Friday, December 31, 2010

300 word pitch


So here's the pitch I've written for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It's slightly different to the one I used last year.

Tragedies have punctuated Casey’s life, but she has never explored them – until an creative writing assignment forces her to drag them into the light. Exploring painful and traumatic childhood memories is not easy, even as a seventeen-year-old who thinks she’s put them behind her.

When Casey meets Mark, she discovers he is struggling with his assignment too. Their connection is immediate and the two are drawn to one another. Casey wants their relationship to blossom, but is terrified by the possible outcome - everyone close to her ends up abandoning her.

As they write their ‘Assignment 9’, Casey and Mark discover things about themselves, their families and each other that will change their lives forever. One big question remains unanswered: are they really soul mates, or nothing more than damaged goods seeking solace and empathy? If Casey dares to find out, the answer may be one she doesn’t want.

ASSIGNMENT 9, a 75 000 word contemporary YA novel, interweaves Casy and Mark’s tentative relationship with Casey’s assignment in which she explores the traumatic childhood events that have left her wary of intimacy.

What do you think? Too long? Too involved? Not enough? Have your say!

Dear Me

So yesterday we looked at 2010's goals. Since I found writing them down like that so helpful, I've written myself a letter with my goals and ambitions for 2011. On December 31st, we'll revisit it and see which of these things I've managed to achieve...

Dear Me,

2010 was a great year with many successes and I learned so much about the publishing world. So I’m feeling far better prepared in 2011 to drive my writing career to the next level. Since writing my goals down was so useful last year, I’ve decided to do it again.

I will enter Assignment 9 in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest again. It made the semis last year, and I think the latest revision has fixed the problems my previous drafts had. Or at least, I hope so… But I’m not going to leave it at that and hope to win. I’m going to punch up my query letter and start submitting again. Hopefully someone will bite.

Prayer and Prey, my Western/Romance novel was read by a couple of agents in 2010, and both came back to me with similar feedback. So a revision needs to be done, adding 20K to the manuscript’s length, probably all in Alice’s POV. I hope to get this done before June so I can re-submit it to the agent who said she’d take another look, and start submitting it to others.

With my NaNo novel (tentatively called Chasing the Taillights) still in a very raw, first draft state, I need to dive into major revisions and get the chapters up for my critique group to review. My aim is to have this book polished and ready to submit to the Delcorte Press First YA Novel contests that closes in December 2011.

I also want to continue writing and publishing short fiction although with so many novel projects on the go, I don’t think I’ll be submitting at the rate I was in 2010. I will continue to write and publish in as many genres and styles as I possibly can, always seeking ways to extend and expand my capabilities as a writer.

I will remain active in my critique groups and plan to get back into a regular routine with my reviewing again. As soon as I get back from vacation, I’ll schedule regular reviewing time, to go along with my regular writing time. I plan to be very productive in 2011, in every facet of my life.

I plan to continue blogging regularly, and hope that I can keep the blog engaging and interesting for the people who stop by regularly. Hopefully I will be able to run more contests on the blog too.

As far as my day job goes, I think 2011 may be a year of change. I have a new boss and there seem to be a number of interesting avenues I may be able to pursue. And even if there aren’t, at least I’ll still get to see a lot of really great films.

On a personal level, I’d like to lose some weight (don’t we all). I’d like to say 10kg, but that’s probably a little crazy. I’d weigh the same as I did in high school then… But it’s a goal, anyway. I hope to be able to up my gym-going from 3 days a week to four, and I’m going to be very careful about portion sizes in what I eat, and not eating up my kids’ leftovers because its wasteful not to. Also, no chocolate biscuits after dinner!

So, that’s a bunch of things to aim for!

Love, Me

Do you have any goals or ambitions for 2011?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How'd I do?

As it is so close to being 2011, I thought I should dig out the letter I wrote myself at the beginning of 2010 to see how many of the things I resolved to do, actually came to fruition. So here goes...

Dear Me,

2010. Wow! How did that manage to creep up on me? I swear, every year seems to be getting shorter and it is getting harder and harder to achieve everything I want to achieve in each one. So, in an attempt to organize the chaos that is my life, I am going to put on paper some of my goals for 2010. Perhaps having them written down will focus me more towards actually making them happen.

But before I go ahead with 2010, I think I should reflect for a moment on 2009 because the successes and failures of that year are certainly going to color my ambitions for the future. I went into 2009 with only one concrete goal: to get published. And in October, I was. Okay, it wasn’t exactly what I’d been aiming for which was to have my novel, Assignment 9, accepted for publication, but even the little 800 word story that wound up in a barely-read women’s business magazine, so badly formatted that it made little sense anymore, counts. Right? Right! Published is published. And then I had another story accepted for an anthology coming out in March 2010, so I felt that I had achieved my goal.

So in 2010 I want to build on those successes. I want to publish more, and publish widely. Done! I published 18 stories in 2010, in a wide variety of publications. I want to get my stories into some publications that people actually read. If I can get paid as well, then that’s just gravy! Done! Okay, so I'm not in a position to give up my day job, but with the royalty check I got last week, I've made $37 US as a writer in 2010. Hmmmm.. . Sounds kind of lame when I think about it. Some of my friends are setting themselves goals as to how much money they would like to make, but I don’t think I’m ready to do that yet. Maybe in 2011. I have a feeling that 2010 is going to be a year of as many rejections as acceptances as I get a feel for the marketplace and where my particular style might fit into it. But at least I’m prepared for that. My approach is to aim high, submitting first to the most prestigious or highly paid market that looks suitable, then to move down as the rejections pile up, re-writing on the way if necessary.

I haven’t abandoned my ambition to get my novel published either. In 2009 I joined several different novel review forums on WDC as well as rather audaciously seeking help from a local YA author, and have completed an extensive re-write of Assignment 9. And three more since then... It is out with a publisher at the moment, and I have my eye on a contest to enter it into as well. Fingers crossed 2010 will be Assignment 9’s year to shine. Even if nothing else gets accepted, if this book finally manages to make its way out into the world, I will be more than satisfied. Well, it didn't get published, but it did make it to the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which I think is pretty good. To be in the top 50 of 5000 entries isn't bad. But it's not published either.

Staying with novels for a moment longer, my other book, Holding it Together, has been somewhat neglected for over a year, but with Assignment 9 being out in the world now, I plan to focus my attention onto this one. In the Novel Focus Group, my turn for being read and reviewed comes up again in April and I would like to have a new draft ready to go by then. I’m taking the book and a great swathe of critiques I’ve received for various chapters with me on holiday next week. Without internet or cell-phone coverage to distract me, I hope to make some significant inroads into this rewrite while I’m away. I just hope the kids will leave me enough peace to do it! This one has become my trunk novel. I've done extensive rewrites, the most major of which changed it from a third person narrative to first person from dual perspectives. But it still doesn't work. I think I'm too close to the story and the real-life characters on which it is based to ever make it into a working novel. But... Never say never!

The review groups I am a part of are so incredibly helpful and supportive that I cannot ignore them. I intend to continue being an active reviewer of other peoples’ work. I have learned so much from reviewing, and can be much more critical of my own work as a result. And when one of the stories or books I’ve helped with gets published, it feels fantastic to have had a hand in getting it to that point. It’s not quite as good as being published myself, but a close second! Done. I've remained very active in my writing community and to date have given almost 900 reviews! Hopefully they're helpful. But more importantly, I've made some wonderful friends through these groups, and I value their input into my work and their support when the rejections start getting me down immeasurably.

Because I am committed to these groups and want to give reviews that are as helpful and well thought out as possible, I am going to make a weekly schedule for myself, outlining which group, and what pieces I will review each day of the week, ensuring that I also leave time to actually write myself. I have taken a rather scattershot approach to reviewing in the past, and have often found myself struggling towards the end of the month to get through everything I have taken on. I had this happening for a while, but have slipped a little since doing NaNo. Must try to get back on schedule...

I would like to participate in NaNoWriMo in 2010. Did it and won! I didn’t in 2009 because I thought I was going to be at a conference for a week in the middle of November. As it turned out, I didn’t end up going and could have done the NaNo thing after all. So this year I will get myself prepared and will attempt to write an entire book in a month. Given it took me almost twenty-five years to get the other two done, it will be a miracle if I do. But hey! I believe in miracles. At least sometimes. I have at least two ideas for novels tripping around my head, so I’m sure one of them will make an appearance in 2010, NaNo or no NaNo. And you know what? The book I ended up writing was something completely different. But I like it anyway. And those other ideas? Who knows what they might have been or if they will ever get written.

With two children’s picture books completed and ready to go to a publisher, I would like to see these in print in 2010. And I would like to continue to collaborate with the very different artists whose work I have been privileged enough to be associated with. Dave Boyle is such a prolific painter that should our Jessie And The Witches garner the success we’d like it to, I foresee more Jessie adventures in our future. Okay, epic fail here. Dave and I sent out our MS a few times, but got nothing but rejections. And the other artist I work with left his paintings by a leaky window and they got destroyed. He said he's re-do them, but I think they were fairly low on his list of priorities because I've seen nothing yet...

