Lead author of The Hunter's Arrow, a group of friends who started out as writing role-play on Facebook, and ended up with enough material for ten novels. Volume 11 is in planning, and at the same time, I am working on another related but standalone series. Our first two books have been self published via Amazon KDP and Smashwords for the e-book versions and via CreateSpace for the print copy.
The problem with that title is that it is so cliched, it makes my jaws ache. Seriously. That, and the conviction from my former employers that I must be angry, upset or something else with negative connotations.
Hate to break it to you guys, but I was not surprised. I was not angry and I was definitely not upset.
Let’s deal with that cliched title: redundancy is not the end. From that book I was given in Pharmacia “Who Ate My Cheese” or some crap like that, to the hint that it being made redundant, your skills were not up to scratch, there will be someone who tells you in an overly cheerful voice that redundancy is about new beginnings. And, there will be some who will say “Yeah, right!” or who might believe that it is an end, or if they don’t, they will come to feel that way. When I left GSK, there was a definite air of ‘poor Jo wasn’t up to scratch’ because I couldn’t secure redeployment somewhere in the company. My most recent employer also used the words ‘angry’ and ‘upset’ to describe how I ‘must’ be feeling. Well, big surprise, guys and gals …
That person is not me and will not be me.
I am a big one for believing that things happen at a specific time for a reason. Lessons need to be learnt, and the time for that lesson just happens to be now. I also maintain that my Goddess (yes, I am a devout pagan) only sends those lessons at the right time, when I am ready and when I am strong enough.
What do I mean by that? This time last year, the black dog of depression and anxiety had me tightly in its grip. Yes, I contemplated killing myself before realising that the recruitment notice would be placed about the same time as my ‘caring’ employers let the rest of the company know of my demise. In other words, my now former employer would not give a rat’s arse if I did kill myself. That was where it all started. It became clear that, both during my time signed off sick by my GP, that the company viewed me and potentially anyone with mental health issues as a burden, and one to be cast off with the minimum delay.
When we were told earlier this year that one of four salespeople with eastern territories would be made redundant, I knew it would be me. A previous attempt to … encourage me to leave had not worked. This was the latest attempt, as I saw it. I am sure that the ‘evaluation’ paperwork will show all the reasons why I would be the one chosen. After all, that would be the first thing to be examined if any questions were asked. But it was irrelevant.
Of greater importance, bearing in mind my conviction that ‘it’ would be me, I needed to start planning alternatives. I needed to ensure that I was offered the most beneficial severance package possible. Yes, such plans might not earn me as much as that job, but it would serve two purposes: It would bring in some money, even if that was less than £100 a month, and more importantly, I would keep my brain active.
Yes, I have allowed myself a couple of days ‘downtime’, but then I have other things in mind.
Want to know what they are? Read the next blog post to find out …
There is an unmet need out there, people. Seriously. In February, I took part in International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo). It involved sending out an average of a letter a day, generally to random strangers who were doing the same and had volunteered their addresses for the purpose. But then it became something much more.
Do you know how hard it is to find pretty writing paper, without buying online and paying relatively silly amounts?
In live near Cambridge in the UK. You know, as in Cambridge University, that internationally acknowledged seat of learning. There are four stationery shops in Cambridge. Yet, could I find ‘fun’ writing paper? Could I, heck! The best I could find was coloured paper in Ryman’s. That was it. No picture papers that I remember from childhood.
Okay, I thought, what about writing sets. I used to call them notelet sets when I was younger. A bit more luck there, but the price! For something that was mass produced and not particularly ‘fun’. Then there was the fact that my average letter was proving to be around four sides of A5 airmail paper because most of my pen-friends were outside of the UK.
And, I have to make things difficult for myself, because I wanted to use a fountain pen.
To cap it, I had two male pen-friends. Now with the best will in the world, I didn’t feel like I could send them letters on flowery paper. After all, both were in relationships, and I didn’t want to cause any problems by having obviously female correspondence being delivered to them. Rumour mills can be vicious. That was where the personalised stationery comes into force. Plain white paper with just my name and address on them.
So, what did I learn from this experience:
There are suppliers out there, but most of them are online.
I can obtain plain paper with my address quite easily.
If I want ‘fun’ paper, I have to make it myself, using stickers and washi tape.
Hobbycraft is a very dangerous store (see point 4).
Good excuse for networking (a friend’s husband is bringing me some Tomoe River paper from the USA)
‘Reasonable’ paper can be found on Amazon, but they are mostly oriented towards female writers and recipients.
