SNEAK PEEK: Reflection of Fire

efire.jpgReflection of Fire

by Annalise Azevedo

Release date: May 18, 2018.

To pre-order click here

CHAPTER 1

Laria Alfero was not a daydreamer by nature. But even while she remained seated on a hard chair, her chestnut eyes occasionally slipped out to the window, recognising the clouded sky was threatening rain. Her mind was preoccupied by the strangest sensation in her stomach – the same feeling she got when she was in the presence of fire.

She had only been a child when she discovered that she was afraid of fire. It wasn’t like a natural fear that children possessed, but a phobia that sent fear shooting through her veins. As soon as she saw any sign of fire, her body locked up and terror crawled its way to her heart.

It was mystery to Laria what caused the fear. Sometimes she wondered if it had to do with her late father and that it was the way she coped.

She barely knew the man. He’d died when she was an infant – a time that Laria could never remember.

However, as her history teacher continued to explain the records of their small town, Golden Cliff, Wyoming, Laria leaned on the palm of her hand to consider his words. The strands of her dark brown hair brushed her tanned cheeks when the winds came through the screens.

Anyone who grew up in their town knew about the infamous massacre that resembled the Salem witch trials.  The massacre was decades ago. People had been so afraid that they slaughtered each other.

Then, apparently, one woman changed everything.

Changing her focus back to the teacher, Laria shook her head and forced the fatigue to the back of her mind. While her history teacher, David Embers, did not care if she spaced out, it was Laria’s responsibility to possess the knowledge for any exam.

‘It was true that town founders were, in fact, Native Americans that migrated from Utah.’ David was popular with his dishevelled, dirty blonde hair and stormy, grey eyes. His easy-going personality made an excellent impression on the school girls, but much to their despair he was happily married with a child. The man merely scratched his scruffy beard as he met eyes with Laria. ‘We all know who they are, right?’

The history teacher was a decent guy; far closer to a friend than a mentor, but Laria knew that he liked to tease people; her especially for some odd reason. Everyone knew that her ancestors were a part of this town’s foundation.

With a smirk, David turned to write the four names on the board. “Rosa”, “Laurence”, “Forte” and “Alfero” imprinted in the back of Laria’s mind. They were the most common surnames in Golden Cliff, yet aside from Laria’s mother and brother, she had never met another Alfero.

It was claimed that the Alfero family were considered “extinct” due to the brutal massacre. There was a possibility that some were out there, however Laria didn’t care. She was nothing more than a cynical but dedicated teenager in a small town.

Her eyes narrowed into a sceptical glare, yet she wasn’t surprised when she spotted her current neighbour lift her manicured hand. It was something that one of her friends would do in order to learn about the mysteries that were buried in the town.

‘Mister Embers,’ said the blonde with a charming smile on her glossed lips. ‘If the founders were Native American, then why were they given European names?’

Jenna Sommers was Laria’s friend since first grade. Growing up in a small town, it was impossible to break the ties of friendship. It was clear that Jenna didn’t fall in line with the stereotypical blonde girl. Her charm mostly came from her sweet personality and intelligence.

With innocent, chocolate coloured eyes, perky personality and intelligent outlook, it wasn’t hard for the hormonal boys to fall for her. If it had been a story, Jenna would’ve been the perfect example of a Mary Sue appearance wise, however Laria knew better. Jenna had her flaws and made mistakes.

David moved his hand from his face and crossed his arms with a pensive expression. He considered it wisely. ‘Golden Cliff was founded in a not so accepting time, so of course many Native Americans were forced to take European names in order to be accepted into society – except that didn’t give much improvement. However, there could be a whole other reason to their decisions.’

The shriek of the school bell halted David’s explanation and he raised a curious eyebrow towards his phone. His harsh stare towards his it was only for a moment, as he immediately glanced back at the class with a smile.

‘That’s enough for today class – I will see you tomorrow.’ He dismissed his class and went through his files as Laria returned her books to her bag. She didn’t realise Jenna had already finished her packing until the blonde started prattling about their plans after school.

It was the day to celebrate their friends’ victory in basketball. It was their first week back and their friends were working hard for finals. For a normal person, anyone would’ve been nervous, but they were the two most confident people that Laria knew. While there were other sports they still played in, basketball was the town’s favourite and sponsored the team known as the Sabres.

‘You don’t even know that they’ve won,’ Laria said when she lifted her bag to her shoulder. Together they left the room after waving farewell to David and headed to their lockers. ‘Besides I thought you were into football because of the vegetable quarterback.’

A scowl came from the other girl’s pretty face. ‘Laria.’ It was a warning tone, however the brunette brushed off the scolding. ‘Taro isn’t as bad as you think. It’s Sara that is the bad person – he just doesn’t see it yet.’

And this was what Laria meant by flaws. ‘Jenna, Taro Launten is a jerk full stop.’ Out of all the people Jenna wanted to go out with, it was the popular school quarterback who was dating the school president. ‘He’s been a moron since second grade and he only got worse when we were freshmen. Sara just happened to get in the way and I’m not going to keep explaining how much I hate him.’

‘You don’t have to,’ Jenna responded with a light huff. ‘You and Maya just have to accept that I like him. Look – I wouldn’t be mean to the guy you liked.’ Unlike Jenna, Maya was a tomboy and outspoken. She played in the dirt without a care in the world and she was far more rebellious than the rest of Laria’s small group of friends.

‘Of course you wouldn’t,’ Laria muttered flatly. ‘That’s because Maya and I are horrible at the dating stuff. I still remember when you set me up with your cousin and I said that he had a decent sized forehead.’

‘How could I ever forget? No normal girl comments on a boy’s forehead in general!’ Jenna exaggerated and raised a hand dramatically to her own forehead. ‘I remember him telling me never to set him up with you guys again.’ She sighed, her shoulders sagging. ‘I suppose it would be for the best, he has a weird thing going on.’

Before Laria could respond, she flinched when a hand pressed on her shoulder from behind. ‘Oh boy,’ said a gruff voice and Laria grinned in recognition with anger forgotten. She tilted her head to the side, recognising the curly mop of cinnamon coloured hair and hazel eyes. ‘Is Jenna talking about the human vegetable again?’

