Monday, 23 November 2015

Success is not final...

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
Winston Churchill
Today I was reading the Guardian online today when I stumbled on an article about Posh Spice... from Posh to classy it was called or something like that. And I have got to say I found it rather inspirational. It's basically about how Victoria Beckham tried at Pop and failed but then tried at fashion, worked up slowly to what she wanted and basically nailed it. She tried and tried until she got there. I think she even says in the article that she went out to get her success she didn't wait for it to come to her and I've got to say I found it rather inspiring.
The quote above sums this up quite well. I thought I would share it so anyone out there thinking of starting something can read it and hopefully be inspired too. You've got to start somewhere, right?  Here is the link to the article: Posh to Classy
In other news I have just finished reading A Hundred Summers by Biatriz Williams which really tugged on my heart strings. Set in my favourite era - the 1930's. If you liked the Book of Lost and Found you'll probably like this. It's different but of the same ilk if you know what I mean.
Oh and Under the Coconut Tree got a mention in The Ocelot magazine. I picked a copy of the magazine up in the pub and there it was... a lovely surprise! So a big thank you to the editors.
And a final note a few new and fabulous writers will be guest posting on my blog in the next month of so, so watch this space!


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle...

Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be.”   Margaret Atwood

You have to love Margaret Atwood quotes, don't you? So today I find myself going back on my word. I said that from now on I was going to publish my books myself, unless I got a big publishers. However, on brazenly stating this at my last writer's group meeting I realised this brash statement of mine lacked any foresight. There are some great little independent publishers out there and I was a bit blinkered to think otherwise.

 I have therefore decided to approach a fairly new publisher, just one, with Poison in the Water. Why? Well I know someone who has had a book published with this firm and she seems completely happy with them. From what I have seen they seem really committed to their authors, building a relationship and helping with the all crucial marketing. But that is not the only reason I am approaching them. The other reason is that from the stuff they have published, this particular book of mine feels like a good fit. A determined female protagonist with a passion for life who works in fashion… Seems to fit with their target market. Anyway. I am hoping to submit to them soon (Their submission process doesn’t look too arduous either) and I will let you know if something comes of it. My only worry is that I am not getting it proof read before I submit…Obviously if I publish it I will pay for a full edit, but right now I can’t really justify doing so.

So there you have it. When I’m wrong I say I’m wrong.  Chupplejeep will still be self pubbed for now… the good news is that I have managed to put GT onto Scrivener (whoever invented Scrivener deserves a medal) so an updated version without the unfortunate typo and with an Under the Coconut Tree taster at the end will be available by the end of the week.  

In other news I have just finishes reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (I gave it three stars – It was a good book but it didn’t set my world on fire – possibly not the genre for me!) and I’m contemplating what to read next. I’m also looking forward to a writing group critique session coming up… I’ve grown fond of this sub group we have created. For a writer who doesn’t have many friends who write they are a breath of fresh air, people I can discuss plot and dialogue with without feeling like the geek!

I would also like to thank my readers (of this blog) for your support. I don’t get many comments on here and that’s fine but it can make you wonder who is actually reading this (apart from my followers of course!) But the other week I got an email from a fellow writer who said they had read my blog and liked it and it really put a smile on my face…

Until next time.

Monday, 2 November 2015

If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing...

