Alana Woods ... the Intrigue Queen

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Do you know who is selling your books?

Posted by Alana Woods on May 24, 2014 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (4)

My books on Amazon   Imbroglio  |  Automaton  |  Tapestries  |  25 Writing Tips

When I was checking out the free download sites of my books last week I also discovered over a dozen online sellers offering print versions, some saying they had multiple copies, one purporting to have 120 in stock.

I’m talking about new, not second-hand, copies. 

If you click on the Buy Now button of some of these sites you are taken to Amazon, which is the only seller I have listed my books with.

My question in this case is this: What does the seller get out of it? Presumably the royalty will come to me because the sale is from my authorised seller Amazon. I don’t have an Amazon Associate arrangement with these sellers, so what’s their purpose for listing my books? What gain do they make from it?

My second question has to do with sellers who are offering direct book sales? Where have they sourced their copies? CreateSpace? Which is the only printer/supplier I deal with. Perhaps.

I can see where they may order a copy or two and then sell at an inflated price to make a dollar or two.

But there are sellers saying they have multiple copies. I know they didn’t come from CreateSpace so where did they come from if, indeed, they aren’t another version of the scammers who offer ‘free’ e-copy downloads for a fee. Meaning you pay but never receive the book.

I have to say that all of this totally bemuses me.

Have you ever done a similar search? Were your results as equally perplexing?


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Are scammers using your books?

Posted by Alana Woods on May 17, 2014 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (6)

My books on Amazon   Imbroglio  |  Automaton  |  Tapestries  |  25 Writing Tips

I was incensed several weeks ago when a Google alert notified me that my novel IMBROGLIO was being offered as a free download.

Foolishly perhaps I immediately clicked on the link and found myself at an inactive page because the domain name had expired. A WHOIS search showed the company was Chinese.

I calmed down and forgot about it.

Until earlier this week when I received another Google alert.

This time the page—DownloadGenius—was active and surprisingly perhaps had a copyright page with a contact form. The copyright statement pretty well said that if content was on the site then it was authorised but if you had issues then contact them with details, being sure to include all links you wanted removed.

I contacted them with the offending download link and my book was removed the same day, although the Google link remained.

Heartened by this I sent another email querying where they had sourced the book file but it came back as undeliverable, leading me to believe they’d cut the link.

Have I since found other instances? Yes.

Belatedly I searched ‘IMBROGLIO by Alana Woods’ and within the first 10 Google search pages found seven sites offering free downloads.

They all had different domain names but three sourced back to DownloadGenius and the others—all but one of which presented the same download form—had been de-activated when I returned to them a day later.

It transpired that none were actually free. DownloadGenius requires you to become a member for a fee, and the others asked for credit card details when I clicked on the download buttons. I clicked out at that point.

At first it didn't occur to me that these were scams. It took a conversation with my IT guru son-in-law, whose opinion I've come to regard as sacrosant regarding IT matters, to tell me what was really happening.

Before speaking with him what puzzled me was where these people had accessed the book file. I have it on my personal system and Amazon has it because they’re my authorised seller. But no-one else.

A clue was that the book image on all sites was obviously copied from Amazon because they included the Look Inside graphic. But I scratched my head for a while as to whether the book file could have been somehow stolen from Amazon.

More likely, I thought, they had bought a copy and had the technical expertise to turn it into a file for their own purposes.

It was gratifying in a weird way that someone somewhere thought IMBROGLIO was worth pirating.

And because none of them were actually free downloads I doubted I going to lose much if anything in the way of missed royalties.

But then my son-in-law said 'If they want your credit card details it's a scam. They more than likely don't have the file. And be flattered they believe your book is one that will attract people to their pages.'

So, I'm going to stop worrying. And I'm feeling flattered.

However, I issue this warning to book buyers or, rather, downloaders. If you don't want to be scammed, if you don't want your credit card details falling into the wrong hands, only buy from a credible source, in the case of my books the seller is Amazon.

Has anyone else encountered this?  What have you done about it? And what’s your opinion about pirated copies and your books being used in scams?

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In defence of the minor character

Posted by Alana Woods on April 26, 2014 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (0)

My books on Amazon   Imbroglio  |  Automaton  |  Tapestries  |  25 Writing Tips

A not-frequent but recurring criticism in some of the reviews my thrillers have received is that minor characters feature too prominently and detract the reader from major characters.

While I'll keep this in mind in future works I would like to pose a question.

In your life—the life you are actually living as against the one you put yourself inside in your books—how much do those people on its periphery affect it?

