PD Martin's Blog

November 23, 2012

Blast from the past

Filed under: Body Count,Writing — Tags: , , , — PD Martin @ 2:31 am

BodyCount04-smallThese last few weeks I’ve been experiencing a real blast from the past. You see, a couple of months ago I contacted both my US and Aussie publishers hopeful that the rights to my Sophie Anderson series (Aussie FBI profiler) had reverted back to me.

Reversion of rights used to be the kiss of death for authors. Generally, no publisher would buy the book again to re-launch it (except perhaps if you went on to write a best seller and your new publisher was keen to acquire your back list). Then, ebooks happened. Now, reversion of rights is actually an exciting prospect for an author. Especially given one of the keys to ebook success is volume — having more than a handful of titles available to build your name and, of course, sales.

So, I was very happy to find the rights had reverted for ALL my Sophie titles with Pan Macmillan Australia. My contract for the US required much longer time frames to be served, but I was hopeful maybe book 1, Body Count, would be up for reversion. Unfortunately, not. Even though it’s out of print in the US, because I gave my North American publisher worldwide rights (excluding a few countries) it just has to have been printed some where recently (or due for a reprint). In the case of Body Count, apparently a reprint is scheduled of the French edition. While it’s great the reprint is happening, it’s frustrating that I’ll only be able to make my Sophie novels available to people in Australia and New Zealand.

This is particularly concerning given we represent such small markets on the global side of things (given our populations), plus so far Aussies have been very slow to adopt Kindles and other ereaders. (I’m not sure about New Zealand’s adoption rate of ereaders.) After some debate, I decided it’s still worthwhile to get them up there. Maybe I can be one of the Aussie authors getting in at the ground level, before Kindles take off!

So, for the past two weeks I’ve been taking another look at Body Count. It’s the first time I’ve read the book since the page proofs, back in 2005. There are a few minor things I’ve always wanted to fix, and other things I’m finding along the way. For example, I really steer away from dialogue tags now (he said, she said) and aim to use descriptions to attribute dialogue instead. To give a very basic example,

“I don’t know, Sophie,” Flynn says.

Might become something like this:

Flynn’s blue eyes fix on me. “I don’t know, Sophie.”

I’m also now mindful of the ebook medium and will be doing one pass entirely with the aim of breaking up a few chapters. I think some shorter paragraphs and shorter chapters work well for the ebook format and help give a book that page-turner feel. Plus, I’m concerned the book starts too slow so I’m hoping to cut out around 5,000 words from the first 1/3 of the book. That’s going to be a tough job, though, and I’ll devote one editorial pass just to that task. Deleting scenes is never easy for an author.

Of course, I’ve also been getting the cover designed. Like it?

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November 22, 2012

Congratulations to the Boroondara winners

Filed under: Events/appearances,Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 10:12 am

On 16 October I posted a blog about how I’d just completed judging the Boroondara Literary  Awards – open short story competition.  In that blog I talked about the judging process and what makes a good short story. However, I wasn’t able to say much about the winners because it was all hush-hush until the official awards ceremony. Well, I’m just back from that Awards Ceremony so now I can say a little bit more about the entries, and congratulate the winners…

This year’s stories explored a broad range of topics. There were many stories of childhood (particularly coming-of-age stories) and also stories of growing old.  Stories of war also featured, ranging from war-time stories to stories of veterans trying to fit in back at home. Important global and local issues that affect us all were also addressed, such as racism, refugee camps and climate change.

A short story competition wouldn’t be complete without touching on the classics of love and death — two incredibly strong emotional drivers that have the ability to create drama when crafted well. Entries also covered other classic genres, such as fantasy, science fiction and crime fiction.

There were also some stories that offered interesting points of view. One told from a tree’s perspective, another a statue, a house, a dog, a ‘simple’ man, and several entries told from a very young child’s perspective.

So, I’d like to congratulate…

The four highly commended stories:

  1. Double Glazing by Kate Rotherham, which took me on an emotional and difficult journey with the mother of an autistic child;
  2. The Angel by Amy Bisset, which offered a refreshing take on point of view, telling a well-crafted story from a statue’s perspective;
  3. Delivered by Sulari Gentill, about a young man who delivered the pink slips during war time (I loved the last sentence of the first paragraph, ‘After all, Gus Merriman delivered death’); and finally
  4. Fighting for Breath by Paul Threlfall, a story with an incredibly strong voice that followed a boxer turned New York taxi driver.

Another story was extremely close to a highly commended prize, so close I wanted to at least mention it. Two Bucks for Living by Jessica Lye was a touching story about a homeless man reunited with his daughter.  This story simply needed professional editing for some craft elements to take it to the next level.

Now, on to the first, second and third prizes, plus the Boroondara Prize. These stories were all extremely different, yet each one was powerful in its own way.

The third prize goes to One Day in the Life of a Societal Corpse by Alexandra Coppinger. The writing in this piece is strong, atmospheric and in many ways daring. I’m a stickler for grammar and sentence structure, yet this story’s powerful one- and two-word sentences somehow work. The story gave a moving insight into a protagonist who’s struggling with life, and contemplating death.

The second prize goes to Something was Wrong by Michael Doyle. In this story, the writer has perfectly captured the voice of a five-year-old boy being led to a holocaust gas chamber with his mother. The reader can guess what’s going on, but the child doesn’t. The story is both well-written and touching, and as the highest placed entry from a Boroondara resident, it also wins the Boroondara Prize.

Finally, the first prize goes to what could be described as a more quirky story. While in many ways the language and sentence structure are ‘simple’, this is a perfect reflection of character and voice. Derek Pickle by Aaron Firth Donato is the story of an intellectually handicapped man whose caregiver, his grandmother, dies. Soon after her death Derek decides to go to his first concert, and because his grandmother always told him not to go anywhere without her, he takes her — her ashes, that is. He even makes sure to get her home on time for bed.

Congratulations again to all the winners and the other entrants. Keep writing, and it’s great to see we’ve got such strong writers in Australia.

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