Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

What I Wrote In 2014

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

2014 was a solid year for writing with two novels and two self help books written and published. I can’t tell you the titles of the two self help books, but one was a martial arts book, the other a financial success tome. The two novels were ‘Sarah’s Child’ and ‘Sarah’s Turn’, based on original information given to me by Paul England. Both books have been selling well and I have some ideas for #3, ‘Sarah’s End’ I have discussed with Paul. I might write that one ‘on spec’ and get it out there just to finish off the trilogy.

I edited and published several books, ran a few community college courses and even taught some creative writing. As well I produced a ton of web site content and got a few short stories and other projects started, but never finished as paying work got in the way; as it does. Now I am back to being self employed and planning to stay that way, I might be able to get a fair bit finished!

 

Writing Retreat Planned For April

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

IMG_1319This Easter I will be spending two weeks travelling through Malaysia and the Philippines with fellow author and StreetWise Global business partner, Frank Green. A major objective of the trip is to actually meet after over a decade of online friendship and nearly three years in business together. We have shared many hours of  VoIP conferencing (Skype) and email exchanges but nothing beats spending time face to face. Frank is an Englishman who lives on an island off the west coast of Ireland with his two children. A superb writer in his own right, Frank handles a lot of the ‘grunt’ work of running an online writing business.

StreetWise Global is one of the StreetWise group of businesses, but separate to my personal StreetWise Publications. SWG handles the factual self-help series of StreetWise Guides and Language Courses that currently focus on the Philippines. One of our goals is to explore Malaysia a little more than we already have on previous individual visits. (I was last there in November 2012 after attending the Singapore Writer’s Festival). We both believe there is a lot of potential in providing StreetWise Guides for those looking to retire to Malaysia, especially those who can’t quite afford the superb ‘Malaysia My Second Home‘ retirement scheme. We have some unique insights to develop on how expats can enjoy everything this fabulous country has to offer, but at a more affordable retirement budget.

IMG_1274While in Malaysia we will be undertaking a road trip, not quite as epic in length and duration as the one Scott and Greg enjoy in ‘Never Be Unsaid’, but epic nonetheless. The plan, so far, is to drive from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan on the East Coast, then north to Kota Bharu, across to Alor Setar and then back down to KL before flying on to Cebu. In Cebu we will circumnavigate the island as we both believe road trips are ideal for focusing one’s thoughts and giving us plenty of time to talk things through in detail. While on this trip we have pledged to write at least 1,000 words per day of short fiction. The theme will be decided but the setting will be wherever we are that day. The resulting anthology will be published online and in print.

Another objective is to scout out various WW2 and Malayan Emergency (1948-60) battlefields and add them to the planned tours of Singapore. Once the focus on Gallipoli, Flanders and WW1 dies off and everyone has done the Kokoda Track and Vietnam, I think there will be interest in the Malayan Campaign, Fall of Singapore and the Emergency and Confrontation with Indonesia (1964-67) as a place of military historical value to visit. In the Philippines I have to visit my inlaws and make sure they are getting back to normal after the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, meet up with old friends and refresh a lot of material for my existing titles. While you can update many things via the Internet and forums, there is nothing like boots on the ground (or sandals in my case) to get you genned up.

When we return there will be a lot of writing to be done and no doubt some new publications to be promoted. I can’t wait to challenge Frank to a Satay Eating Contest!

In Grave & Dark Clad Company

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

cover smallThis month I published my ‘edgy’ anthology, ‘In Grave & Dark Clad Company’. Sixteen short stories of sex offenders, suicides, serial killers and assorted strange people, normal people and a few in-between people. I have several other stories that will form the basis of the next collection but they really didn’t fit into this one. I think you need to resist the temptation to throw in everything you have ever written just to make the page count and get them out there.

An anthology should have a theme or some common thread tying things together. I have other stories that are funnier, fluffier (well as fluffy as my writing ever gets) and perhaps more far-fetched but this collection just seemed to gel and say, ‘enough’ when the last one was included. So far sales have been promising with lots of people promising to buy a copy. It is available through Lulu as well as on Amazon courtesy of Create Space and of course Kindle and everywhere else as an eBook thanks to Smashwords.

