Feline Tears and Appetising Tresses

Our dear kitty Tommy is quite old, and her mind is sadly degenerating. She does things now that she’s never done, not even when she was a kitten e.g. messing with our sleep through routinely demanding breakfast with yowls at any time from 12.30am to 4am, then demanding (usually two hours later on the dot) with more yowls that someone come and  keep her company while she eats, sometimes going so far as to demand someone join her a third time. Other methods of messing with our sleep include: walking all over us; standing over us and staring very closely at our faces (making sure of who we are, we suppose); and walking all over desks and knocking everything over with a tail she no longer has full spatial control over.

Other things she does now that she’s never done before include: demanding lunch on top of breakfast and dinner; tolerating being picked up for much longer; and tolerating being petted for much longer.

Tommy does some things now that she hasn’t done since she was a kitten, too, e.g. pushing beneath books/iPads (not when she was a kitten) that we’re reading to draw attention back towards her. She used to do this all the time when she was young – barely a book would go by without a little kitty nose pushing its way beneath it to find our faces – but she hasn’t for years and years, not until recently.

Another somewhat unusual (to us) behaviour dear Tommy has taken to is hair chewing. She was doing it again last night: I sat at my desk, leaning down to put something in the rubbish bin, and suddenly I feel pulling at my fringe – Tommy was sitting on the desk, and had decided to have a good old gnaw at it while my head was down. I’ve woken up at least once with a sizable strand firmly in her jaws, and Mum has told me of any number of times Tommy has tried to eat her hair stealthily from behind.

Wound up looking this behaviour up – apparently hair chewing is undertaken by cats that are either in dire need of attention (as social animals, cats groom each other frequently, which includes hair biting), or are stressed. I don’t think Tommy has ever had as much attention as she does now, so stress it probably is. The stress of aging, most likely. Poor, dear kitty.

Just that second. She knocked my clock clean off my desk …

So, the reason all this elderly cat behaviour has come up, is that I wouldn’t have even thought to research the hair chewing phenomenon if I hadn’t looked up something else about cats just a few hours before then.

Cat tears.

Do cats cry? According to what I found, they do. I’d already thought so – dear Tommy’s eyes have often been teary – but I had to check something more specific. Cat tears seem to exist only for eye maintenance purposes – they are shed in response to allergy, eye irritation, etc. Though there are many anecdotal tales of cats crying in situations of loss, there is no true scientific evidence of cats crying in relation to sadness or joy. Apparently, kitties have little to gain in shedding emotional tears. Again, this is only according to the site I looked at – this one here . If you’ve heard (or witnessed) otherwise, drop me a comment below.

This may be so for pure cats. But what about those cats with a little human in them?

Don’t scorn. As my dear Mum would say: “It’s a fantasy!”

For the purposes of this particular fantasy, I’m saying cats with human ancestry can inherit the ability to cry emotional tears. Poor little weepy kitties – probably ridiculed by all the others. After all, what self-respecting cat expresses pain by leaking water from its eyes?

Free Once Again – This Time, Immediately!

Experimenting with a different type of promotion for Under the Bright Water.  Need to do lots of experimenting.  See what works.  And what doesn’t.  Always learning, we are.

So.  Because you’re all so lovely for popping into my blog every now and then, I’d like to offer you all a free coupon for the second instalment of the Treading Twisted Lines series.  After clicking “add to cart” here on Under The Bright Water’s Smashwords page, just enter the coupon code below to receive your lovely free copy.

Here’s the free coupon code:  UT82F

It expires on 1 December, so make sure to download your copy by then!

Looking forward to hearing what people think.  Advice, critique, praise – any feedback is welcome!  And if you haven’t had a look at the first story in the series, The Chosen Voice, you can view its Smashwords page here.  Thanks again for all the support – such a little blog is even smaller without a few nice readers.

In other news, still trolling about for literary agents.  Re-worked my query and shall send it to two more tomorrow morning after a final edit.  Also, have a bit of a plan for National Novel Writing Month.  I was all silly, and thought we weren’t supposed to start planning until 1 November, but have since read otherwise and put a few bare bones together.  Already making matters difficult for myself – seems to be short story cycle within a novel, and leaning towards literary fiction at that.  Oh wells.  Even if I don’t finish within the month, should put a big dent in it, and eventually I’ll have something unusual to add to my portfolio.

The Second Instalment Is Out! Let the Revolution Begin!

