A performance appraisal of myself

On 3 April 2017, I will have lived Down Under for 3000 days, or 8 years 2 months and 3 weeks. One thousand days ago, on 8 July 2014, I set myself some goals to reach before Day 3000.

Let’s see how I’ve done!

1) Publish my first bookTICK

In September 2016, I finally published by debut novel, SAM. To date, I have sold 453 eBooks and 86 paperbacks. I have an amazon.com rating of 4.3/5 and a goodreads.com rating of 3.89/5.

front-cover-snippit

2) Renovate our houseTICK

We renovated the interior, had the house re-roofed, and painted the outside. We may now by broke, but at least we can be broke in style! 🙂

3) Become a NZ CitizenTICK

In November 2015, I pledged allegiance to Her Majesty, the Queen, and became a fully fledged citizen of New Zealand. My new passport’s first excursion was to Canberra, to attend a conference at the Federal Parliament.

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4) Visit a Pacific Island. ALMOST

I’ll be visiting Fiji in August this year.

WHAT NEXT FOR ME?

I really do believe that by writing down your goals you are more likely to achieve them. So, by 29 December 2019, I hereby pledge to have achieved the following:

1) I will have finished by second novel, “1968”, and have started my third;

2) I will have received a promotion at work or have moved into a new role;

3) I will not have eaten anything containing more than 5% sugar for the entire 1000 days;

4) I will have visited my family and friends in the UK;

5) I will have taken part in a sporting event or competition;

6) and I will have lost at least 7kg in weight.

I’ll check in at regular intervals to let you know how I’m getting on!

A whirlwind tour of Southern California and Nevada…

As many of you will know by now, I spent this Christmas and New Year in the US. If you need some ideas for a quick jaunt around Southern California and Nevada, here’s a précis of our trip: Da…

Source: A whirlwind tour of Southern California and Nevada…

A whirlwind tour of Southern California and Nevada…

usa-flag

As many of you will know by now, I spent this Christmas and New Year in the US. If you need some ideas for a quick jaunt around Southern California and Nevada, here’s a précis of our trip:

Day 1: Auckland to Los Angeles with American Airlines. We landed before we took off thanks to the international date line. We spent the first day (our Sunday version 2.0) strolling around Santa Monica.santa-monica

Day 2: While the rest of the whānau hit Disneyland, we hit the shops at the Citadel Outlet Mall and had lunch at Dukes in Malibu. Warning: it took 2 hours to drive back to Anaheim in the evening rush hour. It was pretty much the same every morning and evening that we were there.

Day 3: The iconic LA Farmer’s Market during the day and a basketball game at the Staples Center in the evening. Go, LA Clippers!

farmers-market

Day 4: Pancakes for breakfast at the IHOP in Anaheim, followed by a bus tour of Hollywood. Warning: the Hop On Hop Off bus must be booked at least 24-hours in advance. The printed receipt can be redeemed for tickets with the driver.

Day 5: Universal Studios! This was such fun. Warning: Get there early! We arrived at 8.30 a.m. and had done all the big rides by 10 a.m. By the afternoon, the Harry Potter ride had a 240-min wait!

universal

Day 6: Driving from Los Angeles to San Diego, via Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. It’s about a 2 hour drive, without stopping.

Days 7 & 8: chilling in San Diego. Warning: if you’re planning to eat out in San Diego on Christmas Day, book early!

Day 9: LEGOLAND! The models were cool, but that’s about the only thing for adults. If you don’t have small children, think twice about LEGOLAND. In the evening, we watched an ice hockey match at the Valley View Casino Center. Go, San Diego Gulls!

lego

Day 10: Holiday Bowl Parade, visit to the USS Midway museum, and a ball game at Qualcomm Stadium.

uss-midway

Day 11: San Diego Zoo. I was really disappointed with the zoo. It has a reputation for being one of the best zoos in the world; however, some of the enclosures were tiny, and we saw quite a few animals pacing backwards and forwards as if they had gone insane. Wellington Zoo is much nicer!

zoo

Day 12: Mexico, baby! We went to Tijuana for the day. We drove to the border, parked, and walked across. Tijuana is a fairly rundown border town, so don’t expect too much. But it was fun to cross an international border on foot. Plus, I got a stamp in my passport!

mexico

Day 13: Driving from San Diego to Las Vegas. It took about 6.5 hours, with toilet breaks.

Day 14: Hoover Dam. More time-travelling!

hoover

Day 15: New Year’s Eve Las Vegas – style, plus a very weird Cirque du Soleil performance. #Zumanity

Day 16: Chill-out day. We saw Rogue One at the movies and had dinner at the Stratosphere. Rogue One was superb!

