This Really Happened: Kindle countdown deal

I felt like I was seeing it all in slow motion; the car, sleek and black, careening around the corner, the sound of wheels skidding. Headlights illuminating her dazed expression like a spotlight as it made contact. Then I heard screaming, distant and muffled, as if I was underwater. It took me a long time to realise that I was the one screaming.

Erin has never really known who she is or what she wants. That is, until she meets her new University flatmate Allen.

Reckless, eccentric and creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure he feels it too, until he starts dating their mutual friend Charlotte.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake leaves Charlotte fighting for her life, the victim of a hit-and-run, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…

 

My latest New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ will be available at the special reduced price of $0.99 for the next 7 days on the Kindle countdown deal! Get it now while it’s cheap!

 

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Book Review: ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a work of modern art. It’s radical, sophisticated and subversive in all the right ways. And, dammit, there’s just something really sexy about reading an intellectual book and learning new things without it feeling like extra work.

I’ve read ‘Half of a yellow sun’ by Adichie in the past, so I went in with high expectations, which were met and exceeded by this book. It follows two star-crossed lovers, Ifemelu and Obinze, from their upbringing in a middle-class neighbourhood in Nigeria. However their relationship is cut short when Ifemelu emigrates to America to continue her education and Obinze, failing to get a visa, starts a new undocumented life as an illegal immigrant in England instead.

In America, Ifemelu deals with success and failure, finds and ends new relationships and eventually gets a fellowship at Princeton. For the first time, she becomes aware of race as a concept, and how differently she is treated because of her skin. She starts to document her observations in the form of a blog about race, which quickly brings her newfound fame. However despite all the luxuries of her new life, something pulls her back home, back to the Nigeria she grew up in. When she returns she meets Obinze again, who is now a wealthy, married man. As the two former lovers reunite, old sparks are rekindled and the two are faced with some tough decisions about their futures.

I once heard someone on goodreads refer to this book as a ‘500 page commentary on race’ (it was meant as an insult, I think of it as a positive thing). It’s true that ‘Americanah’ is not subtle at all about the issues of racism it tackles, and very much focuses on Ifemelu’s experience of being black in America. However it doesn’t read like a text book, or a preachy rant, it reads like a very smart, very intellectual novel written by a world-renowned race academic. As Ifemelu herself says in the book, racism is not a subtle thing, and should not be dealt with in a subtle way. As it does for all African Americans, race is something that affects every aspect of the protagonist’s life, and therefore seeps into every part of her narrative. The point of the novel is to illuminate the pervasive, omnipresent shadow that race is for those living in the Western world, and also how race is not a fixed category as its definition is tied to shifting social values.

‘Americanah’ is not just another ‘book about race’. It’s brutally honest, heartbreaking and also fiercely hopeful. It analyses the very real, very damaging consequences that race can have, from racial stereotyping, to lack of representation, to alienation and loss of identity. It’s a book about overcoming hardship and succeeding in a country that is against you purely on the basis of your appearance. It’s about miscommunication, a lack of understanding, a lack of willingness to learn. It’s a story about love in many different forms and, ultimately, two people finding each other again.

7 Ways to Boost Your Book Sales

In my last post, I looked at how to prepare yourself for self-publishing. This time I’ll be focusing on what to do once your book is already out there, and how to increase your sales revenue. Here are my top tips for marketing your novel on Amazon:

  1. Start driving traffic towards your amazon page. Post the link on your social media accounts, your blog, everywhere you can. Change your signature in any forums you’re part of to your book cover, with a link to the book. Ask your friends or fellow bloggers to tweet the link out for you. Write some articles for news websites or online magazines. Make sure to include a mention of the book and that link in your bio at the bottom.
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  2. Send out review copies. Research book bloggers that you think will be a good fit for your book (there are many internet databases out there which make this much easier) then send them a message politely enquiring if they’d be interested in reviewing your book on their website. If they say yes, give them a free copy. In the internet book community high-profile book bloggers are basically celebrities. Their opinions matter. Get them on your side and you’re good to go. Just make sure to read through their review policies first.
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  3. Hold a giveaway. You can do this through Goodreads, or twitter, or any other social media website. Ideas include ‘like my Facebook page for a chance to win a free of copy of *insert your book title here*’ Everyone loves free stuff. Make them want your book, and get them to follow you while you’re at it.
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  4. Engage. When people leave you reviews, you can reply to them to say thanks. When people tweet about your book, tweet them back/retweet them. Leave reviews on other people’s books. Chat to other writers on forums. People appreciate you showing interest and making an effort.
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  5. Make it easy for your readers to follow you. At the end of your book, include a page with your social media handles, your website, info about any other books you’ve written and a ‘thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this book please leave a review.’ Asking for reviews actually makes people more likely to review the book.
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  6. Build up your writing CV. Submit short stories to magazines, and if they get published make sure to mention your book in your author bio. You can post excerpts of your book (up to 10%) or other things you’ve written on some popular writing sites such as WattPad. Publish multiple books on Amazon, since then you can cross-promote them.
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  7. Put your book on sale. Strategically putting your book on sale at the right times can have a massive effect on sales. Make it 99p or even free for a week and see how the book performs once it’s back up to full price. Usually if the book is good, a strategic sale will kickstart the domino effect and get people to start talking about the book. By the time it’s back up to full price, the word will be out and people who have heard about it based on recommendations will be willing to pay an extra pound or two for it.

 

Follow me for book reviews and more tips on self-publishing, writing and marketing. i’m also looking to host author interviews and guest blog posts in the future – if this is something you’d be interested in please get in contact!

This Really Happened (COVER REVEAL)

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“We all have our own truths. Sometimes they’re the same. Sometimes they’re not.”

Erin has never really known who she is or what she wants, especially when it comes to relationships. That is, until she starts her first year at University and meets her new flatmate Allen.

Reckless, eccentric and intensely creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure it’s a mutual feeling, too, until he starts dating their flatmate Charlotte instead.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake ends in tragedy and Charlotte is left fighting for her life, the victim of a hit-and-run, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…

‘This Really Happened’ is a YA drama being released on the Amazon Kindle Store March 1st. Follow for more updates, sneak peaks and giveaways to be announced in the near future! I’d also love to know what you think of the cover – please leave comments below.

8 tips for writing a novel

So recently I’ve decided to get more active in the online writing community. I think the internet provides so much opportunity for writers to connect, to share knowledge and help each other improve, more so than writers in the past have ever had. It’s a resource I’m determined to make the most out of. The writers forums and sites I’m currently part of are incredibly supportive; they include a mix of professional authors and beginner writers and provide a safe space, free of judgement, for people to have open and honest conversations about their writing. It’s something a younger, pre-University version of me would have killed for.

As part of this new resolution I applied to be part of the The Literary Consultancy’s ‘free read’ scheme which is a merit-based scheme offered to low-income writers who they see as having potential. I was accepted into the scheme and quickly paired up with YA author C.J flood, author of ‘Infinite sky’, who wrote me a detailed report on the 20k words I submitted to her of my current WIP.

As promised, a few weeks later I received a 7 page pdf with some very insightful comments on my storyline, character development and general writing technique. I’m super happy with the quality and the clarity of the report: sure, it wasn’t a glowing review of what I’ve convinced myself is my best book yet (I convince myself that every novel I write is going to be ‘the one’ until I get disillusioned and decide to start all over, so this is nothing new) but what I have learnt are some invaluable, personalised tips that I’ll be thinking about the next time I sit down to write. So for anyone who wants to improve as a writer, I would highly recommend applying for the TLC scheme.

Though the report was specific to my current novel, I decided that Flood’s insights were too good to be kept to myself and I’ve compiled a short list in my own words of some of her best general writing tips.

1. Clarify your characters’ motives: characters drive a story. But before rendering a character in text, it’s important that you understand who that character is, what drives them, what motivates them to make the decisions they do. If you’re not completely sure about your character’s motives, then you can’t expect the reader to know either, and it will weaken every aspect of the story. People want to read about characters they can relate to, and relating is based on some form of understanding. Don’t just imply a motive, be very clear about what your character wants and why they want it. I think the mistake I made is that I spent too long on the ‘how’ and not enough on the ‘why.’ Especially with fast-paced, plot-centric stories, it’s an easy trap to fall into. One thing I recommend to help with this is to write up character profiles or biographies that includes background, family history, unique traits/habits etc…

2. Avoid the manic pixie dream girl/boy: Clarifying motives and building character shouldn’t only be all about the protagonist. Does the protagonist have a best friend, side-kick, love interest? Do they have their own storyline or is it all about backing up the protagonist? Make sure you spend time building their character too. Give them a history, a personality, a whole other life that exists outside of their relationship to your protagonist. A couple of strange quirks does not make them a realistic, 3-dimensional character; giving them independent goals does. Why are they so invested in helping your MC? What do they get out of it? Maybe it’s love, maybe it’s money or power or something else entirely. Something is driving them to act the way they do. Explore it in subtle ways. Maybe you’ll find that it changes more in your story than you thought it would.

3. The ‘Cut and Pace’ approach: Even pacing in a story keeps the plot flowing nicely and gives it a sense of rhythm, like a calm river flowing down a one-way channel with no blockages in sight. You don’t want blockages. You don’t want a great big dam in the middle of your story, or even worse every few pages. Best way to fix this? Cut and pace, cut and pace. Usually it’s best to write out the story you want to tell first, then go back and cut all the necessary stuff, i.e the slow bits that don’t move the plot along or build character. Be ruthless with your cutting. I know it hurts, and sometimes I can’t bring myself to take out passages because I get attached to them, but do you really need that extra metaphor? Does that bit of dialogue really add anything? Don’t let your dramatic tension be diluted. Cut it out, go back and read it again, see if the pacing is any better. Rinse and repeat.

4. Show don’t tell: This is something we were told repeatedly in my screenwriting classes. But it rings true for prose as well: too often I see, even in acclaimed published books, the tell-tale signs of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ particularly when it comes to character’s backstories. Of course there are exceptions to this rule and sometimes it can be a stylistic thing, but if there’s a better way of bringing a scene to life then do that instead. I’m going to quote Flood here when she says: ‘sometimes when we write we are really telling ourselves the story.’ I thought it was a very profound statement. So don’t get too hung up on this in the first draft. Write what comes naturally, even if that is just to clarify certain things to yourself, and when you go back to edit you’ll have a much better idea of how you can turn that big block of backstory into something more engaging.

5. Don’t withhold too much information: It’s funny because often in creative writing classes you’re told to make sure you don’t spill all your secrets right away. However the opposite is also true: withholding too much information in your first few chapters frustrates your reader and causes them to lose interest. Crafting a good hook is probably one of the hardest elements in writing and it takes years and years of practice. You’re interested because you know all about this world you’re creating, but remember that your reader is starting from nothing. You have to start from the basics and world-build all over again except inside their heads this time. I would suggest taking some time out, reading other books written in your genre, and seeing how they handle it. Read like an English student would i.e read critically. Analyse how those books create dramatic tension and whether or not it’s working. Then go back to your own work and edit it line by line, making sure you’re saturating each sentence with as much detail about setting, character and plot as you can without it sounding like a lecture or an info-dump.

6. Raising the stakes: As the story progresses, make sure to keep the reader hooked by gradually raising the stakes, eventually resulting in some sort of climax where everything is resolved (or not resolved, I guess). This is generally quite a linear story structure and not every good book follows it in that order, but there is that whole saying that you should know the rules first before breaking them. Link the stakes to your character’s motives and use that to create conflict: MC wants something, but there’s an obstacle in her way, how does she overcome it? Something that threatens the MC’s wellbeing, the attainment of her goals or both usually works best. There should also be some sort of emotional pull to it, as this is what keeps readers feeling engaged.

7. Make your dialogue work harder for you: Dialogue is built on the bones of real-life, authentic conversation, but then artificially constructed to give away details of plot development, character, setting, socio-economic class, relationships, power-relations and pretty much everything in between. If you’re not comfortable writing dialogue, trying some basic exercises like eavesdropping on a conversation and transcribing everything they say. Read it back to yourself. It will sound strange. The way we speak is actually incredibly disjointed, to the point where it makes you wonder how we manage to communicate at all. Of course dialogue in prose isn’t like this, but still, pay attention to the differences between how people talk and try to manifest those differences in the way your characters interact. Give them a voice, a tone. Does one of them come from a very posh background? Think about the sort of words they’d use, the way they might relate to the people around them and how this can be conveyed through dialogue. They might appear haughty, superior, patronising, or they might use long multi-syllabled words and less common phrases. What about their age, is the way they’re speaking appropriate for their maturity level?

8. Build a sense of place: Creating a setting for your story to play out and transporting your readers into that setting is incredibly important. You don’t have to go through the 5 senses every single time you’re describing somewhere, but at least try to keep them in mind and drop them in when it feels appropriate. Sometimes a particularly unusual and vivid metaphor or simile can bring a place to life and give it a certain feel: make sure to use figurative language to create the right atmosphere you want, something that fits the characters and the general tone of the novel.
That’s it! I’m sure for all you seasoned writers out there what I’ve said is nothing new, but if nothing else I hope it reminds you of some of the main things to keep in mind when drafting and editing. And for any beginner writers, or anyone thinking about writing for the first time, go for it! Despite my long wordy list writing isn’t all about the technical stuff. It’s a craft, yes, but one that’s supposed to be rewarding and fun. So while I’d suggest keeping in mind some of these points, it’s also important that you enjoy the process of writing itself and don’t let it turn into a chore.