Measuring Your Success as an Author

Measuring Your Success as an Author 01 by Casey Carlisle

You write, therefore you are.

Before we get into what can be a touchy subject for some, please note the title: I mention success, not commercial success. Which I feel is an important distinction. The latter seems to be the standard in order to gauge whether being a writer is, in fact, a worthwhile profession.

This topic came about from a discussion I was having with a few fellow authors when I had noticed an ex-business acquaintance posting about her award winning novel. How it was ranked #1 on Amazon. Now, from knowing her personally for over 10 years, I know she was never inclined with superb literacy. And upon hearing that I was writing books, and was going to be editing my mothers work (posthumously) to release under her name as a dying wish. It felt like she wanted to become an author to throw it in my face. Like anyone can do it. Like I wasn’t all that special.

Measuring Your Success as an Author 02 by Casey CarlisleTruth be told. Anyone can write a novel. But this woman was coming from a place of negativity. The past aside, I thought good for her. I’ve been toiling for years on content and yet to publish. She has achieved this in six short months. Though, when I investigated her claims, found out a little more about her book, nothing added up. No listing on Goodreads, no search results on Amazon, or Google for that matter. I couldn’t find it anywhere apart from a link on her website. It was a little overpriced. In the genre of self-help, and to be completely honest, nothing particularly unique or original. I could jump on Pinterest and scroll through the inspirational quotes and get the same sort of content.

Did that mean she wasn’t a success as an author?

So the discussion with my little gaggle of writers pondered the idea that you are a writer as long as you are writing, and an author as long as you have published something for public consumption.

The woman mentioned above may be an author, but she exposed herself as a bit of a liar by making sensational claims on stitched together content from very generic sources. My fellow writers wanted to discredit her because of how they put in so much time and effort to craft a novel, or memoir, and someone else produces something, in their opinion, substandard.

But that’s the thing about the access to self-publishing. We have started to see work that is solely produced as a revenue stream, a low-cost method to get your work out and support your claims that you are an established author.

I say good for them. Everyone has different tastes in literature, different ways they want to spend their own money. There is an audience for all types of writers.

Eluding further on the conversation, many of us were mixing up published online content with traditionally published and self-published material. It is such a diverse field. I had to bring up the fact that I do a lot of writing for web content, textbooks and manuals, technical writing, and ghost writing. Very little of which has my name attached to it. So it falls into the grey area of being labelled an author. I can’t point a something and claim I wrote it when I don’t have a by-line, or am not credited in the end pages. Today, we have infinitely more access and diverse modes of writing and publishing. I think the past ideas of a successful author aren’t holding true in today’s climate.

Not all authors are credited for their work. Not all writers earn money from their craft. Not all writers and authors are commercially successful.

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Talking to many writers, it seems the dream is to be getting that elusive best seller from being traditionally published. However there are alternatives to this ideal. Traditionally published authors reap the benefits of a system that has their work edited and published by a team, having their books positioned in book stores, department stores and online shops. It’s nothing a person with some basic know-how and a bit of savvy, and a lot of hard work cannot accomplish today. Online marketing has provided a great opportunity to anyone willing to have a go.

Blogs and podcasts have found success on their own. E-books have cornered a niche market. It is truly an amazing landscape in comparison to what existed 15-20 years ago.

Getting back to defining success as an author… is success earning a living from your publications? Recognition? Or merely the fact that you have been published? With the market being flooded with sub-par self-published material, general opinion on simply being published has become devalued. In a culture of influencers and social media, recognition seems to have taken a more dominant role. But that is tied into image, behaviour, content, and relevance. It’s a full time job managing an image just to market your publication. But individuals are doing it and winning. And as for earning a living from your published works… there aren’t a lot of writer friends in proportion to the number of writers I know of who are living above the poverty line solely on the profit and royalties they make from sales alone.

So, unfortunately, success as an author is a subjective term. It’s interpreted by the individual and their perspective. In my opinion as long as you are enriching the publishing landscape, touching readers, then you are a success. But don’t be like that woman lying about her book – she’s like a Karen. Don’t be Karen. Write with passion. Believe in your work. Support fellow authors and make the publishing experience a pleasant one, because heaven knows it’s hard enough for most of us to write a book in the first place.

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How would your measure success for an author or writer?

What is your opinion on a lot of these false claims made in marketing a book?

Do you thing self-publishing is sullying the reputations of published authors?

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ by Jandy Nelson

Art, identity, and secrets all mix into this masterful contemporary.

I'll Give You The Sun Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT,

No. of pages: 371

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“We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.”

At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

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This was a surprise read for me. I had heard great things and noticed a lot of 5 star reviews but I kept away from all of that as much as I could. All I knew about ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ was that the main protagonists were fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, where the male grapples with his identity.

I think the biggest surprise for me was the interconnectedness of this novel. Just about every point, seemingly irrelevant or not, has meaning. A symbolism, a prophecy, a reason for being. And because of that this novel has a strong interwoven web of plot and arc that kept surprising me at every turn.

And Jandy Nelson’s writing style was a delight. Such a lovely turn of phrase where the narrative deals a lot with art – Jandy’s writing was akin to art itself without being egotistical.

I'll Give You The Sun Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Told in alternating perspectives by our two leads – the twins: Noah, 3 years in the past, and Jude, his sister in the present. I think the theme that is most heavy in the narrative and rings true for all the characters is that we are all fallible and struggling to find our way through this messy life, and find that safe place where we are expressing our true authentic selves. Add into that all the dramatic and familial themes that can happen like love, sex, sibling rivalry, coming of age, the deconstruction of childhood innocence, and ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ really shines.

Going into this novel with little prior knowledge I guessed at the main plot fairly early on, but it was never solidified as the diaphanous nature of symbolism and art weighing heavily on the narrative, there was always some doubt. But those early guesses came to ring true, but there was so much subtext and many, many arcs that grew around this main thread which provided such serendipity. I was transfixed.

There was one spot about halfway through the novel in a chapter from Jude’s point of view where the pacing lagged a little, but in hindsight it was setting up a number of plot points for the rollercoaster ride to the conclusion.

I’ll Give You the Sun’ wraps up nicely, a bitter-sweet ending with a strong sense of hope. It’s been a while since I last got a book hangover from a contemporary, and I highly recommend this. It has a delicate hand on some difficult topics and an interesting lens through which to view the world. I treasure this reading experience.

Overall feeling: My reading just leveled up!

I'll Give You The Sun Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I'll Give You The Sun Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) by Rhoda Belleza

A light sci-fi fantasy that took me on a wild ride.

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 314

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Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

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This was better than I was expecting after the first few pages. I’d been recommended this through a number of blogs I follow and with it popping up in recommended books on both Amazon and Goodreads – so I caved. That first chapter I was not holding out much hope… with a whole lot of jargon, strange places, and weird names dumped on the reader I started to get that overwhelming feeling like when you read high fantasy. It’s all so foreign, and I just wanted something to relate to. But it ended after that; it was just dipping your toe into the pool thinking the water is cold, but after stepping in your body adjusts and your floating weightless in a new exotic world.

The next thing that grabbed me was the pacing. It was like every chapter had a cliff hanger of some sort. There was action from start to finish. I pretty much read this entire novel in one sitting.

The one irk I had with ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ was the world building – chiefly that of the plausibility of the solar system, broken into four quadrants, every planet populated with life… umm, the physics and science of the universe proves that this is not possible. But, once I got over that and settled into the drama of it all, I really found a pace with ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ and really enjoyed the story. It reminds me of Star Wars, but on a smaller scale. It’s got that childlike impossibility and imagination woven into a tapestry of comedy, love, and soap opera.

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Told in dual perspectives (apart from the last chapter) from Rhee (Rhiannon Ta’an) a survivor from an assassination attempt to wipe out the royal family; and Aly (Alyosha Myraz) a dark skinned soldier and television star. They both get caught up in murder schemes, a chase, fight for survival, and exposing the truth to lead a rebellion against a nefarious faction trying to replace the royal families rule over the solar system. There is a mix of naivety, grit, competence, and luck as the pair follow their own paths, cross, divert, ending in some major twist and turns.

For the most part the main plot is fairly predictable, Rhoda Belleza does not try hard to hide clues early on in the text, so many of the reveals are more a confirmation of intellectual guesses; but there were a couple of twists that took me by surprise. The best part though that detracts from this ease of foresight, was the action and pacing. Honestly, the writing style of Belleza had me totally gripped. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes in the future – if it is a more realistic or plausible setting, she could knock it out of the park.

This is the debut in a duology of novels, and does not really end with a solid conclusion, rather ‘dot, dot, dot… tune in next week and see how our band of heroes get out of this one!’ So I was quick to jump online and put an order in for the concluding novel ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars.’

I’d definitely recommend this to those who love light sci-fi, fantasy, and YA. If you’re in to hard sci-fi you may find this a little ridiculous. A surprising read that gave me a fun day of reading.

Overall feeling: Yay for space operas!

