Saturday, 19 July 2014

No new problems after the midpoint.

That sounds like a pretty hard and fast rule, but it's something that became glaringly obvious to me during revisions of Ondine 4.

Yes, I'm still revising Ondine 4. It will be ready when it's ready.

As you know, I love structure. As I was revising book 4, I knew something wasn't working, yet I couldn't really put my finger on it.

It was too loose and took far too long to get going. And then it hit me. I had created a whole new 'problem' for Ondine to solve, which was not really related to her existing issues. Nor was it a true complication of an earlier problem. It was a plot thread that would not fit in.

OK, it sort of was, but as that problem was something only mentioned in book 1, it was a problem most people wouldn't even remember.

Resurrecting that old problem into book 4, which in structure terms is the final act of the four novels, meant I was bringing in a whole new complication far, far too late in the piece.

If you think of a novel in the '3 Act' structure, the midpoint is about half way through the second act (hence its name) and from then on, there's no turning back. For example, in Gone With The Wind, there's a really good reason why they put the intermission after Scarlett comes back to Tara and declares she'll never go hungry again. This is the true mid point. Scarlett can't go 'back', the past is gone. She can only move forward, and if she has to lie or cheat or kill, yes, even if she has to kill, she'll never be hungry again.

I love that scene SO HARD!

All the problems Scarlett faces after this incredible mid point are not new. They are further complications that have continued to fester from the beginning.

I love it when my brain does me a solid.

Happy writing everyone.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Win Stuff and be Awesome!

Hey everyone,
time to ramp up the ferrety fun with a competition.

HUGE prizes!
Post cards!
& A pewter ferret pin!

First prize is:

  1. A fine pewter ferret pin, made by George G Harris, valued at $11 US (plus the postage from Australia, which is anyone's guess!)
  2. Two rare postcards from Brugel, which I'll post via air mail to the winner's nominated address.
  3. The first two ebooks in the Ondine series, The Summer of Shambles & The Autumn Palace.

(If the winner already has these first two titles, I'll send the ebook of The Winter of Magic.)

Second prize is:
Fine pewter hand crafted in the USA
From the George G Harris
Wildlife Collection
"Wearable art for the outdoor enthusiast"
The first two ebooks in the Ondine series, The Summer of Shambles & The Autumn Palace.

Third prize is:
The first ebook in the Ondine series, The Summer of Shambles.

"Shut up and show me where to sign?"

Starting June 10, and running until July 17. Tell your friends. In fact, if you do, you'll stand a better chance at winning. It's that insidious easy!

Click away below and you're in with a chance. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Update - as you can see, the comp is closed and I've announced the winners.
Congratulations to Rae, Vivianne and John, and happy reading :-)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Beat Sheets

Handy things those beat sheets.

The awesome of clip art
Before I jump headfirst into revisions of Ondine 4, I used the 'Save The Cat' Beat Sheet created by the very talented and dearly missed Blake Snyder.

As structure is my friend (as it is yours) the structure can show a writer (i.e., ME) where I'm hitting my marks and where I'm way off.

Snyder has a sensationally useful beat sheet for film scripts.

Novels are a little different in that you aren't restricted to 110 pages, so with added waffle and whacky magic, my beat sheet looks like this:

Act One:
Opening Image
Theme Stated
Introduce the "Six things that need Fixing" (sprinkled throughout Act 1 and beginning of Act 2)
Hero/Heroine's Goals - state them up front so the reader knows where we're going.
Set up
Debate (should I do this or not? Obviously, the character has to do it, or there is no story)
Break into Act 2.

Act 2: (which is broken into two parts)
B Story
Increase in Tension
"Fun & Games" in which you deliver on the "Promise of the Premise". (ie, if you're at a wizard school, show some wizarding. Like, mebbe a game of quiddich!)
Midpoint - where it all becomes very real and there's no going back.

