Monday, January 18, 2021

RIP Indio (Our Cat)

We're heartbroken after the death of our beautiful kitty Indio.

He was a rescue cat that I named after my book character, overruling my husband's name choice of Discord. I truly believe his personality helped me write Indio's character in the Wynter Wild series.

Book-Indio in early drafts was an extroverted party animal. I soon realized a more sensitive soul would better suit this songwriter with a painful past. Cat-Indio was motherless almost from birth until we took him in at 4 months old. He was terrified and clumsy and hardly knew how to be a cat, let alone how to be around humans. Gradually we taught him to allow us near, and after many accidental scratches to play with his claws in.

He became as agile and curious as a cat should be. Unfortunately he was forever finding ways out of our cat-proofed yard. Standing on his hind legs he even learned to haul open the heavy sliding door to get outside. He was impossible to catch, but would come to us for petting at specific times of the day and demand attention by butting his head into our hands. Eventually he trusted us enough to roll onto his back for tummy rubs. The first photo shows him sleeping on his back beside me while I write.

Just like Book-Indio, it took a while to win his trust and get to know him, but it was worth it.

Indio died the day he went missing, as far as we can tell - one week ago. We finally found him in the nextdoor yard (an empty house). While there's some relief to know what became of him after a week of uncertainty, it's painful to have no idea how he died.

We adopted him with his foster sister Crystal - they'd shared a cage in the pound after all Indio's littermates were gone, and they were very close. She's at a loss to know what to make of his absence at the moment. We miss him so much.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

My Characters as Avatars

Been messing around with the Facebook avatar maker to create the characters from the Wynter Wild series - because it's fun! - and I've uploaded dozens of them to the Wynter Wild Wiki on the relevant character pages.

I'm using the website version of the program rather than the app, and it's pretty limited in terms of hairstyles and especially when making older characters. But I did my best. Here are just a few of them...

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Duet (Wynter Wild Book 7) is OUT NOW in paperback

New paperback out today!

Duet is the seventh book in the series and introduces a new POV character Xay. 

We've already heard a bit about him in the previous books, of course. Getting into his head was a refreshing change from the other four characters. He has a positive optimistic outlook on life, making the best of things, but harbors bitterness over what happened to him and his best friend Roman at the ashram. When he finally discovers that Wynter escaped the Light and is living what he believes is a dream life in Washington, it raises all kinds of self-doubt in Xay.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Natural Harmonics (Book 6) is OUT NOW in paperback

I'm slowly converting my ebooks to paperbacks, and the newest release is Natural Harmonics (Wynter Wild Book 6). This is one of my personal favorites in the series because I finally got to write about the family out and about in Seattle playing their music.
Wynter and her brothers are ready to rock venues all over Seattle. No one can deny the natural chemistry Rule212 has on stage. Behind the scenes there's tension brewing.
It's not easy to work, play, and live together. Family means everything to Wynter and she'll do whatever it takes to keep it together.
But something at the very heart of this family is ripping it apart. They are finally learning that things went wrong years before they were born. No secrets or lies—it's one of Caleb's house rules. So why does everyone keep breaking it?

You can purchase Natural Harmonics on Amazon:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AUS

Amazon DE

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Broken Strings (Book 9) is Out Now!

This was probably the hardest book to write in the series so far, for two reasons.

Firstly, because it was the first book where I was starting from scratch. While I wrote half a million stream-of-consciousness words a few years ago that became the basis for all ten books, once I put the scenes in order, I only "completed" 8 books before I started publishing book 1 on Wattpad. I don't really mean completed, as I was rewriting and editing (and adding thousands of words to) the books as I published them, but essentially the plotting and two-thirds of the writing was done.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Useful Free Internet Tools for Writers

Gone are the days when writers had to spend hours in the library researching how to care for their character's pet python, or on the phone exploring the price of a plane ticket, or at the bookcase in the next room flicking through classic novels to find the perfect quote.

Everything's at our fingertips - and not just for researching our stories, but for editing and publishing our books as well. Here I'm focusing on some of my most-used tools and websites, and they're all free. Some do have paid services that expand the options available, and for others you will need to make an account (often, signing in via Facebook or Google is possible).

I've mentioned a couple of these tools before, and added lots of new ones.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Ashram at Touchstone Pass

Do you get a visual image of the layout of a place when you read about it? I have a very firm impression in my mind of the ashram in the Wynter Wild books, but I've never actually drawn a map. Now that I'm writing flashbacks for book 10 (The Beat Goes On), where we spend some time in the ashram (and - spoiler! - there are present scenes set there, too), I decided I needed a clearer idea of where everything is.

Firstly, to set the scene...

