Friday, August 10, 2012

Inspiration, at Home and Abroad

In the continuing saga of me and  my manuscript ...

Well, I did finish my revisions … a little over my deadline of May 31st but not by too much, and with good reasons for running late (a revolving door of sick family members being one of them) so I’m happy with that. Even better, I got everything done just in time to pack my bags and head off for a vacation … to Paris.

Here's the proof.

("Children? What children?")

Ah, Paris. The city I’ve longed to visit ever since I can remember and the setting of my book, no less. I spent my ten days there pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, and have come back with a ton of fodder for my book and with my batteries fully recharged for another round of revisions.

And I mean revisions; not the wholesale re-writing that the last few go-throughs of my manuscript has entailed, which I’m mighty happy about.  I’ve chiseled away enough of the first (and second, and third and fourth ...) draft of my manuscript and can now see the full shape of my story. It’s lumpy and bumpy and in need of a good smoothing over and final polish, that’s for sure, but at least I’m at the stage where I’m swapping the heavy duty mallet and chisel work for the finer rasp and file business.

Anyways … rolling up my sleeves to get stuck into my manuscript once again got me thinking about the things that help keep up our enthusiasm for projects that take a long time to come to fruition. For it can start to seem all too hard and pointless, especially when the creative well has run dry or that vinegar-lipped lady is on your shoulder sniping that your writing is crap.

One thing that works for me it to step back from the keyboard, to go out into the world and visit museums and art galleries, take walks in the park, listen to music or catch a movie (or, cough, go to Paris), all of which serve to clear my mind and top up my creative juices so that I come back to my writing with renewed drive and fresh perspective.

But when I don’t have the time or the ability to do these things, my bookshelf is my best battery re-charger. I have a handful of authors whose works I can dip into, just for a page or so, and I’m guaranteed to come away awed and inspired. Their writing grabs me, reminds me of what I’m aspiring to, and the swell of excitement and hope that I feel compels me to get my butt back into my chair and write.

Not every writer does this for me, but a few are guaranteed to. Writers such as Deanna Raybourne, Jo Bourne, C.S. Harris, Ariana Franklin, Thomas Harris, Sarah Waters, Louis Bayard, Imogen Robertson, Geraldine Brooks, to name but a few.

And all the ladies here at ATWOP, of course.

I know some might find it a depressing exercise to read polished, published work, then dive into the hot festering messes they’re working on, but I don’t. They urge me on to do better, and to ignore that vinegar-lipped bitch and write some more.

So tell me: whose work inspires you?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Cast of Characters

Boulder Bay is a wild, untouched place. It's far from anything remotely civilized, isolated by the sea and the mountains that circle it. The only footprints you'll find in the sand are those of animals. The only noises you'll hear are natural ones like the buzzing of fat, furry bumblebees, the roar of the ocean breakers, and the melodies of birds.

I can only wonder what the locals think when we motor in on our boat and camp at the mouth of a small, crystal-clear river. By now some of them must remember us. I remember them, at any rate, and with this, our third visit, the sight of familiar characters was like greeting old friends.

Even before we finished setting up camp, it became clear that the neighborhood had had some changes. Our campsite has a lean-to frame that we built to serve as a kitchen (with the addition of a tarp it becomes sheltered). The bald eagles use the frame as a perch, probably happy that these oddball people have left them this seat with front-row views of the river in a land where trees are scarce. We found numerous eagle feathers scattered in the kitchen. "My eagles," I thought happily, "are still here." Not only were the eagles still living near camp, they were busy raising an eaglet in a nest that was empty the year before. Thriving.

What were not thriving were the little Sitka deer. We found nothing but bones on the beach. Numerous skeletons, as if the whole herd had died in that place. The darling fawns of last year were now nothing more than smaller skeletons among the larger ones.  It was a hard winter, with deep snows that pushed the herd from the hills to the beach where they eventually ran out of food to eat. I mourned the lot of them, those graceful, big-eyed creatures who meant no harm to anyone.

But life goes on, and the happy evidence of that was the newest neighbors to move in - a family of river otters. It was such a joy to watch the four of them roll and tumble on the sand in a knot of silky fur and sleek bodies. Such fun! They lived in a small creek behind our camp and I think we probably trespassed on their property. But they didn't hold a grudge, apparently, and soon accepted us warily - enough to bring their pups down to the sea to go to otter-fishing-school, anyway.

The biggest character on the block, the Kodiak brown bear, was still in residence too. We saw one bear on the beach and wisely turned back from a walk. Other than that one sighting, we saw nothing but footprints on an almost daily basis. There was a mother and cub who seemed to cross paths with us like ships in the night. They were there, but preferred to avoid us. The mother's prints told of a careful bear with long claws. The cub's small paw prints revealed a more playful nature. She took the shortcuts, wandered more, and just like a kid, walked through the mud while mother walked around it. 

 The family of foxes who live across the lagoon from our camp had wisely moved their den away from the eagle's nest. We didn't see the kits, as we had the year before, but we saw the parents often, as well as their kit from last year. She was now a lanky, curious thing who came to camp several times. I had a nice conversation with her at the fire one evening. She sat down not far from me, content to let me carry the conversation. Her eyes were golden, glittering with wonder and curiosity.

The only animal I've named is a harbor seal. Constance earned her name early because of her uncanny habit of popping up in the bay no matter where we were. We could walk miles down the beach and she'd greet us there. We'd come back to camp and she'd be there, too. Constant, like a shadow, watching with big wet eyes. I'd wave at her and yell, "Hello Constance!" My husband, who had a "crazy French girlfriend" named Constance, always said her name with a French accent. 

Even my own characters came along. Nathan, Carrie, and Carl flitted in and out of Boulder Bay like the small brown birds that fluttered around our camp. Without the bright white pages of my wip, the three of them had a holiday of their own. Nate thought about being a hunting guide. He'd buy a boat and live on it, he said. He'd call it the Compass Rose.

Eventually it was time to leave our beloved Boulder Bay. We bid farewell to the creatures who kept us entertained, who kept us company, and who reminded me that there are stories being written every day by characters more real than the ones in my head.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Life is what happens

I remember this particular phase from when my first child was born.

First, the brand new baby who sleeps 22 of every 24 hours. You're full of self-congratulation, remarking that you just knew you were going to have a natural-born sleeper from day one this time. People shake their heads knowingly and you tell them to stow it.

A few weeks later, the kid is growing, becoming more aware, doing more, and suddenly they're hungrier. They don't go to bed until 11pm, and then they wake at 2, 4, 6 for more food. You're tired, but you figure hey, if this is as bad as it gets, you can survive it until they start stretching that out a little. Soon, soon, they'll wake less. Sleep longer.

