26 February 2011


Touchstone ("Stray") is a space adventure, and is going to be a real challenge for me to market in a way where readers will reasonably understand the book.  My 'short short' blurb for it reads:
In this planet-hopping Girl’s Own Adventure, an Aussie teen must survive a world without technology, and then another with far too much. Rescue is only the beginning of her problems.
Given the current popularity of dystopias, I'll need to walk a fine line between showing the downsides of Cass' situation, and avoiding the dystopia label.  There are some un-fun aspects to Cass' experiences, some betrayals of trust, but the story is by no means dystopian.  A reader eager for a dystopian YA will be disappointed by the way this story runs.

Of course, my larger problem with Touchstone is the structure.  Not merely diary format, but the choice to write every day of Cass' life for a year (or at least those days when she's capable of writing).  This does fascinating things to the pacing, making the story feel very episodic, rambling, both breathless and long-winded.  Chapters are a structure which developed in novels for a reason, and "Stray" does not have them.

I once or twice have considered re-writing the entire thing as a more traditional novel, because I know I'm going to get negative flack for this story because of the structure.  But this story is one I love in its current form.  That Cass writes down what happens to her on the days where "nothing happens" is important to me.  That she mentions/names most everyone she spends time with, even if they're not important to the overall plot.  That Cass' character arc is more one of acceptance of her situation and the building of a new family rather than the more traditional "has faults" -> "overcomes faults".

It's taken me a much longer time to edit than I expected, and I'm going to have to do another re-read after I finish this run through.  Good thing I like this story.

21 February 2011

Price Points and the Self-Published

I've faffed around a fair bit deciding on a good price point for my ebooks, weighing how much people are willing to pay for an untried unknown without the 'seal of quality' implied by a publisher vs the 'you get what you pay for' argument.  Given how expensive books are in Australia, dropping mine to very low prices does scream "bargain basement remainders" to my "buyer self", but obviously pricing myself the same as a known author is not the smartest move.

Today I settled on an approach which, like so many aspects of self-publishing, is almost the exact opposite of how things work in 'mainstream'.  I'll start out with my ebooks at $2.99 (which is the lowest I'm willing to go), leave them at that price for 6 months, and then raise them to $4.99 (barring specials, etc).  To me $4.99 feels like an eminently reasonable price for a good book, and the 6 months at $2.99 a reasonable marketing strategy.  Of course, in theory $0.99 is where it's all at, but that just feels too low for me.

I've set the changes in motion - already accomplished on Smashwords, should hit Amazon tomorrow, and will slowly hit other distributors at the speed of slow mud (I can't for the life of me understand why all these electronic databases take so long to update).

17 February 2011

Kindling and other housekeeping

[Edit: Note, after a closer reading of the terms and conditions as part of publishing at Kindle, it appears that the 70% royalty is available to anyone, but only for US/UK/Canadian _sales_.]

Amazon KDP does not offer a good deal for non-US/UK authors.  The 70% royalty is not available, only a 35% option, and the only payment options are having a US bank account, or US cheques (with the currency conversion fee that will attract from my bank).  Because of this, I didn't go straight to Amazon KDP, but instead waited for Smashwords and Amazon to finalise their formatting so I could distribute to Kindle through Smashwords, which would mean a higher royalty, less work, and payments via Paypal.

Not publishing to the major market for self-publishers has been a trifle annoying, but since I didn't have a big launch or any noteable publicity, there was no particular hurry.  But weeks turned to months, and I finally caved.  Champ is now up, and Silence and Stained Glass Monsters will be up in a couple of days.  I am hoping that the negotiations are done by the time I've finished editing Stray, though.

Still doesn't solve the problem of publicity, but it's good to at least be in the market.

In the versions I put up, I added a link in the front material to maps for each book, since one of the main reader requests I've had is for maps.  The "ETC" page on my site will be the repository for such extras for the books, and the Champ and Silence maps are there.  Will have to draw a map for SGM, though.

11 February 2011

Word v Word(ess)

When I build a world, it's rare for me not to thrust aside the common pattern of social development and make the equality of women both established and unquestioned. It's simply more interesting for me to start from that point, to shift the focus of my female characters away from struggling for acknowledgement due to gender, and firmly on whatever else I want to make them struggle for.

This, however, leads me to some tricky situations with word choice. In "Champion of the Rose", Darest is founded by a woman, and the land was the gift of a woman. Yet I chose to refer to it as a kingdom. It's ruled, depending on the gender of the ruler, by a King or a Queen, with 'queen' used here strictly as 'female ruler', not 'spouse of ruler'. Anyone who marries the ruler is a Royal Consort.

Every time I create a world, and think over the political structure, I come up against this question: are the titles gendered? And given that I have no intention of building a history of gender inequality in the social structure, why are they gendered?

The answer is almost always reader convenience. I can certainly make up a different word than kingdom (kiereddas), and a neutral word for ruler (kier), and for all titles down to a neutral version of lord (keris). And I've done that: those examples are from "Medair". And then the reader gets to learn them all.

I am relatively sparing with my neologisms. I use them for certain jobs, or animals, or concepts which don't have a near-enough equivalent in English. Occasionally I'll add them for colour, or when the story calls for them, as with Medair and the system of power which replaced her own. And every time I use 'kingdom' when I mean 'land politically aligned as a monarchy' I weigh up the benefits of calling it a 'morael' or an 'arenses' or whatever string of syllables occurs to me. And then, usually, I grit my teeth and use the easier, if slightly wrong word.

My current work is rife with neologisms, to the point where I'm adding a glossary. It's fun to make up words which don't carry with them the implicit structure that these things are male, and that a modifier needs to be added to indicate a female in that position. But I suspect that the next time I build a new world, convenience will trump correctness yet again.

06 February 2011

The Role of the Girl...

The role of the girl is to:
  • Be kidnapped, and rescued.
  • Be kidnapped, and not rescued, providing endless angst for the real characters.
  • Be told it's too dangerous for her to come along, and be told to go home.
  • Be told it's too dangerous for her to come along, but to come along anyway and cause problems.
  • Ask questions, so someone can explain.
  • Fight the female villain.
  • Bestow her favours as a reward for victory.
  • Heal.
  • Make sandwiches.
This post was sponsored by "Professor Layton and the Unwound Future" and the new series of "Hawaii 5-0".  While there are now many many glorious stories which don't fall within these examples, it's just so tedious for me when the sole girl in the party gets kidnapped and has to be rescued.

02 February 2011


30 degrees celcius when I reached the train station at 7 am.  40 for most of the day.  No air-conditioning on the train home, the school kids too limp and exhausted to keep up their usual chatter.  A twenty minute walk, grateful for a breeze and the fact that I remembered to bring a hat.  Dripping by the time I reach home.

Meanwhile my mother has been evacuated from her ground-floor apartment (across the street from the river in Townsville) and has gone to my younger sister, who has spent the day stocking up on nappies and moving the essentials to the downstairs of her old Queenslander.  They'll spend the worst of the cyclone in the laundry, hoping the house above sticks around.

Australia - you can always talk about the weather.

Touchstone Trilogy - French Edition

Some news for the Touchstone fans. The wonderful Justine of Seraminda Editions has faced down the truly daunting task of translating Cass...