Monday, January 26, 2015
INVICTUS Part 1 published, INVICTUS Part 2 reaches over 18,000 words.
The first four reviews have come back following last weeks release of INVICTUS Part 1 - Introducing Richard - two four star, and two five star!
It's a great feeling, as a writer, to receive positive and constructive feedback from complete strangers, it just makes you warm and fuzzy inside. As an Indie writer it is probably even more rewarding because of the encouragement one gleans from such feedback; an author under the banner of the big five publishing houses has that encouragement lavished upon them often - or at least that is how I presume it to be.
But the best feeling, or at least the best feeling in the world for me, is when I'm writing and I get so drawn into the story that it feels like I'm living in it - it's amazing. I don't know if it's just me, or if others feel the same, but it's true. It tells me that my story is interesting, has character, is believable. It's a bit like existing in a dream, so real that it allows me to explore story options, seeing through my minds eye to test the plausibility of a plot, or a reaction or even an encounter. I can stop the story at any time, back track and attempt an alternative twist, run it as a test - like it/not like it, implement it, ignore it - pretty much anything I want. It's fantastically uninhibiting! Being able to 'feel' a story like this is probably why I've been able to write over 18,000 in two days, it's enjoyable AND productive. The downside of being an Indie is that I have to step away from this playground of fun in order to earn a living and pay the bills.
Anyway, INVICTUS Part 2 is motoring along - I'm thinking that I'll release a chapter or two through the news feed on the ajwilsonbooks.net over the coming months, just to get feedback from those that have read the first of the INVICTUS series.
Happy writing people!
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Reviews work both ways.
As most are probably aware I have just released my third book onto Amazon. Now, three books hardly constitutes 'seasoned pro' in the world of writing but I am still pretty happy with where I am right now; four WiP's, all 1/2 to 2/3 written.
As always the drive now is to get those reviews on the board, get the feedback and look to the future. During an alcohol fueled brain storming session I came across a site called 'bookvetter.com' which kind of struck me as being obvious but then it dawned on me that I wasn't seeing the wood for the trees.
I'll explain: As mentioned earlier, I've just released my third publication - INVICTUS Part 1 - Also, over Christmas I wrote over 100,000 words of the Elementals WiP, before that I was writing RR2, INVICTUS Part 2 and a completely new story that I've already decided will not see the light of day. That's a lot of writing and all of these will at some point be touted for reviews and feedback.
Bookvetter.com is not the poshest site, nor the most advanced in terms of functionality BUT it is simple and seemingly effective. The basic premise is 'help others to help yourself' - no frills and no gimmicks, it's back scratch time.
For the last three years I have been frantically writing story after story, pounding various websites, social media and contacts to harvest those illusive reviews, the one thing that I haven't done is read! In other words my focus has all been very one way - how bloody selfish of me!
Bookvetter.com operates a points scheme - you enter your book for reviews BUT you don't get to see them unless you've earned 'review points'. How do you earn review points? I hear you ask - YOU review other books. It's a very complicated structure - You review someones book and someone reviews yours - dead complicated eh. I know this not a new concept, but it is one that I had forgotten to consider.
So, I uploaded INVICTUS Part 1 with the appropriate information (genre, content summary, graded for profanity, violence, sex etc) then submitted it. Part of the joining process is to list your own preferences for reading material (along the same lines as above), Behind the scenes the site offers a list of up to 5 matches for books that meet my reading preferences with view to me actually reading one of them. And then I did something amazing - I read a book! All that writing and I hadn't read a single book in three years. And, it was amazing for a few reasons:
1. I got to read a very good book from a first time author.
2. That author was elated to receive my review (I remember that feeling myself!)
3. I learned a lot. Sometimes, reading other books, seeing other writing styles is a great way of honing your own skills.
4. 2 Review points earned.
To review a book you just need to be a reader, there is no special badge or qualification required. If you read it, give your honest opinions, highlight the good bits, identify any obvious area's that weren't so good - boom, review done. From that the author and I have now linked, a contact made, another avenue opens up. It really is very therapeutic, very productive and a great way of contributing back.
