Category Archives: Book Launch

Reflections on 2013 & Looking Ahead in 2014

Reflections on 2013

My poor old blog got a bit neglected last year, but one of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back into a regular schedule again this year. Here is a snapshot of some of the big things that happened to me in the writing world at the end of last year that I haven’t yet shared:

1. I attempted NaNoWrimo. And didn’t hit 50,000 words. I’m not disappointed, though, as I knew going into it there was a slim chance I’d hit the 50k mark. Fitting writing around an extremely busy November calendar was going to be a push. But I got words on the page! I made a start on my novel and I know where I want it to go, so to me that is a win.

SuperHERo Tales cover

2. SuperHERo Tales. Last year I posted a story called ‘Spectrum’ on my blog. I updated the post, but never got the chance to write an official blog post to announce the story is now published in an anthology of female superheros. I’m very excited about this anthology as all the proceeds go to the charity ‘Because I am a Girl‘, which helps girls in third world countries. It is a cause I am passionate about and I implore you all to buy a copy of SuperHERo Tales or support the charity in some other way. The other reason I’m excited to be part of this anthology is because it helps try to break through the stereotypical superhero stories that are aimed a boys. My 4 year old daughter said to me a few months ago, “I want to be my own superhero.” Hopefully stories like these can encourage girls to do just that.

Jingle Bells cover

3. Jingle Bells: Tales of Holiday Spirit from Around the World. This anthology was published just before Christmas and features an extended version of my story ‘Dashing Through the Snow’, which I posted on my blog for Christmas 2012 and was a finalist in Susanna Hill’s annual holiday contest. We’re a bit past Christmas now, but it has lots of family-friendly, holiday-themed stories, so keep it in mind for next Christmas.

Looking Ahead in 2014

Some of my writing resolutions for 2014 include:

1. Subbing More. I’ve made the same resolution the past few years, but I need to keep reminding myself that if I don’t submit I won’t be published. I’ve received some very positive and encouraging rejections this past year, in some cases just narrowly missing out, which has given me confidence and motivation to keep submitting. The other day I started planning submissions for the first half of this year–just short stories at this stage, I still need to plan my picture book subs.

DSCF4667

2. Making Time to Write. NaNo always reminds me that I can find the time to write if I stop procrastinating and take advantage of spare moments. I want to keep using those spare moments. I have some short stories I want to write, I want to write more picture book drafts this year through 12 x 12 (I’m hoping to join again this year) and I would ideally love to finish the first draft of the novel I started during NaNoWriMo.

3. Get Back Into Social Media. I dropped off the social media grid this past year in the writing world, not just with my blog, but on Twitter and Facebook, too. I miss all those connections and friendships I make with fellow writers through social media and want to try to get back into again. Unfortunately, when life gets busy, social media is usually the first to suffer. I’m hoping to remedy this by scheduling time specifically for social media. I’ve got big plans for my blog, including continuing the Writing a Novel series, starting a monthly writing challenge and reviving Helpful Websites and Blog Posts.

What about you? I’d love to hear about some of your successes from the past year and what your aims are for 2014. 

Interview with Steve Rossiter

Today I’d like to welcome Steve Rossiter to my blog. Steve runs The Australian Literature Review (www.auslit.net) and Writing Teen Novels (www.writingteennovels.com) and is the editor of various anthologies, including Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories (featuring one of my first ever published stories) and the recently released The Life and Times of Chester Lewis. Steve offers great opportunities to emerging writers through his programs and he has played a big role in my own writing journey. It is a pleasure to have been able to interview him and pick his brain.

You wrote the final story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, can you tell us a little bit about it (without giving away any spoilers)?

The final story takes place around Chester Lewis’s 100th birthday and is told from the POV of his granddaughter. It marks the end of Chester’s life story but raises new implications for the Lewis family.

I wanted to create a final story which would spark readers’ imaginations rather than, say, wind down and have Chester reflect on the past 100 years of his life.

You were also the editor for The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, how did you balance your two different roles? Was it difficult switching between writer and editor?

Since I wrote the final story, my main role for the most of the process was as editor.

It wasn’t difficult to switch between the two roles at the end. I wrote my story with pen and notepad then did my first full edit of the story as I typed it onto the computer.

As well as the various short story anthologies you have published, you also run The Australian Literature Review, which often has short story competitions. You must be somewhat an expert on what makes a short story stand out after all the stories you’ve seen! What are your biggest tips for writers of short stories?

In a previous interview, I was asked what makes a compelling character and I responded that it is a combination of purpose and personality. This would be a good place to start for developing a short story idea. I mean developing a character in the full context of that fictional person and the story-world in which they are situated – not just to pick a goal and label a few personality traits in an abstract way. A character’s sense of purpose and their personality will, of necessity, draw from the story-world in which they are situated.

A simple but important tip is: create a story concept before you start writing. Many fiction writers just write with no story concept in mind and hope a story will emerge, or they write about the setting and/or character relationships with no clear sense of purpose or story momentum. This is fine if you’re writing something as a brainstorming exercise to help trigger an idea to adapt into a story concept, but many writers write without clear purpose and use the result as the end story.

The basic components of a story concept could be summarised as:

1)    A character (in the full context of being a fictional person situated in their story-world) actively pursues a goal.

2)    That character and other characters care about the outcome, but for conflicting reasons.

Readers will care about the outcome if they relate to why the characters care and what they do to pursue their desired outcome.

There is a fan fiction writing competition running on chesterlewis.net, do you have any advice for those hoping to enter?

Making an early decision to enter the competition is a good idea, so they have plenty of time to write a good story, then get some reader feedback and refine it before submitting. It runs until August 31st 2013, but writers can sign up early and they have until August 31st to send their story in. There is a $10 entry fee before March 31st(or $15 for those who sign up between April 1st and August 31st).

Participating in the private Chester Lewis Fan Fiction Group on Facebook is a good idea. Once signed up, the private Facebook group is available for entrants to discuss story ideas and their writing, to meet other writers, to receive fiction writing tips, and where authors from the book and some of their publishing industry friends will drop by from time to time.

Can you tell us about some of your current favourite authors/books and what makes them stand out for you?

I don’t so much have a few authors who are my absolute favourites as I have a range of reading interests and like various authors for different reasons.

Off the top of my head, some Australian authors whose novels I like include Fiona McIntosh, Rebecca James, LM Fuge, Tony Park and Jaye Ford, and some international authors whose novels I like include Stephen King, Gregg Hurwitz, Jodi Picoult, Thomas Harris, Cynthia Voigt, April Henry and Bernard Beckett.

If I was to lump the authors together and describe some things their novels tend to have in common, I would say they have characters with purpose and personality, they have a story with clear stakes, they have an easy-to-read style, and they explore interesting subject matter with intelligence and originality.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently writing a novel set in 1939 Poland with a teenage main character, intended for publication in 2014. My aim is for the novel to be entertaining for teen readers and a serious historical novel for adult readers.

I have Writing Teen Novels (www.writingteennovels.com) undergoing a big expansion from January 1st to feature daily posts throughout the year from a great mix of established novelists from around the world. There will be more than 20 novelists with a post per month throughout 2013 and guest novelists each month.

I will be launching Writing Historical Novels from January 1st along similar lines as the expanded Writing Teen Novels site.

The line-up of authors for these two sites will be announced in December. There will be numerous New York Times bestselling novelists as monthly contributors on each site (including one with more than 75 million copies in print), as well as novelists who are also professors, historians, feature film directors, screenwriters and producers for film and TV, scientists, non-fiction authors, documentary makers, teachers, journalists (including a Pulitzer Prize winner), and more.

I also have Writing Novels in Australia (www.writingnovelsinaustralia.com) – initially a place for members of a writing program I ran in the first half of this year to put down some thoughts about their writing and to reach readers – relaunching from January 1st with a mix of Australian aspiring novelists, early-career novelists and established novelists, including authors such as Helene Young (published by Hachette and Penguin) and Greg Barron (published by HarperCollins).

Any parting words of wisdom?

Write the kind of fiction you find personally rewarding. If your aims for your fiction include commercial publication or to be read by other people (and most writers want their writing to be read by other people in some capacity), find some overlap in what you find personally rewarding to write and what others find personally rewarding to read.

 Thank you, Steve, and good luck with rest of your blog tour!

If anyone would like to see Steve’s blog tour schedule or read some of his previous interviews or guest posts on his tour, please follow this link.

Book website: www.ChesterLewis.net

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheLifeandTimesofChesterLewis

Writing an Action Scene

Last week I was answering interview questions about my story in the integrated short story collection The Life and Times of Chester Lewis and, since I hadn’t looked at it in quite a while, I gave the story a reread. Like most writers (I would imagine), I couldn’t help but think there were places where I could have written more tightly or hooked the reader in more. As writers I don’t think we ever stop editing our stories in our heads, even after they’ve published. I’m a perfectionist in that way, and I don’t think I can ever feel like my writing is perfect. Good, maybe, but perfect, no.

I did concede to myself, however, that I was quite happy with how the main action scene turned out. There are some main points I keep in mind when writing action scenes that I think make a world of difference:

1. Short, sharp sentences pack a punch.

2. But, it is also important to vary sentence length to keep readers engaged, not bored. Short, sharp sentences lose their impact if you don’t vary them with some longer (but not too long) sentences.

3. Get into your character’s head. Think about his or her reactions.

4. Up the stakes. Just when it looks like the character will be triumphant, just when they’ve got the upper hand, turn the tables. Throw the worst case scenario at him or her. Make it seem as though all hope is lost and there is no way out.

If you want to check out my Chester Lewis story and judge my action scene for yourself, The Life and Times of Chester Lewis is actually on special offer today for its launch. You can grab a copy of the ebook for $0.99 (it’s normally $3.99). This is an especially good opportunity to pick up a copy and get started on you fanfic story (if you’re entering). Remember, it’s $2000 for the winner of the competition and it’s open worldwide. What a great opportunity!

Do you have any tips for writing action scenes? What really hooks you in when you’re reading them? Do you have any favourite action scenes from books you’ve read?

Eighty-Nine on Kindle FREE!

If you’re anything like me, you love getting free stuff. I was really excited when the editor of Eighty Nine (in which my story ‘Eighteen for Life’ is published) announced we’d be having some promotional days over the coming months. Eighty Nine has just recently been released on Kindle and starting 6pm tonight (AEST) it will be available to download FREE for 48 hours! How exciting is that? For those like me who are terrible with working out timezones:

US- Pacific Time 12:00am Wed 30th May – 11:59pm Thurs 31st May

UK 9:00am Wed 30th May – 8:59am Fri 1st June

Aust 6:00pm Wed 30th May – 5:59pm Fri 1st June

Here are the Amazon links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

If you don’t have a kindle, not to worry, you can download Kindle for PC for free from Amazon.

If you haven’t heard me talk about Eighty Nine before, here is a bit of a blurb and explanation on how the anthology came about:

BLURB

1989: a cusp between decades.

The year the Berlin Wall came down and Voyager went up. Ted Bundy and Emperor Hirohito died. The birth of the first Bush administration and computer virus.

In San Francisco and Newcastle the ground shook, in Chernobyl it melted.

Tiananmen Square rocked the world and Tank Man imprinted on the international consciousness. Communism and Thatcherism began their decline, Islamic fundamentalism its rise.

It was the year Batman burst onto the big screen, we went back to the future (again), Indiana Jones made it a trifecta at the box office and Michael Damian told us to rock on.

Based on a play list of 26 songs released in 1989, Eighty Nine re-imagines the social, political, cultural and personal experiences at the end of the decade which gave the world mullets, crimped hair, neon-coloured clothing, acid-wash denim, keytars, the walkman, Live Aid, the first compact disc and MTV.

Some Back Ground

The third literary mix tape EIGHTY NINE, based on a playlist of 26 songs from the year 1989, went on sale in October 2011. Editor Jodi Cleghorn randomly assigned a song per author and asked them to create a story around the song that reimagined the events of 1989 through a speculative fiction lens.

Blake Byrnes, a final year fine arts student, turned an accidental promo photograph into the ‘eighties grunge’ cover, based on the character “Amiga” from Dale Challener Roe’s story Shrödinger’s Cat. Byrnes’ artwork provided the visual template for the character of “Amiga” in Devin Watson’s live action book trailer.

The Book Trailer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bom-dnS8r9Y

There are some great stories inside by some fantastic authors. Enjoy!

P.S. Here is a review of Eighty Nine from dark fantasy and horror writer/reviewer, Alan Baxter.

 

From Song to Story (Part Two): The Vampire’s Curse

I’m hoping you’ve now had a chance to read my story for FREE on the Literary Mix Tapes website. If not, it’s still up until 11pm AEST (that’s another 14 and a half hours). There will be SPOILERS in this post.

To recap: In Part One I talked about how I was given the song ‘Eighteen and Life’ by Skid Row as my inspiration (a song I’d never heard before). I had to combine it with an event from 1989 and include a speculative fiction element to write a 1500 word story. After listening to the song I had an idea to make my main character a vampire.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Now all I had to do was tie my vampire character to an event that happened in 1989. That was tricky. I skimmed Wikipedia’s list of events from that year, but nothing really stood out. At one stage I was tossing up between Tiananmen Square and Ted Bundy. But in the end I went in a completely different direction. Instead of going with a political event, I went with a pop culture reference. There was one thing that really stood out in my memory from the year 1989. It was the movie The Little Mermaid (Hey, give me a break, I was only 7 in 1989!).

A Different Kind of Vampire

The idea behind my vampire evolved from the idea that the last image he saw when he was alive, a movie poster of The Little Mermaid, meant he had a compulsion to feed on girls who resembled the red-haired, waspy-waisted Disney Princess.

I was really quite happy with my draft. I loved my vampire, who I thought was different to any vampires I had read in the past, wasn’t romantic in the least and had ties to a more traditional form of vampire.

A Second Opinion

I sent my draft to several beta readers, made up of writer friends and fellow Eighty Nine authors (one of the great things about being involved in Literary Mix Tapes is how all the writers work in contact with each other and swap stories to critique). I took on board most of their comments and ignored the ones I thought might not work for my story, and started redrafting.

Hold My Breath and Submit

What if Jodi thought my writing wasn’t good enough and sent me an e-mail telling me, ‘Sorry, we won’t be including your story in the anthology’? Thankfully, this was not the case. Jodi loved the idea behind my vampire. Now it was time for the edits.

Pushing My Story to New Limits

Working so closely with an editor (especially one as awesome as Jodi) was such a great experience. I learned a lot and pushed my story into new realms. Every time Jodi sent me back edits and notes it sparked new ideas. It was a long back and forth process, but so worth it.

I Should Have Listened to my Beta Reader (sorry Rachel!) — P.S. SPOILER ALERT (you should really read my story first before you read this section)

One of my beta readers made this note:

I was just wondering whether it might be interesting if the girl at the end was actually his sister – maybe she looks up at him and mentions his name as she dies or something – then he really would feel sentenced to this life.

I didn’t think this would work for my story, I think I had some lame reasoning about the hair colour being too obvious and the fact he’d watched the girl for three days would mean he would have known it was his sister.

Then on Jodi’s first lot of edits, she wrote this note:

What I’d like to see is for you to take this idea and really push the boundaries of it. Rather than him imprint on the Little Mermaid – what if he imprinted on his sister, she doesn’t run away, gripped by fear she stands and watches it all happen? Which would mean he is cursed to walk the earth feeding from girls who look like his sister.

I took the idea and ran with it. The Little Mermaid was scrapped. The focus on 1989 now came from the cultural references, rather than a specific reference. Having the sister as the focus added a new layer of depth to the story.

The Countdown

Once all the stories were finalised, all the authors got sent a pdf copy of the book to proofread, which meant a first peek at the other stories. (It was great seeing everyone’s takes on their songs and the year 1989.)

Then we got our first look at the cover. The girl on the front cover has been affectionately named Amiga after a character from one of the stories in the anthology.

Then the nailbiting wait for my contributor’s copy to arrive in the mail. I was on a rollercoaster ride that whole week. I knew it was due to arrive, so every time I got a parcel pick up notice I got really excited. But every time I made a trip to the post office I was disappointed to find it wasn’t ‘Eighty Nine’. Then one day my husband walked in with a parcel for me and as soon as  saw the envelope I knew it was finally here! Of course I flipped straight to my story and basked in squeefullness (yes, I just made that word up)of my name in print.

Blast Off!

And that leads us to the launch!  Thanks to everyone who has joined in the Facebook event so far (it’s still going, so drop and join in the fun if you haven’t yet).

You can still read stories for FREE. The last one has just gone up and the others will gradually be taken down one by one over the next 24 hours.

You can also still take part in the Amazon chart rush (and take advantage of free shipping to Australia and New Zealand if you order from Amazon UK before 31st October). Or if you buy a copy directly from the Literary Mix Tapes site you get a complimentary ebook to go with it!

To finish, a picture of me getting into the spirit of the launch last night with my copy of Eighty Nine.

From Song to Story: Vampires with an Eighties Twist?

Today marks the launch of the speculative fiction anthology Eighty Nine. To celebrate I want to share the journey of how I took a song from the year 1989 and turned it into a story about a vampire with a compulsion. My story ‘Eighteen for Life’ will be posted HERE to read completely FREE for twenty-four hours starting at 11pm AEST*. (The first stories have already gone live.)

But first, a look at how it all started…

When Opportunity Knocks

When a call went out for authors for a new Literary Mix Tapes anthology I jumped at the chance to be involved. I heard about it through Jodi Cleghorn (who had been the editor on 100 Stories for Queensland). I was impressed by all the hard work Jodi had put into 100 Stories and I was excited by the idea of writing a story based on a song prompt. There were eight places available and I was lucky enough to secure one of the places.

The Idea Behind Eighty Nine

Authors had four main rules they had to follow for their stories:

1. It had to be 1500 words.

2. It had to be tied the year 1989.

3. It had to be inspired by a song from the year 1989 (from a playlist of songs which would be randomly drawn from a hat and assigned to each author).

4. It had to be speculative fiction.

Combining a cultural/political event from 1989 with a speculative element (ie: fantasy, paranormal, science fiction) into a story inspired by a song, all in 1500 words. Piece of cake, right? Hmm, maybe not. I do love a good prompt though, and I knew I would have a lot of fun with this one.

Drawing Songs from a Hat

When I first read through the song list for the anthology I had my fingers crossed for ‘Funky Cold Medina’ as I immediately got a story idea for it. There were also some other really great songs on there I love, like ‘Love Shack’. But when Jodi pulled my song out of the hat I could only say, “Huh?”

I got ‘Eighteen and Life’ by Skid Row and I’d never even heard of the song or the band.

Thank You, YouTube

The YouTube video (click to watch)

I went straight to YouTube so I could listen to the song. My heart sunk even further. Not only was I unfamiliar with the song, it was heavy metal, which I can’t stand. I knew there was a chance one of the other authors might swap songs with me, but I looked up the lyrics and listened to the song a couple more times…

Inspiration!

I got an idea. I decided to use the character Ricky from the song as the main character in my story. There were a couple of lines in the song that I wanted to include as part of his character, but in a different way to what the song meant.

“He had a heart of stone.”

and

“…he fought the world alone”

Bam! I immediately thought of a vampire walking the world on his own in a lonely existence. Ricky would be this vampire. And there was my speculative fiction element.

THE STORY CONTINUES IN PART TWO.

Come Join in the Launch Events!

As I mentioned, stories are being posted FREE for twenty four hours each, with one story going up every hour (the first ones are already up). Mine goes up 25th October at 11pm AEST* and will remain up until 26th October 11pm AEST. Don’t forget to come back here tomorrow after you’ve read it to find out how my idea transformed into the story in its final form.

There will be a Facebook event happening at 5pm AEST** today to celebrate the launch. Please come along as there will be eighties trivia, prizes (including copies of Eighty Nine) and lots of eighties fun. Just by clicking the ‘I’m attending’ button you go in the draw to win a copy of Eighty Nine.

You can also get involved in the Amazon chart rush taking place. This is a good chance for all you Aussies to take advantage of Amazon UK‘s free shipping to Australia offer (which ends on the 31st October). Grab a few other books you’ve been thinking about getting while you’re at it (or maybe some copies of Eighty Nine to put away for Christmas presents; or a copy or two of 100 Stories for Queensland to continue to help with flood relief).

Me & 1989

As part of the launch celebrations, here is a photo of seven-year-old me from 1989:

I haven’t changed a bit 🙂

Because I know time zones suck:

*11pm 25 Oct AEST = 12pm 26 Oct AEDST(Victoria); 9am 25 Oct EDT(New York); 6am 25 Oct PDT(California); 1pm 25 Oct GMT

** 5pm 25 Oct AEST = 6pm 25 Oct AEDST; 3am 25 Oct EDT; 12am 25 Oct PDT; 7am 25 Oct GMT