Saturday, November 27, 2010

Words Fly Back

Last week I received a really nice email from Denys, a reader from Winnipeg, Canada.  I've been very lucky over the past couple of years to be sent emails from some extraordinary places and it always gives me a thrill to picture my humble texts being read in far off places.  Whilst it's unlikely that I'll ever travel to Winnipeg, Cork or Port Elizabeth, it seems words have the power of long distance flight and occasionally they return to you accompanied by other words in the form of emails from people who, for one reason or another, were prompted to write.

Winnipeg Folk Festival: Friday Sunset by Quiplash! 2005 Non-Commercial, Copyleft Creative Commons Licence

I particularly liked this email as it was from someone who didn't usually read fantasy but was enjoying what he was finding in What Lies Beneath.  I'd like to use this post to respond to one of the questions this correspondent had about the role of the Caliban's End wiki.

"In googling your work, I just came across the wiki with maps, character charts, etc.  I think these will come in handy as I continue reading, but I am a major spoiler-phobe.  I see all the enticing links on the right of the page (specifically overview, places, races) and they are begging me to click them but I'm worried about giving away anything from the actual story line itself (i.e. character deaths, outcomes of conflicts, etc.)  If you have a moment, could you please let me know which, if any, of these links I can safely click without ruining any surprises?"

Denys' concerns are totally understandable and I'm surprised I haven't commented on this until now.  I thought I'd post some of my response to Denys as I'm sure that other readers would have similar feelings when confronted with the wiki for the first time.

One page of hundreds from the Caliban's End wiki

The primary reason for the wiki is to flesh out this world I have created and to provide a backstory that would otherwise slow down the narrative if included in the story proper.  Quite a few pages of the wiki contain things that aren't in the books, including flora, fauna and events (and plenty of accompanying images).  If I remember rightly, the aardwolf (for example) isn't discussed anywhere in the books.

In compiling the wiki I have tried to avoid spoiling the story which has been a bit of a challenge.  The wiki teases, and implies things, but it shouldn't give away major points such as characters' deaths, plot twists/reveals or the outcomes of battles in the trilogy.  For example, the character of Remiel, who is introduced in Chapter Two and is clearly a significant character, receives the following account in the wiki:

Shortly after the catastrophe that befell The Melody on the fateful day Caliban was being taken to Sanctuary, Remiel disappeared from all knowledge.  He was seen briefly in Pelinore, but following his father's death, he vanished from all reckoning.  The family home on Pelinore Hill was boarded up and the last trace of Remiel was in the ship log of a merchant ship called The Broken Promise bound for Terminus via the ports of Findias, Gobnet, Garlot, Tamesis, Corineus and Ceres.  If Remiel moved to one of these cities, no record was made in any census taken in the period after 1799, the year of Gideon Grayson's passing.

In some cases, I have been quite playful and there are a few non-critical points revealed in the wiki that are not covered in the books.  These are whimsical and are not 'required reading' to fully appreciate the books.  For example, in Chapter Fourteen a minor character with a rather offensive disposition is thrown overboard and that's the last you hear from him in the tale.  In the wiki it is revealed that he can't swim.

I'm particularly proud of the wiki and believe that it will enhance a reader's enjoyment of the Caliban's End saga.  The map for example does much to convey a sense of the geography and scope of the Myr.

Map of the Myr

HOWEVER, although I've endeavoured to make the wiki relatively safe, it is inevitable that it will provide extra information that may not be revealed at the same time in the books.  In a way these could be considered minor spoilers, but in the context of the larger tale and all that comes to pass, it's my opinion that these shouldn't affect a reader's enjoyment of the yarn.  Perhaps the safest links to click are the more general ones such as Places.  The Characters links will contain information that may be better served by being revealed in the course of the narrative, but I don't think there's anything there that could be considered critical in terms of major plot points.

Some readers of the books have told me that they are picking up things on their second reading that were missed on the first, little things that perhaps are more obvious when one knows the outcome.  Ultimately though, for all the hints and suggestions, I hope the central story is what readers find most fulfilling.   I have attempted to do what good fantasy should do and explore the human condition under extraordinary circumstances.

On a completely unrelated note, I have just put the finishing touches on another site http://paulstewart.me/ which is where my various interests and activities have been brought together in one place.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Importance of Daydreaming

When I finished writing What Lies Beneath (Book One of Caliban's End) last year, I uploaded a copy to Scribd. If you're not familiar with Scribd, the easiest way to describe it is YouTube for books. Tonight I uploaded Akin to Pity (Book Three of Caliban's End) and whilst I was on the site, I had a look at the stats for What Lies Beneath - I was shocked (in a good way) to find out that it had been read over 800 times!


Now I'm not so naive to think that it has been read from start to finish that many times but it is delightful to think that there are people out there - people I'll never meet or even hear from - who have taken enough of an interest in the story to have bothered to open it up on this site.

The electronic nature of texts these days is a godsend for amateur writers. It is encouraging to think of the alternatives to old school publishing that exist today. In fact, it is quite overwhelming to consider how many more texts are available to readers. I bought a Kobo eReader the other day and it came with 100 free books on it (all public domain). Today I downloaded a free copy of Cory Doctorow's For the Win and dropped it onto my Kobo. I now have more books available to me than I have time to read!

It's probably worth noting that I am at that nice stage of having a number of people letting me know they have finished reading the Caliban's End trilogy. I have received a lot of affirming comments which I won't document here as that would seem too indulgent. However, one comment I have been getting a lot is the observation that the books have an undeniable cinematic quality to them. My mum even suggested I should get in contact with James Cameron (writer/director of Avatar). Now I know mums are meant to say things like that, but I have taken on board some of what she said and started writing a screenplay.

So do I think I have a snowflake's chance in hell in seeing this series of books at the local cinema? No, not at all. So why go to the trouble of writing a screenplay?

Quite simply, why not?

I've never written a screenplay before, and I am realising, there's a real art to it, one I am far from mastering. It's a fun challenge to rewrite my books in this format. I have to get rid of half my characters (and I don't mean by killing them) and I have to condense the plot considerably. I even have to restructure the narrative so that it fits the movement of a film.


