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Archive for the ‘A writer’s life’ Category

Recently, I’ve taken the Indie Publishing thing more seriously. I believe there is only two ways to go about this. Do it or don’t.

I’ve also learned that is also hard work and that it requires a different mind set from traditional publishing.

Traditional publishing you have the acceptance of the publisher etc and they (hopefully) have a strategy to market your books. If you have the print deal you get into books stores and launches and if the publishers are pretty good you’ll have some press releases and even a marketer selling your books, getting you press in various places. These days you have to do some of your own marketing, Twitter, Facebook Pages, Blogs, Instagram etc etc.

That is nothing like Indie Publishing. And I don’t even know the half of it. I’m at the bottom of the hill pushing the dung to the top.

So what have I learned so far?

Advice is out there. Ask. I have learned so much mostly from the generosity of Patty Jansen and her cadre of Indie Publishers. (I’ll put a link up her page at the bottom of this post). Believe me there is a lot to ask.

Putting your book up on Smashwords or Ingrams and expecting it to sell doesn’t work (except maybe in some fluke circumstances). Believe me I had a book up there and it didn’t do much. You have to write more books. I had to turn that one Indie Published book into a trilogy. And I have the rights  back to another series so by mid-year I’ll be playing with eight Indie Published books and that gives me more options marketing wise/promotion wise. This does not include my traditionally published works under my own name and my pen name.

New skill sets…administration, formatting, Photoshop, buying stock images, learning about newsletters, different places to market my books, cross-promotions, pricing etc.

That’s just a quick overview. You really don’t understand until you do it. For example, I buy my own ISBNs so they have to be registered, then I register them with the National Library Catalogue in Print, then there is listing the books with different sellers and distributors, writing blurbs (the hardest thing of all), hiring editors, proofreaders, cover artists and writing briefs for cover artists. There are the ebooks to format and upload and print files to prepare…yadda yadda

Yet, it is rewarding. This has been the most challenging thing that I have done. It’s scary. It’s empowering. But most important of all–it’s a business. That’s the biggest change in mindset for me. I want to make a living from my writing. I want people to read and enjoy my books. I have to get the books out there. I have to find my audience.

So big achievement of the week. There have been a number of them, but sending out my first newsletter is the star  moment.

I’ve called the newsletter Wing Dust. People who have read the Dragon Wine series will get the reference.

Here is my newsletter banner, which I put together on Photoshop. Thank you You Tube for the tutorial. (It’s a very complicated and powerful program btw).

Newsletter banner master amended

If you want to sign up to my newsletter click here. 

You can unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.

Heartfelt thank you to Patty Jansen. I suggest reading a few of her posts on Indie Publishing. Great advice and good sense from her. You can find her here.

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Some people may think writing a book is easy. Maybe writing a trilogy isn’t too hard. And that fantasy stuff? Why it’s all made up so what’s the problem? Anyone can make stuff up.

Ahhh…I’ve finished a trilogy and it was a challenge. I thought they were easy before I finished one. Now I know it’s damn hard work. Also, I started The Silverlands more than fifteen years ago. I know so much more now than I did then but it’s hard to go back and change things so you have to be happy with what you have and what you can achieve within the limitations of your original vision.

But the map? I always had a drawing of Argenterra but a wise person once said to me back in 2003-That’s not a map! And proceeded to tell me all the things that were wrong with it-scale, place names, the size of a lake etc.

Through the years I worked on the Silverlands series and on Argenterra, the imagined land. I thought about the landscape and what is going on with the magic in that land. How did it get there? What does it do? What does it all mean?

To cut a long story short, with the excellent assistance of Russell Kirkpatrick, (@insanemapboy), I have a map. It was hard work. I think I drove Russell to the brink of madness. I’m sure he wanted to throttle me. Yet, he dragged me kicking and screaming into a better understanding of maps and I listened. So now there is the map of Argenterra, taken from my scribble and drawn into perfection. (as perfect as it is going to get). The ebook is not going to show the map well. The print book maybe. So I’m putting it here for you all to see. You won’t see the tears, the sweat, the anguish, the retro fitting. I mean I literally moved mountains and changed the course of rivers to bring you this. Something I envisaged so long ago and now here looking awesome.

