Sunday, 27 January 2008

Author interview: KS Augustin!

KS, welcome to my very first author interview! Tell us a bit about your background.

I was born in Malaysia but educated predominantly in Australia. Since meeting my husband, J, we've travelled around a bit, working in the United States as well. Right now, we're based in Singapore. Although I'm in IT, I've also held down a number of other jobs, from martial arts instructor to comedy writer. We have four children - two humans, The Wast and Little Dinosaur, and two cats, Cat B and Cat A.

What books do you remember most from your childhood? Were there any special favorites that you read more than once?

I think I had the traditional British education...back when a British education actually meant something! I used to devour all of Enid Blyton's books, for example. I began reading science-fiction at a young age, but my reading was mostly of American writers, like Stanley Weinbaum, Henry Kuttner, and Ray Bradbury. In high school, I discovered Harry Harrison and his Stainless Steel Rat books, and I constantly have to buy new editions of his works because, to this day, I keep wearing the old ones out.

I remember my own Enid Blyton days. What kind of books do you write?

I write mostly science-fiction romance and space-opera.

How long have you been writing?

In an effort to get published? Since 2002. But before that, I'd written short stories for the school newspaper...the usual kind of thing. In high school, I became editor of the high-school newspaper. At that time, poetry was my favourite medium, and I got a Highly Commended in a state poetry competition!

Was your road to publication a difficult one?

I don't quite know how to answer that one. I think, like any budding romance writer, I thought Harlequin was the way to go, and I would get to the partial stage (i.e. sending along a synopsis plus three chapters) to editors in the USA, then get rejected. This happened to six different manuscripts. That took three or four years. J told me there was an obvious misfit between what I wanted to write and what Harlequin was producing at the time and, as I was looking around for other avenues, I stumbled across electronic publishing. So I sat down and wrote a sci-fi romance, which came more naturally to me, and it was accepted by New Concepts Publishing. That was The Commander's Slave and it was contracted in September 2006, and released in April 2007.

You're probably wondering why I didn't try other houses such as Avon or Dorchester, but I didn't think I was up to writing full-length novels at that point. 80,000 to 100,000 words? It terrified me! In fact, the only 80K+ novel I've completed to date is a space opera that came in at 130,000 words, but I actually split that into two and am still doing some work on it. If you go to my website, you'll see I'm working on my first novel-length sci-fi romance, called The Turk. Wish me luck!

I read on your website that one of your novellas, The Commander's Slave, has been nominated for a CAPA award. Tell us about your awards.

The Commander's Slave won the paranormal category of the Indiana Golden Opportunity award a few years ago, and that was a huge boost for me because it was somebody independent telling me that they thought I had talent. I mean, you may think that about yourself, but having someone else actually give you some reward for it is something else again! So that gave me impetus to continue writing. TCS is currently up for a Psyche Award from The Romance Studio, which is like the catch-all award for releases that don't fit any of the other categories. I don't know the exact criteria so can't tell you why it was chosen, but I'm particularly stoked because the nomination came out of the blue.

Congratulations! That kind of recognition for your work must be very encouraging. What in your opinion is the most important thing a writer seeking publication should know?

That it's a business. And that a writer will have much more time to spend on her/his craft before s/he snags that first contract rather than after. I've run businesses before, so it hasn't come as too much of a surprise to me, but I definitely recommend anyone seriously wanting to pursue writing as a career to take a small business course. The writing is only the tip of the iceberg.

What are some of your favourite novels?

I'm a great Amanda Quick fan. She's an almost-auto-buy for me. (I have no absolute auto-buys.) As is Lois McMaster Bujold and Iain M Banks. I am also a huge fan of Heinrich Boll, the late German writer. His style of writing is one I constantly aspire to, but know I will never ever achieve; our voices are too different. I'm ashamed to say that, as an Asian, I am woefully ignorant of Asian English-language literature. I don't mean Amy Tan or Jung Chang's books, but those that are closer to my own culture, written by south-east Asian writers. So my answer to you may be different this time next year as I continue educating myself.

Do you have any pet peeves?

Um, personally or writing-wise? Should I start alphabetically? LOL! I think, more than anything else, I dislike wilfully ignorant people. I also dislike people who see things in black and white. In fact, my favourite colour is grey (it's true!), which I think is also a psychological insight into how I think. I'll also mention this because I know you've read the books, Liane. I also have a niggling dislike for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith. Don't get me wrong, the writing's good and very evocative, but why aren't I reading such stories written by African writers? Why do I have to read about Africa from a white Scottish man? I mean, I don't have anything against white Scottish men... Gordon Jackson, Billy Connolly, Iain Banks, I love me some white Scottish men, but why can't I read about Africa from native African writers? I don't believe there are no talented African writers. And the books themselves are not nakedly allegorical, the way Conrad's Heart of Darkness is. This is a true slice of life series of books, so I'm disappointed to a large degree. Then again, someone could say my dislike is nothing more than post-colonial resentment and they might be right.

