Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Different strokes for different folks

I found out a long time ago that what I like best in fiction is a clever reference or two to things I'm interested in, such as history, literature, art, and music. Books that tick the knowledge box are my thing. I also relate well to solitude, discovery, cynicism and defiance. Knowing what kind of reader you are and what you enjoy makes seeking good reading material easier. A defiant character in a novel full of literature and music references will have me enthralled.

As a writer, understanding what your readers seek is somewhat harder. A 'readership' is made up of a number of different personalities, so how is a writer to know who likes what, and in which combination? If you write within a particular genre, you might have a pretty good handle on the type of aspects readers expect to find. So it is useful to have a mental  - or sticky-noted - list of aspects to tick off as you go.

One side of the list should enumerate tangible, physical, and active notions. These could be a sport, a hobby or interest such as collecting jewellery, an extraordinary ability or disability such as dyslexia, a chase, a booby-trap, a kidnapping, and so forth.

The other side should dwell on the abstract notions. Love, of course, disgust, hatred, envy, compatibility, shyness, ignorance, jealousy, laziness, joy ... the list is inexhaustible.

The fun is linking them up, having a very physical chase through a forest, for example, coupled with the discovery of jealousy. Or the ploughing of a field coupled with thoughts of hatred and repulsion. Or the feeling of exhilaration and bliss when washing dishes in a newly-opened restaurant.

Putting together physical and abstract notions will place the reader in an observer's position, but able to relate to the picture you create, because that, after all, is how life seems to us. A task is generally accompanied by a sentiment, especially if it is a boring one, or a moving one, or one that angers us to tears of frustration.

How do you like your mixes of feelings and action in fiction? If you are an observant reader, you will be able to recount the last one that made you sit up and take notice. If you are a writer, what unusual combination of active and mental notions have you come up with lately?
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Global launch - According to Luke

Well, it was worth the wait and all the hard work. Of course it was - there's nothing like the feeling an author gets when a new book hits the stores. According to Luke is well and truly launched, today March 29, 2011.

Simultaneously in eBook and paperback, BeWrite Books has set it off, with a blog entry and a front-end feature on their store front. Wow - it looks great, and people are telling me they'd love to read it. Well over 60 people queued up for the giveaway at Goodreads in the first hour. That makes me very happy.

No - you have not missed it. Entries are accepted for about a month, and a winner is drawn at random by the Goodreads Giveaways machine.

eBook sales have taken off and my publishers tell me digital sales at BeWrite have never been so good. The eclipse is happening this year, and According to Luke will be one of the books that prove people are preferring to read on the go.

No matter whether people choose to read this new thriller on an eReader or a paperback, the content is identical - and takes the reader on an thrilling chase. Join the star-crossed lovers as they try to solve a personal dilemma and a very threatening mysterious one. And when you do read it, I would certainly like to know your opinions.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Paperback or eBook?

IRex iLiad ebook reader outdoors in sunlight. ...Image via Wikipedia
What should a writer publish a book in first - paperback or eBook? This is a dilemma faced by writers who feel confident enough about their own writing to attempt a self-publishing venture with a book or two. There cannot be many established writers, too, who are not tempted to get their out-of-print volumes out there and for sale.

For some writers, the latter venture could be their only self-publishing endeavour. Finding a publisher is not an easy thing to accomplish, and once one is found, giving that publisher the right of first refusal on all subsequent manuscripts might feel like a good idea in this climate. It certainly makes sense. Self-publishing then is reserved for those volumes an author would like to keep in print beyond their contract dates. When rights revert, the time is right.

For emerging writers, finding that first publisher is a difficult thing. Yes, we all hear amazing stories of first-time authors landing seven-figure contracts, but the reason we hear the news is because it does not often happen. Generally, there are months if not years of receiving rejection after rejection, that often have  less to do with the quality of the work than its potential to make money in a particular season, climate or market environment. Self-publishing is an option, but when I say 'self', I mean self. It makes little financial or practical sense to pay a company to 'help' you do what you can do yourself with some research and a lot of commonsense. Getting stuck is something one can get oneself out of rather easily with a search for more information.

