Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hanging with a murderer

Last night I sat in a darkened theatre with a convicted murderer.  I even paid for the privilege.  Along with 799 other people.  You'd think that would be scary, but it wasn't because even though this man spent 18 years in prison for the crime, I don't believe he did it.

About 16 years ago I stumbled upon an outstanding documentary, Paradise Lost.  It told the story of three teenage boys in West Memphis who were accused of murdering three seven-year-old kids.  The case brought against them was ridiculous from the start, based primarily on the fact these kids wore black clothes and listened to heavy-metal music.  Obviously they were Satanists and the murders were ritualistic killings.  Yeah, right....

Over the years the original film makers have been back to make two more Paradise Lost documentaries and the West Memphis Three have gained support from people all over the world who believed in their innocence and fought to get them out of prison and off death row.  Late last year, in what has to feel like the worst kind of victory, they were set free. But they had to plead guilty to the crimes they didn't commit under what's known as an Alford plea.

Last night I was honored and privileged to be in a theatre with Damien Echols, the only member of the West Memphis Three to have been sentenced with the death penalty for a screening of the new film about the case, West of Memphis.  Alongside Damien was his wife, Lorrie who has been tireless in her pursuit of justice, and the film's producer, one Peter Jackson.

It was fascinating to hear them all speak, especially Damien because I have followed the case and his story ever since I saw that first documentary and came out feeling utterly outraged by the lack of justice.   It's incredible to see him out of prison, walking about and talking about the experience he's had.  I can't imagine how strange it must be to come from total isolation in jail into the real world again.  Talk about culture shock!

Hmmm...  Maybe I just had an idea for a new book....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

F$@#!^ Cancer

I'm not that old, but all of a sudden, people around me seem to be getting cancer.  Growing up, I always thought it was just old people who got it.  Okay, sure, there were the odd kids here and there who did, but it wasn't the norm.  Was I just perceiving these people with cancer as being much older than they actually were, or are people getting sick younger?

In a way, that second one makes sense.  There are so many new chemicals around that we use daily, so much more pollution.  Who knows what effect these things are having on our bodies?  It's kind of scary!  I already lost one friend to liver cancer a few years back, and he was far too young to die.

And this week one of my best girlfriends was told that her second round of breast surgery didn't get all the cells and she's facing a masectomy.  She's only a few years older than me.  Not even five.  So I'm getting nervous.  My mother had cancer a couple of years back.  Her surgery was successful, thankfully, but clearly there is a pre-disposition to it in my family.  And I haven't lived as cleanly as my mother has.

I'm not sure what my point is here.  I'm just angry, I guess.  And scared for the future.  And unsure what I can do to make things better for the people growing up behind me.  I know medical technology is getting better and better, and a cancer diagnosis isn't necessarily a death sentence.  But it's still one of the biggest killers and it's picking on my friends.  I don't like it!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dialogue and punctuation

I do a lot of beta reading and critiquing for other writers, and there are a number of common mistakes I see ALL the time.  So I thought I might share a few of them with you so you can check to see if you're making them too.  These are writing mistakes, not story mistakes because nothing drags me out of a story faster than poor mechanics.

Dialogue.  Lots of people seem to have little or no understanding as to how to punctuate dialogue.  So here's a rule to add to your book.  If you're using a dialogue tag (said, asked, screamed), you use a comma at the end of the dialogue, close the quotes and continue the sentence.

Eg:  "It's too far to walk," he whined.

If you follow the dialogue with action, you use a full-stop at the end of the dialogue and the action becomes a new sentence.

Eg: "It's too far to walk." He stopped where he was, stamping his foot against the lumpy paving stones.

It works the same way if you want to put the action ahead of the dialogue too.

Eg: He stopped where he was, stamping his foot against the lumpy paving stones. "It's too far to walk."

And if you want to use a dialogue tag before the dialogue, you use a comma before it.

Eg: He stopped where he was and said, "It's too far to walk."

Easy, right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why YA?

I know I've covered this before here, but I think there's always space for a re-visit.  Whenever people ask me what I write, and I answer "YA novels", they look at me weirdly and ask "Why?".

It's a valid question.  I'm a long way from being a teenager, and I wouldn't want to be a teenager again, not for any amount of money.  But I love to write YA.  Why?

There are many reasons.  Those teen years are huge.  They're the years in which you forge your identity.  Maybe it takes a while and you try on different ideologies to see how they fit.  It's when you develop your tastes and codes of ethics.  It's when you figure out where you fit into the world.  That's exciting stuff, but it can also be painful and maddening and that's what makes this such an exciting time to write about.

It's also a time where you feel things in a really intense way.  Often you're experiencing these feelings for the first time.  It can be confusing, overwhelming, terrifying.  Who can forget the first time you fell in love?  Really in love, not just a little crush.  Yeah, scary.  Overwhelming.  And that first break-up?  Arrggh!  Never want to live through that again.

Those teen years are also years in which you make a lot of mistakes.  Bad decisions.  But it's also the time you learn that not all decisions are final, and you can learn from mistakes.  Even the big ones.  In fact, if you live a life without making mistakes, you're probably missing out on some important life-lessons.

