Recommended Sites For Authors

I have personal experience with these websites.

Websites That Offer or Host Book Reviews

Websites That Host Interviews

What Inspires Writers To Write?

What inspires writers to write?

Before I started writing, I used to wonder what inspired writers, where their ideas come from, and what could have sparked their story. Interestingly, and something many people already know, my first book The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was sparked by a family trip to Egypt with my mom and my two young nephews. When I’d written the story of my young heroes’ adventures, I realised they hadn’t had time to save the world yet. Another adventure was needed. But what and where could they go?

Like many people I am sure, I am a huge Arthurian fan. I then happened to accompany a relative on a tour of Scotland’s castles, but before we went off to discover them, we stopped off at Oxford, England, a favourite city of mine.

Scotland was marvellous, and I came back with all sorts of images and ideas floundering around in my head, but nothing concrete. By then I’d decided my adventure had to include King Arthur and his famed sword Excalibur (where perhaps one would find a Stone of Power embedded in the hilt?). Also, I so loved Oxford that I had to somehow have my young heroes go there as well. But how was I to marry all these elements together?

I am a big Inspector Morse fan. One night I watched an episode called The Wolvercote Tongue, a story about the discovery of a Dark Ages artefact, a jewelled belt buckle, and it involved the Ashmolean Museum (also a favourite!). I woke up in the middle of the night with the plot of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur complete in my head.

Somehow I managed to find space for not only the museum, but also the prettiest castle in Scotland, Dunrobin Castle, which fit the bill perfectly for the old castle in the book.

I had visited and already decided to squeeze in the best ruined chapel around, Rosslyn Chapel, just filled with incredible and mysterious architecture. I am still amazed at what inspires a writer, be it an image, an event, a place, an experience.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Share The Award Winning Chronicles Of The Stone Series With Tweens and Teens!

Developing Plots by Fiona Ingram

Many young writers feel challenged by what seems to be such a daunting task—writing a story. They wonder how they will ever remember the who, what, why, when and where of their proposed story. Nothing is easy without practice and as we all know, practice makes perfect. My suggestion for a young writer wanting to put their own story down is to start with stories they already enjoy.

Read some of your favorite books, the ones that had you longing for more excitement. Or the one that was so fascinating you read it more slowly so the book did not end too soon. Or the one where you were so tired but could not put it down until you knew the hero was safe … for now. Think about why the author had you captivated from the start. The author probably came up with a great idea right away, an idea that gripped you. It could have been a mystery, a quest, a journey, a mission, and perhaps something that seemed impossible for the hero to accomplish. The author then drew you into the story which had unexpected twists and turns, surprises, and sometime disasters that affected the hero. The plot is what makes a hero or heroine who they are. Every plot has a story to tell, and that story follows a certain sequence. Sure, you can jump around and have side excursions, but every writer should bring his hero back to the main story soon enough.

Creating a great plot. Write your initial plot down in a few words. Keep it simple. “My story is about (my hero) who is faced with (a challenge, a dilemma, a problem) and how he/she overcomes the challenge or solves the problem. A tip: stick to the kind of story that you like to read, or else material that interests you. If you love football, then don’t make your hero a hockey player. Place your story in a setting that you either know about, or would enjoy researching.

How to Construct your Storyline. Structure is very important otherwise you’ll forget something important, and your story will fall to pieces. Carefully outline your initial plot with more detail. You may not stick to it exactly, but it’s important to map out where the story is going. You don’t want to give away the plot too soon, or tell the reader everything all at once. So begin with a simple 3-point system: the Beginning (your hero appears—what is he doing? What does he want to achieve?); the Middle (something will happen to him and he has to …?); the Ending (your hero resolves the situation). From those three vital points you will fill in your other plot points—how did… why did… what happens next. You can introduce new characters and other story lines to add interest to your main plot. Don’t forget to always bring your readers back to the main plot.

As your plot develops you’ll find your characters will grow by their experiences. A tip: as your characters appear in the story and new developments take place, keep a notebook on the side and make notes to remind yourself of all the small details. Don’t forget that depending on the situation and location of your story, you may have to research facts. Make sure your information is as accurate as possible to make your story more enjoyable for your readers.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Blog Tours for Authors – Do They Work by Fiona Ingram

Many authors do virtual book tours, making scheduled appearances on blogs to promote their book. But do these tours really work? In today’s guest post, children’s book author Fiona Ingram shares her experience based on her own tour.

Do blog tours work? In my experience the answer is a resounding yes. My tour literally propelled my author profile into the stratosphere and I still get Google Alerts from it. Here are some reasons why I think blog tours are effective:

  • Massive exposure to an audience you possibly would never have found on your own. Each blog stop has its own followers. There are also people who enjoy following the complete tour, so new blogs get new readers, and you, the guest, get a whole lot of attention.
  • You are invited to write posts about yourself, your work, your book, and your writing techniques that give more interesting angles to you as an author. I felt challenged in a positive sense because many of my blog hosts asked me for posts relating to kids’ literacy, making reading more interesting for kids, how to get kids back into books, how to write for kids. It was great!
  • Within a short space of time those blog posts start appearing on other people’s blog pages, pop up in Google Alerts, and there is a general spread of awareness as more and more people either follow the blog tour post by post, or simply pass on the information they have found through their own feeds. This can also be through emails, Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. When people enjoy something, they comment on it.
  • Book giveaways are a wonderful way of getting people to comment and participate in the tour. Your blog tour hosts usually arrange this; you have to get the books to the hosts first.
  • If people enjoy reading about you they may ask the blog tour organizers to add you to their blog as a guest post. I gained a few more stops on my tour once people began reading my posts.

