Why I Might Never Send Out Another Author Newsletter

They say having an email list is crucial for an author. It’s the one sure-fire way to reach your readers.

I am clearly the exception to that rule. 

Either I really suck at creating newsletters, or my subscribers signed up for the wrong list. 
It’s why I am very reluctant to  send out  newsletters now. 

When I send emails with other people’s books in them, my subscribers click through to those books. 
Do they click through to mine? Nope. 
And sadly, I get as many clicks to unsubscribe as I do on the links in my newsletter. 
It really is quite depressing. 

Yet I don’t do anything different than any of the dozens of authors whose newsletters I receive. Well, that part isn’t strictly true:

I don’t spam my books repeatedly.
I don’t email every week, let alone every day or two, like some do.
I don’t use high pressure sales pitches. 
I don’t beg, and I don’t whine. 
I don’t even include only my own content. I always share other books and bookish events that readers might be interested in. 

I have observed all those things happening in various different authors’ newsletters at different times, and have always tried to avoid doing anything I have found off-putting.

Honestly? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I appear to be doing it consistently. 

I do suspect that maybe newsletter writing is not for me. I’ve given it a fair crack and it hasn’t been at all well received.

For now, I think I’ll stick to blogging. 

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What I Like… And What Frustrates Me… About Twitter

It seems to me that people either love Twitter or can’t stand it. I am definitely in the former category, for several reasons:

  • It’s direct. You follow someone? You see their tweets. You don’t follow someone? You live in blissful ignorance.  My feed is full of creative, positive people and exactly zero politicians. It’s a great way to filter reality. 

    Everyone who follows me can see my posts in real time, without any interference from the platform itself. Twitter sends every tweet into the world without trying to make a buck out of me to do it. That in itself is a refreshing change among social media platforms. 
  • Retweets are brilliant for extending your reach easily and painlessly.. With one click, someone else can share your post with all their followers, too. Not only does this take your content further, it can also result in new followers and interactions.
  • It’s brief.  Say what you want to say in 280 characters, preferably less. And that includes your hashtags. 
  • Hashtagging is easy.  Start typing a hashtag, and Twitter will actually suggest the most popular tags for you that start with those letters. It doesn’t get easier than that. 
  • Connecting with others who have the same interests is easy. Once again, hashtags ply a key role here. Searching for a tag you are interested in is a simple way to find people using that tag in their posts. I have found great people, interesting content, and some excellent books doing exactly that. 
  • I also like just scrolling through my feed and seeing what pops up. There is invariably something I want to respond to with a like or a bookish or bloggish post that I want to check out. I can spend as much or as little time as I have, put it down, and come back later. In that sense, it’s pretty cruisy. 
  • Lists. You can create lists of accounts you want to group together. I have lists for authors in different genres. I also have a list for my favourite accounts called “Don’t Miss a Tweet”.

    By going to a particular list in my profile, I can see only the tweets from the accounts in that list. It is a great way to cut through the voluminous white noise of the Twittersphere, and saves heaps of time when I am busy, because I see exactly what I want to and nothing else.

    Lists can be made public or kept private. While I keep my “Don’t Miss a Tweet” list to myself, I make my genre lists public so that if someone is looking for Fantasy Authors or Poets, they can find a ready-made collection in no time flat. I may not have every author of a particular genre in my list, but you may be sure that the ones on my lists are worth checking out.   

That all sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

However, no social media platform is without its pitfalls. 

My dislikes include, in no particular order:

  • Trolls and fake accounts.  It’s easy for people to hide behind a social media account with a fake name and create mayhem. Whether it’s bullying or bullshit they are into, there’s not really a lot to stop them. 

    I overcome this by being very choosy about who I follow, and by making extensive use of the “unfollow” and “block” functions the minute my spidey senses start tingling. 
  • Direct messages.  Some people appreciate direct messages, but I am not one of them. It seems to me they are all either spamming a product or creepers trying to seduce me into giving them money or naughty photographs. 

    I overcome this by never looking at my inbox. 
  • Tweeting can be hot-and-miss. The life cycle of a tweet is short, and I f followers aren’t online when you tweet, they can miss your content. 

    I overcome this by recycling my content, using different tweets on non-consecutive days so it doesn’t get repetitive or boring. 
  • Clickbait. This is the term for anything exaggerated or sensationalised to make you click on a link to read the story. Ugh. 

    Once again, the blocking function has proven to be really effective in getting rid of these accounts from my feed. 

Overall, I find Twitter much more user-friendly than Facebook, but I doubt that I would if I hadn’t taken the time to learn how to keep my Twitfeed positive and focused, and free of politics, gossip and drama. 

New Release: ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’

It’s live! 
My new Shakespeare/fantasy novella launched today at 3pm Sydney/Melbourne time. 

I am really proud of this book, and very excited to be able to introduce it to people as a new release. 

I hope that readers will enjoy the story. I certainly had fun writing it, and still laughed again reading it over while formatting the ebook and paperback. It was a most enjoyable challenge to take two old stories and weave them into something new and fresh. 

‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ is widely available in both paperback and ebook.

***

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Gnarled fingers gripped the doorframe tightly as she watched him riding slowly, as though searching for something.

What does his lordship want now? By the stars, I have precious little left.  Is it not enough that he has built his mansion on my father’s land? And his walls around the trees between which my poor mother is buried? I’ll give him something… although it may not be what he wants.

She grinned cynically, a glimpse of yellowed teeth between thin, hateful lips.

Wait. He’s dismounting… Fool. There are no raspberries yet; it’s still too warm. What kind of moron… picks raspberry leaves? Oh, now… that is interesting. Very interesting.

Straightening her thin body to her full height, she stepped out into the field, heading straight for the thicket of barren raspberry bushes.

“And what are you going to do with those?” she demanded.

Nico jumped at the sudden intrusion. His thoughts scattered at the sight of Malevolenza.

Wizened and ghastly, she had become even thinner and more gaunt since he had last laid eyes on her over twenty years ago. She had watched in angry silence as the walls of the estate were built by his father’s workmen. Her wailing curses had risen like a fortress of sound outside the completed estate walls continuing for what had seemed an eternity on the night they were finished and the gates locked – the night his father had died. Whether it was fear or black magic that had driven the soul from his body, Nicolas would never know. When his father was cold, his grey eyes staring sightlessly at the ceiling as though he had been interrupted mid-thought, the old crone had fallen silent and disappeared. Or so he had thought.

“Well? Gatto got your tongue? Or are you… bewitched?” she cackled.

Nico opened his mouth, but he could not speak.

“Raspberry leaves… what on earth would a man want those for? Unless… there is a child on the way?”

The fear in Nicolas’ eyes was like a drug to her.

Malevolenza pointed her bony finger at him, her dirty, ragged nail giving emphasis to her intent. She muttered the words of her spell under her breath: “Doppio, doppio, lavoro e disordine, Ora sono io il tuo maestro!”

Nico remained mute, entirely under her control.

“You will take these leaves to your wife. Grind them into a powder, and make a tea. She will drink it, and her pains will begin. And then, when the child is born, you shall give the baby to me. You will tell your wife the child is dead. Go now. It shall be done.”

Nico’s senses returned to him only when she had disappeared. Shaking his head, and unable to recall what had crossed his mind just now, he resumed picking the leaves and placing them carefully in the pouch he had brought for his special harvest.

As he returned home late that afternoon, the sun dropped low in the sky and a distinct chill fell over the air.

***

The Importance of PreOrders: An Author’s Perspective

Picture this scene: a baby is due soon.
The mother has spent months anticipating the birth, making sure everything is okay, getting the nursery ready, and making sure she’s booked into the birthing suite at the hospital of her choice at the right time. 

Wouldn’t it be a little…well, weird if she didn’t tell anyone at all it was happening? 
Wouldn’t it be far more likely that she’d be sharing snapshots of the baby’s room and first teddy bear? And her friends would probably be liking those pictures, commenting on the anticipated arrival, and buying gifts for the baby shower. 

Setting up a preorder for a new book is, for an author, akin to getting the nursery ready and inviting one’s friends to the baby shower. Every preorder sale is like a baby shower gift that shows love for the author and excitement for the new arrival. 

To some, the analogy might seem far-fetched. As an author, I can assure you that it’s really not. 

***

Preorders really can make a huge difference to a new book’s start of life. 

Once you’ve got the writing, editing, formatting and publication organised, you can give your book a boost by making it available for preorder and getting some advance sales. 

Without going into a whole lot of technical details, there are some really good reasons to do so:

  • It’s convenient. When someone preorders a book, it is delivered straight to them upon release. They don’t have to think about saving links, bookmarking sites, or following up later. 
  • It allows you to tap into the “I want it now” mentality that is so strong these days. Enabling people to order your book right away and satisfy their impatience is a clever marketing strategy. 
  • Having your book available on preorder enables you to build excitement and anticipation for your release. It’s one thing to be able to say “this is being released on Friday”, but another entirely to be able to say “Reserve your copy now! Be the first to get it as soon as it’s released! You won’t have to wait!” Remembering that tone is everything, it can’t hurt to have some excitement injected into your pre-release social media chatter. 
  • Those advance sales push your book further up the rankings, so that vendors show it to more people, enabling it to get even more sales. If you can achieve a spot in the “top new bestsellers” list for a day or even a week, that’s going to mean a lot more potential customers seeing your book without you having to go out and find them. If you’re lucky enough to win a “Number 1 New Release” ribbon on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, that gives you more marketing momentum and appeal.
  • Strong sales in the first week help to get your book noticed by other readers. It will show up in the “customers also bought” or “based on your browsing/purchase history” lists for more readers, and again, get new eyes on your book that you don’t have to go and find on your own. 

In my experience, making my books available for preorder has definitely been a good strategy.

I’ve been lucky enough to gain the “#1 New Release” ribbon for poetry twice, and obviously I’d love to do that with ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ when it releases on Friday. Although it is in the much more competitive categories of Fantasy and Fairy Tales, which is a much greater challenge, but it’s not impossible. It’s also in the category of ‘Mashup Fiction’ so it has a good chance there. 

Whether my book makes a big splash or simply becomes a drop in the ocean, I will have given it my best shot. And that knowledge and confidence is something that you can’t put a price on. 

***

If you’d like to join in my “baby shower”, you can preorder ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ at
Amazon or your other preferred digital store.

My Least Favourite Shakespeare Play

The reference to Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the title of ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ is blatantly obvious. 

The irony is that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is probably my least favourite play from among Shakespeare’s works. As I often explain to my students who think it’s romantic and all about love, it’s really not. It’s a tragedy that demonstrates what happens when people do stupid things on impulse and don’t stop to think about the consequences of their actions.

They’re teenagers. They met on Sunday, and by Thursday, they’re dead.

And, as Shakespeare points out in the epilogue, they end up that way because their families both prioritise their stupid feud over the happiness and the future of their children.  How much more like a badly plotted teenage soap opera could it be?

It’s more of an anti-Romance, if you ask me. They’re not in love, they’re infatuated. Romeo really is quite an idiot, and as for fickle… how quickly did he forget his passion for Rosaline the moment he met Juliet? If you ask me, Rosaline dodged a bullet – or a dagger, or a vial of poison, there. 

To be fair, the fault isn’t Shakespeare’s. He based his play on an old story that was very popular back in the day, which was a brilliant marketing move. The other factor that made his play such a hit was the beauty of the language with which it is written. There’s nothing at all wrong with the writing: it’s magnificent. Nothing can convince me otherwise.  If anyone could give a story about two silly teenagers from equally silly families another 600 years plus in terms of longevity, he was the man for the job.

So, is it odd that I’ve used ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as one of the starting points of my story? Not really, because I wanted my story to be something of an anti-Romance, too. 

‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ draws on ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of ‘Rapunzel’ as starting points, then twists and tangles them together to create a mashup of the two stories with a very different ending. Romeo is still an idiot, it still ends in tragedy… but it’s a completely new story. It’s medieval fantasy, laced with faint traces of my subversive sense of humour. 

I like to think of it as the story that Shakespeare and the Brothers Grimm never told. 
But I bet if they’d thought of it, they would have. 

***

A Rose By Any Other Name is available for preorder.

Cover Reveal: A Rose By Any Other Name

I mentioned in a post last week that I was anticipating the release of a new book, about which I am very excited.

The book is a medieval fantasy story called ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ which draws on both ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Rapunzel’ as the starting points for this story before taking those narratives in a very different direction. 

And so, without any further delay, let me reveal the beautiful cover, created for me by Renee Gauthier of RM Designs in Toronto, Canada. 

The back cover is gorgeous, too.

It’s fair to say I am thrilled by the beauty of this cover art, and incredibly thankful to Renee for her fabulous work. 

This story grew out of the inspiration from my author posse, the Indie Fabs. When one of them suggested that we write a fairy tale retelling anthology as a group, I was very nervous at first. I had never written anything like that. I didn’t know where to start, or how I might ever achieve that goal. I honestly thought I was going to let them down. 
Then one of them said, “Write what you know.”  Well, I knew all the old fairy tales that I had grown up with. And I knew and loved Shakespeare. 
And in that moment, this story concept was born. 

‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ took its place in that anthology, titled ‘Once Upon A Fabulous Time’ and published in 2017. It truly is an anthology unlike any other – far more than just a collection of our reinvented and often significantly transformed fairy tale stories, those stories were linked with one another by another separate, magical story that wove them all into one continuous narrative. Because it is such a very special book, it is still available in paperback, but no longer as an ebook. As a result, my story is back in my hands and free to be released as an individual title.

It is available for preorder, and will be released at 12.01am EST on June 14. 

Make sure you’re following me on Twitter or Facebook so that you are able to reserve your copy. 

Time Flies Whether You’re Having Fun Or Not.

They say time seems to go by faster as you get older. 
Today, I have two questions in response to that premise: 

  1. Exactly how ancient am I?
  2. How is it already June?

I don’t actually think it’s age that does it. I blame deadlines and responsibilities. They’re the things that put us under pressure, that make us work more than we play, and that stop us being all lackadaisy and carefree about how we spend our time like we were when we were kids.

Pressure put on us by employers. Pressure put on us by kids and families. Pressure put on us by ourselves. Pressure put on us by society to be perfect, to be leaders, to be models, to be lots and lots of things we feel we can’t be. We struggle to do it all, and the vortex of expectations and time pressure that is created by those pressures drags us into a cycle of racing against time and waking up every morning surprised that it’s already Wednesday, already June, already 2019. 

Sure, I want to be a responsible adult. But I also want to be able to relax without feeling guilt. I want to be able to slow down sometimes, and drink my coffee without actually thinking about all the things the caffeine is going to help me to achieve within a given time frame. I want to be able to fill my day doing things I enjoy doing without having to rationalise or justify how I spend my time. 

Those dratted deadlines and responsibilities keep me from doing those things. These days, you can’t even be deathly ill and stay in bed for two days without doing paperwork and announcing your impending demise on social media to account for your whereabouts. 

That was one of the many things I loved about being in Spamalot! last month. It was a responsibility and a demand on my time, for sure, but it was loads of fun, and being in rehearsal or on stage meant that I could say, “Sorry, not available” to everyone and everything else that wanted a slice of my time. Even better, I took on a role and left myself and those darned responsibilities behind for a few hours at a time.
It was wonderful. 

Another thing I loved doing in May was blogging about my favourite classic books. Yes, it was another commitment to doing something every day, but it gave me a daily opportunity for a few minutes where I could justify picking up a favourite book, leafing through it to  reacquaint myself with it, spend some time reading, taking a photo of said book, and enjoying my not-so-secret life as an unapologetic book nerd.
That, too, was wonderful. 

June promises to be a busy month with auditions and casting for the school musical, grading exams and assessments, writing reports, and meeting a bunch of work deadlines that are looming. I shall put my plans together today for possible blog topics so that I can keep up my momentum here, and for images and ideas for Instagram posts, because I really enjoy those aspects of my author/blogger life. 

June will also see the release of a new fantasy novella, which I am very excited about. Titled ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’, it was one of my stories included in the fairytale retelling anthology titled ‘Once Upon A Fabulous Time’, and which is now back in my hands for individual release, as that collection is now only available in paperback. I’m in the process of having a new cover designed for the story, and when that’s ready, it will be good to go! That’s the advantage of having a manuscript that is already thoroughly edited!

So, a busy but hopefully enjoyable month looms ahead, and no doubt it will fly past as fast as the months before it have done. All I can do is hang on and do my best… and maybe hope for a little downtime, too.

A Favourite Classic Novel: ‘Seven Little Australians’ by Ethel Turner

My copy of ‘Seven Little Australians’ is rather tattered and the worse for wear, a result of having been read many, many times.

This is an Australian classic that tells he story of the Woolcot family, and is set near Sydney in the late 19th century. The father was a gruff army captain, and his young wife was a sweet and kind stepmother to the children, most of whom were spirited and often mischievous.

The story is a lot of fun, but it also has some tragic moments. I remember reading the book for the first time when I was perhaps nine or ten. When my favourite character met a most untimely end, I put the book down and refused to read on. I couldn’t believe that an author would do such a thing! 

It was only when I talked about it with my great Aunt Judy, who had given me the book, that I resumed reading. She sympathised with me, of course, but told me I really needed to finish the book to understand that the author had a message and a purpose in making that happen.

If Auntie Judy had told me to read it standing on my head, I probably would have done. I adored her. As the sister of my grandmother, whom I had never bet because she died before I was born, Judy was much older than me, but we had always had a close bond. We were great friends and she would always call me “her little girl”. We enjoyed each other’s company enormously, and we both loved books,  She and her sister, my Auntie Enid, used to visit us regularly, and in school holidays or weekends, Mum and Dad would take us to visit them. Auntie Enid always brought me a pretty handkerchief as a gift, and Auntie Judy always gave me a book. On her next visit, we’d talk about the book and what we liked about it.   

The funny thing was, until the day I told her I couldn’t finish reading this book, I didn’t know that she had been similarly affected for a while. I also discovered that her name wasn’t really Judy. Her given name was Anne, and my mother had been named for her, but she chose to start calling herself Judy because the character of that name had been her favourite in this book, and she had also adopted that name for herself— her real name was Helen. 

So, this delightful book holds a lot of personally powerful memories and associations for me. Entirely apart from those, it’s a really good story that anyone who enjoyed Anne of Green Gables or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer would appreciate. It has a similar sense of fun and evokes an indulgent love for a naughty kid that is hard to resist. It also has a similarly sentimental tone about it, without being soppy at all. 

While my Auntie Judy is long gone, along with the rest of that generation of my family. I am very pleased that I still have this book and my memories. I also have my mother’s copy of two others in the series, given to her by her parents as gifts for her birthday and Christmas in 1944. I love looking at her handwriting inside the front cover, and feeling connected once again by our love of the same stories. 

I should also confess that I have laughed at myself heartily while writing about the memories of my outrage at an author killing off a character because, now that I’m an author, I knock people off all the time. My readers don’t tend to be children, though, and in all fairness, the people who die in my horror stories generally deserve what’s coming to them. 
Given that Auntie Judy also gave me a copy of  both Frankenstein and Dracula, and loved those stories, I am fairly sure she’d have enjoyed mine, too. My mother? Not so much. 

Oh well. You can’t please everyone. 

Shakespeare’s Birthday

Every year on April 23rd, my family celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday with cake. I always do some reading from a play or sonnet, but my husband isn’t so fond of that as he is of the cake, so it’s usually either a solitary activity or one I share with my dog. It’s a well-established fact that Abbey the Labby loves the Bard… and cake.

This year, though, my homage will take the form of several hours of rehearsal for a different comedy – Monty Python’s Spamalot – before I am able to indulge in birthday cake. It does seem fitting that the show is a little bawdy, somewhat irreverent, and absolutely hilarious. 

While the precise date of Shakespeare’s birth was not recorded, the date of his baptism was registered as April 26th, 1564. Because it was traditional for babies to be christened three days after they were born, it is generally accepted that William Shakespeare was born on April 23rd. 

In an ironic twist, Shakespeare died on the same date in 1616. Some people think that is awkward, but I think it’s a pretty cool achievement. I’m not sure how common it is for people to die on their birthday, but one of my grandfathers  did, so it’s a feat that has always been a point of interest for me. 

So, here’s to The Bard, his works, and his legacy.

Never Too Busy For Poetry!

This weekend is crazy busy. One evening and two full days of rehearsal for the show I’m in, which hits the stage on the first two weekends of May. 

The show is Monty Python’s Spamalot, performed by Camperdown Theatre Company. We’re working hard and having a blast rehearsing it, although one of the hardest parts is not laughing at the genuine comic talent of the actors.

It’s enormous fun, but it’s fair to say it’s exhausting. 

While most of my social media for the weekend could be scheduled and was organised by Friday, and there were only a few “on the spot” things I needed to do, I decided ahead of time to spend as little time online as I could over the weekend. Any spare time I have will be spent resting and relaxing, which means reading.

One of the lovely things about poetry is you can read it, and keep thinking about it at odd moments during the day. It adds a dimension of beauty and calm to a hectic schedule, and opportunities for reflection that might not otherwise offer themselves.  Even just a few lines can change a perspective and transform a moment into something that lifts the entire day. 

Another lovely thing about poetry is the sense of connection the reader has with the poet. Despite the fact that many of my favourite poets have been long dead, I can still experience a moment of empathy and understanding that reminds me that I’m not doing life in a bubble.

That is my hope for my own poetry. I may not become famous, or even widely known, for the poems I write, but I know that my own readers experience that same connection with me because their reviews and communications tell me so. 

So, even in the midst of a busy weekend, I’ll always make time for a little poetry.