‘Beneath the Surface’ is featured on Penned!

penned app_icon

I’m happy to report the workshopping of my Beneath the Surface draft manuscript is going brilliantly. I’m receiving excellent feedback from where I’m posting the draft chapters on Wattpad and Widbook. And now — trumpets! — I have been approached by the marvelous Penned saying they would like to feature Beneath the Surface on their book app. I was quick with a Yes, please! and so you will find my first four chapters there too. But what and where is Penned? Not heard of them before? Read on below to find out more…

So just what is this Penned thing?

Penned is a literary app — it’s a writing app and it’s a reading app. You use it from your smartphone. Simply type ‘penned’ in the search field in your app store and up it will pop (for free of course). Beneath the Surface is a novel for teens (and the young in us, that’s me) and this is the absolutely latest way to read. You may or may not like it — it’s very different — but it’s fun to check it out and make up your own mind. I’m liking it…

Penned and Beneath the Surface

From the start I have been writing Beneath the Surface expressly to be read from an e-reader. (Do you like that adverb expressly? Suits what I’m saying exactly.) I have not allowed myself to write a chapter that bubbles over a 1,000 words. If one does, I split it, and rewrite the two new chapters afresh. I’m calling them micro chapters and often a single scene will track over a number of these little blighters.

Beneath the SurfaceIn my head, I’ve been thinking of each chapter as a bang from your e-reader. Something with zip and punch, even in the slow setting-up-the-plot moments. Something that feels right to be read from a glowing screen while your other hand clutches onto a train handrail. Or an ice cream. What the hell, anything — life is like that these days. The modern world is a bullet train speeding, multitasking world: hold onto the rail, eat your ice cream, text ur buddy, listen to the debut Bleachers album and read from Penned). A smartphone book app feels absolutely right for the micro chapters of Beneath the Surface and the whizz of today’s  world.

And before anyone says, What about print books? (some might still be saying that? as if reading from a kindle means you object to print books), I’m talking about workshopping my book with the world. Not the finished ebook and traditionally published print book. What better way to workshop your draft novel than through a mobile device?

So if you do check out Beneath the Surface – be it through Penned, Wattpad or Widbook — as always, I’d love you to tap on ‘Comment’ and let me know your thoughts. Without readers, a book is not a book.

Here’s the Penned website about the App, where you can find out more. And here’s their Twitter page if you want to follow them.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon…

 

Workshopping with the World

Beneath the Surface

My new novel is called Beneath the Surface and it’s about a 14-year old boy who, not long after his mother’s death from a mysterious illness called Radar, enters a fantasy world under his garden. The boy’s name is Christopher Reuben and he suffers from the same illness that took his mother’s life.

I know this sounds a bit gloomy! But — as with all of my writing — I work hard to make sure there’s fun and action in there too. As I wrote the first draft, I imagined stories such as The Wizard of OzSpirited Away and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardobe. And I also mixed in some of my own experiences from working as a social worker with people with HIV/AIDS.

Beneath the Surface is still a draft manuscript (I’m hoping it will be ready for a professional editor’s structural edit come December — for those of you interested in the writing process), and I’m trying out something different this time around. Something that has me a little nervous, but also excited. I’m posting my manuscript chapter by chapter as I redraft them further in the hope I receive good honest feedback from others. I want to make this story the best I possibly can. I’m really hoping fellow readers and writers — you! — will tell me what you think. Nicely.

There are a number of social media sites available for writers these days, and I’ve decided to post Beneath the Surface on two: a well-established one (Wattpad), and a reasonably new one you may not have heard much about (Widbook). Both of these ‘writing e-communities’ allow me to post my manuscript in an ebook style (Widbook is particularly good on this score), and they allow for comments from others. They also have things like ‘votes’ and ‘numbers of reads’ etc, which are all fine but I’m more interested in hearing from interested others about my story as I write it. And of course, I’ll make sure to acknowledge all helpful advice givers when my story’s finally published (indie or trad).

You’ll see from the picture above that I have created a cover for the manuscript. Creating a cover is not something a writer would normally do at this stage, but as I’m pushing my little story out into the world, it needs more that than the usual plain, typed front page of most manuscripts. I hope my effort will suffice until the book is finally published and I pay for a professional cover design.

In the hope it will stir your interest, here are the opening sentences (at least, they are at the moment, feedback may suggest changing them)…

I was ready for my dad when he approached the daisy bush, big plastic spray bottle held up like a gun, like he was going to put something down. I stood before the bush, arms folded, doing my best not to trample on his precious damned flowers. 

‘Christopher?’ he said. ‘What are you doing?’ He spoke slowly, worn out. His voice matched his slumped shoulders and his tired eyes.

Now, don’t bother hanging around here anymore. What I’d really love is for you to check out my draft and tell me what you think. Thank you!

You can find it on Wattpad here.

And you can find it on Widbook here.

EleMental chapter taster

Elemental

EleMental chapter taster

As a taster, I have also placed the first chapter of EleMental on my website. So you have the choice of checking it out there and then spring-boarding over to Wattpad, if you’d like to read more. Here’s a hand-dandy link to my chapter taster (the first chapter) on my website.

And if that isn’t enough, in this very post (immediately below, in fact) I have included the opening section to the chapter. So I guess that must be a chapter taster taster. Here it is…

***

 EleMental: A First-person Shooter

Level 1: Firing up

 

‘I don’t know anything and I didn’t do anything.’

Zeb, 2050

***

Chapter 1: ‘Attention game’

Willis was weak. He was ill. And he was lost.

The city’s buildings reached high, throwing out long shadows and reminding him of the Shade Specter monsters from a virtual game that was all the rage a few years back – not that he’d ever played the v’game himself, or any v’games at all. V’gaming wasn’t his thing.

He stood in the darkness of one shadow with his back to a department store wall and gazed out at the moving crowds, avoiding their glances.

As soon as his mother’s zipcar had lifted from the curb and buzzed away, leaving him alone, he felt nauseous. What was he doing here? He had no idea which direction led home. Cities were foreign to him, and yet here he was, smack bang in the middle of the biggest one he could imagine. Fool. He knew how this dumb outing was going to end: with him contacting his mum or dad and one of them coming to fetch him.

No! He would not message home. He was practically fifteen. This might be a new place to him, but he was capable. He’d find his own way home. Somehow.

Then Willis saw him. Zeb Redman. He’d know him anywhere; only the coolest kid from his class. Correction. The whole damn school.

He shot past Willis on his hyperboard, crouching low for speed. The hyperboard’s erupter – the small suspension laser generator fixed at the back – thrummed loudly.

Maybe if Willis followed him, he would learn a thing or two about living in this place. Or at the very least, he could point Willis in the right direction.

Willis raced after him.

***

Zeb Redman cursed as he spun around the corner, balancing on his speeding hyperboard, and saw the last thing he wanted to see. The queue at Screamers V’Games Universe was mammoth. It snaked from somewhere deep within the store, out through its snapping auto-doors and stretched out of sight down the street. The disappointment gnawed at him. Wagging school had made no difference.

The store’s flashing signs seemed to taunt him: Experience the new Plush. Free trials all day. Don’t miss out.

Zeb sighed, flipped from his hovering hyperboard, and landed on the street curb. Far in front of him, perched at the head of the queue, some lucky guy was set to be the first to experience the new Plush DVP – deep virtual player – v’games console. Zeb gazed the other way, down the shuffling queue of hopefuls. At ten minutes a turn, it would be nighttime before his chance at a free try-out came around. The place would be closed by then.

He closed his eyes and released a slow breath, relaxing as he’d trained himself to do prior to taking on a high-level boss enemy. As in v’games, so in life. He decided to go in anyway. With all this commotion going on, you never knew what you might find. Behind him, he was half-aware of some kid approaching. He looked wet. No one worth knowing, that was for sure. He ignored him, stepped forward and worked his way through the queue and into the store. People glared, but he held up his arms, all innocence. ‘It’s all right. Not queue jumping. Just trying to get in.’

With the rack full, he was forced to carry his hyperboard. He wandered the aisles of expensive v’games that filled the store’s shelves, thoughts of which monopolized his every waking moment. Especially the gleaming rows of gloss-wrapped 2050 first-person shooter new releases – v’games with packaging that sported moving images of exploding army death-tanks, multi-headed trolls with weapons the size of cannons, grinning aliens with scarred and bloodied bodies … Xtreme-rated horrocore. All bearing the latest in ziptech security seals. Impossible to steal.

But his instinct for an opportunity had been right. The crowds fussing over the new v’games console provided an excellent diversion. After a period of frustrated browsing (everything was out of his price range!), he spied something he knew he could have – with a bit of skill and luck. An old first-person shooter called Hoolyguns. It was sticking out of the corner of a weightless sales bin otherwise chock-a-block with dated v’romances and offworld tour guides.

