The Elusive Review…

E.J. Dawson & Mrs Y...

 

 

You may as well admit it.

 

When it comes to wanting a review authors can be like Voldemort, stalking through the Forbidden Forest looking for the elusive unicorn, the magic number of fifty reviews to start spiking on Amazon’s algorithms. Its hard to get them, and there are a host of reasons why; you’re self pub, you just published, you didn’t have your marketing done quite right and if you need help with that please check out my other blog post.

 

But there are other ways than becoming a dark lord to actually get your reviews, and with my today is the lovely Mrs Y, who is appearing on my blog post today to talk about how you can get a review from her.

 

Reviews are important because they help get your book a lot of attention, especially when you can get a few of them, but its important to know some fundamental rules when it comes to reviews that Ive noticed a few authors aren’t clear on. These are rock solid, unbreakable rules. There are few of these when it comes to writing, but if you break these rules on Amazon you can get you whole account suspended or shut down;

 

  • DO NOT REVIEW SWAP: I don’t know how many times I have seen people do this. You do it often enough and you WILL be caught, I’ve seen it happen to people, they lost not only their reviews of other peoples books, but the reviews on THEIR books. They ended up taking their books offline.

 

  • DO NOT BUY “FAKE” REVIEWS: We’ll talk about where you can pay to get a paid & honest review from credible sources, but whatever you do, don’t go to fiverr and buy a fake review, those accounts get caught by Amazon all the time, and you risk the above.

 

  • Friends & Family: This one is especially tricky, because when you are just starting out it’s a good way to get a few reviews in, and they want to support you. The trouble is friends and family know you, they aren’t likely to review a product honestly (which may not be your experience but Amazon don’t care), and then the above applies.

 

Even if your book isn’t listed on Amazon (and for the purpose of marketing your book, it really should be), don’t forget that the other key place for reviews is Goodreads, and if you’re with current (ok, not so current now) events, you’ll know that Amazon own Goodreads now.

 

SO HOW THE HELL DO YOU GET A REVIEW?!?

 

There are a few different methods, but the most important thing to know before you even start asking is that if ANYONE reads your book, please don’t forget they did that. They took the time to read your words, hear your story, and write what they thought about it. Good or bad, they gave you their time. Time is valuable to nearly all of us, we don’t have a lot of it, and when we spend it on you, that’s time we don’t get on our own work, our own family, or our passions.

 

  1. Ask a Reviewer: I give you the FABULOUS Mrs Y!

 

There are people about the place like Mrs Y, who literally have Professional Reader in their job title. If you would like her to read your book, then there are a few different ways to go about it, which she’s given to me, and is accessible through her website.

 

Mrs Y is quite special, in that nearly all her reviews are kind, thoughtful, detailed and extremely helpful to budding authors.

 

She chooses her books based on her Kindle Unlimited subscription, and she uses it specifically to find Indie authors. Amazon then picks up her reading habits to offer more suggestions to her, meaning that its usually the same genre. To diversify, she also watches what’s trending in the Writing Community on Twitter and selects books that appeal.

 

She does not accept ARCs, stating that people used her critique in the place of professional critiques & editors, which is not only hurtful, its unprofessional.

 

Part of the reason reviewers like Mrs Y are so wonderful is that they will read your book end to end, properly, and state very thoroughly all the good parts, and the bad ones too, but more importantly their review is designed not just to help the author, but to give the reader a very clear idea what they are signing up for.

When Mrs Y does give a review, it isn’t just a few paragraphs, she pretty much writes an essay on the book, going into finite detail and allowing both the author and the reader to know clearly and her takeaways from the book. The detail of her reviews is an absolute pleasure and privilege to see, and her attention to the book is nothing short of flattering.

 

 

  1. E. J. Dawson Book Reviews

 

I select books based on whats on my Amazon page but I also offer competitions occasionally for reviews. I base my normal preferences by things I also see trending on Twitter.

 

My reviews are posted on my Amazon AU page which is a little irritating for the US (I am really sorry, I’ve tried to have this changed but since Amazon got to AU its impossible), Good reads, and my website here. I have two sub-headings to distinguish books I’ve read that are published by traditional publishers, and those I’ve read by Indie Authors.

