Saturday, July 30, 2011

Aussie August! Blogs about writing and the land of Oz...

I think we can all agree that there are poets and then there are POETS.

While I’ve been known to try my hand at verse once in a while, I am a lousy poet. My belief is that mediocre or poor poetry is relatively easy to write, while good poetry is not only incredibly difficult to master, but it requires a command and love of language. Michael is an example of a POET who has an amazing dedication to the craft, technique, and mastery of good poetry. I personally find his poems to be both whimsically fun and philosophically deep at the same time. It is rare to find a poet who can “remove” me from the here and now to absorb me in his/ her words, but Michael is one of those poets. Those of you who know me understand that I do not distribute praise to colleagues lightly, and in fact it was Michael’s talent that encouraged me to start an e-mail / Skype correspondence with him.

Well, that and his incredibly cool accent.

Michael has been generous enough to share his wit and wisdom with us this week on the writing craft, his "five faves" poetry book project, koalas, and everything Aussie.
PLUS: For every comment you make, I will place your name in a drawing to win a FREE paperback copy of “Souls Raised from the Dead” by my mentor and former creative writing teacher, the incredible Doris Betts. So the more comments you make, the more chances you have to win. Just be sure to leave your e-mail addy on at least ONE of your comments. I will then e-mail you privately to get your “snail mail” addy. Last day for comments is the last day of August. I'll draw a name the first of September.

And yes, if you live overseas, I will ship it to you overseas---which would really suck for me paying postage and all--- but yes, I am willing to do it in the name of Southern literature and global peace and understanding (insert your favorite Bob Dylan song here).

And now on to Michael's bio and a few things about him.
First, you can check out his blog, An Elusive Symmetry, by clicking here. Also, please check out his book Ultramundane Shadows. You can flip through it and read some of his poems in it by clicking here.

Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke had his first poem published in 1966 when he was seven years old in the mass circulation Australian newspaper The Sun. Michael’s first poetry hero was John Keats, after he read as a teenager a biography of the English Romantic poet.

At Monash University, from 1977 to 1980, while studying successfully for a Bachelor of Economics degree, he hung out in a part of the library where hardly anyone went, devouring poetry books, and Michael Dransfield became his very favourite poet.

To this day, notwithstanding he now has many other favourites, Dransfield’s “to be a poet in Australia is the ultimate commitment” remains seminal. Since university, Michael has made a point of reading poetry, often in translation, from as many poets the world over as he can.

Michael now lives in Townsville, enjoying the north Queensland tropical sunshine. He is a valued member of Writers In Townsville Society, whose website is:

And now a few questions for Michael:
What do you do when you're not writing?

"I sleep. I drink black coffee. I sleep more. I drink more black coffee. The cafe at the end of the street has installed an intravenous drip of black coffee just for me. There’s a Catholic church directly across the road from the cafe. I stare at Jesus on the cross above the church door, and, in caffeine-induced reverie, gain profound mystical insights into why all references to coffee beans were edited out of The Bible in the early years."

Of which of your accomplishments are you most proud?

"The poem I wrote three days ago. You’re only as good as your latest poem, I say. My latest poem says to me that life is like a deodorant can: you can spray and spray and keep spraying until the whole bathroom is scented with sweet fragrance, but if you compromise your artistic integrity, you always smell like bacon grease."

Pick one: Elvis or The Beatles?

"I was born in England, so it’s gotta be The Beatles. As John said, Elvis lost it when he went in the army. Plus, could Colonel Parker play the drums as well as Ringo? I rest my case..."

Where do you like to write?

"In my old lounge chair. This chair should already be World Heritage Listed, not for its antique value, but for the habitat it provides to many and varied species of tropical dust mites."

Is there something you keep on your writing desk that inspires you?

"My stack of books. At the moment, I have four paperbacks of prose writing by Dylan Thomas, two of T.S. Eliot’s writings, a biography written by poet Kathleen Raine of William Blake, The Faber Book of 20th Century Verse, and The Upanishads.

But, as the guy who tries to sell you the set of steak knives at 2:00 am in the wee hours says, “there’s more.” My desk is like a typical woman’s purse: it has enough many, and weirdly varied, things on it to occupy behavioural scientists for decades.

Such as. My bathroom scales. An empty can of Airwick 4 in 1 air freshener. The box my electric jug came in. My church offering envelopes. My clothes pegs. A padlock. An unopened bowel cancer testing kit. (As you might gather, I’m not overly worried that I might have bowel cancer.) And a morass of various types of papers so high and wide that I don’t doubt that I have single-handedly caused the extinction of at least twenty-five species of rare jungle mammals, through destruction of their habitat for paper products.

Finally, if your life were made into a movie, who would you want to play you? (and no, you can’t play yourself.)

"I would like to be animated, in fact I’d insist upon it. Thor. That would suit me, thanks. There’s something phallic about the way he wields his hammer that immensely appeals to me. Thor got the Nordic chicks, back in the Valhalla days. Thunder and lightning work every time, or at least they did. But, and this is essential, I’d insist it not be a Hollywood movie, but rather a Swedish one, in Swedish, in black and white, with long, arty panoramic shots of bleak, windswept, desolate Swedish landscape. Voiceover by some husky Swedish hunk named Lars."

Thanks Michael! Let's all give him a great welcome!
Feel free to ask him any questions about poetry, writing, Australia, or wrestling crocodiles. I'm sure he'll be glad to oblige.

Also, a list of Michael's published books of poetry may be found here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Announcing: Aussie August

One of the cool things about being a writer and having a blog is being able to meet and network with other writers. One of the fun ways to do this is through guest blogging. Next month will be "Aussie August," featuring some poetry and wisdom from the land Down Under with one of my new-found friends, Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke. In addition, one lucky commenter will win a copy of  "Souls Raised from the Dead" by my former creative writing professor, the incredible Doris Betts.

Long story short--Michael is a poet who has several publication credits and accolades to his name. I'll publish a longer bio as the month approaches, along with some way cool links to his blog and his publications.
For this week, I would like to invite questions from commenters on any and all things Australian, as well as any questions concerning poetry---technique, publication, etc.

And yes, his accent is wonderful. I wish I had more technical expertise to get a "live" reading from him, but maybe in the future.

Michael will delve into such topics as:
-- What is a budgie smuggler ? (and yes, we have them in the States, we just call them something different)
-- Koalas, koalas, koalas
--Why he's collecting everyone's five favorite and least favorite words...and how you can help him out...

So much, much more to come.  I hope you'll join me for Aussie August.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My favorite mistakes: Internet time-wasters I love

I have a ton of things to do this week---including finishing up novel #3 to hopefully have out in time for a Labor Day promo...
...but hey, what's going down on Facebook? Anyone need their crops watered? Want to find out which of the Lord of the Rings characters you are? And who would play me in a movie about my life? Well, that's too good to pass up!

So, in honor of just chilling out and not taking ourselves too seriously, here are a few of my favorite time-wasters. Feel free to visit.

Awkward Family Photos
I want to send in a picture of me in the 80s with my huge hair and even BIGGER glasses.

LOL cats
Cats-- funny. Cats wtih snarky expressions -- priceless.

This is not meant to crack on anyone from other nationalities. I'm pretty sure I've ruthlessly massacred Spanish without meaning to...
Scroll down the page and click on the strange news items. Mark Twain was right: the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.

Anyone want to share any of their faves?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kindle Update--- and Kindle tips

I'm now averaging selling a little over a book a day---roughly 40 or so a month on Kindle.
I've gotten more reviews--most of them favorable, though I always appreciate a dose of constructive criticism.

For those of you new to my blog, I've been trying to follow JA Konrath's example to see if putting my books on Kindle can be a profitable venture---though please note that Konrath (and many of the other writers making mucho dinero on Kindle) are very prolific, and I only have three books up right now.

Something I've noticed:

---Cover art truly does make a big difference. You can look up my covers for my print titles and compare the two. My two novels were traditionally published by small presses, and the publishers supplied the cover art. I'm not dissing the cover art---I like them a lot and I think they were very well done. Of course, since the publisher supplied the cover art, the copyright for that remains with the publisher, so I had to devise new covers. "Saint Jude" was done by a designer I worked with named Paul Krause, and I actually did the "Cafe" and "Shangri-La" covers myself.  I'd like to note that I had several "misses" with the "Shangri-La" cover before I came up with the rooster. One was a driver's side mirror, one was a big informational highway sign---things that were okay, but not quite as "crisp" as the redesign.

I'll note here that I did have some training in graphic design as a part of my visual arts/ journalism bachelor's degree. Of course, this was when digital cameras were still a novelty and they cost around $3,000 each.

Dang, did I just show my age?

