Archive | July 2010

Trendy Twilight holding me hostage

I can’t remember when I first got the idea for Mishca, but it was before I read Twilight – not that I have vampires in Mishca. I know it was an idea that I had floating in my head for a while and my first draft that I have on my computer is from late 2008 – which is around when I first read Twilight.

But for me, Mishca is nothing like Twilight.  Mishca is a very different from Bella as a protagonist. If you haven’t seen the cover or read the extract – Mishca is not white for starters. She is also a pretty strong female character, sassy, smart and fiery at times.

The series Mishca is from (ah I need a name for it) is a speculative fiction, combining elements of urban fantasy, science fiction, paranormal and horror, so there are mythical creatures that come into the fore.  But it is still nothing like Twilight – or the flush of teen paranormals that have flooded the market.

Paranormal and Speculative trends in the YA market are set to continue, and there has not been anything like Mishca set in Australia – yet I am currently being held hostage by the trendiness of Twilight.

Okay, maybe that is being a bit over-dramatic, but the Twilight trend has become an obstacle for me getting published at the moment. Three agents have expressed some interest in representing me, but they are all supposedly baulking because I have written a piece that is a current ‘trend’.  One agent apparently said Mishca would be a best seller if it hit the shelves. But no offer of representation has come yet.

So, what to do with writing and trends.  Don’t write to them, but don’t avoid them if you have a great idea. I started writing Conquest in 2006 – and keep getting sidetracked.  Hopefully by the time I finish I am starting a trend instead of “following one”.

My other novel that I am working on outside of Mishca’s series and Conquest is an Urban Fantasy called Leena Barclay: A Mountain of Trouble, but I am hoping the uniqueness of the plot and mythology used will have someone snapping it up.

I will keep writing whatever pops into my weird imagination and hopefully an agent out there will think “this is a good fit for me.”  But I will try to stay away from angels, ghosts and dystopian themes as I am sure by the time I am finished the trend will be so yesterday.

Drawing Inspiration From Death

A morbid topic I know, but a fact of life.  Until recently Death had not visited my life very often.  Then he came and starting taking family members.  It was sad, and hard, but nothing compared to what he is doing to me now.

He has not suddenly ripped someone out of my life as he has in the past.  This time he is slowing draining the life of someone very close to me with an insidious sickness called cancer.

As horrible as the situation is, you still have to deal.  The kids still need to be dressed, fed and taken to school and my day job is still there waiting to be worked. I have dealt with it in a couple of ways.  Firstly in my writing – and this is not the first time I have used writing as a way to process death. I wrote a mini memoir that covers the two weeks from when I first learnt the news through to my visit with him and my return home.  Previously I wrote a play, which I hope to turn into a novel, about the fall out from the suicide of a friend.

The second thing I did was reassess my life.  I definitely want to write for a living, and not corporate communication writing as I am now.  I want to make my living writing novels.  I watch this person work a highly stressful job, neglect their health and well being at times, suffer through high blood pressure and diabetes and now cancer.

I don’t want to be in a job that I don’t like.  I don’t want to stress over work, I want to enjoy it.  And I want to share with people the stories I have to tell.

Something else I have learnt out of all this is the realization that you should hug a loved one as often as you can as you never know when it will be your last hug.

You are A Musing me

Inspiration – writers draw it from many different ways, included from muses.  I love my muse, in the strictly platonic sense.  She is there, cattle prod in hand, demanding more chapters of my work.  She is there, inspiring me to write for her, create characters and scenes that will make her laugh and smile.

I was already writing when I met my muse, but it was some very poorly written plays and some short stories. And I wasn’t thinking about writing a novel and getting it published. We clicked immediately and became close friends – bonding over our joint enjoyment of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Jane Austen movies.

I wrote Mishca, it was with the desire to entertain her.  It made my day listening to her dissect my story, connect with my characters and laugh at the insider jokes I had planted for her. Being a writer for a living was a far off daydream, but she encouraged me to dream bigger and then bugged me to try and get Mishca published.

But it wasn’t all just ego stroking.  She challenged me as well for things like when character behaviours had ramifications beyond what I had thought of. Quite simply, she made me a better writer.

When I decided to rehash a Australian mythology concept I had a few years ago into a series about an Australian environmental consultant who was part mermaid, my muse came into play again – inspiring me. 

