Category Archives: Writers

Breaking news about the next Writers’ Platform Building Campaign!

I'm a platform-building campaigner badge

Did that headline get your attention? I bet it did! You may have seen that the wonderful Rachael Harrie (Rach Writes) recently posted the following:

Guess what…I may have some exciting news (of the Campaign variety) to announce shortly, so stay tuned!!!

Well, I’m thrilled to join Rach in sharing that news with you…

The next Writers’ Platform Building Campaign will be taking place this September, and it will be held here on Cally Jackson Writes.

Excuse me for a moment while I:

SQUEEEEEE!!!!!!

How did I come to be hosting the next Campaign? Well, Rach has been taking a much-needed break from blogging for the last few months. I dropped her a line recently and told her how much I missed the Campaigns and offered to host one on her behalf. She agreed. Simples.

Rach will still be involved every step of the way. I’ll just be coordinating all of the work that will (hopefully!) make the Campaign a smashing success for all involved.

What’s a Campaign?

For those who aren’t familiar with the Campaigns, here’s a bit of background info.

The Writers’ Platform Building Campaigns are a way to link writers, aspiring authors, beginner bloggers, and published authors together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms. Almost 500 Campaigners took part in one of Rach’s last Campaigns so that gives you an idea of how popular they are!

Campaigners are people who genuinely want to meet others, pay it forward, and make connections with other bloggers. This therefore gives you a pool of bloggers (some starting out, some established) who you know are in the same position. You can make friends, find critique partners, get support in your writing etc etc – basically, it’s up to you.

For those bloggers who are just starting out (and even those who’ve been blogging for a while), a Campaign gives you a head start in finding other like-minded bloggers to connect with. And as an added bonus, Campaigns are also a lot of fun. If you’re interested, you can read more about the Campaigns Rach has held previously.

What will be involved in this Campaign?

This Campaign will be similar to Rach’s previous ones (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!).  Campaigners will join groups based on writing genres (and a few other things), and there will be two Campaigner Challenges for everyone to take part in. Here are some key dates for you to make note of:
  • 1 September: registration opens and the campaign begins!
  • 7 September: registration closes and no more entries accepted (so don’t be late! ;-))
  • 9-13 September: first Campaigner Challenge
  •  23-27 September: second Campaigner Challenge
  • 30 September: Campaign ends

I’ll also run a Campaigner Noticeboard every Friday, where Campaigners can announce book launches, blogfests and anything else they’d like to share with other Campaigners.

I’ll provide more information about the Campaign over the next few weeks and will be canvassing for volunteers to help out, but in the mean time, get excited and spread the word. The Campaigns are back, baby!

Are you as excited as I am? 

Let me know in the comments if you think you’ll take part in the Campaign. Any early offers of help will also be greatly appreciated!

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Filed under Writers, Writers Campaign, Writing

J Matthew McKern in the HOT SEAT

Yes, that’s right, folks. It’s time for another scorching  HOT SEAT interview. Today’s victim willing participant is J Matthew McKern, otherwise known as Matt. Matt is very special to me. He designed the cover for my first novel, The Big Smoke, capturing the essence of the story in a way I could have only dreamed. So I figured, what better way to pay him back than by burning his toosh! 😀

Let’s get started… 

J Matt McKern

Gday, Matt!

What genre(s) do you write, Matt?

Young adult & middle grade. 

Tell us about your current WIP, I Didn’t Go Looking for Trouble, in 25 words or fewer! 

A road trip adventure starring a sixteen-year-old picker and a six-inch-tall sprite trying to save the family home from being repossessed by the bank.

[CJ: Haha, sounds like fun! However, compound adjectives such as ‘sixteen-year-old’ are not one word, which means you’ve used 28 words. Guess I’ll let you off this time… ;)]

Well, I could have said that it’s about Willy Storey, a girl with an independent spirit. All her life, all she’s known is antiques. Every summer since her mother died, Willy has traveled the midwest with her father buying antiques to resell at the family store. When the bank comes after their family home after Willy’s father is disabled in an accident, Willy takes matters into her own hands. She goes out on the road in her dad’s beat up old pickup truck to try to save the family business. But it’s going to take more than luck to succeed, it’s going to take a little bit of magic. Visiting small town midwest, Willy discovers something else that catches her by surprise, a devoted friend who might be able to lead her to treasure rumored to be hidden in a picture frame somewhere in Iowa.

