If you were watching a movie, and someone paused it, and asked you what happened next, you’d probably take a stab in the dark about it, wouldn’t you? Well, getting past writers block is the same. Take a stab at it… literally or figuratively, whataever works for you.

Here is another cool way to do, to make the outcome random, fun and interesting!

Work out what the choices are, and the make one even and one odd, and then roll a dice. Trust me, this works. If you aren’t certain, treat the dice (even/odd) like an eight ball;

“Do they go down the passage? Even = yes, odd = no.”

Even.

“When they get to the end of the passage, do the get lost (odd) or find their way (even)?”

Odd.

“If they are lost, do they figure a way out (even), or do the need to be rescued (odd)?”

Odd.

“If they are rescued, is it by an ally (odd), or a enemy (even)?”

Even.

This may not work exactly the way you had it in mind… but it does promise to at least shake the story up enough for you to keep going.

 

I am finding it hard to find time to write…

 

No you aren’t, you aren’t making time to write.

Sit down and schedule your day.

What time do you get up?

Can you get up earlier?

What are you doing at lunch? Can you type or write in a notebook?

What do you do when you get home?

IS there an activity you are doing which is basically a brain reset, like gaming or watching TV?

Doing those “relaxing” activities are fine, but break it up. So do half an hour of writing, 15 mins of TV or gaming, and pace yourself. All of a sudden you have your daily quota, and you can spend the rest of the time relaxing for the day.

 

Other options

You can make up writing time but also give yourself credit!

Some people don’t count, but if you’re dead set on 50k words then do count, but only at the end of the day, last thing before bed.

If you’re happy and making plans don’t worry.

If you aren’t, ask yourself this; did I do all I could to make writing time, and if the answer is yes, then do me a favour. Congratulate yourself. Finding time to write while working full time, especially with kids, absolutely sucks. If you can do it you are an amazingly hard working writer.

If you’ve given up for the day, and fallen a little behind schedule, make it up over the weekend.

But most importantly, if you love writing, and want to prove that you can do this, for yourself, make time to just do one very important thing.

 

Love the story, fall into its arms.

Let yourself go and see where the muse’s hand takes you.

You never know how far you’ll go…

Birthdays and Broken Promises

This time last year I was at a pub, celebrating with friends the release of the Well of Youth.

For the past 72 hours I have worked ceaselessly on finishing A Phantom Presence.

I have been behind schedule all year, not with writing so much as editing. Both my editor and I have had numerous things on, but its mostly been me.

I moved house, changed jobs, and that isn’t even the half of it. I was going through with my artist some of the hiccups this year, and listing it all was very depressing, but it also made me realise that while I wouldn’t publish A Phantom Presence today, I could finish it in another way, get the last of the rewrites and third round edits done.

And if I didn’t I’d consider myself a failure.

I’d blame myself for not having done enough to get the series ready in time for my birthday. Today I turned 35.

Reading the end of this has me absolutely convinced this is one of the best stories I’ve ever written, and I can allow myself to be proud of the work that’s gone into it.

Rather than feel like I haven’t done enough with the time I’ve been given, getting older has only taught me to redefine my goals, and to learn to accept my past mistakes and trials, so I can move on.

I’m sorry Phantom isn’t here yet, but its not as though it gone. And while I promised myself I’d get one book out every year, I know at least I can make up that time, and spend it more wisely.

The Last Prophecy – Explained!

You’re doing what?!?

Writing a 21 book/novella series… and in my sleep Cthulhu eats my brain.

This came about thanks to @lilcrow during a flurry of twitter when she asked me what I wrote, and I blabbed about my series, later realising I’d given her the complete wrong impression. She’d assumed I’d actually finished this mammoth task, and flattering as it was, I’m a long way off. But I am determined… if somewhat crazy.

And she’s not the only person to question my sanity, or in fact, what it actually is I’m doing.

So here goes – I’m writing a 21 book/novella series.

10 books and 11 novellas.

3 are available now;

The Hidden Monastery; Novella 1

The Last Prophecy; Novella 2

The Well of Youth; Book 1

I will hopefully this year release the next two books in the series;

To Chase a Prophecy; Novella 3

A Phantom Presence; Book 2

The books revolve around a prophecy found during the 2nd novella – and thus what the series is named after… the Last Prophecy;

Since capture and taming of fire

Cross worlds lit by man’s pyre

Relics of old will not rust

Lost in time, crowned in dust

In man’s hands, certain fate

Gripped by limitless hate

Frozen tears start to thaw

Sleepers awaken from before

Shadows slink in puppet’s guise

Striking the sinless, led by the wise

Words of gods cross the night sky

Struck black earth, letting virtue die

Let loose the howling beast

Hear its lies on devouring feast

Twisting thoughts through fear

Singing to silence not to hear

See echoes of a soul unknown

Holding deceit in the heart of its throne

Turning the key on misguided fool

Exhausting the dead, endless pool

Feel the lingering touch of blight

Stealing from seer, sacred light

By the fists of many, a realm will quake

Time for world’s end to awake

Brought together by faith, led by a lie

Till the end, where darkness comes to die

Found in a sealed cave written by a mad immortal, it tells of an age when the word faced a time of great distress. And in such times, humanity always turns to the surest methods of survival, even at the cost of their own morality.

