Take it from the top

I’m going to try and catch you up with my year behind the scenes. Something that has gone in the space of a Blink. However realising how enormous this subject is, I’m going to split it into a few sections and post over a few days.

This is my long promised post of the decisions I’ve made with self-publishing and how it’s all going so far…

The journey so far –

Last January I made the decision that Burning Embers was finally ready. It was a polished as a shiny squeaky thing and in the best shape that I could make it. With my dream of following a traditional publishing route I started to send BE out to agents.

I think it went well. I had a spreadsheet to monitor who I had e-mailed my book baby too, their contact details and what they required in their submission package. I even had a column with an approximate date of response. Generally I had positive feedback from agents and publishing houses that would accept direct submissions. I even accidentally sent it to a few self-publishing companies and received some encouraging results.

In the end however, the answer was no. I was told that Burning Embers was well-written, engaging, had excellent descriptions…but just wasn’t quite right for anyone’s list or didn’t suit their personal tastes. It was discouraging, but important to remember that this is a subjective business. I know that the opening of Burning Embers is tailored more towards literary fiction than a straight YA Fantasy-Romp. I also know that the book really hits its stride after the first six chapters (maybe I shouldn’t be so honest!) However, I also had faith that in the hands of readers who love fantasy, strong-female protagonists and want to be pulled into another world –it could really work.

One of the self-publishing companies did have this to say after requesting opening chapters:

‘Blimey exciting start, its made me think of Game of Thrones, Divergent and a female Uhtred of Bebbanberg all at once, which is a good thing – great imagery and sense of place. I think this would be very popular right now, with the right cover and mega saturation on social media, you will get noticed. I’m sure of that. Keep me posted as to how you get on with other publishers, I would love to work with you on this’ – In the end, this enthusiasm translated into an offer of publication with them for a much discounted fee.

In monetary terms they were willing to remove £500 from their usual price.  I really liked this company and probably would have published with them, however it was at the start of the year and I was determined to exhaust more ‘traditional’ enquiries first.

I also received an evaluation of Burning Embers:

‘The book is very well written and the story is original, exciting and engaging.  

The author creates a rich fantasy world with its own history and mythology. Feia is a sympathetic character and I enjoyed following her story.

I think fans of the fantasy genre will really enjoy this. It combines all the best traits of the fantasy genre but with an original twist. 

 An exciting story set in a rich fantasy world that will really appeal to readers. I can imagine this making an excellent series and, once hooked, I think readers will keep coming back for more.’ 

So what to do next?

I carried on writing.

I started with pieces of flash-fiction for competitions, and I even won a few. As a result of flash-fiction I was published in two additional books last year.

Amongst all the sting of rejection, I started the Poisoned Well a simpler, more linear YA Fantasy which was always going to be shorter than the 120,000 word beast that was Burning Embers.

The plan was to finish Poisoned Well and publish it on Wattpad.

Now Wattpad is amazing. It allows you to post you story in serial. You’re encouraged to post on a regular slot at least once a week and to interact with the community. This in turns generates ‘reads’ for your story and you gain followers. Followers who get excited about your work and are eager for the next instalment. Theoretically this can translate into sales of a book. One ‘success’ story of Wattpad recommends you have  the full text published on Amazon and provide that link to Wattpad, so your impatient readers can skip along and buy your book instead of waiting 30-odd weeks for the next part.

However, as I was sending BE out to agents at the time, I was aware I shouldn’t be publishing it anywhere online! This is where Poisoned Well was dreamt up – something that was specifically geared towards a Wattpad posting schedule. Another hint is to keep chapters at approximately 2000 words each, just enough to keep the story moving, but short enough to keep the reader engaged and hungry for more.

Then summer came around – and life changed. I’ve mentioned it in the occasional post, but over the summer I realised I was expecting a baby. Now among all the preparation for new life and feeling like I had the flu for a few months, I realised that I wanted my book baby project to be done. Signed off, sealed, delivered – fin. Burning Embers had been such a huge part of my life and in order to move on completely I would need to let it go. But it deserved more than staying in my desk drawer and on the computer. Because I’d been feeling so poorly, I’d also stopped writing Poisoned Well – a mere two chapters from the end! SO CLOSE!

So I decided to self-publish. All of the queries that were going to have a response had received one, and I’d exhausted the pool of agents I could harass. I had twittered, blogged, researched and finally it was decision time.

So what to do first?

Well, initially panic. I’d spent years reading articles about self-publishing, marketing, social media…and I immediately lost all confidence that I knew what I was doing and had to go back and re-read everything again!

Self-publishing – there are some big decisions to make. – this is where the next part of the story will continue…

Let me know what you think so far!