[CJ: Yes, that would have been way more than 25 words!]

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

In my day job, I’m an Art Director, creating publications for the healthcare market. 16+ years now!

[CJ: So you’ve been in  your current job for the same length of time your main character has been alive. Don’t worry, that doesn’t make you old or anything… :P]

Tell us a little about your writing process.

I begin with a scenario and strong characters. I definitely plot things out well in advance, but I find myself deviating from the path on a regular basis. One way or another, it’s all about the journey. 

[CJ: Sounds a bit like my process, actually!]

Coming from a fine-arts background, I believe I possess a very visual sensibility. I’m sure this will lead me into world-building projects in the not-too-distant future. But it’s the characters that engage me. Taking them apart and putting them back together again is what keeps me up late and wakes me early in the morning. It is my hope that the resulting combination results in stories that are impossible to put down. 

Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?

My golfing and fishing partner, Patrick Carman, is right up there. It’s definitely a plus to know someone who’s lighting the way. Going way back, Steven King was key to showing how to flesh out a world. For quirky characters, I’d say John Irving’s work was an inspiration. In the world of middle-grade fiction, Ingrid Law has been a recent favorite.   

[CJ: You lost me at golf. ;)]

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

Finding time to do it all without short-changing my family. I love to write on vacations, which has both upsides and downsides.

[CJ: Ah, yes. I know the feeling of not wanting to short-change the family. Especially now I have a bambino!]

Time for the HOT SEAT questions!

Hot Seat

*Insert scary music here*

If you were given a glimpse of the future and knew nobody would ever read your writing, would you continue to write?

I would. I’m definitely one of those people for whom creative endeavors are a way of life. 

Finish this sentence from Willy Storey’s perspective:

Willy: Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is… the death of my mother, though I suppose in some ways I’ve always tried to pick up where she left off, trying to keep things from falling apart.

[CJ: Aww. Very sad…]

Now finish the same sentence from your own perspective.

Matt: Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is… the fact that my college professors failed to even attempt to illustrate the synergy between creativity and business.

[CJ: Okay… I’m intrigued. Why does that still bother you?]

Well, most of the blame should fall squarely upon my shoulders, but if I could go back and do it all again, I’d double-major. At the time, I felt what I’d describe as a cultural difference that I wouldn’t even imagine trying to bridge. If you’re talented and creative, don’t assume that someone will be there to provide a path to financial viability. You should learn at least a little about how to manage your own career. [Stepping down from soap box]

[CJ: Haha. Soap boxes are always welcome. Just make sure it doesn’t get too close to the HOT SEAT or it might catch fire! 😉 ]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you’d like to hear more from Matt, check out his website or like him on Facebook

I Didn't Go Looking For Trouble cover

Available now!

If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning. 😀

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Filed under Hot Seat, Writers, Writing

Letting the fizz out of the bottle (or, about my new WiP)

At the Brisbane Writers Festival a couple of years ago, I saw Anita Shreve, author of 16 novels,  speak about her books and the writing process. I’ve never read any of her work but I enjoy hearing about others’ creative processes so I knew I’d get something out of the session regardless.

I remember that when she was asked about her current project, she said that she never speaks about what she’s working on because she’s afraid of ‘letting some of the fizz out of the bottle’. She said (and I’m paraphrasing) she’s always afraid of speaking about what she’s currently writing because she feels like it’s an unopened bottle of soda, and if she spoke about it, she’d let out some of the fizz, and so if she spoke about it too much, the story would go flat. A quick Google search shows me that she uses this answer whenever she’s asked  (for example, The Washing Post interview and WOW! Women on Writing interview).

I find this logic fascinating, because my mind works quite differently. When I have a new story idea, I want to tell everyone about it, and I have to physically stop myself from blathering on to anyone who shows the slightest bit of interest. I actually gain more enthusiasm or ‘fizz’ from sharing my ideas and hearing others’ thoughts about it.

I’ve shown quite a bit of self restraint to not post about my current work-in-progress yet. What’s that? You’d like to hear about it? Oh, okay. Why didn’t you say so earlier?! It’s a young-adult time-travel romantic drama. Think Time Traveler’s Wife crossed with Back to the Future. It’s in the very embryonic stages at present. I’ve got a lot of ideas that I’m very excited about – enough for a series – but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make them work… oops. See, there I go. Give me an inch… 😉

Back to the subject at hand, I wonder if it’s an introvert/extrovert thing? Do all introverts keep their ideas in the bottle and all extroverts share the fizz around, or is it not as cut and dried as that?

