Wednesday, December 22, 2010
This might mean a trip to Perth for Natcon next year, where the book will be launched. I've been waiting for an excuse to go to one of these things, and it looks like I well and truly have one. Roll on Easter!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Today Teresa announced that her debut novel, Miserere: An Autumn Tale, is being published by Night-Shade Books in July 2011. I know for a fact that she's worked unbelievably hard for this, and it's terrific to see her dedication so well rewarded.
You can drop over and read more about it here.
Congrats again Teresa!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Tonight I got this. It's an entry in the National Library of Australia Catalogue. Yes, it probably seems trivial, but it made my whole evening. It's real! It really is really real1.
If I carry on like this over an entry in the catalogue of the National Library, what's going to happen when I see a cover? How will I react when I have a *gasp* ARC in my hand? What about the real published item?
After the last few days, it's wonderful to be reminded of something so unbelievably good.
1In a very real and tangible kind of way.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
And that was it. He didn't really need to say any more, because bosses don't tell you they have something difficult to say, then read from a letter, unless it's for one reason. Sure enough, through the fog that enveloped my brain over the next few seconds, I managed to catch snatches of words about business conditions and a weak US dollar and contracts not being renewed. Then three words I couldn't possibly miss.
Four weeks notice.
Not just me, about a dozen of my colleagues too. No sooner had I got back to my desk then the boss went up to someone else, a friend on my team, and asked him to the meeting room for a "quick chat". I watched them head into the lift, then packed up and went home before I had to watch anyone else being led off.
So today I dusted off my CV and started the search for a new position. Thankfully, I'm a professional, and I have enough experience in a diverse range of areas to make me fairly employable -- at least I hope so. I've already started firing off emails and checking job sites, and there's a couple of possibilities in the pipe-line. I don't think I have much to worry about.
But it's still a bugger. I really enjoyed working with that company. It was very layed back, and the guys I worked with were real friends, not something you find in every workplace. Besides that, I got to work in the CBD, with a great gym nearby and a bunch of book shops only too happy to take my hard earned cash.
Still, there you go. So many amazingly wonderful things have happened to me this year. My lovely little son James was born in March, I signed a 3 book deal in May, and my first ever published short story came out in October. It somehow seems fitting that the year would finish on a less than positive note. Even though I hope it won't turn out to be anything more than a minor inconvenience.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
This means anyone lucky enough to be using Reader will be treated to two versions of On Borrowed Time, my early pre-edit draft, complete with typos and dodgy html tags, plus the newer, more polished version. As an extra bonus, I've thrown in a test post for free, something I was using while trying to debug what was going on.
All I can say is, this kind of thing never used to happen in the days of typewriters and stamps.
Monday, November 22, 2010
But it got a whole lot harder to push the man away when they started work on the line, and I had to catch the train from his station rather than my usual one further up the track. All of a sudden my mornings were filled with the sound of swearing and coughing as I stood, briefcase in hand, and prayed that the train would come quickly.
He would shout abuse at the carriages as they passed, sometimes waving a hairy fist in the air, sometimes looking as if he might actually hurl his beer-bottle. "Mugs! Losers! Animals!" he would shriek, his curses interspersed with maniacal laughter, high-pitched and grating. But the laughter would end and he would grow quiet, sagging to his knees and running a hand down the side of his face. “It all must end,” he would sob. “It all must end.”
One day, some people were brave enough to approach him; I couldn’t believe it. A man and a woman, both dressed in suits. They looked at each other with expressions of shared resolve, then strode purposefully towards the shouting man. It shamed me. So much easier to let him remain invisible. So much easier to try and block him out.
I couldn’t hear what was said, but the man’s words were angry, and accompanied by the wobbly swing of a fist. The two people walked away, as fast as they could without running, faces flushed and eyes wide. “It all must end,” the man shrieked after them, bristling with anger, until his voice became cracked and weepy and he slid down the poster covered pillar, hitting the ground hard. “It all must end.”
Shame forced my hand. Selfishness, almost certainly, because I wanted to be able to tell myself that I had done something, that I too had the courage of those people in business suits. The next day I packed sandwiches, and grabbed a blanket from the cupboard. Trinkets to assuage the sting of guilt.
I almost prayed the man wouldn’t be on the platform that morning, but he was, lurching and cursing and swinging his bottle, shaking his fist at the trains as they passed. My mouth was as dry as the bubble-gum covered concrete as I went to him, preparing myself for a fast getaway, should he so much as growl at me.
“Good morning.” My voice cracked a little. “Chilly again.”
His heavy eyebrows knitted together as he looked at me, and at the box in my outstretched hand.
“It’s some food.” I gave the box a little shake. “Just a few sandwiches. There’s a blanket too.” I held it out.
The man stretched out a trembling hand and took the blanket, holding it as if his fingers had never touched such material. I smiled with relief, until he cast it down upon the rail-line, forgotten as quickly as he'd picked it up. I braced myself for an attack, but he grabbed the sandwich box, opened it, and began to stuff the sandwiches in his mouth, his hairy cheeks puffing out to the point I thought they might burst. Crumbs fell, and he made grunting noises like an animal, but it warmed my heart to think I had in some small way eased his suffering.
He looked at me, gratitude in his eyes. But his expression changed with the speed of an express train, his eyes filling with tears and his lower lip quivering. “It all must end,” he mumbled through the sandwiches. “It all must end.”
"What must end?" Perhaps I was pushing my luck too far, but curiosity overcame my fear.
