Friday, 13 September 2013

I'm moving!!

I've been a little quiet on here over the past few weeks because I've been plowing ahead with some of my books, trying to get them finished and ready for release by the end of the year.

I've also been working on a new self-hosted site that's still in progress, but it is up and running and subject to change as I discover new and shiny things to add to it to make it homely and functional.

I've also set up a mailing list, which you can sign up to from here (on the side bar), or at the new site (but only sign up once - you'll be signing up to the same list)

Subscribers will get first dibs on pre-release review copies of new books and special offers from time to time. I'm starting it off as a quarterly thing, so you'll get updates 4 times a year at the least, and also when I have new stuff out or special offers and giveaways.

You can now find me at Head on over and let me know what you think about my new place, and as is customary, I'm happy to receive any housewarming gifts you might bring - beer and chocolate are most welcome.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

What I really think of... Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey's Wool
 'The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do. While they thundered about frantically above, Holston took his time, each step methodical and ponderous, as he wound his way around the spiral staircase, old boots ringing out on metal treads.'

So begins Hugh Howey's first novella in his blockbuster Silo series, Wool.

I can't exactly remember when I first heard about this guy, Hugh Howey, but I do remember his name popping up all over twitter and blogs, and I thought "Hell, I'll give this guy a go." At 99c for his first novella, Wool, it was a pretty good bargain, and having received my first kindle for Christmas 2011, I was looking for cheap books to fill it. 

I read that first book in one sitting then immediately downloaded the second part ("Proper Gauge") and then the third one ("Casting Off"). I remember staying up until the early hours of the morning to finish "Casting Off", and making myself wait until the next morning to download the final two in the series "The Unraveling" and "The Stranded". 

Briefly, the Silo series is set in an apocalyptic world, where humans live underground in huge silos 144 stories below the ground. It's set in a time when no-one can remember what happened on the outside, and no-one questions why they live the way they do. 

That is, until Jules comes along. Jules is a mechanic from the Down Deep, the very bottom levels of the silo, where she works to keep the machinery of the silo functioning. Needing a new sheriff after the tragedy that is Holston's death (which is so hauntingly written in Wool 1), Jules is the one who steps up (albeit reluctantly). Her curiosity gets the better of her, and she begins to question everything she has ever been told about the history of the silo and the circumstances of their existence. Wool 2-5 follows Jules' story - the consequences of questioning long-held beliefs, and the lengths that some will go to to protect the status quo.

The reason I love these books so much is that they focus on something that is a real problem in our own time - taking what we see for granted, and living our lives through computer screens. We listen to politicians and the media and assume that what they tell us is the truth. We have no real desire to do the hard work and find information for ourselves. We form opinions on someone else's view of the world, instead of seeing it for ourselves.

I know from reading interviews of Hugh that those were major factors in his desire to write this series. 

I came away from that first series feeling like I needed to be more involved in the world around me; to take a more proactive role in my own life, instead of sitting back and letting it happen. 

For any of my teacher friends out there, if you're looking for books to spark discussions with students, these are the books to read. 

On a slightly different tangent, Hugh is also a shining light for those of us looking to self-publish our own stories. Hugh began with a small publisher with his first Molly Fyde book (Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue), a YA science fiction novel, and quickly learned that he could do a lot of the publishing side of things himself. 

So he did.

The popularity of his Silo series made bigger publishers and agents sit up and take notice, and he made history when he signed a print only deal with Simon and Schuster, enabling him to keep his digital (ebook) rights.

This is extremely significant, because traditionally, contracts from publishers effectively restrict authors from writing and publishing anything that is seen to be in competition to the books they've sold, which really means everything that comes after.

I won't bore you with the ins and outs of how that deal will hopefully help to change the publishing industry in the long term, and how they treat their authors, but suffice it to say, it's a small step in the right direction.

There is so much more I can say about Hugh Howey and the effect he's had on the self- and indie-publishing industries and authors, but I will leave the other stuff for another post.

The last thing I will say is BUY HIS BOOKS! I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

You can find Hugh here:

Hugh Howey

Buy his books from Amazon (or order the paper copies of his books from your local bookstore):

Hugh's Amazon Author Page

You can find out more about his Wool series at Simon and Schuster here:

Wool Series

Monday, 15 July 2013

Let's get Sonny to meet P!nk!!

I want to tell you about a great friend of mine (and some time great rival), Sonny Hughes. 
Sonny and I played for rival soccer teams, and were sworn mortal enemies for the best part of 10 years. She was a young and cocky striker, and I was a young and smart-mouthed goalkeeper. It was a rivalry made in heaven. There was no greater satisfaction for me than denying her a goal, and some of my greatest and fondest memories in the sport are of our matches against each other (not to mention the "friendly" banter).
To me, Sonny was always energetic and full of life. She was tough and strong and unforgiving on the field. Little did I know that those characteristics would come in handy when she faced the fight of her life.
At the age of just 33, she has fought and beaten cancer 3 times - in 2008 it was Non-Hodgkins lymphoma; in 2009 there was cancer in her groin; and finally, after 2 years cancer free, in February 2012 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her last bout of chemo and radiation caused complications that have resulted in her having an ileostomy and colostomy. In the space of just a few months, I saw her go from someone who was getting her life back on track and regaining her health, to fighting for her life.
She wasn't even sure she'd live long enough to see a P!nk concert, such was her prognosis, but she bought a ticket anyway. She has fought her battle against cancer with dignity and humility, and has come out the other side with her humour and strength intact. Nothing would make her fight worthwhile like getting to meet P!nk in person. 
What can you do to help?
Like and share the facebook page with family, friends, businesses and anyone else you can think of to get the word out. Flick Sonny a message on the page to let her know you're thinking of her. Let P!nk know on twitter and facebook that this wonderful, courageous woman has a dream that she can make come true - a dream that only a few short months ago really was impossible.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Introducing... Layce Gardner

I'm not big on the lesbian romance genre. (I can't believe I can say that with a straight face, considering I am currently dabbling in that genre, but anyway.)

I guess it's because my early forays into it were a little sub-par. The characters were all a little too beat up, and some of the plot points bordered too far on the unbelievable side of the fence for me.

I get it. We've all been through our Coming Out period, our Lusting After our Straight Best Friend period and our U-Haul Lesbian period (in Australia we call it the Budget Lesbian period) among others. Most of us want to read about that stuff to make us feel better about bad decisions, bad romances, and to escape from our bad, sad lives.

Here's the thing. I'm more than the sum of my bad and sad parts. I have lots of happy times. "Why doesn't anyone write about the happy times?" I lamented. "Why doesn't anyone write something fun?"

Then I found Layce Gardner. I am proud to be able to call her my Facebook Friend. (Which means that she stupidly accepted my friend request even though she didn't know me from a bar of soap, and now I can stalk her interact with her whenever I want.)

I can't remember exactly how I discovered her novel Tats, but I devoured it in two sittings. I would have devoured it in one, but a pesky little thing called my day job came between us.

I passed my paperback copy on to a great friend of mine, along with rave reviews. (Lisa, I still want it back!)
I loved the book so much, in fact, that as soon as the next book Tats Too came out, I downloaded it onto my kindle as soon as it was available. This time, I got to read it while I was on holiday in Fiji - I wasn't going to let a little thing like a friend's wedding get in the way of me and that book.

I read parts of it out to my wife, giggling like an idiot, while my wife just looked at me knowing full well I AM an idiot. "I guess you have to read what happened before" was my answer to her blank looks. 

Anyway, to the point. 

I downloaded and read Penny Nickels and Wild at Heart as soon as they came out too, and was itching for more.

That was a few months ago now, and I had decided that I wasn't going to go out of my way to buy any new books until I had finished some of my own. 

Then, I saw this pop up on my facebook feed:

I was so excited that the new book was available, but you know, my no-book-buying thing.

I held off for exactly three days. 

I bought it, promising that I would only read the first chapter after I had at least completed my word-count quota for the day. 

I only lasted a couple of hours before I thought "I'll just read the first paragraph and see if it grabs me." 

A couple of hours of reading and laughing out loud later, I realised that it was past midnight, and that I had wanted to get to bed early, so I could get up early and get in some pre-caffeinated writing time. (For non-writers, that's the best time to trick my muse into giving up some of her secrets - before she wakes up and goes MIA).

I don't really have the whole "do something good, reward yourself" thing down very well.

So the truth of it is, I don't think I can hold out on reading the rest of the book. I think I might just take an early weekend and go ahead and get it over and done with.

If you're curious, my favourite part of the book so far is when the girls (Dana and Trudy) are sharing an unlit cigarette. They both take pretend puffs and then Trudy takes the cigarette back and "ashes" on the floor.

No wait. It's when Dana meets Ellen. "She had brown-almost-black eyes like melted chocolate and a smile that reminded Dana of strawberry cheesecake. Her smile itself didn't exactly remind Dana of cheesecake; it's that the smile gave her the same feeling as looking at a slice of strawberry cheesecake."

No, it's the conversation about Dana's need to fill a hole in a conversation. "See, when there's a hole in the conversation I feel this urge to stick something in the hole. In fact, there's very few people in this world I'm comfortable being around and not sticking something in their hole."

Layce, you had me at "'My girlfriend is a slut,' Dana Dooley said." It's going to be another late night.

You can find Layce's books on Amazon here
Check out her blog here

Monday, 24 June 2013

Introducing... a new series of posts

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am very irregular with my posting schedule. It's not that I'm too busy to write anything, it's just that I write stuff, forget about it, then it's old news. Or I have a great idea for a ranty post but then think better of it, so I don't write anything.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about how I want my books to spread by word-of-mouth from readers who love my work. I realised that I am also a reader, and therefore I should be spreading the word on authors and books I love so anyone who's interested can check them out for themselves.

Spread the love I say.

With that in mind, and having discovered some pretty awesome writers and books over the last 18 months that I've had my kindle, I've decided to do a series of posts on those books and authors I think deserve a little bloggy love.

My intention is to post these monthly, but we'll see how we go.

First cab off the rank is one of my new favourite lesbian romance authors, Layce Gardner. That post is ready and raring to go, and will go up on the 1st of July.

Other authors I'll be posting about will include Hugh Howey (he of the Wool phenomenon), JA Konrath, Lindsay Buroker and John Scalzi.

There will be others as I continue to read and go back over my "Read" list on my kindle. 

There's a pretty eclectic mix of genres, so not everyone will like all the books or all the authors I recommend. The great thing about the kindle, though, is that you get to download a sample and then can buy it if you like it, or ditch it if you don't.

I'm also open to suggestions, so feel free to drop me an email or a comment on the blog.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Hidden Treasures in a $5 Box of Books

A couple of weeks ago, we went to an auction. The local second hand store was going out of business, and everything was going - no reserve. Dangerous place to take me, let me tell you. 

So off we went at 8am on a Saturday morning to sign in and have a look at the wares. We'd been through the shop before of course before it went up for sale, but everything was so expensive! Especially since it was all previously used, previously loved (or not) or very, very old. 

I went straight to the books section, where everything had been boxed up, and made sure to write down the numbers of all the boxes I wanted. There were many, but I didn't want to be greedy. I just wanted the four boxes that held the children's books, and a box of really old hardcover books in various states of disrepair.

By the time the auction made it as far as those boxes of books, I had inhaled two cups of CWA coffee and a couple of home-made scones (with jam and cream). Wifey had headed off home to do some housework and left me to my bidding wars.

The first three boxes of books went for $35 a piece, and contained hundreds of old western magaziney type books that looked pretty cool. I only wanted one of those boxes, but the guy who won the first box took all three. (See? Greedy!)

Then we came to the table that held the boxes of books I coveted. There were around 15 boxes of books, of which I only wanted three. The auctioneer explained that we would be bidding "for the pick" - so the winning bidder could take their pick of any or all those boxes. Just my luck that someone will want the whole damn table, I thought.

My luck, it seemed, was in. I was the winning bidder at $5 for a pick. I thought at first I only got one pick, but no, that auctioneer said I could have as many as I wanted, and pick my numbers. So I chose my three boxes, making my grand total spend for standing around for three hours at $15. And the laugh was on the other bidders for being slow out of the traps - the next lowest pick bid went for $15 for a box.

We got them home (after bidding on and winning a few more things, and spending a little over 8 hours in total at the auction), and I couldn't wait to go through those books to see what my $15 had bought me.

I lucked in to a pretty good haul. Below are some pictures of a couple of things that caught my eye. The rest of the books have been sorted out and are going to the kids in my family. 

Yes, I'm THAT aunt that always turns up with books!

101 Dalmations. 
I can't wait to re-read 101 Dalmations. I remember reading this one when I was in primary school, just before the Disney movie came out. I went to the local movie theatre with my cousins to watch the movie, and loved how the movie mirrored my imagination when I'd read the book.

Schindler's List and White Fang

Some classics I haven't yet read, but have been on my To Read list for a long time. Now I get to finally read them - when I can find the time.

Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley University
 Ah, sweet romances. I mostly read SVH and the Sweet Dreams series of books. The thing I remember most about them was how they made me feel so warm and fuzzy after reading them. Also, I always wanted to be the guy getting the girl, rather than the other way around.

Waltzing Matilda
This is a classic Aussie poem and song. It would have been something I read when I was at primary school. It's really banged up, but the illustrations are fantastic. Though I want to share this with my nieces and nephews, I'm going to keep this one on my bookshelf.

These aren't the only great books from my haul, but they are the ones that brought back some great memories from my childhood.

I love how books can do that.

Friday, 17 May 2013

What non-writers need to know about writers

This post is going out to all my non-writer friends and family, and is a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek list of things you should know about writers. There is a grain of truth to all of them, and of course, this list is incomplete, only because it's based on my experiences as a writer, and not writers in general.

1. Any conversation you have with us, or event that you share with us, may be used in a story at any time in the future. Of course, names will be changed to protect the guilty, and it will be embellished to within an inch of its life.

2. We may have based a character on you, but it't not the one you think. And no, we won't tell you which one it is.

3. When you ask us how our book is going, and we reply with "which one?" we are only half joking. We flit between WIPs like an ADD kid on a sugar high.

4. Our writing time is precious. It comes in a close second to procrastinating on the internet researching.

5. Theoretically, it takes next to no time to write a book, based on words per hour. It's finding the right words that take up all of our time.

6. The three essential food groups for a writer are caffeine, alcohol and sugar. Sometimes all at once.

7. We will meticulously set up our study/writing space, only to end up writing on the laptop on the lounge, or spread our paperwork out on the dining table. Creativity cannot be restrained.

8. The only time we're happy to do the housework is when we're on a deadline with a book.

9. We will take notes anywhere and everywhere - on napkins, receipts, popcorn containers and on our hands when necessary. It is quite normal for us to wake at 3am, write a few lines, and go back to sleep like nothing ever happened.

10. We are always writing, even when we're taking part in an activity that looks like it has nothing to do with our work. Staring in to space is plotting, and watching TV or a movie is research.

And a bonus:

11. We love social media. Writing is most often a solitary pursuit, so we use facebook, twitter and whatever new sites and apps are available to keep in touch with the "real world". Having said that, if you see us pop up too often, ask us sternly "Why aren't you writing?"

