That’s a wrap…

 

I’ve been in Sydney (for work) for most of this week, so not a huge amount to report. We’ve had rain – buckets of it, gallons even. Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad, but we did get about 300mm over 3 days – more than 3 times the usual October average. The tanks are full, the lawns are green, and things are all still a tad soggy. We needed it but.

What I’ve been reading…

 

The Word is Murder, by Anthony Horowitz. You know how much I love Midsomer Murders, well, Anthony Horowitz was the one who adapted the series from the books by Caroline Graham. he’s also responsible for Foyle’s War – which I also love. Why wouldn’t I be into his books?

I picked up The Word Is Murder at the airport the other day and was unusually grateful for the inevitable delay that rain brings to Jetstar flights out of Sunshine Coast airport. As an aside this is because there are no air bridges and people seem incapable of walking in rain in a purposeful manner. Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen? Your hair gets curly?

Anyways, this is essentially the story of a reluctant author named Anthony who happens to have written Foyle’s War and Alex Rider, and some Sherlock Holmes, who gets dragged into a murder mystery with an unlikeable detective he met on the set of another of his creations Injustice.

It was all so realistic I found myself googling the names of the murder victims. Aside from the story – which is very cozy crime, something else I adore – I loved how he laughed at himself and the life of the successful writer throughout. Without giving any spoiler alerts, there’s a particularly farcical scene involving a script meeting with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. The reviews I read haven’t been great, but what do they know? I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What I’ve blogged…

I’m updating some of my older Bali posts from and anyways for this website. So far I’ve posted why I’m so hooked on Bali and a recipe for Bumbu Bali. I also posted a training plan for nanowrimo and managed to get a newsletter out. If you want the recipe for Dragon Wings with Avocado Dip that I included in the newsletter, you’ll find it here.

Over on the Sunny Coast site I popped up posts on the new kid on the Mooloolaba block, Central Beach Club, and something on a seriously luxe bar under the Spirit House wing, Hong Sa.

What I wrote…

Not much, I’m in copy edit mode!

What I scheduled…

Baby, It’s You and Wish You Were Here will be available on iBooks from October 25. I’ll pop the links in next weeks wrap. Of course, all 3 books are already available on Amazon… If you’re interested, and of course you are, you’ll find the links in the top menu bar.

What I decided on…

My cover for I Want You Back, and some new logo designs. Below is a screenshot of the cover – I’m yet to receive the jpeg, but you get the idea.

What I started planning…

And I’m using the word planning extremely loosely…my novel for nanowrimo. I have an idea that I’d like to take 30 days and 50,000 words to explore. It’s about grown-up issues with grown-up characters and is sort of what happens after the happy ever after – what happens after bin night, I guess.  I have no idea whether it has legs yet, but if it doesn’t, I’ll have only wasted a month.

A photo of a flower…just because…

I’m loving jacaranda season and am thrilled there’s one in my front yard, but this lovely lilly that I saw at The Ginger Factory today was screaming out to be photographed…

Ok, that was my week…how was yours?

30 things that make me go aaah….

jacaranda tree

Yesterday morning I sat watching some whales do the tail and fin thing as they swam the length of the beach. I’d brought my coffee back to a seat at The Loo With A View and was gazing out to sea when I saw the first blow not far past the shark net buoys.

As others cottoned onto what was happening only a couple of hundred metres off shore, more and more people stopped what they were doing. They stopped swimming, they stopped walking, they crossed the road from the shops and coffee shops. Cars pulled over to see what everyone else was looking at, kids pointed, adults stared.

For those few moments we stopped and we were in the moment – regardless of what else was going on. We were all watching the whales and everyone was awed.

I’ve been completely moved by the whale migration this year. We didn’t see much from shore of the northern migration, but they tend to come in closer on their way back down south. Sometimes it’s just a tell-tale blow or a splash where there are no boats that give them away, sometimes it’s the curve of the body as they dive over and down, sometimes it’s the flash of the tail or the wave of a fin. It never ceases to make me just stop and watch. They’re totally amazing creatures and seeing them fills me with complete peace.

It’s the same on those days when the dolphins are about. Sometimes I feel that seeing them it’s a sign that no matter what other crap is going on in the world, these magnificent mammals are out there – so everything can’t help but be ok.

Anyways, the feeling from this morning stayed with me through the whole of the work day that followed. It got me thinking about the other things that bring me pleasure – often fleeting moments of pleasure, but pleasure none the less.

Once I started writing, I forced myself to stop at 30 although I could have gone on…and on…and on…and that’s a good thing…right?

  1. Early morning walks
  2. The welcome from my dog when she hasn’t seen me for a few minutes/ since last night/ since this morning/ since I came back from dropping rubbish in the bin
  3. Doggy smiles
  4. The flash of colour from a rainbow lorikeet
  5. The early morning warble of a magpie
  6. The smell of jasmine when the sun hits it
  7. Watching the sun come up
  8. That silvery sparkly look of the ocean when the sun is on it – when it looks as though a million diamonds have been sprinkled across the top of the blue
  9. Taking my bra off at night
  10. The bubbles in sparking mineral water
  11. Having a pee when you’ve been holding on for what seems like ever
  12. That smudge of new green in the Spring
  13. Jacaranda flowers on the horizon
  14. Jacaranda flowers when they drop and carpet the lawn
  15. Autumn leaves – I miss autumn leaves
  16. The crackle of frost on a blue day – yep, miss this now too
  17. Bees on lavender and rosemary bushes
  18. Fresh sheets
  19. Shaved legs and fresh sheets
  20. Clean hair after being on the beach
  21. The smell of sparklers
  22. Writing my name in the air in sparklers
  23. Writing the name of the one I love in the air in sparklers
  24. Blowing bubbles
  25. Popping bubbles
  26. Popping bubble wrap
  27. Seeing a dragonfly
  28. Making a wish on a dandelion
  29. That first sight of the ocean as I come over the hill from Buderim Rd to Mooloolaba Esplanade every morning
  30. Walking on the beach, in the water, after work and feeling the wind and the salt whip away the day

What are the little things that do it for you?

Because it’s Thursday, it’s also time to get our happy on with the Lovin’Life linky.

To join in the Lovin’ Life Linky, all you’ve got to do is: Link one post about what you’re currently lovin’ in life. Read two or three posts from other Lovin’ Life Linkers and leave a comment so they know you’ve dropped by. Spread the Lovin’ Life word and feel free to link back.

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | Debbish | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

The linky goes live at 7.30am every Thursday and finishes at 7.30am of a Monday (Australian Eastern Time). Click on the link below to join in…

Why you should write a novel in November

So anyways, November is around the corner…and if November is around the corner, so too is NaNoWriMo. Nano wtf? National Novel Writing Month.

Essentially the challenge is to, along with a few hundred thousand other people, get 50,000 words out of your head and onto a page – or a laptop -during the month of November. It’s a bit like a novel writing marathon.

By the end of November, our poor little novel writer’s wrists are burning, our eyelids need propping open, our body fluids have been gradually replaced by copious amounts of caffeine or alcohol, and most of us have hit a wall at some point through the process. In our case the “wall” isn’t extreme physical exhaustion (although it can be) – more often it’s a blank screen, or page.

The hardest part of the process by far is fitting writing a novel in around life – because, as we know, it doesn’t stop just because we’ve committed to writing a novel. For those of us with kids, November is the time of the year where end of year exams and end of year performances and presentation nights all start to fill up the calendar. In addition, most of us have jobs and other responsibilities. We don’t have time to add writing a novel to that list. Do we?

So, if it’s that flipping hard, why do we do it? To be honest, asking a writer that question is a little like asking a marathoner why they lace up the trainers to put their bodies through 42kms of pain, or asking a climber why they do Everest. The answer is simple – because it’s a challenge and it’s there.

I’ve done it most years since 2009. Each of my novels has started life during Nanowrimo. Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry were both managed while I had a full time job – with large chunks written in hotel rooms and airports during office relocation projects – and all the things that go along with being a Mum with a (then) school age child. The bulk of Wish You Were Here was written during nanowrimo in 2015 – even though I was on a road trip through Britain for the 2nd half of November.

I even signed up last year – even though I knew that I’d be on Milford Track with access to no technology for a week of the month. The first 30,000 words of I Want You Back came from that.

Should you enter? Yes. Especially if:

  • You’ve been talking about writing a book someday for ever and flipping ever
  • You’ve got a story in your head that needs to escape
  • You like a good graph

Need more convincing?

  • 50,000 words isn’t a full novel (unless you’re writing novellas, category romance or children’s books), but it’s a bloody good start.
  • It’s a great way to take a new idea for a test flight. By 50,000 words you’re going to know whether it’s got legs and, if it doesn’t, you’ve only wasted one month. In my view, that’s an efficient outcome.
  • It doesn’t need to be a novel. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about a non fiction project, a memoir, a collection of short stories or poems, a screenplay.
  • It never needs to be seen by anyone other than yourself. The book I wrote in 2009 was vaguely semi semi autobiographical shite. It will never be published – although I have used parts of it in everything I’ve written since. I’d had it in my head for so long that writing it down allowed all the other stories that had been waiting their turn behind it in my brain to come tearing out. (I think my brain is a tad like an air traffic control tower.) Anyways, that character – my runaway astrologer Alice – has her own story that I’ll be writing this year. And no, it’s no longer even vaguely semi semi autobiographical. Except for the astrologer bit.
  • It’s one month where you can experiment with different genres, different voices. Again, if it doesn’t work, you’ve only wasted a month. The year I drafted Big Girls Don’t Cry, I experimented with writing as if it were a project plan ie from the end backwards. The year I wrote Baby, It’s You, I wrote to a playlist. I wrote 3 different viewpoints in I Want You Back. Because it is only a month, you can try out different techniques to get you through the wall, through the saggy middle, and to have a little fun with the process.
  • Even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, you’ll have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning.
  • It’s great training. To be a writer you have to get in the habit of writing – every day.
  • If you’re a plotter or edit as you go, this is a great opportunity to just let the words flow. See what happens. No edits – not until December 1.
  • You get to see the graph on the nano site. It’s a great graph.
  • With nanowrimo, there’s no escape, no catch-ups. If you’ve been struggling to establish a writing habit, I can’t think of a better way to do it.

Am I entering this year? Absolutely. I have Alice’s story – or the The Book After The Book That’s After I Want You Back – to tell. It’s the last in my Melbourne Girls series and will tie up any loose ends – all the way back to Baby, It’s You.

If you’re up for it, you can sign up at the official site. You’ll find forums, events, cool widgets for your blog, emails of encouragement and a cast of hundreds of thousands of other people doing it with you. I’m Astrojo, so if you’re signing up, come follow me.

6 tips to writing a satisfying sexy scene

I’m writing this post on a Saturday afternoon. I have a zucchini slice in the oven that I’m keeping an eye on, and in the background is an annoying electrical alarm – like when the washing machine is out of balance and needs to have the load shifted. The problem is that it’s coming from next door and, as it’s been bleeping most of the day, I suspect that he put a load on before going out – and it won’t be stopping any time soon.

As for me? I’m sitting at my kitchen counter staring at my scrivener page and trying to sex up a couple of chapters. I’m working through my structural edit and my fabulously wise editor thinks there needs to be a tad more sexiness in a couple of chapters of the book.

She’s absolutely right – it was lazy writing…my words, not hers – and the scene felt, as a result, flat and lifeless. the same goes with my final chapter. It definitely needed the sensuality notched up a tad too.

So, I’m sitting here watching a zucchini slice do it’s thing and listening to the washing machine next door annoyingly bleep. My protagonists are getting sexy and hubby is now home and wants a detailed discussion about green fees and golf cart hire – and the relative value of each – at the golf course he’s looking for cost justification to join.

Each of the sex scenes in previous books has been written in equally unsexy settings – mostly on my lunch break in the food hall at Rhodes Shopping Centre with screaming kids and IKEA trolleys all around. Then there have been those scenes I’ve written while still in bed on a Saturday morning with hubby in the doorway asking if I’d like scrambled or poached eggs – or maybe an omelette?

The thing is, writing a squidgy scene isn’t a whole lot more different than writing anything else. Plus, if you let your imagination go wild, it can even be kind of fun – although it helps if you pretend that it will never be read by your mother. Speaking of which, after Mum read Wish You Were Here, she told me that she thought the sex was nicely done. Hashtag awkward. But, I digress.

One of the panel sessions I attended at RWA was about trusting your voice. Amongst other topics it touched on writing sex scenes when you’re uncomfortable doing so. The consensus from the panel – Anne Gracie, Marion Lennox, Trish Morey and Keri Arthur – was that if you’re not comfortable writing sex, that will come across. Marion Lennox – who has written over 110 romances – doesn’t write sex…and that’s how her readers like it. Trish Morey, on the other hand, writes some seriously steamy scenes and is eminently comfortable writing sex. I’m somewhere in the middle, I think.

Another of the sessions I attended at RWA the other week was a “round-table” with Amy Andrews. Essentially it was just 10 of us around a round table (hence the name) with Amy – and an opportunity to ask whatever writing related questions we wanted.

The question I asked was about her sex scenes – Amy writes scorching sex scenes. Seriously scorching ones. Not only are they hot (I already said that, right?) but they do what every satisfying scene should do – they are integral to the story.

I wanted to know if she has to get into any special sort of mood to write these – and no, I don’t mean that sort of mood, I mean as in a ritual sort of thing. Does she light candles, set mood music or maybe have some other method of getting into the right space? Actually no. She just writes.

She also had the following to say about writing them. Naturally I took notes:

  • The first sex scene between your protagonists should be the longest one in the book. It’s a turning point and a huge emotional whammy.
  • It’s also primarily an emotional act rather than a physical one. Whatever it is that our characters are doing – or how they’re doing it – we want to know how they’re feeling.
  • If you can delete the sexy bits without impacting the story, they probably shouldn’t be there. It has to advance the story in some way – either through bringing your protagonists together, pushing them apart, or complicating things enough to make a situation worse before it gets better

I’d add the following to these:

  • Sex is when we’re at our most raw, most needy, and most emotionally vulnerable – this should come across (no pun intended) in that first scene.
  • Stay away from the IKEA style tab A into tab B type of physical instructions. As, (I think it was) Anne Gracie said in the Trust Your Voice session, sex is about more than the docking procedure.
  • With your attention (and blood) diverted to areas much further south than your brain, deep and meaningful or philosophical conversations can happen before or after, but absolutely not during. Speaking of which, sex is real – as is humour – so don’t be afraid to lighten the mood as well.

So, there you have it – now I just have to put these tips into action myself. If only that bleeping washing machine would shut up!

 

Bellydancing for beginners…

Has it really been that long since I last posted here?

It’s been a pretty mad time – work and deadlines wise. My presentation for the session I’m doing at Romance Writer’s Conference next month was due on Monday (tick), and I’m working hard to fill in the gaps to get I Want You Back off for structural editing next week (on track). I’m committing to have Book 2 (still as yet untitled) in this mini trilogy ready for a structural look-see by the end of August, and Book 3 by the end of November. I know the things are tight, but because I’m working with the same three characters, over the same time-frame, I think it’s doable.

As for I Want You Back? It’s been a long haul getting this book done – partly because of the chaos of the first three months, but also partly because I just couldn’t hear my character clearly – she’s a Cancer, you see, and I suspect she was just a tad too far inside her shell for much of the time. We’ve gotten to know each other now, and every day she’s showing me more about herself. And yes, I suppose that it is weird talking about my characters as if they are real people, but in a way they are. As an aside, the session I’m delivering for RWA is about knowing your characters through astrology.

Part of the reason I’ve struggled is I’m distracted by some shiny new ideas that I’m refusing to allow myself to work on until these 3 books are out of the picture. Way back when I wrote Baby, It’s You, I had plans for these. What I hadn’t planned on was the idea for Wish You Were Here jumping on in at number 3. In the meantime I’m indulging myself with copious notes.

Behind it all, work in my day job has been pretty full-on. I’d like to say that I’m seeing the light in that particular tunnel, but I have the feeling something else will come along and obscure it again shortly.

In the meantime, I’ve been to my first belly dancing class in almost 10 years. It was really like going to my first belly dancing class ever. Aside from being 10 years older, I’m also 15 kilos heavier – most of which is around my belly.

I was worried that I’d feel like the oldest and the fattest in the room – and I definitely was the fattest – but everything was so comfortable that I very soon forgot all about that.

The idea of going back came to me a month or so ago when I decided that Callie, my protagonist in I Want You Back would begin attending a dance class. I wanted to use the dance as a sort of tracker for her progress, so it had to be something that would bring her out of the shelter she’d erected for herself. But what sort of dance would do it? The answer was simple – the sign of Cancer rules the belly, therefore it had to be belly dancing. I did mention that the session I’m delivering for RWA is about knowing your characters through astrology – didn’t I?

And, if I was sending Callie off to belly dance, there was no excuse for me not to go back too. So I added it to my winter bucket list, found my coin belt and scarf, and off I went. And I had a fabulous time. As did, spoiler alert, Callie.

Have you ever done something because you’d written it into a story? What about doing something because you wanted to write it into a story?

An interview with…Samantha Wood

 

Last week I went all out and brought you an interview with me. This week I’m talking to someone who isn’t me – and yes, I’m aware of just how that sounds!

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Samantha Wood. Her novel Bay of Shadows is available now and, spoiler alert, we share an editor…

Ok, so we can get to know each other a little better, do you have a specific genre that you write in?

Ooh, tricky one. My first book was a travel memoir, but this one is ‘gothic noir’, which sounds decidedly mysterious. My readers have called it a psychological thriller – I quite like the sound of that!

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you manage or schedule your writing around it?

I do have a day job, but I’ve been on long service leave for three months now so it feels like a lifetime ago. I work remotely for a company called Access Innovation Media – they provide captioning for television and live events so that the Deaf and hard of hearing can have access to content. I come from a Deaf family so it’s really special to be involved in the bigger picture, so to speak. (And I get to work from home in my trackies.) It’s a struggle to schedule my writing around full-time work but somehow I manage, even if it’s only a few words here and there.

Where do you write? Office, coffee shop, all of the above?

Well, I moved my office lock, stock and barrel into the garage – which also doubles as my pottery studio – but whenever I’m in Melbourne I love to haunt the State Library of Victoria. I think it’s the smell of all those old books – it is like catnip for us authors! There is so much inspiration in that beautiful place. I write most of my notes in coffee shops or outdoors – anywhere or anytime ideas strike.

What about notes? Are you old school – eg journals or manual notes – or new, ie digital?

I’m old school when it comes to notes. I also have a slight obsession with notebooks so have about six on the go at any one time. They all have different purposes: blog notes, marketing schedules, story ideas; they’re also a good way of posting my progress – or lack thereof – on Instagram for whatever project I may be working on at the time.

What made you decide to go indie?

I got sick of waiting! I’d finished the manuscript for THE BAY OF SHADOWS back in April 2016, did a big mail-out to publishers and agents alike, then waited. And waited…and waited. I got a few responses from different publishing houses saying they loved the story and would get back to me in due course. By November of that year I still hadn’t heard back from anyone so, on a suggestion from my wonderful editor, I went down the indie road, and never looked back.

What has been your biggest learning so far?

Absolutely everything! When I published late last year I had no idea about author platforms or marketing strategies – I didn’t even know what SEO stood for. The past six months have been a monumental learning curve and while it has been exhausting at times, it has been a wild ride.

Any regrets? Things you wish that you’d known or would have done differently?

Probably that I waited so long to do this, although having said that, nothing happens until the timing is right. I had the mind-set that being traditionally published was the only way to go, but going down the indie route has given me so much freedom to do things my way – from the cover design of THE BAY OF SHADOWS to the design of my website and my social media platforms; I don’t think I would have found my voice as an author if I’d secured a publishing deal from the outset. As someone mentioned to me years ago, “That’s my name on the shingle above the door,” and they were right. As an author I’m a brand so I know how best to represent myself. (And maybe I’m a secret control freak after all!)

What about your team? Do you use the same team each time?

I use the same team every time for one very important reason: they are AMAZING! Nicola O’Shea has been my editor for many years and apart from being one of the best editors anywhere, she is also a beautiful human being. Keith Stevenson does the formatting for all my books, and is also exceptional. They can both be found at ebookedit. Xou Creative did my wonderful cover design and I have all my proofreading done by Pauline at In The Garret Writing Services. My friend Mark Flores at Falcon Creative does all my video production.

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, definitely a pantser. I wish I was a plotter – they seem to have it far more together than I do.

Your desk – messy or neat? Care to share a photo?

Ah, somewhere in between. See the insulation at the back is a lovely touch.

Coffee or tea…or something else?

Coffee – as my Instagram page will attest – so so much coffee.

Music? Or do you prefer to work in silence?

I love music but I’m so easily distracted that it has to be silence. I’d even started putting in my earplugs but that was the kind of silence that was so absolute that you start to wonder if you’re still alive! The garage is down the bottom of the garden so it’s really quiet down there.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the rewrite of my next novel UNDER TEN THOUSAND STARS which is going back to my editor in August. I’ve had a couple of weeks away from it so I can’t wait to get stuck back in. Wish me luck!

Good luck…and thank you!

Bay of Shadows is available now on Amazon.

If you want to know more about Samantha and her books, you can find her here:

Samantha’s website

Samantha on Facebook

Samantha on Instagram

If you want to know more about Samantha’s team:

Ebookedit

Falcon Creative 

Xou Creative 

Pauline @ In the Garret Writing and Editorial Services – paulineprivate5@gmail.com

An interview…with me!

Over the next few months – or longer – I’ll be bringing you interviews with other indie authors or indie publishers. To get the ball rolling, I figured I’d interview myself!

 Ok, so we can get to know each other a little better, do you have a specific genre that you write in?

Absolutely…chick lit…women’s fiction…call it what you will.

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you manage or schedule your writing around it?

I do. I remotely work back to Sydney. I’m part-time, so 3 days a week I’m on spread-sheets and processes, and the other 2 days (plus whatever time I can grab on a weekend) I have for fiction. I make the absolute most of that time.

When I lived in Sydney and was working in the city 4 days a week, I’d get up at 5am and write for 45mins before I had to get ready for work – and then again every night. It all feels so much more balanced now.

Where do you write? Office, coffee shop, all of the above?

I write in my home office, sitting up in bed (promise you won’t tell my chiropractor), and also down at our local surf club at least one afternoon a week. Why wouldn’t you with this view.

What about notes? Are you old school – eg journals or manual notes – or new, ie digital?

For notes, I keep a journal that I write messily in. I’m in the process of organising my notes into bullet journal format (I wrote about that here) – and that, I think, is going to change my life #notexaggerating

What made you decide to go indie?

I’ve written about that before – you can find the post here. Essentially it boils down to creative control. Thinking about recently when I trashed my novel and decided to turn it into 3 novelettes, there’s no way a traditional publisher who had accepted my original pitch would have allowed me to do what I’m doing.

My next projects are a huge departure from what I’ve done before too – being an indie gives me the ability to take my career in the direction that I want it to go – for better or for worse.

What has been your biggest learning so far?

This whole thing has been a huge learning curve, but my biggest takeaway is that indie publishing is absolutely not about overnight success. I thought I knew that, but I’m not sure that I knew it…if you know what I mean.

Any regrets? Things you wish that you’d known or would have done differently?

No regrets. They don’t work (to quote Robbie Williams). The thing I wish I knew? Just how important an email list and social media platform is.

What about your team? Do you use the same team each time?

I do. I use Nicola O’Shea for my editorial work, and Keith Stevenson for formatting. You can find them at ebookedit. I also use the same cover designer – Jacinda May.

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, although, for my next project (no spoiler alert) I’m going to need to learn how to plot…at least a little…

 Your desk – messy or neat? Care to share a photo?

I’m trying to be neat at present. My office is right near the front door, so visible to anyone coming into our house. Plus, I’m juggling partition with creative work, so need the clean lines of division. I even use 2 separate laptops. The one constant is my muse – Kali, @adventurespaniel

Coffee or tea…or something else?

Tea…or wine!

Music? Or do you prefer to work in silence?

I create playlists – or mixed tapes – for each project I work on. This really helps with re-writes. When I’m writing, though, I pop my headphones on and play anything from the classics to indie songwriters.

What are you working on right now?

The I Want You Back trilogy. I’m about to start the re-write and can’t wait to get stuck back into it.

What I’m working on…

After trashing my book (remember, I told you about it here), I’ve put it back together enough that it’s now gone off to my editor for a structural look-see. Rather than do a full structural edit, at this point it’s about working out whether I’m on the right track.

You see, what I’m doing with this one is splitting it into three short novels – almost novellas in length. They’ll each be around the 50,000 word mark – about the length of a Sydney commute. Because they’re three different stories occurring in the same timeframe, there are crossovers that I have to keep an eye on through the editing process of each.

Each character is not only telling her own story, but also giving her perspective into the story of the others. Confused already? You wouldn’t be alone. In drafting no.2 of this series (at the moment untitled, so I’m referring to it as Tiffany), I’ve already worked out at least three places where I Want You Back (Callie’s story) needs re-work and layering. Callie herself is still feeling a tad passive – so I suspect more will need to be made of her motivations.

Anyways, the plan is to release them all a month after each other – which essentially means that I’ll need at least two ready to go before the first is published.

Yes, that does put a certain amount of pressure on me. While I Want You Back is off getting the assessment treatment, Tiffany is being drafted. I’m giving myself just a month to do this.

What I’m discovering as part of this process is that in writing quickly, not only is my voice coming through more clearly, but I have less time to faff about and deliberate over whether I’m doing the right thing, or not being clever enough. I have less time to second guess myself.

Sure, it makes the reviewing process a nightmare, but as they say, you can’t edit words that haven’t been written.

As well as madly drafting Tiffany, I’m also building the story for Alice in my head and gathering ideas for the covers and titles.

These three books (or book-ettes) are sequels to Baby, It’s You, so not only do I want to keep the cover design the same, I also want to add that same feeling of light and fun to the cover.

In the month prior to release date of I Want You Back, I’ll run a special promotion on Baby, It’s You, as for the publication date itself? I’m aiming for September, but that will depend on how much work I need to do to get I Want You Back to publishable standard.

I’ll keep you posted on that one…

My writing playlist…

So anyways, you know how I told you last time that I’d trashed my novel and I was now writing three short novels – almost novella length? Well, it’s going well again – thanks for asking. It’s almost as if once I told Tiff and Alice that they’d have their own books – and wouldn’t need to wait for too long to get them – that they behaved. Now I can hear Callie loud and clear.

I can also hear Callie’s playlist – or mixed tape – more clearly – so of course I’m going to share it with you. Naturally, you can youtube or spotify or download or do whatever it is that you do to listen to music if you don’t know some of these songs. Some of you might be too young to know some of these songs – some of you won’t have even been born when a couple of these came out.

As an aside, I never knew that Manfred Mann’s Blinded By the Light was actually written by Bruce Springsteen. Now, there’s a little something for your useless book of knowledge. Yes, I was surprised too – not as surprised as I was to hear about real life zombie jellyfish, but that’s some trivia for another time. You’re welcome.

Ok, to the playlist for I Want You Back:

I Want You Back – Bananarama

Here With Me – Dido

Love Me Like You – Little Mix

Any Other World – Mika

Especially For You – Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan

When We Were Young – Adele

Busting Loose – Moving Pictures

Xanadu – Sarah Blasko

Hot Summer Night – Night

Blinded By The Light (the extended play version with the seriously funky guitar work in the break) – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

Turn The Lights On – Natalie Bassingthwaite

Jar of Hearts – Christina Perri

Please Don’t Say You Love Me  – Gabrielle Aplin

The Way You Are Tonight – Missy Higgins

How to seek permission to use song lyrics – and why you should…

I was well into the final version of Baby, It’s You, when I realised that I’d need to seek permission to reproduce a few lines from a song, One Crowded Hour, by Augie March.

When I was telling the guys at work about this, I got a combination of:

‘Really? It’s just a few lines!’

‘Really? I’d operate on the use now and ask for forgiveness later basis!’

