Here is a summary of all the books I read in 2017. Click on the image or the link below to go to my thoughts/ review of the books.
In this post I thought I’d share a bit of the “behind the scenes” of A Touch of Magic.
Back in 2016 I started reading fiction again after an involuntary hiatus (due to being busy with study, producing Alternative Chef Kitchen and having kids that didn’t like sleeping for a few years). In November 2016 I decided to do NaNoWriMo after carving out some time for fun in my life again, and I ended up writing the first draft of an urban fantasy/ paranormal/contemporary fantasy story which I’m calling “Familiar” and you can read a little about that here. Anyway, at the end of 2016 I wanted to meet more authors (because it’s an odd thing we do and its great to have other people to chat with who understand some of the writing dilemmas and fiction writers have different challenges than non-fiction writers do). One of my non-fiction author friends said, “Why don’t you join twitter”. I’d previously avoided twitter like the plague because I just don’t do 140 characters (yes, I wrote poetry in high school but other than that I’m a long story girl. If I have a choice between a 100 page book and an 800 page book – I buy the 800 page one, especially if it’s part of a series and not a standalone). So the thought of twitter just didn’t do it for me. But, I was eager to meet more writers, so I decided to give it a go and created a twitter account. I was surprised to find it fun (if you’re read my previous posts, you’re probably starting to see a bit of a trend here, if not you might find this post and this post (about 2 different books I thought I wouldn’t enjoy but did) entertaining….). Anyway I began tweeting and retweeting quotes that resonated and I ended up “meeting” another author (D.P. Joynes). Dena introduced me to her online fantasy writing group that she’d met through Books Go Social and I joined the group just as they were preparing to publish a fantasy anthology. The problem for me was that it was a short story anthology – the maximum story length was 25K words (Familiar was about 95K at that time…. I had thought Familiar would be a novella…. I had thought it would be standalone…. but Sarah Gai read it, laughed and told me, “Um no, it’s at least 3-5 books.” (Hmm…..)
So length of the submission aside, my other problem was the anthology theme: war. I don’t read war books, watch war themed movies (mostly because I find them so heartbreaking) and I don’t know much about the military. So I wasn’t sure I could “pull off” writing a war themed short story. But as I sat at the cafe, with my laptop open and the cursor blinking at me, I had an idea for a story about one of my Familiar side characters, and a way I could write about the war theme that suited my style of story telling. So I began writing and I ended up with a 25K word manuscript for a story I called Conflicted. I thought Conflicted might make a good standalone novella that people could read before Familiar, but my beta readers and editor Kim said “No, people need to read Familiar first to understand this book.” (Bugger. I was back to square one).
By this time things were getting busy as I had a minor surgery scheduled, and the manuscript due date was looming (along with my Season 3 launch for Alternative Chef Kitchen, and some public speaking events). So I ended up deciding not to submit my story. But while I was recovering Dena messaged me and said that I should submit. So, as I lay in bed, recovering with strong painkillers and good books, I had the idea for another story. It was standalone and not linked to Familiar in anyway. “It’ll be about 5K words,” I told my husband. He just smiled encouragingly at me (after all, this is the man who heard me say, “I’m going to indie produce a cooking show.”) So the next day I headed to the cafe (painkiller free) and started writing. One of my favourite bits in the book On Writing by Stephen King is when he talks about ‘writing becoming a way back’ and helping him to heal when he was recovering from being hit by a car (luckily I wasn’t recovering from being hit by a car), but I had to agree with Stephen. Pain is pain and since I wasn’t taking pain killers (because I needed to drive), the writing kept me going. When I was at home, reading buffered the time needed between doses and as I was writing, I found myself able to cope without them until I got home.
