Guest Post: Claire Duffy & Life Is Swede Day on 21 February

A few months ago, a colleague told me about a blog I had to read–and I was hooked from Day One. That blog belonged to Claire Duffy, who is our guest blogger today at Kim Talks Books.

For six months last year, I blogged as a fictional character.  The idea – inspired by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds – was to create a fictional world that initially appeared authentic, so that people could step right in, interact with the characters, and almost become part of the story themselves.  I’ve always been fascinated with that concept: who wouldn’t want to enter a novel they’re reading, ask questions or give a character a few home truths?

When I moved to Stockholm and the story of a lonely ex pat who gets drawn into a murder mystery began to form in my brain, I knew I’d found my War of the Worlds.  It felt organic: of course Regan would blog daily about her impressions and experiences struggling to settle into her new life.  Within weeks, she had built a fantastic, loyal following, who advised and supported her through culture clashes and the language barrier, a rough patch with Anders and her struggles dealing with his apparently cold and reserved friends.

Regan’s early accounts of being an ex pat in Stockholm are extremely autobiographical: one of my friends only clicked that it was fiction when she realized how much of what happened to Regan had happened to me. I love living in Stockholm, and love Swedish people – but my first year or so was definitely a struggle against loneliness, homesickness and frustration.

I remember at times feeling that I couldn’t read people any more – often I would meet someone and diagnose that they had no interest in being friends with me, then later discover that they were just being Swedishly reserved upon first meeting. For me it was just a case of getting to know and understand a new culture, but, but it was a ripe emotional state to toss a little murder into!  When one of Anders’ close friends is murdered and he is arrested, Regan sets out to clear his name – but unable to trust her perception of the people involved, unable to understand what she hears, it’s easier said than done!

Now that the final blog has been posted, the whole project has been put together into an ebook.

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Friday 21 February is Life is Swede day!!

The idea is to gather up all the fantastic support the blog has had over the last few months – and welcome some new friends into the fold – and see if we can get this little project that could onto the Amazon best seller list for a day*!

(*and also for the rest of all time. But you know, one step at a time 😉 )

To pull this off, we need to spread the word as much as possible to everybody in the whole world (ideally) to buy Life is Swede on Friday 21 February. Join Regan’s Army and blog, share, re-post, tweet, like, submit, pin with abandon! There’s even a Facebook group you can join and add your friends to if you really want to go wild!

Anyone who:

* tweets, shares, mentions the project on any social media will get a thank you & link of their choice on www.lifeisswedeblog.com

* hosts my guest post about the project & plan (I’ll email it on request!) or adds friends to the event Facebook group will get a thank you & blog button displayed on www.lifeisswedeblog.com, plus I’ll tweet & share to the Facebook group a link of your choice.

* blogs about the project (the story, the concept, the plan!) or reviews the book on Amazon will get the button on www.lifeisswedeblog.com, plus a thank you and link on the last page of the book itself, and will go into the draw to be name-checked as one of Regan’s blog friends in the text of the book.

These are just the thank yous I could think up myself (and though my fuzzy, cold addled brain!) – if you have any thoughts or co promotion ideas, I am all ears!! I’ll be monitoring any activity of course, but please do give me a heads up if you are getting involved so that I can be sure to thank you!!

Check out Xio Axelrod–another writer from Philly–and Starstruck

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Xio Axelrod, the author of Starstruck

I found out a week or two ago that one of my friends from Philly (we’ve known each other since elementary school) has written a serialized novel. She’s been posting chapter-by-chapter on her blog. The story is called Starstruck and I started reading it mid-last week. I love a good love story, so it’s right up my alley.

Xio’s amazing–she has a beautiful voice, she’s super-talented and she’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Go and check it out and show Xio some writerly love! 🙂 You can find Starstruck here.

Happy reading (and writing)!

David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible is now available!

ImageFellow writer and indie writing guru David Gaughran has a new book out with tips on writing, selling more books and getting noticed. The book is called Let’s Get Visible and it’s a companion volume to his previous book, Let’s Get Digital. I think both of these books are must-reads for indie writers.

David’s no-nonsense approach is spot-on. I think he’s got another winner here. 🙂

He shares with readers tips on positioning your books for discoverability, cost-effective ways to promote your work and how to minimize the amount of promotion you do and for more writing time–and still sell books. So if you are as curious as I am about how to build your platform without having to spend all hours of the day on Twitter or Facebook (especially when you know you should be writing), then check out Let’s Get Visible. For more information, head over to David’s blog.

