Thursday, 30 August 2018

10 things about spies you never knew

Writers get so busy with marketing their new releases that their back catalog of books can get forgotten about. I thought I'd put together some of the things I've leaved about spies while researching for Resident Spy, a YA supernatural novel that I thoroughly enjoyed writing and doing research on.

10 things about spies you never knew

1. Spies or Spooks? I found out while researching the CIA for my agent who goes undercover in a pharmaceutical factory that 'spying' is what they do, but they call themselves 'spooks', because they don't exist on paper. They are essentially ghosts. But I still called Dylan Black a spy in the book because it's a familiar term. 

2. In addition to tracking nearly 1,500 presidential death threats per year, the Secret Service also investigates credit fraud, financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, and computer fraud. Source

3. Spies ready 'spy fiction' and review them for their accuracy, or inaccuracy, under nom de plumes, of course. Source

John McLaughlin, who happens to share a name with a former director of the CIA, wrote:
"What the public sees and reads is with rare exception, fantasy mixed with a few kernels of truth. This is particularly true when it comes to American authors and directors. We have not yet produced an espionage novelist with the maturity and perfect pitch so frequently found in the work of British masters such as John le Carré."

4. In 1908, the Department of Justice hired Secret Service agents to conduct national investigations. The nine agents formed the Bureau of Investigation, later renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

5. From Dr. No to Quantum of Solace, James Bond has killed 352 people and slept with 52 women. Source

6. The five pilots flying the planes in Pussy Galore's Flying Circus in Goldfinger were actually men wearing blonde wigs. Source

7. In 2013, the CIA publicly acknowledged the existence of Area 51 for the first time. NO doubt, with the increase of domestic aerial surveillance, they just couldn't keep it hidden any longer. Source

8. The CIA reads up to 5 million tweets a day. According to this article, an example of the work that the centre carries out came when the US killed Osama Bin Laden earlier this year. The CIA turned to social media to build a report that gave the White House a snapshot of the world’s opinion and reaction to the incident. Source

9. In 2009, it was found that Earnest Hemingway was a failed KGB spyThe Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press), revealed the Nobel prize-winning novelist was for a while on the KGB's list of its agents in America. Source

10. The CIA's most highly-trained spies weren't even human. Bob Bailey, the first director of training for the Navy’s pioneering dolphin program, stated in an interview that he never found an animal he couldn't train. Source

Hope you enjoyed reading about spies and spooks. 
If you'd like to know more about my YA spy adventure novel, read on.

Two weeks after Ethan James, Florida Bowman, and Jake Inala finally receive their much-needed organ donations, they're kidnapped by a man who believes that the memories of the host are retained in the organs. Their abductor tells them that they received the organs of a CIA agent who died halfway through a mission to stop the deaths of millions of people.
Now their kidnapper wants the information stored in their organs to continue to mission. It's up to these three to stop this madman, but to do that they'll have to believe that a spy resides within.

The Reviews:
"The climax of the story was great. It really got you guessing and was fast-paced and had several unexpected surprises." -  Sher A Hart

"I was sucked in to the story from the very first chapter." - The Avid Reader
"I loved this book! What an emotional roller coaster ride it took me on." - My Cosie Corner
"While originally written for the YA crowd, I found this to be as exciting as an adult thriller with non-stop action, well developed characters and a fast paced plot." - Queen Of All She Reads


Avail at
Barnes and Noble
ebook and print

Friday, 17 August 2018

Coffee chat with Deryn Pittar, author of Lutapolii, a delightful YA book about dragons

DL: Firstly, since this is a coffee chat, how do you take your coffee (or not as has been the case), and what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

DERYN: Hi Debbie, Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. As to coffee? I love a long black, with water on the side. Must have sugar! And, always before midday – otherwise I stay awake at night -  plotting novels, which isn’t a bad thing but can be exhausting.

DL: You write in a mix of genres - fantasy, romance, cozy mystery, Young Adult, Sci-Fi and short stories. Can you tell us why you choose to write across all genres, as opposed to sticking to one genre or as opposed to creating pseudonyms for your different styles?

DERYN: I often get an idea and chase it down the rabbit hole. Sometimes it’s a short story and sometimes a short story turns into a novel later on. Often I am inspired by a premise set for a contest and will write to the prescribed rules. If the premise says ‘creature’ I need to create one. If it says ‘contemporary romance’ I have to oblige. It’s a great way to extend my imagination and discipline my brain, which is inclined to flit and skitter about. However, if there isn’t a set premise I usually revert to, which allows me heaps of freedom without the restrictions of historical correctness.

As to choosing different pseudonyms for different styles: what a nightmare! I actually did that to begin with but have gradually republished and stopped using my pseudonym (Virginnia De Parte). Although Virginnia has a Facebook page and even a blog I found it all became too confusing and a real hassle. I still have to use her sometimes but only for one genre, which shall remain nameless!

DL: You live in New Zealand. I had my honeymoon there and it is an amazingly beautiful place. Can you tell us, are there any myths about New Zealand - aside from Hobbits - that you'd like to set straight?

DERYN: In New Zealand we have Taniwha. (pronounced tanny-far). These are mythical creatures from Maori legends and reside in and near water. There are many pictures of them – all different – and for my Young Adult novel called “A Taste of Gold” I created two Taniwha. Lots of fun and they weave through the story and are most important to the plot.

I’ve never seen a hobbit but we have their village, Hobbiton, which is now a major tourist attraction.

DL: I love the story behind your latest YA book "Lutapoli: White Dragon of the South". How did writing a book for teens differ from writing for adults?

DERYN:  I love Lutapolii too. He is a magical fellow who began life as a short story challenge. (Small dragon flys south. Is caught by winter. Will he survive, if so, how?) After the first chapter I simply had to carry on. I didn’t write specifically for YA’s but as it’s about dragons it seems to fit into that category. Lots of adults have read and enjoyed his story too.

The only difference I ever make when writing for YAs is to leave out graphic sex scenes. Other than that I write as I would for an adult readership. YA’s are adults without the wisdom of years to colour their opinions. As to the mating scene in ‘Lutapolii –White Dragon of the South’,  it is a lot of smoke, noise and frightened sea birds! The rest is up to the reader’s imagination as I have no idea how dragons mate. Does anyone?

DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

DERYN: I’m a biscuit lady. I like the crunch and snap of a biscuit. My favourite biscuit would be a peanut brownie – nice and crisp with lots of peanuts, not to be confused with a chocolate brownie which has become a cake-like square. 

About the book:
Dragons can't swim and they can't catch seals -but Lutapolii can. 
Lutapolii, a puny white dragon, escapes to the south to avoid his mother’s mocking words. He learns to dive, swim and catch seals but winter creeps up on him and he finds himself stranded. With luck on his side he manages to survive, and returns home in the spring, stronger, taller and very handsome – for a dragon.
After discovering he has been declared dead by the dragon queen, Lutapolii considers this absolves him of all loyalty and decides to establish a flight of his own in the southern seas. All he needs is a handful of lady dragons. Can he steal them from the queen's flight? He's matured over the winter and totally magnificent, so why not take the risk? With a bit of luck the queen won't miss them, until it's too late.
Revenge and greed, love and loyalty, this story has them all.
Follow the Author


Thursday, 16 August 2018

eBook 1 of Welcome to the apocalypse ON SALE for 99c

I'm finalizing my round of edits for "Earth Quarantined", getting it ready for a professional editor, and part of my marketing plan for Earth Quarantined is to put the eBook 1 of Welcome to the apocalypse ON SALE for 99c. So it's on sale. That's great for the lucky readers who have yet to start the series. All three books are available.

Grab your copy at all these sites:


Thursday, 9 August 2018

How I chose my book title for "Earth Quarantined"

Writers are often asked how they came up with the title for a book or series. Some books go through many working titles, others have a confirmed title from day one. that's what happened to "Welcome to the Apocalypse", "The bird with the Broken Wing", and "Poison in the Pond". However, two of my young adult titles have had names changes.

One mistake I made in one of my YA titles was coming up with a title that readers had to read the story to get. That's fine if you can get readers to read the book, but what if they're relying on cover and title to be convinced?

My current series "Earth Quarantined" has undergone many rewrites and has had many names.

It began life as "The Disregarded", but before that it had a few other working titles which I can't even recall. Then it became "Sacrifice the Many" because I did a James Patterson online writing course and my brain was thinking in terms of thriller. While pitching this book to agents, one agent suggested I change the title to "The Hive" and so I did.

But the book still wasn't quite right. I took inspiration from TV shows like "The Expanse" and "Altered Carbon" to expand on my world and take it out of just two character's heads.

I then had a working title of "Divinity" because it suited the storyline. But it was during cover creation that I came up with the title "Earth Quarantined". I was chatting with a few people about the covers and explaining the story. When I mentioned the plot, the title popped into my head.

This name has stayed there ever since.

I can't wait to reveal the cover...when it's finally confirmed. If you think I've undergone many names changes, you should see the mockups for the cover. Today I'm 100% happy with the covers for the trilogy. Tomorrow, who knows. I have until Oct 10 to confirm, because that's the cover reveal date. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Planning your book's Free or 99c ebook promotion

It is said that authors are the best people to promote their own books, and there are days when I think this was said just to shuffle the workload and blame back onto us. But the truth is that we are the best people to promote our books because we love our books more than anyone else. The other truth is that promotion is part of an author's daily now. But don't just go rushing off to book your ads and newsletter blasts and 99c promos, because there are few things you need to consider first.

You must have a REASON to promote. It's costly and time consuming, and if you don't know why you're doing this it can be a waste of that time and money.

I'm putting book one of my "Welcome to the Apocalypse" series on sale for 99c a few weeks in August, and the first thing I do before organising any promotion is to work out WHY?

So I wrote this at the top of my to do list:

What is my goal for this promotion?

There are a few reasons why authors promote books; such as increased sales of a book or series, increased brand awareness, or to set up for a new release.

I'm promoting to set up for a new release.

It's important to note that this promotion forms part of the marketing plan for my next series "Earth Quarantined" which is scheduled for a November release. This means I need to gather an army of readers NOW.

The next question I wrote at the top of my To Do list was this:

How am I going to reach these readers?

This is the million-dollar question for all authors - how do we reach our readers? There are many, many ways, some ways work well for XYZ authors and not for others. We can only implement and analyse what we do. In my case, I've chosen to leverage off my current series with an ebook promotion. They're both the same genre, and I've gathered a small following so far.

There are 2 main price points for this type of ebook blast promotion - free and 99c. I chose to do a 99c promo blast instead of free because I've previously done free promos, and while the books got a lot of downloads, I'm not sure these converted to sales of follow up books. I'm not sure people even read the books.

Since I'm concerned that people download free books and then forget about them, I decided to go for a 99c promo. I'm working on the premise that a reader will commit to a book they've paid for over one they haven't.

Let's recap :

I've set my goal - to gather an army for my next book.

I've decided on a way of recruiting this army - with a 99c email blast promotion.

But all of this work will be wasted if I can't tell the new recruits HOW to join my army.

This is where back matter for the 99c promo book is critical. Back matter is the section at the back of the print or ebook with links to author sites and other books. I spent a few days updating the back matter for all 3 "Welcome to the Apocalypse" titles. I've included the blurb to "Earth Quarantined" and a call to sign up for notification upon release.

This promotion will be in conjunction with other ads to increase followers to my social media and author sites such as Amazon, Bookbub, and Goodreads.

I hope this post is helpful for when you plan your next promotion. Remember that advertising doesn't always (if at all) convert to immediate sales. Ads are typically to plant a seed into a consumer's mind so when they're ready to buy, you're forefront in their mind.