Saturday, 28 July 2012

An End to Eternal Hunger

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
(Psalm 16:10,11)
Today is a very proud day for me as I finally finished the last book in my Eternal Hunger novella series. When I made the first three books in the series available on Amazon a couple of months ago I said the next two would  be finished by June and July respectively. I've just made this self-imposed deadline with book five, For Evermore, and I must admit I've been a bit obsessive this week about gettting it finished to the neglect of everything else in my life. It's not like I expected to be bombarded with emails from irate fans who are hanging out for the final installment (I wish!), it's more about the personal satisfaction of completing what I started.

I don't know about others, but when I finish writing something I have a sense of how good it is. Of course there are wide variations in taste, but I can generally tell if something is total garbage or a decent standard. Strangely with this novella series I have no idea. I had a beta reader lined up for the first novella, but after I sent her a copy she dropped off the face of the earth (never a good sign LOL). A few friends have read them and remained conspicuously silent, and I really don't like asking because I don't want to put people in an awkward situation. My aunty downloaded the first book but then said she didn't like vampire books and wasn't going to finish it. A few hundred copies have been dowloaded for free through KDP select but the only real feedback I've had is from a reader on Goodreads who gave one of the books a three-star rating, which I was quite pleased with considering she only read the second book in the series.

So I'm sending this series out into the world with no real idea if the plot hangs together, the character's motivations ring true or my attempt to weave current events into a paranormal love story works. And you know what, I really don't care . I've had such fun writing the novellas that it doesn't matter if no one else appreciates the full series or even reads it. Eternal Hunger touches on subjects that are very close to my heart and which I don't believe get addressed nearly enough in contemporary fiction considering how important they are.

I didn't set out to write with any particular agenda in mind but its been interesting to see the issues and themes that are emerging in my books, and which I think will continue to pop up in everything I write. People who don't share my leftist views will never appreciate my books, but I've come to realize that you have to write about what you believe in, and let the rest of the world take it or leave it.

The entire novella series is now also available in a single edition for $2.99. Below is the cover which is recycled from Greater Love (Book #4). My marketing guru husband informs me it's a bad move to use the same cover again, and he's probably right but I liked this cover so much I just had to re-use it! (Thanks LFD Designs for Authors, who created all the covers for this series as well as for Prude & Prejudice.)

Now that this series is finished I'm going to try to take a break from writing for a while before getting stuck into my next project, which is a half-finished novella (women's fiction). I have another few ideas in the pipeline, including a sci-fi thriller, an historical romance and a contemporary novel (my first attempt at literary fiction). I'm still not even close to finding out what genre is right for me, and maybe I never will, but I'm having a lot of fun trying out different things. My online graduate creative writing course starts next week and I'm really looking forward to finding out more about the craft of writing. The first subject is called Literature and the Political which I get the feeling I'm going to like quite a lot.

The Eternal Hunger series combines elements of classic vampire tales with contemporary global events to create a unique and gripping storyline.

Lucia West is enjoying her bachelorette party at a nightclub when she is bitten by a strange man on the dance floor. From this moment onwards her world is turned upside down as she is haunted by giant bats and a strange glowing figure in the park outside her bedroom window. As Lucia struggles to work out what is real she must confront her own deep-seated fears about marriage and her desire for a different life.

Her journey towards self-discovery takes Lucia into the glamorous world of the clan, the name given to the vampires that control the world’s financial and political systems to feed their insatiable greed. When she cannot bring herself to become one of them, she is forced to flee for her life with Drake L’amour, the vampire who turned her. Together they are plunged onto  a roller-coaster ride of thrills and terror as they travel from their lover’s hideout in the most inhospitable part of the world to a dark, rat-infested dungeon in Transylvania, and finally to an abandoned mansion in Detroit , Michigan, where rebel vampires are plotting to bring down the clan once and for all.

Eternal Hunger is about one woman’s awakening as her society teeters on the brink of destruction and the unseen forces that have led to this point. Above all this it is a love story as Lucia and Drake L’amour learn what it means to truly care for one another.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ageing Disgracefully: Elton John Vs Madonna

When one thinks of Elton John, dignity and maturity are not words that spring immediately to mind. Throughout the years he has been a flamboyant figure on the music scene, and tales about his lavish lifestyle and diva-like behaviour have been common. Who can forget the famous "yoo-hoo" incident in the 1997 documentary Tantrums & Tiaras? (For those who don't know "at one memorable juncture, he loudly threatened to abandon an entire tour and go home because a fan had shouted ''Yoo-hoo!'' at him while he was playing tennis.")

While his own career is still alive and kicking (he plays over 100 shows a year), Elton has also taken on the role of mentor to younger artists, as I discovered when I read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently: "Alone among his superstar peers, John seems to spend as much time proselytising about young artists as he does plugging his own records. ''If you listen to someone young and fabulous,'' he says, ''it just gives you so much adrenalin, adrenalin that I had when everything was going my way in the '70s.''