Review: Gayle Forman’s Just One Day

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Cover of Gayle Forman’s Just One Day

I was in the mood for a romantic book that wasn’t a romance. At first, I thought I wanted some chick lit or women’s fiction but then I stumbled upon Gayle Forman’s Just One Day and it struck a nostalgic chord in me. I bought it on a whim and don’t regret it.

Just One Day is a new adult novel that revolves around good girl Allyson’s journey to finding herself and love lost. Everything starts in England–just before her freshman year at Harvard starts–when Allyson and her best friend Melanie decide to check out an underground performance of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. That’s when Allyson first catches sight of Willem de Ruiter, a free-spirited young Dutch actor. Sparks fly and, on a whim, Allyson decides to go to Paris with Willem. During their time together, she blossoms, becoming Lulu–a more laid-back and adventurous version of herself as Willem encourages her to stop following a plan that was never hers to begin with. But nothing goes as smoothly as Allyson hopes. Willem’s good looks mean that she is under the constant scrutiny of other young women who are attracted to him and there are the inevitable meetings with girls from his past. But along the way, Allyson learns to let go and to let herself experience life and love without the suffocating boundaries set up by her parents. But just as quickly as they meet, a misunderstanding tears them apart and Allyson eventually returns to the confines of her life in the US, wondering if that one day with Willem meant as much to him as it has to her and if she can ever find him again.

While I was reading Just One Day, I was reminded of the movie Before Sunrise. There is the chance meeting in an unexpected setting, the American falling in love with the European, and the limited time they have together. But that’s where the similarities end. Forman has written a story that is in itself like the Shakespearean plays Allyson studies–where no one is quite what they seem. Willem is charming and frustrating and, according to Allyson, too beautiful for her. And  Allyson, insecure and overprotected, becomes the woman she wants to be as they explore the beauty…and sometimes the dangers…of Paris.

I loved reading Just One Day. I thought it was an elegantly written novel with beautiful descriptions of Paris and Utrecht and scenes set in Philadelphia that made me just a tad bit homesick. 🙂 The characters are three-dimensional and come to life, making you care about them and cheer for them. The sequel to Just One Day, told from Willem’s point of view and called Just One Year, is coming soon, and I can’t wait to read it.

My take on it? 5 stars.

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In search of the perfect book covers – Part One

Even when I was more of a reader than a writer, I judged book covers. A horrible cover–no matter how good the book may have been–was enough to prevent me from purchasing a book. So when I decided to begin self-publishing, I knew I had to make sure that my covers were nice enough that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen reading my own books. Shallow, I know, but I doubt I’m the only one who’s felt that way.

The first book I published, the collection of short stories entitled The Melanie Chronicles, was what I saw as my experiment in self-publishing. I wanted to see how to Imagego about with formatting, designing a cover and marketing a book. Some parts of it were more difficult than others, but I already had a cover image and I had a little help from my colleagues. I found the cover image on Shutterstock. I knew I wanted an illustration or vector image instead of a photograph. Even though I am not such a big fan of the color pink, I liked that the shade used in the picture was a deeper shade, not baby pink or pastel pink. In the end, I liked the image so much, I also used it on my business cards and as the header for my blog.

For Linger: a short story I designed everything myself. It took a while to find the right cover image. Many of the images I found were too cheesy-looking. I didn’t like the emotion they conveyed. Others felt overly sexual when I wanted a picture of a woman grieving. You don’t know how difficult it can be to find a good image of a grieving black woman. I found plenty of pictures of women spilling out of bras or naked and clinging to men. I found a few that almost conveyed the emotions  I wanted, but they weren’t quite right. In the end, I found the right cover image. But making a cover is not easy, especially when you aren’t proficient in Photoshop or InDesign. I couldn’t really find the right font and I ended up having a font I don’t really like with an image I loved. It was an experiment. I guess you could say it was a semi-successful experiment since I did everything for it myself.

ImageFor my next book covers, I’ve found pre-made book cover designers who also help with custom-made covers. One such designer is James at Humble Nations. He has a great selection of pre-made covers. You can buy one or buy them in bulk and save them for later. The cover images are great and James is helpful, friendly and funny. Since I have quite a few books that are close to being ready for publication, I decided to try his services. The cover for Choose Me, which is a collection of short stories I’m working on, gives you a great idea of James’ work. I love it. I think it captures the feel of the stories, which are stories about love and relationships with a touch of sensuality. I knew I wanted something that felt sexy without feeling cheap and tawdry. I saw this image and I thought it was perfect. I just think it has the right feel. I’m not sure yet when Choose Me will be published. I still need to tweak a few of the stories. I’ll keep you posted on the actual release date. Once it’s ready, it will be available as an ebook and a POD paperback.