Oops, wait- this is definitely not as bad as it gets. They hit the 4 month sleep regression, Wonder Week, get in league with the devil, whatever, and all of a sudden they're in bed at 9, but they're also awake at 11, 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Surely they cannot be that hungry. Surely they do not like you that much that they have to see you that often through the night. They see you all day! Surely they'll sleep if you give them more milk, a pacifier, a shirt you've had stuffed in your bra for a week, a lovey, a musical seahorse, the right weight of blanket...

It just cannot get worse than this. You are no longer functioning like a normal human being. You put cornflakes in the fridge and milk in the cupboard. The only books you've read in five months are half a dozen baby sleep manuals, some of which may or may not have pages ripped out where you were paging through in clumsy desperation. You no longer own a single item of clothing that does not have milk, barf or pureed apple on it somewhere.

But of course it can get worse. Kid cannot sleep without you now. Kid wakes up every 45-60 minutes all.night.long. Kid is so super cheerful and adorable during the day that you reluctantly return your wicker basket to the shed instead of carting them off to a nunnery, and then you sigh and carry on picking up dropped toys, rubbing sore gums and singing silly songs.

Where does it go from here? Well, last time it went on until my daughter was 14 months old, and then she started sleeping through the night and hasn't stopped since. This time at least I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm also hoping that my son will get his act together long before that- he's got 8 more months to beat his sister to the sleeping-through milestone, and in the meantime I'm promising him that he'll be lauded, praised and held up as totally better than her every Christmas if he'll just close his freaking eyes and stay quiet all night long, right now. Tonight. It's never too early to start.

Unless you're a baby, apparently.

Am I writing at the moment? Ahaha. That there is the sound of my bitter laughter. Am I doing *anything* to progress toward getting back to it? The outward answer is no, I'm not. I'm not blogging, I'm not researching, I'm not reading, I'm not even thinking, unless you count trying valiantly to come up with an awesome answer when my toddler says such deep things as, "What does dying look like?" And, "Stephanie's little brother is a sister!"

But the inward answer is, yes, actually. It's one of those times in life where just living is the only step forward you can take, and just living- feeling the exhaustion, proudly watching your baby grow fat and healthy, nuzzling that soft baby fuzz day and night, being happy and sad and crazy- not only are they all steps toward the time when life gets back on track, but they feed into the soul of what you write when you get started again.

In the meantime, I hope to kickstart myself a little by trying to get back into blogging and research a little more- but do excuse me if I have a spare half hour and I use it to catch a nap instead!

Monday, July 23, 2012


It's been a while between posts, hasn't it?

A hiatus of sorts seems to have snuck up on us all, a combination of work, deadlines, the northern hemisphere summer, children home on vacation, children home sick with nasty bugs, conferencing, vacationing ... and yes, a bunch of writing is being done, too.

But fingers crossed we'll be back in operation soon; I might even have a post to whip out of my sleeve later this week. Hey, stranger things have happened! :-)

Sunday, May 27, 2012


It's been a long few years writing this novel. If the book had been my baby, it'd be in high school right now. Scary thought. As Rachel has expressed before, there are times where I feel incredibly frustrated by the amount of time that has passed without me finishing this thing. At other times, I think about how much *life* I've lived concurrently, and how much I've learned, and I know that I've needed these years to be the writer I am now, and to be so much closer to the finish line.

In the meantime, there are some people in my life who just *get* how important writing is to me without ever expecting me to pick my game up or move onto something different, the way I might prod myself to do now and again. My blogmates and my wider circle of writing friends are at the forefront there.

There's also my husband, who is ever patient and always willing to listen to me yammer on. I have great friends out there, too, who always ask me how my writing is going or ask me about plot points or characters or events that I had no idea they knew.

But for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, one of my best friends surprised me with one of the most amazing presents anyone has *ever* given me, and I know that writers out there will be especially able to appreciate the awesomeness of this gift.

What is that? It's a hand-made World War I diary- blank, too, just ripe to be filled out by a certain fictional someone whose diary inspired the title of the novel, Between the Lines.

Inside, nicked from Pinterest, my blogs, the Compuserve Forum and independently researched, are photographs of the specific WWI locations and events that feature in my story, many of them turned into little postcards. It was especially amazing to me to discover, as I flicked through them, that every picture was exact to a location in the story- many locations and real events that I haven't yet pinned on Pinterest or mentioned elsewhere. I later confirmed with my friend that she had specifically hunted down snippets of writing scattered around the internet to get the right place names, and had researched those.

The attention to detail is such that a couple of the pictures show meticulously simulated water damage, just like you'd get if you sat in a muddy trench flipping through them :) There are some pictures of "home", too- exactly what I know my guys would keep with them. There's even one of Len's football team. When I first opened it, I got that it was a book, and I thought the pictures were cool, but I didn't get that it was *my* fictional diary, until I hit the letter folded up in the front flap.

Yes, that's Kit's letter to Bill, giving him the happy news that she's having a baby, which he gets in the trenches just before breaking down completely and winding up as a mental patient. I can't even quite remember when I posted that here- a good long while ago, I'm sure. But that was the puzzle piece that put it all together for me and kind of made me cry a little bit.

Is that not the most thoughtful, brilliant present ever? Thank you again, Ricki :)

What's the most supportive and wonderful thing someone has done for you to show they believe in your writing?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Calling in from revision land …

 Hey all! As predicted, revisions are keeping me busy, busy, busy. Lots of tightening of scenes and some big fat tranches of wholesale re-writing have ensued since last I blogged ... and I *think* I’m on track to make my May 31st deadline, but boy, it’ll be tight. 

And if all this busy scribbling is not clue enough that I’m deep into revisions, the fact I suddenly have the urge to clean - me, for whom even the mere thought of housework sends a cold chill snaking down my spine - completely confirms it. And I'm not talking about wanting to do a quick tidy up here and there; no, what I find myself itching, positively itching, to do, is to clean every single window of the house inside and out. Even the six, second story windows! As we are about to head into winter and its attendent window-dirtying weather, this urge of mine is particularly insane. And smells suspiciously like procrastination to me. I will not cave. I will not!

On the whole, I'm pleased with how this round of revisions is shaping up. I've even had a few of those magical days where I was right in the "zone": you know, where your plot twists excite the pants off you, and your dialogue is snappy and your descriptions are rare gems of perfection and the words flow effortlessly from your finger tips … which had me pondering (OK, bemoaning) why these days don't happen more often. Why can't writing be like this all the time? Life would be so much easier. 

And then I thought about that some more, and now I'm not so certain. 

Imagine being that switched on, all the time? The mental and physical drain of it! You'd be a wrung out mess within a week, I'm sure. And without the many (many many) crappy writing days we endure, how on earth would we ever recognise - and be so grateful for -  the good ones when they finally come round?

It makes you think, doesn't it?

Anyways, enough of my ponderings. I'd best get my nose back to the grindstone ... and speaking of noses,  I'll leave you with this interesting little video - all about what makes old books smell the way they do. Mmm, I  really love that smell. I wonder if anyone's bottled it ....

