How writers can ensure their work sells… by Casey Carlisle

Many of us use Beta readers – other writers, friends and family members… but do you get your target audience to scrutinize your work?

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Upon completing the ‘reader-ready’ version of a manuscript, wanting to get some feedback and assistance in editing, storyline and characters, many of us give our baby of blood, sweat and tears to someone to read. Usually it is a family member or close friend, and for others, it is a colleague within the field of writing to get some constructive criticism. It can be a nerve-racking or pleasant experience depending on who you give it to, and what their impression on your work is. Some of us don’t even use Beta readers, but I like to gauge the reaction of a few readers before I hand my draft to the editors and publishers. Being so close to your plot and characters for so long, it is quite often that there is something simple you miss, and a fresh set of eyes can be your saving grace.

I have two groups of readers I sample my writing on: friends I can rely on to give an honest critique and some fellow writers; and my target audience. There have been some posts on Beta readers discussing wether writers use them or not, and even what questions to ask to help gain valuable insight. Although, I haven’t seen a lot of talk on choosing your target market to offer their two cents.

Keeping a large portion of my recreational reading within the genre in which I write, not only to keep in touch with what’s happening in the industry, but to stay in tune with the voices of today’s popular culture. I write YA, and it’s been waaay (*cough*) too many years since I squeaked in rubber soled Converse down the concrete halls of a High School as a student. So how could I possible think that my scribblings relate to any pubescent reader? I research, I observe, I chat… and then pray my words stir their minds and souls. Even though I consider myself a mature, professional woman, there is still that insecure fourteen year old girl romping around in my head, fangirling, squealing, swooning and the occasional, ‘like..ew!’ So I have a small network of avid readers from fourteen to twenty that keep my finger on the pulse (and keep me young  – and sometimes feeling positively ancient).

It has yielded fantastic results for me. Not only has it challenged my writing style, but also improved the complexity in plots throughout the novels. They challenge my use in language and demand more interesting characters… and I can’t thank them enough. Their feedback has made it possible to reach out and grab my dream of being an author. Otherwise I may still be banging away at the computer, churning out pages and pages of prose that would never see the light of day.

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Now I wonder how many of us test our products on the very people we want to sell to? It makes sound business sense right? We’re road testing our product, and when some of us are putting years into a single manuscript, you want to be sure that we get something back. Yes, we may write for love and entertainment, but isn’t it also for the love and entertainment of others? A little research into who is going to read our book, how it is they buy their books and where they buy them from – all of this is invaluable information to keep in mind. For those of you who use social media to market your wares, why not use it to have a conversation with your followers: create a poll to garner statistics on where they spend their money. The more information and feedback you have, the better you can be in control of your destiny as an author.

Please like, share and comment below – I’d love to hear what you do to have your book ready before publication.

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It’s serious work, bruising your bum… by Casey Carlisle

I can hear a ringtail possum… oh no, it’s Casey falling down.

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For those who know a little about Melbourne’s Maribyrnong River, you’ll know that the name comes from the Aboriginal saying ‘mirring-gnay-bir-nong’ translated as ‘I can hear a ringtail possum.’ Part of this beautiful estuary lies right at my back door. I walk my dogs along it of an afternoon; sit in the park beside its banks for picnics and the occasional break from the office to write in a creative-inspirational surround.

I’ve been involved in marine research in the past (you can read some stories in my previous blogs), however recently that habit has fallen by the wayside. Lacking the connections I had in Townville, Darwin or Perth; and I certainly don’t have the expendable time I used to having spent long weekends away on a fishing trawler or research vessel. But I do desperately miss the scent of salt air and marine adventures.

Then one afternoon, with three fur-babies dragging me along a path next to the Maribyrnong River, I almost smacked my forehead with a realisation. There’s got to be a way I could get involved right here. I mean it’s not more than twenty paces from my front door! And so I jumped on the computer once I got home and shot off a few emails… and was rewarded by getting in contact with Andrew, currently completing his Honors degree – and yes, he needed help collecting data for his research.

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Map complements of Melbourne Water

I met with Andrew two months ago to volunteer as a Research Assistant (along with five others), to identify and record numbers of species, measure water temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH levels, nutrients, faecal  contamination and metals in the waterway. The small group of recruits met every Sunday to survey a football field sized area, ending the day in a barbeque and a glass of beer or bubbly. Little did I know that this was not only the beginning of a great time with some hilarious people, but the birth of the “Butt-plant Betting Pool.” Only because I had the displeasure on our first outing to trip and fall … twice… and then again the following weekend.

ImageAlong with discovering that there are ten species of native fish and four species of exotic fish in the area nearest to my house, of 70% sampled was dominated by the Eastern Gambusia.