Day 17: Driving back to Los Angeles. Took about 7 hours.

Day 18: Last day. Grammy Museum, Madame Tussauds, and home!

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How I self-published my novel, SAM, in 10 “easy” steps…

Step 1: I thought of a story and wrote a first draft. N.B. a ‘short story’ can be anything up to about 40k words; novels tend to range between 50k and 80k words (The Great Gatsby is 50k words); and epics, i.e. The Lord of the Rings, will be upwards of 100k words.

Step 2: I had my first draft professionally critiqued. I paid about NZ$500 for a manuscript assessment of SAM.

Step 3: I wrote a second draft, incorporating the recommended changes. I then paid for another manuscript assessment.

Step 4: When I finished my final draft (FYI, it was my fourth draft), I paid to have it professionally copy-edited. This is the stage when inconsistencies are picked up (e.g. character names changing halfway through the book or seasons changing from one page to the next). I paid about NZ$800 for my 65k-word book to be copy-edited.

Step 5: I read the book again with a fine-tooth comb, from cover to cover.

Step 6: I engaged a professional cover designer and typesetter. The saying “Never judge a book by its cover” may be true, but it’s also a crock of sh*t. You may have written the best work of fiction ever, but if the cover is crappy or looks amateur, nobody will buy it. I paid about NZ$1,600 for print and eBook cover design and typesetting.

Step 7: I ordered my ISBNs. In New Zealand, these can be obtained free of charge through the National Library. Separate ISBNs are required for each version of a book, i.e. one for print and another for eBook. Once the book is published, 2 copies must be sent to the National Library for archiving.

Step 8: I created an account on CreateSpace and uploaded the finished print version. I approved the proof online and my novel appeared straightaway in the CreateSpace e-store and then, the following day, on Amazon.com. In a few days’ time, I will be repeating Step 9 for the eBook version. I will use Amazon’s eBook arm, KDP.

Step 9: Publicise the book. I have created a fan page for SAM on Facebook and I am running a series of ads to promote the novel. I also have this website, lukefharris.com, on which to post updates.

Step 10: Watch the royalties drip in. So far I have made about NZ$10!

Click here to buy my novel!

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SAM by Luke F Harris

So, after three years of boring you all senseless with talk of my book, I can finally announce that it is finished … well, nearly.

Last week, I received the manuscript back from my lovely copy-editor. Thanks for doing such a sterling job, @EvaChan. I have incorporated all her suggested changes and have now sent the finished product to Lis and Kris @DIYPublishing for its final formatting for print and eBook.

My book cover is also being designed as we speak. Expect a taster here very soon!

Oh, and the novel is called SAM.

I’m now going to try to set up a mailing list!

Well, hello again…

It’s been quite a long time since I last posted anything on this blog, but rest assured, I haven’t been sitting around, twiddling my thumbs. As well as taking on a new role at work, becoming a NZ citizen (and getting to represent my new country at a parliamentary conference in Canberra!), and finishing a home renovation, I have been making slow but steady progress on my first novel.

For those of you interested in how it is all looking, here is a quick update:

  • My early drafts have been through several edits. (Many thanks to @BarbaraElse and @NormanBilbrough for their feedback. It has really helped to improve my writing.)
  • Several weeks ago, I had a great meeting with Lis and Kris from @DIYPublishing. I will be meeting with them again in August to kick-start the cover design process. #exciting
  • I am currently working on the final draft of my manuscript and have teed up a copy editor in Auckland, whom I am looking forward to working with. I have a self-imposed deadline of the beginning of September, which means getting up every morning at 5 a.m. to work on my draft before work. #dedication
  • Currently, I am working towards a Xmas launch date.

Watch this space for my next update. I promise I won’t take a year, like last time!

 

Blog pic 2016

Geography Club, and not an oxbow lake in sight!

Geo Club

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on this wee website, so I thought it was about time I pulled my finger out and put pen to paper – or rather, fingers to keyboard.

On the weekend, I watched the movie Geography Club, and what a pleasant surprise it was. Having watched a few ‘gay’ movies over the years, and knowing just how sh*te they can be, I had low expectations when I hit the play button. But boy, was I wrong. Geography Club is a really good movie!

Geography Club is a 2013 movie from the States and is based on a novel by Brent Hartinger. The movie was directed by Gary Entin and stars Cameron Deane Stewart as Russ and Justin Deeley as Kevin (N.B. they’re both pretty hot). It’s a short movie – just 1h22 – yet it by no means skips over the issues; it tackles them head on.