Act 2 Part 2:
Chase Scene
Bad Guys Close in
"The Shopping Montage" which may or may not involve shopping. Mine is a street riot, involving a chase over rooftops. Each to their own.
All is lost
"Dark Night of the Soul"
Break into Act 3

Act 3:
Finale/ resolution
Final image

This book will have an epilogue, because the emotions need an 'aaaahhhhhh' moment to make sure that all is in fact right with the world.

I love Snyder's "Six Things That Need Fixing" (I broke this rule and I'm up to seven, but hey ho.)

The things that need fixing need to be fixed by the end of the book. I like to introduce them fairly early on - but not all lumped in together. If they are introduced too late, it feels like 'and another thing, and this thing' and it makes me feel like the story is never going to take off. But that's just me.

So, introduce all your 'fixer uppers' early on and then have some payoffs along the way. Don't wait until the very end for everything to pay off, or it will feel contrived.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Using All 11 Senses

Want to really get under the skin of your characters? Then do it. Get in their heads and get sensory.

You know the basic senses:

Sight - but some people are colour blind while others “see” the word Monday as red. (This is called synaesthesia).
Sound - and the direction of where sounds are coming from.
Smell - evokes memories as well. This is the first sense that develops - even before a baby is born.
Touch - a strong sense from birth. Babies use touch to see (putting things in their mouths) because their eyes aren’t fully developed yet.
Taste - we have between 2,000 and 8,000 taste buds each. Taste is also strongly linked with smell AND taste doesn’t work if our mouth is completely dry. You need saliva to taste anything. This is probably why, when we smell something delicious, our mouth starts watering.

Often my first drafts are a huge mess. The only senses I generally use are basic sights and sounds. Just to get the main story down. In the next drafts I go deeper, layering smells, tastes and touches on the pages too.

1) Have some fun writing a story without using sight. What other senses do you use instead? 
2) Write a story all about tasting new things. What do they taste like? Do they remind you of other foods? Do they bring back memories?

We have so much more than the basic five senses. All of these are senses too:

Balance - ie, falling over or keeping your balance.
Stand up, put your arms out, then raise one knee. You will find your bady can still balance on one leg. 
Now do it with your eyes closed. How hard is it to balance? That's because your sight also helps you keep your balance. The other part is the inner ear - there's a tiny amount of liquid in the inner ear that gives us balance - or vertigo if it’s damaged.

Temperature. We can touch something and feel how hard and soft it is, but we can also feel the temperature around us all the time. Is it hot or cold in here? Mum’s always telling you to put your jacket on but you don’t feel the cold???

Proprioception - this is a big fancy word to say we know where our body is in the space we’re taking up. Without having to look, we know our arm is leaning on the table, we know where our feet are. We can cross our feet without having to look at them first to make sure they’re going the right way. Some people can type on a keyboard without having to look where the letters are because they know where their fingers are in the ‘space’ around them.
Close your eyes and touch your finger to the end of your nose. You don’t have to see it to do it. This is where your senses step in and help you.

Pain - we have pain receptors in our body that tell us when something is wrong with our body. We fall off the monkeybars and our foot is killing us. It’s our body's way of making us take the weight off and rest our foot until it’s healed.

Time - you know how sometimes time flies or it drags? This is also a sense. It’s our brains processing the passing of time.

Not strictly a sense, but everyone feels various amounts of:
Emotions - Our brains process emotions and feelings. We’re happy when we see friends and have a good time, we’re miserable when we’re hurt. We also have mixed emotions when we remember events from the past, or anticipate what’s coming up tomorrow.
For example, an assignment is due tomorrow, you’re nervous about whether the teacher will give you good marks. On Tuesday night you’re having a sleepover, so you’re excited about staying up late and playing Plants vs Zombies all night.

By using more than our basic senses in a story, we create a real world for the character and the reader. Too many senses all at once can become confusing, but not enough can make the story feel underdeveloped.
 It's up to you to find the balance.

