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 The Kid

As 2013 draws to a close I find myself thinking more and more about my neighbour Ron, who passed away in October of this year after a long battle with cancer. We lived across from one another for over 13 years and, although we were never in and out of one another’s places (we would’ve hated that), we were there for one another. He was a single parent. When he first moved in, he had a boy who’d just started high school — a wild boy.

A number of years ago, when Ron was still well and I didn’t even know he had cancer, I went over to his place one day for coffee, and he told me his story, how he’d been given less than five years to live and how he’d decided he couldn’t die because no one else would be able to raise his son, whom he called ‘the kid’.

Ron was a born storyteller. The whole story rolled off his tongue and when I came home I simply wrote it down, just the way he’d told it to me. I’ve never done that before or since; I’m not that kind of writer. Later, when I wanted to enter the story in a fiction competition based around the subject of cancer, I added an extra frisson by having the narrator say she’d been on her way to commit suicide and the story of Ron’s courage had stopped her. The story ended up being short-listed in the Cancer Council of Victoria’s short story competition and included in an exhibition of art, poetry and stories, fiction and non-fiction, that toured country Victoria in (I think) 2009.

Ron was stoked to see his story in print. He was one of those unsung heroes who live and die unnoticed by the world, known only to a few friends and family. As his illness progressed, I saw a bit more of him, making him a baked dinner on Sundays when I made my own, but leaving him in peace to eat it in his own time. He had a miniature fox terrier named Bella, and even when things became difficult for him and he was on heavy doses of morphine, we would still see him walking Bella, growing thinner and thinner every week. He used to say, “She’s been so good for me. I wouldn’t get out and walk if it wasn’t for her.”

If you haven’t already done so, you can read Ron’s story FREE at http://www.derekhaines.ch/vandal/2013/11/short-story-the-kid-by-danielle-de-valera/

Remember, though, I’m a fiction writer: I was never a widow, nor am I contemplating suicide. (I left that behind with my youth.) The great part about the story is the real-life ending. Although given only five years to live, Ron lived to see his son all grown up with a kid of his own who promises to be every bit as much a tiger as he was. Life goes on.

The best of everything to you all for the New Year. May we be safe and well in 2014. (Wealth is good, but health is even better.)

Danielle

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 My guest blogger this month is Ed Griffin, who teaches creative writing at Matsqui Prison, a medium-security prison in Canada. Ed has just released his new eboook – a novel entitled Prisoners of the Williwaw – on Amazon. Over to you, Ed.

 

In the 1980s, my wife and I owned a mom and pop commercial greenhouse. Our business was prospering, but something was wrong. My life was planting seeds, growing tiny plants and selling vegetables and garden plants in the spring. I was becoming what I grew — a cabbage, or maybe a petunia. My mind was dying and I knew it.

          I started playing around with writing. After supper every night I would go out to my ‘office,’ a little added-on room between our house and the garage. It had windows to the front and back and a space heater that was adequate for spring and fall, but not winter. I would sit down at the typewriter and follow my creative muse.

          Whole worlds opened to me. I wrote about the area behind my childhood garage where I practiced pitching, and dreamed of reaching the major leagues. I wrote a short story about a group of prisoners on an island. I wrote a poem about getting along with the Russians. Hours passed. Suddenly, as I wrote, an alarm would sometimes ring in the house. The alarm meant I hadn’t turned the heat on in the greenhouses. I had to shut the door on the vibrant world that grew on the paper in front of me and hurry to the greenhouses to start the furnaces.

          An hour later I’d be back at the typewriter. Type a sentence, stop, look at it, realize it wasn’t quite true and then search deeper. Layers of middle-aged half-truths disappeared, the comfortable maxims I had surrounded myself with — “Business is good. Don’t make any changes,” and “Relax. You’re getting older.” The fires of my youth burned again — civil rights, world peace, a place in the sun for every person. The idealism that had lain dormant for eight years sparked back into life.

          Isaiah was on the scene again, reminding me of the words I read in the seminary and tried to live when I was a priest:

          I have appointed you to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison and those who live in darkness from the dungeon. [Chapter 42-6]

          As I wrote I dug, I searched always deeper, trying to reach the truth. It might be easy to speak a lie, but it wasn’t easy to write one. I started to unravel the tangled skein that was me. These revelations came, not from writing philosophy or self-help dictums, but from writing fiction. Put a man and a woman in a fictional situation. What does the woman really think? What does the man think? Is this real? Is this how people are? Where do I get my ideas? What is human nature all about? Who am I?

          For example, as I wrote about the prisoners on the island, I got to know each one of them. How did they get into crime? Why were they different than me? Did they have a religious education as I did? What did they think about God? Was God a mean father for them or a gentle parent? What did I think about God?

         Amazing. The seminary had tried for twelve years to teach me how to meditate, and here I was doing it while I wrote.

http://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-of-the-Williwaw-ebook/dp/B005S33Q7S/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1342834442&sr=1-1&keywords=prisoners+of+the+williwaw

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How time’s flown. I must have been even more knocked around by my trip to NZ than I realised. My change of computers hasn’t helped either – followed by a change from dial up to Broadband. Dial up was cheap (its great attraction, there aren’t many others) but oh so slow. In the end, even I couldn’t stand it. So here I am, somewhat behind the eight ball, but full of good intentions after my break of over two months.

 This week, while I’m finding my feet and getting used to the dizzying speed of Broadband (how can humanity live at this pace?) I’d like to introduce David Ireland, aka Casimir Greenfield, who’s been kind enough to write a guest blog for me on his writing methods.

Over to David.


Having lived a long life, I have a good deal of source material to draw

from. Each day begins at five with a couple of hours writing before the rest

of my world wakes up. We have a very understanding dog.

I always have a number of projects running concurrently and I don’t really

have a problem skipping between crime fiction, young adult fiction,

non-fiction and song writing.

I do plot, but I prefer to let the characters and events unfold themselves

organically, even if that takes me down unexpected paths. I like to think

that my stories have shape, much like an opera or a humble vinyl album.

Beginning, middle and end — with a prologue, coda or false crescendo as the

story requires.

As a radio broadcaster, I value the spoken word, and thus each word of my

writing will have been uttered out loud before the reader sees it. I firmly

believe that much writing can be improved by vocalising before the final

draft is laid down. Dialogue needs to be natural.

I am not a fan of fanciful names, even in my young adult pieces. They can be

quirky, but I will not inflict unpronounceable names upon the poor reader. I

would rather that the ordinary encountered the extraordinary, and I hope that

my work is stronger for that.

An oft asked question: How do I write? Well, I love working digitally, but I

always have a notepad handy to scribble on and a Dictaphone for the car. I

know that if the idea is strong enough one should remember it, no matter

what, but I’m not prepared to take the risk. Everything is saved. I have a

sixty-second backup on the processor. Better saved than sorry.

Dave Ireland or Casimir Greenfield? I use a pen name mainly because my given

name has been around in the literary world for a while. The Australians

already have a David Ireland — they don’t need another. So it’s Casimir

Greenfield who writes the stories, sings the songs. I just take the blame.

I have recently published both my crime novels as ebooks for sale on Amazon,

but these are currently locked down, due to publisher interest. However,

both books can be read for free at the Harper Collins Authonomy site (see links

below).

I am presently completing the novelisation of the screenplay of my Ruby No.

One trilogy, a young adult piece currently under offer. Plus, my recording

career is kicking off again with the release of an album in June 2012 — I

said I had a lot of source material; it goes with a long and varied career …

If this seems like a scattergun approach, it is anything but. Any writer

will tell you that the only way to get anything down on paper is to work at

it. Consistently, each and every day. And if you do, whatever the result is

like, you’ll have a body of work that you may well be able to knock into

shape with some judicious editing. I think it works for me.

Bloodstones and Slow Poison can be found at Authonomy by clicking these

links:

http://www.authonomy.com/books/42590/bloodstones/

http://www.authonomy.com/books/42586/slow-poison/

More information about my work can be found at:

http://www.authonomy.com/writing-community/profile/me/

or at:

http://www.casimirgreenfield.com

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Martin Shaw of Readings Monthly described this novel as ‘gutsy, moving, beautifully wrought and utterly compelling’.  In this memoir-as-fiction, first novelist Michael Sala recalls his early life in Holland and his life in Australia after his family immigrated here in the 1980s. In compelling detail, he describes his dysfunctional family: the fragile mother he loves, her penchant for moving house and for picking the wrong men; his glamorous, estranged Greek father, his older brother Con and his relationship with his cruel stepfather Dirk. The family has secrets, things some of the older members of the family did during WWII in Holland to survive.

The first two-thirds of the book are consistent in style, tense and point of view. However, in the last third, which depicts the family’s life in Newcastle, a looser technique prevails. I found myself wishing it had been written in the same consistent style as the first two-thirds. But as the author had to jump many years to when he, himself, is a father, and his mother and estranged father are old, perhaps this did not prove possible.

Essentially, Sala is a painter with words rather than a storyteller. As each scene unfolds, it’s like watching a master painter apply brush stroke after brush stroke to a canvas until the whole comes together.  The sense of cohesion the reader is left with, despite the apparent randomness of the third part of the book (the timeline is disjointed, there are flashbacks and changes of tense and point of view), is due to Sala’s deeply felt emotion and the high level of technique he employs in describing these emotions and the interactions between family members.

Sala’s prose is impeccable. I note that Chapter 9 appeared previously under the title ‘The Men Outside My Room’ in The Best Australian Stories 2011 and Chapter 10 appeared under the title ‘Like My Father, My Brother’ in the anthology Brothers and Sisters. This is no surprise: Sala has a wonderful ability to write between the lines and is a master of the fine detail so beloved by the Australian literary establishment. At present, he lacks the polish of a Thomas Shapcott and the strong storyline structure we have come to expect from Tim Winton. But that will come.

An interesting read, though perhaps not traditional enough in form for some. I found myself looking forward to his next book – one that has a simple timeline and is, perhaps a little less ‘literary’.

Make no mistake. Sala is here to stay.

Readers can purchase a copy of The Last Thread from almost all independent Australian bookstores, as well as A&R and Dymocks etc. The e book is available from Booki.sh and Kobo.

Danielle de Valera

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When online bookstores began to take off, Amazon quickly established itself as the biggest dealer in the field. Sure there were other bookstores, for example, Fishpond, but they paled beside the giant Amazon. We’re talking hard copy here.

When Amazon saw the trend towards e-books, it hopped right in and again established itself as the biggest retailer. Sure, there were other e-book distributors — Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others — but Amazon was the biggest. A huge industry sprang up. Writers could self-publish their books and put them on many different distribution platforms.

Looking good. Good for the writers, good for the e-book publishers and distributors. A nice competitive industry.

Then Amazon produced the Amazon Kindle, a series of e-book readers that enable users to shop for, download, browse and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and other digital media via wireless networking (source: Wikipedia). Amazon has now launched what it calls Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing  or Amazon KDP. With this, a writer can get his book published by Amazon and have it go directly to Kindle, which is grabbing a large share of the applications market with the introduction of its Kindle software for use on various platforms such as Microsoft Windows, iOS, Blackberry, MacOSX (10.5 onward, Intel only), Android, webOS and Windows Phone (source: Wikipedia).  The most recent refinement of all this is Amazon KDP Select.

Amazon KDP Select. This sounds good — until you read the small print in Amazon’s Terms and Conditions: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=APILE934L348N

To paraphrase this small print: While or the time your book is enrolled in the program, you must agree not to distribute or sell your book ANYWHERE ELSE. This includes your own personal blog or web site. Your title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.

If you violate this at any point during the 3-month enrolment period, or you remove your book from the program so you can distribute it elsewhere, you risk forfeited earnings, delayed payments, a lien on future earnings – or getting kicked out of the Kindle Direct Publishing program altogether.

After the obligatory 3 months, your enrolment in the KDP Select continues unless you go through the process of opting out. Forget, and you’re up for another 3 months.

This forces the author to remove the book from sale from the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others, thereby causing the author to lose out on sales from competing retailers.

By withdrawing a title from any retailer, the author destroys any accrued sales ranking in their lists, making their book less visible and less discoverable should they reactivate distribution to competing retailers.

Do authors want to be totally dependent upon Amazon for sales? New writers are desperate; they will do almost anything to sell their books. And they know that with Amazon KDP, more customers are motivated to go straight to Amazon since Amazon has this exclusive content.

It’s a clever ploy on Amazon’s part. As Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords says, The new Amazon KDP Select program look s like a predatory business practice (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-competitive_practices). Pretty soon, Amazon can use the opportunity to leverage their dominance as the world’s largest e-book retailer (and world’s largest payer to indie authors) to attain monopolistic advantage by effectively denying its competing retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc) access to the books from indie authors.

Indies are the future of book publishing. In the US, in the last three months of 2010, Amazon’s sales of e-books surpassed that of paperbacks for the first time.

Think about this. It might pay indie authors to recognise that their long term interests are best served by having a competitive global ebook retailing ecosystem. Mark Coker recommends an author distribute their book to as many retailers as possible. Many ebook retailers, all working to attract readers to books, will surely serve indie authors better in the long run than a single retailer who can dictate all the terms.

But whoever thinks of the long run? The long run is everyone’s poor relation, doomed to be steamrollered by the bullies of expediency and money.

The contents of this blog are based on a blog by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. The original, more comprehensive article can be found at: blog.smashwords.com/2011/12/amazon-shows-predatory-spots-with-kdp.html

Next Week: A review of Australian author Michael Sala’s debut novel The Last Thread published by Affirm Press.

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With the rise of digital technology, mainstream publishers became deluged with manuscripts. Today, more and more emerging writers are taking to self-publishing as a way of getting their work out there. Below is one writer’s journey into publishing with the UK Arts Council funded site Youwrite on.  It’s a happy story.

Self-publishing with Youwriteon by guest blogger: Louise Forster

After 11 years I’ve finally cracked it, I’m published. Okay, not in the usual sense with an agent and publisher, but as a self-published writer. I’ll cut to the chase and give you the facts.

I published with YouWriteOn, a UK Arts funded site that anyone can join. Basically it works on a bartering system. You read someone’s work and, at random, someone reads yours. You receive reviews from cold readers who don’t know you. The down side is, sometimes you’ll get a reader who’s not familiar with your genre. Then you need to shrug and say to yourself, what the heck. Of course there are times when a reviewer will say, ‘I wouldn’t normally choose this genre and I almost deleted your piece, but I’m glad I didn’t because I really enjoyed it.’ Check them out at www.youwriteon.com. If the above doesn’t appeal to you, they also offer publishing without peer review at:  www.FeedARead.com

Nearly 2 years ago I paid £58.99 (A$89.77). With this fee I’m published, and printed by Lightning Source, who have Print on Demand (POD) facilities all over the world, including Melbourne (important for me, as I’m in Australia). My book is beautifully presented in paperback, glossy cover, good quality paper and lovely, easy-to-read font. Recently I paid £34.94 for 6 of my books in hard copy; that comes to about A$5.50 per book, and that includes postage!

My book is available on as many online stores you can think of and some you wouldn’t know existed, like www.flipkart.com  in India — I’m waiting for an Indian director to read FINDING VERONICA and love her so much he wants to turn it into a Bollywood movie! (Bring it on.)

INFO BELOW TAKEN FROM THE FeedARead SITE:

• It’s free to set-up your book for sale through FeedARead.com
• You set your own book price and royalty
• Full bookseller distribution service. You can also choose to make your book available via the major online outlets, including Amazon, and for major bookshops to order. The fees for this are as follows:

BOOKSELLER DISTRIBUTION SERVICE
UK Authors: £88
US Authors: $79
Australian Authors: $140
European Authors: E100
All other authors: £88 UK.

