So You Want to Publish a Book?

An exciting part of this writing journey that I particularly treasure – is the opportunity it gives me to connect with lots of different Pacific writers and poets from all over the place. This blog post is for YOU, the writer and poet who has dallied with the thought of seeing your work in print and in digital format but have dismissed it as too fanciful and too expensive. If you dont have a writing dream then carry on about your business, this blogpost is not for you. (Its a really looooong blogpost too, so if youre going to read it, make yourself some popcorn first.)

Many Pacific writers/poets have asked me about publishing their work online. This is my attempt to answer some of their questions and encourage all those with a writing dream – to have the courage to take that leap of faith and do what is necessary to put their voices out there. I am passionate about seeing more of our Pacific stories taken to a global audience and believe that digital publishing is an exciting avenue to make it happen – it’s the fastest, cheapest and simplest way to get our stories to the world. Self-publishing makes it possible for the artist to be in control of every step of the creative process – from packaging, pricing, distributing, marketing to promoting their book. It makes it possible for the artist to be in control of the financial returns of that book. I do not see it as a replacement for traditional publishing – but rather, as another option – particularly for those of us writing for a “niche market”. More than 30 lit agents and publishers rejected TELESA. ( And yes, I’m well aware that there are those who would argue TELESA is crap and deserved to be rejected, LOL.) One year later and TELESA has sold thousands of copies worldwide – initially to its FIRST target audience of Samoan/Pasifika youth – and then to a much wider multi-ethnic demographic. Love it or hate it, the TELESA publishing story demonstrates what most of us already suspected, there is a hunger for stories from the Pacific. Contemporary, ‘fanciful, fun’ stories written by us, about us and for us. It’s a hunger fuelled by our Pacific people worldwide but it’s also a hunger in Western readers who are intrigued by the richness of our unique cultures and mythology. Albert Wendt has said, “We need to write, paint, sculpt, weave, dance, sing, and think ourselves into existence. For too long other people have done it for us – and they’ve usually stereotyped us, or created versions of us that embody their own hang-ups and beliefs and prejudices about us. So we have to write our own stories.” 
A powerful truth, but I would also suggest – it’s not enough just to write our own stories, we must also take ownership of HOW those stories are shared and taken to the world, how they are packaged, produced and distributed. And yes, we must take ownership of the MONEY that our stories can generate. ( Yes, yes, I know that for many artists the “M” word is a very dirty word..kinda like poop. But let’s be honest here. if you can’t make money from your art, then you’re going to have to go work at a ‘real job’ to survive which means you wont have as much time in your life to create art…I dont know about you, but I would rather do what I love for 40 hours a week and get paid for it.)

  If you’re a Pacific writer with a dream to see your work in print – then maybe, self-publishing online is the answer you’re looking for.

If you have a novel or a bunch of short stories or a lovely array of poetry that you would like to publish yourself then here’s what I suggest (from my battle scarred experience.)

1. Have your manuscript edited by a professional editor. Somebody with a few clues about novels/poetry/short fiction. The longer the manuscript, the more essential an edit job is. Yes it will cost you money. But if you skip this part, you run the risk of your manuscript being total crap. Look around your networks first before you rush out to hire a scary editor stranger. Maybe there is an English teacher…or journalist type friend in your networks. If your collection is “just a little one” then at least make sure you have some awesome reader friends proof it for you. A fresh set of eyes will find lots of things you missed.

2. Get a cover design done. Yes you can pay hundreds and thousands for a stunning graphics artist designer company to make you a cover. OR you could again draw on your networks and collaborate on a cover with a lovely photographer friend…or a very clever computer wizz friend. Whatever you do, dont take a photo of your cat and make your own cover. Unless your book is only for your dear mum who is supposed to love everything you write. Even if it has a lame cover with your silly cat on it.

3. Print Copies: I get them done two ways.

– For the NZ, Samoa, American Samoa and Fiji audience, we have bulk print copies done with a NZ printing company. I convert my own Word document into a print template, send it to the printer in Tauranga via email and they send me the books when they’re done.

Please note, the process of putting your Word file into a print template took me a long time (and lots of curse words) to learn. But its not impossible to master. Dont ask me to show you because I might curse at you. I’m VERY stupid when it comes to technology so figuring out how to do this step will probably take a normal person like you, half an hour tops. Basically, you choose the template you want from Amazon createspace, download it, insert your Word document and then go thru and clean up all the messy bits. Then you save it as a PDF file and voila! Ready for the printer. Sounds easy, doesnt it? Well it wasn’t easy for me. There are formatter people you can pay to prep your file for you. A typical charge for this service is $90USD. I didnt know about formatter people when I first started but it wouldnt have mattered because I didnt have $90 USD anyway. If you’re techno stupid like me and you DO have some money, then I recommend you hire a formatter and save yourself the time. And cut down on the curse words in your life.

The more books we order, the cheaper the print cost. We get 2000 copies printed at a time for the Telesa books. Its expensive and I dont recommend this option unless you already have an order for 2000 copies of your new book. Otherwise you will be stuck with boxes of books getting moldy in your garage. You can get printing done quite cheaply at various printing companies throughout Asia, (China comes to mind here) but I havent tried it yet. (Its on my List of Things to Do.) We now have a distributor for the print books here in NZ and at home in Samoa which means we only have to supply to them and they take care of orders for bookshops etc. Im very grateful for the companies and online school/library suppliers that stock my print books. I love Auckland Libraries because they are fabulous supporters of the Telesa Series, (and because I spend way too much time there reading books when I should be writing.)It is almost impossible to get a self-published book into a chain bookstore. This is where I tell you how much I hate Whitcoulls NZ and you listen with a very polite face but inside you are secretly rolling your eyes, sick to bits of hearing me bash on stupid mega bookstores that won’t take a chance on a book that has sold more copies than many of the gleaming “artsy” books by other NZ authors – just because it doesnt have the magic stamp of a traditional publisher’s approvalAnd if I’m really in a wild mood, I then tell you that according to the Booksellers NZ professionals, “good sales of a fiction title would be around 3,000 copies” and I stamp my foot and yell at the Whitcoulls NZ management, MY BOOK HAS SOLD WAY MORE THAN THAT, SO THERE! And you try not to show me how much you wish you could run away and not have to listen to my ranting.  But indie bookshops are great. And Paper Plus NZ is WONDERFUL and I encourage you all to shop there. All the time. Because unlike stupid Whitcoulls  they do stock my books.  So please go into a Paper Plus today and hug somebody. Bake them cookies, tell them how fabulous they are for supporting Pacific literature, even when its self-published (and has words like ‘dalashious’ and ‘aikae’ in it. And too many descriptions of glistening, rippling brown boy muscles.)

When trying to decide on doing print books, consider your target audience. The initial audience for Telesa is of course, Samoans and then all brown/Pacific people in general and then fabulous white/multi-hued people who enjoy a paranormal romance that doesnt have vampires in it. This meant we needed print books for Samoa because most readers there are not getting e-books. The two Samoa’s have been shamahzing when it comes to my books, so supportive and encouraging. In (the small town) of Apia alone, there are ten different stores which stock my books and the last time I did a book signing there, hundreds of people waited in line to shove past me and meet Ezra Taylor to get their book.

– To make your book available in print worldwide, you publish it through Creatspace Amazon. This is a print on demand company. You sign up for free. You upload your book and the cover, also for free. You click publish. (For free.) It then shows up on the Amazon sites for the USA, the UK etc. When a customer buys a print copy, Createspace prints ONE and posts it to them. You get a royalty cut. Did I mention all that was free for you the author? This means you dont have to invest money into printing lots of books (that will sit in your garage and get moldy.) Also, it means an author like me can write on a rock/in a coconut tree/lying on a beach/floating by a waterfall (and all the other silly places that silly people who believe in stereotypes assume that I write from) and still have her book available to the world and I dont have to pay crazy amounts to post it to people. All those people in Alaska/California/Utah etc that have print copies of my books, got them through Createspace. Lots of people in Australia got them there too. Which is why I cant sign them for you, no matter how nicely you ask me to.

The cool thing about Createspace is that you can purchase your own print books at the bare bones production cost, no matter how few you buy – and have them shipped wherever you want. If you only want to publish your book so you can get a few copies for your family or friends, this is a great way to do it. English teachers – its also a cool way to publish a collection of your student’s creative writing and have each student put in five dollars to get their very own hard copy of their very own words in print. Big Daughter writes poetry and I’m going to help her get her collection up onto Createspace so we can get her words “in print”. (Christmas present alert for all my family members…LOL)

4. E-books. I publish the Telesa Series digitally on Amazon but there are other places you can do it. Its a simple process. You convert your Word document to e-book format, upload it, upload your cover and then hit the publish button. Amazon pays you a 70% royalty for books that are priced over $2.99, so for every e-copy sold of Telesa, I get about $2.09. In my wild dreams, I sell hundreds…thousands of e-copies every week and dine on steak&lobster every other night with three different desserts to follow. (I also look like Naomi Campbell in my dreams and Thor is whisking me away to holiday in Asgard. Go figure.) But the reality is much different….*sigh*
E-books are wonderful though. And they are most definitely the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to take our Pacific stories to a global audience. You can pay a formatter to prep your manuscript. The most recent quote I got for this service was $15 USD. I learned how to do it all myself by studying this book:
     Self-Printed, The Sane Person’s Guide to Self Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard.
Its only $4.99 for the ebook on Amazon and I recommend you get it if you want to get your writing published.

There ya have it! That’s my wannabe-helpful list for those of you with a publishing dream. What else would you like to know? Ask me in the comments section and I will try to answer or at least direct you to where I think you can find out.


The Next Book Out Soon

I’m working to finish the Daniel novella in time for a Christmas release. One thing I love about writing Daniel? He’s got a sense of humor that Leila lacks and he can be WAY more fun to write… Here’s his take on the Jason’s hospital confesion scene from the first Telesa book.
                                                         Daniel Tahi Speaks.

By the time I get to the door of Jason’s room, Leila is standing by his bed. He’s awake. His eyes are  a brilliant blue. And they’re staring up at my girlfriend with undisguised joy. He’s not some washed out, frail palagi nerdy scientist anymore. No. He’s stronger, he’s smiling. And while I stand there in the doorway, he kisses her hand. WTF?! And then he speaks, “I wasn’t joking, Leila. They tell me I’ve been dying for the last three days. And trust me, I felt like it. But you know the one thing that kept me hanging on? The one thing I kept fighting for?”

 I know what the answer is before he says it. Because it would be my answer too if I were in his shoes. (Or in his hospital bed.) And it’s that realization which is the only thing stopping me from punching a hole in the wall right now. Oh yeah, and because its seriously uncool to beat up people when they’re recovering from knocking on death’s door.

 “You. And my promise to you.” I knew it. He’s crazy about her. And I just helped save his life. Just great.

 Leila’s crying. “Jason, no…”

 I want to get the hell out of there but I can’t. Im frozen in place because I want to know what she’s going to say. I need to know. Is this where she wakes up to the fact she’s crazy in love with this volcano man and his ocean eyes? Is this where she turns to me and says, sorry Daniel, I have to listen to my heart. And my heart is screaming Jason’s name?

 He’s still talking. Why can’t he shut up already? “No, please, let me finish. Let a critically ill dude speak. Please?”

 Yeah Leila, let him speak. We all want to hear this. Not.

 “Leila, you asked me to be your friend. And nothing else.” That was news to me. It’s good news right? I’m reeling here. Trying to stay upright but the world is determined to knock me over.  “And I am. But nearly dying does something to a person y’know? It makes him realize that life is short. And you have to grab at every moment, every happiness with both hands. Tight. And not let go.”

 I’m going to grab onto his neck. Tight. And not let go.

 “So yes, I’m your friend and I’m one hundred percent committed to helping you deal with your problem. But you gotta know…”

 Here it comes. Here it comes. Wait for it. Brace yourself. You must not beat up a sick man. You must not beat up a sick man in a hospital bed. You must not beat up a sick man…

 “I’m in love with you Leila.”

 There, he said it. Now I know what getting hit by a truck must feel like. I wonder if Leila knows I’m standing right here. And then I’m sure she knows. Because she tries to shut him up. “Jason, no, you don’t know what you’re saying. You’re sick. You need to rest. Listen to your nurses.”  She’s covering for him. Trying to salvage something from the wreckage. But what? My heart? My pride? Or his?

 For a critically ill dude, he sure is tough to shut up. “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my whole life. I’ve loved you from that first night you bewitched me with your fake bimbo-ness. And then when I watched over you as you slept during that storm, then I was sure.”

 You. Slept. With. Leila. (During a storm?!  Why a storm? What does a storm have to do with this?)

 The words hit me where I don’t want them to. Low. In the gut. Everybody in the room heard him. Leila heard him. The palagi friends heard him. The nurses heard him. ( They’re rolling their eyes at the love drama. Nurses at the Samoa National hospital are not known for their sensitivity or patience with people’s feelings.)  Everybody just heard him declare his undying love for my girlfriend. Everybody now knows that he’s been in love with her since forever. And oh yeah, by the way, they spent the night together too.

 I’m either the world’s dumbest boyfriend. Or this volcano scientist’s mind is seriously screwed up from telesa poison.

Daniel Tahi’s Novella will be released in time for Christmas 2012. Available in e-book format only from Amazon. This will be a companion book to the first Telesa book – The Covenant Keeper. Now is a good time to get your copy of the Telesa book, Amazon has it on .99cent sale for one week only. Telesa:The Covenant Keeper .99cent SALE  Gift an e-copy to friends and family so they can stop borrowing YOUR copy! lol.

Skinny (NaNoWriMo) is for Fools

So Im doing this NaNoWriMo thing where hundreds of thousands of people the world over sign up to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It’s so massively huge that probably even Martians are doing NaNo. It’s my first time doing it. In theory, its a fabulous concept. You commit to sitting down and just WRITING every day to meet a set word count. You commit to NOT editing along the way. NOT judging the quality of your words. NOT allowing yourself to get bogged down by the lust for perfection that usually slows your words down. No, you are just going to write until you have an entire first draft of a fascinating novel by the end of November. I’m thirteen days into NaNo and I have come to the conclusion that doing NaNo is JUST LIKE going on a diet.

1. You tell everyone you’re doing it so that you can be held accountable. You tell your kids. Your partner. Your dog. Your sister. Your mother. Your dentist. Your next door neighbor. Everybody on Facebook and Twitter. “Im going to write my next book in only 30 days. How amazing is that!” And it IS amazing. And you’re amazing. And everything in the world is aglow with amazingness.

2. Then you make lists. Schedules. Plans. Of everything you’re going to eat  – I mean everything you’re going to do to make writing happen.

3. For a diet, you get a scale. You weigh yourself. You measure your blubbery bits. Shock, horror at how blubbery they really are with the lights on. You note it all down, ‘This is where I started!’ Heck, maybe you even take a photo. Holding a newspaper with the day’s date so you can be like those skinny gym freaks with their BEFORE and AFTER photos. (dont you just hate those people? Get away from me.) Same thing with NaNo. You have to measure your progress. Count your words everyday . There are charts and stat measurements so you can track how wonderful you are compared to everyone else who’s doing NaNo. Or how suck you are compared to everyone else who’s doing NaNo.

4. And just like a brand new diet, everything feels great the first few days. Maybe even the first week. You’re eating those salads and lean cuts of chicken, delighting in those steamed vegetables and turning your nose up at those disgusting cinnamon rolls dripping with cream cheese icing. You’re even repulsed by the sight of OTHER people eating THEIR fried chicken and fries. ‘Ewww. So gross. Don’t they know how many fat grams are in that?’ You are on a stairmaster straight to skinnified heaven baby and there aint nuthin gonna get in your way. That’s how I was feeling about my NaNo journey. Churning out those words like they were on an assembly line of awesomeness. Ideas just exploding everywhere with creative sweetness like a mouthful of MnM’s. Paragraphs that went on forever with effortless ease, in delicious loops and swirls of creamy goodness. I was the Kick-Ass Writer of a Kick-Ass novel. Sing it loud. Sing it proud.

5. And then, that diet skids, crashes and burns. You are so sick of being on it that you want to rent out Burger King and have a foodfest party. All by yourself. Just you and burgers and fries and unlimited Coke refills and donuts and pie. You are so sick of your exercise goals that you dont even want to walk to the mailbox. You just want to sit on that sofa and chuck cabbages at it. You dont care how fat you are. You dont care how skinny you wanted to be. Skinny is for fools who have nuthin better to do with their time than count calories. Trim and toned is for losers who cannot comprehend the inexpicable joys to be found in doing NOTHING. And eating EVERYTHING….

Yeah, well thats exactly how Im feeling about my NaNo comittment right now.

Because I’ve written 26,000 words to date. Just past the halfway point. And I’m sick to death of being a writer. I dont want to be a writer anymore. I changed my mind. I hate it. I hate storytelling. I hate Daniel and Leila and Simone and all the rest of those horrible young adults in my book. What do they really know about love and life anyway?  

And just like a diet, you get mad at people who care about you and are trying to help encourage you to stay committed to your goals. The Hot Man used to gently remind me, ‘are you supposed to be having cereal?’ Yes, it’s healthy, isnt it? I snarl. He perseveres, “Yes but not when you’re having three bowls of it at ten o’clock at night. With heaps of sugar.”  And then of course I hate him for saying it. And am convinced its because he thinks I’m fat and hideous. Because I conveniently forget that it was my idea to start a diet-exercise program in the first place.

I wish I never told anybody I was doing NaNo. Because I walk into my house after a day in my office and those children that I gave life to harass me, “So how many words did you write today?” And when I tell them, they shake their heads in disapproval, “But didnt you write more yesterday?” Yeah, so. “So what happened? Why didnt you write twice a many words today? What are you doing in your office all day mum?” And then I hate them all for asking. And of course its all their fault I’m doing this stupid NaNo thing anyway…

And then you’re so depressed about your journey and your stupid goals that you simply must drown your sorrows in chocolate lamingtons. With cream. Or in the case of NaNoWriMo – you simply must go to your blog and write a thousand words.

About how much you hate writing.

How’s everybody else’s NaNo Journey going? Shall we meet up and exchange word counts over Donuts?

A Night of Illicit Abandon – Walking on the Wild Side

A fit of fizzy flightiness overwhelmed me this weekend.  I was consumed by this insane desire to be like those people who bungy jump, sky dive and buy clothes that are NOT on sale. I felt like living dangerously and walking on the wild side.  Where did this strange feeling come from? Maybe it was because the week had been crazy busy – I Telesa chatted with  a Pacific Lit class at Auckland University on Monday, took kids to the dentist on Tuesday, wrote furiously on Wednesday, did an interview for the TVNZ Good Morning Show on Thursday, and gave a talk at a church women’s conference on Friday. (Or maybe it was because I ingested way too much caffeine via Diet Coke overdosing to assist me with all my speech writing and interview-prepping…)

Either way, I said to the Hot Man, ‘ooh, lets be spontaneous and exciting!He looked wary. ‘And do what?’

I said, let’s run away from the children and live it up all night! Dancing on tables ( or around poles), jumping off the Sky Tower, ordering not one but TWO desserts….all crossed my mind.  I  found a super fabulous overnight special for a lovely hotel in the city situated in the midst of restaurants, night clubs and assorted wild times venues so that we could do exactly that – ‘live it up all night’  (The mind boggles at all the possibilities in that phrase it up all night…)   I was ready to live dangerously.

But the sad fact is that a woman with five children can never really live dangerously without excruciating planning. And massive atonement for the overload of guilt one feels when one abandons said children. Soooooo before I ran away, I had to :
1. organize baby sitting
2. purchase extra groceries in case there was a famine while we were gone
3. Check that torches and radios had batteries, candles had matches, smoke alarms were working, all windows and doors had functioning locks, and every child remembered the emergency number and tsunami escape route   – in case there was a natural disaster, fire or influx of housebreakers while we were gone.
4. Remind Big Son and Big Daughter about paracetemol, asthma medications, treatment for spider bites, choking, accidental ingestion of too many cookies.
5. Rent DVDs and XBox games galore from the store so they wouldnt cry/be left bereft/sink into the depths of despair upon my departure.

I had a faint moment of panic when I remembered that we havent actually made a will yet and what if we both got killed in a motorway crash on the way to the hotel? Or what if the hotel got taken siege by terrorists and we were blown to bits because Bruce Willis couldnt save us? It was too late to get a will done by then so I had to let those dire thoughts go. Bad mother, bad mother – irresponsible enough to have so many children and NOT get a will done.

And finally, before we could run away for a night of illicit abandon, I insisted we take the children on an all-day fun outing. One that involved a trip to the local marine world and hours at the beach. Sand, sun, water, and fish’n’chips.Fun, fun, fun. Only then could I indulge in my fit of fizzy flightiness, chucking clothes in a bag and run away.