If I land a publishing deal I will be dedicating Mishca to her as I am positive I would not have finished it without her.  She influenced my characters, she inspired parts of the story, she encouraged me to keep writing and lifts me up when I loose faith in myself. But she refuses to be fully acknowledge.  I am only allowed to call my muse publicly “She-who-must-not-be-named” (did I mention we also bonded over Harry Potter).

To say she is a devourer of the written word would be an understatement. I am hoping that in the case of Mishca, it is proven once more that she has great taste in books.

How I deal with multiple ideas

Darn this imagination of mine, flitting off in difference directions all the time. Unfortunately, I can be  easily distracted by the multitude of story ideas dancing around my head. At the moment I have three main novels I am working on:

  1. ‘Ryder’ – the follow up story to Mishca in a yet-to-be-named series.
  2. ‘Leena Barclay’: A Mountain of Trouble – the first in a new series about a part Yawkyawk, otherwise known as an Australian indigenous mermaid.
  3. ‘Conquest’ – a stand alone space adventure.

Each have their own merits, and each are battling for supremacy in my head. It would be good to have ‘Ryder’ a fair way through in case Mishca gets picked up by an agent or a publish as a series.  But what if this doesn’t happen?

I hear regularly that it is much easier for a first time author to get a stand-alone novel published over a series. And agents are supposedly looking for YA pieces with a male MC that will also appeal to a female audience.  What do you know – I have a male protagonist for ‘Conquest’ and it is a stand alone novel, and I think teenage girls will adore him – but I might be biased. 

Then the Inkpop community seem pretty excited about ‘Leena Barclay’.  I could have a shot at getting another novel before HarperCollins if they take to my story like they did Mishca.

But there may be a more sound strategy for getting published. If I was to focus on some of the short stories that are also bouncing around in my head, then I might be able to get one published in a journal or an anthology.  Then I could have some writing credentials that involve published work rather than former journalist and an Inkpop ‘Top Pick’.

I came to the decision that the best cause of action is to do them all. Whatever idea knocks the loudest on the inside of my skull will get the attention.  Yesterday I got about 3,000 words out of my head and into Leena and another 500 words today.  I also wrote 700 words of ‘Drop Bear, thou art eating me!’, which is a historical horror short story, set in the 1800s in the then small coastline township of Mackay.  Plus about 400 words in a blog.  And the night is still young.

I’m not going to put all my eggs into one basket. I will listen to my creative instincts and follow the weaving of words where they lead me. 

Give your characters some personality!

Your personality type impacts on what you do.  Everyone has a preferred mode of operation that they use.  Over time, with some self reflection and life experience, we can regulate our reactions to situations better – overriding our natural instinct.

I have studied the Meyers Briggs personality types in depth and find them extremely accurate for judging a person’s reactions and preferences in given situations.

When I was developing my character profiles, I decided to give my MCs Meyers Briggs personality types so I could use my knowledge to accurately portray their actions and reactions.

For example, I made Mishca an ENFP (Extrovert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving).  In layman’s terms this means she likes being around people as it energizes her, she prefers the big picture to detail, makes decisions with her heart over her head and is a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl.  However, in times of crisis she reverts to the opposite mode, is withdrawn, focused and rigid – but will explode if pushed.

Knowing her personality type helped me judge if the progression of Mishca’s journey was realistic for someone with that personality type – and I found it was.  People seem to think she has too cool a head for someone about to have a heart transplant operation, but she turns logical and withdrawn to cope with the stress. After the operation, when her stress settles down, Mishca reverts to her rash happy-go-lucky persona.

If you are interested in using this system to help with your character development then here are some free tools and reference sites:

The first site includes a free mini test.  I highly recommend that you take the test, find out your type AND read the material related to your type as a starting point. You can even get friends and family to take the test too to help you understand personality type dynamics.

The last thing a good writer wants is a Mary-Sue character (a boring MC with no flaws) so mapping out their character traits and including their personality type might help you create three dimensional characters that audiences can connect with.

The Peta Pan Syndrome and the impact on literature

There is a craze sweeping the world.  Everyone wants to stay young, particularly woman. The increased sale in skincare products, the decline in ‘cuddly’ grannies with the health conscious wave and the increasing number of more mature women in ‘hip’ clothes is testimony to the trend. Just call us Peta Pans.

For literature this has seen the emergence of a new category: Cross-over Fiction – stories that appeal to Young Adults and the 18+ market alike.  The trend towards Cross-over Fiction began with the Harry Potter series, when parents started reading their children’s copies.  Then came the adult covers to help make the experience more socially acceptable.

