Monday, 27 June 2016

Coffee Chat with Mirren Hogan, author of Crimson Fire

Today I'd like to welcome Australian author Mirren Hogan to my blog for a virtual coffee and chat. Mirren and I met through my sister and we started out sharing a market stall together, as you do. We were both writers and quickly became friends. It's always wonderful to be able to share success stories of friends and local writers. Mirren has written many novels, as you do, and has now finally had her hard work turn into success with not one, but two fantasy series accepted for publication, the second series just announced today.

DL: Firstly, how do you take your coffee and when is your favourite time to partake?

Mirren: I'm a coffee philistine, I only like the sachet latte crap, and not very often. I prefer tea: Earl Grey, hot. Morning, noon and afternoon.

D L: You're a writer, a freelance editor, and an acquisitions editor for a small press publisher. Is it hard switching hats? And do you have any tips for others who juggle writing and editing and might be struggling?

Mirren: Yes it certainly can be difficult.

Writing is often pounding out a lot of words, while keeping the plot in the back of your mind and hoping it comes out half way decent. I've also taken to taking notes as I write, of names, places and random facts I might need later.

Aq editing is all about reading and giving feedback, and later liaising with the author to discuss promotions, sequels, etc. The Dragon's Rocketship wants the author to feel supported and involved at every step.

Editing is a lot more precise than either of these and requires a lot more focus. You cannot get caught up in the story, you have to see every word which is on the page and make sure it belongs there. I often have to re-read the first few paragraphs when I sit down to edit, to remind myself that I have to focus now.

My best piece of advice is to make sure you have time for the task you intend to do and don't switch hats in the middle of it. If you sit down to write, then write. Edit later. And don't edit while tired, unless you like doing it twice. Do write while drinking though, it can yield interesting results.

D L: Can you tell us about your upcoming novel. What is it about, when it is being released, have you seen the book cover yet?

Mirren: Crimson Fire (through The Dragon's Rocketship Publishing) is a fantasy novel about a young woman called Tabia. She's reasonably poor and her father is in debt to the royal family, so he gives her to them as a slave. Her mistress is a self-absorbed princess who soon discovers that Tabia can do magic. To increase her value, she sends Tabia to learn how to use it. However, self-absorbed princesses often have enemies and Tabia is caught up in a plot to kill her mistress and the king.

It should be out later this year. There's no cover yet, Druscilla Morgan is booked to do the cover art, but I've just finished writing the next book in the series.

D L: You're had short stories published in anthologies which you helped compile and edit. Can you tell us a bit about these anthologies?

Mirren: Tied in Pink is a romance anthology to raise money for breast cancer research. Like a Girl is to raise money for Plan Australia, to help girls all over the world to get an education.

D L: Can you tell us about the day you found out that your novel was going to be published.

Mirren: I checked my email one Sunday morning and saw one from the publisher saying they adored my book and offering me a contract. It's my second publishing contract, but I still smiled all day.

D L: What is the most daunting part of writing for you - past, present or future?

Mirren: It's a toss up between people not reading any of my work and people I respect very much, who write in my genre, reading it. There are some fantasy authors out there I respect very much and if they liked my writing I'd die happy.

D L: Are you a biscuit or cake kind of person?

Mirren: Biscuit, cake goes too stale too quickly and isn't as often covered by chocolate.

Once we have the covers, I'll do a cover reveal and provide links and blurbs on Mirren's books, so sign up to receive posts if you want to read more about Mirren's journey from writing to publication.

D L xoxo

Monday, 6 June 2016

Writing for NaNoWriMo with other authors
Each year the writers group I belong to comes up with a project for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Our 2015 concept was created when another author and myself were at the annual speculative fiction conference held in Canberra, Conflux, now in its 12th year. We were sipping a glass of wine at the end of the day of listening to the most stimulating conversation ever!
Why is it that I can be in a room full of writers and readers and feel engaged enough to speak, take me some place else and I'd rather sit in the corner and talk with the plant.
Anyway, Cat had an ide about an alien zoo, and we brainstormed and our alien zoo was filled with shape-shifters and they had to plan an escape together with only limited places on the spaceship. Because Cat and I came up with the idea we decided we'd be the two zoo keepers (one good, one bad) and we'd let the other writer in our group be the in the enclosures.
Here's the thing about this project. It encapsulates all the elements of a story:
Goal - get off the planet and get back home
Motivation - there's a spaceship coming for a zoo exhibit, also they're dying inside from shapeshifting on command
Stakes - only 35 places on the spaceship, they must decide who goes who stays
Conflict - one zoo keeper wants to sabotage the plan, the other to help
Alien Zoo was written by authors who have published and who have not published before. So the tricky part when co-editing was to keep the voice of the writer but also to make it readable. It is difficult to ask and receive critique but having gone through professional edits with publishers before, oen thing that is rammed into my head is this: put ego aside, the book is the most important thing.
And we all worked on it till it's something we can be proud of. I know it's a little side project but I had fun writing and editing and designing the cover. 
If you have a writing group and are looking for a project to work on, I highly recommend a joint effort. It'll be hard work, difficult at times, but you'll learn a lot.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Does FREE even work when it comes to books?

Opening the email inbox this morning, I can see that my monthly free magazine of short stories have arrived. Volume 6 or something. Could be Volume 2 or 150 it makes no difference. I haven't even read the first 5 magazines. It's not because I don't want to read these stories. It's because they have nil value.

You mean I can stop eating this stuff because I didn't pay for it?
That's what free books are. Nil value. I can slip over the free books on the kindle, I can stop reading halfway through, or stop after the first chapter. Yet if I've paid money for a book, well I want to keep reading till the end to get my money's worth. Same as if I pay $5 for a bottle of shampoo, I'm gonna use it all up even if I have to slice open the top and scoop out the goo with my finger.

Free books are a useful marketing tool to attract new readers. That's what everyone says. And I can see the point of the exercise.  But, does free even work when it comes to books?

In 2013 I self published LITTLE RED GEM, and I gave away 30 copies through Library Thing in the hopes of readers enjoying the book so much they'd write wonderful reviews. 30 copies is a lot, it's also not a lot. An author or publisher can give away up to 100 copies of an ebook to readers.

I've received one review from this free read exercise. Other reviews on this site cam from paid promotions. Yet everyone was quick to grab the free copy and I get it. Hey, if someone is handing out something for free at the mall I take it and run, check it out when I get home, then I toss the grape peeling wonder device in the bin because who cares, I didn't pay for it.

Free is a quick impulse, must have grab. If someone's just gonna throw it out, might as well take it.

In my case, giving away 30 copies didn't attract readers, followers, fans, or sales, and why would it if nobody even opens the book to read it and just skips it over it on their kindle because, hey I didn't pay for it, so who really cares?

What do you do with the free stuff you get? Do you use it? Treasure it? Chuck it away?

I'd love to hear your stories.