Friday, March 09, 2012

E-Publishing Network

As some of you may already know, I'm currently studying a Master of Arts (Writing). During this course, I've had the good fortune to meet some fantastic writers and critique partners. One such individual is Natasha, who has been my critique partner since my very first study unit. She gives me blunt, honest feedback on how to develop my work, yet she's always encouraging, because she sees the potential in any piece of writing.

I'm not all that keen on sharing her.

That said, she shares me. There are a few other writers that I partner up with and I believe they are all immensely talented. (I'm hoping I might get an acknowledgement in a book or two along the way—that will be a genuine claim to fame.) So it would be unfair if I didn't share her in return.

Natasha is a part of something bigger, and it's called E-Publishing Network. They're an Australian team offering manuscript assessment, e-publishing tips, book cover design, blog setup, marketing—all the things that are very useful for someone looking to self-publish.

Someone like me…

Someone like you.

Tea

Tea comes in many unique colours.
It can be black, green, white, red, or yellow.
It is borne into each culture,
but never born into race.

Tea does not discriminate.
It does not judge.
It does not find me wanting.

Tea brings me comfort in these long, dark hours that fall
between midnight and dawn.
It is my companion through these hours, in which
few are charged with seeing
or standing
or walking.

Tea can be bitter, sweet,
strong, weak, aromatic;
it can transcend the bounds of categorisation.
Within the confines of my teacup
it can hold a gentle flower or a
raging fire.

Tea warms my hands.
It wants me to drink it in, so it can
warm me from within.

Tea does not take offence at my suggestion that
it needs sweetening tonight.
Instead, it humbly accepts the gifts I bring, of
honey, sugar or some artificial sweetener that
I can't pronounce.

Tea does not protest my attempts to cool it sooner with
cold water from the tap,
milk from the fridge, or
ice cubes from the small tray in the freezer.
In warm and sunny tomorrows
tea will thrive on fruit and bubbles.

Tea welcomes the addition of the not-tea,
the foreign.
It is always open to change,
yet it changes little and
remains dependable.

Tea shares my initial;
it sounds like my nickname.
In me, you find tea.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Dark Side

I am a writer and I have gone to the dark side.

What dark side?

E-publishing. Self-publishing. Both of these, rolled into one.

Yes, I intend to self-publish some e-books. Why? Well, for a start, I'm not particularly interested in the long and drawn-out process of finding an agent or publisher who will like me. I have a hard enough time getting regular people to like me. More importantly, I love to read e-books. So does John Birmingham, apparently.[1]

Don't get me wrong: I love the musty smell of a priceless tome filled with ornate words of wisdom just as much as the next girl—but not as much as I love my Kindle Touch 3G.

I haven't always been a Kindle user. My first e-book reader was a Sony Reader Pocket Edition, which I impulse bought from a vending machine in LAX. For my Australian readers, yes, you honestly can buy electronic goods out of Best Buy vending machines in America. You can also get your credit card skimmed, and if this happens, I hope you share my good fortune of having a bank that calls you about possible fraudulent transactions.

But I digress. I bought the Sony Reader at a time when my friends were singing the praises of their iPad Kindle Apps, and I did it for the e-ink display. I loaded my Reader with free books from Project Gutenberg (and the Australian site) and research papers that my employers found fascinating.

But, as with many overseas technology purchases, it didn't work quite as I had planned. The Reader Library application was great for syncing books between my computer and my Reader, but the Shop function only worked in North America. Years later, online shopping was made available from several Australian stores, but their ePub versions were still significantly more expensive than a Kindle e-book—anywhere from $3 to $10.

That's what prompted my move to Kindle. I made the transition gradually, first installing Kindle Apps on my iPhone and MacBook Pro, then updating the software on my HP Mini so I could use Kindle Cloud Reader. I bought a Kindle version of On Writing, then a few magazines, then…

I still resisted buying a Kindle, because I was hanging out for the Kindle Touch 3G, which wasn't yet shipping to Australia. New versions of the Kindle came out in Australia (at inflated prices—of course) and even the Kindle Fire could be shipped. I was infuriated when the Kindle Touch arrived, but only the wi-fi version.

A girl has needs. I needed free 3G so I could download my books when travelling, rather than using data roaming on my phone. I needed an e-ink display so my eyes wouldn't be strained. And I needed the touchscreen, for ease of selecting text. So I held out for as long as I could. And along came this article, which pointed me in the right direction. My Kindle Touch 3G arrived the next business day (albeit at an inflated price—of course).

I love it. I really do. I love jumping around the text, flicking forward and backward through pages or whole chapters. I love that it remembers where I'm up to in all my books and can quickly sync to the last page I read on my iPhone. I love highlighting interesting phrases and adding my own annotations. I love adjusting the display to suit the text and the conditions. I love its menus and the way I can one-touch download my books. I love the way it can download and play my Audible audiobooks (though I more frequently listen to them on my old iPod shuffle while running). I even love its accessories, such as the lighted leather cover that I ordered soon after.

Most of all, I love being able to look up words I don't know at the touch of a finger. Yes, I'm a writer. Yes, there are words I don't understand. My Kindle teaches me these words, and I add them to my vocabulary for future use. My Kindle is teaching me my own craft.

I've downloaded a few Kindle and PDF e-books on writing prompts, publishing and style. I even tried to get Ursula K. Le Guin's Steering the Craft, but it wasn't available. And there's the rub: sometimes there's no e-book, and I have to resort to a printed version. And as much as I poke at the words on the page, no definitions pop up.

T

[1] I know this because he wrote about it in 'The New Deal'. It was in the column section of Ampersand Magazine's Issue 5, 'Eleventh Hour', which I picked up today. I read a good chunk of it over a coffee, and when I got home I subscribed.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A note to my readers

Hi everyone,

I know you're out there. I do. You sneaky little buggers.
I like you. I do.
I just wish you'd admit to being there. That'd make you seem so much less like stalkers…

Jokes aside, as a writer it is really important to me to get critical feedback on the things I post.

The work I post on my blog is never perfect. Except maybe 'Myth'—that came pretty darn close. Sometimes I am too eager to post my work and I don't notice the typos. Sometimes I am out and about and I can't spot the plot holes. Sometimes there is no point to my writing, and it shows. Sometimes I read over my work and cringe; sometimes I'm embarrassed to have posted it.

You can help.

Please consider sharing your reaction with me using the 'like' and 'dislike' checkboxes. Please consider hitting that '+1' button if you like what you see. If you think someone else might like it, please consider sharing it with them using your social media networks or that fantastic little 'email' button.

But even more than that, please tell me what you think. If you don't want to post a comment on the site, I've got my details on the 'About Me' page, so try me there. Maybe even tell me why you don't want to post a comment on my site, and if it's a technical problem, I can change my site to fix it.

First, I need to know.

Ark

The two unicorns obediently followed the undead up the gangplank. Selwyn looked nervously at the vampire pair behind her. She found her new acquaintances to be rather unfriendly and a little on the malodorous side.
'Sucks to start with a U,' she muttered, enviously eyeing off the sprites, sylphs and succubi that got to hang out near the sphinx. A troll looked up and caught her staring. He made a face; Selwyn quickly looked away.
Elwyn nodded his agreement. He had been fantasising that he was the sphinx, followed by the beautiful sprites, succubi and sylphs. He hadn't noticed the first troll leering at Selwyn, but he looked up when she turned her head quickly, so he saw the second troll club the thunderbird's foot. He chuckled. 'Trolls!'
'I don't know, Elwyn…'
'No, really, over there—see, trolls!'
'I see the trolls. That's not what I mean.' Selwyn sounded so uncertain that Elwyn finally gave her his full attention.
She continued. 'I'm not sure about him.' She pointed her horn at the Ark's captain, navigator and lone sailor. He was holding a golden clipboard upon which there was a list of the approved species. Selwyn wasn't sure who had constructed the list, but it had surely not been any great authority, because the man was adding as many new names to the list as he was checking off the ones already there. He did this with a diamond-encrusted pencil that he waved extravagantly as each pair stepped aboard.
'Weeeelllllcome tooooo meeeee shiiiiiiip, ladieeeeeeeesh,' he slurred at the nymphs that had just stepped aboard.
One nymph retorted, 'I'm a male. That's the whole point, right?'
The captain giggled hysterically and waved his sparkling pencil. 'Yeeeesh, iiiiifff yoooouuu shay shoooo… Weeeelllllcome aboarrrrrd!'
The unicorns shuffled forward with the queue. Elwyn thought this very unseemly. He eagerly awaited the acceptance of the ogres; removing such enormous beasts from the queue would surely offer an opportunity to prance, as a unicorn should. Sprites, succubi and sylphs were unlikely to notice a shuffling unicorn, but a prancing unicorn could probably draw their attention.
Noticing that Elwyn's thoughts were wandering, Selwyn nudged him quickly, once, twice with her horn. He focused on the captain once more.
There was a woman by the captain's side, seated upon the decking with her head resting on his thigh.  Elwyn thought he could see a trail of drool down the captain's trousers, connected by a silver thread to the wench's mouth. Selwyn explained how she had watched in astonishment as the woman slumped to the deck in a stupor twelve minutes earlier. So far, the wench was showing no sign of recovery.
Selwyn lowered her voice. 'I think he's drunk, or stoned, or something.'
A hushed silence fell around them. The undead turned their blank gazes upon Selwyn and emitted a haunting moan. One of the vampires shuffled a little closer, as if to hear better. 
Elwyn acknowledged that she had made a very good point. 'So, should we bail?'
'I guess so, but… Where would we go? It's not as if we can suddenly sprout wings and fly away.'
Their conversation was interrupted by a loud beating sound. The unicorns braced against the buffeting wind. Elwyn looked up, half expecting to see a helicopter. Instead he saw a pegasus taking to the skies, closely followed by his mate. Elwyn's harmless envy of the fortunate sphinx, followed by sprites, succubi and sylphs, dissolved into the aether. In its place he found a bitter jealousy.
'That's hardly fair. Bastard.'
Some rows ahead, a thylacine pronounced to her mate that she was keen to head to Tasmania. 'I've heard the scenery is lovely, and it's an island, so we'd be quite sheltered and safe. What do you say?'  Her mate nodded, and together they slunk past the other creatures, back down the gangplank and onto dry land.
One ogre stepped aboard, and the two unicorns pranced forward. The sprites, succubi and sylphs noticed, and smiled coyly at Elwyn. He shook his impressive mane and was about to rise up on his hind legs when Selwyn prodded him again. 
The other ogre stepped aboard and the ship swayed alarmingly. The captain laughed merrily as he teetered and tottered. The wench slipped from his thigh, her head striking the deck with a loud thunk.
Despite their misgivings, the unicorns continued to wait patiently in the queue, and when their turn came, they boarded the Ark. Selwyn politely introduced herself to the captain.
'Faaaaarrrrrk, youuuu have naaaamesh?'
'Of course we have names.' Selwyn was perplexed. 'Don't all the creatures have names?'
'Nope. I'm Noooooaaaaah.'
'Hi Noooooaaaaah, it's nice to meet you,' said Elwyn.
The captain started to giggle again. Elwyn did not appreciate being laughed at, particularly when he did not understand the joke. Before the situation could escalate, Selwyn led him toward the stern.
She explained the joke in a whisper. 'I think his name is Noah. He's just slurring because he's so drunk.'
Come to think of it, that was pretty funny, thought Elwyn.
In the seven odd weeks that followed, it rained all day and all night. Selwyn wished fruitlessly that Noah would construct some sort of cover on the deck. The furry animals soaked up an ever increasing volume of water and the entire vessel began to stink of wet carpet. A few species of fish lay rotting on the deck, though Selwyn couldn't imagine why they had come aboard in the first place. Quite frankly, the place was a bit of a mess, and the unicorns had lost all faith in the captain.
So they weren't all that surprised when they struck the reef.
'Buggerrrrrr…' said Noah. He dug out his golden clipboard and diamond-encrusted pencil and started to call the roll. Within minutes, he was up to his knees in water, but only up to 'Banshee' on the roll.
Selwyn and Elwyn huddled together, disappointed and yet relieved that their ordeal would soon be over. The vampires approached them shyly.
'I suppose this is it for us, then,' said the female. 'We can't swim. How about you?'
Selwyn seemed to be choking up with emotion, so Elwyn answered for them. 'We can't swim, either.' The vampires nodded sadly. 
Selwyn sobbed. 'All these beautiful creatures…' 
Elwyn moved closer to comfort her. 'And we are the most beautiful of all. Perhaps, someday, someone will write about us,' he said. 'Someone like Stephenie Meyer.'

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Remember

Remember
the smell of her soft, warm skin,
the scatter of her long hair
turned golden by the sun's early rays
through the grimy windows.

Remember
this moment,
when you two lay side-by-side,
as one, in the place
where last night you lay entwined,
enraptured.

Remember
this peace,
for tomorrow you lie alone
in the trenches.