It was 5pm before we finally left. The hotel was lovely. We enjoyed being childless. (cue fireworks and glitter cannons here) We had a delicious dinner at a lovely restaurant. We finished eating. And then the Hot Man said, with forced joviality,  Right where shall we go dancing first?

Then the sad truth hit me. I was really really really tired from hanging out with those children all day and being kind and loving and patient and joyful for such a long time. I was kinda sunburnt from the beach. My feet hurt from walking around the marine place. I didnt want to go bungee jumping off the Sky Tower. Or dancing on tables or around poles. I couldnt even order two desserts because I was still full from fishnchips from Mission Bay. I didnt want to squeeze myself into my ‘dancing on table and around poles’ attire, I just wanted to veg out and space out in ginormously comfortable pyjamas. And did I mention that I  was tired?

But mostest of all? I missed my children. And my house. And my own bed. And my own shower. And my own living room. And my own fridge.

I said, shamefaced. ‘Actually, I want to go home. I miss the kids.’

And the Hot Man said, shamefaced. ‘Yeah, me too.

Conclusion?  We must be really old.  Or just really boring.

I am resolved – next time I am possessed by a fizzy fit of flightiness, I wont exhaust myself first by taking the children out on an all-day excursion of happiness. No. I will be heartless, cold and cruel, just walk out that door and slam it so loud that I will drown out the YOU CRAPPY LOSER MOTHER! sirens blaring in my head. And then nobody will be able to hold me back from the dance tables and I will order not one, not two, but THREE desserts, because I know how to live dangerously, dammit! 

We used to know how to be exciting and fun people, honestly!
(Is that edge of desperation in my voice convincing you yet?!)

I Vlogged! (Can I get anymore CLEVER!?)

Ok, so I tried this vlogging thing. You dont even want to know HOW LONG it took me to figure out the blasted video tech stuff. Ugh. Anyway, here it is. The first in the “Fiapoko Woman” series where I talk about writing stuff, answer your TELESA questions and generally ramble about random things (when I should probably just keep my mouth shut.) In this one, I take on a reader question: ‘Where did you get the inspiration to write about telesa?’
If you watch it – be nice okay? Its my first time on this thing!

You Made Me Cry

What a week it has been. It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here, exhausted and just a little bit stunned.

1. The electronic book version of ‘When Water Burns’ was released on Amazon on Thursday. I asked for your help with getting this book into the rankings and you responded. You bought 380 books in a single day.  I woke up on Friday morning to find that ‘When Water Burns’ was number ONE on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers List – which tracks books that move the most on the listings in a single day. Overall ranking, #379 out of 1, 190, 929 books. Number 1 on the People and Places Fiction List, Number 1 on the Mythology List, Number 5 on the Children’s Hot New Releases List. You made history for a book written by a Pacific author. You did that.

2. Today I went to Otara Market in South Auckland for a book signing event organized by Rasmus Pereira and the Shop Samoa team. I had never been to Otara Market before. (Rasmus is pretty sure that this was a first for Otara Market as well – a book signing.) Many companies and individuals worked together to sponsor the event and make it happen. Like SUGA Magazine, Levi Plumbing, DJ Meex, Keila Records, Yolande Ah Chong, Tatau Dance Group, the Te Ariki Vaine Dance Group, Miss Samoa-NZ – and more.  I was expecting a low-key morning with a few people in attendance – and the chance for me to check out the market shops and sample some of the food that Otara Market is (in)famous for. That’s not what happened. From start to finish, I was overwhelmed. There were masses of people wanting to get books signed. Wanting to have photos taken. Wanting to meet the cover models. Wanting to share their excitement and enthusiasm for the books and the characters. Not only that, but the organizers had worked together with different sponsors to host a great array of gifted Pacific artists. From dance groups to music artists and radio hosts and more – the day was one that celebrated Pacific talent and creativity. But the day was truly about you. It was possible because of you. The readers. The supporters. You that have embraced these books and these characters and gone out of your way to encourage a Samoan writer that is trying to write and publish her books on her own. Today was about YOU. You made it memorable. Special.

Mothers, daughters and grand-daughters celebrating a book together.

A professional athlete and an actress giving of their talents to bring a book to life.

A beautiful couple. 

A mum bringing her children to meet an author.

A community coming together.

Connecting with great friends.

Dancers sharing their talents ( and tattoos) with a captive audience.

Dancers sharing their fiery flair and beauty. 
Inspiring examples of Pacific women.
The next generation of readers…and writers?
A rugby superstar making the time to support a Pacific author – and our youth.

Dedicated fans showing their enthusiasm for the book (and for Daniel) via their T.Shirts.



Thank you for all that you do to make this writing and publishing journey possible. The last few days have shown me just how much you love these books. Just how much you are willing to do to encourage and uplift a writer of fiery Pacific stories. I’m humbled and grateful for every day that I can be living my writing dream.  Thank you for all that YOU do to make it happen.

(Ok, and now, I’m going to cry. Thank goodness you can’t see me. It’s past midnight, I’m really tired, looking at the pictures from the Otara event and I’m crying because you all blew me away with your support. I had no clue you were going to make a day like today happen.) 

And yes, in answer to those who have already begun asking me about book three…I am going to get serious about finishing work on the next book. ‘The Bone Bearer’ is in the works. And so is the Daniel novella – much of book one retold from Daniel’s perspective. Your support of my books makes it possible for me to write more. It’s that simple. This week, YOU made history. Today, YOU made my very first visit to Otara Market – an absolute joy. And tonight, reflecting on it all – YOU made me cry.

Thank you.

Tattoo Time: Digby Ioane

Last week, some super fabulous, super famous rugby players came out to support the Brisbane Launch of the Telesa book. It was great to have their vote of confidence for this fiery Pacific novel so of course, we should have one of them for our Tattoo Time Feature. Sometimes it’s a little tricky to find photos of the chosen  individual – that adequately highlights their tattoos. That was not a problem with this week’s feature, Digby Ioane. Rather the issue was trying to decide WHICH photos to choose. Digby  who’s been called ‘the Dark Angel of the rugby field’ is a NZ-born Samoan who plays professional rugby in Australia.

Twenty-six year old Digby was born in Wellington and moved to Australia when he was five. His gift for sports manifested early and he’s been making a powerful reputation for himself on the rugby field since he first represented Victoria in both rugby union and rugby league.He plays for the Queensland Reds and has been capped 11 times for the Wallabies. ( Australia’s National Rugby team – for those Americans who have no clue what “Wallabies” are. The animal or the rugby team.) Digby plays Wing/Outside Centre – which means absolutely nothing to me but that’s okay because this blogpost has nothing to do with rugby whatsoever. According to Wikipedia, Digby is 5ft 10in. According to me, this is very true because I’m 5ft 9 and I towered over Mr Ioane while standing next to him in my super high heeled shoes. (I will not tell you how heavy Digby is according to Wikipedia because then I would have to tell you how heavy I am. How scary that Wikipedia can tell the world your weight, IF you’re famous enough. Cross my heart and hope to die before I ever get unlucky enough to be famous and have a Wikipedia spy satellite invade my house when I’m next jumping on a scale.) Suffice it to say, that after taking one photo with Mr Ioane, I was desperate to get as far away from him as possible because it was making me feel very giantesque. In a Jolly Green Giant kinda way.

See what I mean? And he’s standing on a step ABOVE me in this one…
Right, on to the good stuff. Digby’s tattoos. He’s got buckets of them and not just Pacific ones either. There’s  angel wings on his back. Which gives sports columnists the chance to say ‘witty’ things like ‘Queensland playing on a wing and a prayer…’

He’s got an assortment of motifs and patterns on the rest of his body.

Including verses of scripture from the Bible on his side. (Yes, you’ll have to study that very closely to read all the words. Very closely. You wont want to miss any of those very important words.)

He’s got sleeve patterning tattoos on his left arm. One is of the “woman who means everything to me – my Mum. I’m a mummys boy and always have been so what better way to show that then to get a tatt of mum.” I like that. Too often rugby stars are in the news for beating up their wives, getting wasted and trashing bars, which is why its very refreshing to have those who are firmly grounded with a strong committment to their  family and culture.

Digby is a very versatile athlete. He’s at ease with ballerinas.

When his team wins, he does breakdance moves on the field. (If I’d known how interesting rugby had become, I might actually watch some games now and then. For the dancing entertainment.)

He’s a professional juggler.

Heck, he even swims.

He’s also known for being a hair style model. Please note the versatility of cutting edge styles that Mr Ioane is able to wear with style. And flair. (Note tattoo on side of neck.)

Mr Ioane has good taste in desserts.

And is great with children.

One more time for the tattoos…because this is supposed to be all about tattoos.

What impressed me about Digby though, is that, along with Quade Cooper – he was approachable, supportive of his friends, down-to-earth, friendly and patient with all the fans – AND he was happy to give up an evening to help promote a Samoan author with her first YA fantasy romance book.

Thank you Digby Ioane, Ezra Taylor and Quade Cooper for gallantly being ‘rugby players who are proud to support Pacific romance books like Telesa.…’ (And the tattoos aint bad either.)

