Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Western Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card

From the blog of Aliette de Bodard comes the Western Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card put together by her and others to illustrate the bias of many Western writers when they write about other cultures. Born in the US, Aliette de Bodard is Franco-Vietnamese and and has lived in France for much of her life so her views are worth taking seriously. The saddest part of this is she says all these comments or ideas have appeared on the internet. Although I'm of European descent my extended family is a polyglot mix of different ethnicities. I'd like to think that the Western Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card will make us all think about what we write and how we write it. I'd suggest reading the comments too where she and others explain sections in more detail.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Congratulations, Kate Eltham

It's been announced that Kate Eltham, currently the CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre, is to take over as Director of the Brisbane Writers Festival in October. Kate was part of the team running Clarion South when I attended and I was very impressed by her efficiency and organisational ability. I'm certain she will be a great asset to the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ghost Writing is Legal, for Pete’s Sake!

A guest post today, from Karen Cole, an American writer and editor who specializes in ghost writing. You can find Karen’s ‘spooky’ website at

That’s the most common thing I get when I tell people I’m a ghost writer: ‘Hey, isn’t that illegal and doesn’t it violate copyrights laws?’ Nah, it doesn’t. It’s completely street legal, functions under ‘work for hire’ clauses in each state of the USA and also in other countries, and the clients usually get to keep full rights and copyrights to all of the material you ghostwrite for them.

However, it can be hard to talk about, as it’s kind of ‘hush-hush’ stuff. When I work with famous people, they generally want all the credit for their work, so I can’t really discuss their names with other people. Recently, however, I have worked with a Holocaust survivor of ten different internment camps, who is going on a national book tour to sell his book, and the daughter of the FBI agent who caught Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassin, James Earl Ray.

One of the FBI figures in that book was possibly the infamous Blonde Man of Dealey Plaza, who picked up one of the bullets that killed President Kennedy – he was also the agent who arrested Lee Harvey Oswald in the Dallas movie theater. That agent, however, refuses to admit that he was the Blonde Man, although he was in Dallas at the time. I’ve worked on projects involving the Mafia, which I can’t go on about at length, and the CIA – involving murders. And I worked on a book project concerning the infamous murder case where Amber Frey testified against the killer.

So I have dealt with some interesting people, such as a real life Nazi from the original party, some film stars (Nicholas Cage, Prince, Fabio) several makers of motion pictures, some famous book authors, and lots of publishers and literary agents, as well as music industry moguls and top recording executives. But I can’t talk a lot about any of these people – I’m supposed to be purely a background figure, and I’m not to release a lot of information about my clients or even about my business contacts – just enough about them to let the public know that I deal with them.

Anyway, I only work on commission for select book authors and screenwriters. They have to have a publisher literally all lined up, or a movie studio or producer ready to film their project for me to work only on commission. Our usual practice is to take upfront payments during the course of completion of the book or script project. Sometimes, however, I run a deal when I think a book is likely to be published or a script is likely to be produced, where we take 5-15% of net sales as well as a substantial upfront payment during the completion of the project.

We don’t usually write articles unless it’s part of an overall greater project. And we never do academic writing for students, only editing and proofreading. We also always write and ask for permission for usage of other’s work, and we never plagiarize. As for how it feels not owning all of my hard work, well, nowadays I mostly send out the incoming projects to other ghost writers on our team, and I only do some of the editing work that comes in. But in the past, I guess I have no real regrets. I’ve been paid well enough, and I’ve not had to deal with any of the problems or infamy that a book on a tender subject might bring.

As to advice for would-be ghost writers: write, write and write some more, practise your editing of spelling, grammar and syntax, and become as expert as you can at ‘Show not Tell’ writing and developmental or content editing. You will find that as a ghost writer, you will need thorough editing and rewriting skills. Get some of your own work with your name on it published, so that you can show it to clients, and build up a decent portfolio of your published work. You can get articles published on various sites on the Internet. Sometimes you even get paid for them!