He slung his hyperboard across his back, straightened his bag at his side, and spent a long time stalking the bin as it floated through the store’s aisles. Waiting for the right moment. And as it drifted towards an out-of-the-way exit, far from the winding queue and the onlookers clustered at Plush v’space-windows oohing and aahing at the virtual action within, Zeb’s own excitement mounted. Though it wasn’t Xtreme-rated or anything, it looked compatible with his old Magnum 50. So who was he to complain? He, with only a Magnum console at home and nothing decent to play on it. He, who hungered for any first-person shooter. New, old, secondhand, whatever.

And it bore an ancient security imprint. As far as Zeb was concerned, it was a giveaway and the disappointment about the Plush try-out slipped from his mind.

He watched. He crept forward. He waited.

A security zipcam meandered up and stopped close to the bin. It clicked and hissed as it lowered itself to the floor, its many lenses rotating. Then it lifted again and moved on, heading down a nearby aisle.

Now! Moving in, Zeb hustled the bin up against the wall. Using his body to block the view of anyone who might be watching, he snatched the v’game from the sales bin, pulled a screwdriver from his pocket, squeezed it until a sharp stick of hard blue laser shot out, and slash, cut, strip! Security imprint: gone. No zipcam would bother chasing and recording him.

Plunging the v’game into the depths of his bag, he was out that door.

***

You can read the rest of Chapter One here

The complete EleMental is available to read for free through Wattpad and Widbook.

My Widbook page is here.

My Wattpad page is here

And, of course, EleMental is also available as a downloadable ebook here:

Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

And here for free on the Libiro ebook store.

 

I have been busy on Wattpad

wattpad-review

I have been busy on something called Wattpad (not absolutely sure why it’s called that, but there you go). And at last I’m back and writing a post about it.

Wattpad is a Canadian-based online reading and writing community that has been around since 2006. And it’s a very busy place! Many are there as readers, but many others are also posting their own writing efforts — articles, stories, poems… And you are able to comment and like stories or join discussion groups.

 Just who is on Wattpad?

wattpad3

I have been dabbling on Wattpad for a few months now and it’s quite clear that most users — readers and writers alike — are women. Though I have come across men too, including a male video game designer. And many are teenagers. It’s terrific that so many young people are keen to explore their writing abilities. There are many good story ideas and I’ve spotted some pretty impressive writing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are plenty of stories written in the young adult romance genre, though sci-fi and fantasy seem very well represented too. I have also come across a fair bit of  fanfic, which I have to admit I am not so keen on. I am not that interested in reading imaginary stories about members of One Direction or about Justin Bieber. However, if someone on Wattpad grows into a great writer through writing about their favorite pop stars — that’s fine by me! (And besides, if the story’s good enough — they can always alter the characters a bit later.)

What have I been doing on Wattpad?

keep-calm-and-write-stories-on-wattpadMy main reason for being on Wattpad right now is to establish a presence with those who may be interested in my writing, i.e. young adult readers into sci-fi and fantasy. My hope is, if I establish some kind of presence on Wattpad, I can upload the draft of my next book there first. If I’m lucky, I may attract some interest in the story and receive some useful feedback prior to publication. Hence, maybe I can use Wattpad as a giant feedback workshop.

To gain some visibility before I introduce my next book, I have so far uploaded one short story, MotherCraft, which currently has just over a thousand reads, and I am in the process of uploading my first published novel, EleMental: A first-person Shooter. I am up to Chapter 20 in that book, so only 10 chapters to go. It currently has a little over 4,000 reads.

Just on this ‘read’ business, by the way, before you get too impressed. I doubt very much if over five thousand have assiduously read the short story and novel chapters I have uploaded to Wattpad. It’s all software-based counting remember. It has no idea what the ‘reader’ is really doing. But at least they’ve had a peek, eh? No matter how fleetingly. And some have gone on to read it, surely. (Tell me that’s true!)

When I have put all of EleMental on Wattpad, I will effectively be offering the ebook version of that first novel of mine for free through Wattpad. I will then make it free elsewhere also, and upload the first few chapters of MonuMental, my sequel to EleMental.

How to get to Wattpad

keep-calm-and-wattpad-on-3Here’s where you will find more info about Wattpad (complete with a Margaret Atwood endorsement): About Wattpad.

And here’s one of Wattpad’s many writers writing about how to use Wattpad (she gets 14 votes):  Wattpad instructions.

And here’s where you will find my Wattpad page: my exciting page on Wattpad.

Or you can go straight to a story:

  • MotherCraft - A father leaving home can be painful at anytime. Leaving the planet, doubly so.
  • EleMental - The future. It’s all about friendship, young love … and dangerous video games.

Keep on Wattpadding!

Steven O’Connor writes young adult fiction. His writing is influenced by Douglas Adams, CS Lewis, Tolkien and just about every sci-fi and fantasy film and TV show you could possibly think of. His ebooks EleMental: A First-person Shooter and MonuMental: The Hack’s Back are available through Amazon. (Just Google ‘Amazon’ and ‘Steven O’Connor’ to see). You may also like checking him out at one of his hangouts:

Website ¦ Wattpad ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook 

My books now available in the brand new Libiro store!

My books in Libiro

I am very happy to announce that my ebooks are now available in the brand new ebook store Libiro as epub files (readable on all other ereaders beside Kindles, such as kobos etc).

mothercraft - final cover (300 dpi) (no ss)

MotherCraft is free on Libiro

And MotherCraft is at last a free ebook. I have always wanted this little ebook to be free, but it was not possible through Amazon. There I had to sell it for a minimum of 99c, with a number of days where I was allowed to make it free for promotional purposes.

About Libiro

The name Libiro is a combination of libero and library. Libero is an Italian word meaning ‘free’ as in ‘independent’. (It was also the codename for the World War II partisan leader Riccardo Fedel, but that’s another story.)

Libiro, then, is an ebook store devoted to selling nothing but indie books by indie authors. Their aim is to be the No.1 place to shop if you want to buy self-pubbed. Publishing yourself, they say, is not tied down to market trends or a publisher’s business plan. Indie authors can write what they want, when they want. The result? A different breed of writing.

‘Indie authors can sometimes have trouble standing out on huge stores like Amazon, and constantly work hard to make sure their books are discovered. Here at Libiro, we want to make sure that indies have the best chance of being found, read, and enjoyed.’

Here’s where you can find my books on the brand new Libiro:

If you have a moment to spare – feel free to leave a quick review. I have none so far. :(

You can check out Libiro’s homepage here.

And they’re on Twitter here: @LibiroAtLarge

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

And now also as epub files in Libiro: EleMental ¦ MonuMental  ¦ MotherCraft (free)

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Springing into action

Springing into action

A dandelion caught springing into action

In the part of the world I live in, it’s spring – and I’m springing into action. For starters, I’ve given my website a dammed good spring cleaning, I hope you like it. I’m poised to throw myself into the next draft of my new book – admittedly, I’ve been poised to do that for a while. And I have a brand new little reading for you.

(By way of a wild aside, I even have a brand new wheelie bin out in the back garden in the carport. The garbos broke my last one through all that macho-garbo rough-handling of wheelie bins as they race ahead of the garbage trucks – no doubt an apt description of garbos everywhere. The lid fell off and went into the truck’s compactor along with the garbage. But enough about garbos and wheelie bins and this wild aside.)

I will tell you more about the drafting of my work in progress in a later post. Suffice to say, I will be delving into my time as an HIV/AIDS social worker, and I plan is to stop using MSWord and give something called Scrivener a go. Exciting.

Right now though, I’d like to present my next little reading to you. These little readings are my own worked-up recordings (so be nice) of short scenes from my writing. Personally speaking, and this really is only personal, I prefer to read from a book myself, rather than listen to a story read aloud by someone else –  a hired actor or the author. Especially if it goes on for a while. But I do like the idea of short snappy scenes combined with a bit of a fun soundtrack. Hence my efforts to grasp Ableton audio software – software that can be boggling, but also a great deal of fun.

The passage I have chosen for this treatment is from the first chapter of EleMental and I’ve called it ‘Focus on the V’gaming’, the opening sentence of the passage. It describes the character Zeb starting up his Magnum 50, a virtual games (v’games) console. When I do a school visit or other presentation, I often choose this passage because I enjoy describing how a v’game kicks in. (And now, I can also play them this little audio treatment.)

For those interested, I have added the words further below. Don’t forget to like it. Hopefully you will. You can also add a comment if you feel seized by the moment to say something (nice).

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/108766844" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Focus on the v’gaming

Focus on the v’gaming. There was nothing like it. The real world could go suck.