I'm taking my time so don't expect a screenplay to be finished any time soon. But it is something that is worth doing. I get to revisit my story and reshape it in a new form, refining it and improving it, and whilst all this is going on, I get to imagine what it would look like if my mum's wish came true and James Cameron helped me put it on the silver screen.

Daydreams are awesome.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Gate-crashing

Last week, we bought a new bookcase from Ikea. Not a dinky little bedside unit that holds no more than a handful of your favourite books. No, this was a real bookcase, taller than your average Greek titan, designed to carry hundreds of weighty tomes with ease.

After I assembled this monstrosity (with little more than an allen key and an instruction sheet with only pictures on it) I thought it was lacking something. At first, I couldn't put my finger on it, then I noticed a trilogy of two books sitting on one of the shelves. A trilogy of two? What Lies Beneath. Into the Endless. And an empty space. It looked wrong.

But not anymore...

Now there are three. The set is completed. Akin to Pity is finished and all three books of the Caliban's End trilogy are now sitting on the bookcase where every visitor can see them, ideally leading to casual conversation about my favourite subject - me.


The timing of this milestone was perfect. As this blog chronicles all too comprehensively, I have not always been overjoyed with my publisher Lulu, but last week-end they offered free printing of all new books, so at their expense I printed my final book. I also decided to print hardback versions of the entire trilogy and I couldn't be happier with the result.

So now I'm done, what's next?

Firstly, I'm just going to savour the moment. Writing novels is a long road to walk upon and my feet are sore. I think I'll just pause for a while and take in the view, staring at all the books sitting on the bookshelf as I rub my feet. I'll sit back and take in all the names running down the spines: Tolkien, Feist, Clancy, Malouf, Rowling, Moorcock, Jansson, Zahn. I couldn't count the hours I have spent reading these authors, getting lost in their worlds. And now one more name sits among them. Of course, I would never regard myself as their equal - they're published authors with countless followers. However, it is nice to know that there are some bookcases out there that also have books bearing my name sharing shelf-space with such luminaries.

Sure, it's a little like gate-crashing a party after the Oscars, but I can't help but be thrilled to see my three books sitting between Tolkien and Rowling on my bookshelf.

Monday, January 18, 2010

To Go Boldly


Things are only impossible until they're not.
Jean-Luc Picard, 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
I remember watching a Star Trek movie where Captain Jean-Luc Picard was discussing economics in the 21st century. The human race by that stage had done away with the concept of currency, and all property was either shared or ubiquitous thanks to technology such as replicators. Even at the time of watching the film, the demise of capitalism seemed incredible (if not impossible) but... perhaps there's a kernel of truth in science fiction. Perhaps technology can help to even things out, if only just a little.

Jean-Luc Picard (from Wikia, published under Fair Use Provisions)

To explore briefly how technology could possibly help to level one particular playing field, I'd like to focus on a relatively new gizmo - the eReader. Although eReaders are yet to enter into everyday idiom, I believe that their impact is pre-ordained. Put simply, the eReader is a game-changer - it will alter how people access, share and discuss literature. It will effect how we buy books and perhaps how we read them. It will change how books are annotated. It will change how books are disseminated. It may also change how they are written. Certainly, it will increase the number of writers realising their dream of seeing their work published.

So what is an eReader? It's basically a handheld device capable of digitally displaying text, but it's not a notebook computer, iPod Touch or netbook. Now most people agree that one of the biggest problems of reading digitally-displayed text has been the glare (and resulting headaches caused by reading from an illuminated screen). Fortunately this problem has been resolved by the advent of electronic ink.

E-ink has been incorporated into many eReaders such as the Sony Reader , the iLiad , the BeBook , the Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble's nook. It's quite amazing technology. Basically electronic ink is comprised of millions of wee microcapsules, each about the diameter of a human hair. Each microcapsule contains positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles that float about in a clear fluid.

When a negative electric field is applied, the black particles are pulled to the bottom of the microcapsule and as a result, that tiny area will appear white to the reader (or black if the capsule is positively charged). By controlling each miniscule area, E-ink can recreate the look of a printed page.

Nook and Kindle by evilgenius Creative Commons 2010 Non-commercial Licence

There are obvious benefits to this method. E-ink can be read in bright sunlight and does not place any more strain on the eyes that a normal book. Also, because it's all digital, text can be resized at the click of a button. Add to that other features such as electronic bookmarking of pages, the ability to share books by wirelessly transferring them from one device to another and the fact that each device can literally contain thousands of books, eReaders are quite a compelling alternative to printed books. (For more info on eBook readers, head over to http://www.digital-book-readers.com/).

The price of eReaders is coming down, largely due to competition. On the day Barnes & Noble's nook was released in the US for $259 (USD), Amazon dropped the price of their eReader (the Kindle) to the same price. And this year, more devices are coming out on the international stage. This in turn will lead more and more publishers and writers to consider eReaders as a viable option for their content.

In fact, I sense something of a revolution in the wind, as writers discover they are not quite so dependent upon traditional publishers as a means to distribute content. Whilst this causes a conundrum for today's publishing houses, it means that readers of books will be spoilt for choice. In fact, the problem facing readers will not be accessing content, but finding books to their liking. I can see the rise of supporting mechanisms to make the selection process easier - for example, social networking sites such as such as Good Reads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, WeRead, ReadWhale, JuiceSpot and others. (For a more comprehensive list, head over to 100 Awesome Social Sites for Bookworms at Online College).

What fascinates me about all this is how the lines between consumer and producer are blurring. People who always wanted to write a book have one less excuse - publishing is not the great obstacle it once was. Anyone can publish a book.

I look back on my teaching days and think of all those brilliant minds I encountered and it fills me with great optimism. I taught so many budding writers but few considered going down that road due to the torturous path of getting things to print. Now, schools have the option of moving kids into this space. In fact, it's not really an option - it's an obligation.

On a related note, last week I was contacted by Susan Crealock of Online Novels seeking my permission to include my second book Into the Endless on her site. Online Novels is an amazing collection of free novels, most of which can be downloaded from the web and read on eReaders (as well as on the humble computer). My inclusion on the site highlights the growing number of avenues available to writers who just want to see their work out where it can be read.