Once you’re ready, you can begin to take on those ‘interesting’ clients for some terrific pay. But don’t be afraid to take on ‘first time’ author ghost writing clients, if they are willing to pay you decently for your services. You don’t always have to work for famous people to get your name recognized (if that’s what you want) or to make a decent living.

Monday, June 11, 2012

'Daughter of Hope' and her origins...

Editor and publisher, Dario Ciriello, has interviewed me about my new novel Daughter of Hope, its origins, and how it is situated in The Siaris Quartet. As I've said to Dario, a bright star was shining when I sent him the novella Daughter of Hope grew from; his astute advice and encouragement along the road to this novel's publication have been a fantastic gift!

You can read the interview at Dario's blog.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

'Daughter of Hope' released by Musa Publishing

Daughter of Hope, the first novel in my fantasy series The Siaris Quartet, has been released as an e-book   by Musa Publishing!  

 The fate of an entire world will be decided by the actions of one young girl.

The Guardians of Siaris have been warring for thousands of years, torn apart by betrayal and lost loves. Xereth waits patiently for his chance at revenge. The only thing standing in his way is one of his own offspring.

As Xereth's daughter, Revetia’s destiny is to help him destroy Siaris and those who wronged him, but Revetia's will is strong. With hope and help, she might be able to break free from Xereth's tight and treacherous grasp, but at what cost?

Sier has always tried to stay out of affairs that threaten his family's safety. When Revetia asks him for help, she forces him into a position that could cost his family, the elden, and humans their lives. Is he prepared to put those he loves and protects in jeopardy?

With the fate of Siaris resting on Revetia’s shoulders, will her actions trigger a war between gods, slaves, and Guardians?


The baby blinked, trying to clear her eyes. The dim space around her lay in a chilled hush.  A strip of light filtered across the torn covers surrounding her, over a curve of pale skin flecked with red. A long growl sounded from outside the room’s shadowed walls.

Wind, the baby named it.

She’d heard it – and other things – from inside her mother’s belly. Now it sounded much louder, and unfriendly. She wanted to reach for the expanse of flesh beside her, but couldn’t yet control her limbs. Her mother didn’t move. The silence of the room, the gale’s rush at the chamber, grew frightening. She shivered, a naked bundle of feverish heat and ice. She began to cry. The wind fought her voice, but she needed someone to come. Anyone.

Time dragged. The light around her stuttered and grew dull. Her hearing picked up a new sound, cautious steps husking along the hall outside the turret-room, until they came to a halt. A seamed face peered through a rectangle of darkness. Fingers clutched at the edge of a wooden frame, then jerked back as if they’d been stung. The fingers fluttered down over a worn tunic, shaking. The sound of rough breathing met the baby as a woman stepped into the room and edged closer to her.

The woman’s face shrivelled into deeper lines, her gaze roving across the bed. The picture in her mind reflected into the baby’s vision in all its blood-soaked destruction.  An elden woman lying on the shredded velvet cover, the ragged vestiges of beauty still visible through the contortion of her features. Smoke coiling in wisps from her hips and thighs, hanging thick on the air. The baby saw herself curled in a pool of light. Already, despite being so tiny, the sheen of power that had killed her mother during birth glowed out across the bed.

The baby noted her own skin was different to her mother’s. Blue. She felt the word fit itself to her…that this was her natural shade. But even so, couldn’t the bent figure creeping closer see her shock, the crisis gripping her body with shudders?

The intruder’s breath hissed. Her stare now settled on the glittering wings that rustled against the baby’s back, the downy feathers catching in the rumpled bedcover. The baby studied her, and saw that she was elden too, but diminished, improperly aged. The silence grew longer, the gale’s voice harsh. The baby huddled desperately, and fought to focus her mind on this person who still hadn’t come to her side.

She formed a question in her head, and forced it to cross the gap. Who are you?

“My name is Amya.” The woman’s voice sounded strangled, as if her throat had jammed shut.

Are you my – the baby searched for the word – nurse?

Amya didn’t reply. Her damp gaze had shifted back to the body on the bed.

Daughter of Hope is available from Musa here.

