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Journey to a book launch

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Launching a book is hard. Like, really, really hard. And, it’s especially hard when you are going the DIY route. Amazon, mercifully, has made this process as seamless as possible for indie authors like me, but even this incredible platform can only take you so far. Here is the journey I have been on for the past 15 months:

Research

The idea for The Lost Girls is something that’s been percolating in my head for about three years. I never felt ready to start it before I’d self-published my first title in June last year, called Serenade. Serenade was a retelling of the original Little Mermaid. Not the Disney version, I’m talking old school dark fairy tale. I’d spent the preceding year studying mermaids, myths and Hans Christian Andersen as a person (as he was a character in the book, a ‘fairy godfather’, if you will). I had to learn about him a lot – but it was worth it. By all accounts, he was the most fabulous man of the age.

The research for The Lost Girls was different. Here I immersed myself in a combination of psychology books, and books of magic. Equally fascinating topics, and when combined, helped me start phase two – the creative part – writing.

Writing

For me, sitting in front of a blank page is the most motivating thing in the world. It’s a blank canvas waiting to be shaped, formed and given life. It took me a year of writing, scratching out, rewriting, creating and recreating character arcs, printing a million images for my ever-evolving story boards, more reading and researching. It goes on for almost a year, and I tend to become a social recluse during this time. It’s not always easy on my family, but they’re amazing, understanding and supportive. And the man in my life is my rock, keeping me calm and on the ground when I have a tendency to float away on a bubble of madness. Finishing the book, writing the end, is the hardest part for me, and takes the biggest toll on my sanity. But, in the end, I get to take a deep, deep breath, and smile that I put in the effort.

Editing

This is where the tough work starts. You have to switch from creative-brain to grammar-nazi brain, a tough transition, especially when you’re mind is still swirling with imagery from the story you’ve just completed. These swirling images are my friends, they help me stay connected to the story so I don’t lose touch with its core. So that I can maintain levels of consistency, and make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together properly, and in their correct order. I also enlisted the help of a professional editor and proof-reader, my first time working with one. He was great at picking up redundancy and flaws in reasoning. I am grateful I decided to go with a pro editor this time – he helped me see things I might not ordinarily have seen.

Once I have read, re-read and re-re-read (I’m talking reading the book cover-to-cover at least 15 times), I am finally satisfied. This is when I start to engage with Amazon. These include Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace.

Publishing

As I mentioned before, Amazon makes it easy to self-published. Their Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace platforms are user-friendly, reliable and helps you learn about your market while you’re publishing.

With resources like these, self-publishing a title is easy. The hardest part – the part that makes you really want a traditional agent and a traditional publisher – THE MARKETING. Oh lordie… all the marketing. I chose Twitter as my primary launchpad, but I’m also doing a Facebook and YouTube promotion. It’s tricky to market when you don’t have a nice big audience ready and waiting for your content to be served. No. You have to engage with the existing communities, build up slowly, steadily, and keep momentum going. You can’t take a step back. You can’t stop promoting. And everything falls to you. You don’t have an expert standing behind you telling you not to tweet that, not to take it personally, to jump in or pull back when necessary. It really just rests with the author, and any wonderful handle out there willing to retweet. I’ve spent the whole of launch day doing this, and I’m not close to finished. I wrote the book. Now I have to put it in front of people and hope they like stories about overcoming bullying with a magical twist.

A case study in success. No it’s not me.

Amanda Hocking’s journey has always fascinated me. She’s known in the publishing industry as the greatest self-publishing success story, and a true testament to what perseverance and a thick skin can do for you. Amanda was frustrated with the traditional publishing route, which was not getting her closer to seeing her dream of being published come true. Guardian Books wrote an article on this and stated how Amanda wanted to go to a Muppet convention eight hours away, but couldn’t afford the petrol and accommodation needed to attend. She announced to her roommate Eric that she is going to self-publish on Amazon – and once she had, she not only raised the money she needed to go to the Muppet show, but then some. She was 26 when this happened. And this did not happen overnight. Amanda worked hard, she probably had to be tough as nails to get where she did, and I do not think luck or timing has anything to do with what she achieved (this in reaction to comments Ive come across that she was lucky that she got in at the right time) – I see what Amanda does on social media (and can only imagine what happens in the background). Hard work is the only way she could have achieved a feat this incredible. Now, she’s a household name when it comes to YA fantasy titles, and her second series (Trylle) has been optioned for a movie. That’s a pretty amazing story – and I’m holding it close to me as I embark on my self-publishing journey.

