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At the moment I’m recovering from an acute attack of sciatica. The pain is less now but my right thigh is still numb. I’m at the stage where I’m over it. I’m bored. I’m going out of my head. I’m sick of bed rest and pacing around the house.

Today I bit the bullet and set up my standing desk. It’s always just there, but seriously it’s a bit of a leap of faith to actually use it. I’m meant to be working on the PhD novel and I have just now written some notes, but first I thought I’d blog about some books I’ve been reading or listening to on Audible. Why waste these good thoughts?

First up, The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, listened to on Audible. Great narrator btw.

As a fan of Regency romances, Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen The Sorcerer to the Crown hit all the right beats for me. As a fan of fantasy, it did as well. I’d call this a post-colonial Regency fantasy. The main characters are Zacharia, an African ex-slave who is the Sorcerer to the Crown and Prunella, the half-Indian female lead. I don’t want to give anything away. I just loved every minute of this story and every aspect of it. I found parts of it highly allegorical with the treatment of women in the Regency and subsequent Victorian period, I love how it tackled racism and magic for that matter. I’m not usually a fan of stories which feature the plethora of creatures from fairy land but in this case it really worked for me. At times the language was so Austeneque I sighed. I loved the ending, a true subtle Regency ending to my mind.

What also intrigued me was reading some of the reviews on Goodreads. It just goes to show that reading is subjective and that what one person loves another person doesn’t. Overall I think the book has good ratings but some people really said negative things. Pooh to that. The Sorcerer to the Crown gets a five stars from me.

On the theme of Regency fantasy I picked up Mary Robinette Kowal’s Valour and Vanity. I didn’t realise until well into the book that it was part three but I paid that no nevermind. It was intriguing, complicated, intelligent and fun. It had pirates, magic, Venice and Lord Byron and glass making. What more could you want? I will be reading more of this series. I bought one of Kowal’s books in Iceland but I think that was not a Regency paranormal.

I ready Blood Kissed by Keri Arthur. I’ll tell you now she’s a mate so I can’t claim to be unbiased. Blood Kissed is a Lizzie Grace novel, self-published with a great cover. A departure from her action packed Riley Jensen novels, Lizzie Grace has a nice pace, a gentle introduction to the world of witches and werewolves with a renegade vampire in Australia. The world building was great and it had a nice balance with the introduction to the characters with quite a bit of sexual tension between Lizzie and the star werewolf. Set on a werewolf reservation there is an interesting world here with a witch hierarchy hinted at that left me wanting more.

Speaking of Iceland, I also picked up Towards White by Zena Shapter, at the Conflux SF convention in Canberra when I got back from overseas. I picked up a number of books at launches and am trying to make a serious dent in them. Having a bad back at the moment, reading helps take my mind off the pain. Towards White did that for me. It was pretty much riveting from the opening until the end. I would have finished it in one sitting except my pain killers knocked me out around midnight. Towards White is a book that is Australian but is set in Iceland. It’s a thriller and it certainly delivers in this area. There are some speculative elements to the story, but essentially I think it’s about what happened and what is happening, set against the wonderful landscape of Iceland. As I pretty much love Iceland and the writing was lyrical and fast paced, I found this to be a great read from Zena. I wish I had written this book.

I have a big to read pile, like most of my friends and probably you too. I’ve dipped my nose into Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks that I also picked up at Conflux. It has been on my radar for a while so I’m glad I grabbed a copy. As the title probably tells you it’s steampunk and I like steampunk. I’m thinking of publishing my steampunk duology next year. Maybe. First chapter looks promising and it’s by my bed so I’ll be reading it.

On my iBooks, I’ve started An Accident of Stars by Fox Meadows. I bought this a while back and I’ve been meaning to start it. Like many of you I buy books and they accumulate. I wish I had more time. Back back gives me more reading time, particularly when Netflix doesn’t work in my bedroom. Published by Angry Robot Books, it has a very strong beginning. I’m really looking forward to this.

That’s my reading round up.

 

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Warning: this post contains Vikings! Actually, things about Vikings!

Last post I got us to Stockholm. We arrived on Tuesday and we were in time for the local SF fan meet up at the British Arms Hotel. This pub was quite near where the Viking Line berthed so we thought we could find our way back there by reversing our trip. Our AirBnB host told us about the local transport app. During Winter in Stockholm it is very important to plan your trips and know when buses and trains are arriving so their app was very efficient. We used it to plan our journey back the way we came.

Photo of Stockholm’s central railway station that reminds me of Sydney’s Town Hall.

