Now on the first Monday of the month, I usually write about a book thing rather than my travels – such as they are. Right now I’m in the “Shall I, shan’t I?” stage regarding my next book. Do other writers suffer a sort of empty nest syndrome after launching their latest offering out into the world to meet the general public? (Not that Amie has gone anywhere she’s still lurking in the shadows!)
This time after the flurry of all the screaming and shrieking about the launch – delicately of course – I sat back and thought ‘what now?’ I was physically and emotionally drained. At that point, I heard a little voice from under the bed crying out to me. Don’t laugh! I’m a very sensitive person and I have these flashes occasionally. It was Horatio, begging to be let out.
Back in the 1980s, I wrote several short stories for children which went out on the South African Broadcasting Service. They asked for more Horatio tales, but I had a miserly thought that instead of receiving a few Rand for every flighting I could add a few extra stories and have a whole book. Of course, this would sell millions overnight and I’d be off on my mega yacht in no time at all. I submitted a different series of stories about a witch to the SABC, completed Horatio and gave the manuscript to my then agent. I even produced what I now know is called swag to go with it.
I understand she tried Penguin in London who wrinkled their noses and that was that under the bed it went in South Africa, through 10 house moves, then packed into a cardboard box and flown to Spain and thrown under yet another bed, along with all those awards I shall never look at again.
So in my indecisive mood I decided to take action – not an easy feat getting under our bed the hydraulic lift thingie doesn’t work too well and I nearly sliced off an arm hoisting it out. Would you believe the two copies I have are typewritten on real, old-fashioned paper!
Yes, that’s how long ago I wrote it. So now I’m labouring away, got an illustrator lined up and soon I will pluck up the courage to tell DH that the next offering will have pictures in it! I must just tell myself that I will not have a nervous breakdown trying to get it out for Xmas, or I’ll aim for Christmas 2018.
Since I’m already out there in 3 genres, what’s one more? I’m probably schizophrenic as it is, and it gives Amie a break for a couple of months.
Not only was Edward or David as he was called – they like things to be very complicated, downgraded to a Duke, the British royal family refused to be friends with him. He had broken the unwritten rules by saying he didn’t want to be a king anymore.
That was not on. If you are born a king or queen then you become a king or queen and you rule whether you like it or not and you stay ruling until you go to the big throne room in the sky.
The House of Windsor does not do this abdication thing and let the youngsters take over and have a go. In the UK the Heir Apparent might wait for years and years and years.
But there was no stopping Edward from making history and after a lot of fuss, his younger brother had to step in and take over.
THE BOASTING BIT
Just have to share with you that October was a great month with two really unexpected awards. Amie African Adventure was a Finalist in the Book Excellence Awards in the Adventure category and a Finalist in the IAN awards in Literary Fiction.
And, Walking over Eggshells was a Finalist for First Non-Fiction in the IAN Awards, so I am very thrilled.
Well, it’s a whole month already since my birthday, but I promised I would share my adventures with you as it was a bitter/sweet experience.
I’d been waiting in great excitement for the big moment when DH would ask me what I’d like as a present and I had my answer all ready.
I wanted proper publicity photos, taken at one of those places which provided the wigs, the warpaint, and the Photoshop experts. I would then burst forth onto Facebook and other places with my long, golden locks flowing over my shoulders looking 25 years old with ‘go to bed’ eyes the size of flying saucers.
It was not to be. Instead, he waved the bed and breakfast booking for 3 nights in Carcassone. This would have been my second choice and I was looking forward to visiting the medieval walled city in south-west France.
We set off in the car very early in the morning and after a few hours realized we were in France. We’d stayed on the motorway (the tolls were horrendous) but it cut the journey by hours. We whipped round the Pyrenees and reached Carcassone in the late afternoon. We had a bit of a battle with the GPS as it insisted on trying to take us down a pedestrian street to the B&B. Later, we discovered that everyone else drove down these walk only streets! We found a teeny, weeny parking place right outside the door, but by the time DH had maneuvered the Tank (that’s what I call his truck thingie) into the minute space there wasn’t room to put tissue paper between the bumpers.
The B&B was lovely, though by the time I’d climbed the 3 flights of tiny, windy stairs I was exhausted.
Now to my mind, a castle is in a town right? Not in Carcassone. The town is one side of the river and the castle is on the other, very strange I thought. The first evening we took a gentle stroll into the town, and had a highly priced coffee.
We also popped into a church and had a look round.
Next morning we planned to go to the castle, but I began to have my doubts – and this is where the bitter part comes in. It was perched somewhere up in the clouds!! DH goes mountain walking in the winter, and it was no problem for him. I, on the other hand, see no necessity to walk farther than from the front door to the car.
I huffed and puffed up this HUGE hill – honestly nearer to a mountain – with not a coffee shop open until finally, we got to the top. Imagine my fury when I saw a car park right next to the castle! I was totally exhausted by the time we made it up there, and it didn’t look as if there was any public transport going back down either! I’d not planned a workout on my special day. I was too tired to take photos of the steepest bit. More next week.
Now George V was probably a little worried about keeping his seat on the throne. Not only had his cousin Tsar Nicholas of Russia been cruelly disposed of, Kaiser Willhelm II of Germany also got the boot. George and his wife May had 5 sons and a daughter and he is quoted as saying “My father was frightened of his mother, I was frightened of my father, and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me.”
See, I told you he wasn’t a very nice person. His sons were quite terrified of him. Yet, and this is a spin doctor’s dream – on his father’s death he wrote in his diary “I have lost my best friend and the best of fathers … I never had a [cross] word with him in my life. I am heart-broken and overwhelmed with grief but God will help me in my responsibilities and darling May will be my comfort as she has always been. May God give me strength and guidance in the heavy task which has fallen on me.” Somebody’s telling porkies! (London Cockney rhyming slang – pork pies = lies).
THE ADD BREAK
By the time you read this Amie: Cut for Life book 4 will be off the pre-order and you can take a peep in the look inside. Book one is also available in audio.
I need counseling, I do. I was very reluctant to leave my work in South Africa and retire – circumstances dictated it and was the head over heart thing and we were sensible. When your domestic cleaner is shot on your front lawn and the perpetrator WALKS away having relieved her of less than £5 in cash and a bank card he had no pin for, we recognized the writing on the wall.
Well at first the novelty of sitting leisurely over breakfast began to pall and in a couple of months, I was bored out of my mind. We moved north, so that occupied me for a while and then I got bored again. I taught myself power point and gave a few historical lectures and talks and then I decided to write a book, well finish off a manuscript.
Why did I ever do that! Before I knew it I was on the merry-go-round to blogs and Facebook and Twitter and all the paraphernalia that entails. The upside I met a lot of great people and made some good friends and I was bowled over by how kind and friendly everyone was. I’ve been lucky so far in that I’ve only met a couple of cyber bullies and lost one dear friend I still miss terribly.
I sweated for weeks trying to work out how to use MailChimp, Bookfunnel and WordPress – again wonderful people came to my rescue.
I signed up for lots of blogs from experts on how to sell, how not to sell, how to build mailing lists, how not to alienate readers, give out free books, never give out free books, don’t spam, announce your book on every channel, people have to see it 7 times before they buy. Sign up for this course, you’ll hit the NYT list overnight – no that course is £800 down the drain, try this one for only £799.
I researched different promo sights, asked for advice and shared what I had learned with others. Give it all time to grow I was told. Time! At my age! By the time I let all this filter through to huge sales I’ll be pushing up the daisies – one of the reasons I have not even considered looking for an agent or publisher – and anyway I like being in control of my work. I wanted to cry when I saw what traditional publishers had chosen for the cover of my book.
The bottom line is I’m now working as hard as I ever did running my own production company and I don’t seem able to stop. Apart from reading and entertaining DH and a weeny bit of socializing, during which I’m groveling under the table checking my sales figures, puzzled as to why I’m met with blank stares when I bounce in and cry “I’ve got a BookBub!” – I can’t settle. If I’m not writing or pounding the keyboard I might do a little house cleaning, and watch DH as he dons his boots and gardening gloves to tend to our four window boxes. Most of the rubbish on television doesn’t grab me much either and I’m usually tweeting as the pictures on the screen flash past. The only time I concentrate is when they show foreign language films and I have to read the subtitles. If you took my lap top away I’d be prowling around the house, fingers wiggling searching for the keys, ideas crowding through my head screaming to get out.
I guess I’m just a lost cause and there’s no cure for it.
Guess I should mention that Amie 4 is up on pre-order
Anyway, having had a moan I feel a lot better now.
Oh, if you’re wondering why I’ve included totally inappropriate pictures of African wildlife – it’s because I’ve read three blogs this week warning about prosecutions for using uncopyrighted material, and these are my own pictures and I’m not planning on taking myself to court anytime soon.
Those of you who have put up with my inane / insane ramblings over the last few months may remember that I hate giving books away for free. It’s not that I’m mean, but when I think of the blood, sweat and tears, the hours of labour, not to mention the cost of editing and the cover design, it’s hard to hand it over for nothing, even though, like many other authors I’m not in it just for the money.
So, at the beginning of this year I decided that if at all possible I’d not give books away – free chapters yes, but not the whole book. Whether I can keep to this remains to be seen.
This is all leading up to my news that I am reducing the price of Truth, Lies and Propaganda book 1 to $/£0.99 for five days only.
To tempt you to download it for that ridiculous price, here is an extract:
It’s rare that you get away with trying to cut corners – someone somewhere will always notice – and we fell into this trap in a big way.
We were on another shoot for Durban Tourism. This time they were quite specific about what they wanted. Not just the usual sea, sun and sand, they explained, this is more for those looking for adventure.
“We need to show the different kinds of things the visitors can do, active things.”
“Fine,” we said, “what do you suggest?” Ah, that set them thinking, but eventually they came up with an answer. One of those wildly, adventurous, active things they wanted was fishing in the rock pools off the shoreline.
Now personally I wouldn’t go on holiday to catch fish in rock pools, especially things with claws and teeth, but I guess they knew what they were talking about and knew what normal people really liked to do on holiday. Who was I to question them?
This was a larger than normal budget shoot, it must have been for a really big, important expo. We could have real, live models from the modelling agency and, much to my horror, the clients said they wanted real, live fish as well!
I’d planned to stock up on fish props from the local toy shop, or if they didn’t stock plastic crayfish, (I had my doubts about that), at worst I would change that to the ‘ocean fresh’ counter at my local supermarket. But now that wasn’t going to work either if they wanted them alive. Carl knew of a couple in his favourite fish restaurant, but when he went to enquire about them, unfortunately they’d been eaten the night before.
That was plan A and B up the creek, so we moved on to plan C. I would pop down as the fishing boats came in the following morning and purchase a couple of live crayfish from them. No, correction – I would get someone else to go down and buy the creatures, my bravery has its limits.
Plan C wasn’t going to work either. Crayfish were not in season and were nowhere to be found in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Natal. Could we think of a plan D?
Carl was a very keen fisherman and he came up with the bright idea of bringing some crayfish up from Cape Town. He picked up the phone.
On day one of the shoot, we met up with the models at a very smart, colonial hotel just north of Durban. They looked young and absolutely gorgeous, so understandably, I hated them on sight.
Next came Carl, straight from the airport, complete with a large box filled with ice and three crayfish in the back of his SUV. I found it hard to believe they had survived the trip still alive, but I was not about to question their health.
We lugged the camera gear, plus the box of crayfish, through the hotel, past the swimming pool and down to the rocks below. We were joined by the male model, I think he was called Sam, he was the one who would be doing the fishing.
Carl kept the fish in the box until he was ready to shoot the scene, and then slid them into the large, enclosed rock pool. He was not going to show they were in a confined space, but use creative camera angles to suggest they had access to open water and so on. I’m sure you get the picture. We did too.
The crayfish took to the water with glee, and then must have been thoroughly cheesed off when they were immediately recaptured by the male model, muscles rippling in the wind, as he suddenly leapt out of the water holding up one in each hand. You’d think the silly creatures would have learned their lesson the first time round. I could add here that I observed from a very safe distance, just in case they escaped and came my way.
Eventually we got the whole programme in the can (I’m using a little more in-house language speak here) and after the edit, the clients viewed it and were very happy. The clients were very happy for two whole days, until they received a call from a rather irate gentleman, obviously an important crayfish expert, who demanded to know why we were trying to pass off Cape Town crayfish as swimming off the coast of Durban. Didn’t we know that further south the crayfish were bright pink and the pale coloured ones lived near our shores? Or was it the other way round?
Frankly no, we didn’t. Nor apparently did our clients from the Tourism Board. I can’t remember what happened next, but we were in disgrace after that episode. It was no good us whinging about the huge number of awards we had won, or how many other happy clients we could mention. We had got it wrong this time.
Now as 2017 is the year I learn to market, apparently I need to tell you why you must buy my book and how you can’t live without it.
It’s a great book.
It will make you laugh and gasp out loud.
It will tell you stuff about Africa you didn’t know.
It will tell you what goes on behind the video cameras and how the ‘truth’ is manipulated.
It’s a good read.
It won’t be this cheap again for a long time.
You will enjoy it.
Amazon.com 4.8 on 41 reviews 4.7 on 35 reviews on Amazon.co.uk
Now I admit I am only half way through it, but when I heard that CeeCee James had brought out a new book I was thrilled and clicked to buy. This time it’s a murder mystery set in a small American town when the local car dealer salesman is found crushed to death under a train. I am dying (ha ha) to know what happens but sheer self discipline sees me writing this blog instead.
I first came across CeeCee’s books reading her memoirs, as she also had a tough childhood. Now she has continued her writing career with I think her first novel. Good luck CeeCee holding thumbs.
Here is the link. https://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Taste-Murder-Angel-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01INPHQJQ/
Some of you may have received an email from me about a competition run by author Paula Wynn. It’s a chance to win almost 30 free books – quite enough to keep you occupied throughout the summer – and some will be in paperback format. It’s a mixed bag with fiction, non fiction and a children’s book. It’s simple to enter and I think (you know how untechie I am) this is the link you click on. It closes this weekend so you only have a couple more days to enter.
The link is here : http://bit.ly/29aEN1v (you’ll have to do the cut and paste thing as it doesn’t seem to work on its own)
Take a peek at the books.
There is other author who has left me in the dust and gasping in admiration. Her name is Michelle Monet and she is writing her first memoir and asked for a couple of tips, (she has some silly idea I know what I’m talking about). I had no idea she was so famous and so brilliantly talented. She was a Barbra Streisand tribute singer for years until it all got too much for her. Then she became a very successful artist and PBS even made a programme on her. She’s still working on her memoir, but in the meantime she has brought out an illustrated book of poetry. It’s in paperback for now, and here is the link.
Reviews from both should be up on Monday, and now you know what I’ll be reading this week.
OK, I can’t resist it. Here is a banner of all my books. You can have any one of them for FREE if I may add your email address to my mailing list – either leave in the comments below, or through a pm on my Facebook page (I’ll check my hidden messages and it’s private) and immediately an e.copy of your choice will be winging its way through the ether. There are six of them to choose from in three different genres.
Anyone (and I believe there are one or two who read my rubbish!) may have noticed that I rarely comment on politics or religion or similar controversial topics in my blogs and posts. But for once I thought I would make an exception here as the early chapters of the first Amie covered my take on the way I saw Africa.
I have had some amazing reviews, including the following:
This world we live in is an often ugly and dangerous place. And those of us privileged to live in a first world country too easily forget that. The story then has redeeming qualities beyond being just a great read; it’s the kind of book you read and then go out and change the world. It’s why people become activists, coming up against this kind of pain and suffering, and this kind of injustice when they find it in the world. Sadly, nightly news numbs us by comparison at a time in history when we all need to be fighting for something and for someone. For this reason, this is the kind of book they need to teach in high school, college, and hand out at community centers.
In any less capable hands, I’m fairly convinced I would have put this book down. It’s dangerous writing, and that’s why few authors attempt it. If your subject matter terrifies people, you still have to hold on to them, make sure they resist the urge to put the book down. The author deserves five stars, thus, not just for writing a memorable tale, but for picking a story to write that few people can write, fewer can read, but that we’d all like to say we did.
And many people (though not all) acknowledged that having lived in Africa for over thirty years, I had a fair idea of how things tick on the Dark Continent – from the point of a white resident.
In the early nineties I was commissioned by The Sowetan editor Aggrey Klaaste who introduced the concept of “nation building” which was basically a self-help initiative to persuade Africans away from ‘the give me’ attitude to the ‘do things for themselves’ point of view. He was an amazing man and impressed me by his views and insight.
One of my main reasons for writing Amie was to share my beliefs that it is not the colour of a person’s skin that characterizes their behaviour but the mindset, culture, aspirations, expectations, lifestyle and beliefs that define them. I added more information in the Truth, Lies and Propaganda series.
I repeated this on The Authors Show interview. But it is only fair to include the view from another perspective and it’s certainly food for thought.
The article below was written from a black point of view. It was published in the English language newspaper The Sowetan and written by Prince Mashele, a South African national who holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Rhodes University, South Africa. Before becoming Executive Director of CPR, he was Head of Crime, Justice and Politics Programme at the Institute for Security Studies. He also worked as a speechwriter in The Presidency, and in the research unit of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. Prince spends time analysing a range of areas on contemporary African politics and is a prolific writer on a multiplicity of issues.
By Prince Mashele | May 09, 2016 SOWETAN
In the midst of the political confusion that has gripped our country many people are wondering if we have come to the end of South Africa.
The answer is simple: the thing called an “end” does not exist, not in relation to a country. SA will be there long after Jacob Zuma is gone.
What Zuma has done is to make us come to the realisation that ours is just another African country, not some exceptional country on the southern tip of the African continent.
During the presidency of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, some among us used to believe that the black people of SA are better than those of other African countries.
We must all thank Zuma for revealing our true African character; that the idea of rule of law is not part of who we are, and that constitutionalism is a concept far ahead of us as a people.
How else are we to explain the thousands of people who flock to stadiums to clap hands for a president who has violated their country’s constitution? Such people have no idea of constitutionalism.
Now that we have reclaimed our place as another African country, we must reflect on and come to terms with our real character, and imagine what our future portends.
In a typical African country, ordinary people don’t expect much of politicians, because people get tired of repeated empty promises.
In a typical African country, people have no illusions about the unity of morality and governance. People know that those who have power have it for themselves and their friends and families.
The idea that the state is an instrument for people’s development is a Western concept, and has been copied by pockets of Asian countries.
Africans and their leaders don’t like to copy from the West. They are happy to remain African, and do things “the African way”.
The African way is rule by kings, chiefs and indunas in a setting of unwritten rules. Is there anyone who has seen a book of African customary laws?
The idea that a commoner can raise questions about public money spent on the residence of a king is not African. The ANC MPs who have been defending Zuma are true Africans.
Asking a ruler to be accountable is a foreign – Western – idea. In a situation where there is conflict between a ruler and laws, Africans simply change the laws to protect the ruler. This is why no single white person has called for King Dalindyebo to be released from jail.
The problem with clever blacks is that they think they live in Europe, where ideas of democracy have been refined over centuries.
What we need to do is to come back to reality, and accept that ours is a typical African country. Such a return to reality will give us a fairly good idea of what SA’s future might look like.
This country will not look like Denmark. It might look like Nigeria, where anti-corruption crusaders are an oddity.
Being an African country, ours will not look like Germany. SA might look like Kenya, where tribalism drives politics.
People must not entertain the illusion that a day is coming when SA will look like the US. Our future is more on the side of Zimbabwe, where one ruler is more powerful than the rest of the population. Even if Julius Malema were to become president, it would still be the same.
African leaders don’t like the idea of an educated populace, for clever people are difficult to govern. Mandela and Mbeki were themselves corrupted by Western education. (Admission: this columnist is also corrupted by such education.)
Zuma remains African. His mentality is in line with Boko Haram. He is suspicious of educated people; what he calls “clever blacks”. Remember that Boko Haram means “Against Western Education”. The people who think we have come to the end of SA don’t realise that we have actually come to the beginning of a real African country, away from the Western illusions of exceptionalism. Those who are unsettled by this true African character need help. The best we can do for them is to ask them to look north of the Limpopo River, to learn more about governance in Africa.
What makes most people restless about the future of SA is that they have Western models in mind, forgetting that ours is an Africa country.
The idea that a president can resign simply because a court of law has delivered an adverse judgment is Western. Only the Prime Minister of Iceland does that; African rulers will never do that.
Analysed carefully, the notion of SA coming to an “end” is an expression of a Western value system – of accountability, political morality, reason, and so on. All these are lofty ideas of Socrates, Kant, Hegel, and so on. They are not African.
All of us must thank Jacob Zuma for introducing us to the real African Republic of South Africa, not some outpost of European values.
As Diana tells Amie “Democracy is not the African way, one man, one vote, once.” I think Prince Mashele would agree.
Lastly thank you to all those who voted for Amie 2 in the ReadFree’ly competinion, she came in at #17 and got a lovely new sticker 🙂
An extra post this week as I wanted to share with you that Walking over Eggshells, my first book and biography, has been chosen as the Book of the Week by BookWorks. Here is the link to their nice colourful page.
As always technology has defeated me, as I wanted to cut and paste part of their page to put here, but of course it didn’t work did it.
However the nice sticker thing does, so you can look at that.
And while I’m at it, I’ll do the whole boasting thing and put in the 5 star badge from Reader’s Favorite as well.
I am very thrilled they have chosen my book, but it is a teeny, weeny bit embarrassing, since we are in the process of re-vamping the whole manuscript. Not that the story will change of course, but it’s going to have a nice new cover, and DH has decided he is going to reformat the pages and change the white pages to cream.
I did the original cover needless to say and at the time I was quite pleased with it as I thought it showed a little girl trying to run away from home. After several people asked me why I’d put a coat hanging on the back of a door, I began to have serious doubts about it. I’ve been searching for something new for a long time and here it is.
It’s amazing how much we’ve both learned this last (almost) three years about publishing and presentation and so hopefully in a about a week it will be on the internet with a brand new coat and if you buy paperbacks, in a nicer font and paper colour. Right at this minute DH is struggling to change the page numbers from the top to the bottom, (please don’t ask me why, he’s got a bee on his bonnet about it) so I’m typing very quietly. I do not like to disturb him when he’s being creative. I understand it’s far more important to be quiet and peaceful while formatting a mss than is necessary when it’s only the writing part.
Guess I better put in the link to the book? http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E8HSNDW
Will be back with an update soon and have a great week.