Billabong Flats – Australian animal stories

Billabong Flats, the creation of Ria Loader is a mythical place in the Australian Bush. Full color images accompany the first three stories, published by Book View Cafe in November 2020.

It shares space with other imaginary places like the Five Acre Wood, the Peace Rock, and the abode of Ratty and Mole. It is just as real as you’d like it to be – no more, and no less.

The animals dream the world, as much as the world creates them. The Land speaks through them. They welcome all, no matter how different they may be, or what native languages they may speak. When they come together, they can all speak the same, the voices become that of friendship and accord, where all can have adventures together.

Art prints are available at sagedepot.com.

https://sagedepot.com

Travel: Sydney from an insider

I thought it might be fun to share some thoughts on my home town, Sydney. I am traveling home later in the summer to walk on the beaches of my childhood, to fill myself with the sights and sounds of home.

Sydney Gardens
One of the best things about Sydney is the gardens with views of the water. The Botanical Gardens can be entered from the St James station end, across from the New South Wales Art Gallery, or from down near the Opera House. It is a lovely planned garden, with a plethora of interesting and brightly colored flowers, wandering Ibis, shelters and follies. You can see fabulous views of the water from the gardens. Other fantastic views are just around the curve of the walk. Locals wander the gardens too; it’s a favorite place for lunch in the middle of the city.

SydneyGardens

Beaches of course
No trip to Sydney would be complete without a visit to a beach or two. One of my most favorite memories is taking a ferry ride over to Manly (a passenger ferry, boarded via a plank, I kid you not). Along the boardwalk, on the way to the beach, get some fish and chips to eat out of the paper bag, hot and fresh, on Manly Beach. Another treat is to take a train out to some of the Southern Beaches. If rivers are more to your liking, the National Parks are accessible by train from Central Station, and you can rent a row boat for an easy afternoon on the water.

ManlyBeach2

A trip to the zoo
It’s true that we have the wackiest animals on the planet. Among them are kangaroos and koalas. Locals who rescue roos will tell you that the little blighters do kick, as I learned when I was in high school. A friend rescued a wallaby, and when it had grown a bit, we got kicked if we got in its way. The cuddly looking koalas sport wicked claws, all the better to climb the local gum trees. Find both of these animals at Taronga Park Zoo. Catch a view of the emu, the crocodile and the lyrebird with its fabulous plumage too. You can also get up close, though behind glass, from some of the worlds most poisonous critters, if that takes your fancy.

AustralianAnimals

Hyde Park – green belt through the city
Hyde ParkHyde Park is a great lunch spot in the middle of the city. Visit the Archibald Fountain, with its classic Greek figures Apollo, Diana, Pan and the Minotaur, right across from St Mary’s Cathedral near St James railway station. St Mary’s is a lovely spot, and interesting for being a north facing cathedral, instead of the usual east-facing architecture. Bit of a novelty. It even has a lady chapel all the way to the north, behind the main altar. Not something you’ll find on the tourist information sites.

WarMemorialThe War Memorial in Hyde Park has a figure of the fallen soldier, draped across his shield, and mothers carrying the fallen. The contemplation pool outside the memorial reflects all the moods of the Sydney sky. A walk across the street finds you at the Sydney Museum where you will find dinosaur bones and more rocks than you can poke a stick at. Along the way, stop to enjoy the enormous Morton Bay fig trees that are a feature of the park. Sit under a tree and watch the birds and do some people watching. When you’ve had your fill, find a café for some tea and scones, or latte served in a glass cup.

If you get lost, chat with a shopkeeper, or some of the locals. They’re friendly, I promise.

Children’s stories in the Australian Bush

Australian animals by Ria Loader

Billabong Flats animals by Ria Loader

These are modern fables, tales of the ordinary acts of kindness and friendship, of discovery and adventure. Purely invented, they come from memories of childhood. They occur at the intersection of seeing the animals in the wild, and imagining what their lives would be like if they could tell us stories.

Billabong Flats is a mythical place in the Australian Bush. It is somewhere on the Eastern part of the continent, in the hills, between Sydney and Melbourne, thereabouts. It is also in another fictional world at the same time. Billabong Flats shares virtual space within my love affair with other imaginary places like the Five Acre Wood, the Peace Rock, and the abode of Ratty and Mole. It is just as real as you’d like it to be – no more, and no less.

In my stories, the animals dream the world, as much as the world creates them. The Land speaks through them. They welcome all, no matter how different they may be, or what native languages they may speak. When they come together, they can all speak the same tongue. The voices become that of friendship and accord, where all can have adventures together.

“Each according to their nature,” says Flying Fox, who likes to have fun.

“Each according to their means,” says Koala, who is wise in such things.

The first adventure occurs when Koala organizes the First Billabong Flats All Creature Race. The letters are all in capitals, because it’s a Very Important Thing.

There is a sense of fair play at Billabong Flats. Friendship is as important as winning, though winning the race would be a fine thing, if only there are not too many distractions. It’s an opportunity to get together and have fun. Koala is the organizer. She is a busy and industrious being, when she is not sleeping, which is most of the time.

I wrote this first story during the American election in 2016. My sweetie was annoyed at the shenanigans of the election, and the story was written for his internal eight year old, the child inside him. He loved fairness and justice; this one is for you my Raven.

When the world gets too noisy, and there is discord and strife all around, come visit the world of Billabong Flats and have some fun.

THE BIG RACE LINK

Writing process: Top 10 ways of finding grammar errors

Grammar errors are one of the most pesky things to eradicate in the writing process. Scrivener doesn’t find grammar mistakes, and while MS Word is pretty good at finding normal passive errors, it fails to recognize idiom. Language is changing. Sentences can and often do start with ‘and, but, or, though’ in colloquial use.

