linda collison's Sea of Words

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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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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+.

 

 

 

 

Friday NightIn this golden age of indie-publishing some writers still want to go the traditional route, which means finding a literary agent to represent your brainchild. It’s all rather backward in my opinion; I mean, why aren’t agents researching writers and querying us?  But that ain’t happening. And so we ever-hopeful writers, like proud and babbling parents of slightly gifted children continue to send letters to perfect strangers.  “Sir or Madame won’t you read my book…”

Agents claim (and sometimes complain) to receive hundreds, thousands, or bazillions of these letters a week.  Why do we writers keep pestering them?  To read some of their tweets, we are pathetic risable bores.  Yet agents make their living representing writers — not heaping scorn upon us.  They’re all looking to find the Next Big Thing.

Agents will succumb to a well-targeted query but you’ll need a heat-seeking missile to escape the trash can’s tractor beam.  Your query has to be sharp and shining to hit the mark. It has to make them want to read your manuscript — want it enough to actually hit “reply” and ask you to send it.  Now you’ve got your foot in the door. It’s only the first step but it’s the first step.

I’m pretty good at query letters.  I started writing them decades ago, when I was freelancing for magazines.  My first published book, Rocky Mountain Wineries; a travel guide to the wayside vineyards (Pruett Publishing, 1994) was the result of a Hail Mary query.  My queries aren’t always successful but often enough they have resulted in an agent or editor asking to see more.  Many times they resulted in a published article, twice they won me an agent, and twice they won me a book contract with a small press.  I figure I’m on an uphill roll. Rocky Mountain Wineries Large

Whether I’m pitching a novel, a nonfiction book or an article my format is basically the same.  Three or four paragraphs, tops.  Here’s my advice:

Keep it short. One page is perfect. Two pages if you’re a Nobel Prize winner or past POTUS.

Personalize! I target each letter to a particular agent for a specific reason, based on what they say they’re looking for on their website, blog, an interview or at a writers conference. I keep a master list of who I’ve queried, the date sent, and the response — if any. These days most agents don’t reply to unsolicited queries unless they’re interested.

Queries can be sent out in quantity, but an outstanding query will generate results, so be prepared for several agents to request “exclusive” readings of full manuscripts. I had this happen recently and was so pumped up by the thought of two agents wanting me, maybe even fighting over me, that I basked in the glow of their desire for a couple of days before responding to either one of them. When I did email back I explained truthfully that another agent had also requested a full manuscript. Both agents wrote back that they still wanted to read the full manuscript, but only if I didn’t shop it out to anyone else while they were considering it.

Ultimately both agents passed on the project.  “Strong voice, well-written, just didn’t fall in love with it, blah, blah, blah.”  Still, my outstanding query letter got me past the threshold.

In the first paragraph I try to hook them with a concept statement about my story — and with a sentence that shows I have an idea of what they’re looking for or other successful books they’ve represented. This is a bit of a smooze effort, but can be highly effective if sincere. If I’ve attended a conference at which they were a speaker, I mention that. I try to make a meaningful connection.  For instance,

Dear _______,

I enjoyed and learned from your comments on the “First Pages” panel at the recent RMC SCBWI autumn conference in Golden, Colorado. I’m querying you about my YA novel “Water Ghosts,” a psychological novel with paranormal and historical elements…

Nothing flashy here but I’ve tried to personally connect with this agent who I know is looking for YA with compelling characters.

The second paragraph is about the project itself. One paragraph in which I capture the heart of the story. Impossible? Yes!  The second paragraph of your query may be the hardest one you’ll ever write.  Don’t explain your story and don’t try to give a full plot synopsis.  Instead, write the back cover teaser for your book.  You might end the second paragraph by mentioning books that influenced you.  Personally, I refrain from comparing my book to other popular titles but many writers do.

The third paragraph is all about me.  A brief bio, germane to this story or project I’m pitching.  Here’s where I mention my previous publishing credits and awards. Publishing credits aren’t as important as they sound because many agents today are looking to discover the next “new” writer. If pertinent, I include a sentence or two about what drove me to write this novel or what experience in my life gives me credibility. This deeper connection to your story can be emphasized if you don’t have publishing credits. You exhibit your writing ability by creating a tight, compelling, well-targeted letter that speaks for itself.

End your killer query by thanking the agent or editor for her time. Offer to send the full manuscript and a box of Belgian chocolate to eat while reading. (I’m kidding about the chocolates.) Don’t forget to include your your contact information!  Include a website, Facebook, blog and twitter links if you have a big following. You have about 30 seconds to capture this person’s attention and make them want to read more.

Find and follow the directions on the agent’s website for querying. Some only want a query, some want sample chapters and a synopsis along with the query, some don’t want attached files but request sample pages cut and pasted beneath the body of the letter. A few agents don’t want electronic queries at all and some will only accept emailed queries.  Some really have no clue what they want.

Save your query letter to use as a template for other agents; no need to reinvent the wheel, just personalize for each.  Don’t forget to keep a log or spreadsheet of agents queried.

Ultimately, a query letter is a concise, elegant sales pitch.  Don’t get discouraged; refuse to be defeated.  Sooner or later you’ll hit your target and bag an agent.  Or maybe you’ll decide to publish the damn thing yourself!

Looking for Redfeather BOYA 10003076_10203553731672707_1146057099_n

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