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Book launch magic and more…

It’s been a little bit hectic the past week – post-book launch and a visit from my sister and nephews, who flew in from Switzerland for the occasion. So … I’ve been playing catch-up with work over the past few days, as this is generally a busy time of the year.

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With my family at the MM book launch.

The launch, however, went very well indeed – I was delighted to see a packed roomful of people, despite the very sunny Saturday and the fact that I received a fair few messages from friends cancelling that morning! Among the crowd was my English teacher from the Rainey Endowed School in Magherafelt, who taught me for five years (Eng and English Literature), along with my former Spanish teacher and of course, lots of family, friends and other guests.

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With my English teacher, Barbara Crawford.

It was great to see a few younger faces as well, and to hear afterwards that they enjoyed the readings and Q&A. As Jane Talbot, who was leading the discussion, said on the day – you can only enjoy your first book launch once, so enjoy it I did!

It’s been such a lot of work getting to this point – writing the book, editing it (so many times I’ve lost count!), initially submitting it to publishers, getting feedback on the manuscript, designing a cover, learning about the whole self-publishing industry and putting that learning into action, marketing and promoting the book on and offline…

The list goes on but basically, Magical Masquerade has been years in the making and is definitely a dream achieved for me, so a massive thank you to everyone who supported me last week at the launch.

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With Jane Talbot on stage.

 

If you hop over to my author page on Facebook, you can see a wee Facebook live video I recorded in the green room before going on stage, though I warn you, it’s a little jerky as I decided to do my first ever FB live right before my launch without any prior practice!

I arrived at the Crescent Arts Centre super early on launch day, as I wanted to make sure I had everything set up and that the books were carted in before anyone arrived. (Thanks to Jane for helping to lug those heavy boxes in!)

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With Kelly Creighton.

 

The room we were in also had lots of little round tables for people to sit at, so I’d brought along paper bowls which I filled with edible enchanted pebbles, magic mushrooms and Pebble People (aka Fruit Pastilles, pink and white mushroom chews and Jelly Babies, lol). Once those were set out and the books arranged beside my bookmarks and author business cards, we were good to go. My friend and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, manned the book table before and after the event, so a big thank you to her for that.

I have to say, I really enjoyed chatting about MM, my inspirations and my writing processes etc. during the on-stage part of the launch, even though it was slightly weirder doing this in front of family who don’t normally see me in author mode (or in a professional/work capacity). I love talking about writing and I always find it interesting to hear other authors chat about their work, so I’m glad this bit went down well.

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The MM cake!

 

The Q&As were also broken up with three short readings from MM during the session and then I answered some audience questions at the end, before spending about another hour chatting to everyone, signing books and posing for a lot of photographs! I’ve shared some of those here, but for the full whack, head on over to my author FB page.

I should mention as well that ahead of the launch, my brother James surprised me with a beautiful (and delicious) Magical Masquerade cake (most of which was devoured at a family gathering on Friday night!), while my aunt (and photographer on the day) Moira gave me a lovely chocolate Magical Masquerade book creation. The cake is long gone, but I’ve yet to eat the chocolate… it’s almost too nice to tuck into, but it is chocolate, so it may well still disappear!

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With my aunt Moira and the MM choc cover!

 

On the morning of the launch, BBC Radio Ulster aired my interview with Anne-Marie McAleese, which you can listen to again on BBC iPlayer here: http://bbc.in/2sEOeRn I’m on near the start – approx. five minutes or so in I think – and there’s also a little 40-second video clip from the day we recorded it, which you can find just below the radio broadcast clip.

Backtracking a little bit more… (I probably should have written this blog post more chronologically!!), I really enjoyed my 12NOW (New Original Writers) event at the Belfast Book Festival on the Thursday evening before launch day. Big thanks to Lagan Online and the BBF for letting the 12 of us read our work (six readers split over two nights) and for everyone who turned up to hear us, as we had a great crowd for that. I really enjoyed the various readings, which included poetry, prose and travel writing, as each person had a very distinct way of reading and all were very captivating. (NB Check out the gallery of pics from both evenings of readings over at Lagan Online here: http://laganonline.co/gallery-12now-writers-at-belfast-book-festival/ ).