It all sounds so simple and obvious - so obvious I really didn't look at it - my bad!
I think it's a 'life' thing, people are so focused on their own progress that it becomes "take...take...take..." Whereas the old adage "GIVE & take" really does apply and is much more beneficial.
Oh, that book? "View from the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale" by Elizabeth Horton-Newton Well worth it's 5 stars, very recommended.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Testing Amazon's countdown
I'm all for trying new things, why not? Working with Judi at proofreadNZ we're 'testing' INVICTUS Part 1 in the Countdown promo. From what I understand the book has to be released at full price for a 30 day period, after that you can play a bit.
INVICTUS Part 1 was always destined to be a 'loss leader', a taster to get peoples interest, close to but not quite a giveaway.
So, with it's launch this morning it carries the full price tag of USD$3.99 - not ideal.
My thought process here is to turn the 30 days into a review gathering exercise, where I am actually providing gift cards to the value of $3.99 to a number of people so that they can purchase and review the book before it starts on the discount trail. There are a few reasons for this - I honestly believe that a reviewer is doing me the service so I see no reason why that person should be out of pocket for providing that service. Secondly, it is clearly understood that the provision of the free copy is for an honest and unbiased review. I am very much at the growth stage of my development therefore the feedback is the thing I thirst for, it's the only thing I want!
Interestingly I have had a couple of people refuse to review because it is an 'Indie' book - I understand that some Indie books are not of a reasonable standard, that said I know of trad-pub books that are pretty poor as well, so I don't see the divide as being quite as black and white as some seem to think.
As always I am excited and nervous, I don't know how INVICTUS is going to be received so it is a waiting game. It's a good story, it is well edited and I love the cover - the rest is up to the reader.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Cunning plan, or misguided stupidity? That is the question.....
I am really excited that INVICTUS Part 1 is finally ready for Amazon release. There's been a few delay's, last minute changes and, of course, those subtle frilly bits that no one really notices, but some would soon sing out if they weren't there. It's all done, dusted and ready - Sunday, January 18th here we come.
Over my many years I've never really been one to conform, I don't know why but I have always kind of struggled with rules; or at least nonsensical rules made up by industries or organisations that seem to think they know best. It's a character flaw! :-)
Many times I have mentioned just how invaluable Judi (proofreadNZ and Santel e-publishing) has been, and continues to be, to my adventures as an author, and that stands as true today as it did nearly four years ago when I started on this journey. But my decision to launch INVICTUS as a 'loss leader' has brought a raised eyebrow from my friend, it goes against certain principles. I'm not arguing that! I believe that my story's are worth fair recompense, not because of the financial investment I have made in them, but because of the time and effort it takes to get an idea out of my head, onto paper and ultimately into the public domain as a professionally edited and presented, good quality publication.
There are other areas that we don't necessarily agree on either, but I'll explain:
Having only been writing for 4 years I am still classified as a 'newbie author', and that is fine with me. What that means in effect is that I don't really have a big following of fans, in fact I could probably count my readers using my fingers, maybe on both hands but I'm not convinced. Being honest with myself, no one is searching Amazon for me as an author so the least marketable aspect of my books at the moment is... my name. Sad but true :-)
Looking at the cover of INVICTUS Part 1
Firstly, I love the graphics, it gives a strong indication of the genre, it draws the eye and has enough in it to give any would-be readers eyes a veritable treat, lots to see. I also love the title, INVICTUS, it stands out visually but it also has a real punch about it. The Part 1 is a secondary piece of information - it tells the would be reader that there is more to this story, don't expect a quick tidy, no lose ends tale.
Underneath, in really small font, is the Introducing Richard sub, sub-title. Should it be bigger? Some may say definitely yes, but I don't see why. The cover art grabs the eyes, the title does the rest, by the time a person sees 'Introducing Richard' they've already decided to buy it so that bit is kind of like the cherry on the top. And somewhere down the bottom is my name. Maybe, in the future if/when I am lucky enough to have a few more readers it might be more appropriate to have it emblazed across the cover, but I just don't see any value in it being done that way right now.
