Of England

Hello from the middle of the night, where I’m wide awake with jet-lag after a whirlwind trip back to London for my mother’s 75th birthday celebrations.  Spending five days back in my parents’ home has got me thinking about how much change they’ve seen during their lifetimes.  I’m the one who’s travelled and “seen the world”, yet just as much has happened while they’ve stayed in one place!  This post contains some random musings about living in a big city, to which many of us can relate:

The line is advancing, it cannot be stopped

It will soon pass over the heads of my parents and the last few of their friends who chose not to vacate for the countryside

The quiet cul-de-sac where they live bears scant attestation to the passage of an era

But it passes nevertheless

In the age of the global citizen, my parents are of England

 

Families in the surrounding houses value the same things, regardless of where they come from

Indeed, they uprooted themselves from their homelands in order to achieve the best they could

The ability to educate their children at fine schools without having to send them away from home

Professional careers, with a salary to call their own and economic and political stability to build a successful life without fear of losing it all at a moment’s notice

A comfortable house in an area with a comparatively low crime rate, where their prestige cars are safe in their driveways

An endless supply of arts and culture with which to feed their souls

A tolerant society where people are free to believe in what’s important to them and to live accordingly

These are the global citizens who live in London but with no need to be of England

 

My dad’s lawn is mown in stripes, and my mum’s roses and camellias bloom in clay soil

Such precision is not as important to the global citizen, and largely outsourced

Neighbours exchange golfing tips with my father, but they do not belong to a traditional club because their business and social interests are best served elsewhere and with fellow global citizens

The men in the street are equally passionate about cricket and football, but their hearts rightly cannot support English teams even though their children are eligible to play

Victoria sponges, sausage rolls and cream teas are shared by my mum and the women of England, a domain even harder to infiltrate for the global woman, who is either engaged in her career (if she’s lucky) or is stuck indoors, feverishly upholding their own cultural traditions while her menfolk go global

 

My parents do not have a racist bone in their bodies, yet they lament the loss of their England

They have the utmost respect for those around them, for what they have achieved and how they live their lives

They are interested in where these friendly people have come from and the different lifestyles they keep

Together, they all suffer from the same traffic congestion, crumbling infrastructure, rubbish collection strikes and self-serving politicians who seem to have lost sight of reality

They have seen their neighbours’ children grow up with their own, knowing each of them by their first name and eagerly following news of their exploits as the new generation of global citizens

These very “children” now call in on my parents to make sure they’re alright, when I, as another global citizen whose home is on the other side of the world, am unable to be there for them

My siblings are still of England, though I am not

 

So the line advances ever onwards

The suburban pocket where I grew up now lies on the border between England and the city which is only London by name. It could be New York or Paris or Sydney or New Delhi or Shanghai or Buenos Aires.

What will be the origin of the next family to occupy my parents’ house?

Turn away from the city, and their children will play on grass. Turn towards it, and they’ll play on rubberised surfaces

To the global citizen, it only matters that they play safely and happily

But then, they are not of England

Woohoo! Hard to believe that I’m halfway there…

Hi everyone,

Hope all you northern-hemisphere dwellers are enjoying a nice, hot summer, while we south of the Equator are rugged up and lavishing ourselves with hot chocolate!

“A Life Singular – Part Three” is finally out in the wild, a week late but in good shape.  For anyone who’d like to take a look, it is available on my website (http://www.ALifeSingular.net), where my two supported charities will receive the proceeds.  Alternatively, its Amazon ASIN is B00LLB9LIO.

When I started out on my journey to publish a six-part serial, three years of solid writing on top of a full-time job and several pro-bono commitments seemed achievable, but throw in a 4,000km interstate migration, a stressful period of unemployment and more recently a house move, and fitting everything in has been quite a struggle.

Therefore I’m celebrating today!  I am now officially halfway towards my goal, which is a very satisfying feeling.  Now comes the need to maintain momentum for the other half :-)  Will it be chocolate, coffee, a delicious Indian curry or a glass or two of mellow Tempranillo?  Or all of the above?  Hey, why not!

I hope we all have a chance to celebrate something today.

Use of Twitter #Hashtags for Authors

Lorraine Pestell:

Thanks to Wendy van Camp for this very useful blog post to increase our Twitteracy…

Originally posted on No Wasted Ink:

Twitter HashtagWhen I first began building my author platform, I knew that one of the major social networks that I would need to use is Twitter. At first, I found this social media giant to be bewildering. It is a complex network of tiny conversations, ideas, links and news about everything and anything on the planet. Words were shortened into acronyms to save space. Ideas needed to be conveyed in only 140 characters. It was not long before I realized that Twitter has a sort of code, a language all of its own, that I needed to learn in order to use it properly. This code is known as #hashtags.

A #hashtag is a word starting with the # symbol that Twitter will pick up as a subject in its search engine. It is a sort of code that helps to group tweets based on an agreed meaning by a group…

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Part Three is nearly here!

Phew!  The end of June is fast approaching, and with it my self-imposed deadline of publishing a part of my serial every six months…

A new and very busy job, coupled with moving house and my volunteering commitments have taken editing and polishing down to the wire.  Nothing like being tested under pressure :-) .

Here is the cover and a quick synopsis, as proof that I’m still on track…

Image

 

Fame and fortune beckoned.  Jeff Diamond was a success, whatever that meant…  Fans followed him everywhere, reporters and photographers hid around every corner and journalists recorded his many indiscretions.  A whole different world to the downtrodden streets of Sydney’s south-west, where vices were satisfied by using people to one’s best advantage.

The star had more money than he could spend, his opinion suddenly counted, and the opportunities to feed his ever-hungry mind were plentiful.  Yet the demons continued to torment him, no longer protected by the guardian angel who had been spirited away as soon as her family found out who Jeff Diamond was and where he had come from.

Suddenly the ambitious businessman and philanthropist found himself in the fight of his life.  He would win Lynn’s heart by showing her father he was worthy, and by convincing his dream girl that they had something worth fighting for.  Would she risk throwing her privileged lifestyle away for a man whose public persona depended on alcohol, drugs and a string of pretty girls?

Jeff had nothing to lose.  The trappings of his new life held little significance until the soul-mates were reunited.  This was where their life singular really began.  Up until this point, there had only been playtime.  Now they must step up and take responsibility.  It was up to them.

Writer Survey Results

Lorraine Pestell:

Reblogging Linda Bloodworth’s insightful analysis of what readers look for when choosing what to read next. Thanks, Linda!

Originally posted on Linda Bloodworth:

A little while back I asked a bunch of questions and I finally compiled everything. I really enjoyed learning more about what people want and how they want to be catered to. Rather insightful and interesting.

Enjoy!

Chart How can a writer get your attention?

What old ways of marketing do you think have been pushed aside that could be revisited?

Do you really read author interviews?

How often do read reviews of books you're thinking of buying?

How to get to readers who are not online?

Must use social media

Overused Marketing Methods

Readers, what online sites do you go to for book info?

Readers, where do you buy most of your books from?

What marketing turns you off?

Do you pay attention to good reviews or to the negative reviews when book buying?

How affective are online book groups?

What is the most effective way of marketing that has worked for you?

How can an author stand out?

As a reader do you follow book tours?

Do you prefer to follow writers that have more than one book out?

What is your experience with book trailers?

Feel free to follow me on my links:
Facebook Author Page
Twitter
Booktropolous Social

Enjoy!

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Very cool editing tool – Text to Speech Translator

Hello everyone!

Firstly, apologies for the prolonged bloggio silence. My social media obligations have suffered lately due to so many more immediate demands on my time, such as work and interstate visitors :-)

With my next writing deadline fast approaching, I’m deep into editing “A Life Singular – Part Three”, which I have commenced through the wholly unarduous, “traditional” method of creating an e-book and lying on the couch pretending to be a real reader.  Yet today I am unveiling a new editing tool which I hope will assist other authors to steady their voice and identify those annoyingly evasive typos:  Text-to-Speech translating software.  I wasted a few hours yesterday playing with trial versions of Verbose (http://www.nch.com.au/verbose/) and Natural Reader (http://www.naturalreaders.com/), switching between the available voices and accents.  Hours of fun!

There’s not much to choose between these two products, but I ended up purchasing Natural Reader (US$69.99) because its British accents sounded less silver-spoon.  It goes without saying that neither product offers an Australian male or female voice, and since my books are set predominately in Melbourne, I have gone for Peter and Rachel as the closest to Aussie accents I could find :-)

To use these products, simply load your Word document or .PDF into the program, pick a male or female voice and press play.  The algorithms are much more intelligent than they were even last year, and clever intonation gives you great feedback as to whether your phrasing and punctuation will give the reader the right cues.  The voice “learns” as you go over the same paragraph a couple of times, and it’s worth selecting the words they regularly mispronounce and adding a phonetic spelling into their vocabulary.  This works particularly well for unusual names and abbreviations.

Needless to say, the novelty of having my own book read to me kept me awake until 2 in the morning, but this is such a great addition to my editing toolset that I just had to write about it :-)

Work-in-Progress

This post represents my final leap on the current round of Ruth Snyder’s Blog Hop, where we are all presenting our Works-in-Progress.  I have enjoyed being part of this bouncing band of blogging bookists, and hope we have more opportunities in the future to air our extremely diverse views!  If you have enjoyed these fortnightly blasts too, please go on over to Ruth’s blog and send her a message of appreciation.

In my search for a definition of work-in-progress, I came across two amusing images.  The first exhibits serious ergonomic concerns, and I have already reported this unfortunate androgynous individual to his / her Occupational Safety & Health representative, as any diligent manager should.  (Looks a bit like Gollum from “Lord of the Rings”, donchathink? :-) )

wip                   wip 2

The second is more my kind of work-in-progress.  A pause for thought.  When I think of my six-part novel serial “A Life Singular”, which I’m submitting as my perennial work-in-progress, I can safely say that 38 years and counting ought to qualify it quite well for this label…  With two parts complete, the third is well on its way, leaving the rest to appear at six-monthly intervals thereafter.  The story spans almost fifty years, and I trust I’ll be able to stick to my schedule so that Part Six releases contemporaneously.

Were it not for this self-imposed deadline, I wouldn’t much care if my books remained works-in-progress indefinitely, since this creative process is the most self-sustaining pastime I’ve found.  Each night I rush home from work, where I have sat in front of the computer for a fair percentage of the day, eager to plonk myself back down and start again.  [Please don't tell my OSH rep...]

Since self-discipline is a vital sanity preservation tool for me (as it is for my protagonist), I ensure that my e-mail, blog and social media obligations are attended to as the first activity after watching the evening news.  Up until recently this task was second, after feeding the dog :-(, but that’ll change again in a few months’ time.  Next up is transcribing the numerous yellow sticky notes, onto which were scribbled the previous night’s brainwaves, either into the current piece I’m working on or slotted into my trusty Extras.doc for future reference!

Then and only then do I allow myself to dive into my work-in-progress.  Several people have asked me how I already know my serial will have six parts, to which I give my standard response:  ‘Because I’ve already written “THE END”.’  I describe myself as 80% plotter and 20% pantser when it comes to writing, having all four outstanding parts at varying levels of completion.  I score myself in the pantser column purely because I’m frequently amazed when I finish a paragraph and realise I’ve typed something I had no intention of typing before I began!

This is the most fascinating aspect of writing for me, as someone who labours fastidiously to control her own mind to function appropriately in the “real world”.  Sometimes I re-read a passage that might be several months old and ask myself, ‘Did I really write this?’  Fortunately, I usually like what I rediscover.  Just imagine the frustration if it were otherwise… :)   I have said many times that writing is the only place where I can truly be myself, a sentiment which I’m sure is shared by many authors.

If anyone’s interested in finding out more about my serial, I’ll leave you to check out the Synopses page on my website:  http://www.ALifeSingular.net .  As for specifics around my actual work-in-progress for the coming week, I have just finished the first full draft of a chapter entitled “Welcome To Me”, where my protagonist explains to his soul-mate, from whom he has been separated for two years, why her father has every reason to be suspicious of him.  It is a stark and sinister confession which delves into gangland wars and childhood violence, describing the mental and physical scars sustained by family members caught up in crime, neglect and general disadvantage.

The next chapter “Face-off” is where the privileged celebrity, who has absorbed her boyfriend’s plaintive soliloquy, mounts her case for their relationship to continue.  The serial follows our hero’s journey back through his spectacular life while he writes his autobiography, and Part Three is where the significance of the title “A Life Singular” is revealed.

My intention is to self-publish Part Three by the end of June this year, after which I’ll move on to…  Three guesses?  Yes, you’ve got it.  …Part Four.  Predictable, huh?  Rest assured I will have been dabbling in Parts Five and Six along the way, as more mysterious twists and turns emerge from the interplay between characters with minds of their own.

My clear and present fear is for January 2016, when I will have published the book with the final line, “THE END”.  I have written to authors who live with a particular character for many years, to find out what they went through after they wrote the final word.  What will it feel like never to immerse myself in my hero’s world again?  So far I have not received any replies, so will continue with my own private conclusion…

Many thanks for joining me on this blog hop.  I’m looking forward to reading about my fellow hoppers’ works-in-progress now.  Please join me by clicking on the graphic below:

Ruth Snyder's blog hop

A bientôt, mes amis :-)

Rest In Peace, Jed – A Study in Constance

Today I said goodbye to my gorgeous, old dog.  The end had been in sight for a while, and even planned for the end of the month.  People like me do this sort of thing – dying vicariously, you might say.  We were aiming to go out on a high.  My housemate had planned a trip back to Perth to celebrate her 30th birthday, leaving Jed and me on our own for a few days.

We had arranged everything, he and I.  A last hoorah, doggy style.  [No, that’s not what I meant at all  :-)]

ImageImage

As it turned out though, nature had other ideas.  This Saturday was the first morning Jed showed no inclination for his morning walk, such as it was.  These walks had been growing shorter and shorter, admittedly, over the last few weeks.  Ten houses and then back…  Seven houses and then back…  Sometimes only three houses…  But he always wanted to go, mainly because he always had to go!

Sadly it became clear as the weekend wore on that the black beast with the grey muzzle was no longer able to support his own weight on those tired, arthritic legs, and by Monday I was tobogganing him back and forth across the floorboards on his mat, to minimise the number of paces required to do what he needed to do outside.

So this afternoon Jed met a very peaceful end, and I am left to write on without my hairy muse.  Perhaps, like my protagonists, we will meet again at some point in our souls’ futures.  As I think back on our time together, I am driven to pen some form of obituary to my adorable “pound special”, since he became the most constant thing in my life.

We were struck by love at first sight in 2001, setting Jed on a path to outlast many other elements of the turmoil-infested life I flung him into:

  • Five house moves
  • Two interstate flights
  • Several dodgy partners and a husband who didn’t see the point of dogs
  • Two sets of stepchildren
  • Amber, the gorgeous but domineering German Shepherd
  • One unsuccessful suicide attempt (not his)
  • Nine jobs (again, not his, though I kept waiting for him to pull his weight financially…)
  • Six long visits by my parents from London (spoiled rotten, of course!)
  • An entire generation of the neighbour’s screaming grandchildren
  • Being bailed out of jail four times, as a result of thunderstorms or fireworks
  • Being hit by a truck and puncturing a lung
  • Recovering from the above, only to snap a cruciate ligament by putting a hind leg down a rabbit burrow
  • The last bite of many an Indian curry; and
  • Two-and-a-half books of my six-part novel serial

I dedicated “A Life Singular – Part Two” to Jed, my much-loved and ever-loving companion.  For anyone else who doesn’t see the point of dogs, look them up under CONSTANCE.

 

Hasta la vista, Jed.

Genre – the bane of my writing life

Hello to everyone finally officially in Spring from me in Autumn / Fall.  To combat the reverse envy I’m now sensing, at least Melbourne has a long weekend for Labour Day. :-)

Ruth Snyder's blog hop

This fortnight’s post for Ruth Snyder’s Blog Hop is “My Favo(u)rite Genre”.  Again, I fail miserably to fit into mainstream thinking on this topic!  Oh, I absolutely understand the need for genre classification, especially now that e-books are flying across our e-noses from all sides, but for someone who’s endeavouring to draw readers towards a topic to which they may not have previously been exposed, I constantly bump up against the walls.  And they’re not padded…

We live in a world of drop-down lists, check boxes and radio buttons, for which I’m partly to blame, since I’ve been involved in many such abominable creations.  These nifty, high-tech methods of filtering and sorting clearly enable us to group the abundance of treasure into manageable slices of information.  The more we depend on websites to make our selection of reading material, the greater the need for some speedy classification mechanism.  Genre in the Internet age has found renewed purpose.

I also understand that genre is a convenient way for authors and readers to connect on common ground and feed their shared passions.  It’s a signpost to direct supply and demand to consummate that magic transaction, and in the absence of a better solution, I suppose I’d better “suck it up”…!

As a reader, I spread myself shamelessly across as many genres as I have time for, but still there are a few I avoid.  My least favourite subject at school was History, and on the whole I tend to steer clear of reading historical books, whether fiction or non-fiction.  Yet why then do I list my all-time favourite authors as Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Ionesco and Fyodor Dostoyevsky?  My conclusion is that they too were generalist observers and change agents who sought to breach boundaries rather than to exist within the constraints of tradition and convention.  I wonder what the Blog Hop posts of these esteemed gentlemen would tell us about genre in bygone days?

Therefore, as a writer with social justice aspirations, I have to target my favourite genre as Contemporary Fiction.  Mention the words “love” and “romance”, and most men run in the opposite direction.  Throw in “star” or “celebrity”, and the work may be dismissed as superficial or lacking in substance.  Mention “inspirational”, as I did before I realised its connotations in North America, and I find myself stalked on social media by evangelists promising to save my e-soul.  And dare to discuss “depression”, “post-traumatic stress disorder”, “deathwish”, “nightmares” (sans vampires) and “inescapable social exclusion”, and everyone except fellow sufferers is disaffected.

Contemporary Fiction is, by definition, an overwhelming buffet from which it’s often difficult to decide or even identify what might take our fancy.  On the other side of the coin, however, strict genre classifications tend to “preach to the converted”.  What I’m seeking is the “I’m willing to open my mind” genre; the “teach me something I don’t know, and entertain me at the same time” category.  Now that would be the perfect genre for me, and one which would have allowed my post to be a whole lot shorter!

Best wishes from a cloudless Melbourne Sunday!  There’s writing to be done.