Sunday, July 15, 2018

Free eBook for download, Toronto mystery/suspense "Uncharacteristic Behaviour" by Fran Caldwell

My second novel, "Uncharacteristic Behaviour", set in Toronto, is now available as a free eBook for a limited period.

If you can spare some time to both read it AND leave a review, I would be most grateful. 

Nothing else to report, except it is ridiculously cold here (under 0 Celsius at 6 am) and we are just not used to it. 

Stay warm, or cool, depending on your location...

Saturday, July 7, 2018

I have a new website! Links to everything art and writing.

It took a day or so to do and much muttering and moaning, but I've a new website that links to everything related to my art and writing.

The old one was so tired after almost ten years, and I finally decided it was time for a change. 

I would so appreciate your comments about it.

In a few days, the eBook of "Uncharacteristic Behaviour" will be downloadable free in the hope of gaining some reviews. I'll let you know when it's available.

Just an aside about something that has been such a worry, and which definitely affected my urge to write or paint. My cat, Baby, is eating again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Beautiful First Draft and Its Travail Through Self-Publishing

Obliged to write, for we have no choice in the matter, we impart the idea that it's fairly easy.  We love what we do, after all.  It's not that the writing is difficult -- on a good day, the words flow so effortlessly and that makes us very happy. For me, it takes around two years to write a book -- one of them took five. I don't rush things and I enjoy the process. When I get goosebumps reading the ending, I know I'm onto something good. I feel triumphant. This is the fun part of writing.

But then we have to put on our editor/proofreader hat and the real work begins. With the initial flush of success over, the manuscript has become your enemy.  It's waiting for you every time you pass your laptop. It whispers to you that there is probably another year of editing, proofreading, re-structuring ahead, and you'll never be able to stop making corrections which will grow and grow the more you get into the manuscript, and you'll need sudden re-writes at Chapter 19 or 20 that will change the whole idea, in which case you could need a new title.

You make it through to the end without losing your sanity and get a couple of friends to read it (certainly not able to hire a professional at this point, but you trust their avid-reader skills). One or two minor changes after that, and it's done.

Isn't it?

But we are self-publishing, aren't we? It's now time to become a printer. In this day and age it means re-formatting the whole book into a digital thing -- unrecognizable from the well-groomed MS on your hard drive. It is a bit of a torture at this stage. You do as you're told according to the instructions at your print site, but you have no real idea what you're doing. It takes ages. A little aside here -- when you've spent two years writing, more months editing, by the time you get back to the formatting thing that you did for your last book, you've completely forgotten how to do it. Just saying.

The new format, including the intro pages, ISBN (which you must obtain), index, chapter page numbers, is finally sent to your print-site. The robot at the other end digests everything you sent and either rejects pieces of it, or all of it, or offers a print copy (which you must buy) for you to proofread again. Things happen during the robot's digestive processes, and you'll be surprised what oddities have now occurred.

You fix them, uttering newly-acquired Anglo-Saxon words as you go. Back it goes to Robot. If you're lucky that's it. Your latest version of the book is now ready to be sold. (Which is a whole other story, where you learn about Marketing.) In my case, it took three submissions (and the purchase of three books) before Robot's version was acceptable. I won't say perfect. One friend found one or two more tiny errors. Robot did that, not me. My versions were absolutely perfect.

Last, you are going to need to offer an eBook. There are no excuses. It's essential. This means you're going to have to learn how to re-format your print version into yet another digital language. You'll manage. And on the way you'll discover a whole new vocabulary of curse-words. It could change your writing style for the future, which could be a good thing,

I'm at the "getting-MS-ready-for-first-submission-to-Robot" stage with my "Summer Must End" novel. I've made a deal with myself to work at it 3 days a week, and paint two days. The painting is such sweet relief.

Until next time.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Writers Who Paint

It's been over four years since I  last posted here. Perhaps you thought I wouldn't be back.

After my last post, I totally dedicated myself to completing my third novel. It had been stewing around, more or less finished, but it didn't feel absolutely right. My heart wasn't quite in it. There was more to say and I didn't have the words.

