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 www.marissadeluna.com

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 www.marissadeluna.com




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.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Looking for Inspiration?

Looking for inspiration

So I have started reading the Guardian and whilst I was on there the other day, I was struck by how many news stories or ‘opinion’ articles out there that would make great starting points/ideas for short stories or novels. I always find that as I start completing one novel, ideas for new books come at me from nowhere. Especially when I am driving or in the bath – my two inspirational sources. At the moment I have so many ideas for Chupplejeep I think I’ll have material for another five books in the series. I’ve started Jackpot Jetty (book 3) already!

So what inspired me this week on the Guardian website? Firstly there was an article on a group of friends that discovered a decomposing body at the end of a garden when they rented a place in Paris on Air B and B. Now this is a story begging to be written! Chupplejeep would certainly be interested and you may well see an element of this idea in one of my Chupplejeep books!

Then there was a letter from ‘The Other Woman’ and yes this has been done to death trillions of times, but the emotion and observation from the mistresses point of view was really inspirational – to me in any event.

The Kesha story, blind date stories and even the reader question: Which flowers can I plant on a damp grave? In the Ask Alys lifestyle section got my mind thinking.

So if you are looking for some writing inspiration, get onto a news website and get those creative juices flowing!

Monday, 29 February 2016

The Body in the Bath: A Chupplejeep Mystery

So here it is people the front cover for the next book in the Chupplejeep series, The Body in the Bath.

I hope you like it! The blurb is as follows:

As the International Film Festival of India draws to a close and the celebrations of Christmas descend upon Goa, actress, Subrina Basi, is found dead in the bath of her hotel room.

At first sight, Subrina appears to have committed suicide, but closer inspection suggests foul play. Subrina’s best friend - the flamboyant artist, Advani looks like he has something to hide. And her boyfriend, Dattaprasad, has mysteriously disappeared. But it is not only Subrina’s close acquaintances who are suspected. As Chupplejeep and Pankaj delve into the troubled actress’s past, a dark secret is unearthed which casts a shadow of doubt on some of the local villagers.

This is no ordinary case. Chupplejeep is under pressure from Inspector General Gosht to solve this high-profile case fast, whilst Christabel is busy making marriage plans. Plans which Chupplejeep is not entirely comfortable with. Meanwhile, Pankaj has been given his first case to solve - a perilous blackmail case with a fast approaching deadline. Chupplejeep and Pankaj work against the clock, but will they solve the two cases in time?

The book will be released December 2016! Hurrah!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Knowing your FOMO from your MOMO

So I had planned to do a blog post on the new rules of social media. With a new book coming out soon... Yes, Poison in the Water should be released  by the end of April, I thought I would look at my social media tactics and perhaps give them a bit of a refresh because we all know that Social Media is here to stay and we need to raise our profiles and brand awareness as authors (blah blah blah ... yes, we rather be writing). And of course I thought I would share this information with you!, but when I got down to it I realised I wasn't going to be doing anything too different. Just a little more of what I should have been doing. Confused? read on.

So  I joined Crowdfire. Which I had avoided until recently, because I thought it was too impersonal, but now I'm a fan. Twitter is just too big otherwise. So better late to the party than never. If you haven't joined Crowdfire join it now - because sneaky tweeps follow you for a follow back and then un-follow you. Crowdfire is the only way to stay on top of this in this dog-eat-dog world!

How do I feel about Twitter? In all honesty I think 9 out of 10 people on twitter are trying to promote or sell something. If you are an author you follow other writers – you get bombarded with promotions for other books. You try and retweet them to get some retweets yourself – but which consumer is actually going to see this? There are some, of course. Every tweeter has non-promoters following them – be it friends or family and they may read a retweet – after all their newsfeed isn’t clogged with a million authors trying to sell their latest release. So although I don’t think Twitter is the best way to promote your book I think it’s worth sending tweets now and again – but remember with the intense traffic they do suggest that you tweet 7-9 times a day with the best times to tweet being at lunch times, after 930pm and around 7:30am.  My advice- Get the app, do it from your phone and be tweet smart and link your blog (if you have one) to twitter to automatically tweet about your blog post (I covered the linking of social media accounts in my last social media post).
And speaking of social media, did I tell you that I did an interview about social media and my tactics in Mary Cavanagh's new book - Calling All Authors?  It's a great little book if you are after some sound advice on what publishing route to take and of course for the do's and don'ts's of social media.

I have to admit that I am not as good as marketing my books on-line as I used to be.

Why? Because life happens. One minute you are plugging your new book and the other you are completing a quantity surveying course, mastering dishes from Ottolenghi’s new cookbook and watching Netflix. So okay, I got a little tired of talking about my books and followed my desire to do nothing for a while. After all, authors want to write not publicise and promote. You could say that I lost the bug – like the travel bug, the author promotion bug can take you by surprise and push you to do stuff you wouldn’t normally do (Especially when you can see the results in your sales). I feel I am waffling a bit now… But what I mean to say is that I think I have got the social media bug again. Hence the regular blog posts.

So social media is constantly evolving and the young ones and I mean seriously young seem to take to it so easily – I mean they even learn coding at school  - but it is a bit of an effort for the not so technically/showy offy minded. And I recently read an article in the Guardian where celebs are actually avoiding Social Media – having a bit of an outage for certain events etc. Apparently it’s called MOMO – mystery of missing out. So in layman’s terms if everyone is quiet on social media – you are missing you and you don’t even know what it is you are missing out on – that is the mystery!

I had just got to grips with what FOMO was – the fear of missing out!

I realised on my social media quest that I have to use the social media sites I am already connected to, but smarter (a bit like the twitter times as above) and with more frequency. So more Facebook posts, productive tweets and an updated website. Check it out at www.marissadeluna.com

So, I am sticking to the traditional channels but I am upping my game – being more active means I should increase followers, page likers etc. You’ve got to start (again) somewhere

Friday, 12 February 2016

Embracing your inner geek!

I have to admit I'm a geek. For a long while (when younger) I tried to hide the fact that I was a geek because, quite frankly, geeks were uncool. Now they are pretty popular and to be fair the older I get the less I care whether something is cool or not. That's the beauty of getting older - you just care less.

To be honest I didn't hide my geekyness as well as I could have because I probably didn't realise I was a geek and living in Goa pretty much everyone is a little geeky. 

Before writing came along I did nerdy things like a degree , a masters, obtained various certificates and I even qualified as a Chartered Surveyor! Now I'm doing some quantity surveying thing too. The fun never stops... The course was to pacify my inner geek because I haven't done a course for a long while. And as I struggle to complete it I realise that our brains get a bit rusty with age.

Despite my desire to learn I hate being called intellectual - I am not! I guess I would say I am more of an academic. But then if I compare myself to a real academic, I can see that I am certainly not one of those. So I wont pigeonhole myself into a category - I just like to learn new things.

Mid-studying I learnt about calligraphy and graphology, colour therapy, touch typing, did a punctuation course (epic fail), learnt about crystals and of course I read loads on forensics and the art of writing. But I have never taken a writing course and as I am a lover of courses I had to ask myself why? Why had I never done a writing course. I needed it when I started out, yet I just rely on learning as I go, a good critique group and reading around the subject to help me out.

The reason being is that for me writing started as a hobby - it still is to a certain extent and I enjoy it. One of my worries is that if I learn the rules (because despite it being a creative process there are some loose rules- the inciting incident, the big question that readers have to read on to find the answer, stuff like that) in such a strict format then my creativity will be boxed in. I may even dislike writing - because generally when I study something, when there are tasks involved and exams to pass then my interest in the subject does wane.

I would benefit from a creative writing course I am sure. My first book was riddled with  point of view changes mid chapter and I know this annoyed readers. Every time I write (even with this blog) I learn, I understand, I develop and hone my writing skills. And there is always more to learn, we are continually adapting and changing our styles in  the way we dress, the way we talk and the way we write.  I cared about what people thought when I was younger, and don't really care anymore and that very notion makes what I write and how I write different.

I recently found myself humming along to a Justin Beiber song - I have to admit his stuff is pretty good of late (don't judge me) but I guess he is changing too!


Monday, 1 February 2016

Judging a book by its cover

Judging a book by its cover.

This last week has been trying. Why? Because I am trying to finalise the front cover for The Body in the Bath - The second book in the Chupplejeep Mysteries. The book is not finished - it's a long way from completion. If I'm lucky I'll get it out in time for Christmas but I wanted the cover for my website and I also wanted to deal with the stress of agreeing the front cover now...instead of during the publication process when I am stressed out! See, that's a good bit of forward planning stress reduction! There is a reason why they say with experience comes wisdom.

But it's tough this front cover malarkey because everyone has different, sometimes extreme opinions. Perhaps I asked too many people. I asked my writers group first and they were all pretty supportive with some good suggestions. I had actually failed to make it Goan in the first draft which one writer pointed out - that would have been a big faux pas.  Then I asked H, the family and the inner circle (they are my besties). These people don't hold back and they are opinionated. This is probably the main reason why we are friends and it was tiring listening to people and their views (Sorry, if any of you are reading this). Of course I needed to hear what people think and I know because of some of the comments  the cover is going to look fab...  but getting there has been an effort.

I haven't listened to everything they have said... it would have been impossible and quite frankly not worth the trouble. But I listened about colours and textures etc and the resultant product is perfect (to me). I will put it up on this blog later in the week when I get the final.

I'm also starting to look at front cover ideas with my publisher for Poison in the Water (remember this name people - this book is going to be huge!). This I think will be a different experience. Why? Because a professional is going to take the time to debate styles and ideas with me. Now I'm not saying self pubbed covers are not as good as trad published ones - that would be a stupid thing to say because it's not true.

The experience will be different for me because the burden is shared between the publishing house (who are paying for the thing) and me whose work it is and whose name will be emblazoned on the front.

And I think that is the difference,. It's not necessarily the quality of the cover, but your perception and your confidence. When you self pub you can ask a million people what they think but  when that book is published it's your fault if its good or not with a publisher I think you can share the shame!

The one saving grace is that when you self publish - depending on how you do it you can change the cover at any time. However, and its a big however, it really depends on how much time you want to spend on these ancillary matters. Do you really want to go back and change the cover?  Because after all if you are anything like me you want to spend minimal time on the cover and more time on the writing!

But hey ho, I guess if you get it right the first time your book will last forever, without the need of a facelift and it will work for you...on the beach (when people are reading it), on people's shelves. The possibilities are endless!

What about just an e-book cover? Well the cover looks great on promotional materials too so maybe we do need to take time, ask around and get it right.

However, on saying this I am also currently wondering how much is a cover worth these days? Most kindle readers I know never buy a book based on it's cover. I agree because I am in that category...but I can't deny that a good cover helps sell books. Maybe not directly, but indirectly. If you are attracted to something you will buy it. If you see a postcard with a pretty book on it you are more likely to remember the name so you can search for it on line later... Just a thought.

Until next time...

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Structural edits and all that jazz

Structural edits and all that jazz..

It has been a busy week for me. I received the structural edit suggestions from my publisher and I have been busy working on them. I have been able to sort out the issues relatively quickly - well all except one which requires more brain cells than I seem to possess at the moment. I think last night at some unearthly hour I finished it but now that the structural edits have been made I need to read through the whole darn manuscript again to make sure it all makes sense and flows.It is only too easy to assume consistency to avoid reading the whole book again, but although I am not someone who usually pays attention to detail etc., I know I need to do this. So tonight the task starts.

One of the structural edits was to change the ending - now when my writing group read the book they said the same thing and I thought -nooooo, I really like the ending the way it is. So I left it and that was the main thing my publishers suggested to change! So after a bit of sulking I came up with an ending I think readers would be happy with...Let's see what the publishers say.

I think that's one of the nice things working with a publishers - being able to bounce ideas off them and getting their feedback- although on saying that if you are self pubbing you can always hire a structural editor to give you their feedback. Personally, I have never done that but I am in the most amazing writing group that critique full manuscripts and they tell you exactly where you are going wrong - as the above example shows!  If you are a budding writer and not in a writing group I would definitely recommend joining one - and not a lovey dovey one - You need a group that keeps it real and points out the flaws in your plot, your 2d characters and generally keeps your feet on the ground!

Most writers I know get fed up with editing and I know that you can only read through your novel so many times until it all becomes so familiar that you can't see the wood from the trees.

Nevertheless, we authors persevere because that is what you have to do as a writer... yes, bring out the world's smallest violin! We are hard done by.

But it's not all doom and gloom. With my edits done and just one final read through before it goes to the line editing stage surely I am half way there already (If they like my structural edits that is). It wont be long before I am revealing the front cover and the release date!

To add to my workload I have also received the front cover proofs for the next Chupplejeep Mystery - The Body in the Bath. I like what JD&J have done but it needs tweaking here and there so I need to get back to them today. I have had some feedback from friends and family and other writers - which always helps. I don't think you can ever make a front cover decision in isolation!

And another thing - not sure if I mentioned this last time I blogged, but I realised the other day that I haven't written anything new since 2014!!! Crazy! So this year I need to start something new. I have an idea for a book which I will let you in on later. The opening scene is written (I wrote this a long time ago) but maybe I'll take it along to my next writing group meet and see what people think.

Anyone embarking on a new writing project? What are your writing goals for 2016? Tweet me @marissadeluna

Friday, 8 January 2016

So you've got that elusive publishing contract. Now what?

So you've got that elusive publishing contract. Now what?

Hurrah! I can finally announce that I have signed a publishing contract with the fantastic So Vain Books.  I should be getting the structural edits required in the next couple of weeks - so watch this space. I'm excited too for Poison in the Water - the book they are set to publish. They have classed it as a Romantic Suspense novel which I am happy about because I worried that it was between genres of Chick Lit and Thriller.

I have to admit when I received the contract I was a bit wary - why?  because a contract is legally binding and no matter what is said and done you need to make sure you are protected so if there ever if a fall out, if the relationship turns sour (I hope that will never be), you are covered.

Now,  I'm a bit of a researcher and what I have found is this: I have to admit you read some articles where people have signed away their rights to TV show etc, never seen a penny and all that and you think that wont happen to me - I can't see them buying the TV rights to this book I won't worry about it and so you don't. Typically the rights get snapped up and you didn't pay attention to that clause so you never make a penny. Most sites will tell you be wary ask them to take out this clause etc. and there are several clauses they will tell you never to sign. A contract is serious stuff and you should pay attention to it, but at the same time don't be so scared you have sleepless nights. There is a lot of scaremongering going on out there.

I think a little differently (often to my own detriment - well sometimes). I say pick your battles. Look at all the clauses and what they say and pick the ones that are important to you to have removed/amended.

You can go in and strip the contract bare - by all means that is what contract negotiation is all about, but at the same time be reasonable.

The important thing is to make the decision yourself and live by it!  You win some,  you lose some - yes your book may make millions of pounds if the TV rights are picked up, but will the rights ever be picked up if you don't sign the contract in the first place?

But in saying that don't be scared to stand up for what you want (once you have picked your battles) just because you are a first time author. For my first contract I asked a friend who had the same publishers to run me through the contract and it was fine. Looking back I would have added a couple of things to it definitely about termination rights (In this new era of ebooks) but I didn't so I chalk it down to experience. There is no use crying over spoilt milk and all that.

With this contract I was bold enough to ask for the removal of some clauses and the addition of another and they agreed. The best thing about this is that we are both happy and we can now file away the contract and work collaboratively which is how the best relationships evolve (If you keep referring back to the contract - you know where the relationship is going or isn't).

I rarely talk about my day job on here, but I do deal with projects and contracts all the time and the collaboration is a must to get something done (and have fun at the same time), so I have some experience here.

What I would definitely recommend though is to join the Society of Authors and either send your contract to them or read the various info papers they provide on what should be included/excluded for contract deals including E-book and POD deals.

You must also check out Stroppy Author's blog. the author goes through the clauses in the contract line for line explaining it. It's a must read...

And finally, you can of course consult a solicitor, especially if you have a friend who is one. If you are paying remember they need to provide a report on their findings which is more likely to scare you more than anything else.

So there you have it, my top tips for signing that contract! I hope it helps.

Monday, 4 January 2016

We need to laugh!

We need to laugh!

Happy New Year! 2015 went pretty quick, didn't it? Christmas was warm and fabulous in Goa. Some more research done for the second instalment of The Chupplejeep Series - The Body in the Bath - which should be out by the end of the year. New Year was spent in Devon - there is something raw about the British coastline in stormy weather that makes me feel quite at peace. I think its the bleakness of the landscape that makes me feel alive.  That may or may not make sense - I hope it does - but if it doesn't just don't think I'm completely nuts - I'm just having one of those days.

One of those days when I look at the year ahead and think we need to laugh more. We really do. Writers especially. We take it all so seriously sometimes and I for one think this year should be filled with more laughing and less complaining. I generally rant on this blog and I'm sure from Feb I will be back to normal, but I am going to make a conscious effort of laughing a bit more this year - and finding the humour in even the dullest of situations - like 1* reviews and rejections!  Why not - as the quote that keeps going around says - 'None of us are going to get out alive...'

My other resolution for the year is to do one awesome thing every month! It benefits me, it may benefit others (I may adopt a whale - yes that's how much Blackfish affected me) and hopefully it will encourage me to laugh even more.

And another thing, the author Mary Cavanagh has released a fantastic book to help writers decipher the publishing process and marketing etc. The book is titled 'Calling All Authors' and can be bought here
I read an earlier edition when I started on my publishing journey and I loved it - I'm now reading this edition and its even bigger and better - and features an interview with me!  It's a must read for any author.

So what about my writing plans for 2016!  I previously mentioned sending Posion off to a publishers and so far the feedback is good. I'm in discussions but that's all I can say at the moment. With any luck though it will be published later this year - Hopefully I can reveal all by the end of the month.  And I am still working on The Body in the Bath... A massive edit is due and I'm hoping it will be looking ship shape by the summer.

I have some dratted Quantity Surveying exams in March (I brought it on myself!) that may take my focus away, but other than that... I also plan on writing some new stuff this year. I have a preliminary idea for a thriller - work in progress title is Splinter and the third Chupplejeep book - Jetty Jalousie.

Happy writing people..... Remember this is 2016. Anything is possible!