The Drago Tree

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Isobel Blackthorn was born in London and has lived in Spain, Lanzarote, (Canary Islands), and Australia. She’s been a teacher, market trader, project manager and PA to a literary agent. Isobel received her PhD in Social Ecology in 2006. She now lives in rural New South Wales where she follows her passions for social justice, philosophy, current affairs, books and art.

Isobel is the author of a collection of short stories, All Because of You (Ginninderra Press), and the novel, Asylum (Odyssey Books). Her writing has appeared in e-journals in Australia and the US. Her second novel, The Drago Tree, was released by Odyssey books on 1 October 2015.

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1.June: Can you tell us a little bit about where your book is set and what inspired you to write it?

Isobel:  The Drago Tree is set on the volcanic island of Lanzarote, a Canary Island about 100 kilometres off the coast of southern Morocco. I was a resident of Lanzarote in the eighties and have carried in my heart a great affection for the island ever since, which is what motivated me to write a novel set there.

2.June: Can you tell us a little more about the Indigenous history of Lanzarote?

Isobel: Unlike Australia, Lanzarote was, as far as anyone knows, uninhabited until about two and a half thousand years ago, when a group of Berbers fled the Phoenicians, who were expanding their empire along the North African coast. The Berbers followed the ocean currents and ended up on Lanzarote’s shores.  These Berbers became the island’s First People, a single tribe ruled by a King. They grazed the goats they had brought along with them, fished and farmed.

They were known to be a peaceful friendly tribe, living a quiet life until the Portuguese and the Spanish, keen to expand their empires, arrived on the island.

First contact was much the same as it is the world over. An initial friendly gesture, belying a malevolent intent.

The First People became known as los Conejeros, or ‘the rabbit breeders.’ The term refers to the fact that Lanzarote used to be overrun by rabbits.  There’s another interpretation, which can be found in The Drago Tree.

3. June: So what is the story about?

Geologist Ann Salter seeks sanctuary on the exotic island of Lanzarote. There she meets charismatic author Richard Parry and an indigenous potter Domingo; together they explore the island.

Ann’s encounters with the island’s hidden treasures becomes a journey deep inside herself as she struggles to understand who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be.

[ An extract from the book is up on Isobel’s website]

4.  June: How long did this book take to write?

The Drago Tree is my second novel. I’d long wanted to write a story set on Lanzarote, after having lived there back in the 80s. I adored the island and was sad to leave.  With my life now firmly in Australia, writing a story was the closest I could get, to going back.

In 2009 I thought I’d try writing crime fiction. Back then I was a novice. I crafted a character that would later become the protagonist of The Drago Tree.  I quickly gave up on crime after realising thousands of authors were doing a far better job than I could ever do.

Then I thought I’d write something literary and came up with one sentence. Whatever I wrote after that initial sentence, I scrapped.

It wasn’t until late in 2012 that I set to work on The Drago Tree, and then only by chance. I’d written a short story about a woman alone in a haunted house, lost in the aftermath of a disastrous marriage. After I created the character of this woman, I recalled my earlier character in my never-to-be crime thriller. Amazingly, they were the same woman.  It was then, as I trawled through an old notebook, that I found the initial sentence of my defunct literary effort.

Within minutes I’d conceived the story for The Drago Tree. Throughout the writing and the crafting and the polishing, the story contained a meant-to-be quality.

For more information visit http://isobelblackthorn.com

For the Canberra Book Launch 14th November https://www.facebook.com/events/170246046644039/

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To catch the rest of the blog tour visit these blogs on the following dates (Patricia’s blog is already up:)

Blog tour from Friday 23rd October:

Blog Tour

You can find them here:

Patricia Leslie

Tracy Joyce

Rachel Drummond

CA Milson

Tasman Anderson

For more about the setting of this story view this video 

 

[Please note the times on the blog tour are Australian Times.]

Hairy Harold & his extraordinary trip to NY, Children’s book

I just couldn’t wait till next week to blog this!  So for this week two blogs.

I’ve been doing this incredible course with Mira Riseberg and Jed Alexander about so many things to do with the self publishing. To find out more see Children’s Book Academy.  

During homework this week we were researching inspiring kickstarter campaigns and a few of us came across this superb project and decided we love it. Take the time to watch the video!

