Writing & Indie Thoughts

You Can Call Me Anything, But

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It’s a term of respect around here apparently. I’m fine with children calling me Tannie (that’s Aunty in Afrikaans), but I object to anyone who is already grown up aiming that moniker at me. Unless I am their actual aunty. Apart from the fact that writers are ageless—that comes with the territory—there is something deeply insulting being called Tannie by anyone with more wrinkles than me.

Any time anyone over forty says Hello Tannie to me they’re unwittingly heading onto dangerous ground. It will instantly jar me from my semi-permanent mental state of communing with those fabulous folk who populate my books, and elicit a malignant stare, at the very least. I tend to want to inform these elderly but apparently younger than me people of our distinct lack of similar DNA. So far I’ve (mostly) managed to control myself, but it has had me peering in the mirror and wondering what it is about my looks these days that makes me come over as venerable enough to be considered their Tannie. Should I be swopping my denim shorts and purple toenail varnish for a purple hair rinse and twin set jerseys?

Nope. I’ll just do what I do and put it in a book. My very interesting journey of the past couple of years hasn’t left me much time for personal writing, but when the urge does hit too strongly to be ignored I’ve been zooming off to bang out a paragraph or two of my “interesting journey” inspired new fiction book, Mopani Mansions. Even though quite a bit of this trip has been painful or fearful to the max, it’s also taught me to fear less, learn from pain rather than wallow in it, and it’s inspired my weird writerly mind and sense of humour rather than squashed it.

The whacky, weird, precious, or just plain wonderful people who have come into my life in one way or another lately have mostly found themselves arriving in Mopani Mansions, and now of course we will have the coolest, sexiest, and most fabulous Tannie there too. She will be allowed to do all of those terrible things that occurred to me to do every time any aged and arthritic fellow had the temerity to assume I would be honoured to be called Aunty.

I have a couple of launches for my fabulous author clients coming first, but around June this year I’ll be letting Mopani Mansions loose on the world, and also my long ago finished but yet to be edited non-fiction work about living, dying, reality, and all the bits in between. That’s the fabulousness of being a scribbler. You can’t keep us down, and we NEVER get old, no matter how many times we get called Tannie. We can be unicorns forever, and so we will be in our worlds. Read the rest of this entry »

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Writer’s Publishing Workbook Release!

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I’ve been a very crazy busy bunny these last few months. I still have absolutely no clue what’s happening with my life as a whole, so all I can do really is do what I do best and try and enjoy the ride. I’ve made some fabulous new author friends who have signed on as clients for my proofreading, formatting or cover design services just lately, a couple of whom made such an impact on me, I’ll be introducing them here at some point along the way. In the meantime I want to share one of my own projects for all you scribblers out there.

It’s no secret that I love helping Indies. Back in the mists of time I shared every mind-blowing “secret” that I discovered along my own publishing journey, often inciting the wrath of those who thought that those secrets should only be shared for lots of cash. I’ve never been partial to secret keeping when it comes to helping writers on missions to be read. My The Absolute Indie eBook shares all that you need to know from start to end with loads of helpful links at a very reasonable price. Now I’m adding the first (and fattest) paperback workbook in the series, which means that you will have all you need in one spot, not only information on the hows and whys, but also all the information that you pile up about your own published book, that is so easily misplaced.

Reminders and places to take note of all you will need to keep, as well as useful worksheets and exercises for all the stops along the way – including Procrastination Palace, where you get to be just as you as you fancy being you. ISBN’s, ASIN’s, Blurbs, Schedules, plans for Marketing, lists of Social Media. You will never have to frantically dig for any information related to your book or any aspect of its journey ever again, right down to the fonts, colours and sizes used for your cover design. Dates, names, costs, and details, all right there at your fingertips.

The only writing workbook you’ll need. Writer’s Publishing Workbook is big enough for all you want to add to it. A4 size with a whopping 150 pages of information and worksheets, you’ll write everything in it, add your own information, including printed images that will all be in one physical spot when you need them, rather than having to dig around online. I’ve also set it at a really low price for the launch – $8.99 in the USA and £6.29 in the UK.

Enjoy your new big, fat, EVERYTHING YOU NEED writer workbook!

