The Lowest Realm

Life on an offshore oil rig is grueling hard work. For Nika the hard work, isolation and discipline is ideal.

On the eve of flying back to the mainland for a two week break, disaster strikes, and Nika is thrown into darkness.

When he awakes in a strange world, with no memory of his past, he finds himself in the presence of monks, who offer to help, on one condition. Nika must deliver an urgent message to the king, and in return, the mysterious monks will help him recall his memories and find a way home.

Instead, Nika is sent on a long journey with his new friend Freyne, and the spoilt Princess Iryna, to fulfill a prophecy that will restore balance to the world.

Nika must adjust to more than just a new world; as his body undergoes a transformation he does not understand, he must also deal with being hunted, forbidden love, mancery, and gods he’s never heard of.

Coming soon!

DIY in every sense of the word

The next conundrum I’m facing is using Adobe InDesign to set up my novel ready for print. Apart from Acrobat, the only Adobe program I’ve used is a very early version of photoshop about 20 years ago (omg I feel old).

Although I wrote this novel for myself and my love of writing, it would be remiss of me to say that money isn’t a motivator. I live in Sydney, life is expensive here. I don’t have a lot of it.

I have come to notice a lot of costs involved with self publishing, so I am endeavoring to do as many of the production jobs myself. So that brings me back to the title of today’s post. So how am I going to get this book published while spending as little on it as possible, without compromising the quality?

One of the perks of being a uni student means that I get some great discounts on software. RRP for Adobe InDesign subscription is $29.99 a month, and Creative Suite $71.99. As a student, I get Creative Suite for $21.99 a month. That’s a saving already, and I can cancel at any time.

ISBN is $44 for one, of $88 for 10. Since we need a separate ISBN for each different release (paperback, ebook, hardback), it makes sense to buy 10, especially at this stage as I am looking at a trilogy.

ABN is free. It is required in Australia as being an author is considered a business.

Cover design will be tricky, as I am loudy when it comes to graphic design. I could pay $100-300 for one to be made on Fiverr. Or I could ask my ex who works in the industry. Or I can ask around my friends and see if they can make me one for $50-100. I want to have a lot of say in this step, and I have a vague idea of what I’d like.

I’m thinking I’d like a pencilled caricature of a cat that is in the story on the back of the front cover (in memory of one of my childhood cats). I have an artist friend who would probably love to do this for a reasonable price. There are also a few small embellishments that I’d like added, so I’ll need help there.

Apart from that, it looks like I’ll be learning InDesign. I have already figured out drop caps, making the document print ready, and figured out how to add my fonts. But that is as far as I’ve gotten, I have no idea how to add images yet.

One of the advantages of my degree in library science, is I know where to look for help. I found one of the inner libraries that is hosting InDesign classes. So I think I’m already feeling sick and need to have next Monday arvo off work….

Book layouts and covers are the two biggest expenses after professional editing. Editing will cost me approx $350 and includes proofreading buy this editor.

  • Editing $350
  • Book layout (InDesign) $22-66
  • Cover design $50-100
  • IngramSpark listing fee $49
  • Graphics help $25-50
  • ISBN $88

So I can get this done for roughly $600 or less. If I had to pay for people to do these for me, I’d be looking at around $1000 or more.

Why do I care so much about price if I’ll be making money from my book? Each dollar I spend, translates to more copies of the book I need to sell to break even and turn a profit. If I retail at $16.99, take out print costs and fees, I’m looking at approx $10 or less per book. So I need to sell 60 books before I start making money, compared to 100.

Remember that being an author means being a business. As much as we want to get our stories out there, we still need to be sensible and cost efficient.

Refound my spark

After last night’s sulking post, I put down my devices and went to bed. This morning I started fresh, and had a look at what other writers are doing.

Amazon is not for me. I looked into it, it isn’t very Aussie-friendly. If I wanted to order a proof or author copies, I can’t because Amazon doesn’t provide POD in Aus. The only way around this is ordering a retail copy.

At the recommendation of another Aussie writer, I had a look at IngramSpark. This company works closely with Amazon, but is separate. They offer global distribution, AND they have POD in Aus, UK and USA.

