Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Wattpad


I haven’t been in Wattpad for a while so it was a pleasant surprise to log in and see that ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ had passed 6k reads. Nice… and it had amassed 452 gold stars. Woot woot.
Well done, Josh.
The next most popular? It’s my Paul one shot ‘Wake up and smell the coffee’… of course it is.
Links: wattpad


Saturday, 30 January 2016

Vampire novels

People keep saying that nobody wants to read vampire novels - that they are so five years ago, when Twilight was all the rage.
I may have picked a bad month to buy a program called KindleSpy. It reverse engineers figures from Amazon pages; uses the number of sales and all the information about price etc. to generate sales totals. It is meant to give you an idea of what genres are selling well and which it would be hard to compete in. All useful stuff for self-published authors who are doing all of this stuff themselves.
This month the Amazon kindle charts have been OWNED by a self-published author named Bella Forrest. *eyes narrow* Is that her real name? Bella was the name of the main character in Twilight, remember? There is no author page so I assume that it is a pseudonym.
My friends on Goodreads have this in the ‘so bad its good’ category or are unimpressed. But clearly there are enough readers to be pushing a lot of sales in this series. They've got something right.
At any rate, Ms Forrest has seventeen of the top twenty titles in the Amazon category of paranormal vampire romance. There are twenty two novels in the series so far. The first ‘A shade of Vampire’ was published in 2012 and is set at 99c, the rest at $3.99. They are selling like hotcakes and Amazon literally has a big red ‘hot’ tag next to it. That can only increase sales, right? KindleSpy does the math for me and it pulls in at a total of more than two and a half million dollars. That’s just for the top twenty books and only for the month of January 2016.
And here’s the kicker - that’s only on Amazon US. It doesn't count sales on other platforms. Here in Australia we have to buy through a different kindle site and Amazon UK has its own sales tables as well.
Maybe you shouldn’t ditch that vampire novel you started? It looks like there is still plenty of life in that undead corpse.


Saturday, 2 January 2016

2015 in a nutshell


New Year resolutions don’t seem to work for me, but I like to look back to see what I have achieved. A week ago, if I had to pick a word for 2015 it would have been stagnate. But then I sat down to collate everything and had to think about my year. And I feel that stagnate isn’t quite appropriate now.

Books

I read 236 books - 47,216 pages
The shortest 9 pages, the longest 846 - average 210 pages
My average mark was 3.3 out of 5 stars. But I still have a massive number of books in the ‘to read’ pile. I am a book hoarder… I confess.
I marked 23 of those as ‘did not finish’. If I do this, I write a review mostly to remind myself what was wrong, but I don’t rate it if I didn’t finish it. I aimed for 225 so that’s not bad. I’ve read more than that but I am waiting to finish my review on a couple. Sometimes you need to think about it - let it stew for a little while. It also doesn’t count reading articles and fanfiction of course!

Courses

I did 4 Udemy courses on story writing and understanding Scrivener - 88 lectures - 792 minutes of coursework. I did courses with Tim Grahl, and Shawn Coyne. I signed up for a Nick Stephenson course - your first 10k readers - hours and hours of videos and PowerPoint presentations. I’ve watched them all but the course also relies on a Facebook group to exchange comments and ideas. I hate FB and I have real trouble using it. My issue, not Nick’s - the course is totally worth the money.
I hate the way FB sends you a message to tell you X has changed their status - don’t you want to see what it is? Why can’t you just send me the status? It’s passive aggressive stuff … ugh.
I also signed up for a writing group with the Write Practice, in conjunction with nanowrimo, called Becoming Writer. (I know that is bad English - why do they do this?) I didn’t find it that useful. The writing group relied on the community members to read and comment on your work but everyone was doing twenty different genres, they were all at so many different levels of expertise, and also working on nonfiction and fiction. Plus, it’s your nanowrimo rough draft. It ain’t pretty.
I wrote an Aussie ghost story and one member told me off for having a Ouija board in the story when I also had ghosts, murder, kidnappings, sex and forced adoptions… seriously lady?
I have no idea how many people actually completed nanowrimo in the group. They don’t give us info like that. I also found the website clunky and annoying to use. Posts were made in daily work posts, so one story might be spread across 31 individual posts. It was a mess. I put all of my work on the same story in one post. Even though it was out of order (I don’t write in chronological order) but at least it was all together.
There were video conferences as part of the course as well but the time difference meant I had to be up super early to listen and the presenter had a particularly soporific voice. I’d just fade out halfway through; sitting up in bed with my Chromebook on my lap. I tried getting up and standing at my standing desk but that didn’t really help. I found the group unhelpful but it may be one of those things where I just need to spend a lot more time in there to get anything out of it.