 

I will normally base whether or not I buy a book on whether the “Look Inside” feature grabs me. I have to be reading until the end of the third page or have already decided to buy, in order to review it. I do not base my reviews on Indie works on editing (unless its poor), or covers or blurbs.

 

The reason why is that I understand having done this myself that its hard to get covers and blurbs exactly right, and shouldn’t take away a good story. However many readers will judge you for it, and if it is extremely poor no good review is going to help.

 

When I post my review I like to use a critique sandwich; good stuff, bad stuff, great stuff. Not all books are made equal, not all books appeal to every reader. In the event I can’t give a book more than three stars I will leave it, or if I can try to get in touch with the author. There has to be something fundamentally wrong with a book for me to rank it that low. My average ranking is three to four stars, as when I’m reviewing these books I am looking for the story, the characters, and the writers ability to keep me reading.

 

 

You can find lots of people online who have websites where they review books. The best way to speak to these people is to ask once, very politely, (and according to whatever their submission guidelines are), if they will read your book. They often have their own preferences, and can say no if your genre isn’t what they read. This isn’t a free for all, do your research and find out if they read your genre before you ask. If they accept then it’s a good sign, and you should be proud!

 

But then the hard part is that you MUST WALK AWAY. Leave the review in their hands, and be patient.

 

Nobody likes being forced to read a book, (do you remember high school?!), and it takes some people a while to read a book. Leave a reviewer alone once they have accepted your book. For me, asking me where my review is, is nothing short of the height of rudeness. I’ve had this done to me once. I did not review the book.

 

 

  1. Review Services

 

Ah, the other way to pay for reviews and have it be legitimate. This part is tricky, because its hard to find people and be sure that what they are offering still adheres the Amazon T&Cs. This is why we’ve put together a list of services that let you get reviews;

  1. NetGalley: This is an excellent way of getting early reviews of your book before it is published on Amazon. You do need to pay a monthly fee in order to list your book, which can become very pricey over time, but it allows NetGalley reviewers the chance to get a copy (free) and give an honest review. It’s excellent testing ground for your book, especially if you believe its everything it can be. The reviewers aren’t just judging your content, they judge the blurb & cover too.
  2. SPR Reviews: I signed up with them when I first started in 2014 and had an excellent experience. It takes a little time, & there is a fee (starts at $139), but this is a great way to get an honest review of your book, and put it on your Amazon listing to give readers an idea what to expect. They are kind and thoughtful reviewers, and if they run into any serious issues they’ll tell you.
  3. Book Sirens: List your book here for quite a small fee, but if the book garners a lot of attention you can expect that to go up. At a $10 listing fee, there is a $2 charge billed month for anyone who requests your books. They have a 75% review rate, and the reviews are posted on Amazon or Goodreads – you pick.
  4. Booktasters: Mrs Y recommends trying this site to get some reviews in as well, their packages start at $100,
  5. Twitter: You can find several authors willing to review books, but some of them also charge, or don’t necessarily offer reviews per se, as feedback on your book. Some of these include Mark (Proofreader & Reviewer) & Tory (Critique Editor). They will go over their own methods of how they give you feedback, and what’s involved. Not necessarily a review but if your book is falling down they might be a great place to get an idea of what could be wrong.

 

While these services are helpful in getting reviews, they are going to give you an honest review. If your book doesn’t meet their standards they will tell you. They are not services to ensure you get “5 star reviews”, as stated before, this is against Amazon T&Cs. They will however be helpful and insightful reviews/feedback, and are a good way to judge how well your book is going to be received.

 

 

  1. ARC, Giveaways, Goodreads, & Free weekends

 

A great way to get reviews is to offer your book for free. Not permanently, but certainly there are methods to build up hype about your book release or your book in general, to help get reviews.

