Sunday, 16 July 2017

Confessions of a self-published author - Part 2

Since becoming a self-published author, I've published three young adult novels (two were published by a small-press publisher but dropped with their entire YA catalogue), two sci-fi books in a series, one horror novella, a short story collection, and two short stories. Planned for release are books three and four in the sci-fi series, and up to twenty more of the horror novellas. These titles have already formed part of the catalogue of my self-publishing career.

But I'm not going to give up trying to secure a traditional publisher. Books that I plan to write and pitch to agents/publishers include a dystopian series, three romance novels I wrote years ago, and a thriller. Even though I'm self-published, picking up a publisher will broaden my audience and provide me with the support of a professional team that'll improve my writing, books sales, and overall career.

So why am I telling you this? Because I have a plan. And because as much as perception plays a large part in a character's story, it plays a large part in a writer's career. What we want and what we get are often two very different things.

Cue Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want, but you get what you need."

We authors write the Want versus Need scenario into a character's story arc. So why not our own?
  • What does this writer Want? To write every day and have someone else take care of the promotion.
  •  What does this writer Need? To know the ins and outs of their business.
When I began, I had no idea about author platform, or social media, or website design, or the power of a good cover and blurb. I didn't know that ads can be a huge waste of money nor that they are only one part of a marketing campaign. I didn't know about advanced readers or beta readers or street teams. All I knew what that I loved reading and writing and that's all I wanted to do twenty-four-seven.

Along the way I realized that I'm a control freak. I don't like being a passenger in my career. I need to know what's happening. I need a plan, a backup plan, an outcome, backup outcome. I need to make the decisions. And guess what, a self-published author gets to make ALL THE DECISIONS. And this isn't by choice. It's your circus, your monkeys.

That's perhaps one of the toughest things about self-publishing. YOU have to make all the decisions. If the cover is wrong, it's YOUR fault. If the blurb isn't working, it's YOUR fault. If you chose a matte cover instead of a glossy cover, it's YOUR fault.

You get the picture. When you're a self-published author, you make all the decisions about the book. That includes whether you self-edit, pay an editors, use beta readers, use a writers, group. YOU choose the cover (quite often you get no say in cover design with a publishing house). YOU write the blurb. YOU create the tagline. And the promo...yep, that's all yours, too. Budgeting, writing a plan, creating a Facebook page, Twitter page, yep, they're all yours to decide. The theme for your website. Do you even have a website? You got it. These are all your decisions to make.

The point of this post is to highlight that the decisions are all yours to make, and decision making isn't everyone's strongest skill. But it can be achieved. It used to take me ages to settle on a lampshade in a house. Imagine how hard it is to be the one who chooses the book cover.

Of course, some people are born to make decisions and they'll adapt easily to self-publishing. In fact, they thrive in this environment.

Are you a natural decision maker, or is it something you struggle with? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and I'll offer some tips that I've learned over the years.

I'll write some further posts on books covers, editing, and promotion, so stick around.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Confessions of a self-published author

I didn't start out a self-published author. I had a dream. Write a novel, get it published, sell millions, retire from reality. It was a good dream. Not that there is anything wrong with self-publishing, but I hadn't a clue how to do it. And when I started out writing, it was either traditionally publish, or vanity publish.

For those who don't know what a vanity publisher is, they take your book with all its structural flaws and typos, they create a cover, they produce this book, and charge you $7,000 for it. But they'll send you 100 or more copies which you've then to distribute yourself. They do not edit the book at all.

This is no lie or exaggeration. Way, way, way back in 1996 when I wrote my first horror novel, Poison in the Pond, I saw an ad in a writers magazine for a publisher, so I sent them my novel and they sent me back a lovely letter telling me that they'd gladly publish it, for $7,000. Back then!! What would the cost be now?

Of course I said no. I didn't have $7,000. So I continued writing and submitting to publishers. I continued learning more about the process of pitching to publishers. I took courses, joined writers groups, attended conventions and seminars. I still didn't want to self-publish. Was it because of a stigma attached to the label? Possibly. Was it because I didn't want to do this because I had no idea what this was? More likely. One does not hop into a helicopter and expect the fly the thing solo. Not if one wants to live and tell the tale.