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Then & Now

I bought myself a new guitar, which I'll write about soon, but here's my daughter - then (age 2) with the Rock Band controller guitar, and now (age 10) with the new, actual, real guitar. Despite no amp she says it's already "too loud". Four+ months of remote learning at home has apparently lowered her tolerance for noise.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Xay's Playlist

It's not really a spoiler to say that in the forthcoming and final book of the Wynter Wild series (The Beat Goes On), Xay Morant is going to launch his singing career. He's a rockstar through and through (or will be, he hopes!) - and I've put together this playlist to give you an idea of the kind of music he sings.

If you don't listen to anthemic rock music (as opposed to the indie rock of Rule212), these songs might be an eyeopener. They're mostly from current but not particularly huge bands (in some cases, unknown bands) including a couple of covers. In style and lyrical content they represent the spirit of Xay's music. Cigarette-lighter songs included!

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Book Your Reviewer Wanted to Write

Today I finished Broken Strings, book 9 of the Wynter Wild series. As I prepare to sink deep into book 10, I'm looking back at the previous books and the perpective I've gained as I think about the genesis of the series and the early feedback I received that could have, if I'd listened to it, changed the trajectory of the story. Just like Caleb, who had to decide what he was willing to overlook to get what he wanted, I want to talk about where we as writers are willing to compromise when we encounter feedback on a manuscript (from beta-readers and other sources) that may have been offered from someone in the wrong frame of mind. 
This post will make a bit more sense if you've read Little Sister Song, because I'm using as an example the early professional feedback I received on the manuscript. However, the principles for recognizing this sort of feedback apply to any story you've written that means a lot to you.

Reviewing another's work is an art in itself, and I highly recommend it as a skill worth learning. It can't fail to improve your own writing. However, as the recipient of feedback, recognize a reviewer's biases. I'm not talking about political bias or sexism or any other -ism. It's far more basic than that: it's when the reviewer is giving you feedback based on what they would've written instead of accepting that you're telling your story as intended.

Before we get into that...

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Cover reveal: The Beat Goes On (Wynter Wild Book 10)

This week I've been finishing up Broken Strings (book 9) and working on the book 10 cover... and here it is!

Monday, July 13, 2020

When Rights Won’t Revert

When it comes to being traditionally published versus self-published, there are pros and cons to each. One of the issues an author faces with traditional publication (meaning you sign a contract with a publisher, giving them the right to publish your book under certain conditions) is getting your rights back at a later date.

Why would you want your rights back? Now that self-publishing is so easy and indie publishing with smaller houses is expanding because of the ebook market, getting your rights back is the first step enabling you to republish your book and give it a new lease of life. As long as you're under contract with the original publisher, this isn't possible.

You can request the contract be ended, and your rights reverted, when your book is "out of print". The definition of this term will be defined in the contact. In my case, for my sci-fi novel SONG OF SCARABAEUS (first published in 2010 by HarperCollins), it means the publisher has no physical copies left to fulfil an order.

Electronic books can't be out of print, of course. My contract specifies that the ebook is out of print if it sells fewer than 250 copies in 12 months (which is two accounting periods).

Ten years after publication, how is SONG OF SCARABAEUS doing?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Wynter Wild Wiki is live

Introducing the Wynter Wild Wiki! This project was suggested to me by a friend and reader who is helping write and administrate it, and appeals to my natural inclination to keep things orderly.

Take a look around! This is a community project - anyone can edit or add pages but please read "Rules of this wiki" (link from main page on the right) which are the standard rules of, with the last couple of points related to spoilers and formatting for the Wynter Wild Wiki. (A few pages are protected so only registered users can make changes - you just need to make an account for that. Most pages are freely editable.) Or add comments on a page if you have suggestions and improvements.

Note that the fan casting images and mood boards I've used on Wattpad can't be uploaded to the wiki. Wattpad's free pass for "famous people and celebrities" doesn't apply here. I'm working on some original artwork, and fan art or copyright-free art can be added as well.

As of today, bios for the main characters and most of the minor characters from books 1 to 3 are live, along with some information on pets and bands and a few other things. With your help we can grow the wiki into a useful resource for readers wanting to explore Wynter's world.

Friday, July 3, 2020

New Release: Distortion (Wynter Wild Book 5) in paperback

Distortion Wynter Wild Book 5The fifth book in the Wynter Wild series, Distortion, is out now in paperback!

In this book, Wynter puts together her first all-girl (well, not quite) band. While she'd love to be playing just about every song with the amp turned to 11 to maximize distortion, the Mail Order Chicks play mostly 80s and 90s British pop. This story also sees the genesis of the rock band she puts together with her brothers.

"Distortion" refers to how the siblings' mother, Miriam, has affected her children by her actions years ago. Particularly for Indio, he believes the ongoing absence of maternal love is what has formed him, rather than the abandonment itself:

Thursday, July 2, 2020

New Release: Minor Key (Wynter Wild Book 8)

The eighth book in the Wynter Wild saga, Minor Key, is out now in all ebook formats!

Little Sister Song (Book 1) is available here.

The title for Minor Key was inspired by two events in the story, the first being Xay and Wynter's long-awaited reunion after 3 years. Things don't go exactly as either of them planned, and neither knows quite what to do about it.

