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.
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
Two months since I wrote a piece for my blog, so I thought, let’s go for a nice, lightweight subject. Racism? That’s my idea of a light subject? Nope. Anything but. “To Kill A Mockingbird” has been removed from schools in Biloxi, MS because it made people uncomfortable. Well, that is what it is supposed to do. [Note to self: send a copy to my cousin, so her kids can still read it].
Those of you who have seen my profile picture (A Year of Selfies) will notice that I am not Caucasian. Born in London of parents of Indian origin, I have a relatively light skin, but trust me, growing up in what was an Irish neighbourhood (Wembley), I was fairly obvious. I had all the racist teasing which included not being allowed to join the girls’ games in primary school. So what? Boys were much more fun. Who needed dolls when you could play wargames.
As an adult, I can react accordingly to racisim. There was that group of Indian doctors, who called me ‘BBC’: British-Born and Confused. I told them I wasn’t confused. It hurt though when a child in my son’s Cambridgeshire primary school called him a ‘Paki’. My son had the perfect retort, which was that of the twelve nationalities in his family tree, Pakistani was not one of them.
But on to the subject of this blog: Racism in Novels. I am a member of several author promotion groups on Facebook. I write in what is admittedly a crowded genre of paranormal romances, but when you look at this link, using the keywords paranormal shifter romance, what do you notice about the book covers? All the characters are Caucasian. Yet, in terms of race, what could be more different that being of different species, let alone different skin colour? Even when the shifter animal comes from a species on a continent with darker skins such as African or Indian, their faces are still pale.
I am guilty of this. Only on one of my current books do the characters show racial differences, namely Merysekhmet (Amazon link here). Ramses, as his name suggests is Egyptian, and Elizabeth is a dark-haired American.
The question is why does this happen? Is is ‘market constraint’? Does it bother a potential reader that the cover might show a mixed race romance? I would like to think not, but if that were the case, why don’t we see more covers with mixed race characters? Does it mean that a cover with a mixed race couple sells less? Or, are our readers not so narrow-minded.
I am not sure I know the answer. However, in these days of the #takeaknee protests, not just in the USA, but also in Germany, understanding race and how non-Caucasians can be disadvantaged, is absolutely key.
How can the status quo be changed if we are surrounded by the ‘ideal’ being a Caucasian couple, regardless if it is a M/F, M/M or whatever else.
The next time you buy yourself a book, just consider that.
LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES
Thoroughly enjoyed archery tonight, with 30m and 50yd targets used. For those that don’t know me personally, I have three longbows. The draw weights are all at 28″ draw length: “My Lady” (in the picture), 33lb, “Bronwen” (Neolithic Holmgaard replica bow), 33lb and “The Beast”, 40lb. Yesterday, I was using My Lady.
I don’t shoot a modern bow after discovering my eyes can’t ‘work’ with sights. Plus I like the feel of my yew bows. Most archers will shoot rounds of six arrows per end with a view of scoring sufficiently for a classification e.g. third, second, first, bowman and master bowman.
I was taken to task yesterday, albeit quietly, for loosing nine arrows per end instead of six. However, as I don’t shoot recognised rounds to aim for a classification, it doesn’t matter if I loose ten arrows in an end to everyone else’s six arrows. I will have finished my end before all the recurves have shot. I loose my six, and check if I have time for the remaining arrows in my quiver. I am not holding up collecting the arrows, since I will have left the shooting line before the last recurve.
Why does this matter? Just because you don’t fit the mould (of most archers), does not mean you lack validity.
I use this illustration often. A competitive archer might look at these and assume two groupings, and a reasonable score. Another of my friends saw it as three threat and three heart shots, with my target experiencing a good dose of dead.
Another thought was that the other individual using that target, in her own, was shooting a round. Whether my shooting none arrows to her six meant it might endanger the round she was doing, I don’t know. Benefit of the doubt. So, near in. Mind that you might only have half the picture.
