The Art of Self-Promoting… does it ever really pay off?

I always dreamed of the day I would see my fiction novel sitting on a bookstore shelf. There is something about this mental image far more exciting in prospect than having your work sitting as a flat link in cyberspace. Don’t get me wrong, the Internet has opened up whole new avenues of availability for writers like me in terms of worldwide pockets of readership groups, peer reviews, digital reading formats, etc. However, after the initial excitement you feel when a digital publisher announces your ‘masterpiece’ has been unleashed on the worldwide web, there is a gradual feeling that you have – in some way – let yourself and your work down.

To illustrate this kind of feeling, let me briefly digress. I once owned a beautiful Golden Retriever. After extensive grooming and lead training, I entered her in the local dog show. She wasn’t just a beautiful dog in my eyes, alone; everybody that met Jade felt she was a uniquely special dog. Anyway, the long-awaited day had arrived. It quickly turned out that Jade was the only Retriever in her age category, but she was shown anyway. She performed well. She earned the first prize ribbon, essentially because there were no other dogs or ribbon places to give my dog anything but first place. The point? I feel that I’m in competition against myself, whereas a publisher can at least confirm (first thing out the gate) that you’re odds-on to be at least a minor hit, or they wouldn’t have backed you.

Family and friends are wonderful at encouraging you with your writing, and telling you to ‘get the book out there’. Luckily, I have friends and family who – despite loving me – are not in the habit of sugar coating their feedback. This did wonders for my editing, and for my self esteem, and I ended up with (to the best of my ability) a stream-lined vision of my original flabby story. I was finally ready to unleash the product of my imagination on the world. I always knew that my story didn’t fit into any one genre, however, and neither did I have an exact idea of my Ideal Reader. I just knew I was onto a unique idea, and I hope that some day it will really find its stride.

One would think that a novel concerning the life and times of people ascribing to different belief systems (Atheism, Wicca, Christianity) would find a home amongst the more open-minded of this 21st century. But, I’m getting the sneaking feeling that Western society has developed a taste for the purely supernatural, rather than the spiritual. The funny thing is that the two go hand-in-hand. Spirituality doesn’t have to be a dry, clunky affair. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In my novel, spirituality delineates how it draws some together, and forces others apart. How that many spiritual assumptions begin with the best intentions but are based on ignorance, or define you simply by virtue of your upbringing. It may be something you hold onto as a last-ditch effort at what seems sane in a crazy world. Spirituality forces situational change, can cause a change of heart, or cause a heart to harden. It starts things. It ends things. As someone who spent 10 years growing up in a religious cult (my parents’ decision), I find the subject of spirituality endlessly fascinating, though something that should never be treated lightly or written presumptively.

Short of getting a tee-shirt printed with BUY MY BOOK ONLINE! or planning a multi-suburb leaflet drop, I’m definitely going to keep plugging away online. It doesn’t help to hear of new snapped-up writers who get their book optioned for movies before the print’s even gone cold. Having said that, maybe that’s the elusive hope of the Internet that keeps people like me plugging away. That, at the end of the day… who knows what could happen?

The Other Side


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I don’t know about you, but I think…

The modern fictional character has largely gone the way of the dogs. Call me a cynic.

In my personal opinion, Fifty Shades of Grey was a new low point in modern story telling; in that there was no story to be found besides routine bonking and an over-abundance of adverbs. (Gasped, paled, blushed, groaned…) I read – most – of FSOG. Almost couldn’t bear it, but I had to know what all the fuss was about. The passage that stood out to me the most, and which many others may have overlooked, was when the main character took a long trip in her car. That was literally all that was written there. It looked like this, in a matter of three lines or so:

The MC (main character) got in the car to go to destination X. It was a long trip. MC got to destination X.

She was simply driving on a page. Zero scenery or weather or landmark descriptions.

I believe that fiction should be, and can be, tangible. As close to non-fiction in that realism as possible. This is how readers connect with characters, and the only way. I believe implicitly in BACKSTORY. If I walked up to you in the street and said, “A character in my novel, Nell, is only 22 and she dies in a horrific car accident”, I’m sure most people would agree that a car accident is a gnarly way to go. However, there is nothing much more that I can elicit from you in terms of emotion that that fleeting ‘Oh, shame’ sentiment, because, quite frankly – you have to know someone in order to care about them.

Getting to the nitty-gritty of a character’s makeup is one of the best parts of writing. Every living person has a history, and so should a character. To ascribe details to a character’s life, I focus on building around certain themes:┬áMOTIVES. FEARS. FLAWS. PROBLEMS. GOALS. SECRETS. Subtlety is also a dying art, and is underrated. Secondary characters should be just as colorful and just as alive as MC’s, because we’re all the main actors on our living stages, so how are secondary characters to know that they are not the main characters in their story?

My first, and my eternal inspiration for writing short, powerful word pictures was through the lyrics and music of Joni Mitchell. I quickly learned that she could tell me more about the feeling of living through life than one hundred How-To writer books ever could. The point? She has been there. She is sending back postcards.

I’m not suggesting that everybody has to listen to Joni Mitchell in order to learn the subtle art of the metaphor. I’m simply saying that we need to dig a little deeper than the average mainstream dross we’re fed from every direction in the 21st century – from endless sex-scapades to seen-it-a mile-off punchlines and one-dimensional characters. We need better heroes, to become better writers – to better our readers’ experience.



To my mind, there are at least three distinct camps regarding the legacy of Michael Jackson.

1. You hate him

2. You love him

3. You view him with an ambivalent kind of curiosity, something akin to a side-show spectacle.

I crossed from a (kinder) version of the latter camp into true Fandom in 2005. Anyone with lingering question marks over the kiddie fiddling allegations should read “Unmasked” (a book written by a journo determined to prove Michael’s guilt who ended up with nothing but admiration for him).

Somehow, the man is dead. This person, who, through his art and through a sheer, blinding talent, built a career that spanned decades and left in its wake no less than record breaking feats in dance, singles sales, album sales, fashion icon status, and staggering charity contributions. Michael had love and creativity at the forefront of whatever drove him in life, and what truly drove him to inspire others.

Last Saturday, I went to the Immortal World Tour Cirque du Soleil, having greedily hidden my ticket away for months with visions of emotional arousal and wonderment, and a tad of gloating for those who envied me, having missed out.

There was – nothing – in this show that lacked. Let me just say this, as someone who is rarely prone to overstatement.

From the opening notes of “Childhood” with imitation Neverland Ranch gates set in view, I could not have asked for more. The dancers and acrobats were second to none, supported by a stunning sound stage and strobe lighting. Snippets of Michael’s songs and statements and videos were spliced throughout and truly – magnified – through achingly beautiful dance sequences. At one stage an oversized loafer-and-white sock even hoved into view, as well as an oversized white glove that began to walk on two fingers.

It was not just the trappings of an Icon that featured heavily, however, it was the Man. It took someone who knew MJ’s heart to put across in a tribute show what only true MJ fans could appreciate.

This was what Michael would have wanted.

This was what we wanted.

Not just another way to say goodbye, as with the fate-tinged ‘This Is It’ footage.┬áBut, a way to say hello again. And to embrace with true joy the opportunity to celebrate the life and times of someone whose depth of talent and breadth of charity I can safely claim has never been – or will ever be, again – in lifetimes.

Rest in peace, MJ. You’ve surely earned it.