Monthly IWSG Corner
Some time between in post-fifties Britain before the ‘Sixties’ revolution, BBC Radio aired a weekly show, Desert Island Disks, allowing a celebrity castaway to a fictional ‘desert island’ to take with him a handful of favored tunes, to accompany him in his exultant solitude.
Some of you will know I recently moved lock, stock and library shelves to a new abode [PDT is my excuse for being three hours late, Alex]. And while my internet hiccups continue—I know, it’s getting boring—I seem to have discovered a Desert Island Inventory of my own.
Higgledy piggledy among a few other life-enhancing objects—my possessions recently completed a circuit by sea from Europe to North America via the Panama Canal. I add quickly, I did not. I came the other way. And while I am still ‘camping out’, I’m gradually able to open a few boxes, and thought the readers/hoarders/collectors among us IWSGers might enjoy what came out of the first couple of cartons. I swear I didn’t pack them—this was movers’ choice. Isn’t it interesting to see one’s life flash before one’s eyes?
There follows a sample of my lifetime reading—as they emerged from the box. In the opinion of some, a ‘wasted youth’; but IMHO, Goodreads, eat your heart out.
Joseph Conrad: Outcast of the Islands, Limited Ed. Avon, CN 1979
Frank Herbert: God Emperor of Dune, Berkley Books [Putnam's], 1981
Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End, Penguin, 1963
Arthur C. Clarke: 2010 Odyssey Two, Penguin, 1986
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary—on historical principles—Vol. II N-Z, Clarendon Oxford, 1965 (‘shorter’ edition requires only mild magnifying glass)
William Golding: Lord of the Flies, Capricorn [Putnam's] New York 1959
Fred Hoyle: Astronomy, MacDonald, London, 1962
Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land, Berkley, 1975
Jeffrey Archer: As the Crow Flies, Coronet, Hodder & Stoughton 1991 [no apology]
Shirley MacLaine: Dancing in the Light, Bantam New York, 1987
[in my suitcase as current reading are:
Shirley MacLaine: Going Within,
Ken Carey: Return of the Bird Tribes so I guess my reading habits alter little!]
Victor Hugo: Notre Dame of Paris, Vols I, II & IV[??] Dent London, 1899
Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Ox,U.P. 1979
Mrs Gaskell: Cranford, Nelson, London 1945
True Annals of Fairyland in the Reign of King Herla, Dent London Dutton NY, prob. 1940s
Wallis Budge, E.A., Egyptian Book of the Dead—Papyrus of Ani, Dover NY, 1967
Evans-Wentz, W.Y. Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries Oxford Univ. Press, 1911
Concise Oxford Dictionary [don't ask; handier single volume] Oxford Univ. Press, 1976
Aldous Huxley: Point Counterpoint, Chatto & Windus, London 1938
Thornton Wilder: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Penguin (2 copies?), 1966, 1971
Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon: Scots Heraldry, Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, 1945
Lyall Watson: Heaven’s Breath, A Natural History of the Wind, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1984
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Sunday School Union, Ludgate Hill, London 1896
G.Brook-Shepherd: The Last Habsburg, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1968
L & J Laing: Picts and Scots, Sutton, Stroud, 1996
Marion Campbell: The Dark Twin, Colonsay, Argyll, 1973
E.B. Lytton: Last Days of Pompeii, King, London 1832
Bros. Grimm: Household Tales, Dover, London 1963
P.D. James: A Taste for Death, Faber London, 1986
Lyall Watson: Lifetide—Biology of the Unconscious, Coronet 1980
J.V.Luce The End of Atlantis, Paladin [Thames-Hudson], 1973
J.C.Lilly: Centre of the Cyclone, an autobiography of Inner Space Paladin [Thames-Hudson], 1974
J.C.Lilly: The Human Computer; Abacus, 1968
New Oxford Book of English Verse, OUP, 1972
S.Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, Viking, London, 1988
Taylor Caldwell: Dear and Glorious Physician, Fontana/Collins, 1959
Vera Brittain: Testament of Youth, V. Gollancz, London, 1985
Rbt. Burns: Poetic Works, Kilmarnock edition, Scot.Daily Express, Glasgow. 1938.
E.A. Poe: Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Bracken, London, 1987
Salley H.E. & Greer, H.E.: Rhododendron Hybrids, Batsford London, 1986
David Austin: English Roses, RHS, Kew London, 1997
Reader’s Digest Great Illustrated Dictionary, Vol. II L-Z, 1984
One bonus to having even a single volume of the last item: it comes in handy when the wireless goes … I won’t mention it again… but round here, the internet service isn’t called Suddenlink for no reason…
I suspect you’re getting a little insight into my dilemma.
Onward and upward.
Once again, my thanks to Alex and his team of stalwart IWSGers. And a teeny weeny apology for not getting to press under the midnite deadline, EST. Raps own knuckles. Will try better next time.
And, BTW, oh so HAPPY MAY!
©2013 Marian Youngblood
May 2, 2013 Posted by siderealview | authors, culture, fiction, publishing, traditions, writing | Aldous Huxley, Alex J Cavanaugh, Arthur C. Clarke, books, David Austin, Desert Island Disks, Evans-Wentz, Fred Hoyle, inventory, IWSG, Ken Carey, Lewis Carroll, library, Lyall Watson, Mrs Gaskell, Rbt. Heinlein, reading, Robert Burns, roses, Shirley MacLaine | 8 Comments
Monthly IWSG Corner: or
Are [Insecure] Writers better at weathering stormy times than other people?
There is no doubt that—if one watches the news at all—we are all heading for hell in a handbasket, according to media-directed focus on the negative aspects of our economy, environment, life-expectancy and statistics on survival. But, quietly, behind the scenes other aspects of our lives are changing for the good… if we but extract ostrich-like heads from sand and look around to see what we may have achieved.
Some years ago, the book publishing industry used toxic solvents, bleach compounds, felled a lot of non-regenerating trees and had no interest in recycling materials or finding alternatives to the [sometimes candy-coated] printed page. In fact, if we are honest, since the days of the Gutenberg press, we (writers) as a race, have probably been addicted to the sensation/smell of a good book in our hands.
“Achieving the great economic transition to more equitable, ecologically sustainable societies requires nothing less than a design revolution beyond today’s fossilized industrialism. This enlightened and enlightening book—Cradle to Cradle—shows us how and indeed, that ‘God is in the details.’”
Hazel Henderson, author of Building a Win-Win World and Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy
Then, in 2002, along came William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s seminal edition of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things, manufactured from ‘upcyclable’ material. The ‘Durabook’ feels substantial, pages wipe clean and at the time (before the great upswing to e-books), it was the darling of all ‘progressive’ universities. It looked so good on the second-hand book shelf!
With the advent of the e-book, electronic art, IT-in-all-schools, mass web access, we writers may have been guilty of continuing to keep our heads buried in the sand: not wanting to see what was happening: while the industry was changing—writers and indy publishers taking the business under their own wing; writers providing platforms, support systems for fellow-writers—we may even have rebelled internally, determined not to lose that most elusive of pleasures (to an author), the sensation of holding a ‘good book’ in one’s hands.Now, eleven years after their first Durabook (a synthetic made from recycled plastic resins and inorganic fillers), McDonough and Braungart launch their ‘sequel’ from Northpoint Press, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance, on April 16th. The foreword is by former president William T. Clinton. Northpoint is a subsidiary arm of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
In the early 1990s, then President Bill Clinton asked Bill McDonough to help with the White House ‘Greening’ program, to make drastic reductions in presidential fuel bills. The former president enthusiastically contributes to the new ‘durabook’ with a foreword clearly showing his support for the architect-chemist team’s solution to the world’s ills:
“Bill and Michael proposed that a better-designed world would be good for business, good for people’s health and good for the environment. Their first book introduced these ideas to the broader public and gave momentum to the sustainability movement, urging us to eliminate waste and consider no resource dispensable… essence of Bill and Michael’s work is the genuine desire to help others, coupled with intellectual curiosity and a deep commitment to transform ‘good enough’ into the very best. They focus on making the right things the right way.” President William T. Clinton
While the publishing industry may be slow (almost as leviathan as the banking industry, if we are being honest), there is certainly a sense of camaraderie developing among fellow writers-bloggers-authors by the fresh breeze blown in by indy publishers and independent e-book self-publishers in the last decade.
“We do not want sustainability, because that is not enough. We want real quality”
Judging by the press releases, the sequel to Cradle-to-Cradle may be even more inspiring than the original. Eleven years worth the wait? I am not totally confident that we insecure writers—led always to our fearless Alex J Cavanaugh, will succeed in plunging—all at once—into the new world of Durabooks or plastic substitutes, because of … our insecurities, you know: our favorite ‘feel-good’ and ‘smell-good’ sensations are indulged in when we curl up with our… well …you-know-what …
… Or do our insecurities insist that a good book isn’t the same if it doesn’t come from a tree? We shall have to wait and see. Thanks for listening, IWSGers and Alex. And great achievement, Michael Braungart and Bill McDonough.
©2013 Marian Youngblood
April 3, 2013 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, culture, environment, fiction | abundance, Alex J Cavanaugh, book launch, Braungart, Cradle to Cradle, Durabook, good book, Indy publishers, McDonough, Northpoint Press, president, recycle, sustainable, synthetic, Upcycle, William Clinton | 4 Comments
Monthly IWSG Corner
We all know when the Muse is directing operations, it’s better if we just go along with her, with the tide, and allow her full rein. It’s important to give her loads of room to stir up the subconscious, and then wait and see what little miracles she has planned for us.
At other times, when the outer world directs—like editors, publishers, book-signings; that whole exciting round of putting oneself out there—it sometimes takes us by storm and we need to follow that flow, too.
But our Muse doesn’t like it; does she? Even when we tell her she needs to rest occasionally. Like her human charges, all work and no play… you know.
I wish it were as easy as it sounds: deciding when to write, and when not to. But, especially in the writing-publishing world, it’s never that simple. We writers aren’t totally in charge.
To be honest, we probably never were. We may think—especially during edit-mania—that the left hemisphere of our brain is running the show. But, even then, the direction is more likely to be coming from the reading public, what our publisher expects, what the market wants; what subjects are current darlings of the book-club circuit.
So, because I have been working flat-out—over the last month, at least—to try to get through final edits on my apocalyptic/end-times New Age novel, SHASTA: CRITICAL MASS, forthcoming from lovely Maine publisher, All Things That Matter Press, I have to say upfront I have probably let down my blogging/authorly friends in Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group. I know how good it feels to hear a word of encouragement from others in the same position—writers and bloggers and authors beginning to make a name for themselves out there—so I apologize if I haven’t had a chance to make the usual rounds of IWSG authors’ pages in the last few weeks. I promise I’ll try to make up for it, when the current push subsides.On the other hand, there may be quite a few IWSG-ers whose work is ideally suited to the ATTM ethos, so I’ll explain. They are a small press who like to introduce to the world of readers those authors who have a message—predominantly spiritual—to relay, a distinctive “self”, which they’d like to share. In these times where the ‘Big Five’ often have little patience with first-time authors or new discoveries, their approach is refreshing. Run by husband-and-wife team, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Phil and Deb Harris, the system operates smoothly, and the cogs are well-oiled and kept rolling by a team of editors, including the superb Marvin Wilson, himself a blogger and author of several books, including the Avatar-Award-winning novel, Owen Fiddler (2009). I couldn’t be in better hands.
For IWSG-ers, it may be of interest to point out that Marvin is also a mentor who delights in assisting writers, bloggers, other authors in the art of good writing.
That said, my Muse is feeling a little restless. She doesn’t like taking a back seat. Edits and reworked points-of-view (POV) are not what she thrives on. But I have told her that she, like me, should take a break from time to time. We all need to make the Journey Out and In. Besides, I’ve had a couple of chapter rewrites where she seemed delighted to pitch in again and throw her weight around!
And, if all goes well, she will be allowed to stretch her wings fully once more next month, when the annual NaNoWriMo marathon starts up again for all of us fledgelings to soar, unencumbered, to dizzy heights.
Until then, I hope she will a-Muse herself—sorry —and I have reminded her that we have even greater (Muse-ical) avatars who paced this path before us:
Gazing past the Planets
Looking for total view
I’ve been lying here for hours
Got to make the Journey Out and In
Thank you ©Moody Blues.
And thank you, Alex.
©2012 Marian Youngblood
October 3, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, fiction, Muse, novel, publishing | Alex J Cavanaugh, AllThingsthatMatterPress, apocalyptic, deadline, edit, Insecure Writers Support Group, IWSG, Journey Out & In, Moody Blues, Muse, novel, POV, Shasta: Critical Mass | 6 Comments
Writing should be an act of love; all else is a scribble—”écrire c’est un acte d’amour; ne pas faire c’est escriture” Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau clearly didn’t have a lot of deadlines; or else he was so secure within himself that they didn’t phaze him. Well, some of us DO write only when we’re inspired and in love with our words, but there are other times…aaarrrgggh.
No, I didn’t say that Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group [IWSG] stresses me with deadlines! But I did completely lose track first Wednesday last month, posting something which even Alex must have thought indicated I had lost it. So I am giving a quick apology now to any who read my cropcircle item at that time, as a bonus, or for misleading those who searched my site for other relevant material and ended up reading my (much older) post on how Myers-Briggs sees us flighty authors!
Blame it on the weather! Or something.
It is true: the 2012 season (which in Britain has been dire) since having early summer in March, resorted to Arctic gales and rainstorms from April through August, and now that September has arrived, only the most hardy of us mortals lingers outdoors to pick up the fragments of petunia blossoms, and rose petals hurled from their stems. It could get anyone down—in their right mind.But we writers have never been really in our right minds, have we? And, as we all know, if we’re feeling down, or insecure, or unable to cope for any reason, it always helps to reach out and help another. So if you guys are still with me, reading/writing and supporting each other, you may find it gratifying to stretch out the hand of friendship—even if your fingers are full of petals and your mind full of untyped words—because this month marks one whole year that the IWSG has been together, and it has grown from just a few writerly bloggers to an amazing 276 people out there sharing their tips, fears, doubts or just plain helping other budding writer/bloggers along. Alex, our Ninja captain, is a great one for holding out a helping hand—besides he posts FAR MORE FREQUENTLY than I do—so if you are in any doubt about joining our disparate gang, [I said disparate, not desperate] I heartily recommend it.
Besides, in reading and visiting the blogs of others—even if you haven’t really got one going yourself—you develop a ‘feel’ which just could turn into something you’ve always wanted to try, but never had the guts to. Now’s your chance.
P.S. My criticism of world weather may sound unreasonable, particularly in the wake of hurricane Isaac, which seemed intent on doing a Katrina around the Mississippi basin; I don’t mean to steal any thunder. My dear goddaughter is a doc in one of the emergency rooms in NOLA and she says it wasn’t pretty; but the great thing we all share about WEATHER is that it changes; and there is always hope for us writers that our togetherness—hugely assisted by the friendly electrons of the internet—will give us the feeling of holding hands across the waves [literal and metaphorical], so that we know we are not alone.
For that reason alone, I am grateful for having found IWSG and want to wish it happy birthday. I also wish Alex godspeed with his third novel CassaStorm—go to his site and reeeeead about it—like his other two, it is destined for huge success.
Thanks for being there IWSG buddies.
Have a good September.
©2012 Marian Youngblood
September 5, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, fantasy, fiction, novel | Alex J Cavanaugh, Arctic, blogging, Insecure Writers Support Group, Isaac, IWSG, Jean Cocteau, NOLA, September | 6 Comments
So it is not surprising that some of us were asked to make the occasion a little more crazy (than it already was, and it is jolly: see other participating pretenders) by sharing in a Crazy Cozy Spoof Pitch: setting out the bones of a Cozy Mystery and letting the authors choose the zaniest.
So here’s mine—all apologies for uproarious laughter or convulsions subsequently induced—accepted.
CRAZY COZY SPOOF PITCH:
Protagonist: My detective is an amateur crop circle photographer, Colin, camping overnight with his girlfriend and accidental witnesses to what they believe is the manifestation of a light orb in the making of a crop circle.
Sidekick: his girlfriend, the lovely Linda; who has ideas of her own about who is making the patterns in the cornfields.Theme: you guessed it—the crop circle season has begun! endless imaginary designs conjured up to keep the croppies hoppy! er, happy.
Victim #1 and Victim #2: found together next morning in the middle of a newly-formed crop pattern: #1 is local rope-&-plank circlemaker Dave, known to brag about his alien connections; #2 is the lifeless corpse of a small, gray large-lidded alien. Their bodies are aligned to face an ancient burial cairn and passage grave on the distant horizon.
Killer: Locals suspect Dave’s partner Doug had been jealous of his partner’s ability to make board-and-stomp patterns in the wheat better than him; but when more “alien” circles start to arrive and they know they didn’t make them, they decide to split up and see what’s going on.But our trusty sleuth and the dedicated Linda have other ideas, when they camp out the following night and witness another ball of light descend and pick up the gray body, deliberately left to see if they could film any developments… Oh, yes: The real killer is the driver of the second “light orb” ship, who thought by sacrificing his colleague and the earthling, they would learn more about Earth jealousies. After all, they have full capability aboard to resuscitate his co-pilot and resume their mission…
©2012 Marian Youngblood
…and a postscriptum for the serious matter of the day:
If, by now, you haven’t figured out what a Cozy Mystery is—think Daphne duMaurier, Agatha Christie, rather than Blade Runner, Alien Resurrection—if you see what I mean…
And it may interest you, bloghop reader, to know that even Alyse’s publisher, Berkley, knows that she’s loopy; because this is their cover blurb for her:
“Alyse Carlson is the pen name for Hart Johnson who writes books from her bathtub. By day she is an academic researcher at a large midwestern university. She lives with her husband, two teenage children and two fur balls. The dust bunnies don’t count. This will be her first published book.”
Don’t you just love it? How can she fail? Go, Hart: woot woot.
Lots of love.
June 5, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, crop circles, fantasy, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | Agatha Christie, Alyse Carlson, author, Azalea Assault, bloghop, cozy mystery, Crazy Cozy, crop circles, first book, Hart Johnson, launch, Manton Drove Cs, Tami Hart, waterytart | 9 Comments
Monthy IWSG Corner
That’s taking the I-95 to stardom. Many of us toil and trouble over our works for years before reaching that superhighway. Some of us get stuck on Route-66 indefinitely and then launch ourselves into self-pub, if only to see what it actually looks like on the bookshelf!
Within what is almost the last industry to become ‘wired’, Big Five Publishers are notorious for not replying to query letters for months; require representation by an agent before looking at a submission; fail to return MSS unless accompanied by a SAE; don’t like email submissions and generally offer little advice. The learning curve is huge — and mostly self-taught.
It is little wonder, then, that self-publishing has taken off — there are an inordinate number of frustrated authors-turned-publishers out there. And with the advent of Smashwords, CreateSpace and Lulu, everyone can do it.But we authors, published, self-published or wannabe-published, are a determined group. And we still — in our darkest days — imagine our name in (virtual) lights, our nom de plume in headlines.
So, some of us –while not letting up on the query circuit– adapt ourselves for entry into yet another world of imaginary stardom: the book contest. Believe me, it is yet another plunge into unknown waters.
Undaunted, I regrouped and headed back to my old stomping grounds (Scotland) and submitted for the newish (eight-year-old) Dundee International Book Prize, a British enterprise co-hosted by the University of Dundee and the City of Discovery. Like ABNA, Dundee takes a month or so to let you know you’ve made it (or not) through the first round. Both accepted online submissions. However, unlike ABNA’s publishing partner, Penguin Books, Cargo — the publisher behind Dundee– announces the winner AND launches the winning book in October. This at least gives the entrant hope.
Judges lined up to scan the winning entries include author Phillip Pullman, agent Jenny Brown and media intellectual Stephen Fry. With the prize also comes an advance of GBP £10,000. It is a major incentive for any new author.
The difference between these two contests, however, is striking.All comparisons of geographical size, literary muscle and talent aside, I saw these two arms of the industry reaching out to us authors in remarkably different ways. Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) — author of the Victorian cautionary tale, The Water Babies: A Fairy Tale for Land Babies – would have had fun. In his 1863 tale of a lowly sweep (boy apprentice) lowered down chimneys to clean as he went, Kingsley emphasized squalor versus gentrified living, criticized child-labor, was outraged by American slavery. His hero Tom is amazed to see his own reflection in a little lady’s bedroom, immediately plunging himself afterwards into a stream to wash; and spending the rest of the story in the arms of fairies. He is ‘redeemed’ by two Victorian mother-figures: Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby, and Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid: the former surrounded all water babies in a kindly bubble; the latter brushed all aside with impunity.
Kingsley’s authority figures show remarkable similarities to our two book contests.
Dundee, a rising star in the British book prize league, offered press office interaction, explanation of how to submit, entered into helpful discussion when one platform seemed incompatible with their entry guidelines, and acknowledged receipt: c.f. Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby.
ABNA, on the other hand, admittedly swamped by 5000 entrants, did not acknowledge receipt of entries, but its webpage was efficient; announcing MS upload as having ‘succeeded’ or try again. The February 23rd first round successes were provided in a pdf list which could be downloaded to see if one’s name was included. No correspondence was entered into. In a cautionary sense, ABNA gave no advice, took no prisoners, offered no ‘Pay-it-Forward’ ethos; c.f. Kingsley’s Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid.
I do not expect consolation or even understanding from the wide world of publishing — matters for publishers have gone from bad to worse in a matter of a few years. They struggle with advances (many give none), book returns, publicity budgets and book signings. It has become a cut-throat business where many have gone down. But in taking the Bedonebyasyoudid approach, slicing off all option for the kindness of others to play a part, they may have been a little hasty –shortsighted, even. [In my opinion there will always be a place in people's hearts for the feel of a book in one's hands].
Dundee is Paying-it-Forward. I admire them for that. When I was unable to complete their online entry form — let’s just say it was formatted in a program which my **MacBook** couldn’t read– the Prize office suggested I send in my own text document, completing my required details. How enlightened!
Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby at Kingsley’s Christian redemptive best!
There is no mega-solution or allegory in this cautionary tale; it is totally unrealistic to believe that the publishing industry, especially in the US where readership is the world’s highest, will change overnight and become a kindly motherly soul.
But I’d like to compliment Dundee on its humanness.
It matters not who wins and who loses; but how we treat each other in the process. And ‘paying-it-forward’ is going to become more important to our interaction as we writing-humans journey through this crazy fairy story called life. On that lingering note, I thank our host, Alex, whose pay-it-forward approach has rubbed off quite a bit lately!
©2012 Marian Youngblood
March 7, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, culture, elemental, fiction, novel, writing | ABNA, book contest, Charles Kingsley, City of Discovery, Dundee International Book Prize, fairy story, Mrs BeDoneByAsYouDid, Mrs DoAsYouWouldBeDoneBy, pay-it-forward, University of Dundee, Water Babies | 6 Comments
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot”
Alex J Cavanaugh is one of those fortunate authors who never meant for it to catch on. But today promises to turn him into a household word, as his second Sci-Fi book to launch in less than 18 months catches fire.
Cavanaugh’s CassaFire is released today by Dancing Lemur Press.
Trained as a visual artist (with a degree in Fine Arts), he wrote for his own pleasure. He is still master of all he surveys in the design field. But his Heinlein-esque prose, deep techno-filled space journeys, military precision — and, dare I say, a misspent youth watching the ’70s cult series Battlestar Galactica — combined with a love of sci-fi from childhood reading, has turned the wheel of fortune in his favor.His first book, CassaStaR (2010) hit the Top-Ten Bestseller list; his second, CassaFire launches today from Dancing Lemur Press. That’s what the blog party’s all about.
So, to celebrate an author whose blog always tries to help others –his modest acceptance of his own fortune gives him an edge to support fellow writers– some of his friends and I are joining his Catch Fire Blog Party. *
Alex and I ‘met’ in the ethers and while his blogs and mine diverge, we were both drawn to each other’s conviction that there is a whole starsystem of talented authors out there trying to mesh their writing with a reading audience; as well as a waiting world genuinely wanting to read our works of fantasy, adventure, and (in his case) hardcore Sci-Fi. Despite his assertion that he is only a humble designer, he has found a way to build a world around his success.
“I’m not as intensive a world-builder as most authors. I took notes on the basic structure, using a few science fiction movies as guides for the overall feel and details on spacecraft and alien vessels” Alex Cavanaugh, CassaStaR
Modesty strikes again.
I happen to know that Alex has method behind his apparent madness. He loves his characters, structures them deeply; plans them from the inside out. So, having given his main characters life in CassaStaR, he found that even when the story changes (CassaFire), their personalities and traits “just fell into place”.
There is more. Because of our shared conviction that reading, writing and creativity are essential to keep the human race evolving (he worked in the Adult Literacy Program for several years; he plays several musical instruments), Alex persists with his blogging to reflect his love of everything sci-fi: movies to books to blogs. It will not surprise me if he comes out next with a screenplay! A musical!Alex is not one to sit back and wait while the rest of the revellers raise their champagne flutes to him and look around to see if any of this high-rolling might rub off. Today his nose is buried in a galaxy of supporting blogs (after all, that’s what we bloggers are here for, isn’t it?) — he’s taken the day off ‘work’ (design) to scan the fans. But today also marks the start of his blogtour, which runs through March 9th. When he’s not doing that, he’ll be back at the helm, steering his Insecure Writers Support Group to the stars.
Told you, he plans ahead. And we all wish him the utmost of great good fortune with CassaFire. Well done, Captain Alex.
*Today is the Catch Fire Blog Party, celebrating the release of Alex J. Cavanaugh’s CassaFire by Dancing Lemur Press. The goal is to help CassaFire “catch fire” on the best seller charts and achieve the success of his first book, CassaStar. There’s also a special package of prizes being given away at the author’s blogtour”>blog (copies of CassaFire, CassaStar, tote bag, mug, and bookmarks) as well as book giveaways during his two-week blog tour.
©2012 Marian Youngblood
February 28, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, fantasy, fiction, novel, popular | Alex J Cavanaugh, Battlestar Galactica, blog party, blog tour, book launch, CassaFire, Dancing Lemur, fantasy, galaxy, HeinleinRobert, Insecure Writers Group, IWSG, sci-fi, stars | 8 Comments
January with the Gremlins
At the time I was mostly concentrating on encouraging other bloghop authors — younger/newer, published or not — to enter, just to get the ‘feel’ of an international competition. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is bigtime, but it’s also fairly simple to enter and before the fun begins — judging — it is not too taxing to come up with five (required) items that qualify you for entry:
1. Your bio — called ‘About You’
2. Your contact details: self-explanatory
3. Book description — ‘About your Book’
4. Your excerpt — up to the first three chapters of your book
5. Upload your MS — ‘Your Entry’.
Simple. You would think so, wouldn’t you?
It’s that last bit, ‘Your Entry’, that creates palpitations, anxiety, sleeplessness and sometimes compels the most fearless of writers to break down and cry. And it’s not because you haven’t edited your WIP to perfection, had three Beta Readers review and revise it, and rewritten the ending to your own plot-bunnies’ demands, see also below.
It’s the pitch.While on the submit-to-agents, submit-to-publisher circuit, it’s known as the infamous query letter. Ah, I hear you sigh, that. The query letter is that most difficult of all instruments for a creative writer of fiction to write, because s/he is tearing her hair to describe from a ‘marketing’ perspective what s/he has slaved over for the last —fill the gap— months, dreamed dreams over plot, character nuances and surprise twists in a story that was close to one’s heart. Now, to present it to the reading world, it must go through the hoops of the query circuit. We have to distill our fledgling work of 50k+ words into a 300-word bullet. Not only that, every line has to catch the eye of the destined agent. Or it gets rejected. All of us who have trodden that thorny path know how soul-destroying (ongoing) rejection can be.
Amazon use exactly the same method to get you to capture the essence of your newest baby: but instead of having to write them a query letter, they ask you to submit a pitch. That’s not the same as ‘about your Book’. More exactly, it’s a short ‘snappy’ catch-all to hook readers. More significantly, in the ABNA contest, your completed entry will be judged in Round One solely on your pitch.
Now that the competition is officially closed while first round judging takes place, five thousand writers in each category (general fiction and YoungAdult fiction) are biting their nails, comparing blogs and praying they hit the target with their pitch: one thousand of those praying will be chosen to go through to round two — *Round One ‘winners’ announced February 23rd.So, just for laughs, here’s a link to the first chapter of my entry, ‘Coco Bay: the Awakening’, the second in my Green Turtle Cay trilogy of deepsea, deepspace, deeptime fantasies to cross the final frontier. If, after you have read my opening chapter, you want to compare it with my pitch, below, please be my guest.
