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Snowflake

Last week I mentioned a childhood favourite read: Snowflake by Paul Gallico. Oddly, the religious aspects of the story escaped me as a child. Whatever one’s belief this is such… I want to say gentle story, but I recall parts making me cry and the reading didn’t feel gentle at all. I was an infant and parts of the story left me feeling raw… and I adored every moment, the good and the bad. This is the full version read and accompanied by a song by Peter Gabriel.

Ten Memorable Titles

Someone tagged me some time ago on Facebook and again this week, so having answered this once before, I’m re-posting this. The way the game works is to list ten titles that have stayed with you. They don’t have to be the ‘right’ books, and you shouldn’t think about it too long — just ten which have touched you and stayed with you. Then you nominate ten more people to play the game.

My problem was sticking to ten, and sticking to the ‘stayed with you in some way’, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as favourite books and authors.

Here, I’m including the list but with a variation on the theme adding explanations. Slight cheat — the first is two by one author, and there are a couple of trilogies.

In no particular order:

The Happy Prince/Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince read as a child, and I cried my eyes out. Well, not literally and that would be gross, but yes, I sobbed. Hey, I was like nine or younger, and the first time I heard the story, someone else read it to me. It would probably still make my lips tremble. It has everything: morality, romance, heart-wrenching pain. A Picture of Dorian Gray is just one of those stories never forgotten. As is often the case, my first awareness of this tale was the old black and white film. I didn’t get to read the book until my teens, but it’s an undeniable classic.

Gormenghast (trilogy/first two books) by Mervyn Peake

Not only a story that has touched and stayed with me, it’s one of my favourites, if not ‘the’ favourite owing to the scope of imagination, the names given to the characters, but most of all the richness of the language used, something sadly lacking in most books today.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I adore this ‘other world’ below London in this urban fantasy. For Doctor Who fans, it may interest you to know that Peter Capaldi played the Angel Islington in the 1996 television series, but it is the novelisation that stayed with me. Again, I love the names given to the characters, and the idea of an ordinary man dragged into an extraordinary world, especially one beneath London.

Wraeththu (trilogy) by Storm Constantine

This is possibly the author’s most well-known and outstanding work. A futuristic fantasy of post-apocalyptic proportions told through the eyes of three characters (one per book). The story follows Wreaththu — hermaphrodite beings who are skillful with forms of magic — and their interaction with humans. Romantic, but questioning perceptions of sexuality and people’s humanity/inhumanity to each other, there’s more going on here to those with an open mind.

Snowflake by Paul Gallico

A child’s book that I’ve seen nowhere since. I last tried searching for it about five years ago, but it wasn’t available, and I think I only found one listing for it. I have no need of an actual replacement, though mine is so old and well-read, it’s now lacking a cover and is just a very thin volume of aged yellowing pages. In short, Snowflake is born, goes on many adventures, falling in love with Raindrop and then, at the dramatic conclusion, returns to the sky. It had everything for a child — adventure, romance, and even self-sacrifice. I loved (and kept) so many of my childhood books, but this is my most-loved.

Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

My first ‘adventure’ for an older reader, and I’ve chosen it because it’s linked to the one good clear memory I have of my mother. She read it to me long before I could read it myself. She must have read it, at my request, about three times before I was able to take over. I still have the little burgundy covered book she gave me. Owing to her ill health, I don’t have many memories like that so her reading Tom Sawyer is priceless.

Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh

Only read once, but I loved this book and remember it well. Some might see it as an argument against religion, but I think more than that it illustrates what man can do to each other using religion as an excuse. I especially like the story behind the book, that everyone turned it down, so Jill Paton Walsh self-published when it was much harder to do than it is now. It won a Booker prize — before they changed the rules to disallow self-published titles.

The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson

It was a close call between this and I Am Legend, but this just pips it for me. My first memory of the story was once again the old black and white movie. Who can forget the battle with the giant spider? Some love spiders, some hate them, some have this strange love/hate affinity with them. I think their webs are beautiful and amazing. The spider is incredible. I just don’t want to come across one unexpectedly. In short, my earliest recollections were of that chill down one’s spine at the thought of battling a giant spider. I hadn’t read the book until recently, and likely had a preconceived notion of what to expect. The book, though accurate to the film, differs vastly in that it’s more emotional. I didn’t expect to experience so many emotions, including such sadness spliced with sympathy for the main character, in what many assume is a horror story.