While Laria laughed, Jenna’s cheeks went bright red in anger. ‘Brodie Forte!’

He laughed and scratched the back of his head. ‘Sorry Jen, I can’t help myself teasing you. Anything that makes you blush is worth it.’ He turned to Laria and flashed the boyish smile that she couldn’t help but return. ‘I see that you awoke the dating dragon.’

Brodie Forte had been Laria’s friend since they were in diapers. Apparently, his father Leon worked with her father before they were born. However, it was through her mother Lesley that they managed to keep close.

His face glistened with sweat from the humid air and Laria recognised his black jersey with a red logo of a sabre tooth tiger. His shorts were replaced by regular sweats however, as if he was uncomfortable walking around in pants that didn’t reach his knees.

‘I see that you’re back alive,’ Laria replied before squinting her eyes and leaned towards his face. ‘No bruises, so it’s safe to say that Maya didn’t peg the ball at you in frustration. So you won.’

The smirk twitched on Brodie’s face. ‘Yep – she’s absolutely terrifying when it comes down to motivation.’

Jenna squealed and raised her hands to her mouth. ‘That’s amazing Brodie! So where did Maya run off to anyways?’ While both Maya and Brodie played basketball, it was Brodie who represented the team. Maya managed to remain as the coach’s aid – mostly succeeding when it came down to yelling.

‘She said she wanted to meet us there,’ Brodie replied with a light shrug. ‘I’m guessing that she wanted to meet up with Seth.’

Laria’s smile dropped at the thought of the boy. Seth Laurence. While Laria didn’t hate him like she did with Taro, it was hard to connect with Seth. He gave off a vibe to everyone that he didn’t want to be disturbed. But it was hard to understand Seth, especially since the most that Laria knew about him was that he was a friend of Maya’s and that he wanted nothing to do with society.

Laria shook the thoughts of Seth away and replaced her frown with a determined grin. It wasn’t about Seth, but at the end of the day he was still friends with one of hers. ‘Alright – now that school’s over we should head to the Silver Roots. Heather said that she had to go on ahead for something.’

‘Okay,’ Brodie agreed before looking at his jersey. He stopped the girls with an unsure mutter. ‘But maybe I should get changed first – I’ll probably get kicked out if I walk in like this.’

After waiting for Brodie to finish changing clothes, the trio settled in Jenna’s old car with a satisfied sigh that they beat the storm. While the Silver Roots bar and grill wasn’t far, rain had a habit of pelting heavily during the summer time.

Silver Roots was a common hangout for high schoolers and lone adults. It wasn’t Laria’s favourite place as she preferred less people, but it was good company for her friends when they needed to hang out.

Laria entered in first, with her pair of friends following her after their attempts at avoiding the rain. How they didn’t slip and slide on the wooden floor was a mystery to her. She peered through the crowd, spotting a familiar face and smiled.

‘Heather!’

 The single brunette peeked her head up with a tender smile before shying back into her soda. Heather Verdas was a simple girl; with wavy, light brown hair that reached her shoulders, olive skin and hazel coloured eyes. She was gifted with her studies, attaining the top ranking of her class.

‘Congratulations on your win Brodie,’ Heather said softly. Despite her high-level intelligence, Heather was soft spoken and quiet. It was sometimes hard to understand what she was saying when crowds were busy.

‘Yeah, I know,’ Brodie responded with a boyish grin. ‘But what we need is some drinks.’ And Laria knew that he was going to turn to her. On cue, Brodie patted Laria’s shoulder as she placed her bag on the table. ‘Could you get me a drink Lil Ria?’

Great. That was back. ‘I will if you don’t call me that disgusting nickname.’ It was a nickname that Brodie picked up after her older brother Chris had said it. Laria liked her name, but she hated it when people purposely mispronounced it.

‘I’m sorry,’ Brodie said despite not sounding apologetic.

It felt like an eternity when Laria turned away, giving a thumbs-up when Jenna asked for whatever Brodie was having. Laria headed to the bar after taking a mental note. She didn’t fail to notice the woman with a black hoodie sitting by herself.

Laria avoided gazing at the stranger. Sometimes Laria saw her sitting alone, drinking her troubles away. Despite going to this place for as long as she could remember, nothing was known about the hooded woman.

A cheer for Maya echoed in Laria’s ears and she turned briefly to spot the raven-haired female being hugged against her will by Jenna. Standing with them was a brunette male that Laria instantly identified as Seth.

Laria made a sharp turn towards the bar, however she felt her body hit something hard and she stumbled back. The wet floor made her feet slip and gravity didn’t give her a chance to regain her balance, thankfully managing to catch herself on her hands and knees to prevent any twisted ankles.

In the background, Laria heard the bartender freaking out in fear of being sued.

Laria dismissed the voices and looked to see that she hadn’t been the only one that fell. It wasn’t a face that she recognised instantly, but there was something about it that gave her a sense of déjà vu. The male looked roughly her age, with dark, curly hair and blue eyes.

It took him a moment to compose himself before realising the situation. He had a mixture of panic and distress flashing in his facial features.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he said with a familiar voice and Laria shook her head to dismiss it. It wasn’t right – she’d never met this stranger. ‘Are you hurt?’ By now, more people were looking at them, even Laria’s friends, yet she didn’t answer. ‘Oh crap… I spilled soda on you.’

Instead she pushed herself back to her feet without his assistance and frowned in suspicion. Just who was he? She briefly looked at her white singlet to recognise the splash on her chest. She flushed in embarrassment and covered her chest with her arms – clumsy fool.

‘Let me help you He began but Laria didn’t want to hear it. Her first instinct was to snap at him for crashing into her; however, there was a voice in the back of her head telling her that it would be wrong to do so. ‘Do you need my jacket or-?’

‘I’m fine,’ Laria cut him off curtly and walked around. He was still on the ground; Laria noticed the unbuttoned leather jacket that he was willing to offer her.

Finally, her eyes went to Brodie who seemed to frown at the fallen boy. Laria couldn’t help but step away. To them, it looked like she was running in embarrassment, but in reality, she felt like she was running from something much more frightening.

Laria knew the exit at the back of the Silver Roots would give her some space. It surprised her that she wasn’t bombarded with concerned friends; Laria preferred it that way.

Her thoughts were cut off by an ominous feeling. It was like something was watching her yet Laria couldn’t make sense of it. Despite her instincts demanding her to flee, Laria wanted to investigate.

With a cautious step, Laria made her way towards the sound behind the dumpster. It was just weak echoes of moans and as she got closer the panic built in her chest.

I have to see what it is, she told herself firmly, clenching her fists to force away the nervous feeling in her gut. Something was telling her that misery was all over this alley, but there was something even deeper that seemed… intriguing.

As Laria finally got a view of the scene, she almost wished that she hadn’t. She immediately ran towards the bleeding man as she called out for help. ‘Hang on!’ Laria demanded fiercely and her hands went over the man’s chest to stop the bleeding. He was covered in bite marks, scratches and countless bruises. ‘You’ll be fine!’ But she knew that she was lying to herself and the man; there were too many wounds for her to save him.

‘You.’ The man’s voice made Laria take her gaze off the wounds to meet his eyes. She flinched when she saw that they were gold, but it was clearly her imagination. They were brown the next moment. ‘The fire is strong in you… Alfero…’ He coughed out blood, spraying it on Laria’s soda-soaked shirt.

How did this person know that she was an Alfero?

‘Hey! Stay with me!’ Laria shook the man’s body and gritted her teeth to stop herself from screaming. She didn’t know this man, but she felt she had to be responsible for him. ‘You can’t die, please!’ But it was already too late.

His laboured breathing settled, and he seemed to be at peace as he died in her arms. His eyes shut as his final breath left him. Laria began trembling.

Thunder cracked the sky and Laria heard a growl. She jolted at the sound peering over her shoulder to see something move in the shadows. Her eyes could barely catch the shape of it, let alone discover what the creature was. It was the only sign of life besides her. But just like that, the creature was gone, disappearing from her sight until it would strike the next time.

This world was filled with a lot more darkness than Laria was led to believe.

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Published in: on April 21, 2018 at 9:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Convention Preparation as an Author

As convention season commences in Australia, we begin the insanity of convention prep. Most of these tips will be applicable for all those who convention as an artist or any other creator, but this is to all the authors wanting to join the insanity of conventions.

cropped-swuare-1

As the co-ordinator of Ouroborus Book Services, I am in charge of stock, packing and running our stall so here are my Top 10 Prep Tips.

1. Lists

imagesLists are your best friend. Whether you have one book or 13, as we will have this year for April Gold Coast Supanova, this is the most important thing. You need a stock list (especially with multiple titles/items), a stall list (banners, tablecloths, etc) and a survival list (food, water, things to do). Use these to order stock, and while packing so nothing gets forgotten, especially if you are travelling for a convention.

2. Stock Counts

images (2)Even though you won’t need 100 of each title (seriously don’t bring 100 of each title or you will be wasting time and space, not to mention lugging them all there), you need to know how much stock you have. I like to make sure we have 20 of each title available before the show. The last thing you want to do is run out. Make sure you do a stock count in plenty of time to order more if you are low.

3. Promo Items

37b5c33b6b1b89a7a7487386b8b48c5aPeople like free stuff. You need to find the most cost-effective way to do this while making it a useful object. Business cards are great but most folk will put them in the bottom of their bags and never look at them again. Same with flyers. We personally love bookmarks. We hand out free bookmarks at our stall because it’s something people can use. And if they use it, it means you might get a sale later on down the track because they’ve been looking at a pic of your book for the last few months and decide to give it a go. Printing smart is your way to save cash. I know with the place we use, it’s only a small amount of difference in price to go from 100 bookmarks to 1000, so we buy them in bulk. (shout out to www.cmykonline.com.au)

4. Buy a Trolley

luggage-trolley-250x250Best purchase we ever made was a luggage trolley. It was cheap (under $100) off eBay and holds about 300kg so perfect for us and folds flat enough to fit in the car on top of our stock. It has made life so much easier and we can transport most our gear in one or two tips. If you can’t afford to do this but have an old wheeled suitcase, they can do in a pinch but are a pain to get into a car when full of books.

5. Fridge Bags

14If your novel is a standard 5x8in, then supermarket padded fridge bags are perfect to transport books. You can fit two stacks perfectly in each bag and they’re strong enough to deal with the weight. When full they also stack nicely on the above-mentioned trolley and are super easy to Tetris into a car. Plus picking up a bag of books is less stress on your body if you are weak like me. They’re also good for food and drink, and you can pack them inside each other for easy under-table storage during the convention.

6. Self Care

germ main image.jpg.500x490_q67_crop-smart_upscale-trueConventions are hotbeds of germs and injuries. I’ll be honest. The tales of con-flu are real, so you need to look after yourself before and during the convention. Take your vitamins and be kind to yourself and try to get some sleep. During a convention weekend, you will eat horrible food, not drink enough water and most likely fall into an exhausted heap each night. Try to eat some veggies and things not deep fried for at least one meal. And for the love of all that is holy, make sure to get the next day after off work. You will need the recovery time. Also, be careful lifting things as the last thing you need is to do your back in after sitting on hard plastic chairs all weekend.

7. Essentials

Apart from your stock, there are some essentials you will need for the convention. These include

  • a tablecloth (a flat sheet is good because you want it to cover the table and hit the floor at the front) and a spare cloth to cover your stuff at night.
  • Signage (some conventions provide this, but extra visual aids always help)
  • Money tin (you will need somewhere to store your money) and a float (change should be a mix of notes and coins depending on your price point. If your books are $20, you should get $20s and $10s, to make change for $50 notes. If you have $15 books, add $5 notes.
  • Pens (for signing)
  • Emergency box (band aids, Panadol, blutac, cloth tape, tissues, scissors etc)

download (2)I buy a slab of bottles for our team and freeze them. As it gets crazy hot in conventions you will need water so you don’t pass out, and I know I don’t want to pay $4 a bottle there. You can get slabs of 24 bottle for under $15 at supermarkets and office supply stores.