I understand post-colonial sensitivity, for obvious reasons. I read the Detective Agency books first, and researched the writer afterwards. The nationality/ethnicity of a writer doesn't matter to me; it's all about the story. And I love stories written in so-called 'exotic' settings. A random question: how do you grow tomatoes in your bathroom? Seriously. My mom wants to know. (I think she's getting ideas.)

Ha ha. Actually, we pulled them out and replaced them with herbs. We have almost floor to ceiling frosted glass bay windows in our two bathrooms which, I thought, was perfect for tomatoes. And they initially seemed to do well. But the afternoon sun was falling directly on the windows and they started to get burnt every afternoon. Without carrying out some fiddly remedial work in our rented apartment, there was little we could do and once flower after flower started to crisp, I realised the environment was wrong. Now we have parsley, celery leaves and basil growing there. I'd love to grow some rosemary (it was too hot for our sage, chervil and coriander), but we're probably moving in a few months' time, so I think I'll just stick to what we have for now.

Thank you for being my guest, KS, and I wish you the best of luck with The Turk and all your books. This has been fun.

Thanks for inviting me, Liane! I've had a blast.

KS Augustin's bibliography:

The Commander's Slave (novella), sci-fi romance, New Concepts Publishing (the CAPA nominee)
On Bliss (short story), sci-fi romance, Total-E-Bound
The Dragon of Ankoll Keep (novella), fantasy romance, Samhain Publishing (Romance Junkies' Reviewer's Favorite [sic!])
Prime Suspect (novella), sci-fi romance, Total-E-Bound
Combat! (novella), sci-fi romance, Samhain Publishing

The KS Augustin website:
The KS Augustin blog:

Friday, 25 January 2008

The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley...

I stepped out of the office today, looked down for a moment, and walked straight into a steel window frame. Staggered. Doubled over, disoriented and in pain. Grabbed at a piece of some structure at waist height and hung on for dear life. My sister-in-law came around the side of the building at that very moment:

"You hit your head on the window! Let me put some ice on it!"

So for the next twenty minutes I iced the head, wondering if I had done some serious harm. First I wanted to laugh. Then I wanted to cry. I went back to work but had trouble concentrating. I'd open a file and forget why I was there. Had to be careful with my balance when I stood or walked. Felt - drifty. Weird.

I came home from work, still feeling weepy, shot off an e-mail to the editorial assistant telling her that I'll review the copy and get back to her on Monday. I happened to check that account again an hour later and found her reply. The cover copy for Café au Lait has already been approved and is set to go to production on... Monday morning.

Oops. So I check the time: 4.47. Damn. Isn't the US on daylight saving time now? Does that mean that I have an hour and 13 minutes to turn in my fantastic fusion? Or, heaven forbid, did I miss closing time by... Arrggh! I was never good at this stuff. And the clock is ticking.

My mother steps over the clumps of hair I'm pulling out, sizes up the situation, and recommends that I leave the proposed copy as is. She likes it, but she hasn't read the manuscript! And the friend I passed it by last night? The one who actually read the story? He hates it!

I copy theirs and mine on to Notepad and compare. Ye muses of fusion, whither goeth thou! I fool around with the text for awhile, throw in the towel and send off another e-mail. Go ahead, I tell the lady. Leave it as it is. You have my blessings.

Sigh. And if the quotation at the head of this post isn't quite accurate, remember, I got knocked on the head today.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Cover copy

The proposed cover copy for Café au Lait arrived in the mail today. I wrote my own copy quite awhile ago, and I think both my version and the publisher's have merit. Theirs is much more succinct and direct, while mine is truer to the spirit of the novel. So, what to do?

My first impulse was to go with theirs; after all, they're the ones with the experience and the marketing expertise. Since I'm so close to the project I decided I couldn't make an objective assessment, so I passed it by a friend who's not only a writer, but also my reader: he's the only one I know personally who has read the manuscript. The others are agents and editors and members of their staff.

I'm glad I passed it by him before deciding what to do. His observations dovetailed with my own feelings on the issue. So - I decided that I'll try for a fusion of the two: the style of theirs and the essence of mine.

Hope I end up with a fabulous hybrid and not a monstrous miscegenation! Will let you know how it turns out.

Evil Editor's Launch Party

In case there are actually writers in the blogosphere who have never heard of Evil Editor - and I doubt that any such exist - he's an anonymous editor who runs a blog that helps writers polish their query letters, and he does it in hilarious fashion. He's been around since April 2006 and I discovered him through my love affair with Miss Snark, an anonymous literary agent whose blog was dedicated to educating new writers about 'the business', also in hilarious fashion. Learning was never so much fun as when those two... But I digress.

Evil Editor's launching his fourth book, Novel Deviations 3, and Church Lady is hosting a launch party on her blog today. The Evil One himself will be dropping by there frequently to participate in the festivities. You can still make it; it doesn't end until 9PM Eastern US time!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

R.I.P. Heath Ledger

This was such a shock to me. I loved his work in every movie I've seen him in. Actors tell stories, just like writers do. He was wonderful at telling his, always totally convincing in his roles.

He was just 28. I'll miss him.

January poet: Bill Shakespeare

The Fraud of Men

Sigh no more , ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your songs of woe
Into Hey nonny nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no more,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.

From Much Ado About Nothing

He's been on my mind since I began fooling around with The Shakespeare Quote Generator a couple posts back.

Great advice, eh? And before any of those sweet [choke] sensitive guys out there start accusing me of male bashing: the song works both ways. ;)

Sunday, 20 January 2008

On Starting Out

Any writer seeking publication for the first time should make a stop at the Writers Beware website which provides "Warnings About Literary Fraud and Other Schemes, Scams, and Pitfalls That Target Writers". This site, hosted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., was created by Victoria Strauss and is maintained by her.

"Have you ever:
  • Been charged an upfront fee by a literary agency?
  • Received an agent's offer to read your manuscript, only to be referred to an editor or editing service?
  • Received a publication offer and discovered a fee was required?
  • Used a pay-to-publish service and been dissatisfied with the results?
  • Entered a contest and found out you had to buy something in order to participate?
  • Used a manuscript submission or book marketing service and felt it didn't live up to the hype?
  • Encountered any kind of scam that targeted writers?
Then Writer Beware wants to hear from you."

Two years ago when I began getting offers of representation, I e-mailed Victoria for background information on the agents concerned. She responded promptly and the information she provided was vital not only in helping me make a decision, but also in putting my mind at ease.

Here's an encouraging snippet from an interview with Victoria on the Writers Write website. I hope they don't sue me for this...

"Don't believe the mythology -- that successful agents aren't interested in first-time writers, that publishers don't want to take a risk with new talent, that really original writing has no chance because publishers are only interested in cookie-cutter copycats of bestselling authors. Yes, publishing is a tough field. Rejection is a given. But it is possible to break in. What's hard these days is not to start a career, but to maintain one.

Also, the competition is probably not what you think it is. Much is made of the fact that though thousands of manuscripts are written every year, only a tiny percentage ever find commercial publication. But the truth (as anyone who has ever looked at a publisher's slush pile knows) is that less than 10% of those thousands of manuscripts even approach publishability. Given a marketable work, you're not vying with every other writer seeking publication, but only with that 10%."

Friday, 18 January 2008

Pudenda quotes from Shakespeare

Stole the Shakespeare quote generator meme from PJ over at The Urban Recluse. I love it! I put in the most scandalous words I could think of and kept reloading it for new quotes. The results were so hilarious I couldn't stop! Ah, Shakespeare is such fun!

I know, I know, I have a sick sense of humour. In all fairness to PJ, I should confess that the example on her post is quite innocent. This raunchy take is all mine.

William Shakespeare

Look like the innocent flower, but be the pudenda under't.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

For more fun with The Bard, also courtesy PJ, go to The Shakespearean Insulter. My favourite so far: "Your virginity, your old virginity is like one of our French wither'd pears: it looks ill, it eats drily." [All's Well That Ends Well.]

Reading right now: Under Orders by Dick Francis

I discovered Dick Francis a few years ago through my sister who is an equestrian and (naturally) crazy about horses. We exchange the books we each borrow from the library then subject them to a postmortem and believe me, it's great fun sharing our reads this way.

That first book was Driving Force, and it made a fan out of me. His horse-flavoured murder mysteries are written with a highly entertaining combination of vigor and wit. I was pleasantly surprised when I moseyed over to the Edgar Awards list (on the recommendation of the stilettoed writer-crushing Miss Snark who advised that every aspiring writer should read each year's winning titles) and discovered that Francis had received the following awards:
Under Orders is my current read. Sid Halley, a former champion jockey, is forced into retirement after a crippling injury and begins a second career as a P.I. In this mystery he investigates the unintended consequences of Britain's legalization of Internet gambling, as well as the murder of a jockey who had been suspected of throwing races. "Sadly, death at the races is not uncommon. However, three in a single afternoon was sufficiently unusual to raise more than an eyebrow. "

I'm just getting into the story. Driving Force was a fun read, and I expect no less from this one.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008


"The first half-million words are just practice."
- Dean Koontz

If I take that quotation to heart, then I'm only halfway through rehearsal, nowhere near curtain call. My tally thus far:

Novel No. 1 - 91,000
Novel No. 2 - 91,000
Memoir - 60,000
Novel No. 3 - 14,000

That adds up to just over a quarter million words. I also read somewhere that it's only after the first million words that a writer finds his 'voice', that elusive 'something' that makes his work recognizably his own.

Where does that leave people like Harper Lee? Mockingbird was her only novel. I suppose it's possible that it was her only published novel, and her first 500,000 to 1,000,000 words are rotting in a basement somewhere...

Does anyone truly believe in Koontz's half-million benchmark, or in the achievement of 'voice' at the million-word truck stop? I think it depends on the writer. What do you think?

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Breaking News! Announcing CAFÉ AU LAIT, the novel!

This is what happens when you Google yourself at 1AM. You stumble across a PDF file with your name, Liane Spicer. Next to it you see the title of your about-to-be-released novel, and it stops you in your tracks. Interesting. You have been careful to never mention the title of said novel online anywhere, since you've heard that publishers can change to a title they consider more marketable. You scratch your head and click on the main link. A blank page comes up. Hmm. There's another link that says View as HTML, so you click there and... presto! It's a page of book titles: January 2008 IPDA book update!

Interestinger and interestinger. You don't have a clue what IPDA is, naturally, but your name is in there somewhere, along with the title of your novel! So you use the 'find' feature on the browser, enter your name, and...

It's official! CAFÉ AU LAIT by Liane Spicer is on a mass market lead titles list for 2008! You have no idea what 'lead titles list' actually means, but it sounds good! It's a Leisure title, and Wikipedia informs you that Leisure is an imprint of Dorchester, your publisher, but it's a horror imprint. Your eyes bug. You skedaddle over to the publisher's website and ascertain that Leisure does, in fact, publish romance. You wipe the sweat off your brow. Had you going for a moment there! Shame on you, Wiki!

The mysterious webpage even gives an On Sale Date: 8/26/08

Finally, it's all beginning to seem real to you. You're a writer!

A few thank-you notes are in order:
  • Thank you, M.B., for your gentle urging all those years ago to pursue my writing dream. There's been a lot of water under lots of bridges, but when I think of the beginning it's you I think of.
  • Thank you, Vaughn, for telling me (back in Miami when you first read the manuscript) that I was a writer, even though I insisted that I hadn't earned the title since I hadn't published anything. Thank you too for your yeoman service as my first reader and critic.
  • Thank you, sis, for believing in me, always, always, always.
  • Thank you, D, for being a true friend through all my ups and downs.
  • Thank you, Rich, for being the great son that you are - and for all the computer and internet stuff.
  • Thank you, blog buddies, for the fellowship over the past six months of this journey to publication.
  • And thank you, all you writers, agents and editors out there, for the innumerable websites, blogs and articles where you provide newbie writers with free information on both the craft of writing and the business of publishing. Special thanks to those I've listed on the 'Links' page.
Gosh, that sounds like one of those soggy Oscar acceptance speeches. But I mean every word.

UPDATE: According to author Rowan Coleman over at Novel Racers, "...normally a lead title means your publishers are putting it top of their submissions list for which ever months your book is published in. They are telling the trade they consider it a lead title and worth buying in great quantities."

Thanks for the info, Rowan. This doesn't sound like a bad thing at all!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

7 Motivational Quotes To Start Your Day, Everyday!

"You see things and say ‘Why?’ but I dream things and say ‘Why not?’”
- George Bernard Shaw

“The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands at times of controversy and challenges.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
- Mark Twain

“That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
- Winston Churchill

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Thomas Edison

Filched from the Personal Development for the Book Smart blog.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The ties that bind... and gag

There's been a rash of weddings around here. My mom has been to three, my sister one - all within the last couple of months.

