Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bite Size Book Reviews (1)

Title: Watching Willow Watts
Author: Talli Roland

This may sound weird, but the first thing I enjoyed about this story was the fact that it was written in British English (same as South African)! Silly, I know, but I read so much American English, that it was refreshing to read the British version of words :-)

What I remember most from reading THE STORY BOOK, by David Baboulene, is knowledge gaps - and Talli does this excellently. She jumps from one character's perspective to another, so that you, the reader, usually know what's going on, but the characters may not always have a clue. Which ramps up the tension!

WATCHING WILLOW WATTS (and I like the alliteration!) was a fun read :-)

Title: Open Minds
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn

Sometimes you can tell when a book is self-published. In this case, you can't.

OPEN MINDS is a unique story with wonderful world building. I love (really love!) that Susan made up new words and slang to go with this imaginary futuristic world. She also surprised me in a few places when the story took unexpected turns - gotta love a story that's not predictable!

I'll definitely be reading the sequel, CLOSED HEARTS, when it comes out in 2012.

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins

Oh my freaking FREAKOUT!
There. Are. No. Words.
So I won't even try.
(And everyone who knows what's good for them has read this already anyway!)

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor

What incredible writing! And the story - the story! I could not have dreamed up something like this. No way. I have been completely captivated by Karou and the world(s) she inhabits.

It was like eating a fine handmade chocolate, dark and rich, after months of eating the cheap stuff. My literary appetite says, "Thank you, Laini, for an absolute delicacy of a novel!"

Definitely one of the best books I've read in 2011.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Swaziland Summer Holiday

The week before Christmas, I went to Swaziland with my family. We stayed at the Ezulwini Sun, which did well in living up to its name - the sun shone brightly and perfectly every single day :-)

Here are some of the more, ah, quirky photos!

Found inside a rather strange art gallery.

Multiple choice... Can I pick the time then?

One of the local hair salons.

Anyone read The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?!

Is it normal to put your second-hand clothing and your herbal chemist in one shop?

Monkey with sunnglasses and necklace: one of the more interesting "crafts" I came across...

Yup, that's a mini-bus sticking out of the wall.

And we shall call it "babber" (not "barber")...

How has your Christmas holiday been?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Introducing... Creepy Hollow

I'm Going Indie!

As in independent. On my own.
After much reading around, thinking, and internal debate, I've decided to self-publish a series of novelette-length stories entitled Creepy Hollow.

The Details
  • the series name is Creepy Hollow (duh. Guess you figured that out by now!)
  • the genre is young adult paranormal fantasy (with some romance, of course!)
  • each story will be a novelette in length (I like that word ;-) )
  • there is an as yet undetermined number of stories
  • they will be published in ebook form
  • they will be published at the beginning of each month, starting in March 2012
  • here is the Creepy Hollow website, which still needs some content added to it
  • here is the Creepy Hollow Facebook page

Something Interesting

When I started blogging a year and a half (approximately) ago, I Googled my name. It was then that I discovered that author Kim Harrison had a paranormal series revolving around a character named Rachel Morgan. I was a little bummed that someone pinched my name (my real, parents-gave-it-to-me-at-birth name) before I could use it! But whatever.

I haven’t yet read the series, so I didn’t realise the following until this week, after I created the Creepy Hollow website. To check that the website is “discoverable”, I Googled it. Amongst the hits I noticed that Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series is also called the Hollows Series.
Bummer! So now we have the Hollows Series about character Rachel Morgan, and the Creepy Hollow series written by author Rachel Morgan! Hmm...

What do you think about that? Is it a good or a bad thing for me? Am I likely to get in any “trouble” over this? I gather from the Goodreads blurb that the series is about witches and vampires (and werewolves?), none of which appear in my series.

Blog Tour

I'm planning a blog tour for the release of the first story (I couldn't do it for every one, of course. That's like a continual blog tour. People would get so sick of me!), but I'll email people individually to ask if they want to be involved in that.

So, there you have it! Watch this space.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Hunger Games Movie

Drool fest!