A Day in the Life of a (Slightly Demented) Author/Blogger

(An alternate title for this blogpost would be: “Why You should Never trust Book Deadlines from Authors who have Five Children, especially disorganized, chaotic authors – because their books will ALWAYS be Late. Always.”)
A Typical Monday
I get up at 5.30am, which I absolutely hate doing, especially if I’ve only just gone to bed at 2am. I then tackle the toughest task of my day – waking up my 13yr old daughter. She really does sleep like a log and if we ever got robbed, thieves could roll her up in her blanket, carry her out of the house and she still wouldn’t wake up.
6am. I drive my teens to Seminary which is a youth  scripture-study class run by our church. It’s on 5 days a week for every school week of the year.  While they’re in class, I go for a run. Or more aptly, a ‘very brisk walk alternated with a shuffly, jiggly sort of jog.’  I’m terrified of killers and attack dogs, so I usually just go many times round the block or the parking lot. If it’s raining (or if I’m feeling lazy)  then I take my laptop and cram in some writing time.
7am. Back home. Mobilize the troops for breakfast and family prayer, then teenagers take off to catch the school bus while me and the three Terrors attack the house chores. We rush through dishes, floors and lunchbox prep. (My 8yr old son is the fastest, bestest vacuumer in this solar system.)
8.45am. Take the Terrors to school. Stock up on Diet Coke on my way home.  Spend the next hour doing vital life-preserving things like…laundry and shutting the doors to all my children’s bedrooms so I’m not confronted by their chaotic messes.
10am – Write stuff. And eat lots of snacks. I’m sorry to say that I often consume way more Doritos then actual pages written…
1pm – Emails. Update all social media. This can take anything from an hour to two spread out over the day and includes, updating my blog Sleepless in Samoa, Facebook author site, Twitter, Goodreads, skim thru publisher/author blogs that I follow.
2pm – Run work errands eg. Post Office to mail out signed book orders, drop off books to local indie bookstores who stock my book TELESA, that kind of stuff.
3pm – Get the Terrors from school.  Try not to yell at Little Son for losing his shoes AGAIN, playing rugby in the mud AGAIN and ripping his school uniform AGAIN. Try not to freak out when Little Daughter asks, ‘Mum, did you ever like a boy who was older than you at school?’ Try not to crash the car when the 4yr old Beast is having a tantrum because I won’t detour to McDonalds.
4 to 6pm – The part of my day when I wish I could clone myself and have six of me. One to cook dinner and bake cookies .  One to help Little Daughter with her homework. One to test Little Son on his spelling words. One to play with the Beast on the trampoline so she wont stand in the middle of the kitchen bellowing ‘Nobodys playing with me! I got nuffing friends.’  One to drive and get the teenagers from Debate Club and rugby practice. And another one to lie on the bed with earphones on, blasting Eminem and muttering This is not my life. This is not my life. Any minute now,  Im going to open my eyes and be a stunning supermodel in a glorious mansion with Ryan Reynolds cooking me dinner. Oh, and my book would be all written. And at the top of the bestseller list. Any minute now…

7.30pm – Ideally, all small and filthy children will be showered and fed by this time. This usually involves lots of threats/blackmail/coercion/pleading/the muttering of curse words and the drinking of copious amounts of Diet Coke. (By me, not the filthy children.)  Teenagers do dishes and then sneak off to do Very Important Things. Like Facebook . Text their friends that they just said goodbye to a half hour ago. Weights in the gym downstairs.  And supposedly to do homework in the Dens of Darkness that they call their bedrooms…
8pm – I read stories to small and very clean children. And then they are supposed to go to sleep. Ha.
9pm – I read a book on my Kindle. Partly because when you’re a fiction writer, reading a revolting number of novels is called “RESEARCH”. And partly because that’s how I relax and not be too mean to my children.
10pm – I write some more.  The bestest time to write anything, anywhere, anytime is when the house is asleep.
Midnight. Or maybe 1am. Or maybe 2am. Or 3am. – Sleep.
And there you have it. A day in the chaos that is Lani’s life. (So please don’t be mad at me about ‘When Water Burns’ missing its March release date. It’s with my editor and will be ready soon. I promise, with donuts, doritos and Diet Coke on top….) 
In case you’re wondering where the Hot Man is in this scenario – he travels often for work . Leaving the Fabulous Five Children at my mercy. *cue evil witch laughter*.  In spite of my chaotic schedule I’ve managed to finish several books so far. Narrative non-fiction account ‘Pacific Tsunami-Galu Afi’,  the YA Fantasy/RomanceTELESA series, and a short fiction collection ‘Afakasi Woman’  – which are all available on Amazon. If anyone has the secret for cloning one’s self, I would sure appreciate it if you shared it with me because then I could churn out way more books with much fewer headaches. I think…

Telesa – The Creation Story

There are many tellings of the Creation Story in Pacific mythology. To celebrate my birthday (yay!), I’m sharing this piece from ‘When Water Burns’: the Creation Story – according to Telesa legend. If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of these fierce protectors of the earth, then this will answer your musings!
In the beginning there was darkness, a great expanse. Tangaloa-lagi moved upon the face of the darkness  and after a time, the god grew tired and rested. And where the god stood, there grew up a rock. Then Tangaloa-lagi said to the rock, “Be thou split up” and hit the rock with one hand.  It split open and the earth was brought forth on the one side and the sea was brought forth on the other. And the earth glowed red with fire and the sea enveloped it and water burned at its edges. Tangaloa-lagi reached down and took of earth and mixed it with water, fashioning it with godly hands to make Man. And then the god breathed life on that which had been made.

“Let the Spirit and the Heart and Will and Thought go on and join together inside the Man.”

And they joined together there and Man became intelligent. And Tangaloa-lagi joined Man to ele-ele the earth, through the creation of Woman who would be the fatu, the heart. ‘Fatu-ma-le-Ele-ele’ meaning Heart and Earth. 

“Let Earth give nourishment to Man and let Man always treasure her as his heart beats with the red blood of life. Let Earth be the rock man stands on to give him strength. The trees that will shelter him. The waters that will sustain him. Let Earth’s fire be the heat that warms him. And in return, let Man be the protector. The guardian.”

But Tangaloa-lagi saw that as Man multiplied and replenished the earth, his heart grew cold and greed ate at it like the poison of the stonefish.  Tangaloa-lagi saw that Man trampled the earth beneath his feet and bowed Woman to his will. Earth’s cries moved Tangaloa-lagi. So again the god of all, took pieces of earth and mixed them with water. But this time, Tangaloa-lagi breathed upon this creation with the raging winds of the expanse. Touched it with the jagged fire that rains from angry skies and made a telesa. She was beautiful. Her name was ‘telesa matagi.’ Sacred one of storms. Air.

