One Week Until ‘Beautiful & Deadly’ Launches (and you’re invited to the launch party!)

beautiful&deadlycover FINALI can’t believe I’ll be releasing my short story collection ‘Beautiful & Deadly’ in just one week! Things are starting to get scary and exciting. Not to mention busy, busy, busy. At the moment I’m putting together a Facebook launch party to coincide with the launch of the book on Amazon. You’re all invited, so pop by and join the event! There’ll be book excerpts, behind the story tidbits, fun activities, discussions and, best of all, PRIZES! I’ve had some awesome prizes donated by author D.K. Burrow, Mumma H Nutrimetics, Wrap Me Delicious – It Works! Global and the Leigh Family Juice Plus franchise.

Today I wanted to share the line up of stories that will be appearing in the collection. Many of them have appeared in anthologies over the years and now they’ll be all together in one collection. There’s also several new, never-before-published stories.

The Line Up

Angel Blood

Eighteen for Life

Aphrodite

Love Bites

A Troll for Christmas

Curse of the Falls

Island of No Return

Red Lipstick

Spectrum

Spectrum and Captain Awesome vs. Arachnid

Equinox

Ice Crystals

The Seashell

The Sweet Taste of Self-Loathing

Maya and the Prince

The Bony Finger of Death

Do any of those titles sound intriguing? Which one do you most want to read?

Fingers crossed everything goes smoothly for the launch. I’m hoping to offer the book FREE for the first 48 hours!

Why I Decided to Self-Publish + Prize Winners Announced!

Why I Decided to Self-Publish

beautiful&deadlycover FINALIn two weeks I will be releasing Beautiful & Deadly: A Fantasy Collection. It will be my first time venturing into the world of self-publishing. In the past I had never really seriously considered self-publishing—preferring to stick to the traditional publishing route. Self-publishing has typically had a bit of a stigma attached to it—self-publishing is for authors who can’t get published by traditional means, right? Plus it would mean all the marketing and business side of publishing would fall to me. I didn’t feel I was business-minded and that I lacked the confidence to market my own work.

But over the past few months my mindset has changed.

Why I changed my mind:
  1. I listened to a webinar on self-publishing children’s books through 12 x 12 and it got me inspired, especially when it was mentioned that children’s writers could do well through being hybrid-authors (authors who are both traditionally published and self-published). I ended up signing up for the Picture Ebook Mastery course run by the Children’s Book Insider and I started playing around with the idea of self-publishing my own children’s book. My biggest drawback came from the fact that I am not an illustrator and hiring an illustrator would be costly.
  2. A friend put me onto the ‘Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast and I started listening to it. I became even more inspired. There were writers out there making a good living off self-publishing. I think there is this mindset that there are so many badly self-published books out there that self-publishing has developed a stigma that turns readers off. But the authors on these podcasts were finding that if they put the work in and put out a professional-standard book, they could do well. I began to think, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”
  3. I started reading more about self-publishing and seemed like a lot of authors were saying that even in traditional publishing a lot of the marketing was left on the shoulders of the author. That was a big selling point for me. The marketing aspect of self-publishing had been a major off-putting aspect for me, but if I was going to be responsible for marketing my work even in traditional publishing, then it was no longer a point against self-publishing. In fact, marketing a self-published book would be great practice if I ever end up being traditionally published. Plus haven’t I already been marketing my short stories in their respective anthologies? This wouldn’t be too much different, except it would just be me (no other contributing authors/publisher to share the load).
  4. There have been times in the past where I briefly thought I would like to put all my published short stories into a collection, but now that the idea of self-publishing had lost its stigma for me, I started entertaining the idea much more seriously. The more I planned the collection, the more I wanted to make it a reality. And because most of the stories in the collection have been previously published, I think it took some of the pressure off, because they’d already been through a lot of edits and I knew I could put out a professional book. There are two rules for self-publishing; one of those is for your book to be professionally edited.
  5. The second rule is to have a professional cover. I started researching cover artists, but at the same time I started playing around making my own cover. Thankfully I have been doing graphic art for about 8 years as a hobby and I have made a lot of mock covers over the years. My first cover was very amateur looking, so I scrapped it and made another. This one I felt looked professional, especially after some tweaking based on feedback. It was more validation that I could actually self-publish a professional-looking book. (P.S. For others considering self-publishing, I highly recommend getting a cover artist, unless you have been doing graphics yourself for years and have enough skills to do it yourself. If your cover doesn’t look professional, readers will be put off buying the book.)

Fingers crossed and wish me luck as I plunge head first into the world of self-publishing.

For those interested in exploring self-publishing, this series of posts by Author Entrepreneur Management Solutions is a must read. It takes you through planning, marketing, expenses and predicting income.

I’d love to hear stories from anyone else who has taken this route. Or what other writers think of self-publishing? Would you do it? Why or why not?
PRIZE WINNERS!

And now for the winners of my blogiversary giveaway!

Prize 1: An advance copy of Beautiful & Deadly.

Mary Preston!

Prize 2: A limited edition short story of your choice from the collection.

Angelina M Linan!

Prize 3: Your choice of a story critique OR a $5 Amazon gift card.

Melissa Gijsbers Khalinsky!

Thanks to all who entered and shared the competition. Winners, please check your email for your prizes!

Blogiversary Celebrations – New Look Site & A Prize Giveaway!

gift-553140_1280Welcome to my blogiversary celebrations! Today marks 6 years since I first started this blog as a way to help aspiring writers by sharing my acquired writing knowledge, as well as sharing my own writing journey.
I have some exciting announcements for my blogiversary:

  1. My blog has received a new look and a new and improved domain name.
  2. My short story collection Beautiful & Deadly is due to be released on the 30th September and I am excited to share the book trailer with you for my blogiversary.
  3. To celebrate my blogiversary, I’m having a competition! That’s right, it might be my blog’s birthday, but YOU get the presents! Details at the end of this post.

A Brand New Look

Regular visitors may have noticed my blog’s brand new header and updated look! You may also have noticed a change in my website’s name. I decided it was time to not only get an official and simplified domain name, I also decided it was time to rename the site to reflect my name. So now instead of thegracefuldoe.wordpress.com, my new web address is *drumroll*

johartauthor.com

But don’t worry, if you use thegracefuldoe.wordpress.com it will still take you to this site 🙂

Beautiful & Deadly

beautiful&deadlycover FINALThe last five years I’ve had a number of short stories published in various anthologies. A few months ago I had the idea to put them all together in a single collection, along with some new, never-before-published stories. In the coming weeks I’m going to talk a little more about how the idea to publish my own short story collection came about and a sneak peek at some of the stories included, but for today I’m excited to premiere my first ever book trailer!

Competition Time!

To help celebrate my blogiversary I’m running a competition to win an advanced PDF copy of ‘Beautiful & Deadly’ along with some other great prizes!

To enter, simply fill in the rafflecopter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Prizes:

  1. An advanced PDF copy of ‘Beautiful & Deadly’. You will get to read it more than a week before its official release date!
  2. Your choice of any single story from the collection as a limited edition PDF.
  3. Your choice of a short story critique or Amazon gift card.

Competition closes: 11.59pm (AEST) Wednesday 16th September

Winners will be drawn at random and announced on Thursday 17th September.

International Literacy Day – An Infographic on Illiteracy

Disclaimer: By posting this infographic, Grammarly is donating $10 in my name to Reading is Fundamental, an organisation that gives free books and literacy resources to children from low-income families.

Literacy Day

Infographic attribution: https://www.grammarly.com/plagiarism-checker

On this International Literacy Day, please consider donating to an organisation that helps get books to kids who need them the most. Every child should have the opportunity to learn to read.

Beautiful & Deadly Cover Reveal!

I’m so excited to be revealing the cover for my upcoming short story collection ‘Beautiful & Deadly’!

beautiful&deadlycover FINAL

Keep an eye on my blog next week as I will be debuting the book trailer during my blogiversary celebrations, launching a competition to win an advanced PDF copy of the collection and giving details of the release date of the book!

The Basics of Writing Good Dialogue

balloon-898682_1280In my time critiquing, I’ve found that a common issue is dialogue. There are three main elements to consider when writing dialogue:

  1. How to punctuate dialogue correctly.
  2. Effective choice of dialogue tags.
  3. Avoidance of ‘talking heads’.

To start, I just want to be clear on what I mean when I use the term ‘dialogue tag’.

Dialogue tag = said, asked, cried, stuttered, exclaimed, etc.

How to Punctuate Dialogue Correctly

The Problem: A lot of writers, especially beginning writers, can be unsure exactly how to punctuate dialogue. Do I use a comma or period? Does it go inside or outside the talking marks? What about dialogue after the tag; do I capitalise or not? What about the dialogue tag; does that need a capital letter? A period or comma?

What to do: Here are the rules you need to remember…

  • Always end dialogue with a comma inside the speech marks if it is followed by a dialogue tag. eg:

“I love pasta,” said Sarah.

  • Even if there is a long piece of dialogue with several sentences. eg:

“Hi, Kate. How are you? I just got back from Hawaii,” said Ben.

  • The only exception is if the sentence is a question or exclamation, in which case you would use a question mark or exclamation mark. eg:

“Can I borrow your pen?” asked Nathan.

  • Notice you always start the dialogue tag with a lower case letter, even when using a question/exclamation mark. Unless of course you use the person’s name first. eg: Nathan asked.
  • If you want to switch it around and have the dialogue tag first, you put a comma after the tag, start the dialogue with a capital letter and end the dialogue with a period. eg:

Olivia said, “Don’t forget the milk.”

  • Always end dialogue with a period if it is NOT followed by a dialogue tag (if it is a stand alone piece of dialogue without a dialogue tag or it is followed by the character completing an action) eg:

“This class is boring.” Penny leaned back on her chair and rolled her eyes.

  • For dialogue broken up by a dialogue tag, the above rules apply for the dialogue preceding the tag; for the dialogue following the tag you should use a period after the tag and begin the next bit of dialogue with a capital letter on the same line (only make a new line if a new character is speaking). eg:

“I saw him over there,” Tom said, pointing. “He was standing by that tree.”

  • There is an exception to this, but if you’re feeling confused, don’t worry about this one for now. If you are breaking up dialogue in the middle of a sentence (and this is not something you want to do often as it is better used for effect), you will use a comma following the dialogue tag and begin the dialogue following the tag with a lowercase letter. eg:

“I think,” said Kylie, “we should go to the disco.”

Does all that make sense?

Effective Choice of Dialogue Tags

The Problem: Remember back in school when your teachers taught you all the different ways you could say said? Remember how they encouraged you to use a variety of different dialogue tags and avoid the boring word ‘said’ to make your writing more descriptive? The problem is effective writers use said more than any other dialogue tag and avoid those other flowery dialogue tags as much as possible; the complete opposite of what we were taught in school.

What to do: Forget what you learned in school. From now on ‘said’ is your best friend when it comes to dialogue tags. The reason for this is ‘said’ is unobtrusive, which helps make your dialogue flow more naturally. Your second most used dialogue tag will be ‘asked’. That’s not to say you can’t use other tags here and there for effect, but make sure they are realistic (eg: a person can stutter dialogue, but how exactly does one smirk dialogue? It can be said with a smirk, but it can’t be smirked.) If you are unsure, say the dialogue out loud the way you’ve written it.

The same goes for using lots of adverbs, eg: she said, happily. or he said, lamely. Try to find ways to describe the way your characters are talking through use of actions, facial expressions, body language and even the dialogue itself. It’s a good way to include character quirks/traits. eg: Jessica might react in different way to John.

So instead of:

“I can’t believe we’re going to Disneyland!” Jessica said, excitedly.

You could have:

“I can’t believe we’re going to Disneyland!” Jessica jumped up and down, a grin like a Cheshire cat stretched across her face.

John’s character would interpret excitement in a different way:

“I can’t believe we’re going to Disneyland!” John said, fist bumping Pete.

exchange-of-ideas-222786_1280

Avoidance of Talking Heads

The Problem: There is a lot of back and forth dialogue happening between characters, with no visual description in the scene to ground readers.

What to do: This is a good opportunity to show your characters’ personalities or disperse descriptions of the scene naturally. By interspersing little descriptions of what your characters are doing as the dialogue takes place, you avoid big blocks of back and forth dialogue which can cause readers to get lost or envision talking heads with no scenery to ground them.

So rather than:

“I feel like we never see each other any more,” said Fiona.

“What do you mean?” asked Gary. “We see each other every day. We live together.”

“I mean really see each other.”

You could write:

“I feel like we never see each other any more,” said Fiona. A tear ran down her cheek and dropped onto the shirt she had been ironing. 

“What do you mean?” asked Gary, his eyes never leaving the TV. “We see each other every day. We live together.”

Fiona ran the iron over the shirt, not realising she had been ironing the same sleeve for the last five minutes. “I mean really see each other.”

In the second version we can see more of the characters’ personalities and mood. It also grounds the readers to where they are: at home.

 And never forget the golden rule for dialogue:

Always start a new line when a new character starts speaking. (If the same character is still speaking, even if there are a few sentences of action in between, you don’t need a new line.)

Any questions? Leave them in the comments!

Writing Mentorship Program Opportunity for Emerging Writers

Yesterday I learned of an exciting new mentorship program that’s starting next month for emerging writers. It’s being run by the fantastic editor, publisher and author Jodi Cleghorn. I had the opportunity to work closely with Jodi on two of my published short stories (A Troll for Christmas and Eighteen for Life) and both experiences really helped me improve and hone my craft. Jodi is passionate about helping out new and emerging writers and she’s an expert at helping to show you how to bring out the best in your writing.

Jodi describes her new program, For The Asking, as:

…a hybrid program combining direct mentorship, a writing course and elements of creative exploration. It has the flexibility to accommodate different goals while at the same time providing a shared space to connect with (or hone) the craft of writing through experimentation in style, form, voice, genre and different creative modalities, combined with thoughtful critique, self-reflection and peer interaction. Each mentee will also have the opportunity to pursue one or two writing related goals.

This is a fantastic opportunity for:

  • people who have always wanted to write, but have never had the courage to take the next step.
  • new writers who would like to take their craft to the next level.
  • those who need extra confidence in their writing abilities.
  • experienced writers in need of a creative reboot.

The first 12-week program begins on Sunday 13th September. You must be over 18 years of age to be eligible. You can apply for one of the four available places by going HERE and scrolling down to the end of the post for the application link and further details of the program. Applications need to be submitted by midnight 3rd September (Australian Eastern Standard Time).

How to Fight Writer’s Funk When Depressed

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Writers and Depression

Depression often seems to go hand in hand with being a writer. I’m sure there is some psychological reason for this–something to do with how our creative brains work. Not to mention constantly dealing with rejection in this hard to break into industry.

Regular followers of my blog may have noticed I have been rather quiet the past year. The reason for this is because I have been battling depression. I lost motivation for updating my blog, for interacting on Twitter and for submitting my work. I also lost my motivation to write. I felt blocked. Normally my brain is entertaining a million story ideas at any given time, but in the midst of my depression there was nothing.

A Therapist’s Suggestion

While attending therapy, my therapist would give me tasks she wanted me to complete as part of my battle against the depression. These tasks included exercising daily, eating well and self-affirmations. She also wanted me to write–it was supposed to be something to do for me, because she knew I was a writer. Every session she would ask, “Have you written anything since I last saw you?” I would always say no and mumble some excuse as to why not. She would write on a piece of blank white paper my tasks to complete before our next session and in capital letters she would always include

WRITE!

But the words wouldn’t come.

How to Get Out of that Writing Funk

I am finally getting back into the swing of writing again. Properly writing. My therapist’s push for me to write helped, but I also found some other ways to help me get back my motivation to write. If you’re going through your own writing funk, maybe these can help you, too.

1. Read. A lot. I realised not only had I not been writing, I hadn’t been doing much reading either, preferring to watch mind-numbing television or get sucked into the black hole of the internet. At the start of the year I challenged myself to read fifty books in a year, knowing that reading is a great way to inspire writing. It worked. The more I’ve read (especially in the same genre as my WIP) the more my creative juices have returned. I’ve been keeping track of my reading on Goodreads’ reading challenge. (See my progress here.)

2. Write. Anything. This came from my therapist. She told me it didn’t matter what I wrote, just write. It doesn’t have to be a story. Just grab a piece of paper or open up Word and write whatever comes to mind. In the beginning I wrote a lot of my negative thoughts and feelings. It reminded me of when I was an angsty teen and whenever I felt depressed I would write dark poetry. So write angsty poetry. Write a stream of thoughts. Write fanfiction. Just write!

3. Reread old writing. Go to wherever you keep old, forgotten stories. Open those old files or pull out those old notebooks. Reread your old work. Remind yourself how far you’ve come as a writer. You might even get inspired to start rewriting some of those old ideas using the writing skills you’ve gained since you last wrote it.

How do you get motivated to write again when you’re in a writing funk or suffering from depression? Please share in the comments.

Photo credit: Sander van der Wel from Netherlands via Wikimedia Commons

The Starving Author

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The Dream…

When I was younger I dreamt that one day I would be able to spend my whole day focusing on my writing. I would have enough money to hire a housekeeper to do all my housework and enough money to pay all my bills and buy food. When I was about sixteen and considering my future seriously for the first time, I realised that it was very hard to make a living as a writer unless you happened to sell a bestseller. So I very sensibly took a leaf out of my favourite author’s book (John Marsden) and studied to become a teacher so I might have a means to support myself until I could write that bestseller.

Reality

Fast forward nearly two decades later. Not only do I not have a housekeeper, I also have three.children who need to be fed and schooled and clothed. I have a husband who is currently pursuing his dream of owning a dairy farm, which unfortunately means a lot of debt and a hard slog (but I love him and I love our lifestyle so I wouldn’t have it any other way). After teaching for several years, I currently stay at home with my kids. I love it because I love being with them as they grow and I get to focus on my writing more than I would be able to if I was working. So here I am, a poor starving author (well, not really starving, but it would be nice to have a little extra instead of always fretting if we’ll have enough to pay all our bills).

What’s A Poor Starving Author To Do?

One day a couple of months ago my husband had left the television on when a talk show called ‘The Living Room’ came on. One of the segments talked about ways to make a little extra money. I went online and checked out a website called fiverr they had talked about. It’s a site where you can offer any kind of service for just $5. There are people on there offering everything from proofreading to writing website content, from offering advice to designing logos. There are even people offering silly/crazy things like singing happy birthday and having pie thrown in their face.

I thought about what I might be able to offer, then took the plunge. I currently have two ‘gigs’ posted.

1) I will write a personalised children’s story up to 500 words for $5 (and for an extra $5 I will write it in rhyme).

2) I will offer personalised parenting advice for $5.

If you are a poor starving writer like me, it’s worth having a look. There’s so much scope for offering your skills, whether it’s proofreading, editing, writing stories, writing web content or any other skills you have to offer. It’s just a little bit extra you could put towards writing conferences, editing services, or even just your everyday bills.

The key:

a) make sure your profile and gigs come across as professional.

b) play up your related skills and experience (eg: in my writing gig I mention I am a published author and have a major in Writing).

c) make sure you do your best to provide a quality service. (Sometimes buyers give you tips if they really like your work, so it’s worth putting in the effort. It also means more 5 star reviews, which will entice more buyers into seeking your services.)

If you would like to help out this starving author, please feel free to share this link to my fiverr profile or either of my individual gigs. 🙂

I’d love to hear what other starving authors are doing to make some extra money. Please share in the comments!

Arrr! Talk Like a Pirate Day (with prizes!)

In celebration o’ Talk Like a Pirate Day, I’ve a special announcement I’ve been burstin’ to tell ya.

Ok, so I’m not great at talking like a pirate, but I do have some exciting pirate-related news to share. I recently had not one, but TWO stories published in the anthology ‘Teapot Tales: Pirates, Mermaids and Monsters of the Sea‘.

teapot Tales ebook cover

The first story, ‘Island of No Return’, is about a cursed pirate captain who makes a deal with a sea goddess. It was partly inspired by the lyrics of Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’. Here’s a snippet:

“Be warned: do not make your decision to proceed lightly. All magic comes with a price. Are you prepared to pay the price?”

Lucas held out his arms and tore off his sleeves to reveal the blackened skin where the curse had already taken effect. “I am willing to pay any price to rid myself of this curse. I will not be taken by the darkness.”…

She moved towards him as though floating across the surface of the water until she stood so close their faces were mere centimetres from each other. Her lips pressed against his. At first, a warmth stirred inside him—she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever encountered, after all. But soon the warmth drained from his body and he felt his blood turn ice cold in his veins.

The second story, ‘The Seashell’, is about a tide pool explorer who’s magically whisked into an underwater world. This one is based on my memories of the adventures I imagined as a child playing on the beach.

Jagged pillars of rocks lined the shore. Waves crashed against them in a rhythmic percussion, accompanied by the screech of seagulls. Ashleigh skipped and balanced over the slippery rocks, avoiding the tide pools and skittering crabs.  Out of the corner of her eye something sparkled in the sunlight. Like a colourful beacon it glinted from a cragged rock jutting out of the ocean.

The anthology features sea-inspired short stories suitable for a variety of ages. And, as the title suggests, the stories are short enough to be enjoyed over a cup of tea. Check out the book trailer!

A CHANCE TO WIN SOME PIRATE BOOTY!

The authors of ‘Teapot Tales: Pirates, Mermaids and Monsters of the Sea‘ got together (in conjunction with Melusine Muse Press) and decided in celebration of our newly released pirate-themed anthology and Talk Like a Pirate Day we would do a giveaway! Head on over to the Melusine Muse Press blog to go into the draw to win one of several prizes, including a copy of ‘Teapot Tales: Pirates, Mermaids and Monsters of the Sea’. There’s lots of ways to get bonus entries into the draw, including liking my FB page. The winners will be drawn and announced on the 25th September.

 

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