I can't wait for this movie. I seriously can't. I will be SO bummed if it somehow doesn't turn out well and "ruins" the story. But, looking at the actors/actresses involved, could it really be anything but brilliant? If you're an avid fan like me, you've probably seen all these pictures already. But where's the harm in drooling a little bit more? ;-)

And may the odds be ever in your favor!

What did you think of this series?
Did you love it as much as I did? (If you didn't, I don't want to know about it!) Were you satisfied with the way the series ended? *Try to avoid spoilers in the comments for those (insane) few who may not have read the books yet*

PS. Come back tomorrow for an announcement of awesomeness!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (18): Open Minds

Title: Open Minds
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn

"Code of silence?"
"That's just what I call it. The vow of perpetual silence. Trust me; you don't want people to know what you can do."

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!
  • Share the title and author too so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mindmap your Novel with MindMeister

Do any of you use mind maps during the planning stages of your novel? I used to, but these days I don't do much in the way of planning/plotting (*cough*... *pantser* ...). But I recently discovered MindMeister, which looks kind of fun.

Have you used this tool before? Is it easy?
(Cos I haven't actually tried it yet!)

What method of plotting (if any) do you use?
(If it works for you, please share it :-) I need to learn to plot properly!)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why Self-Publishing Appeals to Me

I've always been a DIY type of person. Not the drilling-holes-and-hammering-nails-and-building-cupboards kind of DIY, but more "craft project" DIY.

For example...

I see a necklace I like and think, I can make that for half the price (beads + fastening bits + really cute little tools + minimal creative skills = whatever necklace you want)

I needed an armband for my iPod and after Googling them online I thought, I can totally do that myself (material shop + super cheap piece of faux leather + amateur sewing skills = DIY iPod armband)

When I was little I made a mini "hardcover" book (as in, the cover was made of thick cardboard and the pages were paper) and actually sewed it together along the spine!

Then I decided I wanted to try to make a book cover so I offered to help out Kittie Howard and, voila (look to the left. Duh) (non-fancy camera + free-for-commercial-use fonts + PowerPoint = clothes for Remy)

So I've come to the conclusion that my DIY nature is the reason self-publishing has been growing on me over the past few months (that and my super-control-freak nature).

Confession: I used to kinda turn my nose up at the idea of self-publishing. I mean, that's what "loser" writers do, right? The ones who aren't able to get the stamp of approval from a "real" publisher.

WRONG! (well, in my humble, control-freak opinion)

More and more people are doing it - and doing it well! Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking, John Locke... <other names I can't remember right now and don't feel like looking up>... Did you know that THE SHACK was self-published? Did you know that ERAGON was originally self-published? I'm not saying that you're going to end up like these authors. I'm just saying IT'S POSSIBLE to be a respectable self-published author! And the more I think about it, from just about every angle, being in control of my own stories seems like a smart move...

Thoughts? Opinions? Rotten tomatoes you want to throw?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Girls are like apples on trees...

I was supervising an exam on Friday (a time I usually use to brainstorm writing ideas - it's just too mind-numbingly boring otherwise) and this was stuck on the wall of the classroom I was in:

Girls are like
apples on trees. The best
ones are at the top of the tree.
The boys don’t want to reach for
the good ones because they are afraid
of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they
just get the rotten apples from the ground
that aren’t as good, but easy. So the apples
at the top think something is wrong with
them, when in reality, they’re amazing.
They just have to wait for the right
boy to come along, the one
who’s brave enough
to climb
all the way
to the top
of the tree.

Author unknown

I love it. I really do :-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just for Laughs (12): Funny T-Shirts

Earlier this year I did a "Just for Laughs" post on T-shirts that I came across on the web and thought were kinda cool... Here are some more for all you geeks out there :-)

These can all be found at ThinkGeek.

I think my fav is "resistance is futile"!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amazon eBook Prices: What Do You See?

Image source
*Skip to the end of the post to see the answer that has since been found.*

It has come to my attention that the prices of self-published ebooks on Amazon are not the same outside the US as they are inside the US.

I used to look at authors' ebooks on Smashwords and Amazon and I'd think to myself, why are they pricing their books higher on Amazon than they are on Smashwords? Is it because more work goes into formatting for Amazon? Surely anyone with half a brain cell will choose to buy from the cheaper site then?

