Anime North prep

I am a panel guest at Anime North, so I didn’t expect any big announcements. But wow, there was a big Anime North blast on Twitter and on the website announcing me as a writer guest, so I feel super honoured.

Anime North is Canada’s largest Japanese animation convention and it is a not-for-profit with funds going to Sick Kids Hospital. I’ll be there with my Viking husband on May 24-25, Sat & Sun to do lots of panels on Japan, Asian vampires, writing and publishing. As well, in the dealers room I’ll have a table so I’ll be giving out limited edition art cards and selling my book. I had hoped to have more books finished, but alas, marketing activities has been taking up much of my time.

Here is the announcement pic and the art cards I’ll be giving out. See you soon!

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Cover reveal for The Literary Elephant!

Another book I have on the go is The Literary Elephant: The Beginner’s Guide to Indie Publishing. This book was started way back in November as part of National Novel Writing Month. People have been asking me where to buy this and alas, I have to tell them that it’s not done yet!

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This cover was completed by a fabulous graphics company based in Bosnia I found on Fiverr.com. They also helped me with the “How To Make a Munchkin” cover. I have to kick myself in the butt to keep going on finishing the manuscript for both the Munchkin and Elephant book as I have been so distracted by marketing activities for The Undead Sorceress.

However, I’ve learned a lot since launching one book and I predict things will be easier for me to release my other books.

One of my friends said I was getting too ambitious in wanting to release two more books by the end of the year, but what the heck, the manuscripts are 70% complete at this point! As an author, I don’t think you can survive on one book, so I need to keep going! Another thing I’ve been busy with is trying to write short stories as those are easier to sell than novels…yes, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me!

Paperback of The Undead Sorceress Released!

The paperback version of The Undead Sorceress was just released yesterday on April 24, 2014 ahead of the May 8 schedule. I don’t think this will ever happen again! I am maximizing the number 4 it seems with an April 24, 2014 release date. The number 4 sounds the same as “death” in the Chinese language and is typically avoided. Well, this book is about vampires who are undead so perhaps they are a lucky bunch and having so many 4s around this book is ok!

Retail list price is $15.99 USD and it is available on Amazon for now. In the near future it will be uploaded to other distributors to make it available at Barnes & Noble, etc.

Meanwhile, I’ve been prepping for book launches and Anime North, so I’ve ordered a stack of 300 books to carry with me everywhere. The book is damn heavy at 500 pages! The matte cover is beautiful though and the colors translate well from digital to print. And I’m a picky person when it comes to books! After going through 12 proofs, I’m finally happy, so I hope you will like how the book turned out too!

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The Undead Sorceress is available on Amazon Kindle!

Finally, one book is available online after lots of difficulties with IRS forms, last minute formatting changes/deletions and waiting for what seemed like an eternity for Amazon to approve of it for sale. Yes, there is a process in which Amazon looks at your book to make sure it’s not offensive stuff you are putting onto their site.

Although I’ve learned to read legal documents for work, reading IRS forms and documents are totally different. I am convinced they are written by aliens to destroy our little minds as they are so difficult to comprehend.

Things turned out ok in the end, but there was lots of sweating and panicking. Uploading onto Amazon was a breeze though, but what took me so long was that I would “test” the book on different kindle programs and find glitches in the file. So I went back and forth with my very patient Australian formatter to perfect the book. Then I set up an Amazon Author page, changed the book status on Goodreads, updated all websites, then announced its availability via Facebook and Twitter as well. Is giving birth easier? Not sure…

The print book manuscript takes a bit longer to format and after that’s done, I can finish the spine/back for the print cover. I have been going to bookstores in my spare time and studying other people’s books to see what they put on their books. Perhaps I am vain, but I like well designed books and I hope to make a good looking book as well. For a panel on self-publishing on the weekend, I’ll try to remember to make this point: once the writing is over, you have to shut off your writing brain. The book becomes a product next and it has to be able to compete with other books. This means that the inside must be polished with professional editing and the outside has to be well designed. Book covers do matter and sometimes people will pick up your book because the cover is pretty if nothing else.

Due to my enrolment in Amazon’s KDP Select, I had to take down my preview of the book as it is available on Amazon now. KDP Select puts the book into a Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, so people enrolled in the library can read the book for free. Amazon does compensate the author regardless and it’s a new business model for people to subscribe to Amazon’s library service.

Click the cover below to visit The Undead Sorceress’ Kindle book page. Happy reading!

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Promoting Your Free Book

Recently, a question came up on the Goodreads forum about why people hired on Fiverr usually do promos for free books?

I speculated that a lot of them will only promote “FREE” books because there are lots of lists available online that this Fiverr person can fill in forms for free promotion on your behalf.

If the book isn’t free, it is much more difficult for them to do promotions. They would actually need to take more time to contact people and convince them to do book promos.

Generally, promoting a free book by filling in forms only takes a few minutes and they don’t have to negotiate.

If you are running a promotion for your book and giving it away for free for a few days or forever, you can post the links online to various sites yourself to spread the word. Or you can hire someone to do it for $5 as well.

Here is a list of 72 sites for promoting free ebooks to get you started along with Facebook, Twitter advice::

http://www.sarkemedia.com/free-kindle…

Another one at Indies Limited:

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/book-p…

If you google “list kindle free promotion” you will find several more sites. Of course, some of the sites listed may be the same over and over again.

Good luck on your freebie campaign!

Cynthia Vespia's Writing Process

On Goodreads I recently met Cynthia Vespia, the acclaimed author of the fantasy saga Demon Hunter.  Her first novel, a medieval fiction entitled The Crescent was published in August 2005. The novel was unanimously praised as “an engaging, descriptive read” which prompted a sell-out at Borders Bookstore in less than one hour during the first official signing.

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As part of the Writing Process blog hop, she was kind enough to share tips to upcoming writers:

What am I working on?

I’m currently working on the sequel to my acclaimed Demon Hunter series, titled DEMON HUNTRESS. It follows the daughter of my lead character as she follows in her father’s footsteps and takes up the role of hunter.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Every author has a different voice. I have been told I’m a multi-genre writer. I’ve included romance in horror novels, and comedy in thrillers. I write what comes naturally to me to make the best story possible.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I like to read. I’ve been a fan of fantasy since I was a kid reading Piers Anthony or C.S Lewis. As I grew my tastes grew into more mainstream thrillers. So I still dabble in both genres. I can’t help where I get my story ideas.

How does my writing process work?
I get a spark of an idea and develop it from their with a rough outline. My character profiles will go in depth but I tend not to flush out too much of the actual story because it ruins the spontaneity.

Cynthia’s Goodreads profile contains links to her books and book trailer videos, check them out!

 

Undead Sorceress Front Cover Reveal!

I was complaining recently that I had hired a cover artist who fired me as he thought my mock front cover was good enough. Also he had 20 covers in queue and didn’t really want to think too hard about detail work. So I took it upon myself to improve what I already had as I thought it was missing a “”je ne sais quoi!”

After spending many hours researching and staring at hundreds of other book covers in store and online , I learned a lot about styles of different books. As I wanted a “unisex” book, straight lines were better. Books purposely aimed at female audiences had lots of swirly motifs and books directed to men had darker colors. Fantasy books in general are the most elaborate, with lots of illustrations compared to other books which just have fancy text and stock graphics.

Subsequently, after lots of fiddling around with my graphics program for a few days, here is the new cover. TA DA!

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You might think – this cover looks the same as the mock cover!

Well, the changes include a different font (looked at thousands of fonts before choosing this one), a straight line divider, shuriken symbol, smaller wallpaper and shadowing of the text.

The “Volume One…” text was moved from the bottom of the mock cover because I looked at many paperbacks at the bookstore and realized that not all books have their edges cut evenly. So if I have anything at the bottom that’s significant, it might look odd if the book cutting machine isn’t having a good day!

For me, the font was super important as it evokes emotions and helps convey an aura of fantasy. Generally the new cover to me seems more dramatic and elegant.

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The spine & back cover is another story as I am still working on that. People keep going on about having an important front cover and they forget the rest of the book! Will post the rest as it comes together!

 

The Writing Process

Lately I’ve been on Linked-In and Good Reads a lot, learning from other writers about what they have been going through in their publishing journeys. Usually there are discussions about how to find readers, build blogs and how useless it is to go after people who pirate your book unless you have hard evidence.