Final Map Argenterra

And, yes, it was Russell Kirkpatrick that told me my map wasn’t a map way back in 2003, when I was a babe in the woods. He sent me on a path to better understanding. Thanks Russell.

I have put the map with the series description under MyBooks! Link is here.

 

 

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Time flies! I meant to write this post when I got back but with one thing and another it got delayed.

I had a fab time. It is such a shame there will be no more reader conventions. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Australian Romance Readers Association will come up with in future because they are badass organisers.

So for a romance writer at a reader convention there are these things called swag or loot where writers give stuff away. It can be corny condoms, chocolate with flyers for books, post it notes, pens etc. A lot of it can be personalised. Often it will just be on a general table. When I went to RT Convention in New Orleans authors and publishers had to pay to put their swag in a special room, where readers could go in and take what they want. So as I knew this was the last convention I thought I’d go for the swag giveaway.

My book Opi Battles the Space Pirates was meant to be out. First, I was going to give away print copies, but I didn’t get the cover in time. Then I didn’t get the cover in time to give away Ebooks. So in the end I copied the Ebook (without cover) to USBs and included them in the loot bags.

Ten lucky people got the swag with the book on a USB stick. I had another six bags with general loot. Cautionary tale, don’t put the chocolate hearts in until after you have driven from Canberra to Melbourne as the chocolate will sweat in the heat. Other than packing, that was my preparation.

On the way down and on the way back I stopped at my favourite place, Benalla Art Gallery. This is a picture of the view from where I ate my lunch!

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So what was different about this ARRC? This is my third convention attendance and this time it was in Melbourne at the Rydges in Exhibition Street. Great location and great hotel. Always a good start.

I signed up for the extra-curricular activities, such as the high tea at Zumbo’s and the cruise but my first foray into meeting readers was in the lift. I spoke to Tiffany (waves to Tiffany) and asked her if she was there for the convention. We talked favourite genre on the way up in the lift. She reads paranormal and I write it. So good start. Good on me for being friendly and actually saying hi! to someone. I’m an extrovert but I don’t always find it easy.

Next up was saying hello to whoever was around while waiting for the bus to the high tea.

Keri Arthur called me over, then CS Pacat was there. Say hi to these talented and lovely authors!

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I don’t have a photo of her, but a few minutes after this photo was taken, Debbie (chair) introduced Courtney Milan to us and we hung together for the bus ride (ended up being a life dare to ride that thing) to Zumbos. The high tea was amazing. I’m trying not to put on weight so I figured there were parts of the high tea I could skip. No! I couldn’t. It was all different and peculiar and amazing. The food gave everyone something to talk about. I sat next to Keri Arthur, opposite Cat Pacat and with Courtney Milan, but even better I had eight readers on my left side and I got to talk with them all. Here’s the test. Can I remember all their names?

First up was Tiffany who I met in the lift, then Amanda (we became buddies), Yanna (also became a buddy) oh oh…Barbara?, then ???, the Melissa and Melanie….oh I was so close. It’s on the tip of my tongue. Anyway it was so much fun. I talked all manner of science fiction and fantasy as well as romance reading across the table, sharing our faves and also picking up new recommendations. Melanie I knew from Canberra. She’s a librarian and she had already encouraged me to read McMaster Bujold’s Vorkorisgan series. My fun moment was when Courtney Milan realised she was sitting next to CS Pacat and she had a fangirl moment. That must have been very cool for Cat! (hahaha).

Then it was back to the hotel, where there were a few close shaves in the bus. Glad to be still living, we went off to get ready for drinks. I really did go over my limit. More on that later. Got to talk to heaps of people. Got to chat with Kristen Callihan, but I didn’t know who she was. (she gave an awesome talk by the way!) PS I stole this photo from Yanna on Facebook.

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Then came the Trivia Quiz. That was hard. I was tipsy. I snaffled Melanie and Melissa and Amanda with us writers. It was hard. We did well in the movies, abysmally elsewhere. We won Ice Magic topping for our ice cream. We also won Tim Tams. In the end we resorted to making up answers. Being silly was the fun part of it. We didn’t win either.

Next day the conference started. One of the really cool things I did and I think other conventions should steal this idea was author speed dating. (I keep writing hot dating but that just boggles the imagination). Ten authors, ten readers, four minutes each!  It was great for author/reader interaction, which is sometimes hard to do even at a reader convention. I got to give away nine of my goodie bags. I was so pleased. One reader didn’t show. It was a great way for readers to discover new authors too.

Later that day was the book signing. It took place in Bobby McGees nightclub and it was an interesting venue. The prize for the most startling attraction to her table goes to Wanda Wiltshire for a shirtless man with wings. The poor man was freezing but you know it worked! The photo below is from my signing table. I gave away the rest of my goodie bags and sold a book. Woot! Sorry no picture of the bare-chested man or is that fairy?

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I also went along to the Harlequin drinks and had a very interesting conversation with Narelle Harris, who talked about her slash Holmes/Watson book, called A Colonial Boy (I bought the book later). Thank you Harlequin!

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Next big thing was the ARRA Awards dinner. I sat at the table with the most awards. Keri Arthur won for her section and Anne Gracie won about five awards. I really should have taken a photo with Anne and her collection. It was amazing.I sat with Anne Gracie at the signing so I can understand how much that support from readers means to her. I did snag a photo of Keri though.

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Melissa and I went into the bling off. Melissa should have won. She made her outfit but she needed to flash her sequined bra to bring it off. Kate Cuthbert co-judge offered to send her a prize. I wore my amazing Bollywood-type shoes I bought on a shopping expedition with Keri Arthur in New Orleans. Below is Melissa and below that my shoes.

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Yanna and Amanda came over to take a snapshot of us in our finery.

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On Sunday, I chaired a panel on Feminism versus Romance. At the end of this post is a link to a post about that panel. Renee Dahlia took what looks like incredibly detailed notes. I was nervous as all hell. I’d left my computer at my friend’s place in Melbourne, thinking that I wouldn’t be writing then remembered it had all the stuff for the panel on it. Anne Gracie kindly chatted to me in the dealer’s room beforehand. I was pacing. She also had a print out of the questions. Handy!

I thought the panel discussion went well. I’m usually good at public speaking but I did feel nervous. The panel itself was so interesting and right on my PhD topic area. Thank you to the lovely authors, Erica Hayes, Anne Gracie, Amber Bardan and Bronwyn Parry for a great discussion.

After the panel I fell into a heap. I got to hear Courtney Milan’s guest speech and Kristen Callihan’s which were so worth it. I missed Kylie Scott’s which was a shame but I was busy doing other stuff. It was a sad goodbye at the end of the convention. The team really do organise well and there was masses of food and the hotel room was great.

I should give a shout out to my roommate, Catherine Evans. She was fun to hang with and so quiet. We had some fun midnight discussions and she drinks as much tea as I do.

So the convention was over but there was more. Yes, a river cruise and it was in a Tramboat. Very cute little thing. I got to hang out with my mates, Yanna and Amanda and we also had breakfast together. I’d been out for dinner on Sunday night and ate way too much and spent an uncomfortable night so was not feeling the best. But their company cheered me up.

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And that was that. A lovely weekend, great weather. Lovely people. Thank you so much ARRA for a great weekend. Edit! A shout out to Pamela Diaz for great MCing and her general sweetness.

A pic of me taken by Amanda. Drinking tea as I do.

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Notes to Feminism versus Romance panel discussion. Here.

Hugs!

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I’ve been writing creative prose now for over fifteen years.

I realise now that my story and novel writing has mostly been by instinct. Sure I’ve done some workshops along the way. I recall a workshop I took with Cate Kennedy in 2003 and I had an epiphany! Something she said turned my brain, just titled me until I saw it. I was so blown away by her workshop that I wrote poetry about her and my experience. It was bad poetry but still I wrote poetry!

One of the takeaways from that workshop was using the silences. What people don’t say! Who would have thunk it!

I am undertaking a creative writing PhD and this year (year 2) for me is all about improving as a writer. This means reading. It means writing. And on top of that I sought out ways to improve my technique, my skill, my craft…whatever you want to call it.

So I’m taking a Screenwriting course at the University of Canberra. Now as I said I’ve done workshops, read books about writing and even workshops that looked at the film structure and how to analyse your writing. But OH MY GOD! Screenwriting is blowing me away. Truly, I’m sitting there listening to a lecture about premise and the five important things and I jolt in my seat. Issue with latest book that agent rejected. Solved.

As I listened and took notes, I realised where my writing worked well for me was where I had a premise. Dragon wine for instance has a premise: How low can humans go and are they worth saving. That’s not quite worded exactly like a premise but for me it’s a guiding moral for the story. To be a premise it would need to be. No matter how low humankind sinks, it is still worth saving.

The other big takeaway for me is it’s not the risk of failure but the price of success. Oh wow. I am reborn. In Dragon wine I decided when I planned it that I wasn’t going to be nice to my characters. They were going to risk all for what they want. Unwittingly I stumbled across this.

I’m not saying that Screenwriting is the same as prose writing. It’s not. But the story essentials, such as structure etc are universal. And those techniques can help you refine your writing.

So for future works. I’m going to blow you all out of the water.

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I’ve discovered that I can be very focused.

This is the opposite of being distracted, which I talked about in an earlier post, thinking  perhaps I had ADHD or something.

I appear to like grooves.

I’ve been focused on the PhD and writing lately. I realized that I have not made a hat since June. Although I have told myself a number of times that I was going to sew for a day I haven’t either. I have made one complex cake in January. The BB8 cake on the spur of the moment.

I wonder why this is so. Why can’t I  read, write and be creative at the same time? Say a couple of hours of this and a couple hours of that. In theory it’s possible, but I haven’t been able to get myself there. I even write down ‘to do’ lists that say, two hours proofreading, two hours drafting MS, two hours reading for PhD, but I get stuck on the proofreading and don’t or won’t let go. So I end up doing three solid days of proofreading then I can go back to reading for the PhD. Weird.

Incidentally, I have set myself the task of getting five novels out before June. They are all written, but I have to deal with edits and proofs and getting covers and other stuff. Right now I’m revising The Ungiven Land, the last book in the Silverlands Trilogy. I’ve go a hundred pages to go. I will finish the revision this week I’m pretty sure. It’s not heavy revision or anything, just a read through and tweak and ensure consistency of some changes I made follow through. Cutting blah, blah bits out. Shortening some bits. To finish just requires some focus then it’s ready for the editor.

So I think my focus is a good thing. I get things done, even though I sometimes hate the revision stage. I like creating stories most. I love studying for the PhD too, although there are going to be aspects that challenge me. It is through doing the PhD that I’m getting these insights into myself. Or maybe because of the self-led study component of it that leads me to be drawn into certain ways of working. I’m not reporting to a boss. I’m not interviewing people for an audit etc. Working alone this way that make me see some of my issues or my tendencies that I probably always had but didn’t notice.

I also theorise that my creative energy comes from the same place. If I’m writing I find it hard to sew or make hats or cakes. I don’t find it hard to watch DVDs although when I’m caught up in a story I find it hard to engage with a new series for example. I also don’t find it hard to read.

