Archive for October, 2012

About two years ago, I was caught up in the floods in Australia. As I watched nature’s fury unleased through Hurricane Sandy in the US, it brings back the memories of the shock that comes when you are powerless to do anything but watch the waters rise.

In 2010 it just didn’t stop raining, and hard. In Queensland the rivers and tributaries broke their banks and hurtled toward homes like an inland Tsunami. In NSW, where I am, the floodwaters were gentle in comparison, but just as destructive. I can remember wading waist deep in floodwaters, treading on household items that were floating through the house. In our beautiful rumpus room, with its tallow wood floorboards, the water gurgled up through the cracks. Our fridge floated through the kitchen and into the loungeroom.

In the downstairs bedroom, I remembered a box of photos stored in the corner. I ran to try and retrieve the memories but when I picked up the box, the bottom fell out and the photos and negatives spewed into the floodwater. I tried hard to save as much as I could, but it took just 40 odd minutes for the house to be swamped. When I thought I could do no more, that I was spent, I saw the young face of my teenage son’s best friend. He smiled and simply asked: “Do you need a hand”. Over the next 15 minutes we managed to save an expensive stereo system, antique crockery and several televisions.

Later, watching the Queensland floods, I knew we were the lucky ones. We have an upstairs part of the house that stayed dry and we were able to relocate a fair portion of our household items. But a lot went too – every single piece of furniture that could not be moved was lost, including lounges, chairs, tables, lamps, beds. The worst of all, was the loss of my baby grand piano. That broke my heart and made me cry.

But we were lucky. We had upstairs to retreat to as the floodwaters rose, and we were safe. We fired up the generator on the balcony and boiled a kettle and ate some biscuits as the floodwaters made getting out impossible. It was OK, we would clean up, assess the damage and repair it.

Throughout our ordeal, I noticed a calm fortitude descend – I was determined to be positive. That positiveness enabled me to put one foot in front of the other in the months ahead.

It was a long renovation and rebuild after the floods. It took us one year to rip out the walls, rebuild frames, put the walls back on, paint and furnish. We redid the kitchen completely and the downstairs bathroom. We shopped for new furniture and eventually we got back to normal. It was only months after, when the river began to rise again and another flood threatened that I came close to knowing what it feels like when bad luck keeps stricking. We didn’t flood that time. The Gods were smiling.

There will be many people in the US, and indeed over the world, that will be dealing with the fallout from disasters – floods and earthquakes. They will stay strong because they have to. My thoughts are with them.

 

When I was a kid in school I was forever getting into trouble for daydreaming. It happened most often in Geography and Maths – two subjects that didn’t resonate. I was an English and History girl because that was where you got to read stories, whether it was the doomed romance in Wuthering Heights or the Battle of Passchendaele – stories nevertheless.

In Geography and Maths, it was formulas and igneous rocks and dry, uninspiring lectures from teachers. I just couldn’t see the point in listening, so I tuned out. I would look out the window and let my mind wander, and create stories in my head. Consequently I failed Maths and just managed to scrape in a pass in Geography.

Daydreaming is one of my favourite past-times still because I tend to do it when I’m most relaxed. It’s a bit like observing people in cafe’s and on the streets. I love nothing better than to sit over a cup of coffee and notice little things about people as they go about their daily lives. And I find myself creating stories again. ‘Oh that lady must live by herself because she is sitting alone and eating lunch. It’s far better to sit in a crowded restaurant than at home, alone, at an empty table that was either never full, or once full.

These stories are part of what inspires me to write fiction. Life is a rich tapestry and when I’m in the third person (daydreaming or observing) then I get to notice how interesting it can be.

And daydreaming and observing takes me away, temporarily, from any pressing problems I might have on my own plate. So there are good reasons to do it.

Life’s like that – you have to make the most of the downtimes and set aside time to be yourself. In a world where everybody wants you to be somebody or something else, those moments when you are comfortably in your own zone are precious.

