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Writing Process? part seven – Self-publishing

Okay, so you have your manuscript. You’ve done all the things I recommended in my prep entry.

Make a new word document and copy paste the beautifully edited version of your book into it. Then copy paste your copyright page in the front, and your end matter into the back.

Formatting: you can format for free via Draft2Digital (and some people do it through Word, somehow), but the best and prettiest formatting is done through software called Vellum. It’s Mac only, and it’s expensive. If you have a kind friend who already has it, bribe them to do it for you.

Take a look around online for books similar to yours, and see what other people are pricing theirs at. You want your book to be a competitive price. Sometimes people price their books very high to start off with and it’s a bad call. Try and slot in with what others in your genre are charging.

Now, go upload your book on your chosen publishing platform. I’ve used Draft2Digital and Amazon, and I’ve found both of them very straightforward to use. Just make sure you have your ISBN, cover art and manuscript all ready to go.

They’ll take some time to process your book but just follow the steps and it’s done! It’s super easy.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel a little like you’re getting away with something you shouldn’t be allowed to do – but it’s fine!

You’re allowed to publish!

Go for it!

Once your book is out and live on Amazon (or wherever), comes the marketing part of things. I’m no expert, but I’ll post another blog about what I’ve learned about marketing soon. For now, once you’ve uploaded a book, you should set up your Author Central page, it allows people to click on your name and see all your books together. It also prevents other things coming up which aren’t yours.

For example if you don’t have a terribly unique pen name, and you don’t set up your Author Central page, you might have screeds of results for people who have used or mentioned your name. Imagine all the John Smiths, and all the things various John Smiths may have published on Amazon, and your things are just jumbled into the results. Some of them may write in your genre, some may be publishing political diatribes which you don’t agree with and some may be so wildly outside your genre that you really don’t want their work showing up. Trust me, there’s a lot of bizarre stuff on Amazon…

What you want is for people to click on your name and ONLY see your things, plus with an Author Central page you can put a little biography and links to your social media, so it’s all good stuff.

Author Central is the website you need to sign up to. You can make three Author Central pen names under one KDP account, so it’s very worth setting up.

Author Central isn’t terribly intuitive to use, so I recommend you refer to this help page for guidance.

Previously in this series:
Part One – Starting out
Part Two – Characters
Part Three – Actually writing
Part Four – Sticking to it
Part Five – Editing and redrafting
Part Six – Publishing preparation

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Guest writers series: an interview with Sam Schenk

I have another author from the Witchy Fiction project stopping by today. First time author Sam!

Hi Sam, and welcome. Please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a professional woman in STEM, the other parent of an autistic gayby, and an observer of human behaviour.  I’m a bisexual Xennial.  I watch/read sci-fi and fantasy (and spend a lot of time on Twitch), play video games, scuba dive, and write as a means to relax.

If you were to have a personal familiar, what animal would it be?  

This has changed a lot over the course of my life, if you would have asked 10 years + ago, I would have said a dog or a horse, but these days, it’s probably something small and easy to take care of – like a hummingbird.  That’d be cute and useful!

Where in the world do you live, and what do you like most about it? 

I live in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand.  There are a lot of things that are amazing about this city, not the least that it’s liberal and transport accessible.  If I’m honest, my favourite thing is the lack of humidity – because it all gets blown out to sea.

Self-care is very important for writers, tell us how you look after yourself?

I spend a lot of time on twitch and playing video games as escapism, but I find writing relaxing too.  It’s more recognising when I need some time to myself and taking it.  That’s not always easy with Ms. 5 around, but I try to make it work.

What kind of music do you like to listen to? 

I’ve got an obsession with Bass YouTube at the moment – particularly Charles Berthoud.  Check him out, he’s amazing.  I prefer orchestral/instrumental game music or jazz without words most of the time.

What genres do you like to read in?

 My core genres are dystopian fiction and transhumanism, but I like anything with a speculative angle.  I do a lot of beta reading through facebook groups and I’m not selective with what I read there.  I like to think of it as a broadening experience.  I can read anything as long as it makes me think.

What are you reading right now?

Currently ARC reading The Key to All Things.  Early days, but I like the premise.  I’m also going through and rereading Overdues and Occultism, it’s the first soft copy of the Witchy Fiction collab that I’ve been able to acquire.  I love my signed copy ❤

What’s a book that you have on your shelf which you’re particularly fond of?

I have Gulliver’s Travels.  I know, it’s old, but it’s still one of my favourite books.  The copy that I have I got on my OE trip to Italy, it’s nothing special, but I have some really nice memories of that trip, when I was obsessed with classics and looking forward to visiting Villa Adriana.

What book do you love to recommend to people? 

Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Mariller.  It’s the only book that I’ve not been able to put down…three times.  She just writes the forest so well – she has a real connection to a type of setting in a way that I wish I had.  Before I moved to NZ, I picked up a hardback copy of her book.  When I realised she was a Kiwi, I was really hoping that I could meet her.  Sadly, I missed my chance at CoNZealand.  I hope there will be another one.

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

In terms of writing style, I can’t point to any particular piece.  I’ve always loved older characters, and for that I blame tv shows more than books, like STNG and Highlander: the Series.  I always wondered what was going on with the older characters outside even the young adult series I read, and I wrote quite a bit of fanfiction to that effect.

How do you organise your personal library?

I’m mostly digital these days – search engines are my friends.  Most of my physical books I recognise by sight.

Creative writing as a teenager, did you do it?

Definitely.  I started my long term work in progress as a teenager.  Originally, my main character was based on Xena, Warrior Princess, but she’s very much her own person these days.  I still hope to publish it one day.  I did a lot of writing while I was a checkout chick, fanfiction mostly.  I remember a short piece that I wrote around the Go board game which I quite liked.  I have a big bag of receipt paper from those days that I rummage through every so often.

What do you do/where do you go for inspiration? 

Diving is a great inspiration for me.  You really can’t be absent or thinking about work when you’re under the water.  Without a clear aural sense, the world is really different, but for me it doesn’t cause panic.  You move with the current. It makes me feel at peace with the world.  I like to try and find beauty in unusual places, like a plant growing out of a crack in the sidewalk.

Do you have any writerly superstitions? 
I save most of my superstition for dice/cards.

If you had infinite time, opportunity and resources, what’s your absolute dream writing project? 

I would love to do a travel blog – spend months integrating with a different culture and write down my observations, then turn those learnings into a speculative piece.

Any advice for anyone who’s struggling with their own writing? 

Be gentle with yourself.  Struggling with writing rarely causes a good result.  If you need time, give yourself time.  My own journey was to incorporate writing into my occupation, even though it isn’t creative writing.  That has given me the space to rediscover the themes that I want to write about, and given me the freedom to fail.

Do you prefer quiet, ambient sound or music while you write? 

Ambient music for sure.  Something that doesn’t have words, or isn’t recognisable to me (eg music from a game I’ve played, or music in a language I don’t know).  I love running bass with interesting alto or tenor riffs.  Lyrics/Treble are the last part of music that I hear, which is unusual for a writer I suppose.  I was a cellist in high school, and still have my instrument.  I’d love to get back to it at some point.

And now, onto your favourites: 

Hogwarts, Narnia, Neverland or Westeros? 

To live in, or read? Read, Westeros. I’ve never read the original Peter Pan. With Ms. 5 getting into reading, I may soon get an opportunity!

If you were stuck on a desert island with one book, one music album and one podcast, what would they be? 

One book – it would probably be some sort of an encyclopedia of useful things for surviving the wilderness. One music album – orchestral final fantasy 7 most likely.
One podcast – hm. It would probably be a go podcast, maybe by BattsGo because he has so much varied content. Guaranteed I will have made myself a go board within a few months to kill time.

What’s your favourite song to sing at Karaoke? 

Kiss from a Rose, Seal.

Favourite song to sing in the shower when no one else is home?
 I don’t really do that – but it would probably be something from a musical – like Oliver or Les Mis.

Pokemon: if you were a trainer, what pokemon would be in your team?

 I’m not much of a pokemon player – and what I do know is very old school.  Probably Gyrados, Onyx, Machamp, and Charmander as a core with filler of whatever else was good.  I know that’s probably not the strongest team, but they’re the guys that I liked playing with the most.

The weirdest hobby you have, other than writing? 

I do a little bit of streaming on Twitch.  I’m not popular or anything, but I like to talk to people while I’m playing.  I got into it trying to speedrun a puzzle game.

What is your favourite bird?

I’ve always been fond of hawks and eagles. I don’t have a specific one I love, though.


Sam Schenk

 Sam Schenk is a business analyst by day, a mum, writer, and gamer by night.  She was born in Canada, raised in Texas, and matured in New Zealand, where she’s lived for the past 20 years.  She has just released her first publication, A Gap in the Veil, in a collaboration with Contemporary Witchy Fiction.  She loves beta reading, watching great sci fi, and scuba diving when she can get out.

Follow Sam on social media Twitter and Goodreads

Get a copy of A Gap in the Veil on sale now, part of the Witchy Fiction project.

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Big (1988)

Big
Directed by Penny Marshall
Written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg
(number 199)

Hey! A movie directed by a woman! That’s kinda rare on my list, and the Anne who co-wrote it is the sister of the more famous Stephen.

I can’t count the number of times I watched this movie as a kid, but I can do the whole ‘shimmy shimmy coco pop’ bit that he has with his best friend Billy so… I guess it was a lot of times.

It’s a body swap movie, sort of, and it’s a coming of age story, except that he chooses at the end to not mature, but to live life at its proper prescribed pace. The conundrum of being a child and wanting so desperately to be adult and responsible and in charge of your own life contrasted with the yearning of adults to return to a simpler time when all you had to do was go to school, play and hang out with your friends.

It’s a movie I watched so much as a kid and didn’t exactly understand some of. Like… I knew that the joking about ‘being on top’ in the bunk wasn’t really about the top bunk – but I also didn’t get that it basically meant that the love interest woman was sleeping with a child. It’s pretty disturbing when viewed that way.

Does it make me love the people? It’s baby Tom Hanks, who could do anything but love him? He’s sensitive and vulnerable and he’s such a gifted actor that you believe he’s really just 12 or 13.

Bechdel test: There are a plethora of named women, and they’re pretty complex and pretty interesting, but they’re only in scenes with male characters which is a shame. I love his mother, who immediately goes to the knife wielding threatening ‘you’d better not harm my son’ at the start of the movie, and it’s brilliant.

Best line: down down baby, down by the rollercoaster, sweet sweet baby never gonna let you go (that whole rap, I thought I was the coolest for learning it as a kid) 

State of Mind: Conflicted. This is some messed up nostalgia. 

I feel I must include this

Big
Directed by Penny Marshall
Written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg
(number 199)

Hey! A movie directed by a woman! That’s kinda rare on my list, and the Anne who co-wrote it is the sister of the more famous Stephen.

I can’t count the number of times I watched this movie as a kid, but I can do the whole ‘shimmy shimmy coco pop’ bit that he has with his best friend Billy so… I guess it was a lot of times.

It’s a body swap movie, sort of, and it’s a coming of age story, except that he chooses at the end to not mature, but to live life at its proper prescribed pace. The conundrum of being a child and wanting so desperately to be adult and responsible and in charge of your own life contrasted with the yearning of adults to return to a simpler time when all you had to do was go to school, play and hang out with your friends.

It’s a movie I watched so much as a kid and didn’t exactly understand some of. Like… I knew that the joking about ‘being on top’ in the bunk wasn’t really about the top bunk – but I also didn’t get that it basically meant that the love interest woman was sleeping with a child. It’s pretty disturbing when viewed that way.

Does it make me love the people? It’s baby Tom Hanks, who could do anything but love him? He’s sensitive and vulnerable and he’s such a gifted actor that you believe he’s really just 12 or 13.

Bechdel test: There are a plethora of named women, and they’re pretty complex and pretty interesting, but they’re only in scenes with male characters which is a shame. I love his mother, who immediately goes to the knife wielding threatening ‘you’d better not harm my son’ at the start of the movie, and it’s brilliant.

Best line: down down baby, down by the rollercoaster, sweet sweet baby never gonna let you go (that whole rap, I thought I was the coolest for learning it as a kid) 

State of Mind: Conflicted. This is some messed up nostalgia. 

I feel I must include this

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Directed by David Hand and like, 5 sequence directors
Written by
(number 147)

The first ever full length animated movie, made by Walt Disney in three years – his wife and his brother both tried to talk him out of attempting it, and it was commonly referred to as ‘Disney’s Folly’ but he managed it and it won a special Academy award for innovation.

I watched this with Anna who had seen it probably only once a long time ago. We were both impressed with the quality of the animation. The movements are very fluid and pretty.

The story is very simple and close to the original Grimm bothers one, a charming princess is threatened by the wicked queen who is jealous of her beauty but the woodsman can’t go through with it and spares her. From then there’s a scary sequence of being lost in the woods and then she makes friends with all the cute animals of the forest and sings all sorts of songs. Anna does point out that Snow’s behaviour is a little crazy – she lets herself into the dwarves’s house, cleans it, then disbelieves them when they say they’ve already washed for dinner. She’s condescending to them, but I can kind of see where she’s coming from given the state of their house when she finds it. I’m not saying I endorse breaking into people’s houses to clean though… it would be nice if you could charm the forest animals to do cleaning for you though, don’t you think?

It’s amazing, watching this again how much it’s inspired more recent films. Leaving aside the animation that followed this innovative start, just look at the different interpretations of fairy tales that followed. La Belle et la Bete owes stylistic decisions to the design of this film, and most of the following Disney musicals start with an ‘I want’ song like Snow White sings down the wishing well. Also it made me really want to watch Enchanted because there’s so much homage to this in that film.

One thing I did notice is that it shows Snow White praying. This is such a very old movie now that I suppose it would have been normal at the time but I can’t think of a single other Disney movie which references God or religion. I’ve always found the lines around Church in the Muppet Christmas Carol quite awkward because they talk around a bible story without saying Jesus or God.

Does it make me love the people? Snow White seems very over the top now, all wide eyed innocence and walking around like she’s dancing, her hands up in the air like Anne Hathaway in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. But you still get involved in her story and there was definitely feeling from both me and Anna.

Bechdel test: The wicked queen talks to Snow White to tempt her into eating the poison apple… however the queen is not actually named, she’s Queen or Witch. What do we think? I think it kind of squeaks through but it’s definitely debatable.

Best line:
Grumpy: Angel, ha! She’s a female! And all females is poison! They’re full of wicked wiles!
Bashful: What are wicked wiles?
Grumpy: I don’t know, but I’m agin’ ’em.

State of Mind: It’s a classic, but it’s not necessarily one you need to watch a lot.

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500 movie project The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Disclaimer: I started this project of watching the Empire Australia movie magazine’s top 500 movies of all time, many years ago in 2012 and I absolutely didn’t make it. Life happened, it became clear it was a rather flawed list, the world moved on. However I have a number of unpublished blog entries for the higher part of the list so I’m gonna go ahead and publish them. Enjoy!

Silence of the Lambs
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Ted Tally based on the novel by Thomas Harris
(number 130)

I was 11 when this movie came out, but even at that age I was well aware that this movie had come out, that it was generally acclaimed for the performances of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins and that it was about a serial killer called Hannibal the Cannibal. I was never brave enough to watch it.

I remember hearing stories, people having heart attacks in the theatre, and Anthony Hopkins sitting behind someone in a cinema and leaning forward to say ‘don’t worry, I won’t hurt you,’ to someone who was freaking out. There was a lot of media around the film, a lot of myth as well, and it all added up to making me not want to watch. A lot of it has become cinema cliche at this point ‘some fava beans and a nice chianti,’, ‘quid pro quo’, the ‘ff-f-f-ff-ff’ mouth noise, ‘it puts the lotion on its skin,’ and on and on. Until much more recently it became a hit TV show about (as far as I can tell) how lovely and charming the pyschopathic cannibal is.

I don’t enjoy watching things about serial killers, I’m not interested or intrigued by watching men kill women. I will not watch Dexter or Hannibal the TV shows. But there is a certain fascination I suppose. I enjoyed the book ‘I am not a serial killer’ from the POV of a sociopathic teenager obsessed with serial killers.

I really had never watched this film before. It wasn’t easy to watch and although it’s fascinating and well made, I don’t think I could say that I enjoyed it. I was pretty tense all the way through and I was almost at the stage of jumping at shadows and noises in my house. I had to watch it while Anna was out because it’s really not her kind of thing.

You can’t say that this movie started the fascination in modern media with killers, because that must have started with Truman Capote back in the fifties, right? But this certainly brought it all into the spotlight I think. In a sensible, psychological intelligent way that slashers and horror movies don’t.

It’s an extraordinarily white movie. Almost all of the speaking roles are white, certainly all the main characters are. It’s a bit of a drag but not particularly surprising.

Also there’s some confusing stuff about transgender people. Clarice says that Buffalo Bill cannot be transsexual because transsexuals are calm and non-violent? And then of course, the inextricable link of this guy who’s wanting so much to be a woman that he’s attacking, kidnapping and killing women so that he can become one?

I found this article about transphobia in this movie if you want to read more intelligent breakdown than I am capable of.

Does it make me love the people? It does, and I think that’s this film’s absolute success. You love Clarice because she is shown from the start to be not your standard screaming final girl in a horror movie – she’s introduced working herself hard on the Quantico training track, sweating visibly, grunting as she excerpts herself. When she first meets Hannibal you are afraid for her, and she is victimised by the other inmates.

Hannibal well, I don’t think you can say he’s loveable, but he’s shown to be such a gentleman; a well spoken man who is logical and respectful to Clarice. Except, of course, for how he’s entirely sexually fixated on her as well, and apparently on the senator he meets later as well. He’s calm and cool and totally happy to make it all about women’s physical sexual characteristics. It’s pretty gross.

Bechdel test: Early on Clarice runs quiz questions/tests a friend of hers on their classes. Ardelia is her name, and they speak again later on to talk about Hannibal but yes, it passes. Ardelia is also a woman of colour, so yay for Ardelia. She’s also shown to be smart and capable, concerned about Clarice and the two are totally comfortable with each other. How nice if they’re FBI trainee girlfriends. (Goes off in a little dream about nicer things than happen in the movie.)

Best line:
Jack Crawford: Starling, when I told that sheriff we shouldn’t talk in front of a woman, that really burned you, didn’t it? It was just smoke, Starling. I had to get rid of him.
Clarice Starling: It matters, Mr Crawford. Cops look at you to see how to act. It matters.
Jack Crawford: Point taken.

State of Mind: One cannot be too sad about the implication of who Lecter is going to kill at the end of the film. I won’t be watching this movie again though, I find it very uncomfortable and unpleasant to watch.