Me Time

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Now I have been back from Singapore and the Philippines for a fortnight things are starting to settle back into a kind of routine. I don’t have a lot of paid writing work at the moment and I confess I haven’t gone hunting for it, either. Writing work doesn’t just fall in your lap, you have to put yourself out there and chase it like any other kind of freelance work. Not that I am complaining as I am relying on the tutoring and lecturing to bring in the cash while I spend some much awaited ‘Me Time’.

I have two major writing projects happening at the moment: my novel ‘Never Be Unsaid’ and my short story anthology, ‘In Grave And Dark Clad Company’. Both have been on the back burner for months, even a year or two and now I am investing precious time to get them happening. The novel will still take a long time to get to manuscript stage as I am about a third of the way through and writing maybe a chapter a week. The anthology is ready for editing, formatting and layout and then publishing but… I think I need to rethink the content.

Rather than just throw in every short story I have written over several years I think I will give this one a theme and keep it only for the twisters, those stories with a macarbe or shocking twist, even just the human nature stories. I’ll keep the humour and the political satire stuff for another collection. I chose the title from a line in ‘Young Goodman Brown’ by Nathanial Hawthorne, a gothic literature story I had to read for a research paper I produced for a client this month. I don’t think my stories could be classified as gothic, even contemporary gothic, but there are gothic elements.

Sometimes the writer needs to allocate time for their own writing, otherwise this freelance writing business is no different to any other job where you swap your time for their bucks. If you don’t exercise your freedom to do your own writing, then you deserve to lose that freedom and be forced back to being a wage slave. Mind you, if you get too self-indulgent you might find the reality of having to pay that mortgage makes wage slaving an attractive proposition and when you are over 50, there aren’t as many propositions out there to be attracted to!

Loving Life

Friday, April 12th, 2013

I just finished ghostwriting a small eBook for a US client. Lots of fun and the client was rapt with the finished product, which is how they should be. I now have a couple of other writing jobs bobbing around and of course I am close to the big family vacation in May. I have about 15 hours of face to face tutoring to do between now and May and that is pretty much that. In other words I am free to write for myself! We have money set aside for the trip, the expenses while away and more due when clients pay for work recently completed so life is pretty good. In short we are managing and very happy.

I must say working for yourself like this isn’t for everyone and sometimes I do envy those in ‘regular’ jobs with sick leave, super, holiday pay and basically more money. Then I think how I was dead a few years ago and that every breath is a bonus. Might use that as a story title; ‘Every Breath A Bonus’. Since I brought my fees inline with other professionals I have been found by a different breed of client and I must say I do enjoy not having to haggle over a few cents a word. It does make you try even harder because once you get the taste for decent rates and the income they generate, you can never go back to competing with Third World writers for content mill work.

Now, what will I write about? I have my short story anthology to collate and add to. I have my novel, ‘Never Be Unsaid’ and the eLiterature Project to work on and of course a dozen blogs, some updates on books and some promotional work on my publishing house backlist. And there was I thinking I was on holidays!

My New Olympia

Friday, March 29th, 2013

olympia1I was at the Blacktown Car Boot Sale last Sunday. We got there after noon so it was free to get in and most people were packing up and leaving. The market is held in the old drive-in theatre and next to one of the speaker stands someone had abandoned a 1960s-70s era Olympia manual typewriter. Just like the ones i used to type up incident reports when I was a Military Policeman back in the early 80s. It all works and while it needs a clean up and a new ribbon, the kids love playing with it. These things are German made and pretty much bullet-proof. It will clean up nicely and look as good as the one in the photo.

amstrad_pc1512_2sWhat I like about it is it is solid, heavy and reliable. A bit like me some would say. I won’t be doing any work on it but I do recall the transition between typewriter and word processor on my desktop computer. It was an Amstrad 1512 and I bought it as they were being replaced by 286 models. It had two 5.25 floppy drives and a CGA monitor. I hooked it up to a dot matrix printer and away I went however I kept the Canon portable electric typewriter I had been using for a few years for invoices and ‘quick’ stuff. Back then dot matrix was the only printers available, it was right before laser and bubblejet (inkjet) came in. Remember the special printer paper with the holes down the sides for the drive sprockets?