He booted his door shut, kicked some strewn clothes out of the way and crouched before his Magnum 50, which sat on an old plastic crate near his bed. He hit the small switch on its face and waited. When nothing happened, he slapped it. ‘Wake up!’ he growled.

A dull red light flickered and a square opened at the console’s center, gaping like a hungry mouth. Digging deep into his bag, he seized the v’game. He drew it out, removed the shiny black cube from its packaging and fed it into the console.

Jumping up, Zeb dragged his bedroom’s dusty curtains closed, cutting out all light from the real world.

‘Attention Magnum,’ he said. ‘Seal room for sound and start game.’

A groaning sound like the bending of steel engulfed him, and the floor shuddered as a complete street scene wrenched into existence, materializing beneath his feet and stretching out on all sides.

He let his gaze wander, turning a full circle and taking it all in.

It was a bright, virtual version of a sunny day. A deserted street. Early century by the looks of things. Something like 2013 – his parents would have been kids. He squinted in the light, searching for signs of enemy activity.

(From chapter 1: ‘Attention Game’ of EleMental: A First-person Shooter.)

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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My MonuMental Book Tour

MonuMental: The Hack's Back by Steven O'Connor

I am having a book blog tour for MonuMental (and my first book, EleMental). This is my first go at such a thing and it’s already been a very interesting experience just setting it up with Orangeberry Book Tours. Below are the dates. I have something happening from this point on until the end of July. If you get a chance, I’d love you to drop in on one or two of my guest posts or interviews as I make my way around various blogs of the world. Feel free to leave a comment if you do!

Book Tour Schedule (UK times)

7th July – Twitter View with OB Book Tours

8th July – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

9th July – Book Review & Author Interview at Mommy Adventures

10th July  - Guest Post at The Bunny’s Review

11th July - Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

12th July - Book Review & Author Interview at The Reading Cat

13th July - Guest Post at Blog-A-Licious Authors 

14th July - Book Review & Author Interview at Author’s Friend

15th July – Book Review at UK Book Club

16th July – Guest Post & Book Review at Me, You & Books

17th July – Book Review at Book Professor

18th July – Author Interview & Book Review at Brainy Reads

19th July – Guest Post at Paws on Books

20th July – Book Review at Gentleman Reads

21st July – Author Interview at My Life in Books

22nd July – Book Review at Journey’s thru Books

23rd July – Author Interview at Top Shelf Books

24th July – Book Review at A Novel Design

25th July – Guest Post at Non-Stop Reads

1st August – Excerpt at Quality Reads

1st to 31st August 2013 – Listing at OB Book Expo

8th August – Author Interview at Nobody Important

15th August – Guest Post & Book Feature at Book Connoisseur

22nd August – Excerpt at Next Big Book Thing

27th August - Author Interview & Book Feature at Just My Opinion

3rd September – Guest Post at Aspiring Books

17th September – Guest Post & Book Feature at High Class Books

I’m featured in Books Direct!

ElementalCampaign update

Before I get to Books Direct, I want to give you a quick round up on my current promotion. No doubt you know I’m bang in the middle of a promotional campaign? Goodness knows I have gone on about it enough. I am happy to say it is going very well. Better than I would have imagined. As I write this, EleMental is No. 1 on Amazon in two book categories:  ‘TV, Movie, Video Game Adaptations’ and ‘Hard Science Fiction’. The book has held those positions for two days, and also reached No.1 in ‘Hard Science Fiction’ in Canada. Needless to say, I don’t think EleMental is hard science fiction, and it certainly is NOT an adaptation of any film or video game. And hey! What do I care! I’m just happy the book has reached No.1 in some categories. It has also reached No. 50 in Amazon UK’s ‘Children’s Fiction’ (a very big, and therefore hard, category to rate in) and No. 5 in ‘High Tech Science Fiction’.

The book also rated very respectably in Germany’s and France’s Amazons.  You might be thinking, Wow, he must be making some nice pocket money. Nope! These are all free downloads, don’t forget. And the goal here is about telling the world about EleMental. Visibility! And I’m very happy with the results.

Come tomorrow, I fully expect the book to have dropped away. But right now, it’s king in its own little world. So mission more than accomplished.

Not once on Books Direct! But twice!

Many bloggers and websites have been terrific in their support of my promotion. And none more so than the classy Books Direct website. I recommend checking the site out. They have not only jumped in right behind my current promotion, they have also interviewed me about my new book MonuMental, featured excerpts from both books and are hosting a giveaway of my early print edition EleMental (make sure you enter –  instructions in both Books Direct posts). 

The first post, introducing my promotion and featuring an excerpt is here.

In the second post, they have gone out of there way to find a reference to the very first book I ever read as a child. I was amazed to find a link to it. I thought that book, from 1968, only remained as a memory in my head — but no, there are second hand library copies available through Amazon. (Read the interview to find out which book!). This second post has a rather extensive interview with me and features the first chapter from MonuMental (though note, in the book a short intro precedes the chapter).

You can access the second post here.

Well, back to my promoting… Seeyalater.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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EleMental new cover. Help me pick!

Help me pick EleMental‘s new cover

EleMental is scheduled to be free next week (from Friday 7 June) and as a part of my the promotion I have decided to come up with a new cover. I’dd love your thoughts. You can let me know either in the comments below or tweet me at @StevenWriting here.

And of course you already know MotherCraft is free right now? You can get it here:

Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Here are my choices …

No.1

 

Pic 1

No.2


Pic 2

No.3

Pic 3

 

No.4

Pic 4

No.5

Pic 5

 

I know which way I’m leaning, but let me know your thoughts!

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Free sci-fi short story: 31 May

Mothercraft: A short story by Steven O'Connor

Free ebook

I plan to offer my humble sci-fi short story free from 31 May 2013 for five days. I would love this story to be free all of the time, but – alas! – Amazon disagrees. They will only allow me to make it free for five days every three months. So here it is once more within that allotted time, free for all downloads. (Well, come Friday, 31 May.)

More free stuff coming

This small offering is my little build to the main event. EleMental, my young adult sci-fi novel, will be free a short while later (from 7 June). And that will be the last time Elemental will be free. But more about that in a later post. For now, simply note 31 May in your diary and prepare for this little entrée before the main course. (MotherCraft, by the way, is based on a deleted scene from EleMental – a scene deleted by my previous editor, but which yours truly continues to like. And others too – thank you to those who have sent me feedback in the past.)

A quick word about the above cover

I have always loved the cover for this short story, which was put together by a graphic designer who based it on a picture by my son. The picture depicts a table at ‘The Lunching Pad Restaurant’. A fictitious restaurant at the (obviously) equally fictitious ‘Little River Spacedocks’. The cover features one of the better tables at the restaurant. That is, by a window with a view. And what a view! Rockets launching into space, to dock with their MotherCraft waiting in orbit about the Earth.

I included my son’s original picture inside the book.

If you don’t want to wait, the short story is available for 99c right now from Amazon here. And from Amazon UK here.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Part 3 – Pushed into indie publishing. So I jumped!

This is the third of my guest posts written for Silk Screen Views about my journey as a writer. Here I chose to talk about my current  – and very new! – adventures in the land of indie publishing. Indie publishing is not easy. There is a lot of work involved in trying to be noticed among the many, many other highly active and very good indie writers. And you are responsible for every step of the way, which can sometimes be quite exhausting. However, there is reward in the sense of control, and it’s important to give things time to grow. You can check out the last of my three posts here.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Part 2 – Talk about it. Shout about it. Live it!

This is the second of my guest posts written for Silk Screen Views. I was invited by Silk Screen Views to write about my journey as a writer. Central to this post is a reflection on my family’s migration to the outer suburbs of an industrial town in Australia and the impact that had on my ambitions to write.

You can check it out here.

And, as I said yesterday, while you’re there, don’t forget to have a look around the rest of Silk Screen Views’ beautiful website.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Part 1 – How I decided I wanted to be a writer

 I am guesting on the up and coming website Silk Screen Views. In my first post I talk about my decision to be a writer in my childhood (momentous world decision that it was!).

You can check it out here

And while you’re there, have a look around the rest of Silk Screen Views’ beautiful website!

 

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Little Readings

I’m proud to present to you what I’ve come to call in my mind, ‘little readings’. This is the very first – my bash at an audio recording of a reading. I’ve dug up an old poem from the murky recesses of my computer’s hard drive and I’m pushing it forward as the guinea pig.

To create the recording, I’m currently grappling with some audio software called Ableton Live. It’s pretty cool stuff. DJs such as Deadmau$ use it.  But it’s complex too. Well, for me it is. I tried a few different ideas, but the one that I like the best is this one. It has some rhythm behind it to support the words. I particularly enjoyed that aspect of the creative process. I used some random notes from some favorite songs, but the overall rhythm is mine.

