Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Aurealis Awards - what it is and why it's important

Anyone who writes a book will eventually stumble into the 'awards arena'. There are hundreds of book awards that offer validation, prize money, feedback from judges. Most countries and all genres have literary prizes, recognizing excellence in writing.

Some of the biggest literary awards don't allow self-published books or authors. That doesn't mean there isn't a range of contests or awards for self-published authors.

For a self-published author, any recognition is appreciated. I remember when "Little Red Gem" (now titled "One Little Spell") took out 2nd place in the Best Books of 2013 on Paranormal Reads blog I was ecstatic. For a short while, this book stood apart from others.

Literary awards offer authors a 'recognition of excellence in writing'. This type of recognition can open up doors for self-published authors into the traditional publishing world or to new readers. Even for a traditionally published author, being able to add "Award Winning Author" to a book cover is a key ingredient to setting that book apart from the rest. And in a heavily congested industry, anything that sets one book apart has to be good.

Naturally with so many books published each year, the pool of books entered grows bigger and bigger, which incurs costs so fees become a way of compensating judges for their efforts and paying to keep the website operations, and so on.

This leads to the downside to the 'awards arena'. As with any industry, fierce competition leads to desperation which can lead to people selling golden tickets. Indie authors so badly want that gold sticker on the front cover that they're willing to pay, and there seems to be no shortage of authors bringing  profits to certain awards and contests. The key is to do research to determine if it's a genuine award or a way for a company to make money off people who are desperate for a golden ticket.

Australia has one very prominent speculative fiction award that has helped many authors raise their platform. The Aurealis Award was established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis Magazine. This award gives separate awards for horror, science-fiction, and fantasy in novel length, novella, and short story. It makes the news and the ceremony is held at a major event each April.

I first learned about these awards a few years ago. I didn't know about them when my first books were released, because I would have entered them if I had. Each year, if I have an eligible book, I enter the awards.

So why is this award important to me?

For those who don't know, I'm an Australian author. My target was Australian publishers when I first began submitting my books. But I was not successful in gaining their interest. So I extended my reach and it led me to a US based small-press publisher. They published two of my young adult novels. They didn't take my third YA novel so I self-published it.

The thing about being accepted by a US based publisher is that they use their own style guide. So my books were set up with US language and terminology. We Aussies are pretty open to accepting books written in US language, so I had no issues from any of my local readers.

By this time I had established an audience. Most of my readers came from the US. So when I wrote Welcome to the Apocalypse, it was also written for a US market.

But I have a dystopian series that is suited to the Australian market. And my focus for 2018 will be on the Australian market and Australian publishers. Not just for my dystopian series but for the thriller and romance novels that I plan to put under the punishment of editing.

I've self-published my range of books out of a love of creating, but there's a lot that I'm missing out on. Going to pop culture conventions this year has really highlighted the need to get out and be amongst writers and readers. And my budget only allows for me to do this in Australia.

It'd be great to be able to say "I was an Aurealis Award winner/finalist/honourable mention" to the Australian publishers. So wish me luck!

Winners are announced March/April 2018.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Coffee chat with Jaideep Khanduja - blogger at Pebble In The Still Waters

The coffee chats are back...And this time I've invited members of my VIP newsletter team to share their stories.

First up is Jaideep Khanduja, a blogger at Pebble In The Still Waters. This is more than a blog site. It's an in-depth look at the daily life in India and let me say, it's not the usual trope westerners make it out to be. Jaideep's blog reads like an online magazine, with insightful posts about politics and social responsibilities, as well as posts about technology, travel, and fashion. I asked blog owner all about his motivation for creating Pebble In The Still Waters.

Let's welcome Jaideep Khanduja to my virtual café.

Jaideep Khanduja

DL: Firstly, since this is a coffee chat, how do you have your coffee (or not as has been the case)? And what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

JAIDEEP: A large mug filled with a double doze of black coffee is usually what I prefer. Anytime is good for it.

DL: You have a very organized blog Pebble In The Still Waters with broad topics and well-written posts. It appears similar to an online magazine yet without the ads and scantily-clothed women. Did Pebble In The Still Waters start out as a platform for all your thoughts and ideas? Or did you create it because you didn't like the current trends in magazines? Or is there another reason?

