Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Holidays (Virtual Mince Pies)

To all you lovely readers out there, I just wanted to wish you a very happy holiday with a plateful of virtual mince pies that I baked up just for you (my kids will eat them on your behalf).  I wish you a relaxing holiday with plenty of time to catch up on your favourite books.  What will you be reading?  I've got a stack that includes: Selected Poems of Dorothy Hewett (Kate Lilley, ed), The Vintage and the Gleaning by Jeremy Chambers, The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi, Sustenance by Simone Lazaroo, and Singing the Coast edited by Margaret Somerville and Tony Perkins, all of which I intend to read through January.  See you in 2011 with a swagfull of  reviews and interviews that include most of the above people and thanks to all of you for your support and participation this year.  For the full recipe and a little background on the pies, visit:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Coffee with that Expresso Book?

It isn't exactly dinky, but there's something a little evocative (and scary - new technology is always scary) about being able to walk into a bookshop or library, and print out any book in print in a few seconds and watch it construct in front of you.  The latest version of Espresso Book Machine® 2.0 is just 3.8 feet wide by 2.7 feet deep by 4.5 feet high (that's even shorter than I am).  You can watch a video of a book being made at The Expresso Book Machine Channel. It's pretty cool and looks a little like a big photocopier (what will they be able to expresso next?).  So will this be competition for the ebook?  Will it help authors and publishers who couldn't otherwise get shelf-space in the big chains?   Only time will tell.  I know from personal experience that book buying, particularly in a shop, is often based on serendipity - you grab what's featured, on sale, being talked about, has an evocative cover.  None of these things are conducive to using the expresso machine.  The initial launch of the book machine at Angus and Robertson in Melbourne was not a success.  However, the new machine is lighter, faster, and might be a bit cheaper.  If those things come together with the increasing cost of property, warehousing and shelf-space, then perhaps this can be a win-win for everyone who loves and lives by books.  I have to admit that I often spend many hours searching for particular titles for gifts, and knowing I can pop into my local and get anything within a few minutes, at a good rate (that's probably fairly key), would be great.  As an author, if I knew I could send readers to their local shop for a copy of any of my books, or do a reading anywhere I might happen to be visiting at the drop of a hat, with no stock and still have infinite numbers of copies to sell, then this would be a significant win.  Still, the machines retail at about 100k, which equates to a lot of stock, so probably only the big guys would have one, and those big guys might end being the supermarket or chains like Wal-Mart or Target, which would be good for authors like me, but maybe not so good for those cozy little shops down the street that know you like a friend and make wonderful suggestions.  Not that I can think of any in my area that haven't gone under to Borders or A&R.  Alas.  The future marches on. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Indie Books Holiday Giveaway Event

Over at A Word Please, the marvellous Darcia Helle is holding an Indie Books Holiday Giveaway with over 76 titles (including a number of my books) from 47 authors.  I know you all like giveaways, so I thought I'd include a little link here and let you know that the event runs throughout the month of December and is open worldwide.  Do drop by and enter - you only need to fill in a form at the site.  What's an "Indie book?"  It's a book published by a publisher that is "independent of the major conglomerates that dominate the book publishing industry. Independent book publishers include small presses, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors."  (that's from the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group (IBPPG) website).   Because they tend not to have shareholders and high sales targets, Indie publishers often have more flexibility to be creative, innovative, and can work more quickly over longer periods of time than the conglomerates.  They are often more author friendly (especially for authors who aren't celebrities) and tend to be more focused on quality than on names or sales, and keep keep the whole industry more honest and reader/author friendly.  Of course their promotional budgets are smaller, so you might not see them in Walmart or your local supermarket, but rather in good bookstores (the kind that focus on books) or in shops like Amazon or via publisher sites.  Why not do something a little different this year and seek out smaller press, independent titles for gifts and your own reading.  You might be quite suprised at what you can find and you'll get that nice glow from knowing that you're supporting the book world in maintaining an all-important diversity.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Character Auction

Authors for Autistica are running a fantastic character auction on ebay, featuring over 20 best-selling authors.

