Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Bittersweet Vine Blog Tour @ Robin Triggs Blog

And finally on the tour... Stop 6 features  the last part of my author interview on Robin Triggs blog, A writer's Life .  Robin is another talented writer and part of Abingdon Writers. I have read two of his manuscripts and can't wait to read the third. The minute you read his blog - even if you don't write - you will want to pick up a pen. Witty and insightful it's a great read! So even if you are not on the tour check it out! 

Next month I will be back to my normal blog posts. Giving you the lowdown on the launch party for The Bittersweet Vine along with some pics and new marketing ideas! 

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Bittersweet Vine blog tour @ Gabrielle Aquilina's Blog

Today The Bittersweet Vine Blog tour hits Gabrielle Aquilina's Blog. The post is a short article on the importance of adding detail to your manuscript and tips on how to hone in on your observational skills. I do hope you enjoy it!

I met Gabrielle Aquilina (don't you just love her name?) at Abingdon Writers back before Goa Traffic was published. Gabby was one of the founders of Abingdon Writers and without this group I would be lost! Gabby has written a novel herself and the chapters that I have been privileged enough to read certainly had me hooked!  Gabby's blog never fails to entertain me so take a look and continue with the tour!

Before I go... today is also the official book launch for The Bittersweet Vine. I am excited to say the least! This follows on from last weeks radio interview on the Kat Orman show on BBC Radio Oxford. In November I will be resuming normal blog postings to give you an update on all October's happenings and details of the Good Reads book giveaway! 

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Bittersweet Vine Blog Tour @ Author Luke Murphy's Blog

Today The Bittersweet Vine Blog Tour stops at  Luke Murphy's blog. You may have read about Luke's story on The Coffee Stained Manuscript earlier this year on how he turned from Hockey player to international bestselling author. I hope you have all got your copy of Luke's novel, Dead Man's Hand. This blog stop features part 2 of my author interview.

And this week there is more! On the 22nd October at 3:00pm (UK Time) I will be doing a live interview on BBC Radio Oxford on the Kat Orman Show.

Plus coming soon to The Coffee Stained Manuscript in November I will be blogging about reviews (When you should to when they don't let you), the in thing in social media marketing and  my official book launch which is happening on the 28th October in Central London! Watch this space. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Bittersweet Vine Blog Tour @ Abingdon Writers

This week my tour hits Abingdon Writers. Being an active member of this group has taught me so much.  I wouldn't be where I am today without their continued support! Just checking their site though I think our blog has disappeared from public view!

The post on the blog features a re-vamped version of my Creating Characters post. If you can't get on the Abingdon Writers Blog - the article is below:

Creating Memorable Characters

I have to admit over the last couple of years I have struggled with creating memorable characters and to make up for my failing I have read extensively on how to create characters that will stick in your readers mind. I have also experimented through short stories and four manuscripts to get to this point, and today I am going to share with you what I have learned, so far.

As a writer you are in control of the entire fictional world that you have placed your characters in. Better than that, you are in control of their minds, their actions and their looks to a certain point. And I say a certain point because we all know that our characters, once on the page, soon take on a life on their own and start doing things we never imagined for them!

So where do I begin? A name sounds like a good place to start. In Goa Traffic, my first novel, I picked random names and I thought they would work because I was under the impression that a name is a name. My reasoning was that in real life people have the name that is given to them at birth. But this is fiction. You have to work harder at making it all seem real and therefore it is paramount that you get your characters names right.

Readers want quirky names, which they can pronounce and which are relevant to the era you are writing about (Google is your friend here!). And remember the names have to fit the characters. Hannah is a soft name. Victor is hard. I am not saying here that all Hannah’s are angels and Victors are mean old men but you can use harder sounding names to represent the baddies where necessary.

Don’t use names that start with the same letter. Don’t have an Oliver and an Olivia like I initially had in The Bittersweet Vine, my second novel, which I then had to change. Readers like to differentiate the characters and remember they don’t know your characters as well as you do. If you open a book and three of the four characters have names beginning with L it may be confusing. And this is not to say your reader is ignorant. Far from it! It is just to say think carefully about your character names before you christen them.

As a fun exercise try noting the names of people you know in real life with their personalities and occupations. It makes for an interesting read and will help you develop characterization.  

