Tag Archives: Paragon

User pays

The other day I did a Google search for something and found my old novel, Paragon, offered for free download. My novel hasn’t been available for purchase for about six years, so I have no idea how long it had been on this site. The reason I took the novel down was because I thought it had too many things that needed fixing, it wasn’t the best it could be. It bugged me that the choice to hold it back had been taken away from me.

It also got me wondering; how have people’s attitudes to other’s hard work gotten so callous that someone would feel justified putting up the work of a (let’s be honest) unheard of author for free? Is what they gain really worth what they take?

I’m against all forms illegal downloading, whether it is books, movies, software, TV shows, music etc. So often I hear people saying things like “Katy Perry is so rich, it doesn’t matter” –but it does matter. Katy Perry, or any other artist/developer are not doing this on their own. They support a whole network of people who depend on sales to make a living. A movie is not made by several actors and a director. There are writers, camera people, caterers, props people, make-up artists, hair stylists etc. It is an industry, and when you steal, you steal from all of them.

But back to my experience… I am not supporting an industry, just me and those closest to me. In over 20 years of sending off my work for publication I’ve earned less than $500. That’s why I’ve still got the day job. There are lots of people like me out there who haven’t yet made it, and if people keep stealing from us, then we’ll never earn enough money to quit the day job so we can keep making the art that others want to steal.

Imagine if Buffy had been downloaded to the point where no networks wanted to buy the ongoing series. We might never have had Firefly, or Serenity, or Cabin in the woods. I do not want to think about a world with no Joss Whedon! Is that the price we want to pay to be able to save a few dollars?


I’ve been thinking about my first novel a lot recently because I’ve had some ideas about how to improve it, but it would require a total re-write. That would be the fourth re-write and the tenth edit. I really don’t think I’m up for it.

I was talking to a friend about her first novel and she said that it was put in the bottom draw and will never surface again. She has not laboured over it improving it as she improves her craft. Then she said something that resonated with me; we never see the rehearsals of a play, we only ever see the final performance. She sees her first novel as one of her rehearsals.

If I was to start writing my first novel from scratch I would do it completely differently, changing both the structure and story, but then it wouldn’t be recognisable as my first novel anymore. When I look at the first novel I see so many ‘mistakes’ of story writing in there, even if I do still like the story.

So I think it is time to put it in the bottom drawer and move on. There are too many other novels in me to keep going back to my rehearsal. It is time to get onto opening night.

When everything is perfect

Star Rating

I did not grow up in the time of ‘participation medals’, not everyone was a winner, and sometimes no-one was. Which is why I think that a perfect score should be reserved for only the very best of something, not squandered so freely as to be meaningless.

As some of you may remember, I published my novel Paragon on both Smashwords and Amazon recently (and it is still available). I quickly followed this up with a free short story Welcome to Midnight. Having rarely purchased books online before, these publications were my first exposure to the mixed up world of star ratings.

It seems that there are a lot of ‘perfect’ books out there. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for my five star reviews, but to be honest I am also very surprised. I would only give a handful of books a perfect score, because as much as I enjoy a book, I believe you should always include room for improvement.

The problem is there are a lot of people freely handing out five stars, meaning that if someone gets four stars or below (because someone like me reviews it) it will completely destroy the book’s standing. So even if the review was positive, and talks about how great the book is, because it is not five stars the author’s book will plummet in the rankings from first page display to 15th page (in some instances).

This leads to pressure to give a book five stars, because too many people assume it is awful if it gets below that. Add to that the complication of many of those reviewing the books being authors, so they are fearful of negative feedback on their own novel if they give less than a perfect score, it renders the whole star rating almost meaningless.

I have learned, as I’m sure many others have, not to pay too much attention to the stars unless they are very low, or if the number of reviews is very high (but even that isn’t watertight). The review itself is the best thing to go by, and that is what I now use when choosing my reading material.

I can’t think of a way to get around the star rating, as a computer system needs something universal to rank by, but it is disappointing that so many good books are so far down the suggested reading list just because they were reviewed by naive people like me, who thought they were being fair.

