Posted in Books & Stories, Everything Else

Civil Disobedience

I am two weeks away from my final exams and the end of this little hiatus but Canada Post seems to have other plans for those of you who may want to submit a book for review in the next couple of months. I only have one book left to review (and one to finish writing) as of now and while submissions have still been accepted during my hiatus, y’all are going to have to wait a long time until your books make it here…

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That is because Canada Post has been doing rotating strikes in different cities around the country since October 22nd and despite the government forcing them back to work, many have continued to strike. Irrespective of this, parcel backlogs are expected to last up until March of 2019 so I won’t be reading and reviewing for a while.

Posted in Books & Stories

New Project Announcement: After Anderson

I am still alive and well! I’ve only had to take a break because of the tornado cleanup and my schoolwork. My exams are coming up in less than three weeks so I’ve been as busy as I could possibly be but that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten that November is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo!
I’ve indeed been writing away and I’m almost at the 70 000 word mark of my 100 000 word goal for my newest project, After Anderson that I plan on releasing in April of 2019. And no, I haven’t written all of that in the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo! I’ve been working on this for a long time and it’s been on the homepage of this website for a while too, but the project had stalled and NaNoWriMo is just what I needed to revive it.
Until next time, wish me luck with my studies and I look forward to being back in 2019 with a hard-hitting brand new book about… well, you’ll have to wait for my next announcement for that!
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Posted in Personal & Opinion

A Short Hiatus

Read this post on my website.

Hello friends and fans! Haven’t heard from me lately? Don’t worry, I’m not dead and I haven’t quit writing, but life has been a little insane and I had no other choice but to put this on the backburner for the time being. The first of these reasons is that the Ottawa region was hit with six tornadoes just over a week ago, including an EF2 that wrecked havoc in my area. Life is slowly getting back to normal but I have a lot to catch up on, including missed classes and whatnot, so I’ll have no choice but to lay low until everything gets sorted out.

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Despite everything that’s happened, the book review service remains open to requests as usual but expect delays with my classes and my backlog of other tasks to finish, on top of Canada Post threatening yet another strike, but if you’re in no hurry please don’t hesitate to send your books my way! I am always happy to help out other indie authors!

Everything is also still on track for After Anderson to come out in April 2019. I’m actually really looking forward to participating in NaNoWriMo next month and hopefully have the first draft finished by the end of the year. Until we cross paths again, don’t hesitate to hit the email button on this website if you want to get in touch. It might take me a while to reply but I always do!

Posted in Books & Stories

My Smashwords Interview (August 2018)

Read this post on my website.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t think there was a single moment where I actually realized I wanted to be a writer, it was more of a lengthy process over the last seven years. In 2011 it was actually the therapist I was seeing for PTSD that suggested that I begin writing on a serious basis since I’d always enjoyed it as a little hobby on the side. Since then I wrote several full length manuscripts that remained dormant on my computer for years until I decided I wanted to publish my works in 2017. After studying the publishing industry for several months, my first book finally came out in January 2018!

What, in your opinion, is the hardest thing about writing?

For me, the hardest thing is keeping things consistent. If I don’t write for a long time I’ll probably become disinterested in the story, but my creative juices flow whenever they want and I don’t try to alter that, so that inconsistency can definitely cause big bumps in the road despite that it doesn’t usually take me very long to complete a story. In the entire publishing process though, writing is the easy part!
Did the thought of giving up writing ever occur to you?
Giving up writing? Never! Giving up publishing? Definitely. It’s so much work! The work also doesn’t stop once the book is polished and published. You also have to dish out a lot of money without knowing that you’ll ever make a dime back, so it’s a gamble in itself but I think that the magnitude of the job is only measured by the depths of the rewards, and it’s definitely a rewarding business!

What works best for you when writing: pen and paper or computer? How so?

I usually only write on the computer in order to avoid having to type up whatever I wrote on paper because I’ve learned my lesson about doing that. Typing up a 10 000 word short story is brutality so I wouldn’t want to try it with a 100 000 word novel! Aside from schoolwork, I also only use the computer for writing. In general I have quite a distain for technology and the internet, and if it weren’t for my writing career I would probably unplug completely. I’m old-fashioned, like still into snail mail old-fashioned!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

You’ll usually find me reading when I’m not writing, playing with my two cats, dabbling in old-fashioned instant photography, collecting postcards and making action figures with recycled parts. It’s actually my passion for creating little soldiers that inspired my most recent published book. In it, the main character Joanie also passes the time by making action figures and is extremely surprised when one of them comes to life. Now, I just hope that nothing like that happens in real life!

Are you currently working on a story?

Indeed I am! I’ve just started (under duress from one of my best friends!) working on my third novel that will be called After Anderson. It’s actually a rewrite of something I wrote in 2014 but never published. It’s about the aftermath of a school shooting and the students who must pick up the pieces. It was inspired by a real life incident of school violence (though thankfully nothing to the scale depicted in the book) when I was in my last year of high school. A 14-year-old boy was arrested because somebody tipped off the authorities that he was “plotting a Columbine” as it was described and that disturbed me greatly because the environment at school was absolutely terrible and that was the only thing that hadn’t happened yet. Just a few months ago there was another incident of a kid actually having a real gun at school and the administration tried to cover it up. “After Anderson” is the story of what could’ve been had someone not done anything.

What or who inspires you to write?

Life in general, and life as a whole really, inspires me to write. This includes people, events and places that I come across. Social issues particularly motivate me to write, and all of my writings incorporate social issues in some way, from domestic violence, to suicide, to poverty and beyond, there’s an element of that in there. I don’t write to get away from reality, I write about reality, and it’s also my way to cope with reality. My own life experiences also motivate my writing, particularly my encounters with the social issues I write about.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

It’s basically non-existent really. I write when I write and don’t when I don’t. It doesn’t really matter what else is going on, when I get that desire to write I act on it irrespective of what else is going on. My life isn’t interesting enough to interrupt me writing when I start. This is in fact quite a big problem because as a human rights student, even a part-time student, I have a large workload that I’m constantly falling behind on because I much prefer to write a story!

Do you aim to complete a set number of words per day?

No, I don’t. The creative process just happens spontaneously and I don’t try to change that. I can write anywhere from a single sentence all the way up to 8000 in a single writing session. In general I like to write when I am stressed out because that’s the way I cope with life. In the week after my grandmother who raised me since birth passed away I wrote almost the entire manuscript for “Don’t Let Me Go” in just a few days. It’s what kept me sane at that time, it’s probably what saved my own life.

When did you write your first book?

My first manuscript was actually completed in late 2011, but it was never published. In 2017 I rewrote it and released it as a free download called The Distant Factory on my website, but my first actually published book Innermost was written over the last six and a half years. It’s a collection of poems that I’ve gathered in notebooks ever since I began writing poetry in 2011. I finished fully compiling it in 2017 and then published it a few months later. The reception was much better and bigger than I ever could have anticipated because in the book world poetry usually gets the short end of the stick.

Posted in Books & Stories

Farewell CreateSpace

Read this post on my website.

The news has probably already made it from one end of the book world to the other already, but in case you weren’t previously made aware, CreateSpace is shutting down. Undoubtedly the most popular self-publishing platform out there, it was owned by Amazon and it printed two of my books. So what’s gonna happen?
Nobody needs to be stressed out, though we can all be sad. All CreateSpace books will be moving to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which has been printing paperbacks for a while now. I suppose that it was inevitable that it would eventually phase out CreateSpace but I’d be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t kind of sad. It was so easy to set up a book (compared to my experience with Ingram anyway, I’ve never tried a KDP paperback) and the customer service was absolutely legendary!
So, what happens to my books? Nothing. They’ve already migrated from one platform to another and there have been absolutely no changes, disruptions or anything else whatsoever. Everything is business as usual over here. I’ve also added the expanded edition of Don’t Let Me Go to the ‘store’ tab so readers can now buy autographed copies straight from me. For the moment this is the only place you can get them, but I’m thinking of creating listings elsewhere in the future if I set up a bigger online store.
Did you know? I was a shop owner from October 2012 to January 2015 in which I sold a wide array of handmade goods, vintage items and craft supplies. I closed everything up to pursue both writing and my education (both of which are still ongoing) but I do miss the side income it provided and I’m thinking of starting something up again. More on that later, for now let’s mourn my favorite publishing platform…
Posted in Books & Stories

Seeking Don’t Let Me Go Audible Audiobook Reviewers

Read this post on my website.

Hello friends and fans! As you’ve probably already read in the email blast that I’ve sent out earlier today, the audiobook edition of my most recent novel Don’t Let Me Go was released yesterday! My producer ran into a few hiccups that delayed production for two additional weeks but nonetheless the final product sounds great! Katie’s (my narrator) sounds just like I’d imagined Joanie would!
Here’s the best part about audiobook releases: giving away free copies! ACX, the production platform I use, gives authors and producers a bunch of free download codes to generate buzz and get reviews, and I want to give some to you! The codes are for the US and UK Audible websites, you do not have to be a paying member to redeem them and there is absolutely zero charge. You get to keep the audiobook forever too!
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All you need to do to request a code is send in this form and I will forward you the code, instructions on how to redeem it and the download link by email. I also have a handful of codes left over from my previous book Innermost that I will gladly send as well (and yes you can have both, just say so) but only US codes are available.
In exchange for these codes I would love to have a customer review posted to Goodreads, Amazon and/or Audible along with any other platform of your choice such as your blog, etc. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to let me know! Happy listening!
Posted in Books & Stories

My Read Write Club Interview

Read this post on my website.

Last month I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the Read Write Club website in preparation for the release of Don’t Let Me Go and am now sharing it with the rest of you! As always, you can read the original here or just keep scrolling! So, it’s not my most flattering picture but what the hell, I look just as human as you do!

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Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.

My name is Jamila Mikhail and I’m a 22-year-old Canadian author of several books. I’m a polyglot and a human rights student with a passion for writing about important (and often controversial) topics and social issues. With whatever I say and wherever I go I manage to cause a stir but that’s something I enjoy, and that’s part of the reason I’m both a human rights student and an author!Although I’ve always loved writing and it’s always been my way to cope with life, I was inspired to go big and actually publish these writings because I know for a fact that books can be revolutionary. I don’t expect to change the world with my books, but I know that the stories I have to tell will leave a lasting impact on the reader. My inspiration to write and publish is precisely to inspire others much of the same way I’ve been inspired by books ever since I was a little girl. I guess you could take that as paying it forward being a source of inspiration to write.

Tell us about your books.

I currently have two published books available for sale and several more available to download for free on my website. My first published book was “Innermost” which is a collection of poetry that I’ve written and compiled over a period of about half a dozen years. To me poetry is one of the most beautiful art forms in the world and several of my poems have won me local awards over the years.

My second published book is called “Don’t Let Me Go” and it’s fiction aimed at teens and other young people. It’s a little mix of fantasy, history and philosophy with contemporary social issues that young people face today including bullying, domestic violence and mental illness. Tough themes are presented in an uplifting fashion to promote a message of hope for the future. This is the kind of book I wish I’d come across as a teenager facing many of the things written about in the book.

As for the many free ebooks available on my website, they are a wide range of short stories (funny ones, weird ones, depressing ones, touching ones, a little bit of everything really), more poetry and more full length novels about contemporary issues. “The Distant Factory” is a contemporary crime novel told from the perspective of a street kid wrestling between wanting to fix her life and get revenge on a particular person who wronged her in the past. “The Florence Nightingale Effect” is exactly what the title implies it is: a nurse who develops inappropriate feelings for a patient. This novel also deals with other issues in the background, such as crime, redemption and the justice system.

How did you go about getting published?

Going down the self-publishing route was an easy choice in my case for several reasons, but the biggest one being that I retain complete control at all times. If I ever decide to change something, delete something or unpublish a book entirely I don’t need anybody’s approval or permission to do so. I don’t have to answer to anybody and that enables me to hire (or fire) anyone that I please at any time. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s been 100% worth it because I get to carve out my own path instead of being put on one that may not have been right for me.

While I have no doubt that there are many perks to using a traditional publisher, it’s just not what’s right for my vision as an author. I have some fellow author friends who ended up losing the rights to their precious works going down that route and that’s actually my biggest fear as an author. I’ve also met people who have certain books self-published and others traditionally published depending on their vision for that book and I don’t believe that you have to pick a single route for your entire career.

Nowadays you have a legitimate chance of being very successful at self-publishing with the wide reach of the internet and the many tools available out there so for me this was also a safe way to dip my toes into the publishing waters and it turns out that I’m completely comfortable in these waters.

What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?

The writing process just sort of happens for me. I have to let it come naturally otherwise it doesn’t come out right. Inspiration can strike me anywhere at any time and I always bring a notebook to take down notes when that lightning strike does happen because otherwise it’s gone forever. To put something together “officially” I always sit in the living room, sometimes at my desk and most often in the rocking hair because my desk is a junk magnet for everything except the laptop.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?

When I’m not writing I’m usually busy with school or other classes that I take part in to learn a new craft or refine an existing skill and that can be pretty time-consuming even as a part-time student on top of daily responsibilities. I now also have two cats living under my roof and my newest addition is quite the handful! Squeaker and Carling don’t allow me to sit still and get bored I can tell you that! I also keep my mind down to earth with various hobbies including collecting postcards, writing snail mail letters, participating in community events, doing activist work and lurking around thrift stores and flea markets looking for old or neglected action figure parts which I then recycle and turn into brand new creations. This doll-making of mine is in part what inspired “Don’t Let Me Go” and I actually made the doll of Adler’s character too!

Any advice for authors about book covers?

The only thing I would tell other authors is to look at the covers of other books in the same genre. This will give them an idea of what is mainstream but I would also advise them to not be a carbon copy of others. There needs to be a balance of both your book fitting in to where it belongs and standing out enough so readers will be drawn to your novel instead of another. For those with some experience in design there are many beautiful pre-made cover templates that you can edit and rearrange to your taste but for those who have no experience I would suggest getting a cover made by someone who knows what they are doing. You don’t have to pay a lot of money for something beautiful either!

Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?

First off, authors should make their books available in as many formats as possible (for me that’s paperback, ebook and audiobook) and distribute them to as many retailers as possible too. It may be tempting to capitalize on a single big market by going exclusive, but you also lose a lot of potential customers this way! I’ve personally sold books on very small and often ignored channels, plus I generally don’t buy from some of the biggest names in the business either. I want readers more than I want money and if you put people before profit you should be successful in creating a solid fanbase!

My second tip is to not underestimate the power of in-person marketing! Get cards, bookmarks or posters promoting your work printed and be loud and proud! Give these materials to people you know, your local library, academic institution, bookstores and other places where people might be interested in what you have to offer. Offering someone something tangible, even just a small business card, can go much farther than we think!
What’s your favorite book?

It changes just about every single day, but right now it’s the Diary of Anne Frank.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading “A Mother’s Reckoning” by Susan Klebold and although I’m not very far into it yet, I already recommend it to anyone who wants to read one of those books that will stay with them forever.

What’s your next book project?

I’m currently about ten thousand words into “After Anderson” which is my latest attack on social issues expected in 2019. Like my other writings, this won’t be a book for the faint of heart or those seeking to escape the real world. It’s a hard to swallow story about a school shooting and the people whose lives have been turned upside down in the aftermath. Having witnessed much violence at school, including gun violence (though thankfully not a massacre), this is a topic that is particularly important to me. This is a book project that I also hope will help me in healing from those experiences at school. You know when they talk about whether you write for yourself or write for others, “After Anderson” is definitely writing for myself.

Posted in Books & Stories

Don’t Let Me Go Has Landed!

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You’ve all been waiting for it for the last three months and it has finally arrived! Don’t Let Me Go has hit the market as is available for all you YA fans out there! The book actually launched two days ago but life has sort of a way to disrupt your plans sometimes, like sending me on an emergency visit to the dentist and then running for the hills (the basement actually) because of a tornado warning! That wasn’t exactly how I’d planned to spend release day, but all turned out just fine at the end of the day!

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Don’t Let Me Go is also available in an expanded edition containing a variety of bonus materials. This edition is paperback only but the regular edition is available in ebook (for a special launch price of only $0.99 for a limited time), paperback and the audiobook will follow soon. My producer needed some more time to complete the project so I’m not expecting the audiobook until next month but don’t worry, I’ll all let you know when it comes out and how to get a code to listen to it for free!