JAIDEEP: Thank you! It is Pebble In The Still Waters ( I never thought of it through that angle that it appears like an online magazine. But yes, I don't want to stick to a particular genre or niche because I feel if I love to write then any idea or topic can pop up in my mind compelling me to create a post and publish on my blog. Hence, you have caught me correctly when  you say Pebble In The Still Waters started out as a platform for all my thoughts and ideas. Another reason for writing on various ideas is it lets me understand what are my strengths and weaknesses in various areas in terms of knowledge and writing skills. Being a Piscean I can't stick to a line for long. I need variance and disruption to think beyond.
Jaideep Khanduja

DL: I know as a writer my blog can sometimes get neglected because it's yet another thing to write. I'd also like to say I blog because I have books to promote, but that isn't entirely true. I enjoy sharing my ideas and stories. What is the most important part of expressing yourself online? Do you achieve that with your own blog? And do you see any setbacks?
JAIDEEP: For me, sharing my ideas and stories on my blog is a top priority. If I skip even a day without writing a post, it creates some kind of irritating void within. The more I write, the more it makes me happy. So it is for my own happiness that I write in a very disciplined manner on a regular basis. You can call it my selfish motive to stay happy by writing regularly on my blog. I don't want to follow any trend on my blog. Neither do I want to become a trendsetter. Every person has his or her own style of writing and expressing. I still wish to gain more readership and higher interactions on my posts. I don't see any setbacks as of now.  


image courtesy Travel Advisor, source Pixaby

DL: What is the one trope writers and film makers use about India or its people/culture that simply isn't true?
JAIDEEP: Poverty, Hunger, and Illiteracy. All three are misguiding factors about India. Our culture is so versatile and rich. People from one state visiting another state have a lot to learn and enjoy in terms of culture, clothes, lifestyle, language, and diversity. Every single place in India has ten positive traits against one negative trait. It is all about other person's understanding and limitations. If you come open-minded to India there is a lot to learn and understand. But if one comes with a pre-set notion in mind about poor India then his focus will stay only in that direction. Tell me, which country in the world, even among the most developed ones, have poor people or with no education. In fact, in most part of India, literacy rate is quite high. And the whole world knows about our strengths in technology, science, and research.

image courtesy bosemanerwin, source Pixaby
DL: What is the best Indian culture that everyone should know about  and why? OR, is there are culture that is fading away due to outside influence/technology that shouldn't be let disappear?

JAIDEEP: The best Indian culture is Unity in Diversity. We love each other because we have different styles of living, food, language, and culture. Our family culture is a known phenomenon. Concepts like live-in and dating etc. have come so late in our country thanks to our solid roots in our culture and heritage. But there is western impact that we see around in terms of fast food, live-in, dating, having sex before marriage, wine, hookah, and so on. On the other hand our youth, especially 'millennials', are emerging as much more productive having sharp skills. They don't hesitate to take risk in trying out new technologies or idea to implement.
image courtesy Cisca1971, source Pixaby
DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

JAIDEEP: I am a cake person. My favorite is Red Velvet.

DL: Thank you, Jaideep, for stopping by. It was wonderful to learn about you and Indian culture. I so often hear that we need more diversity in writing, and its my opinion that true diversity comes from the actual people writing about their cultural issues and experiences, not simply from westerners placing other races and cultures into works of fiction or movies.
Keep blogging, Jaideep, it's a great site. I hope you get a lot more visitors.
Where can you learn more about Jaideep?

On his blog Pebble in the Still Waters. Check it out, it's an insightful blog.

Stay tuned for more coffee chats.


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Writing update - writing Book 3 of two series simultaneously

UPDATE: 9 OCT 2017
When the page views to the original post started rising, I thought that perhaps people might want to KNOW how I'm writing 2 series simultaneously. So I'll include a little bit about the steps I take, and you can read below for the extract and see the book covers.

How to write two series simultaneously?
1. Have the stories outlined and the chapter outlines at the start of each chapter on a new page.
2. Set deadlines. Set word count targets. Combine these two to know how many words per day you need to write to reach your target. If you want a 100K novel out in 8 months (as I do) then I need to break it down to 1K per day minimum within 3 months to leave me 4 months to edit and 1 month to proof and format.
3. Write until all of these points are turned into active scenes. I'll tie them in together during edits, or I'll pull them apart. That'll depend on what pacing I need in the final version.
4. Start exactly where you left off. I type the page number I'm up to at the very front of the manuscript so when I open it I know which page to go to. If I didn't do this, I'd spend forever playing catch up. I'll fill in transitions and remove inconsistencies during edits.
5. Write what comes into mind. I might open one ms and find I'm staring at a blank page and these characters don't want to play. So I'll do some work on the other ms.


For those of you interested in finding out more about my two current WIPs, read on...

Just thought I'd give a quick update on the writing schedule. I’m currently working on Book 3 of Welcome to the Apocalypse – Primal Scream.


The covers for Books 3 and Book 4 are ready to go. I've planned these out in advance for consistency across the series. This cover is dirtier than the first two, but then so is the environment. This is where the story starts to go from apocalyptic to possible dystopian.

Extract of first draft of first chapter:
The world seemed good in here. Here being a place inside a place and about as real as the snow-covered landscape screen-saver on his computer. Jack Minnow could, with enough newly-honed willpower, tame the world to his liking. Right now he liked the idea of sitting on a beach gazing into the Mediterranean horizon with the love of his life. How had he not mastered the art of this sooner?

Sasha Vaness turned to him with a smile that melted his heart more and more with each minute. It also chipped away at his resolve the way a bird taps at an egg until it breaks. None of this was real, least of all her.

"We should have done this a long time ago," she said, staring at the horizon.

"The beach?" Sasha had fair skin with enough freckles to trail kisses along but not too many to make her flesh look pixilated. This was the last place he expected her to want to visit.

She chuckled and swished her red hair off her shoulders. "No, silly. Create our own paradise."

With a wave of his hand, as if turning up the volume on an invisible dial, the gentle sound of seagulls and waves crashing against the shore picked up, and the heady scent of seaweed and salt tickled his nostrils. The sunlight bearing down on Jack's feet was hot enough to leave red a tan mark around his flip-flops. He could turn the dial in the opposite direction and change the landscape, the aromas, the sounds, the heat setting, anything. Yet the way Sasha tilted her head back to draw the sun down to her like a lover, caused Jack to leave the setting as it was. Perfect. Picture perfect.

"I always thought we could do this in here," he said, casting his gaze up and down the beach. They were the only people in existence and it suited him. Perhaps others might be able to enter this purpose-built virtual world, but for now he was successful in keeping them out. The tickling at the back of his neck suggested they were close to breaking in.

"Do what?" she asked.

"We were supposed to be able to imagine any outfit. Combat gear, superhero capes, whatever. So why not everything else? Why didn't we?"

Sasha leaned back on her elbows while she thought about it. Then she rolled over onto her stomach and reached for her glass of wine chilling in an ice bucket that never seemed to melt.

"Simple." She looked Jack in the eye. "We didn't want to. We liked killings things. It made us feel alive."

Did it? He had to admit she was right. Hunting and killing monsters inside the game had given Jack a taste of what it was like to be strong and powerful. In a world where he was master of clumsiness and well known for his bad luck with the women, the virtual game had been the happiest moments of his life. But life was not made up of eternal happiness. It was a series of moments, some good, some bad, and all of them moments to judge other moments by. A person could lay all of their life's moments out on a table and try to make sense of them. Had this happened for this reason? If this had not happened, what would his life be like now?

"What are you thinking about?" Sasha said.

You're dead and I should tell you but I don't have the courage, he thought. So much for being invincible inside this virtual world, and so much for his ability to shape the world to his liking. Nothing would bring Sasha back to life. Not out there, at least.

But in here, anything was possible.

I’m almost finished book 3 of the Shivers Novellas series titled “Danger In The Dirt”. I'm calling it "Wild West meets Supernatural".

Down on his luck, Elijah Brooks steals the sideshow gear from his late grandfather's wild west show to get himself out of debt. Unleashing a monster from the earth was an accident. He knew nothing of the curse. But failing to stop the show and put lives in danger was intentional. This show is the only thing stopping him from becoming homeless. Even if Elijah stops the show, he has no idea how to put the beast back into the ground?

The "Shivers" novellas are like "Goosebumps" but for adults. They're all standalone titles and can be read in any order. These are short reads that don't take up much time or space on the bookshelf. The first two books were popular with the Oz Comic-Con patrons.
I'm getting these two titles ready to take to SupaNova Sydney in June 2018.
Hope to see you there.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Oz Comic-Con 2017, artist alley update by D L Richardson

Event: Oz comic-Con Sydney
Date: Sep 30 to Oct 1, 2017
Location: Darling Harbour
Reason: sell books and merchandise, meet new fans and authors
It was an eventful weekend, starting with my trip up to Sydney. I left home and for a start, this was a long weekend so traffic up the coast was heavy. Then I only made it one hour north when the traffic came to a standstill. A truck had just overturned. I’ve seen these type of accidents take hours to clear. So I turned around and headed inland to go to Sydney via Goulburn from Batemans Bay. Traffic was so bad, I drove past my hours two hours after leaving. The rest of the road trip was pleasant, except when I was 24 klms out from the venue, the traffic came to a very slow crawl due to an accident. I honestly wondered if this wasn’t a sign telling me to turn around and go home. But what doesn’t kill you…
I finally made it, not late actually, I arrived at my predicted time to load in the gear then I headed to the hotel to heck in and then out again to grab a bite to eat. Dinner that night set my tradition for the next two nights. I found myself returning to Mad Mex in the Harbourside complex because it wasn’t crowded, the food was fast, and it was Mexican with alcohol. What’s NOT to love about that?
Day One provided a few surprises. My first customer sought me ought because he’d heard I was there, he’d heard only great things about Welcome to the Apocalypse, and he purchased Books 1 and 2. I told him I’d have book 3 ready for SupaNova Sydney. This made my day. Then I had a ‘blast from the past’ with a surprise visit from an old friend. Someone I hadn’t seen in 17 years and I hadn’t expected to see again, someone from my childhood and my days as a musician. It was really nice to briefly catch up. 
 The cosplay outfits were amazing.
 My table was full of goodies.
More surprises when another customer came to buy Book 2 of Welcome to the Apocalypse, he’d bought Book 1 at SupaNova. Then I received another a ‘blast from the past’ with another surprise visit from an old friend. Someone I hadn’t seen in 17 years, also from my former life as a musician.
The venue was perfect. Each day I exited the halls and walked into the vibrant atmosphere of Darling Harbour. Food and a beverage were so easy to find. Shops were open late. It was such a buzz.
I had an amazing time at Oz Comic-con Sydney and I’m sad it’s over. It highlighted how much I love being a creator and how much I love being behind the scenes. The highlights of the weekend were: being interviewed on camera for a YouTube podcast, running into old friends, meeting so many wonderful people, watching all the cosplay outfits, seeing families cosplay together, meeting authors both indie and tradition. I will be back next year.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Renovate to rejuvenate: how decorating can let loose the creative juices

Writers often get writers block. For me, it's never a block due to a lack of ideas, it's due to a decline in the will to write. When life becomes a series of day-in-day-out, get up and go to work, watch every penny, is this all my life is?, then my creativity takes a beating. This happened to me recently and it wasn't until I steered my creativity to other areas that the will to write returned.
I call this my Renovate to Rejuvenate process where I focus my creativity to other areas. I wanted to repaint the bathroom walls and ceiling, but I didn't know what colours. The wall tiles are a pale olive green. The floor tiles are burgundy. Years ago I added more colour such as the lilac walls and coloured tiles on the vanity to give it a coastal look. It's taken me years to realize that I don't do the coastal look. The second I told my mind to come up with a more mature design, I was bombarded with damask patterns and shades of orange and grey.
The marks on the wall are from a candle holder


At first I went on the hunt for burnt orange towels. I could picture the colour in my mind. I also wanted to use a Tuscany coloured paint I'd purchased a few years earlier for another part of the house. This colour was not used but I kept it anyway. I'm glad I did. Because I painted a picture frame and the colour scheme started coming together.

I found burnt orange towels and charcoal grey floor mats. This decided the colour for the feature wall.
For me, decorations play a major part in the final look. I then went to the local art supplies shop where they have hundreds of styles of scrapbooking paper. In my mind I pictured varying shades of damask print. I purchased a different style for each frame. I had six frames in total.
The picture frames were painted according to which wall they sat

Yes, I should probably get a fancy laundry hamper now.
I've seen a gorgeous damask print shower curtain I might purchase, or a dark-grey one might look good too.
I've since removed the double-sided tape from the cabinet, and I will look for new handles.


So what do you think? I'm in love with my bathroom now. There's just a couple of things to do, such as repaint the white beams and the window trim, install a new window blind (I'm thinking black), and I'm considering purchasing a damask print show curtain. It's not a total renovation, we can't afford that right now, but it's a thousand times better walking into this room now.
This project took 4 days for me to complete.
The walls are painted in Dulux shade Whisper White.
The feature wall is painted in British Paints shade Rhino Black.
The new towels and bathmat cost me $70. I bought 2 sets of towels and handtowels.
I already had the white wall paint.
The damask paper cost me $7.60.
The frames cost me $7 total.
I already had the burnt orange paint colour.
The dark grey paint  for the feature wall cost me $37.50. This paint will also be used in the adjoining toilet.
The rest of the décor I already had.

So why was it important for me to let my creative juice swim in another lake?
 1. It switched off the nagging voice that told me I should be writing.
2. It opened up the mind to colours and patterns and décor rather than words.
What happened during the renovation? Those 1000 words I kept telling myself each day to write, I started writing them again while the paint was drying. And I'm rejuvenated to continue renovating and writing.