With all these elements to play with inside the framework of a story, is it any wonder I love writing YA?  I love watching my characters make the wrong choices and seeing where that leads them, how it forces them to grow and change as people.  I love watching them deal with emotions they don't know how to handle.  While they may go through some tough times, I'm sure that they all grow up to be better people because of it.

Why do you write YA?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview with Nyrae Dawn

I'm thrilled to have the wonderfully talented Nyrae Dawn on my blog today!  This woman is prolific!  This book, Freeing Carter, is the third she's published this year!  And what a great book it is too.  Get yourself a copy as soon as you can.

Hi Nyrae, and welcome to Fiction and Film.
Thank you so much for having me!

Let's talk about Freeing Carter. It's the third book I've read of yours where you've written from a male POV (and very well, I might add). As a girl, what's the appeal of writing boys?

I think we all want to try to figure out what's going on in a guy's head. It's fun. Plus, I think it's a little different. It's fun to experience things from the other side of the tracks. 
Were you a tomboy at school? Did you hang out more with boys than girls?

I wouldn't say I was a real tomboy, but I definitely had more guy friends than girls. I was that girl who was the "friend" so I heard and saw a lot where my guy friends were concerned. LOL.

Kira is a really interesting character, the way she changes her look on an almost daily basis. Is she experimenting with personas? Trying to find the one that feels right? I think most teenagers could identify with that.
I think so. Like Carter, she's trying to figure out who she is and that's part of it. It also fits her though. She's that wild, carefree kind of girl.
Carter's problems in this book are much bigger than a lot of the problems facing teens in YA novels. What drew you to write about these things?
That is a hard question for me. I think a lot more teens are dealing with this kind of situation than we realize. I also feel like most books dealing with alcoholism, the alcoholic is always the "villain". They're abusive, physically or verbally. Don't hold down jobs or are mean. I wanted to show that it can be anyone. There are functioning alcoholics out there who by be good parents who love their kids, but they still have a problem. That you never know what is going on someone's life.
Friendship seems to be an ongoing theme in your books and all your characters have amazing friends supporting them. Is friendship something very important to you?

YES! I feel like in SO many YA books there are not strong friendships. The characters are loners, picked on, or spend time with people who aren't true friends. I want to show the other side of that. I had some amazing friendships in high school. I don't know what I would have done without them. Now, I know it's not always like that and my upcoming book the main character doesn't have good friends, but I like to show both. I really love writing strong friendships. 

And finally, I couldn't let you visit my blog without asking what your favorite film of all time is.

I don't know if I can say for sure. I'm an romance addict and do love movies like Titanic. LOL. But I also really enjoy old gangster movies like Goodfellas and Casino.
Thanks so much for taking the time to visit!

Thank you so much for having me! It was fun.

If you haven't already, check out Nyrae's other books, What a Boy Wants and What a Boy Needs.  I promise you won't regret it!
      Nyrae Dawn

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Progress report

In the interests of keeping myself both motivated and accountable, I'll post weekly progress reports as I revise.  In the last week, I've revised 8 chapters.  It hasn't been hard so far.  The early part of the book was easy to write, and apart from tweaking language and trying to make a secondary character more likable, I haven't had to make any huge changes.

It's going to get harder though.  Once I get through the next couple of chapters, things get messier and I know I will be slashing things out and rewriting like a fiend.  So I don't expect to get through more than  three or four chapters this week.  Especially since I'm working a lot, and have several events and functions I need to go to.  

I'm not going to get stressed about it.  It's not like I have a deadline on this or anything.  I want to be finished with it by November, but if I'm not, well, I'm not going to kill myself over it.  I'd rather have a really good book.

What's your writing week been like?  Do you have big plans?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why did you like them?

I went to a screening last night.  That's not unusual, but what was, was that in the audience, in this very small theatre, were three of my ex-boyfriends.  Weird.  Well, maybe not so weird.  I've worked in the film industry for more than 20 years now, and was on the fringes for several years before I got my first paying cinema job,  so I suppose it only makes sense that the people I met and went out with were also in the industry.

But you know how it is when you see someone you went out with a long time ago again, and you look at them and go 'why?  What the hell did I see in him?'  Yeah, I had a little of that last night.

But then there's one guy (who was there last night too) and every time I see him again (which isn't often because he doesn't live in the same city as me) I remember exactly why I went out with him, why I liked him.  And it's funny, because the traits I like in him are the same traits I like in my current partner (of 15 years and 2 kids).

I guess I have a type....  Who'd have thought?

Have you ever re-met someone you went out with and remembered exactly why you loved them?

Monday, July 16, 2012


I've only just started revising Sidewalks, but already my mind is fishing around, searching for ideas for the next book.  But there's nothing grabbing me.  Maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe it's my brain telling me I haven't finished Sidewalks yet, and that I need to focus on that, not get distracted by something new and shiny.