Podcasts

I listen to at least six regularly:
·       The creative penn 
·       Sterling and stone 
·       Mur Lafferty - I should be writing  
·       Mur and Matt Wallace do Ditch diggers, too
·       The sell more books show with Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen 
·       Lindsay Buroker Scifi fantasy podcast 
Each is an hour or so and that adds up pretty quickly if they do more than one show a week. I still have to work out how to download them to my phone so that I can listen and walk. I usually listen while at my standing desk so it counts as a kind of a break.
The biggest problem is each interviewed author usually has a sign up or a free book on offer and I end up with a few MORE books in my ‘to read’ list.

Blog

39 blog posts, 57,849 hits
Most of my readers come from the US, and Russia. I get a lot of visitors from Seely James website - no idea why. I should post at least once a week and I will aim for that this year.

Words written

352,957
I confessed in an earlier blogpost that I stopped updating my word spreadsheet for a while, so I guess I wrote more than that. And yes, I’m kicking myself now… I was offered a joint project early in the year and did a huge amount of work on it before I got cold feet. I don’t like not having a legal contract when the final ambit was about 800k words and I didn’t know who owned them or how I would be paid. I don’t regret backing away. I had written a fifth or so, and done a lot of preparation for another big chunk of it. The work is mine, but every time I look at it, I just feel frustrated and angry, rather than excited and eager to work on it. I can rewrite it, and make it into something slightly different but it may take some more distance before I am able to do that.
I finished nanowrimo in November- only 14% of people manage that, so yay me! I also did camp nanowrimo in April with a total of 80k words and in July with 50k.

Fanfiction

I posted a one shot and that was it. My page hits are still big on ff.net and slow everywhere else. I get a lot of messages from people telling me that they constantly reread my works. That’s a massive compliment.
My stats for the year are: 1,452,258 hits and 202,276 readers.
My total hits are 8,904,681… whoa… so, some time this year I should pass 8 figures?

Social media

Pinterest I have 54 followers, twitter 937, tumblr 281 followers. I don’t know what it is about twitter but I can’t go over 940 followers. Every time I do, a dozen people unfollow me. It’s weird.
My feedly gets super scary if I don’t check it every couple of days. It collates all the blogposts and articles from all the websites that I follow. More reading…

Personal stuff

I bought a garmin vivofit about a year ago- one of those bracelets - and it’s been super useful. I am determined not to let it down. So every day it makes me walk a few more steps. I’m up to 10k steps a day - or about 6-7km. I have linked it to a phone app myfitnesspal where I record what I eat. I am fairly honest and I find I won’t eat that cream biscuit if I have to enter it into the calories app. I make choices: I can have a glass of wine or dessert, not both.
I had a slow weight gain over a few years and have now lost almost ten kilos. I feel better and I have less back pain. Makes it easier to sit and write if my back is not complaining.
So, looking at all that, I guess my word ought to be educate or amalgamate?
What was your word for 2015?


Friday, 4 December 2015

Do you have something you want to tell me, little girl?