It is very possible to self publish for next to nothing. It is certainly the case for eBooks. Paperbacks will incur the writer some costs along the way, but nothing major.

So the choice: what comes first, the eBook or its hardcopy version?

The answer is simple: start on the version you think most of your readers are likely to choose first. Is yours a YA urban fantasy? Then the chances are your market is digital-savvy and already equipped with eReaders or some sort of device on which your book with fit. Have you written a cosy mystery with a forty- or fifty-something protagonist, which will appeal to ageing baby-boomers? Then perhaps a paperback should come first. Mind you, I know some pretty digital-happy fifty-somethings, so you might have to come out with your eBook in pretty quick succession.

Think market. Think speed. If you use Kindle, your eBook can be out as soon as tomorrow, and selling happily, as mine do. If you use CreateSpace, it takes a week or so (depending on where your proof needs posting to) and you are ready to go.

Time is of the essence, especially in these days of rapid everything. Doing things yourself and making timely choices might mean your book is bought and read sooner, rather than later. Don't hold back - let me know your opinion now by filling in a comment box. I love to hear what readers and writers feel.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Food and fiction

A cook sautees onions and peppers.Image via Wikipedia
Reality TV has given us an escape route from drudgery: cooking programs that seem to restore our faith in our ability to conjure up amazing meals. It is really all "if only" TV. It's wishful thinking TV, in the same way that lifestyle and home decor programs and magazines are wishful thinking productions.

Fiction has some of the same elements that make us, as readers, conjure up in our minds situations that seem a bit more palatable or enjoyable than ours. We read romance, adventure, drama, and nostalgia and sigh ... "If only!" It's like looking at a fabulous dessert on the cover of a cooking magazine, wondering whether you could ever summon the patience, ingredients and persistence necessary to create it yourself.

What then, if fiction and food were combined for such an experience? Perhaps it would have the same effect. Stories that have food in them have been known to send readers to the kitchen - or to a restaurant! There is that same element of satisfaction, though, that one gets from a good story that one can derive from a really good dish. Both together the sensations are twice as powerful.

Try it: either read a story that has food as one of its elements or topics, or get yourself to the kitchen, wield a wooden spoon, and create a delicious dish. Or you can write a story that contains food. There are various ways food can be used as a prop in fiction.

I have just resurrected seven food stories and packaged them as The Astronomer's Pig, a neat little volume that won't cost the earth. It will soon come up on Amazon. Don't forget to have a look.

And don't forget to tell me how you relate food with fiction in your mind, and whether you like the combination.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why are religious thrillers so popular?

Umberto Eco - Foucault's PendulumImage by Ross_Angus via Flickr
It all started, or so we think, with Dan Brown. He wrote a religious thriller that kept the reading world in thrall for more than just a couple of months. Whether he started something or not is a moot point. Before The Da Vinci Code, there were The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco. And a long time before that, books such as The Devil's Advocate by Andrew Neiderman. Even G K Chesterton wrote one: The Man who was Thursday.

These books are appealing to a certain kind of audience, and some of them are controversial enough to stay in the bestseller list for such a long time, that the whole world gets curious. What is it about religious thrillers that makes them so engaging?

First of all, they explore one of the fundamental human urges: the impulse to worship. They also tackle the dichotomy between knowledge and belief. And they add to the perpetual question humans have been asking about existence since the time they started to figure stuff out. Is there a higher power or force? Is it likely an almighty, all-seeing all-knowing God exists? And if there is a God, is it likely to be the intervening kind?

Together with those questions are linked others to do with worship, religion and faith. Stacked upon which, of course, come the history of the various religions, their intersections and debacles, and their testimonies in the way of sacred writings. The wars, crusades, iconoclasts, inquisitions, schisms and other historical events add to the perplexing puzzles that make anything religious extremely interesting, very intriguing, highly debatable and not only a little controversial.

So it is no wonder that writers have taken on - at various times during the history of literature and the telling of stories in writing - some of these religious aspects and used them as background to novels. It is no wonder because humans always marvel, debate and think about these aspects - they will never go away. They continue to perplex and excite people, so writing a thriller with such ingredients is bound to attract readers who have wondered and debated.