I ask that question of you because those on the periphery of my life have sometimes affected it very much.

In my working career, for instance, left field comments from people I barely knew sometimes had a profound influence on how I was perceived by others who mattered to me.

Positive comments made to management and that I was happy to hear about, of course, but once also malicious gossip by someone with whom I felt I had built mutual respect and trust that could have derailed my promotion ambitions. These and more, if I think back, made a difference to the way I thought and what I planned.

These people were peripheral to my life. And yet they had an impact.

So when I choose to introduce and flesh out so-called minor characters in my stories it’s because they have a role to play. What they think and do in relation to major characters is going to affect those major characters in some way.

My minor characters are never window dressing. But perhaps I've been a little too subtle for those particular readers. Maybe I need to think about making their contributions somewhat more obvious.

How about your minor characters? What are your thoughts?

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Develop your writing skills by writing book reviews

Posted by Alana Woods on January 22, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (6)

 My books on  |   My books on

You probably snorted with a ‘Yeah, right’ when you read the header. Or maybe I should give you the benefit of the doubt; maybe your interest was piqued wondering how writing book reviews could develop writing skills.

Let me lead in to it by reminding you of the advice every experienced writer will offer you: practice makes perfect. You’re not going to become a decent writer if you don’t write constantly.

There’s also plenty of advice about what to write. It doesn’t have to be the next best seller. You’re told it can be anything, as long as you’re writing. Try keeping a diary, do stream of consciousness every day, or try blog posts—they have the added advantage of, with any luck, drawing readers to your site.

But if none of those appeal I suggest writing book reviews. You read, don’t you? I can’t imagine a writer who isn’t also a reader. So when you finish a book, review it.

How can writing a review help? you ask.

Well, I’m not talking about those shorties that say ‘I loved this book. It kept me awake all night because I couldn’t put it down until I finished it’.  There’s definitely nothing wrong with that; authors will tell you receiving any review is fantastic. But you’re not going to improve your writing skills that way.

You need to write in-depth reviews.

Ones that dissect the book: plot line, story and character development, and story and character depth.

Ones that examine dialogue: is it natural, does it carry the story forward.

Ones that look at the hook: did it grab you immediately or did it take some time.

And the resolution: were all the questions answered, was it a satisfying end.

Also examine the author’s writing style: did it appeal to you, what kind of style was it: chatty, literary or something else.

If the book is littered with spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting errors you could mention that. If there weren’t many perhaps don’t mention them in the review but let the author know what they were—if there’s a contact. Speaking for myself I really appreciate that.

So you see, while dissecting and examining the book you’ve just read you’re learning to identify what makes good fiction. And when writing the review you will be practicing your writing skills. A learning exercise on two fronts.

The bonus is that the author will receive a review which will make them very happy. Doubly happy because it will be an in-depth reasoned one.

Is your author name unique?

Posted by Alana Woods on January 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (2)

My books on  |   My books on

This article was written for and first published on Indies Unlimited

This is a lesson every yet-to-publish author should read.

It’s a lesson in doing your homework before committing yourself publishing-wise.

My first published book AUTOMATON went to print in 2001. I used my own name—Alana Woods—because I‘ve never seen the point of using a pseudonym. I want everyone, and I mean everyone, to know that it was ME, yes ME, who wrote it.

I self published and hawked the first print run of 1000 around bookshops all down Australia’s eastern seaboard on what my husband John and I euphemistically called working holidays. With the second print run of 2000 we thought we’d cut out the middlemen and direct sell so we hired space at markets and shows and gave author talks in libraries and clubs, anywhere I could get an invitation, and it worked. We sold all the books and I accumulated a fan base that was loyal because they knew me personally.




To cut a fairly long story short it never occurred to me back then to check for other authors called Alana Woods. In fact, I’d never met or heard of anyone else with the name of Alana let alone Alana Woods. Not in Australia, and at the time that was my market.

Foolishly I took the same attitude when going global and republishing AUTOMATON almost simultaneously with my second novel IMBROGLIO on Amazon.

I didn’t do a search for either my name or the books’ titles.

I can live with other books having the same titles as mine. I don’t view that as a killer.

But having to share my name and therefore having other authors' books appearing with mine in a search is constantly annoying to me and would be confusing for readers.

It carries over to social media. Fortunately I snapped up years ago and years before I actually got around to a website. Unfortunately I didn’t do the same with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. So now there’s always the worry that people don’t associate them with me.

I’ve tried to overcome it by using the same author pic across all sites and pages and I’m hoping that works. Goodreads is the odd site out. It has resisted my efforts to update my profile pic. That’s another lesson come to think of it. Choose a photo you’re happy with and use it everywhere to build recognition.

