linda collison's Sea of Words

charting a course from imagination to publication

Audiobook Now Available

Looking for Redfeather

Looking for Redfeather, a coming-of-age-on-the-road novel (and tongue-in-cheek homage to Jack Kerouace) is now out as an audiobook, read by actor Aaron Landon! Great listening for your next road trip!

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Today, November 30, is the last day of National Novel Writing Month and I have not completed my novel, not even close.  Although I didn’t officially register for the event this year, I did make the commitment to write a novel of at least 55,000 words during the month of November. Thirty days later, here I am, still in labor. No end in sight.

Pregnant Sillouette.Eps

“Ok, let’s examine the situation here,” my nurse says.  “Spread your legs, hon, let me have a look.”  

Me, panting.  “Wait, nurse; I feel a contraction coming on!”

Nurse feels my abdomen and looks at the fetal monitor at the bedside.  Then, when the gripping pain has passed, reaches up into my nether parts and frowns.  “You’re only dilated to 3 centimeters.”  Shakes head.  “You’ve got a way to go, girl. Probably won’t happen by the end of my shift.”

Well that’s encouraging. Not.

“Let’s be honest. Did you even start the novel, hon?

Yes!  Absolutely! My water broke and I experienced an encouraging warm flood of words as I rushed to the keyboard to capture them.

“Mmm.  That’s nice.  But how many words did you actually write this month?

“Ten thousand one hundred and seventeen.  Somehow it looks like more when it’s spelled out like that.  I don’t know, maybe I didn’t devote enough time to the project?  But there were circumstances beyond my control.  (There are no good excuses, saith Mr. Yealy, my sixth grade teacher, who also proclaimed the only certainty in life was death and taxes.)  Actually, I should be working on it still, right this minute, it’s not yet midnight, there is still time.  But I’m discouraged.  Do I still have to go through with it?   Can’t you sedate me?  To hell with this natural shit,  OK, I AM BEGGING FOR A C-SECTION!  MAKE IT STOP!

“Dream on, sister. No Caesarian deliveries for you.  Now look at me, Look. At. Me.  Good.  Now breathe with me, breathe through the pain, come on hon, you can do this, I got your back!”

I want to throw my keyboard at her.  Obviously there is only one way out for me.  I need to finish writing the damn story. Nothing to do but keep writing.  Keep breathing. Keep tapping out the words.  If only I could have a wee glass of wine?

Satisfied my vital signs are stable and there are no signs of fetal distress, the nurse leaves and from the adjoining room I soon hear the sounds of activity.  “Dad, stand right over here if you will.  “Atta girl, push now, push push push!”  Grunts, pants, and the clinking of stainless steel instruments on a tray.  OMG, somebody is delivering right now!  A baby is being born!  A thousand babies are being born and thousands of writers all over the world are completing their manuscripts tonight, champagne corks are popping!  It’s a boy!  It’s a girl! Good job, mom!  Congratulations, Dad!

But no one is celebrating in my room.  My husband has left for another coffee break, or maybe he’s at happy hour with his friends, he’s given up on me, surely.  I stifle a sniffle, feeling very sorry for myself. I have failed. Then nurse comes back, hands on hips.

“OK, buck up woman!  No pity parties allowed.  Time to ask yourself some hard questions.”

Another sniffle.  “OK.  Like what?”

“Like, what have you learned about writing these past thirty days?”

I haven’t a clue.  I search my tired brain.  “That’ it’s OK not to produce? I mean, sometimes the demands of everyday life seem to suck away all my creative energy.  Some days, especially this month, it was all I could do  to hunker in my life raft and wait for the storm to pass.”

Nurse checks her watch and examines her nails.

“I’ve also learned that one reason why I write fiction is to exert control and order over somebody else’s life, since my own life seems to be ungoverned.  But even my fictional characters have minds of their own.  My plots get waylaid, blown out of the water constantly, wrecking my outline all to hell but resulting in a much more interesting story.  When I’m writing I’m discovering.  It hurts to write but I feel more alive when I do.

“Yeah, whatever.  So, what is the point of National Novel Writing Month?”

Uh, to get your story out of your head and onto the page? To deliver a baby, however imperfect, even if it has a face only a mother could love?

Nurse smiles sweetly. “You’ve had the power to finish your novel all along, Dorothy.  Just tap your ruby slippers together three times and push out that child.”

Oh, hell, that’s a mixed metaphor.   But hey,  I’ve got my second wind now.  Let’s do this thing!  Nurse, start the pitocin drip and stand by!  I feel another contraction coming on…

 

Congratulations to all the 2014 NaNoWriMo participants!  

 

Mother's hands holding a newborn baby.

 

 

Looking for Redfeather BOYA 10003076_10203553731672707_1146057099_n

The first draft of my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel, Looking for Redfeather, was delivered in 30 days — but took six more years to rewrite, edit, and publish.

How we Write; a series of guest posts about the art, craft, and business of writing

SeymourHamiliton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today my guest is Seymour Hamilton, author of the Astreya Trilogy, an historical fantasy adventure in a maritime setting.

Seymour and I have been discussing the pros and cons of audio formats.  My novel, Looking for Redfeather,  read by Aaron Landon,is for sale as an audio download from Audible.  Seymour has taken a different approach with his audio format — he is giving away downloads through Podiobooks.  Read more about his process:

Should I make an audio version of my book?

Short answer: Yes.

Here are some reasons to record, then some of the decisions you need to make before you start.

Reason #1

Reading (and recording) your novel is the best investment you can make in editing

your work. As you read — and as you listen to the playback — you will notice infelicities

in phrasing, awkwardnesses in order, accidental repetitions, purple flourishes,

unconscious mimicking of other writers, and occasions when you are beating the

dead horse of too much detail. You will be doing what good and great authors alike

have done for centuries, and as a special benefit, you will understand what is meant

by ‘finding your voice.’

Reason #2

Some people like hearing books as opposed to reading them. Some want to listen as

they drive long, boring distances. Some are visually impaired. Some just like hearing

someone read them a story. They constitute an audience that isn’t served by print or e-
books.

Reason # 3

People who listen to books sometimes buy them. The jury is out on how much this

is true, but my preliminary analysis is optimistic: in the two months after Astreya:

The Voyage South was available in podcast audio, sales of the physical and ebook

improved significantly, some of the bump being sales of volume two of the trilogy,

presumably purchased by people who wanted to know what happens next. Moreover,

I received fan mail asking me when they would be able to listen to the next book in the

trilogy.

Reason #4

Audiobooks offer instant download, just like e-books, but with audiobooks, you can track

where you’re selling as well as how much. Podiobooks.com and its technical provider

LibSyn provide detailed analysis of when and where your podcast version is being

downloaded and read. I discovered that (as I expected) my major market was the US,

then Canada, then the UK, New Zealand and Australia. However, I was surprised and

delighted to find that I also had listeners in Norway, Germany, and a long list of other

places including (!) Thailand. Why? — My guess is the ex-pat community of people who

speak English in countries that don’t.

 

OK, you’ve decided. What’s next?

Before you start, you should know that you are about to invest time (for sure), money

(a little to a lot) and effort (above and beyond what you have already put into your

completed manuscript).

 

Sell or Give?

Decide whether you want to sell your audiobook version, or give it away. I give mine

away, free. Podiobooks encourages listeners to “tip” the author. So far I’ve received

nothing, but I’m encouraged by Reason # 3, above, to believe that far from hurting

sales, my audio version is encouraging them.

You can make your audiobook available through your website, but you need a server

“behind” your site. At SeymourHamilton.com you can click on podcasts of my books,

chapter by chapter and either listen, or download to listen later. The recordings

themselves are not on my site because that would cost far too much beyond the cost

of standard site, because there is no “room” on most sites to store, provide access and

manage the recordings and the accessing needs of people all over the world. You need

a specialized sound service such as SoundCloud or Podiobooks. Podiobooks.com

specializes on books. Its servers contain and manage, my books and many, many

more by authors old and new. Podiobooks offers people in search of free audiobooks a

“bookstore” where they can browse, knowing that they will find an acceptable technical

quality of recordings and the electronic delivery thereof. Behind Podiobooks is LibSyn,

the server/technical service, which is system of servers “where the recordings are” and

where I go to find constantly updated statistics on how my books are doing.

Free is fine, but on the other hand, who can argue with a royalty check? However,

before you go to an on-line company that will pay you per download, consider both your

percentage of the take, and your up-front costs. There’s a saw-off between a turnkey

approach wherein you send someone your manuscript and wait for the money to roll in

(don’t hold your breath); and taking control of the process in one of more of the roles of

producer, reader and technician.

Cost/Quality decisions: Hire a reader or read it yourself?

There are lots of out-of-work actors out there who would love to read for you — at a

price. Don’t decide only on the basis of how the actor sounds to you — still less on

how he or she looks. Work “blind” by email, listen to recording samples. Have the

actor audition by reading a page or so of your book. Insist on credentials, preferably

in podcasting, radio or voicing animated cartoons. Find out if he or she is sufficiently

qualified and experienced to do the electronic technical work. If not, either get yourself

a producer or do the sound-editing and processing yourself.

On the other hand, do it ALL yourself. The cost of recording at home is low. You need

a quiet room and a good microphone — not just the one that comes in your computer. I

use a Blue Snowball for around $200. A friend loaned me a more expensive mic, but

it was so sensitive that in the context of my reading, it was like putting a gold link in a

copper bracelet. Software to record and process is free-to-inexpensive. I use Audacity

to record and Levelator to process, both of which are free.

Recording your book takes time. A lot of time. I’m on my third book and getting better,

that is, more efficient, but I find that every hour of completed, published podcast of 45

minutes to an hour requires at least five hours of recording, editing and processing at

my desk with a microphone and my trusty MacBook Pro.

Caveat: this isn’t my first rodeo. I acted in plays at school, was subjected to singing

lessons, did free-lance work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the 70s, and

lectured at universities about Dead English Poets for more than 20 years during which I

always read the poems out loud.

 

Now go back to Reason #1. Whether or not you go audio, decide to read your book out

loud into your computer, and then listen to what you have recorded. Once you get over

the fact that your voice sounds completely different from what you’ve been listening to

for years while you were talking, you’ll find that you have a secret weapon for improving

what you write. So, read what you write BEFORE you send it away to be published! If

nothing else, your descendants will be able to hear you reading your stuff, long after you

are no longer punching away at your keyboard.

 

Seymour Hamilton

Seymour Hamilton was born in 1941 during an air raid on London, England.  After the war, his family moved to Mauritius for three years, where he was home schooled, and read books by Ransome, Kipling, Henty, Marryatt and Slocum.  In 1949, his family moved to Canada, where he remained, apart from trips and holidays and one horrible year at school in England.  He studied English, because he liked reading, which led to a BA, an MA and Canada’s first PhD on Science Fiction. He spent half his working life as an English teacher at Canadian universities from east to west coast, and the other half as a writer/editor for government and industry.  He retired in 2005, and by 2011 completed The Astreya Trilogy, which features a mysterious inheritance, sailing ships, treacherous relatives, night escapes, knife fights, secret passages and a long voyage to a lasting love.  The Laughing Princess, twelve stories involving dragons, was published in 2012 and a translation by Jessica Knauss, La Princesa Valiente a year later.  A new edition of The Laughing Princess, illustrated by Shirley MacKenzie, appears in time for Christmas, 2014.
You can listen to him reading his books (free!) at Seymour Hamilton.com.

women_nelsonnavy_lowdeck

Catherine Curzon is the writer behind the personae Madame Gilflurt, whose online “salon” I attend on a frequent basis.  Her blog, A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Glorious Georgian dispatches from the Long Eighteenth Century, reminds me of  an eighteenth century broadsheet; it’s newsy, lively, highly entertaining and always instructive.  Madame writes concisely about people, fashion, places, and events of the day — the details that bring the past to life.  Or she features salon guests, such as novelist Alicia Rasley, to share some titillating bit of 18th century life.  Rasley’s topic, posted today, is about masquerades – a favorite subject of mine.  I sometimes use Madame’s posts as writing prompts to explore my own fictional characters and settings.

I wanted to know more about Catherine’s writing process.  For instance, how did she come up with her persona, the ginbag Madame Gilflurt?  How does she know so much about the “long eighteenth century?”  Is her blogging an end in itself or is there a novel forthcoming? Madame was kind enough to give me some insight.  Catherine Curzon, a.k.a. Madame Gilflurt, says:

 

Ever since I can remember, my life has been full of tall tales. Throughout childhood

I sat at my granddad’s knee in his cottage on the edge of Sherwood Forest and

listened with relish to tales of outlaws and highwayman, of willow the wisps in the

trees and, somewhat improbably as I later realised, the full-blooded tale of Lord

Byron’s ghost who, he claimed, haunted the rural pub in whose beer garden we

passed many happy weekend afternoons.

 

Those stories have never left me and whether bawdy, bloodcurdling of just plain

silly, my granddad’s tall tales made an indelible mark on my life. Add to that a

fateful children’s toy brought for me during a pre-school shopping trip and you

have the makings of who I have since become. As a child my sister and I loved

paper cutout dolls and we made our own though my sister was always the more

artistic of the two so imagine my delight when we were both treated to a Marie

Antoinette paper cutout doll set, featuring the iconic queen and a whole host of

bewigged flunkies. I fell in love with everything about the queen and her retainers

from the fine clothes to the powdered hair, the glittering jewels and, best of all, my

granddad’s spirited retelling of the gruesome fate that befell her.

 

My love affair with Marie Antoinette gradually began to expand and grow, as

these things do, and before too long I was nursing a fascination with the long

18th century. Growing up where I did, I was lucky enough to pay regular visits to

Chatsworth, Haddon and Hardwick and in each of these places I would picture my

fine ladies and dashing fellows, filling the houses with a thousand childish stories of

my own making. Eventually I began to tell stories of my own though these weren’t

period pieces, unless you count a novel I wrote set in 1957, but all the time the

glorious Georgians were nagging at me.

 

For all the love and support of my colonial gentleman , he is not quite as fascinated

with Georgian history as I and after several years of marriage, it became achingly

apparent that I really needed an outlet for the 18th century stories that were

clogging up my brain and, so, A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life was born.

My approach to blog writing is very disciplined and, since I publish a new tale every

single day, it has to be. I gather notes, inspiration and stories from everywhere and

keep them logged in a spreadsheet by date then, every so often, I dive right in. I

take myself off to my favourite coffee shop, where my order of a sparkling water and

pot of tea is ready before I even ask for it, sit at my computer and absorb myself in

the world of the Georgians. In the space of a few dedicated hours and with a steady

supply of tea and music, I might write a dozen first draft posts. I’ll then hone them

over the coming days, sure to keep a few scheduled and ready to go at any one time.

If I get to my blog and see one or two posts there, then it’s time to buckle down and

really get to it; I love sharing stories of the Georgian era so it’s really no chore.

When I started blogging I really thought that it might be fun for a couple of months

and hoped, if I was lucky, that a few dozen people might visit the site and perhaps

lose a couple of minutes there. Instead I’ve been blessed to meet readers, writers

and history enthusiasts from all over the world. Over the year and a bit that I’ve

been publishing the site I’ve featured guest posts from some favourite authors, read

advance copies of their work and even advised on the state of French roads in 1792!

 

All of this has been an enormous boost of confidence as I work at my own latest

novel, The Mistress of Blackstairs, in the determination that, unlike my three

unpublished non-historical works, it will not go unread by all but a few trusted

friends! I am on the second draft of Blackstairs right now and the coffee shop is the

same, as is the tea and water, the music and concentration. The only difference is

that this is fiction, just like those stories granddad used to tell me of Lord Byron’s

restless ghost and a pub in Blidworth Bottoms!

madameGilflurt

 

Glorious Georgian ginbag, gossip and gadabout Catherine Curzon, aka Madame

Gilflurt, is the author of A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. When not setting

quill to paper, she can usually be found gadding about the tea shops and gaming

rooms of the capital or hosting intimate gatherings at her tottering abode. In

addition to her blog at www.madamegilflurt.com, Madame G can also be spotted on

Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

 

 

 

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