Thursday, 31 January 2013

I've got a literary agent ...

Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop 2012
... for the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop! (hehe, yeah, I'm terrible ...)

Those who know me, know that last year the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop debuted, and it was a fabulous success. You can check out some photos of last year's event here.

This year ... the line-up and workshops are even BIGGER and BETTER. We have two instructors this year. Katharine Sands, a literary agent with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, and Beatriz Badikian-Gartler, a popular performer in the Chicago area who often lectures on women's issues, art, and literature. In 2000 Badikian was selected as one of the One-Hundred Women Who Make a Difference in Chicago by Today's Woman magazine.

Here's a quick rundown of the workshops that will be held. But make sure you visit the website for the majority of the details, as there will be plenty of excursions and events to attend as well!

Workshops by Katharine Sands:

You will learn:

Up-to-the-minute tools to organize your thoughts and plan all aspects of your writing and book projects.

Methods of Instruction:
▸ Lectures and Exercises: In-Class Review of Writing, Projects, Query Letters, Proposals and Agreement(s).


Introduction to all of the possibilities for your writing to succeed in the new media and literary marketplace. The workshop will provide perspectives on how the Internet is reinventing the writer in the rapidly changing media world. Sessions will spur discussion on how to effectively work with new tools and practices as well as the creative aspects.


Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop 2012
Two workshops to cut through the mystery of getting an agent to want YOU and an editor to say YES .. .and the many ways to create a writing career in today's literary market. Whether you are incubating a concept or already writing a book learn tips on:
  • Practicing PitchCraft 
  • First Writes to Last Rights: the creative process, the submissions process, The acquisitions process. 


The wonderful world of promotion and publicity, including how to: get the word out.

Workshops by Beatriz Badikian-Gartler:

Workshop #01
SEE THE WORLD; WRITE THE STORY: Crafting the travel essay.

Workshop #02
I WRITE; THEREFORE, I AM: The personal/memoir essay.

Workshop #03

Workshop #04
SHORT-SHORTS: The art of minimalist writing.

Want to learn more? All the links on the retreat website are right here:

About Our Host | About Our 2013 Instructors | Workshops | When, Where, What & How | Accommodation |Events & Excursions | Testimonials | How to Get Here | Register Now! | Contact & Questions | Ithaca Inspires

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Ithaca: Isn't it beautiful?
Who wouldn't want to write, relax and learn here???

Have you ever been on a writer's retreat? What was the best thing about it?

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Artist Unleashed: THE BENEFITS OF BROAD CONNECTIONS, by LM Preston

The Artist Unleashed posts have moved to a new domain. Please click HERE to read the rest of this post and for the opportunity to comment. Just search for the title of the post in the search bar on the new site.

Monday, 28 January 2013

What goes through a literary magazine editor's head when writers don't follow guidelines?

1. FUCK.

2. Again? Seriously?

3. Should I email them and tell them to resubmit, or just delete it?

4. I could just deal with it and send them a reminder for next time ...

5. But then I'd be doing that a hundred times a month, and wasting my time.

6. Christ. Just delete it. It's their problem.

7. Um ... no, maybe that's too mean. Email them politely and ask them to resubmit.

8. But how is this my problem? They should have just read the guidelines. Not. My. Problem.

9. *hit delete button*

10. Feel relief.

11. Realize I've just wasted ten minutes contemplating what to do about a submission I'll never end up reading. Realize that I do it too often because I am only human and that there is another 'only-human' on the other end, and it's easy to make a mistake (or neglect reading guidelines out of laziness). Realize that if I keep this up I will have wasted: 10 minutes multiplied by 50 or so faulty submissions which equals 8.3 hours wasted in total. That's a WHOLE DAY! I promise myself I'll not do this again and will delete without thinking about it.

12. *click*

13. FUCK.

14. Again? Seriously? Is it really so hard?

15. *sigh* I can't just leave them hanging ...

See what your faulty submissions do to me? Please. Just get it right the first time and it will work out better for everyone. You are human. I am human (a kind one). We are all human. Unless of course, you're a dog. Respect what what goes on behind the scenes (a shit-load of work), please.

Next time, just remember, you are emailing a person, not a robot, and guidelines are there for a reason. They're there to ensure everything is done in a time-efficient manner. I want to spend time reading your wonderful work, not wasting time trying to make up for your laziness. If you were in my shoes, I think you would feel this way too.

How many times have you submitted work and not followed the guidelines thinking that it can't hurt?

Guess what? String Bridge has had a makeover. A new paperback will be out shortly too. I've also decided that, from now on, I will give away the digital version of the soundtrack with every purchase. All you have to do is send me your receipt via this form, and I'll email you a code to download the MP3s. Sound good? I reckon!

Friday, 25 January 2013

The 20p e-book, paid 5-star Amazon reviews and tags, Facebook bollocks and disappointments ...

There are a few things on my mind today. I could probably write a whole post about each, but I think, for my own sanity, I'm just going to gloss over them all so I don't get too worked up ...

1. The 20p e-book is starting to reshape the e-book market. You can read about it here. I'm scared. I'm scared that this will go on longer than just a marketing ploy and it will become the new 99 cent-er. Why am I scared? Not because of the price itself, but because of what the price represents. I feel that the industry is destroying the whole magic of buying and reading a book. With these prices, it's not special anymore. All it is, is competition. I feel the beauty of literature is being destroyed by greedy corporations. It's devaluing what we do. My opinion. There are many that would disagree with me.

2. There is a corporation that is selling 5-star Amazon reviews. You can read the full email Jodi Picoult received, on her Facebook fan page. But I shall copy and paste bits here. I quote:
"Hello. We’re an advertising studio Star5Amazon. ... We’re ready to work towards creating and maintaining an impeccable reputation of your books that will allow you to increase sales and attract new readers by means of excellent reviews. The price of one published review is $50. ... We know how to make the way of your book to five-star rating without causing suspicion. ... Neither automatic filter, nor people can tell where a review is written by a real user, and where it is written by our employees. If the review was banned, it will be replaced by a new one, free of charge. ... all activities are performed secretly, and no one will know that you are buying reviews."

3. Amazon seems to be removing tags from books. This is not good. Tags help readers find books. If there aren't any tags, then it's Amazon dictating the keyword searches, not the readers.

4.  Facebook have new advertising rules in place that are absolute bollocks. This is the email I received yesterday after trying to promote a post.
"Your promoted post wasn’t approved because more than 20% of your image is covered by text. As of 1/15/2013, this violates our Advertising Guidelines. Photos with too much text can be disruptive in news feed, where people are used to seeing photos of their friends and places in their lives. Use text sparingly to brand your image or add emphasis to what it’s showing."
What the HECK?

5. My contract with my small press has fallen through due to some unforeseen circumstances on their end. I am not lucky when it comes to publishing my books. So I'm back to square one. And I feel like crying. Seriously thinking of embracing the self-pub route completely. But I might just try my luck with a few more agents first ...

6. Now onto something a bit more positive. Check out this video of a brilliant Newfoundlander who has worked out how to make powerful solar panels out of soft drink cans! Maybe there's hope for us after all ...

Any thoughts on anything I've mentioned here? How do you feel about the 20p e-book? Buying 5-star Amazon reviews? Amazon removing tags? Facebook and all its illogical glory? This brilliant Newfoundlander? Tell me. I want to hear ...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


The Artist Unleashed posts have moved to a new domain. Please click HERE to read the rest of this post and for the opportunity to comment. Just search for the title of the post in the search bar on the new site.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Is self-publishing now the best option for non-mainstream authors?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the climate of the publishing industry lately. And no, I'm not going to complain about it (despite having many complaints I could shell out), I'm actually going to say that it's getting pretty exciting ...