If I had done a name search I would have gone with either Alana E Woods or AE Woods as neither were taken at the time. I could have used whichever I chose right across the board: books, sites and pages.

You can’t imagine how annoyed I am at myself for not checking.

So before you irrevocably put your name on your book, before you irrevocably enter it into the CreateSpace, Amazon and other sites’ databases, and before you start building brand recognition, unless you don’t mind, for example, your suspense novels being grouped with music and alternative remedies, I urge you to DO A SEARCH.

Alana Woods' writing tips: Is that the right word?

Posted by Alana Woods on March 6, 2012 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I was guilty once of using 'phased' instead of 'fazed'.

An oversight. I knew the difference. I'd typed the wrong one unconsciously and no-one including me or my editor picked it up in subsequent proofreading.

I may well have been guilty on other occasions but thankfully that's the only one that's ever been pointed out to me. Hard lesson, though, when the mistake is in a printed book.

What embarrassments of a like nature have you suffered?

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Alana's writing tips: Who said that?

Posted by Alana Woods on February 28, 2012 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I've edited manuscripts where it has been difficult to decide which character is speaking.

I'm right behind authors who want to marry dialogue with narrative to reduce the times they need 'he said' and 'she said'.  To demonstrate, here's part of a conversation from my latest novel Imbroglio.

                ‘So you were using her too.’

                Uncomfortably he said, ‘I suppose I was.’

                ‘You’re a real bastard, aren’t you.’

                He accepted it. ‘At the time the means seemed justified.’

                Both finely feathered eyebrows crept up. ‘And now?’

                ‘Now I can afford to feel guilty.’

                ‘Because things worked out?’


                The eyebrows stayed suspended. ‘What do you feel guilty about?’

                He clasped his fingers between his knees. ‘Lying to you.’

                Her eyebrows slowly returned to normal latitudes. ‘Is that all?’

As you can see, there's minimal 'he said' and 'she said'. There's minimal narrative too. Here it's the dialogue that is moving the story along.


Alana's writing tips: more on dialogue

Posted by Alana Woods on February 22, 2012 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Last week I spoke about keeping dialogue real.

This week I talk about using character names in dialogue.

I have this one piece of advice: do so very very VERY sparingly.

You don’t do it when you’re talking to people in life, so why do it when you’re writing.

I will repeat what I consider to be my essential writing tip: read your story out loud to yourself.  If it sounds awkward, false, or in any other way unnatural, change it.

I recently read a book where the author, in every bit of dialogue, had his characters using each other’s names almost every time they spoke to each other.  It drove me to exasperation.  

This is what I’m talking about and, no, this is not dialogue from said book:

‘Joe, I saw that you had enrolled in a course to do astrophysics.  Why?’

‘Well, Bob, because I thought it would be fun.’

But ... and don’t think I’m criticising ... but you’re no brain, are you, Joe?’

‘Bob, I think you’re missing the point. I want to do it’.

As I say, unnatural.

Alana's writing tips: Dialogue

Posted by Alana Woods on February 14, 2012 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (2)

Authors, if you don't get your dialogue right your book and story are going to suffer.

This week's tip is short and to the point.

Ask yourself: is your dialogue real? 

It should be written the way people actually speak it—being careful to keep your characters in their time setting. 

People converse in shorthand. The knack is to show this while not losing sense.

Dialogue should carry the story forward.  If it doesn't, don't use it, or rewrite the section so it does.

Once again I will say—read it out loud to yourself. Listen to how it sounds.


Alana's writing tips: Authors, make sure your character names are consistent

Posted by Alana Woods on February 7, 2012 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (8)

A book I recently read had me totally engrossed, right up to when a character I thought had been killed off made a reappearance—twice.  It brought me to a screeching halt while I went back to see whether I was mistaken in what had happened to the character.  Turned out to be an author error.  After those two instances the character’s name changed to the one it was supposed to be.

The lesson to learn here comes under the author review/edit stage.  It’s just one more thing that an author needs to be vigilant about.

Alana's holiday writing tips no. 5

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

This week’s tip continues with the theme of not being boring.  It’s this:

Mix your sentence lengths.  Follow a long and perhaps complicated one with something short and snappy, maybe as short as one, two or three words.  It adds impact.

Otherwise you risk the sin of boredom.

Alana's holiday writing tips no. 4

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Last week’s tip was about the nitty gritty of writing — spelling, punctuation and grammar.