In the summer months you can find gentlemen fishing off the banks and pontoons for Bream and Jewfish; one of which was witness to my slip, landing on the hard edge of the warf. I sported a grapefruit sized bruise for two weeks. It must have looked so glamorous as I toppled over, flailing my arms and legs Kermit-the-frog-style. But the elderly gentleman respectfully never cracked a smile in amusement. Anonymous fisherman – I humbly thank you!

ImageI can’t say the same for Dan, another volunteer, whereupon watching me slide on some treacherous mud, like Bambi on ice, only to land in fully seated position in the warm brown silt. I just loved spending the afternoon looking like I had sharted. But I got to hold an Eastern Long-necked Turtle and Pobblebonk (Southern Bullfrog) and managed to catch and release a Short-finned Eel.

My next fall from grace was helped along by a comedic friend (Dan) when he brandished a Freshwater Shrimp (Atyidae) in my face – it was primary school all over again. Happily, karma justified my retaliation later that day when he managed to stir an ants nest; I only wish I had my phone on to capture his awkward slapping dance.

There is a lot of redevelopment going on around my suburb, and more catchment areas with ponds in parkland are sprouting up along the riverbank. It’s wonderful to see what will now grow into beautiful little nature reserves. A bountiful number of birds, bats and land mammals can be enjoyed if you chose to peruse along the walkways and jetties. A great deal of history is waiting to be uncovered, with Aboriginal artefacts, mounds and sacred trees along Maribyrnong River’s meandering path to the ocean. Additionally, you can also find the occasional Heritage registered site.

And for those of you who are interested, the “Butt-plant betting pool” ended at 6 falls for 8 weekends, netting Ashley a cool fifty bucks (which she is splitting with me).

So the next time I’m kicking back under a tree, or on a park bench to do some writing by the river, I have a much more intimate knowledge of what lurks beneath it’s waters and hides in the banks. Although I wasn’t swimming with sea turtles or diving on a reef, I certainly got to get my feet wet (and the seat of my pants).

*For information on Andrew’s Honors Thesis, findings are set to be published in a Journal after his graduation. I will post a link for interested parties upon its publication.

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell … written by Casey Carlisle.

If you’re scared about change, about leaving home or growing apart from your family, then you’ll relate to the lamenting Cather…

ImageI can understand why people rave about this novel; it strikes at the heart of every bookworm. Cather, the protagonist, is the quintessential introvert, hiding from life behind her twin sister, her father, her guilt and anger from her mother’s abandonment, and most of all, her fanfiction.  The concept of ‘Fangirl’ resonated with me personally, as a writer, because it shows how much creative people retreat into an imaginary world in order to escape or protect ourselves from the harsh realities in the world around us. Rainbow Rowell sketches strong characters that are scared and flawed with beautiful innocence. Although I didn’t fall in love with the book, I certainly rave about what it explores.

Completing the novel in a day, it was definitely an easy yet compelling read. I was a little bored towards the end when Cather’s internal monologue began to get annoying – but that was the worst of my experience. The paring of Cather and her love interest Levi was refreshingly unique from many other YA counterparts in that, even with the drama of their story, an innate calm and steady element underlined this development. It lent a ‘safe’ quality in Levi which readers will find attractive. Personally, I didn’t swoon, it lacked that epic romance feel; instead, like the main character, the pace built gently – understated and ultimately comfortable.

ImageThe best way I can sum up the characters is by posing the question – how do you deal with despair? Because that is basically what happens in various ways and with different outcomes. It was raw and honest without being preachy. Cather starts University with her twin sister Wren; however Wren breaks out on her own forcing Cather to find her own identity. Which is difficult when your are constantly being compared to your prettier, more outgoing sister… who happens to look exactly like you! The problem is: Cather doesn’t want to grow up, doesn’t want to be on her own, doesn’t want to change. She retreats into her room and writing Simon Snow fanfiction (a wave at the Harry Potter craze). Cather is the sensible, responsible one, picking up the pieces of her Fathers manic episodes, while Wren is the rebel who drinks, parties and has boyfriends.

We begin to see how the reclusive Cather is challenged through her roommate, Reagan and Reagan’s ex-boyfriend Levi. She deals with the new obstacles as every writer does – through her fanfiction and withdrawing into her thoughts. Its safe there, familiar, and doesn’t make demands.

ImageIt is about the inevitable journey Cather must go through to find her own voice. – If you missed that the Simon Snow fanfiction is a representation of her childhood and how the Professor encouraging her to write something else is a parallel for Cather stepping out of her sister’s shadow to find her own identity apart from Wren, I’m going to roll my eyes at you.  :p

Elements I loved about the book include the gay theme to Cather’s fandom writing, shedding a light on the GLBT community. Also, the novel deals with the subject of Copyright and Plagiarism, challenging the concept that fanfiction resides in the grey area of intellectual property versus the concept of where ideas come from.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to an alternative to the dystopian or paranormal fiction monopolizing the market at the moment. A great way to spend a weekend snuggled in your favorite chair and a mug of hot chocolate.

