Friday, 12 January 2018

One last post!

I haven't blogged in a long while - a year to be exact. A new baby has changed my priorities and this blog didn't make the list! I am still writing though - I have written the first draft of Jackpot Jetty the next instalment in the Chupplejeep series. I only finished the draft because I haven't been blogging!!!

I started this blog when I first started writing. I have received some lovely feedback and I feel that this blog has helped me become the writer I am today. I have shared my writing highs and lows and my experience with my followers and have enjoyed every minute of it.

However, I feel this blog has come to a natural end and so this is a final post to say just that. But my blogging days are not over just yet. I have started a new blog Writing and Weetabix which will continue to follow my journey. This blog will be different to The Coffee Stained Manuscript though as it will not only follow my writing highs and lows but it will also follow the ups and downs of being a new mum. I could have kept The Coffee Stained Manuscript going but I felt it was time for a change. This new blog probably won't appeal to all my existing followers but take a look and if it does please do follow me at my new home.

Thank you for reading my writing rants and following my journey! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story - Terry Pratchett

So I am nearly at the end of the first draft of Splinter - It's probably the sketchiest draft I have written, but I needed to get it out of my system before I start on the next Chupplejeep. Its like a lemon sorbet pallet cleanser in-between courses. The MS as it stands is a quarterly there - it definitely needs several full re-qwrites. But as TP says in the above quote the first draft is just you telling yourself the story. I have a busy year ahead and so this draft will provide a good starting point to work on. I'm not sure what I want to do with this book - It may never see the light of day, but I needed to write it before I start on the book I really want to work on which is Jackpot Jetty - the next Chupplejeep - where he eowrds just flow with ought me having to think. 

There is something special about starting to write a new book, not so dissimilar to when you start reading a new book - something you have been wanting to read for a while.  While I am on this point though I have to say that lately I have been really disappointed by novels that I have added to my good reads 'to read' list after reading a good write up about the book. Is it because my expectations are higher for these books? (My other way of picking books is reading blurbs on my kindle and randomly selecting one). Is it because they are invariably more expensive? - Don't get me wrong I'm all for authors making a decent wage and charging a decent price for a book ( and by decent I mean more than the price of a glossy magazine or meal deal!), but sometimes e-books when they are released they are pretty expensive and if you look at the regular price of a paperback and remove those printing costs etc, the cost doesn't tally!

Anyway... enough ranting of today. Back to Splinter - not long to go now. 

Monday, 2 January 2017

New Year - New writing!

Happy New Year!  I'm sure you've seen all those New Year inspirational quotes already telling you to start something new, perhaps go on a new adventure - so I won't bore you with all that.

January is generally a depressing month - ice scraping the car featuring more this month than most. We all have resolutions and writers will have writing resolutions. I know I always do. This year I can't promise to blog more or write more - what I can promise is that I will be writing something new and hoping to get a couple of drafts done for titles that will appear in the next couple of years. Writing is a long process isn't it? A labour of love.

Last year I removed Goa Traffic from sale - in that I asked Authorhouse to stop selling it. Copies are available if stores still have stock, but otherwise just my kindle version will be out there. It's a title that is still selling but if you are a regular reader of this blog you'll know that I have had some internal issues with the book and at this point I felt it was the right time to withdraw it from sale in paperback form. Just having the kindle version available gives me total autonomy of the title and I can unpublished this at any time. It felt good making this decision (after I deliberated for about two years), but I felt with the launch of The Body in the Bath it was the right time for me to pull the plug.

Book sales - Why are they so complicated? Sales for The Body in the Bath and Under the Coconut Tree are going well. Better than I could have imagined (especially given the limited publicity for The Body in the Bath and the fact it only has two reviews so far!). However, from speaking to my publisher sales for Poison in the Water are not going as well and I'm not sure why.  From The Body in the Bath sales I would have said I have a bit of a following, but perhaps this is just for books set in Goa and the fact that these books are part of a series?! I don't know. The world of book sales is hugely complicated. And at the moment I don't have the time or the energy to look into this further. I know this makes me a terrible author - because these days an author has to do all these things - we need to know our target markets. Being lazy will get you nowhere in this business which brings me to my topic for the week - is writing a hobby or a business?

That's the funny thing with my writing and I'm sure for quite a few authors out there. It is a hobby. If you are a writer you'll know that you have to keep writing - it's a compulsion and you need to do it to feel sane. But I have been lucky enough to turn the majority of my books into a commercial success ( which I define as making money from them) therefore they have become a business as well - that and the fact I have to fill out a self- assessment tax return (grrr). But surely this is a good thing.  As a writer I want people to read and enjoy my books - providing a bit of escapism for when readers need it most. But I can't say that I am doing the whole business side of authoring well. I did with GT in the beginning and this probably paid off because it has done extremely well  commercially- or was it because it was easier back then when self publishing was relatively new?

I now find that with each title published that I can't muster the energy that I had with that first book to plug away, spam people so that they know about the title. I feel as if I am repeating myself, boring people by telling them to buy my books. I need to get back to it and find the energy from somewhere for this hobby turned business.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Author Interview - The Body in the Bath: A Chupplejeep Mystery

We’re all excited about The Body in the Bath the latest book in the Chupplejeep Mystery Series. What’s this one about? 

The body of an actress is found in a bath of a boutique hotel in rural Goa. The death appears to be a suicide, but closer inspection suggests foul play! Detective Chupplejeep is called to investigate and in doing so unearths a plethora of secrets from the troubled actress’s past. Suspects are rounded up  and motives are aplenty. It’s a complicated case with a sinister twist.

The first book in the series, Under the Coconut Tree, introduced us to the main characters and a mysterious case for Detective Chupplejeep and Officer Pankaj to solve. Will readers have to have read Under the Coconut Tree before they read The Body in the Bath?

Absolutely not! Although the Body in the Bath is part of a series and you can see the main characters develop through the novels, each book is stand alone and so they don’t have to be read in sequence.

Did you always want to write a cosy crime series?

I never set out to write one, but the idea came to me while I was visiting my father’s ancestral home in rural Goa and it was too good an idea to pass up. The exotic charm of rural Goa, the flavours, the sounds and the sights inspired me while I was there and it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  The Chupplejeep series is written in a similar vein of the No. 1 Ladies Detective agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m glad that I went down this route – although writing a series does have its challenges!

Can you tell us a little more about the challenges of writing a series?

Continuity can be a problem, and once a book has been published you can’t go back to make big changes to main characters or continuing story lines the characters have. You have to work with the back stories and locations you have given your characters at the outset. However, on saying that there is something magical about writing a series. Through the various scenarios your main characters find themselves in you begin to learn more about them, they really develop as people and you get attached to them (a little like imaginary friends for grown-ups!).

You grew up in Goa. How have your experiences influenced your writing?

The Chupplejeep Mysteries are set in modern day Goa, but they often refer to things from my past such as Star TV, which is still available but on Tata Sky. Chicklets, another little addition – I’m not sure if you get this chewing gum there anymore, but you certainly did when I was growing up. I like adding little touches like that which are personal to me and from a time when I was growing up in Goa. I still try to visit Goa once a year so I have seen it change over the years. There has recently  been a resurgence in the rural villages and people are moving away from the hustle and bustle of the beaches. The village which inspired the series is definitely rural but development is now dominant. There is talk of a hotel and an art school in neighbouring villages (the idea of which influenced Advani’s art school in The Body in the Bath). I have tried to capture the old and the new Goa in my books.

I love the characters in the Chupplejeep Mysteries. Who is your favourite character and why?

In The Body in the Bath my favourite character is Advani, the flamboyant artist with a dark secret. He is eccentric and can be described as a bit brutal to his art students and the people he works with. However, there is a loving side to him – he has just hidden it well. I won’t say too much though as I don’t want to anything away!

I know you said one character, but I have to mention Christabel, Chupplejeep’s girlfriend, because she is also a favourite and features in both books.  She has definitely developed over the two books and has come into her own. She has the usual insecurities many of us women have, albeit a little exaggerated, and she has the biggest heart. She also loves her food and has dreams she is determined to make happen! I love her spirit and her sometimes sneaky ways. 

What next?

I am working on the third book in the Chupplejeep Mysteries. The working title is Jackpot Jetty. Chupplejeep takes a well deserved break and visits a lake house for a bit of R&R, but his peaceful stay quickly comes to an end when a body is discovered in a wooden boat on the lake.  I’m also working on a thriller called Splinter which is set in England.

