self publishing

Superb Ways to Show Without Telling

nanoIn the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, I know exactly which creature I am: the hare. This was evident when I was younger: studying a bit all semester and sleeping while my college roommate crammed all night, her Dr. Pepper’s lined up on her desk. When the exams were handed back we each had an A; hers was .5 higher than mine.

The memory of the lesson I learned that day stays with me: do a little bit at a time and you’ll be done by the deadline. This was my secret to NaNoWriMo 2014. I began the month on an overnight flight to Prague for a conference, with my laptop out, typing away. There was a week or so where I thought the story I was telling was utter rubbish; then the detective found his sidekick and sparks flew.

You’ve got a great story, I told myself, in the lead up to Thanksgiving when it was unlikely I would be able write one word, while hosting 7 adults and 7 children. 30,000 words that didn’t exist before November 1.

Then an interesting thing happened: I went through my chapter list on Saturday and Sunday, adding words to those under 1666 (the daily NaNo average).

11:30 p.m. on November 30th (the last day you can get in your 50,000 words) I uploaded my manuscript.

Yesterday I wrote another 1200 words. That hare won the race. This hare has more story to tell.

Here’s the final excerpt I’ll share in my NaNo journey.


Amita, Manu’s sister, is looking for her brother who was reported to have entered the country a few weeks ago. Her dismay is representative of the many families who do not hear from their relatives once they enter their host countries.

Stay tuned for more updates about this work in progress (and the title is still missing…).

PS this scene employs the infamous writing adage “Show, don’t tell” the reader what’s going on with your characters. We try to experience Amita’s confusion with her, rather than learning about it second hand.




Amita took another step forward, grateful he hadn’t pushed past her like so many other Europeans did when given half the chance. “I look for my brother,” she said. She pushed the passport copy of Manu and his approved work visa under the opening.


“You housemaid?” The man asked, his hands unmoving.


“I’m looking for Laxmi Pande,” Amita switched to Hindi.


The man’s narrowed gaze is why she had hoped Madam Cindy would take her to the embassy; her whiteness would have shamed him into being helpful.


“She not here.”


“My brother missing,” Amita said. “He here for three weeks. I no see him.” She managed in the English he was forcing her to speak. “Miss Laxmi she arrange contract for him.”


“That’s terrible,” the woman murmured behind her.


The man picked up the sheet of paper. There was no nametag for her to record a name, like Sir Paul had asked her to get before he left on his trip. He would have come with her but he had to go to a conference in Paris. Busy. Everyone was busy.


“Contracts,” he said, tossing the paper back at her.


“This not contract?” Amita asked in confusion. This was the document the woman had supplied the last time she visited the embassy, looking for a job for Manu. She had promised an office job, as a kitchen service man, boy as they were called here, where he would bring water, tea, coffee, or juice to those having meetings.


The man turned in his chair and tapped the window in the direction of one of the stations in the main room. “Contracts, there. Go see contracts.”


Amita picked up the copies of the visa and passport, the only tangible proof she had that her brother had made plans to join her in the Arabian Gulf. She moved through the rows of chairs to the counter the receptionist had indicated. There were two men here, one seated, the other standing and pointing out something in a stack of papers. Similar stacks rose like little towers on every surface of the room, some in chairs as well. The men in this room stopped talking when she approached. “My brother,” she said. She pressed the papers forward again. “I no hear from my brother.”

Wordless Wednesday: The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers


I’m thrilled to help spread the word about this book because Barb Drozdowich is my design/newsletter/blogger guru. She has been fantastic to work with and knows quite a bit about how writers can make the most of the blogosphere.

Do you feel out of your comfort zone when dealing with book bloggers? They are the New Gatekeepers to book publishing success – but how can you tap into that source of free promotions by putting your best foot forward?

The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers combines the advice of 215 blogging professionals collected in a survey covering all aspects of communication between authors and Review Blogs. Whether you are a new author, or have many titles under your belt, let us demystify the promotion of your book on a book blog.

You’ll learn about whom and where book bloggers are, and the following: The Query, The Review, The Giveaway,The Author Interview, The Guest Post, The Book Blurb Excerpt and Cover Reveals and more!




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Inside the Writer’s Studio with Steven Vincent

author photoThis week, I’m featuring an author outside of my normal reading genre. Crossing genres is not only healthy, it’s important to keep your creative juices flowing. Think of it kind of like rotating crops on a field. Your mind needs the variety. Steven Vincent tells tales that are between Fantasy and Science Fiction. As a kid, he was immersed in video games. They were 16-bit and not much for plot, but that prompted him to create his own stories. This is where his storytelling began.

How would you describe your writing persona in 5 words?
Determined to entertain people.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.
I’m probably the most ambitious person you’ll ever meet!

Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and that seems to have worked well for the last 22 years! I would like to see Ireland or Japan someday though, if that counts.

Did you have support during your decision to be a writer?
Oh, for sure! My whole family was behind me all the way, and still supports me on every leg of the race.?Process:

Dawn of the Knight coverDo you read reviews written about your work?
I think reviews are very important, good or bad. There does come a point where criticism becomes someone’s noisy opinion though, and every person – author or not – has to know when to smile and nod, then move on. That’s actually one of the major themes of Dawn of the Knight.

What’s your creative process?
I get an idea, and let it sit in the back of my mind for a month or so without paying it much thought. You’d be surprised how quickly material builds up subconsciously, so that when you sit down to ‘flesh’ the book out, you’re all set.

Do you write on a desktop or laptop?
I wish I had a laptop! But then again, I’ve been writing on the same computer for so long I’m not sure I could make a switch.

Do you have a day job?
‘Help Wanted’ signs are hard-pressed for work around here! Writing is my preferred job though, and it’s picking up pretty fast, so I’ve got my hands full anyways.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Yes, especially to those who choose to self-publish; learn the market. Get to know some other authors or bloggers, find out what sales techniques grab your attention, learn how to use the social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, and learn the market a bit. You can write a great book, but it doesn’t go very far if nobody can see it! At the end of the day though, there’s nothing like hands-on experience.

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Wordless Wednesday: Judging by the Cover

I’ve never understood the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Because that’s exactly what we do. Whether books or people, despite admonitions otherwise, we make decisions based on appearance. In my journey as both a commercially  published author, I’ve had covers I’ve loved and others I winced at proof copies (crossing my fingers for the reprint). Being an indie or self published writer, however, means from start to finish I have the creative control (and responsibility) of creating a compelling story with an enticing cover to match.

Jamie WinderThe Internet is a jungle and as an indie you have to go through trial and error when deciding which editors or designers you would like to work with. How do you find good people? Ask for referrals and also look at samples of their work. This is how I found Jamie Winder, my go-to designer for my top eBook titles.

Jamie  is a freelance graphic designer, occasional print-maker and co-author of the forthcoming book Where You Going? Design Adventures in Southeast Asia. Having worked commercially across both print and digital, he often undertakes self-initiated projects to learn new things and remain enthusiastic. These have led to font design, illustration, screen printing and, ultimately, to Southeast Asia.

He’s done two of my titles, From Dunes to Dior and my latest release The Dohmestics. they’re invariably the ones readers love the most. Let me know if you have your own questions for Jamie.

How would you describe your design philosophy? Form follows function.

Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?

I’m currently exploring Southeast Asia with Bangkok as my base, so I’m not thinking about settling any one place for now. That said, I’m intrigued by Taipei, and am attracted to the quality of life and rich design scene in Melbourne… but I’ll probably end up back in London some day!


Did you have support at the beginning of your decision to be in the creative industry? FromDunesToDior

I always assumed I’d be in the creative industry, so really there was no decision. I took a foundation course in art & design after my A-levels to help determine which area I’d pursue—over a year you get to try out everything from fine art to fashion, new media to print making—and it was my fashion tutor that pointed out to me that all work I was creating in her class was actually graphic design.


What’s your creative process?

The best ideas seem to come when I’m not thinking about a project, so the process often starts first thing when I’m not fully awake, or in the shower… unexpected times and places. From there I’ll sketch things out with a pen (very roughly, my notebook is no work of art), try a few variations of the concept and then get my laptop out to put it all together.


Do you design on a laptop or in a studio?

My laptop is indispensable, it allows me to travel and stay on top of my workload wherever I am.


Do you have a day job?

No, but being a freelance designer is often a day job + night shift rolled into one!


