June 9, 2012 in Dag

Hey you – lay off my title

This post is about something I thought was pretty funny that happened a few weeks ago. But I’m not going to tell you what it is straight away. Today is the first day of a lovely long weekend, and I’m feeling a bit laid back and lazy, so we’re just going to meander a bit first.

The topic of this posting is titles – ie book titles, not Sir or Mr or Your Reverence (though I reckon I wouldn’t mind of somebody did call me Your Reverence).

Titles for my books are something that I both struggle with and also like to have a bit of fun with (if that doesn’t sound totally contradictory). When I start writing, I usually have no idea what the title will be. I usually think of my books as “the fantasy story” or “the insect story” but I know at some point I’ll need a title, and I know that title will need to be catchy and interesting while also capturing the essence of the book.

My strategy for title selection is inspired by one of my all-time favourite bands, R.E.M. I’ve mentioned before how much my writing is “influenced” (I hate that word – sounds so pretentious – but can’t think of a better one) by music. R.E.M. is a band that always had fun choosing their song names. I wondered for years why one of my favourites of their songs had the odd title Country Feedback even though that seemed to have nothing to with the song lyrics, till I discovered it’s actually a reference to the two guitar styles used in the song. And I love how they could take a catchy little song recorded in 1989 and just title it Pop Song 89.

I began playing with my titles when I started writing short stories. While I was taking a writing class years ago, I wrote a modernisation of the fairytale about the shoemaker and the elves – in this version, a computer writes stories while a writer sleeps – but to maintain the reference I titled it A Shoemaker’s Tale. It was interesting to see that while a few fellow students picked the fairytale reference in the title, not one was able to recognise the original source.

I’ve already gone on a bit in other forums about how my novella Doodling received its title.  A number of readers have criticised it as a choice but to be honest I could never think of anything better – using something like Neville in the Asteroids or Stop the World just wouldn’t work for me.

When I choose my titles, I also make sure that they’re as original as possible. For Flidderbugs, I did a bunch of Googling to make sure I could find a word nobody had used before. Ditto for Magnus Opum, as I wanted it to be original and catchy. Which is where the funny bit comes in…

Barely a month after Magnus Opum was published, after all the work I put into coming up with an original title, someone else has published a book with the same name. There are now two Magnus Opums on Amazon. I have to say I’m not super upset – it’s a free world and you can’t copyright a title. And maybe somebody looking for that book will find mine instead. But I do know one thing for sure.

I had it first.

Have a great weekend. 

June 2, 2012 in Dag

Introducing the Alexandria Publishing Group

Good news.

Today (for a change) I’m actually not in apologising mode.

Today I’ve got an exciting announcement to make. I’m a little bit late because actually the big launch was yesterday (curse this time difference) but as I’m not the sort of person who likes to miss out, I’m going to shout out about it anyway.

As of the 1st of June, 2012, a new venture in publishing has arrived – the Alexandria Publishing Group.

The Alexandria Publishing Group is a publishing collective. We’re a group of independent writers who have banded to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. We have created a brand that we hope will show to readers that we independent writers care just as much about quality, whether that be quality of story, quality of editing, quality of presentation, as any writer at a big publishing company. And we want to show to all others out there in the writing world, whether that be bloggers or reviewers or even other publishers, that we know how to behave in a professional manner.

As for me, I’m not the sort generally that likes to crow about how great my books are – the next time I make a fuss about how perfect my writing is, I’m likely to find half a dozen readers all pointing out errors that they’ve found. What is really gratifying about being involved in this collective is that I wasn’t the one who made that call. A group of my peers, who are familiar with my writing, invited me to join the group, which I took as a terrific compliment.

Of course, credit where credit is due. I have to thank Valerie Douglas for all her work in setting this up, and also Kai Wilson whose technical expertise and endless patience has resulted in a fantastic looking site.

So if you’re looking to find some great writing in a variety of genres, please come to our site at http://alexandriapublishinggroup.com.  Check out the books on offer and learn about the writers involved.