Animals and plants with extra senses:
Echolocation - bats and some other animals can sense where they are - even in flight - by detecting the speed of soundwaves bouncing off cave walls.
Electroreception - sharks and platypus can sense changes in the magnetic fields around them - or even create magnetic fields.
Magnetoreception - birds migrate using this - aligning themselves to the earth’s magnetic fields.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A Parlay with Pirates

I hit a milestone in my writing career yesterday.

All three of my Ondine novels were on a torrent site. Or a pirate site. Or a 'pay us a monthly fee and we'll let you download whatever you like but we don't give the content creators any of that money and by the way you can't sue us because we don't actually host anything' sites.

Yeah, them.

I was furious and also ... kind of excited. I'd seen all my author friends deal with this over the years and felt a little left out that my books weren't good enough to get pirated.

But it finally happened, and I wasn't going to let someone else make money of my hard work.
And before you ask; NO, I do not download Game of Thrones illegally. I am reading the books, but in previous seasons I've watched it via purchasing the downloads on appletv. Which left me behind everyone else and couldn't go on social media for fear of spoilers.

Anyway, here's what you as an author can do.

This is how the google alert shows up in my email
 Step 1: The most important step. Finding out if your book is on a free site.

Set up a google alert. You will be able to do this at

This way, if your book ends up available as a download, you'll get an email notifying you.

Also, try a general search of *My Book Title* and *download* or *free* or *torrent* etc. You might be surprised and appalled at what you find.

If you find your book on a site, step away from the keyboard, scream silently to yourself and make a cuppa or have some chocolate or go for a walk. You need to be calm and practical to deal with this.

It looked so inviting and free . . .

Step 2: Another very important step. Contacting the website/host/pirates.

As much as it might burn your retinas, do your best to find a contact link so you can contact the people who will be the ones removing the links. Believe it or not, some, like Download-genius, have a DMCA link and state that they take copyright seriously!

It doesn't matter what the site itself says about DMCA and copyright and take down notices. They could create an enormous list of legal-sounding hoops you have to jump through, but it's meaningless. They're just trying it on.

Step 3: A hugely important step. Write your DMCA Take Down notice.

Up until yesterday, I didn't even know what DMCA stood for, or How to write a Take Down Notice. (DMCA is Digital Millennium Copyright Act)  So I typed "DMCA takedown notice template" into a search engine and came up with plenty of formula emails that I could use. This one from EPIC is very user friendly and has all the legal requirements you need to use in your contact with the pirates.

Step 4: Send your DMCA Take Down notice and .... wait.

It could be very quick (in my case, it was about an hour! RESULT!) but they could just as likely ignore you.
That's OK, just send them another one in a few days. Also, let your writer friends know of the site, and get them to check if their hard work is being abused on the site. You'd be surprised what a torrent of DMCA take downs can achieve.

Good luck and keep writing.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Slow Going

I'm not enjoying this, and that's not like me.
But the truth is, I'm not enjoying writing the final Ondine novel.
It's written, but it's in seriously bad shape, and now I'm revising it and I don't think I've ever been so slow.

Is it because I can't bear to say goodbye to these people (who are so real to me)? Yes.
Is it because there is so much work to do? Very yes.
Is it because I set the bar so high with the first three books I feel like I'm trying to catch lightning in a bottle one more time? Much yessness.
Have I forgotten how to write? No.
Have I become lazy? Not exactly ... but reluctant. For all the reasons state above.
I don't have writer's block, but I have a bad case of the doubts and it's slowing me down. I'm more easily distracted than ever before. I'm tetchy and grumpy and distracted. Did I mention I'm getting distracted? Ohhh, look, a thing!

I suspect this is all normal, but now that I've admitted I have a problem, perhaps I can push through it and get this darn book written!!!!!

Monday, 24 March 2014

How many books do you have to sell on Amazon to make a Bestseller list?