If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.
John Wooden
So yesterday I saw a review on Amazon for my first book – Goa Traffic – pointing out a mistake, an unforgiveable mistake – I had written Sheikh instead of Sikh. I saw the comment and I thought that can’t be right. I definitely know the difference there. There are in fact no Sheikhs in the book. I quickly did a search in my original document and to my horror it was there. How had my editor not picked this up, worse still, how had I not picked this up? The book has been on sale for five years. Countless friends have read it – no one mentioned it. Usually I would say people are too polite to mention mistakes…but believe me typos have been pointed out to me before. So either people have read it and thought, that author is an idiot or they haven’t picked it up (I’m hoping for the latter). Either way I feel bad… It’s strange though when someone spotted a typo in my traditionally published book, I shrugged and said, ah well. I guess with having a publisher you don’t feel your work has to be as perfect as when you self pub- because you have the comfort that they have had confidence in you.  Self pubbing gets such a bad name when it comes to editing that you have to be perfect and for a non-perfectionist (is that a word?) like me  that is hard.
Having self pubbed this book, I feel completely responsible for my faux pas. In fact I feel awful. Now that I know it is there (at least with self pubbing) I can make the change – although it won’t be quick. GT was published in a time before Scrivner when I had to manually sort my formatting. It took an age and I must have wiped from my mind how I saved it as a Mobi file as I have no idea of how to do that now. So I need to put it into Scrivner and organise it that way. This will also give me a chance to add some spiel at the back for Under the Coconut Tree.
I am hoping to get it done this week, but I have also been wondering if I should withdraw GT from the market. Whilst it still has an average rating of 4*s and has 19 5* reviews I can’t deny that there have a few 1* reviews and although critique is good… Do I want a book out there with my name on that I am having serious doubts about?
Don’t get me wrong. I was more than happy with it when I published it, but I was also impatient and my writing skills were limited. I know the POV changes mid scene 9I still like doing that but try to restrain myself) and its more tell than show probably. With every new book I learn some more but once a book is published I cannot open it again. I can’t bear to look inside it. I don’t know why – it’s a thing. Anyway, back to whether I should take GT off the market. The reasons for leaving it on are as follows:  GT sells more than any of my other books, without me doing an awful lot. It has been reviewed by editors and companies too which gives me some comfort. I’ve had emails from people saying they loved it and I’ve had some great reviews… and their reviews are just as valid. Although authors love to dwell on the negative. Plus GT was the book that got me out there. Without it I wouldn’t have secured a traditional publishing contract. In fact, without the commercial success of GT I don’t think I would have had the idea of the Chupplejeep mysteries. And finally, as sales for the title were beginning to decline suddenly sales tripled last month. I’ve sold more copies of GT than any other book so which would I rather fewer sales and 0 1* reviews like my other books or loads of sales and some negative comments – you’ll never please everyone I guess.  For me the benefits, I guess, outweigh the negatives, for now.
So authors, when we get all those rejection letters after we send our books to agents that is just the start of it. There are so many other upsets along the way that we need to deal … but hey, I’ve taken comfort from the above quote and I still believe it is better to do than to keep your manuscript in a drawer gathering dust.  And as H says… It’s just a book –no one is going to die. He doesn’t understand and although that can be annoying at times it takes me out of my writing bubble and makes me realise that it’s not all about me, me,me. I recently read an article where the author said the only people that really read the 1* reviews are the authors themselves.  It makes me laugh because it is probably true. Most people I know avoid the extremes of reviews. Anyway, I’ll put the bruised ego away and take a deep breath as Kingsley Amis says ‘A bad review may ruin your breakfast, but you shouldn’t let it spoil your lunch.’

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

So I stopped writing...

And so it begins. What? I hear you ask along with where have you been? Well I have been on a writing break. When I say that to people I feel like I am talking about a lover or something. A 'break' sounds like something was wrong, that I needed space. Well, I didn't realise it but I did need space. A couple of months ago someone suggested to me that I take a writing break. I didn't comprehend then, when I did, I laughed. "A break?" I asked incredulously. I had a list of things to do. For starters I had Under the Coconut Tree to promote (we'll get to that in a minute), a penultimate draft of Poison in the Water to finish (I was midway), The Body in the Bath to edit and Jetty Jalousie to write...all by the end of the year.
"Just for a couple of weeks," this do-gooder said. I thought nothing more of it and then later, much later, when I referred back to the mindfulness course I have been doing and realised my books were just words - a sense of the ego that only I was stroking, I realised that a break may do me good. So I did it.

It didn't start well. I felt lost without writing, I felt anxious having left Poison half way through an edit and I felt like I had deserted Under the Coconut Tree like a bad friend. But as the days progressed I found that I had been in desperate need of a break all along, I had just failed to see it. People used to ask me 'How do you fit in writing with a full time job etc.'  I always responded that if you want to do something you'll find a way. I said that writing was an addiction (It was, still is although I'm 2 months clean). I said I found the time when H was watching the football, working late, blah, blah, blah. It was true I was writing at every possible moment I could find and it was turning me anti-social. I favoured my characters to people, I valued the written word above speech. It was wrong. I had become consumed by my passion of writing and when I thought about it what was it all for? Why was I putting so much pressure on myself to finish edits, books and so forth. No one was making me do this I was doing it for myself. Was my irrational fear of failing to achieve driving me? Was it fear that if I stopped I would lose momentum? It was probably a bit of both of those things.

But I'm glad I did stop and put it all on the back burner.  I needed to stop and enjoy life by watching Devious Maids and the likes mindlessly, because you know what that is living too. You need down time. You can't continually keep going without stopping or you will burn out.