The man gulped down the last of his sandwich. He raised a grubby hand and gestured at the station around. "This. And this." He pointed at the half empty six-pack at his feet, and waved the sandwich box. "And this. All of it. All of it must end."
I tried to think of words to say, of some comfort for him. But my train came, and all I could do was walk away and leave him to his sandwiches.
I had more food on Monday, plus a thermos of hot coffee, but the man wasn’t there. I searched for him all over the platform, and asked the mums with prams and the kids on bikes and the business people in their suits and shiny shoes. Nobody had seen him. I tried again the next day, and the one after that. The station seemed strange -- an empty, foreign place without the man and his cursing and stamping. By Friday I had forced myself to accept the truth. He was gone. And I never even knew his name.
I did see him again, though at first I didn’t recognise him. It was a month or so later, and I was in the bank cashing a cheque, standing in the lunchtime queue. I'd already noticed the man and woman who'd approached him serving behind the counter, and that brought him to mind, along with the now familiar worry about his fate.
And then he was there, coming out of one of the back offices. He wore a dark suit, impeccably pressed, and his face was clean shaven, radiating the confidence of a man with much responsibility.
“Mister Bradford, your 12.30 is here,” came the nasal voice of one of the receptionists, and the man waved in cheery acknowledgment.
“You!” The word came out louder than I had intended.
All went silent. As one, the customers turned towards me, and so did the man.
Before I knew it, I was out of the line, standing before him, pointing accusingly at his smiling face. “You’re from the station. I gave you sandwiches.”
He narrowed his eyes and rubbed his chin, and I felt suddenly foolish. Of course it couldn't be him. How could I make such a mistake? All I could do now was slink away and not come back for a month. If ever.
Before I could walk off, recognition came over the man’s face. He reached out a hand and patted me hard on the shoulder, then leaned towards me. “It’s like I said, my boy, it all must end, as all good things do.” His grin remained fixed, though regret flashed in his eyes. “Even long service leave.”
Friday, November 5, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I also have the Willard Price poem coming out in the next issue, #49. That was a bit of a surprise, but a very nice one too.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
It's auspicious that I'm writing with a notebook and pen at the moment, otherwise things would have ground to a screeching halt. It's probably also a good thing that I back-up regularly, in case it's more than the screen that's been damaged.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Here's the cover for the latest issue of ASIM, the one featuring the Hobbit Query Letter. I have to say, it feels strange to see my name on the cover of an actual published work. Bizarre is the word I'd use, like how I'd feel if I saw my name on a banner being dragged from the back of a bi-plane. But absolutely wonderful too. Particular thanks to Juliet Bathory for bringing it all together (oh, and picking the story too).
The issue isn't actually out yet, but it should only be a week or so if you feel like picking it up!
I have to say too, that is one seriously awesome cover....
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I've been thinking about trying this ever since I read a post by Garth Nix. He lists a lot of positives for writing by hand -- the main one being portability. For me, it's certainly been handy being able to take my notebook into the coffee shop at lunchtime and bang out 1000 words. Sure, I could take my laptop too, but then I have to worry about power supplies, getting it on my bike with all the other stuff I have to carry, and that self-consciousness I always seem to get when I'm working on my laptop in public (I think it must be some kind of new-writer neurosis).
But the main reason I'm trying it is a bit more subtle. I have a reasonably fast typing speed, courtesy of a course the government put me through when I worked as a clerk in my early 20's. That means I can easily type 1000 words in a very short space of time. You would have thought that's a good thing, but sometimes it's not. Speed rarely equals quality, and all too often I find myself writing whole chapters that will need serious rework, if not a total rewrite, in the second draft.
With hand-writing, I go a lot slower - my current rate being something like 1000 words in a solid hour. Because it's slow, it forces me to think more about what I'm writing, to plan more what the sentences will say before they spill out of my head and onto the page. Also, because it's written in ink on paper, rather than with 1's and 0's, it has a permanency to it -- it can't easily be wiped away with the delete key. Again, that drives me to think more carefully about what I want to write before I commit it to the page.
There's a possible negative too, which I'm keeping an eye out for. Sometimes, in particular scenes, my writing gets into a fast flow. This usually happens in action moments, like fights or pursuits, where lots of things are happening fast and there is little need for detailed description. I haven't reached one of those with the handwriting yet, but when I do, I wonder if I'll find it much harder than if it were being typed. I'll have to see.
Funny thing, this writing business. There's so much to learn, it sometimes feels completely overwhelming. But I think experimenting is a big part of coming to terms with it -- researching what others do, trying it out, and seeing if it fits. If it doesn't, move on to something else. If it does, stick with it, no matter what people tell you you "should" be doing.
It's definitely a fun ride!
1Yes, I've started again. No, don't ask.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
But! I have something to write about at last. It's been 10 months since I got the phone call from the publisher about the Ghost of Ping-Ling, and 5 months since I signed the contract. Since then, things have been awfully quiet, and even though I knew that would be the case, I did get the occasional worry that perhaps I'd dreamed the whole thing. But today the editor got in touch, and it looks like the editing process is set to start sometime around the end of November, with a tentative publication date in August next year, much earlier than I had expected. We also talked about possible artists for the cover design, though that's all in the earliest of stages.
So, things are slowly starting to move along. I suspect that when the editing gets started, I'll have even less time to blog, but I'll make every effort to pop in now and again and report how things are going.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I'm quite shocked, and absolutely stoked! It was great just to get something through to the short-list, but to get it accepted is enormously encouraging and extremely humbling at the same time, particularly when I look at the quality of stuff that gets in there.
Back to the real world -- I need to sign off and get into MMA. It's been a bit of a slog lately, perhaps the dreaded 2nd Book Syndrome is striking? Or maybe I still can't quite shake that short story bug....
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Aside from a thoroughly enjoyable read, I learned a lot from the three books in the series. The principal lesson was that it's easy to slip into the habit of over-editing. There were many times when I read sentences in the books that I know I would have reworked had I written them - there were obvious ways they could be made sharper, more direct, more impacting. Except they couldn't, because somehow they worked perfectly as they were. It left me wondering how many times I've edited the soul out of a perfectly good sentence, in a vain effort to make it that much better.
From now, I think I'll try and be a little more relaxed in my editing, and perhaps allow a few more 'rough' sentences to remain as they are.
The other thing I found challenging in the books was Garth's use of omnipotent point-of-view. I've seen it used in other books, but never quite as smoothly as he did it, with transitions occurring in a way that was both obvious and seamless. It made me realise the tremendous power of that POV - how handy it is to be able to jump into someone else's head when convenient, and also to be able to describe things that none of the characters is actually witnessing. My usual POV choice is through the head of the protagonsist, and I'm noticing particularly with MMA that that can sometimes be quite restrictive. Not that I'm about to leap into omniscient - I don't think I can, seeing as GPL was written in third-person limited. But it's something I'd love to try in future books.
Overall, I had a fabulous read, and learned some important lessons at the same time! It doesn't get much better than that.
Monday, August 2, 2010
At 7am, I head out to the car, rubbing my hands together against the cold and breathing fog into the crisp air. I hop into the sky-blue laser and turn the key. Nothing but a hideous clicking noise. It's no problem; this has happened before. I head inside, grab Pip's keys, open the bonnet of our second car, and jump-start the laser. My ears fill with the delightful sound of an engine running.
I get down the hill, park the car, and take out my bike for the rest of the journey into the city. I feel the weight of keys in my pocket, but there shouldn't be any keys in my pocket, because there's already keys in my hand.
I've driven off with Pip's keys.
I pull out my phone to ring her and let her know. She has a dentist appointment at 10 and I don't want her scouring the house at the last moment looking for keys that aren't there. My phone rings twice, then cuts out, the screen totally blank. I only charged it on Friday, but the battery has decided it's time to retire.
Uttering a few choice words, I hop on the bike and ride to the gym, then to work. When I emerge from the lift, I hit the combination on the door to get in. But the door doesn't unlock. I try again, then a third time, but the door has made up its mind. Like Gandalf on the bridge at Moria, the gleaming steel seems to cry out "You ... shall ... not .... pass". One of my colleagues sees my pathetic expression and comes to let me in, and tells me the lock is playing up.
I get to my desk, and fire up my computer, only to discover that the network is down. There's no internet access, and no access to the computer systems of our customers in the United States. It's all on the blink.
They say there's some strange electromagnetic effect that surrounds some people, that makes light bulbs die when they walk beneath them. I wonder what the name is for the electromagnetic field that's obviously surrounding me this morning.
And it's only 11am, too. Thank God the coffee machine still works.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I'm thankful this experience is, apparently, perfectly normal, even expected. That knowledge has saved my desk from having a large imprint of my head permanently embedded in it, as a monument to my efforts.
On the bright side, I get to meet Garth Nix at a signing on Friday, and have him sign my copy of Abhorsen.
Come to think of it, perhaps I should take along Lirael instead, and ask if he was ever attacked by the curse of the second book. If he shares any gems, I'll be certain to pass them on.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Yes, I probably should be working on the contracted book 2 of GPL, but I am getting to do bits and pieces of that through the week (currently sitting at 38,000 words). If I could get one or two of these stories into print some time next year, it would be a good way of getting my name out there in prep for GPL coming out. That's my excuse, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.
I'd cross my fingers, but they're too busy typing...
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I've been trying to hammer out these short stories for practice, as well as giving me a break from MMA. I'm really stoked to get one in print!
Monday, July 5, 2010
I must confess, I'd never heard an author author say that before, and it got me thinking. My aim this year is to read a book a month, almost all of it fantasy. So far I'm right on track, perhaps even a little ahead. I've read Garth Nix, Cindy Pon, Duncan Lay, Sean Williams, John Flanagan, Alison Goodman, and I've got a whole host of books sitting in a pile waiting for my attention. I've learned something from every one, whether it's some kind of style tip, or something about world-building, or an example of how to build tension or vividly describe a scene. I'm a firm believer that one of the most important aspects of growing as a writer is to soak in the work of the experts, to see how they do it, and emulate what you can.
The tricky thing, of course, is to do this while still maintaining your own unique style and voice, and I think that's where a lot of authors decide it's easiest not to read anything. And I know exactly what they fear. If I look back at some of my earlier drafts of GPL, I can tell you exactly what I was reading at the time. When a bumbling wizard appears on an island, talking about IME's, or Indeterminate Magical Effects, I was reading Harry Potter. When a witch appears, and insists the main evil protagonist plant a kiss on her cheek before she gives away any information, I was reading Discworld. And when Dillen makes a decision that, for all intents and purposes, appears to be a betrayal of his friends, I was reading the Hobbit - specifically the bit where Bilbo gives away the Arkenstone.