This book is officially
an Amazon Bestseller.
Not that many as it turns out.

The numbers are in from my recent promotion. Through the Ereader News Today link, I sold 45 copies of The Summer of Shambles for US$0.99c through Amazon in one day.

I probably sold another 15 or so (I don't have the exact numbers for this yet) through my fabulous friends promoting the book on the same day, who linked directly to the book.

So let's estimate I sold 60 books in one day on Amazon.

Those 60 sales were enough for Amazon to create those subset lists where the book went from #600,000 in Paid Kindle to #37 on Paid Kindle > Young Adult > Romance > Contemporary.

What did I earn from this? About $20.40 in royalties, or $0.34 c per book.

How much did this promotion cost me?

An absolute pittance. Get your jaw supports in place because this one is a doozy.

$3.90 US.

So my 'profit' for the day is $16.10

In the grand scheme of things, these are miniscule numbers, but it shows how affordable some promotions can be, and how with less than 100 sales in one day a writer can get into a Bestseller list.

Have you had promotions that yield great results? What's worked for you?

Information is like chocolate. Sharing the goodness brings people together.

Friday, 14 March 2014

How I Became A Bestseller in One Day

And I didn't do anything unethical or annoying.

In fact, it was insanely easy. And I'm going to cut to the chase and tell you how I did it.

I paid for it.

Yep. I handed over money to a book promotions service, they promoted my book and BANG, in one day The Summer of Shambles rose from a flatline of #600,000 in Paid Kindle to hit #37 in Paid Kindle > Young Adult > Romance > Contemporary.

Thirty Seven!
On a Bestseller List!

Just look at that!

As I posted last week, an author's biggest problem is discoverability. You can have the funniest, best-written, most romantic and magical award-winning book around *ehem* but hardly anyone will buy it if they don't know the book is out there.

I've had fantastic reviews from the most rabid fans. I've had people blame me for keeping them up all night reading. I've had people rave about how gorgeous the covers are and that they'll 'leap off the shelves'.

What I haven't had are decent sales. And by decent I mean enough to put a few meals on the table.

Last week, I hired Ereader News Today (ENT) They send daily emails out to thousands of readers; those emails are chock-full of bargain and free books. I paid for The Summer of Shambles to be on that email on Tuesday, USA time.

I also lowered the price of Shambles for the promotion, from $2.99 to $0.99c.

And then all I did was sit back and watch the numbers come in from Amazon.

By mid afternoon, it had risen to about 30,000 in Paid Kindle, but still no 'List' section.

Then a couple of hours later, things really kicked into gear as Shambles started to climb. Climb and Climb and Climb. By my bedtime, it was at #37 and I was so excited I couldn't sleep. An hour later it was still in the high 30s and by then I was ready to pass out.

It was the most astronomical day and a huge 'win' for discoverability. Readers were discovering my book and buying it.

Here's where I think ENT is really clever. They earn money based on a percentage of your royalties from book sales. With the low price, I'll 'earn' about 34 cents per book. I will probably pay ENT half that. Which is fine by me. The fact is, I will only be paying for books sold, which is pretty fair all round.

I don't know how many books I've actually sold at this point. But the fact is, The Summer of Shambles is now officially an AMAZON BESTSELLER and I can strap that all over the place because it's true and it actually happened.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Discoverability Pt II

The reviews are starting to come in for The Winter of Magic (Ondine #3) and they're lovely. Sigh. So lovely.

Also here at Bookwitch, Ann has had loads of fun in Brugel!

But getting reviews on Amazon is only one small step. If people love a book, it's great that they leave a review. In fact, it's fabulous. But that does not translate into people finding out about the book - unless they go looking for it.

But how do people go looking for it, if they don't even know it's there?

This is where promotions have to come in.

Next week I have a promotion for The Summer of Shambles (Ondine #1), starting with Ereader News Today.
Here's how it works.
1) They encourage readers to sign up (for free)
2) They ask you to check your favourite genres
3) They send you an email each day, with reduced-price books matching the genres you checked.