So without further ado, I’d like to share with you my first-and-only attempt so far. A short, post apocalyptic sci-fi poem called ‘Earth’s Last Inhabitant Walks Out’. (Don’t forget to like it. Hopefully you will!)

I have set up a specific page on my website for my little readings, and I’ve included the poem’s lines (or lyrics?) there, in case you want to follow what I’m reading. The Little Readings webpage is here.

Little Readings - Ship in the sky.

Little Readings – Ship in the sky.

And I have also set up a twitter page (@LittleReadings) which you can visit here.

If you have any little readings of your own, or you decide to make one, be sure to let me know. I’d love to tweet about it too. You can use my words, from one of my books, or your own words. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a short reading and you keep it G rated!

I hope you like my reading. I’m looking forward to creating another one.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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Creating a MonuMental dragonbot

MonuMental’s dragonbot

I am proud to present a video of the artist Aaron Pocock creating the dragonbot from my book MonuMental. Aaron Pocock did this video off his own bat, and even performed the music. It’s wonderful to see something from one’s imagination come alive on the page at the gifted hands of another. Here it is:

In case you’re curious, here are three excerpts from MonuMental that I gave Aaron to help guide him in the creation of the creature …

1:

And from on high, steel talons spread, a dragon descended. It was the color of emerald and metal. It was a technodroid – Willis could see its fuel lines running under its wings and the rows of bolts up and down its body, giving its torso the appearance of an aircraft fuselage plastered in scales.

2:

The dragonbot pushed on through the air until it reached the far end of the rambling street. Then it dropped, releasing Trinity as it neared a rusty water tower. From this distance, she was the size of Willis’s hand. She fell to the top of the tower with a faint shriek. The dragonbot spun about and settled behind her, gripping the tower’s edge. It curled its wings and hunched vulture-like, but kept its head up, glaring back at them, as if defying them to mount a rescue.

3:

The dragonbot spread its great wings and arched backward. The fuel lines fixed to the underside of each wing and running up its scaly chest and neck tautened as petroleum flowed through them. Long jets of flame erupted from its snout and a wave of heat washed over them. It was as if the creature had understood Trinity’s words. It lunged forward, almost crushing her, and dropped from the tower, swooping at the three of them.

If you go to my MonuMental website page, you can see more pictures Aaron Pocock created before arriving at the final cover. And you can also check out more of his wonderful artwork here: That Space Between.

MonuMental1_sml

Finally, if interested, MonuMental (my new book, in case you didn’t guess!) is available here:

Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

MonuMentally worn out but EleMentally free!

Tired as Lemur

Tired as Larry the Lemur

I have been quiet haven’t I? In actual fact I’ve been tweeting like mad. And jumping around all over facebook. Telling everybody about how you can currently download EleMental, my first book, for free. This is all in support of my lovely new book, MonuMental.

The internet is a terribly big place and it’s easy to go a little unnoticed no matter all the hooha you’re trying to make.

And why have I been trying to make a hooha?

Because I just discovered that I was about to lose my current allotment of free days for EleMental if I didn’t hurry up and use them. And use them I of course do want to … for promotion.

Yes, EleMental: A First-person Shooter is currently free for download. It ends midnight Thursday, 14 March (US time).

It’s great bringing your book project to completion but it can also wear you out like a … lemur. Well, that lemur above, anyway. Having just come across its picture (and spontaneously named Larry). And that’s why this initial promotion has been rather quick!

Also note – this is absolutely the first time EleMental has been offered for free.

Here are the links for you to head over there right now and grab your copy …

If you’re reading this late and have missed out, don’t worry – this was a rushed affair. I will offer EleMental for free again in a much bigger campaign coming mid-year. (And MonuMental can always be read separately too.)

Yours monuMentally, eleMentally, everyTHINGally …

MonuMental – The final countdown

MonuMental Copy

When you see something behind your reflection in the floor, your instinct is to look up. See what is above.

They looked up. They saw nothing above.

MonuMental

That is the start of Chapter 22 and where I am up to in the final ebook-edit of MonuMental, the follow up to EleMental. Willis, Zeb and Arizona are unable to shutdown a v’game and have been drawn into an immense, silent hall with an endless, polished floor. They can see reflections behind their images in the floor, but there is nothing above them. The start of this scene marks the start of the climactic sequences. Including this chapter, I have sixty pages of final ebook-editing to go – nine chapters.

I should be getting on with it, shouldn’t I?  Instead, I am writing you this message. I’m keen to tell you I’m close!

Writing MonuMental

I wrote this follow up book at the request of my previous publisher, Pier 9 (an imprint of Murdoch Books) and that’s the sole reason the book exists. I love it, I’m proud of it, but without them, I wouldn’t have written it.

When the publishing house (not a small one!) folded in the second half of last year (bought out by Allen and Unwin), I was successful in regaining the publishing rights to EleMental, and so I put aside MonuMental for the time being and re-edited and re-published EleMental as my own ebook.

Months later, and I am at last almost ready to publish the follow up. I have emulated the traditional publishing process wherever I could, engaging a professional editor, an artist and a graphic designer. To do this properly, and make sure I am creating the best ebook I possibly can, is an exhausting process, and so it is good to see that I am now almost there.

I am running a chapter by chapter countdown on my website home page, and tweeting every time I move on to my final edit of the next chapter. I’m into the final countdown! And it feels great.

Stay tuned, and I will let you know when MonuMental is at last available.

***

My Amazon pages:

US

UK

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been invited to be a part of a complex blog posting chain that’s going round and round the world like an ever-thickening global spiderweb. Stay with me! It’s actually harmless fun. Basically, writers tag other writers, responding to ten questions on their websites/blogs, and use The Next Big Thing as the title. I hasten to add, I’d dearly love my current project to be the next big thing, which I guess is what the title is implying. I’m sure every writer before me has had similar thoughts. But it’s not up to me. It’s the big thing in my life right now – I can honestly say that. But that’s all I’m reasonably allowed to say.

Anyway, it’s called a meme apparently. A meme is a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition – I had to look it up. I am to begin by acknowledging my ‘pre-poster’, then answer the blessed questions (nice and quick), and finally link to four fab writers at the end. These fab four (sorry, no, not The Beatles, just fellow writers I know and I’ve successfully cajoled into being a part of this! Thanks guys) will turn in their own posts about a week later. And wonderful people everywhere will tweet and share (or not!). The idea being that you can scroll back and forth through the posts, in one enormous, complex circle of writerly togetherness. So how beautiful is that!

Right then, let me tell you about the marvelous writer who tagged me to begin with. Nicole Hayes. She has her debut young adult novel coming out in June this year through Random Penguin (don’t you just love calling them that? Random House/Penguin really should name themselves that, we’re all saying it – so half the marketing would already be done). It’s called The Whole of My World. Nicole and I first met through Varuna, Australia’s only national writer’s center. We were both lucky enough to have been awarded national mentorships.  Me, for a very early version of EleMental, and likewise Nicole, for a very early version of The Whole of My World. We both barrack for the same footy team, by the way. The Mighty Hawks. Just thought I’d add that.

Nicole Hayes doesn’t have an author website yet, but she does have a popular blog site: Melbourne Musings. Here’s her The Next Big Thing post on her blog, tagging me at the end.

The Ten Questions

OK, done that bit. Now, onto the ten questions – which I will endeavor to answer in record briefness.

1) What is the working title of your current/next book? MonuMentalWell, hey, this seems like a good opportunity to present to the world the brand new cover for my next book (left). Complete with final title. Ta da! What do you think? Isn’t it beautiful? It’s a dragonbot. It’s the the cover’s first public outing. Exclusive, guys!

To answer the question properly, the book’s called, in full: MonuMental: The Hack’s Back. (Cover artwork by Aaron Pocock.)

2) Where did the idea come from? So easy. From out of my head.

3) What genre does your book fall under? Do you know, I have always struggled with this. What the hell is young adult fiction? It can be anything – which is why it’s so great. I write for teenagers and up, up, and up – until you get to me (not sure about beyond me, is there anybody there?). And I don’t think in terms of sci-fi, fantasy, speculative blah. I just write what I love to read. Young adult fiction, if you like = all or any genres, written for all ages. Freedom.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

(I struggled with this. I’m no good with actors. But I know a few comedians.)

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? In 2050, video gaming goes wrong, horribly wrong.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Indie published, thank you very much.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft? The first draft is always quick. A year. The long, hard slog starts after that.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? My stuff has been described as Blade Runner for teenagers (Bookseller+Publisher). Nice. But I’ve more thought along the lines of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book? Nine Inch Nails, Opeth, Van Der Graaf Generator, Lord of the Rings, Halo, Bioshock, Call of Duty, all of the Lego video games, Douglas Adams, Dr Who, Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf, Star Trek (especially the one where millions of small, fluffy things take over The Starship Enterprise) … I could go on. But I won’t.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? I loved writing it. Look and you will see.