Then Tangaloa-lagi cast a fiery net upon the waters and drew forth ocean’s might. The crashing wave. The surging tide that speaks to Masina the moon. And all the living things that swim and creep in the midnight blue depths. All this Tangaloa-lagi fashioned with godly hands into another. She was beautiful. Her name was ‘telesa vasa loloa.’ Sacred one of ocean. Water.

But Tangaloa-lagi was not satisfied. Listening to the cries of ele-ele, feeling of her pain as Man’s heart spurned her, rage filled the god of all things. Reaching deep within Earth’s core, to where molten rock flowed and life pulsed, Tangaloa-lagi brought forth fire and melded it with earth, cooled it with ocean and made ‘telesa fanua afi.’ Sacred one of earth. Fire. She was beautiful. She burned with all the strength of ele-ele. Her heart beat with the fire that would eclipse man’s. He that had betrayed Earth. He that was meant to be the heart but had instead chosen to be the destroyer.

Tangaloa-lagi looked upon what had been created and saw that it was good. “My daughters, yours is a godly trust, an eternal birthright. You will covenant to watch over ele-ele and fill the chasm left by an unfeeling Man and be her heart. You will speak with the voices of wind, water and fire. You will stir man up to a remembrance of his sacred partnership with earth.”

Then Tangaloa-lagi fashioned with godly hands – a carved talisman. The Covenant Bone. Whale bone interlocked with shark tooth. Boar’s tusk encrusted with shimmering iridescent oyster-shell, adorned with black pearl and gleaming river rock. The fierce razor-bite of the swordfish. The soulful deep green promise of jadestone. All these Tangaloa-lagi  interwove to create a talisman of three distinct pieces, which was then washed in the blood of a god, imbuing it with the very essence of Tangaloa-lagi.

“The Covenant Bone will unite the three elements. It will allow the gifts of many to be woven as one, making it possible for the telesa who bears it to wield the gifts of her sisters into one supreme power. For it is only when there is harmony between earth’s gifts, that there can be peace. And life.”

Tangaloa-lagi looked upon telesa fanua-afi. “One day, when earth’s greatest dangers threaten – you will be the one to unite your sisters into one covenant. You will be the one chosen to reach out to embrace man once again as the heart. So that all will be as it should. ‘Fatu-ma-le-ele-ele’ You will give your fire so that Man may live. And he will give his heart so that earth may live.”

And thus did Tangaloa-lagi create telesa.

To watch over earth and be the heart that Man refused to be.

A piano fell on my head today.

I was sitting in church looking around ( from the depths of the back rows where I always creep in and hide) when suddenly it hit me.

I’ve been coming to this particular congregation for a year now. A whole year. And I don’t even know who half of these people are. In fact, I dont even know who a QUARTER of these people are. There’s that nice elderly gentleman who always smiles and shakes my hand. Don’t know his name. There’s that cheery, beautiful young woman who never ever forgets to say hello to me and all my assorted rabble. Don’t know her name either. There’s that very kind lady who teaches my very naughty child and still hasn’t tried to run me over in the parking lot as punishment for raising aforementioned naughty child. Don’t know her name. There’s the Youth Leader who organizes super fun activities for my teenagers every week and ensures they get a ride home. Couldnt tell ya a single personal thing about her. Everywhere I turn there are people who have gone out of their way to be nice to me and my (far from) fabulous children – and yet, I have no clue what their names are. I wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a police lineup. Or nominate them as “people I would most like to survive the zombie apocalypse with”. Or ask for their help if I was locked out of heaven in the last days. Because I know zippity-doo zilch about them.

It was like a piano had fallen on my head. This is just not good enough.  I know I’m a hermit. I know I’m rather anti-social. I know that I have loser interpersonal skills. But after 52 weeks worth of Sundays with very welcoming, friendly, supportive and fun people – I should be better at this. But I’m not. Because I keep thinking that “I’m going home soon. I’m not going to be here for very long. This is not my REAL church/neighborhood/community. I don’t REALLY belong here. My REAL church/neighborhood/community is at home in Samoa.” So therefore I don’t REALLY need to make an effort. Because why bother?

I realize that I have to accept the facts. Right here, right now, I live in Auckland, NZ. And even though Im constantly plotting and conniving for ways to move home to Samoa next week, I have to deal with the reality of my NOW.  I need to stop moping and using homesickness as an excuse for (rude) hermit-ness.

You watch me. Next Sunday, I’m going to be a changed woman. The sign I usually wear that says, “GET AWAY FROM ME” will be left at home. I’m going to radiate cheerful friendliness, hug everyone and give them air-kisses. I shall smile more than a toothpaste ad. Engrave people’s names and faces in stone. Or at least write names down unobtrusively in the back of my scriptures. I will invite strangers to my house for dinner so that we can make friends. And have my new life’s mantra tattooed on my forehead – “Hi, I’m Lani and I know how to be nice. I promise.”

When I started writing this blog post about the New and Improved Me, I was feeling very enthusiastic. But now that I’ve reached the end of it, I just feel tired. The very thought of being cheerfully friendly is exhausting.

People like me should never move countries. Neighborhoods. Or church congregations. We should just stay in our caves, write books and invent people to be friends with.

Sleepless in Samoa hit a record 30,000 visits this month. Thanks for keeping me company! If you’re looking for a Fantasy Romance read about strong, fierce and proud Pacific women – check out the free sample of TELESA:The Covenant Keeper available on Amazon.