In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!
http://writeworld.org/post/134329126010/do-you-have-something-you-want-to-tell-me-little
“Do you have something you want to tell me, little girl?” The young crown prince strode through the room stripping off his leather gloves as he walked. The child had ducked under the legs of his guards and now stood in his path breathing heavily and glaring at him as if looks could kill, or she hoped they could.
He stopped to look down at her and made an abrupt gesture to stop his guard from touching her. He waited for her to get her breath back and answer his question.
“I am going to kill you,” she hissed at him.
“Ah,” he said. He tucked the gloves in his belt, crouched down to her level and looked into her face. She looked nervous but intense. “Okay,” he agreed. “I need to know your name, though.”
“Why?”
“To make sure that no one else kills me in the meantime. It might take you some time to grow big enough to hurt me. Say, ten or fifteen years.” She did not look more than seven or eight years old. He was maybe eighteen.
A frown creased her brow.
“You wouldn’t want to waste your chance,” he pointed out reasonably.
She thought about that and then gave a serious nod. “Amira Ulhas.”
“Ulhas,” he repeated as if it was familiar. “We need to swear it.”
He spat on his bare palm and held it out to her. She solemnly did the same.
“I will stay alive for you, Amira Ulhas.”
“I promise to kill you when I’m ready, Prince Jago.”
They shook hands and one of the more sensitive guards rubbed down his arm as goose bumps prickled his skin.
The prince released her hand, but didn’t stand. She backed away; glaring at him the whole time until she turned and darted off into the shadows.
One of the guards stepped in her direction.
“Let her go. And leave her unharmed.”
The guard glanced at him. “But my Lord, why?”
The sensitive one answered, “Didn’t you feel that? They made a deal.”
“Indeed. And it would be wrong of me to break it.” He rubbed his hand down the leg of his trousers and looked pensive. “Find out how she got this close to the door of my apartments.” They hurried off to do his bidding.
He stood for a moment still rubbing his palm with his fingers. “Such pretty eyes,” he murmured.
***
It seemed that Prince Jago was unable to be killed. Dozens had tried and dozens had failed. Over the years, combatants had seen him bleed but every time one was poised to deliver the death strike, he evaded it in a freakish manner, or he healed from mortal blows.
There was a whispered rumour about some kind of magic deal he had made; sold his death to a demon, it was said.
***
He stood in his apartments and poured two glasses of wine. He held one out to the darker shadow near the terrace doors. “For you?”
She stepped out into the light and shook her head. “No thank you.”
“Is it time, Amira?” He studied her. She had grown into a beautiful woman; slim and graceful. Her long dark hair was braided and hung over her shoulder. Her eyes were still her best feature; a startling pale green in her tanned skin.
Her chin lifted. “You tricked me.”
“I gave you what you wanted.”
“Not yet; you’re still alive.”
He threw himself into a chair; relaxed and casual. “As are you. I suspect you have been difficult to kill, as well.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Hmm?”
She blinked at him. “I wanted to die. I was alone on the streets. I couldn’t even starve to death.” She took a shaky breath. “You knew. You knew that was how the deal would work.”
“I recognised the name.”
“You took advantage of a child.”
“You’re not a child, now.” He took another sip of the wine as she yanked a dagger from her belt. “There’s just one thing you ought to know before you kill me.”
Silence.
“What?” she demanded.
“I didn’t murder your family.”
“What?” her voice was a breathless whisper.
“There was no way you would have believed me before. So I did what I could to protect you. Listen to me, now.” He sat forward in the chair. “Ask me to swear it on whatever you like, I will do so. I did not murder your family.”
“Swear… swear on your mother’s life.”
He rolled his eyes. “Give me your hand.” He rose to his feet and reached out to her.
Holding the dagger in one hand, she reached out to take his hand with the other. He clasped it in both of his and held it over his heart. “I swear on my mother’s life that I did not murder your family.”
She shivered. There was a pause.
“It’s hard to tell if it worked.” He cocked his head. “But I can’t hear any shouting from the queen’s quarters.”
She was looking shocked; blinking quickly. He was still holding her hand.
“There is something I do need to confess,” he added.
She waited.
“Hugh. He’s mine.”
Hugh was her trainer and her friend. An older man who had found her on the streets years ago and taken her in. Everything she knew about weapons she had learned from him.
She tried to jerk her hand away but he held her tightly. “That’s how you knew I was here tonight,” she accused.
“Yes. I had to make sure you survived. Hugh was insurance.”
She couldn’t speak. The betrayal hit her hard. She was rewinding their history; looking at every event with clearer eyes. “I wanted to come a year ago. Hugh wouldn’t let me.”
“I wasn’t actually here. If you had exposed that deception, it would have had dire consequences.”
“I…” She sat suddenly in his vacated chair. The dagger fell to the floor.
He knelt in front of her and passed her the wine. She had taken a sip before she realised what she was doing and put it back down. She kept shaking her head. Finally she asked, “Why?”
“Your family were magically powerful. They were killed because of a prophecy that an Ulhas would make me immortal. It was one of those badly worded things where it was so vague that no one could really get what it was saying.” He waved a hand in the air. “I was young and thought I was clever to send you away unharmed when you had promised to kill me… but when you said your name, it all fell into place. I didn’t even know that ‘an ulhas’ was a person.”
“I don’t understand.”
He sat on his haunches and tore his shirt open. “Look. Stabbed in the heart.”
Her fingers brushed over the scar. “You didn’t die?” She sounded astonished.
“That’s what my enemies were afraid of. They worked it out first, and killed your family to try and stop the prophecy.”
“But they made it happen,” she said. “I would never have gone near you… except for…” Their eyes met. She believed him.
“Look what we did together. We cheated death, Amira. Do you know how rare that kind of power is?” He was intense, desperate to convince her. “Only an Ulhas can kill me. Only you.”
“So I still can?”
“Yes. But I’d prefer you smothered me with a pillow when I’m over a century old.”
She frowned at him. “What makes you think I’ll still be around?”
“You could have stabbed me when I first came into the room, you could have cut my throat while I was holding your hand, or you could have poisoned my wine before I even opened the door.” He smiled at her. “And you’re still rubbing my chest.”
She snatched her hand back.
He laughed. “Our lives are linked. If you kill me, perhaps you will die as well.” He whispered in her ear, “I don’t think you’re ready to go yet.”
She seemed to be thinking about it. “I’ve spent eleven years obsessed with you.” Thinking about him day and night. “You still tricked me.”
“I was not as smart as I thought I was. I was very lucky you didn’t promise to kill me the next time we met, eh?”
“What did I say?”
“You don’t remember? You said ‘when you were ready’.”
“Oh.”
“And I said: ‘I will stay alive for you, Amira Ulhas.’ For you.” He stood and held his hand out to her. “Come and meet Mother.”
Her eyes gleamed. “Are you worried she’s dead?”
“Nope. I want her to meet the girl I'm going to marry.”