Of course, the future Jean-Luc inhabits is a long way off, but that's the thing about technology - it sometimes takes the stuff of fantasy and turns it into reality. Only time will tell.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

And then there were three...

At the end of last year, I was led to believe that my printing issues with Lulu.com were behind me. Unfortunately I was wrong. The second book in the Caliban's End story was too large for the Australian printers and had to be printed overseas. At the time, I thought that Lulu had attended to its prohibitive shipping charges but this was not the case - it still costs much more to ship a book than it does to print it.

Rather than get bogged down in a situation I couldn't control, I decided to break the lengthy Akin to Pity into two books: Into the Endless and Akin to Pity.

Into the Endless is available for purchase as of today. Akin to Pity (see below) will be released this April. It only costs about $8.00 to ship the books (as they are all printed in Australia) so for under $20.00 you get a big thick novel delivered to your door. If you're feeling like one isn't enough, you can save quite a few pennies by ordering in bulk e.g. I purchased five books and it only took $15.00 to ship the lot! NB: These figures are for the greenback, but the gap between the two currencies is negligible at the moment, so it's a good time to buy.

Breaking up the saga as a trilogy was my original intention but I didn't like how it turned out - the last book was only 80 pages and it looked a bit silly alongside its bigger-boned siblings. The problem was due to where I separated the narrative. I have now made the cut after Chapter Twelve in the second book and now the second and third books are about the same size. Admittedly, Into the Endless ends with many things left hanging, but this wasn't a problem for The Empire Strikes Back, or The Fellowship of the Ring, so it shouldn't be a problem for me.

So there it is - the second book is now available and the final installment is out in autumn.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Lady on the Train

A lady was smiling on the train the other morning. If you have caught a peak hour train in Melbourne recently you would know that this is not a common occurrence. Connex makes it difficult to smile.

The woman was reading. With six more stations before my stop I pondered this. What made the woman smile?

On the platform, reading by moriza, 2006 Creative Commons Copyleft Licence

That's the thing about reading - it's personal. Although there are a lot of forms of communication that are as personal, reading is quite unique. The message is conveyed silently, without anyone else being able to receive the same message at the same time. It's not broadcast.

Reading gives the reader control. The reader decides upon the speed, the time of reading and the amount. I think this sort of control allows for a reader to form a bond with a book. Think about how we describe the act of reading: 'We curl up with a good book.' The phrase has connotations of intimacy.

Reading Time by adwriter, 2006 Creative Commons Licence

So why was the lady smiling? Perhaps what she was reading was funny. That would be the simplest answer. But I think it was probably more than that. Often when I am reading good literature, I am reminded of things I had forgotten. In a fashion akin to deja vu, an old feeling is rekindled. The essence of an emotion is distilled in a way that makes it recognisable in a most specific way. At that moment of recognition we smile. We see ourselves reflected in the book.

In many ways books are mirrors. Sometimes we may even see aspects of ourselves that do not make us smile but it is through these instances that connections are made and the book becomes more than just a collection of pages.

So if good books often reflect aspects of the reader, where do we stand with fantasy?

I have quite a clear view on this. Fantasy should, in my humble opinion, reveal as much about humanity as any other book. In fact, it has the potential to reveal more as it is not shackled to conventions that may restrict the exploration. Fantasy allows us to explore what ifs? What if I had the power to change things? What if I had the resources at my command to punish, avenge, alter, influence...

In some ways, this is what I have tried to do in Akin to Pity - explore the human condition by placing my characters in extraordinary situations. It is my hope that as people read the book, they consider themselves, imagine what they would do if placed in a comparable position? Akin to Pity focuses a lot more on the characters than What Lies Beneath. Whereas the first book had a fair amount of back-story to detail as it set up the premise of the story, Akin to Pity has the luxury of peeling back the skin of each character to reveal what lies beneath (forgive the gratuitous pun).

It is no coincidence that the title has an emotion as its focus. Akin to Pity is a much more emotional book. Over the past year, I have come to know these characters intimately, and when some of them met an unsavoury end, I felt it. It is my hope that my readers also feel the book acutely, in times of triumph as well as sadness .

I'll end this post with some happy news. After six months of feeling totally disenfranchised by Lulu.com as a result of their disgraceful shipping charges, I am pleased to say that things have now changed. I just ordered five copies of my first book at a paltry shipping cost of (US)$11.99 in total. So now, I feel motivated to put the final coat of polish on Akin to Pity and unleash it upon the world. There are still quite a few corrections to be made which have been uncovered by my editors (i.e. family) so I'll spend a couple of weeks sorting through these and then release it (hopefully in time for an Australian summertime read). Sorry it's taken so long, but - to be brutally honest - Lulu's shipping prices sapped me of any motivation to finish the drafting process. Now that problem has been attended to (and the exchange rate is good) I'm keen to wrap this project up and put a big bow on it. That seems the thing to do at Christmas time.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Caliban's End

I'm happy to post that last word in the story of Caliban's End has been written. Last week I put the finishing touches on Akin to Pity, the second (and last) book in the Caliban's End saga. The book has since been sent off to the US publisher, printed and delivered back to me! (See goofy picture below)


It's a funny feeling to finish. There were lots of times I didn't think I would. But bucket loads of encouragement and interest got me over the line. And it feels brilliant. I feel like I've just eaten a massive Christmas dinner - now it's time to lie down on the couch and snooze.

Not only is the book done, but so is the wiki. In many ways, this was a much bigger job than the book itself (and not without its share of challenges). If you care to wander over to http://calibansend.pbworks.com/ , you'll find the wiki numbers well over 1,000 individual pages. Not only does each chapter of the books gets its own page, but every single thing in the books (characters, fauna, flora, places etc.) also gets its own page, and in many cases adds to the narrative of the novels.

It's a bit different so it's probably worth a look.


