Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First donation made for Japan Tsunami Relief

Hello, everyone

As promised, I'm making this open. I've sold 116 books in March and received �35 for it. Amazon only paid for the UK sales (100) as there's a limit of �10 in order to send out a cheque. I believe I'll get one next month.

My chosen charities are British Red Cross where you donate directly for the cause. I've put �5 on top so each charity gets �20. I have ticked the gift aid button and will now have to find out what it is for haha.


I've also donated �20 to Doctors Without Borders and ticked the mental health issues box. I find this is something very important. Unfortunately, it's not possible to instruct you want it to be donated to Japan, but they're doing a fab job and I'm sure they're using the money wisely.

click picture to see original size

I'll do another donation next month, and in July another one. Thank you everyone who made this happen. You guys rock! Seriously.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An opinion on reviews: the gloves are off!!

Pictures this: a reader searching for a potential book to buy in order to enjoy a lunch break, commuting, holiday, evening in, you name it. He or she finds the description of your book appealing enough to decide spending precious spare time with your main charactes and story. How wonderful is that? Nowadays, it looks like this:

E-publishing has shaken up the whole industry. Authors who have been rejected by agents and publishers in the past are now let loose onto the reader. While that's a good thing, it has its downsides: authors are a one-man company, responsible for everything including generating sales.
Today, I'd like to focus on reviews.
Many authors seem to think it's the reader's duty to review their books. I am of a different opinion: it's their choice. I've seen authors moaning and complaining that nobody reviews their book and quite frankly, I'm sick of reading it. Readers are readers, reviewers are reviewers and most writers are confident enough to write one, too.
Two years ago, I was a reader who browsed through book shops, going home with a few and did what readers do: reading. When I finished, I'd tell my friends about it, good or bad. It wouldn't have occurred to me to write a review, go back to the shop to hand it in or write an e-mail to the author. Neither would I expect this today. Don't get me wrong, I know reviews are important to help potential buyers decide, especially since we indie authors are on our own, but I wouldn't expect a review from anyone who's bought my book. I've asked a few people I know are confident to write one to give an honest opinion on the upcoming book, but I would never put a note in my book asking the reader directly. As a reader, I personally would be put off. Two years ago, it might have left me showing a similar expression:

The common reader, won't know anything about style, voice and character development. Some might not even know much about punctuation (I certainly didn't). All they care for is: does this book fulfil my expectations? Does it make me laugh, cry, feel with the protagonist? Does it leave me with a fluffy feeling when I finish? That's all they want.
So how to get reviews? If you're on facebook or twitter, look around, search for reviewers, make a call for them on fora. There are plenty of people who offer them. Some have threads asking for books in certain genres. Get in touch. Don't ask the poor reader to offer feedback that should have been done before publishing. Be grateful if you receive one, good or bad.

Let the reader do his or her job, that is reading and do yours, that is writing a good story, because that's what really matters and sells in the end.

Rant over. :-) I wish you all a happy weekend.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Amazon payment on its way!

I've got notice from amazon that my first payment is on its way. That's for the sales in March (116, 100 in the UK and 16 in the US). They pay me for the UK sales only since you need to have a mininum of $10 to rectify a cheque to be sent out. I'll get paid for the US sales next month.
However the first payment will be �35 and will immediately go to charity. It's not the world, but it doubles next month and so on since sales for Excuse me, where is the exit?  have increased steadily.
Just to clarify again: I'm not posting this to brag, rather than informing people who follow the development, who helped me get the word out there and, at the end of the day, it's you readers who make it happen. Without you guys, I wouldn't be able to donate. Besides, there not much to brag about approaching a mere 1000 sales. I know of some authors who sold 7k in seven weeks or 10k in four months or people who just sell many more books than me. But I'm still a little proud. ;-)

Further good news:

My next book, No Wings Attached, will be out soon. It's still in proofing phase, but I hope I manage to release it on the 31st as planned. I think I'll have a little party with some friends, especially Fifi, who kindly offered to help me smoothing out my Germish. Thank you, Fi! I love you.

And more:

I'll be at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. As a visitor, but I plan to be actively involved with a workshop next time round. I'll be meeting some fab people I've met on authonomy and am majorly excited to hug them all. Yes, I've threatened them to do that.

It's going to be a blast!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Don't you just want to tuck in?

I love my meat, I really do, though I'm not into red meat, I can't live without chicken or pork. As soon as the first rays of sun shine through my windows, I feel like barbecuing and rush to get my sausages and meat to marinate. But what is a barbecue without salad, sauces and bread?

Here's a delicious salad, you can even eat on its own:

Mixed salad                                                    
Grated carrots
Spring onions
Cherry tomatoes
Kidney beans
Grapes (I prefer red)
Dressing: Whole grain mustard with honey and olive oil.
Seasoned with a pinch of salt.

For the sausages and Turkish Bread, I love tzaziki and this special ketchup: it's from Germany and the best ketchup ever, even if you just have fries.