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Inside the Writer’s Studio with Susan Buchanan

Author Susan Buchanan

We’re back in the studio today with writer Susan Buchanan to get the scoop on her latest release.

The Dating Game is her second novel, and published on 2nd Nov 2012. Sign of the Times, her first novel, was published in March 2012. She will shortly start work on her third novel, due for release Spring 2013. She’s a busy woman and clearly someone to tell us more about the business of writing!

 Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Life isn’t always easy. Juggling work, friendships and a social life can be hard. Finding the right person can be difficult. There’s no one right way of doing so. Sometimes even with the best engineered plans, Life has something else in store for you.

 How much of the book is realistic?

All of the book is realistic, although only a few anecdotes are actually taken from any event I have experienced or any trait of anyone I know personally. There are no characters based on people I know. That said, one of the most cringeworthy events in the book actually happened. I wanted to write chick lit without the fluff, so contemporary fiction which reflected people’s everyday lives and the trials and tribulations that befall them, as well as the happy occasions. I like to think of it as chick lit with extra realism.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Editing it. I thought it would be easier than last time, as last time Sign of the Times started out at 300K words and was reduced after ten revisions to 120K. Don’t ask!

Anyway, The Dating Game started as 115K and is now around 110K. I learned a lot from last time. But I also learned a lot about proofing and editing my own work before it went out to the professionals, so that required a lot more revisions. As a writer, you constantly notice parts you would like to change, tiny proofing mistakes etc. It is neverending, but one day you have to decide ‘That’s me done with that,’ and move on. Otherwise you would go mad!

 Tell us your latest news.

The Dating Game launched on 2nd November and I will take a few weeks simply marketing it. The launch lasts a week from 2nd-9th Nov.  There is a whole series of events, raffles and competitons. You can win a copy of 1 of 55 ebooks and Amazon vouchers. It’s a huge event and took a lot of co-ordinating. Once the dust settles mid-November, I am going to start planning my third novel. All I can tell you about that at the moment is that it features a male protagonist, a few love interests along the way, several life lessons, plus several key decisions for my main character to make which will seriously impact on his life.

For more on this, best to follow the blog, as I willl post regular updates

 Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

First of all, thanks to those who have read Sign of the Times and shown an interest in my writing. I chose rather a bumper task for my first novel, in integrating the lives of 12 main characters, plus their entourages. The feedback I  have had from readers boosted me to dust off the three chapters I had written of The Dating Game three years ago. I then wrote the rest, buoyed by my readers’ enthusiasm and their wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful!) reviews.

I also took on board that they loved certain aspects of my writing and I incorporate that into The Dating Game, specifically the section in Barcelona. My third novel will also feature a foreign country, again, because readers told me they particularly enjoyed reading the Italian section of Sign of the Times. They could almost taste the food, see the splendid scenery and ogle the gorgeous men!  I love travelling and have been to many countries. My only difficulty was deciding which one to choose.

I have also enjoyed chatting with readers on Twitter and FB and many now leave me comments on my blog, too, which I love. I hope you enjoy The Dating Game and, all going well, I hope to have a third novel to share with you in the Spring.

Keep with all of Susan’s latest on Twitter or Facebook:
Twitter – @susan_buchanan




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Book Bloggers are an Indie’s Best Friend

Celebrating Bloggers blog hop

With the birth of a new industry, it’s not uncommon to have other associated services pop up. When you’re making a car, for example, you’ll also need upholstery, wheels, and even consumer reviews to tell you which car is the best for your lifestyle.

The same is true of book publishing. Years ago, like in 2000, you waited for magazines to tell you what to read. Or maybe word of mouth from your book club, librarian, or other literary source. The introduction of the e-book poured kerosene on the self publishing industry. Commercial publishers began looking at download rates and purchase prices to see what authors were now risk worthy. As more and more writers began flooding the market, and more platforms like Smashwords became available, suddenly it was was difficult to pick your indie read as a paperback.

Enter the book blogger. Book bloggers are a self selected literati who read, review, and blog about books because they love them. They don’t get paid, are often juggling hectic work and personal schedules, and in many cases are berated by authors for not being available. They do it because they read something exciting and they want you to know about it. OR they had a terrible experience and they want to warn you so that you can get to your long list of to-reads.

As an independent author, I couldn’t have gotten the international coverage of my book without these faithful word warriors. They are as professional and polished as any reviewer you’ll find out there.

As part of Celebrating Bloggers week, I’m sharing some of the recent book bloggers who have come my way. Check out their blogs, follow them. You may find a book or two that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

What blogs do you follow? Leave some suggestions so we can all support these wonderful people who are writers in their own right.

Library Girl Reads

Mason Canyon

Zoe Harrington

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Is Imitation the Best Kind of Fan Flattery?

In July, I released my 6th ebook, a labor of three years of love, a contemporary romance set in Qatar, called Love Comes Later. I waited to see what readers’ responses would be and was not disappointed at the latest self-taught lesson in writing, marketing, and publishing.

Two things stand out: 1) if academic work is for a select audience, then fiction is for everyone. And 2) if I want people near and far to have a crack at my book, then I have to stick with novels. You may disagree with me (which is allowed and please do share) but my stats don’t lie. In my previous eleven months of publishing electronic titles, I felt like a salmon going upstream. Trying to get reviews or bloggers to notice my book was tough. In the six weeks since this title has been out, there are 27 reviews and 43 likes. That’s more reviews than all the other books had a month after release and more downloads during the free period of any of my books to date.


I did also put quite a bit of PR muscle into this release and have to congratulate Sandra for her entry on the Kindle Fire giveaway as to how people fall in love and why e-readers are especially important for women. Maybe it was all the PR and not the genre.


Even so, my conclusion: People love a good novel more than memoir or short fiction. Many readers used social media to tell me they couldn’t put this book down. One said she read while she cooked. Another said she was in the process of finishing it and would have a surprise for me in a few days.


“What’s the surprise?” My husband asked. I had no idea. She had so intrigued him, he kept checking back with me.


“Did she tell you the surprise?”


A week later, I could say yes. She had loved the book so much, she didn’t want it to end. So she had written an epilogue for two of the two main characters! I’m sharing some of it with you here below. Her style is very different from mine – much sexier! – and as I read my characters’ names speaking lines I hadn’t written for them, I felt mixed emotions. On balance though, I’m taking it as it was intended – a positive sign that an aspiring writer took her hand to telling a story, imitating characters she admired.


How do you feel about fan fiction? Is it the ultimate compliment? Or like designer brands, is imitation worse than flattery?


Love Can Wait – Epilogue ** By DohaSu


Abdulla was adjusting his gutra in the mirror, when he caught Sangita looking at him.


“I promise we’ll find a new apartment.”


“Its okay, Fatima will always be a part of our lives.  As long as you’re okay with me adding a few personal touches…”


“Of course.”


Sangita removed her shayla and the pins that held her hair in a bun and shook her hair free.


“You know that you don’t have to wear it?”


“I want to. For you. I like the idea of you being the only man to see my hair and skin.”


Abdulla’s eyes burned with longing for Sangita and he strode over to embrace her. He’d been resisting doing this the last few weeks, as he’d been afraid that he would not be able to restrain himself. Though wounded, he’d accepted that he would not be her first but was contented to be the one and only from now on.


“I’ve been wanting to do this…” he said as he pulled her towards him and ran his fingers through her hair again and again.












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Wordless Wednesday: The Consistency of Parchment

Today I’m featuring the cover of the novel, The Consistency of Parchment, a story about our links to the past, and our often frustrated attempts to break away from the constraints that this history imposes upon us.

The cover image conveys the interconnected nature of our lives. James Tenedero, the author, explains that physical artefacts – and the ways in which these symbols provide an ongoing link to the past – is a recurring motif in the book. In the book, Cal Wendell and Kendra Velasquez see their fates joined by a random encounter, and then face the need to come to terms with their respective histories as they seek to uncover the secret hidden in a safe deposit box.

Keep in touch with James through his blog or on Twitter @jamestenedero.





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I Finally Did it in my California King Bed…

Read an eBook, that is. There was a time I would have told you that would never happen. The thought of curling up in bed with an electronic device to read was about as appetizing as, well, you know.

