R U OK?

  As most of you know, I live in Australia. And today in Australia is R U OK Day. This is a day in which we’re supposed to all take the time to ask one another “Are you okay?” To raise awareness for suicide prevention, and all the things that go on inside of a person that, in our busy lives, often go unnoticed. 

I bring this up because, today of all days, something happened. I’m very active on my social media channels, anyone whose stuck with me for a generous amount of time will know this. But today I stumbled across someone’s post. I didn’t know this person, I had never spoken to them before, they’re not even from the same country as me. But this is what they had posted:

“Can someone please try to talk me out of suicide? I want to do it, but I shouldn’t. I feel so alone right now.”

Now, I’m a ashamed to admit that my first reaction was to keep scrolling by. Not because I didn’t care, but because this world has made people pessimistic and dubious of everything they see, especially on social media. My first thought was that this person was making it up, that they were lying for attention. As I scrolled past though, a little voice nagged at the back of my mind. It asked me one very simple question. 

“What if?”

What if this person wasn’t lying? What if they weren’t making up something horrible just for attention? What if this was a genuine plea for help? What if they had no one in their lives at all and calling out through social media was the only option they had? 

I couldn’t live with the what if. So I scrolled back up to their post and I clicked ‘reply.’

Long story short, I quickly realized this poor girl was not making it up. She told me that she was utterly depressed, for numerous reasons that I won’t go into. I let her tell me whatever she felt comfortable sharing, I let her pour her heart out to me. I offered her some advice based on my own experiences and suggested that she get some professional help. I told her to always talk to people when she has those terrible thoughts. I was so concerned and moved by what she told me, I even told her to contact me again if she has no one else to talk to. When she had gotten everything off her chest and I had said everything I could think of to convince her life was worth living, that there was always hope, that even if things are at their worst that means they can only get better, I asked her one last, and very simple, question.

“Are you okay?”

She said she was, and I hope that was true. She thanked me for talking to her, and I wished her all the best. 

I’m telling you all of this because of how important it is that we ask each other this question. No one should ever be alone, no one should ever feel the way that 17 year old girl felt. I hope that I helped her, just like I hope that the people in her life will help her, how I hope if any of you are in trouble or depressed, then there will be people to help you, too. In our world with rapidly expanding technologies and global media, it’s easy to become dubious of the things we see and hear. Pessimism is basically a natural human trait nowadays. I have only a single, simple request for anyone and everyone who reads this post. 

Don’t look the other way. Don’t scroll past that concerning post. Don’t ignore that look in someone’s eye. People cry out for help every day, but we don’t hear them. So talk to your families, talk to your friends, talk to your coworkers, your neighbors; talk to complete strangers who are silently crying for help, and ask them that one very simple question:

“Are you okay?”

Dealing With Pessimists

As an author, I often receive criticism about what I do. Not if I’m good or not, more like people simply doubting that anyone who wants to be an author could actually become that. Today I had an exchange with someone who called into question my ability to do what I do. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, and it sure as Hell won’t be the last. But when this sort of thing happens, I always think of an old story I heard years and years ago. I think it’s good for other aspiring artists, or anyone who wants to make their dream a reality, to read. And remember it when someone tries to tell you that you can’t achieve your dreams.

There was once a swamp full of frogs. These frogs all went about their day without trouble, no one doing anything to upset the daily routine. One day, however, a small group of young frogs came across a tree at the edge of the swamp. The tree was rather tall, but had a delicious looking fruit growing from the high branches. The frogs all wanted to eat the fruit, so tasty did they look, but they were afraid of climbing the tree, because it was far taller than anything else they had seen in the swamp, and they were only small frogs.

Finally, one frog worked up his courage and began to climb the tree. As he climbed, the other frogs gathered below and started to call out to the climbing frog, yelling, “Come down, you won’t make it! You’ll fall! Come back, you’ll fall!”

The first frog made it about a quarter of the way up the tree before he finally lost his grip and fell back down to the swamp.

Another frog suddenly decided to give it a try. He hopped forward and began to climb. As soon as he started to climb, the other frogs all began to shout again, “Don’t do it, you’ll fall! It’s too big, you won’t do it! You’ll fall!”

The second frog made it a third of the way up the tree, but then slipped and fell back into the swamp.

It continued that way all morning. A frog would attempt to climb the tree, and as the other frogs all shouted their doubt down below, the frog who was climbing would eventually slip and fall.

Finally, the smallest frog hopped forward. He said nothing to the other frogs, but just began to climb. The frogs down below all yelled out as they had with all the others, shouting, “You’re going to fall! Don’t do it, come back! You’ll fall!”

But the little frog just kept climbing. He made it a quarter of the way up, a third, then halfway. The frogs down below started to yell louder, insisting that he would fall, that he can’t make it, to just stop.

Still, the little frog climbed. He climbed all the way to the top of the tree, made his way out onto the branches and began picking the delicious fruit. He ate his fill, then dropped some down to the other frogs down below. He then easily climbed back down to meet up with the group of frogs who all stared at him in amazement.

“How did you do that?” they all asked the little frog.

But the little frog was deaf.

He never heard them shouting their doubt. And because their pessimism went unheard, there was nothing to stop the little frog from succeeding.

Best Apps For Writers

Notability – $4.99

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Notability was named the Mac App of the Year by Apple! Apple Editors’ Choice on iPad, iPhone, and Mac. Notability is the one place to create, share, and manage your notes. It combines handwriting, typing, audio recordings, and photos so you can create notes that fit your needs. And with iCloud support, your notes are always available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Anytime. Anywhere.

Scrivener – $56.99

screen800x500Scrivener is the best app you could get as a writer and this is the main software that I personally use.

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers designed for composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on getting you to the end of that awkward first draft.
Compose your text in any order and in pieces as large or small as you like. View the components of your draft individually or as a whole. Import and refer to research files such as images and PDFs alongside your writing.

Whether you prefer to outline first, hammer out your first draft and restructure later, or do a bit of both, Scrivener’s corkboard and outliner tools are completely integrated with the text, so working with an overview of your draft is just a click away.

iBooks Author – Free

mzl.jftlkfsn.800x500-75-100482906-primary-idgeNow anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Start with one of the Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts. Add your own text and images with drag-and-drop ease. Use Multi-Touch widgets to include interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more. Preview your book on your iOS device or Mac at any time. Then submit your finished work to the iBooks Store in a few simple steps. And before you know it, you’re a published author.

The Brainstormer – $2.49

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The Brainstormer is kindling for creative minds. A tactile tool to randomly combine a plot, a subject and a setting or style, the Brainstormer provides a moment of inspiration for writers, painters, or any creative mind. Combat creative block, spark new ideas and summon up quick subjects for doodling, sketching or journaling.

The Brainstormer has three spinning wheels featuring plot/conflict, theme/setting and subject/location. By manipulating the wheels — or do a random spin — you generate combinations that make fantastic creative prompts for writing, sketching or any creative activity. Edit the wheels: tweak the built in lists or create entirely new scenarios from scratch.

More Wheels! The Character Builder wheel combines of archetypes attributes and backgrounds, and the World Builder combines theme, mood and place to create one-of-a-kind settings. NEW! Sci-Fi Brainstormer generates ideas with a science fiction flavor.

Coffitivity – Free
screen568x568Research suggests that it may be more difficult to be productive in a totally noise-free space. This is why some people are in their creative element in the middle of a bustling, chatter-filled Starbucks. Coffitivity offers the soothing background noise of a coffee shop in the comfort of your own home. Plus, the coffee is free at your place.
With the app, you can:
• Choose from several Coffitivity audio tracks to create your ideal work environment
• Open your favorite music apps while Coffitivity continues to play
• Adjust volume of Coffitivity to create the perfect mix with your tunes
• Use Coffitivity on the go – even without access to the internet

iA Writer Pro – $24.99

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This app is perfect for those writers that may get distracted easily. The “sentence syntax control” feature sets Writer Pro apart from the rest of the content creation and organization apps. This feature highlights your adjectives, nouns, adverbs, verbs, prepositions, or conjunctions, allowing you to control and streamline your writing style. Different views for the Write, Edit, and Read functions also help you focus on different aspects of your work during different phases of the writing process. Self-editing may be one of the hardest parts of the writing process but with this app it makes it a bit easier.

Social Media – Free

Social media is onsocial_media_strategye of your most valuable resources as a writer, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or even YouTube it’ll help you spread the word and hopefully get more sales. It is even more important for those indie authors out there like me. The truth of the matter is people will overlook your books if they don’t know who you are and that is why having social media accounts are so important. To become a success at the indie game you need to have an established fanbase that will continue to buy your books and spread the love.

My Favourite Story

2w3udz6It’s often really difficult for someone to pinpoint their all-time favourite story or book, but I’ve got this one covered. It’s easily War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. For its day, that was some revolutionary writing, and I’m pretty sure is what started the whole sci-fi genre, as well as a global obsession with aliens.

What I love most about this story, though, is surprisingly not even part of the book. It’s what actor/producer/director Orson Welles did with it. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the brief version.

He freaked out a whole country! Seriously, people were panicking and fleeing towns and everything, just because he adapted the story to a radio script and presented it as a news broadcast. However, most of the country missed all of the numerous announcements that this broadcast was going to be fictitious, because of how most of the country listened to one program on a different station until whatever time, and then switched over to Welles’ station to listen to the second-most-listened-to program. Only by the time they got there, all they were hearing was a reporter halfway through a report of aliens emerging from a ship and killing humans left, right, and centre.

That’s what I love most about this story. The fact that a book was, essentially, brought to life. So many people thought the country was actually being invaded by aliens from Mars, and Orson Welles actually got into a lot of trouble over it, because of damages and rioting and just generally causing public distress. In his defence, though, he did make numerous announcements before the program that it was fictional. Was it really his fault that no one heard that? Think of it like this: you see someone about to walk into a street of heavy traffic. You yell at them to stop, but they don’t hear you, keep walking, and get hit by a car. Then you’re the one being blamed for their injuries. Hey, you warned them, right? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Although, on the other hand, a lot of people wonder if Welles timed the program specifically so that people would miss the announcements. Now, I think Orson Welles was one of the most brilliant, gifted, and intelligent people to ever grace entertainment, but I also think there’s a strong possibility that he planned the whole thing to play out exactly as it did.

But that just makes me love it more! And I’ve always wanted to be able to do something like that. To write something that people became completely engrossed in and believed to be actual events. Except there was no internet in Welles’ day, so he had the advantage of no one being able to jump online and check to see if neighbouring towns were being devastated by aliens. I’m pretty sure I’d be exposed immediately. All it would take is one kid with an iPhone to search Google and then post all over Reddit that it’s all fake.

Pity. It would have combined both my loves for story-telling and freaking people out.

Plagiarism and the Indie Opinion of the Indie Author

As some of you might know, I’m relatively new to the whole independent author world, and there have been a couple of things that I’ve learned. The first thing I learned was:

I freaking LOVE it!

The second thing, however, is that there seems to be a stigma attached to indie authors. Over the past couple of years, I’ve found that a lot of readers don’t trust that an independently published book can actually be good and entertaining. As well as a lot of “officially” published authors don’t think of indie authors in the highest regard. I read one interview with a particular, widely-known, author who referred to indies as “bottom feeders.” Only slightly insulting, but let’s move on.

The reason I began thinking about the opinion people have of indie authors lately is because it was brought to my attention on my Facebook page that there is another indie author out there who has written something I’m told is remarkably similar to my own Reaper Series. One of my readers picked up this ebook on Amazon as a recommended book, having just completed the Reaper Series. They told me they couldn’t even finish reading the sample chapter because they found it to be so similar to my own story.

So I went and checked out this book, which was written by another indie author. I initially imagined it to be a coincidence, but even the description of their book sounded a lot like the premise for the Reaper Series. This author had even titled their own series, Reaper Series! Still, I didn’t want to pass judgement until I read it. And I quickly learned one thing while reading the first book in their series.

No wonder indie authors have a bad name. Seriously, if people like this are the standard, it’s no surprise at all that indie authors are looked down on. I’m not saying at all that all indie authors are like this person, because I am an indie author, why would I insult myself? I seriously hope this type of author isn’t the standard of indie authors, but if this was the first book someone read from an indie, I couldn’t blame them if they were hesitant the next time they saw an independent book.

I was shocked at the similarities this story had to my own. Not to mention that it was released about six months after mine, giving the “author” plenty of time to read and rip-off my own story premise. I had a look at this author’s online presence, checked out their social media, their web page, their Amazon author page, all of it. And my immediate impression is that they have no original concepts, just stuff that they steal from successful books and movies and then jam them all together into one poorly written book. I started reading one book that, based on the description, sounded like a patchwork quilt of Armageddon, Cowboys VS Aliens, and The Terminator. The series that seems strangely similar to my own was mixed with Mortal Instruments, the Fallen Series, and maybe a little Twilight.

What I took to be particularly awful about this author wasn’t just how they took concepts from successful art forms and twisted them to use as their own stories, though. What really annoyed me was how blatantly obvious it was that they were only writing because they thought they could make money out of it. That’s all they cared about, the money and the attention. They would constantly blog about how quickly they wrote and published a book (less than a month), they would post screenshots of their Amazon sales charts, even post how much money they made in a month. It was like a child standing on top of a slide screaming at her parents, “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!”

