I’m not crazy, the voice in my head is!

murderI need to learn how to kill someone — without getting caught. I’ve done a lot of research now, and I’m pretty sure I could pull it off. I have to be careful not to raise suspicion though (note to self: remember to clear browsing history regularly). It has to be quick, relatively painless, and non-violent. I hate violence. And it would help if it wasn’t messy.

Poison would do it, and it’s relatively easy to get hold of. But getting my potential victim to ingest said poison is the challenge, particularly as there is no social connection. It’s a dilemma. And it’s been running around in my head for quite some time now. Months, actually.

I’ve considered seeking advice from a professional. Someone in the know who could give me a few pointers. A doctor maybe… or someone with practical experience. But how do I find a murderer who hasn’t been caught? And do I really want to go to that extreme?

Perhaps I should clarify. This morning, after a three-week hiatus, I was back in the pool swimming laps. The 50m outdoor pool sparkled in the Sydney sunshine, totally seducing my senses, lap after lazy lap. Swimming is very good for thinking. It’s quite meditative and I’ve always found it a fabulous way to process stuff. Things have a way of drifting up from the subconscious when you’re swimming.

It was while I was swimming that I remembered, that though the whole plot of next novel revolved around murder, and I had all my characters, plot and subplot lines sorted, I still hadn’t figured out how it happens. It’s kind of a crucial element. I guess I’d just been avoiding it because… well… I spend so much of my time as a writer, with the voices of my characters in my head, that occasionally, the conversations become intertwined with real ones. It’s a worry!

I don’t want to be at my desk in the office, or doing the shopping, and muttering about murder. Or having coffee with a non-writer friend and watching them empty a sachet of artificial sweetener into the cup, and say out loud: “I could put the poison in a sweetener sachet, but I’d have to make sure it was tasteless.” (Sorry about that Karen)  It tends to get awkward.

I probably should get better at compartmentalising my writing and my life. Problem is, my writing IS my life!

Back to researching murder…

On Publishing, promotion and putting yourself on the line

self-promotionThe manuscript (and several more following it) is complete, the contract signed, editing done, book cover sorted, publisher’s launch over. You’d be forgiven for thinking that my work as an author is over, but you’d be wrong. Very wrong.

I was at the Australian Book Expo, at Olympic Park last weekend, to sign books and talk to people about my new release. The expo itself was a bit of a disappointment because numbers were pretty low, but it gave me a fabulous opportunity to chat with people. It was interesting watching my publisher in action, but even more interesting to wander around and chat with other authors either published traditionally or self-published, and in some cases, both.

Most authors who had been around for a little while understood the nature of the changing industry and described their journey to (and from) publication as a roller-coaster. I could certainly relate. But I came across one or two authors, at the Expo to give their titles a boost, who were a tad resentful that they were expected to have a hand in promoting their books. I listened as they described the days where, once they’d signed the contract, they were given an advance and then sat back waiting for the publisher to tell them where to go (to sign books, speak, etc) and what to do, and in the meantime they got on with writing the next manuscript. Ah… if only it were still like that. But it’s not.

It is only when the contract is signed, if you’re lucky enough to be published traditionally, that the real work begins. The in-your-face, rejection-inducing, self-esteem challenging, slap-in-the-face, get-knocked-down-get-up-again task of getting your book ‘out there,’ type of work. Unless you are published by one the ‘five,’ in an industry that is just beginning to settle enough to get a glimpse of what writing and publishing might look like into the future, one thing is clear — the role of the author now includes promoting the book. It’s become a necessary part of getting your work out there. Readers can’t read your books if they don’t know where to get them. But for most writers I know, it is this part of publishing that is the most challenging.

Writers are the kind of people (I am very much generalising here, and happy to be contradicted) that are content working alone, in front of the computer, sometimes for months at a time. I know myself, when I am writing, days, sometimes weeks, pass barely noticed. It’s our work that we want in the public domain, not ourselves. Self-promotion is uncomfortable, awkward, and often off-putting, and I for one, do not enjoy it one little bit. Luckily, in the age of technology, it doesn’t necessarily have to be done face-to-face. But it does have to be done. And that’s what social media is for. Developing an author platform on social media is critical if you want any chance whatsoever of getting your work read. There is no escaping it.

So what would I say to those authors who refuse to change their way of operating? Well, in polite terms I’d suggest that as an author in the 21st century, you need to embrace change as an inevitability and adapt accordingly. Or to put it a little more bluntly—build a bridge! If you don’t have the skills to build a bridge, get someone else to do it for you, or you will sink into publishing oblivion. The halcyon days of book publishing are gone. Deal with it.