Nocturnes by John Connolly

I like John Connolly’s work. I’m often perplexed by how he seems to break so many ‘rules’, particularly with his Charlie Parker novels — including both first and third person viewpoints, and even telling the story omnipresently when relating something that happened in the past. Not all writers can even manage point of view changes successfully, but it seems to suit his style, his ‘voice’. I included Nocturnes because I was surprised to come across a collection of short stories with gothic influences. They are both olde-worlde and new.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Best known for writing One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and the sequel The Starlight Barking. Yes, 101 had a sequel, and I have both books. I Capture the Castle has one of the best opening sentences. As John Steinbeck’s end to Of Mice and Men is startling, the most memorable thing about Dodie Smith’s first novel for adults has always been the line that begins, “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

The Wolf Moon

My short story The Wolf Moon finally released the other week and continues my foray into Dark Fiction. I plan to blog another time about how the story came into being (will be guest-blogging with the publisher at a future date), but for now, the story can be found in the Fox Spirit anthology Winter Tales. Though these tales may seem surprising to my romance readers, this type of fiction is where I started. What’s held me back from pursuing more in this genre is the lack of an idea to produce a full-length novel. I’ve written long romances and long steampunk stories, and played with numerous themes, but nothing that comes close to the darkness explored in my short stories…until now. I’m pleased to say I’ve an idea that’s nagging at me. The trouble is, right now I don’t have the time to write it. I’m working on a project that I just submit soon although I don’t know whether it will be suitable, and I’ve promised to re-work and re-release some romances. This basically involves as much editing as writing. I’m ploughing ahead as fast as my muse and ability to type will allow.

Fox Spirit was a good publisher to add to my Dark Fiction resume: shortlisted for the Best Indie Press twice in three years by the British Fantasy Society, their mission statement summarises the belief that day to day life lacks a few things, namely the fantastic, the magical, mischievous and a touch of the horrific. They aim to produce books ‘full of wonder and mischief delivered with a sharp bite’. My short story definitely applies. Diana may or may not be a hunter, but Gabriel is no angel.

Diana, the huntress. Her mother called winter a time of silence. For Diana, most of her life is quiet, her only companions wolves. Known as a witch by those in the human settlement even her rare visits to town are unwelcome.

Gabriel, named after the angel; although he’s no heavenly messenger, he refuses to trap what the locals want him to catch. When he sees Diana, he’s on the hunt for different prey.

Two people, strangers to each other, both outsiders… A harsh winter is upon them, but when their paths cross it will take a little ingenuity to survive the coldest of seasons.

Shiver under The Wolf Moon, one of a collection of Winter Tales.

Also available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Update note: In this version, The Wolf Moon was published under the name of Sharon Kernow.

Guest Spot: Chantal Noordeloos

Today, in honour of my upcoming Dark Fiction release, I’m purposely throwing the spotlight on author Chantal Noordeloos as a writer who is as in tune with my sensibilities as she is also apart from them. I understand her intentions behind her darker work, as she would no doubt understand mine. As her biography states, she’s a writer born in the Hague, lives in the Netherlands, with what strikes me as the perfect balance of family: a husband who shares the right level of unconventionality and a wily daughter as amusing as she is ingenious — a word that suits the whole Noordeloos ensemble and zeal for life. It is this love of life that may make one question why Chantal visits such dark realms in her writing: one of those cases where the question itself may supply the answer, for these tales face our darkest fears and often drive back the shadows or, at least, greet what lurks within them head-on.

CN_Wrath

Wrath begins with a first-person telling of a vicious attack on an unknown woman, but what may seem like the end of her journey turns into another beginning… with choices only the wrathful can make. This is a thought-provoking story in the second of this author’s contribution to her ‘seven deadly sins’ series.

What immediately came to mind was the amount of unpleasant research done to get the atmosphere of this nasty little tale just right. The story plays out on many levels making the reader uncomfortable, questioning morality and even what constitutes a ‘sin’. Some reading the story won’t agree, I’m sure, but it’s necessary to go deeper and consider the issues within to feel that greater sense of purpose. These layers are present from the outset. Not to give the story details away but a pre-set view of the main character forms before the truth comes to light and in this way made me question personal concepts; or, in other words, I was too quick to impress my view on the character and then surprised when I realised the actual circumstances, but this is a good thing, potentially making the reader self-aware of how ingrained preconceptions can be.