Until next time!

Monday, May 7, 2012

ANZAC Day 2012

As any of you will recall, I began a tradition of remembrance last year on ANZAC Day, the day when Australia stops to remember fallen soldiers from all conflicts. My plan was to pick a random name off a First World War memorial each year, and research the story behind the name as a way of remembering the sacrifices made by those who served.

This year, I happened to be visiting the area where my WWI novel Between the Lines is set on ANZAC Day. Oddly appropriate! I chose a name off the local war memorial, and researched the life and death of one Private James Dreghorn.

You can read it here at my new WWI research blog The Road to War and Back.

Lest we forget.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Temporarily Lost

I know I’m in Act II because my loosely drawn plot says so. But why am I so darn lost here?  Like any good traveler who loses her way, I pull over and consult the map. I can see the spot I’m at, I just can’t see any farther.

Why am I lost? Why am I temporarily direction-challenged? Do I make a right or a left at the next scene? Do I continue straight ahead or back up? The only thing I know for certain is that I can’t stay here. In Act II. Forever.

There’s only one thing to do in a situation like this: I asked for directions. I called on my blog-sisters and each of them answered my plaintive wail for help with brilliant insight. 

Here’s what I learned when you’re lost in the middle of your work-in-progress, when the scenes you’re stuck in give you fits:

1. Keep the Big Picture in mind. Step back a pace and look at the overarching story. Do the troublesome scenes fit the big picture? You’re essentially putting together a puzzle made of scenes and each scene has its place. If the scene doesn’t complete the picture, it doesn’t belong there.

2. Do the scenes drive the story forward, or put it in a tailspin? There’s a reason you’re stuck and perhaps the scene isn’t working because intrinsically you know it’s off-track. You’re off the highway and bumping down a rabbit trail.

3. Do the scenes compliment the tone and “feel” of the rest of the story? Do they fit, or do they stand out radically from the others?

4. Focus on one message or theme. What is the point of your story? How does it effect the hero and those around him? Do the scenes help or hinder that theme?

I have a clearer picture of where I’m going now. It was actually a blessing to be temporarily lost. I needed to pause and get my bearings and now I can set off again with confidence. The best thing about getting lost, however, was knowing I could count on my blog-sisters to keep me pointed True North. Thanks ladies.

Monday, April 30, 2012


The concept of home lies right at the heart of my war novel. One brother wants nothing more than to leave their home and get away from life as he knows it. The other wants nothing more than to stay. But for both of them, once the First World War arrives and changes things, home turns out to be as much about people as place.

 Home for me has always been a nebulous thing. I was an oil industry brat, raised in a number of different countries around the world. We made an international move on average every two years until I was in high school. I hold passports for two different countries- one I didn't live in until I was 7 years old, the other I didn't even get to visit until I was the grand old age of 22. Because I was often the new kid, I was often asked where I came from. I had a standard answer that summed it all up for me and reflected my lack of an anchor point- "All over the place."

From the time I started high school to the time I got married 12 years later, I lived in one city. But that city still never felt like home to me. It wasn't until we chose to move to the country after our marriage that I finally found a sense of my own place for the first time. It came from the choice we made to be there- the first time in either of our lives that we'd made that choice for ourselves instead of following family.

Our daughter was born there, and we'll never lose our connection to that place. But as she grew, we began to realise that following family wasn't just about the places you go. It's about being close enough that your child has her own toothbrush at Grandma's house, or close enough that when you're sick as a dog, your best friend can drive around the corner to drop you off some soup. We moved back to our original city, bought our first house, and though I've never been struck by the same lightning bolt of belonging that I felt in our country home, I've slowly come to realise that this place is probably as close to home as I'll ever find.

Not just because I'm here, but because I've *been* here all these years, and so have so many of the people I care about. I've graduated high school and university, met the love of my life, married, and now my son has been born here. I've left here and returned a thousand times for work and travel. I've seen it change- I remember it as it was 20 years ago, and I can tell you what's different now. I'm a part of this city, and it is undeniably a part of me. The axis of my life right here, and my world revolves around it.

When I started travelling around the rest of this enormous state for work, I was as unprepared as your average city girl for the impact places would have on me. With time, another area worked itself into my brain and wouldn't let go- the place that is the inspiration for the town of Stonehaven, and Edenvale and Golden Valley farms.

 This is not my place. But it is home to my characters. In one form or another, I've spent a part of every single day of the last six years in that place, even though I haven't physically been there in all that time.

Last week we got an unexpected chance to travel up there and visit. I was kind of nervous that it wouldn't be all I remembered, and it wasn't- because it's not Stonehaven. But it is within Stonehaven, and the sense of place I felt was for the town of my story. It was wonderful to go home, to Bill, Len and Kit's home. They are the opposite to me- people who have always known their place. But like me, they all struggle to accept it at times. Writing this novel has definitely been a way for me to explore my own feelings about place and identity.

So, what makes home, home, for you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Playing With the Big Boys

Hi All.

Yes, it lives, it breathes! LOL, ah, I’ve been scarce about these parts, I know, and whilst I’d love to say that’s going to change, I’m afraid I’m going to be even more scarce for a wee bit longer.

See, I’ve decided that I need to step up and play with the big boys. For real.

I’ve been writing my novel for mumblemumble years now and it’s starting to drive me batty – the length of time it’s taken me to get where I am (a combination of draft three or four of the manuscript), and the book itself. Yes, I know I’ve blogged before about how patience with one’s progress is a good thing, and how a great deal of the lengthiness of my book writing quest is down to me climbing a very steep learning curve. And I still believe these things.

However, I’ve come to realize that for me, with the busyness of my life as a wonderfully convenient excuse, it’d be so very easy to sit back and let another mumblemumble years slip by without any further progress made with my book, or with my dream of writing for a career. And I don’t know whether I’ve hit that dreaded midlife crisis, but lately I’ve been thinking that while I love being known as someone’s wife and three someones’ mother, it would be so very, very satisfying to do something, and to be known for something, that I did just for me. And I know, in the very marrow of my bones, that writing is that thing.

Anyway. Long story  - and lots of navel gazing on my part – short, I’ve decided that to get where I want to be I have to man up and write like I’m already a career writer. Yeah, I’ve said that before, too, and have done so, to an extent - I write just about every day, I set goals and I’ve definitely got the neuroses and anxieties down pat - but I also too quickly and too easily allow my writing to take a back seat to everything else.

No more.

So the house will be going to even worse rack and ruin; the kids will not die from catching the bus home instead of riding in the car, or from eating the odd dinner of toast and fish fingers. And I also have a couple of deadlines. They’re of my own making but I’m going to pretend like they’re not. And those deadlines are (1) I must have this draft of my book finished by 31st May, and (2) I must have this book to an agent-querying level of completeness by 1st November 2012.  Not “would like to” or “am aiming to”, but I MUST , as in “I’ll have a fire-breathing editor screaming down the phone accusing me of breach of contract if I don’t”, kind of “must”.

