Wow! What a busy end of the year I've had. With the decision to self-publish and to join the growing numbers of indie authors out there, made only a month ago, I am amazed at how many new friends and followers I've got. Every comment, every 'like' and every 'follow' I've received has made me smile and made me sure I'm doing the right thing.
So here's a New Year wish for everyone, to bring us all lots of new reading fans, for our books to be successful and for all your wishes to come true!
Today I've been sorting out the last few pages I need before I publish next month, and writing drafts for the above pages. I'm not posting them on here, because I think you would find that a little dull, but it has been nice to think of all the people who have been there for me over the last couple of years. It's great to be reminded of all the people that have got my back, all the people who have cheered me up when the rejections came floating through the door; all the people who suggested self publishing because they thought it was good enough; that I was good enough. So thanks to them...and thanks to my artistic friend Kitty who posted this on facebook one day:
A week or so ago I read and reviewed a book called 'Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead' by Christiana Miller, which I thoroughly enjoyed as a good witchy read, and was looking forward to hearing more of Mara & Gus. A week later Twitter delivers a link to a free download for a new story reuniting Mara, Gus & Aunt Tillie in a 13,000 novella co-written with Opal Fire's author Barbra Annino.
It's a quick pacey adventure where Mara, Gus & Aunt Tillie are called to help Stacey Justice (from Opal Fire) thwart a soul stealer. As a free download its a no-brainer, and for those of you who haven't yet read 'Somebody Tell Aunt T' and 'Opal Fire' it includes chapter excerpts for those as well. Click on the book icon and it will take you straight to Amazon - get it whilst it's free!
I have had a really constructive day today! This morning I wrote some ideas for my book description and with my proof-reading mum's helpful input, I have now re-edited and come up with something half decent...I think! Here it is:
When Jess steals a glance at a gorgeous guy in a Manchester nightclub, little does she realise how he is going to change her life…or should that be death? Yet, the vampire clan could never have predicted what they were taking on. With Luke pronounced ‘off-limits’ and the blood of a vampire simmering in Jess’s body, can she forget the love of her life and move on? If not, she will risk exposing the entire Northern vampire clan to untold dangers, in order to live her life the way she wants.
Can Jess be sure that Luke is all he appears to be? Will she succumb to the attraction she desperately tries not to feel for Daniel?And why does she still crave a packet of crisps more than a tasty teenage boy’s blood?
Let me know what you think of it...would it make you want to buy?
Well, I know I said that I was going to post the Prologue on Christmas Eve but as suggested by several people... today is probably not the best time due to everyone being busy having fun with their families. My blog is not going to be the top of your priority list for Christmas Lol!
Another thing suggested to me recently, was to set up a Facebook page for Witchblood, so I've done that this morning and come up with an idea that links the two.
I'm getting there finally. My plan was to have the final read through and edit done before Christmas, so I can send it to my mum for a last proof read - my mum is a bit of a grammar queen and where my 1980's education fails me, she helps me out :)
I am reckoning this is my fourth edit of Witchblood; the first read-through was directly after I had written the first draft and I had no idea what I was getting myself in for! The second was after I had my report back from Cornerstones; and this time I had some idea what I was looking out for, what to delete and what to change. The last time I read through was about a year ago, when I'd got an agent and she was about to send it out to publishers in New York and wanted a couple of changes. So that makes this the fourth time...how is it I keep finding things to alter and improve?! I think the year gap has helped, as I've been reading it with fresh eyes and found it exciting to once again be drawn into my make-believe world.
Today I've been editing my climactic chapters and found myself racing over the words as the pace ramps up. I just hope you guys like it as much as I do! Its rather terrifying, thinking about readers actually downloading it and then (this is the really terrifying bit) leaving reviews on it! Eeek!
I've just read a post from the Random House blog, entitled their 'Top 5 YA Novels of 2011'. After scrolling through their list, I can say I hadn't actually come across any of their books yet - probably because most have them have only just been released in the last few months, but all of them have been added to my Amazon wish list as future purchases! http://www.npr.org/2011/12/19/143589123/the-teens-are-all-right-2011s-top-5-ya-novels
I love this genre of writing. It's exciting and exhilarating and just sometimes when you come across a well-written gem it can also be complex and inventive.
If you've looked at my 'Reading Challenge 2011' page, you will see that a good percentage of this year's reads have been from the YA genre, so I've decided to do my own 'Top 5.' These are my personal favourite YA reads of the year:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is my No 1 book of the year - actually I could fill all the top 3 places with this trilogy. I was completely hooked, even more so than with Twilight! These books are seriously scary and offer a completely believable and terrfiying future for us. I am not going to say anymore other than, if you haven't already read it...well, read it, and before the movies come out!
