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Release Day Witch Undercover in Westerham!

Just dropping in quickly to let everyone know that Witch Undercover in Westerham, Book 3 in my Paranormal Investigation Bureau series, is live everywhere today! It had an exclusive week-early release with Apple Books, but today everyone else can get their hands on it. You can grab it from Amazon and Kobo. Barnes & Noble will be getting it in the next day or so.

Witch-Undercover-in-Westerham-Nook

Here’s the blurb:

Deciding to have more fun in Westerham, Lily takes up life-drawing classes with her friend Olivia. But trouble isn’t far away; the art teacher goes missing after the second class.

Tracking down the art teacher is proving impossible, and the PIB’s best lead is murdered before they can find out everything he knows. Yet again, Lily’s unique witchy skills are called upon to help. The problem? It’s dangerous for her to reveal her talents. She’s already the target of a secret organisation intent on kidnapping her, and now those closest to her fear a threat inside the PIB itself.

To help solve the case, Lily makes a dangerous choice: to go undercover with no backup. But has she just made a fatal mistake?

So much for witches having it easier. Someone pass Lily a cappuccino, but this time, make it a double.

Now it’s time for me to get back to writing book 4. The editor has most of it, but I’ve still got a few thousand words to go. Oops. If you’re enjoying the series, you’ll be happy to know that Witchslapped in Westerham is out on November 20th and continues the fun with Lily, Olivia, James and the rest of the PIB witches.

Happy reading!

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Witch Swindled in Westerham Error on Barnes & Noble

Hi to my Barnes & Noble readers. I wanted to apologise and ask for your patience. The second book in my Paranormal Investigation Bureau series came out on 29th August, but only the sample was released. I had uploaded the full version to my distributor, but as I had a week exclusive early release with iBooks, something went wrong when it came time to automatically upload the book to Barnes & Noble, and it didn’t go through as it should have. The result is that you are getting the two-chapter sample, not the whole book. I’m so sorry, but this will be fixed ASAP. I’ve sent about 100 emails—and that’s not too much of an exaggeration, and I’m freaking out, because, well, readers paying $3.99 for two chapters is horrific.

Hopefully this will be rectified ASAP, and you can take delivery of the whole book. Again, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but bear with me, and you’ll soon have a proper book.

Off I go, to worry some more xx.

 

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Cozy Mystery Cover Reveal!

Here it is, the cover for my new cozy mystery, Witchnapped in Westerham (Paranormal Investigation Bureau Book 1).

World, meet Lily, my sweet yet sassy Aussie photographer who’s trying to survive finding out she’s a witch and an unexpected move to Westerham in England to solve her brother’s kidnapping.

My cover artist, the talented Robert Baird, has outdone himself yet again. All the artwork is original, and I absolutely love it.

If you want to read a sample, you can check it out on my previous blog post here. And in case you really want to buy it, the buy links are at the bottom of that post. The book is in preorder and releases on 29th July.

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Thanks for visiting. Have an awesome day, and happy reading!

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Fantasy & scifi Authors: An Exciting Newsletter-Building Op.

Hi fellow authors! I’m not sure how many of you know, so I’m going to tell you: I’m in an awesome 25-book boxset that’s releasing soon. We’re looking for ways to promote it and our group has come up with a few initiatives, and this is one of them.

We know many of you are finding ways to build your Newsletter. Marked by Fate is offering AUTHORS a great opportunity. A FREE NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBER BUILD!!

The Authors in the YA SFF boxset Marked by Fate would like to invite you to participate in one of their free newsletter subscriber building opportunities.

All we ask is that you promote MBF boxset and one of our giveaways in your newsletter. In exchange we will share the list of those who signed up for that giveaway. Each giveaway group will be limited to ten authors and will run for one week.
Participation is FREE and there is no minimum subscriber number. We will match authors with similar sized lists where possible. And of course, we’re looking for authors who write YA fantasy, dystopian, scifi and paranormal, as we would be a good fit for each other :).

More info is available on this sign up form: https://goo.gl/forms/ZHBfCpslHmH6Ymgv2

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15 Tips for Choosing a Good Line Editor

Finding a good line editor (or any editor) is one of the trickiest things about being an indie author. Bad editing has caused readers to close a book, never to return, and it’s caused authors to scream in frustration and cry when they realize, after forking out hundreds or even thousands of dollars, their editor didn’t actually know how to use a colon, even though they were apparently one themselves.

If you’re an author who doesn’t think they need an editor or who makes the excuse ‘I don’t have enough money to pay for one,’ you can leave now. If you don’t want to put out a good quality product when you expect people to PAY for your books, you’re unprofessional and obviously don’t care about the reading experience, let alone take writing seriously. Now that all those people are out of the way, I’ll get to why I’m writing this post.

I run Booktastik, a site that promotes books for authors. We don’t rely on reviews but vet all books for editing—we want our readers to have a great experience, and we want writers who work hard to put out a professional product to be rewarded by reaching those readers. Unfortunately, we see quite a few books that don’t meet our editing criteria. We don’t expect books to be perfect, but we expect a certain standard of correct punctuation, grammar, and, of course, minimal typos.

As an indie author, I know how hard it is to find a good editor, and to be honest, not all authors even know what constitutes a good editor. I’m hoping to take some of the doubt out of choosing a competent editor, because any idiot with a computer and internet access can call themselves an editor, and too many authors have spent thousands only to learn later that it was money wasted :(.

This post isn’t comprehensive, as I couldn’t point out everything to look for—it would take too much explanation—but I will tell you basic things to look for in a sample edit and what YOU can do to mitigate your own ignorance.

  1. Find a successful author you like the work of, an author you know is professional, and ask them who their editor is. References are a must.
  2. Google the name of the editor you’re looking at and put ‘scam’ next to it—it’s amazing what can come up. There is also a good site called Writer Beware. Run by the SWFA, it’s also available to writers in any genre. Check them out when you’re researching author services—from publishers to editors and literary agents. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/
  3. Educate yourself. Please, for the love of literature, study the basics of grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. The writing journey takes time, and there’s always something to learn, but don’t send your book anywhere, let alone publish it, if you have absolutely no idea what constitutes a standalone sentence and where basic commas go. This is where we get caught out. How can a writer tell a good editing sample from a bad one when they have no idea what they’re looking at? It’s like someone who has no idea about cars looking at two engines side-by-side, listening to all the technical specifications and being able to tell which one is faster or more reliable. An impossible task. And this is why authors end up paying thousands of dollars to ignorant assholes who think they know how to edit.

BASICS TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR SAMPLE EDIT

So, you’ve hopefully gotten recommendations from good sources. The editor should offer you a free sample and a quote. Samples can range from 250 – 1000 words as a general rule. There are two different types of editing: creative and line.

First comes the creative editing, which deals with plot, pacing, characterization, inconsistencies, scene setting, use of language, plus a few other things. Line editing is the final edit that makes sure your periods, commas, semicolons, and apostrophes are in the right place. Some editors do provide both content and line editing in the same manuscript. After the editing is the proofreading to catch any obvious typos, which is NOT editing.

The following is a very basic guide of what the line editor should know and is in relation to grammar and punctuation only (I could write a whole book on content editing, so realistically I won’t go there with this blog post). If the sample provided by the prospective editor is not picking up at least these things, ditch the editor and find another one. Also, ALL changes should be marked up (I’m assuming they use Word) and explained in the margins. No editor should be rewriting your work, either. So, things an editor should know or they’re not worth your hard-earned dollar:

  1. Two standalone sentences next to each other are never broken up by a comma or colon. Complete sentences must be separated by a period or semicolon. I love my cat. My cat loves birds. NOT: I love my cat, my cat loves birds.
  2. Have you used the same verbs, adjectives, nouns, or phrases unnecessarily more than once in the same sentence or paragraph? I grabbed the knife off the table, and then I grabbed the door handle and pulled. He pulled my hair, making me want to scream, so I kicked his shin, making him scream.
  3. When a dependent clause is followed by an independent one, you should have a comma, because in many cases, the meaning won’t be clear without it. A dependent clause is an incomplete sentence by itself and is something like: If I walk down that path…. Before she went to the shop…. With both these examples, a standalone sentence needs to follow to finish the sentence and give meaning to the dependent clause. There always needs to be a comma between the dependent clause and the independent clause. If I walk down that path, the giant spider will eat me. Before she went to the shop, it started raining.
  4. This next comma is necessary because the rules say so, but it doesn’t necessarily aid in meaning. Two standalone sentences joined by a conjunction (and, but, or, so yet, or any other conjunction) need a comma before the conjunction. I ran down the hill, and the dog followed me. An exception to this rule is if the sentence is very short.
  5. There should NEVER be a comma in the middle of a phrase/clause. If the comma splits an independent clause, the comma needs to get the hell out of the way. I felt like, eating chocolate. I regretted eating, the chocolate. Okay, so I didn’t really regret it.
  6. Dialogue attributions. Style guides (and I use CMOS—Chicago Manual of Style) recommend using plain old ‘said’ as an attribution to indicate who is talking. This is because we can skim over it, and it’s almost like it isn’t there. Don’t get all creative and put ‘exclaimed’, ‘commented’, ‘advised’, etc. Even though it’s okay to use ‘said’, don’t use it after every person talks, especially if there are only two people in the conversation.

Mary said, “Are you going to finish those chips?”

“Yes,” I said.

“But I wanted some,” she said.

“Bad luck,” I said.

“You are such a bitch!” she exclaimed.

“Don’t swear or I’ll tell mom,” I warned.

“You wouldn’t dare,” she answered.

You get the picture. It’s irritating and slows the pace. Once you’ve established who is who in the conversation, you only need to remind the reader sparingly. An even better way to indicate someone is talking is to use an action tag.

          Mary stared at my plate. “Are you going to finish those chips?”

          I moved the plate out of her reach. “Yes.”

  1. Exclamation marks. Use them sparingly or they lose their effectiveness. If you have lots of exclamation marks in your work and the editor hasn’t deleted them, they’re no good at what they do.
  2. From the Chicago Manual of Style: In regular prose, a semicolon is most commonly used between two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction to signal a closer connection between them than a period would. If your editor has put a semicolon in between a dependent and independent clause or in the middle of an independent clause, run. There are other rules for semicolons, but they refer to lists and adverbs joining two independent clauses, and that’s where it gets complicated. The instance I’ve described is the most likely one your editor will have to deal with.
  3. Unnecessary words. Before you even send your manuscript to the editor, do a search for the word ‘that’. Most of the time, it doesn’t need to be there. Read the sentence with and without it, and if it makes sense without it, delete. Other words that are often unnecessary include suddenly, began to, and started to. I’m sure there’s more, but the point is, a good editor should point these things out.
  4. In most style guides and dictionaries, alright is not acceptable. Some editors may say it’s okay in speech, and some dictionaries say ‘alright’ is fine in informal work, but still to use all right, as this is the universally acknowledged, formal way of writing it.
  5. Okay is ‘okay’ or ‘OK’. Choose the one you want, and stick with it. Consistency is key.
  6. Direct address. In dialogue, when one character addresses another by their name or by something that replaces that name (grandma, dad), commas set off the name. “Hi, Sarah.” “Don’t do that, Thomas.” “Hey, Brian, why won’t you come?”

I’ve just pointed out the most basic things your line editor should pick up (I’ve left out hyphens, compound adjectives, contractions, colons, evocative language, unnecessary wordiness, and the list goes on). As you can see, there’s a lot to know, and that’s why I think authors need to be their own best friend and learn some of this stuff. You’re only increasing your potential to be ripped off if you remain ignorant when it comes to basic grammar and punctuation rules.

So, to recap, editors should mark everything up on your document and explain why they have made the changes/suggestions they have. Being edited by a good editor is a learning experience and should improve your writing, so your next first draft will be cleaner than the one before. Learn the basics or you may get caught out—you don’t know what you don’t know ;). Google the editor to make sure there are no complaints. Get recommendations from people you respect. Editors should give you something in writing prior to editing, whether it’s in the body of an email or in the form of a contract, setting out what they’ve agreed to do for you and how much it will cost. Most editors ask for a portion (up to half) of the fee upfront. If they ask for 100% upfront, I would use extreme caution.

I’m an editor (although I’m not taking any work until next year as I need to finish my WIP) but even I need an editor. I don’t know everything, and I’m always learning, plus you can’t see the mistakes in your own work. If you’re looking for a competent, professional line editor, I have used and can recommend Hot Tree Editing, and specifically for Science Fiction and Fantasy, Marissa Vu Editing for both content and line. Another good content editor is Nerine Dorman.

I hope I’ve spared some of you the awful experience of paying for crap editing. Unfortunately, there is no standard degree or certificate one needs to get, or an organization one needs to join before they can call themselves an editor. Just make sure you let everyone know when you’ve had a bad experience—good recommendations help, but so do warnings on who to avoid. If we all help each other, maybe we can make it super hard for the bad ones to get work. I know that sounds mean, but it’s common sense, and doing a half-assed job and charging thousands of dollars is way meaner.

I’m assuming some authors will want to put their own recommendations in the comments, but I can’t endorse any of those, as I haven’t seen their work.

Happy writing and editing!

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Come See Me at RWDU16

RWDU

In just under two weeks is an event I’ve been looking forward to — Readers & Writers Down Under 2016, in one of the nicest spots in Oz. On Saturday 5th of March, I’ll be selling and signing books at the QT Hotel Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. And I won’t be the only author there. Sixty-nine authors will be in attendance – hmm, kind of a magic number ;). If you love reading romance, erotic fiction, paranormal, chick lit and fantasy, there’s sure to be something you’ll love.

Come have some fun with us. There’s the book signing on Saturday and the masquerade ball on Saturday night. Can’t wait to get dressed up and don a mask.

To make sure you don’t miss out on partying with 69 lovely ladies, go grab your tickets now!

Hope to see you there!

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Review Cheats—Shameful Author Behaviour

Hey, peeps. I haven’t done a ranty post in a while, but ranty Dionne is back! I find getting this stuff out of my system by writing it down helps, and why not educate readers and other authors while I’m at it. Today’s post is all about the wonderful world of authors scamming the Amazon system to trick unwary readers into buying their books.

I must state right out that I may be 43, but I’m naive, to a degree. Whatever I do, I do it honestly, with passion, and to the best of my ability, so it really comes as a shock to me when I discover people scamming the system. Writing has been my biggest passion of all (aside from my family). Ever since I was maybe nine or ten, I knew I wanted to be an author, and I’ve spent a good part of my 30s up until now trying to improve. There are many writers out there who have that passion to write and know that once the fire is ignited, not even a flood will extinguish it. I can admit that what I discovered hurts all the more because of this, and, hell, I know the people I’m about to talk about haven’t given a second thought to me, or any of the other authors out there who truly care about writing. I should not take this personally, but I do, and I feel ripped off on behalf of my author friends who I know put their heart, soul, time and money into each book they publish. The honest, talented, hardworking authors are missing out on sales because some other authors are getting visibility and sales based on dishonest practices.

It all started a few weeks ago when a certain book—which I won’t name because I’m not here to ‘out’ people, but open people’s eyes so they can be aware when they’re choosing a book to read—appeared on my book’s page as a number one bestseller (those orange tags are hard to miss). Being curious, and always on the lookout for fantasy books to read, I clicked on the book. It was sitting just under #200 overall on Amazon and had quite a few 5 star reviews. Naturally, I read a sample. I. Almost. Died. The prose was basic, and punctuation was non-existent; the poor comma was totally neglected and didn’t appear until paragraph eight. Sentence fragments made an appearance, but not the type that add tension or emphasise something, but ones that didn’t make sense. I couldn’t read on; my editor-type brain was bashing itself against the inside of my skull. Crying seemed like a good option. How could so many people LOVE this book—70+ reviews, 28 five star, 21 four star for a book that was released three weeks ago—when my book was languishing at #200,000 and has received 58 reviews since April 2012. Maybe I didn’t have what it took to write an engaging book; maybe readers really don’t give two craps about good writing, punctuation and error-free books. (I must say that I get not everyone will love your book, but when it comes too easy for some when it’s clear they shouldn’t have hit publish, it can get to a writer who has spent $1000 on their cover and hundreds on editing, until they realise it’s all bullshit).

Reading the legitimate reviews—the one star reviews—I could see their gripe was the same as mine, plus the brave, stubborn readers who had pushed on, despite the horror, pointed out that many words were incorrect, names for the same character had changed throughout the book, basically anything you could do wrong, this book did. It left me scratching my head, so I thought I’d do some research. Where did it lead?

To the conclusion that the five-star reviews were mostly either friends or paid reviews. I went to Fiverr to see what I could see after having heard it’s a place to go when you want to score (a good review). Oh, my, I felt like my rose-coloured glasses hadn’t just been removed, but they’d been ripped off, stomped on, then the broken glass stabbed into my eyeball. It’s like a red-light district on a Saturday night (ahem, not that I would know what one looked like except for what I’ve seen on TV). Dealers are everywhere, money is changing hands out in the open, and the dodgy people thanking the dealers for reviews are just as brazen. Here are some quotes from the dealers on what they can score for you:

Have your book on Amazon or Kindle? I’ll read it and write a detailed, thoughtful, and positive five star review quickly! I’ve written dozens of product and book reviews and would love to make yours stand out from the crowd. —kbroder9

I will write review on Amazon US, UK, FR, etc.. I can write it on my own or you can provide me and i will post it from my account(s). From different location and device. The more reviews, the greater the chance it will be found and used by potential users. Contact me for Bulk Order ! —reviewergal

I will write a 100-word verified review, highlighting the best aspects of your book. I have extensive professional experience in writing, editing, and beta reading. Your review will be thoughtful and well written. Please see my gig extras if you need me to do any of the following: -buy an ebook up to 3.99 for a verified review -repost your review to another site -add 100 words to your review -deliver in 48 hours (I no longer offer a 24 hour option–reviewing too fast increases the chances that Amazon will remove the review) —beccalovesbooks. (Some reviewers ignore this small issue yet Amazon hasn’t removed their reviews).

Anyway, you get the picture. After chasing up some of the authors on Amazon and going from one link to the next, from ebooks, to reviews, to reviewers, and back to other books they’ve reviewed, I’ve learnt how to spot some of the dodgy reviews. Because Amazon clearly either doesn’t care, or maybe their toilet is clogged and the disposal of such a huge amount of shit is beyond them, I wanted to give you your own BS detector. When you’re trying to find a book to read, please read the sample to make sure it’s at least been edited, then check the validity of the review by clicking on the reviewer. *Please keep in mind that one or two reviews with the following characteristics may not mean the review is fake (some of the reviews on my book are one or two sentences of just “I enjoyed this”), but if you come across review after review for the one book that meet most of these criteria, you can probably assume the author has garnered fake reviews.

This is what I noticed:

1. The reviewer only posts 5 star reviews

2. The reviewer posts more than one review on any given day

3. Reviewers who have been doing it for a few weeks have a shitload of reviews within a short space of time. Note this reviewer who does multiple reviews in one day, day after day. They must be the fastest reader ever.

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4. Look for generic reviews that don’t really say anything about the book, except for gush about how bloody awesome it was and how they can’t wait for the next one (yes, some reviews like this are legitimate, but if there are several within a short amount of time, you can bet your cutest, warmest pussy cat on them that they are fake). Here are a couple of doozies I had to share because hey, you gotta laugh, right? (I was led to this book from one of the fake reviewers when I clicked on their reviews to see what other books they’d been so kind as to comment on for money).

Wow, this alarming book has utterly riddled my mind. I’m stunned at the brilliance of the author has she waves this intriguing tale. It twists and turns with action-packed events. The distinctive characters were well fashioned owing to the vivid descriptions. I refused to put this book down. Indeed it moved so fast I could barely keep up. Here goes a book with a riveting tale that will leave you completely astounded as each character’s role is unleashed in a very surprising way. You have got to check this out!—Nita

How’s that for gushing without actually saying anything?

And this from a reviewer who posted three reviews on the same day, all five stars: XXX (book title left out for obvious reasons) is really a book that you should only read if you are prepared to have a few very late night sleeps. Because yes you are right, it is one of THOSE books that keeps you to the edge of your seat from first to last. And No, you will NOT want to put it down until sleep finally overcomes your eyes. I am sure you are looking forward to the next book in the series if you have read this one. You are lucky to find such an author among all the crowd. Its not every author who can take your sleep away (wink)—Yong C. Hudson.

5. If there is only one 5 star review from the reviewer, they may be legitimate, or they are could be a friend, family member, or the author with a fake account. Again, use discretion. I think it’s prudent to look at the complete picture before you judge on this particular type of review, but if things about the other reviews look suss, this review probably is too.

6. When you’re looking at the reviews for a single book that has only come out in the last few weeks, unless it’s a freak success story (which does happen) or you can see the author has a high profile on social media and has prepared well for their launch with legitimate reviewer copies, multiple 4 and 5 star reviews on the same day, day after day, are suspect. Even bestselling books take a while to gather reviews.

I hope I’ve helped people see when authors are gaming the system. Readers, when you’re looking for a book to read, please check out the sample, and try and buy a book from an author who is doing the right thing, and if you like their book, leave an honest review. Discovering this scummy behaviour has made me sceptical of every good review. It’s not fair that as a reader I can’t trust reviews, and it’s not fair that I, or any other honest writer, should feel they are failing because they are not getting 70 great reviews within two weeks of releasing their book—you’re not failing; I’m not failing. I have to believe that good writing, while it may not sell to millions, will sell better than shit writing, and will lead to a loyal fan base of readers who will buy your books and will truly appreciate your work.

Many of my friends have told me, and I think/hope they’re right, that the crap books will still lose in the end, that readers won’t come back and buy anymore from these authors once they realise the writing, despite the glowing reviews, sucks. And yes, there are some great books out there with fake reviews, which is still dishonest, but at least you won’t be buying a substandard product (although, I don’t condone this underhanded levelling of the playing field).

Anyway, I’ve decided to brush it off and run my own race, sans performing-enhancing reviews. I’ll keep doing what I love—writing—and take comfort that when that one review every few weeks comes in, it’s from a reader who really did love my book. After all, the drug high only lasts so long, and coming down can be a bitch. To all the honest writers, I’m glad and proud to call you my colleagues, and to all the dishonest ones, I wonder how it feels to have to pay people to love your book? I wonder what else you have to pay for…?

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