I have grown so much as a writer in the last twelve months. I would like to continue to grow, tackling genres and subjects that are outside my comfort zone. Done. I wrote Sci-Fi, Horror, Romance - a whole novel's worth in fact, YA, Literary, Experimental and so much more. I have thousands of stories to tell, and I look forward to putting them down on paper and sharing them with the world. I may even take another stab at poetry, something I have almost a phobia about. In fact, I am going to ensure that I write and submit at least one poem in 2010. I don’t think I can call myself a writer unless I’m willing to push myself to write poetry, however bad it may be to begin with. And it will never get better unless I practice. Again, fail. I tried. But I'm not a poet. And if I'm honest about it, I don't really like poetry. Not to read or to write. So I'm not beating myself up about it.

With all those writing goals to take care of, I’m going to struggle to find the time for my day job! Or my kids. But I tend to work best when under pressure, and I am far more productive when I’m busy. So it looks as if 2010 is going to be a busy year! Stop musing about it, girl, and get on with it! Am I going to have to kick you in the pants already? It’s only January!



Not bad. A few things I could have pushed a little more. How about you? Did you manage to achieve many of your goals in 2010?

Monday, December 27, 2010


It has been 2 years today since I joined and truly began my journey as a writer. Two years does not seem a long time, yet I have achieved so much in that short space of time. Before I joined this writers' community, I was a writer, yet an unfocused one, one without concrete goals or ambitions. I had two novels I thought were finished, but no clue what to do from there.

Since joining, I've discovered how terrible those two books actually were, and with the support and encouragement of other writers, have rewritten them, making them so much better than they were. I had no idea about submitting, agents, queries or any of the stuff that goes along with being published. Now I do.

With the guidance of the fabulous Let's Publish group I've learned so much about short fiction publishing, and have gained the confidence to submit my stories. I've published 20 short pieces, and have even made a little (very, very little) money from them.

So, on this happy day, I want to express my gratitude to everyone at WDC for helping me become the writer I wanted be, and for continuing to encourage and inspire me to write every day. Thanks WDC!

Friday, December 24, 2010

We Have Winners!

Well, not a whole lot of entries into the contest, but that doesn't matter. Thanks to everyone who did enter.

So, first prize goes to Loralie Hall. She wins a chapter or short story critique.
Second prize goes to Gideon 86. He wins a critique of his first 3 pages or a short story up to 1000 words.
And third prize goes to Robert Dean. He wins a query critique or a critique on a flash fiction story.

Congratulations guys! Just email me your pages

And as promised, everyone wins a discount coupon for Drastic Measures for entering. Just head here and the code is FQSR8WWF.

Have a wonderful holiday season, wherever you are, okay?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Graveyard stories

I had to go away for work this week, and had an opportunity to catch up with my cousin briefly yesterday before coming home. One of the things he's done this year, is research the history of the graveyard in his town, and yesterday he took me for a walk through it. I've always liked cemetries and enjoyed walking through the crumbling headstones, reading inscriptions and names of people long gone. When choosing names for my children I often walked through looking for those old fashioned names nobody much uses anymore.

Yesterday though, I heard stories about the lives and deaths of the people beneath the stones. These were ordinary people trying to forge a new life in an unfamiliar and often hostile country. The headstones spoke of drownings, shootings, deaths in wars and duels, a surprising number of poisonings too, both intentional and not. My cousin gave me tiny snippets of these lives and I found myself spinning these snippets into stories, wanting to explore them more deeply.

Do you find the dead an inspiration?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Real conversation

Earlier this afternoon I had the privilege of taking part in a Skype chat with some members of my YA novel critique group. Five of us took part, two in Australia, one in the US, one in New Zealand and one in the UK. After spending almost two years working with these people online, finally having the opportunity to talk to each other, was amazing! Beforehand, I'd been worried we wouldn't be able to find things to talk about, or that the whole thing would be stilted or weird.

I was wrong.

In fact, it was like any reunion of old friends, with everyone talking over each other and the topic of conversation constantly morphing and digressing off on tangents. It's amazing how easy to talk to they all were, even though we've never physically met.

A few years ago (well, more than a few) I had a similar experience when I was a part of the online community for my favorite band. We organized a gathering in Berlin over a weekend and once again, I was amazed at how easy it was to get along in person with people I'd only spoken to online before. In that instance, I did have a few weird moments where people I had assumed were men were women and vice-versa. One disadvantage to using nicknames, as opposed to real names.

Anyway, I really enjoyed talking to my crew, and hope to be able to do it again in the future. And perhaps with members of my other groups too!

Have you entered the contest yet? Only one week to go....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On First Chapters...

I was critiquing a friend's opening chapter last night, and it occurred to me that in some weird shift of consciousness, I now have some very definite ideas about what needs to be in a first chapter. You need to learn who the protagonist is, and you need to begin hinting at what their journey is going to be. If I'm going to read on through an entire book, I need to know from the start whether the person taking me with them is someone I want to spend time with. I'd also like to know what they want, and perhaps begin to understand why they can't have it. So I took a look back at each of my novels, to see what I did in the first chapter of each, and whether it fits with my newfound revelations.

In Holding It Together, my oldest novel, the first chapter is an introduction to the characters. Nothing much happens, but because there are 5 main characters, they are each introduced, and the menacing environment they live in is hinted at. BUT... the real plot does not start until chapter 2. Probably a mistake. I should probably scrap the first chapter and begin in chapter 2. The different personalities will show themselves in the different ways they react to the events.

In Prayer and Prey I haven't written in chapters, so this doesn't exactly work so well. But, the first 10 pages or so introduce the three different POVs and sets each of them on their individual journey. I think Danny's section probably works better than the other two in that his motivation is bigger than that of the other two characters.

In Assignment 9 I introduce the protagonist and her dilemma right off the bat. Then I throw in a second character and suggest a relationship may develop. Then, right at the end of that first chapter, I introduce the idea that her family is messed up, which leads into the second story thread that makes up the book. I think this opening chapter achieves what I need it to.

In my newest WIP( provisionally called Chasing the Taillights), I am writing in dual POVs, so the first chapter only introduces one of the protagonists. They don't end up in the same space until around chapter 4. The book also opens with the inciting incident, the big plot point on which the entire book hangs. I'm not sure if this is the right place to have started, but when I tried writing from further back, it didn't work at all, so this starting place may have to be it. The chapter doesn't do everything I usually like a first chapter to do, but I think it works in a different way: because it leaves so many unanswered questions, you feel compelled to keep reading for the answers.

Do you have any thoughts on what makes a great opening chapter?

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I did something to my neck last week, and for the last four days have been in serious pain. It seems to be getting better now, (fingers crossed) but it's made me think. I've been really irritable the last few days, partly because of the pain, and partly because I haven't been able to sleep. We take our bodies for granted, I think, assume they'll keep carrying us around indefinitely. But like any precision machinery, our bodies need TLC.

It's only when something starts hurting, that I realize how little consideration I give my body. I exercise, I eat reasonably well, I don't smoke or drink to excess (often), but I don't do anything particularly good for it either. No massages, or acupressure, or even Pilates these days. I spend long hours hunched over a keyboard, pounding keys with my fingertips and squinting at a screen. And now, my body's protesting about it. Fair enough.

So, I am resolving to be more careful in the future, to start listening to those little signals my muscles send me to tell me enough is enough. Maybe I need to re-structure my workstation at home, the way I did my workstation at the office. Maybe I need to take a little break from writing to let my body recover. I don't know.

What do you do when your body tells you you need a break?

And don't forget the contest.... There are still plenty of opportunities to win a critique!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

more contests

With everyone in the holiday spirit, there are so many awesome holiday contests going on! There's mine, of course, but I thought I'd let you in on a few others too..

There's the Epic Contest of Epic which looks just incredible!

My good friend Loralie Hall is also running a wee holiday giveaway.

And of course, there's Cassandra Marshall's contest, offering a free edit as a prize.

So what are you waiting for?

Go enter!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Tis the Giving Season

Well, nobody offered up any suggestions as to what they might like as a giveaway, so I've decided to just go with things I'd like to win in a contest. So, I have three prizes to give away to lucky followers. So all you need to do, is follow the blog and leave me a comment! Easy eh? New followers welcome, of course!

So what are the prizes?

- first prize is a chapter or short story critique (up to 5000 words). I'll critique you the way I do for my critique groups, so if you're not ready for serious criticism, don't enter.
- second prize is a critique of the first 3 pages of your MS. Or a short story up to 1000 words.
-third prize is a query critique. Or, if you don't have a query, I'll critique a piece of flash fiction (up to 500 words)

And, as an added bonus, everyone who enters will get a discount coupon to buy the fantastic Drastic Measures anthology which includes a story by.... me! And a lot of other great authors including George Clayton Johnson, author of the original Oceans 11.

So... Get entering! Winners will be selected on Christmas Eve, so you have just over a week to enter and let your friends know about the contest.

Good luck y'all! And Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Where...

