Archive for August, 2013

Where do writer’s get their fodder? The answer is quite simple: from life.

What could be stranger than fiction? Perhaps the real life character that looms large, with all their quirks, dramas and failings. And behind that, a story, always a story.

Writers get their inspiration and content from observation but also from experience. I am a keen observer of people and I try and join the dots without being intrusive, but also because it helps me understand the seemingly understandable. Sometimes I come up with an intuitive stroke of truth, other times I’m fallible and need to guess the story. Sometimes, I just get it a bit wrong.

But I get great enjoyment from the narratives I conduct in my mind, and bring to life in my writing. There is nothing more interesting than people. No two are ever the same, and that is joyful – that the uniqueness of people is a rich tapestry gives me faith that all is as it should be, and that’s a tremendous springboard for my words.

There is great sadness in life, of course. Human frailties, and human tragedies, inspirational strength, and weaknesses that make you want to shudder. And then there is the environment around us. Superficial at times, deep and full of meaning at others.

While life can rise up and punch you in the guts at times, it can also move you to tears with its meaning.

To capture this, is a gift – and at times a compulsion.

The one constant for me has always been writing. It has never deserted me, even in my most introspective of dark moments. It’s there like my reflection in the mirror – talking back and making sense of the, otherwise, insensible.

I have two milestones coming up with my novel writing before Christmas. I am re-publishing my first book for Young Adults – Shadowscape, The Stevie Vegas Chronicles – as an indie author (Whahoo!), and its sequel Dawn of the Shadowcasters is being published by John Hunt Publishing’s new YA imprint Lodestone Books.

I am also working on editing a novel I wrote some years ago. I am finally accepting that my calling is to write and the place for me to dwell is, for the most part, in creativity and self-expression. No excuses or detours. Time to write.

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Since publishing my debut novel in 2012, I’ve learned a lot about publishing. I’ve learned there is still a crest of the wave for indie authors who want to publish their work, providing it is well-written and professionally presented.

I’ve also learned there are a myriad of small publishers out there hoping to entice the indie authors to them, and don’t really have the capacity to get your book ‘seen’ and really don’t fall into a ‘traditional’ publishing model, despite their pretences. I’ve also learned there are a swag of disreputable publishers who set themselves up overnight and don’t give a cracker about their authors.

And, there is the fact there are millions of books, self published or otherwise, flooding the market and as an author the biggest challenge will be to get your book noticed. You can have the best book in the world but if nobody sees it, you are defeating the purpose of ‘publishing’ it.

Over the past 18 months of dipping my toe reasonably assertively into the publishing world I’ve seen some good things and some bad things – not the least was the horrendously offensive bullying of a new author on Goodreads recently. She hadn’t even published her book and when there were some negative reviews posted on Goodreads about it, asked the question: how people could review her work when it hadn’t been published? What followed demonstrated the nastiness (bordering on illegal) cyber bullying where she was threatened with rape among other things. Needless to say the soon to be debut author withdrew her work and won’t be publishing it any time soon.

Authors in today’s marketplace operate in a highly competitive, impersonal internet world where stories and readers are a business and dreams can quickly turn sour on the whim of the darker side of human nature – greed, envy and dishonesty.

What I’ve learned is the reason why so many of us opt for self-publishing, and we do it because our dreams need protecting. Provided you’ve got the ‘ticker’ to self-publish, and the time to promote and market your book, and you can get a cover, editing and formatting professionally done, your prospects are better than risking it with the many smaller publishers who don’t pay advances, give you 10% of the royalties if you’re lucky and expect you to do all your promotion and marketing for them. And all they do is upload onto Amazon and provide your book as a POD, and send out the odd press release to the many free PR sites. You may as well self-publish and take all the royalties after Amazon gets its cut – and enjoy the experience!

Publishing is not a world for everyone but keeping faith in the integrity of your work is half the battle. And like everything in life, the wheel turns and lands on good experiences and good people every now and then.

I’ve always been a visual person. At school the teachers would put comments in my reports ‘highly imaginative’ or ‘she has an active and strong imagination’. Of course I’ve thought about those comments over the years, but much more in recent months.

Something has changed to make me fully use my imagination and it’s like anything, the more you practice the better you get. In the last 6 months I’ve been writing my second novel, which I’m proud to say has been accepted by John Hunt Publishing. It’s currently ‘in production’, and I’ve been doing my bit and giving it one more edit before it goes to copy editing. Hopefully, it will be out before the end of the year.

But let’s return to the imagination. The way people write is very individualistic. Some writers like to painstakingly plot their plot, character by character, situation by situation. I like to write like I’ve always done and that’s kicking myself up to that place where I think in pictures. It’s really like being an external player and watching a movie take place. Once I’m in that semi trance like state and I’ve set the story flowing, I then ‘channel’ the characters.

I do a lot of professional writing and have been trained classically, I suppose, both through university (I took writing, English and Communications majors) and through my career. I’ve been trained as a journalist (particularly as a feature writer), and I’ve written for government for many years too – anything from complex policy documents and research papers, through to speeches and Ministerial briefings. Opposite ends of the spectrum really, but with one thing in common, and that is the writing is highly organised and structured.

My novel writing may be free flowing to a certain extent, but it is also structured as well. The difference is that somehow I’m able to combine my imagination which takes me to different places, times, and situations, with an intellectual ability to structure at the same time.

Whatever the process is that I follow – and I don’t truly understand it myself, I am thankful for it – it works for me. And digging up the fertility of my imagination has been an absolute joy in recent months.

It’s almost like I’ve come out of the closet and accepted my weird and wonderful imagination, and that I think in pictures that exist in their own world, my world. I heard someone say today that ‘whatever you are born with, it will come out’. I was born with an active and strong imagination, and I’m so glad I was – for better or for worse, but mostly it is for the better now.

Sometimes rushing around and juggling multiple priorities is just not cool, let alone fun. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a juggler and, yeah, it’s been fun sometimes. There’s the full time job, and the kids, the study and the writing – all designed to fulfil the multitude of needs and goals within the complexity that is me. The thing is, I love to learn, and be involved, and gaze upon new horizons.

It’s that expansiveness that provides me with a feeling of completeness. Sure, I like watching a movie and being a couch lizard or indulgently wasting away a sunny afternoon with a glass of booze in my hands. And yeah I like going to the beach, walking in the rainforest and taking off my shoes on a dewy, sunny morning and feeling the grass between my toes. I love it all. What I can’t stand is boredom and the dust-covered stillness that comes with stagnation.

As a teenager I used to sing the old Bob Dylan song in my head ‘So how does it feel? Like a rollin’ stone’. That was me, the rollin’ stone. But then I married and had kids and got a few chocks (stops) around my feet. I wasn’t going anywhere and that was ok – the magical world of children opened up to me and I adored being with my three kids throughout their childhood. What a blast.

But then it was time, as they grew into teenagers who preferred peers to hanging out with mum, to get busy with my own stuff again. I started writing, and studying and kickstarting my career. It all worked really well, that is until now.

The other morning as I rushed the youngest to school, after leaving a load of dishes in the sink, and we were late and very naughty (I drove him right on up the school driveway which is PROHIBITED), I stopped as I pulled into the carpark at work. I stopped in my tracks – this rushing around was just not fun. Not even close.

So I slowed down and that night when I got home, I didn’t fire up my laptop, nor did I research for university studies. Actually, I didn’t even do the washing up. I watched a movie instead.