My first draft of A Touch of Magic (the working title I had for the story at the time was Healing Wounds) came in at 15K words. Just like Conflicted, I explored the theme of being at war with yourself. Because I see that everywhere; in clinic I see people with chronic health conditions that are literally instances of the body being at war with itself from autoimmune conditions to people ravaging their body with stress because their mouth keeps saying “yes” to taking more on and doing more, and their body is screaming “no”. So I sat at the cafe and began writing about Jessie. The other place I think we see “being at war with ourselves” is in ageing. People will pull out grey hairs and do any number of crazy things in order to look younger and resist ageing. Generally people miss the point: it’s not about arriving at old age looking as beautiful as you do in your 20s, but it’s about quality of life, independence and mobility. Being able to walk, feed yourself and live in your family home (if you want to). Being able to drive. See. Simple things that we take for granted when we are young. Lastly, you don’t have to look too far to find a scandal online now about health practitioners (natural or mainstream). Ironically it wasn’t my intention to write about a mainstream medicine vs natural war because my personal view is not “either/or”. (I realised when I read a reviewers comment that some people might see it that way). My intention was to write about prejudices people have and how hard it is to hold one set of beliefs, and then have an experience thrust upon you which forces you to change how you think (some people accept this easier than others). Of course, I have come across “Jessie-like” characters in my professional life (and so have a number of my colleagues), but I’ve also come across the scary types who give natural medicine a bad name too and I can’t blame the “Jessie-like characters” for their opinions. So instead of writing about a natural vs main stream “war” I loved the challenge of putting myself in the shoes of someone like Jessie and asking myself what kind of experiences she must have had in order to have such strong convictions and how someone with such strong beliefs would cope if they were forced to have an experience that was in direct conflict to what they believed. (I like to torture my characters… if you read more of my stories over time you’ll find this;-) I love a HEA (happily ever after) but I will make my characters work for it;-).
Anyway, we all needed a quote that matched our story theme for the anthology. I chose the quote “Be kind because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” It’s such a true statement and in this time of quick-judgement and social media which makes it possible for people to have one-sided rants and ignore contrary opinions (by deleting, blocking or trolling), I wish more people would take the time to consider someone else’s point of view.
So that brings me to the end of this peek “behind the scenes” of A Touch of Magic.
It’s not your typical romance, or a typical fantasy. It’s a mix of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, sweet romance and contemporary women’s fiction.
If you’re curious to read it, or to read more of my stories, then click here to get the book and click here to join my newsletter list and I’ll keep you up to date on what I’m working on and when it is released.
Ok so these books didn’t really fit one of my previous themes, so I thought I’d write about them here. They’re 2 very different books.
The Billionaire’s Virgin (Always) by Lara Love. I was watching Season 5 of Arrow as I was reading this book and I couldn’t help but think of Oliver Queen (before he became Arrow) as I was reading Pierce’s character in this book. Pierce is a billionaire playboy and was Charlotte’s first love. This is a fun read that’ll keep you engaged through to the end. If you love billionaire stories with sexy romance you’ll like this book.
The Guardian Angel by Kay Seely. I loved the theme of this story which is basically about the power of believing in someone and helping them to be who they are. The book follows Nell, a carer for a wealthy autistic child (Robert) and the lengths she goes through to help this little boy. It’s a touching story, and even moreso knowing that it was inspired by Kay’s non-verbal autistic grandson. If you like historical stories with a touch of romance and a family thread (especially if you like books with a Catherine Cookson feel), you’ll absolutely love this book.
In October I caught up on some of the Sarah Gai books I hadn’t got to read yet. Sarah writes heart-wrenching romances and fun light-hearted plus size chic lit that makes you smile (like a sweet cup of chai on a crappy day). I really like her writing style (even though her sad books make me cry!). So here’s my summary…
Winter Signs. Earlier in 2017 I read Autumns Dance the first book in the Season’s Named series. That book was fantastic and I wrote about it here. So I eagerly awaited Winter Signs when Sarah first told me about her idea for it (a deaf heroine with a heartbreaking past). No, I won’t give spoilers. I will tell you it’ll make you cry, (so have good tissues on hand). If you loved Autumn’s Dance, you’ll love this one too.
Loving Brody & Saved by Sam Ok, so it is hard to review/ summarise this book without giving plot spoilers… so I’ll say this. She’s done it again, and if you like books that give you a happy ending (but make you really work for it and cry in the process) then you’ll like this. If you read Loving Brody and think “What was Lisa on about?” read Saved by Sam (the second book) and you’ll know what I mean (I warned you. Have the tissues on hand). These stories have a similar emotional feel to the Season’s named series, although they are very different stories, and Loving Brody & Saved by Sam are a shorter read than the Season’s Named series (Autumn’s Dance and Winter Signs).
Sparkles in Love well, while Winter Signs made me cry, Sparkles made me smile. I really love the whole story and I think I’ve talked her into writing a second book (fingers crossed!). If you like Sarah’s Curvy Series then you’ll like this one. It’s plus size, sweet romance with a chic lit vibe. Sarah’s Christian and so most of her books have Christian themes but if you’re not into that at all, she doesn’t beat you over the head with it either and you’ll still enjoy these stories.
Sarah’s working on a fantasy series she’ll bring out later in 2018 and I’m looking forward to reading that when it comes out too. Check out her books here.
Without a doubt, the highlight of my 2017 reading list were these 3 books by Liane Moriarty. Oh. My. God. They are so good! I’ve bought her other books and plan to read them all this year (2018).
Ok so where to begin. These are contemporary women’s fiction. Liane (an Aussie author) is not afraid to tackle tricky issues. Big Little Lies (yes, the book the VERY COOL TV SHOW is based on) tackles domestic violence, The Husband’s Secret will have you in a twist as Liane has you asking yourself what you would do in that situation (I won’t give it away, and if you don’t know what his secret it, don’t read any spoilers). It’s good. And omg the book is a page turner. Lastly, What Alice Forgot, tackles the theme of memory – what we choose to remember and what we don’t (as well as family). It’s hard to pick a favourite, and since I don’t have to – I won’t. I’ll simply urge you to read them all, and as soon as possible.
In August 2017 my novella A Touch of Magic was published in War Torn: An Anthology in Seven Realms of Fantasy. The anthology had the theme “war” and I chose to take a different approach with that theme and write about “being at war with yourself”. The anthology featured 6 other stories from other international authors (American, Canadian, English and me, Australian). It also featured stories from different sub-genres within the fantasy genre – ranging from traditional high fantasy through to time travel, urban fantasy and my contemporary fantasy. In November 2017 the online distributor the book was published through closed down it’s business and so we (the authors in the anthology) disbanded the anthology. I republished A Touch of Magic as a standalone novella. I’ll do an updated post on where you can find the stories by the other authors later in 2018 (so watch this space).
Unintended by Justine Alley Dowsett & Murandy Damodred. This is a fantasy story, with a Shakespearean style twist. It’s both tragedy and comedy and I laughed out loud in the first few chapters when the main character Kenzie en Shareed accidentally marries the wrong guy. It’s a perfectly titled story with a plot that explores the “unintended” theme to the last page.
The Magpies Daughter by Fiona Skye I was lucky to read this book as a beta reader. It’s a great story, set in the same world as Fiona’s Revelations trilogy series (I read the first book here), although this is a young adult book, I found it blissfully free of annoying heroines. The story follows Aeryn Walker as she learns about her fae heritage and then enters the fae world. I really enjoyed it.
Books for authors part 2. Check out part 1 here.
The first book I came across in this series was Write to market. I’ll confess the title and concept turned me off and I was pleasantly surprised to find these 4 books interesting and worth a read.
So why did the title “Write to market“ turn me off?
Mostly because I assumed he (Chris Fox the author) meant: write what’s popular (whether you love it or not) to make money (e.g. sell your soul pumping out more crap that’s like everything else out there). I was wrong. It’s not exactly what the book is about.
I initially included a long section in this post about why I am not a fan of that concept – but I’ve decided to put it in a separate post, and just keep this one about my thoughts about this book series. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Chris Fox wasn’t saying “cash in your soul” in his book. (He was a little), but mostly Write to market is about writing books in a market you enjoy (although he does mention hitting the tropes). He also writes about how you need to sell books to make money as an author (obviously). I don’t see a lot of books really working the maths out for your though… depending on how much money you want to make as an author, you’ll need to sell a lot of books (especially if you’re only getting 35cents for a 99c book). Chris’ theory/ solution is that the best way to do that is by delivering a book in a genre that is “hungry” e.g. relatively new and isn’t yet “saturated”. The problem is, when many people do this, they saturate the market and then you have to go and find a new market.
Moving on to my thoughts about the other 3 books.
In a nutshell – as I said above, I was surprised to find I liked this non-fiction series (even Write to Market) and found interesting points in each of the short books. Six Figure Author and Launch to Market-were both quite interesting (I know, that word again, but I can’t see the point in using a different one when “interesting” is what I mean).
The title “Six Figure Author” turned me off too at first to be honest, and mostly because I’ve stopped believing anything titled “six figure anything” will actually deliver the results promised (and not for lack of action taking from the person purchasing said product). But in this book Chris writes about Amazon algorithms (a strange piece of magic in itself), the different sales “tiers”, and how many books per day people at number 1, the top 100, the top 1000, 10,000 etc. on Amazon.com are making. (It’s fascinating! Considering I’ve sold a total of >500 books and <1000 I don’t know the actual number but I think it’s about 700 now taking print and ebook sales into account) since I started indie publishing 3 years ago and I’ve had about 3K downloads of my free cookbook in the last 5 months, the thought that someone at number 1 is selling thousands of copies a day is like trying to picture the edge of the universe… you know it’s there and it can happen but it’s kind of hard to picture because it’s so far away. In these books Fox also writes about “also boughts” and the algorithm “cliffs” which are (sorry to use the word again) interesting because it was the first time I’d heard about those things.
Re Launch Your Novel. I liked this book too. The concepts were very simple and logical but it’s a worth a read if you plan to relaunch a book.
Anyway, that’s enough non-fiction. Next post… I’ll chat about the fiction I read between June and December 2017:-)
The second half of 2017 kind of passed in a blur as my family (and I) caught a cold that makes me hum “The Never Ending Story” theme song when ever I think of it (yes, I’m humming now…). Over this 6 month period I published 11 books for Alternative Chef Kitchen (technically it was 10 brand new titles and 1 title was released as a second edition). I pressed publish on the final book on 18th January 2018.
It was a frenzy of recipe testing as well as preparing for a couple of public speaking events (one of the events was a cooking demo for the Adelaide Gluten-Free expo). In that time I also did an interview for an article which was published in Nourish Magazine (Australia), I did a 6 week course on grammar run by the University of Queensland for the edX platform (don’t judge my books by my blog writing by the way. My books are actually professionally edited – whereas this blog isn’t;-). And just because things weren’t busy enough, I ended up releasing A Touch of Magic as a standalone novella (more about that in the December 2017 summary post:-). So anyway, it was a pretty busy time.
Despite all the busyness I managed to read quite a few books. I just didn’t get the time to update this blog. So brace yourself…. here they come. I’ve forgotten what order I read these books, so I’ve divided them into logical (or not) groups to discuss each month.
So let’s get stuck into June!
Between June and December 2017 I read quite a few books about selling books (so this is a review for the indie authors out there).
Anyway, I read another series of books for authors by Christ Fox and I’ll chat about them next.
Things we cover in this chat:
Her next book When Rainbows Cry is due to be released in December, so check out her website for more information!
I’ve written about Six Dead Men here.
In May, I was busy writing A Touch of Magic for the fantasy anthology War Torn, and I’d began to prepare for some public appearances for my non fiction side of things so I didn’t get a lot of reading done. Although I read one of my friend’s debut non fiction book (pictured above, my thoughts on it are below).
How to rock at restaurant management by Katelyn Silva. This was a great little book. I found the tips generally useful for anyone managing people (as I could relate the info to a lot of my personal experiences, at various jobs over the years in retail settings, having been a committee member on many committees and also with producing an online cooking show. Katelyn’s put a lot of examples from her personal life and experience in the book too which makes it helpful, and she’s also given advice with actionable steps you can take and what you need to focus on and how to work with your team when you’re in a management position. Katelyn’s currently working on her second non-fiction book too. You can check out this book, and her author page over on amazon here.