Mysteries and mayhem in steampunk Melbourne – coming soon

While I query on Return to the Monolith, I’ve decided to keep anxiety at bay (see last week’s post) by putting my Evangeline novellas out into the world.

The Antics of Evangeline is a series of novellas involving mysteries and mayhem in steampunk Melbourne. In the 1880s, Melbourne was the second largest settlement in the British Empire after London and flush with post-gold rush cash.

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The first novella in The Antics of Evangeline is Evangeline and the Alchemist.

Evangeline and the Alchemist

Evangeline, a seventeen year old reformed urchin and acrobat, is settling into a new comfortable life with her long lost father, Professor Caldicott. Although learning to be a lady is awfully dull.

When the police come to the door, seeking the Professor’s expertise in catching an alchemist, is this Evangeline’s chance to test her new invention and save the day? With well-deserved rests for cream buns, of course.

A beta reader described Evangeline and the Alchemist as “The Talons of Weng Chiang meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Here’s a sneak peek at the first page of Evangeline and the Alchemist (although a previous draft).

Evangeline will come into the world in mid-2016. I’ll post further updates on the launch date once all is confirmed. I’m currently in final beta reading, cover design and setting up copy-editing.

 

 

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What I learned this week

My own Yoda told me to work on something new while querying.

This is great advice, designed to stop me going nuts and checking my email forty thousand times a day.

So I went ahead and worked on something else. The sequels to my querying manuscript. So I’m ready to go with Books 2 and 3 when the call eventually comes.

But the anxiety crept in…. I started to fret and worry.

Then I finished the sequel drafts and started on something new. Brand new. In a completely different world with all new characters.

And I forgot about my queries.

This lead to a little epiphany.

When I was working on the sequels, I was still in the same world with the same characters. I had not really left my manuscript alone.

Now I’m wrapped up in the new world and kind of forgotten about the querying manuscript. Kind of.

So this week, I’ve learnt to start something completely new when querying.

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My Top 3 Writing Podcasts

I like to walk. I like to listen to stuff while I walk.

I’ve been into podcasts for over ten years now, ever since my knitting obsessed days. Yes, there are knitting podcasts. Don’t you know, knitting is a thing – check out Ravelry with over 6 million subscribers. But I digress into knitting defensiveness. Back to podcasts.

I listen podcasts on various topics from personal development to exercise to the paranormal to current events to films and of course, writing. Today I’m sharing my top 3 writing podcasts (for today – podcasts come and go).

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Here are my top 3 Writing Podcasts

So You Want to Be a Writer

A weekly podcast with Valerie Khoo and Alison Tait of the Australian Writers Centre.

Why I like it – An Australian perspective on writing with weekly regular segments and a long interview with a working writer. While basically content marketing for the Australian Writer’s Centre, the content is useful and informative across all genres, covering mainly traditional publishing.

The Creative Penn Podcast

A weekly podcast from Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn

Why I like it – Joanna Penn is passionate about indie publishing and inspiring others. She is interested in many different aspects of the writing world (including new technology and global expansion) and has great interviews with writers, pundits and other publishing related people. I always get something from each week.

Science-Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast

A niche weekly podcast based on marketing for indie published science-fiction and fantasy writers hosted by Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo and Jeffrey Poole.

Why I like it – no frills, no fancy music or advertising. Just authors asking other authors about their writing and their marketing approaches. Good solid information.

What are your favourite writing podcasts?

A little writing meltdown

Some days, it’s just overwhelming. There’s too much to remember. Too many techniques.

 

Is the pace right?

Does the scene turn?

What’s the character’s motivation?

Is my first line punchy enough?

Is my dialogue boring?

Too many ‘said’s. Too many adverbs. Too many adjectives.

Too much detail

Not enough detail

Are my minor characters too quirky?

What about the internal motivation?

Does it make sense?

Don’t worry about the sentence. Worry about the story.

But that sentence is clumsy.

Is my main character changing enough?

Is it cliched? Is it derivative?

Am I wasting my time?

Argh.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Influential Children’s Books – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

Finally I’ve finished my series, re-reading my favourite books as a child. The last book in my series is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. A British classic of the 1980s.

Adrian is a painful teenager with delusions of intellectual grandeur living through Thatcher’s Britain with his dysfunctional and disappointing parents. Adrian copes with his first pimples, his parents’ marital problems and his own crushes with an amazing lack of self-awareness. It is laugh out funny and I knew most of the jokes already.

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Reading Adrian Mole was like going back in time (in the Tardis with Peter Davison, of course because it’s 1983). I was thrown back into the 1980s when all my favourite music and television came out of the UK. I also vividly remember Adrian Mole TV series and recently watched part of episode 1. It is so faithful to the book, it made me realise why I seemed to remember every second word. I’ve also had the theme tune from the late great Ian Dury in my head ever since.

I had a quick look on Goodreads and it appears that Adrian Mole is now on school curriculums. It is a slice of life in Thatcher’s Britain but I wonder whether kids today would appreciate it like I did. Has it dated?

I remember this book too well to be subjective. In some way, I wished I’d never read it before, so I could enjoy it all over again. It’s funny and poignant. In a similar way to my first year of my arts degree when I finally got some of the gags from The Young Ones, I understood a whole lot more as an adult. The writing is simple, clever and layered.

It was fun visiting Adrian Mole again, but I’m glad I don’t actually know him. He really is a pretentious little git.

 

Recent listens: How to Publish Your Book by Jane Friedman

I like my audiobooks. But for some unknown reason, I can’t focus on fiction in audio. My mind wanders and I miss sections of the story, so I’ve learned to stick with non-fiction for audiobooks.

A recent listen was How to Publish Your Book by Jane Friedman, available through The Great Courses. This is available through Audible and you’ll also receive the accompanying lecture notes in PDF.

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What a damn fine resource for the new author! In 24 lectures, Friedman takes you through the process of getting published from both a fiction and non-fiction perspective. Friedman also has a brilliant blog where she discusses the state of the publishing nation.

This is for those writers who are done with the manuscript and ready to move from the art to the business side. She starts off talking you through understanding your genre and your audience then to the process of

  • finding agents, publishers and editors,
  • sharpening your pitch, query letter and synopsis,
  • contracts,
  • the need for marketing and building your author platform.

Friedman also tackles the interesting subject – “when to self-publish?” A controversial topic indeed. Are you being impatient? Is self-publishing really for you? Is your market too niche for a mainstream publisher?

I’m currently querying agents with my Return to the Monolith manuscript and the course provided information on what to expect and importantly, how to cope with rejection.

The information is up-to-date and discussed many of the players in the current market. This is the best all-in-one resource I’ve found on publishing.

Do you have any recommendations for great publishing resources?

A little writing music

Music is a perfect pairing for writing. It can provide inspiration, pace and block out annoying noises. But it’s gotta be the right music.

The key pre-requisite for me is NO LYRICS. Words distract me and sometimes randomly appear in my manuscript.

This is what I listen to while writing.

Soundtracks

Soundtracks for films and television are a great background for writing. So long as the music is not too familiar, otherwise I get distracted and start humming along. My favourite composers here; Clint Mansell, Two Steps from Hell, Hans Zimmer, Yann Tiersen, Nils Frahm.

Modern Classical

“Old” classical can be too familiar to me (see above re: distraction), so I really enjoy the experimental “modern” classical music. The Scandinavians and Icelandic seem to dominate in this genre; Olafur Arnalds, Dustin O’Halloran (not quite Scando), Hildur Guonadottir.

Gaming Music

Like movie and TV soundtracks, gaming music can provide pace and the right mood. Especially for action and fight scenes.

Not Frogger.

Ambient

I don’t mean Ambient EDM/techno, I mean proper ambient with no bass. Soundscapes and aural wallpaper. The big guy here is Brian Eno.

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Nature Sounds

Sometimes I get into the zone with nature sounds; forests, birds, wind, thunder, rain.

White Noise

White, pink, brown – who knew there were so many colours of noise. This is great for sealing out the world, although I do have nagging concerns about being brainwashed with the theta waves. Maybe I’ve watched too much X-files. Excuse me while I go all Manchurian Candidate.

Meditation music

Meditation music is my current favourite for writing. Lots of bells, chanting and new agey stuff. The music is calm and repetitive, also the tracks are really long (up to 60 mins). So the music doubles as a timer.  When the music stops, take a break!

What music do you prefer when writing?

Reading habits of a beta reader

Today, an interview with a beloved beta reader of mine, Andrew. Andrew’s a voracious reader and so let’s learn a little more about his reading habits.

Tell me a little about yourself?

OK, single. Love city living. Currently binging on the show Jane the Virgin.

What are you currently reading?

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. It’s about what happens when the world’s roatation slows down through the eyes of an 11 year-old girl. Good read.
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How and when did you develop your love of reading?

I’ve always enjoyed reading, but it wasn’t until around 2007 when I started really buying up books by the tonne each year to read.
It kind of got kicked started from a friend I worked with you would mention the books she’d read each morning to and from work on her 1 hr train ride.

What are your favourite genres?

At the moment I’m really into supernatural drama

What was the best book you read in 2015?

Hounded by Kevin Hearne. Can’t recommend it enough. Really enjoyed it was wasn’t expecting much as urban fantasy isn’t something that’s ever been on my radar. Had the book on my shelf for nearly 3 years before I even opened. Once I’d finished I ordered the next 7 books in the series.
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Who is your favourite character of all time?

I’ve got to give this one to Scarlett O’Hara. I was Gone with the Wind obsessed as a 16 year-old and what I loved about Scarlett is that she had everything against her but she never let it get in the way of what she wanted.
GWTW is still my most read book. About every 5 years I pick it up and enjoy the over 1,000 pages epic.
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Are you monogamous with your books? Or a book sl*t?

Oh, I usually have about 3 going at once. I pick one up each morning depending on how I feel.
Note: Sl*t.

Where is your ideal place to read?

Home on the lounge with a quiet CD playing in the back ground.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences you?

I admit I do judge a book by it’s cover. Kevin Hearne’s Hounded got me by the hot guy on the cover. He he. The cover gets my attention, but it’s the synopsis on the back that will get me to buy a book or not.

What’s your reading goal for 2016?

I’m not going to mad this year, just a small goal of 35 books.

Thanks to the lovely Andrew. Feel free to answer any of my questions for yourself…what was your favourite book of 2015?

Writing spaces – ideal and real

In an ideal world, my writing space would be in a room overlooking craggy cliffs.

The floor to ceiling windows would open out to the sea, where I’d watch the ever-changing weather roll in and the waves crash against the rocks. I’d be inspired by the power of nature, the wild and moody weather.

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Unfortunately named “Suicide Cliffs” in Okinawa

The room itself would be plain and white, with no distractions besides my computer and my creativity.

Imagine the science-fiction I could write from this room…

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Or something monastic.

Perhaps my latent historical fiction would come to life here.

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Mount Grace Priory, Yorkshire

But in reality, my writing space is like this.

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Messy yet functional, surrounded by books and CDs (yes, Gen X), post-it notes, a thesaurus, water, a comfy op-shop chair, story outlines and writing structure reminders.

My only mandatory items are the laptop and the headphones. I wrote the first drafts of Return to the Monolith while my house was under renovations, from the kitchen counter (with headphones on blocking out the noise of power tools) or the local library. I found I could write anywhere.

So the ideal writing space is not necessary for writing but it’s nice to dream.

What’s your ideal writing space?

 

 

Recent Reads – Europe in Autumn

Why did I love Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson so much?

The book is a spy thriller set slightly in the future, in a time when the countries of Europe is dissolving. Every man and his dog is seceding, setting up their own principality. Borders are a bureaucratic nightmare and black marketeers are taking advantage of the chaos.

The hero is Rudi, an Estonian chef turned courier, who gets deeper and deeper into the murky world of espionage.

The book is in four parts following Rudi from his first gig until the point when it all goes wrong. It is almost like four novellas, pieced together eventually. The middle section with Rudi’s family in Estonia seems out of step at first until more details are revealed. I adored the excerpt from the map-making of Whitton-Whyte and the twist delighted this little sci-fi fan.

Why did I enjoy this book so much?

Perhaps it was the mix of vivid characters; the burly Hungarians, the obnoxious mentor Fabio, Rudi’s bizarrely robotic English captors, the grumpy crusty Pawel. The characters were well rounded and real.

Perhaps it was the slight weirdness of the world. Quite similar to our own, yet with minor technological and geo-political differences.It was familiar and yet intriguing. There was little time spent world building, the story jumps right in and explains the world as we go. Yet there are enough odd little details to remind the reader that this is not your ordinary Tom Clancy thriller.

Perhaps it was the wry English humour. The dialogue was sharp and believable. I chuckled out aloud a number of times.

Plus a cracking plot.

Let’s just say, I really liked this book.

But the topic of genre provoked the most thought for me. This is classified as a science fiction novel – which it is. The world is futuristic, but only looking a few years into a possible future. I was so curious about the genre of this novel, I contacted the author. I had a nice conversation with Dave Hutchinson over Twitter regarding the genre classification of this book. Hutchinson describes it as a “near-future espionage thriller”. This is a very apt description.

I struggle with the “science fiction” label because it brings to mind aliens and spaceships. My own writing is in a similar vein to Hutchinson’s – a different world not too dissimilar to our own. Is speculative fiction a better description or “fantastika” as Hutchinson offered? Yet, your average punter doesn’t use the expression ‘speculative fiction’. When I look at the categories for sci-fi in Amazon, the only vaguely applicable are “dystopian” and “post-apocalyptic” but my own writing and a book like Europe in Autumn does not fit with the other zombie invasion novels.

Anyway less about me and more about Europe in Autumn. If you like a well built near-future world with espionage, great characters and good writing, I recommend you take a look at Europe in Autumn.

I’m off to read the sequel…when I’ve finished The Wise Man’s Fear.

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