I wanted a publisher because they had the expertise that I did not. Imagine my delight when I finally landed a small-press publisher for my first book, The Bird with the Broken Wing. I learned a lot during this process.

original book cover, amazing!! courtesy Eithne Ni Anulain
The publisher created an awesome book cover. I was assigned a good editor. The end product is the best I could do at the time. It could do with a little more smoothing out, but overall, it has structure, plot, characters, twists...all the good ingredients of a novel. This publisher accepted my second book, Feedback, and again they created a great cover and I got to work with an awesome editor.

I learned so much with these two books, that when it came to book three, Little Red Gem, and when I couldn't sell it elsewhere, I was confident to self-publish. What I did was create my own book cover, and I edited it myself using structural editing comments provided by an editor. Then the book went to beta readers, and I was happy with the end result.

So I continued writing and pitching, and then one day I received an email that my publisher was dropping all their Young Adult titles. I was without a publisher. I had two choices: shop the books around to another publisher, or publish them myself.

Self-pubbed authors typically belong to social media groups and often ask for advice. There are those in one group who would suggest a reboot in this situation, but at the time, I didn't want to reboot and relaunch, I was already writing another series of books.

I chose to self-publish. (One thing I've learned along the way is that agents and publishers don't like a book that's already been shopped around so this turned out to be the right approach and saved me lots of time I might otherwise have wasted.) At first, I created simple book covers and I got these loaded up to Amazon and Smashwords so I didn't lose all the reviews I'd slaved so hard to get.  Then I sort of left them there because I was writing other books. I didn't really know if I wanted to continue writing young adult fiction. It was incredibly hard to pitch and to sell. So I started writing a dystopian series.

My perceptions of self-publishing had changed through circumstances out of my control. And this was only the beginning. If you're considering self-publishing, maybe this short post has given you some insight. I'll write some more "confessions of a self-published author" posts. Stay tuned.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Top 10 apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books, TV shows, and movies

I couldn't have written my sci-fi series "Welcome to the Apocalypse" if I didn't have a mild interest in the end of the world, both during and after. Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction/movies differ to Dystopian in one aspect - dystopia is typically a world that wants to revert back to an earlier version and this reversion usually involve a revolution. But for all dystopian to exist, there must first come the apocalypse, then the post-apocalypse.

For me, I think the fascination for apocalyptic fiction comes from two things: A) I'm a bit of a misanthropist. When I hear about cruelty in the world, I want humanity to burn for it. Secretly, of course. I don't want to government on my doorstep accusing me of terroristic intentions. And, B) an apocalypse gives consideration to a clean slate. Mankind is being given a second chance and the opportunities to do great things are limited only by our desire to do great things.
To celebrate the release of  "Welcome to the Apocalypse" Book 2, I thought I'd list my top 10 apocalyptic books, TV shows, and movies and anything else (in no particular order).
1. BOOK - Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson.
I grabbed this book at K-Mart one day, just a random purchase, and I read it within a few days. It's an easy read, and it's entertaining. The first thing I did after was take it into work and tell a friend that she would just love it' and she did. Then she went out and bought 'Amped" by Daniel H Wilson and we raved about that, too. Just a great read of action and some delightful characters.  
2. MOVIE - The Terminator franchise, directed by James Cameron.
Humans fighting a robot system that they invented, classic end of the world action. Some facts you may not know about The Terminator. James Cameron was living in his car when he pitched the idea. Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally going to play Kyle Reese. Source