Then came Twilight and the craze caught on.  Adults could be seen buying books that had been classified as Young Adult or Children’s for themselves.  My mother, and the grandmother of my children, has read Harry Potter, the Twilight Saga, the Maximum Ride series and has recently started on Sookie Stackhouse.  Go Mum!

I confess to being addicted to Young Adult books, devouring them whenever I can. I definitely lean towards the Urban Fantasy and Paranormal in Young Adult and tend to read general fiction for the adult market.

The Children’s and Young Adult sections have increased, and some of the books with more mature leanings are doubled up in the adult section to help increase accessibility (and sales).

Whether it is because we are trying desperately to hold onto our lost youth – wishing we could relive our teenage years – or because the quality of Children’s and Young Adult books have improved to the point where some rival those in the adult market I am not sure.

So look for us Peta Pans in YA ilse chanting “I’m not in my thirties, I’m not in my thirties” (or forties, or fifities, or sixies – as my YA reading mother is).

Mishca’s heart is not her own

Mishca is a speculative fiction, with a nice dash of mystery and humour, crossing over the realms of the paranormal, sci-fi and fantasy. It brings a new twist, with themes, beings, and creatures that are not a part of current ‘trends’ and a fresh original voice.

Mishca should have it all, being adopted by celebrity parents. But she is no Nicole Richie. Her poor health has hampered her ability to make friends and is a turn-off for boys. After graduating high school she undergoes a lifesaving heart transplant operation. But this new heart seems to come with consequences. Nightmares begin to plague Mishca, and she begins to wonder about her birth parents, something that had never bothered her before. Unbeknown to Mishca, strangers who are haunting her in dreams are also watching her movements in the real world.

The quest to find her birth parents leads her to Ryder, a fellow adoptee who seems to get Mishca on a level no-one else has before. Her health and inexperience does not faze him and their romance begins to blossom. Her journey into womanhood, her new life at university, and her relationship with Ryder take unexpected twists that ultimately lead to the shocking discovery about the truth of her past.

Currently, Mishca’s manuscript is on HarperCollins review desk after recently ranking second out of more than twenty-five thousand projects on their online community, InkPop, for aspiring YA authors. While HarperCollins is reviewing, they will be considering it for publication. ttp://

The idea for Mishca came to me as a “What if?” scenario. To not give away the twist the best example I could give is “What if a time traveller met herself in another time?”  As I researched and wrote the story expanded further and subplots developed for other characters.  While it could be work as a stand alone story, it is designed to be the opening book of a series that explores the themes of heritage, belonging, atonement, forgiveness and love.

To get an AGENT or not to get an AGENT – that is the question!

For aspiring authors starting out in the industry it can be confusing where to start.  A lot of people don’t understand the importance of an agent.

Sure, you can do it alone; in fact you don’t even need a publisher with the self publishing craze.  But you risk the chance of being one of the thousands of authors who forks out big dollars to produce a book that (chances are) has not been edited properly and will only reach friends, family and a few loyal fans.

For me, I would love an agent because:

  1. They have expert knowledge of the industry.
  2. Established networks.
  3. Can get your manuscript into places where it otherwise may not go.
  4. They will give you invaluable guidance to help you make it.
  5. They have taken you on because they believe in you.

But getting an agent is not as easy as sending off a bit about your book and yourself. Agents literally get thousands of queries on a yearly basis and will only take on projects they believe will be a commercial success – and if they are a good agent they will be passionate about the project too.

Well I haven’t scored an agent yet, so I am not an expert.  In fact, I have only just started looking for one properly.  I face the problem of the fact that there are not many Australian agents to start with.  Then a lot of the agents either don’t take on new clients – unless through recommendation, don’t want to handle YA or aren’t interested in Speculative Fiction.  This leaves me with slim pickings locally.  An overseas agent is a longer shot.  I have been told Australian writers and stories set in Australia have a much lower acceptance rate again for a variety of reasons.

But what I do have for you is some directories for agents and the best advice on querying I have found so far.

Note, I do not know the reputation of all the agents listed.  It is important that you research the agents for their credentials, match for your work and whether they are currently open to submissions.

Australian Agents

US Agents

UK Agents

Best site for query advice (there is so much advice here, read it all and you can subscribe to the blog)

Of course a small number of people are successful without an agent, or through self publishing.  But it is a much harder road and I would prefer to concentrate on writing.