... for authors.

The stigma attached to authors who self-publish, I think, is on its way to the paper shredder. Take a look at this article for a shred of hope.

On a less upbeat note, but still positive if you look at the bigger picture, authors are now getting the courage to self-publish, and feel proud to say that they have, due to the fact that, financially, if you're not selling millions of books, you are better off. It really is becoming the way to go if you don't write commercial hits that the Big 6 (or 5) claim to be "new and fresh", when really, they are just like all the other books on the shelves because they know they will score the big bucks. Roz Morris talks about this on her blog. Excellent article, you really should read it.

And what about the small press? I love to support the small press. Without the small press I would never have had my debut novel published and I would never have had the confidence to self-publish the books that I have. I also have a contract with a small press now, to publish my second novel. And I will see that through, because even though I know that they will not really do anything more for me than I can do for myself, (well this actually remains to be seen, I might be surprised), I still want to stick with them because I adore them and want the small press to thrive.

But ...

... this is not in my best interests anymore, is it? I'm doing really well with my self-published titles. Why would I want to hand over a percentage of my revenue when I'm ultimately doing all the work? I don't really. But I still want to give this small press a go to see if they can go beyond what I can do publicity-wise.

But if it doesn't, I will proudly call myself a self-published author. Because it's in my best interests. Unless I get an agent, and score a 6-figure deal with Penguin, then I think self-publishing is the best option for us now. Don't you?

What do you think?

PS: My novella, THE BOOK, is now available on Kindle.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #05 is now live. Plus, we're open for submissions!

*excerpt from the Vine Leaves Newsletter.

It is said that January was named after the god Janus, the two-faced “spirit of opening” with the ability to look both backwards into the old year and forwards into the new at the same time.

How appropriate for Vine Leaves, as we remember our first year with fondness, and literally float into 2013 on a cloud of success. This experience – from our humble beginnings as a quarterly journal through to the publication of our first anthology – is almost surreal, and it is with much pride, and gratitude, that we launch our fifth issue.

And, oh, how ethereal it is.

Much like Vic Caswell’s “Seaweed” graphic vignette, the artistry in our January issue will entangle you in powerful prose, and pull you into its depths with artwork that explodes with vivid hues, abstract imagery and photographic precision. From Sean Enfield’s brilliant Poem Written in a Gas Station Bathroom and Derwood Morris’ clever Story of Derwood, through to the emotional pull of Misty WatersGone, Gone, Gone, we invite you to get wrapped up in our fifth issue of Vine Leaves.

In the true spirit of opening, please turn the page (or click this link) ...

Submissions open!
Love Vine Leaves? Love to write? Perfect. Our submissions inbox for the April 2013 issue is now open! Send us your best snapshot in time -- poetry, prose, illustration, photograph or original artwork - for the opportunity to be published in our sixth issue, launching Friday, April 13th. How very lucky. Deadline for submissions is February 28, 2013. Remember, all published vignettes throughout 2013 will be considered for our annual "Best of" anthology.

Hurray! Our inboxes are overflowing with YOUR work. Poetry, prose, pictures and more - powerful vignettes that inspire us, excite us, and yeah, sometimes overwhelm us. Trust us, we're not complaining. But as the journal continues to grow, we recognize we can't do it all on our own, not while keeping our mandate of giving each submission the consideration it deserves. So, we're hiring.

Well, kind of. As you know, Vine Leaves is a labour of love and our work is volunteer. For us, it's more important that our contributors get paid (as minor as that is). But, quite frankly, what we don't take in cash reward, YOU give back in immeasurable riches - your support.

We're looking for a couple of passionate, dedicated and vignette-loving volunteer editors to help us navigate our impressive inbox. Interested? Great. We don't need a formal resume, but please e-mail your expression of interest along with a paragraph telling us WHY you want to join the Vine Leaves team and WHAT you think you could bring to the journal. We'll take it from there.

Deadline: February 28, 2013

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Though I didn't win, I got a pleasant surprise!

Last year I entered my poetry collection, Twisted Velvet Chains, into the 20th Annual Writer's Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards. If you know me well, you know that I'm quite against paying to submit things. But when it's something as prestigious as Writer's Digest, even I can sometimes be swayed.

When I hit that submit button though, I fretted. Big time. I thought I had set myself up for some major criticism. I thought that the conservative judges (well, that was an assumption on my part), wouldn't "get me". Oh how wrong I was!

I didn't win, but I received the judge's feedback today. Here's what it said:
Books were evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.
Twisted Velvet ChainsStructure and Organization: 4

Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot (if applicable): N/A

Character Development (if applicable): N/A
What did you like best about this book?
Twisted Velvet Chains by Jessica Bell is a soul-wrenching collection successfully focusing on the mother-daughter angst in most such relationships, yet she goes deeper, because the relationship goes deeper, through childhood and teen and young adult scenarios.

Poems like "Gothic Neanderthal" and lines like: Grey netting hangs / from naked papery breasts, / dark purple tulle / fastened round her waist / black smudges / smeared 'cross her face. / patterned like lace / wet stringy hair / sticks / to her brow / her neck / wet cotton / sweat / toxic breath / menstruation blood / the onion soup we ate for lunch / I dry-wretch" // ... are potent, visceral.
This is a strong and well-represented collection. Kudos to Jessica Bell.
How can the author improve this book?
Very little raised red flags. I suppose the cover could have been a little bit sharper. The interior was well done. Overall, a very nice book.
Oh. My. Gosh. I am so thrilled! A "proper" judge liked my work. Now this is enough for me to gain confidence in my poetry again. Recently I've been thinking that I'm crap, as you most likely know, writers' emotions are frequently in flux.

Will I enter again this year? Yup. But this time I'm going to enter my new novella.

How do you feel about competitions like these? Worth it? Have you had any good/bad experiences with writing competitons? What impact did these experiences have on you?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Artist Unleashed: WRITING TO FIT A PURPOSE, NOT A TREND, by Shevi Arnold

The Artist Unleashed posts have moved to a new domain. Please click HERE to read the rest of this post and for the opportunity to comment. Just search for the title of the post in the search bar on the new site.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


I've got a new book coming out! Woop! The 155-page novella launches February 1. If there is anyone who would like to help me promote, please let me know, I'd be ever so grateful!

I'm not organizing any structured blog tour. Just going to go with the flow. I don't want to get stressed about it like I always do when a new book comes out. This time, to keep calm, it's going to be "no big deal".

Yeah ... right. :-)

Until Feb 1, you can add it to Goodreads!

Monday, 14 January 2013

I don't cook or bake much. But sometimes I do. And when I do, prepare to salivate.

I don't cook or bake much. In fact, if I do, I surprise myself so much that I look at my hands in awe and say "wow, you're kidding, right? You're making this?" Yup.

But while I was in Australia I made a gingerbread house for the family Christmas dinner, and it was so much fun! In all fairness, my sister made the dough this time, but I've made it myself before so I know that I can do it. Yeah right, you say? Seriously! I can make this. Aw, why don't you believe me???

Want pics? You got it ...

the dough

rolling the dough

cutting out the templates

using the templates to cut the dough

windows ...

enough pieces for two houses

the attics

starting to build using icing as cement

getting there ... (that's my sister :-)

Have you ever made a gingerbread house? How long did it take you? This baby took me around NINE hours. Yup. And it was worth it. But no one at dinner wanted to be the one to break it apart! Guess who did it? My uncle, Jim. The cop :-)

Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year! It's great to be back.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Artist Unleashed: WHERE TO LINKIN PARK? by Angela Brown

The Artist Unleashed posts have moved to a new domain. Please click HERE to read the rest of this post and for the opportunity to comment. Just search for the title of the post in the search bar on the new site.