The road to publishing a book is a long, coiling one – but there’s this really beautiful moment when you’ve reached your destination (the day we like to call the book birthday) where everything is crystal clear. Something you have created, put your everything into, has been given life, and a set of wings to fly off with. Today is that day for me, and I’ve spent half of it on Twitter engaging with the community in hopes that they might engage back, and the other half obsessively checking my dashboard for downloads. I am going to stop doing the latter because I’m tethering to sanity, and ramp up the former because I love playing in Twitter.

To those brave souls out there who want to self-publish, I dedicate this post to you. And also to Amanda Hocking, the rockstar who got it right. You’re an inspiration to us all.

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Getting ready to publish

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It’s simultaneously terrifying and thrilling to prepare a manuscript for publication. The first step (obviously) is to write the book. This is not an easy task. In fact, it’s downright daunting, terrifying, maddening. Being a writer is very difficult, but being your own publisher makes it even more difficult, because you’re also responsible for publishing and marketing.

Why I self-publish:

The short answer is, quite simply, that my submissions in the past have not been accepted by any traditional publishers or agents. My previous title Serenade, had some good and some bad feedback once I’d submitted for consideration, but overall there was little interest in publishing it for me. It’s a depressing thing at the time, because really it’s been my dream since I was eight years old reading Roald Dahl, that I would be a published novelist when I grew up one day. It’s that day now, I’m all grown up, and it’s mighty difficult not to feel offended. It’s also difficult not to feel like you’re a bad writer. After much deliberation, I opted instead to publish on Amazon (CreateSpace and KDP) – both very user-friendly platforms that make it not only easy to self-publish, but also to market your book. I self-publish because I love to write, and I wanted to share my stories with the world.

The process:

As mentioned before, writing the book is the first step. It’s a little bit more like a leap, actually, but once you’ve got that down, it becomes a little easier. From there, it needs to go in for professional editing. This is a vital step! You’re never going to pick up on all the mistakes in the book, no matter how many times you read it. You need a fresh, professional pair of eyes to look it over for you, not only for grammar and spelling, but also basic consistency. A really good editor is going to tell you that some scenes are crap and need to be rewritten. Don’t be offended. Be grateful. After that, it’s time to get your marketing started. That means cover reveal, pre-launch social media posts and engagement, and making the book available for preorder on Amazon.

The end result:

Well, it hasn’t been published yet, so we’ll see about that last part. I wrote a book, and now I want to share it. the rest, as far as I am concerned, is just gravy.

Magic is coming: 08.08.15

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National Novel Writing Month 2014

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National Novel Writing Month kicks off on 1 November 2014, a very special occasion that takes place annually, encouraging writers to sit down, bite the bullet, and complete a first draft.

According to the organisation’s website,  National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

This year, I am not going to be starting a new project, but rather am busy completing one. I intend to use the month of Novemebr to make sure I write every, single day. At 8pm each night, my phone will set off an alarm befitting of the Scottish Banshee and will read a single question: “Have you written today?”

National Novel Writing Month is really an amazing way to end the procrastination many writers feel when embarking on a new project, and will ensure that you write every day. It may not be a best-seller, but it will be a first draft that you can then sit down and perfect until it becomes something you would like to publish.

Good luck to everyone who will be participating in this event. If you haven’t already, you can sign up here:

Sign up for NaNoWriMo

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Become a Real Mermaid

Quite a remarkable story I came across a couple of day ago. This school in the Philippines helps people of all ages and genders become real life mermaids – of course, not quite in the mythical sense.

There is a summer school where girls can learn to swim like a mermaid and become so-called “sea ambassadors”.

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Bing Larocque, an instructor at the school, described how it feels to wear a tail: “Once you put it on, you it becomes an extension of yourself, and you learn to do all these movements and all these tricks and that’s what we do when we perform. We do all these acrobatics in the water and it feels great because it’s something you can’t do normally.”

The mermaid school is the brainchild of swimming instructor and professional diver Normeth Preglo. She says that when she came up with the idea people were sceptical: “People were saying, come on: what? A mermaid school? What the hell is that? You know, people did not believe me and still I continued and started our first mermaid camp with a couple of kids, and there the magic came.”

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Normeth teaches people extra skills in the water. Some children have wanted to be mermaids all their lives. Others are afraid of the water. Diving helps them overcome their fears.