So now I look at what I have to do and the not writing fiction, just doing the edits etc seems to be a relief. I have a number of works drafted that I need to work on, but they are on hold. Now I can focus on the PhD novel. At least I think I can. Writing for me requires a certain level of commitment, ideas, energy, story drive etc. Once I start I usually find the rest, but this novel requires a bit more. I want it to be more too. More in the way of skill, in meaning, in impact, in thought. I may not achieve these goals, but I won’t know until I try.

PS I will come back and put a picture of the BB8 cake here. My phone is in the shop (withdrawal issues)!!

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Some of you may recall my first long form publication was Rayessa and the Space Pirates, which was picked up by Harlequin’s Escape Publishing (digital imprint) in 2013. Rayessa had been languishing my hard drive for a number of years. It started as a short story, maybe way far back as 2002. I was writing the story for Elsewhere. At the time the first 7,500 were the longest short I’d written and it still wasn’t done. When the space pirates turned up, well I knew it wasn’t going to be a short story anymore. It ended up as a novella, then a slightly longer novella. It took it out and revised it a couple of times. I gave it to a couple of people to read with some positive feedback. I submitted it a couple of places. Once it was forwarded to the children’s editor at HarperCollins Australia. It was rejected but the rejection was along the lines of we already have stories along these lines and sorry to take  so long to get back to you. Then it sat in the hard drive a little longer. Then I went to my first RWA conference in the Gold Coast (2012) where Penguin launched their Destiny Imprint and Harlequin launched Escape. It was actually at the launch cocktail party of Destiny that I clued in that Rayessa was also a romance. Chinking champagne glasses with Nicole Murphy I said that I thought I had romance arc in some of my stories. She was like ‘Dah, why do you think I told you to come here?’ The clue people was the slideshow they had playing on the walls. Science fiction scenes at a romance conference.

So Rayessa was published. Then I wrote Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures, which should have been titled, Essa Takes on the Space Pirates or better still. Essa Rescues Mum from the Space Pirates etc. Now Escape decided they didn’t want any more spate pirate stories from me when they took Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures (and also revamped the Rayessa cover). Not with this family at least. So I changed the ending to Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures so there wasn’t too much hanging. But I always had in mind to write Opeia’s story. Opeia (Opi) is the mother of Rae and Essa, the head of AllEarth Corp.

Now pesky ideas will keep bothering you until your write them down. I thought I’d dealt with Opi by writing some notes about the story in my ‘Notebook of Really Cool Ideas’ that Gillian Polack gave me when I started the PhD. It is meant as a place to park ideas so I can come back to them when the Phd is done. Well obviously Opi had other ideas.

Opi meets NaNoWriMo and viola! she is out there on paper! I tried to be more emotionally contemplative in Opi Battles the Space Pirates. My wonderful beta reader (who is a fan of the first two books) gave me feedback. I had to rewrite the beginning and the ending after that. That plot twist that I had come up with but abandoned because I was trying to address my plot addiction by being a bit more touchy feely, well I had to put the plot bit in. It’s just that type of book.

It’s fluff, it’s funny (I think so) and it’s light and possibly uplifting. (Complete opposite to the Dragonwine series). Opi Battles the Space Pirates is also longer than the first two books, just under 60,000 words, it’s adult, but not sexy, more sweet in keeping with the other two books. It features an older protagonist (42) and a space battle goddamit!

Stay tuned. Cover art is in progress. Proofreading is in progress. I’m going to self-publish this one for fun.

Just to refresh your memory, here are the covers of the first two books, which I adore. Not sure the wonderful covers sell as many books as they should, but they are pretty and swish.

Link to the Escape website here. The books are at all major e-retailers. You can also buy these books in large print format/hardcover for libraries I think. I can’t afford to buy myself a  hard back version. There are some copies in libraries in Australia and the USA. Here.

However, I plan to have a print version of Opi Battles the Space Pirates. Just for fun, for a laugh and maybe as giveaways. So watch out.

Oh and the moral of the story? Don’t throw anything out. Learn from rejections. Don’t give up. Keep writing. Follow your heart…and whatever!

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