Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Keeping the faith

It's been a while, but I'm back. And as the French say, pas de excuses. I have a few :) In any case, I hope I can consistently blog again this year about the things, books, experiences and ideas that matter to me. Again, I have a few :)

Today as I started another day at the bookshop (we are under new management) I reflected on a conversation I had last night with a brilliant writer friend about moral compasses and reading books that bug me well after the final page is turned. Being in an environment where people are filling their minds so readily with all kinds of stuff (read: rubbish) is actually a concern to me. Much of what can be found in a book is good, but much of it is... well... not. I wonder sometimes about my purpose of being in the shop, and asked God to make it clear. Today I began to realise He knows what He is doing.

A lady came in and asked me about a book by title for her daughter, so I did our store computer search so I'd know where to find it on the shelf. As she followed me from the counter she told me her daughter was 12 and was quite into this series. Alarm bells rang in my head. We were headed for the adult erotic section. As I listened to the mother talking about her daughter and her love for the series, questions were firing off in my brain, and as she chatted I pulled two of the requested titles from the shelves and opened one at random. With an "ERO" (as they are known in our store) you're pretty much guaranteed that no matter where you open a page, you'll find something of interest to ERO readers. This book was no different and I held my finger in the page as the mother chatted.

I asked if she had ever read any of what her daughter was reading. She said no, but if she was reading and taking an interest in books, then surely this was a good thing to be encouraged. It was on my mind to tell her there are OTHER (more appropriate) things she could be reading, but instead I asked if she'd ever read an ERO (because ERO is not your general Mills&Boon or Harlequin Romance). No, she had not. I said, "This is what she's reading," and turned the open page to the mother, which she promptly began to read aloud in a somewhat lusty voice. Funnily, her gaze set upon the exact same part where I had started to read moments earlier as she'd been chatting, and you can imagine how her voice changed when she hit the ERO bit.

She stopped, and the realisation of what her daughter was opening herself up to hit home. Quietly I told her that if this is what she is allowing her daughter to read (and she is allowing her), then she needs to chat with her about what she's reading, because although she might be physically as tall as her Mum and going on 13, she's still only 12 in her head. And though she might be savvy, she might not be equipped enough to handle her own curiosity. She needs to explain to her daughter precisely what's going on, and reconsider the options.

As the mother realised what I was trying to tell her, and we spoke a little more, she began to tear up (which made me tear up, too). Reading between the lines, in her own words she saw that a way had been made for her to bond with her daughter - not because of the smut (let's be honest), but because of the conversations they could have about what it's like being 12 and growing and all that it entails.

Dear God. Only He could have brought something beautiful out of dust, and I felt a strong purpose and privilege of being there in that moment. That has been just one of the opportunities I've had these past two days, and it amazes me how only God can work something out like that. It's absolutely special to me to connect with people, and I will long treasure this encounter.

She bought the book, frowned as she said she would read it herself, and more to herself than me said she would be doing some serious quizzing about how Miss 12 found out about this series.

Parents, KNOW what your kids are reading, and know that whatever YA fiction they are into is likely to lead into other things, and that this WILL affect their mindsets. One ERO author in our shop is writing YA as well, and I did explain to this mother that this is how younger readers' attentions are being snared and bought for years to come. This other author is writing for Young Adults, capturing their interests for the harder porn she'll be feeding them before you know it. She is raising and influencing other people's children - children she doesn't even know - for as long as they're reading her work.

Is this what parents want going through their kids' minds?


People sometimes look at me like I've got my head screwed on backwards when I say I'm looking for something better. If I was meant to be living in the 1950's, God would have put me there. But He didn't. I'm here, and that for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, one reason is to gently remind people of what true vales really are and that they don't need to settle for what the world readily sells them. Whatever the case, I'm not the only one who thinks like this, and that is encouraging.

Q: Are you reading something you shouldn't be reading? You might think it isn't affecting you, but maybe it is and the changes are so subtle that they are almost invisible... Why should you settle for less than you should?

Sometimes it's the places you don't go that enrich your life the most.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Day 1 Part 2 - Perth Writer's Festival

As I mentioned, the post was long, so please click here for Part 1 of this post on what transpires during the editing process.