For the really keen, you can find out more about the story-world and characters of The Siaris Quartet novels at my blog.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Writing in a dialect, accent or register

In a previous post  I discussed the difference between dialect and accent, and examined the concept of register – the kind of specialised language we use only in certain situations. Yesterday, I was reminded that I hadn’t followed up on my promise to look into these matters from the point of view of the writer. What reminded me was an author friend’s thinking out loud about whether she should incorporate accent or dialect into a Scottish-based story she was writing.
It is indeed a curly problem. Full-on dialect or an entire new language would be too hard to follow, because most readers are not willing to learn a whole new vocabulary. Some readers are willing – just look at the number of SF fans who have learnt to speak Klingon or Elvish. Our own Joanna Fay has even been known to write verse in Elvish now and then! But these enthusiasts constitute an exception, not a rule. Most readers cannot be bothered learning too many new words, especially since reading science fiction and fantasy invariably means learning strange new given names, family names and place names. We might also have to fix entire world-maps into our heads! Expecting us to learn an entirely new vocabulary is probably going a step too far.
How, then, can a writer represent an accent in writing? Let’s say, for instance, that you’ve decided to have a main character who comes from London. George Bernard Shaw did this very nicely in his play Pygmalion, which later became the musical My Fair Lady. He introduces his heroine, Eliza, this way:
‘Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy athaht pyin. Will ye-oo py me f'them? [Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be abandoned as unintelligible outside London.]’
Note Shaw’s directive at the end. Having established the accent, he modifies his representation of Eliza’s speech considerably thereafter, and tells us he is about to do it. But Shaw was a playwright. A novelist can’t step into the text and explain that she’s given up on the accent, so she has to find another way of approaching the problem.
The best way, perhaps, is to pick out a few characteristics of the dialect and show only those in the way you transcribe the character’s speech. To make your point, you can be a bit heavy-handed when you first introduce the character and then tone it down over the course of a few scenes until only hints of the accent remain. But don’t copy Shaw’s efforts by trying to represent the accent by long screeds of text with apostrophes to denote dropped letters. He was giving us a lesson in what not to do!
So can you ever use a seriously full-on accent? Most readers, I think, are OK with an accent that involves just one or two characters, and if those characters are of the ‘cameo’ kind – people who just drop into the story once or twice to fulfil some purpose of the plot – so much the better. But an accent can pall if it is general throughout the book. It is tiresome to read long screeds of text with apostrophes to denote dropped aitches at the start of particular words and dropped g’s from the end of –ing words, for instance, as you would have to do with a Cockney accent like Eliza Doolittle’s. Strange spelling to represent regional pronunciation is also a sticky problem, and without using IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) it’s not reliable. Besides, most people don’t know IPA.
Perhaps the safest way to approach the writing of an accent is by representing not the sounds so much as the patterns and figures of speech that characterise both accent and dialect. For example, using Yorkshire again, we might have a character use expressions such as ‘our lass’ when referring to a daughter or sister, or ‘our kid’ for a son or brother. Idioms such as ‘Put wood in ’ole’ for ‘Shut the door’ and ‘Mash the tea’ for ‘pour boiling water on tea leaves’ would also quickly set the scene as Yorkshire. (West Australian author Anna Jacobs does this kind of thing particularly well in her historical novels, which are set in Lancashire.)
You can, however, get away with introducing a handful of dialectal words whose meaning is always obvious from the context. Greetings are an obvious choice. The standard Yorkshire greetings ‘Eh yup’ (an old Norse greeting – Yorkshire was overrun by Vikings in the ninth century, as any Bernard Cornwell fan will tell you!) ‘Aw reet then’ (All right then) and 'Nah theen' (Now then) will immediately tell your readers where they are, as will the old Cockney ‘Wotcha, cock!’or the Australia 'G'day'. Even people outside the UK will quickly cotton on to the fact that these are greetings. If you’re working with an invented society, it’s easy enough to create a few greetings for your characters to use.
Register likewise needs to be introduced gradually and in a piecemeal manner, dropping in a word here, a phrase there, making sure that the reader has ample opportunity to digest each new word or expression before bringing in more. Let’s say we have a magical system that involves a process called sprunking, that involves taking several different spells then condensing and combining them so that the wizard has only to work one spell for all to take effect. Here’s a bit of imaginary dialogue between a wizard and his apprentice:
‘Shaynee, did you remember to sprunk in the speeded-up turnip-cooking spell when you set up the cauldron for the stew?’
‘Yes, sir, I sprunked it in with the fire spell.’
‘You did what? Demons below, child, haven’t I told you a dozen times or more that you can only sprunk similar things together? A fire spell is a fire spell; a cooking spell is a cooking spell, and you can’t mix the two. First you must deal with the ingredients. You must sprunk in the bit about fast cooking when you call up the turnips.’
That will give the reader a bit of an idea what’s involved in sprunking. To reinforce the idea, the author might show Shaynee working another spell a few scenes later; a spell that involves sprunking, say, a wood-drying spell while making fire.
So, when introducing dialect or register, start with just one or two words, mention each one a couple of times, then introduce one or two more related ‘jargon’ words the third time the first two are mentioned. Repeat from the top until all the required new vocab has been introduced. If you throw too many new words at your reader in the first few scenes, some of them will give up before the end of chapter one and possibly refuse to look at anything of yours again, ever!
Slowly, slowly, catchee reader.

2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot

The fourth Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot is being carried out this week. The team of interviewers, Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David Mcdonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright, are talking to writers in the genre to give a comprehensive idea of the Australian Speculative Fiction scene at this moment. There are some fascinating insights. Among the interviewees are Egoboo WA's own Joanna Fay, Satima Flavell, Laura E. Goodin and Carol Ryles.

They are posting the interviews on their blogs from June 1 to June 8. The interviews will then be archived at ASif! Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus.

You can read individual interviews at


or all of them here at ASiF!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sarah Spotting at Continuum

Oh goodness me, I leave tomorrow morning!

I have been superbusy with home life this year, but one of the most important things that has happened is that John and I won the NAFF race! NAFF is a fund set up to help get Fans to the annual National SF Convention who might otherwise not be able to afford to come, as well as to promote the flow of ideas, friendships and projects across Australia. We were incredibly honoured to win this race, but unfortunately things haven't worked out to plan, and so Continuum will only be getting half the Parker household.

If you're in Melbourne, and at Continuum, please do come over and say hello. One of the key elements of NAFF is to get fans talking to fans. Plus any one who is active in fandom is eligible for the NAFF race, and it's a great project to be a part of.
So, onto the Sarah Spotting!

At the Convention, my panels look like this:

  • Continuum 101 - Friday 20:30 until Friday 21:00 with: Hespa , David McDonald,
  • Continuum 101 - Saturday 11:00 until Saturday 11:30 with: Hespa , Emilly McLeay, Emilly McLeay,
  • Crafts In Space! - Sunday 11:00 until Sunday 12:00 with: Trudi Canavan, Lyn McConchie, Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Workshop: Dragon Flying School - Sunday 15:00 until Sunday 16:00
  • Readings - Monday 10:00 until Monday 11:00 with: George Ivanoff, Gillian Polack, Michael Pryor
  • What The NAFF Is A Fan Fund? - Monday 15:00 until Monday 16:00 with: Sue Ann Barber, Alan Stewart
PLUS! I will be hosting a NAFF Fundraising party on the Saturday night, after the Masquerade I think it is! There will be some drinks and munchies provided, and I'm really excited! I must buy lots of lollies! Hope to see you all there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dead Red Heart awarded in the 'Shadows'

The anthology Dead Red Heart, ed. Russell B. Farr, Ticonderoga Press, has been awarded Best Collection in the Shadows Awards 2011 (Australian Horror Writers' Association). It features stories by Egoboo authors Carol Ryles, in the collaborative story 'The Tide', and Joanna Fay, with 'Black Heart'. http://australianhorror.com/index.php?view=304