The market in journals has expanded exponentially. Everywhere is selling hardback books for journals, along with accessories such as matching sticky notes and reminder stickers. A new store in Cambridge seems to specialise in journal-suitable books. Yet, none of them had paper which was guaranteed to work with a fountain pen.
Fountain pens need paper of at least 85gsm, if not more. But heavier paper is more expensive and therefore, the end product will be more expensive. After all, no one uses fountain pens anymore. Not true, as there has been a resurgence in using fountain pens, according to a recent article in The Times. Perhaps it is an alternative to our rushed technology driven lives. Either way, there is an unmet need out there, a need unmet by most stationery resellers.
Come on world, wake up. Writing, by hand, with a fountain pen is remarkably therapeutic. It calms the mind and enables oneself to be composed for sleep. We want to buy this stuff, so someone must be willing to produce it. Surely?
Then again, I might have to increase my holding of suitable journals for sale if the big guys are not interested.
Why shouldn’t I write romance? After all, it is one of the top-selling genres. Then again, it could be compared to Hollywood, and the number of would-be actors who are working low-skilled jobs whilst ‘resting’.
It is my own belief that the worse the world seems around us, the greater the need for us to believe that there is something better. That’s where romance comes into the picture. Then again, there are things like this:
Go on, click on the rose and see where it takes you. This is something that pops up on a regular basis. As a self-published author, one might think I would run a mile from initiatives such as this. However the fact is that even M&B have to find new talent. This is how they do it, for their specific sub-genres.
Okay, so there are rules. They are looking for clean romance. No swearing and no sex. The books are 50,000 words long, which is only just above a novella. They want strong successful women and men who match them. Sweet romance. In return, even if you are not what they are looking for, you will receive editorial feedback.
That’s guaranteed editorial feedback.
What is not to like about that? So, before you diss romance, take a look at what you might gain from some of the initiatives out there.
LINKS FOR THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN AND THE HELLFIRE PACK SERIES
After discovering that something had gone horribly wrong with the publication of one of my books, I had taken the ‘drastic’ step of unpublishing them until I could upload copies onto the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system. Drastic? According to the Amazon system, it meant losing any and all reviews. Since reviews are the lifeblood of any aspiring author, this would be another one of those indie author suicide moves, right?
Let’s face it, I was nowhere near the top 10,000 let alone the top 10. So, I had nothing to lose. Unpublish my books is what I duly did.
What was more important was ensuring that my potential readers (and reviewers) saw the best work I could offer. So far, I have two books back up: Beta and Merysekhmet.
Both are the ‘second’ books in their respective series. This means I can focus on the respective series ‘Volume 1’, Alpha and Cysgodion
Beta introduced two key characters from the Cwn Annwn side of the story, Bran Cadwgan and Owain Cadwaladr, a name which sends my computer’s autocorrect feature in paroxysms of confusion. That’ll be the Welsh language for you then. It also introduced the apparent ‘baddie’ in the brother of the one of the female main characters, Casimir Gosselin, the brother of Detective Alix Gosselin. Since Cysgodion is the story of Casimir, it was best his reputation was established sooner rather than later. Alpha explained my interpretation of the Welsh legend of the Cwn Annwn.
In comparison, Merysekhmet introduced a ‘new’ character, from the perspective of the overall series arc: Ramses Tariq-Omari. Undoubtedly, there are references to events occurring elsewhere, much of which will become clearer in subsequent books. Whilst both books may be read as standalone novels, it is inevitable when writing about a group of individuals, that there will be references to the stories of other characters. One can but try to balance those references. Both books are out for review. To the best of my ability, I have corrected the errors in formatting etc, but until a purchased copy is reviewed, I won’t know for certain.
Whether the relaunch will be worthwhile remains to be seen. However, it gives me an opportunity to learn from mistakes:
* Are peer to peer groups worthwhile?
* Is advertising on social media worth the variable cost?
* Which forms of social media are better?
* How do I convert followers to buyers and active readers?
What my experience has shown me is that it is better to concentrate on a selected few social media outlets. Many of these companies are now cracking down on perceived Spam, so advertising on every platform could compromise a Facebook account, for example. I have seen this happening with other authors. It could also result in the loss of Amazon reviews, rather than gain. If that happens, the behemoth that is Amazon does not seem to have a right of appeal. They decide. You, the author either wins or loses. Which forms of social media are better? That depends on your demographic. The last point of converting followers to buyers in a bit more difficult. One thing that is important is back-catalogue. So, rather than ignore those short stories, you may find that it encourages readers to buy the actual book.