And with this in mind, I’m going on a blogging hiatus until the end of May. I may pop in, if things are going well; if not, then I wish the best of luck to one and all, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seven Times

I know I have been scarce as of late. You're probably wondering who the heck I am, actually -- it's been that long. I apologize for that. To say life has been throwing me some hurdles over the past few months would be putting it mildly. In short, it's been absolutely one of the most difficult periods of my life. I've been hanging on by the skin of my teeth at times, and yeah... I'm hopeful that I'm approaching the downward slope. I need the sweet relief of racing down the other side of this mountain, if you know what I mean. :)

All that said, the one saving grace in all of this mess has been watching the progress of BTPM--knowing it's out in the world, knowing people are reading it, enjoying it (not in all cases, mind). It's been sort of the one shining light in the rest of the muck. LOL. That said, I feel compelled to blog about what an absolutely terrifying experience this is... because like it or not, I've promised book 2 by the end of May. And I'm FREAKED out that I'm not going to get it right. And nothing...NOTHING...brought home that fear more than what I experienced this morning...

So, for whatever reason, BTPM just isn't doing well on Amazon...while, amazingly enough, it's really starting to take off at Barnes & Noble. I have no real explanation for this--just conjecture. Maybe there are simply more books on Amazon, and I'm getting lost among them... ??? NO CLUE. But, the fact remains that while I continue to climb the ranks on B&N, I see very few sales on Amazon. In fact, for every book I sell on Amazon, I probably sell 15+ on B&N. Hey, I'll take it.

That said, my ranking at B&N is literally jumping by leaps and bounds. The neurotic that I am, I've been keeping anxious tabs on it every morning. This morning, I logged in, per my usual....and saw I had a new review. As I don't have very many, I always perk up at that. It's nice...blah blah blah. And then I see that someone who had previously reviewed it has edited their review to say something along the lines of:

"I have read this book 7 times. Please hurry up and write book 2."



Seven times???

Someone has read my book SEVEN times??

Folks, I don't think I've read my book seven times. (Okay, it's probably been many more times than that...but you get my meaning.)

I will tell you what my reaction to this was. First, TOTAL gut shot. My stomach relocated to my toes. I have to make book 2 just as good--if not better--than BTPM. And HOW THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO THAT?!?! Quite simply, I can't. I doomed to fail. Book 2 is going to suck!!!!

So yeah, I had my little moment of panic...and then I cried. From complete happiness.

Someone loves my book enough to read the dang thing 7 times. HOLY HELL.

That being said -- I honestly don't mean to gush over these things, but I can't seem to help myself -- the sophmore freak-out is definitely a tangible thing. I'm scared out of my mind that I'm going to let readers down with a book that doesn't live up to the first. Whether or not people like my writing, I always want to improve on what I've done before. And WALKING IN SHADOW has been a challenge--it's pushing me in some really fantastic ways, but it's also making me take greater risks. What if I fail? What if it the suckiest suck ever to hit "the shelves?"

I keep telling myself to keep my eyes on my own paper--to just keep pushing through--but it's definitely scary to think I COULD legitimately fail. I know I'm not a great success story--hell, most people wouldn't have the first clue who I am or what book it is that I wrote (most of my friends don't even know), but for some readers, it's the friggin' beesknees. I don't want to let those readers down.

I sure as heck don't want to let myself or my characters or my story down.

*deep breaths*

Hope all of you are doing well!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Creating your own pop culture

I recently discovered a seriously awesome blog inspired by Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series of novels- Outlander Kitchen, in which fan (and chef) Theresa creates dishes inspired by the books she loves.

I can't even tell you how many ways I love this idea. The Outlander novels are full of fascinating details of life across numerous countries in the 18th century (and the 20th, for that matter), including vivid descriptions of the foods of the time. What's particularly engaging is that (like every other detail in Diana's books) the food is always intimately linked to the characters and their situations. That's what makes it stick in your mind- and that's exactly what Outlander Kitchen harnesses.

Go have a look- the blogger starts each post with a snippet from the books where the food is mentioned, then follows it up with fascinating research, anecdotes about the background to the food or the hunt to perfect it, and ultimately something concrete- a recipe, and gorgeous pictures that bring to life the foods we readers have wondered about for years.

And you know, I think this is the way of things for the future- value-adding for novels. Every day I see more and more authors popping up on sites like Tumblr and Pinterest, where they can add a third dimension to the way they express their stories. Starting blogs that cover the mechanics of writing and the specifics of the story, but also spin fascinating tales about the stories behind the stories. Having linked Facebook pages to allow further interaction and even more different modes of expression.

I must say, I love it. I love what it brings to the experience of reading, to see the world of the stories through the author's eyes in a more visual way. And I think it does great things for an author's "brand" to be accessible in many different ways, and to show enthusiasm for the things about which they write. It strikes me as very savvy marketing to get into these platforms now that the internet is revolving around new ways in social media.

Several authors from this blog have additional places where you can experience more of their stories through their eyes, so for your interest, an incomplete list:

Kristen's website here contains plenty of fascinating detail about the gothic world of Firelight, Moonglow and Winterblaze, including an awesome webzine and romance trading cards.

Kristen is also pinning fabulous story details to Pinterest,

As is Rachel, here, sharing intriguing details of the 19th century Paris and Victorian London settings that are brought to life in Blood of the Heart.

And Susan, too, picking out the best of the Napa Valley, and the Vietnam era, from her novel Requiem for a Warrior.

I think I'll join Pinterest myself soon, but in the meantime I've been working on a new blog called The Road to War and Back to share the stories of WWI soldiers like Tom Lockyer and the Bleakley brothers, following real-life newspapers, records and photographs from the era of my novel Between the Lines to unravel the myriad experiences of Australians in the First World War. Stay tuned for new stories there in the next couple of weeks.

How about you? Are you using these new ways in social media to extend the way you share your story? And are you enjoying them as a reader? Any favourites you'd like to share?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Double Negative

Ain't no two ways about it, sweetheart, this film is a cleverly disguised English grammar lesson.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas - Review

In 2011 Elizabeth Loupas gave us her debut novel, The Second Duchess, a book I thoroughly enjoyed (my “20 Questions With Elizabeth Loupas” interview is here). I’ve been eagerly awaiting her second offering ever since and it finally arrived last week when I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of The Flower Reader; and after consuming the book in just two days, I can safely say The Flower Reader is well worth the wait.

Set during the early reign of Mary, queen of Scots (newly returned from France to rule upon the death of her mother, Mary of Guise, queen regent of Scotland) The Flower Reader is a sweeping tale of murder, mystery and the web of conspiracy that ensnares its heroine, a young Scots noblewoman named Rinette Leslie.

