Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘crime novel’

Still waters run deep (‘Who is Pufferfish?’)

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I’m a bit late to mention this, but I currently have a crime piece in the latest issue of Australia’s venerable literary publication, Island Magazine.

I profiled Tasmanian author David Owen’s character, Pufferfish (aka Detective Franz Heineken). As if he were a real person.

Interesting assignment… the piece is titled, ‘Who is Pufferfish?’ Australian author Carmel Bird sent me a very nice email about it, which I am enormously grateful for.

If you’re into crime stories, and Tasmaniana in general, I thoroughly recommend you try to get your hands on one of David’s books (pretty hard to find, although I do believe there’s a new book out later this year).

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The ‘commercial writing vs literary writing’ conundrum

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on March 13, 2013 at 8:28 am

I’m about to have a short crime story, “The Wifemaker”, published in Tasmania’s well-regarded Island Magazine (issue 132).

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I’m surprised and pleased to have been asked to submit the story. Of course I don’t think the story is good enough, shouldn’t have been written at the last second (ahem)… and all that fragile-ego writer stuff. But more importantly, it’s got me thinking about the expectations and requirements placed on writers.

Two thought-provoking points:

  1. Am I now a literary writer (Island Magazine is considered a literary magazine; I have never considered myself a ‘literary’ writer)?
  2. Have I now published my first work of fiction (despite writing fiction for magazines, newspapers and books for about 15 years now)?

A couple of years ago, I considered applying for an Aus Council grant to complete a piece of writing. Having worked for more than a decade as an editor, writer, ghostwriter and journalist (being published consistently in my chosen genres), I thought I’d slot in somewhere between the ‘emerging’ and ‘developing’ writer categories (the final one being ‘established’). Apparently not.

The (very nice) grants advisor regrettably told me that none of what I’d done counted. I needed to have written and published serious literary fiction, essays, short stories or poems to even get within licking distance of the emerging category.

As a proudly ‘commercial writer’, it made me question all that I’d done to that point. Did all my training and talent not count?

In my mind, then and even more so now, there is no more rewarding and rigorous training for writers than having to churn out high-quality work to a tight deadline and within a rigid word count – often having to bestow bland, regurgitated material with a new hook that’ll entice readers. It’s such an incredible skill.

Ernest Hemingway was one of the pioneers of taking this commercial training, this style of writing, and applying it to ‘literature’. But the AusCo would not have granted him money to complete his first novel, as he would not have satisfied their criteria.

(And, as an aside, crime writing is a genre that’s notoriously disrespected by the establishment, despite some crime writers clearly being worthy of literary accolades and awards.)

I’ve finished my novel regardless, having always been very uncomfortable with the idea of writers getting free money to write. And I probably could apply for an AusCo grant now. But I won’t be. I don’t like the way they think – it’s predictably outdated and elitist.

There is a group of Tasmanians who are currently in the process of forming a Creative Industries Council for the state, to act as a peak body for its under-represented creatives. I hope that their framework includes space and place for the advocacy of the island’s commercial writers as real writers – those who have the potential to be, or already are, literary writers. There’s a gaping hole here, where the people who fall between being categorised as a straight journo or straight literary writer, fall. Perhaps the establishment simply doesn’t like what can’t be categorised?

So, going back to my two thought-provoking points – am I now a literary writer, who has published their first work of literary fiction? I don’t have the answer to either question.

Final tally: 30,000 words in 10 HOURS!

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Island Life, Tasmania, Writing on June 4, 2012 at 9:45 am

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Alice in Wonderland

This weekend, I wrote a massive 3,000 words an hour for 10 hours.
That’s 30,000 words in total, written far faster than I’d expected. The words just kind of spewed out, so to speak – there was no writer’s block or anything.

I am mentally drained, and I can’t quite believe it, but I now have 30,000 words with which to play with.

I allowed myself to walk into this unfamiliar process with an open mind. I had decided that I would not take my finished crime-novel manuscript (Undercurrent) into the writing room with me. What I would do was write freely about my characters and the scenarios they were in, just to see what happened…

Hmm:

  1. Someone died (who I wasn’t planning to kill off).
  2. My main character, Cattis Cull, was accused of something by a colleague and had to be stood down, pending an internal investigation.
  3. And someone turned out to be gay…

Of course, I won’t be using a lot of what I’ve written (or perhaps I will – who knows?), but I cannot tell you how valuable it is to simply sit and write very fast, without over-thinking what you are doing.

Rachel Edwards, editor of Islet Magazine, was an excellent team leader, and hopefully we’ll be doing this again soon.

If you’re interested, here’s another post about the weekend, from one of the Melbourne Rabbit Holers, Little Girl With A Big Pen

Going Offline to Get the Book Done…

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Island Life, Tasmania, Travel, Writing on April 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front as I’m getting my book, Undercurrent, ready for publication next month.