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Insomnia, snoring and bad smells… by Casey Carlisle

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Having relatives visit is a delight… until after twilight when the real monsters emerge.

                My writing habits this last week have morphed into that of a nocturnal scavenger. With some relatives visiting for a fortnight, my home is a flurry of laughs and activity. Household chores have been taken off me by Aunties not content to sit and relax, needing to satisfy their idle hands, and hey? Who am I to object – it frees up more time for me to be doing work right? Uncles are pottering in the back yard, the lawn has never looked so good; and all those little repair jobs that have been piling up for the last two years suddenly get done. So what fault could I find in this holiday miracle? Hanging with fun, pleasant family members and long interesting conversations: check! Meals get cooked much quicker with more hands in the kitchen (not to mention new yummy recipes to share): check! A lighter load of daily tasks to run the household: check! Well you get the point.

With bodies occupying every room, the first night we needed to shuffle the sleeping arrangements somewhat, and I ended up with my best mate kipping in a spare bed in my room. More fun – late night gossiping and pillow fights to eschew… well, that kind of behaviour stopped between us over ten years ago. We behave more like a bickering elderly couple these days. So come bed time my new room mate crashes and is out like a light, while I’m reading and writing under a book light. So very rarely do I simply drift off of an evening. I need to tire the mental muscle before it is fatigued enough to stop it’s flow of thoughts and words.

Now all I can say is – thank the heavens for the man or woman who invented earphones! With four puppy dogs (we are dog sitting an additional French Bulldog) and a heavy sleeping individual taking up every available space of my floor. The breathing, snoring, grunting and farting was like a chorus of brass instruments. Not to mention eyes watering and a gag reflex at some obnoxious odours escaping from someone’s rear. So I crack a window and slip on some chill out tunes, pop in some ear buds to block out the bowel trembling orchestra. It works for the most part, but when I’m finally tired and decide to turn in, at that point you’re just about to doze off … TOOT! And I’m wide awake again.

So after a week of this, each night I’ve stayed awake later and later, doing more and more writing accompanied by the canine wind section. But now I feel like I’ve become a creature of the night, tapping away at the keyboard until just before the sun comes up and sleeping part of the morning away. Making a trip to the letterbox in the afternoon to get a dose of Vitamin D and back to socialise and entertain my guests it’s actually a pretty sweet routine – the uninterrupted hours of work I accomplish  in the darkness, minions running about to complete my chores. It’s like having elves tidy your house while you’re sleeping. Of course the cost for these wonderful events is a lack of privacy and a sulphurous scent accompanied by the occasional grumble, mumble, snort and toot. No biggie – I can live with that in order to keep meeting my daily writing goals.

Nonetheless, it will be back to our regularly scheduled programming in another week – I just have to re-set the biological clock. Here’s to pottering Uncles and Aunties everywhere: I thank you for all you do. As for the dogs and friends who share your room… hmmm, maybe one of those snore strips and a change of diet. Or maybe I’ll use some earplugs- for my ears and my nostrils!

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sick of all the diets, meal plans and fitness regimes that don’t work? Me too!

All Natural Care

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It’s not about finding that one miracle pill or personal trainer, it’s about never giving up!

ImageI’ve been on a health kick of late, seven kilograms have snuck on around my tummy and thighs since Christmas, and admittedly, I haven’t been active or watching what food I put in my mouth. The SMALL changes I’ve made to my eating and exercising habits have made a big difference – and many of my friends and patients have been discussing and swapping information over this topic (the beginner for getting back into shape or losing weight) recently, so I thought I’d share our findings.

Yes, many pills and short crash diets can work, but they do not sustain the weight loss. You put it all back on – and then some! Most of us just don’t have it in us to adopt these long strenuous exercise plans or want to sacrifice too…

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Film vs Novel – The Mortal Instruments City of Bones… a review by Casey Carlisle

Action and adventure… with just about any supernatural being you can think of thrown in the mix!

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Excuse me while I have a fangirl moment, but the absolute first thing I must make you aware of is that I looove the Shadowhunter universe Cassandra Clare has created, and am thankful there are so many volumes in which to indulge. Having said that, comparing the film adaptation to the book is always going to be a futile exercise. Only because you can explore so much more in a novel than in the time limit acceptable for a film. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the big screen version just as much.