Treading Twisted Lines is starting to take over the world … in my lovely, innocent dreams.  But in harsh reality, world domination by fantasy short story cycle will really be helped along by more of its short stories being released.  And that’s exactly what’s just happened.

The not particularly long countdown is over.  I watched it tick down from about 12 to 0 seconds right here.  And now, the second instalment of Treading Twisted Lines with Darren, Maddi, and Kai has been released, and is available for 99 cents.  This one’s called Under the Bright Water, a tale that has made my lovely mother cry every time she’s read it.  Not that we come from a family easily stirred by literature and the like … I think I made two other dear relations who read this for me cry as well.  Hopefully, this is a good sign.

So, please have a look at my second short story right here on Smashwords.  Let me know what you think with a comment, or even a review if you feel particularly strongly about it, good or bad (good preferred, but honesty, above all else, is appreciated).

Now, the unedited third instalment must be edited and prepared for publication hopefully at the end of December (end of January at the latest), and the fourth for which I have several pages of notes must be written.  See how much more disciplined I’ve become.  Let’s hope it lasts.

Behind Glass (section twenty)

‘Of course not, you’re not doing anything wrong,’ Fen had replied with a laugh, Pan’s spine stiffening resentfully at the lighthearted sound.  ‘You’ve got entirely the wrong idea, though I am glad you feel comfortable enough to raise such an issue with me.  No doubt that was difficult for you.’

Pan’s instinctive fear at questioning his Master diminished far more readily than it might have a few months before, and he even managed to be little pleased—he’d made Fen glad.  But recalling how abashed he’d felt as his Master had so casually revealed Pan’s problems to their women, the issue at hand quickly reclaimed his attention.
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Behind Glass (section nineteen)

Despite the early hour, the Shelves were already crowded at five twenty that Monday morning, Masters fitting shimmering keys together and removing women from their stands on every level. Pan, who had not yet escorted at a fiesta (athletic girls were not Beron’s speciality), was not used to seeing so many woman active at once.  He could not help but stare over the balcony at the crowd as he and Fen approached Jacyntha Jenner’s door.
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The Playlist of Treading Twisted Lines

All of my stories have their own playlists.  Most have been in various forms, some tracks cut and new ones added as the story develops.  I remember at one point having three different playlists for my novel – I couldn’t quite bring myself to delete the old ones, they had been such a part of shaping the story.  They’re all gone now, though.  Changed iTunes to my desktop.

As I said in the my two good music for fantasy posts – Loreena McKennit’s “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and Cirque du Soleil’s “Varekai” – I like to listen to music that reflects the time, location, and general feel of the story.  For me and my fantasy, this generally means a lot of Celtic, World, and New Age music.  Some songs may be there only for certain characters, reflecting their state of mind or goals.

When it comes to the Treading Twisted Lines series, there’s a bit of a mix in there.  There’s tiny hovel of a town Mirinshita and its hipster karaoke bar where Christine interviews Darren Brown.  There’s the Temple of Bright Waters, a holy sanctuary where Kai seeks refuge – this is in the second book, to be released on my Saturday this week, so long as all goes as it should.  And then, there’s gritty Oshi Daini, a massive urban metropolis.  The desert of the Sato Area.  Nanzan’s mountains, Kitaumi’s seas.  There’s plenty of magic, and also plenty of electronics – I picture the Four Free Area’s technology to be a few rungs above ours.

This mix of scenery and atmosphere calls for a good mix of music.  New Age and such still features quite a lot, but electronica is creeping up in importance, as are a few styles of rock and alternative.

And now, as I’m a huge fan of lists (and because I feel like it …), I shall provide a list of every single artist currently featured on my Treading Twisted Lines playlist.  Argue with me about the genres, if you like – I mostly used the classifications in my iTunes, but they have been known to get it wrong.  A lot.  I may look some up later, try to get it as accurate as possible.  Guess which of their songs are included, if you like the artists.  Guess which artists feature more predominantly – some have entire albums on the playlists, but most of them have only one or two songs included.  Suggest other artists I should be listening to, if you like.  This playlist has done a good job seeing me through the editing of the first two stories, and helped me write the third in good time.  May change in the future, but a good majority of the tracks, I think, will be sticking around for a while.

The Treading Twisted Lines Playlist Artists (in the order they were placed on the list)

Project 46 – House/Electronica; Dot Exe – Drumstep/Electronica; Karl Jenkins – New Age/World; Florence + the Machine – Indie Rock; Marina and the Diamonds – Indie Pop; Something With Numbers-  Alternative Rock; Birds of Tokyo – Alternative Rock; AFI – Alternative Rock; Michael Penn – Adult Alternative; Aimee Mann – Adult Alternative; Panic! At The Disco – Pop Punk; The Panics – Indie Rock; My Friend the Chocolate Cake – Adult Alternative; Cirque du Soleil – New Age; Angus and Julia Stone – Folk; Arcade Fire – Indie Rock/Art Rock; Architecture in Helsinki – Indie Pop; The Bats – Rock; Gotye – Indie Rock/Alternative Rock; Carl Sagan – Vocal/Awesome; Clare Bowditch and the Feeding Set – Folk; Concrete Blonde – Alternative Rock; The Cops – Rock; The Cranberries – Alternative Rock/Celtic Rock; Crowded House – Pop Rock; Daft Punk – House/Electronica; The Decemberists – Indie Folk Rock; Dire Straights – Rock; Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Dance Punk/Indie Rock; Edwyn Collins – Alternative Rock; Elliot Smith – Indie Rock/Indie Folk; Evermore – Pop Rock; Faker – Alternative Rock; Franz Ferdinand – Indie Rock/Dance Punk; The Grates – Indie Rock/Alternative Rock; Gypsy & The Cat – Indie Pop; Hunters & Collectors – Rock; Infected Mushroom – Trance/Electronica; The Jezabels – Indie Rock/Alternative Rock; Kaiser Chiefs – Pop/Post Punk Revival; Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson – Country; Kate Miller-Heidke – Alternative Pop; Kirsty MacColl – Pop; Klaxons – Indie Rock; Little Birdy – Indie Rock; Missy Higgins – Alternative/Indie; Oasis – Rock; Operator Please – Pop; Owl City – Electronica/Synthpop; Paul Kelly – Rock/Folk; Pendulum – Electronica; R.E.M. – Alternative Rock; Regurgitator –  Alternative Rock/Experimental; Sarah Blasko – Indie Pop; Sane Nicholson – Rock; Sia – Alternative Rock/Pop; Sigur Ros – Ambient/Post Rock; The Smiths – Alternative Rock; Split Enz – Art Rock/New Wave; Spoon – Indie Rock; Stephen Cummings – Rock; Sugar Army – Rock; They Might Be Giants – Alternative Rock; Utada Hikaru – J-pop; The Whitlams – Indie Rock; YUKI – J-pop; Aston – Classical; Angela Aki – J-pop

Wow … that’s pretty intense … maybe don’t try to read it all, might hurt your eyes … good music, though.

(Played around the with the genres now, I think they’re all pretty correct … let me know if I’m wrong :))

A Novel in a Tweet: This Time, It’s Real

Last post, remember how I was busy complaining?  Something along the lines of “oh dearie me, isn’t it hard to compress a novel into three sentences?”  Haven’t looked over what I produced throughout that painful endeavour, yet.  But now, I’m attempting what I only dared joke about before – summing up the entire novel in the length of a tweet.  That’s right, I’m writing a tagline.

It’s for the same agency as before.  On their website they acknowledge how difficult it is to sum up a novel in a tagline, but encourage writers to include it on the cover page of their manuscript sample if they pull it off.

Twas more than daunted, initially, at only the thought, but surprisingly I’m having a much better time about it than getting it into three sentences.  Perhaps it’s because there truly is only so much you can include in a single sentence – not even a sentence!  Now, I have a word document with 21 possibilities neatly listed, thought up and culminated over the course of today with a bit of help from a friend who just finishing reading the beast, and my dear Mum.  I think I’ve narrowed it down to two.  One’s more catchy than the other, but I don’t think it covers the whole scope of the novel the way the other option does.

For reasons of paranoia, I won’t record the two front-runners here.  I will, however, include a few of the failed options:

Hearts lost, what’s won?

Worlds connected – a blessing in one curses another

Certain things are harder to accept, certain people harder to forgive

Not great, I know.  That’s why they’re not front-runners.  I like the first two much better than the third, personally.

I can’t flatter myself and imagine I’m qualified to offer advice on anything, least of all on turning masterpieces into, in essence, 140 character post-it notes of social media.  But I’ll list what I attempted to do, techniques which helped me produce my two final options.  A few of the following points are painfully obvious, others less so.

1 – Select and have in mind the major events and major themes of your novel

2 – If there are multiple major characters, decide which one or two are the most crucial and think about them and their struggles

3 – Make it as catchy and memorable as you can – taglines have to snatch attention and hold it

4 – Try to work in a play on words or some irony that people will only fully understand once they read the book

5 – Experiment with synonyms – see which version of a meaning offers the most impact

6 – Write down everything you can think of, and then play mix-and-match

Have you created a tagline for any of your writings?  What do you find works well?  What do you think entails a fantastic tagline, one that does its job of lassoing readers while standing alone as an individual work of art?

A Painful Compression, All For The Elusive Agent

I’m losing fingernails, eyelashes, and eyebrow hair at an alarming rate.  I do tend to pick away at these a bit in general, when I’m writing and when I was studying, but as stress picks up so does the picking.  And the tearing.  And such.

Have sent the novel to three literary agencies, so far.  Been turned down once, still waiting to hear back from the other two.  Currently trying to prepare the material to send to a fourth.  They request a description of the story comprising 2-3 sentences within the cover letter.  I’ve written several cover letters already, but the agencies they were composed for weren’t specific about the length of the novel description – last time I wrote two paragraphs, about eight sentences, I think it was.  That was difficult to pull off, but manageable.

The novel is 473,452 words long (a death sentence, I know, for a first time author … it honestly wasn’t meant to happen …).

Having a bit of trouble compressing that into 2-3 sentences.

Pulled if off so far by using dashes and semicolons, and having incredibly long sentences.  Unfortunately, I’ve read that simple, short sentences are best in cover letters.  Lots of other stuff to prepare for the submission (even more for a fifth, character and chapter profiles and such, pretty intense, but looking forward to putting that together), so I’ll put the letter aside and look at the description again in a few days – hopefully I’ll have a burst of brilliance, and I can either edit what I have or create something entirely fresh that perfectly describes my dear tome.

Anyone have any tips?  Recently cut an epic down to a tweet?  Well, not quite that small, but … still.  I’d love to try out any pointers you have 🙂

On a related topic, literary agencies in Australia that are current accepting manuscripts, more specifically fantasy manuscripts, are few and far between, aren’t they?  A bit depressing, really.  Suppose if I can’t get anything here, I’ll be brave and see if I can give any UK agents a go, or something.

It’s fairly clear I am no expert at this, isn’t it.  I’m probably not going about my submissions and such in the best way.  But (as I’ve been saying to myself any number of times of late, in as reassuring a self-tone I can muster), I’ve got to start somewhere.  Read and continuing to read a bunch of internet stuff that should help with submitting work to agents and publishers, but this professional authoring world I want so badly to enter is a strange, confusing sort of place, no?  I really do need an agent to help me navigate.

Rearranging Inspiration On Our Dark Shelves

Spent most of the day helping re-catalogue the music in my choir’s library.  According to our librarian, we got through about two-thirds of the job.  Which is good.  But I think, right now, I’d like to describe the library itself.  It has … character.

For starters, it’s a dungeon.  An underground room short of width and long of length.  There are no windows, and only one door.  A cement floor, a few walls of brick, and at least one wall of cinder blocks, the ceiling looks as though it’s held up entirely by a strategically applied grid of masking tape. The room slopes quite markedly, presumably because it’s beneath the university theatre, and the seats slope directly above, facing the stage.  There is only a single ceiling light, which is controlled by a switch located down the corridor.  Outside the room itself.  It is easy for someone to unwittingly shut your lights off and leave you in the dark.

It is altogether grungy.  An asthmatic’s nightmare.  Dark, dust-ridden and poorly ventilated – if the door is kept shut you start to sweat quick-smart.  The atmosphere is heavy, close and strange.  And this sensation is amplified many times over by the room’s contents.

Being our library, significant space is taken up by shelving.  Our shelves are of thin metal, somewhat flimsy, and it is hoped they will soon be replaced with compactors.  Two long rows of shelves laden with box upon box of music scores, a few bright and fresh and in excellent condition, but many too that are tattered and yellow and stained by years – the oldest I catalogued today were published in 1909.  Two aisles lead right to the back of the room, where cupboards are usually filled by our historical archives and memorabilia.  Given that we just had our 100th anniversary celebrations, these cupboards are mostly empty, their contents recently in use elsewhere.  Other miscellaneous items include a rusted barbecue, a box of exploding soft drink cans from fundraisers of years long passed that have, since exploding, been disposed of, and fair quantities of tea towels and soap.  I’m not sure what the choir of old did with its time to warrant such copious amounts of cleaning-related products.  Though the exploding soft drink cans offer some indication.