Have I missed anything? Feel free to add to my list in the comments.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

What Pad?

Wattpad is one of my most recent online discoveries when I was procrastinating researching ways to find an audience. 

I’m an unknown author, and in this new world of Anyone Can Publish, being unknown is a huge problem. What’s also a problem is building an audience for your books from scratch. I’ve read a lot of authors who are very active on a LOT of sites and forums that have subject matter similar to their book themes, but I think this really only works with particular genres. Sci-fi is one that comes to mind as is Steampunk.  

I’m not active on those types of sites, and I don’t have the time or inclination to be active on them either. Though I am working on a steampunk idea and I love the fiction genre, I’m not into the steampunk movement, where people don costumes and assume characters and build their own weapons etc. I’m fascinated by it of course, and I love seeing some of the innovations and ideas people come up with, but apart from using those things as research and inspiration, I don’t go much past that. 

I’m on twitter, but not as active as what I probably could be. I have a facebook page, but it’s my personal space. I do have an author page I set up about a year ago, but I haven’t made it public, and I’m not sure if I will or not. I also have this blog, which I am terrible at keeping a regular schedule for. I want to get better at that, but at the moment, writing fiction is taking precedent. 

I also read a lot of writing blogs and author blogs and a lot of them have articles on what they’ve done to build their audiences and buzz for their books. I know that works for someone else may not necessarily work for me, but I think I have managed to work out how I want to go about getting my books out into the world and earning their keep.

That’s where Wattpad comes in.

Wattpad allows writers/authors of all levels to provide free content to millions of readers around the world. Stories of any length and genre are uploaded in short chunks (chapters or scenes), and readers get the chance to vote for their favourites and make comments on the work. The thing I like is that it gives authors the chance to interact directly with their readership, which is much more personal than a blog.

Some articles I’ve read have worried that if you provide your content for free on a site like Wattpad, readers will become accustomed to free content and not want to pay, but a lot of authors who have used the site share a different experience. In fact, I’ve only just signed up to Wattpad, and added a few stories to my reading shelf, but have already downloaded (paid for) one author’s books from kindle after reading the first in the series or free. I could have just read all his stories on Wattpad for free, but I was so excited by his work I downloaded the next two stories he’d written in the series to my kindle straight away.

I’ve also commented on a few of the chapters for other writers, and have started to make some connections. I imagine they will grow when I put my own work up on the site.

Which brings me to some news. My birthday is at the end of this month, and the blog turns two in a couple of weeks. I’ve been writing for a long time, and finally have a few things written (90% or so ready to go to beta readers) that I’m happy with and think would be perfect to try out on Wattpad.

This Sunday (March 31st), I’ll be posting the first chapter of one of my short novels (still a work in progress) on the Wattpad site. You can read the first chapter of it (and any other stories posted on there) without signing up. If you want to read more though and vote and make comments (which I hope you do), you’ll need to sign up for a free account.

The thing I really like about the way Wattpad works is that on top of the website, they have android and iMachine apps, so you can keep up to date and read on the go, or while waiting for an appointment. Each chunk is designed to be read quickly, so you don’t need to invest a lot of time in one go to read a story.

Best of all, they’re free, and you get the chance to discover new authors, and try out new genres, without having to invest any of your hard-earned.

I’ll post the link to the first chapter upload on facebook, twitter and here on the blog. Feel free to pass the link on to anyone you think might enjoy it.
In the mean time, you can connect with me on Wattpad here.



Monday, 4 February 2013

Lesbian does not always equal sex

(Admit it. All you saw in the heading was "lesbian sex").

