Tuesday, 28 July 2015

How tradition helps soothe the soul

I did something on the weekend I've never done before. No, nothing sinister or illegal. I roasted chestnuts on an open fire.



At the moment, it's late July and winter in Australia. My husband had been working away from home for the week and I wanted to do something special for dinner to make him feel glad to be home. But special for us doesn't usually mean a fancy 5 star restaurant. It's usually something homey like a really good home cooked meal. I like to reconnect with the earth by baking, so we set up the outdoor fire pit and I bought chestnuts and a roasting rack. It was such a simple thing to do, and because of its simplicity it worked a trick in boosting both our spirits. 

This brings me to the topic of tradition. Literature is steeped in in.  From Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to J K Rowlings' "Harry Potter"  series to Helen Fielding's "Bridget Jones 's Diary", Christmas is filled with turkey, pudding, tacky gifts. We can't imagine Christmas without Santa, without reindeer, without a Christmas tree. Even though  Christmas in Australia is blistering hot and nobody is senseless enough to cook a turkey, and we have cold meats and cold salads and cold drinks. Yet we still see value in the traditional of cooking up a huge feast and gathering around the dinner table.

Tradition is the transmission of custom or belief from generation to generation.

Traditionally, print books were all we had and they were bought in book stores, but these days we can shop online, we can download books. The way we buy goods is changing. There are still people who cling to print books. There are people who have never purchased anything BUT ebooks.

The world is changing. To say that change is bad is naïve. The need for animal and human rights dictates global change. The environment has rights and this promotes change. What was done simply because we always did that way is coming under the test. Some things will survive. Some will not.

It's 18 weeks or so until Christmas and over the years this has become Happy Holidays or something else generic. Whatever it's called, people  in colder climates will still roast turkeys and chestnuts, and people in warmer climates will celebrate with champagne and prawns.

We are in the middle of a culture shift. During this time people rely on tradition to give them a sense of comfort and warmth, and the courage to embrace change. We are embracing old traditions and creating new ones. Change is both good and bad, but change is always inevitable. In order to grow and develop, we need to embrace change.

But it's still okay to question whether any change is simply for the sake of change or if it's for our growth and development.

In the meantime, I was able to partake in a tradition from the northern hemisphere and it brought a little magic to the night. If I looked up on the sky I could imagine Santa and his reindeer flying across the starry sky. I had a lot of dun, it was simple and it helped my husband and I connect after a week apart.

What new traditions are you embracing? And what old ones will you refuse to give up?
 
Enjoy your day!
D L
 
 
HOW TO KEEP IN CONTACT
 
Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
 
Facebook         http://goo.gl/560JXl  
Email               dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
 
 
ABOUT ME
 
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writing. I'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.
 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Movie review: The Terminator Genisys

I love the Terminator franchise. So I hurried down to watch the latest instalment, Terminator Genisys.

O.M.G. This is my favourite movie in the franchise.

The blurb is this:

When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance against Skynet, sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), from a Terminator assassin, an unexpected turn of events creates an altered timeline. Instead of a scared waitress, Sarah is a skilled fighter and has a Terminator guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) by her side. Faced with unlikely allies and dangerous new enemies, Reese sets out on an unexpected new mission: reset the future.
 
Now, there are bad reviews that say this movie has killed the franchise. It got poor box office sales. Don't believe the negativity. This movie does see Arnie as a caring robot. He is sent back to protect Sarah Connor as a young child.,  but hey, we knew that was coming in Terminator 2.
 
So why is it one of my favs and why did it get bad reviews? Because the tin man gets a heart.
 
Let's face it, we all wanted Data in Star Trek to achieve his dream of being human, but we needed him to be the kick-ass android and save the day. We liked Arnie as the bad-ass robot, but we also wanted him not to be "misunderstood". Way back in the day we also wanted the Tin Man to meet the Wizard of Oz and get his heart.
 
 
We got what we wanted. So we can't complain.
 
Anyway, I loved it. 5 stars for me.

Best wishes
D L
 

HOW TO KEEP IN CONTACT
 
Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
 
Website           www.dlrichardson.com
Facebook         http://goo.gl/560JXl  
Twitter              www.twitter.com/#!/DLRichardson1
Email                dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
 
 
ABOUT ME
 
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writingI'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.
 
 
 

Top 5 super must-haves for writers

We all know the need to find better and faster ways to do everyday things is the mother of invention. Our daily lives get busy this things need to get automated.

The same needs apply for writers. Oh, we've got computers instead of typewriters for faster editing. We've got ebooks for an immediate way to get books to readers. We've got the internet so we can research without leaving the house.

But we need more. Okay, I need more. I'm editing and writing books, writing blog posts, reading books, checking social networlds (yes, that's a new word I just invented), plus I'm pitching to agents and working on writer workshops. The point is I'm as busy as a one-armed man amidst a s warm of locusts. That's why I've checked out the top 5 super must-haves for writers.

SUPER WEIRD

You remember the story about the woman who wore a nappy just so she could drive 950 miles from Houston to Orlando without having to stop at restrooms to meet her lover's flight? She showed up wearing a trench coat and a wig, and a knife, a BB pistol, and latex gloves were found in the car. But we didn't blink an eye at the potential kidnapping plot, instead we all fixated on the ludicrousness of a grown women without incontinence wearing a nappy.

Yet I'm betting there were a lot of writers out there, including me, who were nodding their heads and saying to themselves, "Yes, yes, that might work."

Let me explain why this isn't such a weird idea for a writer. This morning I have my one cup of coffee, and then because I feel like a boost of vitamins I follow that with a glass of Berocca (boom I've also started on my water intake), and then I head into the office and within ten minutes my private bits are starting to bear the burden of fluid build up. I know I have to get up and relive my bladder, but I've only edited one page so far and I'm at the really good bit!

This interruption goes on for over an hour. I've consumed 500 millilitres of fluid, expelled about three litres. This is why the adult nappy/diaper makes it to my top 5 must-have item for writers this year.
 
Yes, this is totally disgusting but I'm so sick of having to get up all the time.


SUPER FOODS

Fast food manufacturers, it seems, always have writers in mind when they prepare their packaged foods. Potato chips, muesli bars, chocolate bars, pretzels, heck even fruit comes in simple packaging. They contain a lot of carbs. We all know that protein is essential for brain development.

So what is one of the best fast food that contains high protein and low fat and don't have to be heated up, because let's face it even a microwave meal takes eight minutes I don't have?

Three foods come to mind. Tinned salmon, fruit, and yoghurt.

I'm always motivated to eat yoghurt whenever I watch Burn Notice. The main character, Michael Weston lives on yoghurt and water. He's super fit and very clever. Yes, it's a TV show but yoghurt does have benefits other than being good for you. It's easy to eat. It's healthy. It's there and all you have to do is grab a spoon, open the lid, and eat.

In a guide to flatten your belly without starving yourself, Health Magazine says, “Take it from the dieters in a University of Tennessee study who ate 6 ounces of fat-free yogurt with every meal and lost 81% more abdominal fat than those who cut calories alone.”

Tinned salmon can be eaten straight from the tin on crackers.

Fruit comes in its own packaging and can be eaten raw. Yes, raw. No heating, no cooking, no anything.

So yoghurt, fruit, and tinned salmon makes it to my top 5 must-haves for writers this year. Because if I rely on unhealthy snacks then I'm going to have to find time to do more exercise.





SUPER FAST

After swearing at my old computer for the millionth time, I conceded that the fight with the world of commercialism will never be won, I went out and bought a new PC tower. Quadruple core processor. Windows 8.1. 8GB RAM. 1T HDD (whatever that is). Enough said. As Batman needs a super fast car to catch the bad guys, so too does a writer need a super fast computer and internet connection.





SUPER COMFY

Inactivity is simply not good for the body. Going to the gym to do a session takes time I do not have. I do have time to walk the dog. I also have time to sleep. That why I like versatile clothes that go from bed to work to exercise.

The great thing about working from home is that nobody sees you. You can, and often do, get out of bed, slip on some leisure wear for the feet, and shuffle into the office to write. After an hour your dog stares at you like you've forgotten to do something (walk the dog) and you can then slip straight from your leisure wear for the feet into active wear for the feet and  keep your body healthy.

I like to walk the dog daily for minimum 40 minutes, some days we go for an hour. Then it's back into the office, from there to the sofa, from there to bed. Some days I even do the gardening. Errands that can be performed without getting out of the car can also be accomplished.

An entire day can pass by without the need to get dressed. I also save a lot of money.

Warnings signs to check that you haven't slipped too far over the edge with leisure wear:

Do any items of clothing have food stains? Yes - go out and get new ones but do not wear leisure wear to buy more leisure wear. It makes you looks dependant.

Do you start to hang up your leisurewear in the closet? Yes - put it back into the drawer where it belongs. The moment you put your leisure wear on a hanger you are asking to be excluded from all future social engagements.



These are very versatile, they're like a walker cross slipper so they can worn all day!



SUPER SUPPORT

Batman has Alfred. Tony Stark has Pepper Potts. And I have my husband.

In all seriousness, I could not continue to do what I do without my husband's support. He only recognises me from the back of the head these days. I'm always at the computer. He's also great at doing domestic stuff around the house like washing clothes and dishes. Sometimes he'll cook dinner. He supports me when I go to a writer's conference. He supports me when I have to meet a deadline.


 
 
 I recall the day I told my then boyfriend, now husband that I had written a novel, but it hadn't been published. This was back in 1999. I said I was taking a break from writing and he told me that I should start it back up. He is like my Alfred, whenever Bruce Wayne thinks of giving it all in, he is there to tell me to suck it up and keep doing what I was born to do.
 
 
So there you have it, my super must-haves for writers. Some practical, some wishful, some borderline psychotic, but then if I wasn't borderline psychotic I wouldn't be a writer. Who else is crazy enough to do what we do without getting paid?
 
Don't forget you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, Google and Instagram to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
 
Best wishes
D L
 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

D L Richardson is the author of speculative fiction. She has three teen novels and one short story anthology published. Her first novel reached number 2 at OmniLit and number 38 at Kobo Books. Her second reached number 1 at OmniLit. Little Red Gem is her third novel and recently won 2nd place Best Books of 2013 Paranormal Cravings. She lives in Australia on the NSW south coast with her husband and dog.

 
Website           www.dlrichardson.com
Facebook         http://goo.gl/560JXl  
Twitter             www.twitter.com/#!/DLRichardson1
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The gates on self publishing are closing says Amazon

If you're an indie writer, you've probably heard the latest about royalty payments by Amazon. They are  going to start paying authors who self publish on the Amazon platform only the percentage of the book read by the reader, instead of the full royalty for the book at the time of purchase.

At first I was like, WTF? Then it occurred to me that they're right to do this. It is becoming the only course of action they can take against inferior writing.


There's a saying, "The good thing about self publishing is that anyone can do it. The bad thing about self publishing is that anyone can do it."

It seems as if Amazon is finally becoming it's own gatekeeper as far as self publishing goes. As an indie author, I understand why they're doing this. My first two novels were published through a small press publisher, and then the rights reverted back to me. So I thought I'd give self publishing a go until I can find a new home for them. But there is still a major problem. The market is flooded with inferior self published products. Covers are low res, I've invested money in software and images to create something high res. Okay, low res shouldn't matter so much for an ebook, but it matters a lot for a print book. It's getting harder and harder to get reviews because of the poor quality in the marketplace.

But what is worse is the poor grammar and spelling mistakes littered throughout self published books. I can't tell you how many authors I've tried to support by buying one of their books, but then I can't get past page 3. This poor writing is causing readers to demand refunds from Amazon, and it's a practice they just can't keep continuing. Not when the onus is on the self published author to produce something of high quality, higher than the big guys really, if we're to stand out against them. 

Just watch a thread on a Facebook writer's group and you'll see comments about inferior quality and spelling errors. There's a reason readers are becoming fed up with inferior works. Because self published authors keep producing it. We might as well start branding the words Made In Taiwan on the front cover of our books.


Writers need to be the ambassadors for the written English language. This means proper editing, proper proof reading, proper covers. We're already pushing shit uphill, pardon the language, and inferior writing is only going to convert more readers to Netflix.

I learned a lesson when I self published a novella and a reviewer stated she was put off by the number of errors. I was aghast. I'd proof read this novella a hundred times. But I had made a huge mistake by not engaging someone else to proof read. The first thing I did was admit my mistake and recall the product. But the damage was done.

What do you think of Amazon's new rules? Are they too tough? Are they fair? Will this influence you as an indie author to step up or will you keep going the way you have?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, 3 July 2015

How writing interviews for blogs can help your agent pitch

You may or may not have been following my Submitting To Agents Parts 1 to IV blog posts. If you haven't I've included the links below:

Submitting to agents Part I
Submitting to agents Part II
Submitting to agents Part III
Submitting to agents Part IV

Anyway this post is about how doing interviews on blogs can help you with your pitch to an agent.

One of the most common questions I've been asked is "How did you come up with the title/story/characters?"

The answer should not be "I was in the shower" or "I just woke up and had this idea". This is boring. People want to know the meaning being the title or the story or the characters. Not just that they were plucked out of thin air.

What this question really means to ask is "What motivated you to write this piece?"

It's this detail that can help with pitching. What did motivate me? Was it that I'm afraid of what the world is coming to, that I'm afraid of what humanity is unveiling, do I want good to win, evil to win, do I care about love anymore? So I thought I'd share some of the real reasons behind my novels and this might explain why some of them failed in the pitch.


The Bird With The Broken Wing:
It's a story about an angel who is trapped in Purgatory with the mortal she was assigned to watch over. It's only when a rebel teen enters Purgatory that the angel realises her methods to help her mortal ascend into Heaven aren't working.

Why did I write this story? I wanted to highlight to teenagers that when bad things happen that it isn't the end of the world. It might feel like it, but nothing is working killing yourself for. Even though the point of view is the angel's, the protagonist is the teenager. That's why it's written in third person point of view. I wanted to show the struggle of each of them for the angel to see, but I also wanted them to see the angel's own struggle. These are her flaws that are keeping them trapped in Purgatory, not the humans.

Why did I choose this title? The bird represents the angel, the broken wing represents that which is keeping her grounded i.e unable to fly. It also represents the vulnerability of this character in that she can be mended, with the proper care she can fly once more.

The pitch for this novel was for Young adult horror/paranormal fantasy. What I pitched is below.


Angels are bound by certain rules. For example;

Rule # 1: angels are forbidden to develop relationships with mortals

Rule # 2: an angel cannot reveal its true self to mortals

Rule # 3: angels are messengers carrying out a divine plan and must not interfere with the bigger picture

Nothing is known about the fate that awaits the angel who breaks the rules. Rachael is a guardian angel who is about to find out that sometimes it’s the angels who need watching over.


While the above is true, it doesn't truly represent the true story. It's about people who need to forgive themselves, who need to heal. It's about perfect beings not being so perfect. It's about real people dealing with real situations. It's about redemption. But I failed to get this across to the agents and publishers. Readers have enjoyed the story immensely despite my failings to pitch.

I didn't truly understand why I wrote this book until interviewers asked me. I gave a few lame excuses in the beginning, probably because the thing about writing is there is a huge part of the author that goes into the book. Our beliefs, our values, our fears. Perhaps this is why novice writers are reluctant to share the real reason behind why they write, because they're revealing themselves. Perhaps this is why we sometimes don't truly understand the story behind the story.

Truly understanding our stories and why we write them can help when we pitch our book to agents and publishers. I should have pitched The Bird With The Broken Wing as dark fantasy. I should have written more about the character's struggles in the blurb.

Despite my failings, it did get published in the end. And I learned a lot about the motivation behind writing by doing hundreds of interviews for blogs about this and subsequent novels. I'd recommend this to any new writer starting out. Get interviewed. Get to know your story from an outsider's perspective. Get to understand your motivation so it can help when you pitch.

As always, if you have any comments please feel free to leave them. I love to hear about other writer's journeys and experiences.

Best regards
D L xoxo




Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Submitting to agents - Part IV

Actually, this post should have come in Part I. It's about knowing the genre so you can target your agents.

I'll start off by saying I have trouble with this sometimes. I write a story about characters and things happening to them and I'm told as a writer that I have to make the story unique - but maybe the Hollywood rule of "Write something different but the same" applies to novels. To be honest, I'm not sure I want to live in that world. Anyway, I've written a book and now I have to find a box to put it in. And I'm also not supposed to have too many boxes. This apparently confuses readers though I think readers are smart enough to read more than one genre.

When I (unsuccessfully) pitched Little Red Gem I pitched it as Paranormal Romance. But here's the thing about paranormal romance:

It's boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.

In Little Red Gem, at the end the main character had her revelation but she didn't run straight into the arms of the boy. She took that moment and decided that she was more important and she needed to figure things out first. Ergo it was not romance. I failed at the pitch because I got the genre totally wrong. To be honest it started out as a paranormal romance, and the first draft it was boy gets girls, but then in the final edits I got o the end and said "would I do that?"  and the answer is that I would not. So I had to be true to ME and I let the main character give the flick to the guy. I did this is real life as a teen so it's a plausible ending. The problem is I still had it in my mind that it was romance. It was more like young adult fantasy chick-lit. But try putting that in a pitch.

Despite the thousand categories on Amazon that writers like to use to slot their books into the obscure ones to get higher rakings, according to Wikipedia there really are only 8 or so genres. Beneath these we have multiple sub-genres

Crime
Romance
Fantasy
Horror
Mystery and Detective
Science Fiction
Western
Inspirational

Science fiction is typically space opera, plausible futuristic plots, hard sci-fi, social science fiction, time travel, alternate universes, science fantasy, soft science fiction. Dystopian and apocalyptic fiction tend to find themselves under the sub genre of science fiction.

Fantasy uses magic or supernatural as a primary plot element, completely fictitious worlds.

So what do I do when I've written a book about a virtual game, supernatural characters, a futuristic world but not dystopian, and an apocalypse.

I have read on a few blogs that Dystopian and Apocalyptic Fiction are becoming their own sub-genre. But agents don't list the million genres they're looking for, just one or two, such as Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the list I provided in Part III showed the agents who are currently looking for Science Fiction and/or Fantasy.

In short, just like there is a billion trillion dollars in the world there is still only a large handful of actual currencies. i.e $1 coin, $2 coin, $5 note, $10 note etc. In order to hand over $17 we need to know what that is comprised of. Sorry if that's confusing, it's the analogy I'm using to try to perfect the genre in the pitch.

Here's another reason why knowing the genre is important.

Stephanie Palmer runs a blog Good In A Room. She teaches screen writers and this was a really interesting post I read a little while back.

http://goodinaroom.com/blog/why-the-pitch-for-snow-white-and-the-huntsman-is-better-than-the-pitch-for-mirror-mirror/

Extract:

In the epic action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, Snow White is the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman dispatched to kill her.

 
Compare this with how the concept of Mirror Mirror is pitched:

A fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend, Mirror Mirror features Snow White as she fights the evil Queen to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince in this magical adventure comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal.


Snow White and the Huntsman

Genre: Epic action-adventure

Story Elements: Snow White gets trained in the art of war by the Huntsman, an assassin dispatched to kill her; Snow White threatens the reign of the evil Queen.

The story elements of being trained in the art of war by an assassin and fighting an evil Queen match the genre. This pitch has genre-story congruency.

 
Mirror Mirror

Genre: Magical Adventure Comedy

Story Elements: An evil, ruthless Queen; Snow White fighting to reclaim her birthright; jealousy and betrayal.

There’s nothing funny about the story elements. This conflicts with the description of the movie as a comedy.

 
The difference between the two  is Genre-Story Congruency
Will the story live up to the genre expectations of the audience?

I won't go further into this because of copyright reasons you need to read the post.

So I have pitched my novel as Science Fantasy because nobody listed Apocalyptic fiction. Here's hoping I have met the genre expectations of my audience.

Until next post.

D L Richardson