But it still comes down to one thing. Live for yourself and those dear to you. All manner of negative emotions might hiding in the backbiting and bitching. Protect yourself, but consider what drives such hatred. Don’t let the narrow-mindedness of others prevent you from helping.
LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES
How many times have you heard that line? At work, with the classic advice of find a job you enjoy? That is closely followed by ensuring you have a good work/life balance. Companies will have their policies, probably including some of the following in terms of protecting one’s own health:
Be aware of issues such as back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, eye-stress and strain
Stress and anxiety
Mental and physical fatigue
Threatening or bullying behaviour
This will be followed by advice to report it to a line manager or HR, because, of course, your employer has your best interests at heart. You might even believe that, in terms of a happy workforce is a productive workforce. The problems occur when the ‘management’ come from a different generation, where ‘risk-aware’ meant ‘get rid of the problem before its existence becomes known by others’.
In the face of that, is it surprising that work/life balance may not exist?
So returning to that idea of balance. Apart from a three year period in the mid-1990s, I have always worked full-time. In the 2001 census, that meant a 60 hour week. Wait just a second. If you work 60 hours, and you sleep 11pm to 6am (35 hours), have a bit of a lie in at the weekend (18 hours). There are 282 hours in a week. Work and sleep is 113 hours. So, that leaves 169 hour as time with significant others.
That’s cool, because that’s 38 more hours spent not working or sleeping. No problem. Balanced. And, as a bonus point, balanced in favour or downtime. But, remember, I am also working this out from:
A working mother’s perspective
Someone trying to write and self-publish her own novels.
Oh, and don’t want to hear that nonsense about shared parenting and the sharing of household tasks. Great in theory but does it happen for the majority. So we will just cut to the chase. Yes, you may well be spending time with your family, but it is eating, shopping, laundry, housework. When do you sit down? When do you relax? When are you not a wife, a mother?
When do you truly have ‘me’ time? When do you have the time to do something just for you?
This was the point that my therapist made to me. When did I do something that made me happy? Writing whilst cooking? Writing when I have insomnia? Thinking about plots when driving? And, it was not just my writing. How often had I put my dream of learning to ride a motorbike? When we are on holiday, do I have the chance to paint?
It made me think. Part of self-publishing is the promotional side. If readers don’t know you are out there, they won’t buy your books. Simple as that. My WordPress stats showed I hadn’t posted for several months. Facebook reminded me that my followers hadn’t heard from me in my author page. The 600+ people following my Hunter’s Arrow page hadn’t heard from me in a while either. That self-promotion stuff takes time.
Time. Timely-wimey. Wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey.
Damn, but the therapist was right. Doing things that I enjoyed had become a guilty pleasure, one that didn’t deserve time in my schedule. This is the reality of being a self-published author, as many of us know. But don’t mistake my words for a whinge. It was a wake-up call, because it is all to easy for our pleasure, the one thing that should make a writer smile, become a chore.
Make yourself happy.
No, that doesn’t mean give up writing if it becomes a chore. For me, what it has meant is when the little voice in my head says, “You can’t afford motorbike lessons.”, there is a countering voice saying, “Yes, you can. After all this time, you can.”
How does that translate into my writing? It means making it clear that ‘that hour’ is writing time and I am not to be interrupted unless the house is on fire. Similarly, if I put aside time for promotional work. That is a necessary part of my writing. It is not me ‘playing’ in Facebook and social media. It is part and parcel of my wanting to stand a chance of my books selling more than a single copy. I know writing won’t replace my day job, but I would like to have something to show for the time I spend putting pen to paper.
For the record, since my therapist asked me that question, I have booked the motorbike lessons, I have bought the Royal Enfield Bullet in the picture at the top. I have taken time to edit, have critiqued and re-edit the next book I want to publish.
It matters. We owe it to ourselves because no one else will grant it to us.
LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES