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!

Monday, 6 June 2016

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something...

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. Erica Jung

I was looking for a quote for today's blog post and I came across this beauty. It's not really relevant to my post but I love it and I am sure it will resonate with writers out there.

So what is new? Poison in the Water is out and the paperback is beautiful. There is something hugely satisfying in putting your hands on a copy of your latest book - how are the sales going? I'm not quite sure. I could ask my lovely publishers at So Vain, but it has not even been a week yet, so perhaps I will give it some time. In my experience with books I have published they seem to be slow burners. Under the Coconut Tree is now selling brilliantly - oh  a good 8 months after publication.

With So Vain working with me though I would like to think that sales for Poison will be sooner rather than later although reviews to date have been slow. But I suppose you need to give people the time to read the thing! One thing that has got me wondering is this genre of Romantic suspense - in all honesty I think GT was a romantic suspense but I just put it down as a suspense book, not knowing much about the genre of Romantic Suspense and from a review on Poison someone said they didn't like the ending because it was not a happy one (trust me it is happier than it was before my publishers saw it). My books rarely have happy endings unless they are the Chupplejeep ones - because I don't really like happy endings. I don't think that life is all about happy endings and I always like a little bit of a twist at the end - a final quirk to get you thinking. But I get that people may want their fiction to have a happy ending the same way you kind of want to movie to go...But even though it was just one review I cant help but thinking whether the Romantic Suspense reader just generally wants something a little more than I am willing to give (Happiness?!)

It reminds me that to sell books successfully you need to know your reader. Yes, the review could be a one off - but it is something I need to investigate if I am to go down this Romantic Suspense route. Am I?

Marketing, publishing and promoting... we writers never stop.

I will of course be doing a Goodreads book giveaway in June so watch this space. As well as that I will be at a stall at a writer's festival in the not to distant future selling my books. It's a new experience so I'm looking forward to it.

And what of the new MS I was working with? Well I am still working on Splinter. I broke through the - is this working, or not? phase and I am ploughing on. It may fail, but at least I have tried.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Writer's Block or just a bad story

I am excited. In less than a week So Vain Books will be releasing my latest novel 'Poison in the Water.' I am thrilled about this book and hope that readers will like it. Watch this space on how sales are going and the tricks I am going to use to promote it. It is helpful that I have built up a bit of a base ( I don't feel famous enough to say Fan Base) of people who will buy the book and get it started so I am pretty grateful for that.

I have also started writing two new books. Jackpot Jetty - The 3rd Chupplejeep instalment and Splinter. The Chupplejeep is going fine, words were flowing freely, but I have put a stop to that. I am still finalising the second book in the series and feel a little Chupplejeeped out. I need to have a clear mind to think of Jackpot Jetty and keep it new and fresh and the only way I can do that is to write something else.

So 12,000 words into Jackpot Jetty I started writing Splinter - A thriller of sorts. I had the idea for this awhile ago and thought I would just start writing. But at 6000 words it has become a bit of an uphill struggle. There is something not right about it - is it the characters? the plot? the location? I'm just not sure. I have never struggled to get words down onto a page but I seem to be struggling here.

I felt a little like this with Poison but with perseverance and a lighbulb moment (using the therapist's office)  whilst driving to London I transformed a book that wasn't quite doing it for me!

But I am not sure what the problem is with Splinter and I'm not sure now whether I have a touch of writer's block or I am just not feeling the story. I want to stay away from JJ for now, so I am not sure what to do next. Persevere or give up?

Anyone else ever feel like this? The perils of being a writer!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Author Interview - Poison in the Water

Take a look at my author interview about my new novel – Poison in the Water


Tell us in a couple of lines what the book is about.

Fashion designer Celeste Renshaw is living her dream amidst Hong Kong’s glitterati. But the sparkle on her glamorous lifestyle soon begins to fade when she stumbles on a dark secret her husband has been keeping.  

An exotic location. Tell us a little more.

There are a couple of key locations in the book. The protagonist Celeste takes a career break to travel and in Thailand where she meets Mr Charismatic – Alex Renshaw.  An unfortunate event pushes them together and they travel on from Koh Phi Phi to Krabi. The story takes you on a journey through the islands encountering the smells, sounds and the tastes of the East. Thailand remains a special place for the couple and they venture back there when their marriage is on the rocks.

Then there is London, which is home and where Cross is based (the name of the fashion house where the protagonist is a designer). The reader is introduced to luxe living and private members clubs and is given a glimpse into what life is like behind those closed doors.

In Hong Kong, where Celeste and Alex eventually settle, you have the atmosphere of street life - hawkers selling century eggs and glazed ducks hanging in windows. Hong Kong is such a busy place, full of culture and the hustle and bustle of street life at every corner. But  Hong Kong has another side as well - a commercial side  which can be quite anonymous. You have these towering skyscrapers and malls with exquisite dining options in each one.  Once you are inside one of these malls you really could be anywhere in the world.

You are a keen traveller. Are any of your travel experiences reflected in the book?

I backpacked around Thailand so I experienced some of what Celeste experiences. There is a scene in the book where Celeste is on a boat (very similar to the one I went on) and a little barefoot boy throws rice into the brilliant turquoise waters near Kho Phi Phi and hundreds of silver fish come to the surface to eat. That memory is so vivid in my mind from my time travelling that I just had to include it. There are a few snippets like that in Poison.

I have also spent time in Hong Kong – as a child we went there as a family on holiday, then again when I was backpacking and I have been there on business as well. My sister had an apartment there too. A few years ago I went over to help her furnish the three floor property and spent a good month in Hong Kong. Looking at fabric swatches during the day and eating at luxe restaurants at night. Each time I visited Hong Kong I experienced a different side to it.   It was just the perfect place to set a novel.

What inspired you to write Poison in the Water?

The lives of the rich can be something of an enigma to us. We are intrigued by socialites and we have certain perceptions of them. Whilst many are pretty ordinary, some are not. You just have to turn the TV on these days and you can see ‘The Real Housewives of….’ Or Millionaire’s Mansions. Programmes that revolve around a lifestyle with money.

I have been lucky enough to get a glimpse into this lifestyle and see what it is really like. The apartment my sister had in Hong Kong was luxury itself, set over three floors. It provided amazing inspiration for a place to set this book. I could just see Celeste and Alex living in an apartment like that with the money to match that lifestyle. I have had the privilege of going to private members clubs in London and going to expensive restaurants. It was this champagne lifestyle that inspired me to write the book. Because the adage of ‘All that glitters is not gold,’ is quite true and I wanted to explore this theme.

So the book revolves around a champagne lifestyle. What other themes are prevalent in Poison in the Water?

Love, of course. It is a romantic suspense and tells a love story. Celeste meets the man of her dreams, but things are not all as they first appear.  Friendships are a big theme in the book as well. Some are tested and some are broken. The protagonist has some close friendships, a man she adores and a meddling busy body assistant. They all help and hinder her to some extent. Knowing who to trust is a big issue for Celeste, especially when she has been let down so badly. But the protagonist is not perfect herself. She has made some mistakes too and finds it difficult to swallow her pride. Saying she is sorry to the right people is important.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Celeste, the protagonist. It has to be. She is a career woman with steely determination and when we meet her she has such a passion for life. I love that about her. She lives for the moment – whereas I am constantly thinking about the future. She reminds me to be more present in the present!  Celeste gets swept up into a world that is all diamonds and Dior, but the sparkle soon begins to fade and she faces some difficulties that no woman should ever have to face. She has some strong people around her, but she has to find an inner strength to truly move on. I suppose, on some level, I admire her and what she goes through in order to get out the other side.

What next?
I am working on the second book in the Chupplejeep mysteries. It’s called The Body in the Bath and is a light-hearted detective story set in rural Goa. I am also working on a thriller called Splinter.

Poison in the Water is on pre-order now and on general release from the 26th May. Marissa de Luna is an author with a passion for travel and adventure. Poison in the Water is her fourth novel. For more information see




Friday, 8 April 2016

A new book and a view on reviews!

It has been a while since I last blogged but I have been busy. Busy critiquing books by other fabulous writers in my writers group and promoting Under the Coconut Tree – which I might add has suddenly started selling well. You see, these things take time so 8 months after release it has taken off. I am hoping more reviews will follow and sales will increase. I had priced it at 99p with a view to increasing the price to £1.44 (the magic price that shot GT to no.1 bestseller on Amazon) on the 1st April – but the 1st came and went and I didn’t change the price. I have decided to change it mid-month. I don’t know why I guess I was on a high from the number of sales I made last month and didn’t want to jeaopardise it.


I have also finalised my front cover for Poison in the Water. Ta da!

What do you think. So Vain Books (my publishers) have been fantastic with everything and I am super excited. The first attempt at the front cover wasn’t great so we switched designers and got the above, I think it captures the mood perfectly and the blurb etc is upon my website now. You can also pre-order a copy (go on you know you want to) on Amazon now. For the bargain and a half price of 99p! Just click through to Amazon here!


My final comment today is about Amazon reviews. A fellow author reposted a blog post from an author and book blogger who has had two years of reviews removed because they think she is manipulating ratings. Although I find this hard to accept – you can’t possibly know all those authors– I also rely on Amazon for my self-pubbed book sales (I have tried smashwords, Kobo and Nook with limited success). So can I really criticise the giant that gave me the ability to get my work out there? I can’t bite the hand that feeds me. So although I agreed with the blogger I found it difficult to like or share the post for the reasons above. I do think that all reviews manipulate the ratings though – isn’t that what they are there for – I mean if you think about this in practical terms I could read a book in a genre I didn’t like and give it a terrible review because quite frankly I don’t like horror books. It could be no reflection on the author or his style, but I may not see that for all the blood and gore. I may criticise the authors writing, just because I hate the actual content (to no fault of the author). You can’t police people writing reviews and the more we advance technologically it will get harder to police. You end up affecting the small time authors (with fewer reviews) and not the big ones.


Also does it matter if you know the author and write a good review? Okay so it is biased, but believe me as an author it’s so hard getting people to review your book – believe me people you know are not going to be able to manipulate ratings.


As for the popularity of reviews, personally I think it’s a downward trend (I think I have blogged about this before). Why? Because these days everyone has an opinion which they want to share. And basically there are too many of us with opinions. Our opinions are determined often by our preconceived perceptions, our upbringing, maybe at our current moon. That 5* hotel you booked may have been faultless, but whilst there if your other half asked you for a divorce you may think differently. I used to trust Trip Advisor 100% about 10 years ago. Now, I don’t. I still love the site and use it… but I don’t really look at the rating… I look at the content of the review and whether a hotel is walkable to restaurants etc. (everyone has different expectations and I think Trip Advisor is the one site where you can really see when someone’s expectations (or their perceptions) don’t meet reality.

Sky Movies and Netflix ratings are another rating system that doesn’t work. Pick a movie my sister said, the other day, ignore the ratings they are not accurate.


It is only time before books go that way. Most readers I know never look at reviews – just the rating – for now, but soon that too will become a thing of the past – we rely on recommendations, word of mouth if someone tells me a book is worth reading I won’t even look at the star rating I just buy it.


Anyway rant over.