Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Daggy New Year to All

Well can you believe it? 2011 is almost over.

And what an amazing year it's been. Hard to believe that this time last year:
  • I'd never self-published a book.
  • I didn't even own a kindle.
  • I'd never been on Twitter or Facebook. I hadn't even heard of Goodreads.
  • I certainly had no plans to start up a blog. 
And now, a year down the track, here's what has happened:
  • Not only did I self-publish an ebook. I did it twice.
  • I read more books on my kindle than I do otherwise
  • I've met an amazing group of fellow writers and reviewers out in the world of social media
  • I've had my blog going for around seven months now. Even managed to pick up a few followers on the way.
On the way, I've had some amazing experiences. Seeing my books start to sell out in the big wide world has been amazing. Discovering readers out there who really enjoy my writing and seeing the great reviews for both Doodling and Flidderbugs out in the blogosphere and on my Amazon pages. And getting nominated for the Goodreads Choice awards, which certainly was a most unexpected pleasure. Seeing my book alongside those by people like Tina Fey and Ellen deGeneres was seriously exciting.
Now I've got even bigger plans for 2012. I'm hoping to have my first novel, Magnus Opum, released early in the new year. This will hopefully be followed by a sequel to Doodling, with the tentative title Scribbling (makes perfect sense). I'm well on the way to a completed first draft, but it's going to need a bit of work to get it up to scratch.
But what I'm really looking forward to is my first blog tour. It's tentatively scheduled for March so make sure you stay in touch. It should be a whole lot of daggy fun.
So, as the year winds down, I'd like to wish all my friends, readers and followers (I know you're out there) a safe, joyful and completely daggy new year, and hope 2012 brings all that you wish it to.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Festival of the Books

Well, all the excitement from the Indie Book Blowout is now calming down. But that's definitely not the end of the festivities. Because Christmas is not the only festival happening right now. It's time for Hanukkah, and the Festival of the Books.

For me, it feels like a really good fit for Dag-Lit Central to be participating in a Hanukkah event. The theme of this blog is "Writing that stands out from the crowd." After all, Hanukkah may be one of the most important events in the Jewish calendar, but growing up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, it wasn't exactly a well known cultural event. So celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas (well more like in addition to Christmas - we were kind of flexible in that way) was definitely something that stood out from the crowd. It was another way to feel a bit different, or special, however you wanted to look at it.

Nowadays, Hanukkah seems pretty mainstream. There are big events in the park every year, and even big Menorahs in the middle of the city. And at my kid's school, they always sing a few special Hanukkah songs as well as the Christmas Carols. I think it's great that events like these can become accepted as a major part of society.

So tonight, and every night as we light our candles and remember the events we're commemorating, I'll be thinking about what it is that makes us special, and also what it is that brings us all together.

And what better way to celebrate than with some books.

Which leads us to the best bit.

By participating in this event, you get the chance to win. On this blog alone, I have three prizes packs available, featuring both of my ebook novellas:

- Doodling - the strange adventures of a man who's fallen off the world (because it's moving too fast). Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll. And it was a Goodreads Choice nominee in the humour category
- Flidderbugs - a political satire/fable about a bunch of insects with some very odd obsessions. It's also been getting fantastic reviews from readers

Just leave a comment below. Tell me something about what Hanukkah means to you. Tell me something about what books mean to you. Tell me something about being different or being special. Tell me anything you think of about this wonderful, festive time of the year and you'll be in the running. Just make sure to leave your email, so I can contact you if you're a winner. 

But wait - there's even more prizes to be won 

Check out the blogs of the other participants listed below for more opportunities to win:

Stephanie Abbott writing as Emma Jameson, author of Ice Blue (a cozy mystery): Blog and Twitter. 
Danielle Blanchard, author of Death Wish (paranormal romance): Blog and Twitter.
Justin Dennis, author of Through The Portal (YA fantasy): Blog and Twitter.
Lisa Grace, author of Angel in the Shadows and Angel in the Storm (YA fantasy): Blog and Twitter.
Craig Hansen, author of SHADA (YA thriller): Blog and Twitter.
Larry Kahn, author of The Jinx (thriller) and King of Paine (suspense): Blog and Twitter.
Emily Ann Ward, author of Finding Fiona (YA Sci-Fi) and Passages (YA short stories): Blog and Twitter.

And don't miss out on the Grand Prize Draw.

Have a very happy Hanukkah, whether it's something you do every year or something you've never even heard about before.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Indie Book Blowout - Twelve Days of Christmas

Well, we're now into the final countdown till the arrival of Christmas and the end of the year. But before we get there, there's one big event, and it's happening right now.

The Indie Book Blowout - Twelve Days of Christmas is running from December 12 until 24th. Over 100 authors have gotten together to make their books just 99c for the duration of the event. So make sure to peruse the list - there's sure to be something you'll like. But that's not all.

The Indie Book Blowout isn't just an opportunity to find some terrific books. There are also heaps of chances to win fantastic prizes, including Amazon gift card and a new Kindle. Just check out the information in the site for details on how to enter.

But that's still not all.

12 authors participating in the Indie Book Blowout are offering you an additional chance to win. Just go to our special prize page to see the books available and enter into the draw to win a Kindle Fire or a $200 Amazon Gift card.

So all the best for the approaching holiday season. Enjoy all of the books on offer, and good luck for the prize draws.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Guest Post - Darlene Jones

Today I'm delighted to announce another visitor to Dag-Lit Central. Darlene Jones will be talking about her novel, Embattled, and how it stands out from the crowd. So take it away Darlene...

In part, Jonathan Gould defines Dag-Lit as something that: “is hard to fit into a box and likes to find its own space, is full of surprises, but always works out in the end, and is serious, but doesn't take itself too seriously.”

It is in the spirit of Dag-Lit that I write the following about my first novel.

You’ve written a book and the first question everyone invariably asks is, “What’s it about?”

“Um… er… it’s…” Who knew defining your work would be harder than writing it? “Well, it’s not a thriller, or a mystery, or a bodice-ripping romance.”


“Sort of.”


“No, no.”

“Vampires? Monsters? Paranormal stuff?”


“Well, what’s it about?” You sense an edge of impatience creeping in.

You frown in thought. How to describe a cross-genre novel? It's not easy. And where is it written that your creation has to fit some preconceived notion of a novel genre anyway? You take a deep breath and plunge in. “It’s the story of a woman whose life is taken over…” No, that’s not going to cut it.

You try again. “It’s an adventure slash love story with a bit of “soft” sci-fi magic, about a woman who is chosen to “fix” stuff in the world, and about the two men who love her.

Frowns tell you your inquisitive audience doesn't have a clue as to what you’re talking about. You can't fit your novel into a “genre” box. It's a unique mix that works with serious aspects, but a touch of humor too.