I didn't use digital cameras in journalism school---we were afraid the dinosaurs might eat them.

I also think that the more type you have on the cover [blurbs, etc] the simpler your cover should be. I go by the old adage that "less is more."

I firmly believe the best way to learn good design is to look at bad design. For this, I always suggest checking out Web Pages that Suck.

It's good for a laugh as well.

Any successful Kindle authors want to share something they've found useful? Feel free to post it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Unexpected Inspirations: English as a Second Language

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to work with a group of ESL students at a language school in the Midwest (as per my blog policy, I do NOT mention specific names or places unless I have permission. ). These students were upper-level, and had done some type of professional academic work in their native languages and were in classes taught in English at the local university. They wanted to write their stories about coming to America and about what they loved about the US and at the same time, what they missed so much about their own country.

Great! I thought this was a wonderful idea. They were excited to have a published American author visit them (and I was thinking "dude, don't get too excited---I'm not exactly Maya Angelou here.")

What I discovered was---WOW! Unexpected inspiration.
When one student had a hard time describing the beautiful spring in her native Iran, she said to me, "I don't understand how to describe it in English---all the beauty of the land comes together on the wind and creates music."

Um, how to describe it? I think you just did. And much, much better than many who are native English speakers, may I add.

The unexpected inspiration was that it really made me wonder how much we really, really think about our own language. Sure, I know what these words mean, and maybe that's why I don't really spend more time thinking --is this the BEST word I can use? Is there another word that would be better?

These are questions that were constantly running through the minds of these students. Perhaps, in some ways, they understand English better than we do...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ideal price for Kindle books? It's not $17

Don't put Kindle price at $17.99. Seriously, dudes

It won't sell. I'm not kidding. I heard someone put a book up there at that price.
Won't sell.
JA Konrath and other authors have weighed in on the fact that for a manuscript link book----60,000 words--- $2.99 is a reasonable price.
I do sometimes put my books on sale for 99 cents---but under Amazon, you only get a 35 percent royalty that way, as opposed to a 70 - 755 percent at the $2.99 price, so I think putting books on sale is really about getting noticed---I consider the reduction in royalty as advertisement.

Okay, this was a really, really boring post. Sorry about that. Go check out an LOL cat for a smile.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

JK Puts Potter on e-books----no publisher required

In case you haven't read it before now, JK has joined the e-book thing!
Through her own website. Wow.
As the link indicates, is this the "Radiohead moment?"

I think this really shows how the digital revolution is affecting the publishing industry. I also think many authors will be reluctant to sell their e-book rights, even to "Big 6" publishers.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Unexpected Inspirations: Bottle Caps

Continuing in my series on Unexpected Inspirations

Well, despite the fact that Tennessee Williams died after choking on one (it's true, look it up),I've always thought those bottle caps that had quirky sayings underneath them were kind of cute. Like an unexpected surprise. I remember the one for the Sobe Lizard Blizzard (I liked it because it tasted like a pina colada, and it had zinc in it, so I could tell myself I was actually getting some vitamins.) It always had "lizzard" substituted for some movie title "Saving Private Lizard," "Back to the Lizard," "Raiders of the Lost Lizard," and other random sayings.

It was cute. Nothing deep, but kind of a fun surprise.

At the County Market cafe, I got an unexpected inspiration from a beverage called "Honest Tea" (love that name, btw). It's organic tea---very good, a light, understated taste. Anyway, it also had an understated poem/ writing under the bottle cap. I almost overlooked it.

It was called "6-word memoirs."

I'm thinking, yeah, right. Six words. A Memoir. You've got to be kidding.
But this one by Rick Boal was totally awesome:
"Sit quietly
and watch
your thoughts."

And even better, you can submit your own six-word memoirs at
I think we should all give it a try. Just for the heck of it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

First self-published Kindle author to sell one million copies

You may have heard of this already, evidently I've been slow to get this up (that's what he said---sorry, couldn't resist) US writer John Locke sells one million books on Kindle.
Here's the link:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Guest blog post at Kat Lively's

Guest blog post at Kat Lively's

I'm guest blogging at Kat Lively's today. Thanks all. Leave some comments to win free e-book and/ or get on the coupon list for a FREE copy of my next book (hopefully coming out in August).

Here's the link--
IMPORTANT: Some things on site may be NSFW, depending upon your company's policy.
My post may also not be safe for work, but for albeit different reasons.

Swing by, say hi. Have coffee, we'll talk. No big whoop.