Currently I have two other publications available on Amazon (Russian Redemption and Fated Encounters), neither doing particularly well but that doesn't matter, so I have decided to try and use INVICTUS as a way of getting noticed. My other two books are priced far more appropriately however, given the choice between Book 1 (by a famous author) and Book 2 (by an unknown Indie Author) which one is the great public going to pick, and perceive as 'value': It will be the first one in most cases. INVICTUS will go on sale at under a dollar, it's not a case of devaluing my work, it is a case of introducing myself to a fan base that I haven't met yet.
It's an experiment and we will see if it works out how I hope - I will of course report back on here over the coming months.
I've also taken a similar tact with Fated Encounters - I've changed the cover.
As a thumbnail, both the title and my name are pretty much lost - I get that. But I'm relying on the striking graphics to raise the curiosity of the person that is scanning the thumbnails. Getting that first click of the mouse is the hardest because there are pages and pages of thumbnail pictures. So, I'm lumping my egg's into the basket of visual attraction/curiosity. Once they click on the image they will see the title clearly, and my name, and they are already one click closer to a purchase.
My thought process is that if I do the same as every one else then I can't be surprised that the results are the same - ergo, if I want better results I have to be, well... different.
I may be wrong, but if I don't try I'll never know - that's part of the magic of being an Indie Author, the freedom to experiment.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
The Blurb - how I hate you!
Oh how I hate writing the blurb for my books; it is, for me, the worst part of the process. I have researched this subject a lot and everybody says there's only one way to do it, except they're all different?!?
I suppose this is all to do with 'fine tuning' the skills of an Author but it is such a pain. Generally, the perception seems to be that a blurb is between 150 - 200 words - tick.
Apparently a brief scene set and character introduction are also required, with a few 'hooks' to get the reader to buy the story. By 'hooks' they mean questions or possible mind tickling double entendre.
Of course, all of the above has to be done in a manner so as not to give away the story.
But what if your story doesn't fit the mold, (as mine tend not to do).
I don't normally have one star of the show, I like to spread the love around a few key characters.
A hint - AVOID using too many character names in the blurb, it confuses people.
My stories tend to involve quite complex plots and sub-plots, way too many to mention just one or two, even from a hook perspective. Do I just pick the main plot? But then there are so many other spin off plots that it is very difficult, nay - impossible, to give a real honest feel for the story in 150 - 200 words. AND, if I as the author can't project the story sufficiently in the blurb what chance has the reader got of truly understanding what they are buying?
"Sometime ago, there was someplace somewhere in the world where a fellow (Larry) and a couple of his mates (George and Rodney) did some stuff to prevent the world from complete destruction. Meanwhile, somebody else was trying to stop them from stopping the others, and they fell in love. - Crikey, there's nearly 50 words used.
Hey, if anybody has any pointers on this I'll happily post them here to help others.
An insight into the new Work InProgress.... Elementals.
Invictus Part 1 is complete, all done, ready to launch on Amazon as an e-book on Sunday 18th January. The newest WIP is well underway - a new genre, a whole new experience. I'd describe it as a Young Adult Fantasy Adventure that is proving to be both challenging and exhilarating. Honestly, I can't begin to describe how much fun it is to write this one.At 60,000 words I was comfortable with the story length and thought the ending was about right. Yes, I did plan a follow on publication but, as this was a whole new genre for me, I thought I'd dip my toe in the water first. I sent the story out to the Labrats and was absolutely stunned by the responses that I got back. Sufficed to say I was not 'allowed' to end the book where I had, they ALL wanted more!I suppose in my head this was always destined to be a 2 book story, but entering into the land of make-believe is boundless, the secret is to keep the reader entertained.Over the Christmas period I've become a bit of a recluse in so much as I don't want to leave the laptop, I don't want to step away from the fantasy world I'm creating, it just seems to be such a great place to stay! :-) My son was in a car crash last month, released from hospital just before Christmas, so I wasn't able to go out much anyway, now I just don't want to! :-)Anyway, taking on board the feedback, I went over what I had written (and please remember that this was a first draft only scribe) to see how the story could benefit from a little extra. I went back to my 'ideas board' (A blank whiteboard and 4 markers) and played around with some scenario's. One thing led to another and Elementals is now at 91,000 with no sign of stopping but I DO know how the story finishes (NOT ends!). I shall write this one right through regardless of how many words, and then I'll be calling upon Judi's skills to guide me as to if or where it should be divided up into volumes. The writing I absolutely love, the rest I still struggle with.
Anyway, here's a quick introduction, the back ground bit, for you to have a look at - I'd welcome any feedback as always (email@example.com)
And so another planet was created, a small sphere of nothing in the vastness of space; real-estate for the Gods. To bring life to the planet the Gods gave it the four basic elements; Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, sealed inside the protection of an atmosphere. Much time was enjoyed watching how life not only took hold, but actually flourished on what started out as a baron wasteland, a building plot. Pleased with their creation, and satisfied that the planet would continue on its path of evolution, the Gods left the planet alone, cast their eye wider for other opportunities to help their Universe thrive. In simple terms, if the universe was the garden of the Gods, this planet was just a small flower bed; a really, really, small flower bed!
The evolution of the planet led to the rise of a new species of life, a species that called itself Hu-man. In the beginning the Hu-man was focused on surviving on this new world, but as their consciousness developed, as their intellect grew, so they started to take control. Like a weed or a parasitical invader of the flower bed, Hu-man started to destroy the other life forms that shared its environment, asserting itself as the primary incumbent. They changed things to suit their own development, feasted on their enemies to the point of extinction and beyond; Hu-man’s learnt to destroy.
A race that first sought only to survive now sought to control. Like a resilient evil the Hu-man spread across the surface of the planet, controlling what it could, destroying what it could not. The ‘flower bed’ became infested, this was not what the God’s had hoped for.
Seeing the rise of such a dominant destroyer of their creation the God’s took action; the four elements were empowered to act independently to curtail the Hu-man race. Earthquakes, tsunami’s, tornado’s and volcanoes; woodland fires, hurricanes, tidal waves and landslides, the elements tried hard. Initially this brought an improvement, a working balance was attained. But the Hu-man race adjusted, they evolved, they even battled the elements.
In an effort to save their creation great forces were unleashed on the planet, Hu-man’s population was reduced back. This time the God’s created a pact between the elements, giving them the ability to work in unison to help prevent the problem reoccurring – they were bonded together.
Still the Hu-mans persisted in their war on the planet, they sought to control the elements, harness the very powers that were created to give them life – and turn it to destruction. The Gods looked on, dismayed; when the elements had been given to the planet their purpose was to give life, not take it.
Finally, the creators gave form to the control of the four elements, a single orb. Each element breathed it’s conscience into the forging of the metallic orb; precious metals taken from the earth were molded in the heat of fire, annealed by the wind, before being reheated and quenched in the water of the Galapagos Islands. Earth, wind, fire and water were bonded forever, the Elemental was born.
Some Hu-man’s learnt of the existence of the orb; driven by greed of power they scoured the planet in search of the Elemental.
Wise to the ambition of man the God’s re-forged the Orb, its new form was a more two dimensional map of the world they had created, it became a large disc. From its new form four equal segments were created, each served one of the elements, these became the Elementals.
Then began the quest to find the strongest champions among men, not just physically but also strong of heart; loyalty, honour and intelligence, coupled with physical ability, battle skills and swordsmanship were the sought attributes. These men were sworn to the Elementals, each bound to protect when called upon.They were given the form of knowledge, with their Elementals at their core. Then, to hide them from the greed of men, they were secreted across the width and breadth of the planet.