And so I have decided to self publish with IngramSpark. I can also publish the ebook on Amazon if I want to.

Today is my day off work, and I had plans with hubby to go out. At the last minute, he got called in to work, so our plans were cancelled. So instead, I took myself out….to the library!

I was THAT weirdo today….kneeling down in the fiction section, measuring books, and taking photos of maps and decorations I like. It also gave me ideas on writing my blurb, which I may re-attempt later.

The beauty of IngramSpark is the creative freedom I get – I can put as many maps in as I want, I can add in images, symbols, and all that cute stuff. I’m starting to get excited…

Things I liked…

These maps are more the traditional fantasy maps that I love. I may end up re-drawing my maps, because in my world, they don’t have computers…. I want my map to look like it would for my people.

I like the 3 line capitals at the start of each chapter, I think I’ll go with something like this. I also like the linebreak symbol in the second image, I may do something like this but with a symbol that I’ve embedded in the book.

With IngramSpark, I even get to pick what colour of paper I want. I’m thinking cream, because it gives the book that old feel, and smells better when it’s old and tattered 😂

I feel like I was shopping for ideas today, and I have walked away feeling extra inspired. Even the world map in the image above has given me ideas. Now to head home and get stuck into editing…..

The reality is setting in

Today I spent a bit of time looking up which publishers are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Here in Australia, there are a few publishers who do this, and I have already chosen two to submit with.

The sad reality I am facing, is the costs involved in editing and proofreading my work. At 102k words, most professional services in Australia charge anywhere between $2400 to $4000 and up. There is no way I can afford that.

I don’t want to be the one who whines on social media, poor me poor me. No way. But today it just hit me: I am so close to fulfilling my dream, and yet as I scrolled through websites after websites, I felt my dream slipping away.

All of a sudden, self publishing on Amazon is becoming more and more tempting .

I’m not one to sulk and feel sorry for myself though. I have tried my plan B, and looked up some cheaper options on Fiverr, though I have heard several writers warn against this.

I guess I just need to get my ass into gear and finish editing my draft, send it out to some beta readers, and see what feedback I get, before I worry about the editing stage.

I still live in hope that one day soon, I’ll see my book on the shelves of my local book store.

My inspiration and muse

Many writers have different sources of inspiration, be it music, reading other books, people watching, their life experiences etc.

I have been heavily influenced by David Eddings- I read and reread the Belgariad and Malloreon sooo many times as a kid, the Belgariad especially. This was my first immersion into fantasy, and it helped shape who I am today.

When I started writing The Lowest Realm 17 years ago, I had the drive and inspiration, and managed to write what was, at the time, a decent prologue and first chapter.

But something was missing. My friends who read it said that I left them hanging, they HAD to read more. The problem, though, was I had run out of steam. Already, my story was headed towards every fantasy trope that writers try to avoid today: stranger in the lands gets drawn into a quest, completes said quest, gets the princess and becomes a mighty king, and they live happily ever after. Yawn!

I finally shelved the project, threw out all of my backstory notes, and just kept the word doc and maps. I didn’t touch it again until April 19.

I had been talking to my mother-inlaw, and she had expressed interest that I had been writing a novel. I finally fished out the original files and dusted them off, but I still wasn’t happy with where the story was headed. My narrative was a bit off too, it needed a lot of work.

And then one day, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and came across a random post that evoked some sort of powerful reaction in my brain, and I realised the missing link to my story. I cannot express enough, how electrifying this moment was, it was like I’d been zapped in the stomach on an electic fence back on the farm.

This post may not mean much to you, the reader, but this image started a fire in my brain, and for the first time in 17 years, I started to write.

There was still one key thing missing though. I draw a lot of inspiration through random songs here and there which get my creativity flowing, but I realise now that I was missing my muse. Inspiration is one thing, but a muse that magically helps me get the story on the page was another thing altogether.

I found that muse in the form of a simple cover song. I had been listening to Mumford & Sons on YouTube, and one day I was in the mood for a bit of Springsteen. I typed in ‘I’m on fire’ and there, staring me in the face, was a cover of that song by Mumfords.

This song gave me a similar reaction to the above post, and I think I wrote like 6 chapters in a week just from listening to this song.

Mumfords have pretty much gotten me through writing The Lowest Realm, and who knows, I may even dedicate a book to them.

These things that inspired me may make the next person roll their eyes and smirk, and that’s ok. There is inspiration and a muse out there for everyone, we just have to find it.

May you forever hold Am in your hearts x

Growing the map

Book 1 was only ever going to be a stand-alone novel. As I wrote, however, I found that a number of twists and turns had naturally reared their heads, and I ended up with more story than I could ever fit into one book. Sure, I could squeeze it all into one and have a big fat book, but I know a lot of publishers won’t touch a debut novel of that size.

And so I had a predicament. Book 2 requires my heroes to leave the Eastern Isles where book 1 takes place, and head over to the mainland.

Easy peasy, only I hadn’t created a map for that. So I set out to enlarge my map.

I have created plenty of kick-ass maps in my time, but I have always hand drawn and inked them. For the Eastern Isles, I had drawn this map 17 years ago, and at the time, had painstakingly converted it from lead pencil to pixels in a very old version of paint. It took forever and I only filled in half of the assets.

This time around, I tried Inkarnate, and was very happy with my map. I don’t have the early copy of the Eastern Isles on my device, if I can find it later I’ll add it in.

So anyways, I have this kick-ass map for the Eastern Isles, but no world.

I purchased the program Wonderdraft and experimented with generating landmass, but it just didn’t do it for me. I like to draw my maps by hand with my own brainpower. After several failed hand and program attempts, I went back to basics and did it ‘the old way’. WASD20 does some great vids on this too.

I started with an A4 sheet of paper, and lightly penciled in where the Eastern Isles are situated in relation to my landmass. I made them tiny, to show the scale of the world.

Next, I used some Fluffy Sand that I bought from Smiggle, and randomly dumped it on my page. You can use rice or beans or whatever, so long as it doesn’t destroy or mark the paper.

Once I was happy with the rough shape, I used a retractable pencil to outline the landmass. I realised afterwards that the continent on the left looks like a bunny, and the one on the right almost looks like an angry genie.

Once the sand (or rice or beans) has been removed, you can make any changes if needed, or jump straight into inking. Usually I’ll make a heap of changes as I go, but for now this will do. Time to ink it.

I shortened the bunny ears, and included the natural holes in the sand as lakes. To ink it, I used a very fine tipped marker, and made my coastlines a little rough. I don’t get hung up too much on natural looking coasts, it’s a map not a photo.

I haven’t started adding assets yet, this will come after I finish editing book 1, and all the other things I need to do first. But I feel like this is a good exercise to do now; being a visual person, I need to ‘see’ what I’m working with. Now that I have this basic outline. I have already started formulating the transport system to get my heroes from A to B as quickly as possible.

I have 9 days to finish editing book 1 before I send it to my beta reader, and I’m nowhere near done, so right now all of my energy is focused on fixing what needs fixing before it’s sent out.

May you forever hold Am in your hearts x

Here we go again

As I lay here in bed on a Sunday morning, I finally bit the bullet and decided to start a blog. I have started so many of these and never maintained them, so hopefully I stay motivated this time.

17 years ago, at 17 years of age, I started writing a fantasy novel. After writing the prologue and first chapter, I ran out of steam. It was heading in the same direction as every other fantasy novel I had ever read. It was not unique.
In April this year, I picked it back up, and dusted it off. I reworked my main characters and plot, and breathed new life into my world.
On the 20th July, I typed the final words I never thought I would see myself type:
THE END

The End
190 pages
104207 words

There is still lots of editing and refining before it can be published, but the hardest step is complete. So, what now?

I am already planning, somewhat slowly, book two, while I am editing my first draft. I have booked in with a beta reader for 11th September, who will read it and provide honest feedback. I have 10 days left before I send it off, so I need to get my backside into gear.

In my next post, I’ll show you how I designed the world map for book two.