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Wise Words 11: “Good fiction creates its own reality”

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Good fiction creates its own reality Nora RobertsThis quotation conjures up what I love most about books: escape. A good book can transport me from my here-and-now to an ‘elsewhere’, where I don’t notice the lateness of the hour or the noisy neighbour who lives above me. It can turn a snowy winter street into a walk on the beach.

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Wrestling with a villain

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1 Day 1 World Project: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

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1 Day 1 World: 6:23pm, Sydney, Sunday 15 June.

On a weekday, 6pm-7pm will find me on my way home from work: on a train, perhaps walking from the station, maybe in the supermarket. I don’t do much writing during the work week. By the time I get home, get settled, and shed the baggage of the work day, I have little interest in crafting a plot or wrestling with a villain.

On the weekends, however, I get in a few hours of word wrangling. Today I finished Chapter 5 of my third novel, a psychological thriller entitled “In Your Sights”. The villain is slippery: he has to be sufficiently unlikeable that a reader will believe it when he is revealed to be the villain, but likeable enough for the reader to believe that the heroine could be involved with him. It’s a thin line to tread, and as you can see in this photo I have been known to turn to an external source of inspiration.


This post is my contribution to the excellent 1 Day 1 World Project (6:00pm – 7:00pm). I wish I had got involved earlier in the ‘day’. Check out the project here for more info. It’s a fascinating example of how our blogs can bring us all closer together.

Free chocolate this Saturday

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free-chocolate
celebration-choc-180wFree virtual chocolate, that is. ;)

A Celebration of Chocolate will be free from Amazon all day on Saturday 7 June. That’s Amazon US’s timezone, so if you’re in Australia it’s more like Sunday 8 June.

No Kindle? No problem!
There’s a free Kindle reader app for PCs and Macs, smartphones and tablets. Get yours here.

 

Copyrighted vs freely available

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I had an illuminating encounter with Amazon this week. The chocolate book I referred to in an earlier post was ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. The inspiration for the book was a chocolate walking tour I did in Brisbane six weeks ago, full of fun facts about chocolate that I found quite interesting. I decided to create a book that combined such information with large, colour photographs.

copyrightI did wonder what the protocol for referencing the snippets of info was, or indeed if any reference was necessary. Nothing I was including was proprietary research, nor was I quoting anyone. Chocolate melts in your mouth because it melts at a temperature just below our body temperature; Chocolate was first harvested in what is now southeast Mexico in 1,000BC – these are facts, akin to saying that the earth orbits the sun or the sky is blue because the light is scattered by air molecules.

However, Amazon had a different take on the content. I quote:

“During a review of your KDP submission, we found content in your book that is freely available on the web. Before we can publish your book, you need to take one of the following actions within five days:
“1. If you hold the publishing rights for all of the content in this book, resubmit your book for publishing following the instructions provided below.
“2. If the book is in the public domain, please confirm the initial publication date of the work and the author’s date of death. We will contact you if we need additional information.
“3. If you do not hold rights for all of the content in this book, please remove the book following the instructions provided below.”

Well, option 1 was tricky – I certainly hold the publishing rights for the photos, but Amazon seemed to disagree about the words. Option 2 simply didn’t apply. That left option 3, which seemed extreme.

I considered option 1, but having little idea about copyright law I wasn’t at all sure how I stood with reproducing what I perceive to be known facts but which in legal terms may be something else entirely. It would have helped to know which of the 29 snippets were causing problems.

And then there was Amazon’s “big stick” to consider:
“If you publish books for which you do not hold the electronic publishing rights, your account may be terminated or you may lose access to optional KDP services. If your account is terminated, all of the books you have uploaded through KDP will be removed from the Kindle store and you will not be permitted to open new KDP accounts.”

In the end, I implemented the unmentioned option 4, which was to remove all the interesting little snippets of info and replace them with my own vague words. Instead of learning that white chocolate is not considered to be true chocolate because it contains no cocoa solids, we get “Is white chocolate ‘real’ chocolate? Does it matter?” That version of the book was published in only six hours, with no queries.

So A Celebration of Chocolate is alive and kicking, but it’s not as interesting as it was. Perhaps more importantly, my account is safe and my books are still available.

If anyone has any information about the law covering use of information that is “freely available on the web”, please leave a comment. I’d love to learn about this topic.

Dobbed in

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Another link in the chain.

Another link in the chain.

The baton has been passed. The chain letter forwarded. Or, as my blogging buddy Margaret-Rose Stringer put it, she dobbed me in.

M.R. was asked to answer four questions about her writing. So she did. But, as these things work, she was then meant to nominate three other writer/bloggers to answer the same questions. I don’t mind answering them, but because I don’t know any other writer/bloggers I fear I have dropped the baton and/or broken the chain. (If you are a writer and would like to have a go at answering the questions, leave a comment and you can be the next link in the chain.)

Anyway, here we go:

What am I working on at the moment?
Two things, actually, about as different as they could be! One book, non-fiction, is entitled A Celebration of Chocolate and features 30 large, full-colour photographs, plus tidbits and facts. It should be available (Kindle only, at this stage) in about a week. It was much easier to create than my other project, which is my third novel, a psychological thriller entitled In Your Sights. That one is proving to be, shall we say, challenging, but in a good way.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not sure it’s possible to answer this question, unless one has read every example of a given genre. I will say that reviews of my second novel, Too Close, a contemporary romance about an engaged couple who discover they may have the same mother, use words such as ‘disturbing’ and ‘thought-provoking’. A reviewer who has read my first and second novels said that they both had unusual story lines.

Why do I write what I do?
I sort of fell into the romance genre, and to be honest it’s not a genre I read a lot of! I had four months “between jobs” around Christmas 2011, and was filling time by devouring library books. One day I re-read the journals from my two transatlantic sailing voyages, and thought “hey, I could turn these into a book”. Ship to Shore is the result. Then 50 Shades of Grey came out, and I thought “aha, I need something titillating to spark sales!” So I ran through all the various types of non-standard sexual behaviour I could think of. I figured that bestiality and pedophilia didn’t lend themselves to happy endings — quite apart from the fact that I had zero desire to write about either one! — but that incest, or, rather, the spectre of incest and its effect on the couple and their relationship with each other and their families/friends, could be very interesting if handled correctly.
As for the thriller, my editor said, “Hey, you should write a thriller! You’re good at plots.”

How does my writing process work?
I think about the book for quite a while before I put anything down. I have a high level plan of the plot, sort of like stops on a subway line: I know where it’s going, and what the major events will be, but until I start to write I don’t know every step on the way. It just comes to me, and I have no idea how, or from where. I read advice that recommended putting every single scene and character on index cards, dozens of them, before you wrote a word, so that all you had to do then was string them together. Not only do I not do paper index cards (I am digital to my soul!), I simply couldn’t write like that.

So there you have it, Elizabeth Krall in a nutshell.

 

So I ate it – again

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choc-cover3bYou know how it is. You’re writing something – a thesis, an article, an essay, a short story, a novel – and sometimes you need a little pick-me-up, a little burst of inspiration.

Sometimes, you need chocolate.

My third novel is proving to be much more of a challenge to write than the first two. It’s a psychological thriller, so the narrative is not as straightforward. It’s also got quite a few more plot threads that I must remember to weave together.

So, from time to time, for light relief, I turn to my other work-in-progress.

“A Celebration of Chocolate” will be Kindle only (because it’s the easiest to create and distribute), a combination of – as the cover says – fun, facts and photos.

All of the photographs will be my own, which means setting up the light, arranging the props, charging the camera. And then there is the thorny question of what to do with the props when the shoot is done.

Oh yes, if you’ve read ‘So I ate it’, you know what I’m doing with the props. There’s no doubt that chocolate is more fun to dispose of than cold toast!

Cornering the market

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My editor — a self-proclaimed “techno-dope” — recently attended a workshop in editing for the web, and is now fired with enthusiasm for such things as search engine optimisation (SEO) and rankings. One of tricks she learned is that the following three elements can increase a site’s ranking: frequency of updates, links to reputable sites, and links from reputable sites.

That led to the following e-mail exchange:

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Editor: So do you have links from your novel pages, e.g., Ship to Shore to those Scottish islands’ tourist sites, etc.?

Me: No. Presumably you ask because such links would increase my ranking?

Interesting idea — but all of this is predicated on the assumption that someone already knows that Elizabeth Krall exists and has written novels.

I seriously doubt that adding such links is going to capture the thousands of would-be readers who do NOT know that Elizabeth Krall exists yet who currently go to Google and type in “romance novel bagpipes Scotland sailing Hebrides” but who alas do not stumble across my book. ;(

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Google search results for "romance novel bagpipes Scotland sailing Hebrides" And that piqued my curiosity: just where does Ship to Shore appear in the rankings if one does enter those search terms in Google?

So I did.

Result!

The first return is for Ship to Shore on Amazon, and the second is for Ship to Shore on Smashwords. Then a couple of completely unrelated sites pop up, followed by Ship to Shore on Goodreads.

So I could proudly inform my editor that the “romance novel bagpipes Scotland sailing Hebrides” market, albeit a niche one, is all mine!

Sweet as chocolate …

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FREE DOWNLOAD

For a limited time only, my Easter short story ‘The Perfect Chocolate Martini’ is available as a free download for Kindle and other e-book readers. 
The Perfect Chocolate MartiniThe Perfect Chocolate Martini
Every weekday, Gordon buys one perfect, handcrafted chocolate. Alice laughs off the suggestion that he is more interested in the woman who makes the chocolates than in the chocolates themselves, but she is secretly pleased by the idea. Two days before Easter, Alice discovers that Gordon is also Leadfoot, the noisy neighbor in the apartment above hers. Will it be war between them, or love?

Click here to download your FREE copy.

My first brush with fame, sort of

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I had a very interesting experience today.

I took my latest royalty cheque from Amazon to the bank.  (I don’t live in the US, and I don’t have a US dollar bank account, so it’s back to the bad old days of paper cheques – or checks, if you are reading this and you’re an American.) The teller noticed that the cheque was from Amazon and commented that it must be a refund for goods I had bought and returned.

I explained that it was actually a royalty cheque, i.e., payment for my books sold.

The teller’s eyes grew large and she gazed up at me as if the very incarnation of celebrity had walked into her bank.

“Are you a writer?” she squealed. “I’ve never met a real author!”

I felt uncomfortably like a fraudster at this moment, given that my total sales have hardly catapulted me into the ranks of best-selling authors, and I’m in no position to give up the day job. On the other hand, I was depositing payment for books that I had written and complete strangers had purchased, so yes, I guess I am a real author.

“What sort of books do you write?” she asked, my cheque lying neglected on the counter beside her.

I hesitated, and then admitted that the first two are romance novels. (The third, which I’m working on now, is a psychological thriller.)

Her eyes, if possible, grew even larger. “I love romance novels! I just read Eat Pray Love!”

I didn’t have the heart to admit that I have neither read the book nor seen the film, and settled for smiling in an encouraging way.

She finally turned her attention to my cheque, but after a moment she interrupted her work to push a slip of paper and a pen towards me.

“Write down your books’ names,” she urged.

So I did. And then I had to tell her that I wrote the books under the pen name of “Elizabeth Krall”. If she had searched Amazon for books written by the name on the cheque she would indeed have found one, but it’s not a romance novel!

Will this woman go home tonight and buy either of my novels? I don’t know.

I’ve never had an encounter like that before, with someone who thinks that writing books is a marvellous thing and that people who write books are special. Perhaps because I spent many years as an editor in publishing, I am much more jaded about books.

But even if she doesn’t buy a book, that bank teller made my day.

Wise Words 10: “A good novel tells us the truth …”

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“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero;
but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”

–G.K. Chesterton


There are two reasons for today’s post.

The first is that I like the quote!

The second is that I wanted to test the new move by Getty, one of the world’s great photo libraries, to make 35 million (yup, that’s million) photos free to use on social media sites and blogs. As with embedding a youtube video on a site, you embed the photo with some code; this means you can’t edit it in any way, and Getty adds a photographer credit and link back to its site (as you can see in the photo I’ve used above).

If you’re a blogger or a social media user who likes to add images to your posts, this is an interesting development. More info here.

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