Geography Club is essentially a love story. The main characters, played by Stewart and Deeley, are in their last year of high school. After almost meeting online, they finally hook up during a science field trip, and their pseudo-relationship goes from there. What is more, neither of the boys conform to stereotypes, which is a refreshing. Kevin’s life revolves around American football, and Russ joins the team in order to be closer to him.

The story plays out against the backdrop of the so-called ‘Geography Club’. Unlike its name suggests, the club has nothing to do with geography; it is, in fact, a clandestine LGBTI support group set up by a few of the students. ‘Geography Club’ is a code name they choose to try to make it sound as unappealing as possible. If nobody tries to join, nobody will discover the true nature of the club. However, when a kid named Brian turns up and asks to join, the group is forced to rethink its stance.

This is a great movie – the acting is good, it’s well produced, and it has a believable storyline. Having been a gay high school student myself (albeit closeted; if you had come out as gay in my high school in the 1990s, you’d have had ten bales of sh*t kicked out of you. Thank God the world has moved on!), I was certainly able to identify the characters.

I would definitely recommend Geography Club!

 

 

A literary tour of the world

world map

A year or two ago I decided to read one popular novel from every country in the world. The only conditions I set myself were:
1. that the novel had to be fiction;
2. that the author had to be well known in his or her country; and
3. that there had to be an English translation available.

To begin with it was pretty easy; there are quite a few English-speaking countries in the world! Yet as I began to tick the countries off the list it became increasingly difficult to find good books. Surprisingly, the Wellington library’s selection of North Korean and South Sudanese literature is pretty limited. And since I didn’t have the money to spend on Amazon, I decided to put the project on the backburner and started reading Game of Thrones instead.

However, now that my “to-read” list is beginning to dwindle again, I thought I might pick up where I left off with Le Tour. But this time I’m going to need a little help! Here is the list of countries I have “read” so far. If anybody knows of any good novels from countries I haven’t yet got to, then please let me know!

ALBANIA – The Accident by Ismail Kadare
ARGENTINA – Kiss of the Spiderwoman by Manuel Puig
AUSTRALIA – Capricornia by Xavier Herbert
BANGLADESH – Shame by Taslima Nasrin
BRAZIL – The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
CANADA – The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
CHILE – The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
CHINA – Dream of Ding Village by Lianke Yan
COLOMBIA – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
CZECH REPUBLIC – The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
DENMARK – Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen
EGYPT – Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth by Nafiq Mahfuz
ENGLAND – The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
FRANCE – The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
GERMANY – Crabwalk by Gunter Gras
GREECE – Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakis
HUNGARY – Liquidation by Imre Kertesz
INDIA – The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
ITALY – The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
JAPAN – One Man’s Justice by Akira Yoshimura
MEXICO – Inez by Carlos Fuentes
NETHERLANDS – The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
NEW ZEALAND – The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
NIGERIA – Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
NORWAY – Hunger by Knut Hamsun
PAKISTAN – A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif
PERU – Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa
PHILIPPINES – Touch Me Not by Jose Rizal
PORTUGAL – Death At Intervals by Jose Saramago
RUSSIA – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
SOUTH AFRICA – Disgrace by J M Coetzee
SOUTH KOREA – The Ancient Garden by Hwang Sok-Yong
SPAIN – Don Quixote by Cervantes
SUDAN – Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
SWEDEN – Three Seconds by Roslund and Hellstrom
TURKEY – My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
UKRAINE – The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
UNITED STATES – The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
VIETNAM – Novel Without a Name by Duong Thu Huong
WALES – Rape of the Fair Country by Alexander Cordell

A dystopian three-course meal

Entrée

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A short read peppered with gratuitous violence and thuggery. Burgess’ use of Nadsat (an artificial additive) makes the story hard to digest at first; however, as the palate adjusts to this peculiar language, the literary flavours begin to come through. N.B. Alex, the protagonist, may leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

Matching music: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor by Ludwig van Beethoven

Main Course

1984 by George Orwell

A hearty dish of authoritarianism and despair. Read as Winston Smith and his love, Julia, are ruthlessly hunted down and tortured by the Thought Police for daring to rebel against Big Brother. The bleakness of Air Strip One and the ridiculousness of Oceania’s war with Eastasia (or is it Eurasia? Who knows!) will turn your stomach. This is real food for thought.

Matching music: 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) by the Eurythmics

Dessert

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Finish off with this little gem. Discover London in the year 632 AF (After Ford): a world where monogamy and family no longer exist, and where its mass-produced, socially-preconditioned citizens lead lives of pure, unbridled hedonism. When John, a naturally-born Savage, arrives in the city from a reservation in New Mexico all Hell breaks loose. This course will both fascinate and disturb.

Matching music: Something with a slow, hypnotic rhythm. Light a few scented candles too.