Category: Features

Dear Reader: Shadow Bans, Hashtags + Instagram, Oh My!

Posted July 15, 2017 by Hannah in And On That Note, Features / 0 Comments

WARNING: This post is long. I’m sorry, but I have a lot to say and I’m not very succinct, which is ironic.

Here’s a fact we all know: the Instagram algorithm sucks. 

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on this one. Granted, I probably spend a bit more time than the average person whinging about it, but everyone needs #firstworldproblems, right?

Recently though, I’ve noticed that for my Bookstagram account personally, things have been getting worse. I’ve stagnated. Things are getting a bit dire. I have no outside engagement, meaning that 99.9% of my likes are from followers, and only one or two of likes are from people who don’t follow me. Say what?! Before Algorithm, I’d say I had a healthy range of likes from followers and non followers alike. The ratio of likes:followers used to be around 5-10% of your follower account, so by all means, my 250-280 likes per photo was pretty standard, even though I kept “hoping” one of my photos would break the mould and “go viral” as such. After Algorithm, I noticed a steady drop. I was barely reaching 200 likes a photo. Even using IG’s Insights from a business account to *predict* what was my optimum posting times was a dud.

Then I noticed something, going back to the start of May. I was getting absolutely no outside engagement. Even with all the little “tricks” to grow my account organically that I’d been researching, I had flat lined. And it all became a little too much for me, after my latest post received only 83 likes in 7 hours. What the??? Even though I never past the 300 mark BA, I’d easily be able to get 83 in an hour, sometimes two. Something had to be wrong. And cue my meltdown on Twitter, where I let it all out. Was it even worth it anymore? Why couldn’t I break the wall? The real kicker for me was that I follow accounts that have less followers, but are able to get more likes, even after using the same posting times/hashtags. How could these accounts be getting more likes than me with less followers and I’m barely getting any? Please don’t get me wrong – those accounts deserve the number of likes they were getting. And part of me absolutely hates the way I feel so jealous and petty over it.

Then someone on Twitter mentioned soft banning, and I remembered an article on Later about the supposed Shadowban. And a niggle grew, small at first, until it consumed me like most things do, and I thought to myself. Have I been shadowbanned on Instagram????

Before I go on, let me explain shadowbanning. In terms of IG, it basically means that you’re undiscoverable. You might use hashtags in your posts (or comments, more on that later), but to no effect. IG filters them out, and the only people who will see your posts are your followers. IG won’t tell you if you’ve been banned – hence the term “shadowban.” It was meant to be a move that filtered out all the bots and spammers, but somehow, it’s turned on regular joes like you and me and created a huge big mess. So what made me believe that I had been shadowbanned? Let’s take a look.

 

The post on the right is from my Instagram account, checking out the #aussiereaders. In the scheme of things, this tag isn’t major, as say, #bookish, which has over 2 million tags. From my booksta & my personal (which follows my booksta) the photo is visible. But when I created a burner account through a different email address…my post was gone. Filtered out. I took to Twitter with my frustration. What had I ever done to warrant this? I don’t buy likes or followers. I post the required number of hashtags (30, by the way). And I was scared – if I’m shadow banned, how do I get rid of it? Can you get rid of it?

Luckily, the internet is no stranger to shadow banning, and there is a wealth of information out there on it. Even more interesting, after talking to some Reddit friends I’ve made through r/SocialMedia & r/Instagram, I discovered that shadow banning is, in fact, more of an ambiguous term than anything. And it all relates to hashtags. Back in February this year, IG posted an announcement stating that it knew about a large scale error occurring with hashtags not recording or showing up properly. However, it doesn’t seem as if IG are in any position to do anything about it. They simply state that they don’t have the resources to fix it, and then offer some “tips” on how to create engagement. But if you can’t use hashtags to reach new followers, how are you supposed to grow + become engaging, especially with the warped algorithm as it is?

And if it is shadow banning, how do you? Here’s some tips I’ve learnt from my research over the past 24 hours.

     1. Don’t Use Bots, 3rd Party Apps or Automated Schedulers

This is fairly straight forward. IG have really taken a stand against bots – you know, those weird accounts that would comment with an emoji, or have strange usernames, no followers but follow like a million people? Don’t buy likes, don’t buy followers. It’s a bit of a cop out – and it’s also unethical. I’d like to say that in the Bookstagram world, this isn’t an actual thing, but I’m not sure. The Travelgram world was rocked by scandal when it was proved that a major account was buying likes/followers. And not just for themselves – but for others, to make them look bad.