Suddenly, inspiration hits. For the men, you say, “sci-fi adventure.” And for the women you say, “love story with a bit of magic.” Then you hope like heck they’ll be curious enough to buy it and hope like heck you’ve written it well enough that they’ll like it, want to buy the whole series, and will tell all their friends about it, word of mouth being an author’s best friend.

EMBATTLED by Darlene Jones
Em sits at her desk, her hands soaked in blood. No wounds, no pain, and no idea where the blood came from. The reds and greens swirling across her computer screen scream jungle battle. She’s certain she was there. Fighting through the jungle to stop a battle, storming into a courtroom to save the accused, facing a firing squad of armed ruffians…
Are her “three wishes” coming true?

And, Yves? He is there to arm her with special powers, to send her into battle, to watch over her. His first assignment as a supreme power is to clean up the mess on Earth without going down there himself. Meeting his superior’s expectations is a huge challenge. Falling in love with Em threatens to ruin everything.

Available from: 



A long time ago, I lived in Mali. Every single day, I wished I could wave a magic wand to relieve the heart wrenching poverty. My experiences there led to the writing of this story. Some aspects of EMBATTLED reflect my desire to wave that wand and make the world a better place—if only wishes could come true. And of course, every novel needs its love story, so along with the sci-fi magic, I’ve added the requisite romance.

I now live on Vancouver Island, Canada and spend winters in Mexico. I write, read, and body board when I’m in Guayabitos. I love my granddaughter, the views of the ocean from my desk, and chocolate, which should be its own food group.

Contact Darlene at:

Her website -
Her blog -
Twitter - @darlenejones47
Facebook -!/djones47

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A great big experiment

Today, a volcano erupted in our backyard.

Nothing too big and frightening. It was actually one of those little science experiment volcanoes, the ones where you mix vinegar and bicarb in a bottle and then watch it fizz out and all around. It was pretty fun. The kids thought it was fantastic (and given I'm just a big kid, I guess that counts for me too).

What basically happened was a chemical reaction. Two ingredients, neither particularly volatile, were mixed together and all of a sudden - foom!

Thinking about this little experiment put me in mind of the business of writing and selling books (I know - what doesn't?). I'd love to figure out how to get the same sort of reaction for my writing. I wish I could find a way to combine some simple marketing ideas in such a way that they produce a massive explosion of sales, pushing my books way up into the heights of the Amazon rankings.

Oh well - at least it sounds like a pretty good metaphor. And as regular readers will have figured out by now, there's nothing I like better than a good metaphor. I could go on about how this experiment is a bit like writing in general - how a story is made up of a bunch of different ingredients which combine together to form something exciting and new.

Because, let's face it, writing is really just one big experiment. We never quite know what we're doing as we write. And once it's done, we never know how others will respond to it. That's both the beauty and frustration of it.

Till next time, hope all your writing experiments produce the reaction you want, and don't explode in your face.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A long awaited treat

Last week was a pretty special one. I finally got to fulfill a long-standing ambition. I got to see Cold Chisel play live.

You folk on the other side of the world probably would have no idea what this is about, so I guess I better explain. Cold Chisel are the great Australian rock band. They cut a swathe through the Aussie music world in the late-seventies and early-eighties before self-destructing. In little more than 5 years, they released 5 albums, all gems, and developed a reputation as amazing live performers. All just a little before my time.

Sure they've reformed a couple of times previously, but I was never organised enough to take advantage. When I heard they were touring this year (first time since the '90s), I made sure to score tickets.

And what a night it turned out to be. Things opened with the support act, You Am I. They're not exactly unknowns - they've been around nearly twenty years, hold some sort of record for albums debuting at no. 1 on the Aussie charts, and have toured with The Who and The Rolling Stones. But you could tell that most of the audience was from an older generation and here for the Chisels only. The applause was polite but quiet. Not that that deterred the band who ripped into their set with relish, oblivious to the lack of attention they were receiving.

Then time came for the mighty Chisels. For two hours, they ruled the stage, reeling out hit after hit. Nearly thirty years after their first break-up, it was amazing to hear that the power, the energy, not to mention the musicianship, was all still there. And the crowd lapped it up, singing along to every song.

It was definitely worth the wait.

Three days later, I'm still finding myself breaking into Chisel songs and reliving the experience. What it's really done is underscore for me the value of the creative life. What this band meant to so many people is quite extraordinary.

I don't ever expect to be in a position where I can touch anywhere near as many people as Cold Chisel have. But in the short time I've been putting my books out, I'm amazed at how the creative act of writing and putting out a book can enable connection with other people.

And You Am I also inspired me. They showed me that even if you're not getting the appreciation you deserve, it should never stop you going out, doing your best, and loving what you do. Because part of the joy of being creative is the act of creation itself.

So that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'll keep working at getting my writing out because that's what I love to do. And at those moments when I do get a response, and do make a connection with another reader, then that will just make it doubly special.

And I can't finish this post any other way than posting up a clip from the concert. This is Cold Chisel in intimate acoustic mode doing one of their classics, When the War is Over. If I can win a few more fans for this great band, especially from outside Australia, then I'll feel that I've done something worthwhile. So enjoy.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Close but no cigar

A couple of weeks ago I put up a post about the way people in the indie writer community go out of their way to help each other out - The Free Economics of the Indie Author World.

In the last week, I've had the opportunity to see first hand the amount of time and energy the community is prepared to put in to support one of their own.

Last week I had the good fortune to have my novella, Doodling, selected as a semi-finalist in the Goodreads Choice awards, humour category. I'm not quite sure how it happened. I was barely even aware that the awards were on. I cast a vote for myself in passing (why not?) and then promptly forgot about it.

So I was well and truly amazed when I received an email from Goodreads telling me my book had been nominated. I couldn't believe it. There was my little, self-published book, up there on the page with books by names such as Tina Fey, Ellen deGeneres and Penn from Penn and Teller. Pretty mind-boggling for me. I felt like I really was in the big league now.

So, the first thing I did was I went to the community, and my friends on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads, to see if anyone was willing to help out. I don't have a massive following myself, having only entered the world of social networks a few months ago. But the response was amazing. The support and encouragement really showed me the value of this community.

In particular, I'd like to single out Donna and David Brown who went beyond the call of duty in their support, even going so far as to:
  • Invent a new hashtag on twitter - #votedoodling
  • Design some fab banners which I was way too slow to put up on my sites: 
  • Even create an amazing promo video:
In the end, Doodling didn't make it to the final round of the awards. Still, I feel like I've really achieved something just by being nominated. And that could only have happened because of the support I received. So I'd just like to pass on a big Thank-You to all the members of a community which I'm really honoured to be a part of.
And if you want to see more of the extraordinary work Donna does promoting indie writers, check out her amazing event, Adopt an Indie.

