Archive for April, 2014

I love my blog. Not because it’s part of my author platform [though it helps], and not because it’s my work, but because it gives me a chance to write – say what’s on my mind and just put it out there. Whoever’s interested will read, those who aren’t, won’t.butterfly

That’s at once the selfishness of writing, and the brilliance of it. Life’s about communing, with like-minded people and also finding out that some people are like abrasive sandpaper – there isn’t any way you’ll get on. And that’s OK. We’re all in different places and spaces and humanity is as diverse as a planet and as similar as that grain of sand.

What I wanted to say today has to do with reality and why when it’s tempting to see what we want to see, that’s precisely the time to pull up and reflect. I think as humans we have a tendency to insulate ourselves from facing reality. No wonder, it can be sobering, painful, self-reflective and illusion shattering. However the consequences of pretending are at best naive and, at worst, damaging to others.

I had an experience this week where it became painfully obvious that there was far more than one side of the story. In fact, there were several. Those with the power in the situation had chosen to see one side and from that blindside, unfairness dominated. Events unfolded within rapid succession this week because I chose to see the situation from multiple sides and forced that viewpoint. I pushed others to see the way truth has always dimension and, consequently, the unfairness that had resulted from a ‘red-necked view’ had been committed as certainly as any crime or wrongdoing is inflicted on others.

Umm. I can hear you thinking what’s this got to do with books and writing? Writers bring to the table their understanding of life, their experiences, insights and observations. You’ll often hear a writer say that their creativity is both a blessing and a curse. It sometimes is because seeing and feeling intensely can be painful.

Ah, but the flipside to pain is joy. So perhaps those butterflies and flowers are there for a reason. Transformation is no simple thing.

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Shadowscape – The Stevie Vegas Chronicles is the first book in my paranormal/adventure trilogy series for young adult readers. It follows the adventures of 12 year old Stevie Vegas who’s just your average school kid living in suburban Valley Dale, with a passion for skateboarding.

He thinks his life is pretty normal…that’s until he discovers he’s an Illuminator with extra-ordinary mind powers. Then the Shadowcasters arrive and he’s forced into a battle as ancient as time itself, one that pits Illuminator against Shadowcaster: lightbringers against demons.

Weston1 (4) small Sounds exciting. I think so ’cause I sure had fun writing Shadowscape.I wrote it in 2011-2012 for my son who was 12 years old at the time, and a passionate skateboarder. The main character of Stevie is modelled on him. Every night he would read what I’d written and say: “mum you can’t say that” or “yeah, that’s ok” or “yeah, pretty good”. He was my biggest critic and fan, depending on if I got it ‘right’. Thank you Callum.

The most fun I had when I wrote the book was in creating the skateboarding feuds between Stevie and his arch nemesis Jacob Barron. I did my research and under the tutelage of my then 12 year old, I had the characters perform anything from triple kickflips to attempted 900’s. I feel I should say that a triple kickflip is where the rider ollies and kicks his/her foot out and flips the board 360 degrees along its long axis with his/her toes, allows the board to spin all of the way around, and then catches it and lands.

And a 900 requires lots of skill and is very rarely pulled off, but it’s when the skateboard and skateboarder spin in the air with a 2½-revolution. While airborne, the skateboarder makes two-and-a-half turns, facing the other way when coming down than before. It is considered one of skateboarding’s most technically demanding tricks. Let me show you:

 

So with a champion skaterboarder with mind power in Stevie Vegas, I was able to explore the phenomena that had captured my then 12 year old son, and a couple of his friends. Skateboarders are not like football or baseball players. They are the cool players in the sports arena, I believe. Very much individuals, rule breakers even. They have to be to try some of their airborne stunts.

Before I began writing Shadowscape I had campaigned hard for a skatepark in my local town. I wanted to offer the young people something besides the traditional sports. And the skaters needed a place to skate. So, as the then editor of the local paper, I launched a campaign and we got our skatepark. I’m very proud of that particular campaign.

Once I had finished Shadowscape, I began to write the second book in the Shadowscape trilogy, Dawn of the Shadowcasters which is currently in production with Lodestone Books and due out on 30 May 2014. It can be preordered and is available in ebook and print.

Dawn of the Shadowcasters picks up Stevie Vegas’ story a year later and, yes, there are some nice skateboard stunts in Book 2.

There’s also a bit of a love interest for Stevie in Mary Lou who just happens to be a champion motocross rider. I suppose it’s fair to say I have a thing for Xtreme sports. I also have a thing for anything that is out of the box or the norm. Street art, skateboarding, motorcycle riding…it all comes from the same place as skill, creativity and courage. And that’s a good basis for a hero in a book don’t you think?

Shadowscape is available in ebook on Amazon. And Dawn of the Shadowcasters is out via Lodestone Books in May.

Interview With Author Maryann Weston (Belonging Places, Women’s Literature).

Last year I had an itch that needed scratching. I had been thinking a lot about what it takes to belong; that sense of place and a feeling that says ‘this feels right to me’. And, conversely, the feeling that says ‘this is not right for you; a hundred years could go by and it still wouldn’t be right’. A sense of belonging is a feeling felt at the spiritual level that can’t be ignored, I believe.

I also believe that when something is felt on a spiritual level, and that tug is strong and unwavering, the universe conspires to let you know that there is not only something you must confront, but there is also another path for you to fobelonging places tour bannerllow. These watershed moments set you on a journey back to self.

I have a favourite quote that has been with me for years. It belongs to TS Eliot and around 25 years ago I discovered it, not really understanding its significance. Now I know that it means the journey is always towards self-discovery and back to self.

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know that place for the first time.”

And so with something that needed to be said on my chest, I began writing Belonging Places. I broke it into three stories to represent a woman’s life stages: Young Liliana – a girl at odds with the world and moving from the desolate city to a small country town where she finds herself; Estelle the up and coming career woman and mother feeling the tug of war that most working mums confront; and Jill, the elderly lady who loses her life partner and must find her way back to herself and a new life.

These three stories will not be unfamiliar to women, indeed they may have experienced similar circumstances, patterns and, ultimately, decisions. I know I did. But the external journeys these women take are overshadowed by the enormous internal processes they undergo. Through confronting their feelings and finding the courage to change their lives, they find a way through their spiritual crises.

Once I finished writing Belonging Places, I felt much better. The itch had gone and I could look at my characters and, through them, understand my own journeys and decisions over the years. In one way Belonging Places was an intense period of reflection for me that brought with it renewed understanding of what it means to be belong. As a result, I don’t get taken in by smokescreens anymore because in writing this book, like my characters, I have confronted what I deserve, and that is the right to belong and when that is absent, the courage to step forward to find my belonging place.

 

 

Belonging Places is available through Amazon:  http://amzn.to/1qTWEsU, and beginning on 16 April it will be touring selected blogs with Fire and Ice Book Tours. To celebrate the tour I have reduced the Belonging Places ebook to half price for the month of April only. It is also available in print if you prefer to physically ‘read’ a book.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. I had a wonderful surprise recently when Belonging Places appeared in my Amazon reader’s e-newsletter to which I subscribe. Amazon used my book as the first example of a contemporary ebook readers might find interesting: “Are you looking for something in our Contemporary Fiction eBooks department? If so, you might be interested in these items.” And there was my book, as the first example [and also in the email subject line]. I was ecstatic to have this mention and publicity, so thank you Amazon – you get a thumbs up from me for that unexpected and welcome surprise.

If you would like to contact me, head to the Contact Me tab and get in touch, or leave a comment. And don’t forget to follow my book tour at Fire and Ice Book Tours, http://bit.ly/1hL5lAh

Everyone loves a good giveaway, something for free that they would normally have to pay for and that is of value to them. Every day, indie authors world over are giving away their writing for nothing. They do it to get better known, to boost the sales of their next book or simply because they have something to say they want people to read. The free read is a huge marketing tool, but has it worn out its welcome with readers, even if it is for free?evil_imminent_1_copy

Head over to Smashwords or peruse the list of Amazon’s Top 100 Free List and you’ll see no end to the books indie authors are giving away. Amazon’s Kindle Select built its once mighty monopoly on the benefit of Kindle Select to offer 5 days during an enrollment period when you can offer your ebook for free. Stories of tens of thousands of downloads in the early days of indie publishing guaranteed an author got known this way.

Well, we still do it. We still offer content for free and if you read most successful indie authors, they will tell you it is an effective way of getting known and of boosting sales of your next book, particularly if you are writing a series.

As a new indie author I found it initially painful to give my writing away for free, especially when you see the dollars going out in editing, graphic design and formatting services. And as a professional writer in my day job, there’s also time – my time at night away from my family is precious. However, as I discovered ways of doing things far more cost effectively, like learning to format myself or publishing ebooks only, it began to bother me less and less. What I did look forward to were the encouraging stats that told me readers were actually looking at my work.

But is it a valid marketing tool still? I guess for me as an indie author just starting out…I’ll tell you in a few more books time. By that I mean that there are millions of indie authors all swimming in the same sea and struggling with the number one problem: discoverability. If giving away a free book encourages readers to try your product, find they like it, and trust the quality you are producing, then all power to the freebie.

While I’m on the subject, a month or so ago I published the first story of my new horror anthology ‘Evil Imminent’ on this blog as a freebie. It attracted a good readership, and encouraged me to continue with my anthology. If you like horror and are a fan of the short read that won’t take too much of your time; that brings you full circle in a story quickly and leaves you nodding your head in understanding, and you like suspense and a bit of a shock, then Evil Imminent is for you. I’m hoping to launch it at the end of May 2014. Stay tuned. There might also be one more free read from the anthology in the coming weeks!

If you would like to contact me, head to the Contact Me tab on this blog, or leave a comment below. You’re always welcome.

Author Interview:

Memoirs are always an interesting read because the reader knows that as they experience events through the author’s eyes, they are reading about true experiences. In Sarah Jane Butfield’s story Glass Half Full: Our Australian Adventure, the reader is taken along with Sarah Jane as she emigrates with her family to Australia – living first in the Outback, and then in Queensland where they faced the devastating Queensland floods in December 2010-January 2011.

Here’s what Sarah Jane says about Glass Half Full: Our Australian adventure.
ghf kindle draft cover
“Is the glass half empty or half full? Ironically, sometimes life influences our view, and alters our perception. 

Life changing events, up to 1997, almost destroyed me. At my lowest point, and just in time, I met Nigel. He helped me to discover how a positive attitude can change everything. I decided not to squander anymore of my time or energy on undeserving people. 

This new positive approach helps me to perceive my glass as half full, with my aim being to achieve a happy and healthy life for my family. Together, we live life to the full. In 2008 and with good times ahead of us, my glass was half full. As a family, we made the biggest and most difficult decision of our lives; part of our family would immigrate to Australia. 

We lived the Australian dream; embracing the adventure until adversity came to test us. A sequence of life changing events including, a close family bereavement, PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,) following a road rage car accident and the shock of losing the roots to our Australian adventure as a result of the Brisbane floods tested us on many levels. 

Glass Half Full follows our journey into happy, sad and challenging times. Find out, what it takes to survive, when the odds are stacked against you. Do you fight back, and if so at what cost physically and emotionally? Could we maintain our positivity and family values against the odds? 

This is our story.” 

I asked Sarah Jane what led her to share her experiences, what inspires and motivates her, and her future writing projects. Here’s what she had to say:

1. Can you tell me about Glass Half Full?sarah wedding day

Quite simply it’s the true story of how my family and I chose to emigrate to Australia in search of a better life, wanting to live the Australian dream. The book tells of how we reached our decision, achieved our dream life only to have it tested and eventually stolen away from us after a series of life changing events. It’s a story that focuses on the importance of family, love, trust and always believing in yourself, your dreams and aspirations.

2. Why did you title your book Glass Half Full?

Well since 1997, when I met my now husband Nigel, it has been my mantra. This positive concept is the driving force that has ensured that I have survived many personal tragedies to date by strongly believing that my glass is always half full.

3. What led you to wanting to share your life’s story?

Initially my diaries that made up the detailed content of Glass Half Full were started as a form of self-help. I read about how self-coaching, in the form of  keeping a diary of your thoughts and feelings whilst experiencing life and all of its challenges,  can help you build your own tool kit to refer back to for strength and guidance in the future. It was not until I used a section of my journal as inspiration for an assignment in my Diploma in magazine journalism that my mentor said that would make a great book, and from that little acorn, an oak tree has now emerged in the form of Glass Half Full.

4. Your Australian adventure is full of highs and lows. What was the standout high for you, and what was the standout low?

My stand out high was definitely achieving the Australian dream. We endured huge personal battles to achieve the permission to emigrate with my daughter Jaime, from my second marriage, that on many occasions it felt like an impossible dream. However, with perseverance and self-belief in the fact that we were doing the right thing for ourselves and for Jaime we achieved something that many only dream of.

My standout low may be a surprise, because to those who have yet to read the book and have only read the blurb most assume that the loss of the house would be my answer. However, for me the lowest point was losing my independence in the form of my PTSD and driving anxiety. This was, and still is, a huge obstacle that I work on daily, and I still believe I will overcome it.

5. At your lowest point in Australia, how did you stay strong?

The only thing that kept me strong during all of the challenges we endured was my unfailing belief that what we were enduring had to be for the greater good, and that what we experienced and learned would equip us for the future whatever that might hold for us. My family and my faith are all that I need to achieve anything I can conceive.

6. What feedback have you received so far [from readers] for Glass Half Full?

The response to glass half full in the form of reviews and contact form readers by email, etc., has been amazing, surreal and heart-warming all at the same time. The level of engagement from readers who could relate to some of the life events we faced like depression, loss of a parent, PTSD, divorce, etc., has had me in tears many times. They contact me to say how motivated and inspired to follow their own dreams and just live life to the fullest they feel after reading our story. I feel blessed to have touched and inspired people by relating my feelings and methods for coping and surviving against the odds.

7. What inspires you to write?

I have always enjoyed writing but over the last couple of years, my inspiration to write comes from sharing words, and thoughts that may help others. However, I also enjoy my creative writing in the form of romance novels and my inspiration for those comes from my romantic nature and pursuit of an uplifting and touching love story.

8. What is your current writing project?

I am currently editing the second draft of the sequel called ‘Two dogs, our bags and no idea!’ This is the story of what happened next, after losing the roots to our dream life in Australia. We decided to pursue a long held dream to renovate a rural French cottage whilst maintaining family life with children spread over three countries, which resulted in a lot of laughter, tears and frustrations along the way.

9. What are your writing goals for the next 5 years?

In addition to publishing the sequel, I am working on a series of self-help motivational and inspirational guides, and of course my romance novel is in progress, which has a working, title of ‘Letting Go.’

10. What made you decide to become an ‘Indie’ [self-published] author?

Well after making the decision to write the book in the first place, the next question is how to publish it. Completely doubting my own IT and marketing abilities, I initially dismissed the idea of being an ‘Indie’ author. However, after loading my book onto the reader and writer website ‘authonomy’ my confidence was bolstered by my reviews and watching my peers self-publish successfully. This together with their encouragement for me to try it, boosted my self-belief. Therefore, when I got my first and only rejection from a traditional publisher I thought why not give it a go, and the rest is history as they say.

11. What are 3 of your favourite lines/quotes from Glass Half Full?

“I cradled Jaime in my arms, rocking her as if she were a baby, until they came with a morphine injection.  I could not let anyone else near her. When the injection started to take some effect, alone I gently lifted her onto the bed, where I lay beside her, holding her tightly. I never wanted to let her go again.”

“The women wore too much makeup, for the Queensland sun, heat and humidity. Whereas the men, in their cowboy hats and boots wearing the obligatory wife beater vests sporting  food and beer stains, appeared unattractive even on  well-toned bodies.”

“However much I tried, my positive spin was in short supply to aid our current situation. We were fortunate; we were alive and well, but life is only worth living when your basic needs are met. Being able to go to our children when they needed us was a basic need, and not a luxury, and this need was not able to be met.”

12. Do you have any advice for writers considering self-publishing?

Firstly, join Indie writer/publisher groups and forums as there is a substantial amount of  information, knowledge and networking available that can save you a great deal of time, money and frustration.

Secondly, believe in yourself and your book, and use any constructive criticism to enhance your work as self-publisher.

Thirdly, keep writing and keep marketing, even on the days when the words do not want to flow or your books appear not to be selling. Keep the faith, because there are things that happen in the background in the quiet times that will pay dividends when the time is right and not when you want or expect it.

Thanks Maryann for featuring me on your blog, it has been wonderful. If any of your readers/follows would like to contact me, or find out more about my story, they are most welcome to message me on social media or any of the links below.

Sarah Jane

Glass Half Full links:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GP1T7GQ/

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-half-full-sarah-jane-butfield/1117494301?ean=9781493773534

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/glass-half-full/id763955449?mt=11

GooglePlay: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Sarah_Jane_Butfield_Glass_Half_Full?id=8uR5AgAAQBAJ

Author links:

Twitter: @SarahJanewrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Glass-Half-Full-by-Sarah-Jane-Butfield/371084202906738?ref=hl

Blog: http://sarahjanebutfield-glass-half-full.blogspot.co.uk/

Website: http://sarahjanebutfield.wix.com/sarahjanebutfield