The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd is my No 2. This time a British book set in the UK, in surprise, surprise, 2015! This is another terrifying and completely believable vision of the future. A future where we're all given ration cards for our carbon use. A world where lights, cars, televisions, computers...anything electrical, anything that pollutes, is banned or seriously restricted. A world that suddenly falls apart with riots and extreme weather conditions. Written as the diary of a teenage girl, it's an easy read and you won't put it down until you've finished!
I have put Wings as No 3, because I was totally enthralled by Aprilynne Pike's story of a teenage girl who suddenly starts 'changing'. Again, I love how the completely fantastical can become so believable and entrancing...or maybe it's just me that wants to be a part of this faerie world! The follow up, 'Spells,' is equally good, but I wasn't quite as convinced by the third book 'Wild'.
I'm not sure if you can class Terry Pratchett as YA fiction, but this series of Discworld novels centre around a teen witch called Tiffany Aching, and so in my eyes that makes it YA! If you haven't read this series, then do. Tiffany's story begins with book one, 'The Wee Free Men', and follows on through 'A Hat Full of Sky' and 'The Wintersmith,' culminating in the book above. They are all fantastic and beautifully written, as you'd expect from Terry Pratchett, but for me it was the down-to-earth, sarcastic nature of Tiffany and the hysterical antics of the Feegles. Crivens!
I've put the 'Evernight' series by Claudia Gray in the No5 position, because it was another series which I galloped through, always eager to read the next instalment. 'Evernight' centres around a gothic academy full of secrets, and a girl called Bianca who doesn't fit in. Add a 'star crossed lovers' theme and some good characters and you have a series worth sinking your teeth into!
And now with Christmas hurtling towards me and my eye-lids drooping, I'm off to bed!
A couple of weeks ago I got this ebook as a free download and it's my favourite Kindle freebie so far! This is a great little ebook with some really fun, believable characters. It is written in first person with Mara as the narrator. Mara and her best friend Gus are both witches living in LA and when a spell goes wrong Mara soon finds her life spiralling out of control.
I loved both Mara and Gus; and thought Paul made a good romantic interest. It is well written and I thought the pace perfect...in fact my only niggle is the italicised 'if only I knew' paragraphs which crop up at the end of the early chapters as if the author is worried the reader may lose interest without reminding them that things are going to get scarey! I just didn't need these as I was interested enough without them, and found they irritated me so I ended up just skipping them. I loved the story's natural build up and pacey ending. I will definitely be looking out for a sequel to add to my 2012 reading sequels challenge!
In this post I thought I'd tell you a little about my two lead boys, Daniel and Luke. Luke is Jess's first love, the boy next door who she's crushed on since he moved to her street when she was fourteen! There's a pretty good description of him in the prologue, which I'll be posting here shortly. To Jess he is perfect and their six month relationship is still in its honeymoon period, with neither able to contemplate an unhappy ending...that is until Jess dies and Luke is left to grieve.
Daniel is Luke's antithesis. Where Luke is cute and blonde, Daniel is dark and moody with a tendency to be a little too possesive! He chooses Jess to be his partner, and steps in when Luke backs off. Daniel wears his heart on his sleeve. He wants Jess and hides nothing from her, whereas Luke is not quite all he seems.
Movie star photos of the boys? Hmm, I don't know. Part of me thinks Zac Effron would make a good Luke, but I don't know enough young actors that aren't already type cast. I know what Daniel should look like in my imagination, but maybe it's better to let you create your own visuals.
I've just signed up for this reading challenge. Last year I did a '50 book challenge' where I could read any 50 books of my choice in a year. This challenge is a little different in that I need to read 25 books which are sequels! I'm planning on starting the challenge by downloading Penelope Fletchers 'Demon Dark', which is book 2 of the Rae Wilder Series. What are you reading next?
I know compared to most I am rather late reading this indie novel published by Penelope Fletcher last year (and actually I read it last month...) but as I'm off out in 20minutes I need a quickie post today and Penelope's book sprang to mind.
This is the first of the Rae Wilder Series and I'm looking forward to reading the next one soon! Penelope has created a world where vampires have almost wiped out humankind and demons roam the perimeters of the human encampments.Rae Wilder is a the main protagonist and after an illegal trip outside the fences she soon finds herself torn between the attentions of a starving vampire and a faerie warrior.