Sea ambassadors do have a more serious purpose however. Normeth Preglo told euronews they help protect the eco-system by re-planting broken coral in a coral nursery so it can grow again: “We have marine biologists from the Boracay Foundation working with us. They are teaching all the sea ambassadors how to plant coral and how to take good care of it because some corals take centuries to recover from being damaged.”

Best idea ever! I love that

Source:  Euro news

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My Jolly Sailor Bold

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A few years ago, when Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides came out, I was pretty excited about the movie so I went off to watch it in 3D. there was I was, sitting in the movie house and getting annoyed with the stupid 3D glasses that REALLY annoy the bridge of my nose, and was starting to lose interest in the flick (except, naturally, for any scene with Johnny Depp). We were about halfway through the movie when I started to get ratty and edgy, and then, from the bottom of the screen, I saw a wisp of something. Then a tail. Then a full on mermaid. I was so excited I nearly lept out of my chair, because I really hadn’t seen it coming (having not watched the ad or read the movie blurb). I was thrilled. There emerged several spectacularly beautiful mermaids, and one of them started to sing. I was so mesmerised, even my brother-in-law’s jokes didn’t reach my exalted ears.

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While writing my book Serenade, I was always scouring the internet for musical inspiration (using search terms like siren’s song and mermaid music). Then I came across this, having forgotten about it before, and it proved to be the best kind of inspiration for my story. So I thought I’d share it. Enjoy!

Lyrics:

Upon one summer’s morning, I carelessly did stray,

Down by the Walls of Wapping, where I met a sailor gay,

Conversing with a bouncing lass, who seem’d to be in pain,

Saying, William, when you go, I fear you will ne’er return again.

His hair it does in ringlets hang, his eyes as black as sloes,

May happiness attend him wherever he goes,

From Tower Hill, down to Blackwall, I will wander, weep and moan,

All for my jolly sailor bold, until he does return.

My father is a merchant—the truth I now will tell,

And in great London City in opulence doth dwell,

His fortune doth exceed ₤300,000 in gold,

And he frowns upon his daughter, ’cause she loves a sailor bold.

A fig for his riches, his merchandize, and gold,

True love is grafted in my heart; give me my sailor bold:

Should he return in poverty, from o’er the ocean far,

To my tender bosom, I’ll fondly press my jolly tar.

My sailor is as smiling as the pleasant month of May,

And oft we have wandered through Ratcliffe Highway,

Where many a pretty blooming girl we happy did behold,

Reclining on the bosom of her jolly sailor bold.

Come all you pretty fair maids, whoever you may be

Who love a jolly sailor bold that ploughs the raging sea,

While up aloft, in storm or gale, from me his absence mourn,

And firmly pray, arrive the day, he home will safe return.

My name it is Maria, a merchant’s daughter fair,

And I have left my parents and three thousand pounds a year,

My heart is pierced by Cupid, I disdain all glittering gold,

There is nothing can console me but my jolly sailor bold.

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Once Upon a Time Season 4 – Bring it On!

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Once Upon a Time is one of the greatest shows – ever! Seasons one through three have proved extremely popular and epically awesome, and now we impatiently await season four, which apparently won’t be back at least until September (sigh). But apparently, here’s what to expect.

Heroes:

Given that she has recently had a baby boy (in real life) Snow White will apparently take a back seat in Once Upon a Time season 4. Regina, who has been a hero for at least one whole season, is probably going to be in limo now that Emma has messed with her happiness, and yet another love has been taken by Snow’s family – so here’s hoping she goes back to her villainy ways and resumes being the adored Evil queen we’ve all come to know and love.

Villains:

In the final episode of season 3, as the Wicked Witch’s curse was set in motion, Emma and Hook were sent back to the Enchanted Forest to witness Emma’s parents meeting for the first time. They stumble upon Rumpel after inadvertently changing the past, and once it’s corrected, Rumpel sends them to a weird room in his house that contains dark objects safely hidden. Emma manages to open a vortex that will send them home, but one particular dark item Rumpel was frightened of enough to hide, travels back with them (as done the supposed-to-be-dead Maid Marion – or matron rather, as she’s married to Robin Hood). At the end of the episode, the container opens, and an ice queen emerges. The Ice Queen actually, taken right out of Frozen if all accounts hold true. YAY!