Anyhow, I saw a post from fellow author CR Hodges, inviting authors on a “My Writing Process” blog hop to share what is going on in their writing life. Below are questions and answers for this blog hop on what is going on at this stage of my author career.

I should also mention that CR Hodges is a fairly versatile writer with books on the US civil war, sci-fi stuff and lots of short stories. Stop by his site if you get a chance!

Every writer has a different path and next week I’ll be posting details of the writing process of acclaimed Demon Hunter Saga author, Cynthia Vespias!

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JF Garrard’s Writing Process

What am I working on?

At the moment I am finalizing proofreading for my first novel, The Undead Sorceress before sending it to my formatter in Australia.

This is the first book in a series called International House of Vampires which has vampires, magic users, robots and people all rolled up in the cast of characters. I wrote this book because I love fantasy, sci-fi and horror books, but didn’t see much diversity in them. There is a female lead and characters of different ethnicities as well as LGBT. This book has a theme about filial obligations and how far one is willing to go for family.

The second book, Dark Evolution is 50% done, but I am a bit stuck as I keep rewriting it and then getting distracted by other things. All I can say is that there are mermaids in this and it has an environmental theme to it.

My non-fiction works are in various stages as well. The Literary Elephant is a book I started as a guide for beginning Indie publishers. I’ve learned a lot on my self-publishing journey and there is no need for people to reinvent the wheel every time! I hate books that wave a stick in a general direction, so this book will have links and lots of advice on how to implement action steps!

How to Make a Munchkin is a book about modern tools of baby making and the pressure on women to have babies. This was written after I had a “natural” miscarriage which took over a month and I was really scared for a long time. None of my medical books on pregnancy really described what happens during miscarriages, so I hope this will help others realize that they are not alone if they have issues and not to be too worried if they have to go through the same miscarriage event.

I need to update some statistics before sending it to my editor. As well, I have a family doctor and a nurse lined up who are very interested in reading this and will contribute to the forward of this book.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m actually entering The Undead Sorceress into a novel competition for the “Visionary Fiction” category. This work is different because mixes up fantasy, horror, sci-fi and contains a global cast. My background is in Nuclear Medicine, so I tend to incorporate some science into my stories. As well, growing up with concept of Taoism, I inadvertently wrote a lot of that into the book since Taoist philosophies explain the concepts of magic and vampires so nicely.

For my non-fiction work, I try to incorporate useful information in a simple manner. Many times I read self-help books that are not very helpful and that pisses me off. So I do my best to offer valuable advice and realistic outlooks on situations.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always wanted to write and still remember the day when I had to choose between Science or English. My parents were against English as they thought I would starve to death as a writer and convinced me that Science had more opportunities. I loved Science very much too, so I headed down that road and now work in the Healthcare Sector.

One day, I discovered a fellow hospital administrator self-published a book and this sparked my interest in writing again. Self-publishing? What is that?! I thought that the life of writer was becoming depressed over rejection and then dying early, usually by starving or suicide.

Inspired that someone made a book, I started writing again and it was done fairly quickly as I had a story in the back of my mind for the last ten years. It was the idea of how I would sacrifice my life for my grandmother as she suffered different setbacks over the years (fish bone poisoning, stroke, etc.) The Asian notion of filiality is self-sacrifice for the older generation as they sacrificed themselves for the younger generation while raising them.

Generally, I write because I like sharing different truths in fiction and non-fiction. It is a way of disseminating knowledge and contributing to society via this “artform”.

How does my writing process work?

I think too much. I overthink. I hypothesize a lot because I have spent too many years with the scientific method. I am not a healthy writer because I also procrastinate and tend to overdose on chocolate.

Generally, I like reading anything and everything from newspapers to books to magazines. I also like watching lots of films; doesn’t matter what language as long as there is a good story. Also I like travelling, visiting museums, art galleries and random places. I absorb a lot of different cultures and things just spark as I figure out if I want to write a story featuring a certain element I’ve seen or not.

Ideas are scribbled into notebooks and as I’ve learned in the past, I shouldn’t write ideas onto receipts or napkins as I tend to lose them. Eventually, after I’m inspired by enough ideas, I will have a skeleton of a story – I know the beginning, middle and the end. Then I have to fill in this story with people, events, conflict, incentives and plot.

As I write and eat lots of chocolate, the characters will take on a life of their own and unpredictable things will happen. I’ve discovered I can’t have a super rigid outline, as half the time I won’t follow it! I like books with realistic people so I spend a lot of time thinking about how a character will react to a situation.

While writing I am absorbed and I get very grouchy when interrupted as I’m in “the zone”. I used to paint, so writing to me is seeing scenes in my head and then creating a piece of art with words.

Eventually after a manuscript is finished, I edit and ask my Viking husband, along with any willing friend to edit. Then I edit again. After these rounds of edits, I’ll find my editor and pass on the manuscript to them. More rounds of editing. The final step is then proof reading before sending manuscript to formatter.

To give you an idea of timelines – I wrote The Undead Sorceress in three months (thought about it for 10 years!), then it took over a year to edit. Editing takes a long time and is also when what you write gets torn to pieces as people may not understand what you are trying to say. So you rewrite and rewrite until it is good! Then illustration work, formatting, cover design, etc took many months as well. From start to finish, it’s been a two year process.

My last piece of advice is to not worry about what is right or wrong as everyone is different! Just write and get started!

 

Upgrading website!

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Now that National Novel Writing Month and my Kickstarter are both done, I wanted to work a on new goal – to revamp my website!  I had looked around for a few weeks while procrastinating during my writing sessions and found a few awesome sites which offer free WordPress themes.  Well, there are actually hundreds of sites which offer free themes, but most of them look the same, quite frankly.  The premium stuff (fully set up site, video tutorials, tech support) is not free, it’s about $50 USD (depends on theme) which isn’t too bad.

WordPress has revolutionized the way websites are built as it’s really website building for dummies who don’t know code (aka – me!).  You install templates and you keep adding “widgets” to customize the site.  Widgets are all those things on the side of websites and at the bottom which display social media icons, posts, calenders, etc.

After a few months of building a basic WordPress website, I felt ready to set up a more complicated site. Of course, my Viking husband laments that I’m not coding much and things could be more beautiful, but I can live with using a standard theme.

These are the two sites I found which offered great free themes with nice designs and lots of widget options:

http://yithemes.com/
http://smthemes.com/

This website uses “Alium” from SM Themes.  My first choice was Memento from YI Themes, but the preview wasn’t working properly and the free one looked too limited. Second choice was Diablo (yes, like the game name), but the words on the demo site were too dark.

It was exciting to learn how to use sliders (the moving thing at the top of the site) as I always wondered how people did that!  The only thing I haven’t learned how to do is build a nice portfolio gallery with pop up words.  I found a few widgets for displaying pictures, but the problem with me is that I have too many words describing the artwork.  Oh well, I’ll figure out how to display things more nicely over time.

Let me know what you think of this new site!

Check out my kickstarter article on Authors Helping Authors!

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It’s been about two weeks since the Kickstarter ended and I still haven’t recovered.  In hindsight, doing National Novel Writing month at the same time was not a good idea as combining the two took up way too much energy!

I learned that a campaign was actually a 3 phase thing: beginning, middle and end.  During each phase, I worked madly to build and keep up momentum of the campaign going. It’s a really hard thing to do as you will find out that lots of people really don’t give a crap and will tell you to your face.  So you learn to develop a thick skin because for every nice person, there is also a super nasty one who will hate you because you are in front of their faces.

Lessons learned, tips and resources were written into an article called “Tips for Running a Crowd Funding Campaign”  and submitted to a site called “Authors Helping Authors“. Lots of excellent resources here for people who are interested in writing and publishing!

A book as a product is more difficult to sell on Kickstarter. Innovative thing-a-ma-bobs are easier to sell because they are quirky and general.  Books are aimed mainly at readers and there are so many of them listed under publishing that it is mind boggling. I could barely find my own kickstarter campaign when it was running under the category of “publishing” and had better luck looking for it under “Toronto” projects.

Will I run another Kickstarter in the future? Well, it depends on how well the book sells in general. People that have a lot of readers and press tend to do very well with their Kickstarter projects.  Also, for a third or fourth book, authors tend to give the first two away, which makes better incentives as well. I should never, say never to anything, as I might become involved in other projects. Who knows what the future will bring?!