The overarching story features a series of books that are mostly standalone, but are best read with the novellas. This will change as the series progresses, but for the moment the books can be read by themselves. They feature a range of characters of different countries and backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, in a world that changes them, and what they choose to do about it.

The novellas for the most part follow Lady Katarina Salisbury, as she does her best to discover the origins of the prophecy, and how best to stop its unimaginable power falling into the hands of those that would misuse it. Or so she thinks. Her story is interwoven between the novellas and in some of the books.

At the moment I have also got half of two of the books in the series done, and a couple of the novellas, so while I have not even reached half way on this project, I am cutting through it, one book at a time. I write a book every year, and a novella every November for Nanowrimo.

Each book is about 130k words, and each novella ranges between 45 and 70k words.

WHY??

Why would I do this to myself?! What unhinged dream that came swirling out of my dark imagination convinced me that I could do this, let alone would? Still got a good guess for who I blame…

giphy

Ever hear the saying that in ever person is a book? Well… I have a series.

I’ve never been convinced I couldn’t. Every time I wonder if tackling this self publishing thing is worth it, I have to remind myself that underneath it all is a very definitive purpose, I’ve been as sure of this book series as though its my own breath.

And this is why I self published. I couldn’t let anyone else dictate to me how these books had to be written, I just knew that this is how it would be. When you have a gut instinct driving you to spend your weekends indoors writing, and throwing every single penny you have at it, it becomes everything you are.

And I’ve never been prouder of myself – and from someone who has contemplated suicide in a fit of depression, anxiety, and an overwhelming feeling of uselessness, that statement speaks for itself.

So, writers and creators, don’t let anyone stop you, no matter how crazy you think your idea is, because otherwise it will be stuck inside you until the day you die and you’ll only have regret. And if that’s not a scary enough threat for you, then try this; imagine how proud you’ll be when you’re done. I know I will be, because I already am.

Name Generators

I promised a friend of mine that I’d let them know how I come up with the unique names for all my characters.

Originally I debated doing this, I didn’t want to give away a resource that someone else could use. And as soon as I said out loud why I didn’t want to do it, the stupidity of not sharing it was only exacerbated by the selfishness.

So here are my primary means of finding names that don’t involve going to a website for baby names. Having said that, those are actually helpful for everyday believable names for real people. They’re especially good when they can tell you what was the most popular name during certain time periods, at least for the last few decades.

Any Google search will ultimate help you find something useful, or even vaguely inspiring for what you want. Its important to remember that you can use these as inspiration and change them to suit you, even if its just by a few letters.

I have one I use for random ideas for inspiration, or when I just want to plow on with what I need to do, and I can come back and edit it later. Another to help with place and town name generators, and lastly a person name generator.

Randomness!  – Springhole

I love the random page generator on this one, and it actually helped me come up with some of the first ideas for the initial book I worked on for the Last Prophecy, a book that has yet to be finished.

Springhole has a great assortment of silly, but it has serious undertones, and the creator has a lot of really great information about writing, especially if you are starting out, or trying a different genre.

The one feature I love the most about it is random page generator. It is one of my favourite places to go to before I start working on a novel. With a notepad and pen, I get it to take me to about ten random pages, and on each page I write down whatever the random generator gives me. I then think about my intended story, and refer to the page for inspiration when I get stuck, or set myself the challenge of including those bits to push me along. Sometimes its completely useless, I found myself on a cyber name generator page, and I’m writing a Victorian era steam flavoured fantasy. Interestingly enough a variant of the name ended up in one of my books anyhow.

General Name Generator – Fantasy Name Generators

This one is great for getting place names. Towns, oceans, mountain ranges, rivers, the works.

One of the other parts I like about it is the huge variety of theme. It takes all pop culture in fantasy and incorporates it into their potential word searches. I also like the fact you can use it for names too.

There is one downside I have noticed with it though, and that’s if you want a specific name type, it can end up being a bit restrictive. For example, I was looking up a random Russian name, and it kept ending them all the male names in -ich, and all the female names in vna.

THE Name Generator – Behind the Name

This is by far my favourite, and if I don’t know the name of my characters this is my first stop. It is very simple, but it does allow you to pick places and types, and given that I’ve based my world on an almost alternate earth, its very convenient.

The names also show what they mean, and that’s very important to me and my characters because it is ultimately who they are and what defines them. The meanings behind their names are key characteristics that eventually shine through.

 

The other thing is, you should instinctively *know* your character names, where the story is going, and ultimately what the goal should be for the characters. But sometimes you need a push, or name, without worrying about it. I’ve had another character introduced to a story because it was felt as though it was needed by the editor. The new character was allocated an odd name and actually became integral to the plot. His name was Osewyn, a variant of Oswin, that meant “friend” in Old English. And he ended up becoming one of Andy’s greatest allies, after they started out on less than friendly terms.

Ultimate the name should resonate within you, for all your characters. The less they mean to you the less you want to write about them, the less people will want to read them.

Hope you get as much out of these sites as I did!

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