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

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!

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‘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.

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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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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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.

 

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!