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

National novel writing month 2015


Sighs… I wasn’t going to do nanowrimo this November. You are supposed to do a new project and I felt that with my ever-increasing list of half, or quarter done projects, that starting yet another new project would just be putting more crap on that pile.
But…
I joined a website and I had to pay real money to do it. The write practice. It is a community of writers; specifically ones who have trouble completing projects. Does that sound like me? Yep. And the idea is that you all do nano together.
The community will mean we have to share word counts, writing and issues. That’s the point. There are people to help you, you help others, and that you are all cheer-leaders for each other.
So I scrabbled through my idea file and found two that were plotted out and that I had some vague ideas about.
And then I literally tossed a coin. And the winner was the Aussie small town romance set in a haunted house.
It was inspired by an article I read in the Guardian about an Irish home for unwed mothers where they found skeletons in the yard. Most of them were children and the final estimate was nearly 800. Gah… shudders. I can’t imagine that any of those spirits rested peacefully.
And then I asked, and what happens next? Which is where all stories start.

So the tentative title is: the house of lost hearts.
The summary:
A young woman with no real family is approached by a lawyer who tells her that her great aunt has left her everything in her will. But the house that comes with the estate is no ordinary house. It seems to be haunted and under the terms of the will she *has* to live in it. The house also comes with a lawyer who seems determined to involve himself in her life and a local cop who seems to distrust her. Can she help the spirits of the house and help herself in the process or will she fall victim to the cursed property too?


Links:
The original article

The pinterest board

National novel writing month - friend me up if you wish

The write practice


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

It’s three o'clock in the morning, Sam.



In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!
http://writeworld.org/post/130278832834/its-three-oclock-in-the-morning-Sam
“It’s three o'clock in the morning, Sam.” Val leaned against the back of the door as she argued with him, her ex.
“I know. I’m sorry... I just ...” A pause. “Please, Val? Please open the door.”
“Why?”
“I can’t talk to you out here.”
“No. You can go home.”
“I can’t.” He sounded panicked.
What on earth? She yanked the door open and he nearly fell inside. “Why not?” she demanded.
“I just can’t.”
“Sam,” she warned. “Spill.”
“I thought it was too late for talk.”
“Talk or I’ll make you leave.”
“It’s that guy.”
“What guy?” Although she thought she knew which guy he meant.
“He’s at my house.”
“Which guy?”
“That young one... what’s his name - he’s been following you around. I don’t know why he’s started on me.”
“Emyr.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yeah... him.”
“Why is he following you?”
“I just said, I don’t know. You’d have to ask him”
“I will.” She pointed at the couch. “You sleep there.”
He got that look on his face. “Really? After everything we’ve done together.”
“We are not together now. You’re an ex, Sam. We parted on terms good enough to let you in the door at three am, but you will never get back in my bed.”
“Jeez... okay.”
“Good night, Sam.”
***
Val tossed and turned, trying to go back to sleep and failing. Why was Emyr at Sam’s place? Wait... how did Sam know who Emyr was? Or that he had been following her.
She didn’t think he was dangerous. That wasn’t the vibe she got from him.
She asked Sam in the morning. He showed her a photo one of his housemates had taken. It was definitely Emyr; standing with his back against a tree, ankles crossed. He had to know the picture was being taken. “Who took it?”
“Ben. He said he’s been around for a few days but he only got the shot last night and then he sent it to me.”