On her deathbed, Mary of Guise entrusts Rinette with a silver casket, asking her to keep it and its contents hidden until it can be placed in the hands of her daughter, the new queen. Rinette, a passionate, headstrong young woman, is known to have the ancient gift of divining the future through the art of floromancy, and thus manages to smuggle the casket’s secrets from the dead queen’s chambers hidden beneath the flowers she uses in her mystical craft.

As the new queen makes her way to Scotland, the treacherously divided Scottish nobility jostle for power; Rinette, heiress to the Granmuir estates, finds herself a pawn fought over by male protectors eager to gain control of her inheritance and she only narrowly escapes a forced marriage, instead marrying Alexander Gordon, the golden youth she has loved since she was a child. When Mary finally arrives at court Rinette is determined to meet her and hand over the silver casket to fulfill her promise to the old queen, then return to peacefully live out her days with Alexander at her beloved Granmuir.

But Mary refuses Rinette’s initial request for an audience; chagrined and forced to bide her time, Rinette decides to hide the casket. But before she can ever deliver it to Mary, murder most foul turns Rinette’s life upside down and she finds herself alone, threatened, and with her knowledge of the casket’s whereabouts her only guarantee of safety. For the casket is rumoured to contain predictions by none other than Nostradamus, plus the darkest secrets of every Scots nobleman, meticulously gathered by the old queen for her daughter; powerful weapons indeed, sought by both Mary and the Scots lords, and the ruthless agents of the many royal houses of Europe who to seek to claim them.

Murder and conspiracy abound, and assassins lurk round every corner as Rinette navigates the maze of lies and deception that is the Scots court, trying to separate friend from foe in her quest to use the silver casket to ensure her own safety and that of her family.

This is an exciting, fast paced read. I found myself holding my breath for Rinette through much of the book, for whenever it seemed things could not get any worse for her, they do … especially in the shape of one Rannoch Hamilton. I won’t give anything away here, but I think I may have found my new favourite villain; he very successfully made my skin crawl!

But Rinette is no damsel in distress. She is level headed and able to quite adeptly extricate herself from many a tight spot. And she is also a romantic. Her first relationship with Alexander is tarnished by a betrayal, and the great question is whether she will let herself love again when the chance is offered by Nicolas de Clerac, the man who repeatedly saves her and in whom she comes to trust. The trouble is, Nico is also enmeshed in the many plots to wrest the silver casket from Rinette, and has secrets he cannot reveal to her.

Mary, queen of Scots, is delightfully drawn in this tale, too: sexy, beguiling, a woman at the height of her powers with just a glimpse of Lord Darnley and the chaos his influence over the queen will ultimately bring. Indeed, Loupas effortlessly brings to life the intrigues and machinations of Mary’s court, and evokes the period wonderfully with her rich depictions of court masques, weddings and balls. I also enjoyed the floromancy element to the story, and found the floral imagery quite beautiful.

The suspense builds steadily, the stakes climb forever higher until finally this clever murder mystery ends with a very satisfying conclusion.  Go forth and buy this book – I highly recommend it!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beg, Borrow & Steal

We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. - Booker T. Washington

Viewed freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all.
- Walt Whitman

Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. The English reading public explains
the reason why. - James Joyce

English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. - E. B. White

If you're reading this, chances are pretty good that you speak (or at least read) English, a complicated, convoluted, wildly expressive language. The following short video, The History of the English Language, is a clever illustration of how it got that way.

More fun quotes about our beloved English language:

“If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.”- Doug Larson

“If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.”- Doug Larson

“Lymph, v.: to walk with a lisp.” - A Washington Post reader

“I like the word ‘indolence.’ It makes my laziness seem classy.” - Bern Williams

“The quantity of consonants in the English language is constant. If omitted in one place, they turn up in another. When a Bostonian ‘pahks’ his ‘cah,’ the lost ‘r’s migrate southwest, causing a Texan to ‘warsh’ his car and invest in ‘erl wells.’” - Author Unknown

“‘I am’ is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that ‘I do’ is the longest sentence?” - George Carlin

“In my sentences I go where no man has gone before… I am a boon to the English language.” - George W. Bush

“Introducing ‘Lite’ – The new way to spell ‘Light’, but with twenty percent fewer letters.” - Jerry Seinfeld

“England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” - George Bernard Shaw

“Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.” - Robert Benchley

“When I read some of the rules for speaking and writing the English language correctly, I think any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it.” - Henry David Thoreau

“I speak two languages: Body and English.” - Mae West

Friday, March 16, 2012

Steal Like An Artist

I like Sophie’s carefree creativity. It’s as refreshing as it is amusing. But is it completely original? Much as I love the little bunny, I’m going out on a limb here when I say, no. Bear with me and follow the logic.

Children are natural mimics. They have to be - it’s the way they learn most new skills. They don’t just hatch and begin to use a spoon, or speak fluently, or ride a bike. They copy, they imprint, they absorb, and then they make these skills their own. Sophie’s wonderful sense of story is most likely an amalgamation of all the countless stories Claire has read to her, of the funny songs maybe her daddy has sung to her, and yes, to a great extent it's due to her incomplete understanding of how things really work. She has a foundation to base her fantastical, whimsical, yarns on. She didn’t pull the ideas from thin air.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy and great artists steal.” His friend, Igor Stravinsky, said much the same: “A good composer does not imitate, he steals.” Two men with the same sentiment — two great creative minds who understood that creativity started with a kernel that might not have been wholly original with the creator.

There’s a fine line between inspiration and imitation. One is acceptable, one is not. One is considered inventive, the other infringement. What makes Sophie’s stories inventive is that she has taken an idea - say the story of the Three Bears - and made it her own by putting them in diving suits & air tanks and giving them a picnic in a coral reef. Pure genius! But the Three Bears? She’s seen those furry critters before, hasn’t she?

Writer and artist Austin Kleon wrote a book called “
Steal Like An Artist.” Seems contradictory, dirty, wrong, doesn’t it? We don't steal ideas, we're much more noble than that. Kleon makes his case, and I think it’s a good one. His argument goes something like this:

Good Theft will honor the original idea, while Bad Theft only degrades it.

Good Theft makes a study of it, understands the bones of it. Bad Theft only skims the surface and has no real understanding.

Good Theft steals from many. Bad Theft steals from one.

Good Theft gives credit where credit is due. Bad Theft plagiarizes, claims credit.

Good Theft transforms the original into something wholly new, perhaps better. Bad Theft only imitates poorly, shallowly.

Good Theft is “a remix” of the old and the new, a blending of ideas. Bad Theft is a “rip off.”

I don’t particularly like the word “theft” here. It’s a negative word. But I understand what Kleon is getting at. We all get our inspiration from somewhere, or something, or someone. We’re not living in a vacuum. In fact, it’s quite the opposite in this age of lightening-fast exchange of ideas. We can’t help but be influenced by the things we see, hear and read. That influence can be used in powerfully creative ways, or it can be misused miserably.

