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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00991SMHY

I first met Allan Lloyd in Mullumbimby, way back in the 1980s, when I worked as a volunteer with his first wife Diana; we were trying to obtain a government grant for housing for people with a mental illness in Byron Shire.

In 1994, when I returned from a 2-year stint in Sydney, Allan gave me a ms called The Case to look at. I was immediately struck by his edgy take on life and his clean writing. Now he’s produced an ebook entitled Peace & Love and All That Crap, which has even more of the same.

I’ve always been interested in how authors come to write their novels, so I asked Allan to give me a little rundown on the genesis of his book. Here is what he said:

 

Peace & Love & All That Crap came out of a scriptwriting workshop I was invited to attend in the late 1990s, having had my first film script shortlisted for development funding (albeit unsuccessfully) by what is now known as Screen Queensland. For the workshop, I had to write a treatment and the first thirty-or-so minutes of a new script.

Some relevant personal background: I’d spent much of my life as a walking dichotomy – a left-leaning quasi-hippy working as a freelance advertising copywriter. Talk about a conflict of interests.

And a flashback: Years before, I’d seen a TV news segment showing people protesting about the planned demolition of part of their seen-better-days suburb by dressing themselves in cardboard cartons painted as buildings and being knocked over for the camera by one of their number representing the demolition process. At the time, it had occurred to me that if they’d really wanted to be taken seriously by the general public, they should’ve presented as regular citizens rather than weirdos nobody would want to live next door to.

I based my new film script around that one observation. Drawing on my own advertising background, and people I’d known while living in Mullumbimby, I came up with the idea of a bunch of ageing hippies hiring a cynical public relations expert to help them mount a PR campaign to save a pristine nature sanctuary from private development. The twist was that nobody would take the hippies seriously unless they compromised their principles and faked mainstream credibility.

This script was shortlisted for development funding (again, unsuccessfully) by the Australia Film Commission (subsequently Screen Australia), and then ignored by the Australian film industry. So okay, I figured, if I could write a pretty good unproduced screenplay, it oughta be a snack to turn it into a pretty good unpublished novel.

It was harder than I’d expected. Ninety-odd pages of dialogue needed a narrative. And I wanted that narrative to be in the third-person voice and sounding like the hero’s inner voice, yet not mirroring the style or structure of his spoken dialogue. It took me forever to find what I thought worked and allowed me to have that third-person narrative reacting to the opposing attitudes of the hippy characters the hero has to deal with.

On the upside, the ‘novel’ form gave me room to explore what I’ve found to be a certain integrity and idealism intrinsic to the hippy lifestyle, and contrast it against the delusions and hypocrisy so prevalent in contemporary ‘straight’ society. It also allowed me to include encapsulated back stories for many of the characters, which I believe added extra texture to the story and reading experience. Certain plot elements of the film script, including the ending, rewrote themselves along the way.

When it came to getting published, despite a damn good letter and synopsis (I’m an advertising copywriter, remember) I couldn’t interest a single agent in reading the entire manuscript. The ‘first fifty pages’ highlighted my hero’s unsympathetic qualities without the hippies getting a look in, while the ‘any fifty pages’ option meant that the story’s episodic development became difficult to appreciate.

Did it deserve to find a publisher? I’m the last person to ask. Danielle would say I should’ve had it professionally assessed, and she’d be right. As it was, my partner is an astute reader and often confrontational critic, and she provided perceptive feedback whether I liked it or not. But frankly, I’d had a few years of fun writing it, was by then maybe not mad about any potential hard yards of revision, and in retrospect I think that even my attempts at interesting agents were arguably more about ‘that’s what you do next’ rather than any real personal need to actually see a book published.

So Peace & Love & All That Crap sat around for a few years until I recently decided to self-publish it for Kindle. At the token price I’m asking, I’ll never make any real money out of it even if it sells, but that’s not why I’ve put it out there.

I just figure it’s better read than dead.

Allan Lloyd

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I don’t know about you, but I enjoy hearing other authors talk about the genesis of their work. Below is Ed Griffin’s raison d’etre for the writing of his latest novel Veto, available now from Amazon at:

http://www.amazon.com/Veto-ebook/dp/B005ZIT5DK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1346464570&sr=1-1&keywords=Veto

Ed Griffin: What’s the matter with me?  I know that action adventure stories sell best. Then why do I go and write a story about a woman who becomes Secretary General of the United Nations?