What do you think?

Are you an extrovert who manages to keep your WiP ideas to yourself? Or are you an introvert who forces yourself to brainstorm with others? Perhaps you’re like a friend of mine who chooses not to share his ideas because he’s concerned someone will steal them. Or maybe you have different reasons altogether. So do you share, or not? Why, or why not? I’m keen to hear from you.

P.S. For those keen for a Mackenzie update, here’s a video of her trying her first food. So far, she’s not a fan.

P.P.S. My work-in-progress novel shall henceforth be referred to as ‘The Fizz’, because I’m yet to come up with a title I like any better!

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Filed under Creativity, The Fizz, Writers, Writing

Su Williams in the HOT SEAT

When Su Williams first lays eyes on the HOT SEAT, she begins to whimper and cry. It’s almost as if she’s having an extremely bad dream. But this ain’t a dream, Su. This is real. 

Let the  games begin. 😀 

What genre(s) do you write, Su?

Su Williams

Gday, Su!

Well, considering Dream Weaver is my first book, I write in YA paranormal fiction. I went to my first conference about 4 years ago and people were throwing around all kinds of genres I had no clue what they were…steam punk, high fantasy, space opera. Boy, did I get an education. I really didn’t know what genre I wrote in other than YA fiction. I recommend conferences to beginning writers as well as self-published writers. Conferences are a great way to make connections and learn the craft.

[CJ: I agree. I’ve only gone to one conference but I got heaps out of it.]

Tell us about Dream Weaver in 25 words or less! 

Dream Weaver coverDream Weaver, Nickolas Benedetti rescues tragedy-torn Emari Sweet from the night terrors that haunt her. And draws the living breathing nightmares to her doorstep.

[CJ: Oh no! Tell us more.]

Seventeen year old Emari Sweet has lost her parents in a horrific car crash. Night terrors stalk her sleep and she teeters on the precipice of life, and death by her own hand. Her flesh screams for the razor’s edge, if only to exorcise her inner pain.

Nickolas Benedetti is Onar Caphar (Dream Weaver). He is able to cull and control the memories and dreams of others with a simple touch. Emari’s nightmares evanesce under his fingertips and with one whispered word, ‘forget’, he fades from her dreams with the cool grey mist of morning.
But a darker, more violent terror stalks her and ravages her precarious life. Nick strives to  save her but draws his own nemesis to her secluded cottage. Picketed by a promise, Nick will offer his own life in order to save hers.

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing or working I like to read. We go camping during the summer up at my parent’s cabin. There’s always something new to see up there. Baby raccoons, hunting osprey [a bird of prey], beavers, bear, a swarm of butterflies or a nesting duck or robin.  I love to take pictures of the wildlife we encounter. Some of my favorite pics are posted on my Pinterest page.

Tell us a little about your writing process.

LOL. I love this question. I keep telling people I’m a puker…as opposed to a pantser or planner. Random scenes come to me at random times inspired by random events. Then I have to write them down on whatever piece of paper I have available. I’ve been known to use register tape (I work retail.) Once I have my scenes, I tie them all together. And then, I edit, re-edit and edit again. I can’t afford a real editor, so I’ve worked hard at learning as much as I can about writing in general and novel writing specifically. There’s a lot of great books out there. I even used a college writing text book. Two books I suggest are: Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon; and Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino.

[CJ: A puker, hey? Nice!]

Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?

I LOVE vivid, original imagery. I love it when writing is beautiful and poetic and heart-wrenching. The authors that I believe do this for me are Lisa McMannMaggie StiefvaterAnnette Curtis Klaus and Richelle Mead.   

[CJ: My to-read list just got even longer…]

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

Without a doubt, I’d have to say promotion and marketing. It takes a great deal of time to get the word out on your book if you’re self-published. There’s no one to set up interviews or reviews or create ads. It’s all me. The biggest piece of advice I’ve gotten lately is ‘do what you can without sacrificing your creativity. Don’t forget that writing is what you love most and you can’t lose focus on that. :)’ (Thanks A.L.!).

[CJ: That’s excellent advice. And I totally hear you about promotion and marketing – it’s incredibly time intensive.]

