The magic of discovery…

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I spent a good deal of last night writing a blog entry about magic, it’s intangible and inexplicable air of possibility, and how I have spent the past three and a half years trying to understand the particular brand I find of it here in the Balkans. Looking over my words I have yet again not been able to capture it, yet I continue to jump across magical moments here as though they were stepping stones. I’ve built bridges between places and people but also enjoyed settling for long periods of time in this town of Kotor that I have singled out so particularly. I move around within its stone walls as if it were my home and I wasn’t some strange Australian girl who had weasled her way in and disrupted their lives repeatedly.

I keep collecting intangible moments here, wondering if it’s possible to continue sampling this place indefinitely or if my luck will eventually run out, but as I look around at these smiling faces, hearing their hearty laughter, I know the memories of their magic will last within me. I know this because I have been back here only a few nights and it feels like a fortunate lifetime.

If there is one paragraph I can rescue from my scrapped blog post from last night it is this one: Can I take these people with me? As I watch them all I love them even more and no photo or video could capture them as they are in this moment, in this place, at this very point in time. Their magic is in the faces they pull at each other in jest, their booming voices, and the way they somehow let me be part of all this in a way that seems like an exception to the rule. I am a foreigner but somehow I also belong to their family. They call me an honorary Montenegrin, although I will never know how I earned this title.

The music is always better when Vlado plays it. The company is always better with my Montenegrin girl gang around. The night is always better when a song, a person, or a passing hug in an empty street reminds you of why it is you keep coming back. Travellers all ponder whether to extend their stay here without being able to put their finger on why, but I know why. This place is something to be felt, not abstractly described. These people are to be enjoyed, not analysed.

That point applies to every aspect of this entire country though. I spent an entire day on 360 Monte Travel Agency’s Great Montenegro Tour just two days ago and I have been trying and failing to capture its essence in words. Though I have wonderful photos (as you can see), the truth is they don’t demonstrate the feeling that this didn’t really feel like a tour to me rather than a day out with friends. Slavko was a wonderful host, leading us around this beautiful country and making us laugh. It was a social day as much as it was informative and interesting, and while we were all tired by the end noone seemed to be in a rush to get back to town either as we enjoyed one final stop for coffee and cake.

I know I have to start planning my exit strategy, but I am glad I can take my time doing it at a snail’s pace, and as I do so I will soak it all in. This town. These people. While I know I will be once again overwhelmed when it is time to leave I will never take the unique magic of this place for granted. It may be a long time until I feel its embrace again, because I don’t know what the universe has in store for me from here, but as always I hope this is just one more incredible window in time and not the last.

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Rating books simplified.

Letters to a Young Poet

Photo by Erika Kochanski.

 

I realised something today: I need to write a post directing readers on how they can help author’s by rating and reviewing books online. For many the words book review conjures up those feelings of angst you remember having in school when you were forced to write a book review on a novel you were made to read in English class. In reality, for the modern reader with an internet connection, it is vastly different, and not everyone necessarily knows how to take part in the process, or how easy it is!

To begin with, while writing lengthy and detailed reviews is of course a lovely idea and many authors will appreciate the extended time and attention given to their work, it isn’t the only way for readers to interact and vouch for the books they have read. After all, you made the effort to read the book, so why not tell someone about it? Ratings and reviews are crucial for an author to get future book sales (yes, sorry for mentioning the “S” word) and they don’t have to be difficult and time-consuming.

It is surprisingly simple and easy to give feedback and express your experiences with a book that is helpful to both author’s and readers. You are not getting graded on this interaction, and the best part is that more and more authors are accessible online. It can be very validating to express your opinions and get a response from the source. It is definitely of mutual benefit when it comes to indie writers. Let us explore a few extremely simple ways in which you can do this…

1. Comments on social media (this includes either comments on the writer’s account directly, or even just sharing your experience with your own followers and friends).

2. Ratings on sites like Goodreads and Nothing Binding (you can take this to any level you want, but it is free and very easy to create an account and give a star rating).

3. Rating and reviewing through the site you purchased (perfect way to give simplified feedback in a crucial setting where other readers will be directly influenced).

4. Comments via the author’s website (either commenting on their blog entries, in a guest book, or even using a feedback form or email for a more private interaction).

5. Word of mouth (this never goes out of style, and is one of the most powerful forms whether it be verbal or through correspondence like sending out an email to a friend).

The best part is that you are reviewing books that you actually want to read. It is not subscribed reading (unless you are part of a book club, but if that’s the case you are likely already an avid reader who enjoys talking about random books within a group). Saying that, just because you picked the book doesn’t always mean you are going to like it, and authors expect that book reviews and ratings will reflect different tastes and opinions. Just keep them honest, and always be sure to respect the writer and their attempts.

Remember that writing a book is hard. An author gives up a lot to put their brain down into a wad of paper bound together by a layer of cardboard, or alternatively smoosh it into digital formats for it to display so nicely on your beloved eReader or tablet. It is likely that their personal profits will be surprisingly minimal, so if you really love a book, it is a real kindness to share that love and acknowledge it in some way. Your words are powerful, so use them well.

 

Letters to a Young Poet

Photo by Erika Kochanski.

 

 

Published: Polarity and Indecision.

Books

Photo by Erika Kochanski.

As of yesterday I am officially a published author. I can freely say to people as I casually hand them my business card, “I wrote this book. I am an author.” All those female authors out there, those Australian women writers, the thousands upon thousands of good fiction books filled with romance and dreams that are floating around this amazing planet of ours, and now I can finally consider myself among them! I’m part of the writing dream. I have an indie drama novel covered in my own art — what more could a girl want?

The answer to that question is pretty simple: READERS! I want people out there to be consumed by my words. For better of for worse I want reviews and even for people to share pictures of my book in different places as they experience it. On shelves, in hands, in cafes and on coffee tables or in different countries. I want people to read it and love it – or hate it if that may be – and as I travel the world this year I want to hear about it and see that it was worth sharing. That all the money and countless hours put into it made even just one person feel how the world is filled with both hope and sadness at the same time and it is strangely beautiful.

It’s an odd feeling being published, and I am a little apprehensive because for all this time it has been under my protection. I have kept the story under my wing and it has been safe. However, I don’t want to simply live a safe life. If that were me I wouldn’t be jumping on planes to foreign lands and leaving everything I know behind to live out of a suitcase. I wouldn’t have this strange asymmetrical bob hairstyle. It is a risk to share such an intimate piece of you, even if it is complete fiction, because the world is full of judgment, but it is also full of potential.

So if you are looking for a good fiction book to read by a new young Australian author or if you know of someone who loves to read (it would make a great gift), head over to Amazon or Createspace and purchase yourself a copy of Polarity and Indecision. Currently it is selling in print format, but I assure you that within a week or so I will be able to update you with more links to an eBook version and listings on other online book distributors (Barnes and Noble USA, Book Depository UK, Fishpond, Booktopia and Angus and Robertson Australia) as they become available. If you do buy it and read it, please share your experience with me.


“Ana Reinhardt has spent the last few years living alone, working as a medical receptionist at a local clinic, and getting back on her feet after dropping out of university and watching her family move to the other side of the world without her. She thinks she has moved beyond it all, beyond the depression and everything that followed it, but she still doesn’t believe in love. When she begins dating one of the doctors she works with, she realises that maybe she does deserve a chance at a real relationship, and maybe her life doesn’t have to be so lonely. With four close friends who think the world of her, she discovers that family comes in many forms, and while running away across the glove is a good short-term solution to dealing with pain, in the long run you have to find something bigger to hold onto in your heart or else it will all fall apart very quickly.”

Createspace Amazon
Kindle Smashwords


Proof of an author.

Proof

Photo by Erika Kochanski.

 

I am reading my book. The book I wrote. The book I have read more times over than any other book I have read in my life. However, this time it’s different. This time it’s the proof copy sent to me from my publisher. This is meant to be the “flimsy fall-apart in your fingers” version that the printers apparently slap together quickly in order to keep the publishing process moving smoothly along. I have been assured that official copies are going to be of an even higher quality, but considering I’m already incredibly happy with this “proof version”, I can only see smiles in the future for all involved.

My book. It has moved around the house since I received it yesterday. It has sat on every table, every shelf, next to every book I’ve ever loved from authors I have sat up high on pedestals that are very much out of my reach. Regardless of how highly I regard them, I get a little thrill seeing the spine of my book lying against the spines of theirs and fitting in so nicely. I like to believe they’re making friends, if books could do such a thing with other books.

Until today it wasn’t real, this idea of being considered a women’s fiction author. Not just that: I am an Australian writer. My book will be accessible online around the world. The book might be set here in Australia (not to mention visits to several other countries as well), but it’s really set in my heart. To think I created this story from start to finish out of nothing except the grey matter inside my head. The journey the characters make, the way they interact, all of it. If you ask me, I honestly don’t even know where it comes from.

It is hard for me to read it objectively anymore, because I am overly critical of everything I do. I now understand how easy it is for other authors to skim over a typo and have it make it to print, and how the costs of changing it sometimes are not worth what you would be fixing. When you’ve become so familiar with something, each time you read it you spot something or imagine it better. The fact is, at some point you have to stop fixing and let it go. You have to set it free and let things fall where they may. People may love it, or they may hate it, but the sleepless hours put into creating it and the thousands of dollars that you can’t expect to get back unless you’re incredibly lucky, none of it really matters anymore. Not at this stage. Why? Because here it is. For better of for worse, I can hold it in my hands and say, “I made this. These are my characters, this is their story, and I love them dearly.”

So tonight I continue reading through my little dream, remembering where I was at the moment each passage was created. Every time I look at the cover I’m reminded that it too was my handy work. All the tears, money and tantrums have finally come to fruition. Not long now and it will be available for sale online in both print and eBook formats. Only time will tell what the rest of the world thinks. I hope you get wrapped up in it as much as I did writing it.

 

The birth of a blog.

Happy Birthday
At some point as an author you have to decide whether to blog or not to blog. But I am a writer, and an avid traveller, and I have interesting things to say and to show you. But where to begin? Well, it makes sense that my first post be about where I’m coming from in order to give you a basic low down on who you are potentially following and why I’m worthy your attention.

Let me begin with my book. Polarity and Indecision is currently in the final processes of publishing. My experience writing this book has been long and hard, and as with many first time authors writing their first novel, I have had moments where I hated it and wanted to remove every piece of its existence from the world (or even sometimes throw my laptop against the wall). Luckily I didn’t, and the years of hard work are starting to pay off (well, not in the monetary sense yet). Why didn’t I throw in the towel? Because I had a pretty good team of professional women behind me.

To begin with, Gail Tagarro of Editors 4 You helped me refine my text into something much more worthy of calling Australian fiction. Not that what I had written to begin with was all that bad, but I’m a perfectionist and although all the people I had tested out the book on during its early raw stages told me to turn it straight out into eBook format and sell it online, I wanted to put the time and money into giving it a decent chance at obtaining a wider reader base. Gail helped me develop my writing, clean it up, and produce a product I was happy to move on to the next stage with.

That next stage was publishing, to which I was introduced to Jenny Mosher at IndieMosh. As anxious and apprehensive as I was, having trudged along as far as I had, the process was much less daunting than I had expected. I knew straight away that I wanted both print and eBook options (there’s something about holding a real book in your hands), and their publishing options as laid out on their website made it easy to find a package tailored to my self-publishing needs. She outlined pretty quickly what she needed from me, and referred me on to her daughter for the cover work.

Working with Ally Mosher proved to be just as enjoyable as working with her mother. They’re a pretty seamless team. Ally made the formatting very simple for me as I had brought my own cover art to the table and prepared a very easy mock-up design for her to replicate. Being an indie artist I get a kick out of seeing my own artwork on the front of my own book. Once I approved the official cover design, Ally referred me back to Jenny for the rest of the work on the internals. Everything was handled very professionally and with obvious care and respect.

l’m still working with Jenny on the internal proofs, but they’re getting very close to ready for print and eBook, and the best part is that the book will be available not just to the Australian market but also internationally accessible. This is reassuring as an new female author in Australia as writing good fiction, drama, romance, or all of the above is not enough to guarantee sales. In has been widely proven that novels by women writers aren’t getting picked up and read or reviewed as much as their male counterparts, and so we need to work harder to reach and audience.

So while I wait for my book to be ready for release, I am preparing myself. I created this website and I am reading a lot of blogs like Savvy Self-Publishing which have proven to be incredibly helpful, and while discovering the uses of SEO, I’m also preparing a list of reading communities like Goodreads and Nothing Binding to start new author profiles on. I’ve got a long way to go, but I am enjoying the hard work of preparing my book for the English book readers of the world. This blog will double as a place for me to share my travel experiences as a solo female traveller. It’s not just all about writing great books, it’s about experiencing life to the fullest because how can a girl expect to write a decent storyline if she hasn’t experienced the world first hand?