Happy Reading Fibi

xxx

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Autumn leaves in golden light

Autumn leaves flicker in golden light. A bright sun breaks through grey puffs of cloud. It’s warm, suspiciously so. A chill wind pulls at unfastened coats and untamed hair. The green is fading from the grass and bare earth appears in patches. Still, the leaves fall in turbulent circles;  gold and Orange they flicker.

It’s here!

LOOK! In all of it’s autumn, orangey goodness!

Book!

Well you could say that I have been busy.

I have, at this very moment, a printed copy of Burning Embers! I love it! I have to say, that the quality of printing is incredible, and my book baby looks like a book! An actual book. I’m going to be excited about this for a while…

Over the next few the days the printed proof will be examined with a magnifying glass, tweaks will be made and then – THEN it will be available for Pre-order. *Cue Fainting*

Review copies have been sent out, and I’m watching Amazon like a hawk. Hopefully when the next boost of sales come in, then the reviews will keep the book ‘sticky’. (From what I can tell, sticky means that it stays in the higher rankings and ‘sticks’ around the bestseller mark – whoohooo!)

But that doesn’t sound very busy does it? What else have I been up to…

Well, I’ve been writing horror tips for Black Star Publishing; just in time for Halloween. They’re starting a new blog and invited me to be their first guest blogger. (I may be getting a little too big for my britches at this point.) I also intent to submit a short story to their competition. Luckily we all have until December to come up with a suitably spooky idea. Once the post is up, you can be sure that I will share it with you.

Wattpad is up to date (incredible by itself) Six free chapters of Burning Embers are available to read – and they’re being read. I’ve joined a few review groups, so I’ll be anxiously biting my nails waiting for those to come in from my fellow wattpadders.

I’ve planned out a very very long blog post about self-publishing and the decisions that I’ve made and why. Over the coming weeks I’ll also be divulging my marketing strategy – I tell you, the more you delve into this with self-publishing, the more there is to know! At times it feels like an endless ball of wool that I’ll never fully untangle, but it is fun.

In the meantime, the e-book is still available to pre-order and currently at a discounted price of £1.89 (correct 27.10.17)

I’d love to know your thoughts – don’t forget to leave comment and let me know what you’re up to. I’m also still happy to send out review copies if anyone is interested!

Happy Autumn everyone!

Fibi xxx

Touching the Stars

My manuscript for Burning Embers has come back from the Editor – cue excited squealing! So this leaves me with a whole list of things to do, as quickly as I can do them!

First things first, I am so excited to reveal the cover for Burning Embers. I hope that you like it! I’ve gone for a simple but striking image that will stand out in the teeny tiny display of Amazon. Hopefully it prompts a few questions about the novel and will entice some willing readers in. Let me know what you think!

Adobe Spark (3)

Secondly, because the MS is back, I’ll now be able to comment posting on Wattpad and the first 1500 words of Burning Embers will be appearing shortly online. I hope that you enjoy the introduction to the world of Arenith and fall in love with the characters I’ve spent so long dreaming about (so long…so soooo long…)

Final piece of super exciting information is that I hope to make the ebook and print versions of Burning Embers available for pre-order…before the end of the week!

I love it when a daily prompt: Believe is the final shining star on an amazing day. Being able to share my fizzing excitement with you all is just amazing, and it has come from years and years of belief. Belief that I can write a full-length novel, I can edit it and make it better – I can even turn it into a book. Now belief doesn’t make things happens on their own, belief must be combined with a willingness to work hard and persist. But when you aim for those stars – my goodness it feels good when they’re finally in reach!

I’d love to hear what you think about the cover.

Happy Reading

Fibi xxx

The Dragon’s Bride

I’m Writing for the Poisoned Well is going well! I’m getting closer and closer to the end and then the editing will begin in earnest. However, for now I thought that I would share this extract with you. I hope you like it! Remember to leave me a comment 🙂

The Poisoned Well – Extract

They made a fire on the beach beneath the stars. No clouds covered the sky or hid the stars as they stretched out, wary of the flying bugs. Lyris buried her feet in the sands as they started to cool. Timmit told them about his travels by foot from Ipito to Golden Fort. He’d trained in the capital city before venturing out to live somewhere a little quieter, and further away from his family. Kit shared a story from the caravan, how Rafa had fallen in love with Kelanin and defied his guild to follow the wagon’s, forsaking his license of medicine. Arnit had declined to share a story of his own, and instead, Timmit had started to speak again.  An ancient folk-tale about a dragon who fell in love with a girl.

The mighty Arian would watch the girl from the mountains above the castle where she lived. With all of his years of life upon the world, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid eyes upon. He was a guardian the pass between Veglen and Ipito and he watched over the girl and her family, and visited her in her dreams. Till one day, word reached his cave that the Princess of the land was due to marry. Jealous, he made a deal with the old gods, and traded his scales and impossible hide for breakable flesh of a man. Though he retained some of his mighty power, an ability to communicate with the beasts, the birds and the serpents of the sky.