Time for the HOT SEAT questions!

Hot Seat

*Insert scary music here*

Wow! This is a bit like being on the couch in the psychiatrist’s office. Delving deep into my psyche. Are you sure you really want to know this?

Yep, there’s no getting out of it now! Here we go…

Which fictional character are you most like and why?

Definitely Emari Sweet. She’s a bit quirky, a bit dark. Emari is kind of a compilation of myself, my daughter and every goth/emo girl I’ve met or read about. We call people who know who they are and aren’t shy about sharing it ‘characters.’ There aren’t enough ‘characters’ in the world these days. Everyone wants to fit in and becomes a cookie cutter of everyone else. I don’t mind being called ‘weird.’ Good, that means I’m not like you. And my daughter, Sarah inspires me too. She is not like every other teen girl. She’s Sarah. A bit of a geek with a quirky sense of humor and a side of dark. I’m so proud of her just for being herself. 

[CJ: ‘Weird’ works better for me than ‘normal’ too. Normal = boring!]

Finish this sentence from your character Emari’s perspective.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but… I’m a big wuss. If it weren’t for Nick, I’d be a hotter mess than I already am.

Now finish the same sentence from your own perspective.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but... despite not minding people thinking I’m weird, what other people think of me matters more than it should..

[CJ: Someone wise once told me that ‘what other people think of me is none of my business’. Easier said than done though!]

Cally, thanks so much for hosting me on your blog.

[CJ: You’re very welcome. It was great having you, Su.]

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Like the sound of Dream Weaver? Grab your copy now from Amazon (paperback and Kindle) (only 99c for a limited time!), Barnes & Noble (Nook)  or CreateSpace.

If you’d like to hear more from Su, check out her website, her blog or like her on Facebook

If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning. 😀

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Filed under Hot Seat, Writers, Writing

Insecure Writers’ Support Group: typo-phobia

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post! Can you believe that? September just flew by. Some lovely friend on Facebook tells me that Christmas is only eighty-two days away. Gah! Add another 18 days to that and you’ve got the due date for my baby. That means I’m going to be a Mum in about one hundred days. Oh my goodness!!!

So anyway, some exciting news for you. Yesterday, I received five proof copies of The Big Smoke, so I got to experience the thrill of seeing my writing in a physical book for the first time. Such an awesome experience! (In case you’re wondering, I ordered five copies to spread the America-Australia shipping costs and to have some hard copy ARCs up my sleeve). Mark, my thoughtful husband, video-taped the experience so I could share it with you:

Unfortunately, about sixty seconds after Mark pressed stop on the recorder, he uttered those words no author wants to hear: ‘There’s a typo.’

‘Haha, good on you,’ I said, confident he was joking.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t. As you would expect, I’d checked the final manuscript over and over again, scouring it for any errors. But I hadn’t been quite so fastidious with my final electronic book proof, which includes the ‘About the Author’ and ‘With Thanks’ sections that were never part of the manuscript. And sure enough, on the ‘About the Author’ page (which is the FIRST page of the book), I’d typed ‘thier’ instead of ‘their’ (in a sentence I’d changed at the very last minute). NOOOOO……

Thankfully it was identified at the proof stage, right? Crisis averted! But as a result, I’m now paranoid that the story itself is littered with typos that both I and my copy editor have somehow overlooked. I’ve given two proof copies away to people to read, under strict instruction that they’re to let me know if they spot any errors. So they will share the blame if any suckers slip through!  😉

I know that, at the end of the day, a couple of typos in a book of more than 130,000 words is not the end of the world, but the perfectionist in me is losing sleep over it. What if it’s not just one or two that have slipped through? I wonder as I lay in bed. What if there are ten in there? As a reader that would drive me crazy, and I’d lose respect for the author. What if I become one of those authors even though I’ve tried so hard?

And then I say to myself, ‘Get over it, Cally. You’ve tried your best, and that’s the beauty of self publishing – if there are errors, you can go back and fix them at any point.’

I’m trying to listen to that logical voice. Honestly, I am. But if you pass me in the street and notice that I’ve developed a facial tic, it’s probably a side effect of my latest ailment: typo-phobia. Ahh, the joys and woes of an insecure writer…

In other news, I’ve nailed down another few planks in my social platform, creating my very own Goodreads author profile and Facebook author page. Like me, friend me, follow me, make me feel loved! 😀

Your turn

What do you think when you read typos in a published novel? How many will you put down to ‘mistakes happen’ before it affects your view of the author/publisher? If you’re a published author, have you learnt of typos in your own work? If so, what did you do?

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!

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Filed under Fear, Insecure Writers Support Group, Self publishing, Writers, Writing

IWSG: Are Australians more worried than Americans about political correctness in fiction?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

For this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post, I’d like to talk about political correctness in fiction. Do you temper your writing style to accommodate other people’s insecurities or do you throw political correctness to the wind for the sake of ‘real characters’?

I take somewhat of a middle road. I want my characters to be as authentic as possible, but I’d prefer to do that without offending people.  I’m sure writers’ and readers’ opinions fall across the whole spectrum on this issue, but I noticed something interesting during my beta reader stage for The Big Smoke. I had a number of beta readers from both Australia and America, and several of my Australian readers pointed out phrases that could potentially offend people’s sensitivities. None of my American readers made comments of a similar nature. Is there something in that, do you think? Does it say something about our different cultures? Are Australians more worried than Americans about political correctness in fiction?

Obviously, my sample size is quite small, so I wanted to see what you think. These are the phrases that some of my Australian readers suggested I re-word:

  1. Robert forced a laugh. ‘Don’t worry about Cindy. She’s a schitzo.’
  2. I nodded in the direction of this fat chick in super-short shorts. ‘There’s your talent. Whatchya waiting for? Make a move.’
  3. She named me after the opera singer. Seriously, could you get any gayer?
  4. I was about as coordinated as a nine-year-old girl with bow-legs.
  5. And that hair. That fake, slutty red hair.

I took my readers’ advice on board and changed these phrases, but I’m interested in what you think. Would you suggest re-wording any of the above to avoid potentially offending people? Or do you thinks it’s OTT to even consider these phrases potentially offensive? I’ve numbered the phrases so you can be specific if there are particular ones you’d  like to refer to.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. In your comments, please identify where you live (country) so we can see if  cultural influences could be at play. Looking forward to hearing what you think!

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!

22 Comments

Filed under Beta readers, Insecure Writers Support Group, The Big Smoke, Writers, Writing, Writing style

IWSG: Are we jeopardising the indie book industry by being ‘nice’?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

For this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post, I’d like to discuss something that’s been on my mind a little bit lately, thanks to Andrew Leon’s two-part post titled, Is It Better To Be “Nice” Or Honest?

You can read the full post part one and part two by Andrew (and I recommend you do, it’s very thought provoking), but in the interests of time, I’ll give you the extremely abridged version. Essentially, what I took from Andrew’s post was that we are doing the indie book industry a disservice every time we write a positive review for a self published book that doesn’t deserve it. Why? Because reviews are the only currency independent authors have, and if we discredit that, then readers will assume all self-published books are as rubbish as each other and stick with traditionally published books, which have been judged as worthwhile by someone they trust (mainstream publishers).

I agree with Andrew on this point. Writing a good review just to be nice doesn’t do anybody any favours. It tarnishes your reputation as a writer/reviewer, it tells the author they don’t need to grow, and it turns readers off the indie book industry.

However, I’m not entirely comfortable with the extension of this argument, which says that we must write negative reviews for books that deserve it. While I agree this would add to the overall credibility of the industry, I just can’t bring myself to publicly criticise another author’s work. If they asked for my opinion, I would give it to them – in an email, not a public forum. I would rather recommend the books I enjoy and not mention the ones I don’t. I guess this is because I understand what it’s like to be an insecure writer, and I don’t want to cause others pain.

But maybe I’m just soft and my reluctance to criticise is actually harming the industry. Almost every self published book you see has a handful of glowing reviews, even those that clearly don’t deserve the praise. I assume these reviews are written by family and friends who would love whatever the person wrote regardless of the quality. By not balancing these reviews with honest, critical ones of my own, am I contributing to the erosion of review credibility, thus diminishing the indie publisher’s only currency?

I’m really keen to hear your take on this. Do you think I(/we) should be tougher and write critical reviews of self published books? Do you write reviews like that? What would you think if you read an ultra-critical review on my blog? And what effect do you think the absence of these reviews has on the industry as a whole? Let me know what you think!

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!

26 Comments

Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Self publishing, Writers, Writing