Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Word Spreads

The people at my work are now gradually discovering that I write in my spare time and that I have a book published. I can't imagine how they've found out -- perhaps it's the copies of the book I've left lying all around the office, or my Ghost of Ping-Ling flashing screensaver, or my "Oh my god I'm now a published author!" t-shirts I had made up and wear most days. Anyway, however it's happened, the word is out there.

A few people have come up and asked me about it and we've had great conversations about the book and writing in general. I think people still find it unusual that an engineer can write a coherent sentence, but I also think people are genuinely fascinated by the whole 'publishing' thing. Quite a few assume that I'm now (or will soon be) very wealthy, which always puts a smile on my face. I reassure them that they're not likely to lose me as a colleague any time soon.

My manager has told me a few times now that he used to write but hasn't done so for years. I can relate to that, seeing as I went nearly a decade without writing more than a few scattered bits and pieces. It would be nice to think hearing about my book encourages him to get back into it again.

One unexpected benefit of talking about the book (and specifically the map artwork) is that one of the graphic artists has introduced me to Photoshop and given me some tutorials on how to produce old maps. While I don't think I could ever completely go away from paper and pen I would definitely love to add some textures and play around with different text styles and so on. Alas I won't be able to do that for Tales of the Blue Jade because the maps all need to look consistent, but it's definitely something to put in my arsenal for future reference.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Complete Ghost of Ping-Ling Pronunciation Guide

Someone at the signing (who had read the book) asked me how the names are pronounced. I must have looked quite a sight mouthing them out slowly and carefully, so to avoid putting anyone else through such a disturbing experience I have written a pronunciation guide for your reading pleasure.

Dillen - too easy. Just say it like it sounds.
Koto - the o's are long (as in "hose", not "otter", where it is short).
Tajni - a long "a" (like "pasta") and the 'j' is soft, so it sounds a bit like an "sh" sound. The "ni" on the end sounds like "knee".
Heito - the "Hei" sounds like "tie", not "hay".
Hallegat - Hall-er-gatt.
Magoda - short "a" and long "o" (rhymes with "pagoda").
Qing - if this were a genuine Chinese name I believe it would be pronounced "Ching", but it's not, so it's just pronounced like the word "ring" with a 'q' instead of an 'r'.
Shu - sounds the same as what you put on your foot.
Zhangfu - last bit rhymes with "flu". The "Zh" is pronounced like a "j" sound.
Mazu - short 'a' and long 'u', so the "ma" sounds like it would in "man" and the "zu" sounds like "zoo".
Ghan - the 'h' is silent, rhymes with "ran"

Er ... I'm pretty sure I haven't forgotten anyone. If I have, let me know.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Signing

Well, yesterday was the day of the great "first ever signing" event at Collins Booksellers Edwardstown. And what a stupendous day it turned out to be. I got there a bit later than I'd expected, close to the starting time rather than early so I could have time to find my feet. Tarran and Sonia had already set up the table and put books and signs on it, and people were even beginning to mill about it with looks of interest, so I was able to leap straight into the fray.

All set up.

I think I mentioned earlier that the event had become a bit of an unofficial launch, seeing as I decided not to organise any official version. Because of that, a few good friends turned up pretty early and there was a rush on buying the books. Some of my friends bought 2 or even 3 copies. I have wonderful friends. (On that note, I should mention that one of my old friends, Heather, came all the way from Woomera, a 5 hour drive north of Adelaide. I'm hoping she didn't come down just for the signing, but even if she didn't it was a huge deal to have her come along).

As the day went by my supply of friends dried up, and I switched to "spruiking" mode. This is something I learned about from Duncan Lay, who hand-sold 1000 copies of his first book in a month (actually it was a little over that, I can't remember the exact figure). I stood near the table, which was at the very front of the store in the path of walking shoppers, and said hello to people and asked them if they were interested in reading fantasy. I should say, doing that kind of thing is not something that comes easily to me (if it does anyone), so I wasn't anticipating all that much success. I was pleasantly surprised by the result.

A sign in the ladies toilet (photo taken by someone else, I hasten to add). Now that's advertising!

The first thing I noticed is that, despite the bad press occasionally given to the human race, people are often extremely polite. Even people who weren't interested in what I had to say (sell?) gave me a smile and a wave, and a few even came and shook my hand and congratulated me on having the book published. It actually taught me that I need to be a bit more considerate to people who spruik in shopping malls. In the past I've tended to breeze past and ignore them, but no more of that (not that I'll necessarily be buying a lot of tv subscriptions and soap products, mind you).

The second, even nicer, surprise was that a lot of people wanted to buy the book. I'm not sure whether it was my (not very well rehearsed) spiel, the great back-cover blurb that my editor, Celia, came up with, or my puppy-dog expression as I explained this was my first ever book and my first ever signing, but quite a few people snatched it up. Many of them wanted it for younger family members who were either vociferous readers or who needed some extra encouragement to get reading. Others wanted it for themselves. All in all, by the time 3.30pm rolled around there was only a single book left on the table, and I had to ask a friend to loan me the copies he bought so I could set them up on display (that was another thing I learned, a table full of books draws the eye so much more than a table with a single book on it). By 4pm the last one had walked out the door, and so did I.

An amazing day! In many ways it was an experiment on my part, seeing if a children's book could be hand-sold in that way. I think the results speak for themselves. Now I need to try and organise some repeat performances in other book shops around Adelaide, maybe even further afield. I'm now of the opinion this is an absolute necessity, rather than a "nice" thing for an author to do. This realisation came about because on two occasions (one just this morning) I've gone into bookshops and found the book on a low shelf spine outwards. I don't think those copies will be flying out the door, somehow. Far better for me to spend some time in the store putting the book in people's hands and getting it into the eyesight of the people who work in the shop. I don't think it's conceited for me to say I feel I've written a good book, but nobody will be able to enjoy it if it sits gathering dust in obscurity.

So there we go, a highly successful and informative day. A huge thanks to Tarran at Collins Books for making it all happen and giving it such a huge plug. Also to the friends who were able to come. When you're feeling a bit nervous about something there's no better cure than familiar faces.

Now I just hope people enjoy the book!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

First Signing

I have my first signing next Saturday at Collins Booksellers Edwardstown (from 1pm if you're free/able/inclined to come along). I'm really excited about it, not to mention a tad nervous. I've already decided that I'm not going to just sit at a desk with a bunch of books in front of me, looking like a gumby. Instead I'm going to try and talk to as many people as I can, and see how many I can convince of the pure genius and originality and spectacular enjoyment experience my book can provide (or something like that). I'm sure it will be a fun afternoon.

It's kind of developed into an unofficial launch of the book. I know a few friends are planning on heading down there and have been holding off buying the book until then. And the wonderful people at the bookshop (hats off to Tarran)have been promoting the event really hard, which has been a tremendous encouragement.

Depending on how this one goes, I have a bunch of other bookshops on my radar for future events. I might even find myself venturing further afield later in the year, perhaps even to somewhere strange and exotic -- like Melbourne. We shall have to see.

I'll post an update on how the day goes. Maybe even some photos!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Turning the Pages.

It would appear that I'm a tad busy at the moment, which is why I'm hurrying to fire off a quick blog post at 10.51 on a Friday night, prior to sinking happily into bed. Today I received the "pages" for the Mapmaker's Apprentice. In case you don't know what that is, it's basically the typeset version of the book, intended to look pretty well like the final thing minus the cover. The problem is, inevitably when the book transitions from a Word document to a typeset document I find all sorts of problems that were previously invisible to me. I think having that radical change of format is the closest thing possible to looking at the book with fresh eyes, and fresh eyes tend to find all sorts of new problems.

But "pages" are supposed to be a nearly final stage of the process. It's difficult (and, I gather, expensive) to make substantial changes once the book is in this form. So I need to mark every change and think long and hard about it. Is this really a serious problem? If so, why wasn't it a serious problem before? Would anyone else notice this other than me? At the same time, I need to keep in mind that once the book is out there, it's out there. This is the very last opportunity to make changes, so I need to zero in on anything important and fight for it while I still can.

So that's the process I started this evening, as well as continuing my slow and steady way through the creation of the map for book 2. All of this needs to be finished by the end of next week, so I probably won't be surfacing to the blogosphere any time before then.

Busy? Absolutely. But this is the kind of busyness I adore.