The story also highlights the plight of women around the world, how societies and even groups within societies view feminism (just another word for equality) and it does it at an emotional level that I hope will make both men and women squirm. If this story makes the reader uncomfortable, well, it should. It should also make them question. On the negative side, there were a couple of editing points, and although I found the end satisfying, it felt a little fast coming after a steady build-up. That’s why I award the story 4 out of 5 but I eagerly expect the rest of the series and these issues should be largely overlooked midst the bones of a provocative story.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Prepare to be Poor

“The average earnings of a professional full-time author is just £11,000.”*

*Findings of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society 2014.

This is as much a message to readers as it is to all those who freely file share whether they do or don’t perceive the harm, pirates, and wannabe writers who believe a writing career will change their lives. I’m not up to date with the most recent statistics, but let’s just run over a few possibly eye-opening figures.

My father was one reader who mistakenly believed whether a writer made £1 per book or 1p, the trading of a million titles added up to ‘a lot’. Even if every author was guaranteed that number there’s a huge difference in earnings if the royalties are a pound or a penny, but the main trouble with this thinking is most writers cannot sell even close to such an amount.

Let’s look at sales:

Before the 2014 findings released I’d read articles reporting many printed, in the store, mainstream paperbacks sold on average 500 copies. Reports said celebrity-written novels selling between 100-200,000 were deemed flops owing to publisher expectations the books would retail well on celebrity status alone.

The situation can be even worse for electronic publications. I know many who never sell more than around 100 copies. I’ve been told some e-books won’t trade significantly above 200.

So which writers are making money from book sales? Those often seen in the top ten positions in the bookstores, but their success is the dream and does not include the ‘average’ writer. Which isn’t to say one cannot make a living in the industry. I know people who have given up the day job to survive on their writing income, but many have supporting spouses, and almost all say they live ‘carefully’.

One of the draws of electronic publishing in recent years was their higher than average royalty share. The usual contract for rates on print is between 7-10%. It doesn’t require a maths genius to calculate a paperback of £5.99 being approximately 60p a book earned by the author of the cover price. Understandably, royalties of 35-50% are highly attractive. When the print market got on board with e-books, there was a lot of resulting disagreements over the percentages these previously print-only companies were offering with many well-known writers demanding more favourable terms. Some of those early negotiations reached 25%–still lower than some electronic-only publishers.

Now let’s take these figures and see how the income starts dwindling in other ways:

Another pull of these markets is many sold primarily in-house so the royalty percentage received was based on the total cover price. When a distributor sells, their cut is first deducted before these contracted percentages apply between writer and publisher. We’re talking the differences between net and gross here.

To be fair prior to the existence of e-books, publishers were always distributors but one draw of e-book publishing was they did sell more in-house, translating into higher profit margins. A large portion, which usually disappeared in printing costs, found its way to the writer. Lately, I’ve been noticing these publishers immediately sending titles to multiple marketplaces so a writer’s slice cannot be construed from the full price on initial sales. One likely reason for this is that many are finding Kindle to be where most purchases now generate. Where many believed the invention of a good e-reader would increase readership, unfortunately, it took the exchange out of house. The app also allowed those who had no wish to own such a device to read on computers and tablets with the same ease. Readers like the ability to buy without difficulty and this is something Amazon does. Many publishers and writers have suffered because of simple single-click buying. I’m not claiming that this is the sole problem but I, like many, do believe it’s a contributing factor.

The distributor deducts their cut before anyone sees anything of percentages. As most distributors have clauses that allow them to set their own cover price and not the RRP of the publisher, and even the freedom to determine when a product should be available at a reduced rate, this percentage can be lowered even more.

If a £6 novel is given a 30% discount that generates £4.20. Let’s say distribution subtracts 35% of that customer’s outlay. We’re left with £2.73. If the writer’s segment is 50%, the earnings will be £1.36. If the cut is 10% that approximates to 28p.

We’ll be generous and use the average of 500 copies sold.

£1.36 x 500 = £680

28p x 500 = £140

Now, if applicable, calculate the removal of income tax.

Divide what’s left by the hours, days, months taken to create the draft. Shall we also throw in the anxious pursuit of a publisher, the editing rounds, and the promotion time put in, all of which I’m sure I’ll cover in other blogs?

For now, let’s use NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as an example and say it’s a short novella, with a draft produced in a month and the writer is fast. Even if we round it up to a generous minimum of 50 hours of work, oh look… Based on the lower rate before tax amount provides an income of £2.80 per hour…before we take into account all the additional days required. Consider that some may take 3 months, or 6, or a year to construct a book and you quickly see your ‘average’ writer wakes up daily questioning what motivates them to do this job.

“At least writers can boost their income by attending conventions. They get paid to go, and there’s all that prestige, and they’re sure to sell a load of books at these things.”

Only recently, best-selling author of His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman withdrew from the Oxford festival, having grown tired of ‘writers expected to work for nothing’. As he rightly said, everyone else, “from the cleaners to the people who put up the marquees” get paid, so despite being a patron for the last five years, he resigned.

Now tell one of these writers he or she is ‘rolling in it’, that authors can withstand not to be paid for some of the things they do, that it’s ‘okay’ to pirate their work, that £5.99 for a full-length novel is too expensive. Better yet accept my challenge of waiting behind at a writers’ convention until you’re the only reader in a room full of authors and say it aloud. If your family doesn’t have reason to wonder why you never made it home, then do anticipate being killed in a few new releases. Many writers know where to hide the bodies.

The reality is a sad truth. There’s money to be made, but don’t expect to become rich overnight, if at all. One of the first things I was warned of when I chose to be a writer was unrealistic expectations. If fame and fortune are the main reasons to put pen to paper or hands to the keyboard, the wannabe might turn into one of those who makes the ten top slots regularly, but may also be extremely disappointed to hear he or she has only sold 200 copies. Success, like how much a book is ‘worth’, is largely subjective.

You may wish to check out these articles:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/08/authors-incomes-collapse-alcs-survey

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/philip-pullman-quits-as-oxford-literary-festival-refuses-to-pay-its-guest-authors-a6813066.html

Guest Spot: Chris Pavesic

A little late for Autumn, but anytime is cooking time, right?

Fantasy author Chris Pavesic is in the kitchen with her delicious and healthy addition to your dinner menu. The kitchen is all yours, Chris.

This recipe is one of the first I make during the fall season to go along with the bountiful harvest of apples available in my area of the Midwest.

 

Photo by kornnphoto

TeaOrganic Ginger Candy

I use organic ingredients whenever I can. I find that it improves the flavor and I think it is healthier for me and my family. However, this chutney can easily be made with non-organic ingredients as well. It is all up to you—the cook.

Traditionally apple chutney is a savory sauce made from apples, brown sugar, vinegar, onions and various herbs and spices. It has a sweet and tart flavor that complements meat dishes such as roast chicken, beef, ham and pork chops.

In my family, certain people are allergic to onions (myself included). So I adapt recipes to take these allergies into consideration. I thought I would share my recipe with you.

 
Easy Apple Chutney
⅔ cup brewed tea, warm*
8 organic ginger candies
5 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced.
1 cup celery, diced very fine
⅓ cup Key Lime Juice
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
¾ cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. dried mustard powder or 2 tsp. yellow mustard
1½ tsp. sea salt
¾ cup dried cherries

Partially dissolve the ginger candies in the tea. Do not be concerned if the ginger candies do not completely dissolve. They will continue to melt during the cooking.You can substitute 1 tbsp. powdered ginger or 2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger in place of the candies. If you do, increase the light brown sugar to 1 Cup, lightly packed.

Combine the tea mixture and all remaining ingredients into a Dutch Oven. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes on your stovetop, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and cook for about another 20 minutes. You want the excess liquid to evaporate and the chutney to thicken.

Dutch OvenRemove from the Dutch Oven and set aside to cool. Store covered in the refrigerator.

I like recipes that can be made in Dutch Ovens and Crock Pots. They really save a lot of time/effort. This one is probably one of the more elaborate ones—and yet the prep time is only about 15 minutes.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 70 minutes

*I use Trader Joe’s Specialty Pomegranate White Tea made with Organic White Tea Leaves, Hibiscus Flowers, and Lemongrass.

 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way with any of the products/companies discussed in this post.)

Cheers!

Here is a brief introduction to Wonderland, the latest fantasy book by Chris Pavesic. Enjoy!

 

You may think you know her story.

You don’t.

Throughout her life Alice has faced fear and isolation, but she has never given up hope. In the City by the Bay she has one last chance to find happiness; one last chance to find friendship; one last chance to find Wonderland.

Click here to watch the YouTube video.

 

Read excerpts from all of the books written by Chris Pavesic on Amazon.

Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends. Learn more about Chris on her website.

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