If you recognise yourself in the above perhaps you too need to take a break from your favourite hobby. I love writing and yes it has pulled me back in starting with this blog post. But this time I am going to set some ground rules:
1) No more crazy deadlines - although I haven't lost all sanity I will have some vague ones like publish Poison next year.
2) Only write on your writing day per week - not every spare hour you find.

I feel refreshed! Which brings me back to the start of this blog: And so it begins... It is time that I start marketing Under the Coconut Tree. The book that I am most proud of, the first in The Chupplejeep Mystery series so this is where I'll start. I find that I am a little rusty in the marketing stakes and social media has moved on at speed since Goa Traffic was released. That book, is still doing well all on its own. Was it all in the name?

So, now that marketing is my thing (it has to be - I owe it to Chupplejeep) I will keep you up to date with my efforts. I know a lot of writers out there struggle with this and I am no different. This week I am targeting Goan Social clubs - after all, Under the Coconut Tree is set in rural Goa. I am also writing to a few travel bloggers. I found a fab travel blog on India just yesterday called Hippie in Heels. It's fascinating how blogging seems to be a career in itself now. Is travel journalism still viable? Is it dying?  IS it just called blogging? I don't know, but I guess the written word is losing it's value when there is so much out there on-line.

Anyway, I digress... the point is my new marketing journey begins and  next week I start back on completing Poison in the Water. Perhaps after a break I can look at it with fresh eyes, perhaps my writing will have changed.

Under the Coconut Tree: A Chupplejeep Mystery is available as an ebook (A delicious £1.99 at the mo.) and paperback here! You can't blame me for a bit of marketing, can you. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Love Goa, Love Chupplejeep

I'm Goan. I grew up there, but I live in England now. When I was 8 we moved to Goa and I loved it. What was not to love? We had complete freedom, a beautiful house overlooking the Arabian Sea and we knew each and every one of our neighbours. The colony where we lived was a safe haven - a place for just being a kid, where you were almost certain that no harm would come to you.

As we grew up we took advantage of the night-life Goa had to offer ; the beach parties, the nightclubs and the 'rave' scene. It was fun. I look back at those years withwith a warm nostalgia and I suppose a bit of yearning for a time gone by - a youth I cannot re-capture.

Flash forward 20 odd years and even though I go to Goa regularly, the change in the last ten years has been dramatic. The colony is full of high-rises and I only know a handful of residents - there is little feeling of safety amongst the residents now; the party scene has exploded - infamously so. Like most things in today's society we want everything in excess and Goa has borne the brunt of this where tourism is concerned.

Sure, we wanted tourism in the state - we encouraged it, exploited it - because, after all, tourism accounts for the livelihood of many Goans and with tourists comes money.  

I have to admit that up until a few years ago I felt a bit jaded by what was happening in Goa and what it had become, but after a few visits to the villages , my love for Goa has been renewed afresh. The soul of Goa has been preserved here in the old colonial houses and white-washed churches - where the pace of life is slower, but hard earned.   As Gandhi said - India lives in its villages, lets keep it that way.

If you, like me, are a regular visitor to Goa, or perhaps you are going there for your first time - take time to explore the villages - discover the real t Goa, but look after it too. We need to preserve this beauty one way or another.

Under the Coconut Tree - A Chupplejeep Mystery  is a light-hearted detective novel, set in rural Goa and is available now. You can buy a copy here

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The publishing nightmare

So if you are a regular reader of this blog you will know my grammar sucks. I must admit that mainly it's the punctuation that no book or course seems to fix, but hey I'm trying. Before I start telling you just how difficult self-publishing is, I thought I would tell you about my recent faux-pas. And when  I say recent, I mean like minutes ago.

Basically, I used JD&J to do my front cover and they are in a word- amazing. Not only have the produced the most wonderful cover for 'Under the Coconut Tree' but they have - post contract - made some amendments to my blurb - not once but twice because I missed a typo on the first round- disaster.

But I suppose the real disaster was averted as I hadn't approved my Createpace proof- so really I can still make changes, without it being too much of a headache. It has also made me realise I need to read the full printed version  (and check for any more errors) before I approve it. With any luck get someone else to read it as well.

