That’s a Wrap #ChaBooChaLite #amediting

It’s the 30th of September – D Day!!!

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Did I achieve my goal???
Drum roll please…

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Actually I did. That’s right this month I edited four, count them four chapter books!!! YAY!!!! I do need to print them and do another run through before sending tome to the editor, but they are done. Wha;t more important is that I really like my new series. there is still so much more work to do, but I am pumped now to keep going. I even have some ideas for books 5 and beyond.

As for my other goals. I am still waiting the print proof of Ghostnapped and The Homework Goblin. I expect them this week, so that shouldn’t take too long to approve. Oi the Super Puppy had some major formatting issues, but I’m correcting the last one tonight and am hoping to order the print proof soon. So basically I am on track there as well. Which is pretty impressive considering I worked full time and had lots of other things going on. Just goes to show what I can do when I put my mind to it. How did everyone else go?

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have fun!

ABC Day 18 – Music to my Ears #authorblogchallenge #can’tsing

If there were one song that captured the meaning, spirit, message, energy, and or substance of your book, what would it be? How can you use that song or piece of music to market your book or enhance your readers’ experience with your book?

As an ex music student (yes I did play the piano, clarinet and saxophone), I should find this prompt really easy. The problem is I can never remember song names. Still in the spirit of good team play I will have a go, but I promise I won’t sing!.

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Ghostnapped – The Monster Mash… well there is a monster in it and while it is a bit of a scary book it is still pretty light hearted in spirit.

Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist – could I go with obvious? Who let the dogs out… just the chorus anyway.

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The Homework Goblin – That’s a hard one… School’s out forever or whatever that song is.

It’s What You Do Next That Counts – has to be The Fight Song, think that is by Katy Perry.

For my super hero stories that I am working on I would have to find something pretty awesome, maybe I need a theme for each character? If only I was that talented.

I would love to use these songs on a you tube video to market my books, but of course you would need permission to use them. I have been thinking about doing videos for my books and trying to find out how to put some sort of music in the back ground. Would love some advice in this area.
Would these songs enhance the reader’s experience with my books? I would hope my books are enough of an experience without music. However it might be the spark that hooks people to my books so would be worth looking into.
Check out more author blog challenge posts here: https://authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/the-5-week-author-blog-challenge-2015-is-officially-underway/

Have fun!

ABC Day 17 – Surprises #lovewriting @authorblogchallenge

What has been the biggest surprise about writing/publishing your book? What has been the most enjoyable or most memorable aspect?

The second most enjoyable aspect is being able to share my books with kids. They are of course my target audience and as a teacher I get plenty of opportunities to share my love of writing.
I have to admit I love the look on the kids’ faces when the penny drops. I tell them these are my books and they must think I just own them. They often ask ‘who wrote them?’ When I tell them that I did they kind of look at me like I am a freak. Then it hits them and it doesn’t seem to matter how old they are they all get really interested. I love laughing at their comments:
‘You’re a REAL author’
‘You’re famous’
Its lots of fun.

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As for the most enjoyable part of being an author and having my books publishing is sharing that with my own children. They have got the bug too. We have always written stories together and now they have had three published in anthologies too. They tell me they are catching up! The next step for them is to publish their own individual story. It will happen, but maybe not for a little while yet. I have promised to show them how to publish when they are ready. I will need more time that’s for sure.

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To check out more from the Author Blog Challenge check out here: https://authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com/category/5-week-author-blog-challenge/
Have fun!

ABC Day 16 – Challenges #Authorblogchallenge #marketingMysteries

What has been the most challenging part of your book process: writing, building the book, printing, distributing, marketing, etc.? What do you wish you’d known before you began?

The most challenging of the whole process is the marketing. Actually getting your book out there and more importantly selling copies. I find that really hard. I have got a little bit better at selling myself, but I am not a natural at that. I have most of the social media hooked up and post regularly.

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I have lots of followers, but have they bought my books??? Some have, but not as many as I would like.
Some other things I have tried:
1. A Book Launch – this was great and I will do another one, with my next book. There is a new library near me, so I am going to try to organise something there.

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2. Giveaways – did get some more traffic on my social media pages, but didn’t result in selling any more books.
3. Reviews – I have and am happy to give away free copies of my books in return for honest reviews. This certainly helps. I also have a part of my blog put away to interview and review other authors. Email me at ashley@ahowland.org if you are interested.
4. Flyers, business cards, stickers, etc – this has worked a bit, mainly I used this stuff with the book launch. I always give my business card with a purchase, in hope they will come back and buy more.

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5. Fundraisers – have donated to a charity for every book sold in a period of time. This worked a bit.
I have a few things that I need to work on. The first is my webpage – it needs a major update, but will have to wait for a while. I now have kindle books, so I may run another give away or have some free weeks, still looking at options. I will do another book event and am looking around for anything that I could join in with.

I am open to new ideas, would love some advice. To check out more from the Author Blog Challenge check out here: https://authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com/category/5-week-author-blog-challenge/
Have fun!

ABC Day 15: The All Important Cover #wealljudgebooks #authorblogchallenge

Describe your process for choosing and designing your book cover. Who created your cover? How did you find him/her? What do you love about your cover? What might you do differently next time?

Ahhh, book covers, the things I love, but also the things that drive me up the wall. When my books were published by a publisher I had very little say in the cover design. Well okay I could have had a big say, but it would have cost me mega bucks. After my first book – Ghostnapped came back with an ok, but not a wow factor cover I got a bit smarter.

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New Cover
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My second book – Obi the Super Puppy had a photo that was taken by a friend on the cover. That looked much better.

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Then for my third book – The Homework Goblin I used one of my illustrations, again a bit better.

Book number four was a completely different kettle of fish. I had to do it all myself to self-publish. I recruited the services of my Husband. He is an IT teacher and is always mucking around with Photoshop. I suggested he start working on my cover and he did. Initially I was going to use another illustration and the first version of the cover looked like this…

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Then we just couldn’t get it right. We started taking photos of our girls down at the beach, with the hope of being able to draw a better picture. I had no luck, it just didn’t work out. Eventually we decided we would be better off using one of the photos of the girls. Finally we finished with this…

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Now the next tough job, to republish the original three books, they needed new covers. Again we used a combination of photos and illustrations. Check out the eye on the corner of The Homework Goblin… Can anyone guess what animal it actually belongs to???

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To check out more from the Author Blog Challenge check out here: https://authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com/category/5-week-author-blog-challenge/
Have fun!

ABC Day14: The Editing Process #authorblogchallenge #amediting

Describe your editing process. Who edited/will edit your book? What was your relationship with your editor like? What could each of you have done to improve the process? What might you do differently in the future?

All of my books are professionally edited, this is vital to the end product.

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Editing is more than that though, it is about getting better. Every time I get a book back from an editor I learn something about my writing. I know that with every book I am continuing to improve as a writer. This is something I tell my students every day!

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I have used two editors. The first is Sally Odgers (Affordable Assessments). She is an Australian author and my kids love her books. This makes me feel more comfortable having Sally work on my books. We’ve never met, but I admire her work. Every time she has edited my work it has been highly professional and very constructive.
The second was a contact I met through the Chapter Book Challenge – Victoria Boulton from Story Fox. She was also fantastic and never tried to change the Australian terms in my books.
I recommend both and will use both again!

That is the last part of the editing puzzle though. There is a lot of editing before I sent it off and some afterwards too. Here are some of the best tips I have picked up along the way:
1. Have a break from your story – might only be a day or two, but tackle editing with fresh ideas,
2. Read your story aloud – preferably to someone of your target audience
3. Use coloured highlighters – one tip is to highlight the speech of each character in a different colour. Read each person’s speech throughout the book to check the tone and voice.
4. Look for words that are repeated – might be the beginning of sentences, can you reduce the use of a word?
5. Build a timeline of events – if you didn’t do this during the planning stage, helps eliminate inconsistencies

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There are many more, but give those a whirl. Check out other authors here: https://authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com/
Have fun!

ABC Day 13: Always Looking to Improve #authorblogchallenge #writing

Have you participated in a critique group? If so, how did it work out for you? If not, why have you avoided joining one to this point? Is your critique group online or does it meet in person? What is the most useful thing you get out of your participation? How do you think a critique group could help you improve your writing?

I haven’t actually been a part of an official critique group. I have had my stories critiqued and have read for other authors too. One thing I did early on in my writing career was to pay for an assessment of my story. I did this because I wasn’t confident with my own writing. The kids I worked with loved my stories, but I wanted to know if they were good enough to be published. This assessment process was fantastic. I got real advice, helpful tips and an in-depth analysis of the structure of my story.

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Now I am more confident on my ability to produce a good story. I do get all of my work edited professionally and generally have a friend read it at some stage before publishing. This is all part of making sure I am publishing the best product I can.
My girls are wonderful at critiquing my stories. They tell me exactly what they think and never hold back. There is nothing like the honesty of children to fix any writing errors. They are of course my target audience, this really helps.

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Check out more Author Blog Challenge Participants here: https://authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com/
Have fun.

ABC Day 12: Fact or Fiction #authorblogchallenge #childrensauthor

If your book is fiction, how could you change it to make it a nonfiction book? If your book is nonfiction, what could you do to turn it into a story?

That’s a really interesting question. I’m going to take the easy option here. I write fiction, but there are elements of nonfiction in my books.

Ghostnapped – the area was based on an actual campsite at Rapid Bay. There really is a cave and old mine and I did really have a dog. There are no ghosts or monsters, but my monster also has an element of nonfiction. I won’t post a spoiler; just say it has to do with a particular animal that can be found in the ocean around this area.

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Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist

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Obi was very real and I was always sure he thought he was a super hero. In many ways he was a super hero. Obi made many people happy and he worked miracles with some pretty disadvantaged children. He used to follow my kids around and I’m sure they thought he spoke to them.

The Homework Goblin – okay nothing real here, except the reason this story was written. I was sharing a class of year 6/7 students and on my day they had to hand up their homework. They gave me some pretty lame excuses for not doing it. I set them a task for homework – to come up with a really creative reason for not doing their homework. That’s right the homework was to not do their homework… I wrote The Homework Goblin as my excuse. I guess there is an element of truth behind the story.

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It’s What You Do Next That Counts – The locations (Perth and Vancouver) are very real and I have been to both. There are some parts of this story that come from my own experiences. There is a part about a volleyball match where Callie serves 23 points and then gets dragged… that actually happened to me! Along the way there are other parts that have some element of truth, occasionally modified. Still I guess you could say there are some nonfiction parts to this story.

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I write fiction, but my fiction is shaped by my own life. That’s why I love to get out and explore the world, to have new experiences to write about. To check out more posts go to the Author Blog Challenge Site and have fun!

ABC Day 11: Live Your Story #authorblogchallenge #researchtrips

Describe the research process for your book. Did you interview people? Travel? How prominent a role did the Internet play? If you didn’t do new research, how did you learn what you needed to know to write your book?

I love researching a new book. To do this I tend to get out and explore. I take my dogs and my kids because they provide me with lots of material.

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I always take my camera; of course sometimes it’s just my phone. This gives me the opportunity to relive the experiences later when I am writing. As an added bonus some of these photos have late been used to build the front covers of my books.

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Of course not all research can be done out of the house. I use the internet to check details for my books. Even though I write fiction I don’t want the books to appear fake. Some of the things I check are:
1. Locations – actual names, distances between places, attractions found there.
2. Time zones – can’t have characters going from one place to another in a time machine… unless that is the
story.
3. Local facts – ecology, history. Interesting facts that might make my story perfect.
4. Meanings of names – sometimes this can help with the character information.

Some of my favourite places to visit during the researching phase include any holiday destination:

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The Zoo (or any zoo):

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The Beach:

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And any other place where a story might just happen. To find out how another author researches their stories check out a fellow ABC member:
Marcie’s blog; https://marciebrockbookmarketingmaven.wordpress.com/
Then get out and research your story – have fun!

ABC Day 10: Outlining #amwriting #authorblogchallenge

Describe your process for outlining your book. What do you do to stay organized? Do you use a software like Scrivener? Index cards? Sticky notes? Giant posterboards taped to the wall?

I used to use note books and try to keep it all together. This was crazy, I was all over the place and would waste so much time finding my notes before I could actually write. I don’t have that kind of time. Recently I started using OneNote for work and other things. I decided to give this a whirl for my writing too.

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It works a charm. I save a file for each story or series and just type up my notes. I can add photos too. This helps me because often when I am planning my stories I go and take photos of places. The other great things about this program are that it automatically saves (no lost information – YAY) and it can be synchronized on multiple devices. I run mine on my laptop and my tablet. That way if I am out an about and get an idea I can record it on the tablet and later that night it will magically appear on my laptop!

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So far it is working for me. It did take a little while to get set up and to sync, but now it is smooth sailing!
As for the actual way I outline, well that’s still a working process. Sometimes I just plot an idea, occasionally I work on dot points for chapters and on occasions I plot out a series.
As I am also a primary school teacher I use the Beginning, Middle, End structure during lessons. This works because it is simple and can be adapted to any length story. I have recently marked a whole class of year three narratives and must say this strategy can be really effective.
I have a whole pile of different graphic organisers for kids and have tried a few out on classes, but tend to just jot my ideas down.
To find out from another author check out fellow ABC blogger, Shannon: https://shananwinters.wordpress.com/
Must get back to my editing now – have fun!