The next The Next Big Thing authors

Now, onto the next authors. Here they are, in alphabetical order …

1. Tracy R Atkins

Tracy R Atkins’ first novel, Aeternum Ray, was published a few months ago. If you’ve ever wondered what hard sci-fi is like – this is it! I posted a review of Aeternum Ray on Amazon not long ago: ‘If Plato had written sci-fi, this is what it would have looked like.’

Author website: http://tracyratkins.com

2. Tom Evans

Tom Evans describes himself as ‘a wizard of light bulb moments’. His latest books, Planes of Being and This We Know, are philosophical explorations into what it means to be human and where we might be going as a species.

You can check out his website here: www.tomevans.co

3. Althea Hayton

Althea Hayton is a  writer, counselor and teacher. She writes books focusing on such areas as ‘womb twin survivors’ (someone who lost a twin before or around birth) and food addiction.

Author website: www.wrenpublications.co.uk

4. Mary Lee

Mary Lee is a writer, illustrator, graphic designer and a mom. She lives in the Bay Area of San Francisco, where she writes children’s picture books, many featuring the adventurous Mia.  I posted an Amazon review of Mary Lee’s Surprise in the Kitchen not long ago: ‘Lots of color, lots of fun’.

Author website: www.maryleekids.blogspot.com

Remember to check out their The Next Big Thing blog posts in about a week or so. Over to them …

What can I say, producing a book is a slow business!

The cover of my MS after prof. editing - don't worry my actual won't be as plain as this!

The cover of my MS after prof. editing – don’t worry the actual book won’t be as plain as this!

MonuMentally slow

Sometimes I wonder if my own inner editor is more obstinate than the most hard-nosed New York publisher. Many writers say it’s hard to let go of your book – and I’m probably one of the worst. There’s always something else you need to do. ‘No, not yet. Just one more change!’

The final step for me these days, the creation of an ebook, presents a fabulous opportunity that no writer has experienced in the history of publishing until now. Until now, it has always been advisable to print off your final draft and work on it as a hard copy, often reading it out aloud as well, as your eyes can skip over things like missing words, but reading aloud adds another safeguard against that.

But now, with ebook publication, it is possible to view your book in exactly the state the reader will see it. It’s like seeing your baby in ultrasound. It’s fantastic. BUT! (That’s a big but, isn’t it?) It does give you one more reason not to publish just yet. It has become another layer of editing. One more reason not to publish … yet.

There are many ways to create an ebook, I do it chapter by chapter through something called Pressbooks software. Each time I add a chapter, I privately publish it and read through it as an ebook on my iPad’s kindle app. You would be amazed at the new things that jump out at you as you read. Subtle things, but, for me at least, still crucial . I did this with my previous book (EleMental). It had already been trade published, yet still more things jumped out at me. Things that I, the editor, the copyeditor, and the proofreader had all failed to spot.

So please wish me well as I work through the ebook creation of MonuMental . I am up to Chapter 6 – and I am maintaining a running tab of my progress on my home page here.

Well, back to it …

 

 

‘E-FPS’ for 99c & win a $100 Amazon card!

The Holiday Book Sale

I’m happy to let you know, EleMental: A First-person Shooter is a part of the Holiday eBook Sale.

Today’s hottest fiction ebooks are on sale for .99 from Dec 28-Dec 31 only.

Mystery, romance, young adult, sci-fi, fantasy – there’s something for everyone …

… including the chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card!

Click here to check out the Indie Book Festival’s Holiday Ebook Sale!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Xmas!

Wishing you a big, happy Christmas and an excellent 2013.

sketch4_sml

Okay, okay, this picture is rather mean-looking for Christmas. But I still love it.

His name is Gilbert and he’s a dragonbot. This is from my new book, MonuMental, and is the artist’s first go at a cover. It’s wonderful to see ideas coming to life in other ways!

Best wishes, everyone.

 

Your chance to get Tracy R Atkins’ ‘Aeternum Ray’ for free!

It’s always good to tell you about worthy promotions from fellow writers, and so I want to tell you about Tracy R Atkins’ debut novel. It’s a huge work. But one thing I must say right up front – apart from being futuristic, this is nothing like my writing. The emphasis here is on hard sci-fi.

That’s not to say it isn’t readable!  It certainly is. If you like your sci-fi hard, or if you like reading something with a difference, this is definitely worth checking out.

It’s written in the form of a futuristic memoir through the letters of someone who has gained immortality. And through this intriguing way of telling a story, Tracy R Atkins leaves no detail out. His examination of how mankind becomes immortal is thorough and his imagination is boggling. You truly can see how it’s possible, perhaps even probable, eventually.

I won’t tell you more, it’s a story best left to the reader to experience slowly, as it gradually reveals itself. In fact, for me, it’s a book for slowly discovering. I am enjoying dipping in and out of it while reading it in parallel with more traditional writing (like Hunger Games!).

If Plato had written sci-fi, this is what it would have looked like. My favorite Line: The medics had seen the same look on countless bodies over the years; the stare of eternity.

Aeternum Ray is free right now, You can get it here at Amazon, and here at Amazon UK.

And if you are reading this late – no problems! Tracy R Atkins has very kindly informed me he has four more free dates for the holiday season. So you can also find Aeternum Ray free (US times) on:

  • Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve
  • Dec. 26 – Boxing Day (why is it called Boxing Day? I prefer the more traditional St Stephen’s Day!)
  • Dec. 28
  • Dec. 30.

All that’s left for me to do is give you Tracy R Atkins’ website for those of you interested. You can find him here.

Going free (before it goes for good)

I have reached the final promotion activity for EleMental: A First-person Shooter. As you know, I have been offering my complete YA novel as four free episodes.  I will be taking down all four episodes of the YA book after this free offer. They will not be available anywhere again after that. Only the complete version will remain.

If you’ve been collecting them, this will be your last chance to make sure you have Level 4. Don’t forget they’re limited editions!

EleMental – A First-person Shooter (Level 4)

YA near future thriller about addiction to virtual reality gaming: one moment, you’re sitting at your desk, the next, you’re battling something that’s half-dinosaur, half-tank. Grab it here: Amazon or Amazon UK.

 

Also currently free: MotherCraft – A Short Story

Leaving home can be hard, leaving the planet, doubly so. Set at The Little River Spacedocks, this near-future short story is based on a much cherished scene from EleMental, removed by the editor because she didn’t feel it fitted with the rest of the story. (Grrr. But actually, I understood what she meant.)  It’s being offered free in support of EleMental – A First-person Shooter (Level 4).

Grab it here: Amazon or Amazon UK

 

 

So what’s next?

Xmas of course! And I’m now well and truly on track to publishing MonuMental, due in early January 2013. From now on, all my posts will be focused on that task. I hope all is going well in your world and you’re looking forward to Xmas as much as I am. Not long now!

 

 

 

Ideas and story making at Fitzroy Community School

The school I visited

Last Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be invited to Fitzroy Community School to talk about EleMental: A first-person Shooter. This visit has to rate as my very favorite school presentation so far. I was made feel very welcome from the outset, given a quick tour of the school and then we all settled down to an hour’s chat (with some readings from me) in the school library. Here are some of the things we talked about …

Exploring words and ideas

Writers are often asked the question: ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’. The best answer is: ‘From everywhere! The important thing is to be open to them.’

But are there some special ways? On the dedication page of her novel Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones describes how she got the idea for writing the book. A boy approached her after a school presentation and asked if she could write a book about a moving castle. That idea was a gift and she was very much open to it. Thankfully, because we now have that fabulous young adult fantasy. (Sadly, she says in the book, she put his name in such a safe place, she couldn’t find it when it came time to publish the book.)

We can’t always rely on wonderful ideas being presented to us so succinctly and directly from our audience. So another way to find interesting ideas, one that I came up with, is to think about words that interest you. Some we talked about on the day at Fitzroy Community School were droplet, sun, music and float. These are just words I quickly came up with while preparing the presentation. When I think about music, all sorts of images present themselves to me that could lead to a good story idea. So too any of those other words.

But there’s another step – and this is a truly magical one. Try putting two or three of these interesting words together. We can get things like: Floating music. Or even: Droplets of floating music. Wow! Lots of interesting images there.

When you have selected some interesting words, it’s always worth turning them into a what if sentence: What if there was a girl who floated every time she heard music? Or: What if man wrote a piece of music that made people float when they heard it? This what if sentence could act as the main idea behind your story, expressed as a question that your story will answer.