Do you find that where you choose to write makes a difference? During my marathon novel writing month I discovered a few interesting things about location. I tend to write either at home, or at work. At home I have a certain way I go about the actual writing, where at work I snatch moments of free time as they come available. I keep whatever I'm working on open behind my work email, spreadsheets and whatever else I have open on my computer. Then, when I have a spare ten minutes or so, I can spend them reading and tweaking or adding a few lines.

During NaNo I knew I needed more concentrated writing time, so on Wednesdays, when I don't work and the kids are both in school and daycare, I decided to spend a good four hour chunk of time writing. But where to do it? At home the chores would prey on my mind. The dirty dishes on the bench mock me, the pile of laundry creeping out of its basket grows ever nearer, threatening to smother me. The crumbs and dust on the floor seem to rustle and squeak. At work the phone rings and people need questions answered that only I can give answers to. Even when I tell my staff "I'm not here," they put calls through and yell upstairs for answers. So neither of those places was going to be a viable option.

So I went to the library. It's always been a favorite haunt of mine - how could it not be? Floors and floors of books just waiting to be opened and explored. I was concerned that might distract me, I'd catch sight of a book I just had to read and forget all about my own writing. But it didn't happen. I found myself a cozy desk just behind the YA section (hoping the vibes from all those published YA writers might flow into me) and settled in. The chick-lit shelf was just in sight and every time I went I giggled at the sub-section labelled 'rich kids who go to exclusive academies and form cliques' - that's specific!

Even now NaNo is over, I intend to keep my Wednesday morning library date. It's a time I can focus and work solidly without interruption. Hopefully it will make the revision process go more quickly this time around.

And on a completely different matter, I'm getting into the holiday spirit and thought I ought to do some kind of giveaway here on my blog. Is there anything any of you readers would like to see me give away? Query critiques? Chapter critiques? Books? Recipes? Film recommendations? DVDs? Let me know in the comments and sometime later this week, I'll set something up!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Awesome contest

I've mentioned it before, and I'll mention it again. Cassandra Marshall is a fabulous editor, and once again she is being generous enough to hold a contest for a free edit.

So what are you waiting for?

Go along and enter. You know you want to win!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Done, Done, Done Done Done!

Yep. I finished. At 6.47 this morning I finished my book. Just under 69K in 31 days. Phew...

NMow, I know it's a long road ahead. I'm already swimming with revision ideas, and I haven't even read the book yet! That's my job for tomorrow. I'll write myself some notes while I read, then put it aside until January or February. There's a lot I need to add. As I wrote, I discovered more and more similarities between my characters who think they have none. Music also needs to be threaded through it much more. The key to me finishing was music, a specific song by the Beach Boys which will have to be referenced early on for its reappearance later to make sense.

So am I happy? Yes and no. I'm thrilled that I managed to do it. I think there are moments of beauty and wonderfulness in there, but they are buried in a lot of overwritten garbage. I'm going to need to do a lot of cutting and tightening to get it to where I want it to be. I also need to make the two character voices more different. Somewhere along the way I realized Tony is much more observant and sensitive than I thought he was, and Lucy is much more self-centred. So their voices need to shift to reflect that.

In terms of shape, just printing it out has shown me that the early part of the book is way too long, while the middle, leading up to the climax is too short. I'm going to have to try and shift some of the events from early in the book to a later stage, or just scrap them and write new scenes. We'll see. I also think I've done some wonderful tricky stuff in several places, leading the reader to believe one thing, then throwing them off with it being something completely different. Even I didn't know the last one of those was going to happen! It just made sense when I was writing this morning.

Have you managed to finish anything lately? And does it feel good?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The last few yards

I'm struggling. I'll admit it. I can't seem to finish my book. I've tried working backward from the ending, I've tried following through from where I was up to, but I can't seem to make it work. I know what needs to happen, but I can't seem to write it. And weirdly, I can't write either character's perspective. The rest of the way through, whenever I got stuck, I'd just move into the other POV and that would usually move things along. At this point, neither of my characters is helping me out.

The other interesting thing that has happened is I've realized Tony's journey is actually almost more interesting than Lucy's. She gets all the big emotional moments, but Tony's quiet struggle with his own nature is becoming more and more fascinating to me. I'm also discovering they have more in common than I initially thought. They both have a need for control. Which creates an interesting dynamic between them.

I'll keep slogging ahead. Maybe I need to do something interesting with one of the side characters. That might get things kick-started again. I have to do something, or I'll keep noodling about here in the middle, never getting Lucy to that damn party which is the climax of the book.

How do you get through your knotty moments?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What next?

I have my shiny new NaNo certificate on the wall over my desk, and did you see the little banner at the side of the blog? Pretty huh? Enough gloating though. I may have reached the 50K goal, but the book isn't finished yet. I was aiming to get there by the end of the month, but I realized I have another 8 -10 chapters to go, and it's unrealistic to think I'll finish them by Tuesday night. So I'm aiming for Friday.

And after that? Well, I want to read through the book. So far I haven't gone back at all so have no idea if it makes sense or has a shape or even says what I want it to. So I'll do a read through and make myself some notes. Then I'm going to put it to bed for a while. I have pages of revision notes for Assignment 9 to go though and I'm determined to make December the month I get that book whipped into shape. A wonderful friend of mine has agreed to do a novel critique swap, so I'm going to do hers while she does mine. So with that in mind, I should have the impetus to get it done.

Then there's Prayer and Prey which also needs a complete overhaul and another 20K added to its length. So maybe that will be my January project. Then in February I may be able to return to this new book with fresh eyes. It's going to need a lot of work. I know that already. I foresee a lot of cutting, and shaping. But that's okay. I'm not in a rush. I don't imagine I'll be ready to go with this one until June or July at the earliest. Possibly not until NaNo swings around again next year.

And somewhere in there, I'm going to have to find time to write some short stories. I feel like my short fiction group is suffering a bit from all the time and attention I've been lavishing on novels... Don't worry my lovely Let's Publish family. I haven't forgotten you and I will be back soon....

What are your post-NaNo plans?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


So I did it. I made the 50K mark. I had a brief moment of satisfaction about that, then realized it doesn't mean anything because the book is nowhere near finished. And I mean NOWHERE.

Writing in sequence doesn't work for me. I've learned that now. So I've given up on that and am currently working on the climax and ending of the book. Hopefully that will help guide the middle section I haven't written yet. Well, not much of yet.

So, I feel like I'm probably around 20-30K away from finishing the book, which isn't so bad. I thought I was aiming at a 60-65K book, and I probably still am, after serious editing.

How's your progress? Is your book shaping up into a book, or is it a massive pile of jumbled words?

Friday, November 19, 2010


Yesterday my boss asked me if I could jot down some notes on how I write rosters to see if my technique could help the manager of another cinema in the chain get her wage budget to a more acceptable level. I've been doing rosters for so long now, they're pretty much second nature to me. But his question made me think about a lot of the processes I use almost instinctively to do my job.

Whenever I tell people I run a cinema for a living, their first reaction is to say 'oh wow! You must get to see a lot of films!'. And yes. I do get to see a lot of films. Watching films for the cinema though, is a very different experience to watching a film for pure escapism or pleasure. I have to keep a lot of things in mind, not just 'do i like this?' In fact, it's the films I don't like that I really have to consider carefully. I have rather obscure tastes, and the mainstream dross doesn't appeal to me. But the business won't make money if we program only obscure documentaries about German architecture, or blackly funny Finnish films about deranged priests. So I have to set my personal taste aside and think about the films in terms of a wider audience.

Most of the time, if I absolutely love a film, I need to be wary because nine times out of ten, that film has an audience of about three - me and two other devoted cinephiles - and that does not a profitable season make. So it's always tremendously gratifying when a film I love, also finds an audience. It's also disappointing when a film I loathe finds and audience, but that's far more likely to occur.

I imagine what I have to do to select films for the cinema is similar to what agents and editors do with manuscripts. They must have to read in the same discerning way I have to watch films, looking for things that will appeal to a broad range of people, while at the same time being something they can get behind and push as hard as they can.

Is there anything you do for pleasure that you have to approach differently for your work?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unexpected journeys

I'm struggling. Not with the writing so much though - that seems to be flowing just fine. No, the problem I'm having is, actually driving my story. Characters keep doing things I wasn't intending, and meeting people I didn't know existed. And I'm finding it hard to reign them in and get them to the place they need to be. 12 chapters into the book, it's still only 5 or 6 days into my characters' lives. I thought I'd be well away from here by now.

Last night, I decided that I didn't need to figure out a way to bridge a gap of 3 months which I thought I had to do. One of my characters had a hysterical meltdown that wasn't planned for her (in fact, this was supposed to happen to my other protag, much later on) and that changed the landscape to a degree. So now things I thought were going to happen much later in the book, can happen now. But before that can go ahead, these damn characters need to stop going on tangents with their diving coaches or their best friends. Are you listening Tony and Lucy?

Do any of you have trouble with wayward characters? Do they keep sending you off on unexpected paths?