To those who are knowledgeable about religious topics, and also to those who know less about religious aspects but love a good thrilling read, this kind of book is a fascinating way to combine entertainment with polemic. It is an engaging way to investigate and explore the deeper questions in a lighter way.

I would love to hear what you think about the popularity of religious thrillers. Leave your opinion now.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Collaboration between writers and how it works

Writing can be a solitary and seemingly thankless task. Feedback is very hard to get, and few will understand the frustrations that face a novice or emerging writer.

Finding someone who understands the processes, attitudes and situations a writer can face on a daily basis is not that hard. Empathy and advice are only a few clicks away. Networks such as LinkedIn and Writers' Digest, not to mention AuthorAdvance and Authors Den, put writers in touch with each other. One can exchange ideas and get support for problems without leaving desk, keyboard and mouse.

When a group of like-minded writers get together, however, based perhaps on a similar genre, regional identity, or simply a liking for each other's style and ethics, the group is more likely to become collaborative in a way that helps with more than personal glitches or style queries.

Collaboration between writers can bring about an exchange of audiences. Readers can discover writers affiliated with each other much more easily, through shared websites, link exchanges, and online networking. Take ANZauthors, a group I belong to. This group of serious working writers operates in the same wide region, but all in widely differing genres and styles. Still, we collaborate in more ways than one. Advice and support is always there when we correspond through our Yahoo group. And we are always visible to the world together on our own website.

Readers coming to the site discover new writers and new kinds of writing to explore. My fans, family and friends find books they would not otherwise have stumbled upon on the enormous Internet. And my own books are discovered by the followers of my colleagues in the group.

It works. Support and advice ... and the exchange or audiences: these are invaluable assets to a writer whose occupation is no longer the lonely struggle it used to be, thanks to online connections.

I would be very happy to hear how you make connections with other writers, and how you find it valuable. If you are a reader: do you find you can stumble upon great reads if you follow writers you know, and their connections?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

According to Luke appears on

Two or more years' solid work culminates in a great deal of excitement when a book finally emerges into the real world. There! All the agonizing over characters, all the fiddling with plot and sub-plots. All the research into locations, artefacts, scriptures, names and procedures.  All the fiddly decisions about adverbs and ellipses.

It has come to fruition, and According to Luke has emerged on
In the coming weeks, it will come up at all the other Amazon storefronts, many online bookstores such as the Book Depository,  and the eBook will of course emerge as well. By March 29, the official launch day, it will be everywhere. There will also be a full front page dedication at BeWrite Books, the publishers.

This release sets off a mad media flurry, a number of reviews and interviews, and of course, a physical launch. All will be revealed in due course. I'll be writing about it as it happens.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Read an eBook week? Read an eBook YEAR!

lBook V3 e-book                                                          Image via WikipediaEveryone is reading more eBooks. It's a fact. Statistics keep surfacing about eBook sales. Better believe them. It's 2011, and it's happening now.

 "...people are not only changing their reading habits – they're reading MORE than ever. That's good news." Neil Marr, BeWrite Books

BeWrite Books always knew this revolution would come: since forever, they have simultaneously released paperbacks and eBooks for all titles, and the world has gradually caught up with this forward-thinking strategy. What's more, their eBooks are available for all formats, and are DRM free. That means you can switch them from one reader to      another, including your phone, depending on where, what and how you want to read. Handy.

So this week, give it a whirl. Try an eBook, because it's eBook week. Try one of mine. Try one of any author's - it's quite an experience to be able to read at any angle, change your font size, change backgound colour, and look up unusual words without getting up from your favourite armchair ... or deck chair ... or bed.

One of the best things about eBooks is that they're green. No trees are sacrificed. Rather less energy goes into their making than any paper book. True, they are different, but never fear, paper books won't disappear that quickly. The zip did not kill the button, and the ballpoint pen did not kill the pencil. The tin can did not kill the glass jar. We have discovered, as inventive humans, that devices can live side-by-side.

Do it this week. Everyone's doing it (I know, because my eBook sales are going up).

Then answer this question: how do you think eBook reading will affect what, when and how often you read?  

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