I did it! The big chop!

Apologies for another “hairy” post (at the rate I’m going, I should rename this blog ‘Hair & Chopsticks’ ;-) ) – but I thought you’d all be keen to see what I decided to do about my hair. Well, after a lot of thought, analysis, discussion, research on hair styles via Google Images, faffing around on online makeover sites… (can you tell that I’m a control freak?? ;-) ) – I finally decided to go for it.

Yup, I went along to my lovely Japanese hair salon, Roselle Hair Lounge, and asked Hayato, the head stylist & owner, to turn this:

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into this!

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So what do you think?? :P

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Hayato explained that with all the permed sections cut off and my hair reverting to it’s original bamboo straightness, I wouldn’t get that “triangular” shape to the bob that I so liked in those model photos. You need natural wave & volume for that – not flat Chinese hair. ;-) But with a lot of help from a hair-dryer, I can get enough ‘oomph’ to achieve the sorted of rounded shape in the picture above (that was taken straight after the salon, by the way – I’ve never managed to make it look so good again! ;-) )

Here are some more pictures on the day of the cut (yeah, I couldn’t decide which way to part my hair, after a centre parting for so long!)

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Oh, and for those worried about functionality, Hayato has also cleverly done it so that although it looks like a shortish bob at the front, my hair’s been left longer at the back – long enough for me to tie up in a pony tail! (OK, looks more like a bobcat tail now than a pony tail but at least I can tie it up, out of the way)

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One thing I’ve realised now that I’ve got short hair is that “The Wind Is The Enemy”!! I never understood before why friends & relatives with short hair would fuss on windy days…now I know! Short hair gets blown all over the place and 2 seconds in the wind can ruin the hairstyle that you took ages to achieve…

Still, it’s quite good fun standing in a wind tunnel – hee! hee! ;-) I happened to walk into one just after leaving the salon and found it a hilarious experience (although I think poor Hayato would have had a heart attack if he saw what the wind was doing to all his hard work!! :D )

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Don’t worry – I managed to calm things down and didn’t spend the rest of the day looking like Chewbacca. In fact, I’ve been impressed at how DIY-friendly this cut is. You know, you always wait for that first wash to see just what a cut really looks like – without the benefit of salon expertise. But mine actually looks OK! I decided to debut my cut at the Perth Writers’ Festival last weekend – and here’s what I achieved with my own limited skills with the hair-dryer (seriously, unless you had octopus arms, I don’t know how anyone can blow-dry their hair to professional standards at home…)

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It does take a bit of getting used to – especially having the hair hanging around my face and the ends at the front poking my chin. But overall, I’m enjoying my new cut. It does feel lighter and more carefree in a way – and so far, hasn’t been that much more work. For everyday, I just let it air dry on its own (when it does then start sticking out in several directions ;-) ) – but if I’m planning to go somewhere “special”, I can make an effort with a hair-dryer to tame it into a nice, round shape.

I do find it a little bit frustrating that you have far fewer options – if I let it down, it’s pretty much always in this style and that’s it. I can’t do all the different looks I used to be able to do with long hair. But so far, I’m still enjoying the novelty of this look enough that I don’t mind the lack of versatility too much.

I don’t miss my long hair… yet! :P But I don’t think I’ll be keeping it this short. I think I’m just going to enjoy the novelty of having “short hair” this year while I grow it out again and make the most of the slightly different looks that the increasing length will give me… before perming my hair again to get my beloved curls back. ;-)

Who knows – maybe I’ll be ready then for the next big hair adventure. Like… a fringe??!!

No More Mr. Nice Guy…er, Ms. Nice Girl!

I’m ashamed to admit this but it’s taken me nearly 40 years to grow a backbone. :P

I’ve always looked enviously at many of my friends – especially the American and Australian ones – who seemed full of assertive self-confidence and weren’t afraid to speak up, stand up for themselves and put others in their place. Me? I’d fume with impotent rage while imagining all the witty, cutting things I could have said and then fume even more at myself for not having the courage to open my mouth and say them.

When something happens, the first word that springs to my lips is “Sorry !” – before I’ve even worked out who is the one to blame. Last year, while at the supermarket carpark, I was walking along the back of a row of parked cars when a car reversed out of its spot and hit me. It was just a small bump – thankfully the driver had braked in time – but can you believe that the first word that popped out of my lips as I jerked to a stop was “Sorry” ?! I caught myself and thought: “Hang on a minute… he’s the one at fault for not checking his rear view mirror before moving – why am I apologising??”

This knee-jerk tendency to apologise has got me in trouble more than once – ‘coz it immediately puts you on the back foot and gives others the advantage. It’s certainly true that people treat you the way you let them treat you…

IMG_2616When I used to walk my Great Dane, Honey, we’d often meet small dogs who felt threatened by Honey’s presence and reacted defensively: the attack usually started with the little dog rushing Honey in a storm of bared teeth and aggressive barking followed by the “Oh, sh**t” moment when they came too close and realised who they were dealing with. Cue hysterical yelping – and the next thing you know, the small dog owner was rushing up, demanding, “What happened? What did your dog do to my baby?” – The problem was, their aggressive attitude often prompted me to fall into a stammering apology even though it was their dog who had attacked mine. They were in the wrong but instead of standing up for myself and my dog and setting the record straight, I was giving them more ammunition to batter me with.

The worst instance of this was the time Honey was attacked by a Manchester Terrier when we were still living back in Auckland and she defended herself by flipping the terrier and pinning it to the ground. The owner arrived screaming blue murder and I, of course, fell into horrified apology. The next thing I knew, the owners had turned it into a witch hunt, wanting to claim compensation (the terrier was essentially unhurt except for a scratch on its back – probably from Honey’s nails) and reporting Honey to the council as a “dangerous dog” to be muzzled. This was followed by a nasty campaign of threatening letters and phonecalls until our lawyers put a stop to things – and the council actually found the other owners at fault for not having their dog under control.

Still, I lost a lot of weight during that time, developed insomnia – and it cost me a lot of confidence and enjoyment when out walking my dog. For the rest of Honey’s life, I’d always tense up when any dog rushed up to her and I prevented Honey from socialising with other dogs freely – terrified that something similar would happen again. I often look back now on those nightmare few months  and wonder how much stress & grief I could have saved myself if I had only stood up that day in the park and yelled back, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN WHAT HAPPENED? IT WAS YOUR DOG WHO ATTACKED MINE FIRST!”

Me in a group shot with other models on a magazine photoshoot...I'm so small compared to everybody else, I look like a child! ;-)

Me in a group shot with other models on a magazine photoshoot…I’m so small compared to everybody else, I look like a child! ;-)

(I also think they wouldn’t have been so quick to jump on the offensive if I had been a big Maori woman flexing my biceps. ;-) When you’re small and short and have the typical Asian blessing (or curse, depending on how you look at it) of looking a LOT younger than your age – then you’re easy prey. Nobody takes you seriously. Somehow I’m sure I’d get a lot more respect in general if I was a tall, Amazonian redhead. ;-) )

Maybe a lot of it is being Asian – not just the looks but the cultural upbringing. Us Asians can be pathetically easy to pick on – we are brought up to value “being polite” above all else – the problem is, when you’re always so terrified of offending anybody or making them “lose face” – then “being polite” often ends up as “being bullied.”

I remember when we lived back in the UK, I’d always be the one hovering tentatively near a sales assistant, wanting to ask a question but constantly being ignored while other people barged in ahead of me. Once when I was in Boots (a chemist chain in the UK), I waited for ages to speak to the sales assistant – a big, scary battle axe of a woman – and when I finally tried, faintly, to get her attention, the woman turned to me and snapped, “I’m serving someone!” – and I retreated in embarrassed silence, even though that “someone” had just pushed their way in front of me and I had been waiting 20mins. This was pretty much the story of my life every time I went into a store in the UK.

But don’t worry – I’m finally, slowly, growing a backbone. It’s not easy and it’s a slow process. Friends – especially American friends – have a hard time understanding why. They invariable say to me, “What do you mean? You just have to stand up for yourself! Just say something. Just do it!” – but habits of a lifetime are hard to break. It would be as hard as for them to suddenly start apologising to everybody they met. ;-)

Still…baby steps.

And I was very proud of myself today because for the first time in my life, I spoke up! I was at the supermarket, standing at the deli section (you know, where they sell hams & other cold meats and cheeses & olives & things – don’t know if they have similar things in supermarkets in the US) – waiting to be served. There is usually a queuing system where you get a ticket from the little machine and wait for your number to be called – but today, the machine was broken so we were waiting for our turns the old-fashioned way. Except that the deli assistant wasn’t paying much attention to who had come first and was just serving whoever was next to speak up. I hovered again, politely, waiting for 2 other people to have their turn first – then just as I was stepping up to the counter, an Indian woman strode up next to me and started giving her order in a loud voice. The deli assistant turned unquestioningly towards her and for the first time, I felt my temper rise. I had had enough.

I opened my mouth – and from somewhere I heard my own voice saying coldly, “Excuse me, I was actually here first.”

I could feel myself trembling as I said it and I stood there, half terrified of what would happen next. But to my surprise, it was the Indian woman who flushed and immediately started apologising. I couldn’t believe it! I stood there, feeling suddenly empowered – it was a wonderful, novel feeling. :P

So that’s it. I’ve decided. I’m not going to be a doormat anymore. From now on, I’m not going to spend all my time worrying about offending others if I speak up or burying my own feelings and reactions in order to keep others happy. I’m going to start standing up for myself and say what I think, allow myself to be offended, to react, to challenge those who have overstepped their boundaries – and not just swallow everything in a desperate bid to “be polite”. With my 40th birthday coming up in April, it’s only taken me 4 decades to get here… but hey, better late than never. ;-)

And in a perfect timing kind of way, I saw this being shared around Facebook this week:

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So watch out – according to this, I could be a “Crotchety Bitchyboo”!! :P

ps. Sorry for being so quiet on the blog – the last couple of weeks have been a hectic race to get the second book in the Big Honey Dog Mysteries completed on time. It’s now been sent off to the beta readers and I’m awaiting their verdict! (GULP!) – then it’s more madness in the next few weeks as I start the countdown to the release day in March: more revisions, deliver the manuscript to the editor, final edits then proofread then formatting – before finally hitting “Publish”!

A New Era…and a Big Chop?

HY+Honey-sofaportrait2BThose of you who follow my dog, Honey’s blog will know that last week, we made the decision to let her go peacefully to the Rainbow Bridge after a hard-fought battle with dilated cardiomyopathy & heart failure. She was 10yrs old – a great age for a Great Dane – and had enjoyed a wonderful, full life filled with friends, adventures and laughter right up to the end.

Honey was my first dog – the dog I waited my whole life to have – and she lived up to my expectations in so many ways. For me, a dog is not so much a surrogate child or a “best friend” as a partner in a team – and together, Honey and I challenged breed stereotypes, tackled training mountains, inspired a worldwide dancing phenomemon and “boldly went where no Dane had gone before”. ;-)

What’s more – although I am not religious – I sometimes couldn’t help feeling that Honey was my “guardian angel”: good things happened to me when she was around; she was the catalyst for many of the big, positive changes in my life in the last 10 yrs, opening doors to new opportunities, careers and friendships.

HY+Honey-smileIt was through her (Dane friends) that I first managed to find a job with flexible hours that enabled me to leave the corporate world and work from home (something I desperately wanted to do).

A few years later, when I got made redundant, it was again through Honey that I was launched into my freelance writing career – with my first published article being a piece on “Living with a Great Dane” for a UK pet magazine.

When I started writing a blog in Honey’s voice, sharing stories & photos of her adventures, I had no idea of the huge international community that I would become part of, the friends I would make all around the world and the amazing readership I would gain.

And of course, Honey has been the inspiration for the achievement of my biggest dream: my first published book series, the Big Honey Dog Mysteries.

To say that Honey has played a big role in my life would be a bit of an understatement! ;-) And now that she is gone, I keep feeling like it is the end of an era – and time for a big change. A symbolic fresh start.

So I’ve been thinking…should I cut off my hair??

Those of you who have been following me a while will know that I’m VERY boring when it comes to my hair. (Hey, it took me over 30yrs to work up the courage to perm it!) As a teenager, I never dabbled in trendy hairstyles or rebellious hair dyes. All my life, I have always worn my hair with a centre parting, hanging straight down on either side. When I was feeling really adventurous, I braided it. ;-)

OK, I have to confess – I did once have a wild moment and went for a major chop, about 14yrs ago. My hair had been really, really long (down to my bum!) and I had it all cut off into a short bob.

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And I ended up looking like this:

HY-shortbob-collageWell, of course, straight from the salon, it looked fantastic and I was delighted – the problem started the next morning when I realised that I would have to recreate the same look myself! Which involved copious amounts of something called “mousse”, hours of wrestling with a hair dryer and lots of swear words I never realised I knew.

I also never realised how much more work short hair was – especially if your hair happens to be flat, thick and stick-straight, with no natural volume or wave. You just can’t get away with doing “nothing”, like I had been used to. And if your hair was dirty or you were in a rush, you couldn’t just pull your hair back into a ponytail or a bun – you had to “style” it. Most mornings I woke up resembling a scarecrow and scared myself when I looked in the mirror.

Eventually, my hair and I came to an agreement and I managed to go out most days with my hair looking something like this:

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You’ll notice from the picture that it was starting to grow out. That was another thing I was unprepared for – the need for regular trims and constant trips to the salon. My previous routine involved a once-a-year, guilty, overdue visit where I sat sheepishly as the stylist lectured me on the importance of regular 3-monthly trims. So I stuck my heels in and refused to go anywhere near a salon…with the result that my hair soon started looking like this:

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And it just kept going from bad to worse. ;-) By now, I was starting to scare scarecrows. It took me nearly 18 months to grow my hair back out to a respectable “long” length again.

So… having heard all that, you’re probably wondering why I’m even contemplating going through something like this again. Well, I guess sometimes the overwhelming need for a big change takes over everything else. ;-)

Anyway, now that I’m older and wiser, maybe things will be different. Maybe I’ll start to enjoy spending hours on personal grooming and get really good at it.

Hah, who am I kidding. I still haven’t even learnt how to paint my toenails without making it look like someone tried to hack off my toes with a serrated knife. But still, I figured that maybe if I don’t go for such an extreme cut, perhaps it might be more manageable. I’ve been hearing a lot about “long bobs” lately – perhaps for once in my life, I will follow a fashion trend! :P And maybe this time I’ll be good and go for regular trims to keep it in shape…

Anyway, so I did some Googling on “long bobs for Asian hair” (I needed to make sure the styles I found would work on the coarser, Asian hair which doesn’t have the natural wave, pliability and volume of finer Western hair) – and here are some of the styles I found. What do you think? Any votes?

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I also found this picture – I quite like the “triangular” shape of this hairstyle, although I know this is getting back into “short” territory again . Think it would suit me…?

women_hairstyle_2Of course, my poor husband has been wearing a look of panicked horror ever since he heard me make noises about cutting my hair again. He still has traumatic memories of the last time, when he had to listen to me wailing daily about how much I hated my hair… he’s practically begging me to reconsider for the sake of his sanity. ;-)

But I feel like I need a change. Who knows, I might even live dangerously and try a side parting?! ;-)

What about you? What hairstyle have you got and why? Have you ever done anything really drastic with your hair??

***

*P.S. A big thank you to all those who commented on my last post and shared your thoughts on cover designs for my upcoming adult romantic mystery series. I really appreciated all your ideas & suggestions – and also the beta reader offers! I’ll be updating you all soon on what’s happening next in the cover design process.

The Cover Story…

Chinatown-mssOh, I’m delighted that everybody feels I should stick with the same author name for my adult books… in fact, I’ve gone and registered the hyhanna.com domain name already! ;-) (nothing on it yet – designing a website is next on the list!)

Now that I’ve got a name sorted, the next big thing is coming up with a cover for my first adult book – which is a fun, cross-cultural, romantic mystery set in Chinatown, London. I’ve dug out the 100,000 word manuscript and have started revising it – I’m aiming to get it done by Christmas (OK, that’s probably ambitious but you know I like to aim high – hee! hee! ;-) ) [* post-Christmas confession: yes, that WAS overly ambitious. I'm not even a 1/3 of the way through! ;-) ]- and then beta-read, edited, proofread and published in the new year!

But in the meantime, I need to start  briefing the cover artist on the cover as that will take a few weeks to be designed and finalised. So what kind of cover should I go for??

The thing is, the most important thing about a book cover is actually not including everything from the story (a common mistake that new indie authors make, ending up with really messy, amateurish-looking covers – especially bad when viewed in thumbnail size on Amazon!) – but rather to have a strong, simple image that conveys the genre very clearly. Different genres have different style conventions and most readers instinctively know these “shortcuts” when they’re looking at books.

Check out these book covers – can you guess what genres they represent? :P Answers at the bottom of the post* (these are all sample covers from the www.goonwrite.com book designer site)

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Compare them with these covers taken from Lousybookcovers.com (a hilarious site! ;-) )

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So, I did some market research on Amazon and had a look at similar titles in the same genre (“Mysteries > Female Sleuths” and “Romantic Mystery”) and they seem to fall into a trend of illustration/cartoony covers and lots of PINK!!

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But I’m really keen NOT to have an illustration cover, though, because my Big Honey Dog Mysteries have illustration covers and I don’t want any confusion that this series might be children’s books too.

So I think real photo covers are a better idea. Well, there are several of those types in this genre too – but again, they seem to all follow a trend – legs seem to be very popular! ;-)

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Hmm… so while I don’t particularly want to be a cliché, I have to remember that clichés are there for a reason. Especially when you’re new and unknown, you’re better not to be too “different” – otherwise it’s hard for your target readers to find you.

So… it’s got to be a real photo and it’s got to convey that sort of fun, girlie vibe while also showing that it’s a mystery (as opposed to a pure romance)…

I also have to think about branding the whole series – because I’m planning 6 books in this series – and so the image will need to be something that can be easily linked in the subsequent books, so that they all have the same “look”… something that I think Camilla Chafer has done very well  in her series:

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On top of all this, I also want it to reflect the Chinese setting of the story, since that will be a defining characteristic of the series – so the covers need to have a slightly quirky Chinese feel, without making them too “ethnic” and possibly turning readers off…

Tall order, huh? ;-)

I originally had an idea of having a girl’s face (just the lower half) with bright lipstick, wearing a pretty dress with a mandarin collar (to convey the Chinese angle)  – and then I could vary the image slightly for different books in the series, like have a succession of different dresses… but oh, Amy Tan got there before me!! :P

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OK, hers are done with a sort of retro Shanghai poster type feel – I would be aiming for something more modern but still, wouldn’t the image be too similar…?

My other problem is that most of such books are set in the US and a gun is usually shown on the cover as shorthand for “crime & mystery” so that readers know that even with the high heels and pink cover and other girlie elements, the book isn’t just about losing weight and getting a boyfriend ;-) – but my story is set in London, UK where there is no gun culture – so how can I convey the “mystery/crime” element on the cover in a quick, symbolic way? (My heroine isn’t in law enforcement either so handcuffs are out. Besides, nowaways, handcuffs might be confused with a book about Shades of Grey!! ;-) )

So! My other idea was – sticking with the “legs” trend – that I go with a pair of legs in a Chinese dress. Something a bit like this cover I found on Amazon:

51cYKl6ek6L._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Not so artsy, though – it would be more “fun & flirty” – probably with lots of PINK! ;-)  And this way, I could change the colour of the dress – or have different poses – for the various books in the series. Of course, my main problem then is finding images that I can use! Most of the time, cover artists look for stock images from image libraries like Shutterstock or iStockphotos – but when you want a very specific type of image, it can difficult to find it unless you set the photoshoot up yourself.

In fact, I’d originally thought I’d love to have an image of a pair of legs in a Chinese dress wearing Doc Martens! It would show the fun, irreverant “East meets West” theme of my book, since my heroine is going to be half-Western, half-Chinese… but I seriously doubt I’ll ever find an image like that unless I hire a model to create it! ;-)

So I think I’m going to have to go with the more boring but safer image of legs in high heels, with the Chinese dress… but then I still need to decide what other things to have on the cover to convey the mystery angle and to make it more fun & quirky…

What do you think? Or do you have another idea for the cover?

(Of course, the cover artist will have a lot of input too – they’re the professionals so it’s best to leave the details to them and they have some great ideas! But it helps if you can give them some pointers to follow. For example, for the Honey mysteries, I knew that I wanted a strong black dog silhouette as the central theme on the cover – which could be repeated in subsequent books in the series. I’m thinking for this one that red and black would be good colours to have maybe – that comes across very “Chinese”, doesn’t it? ;-) )

* Answers: A – Fantasy, B – Romance/Women’s Fiction, C – Horror, D – Saga/Women’s Fiction, E – Thriller, F – Young Adult/Fantasy, G – Sci-Fi/Thriller, H – Romantic Comedy

I’m back!! (With an identity crisis…)

Hi everybody – I have to apologise again for neglecting this blog for such a long time but this time, I’ve got a really good reason: I’ve been busy becoming a self-published, indie-author! ;-)

Yup, since my last post, a LOT has happened – the biggest thing being the launch of my children’s mystery series, Big Honey Dog Mysteries – starting with Book #1: Curse of the Scarab and followed recently by the Christmas special edition: Message in a Bauble (which is now available to download for FREE from Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble (NOOK) and Kobo. Click here to grab your copy!)

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Well, most of you know that it has always been my dream to become an “author” – and to earn my living from writing books. It sounds terribly clichéd to say this but I was always a bookworm – it used to drive my family mad that I would walk around all day, literally always with my nose buried in a book – even at mealtimes and yes, once I even tried to take a book into the shower with me! ;-)

So it was hardly surprising that my dream was to be a writer when I grew up. Of course, I knew that it was a very impractical dream so I focused on other things for a while – such as getting into university and graduating with a degree in Biology, then starting work in the advertising industry in London. I then tried my hand at several other jobs – from marketing for a computer software company to teaching English in language schools – all while moving around and ultimately emigrating Down Under with my husband.

My days as a London advertising executive!

My days as a London advertising executive!

But none of those jobs made me happy and when I hit my 30th birthday (and my mid-life crisis! ;-) ), I decided that since I wasn’t getting any younger, it was time I pursued my real dream. I pitched some article ideas to editors at several magazines and was pleasantly surprised when I started getting regular commissions. Soon, I was working full-time as a freelance writer, writing feature articles for magazines in the UK, Australia and NZ.

While I enjoyed being a journalist and was finally earning a living from “writing”, I realised after a while that I still wasn’t happy – what I really wanted was to be a book author. I had gotten quite close to being published several years ago back in the UK, with some romantic comedy and mystery manuscripts, and I still had a literary agent there – but I decided to try my hand at children’s fiction instead and write the kind of book I’d always loved reading as a child.

HY+Honey-discuss-manuscript2Then, as I was completing the first draft of my book and wondering which agent/publisher to submit to, I started hearing about self-publishing and was inspired by the success stories of various indie authors. Having gone through traditional publishing submissions before, I knew how long the whole process could take, with no guarantee of a book deal despite years of trying. Even if I got an offer, I would probably only get a poor advance & contract as a new author – with minimal marketing support from the publishers (they tend to keep their PR budgets for the big-name authors like Dan Brown, who really need them, of course! ;-) )…

…and I had a sentimental reason too: my mystery series was inspired by my Great Dane, Honey, who, sadly, is a very senior dog now and I knew that if I went the traditional publishing route, she would never live long enough to see the book deal, never mind seeing it published. It may sound silly but after all the “adventures” that we’d been on together, I wanted her to be with me on this one too, if possible.

So… I decided that I’d rather take my chances with self-publishing and embarked on the “indie author” adventure! I made the decision back in April this year and threw myself into researching everything I could about this new industry. I hired a cover artist to design my book cover, found a freelance editor & professional proofreader to help me polish the manuscript and recruited a wonderful group of kid beta readers, from the readers of Honey’s blog, to give me feedback. Meanwhile, I was also attending writers’ workshops and critiques, and preparing for the book launch, including things like designing & setting up the Big Honey Dog Mysteries book website and researching book bloggers and review sites…

…after five months of very little sleep (and practically no social life! ;-) ) I published my book on the 1st Sep 2013, as an ebook, followed by the paperback edition a few weeks later. Seeing it live on Amazon and getting that first sale was one of the most exciting moments of my life! :P

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Many friends and followers of Honey’s blog have been amazing in their support, doing their best to help spread the word about my new book. With their support, Curse of the Scarab even reached #1 on the Amazon Bestseller lists for Children’s Detective Stories and Children’s Dog Stories in its debut month! Following its success, I raced to write and release a Christmas special edition, launched just in time for the holiday season, and I’m aiming to release Book #2 of the series early next year.

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It’s been a wild ride but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I love having full creative control over my books and my control-freak nature actually enjoys having all responsiblity rest on my shoulders. ;-) OK, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in my life – being an “indie author” means you literally have to manage EVERYthing yourself and it’s a constant struggle to juggle the various demands: from finding time to write the next book to marketing & promotion to interacting with fans and keeping up with friends who have all been so supportive. Weekends are a thing of the past and 14hr days at the computer are now the norm… but as I said, I’m loving it. :P

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So what does all this have to do with my identity crisis? Well, much as I love writing them, unfortunately earning a living from ‘children’s books’ is very difficult – it’s well-known within the publishing industry that children’s fiction is one of the toughest markets to be commercially successful in (J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan are the exceptions rather than the rule! ;-) ). You have a better chance of earning a living as an author if you write adult books, because the market is simply bigger and sales are easier to grow. So I quickly realised that if I wanted to make a living at this, I would have to add other quivers to my bow…

Well, I’d started out writing adult books, hadn’t I? What was to stop me writing BOTH children’s and adult fiction? I’ve got several completed and half-completed manuscripts gathering dust, including a chicklit mystery that had gone all the way to Acquisition Meeting at one of the major UK publishing houses and almost landed me a book deal… I think it’s time for me to dust off those manuscripts and add them to my self-publishing stable. ;-)

So now here’s my dilemma: what author name should I use? It’s well known that the best strategy is to publish as many books under the SAME author name as possible because it’s the best way to build the author brand and to help readers find your books. Having different pen names is just confusing and a nightmare from a marketing point of view, as you have to build a new readership from scratch each time.

Goodreads-AuthorProfile

I’d chosen to use “H.Y. Hanna” as my author name (my initials & maiden name) since it’s easier to pronounce and remember – and I really like it. But can I publish my adult books under the same name too? I’d love to use the same name – but I’m worried that there may be disapproval from people thinking that it’s inappropriate. Oh, I’m certainly not planning to write sex romps or anything like that! ;-) but I will be writing stories which involve mystery & crime, spiced up with a bit of romance. The first book I’m planning to release will be that chicklit mystery set in London’s Chinatown, in the style of “Janet Evanovich meets Amy Tan”.

Of course, adult authors writing books for children under the same name is certainly not a new thing. There are many famous authors who have done so – from James Joyce and Margaret Atwood to Carl Hiaasen, John Grisham and James Patterson.

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So I figured – if James Patterson can use the same name for kids as the name he uses for writing about rapists and serial killers – surely I can follow in his famous footsteps (not that I’m intending to write about rapists and serial killers! ;-) ) As long as I make my covers very distinct and different for my adult and children’s series and as long as I’m clear in the book description, then it shouldn’t really be a problem…

What do you think? :P

 

‘Til discarded socks do us part…

Does your husband/boyfriend/partner – or roomate / sister or whoever – have a habit that drives you crazy? Do you put up with it because you love them? ;-)

Honey+droolOver on my dog’s Facebook Page, a family who are considering adopting a Great Dane asked me if drooling was an issue with the breed. The answer is yes, depending on the individual dog and the “type” of Dane – the more solid, jowlier types tend to drool much more. My own Dane happens to be of that type and yes, drool is a SERIOUS issue in our household. Most days it looks like an alien was massacred in our living room, with slime splatters across the walls and on the furniture.

But as I said to the lady, I happen to love the ‘look’ of Danes with more solid bodies, “bigger” heads and those excess jowls and wrinkles…so I’m happy to pay the price for the drool. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me that much – whereas dog hair everywhere or a noisy, yappy dog would drive me CRAZY. Those drawbacks I couldn’t live with. So I guess it’s really about knowing yourself and what you’re willing to cope with when you’re choosing a canine companion.

Which got me thinking – it isn’t that different really from when you’re choosing a partner or roomate or someone else to live with (OK, I concede, you don’t get much choice with family! ;-) ) – and what sort of “bad habits” you’re willing to put up with. Isn’t it funny that what would be a mild annoyance for one person would be a total deal-breaker for someone else? Maybe finding love is less about flowers & pheromones and more about finding someone whose bad habits you can ignore. :P

I know when it comes to annoying habits, I’m definitely not the “better half” in my marriage. I’m the purveyor of bad habits. But I’m lucky to be married to a very nice man. ;-) I know there are several things about me that drive my husband up the wall – such as my habit of leaving things everywhere around the house. Yeah, I’m a messy person. I do try – but being neat & tidy just doesn’t come naturally to me. And half the time, I’m not even aware of what I’m doing – such as my habit of leaving discarded socks everywhere (well, you know, I get hot when I’m lying on the sofa or sitting at the dining table, so I kick my socks off and then I get up to go somewhere else and forget all about them. I do always mean to go back to retrieve them later. Honest! :-) )

IMG_5863…or my habit of leaving half-finished cups of tea (or water or juice or Ribena…) on various surfaces around the house. I’m a “sipper” and can probably make a cup of tea last 2 hours. This means that drinks often wind up half-finished, forgotten and left behind when I get up to get something, respond to a phone call, put out the laundry, answer the front door, grab a snack…and the next thing I know, I’m boiling the kettle for a new cup of tea, having totally forgotten about the one I’d left behind by the sofa, in the laundry, by the keyboard, in the bedroom…sometimes I walk into a room carrying a steaming mug and go, “Oh! I’ve still got a full cup here already!”

At the end of each day, my husband spends a lot of his time going around collecting pairs of discarded socks and random cups of liquid from around the house. As I said, I’m married to a very nice man.

It’s funny because when I was a teenage girl, my mother used to complain constantly about my habit of leaving things around the house and warned me that unless I changed my ways, I would never find anyone who would marry me. I guess the fact that my husband & I have been happily married for nearly 16yrs now shows the truth of the saying: “There’s someone for everyone.” ;-)

P+HY-BellhouseAnother thing I do which drives my husband nuts is my tendency to interrupt him when he’s reading – in my enthusiasm to share whatever it is I am reading. Whether we’re out at brunch poring over magazines side-by-side in a cafe or curled up reading on the sofa together at home, I’m constantly bursting out with: “Oh! Listen to this!  -” – and bombarding him with the article/story/news that I’m reading. Yes, I know, you’re probably thinking the poor man is a saint to put up with me. (Funnily enough, though, the one time we went out to brunch and I was determined to curb my bad habit and bite my tongue and left him in peace, he kept looking at me funny and asking if I was ill – and saying that it felt wrong when I wasn’t constantly buzzing in his ear! :P )

But wait – lest you think that my husband really is a saint (OK, he comes pretty close) – he does have his own share of annoying habits too. Yes, the list is a LOT shorter than mine but there are a few things on it. The biggest thing – the thing that drives me absolutely bonkers – is his habit of making weird, scary noises when he’s out of sight – and then not explaining them. Being a writer, a neurotic and a hypochondriac, I have an over-active imagination at the best of times and hearing a sudden, unexplained cry or groan just freaks me out. Here is a typical scenario with me in the kitchen washing dishes, husband in the garden:

Loud bang.

Husband: “AAAHHH!”

Me: “What? What’s wrong?”

Husband: Silence

Me: “What happened? Are you OK?”

Husband: Silence

Me: “ARE YOU OK?” (Oh my God, he’s had a heart attack. No, he’s fallen off the roof. What’s he doing on the roof? Maybe he tripped and fell into an iron spike and it’s impaled him. Huh? What iron spike? Maybe he’s electrocuted himself. Should I call the ambulance? Will they get here in time? Do I know how to do CPR?)

Rush out to the garden with soap suds all over arms, to find husband sweeping leaves.

Me: “What happened??”

Husband: “Oh, nothing…I just stubbed my toe.”

GRRRRRRRRR.

At the end of the day, I think loving someone is less about learning to love their faults but more about finding someone with faults that you can live with. ;-)

So go on – tell me! Do you share any of my bad habits? Do you leave things around the house or are you a neat freak? And does your partner/roomate/family member have a habit that really, really annoys you? :P

Hoarders Anonymous…

So I’ve started revisions on the novel… Everyone always talks about how much they hate editing & revisions but the weird thing is, I’m actually kind of enjoying it! It feels like when a die-hard hoarder (that’s me!) finally lets go and gets rid of some junk. Are you hoarder? If you are, you can probably relate. I’m one of those people who just can’t bear to throw anything away. Even if it’s just some piece of junk with sentimental value (in fact, that’s the hardest kind.) I have BOXES filled with junk with sentimental value! ;-)

demotivational-posters-organization-hoarding-messI have to say, though, nothing cures a bad hoarding habit like having to keep packing up & moving to a new city every year. We have lived in 4 different cities in 4 years now and lugging around (not to mention paying for the removal & storage of!) boxes of junk is not funny. So I’ve tried my best to be ruthless. (I know I don’t really need a lot of those things…but oh, throwing them away is like throwing away chunks of my life!) I’ve gotten rid of a LOT but I’m probably still hanging on to too much. (Don’t tell my husband – I’ve assured him that everything in those boxes is “absolutely necessary”! ;-) )

It drives the husband crazy, since he (like a typical man) is one of those spartan types who could probably go through life with one pair of his favourite trousers (even if they’re riddled with holes…) and his mobile phone, and that’s it. I, meanwhile, can’t bear the thought of parting with my books…and my old, favourite saucepan…and my 5th grade science project…and the beret I’ve only ever worn once…and my childhood sticker collection…and that rock I found on the beach in Spain… ;-)

And don’t get me started on photos. Digital photography was a godsend but I’ve still got YEARS of photos taken before the e-revolution, which aren’t digitised and live in various boxes & photo albums, stacked in a corner of the house. We’ve got so many boxes that the removal companies always ask if I’m a professional photographer!

But anyway – going back to the revisions. So yeah, I’m actually finding it quite liberating going through the my 1st draft now and cutting out unnecessary words & phrases, tightening the sentences up. (If only I found it so easy to “kill my (clutter) darlings” in real life!!) I’d been nervous before starting, because I’d heard so much about how horrible editing & revising is…and now I think it’s weird that I’m enjoying it so much. But then I enjoy ironing too – I find it really soothing seeing all the wrinkles being pushed out and erased…so maybe I’m just weird like that. ;-)