In an undisclosed location, somewhere on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, an incredibly talented group of writers, illustrators, editors and layout artists have just finished another year of “Write-A-Book-In-A-Day”. This is the pro-level of collaboration. Twelve hours to write and illustrate a 10,000 word YA novel, with the triggers delivered at 8:00 a.m. and the final product printed and bound by 8:00 p.m. the same day.

Help them by donating to the cause. Any little bit helps. ALL monies raised go to the Kid’s Cancer Project, and 50% of book sales for the first two years do, also.

I’ve taken part in a couple of the past year (buy them here, folks, and help us help the kids) and as a group we’ve collaborated on a non-WABIAD book that is at publishers now. “Into Tordon” is “…a pacy, exciting read that middle-grade readers will love getting sucked into.”

The cool thing about Tordon is that while it is fully collaborative, it does not read like multiple writers wrote it. Having worked with these artists in the past, I think I’ qualified to share some tips for successful collaboration.

Mindset

First and absolutely foremost, you have to want to collaborate. If you go into a collaborative project not completely willing to follow the guidelines below, do your co-collaborators a favour and bow out.

Leave the EGO at the door

Every collaborative effort I’ve been a part of has produced something that none of us would have , or could have, come up with on our own. And there are elements in each one that are unique to each person. There are also brilliant ideas that never left the room, at least not in any of the books we’ve created.

If an idea, no matter how brilliant you think it is, doesn’t work, take note of it for another time. Don’t try forcing it. It’ll stick out later.

Do the groundwork first

This is no time for pantsing. With multiple writers it’s essential to plot your story to enough detail to let each writer know what their “assignment” is. Basically, break your story into as many sections as there are writers. Agree what the out from the previous chapter is and what the in is for yours. Then agree how your section ends and the next one starts.

Agree on the character arc, and what part of that arc you section aligns with. Agree on physical characteristics of the main characters. Gender, hair and eye colour, special skills and If there are injuries to characters, agree on what happens to who, and when. Same goes for damage to props (cars, houses, etc.) and clothing.

Finally (and while this may seem obvious, believe me when I tell you it’s not) agree on the voice; First Person, Third Person Close, Third Person Omniscient — which ever it is, stick to it.

Stick to a schedule

CRITICALLY important in the WABIAD efforts, and almost as critical for any other collaboration. When you only have twelve hours to put something together, you need an iron fist to keep things moving. Get the plotting and character mapping out of the way in two hours. Write for two. Review, edit, and read through again, and leave three hours for “voice”. (I’ll get to that in a minute.)

When it’s a non-WABIAD effort (like Into Tordon is), the temptation is to forget about the schedule. After all, you’re no longer shackled to twelve hours. That would be a big mistake.

We took a day and plotted. Spent much more time detailing the arc, the critical clues, the character development, the twists and call backs — enough groundwork to put together a cracking good tale. We also agreed when we’d put our individual pieces together for our first read through. Which leads to:

Edit ruthlessly

The odds of a smooth first read-through are extremely low. The parts where one writer’s section ends and another starts will be lumpy. You might have the main character doing something at the end of your section, and the next section has the same action. Take one out. It doesn’t matter which one goes, so leave the one in that reads better. See point one about ego.

After a first complete readthrough identify scenes that don’t progress the story and kill them off. If it’s one of your scenes, see point one.

Agree the voice

I don’t mean POV. I’m assuming that you’ve all written in Third Person whatever, but each section will read like it’s written by a different person. Naturally.

One writer needs to take the manuscript from page one to page end and re-write it with a consistent voice. In the WABIAD work, this took the largest amount of time. But it is the most critical step in the process. And when it’s done well, your writing will disappear.

I *know* which chapters I wrote in Into Tordon, but when I read them, I don’t recognise my writing. And that’s a good thing. The voice is the voice of the final editor, as it should be. And if you don’t like it, don’t start the process, because the book isn’t finished until that step is completed.