Just one more week to go and Andres Quintero  has raised $5249 of his $7700 goal. If you like this project too, pledge some support, share this blog, share his link.  I, and many others, want to see this project happen.

He has a super cool range of rewards for you giving support (for those of you who love original handbags check out the handbag reward.) The great thing about kickstarter is being a patron of the arts, but also being acknowledged for that.

Andres Quintero says “My story gives kids the tools to appreciate a deeper aesthetic besides the sensorial material plenitude; the beauty of loyalty and true friendship.”

Hairy Harold & his extraordinary trip to NY Image above copyright of Andres Quintero

Editorial note – THIS PROJECT WAS FUNDED!  Thanks to any of my blog readers who got behind this project.  I am so looking forward to receiving my book!

Author Anxiety – What Do I Call Myself?

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Lately I’ve been noticing some anxiety among writers about what they should call themselves.

There are so many terms now and some of them quite official (especially when applying for grants) – emerging writer, established author, aspiring author, aspiring writer, published writer, published author, unpublished writer.

Some don’t want to claim too much or too little progress. Others complain that some writers and authors claim too much.

The definition in the dictionary simply says that a writer, “is a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.”

As for Author it is usually associated with being professional but not always.

1 a). The writer of a book, article, or other text.
b. One who practices writing as a profession.
2. One who writes or constructs an electronic document or system, such as a website.
3. An originator or creator, as of a theory or plan.

And furthermore the same dictionary says the ultimate author is – God.

Where is this anxiety coming from?

It seems that the rise of the self published author is causing some in the publishing and writing industries consternation, including writers. Self published authors are many things depending on who you listen to. For some they bad writers who focuses on Romantic, Fantasy and Horror texts poorly written and edited, trying to break into the markets that make the most money. (Self publisher Authors should not be called Authors)

For others self published authors are people who couldn’t or just wouldn’t find a voice in mainstream publishing because of colour, gender and spirituality and have begun to publish the stories they know their community wants and others might want to hear too. This kind of self publisher is publishing histories and stories, manuals, self help books, and guidebooks, cultural heritage texts.

Some self published authors have formed ethical guilds to develop codes of practice and standards of writing. (Alliance of Self Published Authors)

Their books are not destined neccessarily to be best sellers but the stories they tell are important, that’s why they publish them. I think of  The Story of Fred Murray pamphlet and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass.

And then there are some self published authors who were traditional authors once and worked out they were better going independent.

Add to that the world of bloggers – coming from all walks of life with varying degrees of writer training. They’re sharing life stories, crafts, photography, poetry, recipes, views on parenthood and more. They are now told that their blogs are publications when entering competitions.

Another element of the mix are the smaller independent publishers who catered once, for the voiceless. Who brought and still bring together collectives to create opportunities for voice and a strengthening of diversity. They are not self publishers but publishers of those on the margins. Independent publishers not in it for financial gain necessarily, almost not for profits, (see Publishing from the Margins)

As for the published authors they are not free from these frameworks – some are commercial writers, technical writers, literary writers, nature writers and more. Some make a lot of money writing in popular genres. Some scarcely survive and so writer communities create funding to look after them in their old age.

But both these professionals and semi professionals must engage the reader – and the reader’s choices are guided by – internet searches and bookshop shelves, online book stores and word of mouth recommendations. So many studies are being done in this area I could get side tracked and go off on a tangent right now.

So many people, so many stories, make it so hard at times to negotiate becoming a paid published author. When I see these discussions my conclusion is – be a storyteller. Just write. Examine all the options open to you to share your work with the people who will benefit from reading it.

As a second generation migrant, I’m writing and telling stories in many genres to find where my authentic voice lies. I try documentary, fiction, poetry, creative film, mainstream comedy and I keep on experimenting with the style and options of publishing open to me, some doors open and some don’t. My dream is that my readers will tell me what it is they want to hear from me the most and then I’ll be well on the way to building a bigger audience.

I work on making my writing the best it can be – and study and craft, study and craft. One day success however we measure it may arrive. But another way of measuring success is to keep writing and improving and learning from what others you respect say to you. Can we only measure success in financial and material terms?

It is interesting to note that a study found those authors who combined both traditional and self publishing modes where better off than those who stuck with one mode and authors often were dissatisfied with something in both modes. With Self Publishing you have more control, more input, but also more responsibility to know enough about everything to make your book professional and to legally cover yourself. With Traditional Publishing there are also many challenges; especially for authors to achieve that high selling status in order to be viable investments  for the company. (Study cited in Lessons and Expectations as the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey Evolves)

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I’ve been observing discussions where some claim that you are only worthy of respect if you sell a lot of books? Others think it’s if you win literary prizes judged by those who can really write. There is an extra dimension of the popular versus the high literary craft that creeps into many of these arguments. I for one am never going to be a fashion and celebrity blogger or writer. But how many celebrities turn their hand to writing children’s books and life style manuals.

Maybe it’s the craft and sales combined that determine a writer’s credibility today – a book that uplifts anyone, entertains, educates has had a portion of success.

Writing is diverse as the people who employ it as their primary mode of creative expression. It will keep developing and emerging, in spoken, written and digital cyber forms. I for one am excited about the possibilities it offers.

It’s all about being open to diverse opportunities to create and share and not denigrating anyone’s choices.

It about accessibility, diversity and supporting the writer and teller of stories to develop their craft. It’s about accepting that not all of us who write well will ever be able to make an income out of it. We may have to have other jobs.
So where is anxiety coming from for the new writer? Perhaps its from the growing realization that there are so many writers out there that not all of us will be able to do it full time, no matter how good we are or become, or which publishing option we go with.

You see however much writers and publishers complain there is the unknowable magic of writers finding their readers – and readers finding the writers they love, that is not something we can individually control or predict, even if we can have a pretty good guess and strengthen the odds with attractive writing.

(c) June Perkins

 Loved these twitter comments

Like I say. Be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques.

I like (originator or creator, as of a theory or plan)and sometimes I say “word artist” but I’m not one for labels.

Professionally I was a journo. Now I write because it’s what I have always done – it’s my voice.
a writer can be a person who loves to write in any form. Ann Frank for example was a writer.

Blogging Your Book Away – How Much is Too Much?

I’m sharing a thought provoking discussion about how much is too much to give away of your writing on line and blogging as form of draft creation for books.

Thanks so much to Joyceline Leahy, of Tribal Mystic, for sharing my ideas and her own to spark discussion on this topic on her blog. Great to meet her online and to hear the story of HiMe telling her about me, after virtually meeting me in the ABC Open 500 words project.

I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately. How much to share? How much to keep?

Amazon has some strict rules about how much of a book can appear online prior to publication with them for writers to take into account. Many publishers and competitions see blogs, tweet and facebook as prior publication and you must not share anywhere on line if you wish to enter.

So when writing – What should you share to find your publishers, audience and connections? Why do you share? What is there that can be special about blogging as an art form and a legitimate form of publication? Go leave your comment on Joyceline Leahy’s blog.

So far my experience has been that:
1- Several of my online pieces have been republished by anthologies and books with no qualms by the anthology creators. They just say ‘appeared first on….’

2- I created an ebook to take you on a virtual trail through blogs, films and online materials and the ebook was like a guide to all that – a navigator. I published it through Australian Society of Authors, Books Unlimited.

3- I have formed a community of interest around my work and been able to meet through their blogs, authors writing about the homeless, Indigenous writing communities, natural environments in the America’s and Ireland.

4- I’ve been part of writing online collaborative worlds co created with other writers. Our creations still exist as online fixtures you can visit and explore. Building a trail of story was a process of us participating in the Pythian Games to develop our writing muscle. I found a love of writing fantasy during this online collaboration.

5- I have established a practice of daily writing and have a series of work I do completely offline separate from my blogged work.

6- I have found trustworthy and ethical offline critique groups and individuals to give me feedback of my work to help develop and polish it. Some of them have been initially met through online forums. They have known me through my online writing first. One is now being employed by me as an editor.

Tribalmystic stories

Will posting chapters and parts of your book on your blog take away from your publishing success?

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I have been told often that I should save more of my blog posts to include in my memoir. Usually this advice comes from people who love and care for me. I really appreciate that concern. I know this concern was not expressed for the fear of copyright, although I should be concern about that too; I am told I am ‘giving away’ a section of writing that may be building up tension or crucial to the climax of a chapter or even the memoir itself.

We choose what we share on our blogs. I know I could be just giving away the important parts in my memoir without realising it, but as I write the story evolves. I also feel the need to challenge my self even more by improving that story after I have posted it. Often I feel…

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