And if you’re quick, there are also a bunch of books being given away over the next couple of days, including two of mine. Check out our press release for more information.

Hope to see you there and happy reading. 

May 27, 2012 in Dag

This is not a funny post

Ok, it looks like I’m on apology mode again.

I’m sorry to have to do this. I did it last week, when I never got around to writing that post about procrastination (and obviously, I haven’t got around to doing that this week either).

This time, I’m afraid the problem is even more acute. I’m warning you now, this is not a funny post. There are no laughs. Definitely not any chuckles. Not even any slight giggles. Look closely, I promise you – you won’t find any.

This seems like a pretty bad thing to do from my angle. After all, humour is my schtick. I’m meant to be going for the giggles and the chuckles and the belly laughs. And everybody tells me that my blog is a big part of some thingumajig called my platform, which I’m meant to be using to help build my brand. So if my brand is meant to be funny stuff, that’s exactly what I should be doing right here.

Except I’ll tell you the problem – it’s hard. Damn hard. Here I am, at the end of a weekend, with a busy week of work ahead, and I’m meant to just sit down at the computer and do funny. Sorry folks – not gonna happen. Believe me, it’s not that easy to switch it on. Books is one thing. Every laugh, hell even every slight smile is the result of days and weeks of agonising over the words to use to get it exactly right. On a Sunday night, do you reckon I’m going to be agonising over this post? You gotta be kidding me.

That’s the thing with us writers of humour. We’re not necessarily the funny ones. We’re not the people who would get up on stage and do jokes (and believe me, if I got up on stage, it would not be funny for anyone involved). We’re the ones in the background, wrestling with the words. We’re the ones who, take our time to work on things. If I was a stand-up and I had to deal with hecklers, you’d have to come back in three months time to hear my brilliant riposte.

And it’s funny how people forget that. Years ago, I went to a comedy writer’s conference. One of the speakers was the organiser of the Melbourne Comedy Festival (the third biggest in the world if you didn’t know). She went on and on about how great the festival was for performers, not realising that the people sitting before her in stony silence were actually not performers at all. Gong!!

So there you have it. Not funny tonight. Apologies for anyone who came here tonight expecting a barrel of mirth. Maybe next week – but then again probably not.

And if you did find yourself laughing while you read this, I take absolutely no responsibility for that. It was clearly someone else’s fault.

Have a great week. 

May 20, 2012 in Dag

Procrastinators ahoy!

Let me start by apologising in advance for this post – or rather for this lack of post.

I had such a great idea for a post today. It was inspired by a comment left last week by Andy Gavin. Recall that last week, I was talking about the different types of approaches to writing – plotters and pantsers and my own particular invention (which I’m thinking of trademarking), plontsers. Andy commented about how he was finding ways to not write and that got me to thinking. There is another type of approach to writing which is the most common one of all – the procrastinator.

So that was my idea. I was going to write a really clever and funny and witty post about how no matter whether you’re a pantser or a plotter (or a plontser – and no you can’t use that term – it’s mine), the likelihood is that if you’re a true writer, than you’re really a procrastinator. I know I am. Procrastination is my middle name. Well actually it’s David, but they share a couple of the same letters. I once even wrote a comedy sketch about a super hero who’s always procrastinating – Procrasto-Man. He never gets around to saving the day, but to the people of Slotham City, he’s a true hero.

So what can I say? I honestly did have good intentions. This was going to be such a great post.  There are a bunch of reasons why I didn’t end up doing it:

  1. Work has been really crazy busy and it’s been hard to find time to think
  2. I’ve actually been slightly unwell this week. Ok, it was really just a bit of a head cold but you know how that can slow you down
  3. It was my daughter’s birthday this week and we had the whole family over – and you know what it’s like when family come over
  4. My team (Collingwood – the Mighty Magpies) had a great win in the football (over Geelong – the defending champions) so I was pretty excited by that for a while
  5. I actually managed to get some work done on my next book – I even got a second draft completed. 

So you see there are lots of really good reasons why I kept on putting off actually writing this post. With all my heart, I apologise again. Please come back next week as hopefully by then I’ll be able to make some time to write this post.

Have a great week – if you manage to get around to it. 

May 16, 2012 in Dag

How do you find reliably good cheap reads? – Guest post by Tahlia Newland

Today I’m pleased to welcome Tahlia Newland, an author who writes magical realism & fantasy for young adults and adults. Her first publication, A Matter of Perception, is a diverse collection of thematically linked short stories, and her young adult magical realism novella, Give me a Break, comes out in mid June.


How do you find reliably good cheap reads?

Imagine that you’ve just got an ereader and you’re looking for some cheap books to buy. Maybe you’re a student, or simply on a tight budget, but books under $5 are looking good, 99c and free books are looking even better, until you try a few. It soon becomes clear that there are two kinds of free and 99c books:

  • those written by authors of a professional standard who are providing a sample of their work at a cheap price to encourage you to buy more of their writing. These come in three forms,
    o    a short story as an advertisement,
    o    the first novel in a series, to get you hooked on the series,
    o    a stand alone novel where the author has more books available to purchase
    o    a limited time promotion of a single novel or collection of short stories to try to raise the books ratings and hence its visibility to the browsing public.
  • those written by authors who can’t get their work read any other way,

Some of the cheap books clearly aren’t very good; some are pretty average; some are okay; some are every bit as good as a book you would pay more for if it was published by a traditional publishing house, and some are pure Indie gold ie something new and exciting that is well written.

So how do you find books you can guarantee are worth spending your time reading? Apart from the blurb and the cover, you can sample a book (though you can’t do that with the free ones on Amazon), you can read the reviews or you can buy only those in the top 100. But it doesn’t take you long to discover that:

  • you can’t tell a book by its cover or its blurb
  • a book can start out with promise and plummet to miserable depths very quickly
  • reader’s reviews are unreliable. I have had several instances where I have bought books that on Goodreads had an average of over 4 stars with about 20 reviews and discovered that despite the fact that many readers loved the book enough to give it 5 stars, it was poorly written. Readers know what they like, they recognise a good story and great characters but they don’t necessarily recognise when the story is poorly written. If you do, then you want a more reliable method of recommendation.
  • Just because a book sells well doesn’t mean that it is well written. It could be selling well because it’s free.

So you look for sites that might help you to negotiate the plethora of cheap ebooks and you find:

  • sites where authors pay to be featured. There is no quality control on these sites at all. As a reader looking for quality, these are useless. All they are telling you is which author has an advertising budget.
  • sites where authors don’t pay to be featured but there is still no quality basis for the listing.
  • sites based on reader reviews. These are unreliable for the reason mentioned above. The best option here is find a few review sites whose tastes mirror your own and follow that person’s recommendations. The trouble is that many of them either don’t review the cheap books or they rarely do, so you can be whetting your appetite for books you can’t afford to buy, while waiting weeks or months to hear of a good one that you can buy.

What you need is a site where books are listed based on quality as decided by people in the business of writing, people who presumably know their craft well enough to be able to notice if the book is well written or not.

When I was looking for such a site, there wasn’t one, but there is one now because I set it up. It’s called The Awesome Indies.

Because all the books are independently published and therefore don’t have the overheads of a big company, the author/publisher can afford to charge less for their books than a traditional publishing house. Most of the books on the site are less than $5, many are $2.99, single short stories are 99c and some are free. Most of these books have occasional special promotions where they are free or cheaper for a short period of time, but all of them are excellent quality, so if you’re looking for quality cheap books then this really is the place.

What do you think of the idea behind this site? Will it be useful for you?

Author details

Tahlia is an avid reader, an extremely casual high school teacher and an occasional mask-maker. She has studied philosophy & meditation for many years and likes to write inspiring & empowering stories that question the nature of reality, mind and perception. After scripting and performing in Visual Theatre shows for 20 years, she is now a bona-fide expatriate of the performing arts. She lives in an Australian rainforest, is married with a teenage daughter and loves cats, but she doesn’t have one because they eat native birds.

Author links