Steven Johnson, author of
Where Good Ideas Come From, says that “Chance favors the connected mind.” Successful creativity is the direct result of being connected to those sources that inspire and drive you, that challenge you, that feed your intellect. (Remember Kleon's "Good theft steals from many?") For Johnson, creativity is the result of many sources, over time, coming together to create lightening.

Sophie hasn’t got all the connections we adults have. But she has the raw, unfiltered imagination to use what connections she’s been given. If a 3 year-old can do it, then we can too. Go ahead. Steal like an artist. Or a preschooler.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A delicate balance

I was sorting through photos on the family iPad yesterday, rolling my eyes a little at how long it took me to get through and delete the 40 duplicates of each Photo Booth picture my three-year-old daughter takes. If it looks good once, you've just gotta keep snapping it, over and over and over. Oh my.

In the process, I found myself smiling (as I often do) at her creativity. The imagination at three is just so unfettered. Everything is so new. Ideas are happening in that little head for the Very First Time EVER. It's a pretty remarkable time in your life, to suddenly understand that YOU can create and invent and control. Why wouldn't you go nuts with the crazy self-portraits and the inventive colouring schemes?

It got me thinking about the way I try to control my own creativity. If my daughter and I are playing our Play School game together and it's my turn, I'll produce something neat, tidy and orderly. It tells a story, and I know exactly what story I want it to tell. I don't want unexpected extras, I don't want stuff that doesn't fit. I set out to say what I want to say, and when I'm done I edit it further. Below you can see my excellent story about the fateful day two jellyfish went out for a swim, and happened across two hungry sharks. It's an award-winner in the making, I assure you. Very heart-rending stuff (click on any of the below pics to appreciate the full majesty).

My daughter, on the other hand, isn't interested in neat and orderly. She wants chaos. She wants three Big Teds and a random fish. She wants so many guys in the story that you literally can't move one without moving another.

She wants a bright red cake covered in spiders, or a snappy green and brown number with ladybugs, several keeling-over bridegrooms and a few rubber ducks (you really want to enlarge that green cake- it's a corker).

Why? She doesn't know until she gets there, but the fun for her is in the process. Whereas the fun for *me* is in seeing my ideas take shape in a meaningful way.

And you know, we're both right in the way we approach things for our respective stages of life, and particularly as far as my writing is concerned. I think you need to have a delicate balance between unfettered, joyful creativity, and careful consideration when you sit down to write a novel. You want times when you can throw it all to the wind and just see what happens, but at the same time you need a certain level of self-editing at all stages of the process, or else you end up with forty of the same picture and no idea what that second boat is doing there (I would have known before I put it there, if it were me- she'd be excited to see what her imagination suggested after the fact).

I find it fascinating to see the differences between us, but also how much enjoyment we each get out of our stage of the creative process.

So, for me, I think it's a combination of letting your inner three-year-old run wild, and consolidating all you've learned over the many years.

By the way, if you like the look of the Play School application, it's brilliant for creative kids, and it's absolutely free. They get to make their own pictures by dragging in different characters and props, then they can make and voice movies out of the same stuff. Find it here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Complete Armor for Horse and Man

I’m a sucker for flawed heroes. Give me a man with a tortured past, a dark secret, hidden pain, a rebellious streak, or an all-consuming desire for revenge. Give me a bastard, an anti-hero, a bad boy. Oh yeah.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want my heroes to be likable. Even a bad boy bastard has to have some redeeming qualities like humor, courage, tenderness, and a moral code. He needs a belief in something and maybe a bit of hope, too.
A dark hero, by nature, is a complex creature. Something drives him; he’s bad, yet does the right thing. A dark hero has many layers if drawn correctly by his creator.
These layers are what fascinate me. In Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, Jessica Page Morrell gives a sort of hierarchy of traits that all characters have. She notes that if character-building is done well, readers will still be learning about a character right up to the last page. Her hierarchy of traits are:
Primary Traits are the foundation of the character, his personality, his disposition and approach to life.
Secondary Traits are mannerisms, tastes, tags, habits, that support the Primary Traits.
Counter/Contrasting Traits are a character’s deepest layer, the place where he’s most vulnerable.
Just like the armored knight, a hero has his outer armor that is readily recognized. In the case of the Bad Boy Hero his armor is made of those behaviors that give him his reputation. It’s not easy to get beyond his armor, but to persist is to see his vulnerabilities and to understand why he acts the way he does.
To craft a character with layers - with those primary, secondary and contrasting traits - is to create a complicated, yet believable person. Everyone has armor, everyone’s been hurt, or experienced some kind of trouble, heartache, or upheaval. Everyone.
You may not be crafting a Bad Boy or a Bitch. But I’m curious… does your character wear armor? Does he have layers of traits much like those that Morrell talks about? What does your character’s deepest layer look like?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Walking That Line

There are so many things about this writing gig that fascinate me, none more so than the psychological games we writers play in order to get the job done.

Games such as the little rituals we go through in order to psyche ourselves up when we sit down to write. We ALL do this. Some of us light candles and offer up a quiet prayer. Others slip into a comfortable pair of pyjamas, or kick off the shoes to write bare-footed, or hermetically seal the house so the only sound is that of perfect silence … the list of these rituals is as endless as the quirks of humanity.

Of course, if it ever came down to it, we really could write without doing those things. With a gun pointed to our heads, we really could. But without that adrenalin rush of fear to get us going every day (and let’s face it, how draining would that be) these rituals are necessary. They make the whole segue from real life into the writing so much easier.

But that’s how you get the writing done on a micro, day to day, level. When you look at how writers manage to slog through the long haul of writing and revising a whole book over endless weeks and months and years – well, that’s where the mind games get really interesting.

Basically, the only way any of us can do it - and I mean successfully do it - is by learning how to walk the line.

There’s a certain level of self-belief - shall we say, arrogance - that a writer must possess in order to finish a book. Belief in the brilliance of your story, and your ability to pull it off. Allowing yourself to revel in the exquisite excitement of creating your fabulous characters and their jaw-dropping tales. This is vital. This is what pulls you along and keeps you going for the length of a novel and you’d be a fool not to hook yourself up and mainline the stuff.

But the arrogance needs to be tempered with a dose of realism. The sparkly rhinestone stilettos of “OMG this is the best frigging book ever!” need to be swapped and balanced with the sensible lace up shoes of objectivity. Otherwise you may find you get to the end of that long, long journey of writing a novel only to find that while you had a blast,  all you’ve got to show for it is a bunion on your big toe and a manuscript of unsalvageable dreck.

Conversely, if all you ever wear is your orthopaedic flats, you'll be so busy scrutinising and agonising over every single word that you'll never get your book done. Ever.

You have to learn to walk that line.

Oh, it’s hard. With me, I tend to wear the sensible brown shoes a little too much.  I need to remember to toss them to the back of the cupboard and break out the sequined heels from time to time; for as the saying goes, if you don’t back yourself, then who else will?