The second is the tragedy alluded to in the blurb (below).

In addition, Jesse is dealing with a mental health issue that takes him by surprise.

But there are happy times, too.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Wynter Wild Inspiration playlist

Little Sister Song on Wattpad has just hit 150,000 reads since I started publishing it in December 2018 - beyond my wildest expectations! I'll be posting a few blogs to celebrate.

I don't often listen to music while writing (especially not songs with lyrics) but when I'm plotting, or playing out scenes in my head searching for ideas, I have some favorite songs I keep going back to. These songs don't necessarily reflect how I imagine my fictional musical family would sound, but for various reasons the music inspired me.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Tiger Mountain House - updated

I've updated the digital composite picture I made of Wynter's home on Tiger Mountain. This one adds the garage and improves the driveway. On the left is the concrete area used as a basketball court. The goat pen, veggie patches, and "Wynter's garden" with the stone wall are hidden by the main house.


Monday, June 8, 2020

Nailed it...

For her tenth birthday my daughter asked me to make a birthday cake that looks like her ice dragon:

Dragons and cats are her favorite things, and I was so hoping she'd ask for a cat cake... but no problem! I can make an ice dragon cake! Here's how I did it.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Caleb's house in Seattle + Caravan (The Sims 3)

As well as making the Tiger Mountain home in The Sims 3, I also made Caleb's house in Seattle - the house where Wynter shows up on the doorstep one cold January afternoon. This one was a lot simpler to build, and currently my Sims family is living there.

Here's the exterior shot, showing the porch, adjoining garage, kitchen on the left of the front door, and dining room on the right.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Text-to-Speech for Editing

I like to read my manuscript out loud to check for repeated words and clunky dialogue - things I don't always notice when simply reading on the screen. And it always makes me lose my voice! So I've been looking around for a good text-to-speech converter to do the job for me.

These days the voices available for this sort of software are pretty good. They sound human, although they don't always do correct phrasing, but it's good enough to get a feel for the rhythm of your prose and to pick up typos and repeated words.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A cute baby

For those of you less familiar with babies or who don't remember (like me!) what they are like at different ages, click on the image above for a 20-second video of a baby the same age as the one you might be reading about if you're reading my books.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Wynter Wild is a Sim!

Lego houses are my first love, but my second love is Sims houses! I used to satisfy my house-building fetish with the Sims years ago because all my childhood Lego was at my parents' place. Recently I purchased The Sims 3, which I was told is more versatile for building than the latest Sims 4, and built the house on Tiger Mountain.

But first, here's Wynter's family as Sims:

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Wattys Pre-emptively Screwed Themselves (Again)

The Wattys 2020 awards were announced last week, with the book of rules and guidelines going up on Wattpad.

After the 2019 awards I was vocal about two major problems (as I saw them): that previously published authors won two awards (I wrote about this and the outcomes here), and the rules book was misleading, contradictory, repetitive, and dense, with valid questions from Wattpadders seeking clarification going unanswered by Wattpad staff.

This year the Wattys have changed in two major ways, one of which makes business sense and the other is just common sense:

1. Only novels 50K are eligible (no non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels, novellas, short stories) - Given Wattpad is looking to publish the winner(s), they won't make money from anything shorter than a novel. To recognize these other types of writing, they will have other contests later in the year.

2. Only finished stories are eligible. Last year, one of the judging criterion was (obviously) plot - does it have a beginning, middle, and satisfying end? It befuddled me at the time how this was supposed to be judged when the story was unfinished.

So far, so good.

But I have gripes.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Doorways: Wynter Wild Houses Part 3

The previous posts show the homes of characters from the Wynter Wild books - those mentioned during the series, and all the previous homes of the boys. In this post I'm looking at homes of some secondary characters as well as other locations.

Tiger Mountain

Here's a view of Tiger Mountain (facing east) showing how the homes - the brown clearings in the foreground - are buried in the forest. The blue flag could be where Caleb's family lives. The mountains in the very distance are the Cascades, which run north-south for 700 miles from Canada to Northern California.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Doorways: Wynter Wild Houses Part 2

In my previous post I showed pictures of the various homes (and a boat!) lived in by the family in the Wynter Wild series. In this post I'll take a look at the two houses they visit for nostalgia's sake in Montana, along with the Montana homes the children grew up in even before then.

In my next post I'll show you some of the other characters' homes and hangouts.

Anaconda, MT

In Minor Key (book 8), the family visits the two homes in Montana where the boys grew up (at least, the last two homes they lived in - they moved around with Miriam before this).

Friday, February 7, 2020

Doorways: Wynter Wild Houses Part 1

I often "drive" through cities and suburbs on Google Maps to get a feel for how a place looks, even if those descriptions don't end up in my writing. I live in suburban Melbourne, which has many suburbs with their own distinctive and very Australian flavor. So it's fascinating to me to compare American locations with Australian, as well as with each other.

Early on I found houses to match each of the places Wynter and the boys have lived in. I looked for houses the right size and price (using Zillow estimates for the year in question, where possible), and in the right location. This helped me enormously in visualizing my scenes. Zillow also sometimes has photos of the interiors (when they've recently been on the market).

Below are screenshots of some of the homes mentioned in books 1 to 8. They're not necessarily perfectly matched to the way I ended up describing the buildings, but most are real homes in the actual neighborhoods given in the books. I've listed them in the order they appear in the books, not the order they were lived in.

Seattle house, Columbia City, Seattle WA

Monday, February 3, 2020

Xay: Personality Type

The youngest brother in the Fairn family is Xay, and today I'm looking at his personality type according to the Myers-Briggs definition.

New Release: Duet (Wynter Wild Book 7)

The silly season is over, the child is back at school, and I've finally managed to get Duet out there. The book is available on Amazon Kindle at these links

Amazon US
Amazon AUS
Amazon UK
Amazon DE

or purchase from Smashwords in multiple formats.

As always, I truly appreciate the support of my readers and ask you to please consider writing an honest review at Goodreads. It's the best way to support indie authors!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Caleb: Personality Type

Caleb is next up in my character analysis based on the Myers-Briggs personality types.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Wynter: Personality Type

As part of my deep-dive into my characters' personality types, today I'm looking at Wynter.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Jesse: Personality Type

This will be the first in a series looking at the personality types of the characters in the Wynter Wild series, comparing them to each other, and discussing character pairings - meaning how they interact with each other (in both positive and negative ways). I'll focus mostly on the siblings (Caleb, Indio, Jesse, Xay, Wynter), using their MBTI (Myers-Briggs) personality types.

Fellow writers might also be interested in my earlier post, Personality Typing for Made-Up People.

I did personality tests on my characters about one year into writing, when they already pretty well established in my head and on the page. I thought it would be interesting to see how closely they matched the established "types", and also knew it would generate some ideas for how they deal with stress, and with each other (particularly what causes conflict).

I became interested in this method of personality typing a couple of decades ago. 16Personalities is a useful summary site to familiarize yourself with the 16 types and take the test yourself if you want. (Not all sites use the same "shorthand" descriptor, e.g. "debater" for ENTP, but the idea is the same.) It's up to you whether you find this psychological approach useful for real people, but as a writer I do find it useful for character generation - or, in this case, for delving deeper into characters I'd already created.

I'm writing these posts in the midst of editing (and uploading to Wattpad) book 8, so there may be minor spoilers if you haven't read that far. Read about:

Jesse: the "debater"

Jesse's personality type is ENTP - the "debater". Let's break it down:

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Rule212 on tour!

In Minor Key (Wynter Wild book 8), Wynter and her brothers are about to take their indie rock band Rule212 on tour.

Barring unforseen diversions and detours, this is the route their three-week tour will take them, starting in Aurora CO, ending in Seattle WA:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Wynter Wild Series Timeline (books 1-7)

Following on from the last post's timeline of events before book 1 started, here's the timeline for the major events of books 1-7. Note: There are spoilers here for those books, although I've avoided giving away too much. If you've read the books, then reading the event should trigger a reminder of "what really happened".

I keep a detailed spreadsheet with a separate column for each major character, and a day-by-day accounting of events. For example, here's a screenshot showing the entries for book 1 (and some of book 2) (click to enlarge):

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wynter Wild Series Timeline (pre book 1)

Once my Wynter Wild series started approaching the half-million-word count a couple of years ago, and I decided to make the effort to turn it all into books, I realized I was going to have to start keeping very detailed notes, especially with the timeline.

The story is linear but characters frequently mention past events. To make everything consistent, I kept a spreadsheet of events in the characters' lives. While writing book 6, which introduces backstory from the previous generation, I took the timeline all the way back to 1963 when Bill Brown and Sylvia Heathcote (Ellie's parents) got married in Vermont.

Below is the timeline of events prior to the start of Little Sister Song (book 1). Note that there are major spoilers here from books 1 to 7. Coming up next will be the timeline that the first few books cover.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Cover Reveal: Book 8 of the Wynter Wild Series

Continuing on the headless girl theme, I present the cover for book 8 of the Wynter Wild series, which is titled Minor Key.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Wynter's Prom Dress

In the chapter of Duet (Wynter Wild #7) I recently uploaded to Wattpad, it's Wynter's prom night.

She's not much of a dress girl, but in keeping with social convention she borrowed an appropriate bridesmaid dress from Dusk and it looks something like this (along with the dendrobium orchid corsage):

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Making a Theremin

The theremin has fascinated me for many years. Recently I watched some YouTube videos on how to play it, and got the urge to give it a try. Apparently, it's easier to play if you have experience with the violin -- an instrument I played, and hated, for 7 long years. So I figured I could give it a go. The instrument itself costs at least $450, but I found a $100 kit on eBay and purchased it...