 

  1. ARC: Advance Reader Copy – this is the option for someone (usually a winner of a Twitter/FB competition) to get early access to your book. They can then review it on Goodreads (if they wish), and you can use their review to help market your book.
  2. Giveaways: You can offer copies of your books over public holiday weekends, celebrations, or even just randomly through your social media platform. Since a reader wins a book for free, it’s a great way to ask them (politely) when they receive it if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review when they are done.
  3. Goodreads: They have a special Goodreads giveaway you can organise directly through the site. I am hesitant to talk about it, they have only recently opened this up to “ebook only” authors who are predominately self published, and I’ve yet to hear good or negative feedback about the experience. Overall I have heard that it can be quite expensive to run a campaign.
  4. Free Weekends: This is simply listing your book for free for a promo weekend. It isn’t a great way to get reviews, but it does help promote your book and allow a lot of readers access to it, hopefully resulting in a review.

 

 

  1. How to Treat Reviewers

 

Be thankful.

 

Someone has just taken the time to read your book, and the least you can do is be polite about it. Bad authors get a reputation for being difficult, and will occasionally be named and shamed if their behavior is truly unacceptable. Most reviewers are too polite to do this, some are not. Some will leave a scathing review of your book, which only hurts everyone. Good authors are often a delight to review for, and will be more likely to be reviewed again & by others if they are a pleasure to engage.

 

Here’s some things you can do to encourage reviewers to read your book;

 

  1. Like the review on Goodreads/Amazon: it shows the reviewer you cared about what they think, but also their status as a reviewer goes up too.
  2. Send a thank you note once you receive a review: they’ve taken the time to write something poignant, especially in the case of Mrs Y, then the least you can do is take the time to say you appreciate them looking at it, perhaps open a dialogue as to a piece they love or a constructive criticism they gave you.
  3. Never be rude: They can delete their review. Some people will change it, and state specifically that you were rude to them, meaning other reviewers will not look at your work if that’s how you treat reviewers.
  4. DO NOT HARASS THEM: I can’t believe I need to reiterate this, and if you are getting bored, I’m sorry, but the LAST thing you do is ask someone if they’ve finished it. This applies to beta reading too. I’m a fast reader, I will devour a two inch thick book in an afternoon if I feel like it, and the story grabs me. Other people can only read for so long at any set time, and we are normally doing this during “relaxation” time which for many of us can be few and far between.

 

 

One of the hardest things isn’t actually editing or publishing or even just writing the damn thing.

 

Its getting reviews, and this is the longest part of the self publishing process. You can do nothing, and sit in anxiety while you wait for answers, as I have done in the past. But these days I like to think of it as giving people a gift, a sliver of my soul, wishing them well of it, and leaving them alone. If they come back to me then I’m flattered, and no matter what they say I listen.

 

You are going to get bad reviews. Not reviews that say: I didn’t get a chance to read it/this wasn’t delivered on time/shit book. These are unhelpful and should for the most part be ignored. The bad reviews I’m talking about is when people pick at flaws in your book. The best way to deal with these is remove yourself and your emotional involvement from the book. Are they saying something that rings true? Is there some nuance of the review that you didn’t even see as a mistake? All of these things are ways to improve upon your writing. Take the feedback and grow from it, don’t make the same mistakes next time.

 

And when you get those glorious good reviews, crack the damn champagne. Having a stranger love your book is the best blessing you can bestow upon any author. Whether its a glowing exploding five star review, or a modest four star with compliments and criticism. Someone has still read, liked, and even loved your books.

 

And isn’t that what you set out to do? Share your story, and don’t be afraid of a big bad review.

 

 

 

 

1 Book in 25 Days

I wrote a book in 25 days.

Lets cut straight to the facts as they are;

  • I don’t have kids
  • I live in a rural area
  • I have a short commute
  • I worked fucking hard at it

 

I love the book, I think it’s a great stand alone story and for me that’s a rarity.

It sprung into my head after I halted work on the Last Prophecy series because buying houses is expensive and the budget said no to editing. Hell the budget said no to my damn haircuts, but we negotiated over vodka. I gave up desserts for it as part of keto.

Scott, being the wonderful and supportive person he is, rightly pointed out it’s just a delay so those of you who’ve stuck with me this far, I’m sorry. I’m still writing the stories, but the release dates are totally out of my hands.