    Saturday, 12 November 2011

    Shay Fabbro - Guest Post

    This is one busy week at Dag-Lit Central. I'm pleased to announce my third guest for the week, the Queen of Squee herself, the amazing Shay Fabbro.

    Today Shay is going to talk about the things authors should or shouldn't put in their novels. And she's giving you a chance to win a copy of her ebook "The Chosen".

    So without any further ado, over to Shay.

    What should and should not be put into novels

    For today’s post I thought I would tackle the issue of what authors should or should not be obligated to put in their novels. A lot of this is going to be more relevant to only certain genres but I hope this post will give authors something to chew over.

    The idea for this post has been brewing for quite some time, mainly because of reading other random things on blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. The purpose of this isn’t to offend anyone, although logic and simple statistics says that I will most likely offend at least a few people but that’s a chance we all take every time we open our mouths or write something down, isn’t it?

    This first is something I actually saw on FB earlier in the week and found it fascinating. It’s a subject that I find to be a little uncomfortable to approach. When I have to teach reproduction in my freshman biology classes I have such terrible anxiety that I will break out into giggles when I have to say certain words or that I will stutter when I say them. Anyone see Scrubs? Elliot Reed and her total terror of saying sex words? That’s me, only not as dramatic ;)

    Anyway, the topic of sex in books has been something that most authors have struggled with, unless they write in a genre that uses that, like romance or erotica (see earlier comment about some of these things only being genre specific).  The topic on FB was whether certain genres should or shouldn’t include sex scenes. My answer was “If the author feels it necessary to the story, then yes.” But an author shouldn’t feel obligated to throw in an obligatory sex scene just because someone else says they should, or because Hollywood movies seem to do that. For me personally, I don’t feel comfortable writing sex scenes so I won’t use them, regardless of whether someone ELSE feels it would be appropriate. I would rather have a little romance, some hugging, kissing, and let the reader imagine what they will. Do the characters have sex or don’t they? As far as my story lines go, whether they do or not isn’t relevant to the plot.

    The other subject I want to touch on is whether writers should or shouldn’t include characters of certain skin color, religions, or sexual preference. I actually had someone  leave a comment on my old website lambasting me for refusing to include gay/lesbian couples in my Portals of Destiny series. *cue jaw hitting the floor* I was astounded that someone would dare to tell me what sort of characters I HAD to include in my books. I refuse to play the politically correct game and feel like I have to create characters to please each and every person on the planet. If a characters sexual orientation, religion, skin color, etc has relevance to the story, then by all means WRITE THEM! But readers shouldn’t begin reading a book expecting that each and every one is going to be a perfect balance of all things PC. Not gonna happen.  If a reader is looking for something specific in the way of characters, sex, etc then they should read a genre that matches what they are looking for, NOT expect every author to write to their specific preferences.

    Find me:

    Twitter: @ShayFabbro and @DrShayFabbro



    Giveaway details

    Shay is offering to giveaway a copy of her amazing science fiction ebook, "The Chosen". Just leave a comment below to be entered in the running.

    And please make sure to leave your email address so she can get in touch with the winning entrant.

    Wednesday, 9 November 2011

    Tahlia Newland - What makes me stand out from the crowd

    This is a big week for visitors to Dag-Lit Central. I'm proud to introduce my second guest for the week, the amazing Tahlia Newland. She writes young adult/adult urban fantasy with a touch or more of romance in it and a focus on challenging readers’ perception of reality. I have an ebook copy of  her short paranormal romance, ‘The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice’, to give away, and A Matter of Perception, her anthology of urban fantasy & magical realism stories, is  available on ebook  -  for the special release price of 99c until the 14th November.  ‘Realm Hunter,’ a Diamond Peak novella, will be released in December. 

    What make me stand out from the crowd

    When Jonathan first asked me to write a blog post on this topic, my first thought was that it was the hot pink tutu and lime green gumboots that made me stand out, then I  realised that everyone else was wearing hot pink tutus too and they were standing on fluffy foot stools with loud hailers shouting, ‘look at me. Look at me!’ Suddenly, I felt short and my gumboots seemed a little cumbersome compared to their high heeled diamante shoes. Some of them even sat on step ladders and had a cluster of spruikers gathered at the bottom handing out leaflets to passing people. How could I stand out amongst that lot?

    I sat on the edge of the gutter and stared at all the people buying books from the brightest, noisiest, tallest authors. I was tempted to stick my thumb in my mouth, curl into a small ball and rock, but I didn’t. I stood up and walked right into the middle of the throng. “I love your pink tutu,” I said to the nearest author. And who did your awesome Mohawk?”

    The author frowned, ran his hand over his head, checked his hips, glanced behind him then pointed at his chest. “Are you talking to me?” he asked.

    I grinned and nodded. He grimaced, picked up his stool and scarpered (That’s Aussie for knicked off ie ran away.) 

    Whoops, I hadn’t meant that to happen. The only explanation for his behaviour was if he didn’t see the pink tutu or the lime green Mohawk. I giggled and looked around and realised that everyone else probably didn’t see themselves quite the same way as I did. The giggle turned into a chuckle and the chuckle morphed into a laugh.

    A girl wandered over, tucked her fingers into the tops of her jeans and narrowed her eyes at me. ‘Why are you standing there laughing?” she asked.

    “Because everything isn’t what it seems.”

    “What is it then?”

    I waved my arm in a wide arc. “It’s all just a passing dream.”


    “Yesterday has gone, tomorrow hasn’t come, and as soon as I say now, it’s passed. Where is everything, if it’s not a dream?”

    She shrugged her shoulders, frowned, and shook her head, but she didn’t go away. She thought for a moment, then she grinned. ‘Where’d you get the awesome Mohawk?”

    “My mother did it for me,” I replied.

    I’m the one asking tricky questions. I’m not the only one who sees the circus, but I’m one who might be able to help you see it. Oh, and watch out for the shadow with the flaming eyes standing over your shoulder, you might not be able to see it, but I can assure you that it’s there. 

    About A Matter of Perception 

    Do you see what I see? Take a bunch of supernatural beings, a battle of magical light, a mysterious hole in the pavement, a dream of a future past and a pair of rose-coloured glasses, mix them with a little romance and a smidgen of philosophy and you might be left wondering if it isn’t all just a matter of perception. This thought-provoking collection of urban fantasy and magical realism stories includes ‘The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice’ and ‘The Boneyard’, a semi finalist in the Aussiecon 4 Make Ready fantasy/scifi competition of 2010.