I even got the:

‘Really? It’s not like anyone is ever going to read it to know….’ Ouch.

The thing is, if you want to use (commercially) anything by another artist, you have to seek permission to do so. That means discovering who owns the copyright and contacting them to ask permission – and being prepared to pay a fee for the privilege to do so.

When it comes to songs, that’s easier said than done. You might know who has performed it, but who actually wrote it?

The thing is, most performers don’t actually own the rights to their work. Instead those rights are assigned or licensed to their publisher. It’s the music publisher who collects the royalties and arranges the distribution of them. As a result, most songs will belong on one of the following performing rights databases:

You can search by song title, and will get the publishers name and contact details from this. This post has some great information in it and was a wealth of information for me.

What about the concept of fair use, I hear you ask. Despite watching every episode of Rake and The Good Wife, my knowledge of the legal system* is not comprehensive enough for me to risk it – and nor would I want to. Even if you’re just using a single line, it’s common for the music industry to say you need permission.

After all, even though Baby, It’s You was my first book, I was going into this venture with a view of eventually making a living from my writing. I had to, therefore, approach the transaction as as a business would. The way I figured it, to assume I would only sell a handful or a couple of hundred copies of Baby, It’s You would be like planning for failure. What if I sold thousands and then got a cease and desist notice from the publishers? This was one occasion where it could be far cheaper to request permission and pay the probably nominal fee than to deal with the consequences of not doing so.

Most important of all, though, those few lines i wanted to use were someone else’s creative product – and the artist responsible for those few lines deserves to reap the rewards for their work. Would I be happy with someone doing the same to me without permission or credit? No, I wouldn’t.

Song titles are a different matter. Except in a few circumstances, song titles aren’t usually subject to copyright. The official argument is because they are short and don’t represent sufficient originality of thought. How many CDs have you picked up with the same title? Books? Songs? Exactly.

Naturally, though, there are some titles that are iconic enough or long enough or original enough that you’d probably want to check it out first. In fact, to be on the safe side, I’d be checking all of them out anyway– but that’s just me. As an aside, I’m sure I read somewhere about how Taylor Swift placed a copyright on the term “shake it off”… Of course, if could be just an urban myth, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be testing it.**

Anyways, this problem – of obtaining permission – is not restricted to the indie author.

When you sign a publishing contract, most will have something in it stating that the work is entirely yours. The contract may have something in there about whose responsibility it is to seek permission for copyright owned by others. Usually, unless you’re important enough to have minions for this, it falls upon the author to obtain the appropriate ok, although most publishers should be able to assist you with the process.

So, how did I go with my request?

As I said earlier, I was looking to use three lines from One Crowded Hour by Augie March. Through the performing rights database I managed to find the name of their management – who forwarded my request to the publisher.

In my email, I told them:

  • That I was self-publishing a work of fiction
  • That the work would be available digitally on the Amazon and iBooks platforms
  • The lines I was wanting to use
  • I included the passage that the lines were in – for context

I requested they forward the request to the song’s publishers for approval, and also stated that as I had a limited budget, I hoped they’d consider my request for no fee.

They came back and also wanted to know the name of the licensee (that would be me as the author), the estimated RRP, and the number of units I hoped to sell. For this last one, I advised the number I needed to sell in order to break even. (As an aside, consider this one carefully – often there’s a difference between a fee for an estimated 1000 copies versus 100,000 copies.)

Permission was granted – for a cost of $200 – which I thought a tad steep. I was expecting maybe $50, or even $100.

In the end I decided not to include the lines and rewrote the passage. I was already over budget on the project and I don’t think the story suffered at all from the omission.

I’m coming across a similar problem in I Want You Back, but this time I’m choosing to write around the lyrics instead of quoting them. As much as I’d love to include something by Bananarama or Manfred Mann (you’ll need to read it to find out why) I’ll be resisting the temptation.

Have you ever used lyrics in your work? How did you go about seeking permission?

*which is, of course, why you should always seek appropriate qualified legal advice and not rely on posts like these! This post should NOT be relied upon as advice .

** and nor should you. This post should NOT be relied upon as advice . I already said that…right?