 

12NOW at BBF

Six of our 12NOW crew on the evening I was part of at the BBF.

 

I think that’s covered most of what went on over the past week… I also had an interesting meeting with someone about another writing project, but it’s in very early stages so I’ll keep that under wraps for now (spoilers). Feedback has also been coming in from more young readers about MM, which is just brilliant. It’s all very positive and I love hearing reader responses.

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Sarah Bennett at the launch…

 

One young girl who came to the launch – Sarah Bennett – started reading it right away and had the whole thing finished by the time she got home to Enniskillen at 11.30pm that night!

This is what her mum, Trish, messaged me last Saturday night: ‘I was told by my critic that your book was absolutely brilliant with a well written plot.

‘This was us arriving home to Enniskillen tonight. She’s finished it. Sarah’s passed it on to me and ordered “read this”.’

I have more lovely reader comments to share with you but I’ll save those for another time!

Sarah Bennett reading

…and finishing MM!

 

With the excitement of the launch now over, I’m going to be looking at maybe visiting some schools and libraries in the year ahead, and seeing what other opportunities there are for readings etc. I’ve potentially got a couple of events upcoming on the north coast over the summer, so hopefully those will go ahead.

Meanwhile, I’ve got another interview ahead of me this week so I’ll share details of that soon too … and in amongst all of that there’s writing to be done!

More updates soon. 🙂

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Magical news and reviews…

It’s always a little scary releasing your work into the public domain for people to read – especially with fiction, I think, as it’s much more personal than other writing. So, I’m delighted to begin this week’s blog post with news of a lovely 5* review for Magical Masquerade which is just in this very morning from a very happy reader.

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You can read Emily Hearne’s take on the book over at her mum Mairead’s blog, Swirl and Thread, here: http://www.swirlandthread.com/magical-masquerade-claire-savage/

Mairead is an Irish book blogger who reviews adult fiction, but as her daughter Emily is the perfect age for Magical Masquerade and loves to read, she agreed to give an honest opinion of the book. Suffice it to say, I’m very glad she enjoyed it – and is now asking for the sequel!

I am working on the next book but in the meantime, there’s been a lot going on over the past couple of weeks which has kept me quite busy otherwise. I missed blogging last week, so we’ll begin with what I would have included in that post…

 

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First up, London-based bookseller and book-lover, Joanne Frazer, who has a great bookish blog called In Case of Bookishness, invited me to write a guest blog post for the site, so you can read that at the link below.

‘In Case of Bookishness’ guest blog post link: https://incaseofbookishness.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/guest-post-why-writers-need-writers-by-claire-savage/

 

Waterstones reading with Women Aloud NIWA NI group in Waterstones

Last Saturday, I also enjoyed a wee trip to Waterstones Coleraine for an afternoon of readings with the Women Aloud NI crew.

Me reading MM in WaterstonesA group of us read extracts from our work – including poetry, prose, biography and more – and it was great hearing snippets from all sorts of genres on the day.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first reading from Magical Masquerade in bound book form, and it was a lovely event to be a part of.

 

BBC Radio Ulster interview – YPAM

Yesterday, meanwhile, I had the pleasure of meeting BBC Radio Ulster presenter, Anne-Marie McAleese from the Your Place and Mine show, to record an interview about MM. We met at one of my local (and favourite) beaches, Runkerry Beach, in Portballintrae, where Felicity’s adventures start in the book – a landscape which definitely inspired and influenced my writing.

With Anne-Marie McAleese

With Anne-Marie McAleese

 

The interview will be broadcast ahead of the Belfast Book Festival launch of MM, so I’ll share links etc. to that when it’s online and if you want live updates, then I’ll be sharing info on social media as well.

 

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This Thursday afternoon (sometime between 2pm – 4pm) I’ll also be appearing on Belfast 89FM with Colin and Heidi McAlpin, so you can listen in live to that, or again, I’ll share links afterwards. I’m not sure of the exact time that I’ll be on air as yet, but will post social media updates during the week.

