Laying a Foundation, Building Scaffolds, Writing a Novel by Guest Author Audrey Driscoll

Audrey Driscoll:

Written as a Guest Post during the latest NaNoWriMo. Thanks, Chris, for giving it house room on your blog. BTW, looks like I’ve opted for the prefab option for the work-in-progress.

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog..... An Author Promotions Enterprise!:

audrey-driscollSo I’ve finally started writing another novel. (No, it’s not a NaNoWriMo project; you can’t get word-count updates when you write longhand). To date I have 20 pages of scribble, and when I look at them from a certain angle I get a feeling of total futility.

The thing about writing with a pen on paper is that I’m not tempted to go back and read what I’ve laid down so far and either start tinkering with it or give up. As I push the pen, though, I keep thinking, “This isn’t going well. In fact, I think this might just be crap.” I compare the plodding feel of the writing with my plot aspirations and get that “Let’s crumple now” feeling.

But wait! I tell myself. This is a first draft. It’s supposed to be imperfect. In fact, it’s not so much the novel I want to write as…

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No More Gatekeepers?

Until a few years ago, aspiring writers sought out advice on how to query agents and publishers, spending fortunes on big fat books full of names, addresses and tips, not to mention all those expensive conferences where writers could sign up for a 5-minute encounter with (gasp!) an actual agent.

In the Trad Pub era, supply was controlled by those gatekeeping dragons. Most aspiring writers’ hopeful submissions were relegated to slush piles and recycle bins. A few wannabees were seduced by vanity publishers, but no one took them seriously. Then came the internet. Self-publishing became respectable (and a source of income for those catering to the self-publishing crowd). The floodgates opened.

One of the bonuses of publishing your own books is that you, the writer, are in charge. You hire the editor, you decide what the title is and what the cover looks like. You set the price and carry out the marketing plan. No more rejections from agents and publishers.

No more gatekeepers.

Well… no.

There are still barriers between writers and the blissful state of success, except instead of big, iron-clad gates, there are a lot of little hurdles and pointy-picket wickets. They’re called book bloggers, reviewers, publicity agents — and readers!

Many readers seek the help of critics and reviewers to guide their reading choices. Amid the welter of star ratings and “reviews” by anyone, including grumpy people and trolls, an authoritative voice recommending a book can make a huge difference. But a good review is hard to find.

The blogosphere is full of advice on this point. Don’t scream “Buy my book” on social media. Don’t plaster links to your books all over the place. Be subtle. Figure out your target market and frequent online discussions populated by those folks — for example, middle-aged, golf-playing men who like to cook. Or cat-loving video gamers. Or cello-playing spelunkers who also collect stamps. You join those groups and lurk. Occasionally you contribute to discussions, demonstrating your expertise in the subject of interest and your writing style. Never mention your books. Make yourself so interesting that the bloggers, reviewers and readers find you irresistible and want to know more about you. Once they seek out your blog or website they’ll discover your books.

This reminds me of advice once doled out to women about enticing a man — don’t throw yourself at him, don’t seem desperate, talk about interesting topics to show your intelligence and sense of humor in order to make him want to know you better.

Hmm. Given our short attention spans these days, be prepared for a long campaign and don’t be surprised if you don’t get 100% results.

You see, the fundamental problem hasn’t changed: too many writers, too few readers.

So if the subtle approach isn’t for you, what about advertising? There’s BookBub, a book discovery service that sends recommendations to readers. Authors can purchase their services, but money doesn’t guarantee admission. They have a Submissions form. This is from their website: “BookBub employs an editorial team to review the many submissions that meet our requirements and select those they feel are the best fit for our readers to be featured in the BookBub email.” They actually send out rejections. From their Submission Tips: “Certain genres and subgenres perform better with our readers than others. There’s a chance we simply don’t have a good place for your title right now or that the particular subject matter of your book isn’t as good a fit as others in the same category.”

What does that remind you of? (I wonder if they end with “Good luck with your writing efforts”).

But really, these gatekeepers are pussycats compared to the dragons of former days. They’re not keeping writers from getting their works out of the bottom drawer and the cardboard box.