I enjoyed this book, it has a few editorial mistakes, but then I'm sure mine will have when it's published next month! As an Indie novelist without an editoral team we do our best! The story is fast paced and races through with drama in every chapter. In fact if anything I wish it had maybe slowed down a little to give a bit more character depth but having said that it is a totally unique story and great fun, and like I said I will be downloading the follow up, Demon Day.
I thought I'd give you a bit of a taster and tell you about Jess, my lead female character; and voice of the book. 'Witchblood' is her story.
Jess is a smart, sassy 17 year old. She is a year ahead in school and just started her first year at Manchester University when we meet her, where she shares a room with her best friend Alex. After a violent girl gang attack leaves Jess dying in an alleway she must choose between death and a new life; but what Jess and her adoptive vampire clan are unaware of is Jess' true genetic destiny to be a powerful witch.
I don't know about you but when I read a book or write I always visualise the characters in my mind. Jess starts off as a mousy blonde, when she turns into a vampire her hair becomes a shiny pale blonde; and later she dyes it dark to change her identity.
When I was at the cinema recently and saw a trailer for The Hunger Games I saw the perfect Jess!
Here are pictures of Jennifer Lawrence looking almost as I imagine her to look:
Today I've edited another chapter and have registered an account with KDP (Amazon Kindle) and set up a 'new title' to publish. How exciting you may think...but no, actually 'how daunting' would be the correct question! There are so many things to look into and make decisions on, and as I have had a few people asking me questions about the process I thought I'd share!
Decision 1 is whether to tick the option for KDP Select - this is a service where your book is exclusive to Kindle for 90 days and from what I can make out is then put in their lending library and it also gets 5 days free promo. Personally unless I hear differently I don't think I'll do this as I think I'd prefer to hit smashwords, ibooks & Barnes & Noble all at the same time.
Decision 2 is whether to buy an ISBN number. Apparently you don't need one and so far I don't know how much it will cost and whether it is worth it. So please comment if you know the answer!
Decision 3 is whether to enable Digital Rights Managment or not - which it explains is to inhibit unauthorised distribution, so I think I'll click this one.
Then I have to decide two categories to help target my book to customers - so I can tick fiction and jeuvenile fiction, but they then open loads more options and there isn't a specific YA supernatural; so do I go for horror/ fantasy & magic/ romance or sci-fi? Probably fantasy & magic will be the one.
Then there are all the account and royalties payment decisions to make - you get paid seperately for each country - so the Amazon UK pays in £, Amazon US pays in $ etc and they only pay you once you've earnt £100/$ by cheque which could take months if I'm only earning 30p a book! However it says they pay every £10/$ if you set up EFT which stands for electronic funds transfer...brilliant I thought until I looked at setting up my bank account details and it asks for all these weird things like a routing number, a BIC code and a Swift code!! I think I'll have to phone the bank as I have no idea what these are!
Then I have to decide a book price which determines the royalty percentage I get from Amazon. If I set the price under 2.99$/£1.49 then I can only claim 35% royaltys but if I set the price at over £1.49 I will get 70%. Thats a massive difference, but most unknown indie publishers seem to start at under £1 until they get a fan base... so it looks like I'll be stuck with the 35% rate for a while!
The last small nightmare I have come up with is something to do with the IRS - basically from what I can make out Amazon have to legally report all royalties to the IRS and they will take 30% tax from me (even though I pay tax here) unless I fill out paperwork. It mentions a W8-BEN and a US tax identification number Ahhhhhh...haven't got a clue and I guess I'll need to suss out UK tax returns at some point as well!
Today I had some fantastic news. I had found the photographer who had taken the background 'cobble' photo from our original cover design idea and emailed him, showing him our idea and he has very kindly said we can use his image. What a lovely man :) He even sent me his original jpeg along with several other fantastic images to choose from. Here are a couple of his beautiful pictures:
Well today I have been working on the cover design...again! As we can't use the old design images (I have emailed the owners via their websites but so far not heard anything) I have been searching stock websites for new possibilites.
So people, let me know which idea you prefer...
The original idea (see previous post - 'cover art' - but using different street background and girl images.
OR this idea, which as I have not paid & downloaded the original image from dreamstime yet, is very sketchy and low res:
Well since my post a couple of days ago about the artwork for my cover design I have since had my question answered about the copyright. I DO need copyright on all images I use even if they've been changed and merged together to make something new - gutting but I had a niggling feeling this would be the case!
So it's back to the drawing board and my options come down to either heading out into Manchester with a camera to try and take some of my own photos, or pay to use stock photos which seeing as it's 2 weeks to Christmas and I have a ton of things to do is probably going to be the easiest option.
