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Friday, 5 May 2017

How to pick a winning cover!

Here's a really useful post on getting your cover right from a site called Author Author.

"Read this guide before making or choosing your book cover.

"They say 'Don't judge a book by it's cover,' so it doesn't really matter

What complete rubbish! Getting a book cover right is vital because unless it catches the eye of someone looking for a book, they will never read the description, never read a sample and never make a purchase. If you are an indie author your cover will make a huge difference to your sales."

Read the rest of this very useful and very specific post by clicking on this link

I recommend it!

Friday, 21 April 2017

How to Handle Rejection

For those of us who self-publish (or rather publish independently of the mainstream publishers) rejection isn’t as much of an issue, at least not at the outset.

For us rejection comes too late. It comes when our book is published and available online through websites such as or where reviews by customers can be scathing. What about the buyers, your friends and family, of your first book who now are strangely reluctant to invest in your second?

For mainstream authors a rejection letter could be devastating. Jack London received over six hundred rejections letters but he went on to be the highest paid writer of his time. In his book On Writing Stephen King writes of the hundreds of rejection letters he received. He got pretty discouraged bout that; his short story Carrie was rejected so many times he finally threw it in the waste bin. Fortunately for him and his thousands of fans his wife rescued it, persuaded him to turn it into a novel and the rest, as they say, is history.

For an independently published writer we have no such discouragement and, on reading some self-published stuff one can only wish there was someone to pull the plug. Indies have to be especially careful and the best way to avoid the embarrassment of a badly written, badly formatted and badly presented book is to ask for help.

The very first step is to find a beta reader; one who is familiar with your genre and who is prepared to be honest – brutally so if necessary. The next step, after you’ve taken all your beta-readers points to heart – is to find an editor. Beta-readers don’t usually bother with the fine detail. They are looking at the bigger picture; structure, someone who can hypothetically put themselves into your reader’s shoes. They are not your granny or your mother or your best friend.

The second step is to find a good editor. This can be expensive but in the end is worthwhile. The editor may even be someone who is experienced in formatting your document so that it looks like a professionally produced book.

One very important part of your book is to have a professional book cover.  Joel Friedlander writes what is probably the best website for writers at He has a monthly newsletter of e-book designs. It’s a good site to check out for what works and doesn’t work on a book cover. Local designer, Bev Robitai of has consistently produced great covers for my books.

A lot to think about before you pop that book onto the Internet. Take heart, dear writer! There is light at the end of the tunnel. There are any number of people out there who will help you so that you don’t experience the equivalent of a rejection letter – egg all over your face via an irate reviewer on Amazon.

Jenny Harrison

Friday, 7 April 2017

Basics of Plotting

Very briefly, plot means what happens in a story. To be more precise, it means an incident or a series of events leading to important consequences. Plot is simply cause and effect played out on your page.
Think of throwing a pebble into a pond. It is a small action but one that leads to big consequences. Plot is what people (your characters) say, do and feel that makes a difference to what happens next.
Let’s create an example: in a moment of mild intoxication Marla tells her best friend, Jodie, that she once had an affair with Paul, a neighbour. The action of telling her secret sets off a chain of consequences. The ripples of that particular pebble will reverberate in the lives of all the characters.
Thought and emotion can also set off consequences but only once they are acted upon. Jodie can be angry with Marla for betraying her husband but that’s not plot until Jodie acts on it. Thinking about or feeling some emotion isn’t plot. But emotions are a very good way to start an action that leads to further consequences and thus to a satisfying story.
Also, what isn’t plot: this happened and then that happened and then this happened and then that happened. It’s not even a story because there are no consequences. Something must be at stake and in all the ‘happenings’ there must be something important enough to bear the weight of consequent ‘happenings’.
A man dies. That is not a plot. A man dies and his wife dies. Again not much of a plot. A man dies and his wife commits suicide. We’re getting somewhere; that is the beginning of a plot. A man dies, his wife commits suicide and her daughter starts to ask why her father died and why her mother was so frantic that she kills herself. A plot! The father’s death is the event that has significant consequences. If the daughter merely felt sad there would be no story.
All plots emerge from that one moment when something happens that is significant enough to start off a chain of consequences.
I’m trying to imagine how I would put those words of wisdom to good use in my present project. My next Nana Naills story is a crime novel (working title: Nana and the Nest of Vipers). So the plot hinges on the finding of a dead body – as you do in a crime story.  That’s my pebble. Ah! Now I see. Each incident has consequences for the suspects. Hmm. I think I could work with that.
Jenny Harrison

Friday, 24 March 2017

Barbara Algie has a cure for Aging

‘Oh to be young again, believe in fairies, believe in anything. Ageing seems to be a process where not only body parts inevitably start to wither but also the will to ‘do things’. Once I had yards of ‘wishes’ put aside, hoping they would be achievable eventually (a ‘bucket list’ as it’s known today).

Horrid name for a receptacle in which to put such fanciful ideas. I have never yearned to bungy jump or leap off Mt Everest with a pair of clip-on fairy wings as heights turn me into a blithering coward. Nor have I hankered to go deep into the bowels of the earth caving. Not enough room or air down there for one let alone a pas de deux. So that limits me to simple things being done on the grassy side of terra firma. Pas de deux is rather a lovely

expression don’t you think? Stimulates even the most sluggish of imaginations. Must be an exquisite sensation if one could accomplish this to thunderous applause on stage somewhere. Reaching the required standard puts this one out of the question and even dancing has its drawbacks for the not so young. Recently heard of some who’ve suffered serious joint problems having been coerced into giving Zumba a go. Actually I think it must be all this heat we are currently experiencing for I really intended writing about elderly joints and how they may easily be lubricated with a minimum of effort.

I am talking here of an age-old lubricating remedy known as G&T and the simplicity with which it may now be purchased. No more breaking fingernails or cutlery trying to open tonic bottles sealed with child-and-senior-citizen-proof caps. Comes conveniently already ‘mixed’ in containers which the sponsors have cunningly made ridiculously easy to open. Saves on not having to divvy out too much of the precious main ingredient by mistake.

A trip to your nearest liquor outlet is all that’s required. Just make sure you always have plenty of lemon slices frozen inside the ice cube. Easy Peasy.’


Big Al


Friday, 10 March 2017

Glowing reviews for Out of Poland


Out of Poland – when the best revenge is to have survived

Jenny Harrison


For decades the leather suitcase lay hidden under the house. When opened, it revealed letters, photographs and documents all in Polish and therefore inaccessible. Many years later one letter, written in 1946, was translated and the awful truth revealed.
The letters and documents told the story of the Siegel family who had lived in a small Polish village until the Germans came.  One son escaped and arrived in New Zealand where he made a life for himself, not knowing he had left his entire family to perish in the gas chambers. It is also the story of the beautiful daughter who could have been saved but chose to go with her parents to the gas chamber so that they didn't have to face it alone.
It is the story of love and loyalty, of the betrayal of trust and of compassion.
It is also the story of the worst crime in our history and how it brought out the best in some people - but also the worst.

I met Michael Siegel in about 2001, he told me of the suitcase that had been hidden under their childhood house and only recently recovered. I asked the family if I might investigate and see if it was possible to write a book about it. The letters needed to be translated and a good friend, Eva Scherer, came to my rescue. It was a gruelling journey for her too, reading those letters, as her Gentile family also had a bleak history in Poland; the “dark” land where so many, both Jews and Gentiles, had perished.
I only became aware of the tension between Polish Jews and Gentiles through my research and my conversations with the Siegel family. As I discovered that many Polish Gentiles rescued Jews during the Holocaust so my standing with the family deteriorated. This was not what they had been told.

It has been a long and difficult journey. I feel privileged that, of all the millions of anonymous victims of Hitler, I have been able to get to know and cherish this one family. By remembering them I can honour all those who will forever remain anonymous.


Michelle: I've just finished your book. I'm awed, humbled, inspired, chastened. What a remarkable, heart-filled, well researched, powerful, sensitive, beautiful work of compassion!
I don't want to muddy the waters with too many words; but I want you to know that I think it's one of the best books I've ever read. What a gift you've crafted for so many people, Jenny! Wow.

Ann R: Now I understand why this was such a difficult book for you to write. You have told the family's story with integrity, humbleness and truth. Not a pretty story due to the topic, but one that has helped me to understand the plight of the Jewish community in Poland more fully. You have done an amazing job getting this book to print - a tragic story told beautifully. Once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. I hope many, many people read it. Thank you for sharing this story.

Bev R: Well done on a powerful and impeccably research piece of work! The historical facts are dramatic but the present day effects are equally riveting as you go through the process of writing and dealing with the family. Great human interest. It stands as a strong testament to the lost souls who need to be remembered. You’ve been deeply respectful of the family and they should be proud of your work.

Brenda: Culture, fiction and fact collide as Jenny Harrison takes us on an emotional journey as she sensitively tells the story of one man, family, city and country caught in unspeakable events that precipitated WWII. Part detective story, she draws together fragmented and scanty evidence found in a hidden suitcase, symbolic of a family torn apart.  Bit by bit she uncovers the story of Naftali Siegel, the eldest son of a Polish Jewish family.  Born in Pruchnik, he is sent by his family to Italy in 1933 to train as a vet. Once qualified he had the good fortune to be assisted in 1938 by the Commission for the Relief of Jews in Italy, who forged documents for him to emigrate to Australia, and then to New Zealand.  He appears to have tried to help his family or at least his sister Malka escape from Poland.  Malka could pass as an Aryan German, and had an offer of a forged passport and papers.  Far away from the war, it was not until 1959 that Naftali discovered that Malka had, in 1942, been gassed with her family in Belzec extermination camp. Speaking  her truth quietly, Jenny shows that speaking of the unspeakable is an essential first step in healing of deep emotional wounds.

Amazon Customer:
  Superb! Brilliant book that opened my eyes and showed me things I never even considered. Very well written!

John R:  Well written and well researched on relations of Jews and Poles over centuries.

Ken J: The book to say the least is so interesting I could not put it down. I gave it to a friend whose grandfather was German and had, I think, relatives in Poland and he found it the same, so enthralling.

Gavin: This is a fascinating, well researched and well written story that draws you in and makes you want to keep reading into the early hours of the morning to see how the lives of the Siegel family will unfold. This is a story of Naftali, his family but also a story of the author's research and interaction with the family. A riveting read that I couldn't put down till the last page was turned.



Paper Plus – Morrinsville
Piako Stationers – Te Aroha
Carsons Books – Thames
Unity Books – Wellington
Writers Plot Readers Read – Upper Hutt
Polish Heritage Museum – Auckland
Paige’s Books – Whanganui
McCleod’s Books - Rotorua