The book will be available for free download in a few weeks. I have a couple of clever people reading over the proofs, tracking down all the typos that my blurry eyes missed. Once they're done with their proof-reading, I'll correct the remaining mistakes and click the Available to Buy button on Lulu.com. Hopefully Lulu will have fixed up their rather horrendous issue with shipping costs. In their last correspondence with with me, they intimated that changes would be coming. Let's hope so because I want lots of people to read my book, not just people willing to splash out the extra dollars to get the new book (i.e. my mum, wife, close friends etc.)

Anyway, while you're waiting (or even if you're not) have a look at the cover (below) and please, please, please spend some time wandering through the wiki.


Friday, April 03, 2009

The Flow of the Thing

Just a quick blog post today. It's more of a status update. I'm still working my way through the final draft of Akin to Pity, the second and final book in the Caliban's End saga. At the moment, I am in the highlands of Upper Scoriath with Lara, Edgar and others making their way to the breach in Sessymir. Don't worry - no spoilers here. As this group has made its way across the land, more and more of Caliban's work has come to light and it is most disturbing work indeed. There is no mistake about it - war has come to the Myr.

I mentioned it in my last post, but I'll say it again - I am really enjoying reading the book. In fact, I'm quite thrilled with the flow of the thing. Now the backstory, setting and characters have been properly introduced, it's a delight to dig deeper into the characters and I think it makes for more fulfilling reading. The second book is just as brutal as the first, but I am finding there are more moments of connection between the characters and the tone is a little more varied.

I created a little video for Akin to Pity. It's a trailer of sorts. I was experimenting with marrying images to music. My intention was to follow the tone and rhythm of the music so the whole thing had a cohesive feel. You can be the judge of whether I have succeeded.

video

The YouTube version of this video can be found here. The music Lux Aeterna/Requiem for a Dream is by Clint Mansell.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Getting Back in the Saddle

It's March? Already? No, that can't be right.

You know, late summer should conjure up images of lazy, balmy afternoons, long twilights and languorous hours spent reading trashy magazines or watching even trashier TV. Unfortunately, I can't say this has characterised my experience of recent months. Returning to work after Christmas break has been like jumping into freezing cold water (the type that makes one's brain hurt).

Last year, I would spend my lunchtimes sitting in the gardens across the road reading over the manuscript of What Lies Beneath. It was a nice way to spend sixty minutes. This year, my lunch breaks have been occupied with far more prosaic pursuits.

What significance does this hold for anyone reading this blog? Basically, it means that Akin to Pity (the sequel to What Lies Beneath) will be in print slightly later than I had hoped. I'm looking at May now unfortunately. It's a reality of the amateur writer I guess - doing the stuff that pays the bills must come first.

However, it's not all gloom and doom. Over recent days I have been re-reading the manuscript of Akin to Pity and I'm finding that I'm not making a lot of corrections. I'm already up to page 75, trotting along at a pretty good pace, so it might not take that long after all. What's more important is that I'm actually enjoying what I'm reading. The three months I have spent separated from the Caliban's End saga have not made reading the second book any harder, which bodes well for other readers methinks.

It's probably worth mentioning here the reaction I've had to the first book. As readers of this blog would know, I've been a little nervous that the book may have been too inaccessible and demanding for most readers but the feedback I've received has been to the contrary. Most readers have enjoyed the complexity, even revelled in it. I think I was slightly disheartened by a few comments I received early on - before the book officially went to print - that suggested the narrative was too dense, and I've been apologising for it ever since. Now about thirty people have read the book from start to finish, I'm realising that the challenges the book puts before the reader are pretty much what some people want in their reading.

What has also astounded me is how supportive most people have been about it. The one thing most people seem to be short on is time, which has made it incredibly satisfying to know that there are people who have spent their moments of leisure reading my book. What's even more fulfilling is the extra time they have taken in giving me feedback and asking questions born out of a desire to know what happens next. I've been blown away by the hypotheses some people have had. I don't want to spoil things for them suffice to say there are things in the sequel that may surprise my readers (but hopefully satisfy them too).

Since finishing What Lies Beneath I've played around with the idea of taking the books to publishers or even writing a screenplay of it, but I'm in no hurry. I'll spend the next month or two getting Akin to Pity ready for print and then see what happens from there. It's been good to have a little break from it, but now I'm back in the saddle, I'm keen to dig the spurs into the snorse and get moving again.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Tale

In my last post I mentioned that my novel What Lies Beneath had inexplicably dropped off the face of the earth (or, more specifically, Lulu's website).  Well, I'm happy to report that the problem has been quickly resolved and the book is not only accessible from this link http://www.lulu.com/content/2796543 but it is also available now through search at Lulu.com.

I'll just use this post to add my thanks for all the interest and support I have received from people as I have bumbled my way through this project.  Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Taking the Good with the Bad

It's been an interesting week, that's for sure. After a handful of days, the book has sold over ten copies now (mainly family and friends but not entirely).

I've received a some really nice comments on the blog and via Twitter which is appreciated more than many people probably realise. I think I've quoted Matthew Reilly before but here it is again:
To anyone who knows a writer, never underestimate the power of your encouragement.
Last night I received this week's Google analytics for the blog. I've had a startling number of visitors compared to previous weeks - 149 visitors this week compared to 5 last week! The majority of these are from the US and Australia but I have also had visits from Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, China, Germany, Finland, Morocco and Malaysia which is simply brilliant.


Unfortunately, last night I also received an email containing an error message from Lulu.com and this morning one of my Twitter followers (Katherine from Toronto, Canada) said that she received an 'Item not available' error when she went to http://www.lulu.com/content/2796543 which is pretty annoying, especially when people make the effort to have a look at the online storefront.



Hopefully it's just a temporary glitch in the system. I'll put up a post as soon as Lulu.com tell me the problem's solved. So far this is all I know:

Perhaps I should start saving for my own printing press.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spine

Finally.

After months of paper supply problems and printing mishaps, the book is available. The waiting is over and the politely written emails to publishers (flavoured ever so slightly with a sprig of frustration) and awkward apologies to interested friends and family are now relics of the past.