Sunday, November 14, 2010


A while ago I posted about a book I'd read that was written in the third person present tense and mentioned how wrong it felt. I also said I'd have to try writing something in that style to see how it felt to write. I used to have first person present tense until I tried writing it and now I'm completely comfortable with it. In fact, my new book is entirely first person present tense....

But I digress.

So I wrote a short story, just a 2K quickie, in third person present tense. I don't love it, and have to say I struggled with how to do it, but I finished. I'll have to leave it for a while now, and go back to it, see if reading it later makes me feel any better about it. It seems awkward, and I found myself groping for how to refer to the protagonist.

While it's definitely not something I plan to do often, I like the idea of stretching myself out of my comfort zone.

What do you do to stretch yourself as a writer?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Something I haven't done in a while...

It has been several months since I last submitted a story to a publication. I had four out at various competitions, and last week they announced the winners and I was not among them. So my stories were freed up to be submitted elsewhere. I spent a few hours last week trawling Duotrope for likely venues, and today I submitted all four stories to a variety of different places. My submission tracker didn't know what hit it! The three pieces that are still languishing there, waiting for responses from the respective publications perked up and noticed they had company.

It felt good to do that. Hopeful. I've managed to publish almost a story a month this year, so hope to have an even better success rate next year. Although, I'm not sure how much time I'll have for short fiction with three novels in various stages of completion and revision. I'm going to work my butt off to get at least two of them polished and ready to go after Christmas. Then I'll be able to focus my attentions on polishing (hopefully not finishing) the book I'm now close to 30K into.

And how is that going, you ask? Well, I'm not sure. I haven't been going back to read what I've written because I know if I do, the temptation to start editing will be overwhelming. So I can't say whether it's a spectacular pile of poo, or something with some literary merit. I'm just plowing onward, hoping that at some point I'll crash into my ending... An appropriate analogy, given my book is about a car wreck!

Has anyone else made any submissions recently? Any responses yet?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


About an hour ago I hit 25K on my NaNo novel. That's halfway to the required 50K to be a winner. And it's only 10 days in. Phew! I hoped to get to this point, and I managed. I'm rewarding myself by coloring my hair. It's been this awful washed out shade of pink for about a month now, but in about, oh... 20 minutes, it will be back to the shiny, bright, bright red it usually is.

I'm not going to rest on my laurels though. I knew before I started that this book would be closer to 60K than 50 when finished, so I'm actually aiming for that. But there is a very good possibility I won't finish the book in the month. I felt like I was plodding through it, so rather than get bogged down, I went ahead and wrote a pivotal section that will come toward the end of the book today. And it happened for me. I wrote about 6K today, maybe a little more. I need to come to terms with the fact writing in sequence just doesn't work for me.

I think it's because I work in film. I'm used to scenes, and tend to write scenes, focusing on the pivotal, big emotional or action packed ones first. Only once I have a series of these scenes, do I feel ready to try and link them. In a way, I guess it's like an outline, although I've never thought of it in those terms. And I often like to write the ending early on, almost like a goalpost to aim at. I haven't done that here, mainly because there are three different directions the ending might go, and until I figure out which one works, I'm not going to write it. But I think I know which one it's going to be. As long as neither of my protagonists screws it up for me.

Does anyone else work this way? Care to share your own weird and wonderful writing methods? I'm sure everyone attacks a story a different way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I gave in and re-started my NaNo novel and things are progressing much better now. I feel in control of my story and having done all that noodling in the first three days, I have some good background material to use for flashbacks, or just as character notes for myself. I'm at 18K and feeling pretty good. Hoping to hit 25k by Wednesday night, which should be do-able - so long as I don't oversleep like I did this morning. Lost my whole per-breakfast writing hour.

So, since I don't have much to blog about (nose to grindstone and all)I thought I'd share a tantalizing little bite of the new WIP...

So far it's called 'Untitled YA Project' but I'm working on a more permanent title along the lines of 'Following the Taillights'.

Please bear in mind this is a very early draft, and I'm only giving you a couple of pages here...


The darkness is absolute. For a moment I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they are already wide. It’s dark. Not a pinpoint of light penetrates the space I’m in. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a magnificent bolt of pain shoots through it. I waver on the edge of consciousness for a moment, wavy gray lines wafting across my vision. I struggle to keep my wits, what’s left of them, about me, fighting the darkness that threatens to crash over me. When I’m certain I won’t pass out, I reach out my left hand, trying to find something to hold onto. My fingers play over some small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fingers around them. Prickles of pain course through my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass. Safety glass, perhaps.

Using my scored fingertips, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. A huge weight behind me pins my legs to the ground. I can’t move them, can’t even feel them. I raise my head and see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. I can hear my heart thumping in the side of my head, can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking as they try to make sense of this weird red light.

A taillight. I let my throbbing head drop as a reward, a surge relief passing through me at this small achievement. It is a taillight. But why is it up there? What is up there? And if that’s up there, where am I? The questions whirl dizzyingly around my skull. What day is it? I struggle to remember. What did I have for breakfast? My eyes fix on the taillight, broken I realize, staring at it as if hypnotized. That’s why it’s brighter at one end.

More light. White this time, sweeping in an arc across me. I blink, dazzled by the brightness flooding over me. All around me I see fragments glinting in the new light, tiny jewels strewn across what I can now see is a road. The yellow line is inches from my nose. Why am I lying in the middle of the road? I try to drag my other arm forward, wanting to raise myself on my elbows for a better perspective on the world. It won’t move. Pain rocks through my shoulder, my chest and courses up my neck into my still aching head. The heavy metallic scent of blood hangs over me. When I glance back down at the road, I see the yellow line is smeared with red.

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finding the story

So I'm over 10K into the NaNo novel, but I haven't hit my story yet. I think this is the problem with writing in sequence for me. If I'd stuck with my usual writing style, I probably would have written the scene where Tony hears the news of the crash first. Then worked from there. With writing in sequence, I've written almost 6 chapters now, and gotten nowhere near the crash. Hell, we haven't even heard about the wedding yet!

I know this probably sounds really confusing because you don't know my story, but it doesn't matter. I'm just ranting to try and clear my head. I have to try and get this book on track. I'm pretty sure about 90% of what I've written so far is a waste of time and has done nothing for the book (except maybe helped me find my voices).

The question is, do I scrap it now, and start from somewhere else, or just keep going and hope I drive right into the story soon?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Progress report...

I promise I won't do this right through NaNo, but I'm incredibly proud to have gotten over 5K written so far. It's not as impressive as some of my buddies, but they're not wrangling full time work and two little boys. I have the day off tomorrow and sincerely hope I can top 10K by the end of the day. Then I'll be able to relax a little.

So is what I've written any good? I don't know. I feel kind of like my first two chapters were feeler chapters, a way of finding each character's voices. Neither went the way I had planned in my head, but I was prepared for that. Writing in chapters is strange in a way. I feel like I have to write and resolve a conflict in each chapter, then set up a new goal for the character before the end. And it's not always easy. But I think I've found both Lucy and Tony's individual voices and am looking forward to seeing how they react when I dramatically change the worlds they are currently comfortable in. But first I have to write through some scenes showing their relationship prior to that change. Probably 3 chapters away from the big INCIDENT. I'm afraid that's too far into the book, but imagine I'll be trimming a lot and changing a lot in revision.

The way I usually write, I'd start with the INCIDENT then work both ways to write a beginning to lead up to it and a way toward the ending. By writing in sequence, I'm kind of aiming for the INCIDENT, and haven't thought out the aftermath much. I'm assuming by then I'll be so intimate with my characters, they'll show me the way.

Does this sound promising? Or a hopeless mess? How's your NaNo experience going - if you're participating of course...?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tomorrow it begins...

That's right. Tomorrow is the official starting date of the madness known as NaNoWriMo, and therefore the beginning of my new book. How do I feel? Excited? Yes. My characters are alive in my head and just waiting to come to life on the page, the story is as outlined as it's going to get, in my head at least. I have whole chapters written up there in my skull and I just need to spew the words out onto the page.

I'm also worried that I won't make it. I've been having trouble with my right arm for most of the year, and it seems to be getting worse. It's Radial Tunnel Syndrome. I'm trying to change my typing position and wear a wrist brace while on the computer, plus I have a series of exercises to do which may or may not help. I'm going to try and write through the pain, but if it becomes too much, I may have to abandon ship.

So what am I writing? Interestingly, I had planned to write an adult book about these characters. When they came to me, they were in their mid and late thirties, and their story was very plain to me. But as I delved deeper into them, I realized their backstory was as interesting as the story I thought I'd tell. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it couldn't be just a chapter of backstory in my grown-up book: it needed a book of its own. So now I'm going to write a YA novel about them in their teens instead. But I still have their mid-life story hanging about in my head. Could make for an interesting sequel of sorts somewhere along the line.

Whether or not I make the 50K is yet to be seen. But I'll give it the best I can. And by December we'll all know if I did it. And then I'll set this project aside for a month or two while I get to some serious revising on my three earlier books. By mid-Jan or Feb I should be ready to dive into the NaNo novel again.

Anyone else have a plan of action? Anyone have any miracle cures for RTS? Would love to hear from you....

