Monday, 1 December 2014

And the Title is...

With The Rise of the Exile Queen the title choosing was slightly complicated. I had written a novel with the same characters and the same basic plotline, which I'd wanted to call The City of Splendours, in honour of the Catacombs. But then I read the novel from start to finish and I hated it. So I completely scrapped the project.

We went on holiday to Europe and the UK and my little story was completely revamped in my head. Upon arrival back in South Africa, I sat down and wrote the whole thing in less than two months. I'd been playing around with some one word titles, like 'Orphan' or 'Vengeance', but none of them seemed to fit the bill. And then, one day in the shower (where I get my best ideas :D) it hit me. This book wasn't about Eva being an orphan. It was about her rising and claiming her real title, that of a queen. But I had to remember that she'd been exiled too. And boom! I had a title.

The Song of War, on the other hand, was simple. It came to me as easily as breathing. I never doubted that it would be the title even once. Some of the readers think it's about the physical Song of War, but it isn't just that. It's about the fact that every group in the novel are at war with one another; the Elites and the Circle and the Anarchists and the White Hand. The High King and the Exile Queen. Everybody is either at war or preparing for battle. But it's also about the battles you can't see. Like Eva's war with herself. In fact, many of the characters are at war with themselves in the second book and I think the title reflects that.

But this last one was a struggle for me. I had no idea what to call it. 'The Anarchist King' came to mind. So did 'The Evangellion Device' (BO-RING). People suggested 'The White Hand's Last Stand' and 'The Fall of the High King'. All were good ideas, but none of them sang to me like the song of war did.

We started to refer to book three as 'The Unnamed One', like Mouldy Voldy in the HP series, or Sauron in LOTR. I started to joke that I would seriously call it that if nobody had any good suggestions.

And then, last week, gold. One of my proofreaders and close friends, André, came up with something that spoke to me immediately. It's simple and without pretence, while honouring one of my favourite characters. And now, without further ado, I'll reveal book three of the Evangellion Trilogy's title to you.

It will be called 'The Queen's Fury'.

Like it? I love it!

Watch this space, more little tidbits will be coming your way!


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Writing 101 - Publishing

The question I probably get asked the most is why I self published and if it was difficult.

For me, the reasons were simple. But for you, the choice between self publishing or going through a publishing house may be much more complicated.

Self publishing used to have much more of a stigma surrounding it. It was generally believed that self published authors couldn't make it through the big publishers and had to be substandard. Because if nobody wanted to publish them, their work had to suck, right?

This isn't the case anymore. Many self published authors have made it big and even got as far as movie deals. (The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini and the Spud books by John van de Ruit are good examples)

I personally believe it's a question of personal preference. Just as I don't like books in the first person, you may not like books in the third person. And that's why you'll probably love some self published books that I just won't. It's just not right or fair to decide beforehand that self published books are below par with the rest of them.

But let's start with working with a publishing house.

There's a lot of merit to this path. Your books will be professionally edited, your cover design will be by people who make covers for a living and your book will be spread far and wide. The publishers will handle the publicity, so you'll have one less thing to worry about. And your agent will try to get you the best deal possible, because their commission depends on your book doing great.

Speaking of that deal. You'll either be paid a lump sum for the novel up front and then lose all rights to it, or you'll keep the rights and be paid in royalties. The lump sum will depend on the publisher, but it can be a lot of cash. Problem is, if it should happen that your book goes big and there is movie deals and merchandise because of it, you won't see a cent, because you sold your rights to it.

The royalties option is more complicated. Some publishers will hold you accountable for some of the expenses up front. AKA, you'll need to pay for whatever part of the editing, printing and distributing process beforehand, which can amount to a lot of money. Other publishers will carry the expenses themselves and just subtract your share of the cost from your royalties. So your book could be selling millions of copies and you won't see any of the profit until your debt to the publishing house is paid off. Some will pay you more royalties and others less, this can start at around 30%, but it can also be less if you're a first time author. The bigger name author you are obviously, the more you'll get out of the deal.

Of course, this all depends on your publisher, agent and the deal you manage to broker.

Agents take anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of your royalties. Again, this depends on the agent and what their services include.

Do some research about all of this before you just sign up for something. There are really informative sites all over the internet where you can find out more.

Why is the agent important? Well, very few of the big publishing houses accept unsolicited work. This means no agent, no accepting of your manuscript. Of course this isn't true for every genre of work. If you write, say, a Mills and Boon style novel, you'll be able to send your work in without an agent more often. But other genres have other rules.