City of Bones,‘ the novel, set up the characters really well and the reveals throughout the plot were well timed. I felt the movie left a lot of this out. And consequently I did not feel the love for the characters of Clary and Jace as I did in  the book. I’m not sure if it was casting, script, or the omission of so much build up that the two leads felt a little wishy-washy. Lily Colins did a commendable job, but her representation lacked that righteousness that was the core motivation for Clary in the novel. She was always standing up for the downtrodden, fighting for justice – and she did so vehemently. And sorry, I just didn’t get that from the Lily. The same with Jace – in the book he was extremely handsome, muscular like an athlete, and possessed a lazy gracefulness which juxtaposed his overconfidence and cockiness bordering on insult. With Jamie Campbell in the role, Jace felt practically emo and brooding, losing all appeal for me. In fact, I cringed every time he appeared on the screen. Summing up their chemistry together, as you can guess, was like drinking lukewarm tea and failed to deliver on my expectations. The romance in the film failed to build to that intense attraction it had in the books and felt rushed. I really think if I had not read the book I would have barely rated the movie on it’s own merits for their relationship.

The first evidence Clary sees of the Shadowhunter world, with the slaying of a demon in a nightclub in the book was intense and messy. Clary screaming and calling a scene to shut the place down. It is how Clary conducts herself in the whole series. Rushing in headfirst. That did not happen in the movie. It was more like a cookie-cutter B-grade horror movie scene. Cue actress standing in the wings staring and screaming in horror while everyone else looked on in confusion.

My favourite character from the books is Simon, and even though all the appearances he made in the movie version (played expertly by Robert Sheehan) are relevant to the plot, he felt almost invisible. At the films end I struggled to remember him as prominently as I had upon finishing the novel. With such an excellent actor interpreting Simon’s journey, I suspect that we are only going to get more and more throughout this franchise.

The overall plot of the book(s) gave me a sense of deja vu for some reason – like I had read it all before, and I still can’t put my finger on as to why. But no matter the reason, I loved the book by completing the last page. The plot in the film adaptation worked really well (if a little rushed). Given that it was not solely Clary’s POV, scope and pace held my attention throughout the whole movie, much like a rollercoaster ride. You definitely won’t get bored.

All of the special effects in the movie were incredible, and I have to applaud the post production team for some truly boggling work. I can’t wait to see what tricks they pull out of the hat for the next installments.

Overall, I’d recommend to go see the movie, if you are a fan of the books or not. It’s an adventurous fantasy world to lose yourself in. I’m hoping like’ The Hunger Games’ franchise, where the second film was much better than the first, ‘City of Ashes’ (the second installment of The Mortal Instruments series) turns out to be much more satisfying.

Adore the book – The film: immensely enjoyable, but not amazing!

 

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Don’t let people suck away all your creativity … by Casey Carlisle

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I’m talking about spiritual vampires… the leeches that feed on your ideas, positivity and diminish your motivation.

We’ve all come across someone in our lives who affects you in a negative way, stresses you out, puts you or your ideas down. A person who is always making negative statements and complaining. It can impact your writing (or whatever your medium may be), and stifle your flow if not careful. We are all artists and wordsmiths, and once doubt and frustration infect your soul in can taint your every thought and is difficult to shake.

I like to use these types of characters as inspiration for traits in include in the cast of my novels, funnelling all that ‘woe-is-me’ on to the page. It can add an interesting story arc for redemption or offer a challenge (or comparison) for your protagonist.

Turn a negative into a positive. Got writers block? Write about a writer who’s hit a wall and what has snuffed out his or her inspiration. Hey, at least it gets you writing again! Turning the cogs in that ol’ noggin of yours.

My best friend calls it the ‘Pollyanna Approach.’ How I always take the crap in my life and use it as fertilizer to grow something rewarding. I know it sounds like your typical overcoming adversity, or finding the optimist spiel, but I think it is a valuable lesson in taking stock of our surrounds when we work in a creative field. The environment and people around us can inversely measure against our process.

I only say all of this because, from my own personal experience, early on in my writing career there were many nay-sayers regarding my probability of earning a living out of this vocation. By devaluing the thing I was most passionate about, it quelled most of my urge to continuing to write. It took me several years to wake up one day and announce, ‘What the hey – I can’t not write.’ And so I did. Not for a job. Hell, not even with the thought I was going to turn it into a full time career. I started because I wanted to do it for myself. There were just too many ideas crowding my head I needed to get down on paper.

Now, because I no longer pay attention to anyone doubting my storytelling skills, I am so much happier. Words continue to flow. Novels continue to pour out of me. So don’t let the doubting thomas’ or saboteurs control your passion. Do it for yourself. Be proud of your creations.

We need to support each other, give a pat on the back and compliment those who can pluck ideas out of thin air. They lead, entertain, teach… what we do is important. So next time you feel like the walls are closing in, take a look around you and identify what is the source of your dilemma – and use it!

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.