... Not realizing you need an electrical engineering degree to assemble it! Where's Jesse when I need him?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Craft Tutorial: Dragon Spines and Tail

Yesterday I wrote a tutorial to make your own dragon wings. Today I made the spines and tail for the costume, and here's how.

I wanted a long row of spines, with tail attached, that I could pin onto the costume after the wings were harnessed on. I cut two 3cm-wide strips of plastic sheet (from a poster frame), but you could use sturdy card although it won't give the tail the same "bounce" as plastic does. Whatever you use, it needs to be something with firm edges, so you can pull the felt triangles around it, which forces the triangles to stand up straight.

For the spines my daughter chose white glitter felt, which comes in A4 sheets. You could use card, maybe metallic-coated or with a pattern, in a color that matches the rest of the costume. It needs to be able to stand up by itself.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Craft Tutorial: Garbage Bag Dragon Wings

A couple of weeks ago my daughter announced she wanted to be a white dragon for Halloween. There are a dragon costume options available in the stores but none are white, other than the How To Train Your Dragon Light Fury for younger children. (My daughter is 9 and skinny, but so tall she wears age 12 clothes.)

I boldly said I'd make her dragon wings, and rather than the soft type hanging from the arms, I decided to make proper shaped wings coming out of her back. I don't know what I was thinking! But my husband cleared his weekend D&D game off the trestle tables so I had a big workspace, and today I finished them (other than the harness). I thought I'd share how I made them.

Initially I found an online tutorial showing how to turn two kites into amazing wings, and I tried to replicate this. The only suitable kites I could find were rainbow colored. White spray paint failed to cover the color (it just doesn't stick to that fabric, and isn't thick enough), so I decided to start from scratch using white garbage bags and garden wire.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Narrow Escape: The Doomed R101 Airship

My daughter and her dad were going through her National Geographic Kids "How Things Work" book tonight, and were reading the chapter on dirigibles, which mentioned the British R101 rigid airship.

This reminded me of a story my dad likes to tell about his father, John (Jack) Creasy, born in 1899. Jack was a chemist whose company, Titanine Ltd., supplied the nitrocellulose paint, otherwise known as "dope", for fabric used to cover the R101. After the ship was built, his team went on a tour of the airship. The story goes that Jack was so horrified by the workmanship, he declined a free ticket for its maiden overseas voyage to India in October 1930.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

NEW RELEASE: Natural Harmonics (Book 6)

Natural Harmonics is book 6 of the Wynter Wild series. The reason Wynter looks so happy on the cover is because her band is finally getting gigs and she loves playing live!

The ebook is now available for purchase for a teeny tiny price:

Amazon USA (US$2.99)
Amazon AUS
Amazon UK

It's also available in multiple formats on Smashwords, and through other online retailers. (BTW I accidentally pasted the book 7 description into the Amazon upload, and it'll take a day or two to fix. Big oops! Even I get confused when I'm working on three different books in the series at the same time.)

Friday, October 18, 2019

Breaking the Rules: What the What with the Wattys?

The other day I checked out the 2019 Wattys winners, looking for books to add to my reading list, and to get an idea of the kind of stories that win.

I started uploading my Wynter Wild series to Wattpad in December 2018, which in theory made the first few books eligible for the 2019 Wattys. I'd never heard of the Wattys until I joined Wattpad, but of course I considered entering Little Sister Song, come June, for the chance to become one of the ~60 winners. An award is great exposure for any writer using this platform where there are 500 million stories fighting for attention.

When I read the rules and found that published works were ineligible, I had to put that idea aside. (At the time, the later books in the series that weren't yet published were eligible, but I saw no point in entering book 5 or 6 of a long series, as it's necessary to read them in order.)

But back to those Wattys winners: On a hunch, I searched for one of the stories on Amazon and discovered it was self-published earlier this year (same title, author, and cover). I checked the other winners and found a second winning story on Amazon.

This blog post is partly a bitchfest about why ineligible stories won the award when I (and no doubt many others) specifically gave up our chance and did not enter because of the exclusivity rule. Yes, the chances of winning are minisculefor example, your story has to impress a "Story DNA" computer algorithm before a human even lays eyes on itbut that's not the point. And it's partly a piece of advice to Wattpad to get their house in order and be more professional about their contest, to avoid this problem reoccuring.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Rhubarb Crumble, Or Not

My sister's green thumb rescued my rhubarb plant (see previous post), and this week she gave me a bundle of its bounty so I thought I'd post a crumble recipe.

I grew up on apple, rhubarb, and peach crumble (not all in the same dish, except for the first two, sometimes) and my mother claims she used the recipe from the old Be-Ro cookbook, published in the 1920s. (Be-Ro was a brand of flour.) I also grew up using this cookbook for cakes and pancakes, etc. 