And, most importantly, as you you have selected words you’re interested in, remember to pour that interest into the story as you write. That’s the best way to ensure others will find your story interesting too.

Words I found interesting while writing EleMental: A First-person Shooter

We then looked at some of the words I found interesting and wanted to explore in my story: virtual and addiction. (I worked for years as a social worker in the addiction area, the part that most interests me is: when people keep doing something over and over too much and lose the control to stop even though its making them sick). Combining the words, I came up with the what if question: What if someone created a virtual game that was so addictive that when people played it too much they could no longer tell when they were in the real world … and when they were in a game?

I named this blurred state, gameblur. One moment, you could be sitting at your desk, the next you could be battling a creature that’s half-dinosaur, half-tank.

Pretty scary. But thankfully there’s humor in the book too!

Smaller ideas

We then talked about smaller ideas that can be related to your big idea. These smaller ideas are important as they can help you fill up your story with details. However it’s important that they don’t grow so big that your  reader starts to get confused about what is the main idea behind your story. A smaller idea in my story is how virtual games can start up and shut down. I loved finding different ways to describe those moments and they’re peppered throughout my book. I gave some readings to the school group to illustrate this smaller idea.

The photo

It all went so well, I almost forgot to take a photo until the last minute. Check it out, above, it was taken in the school library with a few of the remaining students. I forgot to get everyone’s names – but you know who you all are!

Some thank yous

A very big thank you to all I met at Fitzroy Community School for being such a great group. Thank you to Marlon (who had already read the book – both print book and ebook versions) for his informed comments to everyone (including me!) about my book. Thank you to Bridie (who happens to be my niece) and Freda for the tour of the school. Thank you to Myf, for organising it so beautifully and to Nick (the teacher) for his class help. And to everyone for their great questions during and after my presentation. I felt very welcome and I’d love to come back again sometime, if you’ll have me.

I’ve been to the puppet show and I’ve seen the strings

Isn’t that a great phrase? I spotted it in a comments box at the bottom of a blog post. The blog topic was about self-pubbing and the phrase immediately resonated with me. For I too, like the writer making the comment, have been to the puppet show and I’ve seen those strings (there are a few).  And, as far as the writing process goes, I know which strings I want to pull – to emulate the best bits of the traditional publishing process .

Thus, I feel very lucky to have engaged the highly experienced Euan Mitchell as my editor. He has undertaken the structural editing of MonuMental, my follow-up book to  EleMental: A First-person Shooter.

Euan Mitchell was the senior editor at the well-respected Reed Publishing, he is a young adult fiction author, he is a university lecturer in professional writing, he has self-published on several occasions, and he lives locally. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone more suited to my needs! (You can check out his website here – but remember to come back, OK?)

I handed over my draft MonuMental manuscript – all 72,441 words of it – to Euan Mitchell and now have a wealth of feedback from him that I am busily working through. A serious attitude to every aspect of the editing process and, later, excellent artwork for the cover, are two very important ‘strings’ that I am firmly tugging as a part of this puppet show.

I am looking forward to seeing my follow-up book sitting alongside my first on websites. But it is critical that I do not succumb to the temptation of shortcuts and publish as soon as possible – for the sake of readers if nothing else.  I have learnt from my traditional publishing  experience with my first book, and I will use that knowledge to make MonuMental the very best I can.

As I work through Euan Mitchell’s editing suggestions I will post again, and let you know all about it.

Free ebook dates

Meanwhile, here are the free dates of the last two level ebooks (levels 3 and 4) of  my first book, EleMental: A First-person Shooter. Hopefully, you have been keeping up and have downloaded the first two ebooks. (If not, they are still available from my Amazon page for a short time for 99c.) This will be your last chance to receive the third level ebook for free. Remember, the level ebooks are for a limited time only. I am taking them down mid-December.

E-FPS3

E-FPS3 will be free for one last time on Monday 19 Nov. to Tuesday 20 Nov. (This is US time, so if it’s not free when you look, check back later.)

Available from Amazon here and Available from Amazon UK here.

E-FPS3 will no longer be available anywhere after 14 December 2012.

E-FPS4

E-FPS4 will be free for the first time from Monday 19 Nov. to Wednesday 21 Nov. (This is US time, so if it’s not free when you look, check back later.)

Available from Amazon here and Available from Amazon UK here.

E-FPS4 will no longer be available anywhere after 13 December 2012.

New dates for free ebooks!

EleMental: A First-person Shooter – the free programs rolls on!

A big thank you to all those who downloaded (and read!) the Level 1 ebook of my young adult virtual reality thriller, E-FPS1. And an even bigger thank you to those who tweeted messages of appreciation, or ‘liked’ it on Amazon. It was a great success for a book that is still very new.

Well, that’s it for the Level 1 ebook. We’re moving right on to Levels 2 and 3. (But if you missed out and would still like it, see my PS below.)

And remember, come December, none of the Level ebooks will be available at all. I repeat at all. I will be taking them down from Amazon and that will be it.

Quick blast of golden trumpets, please, leading us to the dates …

E-FPS2 – Free!

In case you missed it the first time around, E-FPS2 will be free one final time from Saturday 20 to Sunday 21 October 2012. (This is US time, so if it’s not free when you look, check back later.)

E-FPS2 is Available from Amazon here and Available from Amazon UK here.

Remember: E-FPS2 will no longer be available anywhere after 13 December 2012. You’ll have a collector’s copy. Grab it now for free if you missed out last time.

E-FPS3 – Free!

E-FPS3 will be free for the first time from Saturday 20 through to Sunday 22 October 2012. (This is US time, so if it’s not free when you look, check back later.)

E-FPS3 is Available from Amazon here and Available from Amazon UK here.

And again remember: E-FPS3 will no longer be available anywhere after 14 December 2012. 

PS: Is this the first you’ve heard about the free series, EleMental: A First-person Shooter?

If so, and you’d like to jump on board and be kept up to date, you’re more than welcome to subscribe to the EleMentaList. I’m currently offering my complete novel as a free four-ebook series. We have had Level 1, and are now into Levels 2 and 3. There are four levels in all. Level 1 is still available to purchase but is no longer free. But have no fear, at 99c it’s still very cheap. Cheaper than a glass of coke! But as you know, and this is so, so important, it will no longer be available at all from early December.

E-FPS1 is Available from Amazon here and Available from Amazon UK here.

 

 

Writers are nothing without readers

Ptechnodactyl says: 'Download the ebook now. It's free!'

Ptechnodactyl says: ‘Hey, I gotta bargain! Download the ebooks now! While they’re free!’

Well, I’m into my second go at a promotion. Let’s hope I’m improving.

E-FPS1 and E-FPS2 are free right now. If you go there right now – right now! – you’ll get them free as a … as a ptechnodactyl.

You can download E-FPS1 for free on Amazon here and Amazon UK. here.

You can download E-FPS2 for free on Amazon here and Amazon UK here.

And why are they free? Because writers are nothing … nothing at all … without readers.

In this, my second go at attempting to promote my book, here are a selection of websites that are getting behind me with reviews and features:

* Book of the day – Flurries of Words (UK).

* A review on Squidoo – by fellow author, Tracy R Atkins.

* E-FPS1 and E-FPS2 features on Snicklist.

* E-FPS1 feature on Free Ebooks Daily.

Happy downloading! Happy reading! Happy, happy, happy!

When it comes to promoting my book …

Relaunch dates!

EleMental: A First-person Shooter (level 1) will be free through Amazon and Amazon UK on: Friday 5 and Saturday 6 October (US times).

EleMental: A First-person Shooter (level 2) will be free through Amazon and Amazon UK on: Friday 5, Saturday 6 October and Sunday 7 October (US times).

E-FPS1

I’m rubbish at promotion. This is not me whinging,  this is me stating a fact. And something other writers in this new world of indie ebooks must feel as well. To be a successful indie writer, you need a business management degree, you need to be a whiz at IT and you need to have the mindset of a car salesman. Oh, and it also helps if you can write. But that last one only comes later – when you have readers, and they begin to weigh you up, deciding if they would be happy to read another of your books. But you have to get to those readers first!

In truth, this is how traditional publishing houses are anyway (to varying degrees of success – my old one has just sold itself to A&U as of this week). They are businesses after all. Some staff working in publishing houses might be there for the love of books, but a business is there to make as much money as it can from its product. What an attitude! Like when I worked in hospitals in the eighties and patients were treated as daily cost figures indexed against average length of admission rates.

I’m loving the sense of control indie writing is giving me, but there’s a real down side. The expectation that you now must treat your writing as a product to be pushed on to others. If you’ve been an insurance salesman and you’re  now turning your hand to writing ebooks … well, you have a real edge.