The manuscript itself is another thing to consider. Those houses that do accept unsolicited work have very set rules about the layout, font and amount of pages / words they accept. Some houses only want the first three to five chapters or about 50 to 100 pages. Others will accept complete manuscripts. The same can be said for the format in which you send it. Some houses want the complete, printed work, others will accept digital copies, though those who do take digital copies seem to be getting less, because people spam them. Their websites usually have the exact specifications by which they work.

After you've sent in your work / your agent has sent it, the waiting begins. This time depends on the publisher, as does everything else, but is usually between 6-8 weeks. If they like it, they'll contact you. If they don't there is a chance you may not hear from them. Not all publishers come back to unsuccessful candidates.

The editing, layout and cover design are often in the publisher's hands completely. The author seldom has say about how it should look, except, once again, when they're bigger name authors.

When you self publish on the other hand, there is no one to get you a deal, to help you with publicity or layout. Sure, you can pay people to help you with these things, but you're still in charge of it at the end of the day. Which means you'll be paying for everything personally, but you'll also be getting back 100% of the revenue.

The route I took was publishing through Amazon. It's painless and completely free. Since I designed my own cover and maps, and did my own layout design, I didn't have to commission anyone else at any point of the process. My editors of both novels are freelance, and I had family and friends proofread.

Why didn't I work with a publishing house? Well, there are a few reasons. A lot of people in South Africa read fantasy and sci-fi, but not a lot of them write it. So there aren't a lot of resources or services available to people like me here. Also, the brunt of our local publishing houses don't accept work in my genre. Those few who do, won't distribute the books worldwide. I couldn't send in my manuscript to most international publishers, because I don't have an agent and, in many cases, because I'm not a US citizen.

There were a lot of reasons why I chose Amazon.

* It's easy for one. With the click of a few buttons, you can upload your entire novel.
* It's free. They do offer services to aid you in basically every aspect of creating your book in both printed and soft cover format, but these are optional.
* The books are available across the globe. I have people in Japan who have downloaded Exile Queen. That seems almost impossible to me.
* People who have read it can instantly like and review on Amazon's page. They can share my books on social media.
* I can see all of my statistics directly on the Amazon page too.
* Revenue is paid into my account (once it's built up enough)
* They handle the taxes etc on my behalf.

For me, self publishing was the most obvious route to take. And I'm seriously not even a little sorry I did it.

It is a lot of work. I'm in charge of every little aspect of getting the novels promoted and seen by people. But there's also something satisfying in doing it. You can see the sales pick up when you actually promote the book. I gave away EQ free a lot of times. Over 1000 copies have been downloaded on promotions. But the great thing of doing that is that I could see Song of War's sales start off much quicker than EQ's had, because those people who have downloaded book one, wanted to buy book two. Hopefully, book three will do well too.

I also love the creative process of promoting! I'm working with Rita-Mari from Good lookin' on getting book trailers made. A friend of mine, Lizanne, who is a freelance composer and muso, is working on putting one of the songs from SOW to music. I mean, an original song for a book trailer! O_O That's amazing! And because I did it all in my own way, I can continue to do that.

I really hope you can take something from this post. Whatever you decide to do, just do a lot of research beforehand. The internet is an amazing place, where you can learn all kinds of awesome things without too much effort. So learn. Read up and make sure whatever choice you make will suit you.


Friday, 7 November 2014

Writing 101 - Research

Research is more important than you imagine. Especially if you plan to write something.

No matter if your world is magic-oriented, people want to read things that make sense. In my browser history, you'll find everything from how long it takes a corpse to decompose, to how blunderbusses worked and the parts of medieval armour.

I wrote a scene where one of my characters teaches another to shoot an arrow from a bow, which meant heaps of research. Your larger demographic probably won't know all out every subject you write. But there will be those who do understand the inner workings of it. And while you'll probably never be 100% accurate with everything you write, as long as you have the base down, it'll be OK.

Why is this important?

Well, you DO want your story to be believable, don't you?

Included in research, I like to throw in things like character sheets and maps.

You want to know your characters before you begin. Their flaws are important too. You want to map out beforehand how they're prone to react, what they like, love and hate, how you plan to have them grow and what they should achieve. Important here is also their physical appearance. Make sure to write it down and consult it when you describe a character. This will prevent them from looking one way the first time you encounter them, and a different way the next.

Maps. You need them. This will help you plan the route your characters travel, if they travel. It's great when you can add a scale to it. It'll help you know your world, plan out where you want big things to happen and work on distances. This may sound stupid, but distance is fairly important, especially when characters will travel.

If you can work out that it takes a group of fit people about a day's march on foot to complete 20 km's, you can calculate how long a journey of 500 km will take, for example. Then you can accurately say how much time passed on their journey, throw in some days for battle, subtract some when they get to horses etc.

