Saturday, 30 November 2013

Guest Post by Marlish Glorie: Self Publishing... a Circuitous Journey

The launch of my second novel, a self-published ebook, was a quiet affair; the slipping into the world of an illegitimate child, as compared to the celebratory racquet of my first: a print book with a traditional publisher.  
With my ebook Sea Dog Hotel an unshakable sense of failure prevailed, of it being second rate. It seemed strange. It was strange. My novel was in the ether. I had nothing concrete, nothing to hold. I was dealing with the abstract.
It all started in 2006 when I began work on the manuscript, which was to become known as Sea Dog Hotel, a work of fiction of 78,000 words. Initially work on the manuscript was erratic, snatches of time in between working on my first novel and other commitments. 
In 2010 I finally had the space to give it more fuller attention, plus I had the help of an editor courtesy of my then agent who always reassured me that they would present it to a publisher when I was happy for them to do so.  For a year and a half the manuscript bounced between my agent and me until I asked that it be presented to a publisher.  Suddenly my agent did a turn-a-round and told me that she didn’t like the manuscript and to find myself another agent.  Was I surprised?  To be honest. Not really. By this stage I’d learnt that the publishing industry is one huge amorphous blob, where no one actually knows what’s happening. And where anything can happen - and usually does.

I got another agent and in 2013 finished work on my manuscript. Problem was, with my new agent despite claims that she loved my work she felt it was too risky in the current publishing climate.  I was told to present it to publishers myself, she might as well have told me to climb Mount Everest blind-folded.   I knew it’d be impossible to get a publisher to take my manuscript seriously. Still, I sent it out to twelve publishers - all of whom rejected it.  My agent told me to put it away and to get working on my next project.
But after years of working on my manuscript, putting it away wasn’t an option.  I decided to self-publish.
Now the operative word here is — self.  You’re the writer, the editor, the cover designer, the CEO; in short, you’ve become your very own publishing house. You’re it!   It was fun, but it was lonesome. And “self” is distinctly, and greatly disadvantaged as far as marketing and publicity is concerned. The only tool at my disposable was social media. But it was to become a vital tool, not only for advice with things like, what title to give my book, but also for the greatly appreciated support and encouragement I received. It’s been truly amazing and heartening, giving me the much needed strength to launch Sea Dog Hotel.

Throughout the development of my manuscript i.e. from when my first agent ditched me, I had had it professionally assessed twice, copyedited twice and proof read twice and also read by quite a number of friends for feedback. It’s impetrative to produce the very best book that you can.   I knew that self-published ebooks had a bad reputation, that they were the bovver boys of publishing, not to be trusted, not be read. And from the self-published ebooks I’d read by other authors, to a certain extent this was true.

Self-publishing authors still have a long way to go before they’ll be accepted as equals amongst traditionally published books.  Self-publishing authors in the main need to brush up their act - to try and produce the finest work that they possibly can i.e. having their work professionally edited, assessed, and proof read. No short-cuts.


And would I do it again?  Should I not be able to find a traditional publisher for the current book I’m working on, yes of course I’d self-published, for its faults and limitations it’s a wonderful journey. My only hope is that in however many years time, self-published e-books have earned and subsequently gained a greater acceptance in the twin worlds of publishing and reading. 

Friday, 22 November 2013

e-Book Review: Sea Dog Hotel by Marlish Glorie

Happiness is counting your blessings while other people are tallying up their misfortunes- or at least that's what you will discover in the electronic pages of local author, Marlish Glorie's, new book.

Yes, that's right... this is an ebook.  Dun dun DUUUUUUN

Sea Dog Hotel begins with the classic structure of strangers arriving in town, but Nyacoppin is no ordinary down.  Situated in the middle of the West Australian salt lakes, it boasts a population of 80 people.  It's biggest business is the Sea Dog Hotel and it is this building that has brought the nomads to town.  Grace, who turns 21 on the day the story begins, has become her mother's keeper since the death of her father three years prior, because of her mother's lingering and inexplicable mental illness- a condition that causes her to get the jitters and renders her unable to drive.  At first Grace resents being forced to accompany her mother to this nowhere town, but slowly, she learns to love it.  So when Ruth decides it's time to move on and search for yet another fresh start, Grace must take action to stop her.

Sea Dog Hotel is a distinctly Australian family drama reminiscent of ABC television's Bed of Roses or similar, and I can see it translating extremely well to stage.  It has the bleakness of early Tim Winton, with a feminine understanding of love, family, and longing.  Most importantly it explore the things that make people happy and the lengths we will go to to find it, always wanting more, more, more.

The book is populated by many voices, each with their own yearnings and motivations and at times the multitude of backstories can pull the reader out of the flow as the point of view changes quickly and suddenly, but like a complicated braid, the story comes together artfully, emphasising that the town of Nyacoppin is as much a main character as Grace or Ruth.  It is first and foremost a story of personal and emotional growth, of secrets, and of learning new ways to be with one another in a strange and sometimes unforgiving world.  Glorie's writing has a simplicity which makes it endearing and which cuts to the heart of the matter.  It is easy to identify with the sentiment she is building, as she provides you so many points of view to get on board with.

I only wish that this book were available in a traditional format (and if there are any publishers reading this, hint hint) as I am still not a convert to the electronic movement, and reading on a tiny screen does nothing for the immense scope of this book.

Four stars.

Sea Dog Hotel is available here.  

Friday, 15 November 2013

Book Review: The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt

The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt
Tracy Farr
Fremantle Press, 2013

And now the review...

I began this novel not knowing what to expect.  Postured like a history, was I in for two hundred pages of a fictionalised life story, or was I going to be swashbuckled and romanced?  I wasn't sure; but this was part of the draw.  Reading a book in a vacuum in this way is like discovering a new trend.  For a moment, it is just yours, your new secret love.

That's right.  I think I am a little bit in love with Lena Gaunt.

On the back cover she is described as a musician, and octogenarian and a junkie, all of which are true.  In the early chapters of the book, Dame Lena is invited to play her theremin in a festival in Perth's hills.  She seems conceited, a little deluded, and rather cranky, judging the other musicians around her and the young people that she works with.  She is affronted by a negative review, and dismissive of Mo, the young filmmaker who wants to document her life.  At the end of the day, she partakes of heroin.  Lena, in the early pages, is intriguing but nasty, her cruelty indicating a deep unhappiness.

Beautifully structured and written, this book carries the reader along like waves, and like music, two motifs which are interwoven in it's pages.  While the subject matter of the book is unusual, and some might even say daring (although I say it is high time we had more GLBTI relationships represented in literature) the story is presented bare and unadorned.  This is Lena's life; please deal with it.  Her suffering and her triumphs are written in sparing and precise detail.  This book is poetic without being overwritten.  I was totally entranced. I would like to write like Tracy Farr writes because she is a master of the craft.

Her characters are introduced with the ease in which real friends are made.  I long for an Uncle Valentine, for a Malik to pull me out of the river, for a Cath, for a Gus, for a Beatrix, for a Grace.

This book has echoes of T.S. Eliot, Simone Lazaroo, and E.M. Forster.  It is real, raw, beautiful, and it dances.  I will read it again and again.

Five stars

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Cockalorum and other obsolete words

I was reading an essay yesterday in which the author was talking about forms of metaphor, and suddenly it occurred to me that since I have finished university, my vocabulary has been shrinking.  I no longer feel comfortable enough with words like "synecdoche" to use them in every day conversation.  This is a horrifying thought.

Although there is something to be said of being able to talk to other people without making it sound too obvious that you're smarter than they are, I am an English major with an Honours degree, and the less word power I have at my disposal, the less easily it is I can remember that fact.  It's like being a kinder-gardener and accidentally walking into one of the bigger classes.  The sense is acute: you do not belong.  Except that I do belong.  I was not always a kinder-gardener.  Someone has reverse aged me with some sort of machine.  Someone has taken my words.

Vocabulary is like any skill.  If you don't practice, you lose it.  Belittle those who use word of the day calendars as much as you like, but they're still going to beat you at the spelling bee.  (Side note:  I have never to this day forgotten the spelling or definition of the word paradox after it knocked me out of the Ozspell competition in year 7.  I also learned to take my time from that one.  It was a stupid mistake.  P-a-r-a-d-a-- doh!)  If I begin to doubt my control of the English language, it is a little like considering myself disarmed.

Is a large vocabulary really all that important?  Words and language are constantly changing and just as old words become obsolete, new ones are invented.  While I will never 'Twerk' or defend my actions because 'yolo', I can also no longer 'groak' or become 'crapulous' without the people near me looking at me oddly.  Still, written communication is my chosen field and I would rather contribute to its preservation rather than its demise.  I may not always use correct punctuation in my tweets, but at least I still say "you" instead of "U."
If the price of leaving the academic world is having to a work a little harder to expand my knowledge of the English language, so be it, lest not more wonderful words go the way of "slumpish", "apricitiy" and "twattle."

Friday, 8 November 2013

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Christos Tsiolkas
Allen and Unwin

While many readers I have met say they are put off by the confronting nature of Christos Tsiolkas's previous novel, The Slap, I think that the ability to manipulate language in a way that shocks, and a way that communicates the desperation and heartbreak of a situation, is perhaps Tsiolkas's superpower.  There are words in his books which I no longer permit myself to say aloud, but it is this taboo I have placed on my own language which helps me understand the strength of emotion which the words convey.  (I am, of course, referring to the C-word, which I will refrain from using in this blog post.)  Because Barracuda is a very emotional book.  It is about not getting the thing you want most in the world.  It is about reaching rock bottom.  It is the very opposite of a a fairy tale.  It is, for some, real life.

Danny Kelly is a swimmer who has the potential to be great.  After he is scouted at a swim meet, he receives a scholarship to go to an anonymous Grammar School which he refers to as C***'s College.  There, he is ostracized for his ethnicity and his class.  The boys at the school have been together since pre primary, and call one another by their surnames, because, as is pointed out near the end of the book, your first name does not matter as much as your families.  Money talks.  But Danny is determined, and under the coaching of Frank Torma he learns to be tough and give as much as he gets.  Soon, he is Barracuda.  The water loves him and he is the strongest, the fastest and best.  The boys who taunted him, in particular Martin Taylor, become his best friends.

While Danny retains his outsider's viewpoint, he is blind the fact that he is becoming one of the golden boys.  He acts like them, thinks like them and behaves like them, although we see that he has a greater propensity for kindness in him than the others seem capable of.  This drives him away from his family.  He is, in effect, a brat, and when he fails to win a key race, I cannot say that I feel sorry for him, although I can relate to his disappointment.  Where to from there?  It is a long way back to normal.

This book is crafted in a way which is experimental, but it works.  The chapters alternate, telling the story from both first person and third person, one narrative moving forward in time and the other moving backwards.  It is skillfully done.  At no point did I feel lost or confused.  The order was almost natural, and it was like swimming through time.  I felt like I was in the water with Danny, and his despair drove me there also.

Honestly, I could not stop reading this book, and when I had to, I thought about it.  It was powerful and it hit home.  It fed on my secrets doubts about my future and my public school past.  It is a difficult book to review, as I could talk about it for hours but I want you to experience it for yourself, so please do.

Five stars.  Six.