These days I’m mostly getting that balance right. In fact, I’m finding I switch between the two mindsets as I write. It's sort of like driving at two different speeds at the same time – actually, it’s kind of schizophrenic - but hey, it works.

But that’s just me. Which shoes do you wear more than you should? How do you walk the line?

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Power of Story in Fifteen Minutes

The animated short film “The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore” is a delight to watch and deserves its Oscar nod as one of this year's animated short films. The film's creators call it "an allegory about the curative powers of books." I call it enchanting, inspiring, creatively brilliant.

The story follows the adventures of a simple man swept away to a magical land where books are more than old tomes on a shelf. It’s a charming little film and surprisingly touching. It left me a little bit breathless, a little bit sad, and whole lot happy.

Breathless, because of the beauty and simplicity of the story.

Sad, because stories end.

Happy, because I think I’ve found the same magical kingdom that Morris stumbles into. If you’re a reader, you’ll understand this with your heart. If you’re a writer, you’ll understand this with your soul.

The State of Things ... And a Chair

Well, I'm still revising my book. STILL. Eight weeks of school holidays kinda killed the roll I was on, but in a way, I'm glad it did. While I didn't get much writing done, I did a helluva lot of thinking, and since I started back on the regular writing - three weeks of it now - I've made some pretty solid progress. In fact, things are slotting together in ways they never have before, and I'm cautiously optimistic I'll be done with this round of revisions by the end of May. I plan to print out my book for the first time ever at that point and read it through ... after which I'll doubtless curl into the foetal position and sob for a week. Then pull myself back together, do one last round of revisions and then it's off for beta reading. It's sure been a long and drawn out process, the writing of this novel, but what isn't killing me is making me stronger, right?


Anyway, I think I've found something that may help things along.

First, a question: is it a sign that I'm becoming a boring old fart that I get super, crazy, MENTALLY excited about purchasing ... a chair?

Well, in my defence, it's not just any chair. And it's not for just any old room in the house.

Here it is:

My chair of contemplation, in my study, for when I get to those bits of my book where I need to step back from the computer and go "hmmmm."

You like?

I do. :-)

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Hey all,

I've been in a writing/deadline hole -yet again! I can ALMOST see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Until then, I wanted to say that I was invited to hang out on Meljean Brook's blog. As I love her books something fierce, how could I say no?

Feel free to stop by. We're talking about Wonder Woman, kick-ass heroines, and giving away some stuff. Oh, and there are incriminating photos which involve a certain AWTOP member dressing up as a certain heroine. ;-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday Linky Love

Well, it seems that life is intent on keeping all of us at ATWOP pretty preoccupied at the moment, either pressing our noses to our various grindstones or taking us on new and exciting journeys ... or both!  So I have nothing to offer today but a couple of shiny bits of distraction that I stole from the interwebs.

First up is Heather O'Neill's hilarious list of rules for How To Date A Writer. It's been doing the rounds, but it's sure worth a re-run. My husband learned numbers two, three, seven and eight the hard way, bless him.

And from the annals of "what will they think of next" I give you The Composites, a blog that uses law enforcement composite sketch software to produce images of literary characters.  Some are quite odd (Mr Rochester looks like a caveman who's learned to use a hairbrush, in my humble opinion) but it's a fascinating concept.

So click away, and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Movies About Writers

I have been a lawyer, and am currently a mother of thirteen years standing, but rarely do I enjoy watching movies about lawyers or parenting as much as I adore movies about writers.

(OK, A Few Good Men and Parenthood are exceptions to this rule, but that could have more to do with my Keanu Reeves and Jack Nicholson fixations than anything else!)

I don't know why this is so. Maybe it's because the creative writing life is such an odd beast, and us writers have such interesting quirks (or so we like to think), that these movies hold such an appeal. Whatever the case, I've been on a bit of a writing movie glom of late, and thought I'd share some of my favourites with you.

Tamara Drewe

This is a great little film that I only recently caught. It's essentially a romantic comedy, and to be honest, I found the main character of Tamara to be a tad annoying, but this is more than compensated for by the subplot of a writers' retreat in the English countryside, and the eclectic bunch of writers who attend it - the academic who's suffering the constipation of writers block, the best selling author with an ego the size of Kentucky, his long suffering wife/literary assistant ... and when the conversations turned to the old chestnut of commercial vs literary fiction, I had a good old giggle. Well worth a watch.

Paris When It Sizzles

Ah, what's not to love about this movie? The gorgeous Audrey Hepburn plays the sassy assistant to William Holden's screenwriter marooned in Paris with a chronic case of writer's block. There's much witty repartee between the pair, especially once Hepburn starts to help Holden overcome his writer's block by acting out his fantasies of possible plots. Sure, it's a bit of a cheesy romp, but I do adore this film.

The Shining

OK, it's horror, but honestly, who amongst us cannot, in some tiny way, relate to Nicholson's slow psychological unravelling, culminating in sheet after sheet of "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"?

Hmm. Thought so.

So, how about you? Do you enjoy watching films about writers and the writing life? Which ones tickle your fancy?

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Whiney Writer

While technically it's not NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month) anymore, these little film clips are still valid today. The aspiring writer in them is a very clever conglomerate of every writer I know and the folly we encounter in our quest for the perfect novel.


Whiney Writer is inspired to write a novel:

Whiney Writer has writer's block:

Whiney Writer writes romance:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Stop Everything!!

Go forth and buy...THIS!

Even if your local bookstore doesn't have them on display until tomorrow, THEY HAVE THEM. Cajole them...beg...plead... Offer them cash! Get them to bring this little puppy out to you. You won't regret it!!

Can I just say how stinkin' happy I am for my friend, Kristen Callihan?? She's awesome--both as a person and as a writer. I'm beside myself with happiness over the fact that I just walked into a bookstore and purchased her book. Many, many good things are in store for her.

Congratulations, Kristen!!

Timeless prose

My current burst of reading has taken me onto several classic novels I've meant to read for years, but haven't previously managed to tackle.

In the last week, the two I've read have been Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. I've loved them both- and as I've been reading, I've been struck by several things that make these brilliant and timeless stories. The first is voice- always, voice. Capote and Hemingway were assured and distinct authors, and the uniqueness of the way they use language, character and setting is surely at the heart of their longevity.

The second is character. Both novels are full of complex, larger-than-life characters with flaws, failings, and fascinating motivations. Their actions and their reactions are so unique that they jump off the page at you, as if you already know them. As if you're inside their heads.

And while there are many other reasons, another that comes to mind for me immediately is the sense of time and place imparted by the setting and the style. If I knew nothing about either novel, I think I'd still be able to figure out quite quickly where and when the stories were set. This is because the authors captured the language of the time, the character of the places, and all of these things are woven inextricably through the plots. Each story is a complicated whole that as a result will remain a part of literary history for decades if not centuries to come.