    Author links -  if you read Tahlia’s books could you please help her out by posting a short review on Goodreads and Amazon. Thank you.!/TahliaNewland

    Giveaway details

    Tahlia is offering one ebook copy of  her short paranormal romance, ‘The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice’, to give away. In order to enter the draw, all you need to do is:

    1. Go to her Facebook page and like it
    2. Leave a comment below saying why you'd like to read the book.

    Please make sure to leave an email address in the comment so Tahlia can be in touch with you if you win.

    Monday, 7 November 2011

    R.B. Wood - Writing that Stands Out from the Crowd

    Today is a special even here at Dag-Lit Central. I'm proud to be hosting my first visitor, Mr R.B. Wood. He's dropping in here as part of his Magical Mystery Blog tour to talk about what he believes makes a story stand out from the crowd.

    So without any further ado, over to Mr Wood. 

    Writing that Stands Out from the Crowd 

    When Jonathan agreed to host an article as a part of the Magical Mystery Blog tour celebrating the release of my book, The Prodigal’s Foole, he suggested that the subject for this essay be “Writing that Stands Out from the Crowd.”

    I thought “Wow.  What a phenomenal subject.  Let me thing about that for a while.”

    I spent a lot of time researching the subject, more so than I did when I first started the construction of my book.

    What I realized is there are a lot of opinions on what constitutes exceptional writing.

    So instead of citing writing methods like Snowflake or 1-3-1, Let me tell you what I find necessary for stand out storytelling.


    Human beings are wonderfully flawed and complex creatures.  Characters should be rich in development, motivations, and history.  I spent nearly a year developing the main characters for The Prodigal’s Foole. I can tell you which character broke her arm when she was five (thus leading to the first instance of magic occurring in her life).  I know their fears and their triumphs.  I know how they each make love and I know their triggers.  They’ve become, in some sense, very real to me.

    Make your characters three-dimensional.  It will be obvious to your eventual readers if you do.


    I have to quote Stephen Covey here.  “Begin with the End in Mind.”  Where do you want to go?  What journey do you want to take your characters on?  What will they learn?  What kind of story do you want to tell?

    That last question is key.  Be in love with the story you want to tell.  If for no other reason than you will write, edit and revise so many times before your book is finished, that if you don’t love your story, you’ll never finish.

    I’ll give you a quick example.  Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes because, quite frankly, he was done with the character.  The Public was furious, so the author brought him back (being a good business man).  But if you read the Holmes stories post the great detective’s penultimate fight with Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, I think the stories are lesser in scope and impact.

    My opinion, of course.  But I feel the same way about bringing Spock back after Wrath of Khan and the Star Wars prequels.  Fucking Jar-Jar Binks.

    Anyway.  Map your story out,  How you do this doesn’t matter, whether you’re a pantser of a plotter—know where you want to go.


    Do your research.  If you are writing about Victorian England, read about the era.  And no, I don’t mean twenty minutes on Wikipedia.   A decade ago, I met a wonderful old gentleman.  In World War II, he had been gunner of a tank in the African campaigns.  I spoke with him for hours about many things, including his life in the war.

    Read the prologue of my next book (included at the end of TPF)--I hope I captured our conversations and his experience.  Unfortunately he passed away some time ago so I’ll never be sure.

    But my point is this.  The three things in my opinion that lead to a stand-out book are Character depth, a great story idea, and research.

    Tie those things together, than you can worry about structure, grammar and those other things.

    My two cents.

    R.B. Wood 

    R.B. Wood is a technology consultant and a writer of Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction and quite frankly anything else that strikes his fancy.  His first novel, The Prodigal's Foole, is available now from Pfoxchase Publishing and other fine eRetailers.  Mr. Wood is currently working on the second book of his Arcana Chronicles series and is host of The Word Count podcast.

    His Website/blog:

    His Facebook Fan Page:

    His Twitter:!/rbwood

    Links for The Prodigal’s Foole

    Amazon (Paperback):

    Amazon (Kindle):




    Special Offer 

    R.B. Wood has very generously offered to give away an e-copy of The Prodigal’s Foole to the most thoughtful response to his post.

    Please leave your comments below - and make sure you include your email address so he can get in touch with you.

    Tuesday, 1 November 2011

    The Free Economics of the Indie Author World

    Today I'm going to say a few things on a subject which I really know next to nothing about. But then again, not knowing about things has never stopped me talking about them. So the subject of today's post is economics.

    I know, most people wouldn't find economics to be the most interesting subject, but I'm fascinated by it. So much of our life is governed by it. Politicians, bankers, business-people are constantly spinning stuff about it and let's face it, most of us don't really have any idea whether what they're saying is right or wrong. I even wrote a poem about it which I posted to this very blog, titled The Hunters.

    Now I'm hoping that nobody who has actually studied economics reads this because they'll probably tell me I'm totally wrong in every way. But I think there's a few things about economics that can be learnt by the way the indie author community works.

    My understanding of economics is it basically goes back to the ideas of Adam Smith back in the 18th century. His model of the free market was all about individuals pursuing their own self-interests. The baker only baked bread because he could make money, but thanks to him the village had bread to eat. The blacksmith only pursued his trade because it was profitable for him, but thanks to him horses were shod. And so on. Everybody was basically in it for themselves as an individual, but all of these individuals working together for their own benefit ultimately create a community.

    Now I'm not going into the rights and wrongs of these ideas - I know it's all hotly contested and I wouldn't say I know anywhere near enough to offer an educated opinion. The one comment I will make is this seems to be a lot like the way the indie community works.

    We writers are primarily involved because we want to sell books, but because we know we can sell better if we work with other writers, cross-promoting communities appear. And then there are all those bloggers. They're not putting their blogs up for charity. Many of them are writers themselves, looking to increase their recognition. But even the ones who aren't  have their own reasons for trying to generate traffic to their blogs. The result is that both writers and bloggers end up benefiting.

    As a result of all these individuals looking to achieve their own ends, an amazing community has sprung up. A community of people who are open, friendly, and willing to do what they can to help fellow-community members. A true free market of indie authors and their colleagues.

    Of course, in any community there are always those people who go out of their way to make that extra effort on behalf of others. I want to finish off this post by paying tribute to one of those people - my friend Donna Brown. Her fabulous event, Adopt an Indie Writer, begins today. Please join in, make yourself at home, and become part of the wonderful world of indie authors.

    Monday, 24 October 2011

    Welcome to the House of Fun

    Welcome to Dag-Lit Central, AKA the House of Fun.

    In all of the locations to visit during the Trick or Treat for Ebooks, this is undoubtedly the least frightening, most utterly un-scary place on the whole hop. I guess you could say that I'm the little kid in the clown suit among all those witches and ghosts and ghouls - although come to think of it, I personally find clowns to be far more frightening than any of those other things.

    But un-scary or not, I hope you'll have a bit of fun while you're here.