Once your characters are named add some colour and history to them.  You can easily do this by adding a smidge of physical detail. Previously, in short stories and manuscripts and to some extent in my first novel, I made the mistake of describing every possible characteristic of a character – Whilst this may work in some novels, I believe characters remain more memorable if they are created not on the page but in the heads of the readers themselves. If you describe every detail for the reader you are not letting them do any of the work. A reader may become bored and they will switch off. Therefore they won’t remember the character. However, if you let them create someone in their own minds with a bit of guidance like a hooked nose, grey hair and a mole on their neck (I find 1-3 details works best) they will fill in the other details themselves. Remember the reader knows best.

Once you’ve done that give your character an interesting job, unless your character is jobless (and even then they should have some kind of interesting hobby). I have to admit I am yet to do this but I can see the potential. I recently read Sophie Hannah’s Hurting Distance and the main character made sundials. I think a quirky job gives another dimension to your character and all readers like to learn something new on a subconscious level. Having a quirky job can let you weave interesting facts into the story and even form part of the plot.  And think of this as a bit of marketing as well. Readers talk about the characters of their books and an interesting job is sure to be a talking point.

Think about your characters back-story. Sometime we can give too much of a character’s back-story in the opening chapters.  Back-story should be drip-fed, after all, it creates the characters motivation. What I did in The Bittersweet Vine was to write short stories for each character in their lives before they featured in the book. It got their back-story clear in my mind without boring the reader with it.

I also create a character profile for each character. You may think this is a waste of time, but it's not. At first it will be laborious but it will really save you time in the long run and will show you which characters are lacking in depth. Your characters will appear effortlessly three dimensional if you profile them out from the start. Try the following to profile your characters:

Interview them with a series of questions such as what is your dream job? Favourite food? Favourite colour? music? Keep a folder with each character profile tucked inside so you can refer to it easily. Google image the celebrity, which you would most like to play that character in the film version of your book. Cut the image out and stick that next to their profile. It will make you understand your characters better.

Pretend to be one of your characters. Go for a walk as your protagonist. What would they do in the real world? Would they sit by a river? Would they go to a record store? Get inside their heads!

Make a note of the props each character needs. One character may always need a walking stick another is always chewing gum.  All these things show something about your character without telling the reader this. And give them certain speaking styles too and mannerisms. It is this detail that will make your characters fully rounded.

Remember characterize the villains and the most likeable characters carefully in your novels too. Readers like the good guys to be modest, good at their jobs and a bit of an underdog. We want good to triumph over evil and we are shallow too. Believe it or not we like heroes to be good looking! But don’t make them flawless. Creating reality in fiction is about making people real. A balance is good. And be sure to make that character develop slowly through the book. If you want a reader to hate a particular character make sure they start the book by loving that character. Drip-feed them information about the character until slowly the reader turns against the character. If you can get a reader to change their mind about a character mid-way through a novel then you will have created a memorable character.

I hope the above has been a useful snapshot to what makes a memorable character!

Marissa de Luna is an author with a passion for adventure and travel. The Bittersweet Vine is her second novel.

The Bittersweet Vine is available now
The Bittersweet Vine (ISBN: 978-0-85728-094-7, Thames River Press, paperback and e-book) at
Amazon or other on-line stores and in selected bookshops.  For more information about The Bittersweet Vine or about the author see

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Bittersweet Vine Tour @ The Literary Teapot!

The Bittersweet Vine Blog Tour  - Stop 2!

Today The Bittersweet Vine Blog Tour will be making a stop at Jan Greenough's blog The  Literary Teapot. Jan Greenough is a professional author and editor who has co-authored and ghostwritten several books.

So clink on the link above and carry on with the tour! 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Bittersweet Vine Blog Tour - Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

The Bittersweet Vine Blog Tour - Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

In 2011 I self-published my first book, Goa Traffic. If you read this blog regularly you will know the process to self publish started much earlier than that. Say 2010. I had finished my manuscript and I had sent out a million submissions to agents and small press. It was my introduction to rejection. Some rejections were constructive and I took those comments on board, but the majority were just standard 'no' responses. After my 13th rejection I decided that I would self publish. Looking back 13 was not many. Didn't Gone With the Wind get 100 rejections? But I was young and I had no patience (I still don't) and so I chose to self publish. If you want the details you can read through older blog posts I wont bore you here but I will say it was a streamlined and efficient process. I have got to admit I was 100% satisfied with the outcome and the entire journey. And it was a steep learning curve. I learnt in 6 months the bare bones of publishing and the sleepless nights it can cause.

