Google+ Sandra's Stories: Writing

Friday, 3 January 2014

5-star review for The Ghostly Grammar Boy - a great start to the new year!

The new year leapt off to a great start for me with a five-star review of The Ghostly Grammar Boy from Cheryl Schopen of Readers' Favorite website. The Ghostly Grammar Boy ebook is available for free at all major online book retailers except Amazon.


Book review of The Ghostly Grammar by Sandra Thompson - reviewed by Cheryl Schopen for Readers' Favorite

 

"...There can only be one word to describe Sandra Thompson and The Ghostly Grammar Boy: AMAZING. Thompson’s first book in the Dusk Duo series was written incredibly well. The dialogue was realistic, the characters were completely believable, and the plot was entertaining yet surprisingly suspenseful. I literally could not put the book down. I stayed up for hours reading, determined to finish. And when I did, I was so frustrated that I would have to wait for the next book in the series. I rarely feel this way about a book, and since I am a huge bookworm, that says a lot.

This book has it all. There were times where I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, and then there were some touching moments that just made my heart flutter a little. Throughout the entire book, I was on the edge of my seat. It was so unpredictable with just the right amount of twists and unexpected turns. If you like suspense, mystery, humor, heart, a little bit of romance, and a character that will remind you of your high school self, then give this book a chance. You definitely won’t regret it; I sure don’t. I now have a favorite new author. I will be counting down the days until the next book in the series comes out."

For the complete review, check out Readers' Favorite.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Time flies when you've got writer's block

Staring at a blank computer screen, mind frozen, and spirits plummeting… when I’ve got writer’s block the hours fly past in this state, and I can’t write a word. After a while, I’ll start imagining all the things I’d rather be doing. Going to the dentist or getting my thighs waxed seem like attractive options.

Everyone has different methods for dealing with writer’s block. For me, I find the best thing to do is try to keep two things in mind. The first is ‘A true writer is one who writes every day.’ I tell myself I’m a real writer, because I’m sitting here having writer’s block. This makes me feel like what I’m doing is dramatic and not a waste of time. As soon as I capture this exciting feeling that made me want to write in the first place, the words start to flow more easily.

The second thing I remember is something my Mum used to say when I complained about my English homework. She’d say, ‘Squash the critic and write’. It’s hard to get anything onto the page if I’m judging and criticizing every word. Once I ignore the critical voice in my head, and let myself off the hook about writing well, it’s much easier to get the words out.

After all of that, if the dentist’s chair is still looking attractive, I’ll give up and eat some chocolate. Sometimes you’ve just got to give yourself a break.

When all else fails, it’s time for some chocolate.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Ghostly Grammar Boy book launch hits the papers!

News of The Ghostly Grammar Boy book launch in Tokyo hit the newspapers in Australia last month! Sydney based local newspaper, The North Shore Times, reported on the event, which occurred on the night of a big typhoon. Thank you to everyone who turned up to make the event such a success and to my Sydney-based readers for spotting the article!


Newspaper article printed in the North Shore Times

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Book lovers brave a typhoon to launch The Ghostly Grammar Boy

As Tokyo shut down for a once-in-a-decade sized typhoon, the Japan book launch of The Ghostly Grammar Boy was just warming up. Book lovers braved terrible rain and winds on Tuesday night to attend the launch in Tokyo, and their stoicism and party spirit sent the book off to a flying start. The audience came from all over the world: Australia, Japan, Russia, and South Africa, with two things in common – the fact that they were very wet, and an interest in reading the new teen thriller.

Thank you so much to everyone who came along, especially during the typhoon. You made it a very special night and I really appreciate your support. For those of you who missed the night, check out the video and speech transcript below!

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is available on Amazon and Smashwords. Check out the reviews on Goodreads.



Book launch speech and reading transcript


When I was in high school, a phone was smart if it could send a text message; and Facebook didn’t exist, so we stalked our boys by foot. Yet even in those dark ages, high school was still both the most exciting, and the worst experience of my life.

