Any independent author knows that it's hard to make a meaningful connection in a sea of people when new faces are popping up constantly. Any author also knows how important it is to make these types of connections, but what few people are willing to talk about is how hard and frustrating this process can be, especially when it comes to book bloggers.
Since the very start of my publishing journey one message has been the same: book bloggers are your best friend. In theory they can work a miracle for your career, but in reality is that what's really going to happen? After two books I've come to this conclusion: no.
This month alone I must've sent out between two and three hundred queries to different bloggers and it was probably the biggest waste of time of my career. First off, good luck finding one who still accepts submissions! I understand that they are busy and in demand people but it makes it no less frustrating at the author's end trying to find what's basically a needle in a haystack.
Secondly, good luck getting a response. You will not get any type of response from the majority of those who do accept submissions. In all fairness, some do write on their blogs that they'll only write back if interested, but for the rest how hard is it to actually politely decline a submission? Or at the very least, acknowledge the person?
The part that gets under my skin the most has to do with those so-called "reviewers" who only want your money. I did get a bunch of responses to my many queries, mainly from people who wanted me to pay them to review a book that I'd be giving them for free despite being listed on websites such as IndieView who list bloggers who review for free. At least it's all supposed to be free.
And don't even get me started on all the unsolicited spam emails you'll then be getting from even more people wanting to dip their fingers into your wallet. This enormous frustration of mine has even boiled over to me starting my own (actually free) book review service. I don't promise you the world, my opinion probably won't be the break your career has been waiting for, but I'll be your ally. I'll give you the time of day, I'll acknowledge your hard work, and most importantly I won't demand any money from you.
I also won't be accepting all the submission requests that I get, and I probably won't be advertising this review service outside of my own social media (at least not for now) to keep things clean, honest, ethical and personal.
On June 26th I had the great privilege of being interviewed by Mistral K. Dawn on her blog of the same name, and I must say that this has probably been my favorite interview so far. Read the original post on her blog or just keep scrolling for the text!
The fabulous Jamila Mikhail is here with us, today! Jamila, will you tell us about yourself and how many books you have written?
Jamila: Hello everyone! My name is Jamila Mikhail, I’m 22 years old, I’m a human rights student from the capital of Canada and earlier this year my dream of publishing my first book finally came true! In January I published Innermost which is a collection of poems written over half a decade. In February I was also one of the people awarded the title of Top Writer for the year 2018 on Quora. That was quite a shock (but a good one) because I never in a million years would have imagined that my writings about World War II, Islam and my bad experience wearing braces for 4 years would ever earn me such a title!
Me: Congratulations! What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Jamila: The only book I currently have published is Innermost, my collection of poems that includes both free form and fixed form poetry. It’s about a variety of topics but mostly the human experience; the good and the bad, from romance to war and everything in between. For most of my life writing poetry (and just writing in general) was the only socially acceptable way to express myself so I did it a lot. I’ve also written a few short story compilations (about just as many topics as my poetry book) and novels that are available for free download on my website. I’m also very much working on some new projects that will be released shortly right now as well!
Me: Wow! Sounds like you've been busy. :-) What are you working on now?
Jamila: I’m working on my first young adult novel called Don’t Let Me Go that is currently available for preorder on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords. It’s only $0.99 (USD) for a limited time too! It officially comes out in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats on August 1st and I actually have quite a list of people already anticipating it. While I’m at it let me share with you guys the blurb! On top of battling the normal teenage angst that everyone goes through, Joanie is also reeling from her parents’ bitter divorce and having to cope with her mother’s new boyfriend and father’s new family. Alone in a new town and without friends, she turns to passing the time by indulging in her longtime hobby of making toy models of soldiers and is both amazed and shocked when one of them comes to life. Despite her millions of unanswered questions and having to make sense of new mysteries every day Joanie comes to find a loyal and trustworthy companion in Adler, a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht and a member of the German Resistance during World War II who must also find a way to handle living in modern times on top of being invisible to most of the population. The two of them will have to fight several battles on many fronts in both the physical world and unseen realms as they both try to comprehend Adler’s new existence and piece Joanie’s broken life back together.