It's a shame really as I do love photography and did a photography course a while back, when I still used my old SLR and before I was lured into the ease of my snazzy point & click digi camera! I took some pretty nice photos back then...but now I just don't seem to have the time (or inclination when its cold and wet outside!)
I've seen a few possible photos of cobbled alley ways and dead girls on the stock websites so now it's down to my sister to see which she thinks are useable and try and design a new cover.
The only useable photo I have is a nice image of the moon I took earlier in the year, but I think the moon is more appropriate for werewolf stories...maybe not mine.
Last night in bed I was thinking how it was inevitable that if I ever wrote it would be about the supernatural. I've always been entranced by the idea of other-worldly beings. The books from my childhood that stand out as favourites confirm that.
The earliest books I can remember my mum reading with me were Enid Blyton's 'Enchanted Wood' series. A fabulous trio of books about 3 children who have adventures in a magical world at the top of the tallest tree in a magical wood, which is inhabited by fairies, bad tempered pixies, evil goblins and elves! I love these books and still have the originals which I read to my 6yr old daughter who now loves them as much as me!
A year or so later I remember loving Jill Murphy's 'The Worst Witch' series. These fun books are about a girl called Mildred Hubble who attends Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches. Mildred is clumsy and unlucky and 'things' always go wrong for her, leading her into troublesome adventures.
I also loved all the girls boarding school stories of course; the likes of Malory Towers, St Clares & The Chalet School books but if given the choice I would have always chosen witch school over regular boarding school adventures!
Of course a year or so later I found Roah Dahl and my new favourite books were The BFG and 'The Witches', which is actually rather terrifying! For those who haven't read the somewhat disturbing delights of Roah Dahl the BFG stands for the Big Friendly Giant, who is the only giant in 'giantland' that doesn't eat children for dinner; and who with the help of a little girl who rides around in his ear, plot to stop the other giant's terrifying antics!
'The Witches' is a terrifying tale of witches who disguise there disgusting club feet, claw-like fingers and bald scabby heads and disguise themselves as nice ladies. The tale is about a boy and his grandmother who discover the witches at a convention where they are plotting to kill all children!
The last childhood books that stick in my memory are Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' and C.S.Lewis' 'Chronicals of Narnia' series, and as a teenager I adored Christopher Pike's YA supernatural horror stories! So you can see that even from an early age my reading was very much stuck in the fantastical, supernatural and imaginative. The worst offense on any of my school reports was pretty much always the same, 'too much daydreaming'!
Ugh! Today I have been working on my cover art again with my fantastic sister who has come up with a new version, down to some comments re the girls head being disembodied! I am loving this new version (it is in early stages and needs some cleaning up) and I have also come up with a better title placement.
However, now we are worrying about copyright on the photos. My sister thought that it was ok to use images as long as they are changed by at least 10% and as we have used 3 different images and chopped bits and merged them together this would apply.
However I have just read that any alteration is down to the original artist/photographer and unauthorised use could be a breach of copyright! Gah! So does anyone know anything about this? I'm going to have to find out before I take this any further, otherwise we'll just have to use some stock photos...or maybe just go down to the city and get my friend to take a photo of me lying dead on the ground LOL
To get back to my somewhat frustrating foray into the world of publishing I will jump back on the rollercoaster and tell you the rest of my tale. So by November 2010 I had got a lovely agent on board who was really enthusiastic about Witchblood and soon I was told that she was taking my manuscript with her on a trip to New York to visit Harpers NY. She also sent my manuscript to Simon & Schuster NY amongst others. It was all very exciting!
Unfortunately for me it seemed that I had missed the vampire genre boat by a mere six months. One publisher said they liked my writing but weren't taking on anymore YA vampire novels, and even more frustrating another had just signed a similar book and didn't want another! It seemed Helen Corner's (Cornerstones) prediction of publishers not wanting more vampire books was coming true.
My lovely agent however didn't give up quite so fast and had soon sent my manuscript out to all the UK publishers she knew. Again it seemed the feedback was consistent - my writing wasn't the problem, they just weren't signing anymore vampire based YA fiction. The fact that Witchblood IS different, IS British, Is grittier, and come the sequel is going to veer away from vampires to concentrate more on witches wouldn't sway them.
So this summer, on my agents advice I started writing something new...but my heart wasn't in it. I kept seeing self-published supernatural books out there and doing well. A friend told me I should self publish and when I broached it to the agent, even she was behind me. As she said, the publishers are booking 18mths to 2years in advance but YA supernatural fiction IS still selling, and I can get this published and out there in the new year. It's a no-brainer. Witchblood is where my heart is...the sequel is waiting to be written.