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We had been invited to come along to this meet up by local fan Johan so it was good to meet local fans. There were Australians there too. Gillian Polack was there visiting with Johan. Then Janice and Stephen turned up, then some USAins. It was quite a national group. They very kindly spoke in English and we had some great conversation. So great was the conversation that we forgot to take photos.

It was an English style pub and one of the bartenders was English and chatted with us. My daughter eats vegan and the vegetarian burger had cheese in the vegetable pattie. I ordered chips for her and the bar tender told me there was a vegan dish available but it wasn’t on the menu. So he very kindly made sure my daughter got a vegan bean stew. I had some potent local cider called Old Rosie.

My daughter had a really good chat with Magnus and Marten and got recommendations for what was she should do in Stockholm and surrounds. Gamla Stan, the Historica museum, a trip to Birka were our order of priority.

Next day we did the tourist thing and took the metro to Gamla Stan, old town. It had cobble stones, the foot killers! I will spare you photos of me with swollen feet (no matter how spectacular) and even stories of using the walking stick! Some days are better than others. But cobble stones are killers.

We made it to Gamla Stan and we had been told the best restaurants are in streets parallel to the main street. First up we found a cafe that did raw food, organic food and vegan stuff. Once again my daughter was in vegan heaven being able to have a good coffee with soy milk and a vegan muffin. I had a pastry and a coffee too. Then we noted there was a vegan restaurant across the road so we pegged that for lunch. Next to that was Geronimo’s Bar and I have a nice picture of their sign.

 

The most important thing in Gamla Stan is the SF bookshop, but I was also on a mission to some needles so I could knit up the Finland wool mittens. I don’t expect to finish them up as I have to watch the old RSI but a few rows now and then might keep me occupied. Google told me there was a yarn shop in Gamla Stan so we went there first, taking a few snaps on the way. They guy on the horse is St George I think, killing the dragon. Or it’s a king who killed a dragon.

 

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The yarn shop was smallish, with some yarn:the local yarn I thought was a bit rough/scratchy and the Icelandic yarn I want to by in Iceland so in the end I only purchased the needles. Then we headed for the SF bookshop. Wow! What a glorious SF bookshop. It has English versions, Swedish translations, DVD, related stuff like TinTin models and then upstairs it had games, Games workshop and Black Library books. My daughter wanted to buy a book and she chose The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. She wanted to by Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman too but we had to worry about weight restrictions. These photos include two external, one internal and one spot the author- Sarah Cawkwell!

 

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We headed back to the vegan restaurant for the buffet lunch, which was really nice. I had black bean soup, vegetable casserole and salad. We booked the Birka tour so we wanted to make sure we knew where the ferry left from so we did the checking out the venue thing with a map, Google etc. We caught the bus to City Hall, which was only two stops away and did a bit of exploring there. The building looks like a cathedral to me with it’s funny steeple. I took a photo of this mausoleum. Later we were told that it has no body in it, but is a bit of a tourist scam. This lot of photos are from the City Hall and surrounds.

 

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Talking of scams…we needed to pay for the loos. A 5 SEK coin to be exact. The public loos weren’t luxurious or even that clean but you needed to pay to spend a penny. At the railway station it’s 10 SEK.

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We took some nice pictures and then decided to walk back to Gamla Stan as it looked close enough. It was across the bridge on another island. A bit turned around but eventually we made it and went back to the first cafe for an afternoon coffee and snack. Then we headed back to our accommodation.

Where we were staying was quite close to a nature reserve. So after resting my feet for a bit we went for an evening walk. Queue pictures of walk and the lake. People were swimming and having fun. There was a golf course in there. I tried taking a photo for Russell but the sun was setting. We saw deer, Bambi look alikes and a pet cemetery. This is a collection of photos from the nature reserve.

 

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Thursday we had the trip to Birka so major stress to ready and where we needed to be in time. Except we woke up early, well before our alarm. It’s because it’s so light here at night and early in the morning. Even though we were early we just went. It was a beautiful day. Bright blue skies, calm weather etc. After a bit of a wait (happens when you are early) we boarded the ferry. Our tour guide Emil, was wearing historical costume. Not a viking helmet etc, just every day wear. He gave us a bit of a talk about features on our way to Birka. The Raven Rock, the rock where a king jumped off with his horse and lived and so many more.

Here is a collection from Birka. The ferry, the spot for a king with a hat, the guide, the view from the hillfort, the cross (Celtic instead of German), the local cows, me and replica boats, replica boats without me, replica village

 

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Birka is an island where the remains of an early Viking village was found. I was hoping to see archeological digs but alas, it was covered up. We saw burial mounds and where the village is currently under fields, the remains of the hill fort,a  museum and a replica village. The guide was funny and informative. He was an archeologist and so provided some useful information and tips for where to find things in the museums that had been taken from Birka. He was saying there was so much more to explore but funds being limited they will be excavated in the future some time. Only about 5 per cent of the village/city had been excavated so far. The government bought most of the island from the people who live there. Apparently seven people live there, farming etc. We saw sheep and cows.