I like to think that I've gone past that, however. Surely by now I've put enough words on the paper and sprouted enough gray hairs to be able to recognise when somebody else's style is creeping into my writing. Surely.
But is it still there? What if it is, and I can't see it, and in five years time I'll look back and recognise bits of all the books I'm reading this year and cringe horribly?
And now, I'd be really interested to hear what other people think. Do you avoid reading other works while you're writing? Have you found stuff from your reading creeping into your manuscript unbidden?
Don't be shy! Fire away.
Friday, July 2, 2010
I would categorise Fiona as being at the extreme fringe of the anti-outlining faction. When she starts to write, she has no idea about anything - who her characters are, what will happen to them, where it will happen, what the world looks like, and so on. All of this, she insists, leaps out at her as she goes along, and the numerous loose and dangling threads have never failed to order themselves in a semi-miraculous manner, right towards the end of the book.
Now, while I don't subscribe to that approach (see recent posts), she did make one very interesting point. In her view, the main problem with outlining is that when you're outlining, you're not writing, and therefore you're not bringing the story forward. In her opinion, even writing a noodle-soup of dud ideas is better than not writing at all.
The reason this hit such a chord with me is that since I identified my need for an outline, I feel as if the book has ground to a halt. Sure, I've been spending time thinking about it, what happens and the backstory and so on, and I've come up with some interesting thoughts and ideas. But up until the last few days, I haven't written anything. My word count has stopped at 22,000, like a dodgy odometer on an old car.
While this might be good from the point of view of planning, it's not doing a lot for my piece of mind. There's something wonderfully satisfying about churning out the words, not matter how bad they might be. It shows you're progressing, you're actually getting somewhere. It boosts your confidence, particularly when the days are flying past and you have a sneaking suspicion the delivery date of June 2011 will be here before you know it.
So, enough outlining for me. A few days ago I picked up the dog's breakfast of a 22,000 word manuscript and resumed, although my recent planning means the story has a vast discontinuity (I plan on going back and fixing up those 22,000 words last). As of this moment, I'm at 29,000 words, within sight of the half-way mark. And it feels good. I feel like a runner who's had to spend a few weeks recovering from an injury, and can finally get on the track again and blow off the cobwebs.
I think in the end it comes down to balance. It's important to spend time outlining and planning, but you need to learn to recognise when it's time to start writing. It's OK if there are plot points yet to be clarified, or characters who are vague, or you haven't quite nailed down the landscape. All you need is a skeleton, a loose idea that you can build on as you go.
I think I've reached that point. Onwards we go.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I started Mapmaker’s Apprentice with a solid idea of its beginning and end, and a burning ambition to write 1000 words per day until I’d come up with an 80,000 word initial draft. Things started off well, with the first chapter looking pretty good and the whole thing flowing well. But, by the time I reached the 20,000 word mark, the whole thing had become a veritable bird’s-nest of oddly-placed plot-points, disjointed conversation and wobbly characters. If I squinted down the road hard enough, I could clearly see a total re-write sitting in a deck-chair in the distance, waving at me and grinning.
That's not to say everything I've written has been a complete waste of time, or would have been if I had kept at it. By the end, I’m sure I would have had little bits and pieces that I could have tinkered with, ideas that came from nowhere as I bravely battled on. But now I think I can achieve the same thing in less than half the time and with less than half the effort, simply by spending some time working on a constructive outline before I begin writing.
*Sigh*. I never thought I’d say that. Many would say it’s glaringly obvious that writing with an outline is better than travelling blind. But I was so keen to try an exciting new method, and so convinced it would pay dividends, that I pressed on regardless. Now I know better.
Part of the problem has been a misunderstanding of how an ‘outline’ type approach should work. I had pictured a series of bullet points – something along the lines of “Fred walks into bar. Fred gets into firefight with Sheriff Dwayne. Fred shoots Sheriff Dwayne. Fred spits in spittoon as he ambles out.” Every time I’ve used this kind of thing, it’s been hopeless. It’s just too low-level, too detailed, and it fails to take into consideration the way characters have a habit of bouncing off each other and the situations you put them in, often leading to them acting differently to your initial expectations(the scoundrels! Don't they understand who's boss?).
But now I've seen a new method that's kind of half way between a bullet-point outline and a blindly written first draft. I first saw it mentioned in a blog-post by my writing-friend, Jonathan Danz. The idea is that, rather than churn out a blow by blow outline of the flow of action, the author should start by summarising the book in 15 or so pages, a summary that will contain the main themes of the book as well as the ways in which the characters develop from beginning to end. It’s almost like writing that first draft, but in micro-form, therefore saving a lot of time and avoiding a lot of unnecessary and certain to be changed detail. This summary then serves as a high-level roadmap, allowing detail to be fleshed out with a clear idea of the underlying drivers of action.
I saw something similar in a page by Garth Nix, where he explains his process for writing a novel. He describes the first stage as a kind of gestation of ideas, a time of thinking and musing on the story. From this, he writes a chapter by chapter outline of the book, with each chapter summarised in a few sentences. Again, this is not a blow by blow detail of what happens, but a condensation of the main events and themes of each chapter. Armed with this, he moves to the next stage - the long, hard slog of writing.