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The Amazon Review Policy Elephant in the Room

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The whole Amazon review policy debacle that started a while ago is not going to go away, so we should probably make firm decisions as to the way forward as far as how we are each personally going to review books in the future. There’s a great post covering the whole subject very thoroughly on Anne R. Allen’s site right now – definitely a must read for anyone not a hundred percent sure about what is going on with this issue. I’ve posted on this briefly over at Lit World Interviews a while ago but it’s worth revisiting on a personal level. Anyone with published books on Amazon needs to take this seriously.
Firstly, we must accept that Amazon can, and does, remove books for sale on their site if they feel that the author has violated their terms of service. Many of us have over the years reviewed books by others who have also reviewed books by us, while still blissfully unaware that this was not acceptable by them. Because we zoom around in the same writerly circles it’s inevitable that we’re going to spot and buy books written by authors that we follow online – especially in blogland. I reckon that an author is much more likely to leave a public review of a book that they’ve read. Leaving a review would probably not occur to the majority of readers, and logically in the writing world, reviews from your peers are gold.  Not according to Amazon’s rules though. Now that we are aware of this, and we have seen the review takedowns and author warnings, we have two choices. Continue posting reviews to Amazon for books whose author’s we are online “friends” with, and risk serious repercussions as far as the potential for Amazon closing our KDP accounts is concerned, or only post reviews there for books by authors that we have no contact with at all.
It’s a bit of a mess as far as I’m concerned. I very often seek out the authors of books that I’ve liked, read, and reviewed. I then proceed to follow them all over the place. Reading their blogs inevitably leads to commenting and also quite often, making “friends’. I’m not taking those reviews down after the fact – or any reviews I’ve published so far.  Now that I am aware of what’s going on, I’ll be more careful.  The online writing community is a wonderful place. Writers are different – different in the nicest possible ways. There are some not so nice writers out there to be sure, but they’re generally zooming by at a rate of knots on Twitter demanding that you buy their books and like them on Facebook right away, while not listening to or looking at anyone else, so unlikely to be chatting with anyone who isn’t perceived as some sort of possible benefit to them anyway.
Apart from the good that will come from zapping the real crooks as far as reviews go, this is a shame and a blow for all decent scribblers.  The writers I know are nice – honest, and mellow. Kind, thoughtful and understanding of others. Writers are special. They are broad-minded, funny and so, so truly clever. Adventurous and stubborn in good ways – ways that learn the things that seem impossible to understand to begin with. Sometimes when you look at the torrent of books floating around the ether these days, it’s easy to forget the small core of the real deal scribblers riding the waves in there. You guys who never give up, and keep on writing because you don’t understand not writing, even when your royalties barely keep you in toothpaste. When your book is reviewed by one of your tribe, it’s common for such a kindly soul to be filled with gratitude, and if the reviewer is also a published author, to reciprocate, buy their book, and leave a review if you like it.  That’s become a bit dangerous to do now.
It’s understandable that Amazon want to remove fake reviews, and good news for any potential readers who could be duped into buying something nasty on the strength of them.  It’s also understandable that it would be very difficult for them to process each review individually.  So, sad to say, I don’t think that they can change this stance, or stop the ongoing takedowns. I don’t consider myself a book reviewer, and I don’t review a lot of books publicly, and those mainly for Feed My Reads SA. I also as yet haven’t actually ever posted a review of less than five stars – not because I’m lying – when I don’t think a book deserves a five star review I don’t post it. I don’t want anyone to see me as a book reviewer and I don’t want to post bad reviews. That’s just me though. I honestly think that I should be allowed to post a public review of every book on my Kindle that I’ve legally bought from Amazon, whether I “know” the author online or not
I really don’t think that it’s a good idea to poke a hippopotamus with a stick though. Those guys don’t always behave logically but if they bite you, you’re going to feel it. Same with this situation. Don’t poke that Hippo unless you’re prepared to lose your right to publish your books with them. I think that it’s much wiser to post reviews for the books of your online “friends” everywhere that you can online, except as an actual review on Amazon. You could post the review in the Customer Discussions section on the book’s landing page on Amazon though – that is allowed. As I said, I’m not going to take down any of the reviews I’ve already posted, because each and every one of them was posted in good faith and honestly written about books that I’ve read, but if they do get taken down then there’s not much to do about it. I also have some books on my Kindle that I’ve already bought specifically to review for Feed My Reads SA, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t post those on Amazon on behalf of FMR as I always do.  Not sure now. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t with some of these “rules”.
Definitely have a read of this Amazon FAQ if you’re still not sure where you stand on this subject.