The Body in the Bath is available now in e-book and in paperback. Marissa de Luna is an author with a passion for travel and adventure. The Body in the Bath  is her fifth novel. For more information see

Friday, 11 November 2016

My Writing Journey

And so it’s nearly here - d-day to publishing my fifth novel – The Body in the Bath. Back in 2008 when I started writing, if you told me I’m be on my fifth publication in 2016 I’d have laughed. Don’t get me wrong I would be hopeful and determined (I’m always determined) to reach that target, but I would still have laughed.
Writing for me started as a hobby, a pass time, turned in to a little business and now has reverted back to a hobby. A hobby that pays me. I do have a full time job, so many people I meet ask if writing is my full time profession, but it’s not. I work full time as a project manager in property development for a housing association and I love what I do. Writing is just a nice little side line that keeps me sane and if you’re a writer you will know that once you start writing you can’t stop. It’s something that is in your blood. To stop would be a big ask. 
So as I get ready to release the Body in the Bath this Sunday the 13th November (as an e-book – paperback to follow soon after) - I thought it would be a good time to take a moment and reflect over my writing journey.
When I started I didn’t really know what I was doing I just wanted to write, I self-published my first book – perhaps too hastily as looking back on that first novel I’m not entirely happy with it. Obviously I was at the time or I wouldn’t have published it! And it taught me so much: How to self-publish (before the days of Scrivener), the joys of 5* and the pain of 1* reviews, finding a glaring error five years after publication and how to deal with it. The commercial success of the book (it has sold the most copies of any book I have published). It has enabled me to keep writing knowing that I’m making a profit and it was this commercial success which planted the seed that is now The Chupplejeep Mysteries.  But mostly without the publication of the first, I wouldn’t have produced any of my other work – all of which I am proud of. So my advice to anyone who has written a book and is scared of getting it out there, or even someone who is thinking about writing is to just get on with it and do it. Why not? What have you got to lose – as a writer friend wrote in her recent guest post on my blog – no one ever died from writing a book – so what have you got to lose. Yes you are scared of 1* reviews, but trust me you will learn more from them then the 5* ones and much more than from your manuscript sitting in a drawer.
Joining a writing group too has done my writing wonders. I don’t take stuff to read every week – In fact I rarely do these days – just the first chapters – but listening to critique and critiquing has been valuable. In the first couple of years after I joined I read out quite a bit as well and the feedback was just what I needed to fix those issues with my writing that I just couldn’t see. What has been really helpful though is the sub-writing group that I’m in where we critique full manuscripts. Three of my books (the last three) have been critiqued and the feedback has been invaluable. The editors I have worked with have commented (in a positive way) about my plot lines relatively free of gaping holes and I put this down to the critique. So that is my other tip – join a writing group and not a loving one. We are not loving – we tell it like it is. Of course you want to hear that your writing is fab but that isn’t going to improve your writing.
It isn’t just writing groups that are helpful. I’ve read countless books on punctuation (believe it or not they have improved my punctuation – but I’m still not great) and a couple on novel writing. I have stacks of information and books on forensics and on trees and birds of Goa (for Chupplejeep research). I probably know more Konkani (native language of Goa) than I have ever known. Reading general novels as well as been a help – sometimes an inspiration, but  mostly light relief and being able to appreciate some amazing authors.
So after the steep learning curve of the first book, I signed up to an indie publisher for the second – The Bittersweet Vine - and although I don’t see much of a return from this book, it has opened doors for me. I’m now a member of the Society of Authors and more recently the Crime Writers Association. Two prestigious and fantastic societies I am proud to be part of. And I did learn from my publishing experience. I signed to another small press for my fourth book – Poison in the Water and the experience was better. I’m not sure what the sales have been like but again I’m not expecting much. The beauty of Indie publishing is learning from other publishers - that and not having to pay for the publication. It keeps my profit and loss account looking healthy (that business degree of mine is coming in handy!), but long term it isn’t the best financial decision as my self published books make more of a profit. I’ve realised though I like having the mix. Self publishing is hard work and having someone else worry about the cover, the editing and the actual publication is a welcome change.  
My third book Under the Coconut Tree was by far (I think) my best work. I think by book three I had honed my skill and with Chupplejeep I found a niche I’m comfortable and confident in. It is cosy crime so not to everyone’s liking. I know people who loved The Bittersweet Vine didn’t really take to Chupplejeep. I do love writing thrillers and my fourth book Poison in the Water, although marketed as a romantic suspense novel, I think is more of a hybrid between thriller and romantic suspense.
Chupplejeep is a series and book 5 – The Body in the Bath is A Chupplejeep Mystery!
So that’s it. My writing career in a nutshell. It has been an interesting 8 years and it has flown by. My advice to you is that if you are thinking of starting a book…just do it – what have you got to lose?!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master - Ernest Hemmingway

I thought it was about time that I put a blog post up - it has been a while, hasn't it. But I haven't just been watching Netflix - well I have watched quite a bit, but that's not it. I have been busy putting the final touches on the long awaited follow up to Under the Coconut Tree, The Body in the Bath. I am sure you are all eagerly awaiting to find out whether Chupplejeep will make it to Kerala and whether he will propose to Christabel. I have to admit in writing The Body in the Bath Christabel has really worked as a character for me. I would go as far as saying she is my favourite character. I love writing about her and what goes on in her mind - her ideals of marriage and a happy family, her difficult and condescending mother and her reluctant and commitment phone boyfriend. She really does put a smile on my face. 

Another great character in The Body in the Bath is Advani - a flamboyant artist with a secret to hide. Well, everyone in The Body in the Bath seems to be hiding secrets. And then of course there is my beloved Pankaj - Chupplejeep's sidekick and hopeless romantic. We last saw him pursuing (well trying to pursue) his love interest Shwettika. Will he pick up the courage to ask her out? Spoiler alert  - he does! But I won't tell you what happens on their date... 

The book is still with my editor, but I'm hoping it will be out (in Kindle at least) by the end of the year. Hurrah! finally. I don't generally like publishing more than one book a year and Poison in the Water was out in May, but this year I will make an exception - then  there may be a lull before the next one is out. 

And what of the next one? Well there is definitely another Chupplejeep on the way. I know I previously said that the last first draft I wrote was in 2013 - well as you know (if you're a regular reader) I have started writing two other books - A Chupplejeep Mystery called Jackpot Jetty - I have some fantastic ideas for the front cover and  another thriller - that seems to be more challenging to write - It's currently called Splinter - which on reflection is a terrible name so I need to change it. Drowning in Secrets is a contender - but it needs more work. I am struggling with the book as much as I am struggling with the name. Jackpot Jetty on the other hand is coming together nicely. But I have stopped myself from writing anymore on the book - I need a breather from Chupplejeep or they will all sound the same - I need time to come up with some fresh ideas for the characters and me me that involves mulling them over. 

So that's about it - I'm hoping to do an author interview for  The Body in the Bath so watch this space I'll certainly post it here. 

In the meantime I will carry on reading. I seem to be reading more than I am writing at the moment.  I recently read The Lake House by Kate Moreton  and Sleep tight by Rachel Abbot and I have just finished The Widow by Fiona Barton (the next Girl on the Train they said - but I can't say that it was) Nevertheless they have all been good reads. The current book I'm reading is Addition by Toni Jordan. Not something I would normally pick up, but I am glad I did. It was a choice for a work book club I have started and although the internal monologue grated on me at first, I am now thoroughly enjoying it. 

Friday, 26 August 2016

Mia Culpa!

 It's my fault I haven't blogged in yonks. If you scroll back far enough on this blog, you will see from my social media in a nutshell post that you must blog little and often.... clearly I don't practice what I preach. But let's not dwell on the past. This is about today, the present and what I'm doing.
Being lazy that is what I have been doing. I have plodded on with my new thriller - Splinter, up to 30,000 and I am happier about the shape that it currently is in. I am glad I persevered with the project but it still needs work. I have also just finished the final edit of the Body in the Bath - the next Chupplejeep instalment. Hurrah!!!! So it should be out by the end of the year. Just one more read through and then it's off to the editor. Then another final read through and boom. It's done. I still love the front cover and can't recommend JD&J enough for their book cover designs.
And what of my published books? Well I am still toying with taking down the print book for Goa Traffic. It's not selling as well as before and the mistake in the print book cant be rectified. I think by the end of the year I will pull it down and leave the ebook up for now. The Bittersweet Vine - well that appears not to be available as an ebook anymore which I have taken up with the publishers. Not happy about it but my hands are tied really. Hopefully it will be available soon. Bittersweet, although my second, is a good book I feel and it's a shame it didn't get the same following GT and my other self published books have got. Which brings me on nicely to Under the Coconut Tree which  is doing well, very well and I think that is partly down to my competition - they have given the genre (cosy crime in India) a bit of a following, ensuring that my sales are consistently high. I'm even selling paperbacks which is good.
Then there is Poison in the Water. I won't lie I had high hopes for this title, but someone the reviews are not coming in thick and fast like I expected and the reviews are mixed as well. I think it may be because it has been marketed as a Romantic Suspense and although it is - it's not standard. It has some dark scenes in it, some weird psychological nuances and I'm not sure if this is everyone's cup of tea - well not those that read pure romance at least. I know this because I read romance books and quite frankly I don't like them.  They are just not my thing. I want something a little dark and twisted in the tale.  So if you have read the book pretty please write a review, or if  you are looking for a summer (late summer) read, give it a go. You can buy a copy here and it's super cheap at the moment!