Fifth, you encounter the Editor. She talks you through the stages of production on a physical level – specifications of page count, orientation, format, paper stock, and binding. Layouts are sent to the printer and author for final sign-off, and the ISBN is acquired. Advance reader copies arrive, but no cocktails are poured just yet. First the author teams up with Media and Promotions to promote. 

Sixth on the list, you make best friends with the Media and Promotions Manager. She is your Publicist. She gets to know you and also any dirt people may like to dish on you. Seriously. She needs to know what may or may not be used to your advantage or the book’s disadvantage. Don’t be shy; be honest. She will pick your brains on what you think your book is about and who you believe your market is. How you make the most of the opportunities she finds for you to promote your book is largely up to you, and it is her greatest hope you will be as adventurous as all heck about it. 

Seventh, you meet the guy dealing with Sales Right and Distribution. He will be working to put your book into the hands of the right distributors and it already at work pitching your book for you before the initial print run. The titles are promoted via the Pub’s website, and registered with the Federal Government for your benefit. He also deals with Subsidiary rights. He keeps his eye on the stock levels and is personally excited about championing your joint venture that is the book. 

Deb Fitzpatrick closed the morning sess with the wise words of knowing her writing was in the right hands and that painstaking work was being done as a team. The Pub process is different each time and the greatest part of the author is to be working hard at helping sell the book. Remember that cocktail that was mentioned? Once you’ve sold 2,000 copies, they are happy enough to remind you of it. When you’ve sold 5,000 copies then they breathe a sigh of relief, and the cocktail is finally poured. Maybe it seems like a big wait. Just remind yourself that being published is a big ask. 

The opportunities are ongoing with all kinds of publishing houses worldwide. If going traditional is not for you, perhaps the next sess will help: deciding on the best publishing medium for your book.


Day 1, Part 1 - Perth Writer's Festival

Well, I realise it’s been at least two weeks since the Writer’s Festival, but it’s also taken me that long to be able to back in the saddle of normal everyday life. Much to my chagrin, I came down with a cold on the second morning of the Festival, and it’s taken me almost this long to get back on track again (I fell asleep during one of the Saturday sessions, but don’t tell. It wasn’t them, it was me).

So. What did I glean from this firsthand experience? One session at a time, these are the barest highlights of how it went. I’ve condensed the gist and will separate it into two posts so the page doesn’t drag on forever. 

Thursday was an exclusive to writers. It was a day of publishing seminars where we were able to ‘meet’ panels of people from various houses and experiences. Hearing from guys and girls on both sides of publishing experiences was interesting and amusing. 

Starting the Thursday was a session with the crew from Freo Press. They tracked through the publication process – from the moment a manuscript is accepted up to the point where the author is plugging the work and helping it sell. Author Deb Fitzpatrick (her latest book is about to hit shelves) walked us through the process by introducing us to the faces behind the job descriptions. 

First cab off the rank is the Assessment Editor. With competition being so fierce it is necessary to present your very best work. If you don’t stand out to the AE, nor will you stand out on a bookshelf. The AE is looking for good technique and the sense that the writer knows what he’s about and knows what he’s doing. Marketability is in play from the very beginning. It may take 3 months for the assessment to take place. 

Second, there’s a Publication Editor. She will also read the MS to ensure the writer is in touch with the general market and in control of the story. If she doesn’t feel a connection with your MS, you may not get much further. If she likes it, she will take it to a pitch meeting where a larger team needs to be convinced of your story’s viability. An author might be advised to resubmit the story at a later time, or will proceed straight to contract depending on the request of the Pub team. If it’s all systems go, an editing schedule will be set. 

Third, your MS goes through the Editing and Print process. It garnered a lot of laughs on the day when the speaker said “It can be daunting but remember we are printing the story because we love it and want it...” (the laughs were more nervous for some than others). A good editor will help your MS, and this process should actually be rewarding. There is a structural edit, which you might liken to a building inspection. Then there is a ‘red-pen’ edit for grammar, spelling, etc. This was the first mention of knowing how to self-edit being of vital importance. 

Fourth, you meet the Designer, and they will ask two key questions.
1)      Who is likely to buy this book?
2)      What is going to appeal to that market?

There will be sketches to test the viability of an idea and draft covers will be presented (the content of the book helps refine the cover). In this instance, it is important to the Designer for the author to love the cover design, but it must also convey to true gist of the MS.

 As stated, this post was long so I broke it up into two parts. Click here for Part 2 of the publishing process.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Help me, I'm pitching & I can't get up...

Oh goodness. I'm headed for our state's largest Writer's Festival and am brushing up on pitching, presentation, and reminding myself that publishers and agents are human, too. Otherwise I may pass out from the terror of having to speak in public. Ok, I'm not that bad, but surely I could improve.

In any case, I'm not panicking, and don't plan to. It's a waste of energy, and I've read enough True Grit by Bear Grylls to know things could be worse. I'm not frostbitten (at least not til I'm standing up in front of everyone), and I'm not starving (unless I forget to bring my purse to buy lunch). Nor am I sailing in a tiny boat against monster waves like Earnest Shackleton (does standing out in a sea of hopefuls count?).

Being prepared makes a truckload of difference, and reminding myself that Fifty Shades of Grey made it into print also gives me hope. I also hope that my point of difference stands out. What actually does set me apart from every other attendee hoping to bend the ear of an agent/editor/publishing rep? That's what I'm clarifying at the moment as I'm surrounded by pages and pages of manuscript and first chapters ready for the taking, eye-catching one sheets, and loglines and synopsises.

The longer I do this the easier and more enjoyable it gets, the more confidence I have about what I'm doing - because my biggest query is whether or not I'm doing it right. And that's possibly the most standout aspect I've learned about this writing life - BE CONFIDENT. If you fall, get up and brush off. Persevere. Know, that while a hundred other people are out there treading writing boards, that your story IS different to all of theirs. Your voice is your own, and no one can tell a story the way you can.

Enjoy the journey, chalk up the experience, and remember the old adage that you haven't failed til you quit.

Like I said, much of this is about gaining confidence, so here are some links to help send you on your way...

7 Advantages of a Verbal Pitch

Secrets of a Great Pitch

7 Tips For Pitching... At Conference

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11v1
Or la foi, c'est la ferme assurance des choses qu'on espère, la démonstration de celles qu'on ne voit pas.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The End

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. 2013 has been a cracker year, and it seems the more people I ask, the more they seem only too happy to wave it goodbye and welcome the bright and shiny newness and promise of 2014.

In the Bible, the number 7 represents perfection. With the next year ending in a 14, you might think we could expect twice that perfection ;) I hope so!

Of all the things that have happened in the life of the Valleys this year, and as much as I would rather times had been easier, there is one thing I do not regret and would not wave goodbye for anything, and that is the ability to persevere in faith. Hard things make you grow, and that makes hardship worth having.

Good things have happened this year as well as some not cool things, and we have witnessed God's amazing goodness in ways we could never have expected - and that blows our socks clean off!

As we prepare to farewell this year and welcome the new one, take the time to pause and reflect not on the bad stuff you wish had never happened, or the losses you faced or the traumas to your life. Take time to select out the good things that have taken place, and write them down. These things that give you pause will also make you smile, and growth like that is worth keeping!

One thing that happened that we did not expect today was to be swimming with a Bronze Whaler shark. There's a story attached, but had the shark chopper that flies our beaches not been where he was only a few minutes before, I or the man swimming near me might have welcomed in the new year minus a limb (if Mr Shark was in a taste-test mood). Instead we had the pleasure of watching one of God's critters effortlessly swim his stretch of coast as his fins broke the surface now and then.

Good fun.

PS~ You can usually find Bronze Whaler on the menu at the fish and chip shop, but don't tell Mr Shark that...

Q: What good thing has happened to you this year that stands out above all else?? Make sure you tell someone about it, and compare notes on the GOOD, not the bad.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Craptorium

The above title is one I use when referring to the place where things of no lasting worth or value belong. It is a place where crappy things reside, or where they should reside. A category, if you will, of the crappiest sort. A dwelling of rot and rubbish and all things utterly pointless.

I can't remember now why I chose this image.
Maybe it has to do with all the crap left on the earth
that Wall-E was cleaning up all by himself :)

I used to think the Craptorium was a destination reserved for the likes of Volvo 960 wagons, wallets that won't stay shut, copies of Twilight, and hairbrushes that don't brush because the bristles can't stand up to the task. I have discovered it is also a place where books can be found, and I ain't taking about bookshops.

The Craptorium is not altogether real (though friends say there are some that do exist), but the books that can be found in said depository are... well... crappy. They are the kinds of reads that are essentially pointless, meandering, confounding, time-wasting and often (but not always) very badly written. You'll know you're reading a Craptorium book because you'll either give up reading it, throw it across the room, wish you never bought it, or you'll know your nearest three year old can write something better. I knew a dog with a brain the size of a pea, and it could've done a better job.

There is no point in counting the amount of books we've read or started to read, only to find they're disappointing to the max.

My point is that there's a lot of rubbish out there, and it's been published. By real actual publishers. Big name publishers who know what they're dealing with. There is no middle ground: these books bomb, or they succeed. The bottom line is that if you are a writer you should take comfort from this BECAUSE it's a black and white reminder that someone IS doing worse than you, and yet they made it into print. Probably even did some signings. They may not get a second contract based on the performance of the first book, but hey, they got there.

And "there" is where every writer wants to be.

Keep writing, and do aim to stay out of the Craptorium. It'll be good for all of us as well as the forest your pages mow down. These printed offerings give us something to aspire beyond, to learn from, and to appreciate. Authors have given it a go, and for whatever reason, they won. Just remember that if someone doesn't like your work, someone somewhere will.

For every rubbish book there are dozens and dozens of winners, and this is even more encouraging. It's one of the aspects that does inspire us to keep going. No one can tell the story the way you do, so don't stop your dream. Keep going. Persevere, and take heart :)

Q: How much of what makes a book good or bad is a matter of opinion?


Monday, 9 December 2013

For Sale

The bookstore I work for is up for sale. I told someone yesterday that the owners made this decision before I came on staff. The person replied, "That's what they tell you". Pretty funny :)

Whether I work there or not is beside the point. What I want to shout out to all people everywhere and not just potential investors, is that books are alive and well! I am astonished at how many people will come in and place book after book on the counter until their stack is a mile high. They do not layby these books, they BUY them straight out. They want them. Desperately.

Their purchase may consist of one or two sale books, but for the most part, they see the new release they've been waiting for and simply have to have it. I get a real kick out of asking them if they've considered e-readers or kindles. Without fail (I tell no lie), they will screw up their noses and recoil at the thought. Ugh. No thank you. In fact, how could you even suggest it?! The response is priceless :)

Interestingly, we do sell e-book vouchers, but more importantly we sell actual books. I am not privy to the figures, but I do work the point of sale (and at the moment it's smokin'). Books will be around for a long while yet, so don't let anyone tell you otherwise - especially not any statistics. If you believed what you read, you'd be led into thinking we spend our days listening to the crickets instead of the eftpos machine.


Books are ALIVE. They do not run out of batteries, they are not cold, and if dropped will survive. So what if they cost more. Big whoopee. Try and convert a book lover to an electronic read and they will throttle you then run a mile. Book lovers are staunch, and they are loyal. They understand that to hold a book is to have an experience. The world is so digital already. Books offer something tangible and real. Something they can pick up at any time.

You want to know the best part? Our sales include the next generation. Kids and teens want actual hardcopies. I personally know kids with e-readers that are gathering dust in favour of a real book. The decision is their own, not inspired or prompted by an adult.


I love my job :)

"Books brighten your world.
Even in colour,
e-books are grey."
~a satisfied customer last week.
"Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read..." Luke 4:16

Jésus se rendit à Nazareth où il avait été élevé et, conformément à son habitude, il entra dans la synagogue le jour du sabbat. Il se leva pour faire la lecture...