People can bid to have their name in the upcoming novels of  Ken Follett,  Roopa Farooki,  Glenn Cooper, Hari Kunzru, Darren Shan, David Mitchell and more.  In a second auction, authors including  R J Ellory, James Sallis and L C Tyler will give unpublished writers feedback on their work.  

All funds raised will go to autism research.   It's a good cause and an interesting opportunity - some are even offering you the option to determine whether your character is good, bad, or neutral. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guest post: Basic Flash Fiction Writing by Dianne G. Sagan

My guest this month is Dianne G. Sagan, author and speaker. One of her books is a collection of 100 word flash fiction tales. She and four other women from her critique group wrote these stories over a matter of months. Each set of stories shares four or five common words 
Basic Flash Fiction Writing

Flash fiction is a term for short stories that are no longer than 1,500 words. Some are even termed micro- or mini- stories because they are no more than 100 words. It’s important to remember that each story must have all the same requirements as a longer piece – characters, scene, conflict, resolution.  Each flash fiction story must include the story elements that are included in longer pieces: setting, plot, characters, conflict, and resolution. Have fun with it. 

STEP I: Decide what you want your flash fiction story about. If you have a favorite genre like mystery, thriller, or romance, then write a story in that genre.

STEP 2: Write down some notes to get your story arc started. It can be an informal list of ideas to include in the story. 

STEP 3: Write a short bio of your main character and antagonist or villain. This helps you develop your characters.

STEP 4: Write a first draft of your story. Allow yourself to write whatever comes out for this first draft. Then, put it aside for a little while so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

STEP 5: Read your story and see what works and what doesn’t. Clarify anything that seems confusing. Be sure to check for spelling or grammar mistakes. Share it with some fellow writers for feedback.

STEP 6:  Now, rewrite your story with the revisions and corrections you decided on from the original draft. Remember the key is to use a few words and still tell a good story.

For another interesting author interview, drop by Virginia Grenier's blog where Darcia Helle will be talking about her latest book.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What frightens you? Comp newsflash

Because I'm having trouble contacting my winners (no responses), I've decided to open this comp up to everyone - just email me with your postal address (US and CA only I'm afraid), and the subject line Literary Life, and I'll choose the first entry as the winner!  The October episode of Penguin's The Literary Life podcast investigates fright: that disturbing feeling that can spring from the most unlikely of places—even the pages of books. Sarah Waters joins Penguin to discuss her newest book, The Little Stranger, a gothic novel and finalist for the Man Booker Prize that critics have compared to Henry James and Edgar Allen Poe. Koren Zailckas, author of Smashed and Fury joins us to rant about what not to do when reading your own audiobook in our latest installation of The Writer's Rant. Rich Hasselberger explains why designing a book jacket for a thriller is different than for a paranormal romance and Kristin Hersh, founder of the band Throwing Muses, talks about her memoir Rat Girl.   Because Penguin knows how much I like to give away books, they've offered me a copy of one of the featured books (your choice).  To win, just make sure you're following us.  I'll choose the winner at random from followers.  Giveaway will only run for this week, so don't delay!  Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blooming Red

Blooming Red: Christmas Poetry for the Rational (Volume 1)My writing partner Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I figure that nothing is more meaningful at any holiday than a poem - a real poem, not sing-song impersonal limericks from the shelves of card shops.  With that in mind we've created the Celebration Series of chapbooks and have just released our 4th book, Blooming Red: Christmas Poetry for the Rational.  Literature lovers everywhere can order these chapbooks, with full-cover covers by prize-winning artist Vicki Thomas, for only $3 each.  That's $75 for 25 of the most memorable holiday greetings you've ever sent out.  It's a budget-concious gift and card all in one.  The book includes a range of poetry inspired by the end of year holidays.

