Thursday, 26 February 2015

Getting Started With Inspiration

My best ideas always come when I'm not paying attention ... or conscious.  A large percentage of them happen while I'm asleep.  It's as if I watch the entire story play out in my dream and then I wake up and think "I want to write that".

Of course, the whole story never sticks with me (and I suspect it wouldn't be terribly good if it did and I could look at it with the part of my brain which doesn't automatically accept carrots as a viable means of transport on the way to the bird show at the library).  But there are usually some scenes which stick with me and those form the nugget for the story I will actually write.

I have to write down details as quickly as I can.  I usually keep a notebook on my bedside table for just this purpose.  I don't bother with names or try to improve on anything, I just write down what I remember.  I found my original notes for Revelations and this is what they look like:

Heroine is a burlesque dancer who can enchant men into seeing their true selves.  She has mystical powers as part of a long line of priestesses.  She is due to take up her mantle as High Priestess, which would mean retreating into secret temple.

Hero wants her to stay.  He needs her help to track down his sister who is lost on city streets. 

Something dark and dangerous is in the temple.  Something which would devour the Heroine whole if she becomes High Priestess.  Like the minotaur (?). 

Obviously the story has come a long way since that first dream.  But that was the spark which got it all moving.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Weekly Update: February 15-21

Word count: 5500

I've been struggling this week to find the right balance between writing, promotion and the rest of my life.  Surprisingly enough, my children and husband are somewhat less than understanding when two weeks of laundry is piling up because I haven't had time to put it away.  (Side note, children = chore labour ... must figure out how that works.)

Granted, this has been an unusually busy time with the book blitz, but I don't really expect things to get much quieter.  Life is never simple and quiet, like clutter, it expands to fill all potential openings.

I've got my first review on Amazon, which is pretty cool.  And my first rating on Goodreads, which I'm also happy about.

I've been learning a lot from the different blogs from the blitz.  Namely about how to increase reader engagement.  The most interactive blogs are ones where the blogger replies to different comments.  I guess the next thing for me to learn will be how to encourage people to comment in the first place.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

What Is A Lalassu Anyway?

This is one of the most frequent questions I've been asked since I published Revelations.

As I was writing the book, I wanted an overall term for people with supernatural abilities.  I tried a few variants I'd seen elsewhere: supes and SPPs (super-powered people/person).  I toyed with calling them some variant of demigods (based on the ancient myths of gods mating with humans to create gifted individuals) but I couldn't find something that worked.

I'd already established Dani in my mind as one of the line of Babylon priestesses, living in hiding and exile for thousands of years.  The main language in Babylon was Akkadian so I decided to hit Google and see if I could find an Akkadian word which might match what I wanted.

I found a list of about thirty terms used in Akkadian (but originally Sumerian), one of which was lalassu, defined as spectre.  Spectre, ghost, hidden ... the ghostly people.  That's how I came to use lalassu as my overall term for people in a secret society of superpowered people.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

February 8 to 14: Book Blitz Week

Word count: 5200

This has probably been one of the most surreal weeks of my life, making the transition from writer to author.  A writer creates stories, an author gets paid for them.  (It's my own little definition but it works.)

I can't thank everyone enough.  Xpresso Book Tours for connecting me with so many interesting blogs and people.   The blogs themselves for joining my book blitz and sharing my story with their readers.  The readers for their positive and encouraging comments.

I'm quite excited to see who will win the $20 Amazon card and the copies of e-books.  Hopefully this is the start of a groundswell buzz that will start sharing Revelations with people I don't know.

I've been reading Create Your Writer Platform and the best piece of advice offered in it is to build on relationships with blogs, reviewers, etc.

I'll admit to being a little shy when it comes to relationships.  I have an off-beat sense of humour and I worry about offending people who don't realize I'm joking.  But the responses I've received so far have been encouraging and welcoming, leaving me to wonder why I was so worried in the first place.

Now begins the next phase, seeing what people have to say in reviews after they start reading the book.  I'm simultaneously nervous and excited about it.  Obviously, I'm hoping not to get too many bad reviews but I am actually looking forward to getting some constructive criticism.  All of the published authors who I admire and know well enough to ask have said that they learn a lot from their "bad" reviews and that it has made them better authors.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Fun of De-inspiration

Okay, I'll admit up front that I'm a little weird this way but I like de-inspirational quotes.  Over my desk I have a poster for Procrastination: Put off to tomorrow what you can do today and you may get out of doing it altogether.

