Category Archives: On Writing

Self-Publishing with IngramSpark…or not

IngramSpark, probably the biggest print-on-demand publisher, has a facility right here in Melbourne [Australia].

“Yay! I can get copies of my books printed locally to save a huge amount on postage!”

That was me yesterday. Today I have steam coming out of my ears because the only way I can use IngramSpark is as a Sole Trader – and that involves getting an ABN. Apparently, IngramSpark does not deal with lowly self-publishers who can’t pretend to be a business.

For those not familiar with the term, ABN stands for Australian Business Number. I used to have one, about 15 years ago when I ran a micro business teaching computer skills one-on-one. In fact, apparently I still have one lurking somewhere, inactive and unusable, but still in the ‘system’. Somewhere.

I could hunt down my old ABN, but I don’t even know where to start and, bureaucracy being what it is, the process could take hours or days out of my life. That’s a lot of effort to go to just for the privilege of printing a few copies of my book here in Australia, especially when the only benefit to me is a saving on postage [Ingram’s printing costs are a lot higher than CreateSpace but postage from the US is the real killer].

Oh, and did I mention that you have to pay IngramSpark $53 AUD for the privilege of using their distribution services, even if you don’t actually intend to use them to distribute your books? Yup, that’s part of the setup process.

So if you’re an Aussie self-publisher, my advice is to give IngramSpark a miss. Unless you already have an active ABN…

-sound of teeth grinding-

Does anyone out there know of a reasonable PoD company here in Melbourne? Maybe a home-grown one that doesn’t charge the earth?

Meeks

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Say hello to Max Legend!

In case there was any doubt, I’m in love with a new composer, and his name is Max Legend! Raw, driving, powerful yet lyric, ML’s music is not gentle. It doesn’t yearn, it stirs…no, it doesn’t just stir, it kicks arse. And that is the exact feel I’ve been looking for all summer.

Many writers use music to set the mood for their storytelling, but for me, music is not an optional extra, it’s a necessity. And not just any music. It has to be the right kind of music for the story I want to tell. Without it, I write words, but they’re not connected to my heart. Does that make any sense?

Yes? No? Maybe? This is why I dislike writing about the writing process. Every writer is different so something that makes sense to one person may make no sense at all to another. For me, music acts like a portal that carries me straight past the logic centres of my brain to the weird, messy, parts.

But the right music doesn’t just take me to my ‘creative side’. It also helps to translate all those messy, nebulous thoughts and feelings into a linear progression of words that end up telling a story.

No two people will ever experience a story the same way, and no two people will ever respond to a piece of music the same way. But sometimes, if I get it right, they may share a feeling, for a little while. To me, that’s what real communication is all about.

So…I’ve finally found my way into the next story. I won’t publish excerpts on the blog because I’ve learned not to make anything public until its well and truly done. But I will post the odd bit of music, and for the forseeable future it will all be from the brilliant mind of Max Legend. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

p.s. ML is another composer who writes for trailers, games and movies.

 


Science fiction on parade!

meeks-books-small

I’ve never published a print book version of any of my books, but this wonderful graphic by Chris Graham is the next best thing. He just ‘whipped it up’ and sent it to me in an email. I have no idea how he put it together, but I love it. Thank you, Chris!

And while I’m at it, I’d like to thank everyone who left reviews on Amazon for Innerscape. You may not know this, but if you add up all the pages in all the episodes of Innerscape, they total about 1014 pages. I say ‘about’ because Amazon only displays page counts for episodes 2-5, so I had to guesstimate the page number for episode 1. Slight inaccuracies aside, that makes the story of Innerscape about 200 pages longer than George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’ which comes in at 819 pages. So to all those brave souls who have read all the way through to the end…THANK YOU!

Now, I’m a polite girl, and polite girls don’t crow, but here are the reviews for Episode 1, including the 1 star by Austin Myers. 😀

David Prosser
Can Innerscape really live up to it’s reputation, can Miira live on without her bodily ills and find some happiness. Given an introduction is like watching world building at it’s best. You’re there and can see it but don’t have to cope with all the technical side.
Ms Flory has created characters real enough to evoke emotion in the reader. You’ll like, love and possibly hate too but you won’t want to stop reading.
I was given an advance copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Stephanie Briggs
Personal hopes and private fears leap from this writer’s imagination and grab the reader’s attention. Once she piques your interest, the conviction to know more will fuel your desire to read the next Episode. A. C. Flory does for science fiction what sunlight does for soil. She incubates an idea until it flourishes and feeds the deep hunger in us all.

Chris James
Anyone who’s read this author’s first book, Vokhtah, will know that she can deliver when it comes to entertainment. Innerscape part 1 doesn’t disappoint. The story tackles one of the most thought-provoking ideas in science fiction: what if, as your health failed and you approached death, you could effectively download your mind to a virtual reality and live on in the freedom of youth for as long as science could keep your decaying body alive?
We follow the dying Miira as she enters Innerscape and goes through her “orientation” into this virtual paradise. But right from the beginning, Innerscape shows one side to its Residents, while hiding real-world complications behind its pristine veneer of professionalism.
I finished this first part with my curiosity peeked and wanting to know what will happen next. It is a terrific introduction to what promises to be an outstanding series of books.

Candy
I thoroughly enjoyed Episode 1 of Innerscape and just downloaded Episode 2! The alternating perspectives, the vivid characters, and the intriguing vision of the future all work together to create a compelling narrative. Miira and Dr. Wu are sympathetic protagonists and the prospect of futuristic corporate villainy in the next couple of episodes seems likely. A.C. Flory has succeeded in creating a coherent, reasonable, and scary future, where the virtual and real exist side-by-side.

Candace Williams
This is the first episode of a smart, well written sci-fi series with a fascinating premise. I’m looking forward to finding out what’s really going on in both worlds, Kenneth’s real world and Miira’s utopian VR, Innerscape. There’s plenty to think about – a must in sci-fi, imo – within a storyline that captivates. An excellent read!

Dawn
Well. This was a delightful surprise. I’m quite traditional in my thinking- I always say to people I’m more of a crafter than an artist; and I think that shows in my reading. Much as I like to be fully absorbed in a novel, I find that most fantasy is just too fantastic for me to suspend disbelief. Same often goes for science fiction. For example – TV wise – I’m more of a Battlestar Galactica / Caprica girl than Farscape. My favourite authors writing for adults in this genre are Margaret Attwood and Iain Banks.
Having completed Episode One of Innerscape, however I think I might be adding AC Flory to my list.
Really convincing new technology and logic behind it; borderline dystopian; well realised characters; interesting premise throughout. Additionally it’s set in a future just sufficiently distant as to make all these things feel as though they may be about to occur, yet the lead character (a woman – hurrah) is incredibly relevant; especially reading this at the tail end of 2016. Oh – and unusually well written; no typos, no gaps or character name swaps, no odd leaps or discrepancies.
I bought this book, and am looking forward very much to buying all the remaining ones in the series.

EllaDee
A great start, introducing engaging characters who invite you to champion, fall in love with or hate them.

Austin Myers
There may have been a story of some sort but it was taking far too long to get to it.
Note to author: The first few pages / chapter has to grab the reader and pull them into the story. This book failed to do anything of the sort. This was disjointed and boring. I hope your next effort is better.

Penny I Howe
From page one, I could not put the book down. It was simply wonderful. Gripping & excitingly realistic. I’m getting ready to order the next episode (book ) right now. I would highly recommend this book. Excellent and entertaining. Exactly the way I like my Sci-fi!

And thank you to everyone who comes to my blog as well. You’ve made me a ‘very happy, Meeka’.

-hugs-

Meeks

 


#Haiku help needed – update 24/1/2016

Thank you to all those who left comments and suggestions. Your help gave me a really valuable insight into haiku, at least in the English form, and why it’s so hard to write.

For those interested, my little insight has to do with the sound of the haiku when spoken out loud. You see, the very first time I came across the haiku form it was at uni. where I was studying Japanese. And of course, it was the famous frog haiku by Basho:

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

To this day I love the sound of those three lines and seventeen syllables flow. They flow, almost like music, and I believe the reason is that in Japanese, each syllable is given its full value. In English, however, the written word is often very different to the spoken sound because we truncate syllables. Just think of that oh-so-Aussie ‘g’day’. ‘Good day’ has two syllables, but how many are there in ‘gday’?

Sadly, this insight merely highlights the fact that I don’t have the skills to make music with the imagery I see in my head. 😦

I may return to the ideas and feel of this little ‘pome’ of mine one day, but for now I’ll stick to what I know best…prose.

Heartfelt thanks to all,

Meeks

 

Okay. I do not write poetry, but I’ve always loved the old, traditional Haiku of Japan, so when I needed a title for part 8 of Innerscape, this sort-of Haiku popped into my head:

Condolences like ash,
Softly falling,
The finality of gone

I like it, and it really fits the story, but as a haiku it’s a fail. The total syllables are 17, but their placement is all wrong: 6-4-7 instead of 5-7-5.

My question is this – as I’m writing in English, can I get away with it?

Thanks,

Meeks


Libraries as publishers?

The Windsor Public Library [in Canada] may be the first [?] library to create paperbacks for Indies, but I suspect it won’t be the last. And I’ll be at the head of the queue when my local library gets a POD machine!

Wondering what I’m talking about? Follow the link below to read about a very forward thinking library that is doing print-on-demand [POD] for it’s members:

http://blogs.windsorstar.com/news/with-10699-books-printed-windsor-librarys-self-publishing-machine-is-a-hit

And before anyone mentions the name ‘Createspace’, I know, we can all create POD versions of our books on Amazon. But…

  • while Createspace may be very reasonably priced, the postage to Australia is not,
  • and nothing beats the convenience of going to your local library and having a real person solve problems for you, in real time.

I don’t know when POD machines will come to libraries in Australia, but I for one can’t wait. Just think, if I managed to publish one book per year, I’d have Christmas presents solved for life. 😉

cheers

Meeks

 


Wattpad mark 2

Apologies for those who tried to have a look at Part 1 of Innerscape and found the link didn’t quite work. 😦 Since that post I’ve discovered that the only way to create a working link in Wattpad is to use their pre-made links to Twitter and/or Facebook.

The link below really does work this time, but you’ll notice that it refers to twitter somewhere in the middle. Don’t worry about that weirdness. Clicking the URL link will take you to the right place.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/38111538-innerscape-part-1-induction?utm_source=web&utm_medium=twitter4&utm_content=share_myworks_details&ref_id=18201582

I suppose there is some deep and meaningful reason for the way Wattpad functions, but I’m not particularly impressed at the moment. It took me a couple of hours of fruitless searching to work out how to do this one, simple thing. :/

Good night all,

Meeks


Cures for the not-so-common Blah

I thought I’d be happy when I finished writing Innerscape. Hell, I thought I’d be ecstatic!

– No more getting up at dawn to squeeze in a few hours of writing before the working day began.

– No more dreaming of storylines – and yes, most mornings I wake feeling as if I’ve spent the whole night writing because that’s what my brain has been doing while the rest of me slept.

– No more hitting myself over the head when I can’t get the plot to work.

– No more worrying about not being able to write/finish – and yes, that is the counterpoint to this. 😦

In short, I really believed that once I wrote ‘The End’, I’d leap into real life again with gusto. Not so. In one of those feats of human contrariness, I’m facing the coming weeks of enforced rest* with trepidation. In fact, I feel blah.

For those unaware of the finer points of language, ‘blah’ is a technical term for not knowing what to do with oneself, and feeling miserable as a result. You must remember this :

Okay, the relevance of that video clip is a bit of stretch, but ‘you must remember’ how it felt when you were a teen, and the end of year exams were suddenly over? After all that furious studying there was suddenly – nothing. Part of you still felt as if you had things to do, urgent, important things, but the energy to do them had no outlet.

Well, I’m feeling much the same now, except that this misery is a kind of double-blah because unlike exams, I actually do enjoy writing.

I know the blah will fade as the habit fades, but the paradox is that I’m equally scared of that eventuality – I know what writer’s block feels like, and that misery is even worse than this one. So in an attempt to keep my hand in – without going back to Innerscape – I’ve decided to re-read the very first story I ever wrote. This mammoth, unfinished masterpiece -cough- took up two years of my life, and I still have a four drawer filing cabinet crammed full of research material.

A decade on, I’d like to think I’ll be pleasantly surprised but …I have a six-pack of tissues close at hand just in case. Remember, this is the story I wrote straight after my last technical manual. Yes, I thought you’d understand.

I fully expect to spend the next few days either crying or laughing hysterically. When I emerge, however, I’ll need some more coping mechanisms, so please share your cures for the blah in comments!

Thanks in advance,

Meeks

*I think it was Stephen King who recommended throwing your newly finished manuscript into a drawer for six months before starting to edit. The idea is that time and distance from the story will allow you to see the manuscript with fresh eyes – i.e. see what you actually wrote instead of what you think you wrote. This technique does work, I know it does, but it’s hellishly hard to switch off from a story and characters that have consumed your life for months on end.

 

 


You’ll never see toast the same way again!

Okay, people, I know two posts about writing in as many days is probably a bit much, but this one is so funny!

Here’s a teensy weensy sample talking about the concept of ‘the Chosen One’, and how much of a cliche it is. Author S.E. Zbasnik, muses on what might happen if the all powerful ‘they’ picked the wrong chosen one. They might find that:

‘The true savior of the Lumtkins was actually a sentient piece of bread, but no one thought to armor up toast.’

Read the full article here. I’m going back to laugh some more. 😀

Meeks


Plotting for pantsters

NC route2Most writers who identify as pantsters do so because they can’t or won’t use outlines for their work. They like the thrill of the unknown, of putting finger to keyboard and jumping into a story without any idea of where it’s going. I know this because I am one. In fact I can’t outline to save my life.

But plotting and outlining are not quite the same thing. A plot is like a road map; it defines the destination of the story, and offers possible pathways for getting there. But if you don’t want to take the highway, or even those twisty country lanes, a plot will allow you to set off cross-country with just the position of the sun as your compass.

Outlines, on the other hand, are more like a GPS device. They tell you when and where to turn. They can even tell you how long it will be before you reach your destination, and they definitely take the guesswork out of driving. But some people like to get a little bit lost.

Personally, I find GPS devices unbearable, but that is only my personal preference. Maps, however, are fine because they give me the choice of where and how to go. And that is why I’m okay with plotting.

But why, you ask, would any pantster want to plot in the first place?

Well, I can only speak from personal experience, but I’ve found that once a story reaches a certain level of complexity, I have to plot …or perish.

Before I go on, however, I need to make another, defining point : complexity is not the same as plot. You could have one hundred characters all running around doing their own thing, but all that stuff will not give you a plot. A plot has a beginning, a middle and an end, and all the actions of the characters have to be woven into those structural grab-bags in a meaningful way. Events have to flow. They have to make sense. They have to progress. They have to get somewhere.

Not all stories have to have a plot, or get somewhere, but all the stories I love to read do, even if the plot is no more complicated than the development of a single character from one state to another.

As someone who loves science fiction stories, my writing style is complicated by the fact that I love tight plots that build tension amongst the characters, and in the minds of their readers.

I’m not talking about mystery style ‘tight’, of course. I suspect all mystery writers are plotters because keeping the reader guessing is the purpose of the genre, and if the writer doesn’t know what’s going to happen next then what hope is there for the reader?

No, the type of ‘tight’ plot I’m talking about is more like what you find in a thriller. Thrillers do not try to surprise the reader, until perhaps the very end. Instead, they turn the reader into an invisible spectator, one who can see far more of the game than any of the naïve characters. Thus the spectator sits there, biting his or her nails as the characters wander blithely into and out of danger, often without even knowing they have done so.

It is this helpless awareness that creates the tension in thrillers. Of course, a good thriller always keeps something in reserve so the reader is never quite sure if the inevitable is really going to be inevitable.

Unfortunately that final question mark in the story means that the author has to have some control over where the story is going, and this brings us right back to plot again. How does a pantster meet the requirements of the story without either boring the reader stupid with predictable action, or confusing them with a plot that goes no-where?

Marian Allen, author and blogger, discussed this issue in her post ‘Deadly Duck into Good Duck‘ just today. And yes, the post is humorous while making some important points.

For me, plotting as a pantster is a circular, rather time-consuming process. Imagine it like this. I start out on a journey. I’m marching along happily in the sunshine, just enjoying the view. But then storm clouds begin to gather. Ut oh…not good.

I look around for shelter. Where the hell am I? I whip out my trusty street directory and after much head-scratching, I work out a route to the nearest bus shelter.

Off I go, determined to reach that bus shelter before the storm hits. But just as I round the first corner, what should I see before me but a five star restaurant! Running inside, I have a delicious meal followed by a decaf latte, and by the time I’ve finished, the storm has passed and I can carry on strolling through the country-side once more.

If you could see my street directory, you would notice that my progress is more zig zag than ‘as the crow flies’. But that’s okay because along the way I pick up beautiful flowers, and lovely, odd-shaped pebbles. Plus I get to see into some interesting houses along the way. [No! I am not a sticky beak or peeping Thomasina! This is for research purposes only.]

Then, when I finally reach my journey’s end, I look back at the distances I’ve covered, and all the fascinating things I’ve found along the way, and I order them into a travelogue. The guide I create is not straight, and it does not take in all the things I discovered along my own journey, but it does include all the best, brightest, most exciting things. And of course, the route always leads somewhere.

In more prosaic terms, I restructure and edit until I’m blue in the face to ensure the reader’s journey is as enjoyable as mine was, just without the potholes. Sometimes things work as planned, sometimes they don’t, but as a writer, I can never leave the reader stranded somewhere with no bus shelter in sight and a storm brewing.

Plotting of some sort is as necessary as grammar and punctuation. We forget that at our peril.

 


To comma or not to comma?

I’ve just been editing some work I set for my English student, and it suddenly hit me – I’d been using American English instead of Australian English. 😦

Now you may think there’s no difference between the two but, I’m here to tell you, there is! And the previous sentence illustrates some of the differences.

In Australian English you only put a comma before a conjunction if it joins two, distinct clauses, both of which must be able to stand on their own as complete sentences. By definition, a complete sentence contains at least one subject and one verb.

Now let’s have a look at the following sentence – ‘She ran up the stairs, and then she went to bed.’

‘She ran up the stairs’ is a complete sentence because it has a subject [she] and a verb [ran].

The second half of the sentence is also a complete sentence because ‘she went to bed’ has a subject [she] and a verb [went].

Contrast this with ‘She ran up the stairs and went to bed.’

‘She ran up the stairs’ is a complete sentence but ‘went to bed’ is not. The subject ‘she’ may be implied but that is not enough to make ‘went to bed’ a complete sentence in its own right, hence no comma before the ‘and’.

Most sentences, however, are not simple. Going back to my initial sentence – ‘Now you may think there’s no difference between the two but, I’m here to tell you, there is!’ the main part of the sentence boils down to ‘you may think there is no difference between the two but there is!’ As you can see, ‘there is’ is not a complete sentence, so the conjunction does not have a comma in front of it.

Gah, even now I’m not sure that last paragraph is correct, despite my best efforts. And that illustrates how confusing and tricky the Australian English use of commas can be.

Aussies! A little help would be appreciated in comments!

I will continue to use Australian English commas with my Australian English student, but I will be using American English commas for my published work.

Part of the reason for that is expediency – I publish mostly to the US market. The other part, however, is that I actually find the American system more intuitive. It allows me to recreate the pauses a reader would take if, say, they were reading aloud, and I like that visceral connection between me and them.

Unfortunately, I recognize that accepting American commas whilst retaining Australia spelling is a contradiction, and probably hypocritical. 😦 God help my poor, addled brain. 😦

Meeks

 


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