Me: Sounds interesting! What authors or books have influenced you?
Jamila: I could probably write an entire book just about the other books that have influenced me in life! I especially like to read non-fiction, in particular the memoirs and autobiographies of those who lived through major or unbelievable events. I’ve been particularly influenced by Elie Wiesel and Irene Nemirovsky since I am a huge history buff who fully intends to write historical fiction in the future. Stories about war always have a profound effect on me because my grandfather served in both WWII and Korea and it’s in large part his stories that have motivated me to get into human rights.
Me: Cool! What are you reading now?
Jamila: Aside from my own proof copy of Don’t Let Me Go, I’m only reading a few books about 20th century history for school. My final essay is due extremely soon but this is in fact quite boring and irrelevant because I’d much rather be reading the books of a fellow indie author! Last month I’ve just began a free review program for my fellow indie authors where I get a free book and they get an honest review posted to Amazon, Goodreads, my book blogs and other social media pages.
Me: That's kind of you. I'm sure there are a lot of authors who are grateful. :-) For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?
Jamila: I’ll say straight up that my work isn’t for the faint of heart! I like to write about important and relevant issues in society and I don’t shy away from hard topics either. I don’t write to escape reality, I write about reality. My poetry book is for mature audiences only, but Don’t Let Me Go is geared towards the 13-17 age group (though adults will be able to enjoy it as well) and deals with domestic violence, bullying at school and teenage anxiety with a bit of history and a twist of fantasy!
Me: Sounds intriguing. What’s your favorite part of being an author?
Jamila: It’s definitely being able to push boundaries. Your writings don’t have to be socially acceptable. You can write whatever you want, create worlds that would otherwise not exist and experiment with whatever you want as much as you want in a safe environment. When I’m writing nobody can tell me what is right or wrong, or what I can and cannot do.
Me: I agree; writing is definitely liberating. What motivated you to become an author?
Jamila: It was my therapist that suggested that I begin writing seriously actually. While I was being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2011 and 2012 I told him that writing journals and snail mail letters he challenged me to write a full-length novel. And so I wrote what is now known as The Distant Factory available for free on my website but it was many years before it went from a messy file to an actual book.
Me: Yeah, there's certainly a learning curve when it comes to writing books. Do you have a day job as well?
Jamila: No, I’m still a student actually. I’m currently studying human rights and it’s a small job in itself. For many years my “job” was caring for my grandmother but she recently passed away in March of this year so you could say that I am in a transition phase in my life, actively looking for what to do next.
Me: I'm very sorry for your loss. What would you tell up and coming writers?
Jamila: I would simply say to go for it. A world of opportunities and amazing things is waiting for you out there. Believe in yourself and let the world know about your book. I honestly didn’t think that I’d make it in a sea of authors but my first book did much better than I ever could have expected, and poetry is just about the hardest thing to sell! The sky is the limit as I don’t believe they have books in outer space.
Me: Yep. You never know unless you try. Thank you so much for stopping by, today, Jamila. And thank you, as well, to the rest of you who joined us.
Can't wait another month to get your hands on my upcoming novel? I have some good news for you! You can not get a digital copy of Don't Let Me Go on NetGalley! I am seeking some pre-release reviews and feedback in exchange for you getting a free book. What do you say? Request your free copy by clicking on the link below!
In other news, I'm also happy to tell you that the audiobook version of this novel is very much underway and is sounding fabulous! The ebook, paperback and audiobook versions will be released to the world at large on August 1st and don't forget that you can pre-order the book for only $0.99 for a limited time!
Much like Innermost before it, Don't Let Me Go also went through various creative stages and processes, including creating the perfect cover that would well represent the story. Below are the three tries it took before getting it right the fourth time.
Click on each image to view the full size cover but I promise you that there's not much to see there. These covers were particularly hideous and I'm grateful that the one that was actually used didn't look like one of these!
Do you like audiobooks? Do you want a free one? You've come to the right place! While searching for a producer for my newest book I've come across long forgotten Audible.com download codes for my poetry book! I'm kind of embarrassed that I forgot about them for a total of almost six months but you're lucky day hasn't gone away!