If you’re like me, when you write the first draft you don’t pay any attention to the rules. Well, truth to tell, rules are hardly ever my best thing. I tend to think in fragments; that means some of my characters share this trait. Enough said.

Even in a blog, the sentence construction is not a slave to the Oxford English way of writing. Be a bit boring if it was. However, the unintentional grammar error is the bane of a writer’s existence. It’s just fine to break rules on purpose, so long as you know your purpose. Richard Morgan stood the grammar rules on their collective head in Altered Carbon. His more stream-of-consciousness writing included sentence fragments much of the time. None of that made it difficult to read. Instead, it made his protagonist much more sympathetic. So how do I find those errors in the editing process? I have a few tips and tricks to share.

  1. Walk away from the writing for a couple of days to give yourself some distance
  2. Print it out and keep a highlighting pen handy to mark the pieces to come back to
  3. Read it out loud to a friend. The tongue will trip over phrases that aren’t quite right
  4. Do an editing pass with track-changes on
  5. Try turning it upside down – for those of us who can read that way, the comma and grammar errors jump out
  6. Do an editing pass just for dialog.
  7. Use Find / Replace to fix issues like quote plus period (“. wrong) rather than period plus quote (.” correct)
  8. Write with a manual of style handy – look up stuff that you know you get wrong
  9. Replace instances of passive voice (often uses words that end in y) with active voice (often ends in ‘ed’)
  10. Relax about it. No matter how many times you edit, someone will disagree with your choices

I hope some of these prove helpful. Please share the tips and tricks you have found work for you.

7 Things I learned about book marketing

It’s no exaggeration to say that I started this year with only a little bit of a clue about book marketing. I’d attended a couple of podcasts last year and had read the amazing Joanna Penn. Those activities gave me some places to start.

  • Research the Amazon categories that are closest to the book project
  • Use keywords when setting up the book in amazon
  • Use a title and subtitle on the book cover

However, these starting places ended up being more tactical than strategic. I wasn’t looking at this from the top down. I was still looking at it from the ‘things to do’ rather than approaching marketing from a classical perspective.

When I attended the Smarter Artist Summit this year, my ideas got turned on their head. Michelle Spiva gave a great talk about how  to stop trying to trick your fans into following you. Her approach was to teach them to love you instead. Michelle had a couple of key things to share. Tactics are not marketing. Strategy, it turns out, is about having a goal for what you want to do. The classic push and pull marketing strategies can be leveraged to build an overall plan. Michelle demonstrated how using both push marketing (like targeted advertising) and pull marketing (like a newsletter) can work together.

The seven main things I learned from conferences this year about marketing:

  1. Figure out what your goal is
  2. Write your ‘I am’ statement. For me:
    I am a great kids author and illustrator
    I am an awesome designer and maker
  3. That ‘branding’ is who people think you are when you’re not around
  4. Organizing events into push and pull categories helps you strategize better
  5. Push is a pattern interrupt. It is repetitive, qualified, trusted
  6. Pull is warm traffic with no intermediary, like a sale
  7. Go to where your traffic is

Michele Spiva emphasized having a long term marketing plan in order to avoid churn and burn. There are three main areas to focus on. Those are Traffic, Conversion and Sales. Oddly enough, my dad would have said much the same things. Traffic is about getting attention, conversion is about giving the traffic something to do. For conversion and sales, as an author I’m looking for true fans. To find the traffic, you need to go where they are. You need to hang out and be a genuine member of the community. Authenticity cannot be faked; they need to be your tribe.

To get back to the seven things I learned, a few words about each of these.

  1. Figuring out what your goal is
    Do you want to be a great blogger, a popular author, a celebrated illustrator?
    Your particular goals will differ. Without a goal, it’s hard to pitch to people.
  2. Write your “I am” statement 
    It helps to figure out what you’d put on a sticky note. Something that happened at the Smarter Artist Summit this year was people asking “what’s your superpower?” That was a clarifying question. Try it out for yourself.
  3. Branding
    Who people think you are when you’re not around. Huh. That means all of your messages need to be consistent. You get to understand some of this when you read your book reviews. Branding is as much about opinions as it is about what you think you’re putting out there.
  4. Push and pull strategies
    I found this super helpful. It allows me to draw a couple columns and work out where the events are, and what the tactics are for each event. Brilliant.
  5. Push  – an event that is aimed at getting traffic
    Advertising can be incredibly targeted. Amazon ads, for example, target people who  have bought books like yours. The value of the ‘also bought’, those recommendations that are shown to people when they are browsing for a new book, cannot be underestimated. Other entries into a sales funnel are free things that can be managed through Instafreebie, Bookbub, or Goodreads. Competitions are good ways to get a mailing list in place. As that’s something I haven’t done yet, this was all a bit new. My takeaway was being picky about who you have on your list.
  6. Pull events are what you do with people who already opted in
    You need to give your mailing list a reason to open your newsletter. It arrives in the mailbox, which is grand. However, it needs to avoid being annoying or too frequent. Making it valuable will build true fans.
  7. Go where your traffic is
    If you’re on Goodreads, you can recommend books you like. That gets you known in the community. When you have something of your own to contribute, like a new book, then it’s not spammy to mention it. Hang out in the forums, join lists for things you are interested in, and make conversation. It’s good to be a welcome visitor in the room.

I am continuing to learn more about publishing and book marketing all the time. Attending workshops and podcasts with indie authors like Michelle Spiva gives me inspiration.

This year, my strategy is to start is building an overall marketing plan. Then I’ll work on the top of the funnel for one project area at a time. Thank you to everyone who shared their tips and tricks with me. I’ll keep telling you what I find out along the way.