It has a working title of "Summer Must End". But that wasn't what I really wanted. Without a true, illustrative title, I just couldn't prepare the MS for publication. (Well, that was my excuse for avoiding it.) And so it has been dozing (or comatose) in my hard drive for four years, waiting to be completed. In the meantime, for two of those years, I painted. That took away some of my guilt.

Then I goofed off completely for the last two years. No writing, no painting. I was a slug. I felt like a cheat. But World Affairs did it to me. Until I took charge of me and threw myself, as they say, into my work...which isn't work when you're loving it.

Boadicea is back.

My full explanation for my absence is offered at my art blog, posted on Monday. I cleared the air. I felt better for writing it. I believe it's the way a  lot of us are feeling.

And with nice new paintings listed on a great art sales site, I knew the drought was over for me. I've been bouncing out of bed in the morning, planning my next painting or working on one from the day before. And then, today, a very strange thing happened.

I needed to write again.

Finally I've resurrected that poor novel and started the terrible task of formatting it for printing. I'm editing like crazy as I go, adding/amending things I've thought of during my non-writing time -- some on  little slips of paper, some as notes in my computer.

There is a prepared canvas waiting for me to start -- and I want to start. This time, instead of getting into some sort of seasonal mode -- painting through winter, writing through summer -- I'm going to share them on a regular basis. Painting does stimulate the writing. It's writing without words. As I paint, I have little stories running through my head about the picture. "Why is she there? Who lives in that cottage? Where are those sheep going?" That kind of thing.

Bouncing out of bed in the morning will never be the same.

Now the only thing I have to concentrate on, before I complete that darned manuscript, is getting the right title. I promise I will keep you posted. When I know, you'll know.

It would be so rewarding if you would leave a comment about my re-emergence. (It would also be a good way to find out if the comments button actually works after all this time.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Uncharacteristic Behaviour" Second Novel Published

And so I've published my second novel, an urban mystery, "Uncharacteristic Behaviour".  The idea for this book has been with me for a very long time.

Decades ago, in Sydney, there was a huge public protest against the demolition of some fine Victorian houses in Potts Point, to make way for a monster (it seemed then) apartment building. People chained themselves to railings, squatted in the few vacated houses, crowds clashed with police, and there was even a strong suggestion that one woman activist, who disappeared at the time, had come to a violent end.

At the time, caught up in my own life, trying to raise three children as a single mother and hold down a fairly demanding job at the ABC, I spent little time considering the seriousness of the situation. I hated what I heard on the news, was fired up from afar (in fact, I lived quite close by), but did not become involved. These were passionate, radical, somewhat intimidating people, these "counter-culture" activists, and I was a closet protester, safe in my own world.

Needless to say, the houses came down, and the apartment (which I later lived in!) went up, and stands today, a monument to urban developers everywhere.

Then, not too long after, strange as it seems, I found myself living in an apartment house in Toronto on a street where the same thing was happening! People chained themselves to the railings, squatted in empty houses, angrily gathered and marched with their placards. It was deja vu. 

In fact, this was a long term battle that had really started in the 60s. It took a long time to redevelop an area as large as this one. That earlier complex is still considered the largest redevelopment of its kind in North America, housing between 17,000 and 25,000 (nobody knows for sure...) residents.  By the time I was there, the developers were buying up and demolishing beautiful historic houses on the south side of my street, and the protests continued. With the help of a major civic activist, who went on to become the Mayor of Toronto (which campaign I did get involved with), the new high rise expansion was cancelled. Housing co-operatives were later built on the sites of the demolished houses.

My novel only involves one small street. The word "gentrification" applies to it because the planners' idea was to make the area more up-market, more refined, classier...whatever. This certainly doesn't describe the Toronto apartment complex, although the Sydney apartment building is apparently desirable, even if only for the spectacular views, I think. But the rest of the street probably looks much the same as it did in the 1900s - minus a few fine old terrace houses, of course.

I'm getting too old  to be running around the streets with banners and placards. Writing Letters to the Editor is no longer the way to go. So what did I do to voice my feelings about frivolous destruction of historic buildings? I wrote a novel.

Paperback at Lulu now, but shortly at Amazon, and there is an eBook, if you dislike too much commitment.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Amazon and Me

I've spent quite a bit of money at Amazon over the years. It's also the perfect place to research writers and titles. (I always need to know about Kate Atkinson's latest book.)

But to be there, listed there, with my own book -- well, this is a whole new ballgame. It took a while after publishing with Lulu, but finally I can hit my own name, and there's "The Attic".

To all of you who write, who long to publish, who dream of holding your book in your hand -- this is the way to go. It's not for the money - we are not naive - but your book becomes part of the literary world, whether or not anyone chooses to buy it.

I'm reaching an age where I prefer not to see my birth date written down, and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable at the prospect of becoming a sweet, doddery, old lady, chatting people up at the bus stop, claiming to be a writer, but who had never published. Damn it, that wasn't going to happen to me.

And don't let it happen to you (assuming you are a woman - otherwise replace "lady" with "codger").

If you want fame and glory, then good luck with that. If you want to get rich, become a banker. But if you simply want to know that your words will never fade away...ever... then self-publish. Worry about the fame, glory and money later. It could happen. (In my case, probably post-mortem.)

So Amazon is no longer just a place for me to spend my money, or to research, but has become the safety deposit box for my book, along with the other three, when I process them.

Who knows, even Australia's Fishpond  could list it some day.

And to my dear reviewers, at both book sites, my deepest thanks. At least I know someone's read it...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Self-published - "The Attic" - The Novel Released from the Agent Query Treadmill

And so I've really done it. "The Attic" is out there - will be on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc., within weeks, and of course it's already at LuLu, the site I used to publish it.

If you've been considering it, but dismissed it because of some skeptical comments online (including mine!), I urge you to reconsider. Whether or not it sells, whether or not you establish a huge fan base, you will have the enormous satisfaction of holding your book in your hands and knowing it's available to the world. Forever, incidentally, as there will never be print over-runs, and it will never be stacked on a bookstore bargain table. In fact, your book will never be out of print, even when you are.

I've taken the liberty of adding a link to a really good article by Hugh Howey at Salon, about going it alone. This inspired me, and I hope it will have the same effect on you. 

It took five proofings to get to this point. Each time you make changes, you must get another copy of the printed book to finally approve it. And that's it. The only cost to me (I even designed my own cover) were those proof copies...under $100 in total. If I had been more careful, no doubt I could have managed with just two copies, but I was so enthusiastic, so excited to be at the final gate, that I missed tiny things. "Patsy" became "Patty" on one page,  for instance (and people said no one would have noticed), and there was an odd line break on page two. These could have been picked up much earlier if I had just relaxed and read through page by page, just one more time.

I won't discuss what goes into self-publishing. You must learn this yourself as you go along. But it's not difficult, just extremely exacting. As writers, and - we hope - good proof readers, we can cope with that.

But one thing...the beautifully formatted, perfectly proofread manuscript you've been submitting to agents is not the one you'll present for self-publication. You copy it, and then re-format it entirely. Once you've got the hang of the necessary book printer's format, you'll be fine.

However, if you then want to e-publish, that's a whole new formatting project. I nearly tore my hair out over that one, but I got there in the end,

You can do it. Honestly. Be brave.

By all means ask questions of me. I'm happy to share what little knowledge I have, or at least point you in the right direction.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

It's Been Such a Long Time...

I haven't type a word here since July. I have no excuses - there is always time in the day to say something, yet I didn't. I've been in a pensive, non-communicative state for quite a while, but I've emerged, I think.

I published my novel, now simply called "The Attic". This is huge for me. Not in terms of fame, glory, revenues (ha!), but with the incredible feeling of lightness, of relieving myself of a day-in, day-out stress that came when I let go and said, "Enough's enough."

In fact it wasn't as tricky to do as I imagined. Learning how to use the site itself was the hardest, and then it all fell into place.

