Monthly Archives: March 2013

Self Publishing

I am thrilled I chose to self-publish. Click here or here for information about my book. I’m sure I would be spending hours sending out query letters and refining, refining, refining my synopsis AND story for the next ten years if self-publishing hadn’t been an option. I would also be VERY stressed.

Nillanilla3ee Stress Level H

Nillanilla3ee Stress Level H (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead, I’m in the ‘blue’ zone, but more importantly, people are reading my book NOW.

Isn’t part of the reason we write because we want others to enjoy our writing ?

I sent Absent Children to three agents. I don’t think they read the first line. I’m a nobody with no writing credentials, and I’m hopeless at writing blurbs, synopses, and making pitches. I don’t sell myself well. I spent hours researching the perfect agent for my story, then agonised over crafting the perfect cover letter for that particular agent, and I resented the time it stole from writing my next book.

There was a time when self-publishing was frowned upon, by myself as well as many others, but I began to see the value in it a few years ago, and the more I researched the subject, the more convinced I became that it is the way of the future for writers.

A few people worry that self-publishing isn’t good for readers because they can get caught out by unpolished works. It is easy for writers to jump into the pool before their story is ready, but I believe a discerning reader can figure out the quality of the writing pretty fast with Amazon’s wonderful Search Inside option. Typos, bad grammar and poor writing skills will usually show up in those first few chapters, and hopefully they will work as alarm bells for potential readers to warn them not to buy this book.

So, it seems to me, self publishing is a win/win situation for readers and writers. The readers are charged less, and the writers have more control and earn greater royalties. Who is losing out here? Publishers?

I have a sneaking suspicion that publishers will make the best of self-publishing as well. They can sus out books that are selling well, discover writers with a proven success rate, and then make offers. Maybe, the agents will be the losers in all this.

Click here for an interesting article about self-publishing in the Huffington Post, or go to this link:

Yeah, I’m a cool kid! penguin-chick

For a great blog on the subject, click here, or go to this link:

Are you still lusting after the recognition a publisher offers, or do you want readers? Let me know your thoughts.


Researching Writing


Dream! (Photo credit: Melody Campbell)

When I first dreamed up the idea of writing a fictional story that would inform the world about why people choose home birth, (click here for that post) my idea was to fictionalise what happened to me.

I was once one of the majority who believe that those who chose home birth were brave extremists. I loved the idea, but birth is a risky business – right?

Wrong. I no longer believe that, so surely all I had to do was write my story, but add a bit of fiction to the reality to give it more bite.

I had  a beginning – a disgruntled nurse who was tired of saving lives that she believed should have been allowed to die peacefully – and an end – she becomes a midwife who understands how birth is meant to work, and why it often works well at home – and a middle. Ah, the middle.

The middle sort of fell flat, it meandered around and didn’t seem to work.

I bravely put aside my three years of work to begin again. One of the many things writing has taught me is that it is good to ‘let words go.’

Before I moved too far ahead with my new idea, I did two things which I think were valuable to my writing. I’ve not heard of many writers who did these:

  1. With every book I read, I put Stick-it tags on phrases or words I loved, and some I disliked. At the end of each book, I would write my own personal review of the novel. It helped me understand why I like some books better than others.
  2. I chose one of my favourite books and re-read it analytically. I saw how hooks were inserted into each chapter, how the story was strung together and what made it appeal to me apart from the subject matter.

Next, I began plotting my story, mostly using what I learnt from point number two. With each chapter, I inserted hooks, sometimes very subtle, but they are there.

Have other writers done this before writing their next story? If not, what are some of the tools you have used to help with the plotting and planning of your book?

Thank You


Hug (Photo credit: Cliph)

At this point, I’d just like to send a virtual hug to my editor, Pam Berehulke.

As well as editing, she formatted my Word doc. in such a way that loading it onto the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing site was a breeze.

Thanks, Pam!

Limited edition A cover


I visited Oxford late last year, and unexpectedly found myself in my writer’s head again as I toured Christ Church College, a place now famous because it was used as a location to film some of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts scenes.

Oxford October 2012 010

The Great Hall at Christ Church College, Oxford.

Christ Church College inspired two film sets familiar to Potter fans. In The Sorcerer’s Stone, the kids are ferried to Hogwarts and then ascend astone staircase that leads into the Great Hall. Christ Church’s high-ceilinged dining hall was a model for the one seen throughout the films (with the weightless candles and flaming braziers).

Excerpt from Rick Steves’ Europe. Click here to read more of the above page.

Oxford October 2012 015

The Grand Staircase in Christ Church College

The Great Hall of Christ Church College

The Dining Hall of Christ Church College

It was an inspirational place, but what really fascinated me was the idea of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, sitting in that room on many nights and letting his imagination run wild.

Who is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson?

Perhaps you’d know him better by his pen name: Lewis Carrol, the man who wrote the well known story of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Dodgson began his time at Christ Church studying mathematics, but stayed on as a teacher. It was there he met Alice, the daughter of the Head of the College. Alice and her two sisters loved hearing Dodgson tell them stories where he would change elements from their everyday world into weird and wonderful beings. Like these –

The Dining Hall Firedog

The Dining Hall Firedog

Think back to your childhood reading of Alice…Doesn’t that remind you of something?

As I absorbed the magnificence of this place, I could see how these weird decorative items could have fueled Carrol’s/Dodgson’s imagination. I could almost see him sitting in that great room, biding his time at polite formal meals and amusing himself with his imagination and the objects that surrounded him.

A large portrait of Henry VIII hung above the elevated platform at the end of the room. Is it possible that looking at this image in his youth produced the Queen of Hearts screaming, “Off with his head!”?

As I stood in that magnificent hall, I envied Dodgson his imagination. I’ve been a daydreamer all my life, and I do attribute my ability to dream up stories in part to this, but I know I’m not capable of creating phantasmagorical characters like Dodgson did.

My inspiration for Absent Children was far more mundane, and yet, very important to me. As a midwife, I desperately wanted to find a way to show women how wonderful birth can be, that it is not this trial we have to endure, not something to fear, but something that can be a truly beautiful and empowering experience involving the body, mind and spirit. I was inspired by the woman I cared for in my home birth business, and by other women who had traumatic births in hospitals. 

Books on the subject of pregnancy and birth abound, but what I discovered was that most young parents, skipped the details about normal birth so they could find out what happens if they have an epidural, or a Cesarean. I had no desire to add to the already abundant availability of those books.

So I chose fiction, and created a story with characters the reader could get attached to, threw those character’s lives into turmoil, added a pregnancy to the mix and then made them battle out about how and where the baby will be born.

I want Absent Children to do well in America, because if it does, the rest of the world will hear about it. I want women around the world to have a better understanding about why some women choose to have their babies at home, and in my wildest dreams, I’d like to think it would open up discussion on the issue, get women talking about their rights in birth, and empower them to use their numbers to demand changes in hospitals, so that every woman can expect to be treated with respect when she gives birth, no matter where or how she chooses to do it.

From feedback I’ve received, I’ve succeeded in making the reader think more about the way we give birth in our society. Dare I dream that it will also have that affect on many more when it goes on sale?

The English Dilemma

I’m an Australian and my novel, Absent Children is set in Australia, but for a long time I’ve been carrying on a debate with myself about whether I should publish it in English or ‘American.’

When I lived in America, I wrote in ‘American,’ in Scotland, I reverted to English.

Now… I’m confused.

However, when I chose an editor for Absent Children, I settled on Pam Berehulke, an American. This choice was based on two factors –

1. She was recommended to me by another writer who I trust.

2. She was much less expensive than any I could find in the UK or Australia.

She did a fantastic and thorough job on my book, but she recommended I ‘Americanise’ the language. After years of indecision about this matter, her words felt like a sign from above and I made the decision to do as she suggested. 


Well, so I thought.

I reverted the manuscript to ‘American’ and sent it off, but there were still words I had missed and when I saw her suggested alternatives, my commitment faltered. The words I hadn’t changed were the words I’d resisted when I lived in America because to me, they sounded wrong.

Suddenly, I was right back where I started – confused.

A very big part of me wants to say, ‘stuff it, I don’t care if they don’t read my book because it’s written in English, but the problem is, I do care.

Americans speak ‘American,’ and the rest of the world has adapted and now understands ‘American,’ however, many Americans still struggle with some of the English words we use.

I decided to conduct my own mini-survey by looking at a few books by contemporary Australian authors. In each one, I found American words and spelling. It seems we’ve become so accustomed to the American language  that we don’t even notice it in unusual places! Next, I looked inside Harry Potter books on the American and the English Amazon sites. Surprise, surprise – they were both ‘Americanised’.

Despite this discovery, I still resisted ‘Americanising’ Absent Children totally. Instead, I have settled on a middle road; I will spell and punctuate in American, but where ever possible, I plan to neutralise my language and hopefully make it easy to understand for both versions of English. It is thanks to my editor’s careful and detailed efforts to point out where I’d used words which could snag Americans, that the process of making the necessary changes has been simplified. 

The underlying frustration in all my chopping and changing lies in the question, why should we, who speak the original form of English, have to alter our language to sell our novels to Americans? It would be simple if they spoke French, because then the book would clearly be written in French, and everyone would know what they were getting. But Americans call their language English, despite it’s unique spelling, punctuation and many words that differ from the English spoken in the rest of the English-speaking world. If only they called it ‘American’ I could easily publish two versions, one with the words ‘English version’, and one with ‘American version’ clearly on the cover. That would be the ideal solution, and I would happily oblige.

What are your thoughts on this? Do other writers worry about this matter?