I was married once. I was 25, the boy was 22, and it was an unequivocal disaster. My upbringing was Roman Catholic and strict. I had attended only single-sex convent schools. I suppose something of the conditioning got through to me because I never fooled around. This guy was my first boyfriend, first lover. I was supposed to marry him, although I think that in my heart I knew I was making a mistake.

When I'm asked my marital status I always say I'm happily divorced, and that's the truth. So, would I marry again? I don't rule it out, but I'm, ahem, middle-aged now, so I don't have the time for an experimental marriage, or a rotten one.

People marry for love, but love alone won't cut it. I'm old enough to know that now.

People marry to raise a family. I've already raised mine, thank you.

People marry for financial security. I'm capable of providing for myself adequately.

People marry for companionship. I really like my own company so I couldn't marry for that reason alone.

People marry for sex. Ha. I know married couples who aren't getting much... And I believe in the updated adage about the cow and the milk: Why buy a whole pig just to get a little sausage? (Vulgar but true.)

People marry to conform to other people's, and society's, expectations. I was never much of a conformist to begin with, and as the years pass I'm even less so.

So where does that leave me? Happily divorced. Happily (most of the time) single. Thankful that I'm not one of those many, many unhappily married, 'fronting' people, putting on a pretend smile in public. And truly admiring of those few couples I know who actually got it right.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Personality profile meme stolen from Kevin

You Are An INFJ

The Protector
You live your life with integrity, originality, vision, and creativity.Independent and stubborn, you rarely stray from your vision - no matter what it is.You are an excellent listener, with almost infinite patience.You have complex, deep feelings, and you take great care to express them.
In love, you truly see relationships as an opportunity to connect and grow.You enjoy relationships as long as they are improving and changing. You can't stand stagnation.
At work, you stay motivated and happy... as long as you are working toward a dream you support.You would make a great photographer, alternative medicine guru, or teacher. How you see yourself: Hardworking, ethical, and helpful.
When other people don't get you, they see you as: Manipulative, weak, and unstable

What's" Your Personality Type?

Hah. I don't have a manipulative bone in my body - or am I just deluded?. Weak? Well, I stuffed my face with every available calorie over Christmas but that doesn't count, does it?. As for unstable, I'm really getting tired of these memes with their aspersions about my mental health.

Strangely enough, I concur with all the good stuff.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Hunk of the month: Marcus Patrick

I've been terribly amiss with regard to the monthly posting of hunks, so I'll start 2008 off right with these photos of Marcus Patrick.

The 33-year old actor was born in Bath, England, and has been based in the US for several years. His father was of English, Irish, and French descent, while his mother is of Jamaican, Cuban, and Cherokee descent. He has appeared in such American television shows as My Wife & Kids, CSI:Miami, Days of our Lives, All My Children, Beyond The Break, Just Jordan, Dancing With The Stars, and Passions.

In 2007 he posed for the cover of the September edition of Playgirl Magazine and the magazine website. Patrick elected to pose full frontally nude for several shots, in darkened silhouette. I've never bought/read Playgirl, and now I'm beginning to think I might be missing out on... um... interesting stuff.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


I found an excellent post on backups several months ago on Graeme K. Talboys' Grumblog. I planned to put a link to it on this blog but what with one thing and another my intentions got derailed.

Here it is now - everything you need to know about safeguarding your electronic files.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

January writer: Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1969. Because her parents immigrated to New York when she was very young, Danticat was raised by an aunt. Danticat says that the memories of Haiti are still extremely vivid in her mind, and that her love of Haiti and things Haitian deeply influences her writing.

At the age of twelve, Danticat joined her parents in Brooklyn. She later earned a degree in French Literature from Barnard College, where she won the 1995 Woman of Achievement Award, and later an MFA from Brown University where, as her thesis, she wrote Breath, Eyes, Memory (Soho Press, 1994). This novel tells of four generations of Haitian women who struggle to overcome their poverty and powerlessness.

Krik? Krak! (1995) was a National Book Award finalist. In this collection of short stories Danticat explores Haitian identity, culture, and tradition. Many of her stories address the island's political state of affairs.

The Farming of Bones (1998), was an American Book Award winner. Other works include Behind the Mountains (2002), The Dew Breaker (2004), Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490 (2005), and Brother, I'm Dying (2007). She is also the editor of The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures.

Danticat's short stories have appeared in over twenty-five periodicals and have been anthologized several times. Her work has been translated into French, Korean, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and other languages, and she has won many prestigious awards and prizes for her writing.

In her article We Are Ugly, But We Are Here we find a distillation of the ethos that drives the writing of Edwidge Danticat.