I remember how much fun it was when we poured water all over our school uniforms, and then walked into the classroom pretending nothing was wrong. I remember how upset I was when mum refused to buy me new clothes because “Sandra, it doesn’t matter what you wear, people will just be looking at your face.”

High school is a time where your friends are everything to you, and your parents are monsters who get in the way. I wanted to try to capture the intensity of these feelings in my book but also raise the stakes a bit. What if you had to deal with all these things while also hiding a terrible secret?

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is about Fiona, a fifteen year old school girl. Her greatest dream is just to survive year ten and seem like a normal person. There’s just one problem. She can see and touch ghosts, thanks to her pesky twin sister, Ella, who happens to be dead. Fiona’s plans are ruined when Ella, her ghost twin sister, begs her to investigate the death of a boy from the local grammar school.

As Fiona bumbles along trying to solve the mystery of the ghostly grammar boy, she finds herself entangled in a web of lies, deceit and high school bullies. But mean friends are the least of Fiona’s problems. Because sticking your nose in places where it doesn’t belong can be dangerous.

(Reading) My mood changed instantly when we arrived at the beach. I could almost forget I had a murder to solve, that my friends knew too much about my love life, and that I had a huge pile of homework waiting for me at home. Surf Beach was particularly beautiful today. The sun glistened on the blue-green water, and the waves broke neatly in foaming parallel lines across the beach. The expanse of water was framed on either side by two small, bushy headlands.

The waves lapped at my feet invitingly…

….like a foot massage from the abominable snowman!

It was freezing!

At that moment, a wind direct from Antarctica plastered my board shorts to my skin, and caused every goose-bump on my body to respond in overdrive. A second later, the glistening ocean darkened as the sun went behind a cloud. The temperature seemed to drop ten degrees and my desire to swim disappeared instantly.

But I knew I would regret it if I went back to land-locked Canberra without getting wet. Steeling myself for the cold, I ran through the shallows into the deep water and dived. It was even worse than I’d imagined. The icy water tightened around my chest. I tried to glide back up to the surface for a breath, but… I couldn’t move.

I started to panic. What was happening? I really needed to breathe.

My chest muscles tightened further. The weight in my chest was getting heavier. I was really struggling now.

I pushed my feet firmly into the sand and tried to propel myself upwards. But still I couldn’t move! The pain in my lungs was becoming unbearable. I clutched my ribs, only to get the shock of a lifetime.

There were hands, squeezing me around the chest. One of my friends was holding me down. This wasn’t funny. My chest was going to explode.

Frantically, I grabbed at the hands gripping me and tried to pry them loose. I managed to get one free, but the person quickly replaced his grip with a bear hug. I couldn’t take it much more. My chest was heaving, willing me to take a breath. I squirmed desperately while fighting the temptation to suck water into my lungs.

I couldn’t continue to fight much longer. In a few seconds, I would be joining Ella on the other side.

All of a sudden, the pressure released and I was propelled to the surface.

I gulped air the instant my face broke free of the water. Nothing had ever tasted so sweet.

Suddenly, two wet, matted, female heads surfaced near me. The two girls were screaming at each other, and clawing at each other’s hair. They flailed around, locked in each other’s scratching embrace.

Despite their vicious movements, the water remained still and calm around them.

That could mean only one thing. They were ghosts. And they were angry.


(End of reading)

High school’s hard enough without having to sort out your dead sister’s love life as well. Writing this book really made me appreciate the experience I had at school. I’m glad I didn’t have a supernatural secret and a sister with a dead, troubled boyfriend.

Well I don’t want to give too much away so please read the book and find out how it all turns out for Fiona and the ghostly grammar boy. The print books are on sale tonight, and you can also order the ebook version online at Amazon and Smashwords.

Thank you so much to everyone for your support. I really appreciate you coming out tonight in the typhoon and hearing about my new book. I would love it if you could read my book and leave a review somewhere – whether it’s on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, or my blog, I would really appreciate it. Reviews will help other readers discover my book so if there’s one message I want to get across tonight, it’s please leave me a review.