In the museum shop I bought a Viking inspired T-shirt. Beans bought vegan soap and Thor hammer fridge magnet. We had prebooked our lunch so we were served that on the way back to Stockholm with window side seats.

After a long day we headed home. The ferry ride was lovely and I was a bit sun burnt despite sun block. We did another walk in the nature reserve. The next day, Thursday we had planned to visit the museum historica. Not only was it recommended because of the Viking related exhibits, it was also free. Thursday was rainy so it was a good day to do museum related stuff. We found our way there with the aid of maps and preplanning for the metro. We had purchased a 3 day pass which made travel easy and economical. We had to buy them from the grocery store.

We scored tickets to the English guided tour of the Viking section of the museum and then went to explore the gold room, where the treasure hordes were on display. There were gold torques, and black smithing tools, and coils of gold and silver used in hair or as currency, there were buckles and rings and amazing things. Totally worth the time. We did two trips through this section. The tour guide was a resident Viking woman but due to the rain couldn’t show us what they do outside in the interactive part. We saw skeletons and grave goods and tall panels explaining the layout of the grave goods and their purpose. There were rune stones and swords and it was all fantastic really. We did a second look around after lunch, which was yummy and quite reasonably priced. We went up stairs to look at the Swedish cultural history collection with relics of the church and so on. Overall a really nice museum and the shop was good too but we were heading to Norway and thought we might find a Thor Hammer necklace there.

Some Viking related pics. Turn away if you’re bored!

 

Once we were home we didn’t bother with a walk in the nature park as it continued to be gray and rainy. We had to pack and weigh and work out our departure time and how to get to the airport and also eat the remains of our food. Self catering is really quite fun, except the changing countries part. We had to leave behind some plant based margarine which I had cunningly identified even though I don’t speak Swedish. Now, of course, the margarine is much missed!

And the feared rain was falling quite heavily on the morning of our departure from Stockholm. About 15 minutes to the metro from our lodgings. Man I look so impressed.

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The trip to Norway was uneventful except for the struggle to get on the plane and to our seat. Really! I don’t mean to complain but god! Argh!

I’m going to split this post into a separate one in Norway. I’m still in Norway though! But more Vikings!

 

 

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I have mixed feelings about writing this post. On the one hand I think my experience will be useful to some of you and on the other hand you will see how poorly my I am doing. However, having said that, I don’t feel down, I feel enthusiastic. It is early days! If you are doing this writing thing then there has to be a bottom line for you. This is mine.

I love writing stories and I’m looking for people who like to read them.

And if they like them maybe they want to buy some of my work and read more and then I can write more…

Having said that I have been working on my story writing skills since 2000. I’ve put in a lot of hard yards and I’m hoping that it will pay off, because I love reading and writing stories.

So first of all this first six months of 2017 have been a hell of a ride. I had a personal problem that knocked me for a six. (This is a cricketing term btw). It means I was totally laid bare, huddled in a stress coma for months. Having indie publishing stuff to do was probably useful in that time. I had everything written, it was edits and stuff that I had to plow through. That was also hard work. It is fortuitous, too, that I had planned all this in the first six months of the year because I’m going to New Zealand for a couple of weeks in July and then to Europe for a couple of months in August. (see earlier post about winning the GUFF ballot). I hit the ground running again at the end of September, with Conflux in Canberra, where I might have a table if I can get print files ready etc.

The first thing is my tally.

The Silverlands Series is out. Argenterra published April 2016. Followed by Oathbound (March) and Ungiven Land (May) in 2017.

Republished The Sorcerer’s Spell (under Dani Kristoff) 2017. Originally published by Harper Collins, Impulse Imprint.

Published Opi Battles the Space Pirates (written November, 2016 published February 2017)

Republished Shatterwing and Skywatcher, Dragon Wine parts one and two. Originally published by Momentum Books, Pan macmillan Australia). These were taken down before I was ready so I had to do a made scramble to get them re-released. So much pressure.

Published Deathwings, Dragon Wine Part three. Published in June 2017.

Soon to be published, Bloodstorm, Dragon Wine Part four. Due July 2017.

Indie published tally first half of 2017 EIGHT. (Original fiction Five  Re-released Three)

Indie published tally total NINE books.

In words, I have to estimate. Original fiction over half a million words. All up, three quarters of a million words, this year.

I also have a short fiction collection in progress, but I am not sure when I’ll get to that. Soon!