What you can do to maximize your success:

  • Send a personal email to all your blog hosts in advance thanking them for the opportunity to appear on their blog, and confirming date, time, their blog address, topic of the post, and when they can expect the information. Make sure they receive your post well in advance.
  • Have a look at each blog on your tour and get a feel for the tone of it. Is it intellectual, chatty, quirky, fun, formal, etc? Tailor your post to reflect the tone of the blog.
  • If you are sending giveaway or review copies of your book, make sure this is done well in advance and confirm with your blog tour organizers that the hosts have received their copies.
  • Make sure you visit each blog stop for a few days afterwards to reply to comments. Your blog tour organizers will usually get the ball rolling by commenting first. Make it easy for yourself by setting an email request for when comments are made on the various posts. This will help you stay in touch.

Blog tours are a great way to develop new readers, fans, and friends, and to meet people interested in your work.

Fiona Ingram has published second novel in The Chronicles Of The Stone Youth Series. Fiona also writes animal rescue books. She is a full-time author in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Tips For Young Writers & Creative Writing Teachers

Some writing advice to young writers and suggestions for teachers to assist in developing writing skills in their students.

Writing can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of your life. There are many reasons a person decides to write: to share their life’s experiences, to tell a good story, to express the feelings and situations of others … the list is endless. Some people even write just for fun. I wrote my book because I visited Egypt with my two nephews and wanted to write a short story to help them remember a special time. To my surprise, the short story turned into a book, and then a book series. So, you never know what’s going to happen once you begin!

Any good story is composed of a really gripping plot and realistic, believable characters. What comes first? Everyone has their own ideas but I believe the plot should come first. What’s the point of great characters if they sit around and don’t achieve very much. So, step one, write your plot down in a few words (that’s all you need). “My story is about … who manages to … and goes on to ….” Example from my book: two cousins go to Egypt with their aunt Isabel and their Gran and are given an ancient scarab that plunges them into a whirlpool of exciting events. I have my two main characters, two secondary characters, a great location (open to all kinds of amazing events), an important object, and … well, the amazing events are up to my imagination.

How To Choose a Great Story Topic: You may think, “But what can I write about?” Write about what you know best, or what excites you, or what you enjoy. You’ll find that when you are really keen on something—it can be an activity, a place, an event, or a person (real or imaginary)—it becomes easier to write. Do you love reading about faraway exciting places? Then research a place you find interesting and set your story there. Do you enjoy mysteries? Think about something that’ll keep people guessing. Are you good at a skill or a sport? Set your story around a character with those abilities.

How to Construct your Storyline: Structure is very important otherwise you’ll end up writing away like crazy but forget some vital detail here and there, and your story will fall to pieces. Sit down and draw your storyline—remember, you have already written it down in a few words. You may not stick to it exactly, but it’s important to map out where the story is going. You don’t want to give away the plot too soon, or tell the reader everything all at once. So begin with a simple 3-point system: the Beginning (your hero appears—what is he doing? What does he want to achieve?); the Middle (something will happen to him and he has to …? ); the Ending (your hero resolves the situation). From those three vital points you will fill in your other plot points—how did… why did… what happens next…

Make Your Characters as Interesting as Possible: Tip: take them from real life examples. You could write about someone like yourself, or else model the characters on friends at school, teachers, or other people you know. The dialogue between your characters is also important because that’s one place to develop the plot line. Their interaction will reveal the chain of events as the characters work out various situations.

Make your information to the reader as interesting as possible by weaving it into the story. Don’t say that it’s cold. Get your character to shiver because he left his jacket at home. You can set the scene around your characters by using adjectives and adverbs to enhance your descriptions and actions but don’t overdo it. The reader is also going to use his or her imagination, so don’t overload your writing with too many descriptions.

A final piece of advice: writing should be fun and exciting. Just enjoy yourself and let your imagination take you to places you only ever dreamed of…

Fiona Ingram has published second children’s novel in The Chronicles Of The Stone Youth Series. Fiona also writes animal rescue books. She is a full-time author in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fiona Ingram also offers in-depth courses in self-marketing and book promotion techniques. These courses are limited to South African writers although please feel free to connect with Fiona for tips and advice.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Use The Power Of Your Mind To Achieve Amazing Success by Fiona Ingram

In this article you will learn an amazing and simple technique to transform your life and achieve success. This ‘magical’ technique is Alpha, a level of the mind where you are thinking on the inner and deeper levels of creativity and awareness. This is the level where you can transform your old patterns of thinking, and see and feel the success you deserve and desire. This easy method of programming your desires is the cornerstone for success. Our thoughts, words, and actions act as tools of creation. We attract what we secretly believe we deserve or else what we keep saying e.g. “I will never succeed/it’s too difficult/there are too many other writers out there/I’m not good enough.” Thus we attract failure.

In this article, you will learn how to change those deep-rooted beliefs. You may be thinking, “I’ve done all this before and it doesn’t work!” You may have either used or read about the techniques in this article before. There is a reason why it didn’t work. The difference here is you will learn the successful application of these techniques in your life, and realize where the system can fail through the human factor. This article will show you how to succeed and how to eliminate error. You are in charge of your own destiny because your thought patterns will dictate success or failure. The most difficult thing about this method is that it begins and ends with you. The easiest thing about this method is that it begins and ends with you. Cynicism will block you so put disbelief aside and have the faith of a child that you can have what you want.

This article is not just words and head space. In order for you to really benefit from the information, please enter into the suggested exercises with wholehearted enthusiasm. This is the one chance you have to spend time with your thoughts and self, putting your ideas and dreams down on paper, mentally reassessing where you have been going wrong, and creating a new direction in your life. Prepare to succeed. During your reading you will be encouraged to tap into your powerful mental tool—your imagination—whenever possible, to cement your mental images and make them reality. Your thoughts are powerful so think positive! Focus on fruition! You want the success that is yours.