LINKS FOR THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN AND THE HELLFIRE PACK SERIES
Just about any author, self-published or traditional, would like to hope that the book into which they have put so much effort will be more than a shooting star. We would all like to think that, whilst it may not be a bestseller, it will be a steady seller, a star in the sky seen night after night, and not just a flash at Christmas.
But, the question is in which metaphorical sky?
The last year has not been as easy one for me, given that stresses in my day job resulted in my having a breakdown in May. That’s pretty impressive: admitting to a mental health problem, but it is what it is. What it did mean as an author was that I learnt some very important lessons about some of the networking options out there. These are lessons which are key when it comes to promotion and thus, hopefully sales.
Whilst I was in the depths of the pit of depression, I spent hardly any time online. As a self-published author, that was tantamount to suicide. Why? Self-promotion. If one is self-published, there is no big marketing machine to be out there making noise, telling folks about your book. Much like when you are working your way out of depression, you are on your own. Equally, there is no one else but you to keep a watch on the outlets, to find out with which blogger-reviewers one should work for best results. Is it worth joining peer to peer networks? Do they make a difference or just take advantage of your efforts to increase the sales of other authors?
That makes it sound a bit dire. But it is something that may be corrected. I withdrew my books from sale and am intending to relaunch in 2018, not necessarily in January, with improved copy, and with a better idea of how to maintain momentum without driving myself into the ground again. I have every reason to believe it is possible.
First thing, if you are planning to use social media, choose your platforms carefully. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. WhatsApp.
For the sake of argument, I will go for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as my word driven outlets. For me, the pictorial social media serve a purpose to promote my name. However, my genre is paranormal romance. Not all my target demographic use those, so they won’t be a priority.
Next is building a following. These are the people whom I hope will want to BUY my book. What I have noticed is that having a newsletter helps dramatically. Instafreebie. Rafflecopter. What they have in common is giving something away. So, before I publish the novels proper, I need to tempt people. A free book of short stories set in my ‘universe’ seems reasonable as it introduces people to my world. Maintain the momentum with a newsletter which has snippets and it should keep people interested.
Then, let’s return to social media. An author page and a personal profile have to be managed differently. The former is again somewhere for snippets. The latter? Well, the thing is one has to be careful about posts on your personal page. Don’t rant on either. Maintain positivity. It is a minefield.
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can all be linked. It is also possible to use apps like Hootlet to schedule your posts. This is vital. Remember what I said about avoiding burnout? Let the software do the work for you. You may still edit scheduled posts, and this way, you may also be able to post to suit target timezones.
The trick is enjoy what you are doing. It doesn’t matter what you are doing. The day you cease to enjoy it is the day for serious re-evaluation.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas! May you have a good day and look forward to a productive New Year.
Begin at the beginning, said the Queen of Hearts to Alice. A wise suggestion, but what defines the beginning. The internet is chock full of tales of warning and woe about self-publishing authors who make mistakes, I am not going to regurgitate some generalisations. This is MY story. If you can find something relevant and useful, then well and good.
So where was my beginning in my wild ride through being a self-published author? One evening, I was sitting in the restaurant of this hotel:
Yes, this very hotel. The Holiday Inn at Scotch Corner, on the junction of the A1 and A66. As you might have guessed by the style of the building, a hotel has been here for a good few decades. It has become my home from home in the seven years with my present employer, in a job involving a lot of business travel. So there I was, trying not to laugh out loud at a three way online role play I was writing with one writer from Sweden and one from America who was in Afghanistan at the time. I didn’t feel lonely in the hotel, because of people like that, people with whom I might write and forget my day.
But life is full of bumps in the road, and the online roleplay world is full of drama queens. I broke away from that original group, after I trusted the wrong person. For years, I had had my own ideas for my own stories, stemming from dreams I used to have as a child. Having realised that writing was an excellent way to de-stress, I decided the time had come to put those ideas into written stories. That was the start of Fane Anghelescu, a Hellhound, and of Gavril Negrescu, the Alpha of the Cwn Annwn.
Legends had always fascinated me. Legends and people watching. Humans are not all the same, so I asked myself why should Hellhounds all be the same. I was accused of copying the ideas of the roleplay group from which I had split. However, that individual had a penchant for sex and violence, preferably together. Hardly deep and meaningful. My Fane was much more that that. A Hellhound, so in theory a creature of Hell. Yet, like humans, he was different from the stereotype of his breed. As I was writing paranormal romance, there was bound to be some … okay, a lot … of sex, but, like the violence, I did not wish to make it gratuitous. As for Gavril and his Cwn Annwn, no one else has written a story like mine. That is not boasting, but the simple fact. The Cwn Annwn are the spectral hounds in service to Mallt-y-Nos. My twist was that they were charged with hunting down evil souls for her to judge, but also protecting the innocent. They were also not immortal, thus ensuring that the stories could run the gamut of emotions.
That was the start. A year or so later, I was in the process of trying to publish a fourth book, which was something of a spin off, using the same characters and a few others, but also introducing new characters.
As a result of my interest in the Egyptian pantheon, I decided to create a new character, a lion shifter in service to the goddess Sekhmet, who was both a warrior and a healer. Originally, I planned to make him an Anaesthetist, but I found it a bit difficult to work an anaesthetist in the battle scenes, so I made him a surgeon, at least in this century. As he had been around for a couple of thousand years, being a healer covered a lot of different descriptions over time.
That was when some very annoying problems occurred. When copies of “Merysekhmet” were purchased, it became clear that the wrong version had been pushed out to the buyers. In order to upload a pre-sale, one has to load a document of a similar length to have the same page-count. Unfortunately, it was this draft document which my readers were being sent, rather than the final version. Several attempts later, and it became clear that the easiest solution was to unpublish the book and start from scratch.
Begin at the beginning. In the end, I decided to unpublish all my books from all outlets and go through a laborious process of reformatting. The first book, “Bound”, had been written in role-play format, with alternating character points-of-view. It did not match the other books, written as they were in third person, and I wanted to change that. There were other historical events which I wished to include in “Alpha”. The third book, “Beta” originally included the trial of those responsible for the smuggling ring and was a way of introducing Casimir Gosselin. Things went a bit pear-shaped as we say in the UK, when a co-author decided t9 mess with the storyline. She didn’t appreciate that these were pre-planned (more or less) novels.
This was key, because Casimir was one of the most complex characters I had conceived, and certainly one to rival Fane. Then again, it did transpire that they were related. But if I explain that, then you lose a reason to buy the book. So, nope, you have to wait. If I didn’t include the trial, then how would I introduce Casimir? And he did need to be introduced because events involving both Casimir and Fane were key for “Merysekhmet”, “Toho”, “Medved” and “Ma’iitsoh”.
The upshot was, the continuity of the series was out of sync, and that was bugging me. Ultimately, it came down to the series didn’t feel right anymore. Some might say but if you unpublish, you lose reviews? Well, I never expected to make my fortune from writing. I have sold a few, but not huge numbers, and the only ‘reliable’ reviewer was my pet troll. Time to hit unpublish.
But, I had learnt loads in the past year which I intend to use. So, I will be back. The stories will be the way that I had envisaged them in the first place. And, I shall also make use of some of those lessons I learnt along the way.
In the meantime, you can find snippets and other details on either my Author page or my Hunter’s Arrow page
So … the human who had the temerity to interview my traitorous and former Alpha, Fane Anghelescu, has let me have my ‘day in the sun’. I would like to point out that for a Hell-dwelling Sumerian demoness, sunlight is vastly over-rated. Why you humans have to partially cook yourself and then decry the actions of those with darker skins is enough to make even my head spin.
Who am I? I shall let this Wikipedia give the basic outline.
In Mesopotamian mythology, Lamashtu (AkkadiandLa-maš-tu; Sumerian Dimme dDim3-me) was a female demon, monster, malevolent goddess or demigoddess who menaced women during childbirth and, if possible, kidnapped their children while they were breastfeeding. She would gnaw on their bones and suck their blood, as well as being charged with a number of other evil deeds. She was a daughter of the Sky God Anu.
Lamashtu is depicted as a mythological hybrid, with a hairy body, a lioness‘ head with donkey‘s teeth and ears, long fingers and fingernails, and the feet of a bird with sharp talons. She is often shown standing or kneeling on a donkey, nursing a pig and a dog, and holding snakes. She thus bears some functions and resemblance to the Mesopotamian demon Lilith.
But, I digress from the subject of this post. Bad Boys and Girls. And please, not those bad boys who come good by the end of the novel. This is an ode to the ones who work so hard to ensure that your beloved heroes and heroines are able to save the day. And, let me make one thing clear. Daughter of Anu I may be, but no god dictates what I do. That is all my choice and I am a female who enjoys what must be done.
Surely we deserve to be praised for our efforts? Oh, what’s that I hear from the meat-sack hanging on my wall? I won’t win. Never! Tsk! Tsk! The loss of one skirmish does not mean the loss of the war, darlings. Far from it. After all, the Great War which should have ended by Christmas resulted in World War 2. The first Gulf War led to another. And whilst I am on the subject, thank you all so much for the fresh-killed souls.