Instead I’ve done some beta recommended rewrites on Queen of Spades the last month, and this other idea I’ve titled Behind the Veil.

The book wouldn’t shut up. It wouldn’t go away. I sat down and wrote it with no idea what was going to happen. I don’t think it’s a steaming pile of garbage but the verdict is still out from the first beta reader.

So, how did I write it?

 

  1. Writers Block

 

When you don’t have an idea what happens next you need to think quickly and keep typing, keep writing, keep the momentum going. I’d start a chapter with a bang and finish it on a cliff-hanger of a comment which dragged me back into what happens next?

It kept the story moving briskly and my pace was very high. There was more to it than that but I’ve written articles on how I do this before.

 

  1. Sprints

 

Fellow writer Zack Riley runs a cosy little discord channel that allows me to do writing sprints. I normally run for an hour, and will do several hours all in a row with 15 to 30min breaks.

The sprints have a bot timer so you have a prompt to keep you on track. You start a sprint, add yourself & your word total, and go when the buzzer hits. There is no TIME to stop and think, you’ve got to write as many words as you can and you are only challenging yourself. It takes practice to do it on command, (I’ve been doing it for 5 years) but after a while you can just sit and work on the story.

When I started I’d be lucky to get a couple of hundred.

Now, on a bad session, I’ll get 1200 words or so. On a good one I’ll get 2.5k words.

 

  1. Outline

 

There wasn’t one. I just wrote Letitia’s story as hard as I possible could. I kept the story going as much as I could. Letitia may as well have been possessing me for how this story spilled out on its own.

I like to credit my imagination, but I read a lot of horror, I’d just never written it before, and it was exciting to be doing this for the first time.

You should have some idea of where it is going, just don’t be afraid if the story turns into something else, if its pressing you to write it, then its exciting, not just for you but hopefully the reader too! If its becoming boring and predictable to you, how is it going to feel to the reader? Try just letting yourself go, and sprints is a great way to do that.

 

  1. No breaks!

 

No capes, no breaks.

I would get up in the morning and write, I would write at lunch, I’d get home and write, and I’d write for as much as ten hours on a weekend. I felt invigorated and refreshed by the constant appeal of not knowing what was going to happen. The story that was whispering in my ear, kept me coming back, even dreaming about it. By the end of it I just wanted to go back and edit it because I was in love with it.

No games. No TV shows. Nothing but writing and reading breaks (with the odd Armello game with Zack).

It meant I watched a couple of movies with my husband. We live alone, and we’re far from friends, so my time was able to be utilized to write, and knowing it was important he was incredibly supportive and reminded me to eat.

 

  1. You can do this too

 

I am lucky in that I don’t have kids or other commitments that consume too much of my time. I live in a rural area I’m new to which means I don have many local friends.

But I work 40plus hours a week.

I have a dog that needs walking twice a day.

Hubby & I share the housework evenly. Sure he might have cooked more, but I do my part.

It was how I utilized my writing time. Rather than socialize on Twitter, I told people I was writing.

Rather than stuff around doing other things I focused solely on what time I sat down at my computer and how much writing I could put into that time. It wasn’t something I could do when I started five years ago.

All of this takes years to balance and even now I feel overwhelmed and overworked some days.

You can do this too, remember what time you sit down at a computer and ask yourself what do you want to get out of that time.

Do the writing sprints and get better with practice.

Take the story other places, let it guide you, learn to listen to it.

 

 

 

At the end of this all I want you to take away is that you could do this.

You could write a book in 25 days.

Ask yourself how you are utilizing your time, and what you want to get out of it.

Learn how to do writing sprints and how to fly by the seat of your pants. Even if you plot, you really just have to know what you are writing next, sit down, and do it.

I had to give up on a part of my life that had never made me happier. The Last Prophecy series is my calling to write. But while its on hold, and while I can write like this, I know a two very important things;

I’ve never been poorer, & I’ve never been happier.

I’ll write my own stories, my own way, and every time I figure out a new way to do it I’ll share it with you.Choose to be happy.

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

thankyou(1)



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.

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

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.

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