The chapbooks in the Celebration Series include Cherished Pulse (for anyone you love), also with artwork from Vicki Thomas; She Wore Emerald Then (for mothers on your gift list) with photographs by May Lattanzio; Imagining the Future: For Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions (for the men in your life). And now Blooming Red for the special folks on your holiday list.  All are available individually at only $6.95 on Amazon, but are only $3 each when ordered in quantities of 25 or more directly from the poets.  Put HOLIDAY ORDER in the subject line and send an e-mail to Carolyn. She will make arrangements with you directly for the additional shipping cost for the number you order.

Here's a sample poem from the collection read by me:  Silent Symphony

and another:

Carol to the Universe

Take down the tree
tinsel trash tidied
broken baubles swept
garbage bag wrappings
through greedhaze
glitter snowglobe
lights off
into the new

A carol to the universe
held in one breath
between motion
and inertia
kiss of the godless
earth mother lump
to her quantum
every tap of the keyboard
a newbie springs forth.

No need for
leather clad rulebooks
ark over flood
fatherly edicts
no sacrifices in blood

This is a rational zone
so many years on

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Karen Cioffi's Day's End Lullaby

Day's End LullabyDay's End Lullaby
By Karen Cioffi and Robyn Feltman
BookSurge Publishing
Paperback: 28 pages, September 2, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-1419691577

Routine is the heart of any good sleep routine for young children, and reading a ‘wind-down’ story is perfect for that. It’s a moment of closeness and warmth that children take with them into the night and can provide the kind of security that not only leads to a good night’s sleep (every parent’s ideal), but to a broader sense of general security that underlies so much of the insecurity that comes with growing up. So a book that facilitates the end of day routine for young children like Day’s End Lullaby, is more powerful than the simple rhyming text and soft images might suggest. One of the things I like most about this storybook is that it ends with the text in sheet music – a song that you could sing to your child after reading the book and looking at the pictures. Sing it softly, in a voice that fades out towards the end, and a goodnight kiss is all you need to send your child off to a delicious slumber. The images themselves are in marker, crayon and acrylic, and effectively convey the transition between the high energy of day and the delicate rest of night. The use of rhyme, colour and music is perfectly proportioned, making this a lovely gift book for any young child.

Karen Cioffi is a published author, ghostwriter-for-hire, freelance writer, and reviewer. She is the creator and manager of VBT Writers on the Move (a marketing group of authors utilizing cross-promotion and a number of promotional strategies); co-moderator of a children’s critique group; on the team at DKV Writing 4 U (offers professional and affordable writing services, blog and basic website creation); and an acquisitions editor intern. More information about Karen can be found at her website:


Tommorow, Viriginia Grenier is hosting Margaret Fieland at her blog The Writing Mama. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Adopt-A-Dog Book giveaway

October is National Adopt-A-Dog Month, and to celebrate, Hatchette have kindly offered a delightful book pack including the following doggie themed books:

Katie Up and Down the Hall By Glenn Plaskin
Oogy By Larry Levin
GoD and DoG By Wendy Francisco
Dog Tags By David Rosenfelt
How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend By The Monks of New Skete

This giveaway is open to the US and Canada addresses only (sorry dog lovers in other parts of the world - I'll get something for you soon) and no PO Boxes. I'll choose a winner with my famous random selection tool on the 10th of November.  To enter, just send me an email with your postal address and the subject line "adopt-a-dog giveaway."  You can also enter by commenting on this post, but you might like to keep your postal address private (I'll delete all emails once I've chosen a winner).

Happy doggie month all you dog lovers.  With all the chickens and bunnies running around my place, a dog wouldn't be such a good idea, but I send dog wishes to you nonetheless, and also recommend that you celebrate by reading Paul Auster's terrific Timbuktoo if you haven't already.  Mr Bones is the perfect literary dog protagonist.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bookless Library - terrifying or visionary?

I don't quite know why, but I'm just a little creeped out by the idea of a bookless library.  Silly I know, as it's probably the way of the future -- online library facilities like the one I use at the Uni of Newcastle are mega convenient, and have saved me many hours and provided me with resources I could never access in the past without access to a large city facility.  The 16 story National Library of Singapore is a classic example, with its use of radio-frequency identification (RFID), and the use of electronic borrowing.  It's visionary, and without doubt, the future of libraries and a smart way to bring in more readers and service a global population.

