Phoenix Fire – beta reading

Phoenix Fire - beta reading

When writing a story of any length, you need to get outside input. As writers, we are deeply invested in our work and it’s easy to start believing that everything you created must be gold. In fact, even if you secretly think your work is the worst and should never see the light of day, you still feel like every single word of negative feedback is unfair and hurtful. It’s easy to understand why writers are so afraid to ask anyone to read their story before it’s published, right?

The funny thing is: Writers are the harshest beta readers. You know what you want from a story to make it a delight to read (even though it somehow eludes you with your own work). You know that it should be effortless to read. You know your genre and what the audience expects from it. Even if you don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory of good writing yourself, you expect every other writer to be the utter personification of it.

So, what do I do to balance it out for anthology submissions? I use two beta readers per submission (at least, for the first round) – one academic (a writer or someone who studied literature) and one layman (someone who reads but never studied literature). If both of these beta readers hate the story, then something is obviously wrong. If only the former finds the submission lacking, it means the writer did not apply good writing theory and needs to develop their skills but a total overhaul of the story is probably not necessary. It is highly unusual for the layman to dislike a story if the academic finds it satisfying.

Wait a minute, Natalie, you just used the word “satisfying”. You know that’s a subjective thing, right?

Yes, I realise that. This is why I give all my beta readers, regardless of background, a list of questions they must answer about each of the stories. Some of the questions are simple, for example: “Did you enjoy the story?” Some questions involve story writing terms and concepts that I actually explain in layman’s terms in brackets. This means that my layman gets a little guidance on what to look for and my academic is kept on track (if you give this particular dog a bone, he won’t let it go).

Of course, there’s no way that the beta readers will identify all the problems. There is always that one troll reader who will tell you all about the plot holes and character discrepancies once the book is for sale. And don’t get me started on beta readers being too polite to tell you what they were really thinking. All I know is: I try my best to help my writers craft a better story.

That’s all for today. I’ll post about helpful beta reading another time.

Phoenix Fire – stoking the fire

Phoenix Fire

It’s amazing how fast you forget how much effort goes into doing something from scratch. Whether it’s raising a child (potty training – groan) or compiling an anthology, there are so many things that need to be done – little, big, somewhere in between…

After getting into contact with my writing community, I have an initial list of writers, beta readers, language practitioners and artists/designers. Each of these groups get an info pack to let them know what they need to do by when.

This sounds simple but it takes a lot of time and careful consideration. I need to keep in mind that all of my helpers are volunteers. When are the deadlines too tight or too lax? What is too much, what is too little? At what point do you overwhelm your helpers with information?

Here, in the beginning of the process, the worst is really waiting for responses and submissions. I don’t know who will fall out. I don’t know who will pull through. I don’t know whether there will be enough stories in the end or whether my writers will present me with drivel. And, I’m working with writers and artists…so, everything will happen at the last possible minute.

I guess, the good news is: I have one story already in beta reading. If everything else goes wrong, I can publish that story.

Get ready for Phoenix Fire

Two years ago, a fire was kindled and it promised to grow. But life has a funny way of taking turns and making it difficult to find your way. We all started wondering whether the fire was going out and we would watch another dream being snuffed out before it could fly.

I am writing this post to tell you that from ashes a phoenix shall rise!

Yes, you read right! Phoenix Fire is in the making. My South African writer friends are putting on their writer hats and we’re putting together an anthology to follow up The Flight of the Phoenix. This time around, the target audience is narrowed down to YA (young adult) only, though the genres will stay fantasy, science fiction and horror.

Keep your eyes open for more posts as we fight the dying of the light!

The Flight of the Phoenix – Editor

Every book has its evil editor and I have the honour of filling that role this time. I sent their stories to beta readers. I made my writers jump through hoops. I made them rewrite whole stories. I demanded pictures, author bios and links to their online presence. I had to strongly resist the urge to drive over to their houses to strangle them.

Being an editor really is no cakewalk. You have to tell people that their pride and joy is riddled with errors and inconsistencies. You  have to wheedle and needle people for stories they promised time and time again and simply did not submit. You have to cajole and encourage and sometimes even berate your writers (friends, family and acquaintances).

I’m not a heartless person. In fact, I have been known to be a real softy. But, goodness, did this anthology make me learn the value of giving a cold shoulder to people you love…and to yourself.

I was among the very last to submit a story. My story’s second round of beta reading happened in the last two weeks of editing the book. And I’m very relieved to say that my feedback meant minimal changes.

During the compilation and and endless editing on The Flight of the Phoenix, I have learned more than I ever expected to. I had a crash course in learning how to use Scribus, an amazing open source programme for desktop publishing. I learned how to publish a book on Amazon and CreateSpace. I had to relearn how things work on Goodreads. I had to rediscover what my preferences were for writing conventions. I had to put my foot down really hard to get things the way I wanted them. And…I learned that Amazon will make us wait 3 months before we get to publish on Smashwords. And publish on Smashwords we will (in October).

My advice to anyone who wants to publish a book:
Get your ducks in a row, it’s not easy. You need to keep to your own deadlines. You need to keep your writers to their deadlines. You need to learn skills you never knew were necessary and things like that take time.

To get your hands on our book, use any of the links above and remember to get your discount code from me on via our Facebook page.

The Flight of the Phoenix – RSA Book Launch

Good news! We are hosting a book launch in South Africa! Don’t miss out! Come meet the authors, have your book signed, take a photo! If you missed out on the pre-order price, you can still get 10% off your local print-run copy by buying it from us at the book launch.

Where: Rooihuiskraal Public Library

When: 25 July 2015, 14:00-17:00


The Flight of the Phoenix – Links

It’s time to get your hands on The Flight of the Phoenix!!! Pre-orders are open! Now, since we are not in charge of how our platforms work, we’ve had to get creative with how we’re doing pre-orders.

CreateSpace (print-on-demand via Amazon – so, worldwide distribution) and Amazon (eBook). To get your pre-order discount, please contact us via our Facebook page and I will personally send you a coupon code.

For our local South African print run pre-orders, contact all authors directly. We are all reachable on Facebook.

Elmien GroveRyhen E KnightHJ KrugerCaldon Mull
Natalie RivenerAndrea VermaakRichard T Wheeler

Please note: The pre-orders are limited to the period before 16 July 2015. From there on, they will be available only at the full price, so, don’t wait! Get your discount now!

FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX COVER FINAL copyThe Flight of the Phoenix on Amazon, CreateSpace
and in South Africa!

Leave us a review on Goodreads if you like it!

The Flight of the Phoenix – Important dates

The Flight of the Phoenix will officially be released on 16 July 2015! This will include both our international sales (ebooks and print-on-demand via Amazon) and the local print run in South Africa.

Pre-orders for these editions will open 1 June 2015.

The book launch (South Africa only) will be 2PM on 25 July 2015 at the Rooihuiskraal Public Library.

Our Smashwords edition will be available as of 16 October 2015.