    Today I'm going to be talking about bugs. I know, bugs can sometimes be pretty frightening. The big hairy kinds that walk over you while you're asleep. The horrid, nasty flying things that crowd around you in cold, clammy places. Not to mention the nasty bitey, stingy ones that attack you on hot summer days.

    No, the bugs I'm talking about are not scary bugs at all. They're called Flidderbugs and they're most definitely the silliest sort of bugs you could ever meet. Rather than doing proper "buggy" things like biting, stinging and otherwise frightening and bothering people, they spend most of their time having endless arguments about really pointless things - a bit like us actually.

    Flidderbugs, of course, is also the title of the ebook novella which I'll be giving away during the course of this blog hop. A number of readers have compared it to Dr Seuss (even though it's not illustrated and it doesn't rhyme), while others have described it as "fun, thought-provoking, and well written", "refreshing and attention-grabbing", and "apparently light, but profound".

    So if you've had enough of the spooks and spirits, grab yourself a copy of Flidderbugs. How? Just leave a comment beneath this post. Scariest comment wins a free copy. Funniest comment wins a free copy. Buggiest comment wins a free copy. Hey, I'm feeling generous - all comments will win a free copy.

    Then check out the list below for all the other fantastically frightening blogs to visit during this hop. But before you do, please take the time to explore Dag-Lit Central a bit - there's lots more fun stuff here.

    All the best, and a fun-filled Halloween to you.

    Final note - if you're leaving a comment, please, please include your email so I can respond with details for how to download your free copy.

    Sunday, 16 October 2011

    The True Superheroes of the Writing World

    A couple of months ago I did a post about supermodels. The gist of this was that it was utterly ridiculous for a group of people to be given the status of "super" merely for walking up and down wearing expensive clothes on their bodies and vacant looks on their faces.

    This got me thinking a little bit more about who else we give the prefix super to. Obviously, the major recipients of this title are heroes. And superheroes really are great aren't they. For someone who writes humor, the idea of characters with a particular "power" that makes them extraordinary is fantastic writing fodder. I've had several goes at it myself. One of the favourites of all the comedy sketches I've written is about Procrasto-man, a superhero who never quite gets around to saving the day. I also had a go at creating a clutch of dysfunctional superheroes for a writing assignment in a short story class - which you can read on this very blog. And who can forget the wonderful Bicycle Repair Man sketch by Monty Python - an all time classic.

    Silliness aside, what other sorts of people could we think of as super? In my supermodels post, I talked about superteachers and superdoctors. All very good and worthy. But what about us writers? We do extraordinary things all the time. We create whole worlds that never existed before. We control the fates of people in those worlds utterly. And, with the stroke of a pen or the click of a computer keyboard, we're always able to save the day.

    But if we're going to call any sort of writers super, I reckon the most deserving candidates are all of the indie writers out there. We're the ones who have to be faster than a speeding publishing industry. We have to leap the tall barriers of the cultural gatekeepers in a single bound. We need x-ray vision to see through all those typos and grammatical errors in our manuscripts. And we're constantly battling against mega-villains, like The Agent, The New York Publisher, and the Mainstream Media Reviewer.
    So to all you indie writers out there - grab a cape, stash on your utility belts, and put your underwear on top of your pants. And lets keep on fighting for truth, justice, and the indie way.

    And, just to finish off, and because I want to, here for your enjoyment is that classic Monty Python sketch.

    Sunday, 9 October 2011

    Of friends, memories, and old English teachers

    Today was a pretty special day for my family. My dad just celebrated his 80th birthday. 

    It was quite a big deal. Just about all of his friends were there as well as a bunch of family. It was amazing to see all of these people in the one room. These were people I had grown up with, but whom I hadn't seen for years upon years.

    As I looked around the room, I couldn't help thinking about all the memories that were brought back seeing all of those familiar faces, not to mention the ubiquitous slide-show of family photos that now seems to be a standard fixture at all events of this nature. Recollections of lazy summer evenings, dinners and long-gone holidays were all brought back.

    But there were a few faces in particular that had special significance for me today. My mum used to teach at the school I went to so among the friends present were a bunch of teachers. And not just any kind of teachers - these were my former English teachers.

    So, of course, this meant that I got to casually sidle up to them and calmly mention that, "as it happens, I'm now a published author." I have to say that it felt kind of cool (in a daggy sort of way). As long as they don't actually go and buy the books. That would be terrible. No doubt I'd get an email the next day with the text of the books and lots of red crosses all over it. And we just couldn't have that.

    Definitely best to mention it in passing, and then quickly move on before they can ask for more information, so I can bask in the pleasure of thinking that maybe I didn't turn out too bad after all.

    Monday, 3 October 2011

    There's always next year

    Last weekend was the Australian Football League Grand Final. It's a bit like the Australian Football equivalent of the Superbowl or the F.A. Cup. But what made it especially exciting/nerve-wracking for me was that my team, Collingwood (the mighty Magpies) was playing - and going for back-to-back premierships.

    For those not in the know, Collingwood is the biggest and most strongly-supported football club in Australia - which means of course that they're also the club that is most disliked by everybody else. But there's one thing that Collingwood is better at than any other team and that is losing Grand Finals. No other club has made it such an art form. No other club has found so many creative ways to steal defeat from the jaws of victory (with the possible exception of St Kilda - but that's a whole other blog post).

    So there they were, actually managing to go against tradition and come out on top last year. Admittedly, they did try their hardest not to - they actually managed to draw the game last year after being in a winning position, but came back for the replay the next week and won (admittedly, they were playing against the aforementioned St Kilda).

    And so last Saturday, they fronted up again after reaching the heights of success last year. Of course they didn't win. Not for lack of trying, but they came up against a ruthless machine called the Geelong Football Club - one of the greatest teams ever. What they discovered was they were no longer the best, and it was going to take a lot of work to get back up there again.

    Seeing my football team being brought back to earth made me think about the experience I'd just had with my book sales. As I mentioned in my post last week, I had the most amazing run of sales a couple of weeks ago and found myself high up the Amazon "ladder". But it didn't last too long, and things have definitely slowed down now.

    And, like the mighty 'Pies, I'm not just going to sit back and accept it. I want to climb back up the Amazon charts, and I'm going to work really hard to get there. Because the eternal cry of the Collingwood supporter might be "there's always next year" but I don't want to wait that long.

    I'm going to finish this up by posting some highlights from the Grand Final replay last year - the one that we actually one. I hope you enjoy it. I know I will.

    Sunday, 25 September 2011

    A brief spell in the clouds

    I spent a brief spell high up in the atmosphere this week.

    No, I don't mean that I was literally up in the sky. What happened was I had the most amazing run of sales for my ebook novella Doodling. For a while I was absolutely stunned, figuring the sales numbers Amazon was throwing at me were just some sort of error in the system.

    Turns out that I was basically in for a stroke of luck. My friend Natasha Larry, the author of the YA fantasy novel Darwin's Children had her book featured on the site Pixel of Ink. Most likely, while looking at her site, they discovered mine and decided to feature me as well.

    And that's when things started happening. I suddenly found that my book was leaping off the shelves (or the online equivalent) at Amazon. In a couple of days I tripled my total sales and suddenly found myself not only in the top 1500 books in the kindle store (out of over 750,000) but in the top 50 for both books and ebooks in the category of humor.

    It was incredibly exciting. I could barely stop myself logging into the Kindle Direct site to see how many more I'd sold in the last couple of minutes. And to think that all those people actually wanted to buy a copy of my book. It was an amazing feeling.

    Things are returning back to normal now. Sales have slowed and I'm gradually slipping down the rankings again. But for that brief couple of days, it was fantastic to see my book fly up into the higher reaches of the kindle store. And now that I know it really is possible, I'm determined to make sure it happens again. Not quite sure how at this point, but I'm going to make it happen.

    Sunday, 18 September 2011

    Strange synchronicities

    I spent a large part of last week working on what I hope to be my next release. It's called Magnus Opum and it's a kind of epic fantasy, but definitely as seen through a dag-lit filter. I like to refer to it as Tolkein meets Dr Seuss.

    While I was working on basically cleaning up the text in preparation for getting it out to readers and then editors, I couldn't help noticing some strange synchronicities between the supposedly fanciful stuff I was writing and what is currently happening to me in my all too real (at least as far as I can tell) life.

    The basic theme of Magnus Opum is perception. How the various characters see each other is pretty much the main thing that drives the story. And different chapters look at different ways that characters understand (and misunderstand) each other based on their perceptions and then act accordingly.

    What really struck me as I was going through the text was how much these ideas resonate in real life. We really are driven by our perceptions. And quite often we make all sorts of assumptions and react in fairly illogical ways based on them. Reading a chapter in which two characters have a completely different understanding of what seem like a fairly simple set of instructions, I couldn't help thinking about some recent situations where I'd been given a set of instructions, I'd thought I was following them, then discovered not only that I wasn't but that the person who'd instructed me thought that I was quite deliberately choosing to get them wrong. This person had a fixed perception of me and couldn't see past the assumptions they'd made based on that perception. And this perception was so strong that I was not in any way able to convince the person otherwise (unlike the characters in my book who actually do sort it out - I really love a happy ending).

    It's funny because Magnus Opum was never intended as something quite so serious and deep. It's really a fun story, a bit of a romp if I can paraphrase a review from one of my previous releases. But I feel like I've hit on something quite rich and I'm confident that it gives the story quite a bit of strength.

    I'm really looking forward to getting it out.

    Monday, 12 September 2011

    It's time to play the music. It's time to light the lights

    It's time to pay tribute to one of the greatest influences on my writing. And it's not another writer. It's not even something that sits within the general genre of books. It's the Muppet Show.

    In my opinion, the Muppet Show is one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th Century. It's clever. It's wonderfully funny. And it has heart. A few months ago, I posted on the idea of how something could be "joyously dumb" and yet smart as well. Well I reckon that could sum up the Muppet Show. The jokes are often dreadfully corny, and yet there's something amazingly clever about the way the whole thing is constructed that works so well.

    As a writer, I can see how the show brings together so many elements with such great success. The basic concept is great - a bunch of puppets putting on a vaudeville-style show to a bunch of other puppets in the audience - with all the backstage drama that entails. The writing itself is sharp - the pacing is snappy and the jokes fly. But the most amazing thing about it, the main element that makes it work so wonderfully, is the amazing range of characters.

    Most live-action shows would kill for a group of characters as strong, as clearly-defined, as engaging and as entertaining as those on the Muppet Show. Just think of a few of them: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, the Swedish Chef, Beaker... The list just goes on and on. Each one clearly recognisable. Each one playing their part. It must have been a writer's dream to create dialogue and situations for them

    And once all of those elements are put together, something undefinably great was created. Maybe not directly satirical but incredibly subversive in the best possible way.

    I watch old episodes with a real sense of wonder. And my lasting hope is that the writing I produce can have the same effect, even though I'm working in a different medium. If I could produce something half as entertaining, half as funny, half as clever, half as subversive, and with half the heart of a typical Muppet Show episode, I'd be happy.

    I just want to finish off by sharing a clip which seems to me to sum up the spirit of the show. It's a Muppet tribute to Ingmar Bergman - a piece of high art in the greatest "joyously dumb" tradition. And just look at the expression on Sam the Eagle's face as things start to go haywire. Most live actors would struggle for that level of expressiveness.

    I hear that there's shortly to be a revival of the Muppet Show. I really hope they can do justice to the original.

    Saturday, 3 September 2011

    Big news hatching

    This weekend is a big news weekend!!

    The first major announcement to make is that the Flidderbugs have just hatched.

    Flidderbugs is my new ebook release. It's a story about a strange race of insects who live on a very distinctive tree - the Krephiloff tree. And like the Flidderbugs themselves, the story is a bit tricky to classify. It's kind of a political satire and kind of a modern fable. But if that sounds a bit complicated, it's also just a funny story about a bunch of 'bugs with some most peculiar obsessions.

    It's available via Amazon, Amazon UK and Smashwords - and will soon be up on most other ebook retailers as well - and it's just 99c (or the nearest equivalent pound amount).

    Check out my Flidderbugs page if you'd like to learn a little more about it and especially what reviewers are already saying.

    The other news for the weekend is that I am participating in a major ebook event:the Indie Book Blowout.

    Myself and over 100 other writers are involved in this event, organised by the Indie Book Collective. All of us are making their book available on Amazon for just 99c from now until Monday.

    So if you're on the lookout for something to read, please check it out.

    For anyone participating in the GoodEreader ebook of the week promotion, please leave your email address in a comment below. First 5 comments will receive a free copy of Flidderbugs.

    Sunday, 28 August 2011

    Roll up, roll up: the indie author circus is coming to town

    I went with my family to the circus the other day.

    Not one of those big Cirque de Soleil type spectaculars. This was a small-scale one, the kind that's been wandering through the cities and towns of Australia for something like forty years. Although I have to say that even an old-school type of circus like this has gone all disco. None of that old-fashioned oompah-oompah sort of circus music - it was all doof-doof, at ear-shattering volume. I guess that's just a sign of the times we live in.

    Anyway, while I was sitting and watching the performers (with my hands over my ears), my thoughts turned to writing (as they usually tend to, I have a rather oddly-focused one-track mind). And that's when it occured to me that we writers are just like circus performers in so many ways.