You see, that’s what will always make things interesting. I have been around for a few millennia. You pathetic humans have a life-span of less that a hundred years, you poor things. A mere blink of an eye. Is it my fault that you have forgotten where Sumeria USED to be? No, that was all your own work. However, it is all to my benefit. You see, your omission in the sands of time means that whilst you tootle off to wage your wars for the fossil fuels so necessary to the internal combustion engine, every single drop of blood spilled on my homeland strengthens me. Every single drop. Yes, occasionally the Cwn Annwn interfere, but it is not their home turf, which puts them at a disadvantage.
I thought I had found the perfect Alpha Hellhound to be my representative ‘topside’. The problem was, an annoying little enemy of mine, an Eastern European, had the gall to attempt to outwit me. It transpired that Fane was his grandson: Hellhound mother and demi-god father. My next choice turned out to be Fane’s blasted cousin, Casimir, with a demigoddess mother and a wolf shifter sire. Honestly, it was frustrating enough to make me scream.
I have been defending myself against my enemies, who wish to thwart my plans. That’s a good word, don’t you think? Thwart. But I shall come back to that later.
That was when I found Kurt. So well behaved, so bloodthirsty, so adoring of his Queen namely, me. But I wanted more. To be in real control, I had to be able to move topside, and I needed troops who were fanatically loyal to me. So, I conceived the project.
The effects of the project have been detailed in the ‘Hellfire Pack’ stories, from … Botherations, that’s right. I forgot to mention another who has turned her back on the ways of destruction, the Egyptian, Sekhmet. She had waded in, why, I can’t think, but she had. The result, I had not just one of her elites, Merysekhmet they called themselves, but two of them: Ramses and Elizabeth.
Then there was the potential from Dylann, the mate of Josh Abbott, but her Mate proved to be quite strong. He referred to himself as a ‘Marine’. Did that have something to do with it? If it did, then I will not make the mistake of using another like him.
But the project had attracted the attention of some human authorities, but only because they thought it related to my pet humans. Terrorists, they were called. Their twisting of Islam, the upstart religion that it was, was music to me. But these humans seemed smarter. Evolution has caused more trouble that it is worth. Special Forces from England, supposedly the best at what they did.
Setbacks, after several thousand years are all very well, but this was becoming a joke and a very unamusing one at that, since now I was facing one of my dear Fane’s Pack. The circle is complete, it seems. Adam Anghelescu and his Mate, a skin-walker. I could not help clapping my hands. A female with the ability to adopt the face of anyone. The possibilities were endless.
The barriers thrown up against the bad guys of a novel can be quite trying. Let’s look at some of them, because I and my brethren wish to make one thing quite clear. We are not:
Failure to consider a heretofore hidden ability of the good guys
Incompetent or lacking in intelligence
Deficient in fighting ability
Bound to be turned to the good side
Inability to learn from mistakes
The author of this book series used to write roleplay. She was asked to write a male character. However, the female who led the group never wished the character to win. Every time it seemed he would gain the upper hand, the heroine would produce some miraculous power to overcome him.
RULE #1: Don’t try to defeat us with the hero or heroine ‘pulling a rabbit out of a hat’.
Incompetence. Please, do me a favour. I am Lamashtu of Sumeria. I existed as a goddess before most of humanity lived in more than caves. I know more ways of killing than anyone that walks the world today. And, more importantly, I am capable of adapting to changing times.
RULE #2: Do not underestimate our intelligence
This runs on to the third point. If the bad guy can arm or disarm a variety of explosives, know ways to kill, know ways to torture, clearly we are not lacking in intelligence. That is why we adapt our methods.
Deficient in fighting ability. So we all have our favourite techniques, but again, please use your brains! I have been around for millenia. I am an intelligent, adaptable being. That means I can learn to fight. No one style has superiority over another. At my level of the game, I expect my opponents to be good.
RULE #3: Make it interesting. Use at least two fighting styles if we are to come to blows.
Bound to be turned to the light side: Again, why? There will always be weak choices. Fane was part of a bigger plan, as was his damned cousin. But, trust me, if I have not folded yet, why will I?
RULE #4: Turning away from the dark side is so predictable. Some baddies actually enjoy their work.
Learn from mistakes. This is particularly relevant in a series. So, the hero or heroine has managed to defeat us. Don’t you think that when we retire to lick our wounds, we will analyse how we were beaten? That returns us to the assumption of a lack of intelligence.
Four rules which my dear author uses. But, those considerations are only part of it. They are just four very common mistakes which my author has seen in roleplay and in published work. Avoidable mistakes. I am sure other people can think of a few more. Just remember these four and it is at least a start.
LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES