A comment would be nice

unexpected-obsession-web-coverIt’s been almost a week now since my upload of Unexpected Obsession (The Unexpected Series Book 1), and I still can’t believe it happened.  Self-publishing is a hard task master when preparing for publication.  I couldn’t count the amount of times editing has occurred to get to that publishing stage only to find ‘niggling little horrors’ show up anyway.  It’s all part of the process, and I trust in my readers to understand this.

I have debated the self publishing question long and hard.  Despite its appeal there are still many people that don’t consider self-publishing a legitimate way to put your book out there.  Some view it as a path you take when you fail to navigate your way on the traditional road.   Paul Lucas, a well-known literary agent recently said that as “products, the e-books are indistinguishable from other offerings. So if the book is good, it will receive attention.”

The trouble with self-publishing is that whilst this may be true the publishing process is such that there is only one place to lay the blame when things go wrong. This is why I have spent the week reading the up-loaded manuscript and searching for errors, both grammatical and formatting, and then spent a long days checking and fixing, and checking and fixing.  Both  Amazon and Smashwords copies have now been addressed.  I am hoping Paul is right and can’t wait to see what readers have to say.

Only readers can decide if a book is good or not. However as much as people reading the book is what I long for, more has come out of this than just the book. For me, the most exciting thing about writing Unexpected has been having good people around me who have supported my crazy leap into writer outer space.    Sean, my go to man has been an enormous help.  I know how to bookmark, link and goodness knows what else because he has had the patience to teach me, as he worked tirelessly trying to turn my ideas, into a website. My editor Pat has taught me the value of a comma although I still don’t always get it. I am grateful for the patience of Alyson Walton and Kay Want Cheung for sitting with me when I was too scared to press a few buttons alone. They also see it as a practice run for when they publish their own books.

Book Cover

Yay at last!

Stories of the Dark and Light (found on Amazon and Smashwords) back in July 2016 was a group self-publishing experiment.  It gave us grounding and because we shared some pitfalls together, the three of us are still in there hoping and doing.  I can’t wait for them to publish their first novel. The incredible thing is these wonderful people are like me, and are on their L-plates.  They are learner drivers just as many of you are out there, and just like you we are stumbling through to get to our destination dreams. Sharing skills helps us become stronger individually.  Stronger individuals are better able to help others.

Is it worth it?  The experience, I mean?   Absolutely!  Any experience that takes us out of our comfort zone is worth it.  Once the girls have their first novels out we are going to tackle the print copy.  Again, we will use Stories from the Dark and Light as our experiment.  Working together on a project is a great learning curve.

Oh, you might want to know about the novel, Unexpected and how it is going. I don’t know because without your input I can’t know. I would love some comments from you either here on the blog site or as a review if you purchase my book.  Anything you say can only help me get better.

So please, come and have a say,

Barb

Up and Down on the Elevator ( or Lift)

braceletThese last few months have been quite emotional.  I am finally that close to publishing the novel, and balancing this with everything else going on around me, has been hard.  If things go well I will have my novel Unexpected Obsession uploaded this weekend, or at the latest sometime next week.  It was supposed to be late September but some unexpected (the irony of this word) things like health issues, cover issues, workshop and editing commitments, and  life in general decided it wasn’t to be, and all my plans for the completion, and then release of my book took a downward slide.

I think of life as an elevator, or a lift. It goes up; it comes down.  All it takes is the press of a button. Sometimes the trip seems to take forever and we get exhausted in the process.  So, why re-press that button, and re-take the risk? I wanted a different direction in my life, and I wanted to prove it could be done.  Not just for my sake, but for anybody out there afraid to follow, their dreams. Writing is my dream.

barbara-and-rachel-romantic-high-teaMy novel Unexpected Obsession, Book 1 in The Unexpected Series is ready to go.  It really is only a few more sleeps.  However, the events of the last few months have meant all marketing plans have fallen behind. I could, wait a bit longer to release the book. I don’t want to.  I am tired of feeling like that passenger stuck half-way between floors. Fear takes over when you stop moving.  Action makes action as I discovered only too well last weekend. You see, I had the pleasure of meeting two of Australia’s best romance writers, Barbara Hannay and Rachel Bailey.  The Romance Writers of North Queensland organized a Romantic High Tea at Tumbertin Tea Rooms, a Townsville treasure.  I nearly didn’t go as I am still not a hundred percent, and energy levels are very low.  Getting even a little dressed up, was too hard.

I gave myself a real talking to. Thank Goodness, I listened, because it was a lovely day. Both authors were warm, encouraging, and so willing to share of themselves that I simply didn’t care how I felt.  An elevator mimics life with its high moments and its lows. It is a powerful demonstration of reality.  When we step on board we have to trust we get to the end.  Sometimes we don’t and have to take the stairs.  It is horrendously tiring but still allows us to get to our destination. For me, pulling myself up was an affirmation.  Finishing what I have spent my whole life wanting to do, can actually happen. Yes, I hate the stairs but they were necessary to get part of the way.  Reality is not a smooth ride, but it can be wonderful.

carnevale-newThe week got better. My friend and co-author, Alyson Walton (Stories of the Dark and Light) presented me with the most beautiful mask to add to my collection.  It made my dreams seem more plausible. Masks are my theme on my website.  Each mask tells a different story, and this particular mask told me, more was to come and it did.  It arrived in the shape of small tokens of affection from two of my dearest friends.  All this was totally unexpected (that word again). Someone pressed the elevator button for me, and got it moving. People are willing to do that. My journey became super smooth.  I hardly felt a breath of movement. I was too busy being happy about the wonderful support of family and friends.  How then, can I not follow my dreams?

Strangely enough, everything else also fell into place.  I now have a cover and I love it.  I am hoping you will too. There is also an article in the local paper, The Townsville Bulletin (weekend edition), where I have a very small write up.  Actually the fact that I am there at all with people like Barbara Hannay is humbling, and a surprise, courtesy of the hard working Romance Group, who are part of The Townsville Writers and Publishers Centre.  They help bring the world to us when we can’t go to the world. new-masks-and-books-barb-and-rachel

A positive attitude goes a long way. Nina Amir offered some sage advice in a recent article.  We need to remain masters of our thoughts, and alter the course of negative thoughts back to positive and affirming ones. Nina says we can choose who we want to be every day.  Only we can decide between productive or unproductive, and we can’t do that if we don’t show up every day with the desire, to be effective.  I let outside factors undermine my confidence.  None of us can afford that.  Confidence must be guarded zealously, at all times.

I have some catching up to do with marketing.  Luckily I have a lot in place and if I can manage the upload in the next week, I can then adjust things enough to get the word out there. I am most anxious about your opinion.  Good or bad, I am looking forward to it, and have been hard at work deciding what needs to be done, in order to make things easier for readers.

Firstly, rather than have a newsletter I will be providing an Updates section both at the end of each blog post, and on my Home page at www.brstrickland.com.   Secondly, I am hoping to tweak that website to make it easier for my audience. (Sean, with your help, please.) Time-management is improving but my budget remains non-existent and limits some of the things, I can do.   However I am a work in progress and with your help can get better and better so back to work for me.  Come find me because any journey that is shared is so much better.

UPDATES

Unexpected Obsession Book 1 in The Unexpected Series will be released this week.  Stay tuned for the exact date and other relevant details including a sneak look at the cover.

Ciao for now,

Barb

 

Self-publishing, reviews and audiences

books-1553177__180These last couple of weeks have been very busy, too busy really and not all in a fun way.  When this happens I do what I always do and look for something to read so I can chill.  It’s what I love about reading, the fact it gives you time away from real life without going too far from home. I came across a book that looked interesting.  Even though many people tell me they don’t go by reviews I’m not one of those people.  I read reviews and look at what people say and then decide on the book depending on what is said.

 

 I found a book and checked out what people had to say.  They had me not at hello with this book but then I’m not chasing Jerry Maguire. They got me at ‘recommended for those who look for good writing quality in that genre’, the genre in this case being paranormal.  Knowing the author has paid attention to her writing and that it has been noticed made it easy for me to decide on the purchase.  The reviewer was right and I discovered a new author to add to my growing collection, and I proceeded to download the next two books in the series after reading only half of the first book.

