Sunday, January 16, 2011

Self-Publishing Success Story

An uplifting story about an author who started her career by self-publishing and then finding an agent. 

Self-publishing is still an option for me - especially after reading such an exhilarating account as this. Though I'm sure there's a lot of work and elbow-grease involved, and your product, i.e. the book, has to be the best it can be to garner long-term fans. 

All things considered, I'm not going to go for self-publishing in the near future. I still haven't shopped all possible agents yet, and I want to go through one more run of reviews, change my main character's profession. That's postponed until February, and when that is done, I plan on sending out the next few queries. And keep writing my next book. 

Keep persevering, period.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Another Book Cover Making-Of

Here's another video about book cover design, this time about the photo shoot for the Dante Valentine Omnibus by Lilith Saintcrow. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

What Natural Catastrophes Can Teach Us

The center of my hometown is flooded!


In Brazil, 500 people died of severe flooding in the last two days. This week, thousands of Brisbane and Ipswich residents have been displaced by the worst floods the region has endured in 37 years; 67 suburbs were swallowed by the waters.

What a terrible reminder to us that we need to take better care of our world, our home, our only sanctuary. I don't know what the situation is in Brazil and Australia, nor whether floods like this are caused by global warming or not; and surely floods occurred even before we started polluting the air. But when our cellars and houses run full and our towns are reduced to rubble by muddy rushing water, it's our own fault. We straighten our rivers, clog the ground with asphalt, cut down trees and compact the soil on the fields until nature can no longer compensate large masses of water.

And what for? As always, it all comes down to money. Rivers are straightened and trees cut down so that houses, factories, malls can be built. Roads and parking lots are built to accomodate the ever-growing masses of vehicles zipping around, carrying people to and from work, and goods from one continent to the next. The soil is compacted by agricultural overuse and contaminated with toxins, never allowed to rest and recover, to breathe. All for the sake of turning the pennies.

Money makes the world go round. At least, that's our philosophy. Our world has ways of showing us that's complete hogwash. Of course, we need money. We need food. We need places to live. But I'm positive we can have all we want and more, if we work with our planet, not against it. This world provides everything we need to live and be happy. For all of us. If we only let it.

Money is just a means to an end. It's neither good nor bad. It's our attitudes towards it and how we use it that corrupt it, makes us forget why and how we're here at all. 

Love makes the world go round.

And now I'm getting off my soap-box - I fear it grew rather high in the last few paragraphs...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Commenting On Other Peoples' Blogs

A little over a week ago, ex-literary agent Nathan Bransford wrote a blog post titled How to Write a Good Blog Comment. In it, he says:

Writing excellent blog comments is perhaps the very best way to build your own blog and/or social media presence. Consider a blog comment an audition to show off your own personal awesomeness. 


The very best way to be noticed isn't with one really great comment, but rather with consistently good comments in the same place(s) over time. If you become a regular and valued commenter on a blog or site, the other readers of that site will take notice and are more likely to come your way.

Very valid points, in my opinion. As a writer in today's times, being present in the Social Media can help a lot concerning marketing yourself - even for unpublished writers, I believe. As Nathan says, if done well, it can attract the attention of 'important' people in publishing. Which is why I've decided to comment on one blog post of my blog list per day. 

Let awareness for me in the blogo- and social-networking-sphere rise to a whole new level!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Torn - A Short Story

This was a short story I wrote for a fun challenge on Patricia Briggs' board, Hurog. The main element had to be a stuffed hippo, and it had to be 2000 words max. I came in second with two others. :-) 

by Pia Newman

The attic was a mess. Books and toys were scattered on banged-up shelves and strewn over the floor next to boxes of electronic equipment and the remains of ancient garden chairs. Mom’s old handbags and shoes, which she never had the heart to get rid of, were thrown in a messy pile in one corner beside a heap of smelly old blankets and pillows.

I hoped I could navigate through the melee on my crutches without falling on my butt. I let my eyes roam the chaos, hoping to hook on bright red fabric or white fluffy toy innards. The last time I’d seen Schnoz, he was in four pieces, and the stuffing was bleeding out of holes where his head and legs had once been.

“If he’s still here anywhere, then upstairs in the attic,” mom had told me yesterday on the phone in a hesitant voice.

She was enjoying a week at a health resort, which was why she couldn’t help me look for him up here, or at least help me up the narrow stairs to the attic. I wasn’t sure she’d help me look for him even if she were here. She hated Schnoz, because Kaley and I always used to fight over him quite viciously.

Which was how he ended up torn limb from limb, unable to hold up under the strain of both of us pulling on him as we tried to rip him out of each others hands. We’d been fourteen at the time, far too old in mom’s opinion to be fighting over a stuffed hippo.

I’ll never forget the look of horror on Kaley’s face nor the feeling inside me that matched it, when Schnoz ripped apart between us. She was suddenly holding only his big-nosed head while I clutched his right leg in one hand and the left leg in the other, his fat little torso dangling from one leg, held only by a few threads. Kaley screamed and threw the decapitated widely-smiling head at me, then tackled me.

