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.

 

 

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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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

how-to-publish-your-book-by-jane-friedman

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?

The 7/7/7 snippet challenge

Writing Challenge participant Natalie K challenged me to the 7/7/7 Snippet Challenge.

The rules are:

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress
  • Scroll down to line #7
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

Here are the 7 lines from the 7th row of the 7th page of my recently “completed” manuscript, Return to the Monolith. I’m stoked to announce, I’ll start querying agents with Monolith from early January. Hoorah! But here’s a sneak peek.

Dawn peeked through the pink-fringed grey clouds, lighting up the sky in the east. The snow-tipped mountains loomed in the distance.  Alga’s heart pounded. This was the first time she had ever walked away from her mountains.

Her stomach had stopped rumbling. Her tears dried up. She tried not to think about her Sisterhouse and what she had left behind.

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Now, I am passing on the fun to seven more writer bloggers. Consider yourselves challenged;

Looking forward to seeing other 7/7/7 Snippets.

Feast menu from Return to the Forest

I’m in the process of revising Book 2 of my Monolith series Return to the Forest. Today I’m sharing a menu from one of my scenes. Who doesn’t like descriptions of food and feasts in particular?

It is the solstice ceremony of Sundku held on a hilltop clearing, where the religious community of the Sisters live.  All the local women travel to the Sisterhouse for Sundku to welcome the early signs of Spring, the fading of the long Winter and to seek the blessing of fertility from the Goddess.

They dance, sing and chant around the pyre, honouring the Goddess and once the circle is closed, the women feast. Hungry after their homage, they need a hearty meal.

At the end of winter, fresh food is scarce but the women of the Forest are wise and resourceful. It would insult the Goddess to skimp on food at Sundku.

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Each woman brings her own contribution to the feast. The long wooden table is piled with;

  • Rabbit stew: served in a thick gravy seasoned with pepper berries, slow cooked in a large pot over an open flame. The stew is served in carved wooden bowls.
  • Acorn bread: heavy and hearty, baked from ground acorn flour into loaves. The fire baked bread is coated with a crunchy caramel coloured crust. The loaves are cut into hunks and the women dip the bread into the rabbit stew, soaking up the gravy.
  • Jam cakes: local blackberries are harvested in summertime and preserved in earthenware jars to last throughout the cold winter. The jam cakes are baked with more acorn flour, dotted with dollops of sweet black jam. The cakes are golden palm-shaped discs with a hint of summer sweetness.
  • Red wine – of course

I hope you enjoyed a little view into the food world of Return to the Forest.

Hungry?

 

 

Three tips improved my writing in 2015

It’s the time of year between Christmas and New Year, like the lull between two waves. Time for planning and reflecting.

Here are the three writing tips I learned in 2015. These three tips definitely made me a better writer.

  1. Specificity
  2. Simplicity
  3. Different scripts

*Disclaimer – I can’t remember where I got these tips from. If it was you, thanks and sorry.

Specificity

Let’s get specific. Lazy writing is full of things, stuff and them. This year I learned to be specific about what I am writing. In 2015, I got out my nouns. First drafts can be full of vagueness but once the red editing pen comes out, it’s time to be precise. But specificity must be paired with tip#2, otherwise the words will grow and multiply like mice. And there’s nothing worse than a mouse plague…shudder…

Simplicity

Why use ten words when you can use two? My writing style is simple, mainly because I don’t like verbose writing personally, but this year I learned to use embrace the simple (and specific). Why use an adjective when I can find the right verb? He didn’t walk, he strutted, she plodded, we ambled. There is more power in brevity.

Like botanical illustrations, I strive to be both simple and specific.

Different Scripts

The third tip is about dialogue. Any scriptwriter knows this stuff but it was a revelation for me. This year I learned that each character has their own agenda in any conversation. Everyone has their own desired outcome from any discussion and our agendas will clash. This tip has helped me to stop my dialogue from being an exposition fest

In normal conversation, there are misunderstandings and confusing conversations when someone doesn’t say what they actually mean. There are a myriad of reasons why we don’t speak our minds. This is also true in dialogue. Each character is reading from their own script and the scripts don’t match.

Your turn – what great tips did you learn in 2015?

Five things which distract me from my writing

I am boringly conscientious. It was always on my school report…Madeleine is a conscientious student. But stuff still distracts me from writing.

Noise, generally power tools

I live in an area filled with older homes under renovation. If the gentle roar of power tools isn’t coming from my own house, it’s one of my neighbours drilling, sawing or generally banging loudly.

Headphones are good.

drill-portable-and-electric

Social media & the internet

I’m not alone. I know the blasted internet and social media call to us all. Distract me. Validate me. Just check the weather. Maybe someone liked my tweet. A quick look at the news. Next thing I know, it’s thirty minutes later. Damned instant access to everything ever.

The day job

Unfortunately I’m not independently wealthy or a kept woman, so I have to work. This is a major distraction from writing. Although perhaps with more time on my hands to write, there’d be more opportunity for other distractions to creep in.

cubicle-farm

People – reminders I need to have a life too.

Note to self – occasionally stop writing and socialise. While Mr Madeleine and friends are a lovely distraction, if they interrupt at the wrong moment, they are in danger of encountering extreme grumpiness. As with many things, timing is important.

Resistance

I often talk about Resistance. The little evil man on my shoulder telling me I’m crap and I’m wasting my time with this writing stuff. He is the root cause of most of my writing distractions.Some days he is stronger than others. I try to ignore his little snarks and keep putting my fingers on the keyboard.

What distracts you from your writing (or other goals)?

Who is your favourite villain of all time?

Villains. We need them.

We need the villain to threaten our hero. We need our villain to be strong and clever. We need her to give our hero a hard time. Villains add colour and complexity to our stories, they bring the complications.

But when I thought about villains, only the scary characters came to mind. Those men and women who send shivers down my spine. And one man jumped into my mind.

This is not my favourite villain for his intelligence or his outwitting of the hero. He brings no witty retorts. He just scares me like no one else can.

I bring you.

Bob from Twin Peaks.

theres-bob

Excuse me while I go and hide behind the couch…..

Who’s your favourite villain?