So self-publishing a paperback has been hard, time consuming and stressful. I have had so many sleepless nights this week. But pushing back the deadline for the paperback release has been worth it. It was going to be this Monday - 20th July - the same publication date for the e-book. It will give me the much needed time and space to review my paperback properly. And therein lies the difference between paperbacks and e-books.  Paperbacks are hard to produce even though Createspace makes this as easy as they can (and Scrivener is a must buy for this too) - with POD - print on demand- you need to get it right or it will be difficult to make changes later. With e-books you can change your manuscript and upload instantly. The main issue for me is that without a mainstream or even indie publisher I am always doubting myself, my punctuation - even after I have paid for a full line edit. Even though I have seen countless typos in traditionally published works, I always think doing it yourself means there is a higher risk for getting it wrong. The sad thing is, is that I'm not even a perfectionist. How they cope with something like this I'm not sure. Perhaps the proof sits on their desks for ages until they finally think it's perfect. The sad thing with that is that your perfect will never be someone else's perfect. We all have different expectations and standards.

My e-book journey has been relatively straightforward. Amazon has it nailed with the Mobi software and I have a kindle too so viewing my book on the device has given me the confidence to press the publish button. It's available to pre-order now, with official release on Monday. Smashwords was a  bit of a challenge, where I uploaded in a clean word document and found that the format changed on different reading devices, so I took advantage of their direct e-pub service which seems to work fine once I uploaded the pub version of the book. Once your ms is accepted into the premium category, all you need to do is take advantage of their free isbn service and your book should be available globally.

So there you have it. The writing high this week was holding my proof copy in my hands. I have to say it is exactly what I wanted. The low was the sleepless nights and the stress in getting this far. Not long to go now. My top tip is this - writers be patient. The publishing process is a long one.  

Monday, 15 June 2015

Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure

 “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.”   George E Woodberry
So following on from last week’s post I have decided that paying someone to format your manuscript could be well worth it. Having uploaded my manuscript to Createspace, I was told that automatic print checks could not be run on my file. It immediately sent alarm bells ringing! In the end – after speaking to a writing buddy – who I am sure is getting sick of my questions – I realised  that if I used Scrivener to compile to word and then saved it as a pdf, the file was accepted no problem! Phew- well there was a slight problem with the pdf size but I think Createspace will accept it if I say the layout is okay. 

Anyway, I used the Createspace interior reviewer and was pretty happy with what I saw, but then I showed H and he said – I don’t like the fact the paragraphs on the pages end at various lengths. Hmmm, he had a point. Clearly whatever template I had used was getting rid of Orphans and Widows – but hanging paragraphs as well. Personally, I don’t like the varying page lengths. I removed the function and have decided to tinker manually. Now, the ms I'm working with is a fully edited version and I don’t really want to start playing around with paragraph sizes but as someone pointed out on a Createspace forum – someone may  give you a bad review for it- not necessarily because they are a widow/orphan pedant – but because having widows and orphans can make reading difficult and therefore subconsciously someone may not like the book.

So, tonight I am going to have a look at house styles. What books have I read and liked -  and do they have widows and orphans? Then I am going to start the arduous task of formatting - which will change the size of the book, which will change the pages numbers and therefore the books spine and the front cover!!!! Who knew self-publishing could be so difficult. There is merit in having e-books only. But on the other hand if I master it now, it will be a doddle in future, or so I keep telling myself! Bring on publication date - I’ve got to get there at some point, right?

The following day: So I looked at the traditionally published book I am using as guidance for my formatting and in particular my widows and orphans issue(Alexander McCall Smith’s The Limpopo academy of Private Detection) and what I have discovered is that widows are acceptable! (When they are more than one line – say a line and a half). Personally for me I rather have widows than uneven ends to pages. Orphans too are acceptable (again a line and a half - maybe the length doesn't make it an orphan?!), although I don’t have any of those and runts are definitely a non-no. A runt is the last word of a paragraph on the next page.  So I’ve been through my manuscript and made sure it complies – my eyes hurt!!! Then I uploaded my new Pdf from a different computer and the page size was fine, but guess what? The fonts are not embedded – Createspace did this for me on the upload -  but what I have gathered is that if the font is not embedded then the font hasn’t travelled exactly as it should. I have two options: 1) Continue with the ms as is, checking for any changes in font or 2) use the pdf with the embedded font but the different page size – again an item that Createspace has corrected! Which is the lesser of two evils? And how beady are my eyes? They are tired - I can tell you that much. So, a bit more messing around, methinks, before I can give the final page numbers to the Cover Designer!