Mom stopped our brawl by taking Schnoz’s busted pieces away from us and hiding them so well that even after three days of combined searching – we reconciled for the purpose of looking for him – we weren’t able to find him.

She never gave him back to us, although she swore at the time that she didn’t throw him away. Yesterday on the phone she wasn’t so sure about it anymore.

I needed to make sure.

I went through the clutter clumsily, leaning on my crutches as I bent down to move stuff around. But after half an hour of awkward searching, I turned my back on the attic empty-handed. He wasn’t here.

I drove home in my specially fitted car in despair. I had the feeling that Schnoz had been my last hope. I had hoped he could bring Kaley and me back together again.


Back at home I hobbled to the kitchen, turned on the stove to heat up some baked beans on toast, got a bottle of coke out of the fridge and sat down to think. The picture I’d dug up the other day, which got me pondering about Kaley again, was still lying on the table. It had been taken a few years before Schnoz’s ‘death’. It showed Kaley and me, looking like exact copies, each with an arm lying around the others’ shoulders. Schnoz was wedged between our arms as if linked with us. He looked pretty mangled even then; one small ear sewed back on, one button-eye dangling lower than the other, crooked teeth in the grinning big jaws, and the once fluffy red ‘fur’ matted. We hadn’t seen those flaws, though – to us, he was perfect in every way, the perfect conspirator, and the perfect friend.

The coke tasted flat to me today, putting me in an even worse mood. I racked my brain for another option but none came. I got up and prepared my dinner so I wouldn’t sit around uselessly, biting my fingernails.

For almost three years, Kaley and I hadn’t spoken to each other. Yesterday, finally, looking at the photo again, I thought of a way to show her that I was sorry about everything.

I wanted to repair Schnoz and give him to her as a peace offering for our birthday, which was in a week. I hoped she’d understand the gesture.

Or I had hoped. But Schnoz was gone. I had no peace offering.

While I ate, I stared at my crutches leaning against the table. They still reminded me of the accident every day, but I’d learned to live with them, and with my shattered legs.

Kaley had been driving the car when we crashed. She swerved to avoid a deer darting onto the road, and the car coming towards us hit the passenger side where I was sitting. Kaley got out of the wreck with only a scratch on her forehead. I was pulled out by the fire brigade with my legs mangled beyond recognition.

Once again, she came out of the situation the winner. It took me a long time to realise that was my real reason for hating her. At first, all I knew was that I was mad at her. I accused her of doing it on purpose. I told her it was her fault I was in this crippled state, that she would rather sacrifice me than hit an animal. She apologised, begged my forgiveness, saying it was just a stupid accident. I didn’t want to hear it. And I especially didn’t want to see her. When I looked at her I saw myself as I should be, whole and healthy and beautiful, and I couldn’t bear it. Finally she gave up trying to talk to me. One day, after another yelling match, she just didn’t come to the hospital anymore, and I was glad.

Mom and dad tried to get us to reconcile again. Until dad died of a heart attack in the same year as the accident.

Kaley and I both attended the funeral, but we didn’t speak a word to each other. I was still in a wheelchair, and when I saw her standing at the grave, tragic and beautiful, I couldn’t do anything but hate her. She didn’t once try to talk to me. Mom was mad. She said the rough iron ore miners dad had worked with showed more respect for him than we did. She told us she wouldn’t celebrate Christmas with us if we behaved like this every time we met.

So for the last three years Mom had met us separately at Christmas.

Last Christmas, one of her gifts to me was this photo of Kaley and me and Schnoz, a picture of together-times. She slipped it into the new paperback she gave me, and it fluttered out from between the pages when I unwrapped it. Neither mom nor I said a word about it, and I found myself unable to throw it away. Instead, I got into the habit of staring at it for long times, remembering little details of our childhood.

I still did that.

I felt no anger anymore. My wounds had healed as well as possible, and I’d accepted my fate. Now I only felt sad and lonely. I missed my twin, my other half.

I wished I had the courage to go see her, go up to her, hug her, and say ‘It’s all my fault. I’m sorry.’ But I didn’t.

Talking was her strength, not mine. I was the listener. People with problems came to me but people who wanted to have fun went to her. She was the witty one, the funny one, the bold one, the one in the spot-light. I always stood in her shadow and felt cheated; why did I look like her when I couldn’t be like her? Being a cripple only deepened that feeling, and I made sure she knew how I felt. I knew I made her feel bad and that my accusations were born out of spite, not truth.

I hurt her more than she had ever hurt me.

So I needed Schnoz. He was the only way for me to show her that I was really, truly, sorry.


The phone rang, interrupting my thoughts, making me jump. I grabbed the photo and one crutch, hobbled over to the phone and took it off the charger, then carried it to the couch on which I sat down before pushing the button.


“It’s me,” Nicole’s cheerful voice chimed over the line. “I was wondering what you had planned for your birthday. You’ll want to celebrate this year, surely!”