    I actually made the connection while I was watching one of the jugglers, and being amazed by his ability to keep so many balls up in the air. But as an indie writer, that's just what I seem to be doing all the time. There's the actual writing ball - that's the easy one. Then there's the editing ball and the proofreading balls. Not to mention the formatting and typesetting balls. But hardest of all to keep up is the marketing ball. That's definitely the one I always seem to end up dropping.

    But then it hit me that we're a lot more than jugglers. We're also a high-wire act, carefully balancing all the elements that make up a story - the plot and the setting and of course the characters - and hoping that we can make it to the end of our story without toppling over. And we're also trapeze artistes, swinging back and forward, somersaulting high in the air, without the "net" of a big publisher to support us if we fall.

    So roll up, roll up. The indie author circus is coming to town. Marvel at the amazing, gravity-defying tricks we manage to pull off. Be amazed at what we can pull out of a hat. And hope that we don't end up falling on our faces. Because being an indie author can be a difficult thing to pull off - and none of us wants to end up looking like a clown.

    Sunday, 14 August 2011

    In Another World...

    Last week I put up a post about books and merchandising. I thought this week I might post a story I wrote a few years ago which pretty much summed up my feelings on the whole idea of books as multi-media merchandising phenomenons.

    No prizes for guessing who the main subject of this story is...

    In Another World...

    Simon P. Bradshaw coughed as he descended the wide, stone stairway. Winter always did this to him. That and the musty air down on the lower levels of the castle. In years gone by he had tried to avoid being at home during the colder months, instead migrating like a bird to warmer locations. But all of the attention and publicity, the sheer bother of it all, had put paid to that many years ago. It was easier to just stay put and do your best to survive.

    Reaching the bottom of the stairs at last, he strode across the cold flagstones of the sitting room, making directly for the bar on the far side. A drink was definitely now in order. He opened the cabinet and perused his collection of rare vintage sherries, eyes resting carefully upon each before making a decision. A Casa del Vaga, 1857. One of only twelve still in existence. That seemed to fit the bill.

    He poured the light amber liquid, savouring the bouquet as it swept up into his nose. Then, after re-corking the bottle, he sought out the most comfortable of the plushly appointed chairs, each of which had originally graced the palaces of European royalty, and sat. As he raised the glass to his lips, his eyes fell upon the wide tapestry that covered the opposite wall. Meeting the eyes of the figure at the centre of the tapestry, he mouthed a silent toast and then took a sip. The figure before him did not move, did not return the toast, but that did not matter to Simon P.Bradshaw. That figure had already done more than enough for him.

    Like most of the accoutrements that now filled the castle, the tapestry was not an original fitting. It had been woven by an old friend over twenty years ago, in order to commemorate his purchase of this 400 year old architectural masterpiece. It disturbed Simon a little that he could no longer remember what her name was, but then again so much had happened in the intervening years that it was really not so surprising. The tapestry depicted a young boy, probably around eleven or twelve. The detail in the design indicated that the boy was rather pale and thin, but he was dressed in robes that were rich in colour, a dazzling mixture of scarlets and violets and blues, and decorated with tiny stars, crescents and other intricate shapes.

    Paul Mephiglio was the boy’s name, and Paul was the one Simon had cause to thank for everything. For the riches he had accumulated. For this majestic castle he was now privileged to call his home. And for all the other amazing events that had befallen him, the television appearances, the opportunities to meet famous and important people, even the dalliances with so many of the world’s most desirable women.

    Simon downed the last of the sherry, coughing again as the final drop contrived to go down the wrong way. Then he stood and walked slowly across the room. The chilled air was playing havoc with his arthritis. He reflected with a grimace that there were some things beyond even his means. The ridiculous amounts of money he’d invested in numerous attempts to have a central heating system installed within the castle had made not the slightest impact on the damp and cold that infested these frigid chambers.

    Arriving at his study at last, Simon took a seat before the broad, mahogany desk and reached down to turn on the small bar heater that sat by his feet. At least in this more confined space there was the opportunity to feel a bit of warmth. He stretched out first one leg and then the other, relishing the heat as it seeped into his bones. Then he flicked the switch on the computer and the screen slowly quivered into life.

    This was a routine that Simon practiced regularly, regardless of the season. Maybe not every day, but he certainly began to feel restless if he did not go through the motions of following these steps for more than three days running. Unfortunately for the last couple of years this was as far as he got. Occasionally his fingers would begin to skim uncertainly over the keyboard and the words would begin to pile up on the screen. But even on those days, it wouldn’t be long before, with a grunt of frustration, he would hit the delete key, sending the screen back to its original state of pristine blankness.

    This day was not proving to be any different. Though his fingers floated over the keyboard, not once did they slide down to the keys beneath. Simon tried to focus his mind on the matter at hand, tried to will the creativity out of himself, but to no avail. Bereft of any new ideas, his eyes roamed from the keyboard to the screen, and then to the shelves and walls that surrounded him. Here, as so often happened, his eyes remained. But the gaze that he sent out around the room was not unanswered.

    From seemingly every corner, eyes stared back at him. They were the eyes of the same thin boy in the brightly coloured robes that adorned the tapestry in the sitting room. Here they were on a small action figure. There they were on a large plush toy. And there they were repeated again and again on posters that covered all of the walls. Posters for movies and video games. Posters from out of fan magazines. And posters that did not seem to serve any purpose at all, apart from just being posters.

    Many years ago, he had actively sought out these souvenirs himself. They seemed, to him, to be physical expressions of the wonderful success he had achieved. But after a short time he no longer had to make the effort. Friends began to do it for him, thinking he would be amused to see the newest incarnation of his creation. And as time went on, it wasn’t even his friends. It was everybody in the whole damn world. Every man and his puppy who felt the need to mail in the latest manifestations of his boy wonder, no matter how grotesque. When he’d originally signed the contracts with the corporation men they had assured him that he would have right of veto over any product he did not approve of, but the horse had long since bolted in that regard. Now all he could do was gawp in horrified fascination at the abominations that had been manufactured in his name. Paul Mephiglio sugar-rich breakfast cereal. Paul Mephiglio toothpicks. Paul Mephiglio bin liners…

    Simon forced himself to look away, to avert his eyes from their hypnotic gaze and return his attention to the computer screen. It hadn’t always been this difficult. There had been times when he’d even managed to cobble another book together, not that it mattered; the public had no interest in anything he produced if it didn’t have the words Paul Mephiglio in large type on the cover. But now there was nothing. He might still be here but inspiration had definitely flown south for the winter. And even as he struggled to keep his focus on the screen, still he could feel the eyes that peered out from the Paul Mephiglio commemorative beer steins, the Paul Mephiglio limited edition chess pieces and the Paul Mephiglio celebrity steak-knives, as they looked down at him, passing judgement.

    Suddenly anger overwhelmed him; impotent fury at the permanent stasis that had overtaken his creative life.