“Emyr is not dangerous. I don’t know what you’re scared of.”
“He’s been watching my house.” Sam had been left a house by a relative. He rented rooms out to people who cooked, and cleaned as well as contributed to the bills. She had been a tenant and then she’d been more than that.
“I’ll talk to him.”
“Doesn’t he scare you?” Sam asked.
“No. He’s annoying though.” She would have described Emyr as a puppy. An eager one who wanted her affection.
****
The next day she was more aware of people around her but she didn’t spot Emyr until the day after. He was outside her office when she left for lunch. His face lit up when she stomped across the mall to confront him. “Val!”
“Leave Sam alone.”
He pouted.
“Why are you even at his place? Answer me.”
“Can we talk somewhere?”
“No. “
“Please, Val. I’ll buy you lunch.”
“I don’t want-” but her stomach growled and betrayed her.
He obviously heard it. “There’s a bar a block over, but they do great lunches.”
She checked her watch. “I have to be back in an hour.”
He beamed at her.
***
The bar looked a bit shabby, more of a rough place than she usually frequented. A booth at the back would have suited her better but Emyr pulled out a chair for her at a table in the dead centre of the room. “Drink?” he asked.
“Just a soda.”
She watched as he went to the bar to order drinks. He had a glorious ass. Wide shoulders, slim hips, and not an ounce of fat on him. Pity he was so young. Too young to be in the bar, she belatedly realised. “Now, tell me what you’re up to.”
“We’ll order first.”
He ordered a mixed tapas platter, she a burger.
“Emyr?”
“Sam is not good for you.”
She frowned. “I know that; that’s why I dumped him and moved out.”
The meals appeared lightning fast. “Good lord, did we get someone else's’ food?”
He chuckled. “No. Probably not.”
Probably? Okay.
“Here,” he said. “Try this.” He held it out in front of her and she took it from his hand.
“That’s good.”
“So you aren’t getting back with Sam?”
“Ugh, no. That ship has well and truly sailed.” Busy holding her burger with both hands so that she could eat it, she was only half listening to him. “Wait up,” she said with a mouthful that she swallowed before adding, “What makes you say that?”
“He still likes you. Try this.” He fed her this piece from his fork as she was still holding her burger. He looked incredibly pleased to be sharing his meal with her.
“How did you get that from following him?”
He snorted. “It’s obvious. And you were visiting the house.” Now he fed her a piece of potato wedge.
“I was visiting Ben. He’s been having a rough time.”
“Oh.” He moved some food around on his plate and then glanced up at her through his brows. “Not Sam?”
“No. Ben was my friend when I lived there.”
“So how did you know it was me?”
“Sam showed up at my place at three am. Woke me up and said he was too scared to go home.” She snorted.
Emyr looked horrified but he was holding his fork in mid-air so she stole the chorizo from it. He blinked. “That sounds like a line.”
“That’s what I thought. You’re not scary.”
“No.” He appealed to her mutely.
“He slept on the couch,” she added. “I’m not that stupid.”
“Good.”
She studied him. “So why were you watching his place in the middle of the night.”
An eloquent shrug.
“Emyr, please tell me why.”
He met her eyes as he fed her some more potato.
It suddenly occurred to Val that the bar had gone very quiet. Everyone seemed to be watching them.
“It doesn’t matter now,” Emyr declared and gave her his last piece of roasted red pepper.
“It doesn’t?”
“No.” More meat this time. He beamed at her.
She chewed contemplatively. “So you’ll stop harassing Sam?”
“Yes.”
“Okay then. That’s all I wanted.” Val looked at her plate and grabbed a handful of French fries. “Here,” she said as she dumped them on his plate. “Payback.”
“I fed you,” he said quietly.
“True.” She shoved a fry in his mouth. “There! Now we’re even.”
“Yes, we are.” He looked very serious.
She was sure she heard the barmaid gasp and mutter something but didn’t hear it clearly.
“At any rate, I have to go back to work.”