Setting:

Season 3 of OUT was spent half Neverland, a quarter Storybrooke and a quarter in the Enchanted Forest. Who knows where season 4 will be set, but given the awesome nature of the show, I reckon it’s going to be spectacular!

Whatever Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis give us in Once Upon a Time season 4, at least we can trust it will be epic!

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Sample Chapter Serenade

Not sure whether to buy Serenade? Never fear, now you can have a free sample and make your own decision. Click below on the download icon to get Chapter One of Serenade is a reader-friendly PDF format. Don’t forget to add your comments below.

If you want to download the entire book, you can get it for free on Amazon Kindle on 27th and 28th June 2014. Click on this link to do that. Over and above these days, click here for the print version and here for the Kindle version.

If you are browsing from South Africa and would like to order the book, fill out the contact form below and I’ll get right back to you.

Happy reading!

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For South African readers, Serenade is available for purchase in ZAR. The prices are:
Paperback: R190.00 (excl. delivery)
eBook: R100.00 (to be emailed to you upon proof of payment)

You will be emailed with payment details once the form is filled out and submitted.

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All Aboard the Book Train

BookTrainJuneThe Book Blog Train is a chance for a group of authors to come together and share what they have written with a new, fresh audience — YOU! For this special 1-day event, every one of the authors involved is giving away their labours of love — at least a chapter and in some cases the whole book.

The Book Train starts Friday 27 June 2014. You can get your free ticket by clicking here.

So why, you may ask, would these fabulous authors want to give their books away for free?The same reason grocery stores give out free samples of food they sell — so that new audience members can get a “taste” of their writing and come back for more when they like it. But that’s the business side of it. The other side is that writers love their work – or they wouldn’t be writing it. A true author doesn’t write to make money, they write to share thoughts, information and ideas. Become part of that sharing by hopping on board the Book Train.

If you’d like to get your fill of free (writing) samples, simply click on the links here. You’ll find your free samples by clicking on the tasty looking titles. Or you can click on an author’s name to learn more about them.

Preview
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She clutched the small glass vial as she was sent hurtling through the brutal whirlpools, this time without Viper’s calming influence, and the urge to scream overcame her. Her mouth opened instinctively, but nothing came out as she flew, terrified, through the maelstrom – it went on boundlessly longer than her journey in. When she was eventually thrown through the other end, she slammed straight into a cave wall, dropping the bottle. It plummeted through the water and just as it was about to hit a rock, she caught it, breathing a relieved sigh. The water was still and dark, just like before, only it was much later and her window of opportunity to take the tonic was closing. She shot directly up, dodging rock formations as she flipped her fins frantically. As soon as the transformation was complete, she would be able to go up to the palace and find her Prince. They would fall instantly in love and a priest would join their hands in a holy union. She would get her voice back and they would live happily ever after. That thought made her speed up – she would arrive at the surface in a few moments. She thought suddenly of her picture, elated that she would soon be dancing with her Prince, and then ground to a halt as another thought occurred to her. The woman in her picture had been wearing a long garment that covered her skin. If she was going to have her Prince, she would need to blend into Humanland and its customs. She doubled back in the direction of the reef. Time was running out – but she needed the dress she had found all those years ago in the sunken ship. She moved speedily, not even stopping for a breath until eventually she reached her cave. The dress lay exactly where she’d left it, folded away from prying eyes. She turned in the direction of the palace – it hurt to be so close and not go in to say farewell to her sisters – but she didn’t have time to make them understand, especially without a voice. Her throat burned at the thought. She ignored it and blew a hundred kisses to the palace, where her loved ones slept soundly. Then she took her shells off and left them in the place where she kept her dress, and then hung the dress over her arm. She pushed up using all her might until the water eventually began to lighten and her head finally broke the surface. The night air was cool on her skin. A full and very big moon filled the sky, giving the water a shimmering silver sheen. She swam forward until she got to the Prince’s beach and made for the shore. The sky was beginning to lighten when she eventually managed to pull herself out of the water, slowly crawling with her arms across the sand. An occasional small wave would help her along, the tide was rising as though to help her. She crawled a little further up the beach, the Witch’s rasping voice whispering that she would have legs by the time the sun shone in the sky echoed in her ears alongside the sounds of the water breaking and receding against the shoreline. She sat up and opened the small vial with a pop, and a cloud of red smoke appeared over the top of the potion, evaporating into the night air as she tilted it backwards and drained its contents. At first, she felt nothing. Then her body suddenly ripped itself in half. Pain shot through her as she registered the sight of the blue of her shiny tail receding from her fins upwards, and then splitting into two, as though it had been sliced apart very quickly by a sharp sword. She tried to scream as the pain rippled through her, clutching at her throat, for no sound came out, even though she was sending a thousand. She wanted to curse the evil hag with her words. Plead with her to make it stop. To kill her and be done with it. But not a single sound came out, and a burning pain scorched her throat each time she tried. She writhed and shook, cursing the fact that she was still alive, that she could still breathe as the white hot, concealed flames enveloped the bottom half of her body. As she quavered around, she looked up at the sky, which was still pitch black, and a bolt of brilliant purple lightning forked down the sky – the witch’s amethyst eyes leering at her in the night. How perfect, she thought, for the sky to also be on fire with her. That there was no blood was perhaps the biggest surprise since it felt as though she should have lost a sea-worth. As the minutes, perhaps even hours, ticked by, a storm waged overhead. The rain pelted her throughout the night, but it was only a mild relief from the pain. Then, as the storm cleared and light began to filter through the darkness, her pain started to recede. First her waist, then the top of her new legs, moving slowly along until it was only her new feet that stung, if ‘stung’ was what you would call the sharp but invisible razors that were slicing into them. She lay in the sand, unable to move as the sky turned first shades of purple and pink, and then becoming such a beautiful forget-me-not blue that she was convinced it was her father’s eyes that coloured the sky. The change of shades moved in tempo with the receding pain and the giant orb of light and warmth in the sky seemed to fill her with strength once more. It was only then that she could appreciate the magnitude of what had just happened overnight. She had developed legs. Two beautiful, curvy legs the same creamy colour of her arms and stomach. She grabbed at the blue human dress she had taken and pulled it on over her head, using the image she had looked at every day for years as a reference guide for how to wear it, until she was covered from shoulders to ankle. Once dressed, she tried to pull herself up using a nearby rock for support, and failed miserably, falling to the floor several times in a fit of silent giggles. Her new legs were wonderful. She wiggled her toes and stretched out her stumps in front of her to admire them between trying to stand and falling in the sand, which was growing steadily hotter. She spent the whole day out on the beach, trying out her new appendages. As evening fell, a gust of wind blew in, which carried with it sounds of men talking. She scrambled up and hid behind a big rock as the talking grew closer and she noticed she could hear from quite a distance away.

