Friday, February 25, 2011

Spreading the Word

My role in getting Brigid converted into an eformat and loaded to Amazon was minimal. Emma applied her considerable techie skills to that task. The publicity, though, is my responsibility and I have to start applying all the information I have absorbed over the last few months of researching the possibility of going digital. First and foremost is this blog, beautifully set out for me by Emma but whether it is being read by anyone out there in cyberspace I have no idea. I can only hope! Then there is facebook. Up till now I have avoided the social networks principally because i don't quite understand how they work, but now I have a page and some friends but I don't know whether they know I exist as I have had contact with only a couple of them. I feel I need advice on how I can tell more people about Brigid, particularly those who have taken to reading electronically.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Decisions, decisions

Choosing which of my books to epublish was easy. Brigid is by far my favourite. Is is, after all, semi-biographical. The first person narrator is essentially me and I did have a great great aunt called Bridget. Not that I knew much about her when I started writing what I intended to be a story about a middle aged woman travelling clockwise around Ireland on her own. I had chose Bridget to accompany me precisely because no-one knew much about her. I could invent her without my relatives - Mother particularly - being able to say "Well our Bridget wasn't like that!"

I have such wonderful memories of the journeys we took together. There were four all up, each long school vacation from my boarding house mistress position at the school on the leafy North Shore of Sydney. On the first trip I did in fact go clockwise around Ireland after a few days in Dublin seeing the sites and spending a fortune in the bookshops. Then it was down through Wicklow and Wexford, across to Cork where some of my ancestors came from and on up through Killarney to Clare. I visited Glendalough and checked out the sites of the 1798 Rebellion at Enniscorthy, and soaked up the atmosphere in the wonderful little towns I passed through. Some of them I had read about, others would become household names as I delved into the history of Ireland.

And all the time I was learning about the Great Potato Famine! And the role my ancestors might have played in it. Imagining Brigid was exciting. I had so much material on which to create her.

Before we had even reached County Clare, Brigid had taken on a life of her own. She was directing the novel. It was her story and as the time I had available for the journey ran out and the boarding school beckoned, I had to shelve both her and the project until more holidays came around. On subsequent journeys, there was no clockwise touring. it was straight across the middle of the country to Ballyvaughan and Mrs O'Brien's pub so I could start researching close to where Brigid had spent the first part of her life until the famine struck.

Just thinking about those weeks I spent in the Burren around Ballyvaughan, nosing about, asking questions, being shown the places Brigid would have known, thrills me still. And reading Brigid's story again so that it could be converted to an ebook, excited me anew. I hope that now it is available in eformat it will find a whole lot of new readers and be loved by many more people all over again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Entering the world of epublishing

In an age of shrinking print runs and increasing competition for bookshelf space in the nation's bookshops, Australian writers, unless they are household names, are likely to see the books they have laboured over for years snatched from public sight well before the slender edition has been sold out unless they are also excellent promoters of their own work. Even so, the likelihood of a second print run is remote as there are always new titles demanding attention.  Consequently many a good story ends up on the remainders table or simply fades into obscurity.

For most of us, self publishing these loved and forgotten titles is not an option. It is too costly and we are writers, not entrepreneurs. We simply cannot compete with main stream publishers and distributors to get our books into bookshops.

For me, the idea that the books I have devoted so much of my writing and researching energy on would disappear from all but a handful of libraries, who still have them on their book club lists, and become just another mention on my curriculum vitae is not satisfactory to me.

Now a solution has arisen. With effort and the digital skills of my daughter Emma each of my books can have a new lease of life as an ebook.

The Process

Over the last few months I have read all I can about the epublishing industry, the types of readers available and the eformats which are compatible with them. I have also followed with great interest the discussions in the Australian Society of Authors' newsletter and elsewhere on the advantages and disadvantages to writers of epublishing.