Garth mentions that he fully expects to depart from this outline, but that having it gives him a sense of security, a sense that he knows where he wants to go. I can certainly relate to that need for security. It's terrifying to launch into a book without really knowing what happens, doubly so when the manuscript happens to be contracted. What if you never do work it out? What if the ideas never come together in a coherent way, and all you end up with is mush? Starting with an outline means you know (or, perhaps, are fairly sure) that's not going to happen, and any deviations from the outline can only be because you've come up with something even better. Very good for your peace of mind.
So, feeling wiser and grayer, I’ve put down my 20,000 words of literary spaghetti, and picked up my moleskine notebook. I’m now working towards building an overall picture of what I want to happen in the book. So far, I know how I want each of the characters to develop over the course of the novel. I also know what information I want to reveal that pertains to the overall series. From this, I’ve managed to build a skeleton chapter outline, which I’m currently tinkering with as I think about characters and details. All being well, by the time I start writing again, I’ll know exactly where I’m going. I’m certain that, by the end of the process, I’ll have a much better product than I would have done with my no-headlights approach. Fingers crossed!
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I have to say, I find the whole thought disturbing. To me, there’s a gulf of difference between the reading experience and the sensory stimulation provided by movies or other forms of audio-visual entertainment. A movie or television program entertains you by jumping up and down in front of you, waving its hands frantically while setting off firecrackers at every point of the compass. Actors strut their stuff, veritably oozing charisma, while music makes your heart pound, sound effects make your teeth shake, and special effects leave you wondering how on earth they could possibly have done that. It’s spectacular, it’s visual, and it’s in your face.
A book, on the other hand, is nothing but little inky splodges on off-white paper. It may have coffee stains on it. It may (like way too many of my books) have red-wine marks on several pages. It may have that dusty, old smell that forces you to try hard not to think about what sort of cultures are growing between the pages, and makes you rush off and wash your hands after every read. But if the author has done his or her job, none of that matters. It’s the words that draw you in. A book seduces you. It calls you by name, and leads you by the hand to a world of wonders, until you forget where you are and are drawn happily into a place that exists just for you – made in the way you, and you alone, choose to dream it.
I don’t need an e-reader with sound effects. If Stephen King or Lee Child or Ursula LeGuin describe to me how something sounds, I’ll hear it more clearly than any speaker could possibly pipe into my ears. I don’t need emotive music. If Tolkien describes the orcs massing, or Rowling a Quidditch match in full swing, I’ll be drawn more deeply than any orchestra could hope to achieve.
That’s the beauty of words. Used properly, they’re more powerful than anything visual, anything aural, or anything that can be dreamed up by some software engineer in a blue coat. I really hope that in the midst of this digital revolution people don’t lose sight of that and, in a well meaning but ill-informed attempt to make the reading experience better, end up ruining it completely.
That would be a tragedy of blockbuster proportions.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Even before I read his book, I've been watching Duncan's exploits with great interest. For nearly a year he's been setting himself up in bookstores around the country, chatting to customers and hand-selling his books. I have absolutely no idea how many sales he's made this way, but from what I hear it's been extremely successful. So much so that he's taking all of July off work in order to travel around the country with a goal of hand-selling 1000 books. Here's a video he posted on Youtube to talk about what he's calling "Big July" (and big it will be, too).
We hear a lot about authors marketing themselves - through Facebook, blogs, Twitter and so on. But this is taking it to a whole new level. Sure, author visits and signings happen all the time, but not a consistent and long-term campaign of hand-sales.
And what an amazing idea it is. Not only is this guy getting out and putting his book literally into the hands of the buying public, he's also meeting the people who work in the stores, the ones who do the selling. The next time someone asks them to recommend a new fantasy, whose book do you think will come to mind first?
Could this be the future for new authors? Perhaps I need to take that long-overdue look at my wardrobe, after all.
Friday, April 30, 2010
While I know I should be doing happy-silly dances around the office, my main emotion is one of shock. I'm sure when I come out of this stunned state I'll do many dances, but in the meantime I think I'll just sit here quietly and blink at my computer screen now and again.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Worst Fantasy Covers of All Time
I'm vaguely disturbed that Tamora Pierce has two covers here. I'm also surprised how many of the books have 5 star reviews on Amazon. I guess there's truth in the old saying after all.
My absolute favourite (although I think it's the title rather than the cover that got me in)....
UPDATE. There's more!! Found two more links here and here.
And here's my favourite. Just imagine the author's face when the publisher pulled this beauty out of the briefcase....
Monday, April 19, 2010
I've been wanting to post about some of the books I've been reading recently. Here's the good oil...
Wounded Guardian - Duncan Lay. I'm not really a fan of "heroic" fantasy, but this was certainly a good read. Most of all I loved the battle scenes - they were gritty and realistic, and it was obvious the author had done a lot of research into medieval type weaponry. I'm hoping to read the sequel in the next little while.
Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld. Brilliant! My second foray into steampunk, and I'm liking this genre more and more all the time. This was one of those books that I didn't want to end, but thankfully the next one is coming out this year. I'll be getting it the day it's released.
Two Pearls of Wisdom - Alison Goodman (released in the US as Eon). Another brilliant read. I was really keen to get hold of this one because the author does what I've tried to do in GPL - create a fantasy Asian world based (loosely) upon Ancient China. If I've done it just half as well as she has I'll be happy. This is one of those books that I think I'll read again and again - the world is so intricate and there are so many layers to it, and it hooked me from the first. Again, I'll be waiting for the sequel later in the year.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Six months ago this week, I headed off to the post-office with a parcel tucked under my arm containing the manuscript for The Ghost of Ping-Ling. Its destination was Omnibus Books, an imprint of Scholastic Australia, which I expected to be the first of a long line of publishers/agents it would travel to.
Then followed a long wait. I counted the days off in the calendar section of my red engineering diary. One day, two days, one week, four weeks, thirteen weeks, all struck off in black ink. Finally, in early January, I got a call from Dyan Blacklock, the publisher at Omnibus. To my joyful astonishment, she told me that she loved the manuscript, but wanted me to make a few (minor) changes before she sent it further along the acquisition process. It took me just under two months to make the changes, and I ended up resending just days before James was born in early March.
Then I waited some more. This time, I found the wait even more difficult. I'd had a taste of success and, despite my valiant attempts against it, I allowed my hopes to rise. To counter this, I tried hard to plan what I would do if word came back in the negative. I even subscribed to Writer's Marketplace and started yet another list of agents and publishers for the next round of submissions.
But the list proved unnecessary. On Tuesday, Dyan emailed me with the news that all the divisions of Scholastic had given the green light. The Ghost of Ping-Ling will be published most likely towards the end of 2011.
It's quite difficult to express the range of emotions I feel as I type this. To have spent so long striving for something, working so hard while trying to keep realistic about chances of success so small they may as well be zero - then to have it actually happen, actually for real happen, just completely takes your breath away. In many ways I still can't believe it, and I'm thankful that I have it in writing so I know it's for real.
So that's the scoop! Absolutely wonderful, unbelievably good news. I'm really looking forward to blogging about the whole process as it goes along, from cover design to editing to launching and beyond.
An exciting ride awaits.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Tomorrow morning I'll be printing out the latest draft of GPL and trotting over to my second home - the office of Australia Post. It's been a huge slog, but I'm glad I managed to get it done within two months of the publisher asking for the edits.
It wasn't just fixing up the story. It was drawing two maps, writing the synopses (albeit brief) of four more books, completing the first draft of Weight of Souls, writing the synopsis of that one too, and eating. I did remember that last bit. Somebody told me that would be important.
So here I am again, in my waiting mode. I have all sorts of goals for what I'd like to do over the next few months, but I think I'll just sit back and enjoy my beautiful and soon-to-be expanding family. And I might try and fit in some blog posts too.
Friday, February 26, 2010
I was asked by the publisher to supply some rough maps of the geography for GPL. I've done some rough doodles before, but never really thought about the overall layout and distances and so on.
The experience was daunting, but a lot of fun. I ended up using tech-pens and high-grade tracing paper, having experimented with everything from gouache to acrylic to plain old pencil. The map above is half of the real life A3 version, scanned then fed into MS Word and Paint. It loses a lot of sharpness in the process, so I might need to get it professionally scanned next time. I'm quite happy with how it's come out, though, given that it's a first-draft.
The next job is to do a smaller scale map of the area where GPL happens. I'm hoping to do that one with more of an Asian map feel, something that just wasn't possible with the scale of the above.
The thing I found interesting when I was drawing the map was the number of ideas that kept coming to me for further adventures. I guess once you start visualising the places, the ideas start to flow. It's definitely something I'll have to do a lot more of.
Friday, February 19, 2010
You know how it is when you've been working on a paragraph/chapter/book so long you can quote it in your sleep, and you've lost all objectivity as to how it sounds and whether it makes sense. Sure, you could give it to someone else and let them take a look. Or you could put it in a draw and throw away the key for six months.
But if neither of those solutions are practical, here's two suggestions.
1) Change the font.
It sounds ridiculous, but it works. If you change the font of a block of text, it helps you look at it with fresh eyes, no matter how many times you've stared at it in the past. I usually work in TNR, and I find changing to Courier works wonders.
2) Listen to it read.
That doesn't mean you have to get someone to read it out to you (of course, if you have that luxury, that would be wonderful). There are plenty of free text-to-speech converters available on the web. They have very listenable voices, and can usually be adjusted to male or female, British or US etc. I paid $50 for the one I use, but that way I get full functionality - which means I can translate my entire book to an mp3, stick it on my ipod, and listen to it anywhere and anytime I like. Money well spent.
So there you go. Some tips I've picked up. Hopefully they'll be of some use!
Now excuse me while I dive back into the dark depths of Lake Edit. If only I could find my scuba gear.....
1 I've picked up so many useful tips from reading other people's blogs, I thought it must be my turn.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
So, always keen to take on good advice, I've tried to keep to this length in all my writing, and have usually managed to come in almost exactly on target (by dumb luck rather than careful planning, I can promise).
But then recently I've read two books by first-time authors that are more in the region of 200,000 words. The first is Wounded Guardian, by Duncan Lay (well worth a visit to his blog, he gives some great advice), and the second is book 1 of the Monster Blood Tattoo series. Perhaps the 80K rule is one of those things that generally applies, but can sometimes be broken.
For me, though, I've always been comfortable with the 80,000 word target. I think if I tried to write something bigger than that, I'd probably end up fluffing it out with unnecessary detail and would only bore the daylights out of the reader, rather than adding anything of value. Perhaps that's just my style, or perhaps that's the length of book that I prefer as a reader (not to take away from either of the excellent titles referenced above).
Or perhaps it's the nightmare of having to edit a 200,000 word manuscript. I'm finding 80,000 words challenging enough as it is!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
When writing fantasy or horror, I think we often focus too heavily on the action and adventure aspects of the story to the point of cheating ourselves and our readers of a very special moment. It's when the protagonist experiences the psychic change that carries him or her through the story's climax. This turning point is as pivotal as the inciting incident that sets the story in motion, and handled well, gives the reader a logical reason for the protagonist's actions as the story is propelled toward the climax.
The quiet moment of your novel is where your protagonist stands in the eye of the hurricane and makes a decision that will affect him, and those around him, for the rest of his life. All action stops in a freeze frame as you enter your protagonist's mind and show the reader a reflection of his thoughts and your theme.
Here you must use the lightest of touches, the simplest prose, and the fewest words to convey what can sometimes be a complex emotional choice. Too much, and you're beating your reader over the head, too little, and your protagonist's actions won't make sense in the end.
Since I use the three act story structure, I like to place the quiet moment between the second and third acts of my story. This is the portion of the tale where my protagonist has been brought to his knees by the events around him; things could not possibly become worse.
All the pain, all the grief my protagonist has suffered coalesces until he has no choice but to change or die. I want him to reach inside himself and draw from an inner strength he either didn't know he had or forgotten he possessed. This is the point where my protagonist begins their emotional journey back into the light. Sometimes it's a sentence, a paragraph, or even a brief scene, but the character dictates the moment.
I love reading and writing the quiet moment in a novel. What about you? Does your novel contain a quiet moment? How do you handle the pivotal moment of your protagonist's change in your novel?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I do feel a tad like one of those 80's rock bands still living off that one song, but overall I'm chuffed to finally be able to lay claim to a publishing credit.
It's a great magazine. Even without my article in it I'd have no hesitation in encouraging people to check it out!
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Take it away Lindsay....
Have your characters ever been called flat? Your stories boring? Your voice bland? Adding a splash of humor to your prose might be just the solution. Laughing readers are rarely bored readers.
If you feel humor has no place in your writing (you must write science fiction or “epic” fantasy), then you can skip the rest of this post, but if you’ve ever longed to have sample readers email you LOL about your tales, then read on. We’re going to talk about some tried-and-true ways to add the funny to your stories. They are the Setup and Punchline, the Rule of the Three, and the Callback. Even if you haven’t employed these tactics before, you’ll surely recognize them. Every comedian, sitcom writer, and witty genre author keeps them in the armory.
Setup & Punchline
Every joke is made up of a setup (the straight road) and a punchline (the unexpected curve). Let’s take a look at a Dungeons & Dragons classic (yes, I only quote the best!):
How do you know a dwarf raided your pantry?
Only the bottom halves of the shelves are empty.
How do you know an elf raided your pantry?
Only vegetables and fruits are missing.
How do you know an ogre raided your pantry?
Pantry? What pantry?
The first five lines, while funny in their own right, are the setup. The last is the punchline. You can see how everything before that builds the anticipation. Without the setup, the punchline wouldn’t be funny at all. This format is so familiar, that your readers are already primed and ready to laugh when they see it.
Okay, but who stops their stories to tell jokes? No one, we hope. But you can use the setup/punchline tactic to inspire laughter right in your narrative. Perhaps the dire, serious, tense situation is the setup, and then something unexpected happens (the fierce mercenary army is prepared to storm the hidden passage when the mage stands before the locked portal and cries, “Open Sesame!” and... everyone’s swordbelts unclasp and fall to the ground). Or maybe the personality of one your characters is the setup. Just think of how often you’ve seen the straight-man/funny-man set up. Or the adventuring party’s joke-cracking sidekick. Mixing serious characters with more lighthearted folk is a recipe for fun.
Dialogue provides the ideal opportunity for joke placement. In the vein of not-so-subtle self-promotion, I’ll delve into one of my own Goblin Brothers short stories for an example.
...A rolled piece of light brown paper slid out. Malagach grabbed it before it could fall into the water.
“It’s a map,” he said after a quick perusal. “A treasure map.”
“How do you know?” Gortok asked.
“All the traditional indicators are here: topographical representation of terrain features, a dashed line depicting a route, and a black X marking the final destination.”
Gortok leaned over Malagach’s shoulder to look. “And it says TREASURE MAP at the top.”
Maybe it’s not the instant classic of D&D joke, but it’s an example of setup (everything until the last bit of dialogue) and punchline used within the natural flow of a story.
Let’s move on to the next way to inject humor into your stories, the Rule of Three.
The Rule of Three
Fact of life: things are inherently more funny in threes. The “Rule of Three” is a classic structure in which a joke is set up, the setup is reinforced, and the punchline breaks the pattern.
Why is this funny? Who knows? Mathematically speaking, three is the smallest number you can use to establish a pattern and break it. But math is boring, so let’s just agree to accept this proven method.
You’re reading this post to further your education, to improve your writing, and because you’re bored at work.
Punchline, reinforcement, and unexpected curve.
The perspicacious readers will notice the dwarf, elf, ogre joke from the earlier example not only demonstrated the Setup and Punchline but also obeyed the Rule of Three. Now you know why you were helpless to keep from chortling.
The nice thing about the Rule of Three is that it’s easy to work into your writing without slowing down the pace. It only takes a sentence, so you don’t fall into the trap of having characters banter on for pages without plot advancement (not that I would ever be guilty of this, no, not me...).
Try using it in a setting description; it’s a great way to add zip to what might otherwise be a bland bit of prose. Example: Several indicators suggested this was not the most luxurious ski lodge: the broken hot tub, the peeling paint, the yellow snow.
Now that we’ve mastered the Rule of Three, it’s time to double the laughs with one of my favorites, the callback.
The callback is simple; it’s just a reference to a joke you made earlier. It’s easy to implement, and people love it. And why not? If something tickled you once, wouldn’t you be delighted to relive the moment? Also, it can make for a satisfying conclusion to your story.
I’ll plunder my own work again for an example.
The first joke takes place in the middle of the story:
Robhart tilted his head and seemed to truly look at Malagach and Gortok for the first time. “You’re not like city goblins I’ve met.”
“Actually,” Malagach said, “we’re not particularly like mountain goblins either.”
“Ma says we’re especial,” Gortok said.
Malagach looked at his brother. “When did she say that?”
“Last month, when I added that extendable door-flap opener to the hut.”
“The thing she tripped over in the middle of the night?” Malagach asked. “I believe what she said was we were especially trying.”
Next, we’ve got some action, conflict resolution, and otherwise exciting stuff, and then we join the heroes again in a bit of denouement:
“...the stories told about us would have to be named after me, and I’d be the star,” Robhart said. “The hero, the main hero, can’t be a goblin.”
“Why not?” Gortok asked.
Robhart chuckled. “Who’d want to hear stories just about goblins?” He waved a quick goodbye and hustled off to turn in his orc hair.
Malagach and Gortok stared after the human.
“I’m middling sure people wouldn’t mind stories about us,” Gortok said. “Me, for sure.”
“Why you?” Malagach asked.
“I’m the cute, lovable, especial one.”
“That was especially trying,” Malagach reminded his brother.
“Close enough.” Gortok winked.
The callback is an economy of sorts. Set a joke up once and then milk it for all its worth. (If I were a better humor writer, I would have tapped into the Rule of Three and used that joke three times in my story!)
There you go: three humor-writing tricks of the trade that will never let you down. Always remember, laughing readers are never bored readers (and they writer nicer reviews, too).
Three Ways to Add Humor to Your Stories
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Last week, the publisher rang to say that she had just finished reading the manuscript, had really enjoyed it, and wanted to ask me a lot of questions about it (which she did). She then asked if I would make some changes and resubmit, so the manuscript can go to the next stage of the submission process.
This is, of course, not an offer to publish. It's quite possible (maybe even likely) that at the end of this process nothing will happen. But even if that's the case, to have been noticed in the slush-pile is a wonderful encouragement, especially as I had been fully convinced I would get nothing more than a rejection letter.
So, I now get to dust off GPL and get my teeth into some more editing. I also have to write a synopsis of the remaining four books in the series, and draw a map.
In the meantime, if anyone can tell me how to add about 10 more hours to the day, I'd be really grateful...
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
So many times, I started with a rough idea of what I wanted to happen, but when I sat down and allowed myself to type as my thoughts came, the story went in directions I would never have thought of in a planning session. Whether this is because of some strange operation of the subconsciousness, or the natural outcome of allowing the characters to be themselves, or some other reason that could well be debated by cardigan-clad academics over a few glasses of red, it worked.
Now I have to print out the draft and get it bound. Then I get to immerse myself in the scintillating delights1 of the editing process.
1 There is absolutely no sarcasm here. You will absolutely never find sarcasm on this blog. Absolutely not.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
It's a very interesting experience to condense your most precious possessions to a pile big enough to put into a car. Photos are always included, though nowadays most of them are on a portable hard-drive rather than in paper form. Toys for the boys are an obvious feature - as many as we can possibly take, as are portable and important items like cameras, old (and sentimental) books, drawings and stories from my childhood, documents, and a few changes of clothes. In the end, it comes down to what we will absolutely need, and what we will absolutely never be able to replace, should the worst happen.
I don't really think we'll have much to worry about. Apparently, our region is not in the high-danger list. But we can't lose anything by getting out anyway, just in case.
And now, I think I'll go and look at tomorrow's weather forecast for London. That's sure to cool me off.
Friday, January 8, 2010
At least now I know it was received! I'll keep you informed.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
That Facebook thing,
That Facebook thing,
I do not like that Facebook thing.
Would you like to be my friend?
And cyber hook-up, without end?
My numbers are quite good, it's true,
But they'd be better still, with you.
I would not like to be your friend,
Or cyber hook-up without end,
But kindness puts me at my best,
And I'll click "yes" to your request.
Would you like to say hello?
And watch our scanty friendship grow?
I'm at my keyboard all the time,
Just log right in and up I'll chime.
I do not wish to say hello,
And wish you would not poke me so,
I have you as a friend it's true,
But I don't quite remember you.
Would you like this on your wall?
It's cute and kitch and does enthrall,
It's kittens, cars and men so fat,
I'm sure you would laugh hard at that!
I would not like it on my wall,
Your sense of humour, does appall,
I took you as a friend, it's true,
But put some space `tween me and you.
Status updates! Surely now,
You'd love to hear (upon the hour),
About the food I ate for tea,
Or what I watch on our TV?
I would not love to hear your news,
Or listen to your wretched views.
I wonder, though it might sound drear,
What life you have when you're not here?
I mix up "their" and "there" and "they're",
I can not spell, but I don't cair.
I end each sentence with a "lol",
Just so's you know I'm being droll (lol).
That's it! I will not take it so,
I've had enough, you have to go,
You'll see your numbers drop by one,
But you won't care it's me who's gone.
With just one click I say goodbye!
I cut you loose and breathe a sigh,
But then, in horror, I do see,
ANOTHER friend is poking me!