My advice, for what it’s worth: Fellow indies, don’t get desperate. Remember why writing is important to you. Adjust your expectations. Even more, don’t put yourselves into a situation that generates desperation by going into debt with your self-publishing efforts. That way you can afford to take the long way around, assuring yourself that at least your works are published and available for readers to discover — somehow.

Will the cream really rise to the top? Is there too much cream? Only time will tell.

 

Now In Print!

The first book of the Herbert West Series, The Friendship of Mortals, is now available in print!

Book 1

Book 1

Arkham, Massachusetts, 1910. Charles Milburn, a cataloguer in the Library of Miskatonic University, meets Herbert West, a medical student with compromised credentials.

Herbert West can restore the dead to life, he says, and he persuades Charles to be his assistant. Their secret experiments achieve success, but with a taint of disaster. Charles finds himself caught between the demands of his fascinating friend and his growing attraction to Alma Halsey, daughter of the Dean of Medicine.

In 1914 West joins the Canadian Army as a medical officer to pursue his grisly research on the battlefields of France. His letters to Charles reveal a disturbing mixture of cynicism and black humour. Left behind in Arkham, Charles catalogues the books of an eccentric professor and develops an interest in alchemy – a process to transform the base into the excellent.

Returning from the War, West becomes a surgeon, utilizing techniques perfected on the maimed, dying …and dead? Rumours of illicit experiments overshadow West’s spectacular public successes. With his career in shambles and showing signs of mental imbalance, West appeals to Charles for help. Charles is sympathetic – until West reveals the details of his plan.

Caught between horror and hope, Charles must draw on his knowledge of alchemy and his tottering faith in powers beyond himself if he is to save his friend’s life. Only his conscience stands in the way.

 

If you’ve always wanted to read this book, but aren’t a fan of ebooks, here’s your chance! Get thee to my Amazon page and enter the adventure.

And if you still don’t have the ebook, you can download it for free!

Chasing Nonconformity Cover Reveal!

Mere weeks after revealing the new cover for Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight Into It, the industrious Michelle Proulx is about to do it again — this time for the sequel, Chasing Nonconformity.

Michelle’s successful IndieGoGo campaign (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/book-imminent-danger-ya-sci-fi/x/1220764) has made it possible to commission splendid covers from designer Ravven (http://www.ravven.com/)

Chasing Nonconformity will be published in Spring 2015. In the meantime, read the teaser, admire the gorgeous cover and make sure you’re up on all the details by visiting michelleproulx.com

Still reeling from accidentally marrying an exiled alien prince named Varrin, and from almost getting her head blown off by a six-armed lizard man with anger management issues, seventeen-year-old Eris Miller is ready for a vacation. But Varrin is desperate to rescue his beloved spaceship, the Nonconformity, from the clutches of the galactic government, so her vacation will just have to wait.

 While Eris and Varrin chase after the stolen ship, they’re unaware that trouble is brewing on the other side of the galaxy. The villainous Emperor of Rakor has assembled a task force, led by the commander of the deadly Skin Slicers, to hunt Varrin down. With enemies closing in and the Nonconformity slipping further and further from their grasp, Eris must ask herself: how much is she willing to sacrifice to ensure her happily ever after?

chasing_ebook

 

 

 

Morphing into Print

Fourteen years after I started writing it, my first novel. The Friendship of Mortals, is about to appear in print! It has existed as an ebook since 2010, but suddenly the time seemed right to turn it from electronic blips to a physical object. It should manifest on Amazon within the next week.

It’s been a bit of an adventure making the transition. Other authors reassured me that the document formatting would be a snap. If I had successfully negotiated Smashwords’s “meatgrinder,” I would have no trouble at all turning my Word document into something acceptable to the equivalent program at CreateSpace.

Not. It was a struggle of epic proportions.

When you want your Word document to become an ebook, you strip out all kinds of details — page numbers, headers, footers, section breaks, etc. You want the thing to become liquid, so it flows along like a scroll. A Word document destined to become a printed book needs all that stuff, in the right places and combinations. Page numbers go in the footer. There should be two headers, one with the book’s title, the other with the author’s name. They should appear on all pages except those that start a new chapter or other section with its own title; on those pages, you want a page number only. And of course headers, footers and page numbers must be absent from blank pages and front matter (title page, dedication page, contents page, etc.)

About blank pages — in a scroll-like electronic document, they don’t exist. A printed book, however, is printed on paper, and a sheet of paper has two sides. Brainlessly obvious, you say, but this physical reality is hard to envision when you’re looking at your Word document, even after you’ve selected Mirror Margins in Page Setup. In a book, each page has a front and a back (or, as cataloguing librarians and bibliophiles call them, a recto and a verso). Odd-numbered pages are the ones on the right hand side (recto, get it?) and even-numbered pages are on the left. But an even-numbered page is the verso of an odd-numbered one. Getting confused yet? Just wait.

When you’re looking at your document, now with two pages on the screen, odd and even are reversed. The odd-numbered recto page is the one on the left, the even-numbered verso is on the right. You have to think of those two pages as the front and back of a physical piece of paper. That’s why the page numbers appear to be on the wrong side of the page. You want them on the outside corner, but there they are on the inside. Ah, but once that odd-numbered page is on the right side, the page number will be on the outside. So will the even-numbered verso page’s number.

Once this particular light bulb comes on, you can confidently go ahead and divide your 500+ page novel into (in my case) 18 sections, each with its own combination of headers (two of them, remember!) and footers. Oh, and there’s the matter of the difference between odd- and even-numbered section breaks. I’m amazed I have any hair left.

Once I figured out the above, formatting went fairly smoothly, except for Word’s inexplicable tendency to forget some details until reminded of them, firmly, three or four times. I uploaded my document to CreateSpace and was pleasantly surprised when it passed through with only one “issue” noted.

Now I’m just waiting for the final version of my cover. I had professionally designed cover images created for all four of my ebooks earlier this year. The talented Alisha at Damonza.com has now created a print cover for The Friendship of Mortals. It will look like this:

The Friendship of Mortals - Paperback

I can hardly wait for all the components to come together!

Anyone who has missed out on reading The Friendship of Mortals because ebooks aren’t your preference, here’s your chance to remedy that. Look for it on Amazon later this week.

Alchemy — the All-Purpose Metaphor

I’m reading a book with the rather lumpy title The Chemistry of Alchemy : from dragon’s blood to donkey dung, how chemistry was forged. The authors (Cathy Cobb, Monty L. Fetterolf and Harold Goldwhite) are chemistry professors, which accounts for the tone of amused skepticism toward their subject. They have given the history of alchemy its due attention, though, and explain the links between alchemical and chemical processes. The included “experiments” that readers may carry out at home mostly look worthwhile too (although I haven’t tried any of them myself — too lazy).

The thing that strikes me is the contrast between this approach and that of C.G. Jung and Mircea Eliade, both of whom wrote about the symbolic aspects of alchemy. Their writings were my introduction to the subject, so the mysticism and symbolism are what I find most fascinating, And the colours! Colour changes in the materials subjected to various processes would naturally signal transformation, which was the whole point of the exercise. The progression from black to white to yellow to red was fundamental. The successful conclusion to the long and torturous process was called by some the “red dawn,” represented by the phoenix. The magical substance which turned base metals to gold was often described as a red powder. Other colours are associated with intermediate phases — the green lion (vitriol) and the peacock’s tail, which is a flush of purples and blues that comes over certain metals when heated. The lion and peacock are only two of the alchemical animals; a full description may be found here.

With its colourful phases as a progression of transformations toward an ultimate perfection, it’s not surprising that alchemy serves as a perfect metaphor for almost anything. Gardening, for example, or writing, or spiritual self-improvement — anything that involves metaphorically breaking something down, burning it, washing and cleansing, joining and renewal, by prolonged effort bringing excellence from imperfect beginnings. When I started to write my first novel, the main character, Herbert West, was a dubious type in great need of improvement. I suppose it was inevitable that I should turn this into an alchemical process; alchemy thus became an explicit part of the book. It reappeared very explicitly in the final book of the series, Hunting the Phoenix.

B4 HtP

Here is a quotation from Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy (poached from Wikipedia):

“When the alchemist speaks of Mercurius, on the face of it he means quicksilver (mercury), but inwardly he means the world-creating spirit concealed or imprisoned in matter. The dragon is probably the oldest pictoral symbol in alchemy of which we have documentary evidence. It appears as the Ouroboros, the tail-eater, in the Codex Marcianus, which dates from the tenth or eleventh century, together with the legend ‘the One, the All’. Time and again the alchemists reiterate that the opus proceeds from the one and leads back to the one, that it is a sort of circle like a dragon biting its own tail. For this reason the opus was often called circulare (circular) or else rota (the wheel). Mercurius stands at the beginning and end of the work: he is the prima materia, the caput corvi, the nigredo; as dragon he devours himself and as dragon he dies, to rise again in the lapis. He is the play of colours in the cauda pavonis and the division into the four elements. He is the hermaphrodite that was in the beginning, that splits into the classical brother-sister duality and is reunited in the coniunctio, to appear once again at the end in the radiant form of the lumen novum, the stone. He is metallic yet liquid, matter yet spirit, cold yet fiery, poison and yet healing draught – a symbol uniting all the opposites.” (Part 3, Chapter 3.1).

The whole thing bristles with vivid symbols and images and is surrounded with an aura of mystery and ancient secrets. No wonder artists and writers pounce on it with glee.

Here is an excerpt from Apology for Bad Dreams, a poem by Robinson Jeffers (whose work I discovered at the impressionable age of 18):

He brays humanity in a mortar to bring the savor

From the bruised root: a man having bad dreams, who invents victims, is only the ape of that God,

He washes it out with tears and many waters, calcines it with fire in the red crucible,

Deforms it, makes it horrible to itself: the spirit flies out and stands naked, he sees the spirit,

He takes it in the naked ecstasy; it breaks in his hand, the atom is broken, the power that massed it

Cries to the power that moves the stars, “I have come home to myself, behold me.

I bruised myself in the flint mortar and burnt me

In the red shell, I tortured myself, I flew forth,

Stood naked of myself and broke me in fragments,

And here am I moving the stars that are me.”

 

Another Fall in the Garden– and a “Change Agent”

I love autumn for its colours — some subtle, others spectacular, always fleeting.

Two kinds of purple asters (names unknown to me) in the front garden

Two kinds of purple asters (names unknown to me) in the front garden

 

A favourite scene in the back garden

A favourite scene in the back garden

 

Cotinus "Royal Purple" in fall colours -- much better than its summer purple!

Cotinus “Royal Purple” in fall colours — much better than its summer purple!

Cotinus leaves often develop these artistic-looking patterns as they change colour

Cotinus leaves often develop these artistic-looking patterns as they change colour

 

A lone bloom on Gentian acaulis -- rare blue colour in the autumn garden

A lone bloom on Gentian acaulis — rare blue colour in the autumn garden

A windstorm last week blew most of the leaves off the maples. Raking awaits!

And the Change Agent?

Nelly by the pond

Nelly by the pond

Nelly the Newfoundland puppy (4 months old)

Nelly the Newfoundland puppy (4 months old)

The garden won’t be the same…

Imminent Danger Cover Reveal!

Michelle Proulx is reissuing her novel Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight into It with a gorgeous new cover. Which is being revealed — right here and now!

First, the story behind the new cover:

In the far-gone year of two thousand and twelve, a naive young authoress with a trusting heart gave unto a company called iUniverse thousands of dollars with which to publish her novel. But alas! For this foolish young authoress did not realize the assisted-publishing path was fraught with peril, and the thousands paid were not in value received. Control was relinquished, prices did skyrocket, and the young authoress cried out to the heavens, “Woe is me! Would that I had done this publishing business myself!” And the young authoress did take it upon herself to publish the novel, commissioning a talented artist to provide her with a new cover that doth more accurately capture the spirit of her novel. And lo! The new cover is revealed!

Imminent Danger Cover Reveal

Now that you’ve seen the cover, here’s something about the book:

High school junior Eris Miller thinks she’s having a bad day when her roommate’s boyfriend catches her stepping out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel. Then she gets abducted by scaly six-armed aliens with a strange fondness for the color blue, and her day suddenly gets a whole lot worse.
 
Trapped on a spaceship bound for the slave markets of Sirius B, Eris fears she’ll never see her home again. But then fate whisks her away from her reptilian captors and into the arms of Varrin, a fast-talking space pirate who promises to deliver her safely back to Earth. He claims to have her best interests at heart, but Eris soon discovers that her charming rescuer has a hidden agenda.
 
As they race across the galaxy, outrunning a villainous figure from Varrin’s past, Eris begins to realize that their relationship is putting her planet, her life, and her heart in imminent danger. She knows that trusting Varrin could prove deadly … but what other choice does she have?
And here’s something about Michelle. See if you can guess which parts are true…
 Michelle Proulx was born on the market moon of Vega Minor where she spent her formative years reading, writing, and gambling at illegal underground jsgarn fighting rings. While en route to Alpha Centauri, Michelle crash-landed her space yacht on the planet Earth. She now lives in Canada and divides her time between observing the local fauna and repairing her star ship.
MP Author Photo
It’s absolutely true that Michelle will be doing a giveaway on her blog, so crank yourself up to warp speed and go check it out!

Prizeworthy : Literary Fiction Awards

Here we are in the middle of literary awards season. The Nobel, the Booker, the Pulitzer, and here in Canada the Giller, the Governor General’s Awards and many more. (Just in time for Christmas.)

Why are there so many of these awards? And why are most of them for so-called “literary” fiction? There are a few awards for genre fiction, such as the Nebula Award for science fiction and the Golden Dagger Award for crime fiction, but they don’t have the profile of the literary prizes.

I think the answer has to do with a fundamental difference between literary fiction and genre fiction. Genre fiction is self-serve. Everyone knows what to expect from a book labelled “mystery” or “romance” or “science fiction,” but literary fiction is random. It can be about anything or nothing. It’s idiosyncratic and nuanced, full of symbols and allusions, and often ends ambiguously. A degree in creative writing may be useful for reading as well as writing it. Lit-fic is popular among book clubs whose discussions use words like Zeitgeist and oeuvre.

However intimidating, literary fiction has the allure (for some) of the Higher Arts. One cannot swim in this rarefied sea unaided. Readers need expert guidance in the pathless country of lit-fic. Newspapers and mainstream magazines such as Time or Maclean’s used to have book sections, but they are becoming scarce.  More and more, the critics’ seal of approval takes the form of the literary award. Once the annual crop of awards is out, those who wish to be known as “well-read” know exactly which books to buy and read (or at least skim). A recent clever development is the announcement of long-lists and shortlists in the run-up to an award, so the benefits of the awards may be spread among more authors (and their publishers).

But what about self-published literary fiction? Most successful indie authors write and publish genre fiction. Is being “literary” the kiss of death to a self-published book? In the world of indie authors, there are no high-profile awards, backed by financial institutions and bestowed by panels of Eminent Writers. No one is telling the reading public, “This is the indie book everyone should read,” condemning to eternal obscurity many an artfully-written work expressing the anomie of a disaffected protagonist in an indifferent world.

 

4 activities to avoid as a newly published indie author

Audrey Driscoll:

Yes, I’ve done all five of those things. Good to know I’m not alone. And I have every intention to start on my next book, any day now.

Originally posted on Suffolk Scribblings:

11.07.15-ast_ft_decision-signs-421913814_582_387 Congratulations, you’ve made it. You’ve uploaded your ebook and cover, entered a sales blurb and selected your product categories. You’ve decided on a price, agreed to the terms & conditions and finally, with no small amount of trepidation, pressed publish. Within a few hours an email arrived to confirm your book is live. You are now a published author. The next thing to do, of course, is let everybody know. So you spend a few hours promoting your launch on your social media of choice, phoning friends and family, sending emails and mentioning it to everybody you meet. This is great. Enjoy the moment. But then what? What should you do next? Well here are five things I recommend you don’t do.

Constantly check your sales stats

While the sensible advice is to write the book you want to read, in reality most of us write books we hope others will read. When you publish your…

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