SNEAK PREVIEW

ZG fragA schoolboy

His recent brush with death should have doused Craig’s adventurous spirit. So why does he feel so restless?

A 100 year old legend

Gold! Tons of it. Steeped in history and shrouded in mystery. Too incredible to believe in, too tantalizing to resist!

And the visions that haunt him still

Memories of reptilian eyes, murderous men and the lingering taste of cheap brandy. Memories that cling with black talons to the torn canvas of his dreams. Memories that have no place inhabiting an idyllic weekend beach-camp.

And yet, beneath a moonlit sky, a half forgotten fragrance disturbs the balmy Zululand breeze and sets Craig’s heart pounding … the sickly sweet smell of cherry tobacco!

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Quick Catch Up!

Quick CatchupThe past few months have been quite a ride. The list in no particular order reads as follows:

  • one book 2 manuscript done and dusted!
  • one book 2 edit complete! Thank you Cathy!
  • book 2 beta reading complete! Thank you Carryn and Janet! (Beta reading is when you ‘test’ a manuscript for any bugs it might have, as a READER, not with the eye of a proof-reader or editor. It is a hugely valuable step in any book’s production.)
  • three books Beta read for fellow authors (Two for the inimitable Melissa Delport with respect to her new Guardians of Summerfeld series. A fantastic work of escapism with all the trappings of Narnia meets Twilight and a tough as nails female protagonist to boot); and, the other book I had the privilege of beta reading was Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author, Nat Russo’s, sequel to his phenomenal “Necromancer Awakening.” You don’t become a #1 Bestseller on Amazon by chance and it was a real treat to interact with the professional and gentleman that Nat is.
  • one Seminar attended as a guest speaker for The South African Writers Circle (Thank you Brigitta and Ginny!)
  • one workshop hosted.
  • one guest speaker appearance at the Midlands Literary Festival (thank-you Darryl!)
  • one magazine interview (thank you Authors Magazine!)
  • one online Facebook Book Club co-created and co-administered, The Secret Book Club. Thank you Melissa and Helga! (Look us up on FB and join in the fun! Giveaways, Book Reviews, Author interviews and more.)
  • one writing competition judged and another judgeship accepted for The South African Writers Circle’s Annual Short Story competition, deadline at the end of this month.
  • one writing blog…a little neglected…sorry about that….

But NOW, what’s happening NOW I hear you ask? I’m very chuffed to announce that my manuscript for book 2 is complete! Cover design is in progress and the Kindle RELEASE DATE has been set for 30 September 2015!

NOW it’s time to crank up the old marketing machine for the next instalment in my Zululand series! Time to GUESS THE NAME! (2 words, you should be able to guess the first!) Post your answer in the comments section below this article on my author Facebook page. First person to get it right gets a free signed copy when the print copies come out!

Clue for the second word: “The oldest prize found in OZ!”

Lastly, a huge thank you to all those who have taken the time to post a review of Zululand Snow on Amazon! Amazon reviews are the lifeblood of an author these days. Here’s why:

After 25 reviews Amazon includes  the book in ‘Also Bought’ and ‘You Might Like’ lists, raising the book’s visibility on the site.

After 70 reviews, Amazon highlights the book for Spotlight positions and it’s Newsletter which is a massive boost for the Author.

So keep ‘em coming! Thanks, all, chat soon!


Flash Fiction

Lightning FlashFlash fiction. What is it? And why do we need it?

In a nutshell, flash fiction is a form of short story classified according to its extreme brevity. How brief? Generally anything less than 1000 words is considered flash fiction these days.

Some people sub divide this further into: micro fiction (300 words or less), postcard fiction (can fit onto a postcard), smoke-long (can be read within a one smoke timeframe – seems excessive to me!), uber short short story, and the list goes on. The point is, it’s short. The fiction writing equivalent of a Haiku poem. The definitions are, quite frankly, irrelevant. As a writer, all you need to know is how much word ammo you’ve got to work with. The objective remains to give your reader an experience, just a very brief one.

I have very recently been introduced to this form of writing through a Facebook group, Short Story Day Africa, which aims to promote better writing across Africa. They are currently running a Facebook initiative under the banner #Writerprompt. They invite micro-fiction of up to 200 words. They supply the prompt: a sentence, a photo, whatever, and you write whatever comes to mind. You can post your story to the Facebook page and receive comments and critiques from other postees or from Joe Public. You typically have a two week deadline. The entries are judged and the winner gets some exposure. It’s a great initiative! And an art-form in its own right and I would encourage all writers to give it a go.

Firstly it gets you writing! It really does get the creative juices flowing.
Secondly, it teaches you to write to a deadline!
Thirdly, the word-count means you get to practice cutting dead wood from your prose: virtually every writer I know, myself included, uses too many words when we write. It’s amazing how few we actually need to retain the essence of what we’re trying to say.

The word-count constraint is tough. It forces you to think, to evaluate every word. You’re aiming for maximum impact with minimum resources. I believe good writing boils down to two things: imagery and tension. With a 200 word word-count it’s a tall order to hit both those targets. I have not mastered this art yet so I’ve tended to aim for one or the other element with my #writerprompts to date.

Below are a couple of my attempts:
So, this is how it ends
 
He was forty, I was eight.
A father shouldn’t play with his daughter like this.
But he was drunk.
“Take it off,” he said.
My face burned. My ankles crossed. My little knees squashed tight.
“Off,” he said, slowly wiggling his pointy finger, mocking me.
My hands made little fists beneath my thighs.
A tear slid down my cheek.
I took it off.
He leaned in, his face all beery leery.
My eyes brimmed with shame and anger.
His hand slid over to my side.
He placed it down carefully, too carefully for one so rough, and slurred his usual taunt, “Checkmate in one.”
As always, this is how it ends.

Post mortem: I decided to focus more on tension with this one and less on imagery. I wanted to demonstrate how a reader’s emotions can be manipulated through written words. Take them down a dark path and then lead them briefly into the light, before leaving a lingering grey uncertainty. At first we head down the dark path of child molestation, then swerve away into the ambit of a harmless chess game, and yet there is a sub-text. The father drinks heavily in front of his young child, he seems to delight in taunting her. These are not signs of a healthy relationship. Perhaps the voice of the child in this piece is too old?
What gave me the idea? I play chess with my young daughter. Sometimes I have a beer while we play. In the beginning she was a terrible loser. Tears, shouting, red-faced anger: she did it all. I thought, taking this to the extreme and twisting it, might make a good scenario with which to try and lead my reader astray.
This was a tough one to write and even tougher to post on a public forum but, the feedback I got was positive and I learnt a lot from it.

This next one relied on a photo as the prompt (a pair of trainers dangling from an overhead telephone line):

Drugs? Shoes on a wire don’t mean drugs.
Don’t mean high school’s finally done and dusted either.
Or that some teenybopper just popped their cherry.
In my neck of the woods shoes on a telephone line mean one thing.
Someone saw, or heard, something they weren’t supposed to.
And I should know.
Last week it was high heels. The kind you find walking Point Road at night.
Week before that, it was fake black Armanis, so polished you could see your soul in them. Before that, green and white zip-up trainers. Not even as long as my hand, Ben 10 written on the side. The kid even looked like the cartoon on the shoe.
In my neck of the woods it means someone just got a free entry to the Great Comrades Marathon in the sky. No cut-off time or finish line in this race. Just an ‘up-run’ or a ‘down-run’, depending.
It’s a twenty-first century gibbet. A head on a stake.
And I don’t have a problem with that.
The problem I have, is that the shoes up there now, are mine.

Post mortem: I had fun with this one. We happen to have a pair of shoes dangling from a telephone wire just down the street, as most of us do, I’m sure, and this got me to thinking about all the urban legends surrounding these shoe-tossing incidents. Although I had to chuckle at the “American” accent which came out. The piece makes use of quite a few frags (fragmented sentences) which somehow just read better in American. Denzil Washington came to mind when I posted this yesterday. Funnily enough, ‘Training Day’ was on the box last night! The accent was not quite what I was after since I reference elements which are very much part of Durban culture, “Point Road” and the “Comrades Marathon.” In any event, I liked it and gave myself a pat on the back for this one.

I’ll be doing more of this Flash Fiction in the future. It’s fun and it’s constructive. I’ll post them up here under the banner Flash Fiction.
Hope you enjoyed!

Hope you enjoyed! Have a great weekend!


Validation Elation!!!

ZS ConstantiaZS King ShakaNothing validates a writer more than seeing their work displayed in a bookstore!!! I just wanted to say a massive thank-you to all the fine folk out there who made it happen! And an equally big thank-you to the mates who’ve sent in photos of Zululand Snow on display. Brings a tear to my eye every time …. Keep ‘em coming!

For those of you seeking hardcopies of Zululand Snow, it’s currently available at the following fine bookstores:

Exclusive Books King Shaka Int
Exclusive Books Westville
Exclusive Books Brooklyn Mall
Exclusive Books Constantia
Exclusive Books Bedford Centre
Exclusive Books Cresta
Exclusive Books Nicolway
Exclusive Books Hyde Park
Bargain Books Willowbridge
Books&Books Durban
Estoril Books Fourways
Wilstan Book Supplies cc

In other developments:

  • the May edition of Country Life Magazine will be featuring a book review of Zululand Snow. Holding thumbs it’s a good one!
  • I’ve been invited to present a talk to the kids at Manor Gardens on Friday. So looking forward to that!
  • And the possibility of running a writing workshop may also be in the offing sometime soon.

All this while, pounding away at the keyboard on book 2. More details to follow shortly!

Go Proteas!!! #NZvSA #Proteafire


Less is more!

bikiniTwitter continues to challenge and amuse me as I try and get my head around it. Having navigated the basics of handles and hashtags I turned to improving my bio (the bit below your photie on your homepage where you describe who you are, what you do and what you can offer the Twitterverse).
To this end Twitter gives you 160 characters to play with. That’s not much real estate….

But some people just have a knack for it. Some people’s bios just seem to hit the spot and capture what that person’s all about. The general advice out there is to use hashtags and links, employ a bit of humour, give viewers a glimpse of your genius etc, etc.
I did all of the above. I tweaked, I fiddled, I faddled…after a week I had created a masterpiece. It reads thus:

@iantennent1
Daddy, hubby, a little bit chubby. Full-time weekend warrior, part-time horse for six year old. #Author Zululand Snow http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OGW2SO4

Magnificent, I’m sure you’ll agree! Has it all. Hashtag, sparkling wit, a buy-link. You name it, baby! And it uses 152 characters out of a possible 160! Sublime ain’t the word, baby!

Here’s my wife’s for comparison. She’s a senior professional, passionate about leadership. Her bio reads:

@TennentCarryn
Living for the moments that matter. Love, laughter and leadership – for a meaningful impact!

(Snicker)…no hashtag…no link…not funny… And she only used 92 characters (ppffft).

And so, thus emboldened, I turned to the bio of arguably the best living writer of them all. Someone who has sold a zillion books in a quadrillion languages and made a freakishillion amount of dosh along the way. Someone who knows their craft inside and out …behold:

@StephenKing
Author

 

Doh! Izzaddit?!? Couldn’t even spare a full-stop!?!…back to the drawing board I go…


#IDidNotKnowThat

Yesterday, having conquered the lofty heights of 500 facebook likes I turned my attention to Twitter.

Despite what you may have heard, Twitter is a mine of information, and, like any mine worth its salt, its passageways are dark, slime covered tracts of treachery. Yesterday, it was through this house of horrors, shod in my green wellies, I skwodged; arm trembling, lantern held high, straight into a cesspit.

You see, Twitter relies heavily on hashtags (#). In a nutshell, a hashtag represents a following, a connection, a gossamer fine thread linking tweeters together. Without them, your tweets largely echo down empty halls and what’s the point of that? Now they’re not called hashtags fer nuthin: as you blunder down the twisted  tunnels of the Twitterverse you can easily make a hash of it. Like I did yesterday….

Yesterday, #Redneckabook was trending. It was beautiful. People were tweeting things like #Redneckabook Lord of the Fries, or, #Redneckabook  To Roadkill a Mockingbird. Sheer poetry….

The sounds of merriment gambolled along the cold walls to my ears and I hurried towards the embrace of this cheery little bonfire. I nestled my way into the circle, nodded at the good folk on either side, rubbed my mitted hands together and poured myself some Cab Sav. We chinked mugs and chuckled. I took a shlurp, waited for an appropriate opening, leaned forward and dealt my finest card…#Redneckabook I Am Hillgrim….I leaned back with a satisfied shake of the head….

Doh! The Twitterverse drew breath. All movement ceased. And then, from the deep shadows across the trembling flame, a soft voice.

“You makin funna me, boy?”
“Huh?”
“Ah sayed, you makin funna me, Boy”
“I, uh…”
“Don’ be callin no Redneck, no Hillbilly, BOY!”

A rush of blood flushed through my innards and I bristled, about to vent my indignation, but there was something in that voice… something that made me think twice… made me think I better get me some ammo first.

I whupped out muh Google and slapped Wikipedia open and, well…blow me down with a feather, according to Wikipedia a Redneck is not the same thing as a Hillbilly! They are, in fact, two distinct species. Easily offended; never to be confused!!!
Intrigued, I read on. The Redneck, it seems, hails from the Southern US States while the Hillbilly’s favoured terrain is in the East, encompassing the Appalachian Mountains, which makes sense if you think it through….I thought it through.
I did not know that.

I looked up. By the flickering light of the fire, I could see eyes, dark, baleful eyes, all focussed on me….and, disturbingly, off to the left, a glint of steel.

I grabbed my lantern and my papsak and bolted like a mole from an owl as fast as my wellies allowed. The howls of derision coming from behind overtook me easily, and, thus spurred I followed them back into the black obscurity of the catacombs.

Twitter, a mine of information…just mind your step.


Feed the market…or market your feed?

Market

Cracking the Amazon eBook market is hard and I’m under no illusion as to what I’m trying to do with my particular book, Zululand Snow. I recently made the comment to a couple of mates that, “cracking Amazon would be the equivalent of breaking into the American Top 40 with an Afrikaans liekie.” And this got me to thinking. Few would dispute that the international accent for chart topping songs is overwhelmingly American. For whatever reason, the market demands this, and what the market demands it largely gets. And so we have a whole smorgasbord of South African, Australian, Irish, English and New Zealand singers to name a few all belting out their home-grown tunes in pseudo American twang. And we love it. Almost anything else just sounds dodgy. I’m no martyr either: alone in my car I can belt out Mumford and Sons with the best of them, in flawless hill-billy of course. My local Durban Drone just doesn’t cut it. I’ve tried and it sounds kak. Try bawling ‘I Will Wait’ or ‘Little Lion Man’ in Durbanese and you’ll see what I mean. And I bet it sounds crap in any of the West London dialects as well. There are exceptions to the chart topping rules, of course. Die Antwoord springs to mind. But hey, I’m South African and, poetic as their stuff is, I can barely understand what they’re saying. Nope, for most vocal artists, an American accent is the way to go if you want to make it internationally.

What then for writing? Does the same hold true? I believe it does, whether we like it or not. Most of the media we consume stems from the States or the UK. Little wonder then that, possibly even subconsciously, we might find ourselves drifting toward the inevitable stereotype. The most obvious example can be found within the Fantasy genre. In the literary coup of the last century, someone in some dingy classroom somewhere signed the monopoly on Fantasy Fiction over to The British Isles. Wanna write Fantasy? I bet by the end of page one you’ll find yourself being pulled in the direction of a Medieval Britain. Your characters, will drink ale from flagons and say things like “Tis” or “Begone foul cur!” Why? It’s freakin fantasy. You can make up whatever you want! And yet few do. Most will stick to the tried and trusted Game of Thrones style. That’s what readers want. I’m not knocking it, if I wrote Fantasy, I’d probably do the same. It somehow just feels authentic for the genre. The big dogs have created the market and if us ankle snappers want to feed at the trough we need to behave. But should we? Should we internationalise our local stories to make them appeal to the widest possible audience? Would I have been better off stripping out every South Africanism in my story? Kinda goes against the grain. In the end it’s probably about getting the balance right. Local is lekker and all that, but overdo it at your peril. And yet it’s precisely that concentrated local flavour that makes us non US citizens love stories from, say, the American Deep South. (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple to name a couple). If Tom Sawyer had grown up on the banks of the Tugela rather than The Mississippi, peppering his speech with “Yuslikes!” and all other aspects of his story remained the same, would he have become such an international hit? I doubt it.

So…feed the market or try and market your feed? I don’t have the answer. For now, as a fledgling author, I’m going with my gut and sticking with the simple mantra of “Write what you know”.  It feels right, it feels authentic. It feels good to be charging into battle waving that flag….and who knows, I may yet conquer a koppie or two.


Scribe Tribe“Let’s do the Shongweni  Christmas fair,” my fellow Scribe Tribe member said.
“Great idea! They sell some fine craft beer there,” I replied.
“No, no, let’s sell our craft there.”
“What? Our books?”
“Yes, we’ll make millions!”
“Wellll….”
“Whassamatter? We’re artists, we’re local, we’re brilliant. They’d be lucky to have us!”
“And we can drink craft beer?”
“Absolutely! With all our profits!”

It seemed both logical and infallible. An elegant solution.
A means to offset both cost and thirst…
until it rained.

Huddled under a gazebo, grimly watching our books on display swell and warp like wet poppadoms was neither profitable nor elegant.

But it was enlightening: Either the public at large were way too terrified by the outward thrust of our jaws or, more likely, simply too intimidated by such a concentrated display of literary genii to approach us, for many people glanced nervously at our stall and walked on by. Make that most people. Mostly all of them….

Until, that is, my mother-in-law attacked the passing rain-soaked rabble like a pitbull and dragged them bleeding to our table. Only then did the real fun begin. I thought I was prepared, but I was not. The first grudging, “So what’s this book all about?” had me mumbling “Well, you see, it’s about a boy and he… and he kindov goes around…he kindov discovered this old Zulu relic see… and he kindov wants to…” By this time my brain is screaming ‘read the blurb on the back of the book you freak! That’s what it’s for!  I’m a writer not a freakin talkshow host!’, while I’m simultaneously trying to avoid heaving at the drivel that’s spewing out my mouth.

Turns out its bloody hard to verbally sell your own book. The blurb on the back of your book you so painstakingly created simply sounds abysmal when spoken. It will not do! My fellow Scribers were faring little better, but I was, without doubt, the most useless of us all in selling my book verbally. Make no mistake, I had my elevator pitch all ready, and it worked… as chum. But what then? Joe public wanted to swallow more than a thin line of chum. He wanted a juicy chunk of sardine with his hook, and I had none to offer. In the end, Mom and Klaus sold my book for me. We did not make millions. We did not drink craft beer. It was a wakeup call.