I’ve had a great response from my Carmen Cromer author site (Cromer means ‘lake of crows’. Creepy…), and on the Undercurrent prologue I uploaded (in part to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, as a conspiracy theory surrounding it is a major plotline in my crime novel).

Now, I’m off tomorrow morning – on my own – to my family’s 1950s surf shack on the East Coast of Tasmania, for a full five days. Enforced solitude. No internet. No phone calls. No-one to hear me scream if…

The location of the shack, on the edge of the cliff above the beach, is perfect, secluded; you can hear the waves at night…

… and it’s going to scare the s**t out of me to be there on my own.

I’m totally afraid of the dark. I’m one of these people who (at 35 years old) still checks under beds, sleeps with a knife under my pillow and has to close all the cupboards. I’m very suggestible. Perhaps that’s what’s makes me an effective crime writer?

Anyway, I wil be channelling my pure terror into getting Undercurrent polished for publication.

Wish me well (and at least one decent night’s sleep).

Monday Morning Inspiration for Creatives #4

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on April 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

Again, from Brain Pickings – a little bit of John Cleese genius, on the fact that:

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.

This has become increasingly obvious to me over the years. I may have been told I had writing talent when I was six years old, but resting on the laurels of that talent doesn’t work once you’re a grown-up – you’ve got to put your creativity into operation every day.

That’s why I feel I’ve reached a personal milestone in finally getting my author site up, and committing to the publishing of my debut crime novel, Undercurrent – something that has strangely little to do with writing talent.

I’m kind of approaching it like this (another Cleese-ism)…

… which is handy, because I’m filled with doubts about what I’ve written (I swing wildly between being either impressed by what I’ve written, or too embarrassed to show it to anyone). But, I can’t dwell on that – I’ve just got to remain focused and trust myself and my writing.

And I don’t really have time to dwell on the correctness or talent (or lack thereof) of my writing. There is simply too much going on – when you self-publish, you’re not just polishing the book, but also dealing with marketing, web design stuff, and all the other ‘non-writing’ things that go with being a writer.

Which leads to…

Now that I’ve launched my site with the Undercurrent Prologue, I’m aiming to have the complete novel ready for sale in about 30 days. To do that, I need some seriously focused time and space.

And this is why Cleese’s “5 factors that you can arrange to make your lives more creative” is particularly pertinent right now. I’ve organised the first 3 (with some time off work) – the other 2, I’m working on…

I’ve Launched my Author Website!

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on April 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm

So, my author site – CarmenCromer.com – is live!

I’d love you to check it out, and download and read the first chapter of my murder-mystery, Undercurrent.

Please let me know what you think…

For Success, Let Your Ideas Sleep – and…

In Books, Career, Writing on March 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

I’ll get to the and in a minute.

Last night, after an inspiring weekend away at my East Coast shack, I had the kind of light-bulb moment that creative people dream of. Around midnight, – seemingly out of the blue – I sat up in bed and thought, Oh My God – I have to do this! There was no sleeping for me last night…

The idea in question will deliver me many of the things I want for the future – it’s sustainable, creative and profitable. And it’s so blindingly simple and elegant – as all best ideas are – that I could cry or laugh.

Interestingly, it’s an idea I had about 10 years ago, in my mid-twenties. I had, until last night, consciously forgotten about it.

Ten years ago, I’d recognised the idea as the bloody good one it was; I’d looked at it from every angle I could think of, trying to see how I could turn it into reality.

Unfortunately, as good as the idea was, I simply couldn’t see how I could let it be the best it could be in the mediums available to me. If you have to force something, then it’s probably not the right idea or the right time. So, I let my idea go (if you love something, and all that…). It’s a similar concept to knowing when to ‘kill your darlings’.

Except I obviously didn’t kill this one. I just buried it for a while.

My sub-conscious hung on to it until last night, when – presumably after a bunch of obscure triggers and letting my mind do its wandering/wondering – it came back to me in full force. And, this time, the production of it is not only perfectly possible – it’s perfect.

The landscape for writers and publishers is so vastly different now, and that is the crucial factor in the viability of my idea.

I’m so excited about this idea that it’s taking all my willpower not to drop everything else to get onto it. I’ve committed to self-publishing my novel, however, so the idea will have to wait a month or so (funnily enough, the plot for my crime novel has been a sleeper, too – it’s taken 5 years of germinating to come into bloom).

So, sometimes, for success, you need to let go of an idea that’s not working at that moment in time. Let it sleep for a bit.

And the and…?

Well. It’s simple:

Keep your mind forever open.

Consider a Media Teaser for your eBook

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on March 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

The death in my crime novel happens in Tasmania on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic – which is 15 April 2012.

To capitalise on this, and the flexibility that self-publishing allows me, I’ll be sending out – on 14 April – a book teaser to my media and book publishing contacts, to my social media connections, as well as to Titanic interest groups and forums.

I imagine that my contact list will receive an e-release, that alerts them to ‘a death’ the following day, in connection to a controversial Titanic conspiracy theory.

The idea being, that they’ll then head to my author site, where they can download the first chapter for free, watch a video – and find out that the mystery will be unravelling over the following month.

At that point, a month after my first e-release, my contact list will receive another email letting them know the murder has been solved, and that they can download the entire book on my site.

I thought about releasing a chapter at a time, but at this stage I think it’s a clever publishing/marketing model I’ll save for the future…

Checklist for Self-Publishing an eBook #2

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on March 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

Since my previous post on this, there have been developments on the to-do front…

February

  • Complete editing of book GOD, NO… moved to March
  • Book design – internals, cover, epub compatibility CLOSE; rolled over to March
  • ISBNs x 2 (one for hard copy, one for online) DONE
  • Buy WordPress publishing template DONE (Templatic’s Publisher theme)

March

  • Complete editing
  • Complete book design
  • Create my author site* – including ‘store’ function**
  • Make a promo video

14 April

  • Launch author site (including video and free first chapter)
  • Email press release/teaser/video to book-publishing and media colleagues, plus to Titanic interest group and forums (the Titanic being a major plot device) – 15 April is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, so I don’t want to miss that marketing boat…

Mid-May

LAUNCH!

Later…

Publish hard copy

*I’m going to have to bite the bullet on what name I go by as a fiction writer, as it’ll be my site URL. As I’m published in mainstream press under my real name, do I ‘liberate’ myself with a pen name (and, as Richard Curtis writes, possibly Perish by the Pen Name in the process), or do I have the guts/ego to be myself? My real name has traction already in publishing circles, so that’s probably the sensible, strategic way to go… Hmm.

**After a meeting with my web designer, he’s advised me against going down the path of the Templatic Publisher theme (while lovely, it’s too complicated as it turns out). He’s recommended customising a WordPress site that then redirects to a BigCartel ‘bookshop’, where the transactions will be handled fuss-free by the Pulley app (both ebooks and traditional books). At the moment, we’re looking at 1A3 Template for WordPress – but it’ll depend on how well my author logo (which includes a signature), masthead, style sheet (colours, fonts etc) fit into it. It looks pretty lean, but as it’s designed for writers, it can be beautifully customsied, and it suits the spare look I’m going for (to match my writing).

Writing a Novel While Working Full-Time

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Freelance, Writing on February 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I wrote my crime novel during the Tasmanian winter of 2011. I wrote it while working full-time in advertising and running a successful freelance business, and managing a high-energy home life…

I have always gotten more done when I am at my busiest. To write a novel in 3 months, I wrote 1000+ words a day.

What I know now, about writing a novel while working full-time, is that you must let go of two preconceived (and false) writing concepts…

1. There is a perfect place for writing

Nope: there is no such thing.

If you wait for the perfect place to write, it won’t ever happen. I’ve fallen into this trap before. When I was younger and single and uncommitted, I wanted the cliched writer’s desk, study and all the trappings that go with it. Now that my life is – and looks like it will always be – perpetually chaotic and crazy, I know better.

Now, all I absolutely require is an uncluttered work area.

Generally, I work on my laptop in our study – or while sitting on my bed. Or on the couch. Or the kitchen table. For easy transportation, I also pasted my entire novel (in A4 sheets) into a scrapbook, which I’d take out into the park at lunchtime to work on. I’d also work on it while on the bus to and from work.

Occasionally, when I have been granted precious solo time, I have worked at my shack on Bruny Island. I don’t necessarily get lots more done there, but I’m grateful for the inspirational environment and the chance to totally immerse myself in my book.

2. There is a perfect time for writing

Nope: there is no such thing.

Writing is like anything else in life – you either choose to make it a priority, or you don’t. Simple.

When you work full-time and have a family, life is a non-stop juggling act. It’s easy to put yourself and your writing dreams last. I know this only too well.

But, if you passively wait for the perfect time to ‘be a writer’, something else is guaranteed to sabotage your intent.

So, then – and now – I have had to make choices:

Do I relax during my weekday lunch hours… or do I work on my book?

Do I lie in on weekends… or do I work on my book?

Do I watch something on TV… or do I work on my book?

Do I read a magazine on the bus to work… or do I work on my book?

You get the picture.

There is no magic formula

Writing a novel while managing the demands of a career and a family comes down to discipline, drive and lots of little decisions (that really add up).

Even when I didn’t feel like writing, I would still do it.

Even now, I have to work hard to continue to make writing a priority. It is somewhat exhausting. But I have committed to giving my writing the respect it deserves. And I keep my eye on the prize.

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