Sunday, February 28, 2016

... aaand she's up! Freedom Fighter, on Smashwords.

"Keep an eye on them, Federi!"

Captain Rushka Donegal on the bridge! But the young girl doesn't feel up to running a ship full of unruly young crew. And then they come across disaster... So it falls to Federi to pick up the pieces while his Captain is not aboard. And while he rolls his dramatic eyes and gets things done, Paean Donegal arms up and signs on for the Fight for Freedom.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

First of a series: Free

So Smashwords has this concept - put the first of a series out there for free to build readership.  I've been playing with that idea for a long time because - well, let's say I'm disappointed with the trickle.  If it were more of a stream I'd probably think twice of throwing that away.

Pros and cons for putting out the first one for free are still the same - people tend to think that if something's for free it is worthless.  Will they put down money for the second in the series, or will they wait for it to become free too?  ('snot gonna happen, fenfriends!)

Then again, Smashwords has this sensible way of throwing their stats at you - brilliant move, Mark Coker, and btw many thanks for the personal attention when I got stuck with formatting!  And here are they:

65%.  You see, I can remember figures.  65% of their bestselling series have a free first volume.  And:  Putting out an ebook for free is a fantastic way to build a readership.

I tried it with P'kaboo, but perhaps, perhaps, P'kaboo simply doesn't get quite as many clicks as Smashwords.  So here's to a fresh start.  I'm putting out the Solar Wind 1 ("The Mystery of the Solar Wind") on Smashwords for free for 1000 downloads, just to see what happens to the rest of the series.

Then of course he also mentions the WOW factor.  (Did he have to?)  Only a book that will absolutely addict its reader will have them take out money for the sequel.  Well, we'll see what stuff SW1 is made of...  Otherwise, I'll have to wait until I'm ready with the Shooting Star series and start putting out the first of that for free and see if that works better.

Here's to luck!  (Nobody knows what sells a book - except, Smashwords do seem to know, via observation!)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

That fantasy tale

That "Friday Fairy Tale" I started for a joke is turning into something else.  It's fantasy - but not the fantasy it set out to be, or at least not purely so.  It is fusion.  I'm having fun writing it, hoping that others will also have fun reading it.

By now it's about a moonstone pendant.  I'll say nothing more for now.

He dug in his hoard with his massive jaws and picked out a small stone which he delicately passed to her. It was glowing softly.
A moonstone,” Nadisda breathed, impressed. “Loaded with moonlight!”
Light from Luna, the moon of Earth, twelve thousand years back. Use it wisely,” warned Faff. “And bring it back when you are finished!”

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Essential Author Care 101

Last year I was pretty much used up. 

I had tried too many things and too few of them really worked.  What really cut me up was the way I was using them for others and not getting the results I hoped for.  I wasn't even trying to push my own stories - where an old Wiccan wisdom states that if you try to work magic for self-interest, you end up getting nothing.  That's a philosophical point as someone once argued that everything we do is out of self-interest, and well, promoting other authors in my publishing business - there is quite clearly a self-interested component in there.  But if this adage always held true, nobody would ever succeed at anything, would they?

So I spent far too much time punting our existing and new titles, exhausted myself and lost hope. 

I've written this post on the Red Ant to lay down some laws regarding my new approach to P'kaboo.

Apart from being a publisher, I'm also a writer.  A better writer than publisher.  And a musician, running a beautiful violin studio full of thriving students and occasionally entertaining myself playing at people's weddings and functions; and also a mother - a mother of three amazing and very different kids, of whom one is in high school doing well, one is in homeschool this year and we're having a journey of discovery (which homeschool always is!), and one is a young adult - I don't mean that reader-wise, I mean, she's an adult, she's 18, she is ready to emerge into the world and is exploring the different professions in the Arts, by job-shadowing.  We're also planning to book her into short-courses to expand her skills repertoire.  What an exciting year ahead!

So the noise got too much at the end of 2015 and I gave in to the temptation offered by my teenagers, to watch TV series.  December and half of January were spent adrift on the currents of the series.  I learned again to fall in love with fictitious characters.  I eagerly slurped up the inspiration that came from colourful (but by now repetitive) storylines.  I lost myself in the silence of each of us doing their own thing, in "parallel play" as they call it when toddlers in a kindergarten each play on their own with the toys while still keeping each other non-interactive company.  There were other factors, such as my other half looking after his very ill mother and therefore not being at home.  It was really, really quiet.

I put Federi and his young Shooting Star crew on hold and ignored them entirely.  Perhaps I'll be able to retake editing now, refreshed.  Perhaps I can publish other people again - but publicizing them, now that is something I shall severely limit.  I have the connections; but I don't have to do it all alone, I can introduce them to each other and leave them to it.  Answer me this:  Why should a publisher fight harder for an author's work than the author is prepared to do himself?

Author care 101:  

  • Take holidays!  Give writing a break.
  • Get new inspiration.  Any source is good.  Movies qualify.
  • Get out into nature.
  • Doing things for others is great and I believe in karma - but if you deplete yourself on it, you'll feel the consequences.  Maintain a balance.
  • Get variety into your life.
  • Nurture your relationships.
  • Rest your eyes by taking road trips.
  • Fall in love - with whatever, a movie character, a view, the idea of love.

And here's a pic of a really big wave.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Story post

Once there was...

... a villain so vile, everything he touched turned bad. Even the grass withered where his unholy feet trod. In the same land there lived a princess so pure and precious, everyone's heart melted whenever they merely saw her on telly. Most of the land was in love with her. It wasn't her fault. And in the same land, there lived a hero so Herculean, the sunlight would glint off his well-oiled muscles and golden hair as he rode by, head held high, on his white steed. There also lived a heroine so heroic, she would... well, do all the policing and justice work the princess was too pure to perform. And deep, deep in the woods, in a magic cave lined with Persian mats and hidden behind a spell, there dwelled a magic being ... a being so magic, whenever she flexed her prettily manicured hand, something magic would happen. Her name was Nadisda. (That is pronounced "Na-DEESH-da". Ok?) The author couldn't decide whether she was a tree spirit, a wood nymph or simply a witch, but truly it matters not, because all that matters was that she was so imbued with magic, it was actually quite a problem. Because this being had an additional problem. She had a bit of ADD. That was on good days. On worse days, it was ADHD, and seeing that despite television in this land they did not have Ritalin, it was quite a thing.
One day Nadisda was peacefully trying to remember whether she was trying to remove the weeds she had inadvertently planted around her cave to replace them with ferns, or do laundry day (for even in magic lands, nothing washes cleaner than OMO), when she heard a soft step on the moss. She listened up instantly, because you're not supposed to hear anything that steps on moss, except this particular step went "crunch". By this she knew that her moss had died and she'd have to replant, and in an amazingly lucid moment she jumped to the conclusion that it was the Villain who had come to see her.
Nadisda was a peaceful soul, she didn't mind if good or evil paid her a visit (good was in fact harder to endure, in this particular land). She smiled sweetly.
"Hello, Valentine! How nice to see you... would you like some tea? - oh wait, you're the one who doesn't like tea, or is that Hugo..."
"Close that gap in your face and listen," replied Valentine the vile Villain. "You have magic. Too much for your own good, to my mind. But today you could do me a favour."
Nadisda had had conversations with the Villain before, and she knew that it was best to simply nod. Sometimes it was even better that all you did was blink. But today, she sensed Valentine was in a good mood, as good as it got, and she felt that nodding was safe. So she did. Overhead, a branch sprouted a wealth of white blossoms.
"Excellent," replied Valentine. "I'm so pleased you're the type who does favours. I need you to work out a curse for the Hero."
Nadisda's eyes went wide with surprise, but she nodded again. The Villain's red coat accidentally changed to green.
"You... you want me to kill him?" she asked, knowing that there would be implications - if she could only remember what they were.
The Villain laughed. "Oh no, not kill... that would be by far too kind for that pompous nit. I want a curse that will make him wish he were dead."
"A curse is black magic," Nadisda pointed out needlessly.
"Can't you do it?" asked Valentine, taken aback.
"Of course I can, but black magic always has repercussions."
"Ah, that," laughed Valentine. "It will probably only mean that Haley the perfect heroine will come after you and lock you in the clink. Surely that's no problem for you? You can magick yourself out of there faster than the blink of an eye, can't you?"
Nadisda pulled a doubtful face. (A little spring welled up out of the ground under the Villain's feet and he had to jump aside quite suddenly to keep his designer shoes from getting too soaked.) Yes, she could; but even prison breaks had consequences, she was sure of that. Besides she could never quite remember the whole sequence for her vanishing spell.
"Oh, don't worry," said the Villain impatiently, "I'll protect you. Good enough? You'll cast that curse?"
Nadisda nodded. A tangle of vines began to grow from overhead, encroaching on Valentine. Nadisda's mind was on gardening this morning.
"Excellent," said the Villain and made a hasty getaway.
"A curse," Nadisda repeated to herself. "A curse on Hugo. So he wishes he were dead." She sat down on a moss-covered log that had conveniently sprung out of the ground to accommodate her shapely hindquarters, and absently waved a hand in the direction of the withered moss which returned to life and burst into bloom. Or more specifically, into sporophytes.
She watched those strange little flowers that were not flowers, flower on the resurrected zombie moss, and carefully let her mind wander (keeping it on a rope however in case it got lost again). Sporophytes. Moss. Hero Hugo. Valentine. And suddenly she had it.
"Uranium!" she shouted, jumping up and causing several masked weaver nests to grow clusters of noses on a tree opposite, which duly started sneezing, scaring the baby birds. "No, wait, what was that word - Eu... Euphorbium... whatever, I have it!"


