Friday, September 18, 2020

The Tree of Life.

Looking into the world from Beyond the Veil and the folklore that surrounds it.
Part 3. 
To my dearest friends and followers,

For the last two weeks I have been analyzing my book The Story of Hollyhocks (Tales from Beyond the Veil book 1), and I will continue to do so in the upcoming weeks. You can check out my previous posts here: Part 1 and Part 2.

In chapter 9, Hollyhocks asks her father about the time he left the Forest, before he had married her mother. He proceeds to tell of his adventures, and then tells her something much more valuable to both her and the reader - the history of their world (a time known as the Ancient World). We are told of a time before the veil existed - a time when the humans and fairies lived in harmony together (something which is forbidden in the present day). We learn of the events that changed that, and that "Dain's eldest son died". Dain was one of three sprites who made up the Council of the Ancient World. Though it seems like Hollyhocks's father is telling a string of insignificant, though interesting tales, this section is filled with details of great importance for the book and for the rest of the series (books 2, 3, and 4 yet to come!). For that reason, chapter 9 is, in my opinion, one of the most important chapters in the book.

The 10th chapter of the book describes more history of the actual veil as told by Shaylee (Hollyhocks's friend), rather than the history of the Forest as a whole, like Hollyhocks's father explained. We learn that the source of the veil comes from "the heart of the Forest". We have already learned in previous chapters that in the heart of the Forest is a tree, more grand than all the other trees in the Forest - an oak tree.
Let's take a look at some Celtic lore for the sake of understanding the story. The Celtic word duir means oak. Several resources have informed me that it can also mean oak knowledge. I have heard duir translated into the English language as door. The Celts believed that the oak tree was sacred and was actually the living soul of a man who had "died". Therefore, the tree symbolized wisdom and strength. It became known as the "tree of life" or "door to another world", as it was thought that the tree was a gateway to the spirit world. The Tree of Life image we know today shows the connection between heaven and earth, and representing balance and harmony in all living things.
I took some of the celtic ideas for my own story. The oak tree is the heart of the Forest and is the source of the veil - the thing which keeps the worlds of fairies and men separated. In my mind, the door to another world is literally the door to the fairy realm, rather than the spirit world. More about the actual creation of the veil will be told in book 2.

Later, Hollyhocks learns that she can actually move herself from one side of the veil to the other. This act allows her to be seen by humans - something she so wishes to be able to do. Her long time dream comes true and she and her friends spend some time in the company of a woman and her newborn baby.

The 12th chapter of the book is when things really begin to pick up. Hollyhocks is able to hear a human calling out to see a fairy - a human that is so far away, they could not possibly be heard. Hollyhocks does hear though, against all odds, because she had a desire to hear humans more than any of the other fairies. As she thinks about leaving home to answer the call, she is bid farewell by the Forest itself, the dryads and the unicorn, along with the very windows she passes, and a creaking sign, as if "the world knew they were leaving". Thus begins her adventure, taking her away from her home, and into the darkness of the world.

Thank you so much for reading!!

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:
My ebook is available now for pre-orders!!

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Cunning Woman & Agnes Waterhouse.

Looking into the world from Beyond the Veil and the folklore that surrounds it.
Part 2. 

To my dearest friends and followers,

If you missed last week's post, I highly recommend you check it out here. For the next 8 weeks, I will be analyzing certain aspects of my book, The Story of Hollyhocks (Tales from Beyond the Veil book 1), and talking about some of the folklore that surrounds it.

I'd like to begin where I left off last week. I mentioned having talked with people who were a great help to me when writing the 4th chapter of the book, in which I write about the first interactions between Hollyhocks and Edith, fairy and human. I would like to point out that I was told a human had to be "good" in order for a fairy to visit them. In the 5th chapter, I interpreted that three different ways, showing kindness towards others, caring for the earth, and having a "pure heart", which is shown by how easily she is trusted by animals.

The 7th chapter is where the reader is first introduced to Anlon, the mysterious Unicorn who resides in the Forest. Little is known about him or his Wild Herd, but he appears throughout the story as a protecter/guardian. He is extremely old, and noted for having eyes that did not seem to be the eyes of a mere animal, but "more like that of a man or some ancient creature, for his eyes were filled with age and wisdom and understanding".
Also, there is a cold wind that follows Hollyhocks around. It is ominous and the source is unknown, as the wind does not seem to have an affect on the leaves as it blows through them. This again is something that was very intentional on my part. It might go unnoticed by most readers, but it does serve the purpose of symbolizing the darkness that always loomed in the world, and even more recent, in the Forest. More of the history of the Forest is talked about later on in the book.

In chapter 8, we see a woman named Agnes who is a witch of sorts (though she prefers to be called a "cunning woman"). I named this character after Agnes Waterhouse (1503-1566). Historically, she was the first woman in England accused of and executed for witchcraft. Most of the women who were in such positions were not actually witches, so it is unknown if the real Agnes was one of these women or not. Either way, my book is set in 1483, so the character I wrote about would have likely been deceased by the time the real Agnes was sentenced to death.
The reader gets to see the dwelling place of the character Agnes, and it is noted that there is a single black crow on the roof of her house. Often, crows were thought to be magical "spirit animals". However, a single crow was often seen as a bad omen. It meant death was sure to come. The symbolism behind the crow in the story is meant to foreshadow events later on.

Later in the chapter, we see an Angel Coin, depicting the Archangel, Michael, and the Serpent, or "dragon", as the devil is often depicted as a serpent in the Bible. The coin which I wrote about is a real coin. They were made by Edward IV and were, for some reason unbeknownst to me, believed to have magical properties. As Agnes states in the story, it represents the good and evil in the world, and also foreshadows the journey Hollyhocks is about to take.

Thank you so much for reading!!

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:
Pre-order the ebook!!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

From Beyond the Veil.

Looking into the world from Beyond the Veil and the folklore that surrounds it.

To my dearest friends and followers,

Over the course of the next 10 weeks, I will be taking a deeper look into my novel The Story of Hollyhocks (Tales from Beyond the Veil book 1) and analyzing certain aspects of the world I created and the folklore that inspired it, along with how sections in the first half of the book relate to the second half. I will try my hardest to not give away major spoilers for those of you who have not read it, but focus on smaller sections rather than the broad picture.

To start things off, I want to talk about the opening chapter of the book. It really is for the purpose of letting the reader know what kind of setting the story will take place in, while also introducing a wide cast of different fairy creatures, and introducing the main character of the book.
Within the first 3 paragraphs, the reader is given a hint of the year. Since the story later revolves around the young Edward V, it can be assumed that the child being born who is "destined to one day reign over Great Britain" is none other than Edward (who was born in 1470). Most readers wouldn't catch this, but I thought it was a fun hint for myself and those who also enjoy historical England.

Later on in the chapter, the reader is shown the night sky, with the moon and stars being personified. One star is too excited and accidentally shoots himself from the sky, falling to the earth, and his light going out. We are told, that "some didn't care, some simply didn't notice, and some will miss him." Though I was unaware of this at the time that I wrote it, it was pointed out to me that this foreshadows an event that will happen later in the story.

In the next several paragraphs, the narrator speaks of the Forest as a living thing, and then proceeds to tell the reader about the different fairy creatures who live there, including dryads, hobgoblins, pixies, and sprites. Each fairy creature in my book was carefully written about in a way that I hope reflects the old folktales and lore about them, instead of the poorly misinterpreted fairies so commonly seen in pop culture today. 
To read more about the fairies, I have written several articles about them and provided the links at the bottom of this post.

In the 4th chapter, Hollyhocks and her friends visit a human who "summoned" them. This section was so much fun for me to write. I actually spoke with several people who truly believe in the existence of fairies, as part of my research. I wanted to know how they knew if they had seen one, what it felt like, and how they "summoned" one in the first place. The series title of my book, Tales from Beyond the Veil actually came from part of this research. The phrase "Beyond the Veil" comes from a chant, saying something along the lines of, "Beyond the veil, please let me see." It was allowing a human to see into the fairy world, but my book is more so allowing a fairy to see into the human world.
The character in the book who wished to see the fairies is noted as having lavender flowers outside her home, and baking a lemon tart. I was told that lavender and sweets (such as cream or lemon treats) were common in pagan beliefs for summoning fairies.

Thank you so much for reading!!

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:

Pre-order my novel as an ebook on Amazon!!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Join Me In Writing!

If you want to be a writer, write.
~Epictetus

To my dearest friends and followers,

I wrote you a few weeks ago that I had been working on "tidying up" my possessions. While I have slowed down the process drastically, I did work on it a little bit this week, and in doing so I decided I wanted to move my "creative space".

As I mentioned last week, I am preparing for NaNoWriMo. To better set myself up for "success", I think it would be extremely beneficial for both me and my husband if I could have a work space away from the main room of the house. So that's what I did. I don't have pictures to show because the space isn't quite what I want, but I'm really happy with how it turned out so far!! It feels like my space in my own little quiet corner of the house. I feel less distracted and more ready to focus on my project.

I have moved a few times and each time, I've joined different "regions" on NaNoWriMo to find other writers/participants in my area. This year is different though. While I have joined my region "San Diego", there are no other members (which blows my mind!)!! If anyone reading this is in the area (those of you who may be doing NaNoWriMo), please join the region!! Or add me as a writing buddy (you'll find me as Vanessa Paige Israel).

Beginning on September 9th, I will be participating in the NaNo Prep 101 Workshop. It is a 6 week course that helps you to plan out your novel, organize your life for writing, and manage your time. I have a lot already planned for my novel, but I am going to do the course anyway and learn/plan everything that I can. It's free to join and pretty self-paced with a convenient easy-to-use handbook that can be downloaded as a PDF.

I have also purchased the book On Writing: a memoir of the craft by Stephen King. It is not a required read by any means, but I have heard on several different accounts that it is an excellent book not only for writers, but also for those preparing to do NaNoWriMo.
Honestly, if anyone reading has ever wanted to be a writer, NaNoWriMo is a great way to get started and it will instantly provide you with a writing community to join and be a part of.

I feel like I'm going have a busy schedule, with planning my novel, taking the NaNo Prep course, reading Rick Riordan's new novels, posting to my blog every week, and doing a weekly book reading of my book with a few ladies I know. The next few months are going to be exciting indeed. Please leave a comment or let me know if you are thinking of doing NaNoWriMo this year. I would love to get to know you as another writer!!

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:

Friday, August 21, 2020

Preparing For NaNo.

To my dearest friends and followers,

At the beginning of this year, I set myself a reading challenge on Goodreads to read 20 books. On July 13th, I reached that goal, and have since read 10 more books!! I've read a wide variety of books out there, from classics like Sherlock Holmes, to modern Japanese Manga, to the Rick Riordan novels!!
A couple months ago I was scrolling on Facebook and saw an add promoting Rick Riordan's new novel. It isn't available until October 6th, but I immediately pre-ordered myself a copy. I couldn't help but think, I hope someone is this excited about my books some day. XD
I have been so careful when planning what to read next. I want to make sure I have read Riordan's previous 4 books (The Trials of Apollo series), so that I am ready when I receive the 5th book. I estimate it would take me 10 days (at most) to read each book. Therefore, I don't want to begin reading them too soon, finish them, and be waiting in suspense until I have the final book. Basically, I plan to begin reading book 1 on September 1st.

In the meantime, I decided to take these extra days to focus some time on my own book, the sequel I'm working on to The Story of Hollyhocks. Click here if you'd like to check out last week's post, where I talked about starting this project. I have been writing so many notes, asking myself questions about the direction the story will take and about the characters. How old is Jack? What does he like to do? Who are his friends? How is he different, as he states in the prologue? What is the purpose of the prologue?

It's even important for me to know the other characters, not just the protagonist. What will their names be? How do I match the names from the first book? What part does that character play in the story and is his or her role necessary?

I need to know what this world is like too, and how does it differ from the world I already built for Hollyhocks, since it is supposed to have taken place BEFORE Hollyhock's story.

I've also had to ask myself, do I want this story told in the same narrative (the old fairy tale-esque style, like someone is sitting down, telling the reader the story, as opposed to the reader simply reading the story on their own)? How do I accomplish that?

For anyone who has read and enjoyed the first book, I am happy to say that several of the characters will appear in Jack's story. It makes me so happy to revisit this world and see familiar people!! I have written the prologue, the 1st chapter, and part of the 2nd chapter. I am still taking it slow, but I want to write enough (probably no more than the first 3 or 4 chapters) for when NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) comes around in November!!
At that point, I hope to have found my groove and stick with it, maybe not completing my novel, but getting a lot written!! Last time I participated in NaNo (in 2016), I finished the month with a total of just over 26,000 words. That was ok with me. The plan was not to write 50k words (which NaNo pushes for), but to write something everyday. I plan to do the same this year. I'm really looking forward to it!!

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:

Friday, August 14, 2020

Jack's Story.

To my dearest friends and followers,

If you happened to buy my novel, and if you happened to actually read it (I know I can't be the only one who buys books with every intention to read it, but sometimes...life happens...), and if you just so happened to enjoy the story and the characters, then I have some news for you that will excite you!!
I have begun writing book two!!

So, I completed writing the first draft of The Story of Hollyhocks in January of 2017. I immediately began planning for another book set in the same universe. I got a journal and wrote so many notes and ideas for what this next book could be, but I never really got started with writing it.

In just the last few months I began thinking about the story again and writing more notes, trying to make sense of what I had written previously, and figuring out the direction this next book would take. It was then that I made up my mind: The Story of Hollyhocks would be the first book in a 4 book series.

I'm not quite ready to announce the working titles, but I am so excited!! I have a rough idea of what each book will be about, but I'll work on them more when I get to them. The reason I am writing the second book at all is because one of the characters from the first book demanded to have his story told. I knew the only way to properly do that was to give him his own book.

He really is one of my favorite characters in the book, though he does appear in only a few chapters. I'll try not to give too much away for those of you who have not read the story, but his name is Jack. His entire being is a mystery. Little is known about his past life, how he came to be what he is now, and how that affected the current state of things in his homeland.

The second book will take the reader back in time (even farther back than the first book) to learn the history of the land and the creatures there, along with where Jack came from. I'm so excited to begin another journey and to get to see familiar characters again!! I'm probably going to take the writing pretty slowly for the time being. I'll tell you more in the upcoming weeks, but I am seriously considering doing NaNoWriMo again this year (I participated in 2016) to work on this project.

Also, I'm thinking that I would like to begin blogging about the folklore throughout The Story of Hollyhocks, so keep a lookout for that if that's something you're interested in reading. XD

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:

Friday, August 7, 2020

Remember.

To my dearest friends and followers,

Have you ever wanted something so bad, that you maybe didn't stop to even consider if it was right? Have you ever loved someone with all that you are, that you thought surely this is what we were meant for? Or have you ever missed someone so much, that it physically hurt? I ask you, have you ever looked back on your past, on all of the good, the bad, the times that made you happy, the times that you felt like your world was falling apart, the times you were numb from all of the hurt and pain you'd endured, the times you remember most, the times you cherish, and thought, I am grateful for all of these times?

Remember the time when you were a child. It was a good time. You were happy. Mom and Dad were happy. The world was good and everything in it, beautiful. You didn't always get your way, but you could live with that. You knew everything was fine, and when it wasn't, Mom would make it fine.

Remember that time you were out with your friends. You did something you probably shouldn't have. You knew it wasn't the best idea, but you did it anyway. You even thought, this isn't bad, is it? Of course, if you were questioning it, it probably was bad. You were old enough to know right from wrong. But you didn't always make good choices. You weren't a bad person though, you were just learning by making your own mistakes.

Remember that time when you left home without saying goodbye. You hadn't meant to be gone for more than a few nights at the most, but you were away for a long time. You didn't intend any harm, but you wanted to get out and see the world. You were excited and you knew you wanted to experience it all on your own.

Remember the time when you met him. He was beautiful - not in the way that a woman is beautiful, but in his own way. He was beautiful for the way he thought. He was the son of someone important, but that's not why he was important to you. He believed in you and knew he was better for having met you.

Remember the time when all of that ended. Maybe you even knew it was coming, but it didn't make it hurt any less. It was real, and the pain was real too.

Remember the time when you blamed them. You said the world was evil and you truly believed it. You didn't want to hurt anymore, but how did you make the pain go away? You knew they wanted to be there for you, but how did you let them in?

Remember the time you overcame your darkness. You didn't do it alone, because you weren't meant to, but you were in a better place all the same. And maybe the pain didn't completely go away. And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's all of your feelings, not just your good ones, that makes you you.


Yours truly,
Me

Friday, July 31, 2020

A Promise to Keep.

I promise, one day I'll have more to show than a few quotes from an unfinished book.

To my dearest friends and followers,

I want to thank each and every one of you that has been supporting me. If you follow me on Twitter and build up the Writing Community, thank you. If you like my Facebook page, thank you, because I know I don't post there as often as I should. If you followed me on Google Plus way back when, thank you. If you found me through NaNoWriMo or Rowanvale, thank you, because those were both very good and memorable times for me. If you follow my author profile on Goodreads, thank you. If you've purchased my book, thank you. If I know you in person and you come here to see what I've written every week, that truly means a lot to me, so thank you. And if you're new here, welcome.

I am sure I will never know most of you, but you're support to me means a lot. I'd rather have a small community of people who are close than a large following with little interaction. My views are steady for the most part, so I know some of you are faithful readers. <3

When I published my novel two months ago, I felt so many things. I felt happy, excited, nervous, relieved, amongst other things. I was recently reminded of something else though. While I was looking through past messages to people, I saw that I had made a promise to so many of them. That promise was this: I promise, one day I'll have more to show than a few quotes from an unfinished book. I feel like I have kept that promise, now that my novel is published and available to you guys. And that makes me feel happy in a peaceful sort of way, like I did good by you.

However, I have failed to deliver when it comes to those of us who prefer ebooks over paperbacks. I intentionally waited on that, as I wanted to release the ebook once the physical copy had been available for a few months. I am happy to announce that The Story of Hollyhocks will be available for purchase as an ebook on October 1st, 2020, just after the autumnal equinox and on the day of the Harvest Moon!!

I'm still working on a few kinks, and trying to figure out how publisher compensation works with an ebook, using an ISBN, and formatting. I felt achieved when I had completed all of this for my paperback edition, but it's all so different with an ebook, it's frustrating!!

Oh well, I'll pull through because I know it will be rewarding in the end. XD

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:

Friday, July 24, 2020

Multiple Projects.

To my dearest friends and followers,

This week (and the week prior) has been really fun for me, due to my working on several projects.
I really enjoy designing things on and making things on my computer. I don't know if I'm "good" at it or not, but I like what I make. XD
I actually thought about getting my degree in Graphic Design back when I was in college. Instead, I ended up getting a BA in English (not to teach, as many assumed, but for the literature/writing aspect of it to help me in pursuing my own writing career).
Anyhow, to get back on track, I have been thinking about creating a journal for myself to write down memories. If you read my post last week, you'll know I have been going through my belongings and getting rid of things, or "tidying up" as Marie Kondo puts it. She suggests writing down memories associated with sentimental items, since it is the memory we cherish and not the item. Once the memory is written down, it is easier to part with said item.
I've been working on creating a cover for my journal, using the Alice watercolor painting I made a few months ago.

Another thing I made is a bridal shower invitation for my sister. I offered to be in charge of that, since I really enjoy making things of that sort. She accepted my offer, and seemed pleased with the finished result. XD I'm looking forward to addressing them. I haven't decided if I'll print the addresses on the envelope, or if I'll hand write them in calligraphy. Decisions, decisions.

I also made a birthday card for a friend of mine. It had a birthday cake on it, each layer painted in watercolor, cut out, and glued together. I then gave it dimension, using adhesive foam dots (or squares in my case).

The thing that I am most excited to share with you though is the bookmarks I made!!
When my book was first published (May 29th, 2020), I wanted to hit up all of the local bookstores in my area and see if they'd carry my book. Due to the pandemic, that didn't happen. As more things opened up though, I realized, I should have made bookmarks to go with my book!! it would be the perfect thing to leave at all of the bookstores, right?

So, using Canva and BeFunky, I created really cute bookmarks that match my book!! I haven't decided if I'll offer them from my blog to people who may want them, but I'm considering the possibility of it, would I charge people (to cover the cost of shipping, etc.). I'm not sure yet, but I'll keep you guys posted if any decisions are made. XD

Thank you for reading!!

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:
A tale of friendship, love, loss, and coming of age.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Tidying Up.

 .Deciding to downsize my belongings
To my dearest friends and followers,

This week, I dedicated myself to the task of going through my belongings. There are several factors that went into my decision to do this, and I'm glad I did - decide to do it that is. XD

For the past two or three years, I have said to people that I believe everyone should have to move at least once in their life. My family moved a lot when I was a teenager. As difficult as some of those moves were, I believe they were really good for a few reasons, but mostly because it forced all of us to go through our things. It made us realize, do we really need all this stuff (or "junk" as my mother used to say). If we hadn't used it in the last year, or missed it or thought about it, do we really need it? Probably not.

With each move I had to endure, I went through my things. I did this because I was tired of having so many things that I had to pack each time. Certain toys I thought I would never get rid of became a hassle to deal with. Certain clothes that used to be my favorite thing to wear were not appropriate for my age anymore. And so I downsized.

Once I moved to my new home and got married, I had a lot of things from my single life. I initially went through my things because I realized I had a LOT of clothes that wouldn't fit in the closet that my husband and I share. And I had one dresser that was much smaller than the dresser I used to have. So I went through my clothes and took out the things that still fit, then the things that were appropriate for my age, then the things that I still liked, since my style had changed a lot over the years. I always find myself wearing the same few items over and over anyway, so it was pretty easy to get rid of 3/4 of the clothes I owned. And of the 20+ pairs of shoes I owned, I kept 5. And I haven't missed the ones I got rid of once.

So my clothes had been gone through, and I felt like I didn't go through much else after I got married. Until recently. Over the last week and a half, I have been going through my things. I started out by asking myself, if I was going to move into a small apartment or something, what would I keep with me?

I went through my clothes again and realized there were several things I still had that I really hadn't worn or that I didn't really care for, even though I might have worn it a few times. So I got rid of them. There were probably 10 items in total - 10 items that were taking up space that would be better appreciated by someone else.

I then went through my toys again. I still had several boxes, though it was hardly anything compared to what I had a few years ago. I decided to keep my American Girl dolls, my marionettes, my favorite stuffed animals, an antique Pinocchio doll, and a few other items that all fit into a small tin box. I then went through my papers; old letters, school papers, "important" papers, etc. I felt like, "if I don't get rid of these, I'll just hold on to them forever." So I kept only what was most important to me, and discarded the rest. I have a very small paper pile now. It's not really even a pile, it's a stack only a couple inches high.

After that, I went through a few odds and ends. When it came time for my Christmas stuff, I asked my husband to help me. I knew it would be difficult for me to go through those things, as many of them hold precious memories. But he was there and I was able to downsize to only a couple boxes. I don't like the idea of having many boxes in storage filled with items that I only take out once a year. Now, I LOVE Christmas. It's my favorite holiday. But I don't need a bunch of stuff in order for me to enjoy Christmas.

Last, I wanted to go through my books. I knew this would also be difficult for me, so I asked that my husband would help me, and he did. <3
In the last couple days, thanks to my husband and his having read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I went through my books with the thought, "does this spark joy?"

I've always had the vision, or dream, of having a small library in my house. I love books. I love reading books, collecting books, writing books. Books, books, books!! Whether I liked the book or not, I kept it. Whether I read the book or not, I got a new one. I had a small collection of books I hadn't read yet - some of them I probably never will at this point and some of them are on my reading list for this year. None of that mattered though, and I still wanted to always be getting new books.

My husband read to me the section on books in Marie Kondo's book and it really helped me decide which books to keep and which to discard. I began with the easy ones, the ones I didn't enjoy. Then I did the ones I probably won't ever read. Then it got more and more difficult, and I had a LOT of books. The shelf was completely filled up, so I had begun to fill up another shelf. I even had multiple LARGE boxes filled with books.

Not any more!! I downsized a lot, everything now fits on the one shelf. And it feels great!! It looks neat and tidy. It immediately made me feel lighter. I like to have my things organized and clean, and to apply that to my books is such a good feeling. I can see what I have all in one place. I can see that it's only my favorites and ones that I am excited to read. The books I can see now make me feel good - it makes me feel happy to see them on my shelf.

Going through things isn't easy. But it is so rewarding. To be able to see and know what I have. To have only the things I truly care about. I still have several things I could get rid of, but I am proud of myself to have already made the decisions I have and to have gotten rid of so much. Yay me!! Thank you, Love, for helping me, and if you made it to the bottom of this post, thank YOU for reading. XD

Yours truly,
Me

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Amazon Reviews.

Amazon reviews and why they matter.
To my dearest friends and followers,

I would like to talk about a subject that a lot of people know of, but most don't take the time to learn about: Amazon reviews. 
Everyone knows what Amazon reviews are of course, you may have even left one yourself. But have you ever taken the time to think about why they matter? I can honestly say I never put much thought into it - that is, until the last few months.
I'm sure I still have a lot to learn, but I would like to share with you what I do know and what I have found out thus far.

To start things off, I have sold nearly 70 copies of my novel, which was released just over a month ago. Ideally, I would also have nearly 70 reviews of my book on Amazon (assuming everyone actually read the book). However, that is not the case, as only 2 people have left reviews. That's crazy to me!!
I must admit though, that I fell into the category of people who don't leave reviews. I felt like I didn't need to. Being a published author now has changed my views drastically on the importance of leaving reviews.

Let me ask you a question. If you're searching for an item, you find said item, but it doesn't have any reviews, would you buy it? It seems like maybe no one has purchased it yet. Or maybe no one took the time to leave a review if they did. How do you know the seller can be trusted? How do you know if the item is any good? It can feel like a gamble (at least it does to me). I always feel way more confident about making a purchase when I know that others can testify that the item is worth getting. Leaving a review helps to boost credibility for the item being sold.

Another thing I heard was, if you didn't purchase the item on Amazon, you can't leave a review. That is not the case. Whether or not you have actually purchased the item on Amazon, you can still leave an Amazon review. It does help immensely though when you HAVE purchased the item on Amazon. It leaves a "verified purchase" status when you leave a review, so people know you actually own/tried the item you're talking about. Leaving a review helps the ranking of the item in future search results.

Did you know that MOST of the success of an item sold on Amazon HEAVILY depends on the amount of stars/reviews an item has? That's right. If you like an item and/or seller, you're going to immensely help their sales just by leaving a review. Stars matter. It's not just about the reviews, but good reviews. An item can have 100 reviews, but only 3 stars. That probably says the item is just mediocre. The more stars an item has, the more likely someone else will be to buy it.

You can also earn a "trusted reviewer" status if you review a lot of items on Amazon. This makes you look good and also tells others that your review is legit - that you can be trusted, as the status says. You can also earn rewards from Amazon, such as special offers, promo codes, and/or gift cards. Leaving reviews on Amazon can benefit you!!

Lastly, I would love to see more reviews for my book on Amazon just for the sake of seeing them. I want to know who has read my book, who enjoyed it, and what you guys thought of it. Leaving reviews would be really valuable to me to see feedback about my hard work.

Thank you so much for reading!!
If you haven't yet, you can check out my book on Amazon!!

Yours truly,
Me

Friday, June 26, 2020

Announcements.


To my dearest friends and followers,

Nearly one month has passed since my book was released for sale. During that time, nearly 70 copies have been sold!! I truly couldn't have done this without YOU, my faithful readers. A huge thank you to everyone who has read my book or who has purchased it!!
For those of you who may be interested in checking it out, you can do so here: The Story of Hollyhocks (Tales from Beyond the Veil book 1).

There are just a few things I would like to bring to your attention this week.
First, if you have checked out my book on Amazon, you probably noticed that it's only available in one format: paperback. 
I am happy to announce that this autumn, my book will be released as an ebook for all you ebook readers!! XD
I made the decision to release the paperback book and ebook edition separately so I could focus more on formatting the paperback, and then promoting/marketing it. I felt that I would feel overburdened and stressed if I was working on both at the same time. I think it is also good for marketing reasons to release the physical copy first.

Someday, maybe a year from now or so, I would love to see my book as an audiobook, but I won't be working on that project in my foreseeable future.

I would also like to point out that I am still answering questions about my book on Goodreads!! I'm answering questions about my writing process, about my publishing experience, and any questions about the story, or particular points made, etc.. There are only five more days to get your questions to me, so make sure you do that!! You can check out my goodreads here: Vanessa Paige Israel (author).

Also, if you do have a Goodreads and you're thinking about reading my book, let me know!! Mark my book as Want to Read or Currently Reading. If you have read it, mark it as Read. And don't be afraid to rate the book!! Rating the book and writing a small review on it is so meaningful to me, you have no idea. So, please please please take a few minutes out of your day to rate and/or review my book in Goodreads!!

I'll be writing more on this next week, and the importance of leaving reviews on Amazon. Thank you so much for reading!!

Yours truly,
Me

Friday, June 19, 2020

Little Leo.


            .        
To my dearest friends and followers,

Two months ago, there were four little kittens who lived outside. They didn't belong to anybody, but were the offspring of the great cats who learned to survived in the wild decades before them. There were three little girl kittens and one little boy kitten. He was their leader and his sisters looked up to him. Yes, they were tiny, but they were fierce and strong like their ancestors.

In the course of just two days, these kittens' lives changed forever. They were captured, one by one, by two hoomans, a man and a woman. These kittens were scared, as would be expected, since their kind was always taught to fear mankind. Who were these people and what did they want with them?

The little boy kitten tried his best to protect his sisters. He was angry and hissed at these hoomans. But they didn't heed his warnings. Instead, they picked him up and just held him tight.
What is this? Did he start to like being held? He somehow decided these people weren't all bad. After all, they let him and his sisters out to play. They fed them the yummiest meals. They made them a warm bed to sleep in. Even his sisters began to trust these people.

And then one day, the hoomans introduced the kittens to another creature. It was small and black and walked on four legs. Was it a cat? No, no it was not. This creature was new, something they had not seen before. The hoomans called it "Weenie Dog". 
The little boy kitten was brave and approached the Weenie Dog. He grabbed its tail, to see what would happen. The Weenie Dog snapped at him! He thought surely this was the end, but the Weenie Dog didn't try anything else. It just watched him and his sisters. Perhaps it was friendly. Perhaps it just didn't like its tail grabbed. He thought he could manage to not grab it again.

The hoomans spent more and more time with the kittens as the days passed, but the woman kept holding the little boy kitten when the others were asleep. Could he sleep on her lap? Did he trust her that much? Yes, he did. He soon found it quite easy to fall asleep as she held on to him and rubbed his back. Perhaps it was because she always offered him yummies when she called him. Perhaps it was the yummies he liked, and soon found he liked her too.

One by one, other hoomans came to the house, and when they left, they took the little boy kitten's sisters. Why were they taking them away? He missed them. He missed playing with them. 
He missed cuddling with them, but he soon found he could cuddle with the Weenie Dog. The hoomans who rescued him from the wild began calling him Leo. He liked that name. The woman explained to him that it meant Lion. That was so cool.

He quickly found that he could live without his sisters. After all, he had all the yummy food to himself now. He could play with whatever toy he wanted to and no one would fight him for it. The hoomans were his playmates now. He even got to sleep in the big bed with the hoomans. He realized that these people were now his parents, his Hoomum and Hoodad. And he was content.

This is the story of how my husband and I came to owning another cat. XD 
He just turned three months old. Thank you so much for reading!!

Yours truly,
Me

Make sure to check out my novel,

Friday, June 12, 2020

Reading Challenge.

To my dearest friends and followers,

I am excited to announce that I am an official author on Goodreads!! For anyone new here, I have written a Fantasy novel titled The Story of Hollyhocks (Tales from Beyond the Veil book 1). You can also check it out more here: My Books.
I know it's not a huge accomplishment or anything, but hey, who says there's no such thing as simple pleasures?? XD

What is Goodreads?
I actually began using Goodreads several years ago (2016 I think??).
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Goodreads is a great way for readers to connect with the book community. It allows you to find books you may be interested in, and check out book reviews. You can also build your own "bookshelf" of books you've read, books you want to read, and books you're currently reading. You then have the ability to rate each book between 1-5 stars, and write your own review on it. You can follow other users on Goodreads, or follow you're favorite authors. People also host book giveaways. You can also vote for the best books of the year. It's so much fun to use if you love books. It's like a journal where you can keep track of everything you've read, but so much more!!

I highly recommend getting a Goodreads account if you don't have one already.

So on my new author page, viewers can see my book and mark it as want to read, read, etc. You can also rate my book and write a review on it if you want. The thing I am most excited about is, all during June, I am answering questions about my book!! So if you have any questions for me regarding the book or my writing process, check out my page on Goodreads and ask away!!

Reading Challenge.
This year, I've actually been reading a lot more than I have recently. Between the second half of 2018 and the first half of 2019, I read 14 books. During the months that followed, however, until now, I've really not read much of anything. I think this was in part, due to me working so hard on my own book, with revising and editing, designing the cover, formatting it, and finally publishing it. A lot of my time was being taken by that, not that I minded.

Once the pandemic started, my husband and I were keeping busy caring for some kittens we were fostering. Things have slowed down though and my book reading has gone up.
From January to March, I read 7 books. Only within the last week or so, I decided to give myself a "reading challenge". This can be done on Goodreads, where you enter the amount of books you'd like to read in a year. I decided to set mine to 20 books, since I already had 7 down. In the last week and a half, I read 4 novels, so I'm 55% finished with my goal.

I would really encourage you to come alongside me in setting a Reading Challenge for yourself. Just set a goal, and keep to it (even if it's just 1 book). You can also check out my book on Goodreads if you like, read it, rate it, and review it. As someone who loves books (both reading and writing them), I know how important it is to review books (or really, anything you buy). It helps the seller/writer immensely. I have a goal to sell at least 300 books, 1 book for each US dollar I spent to publish it. I would be honored if you helped me reach that goal!!

Yours truly,
Me

Check out my novel on Amazon!!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Everyone Has A Song.

I would rather see the world through the eyes of a child.
~Aurora

To my dearest friends and followers,
and to my fellow creatives,

I think everyone has a song.
That one song that makes them feel good. That song that they've forgotten about, but upon hearing it again, it makes them feel like they were home again - that familiar sense of belonging.

Sometimes I think that each person is a song. It is that energy which flows through them, casting out an aura of their innermost self. It is a song which reflects who they are. It can be a happy song, a haunting one, even a melancholy one. It is the one thing that can be felt by another person without even talking to them - that something that makes you look again.

I have often thought, what if I was a song? Or, what if my newly released novel was a song? What song would it be? What if my novel was ever turned into a film? What songs would make up the soundtrack?

I will do my best to not say exactly what is happening in the story, as I list those songs (as I do not wish to give away any spoilers for those who have not yet read my book since it is such a new release).

For the third chapter in which Hollyhocks is in the field and thinks she sees the stars dancing around in front of her (but quickly comes to realize that they are, in fact, fireflies celebrating a grand occasion), I imagine the song Caribbean Blue by Enya. It sounds so whimsical and flows along with the content of the chapter, which I perceive to be a very poetical scene.

The other two songs I have in mind are interchangeable. I think it would be slightly more fitting perhaps, if Carry You by Novo Amor played during the 31st chapter. The song is so full of emotion that moves the reader/listener. That's all I'll say here. 

And lastly, Through The Eyes Of A Child by Aurora would be at the end of the book, or in the case of a film, during the end credits. Honestly, if there was just one song for my book, I would say this is the song.
To me, it is about wanting that innocence back - that longing to be a child again, for what are we if not childlike dreamers trying to reach something seemingly out of reach? Trying to reach our Creator once again? Trying to be innocent and pure once again?

Yours truly,
Me

Additional:
Check out my book on Amazon!!

Also, check out my profile on Goodreads, where I'll be answering questions about my book all during June!!

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Story of Hollyhocks.

To my dearest friends and followers,

I hope this week finds you well and on the look for something to read...because I am extremely happy to announce that my book is on sale TODAY!!

For anyone who is new here, my book is titled The Story of Hollyhocks (Tales from Beyond the Veil book 1). It is a light fantasy novel with fairies, a unicorn, spirits, a young king, and a murder most foul. The story explores what it is like to be a child again, and the act of growing up - of coming to terms with the world and seeing it for what it is. For more about my story, feel free to check out a few past blog posts:


I would like to share that I have already sold nearly 50 copies of my book, so a HUGE thank you to everyone who purchased one!! Here's a link to Amazon for anyone who would like to make a purchase or check it out. XD
Also, if you do happen to purchase my book on Amazon, I cannot say enough how important it is that you leave a review. It really helps me out and gives other people a chance to see what people like you have said about the book. Your support means so much more than you know.

Thoughts For The Future...
For so long now, my blog has been about my book. I know I've posted on plenty of other topics, but the primary focus has been on what my book is about, what my progress with writing it is, editing it, etc. I've been asking myself the dreaded question, now what?
My book is published, it's available, I will continue to market it, but what can I post about now on a weekly basis? I've been thinking about doing something creative and fun, and I just want to throw out some ideas and hopefully get some feedback from YOU (you can message me through the Contact Form).

So I'm thinking about doing a Book Club online (with my book of course). I know there are good platforms out there for that, but I'm not very familiar with any of them. I would then send out invites, letting a select few of you join. We would have video calls or maybe just audio (depending). Some thoughts and discussions would then be shared to the blog.

OR what I'm thinking I might do is a private video call with someone I know (my husband, or maybe a friend...) and we would read the book out loud, doing maybe a chapter or two every week. Maybe the two of us would then discuss the book and share that to the blog, or maybe I would have an open chat for you (my readers) to share your thoughts. 

Whatever option we go with, I will be sharing the discussions and/or thoughts to the blog. I think it would make for a fun read for those who would not join the book reading/club.

Please let me know your thoughts through the Contact Form!! Also, remember to check out my book on Amazon
Thank you so much for reading!!

Yours truly,
Me

Friday, May 15, 2020

Book Giveaway!

To my dearest friends and followers,

As the title of this blogpost suggests, I am doing my first ever book giveaway!!
The book is The Story of Hollyhocks (Tales from Beyond the Veil book 1) written by me. XD
It will be available for purchase on May 29th, but I will be sending it to the winner before that date!!
Let's get started...

About the book.
Synopsis:
NO SPRITE SHOULD LEAVE THE FOREST FOR THE REST OF TIME...
The year is 1483, and Hollyhocks is a sprite without a care to be had. The Forest is her home. It protects her, and all the other fairies, in the Invisible World behind the veil. Oh how she longs to be on the other side of the veil, to be seen by those wonderful creatures - humans.

When Hollyhocks is given the opportunity to make her dream reality, she steps into the magical world of mankind in a time when Edward V is about to be crowned. But is the world beyond all that it seems? Is it as beautiful as she thinks it is?

In my own words and why someone may be interested in it:
The Story of Hollyhocks is a fantastical story of fairies and humans. It is loosely based around the events of young King Edward V. It is filled with fairy lore, and vivid details that bring the story to life.
At it's core, I believe the book is about the beauty of childhood innocence. It is also about growing up and coming to terms with the good and evil in the world. It is about friendship and going through hardships, but learning to overcome those and to keep living.
The book is appropriate for young adult readers, anyone above the age of 13. I believe it would also be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who loves fantasy, fairies, and historical fiction (especially the medieval period).

How to enter.
It's pretty simple. All you have to do is click below >> a Rafflecopter giveaway 
It will walk you through the steps of what to do and exactly how to enter. Basically, all you have to do is follow me on Twitter, and tweet "I entered". It's easy. XD I will then be choosing the winner at random 1 week from today.

Rules.
I have the right to end the giveaway at any time. I will notify the winner after the giveaway closes via Twitter DM's. The winner has 48 hours to contact me unless otherwise stated. I will select a new winner after the 48 hour period expires if no one responds. If under the age of 18, parent consent is needed to enter the giveaway/claim the prize. No cheating will be allowed whatsoever. Your personal information will remain private and will be deleted after the prizes have been rewarded. It will only be used to verify entries and contact a winner. It will not be sold or be given away. Once a winner claims their prize, I will announce the winner on the giveaway post. Only US entries will be accepted.

Thank you so much!!

Yours truly,
Me

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Cost Of Publishing.

To my dearest friends and followers,

I can't believe it's been exactly one week since my book was published!!
If you'd like to learn more about my book, click here. You can also pre-order it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!!

So, this week I want to talk about the cost of publishing. I'm sure everyone who publishes a book will find that these numbers are not exact, depending on who you publish through and how you decide to go about it, but I want to share my experience and show just how expensive or inexpensive self-publishing can be.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about my journey in choosing a publisher and why I chose IngramSpark. You can read about that here: Publishing with IngramSpark.

Setting up my book.
After I wrote my book, which I typed out in OpenOffice, it was time to format it. I had to use Adobe InDesign, as IngramSpark required that I do so. The cost is 20.99usd a month. I payed for 1 month and was able to format my book with the help of a YouTube tutorial.
I then made the decision to purchase my own ISBN through Bowker, instead of using the one IngramSpark provided. This is because Bowker is cheaper in the long run (since I plan on writing several books). IngramSpark provides 1 ISBN per book, each at 85usd. I spent 295usd for 10 ISBN's, making them each 29.5usd. Since I am doing a print and ebook, I spent 59usd for two ISBN's.

Designing the cover.
In the early days of writing my book, I wanted to design it myself. However, once I had finished writing it, I wanted to hire someone to design the cover. In the end, I designed it and created it all myself. The actual art, I created using watercolor and pens. As for the editing of the photo and the font, I used Canva and BeFunky. I spent 12.99usd to use Canva, and 6.99usd to use BeFunky. I also spent 1.00usd on a graphic design. Once I had uploaded the cover to InDesign, I spent another 13.00usd on the font I wanted, which I purchased from Creative Market.


Uploading my book to IngramSpark.
So, in choosing IngramSpark (IS) I knew that it would be more expensive than some other publishers out there (like Amazon). I was ok with this, simply because IS distributes the book to brick and mortar sellers, which is extremely limited when publishing with KDP. I knew I wanted to be in stores.
 The cost of uploading a book with IS is 49usd. Luckily, this was one cost I got to avoid, as I used a promo code that offered free title uploads.

Proof Copies.
Once it seemed that my book was complete, I ordered a proof copy which cost me 37.01usd. Granted, I payed for rush print and shipping. XD
Anyhow, I ended up having to upload new revised files. It costs 25usd for each upload!! Again, IS had a promo code for free revisions, so it didn't cost me anything. I then ordered another proof copy, which was another 37.01usd. I didn't order anymore proof copies after that, but I did submit several revised files, each with the promo code, so I never had to pay for it.

Marketing.
Once my book is actually on sale on May 29th (right now, it's only available for pre-orders), I want to have it featured in IngramSpark's catalog, which gets sent to a number of retailers and libraries. It costs 85usd per catalog. I might have my book featured in the "Advance Catalog", since it is a work of fiction, but also in the "Christian Advance Catalog", since it is written by a Christian author and has some Christian themes in the story. That would cost me 170usd for both catalogs.
Something else I want to include in the cost is, once my book became available for pre-orders, I ordered 20 copies to give away and to have on hand. That cost me 130.96usd.


The total.
To make things a little bit easier, I listed each cost that I have made and then put the total:
Adobe InDesign: 20.99usd
ISBN: 29.5usd
ISBN: 29.5usd
Canva: 12.99
Canva design: 1.00usd
BeFunky: 6.99
Creative Market: 13.00usd
Proof Copy: 37.01
Proof Copy: 37.01usd
Large Order: 130.96usd
Total: 318.95usd

There are cheaper options out there, but honestly, IS is definitely on the cheaper side of things as far as self-publishing goes. It really just depends on what you're looking for and what kind of services you want, how you market your book, etc.

I hope this was helpful or at least interesting. XD
Thank you so much for reading and don't forget to check out my book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!!

Yours truly, 
Me