Visualization techniques have been used forever (read The Secret to see how far back it goes!), and very particularly in sports training programs before hitting the self help seminars circuit. Many people have gone to seminars, read books, listened to audio material, done all they were told to do … and found it didn’t work. Why doesn’t it work? You emerge from the seminar, buoyed up and inspired, only to find that a few weeks or days later, your energy has gone, your wishes have not come true … and it has been a waste of time or money. Perhaps the course, book or tape did not impress upon you the secret to making this kind of method work. It’s like a gym membership—you can’t just join without going and actually doing some exercise ….

  • How The Mind Works. In a nutshell, the mind operates on four levels—Beta, Alpha, Delta, Theta. Beta (active) is the outer consciousness level we use to perform tasks and go about our daily business. Alpha (relaxed) is the inner consciousness level, where we use our imagination, where our ideas spring from. Theta is our subconscious and emotional level. Delta is the unconscious level. Our main concern is with Beta and Alpha. Although Beta is great for performing all those necessary tasks, including actually writing a book/poetry etc, it can be a stumbling block because Beta will be the part of you that says, “Don’t be ridiculous. Look what you’re up against. You can’t possibly be a world-famous published author.” In Alpha, that’s where we get to run free with our dreams, see ourselves signing book contracts, signing books, waving to fans… sigh… The beauty of your mind is that with a little retraining, you’ll be putting those wonderful thoughts from Alpha into your Beta mental framework, and your conscious thoughts will reflect the new pattern for success.

There are 3 Laws of the Mind.

  1. Your imagination is the most powerful force within you.
  2. The body will strive to achieve whatever the mind conceives.
  3. You must mentally experience something using all your senses before you can physically achieve it.
  • Your Dream Diary. The brain cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, providing you make it as real as possible. So, you have to tap into the Alpha part of your brain and program your success. Find a space for yourself on the floor, using a blanket and pillows to make yourself comfortable. I do not suggest a bed because all too often the tendency is to fall asleep. Make sure you will be undisturbed and dim the lights. You may want a friend to talk you through the session. Firstly, you will take yourself down into the Alpha state of relaxation using the colors of the rainbow. (There is a chart at the end of the article to help). Start with Red, then Orange, then Yellow, then Green, Blue, Purple and Lilac. As you ‘see’ each color, feel your body relaxing deeper and deeper into the floor. You do not have to use this technique if you have followed any Chakra methods, or you have your own technique. Just get into a relaxed mode any way that suits you. Once you feel yourself there, visualize a path that takes you to a special place, your Mind Studio. You may imagine it in any way you like: ultra modern office, a cozy study, an old library full of antiques … whatever pleases you. Here you will find your Dream Diary where it’s time to create, in Alpha, what you want. Go to the writing desk where you will be doing your ‘mind work.’ Sit down. In front of you is a beautiful diary. The cover is as exquisite as you imagine it to be. Open your Dream Diary. Pick up your pen. It can be anything from a plain ballpoint to an expensive fountain pen. Here is where you will write your mantra for success.
  • Say What you Want for Success. If you don’t know what you want, how can you get what’s right for you? The visualization and mantra will fix your wish list in your mind. A focused wish leads to fruition of the desire. Your mantra can be something like this: “I am a world-famous, award-winning writer. My books are sold in their millions. I bring joy and happiness to readers worldwide. My characters are real and believable; my plots are amazing and unique. I am rich beyond my wildest dreams.” Those are just some of the things writers usually want. Create your own. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does have to encompass exactly what you want. When you order a meal from a restaurant, don’t you usually order exactly what you want? Now, in your imagination write it in your Dream Diary. Then look up and see yourself doing all those things you dream of: signing the six-figure deal, signing books, chatting to fans, enjoying the fruits of your success. Feel your happiness: see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, taste it. Imagine yourself celebrating your book contract with friends and family. This is your dream, so enjoy it any way you like. When you are ready, come out of your relaxed state. If you have used the rainbow method, then simply reverse the colours from Lilac back to Red. (Tip: you can also use this Alpha method to become more creative and inspired in your writing)
  • Write it Down. Write your mantra on a piece of paper and paste it somewhere you have to look every day—a bathroom mirror, your computer, next to your bed. The next step is vital to success: SAY IT EVERY DAY. You can’t say something once and expect it to happen. The only thing you must do once is visualize deeply what you want. After that, your short simple mantra will remind your subconscious mind of your ‘wish list,’ and go to work to bring it to you. Repetition is the key to success.
  • Say It Believing It. This can be difficult for some people. In the visualization you should experience your wish with all your senses—see, smell, hear, touch, taste—and then feel the most wonderful sense of happiness. After that, all you must do is feel the happiness of success, and when you say your mantra, you will be infusing it with your senses.
  • Do Something About It. Lying on the floor and creating an amazing visualization is not enough; saying it every day is also not enough. You have to do something about getting your success. See my gym analogy above! If you don’t write your book, you won’t get anywhere. If you don’t market your book, ditto. My other two articles will guide you as to the nuts and bolts of making your success happen.
  • Deny Failure. This is often difficult, but failure is just a manifestation of the Fear Factor, all the things we accumulate over the years starting from the very first time someone at junior school said, “You’re stupid/You’ll never succeed, etc.” The setbacks, wounds, and hurts that we experience in early years somehow manage to insidiously undermine our confidence. You can be in the middle of great things and a nasty sneaky thought like, “I can’t do it,” jumps into your conscious mind. Push it away, and refresh your inner mind with your mantra and the overwhelming sense of happiness you felt while visualizing success. Although you don’t have to visit your Mind Studio again, sometimes just popping back helps to reinforce the good stuff. Trust in yourself and your abilities, and then follow the practical steps. Success is inevitable. Success will be yours.

Why will this work? Why does an apple fall to the ground after being tossed in the air? THE LAW OF GRAVITY!

Why will you get what you desire after reading this article and following instructions afterward? THE LAW OF ATTRACTION!


Enter Alpha: Lie flat on your back, relaxed and with a small cushion behind your head. Cover up with light rug. Count down from 20 to 1 and then see your colours Red to Lilac. Count down 12 to 1 to enter your Mind Studio.

Exit Alpha: Count 1 to 12 to exit Mind Studio. See through colours Lilac to Red. Count 1 to 20 to wake up.

You can use the Alpha Technique every day by referring to the chart below. If you are a gemstone person then use the stones corresponding to areas that are important. If you have difficulty visualizing some colors, then check on this chart the Chakra areas (listed first) where you could have stumbling block issues.

  • Base—Red—Security/Survival/Family Etc. Gem: Ruby/Red Jasper/Red Tiger’s Eye
  • Sacral—Orange—Emotion/Sexuality/Creativity. Gem: Sardonyx/Carnelian
  • Solar Plexus—Yellow—Energy/Self Assertion& Esteem. Gem: Topaz/Amber/Citrine
  • Heart—Green—Love/Balance/Well Being. Gem: Emerald/Aventurine/Malachite
  • Throat—Blue—Communication & Expression. Gem: Turquoise/Sapphire
  • Forehead—Purple (Indigo)—Insight/Visualization/Intuition. Gem: Purple Amethyst
  • Crown—Lilac—Subconscious/Higher Self/Spiritual Wisdom. Gem: Clear Quartz

Fiona Ingram has just published her first children’s novel, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. She is a full-time author in Johannesburg, South Africa. Fiona Ingram also offers in-depth courses in self-marketing and book promotion techniques. These courses are limited to South African writers although please feel free to contact Fiona for advice and tips.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Are You Wasting Time Reading?

The complete question reads like this: Are you wasting time reading about writing when you should be writing? This awful question reared its ugly head when I began packing to move house. Ah yes, the joys of moving. I think it’s number two on the list of Most Terrible Things To Happen In Life. Along with death and divorce, moving house is one of the most traumatic experiences known to man, woman, and writer. Of course, there’s always the chance that while packing, as you scrabble among the dust balls under your desk, you might just find a vital piece of paper with a plot link you thought of in the middle of the night, wrote down, but then couldn’t find… There’s also the chance you could find money, the winning lottery ticket, or the missing library book that has accumulated thousands in fines…

However, the worst part of moving is thinking about what you have been doing for the past few months. Is there a link? Yes, for me there is. You see, I can’t move into my beautiful new house yet, the one with a stunning TWO (yes, two) room office. This is an incredible step up as far as office space goes, and I just can’t wait to fill it with books, lost library books, missing pieces of paper, and dust balls (My housekeeper very wisely put a clause in her contract that prevents her from cleaning my current office and I guess it extends to the new one…) How is this connected to what I have (not) been doing for the past few months? Let me explain. Alas, I have to camp out in a rented flat for two months while the current owners make their own moving arrangements. This means no access to the Internet unless I go down the road to an Internet cafe and log on. So, I’ll only be doing that once or twice a week. I decided I should pare down my subscriptions. It was a shock to find out just how much mail I was receiving.

Last week I did not open my email for two days. When I did, there were over 100 messages in my inbox. Apart from the ever-present ‘you have won the UK lottery’ spam mail, I found I had recklessly subscribed to just about anything that had ever presented me with an interesting article. I was receiving mail from all sorts of blogs and newsletters, some with remarkable articles, some with run-of-the-mill stuff. In my eagerness to learn more about honing my writing skills and developing a marketing strategy, I had accumulated so many subscriptions that basically my time on emails had gone from 10-15 minutes every morning to 90 minutes. Unacceptable. I was spending more time reading about writing than actually doing any writing.

I also found that while many of these articles were extremely informative, I had begun to question my writing, my characters, the back story, the inner story, the action, the dialogue, the adjectives, the adverbs … I had begun to tear my writing apart. So, I had to cut off the source of my addiction and … unsubscribe! I have, however, kept the few stalwarts that I began with. I expect that once I am settled in my new abode I shall be tempted to start subscribing again. But my resolve is firm: forge ahead with more writing, and not so much reading about writing. I shall leave the ‘fixing’ to my editor!

Here’s is my list of best blogs, sites and newsletters about writing and marketing. I just know I will start adding to my list again….

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

A Writer’s Guide To Successful Self-Publishing In Ten Easy Steps by Fiona Ingram

Self-publishing, once regarded as the poor cousin of traditional publishing, offers a myriad of opportunities to writers who, for one reason or another, have been rejected by literary agents and large publishing houses. Agents could be considered a necessary evil. Sure, they prevent the big publishing houses from being inundated with worthless manuscripts, but they also can overlook the brilliant bestseller in the making. Self-publishing and Print on Demand (POD) allows budding authors to bypass the hurdles, get their work into print, and get it out into the marketplace. Most writers who follow this path hope to be spotted and picked up by a traditional publishing house. Yes, this happens and there are more than a few examples of the rags-to-riches success stories—“Rich Dad Poor Dad” being a famous example, topping the New York bestseller list for seven years.

On the other hand, there are several good reasons why this is a rare occurrence. Simply put, the aspiring but inexperienced author tends to overlook the fundamentals that make up a good book, and traditional publishers won’t touch a shoddy piece of work. Another factor is that many authors haven’t the knowledge or the energy to tread the long and tiring path of marketing their book themselves. Being published by a traditional publisher means most of the work is done for you, including the editing, design, and marketing process. Self-publishing is hard work because you, the writer, have to do all this yourself. The bottom line, however, is that a great book will find its way to the top, regardless. If you feel you have a good book that’s worth the effort, then go for it.