These are what the choir keeps in their dungeon, this lair of artists.  But only the right belongs to us.  This lair is shared by another group of artists, the student theatre company.  They keep the left strewn haphazardly with items cast off from the real world, a child’s massive box of make-believe spilled out beside our shelves with which to outfit their productions:  countless wine glasses, plastic flowers, candelabras, purses, many more items unexpected, and racks and racks of costumes – coats and hats and shoes and gloves and sunglasses.

Half increasingly ordered music library, half destitute prop department.

In that dark, dingy space, the air is so still.

Not just trying to be absurdly poetic, here.  Actually is.  Glad we kept the door propped open.

Needless to say (having already spent a fair amount of time in there as substitute librarian several years ago) this strange place had already inspired a setting in a story, though not one I’ve done very much work on at all.  It’s about a choir.  Funnily enough.  If today I hadn’t been concentrating quite so intently on trying to catalogue correctly, inspiration may have taken hold again.  And not only inspiration for setting, mimicking the layout and location.  This place has the potential to create more.  Our library, so enclosed, cut-off and splattered by such an odd array of articles and sensations, any of which could spin an intriguing thought into being, I’m sure could work wonders for writer’s block.  Next time I’m at a loss – probably next month, as if I have a crack at National Novel Writing Month I’ll need something fresh on the slab – I’ll bring to mind the close darkness, the cinder block walls and sloping roof, the aged music and the startling brightness of feather boas in the grey.  See if it helps.

I’ll let you know.

A Conflict of Personal Views and the Calls of Marketing


Trying to decide whether it’s worth making YouTube videos to advertise my indie books.

The Smashwords publishing guides suggests video as a good form of marketing, as it exposes your work to an audience that may not have otherwise come across it.  However, I am no filmmaker.  This was confirmed the other day when I was making a preliminary attempt at a video to see what it might look like, and I wound up filming sideways.  Had to do several tests, filming a few seconds and then sending them to my email, and then opening it in MovieMaker, just to know which way to hold my iPad.  I probably could have looked it up but … it didn’t occur to me.  Honestly.

There are many fabulous online videos, and I’m sure YouTube, alongside Netflicks and Hulu and other things we don’t have in Australia yet, will soon take over television completely.  But many people take the tagline “Broadcast Yourself,” in my opinion, a little too literally.  Honest, simple home video footage aside, I believe these videos should have considerable thought and effort behind them.  And, unfortunately, many don’t.  There are too many questionable videos posted on YouTube, questionable in both content and quality.  I don’t want to add to add to them with my shoddy advertising clips.

But, putting aside personal feelings and going back to marketing opportunities, any video is better than none.  Isn’t it?  Starting a YouTube channel wouldn’t drive away present readers … I don’t think.  Videos wouldn’t lose me business.  They would either help me gain it, or do absolutely nothing at all.  Which won’t hurt me.  Except for my feelings.

Still thinking.  May make a final decision a bit later down the track.

And when I’m talking about advertising, I don’t mean book trailers.  At least, not like one in particular I’ve seen.  Terrible.  Made me swear I’d never, ever read that book – some hideously generic fantasy, showing off its generic-ness in subtitles while medieval tapestry-looking still images scrolled.  I know, I’m a terrible snob, a terrible person.  But it really switched me off.  I don’t want to try anything like that.  Something making use of reviews would probably be the best way to go.  But to do that, I think actually having a review might be necessary.

Right now, if I made a video, I reckon I’d have a short blurb section, a short background section (what led to the story being written, etc), maybe a very small part with a few points of interest about the story, and a reading from part of the story.  And the intro and outro.  Probably just me wearing as conservative a top as I can manage talking in front of the most static background I can find – in the preliminary shots I used the heavy grey curtains over our back door.  Not overly interesting.  I should think about setting, studio related stuff more … said I was no filmmaker.  I did shine a bright light in my face, though.  I thought of that much.  If the videos and books started doing well, maybe I’d think about making more types, like Q&A videos, longer readings … other stuff.  Haven’t gotten that far yet.  Clearly.

So.  To use the wonder of YouTube in an attempt to spread awareness of my work further into the collective consciousness of cyberspace by the creation and sharing of poorly-made advertisement material?  Or … not?

(A few days late, my biggest gap in a while … had a meeting after choir on Wednesday – long annual general meeting is very, very, very, very, very looooooooooong – and spent all of yesterday working on the third Treading Twisted Lines story … and finished the rough draft.  Hooray)