Eat the EGO

It bears repeating. A collaborative piece of art only works if everybody approaches it with the intent to collaborate. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Leave the ego at the door and enjoy the process. You will end up producing something none of you could have created on your own.

Now, since I stuck that earworm in your head, here you are.

 

03. July 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags:

swlogoSmashwords is having its annual Summer/Winter sale (not to be confused with the winter/summer sale which occurs in six months)

All of my books are reduced on Smashwords. The two Eamonn Shute shorts are free (but they’ve always been free) and the first book of three series — Book ‘Em, G’Day LA and Matt’s War — are free. The remaining books are 75% off.

I don’t make enough money from my books to host a really decent pizza party, so it’s not your ca$h I’m looking for (obviously).

What I am looking for is for you, the reader/consumer, to take a few minutes after you’ve read one or more of my books, to leave a review. An honest one. If you didn’t like it/them after you’ve read it, let me and others know. If you did like it/them, please, please go to the Amazon, iBooks and Smashwords links and leave a review. You only need to write one per book, then copy/paste at the other sites. Reviews are my currency, for now.

Please enjoy the reads. I certainly enjoyed the writes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if I can get a large pepperoni with extra cheese with three 4-star reviews, or if I’ll need two 10s and a 2.

15. May 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags: ,

Mac D Hot Summer v1(400x600)I’m writing book number twelve right now, second in the Mac D: PI Series. It’s called “Hot Summer”. It’ll be released in August of this year (2016) and follows Mac as he helps a friend’s daughter who has been wrongly accused (or was she?) of murdering an ex-cop and all-around slime-ball.

Mac is an ex-cop turned Private Investigator living on the Central Coast of NSW in a fictitious town somewhere between Gosford and Newcastle. Maybe a bit north of Wyee. Budgewoi Beach is his local beach. This book follows on about four months after the conclusion of the first book in the Mac D series, Mac D: Private Investigator. His ribs are mostly healed, ex-cop Jackson is out of jail and Jessie is back from an extended break in Brisbane. All the right ingredients for a shit-storm.

And because I love all my readers, I’m leaving Chapter One here for your reading pleasure. Let me know what you think.

I’m Club Secretary of the Hornsby Rockets Ten Pin Bowling Club. We’re a self-funded club for adult bowlers with disabilities. There are forty bowlers at all skill levels, every one of them having a hell of a time at league bowling every Saturday morning.

Unfortunately, not all can attend the regional competitions we visit because not all of them have access to easy transportation. We’ve applied for a Thermoskin Grant to raise money to hire a bus to take bowlers to competitions within NSW.

Unfortunately, awarding this grant is not based on need, but on votes. Help us help the bowlers by heading to HERE and voting for us.

We thank you all.

Ever have those days when you’re not entirely sure you’re sentient? When seemingly basic technology foils you at every turn?

I was probably thirteen or fourteen (this is the earliest instance of tech ID10T I can remember) and about a year or so into teaching myself guitar when a TV show with Leona Boyd, Chet Atkins and a ton of other guitarists at the top of their genres would be playing. The show was coming on at 8:00. I sat in front of the TV, worked on some homework with the lead-in show on. I couldn’t wait for this show. This, remember, was in the days WAY before recording on VHS was an option.

At about 7:45 our big Persian cat (Syla — I think that’s how it’s spelled) walked by, ignored me with intent, and crawled behind the huge floor model TV.

At about 7:55 the TV went blank. I was devastated. I’d finished my homework early to watch this damned show.

At about 8:45 that fucking cat walked out from behind the TV. I looked behind it and saw that he’d knocked the plug out of the wall. Basic stuff, and I didn’t have the foresight to check. And because of that I missed watching George Benson.

Flash forward about twenty-five years to September 11, 2001. I was in Singapore at the time so it was evening and I was on a conference call with my head office. A regular Tuesday night thing. Someone on the call mentioned a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. Wan’t sure if was a light plane or what. The call was terminated and I spent the next hour on the internet attempting to get more information. Lines were terrible. Links were extremely slow to open. I was getting bits and pieces of the story but also was getting more and more frustrated that it was taking so long to get information.

Then it occurred to me that the television was right in front of me and if I turned the damned thing on there’d be a better than even chance that every news network in the world would be beating this story to death.

Again, basic stuff that eluded my allegedly intelligent brain for almost an hour.

Third third one wasn’t mine. And I’ll freely admit that there was probably a background that I’m not aware of that might provide an explanation.

I was in a tire shop a couple of weeks ago getting a new set of wheels after hitting a nasty pothole at about 80 kph. There was another guy in there face-timing his wife. At first I thought they were speaking really, really quietly, then I noticed they were signing each other. ASL stuff. Going right to town with it. My immediate thought was “What en excellent use of technology.”

I actually held that thought for almost fifteen minutes before I replaced it with another, more logical thought.

“Why in the hell aren’t they just texting each other?”

trump_flicker_face_yessSitting on the other side of this imperfect world, looking at the current goings on in Canada’s pants (that’s the US of A, people. Look at a map for a minute. Imagine the pants’ fly is open and its Florida is dangling.) it’s difficult to tell what’s really going on, compared to what CNNMSNBCFOXDRUDGE tells us is happening.

Sure, Trump is happening. But is it happening as much as the media would like us to think it is happening? I know a lot of Americans. I only know three who I would expect to support Trump and his xenophobic, misogynist rants to (sub)humanity. Any Americans I know other than those three, I sincerely hope, would bypass both Trump and the rubber-faced vampire wannabe Cruz and give them both a wide berth. Extremely wide.

And, inexplicably to me (and to keep the message relatively balanced) there is still a Clinton happening. Clinton (the Mrs) has only her gender going for her. Most people I’ve heard who support her are supporting her because she’s female. Not good enough reason, as far as she’s concerned.

Don’t beat me up. I’m a feminist. I fully support any female running for president, as long as the candidate isn’t her. The history of deceit, both politically and personally, goes back decades. For both of them. To think her and her husband could be back in the Whitehouse is disturbing. And don’t fool yourself – he’ll be in there just as much as she is.

Please, Democrats and Republicans, find a suitable candidate for 2020. It’s too late for this round. Male, female, black, white, latino, I really don’t care. I’d just like it if there was a stable person sitting behind that desk, making decisions that impact the rest of us, even over here in roo-land.

So who’s left?

There’s Bernie, of course. Labelled by most media as an offshoot socialist, he’s probably got the best chance of beating the wing nuts on the far right of the right. Most of what he says makes sense. The “socialist” tag is funny, given the “socialist” programs already in place in the US. He’s not perfect, of course. Nobody is. Not even Trudeau.

But hell, what do I know. I’m a Canadian in Australia, watching from the sidelines, yelling at the ref.

If you’re actually in the US, tell me – reassure me – it’s not that bonkers over there, is it?

02. April 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags:

warriewoodbeachIs there anything so annoyingly crippling as self-doubt? While it sits in your skull, eroding every sense of self-worth you may have ever had, it’s in total control.

But you know that tomorrow, or later today, maybe even in two minutes, it’s be gone, you’ll be sitting on top of the world and firmly convinced you’re the best at whatever it is you want to be the best at.

It’s weird.

Fortunately, I’m in a career (two, actually, if you include the bill-paying job) where I can stifle the self-doubt, smothering the monster so nobody can really notice. Unless they’re close and really know you. Can’t hide anything from them.

In some endeavours, though, success depends entirely on not having the self-doubt monster. Actually, not, not having it, but being able to ignore it. Everybody experiences self-doubt.

If I’m writing and I experience the wave of “you fucking suck and couldn’t write a parking ticket if your life depended on it”, my performance on the day, or lack of it, isn’t readily noticeable to anyone.

But if I’m on a football field, or a baseball diamond, or performing in front of a packed auditorium, and the self-doubt monster parks himself in my head, makes himself comfortable with a beer and a bag of Doritos, I’m fucked. Yet athletes and musicians and actors manage to overcome this every day.

And if I can figure out how they do it, I think it can only help my output.

And if I’m honest, it (the SD monster) doesn’t visit that often any more. Not when I’m writing. I’ve written enough that I know SD a fleeting thing. But it still pops up once in a while. And on days when the SD monster has brought friends to cheer him on, it takes a bit to remind myself that it isn’t a long visit, just an annoying one. Like when the in-laws pop over. They will go away. Eventually.

But how does the soccer player, having just made a defensive error allowing a goal, or skies a shot on goal, missing the sitter that would win the game, how do they continue at a high level for the remainder of the game. Is there a special level of self-delusion at play? Are you pretending you’re someone else completely who doesn’t dwell on these kinds of things?

Do I need to pretend to be {insert favourite author here} to keep pushing through?

If you’re in a performance related career (sports, the arts), how do you handle, on the fly, the arrival of the SD monster?

I’m the Secretary for the Hornsby Rockets Ten-Pin Bowling Club and I have to say, one of the highlights of the week is league practice every Saturday morning.

Among our bowlers are a number with Down Syndrome. I’ve been a member of the club for years now (five, I think, but I really can’t recall) and I completely agree with Greg Jericho’s opinion piece in today’s Guardian. I don’t see disabilities when I’m with the bowlers. I see people. And, if I’m frank, a better sort of person.

One of the bowlers is the most honest (pedantically so) person I’ve ever met. If the pin-spotter awards him a strike and in fact he only bowled a 9 he’ll get someone to correct the scorecard.

None of them hide behind a facade. What’s on their mind is what comes out of their mouth. If they’re upset about something, they’ll respectfully tell you. If they’re happy, man, they’re happy.

It’s refreshing to be around people with no hidden agendas.

And don’t let anyone tell you that DS defines a person’s abilities. One of our bowlers is also a swimmer in the Special Olympics and regularly medals in competitions.

They don’t set limits for themselves. Neither should you.

I’ll leave you with this:

LGM…and I can’t wait.

It’s been too hot, PLUS, I need to know if Jon Snow (I just typed Jon Snot and I think I’ve got a new character for a Chandler-esque parody book) is really dead.

So I’m sitting here wondering why I’m watching a show called “Secret History of UFOs” when Season 2 of Daredevil has just dropped (no sleep for the next 18 hours, right?)

And I have no answer that makes any sense to me.

I don’t doubt that somewhere in the enormous expanse of the universe(s) there are other life-forms. Probably not carbon-based, and probably not bi-pedal, but life-forms, none-the-less.

But I doubt they’re travelling hundreds or thousands of light years to Earth, to buzz the planet.

Yet I’m still watching. There are people on this show that are either seriously taking the piss or are in desperate need of support of the mental health variety. I think I have a pathological obsession with conspiracies. Not that I think a conspiracy of any size involving the government is possible. But the fact that there are people who this it is possible to pull the wool over the collective consciousness, for extended periods of time, fascinates me.

The tortured logic required to neatly slot disparate facts into a pre-determined structure fascinates me. The willingness to discount any reasonable explanation in favour of bug-eyed green men in ships made of liquid metal. Covered up by the military. And not a single person “in” on the cover-up ever talks.

But who am I to complain. I’m watching it. And Daredevil has dropped.

I’m helping you participate in the Read an E-Book week by severely reducing the prices on all of my books, reducing some of them to free.  At the stroke of midnight, March 6th (Pacific time) the following prices come into effect:

Matt’s War  FREE (usually $2.99)

Book ‘Em – An Eamonn Shute Mystery  FREE (usually $2.99)

G’Day L.A. FREE (usually $2.99)

Family Matters $1.00 (usually $3.99)

G’Day USA $1.00 (usually $3.99)

Daly Battles: The Fall of Pyongyang $1.00 (usually $3.99)

Unprotected Sax $1.00 (usually $3.99)

Have Wormhole, Will Travel $1.25 (usually $4.99)

Target: Australia $1.25 (usually $4.99)

Killing Time $1.00 (usually $3.99)

This sale is only a week old, so set your alarm and get them while you can.