Until the accident, Kaley and I always celebrated together. Of course that had stopped, like the Christmases.

“I don’t think --” I began, but Nicole interrupts me.

“You need to get out and have some fun,” she said in slightly accusing tones. “You’ll never get rid of your gloomy thoughts if you sit at home all day thinking them!”

Nicole was my best friend. I met her at rehab where she underwent the same physical therapy as I. If my rage at Kaley was the ship that carried me across the deep waters, then Nicole was the anchor that kept the ship from drifting far out to sea. Nicole was one of those amazing people who could laugh at the limp in their walk and feel good in spite of it. She could coax a smile out of anyone.

“I know, Nic,” I told her with a sigh. “But who would I invite?”

“Me, of course,” she said with a grin in her voice. “Dan, our cute physical therapist. And how about your mom and sister? You said yesterday you want to get in touch with Kaley again – what better occasion than your birthday?”

Yes, what better occasion? Though the problem remained that without Schnoz to speak for me, I’d have to talk to her. I looked down at the photo again. The good eye in the big-nosed red face gleamed.

“I have an idea,” I said.


I wrote a formal-looking invitation, using expensive letter paper and a fountain pen.

Dear Kaley,
I’m planning a little party on our birthday starting at 3 pm at my place.
Please be there, too.

I couldn’t bring myself to write more emotion into the letter than the simple ‘please’.

I tucked the letter into a beautiful envelope alongside the photo of us with Schnoz. If the real Schnoz couldn’t help me, this memory of him and us would just have to do.

I sealed the envelope, stuck a stamp on it and brought it to the letterbox, throwing it in with nerves jangling in my belly.


About two hours later, the mail man arrived with a package. I signed the slip of paper he held out to me, then went inside and opened it, expecting the medication I ordered last week. But it was something different.

Inside the crude post office box were a beautiful carton and a matching envelope. I opened the envelope first. Inside I found a letter on beautiful paper, written in black ink.

Dear Jude,
Our birthday is coming up, and I don’t want to face it alone again. It would mean the world to me if you came to my celebration at my apartment at 3pm on that day.
I am truly sorry for all that happened.
Love Kaley.

For several moments after reading the letter, I stared down at the carton in a daze. Then suddenly I couldn’t get the lid off quickly enough to see what was inside.

Matted red fur and a large boat-nose. A crooked ear and a dangling eye. Stitches running around the neck and legs. No white stuffing in sight.

Scarred, but whole. Kaley had sewed him back together!

With trembling hands I lifted the stuffed red hippopotamus out of the carton. As I pressed my face into Schnoz’s nose, inhaling his familiar musty scent, I could have sworn that his good eye winked at me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On Edge Without Writing - My Circle Of Happiness

I realized something this weekend: it's impossible for me to put down my "joy-writing" for even a couple of weeks.

For the last two weeks, whenever I've sat down in front of the computer to write, it was to write my thesis - something that (ultimately) earns me money. My current novel in progress - which I'll be lucky to see any money for in approximately three years time - is on the backburner. I haven't even touched my notebook on it. And I'm going nuts. I feel antsy, like when I don't do anything physical other than trudging from the sofa to the kitchen for three days. There's all this creative energy bubbling inside me, aching to be used, and I keep pushing it away. Now it's demanding to be used. The last two nights I dreamed about writing and the book, which has never happened before. I don't even register people talking to me because I'm deeply in trance about my story. I have this deadline-feeling, even though I haven't even set myself one, but not being able to write is just making me... on edge.

This blog post so far doesn't even make much sense. Definitely not one of my shining stars. But I think it perfectly demonstrates my mysery and frustration, and the gnawing-the-steering-wheel set of my mind.

I can't not (novel-) write. Not even for two weeks.

Amazing, really. A miracle. Not only to have this "gift" (the future will tell whether I'm really all that gifted), but to know what it is, to be able to use it, to live it. To know that maybe someday I can share it by publishing my stories. Even if I don't, it enriches my life because it's what I enjoy doing most. I can live my dream.

So I will, thesis be damned. The thesis is important, but it's 'only' the thing that earns me some money - which is necessary, of course, but it's not what makes me happy. And I need to be happy to write a good thesis/be good at my job. Vicious circle. The circle of happiness.

From this day on, I'll start novel-writing again, at least an hour a day. If I don't, I'll end up in one of these...

... instead of feeling like this:

Find your Circle of Happiness. Live it. Enjoy it.

What else is life for?

On that note, don't miss this this blog post.

The Making Of A Book Cover

How cool is this?!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Short Post On Busy New Year And Newest Rejection

Happy New Year!

Already it is a busy one for me. I'm in the last strokes of writing my thesis and have several job interviews lined up every week. My personal for-pleasure-novel writing has been shelved until February. I miss it but the days just don't have enough hours these days. 

Just after New Year, Agent #2 of the first three chapters wrote a rejection. I guess it's a good thing I don't have the time to dwell on that right now.