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A look back at 2014

I know there’s still a week or so of this year left but lets face it, that’s not much of the year and I’m unlikely to get much done in the way of work.

This year I had quite big hopes in terms of book releases both in print and ebook and I think it’s the first year that I’ve just not managed what I set out to. at the start of the year I intended to publish my Tales of Ethanar anthology, Sherdan’s Country, The Fire of Winter and write and publish at least one more novella in the same world as my novella in the Kiss anthology, The Slave Who’d Never Been Kissed.

The only one of those I achieved was finishing and publishing Sherdan’s Country. It doesn’t mean I didn’t write much this year. I wrote more this year than I did in 2013, it’s just not all ready to be published yet. I did write and publish the first novella in a new series under a pen name I invented this year. The Hundred Year Wait under Amelia Price is one of my best selling books this year so I’ve also now written two sequels. The Unexpected Coincidence and The Invisible Amateur.

The fantasy publications intended for this year haven’t been forgotten. Both of them require some maps to complete the information inside (as well as a few other bits and pieces). Those maps have proved incredibly difficult to handle with my limited skills when it comes to computer graphics and formatting an ebook. I’m getting closer with them but will definitely need help with the last part.

I’ve also started two other series works this year that I didn’t foresee at the beginning. Both are collaborations with other authors. I’ve mentioned the story in the works with author TR Harris and that it will appear under my Amelia Price pen name. The second I’ve not made mention of before and I’m hoping to have a blog post dedicated to that early in the new year.

Sales wise, the year hasn’t been my best, stopping my trend of at least doubling my sales every year but this has still been my second best year so far in terms of sales numbers and if it wasn’t for having no print release this year would be my biggest grossing year, so it comes in second for that as well. Considering the releases I’ve had and expenses it’s not been a bad year.

Across the board authors are talking about how it has been a harder year this year for indies. Several changes have lowered the visibility and I’ve noticed it has been harder to get ads and promote my novels than it was in 2013. I only expect that to get worse in 2015. There’s also Amazons Kindle Unlimited program which is not good for indies. A few have said it’s raised their exposure and royalties but most have found it has cannabalised their sales and made them less per borrow than they would get if they had a sale. On top of that the traditional publishers are finally working out that ebooks should sell for less. That means more and more competition at the lower prices Indies are used to dominating. Something great for the reader, so in a lot of ways I’m not complaining about that one, but it does mean more competition for visibility even if it doesn’t for spending budget.

Over all it’s been a tough year and reminded me that being an author is a fickle business and hard work. I’m definitely not giving up, however. Instead I’m already working out a plan I’ll have more hope of sticking to that should make more use of Amazon’s rankings and the different books that are selling well this year despite the tougher climate, but I’ll post about my plans for 2015 next week.

How to prepare for writing lots in one month (or NaNoWriMo)

Yup, it’s almost that time of year again when a large chunk of the world wide writerly community goes crazy in the attempt to cram as many story telling words into one month as possible in the aim of having actually got their ideas out onto paper so they have something to work with and polish up, no matter how crap those original words are.

Now I’ve managed to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge the last three years running somehow (typically 50k words in one month) and I’m of course up for doing it again as it tends to be my most productive month of the year even if I’ve come close a few other times. I have found the best NaNoWriMo’s though are the ones where I actually put some planning in and knew what I wanted to write in advance.

I’m not much of a planner, in fact I come much closer to the pantser type of writer, but for November I’m much more of a planner than normal. Instead of having a few scribbled plot notes of scenes in my ideas notebook to go on and mostly ignore, for NaNo I usually spend the last couple of weeks in October mulling over plot details. Important character decisions and the main scenes where important matters happen or dialogue is said are the things I focus on.

This usually leads me to the plot points I’m not sure on yet. By thinking over the scenes and what might link them it forces me to decide on stuff that needs to happen that I normally leave until I’m writing the book. This can be minor details like what someone is doing in a scene while a conversation is happening or it can be a big detail like the motive for an action or even the entire plotline for a less major character who needs to be given more detail. It can even lead to me realising I need another POV character or something as fundamental to the writing as that. I also find it helps me do my research in advance. Knowing the science, history or forensics before the scene is written usually helps me imagine it that much quicker.

As a pantser I often don’t plan too much because I don’t want to take the fun out of writing, and I know other pantsers say the same thing about why they don’t do detailed plans, but whatever your method and whatever your reasons, to get the wordcount at the end, it definitely helps to have thought through enough that there’s no stopping to work out important details that could have already been fixed.

The final thing I try and do to get me off to a good start is harness the part of the book I write best. I know from my own writing habits that the first 25% of any story and the last 10% go the quickest for me. I love delving into a new plot and I love getting close to the end, so I harness this for NaNoWriMo, especially if I’m stuck. I almost always start something new for NaNo (the rules say you’re meant to anyway, but plenty of people cheat) and push myself to get ahead while writing that 25% because I know I’ll find it easier and it will provide me with some grace if I get stuck after.

I’ve also been known to give up on the story I started for NaNo and write a complete shorter work to give me a boost. I did this last year and wrote the first 39k of Sherdan’s Country before switching to write the entire 21k of my novella in the Kiss anthology, which I penned down in only 6 days towards the end. With the little bits I did in the few final days I entirely rescued my NaNo target and smashed it by over 10k, hitting almost 62k by the end of the month. Technically I cheated. I didn’t quite get to over 50k in one story, but I had a completed novella and was over half way through the novel I originally wanted to write and that’s a success for me.

This year I’m going to start with my Mycroft Holmes Adventures 2 novella and then when I’ve got that done, if I’ve had time to plan 3 I’ll try and write 3 as well, if not continue on with finishing Hearts of the Seas 2, Victorious Ruin. Whatever I write though I’m aiming for at least 60k. I’ll be blogging about my progress each tuesday through November for those who want to see if it goes according to plan or not.

Character Bio: Kaihaitu

In preparing for a novel the first thing I do is write short biographies for the main characters in the book. As I’ve blogged quite a bit about book 2 and how fast I am writing it I thought I would share the bio that started the whole idea off. Allow me to introduce the heroine, Kaihaitu:

Age: 22

Height: 5 foot 5 inches

Hair: Dark brown, shoulder length

Eyes: Brown

Skin: Creamy, mid brown

Clothes: Hides, loose but reasonably covering. Bare feet.

Background: Kai grew up in her father’s village. Her Father was the village leader and she has grown up knowing that she will one day lead the village herself. Her mother was a housewife who looked after Kai and her younger brother.

From a very early age Kai was trained by her father to be both a good hunter and a good leader. As such Kai doesn’t really have any friends. She is usually too busy working to socialise. Her main companions are the two monkeys, Hehu and Matiu, that her father traded for and gave to her as a coming of age present when she was fifteen years old.

When Kai was very young a redcoat ship turned up and not long after that they built a fort near the village. At first the relationship between Kai’s village and the redcoats was amicable and many trades were struck. Kai was even encouraged to learn English by her father.

Over time the redcoats slowly encroached on the village’s land and the relationship deteriorated. When Kai was approximately twenty she, along with several of the other young villagers, raided the red coat fort. The following day the village is celebrating their ‘victory’ over the red coats when they retaliate and storm the village in far greater numbers than the villagers have ever seen of them.

As an example to the rest of the village, the red coats take back their food stocks and more and destroy things important to everyday village life. Her father then dies from an illness and lack of food and Kai is left to lead the village and to try and get them through the winter coming with very little food.

Kai blames herself for her fathers death and the subsequent villagers deaths the following winter, but does not tell anyone it was her idea to raid the fort. Instead Kai uses her guilt to fuel her leadership of the village and she dedicates herself to getting the village back on level ground and an unstable truce is formed with the redcoats again.

Her mother and most of the villagers wish for Kai to marry a guy called Henare and although he is a very eligible bachelor and encouraging towards Kai, she is just very uninterested in marriage, let alone Henare.

Personality: Kai is a very quiet, reserved person. She feels the weight of her responsibilities and has from a very early age. Kai doesn’t have many friends and does not find it easy to socialise with other people. Although she is very adept at dealing with the villages social problems any other form of communication with people is very difficult for Kai.

With the higher responsibilities Kai has faced she is much more mature than other people her own age and very calm and considered in her approach to solving problems. She always appears very relaxed even when on the inside she is not.

The only time Kai lets herself be more vulnerable is when she is alone with her two monkeys. She will occasionally play with them and be light hearted, but only when she is sure no one else is around. This has been rare the last year or so for two reasons, firstly the death of her father and the constant danger to her village, has made her more serious and secondly Henare often pops up randomly to talk to her, and the only warning she gets is Hehu and Matiu running off.

Hehu and Matiu running from Henare fuels her choice to push him away from her, though she knows she is being mean in doing so. Kai trusts their judgement and for this reason alone would never marry Henare even if she thought he was a good match for her.

Though Kai is not unhappy with her life in the village she can’t really be said to be happy either. She is very much a realist and knows that she has a tough time ahead of her to get the village through. The villages safety is more important to her than her own happiness.

Kai is also a well trained hunter and fighter though she has a good respect for life and would only kill in self defence or necessity for food etc. She is rarely seen without her bow and arrow and always has a couple of hunting knives about her person somewhere.