This week’s tip continues with the specifics.  It’s this:

Don’t start too many sentences with the same word, especially in the same paragraph. You will immediately be identified as an amateur.

I once appraised a short story for a young aspirer who had pretty well started three out of four sentences in every paragraph with either the or the lead character’s name.

VERY boring and amateurish.


Alana's holiday writing tips no. 2

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Last week I said that the author’s tone, or style, is the most important aspect of a story.

This week’s tip is short, simple, and also extremely important.

Show, don’t tell.

Examine every sentence to ensure you are describing, not detailing.  Your writing should evoke images in the reader’s head. If it doesn’t, it’s not showing.

Alana's holiday writing tips no. 1

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

You want to be a writer, yes?  You may already be writing and perhaps wondering why your efforts are being knocked back by publishers, magazines etc. who don’t have the time or inclination to give you a reason for the knockback.  There are many reasons, but one could be that your writing or story is sub-standard.

Over the years I’ve compiled a list of writing tips to give to people who ask me to look at their work and I thought that over the holiday period I would pass on a few of those tips.

Here’s no. 1.

The tone, the writer’s style, is THE most important part of a story. People won’t persevere with even a fantastic story if it’s crappily written.

I read everything I write out loud, even my novels. If it sounds awkward, I rewrite. I may not get it perfect, but that’s what I try for.

It needs to sound easy and natural. It needs to flow.

Its beginning to feel a bit like Christmas

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Mmm. Should that be it's? Some people think the apostrophe in it’s is to indicate possession.  It isn’t.  It’s is simply a contraction of it is.

Do this test.

Make its in the head sentence into it’s and then split the contraction into it is.

It is beginning to feel a bit like Christmas.

Makes sense, doesn’t it.  Therefore it’s is correct.

Try this.

Santa’s bag of presents has its own spot in his sleigh.

Try making its in this sentence into it is.  It doesn’t make sense.  Therefore its is correct.


Alana's writing tips

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

So you’ve written a book and you want it published.

For whatever it’s worth, this is the first in the advice I can pass on as a result of my experiences

You have a choice.

Try the traditional route, as in finding a publisher.

Or you can do it yourself.

Neither is an easy option.

And neither are quick options. Or they shouldn’t be if you do things right.

Either way your work has to be the best you can possibly make it. That means getting it edited so it looks like you’ve put some effort into it.

And get it edited only after you’ve exhausted yourself making it as good as you can both creatively and language-wise, i.e punctuation, grammar, tense etc.

If you can, do a final edit on hard copy. Things will leap out at you from the printed page that you miss on screen.

Go through the hard copy several times. You’ll be sick to death of it by the time you finish, but you’ll be glad you did. 

Look for different things each time. Maybe the storyline first, then the dialogue—read it out loud. Does it sound real? If not, work on it until it does. Lastly check punctuation, grammar and spelling.



Alana's writing tips

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I notice some people have trouble with their/there/they’re.

My way of explaining the difference is this:

Their relates to people.

There relates to places.

They’re is a contraction of they are.

Examples of the three:


Their houses are over there.

They’re standing in front of their houses.

I’ve also noticed their spelt thier.

There’s a trick with their, there and they’re.  They all start with the.

Hat: writing

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Discussion with one of my children’s high school teachers at a parent/teacher evening some years ago. It ran like this:

Me: Why don’t you correct every error in English assignments? In my day even the maths teacher picked up your language mistakes.

Teacher: We find it stifles their creativity.

Me: Don’t they have to know how to use the language before they can be creative?

I’m still waiting for the answer.

The best advice I ever received

Posted by Alana Woods on January 31, 2012 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Author, editor, publisher, reader, wife, mother, grandmother, gardener, traveller, home builder and renovator—I wear all of these hats at various times.

The best advice I ever received was to just keep plodding.

This was when I went back to university in the ’80s as a mature age student and I was feeling the pressure of juggling study with a full-time job and raising three growing children.

Since then I’ve passed the advice on in turn and sometimes wonder if those I have passed it on to have been as affected by it as I have.

It kept me going through the disheartening times of trying to get published. It kept me going through the times of self publishing, marketing and selling my first novel, Automaton, a thriller, which went on to win the Australian 2003 Fast Books Prize for best fiction, and in 2004 was nominated for the Sisters-in-Crime Davitt Award.

I don’t profess to be an expert under any of my hats but for what it’s worth I thought that, here, I would pass on my experience to anyone who may be plodding similar roads to me, especially writing, editing and publishing.

I would be happy to hear from anyone treading that same road.  And if you have questions, I would be happy to try to answer them.