Shelfies

11 Cardiff Castle library

I have some shelfies to share with you from the UK.

While viewing on the internet the place of my forthcoming writers’ retreat — a mere few days away — I was struck by the bookshelves in the manor displayed in the background of one photo. I found myself wondering what could be in them. Possibly they will be filled with ‘stuffy books’, things put there more for their dignified appearance than their content, but we shall see.

Meanwhile, here are a few shelfies I’ve taken as I make way way about the UK. (Taking ‘shelfies’, by the way, according to a librarian relative of mine — is quite the thing with the librarian set. And here I was, thinking it was just me.)

London secondhand bookshop

Shelfie No.1: From a London secondhand bookshop

This first one is a shelfie through the window of a secondhand bookshop (Quinto Bookshop) near Covent Garden, London. They’re rather rare books, hence the protective coverings. ‘The Horrid mysteries’ — love that name. It could be worth a flick through. And the first book, a sci-fi with 50s-looking spaceships on its cover is selling for 75 pounds (US$116.00). It’s by EE ‘Doc’ Smith and was first published in 1948 (though written for the Amazing Stories magazine in 1934).

A tower of  British books

Shelfie No. 2: A tower of British books, British Library

This next one is from the British Library. Books preserved behind glass. Never to be read. Well, who would dare ask one of the librarians to fetch you one to thumb through? ‘That  one near the top, on the right, please. Many thanks.’

From Chapter Arts Centre,  Cardiff

Shelfie No. 3: From Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales

Here’s a much simpler shelfie, from a vibrant local arts centre in Cardiff. An interesting selection of reading. I’m guessing people leave them for others to collect. The Good Beer Guide — very Cardiff, I’m told. I’ll let you look at the others for yourself.

From an artist's house in an inner suburb of Cardiff.

Shelfie No. 4: From an artist’s house in an inner suburb of Cardiff

Look at how neat and exact this is! It is in the room I am sitting in as I type this. It is so perfect, she has paid a lot of attention to visual presentation. There is another shelf beneath, where the books taper down. Here it is…

Another from the artist's house in Cardiff

Shelfie No. 5: Another from the artist’s house in Cardiff

It’s like installation art!

This next isn’t really a shelfie at all, and it is a little disturbing…

From Torre Coffee, Cardiff

Shelfie No. 6 (but not really a shelfie at all): From Torre Coffee, Cardiff

This is wallpaper. It’s from a cafe opposite the castle in Cardiff. The coffee was good, thankfully, and they had some nice pictures hanging elsewhere in the cafe. But this looks dead. If, for thousands of years, elderly Italian monks piled up the bones of their dead monk ancestors in a deep chamber of their monastery, it would look more jolly than this.

And so finally I end on a high note, bookshelves featured in a Dr Who episode, no less…

From the library at Cardiff Castle.

Shelfie No.7: From the library at Cardiff Castle.

There is a lot of Dr Who about Cardiff. BBC Wales produced Torchwood, the spin-off series situated in Cardiff, and a number of Dr Who episodes themselves, including, Journey to the Centre of the Tardis were filmed there. Plus, they have a big Dr Who Experience exhibition down by the bay. These very shelves feature in the background in Journey to the Centre of the Tardis. Exciting indeed.

I leave you with a close up of some of the shelves, the Dr Who director left the same books in when they filmed the episode…

From the library at Cardiff Castle

A closer look, from the library at Cardiff Castle

 

What on Earth is the ‘StokeyLitFest’?

Stoke newington BusThe Stoke Newington Literary Festival, or as it’s more affectionately known, the StokeyLitFest, is quite possibly the coolest lit fest on the planet. And it’s getting bigger year by year. If you live in London, you’ve probably heard of it. But living Down Under, I hadn’t — until this big UK trip of mine.

It’s a short bus ride for me from my mind-boggingly ‘compact’ accommodation near King’s Cross Railway Station. I arrived in London a few days ago, and the Festival is my first, full-on writing event. It’s where I’ve been spending my day today. It’s a two-day festival, in its sixth year, and here’s what I chose to see…

Tracy Thorn

Tracey Thorn

Tracey Thorn

The wonderful Tracey Thorn, from Everything But the Girl fame, was a special highlight of the day. She was at the festival to promote her second memoir, Naked at the Albert Hall. Amongst many things, she talked in detail about her very real stage fright, leading her to make the decision not to perform live as a singer again.

She also recounted many funny anecdotes, such as the challenge — as a well known and highly regarded singer — of singing ‘Wheels on the bus’ in play groups. Would she somehow be expected to perform the song far better than the other parents? Should she try to? Or maybe she should be doing the opposite?

She also talked about her love of the X-Factor TV show, to everyone’s surprise!

Mark Ellen (Q mag, NME, Live Aid…)

Mark Ellen (right)

Mark Ellen (right) with Danny Kelly

Mark Ellen was at the festival to talk about his very exciting-looking book (well, to me), called Rock Stars Stole My Life! It’s all about his experiences working for some of the greatest UK music publications Q, NME and many others, and commentating for Live AID (which I watched the telecast of from start to finish on the other side of the world, while living in Canberra, Australia).

Both Mark and Danny spoke at breathless speed, trying to fit in as many of their amazing experiences as they could. It was both overwhelming and mind-blowing. My favourite quote: ‘But it wasn’t all laughs and drugs and stuff,’ — when talking about the screaming matches that could occur between different music staff.

While I attended numerous other sessions, I’ll tell you about one more, because — in truth, I only have the energy to tell you about one more (I’m keen to head off to bed!)…

Richard King

Richard King (left)

Richard King (left)

Richard King worked for years in Bristol’s notoriously ‘independent’ record store Revolver, and has written about his experiences in Original Rockers, especially about the store’s aloof manager who refused to sell customers records by bands he didn’t approve of, even if the store stocked them. Or, the reverse, treating his customers with great disdain for their lack of good taste and refusing to sell them albums by the likes of Tim Buckley if he didn’t believe the customer looked worthy enough. Classic independent record shop stuff taken to its absolute level.

As you can see, I chose to attend rather a lot of music-related events. Such is the person I am. I leave you with two more pictures from the day…

Tracey Thorn again (and why not?)

Mark Ellen and me

You can check out the festival’s website here.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve signed up for a writers’ retreat in Shropshire, UK

Arvon 2

Shropshire, in case you didn’t know — I didn’t! — is between Cardiff and Manchester, in the UK. You have to catch a train that leaves from either of those places to get there. And now, amongst my growing list of writerly things to do in the UK, I’ve signed up for a week-long writers’ retreat in an out-of-the-way manor located somewhere in the ‘rolling hills’ of Shropshire. No mobile phone signal. No Internet. No social media. (Oh, what?)

The manor, called The Hurst, once belonged to British playwright John Osborne. Mr John Osborne’s most famous play is Look Back in Anger. In fact, the term angry young man was coined to describe him. Look Back in Anger was also a highly successful film from the late 50s, starring the wonderful Richard Burton. LBiA 1

Of course, John Osborne won’t be there to greet me when I arrive and to help bring in my bags. (He died in 1994.) But I will be in his old home with a group of fellow enthusiastic writers for a week.

So what do writers do on writers’ retreats? (I hear you ask.) Well, write a lot, obviously. (At least, I hope that will be true.) But I’ve selected to go to one of their retreats that isn’t totally heads-down and write, write, write. We’ll be talking about writing too! There will be morning group sessions conducted by established authors, and one-on-one sessions throughout the week.

I believe every writer can benefit from a retreat, no matter your level of experience, and I’m just as much looking forward to learning new things from my fellow emerging writers as I am from the well-established writers. Like any creative art form, you never stop learning, and from all directions.

An angry young man

An angry young man

The retreat’s afternoons will generally be given over to one’s own writing, back in the privacy of your own room. I plan to focus that time on Beneath the Surface (the complete draft of which, by the way, is still currently on Wattpad).

It’s only the evenings I’m less keen on. There will be cooking teams for the dinners, with everyone taking turns. Oh dear, cooking isn’t really my thing. Not sure how I’ll fare there.

So let’s quickly get back to the writing. The Arvon Foundation run the retreats and courses at The Hurst. (They also have locations in West Yorkshire and Devon. Arts Council England support them.) The established authors at my retreat will be:

  • Mavis Cheek

Pause Between Acts

Mavis Cheek is the author of 15 novels. Pause Between Acts won the She/John Menzies First Novel Prize. More about Mavis Cheek here.

  • Stephen May

Wake Up Happy

Stephen May has written three books including Life! Death! Prizes! which was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award. His latest novel is Wake Up Happy Every Day. More about Stephen May here.

  • Selma Dabbagh

Out of ItSelma Dabbagh is a British-Palestinian writer who gained fame in 2011 with Out of It, an acclaimed novel centred on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. More about Selma Dabbagh here.