I need to up my game. So this, then, is my challenge to you who have read my book. Help me come up with an awesome verbal intro to my book. Not a one sentence elevator pitch. I have that already. As in…
“So, what’s your book about?”
“A boy’s search for the soul of a nation.”
Done!

What I need is a ‘dinner table’ pitch. Something that rolls seamlessly off the tongue. Something that tantalises! Something that intrigues without giving away the farm! Oh, and it has to fit into about ten seconds, max! That’s about all the time a prospect has.

And in return, I offer you immortality! I offer you a chance to have your name assigned to a character in my next book…where it shall live on for eternity! Post your answers here or on my FB page or email me at iantennentwriter@gmail.com. Entries close on 31 Dec. Winner to be announced in the new year!

Have a happy Christmas!

Continue reading

The Business End…

Dollars

“How much has all of this cost?” is a question I’m having to field more and more since the launch of my book. A brief insight into the costs involved should provide some hilarity.

So, you’ve written a ‘book’ on your laptop…now what. Make no mistake, this is a business and, like any business, it’s going to require some seed capital: Straight off the bat, you need to get it professionally edited (and I do mean professionally): I was virtually top of my class in English. I pride myself on having a very good eye for errors. When I saw the carnage after my editor blitzed through my first draft, I took my pride and shoved it in a dark recess. The simple fact is, you cannot review your own work. After reading the same words umpteen times your brain learns to cheat. And cheat well. It cuts corners, makes stuff up, sees what it wants to see….

For Zululand Snow  I enjoyed the services of two editors at a combined cost of R10,500.
Next in line was the Book Cover design. This set me back R1,500.
Typesetting services, another biggy, came to R5,000.
Next came the actual cost of printing. I went for 100 on my first run which came to about R6,500.

Now, you could stop here. But, you have to market your printed books and the best way to do that is via a book launch … so haul out the wallet again!
Close your eyes and shell out for Venue Hire; Snack Platters (Cash bar only!); Design and printing of Billboard Posters; Design of electronic invite; Venue Décor; Lucky Draw Prize; Golf balls (?!?) Yup, I had golf balls you’ll have something else!; Professional photographer for a good headshot you can use across all your social media ….
and that should do it for the hard costs … comes to a whopping R33,280 !!!

For a hundred books that’s R332.80 per book!

Now, I could add my standard hourly rate, over three years, into the equation but that would probably just destroy you. And me!
So let’s just say, for those of you who got in on the first edition action for the piffling price of R100 a book. ‘Yews got yorselvz a bargin!!’

It goes without saying that the lifeblood of any author, new or established, is the stream of book reviews generated by fans in the media. So go forth and review, unless, of course, you think it’s all a load of twaddle…in which case put a sock in it!

Below are the links you can use to post a review.

Amazon (USA)  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OGW2SO4
Amazon (UK) http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00OGW2SO4?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Amazon (AU) http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00OGW2SO4?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=Zululand+Snow
Iantennent.com https://iantennent.com/blog/

Cheers and have a great weekend!


A Dark Figure…

3D BOOK (5)A dark figure swayed over him, silhouetted against a rectangle of pin-pricked night sky. A red glow hovered where the figure’s eyes should have been.
“You and I need to have a little talk,” said a guttural voice.
The rectangle of night sky narrowed to a slit, then vanished. The red eye pulsed again.
Craig slithered backwards and cringed against the far wall between two cold hunks of steel. A match flared and levitated towards a hurricane lamp on a shelf. The flame pounced on the wick and writhed like a spider on a moth before a tall glass descended, sending the flame upward in a pyre that splashed light across the ceiling and a wide-brimmed hat.
Lappies twisted a coin-shaped dial and reined the flame back to a warm glow. He turned towards Craig. A clear bottle wrapped in a net of straw dangled from his left hand. Dark blood sloshed inside. Craig was shivering uncontrollably now, his lips pulled back over his teeth. Lappies slid a metal chair in front of the door and plonked himself into it. He took a swig from the bottle…

 


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