The crumble recipe called for rubbing in the fat and flour, then adding sugar, and baking it as a topping on stewed apple. Over the years we modified it a bit, such as adding oats or desiccated coconut, using crunchy raw sugar instead of white or soft brown, and using half self-raising flour to add some texture.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Gardening Woes

My least favorite pastime is killing plants. Unfortunately, I keep doing it.

Unlike my main character Wynter, every plant left in my care suffers a quick (hopefully painless) death. So when I discovered one of our major supermarket chains is giving away a free seed kit with every $30 spent (aimed at kids, like all similar promos - last month it was Lion King Ooshies), I was probably less thrilled than many parents. Not because it isn’t fun and easy to sprout seeds with your kids (it is!), but because I know damn well those seedlings are going to keel over and die as soon as I repot them and attempt to turn them into useful veggies, herbs, and flowers.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mail Order Chicks Spotify Playlist

Wynter plays in an all-girl band (that isn't all-girl), Mail Order Chicks, starting in book 5. They play mostly 80s-90s British pop covers, so I made a playlist of the songs mentioned along with a few others they've probably played now and then.

Link to Spotify playlist.

You can find a more extensive playlist from the Wynter Wild books in this blog post.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

One Night Vacation - How Many Tiny Things Can Go Wrong?

Since my daughter is on school vacation, we decided to spend a couple of days, along with my mum, on the coast where my sister has a caravan. There were already six in the caravan, so we stayed the night in a nearby motel. MCP was home alone, fending for himself, because I didn't have time to restock the fridge before I left. He appears to have survived on hash browns and bacon.

How many little challenges can we fit into one 36-hour period?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Fairn Boys' Motorcycles

Wynter's brothers each ride a different motorcycle. I know nothing about motorcycles, except what it feels like to ride on the back of Caleb's bike because my husband owned it, back in Arizona.

Caleb's bike is the 1985 Honda V65 Magna. It was manufactured for a few years during the mid 80s, and as the first power cruiser it really was called the "Beast", V4 engine, 1100cc, 116 horse power, with fast acceleration, low vibration, and high top speed. The bike below (1983 model) includes the "goofy" saddle bags that Caleb is so proud of. All photos from Click the images for more info.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Duet - Bits and Pieces

Now that book 7 Duet is up and running on Wattpad, here are some bits and pieces from the first few chapters. No spoilers here if you've read up to chapter 5.

These are two songs Rule212 plays at the Christmas party:
A Google Maps image of the house on which I based Dwayne Orion's ultra modern mansion on Lake Washington (note the Greek temple lap pool out the back):

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Cover Reveal! Book 7 Duet

I've started posting Duet to Wattpad, and earlier I asked readers to vote on one of two covers (same model, different poses). This one won, so here is the finalized book 7 cover!

Wynter is now fully in the swing of playing live gigs around Seattle, and sometimes farther afield. She lives for that hour on stage, a bubble of music shared with her brothers while the audience clamors for more. Offstage, things aren't running quite as smootly.

I'm working on editing these chapters, uploading as I go, and also getting book 6 ready to publish as an ebook.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Naming Characters and a List of My Characters

Today I'm trawling baby naming sites to come with a new character name. I've accumulated quite a number of characters in my 10-book series, so any time I add in a new character (or decide to change an existing character's name) it becomes a bit of a drama to find something that isn't too similar to a name I've used before.

I keep a list of every named character, along with a brief description, if given (I tend not to over-describe them), and when they were first introduced. Currently the list has grown to over 300 names. Many of these are obviously minor characters or even off-hand references to people who never appear on-screen, but I've tried nevertheless to keep the names distinct.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Creating a paperback cover from the Kindle cover

Continuing from the previous post, today I'll look at creating your paperback cover from your Kindle cover.

As you work through the steps via your KDP dashboard, you'll reach the area where you create your cover. Unless you have experience creating wraparound covers, with the correct spine width, you'll want to choose the first option: Use Cover Creator to make your book cover. Then click the Launch Cover Creator button.

The cover has three parts - front, spine, and back. Click the Choose Layout icon and select a layout from the premade templates. These all affect how the back cover will look. If you want an author bio and photo, there are a few different options there. I have nothing but the blurb on my back cover, so I select the final option:

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Converting Kindle to Paperback - a few tips

This week I published books 2 & 3 of the Wynter Wild series as paperbacks. You can purchase them here, although I can't (Amazon doesn't have a POD service in Australia):

Out of Tune (Book 2)
Rhythm & Rhyme (Book 3)

I wrote a blog series on formatting your paperback, which you can read starting here: Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Making Word Do What You Want, Part 1

Amazon makes this process - in theory - easy to do via your KDP dashboard. You can either use their inbuilt formatter, which is actually not that easy if you're fussy about a particular look, or reformat your own Word file and upload that.

Which is what I did, before remembering that it's even better to "save as" a pdf and upload that. It's important to embed your fonts when creating the pdf, which in Word 10 is done like this:

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Wattpad's plan to make money from writers

The way these things used to go: a writer spends hundreds of hours writing a book, and a reader pays a few dollars to read it. Writers who didn't find an agent or publisher essentially didn't get read.

Things have changed in the last 20 years, and now we have Wattpad.

Wattpad provides authors with a free platform and huge potential audience for their work, and readers can read their books for free. Then Wattpad introduced paid stories, where select authors are invited to put their work behind a paywall. From comments I've read, some readers were up in arms about this because they didn't want to pay for what they used to get for free. Personally I think it's an excellent idea to have a paid tier, but I'm biased toward paying people for the work they do.

Friday, August 2, 2019

My book characters collect Pins

A long time ago I created a Pinterest site for the Wynter Wild series, when I was researching ideas for their new home.

It's since expanded into individual boards for each of the main characters - not that I can imagine any but Wynter actually using Pinterest.

So far I've made the following boards:

Monday, July 29, 2019

Distortion Book 5 is OUT NOW

Distortion is Book 5 in the Wynter Wild series, and it's out now on Amazon for US$2.99! Also available in other formats on Smashwords. If you're enjoying the series, please don't forget to rate and review it on Amazon or on Goodreads.

Read on for the blurb.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Social media for my book characters??!

So I've been thinking of doing this for a while because it amuses me...

My book characters got Instagram accounts!


It's mostly just the three of them talking to each other in comments, but feel free to follow and say hi. They don't know they're book characters, so they can't see comments that break the fourth wall. Don't go dropping spoilers or asking them what it's like to be a book character, for example.

Also Caleb, although he refused to get a personal account so it's for band news.

I also made a website for Rule212 for no apparent reason and there's nothing there...

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Distortion (book 5) links & playlist

For those of you who've just finished reading book 5 Distortion on Wattpad, here's a few fun bits of additional info...

The Mail Order Chicks are formed in book 5 -- here's a Spotify playlist of a few songs they cover (most of which are mentioned by name), including those from a later book (when they re-form). Scroll down within the frame for the complete list.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

July sale: My books are half-price (and free!)

For the month of July 2019, books 3 & 4 in the Wynter Wild series are half price (US$1.50) at Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords (has multiple formats available). Click the links below to purchase. And don't forget to download books 1 & 2 for FREE!

Rhythm & Rhyme $1.50

Amazon US
Amazon AUS
Amazon UK

Lost Melodies $1.50

Amazon US
Amazon AUS
Amazon UK

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Cover reveal! Book 6 Natural Harmonics

I recently updated all my covers to use a friendlier font and to add the series name and number, which is important because the books need to be read in order. On Wattpad I just posted the book 6 cover -- the book is called Natural Harmonics and is premised on Wynter's band, Rule212, as they begin the play live around Seattle and garner a fanbase.

Like my other titles, there is a double meaning to this one which becomes apparent as you read the book.

Natural Harmonics will be on Wattpad in a few weeks. I also plan to release Distortion (book 5) as an ebook soon, and books 2 and 3 as paperbacks.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Prospect: A Movie Review of Sorts

Here's one for my Song of Scarabaeus readers...

I'm constantly disappointed by science fiction movies these days, and after watching Netflix's Prospect (2018) tonight, I've figured out why.

When it comes to science fiction, my favorite trope is "gritty spaceship and rag-tag crew". It's why I wrote the Scarabaeus series. Midway through writing that book, I remember reading about a forthcoming "gritty spaceship with ragtag crew" series called Firefly and I felt like Joss Whedon had extracted it from my head. (My husband now tells me it's all just Starcraft, which I'd never heard of.)

Anyway, I don't know why I like gritty spaceships and ragtag crews but that's my preferred subgenre. The sci-fi tropes I enjoy less are horror elements, bodysnatching in all its guises, a present or near-future setting, or post-apocalyptic setting, supernatural or magical technology, and gimmicks like time travel. There are movies with these elements that I've enjoyed, but they don't capture my imagination so well.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

DISTORTION (Book 5) is posting now on Wattpad!

(That makes it sound like it's posting itself.)

So I've started posting book 5 of the Wynter Wild series to Wattpad, where you can read it for free. The blurb is below.

The title Distortion follows the musical theme of the previous books, and refers to what's going on in this family and in Wynter's life in particular.

Wynter has grown on me more and more as I've been writing these books. She made herself a "blank slate" when she left the cult-like ashram, realizing that to survive she needed to fit in and forget the past. Of course no one can completely put the past behind them, and in Distortion everyone is realizing just how much the past, specifically their mother, still affects them today. It has distorted Wynter's new identity, her social abilities, her concept of love, and her relationships.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Wynter Wild Books Spotify Playlist

In no particular order, these are the songs mentioned, or played in some form, in books 1-4 of my Wynter Wild series. The text link takes you to Spotify, and the embedded graphic plays a sample of each song. I'll be making more playlists in the future to give you an idea of what the various bands in the book sound like.

I'm not necessarily a huge fan of all these songs. They're just the ones that get a mention. The majority are classics because, as Indio says, no one's playing rock n' roll anymore...

