Friday, 27 April 2012

A Chat with a Publisher

Today I was lucky enough to receive 20 precious minutes and a critique from the managing director of a major Australian publisher. She'd read the first ten pages and synopsis of my WiP last week.


That 20 minutes turned into 40, and she gave my writing so much praise I was starting to repeat my thank yous out of sheer astonishment. I definitely used the words "you're so nice" too many times - someone could've turned it into a drinking game and gotten smashed.

Now this woman is a total stranger. She didn't know me from boo. But she saw something lurking beneath the surface of my writing, and it's something I've been struggling with for about a year.

The writing lacked ME.

It was good, she promised me. Excellent, even. But where was the passion, the uniqueness, the voice that made it stand out?

Her question brought back memories of a time in 2011 when I was writing PRINCE OF CITY NIGHTS. I had read so many "how to" guides and so many blogs that the rules/guidelines/whatever you want to call them were whirling around in my head every time I sat down to write. I struggled with a blank page for almost a month. Eventually I stopped reading blogs, shut the voices up, and just wrote.

So it's happening again. While I can switch those immediate voices off, it seems subconsciously I'm still thinking of my target audience (and getting published) over writing what's in my heart.

I'm not sure how to overcome this problem because it's so hard to get out of the mindset, but I'm thinking if I work on the story I'm writing purely for me and my friend (just for fun), as well as practicing some stream-of-conscious writing, I might be able to shake the nay-sayer voices off. If you have any extra advice, I'd be glad to hear it.

And, yes, for those of you who are curious - she asked to see the full manuscript once I'm done with revisions *insert flailing here*

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Interview with Jay Kristoff

Japanese steampunk? Hell yes.

STORMDANCER is close to my heart for a variety of reasons - it's set in a world "heavily inspired by Japan", it features oni, and it's written by a true blue Aussie. What's not to love?

You're going to throw things at me for this, but I managed to get my grubby little hands on a copy of this baby (much to Jay's disbelief and paranoia). After zooming through it with many an evil, gleeful cackle, I knew I needed more, so here's an interview with Jay - ahem, Mr Kristoff - to keep me going until the next book... and you going until the first :p

1. Why did you choose to set your story in Japan?

I wanted to write a steampunk story, but I felt like Victorian London and America had been done, and done very well. I wanted to do something people hadn’t seen before, something readers wouldn’t expect and could hopefully get excited about. There were a lot of other amazing cultures in the world at the time of the Victorian era, and I’ve been in love with Japan forever, so it just seemed a natural fit. Steampunk samurai – I mean, what’s not to like?

2. Tell us in ten dot points or less a little about your writing journey (eg how you got started, how you snagged an agent, how your agent snagged a publisher, any particularly painful rejections).

· I wrote a vampire novel for fun. I just had a scene in my head and started writing. I knew nothing about publishing or how to be a writer, I just wanted something to show for my time other than phat purple lewts on my Night Elf Rogue. Eighteen months later, I had a book.

· I did a bunch of research on publishing, because I kinda liked the way the book turned out, and loved the writing process. I soon realized writing a vampire book at the height of Twilight hysteria probably wasn’t such an awesome move.

· I queried the book. A few agents said really nice things about my writing, but nobody wanted to rep it. Sadfase.

· I wrote another book, which started as a dream in my head. Took me about six months, during which time I hung out on Absolute Write and read Miss Snark and Author!Author! and learned everything I could about publishing. The book made my wife cry, so I thought it might be good. I named it STORMDANCER.

· I started querying. Agents seemed to really like it, and I was lucky enough to receive four offers of representation. Happyfase.

· We subbed the book. Again, publishers seemed to really like it. We had three houses interested in buying it, which lead to an auction. The process is described in a little more detail here if you’re interested. Biiiiig happyfase.

· And here we are. :D

3. Do you have any quirks or necessities when it comes to writing? A special place, a certain type of food, a ninja doll watching over you?

I need silence. Like, I’m talking ‘vacuum of space’ type silence here. I don’t care if alien sexbots have abducted the president and I am next, just STFU. If I’m planning a long session, Red Bull is almost mandatory. I’d drink that stuff every day if I didn’t know it’d implode my brain. I have no ninja dolls watching me, but my dog usually keeps me company. Unless he’s being noisy and then it’s GTFO.

4. What scares you most about being a real published author?

That people will realize I suck.

5. What television shows/movies/books/other inspired you while writing STORMDANCER?

Oh wow, so many. Pretty much every manga I’ve ever read has a role in there – stuff like Akira, Battle Angel Alita, Ninja Scroll. Movies like Seven Samurai, 13 Assassins, video games like Tenchu, steampunk books like Infernal Devices, the Difference Engine, the Leviathan series. But the biggest influence on me was music – even though I don’t listen to it when I’m writing, music is a huge part of my life. There’s a Rage Against the Machine album called The Battle of Los Angeles that I had on almost constant rotation during those six months. I’m not sure this book would exist without it.

Thanks, Jay!

And there you have it: A terrifying glimpse into the mind of a mad genuis who thought to combine the world of steampunk with the world of mythological Japan. If you'd like to learn more about STORMDANCER and Jay Kristoff, you can visit his website, and if you want to stalk him, he tweets as @misterkristoff.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Falling Behind Fast Tech

A while ago I wrote a post on how writers can keep up with such a fast-paced technological age. For my lastest WiP I had to journey into the contemporary world and use not just current technology, but high tech stuff. It's scary because I know it won't be long before this "high tech stuff" is outdated.

I was doing fine at first. I wrote about animatronics and state-of-the-art robotics and glasses that allowed you to use the internet...

Glasses that allowed you to use the internet.

Google, you've done it again.

Now, I need these glasses. They are imperative to the storyline. But they need to be awe-worthy in terms of technological development, and by the time I've found an agent and a publisher and this book hits stores, the glasses will be a thing of today, not the future. And a few years from then, they'll be a thing of the past.

I'm sure plenty of you have come across something like this before. When I tweeted my woes, I had more than one sympathetic response that came with a similar story. I guess I can count myself lucky that I've come across it this early in the drafting stage. It can still be changed.

But how?

Well, this is where the brainstorming comes in. (After the curled-up-in-a-fetal-position-crying, anyway.) Thanks to an idea from my lovely boyfriend, I'm keeping the glasses but using them in conjuction with internet-based contact lenses. It will require further thought to cohesively fit it into the storyline, but it's something.

And that's the thing, isn't it? Living in a time like this, the only choice we have is to keep up, keep changing, and stay one breathless step in front of the people who are working much too hard to make the future today.

And Google, don't steal my idea until the book's out, got it?

Monday's Food for Thought

There was an April fools' joke going around that scientists had discovered a moon orbiting Mercury and they were going to shoot it at an angle that would bring it to Earth.

WHAT IF this was a real proposition? How would you feel about it? Personally I'd be furious that scientists were playing with things they shouldn't. Problem is, there may just be a time in the future where something like this may actually come about. Scientists decide to do something stupid that the population doesn't want. Rumours would flood social media on the effects - good and bad - of the decision.

So we'll go with the Mercury moon. Scientists are going to blast it off its orbit and it's going to reach Earth. They list a variety of reasons why it's a great idea - it will allow them to study moon and learn more about space. The alarmists will start talking about the impact causing the end of the world. Realists will question just what potential disasters this choice will bring. People will rally. Some will just sit back and watch the chaos.

Where are you on the scale? Would you rush about preparing for the end? Would you get out and rally? Would you tell everyone who'd listen to calm down because the scientists know what they're doing?

The problem is relying on people with power not to do anything stupid. Of course, that's usually the most interesting part to add into your story. Think about how the people with power in your book add to the story world, and see if you can get them to do something really, really stupid.

Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Two Announcements!

It's been a while since I've done a personal post. I thought I'd better update you on the two AWESOME things that happened yesterday:

Exciting news one:

Have you joined SCBWI yet? I thought nah, it's more an American thing. I thought nah, I'm in a teeny tiny isolated city - it's not worth paying money for conferences I can't attend.

And then I joined.

And there's a branch in my teeny tiny city.

And better than that, there was a callout to meet with Sarah Foster, managing director of Walker Books.

And I got in.

I get to meet with Sarah Foster and talk about my latest WiP for twenty minutes. She will read and crit my first ten pages and synopsis. Some people have snagged publishing contracts this way.

Now I'm not looking specifically for a publishing contract, but wouldn't you say this is a mighty fine opportunity? Wouldn't you like a similar opportunity?

Get out there. Join SCBWI. It's worth it.

Exciting news two:

I am now officially an intern at Twelfth Planet Press, a boutique Australian publishing company run by one of the most successful, hard-working women I know. I found out yesterday, and by this morning I was swamped with emails of things to do. Not a lot of it makes much sense to me (there may have been panicked tears for a bit there), but I'm going to sit down today and go through it slowly, googling the terms I don't understand.

My first jobs involve making up a sales kit for a distributor and writing a feature article for a blog. It's so great to see this side of the publishing world, and while I'm slightly terrified, I'm also really, really excited. I hope to do the best job I can, and I'm looking forward to the learning experience that comes with it. I think this will definitely make me a better, more worldly writer.

And that's the news!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Monday's Food for Thought

So you know those horror stories with evil mist?

Yeah, well, there are fresh-from-the-oven rumours going around that there is a mercury laden fog.

According to Science Now, monomethyl mercury can reduce memory, attention, language and motor skills, impair peripheral vision, and lead to muscle and coordination weakness.

These posts are always about going big, so let's go big.

WHAT IF a more concentrated version of the fog spread across the planet? It eventually affects all humans (or most humans, at least) and of course the food chain. What kind of world would that be? Where could you hide? How could scientists fix the problem? What kind of random genetic traits might pop up?

Imagine living inland, in one of the few untouched towns left. Or maybe humans retreated to higher altitudes, to live on mountains or even in airships. There would have to be people in protective gear going back every now and then for supplies, and some kind of refinery plant would definitely be needed to get the mercury out of the food and water. Imagine there's a fog watch - an alarm goes out when a fog draws near and you have to airproof your area to keep safe. Imagine what the people still in the fog would look like/live like.

Pretty crazy, huh? But possible, always possible. That's the point of being a writer, isn't it? To imagine the possibilities...

Just a little something for your Monday mind to munch on.