Here are ten simple steps to self-publishing success. The rest is up to you.

  • Be Totally Driven: Your book should be uppermost in your thoughts. You should either be mentally or physically honing it, or thinking of ways to market it—constantly. Create a good mantra that you can repeat when things look bleak … because you’ll need it. Read my article Mind Power for Author Success for help with mantras and visualizations. Do not let anything or anyone’s comments put you off. Surround yourself with positive people, energy, and thoughts, and grow a thick skin.
  • Find Out If You Can Write: Look for a local, professional writer or editor (plenty on the Internet) and pay for their opinion. You may have to attend a few classes to hone your writing skills, but it will be worth it. Do not ask a friend to read it and give an opinion unless he or she is a professional writer.
  • Get Funding: You’ll need it, so start saving. Put aside $7 000-$10 000 for your production and marketing costs. You won’t need your entire budget immediately but your start-up costs will be around the $2 000 mark, depending on the self-publishing program you choose. Add to that the book cover, graphics, editing, marketing and website expenses, and you’ll see how costs rise. Do not give up your day job to become a writer; rather manage your time better. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with a few hours’ writing in the mornings and evenings, and at weekends. Be cautious in your spending—many authors blow their budget on production and have nothing left over for marketing. My article Self-Marketing and Internet Savvy will help.
  • Find A Good Self-Publishing Company: Expect what you pay for. Many charlatans in the marketplace take your money and leave you with a few poorly produced copies and no real platform for sales. Do some research and find out exactly what they offer. They should offer: a top program with all the elements for your book to meet traditional publishing standards. This includes the ISBN, a barcode, title and author name on the spine, back cover copy, and author bio details, as well as proper typesetting. They should offer editing and proofreading services, and a presence on the top book sites (such as Amazon), as well as a program that gets you into the bricks-and-mortar outlets such as Ingrams, Barnes & Noble, and Baker & Taylor. They should also offer an optional extra marketing strategy to cover radio and television and some Publishers Catalogue-type publications (you’ll pay for this), as well as sending out review copies and press releases to relevant people. Check everything they do for you, including your layout and copy proofing. If you’re not experienced enough to spot errors, then get someone else to look at it.
  • Meet Your Deadline: Generally self-publishing companies give you a year to complete your manuscript. During that time, decide if you want an outside professional to do your cover and graphics. Self-publishing companies usually offer graphics services but there have been comments about their ‘sausage machine’ style covers. Do not get a friend to design the cover unless he/she is a professional artist. Use a good artist who will produce a unique, eye-catching cover. The cover sells the book, so don’t skimp on it. When your publisher sends you corrections, get onto it right away. Make sure your book is on sale within a year of joining the program. Want to do it sooner? Don’t rush into putting your book out there and find later on that you’ve missed some vital elements.
  • Get Properly Edited: One of the biggest complaints of traditional publishers is that self-published writers are poorly edited and copy is usually not properly proofread. Do not let your best friend edit it for you unless he/she is a professional editor. A good editor will cost you around $2 500. Obey the editor. We all have bad writing habits and most times, we can’t see them. At the same time, remember that you are the creator of your characters and story, and only you know the unique and intricate intertwining of all the threads in your book. Take the editorial advice, but stick to your instincts if it compromises the story.
  • Marketing Is Essential: Gone are the days when a writer could sit in an ivory tower, just writing, and not get involved in the nitty-gritty of actually selling the book. Unless you’re Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, James Patterson, or J.K. Rowling, that’s not going to happen. It may come as a surprise to learn that only a small percentage of books are sold through traditional outlets and retail stores, and that a book has only 3-6 months on the shelves before being nudged aside for new titles. Competition is stiff because between 800-1000 new titles are produced every day in the USA. That’s a lot of books. You’re going to have to come up with creative ways of marketing, but one Golden Rule is the same. Books are sold because people hear about them, so whether you spend a million dollars or no dollars on marketing, tell everyone! Now your friends can help you by telling their friends and colleagues about your book. Open your Marketing Folder the day you sign up for the self-publishing program. (See Self Marketing and Internet Savvy).
  • Be Prepared To Work Hard: There are occasions where a good agent or traditional publisher will look at a self-published title, providing the book meets the industry’s standards, the copy is properly edited and proofread, and the author has worked hard to get the product out there and tell the world about it. The self-published author has a tough time. Not only does the writer have to write the book, but also he or she must slog on with marketing the book because, although the self-publishing company can do a lot for writers with their own marketing program, they always advise the writer to go the extra mile. All you have to aim for is making sure everyone knows about your book. The rest will follow.
  • Start Your Next Book: You can’t be a one-book wonder. As your first book is nearing completion, you should already be halfway through your next book, as well as planning the marketing of the first book. You can also put up the first chapter of your new book on your website to excite continued reader interest. Dan Brown wrote at least three books before “The Da Vinci Code.” By the fourth book, everyone knew who he was, but it took a while. That’s why you have to keep your day job.
  • Don’t Look Back And Don’t Give Up: Patience, persistence, and self-belief are what you must cultivate. Using your mantra every day and continuing to write will cement the vision of success in your mind.

Fiona Ingram has published second children’s novel in The Chronicles Of The Stone Youth Series. Fiona also writes animal rescue books. She is a full-time author in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fiona Ingram also offers in-depth courses in self-marketing and book promotion techniques. These courses are limited to South African writers although please feel free to connect with Fiona for tips and advice.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Write About Real Locations

Hello from Fiona!

I want to share with you how to (really) write about real locations.

The sense of reality about a real location is what makes a story credible. I felt very fortunate that I had been able to visit Egypt prior to writing my middle-grade adventure The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. So, how to recreate for readers to sense of ‘being’ in a place? Top of the list is, of course, actually going to the particular location.

Any location is unique, and there is pressure upon the author to describe it so that the readers can relate to it, enjoy it, and believe in it. Location is not just a geographical point on a world map. It’s a mixture of sights, sounds, smells, sensations, tastes, and the ambiance or atmosphere that comes with its people, history, culture, architecture, and art.

Would you believe that light, something so simple that we take it for granted, is different in other parts of the world? Sunlight in Egypt is unforgettable—blinding, glaring, beating down upon your retinas so that unless you have sunglasses, your poor Westernized eyes will remain squeezed shut in desperation as you try to shut out the probing rays. On the other hand, when darkness falls, it’s really dark. The sand dunes that once were a blazing sea of endless saffron yellow turn the purple of bruised plums as the sun finally sinks in the west.

Next-best options for authors not able to travel include guidebooks, travel blogs, Google Earth, interviews with experts, and (very importantly) research. These options shouldn’t be considered second best in any way because even though one may be fortunate enough to make a trip, there is hard work to be done when putting a story to paper.

I am a natural collector and accumulated air tickets, stubs from entries to monuments, menus, postcards, and the usual array of stuff that finds its way into travel bags. Photographs were vital for me—I was shocked to find that after a few weeks my memory of where exactly that fascinating statue had been was a bit hazy. I also muddled up the locations of two very famous temples (horrors!). So, with the help of a guide book, a clear map, and all my photographs, I was able to recreate the journey and make a ‘collage’ to guide me as I built the journey line of my two young heroes.

Since I modeled my heroes on my two nephews (Adam, left and Justin, right), it was important for me to get a feel for how two boys would react in such a foreign (and potentially dangerous) environment.

I’d also recommend souvenirs to jog one’s memory. I bought quite a few miniatures that really helped me recreate the haggling scene in the Egyptian market at Esna, and brought back the sounds and smells of people, incense, food, spices and much more.

The taste of the food was unforgettable. Do you know the best olives and cucumbers are found in Egypt? The crisp, cool, almost sweet taste of a cucumber is so juicy and refreshing that one just wants to gobble the whole thing down. The tart tang of a black olive on your tongue … spicy yet so tasty that one or two are just not enough.

Interviews with experts make another plus. We had Leila, our fantastic guide who was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on Egypt. Contrary to what one might think, travel guides (the official ones) in any country, have to have a vast amount of knowledge on their subject. It came as no surprise to find that Leila had a university degree!

Finally, the hard slog of research. I think Egypt was even more daunting than I imagined because so much has been written about the country, its history, and its culture that I felt under enormous pressure to check, double check, and check again (just in case) all my facts. There are also conflicting opinions of experts so one has to be careful whose opinion one chooses.

It’s almost a shame that hours of research go into looking up facts that will make a perhaps brief mention in the chapter concerned. After all, there is no point in inundating readers with lots of information. Details should be carefully and subtly woven into the story, always being an integral part of what the heroes need to know to move along in their story.

For me there’s nothing to beat the reality of location, so if you can go there, do it.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Share The Award Winning Chronicles Of The Stone Series With Tweens and Teens!




When Characters Do Their Own Thing!

When Characters Do Their Own Thing!

Before I began writing, I’d always read how authors often found their characters ‘doing their own thing.’ What nonsense, was my initial thought. How can a character created by an author decide to go off and make decisions on its own? In my historical romances (pen name Arabella Sheraton), I’d had that happen once and it took me by surprise. But, I thought, surely my Middle Grade characters were much better behaved. And they have been … up until now.

In my third book in the Chronicles of the Stone adventure series, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, it has happened twice. I’d wanted Tukum, a young boy who is part of the uncontacted tribe that saves my heroes – Adam, Justin and Kim – to give his special medallion to Adam. After all, isn’t Adam the important one? To my astonishment, Tukum insisted on giving it to Justin, with whom he’d quarrelled for most of the book! No matter how I tried, I could not change it.

But the biggest shock came when someone had to save Adam after he falls down the side of the Maya temple pyramid, and it’s certain he will be smashed against the steps. Until Dr. Khalid, their enemy, stepped in.

Despite Adam’s flailing arms, he lost his balance. The elaborate feathered headdress hit the pyramid steps first, tumbling down to the bottom. As he fell, he glanced backward and saw the beautiful cloak floating behind him. He closed his eyes and spread out his arms, anticipating the pain of his body smashing against stone.

But nothing like that happened. Instead, something long and thin flicked around his wrist making it sting and jerking his body to a stop so that he thumped hard against the steps of the pyramid. He looked up, breathless from the impact. Dr. Khalid peered over the edge, his eyes gleaming with a kind of frenzy. Was it excitement or madness? Adam gazed back at him. Now what? With both hands, Dr. Khalid held tight onto his whip. The other end was wrapped around Adam’s right wrist, while the rest of his body dangled.

Dr. Khalid glared, his eyes narrowed with suspicion. “You had something in your hand.” His tone was accusing. “It glittered, and then came that flash of light and the mirror shattered. What did you do?”

“Nothing,” said Adam in his most innocent voice. “It was the sunlight reflecting off Tezcatlipoca’s chest plate.” He whimpered, hoping to distract the man from thinking about the golden scarab. “Ow! My arm is hurting so badly.”

His arm really was hurting. The thin lash of the whip felt like a red-hot wire cutting into his wrist, which bore the full weight of his body. Not to mention the fact that his body weight was pulling his arm out of its socket.

Dr. Khalid gave a disbelieving snort, but he didn’t say any more. Clearly, he was thinking about other things already. He lowered Adam a few inches until one foot touched a step. Adam scrabbled to find secure footing. Once he was safe, Dr. Khalid said, “Get rid of the cloak and get out of here.” He yanked the whip. The lash uncurled from Adam’s wrist and flew back into Dr. Khalid’s hand. He really was very good with his whip, Adam thought half-admiringly. Lucky for him, Dr. Khalid seemed to take it everywhere.