I've been reading through my manuscript today and concentrating on the final chapter, mulling over the ending. When I first wrote Witchblood I had an ending I was happy with and which several friends had read and enjoyed. However when I got an agent she told me I had to change my ending, removing the new elements, which added a new plot line to be continued in the sequel.
I was told that publishers would only be interested in a complete story and I couldn't have any kind of cliffhanger. Obviously I did as she suggested and removed the suggested elements, but one year down the line with no publisher on board I'm having a re-think.
I'm self publishing, I'm in control now and nearly every book I read which is part of a series has some kind of cliffhanger at the end, a hook to make you want to read the next one. So why not mine?
Now I just have to hope I have the original copy somewhere!
Wow! What a weekend. I've been in Lapland searching for Santa with my husband and kiddies. It's amazing and so beautifully bleak.
The sun didn't rise till 10am and even then never got higher than the horizon and by 2pm it was dark again - everywhere lit by oil lamps, candles and fairy lights! A perfect hide-out for vampires and angels, my imagination was whirring with new ideas!
It's a countdown to Christmas, and at the same time a countdown to my first book being published, shortly after! Subsequently I hope to be updating this blog every night to let you guys know what's going on and I was thinking about posting the Prologue on here on Christmas Eve as a little Christmas present!
Wow! My lovely sister who lives in London said she'd help me with the cover design. This is a design which she came up with this afternoon. It's just a rough copy and my name wouldn't stay in that location or be in that font. She came up with the idea based on chapter one, where Jess lies dying in an alleyway. What do people think?
After a month or so of editing Witchblood I emailed a couple of the previous agents, and were pleased to have several show an interest and ask to see it again. Several weeks later Eve White phoned me (and I nearly fainted with shock!) She was lovely and said her reader had loved my manuscript and could I send her a hard copy to read. I was on a high!
Sadly it came to nothing, as a couple of weeks later she emailed to say that I'd done fantastically well to get that far, and she liked my writing, but she was worried about the market for teen vampire novels becoming saturated. I plummeted back down to earth with a crash!
This was repeated with another couple of agents, and then in September I emailed Eunice McMullen and the very next day received an email, saying sorry but her client list was closed. Two weeks later she phoned and asked to see the full manuscript! A week after that she phoned to say she'd like to represent me and loved Witchblood! I was back in the clouds!
Cornerstones are in my mind a great tool for an aspiring author and well worth the money as my greatest frustration with all the rejections from agents was that they don't give you any feedback at all! Nothing, nada, niente! So you don't know if it's the story they don't like, whether they think your writing style is bad, whether its the grammar that's bothering them, spellings, pace... you get the idea! You don't even know if they bothered to read past the first page!
Cornerstones fills this gap. You basically send them your manuscript (or part of it) and for a fee they send it on to an editor who reads every single line of it and then writes a full report (different types depending on what you pay for) telling you what works, what doesn't, and what needs changing.
I went for an indepth report and received a full 16page typed report, giving a general overview and then breaking my manuscript down and highlighting specific issues. It was a revelation! Firstly I didn't realise I'd put so many cliches in it - which all had to go! They helped me with the pace and showed enough interest to give me the boost I needed to carry on.
It was like doing a mini creative writing course, and probably cost a similar amount, but it was all tailored to my manuscript.
I now had weeks of re-reading and editing ahead of me!
Well here I am almost exactly two years since I finished my first draft of Witchblood - my first attempt at writing a full length novel. I say full length but in the world of publishing if you are an unknown, unpublished writer you have to keep keep your word count well under 100k. In fact it was suggested I get it under 80k words so at about 72k words it is certainly no Twilight!
Two years ago I was full of excitement...I mean I had written a book, a whole book and I had a handful of people no less who had read it and enjoyed it. It was ready to go, or so I thought so I bought the Writers & Artists Yearbook, got on Google and made a long list of agents. I decided to send it out to ten at a time, so I picked five agents who specialised in childrens and YA - these are great because they have moved with the times and usually allow you to email them the synopsis and 3 chapters - and five mainstream literary agents to post to.
By January I had ten replies, all rejections. Standard mass produced 'sorry we're not interested' letters from the postal enquiries and a couple of slightly more helpful rejections from the email enquiries. They were rejections, and they didn't give me any helpful tips, but three seperate agents all suggested the same thing... that I try Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. So I did.