The point is this, especially while you're planning, but also while you're writing, you need to research everything you can. If you know what you're talking about, your book will be much more believable.

Happy writing!


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Writing 101 - Before you Begin


Since I published my first novel, I've helped a few of my aspiring writer friends and family members to actually get their asses in front of their keyboards and write anything from blogs to kids' stories to novels. People often ask me how long it takes, what my creative process is and for general tips and tricks. The other day one of my friends said I should teach people how to write.

I'm in no way an expert on the subject and I'm still learning with every chapter I type away at. But I have found some things that make it easier to keep on track.

I thought that I would share some of them here with you and maybe, just maybe, manage to inspire you to write as well.

Photo Copyright LF Photography
* Anybody can write.
If you can make conversation, you can probably write your thoughts down too.
You just need to have a basic grasp of language and a computer or typewriter, really. Add some free time and ideas to the mix and you're good to go.

* Good readers make good writers.

* Choose your writing style.
In blogs, I've found that I like the ones which are written a little more conversationally. People relate better to someone who seems to be talking to them personally. This works especially well for blogs that promote creativity in all of its diverse forms. From cooking to fashion to DIY and beauty would fall into this group.

When you put your thoughts in a more structured, formal way, it reads more like a newspaper article, which is good for blogs that are more concerned with world news and events. You always want to at least seem to know what you're talking about. :P

In novels, you want to choose a style that you're familiar and comfortable with. Don't start your narrative in a tense you're not sure about, for example. If you struggle with the tense, it's going to hamper your creativity, which will result in you scrapping the project entirely. Take my word on this one.

Also, if you choose to write from a certain perspective, stick with it. It's not cool when you're reading a story in the first person one moment, and then you switch to a global perspective in the next. I personally like to write in a more global way, because it can give you an insight into each of the characters' thoughts and feelings. You might like the first person more, aiming to bring the story home from your protagonist's view.

Do you want to write in your native language or in English? I chose English because I could reach more people that way. There isn't really a market for science fiction in my home language, so I took that into consideration.

The point is, decide how you want to write before you actually start.

* Set a realistic writing goal.
When I say this, I mean you need some kind of structure. You need to decide how long you're willing to set aside for writing each day and stick with it. If you only have an hour in the evening, make use of that hour, every day. And also make sure you get your coffee, snacks and whatever else you need ready before you sit down. And go to the loo before you start! There's nothing as annoying as the need to pee while you're on a roll!

Also set yourself a realistic finishing date. That will keep you inspired to keep writing, because you're working towards something/

This counts for blogging too! Your readers expect quality from you, so make sure you deliver it. Set aside special time to blog. I've actually started blogging ahead. When I have a moment over the weekend when my hubby can watch the baby, I try to complete the whole week's blogs. That way, I know whatever I put out is good quality and I have time to relax on week nights.

Next time, I'll touch on research, because that's another thing you need to get done before you write your novel.

I hope you found this helpful!


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Quick Review on Snap Shot Creatively


I almost started this post with 'hello beauties'... Some habits die hard, it seems. If you have no idea what I mean, click the link in the tab-bar that says 'The Bloomin' Couch'.


Liani featured me on her blog the other day. When I say Liani, you can read 'best-friend-in-the-whole-world' or 'soul-sister'. You'll probably read a whole lot about her in blog posts to come.

And, if you've read The Rise of the Exile Queen, you already know more about Liani than you realise. You would even be able to pick her out in a crowd. :P She's the pretty one on the cover.

But, I digress. The point is, I want to share the post she did about the Evangellion novels. She wrote some quick thougths about the novels and said some pretty awesome things about me. Her mini review is especially great for those people out there who don't really like reading. You see, Liani doesn't like to read. :) So her thoughts might just be what convinces you to buy my little novels. And the photos she and her hubby took of the books are pretty amazing.

Have a read here.

(Photo's copyright LF Photography)

Go ahead, read my novels. You know you want to.


Monday, 29 September 2014

Welcome to my new blog!


I've been wanting to do this for the longest time. Running The Bloomin' Couch is awesome and I'll continue to do it as long as people read it. But I've been contemplating beginning another blog for a while now.

And here it is!

Here I'm going to share all kinds of things connected to my novels. So what I'm saying is, what you'll read here will be more writing related and the posting will be more sporadic. I'm doing this because I feel like the Couch isn't really the right place to post updates on the novels, news regarding them and reviews I've gotten.

So here, I'll share all of the above, as well as sneak peeks into my work, the process of designing maps and covers, news about my next projects and all kinds of other goodies.

This will in no way affect The Bloomin' Couch's posting schedule. You can still find me there every weekday with beauty, art and personal posts. 

So welcome! And I hope you'll stick around!