I remember sitting down with my brother-in-law after dinner at his house. I told him about my idea. He clearly thought I was nuts.

But the story wouldn’t let me go. What if the UN really lived up to its promise? What if it could really help people? What if it was more democratic? Why should the winners of World War II have a veto over the actions of everyone else? France, England, the United States, Russia and China? What about India, Germany, Indonesia, Japan? The recent trouble with Syria – how would it be different if the UN was different?

So a woman, a UN bureaucrat, gets herself chosen as the Secretary General. She tries to help people and is stopped by moneyed interests and eventually by the veto. Does she throw up her hands and say, “Well, I tried.”  No, she goes after the problem at the heart of UN failures, the veto.

And of course, the closer she gets to succeeding, the more the opposition tries to get her out of the way. And that is the action-adventure part.

Where did I get this interest in the UN? I’m almost reluctant to name the first mentor who put me on the UN path. I don’t want to be seen as some sort of religious nut. But it was Pope John the 23rd, the one who opened the windows in the church and called the Vatican Council.

He wrote a letter (encyclical) called Pacem In Terris (Peace on Earth). This pope was well-loved, but conservative commentators did not like this letter. Four important paragraphs are dedicated to the UN. He wanted every human being to “find in this organization an effective safeguard of his personal rights; those rights, that is, which derive directly from his dignity as a human person, and which are therefore universal, inviolable and inalienable.”

He praises the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the United Nations General Assembly, because “it is a solemn recognition of the personal dignity of every human being; an assertion of everyone’s right to be free to seek out the truth, to follow moral principles, discharge the duties imposed by justice, and lead a fully human life. It also recognized other rights connected with these.”

I wish the Catholic Church of today followed the ideas of this pope.

I also was amazed at the European Union. How could these countries which had fought each other for centuries, come together in a political and economic union? I read a history of the European Union and learned that it IS possible to set up structures that can help the world become a better place.

Where did I get all this information about other countries? From the Internet. There is a world of information out there. I spent hours on line. For example, where does the Secretary General live? What kind of home is it?  The answers are all on the Internet, but it does take some careful work.

Why so much attention on Somalia? When I was at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, my roommate was a man from Somalia, Abdul Elmi. He taught me a lot about Somalia and gave me a feel for the country and the people. I read more and more about Somalia. Abdul was an architecture student and he had to learn all about building below the frost line, even though there is no frost line in Somalia. He returned to his country, but the leader then was Sid Bare, a cruel dictator. Abdul was able to get out of Somalia and return to America, where I sponsored him to enter the country. He still lives and works in Milwaukee. So Somalia is almost in my blood. Most of us white people cannot tell one African from another, and no doubt I could not tell a Sudanese from a person from Zambia, but I can spot Somalis. I was waiting in line at McDonalds recently and I walked up to a guy and asked “Somalia?” He smiled and said yes and we had a great conversation.

What did I learn from writing VETO? I learned that it is possible for institutions to change. First the world tried the League of Nations and then the UN. Maybe someday a Pilar Marti will come along and make the UN an effective tool to help people.

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 My guest blogger this month is Ed Griffin, who teaches creative writing at Matsqui Prison, a medium-security prison in Canada. Ed has just released his new eboook – a novel entitled Prisoners of the Williwaw – on Amazon. Over to you, Ed.

 

In the 1980s, my wife and I owned a mom and pop commercial greenhouse. Our business was prospering, but something was wrong. My life was planting seeds, growing tiny plants and selling vegetables and garden plants in the spring. I was becoming what I grew — a cabbage, or maybe a petunia. My mind was dying and I knew it.

          I started playing around with writing. After supper every night I would go out to my ‘office,’ a little added-on room between our house and the garage. It had windows to the front and back and a space heater that was adequate for spring and fall, but not winter. I would sit down at the typewriter and follow my creative muse.

          Whole worlds opened to me. I wrote about the area behind my childhood garage where I practiced pitching, and dreamed of reaching the major leagues. I wrote a short story about a group of prisoners on an island. I wrote a poem about getting along with the Russians. Hours passed. Suddenly, as I wrote, an alarm would sometimes ring in the house. The alarm meant I hadn’t turned the heat on in the greenhouses. I had to shut the door on the vibrant world that grew on the paper in front of me and hurry to the greenhouses to start the furnaces.

          An hour later I’d be back at the typewriter. Type a sentence, stop, look at it, realize it wasn’t quite true and then search deeper. Layers of middle-aged half-truths disappeared, the comfortable maxims I had surrounded myself with — “Business is good. Don’t make any changes,” and “Relax. You’re getting older.” The fires of my youth burned again — civil rights, world peace, a place in the sun for every person. The idealism that had lain dormant for eight years sparked back into life.

          Isaiah was on the scene again, reminding me of the words I read in the seminary and tried to live when I was a priest:

          I have appointed you to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison and those who live in darkness from the dungeon. [Chapter 42-6]

          As I wrote I dug, I searched always deeper, trying to reach the truth. It might be easy to speak a lie, but it wasn’t easy to write one. I started to unravel the tangled skein that was me. These revelations came, not from writing philosophy or self-help dictums, but from writing fiction. Put a man and a woman in a fictional situation. What does the woman really think? What does the man think? Is this real? Is this how people are? Where do I get my ideas? What is human nature all about? Who am I?

          For example, as I wrote about the prisoners on the island, I got to know each one of them. How did they get into crime? Why were they different than me? Did they have a religious education as I did? What did they think about God? Was God a mean father for them or a gentle parent? What did I think about God?

         Amazing. The seminary had tried for twelve years to teach me how to meditate, and here I was doing it while I wrote.

http://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-of-the-Williwaw-ebook/dp/B005S33Q7S/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1342834442&sr=1-1&keywords=prisoners+of+the+williwaw

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I had a funny experience the other day: I’d gone to the pathologist for my annual blood test, which required fasting – always a stressful time for me. I’d been fasting for 14 hours by the time I came out of the pathologist’s. As I was maundering, a bit light headed, through the shopping centre afterwards, I noticed the weighing machine.

The machine and I are friends. We have a date, once a fortnight. It was only five days since our last tryst, but there it stood, and I thought: Wot-the-hell, it won’t hurt to weigh myself again. I tend to put on weight in winter. It was mid-winter now, and I like to keep an eye on things.

I fished out a dollar coin and stood on the machine, which informed me that I was four pounds lighter than I’d been five days ago. Four pounds lighter! For an instant, I was jubilant, but then I began to have doubts: Four pounds in five days — in the middle of winter? Not likely. I wandered away, thinking that, with my low blood sugar, perhaps I’d read the numbers wrongly.

I really was feeling a bit strange. I went into the coffee shop and wolfed down a cappucchino and a large piece of banana bread with butter. That should do it, I thought. Then I read the local paper for a while, to give my body time to catch up; but I couldn’t really concentrate on who had just grown the biggest pumpkin in Goonellabah. I was still brooding about the weighing machine, and how I couldn’t possibly have been four pound lighter.

Out with another coin. I returned to the machine. This time it told me I was five pounds lighter. Five pounds! But I’d been four lighter, twenty minutes ago. Dearie me. I began to do the math. One pound in twenty minutes was three pounds an hour.

I was fading away. At this rate, I’d be lucky to last two days.

The banana bread, plus the sugar I’d put in my coffee, still hadn’t kicked in. I made it to a bench in the shopping centre and sat down. Two days. I’d never get my e-book out in that time; I was only up to page 82 of Mark Coker’s Smashwords Guide, and I hadn’t even opened the How To Kindle book. I’d never get the sequel finished, and I’d never get to see my daughter, who was arriving at the end of August.

Biochemistry’s a wonderful thing. After about ten minutes of this, my blood sugar finally decided to get the message, and kicked in. With this came the realisation that there must be something wrong with the weighing machine. I went into the chemist shop and reported it. Bad machine, to have let me down in my hour of need.

Waiting for the bus that would take me home, I was struck by how beautiful everything looked — the trees, the sky, even the shopping centre’s crappy banners flying in the wind. And I thought: Reminders of mortality are a good thing.

Nothing <i>too</i> big, mind you. Just something small that can be fixed with a cup of coffee and a piece of banana bread.

Danielle de Valera
twitter.com#!/de_valera

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How time’s flown. I must have been even more knocked around by my trip to NZ than I realised. My change of computers hasn’t helped either – followed by a change from dial up to Broadband. Dial up was cheap (its great attraction, there aren’t many others) but oh so slow. In the end, even I couldn’t stand it. So here I am, somewhat behind the eight ball, but full of good intentions after my break of over two months.

 This week, while I’m finding my feet and getting used to the dizzying speed of Broadband (how can humanity live at this pace?) I’d like to introduce David Ireland, aka Casimir Greenfield, who’s been kind enough to write a guest blog for me on his writing methods.

Over to David.


Having lived a long life, I have a good deal of source material to draw

from. Each day begins at five with a couple of hours writing before the rest

of my world wakes up. We have a very understanding dog.

I always have a number of projects running concurrently and I don’t really

have a problem skipping between crime fiction, young adult fiction,

non-fiction and song writing.

I do plot, but I prefer to let the characters and events unfold themselves

organically, even if that takes me down unexpected paths. I like to think

that my stories have shape, much like an opera or a humble vinyl album.

Beginning, middle and end — with a prologue, coda or false crescendo as the

story requires.

As a radio broadcaster, I value the spoken word, and thus each word of my

writing will have been uttered out loud before the reader sees it. I firmly

believe that much writing can be improved by vocalising before the final

draft is laid down. Dialogue needs to be natural.

I am not a fan of fanciful names, even in my young adult pieces. They can be

quirky, but I will not inflict unpronounceable names upon the poor reader. I

would rather that the ordinary encountered the extraordinary, and I hope that

my work is stronger for that.

An oft asked question: How do I write? Well, I love working digitally, but I

always have a notepad handy to scribble on and a Dictaphone for the car. I

know that if the idea is strong enough one should remember it, no matter

what, but I’m not prepared to take the risk. Everything is saved. I have a

sixty-second backup on the processor. Better saved than sorry.

Dave Ireland or Casimir Greenfield? I use a pen name mainly because my given

name has been around in the literary world for a while. The Australians

already have a David Ireland — they don’t need another. So it’s Casimir

Greenfield who writes the stories, sings the songs. I just take the blame.

I have recently published both my crime novels as ebooks for sale on Amazon,

but these are currently locked down, due to publisher interest. However,

both books can be read for free at the Harper Collins Authonomy site (see links

below).

I am presently completing the novelisation of the screenplay of my Ruby No.

One trilogy, a young adult piece currently under offer. Plus, my recording

career is kicking off again with the release of an album in June 2012 — I

said I had a lot of source material; it goes with a long and varied career …

If this seems like a scattergun approach, it is anything but. Any writer

will tell you that the only way to get anything down on paper is to work at

it. Consistently, each and every day. And if you do, whatever the result is

like, you’ll have a body of work that you may well be able to knock into

shape with some judicious editing. I think it works for me.

Bloodstones and Slow Poison can be found at Authonomy by clicking these

links:

http://www.authonomy.com/books/42590/bloodstones/

http://www.authonomy.com/books/42586/slow-poison/

More information about my work can be found at:

http://www.authonomy.com/writing-community/profile/me/

or at:

http://www.casimirgreenfield.com

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A range war is brewing on the e-book front as a result of Amazon’s pre-emptive strike in introducing Amazon KDP Select, a 3-month optional contract operating above and beyond the normal Amazon KDP program available to authors. If an author hits the Select button, for the time their book is enrolled in the Select program, they must agree not to distribute or sell the book ANYWHERE ELSE! This includes their own personal blog or web site. Their title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.

Before Amazon KDP decided to introduce Select, self-published authors had the opportunity to distribute their books across a large number of platforms — Amazon itself, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords, Books a Million and others. This was good for the writers, good for the e-book publishers and distributors. A nice competitive industry.

 To retaliate against Amazon’s pre-emptive strike, Barnes & Noble, the other distribution giant, has decided to withdraw from its lists all titles published by Amazon. It would seem, at this stage, that even if a book is published on some other platform and merely distributed through Amazon, Barnes & Noble will withdraw it. Books a Million and the Canadian Indigo have followed B & N’s lead.

E-books are the new cash cow of book publishing, and indie e-book sales are rising at a phenomenal rate. In the US, in the last three months of 2010, Amazon’s sales of e-books surpassed that of paperbacks for the first time, and self-published e-books are beginning to appear in bestseller lists. But self-published authors are about to lose their freedom of choice and the wide distribution platforms their books enjoyed in the past. Because B&N and Amazon deliver the greatest volumes of sales, a self-published author or a small press will be forced to choose between these two giants. Going with only one distributor, however large, carries potentially huge risks for the user for the distributor can change the conditions at any time.