Posted in Books & Stories

Allow Me To Rant

Any independent author knows that it’s hard to make a meaningful connection in a sea of people when new faces are popping up constantly. Any author also knows how important it is to make these types of connections, but what few people are willing to talk about is how hard and frustrating this process can be, especially when it comes to book bloggers.

Since the very start of my publishing journey one message has been the same: book bloggers are your best friend. In theory they can work a miracle for your career, but in reality is that what’s really going to happen? After two books I’ve come to this conclusion: no.

This month alone I must’ve sent out between two and three hundred queries to different bloggers and it was probably the biggest waste of time of my career. First off, good luck finding one who still accepts submissions! I understand that they are busy and in demand people but it makes it no less frustrating at the author’s end trying to find what’s basically a needle in a haystack.

Secondly, good luck getting a response. You will not get any type of response from the majority of those who do accept submissions. In all fairness, some do write on their blogs that they’ll only write back if interested, but for the rest how hard is it to actually politely decline a submission? Or at the very least, acknowledge the person?

The part that gets under my skin the most has to do with those so-called “reviewers” who only want your money. I did get a bunch of responses to my many queries, mainly from people who wanted me to pay them to review a book that I’d be giving them for free despite being listed on websites such as IndieView who list bloggers who review for free. At least it’s all supposed to be free.

And don’t even get me started on all the unsolicited spam emails you’ll then be getting from even more people wanting to dip their fingers into your wallet. This enormous frustration of mine has even boiled over to me starting my own (actually free) book review service. I don’t promise you the world, my opinion probably won’t be the break your career has been waiting for, but I’ll be your ally. I’ll give you the time of day, I’ll acknowledge your hard work, and most importantly I won’t demand any money from you.

I also won’t be accepting all the submission requests that I get, and I probably won’t be advertising this review service outside of my own social media (at least not for now) to keep things clean, honest, ethical and personal.

In all fairness, I must also acknowledge that there are many good, honest, devoted and ethical book bloggers out there. I have been fortunate to make contact with some of them and they are gems in the sea of spam and scams targeting independent authors, and particularly new and inexperienced authors.

Despite this, I probably won’t be wasting anymore of my time on sites like IndieView (even the admin didn’t respond to my emails) looking for reviews or anything else for that matter. I’ll probably just hire one of the many companies that get book you a complete virtual book tour complete with reviews, interviews and guest posts often for only around $50.

They’ll handle all the dirty work and the frustration for me, and I’ll only be paying them to do that service. None of the people who will be reading and reviewing the book will be getting a dime. That’s the real difference between hiring a company to do the work and paying someone to read what you give them for free, something that I find absolutely disgusting considering how difficult and expensive it can be to put out a book by yourself.

This is a cautionary tale for other indies who might just be starting out and trying to find their way around this maze. My advice to you is that you should never pay an average joe to read your book. The only time you should ever pay for a review service is when getting a professional editorial review from a trusted company who is a reputable name in the publishing business. There are many out there, do your homework and you’ll be rewarded instead of scammed.

As we go along, I will be sharing my own experiences with different services and companies that I’ll be using and that I have used up until this point. Ultimately you’ll have to decide for yourself what you want and what works for you as no two authors will be successful the same way, but with my two cents I hope to pay it forward and thank those who have advised me and guided me on the right path.

If you have any questions or just want my objective opinion on something don’t be shy to post a comment or send me an email. I won’t ignore you (unless you spam me of course) and I’ll try to help you as much as I can, free of charge.

Rant over.

Posted in Books & Stories

Don’t Let Me Go is on NetGalley!

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Can’t wait another two weeks to get your hands on my upcoming novel? I have some good news for you! You can not get a digital copy of Don’t Let Me Go on NetGalley! I am seeking some pre-release reviews and feedback in exchange for you getting a free book. What do you say? Request your free copy by clicking on this link before July 21st!

In other news, I’m also happy to tell you that the audiobook version of this novel is very much underway and is sounding fabulous! The ebook, paperback and audiobook versions will be released to the world at large on August 1st and don’t forget that you can pre-order the book for only $0.99 for a limited time!