Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

As promised, here are mine...

29th December 2011

Dear Me,

It doesn’t feel like so long since I last sat down to write one of these, but it has in fact been almost a year. And what a year! Before I move on to list my goals for 2012, I should take a moment to reflect on 2011’s successes and failures.

It has been a good year for me as a writer. I got my 2010 NaNo novel, Chasing the Taillights, revised and polished in time for the 2011 Text Prize deadline and entered it. I didn’t win, or even final, but having that deadline really kicked my butt to get finished. Since then I’ve queried it and entered contests with it, and have gotten some wonderful feedback even if I haven’t snagged a publishing deal or an agent. The general gist has been that the writing is good, the characters are relatable and the story is emotionally engaging, but it’s too quiet for the current YA market.

I’m just finishing my 3rd or 5th draft of my new novel, The Boyfriend Plague, and fell that it probably has more commercial appeal, even if I don’t love it quite as much as Taillights.

My resolutions begin with that book. I’m closing in on the end of this draft, and hope to have it all done by the time I go to the beach on January 14th. I will wait for feedback from my critique partners and polish, rewrite and edit as needed. Then it will be time to start querying, hopefully by March.

If Taillights hasn’t found a home by January 23rd, I will enter it in ABNA. I have entered the past two years, making it to the semi-finals (with Assignment 9) in 2010, but only through the first round in 2011. Taillights is a much better book, so I have to hope I’ll make it further in 2012.

I have ideas for two new books that I hope to write in 2012, both of which I’m excited about. Trying to decide which to go with may be a challenge, but I’m pretty certain that by this time next year, both will have been written, if not revised and polished to a high shine.

I intend to remain active and involved with my critique groups. Some of us have come so far in 2011, I’m certain 2012 will be the year many of us break into the big time. As they say, a successful writer is one who didn’t give up. And I’m not giving up. I’ve racked up hundreds of rejections now, if you count the ones for short fiction as well as for novels, but I’m not lying down to die yet. Every project teaches me more about the craft and my own process and I’m eager to continue learning.

As always, I’ll resolve to lose weight this year, and as always, I won’t. But I will continue my four-day-a-week gym schedule, mixing up the classes I take so I get a varied program of cardio and weights.

And there you have it. Some goals and ambitions for 2012. How about we re-visit mid-year and see how we’re getting along? And then again around this time?

Happy New Year!

Love, me.

What are your resolutions?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Passing on some love

I was just given this award by the lovely Taylor Roseberry. Thanks so much Taylor!

The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers.

The rules are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

And now for the fun part: passing it on.

First up, if you're not following the Classiest Blog Ever, you really should. It makes me scream with laughter pretty much every time I read it.

And then there's For The Love of Contemporary, a fantastic blog by a group of uber-wonderful contemp-YA writers. If you love you some contemporary YA, you should head over there now.

Juliana Brandt is another writer you should check out. She's struggling with her synopsis right now, so if you're any good at that kind of thing, pop over to help her out.

One of the people I love beta reading for is Natalia Jaster. She has amazing command of language and writes such beautiful sentences I have to seethe with envy...

Another writer I love beta reading for is Kelley Vittollo. She writes such good kissing.... I always want to take her boys home and snuggle with them. But I won't, because I'm too old and it's probably illegal...

And last, but certainly not least, is Laura. She may not blog often, but when she does, it's worth looking.

So there you have it!

Thanks again, Taylor.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It's that time....

Yes, with 2011 drawing to a close, it's time to go back to my resolutions and see what, if any, I've achieved. It's also time to write new ones for 2012, but we'll do that a little later in the week.

So, here is the letter I wrote myself at the beginning of January. Let's see how I did on those resolutions...

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. Well, I did enter ABNA, but only made it through the first round. I queried it a little, but with nothing but rejections, I trunked the book. I'm a better wrier now, and although I love this book, I don't think it'll ever sell.

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, primarily 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. This one has also been trunked. I will go back and fix it one day, but right now, my heart and mind are full of other projects, and revisiting this one doesn't hold much interest.

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 ended up finishing the revisions a lot faster than I anticipated and entered the book in the Text Prize instead, but I didn't win. I've been querying off and on and have had a number of requests for partials and fulls, but so far no offers. I suspect this book may be a little too quiet for the current YA market, but I'm not 100% ready to give up on it yet. So until I have a new project to sell, this is the one I will keep sending out as the mood takes me.

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’m still working on that Sci-Fi thing, since that’s the one genre I haven’t managed to conquer yet. This one I've really fallen down on. I've written next to no short fiction in 2011 because I've been so focused on novels. But I did manage to publish a sci-fi story, so achieved at least one part of that goal.

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. This I've done. I've even started my own critique group on WDC after the demise of Let's Publish. We have a bunch of members now, all very talented, and I love it. I've also met some wonderful writers through this blog, and am privileged to be able to call on them as beta readers too.

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. I have continued to blog every second day (more or less) and have gathered quite a number of new followers, so I have to assume I'm entertaining people. A little at least...

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. I’ve been reviewing on National Radio for a few weeks, and hope this may lead to other reviewing spots on TV and radio. Nothing new here, apart from the fact the job has never been more challenging.

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 three 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! FAIL! Don't think I've lost any weight (my scales are out of batteries and I don't want to replace them), but I have been going to the gym four times a week most weeks... That counts for something, right?

So, that’s a bunch of things to aim for! We’ll do a half year review in June and see how we’re tracking on this, shall we? Then again at the end of 2011.

Love, Me

How did you do with your resolutions in 2011?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

It's actually almost over in this part of the world, with just the difficult task of getting the over-excited, over-gifted and over-fed kids off to bed remaining.

But a good day was had by all, and I hope you all enjoy your days as much as we did.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do your bookshelves speak?

I'm sitting here, in my dining room, waiting for the laundry to finish so I can hang it out on the line, and behind me, my bookshelves are groaning under the burden I've put on them. They're huge shelves, almost floor to ceiling, and they are both absolutely heaving with books. Not just lined up nicely in their rows, spines outward, but piled high in a jumble of words. If there's an earthquake, and I'm sitting here, I'm doomed to death by literature.

And these are not my only bookshelves. The hallway is lined in books too. So anyone walking in here is going to know someone, if not everyone, in this house likes to read. On closer inspection though, the shelves tell other stories. Closest to the front door, the shelf is full of map books, biographies of sports people, writing manuals and all my published work. Anyone glancing at that shelf will know the person living here has traveled or lived in London, Berlin, LA, Melbourne and Moscow. They may also suspect someone in the house is an avid follower of Formula One. It's also pretty clear someone in the house is a Mac geek...

It's also pretty obvious kids live here (and not just because the floor is littered with Lego and other toys) because two whole shelves in the hallway are stuffed with picture books and early readers. I was looking at these shelves yesterday and noticing how fast they're filling up with chapter books. My oldest son is already an avid reader. I was reading him the second Harry Potter book a few weeks ago and he decided I wasn't going fast enough, so finished it himself. In one night. He's only seven...

In the dining room the books speak the loudest. There's a whole two shelves devoted to film books. Biographies of movie stars and directors, analytical studies of work by certain directors, film studies text books and other film books. Under these, are the music books. Some are on sound theory and building recording studios, others are bios of musicians and bands. Clearly the people who live here are interested in film and music. And art? There's a shelf of art books there, interspersed with dictionaries, poetry collections and other miscellaneous stuff.

Then on to the fiction. This is entirely my domain, and is a varied and eclectic collection. Toward the bottom are my YA books, a shelf that keeps growing in size, banishing other books out into the hallway. Above that are my favorites. There are weighty Russian novels, popular fiction, second-hand shop finds and classics. They're not really organized in any real way (I don't alphabetize or anything anal like that). Nabokov sits nestled against Fannie Flagg, Berlin Alexanderplatz sits between a cyber-thriller and a Carl Hiaasen anthology.

I hate tho think what this jumble might say about me. But then again, maybe it just says I read. I read a lot and I read widely.

What do your shelves say about you?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I'm not a scaredy cat, honestly. I'm usually pretty calm and collected. But just now, as I was sitting here, reading over the chapter I've just edited, a spider dropped down less than an inch from my nose. It wasn't a big spider, but one of those ones with long spindly legs. And it was right in front of me.


I batted it away, and now I'm sitting here with my skin crawling, certain it's going to creep up my leg, or I'll find it crawling through my hair.


Rationally, I know it's a tiny little spider and it can't hurt me. It's not poisonous. It's not dangerous. It's just.... oooky!

Is there anything you're afraid of that when you think about it, really isn't worth being scared of? The thing that REALLY freaks me out is ventriloquist dummies. I just can't stand them!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Secret Door

I was trawling through my hard drive in search of something else, and came across this little story I'd forgotten about. I quite like it, so I thought I'd share it with you....


I watched as the moving truck pulled out of the driveway, leaving behind a trail of exhaust that faded into nothingness within seconds. Behind me, I could hear Josh already attacking the boxes and brown paper as he excavated our belongings. I turned away from the window and walked past Josh, wanting a few moments to wander the house alone, getting a feel for the place before we filled it with stuff. This was going to be a new start for Josh and I, we were going to move on with our lives and I wanted the move to be in the right direction.

Our marriage had been severely tested with the disappearance of our only son, Luke, two years earlier. He had been just three, a curious, almost preternaturally cheerful child who had been snatched from us while our backs were turned –just for the fraction of a second- while Christmas shopping. After two years with no ransom demands, and no sign of the boy, we had to assume the worst. Just last week we’d had a funeral for him, burying a collection of his favourite toys in the coffin, and finally saying goodbye.

The wooden floorboards in the hallway glowed in the weak winter sunlight. They were heavily varnished and felt cool and smooth under my bare feet, like walking on amber. I climbed the stairs, allowing my toes to curl in the thick pile of the carpet. At the top of the steps I paused, looking down the wide hallway, doors opening off it here and there. The bathroom, all blue and white tile, then the room that would be my office, our bedroom, Josh’s man-cave and….

I stopped, staring at a narrow door I had not seen before. We’d been to look at the house twice before finally deciding to purchase it, and I did not remember seeing this door either time. I frowned, racking my brain for any recollection of this door. Then I remembered the ornate wardrobe the previous owners had kept in the hallway. It must have been in front of this door.

Pulling on the doorknob, I was surprised to find the door locked, or possibly jammed closed. In my pocket were all the keys the real estate agent had passed on to us. I dug them out and tried them, none working. A bobby-pin from my hair had the lock sprung in seconds. I hesitated before opening the door, then went to the top of the stairs.

“Josh!” I called, certain he wouldn’t hear me over the rock music he was playing in the living room. He must’ve unearthed the stereo first. “Hey! Josh!”

“What?” Josh came into the hallway and looked up at me, his too-long dark hair falling about his face.

“Come and look at this,” I said. “There’s a mystery door up here.”

Josh climbed up a few steps until he was on the small triangular landing midway. “What do you mean?”

“There’s a door I never saw before,” I explained. “You know where they had that big antique armoire?”

“There’s a door there?” Josh’s long legs made short work of the remaining stairs and he was beside me in seconds, staring down the hall at the door. “Huh. Who would’ve thought?”

“It was locked,” I told him as we walked the length of the hall. “I sprung it, but I haven’t looked in there yet.”

As soon as Josh pushed open the door the smell assaulted us. I gagged at it, barely managing to hold down my lunch. I had a sudden memory of our honeymoon trip to Asia, the stench of the open-pit toilets we’d been forced to use in more remote areas. The air behind that closed door smelled like that, of faeces and piss, lots of it.

“Ugh!” I groaned, stepping away from the open door. “That’s disgusting!”

“What the hell is up there?” Josh peered up the narrow staircase, but the light was too dim to see anything. “Hold on,” he whispered, although I’m not sure why. “I’m going to get a flashlight.”

It seemed aeons before Josh returned with the torch. I almost climbed the steps alone, without it, but the foulness of the smell kept me at bay.

“Sorry,” Josh muttered as he shone the beam of light up the staircase. “I couldn’t find it. Had to go through about twelve boxes. Why was a flashlight in a box marked ‘kitchen goods?”

“We keep it in the kitchen.” I shrugged and Josh about to say something more when a sound from above made us freeze.

It was a strange, mewling sound, something between a baby’s cry and that of an injured cat. I glanced at Josh briefly, surprised by the terror I saw in his eyes.

“I’m going up!” I whispered, taking a deep breath and holding it before I plunged into the fetid air.

The stairway was narrow and creaked as I climbed it. I looked over my shoulder and found Josh right behind me, his forearm over his nose as he tried to breathe shallow breaths through his mouth. The stairs ended abruptly and I found myself in a low ceilinged attic room. The only light spilled in through a single round window, coated with years of dust and grime. Josh shone the flashlight around, revealing a pile of filthy bedding in one corner. In another corner was the source of the stench: a plastic bucket over-flowing with excrement. Flies buzzed lazily around it. I choked back nausea as I followed the white beam around further, the light picking out what appeared to be a crumpled pile of linen up against the far wall.

The pile moved slightly; I caught a glimpse of an eye peeking out from the centre of the pile of rags. I was just starting towards it when the sound made me stop in my tracks, mouth falling open with shock.

“Mama?” Luke croaked, the morbific sheets falling away from his gaunt, pale face.

What do you think?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Am I too critical??

I'm reading a book at the moment I was really looking forward to reading. It's a second novel by a YA writer whose first book really impressed me. The cover copy sounds promising, and there isn't anything wrong with the story so far, but the writing is making me snaky.

All the things I correct and point out to my critique partners are present here in spades. Passive voice? Check. Adverb abuse? Check. Overuse of modifiers? Check. Repetitive sentence structure? Check. Massive info dumps of backstory in the first chapter? Check. If this book had been posted in my critique forum, it would be slashed with purple (I write my notes in purple; it's may favorite color).

Whenever I read books like this, I wonder how hard and fast you have to stick to the rules. I mean, if that person got published, then XXXX writing sin can't be that bad. Or do the rules change once you have one book under your belt? It's not that the writing is bad, it's just not as good as I would expect in a published book.

Maybe I'm too critical. Maybe I spend so much time working on other peoples' books, and on my own, I've lost the knack of just reading. Maybe before I started writing and critiquing so seriously, I wouldn't even have noticed these things.

Do you ever ask these questions while you're reading? Does it make you crazy?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Only 10 days 'til Xmas???

Holy Carp! It's only 10 days until Christmas. How did that sneak up on me? Sure, I noticed the carols in every store, and the huge number of ads in every newspaper, but somehow it didn't quite click.

I'm so not prepared. The kids have wish lists longer than their arms, and my bank account is... well, let's just say a lot shorter than that. My extended family, who we will celebrate with, don't really need more things, but tradition dictates the giving of gifts. So I'm going the homemade route this year. Does anyone have a good recipe for Christmas gingerbread? I know I used to have a great old German recipe, but I can't find it anywhere....

What are your plans for the holidays? And are you prepared?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Progress report...

It's December 13th and I'm 16 chapters through my re-write of The Boyfriend Plague. That's not too bad, but with at least another 16 chapters to go, I'm starting to think my December 24th deadline may be unreachable. Especially since my radial tunnel is so painful I haven't been able to sleep much the last few nights. I may have to step away from the keyboard for a few days to try and let it recover. Even the brace isn't really helping any more.

Which annoys me. I'm on a roll and things are going well. I hate having to stop. So do I press on despite the pain? I have a lot of keyboard time at work too, and not enough $$$ to even consider seeing a physiotherapist, and I'm a little afraid of damaging myself permanently.

Yet the drive to finish what I started, by the deadline, is still there.

What would you do?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

One of my favorite things

I love second hand stores. This week I had a chance to go out to a far flung suburb and spend a few blissful, dusty hours trawling a barn-sized second hand clothing store. This place is so big, you almost need to decide before you get there what you want to look at.
"I think I'll do skirts today," or "Only knitwear this time." It can get a little overwhelming otherwise.

Foolishly, I didn't have a plan before I got in there, and by the time I'd fumbled my way through the dresses and pants, I was already getting fabric fatigue. But I plunged onward, into skirts, and managed to find an amazing one, almost new, from one of my favorite designer labels. $6.50. If I'd bought it new in their downtown store, I'd have been looking at $300. Minimum. Score!

Through the skirts and into the shirts. By this time, my arms ached from pushing hangers back and forth, and the pile of things I was clutching to try on was getting larger. But I don't get out there often, so was determined to make the most of it.

Two hours later, I staggered out, head reeling, nose full of dust and clutching a small plastic bag. Along with the amazing skirt, I got two very nice shirts and a pair of pants. Total cost? $34.00.

I love second hand stores. Do you? Do you have a technique to battle the fatigue that comes with bargain hunting?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can you guess???

The lovely Brenda Drake is hosting a blogfest today. We need to post the first 250 words of our novel, and a panel of judges will see if they can pick the character' age. So, here is the first 250 words of The Boyfriend Plague. Let's see if you can guess how old my MC is...

I squirmed on the splintery wooden bench. The room was too small and the irregular buzzing that crept over the lopsided swinging doors set my teeth on edge. Each burst sent a cloud of rusty orange scattering through my skull.

“Is this okay, Livvie?” Mel leaned over and pressed a slip of paper onto my knee.

I studied it for a moment, still trying to shake off the burning color my synesthesia had painted the world. “Yeah. It’s perfect.” I grinned at her, but my lips trembled so much I’m sure it was more a grimace.

“What about yours?” Mel turned to Hannah who had her paper crumpled in her fist.

She smoothed it out against the taut fabric of her jeans. “It’s good. I don’t think Mom could tell she hadn’t signed it.”

Mel sighed and glanced down at her own scrap of paper. “At least they’re all different. And how close are they going to look?”

Hannah’s eyes roved the enclosed space, photographs curling on every wall. “It’s a business right? They want to make money. I bet they just ask for these things ‘cos they have to.”

“You’re probably right.” Mel stood up and folded her permission slip back into her pocket. “I wish they’d hurry up though.”

“Me too.” I shifted again, my butt numbing against the hard surface. Coming here had seemed a good idea, but now, after almost half an hour on the wrong side of the doors, the stinging scent of rubbing alcohol drifting across us, I wasn’t so sure.