But you will surely be able to tell, won’t you? that I still feel I wrote one, but not the other! It’s the perennial schizm that working authors face. No wonder they say we’re neurotic.
Coco Bay: the Awakening by Marian Youngblood — the Pitch:When Annabelle awakes from a scary dream of a WWII Navy ship returning through a time wormhole in the Bermuda Triangle with crew’s limbs stuck randomly to the bulkheads, she knows she’s in for an interesting week at the new Seaquarium.
In Green Turtle trilogy Part-1 she met the mysterious John, head of a Bahamian initiative to save world oceans, when she started work for the consortium in its ocean-floor lab.
In part two, Coco Bay, she discovers the marine project has endless resources — both financial and electromagnetic — somehow connected with 500,000 square miles of Bermuda Triangle on their doorstep. Harnessing electromagnetic Triangle energy could work miracles for her local Out-Island community and she finds herself drawn by the thrill of rescuing endangered species, without really understanding where these never-before glimpsed denizens of the deep are being rescued from!
When an entire human family returns through the wormhole to help John scale up the operation from eco-project to wholesale planetary migration, she dives in to help. These are John’s own children, missing in the time-fabric since the project began forty years earlier.
A random chain of events may save earth’s sister world, Europa, with its great mysterious deep, but may also redeem Earth’s inhabitants from destroying their own future.
Coco Bay — second in the fantasy trilogy — will appeal to a wide age/readership, within the present-day context of world concern for mass extinctions. Its scientific reality pulls readers into a scenario which crosses electromagnetic boundaries, suggested by exciting developments in plasma science current with astronomers and physicists.
The Bahamas’ unique setting and history will appeal to readers, travelers and piracy buffs alike.
Fantasy/borderlineSciFi novel along the lines of Cosmic Connection meets The Abyss, its final (electromagnetic) surprise twist should entice readers for more.
*ABNA first round neurosis ends February 23rd when they announce 1000 authors in each category who will go forward. Wish us luck.
©2012 Marian Youngblood
February 11, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, culture, fiction, novel, popular, publishing, writing | ABNA, Bahamas, Breakthrough Award, Coco Bay, contest, deepsea, deepspace, deeptime, Green Turtle Cay, judges, Navy destroyer, pitch, plot bunnies, publish, query, trilogy, USS Eldridge, world oceans, wormhole, writing | 4 Comments
WiFi and Insecure Writers
I have been on intermittent connection with the Ether since mid-December. My usual readers will please forgive me for sporadic internet connection, solstitial/Yuletide hibernation and Wifi-free preparation for a magical New Year.
So magical will 2012 be, I believe, though, that we won’t have any need to feel “insecure” any more; Alex Cavanaugh (just joking, Alex) will have done such a good job of getting us all to ‘spill the beans’—the raison d’être of his monthly Insecure Writers’ Support Group (IWSG)—that in the catharsis, we won’t feel insecure any more.
So far, Alex’s initiative to encourage writers into releasing their (writing) fears–as well as bloghopping every first Wednesday of each month, lets other writers feel not so shy of plunging in. Besides, it’s a lot of fun bouncing around other writers’ sites in the “wee hours” of the new year.
That little ditty aside, I have to admit that my 8-year-old granddaughter, Oriah, stole the show and has this month won the contest in subject matter for today’s contribution: she completely put all insecurities out of my head. Instead she is sharing the opening lines of her new story with me and with you, gentle Reader.
She wants to be an ‘Insecure Writer’, even though she doesn’t feel at all insecure.
Because she admits to not being scared of plunging in, her own fearlessness is itself a tonic. Her storyline, setting, atmosphere and mood are all set in a couple of sentences.
Would we all had started out this way!
She has decided her story will probably be a long one, and so it may have to come in instalments.So, thanks to Oriah, this is her first instalment:
The violets in the mountains had made sweet sweet music that time had stopped.
One little animal could
start time again but no-one could find her no-one at all.
But one little deer sad and
alone–she didn’t know
Oriah’s story continues …and the drama unfolds…
Oriah and I offer this blog-story-preview as our contribution to this month’s fodder for hopping readers. And we hope you enjoy its sweetness, its innocence, and the feeling it offers to all of us who once felt this way about putting words on the printed page.
Thank you, Oriah, for being brave enough to let Grandma put you in her blog; and for bringing such a youthful and fresh perspective into this group of writer-dreamers.*
And…thank you, Alex, for allowing me to bend the rules…a little
*Brief insight: My granddaughter’s name was inspired by the words of another Oriah–Mountain Dreamer–who wrote in 1999:
“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
“It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
“It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
“I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
“It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
“I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes!’
“It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
“It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
“It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
“I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer copyright ©1999
Thanks to the indulgence of Alex Cavanaugh and his intrepid January blog-hoppers.