For the reader, it's all win.

For a writer, it's a chance to get your title out there in front of thousands of readers who previously hadn't heard of you.

The way ENT makes their money is they charge a fee to advertisers (publishers and/or authors). But what I especially love about ENT is that their fee is based on a percentage of the number of books sold through their offer.

If I do well, they do well. If I don't, then it hasn't cost me too much in the process.

But with any luck, people will buy the (heavily) discounted book and some of them might even review it, which can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Book the first. Amazing cover. 
Out of all the hurdles facing authors, discoverability is probably the hardest one to jump over / climb up / crash and burn into.

You can:
Write a great book.
Have a sensational cover.
Have a big publisher making sure your book is
 a) in the stores
 b) going out to reviewers
 c) entering awards
 d) getting great reviews
 e) winning awards
 f) selling copies.

Yet even with all of these elements in your favour, your time as 'next big thing' becomes 'whatever happened to' in the snap of a pencil.

Most paper books published the traditional way spend a month on the shelves in the stores.

A month to get noticed.

Book the second. Stunning cover.
Why a month? Because the publishers have new books to bring out, and they want them in the stores. Your book has had its turn; time for the next author.

Sometimes publishers do the 'double dipping'. They bring the first book out in expensive hardback, in the hope of selling a few thousand copies, mostly to libraries. Then a year later, they bring the same book out as a paperback. This reminds readers about the author, gives them another chance to sell and be in the stores. (My books were not brought out in hardback, by the way, so Ondine didn't get a second shot.)

Reviews, stores, covers, all for one month on the shelves, and if they don't sell, they are usually returned to the publisher and pulped.

Then, if you're lucky enough to have a two book deal, it all happens all over again with the second book. Except it doesn't. You're no longer a 'debut' author, so your book isn't promoted as a 'shiny new thing' and there may not even be advance copies sent out to reviewers . . .

Book the third. Brilliant cover.
All this is not to say publishing is broken. Not at all. But it does seem a bit hit and miss and a bit disorganised. And a bit impossible for any one author to really 'break out' and get known.

Which is why so many authors I know (myself included) are bringing out their new books independently and self-publishing. Our books might not be in the bricks & mortar stores, but they are available on line and once they're up, they're up there forever.

No more returns eating into their royalty statements, no more limited shelf life, more staying power.

Along with 20 million other titles out there.

New books are getting published every day but the old ones are not moving on. This is both a blessing and a curse. Readers can get their hands on 'old' books any time they like, but there are so many new books coming out it's hard to sort through it.

People also want to know if the book is going to be worth their money and their time. Under $5 is considered affordable in most budgets, but you're asking someone to commit a fair amount of time. Older books have already proved this, so there is something of a 'flight to safety' in our choice of reading material. Newer authors are an unknown quantity. As much as people love a little novelty, they also want to know what they're in for.

It's also incredibly difficult for newer books to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Again, they can have beautiful covers (like mine), glowing reviews (like mine) and win awards (oh yeah, like mine) but the author still has plenty of work to do getting the word out.

This is where self-publishing becomes really, really hard. I can see why some would give up after painfully low sales.

Most self-published authors don't have a paid publicist to do the promotions for them.
But they also don't have the one-month on the shelves window slamming shut on them either.

Self-published authors have to be organised. I advertised for a couple of months on a popular romance fiction website. I had some good click-throughs but ultimately, it didn't sell books. The exercise was about being seen and getting some interest. In the end I don't think it was the right website for my books. My books are young adult (see how young Ondine is on the covers?) and there is plenty of whacky magic and comedy. And footnotes. My books didn't fit the demographic of that website.

So I am doing more homework and looking to place adverts on websites that appeal to readers of my kind of book. In a way, I have to narrow it down in order to get the biggest amount of appeal.

I'll keep you updated on how it goes.