BUT after a conversation with a friend recently, and having looked at a few more author websites and then at their books on Amazon, I suddenly twigged: the authors are NOT pricing their books differently on different platforms, it's Amazon that keeps showing me a price that's $2 higher than the price the author set.


I contacted Amazon to ask them why this happens and they couldn't answer my question. They told me that they're unable to offer a price match with a different online retailer. Okay, I get that, but that isn't what I asked! I asked ONLY about Amazon: if I click on the exact same link that my friend in the US does, why do I (in South Africa) see a price that is $2 higher than the price she sees?

No response.

So, if you're not currently in the US (or even if you are, just so we can make sure about this), I'd like to ask you a question. When you click on the following Amazon links, what price do you see?

The author says
I see

And another important question for authors: if you've priced your book at $0.99, but I pay $2.99, do you still only get 35% royalites (and not 70%, as you should on a $2.99 book)? Does Amazon take the rest even though someone has paid more for your book?

~ ~ ~

UPDATE (22 Nov 2011)
The answer can be found on the KDP Sales and Royalites FAQ page:

1-6. Why is the price of my book higher in other countries than in my own?
There are a number of reasons why prices for Kindle titles may vary from region to region, including taxes, delivery costs, and other operating costs. We understand your concern about prices and we share that concern - we will continue our efforts to reduce costs and offer the best possible prices to customers in every region.

I guess I should have searched harder for the answer before posting about this, but I'm still glad I posted, as it seems that many people are unaware of the price difference.

Friday, November 11, 2011

String Bridge Amazon Chart Rush!

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrackMelody Hill: On the Other Sidewritten and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:


She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack
visit iTunes.

If you are
not familiar with String Bridge,
check out the book trailer:

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page, yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout, seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world begins to unravel … String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic.” ~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion Thrust and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult
scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel. I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.” ~ Karen Jones Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Please TWEET and/or FACEBOOK this post using #StringBridge!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: Exiled, by RaShelle Workman

Tomorrow, on the magical 11-11-11, the Dark C.A.R.M.A ladies (C. K. Bryant, Ali Cross and RaShelle Workman) officially release their novels! And today I get to share the good, the bad and the ugly pretty about EXILED, RaShelle's sci-fi romance.

Stubborn, sixteen-year-old Princess Venus of Kelari wants one thing, to become immortal, that is, until someone exiles her to Earth, kills her irrihunter and takes her family.

Now she wants revenge.
First she’s got to get home. But before she can return to Kelari, the Gods have commanded her to help an arrogant boy named Michael find his soul mate.
Only she doesn't know the first thing about love.

Rather quickly, her inexperience with human emotion is obscured by other matters—alien-controlled psychotic teens that are out to kill her, and a government group that is set on capturing and dissecting her.
Worst of all, Venus will suffer a painful death-by-poisoning, thanks to Earth’s atmosphere, if she remains on the planet longer than one week.
Still, Venus is a Princess and she's got a plan. Surely, with her help, Michael will fall in love with a human.

But time is running out and Michael is falling for the wrong girl—her.

THE GOOD: Amidst all the vampire, werewolf and fallen angel novels out there, EXILED is a refreshing and unique read. Little details brought Venus’s world, Kelari, to life: everyone's features are the same (silver and white) until they become immortal, Kelari's atmosphere is different, they have unique swear words (because why should someone on a different planet use the same swear words we do?) and, of course, the Kelvieri's Boots.

These boots fascinated me. "They were black as a starless night, soft as feathers, yet stronger than any metal ever discovered. Thrantum. That’s what the Gods called the material." Within the heels of these boots, the Gods capture symbols of a person’s imperfections. The idea almost gives me shivers!

RaShelle didn't waste time in getting the plot moving, meaning I had no problem turning the electronic pages on my Kindle. It was also great to see the story unfold from different characters' perspectives (Venus; her personal guard, Zaren; the human, Michael; the bad guy, Dervinias...). No character is present by accident, and almost everyone with more than a passing role turns out to be related to the conflict in some way. I love a book where the details fit together like pieces in a puzzle, and although this picture isn't complete yet, I can look forward to more pieces falling into place in the next book in this series, BEGUILED.

THE BAD: My enjoyment of this book was somewhat hampered by the numerous missing apostrophes, occasional clumsy sentence structure, one or two tense mix-ups and an accidental extra word here and there. BUT I am happy to tell you that I just went back to Smashwords and saw that a second version of EXILED was uploaded two days after I downloaded the first version. I haven't looked at the second version, but I'm sure the author has fixed up all those little errors I came across.

THE PRETTY: Do I really have to elaborate? I mean, look at that cover! Gorgeous!

And, for the record, TEAM ZAREN! (Yup, I have a thing for Venus's sexy guard...)

~ ~ ~

RASHELLE WORKMAN lives with her husband, three children and three dogs. When she gets a quiet moment alone, she enjoys reading about faraway places. And, in case you were wondering, yes, she does believe there is other life out in the Universe.

Facebook: RaShelle Workman author
Twitter: RaShelleWorkman

Monday, November 7, 2011

Remy Broussard's Christmas, by Kittie Howard

When a classmate physically and mentally bullies Remy, the third-grader withdraws from friends and imagines the worst about his parents. Staring at the Christmas tree in the classroom enables the sharecropper's son to escape his poverty-stricken life and dream about opening a present on Christmas morning and having turkey for Christmas dinner, neither of which has ever occurred.
Friends blame the changes in Remy's behavior on Leonard's bullying and encourage Remy to talk to his parents, his teacher or his priest. Remy refuses, often with open hostility. As Christmas Day approaches, Remy's struggle to understand why he has so little and others have so much deepens. He concludes that Jesus is punishing him for hating Leonard and his bullying.
A bayou-laced, South Louisiana community comes together in 1952 to stop Leonard's bullying in a compassionate manner and open Remy's heart to the meaning of Christmas through love and forgiveness.

This is a delightful story of hope, perfectly timed for Christmas, from a fellow writer and blogger, Kittie Howard. Though the setting is a little before my time, Kittie's words transported me back to a time when I sat in a little classroom in a small village, at an ancient desk with an inkwell (that students found ingenious uses for) doing worksheets of sums. Ah, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils... (come on, I'm not the only one who loves that smell!).

What I enjoyed as well were the Author's Notes at the end of the +/- 14 000 word story, where Kittie shares a little about her life and the way things were back in 1952 that lead to the writing of Remy Broussard's Christmas.

In the spirit of #authorlove, it would be fantasitc if you would head over to Amazon to take a look at Remy and support a wonderful writer-blogger with a genuine and sincere heart.

Amazon UK

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Formatting your eBook for Kindle

I've recently been helping a friend out with formatting her manuscript for conversion to Kindle ebook form. I was very excited to do this, as I've been curious for a while as to how the process works, and from everything I'd read it honestly didn't look too difficult.

I have to admit, though, that it was a little more of a mission than I anticipated. NOT because it is difficult in any way, but because I am finicky about tiny details, and every time I'd done the conversion process and put the file onto my Kindle to check, I'd think something like... actually, that heading right there would look better in caps, or that word between the title name and author name might look more attractive in italics.

So I lost count of the number of times I did the whole save as html / import into Mobipocket Creator / add cover / click Build / plug in Kindle / copy file onto Kindle / open and check ebook process. It was all good though, because I could do it in my sleep now :-) (though why I'd ever need to do that, I can't imagine...)

Formatting a document for Kindle is not that difficult.

The instructions provided on KDP's Simplified Formatting Guide page are pretty easy to follow:
(specific for MS Word 2007)

  • DON'T manually indent the first line of each paragraph, but rather use the Home > Paragraph > Indentation > First Line function, so that it's automatic.
  • DON'T manually insert page breaks but using multiple returns (the Enter key), but rather use the Insert > Page Break function at the end of each chapter, before you begin a new chapter.
  • DON'T copy and paste images into your document, but rather use the Insert > Picture function.
  • Save your Word document as a .htm file.
  • Open Mobipocket Creator (the software is available for download. Follow the link on the Simplified Formatting Guide page) and follow the last few instructions on the Simplified Formatting Guide page.