3. BOOK - A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller. Jnr.
 I started an Amazon discussion group to get recommendations for some great apocalyptic fiction, and this book was the most recommended. So I bought it. I couldn't put it down. And neither the cover nor the title nor the blurb would ordinarily have attracted my eye. Which contradicts everyone we're told as readers and writers to judge. since it's release in 1960, it has never been out of print.
4. TV SHOW - The 100 TV series on Netflix.
 This is just some great candy-TV. It's full of suspense and action. It's an interesting concept that we go up into space to save the human race and when our new home is dying we return to the surface, thinking it's uninhabitable and that we have a claim to it. Will we never learn? And I simply love Bellamy as a character. Bob Morley, who plays him is fantastic. Did you know that he's an Australian actor. I didn't until I researched information on him. Squeal. Now I love him even more. Source
5. BOOK - The Stand by Stephen King.
 While this wasn't my favourite book of King's when I read it initially, it was paramount in forging my love for this genre, and it wasn't until years later that I appreciated the lack of a happily ever after. It left us with an open ending, as it should. It kept my brain ticking over for years.
 6. MOVIE - Planet of the Apes, 1968 version starring Charlton Heston and adapted from Pierre Boulle's novel.
 I remember watching this as a kid and enjoying it, and then that final scene emerged onto the screen and it blew me away. I've been hooked on unpredictable twists ever since. And I try to incorporate them into my books to give readers something unique.
Quote from the movie:
George Taylor: A planet where apes evolved from men? There's got to be an answer.
Dr. Zaius: Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find. Source.
7. MOVIE - The Omega Man

It was made in 1971, so knock the campiness of it all you want, it is a classic movie. It was movies such as Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Logan's Run which have given me a love of sci-fi, so nostalgic reasons alone, this is one of those movies that must make the list. I'd include Logan's Run on this list, but to me, Logan's Run is pure speculative sci-fi. It doesn't really deal with the apocalypse, just a futuristic world.
8. BOOK & MOVIE - The Hungers Games trilogy
Whilst this series is dystopian, because the trilogy encompasses the oppression and battle for freedom, this book shows some survivalist skills necessary for any apocalypse. I devoured all three books one after the other. What can I say? It deserves the attention and accolades it received.

9. THING - Mankind versus Mother Nature

Pretty much the one thing that all books, TV shows, and movies show us is that mankind are the real monsters in any apocalypse. Without us, there would be plants and animals and no such things as the apocalypse. We are often the cause, but not always. It may be a contagion that causes the end of the world. Or Mother Nature may erupt all the volcanoes. A meteor from outer space might be the cause of our downfall.

Five things every movies gets wrong about the apocalypse is an interesting read. Source
10. THING - Fear from growing up in the 70s

I recall growing up in the 70s, and somewhat in the 80s, when around every corner was the threat of nuclear war. This fear of total annihilation spawned movies and books and an interest in what the effects might be and how we might adapt. So without "fear" there can be no apocalypse to contemplate. We even watched videos in school about the nuclear war that never came.

I hope you liked reading about the top Top 10 apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books, TV shows, movies, and even things. Am I missing any? What are some of your favourite books and movies?


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Review of Suicide Squad the movie

Pop culture is such that we often know something about a movie before we've even watched it. As is the case with Suicide Squad. Recently at SupaNova Sydney, there were many Harley Quinn and Joker characters walking around. I hadn't yet seen the movie but I knew who these characters were.

I finally got around to watching Suicide Squad, a movie based on DC comics antiheroes, directed by David Ayer.

Main stars:
Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto. I'm an Aussie so it's always wonderful to see an Aussie actress like Margot doing great in Hollywood. Watching it, I'm like "Go Margot" like I know her personally or something. It's an Aussie thing. Like that's "our Russell" or "our Margot" or "our Nicole". Go Margot!!


In the aftermath of Superman's death, an elite squad of dangerous criminals is created to fight the metahumans and save the world from a powerful threat, in exchange for reduced sentences.

First off. Whoah. Superman is dead. I was trying to get over my most loved super hero character being dead when the movie started. Talk about going blindly into this. But I told myself to put that aside and enjoy the story. Take deep breaths. Superman can't die. Okay, get over and move on.

So the story is that a secret agency sets up a task force of criminals it considers dispensable in order to be ready if a bad metahuman - a version of Superman who isn't decent - decides to attack Earth. Then a witch, who is under their supposed control of this secret agency, sneaks off and creates an army to destroy the world. Now the criminal antiheroes are called in to rescue an important person trapped in the city where the witch is creating her destruction.

My review:

Overall, I enjoyed Suicide Squad. It has a lot of action. And it showed some of the backstory to a few characters that I wasn't aware of. I didn't know Harley Quinn was Joker's psychiatrist. It comes with the typical DC comics mantra of 'we aren't born monsters, we're made monsters'. I must admit that her 'Daddy's Lil Monster' t-shirt I've seen her wear had me envisaging another way she'd been made bad. So it was a delight to be totally wrong on that point. And it shows how out of touch I am with some of these comic book characters.

But the movie also a lot of the same old, same old. Thousands of warriors against a small number of saviours. I like action, but I do tire of the endless, facing-insurmountable-odds-yet they-win battle scenes. Then everything is destroyed and don't these people know how long it takes to rebuild a city and nobody is held accountable? But that's me. Defender of the office block.

Adding to the DC mantra of 'we aren't born monsters, we're made monsters' is the plotline of the same person who set up the task force is the same person who created the whole need for rescue mission in the first place. It's classic villain profiling - control the beast and then send in someone to kill the beast when it bites you. I'm still not sure I like this storyline. Surely it was to be expected. Anyway...

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn played an incredibly fearless character. Jared Leto as the Joker was also pretty fearless. I can see why Harley Quinn got more of a role in this movie than the Joker. Not that the Joker in this movie is a dud, but we've seen this character before. And there were so many other characters that there simply wasn't time to spotlight them all for too long. I can definitely see more movies and side movies following, because of the number of characters. With the popularity of anime, Katana could have a series of her own. I'm sure it's already underway.

Director David Ayer had 6 weeks to write the script, given that the date of production was set. And we have to be introduced to the characters which takes time. As a side note here, I'm an author and we're often roasted over the coals for taking too long to get to the story. Yet Hollywood can do it over and over, especially with these remakes of DC characters. This works if there is one or two characters, but there are many in this that all seemed to need a back story. In fact, there are dozens of characters in the Suicide Squad. They will need to find a way to get to the 'how' if they are to introduce any more characters.

I can imagine how hard it would be to condense so much back story and story into one movie, and apparently there were many scenes cut from the final film.

It was a good antihero film. Superheroes are enjoying a rise in popularity but like everything, their light may fade and we may see the rise of more antihero films.

I'd give it 3.5 stars, maybe 4. It was good, not brilliant. And I'd watch the whole series though and hope that the next director has a bit longer than 6 weeks to write the script.

BTW - Margot Robbie stole the show. Go Margot!!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

“I’m off to see the wizard” - author heads to the city for pop culture event

Hello from Down Under!
I live in Australia. In particular, on the south eastern coast in a regional area. It’s anywhere from a 4.5 to 5 hour drive to the city. That’s like a plane trip from LA to New York. A road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. A drive from London to Wales. You get the picture. Australia is a big continent and city life is as busy as anywhere else in the world. Which is why, 10 years ago I decided to move out of the city and head to a coastal town in order to give myself more time to write. I’ve achieved this goal with three YA novels, 2 sci-fi books, short stories and novellas and many more in the works. Coastal life has its advantages. It also has its disadvantages. It’s a long drive to writer conventions and pop culture shows.
That’s why I’m super excited. Next weekend I'm making the trek back to the big smoke to join the overwhelming live circuit of SupaNova. And I can't wait.

When an author friend of mine suggested we share a table at SupaNova, I jumped at the chance. Eagerly we booked our spots like a million years ago, and this may or not have contributed to our location at the event. We are right in front of the Comic Book Super Stars and one of the rooms where the main guests will be appearing. Talk about awesome location for two little indie authors from a coastal town with a population of 16,000.
Mirren Hogan is an author from the same region. We each left city areas to relocate to the coast/country. I say coast country because beautiful Batemans Bay is nestled between the mountains the sea. She’ll be sharing a table because this is a big trip for both of us. To be honest, as excited as I am, I’m also a little terrified. What if it fails? Worse, what if it succeeds and I love it so much it’s all I can think about doing. The reality will be hard to return to.

SupaNova is Australia’s largest producer of pop culture live events for “Supa-Fans” of Movies, TV Shows, Celebrity Meet & Greets, Toys/Collectables, Gaming, Artists, Tech, Apps, YouTube Stars, Wrestling and more. It’s on from Friday 16 to Sunday 18 June 2017. It’s being held at the world fabulous Olympic Park, Homebush, Sydney Australia. They have some fabulous people coming to the show. Chris Helmsworth. Ricky Whittle (Lincoln from The 100). Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. Plus heaps more great artists, actors and comic book creators. That's not all. 200,000 fans are projected for all of 2017 all venues. Sydney has got to be the busiest, right?

I’m going to meet fans and sell books and merchandise. Welcome to the Apocalypse Book 1 and 2 are available and I want the world to know about it. This series is exactly what this pop culture event focuses on. I'll have merchandise, signed photos, and books. It's difficult for indie authors to get books into the hands of readers. Postage is expensive to ship to book stores, and if you don't back that up with a tour a book can sit on a shelf, sell nothing, then get returned. We've got to take our goods to where they buyers are.
Dorothy never went to see the wizard on her own. She had Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion by her side. I know most of you can’t be there in person, but I’d like you to be there in spirit with me. I'll be in Table 30 opposite the Comic Book All Stars. And if I see Chris Helmsworth, I’ll be sure to say hi from you.



Monday, 12 June 2017

SupaNova Sydney - June 16-18. Here I come

When an author friend of mine suggested we share a table at SupaNova, I jumped at the chance. Eagerly we booked our spots like a million years ago, and this may or not have contributed to our location at the event. We are right in front of the Comic Book Super Stars and one of the rooms where the main guests will be appearing. Talk about awesome location for two little indie authors from the coastal regional area of NSW.
What is it?

SupaNova, Popculture convention.

Australia’s largest producer of pop culture live events for “Supa-Fans” of Movies, TV Shows, Celebrity Meet & Greets, Toys/Collectables, Gaming, Artists, Tech, Apps, YouTube Stars, Wrestling and more.

When is it?
Friday 16 to Sunday 18 June 2017
Where is it:
Olympic Park, Homebush, Sydney Australia
Who is going to be there?
They have some fabulous people coming to the show.
Chris Helmsworth
Ricky Whittle (Lincoln from The 100)
Dean Cain
Teri Hatcher
Plus heaps more great artists, actors and comic book creators

That's not all. 200,000 fans are projected for all of 2017 all venues. Sydney has got to be the busiest, right?

Why am I going?
To meet fans and sell books and merchandise. Welcome to the Apocalypse Book 1 and 2 are available and I want the world to know about it. This series is exactly what this pop culture event focuses on. I'll have merchandise, signed photos, and books.

It's difficult for indie authors to get books into the hands of readers. Postage is expensive to ship to book stores, and if you don't back that up with a tour a book can sit on a shelf, sell nothing, then get returned. We've got to take our goods to where they buyers are.

Who's sharing a table with me?
Mirren Hogan is an author from the same region as me. The south east coast of Australia. We each left city areas to relocate to the country. I wanted more time to write and I have to tell you, the plan has worked. Since I left the city, I've written over 7 books, 5 are published, more are waiting to be published.

Next weekend I'm making the trek back to the big smoke to join the overwhelming live circuit of SupaNova. And I can't wait.

Hope to see you there. I'll be in Table 30 opposite the Comic Book All Stars.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

June "Super Series" spotlight- multi author event

Series are popular with readers. Books, TV, Movies...but it can be like walking through a busy market with everyone trying to get your attention to know where to begin with a new series.
There's a reason we love series. They take us on a bigger picture journey. But a reader has to invest a long period of their time and the author has to engage the reader over a long period of time.
I thought I'd do a spotlight on books in a series. These may be Book 1 or Book 2 in a series, but they are all part of a bigger picture story.
This is a small selection, so there's no reason not to click on each and every book to discover if you or your friends would like to join this journey. I hope you find some new series to enjoy.


Welcome to the Apocalypse - CyberNexis (Book 2)
Getting out of the game was all that mattered. Now all that matters is getting back in.

N Days (Book 1)
In a world gone terribly wrong. Where the monsters of our deepest nightmares have come alive.

In The Horde's Way (After the Collapse Book 3)
Follow Henrietta on a journey that is leads her into the councils of the invaders and chieftains of the tribes that rule the desert land of the Southwest.

Pia and the Skyman (Book 2)
The year is 2401, the location is a farming settlement on the northwest coast of North Island, Aotearoa.  


Crimson Fire (The Magic of Isskasala Book 1)

She had power at her fingertips, but the world had other ideas.

Heart of the Mountain (Under The Mountain Book 1)
Twins Delvina and Retza’s greatest desire is to be accepted as prentices by their parents’ old crew when they stumble across a stranger

The Herbalist's Daughter (Tamrin Tales Book 1)
Anna has her heart set on the young guard at the Palace but he seems not to notice her.

Oath Bound (Silverlands Book 2)

In a land where oaths can’t be broken be careful what promises you make.
To break the binding oath is to risk the very magic of Argenterra.

Rayessa and the Space Pirates

Sixteen-year-old Rae Stroder lives in a hollow asteroid, a defunct refuelling station, with a brain-damaged adult, Gris, to keep her company.

Wind (Drachengott Book 1)

Wendland is a land of dragons, and of magic. The mysterious Drachengott grants magic to his worshippers - but is he truly a god?


Nightmares Rise (Dark Shores Trilogy Book 1)

Makani Lau loves her job as a Hawaiian tour guide. When the slow season hits, she tries to drum up some work.

Dead Cell (Revenant Chronicles Book 1)
Enter a world of conspiracy, psychic assassins, and road rage from beyond the grave.

Stake Out (Paranormal Detectives Book 1)

In a city overrun with the undead, an ex-cop is given a chance to get revenge...

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Review of Passengers movie

I finally got around to watching Passengers. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.

The storyline:

The spaceship, Starship Avalon, in its 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet known as the "Homestead Colony" and transporting 5,258 people has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result one hibernation pod opens prematurely and the one person that awakes, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is stranded on the spaceship, still 90 years from his destination. Written by Eirini

Jennifer Lawrence plays Aurora Lane, a writer.
Chris Pratt plays Jim Preston, a mechanic.

My Review:
It's tagged as Drama / Romance / Adventure / Sci-fi, and it's accurate, the movie contains all four genres.

The sci-fi is plausible and the storyline only works on a spaceship, though my author brain is just now coming up with another way I could do this. (Puts idea into idea bank).

This is not a quest movie, the adventure is present from the opening credits. They're on a spaceship to an unknown planet. You wouldn't be there if you weren't an adventurist. However, they do have to save the world, in this case the other passengers.

The drama is present from the opening scene all the way to the end. It slowly builds which might not appeal to people who want explosive action for ninety minutes, but this isn't that sort of movie. There is explosive action - it seems to follow the formula of right place right time but what Hollywood movie doesn't.

The romance is nicely done. I think this story is above all, a romance. This is the story of two people who would never have met under normal circumstances, but of course here is where the twist lies. If you took away this element, the movie wouldn't end well, not just for these two but for other 5000 people on board the spaceship. The romance is what makes you root for these characters. Forget the rest, you only care about these two. And the android Arthur is a loveable characters.

For me, Passengers is the epitome of speculative fiction.

I won't give away spoilers, even though the twist is revealed early on in the movie, but it truly does make you wonder, what would you do in this situation? That's what I look for when I read or watch sci-fi. 

I enjoyed it. It's on my "I'm glad I watched it and I'd watch it again" list. 4 stars.

Now for the bits that didn't detract from the movie but stuck in my mind : Warning, this contains spoilers though if you haven't watched it, it won't make sense.

One of the crew members makes a brief appearance. It seems as if this is done purely to get Aurora and Jim access to the bits they need for the part in the movie where they save everyone. A bit too convenient.

Aurora rescues Jim from outside the ship. She would have to drag him all the way to the medical centre (but we don't see this) and lift him onto the hospital bed (we don't see this). Now, I don't know about you, but I have trouble lifting a 20 KG bag of cement. This is one of those things I always notice in films and TV.

Why didn't they have any kids? This was just a question that stuck in my mind and when you get to the final scene you'll understand why.

I did enjoy it. It's worth the watch.