A few notes about where the songs appear:

Indio gave Jenny the sheet music to The Devil Went Down to Georgia for her birthday.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Genre Expectations

Lost Melodies is the fourth instalment of the Wynter Wild series. Wynter is a teenager, but this series is not YA.

On Wattpad, where I'm uploading the book, readers skew young. The stats say 30% of my readers are under 18, 30% are 18-25, 30% are unspecified, and the remaining 10% are 25+. YA, of course, is read as eagerly by adults as by teens, but the expectations are the same: as a publishing genre, YA by definition deals with teen concerns.

The Wynter Wild series isn't YA. Three of my POV characters are adults, but the New Adult label doesn't fit either because (1) they are male, and (2) their stories aren't romances. I used to refer to the series as a Family Saga although it only covers a few years. An author who rated the series on Goodreads called it "New Adult Family Saga" and I like that... but it's not a genre that publishers recognize. (Publishers need to know where to "shelve" a book and a random crossover is a hard sell.)

In addition to publishing genres, there are Wattpad genres - not only main categories such as General Fiction (where I put this series) and Teen Fiction, but also tags by which readers can search for what they like. My series has certain tags for visibility, such as teen and cult and music, as well as the popular "little sister/older brothers"-type tags (a subgenre I never knew existed when I wrote the series). This subgenre comes with expectations of its own that I can't fulfill...

Friday, April 19, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Making Word Do What You Want, Part 2

In Part 1 of "Making Word Do What You Want" we looked at your options for making attractive matching page lengths. Today, I'm talking about hyphenation. If you're finding this series of Nitty-Gritty series useful, please share!

The alignment of text in a novel is fully justified, meaning the left and right margins are flush (even). The software achieves this by stretching out the spaces between words to a greater or lesser extent. Professional layout software also adjusts letter spacing (to a less obvious extent), which Word doesn't do.

The longer the words you use, and the larger the font (i.e. the shorter the line length), the more likely it is you'll get ugly spaces between words. In the sample below (I've increased font size to emphasize the problem), the first paragraph looks fine, but the words in the second paragraph are widely spaced because the word "important" didn't fit on the previous line:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Making Word Do What You Want, Part 1

When I worked in a publishing house, the job of laying out books, or "layout", belonged to the inhouse book designer and the (out of house) typesetter. They used book design software such as InDesign, which has magical tools to address the nitty-gritty formatting issues to turn a raw manuscript into a beautiful book. (I come from the textbook publishing world, where things are ten times more complex than novels.)

Can a word processor like Microsoft Word replicate professional layout software? The answer is no, but you can come close. In the next two posts I'll look at two things layout software does with ease to make a book look nicer, and which you can sort-of replicate in Word... but with warnings and caveats. Today, page length.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The House on Tiger Mountain - plan view

If you're reading book 4 Lost Melodies on Wattpad right now, I created a plan of the old farmhouse that the family buys in Washington state. My previous post showed the front view.

So, below is the plan with the room assignment when they first move in (it changes over time, and the furniture isn't accurate - e.g. some bedrooms are "junk rooms" rather than having beds in them).

Shown here is the first floor (what we call the "ground floor" in the UK and Australia) of the house on the right, with the basement on the left slotting underneath, and the second floor on the left fitting directly on top.

This gives you an idea of what the deck looks like, as it wasn't visible in the front-view image in the previous post.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The House on Tiger Mountain

My book family buys a run-down old farmhouse at the end of book 3 (Rhythm & Rhyme) on Tiger Mountain, east of Seattle. It's on five acres of land backing on to a state forest, and is hidden behind a stone wall.

This house becomes a character in its own right in the series, so I spent some time imagining it, drawing the plans, and eventually mocking up a view from the front. The house is eccentric, which in this case is another way of saying *ugly*, built in stages over the years.

I think I have a slight obsession with houses. We grew up with huge drawerfuls of Lego, and all I ever made with Lego was houses. I didn't play with the houses. I just made them. The three most fun parts about making Lego houses were:

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Future of My Books on Wattpad

I am a terrible salesperson and it's never really bothered me. Now that I'm taking the indie publishing route, apparently I have to start doing the sales thing. I've read all kinds of advice on how to market books, and I've been going about it sort of haphazardly. I am trying a particular marketing strategy in the pricing of my books, although I'm not sure I'll stick to it.

Books 1 to 4 in the Wynter Wild series have been, or will be, uploaded first to Wattpad. I chose that platform because it's huge, it allows for immediate interaction with readers, which I love, and it's free to use for everyone. Wattpad has a young-skewing audience, many of whom don't (and probably won't ever) pay for ebooks, so it's been more of a testing ground to discover readers' reactions.

I always intended to release Little Sister Song as a free ebook to generate some interest in the series, and I've also released book 2 Out of Tune for free as well.

So now I need to formulate a marketing strategy for the remaining books (7.5 of which are written).