Good lessons, I think, for authors hoping to make an impact. Not that one can choose, necessarily, to be the next Hemingway- but there's no question we can learn to create authentic and unique characters, and to give our settings, plots and language all we've got. With practice, that kind of confidence becomes an authorial voice to be remembered- and once you have all that, hopefully you have a story for the ages.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Lengths To Which You'll Go ...

My seven year old daughter and I went on a mini shopping spree to IKEA recently. She had a list a mile long of things she wanted to buy for her room: a new bed spread, a pretty cushion or two to match it, a bright yellow rug for the floor. But I had only one thing on my list - a set of venetian blinds for my study. I'll show you why ...

See those lovely glass doors? Those lovely glass doors through which my three lovely children can still SEE me when I sit down to write? Well, I hate them. Even though I have explained to, and screeched at, and finally begged my offspring to understand that closed doors means mum is writing and must not be interrupted (with the exception of one of them spurting blood or the house being on fire), the fact they can see me means they think I'm still on duty for everything from sorting out arguments to making milkshakes to finding missing Lego pieces, and they barge on through those doors like they weren't even there.

These holidays, after five years, I was finally over the interruptus maximus. And now, when my study doors are closed, they look like this:

Um, please ignore the fact the blinds are too short. That'll happen when one goes shopping with the child who is the main cause of all the interruptus maximus. I'll go get the right size eventually, but for now, they're working a treat.

So. What lengths have you gone to, to protect your writing time from those who just do not get it?

Oh, and can I just have a moment to say how excited I am that this book will be out in less than a week:

Squee!!!! :-) :-) :-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Price of eBooks: Colour Me Confused

It's summer, the sun is shining, and I'm about to head off on a three day trip to the beach ... so of necessity (and lacking the brain power to discuss anything in a deep and meaningful manner) this post will be short.

Harking back to Claire's post on eBooks and how she's surprised herself with just how enamoured she's become of her Kindle, today, I had a bit of a thought-provoking eBook moment myself.

I'm one of those types who roughly buys half eBooks, half paper books, but when it comes to vacation time I firmly favour packing my Kindle over trying to stuff four or five paperbacks (or, God forbid, weighty and spine damaging hardbacks) into my suitcase. So this morning, I set about doing a cruise of Amazon's Kindle shop to see what lovelies I could download for my beach reading pleasure, and to my delight I came across a new release by an author whose previous works I have very much enjoyed: SEASON OF LIGHT by Katharine McMahon. And it was available in Kindle format. Bliss!

But then I noticed the price: $US20.82.

Yep. Twenty dollars and eighty-two cents. I confess, I had to blink to make sure I wasn't seeing things, but no, that is indeed the price of the Kindle version (a price set by the publisher according to a disclaimer of sorts on the book's Amazon page). More expensive than the paperback version, which is selling on Amazon for $US19.84.

I didn't buy the book. I just couldn't.  And I've been questioning my reluctance (or stinginess?) ever since.

I've become used to paying no more than, say, $12 - $15 at the very top end for an eBook, and I guess the fact the paperback version is cheaper - ok, only marginally, and yes, freight charges would be added, but still cheaper at face value - than the eBook, came as a bit of a shock to me. With eBooks, costs such as paper and printing and warehousing and freight are eliminated; and yes, while different costs go into eBook production, surely, they can't be as much as those associated with paper production. Or am I wrong about that?

But I think the main reason for my reluctance, and with no disrespect intended to Katharine McMahon who is a very fine author, when the Kindle version of a book by an author as popular as Stephen King doesn't even break the $20 mark (his latest release, 11/22/63, sells for $17.69 as an eBook on Amazon) then I'm even more hesitant to buy.

Is it just me? Am I missing something? Am I just being a tightwad? Or is $20 for an eBook too much for you, too?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Unlikely Source of Inspiration

So, I've been sick for a long time. A really long time. I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of stress I'm under right now--both personal and work related. My life has seen some big changes the past few months and it was really only a matter of time until my health would begin to pay the price. That said, I thought I had kicked it--I think what was a sinus infection--and then it came back full force after my trip down to Knoxville. Let's just say I was in a great deal of pain this weekend from the worst earache I've ever had...and that's coming from a girl who once popped her eardrum while scuba diving. Okay, maybe it wasn't THAT bad, but it was bad.

At any rate, I didn't have a lot of get-up-and-go this weekend. What was meant to be a four day writing spree turned into four days of feeling like utter crap. I didn't want to get out of bed, let alone do anything productive. lol

So, I spent a good portion of this weekend watching the second season of The Vampire Diaries. I know...I know... but dang it, that show is GOOD. And I have to say, it is a Master Class in upping the stakes and how to create a no holds barred level of tension that has you saying "just one more episode" even when you're completely exhausted. I found myself simply amazed by what that show accomplishes week to week... (see where this is going? Translate week to week to: chapter to chapter..) I started thinking, how are they accomplishing what they're accomplishing? Well, here's a few things I noted...

1. They always leave each week with a mini-cliffhanger. Some twist that you didn't see coming and which is only revealed during the last couple of minutes of each episode. You're left with an URGENT NEED to know what happens next... and if you're behind like me, that means you can pop the next episode on and find out. That's exactly where you want to leave your readers: Needing To Know More. You can do this by leaving unanswered questions, cutting a chapter off mid-scene..lots of tension creating ways that will pull your readers forward. Be it to the next chapter or the next book...

2. No one.... and I do mean NO ONE... is off limits. The writers are just as likely to kill off a main character as they are some walk-on character who makes no more than a brief appearance in an episode. Once this precedent is set, you truly begin to believe that ANY character can be taken out. At any time.

3. Well-developed secondary characters. I love that this show doesn't solely rely on the main characters to keep the series going. They have some really well-defined secondaries that, in a lot of ways, I like even more than the principal players. They have great sub-plots going that feature them, making them more than just filler in the background. I mean, come on... who doesn't love Vampire Caroline? :)

4. It really illustrates the whole Donald Maass philosophy. Who can't your character live without? Take them away. Etc. Etc. Just when you think a situation can't get any worse... it does. Not only do the characters have big picture stakes in a certain situation, they also have personal ones. Nothing worse than choosing who should die when you're forced to choose between two people you love. Add to it the knowledge that the world will end if you don't choose... and Yeeeikes. Good stuff!

5. Characters that are well-defined, with both good and bad characteristics that make them BELIEVABLE. People that you either cheer on or hope and pray get their comeuppance. If you can't connect with the characters you're watching/reading, even if you can't stand them... you'll be rowing without a paddle. Seriously.

These points are really just skimming the surface, but they're definitely ping ponging around in my head right now, and I'm thinking about what I can do to ensure I have the same success that this show has. Even though I was sick, it was still a weekend well spent. :)

Anyone watch and love this show as much as I do? :)

Agree or disagree?