Monday, February 1, 2016

Fantasy vs Scifi & my writing style

I wrote a blog post on "The Red Ant" blog that was basically a story stub.  One reader really enthused about it but the others are suspiciously quiet, and LOL I know why.

It's not my usual writing style.  Sometimes I get a bee in my bonnet and thrash out a piece in that style: slapstick humour. "The Racing Finn" and "Fanta Claus" were both written in that style. It is incredibly easy to write that way, much easier than most authors realize.  You simply exaggerate everything and point out obvious flaws that would have any editor worth his salt groaning.  It doesn't even have to conform to the high standards of editing that usually rule - not repeating words, or avoiding cliche.  On the contrary, this style absolutely lives on cliche.  Old jokes that people have heard a million times come in such rapid succession that they get their giggle buttons tickled even though it's old hat.  Once you got someone giggling it's easy to keep them giggling.  And the key to getting them giggling in the first place is that initial "what?!" moment.

That's not to say that I'd enjoy churning that kind of style out continually.  I normally write differently.  My readers who do love my books will back this:  My focus is on storyline, world-building, and most importantly on lovable characters.  I fall in love with my characters.  I allow them freedom to do what they want, and in doing so, I watch them develop.  They grow, they learn, they make mistakes and fail and try again, and break, and get picked up by others.  If you don't enjoy falling in love with story characters, my books are not for you. 

Also, it being Science Fiction, I love exploring possibilities.  I know a bit about science (having some background specifically in medical genetics and biology), so I love bringing that in and seeing where it can take us.  We're living in a world full of relevant science.  It should be part of a good, unique storyline.  Besides that I love doing the research for stories:  Reading up how a hurricane is structured, what fuels a storm, how freak waves arise, how a volcano is born, evolves and dies.  I love reading up about the places where I write (no "enchanted forest" for me).  The Everglades - in a dystopian futuristic setting.  The Marquises Islands.  The Romanian Alps.  Places like Auckland where I've never been but that are so accessible by Google these days.  And of course, places where I have been and that I loved.  Like behind the Moon.  (Just kidding.)

In all that, where is there space for slapstick?  The humour in my serious novels is sparsely strewn, but it is there - more for the connoisseur, it catches you when you don't expect it, and some of it is so subtle that you only pick it up on second reading (this is deliberate).  Yes I wrote a few things into the books specifically for those sweethearts who actually read it more than once!  They deserve the special consideration.

My novels are not about making you laugh (though hopefully they do at times).  I am not, and wouldn't want to be, Terry Pratchett.  But here and there I'll write a story purely for the sillyness.  I'd be sad if that were the reason for me to be famous one day!  When you pick up one of my books, I would like it to be because you're hoping (and I'm hoping to be able to deliver this) that when you open that cover, you'll step through a portal into a world, of freedom, emotions and adventure.  A world where you are aboard a ship for instance and part of the crew, each of whom you can fall in love with.  I want to give you that.  I want you to forget whatever your own circumstances may be at the time, and become a teenager again as you, along with Paean, bandage up that savage Wolf and try to tame him, and feel her frustration with her as he cold-shoulders her, and that sneaking, subconscious process by which she falls in love with Federi instead.  I want you to be up in the rigging with Shawn and Federi when the storms rage over the sailing ship.  (This is authentic by the way.  In "Sea Devil" by Felix Luckner, the author - himself a versed seafarer - describes how during a storm on a steamer, everyone goes belowdecks where on a sailing vessel, during a storm everyone goes up into the rigging to help control the sails.)  I want you to experience the terror and exhileration with the crew, with every freak wave they brave - some from storms, some from explosions, some because they are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The sea has many more freak waves than currently given credit for.  I researched this in depth.  (Pun intended.)

I guess many feel that way about their work.  It is said of Antonin Dvorak, the composer, that he didn't want to write too many of his famous Slavonic Dances because he felt they detracted from his status as a serious composer.  They are incredible compositions anyway.

So, no, you won't see a lot of slapstic giggle fiction from me.  Here and there as the silly-bug bites me, sure.  But not as a staple diet.  I'd feel empty if this were all I could put out.

:-)  Hope I have not disheartened anyone now.