So now to the outlays. Editing, proofreading, file conversions and covers. These are the capital costs and I don’t expect to earn this money back unless the series takes off and then you know I will, but in the mean time they a like assets. They earn some return, or are expected to. But they can earn for years. The previously published works were edited and proofread by me. Opi was edited and proofread by me and a family member. The rest was professionally edited and proofread.

Scribbling on the back of an envelope, let me tally up the approximate outlays. Two editors, one proofreader and three cover designers. File conversions for Smashwords. I can do this myself but it aggravates the RSI so I paid for some titles to be formatted.

Editing —————$6,250

Proofreading——$1,650

Covers—————$3,500

File conversions– $300

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$11,700 Australian

Then there are some ongoing costs.

I use Instafreebie to gain newsletter subscribers (as well as this blog). Once past the free month, it costs $20 US per month.

Now that I have more than 2000 subscribers I had to choose an email management service. That is about $180 per year so far. I paid for a year in advance with enough room to grow my list.

Website $100

I sub to Creative Suite so that’s about $20 US per month.

I bought some deposit photo images about $39.99 for a year or for 100.

ISBN’s ($88 for ten)

File fees if I use Ingram Sparks (don’t have cash atm)

Paid promo. I’ve paid for a Bargain Booksy twice. I was refunded once to low uptake. So far that’s a negative ROI. I may have paid for something else but can’t remember and I’d have to go look.

I have used AMS ads on Amazon. I have found this has got me no returns at all. But I’m new to this. I’ve probably spent $20 US on this with zero sales. One person did buy a book then refunded straight away.

Facebook ads. A couple of ones that were crap (my fault). FB ads are pricey so it pays to research how to use them effectively. I figure I’ve spent maybe $50 but won’t be spending more until I learn some more about marketing.

I have put in for promo prizes. Probably around $20 US. I’m not sure that helps but I’m not adverse to it. I’d rather have email subscribers who want to be there on my list as much as possible.

Goodreads. I’ve only done Giveaways twice now. I don’t think it did anything for me. I did get a one star rating from someone. A four star on one book and a three star review that complained about Opi being riddled with errors. I checked and there were a couple but it was mostly because of US/English issues. I have heard Goodreads advertising is good but I haven’t tried it yet. The costs of the promo are the books and postage. So this year that was around $60 as I used Book Depository to post direct. Last year I used Amazon and it cost me around $120 for three books.

Bookbub. I’ve submitted three times and was rejected. I have one pending a decision. These are the top dog of book advertising and sales. I will keep trying. Once you are rejected you can’t apply with that title for a month. But I have been told you can apply with a price say 99 cents, then for free if it is knocked back. Having more than one series is helpful for that. If you are giving your book away for free, you need to have a pay off, hence a series and possible sell through. A single book you don’t have much to gain, I reckon. Costs vary but upwards of $500Au.

Kobo promotions

I see this as a really positive thing. If you are listed on Kobo you can ask them for a promotions tab and then check out their offers for promotion. Some are pay up front and give your book for free, but others are 30 per cent off (applied at the check out) so you don’t put your book down in price and you share your royalty with them. Others you can do price knock downs. I use the last two. I haven’t had a big success but I have had sales. I figure if you don’t promote no one knows you are there.

Newsletters and Instafreebie

I figure that I’m building audience. So Instafreebie, I have three books up there at the moment for free and two email lists, one for Dani Kristoff called Spellcaster featuring paranormal romance and one for fantasy/dark fantasy called Wing Dust. I have about 1000 subs on Spellcaster. I found my paranormal romance had a faster download rate from Instafreebie, than the fantasy. I have around 1200 on my fantasy list. I’ve given away 3000 books so far. People download your book and you ask them to sign up to your newsletter. They can unsubscribe and they do but not all of them. Doing newsletters was hard at first, but there are people on the end of that email. Some write back to you and it’s nice. If you give away the first book in your series then potentially that person will read it and maybe like it. I find Instafreebie good because people who are on it want books to read. Whereas in my previous experience it can be hard to give your book away and if it is downloaded it may never be read. With a newsletter you can reach out to people who have your book, some of them read it and go on to read more of your work.  See my bottom line. I’ll put it here again.

I love writing stories and I’m looking for people who like to read them.

So newsletter wise I am small and I have to grow my list. I think newsletter are good for all writers because it allows you to keep in touch and let them know when books are coming out etc. I include recommendations of books I’ve read, also freebies and cross-promotions from other authors. I’m probably too chatty but I’m learning.

