Monday, December 31, 2012

Welcome 2013

So here is my annual letter to myself, outlining goals and ambitions for the year.  Let's see if I can do better than I did in 2012...

Dear Me,

This is the fourth year I’ve done this now, and it has been an interesting process every year.  So we shall continue with it….

First up, a look back on 2012 and what achievements I made…  Well, very few.  I wrote a lot of words, some good, some dreadful.  I queried The Boyfriend Plague extensively and got a wide range of feedback.  I wrote The Sidewalk’s Regrets, ¾ of Between Paradise and Nowhere, and as I write this, about half of my amputee virgin novel I’m calling Ozzy for now.

So my first goal for 2013 is to finish Ozzy.  Since my deadline is January 31st, I’d better move it.  But I’m fairly confident I can get there.

My second goal is to whip my query for Sidewalks into shape and start querying it.  It’s a tough one to write a query for because the basic story isn’t that unique, but the choices Sacha makes give it something I haven’t seen in a YA book before.  How to get this across in a query, without giving away too much of the plot, is a challenge.

I’m still trying to decide whether or not to enter ABNA this year.  I don’t have time to throw together a good pitch for Sidewalks so I have two choices as to what to enter.  I could enter Taillights again, but since that already got ditched in round 2 last year, I’m a little wary of doing it.  I could enter The Boyfriend Plague, but after all the querying and the very mixed responses I got from the requests, I’ve almost lost confidence in that book.  So I’m going to have my entries ready to go, and decide at the time.  I’m actually going to be away at the beach when the entries open, and unless I take my computer with me, the chances of there still being slots open by the time I get home are fairly slim.  So, maybe this year will be ABNA free….  We shall see.

I have a wonderful and expanding group of writer friends across the world, and I aim to keep supporting, helping and critiquing for all of them in 2013.  Seriously, the writing community is incredible.  I feel so privileged to be a part of it, and to have met such fantastic writers.  I can’t imagine what my life would be like without them and the support they give me.  So my goal is to be as supportive and helpful to them as they are to me.

I will finish Paradise, even if it kills me.  I’m stubborn like that.  Even with the end in sight, I know there is a ton of revision needed on this one.  Whole chunks need to be sliced out and rewritten.  But since this book isn’t a priority, I will work on it when and if I find time.  Ozzy is more important to me and will take precedence.  And I have an idea for another story I’m playing with too.  I’m not sure exactly what form it will take, but I have a basic idea to expand on.  But ‘m not going to commit to it yet.  I know how often new ideas come up and sledgehammer me.  And when that happens, I’ve learned I need to go with it.

As usual I will pledge to lose weight, and as usual, I won’t.  But I will continue going to the gym and will continue to up my weights in all the weights classes I do.   I think being fit is probably more important than being thin.  I like eating and wine too much to be thin. 

So there we have it.  We’ll check back midyear and see how we’re going.  And again at the end of the year.

Love, Me!

Do you have any goals for the new year?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 reading

About this time last year, a lot of people were blogging about their resolution to read more books in 2012.  Some of them even gave a number of books they planned to read and were going to track them on Goodreads.  I don't use Goodreads, but I thought the numbers people cited were quite low and decided to keep tabs on how many books I read in 2012.

With one day left to go, I'm sitting on 128 books read.  And I doubt that will change because I've only just started both the Kindle book and the paper book I'm currently reading.  So 128.  And that's real, published books.  I'm not including the manuscripts I read in there.  Or the books I read to my kids.  It's just the books I read myself for fun.

Wanna see what I read?  I'll show you the list.  How'd you do for reading in 2012?  Achieve your goal?
Magic Hour Kristin Hannah
Caleb's Crossing Geraldine Brooks
Sweet Little Lies Lauren Conrad
Sign Language Amy Ackley
Night Road Kristin Hannah
Paper Towns John Green
The Moment Douglas Kennedy
Changing Tides Michael Thomas Ford
Bunheads Sophie Flack
Summer Island Kristin Hannah
Where She Went Gayle Foreman
The Singular Adventures of Super Mom and Party Girl Marc Schuster
Shine Lauren Myracle
What Happened to Goodbye? Sarah Dessen
The Liar Society Lisa & Laura Roecker
True Colors Kristin Hannah
Jumpstart the World Catehrine Ryan Hyde
Looking For It Michael Thomas Ford
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Michelle Hodkin
A Million Suns Beth Revis
Fixing Delilah Sarah Ockler
Comfort and Joy Kristin Hannah
When She Woke Hilary Jordan
The Next Door Boys Jolene B Perry
We Need to Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver
Amplified Tara Kelly
Between Here and Forever Elizabeth Scott
The Survival Kit Donna Frietas
Pull B A Binns
Winter Garden Kristin Hannah
Try Not to Breathe Jennifer Hubbard
The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship Lisa Verge Higgins
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
Between Jessica Warman
The Tenth Circle Jodi Picoult
Don't Breathe A Word Holly Cupala
Pregnant Pause Han Nolan
Center Line Joyce Sweeney
I Wish Mandy Hubbard
Code Name Verity Elizabeth Wein
What a Boy Wants Nyrae Dawn
Nineteen Minutes Jodi Picoult
Supernaturally Kiersten White
My Heart for Yours Jolene Perry & Stephanie Campbell
Catching Fire Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay Suzanne Collins
Broadway Baby Alan Shapiro
Knee Deep Jolene Perry
The Wind Blows Backward Mary Hahn
Pandemonium Lauren Oliver
Five Flavors of Dumb Anthony Johns
Altercation Tamara Hart Heiner
So Shelley Ty Roth
Change of Heart Jodi Picoult
Sizzle Julie Garwood
My Sister's Keeper Jodi Picoult
Like Mandarin Kirsten Hubbard
What A Boy Needs Nyrae Dawn
The Replacement Brenna Yovanoff
Handle With Care Jodi Picoult
Lost Memory of Skin Russell Banks
Grounding Quinn Stephanie Campbell
How To Save A Life Sara Zarr
Keeping Faith Jodi Picoult
Virtuosity Jessica Martinez
The Grief of Others ????
The Fame Game Lauren Conrad
Spill Over Jolene Perry
Blind Sight Meg Howerty
Delicate Stephanie Campbell
Vanishing Acts Jodi Picoult
Almost Perfect Brian Katcher
A Great and Terrible Beauty Libba Bray
Trigger Susan Vaught
Rebel Angels Libba Bray
Harvesting the Heart Jodi Picoult
Burnout Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Trafficked Kim Purcell
The Duff Kody Keplinger
Meg's Melody Kaylee Baldwin
The Sweet Far Thing Libba Bray
Riding Out The Storm Sis Deans
The Pact Jodi Picoult
Lucky Break Kelley Vittollo
Anna and the French Kiss Sephanie Perkins
Looking for Alaska John Green
Salem Falls Jodi Picoult
Ten Weeks Jolene Perry
Half Brother Kenneth Oppel
Home Front Kristin Hannah
And I Don't Want to Live This Life Deborah Spungen
Lola and the Boy Next Door Stephanie Perkins
Dirty Little Secrets C J Omololu
150 Pounds Kate Rockland
An Abundance of Katherines John Green
The Other Side of the Bridge Mary Lawson
Secret Year Jennifer B Hubbard
Perfect Escape Jennifer Brown
Property Of Alice Hoffman
Insight Jolene Perry
Wrecker Summer Wood
The Probability of Miracles Wendy Wunder
Gone Gone Gone Hannah Moskowitz
Perfect Match Jodi Picoult
Devine Intervention Martha Brockenbrough
Rock On Denise Vega
The Miseducation of Cameron Post Emily M Danforth
Diary of a Mad Fat Girl Stephanie McAffee
The Absolutely True Diary of A Part time Indian Sherman Alexi
My Beating Teenage Heart C K Kelly Martin
Life After Death Damien Echols
Sing  You Home Jodi Picoult
Endlessly Kiersten White
Mr Death's Blue Eyed Girls Mary Hahn Downing
Charade Nyrae Dawn
The Secret History Donna Tartt
The Beginning of After Jennifer Castle
Falling Jolene Perry
The Boy Vanishes Jennifer Haigh
I'm Not Her Janet Gurtler
Mercy Jodi Picoult
Revenge of a Band Geek Gone Bad Naomi Rabinowitz
Bound Together Eliza Jane
Relatively Famous Jessica Park
Rival Sara Bennet Weeler
The Smallest Color Bill Roorbach
Boy Toy Barry Lyga
Flat Out Love Jessica Park
At Risk Alice Hoffman

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dear Me....

As 2012 is drawing to a close, it's time to go back to the list of goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year to see if I achieved any or all the things I planned to do....  So here's the original letter I wrote myself with comments written today.

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 feel 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.

I did finish the draft and I did query widely.  I got a lot of requests for fulls and partials, but remain agentless.  Unlike querying Taillights, there was no single reason why this one didn't snag the attention.  Every rejection I got gave different reasons and they were often in opposition to each other.  Which is a little puzzling....  I suspect the book has a number of flaws and different people are picking up on different ones.  Anyway, I'm considering this book trunked for now.  I just don't love it enough to keep pushing.

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 did enter ABNA, and only made it through the first round again.  C'est la vie....  Since I don't have time to polish a pitch for a new book this year, I may re-enter Taillights because I still believe very strongly in that book and think I gave up on it far too easily.  I only sent about 20 queries for it before stopping and moving on to my next book, and I don't think that's really enough.  I've sent over 60 for The Boyfriend Plague.

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.

To be honest, I have no idea what the two ideas I had for books when I wrote this were.  I have written and polished one book in 2012 (The Sidewalk's Regrets).  My NaNo project remains 3/4 finished and I'm about half-way through another book which I will finish the first draft of soon.  I hope to be ready to query Sidewalks early in the new year.  I just need to make the query better first.

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.

I have tried hard to stay active with my groups.  I've been a horrible reviewer the past couple of months because the writing has to come first, and with deadlines looming, I've had to write instead of review.  I will get back into my reviewing rhythm once I've finished this draft of Ozzy.  I've done some beta reading for other writers in 2012, and really enjoyed some of it.  While I like the chapter by chapter reviews we do with my crit groups, being able to read the entire book in one or two sittings is great for seeing the shape of a novel.

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.

As I expected, I didn't lose weight.  But I have been pretty good about going to the gym four times a week and mixing up the classes.  So while I don't have the much desired flat belly, I'm certainly fit and toned.  So, I guess I have to be happy with that.

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.

How did you get on with your goals in 2012?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Irking things

I was going to write happy, sunshiny, Happy Holidays type post today, but something is irking me... So the Happy Holidays stuff is just going to have to wait while I get this off my chest.

Recently, I've been reading a lot of self published books.  In fact, since I got my Kindle earlier this year, I think 90% of the books I've read on it are self-published.  I love that authors have this option now, and that some seem to be doing so well at it.

But, in so many cases, the books are not ready to be published.  I've read three in a row now that had so many spelling, grammar and syntax mistakes in them that I felt like getting out my red pen and marking down corrections.  In one of them, the exact same scene was repeated twice, about 6 chapters apart.

This is just sloppy.  If you're going to put your work out there and charge people to read it, you have to have had your book properly edited.  Or at the very least, copy edited.  Or read through it before you hit 'post' or whatever you do you load an e-book onto Amazon.  It makes me angry when I  read a book that's riddled with very basic errors.  And it pulls me out of the story every time I find one.

You don't want that to happen.

Now this isn't every self-published book by a long run. I've read some wonderful ones, some better than the traditionally published books I've read.  But it does seem to be a lot of them.

Self-publishing shouldn't be a last ditch option for that book you've queried 300 times and got nothing but rejections for.  It shouldn't be something you dash off quickly and throw up to earn a little extra cash.  If you're going to self-publish, think hard about why you're doing it.  And take the time to make sure the product you're selling is worth spending money on.

The more sloppily edited, badly written books that end up on the market, the less likely people will be to take a risk on another self-pubbed author.  And there are so many wonderful ones out there, it would be a shame if they lost readers because other writers let the team down.

Have you come across very badly edited self-pubbed books?  How did it make you feel?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

All Kinds of Happy!

No, I haven't signed with an agent or received an offer of publication....  Sorry to get your hopes up, if that's what you were expecting.  No, this happiness comes to me from outside the publishing world.

If you're a longtime follower, you might remember this post from earlier this year.  And this one.  After battling my consciousness for a very long time, I went ahead and booked tickets to see Einstuerzende Neubauten play in Melbourne.  And then I found a cheap airfare, so I'm all booked and ready to go to Australia in February (except I need to renew my passport.  Must remember to renew my passport...).  EN even announced a solo show on the Tuesday after the Festival show, so I got a ticket to that too.

But then, just to make my life even better, Crime and The City Solution just announced a date in Melbourne too.  And it's while I'm there!  So I get to see two of my all time favorite bands on one trip!  Bands I've loved since the 1980s (yeah, I'm old) and NEVER SEEN LIVE.  You have no idea how happy this makes me.  I mean, what a trip.  EN on Sunday, Crime on Monday and EN again on Tuesday.  Now all I need is for Nick Cave to show up for a show on Wednesday and I'll probably die of happiness.

Has anything this perfect ever fallen into place for you?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Progress update

I know I've been largely absent from the blog, and I apologize.  But I've been amazingly busy!

I'm in Cupid's Quiver, writing a new book that needs to be drafted by January 31st.  Which is double the NaNo time period, but there's Christmas in there, and my kids go on vacation next week until February 7th.  So I've been pumping out the words to try and give myself a good head start on this project.

I hit the 15K mark last night which I feel good about.  My goal is to hit 20K by Sunday night, and hopefully 30K by the 23rd of December.  I'm thinking 30K will be around about the halfway mark for this book.  It feels like it's going to be shorter than most of my stories, mainly because I'm writing from a boy POV and he's not as verbose as my girls tend to be.

And can I tell you how much I'm enjoying writing this book?  It's so much fun.  I'm torturing this poor kid so much.  But I love him.  He's so different to any character I've ever written before.  I know I'll get stuck at some point, but right now the words are flowing through me and everything seems to be going in the direction I want it to.  Which is pretty good considering I hadn't planned on writing this book until February and was going to do a lot more research before I started.

How's your project coming along?  Planning to write through the holidays, or take a break?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It Only Takes One

In my job, I run a lot of functions.  Anything from graduations to fundraisers to award ceremonies to weddings.  And at almost every one, someone makes a comment or complaint about the drinks being served.  And I can't fathom this.

If you're attending an event like this, the drinks are usually supplied by either a sponsor or the organizers of the event.  And they're free.  As in, you don't have to pay for them.  Okay, in some cases maybe the ticket price you pay includes the cost of the drink, but you're not coming for the wine.

It seems to me, that when something is being provided free of charge, you should be grateful for it.  Accept whatever it is graciously.  And if it isn't what you like, well, there's a bar just a few steps away where you can purchase whatever you feel like drinking.  Don't like bubbly wine?  That's fine.  There's juice as well.  Want something alcoholic?  Well, go to the bar and get that red wine you want.

Do you ever complain about the free stuff at events?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An almost daily terror

I've been up in Auckland for the past couple of days for the NZ Film Awards (congratulations to Samoan language film, The Orator, for picking up the bulk of awards) and just flew back today.

When we left, it was the most beautiful day.  Sunshine.  Blue skies.  Clear all the way up the island.  One of the volcanoes in the center of the island erupted recently and it was cool to look down and see it still wreathed in smoke.

Today, flying back, was a different story.

It was drizzling in Auckland, with those thick, heavy clouds that tend to hang over the city for weeks on end.  We punched through them, and almost immediately, turbulence started bouncing us around.  It wasn't too bad, but bad enough that the flight attendants announced they wouldn't serve tea or coffee because of safety concerns.

I read my book for a while, and stared out at the clouds below us.  Then we started going down, heading into Wellington.  And things got really, really bumpy. I heard a woman ahead of me tell her companion she was scared.  The wind buffeted us and tossed the plane around like a kitten with a ball of yarn.

But we made it down.  And on the first approach, which on a windy day like today, is a little unusual.  I've seen flights take three shots before actually touching down on the runway.  Everyone clapped and cheered when we hit, and the flight attendants made jokes about not charging us extra for the roller-coaster ride.

Have you ever been on a super-bumpy flight?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Yep... I'm crazy

I haven't finished my NaNo novel, Between Paradise and Nowhere yet.  It's sitting at just over 54K and I figure I need to write between 15 and 20K more to reach the end.  But I'm not going to do that.

You see, yesterday I got picked by the awesome Cupid (of Cupid's Lit Connection) to be on her 'Write a Novel With Cupid' team.  The idea is that between December 1 and January 31, the team of writers all write a first draft.  Then we revise.

So instead of finishing my NaNo book, I'm diving right into my new shiny idea.  Which I'm super excited about.  I'm not 100% in love with my NaNo book - it's not my usual style or genre - but I am in love with Ozzy and his story.

It's a dark one (it wouldn't be mine if it wasn't) and the poor boy is going to get more beat up than any other character I've ever written.  I don't have a title for this one yet, so for the moment I'm calling it Virgin Amputee.  Or maybe just Ozzy...

So it looks like I'm going to be kind of busy for the next wee while.  I'm a little concerned about time because the kids are off school for 6 weeks from December 20th, and there's Christmas and a week at the beach house in there too.  I guess I'll have to take my laptop to the beach this year.

So the upshot here is, I may not get back to my regular blogging schedule again.  I'll try, but I can't promise.  There's this annoying thing called work too.  You know, that place you go every day so you have money to eat?  Yeah.  That.

How's your month looking?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Something I've noticed

As you all know,  I read a lot.  A LOT.  And I read widely.  But when I find an author I like, I can get a little obsessive about trying to read everything he or she has written.  And if they've had a long career, that can be a lot of books.

But something I've noticed several times recently, in reading newer works by some of these long-established writers, is that the editing doesn't seem as tight.  In one I read recently, there was a blatant grammar error very early on in the piece.  In others the writing just doesn't feel as tight or as accomplished as it did in earlier works.

I began wondering about this.  Is it that once these authors have published X number of wildly successful novels their editors feel that they can do no wrong and don't go over their manuscripts quite so carefully?  Or are they afraid to make changes to the work of this oh-so-well-known-best-selling author?  Or is it that the writer's ego gets in the way and they no longer accept so many of the editorial suggestions they're given?

I don't know.  I wish I did.  Because it's frustrating to read something by a very well known and successful author and to find the work riddled with errors that I'd pull my CPs up on.  Or letting the story meander away from the point for long tangents that go nowhere, something that I'd definitely point out if I was reading for them.

What do you think?

Monday, November 26, 2012


I finished NaNo today...  Or I won, as they say.  Which is of course, completely different to finishing the draft.  That I haven't done yet.  I have about 15-20K to go in my estimation, so I probably won't finish by the end of the month.  No, not probably - definitely.  Maybe by the time the kids go on their Christmas break...

This book needs a lot of work.  I have a feeling one of my characters goes to the wrong place for a long  time in the middle.  He doesn't need to go anywhere.  He should stay home, only leaving to visit the mad prospector.  That scene has to stay because the prospector is important in the climax.  But all the stuff that happens to Ben prior to that, while he's out riding the station with Alice's husband, doesn't need to be there.

So I'll be doing a big revision on this one.  Sometime.  When, I'm not sure.  Another story is tugging at me, and I think I'm going to have to just go with it.  But I think I'll wait until after Christmas to start.  I'm going to have 10 child-free days in January, and I think I'll make a start on the new book then.

So when I've finished that draft, I may go ahead and do the massive revision this NaNo novel needs.  We'll see.  I still have to finish writing it.

How's your NaNo going?  Are you going to make it to 50K by Friday?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Kind of exciting...

As most of you regular followers know, my day job is as a cinema manager and film reviewer.  What you may not know is that I am in Wellington, New Zealand, a city that seems to have been re-named Middle Earth for the next few weeks.  Yes, my town has been infected with a disease known as Hobbit Fever.

The world premiere of the new Hobbit movie is on November 28th, and the whole city seems to have gone nuts!  The cinema I run isn't hosting the premiere, but it's on the red-carpet route so we have a party of filmy people booked in to watch the big-wigs hobnobbing their way up the red carpet.  The council are closing the street for 2 days which means getting people and supplies in and out could be tricky.  Not to mention my regular customers who may not be infected with this Tolkienitis and want to go and see a regular film.

And in a weird slant, I got an invite to the premiere.  Which is kind of exciting.  I've been to other premieres, but nothing of this magnitude.  So that's exciting.  I'm just not really a huge Tolkien fan, and I wasn't actually planning on rushing out to see the film.  But I guess it's kind of different when it's the world premiere.  And if I get bored, I can always take a nap.  It'll be dark, so it's not like anyone's going to know....

Are you a Hobbit person?  Looking forward to the film, or just meh?

Sunday, November 11, 2012


So, this often happens to me.  I'll be trucking along with a story, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, a new, fantastic, wonderful idea comes to me.  And the new idea always feels so much more interesting and so much better than the one I'm working on.

And that's what happened this weekend.

I've been working steadily on my NaNo project and feel good about my word count so far.  I'm not 100% enthralled with my story, but I'm doing something really different and challenging for this one, so that's probably why.  Then bam!  Saturday night, I had the most amazingly awesome idea for a new book.  The character's voice is so clear in my head, even though he hasn't given me his name yet (yes, this one's going to be a boy POV), and I'm just itching to dive in.

I have a dilemma on my hands.  Do I keep going with the project I'm about a third of the way into, or do I scrap that for the moment and move on to this new, more interesting idea?

I feel like I should hold off on the new one because there is likely to be quite a bit of research I need to do, but I often write first and research later so I can toss the details in when I revise.  So that's kind of a lame excuse not to get writing.  But I also hate to leave things unfinished....

Has this ever happened to you?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Scarlet Road

Every now and then a film comes along that really affects me in some way or another.  This is one of them.  So, a rare film review on my blog....  I had the privilege to meet the subject of this film the other night, and have to say she's even more incredible in person than she is on film.  If you get the chance to see this one, leap at it.  It'll change your life.


Australia, 2011
Running Length: 75 minutes
Cast: Rachel Wotton, Saul Ibister
Director:  Catherine Scott

With feature film The Sessions about to be released, the timing could not be better for this fascinating documentary about Sydney based sex worker Rachel Wotton.

Wotton’s client base includes people with disabilities and the film takes an in depth look at her role in the lives of these people, some of whom have severely limited ability to move.  Two of her clients allow the camera into their homes during their sessions and their honest assessment of what Rachel’s services bring to their lives is the central core of the film.

As well as being a sex worker, Wotton is an advocate for the sex business and the decriminalization of prostitution.  In Sydney, where she lives and works, prostitution is legal, but further north, in Queensland, where her partner lives, it is not.  During the film she travels to Europe to speak at a conference and meets up with a Swedish sex worker who outlines the way Swedish law makes a client who hires a sex worker a criminal.

It could be said that the film is one sided, only focusing on the positive aspects of the world’s oldest profession.  But the film maker never states she is making a case for all sex workers.   Rather, the film is firmly about Rachel and her experiences.  And yes, they probably are different to those of other sex workers.  Rachel is intelligent, confident and driven to succeed.  She was instrumental in forming Touching Base, an advocacy group for the disabled.  She also states her ambition to open a not-for-profit brothel for the disabled.

What shines through more than anything else, is Wotton’s love for life and her respect for humanity.  Prostitution is still looked down on and sex workers are discriminated against on a daily basis.  So are those with disabilities.  By giving those with physical and mental limitations the chance to touch and be touched by another person, Rachel is giving them the opportunity to feel whole and human.

This is an inspiring documentary about someone who should be admired, not maligned.  I came out wishing I was as strong, confident and selfless as Wotton.  It would have been interesting to find out more about her background and what made her chose this particular course for her life.  We meet her mother, but she never says what she thinks of her daughter’s choices or offers any insight into her childhood.

The film runs the gamut of emotion with laugh-out-loud moments paired with infuriating ones.  The saddest scene is one in which the mother of a man with Cerebral Palsy speaks frankly about hiring a sex worker for her son.  But overall, the film is an inspiring and uplifting one.  And Rachel Wotton is a figure to be admired.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thoughts from day 5...

So we're 5 days into NaNo and I just cracked the 10K mark.  See the nifty little gadget on the side of my blog?  If you're at all interested in keeping tabs on my progress, it's there.

And how do I feel?  Okay.  I'm sure I'm writing drivel, but I'm not worried about it yet.  I always knew this one would be tough because I'm way, way outside my comfort zone.  Firstly, I'm writing an historical which is not something I ever thought I'd do.  Secondly, I'm writing in three close third person POVs.  I struggle with third person, I admit it.  The thoughts and internal dialogue don't feel like they have a natural place and I always want to be an omnipotent narrator.

But I set myself this book for my NaNo project because it would be a challenge.  And it is.  But I love my characters, even snotty old William Heller, the villain of the piece.  But most of all, I love Ben, the scrawny, stunted fifteen year old farmhand who just wants a family to call his own.  And maybe to grow a little taller.

 Or do I love Danny more?  The out-of-his-depth accidental bank robber who only wants a safe place for his family.  And then there's Alice, my young English heroine who finds herself dumped in the middle of nowhere Australia with an inattentive husband twenty years older than her.  When she agreed to a marriage of convenience, she thought traveling to the other side of the globe would offer her freedoms she would never have had in England.  Boy, was she wrong!

I can't wait to see what's going to happen when all these people finally come together....

Anyone else want to share something about their NaNo project??

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was tagged in this weekly bloghop by Annie McMahon and Beth Fred, so here goes....

What is the working title of your work-in-progress?
The Sidewalk's Regrets

Where did the idea come from? 
The initial spark came from a documentary I saw about a musician friend of mine.  Something one of his ex-girlfriends said about him really struck a chord, and by the next day, the whole book had already kind of coalesced in my mind.  Oddly, when I finished writing the book, I watched the film again and couldn't figure out what it was that had meant so much to me on that first viewing.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a film version?
I really couldn't say.  Because this is a book about rock music, most of the characters were inspired by musicians I know.

Write a one-paragraph summary

Seventeen year old Sacha McLeod has never had time for rock music.  She's far too busy practicing her violin, focused on the next competition or workshop on the horizon.  But when she hears Dylan play the guitar, the energy, violence and unpredictability of the music thrills her and she falls hard for him and his wild, inventive sound.  When her plans for the summer - and her self confidence -  are shattered, she throws everything she holds dear aside to jump at the chance to spend time with Dylan in the city.  She's expecting an idyllic summer, filled with romance, passion and music.  When she finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan's newly acquired drug habit, she realizes that despite what all the songs say, sometimes love isn't all you need.

How long did the first draft take to write?
I think around six weeks.  The revisions have taken much longer....

What other books would you compare this to, in your genre?
I really don't know.  There are other rock band books out there, like Five Flavors of Dumb, but most of them don't delve quite so deeply into the darkness as this book does.  And underneath it all, this is actually a love story and there's a ton of those out there.  

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned, the documentary I saw.  But also, I've spent most of my adult life around bands.  I'm a passionate music lover and will follow my favorites to the ends of the earth.  My best friend's a rock star.  My partner's a sound engineer.  I've spent hours at gigs and soundchecks and in studios.  I know this world and wanted to write something set within it.

What else about this story might pique the readers’ interest?
There's a kind of love triangle in there, but the third corner isn't just one person, it's several people, and a thing.  How's that for oblique???

I'm tagging for next week:

Lexa Cain
Natasha Hawkins
Natalia Jaster

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Informal break

Just a quick heads up.  I'm doing NaNo again this year, and because I know from experience how crazy it is, I'm probably not going to blog a lot during November.  I'm not going to say I won't blog, because if anything strikes me as being especially blog-worthy, I will dash off a post.  But I won't be sticking to my every-two-days schedule.

I'm sure everyone's heartbroken about that too....

So who else is doing NaNo?  Tell me about your process.  I'm the crazy one who goes in with a half-assed idea and just starts writing.  I haven't even been thinking a whole lot about this one at all, because I've been scrambling to get through my last few chapters of revision on Sidewalks before I start.  So no outline to speak of.  Just three very different characters.  I can't even decide whether I want to write in first or third person!

Would it be weird to have one POV in first and the other two in third?  I might try it.  That's the awesome thing about NaNo.  You just throw words at the page with abandon.  Most of them will need changing later, but at least you have the clay to mould.

Are you going to take the plunge?

Friday, October 26, 2012


I've been doing a bit of beta reading the past few weeks, and one of the things I've noticed in all the manuscripts I've read is the lack of contractions. There's nothing like a present day teen saying "I am going out, Dad.  Do not wait up for me." to drag me out of the story.

Everyone uses contractions when they speak.  If they don't, it's because they are emphasizing something.  When you write dialogue, and even in first person narrative, you need to use contractions or it sounds stilted and unnatural.  And you don't want your characters sounding like robots, right?

At school you were probably taught that in writing, you don't use contractions.  Writing is formal, and you should use the full words.  Yeah, that was probably true in the past, but these days, writing is much looser and freer and voice is everything.  And the voice feels unnatural if you don't use contractions.  Especially in YA.

So don't be afraid to thumb your nose at those teachers you had back in the fifth grade.  Writing 'you're' instead of 'you are' is not going to send you down the slippery slide to writers' hell.

Do you use contractions?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Questions and answers

My friend Jolene Perry posted this Q & A on her blog today and asked that people who read it answer them too.  So here goes....  A mini-interview!  If you like it, please consider yourself tagged and you can  answer the questions on your own blog!  Or in the comments.  Whatever floats your boat....

Do you listen to music while you write? Before you write? Or neither?
It really depends on the book.  Usually not.  Music is always really important to my books and there are always specific songs I reference in them (even if I don't say exactly what they are) but I need to listen to music when I'm not writing.  

Do you work on one project at a time? Or many projects at a time?

I tend to focus on one novel length project at a time.  But I do write short stories sometimes while mid-novel.  I also usually start at least thinking about my next book as soon as I've finished my first draft so I have something to work on while I let the novel rest.  And I usually start writing that new book as I'm finishing up edits on the last one.

Do you know when you've started writing something special? Or do they all feel special?
No.  I don't have a lot of perspective on my own work.  I know when a scene feels amazing as I'm writing it, but I'm never sure anything I write is anything other than ordinary until I've had time away from it.
Are there projects that you couldn't imagine changing anything in the story? And on the opposite of that, are there projects where you could shrug about change and jump in and do it?
No to the first question and yes to the second.  I know my weakness as a writer is in plotting, so I never take anything as being set in stone.  Everything and everyone can always be changed.  That's why I value my crit partners so much - they always know when I need to change things and nudge me in the right direction.

Do titles come easily for you? Or are they more difficult?
Sometimes they're easy, but most of my books spend a long time being called just 'Chris' or 'Casey' or 'Liz' until they find their title.

Did you know you wanted to be a writer when you started your first book?
I think I always secretly wanted to be a writer, but it wasn't a 'real' job so I never admitted it until recently.

Do you think your first book will be published? (I know this is a REALLY rude question to ask someone who is working on their first book ;-)
Absolutely not!  My first book is buried deep in a drawer where it will never see the light of day.  In fact, I should destroy all evidence of it in case I die and someone finds it and publishes it to spite me.  

Are there favorite places in your house where you like to write? Or do you get more work done when you go somewhere else?
 I tend to get more done if I get out of the house.  I like to write at the library, but unfortunately it's not that practical to go there all that often, so I usually write at home.  My desk is in the dining room which is also a major thoroughfare, so I get interrupted a lot.  Except when I write at 5:30am.

So there you have it!  What about you?

Monday, October 22, 2012


I'm one of those annoying people who notices spelling and grammar mistakes everywhere.  My teeth go on edge when I see a sign with a misplaced apostrophe or a blatant spelling error.  Every time I've been to the gym recently I've been confronted by posters someone put up about a lost necklace with great 'centimental' value.  There's no pen in my gym bag, thankfully, so I've been able to resist correcting every one....

So you can imagine my humiliation when I opened the newspaper on Saturday and discovered that in the ad for my cinema, there was a misplaced apostrophe in one of the film titles.

I don't make up the ads, but I do proof them, and I can't believe I didn't see it.  I'm such a stickler about these things.  And then a customer actually talked to me about it too.  Several other cinemas are also showing this film, and apparently everyone had made mistakes in placing the apostrophe on this film title.

You'd better believe that's going to be fixed before any ads go to print this week!

Do spelling or grammar mistakes in public places make you itchy too?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Always the way...

About a week ago I had a short story accepted for publication.  I haven't been sending stories out much in the last year or so because I've been focusing on writing novels instead.  But the theme of this particular journal was a perfect fit for one of my Beach House Stories, so I submitted it.

Yesterday, that same story was requested by another publication I'd sent it to months ago.

Isn't that always the way?  Months and months of rejections or stony silence, then two people want the same piece at the same time!  It's not the first time that's happened to me either.

Ah, well.  At least it's getting published, right?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Too long?

I'm still revising Sidewalks, and based on notes from my CP, today I wrote an entirely new chapter.  This new section is going to need at least another half chapter to bridge to where I need to be, so all up I'm guessing it's going to add another 3-4K to my manuscript.

And it's already around the 85K mark, which is longish for YA, but fairly typical for me.  All my books are around the 85K mark.  I just don't seem capable of writing anything shorter.  I usually have about 65-70K when I finish a first draft, but the revision process always beefs things up.

Is this too long??

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Query help

I'm not ready to start sending Sidewalks out yet, but it's never too early to start working on a kick-ass query.  So while I wait on my readers to finish the MS, I've been trying out query ideas.  And now I need some outside eyes across it.  I know it's not great yet and it needs to be.  So can you help me out?

Dear Agent of my Dreams,

#Insert personal info here and reason for choosing# I thought you might be interested in The Sidewalk's Regrets, my 84 000 word novel.

Seventeen year-old Sacha McLeod has never had time for rock music.  She’s far too busy practicing her violin, always focused on the next competition or workshop on the horizon.  She doesn’t expect a trip to the music store to replace a broken E-string to change her life.  But when she hears the guy playing guitar, something about the music grabs her gut and won’t let go.

She accepts an invitation from the guitarist, Dylan, and goes to see his band play.  The energy, violence and unpredictability of the music thrills her and she falls hard for Dylan and his wild, inventive sound.  

Sacha’s not alone in crushing on the band’s music.  A record label owner sees their live show and offers them the opportunity to move to the city and record.  With stars in their eyes, the band accept.  When her plans for the summer are shattered, Sacha jumps at the opportunity to spend time with Dylan in the city.

She’s expecting an idyllic summer filled with romance, passion and music, but tensions grow as the band, cramped in a filthy basement apartment, with little money and few opportunities to play, sink into depression and self-destructive behavior.   When Sacha finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan’s newly acquired drug habit, she realizes that despite what the songs say, sometimes love isn’t all you need.

How can I make this better?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Observations & questions

I read all the time about how the population is getting fatter and how obesity is becoming epidemic in many first world countries.  But I don't see it much in my every day life.  I'd consider myself a little overweight, but certainly not obese or even fat.  Comfortably plump, maybe?  A little rotund?  Well padded?  Curvy?

Yesterday I took the kids to the water slides, and I was horrified at the number of genuinely fat people I saw.  A lot of them kids and teenagers.  Mainly girls, too.

When I was a kid, there was usually only one fat kid at school; now it seems like a good third of kids are what I would consider chunky at the least.  Is this because of TV and computer games?  Because parents are scared to let their kids run around outside without supervision?  Because kids don't walk or bike to school every day?

I don't have an answer, but I suspect it's a mixture of things.  I know when I was a kid we ran around outside a lot.  We roller skated and biked and jumped rope.  We hurled ourselves off monkey bars and played all kinds of vicious ball-games in the playground.  As long as we were home for dinner, we could play anywhere in the neighborhood.

And we did....

By the creek.  In the construction sites.  Up the back of a newly developed subdivision.  At the school down the road.  And anyone's house who invited us.

Is life more dangerous for kids nowadays, or are we just more aware of the dangers?  We rode bikes without helmets.  We climbed trees.  We skateboarded without any pads or wrist-supports.  Did we hurt ourselves?  Hell, yeah.  Do kids hurt themselves now?  Of course they do.  There's always someone with their arm in a cast or stitches in their chin.  Maybe not so many though.

Kids were abused in my day.  Pedophiles and flashers did their dirty business.  Occasionally a kid would go missing and for a few days that would be front page news.  But after the scare was over, parents relaxed again and kids were allowed to roam free again.

Has the world really got that much worse?  Or are we just more frightened of the things we can't control?  And is this fear making people fat?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reading awesome books

With all this free time I've had this month, I've been reading a lot.  And I've discovered there are two ways I read books I'm really enjoying.

Some books I just never want to stop reading.  Once I pick it up, I want to keep reading until I've finished.  I can't wait to turn each page because I need to know what happens next.  They're quick reads.  Several times this month I've read a book in a day or so.

The other ones I love need to be read more slowly.  They're so awesome I want them to last forever, so I read slowly, dipping in and out so I can savor every word and phrase.  And when the book is finished, I miss it and wish I could read it again the same way.

But of course you can never read a book for the first time again.  And even rereading it won't be the same experience because you already know the book's secrets and surprises.  Which doesn't mean you can't enjoy a book a second time.  I have many books I return to fairly regularly because I love them so much.  They're like my old friends.

As a writer, I want my books to be like the ones I love.  I want people to savor the language and imagery, to be so involved with my characters that they can't bear to put the book down until they've found out what happens to them.

How do you read the books you love?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beta reading

Since I've decided not to start my new book for a couple more weeks, I find I have time on my hands.  And for once, I'm all caught up on beta reading.  So, if anyone wants a fresh set of eyes across their work, I'm free to read.

Just a few things you should know....

If you write fantasy, I'm probably not your girl.  I'm fine with a few magical elements in a story, but if you have elves and magic and wizards, I'm just turned off before I start.  I hate The Hobbit and LOTR and all those stories set in weird mythical worlds.

I'm very honest.  If you're not ready to hear that your story isn't perfect, I'm probably not the right reader for you.  I don't sugar-coat things.

I write gritty, issue driven contemporary YA, so that's my area of expertise.  That said, I regularly beta for a horror writer, romance writers and urban fantasy writers as well as other YA authors.

So, if you're interested, drop me a brief email about your book, and we can head on down this interesting road together.  I usually suggest I do a chapter or two to start with, just to see if my technique gels with you and that you're getting what you need from me.

While I don't expect you to read for me in exchange, if you would like to, I do have an MS that could use a few more eyes.

So who needs a reader?  I think I can probably take on three to get me through to the end of October.

Friday, October 5, 2012

On A Break

After tinkering and making a few false starts on my new book, I've decided to take a break for the month of October and blitz the draft during NaNo next month.  I'm still working through niggly little revisions on Sidewalks, and after finishing two books already this year, I feel like a month off is a good idea.

I have a big film festival starting next week and the kids are off school for two weeks, so not working on something feels like the right decision.  And I've successfully completed NaNo twice before, and know what a huge butt kick it can be.

So, until November 1st I shall blissfully enjoy watching bad television, reading books and making a dent in the pile of DVDs that continually reside on my desk at work.  Not to mention playing with the kids and taking them on outings.

What do you do with your time while you're on a break from writing?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Laughter yoga

Last night a friend of mine asked me to come with her to Laughter Yoga.  I'm not a huge yoga fan.  I'm not that bendy and tend to fall a lot.  I usually end up laughing at my own ineptitude anyway, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

As it turns out, Laughter Yoga has nothing much to do with actual yoga at all.  It's all about laughing.  Apparently the body can't tell the difference between a real laugh and a fake one, so if you force yourself to laugh you get the same endorphins etc.  And to be honest, once you get into a room with ten other people who are laughing, it's kind of contagious.

I really enjoyed myself.  It's not often my face muscles ache after a workout!  And the exercises the tutor put us through were fun, more like theatre-sports or the kind of improv games we used to do at drama school.  Except you laugh all the way through.  At the end, there was a whole ten minutes of laughing for no reason while lying on the floor.  I kept trying to stop myself, thinking it was really silly, but with all those other laughers around me, I couldn't keep the giggles from bubbling up my throat.

Afterward, I felt great.  And for the rest of the night I found myself laughing far more at little things that might usually have only provoked a smirk otherwise.

Have you ever tried Laughter Yoga?  Did you like it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Opening pages

The first pages of your book are important.  The first paragraph, the first line even.  You need to grab the reader by the throat from the get go to make sure they keep reading to the bottom and turn the page.

But you don't need to give away the whole book on the first page.

So many contests out there ask for the first 100-500 words of your manuscript and judge the book on those few words.  And yes, they are important. But I don't believe you have to give away the entire plot or even that much information in the first page.

A reader will be able to tell within a few lines if the writing is good.  Certainly, that's something I look for in an opening page.  If there are spelling or grammar errors, I will probably pass on reading any further.  If the prose is stilted or repetitive, ditto. If I'm dumped in the middle of a huge action scene, with no idea who the heroes and villains are, I'm probably going to put down the book.

So what entices me to read past the opening lines?  To take the book home from the library rather than back onto the shelves?

Voice, for one.  If I like the way the character comes off the page, I'll go with it, regardless of what's going on.  If I'm interested in the situation the character's in, I'll read on.  If I'm intrigued by something I don't fully comprehend, I'll keep going until that curiosity is sated.  And usually by then, I'm captured.

It's very rare that I'll put down a book after a first page.  In fact, usually I'll give it a chapter or two.  I hate to quit reading something and will usually keep going even if I'm not liking it especially.  I've been surprised often enough by books that are boring as hell for 3/4 of their length and then became utterly compelling in that last 100 pages.

Maybe I'm unusual...

How far into a book do you tend to get before putting it down?