IWSG January blog ©2012Marian Youngblood
January 4, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | Alex Cavanaugh, bloghop, innocence, IWSG, January 2012, Oriah, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, quadrantids meteor, start time, stop time, violets | 14 Comments
I wanted to write about a couple more personal insecurities, but the idea got knocked sideways by a post from the prolific David Gaughran, a 34-year old Irish writer, living from time to time in Sweden, but spending a lot of his working life traveling the world, collecting stories, and writing about his adventures! How fortunate, you say. His advice behind the scenes comes with a punch, too. So it’s not all dancing in the tropical moonlight and storming into Valparaiso (although he does that).
His books are — like Amanda Hocking’s — all published in e-format. So he is an expert in the self-publish world.
While many of us continue to dream of being picked up by the ‘majors’, while we’re waiting, there is no harm whatsoever in self-publishing a few e-books.
Or is there?
According to David, Penguin’s self-publish arm is ‘actively targeting inexperienced writers’. They say they are offering the lure, oops opportunity, for young writers to ‘make a name for themselves.’
Book Country began last April as a place for authors to post their work for critique. Then in the fall they announced a program to turn manuscripts posted on their website into e-books and paper books.
‘Our self-publishing process has been designed by a team of book industry professionals to make the experience as accessible, convenient, and affordable as possible’
Their ‘basic package’ is $99 for ‘user-formatted’ books. ‘User-formatted’ means you, the author do your own formatting.
But for $549 they will ‘help the writer’ format both e-book and print book, and then upload it to retailers.
Or for $299 they will let you do your own formatting, and then upload the book to retailers for you.
This is ‘affordable’????? Does it not sound a little like Vanity press?
Questions are now being asked about such huge fees; and about the massive royalty cut they take on top of that (after charges taken by retailers such as Amazon). If you are a newbie, it all sounds a bit much.
Let’s say you are a budding writer who has entered their site simply to share your new flow with other writers, to get some feedback, to know if what you thought you had written was good…and you saw their ‘suggestion’ to ‘share your work with a larger audience’; ‘signed in’ to their new offerings (small print: you have to agree to ALL their terms and conditions before entering — i.e. no backing out. It’s a contract.) It rather dents the newbie writerly ego a little to find that in the end, you have spent all that money and can be almost certain your royalties, if any, will be minimal.
There’s more. Penguin — because they have you ‘signed’ — keep 30% of your royalties. And although the beauty of royalties is that they keep on coming in when your book sells, in this ‘contract’ you keep on paying Penguin.
Here’s how it breaks down. For sales on the Book Country site itself, writers receive 70% royalties. This part, at least, is justifiable. Book Country are providing a retail platform, they are processing the sales, and dealing with the customers. And it’s a comparable percentage to the major retailers. Plus their name is a biggie.
However, through Book Country, you can also sell your book on those major retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This is where the real trouble starts.
On pages such as this one, they claim that writers will “earn 70% on your sales when priced at $2.99 or higher on all channels.” This is an extremely disingenuous claim, as it is not 70% of your cover price, but 70% of the money Book Country receive from retailers.
How do new writers figure this out without testing the waters themselves?
There is a simpler way.
It takes a little time and application to learn the format process, but I’ve done it with my aging braincells, so if I can do it, you can do it.
After formatting, you should upload your books to Createspace, Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords on your own (takes about an hour) for FREE and you’re done. You’re published. That’s all there is to it. There seems to be no added reason why — after you’ve learned how to format and done all that hard work — you should pay Penguin to upload it for you. Now, does there?All that said — thank you Alex for allowing a rather irritable insecurity to be voiced — I need to encourage all new/young writers at least to TRY the self-publish method.
I published my ‘Phantom’s Child’ (sidebar right) that way and its historical/suspense theme seems to be catching on. It is beginning to take off. Last week author Pat Bertram kindly interviewed me on the process.
She, like our Ninja host, is an author who holds out her hand to help others up this thorny ladder we’ve placed in front of ourselves.
In the daunting milieu of what the publishing world is becoming, every little bit helps.
So, as we wend our way into the depths of winter — shortest day is only two weeks away and then it’s all going to look better –solar flares, radiation storms, power blackouts notwithstanding (next blog down on this page)– we do have much to look forward to when the light returns: this publishing business is gradually, slowly, finally, starting to give a little back to the hard-working author… fingers crossed.
©2011 Marian Youngblood
December 7, 2011 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | Alex Cavanaugh, Book Country, caveat emptor, David Gaughran, e-books, Insecure Writers Support Group, IWSG, Penguin, royalties, self-publishing, Valparaiso, vanity press | 3 Comments
Lots of writers use a nom de plume to distinguish between their personae - it’s the way publishing works. Blogs, too. What choice, what abundance: we can be guided by all our Muses and still retain our integrity (who doubts it?)if we are prone to take one persona more seriously than another. For this blog I become this particular blogger because the material is time-sensitive; the research is all coming together now and our way forward is mapped. That said, it’s up to us whether we take the information and run with it.
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