I don’t want to just complain about this author, who I won’t name, but seriously, here’s a little advice about what to look out for in the indie world of books. Firstly, be wary of books that have lots of reviews, but only 4 and 5 stars. Even the greatest books of all time have negative reviews, just go and look up Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, I guarantee there’ll be a bunch of 1 star reviews of them. I don’t do this, because I refuse to sink to that level, but many indie authors will buy positive reviews. There are plenty of blogs and websites that will honestly review your book in exchange for a free copy or a small fee, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there are just as many who will guarantee a positive review for some money. I view that as false advertising. With X amount of 5 star reviews, people who are looking for a good book would see that rating and think that it must be a good book, only to then part with their hard-earned money to buy a book they most likely won’t finish, because it’s just too God-awful! That’s clearly what this author has done, as all of the reviews on their Amazon page are about as long as this blog.

On the other hand, though, don’t assume that because someone is independently published, they’re a bad writer. Some big name authors actually started out as indie authors. Matthew Reilly self published in 1996. Mark Twain started his own publishing press because no one else would take his work.

Really, don’t just think because you had one bad experience with an indie author that all indie authors are the same. Because as authors, we’re all different, just like “officially” published authors. Some are great, others not so good, some have expensive marketing backing up their work, others rely solely on reviews and word of mouth.

Oh, and if you’re an indie author, DON’T plagiarise! Seriously, what the hell is that author thinking?

UPDATES!!!!

I capitalised the heading because, based on a lot of messages I’ve been getting through Facebook and Twitter, people are DYING for intel. Specifically in regards to the third Reaper book, Angel of Judgement, and when it will be released.

So here it is. At this point, I am expecting/hoping for Angel of Judgement to be released in July of this year (2015). I really hope this doesn’t change, because I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I mean, look at how annoyed everyone is at the delays in the PC release of GTA V! It’s just not worth the hassle. So, that’s the deadline, I plan on sticking to it, but I’m putting it out there as a precaution that nothing is a guarantee in life, so don’t be too upset if the date changes. Hell, for all I know, it could end up being sooner! Best thing to do is just follow my social medias and wait for intel.

ANYWAY… all that aside, sorry for the huge gap in posts. I know, I said previously that I’d post more regularly, but what can I say? I’m an author. I get distracted. I do have some big news, though. Book one of the Reaper series, Angel of Death, is doing really well in the United Kingdom. In fact, it is now the number one free epic fantasy novel on Amazon UK! I know, it sounds like I’m bragging, but as amazing as this news is, I’m just relieved people actually like the damn book at all! And Angel of Vengeance is still selling more and more every day, so thank you everyone! Special shout out to my Twitter and Facebook followers who have been tweeting me their enthusiasm and sending me really nice and positive comments. You guys will be the first to know when Angel of Judgement is ready. Hell, I’ll even make you some cookies! I mean, you’re all from overseas, and cookies wouldn’t make the trip… They’d probably break in transit… Might even get lost. You know what? I’ll just keep them for myself, but I’ll think of you when I eat the cookies.

So, that’s basically it. No major developments, as of yet. Just still writing away. Oh, but Angel of Judgement, in case you don’t know, is going to be the LAST book in the Reaper series. Hopefully that doesn’t gut too many people. Don’t worry, though, because I have a lot more books in mind that I’ll be writing once Reaper gets the send off it deserves.

My First “Book” Ever & Thank You!

Today was quite the day! There I was, just casually checking out the sales stats for my Reaper series on Amazon and Kindle, when I happen to glance at the current ranking for Angel of Death. That’s about the same time my jaw punched a hole in the floor as it dropped so hard. Angel of Death, Book 1 of the Reaper Series, is currently ranked as number 10 in its fantasy genre!

WHAT?!

Not only that, but book 2, Angel of Vengeance, is ranked in the top 100. Insane! The interest and response to Reaper has been so much more than what I ever expected as an indie author. People seem to be genuinely enjoying my books as of late. You have absolutely no idea how much that means to me. It is a huge deal and I am so grateful that so many people are reading my stories. And looking at the location sales, the United Kingdom seems to like Reaper a lot!

Hmm, I wonder if the Queen has read Reaper?

Anyway, I just wanted to express my gratitude to those people who have read my stuff, shown support and just continued to read my other books. It is really a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to be a writer for, literally, my entire life, so this is just mind-boggling. The first thing I ever wrote was when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. It was a children’s book, complete with illustrations! It was about a frog who wanted to be a comedian, but his friends (an elephant, a lion, and various other animals) didn’t think he was at all funny. But then he found other animals who shared his humour and he was happy. Yay!

I’ve definitely come a long way since then. I wish I still had a copy, though. My drawings of the frogs and other animals were exactly what you’d expect from an 8 year old.

In closing, I’d just like to once again say thank you to my readers for simply being there. You are all amazing people and I thank you for every minute you spent reading my books and I promise I will continue to write for you all for years to come. In fact, I just might dedicate my next book to every single one of you! You all rock!

PEACE!