Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Next Big Thing

After a long break, the blog is back! An inspiring fellow writer, Gillian Wallace, tagged me to take part in The Next Big Thing,, a literary blog interview. In The Next Big Thing, writers answer ten questions about their work-in-progress, then tag five of their writer friends to do the same.

What is the working title of your book?

The Third Road. It comes from a quotation from Mao Zedong: "All Chinese without exception must lean either to the side of socialism or to the side of imperialism. Sitting on the fence will not do, nor is there is a third road." But the main character of my novel, Zhao Ya Yin, seeks that third road.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My uncle was a member of the British Special Branch police force in what was then called Malaya, in the 1950s and 60s, during the emergency there. In Malaya, he and his wife had servants and a fairly upscale kind of lifestyle. When they returned to England, they had to live in a drab council flat and he had to take a job as a nightime security guard. The contrast interested me, and I began to write about that, but after about one hundred pages, I realized it was not working. However, by this time, I had done a fair bit of research, and I was very interested in that historical timeframe. A young Chinese girl named Zhao surfaced as a character I wanted to write about, a girl who was uprooted by the British and who eventually became a Communist geurilla.

What genre does your book fall under?

It is a literary work, and historical fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I am not all that up on Chinese actors, so that is a tough one. For the main British character, I think Kate Winslett would be perfect.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After having survived both the Japanese occupation and the forcible relocation  of her village by the British, a young Chinese girl joins the Communist geurillas fighting from inside the jungle.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

 I do have an agent and I hope that with her support we can find a traditional publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I have been researching and working on this book for nearly five years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill springs to mind, another tale of survival. Also, curiously, The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, for the simplicity of style and the profound nature of the message.

Who or what inspired you to write the book?

As above, the experiences of my uncle, but ultimately, the personality of my main character, as well as my interest in the futility of war.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

The 12 year "emergency" in Malaya, which was basically a war, is a little-known period of history. Documents are still being released today, revealing the truth some of the myths surrounding what happened there. In fact, a law suit by survivors has been in the news recently concerning allegations of a British massacre at Batang Kali during the emergency in Malaya. Apparently 24 innocent villagers were shot by British forces. So I guess the historical aspect, as well as interest in a female character who becomes a geurilla.

And now, visit these links to see what these wonderful writers are working on: (names and links to follow).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Amazon nightmare

I wanted to alert writers to a potential problem on Amazon. I was delighted, as a result of starting a small ad campaign on Goodreads, to get hundreds of potential readers interested in my book, and I even got a request from a reader in the US who wanted to include my book in their book club. Yay! The only problem, the reader noted, was the somewhat steep $85 price tag on Yikes! My book is supposed to sell for $12.99! But sure enough, when I went on the site there was a third party re-seller offering my book for $85 and no mention of my $12.99 price tag. After many e-mails and calls I discovered that the problem originated when I asked CreateSpace to send me copies of the PDF's for my book so I could convert it to e-book format. Instead of sending me copies they pulled the whole thing and left the status of my book as "incomplete", making it impossible to order. Then the third party re-sellers stepped into the vaccuum and began charging what they liked. There are now 4 sellers on there doing the same thing. This is really scary. I am now having to re-start the process again with CreateSpace, which hopefully won't take too long, and I have contacted each of the re-sellers to ask them politely to charge what is appropriate for my book. The sad thing is that I have probably already lost hundreds of sales, and my Goodreads ad campaign, which produced many potential readers, probably killed off any interest once the readers got on the Amazon site. Amazon does not take responsibility for what third party sellers want to charge, so there is no protection. As a self published author, it is hard enough to make one's name out there and find readers, but when this sort of thing happens also, it is heartbreaking. Just wanted to let people know about this potentially horrible situation that happened through no fault of my own!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The long tail or the short shrift? Thoughts on literary self publishing

The Internet is buzzing with advice about self publishing. Money- making sites that promise to promote your book are springing up faster than vampire sequels. Amanda Hocking has become a kind of folk hero to writers rejected by traditional publishers. E-books promise fortune and fame at 99 cents a book for those prepared to go it alone. But what does it really mean to self publish your book? Many newspapers have a strict policy of not reviewing self published books. Many readers still assume that self published books are badly written (otherwise why wouldn’t anyone publish them?). Most major literary awards shut out self published books at the start by making them ineligible. Many libraries refuse to stock a self published book unless it has had good reviews from a legitimate source. So what does this mean for self published books which are well written, well edited, well designed, and which do not fall into the how-to or self help mainstream or the genre category? How do the self published literary works rise above the bustling sea of popular or commercial writing and get noticed? Without reviews, without awards, without the legitimacy of a traditional publisher – how in the world will these new writers be discovered? I find this an interesting paradox. We are told repeatedly how open, democratic and free the self publishing world is.  Hey, in America, anyone can become the President! Yet the traditional outlets still exert considerable control over what people are actually exposed to, and thus what they might actually read. Newspapers, literary journals, libraries, bloggers, literary awards -- places potential readers look to for new books and authors. So until we gain some legitimacy in the traditional channels, the world of self publishing for certain kinds of writing still has a ways to go. Thoughts?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Isn't a good book enough anymore?

As the new year approaches, I find myself torn. The year 2011 was a watershed year for me as a writer, having published a novel I wrote more than ten years ago. So far, readers love it, and I am ecstatic to be able to offer it in print. I also started a blog, designed my own website, opened a twitter account, and created a google alert on self publishing. The marketing phenomenon that is Three Women/Three Books was born, with fellow writers Nerys Parry and Jasmine Aziz. With a precious few holiday hours I put in some serious writing time on the new book, The Third Road, about a young girl in Malaysia in the 1950s who becomes a Communist geurrilla. It's all good, right? So why oh why, on the eve of the eve of the eve, am I torn? Because I need to make a decision if I am to finish the second book before I sign up for lessons on how to use a walker. Seriously. The commitment of time needed to finish a book, as any writer will tell you, is enormous. But as a self published author, I need to market myself. Those Google alerts are killing me....every day there are a good ten articles telling me what I should be doing to get my name out there. But a morning spent blogging, tweeting, posting, not to mention being a polite networker, which means reading a lot of other people and commenting and so on, is a morning spent, well, not writing the next book, the one you hope incorprates everything you learned from writing the first one. And what if that morning is all you have for that week, in between working full time, looking after elderly parents, spending some time with your immediate family, shopping, cooking, cleaning, walking the dog, paying the bills...what if that morning is all you have? I think I need to spend it doing what fuels my passion for living....writing. If there is any spare time leftover, I will do some marketing. Otherwise, I will be promoting a hollow and inauthentic self, even if that self is well connected by social media standards. Thoughts? And while I am here, may I wish everyone a splendid 2012, filled with joy, good health, and creativity.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Marketing the self-published book...divided loyalties

I am awash with divided loyalties....every day I am made aware by the flood of information about how to market my book that I am not doing everything I could! of course, I could be doing it 24 hours a day! Blogging, tweeting, networking, giving away, posting, etc etc etc. As someone pointed out on Facebook the other day -- you guys are everywhere!!! Referring to the publicity phenomenon that is Three Women/Three Books. is a nice article from Ottawa This Week.... Together, as a threesome, Jasmine Aziz, Nerys Parry and I have managed to crack the CBC (Talking Taboos), get coverage throughout the city, and show up just about everywhere we could! We are a quirky threesome, and that gets attention. We are, however, having trouble getting a review in The Citizen, with the exception of Jasmine....who says sex doesn't sell? And while we were happy to be talking the unholy triumvirate of sex, politics and religion on All in a Day, we have all tried to get a feature profile on each of our books individually without success. Are we being taken seriously as authors? Female authors? Driving home last night I enjoyed the interview with Matthew Firth on his new book of short stories on....All In A Day. Alan Neal is a brilliant interviewer. But I have had two CBC producers try to sell an interview with me on my new book, without success, and I know Nerys' publisher and Jasmine have also tried. Why is this? The last book interview I heard on All in a Day was with Mark Frutkin. I love Mark's work, but can't help but notice....another guy. Prior to that it was Frances Itani, but she is in the big leagues -- you can't ignore her. But what about supporting writers who are starting out? Hmmm. The people at The Ottawa Citizen who look after reviews are....guys. This all disturbs me...looking at reviewers in the major papers here and in the US, top heavy with men, winners of the Canada Reads contest, and so on. There seems to be a double standard. Let's hope I am wrong.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting reviewed: the deafening silence

Greetings gentle readers. Happy to announce that the Three Women, Three Books reading and panel discussion at Library and Archives Canada was an awesome success! I was delighted to be sharing the stage with Jasmine Aziz, author of Sex and Samosas, and Nerys Parry, author of Man and other Natural Disasters. We had a lot of excellent questions about the pros and cons of traditional vs self publishing, a lively discussion, and of course, animated readings from three very different books. So now on to reviewing. As a result of sending our press releases and backgrounders, I got a few nibbles for review copies, which I dutifully sent out. But now I have been faced with a deafening silence...everyone said they were looking forward to reading the book, and hopefully doing a review or a profile, and now....nothing. Am I too impatient? I know it isn't because of the quality of the far reader reviews have been wonderful. So why should I care? Because I want to reach people....a wider set of readers, and sometimes a good review is all it takes. More on this soon, but for now, it seems a frustrating business, after all the hooplah of the launch and the anticipated success of the book. Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Goodreads author program

Well, it has been while, as I know you are tired of hearing but I am ecstatic to report that I had a fantastic book launch at the Raw Sugar Café and I am now in the process of trying to get my book out to a wider audience. I sent out media advisories and press releases, which netted me interest from two magazines and a weekly newspaper, as well as some interest from the CBC, although in the end All in a Day did not pick it up. Oh well, once I win the Leacock, hahaha. Meanwhile, I have been checking out the Goodreads Author Program, which is great fun for booklovers everywhere -- writers, readers, reviewers, of which many of us are all three! Through this program you can participate in an online Q&A session with your readers, publicize upcoming events, share excerpts, post videos, and recommend books, among other things. Check out my profile, which is still in progress, and if you feel inclined, become a fan!