There’s more in the way of interviews and so on coming up, but as the above events are happening more imminently, I’ll share details about other things as and when they come up!

biz cardsAside from all of that, I also got round at last to designing my author business cards this week. I’ve already got my bookmarks for the BBF launch, but these are just handier to carry around and they turned out really well. Although, I may have to tell people the fairies designed them, as I seem to have made the font just a smidgen too small on the back, lol. But still, they do the job – sure, as long as you can read the details… even if some of the finer print might require a magnifying glass!

Writing-wise, I’m finding it a little hard to settle myself to work on book number two, as there’s so much else going on at the moment with book one and with work in general. But I think this is a period to enjoy – I like the promo side of things and chatting about books and writing, and it’s exciting to see people find out about MM and to show an interest in it. Even better when they read it and like it!

Fellow NI author and friend, Jo Zebedee, whose latest book, a fantasy novel called Waters and the Wild, will be published in July, also got her hands on MM this week, so I’m awaiting feedback from her and her daughter Holly too. 🙂Jo and Holly

The first few months after a book release will always be busier as you try to spread the word and it certainly won’t last forever, so my mantra is to embrace all opportunities and just have fun with it.

Anyway, speaking of writing, it’s a bank holiday weekend, which means a bit of breathing space to get those words on pages. More as I have it… 🙂

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Publishing and promotion…

As a writer in today’s digital world, you’re expected to do a certain amount of self-promotion to connect with readers and to gain new ones. Getting the balance right in this is crucial – do it too much, or in an overtly aggressive or ‘salesy’ way, and you risk alienating people – promote too little, and you can simply sink into the ether with no-one giving you a backward glance. Sure, there’s always another writer to keep people entertained…

img_0278As a soon-to-be indie author, I know that promotion and marketing and just connecting with potential readers is important if I want to get my book into the hands of, well, anybody. Add to the mix that it’s a book for children and we have a double conundrum – I’ve got to connect with both parents and kids, as the parents will no doubt be making the purchasing decision, but the kids will have to want to read it (or be intrigued to give it a go anyway).

It’s all trial and error and I’m already planning how I’ll go about getting my story ‘out there’, so this week’s launch of Lagan Online’s 12NOW project was perfectly timed. You can read more about this at the link above, but essentially, this is what Lagan Online is all about:

“Central to Lagan Online is the aim of nurturing new talent to build careers in a new environment. Lagan Online is committed to being a leading voice in the area of Reading Development and new writing on the island of Ireland.”

Formerly known as Lagan Press, which published physical books, the rebranded Lagan Online is instead, now channelling its energies into supporting and promoting up-and-coming writers without the publishing element. A controversial decision for some… a few other local publishers have already taken to social media to express their disappointment and regret at this decision. As an indie author about to benefit from this promotion however, I’m really just seeing the silver lining.12now-collage

Over the next 12 months, Lagan Online will support and promote reading and writing by supporting and promoting six poets and prose writers, myself included, sharing our stories and poems with various reading groups in Northern Ireland. For the past few years, the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry has been running Reading Rooms, which exposes people of all ages and backgrounds to new writing. The idea is to nurture readers – to introduce the pleasures and joy of reading to new audiences and to dig deeper into what they’re reading, discussing themes and so on. This is what the 12NOW (New Original Writers) will be exposed to, as our work will subsequently be read and discussed by these groups.

I’ve been chosen as one of the prose writers for 12NOW, so a selection of my short stories will be circulated to the Reading Rooms groups and I’ll have the opportunity to visit a few of them to hear feedback on the writing. (Which is a little BIT SCARY! I do hope they like them, or at least, that they don’t HATE them…) With there being a children’s reading group as well, I’m also hoping that along with the short story for kids that I’ve written, my children’s novel will also have the chance to be put before some young eyes. As I’m intending to publish it next spring, the timing couldn’t be better.

I’m still a big fan of traditional publishers and if I was ever picked up by one then I’m pretty sure I’d sign on the dotted line with great delight. However, in the meantime, I’m enjoying the process of getting my first novel out there by myself – and of course, with the help of a team of other independent businesses, which will ensure that it’s the best it can be.fullsizerender-4

I’m planning to meet with my editor in Dublin before Christmas to discuss her feedback on the manuscript, and my cover designer is working away on the design as we speak, so I hope to see how that’s shaping up at the start of November. I like that I’m guiding the cover art and that I’ll be able to give feedback on this to make it the way I want. I know that with some publishers, you really have to take what you’re given in that regard, so I’m enjoying being in control of how my book is created, from start to finish.

Self-publishing is like any big project you take on – it’s both exciting and scary – but I think the learning gained throughout the process is/will be invaluable. Running my own business helps in some way as well, as I’m better able to get my head around the practicalities of marketing and so on, though it’s always harder to promote your own work than other people’s…

This is where Lagan Online is going to come in so perfectly, as it’s always good to know you have someone in your camp supporting your work. Having a respected publisher promote your work is invaluable, whether they’re actually publishing anymore or not. Of course, I’ll be writing other stories throughout the year and I want to get submitting to journals and the like again, as I haven’t done quite so much of that in 2016. Being part of something like 12NOW will therefore help ‘keep me at it’, as they say, and will make sure that my work-life and creative-life is better balanced…

 

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Ways with Words… Part one

“I think the opportunities for the writer have never been better. All sorts of boundaries have been broken…”

So said former publisher and widely published author/academic, Alison Baverstock at the weekend, when I had the opportunity to attend LitNet NI’s Ways with Words Literature Development Day at the Crescent Arts Centre as part of the Belfast Book Festival 2014. It was a day packed full of tips and advice from those often heard of, seldom seen (unless you’re one of the lucky authors to have secured an agent and publisher!), with professionals flying in from Edinburgh, Manchester, London, Dublin and of course, coming in from Belfast city itself to engage with us local writers.

We enjoyed Q&As with said agents and authors and heard from two successfully self-published authors in the afternoon, but first, it was left to the inimitable Ian Sansom to stir up some lively enthusiasm for the day with his introductory message – entitled: Crusoe’s Reckoning.Flying letters

We had anecdotes! We had tangential side stories! We had facts! History! Research! Opinion!

We had A LOT of stimulating titbits about writing and the heady dynamics it can entail today – via the internet and all that Social Media – but it certainly fired up anyone who wasn’t already on the edge of their seats. If anyone has ever heard Mr Sansom speak, they will know that his passionate addresses flow fast so, in point form, I present a mere few of those literary titbits…

The Digital Revolution is happening and it’s happening via:

  • Text
  • Real-time communication
  • Broadcast and moving pictures
  • Debate and discussion
  • Reference
  • Games

Nothing new there, I hear you say – we know about these things. Yes, but – how do they affect you as a writer and how do you – indeed, do you – harness them effectively to support/publicise your craft?

“We’re in a phase at the moment that we might call the Digital Incunabula – no-one’s seen anything like this before,” explained Sansom. “We haven’t quite worked out what all these things are meant to be… using this digital technology as writers.”

Indeed, even books – bound, printed, basic books – were once an enigma to be mastered. Writing techniques, publishing techniques and publicising techniques have subsequently fragmented with the internet and we’re still muddling our way through the amazon. So to speak.crusoe

“We write/edit/design/publish/print. We’ve gone from needing an agent and publisher to now needing beta readers, brand managers, copy editors, designers and printers…

“How do writers reckon with themselves? We need to reckon with our time… (herego, Crusoe’s Reckoning) It’s to do with how you match your time with what you have available.”

Yes, when Robinson Crusoe was stranded on his island, he realised he needed to seize control of his situation – he had to reckon with himself with regards to how he would take ownership of his time and consciously apply himself in his new environment.

What I think Sansom was asking us writers was – are we doing the same?

It was a good start to the day – a day which had many more insights to come and which, for those who weren’t there, will have to wait for another post…

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