Here a quick marinade for meat:
Tomato ketchup (any cheap one will do)
Red and green peppers
Spring onions
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Chop the ingredients into little pieces, then mix everything together. Marinade the meat for at least two hours. It makes it tasty and tender.

Have you got a great marinade to share? Please leave a comment with the recipe.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

On starting with back story

I can't believe I've done it myself! Since ages I told everyone whose opening I read and contained too much back story, not to do it, to web it in, to introduce it slowly and bit by bit, but ignored my own advice.

The reason being is that I've never written a sequel. I'm sure I wouldn't have done it with a new book, but the sequel is a different animal entirely. I created a scene with four people talking to each other, and two people, who are absent, introduced in the first 400 words. Now that's what I call tight writing, tight, but wrong.
I had a feeling it might be too much information and back story crammed into the opening and got the confirmation from a friend I sent it to. Nothing I couldn't fix easily, but something that shows once again, as writers we need feedback, best in the early stages to avoid big rewrites.

Sequels need to be able to stand alone, so while back story is important, it shouldn't have the function of a teaser for the other books in a series. It's a challenge to connect the books without going too deep into what happened in the first one. But you need to introduce the characters to readers who start with the second book.
Since I'm experiencing this now for the first time, I take my hat off to every single author who's managed that effortlessly.

I'll also have the task to go deeper into some of the characters that played minor roles in the first book, plus I'll add some more characters, especially for the dark side. Keeping the balance between romantic comedy and paranormal will be a lot harder for the sequel, I want to keep the light tone of the first book, the wonderful intimate moments between Celia and Tom, but without repeating them.

Well, something positive came out of it: he liked the writing and the scene itself. Go, me! ;-)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

No Rapture and no picnic either, what a disappointment

I did expect the the former won't happen, but the picnic? No, that was something I looked forward to. My friend Elin, who used to live in London and is now back in Sweden came over for the weekend, so, of course I wanted to see her.

Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath

Planning is crucial for me, the route, that is, because I have no sense of direction at all. Drop me anywhere in London and I'll never find my way back home. Horrible, but at least you can be sure I bump into someone I know, always happens. So I took my cycling guide and planned the route, which roads to go and where to turn, wrote it all down, for me, silly Stella, meticulously, nothing can go wrong. Or so I thought.

Today, I made my way to Finsbury Park and was supposed to cycle along Seven Sisters Rd. If only I knew which one it is. I was sure it was the one behind the station, five minutes later, I learned it wasn't. Typical, I turned left, because it must lead, roughly, to Holloway Rd. which it didn't. It did, however, lead to Seven Sisters Rd, where I originally wanted to go, but I couldn't turn right, one way. Bugger! What now? I managed to find the right way, finally turned into Holloway Rd. and learned it's not only very long, but also goes mostly uphill and it didn't stop there. Up to Hampstead Heath, it's basically uphill all along.

 Uphill in Archway

Panting, sweating and deep red in my face, I stopped at Archway, looking uphill and decided to turn around, do some grocery shopping, then start with my sequel. There, at least I could enjoy the downhill ride and arrived safe and sound at home after an hour's exercise. Shame, though I didn't get to meet my friend.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My friends the speech marks.

The past two days I've spent an amusing time changing my manuscript's speech marks. The reason being is that I'm soon publishing my novel, No Wings Attached, and want to make it more eye-friendly for the Americans. Though people I've asked said they don't mind the spelling differences like colour (color), favourite (favorite) and others, they said the single quotes do disturb them immensely.

Since I learned creative writing in the UK, I never really thought about using anything else than single quotes. In fact, I quite like them. But in order to make my book more readable for buyers on the other side of the pond, I change them all into double quotes.

<---with open office

       with an older version of word ---->

There are other things to consider, too. I've been told by an editor who works for an American publisher, that my punctuation is off. Well, it wasn't, I used the BE. A bit embarrassing for the editor, who should've noticed. Never mind, I didn't say anything as I didn't want to do the suggested rewrites anyway. Here is an example for you.

BE: 'She said she was "out".'
AE: "She said she was 'out.'"

The only thing I won't recommend is doing those changes with find & replace. Well not if you don't know how to use it properly.

What I've learned? To ditch the single quotes and use doubles when you want to publish outside the UK.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm not a fearless indie author

I'm a bit scared, I must admit. By end of this month, my first novel, my baby, will be released and I don't know what is going to happen. I've put a lot of work into it, loved it, hated it, loved it again and now, I'm working on the final touches. I need to make some decisions regarding the cover, perhaps do some alterations to the blurb. I do believe in this book, very much, so do others, but is it enough?

The proof is in the pudding as the British say, so I'll have to patiently wait how my baby is going to do. And I need to write the sequel. Something I always advise, is to do the plotting first. Now, I've tried, but it didn't work out very well. Think I'm not such a plotter after all.

I wrote the first book having a vague storyline in my head, no big plotting from start to finish, in fact, I let the characters take over and it worked perfectly fine. I fear I'll have to do the same with the sequel. I know roughly what I want to happen, but that's about it. A pretty scary thought, to dive into writing without knowing where it will end, keeping in mind what happened in the first book and laying the foundation for the third.