FeedARead’s distribution service places your book into the world’s most comprehensive distribution channel. With over 30,000 wholesalers, retailers and booksellers in over 100 countries your book will gain the maximum exposure possible in the market today. This includes your book being available to order through all of the following: Amazon and Barnes & Noble (US); Amazon, WHSmith and Waterstones (UK); Amazon Europe; and TheNile.com (Australia).

My book is also available on Kindle through Amazon. On 18 December I joined Amazon’s new program for Kindle users called Prime. It was a little scary, but looking into it, I discovered that subscribers to Prime pay $78.99 annually. This enables them to borrow 12 books per year from the Prime Kindle list. Why would readers want to go this library route when it actually costs more per book? It saves the reader from making PayPal transactions every time they want a new book. Amazon currently sets aside $500,000/month for distribution to authors. After the 90-day trial period, my book continues with Prime for another 90 days, and so on unless I inform them that I don’t want to continue. Every 90 days, I am given 5 days for promotion, during which your books are available for free, and I can choose the dates — which is most useful if you want to coordinate it with your local book launch and local PR. I had one on the 18th another on the 21st of December.  (Normally, the ebook sells for $2.99; I receive 70% of this. )

Your share of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) Fund is calculated based on a share of the total number of qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles. For example, if the monthly fund amount is $500,000 and the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000 in December and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% of $500,000 (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%); that is, $7,500 in December.

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/KDPSelect

The sudden rise in sales happened AFTER I joined the KOLL. I believe that, had I not joined Prime, FINDING VERONICA would have been lost among the millions of books available. However to be fair, I have to say that I also began tweeting a few weeks ago as part of my PR program. Whether the suddden rise in my sales was due to twitter or to joining the KOLL, it’s simply too soon to know.

Whatever it is, it seems to be working!

 

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This isn’t going to be a blog about the meaning of life, a discourse in which I try to sell you my philosophy, all wrapped up in The Wonder of Me. Rather, it’s an overview of how and why I’m currently upping my profile on the web.

It’s all about book promotion.

As you might (or might not) know, I’ve a little freelance manuscript assessment business, specialising in the novel and the memoir. What I began to notice was that it was becoming so hard to get your first novel published by a large company in Australia that more and more emerging writers were taking to e book self-publishing or going with very small e book publishers who also had Print on Demand (POD) facilities in Australia. Urged on by cries that the internet was the coming thing, what with Kindle, etc. they were excited. Think of the size of the web! they said to me. Millions of people will see my book.

Hmmm, said I to myself. (Perhaps this is the place to admit that I have a streak of cynicism in my makeup. Well hidden, but it’s there.) Back to the point. Most of these writers had little coverage on the net, and the results of their digiPOD publishing ventures were extremely disappointing, to say the least. As the assessor/mentor, the one who had held their hands through all the rewrites, and who had kept in touch with them afterwards to see how this wondrous new digiPOD sally turned out, I was one of the first to hear the cries of disappointment and disillusion.

I felt for them. What to do?

I’m so old I can remember the time in Australia when all you had to do was write out your novel in longhand on a block of foolscap, pay a typist to type it up for you, send it off to a publisher and Bob’s your uncle — you’d be a published author in no time. This doesn’t happen anymore. But the ease and low cost of digiPOD publishing with such sites as the UK Council of the Arts funded Youwrite on, is persuading emerging writers that this is the new, modern book explosion. Just put up your website, and watch the sales roll in.

Ho.

As I was pondering this dilemma, the flyer for Sam Borrett’s social media networking seminar fell into my letterbox. I’m now sallying forth into what feels to me like The Wilderness of Zin. (This phrase, which I’d give my eye teeth to have written, is the name of a paper written by Leonard Woolley and T E Lawrence for the British Museum in 1914 — Lawrence later achieved fame as Lawrence of Arabia, for his part in raising the Arab revolt against the Turks during WWI.) The wails of the disappointed writers have woken me from my happy delusion that all the internet was good for was research and email, and putting up pictures of you with your new hair colour. So here I am, floundering about the wilderness, trying to discover things I can take back home to help those emerging writers.

Will I find anything that can help them? It’s too soon to know. But tell you what: I’m fascinated. There’s definitely something out there.

Wish me luck.

Danielle

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