I have read none of the author’s books, I must confess, and will need to get cracking and download at least one thing from each of them before I head off. One more task to add to my still-long Going Away To Do List.

I’m not sure yet if the above authors will be living-in with the rest of us (if so, they’d better be in a cooking team!), but I expect so. The Hurst manor looks to be quite a big place with plenty of room for us all. Here’s a little something I found in The Shropshire Star about the restoration of the 200-year-old Georgian manor in readiness for its new role as a writers’ retreat.

I couldn’t find any pre-restoration shots, but here’s how it looks now…

The Hurst

Arvon 3

Arvon 1

Lounge at The Hurst

Do you like checking out other people’s bookshelves? I couldn’t help but notice those shelves in the above pic. Tidy! They put mine to shame. Checking out other people’s shelves can be rather revealing sometimes. What’s in those two, I wonder? Just John Osborne’s stuff? I’ll have a look when I get there, and let you know. Other people’s bookshelves can be little glimpses into their worlds.

Here’s a bookshelf from my home. (Plus dog.) Not quite so tidy, I’m afraid.

Sparks, defending some of my books -small

Here’s a slightly tidier one, I’m happy to say. Yep, that’s 45s and LPs on the lower shelves. (I like to check out other people’s record collections too. That’s just a bit of mine.)

Bookshelf (small)

And one more. A random bookshelf from my place of work…

Work shelf

Pretty tidy again, perhaps it’s a corporate thing. Not even a stray book chucked on top. And what’s with that book Insults?

I have significantly drifted from my main topic about writer’s retreats. I promise I will tell you more about the retreat once I get there (or afterwards, really, given it’s in a blank zone, phone signal and internet-wise).

If all goes well, my next post will be from London. I’m flying out from Down Under next week and will be in a position to speak first-hand about writerly things in the land Up Over, as I encounter them.

The Melbourne Writers’ Social Group

Sunset on the first night I attended the writers' group

I took this photo a few weeks ago with my iphone, on one of the nights I attended the writers’ group

I head off on my big UK writing journey in a few weeks (nervous eek) and I hope to tell you a bit about the various writerly events I manage to get to, whenever I get the chance. But before I go, I thought I might tell you a little about a writer’s group that regularly meets in my hometown of Melbourne — the Melbourne Writers’ Social Group. Good name, eh? I mean, I especially like the ‘social’ in it.

I mentioned this group in my last post (I took the sunset pic at that time — the group before last).

The group meets fortnightly on a Tuesday at the Wharf Hotel, which is down by the Yarra River, and it’s free to join. (The Wharf Hotel is in the darkness on the very right of that above sunset pic.) It’s easy to join too: simply log into Meetup (or sign up to it, if you haven’t already), and ask to join. Once you’re accepted, do an RSVP for the next group you would like to get along to, and once you’re actually there, participate at whatever level you would like. (See you there!) Here’s the group’s main Meetup link.

Wharf Hotel

Wharf Hotel (sort of sandwiched in there)

The Melbourne Writers’ Social Group is a busy group with a variety of events for you to choose from (or go to the lot, if you want, and have the energy). The group is co-hosted by Geoff Stuart and Mat Clarke, two guys who are clearly in it to support good writing in ol’ Melbourne town.

The group has what they call The Flagship Event (perhaps it began here, back in 2009?), which is the Tuesday evening social gathering where readings are shared and informal feedback is given — more on the flagship event here. It’s the thing that I’ve been getting along to. We had a great turn up last week — 16 all up by my reckoning. As Autumn is truly upon us, we met indoors for the first time this year.

Philip - long-time group member

Philip, long-time group member

They also have the Writing Time group, where writers spend time quietly writing together, and then chat about what they’ve been working on afterwards. I’ve yet to get along, but it sounds great. Apparently the table is wobbly but the cheesecake makes up for it. They meet at the Cafe Giraffe — it’s worth getting along just for that name! This group used to be their NaNoWriMo group, for those in the know about that. More on it here.

They also have a public Facebook page here. Plus two closed Facebook groups, which you can join once you become a member and start participating. One of these closed groups is for critiquing written work (treading carefully on each other’s dreams, naturally).

I think that’s it? Oh, they also organise the odd one-off event, perhaps based around one member’s activity or a guest speaker opportunity. I told you they were busy!