The world is changing, and I'm something of an IT geek myself, yet...

I just love visiting our little local library.  The librarians all know me, and my kids just like to browse through the books, the DVDs, the CDs, and talking books to find gems they didn't know they wanted.  You can't do that so easily online.  The librarian sometimes tells me about books he knows I'll love.  They get all excited when I come and read from my books.  They visit local schools and talk to the schoolchildren.  They have storytime and 'books and bickies', and exhibit local artwork, and help people jobseek and it's just so nice and warm - a place that I can walk into anytime, even if I don't plan on taking something out, and sit at one of the tables and just read, relax, and feel utterly, invariably, at home.  I'd so miss it if it became a virtual space rather than a real place. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview with Brigitte A. Thompson

Today's guest is Brigitte A. Thompson, founder and President of Datamaster Accounting Services, LLC. She has been active in the field of accounting since 1986 and is a member of the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers and the Vermont Tax Practitioners Association. A prolific writer, Brigitte is the author of several business books, contributing author and freelance writer specializing in accounting topics. Her business has been featured in best selling book by Paul & Sarah Edwards, The Entrepreneurial Parent, and in Mompreneurs Online by Patricia Cobe & Ellen Parlapiano. Brigitte lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont with her husband and three children, and drops by today to talk about her book Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers.

Tell us what Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers is about.

Writers have many important questions to ask about income and expenses, but no single source for answers. I created this book, Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers, to be that source. It is an easy-to-understand guide to organizing a writer’s financial life.

This book addresses issues writers face daily such as how to deduct travel expenses, determine taxable writing income, and claim home office deductions. Navigating through the recordkeeping required for a small business owner can be difficult. This book is written exclusively for those of us who earn money by writing.

Readers will also find that each part of this book works together to assist in forming an overall business plan. The chapters take the writer through a comprehensive process that works as a building block towards a successful writing business.

Have you found that freelance writers require a different set of bookkeeping rules?

Many bookkeeping rules are universal such as the requirement to record income, but there are some areas of the tax law that are of more interest to freelance writers. This includes dealing with royalty payments, bartering, personal property and agent fees. My book addresses the universal tax rules as well as the infrequently discussed rules that apply specifically to freelance writers.

Learning how to document expenses and how to track income will give writers the best chance at overall business success.

What are some tax deductions that freelance writers might not be aware of?

There are many tax deductions available to writers. Some expenses are common, such as the cost of purchasing a case of paper or paying for a computer software upgrade. Other costs incurred in the operation of your writing business may not jump out at you as expenses when they could be. For example, consider the following accounts.

Mileage: Trips made in your vehicle to pick up office supplies can be counted as a business deduction if you record the proper information to support it.

Meals: Treating your agent to a restaurant meal with the discussion focusing on your next book can also generate a tax deduction when properly documented.

Shipping: UPS charges and postage used to mail a query or review copy of your book can be a small expense, but it should still be tracked. Those small deductions add up and every penny spent as a qualified business expense will reduce the amount of income tax you owe.

Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers devotes an entire chapter to expenses including a comprehensive listing of expenses and detailed information regarding what documentation is required to support each one.

I'm sure you've observed other freelance writers making accounting missteps that cost them time and money. What are some of the most common issues and how can we avoid them?

The most common misstep I’ve seen with writers is not taking themselves seriously as business owners. This can lead to financial pitfalls. Many writers have been honing their craft for years so it’s hard to identify an official starting date for their self-employment. Without this point to mark the beginning, it is easy to put off tracking income and expenses. This can be an unfortunate mistake.

The IRS will consider you to be in business when you are actively pursuing projects intended to generate income and expenses. This means they will expect you to file a tax return to report those transactions. Keeping track of your income and expenses from day one will enable you to pay the least amount of income taxes on the money you earn.

Many people find numbers, especially when related to bookkeeping and taxes, intimidating. Will this book make these things easier to understand"?

