Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Ratty seems to have flown off in his purple ironing board and Lily's distracted, knitting peggy squares for a friend who has produced a litter of lilac Peterbalds and needs all the woollens she can lays paws on. Isgar and Dasychord are itching to make something happen. Their hedgehoglet friend, Apostrophe, does whatever they do, in miniature

So, what is happening?

There's a fresh batch of Slightly Peculiar Love Stories excerpts ready for perusal, by Claire Beynon, Latika Vasil, Brenda Sue Cowley and Linda Niccol.

I've spent time following helpful hints about SEO (search engine optimisation) and am having a few changes put in place this week. Let's see if the collection of slightly odd phrases inserted in the website's pages and meant to sound/look natural will draw throngs to Rosa Mira Books.

I've had a couple of wonderful offers of help recently from publishing students. I'll tell you more about those when they are taken up. I'm saying, Yes, please!

Dorothee has been cooking up a treat which is almost ready to be served – a tantalising side dish to The Glass Harmonica. Speaking of which, have you listen to this entertaining piece of William' Zeitler's, written and performed expressly for the recent transit of Venus?

The English pages of Amigas have been designed; the Spanish ones won't be far behind, and the cover will soon be ready for display.

I have a couple of exceptional manuscripts in the pipeline.

All is well. Slow but well.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Road Markings makes its mark

New Zealand Books is a quarterly magazine devoted entirely to the review of NZ work by fellow writers. For those reviewed it's not usually a comfortable read but considered critique is the magazine's raison d'être. The Winter 2012 edition opens with its editorial: "Two issues beyond the 20th anniversary edition of New Zealand Books and two before our 100th issue, we've reached another milestone. The determined enthusiasts who founded the journal might well have predicted the first two … But we suspect they would have had no inkling of the third: this issue carries our first review of an ebook.   … the word 'book' in New Zealand Books has changed its meaning forever."

That ground-breaking ebook is Michael Jackson's Road Markings, published here at Rosa Mira Books. (Thanks to NZ Books editors, Jane Westaway and Harry Ricketts, for making the leap.) The opening review, it's a generous page and a half of the A3 format by reviewer Alison Gray.  Rather more an outline of content, however, than an appraisal, it's not an easy review to pick excerpts from, but here are a couple:

"Michael Jackson … uses a 2008 road trip … to explore the theme of 'firstness' both in his own life and in the lives of people affected by social and historical events such as adoption, emigration, colonisation, war and illness or death. … It's a grand undertaking …

"The strongest pieces in this book describe how individual people have handled the blows life has dealt them, but the concept of 'firstness' remains elusive. Some people … reshuffle elements of the past to create a workable sense of self; some, like the wonderful Aunt Simone amd Mlle Picard in Menton, struggle not to be overcome by what has happened; some … simply decide to leave the past behind and make a new start, while others, like Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, seem able to recover from loss without 'acrimony, blame or the need for redemption'."

Road Markings is "full of good thinking and ideas about how people construct their lives. I eventually read it twice and was well rewarded both times."

Also in this edition, Chris Else comments on his experience with the Kindle reader.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

"a good south wind sprung up behind"

This week albatrosses galore have flown between Buenos Aires and Dunedin. You'll see some of them in due course but the beautiful birds are the work of talented cartoonist and animator Pablo Accame who is putting together the cover image for Amigas. Pablo happens to be Elena's son. Elena Bossi is my co-writer.

As I hinted last week, it's not an entirely comfortable decision, to publish one's own work. It's definitely been seen as the second cousin three times removed to meticulous trade publishing, and all too often the home-grown product is immediately recognisable. However, with the current turmoil of publishing, the scene is changing. Knowledge is available to anyone with an internet connection; there's no reason why the diligent author shouldn't put her work through the same stringent processes that a publisher would, and establish his own sales and marketing base. And I think that's the key: stringent processes. If an author is prepared to seek and pay for assessment/s and editing (their writing apprenticeship is another topic), then find designers who know what they're doing, and oversee the final product, then they can produce a book – hard copy or digital – worthy of their writing efforts.

So, am I apologising or what? I'm very proud of Elena's work and I'm prepared to say that mine is happy in the company of hers. We certainly had a great time working together, and continue to do so. Anyway, we have a publisher: Rosa Mira Books.

The decision to publish with Rosa Mira means that we can produce an edition in which English and Spanish versions sit side by side. Not page for page (most devices are more comfortably read with a single page open, and anyway, our translations are not word for word) but with links at the end  – and possibly the start – of each chapter so that the reader can switch between the two versions if they wish to.

Okay, that's enough for now. It's Saturday morning: the garden beckons, so I'll leave Ratty contending with the bird. More soon. Suggestions, questions and comments are welcomed.