Free cross promotion. Mostly I participate in these to reach more subscribers with my Instafreebies, but I have also had excellent help from Indie gurus like Patty Jansen who has a newsletter ‘Ebookaroo’ for announcing new releases and special deals. Other people will cross promote you too if you are organised. I’ve done more promoting of other people than they have of me, but that’s because I’m a bit disorganised. It works though.

General Twitter and Facebook etc is still normal for me. As I am addicted to these I only use them for promo sparingly. Facebook groups dedicated to indie publishing and instafreebies are where I get a lot of help and information. My experience FB and Twitter promo don’t help you sell books. I use them to let people know about my publishing but my friends aren’t my audience. Friends will buy your first book but then it is only those that like your work that will continue to buy books. If you try to hard sell them you lose your friends. I’d rather have my friends. Ditto other authors. You just annoy them. You have go find your audience elsewhere.

Results!

Well for the first time I will make over $70  $90 $96 in a month (will I make $100). I think that’s the Australian dollar equivalent. My biggest month previously was around $20. But now I have all the books up and out bar one. My last two traditional publishing royalty statements have been zero!

Where have my sales come from?

Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play. Nothing from Barnes and Noble since earlier this year.

What’s hard and what’s easy?

The hardest things for me have been commissioning and commenting on cover art, newsletters and anxiety. (Anxiety about my work being good enough and how it will be received-normal for any author)

Newsletter content is easier for me than it was, once you do it, then it is easier. That first one was a hurdle. But I need to do more work on learning code, presentation etc.

The administration side is pretty heavy. It was really stressing me out until I woke up to myself. I was a public servant. Admin is my thing. So I stopped stressing about it. Now I don’t mind it at all and I get to do things when I’m not feeling creative, including formatting books for print, proofreading, checking out cross promotions, researching indie publishing and so on.

The easiest things? Spending money! I’ve run out now so I have books that I could be working on but no money for editing, proofreading or covers. Unless I get a job. But as I’m going away I will have to try for a day job in October, part time that is. Or my books start earning. If books start selling then I can think about reinvesting that money into more books. I have an SF romance and a steampunk series, plus more dragon wine and loads of other ideas. I have to be positive that something will allow me to keep publishing and to a good quality with editors and proofreading and covers.

Writing. It’s easy as I’m writing for me and for the readers too, but I’m free. It’s a mental thing. I still have an agent and I’ll still keep trying the traditional publishing route, but PhD means I have other stuff to do, like writing the PhD novel. Once past the PhD I will be focused solely on the writing.

Hanging out on the internet! Easy to spend time on that.

Anyway, I hope this was useful to some of you.

I’ll finish up with the covers of the Dragon Wine series because they are so awesome.

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Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!

Ungiven Land is coming. Book three in the Silverlands Series is coming. Happy dancing in sexy (not) trackie dacks!

It’s a long book at 145,000 words. It’s a bloody trilogy and it’s almost there. Almost to the bookstore!

There is a small matter of proof changes but phew! Wipes brow. It is done and I honestly never want to write a long book again or a trilogy. Alas, there is the Dragon Wine Series to complete so desire might have to wait.

I’m not going to put up a blurb because that would contain all kinds of spoilers. Argenterra and Oathbound lead to Ungiven Land and I consider them one story in three parts.

All I can say is Ungiven Land the exciting conclusion to the Silverlands Series. Guaranteed no cliffhangers in Ungiven Land!tripple-cover

Also, I’m reposting the map. I think the Smashwords version ate my map or it’s hard to see in ebooks. I will have to get to work on the print versions too.

Final Map Argenterra

Get your copy of Argenterra, Oathbound and Ungiven Land. Unfortunately Ungiven Land is only in Amazon atm, but will be with other retailers shortly.

The Silverlands’ Series is an epic fantasy series, featuring magic and the occasional sword fight. It’s a portal fantasy featuring two young women from our world who are transported to Argenterra.

About the Silverlands

In a land where oaths can’t be broken be careful what promises you make.

To break the binding oath is to risk the very magic of Argenterra.

Vorn and the First Comers fleeing death and destruction came to Argenterra through the Crystal Gate. On arrival, they made a binding oath to not kill — and in return the land gave them the given, a native magic. For over a thousand years they have prospered but now the Ancient Evil seeks Vorn’s descendants and reaches a hand into the land.

Oaths are bound with the given and every promise must be kept or the land’s magic will compel completion of the oath or prevent its breaking. Only a murder can sunder the binding oath, which would make the given fade. In his later years, Vorn prophesied that a time would come when the land would be ungiven. That time is near.

Argenterra, The Silverlands Book One

Sophy is not looking for a talisman: she is the talisman!