Range wars never benefit the peons. In this case, it’s the writers and small publishers who are caught in the crossfire. Is Amazon breaking the law with KDP Select? Should some kind of legal safeguards be put in place to prevent monopolistic practices in the young e-book industry?

 For more details on Amazon KDP Select, see my previous post:  Amazon KDP Select – a poisoned apple?

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When online bookstores began to take off, Amazon quickly established itself as the biggest dealer in the field. Sure there were other bookstores, for example, Fishpond, but they paled beside the giant Amazon. We’re talking hard copy here.

When Amazon saw the trend towards e-books, it hopped right in and again established itself as the biggest retailer. Sure, there were other e-book distributors — Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others — but Amazon was the biggest. A huge industry sprang up. Writers could self-publish their books and put them on many different distribution platforms.

Looking good. Good for the writers, good for the e-book publishers and distributors. A nice competitive industry.

Then Amazon produced the Amazon Kindle, a series of e-book readers that enable users to shop for, download, browse and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and other digital media via wireless networking (source: Wikipedia). Amazon has now launched what it calls Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing  or Amazon KDP. With this, a writer can get his book published by Amazon and have it go directly to Kindle, which is grabbing a large share of the applications market with the introduction of its Kindle software for use on various platforms such as Microsoft Windows, iOS, Blackberry, MacOSX (10.5 onward, Intel only), Android, webOS and Windows Phone (source: Wikipedia).  The most recent refinement of all this is Amazon KDP Select.

Amazon KDP Select. This sounds good — until you read the small print in Amazon’s Terms and Conditions: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=APILE934L348N

To paraphrase this small print: While or the time your book is enrolled in the program, you must agree not to distribute or sell your book ANYWHERE ELSE. This includes your own personal blog or web site. Your title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.

If you violate this at any point during the 3-month enrolment period, or you remove your book from the program so you can distribute it elsewhere, you risk forfeited earnings, delayed payments, a lien on future earnings – or getting kicked out of the Kindle Direct Publishing program altogether.

After the obligatory 3 months, your enrolment in the KDP Select continues unless you go through the process of opting out. Forget, and you’re up for another 3 months.

This forces the author to remove the book from sale from the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others, thereby causing the author to lose out on sales from competing retailers.

By withdrawing a title from any retailer, the author destroys any accrued sales ranking in their lists, making their book less visible and less discoverable should they reactivate distribution to competing retailers.

Do authors want to be totally dependent upon Amazon for sales? New writers are desperate; they will do almost anything to sell their books. And they know that with Amazon KDP, more customers are motivated to go straight to Amazon since Amazon has this exclusive content.

It’s a clever ploy on Amazon’s part. As Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords says, The new Amazon KDP Select program look s like a predatory business practice (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-competitive_practices). Pretty soon, Amazon can use the opportunity to leverage their dominance as the world’s largest e-book retailer (and world’s largest payer to indie authors) to attain monopolistic advantage by effectively denying its competing retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc) access to the books from indie authors.

Indies are the future of book publishing. In the US, in the last three months of 2010, Amazon’s sales of e-books surpassed that of paperbacks for the first time.

Think about this. It might pay indie authors to recognise that their long term interests are best served by having a competitive global ebook retailing ecosystem. Mark Coker recommends an author distribute their book to as many retailers as possible. Many ebook retailers, all working to attract readers to books, will surely serve indie authors better in the long run than a single retailer who can dictate all the terms.

But whoever thinks of the long run? The long run is everyone’s poor relation, doomed to be steamrollered by the bullies of expediency and money.

The contents of this blog are based on a blog by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. The original, more comprehensive article can be found at: blog.smashwords.com/2011/12/amazon-shows-predatory-spots-with-kdp.html

Next Week: A review of Australian author Michael Sala’s debut novel The Last Thread published by Affirm Press.

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Before we go any further, I suppose it would be a good idea to let you put a face to this writer, let you know who you’re dealing with, as it were.

This is one of the few photographs I have in which I look even halfway presentable. It was taken in Brisbane in 2010 (I know it’s almost seven years ago; I’m harder to photograph than a yeti) at the 50th reunion of agricultural scientists who graduated from Queensland University in years in ’58-’62 approximately.

What’s a person with a B. Agr. Sc. and a major in Plant Physiology doing writing fiction and editing/assessing manuscripts? It’s a l-o-n-g story …

For more, click on the About section above. For information about manuscript assessments or editing, please see: http://patrickdevalera.com

and click on Manuscript Development Services in the menu bar.

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