Friday, 22 April 2011

Winners Announced

Today is celebration day for several readers. There have been two competitions running on my blog: the "Notes from Underground Anthology" giveaway and the Book Trailer competition for my novel "Dancing in the Shadows of Love."

Congratulations to the four lucky winners of the "Notes from Underground" anthology, featuring my short story "Whispers of Love", as well as unique and wonderful stories by twenty-three other writers.

Under the eagle eye of my personal legal counsel (Husband), HRH Theodorable raised a regal paw and chose four names from her (clean) feeding bowl.  These lucky winners of the "Notes from Underground Anthology" will each receive a gift pack containing:

1. Copy of Notes from Underground (you can choose whether you want Kindle or Print)
2. A Hoza Heroes shopping bag
3. A collection of beautiful fridge magnets from South Africa

In the order their names were drawn from the feeding bowl, the four lucky winners are:

1.Linda Cassidy Lewis
2.Hilary Melton-Butcher
3.Misha Gericke
4.Damaria Senne 

Congratulations to you all! I know you're in for a reading treat! I'll be in touch off-line to discuss getting your prize to you.

HRH Theodorable and her watchful counsel had their work cut out. Their job wasn't yet over, because they still had to draw the four lucky winners of the US$25 Amazon gift vouchers. In strict accordance with the rules, and in the order they were pulled out the feeding bowl, these winners are:

1. Elliot Grace
2. Marilyn Brant
3. Ashley (aka RVDSAngel22)
4. Niki (from Oxford, New Zealand)

Congratulations to you and enjoy your Amazon shopping!
A big thanks to everyone who participated in both these giveaways. If you didn't win this time, your chance to win may still be coming! Watch this blog throughout 2011 for more exciting prizes to celebrate the release of my debut novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love in May 2011.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Brave New World of ePublishing

Those readers who also follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that I recently attended my first ever Webinar. What an adventure! From the moment I paid my fee, I was on a steep learning curve. I watched in amazement as Outlook diarised the webinar so (thankfully) I didn’t have to guesstimate the correct time (for those of you interested, 13h00 EST in the USA means 20h00 here in South Africa). Then I had to locate a pair of USB headphones with a microphone and figure out how to use them. At one time I worried I’d actually have to dress up, but no webcams were used, so I slobbed around with my hair wild and my face bare of makeup.

When the big moment arrived, there was a slight panic. Too nervous to click on the link to the webinar before the actual moment, I waited until 3 minutes before the start, only to discover I needed to download some software, which took 8 minutes. But then it was A-for-away!

I arrived to find Jane Friedman of Writers Digest University introducing herself and then we leapt straight into the topic “Do Your EBook Right”.

Many of you know from my blog post The Fool that I’ve decided to independently publish my work as an e-book. I joined this webinar to find out more about this new and confusing world.

Here’s a random summary of what I learnt:

1. Three biggest factors of success of an E-book are:

a. Target the right readers
b. Price correctly
c. Your book cover

2. Before you leap into e-book publishing, strategize a realistic marketing plan

3. Reviews! Reviews! Reviews!

4. Make sure your book cover title is easy to read

5. It’s worth the small cost to hire a professional cover designer

6. It’s worth the small cost to hire a professional e-book converter

7. Does your book cover look good in thumbnail size and in greyscale?

8. Give away some of your work for free. Some authors make up to 60% of their work free.

9. The best E-book platforms are:

a. Amazon Kindle
b. Smashwords
c. Scribd

10. Find your dominant readership platform and focus on that one

11. You are providing a service to your readers.

12. Find out what they want and provide a meaningful service

13. Build your presence by participating in on-line communities

14. A website and a blog are the basic essential marketing tools

15. No hard selling your book. Participate and share.

I learnt so much more than the above basic points. The overall message was one of freedom and optimism, with the caveat to have realistic expectations. For an author with an established readership, payback for all the time and effort spent could be quick. For an unknown author like myself, this is a long-term strategy. I may only see rewards after the third, or even fourth book, I publish.

Does this bother me? A bit. I like instant gratification as much as the next person. But, in the end, the thought of the creative freedom that self-publishing an E-book offers me outweighs any of the risks and limitations. I write because I have things I want to say about this world we live in. The path of E-books presents me with an opportunity of speaking out and, if I end up with only a handful of people listening, I’ll be content with having had the chance to have my say.

And so my first webinar experience was exciting, thought-provoking and informative. If you’re interested in e-book publishing, I highly recommend you follow Jane Friedman’s blog. For an interesting and informative read, you can also buy Jane's e-book "The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations." I’m off to browse Writers Digest’s On-Line Courses to see if I can find another webinar to attend!

Click here to watch the book trailer of my debut novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love. Remember to comment or "like" to enter the draw to win one of four US$25 Amazon gift vouchers.

If you're a follower, remember to  leave a comment so that you're eligible to win one of those copies of the terrific anthology of short stories "Notes from Underground." C0mpetition details HERE.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Book Trailer and Amazon voucher giveaways!

As I've been quiet in the social media the past week, you won't be surprised to discover that I've been a busy little bee! The learning curve of my independent publishing journey continues to rise steeply providing exciting challenges, some frustrations and, mostly, a sense of accomplishment. 

The latest,, bump on the road to publication was getting the book trailer designed and created. Given skills direction by the lovely and talented Michelle Davidson Argyle and music direction by the equally lovely and talented Jessica Bell, I created and designed the book trailer for "Dancing in the Shadows of Love.

And because I'm so excited with how this trailer turned out, I've decided to spread that warm fuzzy feeling around.

This is an open competition, so everyone (and I mean everyone!) can enter. FOUR (yes, 4!) gift vouchers of US$25 are up for grabs. (South African winners can get the equivalent rand value gift voucher for Exclusives, CNA, Kalahari or Loot, if they prefer).

Entry requirements are simple:

Watch the video book trailer above. Then CLICK HERE to go to YouTube and press the LIKE button on the youtube video to enter the draw. If you leave a comment on the youtube video, as well as clicking the LIKE button, you get an additional 2 entries into the draw. So you'll have 3 chances of winning an Amazon voucher of $25! 

Please remember the following:

1. Let me know if you've clicked the LIKE button  - I'll only know you've done it if you leave a comment on youtube OR leave a comment here.

2. Winners will be announced on 22 April 2011, the same day as the winners of the "Notes from Underground Anthology" winners (followers, you can still win in that competition, see below).

3. If you're not a follower, please leave your email address so I can contact you in the event that you are a winner. Or else, check back to see who the lucky winners of those $25 Amazon vouchers are!

Later, when I've caught up with my outstanding blog visits, I'll do a more detailed post on the actual creative process of the making of the trailer!

So, what do you think? Will it make you buy the book? And, watching the trailer, what genre would you think the story falls in?
If you're a follower, remember to leave a comment for another chance to win one of those four copies of the brilliant anthology of short stories "Notes from Underground" that are up for grabs! Competition details HERE.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Man and the World of Stars

Man and the World of Stars (2005)
(Mixed Media, Martin Wenkidu)
Martin Wenkidu, the artist who created “Man and the World of Stars”, the painting at the centre of my cover, is a deeply spiritual man. His work reflects that. Each painting is redolent with mysterious symbols and ancient myths.

The artwork used for the cover of Dancing in the Shadows of Love is no different. When Wenkidu and his wife Rae (a talented artist in her own right) delivered the painting, he took time to explain the painting to us. Below is an edited transcript of the recorded conversation.

JUDY (J): Could you explain what some of these images mean?

WENKIDU (W): To do these San Bushmen paintings I have to enter into something of the state of the people who did these early paintings.

J: Do you ever remember anything?

W: Unless I’m working on it, it can be quite a puzzle. When the San did their trance dances there was lots of clapping and chanting from the women, the feminine/creative aspect. It took those in the dance circle into a different state of consciousness and that’s where I go when I paint these.

J: Where does the name “Man and the World of Stars” come from?

W: Since the most ancient times, mankind has always looked to the heavens – the world of stars – for answers, for the meaning to life. This painting represents that relationship.

J: What do those three dominant figures mean?

W: The first figure on the left, is a kind of dreaming, a pure God. You can see the streaks of light raining out from the head, into the oneness of being. Light is the original creation. I take the images from the original San forms, but this head form doesn’t have an animal or bird head; it carries the phallic symbol. In one way it could be shocking, but it’s very pure, very elemental.

J: You’re saying it shows the life force that springs from the phallus?

W: Exactly. There is something of the baptism of Christ by St John in this figure. Maybe it’s St John speaking “…and I saw the spirit of God descending.”

J: So this figure is the primal God entity? And you're saying it's male?

W: Primitive people, the loving simple souls who can sacrifice unto God, live in complete union with God and this figure is that of complete union. An androgyne, there is both the male phallus as head and the female breasts on the body: yin and yang combined into Divine oneness. This is the world of the ancient San, where they were one with the animals and the earth and God and each other. Do you see all the animal shapes in the spaces?

J: I see the eland head coming out of the white spiral.

W: The Eland was the most sacred animal to the San Bushmen. Through it they went over into the other worlds, the spirit world.

J: There are a lot of other animals roaming around the painting. I can see several antelope; an elephant, and a giraffe.

W: This is Eden before the fall: man and nature and god were whole, unfractured and unquestioning. If you look, you can see the leg of the right hand figure has the shape of an antelope drinking at a waterhole. That is man and animals sharing one consciousness; both as one with the water of life, with God.

J: And the middle figure?

W: Ah. This figure is much more knowing. There is the almost triangular shape of the chest and shoulders, they’re square-ish, more logical, and with less gentle flowing than the first figure. This figure is all male; reason is masculine.

J: The age of reason overwhelming the age of faith?

W: More like the time of Classical Athens, Ancient Greece and Rome, when intellectual knowledge and patriarchy began to ascend over emotions and matriarchy. There is still harmony between Man and God, but man is beginning to have an intellectual understanding of good and evil, light and dark.

J: What’s that comet-like image between the middle figure's arms held upright?

W: That is a porcupine. In Nigeria, to the Ekoi people, the porcupine is closely linked to the spirit realm and here it rains the spirit of knowledge into mankind. This is also linked to the Prometheus myth; the Kikuyu tribe of Kenya traditionally regarded the porcupine as the discoverer of fire; Plato and the Classical Greeks discovered the fire of knowledge; Prometheus stole the seed of fire from the gods. Eve ate the apple from the tree of knowledge and man began to understand that there was both good and evil; light and dark in the world.

J: Is that modern skyscrapers or a city behind the head of the third figure?

W: The third figure is definitely female – the breasts are well-formed and large, her hips have the rounded shape of the San female; her waist is slender. She has more to do with our own times, the modern world. In the background, is the city, the New Jerusalem. Returning to the feminine consciousness, the creative, feeling, emotional side of us that was lost to reason for millennia, since the rise of intellectualism, will take us back to the perfect union with Divine, with God. Do you see how the head of the middle, male figure head is turned to the past, while the head of the female figure turns to the future. In our world, today’s world, mankind must find the answers through the feminine energy of creation and compassion.

J: My husband Beric is strong alpha male energy, and a highly intellectual person; his reason always wins out over his emotions. Are you saying we must abandon reason?

W: No. Look at how the leg of the female figure – the one that becomes an antelope drinking – crosses over, joins with, the leg of the middle male figure. Reason and emotion must join into one consciousness. Unfettered emotion can be destructive, separating us from the real, physical world. Undiluted reason can be oppressive and separates us from the spiritual world. They must join together in equal parts; they must become one; one with each other and one with God, through a balance of both male reason and female creativity.

J: I’m going to write a story about this painting one day.

W: I want a signed copy.
Wenkidu has had to wait a while for his signed copy, but finally the story inspired by this painting has taken on its form. Whenever I got writer’s block when writing this novel, I would put on the Aum chant and breathe this painting in and soon I would be writing again.

Now that you've learned more about the painting, do you think of the cover reflects a story that explores one of mankind's oldest and most complex questions: what is the relationship between man and the unknown world?
Martin Wenkidu can be contacted at
Dancing in the Shadows of Love” will be released as an e-book by Aztar Press in May 2011.
If you're a follower, don't forget to leave a comment for another chance to win one of those four copies of the brilliant anthology of short stories "Notes from Underground" that are up for grabs! Competition details HERE.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Behind the Curtain...

...lies my e-book cover revealed!

As you can see my story is called "Dancing in the Shadows of Love".

I even have an ISBN number for it, which is so exciting!

The cover art is a painting called "Man and the World of Stars" by talented local Kwa-Zulu Natal artist Martin Wenkidu (Husband bought me the painting in 2005 and Martin has kindly given his permission for me to use it.)

The painting is in the style of the rock art of the ancient San people of Southern Africa, dancing as they celebrate the blessings of the divine being and their ancestral spirits.

In a break from my normal blogging routine, on Thursday I'll post a conversation I had with Wenkidu explaining the layers of symbolism in the painting. As Dancing in The Shadows of Love is the story of three women and their search for divine love, you'll see why this image struck me as perfect.

Joleene Naylor kindly did the cover design for me - her patience with my numerous changes is appreciated!

So, what do you think of the cover?  Knowing hardly anything about the novel, does it make you feel good, bad or indifferent?

If you're a follower, don't forget to leave a comment for another chance to win one of those four copies of the brilliant anthology of short stories "Notes from Underground" that are up for grabs! Competition details HERE.