Didn’t life get the script?

I have to confess I’ve been feeling a little despondent this week. After nearly 10,000 impressions (displays of my Paragon ad) I’ve received exactly zero click-throughs. I also know everyone who voted for my story in the Trading post competition (not the intention, my comic genius was meant to shine through so the public would hand over their vote, catapulting me to the top 5) and exactly none of my share-a-secret stories have been picked up by the women’s magazines.

Things are not sticking to my script.  

March is a significant month for me; it is the end of my six months off. My search for work has begun and the urgency was *meant* to be offset by the burgeoning success of my writing career. I was meant to be getting some income by now, or so it went in the script. Reality is turning out quite differently.  

A great philosopher (I think it was Calvin –form Calvin and Hobbes) once said; [we all think we are the lead character in the movie of our life, but one day we realise we are just the comic relief in a much bigger story].

Has that day come? Have I realised that perhaps there is no happy ending?

Not a chance! I’m a writer, and by definition we are dreamers in one way or other. I will look at this as just another bump that I have to overcome. Attitude is 90% of success, I’m sure, so as long as I don’t let myself wallow for too long (but give myself at least a few days, there is nothing as cathartic as a good wallow now and then) I’m sure I’ll get back on track soon.

So if you are down about something that is not working out as you planned, don’t listen to Calvin, you are the star of your own movie. Whatever is happening is just another plot twist to make the punch line that much more exciting.


Paragon now available on Amazon!

This is my 100th blog post, which I will take as an auspicious occasion on which to announce that Paragon is now available in a kindle edition on Amazon

Amazon cover for Paragon

If you don’t have a kindle you can still buy copies in different formats, including those for reading on your computer, from Smashwords.

Sales are starting to take off, so my sincerest thanks to those of you who have already bought a copy!


What’s in a name?

It might sound silly, but one of my biggest challenges when writing a new piece is picking the right name for my characters. I thought I had solved this problem when I started to christen characters with the names of people I worked with. This led to a bunch of ‘find and replace’ edits, because the problem when you write spec fic (or any interesting fiction for that matter) is often your characters end up doing not so nice things, and for some funny reason people don’t like to have characters named after them who do evil, stupid, or deplorable things.

So where do you get names? I’ve resorted to the phone book, my local newspaper, baby books, movie credits but invariably I come back to friends. Yes, most of my characters are a mix of my friends first and last names. I know that JK Rowling named some of the death eaters after her friends, so at least I’m in good company.

Paragon, the novel I have just published on Smashwords, had major character name changes three times during its pre-published life. It seemed that no sooner had I decided on a name and someone with that name would release a naughty video, or skyrocket to stardom for singing an inane song. Or both.

A character’s name is so important for setting the feel of a character that you don’t want to get it wrong. If my dashing male hero was called Blossom, well then it would have to be a comedy. Which then brings us to the whole life experience factor. If every Peta I’ve met has been lovely, but every Peta you have me has been a bimbo then we are on different paths from the outset.

Perhaps that is why so many fantasy books make up names like Bal’ash and El’argor’ror instead of just calling people Nick and Cindy?


e-books Part 1

It seems that every day there is a new e-book publisher or small press that bursts onto the market, and some authors who would otherwise have remained undiscovered are carving out profitable careers from e-book publishing (as Brian S Pratt explains). But with the area growing so quickly and so erratically, what are the potential pitfalls of e-publishing compared with more traditional formats?

The first thing to look out for is the e-publishing rights in your contract if you are publishing with a 3rd party (ie not self-publishing). Many first time authors are being ‘encouraged’ to sign over the e-rights of their first novel (for free) to secure a book deal. DO NOT DO THIS!!! E-book sales make up 10% of book sales on Amazon, up from 5% 12 months ago. You don’t need to be a mathlete to see that soon the e-market will be worth as much as the paper book market. This is just one more reason why you should always get an agent. A good agent will not give away your e-rights.

Recently author J. S. Chancellor discovered another one of the potential pitfalls of e-books. Many of the e-publishers do not support security on e-books, meaning they can be copied and shared ad infinitum. To get around this you include a brief paragraph at the beginning of your e-book reminding people that the author has put a lot of work into the story and deserves to be paid for it. People can still choose to ignore this. J.S. Chancellor’s debut novel was stolen and widely circulated –meaning thousands of people were reading her book, but she was not seeing a cent for her 14 years of work!!!!

Now any authors reading this would probably want to cry at the thought of such a thing happening, but this story does have a silver lining. With the media coverage that this theft received, coupled with the request for those who had read the book to please review it, meant that the book has now sold exceptionally well and has excellent rankings in the e-reviews. You can bet the next book in the series will have much stricter security, as well as a huge fan-base waiting for the next instalment. Lucky she was writing a trilogy!

Next week I’ll talk about the myths surrounding e-books. And remember, if you want to check out my e-book Paragon is still available here.


Why self-publish?

The first draft of Paragon was finished in 1994, a rushed effort before I moved to Brisbane to become an air traffic controller (the first in a long line of false starts in careers). Since then I have re-written the novel ten times. Ten!

As you can imagine, in that time I sent Paragon off to a lot of ‘real’ publishing houses, and have many rejection letters to show for it. I must confess I also made the classic mistake of sending out the first draft, which I will never do again. But that’s another story.

Was it the fact that I had a finished novel for 16 years and was never able to place it that led me to self-publish? No. It was the change in my rejection letters in recent years that led to this decision. I went from form letters (generic ‘dear author’ types) to specific ‘good’ rejections. These referred to character names and other details, indicating that the manuscript had actually been read. This, coupled with the fact that it took between 9-18 months for the publishers to reject the novel made me decide that it was time to put it out there myself.

So what is a ‘good’ rejection? Here are some actual quotes from three of my most recent rejections (which took 9, 12 and 18 months to come back to me) so you can see what I class as a good rejection:

“Thank you for sending this memorable manuscript…”
“It’s a difficult one to reject. You are obviously a talented writer who knows how to pace an intriguing story.”
“It’s an intriguing premise and you are clearly an imaginative storyteller…”

Yes, they are from the REJECTION letters. I can only begin to imagine how nice the acceptance letters must be! The other nice thing is that these comments came from YA Editors, not their assistants.

Hopefully one day soon I’ll be able to tell you what they say when they send you an acceptance letter. Maybe 2011 will be the year? 🙂

Happy New Year!


Paragon Published!

Paragon Now Available

It has taken 10 years to get it out to the market, but Paragon is now available for sale through Smashwords as an electronic book. Even if you don’t have an e-reader you can still read the book on your computer by purchasing a PDF version. Simply click here for more information about purchasing, and click here for the story blurb.

I need to say a BIG thank you to my wonderful mother who has just spent the past five days reading all 82,600 words of Paragon, paying particular attention to my evil homonym affliction. Yes, I did use the wrong ‘draw’ again, and yes my Mum picked it up, even after I thought I’d spotted them all. I’m checking myself in to homonym-anonymous later this evening (glad I don’t have to read this out loud, that was quite a tongue-twister).

So please pass this link on to as many young adults or science fiction readers as you can. It is aimed at the 13 – 18 year old market, but it can be enjoyed by all adults. There is no swearing and no sex, but there are adult concepts, a little bit of violence (not gratuitous) and plenty of action!

Happy reading!


Not quite ready…

Yes, I know, I said it would be ready by Sunday, and it is ready, but just not ready for you to buy. Paragon is completed, edited and even has a cover, but a little technical bug means I probably won’t have it up for sale until Tuesday.

But I can show you the cover!

Paragon my first novel

Illustrator (the program) and I had a lot of fights over that cover, but I think I won in the end. Feel free to let me know what you think, as I said, it probably won’t be in the online shop until Tuesday, so it is not too late to make changes.

I’ll post again as soon as Paragon is online ready for purchase, and I’ll turn the picture of the cover into a hyperlink to where you can buy it.

Thanks for your patience!!!!