I’m also trying to finish the edit of A Little Night Music. I’ve been discussing it with another designer, Andrew, at Design for Writers. As soon as I have some samples, I’ll share them with you.

Before I sign off, I just wanted to share some new blogs/sites with you:

Coming next week: a book review and (maybe) an interview with Nick Alexander.

Happy reading!

I love it when Twitter leads me to new books

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 10.59.48 PMA few weeks ago, actress Megan Fox made news by joining and then leaving Twitter. She said she thought this was the year she’d become a social media butterfly but it wasn’t to be. I know quite a few people who feel the same way. They say Twitter (and Facebook and every other social media site) is a waste of time, a waste of intellect, etc. One of the people who said this to me is also someone who watches reality shows and wants to discuss them with me. I try to avoid reality shows. They annoy me, especially the ones that do nothing more than pit women against one another so some fat cat producer can make money off them. Ah well, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. But the point is that a lot of people don’t like Twitter (or social media in general) and say it’s never given them anything useful.

I used to be one of those people who didn’t see the point of Twitter. I could never follow any conversation I joined or started. It was like walking in circles or getting stuck in quicksand. Then one day I realized I could make lists and keep track of the like-minded people I followed.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 10.59.18 PMRecently, one the people I follow on Twitter raved about a book she was reading. I don’t always trust everyone’s book recommendations, mostly because lately people keep telling me to read Fifty Shades of Grey (which I already read and hated). But this Tweetie recommended Nick Alexander’s the Half-Life of Hannah and the Case of the Missing Boyfriend and said both books had great characterization and pacing. There was no mention of anyone called Grey and both stories sounded like what I was interested in reading–stories about women who were trying to figure out what and who they want, stories about love that didn’t candy-coat the trials of life with shopping and designer names. So, I was intrigued, I used my Amazon gift certificate (thank you, Tord!) to buy both books. I started reading The Half-Life of Hannah a few days ago and I love it so far.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 11.28.55 AMTwitter also led me to the new book by Ali Harris, The Last First Kiss. Now, I knew this book was coming out–I read about it on Ali Harris’s website back in December–but my sieve-like brain had managed to forget about it. Then a Tweetie mentioned it and I made sure I purchased it.

So now I’ve got three new books to keep me busy for a while and it’s all thanks to Twitter and the Tweeties I follow. 🙂 Thanks, Tweeties! I’ll post reviews soon, as well as an interview with Nick Alexander.

By the way, I am going to follow a fellow writer’s lead (yes, Seumas, thanks for including me in your list) and I’m going to end every blog post from now on with new blogs and sites I’m following. Maybe you’ll want to follow too. So here they are:

Happy reading! 🙂

Get thee to these blogs

I am always on the lookout for new blogs–as if I didn’t read enough already! 🙂 Usually I find them by chance, occasionally I find them via Twitter, Google+ or Facebook. Yesterday, I found three new blogs via Twitter:

So what was so special about these blogs?

Well, 2girlsonabench.com is hilarious–I love its quirky, irreverent tone. I also love how it’s written like a never-ending screenplay. And the wacky things that happen to the girls, Siana and Tricia, make me want to join them. Maybe we could be 3girlsonabench the next time they head to Europe. Just check them out, I think you will enjoy it. 🙂

Christine Nolfi is the author of The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge and Treasure Me. I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while and always liked the posts and links she shares. Last night I read an article she posted with advice on building readership. I thought it was really insightful and I liked her tone of voice. She’s very down-to-earth, which I appreciate. So now I am reading some of her older blog entries and enjoying them as well. So, newbie indie writers, this is a good blog to follow and let’s show Christine our support! 🙂

I followed Nicholas’ link from his Twitter profile after we friended each other. What I love about his blog, ilvenworld, is how it doesn’t simply focus on selling his books. He also posts fantastic photos of places which have inspired his writing. And the pictures make you want to visit those places.

So if you’re looking for some new blogs to follow, check them out! Now I am off to Solna Centrum to pick up my new business cards + pens for promoting my books (I say “books” since I have more in the pipeline–news soon!)…