Sophy is snatched from our world during a ghost tour. Landing in the lush world of Argenterra, she’s the odd one out. She can’t use the land’s native magic, the GIVEN, even though her friend Aria, and everyone else, can.
Worse still, she’s a faded version of herself and doesn’t fit it at all.

Abandoned by Aria who marries a handsome prince, Sophy travels the land with Oakheart, the high king’s ambassador, to explore the mystery of why there is a crystal leaf growing inside her.

Then the accidents start to happen and she realises a dark force wants her: alive or maybe just dead…

Argenterra with subtitle

Argenterra is available in print and in ebook.

Buy links. Print copy from Book Depository here

Amazon  here.

Kobo Here

ibooks Here Barnes and Noble here. Print (Amazon.com) Here.

 

Oathbound, The Silverlands Book 2

 

Oathbound

Amazon link  here.

Barnes and Noble link here.

Kobo link here.

iBooks link here.

Smashwords link here.

And you can pre-order Ungiven Land from Amazon here.

 

Remember if you want to hear about any of my books going on discount or for free, or other cross promotions sign up to my newsletter Wing Dust. .

I do not sell or give away email addresses and as the list in managed by Mailchimp it complies with the law and you can unsubscribe at any time. Link here.

And to make your day, a pic of me in my trackie dacks!

me in my trackie dacks May 8 2017

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I look at myself lately and I think I’m doing a lot of fiction writing recently, or I seem to be. Fair enough I’ve just come out of a holiday break where I took two weeks off from the Phd. This week I have been head down on the Phd and I put some time in last week too. I have my big moment to prepare for-The dreaded confirmation seminar that I talked about yesterday.

So what am I doing writing fiction or appearing to write fiction?

Last year I finished drafting a trilogy. My first completed one if truth be known. Book two was mostly written so I was tidying up, revising etc. Some parts were rewritten after beta reader comments. Book three was a 50,000 word basket case so technically I did write that book like last year almost from scratch (130,000 approx.). Book two is with the editor. Book three I’m going to revise after beta reader comments (next week actually) and then put in the edit queue. Right now I’ve finished revising Dragonwine Book 3 and it’s waiting for its slot for its editor and currently I’m restructuring book 4, which required some revising, rewriting as I went. I still have a bit to do, but the restructure is complete (I cheated I put the last bit in this morning). Oh and I wrote a 50,000 word novel in November for NaNoWriMo-which needs to be revised (when?!!!).

Now I don’t want to give the impression that I’m slacking off on the PhD because I’m not. Nor do I want to give the impression that I’m some kind of writing machine. I’m not that either. While I’m not too much a stickler for routine, I have been aiming to do an hour a day while working on Dragonwine Book 4. It’s written, I’m just plaiting the narrative threads together different to how I originally drafted it. It was a draft and it’s drafty. Man I don’t think I’ve read book 4 for seven years or more. I’m also revising, polishing as I go. It will need another run through too.

I’m spending my day on the PhD writing this damn proposal and researching and running my surveys and hassling writers etc. I’ve been going home and vegging in front of Netflix for hours (the heat mainly)  and then I put my hour in on the MS before I go to bed. I’m not usually so good at doing this. I’m marking this on my calendar this year so I can gauge how consistent I am. Technically, I could put more time into writing when I get home. I don’t want to overdo it on the computer due to RSI and arthritis issues so I’m pretty good at sticking to the hour. I’ve been at the computer at Uni most of the day too.

When I’m mostly reading, I can spend more time writing fiction. Reading takes place not at the computer you see. Sometimes it happens in bed or on the deck. I usually take a day off on Friday’s to write fiction (and do housework) and that gives me a good go at things. As Matthew is busy writing at the moment I’ve also spent some weekends, say Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon on task. Two Dweebs in adjacent offices pounding on keyboards!

I also have a backlist of works that I can either revise, write sequels for etc. I have to prioritise! So I don’t consider them to be new writing as such.

As well as the PhD this year I want to start on Dragonwine book 5 & 6 to finish this trilogy too. I don’t even have notes for this so it will be all new work! Approximately 170,000 words I estimate. However, I also have to draft my PhD novel and that takes priority. Lucky I touch type!

I probably look like I’m doing a sweep out of my brain, getting these stories out of there and onto paper. I also see it as me refining my creative practice. Finishing a trilogy presents many challenges and each time I work on one I’m learning about my craft. I can’t write as much as I want or work on as many things as I would like while doing the PhD.  That constriction will last for about two more years, but I can manage to do some stuff, particularly if the damn thing is already drafted. I also need a part time job because I have no support for my living expenses. I’ve thought about this and writing is my part time job. I hope in 2017 it will bring in some dollars but I am hoping that I will continue to progress as a writer as well as learn more through my PhD.