When I upgraded to a 386 PC in 1990 or 91, followed by a $600 bubblejet Brother printer I could buy today for $49, with colour print, scanner and photocopier, I never went back to the typewriter. No need as I and my income had caught up with technology. All that was nearly a quarter of a century ago! No matter how technology changes, though, the need for quality writing never disappears. You can have the best writing tools in the business, which I have) and that won’t ensure good content.

How’s Your Writing Year Shaping Up?

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Mine is coming along with a couple of pressing projects done and dusted. I have just received confirmation the two Become A Published Author Course anthologies, ‘The Rorschach Seventh’ and ‘The Rorschach Revelation’ ahve left the printer and are on their way to me. We will launch on the weekend of 6-7 April and it should be a lot of fun. I also completed the work for a course of study at diploma level and while in hot debate about one module and the three assignment’s therein being winners or losers, it is good to finish that off; a year’s work finished on time.

I have several ongoing writing projects including a ghostwriting job for an eBook, some academic essays and a rewrite of one of my community college courses. There are some other jobs in the wind but until the money is paid into escrow or a deposit made to my account, they are all just maybe’s. Nevertheless, this is all keeping me busy and I haven’t even thought of the upcoming updates for my StreetWise Philippines titles, the filipino language course promotions or any of the other stuff!

We are five weeks away from the ‘Big Trip’, taking the family to Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. I still haven’t written up my business trip there last November! One of the culprits is the fact the 40% of income from tutoring and lecturing is already up to over 50% and going for 60%. Well, you take it where you can get it when you are freelance. I must say I do look forward to the school holidays which let me catch up with the writing stuff. So, how is your writing year coming along?

Singapore Writer’s Festival

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Well I’m back. It was a great trip but I returned with pneumonia thanks to sweating like a rapist just walking around, then stepping into aircon buses or shops and getting blast chilled with freezing air. It was a brilliant way to get the creative juices flowing again and I have hundreds of new ideas for stories, characters and dialogue. I also got to visit several historic sites from the Fall of Singapore in 1942, very moving and thought provoking. How would I have managed had I lived then? Would I have lived or died?

While in Singapore the Singapore Writer’s Festival was in full swing and I attended several events. Like writer’s festivals everywhere I felt it was more for readers and thus buyers of books than writers. Except for the fortunate writers invited to speak on panels and present seminars of course. I attended one discussing the value of literary prizes. The panel members had more literary prizes (including a Pulitzer) than I had had curry dinners and I did wonder if they would be so casual about such things were they as yet un-awarded. There is something to be said for writing for prizes as the prize circuit can be lucrative. How one does that was one of the discussion topics but nobody seemed to think you could (or should) write just to win prizes. Why not? They are another form of revenue or income a writer can earn from their work.

I quickly realised the festival didn’t have much if anything to offer those of us who publish independently or online. Not surprising given it was sponsored by book chains and publishers. So what is the value of these festivals? They can get very expensive and are often teeming with people anxious to get a result with their writing but not sure if it will happen. Maybe they are hoping to be discovered, fairy-tale like, by a benevolent publisher who instinctively recognises their latent talent. Dream on.

I moved on and went to Kuala Lumpur by coach. Observing the driving of the average local I revised my plans to rent a car for a couple of days and figured I would be better off taking it easy in KL and not trying to rip around and do and see too much. I was pretty exhausted from the heat and all the walking I had done in Singapore and felt there was little to be gained pushing myself even harder. I met a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner on the bus, ‘Singapore Sing’ who told me what ailments I had just by feeling my pulse, looking into my eyes and at my tongue. he was spot on! He gave me some great nutritional advice and the following day we met and he showed me 20 Yoga positions that should eventually do wonders for me. One of those chance meetings that perhaps wasn’t so coincidental.