Oh, and if I'm not blogging as much as you're used to, you understand, right?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who says no one reads anymore?

I take public transport a lot. I also walk a lot, but that's another story, and not relevant to today's topic. This week I've been very conscious of how many people read on the bus. I know I always do - when I don't have kids to wrangle that is- but I thought I was kind of unique in that. I panic if I realize I've left the house without something to read, but again, an whole other post, maybe for another day.

People bemoan the fact no body reads anymore. But I'd like to dispute that. On a full bus this morning, I'd say well over half the people on board were reading. A couple had newspapers, one had a woman's magazine, a few were obviously doing some last minute cramming before an exam, but the vast majority were holding books. Real, paper books - e-readers haven't really taken off here yet, probably due to the fact you can't get Kindles.

It makes me feel good to know there are still a lot of people out there who like to lose themselves in a book. Especially when I spoke to one of my staff last night and he said he hadn't read anything except assigned texts all year. ALL YEAR! That blows my mind.

There are still readers out there. Lots of them. So keep writing those books y'all. They're needed after all.

Monday, October 25, 2010

re-reading old favorites

One of the best things about having kids is getting to read all your old favorite books again. Although, having boys, most of the books I loved as a kid get sneered at and passed over in favor of something with airplanes on the cover. But last time I went to the library in search of a new chapter book for my older one, I came across a series of books that I absolutely adored when I was a child. For about three years, between the ages of (I'm guessing, it was a long time ago) eight and eleven, I was obsessed by Willard Price's Adventure novels. It began with either Volcano Adventure or Whale Adventure, the two titles the Apia public library held. I loved them so much, every time my Dad went anywhere on business, he brought back a new one.

Now my six-year-old and I are reading Underwater Adventure and it is a strange experience. I must have read and re-read all these books about 50 times each. I remember reading through the entire series (14 books) several times over. Yet while I remember some things about the book we're reading now, a lot of it feels brand new. I'm also noticing a lot of things about it that I'm sure I failed to notice as a child.

Firstly, characterization. There isn't any. Our heros, 19 year old Hal and his 13 year old brother Roger are just there. They have no really distinct personalities and don't seem to have much of a relationship with each other, despite the dangerous situations they get into. And frankly, I'm not sure a 13 year old would be capable of many of the things Roger seems to do. The only character who gets any real personality is the villain.

The second thing I've noticed is how detailed the descriptions of everything are. From the aqualungs to the fish to the diving bell. Every part of the inner workings of the machinery is detailed, all kinds of scientific detail about the marine life. It's no wonder I know so much trivia about the various subjects covered in these books.

The third thing, is how much my son is enjoying the book, despite the things I now see as failings. It's an exciting story, with heros and villains and shipwrecks and sharks. And I guess sometimes that's enough. I hope so, because we have 13 more of these books to get through.

Are there any childhood favorites you've re-read and found serious flaws in?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Preparing for NaNo

...Or not. I have no idea what to do to prepare to write a book. I've always just written them. I start somewhere, usually with a single scene, and then keep writing. Where I start is not usually the beginning - in fact, I have in one case written the end before I even thought what might happen earlier. That book's not finished, and may never be at this stage. With Assignment 9, I started somewhere that's now toward the middle of the 4th section, and where I started with Holding it Together, is a scene that no longer exists in the MS. Prayer and Prey began as a short story that wouldn't stop growing, and the story began more than halfway through what is now the novel.

So the idea of trying to write a novel in sequence bothers me a little. I don't know if I can do it. But I'm up for the challenge. I'm also planning to write in chapters, something I've never done before, probably because I've never written in sequence. It will be interesting to see if the more structured approach, and more linear approach, makes a difference. Certainly, I hope to avoid the boring part of trying to make all the little bits and scenes I've written fit together as I reach the end of the book.

I think the advantage of writing fast is that you get momentum. You don't have time to pause and think too much about why or how characters are doing the things they do. And hopefully by writing in sequence, the events will spring naturally from one to the next. I guess each chapter is like a short story, although rather than concluding, they need to end with a hook leading into the next chapter. Or, since I'm going to be writing from two first person POVs, maybe the hook at the end of each narrator's chapter will lead into the one following the next... Hmmmm..... Things to think on. I'm not deluded enough to think the book will be done by the end of November. If I'm lucky, I'll have a good first draft to work on. Or a flawed and messy first draft. Or perhaps an unfinished mess. We'll see.

Is anyone else planning to write in a new and different way during this year's NaNo? How do you usually write your books?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Waiting Game

I feel like I'm always waiting these days. And I'm not a patient person at the best of times - just ask my kids about the bus stop each morning. Being in limbo is a waste of time, and I don't like wasting time. I have little enough of it as it is. I think learning how to wait is an essential lesson every writer needs to learn.

Every time you submit s story, a query, a partial, a full, you end up waiting. Sometimes for a VERY long time. I have one story that has been out for almost 200 days now. That's a long time to wait. I also have 2 queries that have been out for a long time (over 6 weeks anyway) and a full that's been out for about a month. Plus the 4 stories I have entered in contests and am waiting on the results. That's a lot of waiting.

Add in the waiting for critiques on your work by those in your critique groups and there's more. What's an impatient girl like me to do?

Well, write more. Revise more. Try to forget the babies you've sent out into the world. They'll come home when the time is right (probably needing a hot meal and their laundry done). I just started doing more revision on Prayer and Prey, even though I know the full is out there. I know the answer on that one is most likely to be a no, so I figure I should use the time to make the book better. And I'd like to get through another round of editing before NaNo.

How do you you manage the waiting time? Do you forget about the things you've sent off? Or are you a serial email checker? Can you write when you have things submitted, or does the knowledge they're out in the world make you too snaky to sit at the keyboard?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book vs. Film

I recently saw the film that I think will be my number one film of 2010. It's called Winter's Bone and is based on a book by Daniel Woodrell. As part of the promotion for the film, we're doing giveaways of the novel and I managed to get my hands on a copy. Nine times out of ten, I say the book is better than the film. Somehow my imagining of the story always seems more compelling than that of the filmmaker. But every now and again, the film is just as good, if not better than the book. I think Winter's Bone is a case where the film is just as good, but I want to talk here about the few occasions I think the film is better.

The first case, is Atom Egoyan's film of Russell Bank's novel The Sweet Hereafter. Now Russell Banks is one of my favourite authors. Rule of the Bone, Affliction and his short story collection Trailer Park are all on the top shelf of my bookcase where the treasure, many-times re-read books go. And I liked the book of The Sweet Hereafter, don't get me wrong, but I think the film just works better. Egoyan's trademark fractured narrative style works well with the multiple perspective approach Banks takes int he book. But the main thing that I think makes the film better, is the addition of the pied piper story as a motif running through the film. It underlines the film's central theme, and connects the before and after times in a subtle, non-obtrusive way.

The second film I believe is better than the book on which it is based is Francis Ford Coppolla's Rumble Fish, based on the novel by S E Hinton. Shot in expressionistic black and white, the film doesn't take liberties with the plot of the book. But by taking it out of a specific time and place, the story becomes a universal one. It is also an incredibly beautiful film with an unsettling soundtrack by Stuart Copeland. Interestingly, it was shot back to back with Coppolla's glossy, sentimental cinematic adaptation of Hinton's The Outsiders, a film that doesn't hold a candle to the book in my eyes.

I am sure there are other examples. Certainly I think both The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, adapted from Stephen King by Frank Darabont are better films than they are books, but then, I've never been a huge fan of Stephen King as a writer.

Can anyone else think of examples where the film is better than the book? Or probably a much longer post, where the film completely ruins a book?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More on setting...

I've been thinking a lot about this, as you probably realize. And here's another way you can look at it. When you go into someone's house for the first time, how much do you learn about them from even a first cursory look around? A lot. I'll use my own house as an example.

First, the outside. It's a small house, wooden, around about the same age and design as the rest of the houses on the street. The paint is faded and peeling in places, but not enough to look derelict... yet. The garden is overgrown and weeds choke the flowerbeds at the front. Whoever lives here doesn't do much in the way of gardening.

As soon as you walk through the front door, you'll see toys or kids' shoes strewn across the hallway. So there is at least one kid living here. The hallway has bookshelves in three places,two crammed with children's picture books and the other filled with non-fiction books about writing, motor racing and the technical side of recording music.

Bedrooms branch off the hallway. Two belong to kids, toys dropped carelessly on the floor, pictures on the walls of cartoon characters and fighter planes. Probably boys. The third bedroom has a double bed - the parents' room. Clothes lie around in sloppy piles and there is a stack of clean laundry stacked on the bed. The people who live here aren't that fussed about housekeeping.

In the living room, a large television sits at one end. Nearby is an impressive collection of DVDs and racks and racks of CDs. These people are serious about movies and music. More toys in this room too. The furniture is baggy and a little stained, definitely not new. Crumbs litter the rug under the coffee table. They probably eat in front of the TV.