 All of this however set me thinking. As you know from my posts, my writing group and I self-published a short story anthology. I often get asked why short stories, and why the self-publishing as an eBook.   Our group wasn’t in a financial position to afford editing, proofreading, covers and all the usual things associated with publishing.  We were, are, ordinary people with dreams, and we believed in each other.  Self-publishing put us in control. It gave us an immediate opportunity, and the bonus is that it is a simple procedure.  For us it proved an excellent manner to dip our big toe, or in our case, a few big toes.

The book became available straight away and we learned about uploads and marketing. The decision to go with short stories meant we could handle more of the processes ourselves simply because a smaller word count with the separate stories made manipulating the manuscript so much easier; we printed copies which we passed around to each other for editing.  We then found two other people to check the manuscript, a friend to design the cover, and then we all got together and uploaded.  Print copies of the book could come at a later date.

However as you would know from previous posts it seems no matter how careful we were, errors occurred, or rather were not picked up.  We expected this.  We knew doing everything ourselves would have penalties.  This morning, the girls and I finished our revisions and re-uploaded Stories of the Dark and Light.   We are hoping the effort we made has improved the stories.  Self-publishing in an eBook format allows revisions at any time. The book I was talking about at the beginning of this post re-enforced to me the importance of the quality of the work.  I believe it matters as much as the uniqueness of the work produced by the writer. 

Mel's book cover

This whole process of self-publishing has been a huge emotional learning curve, and continues to be.  This is particularly intimidating as I am about to do it again with a romance series.  You see although I blog on a regular basis, have put myself out there and am planning to do it again I suffer from a rare and complicated affliction.  It regularly strikes the crazy people that choose the Creative Arts for a profession. In medical terms it is referred to as ‘imposter syndrome’ and doesn’t just apply to writers.  Everyone with a bent for the arts can be a victim. 

Self-doubts, fear of criticism, and the failure to live up to expectations are all symptoms. There is no cure but you can learn to live with the condition and take certain precautions depending on the disciple you choose.  With writers you need routine, a place that is comfortable to house your computer, your notes in a visible area, a comfortable chair and coffee, lots of it. It helps to have a positive attitude that refuses to give up despite criticism, or bad days when the muse is in a coma.  Above all you need to be willing to keep on top of your craft by researching and opening yourself up to new ideas. 

Professional input, so often dependent on funds, is vital and we hope as time progresses that we can manage this.  For now, it is fortunate being creative lends itself to improvising.  Nothing is insurmountable with a little bit of enterprise added to the mix.  There is one more thing that may also help alleviate the condition.  If I can go back to the beginning of this post for a moment I would like to bring up reviews.  

Whatever the Creative Art an audience is involved.  For writers it is our readers but they are just as much an audience, as those people sitting in a theatre.  Their thoughts on the performance matters a great deal.  It is the platform to change, refine and hopefully improve.  More important it helps give direction to others, so that they have some guidance, as to whether or not they may enjoy what is laid before them.  So please, don’t be afraid to express an opinion.  I discussed a lovely new author by the name of Laura Taylor who writes paranormal in a novel (yes, I am playing with the word) way and best of all is a fellow Aussie.

In the next few weeks I will be putting up some more teasers like the one below from my novel Unexpected Obsession.  Please feel free to comment and let know what you think.  This is from the honeymoon in Sicily.

 Taomina 2

Those dark eyes examining every facet that made her a woman made the moment unbearable erotic.  She literally couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, was afraid and yet had never wanted anything more in her entire life. Taomina

 

Alla prossima,

Barb

 

Moving forward and onward

cappuccino-577732__180Even though writing is a very solitary occupation, ironically it only functions, when it has an audience. Every author needs a tribe – a lovely way to describe the audience or more to the point, readers.  It is our readers who help us stay afloat, who give us the inspiration and support to keep on writing.  With the help of social media the author can gather and keep that tribe together by giving them a place to meet, a place personal to their relationship with the author.

Navigating this environment on a personal level is overwhelming, involving as it does, me trying to keep my balance, while I stand in a very rocky boat, rowing on an ever changing sea of elusive writing wisdom.  However as Jane Friedman   points out if readers know where to find you then it is very reassuring for them, gives them a feeling you care enough to give them that security. It inspires their loyalty.

photo-montage-1514218__180

Still feeling as if my identity, as a writer, is in the embryo stage I have managed to embrace what Jane calls a baseline (website).  To keep this thriving I have struggled to tweet and not be a twit, pin on pintrest without being a pinhead, face book this dubious person (me), youtube without losing the video clip for at least two days (you had to save?), Google plussed (do you spell it with a double ‘s’, who knows?) in a circle when I have a square brain, and linked to Linkedin and Goodreads.

 

I have also tried to maintain writing posts at reasonable intervals, work on my series, work on the revisions of our anthology (more about this further down), and work in general (so I can eat and pay bills). God help us if my Unexpected Series is published because I will become a mediausermess.  Yes, that last word is real.  I should know because I made it up using three separate legitimate words – media, user and mess.   Put together they spell reality and are a harsh awakening to what a real author does if they are serious about writing. Mental exhaustion is a pre-requisite to success or so it would appear.

Fortunately exhilaration is the other side of the coin.  It had to be or the world wouldn’t have so many people desirous of writing. How can it not be when you get actual feedback from actual people on something you have actually created?  However, with this comes responsibility.  Cara Brookins, an author and speaker whom I follow with regularity says she judges a book by its cover.  Bear with me because I am still on the same topic despite how it may seem. She admits she doesn’t want to but like most of us can’t help herself and is drawn to the visual pulses of colour and images.  She adds “writing a book is a lot like the long waiting period for a child, and seeing the cover is a whole lot like seeing that baby for the very first time.”

I was quite taken with this analogy especially since babies are on my mind at the moment.  My youngest daughter just had the cutest baby boy but that discussion deserves its own separate stage.  Anyway, let’s suppose for a moment that the cover represents not just the cover but is a metaphor for the work created. Think about repercussions when it gets read.  What if the results on reading are not at all what you expected or hoped for, what if the experience is less than perfect?

The baby cries constantly because it needs a change of diapers, formula or something we can’t even begin to guess at?  Do you ignore its needs? Do you just suffer it and accept your lot and wait for time to ease the pain or do you find a way to improve the situation.  Do you add colour to the cover in some way? I mean it was your idea to have the baby. Okay so I have jumped to cover, babies and back to the book itself.  Are you lost?  I think I may well be too, or do I make sense?

Laurel Cohn in her tips for publishing says we need to treat our text with respect and that means professional assessment and professional editing both in copyediting and proofreading.  We as a group when working on the anthology totally agreed with this thinking but none of us were in the position to do it that way.  Instead we took a risk and did it all ourselves down to that very cover.  Waiting could have meant years of inaction.  We made the choice to self-edit, self proof-read and lastly self-publish.   Did we do the right thing?

A few days ago I spent six hours with Alyson  at a coffee shop revising Stories of the Dark and Light to make sure that we did.  We took feedback on board and made changes to respect this.  Fortunately self-publishing an ebook gives us the opportunity to polish and upload without too much trouble.  True it requires an inordinate amount of work but how else can we keep a tribe if not by showing we are prepared to take their thoughts and their opinions on board.   I confess I was becoming doubtful about the risks we took but never about our willingness to listen to feedback and act on it. Greatness blog 2

I think the risk was justified.  It brought us closer to our readers.  Would we do it again?  Absolutely!!! If we are willing to learn from what we attempt to do in life then it is a success. Learning leads to growth, to changes in ourselves that expand into what we do. So it’s time to move forward and onwards.

Next post I hope to hit you with some pieces from my upcoming romance.  I am nervous but also looking forward to it.  It’s time my Unexpected Series surfaced especially if it may bring more of the same in reader interaction.

A la prossima,

Barb

 

Up and Running

Working colour

Hard at work.

A week after the big event and I still can’t quite grasp it.  I can call myself an author.  That might sound strange considering I have been blogging for a year but somehow the publishing of a book is so different.  Blogging has continuity; you can change your mind and rescind whatever you wrote or you can add to it, explain it and all in the next post.  A book is final.  It is a completed work. Yes, it is possible to go back and correct small errors but basically once created there is no going back.  It is very exposing.

Stories of the Dark and Light, a project I have been working on for almost a year with my writing group Wordwick3d is now up on Amazon and Smash Words and it has my name on it, all our names on it, and it brings a feeling of pride mixed with a good dose of trepidation tempered by a delicious sense of satisfaction. We did what we set out to do.  We published.  We let go of our fears.  The thought that people might not like our stories is no small thing.  We accepted it and ploughed ahead. Thirdly and the best reason of all for feeling happy with ourselves is that we did it together as a team.  Together we are a mixture of personalities and yet we put everything aside (did I mention strong personalities with a tendency to theatrics) to work together.

Book Cover

Hard at work.

How can we not be proud of reaching this point?  From here we can travel our own road with more confidence.  Banding together was not something I had ever intentionally considered but on my own my work sat and waited for the right moment that never seemed to arrive.  I have no doubt it would have come but working with a group that held the same desires and fears propelled a faster delivery date. Together we have prodded and produced.

Meeting up on a regular basis as a group, has encouraged activity. For me, someone that has struggled in the town I live in (I miss home) the project has pushed me back into the land of the living you could say. It piqued my memory and I found myself recalling my passion for the teachings of Dale Carnegie.  It brought to mind one of his sayings which I think has been sitting reclusively in the background of my memory waiting for something to spark it into existence.  One of Dale’s more famous quotes is the one where he says “Inaction breeds doubt and fear.  Action breeds confidence and courage.  If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it.  Go out and get busy.”  So I did. We all did.  And Dale is right. We got busy on this and it has improved our own individual work.

 

Aiyson-Kay-Barb

Yay at last!

When I started blogging it was with the idea of building an audience towards this day, the day the title, author, becomes legitimate. Surprisingly I find myself quite calm about everything.  I am not jumping around yelling, buy me, buy me, in fact if anything I am very low key and am probably a marketer’s nightmare.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have told friends and relatives and have spread the word and do have a plan in place but all of that is taking a back seat to emotions that surprised me.  They are about so much more than finally publishing our collection.  They are centred on the fact that we are following a dream.

Whenever people go out on a limb to follow their dreams they demonstrate that age, and circumstances don’t rule our outcomes.  There are ways to make things happen.  We just have to be willing and open and then it seems we become a magnetic to others with the same idea. Everyone seems to be waiting for that one item to inspire in them the courage to get busy.  For me it has been the many authors over the years that have given my soul sanctuary every time I engaged with their words.  Sanctuary is just another word for survival; we just find it in different places.

There was moment last week when the computer went quiet and blank as if it needed to rest before rising to the grand occasion it had been invited to.  We waited, silent, barely breathing until light flashed and suddenly, magically there was this vision on the screen, our vision and we jumped and gave a joint gasp of absolute wonder and delight.  There it was, our creation ready to journey to you, and it is all about you out there, the readers of the world.  This is our way of giving, of making a difference even if it is a few moments entertainment.  I am not saying we succeeded.  I am saying that at least we tried.  We took a journey that had hazards and we navigated, and survived.

I read an interesting comment by Richard Branson that I think sums up what I am mean. He was asked the following by Mark Ernst:  “If you had another 65 years of life, what would you want to achieve?” This is a question to a man we all know has achieved a great deal already.  Your mind jumps to the infinite possibilities he might come up with. His answer instead was simple and humble. I quote:

Despite everything, my destination has always remained the same. My goal, no matter what I have done, has been to make a difference in people’s lives.”  

Now comes the hard part, the finding out how well we did it and that is entirely up to you out there, and whether you decide to be or not to be our readers.  We have something for everyone that likes their stories slightly dark and we are willing to have your input.

Ciao till next time

Barb