Shifting deadlines, and ALLi in Oz

 

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Sometimes real life intrudes in unexpected ways, and the best laid plans…well, they just don’t happen. That was the second half of 2015 for me!

A house move, job change and hosting the annual family Christmas gathering pretty much cruelled all of my creative ambitions. I couldn’t see my way straight to settle down and meet my own writing deadlines when there were rooms to paint, boxes to unpack, and a menu to organise.

Blink.

And now it’s 2016, and the year is already well and truly advanced – it’s March already, Summer in the southern hemisphere is leaving us in a fiery, defiant blast with a string of days of 30C+ temps, while the shops try and sell us new Winter coats before we’ve even put away our swimmers.

One thing I have managed to do this year is settle in for a chat with the wonderful Sophie Masson (pictured), who approached me to talk about The Alliance of Independent Authors and my role as a regional representative.

I never quite worked up the nerve to actually tell Sophie I’m a big fan of her writing (I read Clementine and The Green Prince many, many years ago and loved them dearly). Since then she has published quite a few books spanning various genres, and been pretty busy behind the scenes as well participating in various publishing groups.

And here’s something I didn’t know about one of my favourite authors – she has been dipping her toe into the waters of digital publishing with an exciting new venture, Sixteen Press, her own e-publishing platform.

Anyway, to hear more about ALLi in Australia, and author-publishing in general, hop on over to Sophie’s excellent and charmingly named blog Feathers of the Firebird.

 

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Easter, anthologies and Amanita

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This weekend while everyone else has been looking for chocolate eggs in the tall grass, I have been busy trying to weave together stories for two anthologies I’m editing.

I have always enjoyed reading, and there’s something rather special about pulling together the work of other writers in relation to a particular theme.

Specifically, I’ve been tinkering with the adrenalin-pumping non-fiction tome Call of the Wild, and my creepy M.R. James tribute anthology of short stories, both of which have attracted some very high calibre offerings from both new and established writers.

And while my house has (rather unthinkably) been caffeine and chocolate-free, there have been bunnies aplenty – wild brown rabbits darting across in front of our car when we nipped out for a Saturday drive (no mean feat on the Easter long weekend when my neck of the woods becomes choked with cars heading east and west).

After the rabbits zipped by (egg-less, they must have already done the bidding of the Easter Bunny), I noticed we had stopped out the front of an old miner’s cottage, and the road had turned into a dirt track. In front was a magnificent old pine tree, and gathered around its roots like a colourful skirt were lots of Amanita muscaria, pretty red and white toadstools of the kind always seen decorating faerie bowers.

Sometimes the magic happens when you least expect it.

C’mon down to Indie Recon 2015!

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If you’re a writer or editor involved with self-publishing, set aside April 15-17, 2015 to attend Indie Recon online.

Indie Recon is a global conference providing the best advice and education for independent-minded authors across the world, particularly those with an interest in self-publishing.

The conference will feature a mix of online educational seminars, workshops discussions and masterclasses; culminating in a reader-centred Indie Author Fringe Fest live from The London Book Fair’s Book and Screen Week, on Friday 17th April.

Held at Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross, the largest independent bookstore in London, the Fringe Fest will offer exciting ways for readers to meet indie authors and discover great reads.

This year the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi) has joined forces with the organisers of Indie Recon to present an even bigger and better conference experience, leveraging off its highly experienced membership.

In line with ALLi’s mission to be a global organisation for authors everywhere, the event will be live streamed, so authors and readers who can’t be in London can take part online.

That means you and I can tune in and take part.

See you there!

Working holidays, writing myths, and patrons

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Has it really been more than a month since I posted on this dear old blog? What the hell have I been up to? Well, dear reader, I’ve been enjoying a bit of a working holiday.

I spent a good three weeks undertaking some firsthand research for a long-term non-fic book project, which entailed camping out in the wilderness of Tasmania.

And I’ve been busy pulling together some anthology projects, the first of which is an M.R. James inspired collection of creepy tales authored by some very exciting (several of which are very well known) authors.

It’s going to be a cracking collection, and I’m sure old Montague, if he were about, would certainly approve!

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I’ve also engaged in a bit of crime – watching it on the box, that is – enjoying Murdoch Mysteries (S1 – there’s another 7 to watch, apparently!), and some tense, nail-biting drama in the form of Broadchurch (S2), and Fortitude. All highly recommended.

The latter two series do a good trade in red herrings – more potential suspects than you can poke a stick at, but at least the plots keep you coming back for more.

Of course there have been other casualties during this fallow writing period – most tellingly the garden and the housework. It’s hard to get your work ethic back after several weeks of communing with nature, but one does have to pay the bills.

Speaking of the bills (of which there are many, I think they were breeding under the fridge!) I stumbled across a series of interesting posts about how writers *really* financially support themselves. There is a prevailing belief that most writers just write all day, miraculously making ends meet while churning out moderate to excellent prose.

Well, some do. While others can, largely thanks to inheritances or wealthy patrons (read: spouses or family trusts), plod along and write whenever they please. But most of us work other jobs. I’d urge you to read the many comments and links, and enjoy the honest revelations.

Here’s the post that kicked it all off, Ann Bauer’s “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from. It’s refreshing, and it’s raw. And we’re all green with envy, Ann! Your bloke sounds like he needs cloning 🙂

Today, I am essentially “sponsored” by this very loving man who shows up at the end of the day, asks me how the writing went, pours me a glass of wine, then takes me out to eat. He accompanies me when I travel 500 miles to do a 75-minute reading, manages my finances, and never complains that my dark, heady little books have resulted in low advances and rather modest sales.

As for me – yes I do work full-time as a writer, but not for myself. My own writing is largely done on the train each day early in the morning or evening, or on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes it’s churned out during fits of insomnia. But it’s rarely if ever penned between the hours of 9-5. That time, friends, belongs to The Day Job, without which I would not be able to fund much of what I do, including living and eating.

At the moment my independently-published books break even and pay for themselves production-wise with a bit more besides, and I have a trade-published book that presents me with a nice combined ELR-PLR payment each June, equating to slightly less than a week’s pay. Icing on the passive income that is the book royalty.

I write for pleasure, and for interest.

I don’t write for profit – yet – but I’m getting there.

Confucius says read!

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Did Confucius, China’s most famous teacher, philosopher, and political theorist (551-479 BC) really say this?

Was this position on reading one of his analects (teachings)?

I don’t know, but the sentiments certainly ring true. Read, read and read some more. Today there really is no excuse for ignorance with so much information at our fingertips.

Confucius apparently did say ‘True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know’. Or something like that.

The easiest way to remedy ignorance is to read. And the easiest way to read is to buy or borrow reading material. In doing so, you’re supporting storytelling and those that ply its trade.

In a roundabout way, Confucius said so!

How authors are ruining Twitter

I’ve only recently jumped back on Twitter in the last week.

After a period of intensive use in early 2014, I stepped off the social media platform to focus on my writing. This is also why I haven’t blogged in a long time (actually, in the past five years I’ve started three different blogs. Why blog when I can write? I used to think).

And there’s that other thing – it’s a massive distraction. As many writers will attest, social media is a time sink of epic proportions, a 24/7 candy store of mental stimulation, a rabbit warren of information.

On the flipside, it can be a great way to meet like-minded souls, and share ideas and experiences, and so I find I’m friends with a lot of authors on Twitter.

I like to read. I love books. I love to write. I’m fascinated by the writing process – more so other people’s. I like to know what other authors are writing, reading, feeling, doing.

I’m amused by the memes and the cat pictures, enjoy the inspirational quotes (that Abraham Lincoln guy is prolific! 😉 ), and marvel at the connectivity and networking opportunities Twitter offers.

I personally love the curatorial aspect of Twitter – the sharing of interesting articles and industry trends, flagging upcoming events, and passing on the odd inspirational quote.

However, it is apparent to me that a lot of authors just don’t know how to use Twitter properly to engage on a social level with people (social – that word, look it up).

In the short time I’ve been active again, I’ve been constantly bombarded with links and pictures of authors marketing (selling) their books.

And it’s relentless.

I don’t mind knowing you have a new book out, but I don’t need to know every day, several times a day. No matter what those social media gurus are telling you.

Engage me in other ways – blog (and share the links via Twitter) about the writing process of your new book, the inspiration behind it, the research process, the design team you worked with to produce your amazing cover/layout. Talk about the genre you write in. But don’t post endless sales links to Amazon. It’s boring and crass and makes me want to stop following you.

Sure I can skip over the tweets, but when there are several of you it turns my Twitter feed into a giant colourful sales catalogue. Is this really the best way for you to use the platform?

At its worst, Twitter is like a crowd of marketers in garish stripey suits all shouting to be heard. At its best, Twitter is a savvy community of influencers and thought leaders. Most of us fall between those two extremes.

All I’m saying is, keep it classy, authors. Don’t bombard your audience.

Build and nourish your online communities. Engage with people. Get them interested (and invested) in your work.

Be in it for the long game.

A new age in publishing…

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ALLI member David Mattichak has posted a great summary of the state of play in publishing and where independent publishing fits in over at his popular blog www.dgmattichakjr.com.

“Whether we like it or not, we have entered into a brave new world of writing and publishing across a range of media and books is only one of them. The fact is that there will always be bad books and there will always be good books, and the difference between them will be decided by the people that read them, not the people that publish them.”

Well said David!