In the dining room sits a table, lost under piles of mail, newspapers and other stuff. Doubt the family eats there. Only room for one person to sit and eat, at the end. A small plastic table sits across the room, next to two floor to ceiling bookshelves jammed with books on film and music, plus an eccentric selection of novels, biographies and short story collections. These people are definitely interested in film and music.

The kitchen is surprisingly clean. They may be messy, but not unclean. Appliances litter the bench and a large collection of cookbooks is piled on a shelf. More recipies, torn from magazines or scrawled on pieces of paper, are stuck to the fridge with magnets. Someone likes to cook. Closer inspection reveals most of the recipies and cookbooks are vegetarian. At least one person here is a vegetarian, or at least, they want to eat more vegetarian food.

In the bathroom, an empty teacup sits on the edge of the bath, an open book facedown beside it. Someone likes reading in the bath. A few bath toys are scattered around the rim. The kids are still young.

And that's just a very quick walk through, glancing around. If you look closer, read the paper pinned to the noticeboard by the front door, study the papers left on the table or by the computers, you'd learn a lot more. These small details can be thrown into your writing, showing the reader what kind of people live in the house rather than having to tell us through narration, or dialogue that may not advance the plot. By describing the house, you're not only giving valuable character information, you're also grounding the reader in the environment your story takes place in.

Assuming of course, your story or scene takes place in a house. But the same concept applies to any setting whether it's a space craft in some unheard of galaxy or a shack in the middle of a fairy tale forest.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Description & Setting

A couple of my writing friends have been talking about how to know what to describe, and how much setting you really need to throw into your work. I have fairly definite ideas about this, so thought I'd outline them here. If there is one thing that frustrates the hell out of me, it's too much description or setting detail. But equally frustrating is not enough.

In terms of description, you don't need to describe everyone or everything. If they are important to the story, then describe them. To use an example I used the other day, if in a scene a character is startled by a car driving by too fast, and that's the only time you see the car, you don't need to describe it in any detail. If though, that car comes back later in the story, filled with thugs who kidnap the MC, then describe it the first time we see it. By taking the time to show us details of the car (crumpled back bumper maybe, dangling headlight, whatever) you're giving it an importance, showing the reader the car is important to the story and should be remembered for later.

In terms of setting, I'm a great believer in not giving the generic details. We all know what an office cubicle looks like. But what makes this particular office cubicle different? What can you tell us about it that shows us who works in there? Describe the precarious piles of paper drifting across the surface of the desk. Describe the lewd picture the guy uses as a screen saver. Describe the neatly lined up jars of pencils and pens. Whatever makes that cubicle belong to the character who works in it. You'd be amazed how much you can learn about a character with just a few details of their environment.

How do you like to use description and setting?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In an effort to prepare myself for NaNoWriMo and the daunting task of throwing together another novel, I decided to make myself practice. I've set myself a 2000 word a day target for November, so I'll hopefully end up with a novel closer to 60K than 50K. So as an exercise, I decided to see how long it took me to write 2000 words. I know from doing flash fiction contests that I can get through 1000 in half an hour or so, but there is a big difference between a 1K story and a 2K story.

So I sat down to write. I had a prompt to work with, so that helped. And the story just came. One hour and ten minutes later I had my 2K story. In fact, 2040 words.

So I'm relieved. I know it will be harder when I'm midway through a book, and my characters won't go where I want them to, or do the things I need them to do, but at least I know it is possible. And on those days where everything is perfect, the stars are aligned just so, and the words just seem to be there to pluck from the air, well, maybe I'll be able to get through twice that. Then on those other days, where you just can't find it in you to even sit in front of the keyboard, I'll still be okay.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Home again

Well, the great Aussie adventure is over. Back home, and already it feels like I haven't even left. Well, apart from the fact I don't usually have 240 emails to wade through on a Sunday afternoon. I was actually surprised it wasn't more...

I'm not sure what the boys are going to have taken away from this trip. The elder one spent two days at the War Memorial which has an outstanding museum behind it. Unfortunately, it appears he got entirely the wrong message from the place, and keeps saying he wishes we could have a war. The younger one was happiest at home, whining and complaining everywhere we went. I know it was tiring for him though. Keeping up with the older one is a challenge, even for me!

Lots of little things to catch up on this week on the writing front too. I had a story accepted for an anthology yesterday, which is cool. Except I never submitted it. The editor read it as a contest entry early last year, and remembered it. He emailed me and asked if he could publish it. I agreed, but looking over the story, one of my very early efforts since becoming a more serious writer of short fiction, it needs work. Quite a bit of work. So I'm onto that.

I also need to get some kind of idea where my NaNoWriMo novel might head. I've always been a complete pantser, but I have a feeling I may need to write myself a few notes before I start. I know my characters, I know the inciting incident in the novel, I know a few events I'd like to see on the journey toward the end, and I have an idea where we might end up, but can't be certain I'll get there. But I guess that's part of the fun. It could also be traumatic if I hit the 25K mark and get stuck, or lose my way. So perhaps a few guidelines would help. I'm going to write in chapters for the first time, and plan to write in sequence which I usually don't do when writing novels. I think writing chapters may require more thought in terms of structure.

We shall see....

Thursday, October 7, 2010


It has been a long time since I've had this much concentrated time with my kids. It's great, but it's totally exhausting! They want my attention, or the attention of their grandparents, 24 hours a day. At home, they quite happily play with each other and let their father and I get on with the chores, or whatever we need to do. Here, five minutes without my attention, and they're pretty much climbing the walls. It's hard work!

I'd write more, but they're pounding up and down the hall outside my room, demanding breakfast...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Some observations

Being on holiday, I have a little time to be reflective. So let me blather on for a bit about a few things I've noticed.

1. Why can't I sleep more? I'm on vacation. I don't have to wake up in the morning to rush kids to school and daycare, and get to work. Yet 5.15am arrives, and I'm wide awake. Good writing time, I guess. But the same thing happens at the other end of the day, too. I find that I'm incapable of getting to bed before 11.30 or so. Even when I try.

2. Canberra isn't so much a city as a garden. My dad took me on a drive around Canberra yesterday and I was struck by how green the city is. In fact, it's not really a city at all. There is no real center to it, just a bunch of suburbs dotted around with vast expanses of parkland and nature reserve in between. It's pretty, much more so than the last time I was here which was during the drought, but it doesn't feel functional to me. And it's weird having kangaroos just hopping about behind the house.

3. Why will my kids listen what their grandmother says, but ignore me entirely? They've been driving me nuts this trip. Neither of them will listen to a word I say. And if they do, they don't do whatever it is I ask them to do. Yet Nana asks, and they jump. Unfair!

4. Australian birds are loud but not tuneful. They screech. Loudly. But you can't really get mad about it because they are so beautiful.

Just a few random thoughts....

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Well, I made it. The trip was a little stressful, especially getting two small children through the throngs at Sydney airport, but we managed to get to Canberra. My suitcase didn't though.... Apparently it happens a lot in Canberra. There were about 10 other people in the queue to complain about their bags not arriving. Weird that the kids' bag made it though, when mine didn't.

But in the end I got it. A courier delivered it at just after 7pm, so I didn't have to go to bed without brushing my teeth. And the trip back will be less trying because we're flying through Melbourne instead of Sydney.

Yesterday we went to the glassworks where you can watch artists and students blowing glass. It looks incredible. I'm hoping to use it as a background for a story because I can see so much potential for it as a setting. Huge amounts of frustration, searing heat, a real dependence on your team members to help you out, be there at the right time or the piece will be ruined. It's something that I'll mull on for a while, but don't be surprised to find it in there at some point.

Hoping to get some re-writes on Angels done while I'm here, but so far haven't found the time to even look over my revision notes. The newspapers are too good here. Too much to read...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Best Laid Plans and all...

All my plans went awry this morning when I arrived at the cinema to find my office dripping water. My desk was awash and all the paperwork I had stacked neatly on it, ready for the staff over the next 10 days, was saturated. Water dripped from the ceiling, and closer investigation revealed a projection room overflowing.

Yes, there was hair tearing. The language was not what you could call ladylike. The definite sound of wailing could be heard emanating from the building.

Back to square one...


One day left before I go away for 10 days holiday. The next time I post here, it will be from the thriving metropolis of Canberra. I assume you can hear the sarcasm in my voice as I say that. Canberra is NOT an exciting holiday destination. It is though, where my parents live at the moment, and I'm taking the boys to see their grandparents.

Preparing to go has been hectic. Not only have I had to do two weeks work in one at the cinema, but it's the end of the month which requires masses of extra paperwork on top of all the regular end of week stuff. So I've had to be organized. Very organized. But for once, I actually feel on top of it. Ask me again as I'm trying to get out the door at 5pm tomorrow and I probably won't be so calm!

On top of all that extra 'real' work, I've had the most intense two weeks of reviewing for my critique groups. In my YA Novel group, we had a review frenzy where we had to review as much of another writer's book in a week as we could. I'm proud to say I managed to finish my chosen book.

We have also had a two week review marathon for our novella project, I just finished reviewing my 4th novella. Okay, only one of them was completed, but it's still a lot of reviews. I'm pooped now. And apart from doing a quick once over of Prayer and Prey before sending it off to the Secret Agent, I've done no writing of my own for two weeks. It's the longest I think I've gone without writing for a couple of years, and I'm itching to get back to it.