So, if you’re a Melbourne-based writer — here’s a group to think about. But if you live in New York, Bangkok or Mykonos, well, it’s still interesting to hear how writers can support each other in different places. And perhaps there are some ideas here that you might like to try out in your own neck of the woods.

But — you know what? — in the end what really makes a writers’ group worthwhile is the writer membership. And so I will close this post by introducing you to a few excellent members from last week’s Tuesday meetup…

Billy

Billy

Billy read to us from his — to put it in his words — ‘memoirs of his misspent youth’.

Kelvin

Kelvin

Kelvin read from his published epic sci-fi. He is currently working on his second sci-fi novel.

Geoff Stuart

Geoff Stuart

Geoff Stuart is a co-host of the group (along with Mat Clarke who couldn’t make it last week). He read a short piece. He is currently working on a speculative fiction novel and a series of short stories in the ‘drama’ genre.

Andrew

Andrew

Andrew is currently working on a sci-fi musical, along the lines of Jeff Wayne’s exciting musical rendering of HG Well’s War of the Worlds, but in the metal genre. Sounds very cool.

Nick

Nick

Nick recently spent a month in Paris and read from his journal notes about that time, focussing on his hilarious airbnb accommodation experiences (names changed to protect the innocent).

Christie

Christie

Christie is writing a sequel to her published Red Dirt Road (which comes with an album of songs). The follow-up is a love story inspired by her experiences as a musician. (Doesn’t the picture look like a polaroid? Looks great.)

Ivan

Noel Anderson

Noel Anderson was the first to read on the night. He spoke eloquently about his new play and read from the script. The play is called Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame: In the Raw and is currently on at the Jewish Museum of Australia. Here’s a link if you’d like to find out more.

With so many great participants, I didn’t get to read at all. But it was terrific to hear about the projects of others and to contribute feedback on works in progress. And there’s always next time.

(I think my iPhone pics have turned out quite nicely, don’t you think? All personal pics used with permission — but just weigh in by clicking on ‘Leave a reply’ below, if one of them is of you, and you’ve all-of-a-sudden changed your mind now that you’ve seen it.)

Giraffe cafe

Meeting up … Down Under and Up Over

My plans to immerse myself in the ‘the life I never lived’ — as I’ve come to think of it — are progressing very nicely. I’ve bought my ticket for the long journey on the A380 airbus. I’m officially leaving Down Under and going … Up Over (sorry!) at the end of May. 

I’ve already joined three London-based writing groups, signed up for a week-long writers’ retreat in Shropshire (I love saying that … Shropshire), and badgered (more than once) a literary festival in Stoke Newington about their ongoingly imminent program.

And today, I thought I might tell you a bit about the writing groups.

MeetUp logo To start of with, have you heard of Meetup? It’s an absolutely buzzing website, it almost sparks off the screen at you. Basically, it’s is a social media platform through which you can seek out groups of like-minded people anywhere in the world.

I found the London Literary Cafe, Write Together and the London ALLI Meetup group. (ALLI stands for Alliance of Independent Authors. It was nice to see that the London-based members of this important online group of indie writers catch up face to face.)

I found heaps of other groups too, but these are the ones I’ve joined and I’ll let you know about each of them in more detail when I actually get along to them. (Pictures and all, if the members will let me!)

Two other groups I joined are ‘London for Less’ and ‘London for Less than a Tenner’. Ha! I’ll let you know if I actually get along to any of their stuff. They both seem to get along to a lot of plays, musicals and comedy shows — and if you’re to go by the photos, they appear to have a very jolly time.

And while I was on the hunt for London-based groups, I suddenly thought, I wonder if there are any people using Meetup back here in my hometown? I was amazed! There are thousands of Melbourne groups on Meetup. Possibly more than London. Some fantastic-looking groups, and about all manner of things. I won’t tell you what’s there. Way too many. Have a look for yourself, if you’re interested. See what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Here’s the link (but if you go, don’t forget to come back!).

Warf Hotel reducedI’ve been along to two groups already. I especially enjoyed The Melbourne Writers’ Social Group who meet at The Warf Hotel on the Yarra River (in Melbourne, obviously). The group turned out to be just the way they sound: a laid back, welcoming bunch of writers (and interested others), who sit around with a beer or wine and chat about writing. (Me included, now.) A number of us read out short excerpts of our stuff and I was very appreciative of the quick and useful feedback I received from around the table. Their Meetup page is here, if you’re curious.

Now that I’ve made a song and dance about it, maybe have a look at Meetup and check out what’s going on in your own area? You’ll need to register (free, of course) if you want to join anything.

Meanwhile, because I like any opportunity to stick pictures into posts that I write, I’ll sign off with this pic of the tree in my front garden. (What the hell, why not?) Do you recall it from my previous post? This is how it looks right now, in Autumn, in Melbourne. They don’t call the tree Sunburst for nothing…

Tree1 reduced

Sampling the life I never had

I’m off to England for the summer. Their summer, that is. During Australia’s winter.

Let me give you a little bit of a background as to why this is such a big thing for me. My family migrated from England to Australia  over 40 years ago. And in that time I have been back once. Once! And briefly at that! And that was twenty-seven years ago. I think it’s safe to say I don’t really know a lot about the country of my birth and childhood. I listen to a heap of UK bands. I’ve watched MANY UK shows, everything from New Tricks and Downton Abbey to the oh-so-wonderful shows such as Scott and Bailey, Broadchurch and Last Tango in Halifax. But firsthand, I’ve only old memories, like a book I once read.

Aust-Eur mapSo I’m packing my bags and covering the vast distance from Melbourne to London, going back for a decent visit.

I want to sample the life I never had. Leastways, that’s how I’ve come to think of it. Over the years, I’ve often wondered what my life would have been like had my family not uprooted us — family of five, me the second youngest and with no real idea — and whisked us all to the other side of the planet.

What would the ‘other me’ have been like? The one that never left? OK, only I might be interested in the answer to that, but it has bugged me for years. There are three things I want to do in the UK, because I’m pretty sure the other me would have done something like them…

1. I want to immerse myself in writing in the UK. The other me would have been into writing — my love of writing predates my trek to this enormous country weighing down the other side of the planet. Probably from the time my teacher at junior school read The Hobbit to us at the start of school everyday. Marvellous, that was.

Heron LP2. I want to immerse myself in UK music. The other me would most certainly have been into UK music in a big way (punk and new wave, no doubt). Before we migrated, I thrashed to death After the Goldrush and Abbey Road as soon as they came out. And an especially wonderful record by a band few remember anymore called Heron. I’m talking, like, when I was nine or 10.

3. I want to live in London. The other me would have lived in London, of this I’m sure! My family migrated to one of Australia’s smaller cities, Geelong. As soon as I could, I moved to the more cosmopolitan Melbourne.

So, come UK summer, I will relocate to London (and explore beyond, as much as I can afford to), where I will hopefully meet the kind of people that might have been my friends, had I never left. And walk the streets and visit the kinds of places I might have frequented…

In the meantime, it feels appropriate to finish up this blog post by telling you a little bit about where I am right now. The life I do have.

I’ll do it in pictures. Why not! My hope is to give you many more picaroonies from the other side of the planet, when I at last set out in May.

Here’s the front of my house. A 1932 (erh, I think) Californian bungalow. These houses are very popular in Australia and affectionately referred to as cal-bungs. Mine (mine and Gina’s really, my wife) is behind that big tree, a gleditsia triacanthos – isn’t it great that I actually know its botanical name? My daughter spent much of her childhood in that tree.

Front of my house (comp)

Here’s the back of my house. Just what you always wanted to see. Now you can. The picture includes the staunch defender of the house — Sparks the Incredible.

Back, with Sparks (comp)

Here’s the incredible canine house alarm in action.

And while I’m about it — what the hell — here’s where I work (doing social work stuff). At the top of town.

St Andrew's Square

Actually, the building I’m in is slightly to the right, diagonally behind those palm trees…

St As Place1

Here’s the old tram stop from which I used to catch trams into the main part of town. The stop is still there, but now we have brand-spanking new tram stops more akin to railway station platforms, smack bang in the middle of the road, where some cars and bikes forget to stop.

Tram shelter

And here’s a snap of my favourite building in Melb. Not far down the road from where I work. I couldn’t resist chucking it into this post. It’s quite something, isn’t it?

Manchester Unity Building

OK. I’d better sign off before I drive you mad with more random pictures (and dog barking videos) from my life.

I will be back to keep you posted about my UK writing and music plans as they progress. (Excitement everybody!)

Flying high on Wattpad

wattpad-reviewWattpad, the social media site for readers and writers, began featuring Beneath the Surface on Wednesday, 7 January and a week later Beneath the Surface reached eighth position in Wattpad’s top 1,000 of their Fantasy chart — and I’ve received over 600 votes and many comments.

It was extraordinary to watch. Every time I refreshed my browser more votes magically appeared. I found it amazing to think that while I sat at my computer screen, about the world people were sitting before their screens, reading my writing. And many voting and commenting.

So — forgive me! — I want to share two of these with you. I’ll be quick, I promise. :)

There are so many wonderful comments I could tell you about, but I’m singling out these two, both received yesterday, as I like how they respond toBeneath the Surface the story more broadly, not just at the chapter level. I received the first in the morning, the second at the end of the day. So I was on a high all day!

The first, from a London reader, has commented after reading Pt.1, which takes the reader through to the beginning of the adventure. Here it is, I’ve cut-and-pasted it in…

Wattpad feedback 1 (1)

You can find it at the bottom of chapter 7 here.

What more could you possibly hope for in a reader’s response? Hooked into the story. Loves the main character. Compares my writing style to a favourite book. Wow. Thank you! I don’t know Jenny Downham’s book, but I’ll sure be seeking it out.

And here’s the second quote I would like to share with you. All I will say about it is, this is my very first response from anyone anywhere regarding my book as a whole, so, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s feedback of critical importance…

Wattpad feedback 2

You can find that one at the bottom of the very last chapter, Chapter 95.

The comments and votes are still coming in. And — human that I am! — I remain apprehensive as I click open each and every one of them.

Thank you all, for your votes and comments of endorsement for my little fantasy novel about an unwell boy who enters a world beneath his garden. And thank you for permitting me this moment of pride in telling you how things are travelling for Beneath the Surface. Which I will end now.

Except to say, Beneath the Surface will be available to read in its complete form on Wattpad for a limited period. The story starts here.

My final manuscript is complete. So what now?

Beneath the Surface

My 60,000 word novel manuscript — Beneath the Surface — is now fully posted to Wattpad. It’s about a young boy who enters a fantasy world under his garden. While writing the fantasy story, I partly drew on my experiences working as an HIV/AIDS social worker in the 80s and 90s.

Publishing the book chapter by chapter to the social media site Wattpad as I reworked it has been quite an experience. There wasn’t a moment when I didn’t brace myself before opening an email with a new comment from a reader. What if this one blasts the hell out of my story? Yet, all of the readers’ comments have been positive — many confirming they were enjoying the story, and some special ones offering thoughtful, constructive advice.

Wattpad offers writers something very special. The chance to hear directly from readers what they think about your book. And my book has changed in certain ways because of the feedback. Often these changes were descriptive details — things that were not as clear as they could be. The one that comes most to mind is the description of the moment when Christopher first enters the fantasy world of The Underplane. The use of ‘micro-chapters’ also received plenty of support. This approach led to many ‘upbeats’ in the story’s rhythm, as I like to finish a chapter on an upbeat (with a sense of actively moving forward). I enjoyed writing in this style and plan to try it again, no matter what my next story may be.

Other aspects of my story may change as I now progress to the next stage of manuscript development. The title, for instance, may change. It used to be Under the Garden, and for one brief moment it was Christopher from the Middle Bit (only I seemed to like that one!). Who knows what it might be called in the future. And new feedback may lead me to alter key moments in the story. We shall see!

But where to now for me with this book? That’s what I have to decide. The idea of seeking out potential interest in the more traditional way does entice me. I thoroughly enjoyed the formal editing process that my first, traditionally published novel underwent. I am also looking forward to engaging others in professional consultation about the story.

I will give myself a little break and begin to explore the options for Beneath the Surface soon. And I’ll most certainly let you know when I have any news.

I also need to decide just how long I should keep the complete manuscript of Beneath the Surface posted to Wattpad. I have no idea how traditional publishers will respond to that — yet visibility on the internet is crucial in this new world of ours.

If you’re interested in checking out my story while it’s complete on Wattpad — some holiday reading of a brand new novel before it’s even published! — here’s where it starts: Beneath the Surface on Wattpad.

Drafting Beneath the Surface

The next chapter of Beneath the Surface I post on Wattpad will be Chapter 23. This is still less than a third of the novel, but Christopher’s adventure in The Underplane is well underway. I’m aiming to have the complete draft novel posted for your ongoing feedback within the first week or two of December. Another 45,000 words (give or take) to go!

Beneath the SurfaceMeanwhile, I would like to present to you my latest chapter, just completed this morning. Bells are ringing throughout the village of Onehill, though Christopher — or Cee as his new friends call him — has yet to know what they signify. Christopher is eating breakfast with Ria and the children, and recalling…

Chapter  23: The church by the sea

I want to tell you about another time I heard bells.

On that day, I’d no idea where Dad was taking me and I knew better than to ask. All I knew was it took us a long time to get there. Hours spent in silence and bitter cold in Dad’s old Ford Falcon. The heater had packed up long before we’d ever owned it.

We arrived at a tiny church by the sea. It sat on a sandy strip opposite some shops and looked more like an abandoned portable classroom. Ferny branches hugged it, keeping it close and protecting it. When we left the car and made towards it, I could hear the rush of the sea somewhere out of sight. A sound, I thought, that had been going non-stop forever — before all things to do with humanity. Before that even. And would continue to go on forever. Way beyond us.

It almost suggested that the church, as piddling as it looked, was connected to greater things.

Almost.

I kicked at a pine cone and Dad tsked at me without looking up. But the pointy things were everywhere, just begging for it. More of them were piled up in the church’s lopsided gutters above us as we entered. Someone wasn’t doing their job and clearing them out.

And that was when I heard the bells. But they didn’t ring out all over the land like the Onehill bells. They dinged in a shrill, plasticky way. They came from a cassette player sitting on a trestle table just inside the door. The player looked like something left behind by a handyman; it was paint-spattered and the slot in the front where the cassettes went was held together with a rubber band.

People sat on rows of wooden benches. We stood sidelong to them and they turned and faced us. No one waved or nodded. I knew a few by sight — aunts and uncles I’d met once or twice. There were about fifteen in all.

I sat where Dad pointed, in the front row. Everyone behind us. Except for a lone man dressed in what looked like layers of green and white curtain lining. He jumped up from a chair as we sat own and hurried over and clacked off the bells. They went off mid-ding.

Din— Nothing.

Except for some sniffs, and creaks from benches.

Before us was a long wooden box. It was on a metal wheelie stand and in front of a colored glass window showing a bleeding man who was doubled-over, carrying a massive cross on his back. The wood of the box was glossy, I couldn’t stop gazing into its soft reflection. It looked as if it could be warm to touch. The lid was bolted down with shiny bronze knobs and Mum’s photo was on top of it, in a little frame.

I knew Mum must be in that box. I didn’t want to know, but that picture made sure I didn’t forget it. Though I couldn’t sense her with my radar illness. She was long gone.

With only the box to look at, I concentrated instead on thinking about the time she’d spent propped up against a stack of pillows in a hospital bed in our family room, gazing through the bay window and into our garden. She’d been dying for months but living every moment, with her family. That was what her illness had taught her, she’d said. Live every moment.

Not so, me. Born ill, everything just was the way it was.

The man in curtains told us he was Scottish, in case we hadn’t guessed. He laughed loudly, like that was an amazing joke. But the only thing funny was his accent, as if he was always on the verge of cracking another joke, but then thinking the better of it. Thank God.

He told us he’d become a priest a long, long time ago and had been sent here. Across the sea. We were his family now. He raised his arms as he said that last bit. As if to a great crowd.

I twisted around and checked out this ‘family’, half-expecting to see a gang at the back, cheerily waving. But there was only us few bunched up the front.

And then it struck me. Dad was returning Mum to the town where she’d grown up. She would be buried in this place she’d left years ago. A place of happier times, maybe? Or not — she’d run away as a teenager (something she’d told me, but Dad didn’t know I knew).

So why?

I wished she could have stayed with us. We could have buried her in our back garden. That was not as silly as you might think. Who was to say anyone would have found out? (And maybe she would have appeared in The Underplane? Met my new friends?)

I’d never been to that church before or any other and I’d no idea why the priest included me in his so-called family. Same went with the rest. I bet they weren’t regulars either.

A lonely man.

And now, as I ate breakfast in a village in The Underplane with my new-found friends, remembering these things and thinking about lonely men, I wondered if Dad missed me.

Was he out wandering the streets of Acity, searching for me?

I let the thought go, stopped eating and sat back. The others munched on. Maybe my stomach was smaller than theirs? But honest to God, I couldn’t have eaten anymore.

One last thing, back to remembering the church by the sea. There were two things that most bothered me, and I don’t know which was worst: the priest at the end taking the photo of mum and shoving it in a trouser pocket deep beneath all of his layers, or two black-suited strangers turning up and, without a word to anybody, wheeling the wooden box away with Mum in it.

***

If you would like to check out my progress on Beneath the Surface (and the earlier chapters too), my Wattpad page is here.

Workshopping with the world – How it’s going!

Beneath the SurfaceIf you’ve been following my posts and tweets, you’ll know I’ve been workshopping my new draft novel as I revise it. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about an unwell 14-year-old-boy who enters a secret world under his garden. I have posted seven draft chapters so far, which comprise Part 1 of the story.

I’m happy to report the use of Wattpad for workshopping is going well. All was going well on Widbook until recently. Here’s a little more detail about them both…

Steady feedback on Wattpad…

A useful thing about Wattpad, from a workshopping point of view, is that one can put comments at the bottom of each chapter. This has been a very useful way for me to pose specific questions. For example, What do you think about the title? What do you think about the short nature of my chapters? Do you feel like reading on? These questions are not always responded to and that’s OK, but it’s great when they are. I genuinely want to know!

I’ve received all sorts of advice, some of which I’ve immediately acted upon, some I’m still thinking about, and some I’ve parked to one side in my mind, waiting see what a professional structural editor might suggest, when that time comes.

It’s been extremely useful to hear what readers have found interesting in the story, their various observations and reactions. I am not always sure I’m getting the balance right in terms of suggested symbolism, subtle meanings, character portrayal, plotting and so on. I’m wary of overstating something, which then may seem labored and obvious, or slipping into ‘clever writing’, which can interfere with the reader’s engagement to the story. It has been greatly reassuring to hear from readers that they are picking up on the story’s depth and various dimensions in an enjoyable way.

And I do have to say, the positive comments have been very gratifying too! They have helped me feel, Yes, this is a story worth writing. This is something others would like to read.

But slower on Widbook…

threeThe news on Widbook is not so good, I’m afraid. Sadly, after an initial burst of activity, feedback has dried up. At kick off, things were similar to how I’ve described them above, but not so any more. I believe there are still a number of Widbookers reading my draft chapters — my book was added to someone’s shelf only yesterday and I received a new follower today. (I always follow back, because I think that’s nice to do, but that’s just my style and obviously not a rule). But the energy has waned.

I have received some excellent support from a number of the Widbook staff (I’m yet to hear from anyone on Wattpad!). They made one of my earlier books ‘Book of the Week’ and also invented me to write a blog post for them. They were very friendly and I immensely enjoyed my interactions with them.

There are a range of possible reasons for the drop off in responses to my writing. Here are two that I’m pretty sure haven’t helped…

There are many Spanish-speaking writers/readers on Widbook, and no doubt this has an impact on ongoing interest in my English written work, even though users generally appear to have a good handle on English, especially from a reading point of view. However, as I cannot understand the Spanish language at all, I’m unable to reciprocate the gesture of feedback by commenting on a Spanish written piece.

Widbook has a five star rating system — this is probably not a good thing when it comes to formative writing/drafting. A rating system leaves writers too open to the subjective impulse of others. And of course — as we indie writers know only too well — it is open to easy abuse: friends giving each other top stars, or tit for tat.

Olearia-stuartiiSo, after posting only a few draft chapters (three, I think), the book was awarded an ‘average’ three star rating. Ow! This a draft I’m workshopping, people! Not a published book on Amazon — ready for customers’ reviews and ratings. Now, no matter how many revisions I undertake and further draft chapters I post, that mediocre rating will sit there for the rest of my draft chapter postings (nine tenths of the book is still to come!) and until I take it down from Widbook, in readiness for publication. The average rating has the potential to put off further readers who may have had highly useful feedback.

How I wish that that reader had instead chosen to give me actual feedback. Why did they find it average? That could be marvelously useful to know. Instead, I’m left guessing and others are possibly being influenced and staying away. A rating system (especially one akin to Amazon’s customer review system) in a creative space can only serve to throw a wet blanket over creativity, don’t you think? :(

What’s next…

I love the story I’m writing, and the feedback from these two social media writing sites has definitely contributed to story improvements, revision ideas (not to mention one helpful typo spotting!) and the keeping up of my energy —  serious redrafting can be exhausting.

Regrettably, after a very promising start, I may need to rethink how useful Widbook is for workshopping a draft novel, but I most certainly will continue to post to Wattpad in readiness for professional structural editing later in the year.

By the way … why all the damned daisies? They make sense if you read the story.

Here is where you will find me slaving away on the redraft of ‘Beneath the Surface':

If you visit – be sure to leave some feedback!

D1208025898Bz-500

 

‘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

———————

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)

———————

 

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).

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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