    “This is your fault?” he raged at all of those pale, freckled schoolboys. “You’ve taken everything from me. You’ve left me with nothing.”

    There was a crash. As he shouted, he had lashed out with his feet, accidentally kicking over the heater. Groaning with the agony of it all he bent over, struggling to turn it over before it burnt a hole in the priceless Persian rug that lay underneath. But as he sank to his knees there was a knock on the door, and then it was thrown open. It was the cleaning lady.

    “Mr Bradshaw please don’t strain yourself, I’ll get it.” She leant down beside him and carefully righted the heater. Then she helped him back into his chair where he sat, panting softly as he recovered his breath.

    For a few moments there was silence. Gradually Simon became aware that the cleaning lady’s attention was no longer on him. Her gaze was instead travelling around the room, taking in all of the Paul Mephiglios in their many and marvellous guises.

    “Quite a collection,” said Simon, feeling that he needed to break the silence. The rapt attention she was bestowing upon the assorted renderings of the character he had invented was somewhat unnerving.

    Eventually her eyes completed their sweep of the room and returned to him.

    “It must be wonderful,” she said.

    “Oh it was at first,” he replied.

    “What do you mean by that?”

    “It was brilliant at the start. All the ideas flowed so easily. It was an absolute joy just to sit at the computer and write. And then, when the books started coming out, to be so popular, to win all of those awards. It was more than I could ever have imagined. But do you know what the best part was?”

    “What?” She was staring at him and yet here eyes seemed somehow to be far away.

    “When I started hearing from the readers. Getting letters and emails from kids telling me how much they loved the stories. How they’d never even considered that reading could be fun until they picked up a Paul Mephiglio book. Telling me which bits they liked best and who their favourite characters were. And always asking questions, wanting to know what was going to happen in the next book. It was the most amazing feeling. To think that my characters, the fruits of my imagination, could become so important to these children. It was as if just by reading my books, these kids had actually brought Paul Mephiglio and all his friends to life.”

    He paused for a moment, savouring the memory. The cleaning lady continued to peer intently into his eyes, saying nothing.

    “But it couldn’t last like that for long,” he went on. “Do you know, for the first couple of years, I made sure to reply to every single letter or email personally. But after a while, there was no way I could cope with the load. I started having to employ a whole bunch of secretaries just to reply to all my fans. And it kept on getting bigger and bigger. Every time a new Paul Mephiglio book came out it became such a big deal you’d think it was the second coming or something. Then the movies started coming out, and let me tell you those movie people never wanted to ask me questions about Paul Mephiglio. Oh no, they just came out and told me. ‘Paul would never do this; Paul would never say that.’ Like they knew my character, the one I’d created from the sweat of my brow, better than me. And then, before I even knew what was going on, Paul Mephiglio was everywhere. Paul Mephiglio dish-towels, Paul Mephiglio electric toothbrushes, Paul Mephiglio iron-on tattoos.

    “And that was really the end of it for me. That amazing relationship I had with my readers, that feeling that I was conducting an individual conversation with every one of them, was gone. Now there were all these other people involved. Producers and directors. Marketers and corporate executives. Suddenly it seemed like everybody in the world owned a piece of Paul Mephiglio except me. And that was the worst part of all. It was like losing a child. It was feeling as if the real Paul Mephiglio, the one that I had given birth to, was gone for good.”

    It was only as Simon finished that he realised how much his voice had risen throughout his speech. The cleaning lady lowered her eyes and looked away. Suddenly Simon felt embarrassed. What right did he have to complain to this woman? Here he was, the resident of one of the finest castles in the British Isles, surrounded by wealth beyond even his imaginings. And here she was, a menial helper with no recourse to the good things he enjoyed. Obviously life had been far less kind to her than it had been to him. It was churlish, offensive even for him to carp about such issues in front of her.

    He forced himself to grin. “But you know when it all comes down to it, I guess it’s been pretty good.”

    She looked up again. “I thought it would have been.”

    Simon laughed. “It’s a funny thing. I wrote that first book just to amuse the kids of a couple of mates. I had no aspiration to actually be a writer. Not that I was that happy with what I was doing at the time. Being an admin officer at a bank wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. Still I only started sending it out to publishers because my mates insisted. I had no idea it would turn into such a big deal. An international cultural phenomenon, that’s what people called it. And they’ve been arguing about it ever since. Filling the columns in the book review pages. Churning out acres and acres of PhD theses. What was it that made Paul Mephiglio such an astonishing success? There’s probably a million times as much been written about my boy by other people then what I wrote in the original books. And none of them has ever been able to nail it. Not one of those experts and academics and reviewers has been able to provide a clear and rational reason why my Paul Mephiglio should have taken off the way he did. To be honest, I’m not even sure myself. Right time, right place maybe, I don’t know.”

    He chuckled again, so lost in his reminiscences he was barely aware of the other presence in the room. “And it all grew out of such a simple idea. A little boy who discovers one day that he’s really a wizard. Who would have thought of that?”

    “I did,” said the cleaning lady.

    “You did?” Simon looked up with a start.

    “I did,” she repeated. “Many years ago I had an idea for a story about a boy who discovers that he’s a wizard. I had it all planned out over a series of books. I even finished writing the first one.”

    “And what happened?”

    “Well I sent it to every publisher I could think of. For a year, all I got were rejection letters. But then, suddenly, I seemed to be getting somewhere. I found an agent who liked what he read. Said it had real potential. Said he’d do whatever he could to get it to the right publisher.”

    “And he didn’t do it? He let you down?”

    “Not exactly. What happened was about two weeks later the whole Paul Mephiglio thing started up.” She paused for a second, glancing quickly around the gallery that surrounded them. “Well that changed everything. My agent said there was no point trying to flog another book about a boy wizard. He told me not to give up, to try and write something else, but I just didn’t have the heart to. I’d already put so much into that first book.”

    “I’m really sorry,” said Simon, looking at the cleaning lady as if he was seeing her for the first time. By what twist of fate had they reached their respective destinations, he as an extraordinarily wealthy writer of novels for children and she as a cleaning lady? After all, he too had received his fair share of rejections at the start. He had also damn near written it all off as a lost cause before that final joyous acceptance. How simple could it have been for their roles to have been reversed and for her to have been the one who received all the riches and acclaim?
    She shrugged her shoulders. “It was hardly your fault. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Anyway it’s getting late now. I think I’d better be heading home.”

    Shaking his head to clear the image of the cleaning lady sitting in his seat in his study in his castle, he replied. “Yes of course. Thanks for all your help.”

    “That’s okay. See you tomorrow Mr Bradshaw.”

    Simon P. Bradshaw turned to watch his cleaning lady depart. “See you tomorrow Joanne.”