It’s not quite how I envisaged saving Adam and I’m sure Dr. Khalid has an ulterior motive … but let’s see where it takes us in subsequent books. The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper will be on sale soon.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Share The Award Winning Chronicles Of The Stone Series With Tweens and Teens!

Self-Marketing Made Easy in 15 Steps by Fiona Ingram

For those aspiring POD (Print on Demand) or self-published authors who have read my article Self-Publishing Success, this is the follow-up to help you get your book out there and grab everyone’s attention.

If you thought writing and producing your book was difficult … actually, that was the easy part. However, once you’ve laid the groundwork for your author platform, it becomes easier with each book.

These days an author cannot just be an author. He or she has to be a product or a brand. Publishers are also more interested in someone who has more than just books to offer. Readers are greedy for information about the author, what inspires them, what new books are coming up, etc. Your marketing will incorporate your author platform. The author platform consists of: your book/s; your website; your author profile/bio; an e-zine or newsletter; a blog; a video interview (vlog); a podcast radio interview; a video preview on sites like YouTube; speaking engagements; articles you’ve written; articles about you.

There are so many Internet possibilities that I have included a list at the end to guide you to the best sites. From there, you’ll find even more links and options.

Your marketing steps will include a mixture of traditional and online marketing but the basic idea is this: Tell everyone you know about your book, and ask them to spread the word!

  • Open Your Marketing Folder: Inserting plastic sleeves will protect your material. As you browse the web, save and print out anything to assist you. Divide your folder into sections such as: General, Contacts, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Newsletters, Press and Press Releases, Book Competitions, Book Review Services, Book Signings & Speaking Engagements, Online Marketing, Invoices (for tax purposes), and Publisher Communication (emails/contracts/info etc.). Start your research now and familiarize yourself with marketing possibilities.
  • Press Kits & Releases: Once your book is ready for launching, your publisher should offer you a marketing program that includes creating press kits and releases, and sending these and review copies of your book to relevant media persons. I would advise purchasing a marketing program, preferably with your publisher, because most of the large self-publishing companies are knowledgeable regarding publicity, and the better their writers fare, the better they look. They can also usually get a (paid for) review with a top review journal such as Foreword Literary Review or Kirkus Review. There are many book-marketing companies out there to choose from, but ask for exact details of what they offer. You can also send out your own online press releases. Your press kit can include bookmarks, postcards, business cards, bumper stickers, fridge magnets, and if you can afford it, T-shirts, caps, embossed pens, in fact anything you can blazon with a logo or picture to reinforce your message. Don’t blow your budget on too much stuff. Start with the basics such as bookmarks and postcards, which will be included in a good marketing program from your publisher. You can get more creative later when you start earning money.
  • Give Away Books: You will get your own promo copies, and you can purchase more at a reduced rate, so make the most of them. Some marketing experts advise aspiring authors to send out not ten, not twenty, not one hundred, but at least five hundred books. Sounds like a lot? It’s not. If you’re keen on finding a traditional publisher then create your press kit and take the plunge. Send to all the publishing companies that specialize in your genre, not forgetting the smaller ones. Big houses already have enough people knocking at the door. You may have to get a foot in the traditional door by starting small. Then decide who will review the book among your local press and magazines and send to those people. Depending on your reader target market, contact libraries, schools, local bookstores, book clubs, and reading groups and offer them a book. They will also be happy to review it. If it’s a non-fiction title, find an expert in the field to review the book. Most people are flattered and honored to be asked for their opinion. All book reviews should be included on your web site. Be generous with copies. People almost never throw away books. Somehow, somewhere, the right people will find you.
  • Media Magic: If you have enrolled in a marketing program, while your publicist gets on with sending press releases out to large corporations, you can still help by tackling your local press, television, and radio stations. Many radio stations have a ‘book talk’ slot. Small regional or neighborhood presses are always looking for news so make your story newsworthy by adapting it to local interests, issues or events, or local groups/clubs. Hook up with your old high school or college and ask them to do a piece in their newsletter. Speak at functions, or events organized by charities, churches, women’s or business networking and similar groups. Ask everyone you know to come up with a marketing idea.
  • Write Articles: Don’t say you have nothing to write about. You’re reading my article right now. If you think about your experiences, joys, lows, highs, rejections, and knowledge as a writer, that makes an article in itself. You can add these to your personal website, as well as your book website. Also, load them onto Google and sites that accept articles, such as Wikipedia, Squidoo, Digg, and other press sites.
  • Website Wonder: A good website is a wonderful tool. From this launching pad, you can include all the other elements, such as listing where you are on social websites, what inspired you to write your book/s, info on your book and perhaps a first chapter, a picture of the cover, radio or video interviews, a book video, a contact email, or even your blog. Once you’re in cyberspace you’ll find that people will find you, and when they find you, they find your book. From here, you can launch your blog or fan club, set up your Twitter and other options, and link your social network sites, such as Facebook, Myspace, Squidoo, etc, back to this. You can also launch your website on many social sites simultaneously. You can put your profile, book cover, and details on author sites to showcase your work. These create coverage and alert the industry to your presence.
  • Create An Online Press Room: Your website is your biggest asset in your author platform. You can put up information on your book and purchasing details, as well as your press release, your bio and a good pic, your reviews, and anything written about you and your book. When you reply to people, include your website in your signature so interested parties can track you back to your site, thus creating a good stream of traffic. Been interviewed on the radio or a local television station? Ask for a copy and put these up on your site as well. The more electronic information people have available for easy access, the better.
  • Get Googled: Google is a fantastic tool. You can load your articles, get a Google Alert to notify you every time something comes up about you and your book, link other sites back to your own to increase your ratings and give you credibility, set up a Blogger alert, join Google’s Library page, keep track of your site’s performance with Google Analytics, and much more.
  • Amazing Amazon: This is the largest book site around and you need to be on it. A good self-publishing company will put you up anyway, but make sure you pay for the Browse Option so that readers can read a few pages before buying. Amazon will also review your book if you approach them; you can also put up other reviews on your book. A good tip is to buy and review books similar to your own, review them, post the review and then link back to your own site. Don’t mess about here—it must be a genuine review. You can also use Amazon Associate, Amazon Friends & Favourites, and Amazon Connect.
  • Online Book Tours: You can ‘chat’ to eager readers by going on a Virtual Book Tour. Virtual book tours are a promotional tool for authors to connect with readers via book blogs.Tours usually include a minimum number of tour stops over the course of one month on a variety of blogs. Authors on virtual tour can be featured on the company’s blog for an entire month. Some companies offer to feature on each tour stop a photo of the book, a review, links to the author’s website and blog, and will include your purchase information. Authors who interact with tour hosts and make themselves available for guest posting, interviews, Q&A sessions with blog commenters, and who respond to comments will have the greatest success from their tour. Many book tours have hosts with blogs that have a large number of daily hits, or a very specialized audience that relates well to the book on tour.
  • Subscribe: Many book publishing and author marketing companies offer free newsletters, which are an incredible source of information as well as offering links to more sites. Check out their archived newsletters as well as subscribe. From these you’ll learn everything you need about publishing, getting your books into bookstores, approaching book dealers, getting book reviews, upcoming book competitions, blogging, online marketing, keywords for internet listing … the list is endless.
  • Podcasts and Online Interviews: Again, newsletters will provide you with links to radio interviews and teleseminars for ideas and information, or the opportunity to be interviewed. If you are not able to listen in at the specified time, most companies will kindly send you the link for later listening. You can make your own as well for marketing purposes. Go to:
  • Book Competitions: Why should you enter? It’s not so much about winning as being seen. Competitions broaden your author profile because people in the industry will read your book. Even if you don’t win, you may get a Best Runner-Up mention, and that’s the kind of detail you will put in your press release. You don’t have to be in print yet to enter some competitions.
  • Say Thank You: It is important to thank people for their time and assistance if they’ve done a review, or printed an article or some news about you and your book. Take the time to handwrite and post a letter or card if you can. Otherwise, a polite email will be welcome. You’ll make a friend and cement the contact for your next book.
  • Do Not Stop Marketing: Even when your book is out there and you’ve sent off your press releases, don’t stop spreading the word! Do something every day (either online or physical) to continue your marketing thrust. Remember—marketing doesn’t sell books … marketing gives you exposure and exposure sells books.


