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 :-)

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.

New interview on the writing of the “A Life Singular” serial from Self-Publisher’s Showcase

Hello everyone,

I have been fortunate to be interviewed by Self-Publisher’s Showcase about my writing.  They asked some particularly relevant and challenging questions – a very interesting exercise!

Please check it out at:  http://selfpublishersshowcase.com/interview-lorraine-pestell-a-life-singular-author/

Thanks,

Lorraine

Great, new, professionally-designed covers!

Very exciting!  Thanks to the wonderful Ida Jansson of Amygdala Design in Norway, here are the covers for all six parts of my serial “A Life Singular”.

all 6 fronts

If you’re looking for a creative partner, I can’t recommend Ida highly enough!

Re-blogged interview from my host, The Complete Self-Publishing Indie Authors Resource Site

Hello!

The end of January already!  Where did that month go?

I’m halfway through my first book blog tour, put together by Fire and Ice (please see this link for the remaining dates).  Today’s stop is at The Complete Self-Publishing Indie Authors Resource Site (http://selfpublishingindieauthors.blogspot.com.au/), whom I thank for publishing my Qs&As.  Here is a transcript, which delves into why I am writing the “A Life Singular” serial:

What inspired you to write A Life Singular?

My earliest inspiration came from a wonderful English teacher who brought our language to life! As a teenager in a leafy London suburb, I grew up revelling in the richness of words and obsessed with perfecting the art of stringing them together to convey a deeper meaning.

The enduring love story at the heart of the “A Life Singular” series emerged from an adolescent fascination for pop stars and the music world. I developed a habit, purely for my own entertainment, of writing journalistic pieces that presumed a backstory about my favourite celebrities, and as I grew older and began to understand the world’s complexities, I longed to discover why so many of our ‘rich and famous’ seem to struggle in their private lives.

Later on, when my own life took several wrong turns (and continues to do so), I found myself coping with severe depression and an inescapable death-wish, and so took refuge in writing, writing, writing… From here, the notion of a serial sprang forth, transforming the cute romance between a pop star and a rock guitarist into a sharp yet tender examination of the human condition.

My two main ambitions for “A Life Singular” are firstly to inspire sufferers of mental illnesses to rise above their symptoms to achieve happiness and success, and secondly to appeal to non-sufferers for their understanding, love and support in our efforts to live a ‘normal’ life.

Did you run into any snags along the way?

‘Snag’ is Australian slang for sausage, by the way; a favourite at barbies…

Well, I never suffer writer’s block, that’s for sure! Quite the opposite is true. The need to establish a career and earn money, coupled with a gipsy tendency which has spirited me all over the world, conspired to limit the relentless flow of words from my fingers. I seldom get more than a couple of hours’ sleep at a time, because my story ideas wake me and demand to be recorded, or else they refuse to let me fall asleep again. An array of sticky notes covered with scrawl on both sides typically litters my bedside table by the time morning rolls around!

Snags a-plenty in the publishing journey however, more of which can be found in the question below about my publishing experience. The regular rejections from agents and traditional publishers are somewhat discouraging of course, as they are for everyone. Also, my series is predominately set in Melbourne, and it has been important to preserve my characters’ use of Australian idioms and vocabulary in a way that’s clear enough to American and Canadian readers to prevent confusion, but without boring them by explaining every nuance or creating a glossary!

Genre classification was fraught with danger. I didn’t wish to restrict my audience only to women, readers of contemporary romance or people in need of help. It was the classic case of “all of the above”. Unwittingly, I fell into hot water when I used the word “inspirational” in my synopsis, suddenly being inundated with evangelists tweeting to save my soul. After checking with a reliable source, I realised that this word in the US and Canada suggests a Christian or religious message, which is conspicuously absent in my writing!

My most recent bugbear is the fact that Amazon does not consolidate customer reviews across regional markets. Australia is an enormous island continent with a tiny population. Consequently, an aspiring author from the southern hemisphere, whose early reviews are likely to come from local contacts, friends and family, will find it difficult to gain exposure in the larger markets of North America and Europe without some indication of the quality of their work. Amazon’s regional sites do not currently copy local reviews to other “stores”, and therefore we are required to impose upon our reviewers to paste their reviews in up to 12 places.

How did you remain motivated?

Motivation is an eternal challenge for someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Without venturing too far into the morbid, living each day depends on garnering considerable motivation from external sources. Mine comes from my old dog, volunteering for non-profit organisations and the promise I made to outlive my alarmingly healthy parents.

I have vowed to accomplish this mission through completing all six parts of the “A Life Singular” serial, thereby giving new meaning to ‘a life’s work’. So far it’s going well, and I remain driven to help destigmatise mental illness and to encourage people to embrace it as one of the many complex non-negotiables of the 21st century.

Part Two was released in December 2013, and I’m currently working on Part Three. I aim to publish at six-monthly intervals, which will see a story which spans nearly fifty years reaching its conclusion in contemporary times.

What was the publishing experience like for you?

There were several false starts at the hands of the off-shore publishing elves with their westernised pseudonyms and lack of awareness that Australia has more than one timezone. Wake-up calls at 6am were a regular occurrence, so much so that I have now migrated three hours forwards and 4,000 kilometres eastwards to accommodate them! These issues derailed progress until we grew accustomed to each others’ ways of working. Thankfully, my IT career has helped me greatly in dealing with far-flung people whose culture and interpretation of language are very different from my own. They key is to be very precise and unambiguous with their instructions.

My most unwelcome hurdle was being censored by this self-publishing company due to what they termed ‘under age sex’. Despite Part Two of my serial containing no abusive or exploitative content and certainly nothing below the age of consent, their ‘customer satisfaction specialist’ informed me that their policy is black and white. Life is not black and white, I tried to point out, but to no avail! A reminder that his company had happily published underage drinking and drug-taking in Part One was not considered a valid defence either. I expect to use Amazon’s CreateSpace for Part Two onwards, given the freedom it offers authors who seek to be unconstrained by such outdated, self-righteous and overprotective policies.

As mentioned earlier, my books don’t slot nicely into a conventional genre. It has been tricky to come up with the single-sentence ‘elevator pitch’ for those chance encounters either face-to-face or via the metaphorical elevator of the little blue bird. Social media is an exhausting necessity that takes authors away from their true passion. However, the unprecedented access it affords us to new audiences far outweighs the annoyance of having to constantly generate catchy soundbytes.

Is there anything you wish you would have known about writing when you started?

I was particularly naïve about the publishing process prior to beginning my journey to authordom, and my lessons are too numerous to mention here.

Without question, the value of an editor is huge, yet the cost is prohibitive for a new writer. Oh, for a magic curio capable of spotting errors and repetition in my work more quickly than my own reviews. This would save me hours, if not days of effort!

Using friends or relatives as a substitute for an editor is good for general feedback, although they don’t generally say anything more specific than “I loved it” or “It’s not my kind of book”. I also find that people who know me often cannot remove themselves adequately from the author to truly get into the story, and neither do they have eagle-eyes trained to spot those annoying misspellings and grammatical bloopers.

Lastly, I was also disappointed by the snootiness of some creative writing professionals, especially from academia. Aren’t lecturers supposed to educate? Attending the Perth Writers’ Festival this year as an e-chick looking to self-publish, I have never felt so inadequate as when seeking information from the literary cognoscenti of the world’s most isolated city. All power to independent authors who are proving these learned fellows wrong via the bestsellers lists!

What did it feel like when you finished the book?

Amazing! I’ve spent almost thirty years writing business cases, system specifications and project plans, leaving me in no doubt that I had the discipline to finish what I started. However, I was not prepared for the euphoria of receiving my first printed copy of “A Life Singular – Part One”. My cover design, my name on the cover, my picture on the back… A true sense of achievement, even though it’s the first of six!

More surprising though was how much the physical book meant to me, as a technocrat who converted to e-books many years ago. With an e-book, we only get an idea of how “long” the book is by our progress along the blue line at the bottom of the screen. When I saw Part One as a paperback and checked the number of pages, I was blown away with how long it is!

Have you made any changes to your book based on reader feedback?

Yes, a few changes have been made to Part One, mostly correcting errors that slipped through. I am definitely incorporating readers’ comments into the subsequent parts though. One piece of constructive feedback I received from a respected work colleague was that I use too many adjectives, which I later discovered was criticism levelled at JK Rowling. I might sit on that one for a while… At least until my second or third billion.

I am fortunate to have lived and worked in various corners of the globe, and I like to try my writing out on friends in different countries to make sure there are no more strange interpretations that might get me into trouble.

I must also mention my mother here, who’s opposed to any form of swearing and explicit sex scenes. I tried to create a swearword-free version for her, but abandoned it almost immediately because the dialogue no longer suited the characters and the result made me laugh out loud. Also, her e-mail response to the first sex scene was “Phew! Brings back memories.” Sorry, Mum, I couldn’t resist!

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Thanks for asking! In truth, I still consider myself a new writer, so don’t yet feel qualified to give advice. My biggest obstacles were my lack of self-confidence and the fear that no-one would like my writing. Yet the moment I took the plunge and released my story into the wild, this terror miraculously vanished and I became comfortable with talking about my work and what I’m hoping to achieve.

In terms of the technical quality of my work, I find that regularly downloading a digital draft and sitting down with it in “reader mode” enables me to pick up inconsistencies, overuse of particular words and other typographical errors much more easily than in “writer mode” in front of the computer.

To conclude, my mantra has become ‘Be true to yourself.’ If you feel compelled to write about something, then write about it with all your emotions laid bare. Particularly if people are battling a persistent mental health condition, they tend to live a life of pretence in their day-to-day existence. I know that writing is the only place where I can truly be myself.

Many thanks for inviting me to this interview. Best wishes for 2014 to you and all your readers from the blisteringly hot Melbourne summer.  And thank-you, Shelly from Fire and Ice Blog tours, for organising a month of interesting blog travels for me!

Useful Writing Tools

Hello!

For those in Australia, Happy Australia Day!  Hope you’re all having fun in the sun!  For those of you stuck in the northern hemisphere winter, here’s a picture of Bondi Beach, near Sydney, to keep you warm:

Image

This is the second of my contributory posts to Ruth Snyder’s Blog Hop, where this time we’re exchanging our tips and tricks for recommended writing tools.  As a quick comic diversion however, another blogger I follow posted about her self-improvement resolution to metamorphose from a “jerk” into a “tool”, quoting the awesome track “Tool” by Forty Six & Two .  Funnily enough, in Australia the words “jerk” and “tool” are synonyms!  What transformation therefore, I wonder? :-)

Anyway, now to writing tools.  [Not writing jerks, of whom I have come across plenty during recent forays into the Twittersphere...  Perhaps that's a future post?]

(1) Brain (left) – by far my most useful tool, fast submitting to atrophy in these months of unemployment.  I am currently engaged in providing critical reviews of draft manuscripts for a couple of other authors, which also serves to hone my own composition skills.  Whereas most of my writing originates from another facet of my being (please see note 5 below), I strive to use the left brain’s analytical powers during editing and proof-reading, to eliminate as many style inconsistencies, typographical errors and most of all repetition.  That was repetition…  Did I say repetition?  Yes, I think that was repetition.  This is repetitive.  And annoying, huh?

I was lucky to learn from an extremely inspiring English teacher in high school, who by now I expect is a thoroughly decomposed writing tool.  Miss Baker (or “English Baker”, so as not to be confused with “French Baker”, who once told me that I’d better look for a job soon because I’d never get into university.  A less inspiring teacher I cannot imagine, but this BSc (Hons) graduate is anything but bitter…) forbade us to use a character’s name twice in the same paragraph, unless for specific emphasis or when it was the only way to avoid confusion.  Permission for this latter concession required pleading on several occasions, or much shorter paragraphs at the very least!!

This discipline does not seem to be widely followed, however.  Surely we can think of other adjective-noun combos which will both enable readers to recognise our characters and afford a little more insight into their personalities?

Vocabulary overuse is also easily avoided between similar scenes with a thesaurus, a vivid imagination and some extra effort.  I can’t remember how many times I flashed over “he found his release” when conducting my own research into what makes a mega-bestseller…  Come on, own up!  I’ll give you fifty guesses.

(2) Brain (right) – creative writing, IMHO, is an exercise in open-mindedness and perspective.  Using all five senses to describe a location or event using our emotional responses to these sensory inputs is common enough, but I prefer to be mindful that my characters, whether central or peripheral, would not necessarily react in the same way as I would.  This technique, with great fortune, also has a positive impact on repetition.  Doh?  There it goes again.  How repetitive!  Apologies :-)

(3) Tablet – and yes, I’m the first to admit that medication can attain tool status also…  My most indispensable physical tool would undoubtedly be my tablet computer.  Mine is an Asus EeePad Transformer Prime, running Android, for any fellow geeks.  The productivity and quality gains I achieve by saving drafts into e-books on a regular basis and then uploading them onto my tablet are enormous.  My shiny, silver friend allows me to behave like a reader, with my feet curled under me on the couch or outside in the sunshine (Oh, did I mention that it’s summer here?), rather than as a bug-eyed writer staring at a vertical workstation screen in pursuit of those ever-elusive bloopers.

I can’t tell you how many more errors I pick up in “reader mode”.  Using the annotation features available in most e-reading software, it’s a fairly painless process to correct these in the working document.  Having said that, I may well be disadvantaging myself by using Android, since there may be some other fruity tools available to automagically make amendments between iPad and Mac, or between Windows tablets and Microsoft Word.  Another option to investigate once I have an income…

(4) Social media helpers – I don’t know about you, but I never realised that authoring would entail so much manic manipulation of minuscule morsels of media material.  NOW THAT IS TRULY REPETITIVE.  Please, pleease, pleeease, Miss Baker, allow me this one…

“So you’ve written a novel?  Well, that’s the easy part,” the hero said with a sexy half-smile and a sly wink.

“Ain’t that the truth!” I groaned.

Never fear!  There are tools to help minimise our social media hours, if we abide by the maxim “Geeks to the rescue, caveat emptor”.  [Is it acceptable to attribute the word "maxim" to something one makes up on the spur of the moment?]

My favourites so far are Hootsuite, SocialOomph and RoundTeamIt’s probably overkill to use all three, but no one product seems to do everything I need.  These reasonably-priced tools allow us to combine the different types of feeds from Twitter, Facebook, our blogs and LinkedIn accounts into a single browser interface, from which we can schedule tweets to each social media outlet and make good use of Twitter lists for retweeting purposes.

  • Hootsuite‘s strength is the ability to communicate to all platforms through the same messaging function.  It’s weaknesses are the inability to tailor the post to the character limit, e.g. Facebook does not limit us to 140 characters, and that it forces you to log back in with frustrating regularity.
  • SocialOomph / TweetCockpit is great for scheduling a number of blasts at once across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn only.  It’s better than Hootsuite in that, once created, we can tailor the number of times the message is sent per platform, i.e. we may want to tweet several times a day, but only once a day to our professional LinkedIn network and once-and-only-once to our fondly-held Facebook friends, who are undeserving of exploitation.
  • RoundTeam‘s all about re-tweeting our followers’ tweets, which increases the likelihood of them retweeting ours!  It’s all about community, folks!  [Essential note:  make sure RoundTeam's "Sensitive" and "Profanity" filters are set, because I've been caught retweeting some particularly unsavoury content without my knowledge.  Thankfully a friend notified me before I lost too many followers.]

(5) Heart – while I would credit my left brain as useful, without question my most valued writing tool sits within my ribcage.  If returning to my chapters after an absence doesn’t make me smile, cry, moan, gulp or rile to some extent, I am not satisfied with them.  In fact, one of the most pleasing aspects of reviewing old work is the element of surprise:  did I really write this?  This leads me to wonder if I’m simply the messenger, as does my equally cynical and irreligious protagonist.  Where does inspiration come from, given it’s oftentimes transitory and that we require a reminder of past thoughts?  If I knew, I might list a sixth writing tool.

Ruth Snyder's blog hop

What would your characters’ social media profiles look like?

Hi everyone,

I will confess upfront to cheating a little here…  For the third post on Ruth Snyder’s Blog Hop, we have been asked to create a character sketch of our hero.  I created this post a few weeks ago as a personal exercise on a sweltering Friday afternoon, and I’m offering it up again for the hop!  I start a new job on Monday, which means I’m into preserving every last, precious hour of freedom :-)

Button for blog hop

Being Friday and heading towards 44 degrees Celcius (111 degrees Fahrenheit), I thought I’d set myself a fun game.  I’m done searching for work on Seek and LinkedIn, have prepared all I can for this afternoon’s interview and tidied all of my Twitter follows into lists, so now I’m going to relax in the heat…

There is a more serious goal in this diversionary tactic too, however.  As many writers seem to be, I am an introvert.  I am also totally hopeless at self-promotion.  Tomorrow I’m attending a day’s workshop at Writers Victoria on Marketing, so this is to get me in the “zone”.  How do I step out of my comfortable shell and learn to “sell” myself?

I participated in an interesting workshop at last year’s Perth Writers’ Festival, where the lecturer set us the task of writing a letter from one of our book’s characters to another.  This was a great learning exercise about fleshing out those personality traits, speech patterns and other foibles that we writers understand about our fictional nearest-and-dearest but may not have exploited well enough in our chapters…  It helped give my characters more depth and make them more interesting to readers.  Perhaps this variation on a theme will help me to describe myself in a way that might encourage readers to check my books out?

So, here’s my Friday challenge for myself and other authors:  I’m setting up imaginary profiles for my protagonist on Twitter and Facebook.  If I have enough energy left, I might try a few more characters…  Why don’t you have a go too?

Twitter

Jeff Diamond (twitterID @JMDChangeTheWorld)  Soul-mate, lover, husband, father, mate, philosophical philanthropist, irreligious supporter of causes, songwriter, French classic literature aficionado, polyglot, author, actor, singer, pianist, guitarist, smoker, red wine connoisseur, squash player, rally driver, runner

Follow me.  I’ll follow back.

Facebook

Jeff Diamond, profile photo: the one of the four of us above my bed; cover photo: inside the courtyard at Escondido

About:  If you read my twitter profile, that’s my own order of importance for who I am.  Your opinion might be different, and that’s fine.  I never set out to be “all things to all men”, but that’s just how it’s turned out.  (And I’m known for my arrogance too…  :-) )

In short, I had a lot to say and a lot to do.  Then my beautiful best friend <profile:  Lynn Dyson Diamond> gave me the means to say and do it, so I took full advantage of her.  “Like” if you think she enjoyed it ;-)  And the rest, as they say, will be in our autobiography.

Date of birth:  2 June 1952

Gender:  Male

Work:  Chairman / CEO Paragon Holdings; Director, Childlight; Director, The Fellowship; School Governor, Melbourne Academy; mediator; orator; songwriter; showbusiness performer; movie director; author; computer programmer; computer operator

Education:  BSc / MSc Computer Science, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; PhD International Conflict Resolution, London University

Relationship:  Married <profile:  Lynn Dyson Diamond> (deceased)

Family:  Ryan “Jet” Diamond, born July 1977; Kierney Lynn Freedom Diamond, born February 1979

Favourite quotation:  Victor Hugo, ‘Les Misérables‘.  “Monsieur, you are looking at a plain man, and I am looking at a great man.  Each of us may benefit.”

Born:  Canley Vale (-on-Sea); arse-end of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Places lived:  Canley Vale (-on-Sea) 1952-1971; Richmond, Victoria, Australia 1972-1973; London, UK 1973; Melbourne 1974-1996 plus Mount Eliza 1980-1996; Burnley South 1996, all in Victoria, Australia

Places planned to live:  Boston, MA, USA 2000-2012; Paris, France 2012-?

Religious views:  none, tending towards all

Political views:  Government is good, politics are bad.  Equity is achievable, effort should be rewarded.

Website:  http://www.jeffandlynndiamond.com

D’ya wanna be my friend?  If so, take a look at http://www.ALifeSingular.net or on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C5FH6SW.  And don’t forget to donate to your favourite charity.

Goals for 2014 – to finish what I started!

I’m delighted to be part of a blog hop run by Ruth Snyder. The group’s first topic is “Our Writing Goals for 2014″, so here goes!

I always hesitate to set goals, simply because experience has taught me to expect the unexpected. For example, when I moved back to Melbourne from Perth in September last year, I never imagined I would still be unemployed in January. My old dog has failed to keep me in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed and is also well past retirement age now. Hence, while I’ve put this extended “holiday” to very good use for my writing and building a social media profile, my priority must remain securing a PAID job!

Tiresome necessary evils aside, my goals for 2014 can be broadly categorised as “more of the same”:

(1) Having self-published the first two parts of my “A Life Singular” serial last year, I hope to finish Part Three in June and Part Four in December. I have abandoned the idea of using a self-publishing company in favour of Amazon’s CreateSpace after Xlibris Publishing censored my work to the extent that the whole premise of Part Two was negated. The CreateSpace experience was not only significantly cheaper but also allows authors complete flexibility with content and design.

[Note on Goal 1: as an e-chick with 28 years in the IT industry (and hopefully more!), receiving the first copy of a paperback with my name on it, my cover design and my words inside was probably THE most significant event of my life! My first e-book was certainly satisfying to finish, but I was totally unprepared for the pride and sense of achievement I felt when holding a printed book with physical dimensions and weight! So, to all authors hoping to publish in print for the first time this year, I can assure you that your soul will not be disappointed with its reward!]

(2) Consolidating my social media platform is high on the priority list too. Currently I run my own website, through which I sell books whole and by chapter and also post news about launches, trailers, etc. However, a recent invitation to renew my web hosting subscription has prompted me to take better advantage of WordPress’ features, which these days allow us to create almost fully-functioning web presences at a very low cost. This will cut down my e-maintenance effort considerably also!

2013 saw Twitter’s coming of age, and indeed it’s now considered the marketing tool of choice for many authors. I can’t help but think of it as spam though, given the volume of tweets that flash past and then disappear before we get a chance to read them. Despite the proliferation of retweets, follows, mentions and advertising clogging up my ‘phone, tablet and browser, I must get over this aversion quickly and worship the little, blue bird as my hero!

In short, the objective of Goal #2 is to find a more efficient way of optimising my time across Twitter, blog / website, Facebook, Pinterest and all the various services which promise to increase my reach. I am experimenting with SocialOomph and Hootsuite to accomplish this without spamming my friends to excess.

So far – and here’s where my cynicism refuses to let go – none of these endeavours has led to an increase in book sales. Perhaps this comes with critical mass, which segues perfectly on to Goal #3…

(3) World domination! No, I am not signing up to fight in Syria and indeed fervently hope for peace in the Middle East as soon as possible… I only seek to continue standing up for the rights of Australian and New Zealand writers. Living on a huge island continent with a tiny population and wishing to break into in the larger markets of the USA, UK, Europe and Asia, I am hopeful that 2014 will see a more integrated global market in Amazon, Goodreads and the like.

Amazon’s Australian outlet, Amazon.com.au, was “opened” a couple of months ago, before which time all Australian and New Zealand books were sold from the US “store”. Luckily, any pre-existing customer reviews were transferred into the Australian “store” with our books. Not so for our Author Profile however, which still needs to be set up for each regional site separately. This in isolation is not a huge issue and actually makes perfect sense for non-English-speaking markets, when it’s important to translate at least part of one’s profile into the domestic language.

However, the segregation of customer reviews is a HUGE issue and a grave disadvantage for new authors from smaller markets, who are more likely to obtain their early reviews from friends and family, who in turn are more likely to be local. Amazon does not make new customer reviews visible across all stores, and consequently potential US and UK readers are not aware of the quality of our work and we do not advance in the search rankings.

Mailing physical books internationally is prohibitively expensive too; it costs AU$56.55 to post one copy of my book to a US or UK address, which is obviously more than the book sells for! Many reviewers, giveaways and competitions are still only accepting books in print format, which I will also add to my campaign for this year!

(4) My last goal is to read more. Again, my unforeseen sabbatical has afforded me time to read as well as write, which I never could have accomplished while working my 50+ hour week. I aim to read a wide variety of books, both to support other independent authors and also to improve my own writing and general knowledge.

Four goals in twelve months is probably enough. Please visit the other blogs on Ruth’s hop and check out their writing goals.  Let us know yours too! Happy hopping :-)

Ruth Snyder's blog hop

Fantastic books for indie authors

Hi everyone,

I have just finished reading two excellent books by Barb Drozdowich on Book Bloggers and how indie authors can maximise the power of social media.  I cannot thank Barb enough for the insights, practical suggestions and humour in these books, which have reignited my enthusiasm for the countless hours it takes to promote books as a self-published author.

Barb understands that very few indie authors have the luxury of focussing on writing and promotion full-time, and also alludes to the fact that many authors aren’t the type of person who naturally promotes him- or herself!

I thoroughly recommend both these books:  The Author’s Guide To Working With Book Bloggers (Building Blocks to Author Success Series) and