Yes, my book breaks down complicated number crunching into easy to follow steps. By reading the book, readers will understand why it's important to keep certain receipts and how those pieces of paper factor into the overall success of their writing business. Sometimes knowing the reasoning behind a task makes it easier to complete.

Writers can take advantage of some wonderful tax deductions, but only when they are aware of the possibility and know how to accurately document the expenses. My book explains it all in a reader friendly format.

What are some of the challenges readers face with regards to bookkeeping?

I found the most common challenge writers face revolves around what they can claim as income and what counts as a tax deduction. For example, if their first job is writing the school newsletter, is the money received really income? Do they need to do something with the Internal Revenue Service before they can be considered a business? How do they handle self- employment tax?

The second most common concern for the freelance writers is related to proper documentation. What receipts did they need to save? How should they be kept? What information needs to be recorded to prove the expense? These are all great questions and they are addressed in the book.

Why is it important for writers to understand bookkeeping?

Writers are earning money and this money needs to be reported as income on their income tax return. If writers do not have any expenses to claim, their taxable income will be higher and they will owe more income tax.

Understanding what can be claimed as business expenses when you are a writer and how to properly document these expenses will help ensure the success of your business.

The most important thing you can do as a writer is to become organized. There are many books available on how to organize your writing, but this is the best book available about how to organize the financial side of your writing business.

Obviously, your book is a great place for writers to get information on bookkeeping. Are there are any other resources you recommend?

Yes, I recommend writers visit the IRS web site ( to research specific tax issues and the Small Business Administration ( for general business information.

I also recommend joining professional associations for writers such as American Society of Journalists and Authors (, The Authors Guild ( and National Writers Union ( There are many groups to choose from so consider the benefits of membership before joining.

I was interviewed recently by Freelance Success ( which offers an insightful newsletter for their members. There are also online groups for writers such as MomWriters ( offering networking opportunities as well as camaraderie.

How can we purchase your book?

Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers is available through and my publisher ( Any local bookstore can order my book by ISBN-10: 0963212389 or ISBN-13: 978-0963212382. List price is $17.95.

Brigitte is also teaching an online class Sept 29th through the Freelancers Union and I'd love to have it included.  It's called Bookkeeping Basics and here is the link:

Brigitte and I are part of the VBT Writers on the Move Group. Continue on with the VBT by visiting Virginia S Grenier's blog for an interview with author Karen Cioffi.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A very global Father's Day

It's an odd thing but, while Mother's Day is the same worldwide, Father's Day differs everywhere.  It's June in a lot of places (including the US, where my own father lives), but Sept in the Antipodes (where I am), March in Italy, and Dec in Bulgaria - just to pick a few places at random.  Wherever you are, it's never a bad time to give your dad a little nudge and wave, and maybe even a hug if you're in proximity.  This Father's Day, I'd like to honor my grandfather, who is no longer alive, but with whom I had a kind of special affinity.  He wasn't a particularly easy man to get along with, but I always found his company pleasurable, his stories rich, and his energy well aligned with my own.  Here's a little poem I wrote for him. 

Grandpa’s Birds

In the stark reflection of his blue eyes,
bluer than the cloud filled sky (no clouds – even the cataracts are gone)
which opens out above his grave
there are pigeons.

Pigeons emerging from their cardboard box
a surprise gift of joy and youth
filling the otherwise world-weary air
from one grandparent to the other
from one village to the next
their homing instinct
so different from mine
so sure.

I stood there, a child frozen in time
small, awestruck
watching them disappear.

He watched them arrive
as he knew they would
his faithful pigeons
my message on their legs
safe in their coops on the roof
he took one out, stroked its wing muscles
cooing his deepest secrets
those inarticulate dreams English couldn’t handle
the broken heart, that eventually stopped his own flight.

In his sightless eyes
the birds still fly
a freedom he knew, instinctively
even when utterly grounded
a man of the sky
returning always to his home.

Imagining the Future: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions (Volume 1)"Grandpa's Birds" is reprinted from the book Imagining the Future: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparations, written in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson.  It forms part of our celebration series.   The poem also won the Lake Macquarie Literary Awards local poet prize.