My first two novels have been traditionally published. My third, a speculative fiction called The Ark, I have been planning to self-publish as an e-book, with an accompanying interactive multimedia website.
I’ll need a team of people to help me build this site, including programmers, graphic designers, 3D animators, and audio engineers. And all of these people are going to need paying for their services (quite rightly). When I think about the bottom line, I wonder if I am completely insane. I am going to spend thousands of dollars to create a product, and then release it into an already overcrowded market, with the possibility that I might only sell a few dozen copies.
Last week, serendipitously, I heard two podcasts which seemed to speak to my fears.
The first was a social media marketing podcast in which Seth Godin was interviewed about his new book The Icarus Deception, which explores the idea that instead of being afraid to fly too high, we should be afraid of flying too low. In the interview, which is titled ‘Failing to Start’ he talks with host Michael Stelzner about how in order to ‘make art’ people have to be willing to try new things despite the fear they may not work.
The second was an episode of one of my favourite podcasts, This American Life. (Yes, I have a crush on Ira Glass…who doesn’t?) Titled So Crazy, It Just Might Work, the episode opened with the story of a mathematician who spent years of his life working through a zillion mathematical equations til he finally found the one that enabled him to debunk another long-held mathematical ‘truth’; the point being that success and failure are two sides of the same coin.
Listening to these podcasts was encouraging for me. There’s a very real chance that The Ark may not be a commercial success – but there’s no doubt I’ll grow through the process of creating it, and that I’ll learn things about myself and the world of publishing. So I’m going to give it a red hot go.
2012 was an exciting year for me in a bookish sense. I read many great books, had a novel published, and became an avid user of social media. I decided to set some bookish goals for 2013 in all of these areas:
Though I’ve been a member of Goodreads for a while, 2012 was the first year I faithfully recorded every book I read. Last year I started 65 books, of which I finished 52 (abandoning 13 due to lack of interest). This year I wanted to challenge myself to finish a few more books.
Bookish Goal #1 Read 64 books (1 each week plus one bonus book each month)
2012 is also the first year I’ve ever taken part in a reading challenge, which was the Australian Women Writers (AWW) Reading and Reviewing Challenge. This made me pay attention, for the first time, to the nationality and gender of the authors whose books I was reading. At the end of the year I made a super-nerdy spreadsheet which included, among other things, the country of origin for each book I read and the author’s gender. I discovered that 90% of my reading is fiction from the USA and that I read twice as many books by male authors as by female. Though I read a lot of great books last year I’d like to read more Australian books as well as reading more widely from the rest of the world, and I’d like to try to balance the sales in terms of gender:
Bookish Goal #2 Read 12 books by Australian women writers and share my reviews with the AWW Challenge community.
Bookish Goal #3 Read one translated book per month. In order to stay on track with this I’ve signed up for the Translation Challenge hosted by Curiosity Killed the Bookworm and I’ll be following reviews on Winston’s Dad which specialises in translated fiction.
2012 was a year of firsts for me, as it is also the first time I took part in a meme, (yes! I’m talking about Top Ten Tuesday) which I stumbled across via Hollie from Music, Books and Tea. Reading the lists each week, I kept seeing the same books appear over and over again, books which I’ve always meant to read and have for various reasons, avoided, or never made time for. Which leads me to my next goal:
Bookish Goal #4 Catch up on some neglected modern/contemporary classics, including:
· We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
· Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner
· Underworld, by Don DeLillo
· Franny & Zooey by JD Salinger
· The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
· Leaving the Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner
· Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolf
My second novel was published in November 2012. The first print run was of 3000, of which approximately 1500 have sold so far.
Bookish Goal #5 Sell 3000 copies of Whisky Charlie Foxtrot. Yep, I’m shooting for a reprint…halfway there. You can help me reach my goal by buying my book, requesting it at your local library and/or adding it to your to-read list on Goodreads. If you need convincing you can read this review or those on Amazon or Goodreads.
Bookish Goal #7 Complete a first draft of my new novel, Ciudad. I have literally just started this novel (only 10,000 words in) and will be busy trying to get The Ark out into the world, but I hope I can still make some steady progress on this one.
I started my blog in 2011 but I only wrote three posts in that entire year! Last year I blogged pretty regularly, but have been disappointed by the lack of response to many of my blog posts:
Bookish Goal #8 Attract more engaged readers to my blog i.e. people who leave comments. I’ve done a lot of reading around this, and followed many of the suggestions I’ve come across, but it doesn’t seem to have made much difference. I welcome more suggestions…in the comments!
Bookish Goal #9 Grow my audience. Last year I created a Facebook page and started Tweeting and I’d love to connect with more readers on those networks. If you haven’t already done so, I’d love to hear from you on Facebook or Twitter.
Bookish Goal #10 Discover and connect with more like-minded readers and bloggers. Through both Top Ten Tuesday and the AWW Challenge I discovered a whole new world of people who love books enough to spend their spare time blogging about them, and I look forward to discovering more in 2013.
Phew! Looking back at this list, it feels a bit overwhelming. But I’m sure I’ll have some fun in the process of working towards these things.
Your turn: What bookish goals have you set for 2013? Is there a book you’ve always wanted to read? A novel you want to start writing? I’d love to hear about it.
After a long fallow period following the publication of my first novel, A New Map of the Universe, 2012 has been an exciting year for me creatively, with the publication of my second novel Whisky Charlie Foxtrot. Like all writers I have also had plenty of rejections, unsuccessful applications for residencies and grants, slower progress than hoped on various projects and other frustrations and setbacks. Overall though, I feel that the achievements have far outweighed the disappointments for me this year.
Some of my highlights have been:
- Publishing my second novel Whisky Charlie Foxtrot
- Receiving an inaugural Creative Australia Fellowship from the Australia Council
- Finishing a second draft of my third novel The Ark
- Contributing the ‘Year in Australian Fiction’ Essay to Westerly Journal
- Publishing a short story in Southerly Journal
- Starting a fourth novel, titled Ciudad
- Reading 52 books (and giving up on 14)
- Keeping track of all my reading and writing reviews on Goodreads
- Writing 69 blog posts
- Starting tweeting and gaining 147 followers (best Twitter moment: receiving a reply to a Tweet I wrote to Margaret Atwood!)
- Signing up for the Australian Women Writers Reading & Reviewing Challenge
- Taking part in the Top Ten Tuesday Meme
Your turn: How has 2012 been for you creatively? Have you written an end-of-year round-up? Please feel free to link to it in the comments.
Last week, Sara Foster tagged me in a book meme called the Next Big Thing, which asks authors to answer ten questions about their books. Sara is a fellow West Australian writer and her new psychological suspense Shallow Breath has just been released. You can read her response to the meme here, and here are my answers to the same questions:
1) What is the working title of your current work-in-progress/next book?
2) Where did the idea come from?
I read an article called ‘Cities After Oil’ by Adrian Atkinson that considered the possibility of the collapse of society and infrastructure in the not too distant future, which I found terrifying and fascinating in equal measure. At around the same time, I first heard of the Svalbard Global Seed Bank, also known as the ‘Doomsday Vault,’ which stores seeds for posterity, in the event of potential worldwide cataclysms including nuclear warfare etc. These two ideas came together to form the kernel for The Ark.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
It is a speculative fiction, in that it is set in the future (2041) and speculates about how the world might look at that time. It is also a contemporary version of an ‘epistolary novel’ as the story is told, not through traditional prose, but through a series of digital documents, including emails, text messages and blog posts.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’d love to see Roy Scheider (from Jaws) as Aidan Fox; perhaps Cate Blanchett as Ava. There are 26 characters in the story, so it would end up being an ensemble piece. I’m sure I could fit Ryan Gosling in there somewhere, hopefully with his shirt off!
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament which is facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks, can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Good question! Because it is told through a series of digital documents, I somehow don’t envisage it as a paper book. I’m toying with the idea of self-publishing, but I’m also looking into publishers who are doing innovative things with e-books. The jury is still out.
I don’t have an agent. I tried to find one to represent my second novel, Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, but in the end it turned out to be easier to find a publisher than it was to find an agent. I await the day when they come knocking on my door!
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
A couple of years, I think. I’m terribly slow.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Wool by Hugh Howey; Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood; Super-Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
See question 2!
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I was one of five recipients of an inaugural Australia Council Creative Australia Fellowship, and I’m using my fellowship to develop an interactive multi-media website and app to accompany The Ark.
1. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
I discovered Jonathan Dee a few months ago, reading two of his books back to back. I haven’t worked through his whole back catalogue yet but I’ll look forward to this one.
2. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
Margaret’s being a bit of a slowpoke getting book three of the MaddAddam trilogy out but apparently it’s due for next year so bring it on.
I always get pretty excited when any of these writers release something new – so this is more of a wishlist really:
3. Joan Didion
4. Jeffrey Eugenides
5. Jonathan Franzen
6. Ann Patchett
7. Adam Ross
8. Dan Chaon
Both Chaon and Ross have recently published short story collections, but I say meh to that! Put your novel-writing hats on dudes.
9. Justin Cronin
Okay so I know The Twelve only came out about a month ago. But I want Cronin to work his fingers to the bone to finish his zompire/vambie trilogy. Go, Justin, go!
Hey, wait a minute, that’s me! I am going to try my darndest to get my next book out in 2013. Fingers crossed.
Which books are you looking forward to in 2013? Do you have a favourite author you wish would damn well hurry up and publish something new?
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The Ark is an interactive multi-media digital novel I am creating with the assistance of an Australia Council Fellowship for Emerging Artists.
Reading the first draft of my new novel The Ark, my friend Robyn brought my attention to my frequent use of idiom. In everyday speech, most people use idioms regularly, but in fiction they are generally considered lazy; isn’t part of a writer’s task is to say old things in new ways?
Editing my manuscript I had to consider each one carefully. Was I using an idiom because I believed a character would use it, or was I shirking my writerly duties? Consider this email, for example, from a character living amidst the chaos of the collapsing post-peak oil society, to her sister, who is living inside the bunker known as the Ark:
Even out here people are terribly out of sorts about VISO [TV broadcasting] going down. But it must be particularly difficult for you, losing that sense of connectedness. I had started to take a leaf out of your book and was watching it less and less, because it was just so bleak. So I am trying to view it as a blessing in disguise. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t that what they say?
Three idioms in two sentences? Verdict: slack!
Because my book is set in the future (2041), Robyn’s observation raised another question. Would a character born after the turn of the millennium be likely to use the phrase a bee in her bonnet? Would they even know what a bonnet was? And does it matter? Can you be confident in the true meaning of an idiom, without understanding its etymology?
To me, the image of a bee trapped inside a hat, getting more and more frantic as it finds itself unable to escape, is the perfect metaphor for an idea that you’re obsessed with, to the point of agitation. However, a little googling revealed a variety of interpretations for this seemingly straightforward idiom, including the idea that it referred to feeling angry or upset, as you might after discovering a bee in your bonnet.
The blog ‘How to slay a cliché’ suggests the following alternatives:
- bee in her bouffant
- squirrel in her skirt
- rats inthe trash can
See a lot of bouffants around your neck of the woods? Me neither. A trash can? In Australia we have wheelie bins and it would take a super-rat to scale their slippery sides, so that one doesn’t quite work either. I did once have a squirrel run up my leg, apparently mistaking me for a tree, but it wasn’t exactly what you’d call a rite of passage – and anyway I was wearing jeans. I don’t know that this particular cliché has been ‘slayed’ – ‘butchered’ would perhaps be more accurate.
Elsewhere, I stumbled across the somewhat less prosaic something’s crawled up his ass. Hmmm. Maybe not. So in the absence of any decent alternative, should I keep a bee in her bonnet, despite it being anachronistic?
My answer to this question came as I considered another idiom – to draw a long bow which means someone has drawn conclusions which may not be supported by the evidence at hand. This is, of course, an archery term, which to me suggests aiming at something which is too far away to hit. Outside of Middle Earth, longbows went out when gunpowder came in but several hundred years later we’re still using this expression. So I think a bee in my bonnet can survive another thirty years.
To cut a long story short, what it boils down to, at the end of the day, is that when it comes to the idiom it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie. No use in upsetting the applecart, after all, better the devil you know.