I'm not interested in doing some big raffle for these codes since I'm slowly building a marketing campaign for "Don't Let Me Go" that comes out on August 1st so if you want one of these just fill out the form below simply saying that you want a code and I'll forward you one straight to your email. You don't owe me a single thing in return, through I would be extremely grateful for an honest review on Audible, Goodreads and whichever other platform of your choice.
These codes are sent out on a first come first serve basis so don't delay if you want to get your hands on one! Below are instructions on how to redeem your free audiobook if you're new at this.
1. Go to my book's page on Audible.com.
2. Add the audiobook to your cart.
3. If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.com account or log in. Otherwise, proceed by clicking “Do you have a promotional code?” beneath the cover artwork of the audiobook.
4. Enter the promo code, and click "Apply Code."
5. A credit for the audiobook will be added to your account. Click the box next to “1 Credit” and click the “Update” button to apply the credit to the purchase.
6. After you select “1 Credit” and click “Update” to modify your shopping cart, the price for the audiobook will change to $0.00. You may proceed through the checkout by clicking “Next Step” and “Complete Purchase” on the subsequent page.
Book Reader Magazine recently published their 'Featured Authors' interview with, of course, me! You can read the original post (and get interviewed yourself) by clicking here or just read the copied text below. If you have any questions head over to my 'Ask the Author' page on Goodreads or email me for an interview!
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
My name is Jamila Mikhail, I’m 21 years old and I’m a Canadian writer. I was born in British Columbia but lived here and there, even moving seven times in five years at one point! Finally, now that I’m an adult I came to settle in Ottawa, the capital and also the city of my dreams. We aren’t quite halfway through 2018 yet and I’ve already accomplished most of the dreams I’ve had for the last ten years! I share this dream with my cat Squeaker who has been my number one buddy for the last three years. She doesn’t meow, she literally squeaks the sissiest noise I’ve ever heard come out of a cat, and I’ve had cats my whole life.
I’m currently a student in law and human rights, which is my other passion aside from writing. The two merge more often than not though, because somewhere in my stories there will always be a character or situation that deals with real life contemporary social issues. Aside from this I’m a lover of snail mail letters, a postcard collector, a real foodie and a maker of toy soldiers. I’ve made myself a little army with old and recycled parts and they keep me in line in my writing!
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. Growing up I didn’t have cable TV or anything like that (I didn’t get my own until I was 19 years old actually) so books, and also the newspaper, were my connection to the rest of the world. Nowadays I love books both to escape reality for a little while, and to educate myself about pertinent and important topics in my society and the world at large. You can learn anything from a book, that I believe.
I’ve also loved writing for just as long. I first began steadily writing in 2004 (I was seven years old) and actually still have all the old notebooks with my scribbles and two-page stories in them. It wasn’t long before writing became my way to cope with life, but most importantly it was the only socially acceptable way to express myself and my grand ideas. I tend to be bold and writing enabled me to make that side of myself shine.
I began writing on a serious basis in 2011 on the advice of my therapist who was treating me for PTSD at the time, and my first completed manuscript “The Distant Factory” was born. It’s actually available for free on my website along with several other books. I didn’t publish anything until this year though, because it is no small task and I had to get my $#!& together before venturing out into that. It turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
This is probably the hardest question for me to answer because I literally drive all over the road here (and often drive all over the real road in my car too). I particularly love reading non-fiction about the Second World War and the Korean War since my own grandfather served in both of them and that’s also what inspired me to get into the human rights field. My favorites are definitely the autobiographies of the people who lived through the darkest days in humanity, these otherwise ordinary men and women are not only my favorite authors but also my heroes.
I also love reading true crime and psychological books that seek to explain why people turn into war criminals or serial killers and other things like that. I am fascinated by people and love being able to observe both the humanity in them and the horror in them.
My grandmother has inspired many of my writings through the years and was always pushing me to write some more. Sadly she passed away on March 11th of this year and writing is what has probably kept me alive since she’s been gone. Otherwise, my own life and the things I witness and hear about happening around me are generally what inspire me to write. That’s also what makes my stories easy to relate to.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest book is called “Don’t Let Me Go” and it is young adult fiction, geared towards readers from age 13 to adults. It actually began as a short story writing prompt in 2014 and turned into a novel-length manuscript by 2015 (the original short story can be found on my website) but it didn’t go much further than that. It remained dormant on my computer until National Novel Writing Month last year. I knew that I wanted to revive it, but also rewrite it because it was pretty awful in the beginning. I won’t lie, I totally flunked out during NaNoWriMo after rewriting only about 10 000 words. The manuscript remained dormant again for several months until my grandmother’s passing.
After that it only took me about a week and a half to complete the final draft of 78 000 words. It wasn’t hard for me to sit in front of my computer and type thousands upon thousands of words during the worst time in my life because it made me feel better and gave me purpose. Getting the whole thing ‘publication pretty’ so to speak took another two months but I’m very satisfied with how everything turned out. I think my grandma would be very proud of me even though she wouldn’t be able to read the book either way because she only spoke French.
“Don’t Let Me Go” mixes contemporary issues and situations (in this case, a teenage girl named Joanie who is reeling from her parents’ bitter divorce and struggles with school) with a little bit of fantasy, history and science. Joanie decides to pass the time by making military action figures and much to her surprise, one of them comes to life! Adler is a soldier straight out of the Second World War (but Joanie is the only person who can see him) and helps Joanie navigate rough waters that include depression, domestic violence and bullying but what she doesn’t know is that Adler also hides a secret…
Good news! You can now preorder the ebook version of Don't Let Me Go for only $0.99 (UDS) for a limited time! Those of you who are on my email list have already gotten this announcement delivered straight to their inbox, but it's time for me to share the good news with you guys as well!
The regular list price for this title is $5.99 and this discount of $5 off will not last forever so if you'd like a Happy Meal on top of a book you might want to get this title right now. Preorders are currently available through Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. More retailers are currently being added too. This title officially comes out on August 1st in paperback, ebook and audiobook.
Curious to read a preview or to give me some early feedback? You can read the first two chapters by clicking the button below! Please leave your comments in the form because I would definitely like to know what you guys are thinking so far!
I'm sure that you've already seen it on the homepage, but I've also already started my next project called After Anderson. I'll post a formal announcement about it later because right now the spotlight is on my first young adult novel that is sure to be a great lighthearted read for both the young and old alike!
On top of battling the normal teenage angst that everyone goes through, Joanie is also reeling from her parents’ bitter divorce and having to cope with her mother’s new boyfriend and father’s new family. Alone in a new town and without friends, she turns to passing the time by indulging in her longtime hobby of making toy models of soldiers and is both amazed and shocked when one of them comes to life.
Despite her millions of unanswered questions and having to make sense of new mysteries every day Joanie comes to find a loyal and trustworthy companion in Adler, a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht and a member of the German Resistance during World War II who must also find a way to handle living in modern times on top of being invisible to most of the population.
The two of them will have to fight several battles on many fronts in both the physical world and unseen realms as they both try to comprehend Adler’s new existence and piece Joanie’s broken life back together.
I'm proud to present you with my second book review from the team at Realistic Poetry International for my poetry book "Innermost" that is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats. Click here to read the original post on Realistic Poetry's website or read the copied text below! Don't forget to leave a comment as well!
If there’s only two things I understand at a visceral level, those would be trauma and poetry. Innermost by Jamila Mikhail encapsulates both with an astounding breadth, depth, and respect, displaying both the cause and effects of PTSD while somehow managing not to instantly set off my own post-traumatic triggers even once. As a warning, if you do have PTSD, there’s an excellent chance that you will see at least one of your triggers in this book, and I strongly encourage any such reader to treat the foreword as a content warning for the entire volume. Even so, I give this a 5-star rating, without any doubt or hesitation.