So while I might have failed Maths and doomed myself forever in the eyes of rational thinkers, I did excel in English and went on to study it full time. And I’ve subsequently made a career in writing stories. So my teachers were wrong in a way. I was being productive as I stared out that window, through the trees and buildings, all the way to the skyline, and beyond a distant horizon.

Self expression comes in all forms, and everyone is different. The daydreamers and the number crunchers should be celebrated.

 

I’m a natural explorer and my favourite line from any poem is by T.S Eliot who said: “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of our exploration will be to arrive at the beginning and know that place for the first time.”

Yeah, well said T.S. During the course of any lifetime, the journeys you take are all about learning – unless you’re a fool who doesn’t learn a thing. Sometimes, you’ve got to retrace your steps, sure, and other times it seems like you’ll take forever to reach a destination. Life gets in the way, and you get sidetracked, put off your game, whatever….But with persistence, faith and hope, and courage, you will get to where you want to go.

I’m about to self publish my book Shadowscape, Book 1 in the Stevie Vegas Chronicles. Self publishing is not easy. There are millions upon millions of books out there. Good writers abound and we are all competing in a competitive market. I am new to the game. I’ve only been plugging away since about June. I’ve had some wins and I’ve had moments where I think, just what does it take? Well, ultimately, when it’s all said and done, it comes back to belief in your book – that there are readers out there who will enjoy the experience of reading Shadowscape, and benefit in some way from that experience.

If that belief is solid enough, you’ll whether the storms of putting yourself out there and waiting for either readers to like, or reject, your writing.

Of course marketing helps, that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this blog – to spread the word about my book. One of the reasons. There are other strong motivations. I’ve always enjoyed writing columns. In fact, I have been writing them since I began as a young journalist on a regional daily newspaper in the late 1980’s. At first my columns were about every day life, and later, about news, current affairs and issues. I discovered I had a talent for writing fact-based and influential opinion pieces and later won a state award for editorial writing.

I also like to reveal to myself through writing, the things I am discovering or exploring at the time. My mind is often like a three masted schooner sailing the seas, always with an eye on the horizon and new discoveries. Writing takes me to another place, I’m not sure where, into the subconscious perhaps and thoughts crystallise into being. I explore, I discover and I rediscover through writing.

But back to publishing. Here is what I’ve discovered so far, on my journey into the world of book writing and marketing:

1. Your book can be good, but if it’s not seen or talked about by anyone, you’ll get nowhere fast.

2. If you have a day job like me, then you’re going to have to find time at night and on weekends to plug away marketing your book. Be prepared for hard work, and then some more hard work.

3. Develop an online following. For better or worse this is ONE of the ways people will learn about your book. Don’t ever lose sight of the others.

4. Assess and reasses if you are reaching your target audience. Who are your readers? Well they’re the ones you wrote your book for in the beginning. In my case, it’s middle readers, from about 9-14 years who like adventure, action and a bit of magic in their lives.

5. The best way to promote your book is to start another one. Shadowscape is part of a trilogy, so I’ve begun writing The Stevie Vegas Chronicles II.

6. Monitor your rankings on Amazon and other sites. They are a bit of a litmus test.

7. Get as many people to review your book as possible. (I am in the process of getting reviews, so if anyone wants to write one, let me know).

8. Create activity around your book, via your local paper, radio station, and through your personal networks. They can help get the ball rolling and one action often leads to another.

9. Don’t be put off by the sheer size of the task in front. Always return to the faith you have in your book, that it’s a good read.

10. On a personal note, remember to take time off to smell the flowers and always have faith in yourself and your book. Remember you have something to say, most likely always a talent for writing and if you are published – Indie or otherwise – you have an opportunity in front of you to keep doing what you love.

That is the bottom line. Authors write for the love of it and, occasionally, you get a break to deliver a wonderful story to a wider audience. And that, really, is where it all started from, a good story + plus readers enjoying your story = publishing.