28 January 2012

The Gap Between Thought and Text

So I've "written" all of And All the Stars.  In a strictly non-textual kind of way.

First there's Section One, "Arrival".  Section Two is "Watching the World Die".  Section Three is "Not Lord of the Flies".  Section Four is "Mythological References".  Section Five is "Let's Dance" and Six is "Did He Smile?"  Section Seven is the last.

I don't usually write books set on Earth, because of the need to get things right, and though I have some leeway because the story is set in 2016, I need to research a heap of things.  Which cities have a population of over a million.  Hinduism (though I'll barely use any of it - it's just so I properly understand one of the main characters).  And I need to go walk down to Wooloomooloo, since that's what Madeleine will do once I get her out.  [I used to walk down there occasionally at lunch, but I need to refresh my memory] 

I have a name for one of the major characters - Avinash - which was one of those fortuitous names to discover.  Another name will probably be Gideon, but that's still up in the air.  There's more sex in this story than I usually detail.  And more pain.

All of this is in my head.  Bouncing around, adding new complexities and layers, changing constantly.  Not the whole of a book, but the key notes.  The hotel.  The boy on the stairs.  The awkward conversation about sex.  The scene with the music.  And yet I still haven't moved my poor character off the slab of concrete she woke up on, in the ruins of St James Station.

It's a marvellous book.  Different from my usual stuff, but the characters have quickly become people and there's half a dozen scenes I want to get to, which is one of my main motivations for writing.  It's got its hooks in me hard, and I think about it come and going, gaming and walking.  I'm thoroughly enjoying it, and looking forward to seeing what people think of it.

But, oh, the GAP between thought and text!

20 January 2012

Touchstone-related Interview courtesy of Selina Fenech

A lovely review and Touchstone-related interview can be found on Selina Fenech's site.

Selina Fenech is an Australian author and artist (I recently read her Memory's Wake, a romping urban fantasy/portal high fantasy with the added bonus of illustrations which made me more than a little green with envy).  Sigh - to be able to write _and_ draw.

16 January 2012

Hunting Cover

On the subject of covers, here's the cover of Hunting, my YA fantasy about a girl out to avenge her guardian's death.  Art by the fabulous Julie Dillon.

15 January 2012

The Internet is not a private conversation

As a user of Goodreads, I've been following the recent spate of "Goodreads is a cess pit of negative reviews" comments from authors with bemused surprise. Not because it's unusual for authors to not enjoy negative reviews, but that in 2012 so many people don't seem to realise that the Internet is a public space. Anyone who has any sort of public image and uses the internet should surely know by now that:

- An email can be forwarded to anyone.
- Not only your fans can read your Twitter feed.
- Google alerts work for more than just authors.
- Google cache means you didn't delete it as much as you thought you did.
- Screenshots are forever.

I gripe about negative reviews all the time. To myself. The mute ratings, with no explanation of why, bring an instant plunge of spirit, but the sting doesn't linger. The easiest to dismiss are the "just couldn't get into it" reviews, or "this is trash", with no further explanation. These reviews often boil down to "I like chocolate, you like vanilla". The difficult reviews to swallow are the detailed, reasoned reviews, written with care, often pointing out aspects of the story that the author didn't realise someone might find problematic.

I dislike most a four-star review of one of my books - because it suggests I wrote about something incorrectly which I happen to think I have right. The tone of that review is very condescending, and I've bit my lip over it more than a few times, but I don't see any value in arguing with the reviewer (let alone organising campaigns against her). And - as those reasoned reviews so often do - I was spurred to spend the time to question myself over my treatment of that item in the books.

But any name-calling I might want to do happens entirely in my head. Because an author having a public brawl about a review they dislike will only draw more attention to that review. Because it's impolite. Because people are allowed to have different tastes to me, or to see issues that I didn't consider, and to state their views. They're allowed to add snark. They're even allowed to be 'wrong'.

Being a professional author is a very public thing (even for us obscure self-publishing types), and I can Google the substance of internet flame wars which happened more than ten years ago. Comments on Twitter or blogs attacking reviews or review sites make me think of nothing more than someone standing at a counter of a bookstore, ignoring the customers in store while talking loudly on the phone about the horrible customer over by the mystery shelf.

Except with an audience of everyone in the world.

14 January 2012

Currently working on...

I'm meant to be working on Hunting at the moment, but have been slightly derailed into a new project.


Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.

None of her plans factored in the spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.

Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.

Re-using the Blue Eagle Nebula on this cover. 

The book cover gives off a slightly literary feel, which is incorrect (unless I drastically change my writing style).  Won't be out this year, but I'll be working on and off on the first draft.

04 January 2012

One Year In (and a bit) as a Self-Pub

I've now been (self-)published for a year and a month.  My bibliography boasts ten whole books (including compilations).

Being a self-published author can be a strange experience.  By self-publishing, I attached a label to myself.  I've found that if I'm not careful a set of opinions and attitudes will be ascribed to me purely because I'm self-published.

I'm not someone who runs around predicting and celebrating the imminent collapse of some hidebound traditional publishing monolith.  Most of the books I buy are put out by 'traditional' publishers and (while the industry does have issues) I fully expect it to adapt to the changes and continue to produce books I want to buy.  [Hopefully the basic contracts offered to authors will improve, but the industry as a whole isn't a bad thing.]

I'm also not someone looking for a publishing contract.  I love the freedom of self-publishing.  I love not having to leap through hoops to get my books out there, to not be in the position of, basically, begging for a chance to tell my stories.

Sure there's some un-fun facets of self-publishing.  It's always a strange experience to be reading through an enjoyable blog or article and to run up against "If it was worth publishing, it would have been published" attitude.  Or "people who self-publish are too impatient to 'pay their dues'".  Or "I've never read a self-published book which I thought should have been published".  Not to mention the seemingly insurmountable issue of obscurity and reviews.  If you pursue reviews, you can find yourself as much a petitioner for reviews as you were for publication.

To many readers I am not a "real" author, or I'm an author with an "approach with caution" tag - one whose books will only be read on direct personal recommendation from trusted fellow readers.

But I've still found an audience.

I've sold over three thousand ebooks (which is a relatively small amount to some, but still seems an enormous number to me).  I've received reviews and ratings ranging from one-star to five-star.  I've had actual fan mail.  I was shortlisted for an award.  My sales reached their high point in November and have dropped a fair deal since then, but I am still steadily selling, and every day or two I come across another review which makes me smile (or grind my teeth, or groan).

It has been - and continues to be - a blast.

01 January 2012

Truly Gratuitous

You know you've gone overboard when your "little added extra" is over 50,000 words long.

I've spent much of the evening struggling with a formatting issue which I've yet to find a way to correct (the chapter marks aren't working). I'll continue to look for a solution to that, but until then, you can get Gratuitous Epilogue from my site (down the bottom where it should say 'attachments'), or Smashwords (where it will promulgate after several weeks to B&N, Kobo, etc). I'll also be uploading it to Amazon, but since I can't set the price directly to free there, it'll be $0.99 until Amazon chooses to price match.  Eventually I'll add a TPB for those who like their paper.  [And, ah, maybe adding a glossary/character list because I was way too lazy this time round.]

Happy New Year all!  It's been a blast sharing this story with you. :)