I had my 51st birthday in Kuala Lumpur. A friend of mine working there on assignment took me to dinner at a Thai restaurant and then we went on to Traders Hotel 33rd floor Skybar to stare a the stunning Petronas Twin Towers, lit up and looking magnificent. I enjoyed my time in KL and was sad to have to leave the next day and begin the journey home. First to Singapore by coach, then the red-eye flight to Sydney and then straight off to my doctor. The very next day, despite the pneumonia it was back to work tutoring, lecturing and writing whatever people pay me to write. The trip, not counting presents for the wife and children, cost me about $2,500 all up, around $250  a day yet I have gleaned so much more value from those ten days it was worth every cent. I could have saved $500 by flying budget economy but those narrow seats would have been the death of me on the flight back, ill as I was. I could have saved another perhaps $100 by struggling with buses instead of the three or four times I used cabs in Singapore. Another $500 would have been saved had I shared a dormitory in a backpacker hostel instead of having a room and bathroom to myself but if I have to slum it like that at my age, I m not going! Now to turn those ten days into writing that pays!

How Time Flies

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

People I know often ask me how do I fill my day. The answer is that I don’t, it gets filled for me! If we look at a typical week there are  between eleven and fifteen hours spent tutoring, four hours lecturing to college courses and of course time spent getting to and from these commitments. Twenty hours of income earning time usually requires the same amount of time getting to and from, so that is 40 hours of the 168 each week has to offer taken care of. Grinding the work is one thing, finding it is the really tricky bit and usually one must spend as much time looking for the work and managing the admin as actually doing it. Most of 2012 I have been ghostwriting books for clients and this required 4 hours a day for at least five days of the week. Not all that time is spent writing the book, probably most of it is spent reading the source material and making sense of it, putting it into some semblance of order and coherence. When no longer writing books for others, I try to write for myself but that itself has various ‘facets’.

I have dozens of websites that are supposed to promote various books I sell and yet they need regular maintenance and I have been remiss in providing that time and attention. I have arranged for help from others but they seem to be caught up in their own issues and I understand that. I think for me it is a case of biting off far more than is chewable. I am trying to keep the blogs updated and interesting and I have plans to streamline the web sites and vamp them up a bit. All in good time, no doubt.

I am also redesigning the college courses I offer and tasks like these are scheduled for the two weeks every ten we call school holidays. No tutoring or lecturing during this time means the whole day is mine… except where I have to drop pen or keyboard and do something deep and meaningful with the kids. On top of all that I am a firm believer in ongoing education and currently have a Diploma course underway via eLearning through OTEN and that requires time and input. Apart from all this I need to exercise daily (which I rarely do,much to my chagrin) and eat, sleep and spend time with the wife and kids. So you see, being self-employed online is not always just a case of two hours a day spent by the pool with a laptop! For me it is pretty much a 24/7 lifestyle. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Unless I won the Lotto. Then I might drop a few things.

 

Earth Hour Excuse

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Last night was Earth Hour and we observed it with friends at Rob and Nick’s place. Rob and Nick are two writers who have kicked off a new literary review called ‘Mosaic’, due out in a month or two. Mosaic has some great writing in it and will become a must tick to have for those wanting to be published. The night was a lot of fun with Rob entertaining my five daughters with some balloon animals and the rest of us with his impression of a Hollywood stuntman walking into a glass door.

We basically had a bush BBQ and then sat around eating a terrific cheese board selection, cooked sausages, roast potatoes and corn cobs and even toasted a few marshmallows over a candle, all the while talking books, writing and more general topics. What is really worth mentioning is that Rob and Nick have moved down from Queensland and in a short time made themselves valuable members of the writing community, such as we have, here in the Blacktown local government area. They have taken the initiative and started up a Writer’s club that meets on Wednesdays at Blacktown library and Mondays at their home. They made an effort to meet their neighbours for Earth Watch by letter boxing for a few streets around them. So much so that when I for some reason lobbed up at #62 the Asian man there was able to tell me to go to #95. He knew what was on and where! (I swear the flyer had #62 on it and that changed to #95 while I was away)

The lesson to learn is that while writing is a lonely craft or business, you have to make the effort to get out there and meet your peers. Say hello and make things happen. Otherwise you will be forever sitting behind that monitor and while you can make some great friends online, there is nothing like sitting there face to face and sharing some food, drink and good conversation. Isn’t that a part of what the writing life should be all about?