With each poem I read, I found fragments of myself throughout. Even the first, “A Man Called Joachim”, reminded me of a man I had loved and lost, yet never had to begin with. “Broken Glass” brought me back to my childhood, even though I’m fairly sure it was about domestic abuse, but that sort of behavior transcends a single scenario. “Black Soul” perfectly records the self-delusions of depression and self-loathing, the relentless belief of one’s own worthlessness, even that one is an innate threat to others. It quietly captures the occasional death wish, the urge to suffer, the need to make the pain stop, regardless of how. Each poem is yet another window into the very nature of human suffering and the manifold ways in which it comes to linger as trauma and post-traumatic stress.
While it definitely shows a world of monsters and demons, Innermost never forgets its humanity or compassion, and I’d consider it a must-read for anyone trying to better understand their own past traumas. Even if you don’t find answers, you’ll know you aren’t alone, that others have been where you are, and that death is not the only way out.
I am very happy to present you all a recent five-star review for my poetry book "Innermost" that I received from Realistic Poetry International's Honest Book Reviews team. You can read the original post on their website or read the copied text below. I hope that this might motivate you to get your own copy if you've been thinking about it!
Author Jamila Mikhail’s book “Innermost” is an emotional and mental poetry documentary that captures some of the author’s darkest hours and coldest moments of her life as she strives to fight against the devastation of depression, rejection, disappointment and a broken heart.
This book reverberates with a passionate, yet lethargic voice of pain that isn’t afraid to confront their imperfect reality, despite the heartache and mental anguish it may cause. The idea of true love is noticeable throughout the book with romantic poems that embody sentiment, compassion, empathy, desire and fantasy- others show us merely the fragments leftover after all has been shattered to pieces... just like broken glass.
Poems such as "Broken Glass" remind us of a classic Lifetime movie drama, using the similia "broken glass" to represent the significant damage that has occurred between two hearts and lives due to the grueling effects of alcoholism.
In this poem, as with several others, Mikhail's words are evocative and feel real, exposing some of her inner weaknesses and vulnerability to life, as she’s out on a thin limb clinging to the past and dear memories of when she once recalls her house truly being a home.
Emotional-based, the author's style of writing is like prose poetry and uses the literary elements of symbolism, metaphors, and situational irony to compare and depict real-life circumstances to figurative scenarios; an example of this is the depiction and comparison of her own internal battle to the idea of being lost at sea.
Mikhail uses the figurative depiction "lost at sea," (also the title of a poem) to embellish and emphasize the stormy rapture of turmoil and turbulence impacting her relationship with her partner, in which she is quickly plummeting saying, "…I'm drowning in the waters I know." We take this moment to truly imagine the depths of the author’s fear, lost without compass in a world that has the potential and power to swallow anyone and anything in its way, such as the mighty sea! The feeling is nothing less than devastating. And the fact that the author makes a point to use such a dramatic and intense illustration tells us she is more than overwhelmed, isolated and dubious- she is going under. Will she survive?
Living miserably in the gloomy shadows of her own self-loathing and contempt, the narrator struggles greatly with finding inner-peace and finds it nearly impossible to gain any sense of contentment, severely discouraged by the tempestuous winds of adversity. She furthermore accentuates this unforgiving reality when she openly defines the color of her spirit as, “black.”
Behind this thought is a poem entitled "Black Soul" that shares the author’s honest viewpoint on how she connects and relates to the color black while figuratively defining its emotional impact and obscurities. The poem is written as an extended metaphor and possesses an intriguing, cryptic vibe and is no coincidence, emotionally, as black as a day with no sun.
We must add that from a technical perspective, Mikhail really shows off the usefulness of metaphors in this piece by means of multiple detailed comparisons that stem from her own personal pain, sadness and depression. Each depiction is intimate, and just like the color black, “lack hue and brightness,” ultimately drawing a shadowy portrait of her distressed spirit and consciousness. The poem takes an ironic turn towards the end when she says "Black makes me feel alive. Black is the color of my soul," attaching herself and her very existence to the bleak and mysterious nature of the darkness.
Author Jamlila Mikhail’s poetry can speak to so many broken spirits and suffering hearts and I can definitely recommend this book to others. More than a presentation of conflict, adversity and pain, this book reads as a poetic testimony of perseverance, heart, love, courage and transition in which the author digs deep down into her soul and embraces her hearts innermost.
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