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Key take-aways from SAIR this weekend

SAIR

This weekend I attended the SA Indies Rock (SAIR) book festival, which I wrote about and was quite keen for. I quite enjoyed it.

SAIR is about indie authors. It’s the first time I’ve seen something that’s purely about indies, which was really cool. It was great meeting new people who do what I do – and completely understand the challenges! Here are the key take-aways from the event for me, which are relevant for any writer in South Africa.

1. You can do this thing

After meeting several authors and publishers at the event, who have been quite successful (a relative term, I admit, but we’ll explore that in more detail below) I was left thinking: Well, I really can do this. And I don’t have to do it alone anymore. There’s something about being around pros in the field that rubs off on you. Overall, I was left encouraged.

But I was also left challenged. Authors need to support each other in this country. We can’t complain that readers don’t support us as much as they actually could if we’re not even keen to support each other! A vibe around local authors starts with the authors themselves.

2. It’s not about the money

This came up again and again, but there needs to be clarity as to what this means. When people say, “Don’t get into this writing thing if you’re keen to make money,” I suspect they mean that you generally won’t make tons and tons of money. Well, making tons of money is different to making a sensible living. This isn’t mentioned often enough when this discussion comes up, even on blogs and so forth. One is generally left with the impression that anyone can make some serious cash in this business (usually you see lots of that on the Internet) or that one is going to live their life in the gutter forever (so you should only ‘write for love’). I don’t think either of these are true, generally speaking.

I’m not really about making tons of money, but I am keen to make a sensible living, and after this weekend I’m sure one can, especially after asking Rachel Morgan, (Creepy Hollow, Trouble series) an author who manages her entire writing business from end to end, how things are looking financially for her. Writing your own books for a living is a long-term career plan. It doesn’t happen over night. I’m convinced that it takes persistence and growth and a sensible goal, not a goal with shining lights and money like dust. When we have a sensible goal we can enjoy a sensible living, and have a real career in writing.

3. We’re on the cusp of something new

I enjoyed David Robbins‘ opinion on the future of publishing. Robbins is a veteran in this field, and hearing him speak of how excited he is about the opportunities writers have today with self-publishing and Kindle and the printing opportunities and social media, etc., was very encouraging. That – coupled with the success of Carlyle Labuschagne and a discussion with traditionally published (and very successful) author, Gareth Crocker (Journey from Darkness, King) – left me very amped.

4. Get on Kindle

I took my books off Amazon for a while as there was an issue with the royalties (South Africans could only get 30% royalties). I figured, after Paypal fees and FNB fees, I was really getting nothing, and it was better selling directly from my website. But David Henderson of myebook.co.za showed me where I was going wrong on the platform, and I’ve set it up and now get the proper 70 percent royalties. Stoked about that. Check out Henderson’s post: South African Authors – Should we give a damn about self-publishing on Amazon.com?

Thanks to Carlyle and the organisers. Looking forward to it being even better and bigger next year!

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Keen for the SA Indies Rock Book Festival this weekend

SAIR

Being an indie author in South Africa is really tough work. You spend your life hearing a lot of, “Yeah, I still need to read your book. I’m just busy finishing this new James Patterson novel,” from your friends and a lot of, “Your book doesn’t fit our marketing plans,” from publishers. (Well, the reason why is because it’s far more lucrative for the publisher to be marketing James Patterson!)

I think the real reason for the lack of support, however, is due to the lack of a decent community and vibe around indie authors. That sort of thing has to start with the authors themselves, I’ve realised. Which is why I’m so grateful that author, Carlyle Labuschagne (author of The Broken Trilogy, and others) has started the SA Indies Rock (SAIR) Book Festival, which kicks off for the first time this Saturday. The festival includes a bunch of workshops with some very interesting guest speakers, and an awards ceremony in the evening. From 2pm it’s open to the public where you can come meet some fantastic local indie authors (details below).

And all that is just fantastic.

I’m excited to be there. Janet Wallace from the U.S. is one of the guest speakers and she will be speaking on “Thoroughbred Marketing & Branding in a Hybrid World”. Wallace is the owner of Social Deviants, which specialises in social marketing for authors and entrepreneurs. Other speakers include filmmaker and successful writer, Gareth Crocker; award winning author and publisher, David Robbins; and David Henderson, founder of myebook.co.za.

I’m also going to pitching my sci-fi ghost story thriller, The Butcher’s Shadow, to a panel of six publishers. I’m nervous and excited about that and am very keen to hear some honest, professional input.

Best of all, the SAIR Book Festival is all happening in Johannesburg. When I first heard of it I thought, “It’s probably happening in Cape Town.” That’s where all this cool sort of stuff happens. So what a great surprise!

Where: Modjadji House
Florida Hills Roodepoort
Johannesburg Area – South Africa

28 March 2015 from 9am – 9pm

Here’s who you can meet from 2pm:

Carlyle Labuschagne
Jo Watson
Rachel Morgan
Annette Kinnear
Dave de Burgh
Lea Cherry
Addriene Woods
Joan de la Haye
Dave Robbins
Monique Snyman

I’m not on the official list, but I’ll be there. So if you want to meet me too, well just look out for me :)

Tweet about it. Use #SAIR.

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My writing goals for the next twelve months

Treasure_Island-Scribner's-1911

Hitting deadlines as a writer isn’t always easy. I was supposed to finish my supernatural thriller The Butcher’s Shadow by June this year, after which I was going to pick up writing the sequel to my fantasy book When Twins War. Neither of those happened, because we writers tend to get easily distracted. I picked up the work on my forthcoming book on sin and holiness, Holy Sin, which I’ve managed to finish but still need to edit. I also got distracted with revising my first proper book, Single (which I wrote in 2004) after someone asked me for a copy and I was a bit embarrassed to give them the original!

But those of you who were enjoying the weekly updates of The Butcher’s Shadow serial are asking (and wondering) “What happened? Are we ever going to see what the heck happens?” The answer is yes. With renewed vigour and inspiration, here are my plans for the next twelve months in writing:

1. Finish The Butcher’s Shadow (due the end of this year)

There’s still a killer on the loose! And things are starting to look weirder and weirder for Shakes. So let’s wrap this case up by year-end, shall we? Read the first nine chapters if you haven’t!

2. Finish my complete revision of my book Single within the next month.

I’m almost there. I’ve thus far managed to edit down the original manuscript from 90,000 words to 58,000 words! My goal is to edit it down to 50,000 or less words. It’s amazing how I’ve learned, since 2004, to say things more clearly! The original work is ultra-verbose.

As its title suggest, Single (I might give it a new title) is about how to enjoy your singleness as a Christian. Marriage isn’t the be-all and end-all of our existence! I’m also going to look for a publisher for this book.

3. Finish my book Holy Sin within the next three months

“Holiness for losers, washouts, and other people who don’t cut it.” That’s the subtitle for this book and it pretty much sums it up. All that’s left for this one is an edit and then a perusal by pastors and those I respect to give me honest feedback and their theological concerns. I’m also going to look for a publisher for this one.

4. Begin writing my next instalment in The Rise of the Kings (and finish next year)

It’s high-time I write the sequel to When Twins War and get busy with my five-book fantasy series. This is a series I’ve been working on since I was a kid – and it needs to come to life!


When Twins War - The First Prelude to The Rise of the Kings

With a rich and layered fantasy world akin to the classics, When Twins War mingles traditional Western fantasy with middle-eastern adventure and African folklore. It’s something of a mix between The Lord of the Rings and Arabian Nights, with an African edge.


Buy this on Selz
Sell digital downloads on Selz


5. Begin planning for a sequel to Treasure Island (still in concept stages)

Yes, that’s right – a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island. Since I became a fan of Monkey Island when I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to write a piratey tale. I’m thinking of bringing a supernatural twist to it. That might make some fans of the original upset, but it might make some others interested! We’ll see. One thing that Stevenson’s tale always lacked, in my opinion, was a good ole ghost ship!

Will I manage?

Well, it’s good to set goals. These aren’t impossible. When I consider how much writing I’ve actually done this year (ghostwriting for clients; collaborative writing for Cornerstone Church’s resources) this is possible. But motivation is always another story – especially during Winter! Now that it’s Summer, things are rather different!

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Why I’ve Set up a Donation / Subscriber Paywall on my Blog

handstypewriter

You might notice that I now have set up a donation / subscriber “paywall” on my blog. If you visit regularly enough, a message will pop up from time to time asking you to donate and subscribe. If you do, the messages won’t pop up again for your subscription’s time-frame.

This is a ‘donation’ paywall, meaning I’m not restricting you to any content in any way, I’m just asking you to subscribe at a cost if you want. By subscribing you will also receive a weekly Kindle periodical (delivered to your Kindle direct or to any other email you choose) that includes all my content for the week and free eBooks from time to time as they are made available, plus various other goodies when they become available.

So why have I done this?

1. I want to write more

Simply put, I want to write more on my blog, but I’m finding it hard to do that when the blog isn’t bringing in any liveable income. I started blogging in 2007 when I was still single and beginning my full-time writing career. I’m now in my 30’s with a family and have all the usual pressures that come with that. I don’t want to post only now and then, or lay it down entirely, because I know it’s been a very fruitful platform for many people. (I’ve received many emails from people who enjoy it and are encouraged through it).

I want to write more and there is, quite frankly, no support at all for Christian writers in South Africa. Publishers aren’t interested in investing in anyone who doesn’t have a large platform. Local publishers will rather distribute overseas writers – and even then, on a global scale, publishers are more keen on publishing writers with a public speaking ministry or who pastor big churches. Our local publications (magazines etc.), of which I can count on one hand, are not only unable to pay for content (and they insist on exclusive content, besides not being able to pay) but I generally don’t fit into their editorial needs. To put it bluntly, I find most of them shallow.

2. Someone has to do it

Moving from the point of payment above, writing has become a rather cheap trade these days, and this is not a good thing. This is because people believe that content should be free, in many cases, and on the other end, content has become – from a business perspective – nothing more than a way to get a good ranking on search engines. The actual content of content doesn’t matter, what matters is clicks to your website. So quality is no longer important, quantity has become important.

This is why, since I’ve put my writing business back into the market (after I quit my editorial job at Do Gaming), I’ve had a lot of potential clients offering to pay me anything from $1 to $5 per 500 words. I don’t just mean at places like Elance, but I’ve even received Facebook messages and emails from clients offering to pay those rates.

These are what we call “content mills” – they’re simply cluttering the Internet full of content, using search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques (this is about getting you a good ranking with search engines) to get you to visit their website, and as a result they can sell advertising or something else on the site. Advertising on the Internet isn’t very big business (at least, not most of the time) but it does present residual income opportunities, which is why content mills do what they do. An example of this kind of company is Demand Media, and this form of business is not sustainable for writers or for buyers. I believe its days can be numbered if writers stop working for nothing.

SEO firms are sometimes, but not always, a little better with their payment. If the SEO company is selling to bigger corporations, that is. Here they will hire you to write interviews or articles about a given topic, and often that content will go on their various partner websites, providing links to their client. (The more links you have to your website, the better ranking you get on Google.)

When writers started cottoning onto the Internet there was a lot of opportunity – companies needed our skills to create websites and blog for them, and publications needed to up the amount of content they could publish. But the need for quantity has now gone too far. Many businesses will just hire cheap overseas writers because they actually don’t know what good content looks like (and what good content can do) and frankly don’t care, because the numbers are what’s important. Writers and journalists are increasingly under pressure to sustain themselves through churnalism and hack writing. When you’re young and starting out, you can do that under the banner of “you’ve got to start somewhere.” But it’s not a sustainable career and when you get to my age, you can’t do that anymore.

As a writer I need to make a stand that I hope other writers will follow suite. Indeed, since thinking about this and doing research, I’ve found many bloggers are starting to institute hard paywalls on their sites. Andrew Sullivan is one such blogger. (I don’t follow Sullivan, I’m just pointing it out.) In July, he had over 27,000 subscribers, which means many people aren’t convinced that writers should do what they do with no real compensation.

3. Good writing has never been free

The Internet has made many things free and we all generally feel that it should be free. When the New York Times began experimenting with paywalls, many criticised their reasons for doing so. The reality is, all that journalism comes at a cost and you either sacrifice quality and move into churnalism (just basically publishing press releases), or you downgrade your whole operation, or you ask people to pay.

Paying for good writing has never been a contentious issue before. I know people like Martin Luther and John Wesley handed out free tracts for the Gospel in their day (blogging in the old days, essentially) but that would all be sponsored by some or other benefactor(s). Insisting that publications and writers constantly give out what they do for free is certainly a kind of abuse. I think that this needs to change and writers need to start saying, “Guys, this is honestly abusive.”

I don’t pirate music or movies for the same reason that I think we should all begin to pay for more on the Internet. I don’t mean to say I think anyone is deliberately abusing others (except in the case of those who try and circumvent paywalls at websites – that’s abuse no matter how you look at it). But I do think that if this culture is not challenged then abuses will continue.

4. I don’t want to advertise

Advertising ruins a website, creates noise, and takes time to get right. Sure, I can put up Google Adwords and that is easy enough (I’ve done this before) and then you have to be subjected to Madame Crystal offering you a free tarot reading every time you visit. Otherwise, I can approach local advertisers and I’ll be forced to often put up adverts of events / books etc. that I would never recommend. Plus, finding advertisers and keeping them happy (with stats reporting etc.) takes time – time I want to give to writing.

The future of publishing

Jeff_Bezos_iconic_laugh

Jeff Bezos

Recently, Jeff Bezos (who owns Amazon.com) bought The Washington Post and this says, to me, that he has something up his sleeve when it comes to the Kindle as a news device. He has mentioned in several places that people will pay for “packaged” content. I think he’s right. As the Internet becomes more noisy and the distribution platforms increase even more (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… the list continues) I find myself wanting to simplify my content consumption. I’m picking just a few platforms I like and picking mediums that take me away from distractions, like my Kindle. Websites with thousands of comments, adverts everywhere, and other news items begging for me to click them is starting to take needed hours from my day and, quite frankly, tiring me out. I want to read informative news and opinion on my Kindle more and more, because at least here there are less distractions. (I like the Kindle over a newspaper because I don’t have to struggle with all that folding!)

That’s why I’m offering a weekly delivery of my blog posts on Kindle.

It’s also why I’m starting a new project

All the above is why I’m starting a new project where I want to create opportunities for bloggers – particularly local bloggers – as best as I can. I’ll be releasing details of this soon, but in the meantime,  I’d love to hear what you think of all the above. So drop a comment or two below.

Oh, and don’t forget, you can subscribe here.

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What is Copywriting?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Copywriting” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days and many times people are a little confused about what it is they’re actually looking for when they’re looking for a copywriter. They may be looking for someone who works in advertising or they may actually be looking for a content writer for their website or marketing needs. The term ghostwriter has also become quite broad these days, especially with the emergence of the web.

All “copywriting” really refers to is the act of writing copy (text) for the express purpose of advertising and marketing a product. It’s “copy” because it’s not something that gets attributed to anyone. You don’t get a brochure and then see a little author bio at the bottom! Or “by Ryan Peter” at the top! It’s not journalism!

Copywriters work in different fields, however, and as a result do different things. A copywriter at an advertising agency is usually involved in coming up with clever slogans or taglines, or perhaps even the lyrics for a jingle. Copywriters in marketing, however, may be tasked to create content for the web (a company’s website) or for promotions (emails, radio or TV commercial scripts, sales letters, media pages and so on). The line here gets a bit blurred between public relations (PR) agencies who usually do the same sort of thing, although PR’s roots are in journalism. The basic idea with PR was that a PR agency would use a journalist to interview their client or come up with a story angle that would be fed to the press and therefore get the company into the newspapers or magazines. This is a press release. The press can use the copy outright or just use the info in the copy, it’s entirely at the liberty of the publication.

But these days PR is now heavily involved in social media and online marketing, meaning it writes copy for companies for their websites, campaigns and so on. It’s not just writing news pieces but doing the whole shebang. This is why copywriters have become something of a mixed bag. Your copywriter is now creating Facebook posts and Tweets and is also hired to manage those social media pages, which means they now interact with the company’s clientèle, something which would probably have never happened before. Copywriters are also now being used to write PR and blog posts for a client, to increase their search engine optimisation (SEO) on the Internet. (This means that people can find a company more easily on the Internet.)

Because a great deal of online marketing is also now about writing good content with blogs and so on, ghostwriting has become a bit blurred with copywriting. Many popular blogs are actually written and run by ghostwriters, even though the blog claims to be the work of a particular individual. Experts in their field find they don’t always have the time to write, so they’ll hire ghostwriters to do that for them. (It’s still the expert’s thoughts and insights, it’s just that someone else is spending the time doing the actual writing). Ghostwriters in this field need to have some journalism skills so they can understand what the expert is about and the expert’s topic, which may be quite technical.

And there we have it. My core business is ghostwriting, but I call myself a copywriter as well because that’s where I started and I still do a lot of that – writing content for clients’ websites and so on. Along the way, however, I’ve been heavily involved in journalism and PR. As you can see it’s all so mixed now that a writer needs to be able to do pretty much everything. The Internet has changed things in a big way! But, in many ways, we’ve actually just gone back to the way of the scribe, who in ancient times even used to do accounting for their clients!

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Writing a Book Step Two: Brainstorming

Flipping_through_book

Flipping_through_book

I’ve had many people recently ask for help writing a book, so I’ve started this little blog series to outline the process. We’ve covered the first step. Here’s the second step for book writing.

Brainstorming

Sit down with a piece of paper or your iPad, or whatever it is you like to use to make notes, and start putting down everything that you know around the book’s topic and everything you would like to have in your book. Because you would have already established why you’re writing your book, you would have established a theme, purpose or the book’s main topic.

I mean everything. This doesn’t have to be ordered, it just needs to be recorded somewhere. If you’re writing fiction, begin putting down some ideas you have for characters, some scene ideas (more on this below), anything that pops into your head. Maybe you know what your main character is going to look like? Well, begin to put that on paper. Does he have a scar on his cheek? Well, add that. Then start thinking why he has this scar. Maybe his evil nemesis cut his cheek in a row when they were kids? Well, we’re starting to build this character and even a plot line for your book.

If you’re writing a non-fiction book, put down everything you know and every reference you can think of. You might have read a book that influenced you greatly in the topic. Write it down. Write down the chapter or passages that influenced you. Write down everything you know or would like to know – so everything you’re going to research. Put every insight, thought or question down that you can think of.

Questions are a big deal. With non-fiction books, you’re usually looking to answer someone’s questions in the topic you’re handling. Write down every question you have (or had) and every question someone might ask you. These questions (perhaps not all, but most of them) are the questions you’re going to be answering in your book.

Some people get frustrated here because they’ll say to themselves, “But how am I going to put these thoughts and ideas together?” or “How am I going to put all these scenes together?” Don’t worry about that now, all you’re doing is brainstorming your book and the sky is the limit at this stage.

For fiction

If you’re writing a fiction book, you want to brainstorm these specific ideas:

  •  Setting (A fantasy world? Chicago, 1938? An island? World War II?)
  • Main characters (What do they look like? What accent do they have? Are they married? Will they never get married? Etc.)
  • Scenes

Maybe you’ve got a vivid scene in your head where your main character is fighting a giant goat-headed eel that’s just appeared out of a sewer in New York. Well, jot this one down. But maybe it doesn’t relate to another scene you have where your hero is kissing his girl slo-mo on the edge of a building and in the background the whole city is tumbling to pieces. So what? Put them both down. There are two awesome ideas right there.

  • BASIC plot

You want some ideas as to your plot, but you don’t have to have everything sorted just yet. If all you have is, “A guy walks into a bar and is able to blow up bottles just by looking at them and frowning,” and you’ve got a couple of cool scenes where he’s going to be doing this, then just get your scenes down. We can start building the plot in more detail in the next phase.

Forget about what anyone else would think

The idea is to get as much down as possible. We can start to build bridges between your scenes and ideas once we get into the next step. But for now, write, write, write. You may even want to write a scene in detail. You want to feed the muse, as it were, and just go for it. It doesn’t matter what it sounds like. Don’t get bogged down with it sounding ‘stupid’ or ‘lame’! No one else is reading it! Get it down so you can understand it. There are no bad ideas in brainstorming, they say, and you’re brainstorming with yourself so who cares what anyone else thinks?

So, step one: Why are you writing a book?

Step two: Brainstorm your book.

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Writing a Book Step One: Why?

Bookshelf

Bookshelf

I’ve had lots of people ask me recently how to write a book and I thought my answer would make for a great blog series. So here it is.

The first thing you need to ask is: “Why do I want to write a book?”

As a ghostwriter,  I usually ask my prospective clients this question at the beginning of our correspondence. It’s an important question, even if I’m going to write the book for you. You need to decide why you want to do this. Your answer(s) will immediately help you to figure out how you’re going to put it together – or how we’ll work together as we create it.

  • Are you wanting to write your life story – your memoir – for your kids to read one day? I have a friend who’s doing this right now and it’s a fantastic idea.
  • Are you wanting to write a book that will help bolster or launch your career in a specialised field? (For example, a motivational book? A book on business? A book on medicine? A book on UFO’s?)
  • Do you want to write a fiction story that shows how a character makes peace with their past? Or a story that makes people feel a certain way?

See, once you know why you want to write the book, you’ll have a good idea who your audience is going to be. This will be one of the first questions any publisher is going to ask you. Ultimately, they want to know who is actually going to buy your book. You can’t write a book and then only later decide who your audience is and who you think are actually going to read it.

Well, I guess you can. I mean you can do ANYTHING, really. But the likelihood of you sticking to a topic as you write will be quite low. And this is generally what most people complain about when they start writing – they find their thoughts are all over the place and after writing one chapter, they have no idea where to take it next.

Knowing the “why” you want to write the book immediately allows you to start brainstorming its contents without losing focus on the central topic. For example, I might say I want to write a book “on business.” Well, why do I want to write a book on a subject that already has a zillion titles available? Ah, well, let’s think. Well, I want to help people enjoy the work they do. Excellent, now with this I now can start brainstorming the book’s contents. For instance, I would probably want to cover why I think business is intrinsically good, what I think the main purpose of business is, and probably some stuff to do with the doctrine of vocation. Knowing this will avoid me adding in anything that isn’t entirely relevant, such as freelancing on Elance, because although it’s business-related it’s not entirely within the scope of helping people enjoy the work they do. That’s more to do with my own ghostwriting business anyway.

When approaching fiction, the same question applies. You might say, “I want to write a fantasy book,” but as you know there are a zillion of those around. Why do you want to write a fantasy book? Well, your answers might be, “I want to build a world like Tolkien did,” or, “I want to write a story that makes people feel a certain way,” or “I want to write a fantasy story where the hero is a mouse from outer space…” As you can see, you’re already now starting to get ideas for what your book will be about, characters in the story, and your book’s general feel.

So, step one: Why do you want to write a book?

Here’s step two.

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Why Ghostwriting Matters and Why I Love it

ghostwriter-Ryan-Peter-words

ghostwriter-Ryan-Peter-words

When I first began on the adventure of writing full-time, I just came out of a dead-beat job that I hated. I always wanted to write when I was a kid, but at some stage of the journey I got discouraged when various people insisted that it could never be a reality. “You can’t make money out of that sort of thing,” and all that.

My writing journey began with one thought in my head, a calling as it were. To “challenge people in their thinking.” And through all the years I’ve endeavoured to do just that, with various degrees of success and failure. But one lone guy trying to do that through the writing medium will never really do the job. That’s why the prospect of ghostwriting excites me.

There are many amazing people in this world that are fabulous thinkers and have a heck of a lot to give. The problem is, even if they’re excellent communicators, they are also limited in their scope when it comes to getting their thinking “out there”.

I’m a big believer in relationships and the ordinary work we all do as we lead, love and encourage those around us. That should remain the main focus, in my opinion. But many of us can benefit from what is going on in those relationships. We can read the stories and be encouraged. We can learn from people all across the world and be lifted up to travel on our own journey of discovery. The writing medium allows us to draw from people from pretty much anywhere, especially with the advent of the Internet.

So, I see my job as a ghostwriter as one who can provide another avenue for the brilliant thinkers and doers out there. The more their stuff is out on the net, in the book stores, and so on, the more we can enjoy greater, better thinking in our world. My job is to be a cog in the wheel to do that. It doesn’t just have to be me trying my best with my limited resources. I can provide a base which many others can use in their own dreams to benefit others.

That’s my job as a ghostwriter and why I love it.

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Quality Writing: What Does That Mean?

Vintage Typewriter Copywriting

Vintage Typewriter Copywriting

In our world these days people are very much concerned about the bottom line. It’s all about the numbers at the end of the day, but in my business it’s not just about numbers but about quality.

At least that’s how it should be.

What do I mean? Well, I’ve had clients asking me to do a certain number of articles in an effort to increase their SEO. The idea with SEO is to get as many articles out there on the Internet that point to your website to increase your Google / web search rankings. Unfortunately, in an effort to increase quantity there are plenty of times when there is no interest in quality.

This is a problem for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s not good SEO. Google is getting more clever as time goes by. As the search engine giant continues to expand its search algorithm it is in the process of trying to separate good quality content from bad quality content, so that when we search for something on the Internet we’re not going to get spammed with trillions of articles that provide no valuable information except point to someone’s website.

Now, of course our website is meant to bring us business and conversions. That’s certainly the point. But Google is looking to be more than just a big Yellow Pages, it’s attempting to consolidate and provide information about everything. Google’s aim is to become something more akin to a library than a Yellow Pages, and for that reason our websites have to become more and more informative if we want to compete in the Google space.

And that means that now, more than ever – and certainly going into the future – we need quality writing over quantity writing. It’s no good writing millions of articles on your product but providing no valuable information to Google users. Google is looking to sift that sort of thing out.

This is where I like to position myself. Sure, on the Internet there are a million writers competing in the same space as I am, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty there is a vast difference between quality and quantity writing. Right now you can sign up at Elance.com and hire a writer who will charge $1.00 per 500 word article. If you’re looking for a writer, that kind of price might appeal to you because it’s so cheap, but it won’t provide any value to you at all. Much like a cheap fast-food meal seems like good value for money on the surface, but when we look at it there is very little nourishment there and nothing to provide for the long-term, so cheap writing produces cheap results.

Very cheap results. So cheap that you’re probably going to have to hire someone else to fix the nonsense you’ve been supplied.

I’m into long-term solutions and sustainable business ideas. Not flash in the pan stuff. And that’s why I call myself a quality writer.

That doesn’t mean I’m exorbitant in my pricing. My pricing is very competitive. But cheap and competitive are certainly two different things.

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When Twins War Pre-Orders End This Wednesday

When Twins War spine

I know all I’ve been posting lately is stuff about my book, but I’ve been so busy with this and everything else in my life that I haven’t been able to put energy and thought into anything else of interest.

Anyway, this is a post to remind South African readers that pre-orders for the paperback of When Twins War close this coming Wednesday, 31 August. The reason why it’s advantageous to pre-order is because the price, R90, is cheaper than what you will probably pay if you purchase the book from Amazon.com directly later on. You also get a coupon that gets you the eBook of When Twins War for free as well as a coupon for my book ALIVE.

When Twins War is available at Smashwords and iTunes for $2.99 (about R21), and Amazon Kindle for $4.99 (about R34). It’s also at Barnes & Noble for the Nook at $2.99.

The eBook formats at Smashwords include ePub (iPad, iPhone and most eReaders) and the Kindle (mobi). There is also a PDF format available.

Here are some pics I’ve taken of the book so that you can check out the quality. Plus, I think the book looks cool so I’m showing it off a bit! :)

When Twins War Paperback

The front cover of When Twins War

Front page of When Twins War

The front page of When Twins War

The map - quite proud of this, drawn by my wife and I :)

The inside of the book so you can get an idea on the lettering size etc.

When Twins War spine

That's the spine

When Twins War pages

That's the amount of reading inside - 343 pages

It’s pretty easy to pre-order on the net. Just type in your details below and at the PayPal screen, choose either to pay with PayPal or Credit Card (choices on the right hand side of that screen). You’ll get an email etc. confirming your order along with your coupons. Don’t know why the box below is coming out all funny on some browsers, but anyway.

-PREORDERS ARE CLOSED-

If you want more details on pre-ordering (how to use the system, what you get etc.) see here.

Not sure what When Twins War is about? Here’s the press release:

Press Release: When Twins War Pre-orders Open

Pre-orders for the print version of “When Twins War”, the debut classic fantasy novel by Ryan Peter, has opened today while the book has been released in eBook form across the Internet. “When Twins War” will release to print Internet-wide on 1 September 2011.

With a rich and layered fantasy world akin to the classics, “When Twins War” mingles traditional Western fantasy with middle-eastern adventure and African folklore.

“I like to call it a kind of mix between ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Arabian Nights’, with an African edge,” says Peter.

Deep within the desert of Colone are the Twin Cities. Built exactly alike, the Cities were made by an ancient, celestial race with the goal of defending Southern Lexedore from the return of a dark being known as The Moncoin. But when the Twin Cities plunge into a war it is feared that the Moncoin’s return is eminent.

A warrior named Tarkanyon is charged to lead a band of Outlanders to the cities to broker peace, but he is soon embroiled in odd events which hint that he might possess an ancient magic known as the Wealth, and that something else that no one expected is threatening Lexedore.

In the meantime a knight from the land of Dernium is also travelling to the Twin Cities and he too will be tangled in a web of events that point towards his own importance in a much larger story.

“When Twins War” is the first prelude to “The Rise of the Kings”, an epic fantasy series that will span five books. The fantasy world of “The Rise of the Kings” has been planned and plotted by Peter (31) since his school days.

“I’ve always wanted to write a fantasy series with an old-school edge, something that has that feel of mystery and depth that we find in classic stories like ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ or even more modern tales like ‘The Wheel of Time’. It was my dream to mix traditional Western fantasy ideas with my own African roots and include elements from Arabian folklore. Plus, I wanted it to be original and avoid the usual fantasy cliches.

“The time has finally come when I think I can properly tell the story of ‘The Rise of the Kings’. And it starts with ‘When Twins War’,” Peter says.

Here is what one beta-reader said about “When Twins War”:

“I have been on an incredible journey! I have gone from waterfalls to enchanted lakes, from deserts to lush gardens, from horseback to ships, from villages to castles, and from the Great Library to the Twin Towers. I have seen wars, creatures, pain and love. I have heard beating drums, clashing swords, peaceful melodies and indescribable wonder. I have known death and great victory. I have seen, ‘When Twins War.’

“The journey and adventure you go on while reading ‘When Twins War’ is truly wonderful. It gets your heart pounding and your mind asking questions. At times I could not put this book away, and would have to retreat to a quiet place to read. The book is well written, the characters well described, the setting well explained, and the heart of the author brought out. This book has the makings of an epic!” – Tim West

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ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living FREE for a Limited Time

ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living

The Smashwords Summer/Winter sale is on and ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living (e-Book) is available for free for a limited time only.

The e-Book formats available at Smashwords include .mobi for Kindles, ePub for most digital readers, PDF for PC and most digital readers, HTML and Palm readers as well.

Get ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living e-book for Free at Smashwords

If you’re keen on getting an iPad / iPhone version, it’s available at iTunes but is somewhat more expensive – Get ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living at iTunes

About ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living

Life is meant to be enjoyed, but so few of us enjoy it to its fullest.

Most of us are tired of having to make life work and the never-ending quest to be content and find the peace and joy we’re looking for is wearing us down.

We wonder – can we really be happy?

ALIVE shows where true contentment, joy, peace and adventure can be found. But it’s found where we might least expect it, where no one taught us to look.

In ALIVE, Ryan Peter shares his philosophy and how he has managed to finally be content and joyful, in all circumstances.

We can finally enjoy living.

We can finally be alive.

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ALIVE (How to Enjoy Living) Now Available for Several eBook Formats

ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living

In addition to my book ALIVE (How to Enjoy Living) being available for the Kindle, the book is also now available for other e-Reader devices and in formats such as ePub (the open format for most eReaders) and PDF.

ALIVE can be downloaded directly from Smashwords.com for $4.50 (about R32) in the formats below. The book will also soon be available at the iBookstore and Barnes & Noble, in addition to some other stores, as soon as it has gone through a validation process, but owners of the Sony eReader or other devices can buy it in the formats below.

Buy ALIVE (How to Enjoy Living) by clicking here.

Kindle (.mobi) format. Kindle owners can also buy ALIVE (How to Enjoy Living) book from Amazon.com.
Epub (open industry format, good for Stanza reader, Blackberry, Mobipocket, iPhone, others)
PDF (good for iPad, PC, handheld devices)
LRF (for Sony Reader)
Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

About ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living

Life is meant to be enjoyed, but so few of us enjoy it to its fullest.

Most of us are tired of having to make life work and the never-ending quest to be content and find the peace and joy we’re looking for is wearing us down.

We wonder – can we really be happy?

ALIVE shows where true contentment, joy, peace and adventure can be found. But it’s found where we might least expect it, where no one taught us to look.

In ALIVE, Ryan Peter shares his philosophy and how he has managed to finally be content and joyful, in all circumstances.

We can finally enjoy living.

We can finally be alive.

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ALIVE (How to Enjoy Living) Available for Kindle

ALIVECoverebook

Kindle owners (lucky punks) can now get a copy of my book ALIVE (How to Enjoy Living) for their device.

About ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living

Life is meant to be enjoyed, but so few of us enjoy it to its fullest.

Most of us are tired of having to make life work and the never-ending quest to be content and find the peace and joy we’re looking for is wearing us down.

We wonder – can we really be happy?

ALIVE shows where true contentment, joy, peace and adventure can be found. But it’s found where we might least expect it, where no one taught us to look.

In ALIVE, Ryan Peter shares his philosophy and how he has managed to finally be content and joyful, in all circumstances.

We can finally enjoy living.

We can finally be alive.

Get ALIVE (How to Enjoy Living) from Amazon.com – $6.50
Get ALIVE (How to Enjoy Living) from Amazon UK – £3.16

UPDATE: The book is now also available in Other e-Reader formats.

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Looking for Beta Readers for When Twins War

When Twins War
When Twins War - The First Prelude to The Rise of the Kings

When Twins War (The first prelude to The Rise Of The Kings)

I’m looking for more beta-readers for When Twins War, my fantasy book. If you’re keen please leave a message here under the comments and fill out your email address under the email section (that will not be made public to anyone but me).

I’ll be asking my beta readers to get through the whole manuscript within a specific time-frame as well as provide detailed feedback according to a list of questions I’ve drawn up.

You’ll also need to write a very short review of the book once you’re done and agree to letting me use it as a short testimonial for promotional stuff.

Beta-readers will get put into a special VIP club (still working on what to call it) which will allow them exclusive access to material in the future and exclusive / free access to future events. I’m going to make it worth your time :) You will also get a special thanks in the book.

Please make sure you like my Facebook page as well at www.facebook.com/RyanPeterWrites.

If you know you probably won’t get through the book very quickly but you know someone who would love to be a part of this and loves fantasy especially, tell them about it! Get them to like my Facebook page and then comment here or read the info there in terms of how to get hold of me ASAP.

Thanks everyone! Thanks Jarrod for inspiring me with this too :)

About When Twins War

The sun set and the cold night came, but Soi’labi still wailed and wept, lying on his face in the dust. His people could do nothing to help him, and could do nothing to stop the burning. They all watched in horror as the great covenant of over a thousand years between the Twin Cities had come to utter desolation.”

THE COVENANT BETWEEN the twin desert cities of Iza-Kierre and Ben-Kierre is broken and their war is feared to be a prophetic sign that the Moncoin has returned.

Tarkanyon the Outlander has been tasked to forge peace between the cities. But when he is embroiled in events that include the return of the Wealth; events that hint that he, himself, may have this ancient magic; his mission becomes filled with more questions than answers.

When Twins War is the first prelude to the fantasy series The Rise of the Kings.

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Ted Dekker: Art and What Makes For a Good Story

Ted Dekker
Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker

Recently when doing some Google searching on Ted Dekker I came across a post at a critic’s website called PopCultureEntertainment. The original post was about whether Dekker is a plagiarist but the conversation in the comments moves into talking about art and what makes for a good novel.

It’s so interesting that eventually Dekker himself seems to join the conversation. I don’t really have doubts that it is Dekker, it sure sounds like him. What I found interesting were some of his comments.

Good novels aren’t judged by grammar or any such nonsense, all accomplished writers know that. Any grammar that you read in books like mine have been edited by the best who know this as well. They do fix bad grammar on occasion, but rarely because it’s usually intended. It’s called speaking the language of the people. Using dialogue, introspection, and narrative in way that’s consistent with their own understanding of language. It took me a few years and about a million words to figure that out, but I finally did. Whenever someone criticizes Patterson or King or whoever with this kind of thing, they only show their lack of experience. It’s amusing to those of us who’ve been there and done that. (I used to be a fine critic until I learned how to write) but it’s amazingly common. Some just don’t understand what effective fiction authoring is all about. Entertainment: If you like it, it’s good. Done.

And finally, good stories are judged by the masses who read them, not the few, like mothers, critiques or jealous writers. I can’t really tell you why several million readers love the way I deliver story. I can tell that nearly all my mail tells me I bring story to life in ways that many readers have never experienced before, and they become eager fans of that kind of writing. But why, I don’t really know. I just write. I don’t need the money, I don’t need the pats on the back, I don’t need much.

Just to write.

Dive Deep.

The conversation continues, with the blog owner Brandon (not sure on his surname) disagreeing with Dekker. They both start talking about the objectivity and subjectivity of art, whether or not people can actually call art ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as it’s largely subjective (for Dekker) and so on. It’s really a good read altogether.

I find Dekker’s comments interesting about the market. He eventually goes on to say (I summarise my understanding of what he is saying) that a good book is only good depending on its audience. One person may find a book bad, one may find it good, and the only reason why it is bad or good is because of its audience, not because it is objectively bad or good. If 1000 people like the book and 300 don’t, it’s not much different if 300 like the book and 1000 don’t. Numbers aren’t that important to distinguish a good book from a bad one. What makes for a good book is whether anyone out there actually likes it — not its grammar, it’s style (Dekker says that a good writer should ensure his writing gets out of the way so people can get to the story rather than be impressed by its writing) but whether or not it’s actually liked by anyone.

I find this encouraging. It means that my writing doesn’t have to appeal to the masses to be good. It needs only appeal to some. I already know it does appeal to some, so therefore I find I’m encouraged to know I can’t be all that bad after all. I extend the same encouragement to other writers — some will like your work, some will hate it, and that’s OK. As long as some DO like your work it’s cool. The same can go for all kinds of art, really.

I also like his comments on being critical of other writers. I have been critical, especially of Clive Cussler. Maybe I’m showing my ignorance here. Cussler has a large audience and many people REALLY like his books. Now I might not understand that but I need to give the guy respect nevertheless, because he has found an audience and he continues to please his audience. Good going Cussler, even if I don’t get your books!

Hope this encourages any artist types out there like me :) I really would encourage you to read all the comments at the blog link above, it’s very interesting (and Dekker has an interesting way of putting things).

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Feedback for When Twins War

When Twins War
When Twins War

The new cover for When Twins War

I’ve received feedback from a big U.K. literary agency that I sent in my book for consideration.

They’ve very kindly come back to me with feedback. They’re not the first people I’ve sent in the book for consideration, but I found their response particularly interesting and I thought I would share it.

I’ve had a look at your submission and I’m afraid that it isn’t one for us. I found it very hard to engage with this piece, with it’s [sic] exotic, portentous sounding setting and names so strange that you felt the need to provide a pronunciation glossary. Readers tend not to want to work so hard, and I habitually question the need for invented names that have more punctuation in them than they ought.

The other main issue here is the fact that your novel is far too expeditionary and this, for me, means you fall at the first hurdle. First principle of writing fiction? Show Don’t Tell. My feeling is that you need to take a cold hard look at this work before you send it out for further consideration.

Sorry not to have better news. Best of luck in your search for representation.

Now, when one receives rejections like this about their work they need to keep two things in mind, I think.

First of all, you can’t get arrogant about it and claim that the editor doesn’t have a point. They view thousands of manuscripts and in this particular case the agency represents some prolific authors in the fantasy genre. So I need to take his comments seriously and not get overly defensive.

On the other hand, one must understand context – theirs and mine.

Firstly, the agency is looking for books that are more commercially viable for their market. This becomes evident in the comment about names above. I don’t really find the names in my book hard to pronounce (one name is actually an African name while some others I did make up). Seeing as the agency is based on the U.K. an African name might be hard to pronounce. But since my book is located in an exotic location (a middle-east kind of fantasy setting) I’ve tried to use more middle-eastern sounding names which could be ‘strange’ to a Western reader but are actually not so strange in the big wide non-western world.

This opens up some interesting conversations in that the agency is obviously limited by its own paradigm. Frodo and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings etc. are not exactly ‘normal’ names but they are more pronounceable in the English language, I guess. But maybe my names, such as Sephobwe and Tarkanyon and Ah’Metein are not really that difficult for an African like me to comprehend. So is it fair to say the names are a bad thing, objectively? Surely not. It’s about context and audience. They are U.K. based and will market to a U.K. audience.

Should agencies / publishers be so narrow minded about the unfamiliar? Well, they need to make money, of course, and the only way of making money in this market is by volume, not so much by the merit of the artwork. So in general anything that’s too different is too much. They will say they want something different, but they in general won’t take on something that’s too different.

‘Portentous sounding setting’ I do take as a bit of a complement. The book is meant to be momentous and ominous. The fact that my writing projected exactly what I wanted is, for me, great.

I admit the novel is pretty expeditionary but so is The Lord of the Rings. I’m not quite sure why the agency views this as a problem. But he is linking that into the infamous ‘show don’t tell’ advice that is so often given to authors.

Show don’t tell is a difficult one. It means that audiences (according to publishers) prefer to be ‘shown’ an event rather than ‘told’ an event. For instance, if I was saying that Sizwe hung up the phone I could say, “Sizwe hung up” or I could say “Sizwe pushed the red button on the phone and moved it away from his face.” the former is ‘telling’ the latter is ‘showing’.

Now one can see from this example that it makes sense not always to be showing but also telling. Unless, of course, you’re looking to dramatise, but not everything should be dramatised to the nth degree. I find it laborious where, like in Robert Jordan’s later novels (for example) EVERYTHING is shown. A novel that could be exciting and could move quickly is bogged down by endless dribble to show us every grimace, every nuance, every second of every moment. It’s boring and pretentious.

I think there is more telling going on in big authors’ novels that publishers care to admit. A read through Robert Ludlum shows that he does a lot more telling than showing, at least in my opinion. Clive Cussler is sometimes so bad with it and his prejudice so clear (Sahara is so badly prejudiced against Africa it’s laughable) that I have no idea why he is rated as a good writer. By who, I ask? Yet they are selling books by the bucket load while new authors are told to ‘show don’t tell’? That doesn’t really compute.

Personally, I still do like to be told a story, and it’s in the telling of it that I like or don’t like a story. The Lord of the Rings has a heck of a lot of telling in it and this is one of the things I think I enjoy about it. I feel as if I’m listening to a storyteller, not a story shower. I admit that I need to write for a post-modern audience and not a modern one (The Lord of the Rings is a modern, not a post-modern, novel) but at the same time the world is also moving beyond post-modernism.

So I think the way in which ‘show don’t tell’ is drilled into authors, and the way a book is judged by it, is actually not fair on the author or the style they’re trying to go for. I wanted a classic style novel, but obviously the agency doesn’t. That’s OK, I don’t have an issue with that. But if I actually read authors on the shelves there’s a lot more telling than publishers admit, which is a little irritating.

So in the end of the day I’m not really disappointed. Sure, it would have been great for this agency to represent me, but actually I’m looking for someone to work with who will come alongside me and try to better my skills. They were obviously just looking for another author who they can represent, not worth with. That’s fine with me as I also need to find the right people who I trust and believe will get the best out of me and my work.

But in the greater scheme of things I think this review of my work opens up greater questions, such as the questions surrounding the names, Show Don’t Tell, and of course how creative one should get with their work and how much of the norm they should keep. Always a struggle, that.

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My Site Has Changed!

moving6pf

It’s been a long time coming, but my website has finally been upgraded, with the inclusion of my blog which used to be at the WordPress.com website. Now my site and blog are one, complete with comments and all my posts from my blog imported into this site. Isn’t it a beauty?

I’m using WordPress to do it all, after upgrading my account with my host. The design of the website, which I think is brilliant, is done by Fearless Flyer. It’s a template that Fearless Flyer provides and I think it’s absolutely awesome, so kudos to Fearless Flyer.

The website now includes blogs, articles, details about my books, about me, and details if you would like to hire me for your writing / PR / copywriting / website / editing / SEO / and more needs.

I’ve divided the writing on the site into four sections — Current Affairs and Opinion, which has my opinions on social affairs and that sort of thing; Faith, which is where the majority of my blog used to centre around (but this will now change as I’ll focus alot on social affairs now too); Writing, which is just where posts on my books or writing will go; and Life, which is just random stuff I find interesting.

The Featured section just shows the three posts that show up on the scroll bar on the front page. These will change whenever I change them.

Each section has both a ‘blogs’ and a ‘articles’ section. Something that’s more than 500 words and is much more formal in its approach I classify as an article, while less formal posts are blogs. Some will obviously cross over as well.

There’s only one thing missing and that’s a topical search, which I’ll be putting in during the next few days.

So that’s how the site works! Enjoy!

Oh, one more thing, I must say WordPress is amazing. I actually didn’t realise how powerful it is until this upgrade. It really is as good as people say.

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When Twins War is Complete!

twin-cities

It’s been three years in the making after I wrote, re-wrote, then re-wrote, then got some professional advice, then re-wrote, then proofread, then spell checked, then had to work our some phonetics, and now it’s finally ready – When Twins War, my fantasy book of 130,000 words, is as good as I think I’m going to get it and it’s headed off to a publisher today which I hope will pick it up.

The twin desert cities of Iza-Kiêrre and Ben-Kiêrre are going to war, and their war is feared to be a prophetic sign that the Moncoin, a spiritual entity that once almost destroyed the Kingdom of Lexedore, has returned.

Tarkanyon, an Outlander who has dedicated his life to the grand mission of the Outlanders – to ensure peace in Lexedore and find the Wealth, the ancient magic of a race known as the genicoins – is tasked to forge peace between the cities. But soon he has more questions than answers and realises the fate of Lexedore could be at stake.

I’m really excited with how the book turned out in the end. The last editing process was the most excrutiating but also the most rewarding part of the whole process. The world of Lexedore now feels more alive than ever before, and the characters seem to have, well, more character than ever before. I thoroughly enjoyed the ending, complete with an interesting philosophical take and a middle-eastern dance. I can’t wait for people to start reading it in this form at last.

Warning to friends: I WILL BE PUNTING THIS BOOK BIG TIME. Even if a publisher doesn’t pick it up, I will self-publish and punt this like crazy. I’m so happy I’ve stuck to this and gone through all the pain and discouragement, dreaming and re-encouragement of writing this work. After this, of course, will come more!

Wish I had some art to show for it, except for some lousy cover which I invented on Gimp a long time ago and this lousy map which I did in some weird map-making program. I suppose it’ll have to do for now 😀

When Twins War by Ryan Peter, tentative cover art

This is cover art for When Twins War that I did when I was bored. THIS IS NOT THE FINAL COVER ART.

When Twins War by Ryan Peter, a map of Lexedore

A map of Lexedore where events for When Twins War take place

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Received Printed Copy of ALIVE This Morning

ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living

First printed copy of ALIVE

I received the first printed copy of my book ALIVE this morning, but unfortunately the print quality of the cover isn’t too good. I’m going to have to get a designer or someone to fix it with the printers as I don’t think people should buy a book with that kind of quality cover.

As to the print quality of the inside it looks fantastic. So almost there!

The eBook version is available at lulu.com though — get it at this link. It’s only $4 (about R30).

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ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living e-Book Now Available

The e-Book version of ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living is now available at lulu.com

ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living eBook

The point of life is to enjoy it. But so few of us do. ALIVE is about finding where true joy really lies, where contentment can be found. It affirms the idea that the quest for joy and pleasure is the quest of life, but that these are found in the places no one taught us to look.

Get the eBook here for only $4.00 (about R30).

A Kindle-specific version and the print version will be available shortly on Amazon. So watch this space for that.

A list of all the devices the eBook will work with can be found here. Since the book is in PDF format it’ll work on the Kindle or pretty much any handheld device, but as mentioned above a Kindle-specific version is in the works so that it can be downloaded from Amazon’s store from the Kindle.

My other book Single will soon also be available in the same formats, now revised and up to date.