Thursday, April 30, 2015

Flying with Georgina Penney - A Look At Fly In Fly Out.

So, you know how I've told you in the past that I'm a sucker for a good romance novel. Well, I just have to tell you about one that fell into my hands last week while I was waiting for a flight at Adelaide airport and it had me enthralled for the whole rest of the week. 

There are few books that I can say that I've devoured from the first page. With the Australian penned romance Fly In Fly Out from Georgina Penney, I was suckered into this delightful story from roughly page two and it did not let me go until I closed the last page earlier today, sleep deprived and thoroughly satisfied.

After months working on an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean, engineer Jo Blaine can't wait to get home. Her job is tough, and she is desperate for some long-overdue girl time. When she walks through her front door to find an unexpected man in her house, she's tempted to head straight back out to sea.

Stephen Hardy has always felt guilty for the part he played in ruining Jo's leaving home years earlier and jumps at the chance to make amends. It takes some fast talking, but he finally convinces Jo to let him look after her apartment and her giant cranky cat while she's away on the rig. And by the time she leaves for her next shift, they're both eagerly anticipating her return.

But balancing family and friends with a new relationship when you're never around is tricky, and Jo is also keeping secrets about her past. After a lifetime of taking care of herself, Jo isn't used to sharing her problems – especially when they involve her messy family history. Picking up the pieces every time she comes home is getting harder, and Jo begins to wonder if a fly-in fly-out lifestyle is really worth it . . .

image credit: Georgina Penney.

Billed as a romance, Penney's Fly In Fly Out offered so much more - a story of real depth and emotional weight that came after a sassy, smart and sexy beginning. At times, the twists and turns were quite unexpected and I found myself completely invested. It explores the often rough and tumble world of the Fly In Fly Out oil rig worker as seen through the eyes of Jo Blaine, a head strong and independent engineer who is holding her own deftly in a male dominated industry. It also ventures into complex family relationships and Penney takes some risks in portraying difficult moments which come off really convincingly. The supporting cast are all vividly drawn and very appealing. From Jo's vivacious and perky sister Amy, her photographer best friend and confidant Scott, to the rugged and enigmatic Stephen Hardy, they all became real to me in short order and I really liked being among them. Penney's dialogue is sharp and witty. I could hear it naturally and it flowed effortlessly off the page. Penney's settings too, from the chic river side Perth suburb of Fremantle to the picturesque vineyards of the Margaret River in Western Australia are tactile and all consuming. Once I found myself there, I had a very hard time wanting to leave. 

Fly In Fly Out is a surprise packet. A modern Australian romance that satisfies on a number of levels - from the deliciously sexy to the emotionally heart felt. I was hooked and remain so, long after having my fill. 

Georgina Penney first discovered romance novels when she was eleven and has been a fan of the genre ever since. It took her another eighteen years to finally sit in front of a keyboard and get something down on the page but that's alright, she was busy doing other things until then.

Some of those things included living in a ridiculous number of towns and cities in Australia before relocating overseas to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam and presently, Bonny Scotland.

In between all these travels, Georgina managed to learn to paint, get herself a Communication and Cultural Studies degree, study Psychotherapy and learn all about Hypnotherapy. In the early days she even managed to get on the IT roller coaster during the early noughties boom, inexplicably ending the ride by becoming the registrar of a massage and naturopathy college. There was also a PhD in the mix there somewhere but moving to Saudi Arabia and rediscovering the bodice ripper fixed all that.

Today she lives with her wonderful husband, Tony in the Scottish wilds surrounded by hairy coos (yes - coos, because that's how they roll in Scotland) and far too many procreating rabbits.

Georgina is also one half of the Bookish Tarts Podsnuggle - the other half being Australian based author Rhyll Biest - which can be heard roughly fortnightly on Soundcloud

Visit Georgina Penney here

Tweet with Georgina here

Buy Fly In Fly Out here


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Have We, As Authors, Reached Peak Twitter?

Have we, as authors, reached the point of Peak Twitter?

Last week, I had something akin to an epiphany with respect to Twitter as a marketing or promotional tool.

In a blisteringly honest blog post entitled "Please Shut Up - Why self promotion as an author doesn't work.", author Delilah S. Dawson surgically dissected and examined everything that is currently wrong about author self promotion and why, basically, it is a futile endeavour.

image credit: Delilah S. Dawson.

To be clear, Dawson didn't actually conclude that self promotion in its entirety doesn't work. But she did illuminate a lot of the things that authors do that simply aren't effective as a selling tool. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram and others in between, Dawson examined each of these platforms and explained why each of them, as a means to promote, market and sell, are an abject failure. 

Twitter is essentially an echo chamber in which the millions of shouts of "BUY MY BOOK" of are bouncing of the walls and hitting nothing. With Facebook, it is the gross manipulation of that platform by Zuckerberg's minions that compromises its worth. it basically forces you to hand over cash in the hope that, by boosting or promoting your "BUY MY BOOK" shouts, you *might* reach a larger audience...of bots. With Instagram - nobody is on Instagram because they want to "BUY YOUR BOOK". 

The post got a lot of attention - viral attention - and it was an equal spread of loving and loathing. Dawson's conclusion was that there are no sure fire answers to selling books in this over saturated market place. But, her take away message was - for me - a positive one. 

An author can self promote, but the goal of any promotion should not be to push themselves onto a prospective audience. Any promotional effort must be one that pulls an audience towards them. 

Dawson then discussed the ways in which an author can do that effectively but, with caveat that any promotional effort takes commitment and hard work and a whole lot of luck.

"Literature is not a #teamfollowback sport."  

This was the best line of the article. 

It got me thinking about my own approach to self promotion as an author and how I have conducted myself over the years. 

I freely admit that of all the mistakes that can possibly be made with respect to social media promotion, I have made them. I've done whole #teamfollowback thing, participated in hash-tag parties, exchanged likes for likes and up-clicked reviews on Amazon for authors who've asked me to do so. 

It doesn't work. None of it works. 

I've had a Twitter account in a couple of incarnations since 2010. In that time I have done things that I thought one should to foster visibility. Follow as many authors as possible, re-tweet the shit out of them, do the hash-tag thing, promote, promote, promote, BUY MY BOOK. 

Conversely, what I was seeing from my efforts on Twitter, was a whole bunch of follows from other authors, a ridiculous amount of automated messages and/or @ replies pointing me towards Facebook pages and Amazon author pages and BUY MY BOOK requests. At first, I stupidly saw it as kind of exhilarating - to be seemingly receiving so much attention from so many people.  I didn't get the concept of "automated" tweets. 

And then I got it...And I didn't like it. It doesn't work. None of it works. And it didn't make me happy. In fact, it just made me depressed.

Recently, I read an article about the concept of Dunbar's Number. Proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar in the 1990's, Dunbar's Number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. That limit or suggested number is 150. 

At the end of last week the number of people I was following on Twitter was up around the 800 mark.  

So I began to look a little deeper into the kinds of people I was following on Twitter, particularly my home feed. I didn't like what I saw. An endless stream of BUY MY BOOK or BUY HIS/HER BOOK. I'll admit, I stopped going to my home feed a long time ago because of this very trend but focusing solely on this feed for the purposes of observation was kind of a shock. And then I clicked into a few of the profiles.  

How can anyone reasonably expect to have any kind of positive or influential interaction with these kinds of metrics? 

You can't. There is absolutely no possibly of cutting through with the sheer enormity of these numbers. Though I suspect, that is not the aim of the game for these particular people. They've bought into the #teamfollowback mantra as enthusiastically as worshippers at a Benny Hinn sermon.  

Well, they can have it. But they won't have me.  

With Dunbar's Number in mind (though not necessarily the end game), I've mercilessly culled the number of people I'm following on Twitter. As a platform, I've decided that it is no longer about promoting or marketing or indeed hard selling. 

It just doesn't work. 

I am after something more meaningful, more organic - real interaction. At a time when many are questioning the value of Facebook as an effective means of communication for communication's sake, I wanted to test the question of whether Twitter can be anything more than an echo chamber of snot. 

The results, so far, have been encouraging. I actually scroll through my home feed now. I see content that is much more engaging and entertaining and thought provoking - such as the Delilah S. Dawson article. I have interacted with people purely for the pleasure of conversing without any agenda or motivation. And it is a place that I want to be - infinitely more-so than before. My actions are in no way an indication of my reluctance to follow new people in future. It just means that I want more out of this social networking tool than I did before. I will be more discerning. 

For promotion, marketing or selling ourselves as authors, we have indeed reached Peak Twitter. 

It is not the answer.


Hit - the electrifying new novel from Delilah S. Dawson - Out Now.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Recipient - Update No. 4: Cover Art Reveal - The Recipient by Dean Mayes.

(Originally posted at Central Avenue Publishing's official blog.)

Central Avenue Publishing and Dean Mayes are proud to reveal the cover art for Dean's highly anticipated new novel "The Recipient" which is scheduled for world wide release in October 2015.

A tense and pulse pounding thriller, in the tradition of Jeffrey Deaver and James Patterson, The Recipient promises to be a significant achievement for Dean Mayes (The Hambledown Dream, Gifts of the Peramangk). 

"Fans of Dean's work will not be disappointed. His flowing prose and ability to create engaging characters come through again – but this time they’re coupled with a scary, gripping story" - Michelle Halket, Creative Director, Central Avenue Publishing. 

The story follows Casey Schillinge, a young heart transplant recipient who undergoes not only a life-saving operation but upon recovery, a life changing transformation. 

Three years later, Casey has become a withdrawn shell of her former self: she is estranged from her loved ones, afraid of open spaces and rides the line between legitimate and criminal work as a computer software specialist. The worst of her troubles come in the form of violent night terrors; so frightening that she resorts to extreme measures to keep herself from sleeping. 

When she can take no more, she embarks on a desperate search for the source of her dreams. In so doing, she makes a shocking discovery surrounding the tragic fate of the donor whose heart now beats inside her chest. As she delves deeper into the mystery of her donor, she realizes her dreams are not a figment of her imagination, but a real life nightmare.

An exclusive excerpt from the novel is live now at Central Avenue Publishing's official site

The Recipient is scheduled for an October 25th, 2015 global release in print and digital formats.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Recipient - Update No. 3: Contract Day.

No matter how many times I've done it, putting the ink on a publishing contract remains a special moment for me.

It's a recognition of the work you have done so far, a nod that says "everything you have done is worth it." 

I wrote recently that we writers work in isolation. It's easy to lose perspective on what you are trying to achieve. You don't see things objectively. You often doubt yourself and the project. You fret that your effort is not enough.

Penning your signature on a document like this, gives so much reinforcement. It spurs you on.

While the hardest part of willing a story to life has been achieved, there is still more to do...

But you do it with a fresh sense of confidence.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Chase-ing Assassins - The Accidental Assassin by Nichole Chase.

The Accidental Assassin (The Assassins, #1)The Accidental Assassin by Nichole Chase

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ava McKenzie is a creature of habit. Life is passing her by and she has nothing to show for it. She’s had the same job since she started college, she orders the same dish every time she goes to her favorite restaurant, and only reads books from authors she knows. There is nothing new or surprising in her life… until her best friend marries a man from London. When her newlywed friend asks her to house-sit while she honeymoons, Ava jumps at the chance. She thinks this could be the very thing she needs to shake up her life. Ava throws herself head first into her new lifestyle; she wants to try everything, go everywhere, and never get stuck in a rut again. Of course, offing a man in a car garage hadn’t been one of the things on her list to try.

Owen Walker spends every day in a new place with a new case. As one of the most renowned assassins in the world, he has his choice of marks—and he’s never failed in a mission. When a new hit takes him back to his hometown, he looks forward to spending time somewhere familiar. What he isn’t expecting is to help an attractive, confused American woman find out how she’s ended up on a hit man’s list. 

As Ava and Owen dodge bullets, will they be able to escape their undeniable attraction to each other? Or will all of that chemistry blow up in a shower of hot and dangerous sparks?

To me, Nichole Chase has become the literary equivalent of a sure thing. As a story teller, she has consistently delivered with each title she has added to her CV. You are guaranteed an engaging and entertaining tome and you can expect that Nichole will give you something new. She does not tread the safe path nor stick to the same formula. She is a risk taker, extending herself in both genre and style and it has been meteorically successful. Having earned the rare distinction of being a New York Times best seller is testament to that.

The Accidental Assassin is testament to that also and I think it is Chase's most accomplished work to date. Part action, part thriller, Assassin takes the fish out of water scenario and offers it up anew in a frenetic chase story that evolves masterfully through the dual protagonists, Owen and Ava. Chase's grasp of action and tension is confident from the get go. The mystery and conspiracy elements unfold beautifully and keep you guessing throughout and there is a sexual energy between the two leads that burns seductively towards a satisfyingly electric, erotic encounter later in the book.

When we first meet Owen and Ava, a mutual attraction is evident but as their arcs evolve, we find a pair of characters who feel trapped in their respective existences - playing it safe by sticking to what they know. This is used as a primer that draws them towards each other and though it is a subtle thread, I found it really appealing.

One of the most effective devices Chase uses throughout the story is the first person narrative which she shares equally between Owen and Ava. By switching between the two chapter by chapter, Chase builds the narrative and drives the plot forward in a way that I found engaging. I felt invested in both of them. One could argue that this type of switching has the potential to be confusing but Chase handles it beautifully.

The Accidental Assassin ticks all the boxes for me. It's a smart and sexy thrill ride that is signature Nichole Chase and it was a pleasure to delve into.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Star Wars: Heir To The Jedi - The View From My Room.

Heir to the JediHeir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

The Galactic Civil War rages on after the destruction of the Death Star and Luke Skywalker struggles to learn more about the Force without the aid of Obi-Wan Kenobi – or indeed without any aid at all. 

But the few memories he has of Obi-Wan’s instruction point the way to a stronger control of the Force, and he is encouraged to pursue it by a new friend in the Alliance. 

When Luke, R2-D2 and his new ally are tasked with liberating a valuable asset from the Empire and delivering her to a safe planet where she can aid the Alliance, their journey across the galaxy is fraught with peril – and opportunities for Luke to discover the mysteries of the Force.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With the transition of the Star Wars franchise from Lucasfilm to Disney and the announcement of what it, essentially, a reboot of the entire expanded universe, I was cautiously excited. My view of the Star Wars Expanded Universe was that it had grown to unwieldy over the years and many of the stories in it were patchy at best. The new Star Wars Story Group promised a much more disciplined approach to story telling and I was hopeful that the story output would improve accordingly.

Having recently signed on to Amazons Audible, in the hope of taking my first steps into the world of audio books, Heir to the Jedi was my first audio book title. It stood out to me as a formidable title that offered the reader a first person narrative from none other than Luke Skywalker himself - a first for a major Star Wars character in Star Wars literature.

Sadly, I didn't enjoy the story at all. 

I felt that it failed to capture the cinematic spirit of Star Wars - as with the case with so many of the previous EU novels. I understand Kevin Hearne is an accomplished sci-fi author and he has a proven track record in the genre, but his story feels out of its depth for the Star Wars universe. Throughout my 'read', I found that there was a lot of annoying exposition which added little to the plot and distracted me and I felt that the character interaction that felt awkward and unintentionally comical. Luke Skywalker, in particular, was poorly handled in such a way that I felt that he seemed even less mature than he was in "A New Hope". The character Nakari had potential, but I think Hearne struggled with her identity and he certainly struggled with crafting a convincing dynamic between her and Luke.

The audio book experience is a new one for me so I came to it a little green. However, I found the listening experience to be jarring. 

I think the greatest problem with this unabridged version was the voice talent. Again, I note that Marc Thompson has read a number of Star Wars titles so, apparently he has a track record with the franchise. Thompson's narration of the story was okay but his character voices were terrible to the point of embarrassing.

Would it have been so hard to cast a female voice talent into the female characters? This would have been far more convincing and would have allowed Thompson to hone his male character voices far more effectively.

Listening to his take on the female protagonist Nakari was like listening to a transvestite. His interpretation of Luke Skywalker was marginally better but I found it wanting.

Having looked forward to this title for a long time, Star Wars: Heir To the Jedi turned out to be a big disappointment.


View all my reviews

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Recipient - Update No. 2: Revision 6.

After a while, it becomes apparent how treacherous revising and editing can be for an author. Looking at the same words on the same page in the same document over and over again can lead one towards losing perspective. The words blur into one another - as does the plot, the characters and their motivations - and you can't look at the document objectively anymore. And yet, as I've said before, this is the one part of the writing process that I profess to enjoying the most.

Draft 5 of The Recipient - the draft that went into my publisher - was returned to me a little over a fortnight ago, and I was excited (I know, right!) to see digital "sticky notes" plastered all over it from my Vancouver based publisher, Central Avenue. In short, while there was a lot of work to do on the manuscript structurally, the core story was sound and the characters were well cast. 

Over a couple of video conferences, Michelle and I discussed the notes, numerous minor tweaks to the manuscript and a couple of more significant ones and in the course of those discussions, she really helped to defragment my objective software and reboot my system. The subsequent round of revisions - which I've dubbed Revision 6 - allowed me to approach the manuscript with fresh eyes.

So often, we write in isolation, without anyone to bounce ideas off. The first stage of my edits involving my beta readers was a great first step in getting a feel from a set of readers who came to the story cold. Their individual suggestions and comments helped me to refine the story, address glaring plot holes and gauge their reaction. But it was only the first step in the journey. Before long, I found myself back in the place where I was struggling with my objectivity. The process I am in now with my publisher Michelle has been my savior. With Michelle's astute eye for both the technical and literary aspects of story telling, I am in a space that is much more focused and I am relishing it. 

Late last week, Revision 6 went in for review by Michelle and the editing team. I feel confident that the story is pretty much perfect. Now, the polishing process begins. We'll go line by line, ensuring that we've eliminated any and all grammatical errors and we'll review the document after that to make sure that there isn't anything else to add or subtract. 

We've also begun to discuss the cover art for the novel. While these discussions are at their very early stages, we've already hit upon some ideas that really excite us. The eventual design will help guide the marketing effort we plan for the book.

So there is a lot happening, even if it doesn't seem like a lot is happening.

Stay tuned.