The ‘Evil’ that nurtured that greed argued with the God’s, it threatened to reveal the secreted locations giving the power of the Elementals to its own champion. The protest was heard and a compromise proposed, a battle of their respective champions, for control of the elements. One of the Gods, referred to as Zeus by some, was angered by the Evil’s ultimatum, but unable to expunge the Evil, he agreed.
Like trophies waiting to be collected the Protectors of the Elementals stood guard over their charges, whilst the duel commenced. The Champion of Evil stood tall, a great soldier, muscular and laden with armour; the Champion of the Elements, a woman with hair like the night, stood with just her beliefs and a jeweled dagger. Evil felt confident.
It took just two strikes, the dagger driven into the soft flesh revealed as the soldier lifted his sword to attack, first one side then the other, and the Champion of Evil fell without landing a single blow.
Seeing its Champion slain the Evil was furious, demanding another opportunity to fight for control of the elements, threatening to reveal the Elementals if it was not given.
A pact was made, a pact so powerful that even the Evil would not dare break it; new champions would meet on this anniversary, and duel for Elementals. Evil was happy, it longed for the four seasons to pass until the next duel. His happiness was short lived as Zeus revealed a new born Goddess, it would be on her anniversary that the two forces would meet, this worlds time equivalent of sixty years.
That is the myth, one that has probably been distorted over time and forgotten by all but a few. Not many people today believe in the existence of the Elementals, even fewer believe in their capabilities, but that doesn’t mean that the story is not true!
Whether by chance or by design the four elementals were discovered by two young children on a bombed out street in London, in 1940. Circumstances conspired to divide them, a lifetime was spent trying to bring them back together. Away from the eyes of mankind, unknown to all but a few, there was a battle edging ever closer – to comprehend the full implications of the looming battle, one must first understand the capabilities of each element – together they were the ‘Elemental’, in the wrong hands they were destruction!
But this is 2004, an era of microchip technologies, mobile phones, the internet and wars. A quick snapshot of any period of the earth’s modern history reveals a stark truth, somewhere, someone is busy having a war with someone else; destruction is all around us.
"If there were no downs, there could be no up's"
Thursday, January 1, 2015
INVICTUS Part 1: Introducing Richard - is going live!
Although the original plan was to launch 'Invictus' before the end of 2014, we decided to let it slip into 2015. One of the many benefits to 'Hobby writing' is that deadlines are a lot more flexible, and mainly self imposed; even though I enjoy the pressure, the Christmas and New Year period is probably not a good time to add to drama that the season brings anyway.. There were a few things going on in my private life that demanded my attention so we took the decision to let it slip - well. it slips no more! January 18th will be the release date for INVICTUS Prt 1.
The story tells how a well kept secret is suddenly exposed as the result of a failed military mission in Somalia. It examines the 'cause & effect' of miss information, that droplet on the still water that sends ripples outwards in all directions, indiscriminately. Family, friends, careers and complete strangers all fall victim to the aftershock of one bullet.
For me this is a great story, a novella, it's almost like a 27,000 word understanding of how Richard gets to where he's going, the emotional baggage that he carries forward, and the consequences of 'that secret'.
As an author, I loved writing this because it gave me the opportunity to yet again push boundaries, to experiment with a few different angles on character development. And, it's the first of my books to have a professionally designed cover. Up to now, any and all spare funding was channeled into the editing, the top priority, I was lucky enough to have a little left over in the pot so I decided to invest it in the cover - and I am so glad that I did. By launching INVICTUS Part 1 as an e-book only, the costs are reduced considerably, allowing a few other luxuries (like the cover) to be considered. The long term plan is to have it as a paperback, but we'll see if there is a demand for it.
Right behind INVICTUS Part 1 is (strangely enough) INVICTUS Part 2, this will also be released during 2015 as an e-book. Behind both of these is the developing 'Elementals' story, currently sitting at 75,000 words, oh and let's not forget Russian Redemption 2, still sitting at 32,000 words.
It is going to be a very productive 2015 - I hope every one of you has an equally productive year, and I wish you all the very best wishes for whatever you want from the new year.