 It was around the time I read this that Madonna flashed her boobs (again!) during a concert in Istanbul, showing not only that she is a woman of true class, but also one with great cultural sensitivity as well.

Both these figures are considered music industry royalty, but only Elton John seems intent on giving something back and actually helping other artists. He is far from being a dinosaur, keeping up with new trends in music and collaborating with an electronic duo, but not in a way that screams "look at me."  Madonna on the other hand is desperately clinging to her youth by trying to shock people through her antics which are just outdated and embarassing. While no one could ever accuse her music of being deep it has regressed markedly over the last few years to the extent that she now sounds about 15. Give Me All Your Love is just a blatant rip-off of Avril Lavigne's Girlfriend that even someone as musically illerate as me could pick.

Why does a woman of Madonna's stature believe she has to compete with all the little pop tarts out there? Doesn't she have enough money and fame now to create the music she really wants to? Her voice is not particularly strong, but I believe she has song writing ability and in the past she's produced some interesting music. Isn't there a place for music by a mature woman who has been through many life experiences and surely has some insights to share with the world? Madonna does a disservice not just to herself but to the entire generation of women who grew up listening to her when she churns out more mindless, superficial crap.

I wonder why Elton John doesn't feel the need to constantly thrust himself into the media spotlight in the shameless way Madonna does? Is it because Madonna was always about shock-value and image rather than music, or is it because women who are no longer considered sexy become invisible to the world in a way which is not true for men. Is Madonna afraid of fading into oblivion if she doesn't continue to show people how shocking and desirable she is, and if this is the case will she contine to flash her mammaries right into her 80s? God help us all.

When it comes to ageing with dignity and leaving a lasting and legacy, Elton John is still standing while Madonna is nowhere in sight. I still have hopes that Madge will see the light (or at least a ray of it) and do something worthwhile, but somehow I can't see her ever accepting that she's just too old for the youth scene. Elton John, on the other hand has fully embraced his inner old-fart, as seen in this comment about his last trip to a nightclub:

"The last time I went to a nightclub was in London about 10 Christmases ago, and I felt so old. I felt like the Queen Mother coming down the steps. All I needed was a Dubonnet and soda in my hand.''

The great thing about getting old is that you don't have to try to keep up anymore, and it's very socially acceptable to admit you spent Saturday night at home in front of the fire with a good book. I always preferred this to nightclubbing anyway and I think people should stop worrying so much about getting old and see it as a positive thing. Unfortunately high-profile people like Madonna who can't let go of their youth reinforce the idea that you have to stay young (and mindless) to be relevant.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Celia on the Run

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

I don’t read much YA fiction but I do love romances involving odd couples, and I also love books about road trips, so I thought I would give this one a try.

Nick is staying at a motel with his parents while he attends his grandmother’s funeral when he meets the enigmatic Celia. She is hitchhiking across the country to see her father and she is covertly using the facilities at the motel while she sleeps rough. Nick is drawn to her immediately, and he can’t stop watching her or thinking about her. When she returns his interest and has sex with him, he can’t believe his luck. Up to this point Nick has led a very sheltered and conventional life, and part of him yearns to break free and do something crazy for a change. Celia is everything Nick is not. She is wild, unpredictable and completely shameless. Nick falls for her hard and fast, and in the grip of passion, he steals his parent’s car so he can drive her to New Jersey.

A large part of the book is taken up with their time on the road as they get to know one another and their relationship deepens. While Nick is sure of his feelings from the start, Celia is amused by his blind adoration and she nicknames him ‘puppy’ and ‘newbie’. Nick has a list of crazy things he would like to do, and together they cross off many of them, having a great time in the process. They take unplanned detours, see some sights and meet a range of interesting and sometimes comical people. The book seems light-hearted at first as Nick and Celia enjoy themselves on their adventure and begin to open up to each other, but there is always a darkness lurking beneath the surface.

Although they think it's amusing, I found many of the things they did to steal money quite mean-spirited and I particularly didn’t appreciate the way they mocked some of the people they stole from. I was never really quite sure whether the author wanted us to judge them for their behaviour or share their fun, which is a good thing because it forces you to examine your own values. I found Celia hard to like at first, but she does redeem herself eventually in an act of selflessness that shows a lot about her. She also became a much more sympathetic character as more of her past was revealed, although there was always a sense she was hiding something and I didn’t know whether to trust her.

Nick also finds it hard to trust her, especially when it comes to other men, and there is one argument after she’s worked at a strip club to make money for gas that descends into violence. This, however, is nothing compared to the extreme violence that lies ahead. The book takes a very dark and unexpected turn that truly shocked me. Without giving too much away, I just want to say that I was disappointed that the perpetrators of this violence largely get away with it (except one who is shot through the hand), and I had to question what kind of message this is sending when they were simply let off to go and do it again. I also like to dig below the surface when I’m reading and I wondered if Celia was punished symbolically for being a “bad girl”.

This was really the only thing about the book I had issues with. Overall it is well written and the characters are defined and believable. The tension builds slowly, and the greatest strength of the book for me is the underlying menace that it always lurking, even when they are having fun together and don’t seem to have a care in the world (apart from where to scam the next meal and gas money).

There were a couple of instances of “head-hopping” that were a little distracting, but I only noticed because I always get pulled up for this in my own writing, and I doubt most people would even pick up on it. It lost momentum for me slightly after the major twist involving Celia's father, which signalled the end of their road trip, but I was still engrossed till the last page. I thought Nick’s parents were saintly and somewhat unrealistic for forgiving him so readily and embracing Celia, the girl who led him astray, but it was definitely a worthwhile read and one I would recommend to adult and young adult readers alike (15+).

Celia on the Run is an enthralling tale of young love and dark secrets that will linger with you long after you have finished reading it.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

My Own Private NoProMo

I've blogged previously here about my diminishing attention span and gift for procrastination, so in an attempt to combat these tendencies I'm starting my own project called No Procrastination Month (NoProMo). I urge others struggling to write in the face of so many distractions to do the same. The beauty of NoProMo is that there is no set month, no rules and no goals, apart from the ones you set for yourself.

Here are my rules:

1. I cannot check my sales figures or rankings on Amazon during NoProMo.

2. I cannot read any reviews of my books over this month.

3. I will focus completely on my WIP and finish it during this time.

4. When I am writing I cannot look at the internet under any circumstances.

5. When I'm not writing I cannot waste valuable time googling myself and looking for references to my books in hopes of finding some kind of validation (believe me, it doesn't work as I discovered last night when I found a very mediocre review on a blog I never would have known existed if I hadn't gone looking).

6. I can continue to update my blog and engage in social media activities, but within reason.

I'm currently working on the final novella in my Eternal Hunger vampire series which I will definitely finish within a month if I can stick to these rules. In keeping with my WIP I plan to start NoProMo on Friday 13th July. This is going to be particularly challenging as I've got a free novella on Amazon on this day, and I love watching those figures creep up, even if they're not real sales. I'm sure I can do it and I know my writing, not to mention my mental health, will improve if I can stick with the plan.

The purpose of NoProMo for me is not just to overcome procrastination but to bring it back to what really matters - which is the writing. Sales, reviews and rankings are about what other people think, and worrying about this is a sure-fire way to cripple creativity.

Bring on NoProMo, and writing for the sheer love of creative expression!

Friday, 6 July 2012

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

There's been so much in the media recently in Australia about the demise of the print newspaper that it's hard not to feel like the end is nigh, or at least the end of publishing as we know it. Now that everything is moving online an era is drawing to a close. I hope the traditional newspaper lives to fight another day, but even it does, the sharks are circling in the water, and you really have to wonder if the version of the paper  that does survive this onslaught will be worth reading.

I'm referring to the announcement a couple of weeks ago of massive job cuts at Fairfax, and the possibility that it will be taken over by Gina Rinehart - a mining magnate who is richer than God and Oprah, and who has no concept of editorial independence. The Sydney Morning Herald (soon to be the Sydney Mining Herald) has been an integral part of my weekend ritual for the last twenty years, and I'm pretty devastated about this attack on it. I'm not surprised that it's reached this point because there have been financial problems and cut backs going on for some time. Although it's still the best newspaper in Australia IMO, the quality has declined noticeably over recent years. There are less stories with substance, more infotainment pieces, and an increase in typos and grammatical errors.

This trend towards infotainment is what scares me the most about the shift to online media. Many of the headline stories are just puff pieces in online newspapers, which are competing with all the other news sites out there for traffic. With the loss of so many jobs in journalism, the standards can only slip further, and more and more of our "news" will be written by 21 year olds with a tenuous grasp of basic grammar and spelling, and no understanding of current affairs.

At a time when people need to be more informed than ever about what is happening, we will instead be cocooned in a bubble of celebrity gossip and "feel good" stories about kittens. This suits the Gina Rineharts of the world perfectly, because the last thing they want is for people to get all up in arms about that pesky little thing called climate change. When they own the media, they will be able to rape and plunder the environment with impunity because the public watchdog will have been bludgeoned into unconsciousness, if not killed outright. I know there are other sources of information out there besides mainstream newspapers and my hope is that people will grow tired of the garbage and seek out alternative points of view.

Is this mourning over the demise of quality journalism a little premature, or should we be seriously concerned about what is happening in the media?