Author Marketing Companies (most offer excellent newsletters);;;;;;;;;;

Author Sites (load your author bio and book details);;;;;,;; www.redroom.com  

Submit Articles & Press Releases;;;;;;;;;; 

Book Reviews (get your book reviewed);;;;; (ask for a comprehensive list of reviewers); (get full promotional campaign with book review).

Other Social Network Sites;;

Video Spots;;;;;;;;;;;;

Book Competitions;;;;;;;;;;;;

Fiona Ingram has just published her second children’s novel, She is a full-time author in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fiona Ingram also offers in-depth courses in self-marketing and book promotion techniques. These courses are limited to South African writers although please feel free to contact Fiona for advice and tips.

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram

Creating A Children’s Book Series

Developing a children’s series is both rewarding and taxing for the author, and possibly gratefully welcomed by parents whose children suddenly discover a hero they can relate to and whose actions keep them riveted. Isn’t it wonderful when your child begs, nay, commands you to go out and buy the next in a favorite series because they ‘absolutely have to know’ what is going to happen next? There are many children’s series on the market currently and perhaps many adults are reading them as well as their children. Developing a children’s series is not an exact science and not a guaranteed road to writing success.

  • Sometimes an author will start out with an idea, and try to stretch the story over several books, but to no avail. They discover that when a story is done … it’s done! On the other hand, an author may find that the story takes off and grows into something that spills over the last two words (“The End”) and shapes itself into another and then another and then another book, before winding down to a great final climax. Yet another scenario is when the author creates a set of characters that have several adventures, each one clearly contained with a storyline. The characters have a particular history or set of circumstances to retain the familiarity for readers. Readers keep coming back for more action.
  • Can a writer tell if the story has the potential for a series? The plot will evolve naturally if the characters are appealing, and if their personal growth and development hold the readers’ attention. Again, appealing characters are not worth anything if the action and conflict are not compelling. There has to be a perfect marriage between plot and characters to sustain the strength of a series.
  • So why do children love an exciting series? A gifted author will be able to create characters that readers can relate to and either love or hate. The readers get to know the characters well as the action evolves and, as each book comes out, can explore something new about their heroes.
  • Characters become friends to the avid young reader, who shares in the hopes, dreams and choices the character makes. Readers are amazingly loyal to their favorite characters, even though they may often disagree with the character’s choices. A good writer can explore these further, enabling readers to begin to make their own choices, especially in a moral dilemma or emotional conflict. Parents who make the time to read with their children, or who are interested in their children’s book choices, will be able to discuss these issues further. It’s a great way of dealing with ‘sticky’ issues because the discussion is less focused on the child and more on a fictional character. It may be easier for a child to express an opinion if discussing a topic via a character’s choices.

Perhaps writers shouldn’t set out to ‘create’ a series but rather let an original good story develop, allowing the characters and plot potential to determine the end result.

Visit Fiona Ingram Amazon Author’s Page To Select Great Books For Your Children and Grand Children

Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram