Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beginning, Middle and End Blogfest!!!

It's time! Yay! And if you haven't signed up yet, you can still do it. Judging of the entries (if you can call it that) won't happen until Saturday.

So without any further ado, here's my entry. Because my book is a dual POV, the beginning section and middle section are from Lucy's POV, while the final paragraph is from Tony's.


The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.


And it is just school. Ian enrolled me last week, so all I have to do is find the office and collect my class schedule. Then, of course, I have to find the right classrooms. The woman in the office is large and disorganized. Half-buried pens poke their noses out from under several precarious piles of paper.

“I know it’s here somewhere.” She shuffles through one of the stacks and I watch as an avalanche of forms cascades to the floor. Above me a clock ticks away the seconds with a sound like muffled gunfire. I sigh and lean on the counter. It’s only eight forty-two and already I’m exhausted.


As we walk, our shadows cutting a path through the moonlight, Lucy starts to sing.

Let me know what you think! And drop in on the other participant to see what they've got posted.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review: Eyes in the Mirror

I know. I've never done a book review on this blog before. So let me give you a little background.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Sourcebooks, asking if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing one of their titles on my blog. It was a little out of the blue, but I thought, well, why not? Not sure quite how they found me, but I guess the word 'reviewer' is in my blog profile given I'm a film reviewer. And I figure reviewing a book isn't that different...

So, here goes!

Go to "Eyes in the Mirror" page

When this book arrived, I knew nothing about it, so I read the back cover copy. As soon as I did, I was excited to read the book. It sounded fascinating, the story of two girls who were their reflections. I figured there was a slightly magical element since the blurb talked about the, falling through the mirror into each others' lives. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the book didn't live up to its back cover copy. Yes, the premise was intriguing, and interesting, but the execution fell flat for me. The first chapter was slow to get started, bogged down with extensive backstory. The character of Samara didn't come alive for me in the first chapter at all because I felt like the reasons for her being a 'type' were being explained rather than being developed more organically.

Things picked up in the second chapter, and once the two girls met and began engaging with each other, things improved. I just felt there were so many opportunities that were missed. The idea of reflections switching places is intriguing and one that really piqued my imagination, especially once the choices of one girl in the other's life began affecting the other girl.

Overall though, it felt heavy handed. Every point was re-iterated to the point I began feeling like I was being bludgeoned. There are important issues raised in the book, about cutting, teenage sex and pregnancy and emotionally absent parenting. But they felt like issues. These things didn't happen to the characters in a natural, realistic way. They felt foisted upon them, and the scenes where they took place often felt like they were screaming 'issue'.

So while I feel there is an excellent idea in there, I'm not sure this book does it justice.

And the blogfest starts on the 31st! There's still time to sign up. I'd love you to.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


A few weeks ago I asked all my lovely blog followers to give me a big kick in the pants to get the first draft of my new book done. So, here I am to update you on progress. I'm 400 words shy of 50K, so well on track to get finished by September 15th which is my goal.

I already know there's a lot of rewriting needed. Various plot elements have proven more important to others as I write on, so the beginning is going to need to change a lot to reflect that. But overall, I'm pretty happy with how it's going. From here, I feel like I'm on the downhill stretch to the end. A lot more needs to happen, but I know where I'm going, and where I want to end up (although I have two endings and am not sure which one I'm going with yet).

So, let's see if I can actually get this done in the 18 days I have left.

What are you working on? Is it going well?

And don't forget to sign up for the Beginning, Middle and End Blogfest, happening this week.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sparkfest #3

It's time for the
Sparkfest Blogfest. so for the next few days, I'll be blogging about the things that inspired me to become a writer. Here's the third question to be answered:

Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

Again, this is a tough question to answer. Books and authors are constantly changing the way I think about things, or forcing me to think about things I may not have thought about before. That's what reading is all about, isn't it? Opening your eyes to new worlds or new ways of looking at the world around us. Certainly, that's what I dive into a book for. I love to get caught up in someone else's life, see things I face everyday through a different set of eyes. It's fascinating to see how someone else deals with the same issue or situation I've faced in my own life. And often, seeing that alternative solution can be life-changing.

Of course it can be life-changing in a negative way. Some people can learn destructive behaviors from books. I had a friend who never thought about cutting as a way to deal with mental anguish until she read about it in a book. But at the same time, I know another girl who was helped by reading about this same behavior in a book because she thought she was the only one who did it.

I've read so much over my life, and learned so much from reading, I think my entire worldview has been shaped by books. Even now, there are things I think I remember from my childhood that may not be real, but things I read.

But if you're going for real lifechanging stuff? I'll have to say Willard Price because he saved my life. I wrote a whole post all about it here.

What book changed you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sparkfest #2

It's time for the Sparkfest Blogfest. so for the next few days, I'll be blogging about the things that inspired me to become a writer. Here's the second question to be answered:

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

Now that's a tougher question. I'm not sure there was any single author or book that inspired The Boyfriend Plague. It started with a newspaper article I read a couple of years ago. It outraged me at the time, so kind of stuck in my mind. When these characters started introducing themselves to me around the time I was revising Taillights, it occurred to me that I could use this issue that had made me so angry years before.

So I'm afraid I can't name the author who set off the spark. I'm sure the journalist has a name, but I don't know it. But I can say that a subplot of the book was inspired by Jodi Picoult in a very roundabout way...

What ignited you to write your latest book?

Sparkfest #2

It's time for the Sparkfest Blogfest. so for the next few days, I'll be blogging about the things that inspired me to become a writer. Here's the first question to be answered:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sparkfest #1

It's time for the Sparkfest Blogfest. so for the next few days, I'll be blogging about the things that inspired me to become a writer. Here's the first question to be answered:

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?

I'd always written, since I was old enough to hold a pencil and string words together, but I'm pretty sure the book that sent me on this path was The Outsiders. I still remember the way I felt after reading it the first time, and have never felt that way again. I remember thinking I'd never be able to read another book because nothing could possibly touch me the same way.

And then I started writing. With purpose. I didn't have the discipline I have now, but I wrote. The novel that became Holding it Together was started around this time, and the one that became Assignment 9 wasn't far behind.

So I blame S E Hinton. And thank her every day for drawing me into this world.

So, which book inspired you to be a writer?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beginning, Middle and End Blogfest!!!

I know, I know.... I promised it weeks ago, but life just got in the way. But here it is. Ta da! The Beginning, Middle and End Blogfest.

With the number of blogfests there are that require you to post your first 250 words or so, I think we've all seen the same beginnings over and over on blogs. So here's a chance to see a little more of how the stories might progress. Not a lot. Not so much it's going to ruin the book for anyone who reads it beginning to end, but a tantalizing little taste.

On Wednesday 31st August, post the first paragraph, middle paragraph (work it out by your total word count) and final paragraph of your book or WIP on your blog. Hop around the other entrants and see what they have and comment on it. Then pop back here on Friday or Saturday to tell me which ones you liked the most and why.

I'll award prizes to the entries that get the most love.

Simple isn't it? I can't wait to see what you all come up with! Just fill in the Mr Linky below...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back into it

For a week I've been too exhausted and crazy busy with the day job to write. Today I'm getting back into it. It's storming outside, freezing, snowing off and on (for the first time since 1976), but nothing is going to stop me from going to the library and writing for at least 2 hours.

I'm terrified.

This book hasn't been an easy one up to this point, and I can tell it's going to get harder from here. But I'm determined to push through and get to the end. I already know there's a lot a need to change at the beginning, but I'm resisting the urge to go back and revise now I already know the whole thing will need to be rewritten at least once, so I'll save it until I reach the end.

For now, I'm setting myself a deadline. September 15th for this first draft. It's the second deadline I've given myself, but I feel good about this one. If I can just write 1K a day, I'll get there.

Do you think I can do it?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Genres and writing

A friend of mine emailed the other day to ask my opinion on this:

I just heard someone say that writing fiction is same in every genre.

Does writing speculative fiction follow the same rules, have the same elements as other forms of fiction. Does writing speculative fiction present different challenges because it is fantasy or science fiction. If so, what are they?

It got me thinking because at its heart, it's true: writing is writing, regardless of genre. But there are differences. I don't write much speculative stuff. It's not what I enjoy reading most of the time.

I think the challenges posed by speculative fiction lie in the world building. In contemporary fiction you can skimp on this because it's set in the real world that we live in. Spec fiction either twists our world to its own needs, or creates a whole new world for the story. So the mechanics of that world and how the societies that live in it work, need to be made clear. But without info-dumping.

I've seen submission guidelines on numerous spec fiction publications say they only want 3rd person past tense narratives. So perhaps that is a genre convention. Although I have seen first person spec fiction done very well. In fact, I just had a piece of mine, written in first person present, accepted for publication in an anthology of apocalyptic tales.

I think that with writing in any genre, you need to have read widely in it so you have a grasp on the conventions. You don't have to go with them, but if you're going to break rules, you need to know what rules you're breaking. But whatever you write, you need engaging characters, an interesting plot, and a unique way of stringing words together to create these things.

What do you think? Is all writing the same when you get down to the nuts and bolts?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Today I do Hate You blogfest

This one I just couldn't resist.... A blogfest where you share scenes of hate. Now, I don't have many of those, so I initially thought I couldn't take part. But then I remembered this scene in Assignment 9.

I couldn’t get into the game. After a few hands I slipped away from the table and went up to my room. I could hear Rick’s triumphant holler as he won a hand, followed by Alan’s laughter. I flung myself down on my bed. In that moment I hated Rick as much as I ever had. Alan had come to spend time with me. How dare Rick barge in on that? Rick, whose best friend sat beside him down there, while mine was driving half way across the country away from me. A part of me knew I was being unreasonable and even selfish. Rick had as much right to Alan’s attention as I did, but knowing that didn’t make me feel any better about the fact nobody down there seemed to have even noticed I’d gone. I flopped on my back and stared at the ceiling.

Tomorrow was a school day and I dreaded going without Alex. This late in the year everyone had already formed their groups of friends and I knew how difficult it would be to break into any of the cliques, even if I wanted to. It had been an awkward year anyway, with some of the more popular girls deciding over the summer girls couldn’t be friends with boys anymore. Up until then Alex and I always had as many friends amongst the boys in the class as the girls, but that year it had all changed, and Alex and I had been virtually ostracized for our stubborn refusal to stop playing ball sports with the boys at lunchtime. Without Alex there, I wasn’t sure if I could cope with the snide remarks and constant teasing we had been dealing with since the beginning of the year.

Rick’s laughter drifted up the stairs and I sat up, hating him with an intensity that frightened me. Something caught my eye. It was a model Rick had been building for weeks and it sat amid the clutter on the top of his dresser. Without thinking about it, I got up and pulled it down, throwing it to the floor. Rick’s patience was limited at best, and building that model had been a real challenge for him. Built of toothpicks and cardboard, it was very fragile. It pretty much disintegrated when it hit the floor, but to make sure it was ruined, I stepped on it a couple of times, grinding toothpicks under my heels. I surveyed the wreckage and terror clutched at my belly. When Rick saw what I’d done, he would kill me. I knew how hard he had worked on that model. But it was too late. I’d destroyed it and there was no way I could put it back together. Guilt chewed at me, but at the same time felt a kind of satisfaction in knowing that I’d destroyed something important to him. Taking several deep breaths I went back downstairs and joined in the card game once more. Jason had come home and he sat in my spot. I slid into the chair next to him and watched as they finished the round.

Let me know what you think, okay?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I've been doing....

What I haven't been doing is writing. I'm 4 days from the end of the Film Festival and have decided to give myself a break until next week because I'm working so many hours I can't focus. So what have I been doing instead? Mostly ice-cream. We went through 95 liters of ice cream in 2 days last weekend. That's a lot of ice cream!

I've also been watching films, although not as many as I would have liked to, or as many as I usually see during a Festival. So what have I seen, and was it good?

Well, let's see.... I saw Errol Morris's latest doco, Tabloid and I loved it. He manages to find the most interesting people in the world, the ones with the stories too bizarre to be anything but true. And this one is a doozy!

I saw Wim Wenders's 3D dance movie about the fabulous Pina Bausch. It was phenomenal. I've been on the fence about 3D because I haven't seen anything where it really worked or added anything to the film. But this one convinced me. I felt like I was onstage with the dancers. I could see every ripple of muscle, the expressions on the dancers' faces. It was incredible.

I saw a lovely Belgian film called The Giants which was about 3 teenaged boys on their own in the country and the trouble they manage to get themselves into. It wasn't a showy film, but it was truthful and the performances were very real.

So far those have been the highlights. I've seen a few others I was asked to see for work, and a few more I didn't like much so I won't mention them here. Two more to go and then I'm done.

I love the Festival, but I can't wait for life to get more settled down so I can focus on my book again. I feel like I'm at the halfway point, so things are ramping up....

What have you been doing the last few weeks?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Irking things...

I do a lot of critiquing. I have the most fabulous group of critique partners and writers I read for, and I learn so much from them. They are all wonderful writers, and have a good grasp on grammar and mechanics.

Every now and then I venture outside my comfy circle and critique for new writers. I get requests sometimes from newbies to WDC (, and if I have the time, I'll go and give them a review.

There are a number of common mistakes I see all the time, and a couple of them really irk me.

1. Confusing 'then' and 'than'. I know they can sound similar when spoken, but they are very different words with different meanings.
2. This is tricky, I know, but mixing up 'its' and 'it's'. Sometimes just a missing apostrophe can change the meaning of a sentence.
3. Using apostrophes wrong. You only need them when you're indicating possession, not when you have multiple things. You have three apples, not three apple's.
4. Overuse of semi-colons. I'm guilty of it. I love semi-colons, but they are a very specific piece of punctuation, and one that can be misused. They should be used sparingly, once every few pages at the most, not sprinkled liberally across every page.
5. Huge long sentences with multiple ideas separated by commas. Chop it up. Make several sentences of it. If I have to go back and re-read a sentence several times to understand it, it's too complex.
6. Funky dialogue tags. They stand out like the proverbial dog's bollocks. A simple 'said' or 'asked' is fine. As soon as a page of dialogue is littered with 'muttered', 'stammered', 'expleted', 'hollered' or 'squealed', it's too much. Especially if the tag is modified with an adverb - 'squealed shrilly' is redundant. There is a place for different dialogue tags, but use them sparingly.
7. The word 'that'. It's overused. WAY overused. And in many cases, it's not needed. Read the sentence aloud with 'that' in there, then again without it. Does it make sense? If so, take it out.

And that's just the ones that popped to the top of my head. Are there any writing quirks that prickle the hair on your neck?

Sunday, August 7, 2011


This sounds like fun! It's a blogfest all about the things that inspired you to become a writer! It's happening 22nd - 26th August, so come and join the fun.


Yesterday started off beautiful. The sun shone, in was warm enough that we at our lunch on the deck. After lunch, while the kids played at being gardeners, I sat in the sun and read. For a while there I was almost too hot. Sweat prickled my neck.

So we decided it was a good time to go to the park with the really long slide.

As we drove over, we noticed a band of cloud on the horizon. We joked about how we were heading in the wrong direction. But the sun still shone, and it was remarkably windless.

At the park, which was mobbed with families who'd had the same idea, the kids hurled themselves down the slide with abandon. After a few minutes though, the sun started fading. Dark clouds scurried across the sky. The sea that had been flat moments before, whipped into a frenzy of dueling white caps. Freezing wind rattled the leaves in the trees and bit through my sweater (I hadn't brought a coat because it was so warm).

A few minutes later it started to rain. And hail.

Looking up at the sky, I could see the line where the front began. Behind it was the roiling black cloud; in front, the clear blue sky. It was an awesome example of what a cold front really is. The contrast between the two types of weather was jarring, unsettling, and I couldn't help but think about how such a dramatic exchange of climatic conditions could be used in a story.

Have you ever seen anything like that? Have you used it in your work?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Love Story

I don't often mix up my professional and writing lives, but this little film is so completely wonderful I can't resist. It's going to be hard for some of you to find, but I urge you to persevere because this really is THE most charming and delightful film I've seen all year...


New Zealand 2011

Running Time: 90 minutes

Cast: Florian Habich, Frank Habich and the people of New York City

Director: Florian Habich

Screenplay: Florian Habich

Quite possibly the most delightful film of the year, Love Story is idiosyncratic director Florian Habich’s love letter to New York and its people. It is also a clever deconstruction of the filmmaking process as he discusses the film he’s making with his father in German via Skype, and with random strangers on the street.

Florian, playing himself, sees a beautiful woman on a subway platform, a delectable slice of red velvet cake in her hands. They speak and she suggests they take different trains and meet at Coney Island. She’s not there when Florian arrives and he wanders around, asking people about women and cake and the probability of meeting someone again in NYC.

Amazingly, they do manage to meet again, and the woman, Masha, agrees to be a part of his film. It’s here that the lines begin to blur between the film being created and the reality of a relationship developing between the pair. Florian uses the public to script his film, asking for plot developments from a group at a restaurant, or students at an all night drugstore, even leaping into an occupied cab in order to ask the woman occupant advice on courting.

Florian is so artless, you can’t help but follow. His father’s advice is taken, and some of the film’s funniest moments come when Florian tries to fit his dad’s commercial ideas into his quirky vision.

As the film nears completion, and Florian’s days in New York grow numbered, the ending becomes less and less clear, as does the reality of the relationship that appears to have developed between film maker and muse.

I loved this film. It had me walking around with a smile on my face all day after I saw it, and even now, just thinking about it gives me a warm tingle. It’s good natured, odd, unsettling and sweet all at the same time, and I seriously could not recommend it more highly. I’m not a good enough reviewer to do it justice, so just go see it for yourself and see if you can keep the grin from your lips as you exit the theatre.

Let me know if you find it. I tell me you didn't fall head over heels in love with it. Go on. I dare you....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fabbo contest

The fantastic people over at YATopia are having a contest again. This one sounds awesome, but also REALLY hard! You have to write a synopsis of your novel in just 3 sentences. I struggled to get my synopsis to 2 pages, so the thought of trying to get the whole story into 3 sentences gives me the willies. But I'm always up for a challenge.

Are you? Then get over there and do it!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Q & A

Well, there certainly seem to be a lot of you out there. Hello new followers! This is exciting.

But who are you all? Some of you I know from visiting your blogs on blogfests, but others, I'm just not sure. So I thought it was time for a little Q & A. Tell me something about yourself, and ask me something . Anything. You'll find I'm an endless fount of meaningless trivia.

So yes, this is an open forum today, for you to ask me things, and to tell me about yourselves.

Let me get the ball rolling... Here's something about me you probably don't know: all my favorite vegetables start with the letter A -asparagus, artichokes and avocados. And yes, I do know an avocado is a fruit.

Tell me about you!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Time to kick my ass...

Okay guys, now's the moment you've all been waiting for. You need to kick my ass. Yup, seriously.

When I started my new project, The Boyfriend Plague, I gave myself until July 27th to finish the first draft. It's now August 2nd, and I'm nowhere near done. This book is hard to write. Really hard. I've never struggled with a draft as much as I'm struggling with this one.

It's frustrating because the story is right there, close enough for me to touch, but I can't seem to get it. It's a complex story, with lots of different threads, and every time I reach a point in the story where I think the next big thing can happen, something gets in the way, or another thing needs setting up.

I'm 100% determined to get through this draft by the end of August. Then I can let it rest for a few weeks while I try to figure out what's wrong with it. So I need you all to kick me in the pants to get writing. I'm sitting on 32K, and I foresee this book being around 70 - 75K when it's done, so I'm almost at the halfway point (or I should be...).

Can you help me get my ass in gear and finish this draft?