What is really doing my head in is the edits. They are coming! Over 400,000 words of edits. And I’ve set myself up for four book edits in the first part of the year. That work load I will have to be careful of. Then as they are going to be self/indie published, I have the dreaded laying out to do, proofing etc, which takes time but isn’t too hard. Covers to source? Egads. 2017 is going to busy.

The message is I guess is that even an hour a day can get you somewhere.

Below are the covers for the Silverlands Trilogy. The only set of covers that I’m organized for. Damn.

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Recently, I was offered the opportunity to drive to Victoria and pick up a collection of Mills & Boon books. These were Grace’s books, her romance collection. Grace died about a year ago. This collection consisted of six 80 litre tubs of Mills & Boon. I couldn’t even lift one of these tubs. They are like gold to me for my PhD studies of feminism in popular romance fiction.

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This collection is so exciting for me. So many books. I had so much fun just looking at what was there, discovering. Grace’s collection as originally larger, but some were given away before they ever came my way. However, what I did get held amazing variety.

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Grace’s friend, author Lisa Ireland, told me she didn’t know Grace was a such a huge romance reader until after she died, but her family were well aware. Lisa said that Grace had a wicked sense of humour and a quick laugh. And she was determined. She defied her diagnosis for a very long time.

This collection spans the mid 70s until 2012-13, with lovely gems from the past with lots from the future. I believe Grace loved books, her books as much as I cherish this collection. I hope I’ll get to read them all. I believe Grace grew this collection because she loved the genre, loved reading and a bit like me, a bit of a hoarder. The hoarding baton has passed to me.

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Her brother John said of Grace.

What can I say about Grace Fastuca? How to sum up her life? Grace many Aunty a universal word. The fun Aunty, the wise Aunty. Whether you were or weren’t family.

Grace didn’t judge anyone. Many people have said how she helped them be a better person and this wasn’t just about staring death in the face. It was about taking a person a face value. Not talking down to people, really hearing what they say. About being in and making the most of every moment.

Ten years ago Grace was told she had six months to live and would miss her 40th birthday. So what did Grace do about that? She organized a very memorable 40 minus 3 party to be enjoyed with family and friends.

When Grace wanted to enjoy moments away from the hustle and bustle she went to Anglesea. Nothing can be said that will do justice to the connection she felt for the area, not to mention the amount of Mills & Boon books she bought at second hand stores there.

Grace knew as much about your life as you wanted her to know and vice versa. She was and will continue to be a great inspiration to everyone who knew her.

Grace was one of the funniest people I have ever known. As time passes we all realize how much we miss her laughter, her voice and her ability to cut through it all.

Everyone deserves an Aunty Grace.

Thank you Grace for this lovely collection which means so much to me. I must say that this collection complements the one started by Doreen Watt, from a gift of a selection of retro Mills & Boon to start my reading, which was augmented by Lifeline Book Fair purchases again assisted by Doreen. And also a collection given to me by Debbie Phillips, mostly of Silhouette romances. It is also amazing!

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It took me a few days to sort through this amazing collection. First I just had to look and get excited as I looked at each one. Touched it, wondered over it and then reached for the next one. Then I started roughly sorting the books.

IMG_6500There were many double Harlequin Mills & Boon and I just didn’t know how to file these as they were two different authors and there were so many books. These found their way back into the tubs for later sorting. Then there were a handful of non-genre books and single title books that were more historical romance. These I’ve put aside. I filled one tub with medical romances as I’m not focusing on them. Matthew argues that I should look at them too. I might just not now. Not enough shelves for starts. Then I put them in alphabetical order. I found books from authors I knew about but didn’t have books for. I found I had piles of books from particular authors who I didn’t know but where obviously quite popular, like Sara Craven, Sandra Kendrick, Anne McAlister,  Lindsay Armstrong etc. I also gained a few from authors I did have books for like Charlotte Lamb, Robyn Donald, Daphne Clair and Penny Jordan. My collection of these authors has expanded.

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I had just collected two new book cases so the books went straight in there. My lovely partner, Matthew, lugged the books inside. To my surprise I found them in the lounge and then I was a lost woman and all my plans for the day went out the window. Although they don’t all fit in the shelves atm.

I had to take a break from the sorting as it was physically demanding. All that crawling around on the floor, squatting, crouching, leaning over etc. I scored some Helen Bianchin and then I realized that she was an author I read when I was 19 when living in New Zealand. When I looked through the books I  saw that I had that book. THAT BOOK! And then when I looked up Helen’s bibliography I realized it was her first. It is a great book too. I love it. So I lay back on the couch and read The Willing Heart by Helen Bianchin, then Vines of Splendour and a more recent one, The Marriage Arrangement. I do note though as I’m collecting books in Australia, that there is a bias towards Australian and New Zealand authors. No problems there.