So that my ebooks don't just become another entry among millions on Amazon, never to be downloaded by a paying reader, I have also investigated the options available to me for publicity. I have read several articles about blogging and have begun following the blogs of other writers. I am also resigned to the need for a facebook page, and of course I already knew the importance of a regularly updated website. As I don't consider myself sufficiently computer literate to build or upgrade my own website, Emma has assumed that responsibility and is patiently overseeing my entry into the world of the social networking.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

fuelling the imagination

The stories my mother tells me provide wonderful material on which to build characters. Of course she only tells me good things about her family. We have always been more refined than most even though her father was an engine driver and his was a draper and had come from one of the poorest regions of Ireland. The pretense of grandeur is just as relevant for the 19th century characters gold rush characters in my novel The Liberator's Birthday as it is for the story I am working on now which is set in 1902. With imagination the concept of a person considering themselves better than their peers can be applied to any age or circumstance and I am sure I will return to the theme for other characters many times.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Whenever my mother begins telling me a story about our family she always starts by saying 'now don't put that into a book.' I don't, well not directly, but what she has told me has certainly influenced my character development especially when I was writing Brigid. It was written in an autobiographical style with a me like character confronted with the ghost of her great great aunt on a trip to Ireland. And I had a great great aunt called Bridget who died before my mother was born and was not talked about in the family because she had her considerable wealth to a female servant of many years instead of to my grandfather.

According to my mother, no one knew anything about the servant who got the money. A great starting point for another novel.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

fueling the imagination

It's another year and another novel writing course begins. It never ceases to amaze me that each course I teach fills with eager participants. I think I must have taught half of Melbourne by now.

I always start off each new course with an exercise in getting the imagination going. Last night it was the 'body in Flinders Lane' scenario and I got 16 different takes on how it got to be there. Some were wacky, others more down to earth but there were a couple of participants who simply couldn't come up with anything. It was the same when I asked the class what they planned to write about. There were a handful who didn't know.

That led us into discussion about where ideas come from. These participants had mostly come straight from work to the classroom. They had jobs, they'd studied, some had travelled. They knew stuff. I hope they'll be able to sort through their stuff for an idea for their book.

On the way home on the train I began to think about the stuff I know. I didn't write anything down - perhaps I should have - but I surprised myself. I think most writers would be the same. it is the stuff in our heads that helps us construct our plots and give life to our characters.

Monday, February 7, 2011


It's exciting. My first ebook. Well it is not really my first. I found while scrolling through Amazon a few months ago that I already had three ebooks, electronic versions of three hard cover little histories which had been published in the Little Red Book series by Excile Publishing in 2005 -6. But Brigid is the first ebook I am responsible for publishing through my new publishing house Eureka House. And Brigid is not exactly new either. The original version was published in paperback in 1999 by Indra Publishing and has long been out of print.

The story set in Ireland tells the story of the Great Potato Famine as experienced by the ghost of the narrator's great great aunt who accompanies her as she journeys clockwise around Ireland. Most of the story is set in County Clare and it explores the hardships experienced by the people of the Burren, the role of the secret societies, and devastation caused by the potato blight. Brigid can be downloaded from Amazon.

I have to admit that I can't take too much credit for getting Brigid to Amazon. All the hard work of converting the text to ePub, designing a new cover, and uploading it was done by my daughter. It is so good to have a teckie daughter.

Link to Brigid on Amazon

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reaching into the past

There are those who will say disparagingly that historical fiction writers simply reach into the past and grab a few titivating bits of history and use them to create a story of our own liking. That is exactly what we do. Some would also accuse us of showing disregard for the circumstances surrounding the items we have selected as the basis of the story. That we should never do. Serious historical fiction writers can use their creative skills to breathe life into the past, particularly aspects of it which are rarely at the forefront of historical writing. We can explore the physical, emotional and psychological impact of events and issues which shaped the world on ordinary people and we can encourage our readers to share the grief and elation, the fear and joy which accompanied those events and issues. I think that is why historical fiction remains such a popular genre and gives rise to such gems as Kate Grenville's Secret River and Hilary Mantel.