Why 3rd party apps though? Recently, IG has been on a crack down. If you ever used Instagress, Followers+, MassPlanner or any other follow/unfollow or auto-scheduling apps, it’s time to say goodbye, as these are a surefire way of getting shadow banned. I had an app called Followers, which allowed me to keep track of who was following and unfollowing me, making it easy to spot repeat unfollowers & see exactly who was causing me to drop in follower numbers (let me say, probably a good idea to get rid of that one, because some of you guys made me sad). I also use Later to schedule posts ahead of time, however they have said that the ban doesn’t affect them as they abide by Instagram’s terms and sends a push notification to your phone when it’s time to post.

A good way of making sure you’re not breaking code is to log on to Instagram on a desktop > settings > authorise apps. Anything that you don’t use, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Later etc, remove access. Even if you’ve deleted the app and don’t use it anymore.

     2. Yes, Instagram Are Banning Hashtags

You may be using “banned” or broken hashtags. Here’s something interesting: PlannThat have #books on their Banned in 2017 list. Along with #dogsofinstagram, #tgif, #memes, #beautyblogger and more. REALLY?! I’m not sure exactly where the source of this information has come from – PlannThat seem to be the only ones saying specific tags. This website is meant to tell you if you’re using banned tags or not, but it’s proved controversial in terms of if it works or not. Personally, I don’t believe it does work – all my last posts have been “safe,” so why have I had no outside engagement?

It may be that you’re overusing hashtags as well, but I find this to be a double edged sword. I’ve tried to experiment in using the same hashtags over and over, especially ones that popular accounts use or accounts that have been getting more likes than I, but I’ve noticed it hasn’t made a different. Word on the street is that if you use the hashtags too often, they’ll shadowban you. Which sounds more plausible in my case, considering I use the same ones again. Some people swear by the big, popular hashtags, like #bookish, but others say using smaller, curated hashtags is a better method to curate a following. Cait over at Paper Fury talks about the benefits of putting hashtags in comments as well, something I’ve been doing…but it still doesn’t solve the problem. Again, the comments/post thing is a divided nation. I’m definitely going to start curating my hashtags, and using unique ones like publishers, authors and book titles. For Display Purposes Only is a good online site that’ll let you put in a hashtag, and it’ll curate around that, including filtering “bad” hashtags.

    3. Easy On The Likes, Cowboy!

They tell you to engage with your current feed, liking and commenting on the people that you follow to create engagement back. Which makes sense. But then they tell you to slooooow down! The limit does exist in this case, and can range from 100 – 200 likes a day, 60 unfollow/follows an hour and 60 comments a day. So if you’re going to go on a spree – have fun, but not tooo much fun, okay?

    4. It’s Coming From Inside Your Device!

No, do not go ahead and just delete everything! One suggestion for me was to clear the cache in the app, then relogin. I haven’t tried this, but if it works and it clears up my problem, I’ll let you know. It seems that my device itself may have been “shadowbanned,” which explains why I can’t see my posts in hashtags but others can when I asked. However this is flawed in itself – it my posts are showing up to people who don’t follow me, why am I having such a problem in the first place?

     5. Have a KitKat. Have a Break.

Users have reported taking a break anywhere between 48 hours to 1 month’s break from Instagram, and personally, I don’t know if it helps, but it definitely would do on a mental level. And that’s what I’m thinking of doing. The need to have a perfect feed is time consuming. It’s also hard and quite a bit damaging when you see other people having success you wish you did. I don’t have “the right tools”” for Instagram – I take pictures off my iPhone 5, the lighting in my house is terrible, and I use Snapseed to edit photos and don’t even know if I’m doing it correct. It’s stressful. More often than not, I feel like a failure. Time, here, is of an essence, and it’s something I don’t have a lot of. So for me, it seems as if Instagram will be somewhere I can share my photos which I’ll cross post to book reviews, Pinterest and the like. But I can’t keep doing what I’m doing and not expect to see results any more.