Convention food is expensive and usually gross. I recommend bringing something to nibble on. Sugar is also helpful to keep the energy up so lollies and fruit can be good. Be mindful of bringing peanuts as you don’t want to kill a customer who might be allergic.

8. Team Prep

18033900_1548830928460917_7441094164985825218_nAlways bring a friend. Obviously, we are a big team, so we can take breaks and still have several folk behind our stall. But if it’s just you, make sure you bring people with you. Most cons will include a few passes with your table booking so use these to your advantage. Eight hours without food or toilet breaks is not gonna be fun. Make sure your team know prices, basic info on the products and how to handle money. Bribe them with candy, lightsabers or daleks (thanks Mum) if needs be.

9. Give Yourself Enough Time

cardboard-box-books-white-background-d-render-illustration-29940580Prep is a heap of work. I start at least two months before the convention, writing lists and doing stock counts. This gives you time to order stuff you need, amass fridge bags, and to space out your costs. I pack at least a week before the convention just in case I forget something.

10. Breathe

23509306_1759794297364578_1377898381681322401_oI used to end up in a ball of panic packing for conventions, which in the lovely humidity of Queensland, was never a pretty sight. I’ve now learned that by prepping ahead of time, keeping to my lists, and stopping if I feel overwhelmed for a break, I can now get things done with little panic and stress.

So, in conclusion, plan, have fun and look after yourself!

~Sabrina RG Raven

For more info on convention planning check out How to Sell at a Convention by fellow convention goer Megs Drinkwater available on Kindle.
Published in: on April 16, 2018 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Writing Programs: A review of Scrivener

Writers and authors use a variety of ways to plan their projects. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I’m not much of a planner, I do however have my research and I have tried a few different programs to help me sort through all of my notes.

As far as programs go I give Scrivener a solid 9/10.

download (1)This program has a lot of uses in it that makes it worth the $45AUD one off cost. It updates your program and as far as I’m aware it is a lifetime subscription. Once such thing I came across while playing with the program was the name generator. You can put in a variety of different settings and it will provide you with names that fit your description, you can even look up name meanings.

The basic layout for a fiction novel set up is relatively easy to follow. It has a manuscript section where you can make a tab for each of your chapters then you are able to export the file and it will hopefully come out as a fully formatted novel. I haven’t tried this part of the program yet as I prefer to complete my manuscripts in Microsoft Word for easier reading and editing.

scrivener-cork-boardYou can also create character profiles within the program which I found extremely useful, especially now that I am gaining more characters and venturing into the second book with them, it is important for me to remember who is who and how they are related to the main plot. Without this section of Scrivener I would be lost, I would be constantly reading through The Stray to make sure everything is correct. Similar to the characters section of the program you can create places. Describing a new place and need to know all the information later on? The best place to store it is in that section. For both the characters and the places Scrivener provides a basic template that you can edit to suit your project needs.

You do also have the option to make extra areas, which is what I do. I make extra folders and corkboards that allow me to put my mythologies and species histories and connections into a database of some kind. You can also create extra template sheets for later use if you require them in other projects.

Scrivener is a very useful program for me and I’m not even using it to its full capacity. I think this program is fantastic for its price and would be useful to almost any writer beginning or published. I’m looking forward to giving Scrivener’s sister program, Scrapple, a try whilst I plan and write the rest of the White Wolf Trilogy. For only $15AUD it’s worth a try.

~Amanda Geisler

 

Published in: on March 25, 2018 at 6:03 am  Comments (1)  

What If Your Characters Are Smarter Than You?

To anyone who doesn’t write this is going to sound profoundly strange, but I’ve loved to write my whole life and sometimes I need to write characters who have powerful intellects, master schemers and magnificent bastards. The problem with that is, I am none of those things. I am not a master strategist, I don’t have a history of warfare or science and I have never had the need to plot to destroy someone’s life but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it.

Pretty sure. Don’t test me, but still.

downloadYet somehow, I still have to write all of those things and make them convincing, I have to figure out the plans and plots that are going to unravel. So, here’s my advice on writing brilliant characters despite maybe only being semi brilliant yourself.

Research Research Research

Try not to be wrong. Being wrong will undermine your character’s ability to seem intelligent. I’m not saying you need to be a genius at whatever subject you’re working on but not making obvious mistakes would help. I’ve been dragged out of some of the better stories of my life because a character who’s supposed to be a master got some obvious thing wrong. You don’t need to be an expert, just know your stuff. If you’re writing a master strategist, at least get familiar with some of the classic manoeuvres. If you’re writing a brilliant scientist know something about the field so you don’t end up with a ‘hacking scene’ that involves two people typing on the same keyboard.

Yes, that actually happened.

No, I didn’t ever take those characters seriously again. Shame too, I liked them.

Manage How the World Makes Them Right

imagesThis is a bit of a challenge for some writers, including myself. See, you’d think it’d be easy, you can just make their decisions the correct ones, can’t you? Well yes and no. The problem with making your character right, is that you have to make them believably right and to do that you have to determine why they’re right. Is it because they realised something about other characters no one else did? Because they planned for this exact situation? Because they have a secret no one else knows? Have they just read more books or do they have sharper instincts?

The worst thing they can be is right just because they’re a genius. The question is what does that genius mean? What does the fact they’re brilliant mean they can figure out before anyone else? You can make their leaps of logic correct, but there needs to be a clear reason why they made them.

Don’t Make Everything Go Right.

One of the best quotes I heard form a character who I actually believed as a master strategist was ‘being a good strategist doesn’t mean having master plan, it means having a bunch of plans, and fall-back plans, and contingencies. We try things, sometimes they even work.’ One of the most believably intelligent things you can have a character do is respond well when things go wrong. Yes, it’s much easier for your character to have a master plan from the start where everything goes right, but to your smarter readers that’s going to come off as contrived. It can be so much cooler for a reader to watch your character react like a genius than act like one.