This post is short and sweet. I only wanted you to know that I'd done it (what bravado!) after offering prickly comments about the self-publishing industry the whole time I've been blogging here. This only goes to show how long that's been, because since my very first blog, the whole attitude to what used to be called a self-aggrandizing  practice has changed.

And I have now taken advantage.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Self-Publishing Under Protest

It's been over four months since I last posted. During that time, I produced a lot of paintings, but that particular calling is losing its urgency, and I'm slipping back into writing mode with a vengeance.

There are a few queries out there, and I pop them off on a whim when I spy a new agent, or one who's just moved house. In fact, I'm now dealing with an English agent for Place of Dreams, and as soon as I can afford to do an actual print run of all my  manuscripts, I'll be going the snail-mail route with other English agents. Those sweet, eccentric Brits. I can say that, because I am one...although Canada and Australia have smoothed out most of the quirkiness.

In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about the book I initially called "Strachan's Attic", but which is now renamed, simply, "The Attic". (It's odd, but I see no other current book for sale with that title.)

I wrote this novel for a family member, Pat, who lived through the strange, somewhat surreal years of World War II in England. She was a very young, barely out of high school, truck driver in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and I grew up hearing of her exploits - many of them funny, considering the circumstances - and conjuring up the images she described. Wartime is unlike ordinary life, of course, and we can feel some of that when we watch the nightly news, trying (if we have the slightest trace of empathy) to imagine how people keep their sanity through all they experience.

Even when I was very small, I always knew I would be a writer. I seem to have been born able to read, although that's impossible, but I certainly don't recall the first time I read something, so I must have been very young. My mother constantly bought books for me, and I still remember the thrill of opening up a new one. Along with a set of paints, and a coloring book, this was all I ever wanted as gifts. Nothing much has changed, except I no longer use coloring books.  Needless to say, in the back of my young mind, I longed to put the wartime stories down on paper. Undoubtedly, being so young when I first heard them from my mother or other family members, or directly from the long-retired WAAF herself, they made a deep impact.

And finally I wrote Pat's book. Although much of it is highly-fictionalized, it is as realistic, as hard-hitting, as faithfully recorded as I could manage. It is, ultimately, a love story. There were so many of those; senses are heightened and emotions are enhanced in a war zone. I believe I have captured this. Pat read the manuscript and loved it, but I so wanted to give her an actual book, tangible proof that her life had such a huge influence on me.

So, my friends, hold your breath...I am self-publishing it. In fact, it's all ready to go.

I've regularly more or less scorned the idea of what I saw as vanity press, but in this case, it's necessary. My WAAF is no longer young. And nor am I, for that matter. It's time to do this now.

I haven't decided whether or not to make the book available to the public. I need to consider this carefully. The book was written for her, but the few people who have read it - family, friends, a couple of writing buddies online - all enjoyed it, so it's reasonable to assume that others would too, although I'm also realistic enough to acknowledge that my MS readers would have resisted being unkind..

Perhaps I'll run through the process of self-publishing in another blog. For now, I'm too much of a novice to speak about it with any authority. But the book looks really good, and I believe I can do no more with it. If I do make it available for sale, I'll need to research the promotional side of it, I suppose. But then I never expected to reap a financial reward from it. All I ever wanted to do was see my sister's face when she held the book in her hands.

Yes, my WAAF is my sister.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Painting as Antidote to Waiting for Literary Agent Responses

I finally heard  back from that agent who had a full submission of mine for six months. I nudged her twice before getting her reply. She didn't say the work wasn't for her, but said,  "I am not the best agent for this..." A new way of putting things.

So - except for those who will never respond, by my reckoning about a third of all queries sent - I have now closed off the dossier which represents last year's queries. This is tremendously freeing, and I can now concentrate on what's gone out this year. In all things, I don't believe in looking back. That's done and gone, and some of it not related to writing would make interesting reading in itself, but the here and now is what it's all about.

I'm still rather feverishly painting and that's very soothing, and I find I'm not dwelling on the books at all, but thinking up plots (for that's what they are) for my next picture.

Until next time.

Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky