My First … Ebook Publication! Sound Further Trumpets!

I had the lovely cover image.  I’d edited many, many times.  I’d performed several thorough checks that I’d accurately followed every piece of advice in the Smashwords Style Guide.

Now, Treading Twisted Lines with Darren, Maddi, and Kai:  The Chosen Voice is available on Smashwords for the promised 99 cents.  Hooray.

I know I said I’d post the date I was going to publish here before I did it but … I got excited.  Again.  I’ll be more professional next time.  Promise.

Give it a look if you’d like:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240785

I’d love to know what people think, if you’d care to share.

The next in the series will be entitled Treading Twisted Lines with Darren, Maddi, and Kai:  Under the Bright Water.  It’s already written.  Mostly.  Will wait a while longer to publish, though.  Need to write the one after that, keep one ahead of what I’ve got published.  Try to develop some discipline.

Good luck with that, me.

My First … Ebook Cover Image! Sound the Trumpets!

As I’ve been occasionally shamelessly plugging right here on my little blog, planning to release my first ebook very soon.  That very-soon-yet-still-unspecified date has just crept astonishingly close in a very short period of time.

My good friend Nathan has been slogging away at the cover, continually assaulted by my (totally un-knowledgeable about graphic design) requests, ideas of questionable merit, and insights.  Not long ago, he sent me the final version.

Due to excitement, currently rendered unable to sleep.

Now, I wish to share.

What do you think?  Dashing, no?

This story, The Chosen Voice, is the first instalment of a fantasy short story cycle called Treading Twisted Lines with Darren, Maddi, and Kai.  Nathan and I had some disagreements regarding the length of the series title + book title, and how it would look on the cover.  I think it all worked out all right in the end.  I hope he’s as happy with the final product as I am.  Nathan – again, thank you so much.  Hope you don’t mind/enjoy continuing to cover image-ify the rest of the series.

Planning on releasing it on Smashwords for 99 cents; still need to do a bit more research into Amazon and decide whether to release it there, too.  I’ll post links along with a self-satisfied celebratory blog once it’s out.  And I’ll let you know the chosen release date before then.  Would like to do a countdown here, but want to release it uber soon even more.  I’ll start doing awesome countdowns once I’m better at this self-publishing thing, and better prepared to do so.  After all, I do love a good countdown.

Should probably try to snooze, now.  Night, all!  Snooze well, when you do!

A Chocolate Pudding Chock-full of Tasty Procrastination

Been making a chocolate pudding.  Mum creamed the margarine and caster sugar for me.  I don’t like electric beaters very much.

Finished the chapter I aimed to finish to yesterday/early this morning, and tweaked it a little more today.  Fairly happy with it.  Shall see to further editing, adjustments, and additions once it’s had time to stew.

Planned next step:  writing a full, basic outline of what’s going to happen in the rest of Tom’s story, organising events into specific chapters.  I know exactly what’s going to happen, just not sure  in what order when I’m swapping between character point of views … and unsure whether to keep certain ideas that may turn this into something no longer a children/young adults’ book … and such.  Did this for my first novel, getting down the full intended plan after doing a fair amount of work already, and it worked wonders – was churning out chapters super-quick.

I don’t like starting with a full plan on paper.  Feels like I’m not leaving myself much breathing room.  I rely on my head, in the beginning.  Whether that’s truly a good idea or not is yet to be confirmed.

Been developing far more detailed outlines just before sitting down to the write the individual chapters too, which isn’t how I wrote the last book.  Wrote everything everywhere, then.  This seems to be working quite well, I think.  But want to know exactly where I’m going.  Want to check how long the final product should be, and that my final chapter count is an even number.  Or ends in a five.  I can tolerate a five, if I must.

My Pink Book is open next to me.

But I’m writing this little blog.  And making a chocolate pudding.  By choice.

Hooray for procrastination.

The microwave timer signals me to the kitchen to partake in tastiness.  Cannot ignore.  Pudding will burn.

Didn’t ignore.  Pudding did not burn.  Was tasty as advertised.

The Good Old Classical Elements

Been watching Avatar:  The Last Airbender with Frannie.  I’d never seen any before, but was always a bit wary of it, given it’s an American show adopting a Japanese animation style.  Also, its previews on Nickelodeon never looked all that good to me.  I honestly don’t remember the ads now, but I do remember not being particularly impressed.  But a friend of Frannie’s recently hijacked her mind and got her to watch.  And I’ve been really enjoying it.  Lots of laughing out loud – more like hooting, embarrassingly enough – from me.  Which is nice.  Laughing out loud is nice.  But it’s a lovely little story too, so far.  Only on the second disc of the first season, so we’ll see.

Watching this show has gotten me thinking about the classical elements again.  I used to be really into them when I was thirteen and fourteen.  The two major stories – more sagas, really – that I was working on in those years heavily feature earth, air, fire, and water-related magics.  I’ve started leaning away from them since – after those stories I got more into writing science fiction for a while, then there were vampires and telepathic powers … and so on.  But I am planning on writing these old, more traditional fantasy stories at one point, so I’ll have to get back into working with the classical elements again.  Need to work on making them more unique.  The manner in which they’re used.  The different purposes.  Traditions and taboos.  There are so many possibilities, so many ways to make history and culture and plot out of these classical elements.

When my interest was at its peak, I was doing a lot of research into these elements – and by research, I of course mean perusing a mega crap-tonne of poorly made, slightly shady Wiccan sites.  Trying to remember some of the classic detail about each element:

Fire:  direction is south; object is a wand/staff; a more masculine element.

Water:  direction is west; object is a chalice/cup/bowl; a more feminine element.

Air:  direction is east; object is a knife/sword (or letter opener, if I remember right); a more masculine element.

Earth:  direction is north; object is a pentagram?(I’m not sure about this one); a more feminine element.

Spirit:  can’t remember anything exactly about this one, but it’s a joining force, and referred to as “Heart” in a certain 90s environmentally-aware cartoon.

Followed this detail fairly closely for the most innocent and fantastical of these early stories of mine – had a bunch of spirits, and these were the main five.  All the others deferred to them.  Will have to rethink quite a few things, but it’ll be fun.  Classical elements have always been fun.  That’s probably why they’re used so often.  This first story with the spirits I’ll have to rethink the most, but I still quite like the second.  Elemental dancing.  Hooray.  Expansion still required, though.

And now, off the top of my head and in no particular order, a short list of good/fun TV shows, movies, and books that use the classical elements.  Let me know what must be included in a longer list.

Avatar:  The Last Airbender created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko

Captain Planet and the Planeteers created by Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle

Sailor Moon created by manga artist Naoko Takeuchi

The Fifth Element directed by Luc Besson

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

The Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth

The Gathering by Isobelle Carmody (this isn’t classical elements per se, but I see some connection to them, and a lot of the same objects pop up –  bowl, torch, sword.  Plus it’s a great read.  Haven’t read it since school … must obtain this book).

(Just out of interest, all of the above pictures were drawn way back when I was thirteen, characters from these unwritten tales – two spirits and one pair of fire dancers)

Cinquain for a Stone Rhinoceros

Hey … back from choir camp.  Got some nice note-taking done between (and during if we were practicing a part in which I don’t sing) rehearsals; the third installment of my short story series is pretty much planned.  Hooray.  Was tweaking a few random paragraphs over here while recovering – choir-ing is pretty damn tiring when you’re doing it right – and thought I’d get in a little randomness.  Probably don’t really need much more after that weekend, but still.  All randomness can be good and appreciated.  No lyrics or sonnets this time, though.  Instead, shall return to my roots and employ the style of my fifth post:  the cinquain.

Sister Erin went on world travels for several months in 2009.  In the many countries she visited, she purchased many lovely gifts for us, her family.  Several of them, including a beautiful scarf from the markets of Istanbul, inspired similar souvenirs sent to my Eva by her parents as they enjoyed their own travels, unseen, throughout the entirety of the book she appears in.

From Tanzania (or it may have been South Africa; shall confirm this with her at one point) Erin purchased Frannie, Liam, and myself gorgeous soapstone animals.  Frannie received a hippopotamus, Liam an elephant.  My rhinoceros lives by the computer monitor.  Quite near where the doll thermometer now resides, in fact.

It is lovely, so cool and smooth, and such a comforting little weight.  I like to press it to my cheek when I’m absently thinking, and my lips fit perfectly into the curve of its back.

Being such a fine thing, I felt it deserved a poem.  It receives, therefore, my second bloggy cinquain.  Far from polished, but every word so true.

horned

deftly shaped

white veined soapstone

a strong back’s curve

stride

Good Albums for Fantasy – Varekai

Off to choir camp in a little under an hour – a full weekend of singing in which we’ll complete (what we’re told is) the equivalent of five normal rehearsals.  Neither laptop nor iPad is coming along, so thought I’d try to get one more post out before disappearing.

And now, good albums for fantasy – a series of blogs outlining the music I find helps create an appropriate atmosphere for and foster a good mindset for writing fantasy.

This second installment is “Varekai,” an album featuring the music of Cirque du Soleil’s 2003 show of the same name.  This music was composed by Violaine Corradi, who has also composed for Cirque du Soleil’s “Dralion” and “Zaia.”  My iTunes library classifies this album as World music.  I agree, but I’m honestly not educated enough in the matter to know exactly what parts of the world these mysterious songs draw inspiration from.  I recently heard an example of Okinawan music, and some of that vocal style pops up in at least one “Varekai” song, though I can’t recall if that section made the album.

If I had to choose one word to describe this album, I would choose that I chose above:  mysterious.  It’s sometimes light and delicate and mysterious.  It’s sometimes rhythmic, steady, and mysterious.  It’s sometimes fast-paced and exciting … and mysterious.  Stand out tracks for me on this album (and I’m looking at the 2005(?) re-released version) are Vocea and Kero Hireyo.

I’ll try to steer clear of the actual show, which is a little difficult as it’s my favourite Cirque show and absolutely incredible, and focus only on the music.  The composer makes extensive use of percussion, giving many of the tracks a driving, almost tribal feeling.  But delicately tribal.  This is truly beautiful music, and so interesting.  Keyboards and strings are also prominent; the album features several amazing violin solos.  As for vocals, there are some spoken parts and choral sections, and there a two lead vocalists, a man and a woman, who are (as with most Cirque vocalists) featured as part of the actual show.  When singing together their voices match beautifully, each possessed of very clear, very acrobatic voices.

These two singers inspired two characters in my completed novel – I think this led to two more of the show’s character having a heavy influence on the story as well – so of course this music was perfect when writing anything related to those characters.  Every track on this album has been featured on various randomised playlists used in the creation of this novel, and were listened to numerous times in order while working through other Cirque albums of a similar feel.  The environment this music has been most beneficial in writing is an isolated, quaint little city hidden in a blessed, cut-off corner of a continent.  This city is inhabited by many tribes – some wearing feathers, others scales, and some the manes of lions – that united so long ago that they have, putting their different appearances aside, become one people.  The music of “Varekai” embodies these technologically primitive, highly spiritual people and their luscious world – deep forest, sprawling plains, and mighty river – so well that when I play this album I now see it before when I close my eyes.

Being mysterious and strong with the occasional fragile, drifting track breaking it up, I would recommend “Varekai” in the writing of highly fantastical worlds full of bright colour with new and unusual sights to behold every day, populated by unbelievable races.  I perhaps wouldn’t recommend it so highly for swords and sorcery – the sound is too earthy, and doesn’t bring to mind weapons, war or magic.  But for a project in which the world and people itself are the magic, “Varekai” will work wonders.

A Stack of Buttermilk Choir, a Basket of Japan, and a Glass of Novel, Please?

Had pancakes out at the Pancake Manor in honour of Baby Brother’s 18th this evening.  My dear parents’ youngest child is now officially an adult.  Chotto kowaii, ne?

As it was actually meant to be a proper meal, ate a tasty creamy mushroom crepe along with my regular basket of awesome chips, and devoured my customary stack of buttermilk pancakes afterwards.  Truth, the chips and the buttermilk pancakes go fantastically well together, and that is usually how I eat them.  However I do not usually enter the pancake manor with the intention of actually eating properly.

I’ve been craving Pancake Manor fare for quite some time – it was my first time back there since coming home, and I remember spending a fair amount of breath glorifying these pancakes to some of my Japanese friends as I reminisced about their fluffiness.  And I had a picture of a buttermilk stack on a card to show my school kids as an example of food that Australians like.

I am Australian.  I like these pancakes.  Makes perfect sense.

Though we made our reservation at the newer location in Garden City instead of the original place in Brisbane where we usually go, food-wise I don’t think it made a difference.  Tasted pretty much the same – awesome – though I did find an unexpected hole in my top pancake.  The menus were exactly the same – tall, narrow, and plastic.  The wait-staff were clad in the familiar all-black that most wait-staff wear.  But when it comes to atmosphere, the Brisbane location wins.  No question.

The Pancake Manor in Brisbane resides in an old church.  Stain-glass windows.  Booths made out of pews.  It’s just lovely in there.  And though I hear the service isn’t as great as it was a while ago, it is this Pancake Manor that’s bound to several prominent aspects of my life.

Firstly, the Pancake Manor is linked with my choir.  The Queensland University Musical Society (QUMS) is a very important part of my life.  When I first entered uni in 2006, I was coming out of a high school that had no real choir – it just pulled together a group of interested singers whenever it needed to pretend it had one.  To be in a real choir again after five abstinent years was amazing, particularly entering a choir that was performing such amazing music when the most complicated thing I’d sung in the past was “Walk Down That Lonesome Road,” when I was in grade 5.  QUMS was pretty much my entire social life at uni, too.  Study, family, and choir – that was my life.  Funny how it’s pretty much the same now, only I’m substituting writing for study.

Right, the link.  Every year, QUMS sings at a midnight ANZAC day service in the city.  And as the Pancake Manor is a twenty-four hour place (on Fridays, Saturdays, and public holiday, I think) it’s the perfect spot to go for coffee and such at two in the morning after the performance.  A lot of tables have to be pushed together to accommodate us all.

Next, the Pancake Minor is connected with my Japanese experience.  Not that I found any passable pancake places over there – if I had I wouldn’t have been lusting after them, so.  Suppose they might have been there, and I just wasn’t looking right.  No, the link comes from my interview to be accepted into the JET programme, which would send me to Japan if I got through that stage.  Which I did.  Hooray.

I’d passed the application round, filling in questionnaires and writing a self-promoting essay, and I’d been working myself up something terrible about the coming interview.  It was my first real-real job-like interview, and from what I’d read on the internet, the JET programme interviews were particularly nasty.  Go in expecting a police interview, was perhaps the grimmest advice I read.  But I felt really good about my interview, afterwards.  Talked to a lovely little panel of both Australians and Japanese, answered a bouquet of questions about myself and a few what-if questions about how I’d handle particular situations in Japan, and as they knew I spoke some Japanese I was asked to give a simple self-introduction.  Then I asked a few things of them as all the websites recommended I do, and then it was all over.  Needless to say, went and had celebratory pancakes with my sisters after that.

Finally, just as most everything I dredge up to warble on about is, the Pancake Manor is linked (however obscurely) with my writing.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned anything much about this story – may have dropped the name Joan in that ancient blog about naming novels.  Anyway, wrote the first seven chapters of this story in five days, my biggest writing explosion to date.  Many modifications must be made before any more actual progress comes about, but it’s fairly high up on the waiting list.  It’s set a few years after my first novel, and a few of the same characters pop up.

Anyways, back to the pancakes.  I had to give Joan and her sisters a rendezvous point where they could meet and debrief after assignments.  It had to be a place they could meet at any hour.  A place they could be inconspicuous.  That serves alcohol.  And in which a well-earned dessert could be enjoyed.  The Pancake Manor was just the obvious choice, though I’ll not mention it by name, and I’ll disguise the menu.  Was having a lot of fun giving the pancakes new names – Chocolate Lovers, Tropicano, and Health Nuts.

The Pancake Manor and I.  We have history.  It was even my plan to rush there the moment I finished my first novel to partake in joyous celebration.  Was in Japan when that goal was reached, so that never happened.  Oh, wells.  Shall save up that jolly moment for the next big writing milestone:  next novel’s completion, finding an agent, publication.

Whichever it is, looking forward to it.