A Writer’s Voice – The Shepherd’s Crown

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Many apologies for my extended absence this time. I still don’t want to talk about it though. Life happens all the time, to everyone, and whining doesn’t do much for me most of the time. Onward and forward is my preferred go-to. My other go-to is reading. I’ve read some fabulous books these past months, which I will post reviews for later-ish, as well as doing a big comment catch up, but for now I’m thinking about how unique us scribblers are.

Real readers are a discerning bunch. They’re just as much of a tribe as writers are, and it’s not easy to pull the wool over their eyes. They know what their favourite authors sound like. They know what the worlds in their favourite books look and feel like. They recognise the voices coming off the pages, and a lot of the time, if those voices don’t seem quite right, they will go to a lot of trouble to investigate and find out why. A lot of readers can research a lot of writers under the table. Sometimes they will be outraged when they find out the reason for their suspicion and dispense with a one star whopper of a scathing review. But sometimes they’ll just have a good cry, and keep a ten star review forever in their heart when they learn the reason for a book that doesn’t sound or feel as it should in some places.

Reading The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett was a very strange experience for me, and to begin with had me thinking that the publishers should have distributed the original unfinished manuscript to some of his die-hard fans to have a go at before sending it to professional editors. Any professional editor that read the finished book would probably have had a couple of issues anyway, even if they’d never read any other Discworld book before, but still, I thought that a couple of us Pratchett groupies would have done a better job at putting words in some of the character’s mouths. But then I completely changed my mind. The Shepherd’s Crown is perfect exactly as it is.

The thing is, it is full of Pratchett, and reading it from cover to cover, knowing that it is his final book—his swan song—was one of the most moving experiences for me precisely BECAUSE of the places where his voice was missing. It broke my heart, but in a comforting way. It was the only Discworld book that made me cry more than it made me laugh. I don’t want to put any spoilers here, but there was one huge thing that happened in the beginning of the book that was so right (even if it would have been fleshed out a-la-Pratchett a whole lot more if he had had the time to finish this book) for this final tale. You can just see “her” settling down next to him wherever he is now, nodding, accepting a cup of tea, and then heading off into whatever adventures are happening in that new to them world.

I haven’t posted a review for this one on Amazon or Goodreads yet, but I have read a lot of the ones already there, and they are so poignant and loving. How could any Terry Pratchett lover post a bad review for The Shepherd’s Crown? Of course I give it ten out of five stars, and of course I’ll read it again, just as I do all of his other books. A most fabulous and fitting end to the writing of a true legend.

It does just go to show though, how very powerful a brilliant writer’s voice can be. In my “day job” editing the books of Indie authors, I try to be as gentle as possible when it comes to their very unique voices, even if my fingers burn to advise a change to something that I would never dream of writing myself. Yonks ago, when eBooks were still only science-fiction, I remember being about twenty pages into The Running Man by Richard Bachman, when I thought, “This is Stephen King!”, and I was right. You can’t pull the wool over real readers’ eyes, and you really shouldn’t try to.

I Don’t Wanna Talk About It

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Yes – I’ve been away for a while. Things happen – we grow – or we don’t grow. I’m not going to apologise for life happening to me. Death and life – and then more death and a bit of hatred… You never know where it’s going to come from or how it will make you feel. And dodgy internet – oh yes. It happens to us all. So…..

I am going to be posting again – as regularly as I can. The one thing that has kept me sane over the past year of death, madness, and destruction, has been illustrating children’s books. I’ve also started fan girling my own Shadow People book. I’m going to fan this on Youtube and also here.

So, I hope you forgive my long absence, and accept my odd re-emergence…

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

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Feed My Reads South Africa

This was not an easy read. I did a lot of research into apartheid when I wrote African Me & Satellite TV, and just reading about some of the history of some of the things that were done to black people hurts badly. But even though you cringe in shame for the insanely barbaric doings of other whites, you can never feel the shame of millions of people for being classified as sub-human because of the colour of their skin. This book does a good job of getting you a little closer to that feeling than the any of the history books I’ve read.

I grew up smack bang in the middle of apartheid. Where even little white children expected “respect” from adult black people. I always found it weird how many people suddenly had stories about their black “friends” during the struggle after having seen very few real white…

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The Joy of Kindles

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It is impossible to look anywhere now without Covid-19 and its effects being right there in your face, except of course when you manage to lose yourself in a good movie or book. At this point most of us have realised that we can’t choose not to partake in this horrible pandemic. It turned lives around the world upside down almost overnight, and it is still plowing on like a slow train. Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to socialise online, and be able to stockpile provisions for at least a few weeks. Luckily for some the biggest problems are boredom. There are millions of others who don’t have running water, or food, or adequate shelter, and knowing that makes boredom seem like a blessing.

We know that sooner or later this will pass. It is obvious though that our world will be changed. We will lose people that we wouldn’t have lost so soon. There will be a whole lot of mourning and grief. Then our new normal will begin to show itself. Maybe as soon as it’s safe to do so there will be lots of parties and hugging, but maybe there won’t be. Could be that some people will be more cautious about getting too close to others. Smaller airlines will probably go out of business, and cruise ships might not seem like fun things to be on any more. We don’t know what the future holds. Business owners don’t know whether they can weather this particular storm. And this applies to authors also. We are all wondering what to do next. Some suggest promoting their books. Others suggest giving away their books for free.

If you follow the bestseller lists on Amazon you will see a big upsurge of children’s books in the top 100, so yes, if you are selling children’s books, you might very well see an increase in sales at this point. I’ve asked quite a few people what books they are buying for themselves right now, and most of them said that they’re not. People are reading the collections they already have, and they’re taking advantage of the many freebies on offer right now. So I’m thinking that if you have a book ready to publish it might be a good idea to hold off for a little while, and either work on perfecting it a little more or get started on another. Now is a great time to be offering any of your books for free, not from a marketing point of view, but rather as an act of kindness for a world locked in terror.

This doesn’t mean that you should throw up your hands and stop writing. People are not going to stop reading—in fact, on the other end of this there will probably more people reading. Take advantage of this time to write and perfect new books, so that when the world can breathe again, you will be ready. Work on your covers and future promo banners. Go over already published books and see if they need any tweaks. Keep on creating fantastic places for people to dive into and forget about the chaos for a while. It’s a good time to share whatever beauty you can make—writers, artists, poets—your magic will always be needed.

It’s also a great time for readers to gravitate to e-readers. There will most definitely be more people buying eBooks, so it is probably time to think about making our own eBooks as pretty as they can be, rather than being the poor relation of the paperback. It’s a lot cheaper to buy a full colour eBook than it is a paperback, so all of us writers should be taking a good look at our Kindles. It is also a good idea to note that with all the online working now and in the future, there will be a lot more people with computers and wifi connections. Books can be read with the Kindle for PC app on laptops and computers also.

On a lighter note, I regularly fall asleep while reading, only to be woken up immediately when I drop my Kindle and it hits me in the eye, but so far I haven’t managed to lose it. I saw this question on Quora, “How do I find my dead Kindle?”. Expecting to see hilarious answers I of course opened the thread. Apart from one answer beginning with “Dead or alive you’re going to have to search for your Kindle manually”, which did give me an unexpectedly lengthy fit of the giggles, the rest was quite serious. It appears that losing Kindles in the home is a real and horrible thing. Considering that some people have their entire libraries only accessible via these fabulous little critters, maybe Amazon should incorporate some sort of bell thing with a long life extra battery that can be activated with a little remote. You can pay me later Jeff Bezos. Yes—the world needs a beeping Kindle. Or maybe some enterprising individual can create glow in the dark cases for them.

Stay safe.

Writing On

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I managed to get back online properly on Monday. After months of internet drama, being on and then off again, I now have a reliable connection. Interestingly, the guy who installed the system told me that mine would be the last installation in this town for the moment, so I’m beyond grateful to be reliably back in the online world.

Last night our President announced that we would go into lockdown at midnight on Thursday. Hopefully this will save a whole lot of lives that would have been lost without a quarantine in place here. South Africans are a tactile bunch. As with the rest of the world, fear is abounding, and with the already devastating poverty here, many, many people are only now getting over the freezing in terror moments and thinking of ways to help each other. It is truly wonderful to see petty differences dissolve in this crisis and compassion taking over.

I hope to start loading new Youtube how to videos up again very soon for authors wanting tips on the nuts and bolts of publishing their books, but I’m still open for business for anyone wanting editing, formatting, covers, maps, or children’s illustrations to be done for them. I’m also planning on slipping in a few general chat videos on writing and reading.

I have had a couple of emails from clients wondering what I think will happen in the world of Indie publishing now, and I must say that I have absolutely no clue. It is too early to tell where this pandemic will end. One thing is for sure, during these quarantines, and even beyond as the world counts its losses and people figure out the way forward for themselves as individuals, as nations, and for the planet itself, the world needs both fiction and non-fiction. For escape, for inspiration, for hope, and for instruction. Now is also the time for journaling. A time to record this disaster for future generations. I have a feeling that even if there is a slight lull in sales of books (apart from the prepping guides) once people truly understand the true fallout from this pandemic, after that I believe that there will be a huge demand for quality eBooks, so all I can say is, don’t stop writing. And stay safe.

By the way, most of my books are selling for 99 cents on Kindle Countdown deals at the moment, and the shorts are free, so if you haven’t already read them and need something to do head over to Amazon.

Fantasy Maps for Books Pricing

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Happy New Decade! Hopefully this one will be rather more fabulous than the previous one. It’s been a busy start to 2020 for me, but I like busy so that’s not a bad thing. Mostly I’ve been busy with work for my author clients, but whenever I’ve had a little bit of down time I’ve been diving into my pile of works in progress that have been left gathering dust over the past few years, when it often seemed that the sky had only one desire, which was to fall on my head and beat the daylights out of me. Having figured out that the sky will always be pretty much all around my head all the time without malicious intent, I finally learned to enjoy its dark blue days as well as the pastel shiny rainbow ones, and so life has become a lot more fun.

Just because you wrote a book completely doesn’t mean that you can zoom out and publish it as is after it’s been languishing for a couple of years. Writers grow and change, and besides, you’re highly unlikely to remember what you wrote, so you have to re-read and re-write. Which is what I’ve been doing with my Shadow People series. As most of you will know, my day job consists of editing, proofreading, designing covers, and illustrating for writers and publishers like most of you. I had a terribly ugly scribbled map of the planet where most of the action takes place in my Shadow People books, Lapillus, to keep track of archaeological points, territories, secrets, species, and citadels. Finally, when an author asked me to create a map for his wall of the world in his books, purely so that he could “gloat over his creation of an entire planet” (his words), I decided to finish my own map too. What a brilliant trip it was to lay it down, and now to see my own creation as an actual map. It will be going in the planned updated version of the first book in the series, and also in the rest as they are published.

So I’ve now added fantasy mapmaking to my list for all of you authors who want one to put in your books, or simply to hang on your walls to gloat over. They are fabulous for swag too. You can have them printed on mugs, T-shirts, bookmarks, and so on when you are promoting or offering prizes. They are made to order according to your specifications.

A plain black and white map for your book will cost you US $75. This includes one basic critter sketch – dragon, sea monster – googly-eyed alien, or whatever you want. You can have shields or flags, or any other thing your heart desires.

A colour map will be US $145. This includes all of the above as well as much more detail, shading, and so on.

Payments are by PayPal and a 50% deposit is generally required for first time clients only. As my regular clients already know, if I know you, you can split payments into reasonable chunks that are affordable to you.

Happy world making you wonderful creators of universes – and interesting critters.


Ani’s Advent 2019! Peace, Sleep and A Disgruntled Story Reading Ape

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Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Hey Santa,

Well, I’ll be going home today and, to tell the truth, much as I’ve had fun with all the other animals, I’ll be glad of a rest. I may still be a pup at heart…but my bones don’t always seem to agree.

Peace on earth… that sounds pretty good about now. And anyway, I miss my sofa… and her… you get used to your own two-legs. Get them properly trained. And the fish will be missing me. And goodness only knows what the hedgehogs and the pigeons have been up to while I’ve been gone!

I suppose you don’t have that problem, working away just the one night every year. But, then, you have such a long way to go that you must turn time inside out to do it… so maybe your night is half a year for us!

Mind you, I’m not the only one wishing…

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Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – New Book on the Shelves #Non-Fiction The Secret Life of Humans: Reflections on the Good, the Bad and the Painful by Jo Robinson

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A huge thank you to Sally Cronin for sharing my new non-fiction book on her fabulous Christmas Bookstore. I hope it will resonate with many, and even though I’m sure it will make some just a little bit cross I truly believe that it may help some of the very many walking wounded in this world today. Thank you Sally!

Thursday- A Little Personal -October-Ween Book, Blog & Trailer Block Party

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Fiction Favorites

Usually, you see Twiggy and Lucy in action here but this week is a little different. I’m actually going to promote my books (gasp). Now don’t run away cause there is something in it for you. If you leave a comment, you will be entered into a drawing.

Here’s What I’m Giving Away Today:

One of two $5.00 Amazon gift cards and

One of two of my E-books (Your choice).

There will be a total of four winners.

“We are here, Boss.”
“Yeah, Dad. Now go talk about your books.”

Thank you, Ladies.

Here are the books

This is the John Cannon Trilogy. It is a continuing story of John Cannon’s struggles with a terrorist organization whose objective is the destruction of America. You can click on each of the covers for a trailer.

Click cover for the trailer.

When a former pro football star and broadcaster, now a Wall Street maven…

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Youtube Virgin No More

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I’m edging back into weekly blogging again and I’m planning on weekly posts rather than daily posts, so here we go with the sticking of the toe into the water to begin with. It has been a very busy six months. After the previous three years of insanity it has been good to finally be able to just get on with working on what I love, breathe a little, and figure out what my new life will be. What I finally figured out is that you never know. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. This year has been filled with all sorts of fabulous projects from editing jobs to illustration and a couple of cover designs. I’ve had to move the publication date for my new non-fiction book, The Secret Life of People further towards the middle of September as work for my clients is always a priority, but the second week in September so far is looking like the time of its arrival into the world. I’m really looking forward to that.

I’ve also managed to load my first Youtube video. I have a few more in the works and will definitely be loading one per week covering my writing life and all things self-publishing. The video editing is a steep learning curve so hopefully my future videos will be a lot more tightly knitted—and with a whole lot less umming. I’m sure that at some point I’m going to get an um or two in the comments. If you want to know how to format a full bleed book for print on demand please check it out on Youtube. If you fancy more writerly videos then please do subscribe—I’ll try to hold back on the umming in future.

Watch this space for the introduction of the third book in the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series by Cynthia Reyes and Lauren Reyes-Grange, where Myrtle meets a gorgeous new friend, and by the way—zoom up to the top of this page if you’re looking for a new book cover design – there’s a sale happening up there.