Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Magdalena Ball, Author of Black Cow

Today my guest is Magdalena Ball, author of Black Cow. Magdalena Ball is the author of the newly released novel Black Cow, Sleep Before Evening, Repulsion Thrust, and a wide number of collaborations, anthologies and poetry chapbooks. Grab a a free mini flip book of Black Cow here: http://www.bewritebooks.com/mb/BlackCow/BlackCow.html
For more information on Magdalena visit:http://www.magdalenaball.com

I asked her some questions about writing the book.

How did you get the idea for Black Cow?
Moving to an inexpensive house in Tasmania and becoming self-sufficient was actually something my husband and I looked at doing a number of years ago.  In the end, we decided not to pursue that, but the idea stuck with me as rich fodder for fiction (especially since I still get the odd real estate brochure from an agent that has yet to remove my mailing address), and I do sometimes like to intellectually play with taking a different path in my fiction. I’ve always been a fan of the BBC show The Good Life as well, and although I didn’t model James and Freya on Tom and Barbara Good (though I definitely pictured them in my head from time to time as I was writing), I liked the black comedy aspects of the self-sufficient dream.  For me too, I was drawn to their desire for simplicity, for cutting down on rampant consumerism, and for getting back to a more coherent and less chaotic lifestyle.  For a long time my working title was the “secret greenie book.”

Did you have any problems writing the book, ex get stuck somewhere? have to change the plot? characters wouldn't behave the way you wanted?
For me the problem is almost always about time management.  There were times when I got distracted away from the writing altogether – to poetry (my favourite diversion), to short stories, to plotting a different novel, but whenever I sat down and forced myself to focus, to set time goals, and to write to schedule, I didn’t have too many problems. 

You chose a traditional publisher. I know you've also used self-publishing for your poetry. Could you discuss your reasons?
Though there are strong reasons for self-publishing today and I’ve enjoyed self-publishing my poetry books, I do find that traditional publishing still offers some significant benefits that I wanted for my novel.  One of the key ones for me was distribution.  It’s certainly not impossible, but it’s hard to get decent distribution channels if you self publish.  With big, time consuming labours of love like a novel, I felt that the need for this kind of mainstream distribution/exposure was important.  My publisher BeWrite Books (www.bewrite.net) has a strong distribution network, particularly for ebooks, and I certainly didn’t want to have to try to recreate that myself.  Quality control was a key issue for me as well.  Having professionals edit, format, and pull together the book was important for me.  Yes, you can buy much of that these days, but not only is it expensive, it’s time consuming and I didn’t want to spend my time doing that (would rather spend the limited time I have writing).  I did choose a relatively small indie publisher (the same as for my first novel Sleep Before Evening)that I knew would provide the kind of attention that authors like me who aren’t celebrities would rarely get at a large house. 

My Review of Black Cow

The Archers are ensnared in the golden chains of their affluent life style: designer clothes, an expensive home, luxury cars, private schools for the children, and it's killing them.

Black Cow is a beautiful story of changing gears in midlife. On the surface, James and Freya have everything. But their world has turned upside down. The recession has hit both their industries, James , the CEO, has to lay people off. Freda can't sell expensive houses. Finally, health concerns, their failing marriage and out of control children force then to reevaluate what constitutes happiness.

Ball presents a sensitive picture of a family struggling to stay together and find fulfillment. The characters are well drawn and believable, the kind of people you know. They could be your family. This beautifully crafted story explores the question of whether changing your life can bring the happiness you seek. You can change where you are, but you can't change who you are, or can you? Can you get back to being the person you once were?

I highly recommend this book. It presents a modern dilemma in very readable terms that will allow you to look at how one family solves their problem. It could change your life.

Buy Black Cow on Amazon

Black Cow Trailer

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Can This Story Be Saved?

Years ago, I wrote a short story that I liked very much. I couldn't find a publisher, so the story sat in my drawer for a couple of years. An opportunity came along to write a romance novella for inclusion in an anthology. I still liked the story, so I dragged it out and revised the word count upward by adding a new ending.

When the anthology project fell through, I began to think the story was jinxed. I liked my revised plot, but it needed more excitement, so I added a different ending and turned the romance into a romantic thriller. Still there were no takers. So the novella went back in the drawer for a couple of years.

I just finished a major project and didn't want to start a new book immediately, so I pulled out the novella, printed it out and reread it – not bad, but not great. So now the question is to spend the time revising it or to let it go.

My choice right now is to revise. It promises to take more time than I expected, but I think in the end it will be a good project. Some of the faults I found in the manuscript are:

  • The opening is slow and doesn't have enough foreshadowing to pull the reader forward. I hope to solve this by putting more of the mystery up front.
  • The middle of the story doesn't work well now that I've changed the ending. Some of the scenes and characters are superfluous.
  • The ending is too skimpy. I rushed it because I didn't have a good handle on the outcome. It need significant changes.
So can this story be saved? I think so. Al least I will try. The first tasks are to make a good time line. The events have to lead into each other since this is now a mystery. The second task is to revisit the character profiles and make sure the characters fit. This includes adding some new characters and deleting others. I also need a good plot summary. It should fall out of the other two tasks.

It's going to take work, but I think it will be fun. I'll keep you up to date on progress.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

What a thrill to receive the Liebster Blog award from Annie on her blog (The Slow and Steady School ofWriting). I'm honored. Check out Annie's blog. She has wonderful articles on writing, writing competitions and writing picture books, plus good interviews.

The Liebster Blog award originated in Germany.Liebster means dearest or beloved, and Liebe is love. The award is meant to encourage readership of small, lovable blogs with fewer than 200 followers.

In accepting the Liebster Blog Award, the recipient agrees to:

*Thank the person who gave them the award and link back to that perosn's blog.

*Copy and paste the award to their blog. I'm putting it in a permanent place on my sidebar.

*Reveal five snippets about themselves that readers may not already know! So here goes:

    1. I love rain and cloudy skies.
    2. I have six grandchildren and another coming in April.
    3. I love palm trees and have about 150 of them.
    4. I love mystery novels, particularly writing them.
    5. I love figuring out how to do things with the computer, like make address labels!

Thanks, Annie, you made my day.