E-FPS2

Having spent years as a health social worker, I’m finding it a big ask to suddenly turn around and start acting like I’m a Mad Man advertising executive.  I can’t do it! The number of times people have offered me money for my print edition, and I’ve just given it to them instead. Silly me. And I’m paying for my lack of experience and slack business attitude now. Take a look at any of my ebooks on Amazon and Amazon UK, and it’s hard to believe I have just finished launching the first level of my newly-republished book. The Amazon ‘likes’ are  low, I have one review (good on him, though and thank you), and I daren’t for the life of me check out those much-discussed algorithm sales figures things Amazon so obligingly provides its indie writers. The less I know the better.

It’s such a different way of doing things, this new writing game. Once, it seemed fine that someone from a welfare background also had ambitions as writer. So many of us did. But, today, does that translate to saying that I also hold ambitions to be a salesman on the Internet?

It’s about finding a balance that hopefully works, and to some degree I’m comfortable with. I haven’t found that balance yet, that’s for sure. No amount of happy tweeting and Facebooking made a heap of difference during my launch a few weeks ago. One good thing, I have joined a terrific Internet-based group known as the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and from there have received some advice from experienced indie writers who have managed to find a balance between  high quality writing and self-promotion activities. It’s different for all of us. But it’s good to hear what they have to say.

And so I am starting again. See my new dates above. I’m going to be giving away all four levels of my ebook for free at intervals, starting this weekend. Through ALLi I found out that a whole new industry of free ebook promotion websites has sprung up. The irony is, many won’t agree to promote your book unless you have five, 10 or more Amazon reviews and you’re averaging four to five stars. How am I supposed to get Amazon reviews without their promotion help? (Certainly I won’t be hounding family and friends for reviews, that’s not cool.) It reminds me of the old catch 22 in traditional publishing, where a publisher will only look at manuscripts from agents, and agents will not consider representing you unless you are already published.

I’ve trawled through the many websites and have approached sixteen that look possible. Fingers crossed they’ll include my book in their promotions this weekend.

I’m proud of EleMental: A First-person Shooter. It reviewed well when it came out as a traditional print book (including Book List). And, through this indie ebook phenomenon, I’m rapt that I’ve had the opportunity to give it a makeover (and bring back some of my old ideas, like the title,  that the publisher did not want). I believe in my book. I’m standing by it. Here’s to a better promotion second time around. And to finding a balance I’m happy with.

Back from Bali, Back to writing

The memorial for those who died in the first of the terrible Bali bombings.

I am back from my family holiday and am working hard to re-establish my writing rhythm. Family holidays are important, and this last one especially so as it’s likely to be the last with the whole family – my son and daughter are getting older!

As a writer, you’re never too far away from thoughts about your writing projects. I may have spent some time sitting on a banana lounge by a pool, but let me reassure you I was still very much engaged in chapter revising on my iPad.

And I also read my very first ebook novel. A copy of Hunger Games a friend gave me. Easy reading! But I was amazed at the number of typos. It was like an un-proofed copy. Perhaps it was? My daughter owns the print version and the typos weren’t there. So what’s that all about?

I also read about half of Catherine Ryan Howard’s ebook The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated: Caffeine-Infused Self-Publishing Advice (available here). Catherine Howard is an indie writer who very much wishes she was a traditionally-published writer. She’s from Cork, Ireland (where they say Cark  for Cork). As my parents and my eldest two siblings are all born in Ireland, I feel a sense of connection in a number of ways.

I recently began following her blog for her self-publishing advice and this ebook is essentially a collection of her website posts over the last few years on indie-publishing. It’s marvelous, honest stuff, full of big-picture as well as micro advice, and is engagingly written and super generous. I happily downloaded it as a part of her free launch back in May, but it’s well worth the tiny price tag attached to it, if you’re after self-pub advice.

Catherine Howard lays out her posts as chapters and you can easily dip into them in any order that takes your fancy, or follow through chronologically, as I am doing, as it gives more of a sense of story.

Her passion to be traditionally published is her life’s ambition (well a prominent one, she has a number) and the irony that she is not, and yet clearly can write, makes for an intriguing subtext. One can’t help wonder along with her why she isn’t (as she does dwell on it a few times). She feels – largely based on publishing house feedback – maybe it’s because her non-fiction writing is ‘too niche’. Certainly, travel writing doesn’t appeal to me (perhaps because I want to go there and do that too, but can’t!). Yet it’s interesting to see how many travel writers there are in the global indie writing community. It’s clearly popular.

The view from my window in Ubud, Bali. I kid you not.

Well, enough about Irish Catherine – this has turned into an unintentional review!  I’m confident she will achieve her ambition one day – all she needs is staying power, like the rest of us. But now you know a little about my Bali holiday. Not really. But you know about what I was reading by the pool and on the plane home, crammed in with everybody else (watching Hunger Games on airline iPads).Meanwhile, I am very happy to be back at my desk and ready to throw myself wholeheartedly into promoting EleMental: A First-person Shooter and preparing its follow up.

PS: Having spent some time on Catherine Ryan Howard, I should also link you to her website here, if you are interested in checking out more about what she has to offer.

The Man from Uncle doesn’t want my book

Matt Handbury is Rupert Murdoch’s nephew and the owner of Murdoch Books. He’s known as ‘The Man from Uncle’. I have received two emails from him in recent months. All right, I’m not that important – they were group emails.  The first included a press statement and it went out to all of the ‘MB family’ from the publishing house CEO. (Murdoch Books originally published my book EleMental: A First-person Shooter, through their imprint Pier 9.)

Matt Handbury’s words made for very interesting reading, and it was rather sad in parts: ‘Many staff will lose their jobs …’

They (Matt really, I guess) were planning to cut right back to their core business of stylish books about food and lifestyle. Gone, any idea of publishing more young adult novels like mine!

A lot has changed in the world of publishing books. Once upon a time emerging authors such as myself, finally landing a publishing deal, would receive support to help them gain a foothold. To sum up the world now, I give you another quote from Matt Handbury’s press release. They’re dramatic words:

‘While digital publishing is still a fledgling business in Australia, overseas trends tell us that a tsunami of change is coming our way, as it did the music industry. Certainly the online sale of physical books has already had a devastating effect on Australian bookstore and other retail sales. … Clearly the old model will not suffice into the future. … While there is clearly sadness and pain in letting go of so much and so many people integral to the old way of doing business, not to act now would be to ignore the alternative end result.’

And then I received a second email a few months later. It was blunt. They are entering into merger negotiations with A&U. I guess the cutbacks, though clearly drastic, still weren’t enough.

 

MotherCraft – A short story

MotherCraft – A short story, is leading my charge into indie publishing. It’s available on Amazon here and Amazon UK here. I’m very happy with how it looks.

The tagline: Leaving at any time can be painful. Leaving the planet, doubly so.

My plan was to give it away for free. This in no way means it’s not worth much! I have given to MotherCraft the same rigor I give to all of my writing and the story went down very well with my test readers. However, as it turns out, one is required to put a price tag on ebooks on Amazon. Did you know that? Learning all the time! The lowest price option is 99c. As my wife says, cheaper than a lolly snake!

MotherCraft began life as a deleted scene from my first traditionally-published novel, EleMental–A First-person Shooter (or E-FPS).  If you have read that book, this story describes in greater detail Zeb’s father’s departure from Earth. Obviously, you don’t have to have read E-FPS to enjoy or understand MotherCraft, it stands by itself.

When I was young, my own father often left us for months at a time, working overseas. Some of the feelings I had at the times of his departure have informed this story.

Also included is a sample chapter - ‘The Age of The Pigs’ – from my forthcoming novel MonuMental. The chapter describes a virtual game of the near future.

Happy reading!

PS: here‘s where it is again. And in the UK here.

US Tax Piggy and me

US Tax Piggy (I’m off camera)

This week I learnt that the Australian treaty with the US is not as good as the UK’s, Canada’s or Ireland’s. And no doubt not as good as treaties held by a whole bunch of other countries! If you’re an Australian citizen, like me, the best you can hope for when publishing and selling in the US as a ‘foreign entity’ (actually, I quite like that term, spooky and MiB) is a five per cent US tax on your earnings. Everybody else seems to be getting zero per cent. Confounded curses! These are the kind of not-so-exciting things one learns on the road to indie-publishing.

(What the hell’s that to do with a piggy? Well, to tell you the truth, not much. But isn’t it a great picture?)

I shouldn’t grumble. Things could be a whole lot worse. If you don’t take on the US tax system at all, in all their fine red tapery, the US government will swoop in (like a flying pig) and slap you with a much higher tax rate – 30 per cent!

But the marvellous support offered between indie writers the world over has kicked in and saved the day – at least as far as the horrific 30 per cent is concerned. (They haven’t been able to do anything about Australia’s less-than-great treaty.) If, like me, you’ve been fretting about the US tax system (sad I know), then fret no more. Or at least, fret a little less. For there is much useful advice to be had from David Gaughran’s guest post on Catherine Howard’s website. David Gaughran and Catherine Howard are two Irish Indie writers who have been there, done that, and I’m following their instructions to the letter.

And so far, so good.

For there I was, midnight thye other night, after carefully taking in David Gaughran’s advice, on a call-wait to the infamous IRS (Internal Revenue Service) in Philadelphia, to obtain my Employee Identification Number or EIN as they so catchily call it. I had to sit through roughly thirty minutes of muzak interspersed with a recorded voice informing me of what I already knew extremely well, that I was still waiting. (I so hope my Optus landline contract includes free, or at least cheaper, international calls. Mustn’t tell my wife.)

When I finally got through, it took less than three minutes. The IRS lady on the other end spoke to me in a tone that was a mixture of impatience and boredom, asking me questions that were laced with mystifying business terms. To me anyway. I did my best to answer with a pretence of confidence. But then, wonder of wonders, suddenly she said, ‘Do you have a pen ready?’

And she gave me my very own US tax file number.

This is something that I know from other bloggers can take months and months to obtain via other routes. It’s almost worth tattooing on my forearm. (Nah, not really.)

The next step in the journey of this ‘foreign entity’ toward indie-publishing is a fight with a pernickety-looking tax form known as a w8-BEN. Which, in my head, I must stop pronouncing as ‘Wait Ben’. I promise I won’t write a whole blog post about it.

One of my favourite books on writing

 

If you love writing like I do, then you’ll also love reading about writing. Surely? If I spot a book about the craft of writing in a bookshop, I can’t help myself, I have to buy it. I guess I feel about writing as I do about life. There is always something more I can learn. And as I do, I feel I’m growing as a person.

And in this post, I want to tell you about one of my favorites, an eighties book on writing with the intriguing title Writing Down the Bones. It’s by Natalie Goldberg.

Her book is both about both the craft of writing and the craft of living.  I have read other books that blend the themes know yourself with know how to write, but few, to my mind, succeed to the degree Goldberg has. She manages to perfectly balance a Zen-like reflective tone with hard-nosed advice on honing one’s writing skills, exploring the art of the creative writing process and identifying many important signs that might help others travelling a similar road.

She even has her very own Zen master – and she quotes his advice to her in the introduction: ‘Why do you come to sit meditation? Why don’t you make writing your practice? If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.’

Throughout her book, you can easily see Goldberg has taken her Zen Master’s advice. Her book has a loose structure that permits you the reader to enter at any point, and find yourself anywhere. Everyplace. You can browse through her pages, reflecting, and treat her book like Lao Tse’s Tao De Ching (or pretty much anything by the Dalai Lama).

I read her short chapters (they average two pages and are interestingly titled – ‘Don’t Marry the Fly’ is my favorite) in an order more borne out of whim than anything.  And I found her many thoughtful messages – many feel more like that than hard-and-fast lessons or rules – apply no matter the context of your life.

But what’s with the book title? She does explain. ‘When I teach in class,’ she says, ‘I want the students to be “writing down the bones”, the essential.’ That’s the essence of a Zen approach, I understand: cutting back and searching for the essential, finding what is important. You can feel she’s doing just that in her elegant prose, and in the overall simplicity of the book itself.

She is also a fan of writing in cafes, often with a fellow writing friend. Something I can relate to.

Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (a book once very cool to own and carry about in your bag, some people even read bits of it), praises her book and likens her style to a Zen archer ‘who looks like he’s not even aiming, yet sends arrow after arrow to the bull’s-eye time after time.’ I agree.

 

Not writing, reading

A character trying to get the reader’s attention

Sometimes one should allow oneself to take a break from one’s writing projects. That can be frowned upon in some quarters. A writer who isn’t writing isn’t a writer.

Tosh.

I guess if I never returned …

But, if I’m anything to go by, even away from writing (to enjoy more time with wife and family, for example) most writers’ minds are not far from their projects. Their most recent ones or ones in the wings.  I am looking forward to returning to my latest, hoping to find I still like my sentences and ideas. (So a little fearful too.)

But in the mean time I am reading. Often I like to read about writing, but at the moment I appear to be having a break from that too. Instead, I am reading a brick of a tome about the building of a cathedral in 12th century England. It’s Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. This historical drama is also a mini-series, which I’m looking forward to viewing one day ­­– but not until I’m through the book. It’s 1076 pages and I am a slow reader.

According to Jennifer Byrne, ABC presenter, Follett’s Pillars is one of the most successful international bestsellers of all time. It was sixteen weeks on the New York Times’ Bestseller List, number one in Canada, Great Britain and Italy, and, to top it all off, in Germany it was voted the third greatest book ever written.

Oh wow, who wouldn’t want to read it? Even if it equals the size of a cathedral corner stone.

The thing I am most enjoying about Follett’s writing, and why I believe his book is so popular (and no doubt his others), is his knack of seizing upon a marvellous action sequence and wringing it for all it’s worth. For example, the other day I read an engrossing scene where a bishop and some devious characters arrive at the monastery, ready to spoil the start of the cathedral building – only to have the tables turned on them. Does that sound boring? I reckon it does. Well, I’m telling you, it wasn’t. Why not? Well-paced action and good tension.

And now I’m reading about the engagement in battle of two evenly matched armies. Follett springs between two points of view, giving us close-ups from one character in the thick of the clash, and long shots from a priest watching from the cathedral roof. Do you know, this is probably my favorite scene of the whole book.

All writers reading books also have an analytical eye open. How could they not? For me, it doesn’t spoil the reading, it’s just another dimension. I am constantly looking out for what I can learn, what I can apply to my own writing. And I notice things I might do differently.

There are two such things in Pillars.

Ken Follett at times likes to communicate details several times over and in various ways, as if to make certain the reader will get it. I will never forget Mark Macleod, my mentor during a residency at Varuna Writers’ House, waving a page of my manuscript in my face and telling me: ‘Steven, it’s all right, we get it!’

To be honest, it’s one of the things I find most challenging about story writing: gauging when a reader gets it. Especially if the story idea or scene sequence is complex. It was very useful to have Mark point that out to me. Reassure me when I could stop. Now, once I’ve said something, I do my best to get out and not repeat it elsewhere, unless it’s for thematic deepening. If a reader misses an important point, that’s just how it is.

The second thing Ken Follett does that I know I would do differently, is include so much research. Perhaps this is a trait of historical dramas? Perhaps readers expect this genre to include highly specific details, for example on cathedral architecture, for a sense of accuracy and authenticity. I read little of this genre to know.  I do love including detail in my own story writing, especially for visual colour, but I also love the movement of a story. And, as a reader, there is a point I reach in reading research-based information where I begin to feel disengaged from the story.

We’re all different.

Overall, as a writer, when I read I become restless. Reading fills me with excitement and anticipation for when I return to my own writing projects. But for now I will keep that in check and return to Follett’s drama about the building of a cathedral a long time ago in Kingsbridge, England.

Writing and The Guardian

Steven O'Connor looks at The Guardian on Writing

Not everyone will have cottoned onto the wonderful writing series recently published across about ten days in UK’s The Guardian.

It was a little while ago now, but is still well worth checking out. It kicked off  with Geoff Dyer (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi , 2009) on freedom. In it he quotes the controversial words of the playwright David Hare: ‘The two most depressing words in the English language are ‘literary fiction’”. Dyer himself goes on to say literary fiction isn’t a standard to be aspired to – and likens it to a comfy old sofa writers and readers can collapse into.

The rest of the series covers authors on such topics as point of viewdialoguesuspenseplot and that all important thing … redrafting.

 

Reading about writing

It is constantly recommended that, if you want to be on top of your writing you must read. I find it quite extraordinary that this obvious truth needs to be stated at all – let alone so often repeated as essential advice for those of us with writing ambitions – but it’s true! Examine advice from any great writer, and pretty soon you’ll come across this so-important advice. Want to be a writer? Then read, read, read. Only if you happen to be Madonna can you afford not to bother reading. And if you can’t be bothered reading, really, you have no right to write.

And then, on top of it all, remember also to read about writing.

So why not get stuck into these great articles? I recommend starting with Dyer’s article and working your way through by following The Guardian’s links on the right side column.

Here’s the link to Dyer’s article: The Guardian: How to write fiction.

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About Steven O’Connor

I’m currently working hard to get complete my second novel, A  young adult near-future thriller about virtual reality video games.

My Amazon pages:

US

UK