So thank you very much and please enjoy the rest of the night. It’s all-you-can-drink so let’s get our money’s worth!

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is now available on Amazon!

The Ghostly Grammar Boy ebook is now available in the Amazon Kindle store! It's also still available for free on Smashwords until the end of September using the coupon code: TU58E. The print book is coming soon!


The advantages of being a common Thompson

I spend a lot of time on the internet stalking myself. But even if I cheat and look for information I already know exists, I can never get onto Google’s first page of search results. There are just too many Sandra Thompsons. At first my internet obscurity seemed like a good thing. It didn’t matter what I did in life, I never rated a mention on the web. It was a get-out-of-jail-free card. But since I started writing this blog, I’ve begun to doubt whether anonymity is such a good thing. What’s the point of having a blog if no one can find it? Well, last week I discovered something that convinced me beyond a doubt having a common name is a good thing—and it’s got nothing to do with personalised key rings.

You see, I was making a profile on Goodreads to claim The Ghostly Grammar Boy as my book. As soon as I indicated I was an author, my profile became linked up to all the other books written by Sandra Thompson’s around the world. Without lifting a finger, I suddenly had 13 books, 71 ratings for my novels, and a 3.4 star author average!

I was so pleased! All my life, I’ve been slogging away, working for my own name and reputation. Little did I know, out there in the world are millions of Sandra Thompson’s whose work and reputation I could claim for myself.

My future minions




I was just starting to plot the rest of my Sandra Thompson takeover, when I noticed something had changed on my book page. Someone had rated The Ghostly Grammar Boy 4 stars.

I was so excited. I looked at my overall score to see if it had changed too but it was still 3.4. There were so many books and reviews linked to my name now, my one true rating hadn’t made a difference. The other Sandra Thompsons were dragging me down, stifling my first rating. I didn’t need to steal from them, I needed to cut them loose. I asked Goodreads to remove the books from my profile. I might disappear into the sea of Sandra Thompson’s again but at least I’ll get my own ratings.

If you've read The Ghostly Grammar Boy, please leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or Smashwords! Reviews will help other readers find my book.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is now available on Smashwords!

I’ve finally done it! My first book The Ghostly Grammar Boy is now published. Get it for free on Smashwords for the next two weeks using the coupon code: TU58E. The print book is also coming soon to Amazon, and will be available at my book launch in Tokyo on 15th October (details coming soon). I’d love to get your reviews! Thank you so much to everyone for your support! I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Read on to hear about my greatest fears during the writing process...

Free on Smashwords until 30th September using coupon code: TU58E



My secret fears

During the early years of writing The Ghostly Grammar Boy I had two big fears. The first was that someone might steal my ideas, robbing me of my world best-selling novel. The second was that people might think badly of me when they read my book. I used to lock up my drafts in password protected files, and had copyright marks scrawled on every page. I would rarely tell people I was writing a book, and when I did, I was evasive about the storyline. When people asked to read it, I would always refuse. I did not want to risk losing my work, and at the same time I was petrified they might not like it.

An early version of my book
Finally, one day, after much begging by a friend, I decided it was time to get over my fears. After making my friend promise he wouldn’t copy my book, I gave it to him to read. I spent a sleepless week, tossing and turning, imagining all the horrible things he might think about it, and at the same time, picturing him sending it off to publishers under his name. When I saw him again, I was barely holding myself together as I asked him what he thought. I knew there was no turning back. I could never un-hear his words if he hated it, and I’d never get the book back if he wanted to take it. I needn’t have worried… because he hadn’t even started it. That was five years ago, and until this day, he’s never read a word.

After this happened to me several times, I began to realise I’d been suffering from serious delusions of grandeur. It didn’t matter what people thought of my book, if I could get them to open it up and read the first page, it was a great compliment. If they read the whole thing, it was the greatest gift of all. As for plagiarism, if someone managed to get my work published from the hordes of novels sent to publishers ever year, I applaud them. I would hire them to help me with my next book.

It’s thanks to writing The Ghostly Grammar Boy I’ve learnt you shouldn’t worry too much about what people think of you, you should just be flattered they thought of you at all. Thank you so much to everyone who reads this blog. I really appreciate your support and would love it if you read my book and left a review!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Books

The Dusk Duo Series

Book One: The Ghostly Grammar Boy


For a dead guy with unfinished business, he was pretty cute.

Fiona is a completely ordinary fifteen year old from Canberra… at least that’s what she’d like you to think. She doesn’t want anyone to know her secret. She can see and touch ghosts and it’s all thanks to her pesky twin-sister Ella - who happens to be dead.

Following the mysterious death of a boy from the local grammar school, Fiona navigates the perilous high school social hierarchy to investigate. With the help of Ella, Fiona uncovers a dangerous web of family secrets and betrayal, and learns more about the perplexing world of ghosts and boys. High school is hard enough without having to sort out your dead sister’s love life as well…

Purchase The Ghostly Grammar Boy ebook
Read the first three chapters here for free!
Reader Reviews for The Ghostly Grammar Boy

The Ghostly Grammar Boy was awarded a five-star rating from the professional reviewers at Readers Favorite Website.



Book Two: The Deadly School Camp


Hannah was a bully when she was alive… she’s even worse now that she’s a ghost.

Fiona is back. She’s got a hot new boyfriend and the grudging respect of the popular group. She even has a confidante who knows her supernatural secret.

But when school bully Hannah is murdered at year ten camp, Fiona’s life is thrown into turmoil. Fiona has to work with the recently departed Hannah (who still manages to be annoying in the afterlife) to catch the murderer. The problem is, none of the adults will believe her and now the murderer wants her dead as well…

The Sakura Vacancy

This is a romantic suspense novel still in progress, due for completion July 2015. The book is about Hailey, a ditzy Californian girl, who leaves her disastrous love-life behind for a high-flying job in Tokyo. Hailey struggles to settle in, but the trouble really begins when she meets a handsome foreigner with a secret agenda. Keep checking back here for more information and sneak previews.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Things I didn't expect to be corrected on

It’s no surprise I made a lot of mistakes when writing my first book The Ghostly Grammar Boy. During the revision process, I was lucky enough to receive detailed feedback from many family members and friends. I also hired an editor to review the final draft. Between all of us, we found hundreds of plot holes, logical inconsistencies, scientifically implausible events, awkwardly worded sections, spelling, and grammar problems. All of these were fixed for the published version. But there were some pieces of feedback that surprised me more than others. These are three things I didn’t expect.

1. I'm an Aussie but I write like an American


The Ghostly Grammar Boy is about a fifteen year old school girl called Fiona who can see and talk to ghosts. I used to watch a lot of shows like Gossip Girl so my natural instinct was to make the main character an edgy, American teenage girl, at a ritzy US high school. Then I remembered I’m an Aussie! For my book to have an honest voice, I should draw from my own experiences of growing up in Australia. So I made the main character a teenage girl at a public school in Canberra.

Having decided to make the book true blue*, the last thing I expected to hear from my editor was that my book sounded American. There were so many Americanisms my editor even offered to Americanise the whole book for consistency. Apart from all the US spelling I’d accidentally used, I’d also used a lot of American words, for example Fiona had ‘bangs’ instead of a ‘fringe’, fell on her ‘butt’ instead of her ‘bum’, and goes to the ‘bathroom’ instead of the 'loo’ or ‘toilet’. One of the ghosts even materialised carrying a baseball bat - unlikely in cricket-obsessed Australia.

2. Too raunchy but also too innocent


During the book, Fiona experiences her first kiss. I wanted to make the book interesting for teenagers and not too censored so I made the kiss scene steamy and detailed. Embarrassingly, I was told by several people that it was too much – it was too graphic and not appropriate for my intended audience. I removed the details and toned down the scene. On the other hand, I also received feedback that Fiona’s high school friends were unrealistically innocent. I’d written that none of them had ever had a boyfriend, been kissed, or been to a party with alcohol. After hearing this comment, I quickly made Fiona’s friends lose some of their innocence.

3. Old, old, old


When I first started writing The Ghostly Grammar Boy, Facebook was mostly unknown in Australia, smartphones and iPads weren’t invented, and The O.C. was the most popular TV show. By the time I finished, my book was littered with references to previously popular things, long since forgotten. An example is when I referred to a good swimmer as a ‘Thorpedo’. The last medal Ian Thorpe won for Australia was eight years ago.

*True blue means honestly Australian

The Ghostly Grammar Boy ebook will be published on Amazon and Smashwords on 15th September 2013. The book will be available for free for a limited time to the readers of this blog. Check back here again next week for the coupon code and link!







Sunday, 16 June 2013

Making an ebook cover is like a reality TV show

My first novel, The Ghostly Grammar Boy, will be published in September so recently I've been working on getting an ebook cover made. I used the graphic design website 99 Designs and the process felt like a reality TV show. This is how I did it.

 

1. Make the design brief a competition


The Ghostly Grammar Boy is a teen thriller about Fiona, a fifteen year old Canberra school girl who can see and talk to ghosts, including her dead twin sister. Fiona just wants to survive year ten without revealing herself to be a ghost-whispering, boyfriend-less weirdo. Her plans are ruined when she meets the ghost of a handsome boy from the Grammar School who claims he was murdered.

My design brief was to create a cover that had a teenage girl with dark brown hair in the forefront, the title in large font, and my name in capital letters. In the background I wanted a ghost version of the girl (the twin), and the ghost of a handsome teenage boy. I asked for some sparkles or swirls to indicate supernatural themes, for the main colour scheme to be dark purple and black, and for the design to be attractive to teenage girls.

I advertised the brief on 99 Designs and turned it into a competition. Graphic designers were able to compete to win a cash prize.

 

2. The contestants fight amongst themselves


Within hours of my design brief going up on the website, I already had several great entries... and the fighting had begun. One contestant put up a cover with a picture of a teenage girl taken from a stock photo website. Another contestant entered a similar design using exactly the same picture. The original contestant then complained "There are plenty of pictures on stock sites and you choose to use the same I did!"

 

3. The contestants fight with the judge


Within a few days I had more than 60 great covers from different designers. I'd originally envisioned a cartoonish cover but most of the designers chose to go with photographs. It was great to be able to see all the different possibilities and interpretations of my brief.

Using the website I could rate each of the covers and give feedback. The designers were responsive to my comments and within a short time submitted new designs including my suggestions. I gave the designers a link to the first three chapters of the book so they could get a sense of the tone of the novel.

One of the designers didn't take my feedback very well and wrote critical comments about how I was confused about the concept of manga, and how I shouldn't have released information late in the competition (for example, during the finals I told the designers "the book is humorous and the girl is spunky - think Buffy not Twilight"). I felt like the mean judge in a reality TV show. The competition was getting fierce.

 

4. The general public votes


Four days after advertising my design brief I had to narrow down the 23 contestants to six finalists. Using the website I made a poll of my favourite covers and advertised the poll on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. I received many votes from friends, family, and the general public. Thank you to everyone who voted! The comments were very interesting, from "stalkerish," "the girl is too cool," to "looks like a movie starring Sandra Thompson, [2 stars]."

From the polls, a clear favourite emerged, confirming my own feelings about the designs.

 

5. Pick a winner


Seven days later my competition closed and I had to pick a winner who would claim the prize money. I chose the cover below by Kassandra_P because not only was it the most popular in the polls, but it reflected the tone of the book so well.

The winning designer and I signed a copyright agreement, giving me rights to use the design. The designer was also kind enough to provide me with several different file sizes suitable for thumbnails, printed, and ebook versions.

The winning design


I'm so excited to see my cover come to life and really enjoyed the process. Thank you very much to all the designers who entered my competition, and to the people who kindly voted and gave me feedback on the covers.