In my small, grubby hands is a book whose spine bears my name. Can't help but feel a little proud. It's not that I've penned a masterpiece - the pride doesn't come from there. It's more that I've seen the thing through to its proper conclusion. In the maelstrom of holding down a full-time job whilst trying to be a full-time dad and husband, finishing a book and getting it into print seems like a triumph. Not a world-changing victory by any means, but a significant one to me.

Let's cut to the chase. If you were inclined to buy What Lies Beneath where would you go?

If you click on the link http://www.lulu.com/content/2796543 you will arrive at Lulu.com's online bazaar - specifically, my stall amongst the labyrinth of vendors all vying to sell you exotic goods. It's as simple as clicking on the Add to Cart button, and going through the sort of process familiar to anyone who has ever purchased anything online. There's a Paypal option (much like Ebay) as well as a few others like Visa.

Someone asked me the other day whether I expected to make much money out of the venture. I'll get this out of the way as it's something that seems to repeat itself like a sausage from Bunnings. I will make a few cents off each copy sold. Literally, a few cents. The price of the book as basically as low as I could make it - I want people to read it.

As I've stated before, it's a challenging book in some ways, but the happy few who have read it so far have told me that it's a rewarding read once the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place. I liken it to a difficult rock-climb. At first things seem daunting and the view is obscured by some difficult early sections, but perseverance pays off and by Chapter Six, patterns begin to emerge and the reader, like a good climber, should discover a rhythm to the way in which they traverse what lies before them.

I have a friend at work who is reading the book and she's picking up on things buried in the story that I thought would be easily missed. It's an absolute delight to hear of such discoveries (certainly worth more than a few dollars).

If anyone's reading this blog who hasn't wandered through the pages of What Lies Beneath's supporting wiki, please make a coffee, open up that tin of Christmas shortbreads and lose your way in the miasma that is http://calibansend.pbwiki.com/

After Christmas, I'll start preparing Akin to Pity (the second and final book) for its transmutation into ink and paper, but for now I think I just continue to enjoy reading Matthew Reilly's Six Sacred Stones and catching up on Season Four of Battlestar Galactica.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wiki is go!

Well, that's done! It's taken a while but the Caliban's End wiki is going public! http://calibansend.pbwiki.com/

What is it? It's a website of sorts containing the whole project. Basically, if wikipedia and my books had a drunken night of fun, the Caliban's End wiki would be their love-child. It contains a lot of backstory, a lot of geographical, historical, biographical and cultural details that are alluded to in the books, but more than anything, it's where my imagination ran rampart, creating things in more weird detail than even the books would allow. The wiki was the primordial ooze from which creatures such as sandkytes, mockworms, durnodaws and friggu came to life.

Now if you peruse the pages of the wiki, you will come across a lot of pages that contain people, places and creatures that aren't in What Lies Beneath (the first book). It should be noted, such things weren't just created for the wiki. You'll probably find them hiding in the pages of Akin to Pity (the second book).

So is the wiki an appendix? In a way, it is. I wanted to add another layer. The wiki provides quite a few twists on what happens in the novels. For example, there's a scene on a ship where one of the main characters trips a sailor so he falls overboard. It's a mildly amusing scene in the book. In the wiki you discover this character can't actually swim. So the wiki adds a twist here and there. I have tried hard to avoid spoilers, but if you read the wiki comprehensively, you may work out some things that are a bit more cryptic in the books.

However, no-one is going to read the wiki from start to finish - it currently numbers 742 pages!

Now I must add, even though the wiki is accessible, it's not complete. The beauty of it is I can easily add pages and fix errors with a few quick clicks. If you see any obvious mistakes, please let me know.

So what now?

I'm going to take a breather. Watch some trashy TV, play some Gears of War and read some things I didn't write.

Unfortunately, my frustrations with Lulu.com have continued. Although they conceded the recent printing alignment issues were their fault and the problem was being fixed, I received the latest proof last Friday and as you can see by the picture below, it isn't the result I was hoping for. Sadly, I'll probably take the whole project elsewhere. The book is available to buy from Lulu.com at the moment but I'm not encouraging anyone spend their money on something that's NQR.


Monday, November 10, 2008

'What Lies Beneath': MIA?

The past couple of weeks have seen some friends and family ask one question about the book - where is it?

Hopefully it will be in my mailbox tomorrow.  Now the Lulu.com problem with page thickness has been fixed, I'm just awaiting my copy.  If it's okay (i.e. cover on the right way, page numbers where they should be etc.) I'll flick the switch and anyone who is interested has the opportunity to purchase the book.

When you go to Lulu.com you are given the Prologue and Chapter One to preview.  This only amounts to a handful of pages so it makes sense to offer another chapter here.  This was a suggestion made to me by a reader of this blog and it's a good one as it gives people the chance to check out whether the book will appeal to them before they lay their hard-earned down.

Originally, it was my intention that the wiki (http://calibansend.pbwiki.com/) would serve this purpose, but it has been a colossal undertaking and is still a week or so away from being finished. Basically every character, place, ship, institution and concept gets its own page on the wiki, even a dead pet fish.  The fish features for a sentence in the book but in the wiki it gets its own page.


Today's preview chapter occurs about two thirds of the way through the book but it has some minor spoilers (i.e. nothing that will totally ruin the story but please take heed - it does throw some light on some events that could be considered spoilerific).


Why this chapter?  It's one of the most self-contained ones and may be easier to read as a result.  Also, thematically and stylistically it's fairly representative of the novel and lastly, it has Sir Edgar in it who is one of my favourite characters.

Hopefully, I'll be putting out another blog post this week saying the wiki and/or the book is ready.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

May your news be good news

It's been a fairly long wait but I just received some pleasing news from Lulu.com. It seems the issue that has held up my book What Lies Beneath is on the cusp of being resolved. Here's an extract from an email I received earlier this evening:
We do have some good news in the works; the paper issue will be resolved within weeks, possibly less, and we should then see these future orders on our normal standard of printing. This would also fix the misalignment issues of the spine, as the paper would not be so thin, which is what is causing the spine misalignment.
Why does this fill me with the happiness of one hundred warm puppies? Because I'm a virgoan and I like to finish stuff. I like full stops. I like to rub my little hands together and say, 'That's done!' Closure is as important to me as it is to a bear trap.

This correspondence means I can now (now as in soon) say to friends, family and that odd fellow who talks to me at the train station on Wednesdays: 'Oh yeah - the book's on sale now. Just head over to Lulu.com and buy yourself a copy.'

It's a good night to be me.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Ten Tips for Reading 'What Lies Beneath'

On the eve of my first book going public, I thought I'd put out a top ten list to accompany its release. What lies below is a list of tips that may help you in your trek across the pages of What Lies Beneath.
  1. Make a mental note of anything that seems significant. If it seems important, it probably is.
  2. Don't expect all loose threads to be tied up in this book. Some matters aren't resolved until the final chapters of Akin to Pity (the second and final book in the tale).
  3. Give yourself time to read What Lies Beneath in uninterrupted chunks - it will be difficult to tame the narrative if you only read it a page or two at a time.
  4. Try to spot the literary allusions - there's quite a few although some are a bit obscure.
  5. Pay heed to the names. Many of them reveal a thing or two about the characters, creatures and countries of the Myr.
  6. Get attached to certain characters but don't expect them all to live.
  7. Consult with the Map on my wiki if you get a bit lost.
  8. Check out the Characters page of the wiki if you'd like some more details on the characters.
  9. Feel free to email me if you need clarification of anything you stumble across in the book.
  10. Don't expect literary genius. The book is - after all - a hobby. It's far from perfect, but I hope you find it interesting enough to read to the end.
I'll be giving details in my next post about where/how to buy the book.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Word from our Sponsors

Brief update: I received an email from Lulu saying they are endeavouring to fix the printing problem as quickly as they can, so that seems like good news.

Tonight I decided to create an advertisement for What Lies Beneath. If you look directly above, you will see a picture of the northern coastline of Morae with the words Play and Stop loitering about. In this space I have assembled some of the pictures I have created for the Caliban's End wiki (out of beta soon) and put them to music. I put it all together in SwishMax which is a distant cousin of Flash. Most of the pictures were found in Morguefile which permits artists and writers to use the images without fear of infringing upon copyright. Other images were either sent to me by friends or I took them myself. I modified the images in Corel Photopaint which I actually prefer to Photoshop ('Heresy!' somebody cried).

The music came from the Creative Common site ccmixter. The song is called Strange Love and it is by Manolo Camp.

This little video is actually the short version. I amazed how many pictures I have done over the past couple of years; the longer version of this video will include twice as many images as this one!

I hope you like what you see. Just click the Play button to start and Stop when you've had enough. Enjoy!

BTW: If you're wondering how I managed to embed Flash into a Blogger page, check here for the secret sauce.

Cheers, Paul

Friday, July 18, 2008

Going Dark

In software development, there's a phrase to describe periods when no-one hears anything from the code monkeys writing the software and the silence usually suggests a problem- it's called going dark.

Now whilst I haven't gone dark with my writing, things have slowed down a little due to a number of factors (i.e. other things that take up my time):
  1. Work - unfortunately I have to pay the bills somehow and lately work's been the sort of slog that leaves you knackered by the end of the day.
  2. The Caliban's End wiki - this is my wikipedia of the world of Caliban's End and it involves just as much writing. It's coming along nicely but it's far from finished
  3. Printing problems - at the moment, I wouldn't be recommending Lulu.com with the confidence I once had. Hopefully they can resolve the issue before I use another self-publishing company.
Anyhoo, it's all part of the experience. The book won't be available to buy any time soon but I'm determined to make it available before the seasons change again.

On a completely unrelated matter, I thought I'd throw the text of What Lies Beneath into Wordle to see which words I'm using a lot. Here's the result (click on it for a better view):

Friday, June 06, 2008

Arrival

Something came in the mail today... it was rectangular and surprisingly heavy.


Now what happens now the book's here? Well, I need to reread it and make sure there are no printing issues. Then I make my changes and get the whole thing printed again. I am just euphoric about how the thing looks, but I will be making changes. The font is a little too small. My fault, not theirs. I wanted to save paper by making the text small, but it's a little too hard to read. I also need to shift around a few things like the dedications to everything is nice and symmetrical. This means it will be a little while before the book can be purchased, but - as I have to remind myself - it's a hobby, so I can take my time.

By the way, the cover photo was taken by Shaun Quinlan. I found it on Morguefile which is a wonderful site that contains free image reference material for use in all creative pursuits. The lake in the picture is Lake Wakitipu in New Zealand which is not far from Queenstown in the South Island. I chose it for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's a beautiful photograph. Secondly, I have a sentimental attachment to New Zealand - when I was a wee lad, my dad took our family for an extended holiday in New Zealand and my memories of that time are the most vivid memories I have of my childhood. Lastly, it's a perfect match for Lake Erras, the lake that features prominently in the early chapters of What Lies Beneath. It also comes back into prominence towards the end of the second book Into the Endless. The trilogy's title Caliban's End is derived from the great vortex that lies at the heart of this fictional lake.


View Larger Map

Thursday, May 15, 2008

An excellent gift for any occasion

Just a small but significant post tonight...

It's been a wonderful week. I took two days off work to finish the final edit of What Lies Beneath and managed to do everything I set out to do. Although I'm sure there are still a few mistakes hiding out amongst the pages like wily banditos in the hills above a dusty Mexican town, the first book is now online and almost available to purchase. The first copy is being printed as we speak and in a week or so I'll get a paperback copy in my grubby little paws. In the biz, this is called a proof (I'm in the biz now) and once I give the proof a nod of approval, it will then be available for all to read. I'll be getting an ISBN so the book can be sold through Amazon, Barnes and Noble (and Ebay once friends and family realise that the book's not their up of tea!)

The sale price will be $US 13.95. It will also be available to download as a PDF for 5 greenbacks. Start saving those pennies.

I have still got a bit to do on the Caliban's End wiki but that should be ready for public consumption by the time I give the green light to Lulu.com to roll the presses.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Before Hell Freezes Over

I need to explain something.