Yesterday, I ran across a Churchill quote: Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.  Instantly I thought of Einstein's definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Inspirational quotes and pictures leave me feeling like I'm just not trying hard enough.  Like comparing myself to the supermom down the street who grows her own organic vegetables and always seems to be engaged in some creative yet educational activity with her two kids.

De-inspirational stuff makes me laugh and reminds me not to take myself too seriously.  Being serious adds pressure to everything.  Having a laugh gives me the space to accept the possibility of failure and try anyway.

So I'm going to go from failure to failure and still enjoy myself.  And I'm going to be insane and expect different results each time I give it another try.  Successful and crazy sounds like a great set of qualities to aspire to.

Monday, 9 February 2015

$ 20 Amazon Card Giveaway

If you'd like to sign up for my $ 20 Amazon Card giveaway, please do.  It runs until February 18th.

Weekly update Feb 1 to 8: Inside Self-Publishing

Weekly word count: 1200 (a fail on new material but still a productive week)

The business side of self-publishing has been quite an education.  There are a lot of details to take care of, way more than just writing a good story.  I thought I'd share some of them.  Someone was kind enough to share with me and guide me through it and if I can help someone else, I'll be happy.

My experience is as a Canadian.  U.S. authors have a slightly different experience, mostly in regards to taxes and other paperwork.

First steps: Editing and Cover

I paid to have Revelations professionally edited and I'm glad I did.  It was expensive but my book is much better for it.  They pointed out plot holes and areas where I hadn't explained myself properly.  The whole editing process took about 5 months.

I also paid for a professional cover design.  Some people are able to put together great covers themselves.  I'm not one of them.  The cover is the big selling point for most people and it's worth spending money on.  Once the artist had time, it took about two-three weeks of back and forth to get my cover right although I couldn't finalize it until much later when I had all my paperwork details.


Taxes: I registered for an EIN with the IRS, and filed a W8-BEN which explains that I'm a Canadian and they shouldn't withhold taxes.  I'll still have to pay taxes in Canada though, so now I'm responsible for managing my own taxes and will have to be careful.

ISBN: I registered with the Canadian ISBN Service System and was assigned ISBNs for my ebook and print book.

Kindle Direct Publishing account and Createspace account: these are separate accounts and had to be opened before I could get started.  Createspace takes 24 hours to approve an uploaded file before you can look at the proof.  Amazon has specific formatting issues which took awhile to figure out.


I started a blog with Blogger, a Facebook account, a Goodreads account, a Google + account and a Twitter account, all under my pen name.  This is probably something I would have had to do even if I had published with a  traditional publisher, since a lot of promotion falls to the author instead of the company.

All of these things have to be maintained and I'm still learning.  For example, I thought Goodreads automatically opened my author page when I told Amazon to connect with Goodreads.  But that had to be set up manually.  Ditto with my Author account in Amazon, which was separate from my Kindle Direct Publishing account.

Now I'm looking at setting up as an Amazon affiliate, which would mean I would earn credit for people coming from my blog to Amazon.  I want to make sure I understand all the implications before I do it.


This is my brave new world to explore.  I set up a book blitz with Xpresso and it's introduced me to a bunch of bloggers who are all passionate about books.  I'm looking forward to making more connections.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Received my print proof

I got my print proof in the mail today.  I already have one or two tweaks I'd like to do with the layout which weren't immediately apparent in the electronic proof.

But it's pretty exciting to have a physical book sitting here on my desk which I wrote.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

IT'S UP!!! 25 to 31 January

Weekly word count: 2600 words in Metamorphosis

Although I didn't make my weekly count, I'm pleased with the reason.  I got Revelations back from the proofreaders and now it is available in e-book format on the Amazon website.  (A print version is still coming, but will take a little longer.)

It took me about 6 hours to go through the proofreads and finalize the text.  Then it took me 8 hours to get it up on Amazon.  Most of that was figuring out the formatting.  Doing the interactive table of contents was a particular time-eater.  About two hours of trying to figure it out on my own before I found a video tutorial that made things a lot clearer.  Then about another hour to finally get it working.

There were a few significant delays when the suggestions on Kindle's help area didn't work for me.  But Google saved the day with alternatives which helped me to get things set out.  Next time, it probably won't take as long.  I still expect to discover more challenges but I'm pleased with how it looks.

I've got most of the Revelations section of the site up.  The Behind the Scenes is still taking a little while to put together but should be up soon.

I also got my Twitter feed up and running, so people can follow me at @jclewisupdates if they want.