Deal With Their Frustrations

intelligent-kid-5378406This is the part that’s going to seem weird to some people, but characters have a level of autonomy in your head, and yes, sometimes the smarter ones are going to get upset with you. If they planned some master manoeuvre that you just couldn’t figure out they’re going to get annoyed with you, which is going to seem a little strange as the process continues. This might hurt your brain a little in the early stages, but it’s something you’re just going to have to deal with. Like every other annoying little issue remember that this is something you can go back and fix later, so quiet the voices in your head and keep working. Like everything else, you can fix it in editing.

It’s a surreal experience the first time you realise you might not be clever enough to properly write a character that you thought up, but if you know your stuff and are willing to put in the effort, you’ll have them about their dastardly or benevolent brilliance soon enough.

Robert Barlow

Published in: on March 10, 2018 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

The Calling

I hate when books annoy me.

Joffrey-rudely-chops-up-Tyrion-wedding-giftI don’t know if it happens to other writers, I’m sure it does, but books have a way of annoying the shit out of me. It’s like a cat meowing at you constantly until you feed it. I got asked recently how I write books. They didn’t understand how it comes out of your brain, through your fingers and into a full book. I didn’t really have an answer. It just does. It might be years of training, looking at the screen, plotting out points and chapters, and now it finally flows, or it might be something else. When I write, it’s like watching a movie that I’m in control of. Each second the character walks through the spooky, abandoned building, I’m right behind them, where the camera would be. I can picture what I’m writing, so I just describe what I see.

Where it gets a little weird is when something surprises even myself. I’ve often said, ‘wow, I didn’t see that coming.’ I don’t start a book unless I have vague idea of the ending. The beginning’s the easy part; the middle is hard, but important, and the end is scary. Scary, because finishing a book means the end of all those characters that you love and hate, the years of turmoil and sludging through the hard wall of writing, and then it finally comes to an end.

imagesI used to plot in my head what the upcoming chapter was going to be about, and when I got time to write, I would think of a good opening line and then write until the chapter was complete. With the novella I’m currently writing, I’m trying to put words down every day. There isn’t really any time to pre-plot a lot of it, so I just wing it. That can be equally enthralling and nerve-wracking. There is a chapter where I wanted my main character to meet another character, who will appear later and be of significant help. I just needed to introduce him first. So, I thought, why not meet at a cemetery? I made her ‘stumble’ upon the graveyard, let her walk around reading some of the tombstones, then they meet, and he scares her, then they get talking and it’s all fine. There was something about this kid that I knew I wanted to keep from the reader until the last chapter or so. All this chapter really was, was getting the two to meet. I could have set it anywhere; the shops, a car yard, at school, at the mall, on the street… you get the picture. A cemetery gives it a good scene. How many conversations have you had with a stranger in a graveyard? Not many (I hope). So, it puts the reader somewhere different, then you can let the reader go on this introduction between the two. What are they gonna say? Are they gonna get along? Are we gonna see him again? These questions make the writing easier, as you have a lot of ground to cover in, hopefully, not many pages. It’s also a set up for later, so you know you’re going into the chapter hiding something up your sleeve that you will reveal, and it will hopefully pay off. Where do you start? Okay, what brings Main Character to the graveyard? She’s exploring the new house. Okay, good. Why is the kid there? He’s bored at home and can see it from his window. Okay, plausible. What’s the point of him coming back later in the book? He wants to see her again… done to death, something else… he wants to save her from something but doesn’t, that’s sorta useless then. Maybe he has some information that she needs to defeat something and comes in at the last minute to supply said information and helps save the ‘moment’. Okay, done. Everything else should flow from there.

Hey, whoa, you scared me half to death.’

‘Sorry, I just saw you walking and thought I’d come over and say hi.’

‘Do you often hang around in graveyards by yourself?’

‘I was gonna ask you the same questions.’

downloadMix dialogue with scenery description. What I do is add something at the end of each line, for example: ‘Do you know witches used to live in this area?’ he said, picking up a piece of broken tombstone and examining it. You shouldn’t use it every time, just now and again. ‘What time do you want to go?’ she asked, fitting the whole piece of cake in her mouth. Now you should have the plan for the chapter, what you want to accomplish, some tricks to writing and a general aim to your story. Once these things are done solid, you can’t help but want to get back to the keyboard. I often think of chapters while on the train and can’t wait to write them. They will generally remind me throughout the day, or week that they are there waiting. Over time this muscle becomes stronger and writing becomes easier and you become better. When the books call, I hope you answer.

Mitchell Tierney

Published in: on February 23, 2018 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Approaching Bookstores

There’s a video of me on YouTube, that goes for like twenty seconds. I’m on the driveway of my editor’s place out in the sun. It’s the first time I opened the first box of my first book, and it does absolutely zero justice to the true excitement of that moment. “They’re real!” I remember laughing, because before then, this massive fantasy world had only been an idea in my head, and now my idea was a thing bound up in real pages, and I got to take one out and touch it. Surreal. Satisfying.

cardboard-box-books-white-background-d-render-illustration-29940580There is plenty of ‘surreal’ and ‘satisfying’ that follows reaching a dream like this, but the next milestone in my fledgling authorial career that stands out in the same way was the first time my book landed on a bookstore shelf. It had been a particular goal of mine to see this happen, as I know it is for a lot of authors, and looking back at the way I tiptoed, stumbled and trialled-and-errored my way to reaching this one, I feel especially proud (relieved?) to have managed it.

I’m definitely not the expert. Presently, at this present moment, my books are on the physical shelves of six stores, and out of stock but orderable at another three. There are much more qualified people you could ask, but since you’re asking me, these are some of the things I learned along the way that might be helpful to the next beginning author starting out on the same blind path.

