IN MY HANDS

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In my hands! Perhaps soon in yours?! 😀

I am overjoyed to announce the publication of the paperback of The Storyteller Speaks which is now available on Amazon UK or Amazon US.

The past months have been intense and following the release of the ebook version of my book I’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic and positive reception to my collection. Since the beginning of December, I have received ten 5-star and 4-star reviews on Amazon US and five 5-star ones on Amazon UK.  This is absolutely amazing and I cannot thank everyone enough for taking the time to read and leave a review…time is a rare gift and I am touched that so many chose to make space for this in their lives.

Over the next few months, I will occasionally be publishing a review and reblogging posts where I have appeared. I will start with one of the latest reviews by Balroop Singh who blogs at Emotional Shadows. I hope her five-star review will tempt those who haven’t read my book to buy the paperback or Kindlle of  The Storyteller Speaks.

Each story in this book is riveting!

5 out of 5 stars

‘The Story Teller Speaks’ by Annika Perry brilliantly illustrates how short stories can capture your heart, transport you to the scene of action and submerge you in the emotional journey of the characters. Her stories are a little above your expectations…a lot has to be discerned, which she leaves unsaid and therein lies their magic. Only few can create it.

The symbolism of Chillies in my Handbag is chilling, the agony that the words hide slowly spills out as Perry writes in the style of dual timeline, lending a touch of realism to the story, keeping a firm grip on the reader’s attention, actually hinting at profound matters of domestic strife. Carl’s loss too unravels itself gently as you keep wondering where is he heading in snow and who is constantly whispering “keep safe” in his ear. It is the style and the exquisite language that raises this book above an average storybook.

My heart missed a beat when Jake and Ellie got lost in the shroud of mist and snow and it sank with each shout for them. Such is the effect of Annika’s style of writing! It is difficult to pick up a favorite one from this collection of stories because all of them strike some chord somewhere as they are based on varied themes, each one connects us with the complexities of life, giving a subtle message that we are mere puppets or mute spectators in many situations that we wish to control.

(review by Balroop Singh)

About the Book 

It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?

In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation. The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.

One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.

Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.

THE STORYTELLER SPEAKS – IT’S HERE!

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It is with great pleasure I can now announce that  The Storyteller Speaks is available on Amazon.

The Storyteller Speaks ebook is available on  Amazon UK  or Amazon US or any other Amazon outlet.

The paperback will be published in January 2018.

 About the Book

It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?

In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation. The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.

One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.

Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.

‘TWIXT THE CUP AND THE LIP *

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Sometimes we don’t need to travel far to journey a long way.

With a publication agreed weeks ago it was with a song in my heart and a dance in my step that I prepared for this major event in my life.

My first book was due out in the world!!

A wonderful celebratory party away was planned…local to us all but a special place to be spoilt and dine in style!

As the date for publication drew closer, delay followed delay and to my shame, lowered my spirits. Worst of all was the lack of communication from the producer and broken promises. In my naive trust, I waited and believed. Until now. At last, our cooperation had to be terminated.

As for the celebratory weekend – I was all set to cancel. My family refused to accept this, insisting that after all the book is ready; apart from the elusive cover! (And final proofread before publication!)

So we set out to celebrate life and what has been achieved – I hope you’ll join me in reliving the wonderful weekend.

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It’s not easy to get anywhere high up in Essex…it’s a pretty flat county but Wivenhoe Park is situated on top of a hill and it is here that Wivenhoe House was built. Wivenhoe House’s fascinating history stretches back to 1759 when Isaac Rebow asked Thomas Reynolds to build the mansion house, which is now Grade II listed.

Stepping out of the car we admired the same landscape painted by the English Romantic artist John Constable in 1816.

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The building escaped mostly unscathed apart from a few broken chimney pots following the country’s worst earthquake in 1884, was requisitioned by troops during WWII before becoming the original home to Essex University in 1964. It is now a hotel.

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The university campus is close by in the park, the tall 1960s tower blocks iconic and for the first time ever I wander amongst them, past a delightful library full (!) of students, past a modern theatre, into the main campus site.

 

Lakes and fountains adorned the area; ducks and coots pecking amiably on the cold ground. A stunning sunset greeted us and we paused to let the peace and beauty sink in – not too long though as the bitter chill bit through our coats.

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Heading round we realised how hungry we were on seeing this unusual cafe…a Routemaster double-decker bus cafe – closed alas but probably just as well as dinner was soon.

The hotel was impeccable with friendly staff who were eager to help. The bedrooms were superb.

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The balcony overlooking the park was a bonus – even if it was too cold to use the welcoming table and chairs.

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The brassiere dining room was delightful and we were welcomed by the sommelier who recommended his original cocktails. How could we refuse! By the end of the evening, my spirits rose even further when presented with the ‘Congratulations’ platter.

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The next morning we just had time for another walk around the grounds; this time to hunt out the two famous cork oak saplings which had been smuggled into the country in the boots of General Redbow following the Peninsular War. What had they witnessed in their two hundred year existence, I wondered?

These impressive trees were both enthralling and majestic; languidly they grew along the ground as well as upwards, their trunks dramatically pock-marked and small leaves reaching in bunches for the sky.

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Gazing at the trees I felt a certain sense of calm for the first time in weeks…their strength and timeless aura transcended my worries and concerns. During this trip, I once again became re-aligned, my inner journey to renewed energy and belief reignited during our short sojourn.

Finally, my deepest apologies to you all…your warm, generous and enthusiastic support for the publication of my short story collection has been overwhelming and it has been hardest to let you down. I hope you will bear with me and kindly ask for your patience until the launch of my book.

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Supermoon photo taken through the trees in the evening.

‘Painting is but another word for feeling.’ John Constable.

I would just substitute the word painting with writing in this case!

Photo ©Annika Perry, except the Constable painting of course!!

*There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip is a very old proverb, similar in meaning to “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”. It implies that even when a good outcome or conclusion seems certain, things can still go wrong. (Wikipedia)

The Enigmatic Blurb

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Why is it that even the mention of writing a blurb strikes abject terror into the normally calm and sane writer?

The task of describing and summarising a whole book, months or years of work, into a few short paragraphs seems nigh impossible. In the process the blurb has to be unique, capture the reader’s attention, excite them and tempt them to read on, ultimately to buy the book. The blurb and obviously the cover are often the first and only sales pitches for the book. The undertaking ahead feels hopeless.

Fear and dread of the blurb were my immediate reactions once I’d committed to publishing my anthology…I knew I needed one, yet every time the thought surfaced I erased it from my mind and dove even further into editing! As ever I needed a deadline and one evening I cleared my schedule for the following day, ensured I would not be disturbed and made a promise to myself to complete the blurb within 24 hours!

Early the next morning I entered my study and was confronted by my desk…the aforementioned one from my Frazzled! post. I could not work here. First I had to clean my desk – literally!

Over the past couple of months my working space had become chaotic with piles of paper and books balanced precariously and riotously on top of one another. There wasn’t even space for an A4 notebook. My solution was to move everything into the spare bedroom and once the desktop was polished I faced the gleaming wooden surface. Perfect! With reverential care I placed a notebook, pen and pencil on the desk, followed by my notes for my blurb as well as the print-out of how to write a blurb.

Yes, I lied a little…for weeks I’d been researching blurbs.

A blurb is tricky under normal circumstances and even more complex for a short story collection, I feel. First of all, I studied blurbs from other short story anthologies and I tried to pinpoint what drew me to them and what elements jarred – making notes all the time.

Next, I read ‘How to Write a Blurb’ articles online. One particular website provided fantastic information and I’d highly recommend The Author Society’s  ’17 Tips on How To Write a Blurb That Sells’.  Some tips were redundant for my anthology as the article was geared for novels. However, here are some points I found particularly useful and relevant:

  • The best length for a blurb is between 100 – 150 words. I would also like to add that it’s important to leave good line spacing for ease of reading.
  • Treat your first sentence like a pick-up line. It should entice them to read on and needs to be clever, engaging and new.
  • Use a cliffhanger. The reader needs to leave curious and hungry for more.
  • Use words that cater for your audience. They should evoke atmosphere and meet the readers expectations of the genre.
  • Use short sentences as buyers usually skim through the text.
  • Use hyperbole as these are powerful tools to spark curiosity.
  • Stay true to your voice. This piece of advice remained with me as I wrote my blurb. I felt it was vital to retain my voice which runs through the stories to be part of the blurb.
  • Use fresh eyes. Let it rest, print out and read in different formats such as phone, paper, computer.
  • Rewrite it many times.

With these notes to hand I started to scribble down ideas as I skimmed through my stories again; however there were two major stumbling blocks.

How could I include two of the most important elements of a blurb into mine; namely giving readers a setting and introducing the main characters? With so many different locations and characters; what could I do? In the end, I decided to give a flavour of some settings and some characters. With my short stories in front of me, I scanned back and forth, jotting down compelling and memorable characters, places, themes and feelings.

Gradually nuggets of a plan appeared, gems of ideas developed, but my initial blurb idea was still too vague. All the time I imagined a future customer, standing in a shop, quickly glancing at the back cover. How could I entrap them with my words, coax them to stay and read on and finally seduce them to buy a copy?

I rewrote the blurb time and again; examining every word and taking breaks as I paced around my study, reading aloud to myself, standing over my words, studying them, amending, rereading my notes.

Gradually an overall theme emerged and with this core central stabilising factor to the beginning, middle and concluding paragraphs I created my final blurb. One hundred words exactly!

The final blurb will be revealed soon! I have been promised the book cover this week and hope to post both together.

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” Edgar Allan Poe

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FRAZZLED!

My Desk

It’s never taken me so long to send an email before. 

I’m not referring to writing the message; its composition came easily enough. The actual act of pressing ‘send’ seemed impossible. My cursor hovered over the paper airplane icon; pausing I sat back and scanned the document once more. I stood up and paced around the room.

The momentous moment had arrived and my first manuscript was just a click away from the publisher. I was savouring the experience while being equally terrified of the reality. Many bloggers have used the analogy of giving birth with reference to writing a book; I can identify with this emotion to a certain extent…sending away my first book to an outsider felt like I was releasing my baby into the wider world. With another few tours of the room, I returned to my seat and pressed the button. No turning back!

After weeks of intense editing on my anthology of short stories my head seemed to burn with heat and a flu-like fever of concentration reverberated around my mind whilst the rest of my body struggled against the cold. A day or two of complete relaxation was in order to restore the equilibrium.

The editing process had been unexpectedly and contradictorily tougher and easier than anticipated. 

Hour after hour of close computer and document work took its toll on my eyes and head resulting in migraine-style headaches.

However, several useful editing tools were a fantastic help in bringing my manuscript to completion.

Grammarly, a proof-reading program recommended by Jacqui Murray at Worddreams (thank you, Jacqui!), was a most invaluable editing aid. After initially reading through each story a few times, amending the plot etc where needed, correcting typos and punctuation I then used Grammarly to check for any missed errors. Surprisingly it picked up quite a few; these included spacing gaps between words, spellings and punctuation. I did have to be cautious with my changes though as the spellings were corrected to American style and it had a predilection for commas which I disagree with – see what my editor says! 

Natural Reader  proved another excellent editing tool. Once again Jacqui recommended this on her blog and I was initially sceptical but decided to trust her positive experience with it. Despite the mechanical unemotional aura to the voice (although there are various choices) it made a huge impact having each story read aloud to me. Although I’d been reading some out to myself, listening actively to each word through Natural Reader allowed me to pick up on silly mistakes including one where I had put the wrong name for a situation in a story. Yikes!

As well as a dictionary by one’s side (or the website permanently on display) it is essential for writers to consider Thesaurus as one’s best friend. My original paperback copy from childhood is gradually falling apart so I now use its services online, consulting, searching for words to improve and sharpen my writing and this was even truer during these last editing weeks. 

Finally, never underestimate the value and effectiveness of good old-fashion pen and paper – or in my case pencils! With a few sharpened pencils in my arsenal, I printed out the stories when I thought they were ready and took them downstairs where I’d commandeered the dining room table (my desk by this time was overflowing with papers!). Here the final editing took place and with the change of room, my creative spirit was rejuvenated and the final changes were made. Some of these were minor, a word or two; in other cases, a whole paragraph was rewritten and paragraph spacing was slightly adjusted in the more complex ones. Furthermore, I was inspired to change the title of two stories. 

The stories for my anthology were now ready to be sent away to my editor; however, there were several more important elements to the book to complete before the full manuscript was whole. In my next post, I will describe how I tackled the all-important blurb, tag-line and about the author page. 

Thank you very much for following my exciting journey to publication of this anthology of short stories.The book is due out beginning December and I will reveal the book title and cover soon.

“I love short stories because I believe they are the way we live. They are what our friends tell us, in their pain and joy, their passion and rage, their yearning and their cry against injustice.” Andre Dubus

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