Download Serenade for free:

Download your free Kindle edition of Serenade absolutely free on Friday 27 June 2014. And that’s not the only book you can get for free on that day. No matter what your favourite genre is, there’s something for everyone on the Friday. Click here to see more titles and links to these books.

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Sofia Coppola Plans to Reboot The Little Mermaid

Classic children’s story The Little Mermaid is getting a grown-up makeover in a new version directed by Sofia Coppola. According to Deadline, Ms Coppola plans to turn the fairy tale, originally written by Hans Christian Andersen, into a live action movie, with Caroline Thompson – who wrote Edward Scissorhands – at the helm of the script.

If Ms Coppola’s previous films – including The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation – are any indication, the remake will have a decidedly more serious tone than the Disney cartoon version, perhaps taking cues from Andersen’s original tale, which ends with the mermaid dissolving into foam.

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No details have yet been revealed as to when the movie will be released.

The Danish writer’s version, which was first published in 1837, is significantly darker than the 1989 Disney version most children grew up with.
In it, the mermaid is turned into a human, but she must pay the price of feeling like she is walking on knives each time she takes a step.

Her love for the prince goes unrequited, and the mermaid is heartbroken. She is given the option to return to her mermaid form if she slays the prince, but she cannot bring herself to do so.

Instead, she throws herself into the ocean and her body dissolves into foam. Then she becomes a spirit, and learns she must do good deeds in order to eventually rise into the kingdom of God.

Caroline Thompson, who has been tapped to write the script for Ms Coppola’s remake, is a Tim Burton favorite who has written films including the Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and the Addams Family.

Judging by these titles, it’s very possible this new Little Mermaid will be somewhat more sinister than the Disney cartoon version.

On the other hand, as Deadline points out, Ms Coppola – who is married to Phoenix lead singer Thomas Mars – may make the movie more kid-friendly so that their two daughters, seven and three, will be able enjoy it.

Ms Coppola, 42, is the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, who famously directed The Godfather movies.
This article originally published by The Daily Mail UK, written by Margot Peppers on 19 March 2014. 

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