Late last year, the person who had kindly offered to edit my books had to tend to other matters. The job of editing fell back into my lap and I had no idea just how painful and time-consuming the task would be. Sometimes I have had to spend over an hour on a single page and when two of the three books number over 500 pages, that's an awful lot of time I have to scrape together.

Even though the book was finished, the work is not. Editing has led to a battalion of changes for which I had not planned. I have changed the names of a number of characters (including the tale's protagonist). I have also changed the name of the world in which the Caliban's End saga is set - it's no longer Terra. That's a lot of individual changes.

Editing is hard. You wouldn't wish it upon an enemy or a real estate agent. Squeezing the task into the small spaces that exist between work, family, friends and other stuff has been a wee bit challenging. This is the business end of the project and to be honest, it's the least interesting part.

So, if you have been able to sustain even a modicum of interest in this avocation o' mine, thanks for your curiosity - it is appreciated.

I have written a preface to the first book. FYI, it's below.

Caveat Emptor
(or 'Danger, Will Robinson!')

A Preface


Perhaps 'Preface' is the wrong word for it. Forewarning seems more appropriate. Please indulge me as I make one or two comments before your boots get muddy in the world of Caliban's End.

First of all, a confession. This trilogy was not written to be popular fiction. It breaks most of the conventions of popular fiction and ignores most of the sage advice given by writers who know a lot more about the craft than I do. This is not a book that is designed to be a best-seller. It won't pay off my mortgage any time soon.

This begs the question - why spend so much time on something that won't make bags of money?

The simple answer is that financial gain is not the only motivating force in the universe. These books have been a hobby and I have enjoyed writing them as a hobby. Whilst I did not play by the rules in terms of structure, length, number of characters etc. I did follow one piece of advice - write the book you want to write. This advice rests on the premise that there will be others out there in shadowy corners of the globe who are similarly enamoured by a particular approach to writing.

So in that context, I have succeeded. I think I've written the sort of book I would enjoy.

So what does that mean? Let me explain.

I've read The Lord of the Rings books three times. I've read Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter series twice. I've read Peake's Gormenghast novels three times each. As a child I even read the Finn Family Moomintroll series at least five times over. And in all cases, I found myself wishing for more. In my mind, I would expand the universe, follow the paths of characters who were only glimpsed at in the main narrative. For example, in The Fellowship of the Ring, whatever happened to Radagast? I wanted to follow his journey further but could only do so in the form of conjecture.

Caliban's End
is a little different. The world is made a little larger to accommodate the tales of ancillary characters. The first book What Lies Beneath spends some time in exploring the lives of a range of characters including lesser players (some of whom - unfortunately - do not make it to the end of the trilogy). A critic might dismiss this as undisciplined writing. Perhaps it is. But I wanted to properly explore this world I have invented and occasionally that meant I would stray down little laneways that led away the central narrative.

This perambulation means that the reader has to walk a long and twisted path - it is a demanding read. At times, there are more characters on the page than is probably necessary, but I am reluctant to remove them to make the book more accessible. The non-linear structure of the writing may annoy some readers, but I did not want to dumb things down in order to create a book that could be easily enjoyed in an airport lounge. I revelled in creating a dense, intricate world. Some may dislike the novels as a result, some may find them convoluted and some may put the first book down having struggled to get up the rock-face in the first chapter. But it is my hope that there are a few individuals who are captivated by it. The internet allows me to throw my net widely and there is a chance I might snag one or two readers who want to get lost in the stories of the people I follow in these tales.

I hope you will be one such person.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I Know What I Did Last Summer

I know it's been a little while since my last post but I've been a little busy. In fact, so busy that I have something to announce - I finished writing the whole thing!

Yes, I wrote the last line of the trilogy this afternoon at about 5pm. It's a pretty amazing feeling to finish it. I won't write a long post but this is what I'm thinking... I take a month off before I look at the book again. Then I'll reread it, fix errors, get a bit of feedback and then off it goes to Lulu.com for printing.

I'll be fixing up the Caliban's End wiki after the time off and then working on getting some artwork happening. I might even record the books and put it up on Podiobooks or some such place. Once the books are online, I'll make this blog and the wiki public and see what happens.

Just for the stats, here's the final word count for the trilogy. (Ignore the page count - I used tiny font!)


Now to put this in some kinds of perspective, the average novel is about 80,000 words long. If you average my books out, you get about 165,000 words per book which puts it into the Epic (unpublishable) category.

Anyway, it's done and I'm a little proud of it. I really liked the way it all came together at the end. I hope I like it as much when I reread it!

Thanks to a ridiculously supportive wife for helping me out. She took this photo of me on the last day of writing. I'm trying to look a bit bohemian in the picture but I think the Superman t-shirt ruins the moody, anguished writer look I was going for.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Words

"I know about words . . . about the depth charges they carry."
- Narrator from 'After Long Absence' (Dislocations by Janette Turner Hospital)

Shakespeare was believed to have been responsible for introducing about 1,700 words into the English language. Technology has also introduced its fair share of words over recent years. What I have done in Caliban's End is reintroduce quite a few words that are rarely used these days. Why reintroduce them? Because they should never have dropped out of common usage!

I'll give you a few of my favourites below. The novels have a race (the Spriggans) whose speech is characterised by an indulgence in ornate language - logorrhea is the word for it. You may have heard some of these words before, but even if you haven't, please don't let that stop you from using them in your next conversation with that special someone you hope to impress.
  • atrabilious: melancholy; splenetic; acrimonious, irritable
  • bibacious: overly fond of drinking
  • bloviate: to write or speak windily
  • bullyrag: to assault with abusive language; to badger
  • caliginous: misty; dark; dim; obscure
  • callow: unfledged; inexperienced
  • corvine: crow-like; of, like or pertaining to crows or ravens
  • drygulch: to murder by pushing off a cliff
  • effluvium: invisible emanation; offensive exhalation or smell
  • gloaming: period between sunset and full night; dusk
  • humgruffin: terrible person
  • juggins: a simpleton
  • logorrhea: excessive flow of words; uncontrollable garrulity
  • meliorism: the belief the world tends to become better
  • miasma: foul vapours from rotting matter; unwholesome air
  • naupathia: sea sickness
  • ophidian: of or like a snake
  • pusillanimous: lacking firmness; cowardly; having a weak character
  • quotidian: everyday; commonplace found in the ordinary course of events
  • scuttles: portholes on a ship
  • soporific: tending to produce sleep
  • stagnicolous: living in stagnant water
  • thanatosis: gangrene; necrosis; state imitating death
  • trilemma: quandary having three choices
  • uliginous: slimy; oozy; swampy; growing in swampy places
  • voraginous: pertaining to a whirlpool;
  • wormwood: something bitter, galling, or grievous
  • worricow: scarecrow; hobgoblin; frightening-looking person
On a completely unrelated note, you may have noticed my little Podbean player on the side of the page. This contains music that I have associated with certain characters and events in the novel. You may find it interesting to listen to some of it and see what images float into your head. I'll be adding to this every now and then, hopefully with some original stuff early next year once the books are done.

To end this post, I'll give a quick summary of where I'm up to in the books. You can see by the 'Chapter Completion' chart on the right that quite a lot has been done since my last post. Although I had the best of intentions to finish the whole saga by the end of October so I could have it printed in time for Christmas, things haven't worked out that way. This is understandable, now the book is actually a trilogy.

Despite a busy month with conferences, birthday parties and falling off bunks, I have manage to keep writing every day and hopefully the quantity hasn't been at the expense of quality. I don't think it has. In fact, I've been delighted with a few little twists and turns I've been able to weave into the narrative. But to say anything more will spoil the dish.

I have titled the three books. They are:
  • What Lies Beneath (Book One)
  • Into the Endless (Book Two)
  • Akin to Pity (Book Three)
Let me know what you think of the titles. They can be changed if the consensus is they stink (although I kind of like them, especially Akin to Pity).

Hopefully next time I post I'll be in the home straight. Until then...

Friday, September 21, 2007

That's a lot of paper!

Just a quick post tonight. The footy's on telly (Geelong v Collingwood) so I'm writing this during the ad breaks. Yesterday I printed what I've written so far and what I now have in my hands is quite a weighty tome. It's wonderful to be able to use that phrase!

How weighty, you ask?

At the moment the books are 666 pages in total. Yes, I know that's a sinister number. But it gets weightier! I have typed up the manuscript in tiny font to save paper. Tonight I reformatted the whole thing in the font size and page set-up stipulated by Lulu.com (where I am publishing it) and it came in at 1198 pages! Now just so you can get a sense of how long that is, Tolkien's entire Lord of the Rings trilogy is 1069 pages long. And I haven't even finished!

Of course, it a poor comparison because a lot of what I have penned is probably utter rubbish, but it nice to have so much done anyway.

I'm sometimes asked, 'How long to go?' To answer this, I have supplied a bar chart on the blog (just to the right). It shows how complete each chapter is. 99% basically means it's finished, pending any editorial advice I receive. The book is 49 chapters long and a lot of it's done as you can see. I have decided to divide it into three books. It's a practical decision. It's now too long to print as two.

The other thing to mention is I have also added a chat facility to the blog. If you have a question, or you see I'm online and on a crazy whim you decide to say hello, all you have to do is type your message into the little widget! It's that simple. No log-ins to worry about. Of course, you could pretend to be someone else and type in a nasty comment, but please bear in mind I am very sensitive and may cry should you upbraid me in any way.

I think I am on target to have the whole project wrapped up by Christmas. Hopefully everyone will be getting the same present from me!

Back to the footy now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Enjoy what you do

'To anyone who knows a writer, never underestimate the power of your encouragement.' - Matthew Reilly

The past few weeks have been pretty busy and I haven't been writing as much as I was when I last posted. That said, I must say that I found a bit of a groove with my writing in the past couple of weeks and in the absence of anything profound to say, I thought I'd comment on that.

Instead of jostling shoulder to shoulder with other commuters on a packed city-bound train, I have been leaving half an hour earlier and this has guaranteed me that Holy Grail of long-suffering Connex concubines - a seat! And instead of blankly staring out the window through a patina of gunk and grime, I manage to write two or three pages by the time to get to Parliament Station.

Now I know I could head into the office and start work early giving my employers a little more value for money, but I resist that urge and head into The Commune (pictured below) where I can write another page or so with the frothy goodness of a latte in my little hand. (My right hand that is - I write with my left).


The end of the working day swings around and instead of taking the train home I wander down through Fitzroy Gardens to the tram stop where I can climb aboard a half-empty tram and get another page or three nailed before a short walk home. This practice has enabled me to get six or so pages done each work day without breaking a sweat. Sure I have to type it up when I get home but I can do that whilst watching telly or some other cerebral cortex-lite activity.


Now if all this writing sounds like a chore, I've badly misrepresented it. I actually enjoy the process, and as I'm writing fantasy I can travel a lot further in my book in an hour than a tram can take me.

I'm in a really good place with the second book right now. Book One had a lot of exposition in it. Obviously lots of characters and places had to be introduced. Book Two affords me the opportunity of delving deeper into these characters and their relationships with one another and the strange world they inhabit. It means I can inject a lot more humour into the narrative, as well as deepening the sense of tragedy when things go awry.

Characters such as Sela Noye, a four foot tall, porcupine-type person with a penchant for turning every conversation into an argument are so much fun to write. Others, such as Sir Edgar Worseley, the fastidious knight who will stop mid-battle to wipe the mess off his sword, and Mulupo, the frequently drunk and painfully loquacious Spriggan, tend to write themselves and it is sometimes hard to scribble/type fast enough to keep up with their antics.

I've also derived a fair amount of pleasure from creating creatures of all descriptions. There's the ridiculous two-headed flummox that is so irascible that one of its heads will attack the other despite the pain it will cause to itself. And there's the dim-witted, thousand yard long mockworm that is so scared of all other creatures that it will disguise itself as a hill to avoid being seen. But my favourite of all is the petty, petulant quawk replete with an offensive bodily function that is best left out of the blog for now.

I can hear two naughty children jumping up and down on the beds upstairs. Their mum has left me in charge and it's all gone pear-shaped. I'll cut this short and post again some time soon.