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Image Courtesy: Pixabay

LOL and Stuff

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I saw an episode of Come Dine With Me where one contestant actually said the letters OMG quite a few times.  She obviously wasn’t trying to be funny – saying this seemed to come out as part of her normal conversation, but I do wonder why anyone would actually say the letters rather than the words in the first place.  You aren’t going to get a sore mouth or fingers by verbally saying whole words.  Maybe when something’s funny she could just deadpan say ROTFL rather than actually laughing.  Or simply LOL if it wasn’t all that funny.  Hopefully we’ll never get to saying Smiley Face or Like in our conversations.  Everyone who zooms around online these days is part of this culture of communication.  I do love my smiley faces, but I wonder where we’ll all be in another ten years as technology advances even further.
These days people probably don’t get bored in waiting rooms and come over all Mr Bean.  Everyone has a phone, and everywhere you look people are looking down at them or aiming them at something or other.  I’ve got a couple of books downloaded onto Kindle on mine, although admittedly I’ve never used it to read – I mainly wanted to see what my Kindle books looked like on my phone because us Indies need to see our scribbles on as many devices as possible.  They look cool.  I’m sure that lots of people do play games or read on their phones on train journeys and so on though, and that’s just the same as reading a book anyway.  But everyone else who is not reading is also doing something on their phones.  Personally I’m way too interested in people watching, but that’s just me and my nosy ways.  I remember reading a story ages ago where those big headed grey aliens who go around apparently abducting people and fiddling with them in terrifying and offensive ways turned out to be us from the future.  A future where we’d spent all our time physically doing nothing.  All our activity happened in our heads, hence the overly large noggin and wasted away tiny bodies.  The aliens wanted to use us, their ancestors, to fix their problem.
Personally I’ve noted that the old bod tends to expand rather than waste away with too much of sitting, but you never know what could happen as technology advances.  Maybe a skinny pill really will be discovered at some point – one that exercises you without you having to unglue your eyeballs from whatever screen you’re looking at.  Anyway.
Hopefully all you properly seated for the month NaNoers are going great guns.  This is one time that the dreaded writer’s block can’t get you, because what you write doesn’t have to make perfect sense right now.  So remain firmly on bum and scribble to the finish line.  Kick that rotten block to the kerb!

Writer's Block

Do What You Love

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It’s brilliant to be properly back in the bloggerverse.  I’ll be finishing up a couple of cover designs this weekend before diving into my sci-fi series book edits again next week, and now that I’m finally having some quality time back at my computer again with two of my favourite things, I’m pretty much grinning all the time.  I abandoned my sketching and painting for so many years that I really didn’t think that I’d ever get back into it, but lately all the rust is falling away and I’m amazed at the huge joy it brings me.  It’s weird how we sometimes stop doing the things that we love for whatever reasons, sometimes forever, and that’s a huge shame.  It’s also weird how so many of us humans think that getting pleasure from an activity must mean that it’s not work and not worthy of our quality time.  It’s the same with writing – how can it be your day job if it’s your favourite thing in the world to do?  The truth really is that if that’s what it is – your true happy place, you’ll probably do it so much better than any other kind of “work”.  It’s definitely worth striving for, to spend your life doing the work that you love, rather than getting to the end of it and looking back with huge regrets.  Put as much work into work that you love as you do your day job, and with a bit of luck and elbow grease it will eventually be your day job.
Now that I’ve discovered that our illustrious scientists have discovered that Earth is actually a billion years older than they thought it was I have lots of tweaking to do to my series.  Tweaking, I reckon, is the most dangerous thing to do as far as inserting all sorts of terrible inconsistencies is concerned, especially in a very long story that you’ve been away from for a while, but an extra billion years is way too cool for me to pass up.  Anyway – now I’m off to paint covers and ponder what weirdness could possibly reside in dark matter.

Rumi Quote

Cross Genre Promotion by Authors from Around the World

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Many thanks to Michael Fedison for setting up this great cross genre book promotion, and also for including me in it. The authors included here from all around the world each have special deals for you starting from today and right up to the twenty second of November, so zoom on over to their sites to stock up on your favourite genres at very special prices. I’ve got a couple of deals and freebies too, which I’ll share the links to right after sharing the list of the fabulous authors taking part in this, with the genres that they write in next to their names. Every single one of them has discounts happening, so just click on their monikers below to check them out.
Barbara Monier Contemporary Literary Fiction
John Howell Fiction Thriller
Michael Fedison YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Shehanne Moore Smexy Historical Romance – Yes that word is indeed Smexy and not a typo
Janice Spina Middle-Grade Junior Detective Series
Luciana Cavallaro Historical Fiction – Mythology Retold
Evelyne Holingue Middle-Grade Fiction
Sonya Solomonovich Time-Travel Fantasy
Jennifer Chow Adult Cozy Mystery – The beginning of a new series
Nicki Chen Historical Fiction – WWII China
Katie Cross YA Fantasy
There they all are! Now it’s my turn. Firstly I must apologise for a mistake that I made and only discovered this morning. A couple of my discounted books are only available at the low price at Amazon.com and another couple are only available at Amazon.uk. I never realised that it was one or the other and not both for these deals, but next time I’ll make sure that they’re all on special at the same time.  Just click on the cover pics to follow the links to Amazon. The freebies should be free on all Amazon platforms.
First up, on Kindle Countdown priced at 99 cents from now to 18 November at Amazon.com is The Absolute Indie. It contains all you need to know if you’re publishing on Amazon and CreateSpace for the first time, or if you’ve already published but have found it tricky. Also for those of you who have yet to include the NCX table of contents which is now mandatory on Amazon, this book will show you how to do that – easy peasy. It also has loads of links to places and freebies useful to Indie authors and includes a simple how to section on making your own covers.

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Number two on Kindle Countdown for 99 cents at Amazon.com to 18 November is Echoes of Narcissus – my novel about a woman who discovers that she’s married to a malignant narcissist, and her journey out of there, with a bit of luck and the help of new friends.

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Number one Kindle Countdown for Amazon.uk only at 99 cents is my African Me & Satellite TV. A story about racial hatred set in Zimbabwe, and about a woman finding her own inner strength and the ability to stand up for her beliefs.

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Number two Kindle Countdown for Amazon.uk only at 99 cents is Sands of Time, the first book in my Sci-Fi series about the universal battle between very real and physical good and evil. Dragons, demons, and sentient chickens ahead! Books two and three in this series will be released in January 2015.

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Finally two freebies for all over the place. First is my Fly Birdie. A short story about a little bird, a magical tree cutter, and a mystical tree, and how these three things help Hannah learn to love again.

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Lastly is Skin – the final freebie. A short story about mankind. I have actually completely changed the ending to this story since it was first published, so if any of you actually bought it, please let me know and I will send you a copy of the new version if you want it.

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Covers Reveal

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For my two new books coming out in December/January…….
Firstly, a really MASSIVE thank you to Chris Graham for making me three brand new fabulous covers so quickly. Also for his vision as far as what I wanted was concerned, and his patience with this old scribbler. He’s cool like that – could be a little psychic ape thing going on there I think. Cover design is far from easy. You can look at a gorgeous cover and think, well, that looks easy peasy. Just plonk a picture down, and then plonk some text on it. It really isn’t that simple though. You have to have a very specific kind of EYEBALL, and for my Science Fiction covers, Chris has the kind of eyeball that I like.
When I originally plotted my Shadow People series, I planned on it being open ended, with a minimum of seven books based on the huge outline I had prepared. I ordered the first four covers from Chris wanting wildly different colours, and also various images to reflect what I had planned for each book, with one connecting image throughout. Since then I’ve written a good couple of books worth of the series, but it’s morphed and changed substantially, as long stories will, into different time frames, and some events moved around by eons. Eventually it took proper shape, and I realised that I didn’t have an open ended series on my hands at all, but rather a series of trilogies set in different times, with different characters and different worlds. I’ve also decided to rebrand my Science Fiction series – they will be written by J C Robinson now – so as not to offend my Literary Fiction reader’s sensibilities with dragons and various sentient amoeba – and stuff…..
I also decided to change the titles of the books, and my ideas for covers changed and solidified. Finally I gathered up the courage to approach our beloved mighty ape. “Fine,” said he, totally blowing all the nervous air out of my sails, and promptly produced the covers for my first trilogy without so much as breaking a slight banana scented sweat. Now my future trilogies in this series will follow this same pattern, with one particular background image and colour, and various specific images for each book.
Don’t be afraid to change the covers of your books, especially series as they change and grow. As long as you don’t actually unpublish a book there is no need to worry about readers buying the same volume twice, because updating covers and interiors of an already published book won’t stop them from seeing the “You purchased…” message on its landing page. This really is also a fabulous way to breathe new life into a languishing series, and give it a brand new launch.
Thanks again Chris – I LOVE my new covers!

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