butcherbird, January, new zealand author, Uncategorized, writing

On first readers

Today I sent Butcherbird to my first reader, which is both exciting and terrifying.


What’s a first reader? Well, some people call them an alpha reader, but either way, they are the first person to read your work. Often, the only person or people to read the first draft in all it’s rough and raw glory. We writers are sensitive souls, so it’s not always good for our writer health to be sharing such formative versions of our work*.

Which means that it’s very important to choose your first reader carefully. Some people opt for a supportive partner (mine does not read fiction, so that’s out), but I’ve found a good one in my lovely friend and fellow author Leigh K Hunt. She laughs at all my jokes, can see past the mess to the gold underneath, to my intention and goals, and gives me excellent pointers for honing it into something beautiful. Butcherbird is a little different from the Kotahi Bay books (no romance for starters!), so I’m going to be hanging out to find out what she says about it – being the first book in a new series the nerves are higher than normal. But…

It’s time.

Time to get some feedback. Time to make a plan for the rest of the series. Time to start thinking about covers and sharing things with you as it gets edited. I’m so excited about this book, folks. I hope you’re going to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’ve already got the outline for book two, though I think I’m going to wait till after we’ve moved before I dive in. Don’t need to have another big life change happening while I write each of the subsequent books 😉 I’m hoping to knock out a smaller, fun project in that time, so watch this space.

This is going to be a good year. I just know it.

* Some writers are different, of course, and never feel any doubt, but I can’t see me ever being one of those. Others write amazing first copy and while they swear it makes them sweat when they let you read their stuff you can’t help but be sure they are kicking back with a beer waiting for the inevitable praise because their first drafts are just that damn good. Yes, I’m looking at you, Richard Parry.

authors, Awards, Best Novella, Burn, etherhart press, Fantasy, New Zealand, new zealand author, self publishing, Sir Julius Vogel Award, Sun-Touched, The Way the Sky Curves

Sir Julius Vogel Nominations are open!

smback-v5The nomination period for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards has officially opened! Between now and 8pm on the 28th of February 2016, you can nominate your favourite NZ works in a range of categories.

This year I have several works eligible, so if you feel like any are worth nominating, below are the essential items – you can just copy and paste (one email per nominated work), and add your contact details to #7, and boom, it’s done!

If you do – thank you very much! And if you don’t – that’s totally cool too 🙂 Nominate something else, because there are plenty of AMAZING eligible works. This past year has been really great for kiwi fiction, and I know I’ll be nominating a fair few myself.

ESSENTIAL Information

This is to enable SFFANZ to verify and process the nomination.

  1. Sun Touched
  2. J.C. Hart
  3. Novel
  4. 2015
  5. Professional Awards
  6. Science Fiction
  7. [your contact details here]
  1. Burn
  2. J.C. Hart
  3. Novella
  4. 2015
  5. Professional Awards
  6. Fantasy
  7. [your contact details here]
  1. The Way the Sky Curves
  2. J.C. Hart
  3. Novella
  4. 2015
  5. Professional Awards
  6. Fantasy
  7. [your contact details here]

Nominations can be sent to: sjv_awards@sffanz.org.nz

Guest post, new zealand author

Z.R. Southcombe – On organizing a book launch

Today we have a guest post from my friend and fellow writer, Z.R. Southcombe, who recently had a physical book launch for her second release. She’s popped over to share her experiences with us all! Thanks Zee 🙂 

I’d read a lot of advice saying not to have a book launch, because indie publishing is a long term game (which it is) and a launch is not worth it. I decided to have a launch anyway, not just to be a rebel, but for celebratory purposes.

And since I decided I was going to do one, I figured I might as well go all out.


Most important thing, obviously, is where the book launch will be held! I had the fortune of meeting Helen at The Pt Chev Bookshop in Auckland, who has held events at her shop before. It’s an awesome little shop with a fantastic range of books. My friend Lizzi Tremayne had hers at her local library in Waihi, which was also a success.

One benefit of holding the launch at a bookshop was that they could handle sales for me. They also didn’t charge an upfront fee, just a commission on sales.

While libraries and bookshops are the most obvious places to launch a book, you can also think about themes in your book. For example, I could’ve picked on the theme of chocolate cake & cupcakes to hold it at a café. Lizzi’s book has a strong horse theme (it centres around the Pony Express) so she could have launched at an equine venue.


It helps to have an idea of numbers, and this is where I fell short. The little bookshop wasn’t quite big enough for the number of people who turned up, so next time we’re going to have to think more creatively about how we’ll house everyone.

For catering, I rounded up a few friends who basically did pot luck for me. There were cupcakes galore, and even a few savouries. The food seemed to last (I didn’t see much of it, so I can’t really say!) and the people I asked were happy to bring a plate for me.


I wanted something to draw a crowd – especially children and their parents – other than, you know, ‘buy my book!’.

I went for goodie bags and prizes. As I was pretty much running on a $0 budget, I reached out to others for these on a sponsorship basis. I put their advertising on my site, and for the online giveaways I included their social media profiles in the entry options. I also did a bit of promo for them along the way, and some of them gave branded items.

Would I do it again? I’m not sure. The kids liked having something to stop from being bored while their parents stood in line, but it was a lot of effort. I’m thinking that next time I’ll have some freebies available (postcards, stickers and the like), but not with the hassle of creating individual bags.

Online Component

This is definitely something I’d like to focus on more next time. I had giveaways from the website during launch week, which got a few entries, but I’d really like to have something more interactive on launch day itself. We are marketing to an international audience, of course!

All in all, the book launch was well worth doing, despite the hard work (and stress!). I’m hoping that it’ll get easier each time, and I’m already enjoying the creative challenge of coming up with a different event for each book’s launch. Watch this space.

The book I launched was The Caretaker of Imagination, an adventure fantasy for children ages 7-12 (but sort of for grown-ups as well). You can get it from Amazon, Kobo, or in good ol’ fashioned print.