‘I heard he kept his gold too,’ Kit interrupted and Arn, who had been sat listening to every word, punched the traveller in the arm.

‘Dragons are famous for their hordes of coin,’ Timmit conceded, ‘though it is believed that Arian sacrificed his wealth for this, a chance to wed his beloved before she could marry a Prince from a distant land.’

‘He probably couldn’t carry it down the mountain,’ Kit was stretched out, with his hands looped behind his head, and this time, Lyris prodded him in the belly. He yelped, gripped his side and rolled to his knees. ‘Alright, alright,’ he laughed and gestured for Timmit to continue.

Lyris must have heard the story a thousand times, but sat watching Arn over the firepit the myth meant more to her. The young woman wrapped her arms around her knees, and with a final glare at the repenting Kit, watched Timmit as the dark-haired man continued once more.

‘Arian came down from the mountain,’ the Smith paused, waiting for Kit’s additional commentary. The traveller grinned, but remained mute, ‘and he approached the castle with an aura of splendour. The guards knelt before his power and he was granted an audience with the King. Arian made his request, to take the hand of the King’s daughter. For he was certain that she loved him as truly and as deeply as he loved her. For they had spoken in dreams about their desires. The young woman wanted to travel the world and save it, too bring light to dark places and the hearts of men. She had no desire for wealth or nobility and Arian knew that there was no heart so pure as that of his love. The King, believing that Arian was the Prince sent from the distant lands, was eager to agree the match and the next day. Arian was bound to his bride. The ceremony complete, he turned to the girl beside him and lifted the veil from her face.’

It had been difficult, to see Arn all throughout the day, without any chance to speak to him alone and ask her questions. To reach out and touch him, or pull him into a dark corner and forget that the rest of the world existed. The young woman watched him now, fascinated by his expression as he listened to the story that he too, must have heard a thousand times.

‘Arien had trusted the king,’ Timmit continued and poked the embers of the fire with a stick. Sparks shot into the air and scattered in the wind, drifting like fireflies over the beach. Everything smelt like wood-smoke. Sand covered her feet and hands and the young woman shifted. It always looked so soft, until you sat on it for too long.

‘Arien was furious to find that his bride was not the princess. His love had hair the colour of smelted gold and eyes as dark as the night. He turned his wrath on the king, and demanded to know what trickery this was. The princess, his bride and now his wife, was a woman with dark hair like yours Lyris, and eyes as pale as the jealous moon. The King grew angry and demanded to know why Arien, a prince of distant land could treat him so poorly. Arien explained that this was not his love, the woman he had come to marry. The King was confused, this was his only daughter, and a whisper rose through the court. Finally, a young woman stepped forward, with her hair the colour of the setting sun and the darkest eyes the dragon had ever known. His love, a servant, daughter of servants and granddaughter of servants. She had watched the ceremony with tears in her eyes, and her lover marry the princess and bound with blood.’

‘What happened to them?’ Lyris had heard the story, but there had been different endings. Sometimes, the King annulled the marriage and the servant and the dragon lived happily ever after.

‘Arien was bound to his wife,’ Timmit finished the story, ‘for his foolish belief that beauty could only belong to the rich and the powerful. When in truth, beauty is something that is born within, and more often found in the humblest houses.’ He prodded a lump of coal and avoided the young woman’s gaze.

Kit snorted and stood, brushing the sand from his trousers, ‘or he regained his form as a dragon, melted the King on his throne and flew away with the servant on his back.’

Arn stirred, his own hair the colour of burnt copper in the firelight. He lifted a shoulder in a shrug, ‘they say that he grew to love the Princess, though when the Prince from a distant land arrived, the servant girl was offered to him in marriage. Part to punish Arien for his secret love of the maiden, and in part to hide the fact that the King’s daughter had been married to the wrong man.’

‘What do you believe?’ Lyris joined Kit on her feet. Together they doused the last flames and scattered sand on the embers.

‘I believe that it’s a story,’ Arn smiled, and staggered to his own feet with a groan. He watched her, across the pit but kept his distance.

‘Come on,’ Kit slung an arm around her shoulders and led the way back to the boat, ‘tomorrow we’ll be docking in Toscun, and you’re still never going to beat me at dice.’

‘Because you cheat,’ Lyris and Timmit responded in chorus.

‘Everyone cheats,’ Kit laughed, ‘you just have to be the better cheat.”

‘You’re full of brass

To plan the words – or to let them dictate?

This weekend started with an impossible goal. Intending to get everything finished for The Poisoned Well, I decided, yesterday, that I was going to write 20,000 words in two days. No big deal. Then reality dropped by and this obviously has not happened. I’ll Detonate that target now and gladly; ka-boom! Although I have made a respectable amount of progress and I’m pleased with the development of the story. I just about hit my target for today, when a writing friend from across the globe in New Zealand explained they were planning to write 15,000 words. Naturally, a challenge was set and the race is on. My brain is already a little tired today, so there was no way I was going to reach 15,000 words! However, Hollie has managed an amazing 4,000 and I’m 1000 words up on my target and ready for the week ahead.

Now, onto the serious blogging.

I’ve started to do a series of posts about writing a novel, so here is part two: Planning

To plan, or not to plan?

Now, having attempted novel writing myself, and finishing the first manuscript: Burning Embers, I feel I have a good idea of how to get this ball rolling. I’ve also be reading up on other writers and their techniques to what can feel like a long slog. The conclusion, is that like anything, there are several different ways to plan a novel.

1: Using a program to write. I’ve never done this, but I know a lot of people swear by it. There are a lot of free programs, and paid ones out there. They seem like a useful place to store information, write character sheets and keep motivating. Such as at: Bibisco

One thing that strikes me about this kind of software, is how easy it is to plan to an exacting detail. You can set how many chapters, what will happen in each one, their intended word count and then map the arc of your book in a diagram.

Pro: You’re able to set clear targets and goals. You’ll also be super organised!

Cons: Does it allow the same flexibility? If you’re going to go over your word count for that chapter, will it feel like a bonus, or a negative thing? Knowing myself, I think I’d have too much fun setting up the minutia and then not get as much writing done. It’s hard enough with facebook, and reading daily prompts, and twitter to get a clear head and just get the words down.

Then there is perhaps the opposite to using a program to plan out the individual steps.

2. No planning. When the LOTR extended box-sets were released, I was addicted. I probably know the words of every single interview, better than I know the films. Viggo…if we tip over…save yourself…

One thing that always remained clear in my memory though, was the discussion about how Tolkien approached the LOTR. After the success of the Hobbit, he set out to write the sequel. Now, there’s a lot of complaints about G.R.R.Martin finishing a Song of Ice and Fire, yet it took Tolkien 12, (17 according to some sources) years to write the Lord of the Rings! 12 YEARS! Now, the image that stuck with me, was the way they described Tolkien’s approach. He sat down and he started to write.  He didn’t know where the story was going, and eventually he got stuck, scrapped it all and started again – from the beginning. This time, he got a little further, until he reached a point where he couldn’t continue – scrapped it all, and started again.

This is in the day before the computer! It was described as the waves rushing up the beach, every time they got a little further until we had the Lord of the Rings that we know and love. It sounds exhausting.

I like to have flexibility when I write, I like to be able to let my characters breathe and develop their own voices and ideas. This is possibly because I am rubbish at Character sheets. In the role play community people ask me – so how much planning did you put into this character and their arc and I get all embarrassed and mumble…I wrote the bare minimum so you would let me write on your site… however, I think it’s a good idea to have some vague concepts in mind and at least a direction.

Now, I was always going to advocate for option three – the middle ground. Option 1 is a planned hike with your day sketched out to the minute. You have everything in your bag, that you might possibly ever need. A strict schedule to keep you moving, and gps on your phone so you don’t stray from the path. Option 2 seems like setting out on a journey, with just your boots on your feet and wondering where you’ll end up. There’s a certain amount of mystery and allure to this, I must admit. However, Option 3 – you’re prepared for a hike. You have essential supplies to get you through and regular way points to tick off at each chapter.

3. Middle-Ground Planning

When I start off on a journey, ready to write a longer piece of fiction. I like to have a clear idea of a few things. They’re listed in Getting Started as well.

  1. Approximate word count. How big of a beast is this going to be?
  2. Audience? Adult, Children, YA? (Inevitably the answer for me is YA)
  3. What do I plan to do with the project when it’s done? My current intention to publish The Poisoned Well on Wattpad has meant that I’m aiming for chapters with around 2000 words in each.
  4. What is the destination – roughly? I love to have a good start, but then I like to now where I’m aiming for. As a few chapters get ticked off, then a plan starts to form, of how I’m going to get there. I can draw a few lines on the map at least. Then a few more chapters down, and I work out how I’m going to mess with the straight lines, and make a more interesting narrative.

I like to think of this as a middle-ground plan, a rough guide. It’s not without its downside. I could probably do with being more focused at the beginning of a project and do some world-building first. It’s hard to build a map around a narrative, and feels less realistic. Then you realise that you characters have been walking in the wrong direction, and it’s edit the map, or edit the text…I could probably take a bit more from planning the tiny details, but then I could probably loosen up a little more as well.

Let me know how it goes, or if you use a different programme for writing. I’d be interested to give one a go on another project.

Happy Writing

Fibi