In amongst the Mills & Boon were some older Harlequins, and quite a few Silhouettes. These I have merged with my Debbie Phillips collection in the other book cases. I think there’s a thousand books there. I don’t know. But it’s awesome and the collection will be put to good use in the PhD reading and for enjoyment and my hoarding genes are well aligned.

 

 

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A fun part of my PhD is reading romances. Mostly I’m concentrating on retros–1970s and 1980s but I want to read up to and including current titles.

The President of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA), Debbie Phillips, gave me four boxes of books. These were mostly Harlequin Silhouette novels from the late 1980s and early 1990s. I’ve read two so far.

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Then I unpacked the books!

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And then I didn’t have the heart to put them back in the box so I bought some bookshelves for them. (I’m not supposed to be doing that being frugal. Alas, the savings were attacked!)

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I’ve read one cowboy romance by Lass Small called No Trespassers Allowed and I enjoyed that a lot. I even sniffled a bit at the end. It wasn’t feminist but it did discuss gender roles and was almost entirely told from the male perspective. I noticed I have about 5 more of Lass Small’s titles. She’s deceased now but published a lot in her life time.

Cherokee Thunder by Rachel Lee was published in 1992/93 and is from the Silhouette Jasmine imprint. It appears to be slightly longer than the traditional category romance. I’m sure someone can tell me all about that line. I’ve not read Rachel Lee or heard of her before. A quick look on line tells me she is still writing and is using the same setting, Conard County. And she’s won awards etc. I’m not surprised.

For someone reading with an eye for feminist or social issues in these book like I am, there was heaps in this book to interest me. It’s main theme is domestic violence and the secondary theme is racism. There was also some discussion about being a working woman, being independent, being a wife and mother and liking housework. The kind of book this is-set in a small county in Wyoming- being a house wife is a natural aspiration.

I’m not sure how politically correct the half-Cherokee character/heroe, Micah Parish, is but I found him to be represented in a very positive way.This is a character who is solitary, cut off from family, both his white and his First Nation side. He is honorable and emotionally amoured and very gentle.  I ‘heart’ him very much.

Faith, the heroine is a battered wife. She’s not ordinary, run of the mill, battered wife either. She’s seriously battered, stabbed, brutalised…you name it and her ex husband is a crim and an ex cop and a psycho!. Six months pregnant and her ex has even tried to carve the baby out of her. Seriously, scary, stuff!

She’s the frightened kitten, small, petite and hurting. Micah is a big man and he’s got a soft spot for strays. She may be battered but with his caring way, she’s able to find her spirit and over come her timidity. Never though is her abuse trivialised. It is discussed throughout that she’ll have flashbacks (she does) and that it will take time to heal.

As I read this I could see that there could be other stories in this setting. There were some interesting male characters but I haven’t looked up to see if this was a first or a third in a series.

Faith in her reminiscence about life reflects that she’s been betrayed. She was brought up to be a wife and mother and all she got was  abuse. Her stepfather had conditioned her to have low self esteem and told her she deserved a beating. The representation of the abused woman in this story was very accurate to my mind. It takes someone very special to help her. And man does Micah do that.  As I read this I was thinking this is really good. This would make a great movie.

The story seemed to me to be predominantly from the male point of view, except it wasn’t. It was a shared point of view, slipping between Micah and Faith within scenes. It was smoothly done. The only other time I’ve seen this style was in Cory Daniels The Last T’en. It is certainly different from the pseudo omnicient/weird quasi from the male perspective that some of the other retro Mills & Boon had. (apparently before the 1980s they couldn’t use the male PoV)

What I loved about this book (and being a victim of abuse myself) is that it’s so positive. The message here is that there not all men are the same. That even a big, hard man can be tender and kind. It’s such a powerful message. I know Micah is a constructed male. A hero drawn from a woman’s imagination. But I can’t understand how something like this can be denigrated, the way romance fiction, is generally denigrated. It’s a healing story. So there are so romantic foibles-some things the hero says a man probably never would, but still…

I recall JD Robb’s In death series and I remember being so impressed that (Nora Roberts) discussed child abuse in the story line. The unspeakable trauma that the main character, Eve Dallas, went through as a child is revealed slowly over the series and I was so heartened that she discussed that topic. It’s not a nice topic but it happens and it’s important.

I’m still at the beginning on my retro reading. It’s been an interesting and enjoyable experience so far.

Cherokee Thunder was a touching tale. Thank you Rachel Lee for the lovely piece of fiction.

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