In what has become an enjoyable annual ritual, I am happy to once again be signing up for the Australian Women Writer's Challenge for 2017. This year I hope to read 25 books by Australian women and review ten of those.
Started in 2012, the AWW challenge has inspired hundreds of people to pledge to add books by female Australian authors to their reading lists and has inspired thousands of reviews. You can get further details at the Australian Women Writer's Website. Anybody can join the challenge, as a reader only or reader/reviewer.
Even reading (and hopefully reviewing) just one book by an Australian woman writer will benefit our home grown authors, so jump on board.
Like most authors I don't like giving my books away for free. However the horse has already bolted on this one - the reality is that giving books away is how many authors (including traditionally published) gain new readers and it is something almost all authors need to consider in order to get their book(s) out into the big, wide world. While you can do a paperback giveaway (Goodreads allows you to do this), the more effective (and less expensive) way is to give away digital copies. It is something I tried with my second novel Room 46.
There are many ways you can do an e-book giveaway, but the most popular is through websites such as BookBub (the leader of the pack by a mile), Freebooksy, The Fussy Librarian, Robin Reads and way too many more to name. As much as you might not like signing up for Amazon KDP Select (this allows you to give your book away for 5 days each 90 days on Amazon with the caveat being it has to be exclusively available on Amazon), it is a necessary evil if you want to gain any traction. Bookbub is the holy grail for most authors but as well as being the most expensive, it is also the most difficult to get accepted by. I chose Freebooksy as they were not too expensive and had dates available within the next week. They also have have a large following.
This year I set myself the goal of continue to do swimming squad in the winter. As my main form of exercise, I struggle to replace swimming with anything else during the colder months and inevitably arrive at the end of August feeling unfit and with a few extra kilos to boot. I have no problem rising at 5am during the summer months when the sun is up and it is warm, however when the alarm sounds on the dark, cold winter morning, is just a bit more of a struggle. Knowing that I am swimming in an outdoor pool makes it just that bit harder!
Once I decided I was going to keep swimming, the first thing I did was to tell as many people as possible to keep myself accountable. My coach and fellow swimmers have seen me disappear at the end of April in previous years, so I knew if I said I was going to continue then they would remind me if I went back on my word. The second thing I did was to buy myself a proper warm, swimming coat that makes the process of getting ready (it does require discipline to get out of a warm bed and put your togs on) and getting out of the water at the end as streamlined as possible.
I am a big believer in letting cars into my lane in traffic. It's a simple thing that is easy to do and it is very karmic in that I always seem to receive the same courtesy back when I'm trying to turn into a busy flow of traffic. When this happens to me I always give a wave to show my appreciation. Unfortunately not everybody shares this view. There is nothing more disappointing than making the effort to let somebody in and have them just zoom right on past with no acknowledgement.
The courtesy wave is easy to do. It can range from a wide arc wave down to the single finger above the steering wheel, but how you do it doesn't matter. The important thing is that you are thanking the person who let you in for making your day easier and increasing the likelihood that you will be offered the same courtesy in the future.
Come on people let's not let the courtesy wave become a relic of the past! Use it whenever necessary and do your part in making the world a better place.
Writing a book is not an easy undertaking, in fact it took me ten years to complete my first novel. Like anything though there were many lessons learned along the way which saved me a lot of time, sweat and aggravation when writing my second. So if you are an Indie author still struggling to get that first one done, persevere and the next one will not hurt nearly so much, I promise! For those still writing your first maybe some of these things can save your sanity and get your book done sooner.
I always enjoy a good documentary on any subject really but sometimes you see one that truly impacts the way you think. Two such docos I have seen over recent months are That Sugar Film and The True Cost.
That Sugar Film is about hidden sugars, specifically those in foods that are marketed as "healthy". In this entertaining yet informative movie Actor Damon Gameau embarks on a unique experiment where he eats only foods that are are perceived to be healthy. Starting with cereal, low fat yoghurt and juice for breakfast he also includes such foods as muesli bars, peanut butter, baked beans, processed sauces and many, many other things that most consumers would consider a "good" food choice. Damon's health is monitored along the way and it is soon apparent just how much hidden sugar is mindlessly consumed in the name of good health.
As a swimmer and a swimming teacher I have a LOT of experience with goggles. And while I have to say that he design and evolution of goggles over time has been amazing there is one thing that the manufacturers still haven't managed to master - how to keep their goggles fog free. No matter how expensive or how fancy after a certain amount of time in the water all goggles fog up.
You do wonder why goggles are marketed as being anti-fog when they aren't. I don't doubt that goggle manufacturers have spent a lot of time and money trying to achieve this apparently impossible task. But I have to wonder where they are doing their testing. It's clearly not in a swimming squad at 5.30am where pretty much everybody will complain that their goggles fog up.
Luckily for me my coach gave me a simple piece of advice a few years ago - to put a drop of baby shampoo in each lens then smear it around and rinse before putting the goggles on. Unlike many of the other tips I've heard (such as spitting in or licking your goggle lens) this actually works. My goggles never fog up and for this I am eternally grateful! So for those other frustrated swimmers out there get yourself a bottle of baby shampoo (which will last about 3 years) and off you go. If you've got kids in swimming lessons do the same for them.
Helen McKenna's books on Goodreads
ratings: 80 (avg rating 3.98)
The Beach House
ratings: 77 (avg rating 3.86)
The Perfect Proposal
ratings: 12 (avg rating 3.75)
How Do I Write My Life Story?
ratings: 9 (avg rating 4.11)
The Perfect Proposal And Other Stories
ratings: 9 (avg rating 4.22)