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 Ways to Create Sizzling First Sentences

7 Sizzling First Sentences Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I read this article by Pamela Rushby in the WQ and wanted to share it here because I love compelling first sentences. I always try to write that hook for the start of my novels (and at the start of every chapter) because I feel it is important to be aware of ways to keep your words engaging and capture your audience. In fact it is one of the items I have on my checklist while editing.

What’s the most important sentence in your story?

The first!

When a potential reader picks up your book in a bookshop or library they’ll glance at the cover. Possibly read the blurb on the back. Then, if thy’re still attracted, flip the book open and read the first sentence.

The first sentence.

Now, you have probably not (unless you’re an author/illustrator) designed the cover. Probably not written the blurb on the back. So that first sentence is your first opportunity to grab your reader – and keep them reader.

Which means that the first sentence needs to be a sizzler.

Here are just a few first sentences that I desperately wish I’d written. You probably have favourites of your own – and I’d love to hear them.

  • The small boys arrived early for the hanging. (The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett, Penguin Random House 2016)
  • I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten: it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. (Splintered, A.G. Howard, Amulex Books 2013)
  • King Constantine IX of Regia had been killed three times and was bored with it. (The Beggar Queen, Lloyd Alexander, E.P. Dutton 1984)
  • The three backpackers were breathing heavily. (Circles of Stone, HarperCollins 2003)
  • I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. (I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith, St Martins Griffin 1948)

All pretty compelling, yes? Except one. I slipped that in there because I don’t like it at all. I think it’s weak. Dull. It’s ‘The three backpackers were breathing heavily.’ B-o-r-i-n-g. And I can say that because I wrote it. It’s the first sentence of my ya novel Circles of Stone. It makes me blush now. I’d never use that as a first sentence again.

So how could I have made that stronger – a sizzling first sentence? One way is to locate the first really dramatic incident in the book and make that the first sentence. Put it right up front. Hook the reader, then explain what’s going on in flashbacks.

In Circles I was 2000 words into the story before something exciting happened: the discovery of a centuries-old mummified body in a bog. That’s where I should have begun!

But there are many different ways to start a story, and I’ve collected seven of them.

7 Sizzling First Sentences Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

And here are a few examples:

Action   I didn’t hesitate. I shot him

Dialogue   “So, Sabrina, just when was it you discovered that you were destined to kill your one ture love?”

Thought   It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife (Pride and Prejidice, Jane Austin)

Senses, feeling   He knew there was something about that room, it was the way he shivered and a cold sweat broke out under his arms whenever he passed it.

Surprise, shock   I never thought my favourite cousin would try to poison me on my sixteenth birthday.

Question   When you start a new school you know it’s not going to be a barrel of laughs, but do you expect to be charged with murder on your first day?

Description   Dusk drew in, sleet hissed furiously against the cabin walls, and much closer than they would have liked, something suspiciously like a wolf howled.


Want to try it for yourself? Here’s a short scenario:

It’s 79AD. You’re living in Pompeii, In Italy. You’ve noticed some slight earth tremors in the past few days, but these happen often in Pompeii. Nothing to worry about. Then, without warning, you hear an ear-splitting roar. You turn to see the mountain behind your town has exploded. A huge black cloud is climbing up into the sky.

Now, choose a way to start: action, dialogue, statement, feeling, surprise, question, description.

What’s your first sizzling sentence?

Pamela Rushby has had over 200 books published, both in Australia and overseas. Her books and scripts have won many awards. Her historical fantasy middle-grade novel, The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle will be published by Walker in 2020. It is guaranteed to have a sizzling first sentence.

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I liked that we got specific examples and an exercise to challenge our writer’s brain in creating an attention grabbing first sentence. Is this something you’ve thought of? Have your heard this advice before? Do you have a particular favourite first sentence?

I also like the approach that some authors take of a preface – a cut scene from the most dramatic part of the novel to grab the readers attention.

Additionally, some novels have fun chapter headings, or a weird location to create intrigue like Somewhere beneath the city in the darkness of the catacombs 1:37am.

It’s all about creating an atmosphere to hook your reader… do you have a favourite that you have written? Share some in the comments sections, I’d love the hear them – and possibly find my next five star read!

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘In The Afterlight’ (#3 The Darkest Minds) by Alexandra Bracken

Not the conclusion I was hoping for.

In the Afterlight (#3 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 535

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Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the “rehabilitation camps” housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

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The biggest issue I had with this is pacing. So much detail. Logistics. The pace did pick up a little in the second half, but on the whole ‘In The Afterlight’ felt like it was a looong read. I really had to force myself to keep picking it up.

Even though I was relatively familiar with the cast, there was still a lot of characters to keep track of, and several times I had to stop and try and remember who some people were and what had gone down in the prequels.

I was expecting some major events around the use of their abilities, upping the ante from the previous novels in this franchise, but all I got was a whimper. This wasn’t the cinematic climax I was expecting. Yes, it resolved all the plot points it needed to, but a more impotent manner. I think it was more to do with the pacing, but with some of the more tragic and emotional scenes in ‘In The Afterlight,’ it did not affect me so much. At the end of the book I was like… meh! It was cool, and I loved getting a resolution, but it was a lukewarm finish.

In the Afterlight (#3 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe character acrs for all the main players weren’t that huge either, it felt more like their wishes being fulfilled rather than any major change in their beliefs, character, or goals. There was even a few points in this finale that rendered all the events in the second book, ‘Never Fade’ irrelevant – and I was like, what was the point of that book than other than experiencing yet another failure?

I kinda like Alexandra Bracken’s writing style, I just really wish she would edit to keep the plot moving forward with each scene.

My opinion on this collection has been slowly dropping with each consecutive instalment. There is a bind-up of short stories in ‘Through the Dark’ that I have yet to read, and I can even break those up through other reads if the pacing falls; and I’m sort-of interested in ‘The Darkest Legacy’ this time following Zu. The blurb sounds good, but it is 569 pages and I’m concerned it is going to suffer the same pacing issues… and judging from the mixed reviews it seems to be the case from many reviewers. I do have the ‘Wayfarer’ duology which I will indulge in at some future date, but if it has the same types of issues I think I’ll start skipping Brackens work altogether.

In The Afterlight’ was predictable. It hit all the points it was meant to to wrap up the series, but there were no real surprises, no twists, and in fact had an underwhelming conclusion. It was such a long journey to get there I wanted a bang for my buck… but no dice.

Ruby was an interesting protagonist, I still cared about her and her story, but that is pretty much it.

At this point in time, I don’t really recommend this book, or the series. Instead, go watch the movie – it will be much more satisfying.

Overall feeling: …

In the Afterlight (#3 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


#BQ Too Late by Casey Carlisle

I liked the message this book played with, but it was waaaay to confronting and graphic for my sensitive brain. Plus it was more a collection of blog posts than an actual novel.

Fun to mix up the reading formats every now and then, step out of your comfort zone.

What was the last time you read something out of your comfort zone? Was it enriching or a dumpster fire?

Book Review – ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Maurene Goo

Chasing celebrities through the city…

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 328

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10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

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This was a cute slow-burn romance. Loved the inclusion of K-Pop and aspects of the industry… and its introduction into America through the idol ‘Lucky.’

Told in alternating perspectives between K-pop singer Lucky and her love interest paparazzi photo-journalist Jack, ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ was a pleasant mash up of culture and romance. This rang all the same notes of the only other title from Maurene Goo that I’ve read ‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’ It’s a light breeze romance much in the same vein as Kasie West. Don’t expect anything too complex or angsty, just a fluffy rom-com that’s easy to digest and escape for an afternoon.

This is a quick read and Goo managed to keep the pace going all the way through with comedy and hijinks.

Lucky is an authoritative protagonist, in control of who she is and where she wants to go (sort of.) It was refreshing to read a capable main character in this genre and not have her as some wilting flower. I want to say she was slightly immature, but given the circumstances in which she has grown up, being sheltered by her managerial staff in the Korean music industry, I feel her naivety is on par with her exposure to the outside world. Having said that, in other matters she is mature beyond her years with an assurance that was inspirational.

I read ‘Hello, I Love You’ by Katie M. Stout in 2016 which is tackles a similar storyline, but Maurene Goo has executed this story much better. And because of this ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ did not feel all that original.

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Jack was an interesting character for and I loved him as a love interest. He’s a bad boy that’s not quite a bad boy. I also think that more research could have been done on the lifestyle of the paparazzi and photography equipment, because this aspect of the novel lost a lot of realism for me. I know a bit about this occupation and Jack did not seem to even tackle even the most basic aspects of this line of work. It was just a very loose, uneducated guess at what that career is actually like.

As with all contemporary romances, this was extremely predictable, but it did take me on a bit of a ride, and offered a slight twist which gave ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ a breath of fresh air.

I loved if for its sub-genre and cultural representation but was an average read. I’m kinda thinking it’s going to be easily forgettable because it’s such a light uncomplicated romance. I can see it being fun for its intended demographic. I read it in one sitting in one day and enjoyed my time with it, but I don’t know if this is for everyone.

I’d only recommend this if you like cute contemporaries.

Overall feeling: okie-dokie

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.