There was only one thing I found frustrating: Whenever I had blank lines between lines of writing, for example:


My First Chapter's Name

My first chapter begins with these lovely words: We all went out for a blah, blah, blah. It was delicious. But just as we were leaving, a great, big blah, blah, blah appeared and we were all, like, terrified!

Those blank lines DID show up when I put the file onto my Kindle device to check it, but they DIDN'T show up on the Kindle Previewer software or the Kindle for PC software. Freakin' annoying! But I eventually figured out the following solution:

  • Put the cursor in front of My in My First Chapter's Name and go to Page Layout > Breaks > Section Breaks > Continuous. Do the same in front of the My in My first chapter begins with... And, of course, anywhere else you'd like there to be a blank line.

So. Anyone else done any formatting for ebooks lately? Have you formatted for different platforms? Are some of them more complicated than others? (For example, are Smashwords guidelines more complicated than KDP guidelines?)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview with Jessica Bell, author of String Bridge

Jessica Bell has organized a jam-packed blog tour to promote the release of her gorgeous (I'm telling the truth. I've read it) book, String Bridge, and today I am pleased to be hosting her here on my blog :-)

1. What is your favourite time of day to write?

I tend to write better at night. For some reason I become really alert when it gets dark. I think it’s ingrained from my days as a bartender and waitress.

2. Are you a plotter or a pantzer?

A bit of both. I plot enough to know my protagonist’s goals and where the story has to end up, but not in detail. I like the element of surprise.

(I do the same...)

3. What's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

Um … any clothing that is body fitted, I can’t wear twice in a row. Even if I’ve only worn it for a couple of hours it has to go in the washing machine.

(Hmm... I don't have that problem!)

4. What was your favourite book as a child?

Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree.

(Oh my gosh! I loved The Faraway Tree! I loved all Enid Blyton's stories actually...)

5. If you were stuck in an elevator and had the choice of any writer, living or dead, to be stuck with, who would it be and why?

This is a tough question. I’d actually prefer to be stuck in an elevator with a musician. Can I do that? They’re bound to have some sort of instrument on them. Live entertainment in a time of need. Er … musical instrument, folks, get your minds out of the gutter. :-)

6. Out of all the characters you’ve ever created, tell us about the one you’d most like to meet in real life.

Well, I’d have to say I’d like to meet the character I’ve recently conjured up for my third novel. Her name is Concetta. An Italian a cappella singer from Milan, who moves to Arles, France to be close to the spirit of Vincent Van Gogh, whose art inspires her music. But this woman moved there right in the middle of a political change which limits people’s ability to have unique identities. It's illegal to wear clothes. In some streets, it's also illegal to sing without accompanying instruments. Concetta breaks these laws in protest. As punishment, her vocal chords are brutally slashed and her eardrums surgically perforated. Unable to cope living a life without song, she resolves to drown herself in the river clothed in a dress stained with performance memories. But her suicide attempt is cut short as someone grabs her by the throat and pulls her to the surface.

(Wow. Intense.)

7. Have you ever based a character on a real person you know, and would you tell that person?

All my characters have various traits of various people I know and/or have met. I think all writers do that. Aren’t we all constantly observing behaviour? I think we do it without even being aware sometimes. Having said that, though, none of my characters are one person in entirety. For example, Alex, in String Bridge, has the same occupation as my partner, the temper of an ex-boyfriend, and the past of someone completely fictional. Would I tell them? Well, I don’t really think it’s necessary in cases like this. And I think I’d steer clear of writing about a real person anyway, unless I was writing non-fiction.

8. If for some reason you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?

Haha. Are you kidding? A rock star of course. :-)

9. Lastly (and most importantly): chocolate or ice cream?

Ice cream. No doubt about it! And I don’t even care what flavor.

~ ~ ~

Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s. She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education. In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website. From September 2012 Jessica will be hosting the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.

Purchase String Bridge:


Where you can find Jessica:

String Bridge Website
String Bridge Book Trailer
String Bridge Merchandise
Retreat & Workshop site