Fast forward two years and my second novel, The Bittersweet Vine has just been published by Thames River Press. I haven't paid a penny towards it and it has been a different experience all together. Although my novel is out now and in print and my e-book is available my journey has barely begun because publishing a book is so much more than about just getting the words on the page. Two years down the line I am still learning about self-publishing with Goa Traffic.  So perhaps what I am about to set out below is not completely accurate - I haven't seen the fruits of traditional publishing yet - but it is a undiluted version of how I compare self publishing to traditional publishing.

Self Publishing - The Pros 

  • Complete control of your novel. 
  • You pay, you say. You can do what you want (within the law) when you pay. 
  • You see your royalties on a quarterly basis. If you self publish e-books you can monitor this daily or weekly. There is nothing more motivating than seeing your sales figures. 
  • If you own the publishing rights and you generally do with self-publishing, you can publish the same book a hundred times. You own the book and you can do with it what you will! 
  • Better Royalties! You can earn quite a bit from self-publishing if you are selling a high volume of books. And with the e-book set at such low prices you can make more sales than paperbacks. Readers are more likely to take a chance on an e-book for £2.00. 

Self Publishing -The Cons 

  • You have to pay! This could be a lot or a little depending on what you need. But anyone you speak to will say how important it is to pay to a proof reader.
  • The feeling that you have actually produced a book that no-one believes in! Well of course you do as does your friends and family do, but there is always that feeling that no one else likes what you have written.
  • The feeling that you are on your own. As above really! 
  • The stigma of self-publishing - that I have to admit we authors create for ourselves. I know there is nothing wrong with it but other authors and the general public don't take self publishing seriously. Although I have to admit this notion is eroding - slowly we'll get there. 
  • It is hard work and  you'll put a lot of pressure on yourself- You will wake in the night wondering if you've picked the right font, the line spacing. You are responsible for everything and it's your fault if there is a mistake! Yes there is no getting away from that and the thought is scary. 
  • You have to do your own marketing. But hey, you are a self-publisher and you have to be business savvy. You've paid money to get your book published. It's time to make some money. Trust me you will want your book to succeed and overnight you will turn into a marketing guru!
  • With people's perceptions of self publishing it is harder to get reviews, media coverage and getting your book into retail outlets.   

Traditional Publishing - The Pros

  • No Payment. Yay! You don't need to make 1000 plus sales just to cover your costs! 
  • Someone believes in you enough to put money behind you. Even if this is a tenner - it does an awful lot for your confidence and we authors are not very confident so we need all the help we can get
  • Contacts in media, press and getting your book reviewed
  • A professional will edit your story. They will ask for clarification on points. They will pick the font and the spacing and provide you with front cover mock ups. You don't have to think - too much. 
  • Instant credibility. People always want to know if you published yourself or not. As soon as you say you have a publisher it's a different conversation. 

Traditional Publishing - The Cons 

  • You can't monitor your sales as closely as you would like 
  • They set the price. You cant fiddle about with supply and demand. Although theoretically the publishers are the ones with better knowledge than you so leave them to it! 
  • Whilst the publishers I worked with didn't make huge alterations to my story and text. they could easily ask this of you!
  • They have ultimate say. They pay, they say! If they don't agree with you on the title or the front cover they can change it. It is as simple as that. Again I was lucky and got to choose my title and front cover but I am sure it is not as easy as that.  
  • You lose your right to publish. They own the story and you can't publish in another country  or a cheaper version if you want.
  • If it's a small publishers you may have to do your own marketing as well.
  • The royalties are not that great! They are low and unless you are selling hundreds of copies each month your take home will be relatively little. 

The above is not supposed to be exhaustive, but I hope you have found it insightful! Follow the rest of the tour and see my previous blog post below for details of all the stops on this tour during the month of October. 

On the 7th October I will be making a stop at Jan Greenough's blog Literary Teapot. Jan Greenough is a professional author and editor who has co-authored and ghostwritten several books.  This post will feature a short author interview - part 1

The Bittersweet Vine is available now 

The Bittersweet Vine (ISBN: 978-0-85728-094-7, Thames River Press, paperback £8.99 and e-book £2.56.) at
Amazon or other on-line stores and in selected book-shops.  For more information about The Bittersweet Vine or about the author see