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Who will you be tomorrow?

I was talking to kid extra about the issues a friend has at uni with her legal studies. She had said something like ‘she’d be glad when she finished learning law’. I used to be a lawyer. Oh, no, I said. Studying law NEVER finishes.
Not only do you have to keep up with changes in the law - and there are literally hundreds of cases heard every day that may set a new precedent. Plus, those same cases that used to be precedent are overturned on appeal in a higher level court. You also have to be up to date on the science or the information used in a case, especially if you go to trial and you have to cross examine an expert witness. And in Australia, as part of your practising certificate, you are also required to attend a minimum number of educational courses in legal studies every single year. Continuing legal education or CLE they are called.
It never stops.
And it is exactly the same with writing. The learning process never stops.
Lately I have become a bit of a learning demon: I read dozens of blog posts a week on writing, publishing, planning and the book industry; I read books on writing, plotting, making great characters, story structure and so on; I do Udemy courses on writing, or promotion, or using Scrivener; I have watched webinars on promotion, website design and many other topics; I have signed up for courses on marketing, book cover design, and productivity; and I have got up at 5am to watch a live chat session with people in the know.
It all helps.
You may cringe when you read the first thing you ever wrote, but don’t be tempted to edit it, or delete it. That was who you were back then, and now you are someone else.
Who will you be tomorrow?