I've had masses of amazing feedback on both my novella and Assignment 9, so will be arming myself with notes while I'm in Australia, and hope to return with a rewrite of the novella. A9 will have to wait a little because even with the feedback, I'm not sure what I want to do with it.

And David, my illustrator, is waiting for his picture book too. Do you think a policeman punishing fairy-tale characters for their wrong-doings might be too much for a kids' book? In my mind I see it as being really blackly funny, but can't be sure that children will get that kind of dark humor. I guess I have two of my own to try it out on, don't I? The pictures are incredible, although again, I'm worried they might be a little disturbing. Can we put Hansel and Gretel into the stocks? What do you think?

Monday, September 27, 2010


I've had two pieces of very exciting news in the last 24 hours. Firstly, my short story Lost has been chosen as story of the month by Long Story Short. I had to write a bio and do an interview, so can only imagine it's going to be a big feature thingamy when the issue goes live. So that's good exposure.

Then this morning, I discovered I'd gotten an Honourable Mention in the Secret Agent contest run by Miss Snark's First Victim. This is really exciting because the prize is to submit the full MS. My first full request! Which isn't too surprising since so far I've only sent 4 queries out for Prayer and Prey, and haven't heard back from two of them yet.

So if you see me floating around, a big, silly grin on my face, that's why!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just plain weird

I just started reading a new YA book yesterday. Nothing weird there. But this book is written in third person present tense. I have never come across a novel written in third person present tense before. Children's picture books, yes, but a novel? It's weird. Jarring and strange and incredibly intrusive to the reading experience.

I use a lot of first person present tense in my writing. It has an immediacy that you don't get with past tense writing, an action to it that surges from the page (when it's done right). I'm not getting that with this third person voice. I feel distanced from the protagonist, which, given the subject matter in this particular book, may not be such a bad thing. But mostly, it feels wrong. I keep wanting to change sentences so they are in the past tense, or make the character's name 'I'.

I'm going to keep reading because while it feels completely weird to read, I'm curious to see if it can be pulled off. I'm also curious to see if I could sustain that kind of voice for the length of a story - not willing to try a novel yet - and if it would work. What kind of story could possibly require a third person present tense narrative? Other than a picture book? Has anyone got any ideas? Any suggestions of other novels written in this way?

I'm not sure I like it, but I'm always eager to spread my wings and try something new.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Let's play Tag!

There is a game of internet or blog tag going on at the moment. I got tagged by Nicole Zoltack, so need to answer these questions..

1. If you could have a superpower, what would you have? Why?
Invisibility. Just think what you could do and hear if no one could see you. On second thoughts, maybe I don't want to hear that stuff...

2. Who is your style icon?
I don't really have one. I have what you might call, a unique style of my own...

3. What is your favorite quote?
Always remember to party like a rockstar.

4. What is the best compliment you've ever received?
Someone saying my book made her cry. I knew my work was done....

5. What playlist/cd is on your ipod/cd player right now?
An exotic mixture of Kristin Hersh, Nick Cave, Einsutzende Neubauten, Swans and Jill Sobule. With a few soundtracks thrown in for good measure.

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Am I even a person? No, seriously, I think I'm more a night person, but with two small kids, mornings are a necessity. I just don't sleep much at all.

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
Cats. Definitely cats. Dogs are too needy.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?
The two things I love: fiction and film. Although I notice, I blog more about writing than film...

I tag you! The first four people to read this. Leave a link to your blog in the comments and I'll come and see your answers...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


There are so many awesome contests out there in peoples' blogs. In the last two weeks I've been lucky enough to win prizes in two of them. I won a 25 MS critique from three writers in one, and a query critique in the other. Both awesome and very helpful prizes.

And here is another contest with awesome prizes

So go and enter. Even if you're one of those people who says they never win anything. Today might be your lucky day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Less stressed

Okay. I'm feeling a little less stressed than I was when I last posted. I've managed to finish editing A9 and get it posted in time for the review frenzy. It's not 100% right yet. Chapter 28 is way too long, and there are a couple earlier that are too short, but I will reshuffle that later, once the reviews have come in. I've also managed to get through half a novella in the reviewing marathon, so am feeling on top of things there too. I just need to make a start on the novel reviewing today.

Unfortunately I haven't managed to recover the mailing list yet.... I have someone coming in today to start re-entering the data, but it's going to be a long process.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bad timing

I made kind of a fatal mistake. This week is the reviewing marathon for our novella project. That I knew. But unfortunately, it turns out, it's also the week of the review frenzy in my YA novel group. I thought that was another week away. Assignment 9 is still somewhat fragmented, and I need to write another chapter or two to make it fit together. I also am only 101 pages into the 222 pages with editing. So, it's a race against the clock. Can I finish editing and writing before tomorrow night? Perhaps, but doubtful. But I'll give it a shot.

Then during the week I have to read and review a whole novel plus try to get through at least two of the novellas. Not sure how I'm going to do it. I think the next two weeks are going to be devoted entirely to reviewing and I'll do no writing at all. I also have a very busy couple of weeks at work because I'm going away on the 1st October for 10 days and will need to have everything set up for the team while I'm away.

So I'm feeling a little under pressure right now.

And then, to make things even more stressful, last night I went to send a mail-out to my mailing list at work, and discovered the almost 3000 member list had become 23. And I can't seem to recover them. I've spent more than 5 years building that list, and it's probably the most valuable marketing tool I have. Gone. I have no idea why or how, but it's definitely disappeared. I do still have a box of forms that people have filled out to join the list, but I don't have the time to re-enter every single one of them by hand. AHHHGGGG!

Well, I'm off to try and formulate a plan for getting all this stuff done in a timely fashion. If you don't see me around here for a few days, well, now you know why....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Day In The Life

A lot of people have been telling me recently that I'm Wonder Woman, and asking how the hell I have time to do everything I do. I don't feel like Wonder Woman at all, and think I manage to do a lot because I try not to waste a single minute of every day. So, just to show you what I mean, I thought I'd share with you a typical day...

I wake up at 5am. My partner starts work at 6, so he gets up then. I don't. I lie in bed in a semi-conscious state until he leaves just before 6. Then I get up and drag my laptop back to bed with me so I can check e-mail, catch up on Twitter, blog or write a little before I have to get the kids up at 7.

Between 7 and 8.30 it's chaos as I get the kids breakfast, make school lunch, get them dressed, do reading homework with Number 1 and usually read a little of whatever chapter book we're on to them. Oh, I also try to have breakfast myself somewhere in there, and at least one cup of coffee. Then we're out the door. I drop Number 1 at the bus-stop so he can walk the rest of the way to school while Number 2 and I take the bus into town.

On the bus, I tend to think about whatever writing I'm working on. It's a good 20 minute ride, and my son just likes looking out the window. Some of my biggest breakthroughs have come to me on the bus. When we get off the bus, I have to think of games to play while we walk the short distance from the bus stop to the daycare.

After dropping Number 2 at daycare, I walk down to work. I check the previous night's figures and send reports to the distributors before filling out my own spreadsheets. Then I spend about ten minutes writing myself a to-do list for the day, Throughout the day, I reward myself for finishing tasks by giving myself five minutes to check on Twitter or to check my personal e-mail or to see what's going on in my writing community.

Some days I have to work on the bar for several hours, and there is considerable downtime between sessions. Once I've done everything that needs to be done, I might get online and do some reviewing for my writing group while I wait for the next surge of customers. Other times I scribble down notes for what I want to work on later, or edit print-outs of short stories or chapters. But of course, that's all time dependent.

After work, it's another period of chaos while we get the kids home, dinner made, baths, teeth and bedtime. Some nights I do dinner then go to the gym and let Dad take care of the rest, but mostly, it's me. After the kids are in bed, I usually spend an hour or so with my partner, watching TV or talking, basically just relaxing. Then he goes to bed and I write. And I write. Sometimes I get so caught up, I don't realize how late it is and have to force myself to go to bed. 5am comes around very quickly.

So, as you see, not Wonder Woman. Just organized, I guess. How do you fit everything in?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rewriting (again)

I finished rewriting the NOW section of A9 last night. I'm still not sure it's strong enough, or different enough to work. In fact, as soon as I finished it, I had a brilliant idea of what the dynamic between my two young lovers needs to be. To begin with, she's hesitant, frightened to get too close to him while he's almost too eager for the relationship to get serious quickly. Then, midway through the book, he makes a confession to her, opens up about the secret he's been keeping, and she melts, all her hesitation and fear about the relationship gone. There is a period of bliss where they both seem to want the same thing, and think they have a future together. Then, after they go and visit his family, he begins to get cold feet and starts almost subconsciously pulling away from her.

It's good written out like that, but showing that in fairly short, precise scenes is going to be harder. As I piece the new NOW bits together with the A9 sections, I will try to achieve this dynamic. I'm just not sure I can... Especially with a deadline looming over me in the form of the review frenzy. Help!

And once again, if you haven't entered Cassandra's contest, you have only 6 more days to do it! Then again, I'm going to seriously need her help again soon, so don't enter so I can win!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trunk novels

Does every writer have one? The book they love to death themselves, but know isn't working in some way or another? That first book you threw yourself into as a young, clueless writer with no idea what you were letting yourself in for? I have two of these beasts mouldering away in the back of my hard-drive. One, the first complete novel I ever wrote, makes my teeth clench when I read over it now, my stomach turn over. I was so BAD! Yet, the idea behind it is still intriguing. And I do still like my character's voice. I keep toying with the idea of reworking it, but it just feels like too much work.

The other is Holding It Together, a book I've been working on since I was 13 years old. That's a long time. A REALLY long time. It has been through so many transformations and changes over the years that it is barely recognizable as being the same book I managed to churn out two thirds of while at high school. It's spent long periods of time in bottom drawers or being dragged from flat to flat in water-damaged school exercise books. I even found a folder of pages I must have written while working as a chef, all on the back of napkins.

So I've been working on this book for a LONG time. And it's still not done. I'm beginning to think it never will be. I think it may be that book I go back to time and time again, tweaking a bit here and there, toying with motivations, voices, perspectives, and other bits and pieces. But I doubt I'll ever be truly happy with it. I wrote it initially as third person omniscient, and that is still the way I feel it works best, even now that I have it as two alternating first person perspectives. My critique groups disagreed, but I can't help wondering if that was a knee-jerk reaction, everyone seeming so down on third person omniscient. Honestly, I can't see why anyone would choose to write in third person unless it was to be omniscient. Otherwise, first person is so much more intimate.

I bet a lot of people are going to disagree with me here. Go ahead.

And don't forget Cassandra's contest! Only 9 days left to enter.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I'm so tired right now I can barely think. It's four thirty in the afternoon, I'd be wrapping up my day and getting ready to go and pick the kids up at five. Today I have another 6 or 7 hours at work to look forward to. And I worked 14 hours yesterday too. To be honest, I'm not sure how I'm going to make it, especially since we have a festival opening night function and it's going to be very busy. All I want to do is fall into bed and sleep for about twelve hours straight.

So, with all this work happening, is it any wonder I have not even looked at my novel this week, let alone done any revision? I'm hoping to get a couple of hours tomorrow to work on it, in between baking and decorating cakes for the six year old's birthday party. I'm not holding out a lot of hope though. Right now, I'm going to try not to fall asleep on my keyboard..

hfwrweirhjaeO:hjftaU:jgaGJGJ:" ◊ *snore.....*

And in case you haven't already entered, don't forget to enter Cassandra's contest. She's getting a ton of entries apparently, which should not be a surprise given the awesome prize.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I'm feeling scattered this week. I have way too much going on at work, plus my son's 6th birthday party to organize and I don't seem to be able to focus on anything. A bunch of other small problems are also not helping. So writing hasn't been happening at all. Yesterday I wrote nothing. That's got to be the first time in months. So now I'm beating myself up to do extra today. And I'll try. I have 3 free hours this morning, but unfortunately the only place I'll be able to use them is in my office at work. I'm going to try to ignore the telephone etc, but I'm not sure how successful I'll be.

I sent out my first tentative queries on Prayer and Prey on Monday night. Only four to start with because I'm testing the water. We'll see how it goes...

And don't forget to check out Cassandra Marshall's contest...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Shameless plug for a friend

The lovely Cassandra Marshall is running a contest over on her blog. First prize is a full substantial edit of your MS. I've used Cassandra's services and can vouch for her editing prowess. In fact, the rewrite of A9 I'm currently completing, is in response to her editorial suggestions.

So get over there and enter. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


After agonizing over it for weeks, I have finally finished at least a first draft of my novella. It is a huge relief, and one more thing to tick off my to do list.

As a reward to myself, I'm going to do little tweaks to P & P tonight, then crack into the major rewrite of A9 tomorrow. My aim is to have that done by the end of next week.

I will continue to report on progress.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


There was a huge earthquake in a city south of where I live yesterday morning. Buildings collapsed and the city is without power or running water. They declared a state of emergency. Watching and listening to coverage of the quake has been both fascinating and horrifying. Just a few miles away, we're safe and sound, going about our business as if nothing happened.

Yet, funds have been set up already where you can donate to the victims, and money is flowing in.

Millions of people in Pakistan have had their lives devastated, their homes destroyed and their communities fractured by the floods, and people have not been donating to charities to help them.

I think this is wrong. The majority of people in quake stricken Christchurch will have insurance, and those who don't will no doubt get some kind of government hand out to help them out. The people in Pakistan have nothing, and their government can't offer them anything. So why is no one donating money to them?

This kind of thing angers me. I'm not saying that the people of Christchurch don't deserve sympathy or support - they do - but the people of Pakistan need it too. And just because they are Muslim, or have brown skin, or whatever other reason people are choosing for not donating money, doesn't mean they need our support less. If anything, they need it more.

Just my thoughts of course...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Idea take over

I'm working to two very tight deadlines right now. One of my critique groups is having a novel review frenzy in a few weeks and I am determined to have nailed the rewrite of A9 in time to be included. Plus, our novella project is having its first round of reviews in just over a week, so I need to make progress on that.

So what happened?

I had a brilliant idea for a new novel. It's actually kind of a slant on an idea I've had for a while, but is much better and more fully formed than the vague idea I had before. In fact, whole chunks of the book have appeared in my head, fully formed and ready to be spewed out on paper before I forget them.

Why does this always happen when I'm in the middle of something else? I want to do NaNoWriMo in November, and I think this is the book I'll write, but it's coming to me too fast, too soon. I need to get this other stuff out of the way first. So I guess I'll just scribble down notes as things come to me and hope like hell I can read my writing later. And hope that by November, when I'm ready to sit down and write, I still feel as excited about Tony and Lucy and their unique problems and choices.

For now, I'm back into Angels. I've written 3K in the last 2 days, and think I'm steaming in on the end. I can't help feeling that some of the scenes I've written are too long and not action packed enough, but I guess they can be cut in revision if need be...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Genre count

As I think I may have mentioned in an earlier post, I began this year with the plan to write and publish in as many genres as possible. I had an acceptance on Monday which adds horror to my list of accomplishments. So I thought maybe now would be a good time to look back and assess my progress, look into which genres I've neglected so I have an idea where I might need to focus next (yes, I know I'm supposed to be rewriting/editing novels...).

So what genres have I 'conquered' thus far?

Horror - yes. Mercy is not a traditional vampire story, but there is enough lore in there to be considered horror.
Fantasy- yes. Etched in Stone is about as fantastic as I'm going to get.
Chick Lit - yes. The Choice, while also containing fantasy elements, is mostly chick-lit.
Young Adult - yes. Free is that most YA of YA, a coming of age tale.
Erotica -yes. Although under a pseudonym...
Flash Fiction - yes, yes, yes... I've had several pieces of flash fiction published.
Sci-Fi - no, not yet. The story's written, has been sent out several times, but has not yet been accepted.
Historical fiction - not yet. Again, it's written, but not yet sent out.
Literary fiction - I'm not sure. I actually consider most of my work to be fairly literary, but I think In The Bedroom would be considered literary, so let's check yes for that one.
Humour- yes. Cakewalk, my silly little story about a fat lady on a diet locked into a cake shop over night.
Tragedy - yes. Swansong, my first ever published story, is tragic. So too are many of my other stories, really.
Western -no. Again, written, but not yet published, or indeed even sent out yet.
Sports - no. I have a surfing story, The Beautiful Paradox, that's been out once, but is now entered in a contest.
Romance -no. I'm not great at it, but it's a big part of Prayer and Prey, so will be getting sent out soon.
Bizzarro - no. I barely know what it is, let alone how to write it...

So what have I missed? Are there any genres I've forgotten here? What do I need to work on next? Other than my novels and the novella, which, thanks to the lovely Laura, I now know what to do with....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Yesterday the weather was horrible so I decided to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time: clean the house. I don't mean the little clean and tidy-up I do a couple of times a week, but an massive, epic spring clean. Okay, technically it's not spring until Wednesday, but I like to get a jump on things.

So I did absolutely no writing. Instead I pulled all the books from my bookshelves and dusted them, resorted them, moved them around the house so they made more sense. I got the kids to throw away all their old broken toys and put what remained in the toy boxes. We now have four huge sacks of garbage, and the house looks and smells much better.

I'm also hoping that having spent a day away from any of my writing work (I don't count adding a couple of lines to a short story, and moving a few commas), I might find the inspiration and impetus to really work hard on the two most pressing projects I have on my plate. It's 2 weeks until the big reviewing marathon for our novella projects, and I've written nothing more on Angels. I have also made only incremental progress on my rewrite of A9. But at least I'm inspired there, which I can't say about Angels. I also got some fantastic feedback on the opening chapter of P & P (thanks Em!) which I will implement this evening. I'm all too aware of how important those opening pages are now.

So here I am, refreshed and full of new determination and vigor for the new week. Just watch me crash and burn from here.