Thursday, January 20, 2011

About 'The Delta Chain'

There's a story behind every story, and it's usually kicked off by one of the most famous, age-old questions asked by fiction writers: What if?

From the international news media to observations you make in your local street, there is always someone or something about which you could let your mind wander and ask "What if...?" It's what writers do while other people are being sensible and getting on about their business.

Some years ago, while researching something completely different, I stumbled upon an intriguing fact: in the United States each year, over 1,000 unidentified, deceased bodies are found. And there are comparative figures in many countries around the world. Manner of death varies, as do the locations in which the bodies are found. Most are found on land. Some have drowned and are found in rivers, in the ocean, or on beaches.

In some cases it is weeks, months, even years before the bodies are identified.

In 1998, the body of a young girl was finally identified, thiry years after her body had been found in mountains.

In 2000, a man discovered on an English beach remained unidentified for six years.

Here's the kicker- a small percentage of these bodies are never identified. They are never reported missing. No-one ever comes forward with any information. Exhaustive forensic searches turn up no solutions.

In the 1930's, a devastating fire claimed the lives of hundreds of people at a busy circus. The remains of a young girl were found on the site. No one has ever known who she was or where she was from.

As anyone would, I wondered who on earth these people could have been. What was their story? How could it be that no-one missed them?

I asked myself the following: 'What if there were several unidentied drowning cases, in different countries, that were similar in nature? Who could they be? What led to their deaths? Why were they never reported missing?"

How would the police go about pursuing the answers? What would be the personal impact on the investigators? What would be the effect on their lives and their relationships?

'The Delta Chain' imagines just such a scenario and follows the trail through the efforts of a young detective, Adam Bennett, and several others who are drawn into the evolving mystery.

It's been a long and winding road but this month I've published 'The Delta Chain' in paperback and ebook editions.

Moral of this blog is that when you ask yourself that 'What if...?" question you can never be too certain where it will ultimately lead. For both writers and readers,  that's what makes the craft of storytelling so addictive.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The caring, sharing entrepreneurial writing community

One of the most inspiring aspects of the rise of the "indie" author/publisher, and the spread of ereader devices and ebooks, has been the willingness and honesty of writers to share their experiences.. Not just about the craft of writing and editing, but also the mechanics of publishing, of promotion, of pricing and distribution and networking.

This caring and sharing comes not just from big-name bestselling authors, but from a diverse range of those practicing the craft -from mid-listers through to newbies, from the traditionally published to the self-published.

Of course, mainstream media has always had interviews with well known authors and their path to success, but those articles were heavily edited, diplomatic transcripts. Imagine if there'd been a Wiki-leaks back then to reveal what some of those guys really thought about the 'biz.

What is different now is the sheer volume of viewpoints accessible via the web - plus the fact that what you're reading is coming straight from the keyboard to you, from authors who are opening up with a no holds-barred honesty about the ins and outs of publishing.

All this info is invaluable. And it's free.

It's then up to you and I to sift through and analyse what's best for us, and what isn't.

J. A. Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide To Publishing has been around a few years and is one of the pioneers of this warts-and-all approach. Joe was an early adopter/predictor of the rise of ebooks and of reasonable, affordable pricing. Joe is both traditionally published, and an "indie," foot-in-both-camps at various times. Thankfully, this hasn't stopped him from being highly vocal about many elements of traditional publishers and the NY6 (sounds like an evil cabal, but it's actually just an affectionate (?) term for the six big New York publishing corporations.)

When I first set out to set up my own small book imprint, and launch my own novel, I had no idea all this advice from others doing similar things, was out there.

I'm glad it was.

Some of the authors I've been following lately, and gleaning plenty from their experiences, are the following:

Stephen Leather has been a successful novelist for 25 years, writing crime and detective fiction, thrillers and supernatural tales. Recently he's published his own ebooks and he's a regular on the Amazon Kindle bestseller lists. The entertaining Mr. Leather is not only blogging about his literary adventures, he's issuing a step-by-step rundown on just how you and I can emulate his practices and achieve ebook success of our own, at his blog -

Michael R Sullivan writes fantasy bestsellers, also riding high on Kindle lists among others. His wife and co-publisher, Robin, has a blog titled  write2publish that provides a wealth of little gems on pricing, marketing, distribution, all the nitty gritty stuff. Robin is very forthcoming on just how she and Michael have gone about building their business, and publishing other authors as well.

Mary McDonald is the author of 'No Good Deed," a novel that's received excellent reviews and has been steadily building sales since Mary released it on various ebook platforms, including Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and ibookstore. Along the way Mary has shared each step, from manuscript prep, cover design, experiments with pricing, the sales numbers achieved on a month-by-month basis, and various promotions and how they've fared.

There's a certain bravery in communicating all this as you're doing it, and I commend Mary as she's shone a light ahead for those like me who are coming in from the dark. Mary's blog can be found here and by the way, "No Good Deed" is a superb tale of suspense about a photographer whose well-meant good deed sees him mistakenly suspected of terrorism. He is arrested, imprisoned, interrogated and ...well, you'll have to check it out if you want to know more.

The UK's Helen Smith is a playwright, screenwriter, novelist and children's author whose blog offers fascinating insights, tips, advice, promotions and, for international readers like myself, there's lots of glimpses of day-today life in and around London. Love it.

April L Hamilton's website Publetariat has long been a source of inspiration, motivation and tasty morsels of information for the budding author/publisher.

In fact, it was April's "Indie Author Guide To Publishing For The Kindle With Amazon's Digital Text Platform..." that I found one of the most useful, user-friendly, practical articles on the subject. It's been right alongside me as I've gone through the formatting process myself with my novel, 'The Delta Chain." (Watch this space.)

And those are just for starters.

In the coming months, I'll highlight some of the others blogs that have helped me along my way, and I'll weigh in with a few more experiences of my own as I enter the publishing phase.

This caring, sharing entrepreneurial writing community is one of the best things about being a writer right now. It's out there 24/7, and it's just a click away.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2011 and the brave new world

December, 2010 didn't go exactly the way I'd planned.

The end of the year saw some unexpected house problems, some unexpected day job turmoil, some greatly unexpected financial hassles. In spite of all this I managed to squeeze in an interstate road trip to visit the rels (negotiating some torrential rain and whiteouts on the road to Queensland, but avoiding the floods that have caused many people much hardship in some northern coastal and regional areas.)

Finalising my publishing project was temporarily put on hold, writing new material was shifted to the back burner, and posts to this blog have been in absentia.

2010 is over. Long live 2011.

Once the new year is underway, so too, I hope, will I be. Back in the writing saddle. Back on track.

I'm reminded of some of history's greatest writers' most quotable quotes. 'In the end is my beginning'. This is the opening sentence to Agatha Christie's crime classic, 'Endless Night," and is one of my favourite lines. Works well here, agree?

'The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.' Poet Robert Burns wrote this in the 18th century.Many of us, over the years, must've found comfort in knowing we aren't the only ones to have things go pear-shaped from time to time.

'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.' I still haven't mastered this one, but what good's a new year without new year resolutions, and this one's always on the list.

Like anyone else who was paying attention, I observed interesting changes developing in the book industry in 2010.

A year ago I'd never seen an actual e-reader, except pictures of the Kindle on the Amazon site. It was also the only e-reader many of us had heard of.

By year's end I'd seen the Sony e-reader, the Kobo and the Iriver being displayed in bookstores, and along with the occasional Kindle, I saw them being used by commuters, as well as books being read via their apps on the Ipad and various cellphones.

Amazon announced the e-book market was around 10%, and greater than their hardcover book market.

Bestselling traditionally published authors such as David Morrell, F Paul Wilson and Scott Westerfeld self-published in e-book format some of their backlist titles, and in some cases, new material.

Indie author/publishers rose sharply in number, with a few such as Amanda Hocking, J A Konrath,  LJ Sellers and others achieving previously unheard-of success. Amanda Hocking's various titles in the vampire and paranormal romance genres have reportedly sold 100,000 copies. Congrats, Amanda. Many thousands of others are selling a lot less, but this is an exciting and growing market that offers new opportunities for up and coming authors - something that hasn't happened in the book publishing biz for a long, long time.

Authors and publishers are also utilising POD (Print on demand) technology to make both backlist and new titles available.

So whether seeking traditional publishing and distribution outlets, or this alternative brave new world, aspiring authors have broader options and much to look forward to.

If I'm writing this then maybe I'm getting my mojo back in harness. Okay, so it's not NYE, but what the hell I'm pouring a bottle of bubbly, kicking back with my wife and a few friends, and raising a glass to 2011 and the brave new world.

As Agatha wrote, in the end is my (our) beginning.