The Former Contenders

In our house, Kindles have not had a long shelf life. The first one, an anniversary gift, was resold, the package never opened. The second one, also the second generation of the device, I gave as a gift to the aforementioned anniversary gift giver. He turned it on for a few days and used the ‘read to me feature’. Eventually it too went the way of the first and was sold on to someone else.

Technophobe reactions from early thirtysomethings probably surprises you. After all my husband had given me the Kindle to save his own back on the international flights for which I would cram as many as six books into a carry-on. But the probelm wasn’t the technology. The problem was my experience as a reader.

My protest “but I like to hold a book in my hands” is what you’d expect from someone with a PhD in literature.

The Flirtations

Then I started publishing eBooks. Yes, digital only. There was no way for a reader to have the physical experience with one of my six titles. The irony did not strike me — at least not too hard. This past May however, on Mother’s Day, another shiny, expensive device showed up. The iPad.

“Oh, these don’t have a good history in this house,” I said to my ever patient husband.

“We’ll see,” he said. The gift, as any good ones, was really to keep our toddler entertained (and quiet) on an upcoming 15 hour flight. A little boy’s silence can only be a gift that keeps on giving to any and everyone on an airplane or in a hotel near  him — including his parents. An interesting phenomena happened. I started using the iPad. First for browsing, then for email. My fat fingers found the keys easier to manage. And then, I discovered the App store. All of these events coincided with the longest stretch of free time I’ve had in memory. For about eight weeks this summer I am responsibility free. I wanted to get caught up on that elusive to-do list….Enter eBooks stage right; straight onto the Kindle App for the iPad.

The First Time

At first the Kindle and I were like new lovers. I wasn’t sure how to keep the text from flipping sides when I turned over. And where was I supposed to tap to see the progress bar? Didn’t it know I didn’t want the dictionary? I liked sliding through pages. I read an entire book the first night suffering through jet lag.We grew used to each other over time. I’m still buying print books. But for indie authors, to review or blurb, there’s nothing like an e-reader.

You too can sign up to win a Kindle Fire during the  Love Comes Later blog tour which kicks off today for a month. For the first three days of the tour, the book is FREE on Amazon. That’s right. And if you don’t want to read in bed with a device, you can download the app for FREE your desk or laptop.

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Wordless Wednesday: Spy or Die

Spy or Die by Diana Manos

I’m sneaking in a Writer’s Studio feature today under the cover of Wordless Wednesday because I recently met Diana Manos in the Twitterverse and can’t wait to tell you about her and her book, a paranormal romantic thriller for a mature audience. This isn’t your teen’s vampire….

1. What is your one piece of must-know advice for aspiring writers?

Writing is what makes you a writer. Resist the urge to spend your energy talking about writing, and just hunker down somewhere alone, alone, alone and crank out prolific amounts of work. Whether what you write initially is good or bad, the more you write, the better you’ll get and the more comfortable you will get with just sitting down and doing it.

2. Is there an unforgettable lesson you learned from writing this book you wouldn’t know otherwise about fiction?
I’ve written four novels (some of them yet to be released) and this is the first book where I followed Stephen King’s advice, “The book is boss.” I let the book lead me and I didn’t fight it with my own plans for it. It unfurled itself. It seems to work for Stephen King pretty successfully. I hope it does the same for me. I know the writing felt easier this time. The outcome remains to be seen.
3. Any challenges for you as you wrote and published this book?

Author Diana Manos

This is the first book I published on Amazon as an eBook. I was using a Mac and it was pretty tricky to get the formatting right for Kindle, and there isn’t a lot of help for Mac users on that. If anyone is using a Mac and would like some help with it, please don’t hesitate to email me at Maybe I can help.
4. How would you start your next project? Are you on your next book?
I am already working on the second book of the D.C. Otherworld Chronicles, which I expect to release on Halloween 2012. It seems to be easier this time because the characters are already set upfrom Spy or Die. I plan to use the “book is boss” method again this time. The rest is just sitting down and writing every day. The regularity keeps the story fresh and the energy rolling.
5. Anything else you want readers to know?
I would like to emphasize to all writers out there that we are in a very special time, a time that has never been before. We are able to publish our own work and get it out there into the universe without any restraints. The power is in our hands to fill the world with stories without Big Business getting in our way. I very much believe in indie publishing.
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