    6. Business or Private Account?

This one seems to be a bit of a half and half. Some people say to switch from a business account back to a personal account, but then others say it has affected their personal accounts too. The PreviewApp has a pretty good argument for not signing up for a Business account, and it’s pretty straightforward. Instagram, now owned by Facebook, is all about engagement and making money off that engagement. So if you’re not paying for the perks, why should you get the perks? The sad thing about doing this is that it means you can’t link to your Facebook page. And there’s no guarantee again  it even works.

So What’s The Deal Then?

In summary, it’s safe to say that hashtags are on their way out of fashion. With the way the algorithm is at the moment, it’s clear to see that hashtags play some part in your success or your failure. Even Instagram itself says not to use hashtags as a fail safe way to grow your content. Vtography has a good post about how celebrity influence has lead to the death of the hashtag – you’ll notice that the biggest celebrities and influencers only use one or two hashtags. As mentioned previously, using the term shadowban is probably best left as a loose, overall definition to how hashtagging is affecting people’s Instagrams. Everyone seems to be having a different experience – which leads me to believe that “shadowbanning” isn’t as black and white as it sounds.

Have you experienced this at all? Or have you noticed that the algorithm is actually in your favour (I’d love to know if it has!!)? For more (lighter!) reading, check out these posts too that I’ve found quite helpful!

Vtography – What Is An Instagram Shadowban?

Alex Tooby – Are You The Victim of an Instagram Shadowban?

Kristin Brause – How I Got Rid of My Instagram Shadowban

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Ten Series I Haven’t Read Yet (But Everyone Else Has!)

Posted June 20, 2017 by Hannah in Features, Top Ten Tuesdays / 5 Comments

 

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by Broke & Bookish

FACT: I am a terrible reader of series. I’ll start series, and not finish them. Even worse? I’m so far behind on catching up on series I haven’t even started yet, that I want to read. I know, I know. What sad excuse for a book dragon am I? But life, people. Life. Why can’t I get paid to just lounge around in my pjs all day and read books?!

 

 

The Dark Artifaces by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight | Lord of Shadows | The Queen of Air & Darkness

I haven’t even finished The Mortal Instruments yet, so this is one series that has been sitting on my to be read list and probably will for a while! I just can’t justify starting it without knowing how TMI ends…which means an entire re-read of the books I have read is in order. Hello, binge reading session! Maybe once the last book is out – because I’m terrible at waiting!

 

The Disruption Duology by Jessica Shirvingon

Disruption | Corruption

This duology by #LoveOzYA author Jessica Shirvington has been sitting on my shelves for ages (well, okay, since last year). It’s a blend of sci-fi and dystopia, and I’ve heard very good things, so why haven’t I read it yet???? #tbrtoolong

 

  

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Choshski

The Star Touched Queen | A Crown of Wishes

Yet another duology I’ve heard really great things about and I’ve not started yet. A Crown of Wishes only came out this year, and these two books just sound so appealing!

 

The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae | Gemina | Obsidio

I think I’m the only person in the book community to have not read these books? Okay, so Obsidio doesn’t come out until next year, so I’ve either got a lot of catching up to do or I can get away with not reading them until it is out…

 

 

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Court of Fives | Poisoned Blade | Buried Hearts

This series sounds so good. A fantasy world with a competition of epic proportions, friends and family loyalty? I think I need a four week holiday for all this series binge reading I need to be doing!

 

The Imposter Queen by Sarah Fine

The Imposter Queen | The Cursed Queen | The True Queen 

Some of my favourite people rave about these books, but again, it’s another series where the final book hasn’t been released yet. I feel like now that I’m older, I’m less “I want it now/can’t wait for the next book” and more “I’ll wait until the series has finished” for books I’ve not read? Ha, who am I kidding – give it to me now!

 The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath & The Dawn | The Rose & The Dagger

There’s a reason this TTT is so aptly named. I PROMISE I WILL READ THIS DUOLOGY BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR, OKAY????

  

Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic | A Gathering of Shadows | A Conjuring of Light

See above. Although I’m going to have to take a week’s holiday to binge read these books because boy oh boy, they are maaaaassive.

 

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina | Shadow Scale

A series about dragons and I haven’t read it yet? I feel like Derek from Zoolander. “Who am I?”

 

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes | A Torch Against The Night | Untitled Books 3 & 4

In my defence, I’m going to go down the “but there’s more books in the series and I don’t know if I can deal with the pain of a cliffhanger” route on this series too.

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Ten Authors I Discovered in 2016

Posted December 6, 2016 by Hannah in Features, Top Ten Tuesdays / 4 Comments

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Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish

I feel like I’ve really branched out in my reading this year. As I’m getting older, YA becomes a little less appealing in some aspects, and I’m finding I’m expanding my reading horizons a lot as I trial and test other genres. What is great about this is that I get to discover new authors as well to fall in love with! Double the win, right? I’ve divided this post up into two sections – the first five are authors whose books I’ve read, and the second are authors whose books I’m yet to read, but am planning to read before 2016 is over (that doesn’t give me a lot of time, yikes!)

untitled-designAnne Barton (nee Anna Bennett) | Goodreads

I found Anne’s book, Once She Was Tempted at my local library and plucked it off the shelf on a whim. Boy was I ever so glad to! Anne writes the historical romances that I love – strong willed and fiesty heroines with brooding love interests and tight family units who would do anything for their kin. In. Total. Love. I can’t wait for her new books under Anna Bennett!

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 Julie Jame| Goodreads

Julie was also another random discovery! I absolutely adored her FBI/Attorney series and have found a new favourite trope! What I love the most? While everyone is sexy and gorgeous, they’re also smart, intelligent and have worked their way to where they are through hard work and integrity. The host of characters are smart, funny and loyal, and make me laugh all the time.

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Rachael Craw | Goodreads

I’ve had Spark on my bookshelf for quite a while, and never read it until this year. I have no idea why, the series was UH-MAZING! I love genetic-y superhuman power-y type stories, and Rachael sealed her fate as an amazing writer with this series, and I honestly can’t wait to read more. Like maybe that spin off series of Davis, hmmm???

 Jen MaloneGoodreads

Wanderlost is probably one of my favourite contemporaries of 2016. It was such a sweet, fun read about some of my favourite places on Earth and I really can’t wait to read her other YA books!

Cath Crowley | Goodreads

How have I never read a Cath Crowley book before??? Am I even Australian? What am I doing with my life? Words in Deep Blue is one of the best books I’ve ever read, hands down. It was just so beautiful and it’s about words and the power of words and bookshops and books and love and really you just need to read it for yourself!

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Victoria Schwab  | Goodreads // Sarah Glen Marsh | Goodreads // Kathryn Holmes | Goodreads

Evelyn Skye | Goodreads // Brittany Cavallaro | Goodreads 

Who are some authors you’ve discovered this year? Let me know in the comments!

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The Holiday Gift Guide for the Practical Bookworm In Your Life

Posted November 29, 2016 by Hannah in Features, Top Ten Tuesdays / 1 Comment

top ten tuesdays

 

Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted by Broke and Bookish.

If you’re a bit like you, you mind not have need for a lot of the bookish paraphernalia that’s floating around these days. While I love seeing so many fellow bookworms who are insanely creative, it also makes me a little sad that I’ll never have any of their stuff, simply because my practical mind won’t justify the need in having little bits and bobs floating around the place, or just sitting in a box never getting used, which is why I’m more wary about subscription boxes (aside from the cost of shipping!) . So when this week’s Top Ten prompt came out, I thought it was a great way for me to find some amazingly talented people who create awesome stuff that even the most practical of bookworms can use! All links will take you to the store where you can buy the goodies, as well as the Instagram page for the business and/or the Bookstagrammer featuring their items – I hope you enjoy discovering some amazing Bookstagram accounts while you’re at it!

 

1. You Smell Nice! What Is It? Boyfriend Material!

We all need to wash, so why not smell of your favourite fictional character while your at it? Gina at Behind the Pages has got you covered. Her full range of soaps doesn’t just include boyfriends, but girlfriends as well, and most recently ‘Ship of the Month’ (honest to God Gina there better be a Chaolaena one and I’m buying 10!)

Who? Behind the Pages | Instagram 

A photo posted by Gina (@behindthepagesstore) on

2. Lip Smackin’ Good!

Let’s stick with Gina for a minute, because I haven’t even told you my favourite thing about Gina and her incredible store. If you’re like me (and I can guarantee it, you probably are), you probably go through, what, at least a gazillion lip balms in your life. I lose them all over the place, they’re like bobby pins, I swear. But Gina here, Gina’s solved all our problems ladies. At this stage, I’ve only got Manon, which came with the YA Chronicles October box, but I’m putting in an order very soon because well, honestly? Who wouldn’t want Chaol on their lips?!?

Who? Behind the Pages | Instagram

3.  Scent It with Candles

Why did I not know that bookish candles were a thing? Because they are an amazing thing, and I think candles are one of the most practical gifts you can give someone, because who doesn’t want a beautiful smelling room, especially when the scent is your favourite book or character or fictional location or just books in general?

Who? Burning Pages Candles | Instagram 

Who? The Wick Library | Instagram

A photo posted by Alysha (@thewicklibrary) on

I’ve recently discovered that there are some AMAZING candle makers out there, so if you get a chance, check out these other stores too:

The Book Hangover | Nook and Burrow | The Melting Library | The Leaky Candle | Meraki Candles | Anthology Candles

4. Say It Loud, Don’t Cover It Up!

I’m so in love with this beautiful iPad skin designed by Aentee of Read at Midnight, who also designed the header for my blog! I use my iPad as my e-reader, so it’s only fitting that I kit it out in something pretty to show the world what a ‘bibliophage’ I am! You can get other practical things too, such as laptop cases or iPhone covers, but I think this is my favourite!

Who? Read at Midnight | Instagram

5. There’s Nothing Better Than a Hot Beverage and a Good Book

I love my coffee almost as much as I love my books, and there is nothing better than curling up in bed or on the couch with a wonderful book and a warm drink. Or what about a mug for at work? Assert your dominance as a book lover and shout it out loud with a beautifully designed mug by Bookworm Boutique!

Who? Bookworm Boutique | Instagram

A photo posted by @faerie.drugs on

6. Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I know it’s practically summer now, but when it’s cold outside there’s nothing better than a warm pair of socks or a comfy jumper…and Out of Print have some pretty cute designs!

Who? Out of Print | Instagram

A photo posted by Amanda (@thebookthieflibrary) on

7. Never Be Late for Any Important Date!

Never be late again for anything because this adorable Alice in Wonderland desk calendar is absolutely a perfect edition to any study space (and look, it comes with that gorgeous edition of the book too!

Who? The Rifle Paper Co | Instagram

8. Channel Your Inner Marauder

This cute 2017 planner from Hafsah at Icey Designs is absolutely gorgeous, and would make a great student diary (because we are always up to no good!) It’s the perfect size as well to slip in your bag! Perfect for any Harry Potter lover, that’s for sure!

Who? Icey Designs | Instagram

A photo posted by Hafsah (@hafsahfaizal) on

9. More Than Just A Pouch

This is my favourite quote from Beauty and the Beast and this carry all pouch is utterly adorable! I always have too much stuff and I hate loose bits! My handbag is meticulously organised! Of course, this pouch’s practical use is completely up to you! Is it a pencil case? A make-up bag? A coin purse? It can be whatever you want it to be!

Who? Books and Cleverness | Instagram

10. Practical People Always Love Presents

As much as I love useful things, every now and again it is extraordinarily wonderful to receive something pretty yet meaningful. I love the necklaces that Julie from Author Adornments creates. They’ve got that beautiful vintage look that makes them look like absolute treasures. Being a major Mr. Darcy fan, I would definitely wear one of the Pride and Prejudice necklaces! And bonus – they also do subscription boxes too!

Who? Author Adornments | Instagram

Do you love Bookish gifts? Let me know of your favourite places to buy book related items!

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To DNF Or Not To DNF…That Is A Bookworm’s Biggest Dilemma

Posted November 3, 2016 by Hannah in And On That Note, Features / 5 Comments

 

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One of my firm reading rules since the beginning of time has always been Thou Shalt Finish Every Book Thou Starts.

It’s always been a no brainer: finish what you started, even if you hate it. Why? Because I feel like I can’t make an informed opinion or review on a book that I haven’t finished reading. That and I absolutely must need to know what happens.

But recently…

I’ve been having doubts about this reading policy of mine. Is DNFing a book really that bad? I don’t have a lot of time on my hands, so reading is precious. When I’m not working a crazy full time job, I’m studying full time. Now that it’s November, I’ll have more time for reading on my hands, but it’s also #NaNoWriMo, and I want to spend a lot of time focusing on my novel. And I have a lot of books I want (and need) to read.

Which is why this year, I’ve DNF’d three books, and started to read two that I almost immediately put down and moved on from. It’s sad, because those three books (if you’re curious, they were Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Passenger by Alex Bracken and Ruined by Amy Tintera) were three that I was looking forward to soooo much…and yet they turned out to be a disappointment. Do I never want to try and read them again? No! Of course not!

When I struggle through a book, it starts to invoke the dreaded reading slump, and I’m wasting away through a novel that I’m not enjoying for the sake of reading it, when there are plenty of other books on my shelves I could be reading instead. And enjoying.

So where do I go from here? Well, it’s not as easy as just giving up. When you’ve been oh so strict on yourself for many years, it’s hard to break out of a habit. So I have a new reading rule: Thou Is Allowed To Pass On A Book; As Long As It Is Not A Review Book. Okay, okay, it’s a little harsh, but considering that my review list is mainly Netgalley and Edelweiss books these days, I think it’s a fair enough rule.

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Here There Be Dragons! Introducing My NaNoWriMo Novel

Posted November 1, 2016 by Hannah in Features / 8 Comments

NaNoWriMo 2016 Participant Banner

It’s November – which means it’s NaNoWriMo Time!

For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo stands for, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where crazy people like me attempt (and I say attempt, because the last couple of years hasn’t been very successful for me) to write a novel, or at least, 50,000 words of one, in a whole month that equals to 30 days. Basically, that equals to something like 1,666 words a day. It’s a great place to start if you’ve ever wanted to write a novel but didn’t know where to begin – because NaNoWriMo is all about getting those words flowing! Some amazing authors, like Marissa Meyer, Rainbow Rowell, Susan Dennard, and Erin Morgenstern have written their bestsellers off the back of NaNoWriMo, so it’s a good a place to start, if any, right?

Now full disclosure: I’m not really one who likes to talk about my writing, as I tend to waffle – a lot. For me, writing has always been a bit of a private thing, and it often gives me great anxiety because there are some amazing writers in the blogging community, but I want . . . to share my journey with you guys. So I’m taking my prompts from the amazing Cait at Paper Fury‘s Beautiful People. Which means I guess it’s time to meet my novel!

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Okay, let’s start with the latter first, shall we? I’ve had this story – or the crux of this story – rolling around in my head since 2013. It was around that time I started listening to awesome instrumental music, like Two Steps from Hell. I’m not sure what exactly inspired me, but I knew it was fantasy and I knew there were dragons involved. Three years and a million costume changes later, I finally have a plot. I think. It’s definitely changed a lot of hands to reach this point, but I love where it’s at right now.

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Dragons!! Everybody loves dragons right? Not in my book.

Fire and Ash is set in a world where dragons used to roam freely over the continent of Amaria. Now, two kingdoms have fallen at the hands of a power hungry King who captures and trains what is left of the once docile creatures to become war beasts for his army. Alix Pierce knows that if anyone was to ever find out that black blood runs through her veins, she’d have to answer questions even she doesn’t know the answer to, but being near the King’s dragons day in and day out seems to calm the thing crawling under her skin, itching to break free. After an accident leaves a dragon dead, Alix stumbles upon a smuggling ring – and at the centre of it, her two older brothers. Her only option to prove that she isn’t working as a spy for the King is to kill him herself, and set in motion a revolution that Alix wants no part of.

Caught between her loyalty to a King determined to destroy the continent, the fledgling friendships she makes with those at court, and the need to keep her brothers safe, Alix agrees, if only to stall the demands of Daniel, the leader of the rebellion, who seems to be hiding the real reason he wants her – and only her – to be the one to assassinate the King.

Annnd this is why I’m terrible at sharing my writing – because I’m terrible at describing it! Summaries and blurbs SUCK, and it makes me cry that I can’t tell you ALL about Fire and Ash. So what are the main points you need to know? There are dragons (and that’s not all!). It’s a quadrilogy ( I actually don’t know what it is yet, but I know Book 2 will be called Dust and Shadows). There is lots of snark. I mentioned dragons, right? My MC is not The Chosen One (in fact, she’d probably sic a dragon on you if you said that). There is a reaaaaally slow burn romance. 

As for comp titles…if these books tickle your fancy, I think you’re gonna like mine!

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a picmonkey-collage

Because I’m terrible at making aesthetics, if you’re really dead keen, I’d recommend checking out my Pinterest board (but bear with me, as I’m currently in the middle of moving my Storyboards over to my “author” account). A lot of the images and drawings I’ve used are from other books/TV shows, I know, but it gives you an idea! Musically, I’d also recommend checking out my Spotify playlist, because if I do say so myself, it is pretty amazing!

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Oh, my characters, ah, yes, alright. My characters. I’m going to introduce you to only four, because there are a host of characters and I want you to meet them all but you can’t, not just yet any way!

Alix Pierce – our MC. She just wants one day where no-one will disturb her sleep. Favourite place is riding the thermals on the back of a dragon. Is stable. Like a building (inside joke, sorry). Has two left feet. Does not like dogs (especially Thorne’s). Or swords. Or any sort of fighting, for that matter. Prefers books instead as weapons – literally and figuratively.

Tristan Thorne – That’s Captain Thorne to you, please and thank you. Don’t mention the scar. Quiet. Loyal. On the rare occasion, his sense of humour is known to be a bit dry. Has a love/hate relationship with dragons.

Penn Margoulis – Just don’t ever call her Pennra, because she does know how to use a sword (and isn’t afraid to use it). She’s the same age as Alix (17), and has been a soldier (and then a Guard) in the King’s Army since she was ten, after the King conquered Vardrys, the small kingdom that made up the cluster of Western Isles. One day she’ll admit that she is slightly and somewhat completely in love with Prince Xander’s cousin Emilia.

Kamali – a (rapidly growing) Eastern Sand Dragon rescued by Prince Xavier and nurtured back to health by Alix. An insufferable pain in the arse who refuses to go airborne until – oh, spoilers. His scales are sand-coloured, pebbled with light greenish-grey flecks, and like all sand dragons, is smaller in size than its cousins, with close-set wings that run from its shoulders to lower back, giving an illusion of a small wingspan. Kamali’s left wing was badly damaged when Xavier found him, and has never quite recovered. Kamali is intensely loyal and fiercely protective.  do-you-need-to-understand-it-to-love-it-you-think-its-beautiful-thats-enough-7

I sob. Into my laptop. As I stare at my empty word document. No really, I’m a terrible plotter. I have a synopsis, and a few breakdowns of scenes, but that’s about it. I’m mostly a pantser, but we shall see how much that works. I like to have inspiration in the form of playlists and storyboards though, so I guess that counts for something, right?


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Finishing the damn thing!

Haha no really. I love that I have all these thousands of little scenes, and I can’t wait to bring them together and meld them into a story. I’m excited about having something that’s in full, not in parts. And I’m equal parts terrified to see what people think of it too. I’m also excited to develop the world I have created beyond what it is at the moment.

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1. The five kingdoms of Amaria are based off Holy Corner, in Edinburgh, where three roads meet and on each of the corners is a church. The kingdoms all intersect of a central location known as Sariel, which is known as the heart of Amaria. While there is no magic in my books, it is a very important place.

2. Dragons used to roam the entire continent, but the Dragon Wars ended in the death of many. Only in Scorchia, the eastern most kingdom, do dragons and humans live in harmony.

3. I’m really terrible at these things and I don’t know what to tell you for the third one. Did I mention there’s no magic in this fantasy?

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Alix’s only goal in life have been to keep her brothers safe, and to fly under the radar. Obviously things change when she realises they like putting themselves in danger a bit more than she would like, and ends up having to kill the King. What stands in the way of her killing the King? The fact that she’s dedicated her life in service to him, for one. And other things that I can’t tell you because SPOILERS!

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Abject horror over how such a lovely person could write something so horrible and cliffhanger-y, because let me just say, the ending is the one part I have already written and I love it to death. It’s my favourite part. If I could summarise it, it would be . . . and I’m going to be quiet now.

Theme wise…there’s a lot going on here. Trust. Acceptance. Overcoming fear. There’s a lot more I could say, but ugh, bloody spoilers. You’ll just have to wait until it (hopefully) gets published one day, right?

So that’s my NaNoWriMo story! What do you guys think? If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments! If you’re also participating, let me know, or feel free to add me as a buddy! I’d love to hear about your projects or past experiences with NaNoWriMo!

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