And the pressure is on. Since I will have the first book out, I need to write a second book as soon as possible, best would be to write the third right after that. I always said I'm going to write the sequel when I've sold the first book (to a publisher), well, it might sound weird and lazy because if I was a real writer, I would have written the book anyway, but then I thought I've written the first book in 2.5 months, I can do it again. With beginning of June, I'll be busy writing, I suppose and I'm looking forward to it.

Unless my book doesn't sell, then, well, then I think I'll just go ahead editing with the latest novel. And it's not that I have run out of ideas.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Friends are the most wonderful gift

Well, at least I think they are. You see, it was my birthday yesterday. I didn't plan anything big, because I couldn't care less to be honest. All I wanted was to have my friends around me, no presents, but a relaxed time. The days of the wild parties are over, I mean I only ever had the odd party anyway -- who's to clean all the glasses and plates, let alone the flat and bring the bottles to the recycling containers? Me! So, no, I'd rather go out for a drink or have a quiet one with a few close friends.

My friend Piddi arrived on Friday, to have a little 'holiday' as she put it. We spent the Saturday having a fry up, then walking around some markets, things I only do when I have visitors as I usually prefer the non-tourists areas. In the evening we watched a play, Uncle Vanya, which was wonderfully performed. It's a tiny, charming local theatre, which I discovered by accident a few days ago. After that we went home to have a chat over a glass of wine.

Yesterday, we met with my friend Bobby and his housemate in a local pub to have some traditional Sunday Roast, which also went down well. I must say, it was one relaxed birthday.
My friends know I'm not much into bah humbug. No Christmas, no Easter or Halloween or anything else. I'm particularly not fond of presents made on those days, because I think that you have 365 days of a year to make presents. To me the most important thing is to spend those days with people you love and who love you, too. That's something I've done for a long time now and nothing will ever beat this.

Oh and finally, some really good news, too. My book received another review (4stars) and was described as 'Sex and the City meets Seinfield, which is a huge compliment. So, thank you, Shira, for the lovely review, I know you have your troubles doing them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Writing is easy, then comes editing...

I have to admit I had no idea how writing, editing, the industry itself works when I began with my first novel. I asked a friend who said,' You just send an overview and the first few chapters to a publisher and that's it.' Easy, I thought.

My aim was 120k. Why? Because I didn't know better. So every day I typed and typed, edited as I went along and in 2.5 months, my brand new baby was complete. My friend did the cold reading, commenting along, but it seemed I've done a good job plotting and creating scenes and characters, looking back with the knowledge I've got now, she didn't suggest anything major.

Then I went on the hunt for publishers, thinking, well the book is SO great, they'll rip it out of my hands and the editor will fix my Germisch. That's what all my non-writer friends believed, too.
What an awakening when I learned about authonomy and that publishers want a near-perfect manuscript. What? They won't invest their money into me, the raw diamond and future best selling author? Their loss! Rejections proved others were right, I was wrong.

Thrown off the high horse of dreams, I got down to business and learned as much as I could about writing and editing. And there's a lot to know about. With every new thing I learned, I went through my manuscript, cutting out long-winded passages that cost me hours to write, changed dialogue attributes back and forth, comparing published books with my humble scribblings. Went through it again and again and again and.... ended up hating my book.

I tend to read books only once, twice perhaps if I really like it. Imagine to have to read a book up to fourteen times and even being the one who wrote it! It's painful. I procrastinated, I pushed off, I neglected and at some time I plainly didn't want to go near it anymore. I put it aside after the 13th edit and wrote two other books instead.

After a few months, I decided I need to get it over with, because I still believed in this book, it's my baby in the end and I want to get it out there, pretty and entertaining and maybe even successful, it didn't deserve to be hidden away. And somewhere along the process of reading and making small alterations, I fell in love again. Tonight, I've finished the last chapter of a 82.382 k novel and by end of May, it will be available to download on kindle, hopefully also on smashwords and nook. I can't wait!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Celebrating 500 and an award!

It's been almost two months since I released my humorous short stories Excuse me, where is the exit? and I worked tirelessly to promote and market it. The hours and effort I put into it, paid off:
I'm chuffed. Not only did I sell my 500th book today, I also edited Chapter Seventeen of No Wings Attached, which means there's only one chapter left and it goes into the proof-reading round. It went a strict diet along the way and lost 40k to be precise. I finished the first draft at 120k and that was quite a heavyweight. Can't wait to have it out there, to see how my baby is doing.

To round up what already was a wonderful day, I had a visitor, the lovely Lor Mandela, to my blog who left a nice surprise:

I never win something and it is a wonderful award, being called versatile by someone else than myself. Please pop by on her blog and say hello. You'll also learn about this tradition, which I fully intent to continue, so perhaps it's your blog that receives a surprising gift from me soon?

A brilliant and happy weekend to you, my visitors and readers. You are fantastic. Thank you.