Now that I've got your attention, I wanted to chat about a couple of things that have been annoying me no end the last few weeks. I've been doing some research on an idea I have for some steampunky type characters and plots, and having some real fun checking out some of the steampunk websites around the place. (Check these cool gadgets out)

The first one I seem to be encountering whenever I search for lesbian steampunk. There doesn't appear to be too much around, which is great for me in a way, because I can tap into a fresh market. But I've stumbled across a few forums where other people have been asking for recommendations for some lesian steampunk, and the answers have almost always been to the tune of "I don't have anything to recommend for lesbian steampunk, but here's some cool erotica that you might like instead."

Now, I'm not big on the erotica genre anyway, but why is it always assumed that if you're looking for any type of fiction with lesbian characters (or gay for that matter), that you're automatically after erotica?

Here's a tip: I'm JUST after lesbian characters. I'm squeamish about badly written sex scenes, be they same-same or otherwise. Hell, I'm squeamish about sex scenes, badly written or not. I like to use my own imagination for those types of scenes, and much prefer the "fade out" effect. I'd rather not have a blow-by-blow of who puts what, where.

What I'm really looking for is this: steampunk stories, that don't have sex as the end goal, with lesbian characters. Simple? Apparently not.

The second thing I'm frustrated with is the amount of gratuitous sex in a lot of the lesbian books I'm reading. (I have a whole other post whinging about other stuff I don't like about lesbian fiction, but I'm sticking with the sex for this one).

I was reading a sample of one a couple of weeks ago (a sample, which is only the first 10%), and the lead character stops what she's doing to jump in the sack with some hussy she just met, within the first five pages. THE FIRST FIVE PAGES!! Give me a break. That is not characterisation. That is gratuitous sex. Not even James Bond jumps into bed with the women plotting his downfall in the first five pages (or the first five minutes in the case of the movies).

I get it. We have this image to protect where BBLs (Big Butch Lesbians) can bed anyone they want without consequence, and that makes them super cool. Women, straight and gay, fall at their feet and worship the ground they walk on.

I don't want to read about those characters.

Here's what I want.

I want characters who go through shit that doesn't happen just because they're lesbian. I want characters whose major trait is something OTHER than the fact that they're lesbian.

So the question is, how do I find those characters?

The answer: in my own head. My answer to my frustrations is to write what I want to read, since no-one else seems to be doing it.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Woah! Has it really been that long??

The last time I posted on the blog was about the huge news of my career change.

That was way back in August last year. I know, so far away now.

I've really been meaning to get back on and do some random posts, but the truth is we've been so busy getting the house renovations finished, then getting it on the market and keeping it clean and tidy, and sorting out work stuff, and moving stuff......

Life just got in the way. As usual.

So anyway, this is just a catch up post to let you know I have survived the big move out west, and have so far survived the increase in temperatures. We've gotten through Christmas and New Year relatively unscathed, which is always a miracle, and now we're throwing ourselves into life in a small town and all that offers.

For me, that means I've just come off of a self-imposed break from all things writing. I've set myself a couple of goals I think will be attainable this year, and I'm slowly working my way into a routine to achieve them.

These first 3-6 months I'll spend writing in the mornings, as they seem to be the quietest times (and the coolest) here, and then researching in the afternoons. I have 3 projects I'm working on, and whichever one comes out on top after that time will be the one I focus on for the final half of this year.

I don't like making resolutions at New Year, which is the reason I gave myself the extra week holiday. I don't like to start anything on the 1st of January, because I'm notoriously bad at keeping to it if it feels like a resolution.

The main thing for me over the next few months will be to get settled into a writing routine I can manage, and then work out how to up the ante to get more words out, and then think about getting something published.

The other thing I want to concentrate on is getting back to a regular blogging schedule. Don't hold your breath for the first couple of months though, as I'm trying to come up with things to actually blog about.

On a different tangent though, I'm really looking forward to having a go at brewing my own beer. Wifey bought me a Coopers home brew kit for Christmas, so I'm looking forward to seeing how I go. I'll certainly keep you posted in that regard.

And I'll be keeping you posted on the word count of my WIPs now, via a wordcount widget which should appear very shortly.