The Reality

The reality is, much as we bookish people hate to hear it, the book industry is struggling in the modern era. It’s extremely competitive, in a number of ways. Books are a luxury item – they are only bought by people with money to spare, and they’re among the first things to be put back on the shelf when money is tight. Unfortunately for booksellers, unlike many other things we consider luxury items, there is relatively little mark-up on books, so compared with say a jeweler with their several-hundred-percent-mark-up, the bookstore needs to be constantly selling books to be covering overheads, paying staff and turning a profit, i.e. staying in business. For many, it’s reading that brings the joy, not necessarily books, and while some of us are digging in our nostalgic heels and sticking to our paperbacks, others are opting for e-literature on their screen devices and enjoying the significant price cut. Added to that is the cultural competition between reading and other story-based entertainment such as film and television. It’s much easier and more time-efficient for a consumer to watch a few episodes of Game of Thrones while making and eating dinner than it is to find enough alone-time to curl up and read the actual book. Bookshops have their work cut out for them to sell books to an increasingly difficult market.

It’s also competitive in a way that’s bad for you and I. There are so many books available to the reader (hurray for the avid reader!) now that they are literally spoilt for choice. Your average bookstore offers customers hundreds of options, all of which are taking up space on shelves while they wait for their forever homes. Now, you come along with your book and want a spot on that shelf too. It sounds innocent enough, but keeping in mind The Reality of bookselling today, consider what you are asking of the store. That’s valuable real estate. Whatever is sitting there needs to sell. What guarantee can you offer of that? As an indie author multitasking the roles of talent, project manager and distributor, chances are you don’t have time or the resources to launch a full-scale marketing campaign. Hop into the bookseller’s shoes for a second and you’ll see it’s really not in their interests to help you out in this regard, at least not in the short-term. So? How do we convince them?

Distributor: person or party responsible for getting the book to the places where it will be sold. Big publishers use distribution companies to move their stock and pitch it to stores. For your book, this is all you.

Advocating

bookshelf-black-brown-1Most of us, as authors, don’t like to sell. It’s a bit yucky and quite invasive. We’d love for the books to simply sell themselves, so we have talented graphic designers create fabulous covers with which to attract the eyes of the elusive readership.

Books do not sell themselves. Fact.

People sell books. Word of mouth sells books, knowledgeable and friendly bookstore staff sell books, authors sell books. As much as you don’t want to do it, you need to start that ball rolling by advocating for your book to the bookshop, and by advocating for yourself. Terrifying, I know, but why should they take a chance on you?

Because you’re polite and upfront. You’re a professional.

Because you’re respectful and understanding of the bookstore’s position, regardless of their decision on your book. You’re a nice guy.

Because you’re dedicated, persistent and eager to learn. You sound intelligent and reasonable, which makes you someone they can imagine themselves dealing with on a continued basis.

Persistent: not nagging. A difficult balance.

The key, I find, is to sell yourself rather than the book. Anyone can make any book sound pretty good if they word the description properly, and other than your glossy cover, the bookstore owner really has no measure of the quality or readership potential of your publication. You, though – they can pass a judgement on you right here and now, so put your best foot forward.

Approaching

Armed with that depressing pep talk, it’s time to approach your chosen store. It shouldn’t need to be said, but by the time you make contact (either by cold-calling, or by actually walking up to the counter) you should have done some basic research. You should have at the very least checked out their selection of your genre. There is no point walking up to the manager of a children’s bookstore and asking them to stock your murder mystery. It’s also worth your while to look for other indie titles on the shelves, as it will give you an indication of the store’s attitude toward independents and their capacity to stock them. As we’ve already acknowledged, shelf space is prime real estate.

Cold-calling: the practice of phoning or emailing without previously having met or been introduced. Some find it very effective, especially if they feel they communicate better this way, and it allows you to commune with stores further away. I actually find this even scarier than just fronting up.

The actual conversation that takes place when I approach stores (I’ve almost always done it face to face) is pretty terrifying, I won’t lie. I usually start by buying a book, since it gives me a reason to be standing at the counter and I’m about to ask a favour, so I feel better about that if I’ve just given them my custom. It also gives me a chance to gauge the person I’m talking to, so I can abort early if necessary. I’m a total wuss, give me a break. I initiate bookish conversation, and then introduce myself as an independent author and ask what the process is for getting my book on their shelves.

Deep breath.

But it’s not normally necessary, because bookstore staff are really lovely and are generally really kind and tactful at this point. Half of them explain that their store doesn’t stock independent books, and that’s the end of that. The other half usually describe some kind of consignment arrangement.

Consignment: an arrangement whereby the author leaves a number of books with the store, to be paid for upon retail sale or picked back up at the end of an agreed-upon period if remaining unsold. Books left at author’s risk, as customers handle these books. This arrangement is in the best interests of the store as they do not need to outlay funds to procure stock.

kfnlkndflnSome stores will buy the book outright (a hard sale), but this tends to be less usual. Most will have a standard form they will use to sign up a new consignment deal. On this form, you agree to any time periods they specify (such as agreeing to pick up unsold books after X weeks or months) and provide your payment details. It will have two spots for prices – wholesale price, and RRP. Wholesale price is what you receive for each book upon sale, while the recommended retail price is what the store should sell it for, leaving the profit in between for the store. So say you would like your book to retail for $20 and you want to receive $12.50 per sale, the $12.50 is your wholesale price, and the store gets the remaining $7.50. Many stores will have a percentage or ratio they expect as part of their dealings. These don’t tend to be negotiable, but a braver and more charismatic person than me could certainly try.

If by this point a store has said yes to you and your book, and you’ve signed up, the next thing you need to do is deliver the stock. You bring your books and a delivery slip, a short document you type up which lists what you have dropped off, for the bookstore’s records and yours. You can google delivery slip template and get an idea of what it should look like.

Then you leave your books there! Alone, in the world, with all the other books in the shop 🙂 Feels good to know they’ve made it, doesn’t it? Now to keep them there, you need to do some maintenance, too. The bookshop has done you a serious solid here. You’re morally obligated to return the favour. Promote your store, promote your book, promote yourself, whatever you can do to draw attention to the fact that their store is awesome and your book is in there being for sale, it all adds up and helps them sell it.

You also need to maintain your relationship with this store. It’s not a matter of dropping the books off and wandering into the sunset, fulfilled in life. You need to periodically check in with the store to see whether the books are selling and what you can do, if anything, to help them along. Your store may like for you to hold a signing, or spread the word about them a little more on your social media. Or some books might have sold! Yay! When this happens, you need to invoice the store. Again, Google will bring up some templates, but this is where you request funds for the books sold. You detail the product (title, ISBN) and the quantity, and put down the wholesale price (what you want them to pay you for each book) for each item and total it at the bottom. They probably have your bank details already from when you signed up, but to speed things along and to make it convenient for the seller, put it again on each invoice.

I think the most important thing to remember in approaching bookstores as an author is to be humble. Lots of them are going to say no, and that’s only going to hurt the ego you bring in with you. They say no for lots of reasons that you do not need to take personally, and most of the reasons boil down to the fact that they don’t think they can sell your book. This is a good sign that this store isn’t a good fit for you anyway, as the store staff usually have a very good idea of what their clientele are into. This saves you from the hassle of negotiating a consignment/sale deal that isn’t going to benefit either of you, and frees you up to go looking for another store that will fit you better 🙂

As with everything, there is plenty more to learn. This article just scrapes the surface, and as I have said, I am no expert. But I think that if you really really want to see your books on a store shelf, your best bets are with a straightforward, genuine approach that highlights you as a professional worth dealing with, and a healthy respect for bookshops, what they know and do, and what an epic favour they are doing for you. Never forget, there are plenty of other books, and plenty of other authors – find a way to positively stand out.

Good luck!

~ Shayla Morgansen

 

 

Published in: on February 11, 2018 at 4:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Indie Book Review: The Species Within by Kimberley Clark

kc1The Species Within (Battles in the Dark Book 1) by Kimberley Clark is about a young huntress who works hard to rid her city of the creatures of the dark that lurk in it. Kira hunts Nostovores (Vampires) and Lycrouds (Werewolves) not only because they have killed those she cares for but she because is special. Kira is a human with the abilities of these dark mythlend creatures.

When the leader of the Lycrouds threatens to awaken an indestructible species that will enslave and destroy all creatures, humans and mythlend alike, Kira is forced to ally with the Nostovores.

Kira is a very strong and amazing female lead with such a dominant personality that you can’t stop reading her story. Kira is a fascinating character in the sense she has all this power from these Mythlends, and she uses the powers she has from them to dispose of them from her city.

She lives with a Mooran, Kuron, a Mythlend creature she tolerates enough to not kill, as his protection is valuable to her. It is interesting reading about him because he isn’t a known species, I don’t think I’ve read a creature like him before this series.

Kuron and Emmerich, a war leader in the Nostovores clan, both have interest in Kira and the more time she spends with them the less she wants to kill them, which in her line of work is a dangerous game to play.

It was at my first Supanova years ago that I first stumbled upon The Species Within. I was drawn to the art work which is beautifully designed. I met the author, Kimberley Clark, who is such an amazing person and has also written more mind-blowing books that you just can’t put down. I read The Species Within in three days and kept annoying Kimberley for the next one.

There are some sexy paragraphs amongst the chapters, but they aren’t over the top like Fifty Shades of Grey, they don’t drag you away from the storyline. There are three books in this series, which I recommend you purchase.

Because addictive, sexy, mind-blowing, mysterious and amazing are the words that come to mind when I describe this book.

by Danica Peck

Published in: on January 28, 2018 at 3:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Death of a Scene

When I opened up my laptop, my word document was gone.

‘Okay,’ I thought. ‘Don’t panic.’ I went into Word and could see my novel I’ve been working on for about 4 years. Beside it, it said ‘recovered’. Recovered? Recovered from what? Was there a power surge? I went all the way down to the bottom of the text, where I had been working, and began to read.

blank-word-document.jpgThere was about 10,000 words missing…

Not one part of me thought, ‘That’s okay, I can write it again and this time I’ll write it better!’ Nope. My only thought was bailing on the whole book. 20,000 words shy of the 80,000 target and I was giving up. I just could not fathom rewriting 10,000 words. What I lay down on the page, normally stays. I’ll fix up grammar and spelling, but I won’t re-write whole chunks. No way. I’ve done that before, when I was learning to write. I’m not doing it now. And not with this book.

157195302I sat blankly looking at it. I was remembering all the great pages I had written. Should I re-write them now? Quickly, to fix this issue? I remember most things that were written, just not detail. I was about to quickly scramble and write the 10,000 words so I wouldn’t give up. Not long ago I had written a great death scene. It was perfect. The mood was just right. I was very proud of it. I cut it from where it was, to move it, and must have got distracted and never pasted it anywhere. The next day, I couldn’t find it. I knew the computer had shut down and said something about ‘large text still on the clipboard’ or something, but I ignored it.

I re-wrote the death scene, and it just wasn’t the same. I knew most of the details, but when I went to write it, it lost some of its initial glory. I was crestfallen. It’s still in my mind, like a tack, waiting for me to re-write it (again) and try to inject some of the mood it had the first time around. It does feel like killing the same person twice though (sorry character you had to go through that again). I’ve often gone back and read chapters that have been published and thought ‘My god, what was I thinking, that’s horrible…’ but it also works the other way around too. I’ve read paragraphs and thought, ‘Okay, that’s pretty good’. I literally impressed myself.

41A20RZx-WL._SL500_AC_SS350_Minutes ago, I resigned to the fact that this weekend writing session will be the full re-write. Just get it down, go over it on second draft and make it work. I sighed so loudly my neighbours heard it. Then I thought… I’ll check to see if I have a saved copy elsewhere. It was a long shot, but worth looking into. I found an older version, saved for backup. If that was the only copy I had, I would definitely have given up. From the bottom of my screen I saw the title of my book. The date last opened was last weekend. I thought I had already opened it. As I double clicked it, I began watching the page counter rise. Expecting it to stop around the 70,000-word count mark, but it didn’t. It kept going.

It stopped at 77,000. I scrolled down and could see the entire story was there. No re-writes required.

Please, back up your work.

Mitchell

Published in: on January 14, 2018 at 12:52 am  Comments (1)  

Ouroborus Authors Roundtable Interview: A Year in Review

Debut authors. New titles. Record sales at Supanova. As we draw to a close on what has been Ouroborus Book Services’ biggest year to date, some of our team takes a few minutes to debrief together and discuss the highlights of 2017.

How did 2017 progress you as a writer?

Shayla: Pass. I didn’t write anything. Oh, that’s not true. I wrote a thesis! My first non-fiction work, which is going to be published sometime late next year as a chapter in a book about publishing. I also began my freelance career as an editor and publisher, which gives a whole new perspective to the writing process.

Sabrina: 2017 progressed me as a writer by finally finishing my solo novel.

Shayla: Yay! That’s huge!

Danica: For me 2017 was one of the most challenging yet rewarding years I’ve yet to live. While writing Battles of Azriel three, me and the characters had some disagreements so I decided to take a break where I let my imagination go wild and wrote half a dozen standalone novels, one of which you can look forward to reading next year.

Rob: 2017 got me The Laughing Man. I could not be happier with it. I started my own business writing speeches and ads, that cut down on the time I could write.

The single best memory you’ll take away from 2017 is…

Sabrina: SMASHING OUR SUPANOVA BOOK SALE RECORD!

The best book I read in 2017 was…

Sabrina: Best book this year: The Fireman by Joe Hill. He’s like a modern version of his dad (Stephen King). Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer was weird but enthralling too.

Shayla: Devil’s Advocate, by Jonathan Maberry. It’s an X-Files origin novel about teenage Scully becoming a sceptic. I’m a nerd, conditioned to like it, but I was really impressed by the attention to detail. Oh, and The Messenger, by Markus Zusak. That guy makes me jealous. How can anyone make words so beautiful? And now I’m reading Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones, and it’s majestic. I know that’s not just one, I’m sorry!

Mitchell: The best book I read in 2017 was the graphic novel Maus. Highly recommend.

Robert: My favourite book of 2017 was Kill City Blues from the Sandman Slim series.

In 2018, my readers can look forward to…

Mitchell: In 2018 my readers can look forward to the final Everdark Realms book, rounding out the trilogy and bringing the stories together.

Sabrina: I’m also looking forward to getting the last Everdark book out and my first solo novel Blank on the shelves. I’m also looking forward to welcoming new authors on board and making heaps of cover art.

Danica: In 2018 my readers can look forward to me sitting down and sorting things out with the characters to deliver book three to you. Goodbye 2017, I’m ready for a new year. Hello 2018.

Shayla: Ooh, I’d better not make any promises at this point, but I’m hoping to have book four of The Elm Stone Saga out – at the very least, finished and with the editor.

My plans for the future include…

Sabrina: Future plans are to release 5 books next year for the company. Hard slog ahead but a fun one!

Mitchell: Finishing my adult book and hopefully releasing it later in the year.

 

Published in: on December 30, 2017 at 7:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Designing Fantasy Book Covers

My favourite covers to design are from the fantasy genre. It branches out into so many sub-genres that tends to only really exist within these niches, from traditional swords and dragons to urban and gritty covers to text only covers filling the gaps.

There are several elements to covers: image, colour scheme, theme and typefaces.

Images

COVER2fThe main image of a cover will differ from sub-genre to sub-genre. The original sword and dragon fantasy is one sub-genre where the cover image is usually the focus, and suits more traditional-looking art. As much as I have a soft spot for them though, the old style framed oil painting of scantily clad, Fabio lookalikes, rescuing the even more scantily clad damsel from a beasty, are something that should stay in the past. There are some vintage things that should not make a comeback.

However, the painting style itself can still be used (hopefully with less sexist imagery) and there are many amazing traditional and digital artists out there who can create a masterpiece, but instead of boxing it in a solid coloured box, we respect the art enough to let it BE the cover. This can work for all sub-genres but a looming beasty staring back at you from a cover is certainly right at home in more traditional fantasy.

Urban fantasy and more modern fantasy can have the full image, but popular design aims for the emblem or artefact style cover. A semi-plain background, decorating text with one feature image in the centre and some crisp type can draw the eye and can elevate a cover into the modern day. Be it an amulet, a symbol or item, this can be a versatile way to draw attention and also requires less knowledge from the book. Although this works well with more modern fantasy, it has also been used in some of the newer releases of Tolkien.

Thirdly the text only cover. This type of cover has blown up in popularity over the years in all genres. The most important part of this is the typeface (see typeface section below). All genres can use this cover style as it requires almost no knowledge of the book and there are more options in colour scheme.

Colour Scheme

cover ebook.jpgRegardless of genre, colour theory is important. There are many books on colour schemes but instinctively the brain connects certain colours with certain themes or emotion. The other thing to keep in mind is your complementary colours for the text/image etc.

There’s a great article on colour and emotion here.

And a run down on the basics of the colour wheel and complementary colours here.

Theme

coversTheme is probably the most important element. You don’t want to pick up a book that looks like a fantasy to discover an action thriller (well, that depends on your reading taste but you get the point). Theme is not just the emotional aspects of a story but elements of genre, characterisation and many other aspects. The way you address this is different to all designers. Some just want a quick sentence, some want a blurb and personally, I like a little more so the cover really speaks of the story.

Typeface

coverfrontIn fantasy covers, regardless of style or genre, the most stand out feature should be the typeface. There are millions of fonts available and there are also artists who make custom fonts. A particular typeface can become part of your book/author branding. For example, you can spot a Stephen King book from 40 paces because his name has been emblazoned in the same typeface for several years. So, make it distinctive. Make it so people know which books are from the same author or the same series purely because the typeface matches.

So, when it comes to covers, especially in the fantasy genre, my advice is, make sure you know what is the heart of the book, the sub-genre and the author’s emotional intent with the work so you can create a well-rounded cover that creates interest and adds to your overall branding.

~Sabrina RG Raven

See Sabrina’s art and design work at www.sabrinargraven.com

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 3:05 am  Leave a Comment