Usually I'm full of inspiration and story ideas.  They pop up at the most inopportune times, tearing my attention away from whatever I'm supposed to be working on at the time.  But right now, nothing's interesting me enough to want to spend 9 months or so on.  I have a couple of half-finished projects gathering dust on my hard-drive, but neither of the them feels like the right story to tell.

So I guess I wait.  I revise.  And I'm sure a new idea will come.  They always do.  And the Film Festival is coming up.  I almost always find inspiration in movies.  The spark for Sidewalks came from a single line in a documentary I saw back in April.

So while I'm fishing, I'm not counting on catching anything to keep me fed.  That's the best way to ave fun with it, right?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

And we're off!

Yup.  I started revising Sidewalks last night.  I spent the second part of last week outlining the way I thought the story needs to go, and last night I dove in a worked my way through chapter one.  It wasn't so bad.  The early part of the book isn't.  It's at about the halfway point things get funky and I'm going to have a lot of untangling to do.

So this morning I re-read my revised first chapter, and with much trepidation, posted it for my critique group to gnaw on.  I've never been so nervous about letting my work out in the open!  I feel like this book is my ugly baby and I've just taken it out in public for the first time.  A couple of my CPs have already said they're going to read it tomorrow, so I'm just white knuckling my way through until then...

It's weird because I've never felt this way before.  I'm usually champing at the bit to get my work in front of fresh eyes because I know how awesome my CPs are at finding the mistakes and flaws in it and offering solutions and fixes for them.  But this book is probably closer to my heart than anything I've ever written before.  Not that I haven't loved my other projects - I have.  But this one's kind of special.

Have you ever had one project you've been terrified to show people?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

King of Devil's Island

I don't often post film reviews here, but this film is so extraordinary wanted to share it with you.  It probably won't be playing at a theatre near you, but see if you can find it on DVD because it's awesome.  Probably the best film I've seen so far this year.


Norway, 2010
Running Length: 116 minutes
Cast: Benjamin Helstad, Stellan Skarsgard, Trond Nilssen, Kristoffer Joner
Director:  Harius Holst
Screenplay: Dennis Magnusson
Cinematography: John Andreas Andersen

Based on the true story of a rebellion in a boys’ borstal on a Norwegian island, this is a striking and unusual film.

Director Holst uses the island location to great advantage, showing the young prisoners as being both trapped and free to roam.  The ocean surrounding the island cuts them off from the rest of the world and is as effective as bars for keeping the detainees detained.

The crimes that have landed the boys here are not huge.  One boy has been incarcerated for six years for stealing from the church collection plate.  You get the sense that in many cases the boys have been sent away because they were difficult rather than criminal.

But when Erling arrives on the island, the dynamic of the prison changes.  Erling is a real criminal and coming to Bostoy is the only thing keeping him from prison.  A former sailor on a whaling ship, Erling has a powerful physiology and refuses act or feel like a prisoner.

Time and time again he pushes against those who detain him, and refuses to be broken by even the most brutal punishments.  His polar opposite is Olav, the boy accused of stealing from the collection plate.  Olav is about to be released and has the role of leader in the overcrowded boys’ dorm.  Olav is tasked with getting Erling settled into the routine of the prison and soon finds himself enmeshed in a strange kind of friendship.

Small indignities add up, and when one of the housefathers is revealed to be fiddling with a young boy, Olav’s repressed anger surges to the surface and rebellion is unleashed, the power shifting from the guards to the prisoners.

The cinematography is gorgeous, capturing the starkness of the buildings and the surrounding landscape.  Shots of the sea crashing in on snow-coated beaches are particularly gorgeous.  While the adult characters are not given much in the way of character development outside being brutal authority figures, the boys are all too human.  They fit the roles perfectly and it is their performances that make this a compelling, exciting and tragic viewing experience.  If the final scene doesn’t break your heart, then your heart is as cold as the ice Olav and Erling struggle to cross.

If you've seen it, what did you think?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Caught in the Act

When I'm stuck on novel projects, or just in between them, I like to dabble in short fiction.  Then, to tighten things up even more, flash fiction which is usually stories under 1000 words.  Sometimes though, to make things really concise, I challenge myself to write stories in 500 words or less.  That makes every word count in a way they don't have to in a longer work.

So here's one of these super short stories.  Enjoy!

By Kate Larkindale

The clouds above the city are blushing.  Streaks of yellow gold pierce them as the sun peeps over the horizon.  I sit by the window in the pre-dawn silence, watching, waiting.

At exactly 6:03am the light flicks on in the apartment across from my own, a single square of brightness in the otherwise dark building.  A figure crosses to the window, yawing as she peers out at the street six floors below.  I hold my breath, wondering as I do each and every morning if she can see me.  Wondering if she knows I’m there.

She pulls her short white nightgown over her head, letting it drift to the floor.   Her body is lean, breasts small but perfect.   A small tattoo – too small for me to see properly – adorns the golden skin above the left one.  Something delicate, I imagine; a bird or butterfly, perhaps.

She turns, running long fingers through her mass of dark curls, lifting the hair from her neck then letting it fall back to cascade over her shoulders once more.   She picks up her brush from the low table and runs it through her hair, slow and gentle to begin with, the strokes growing quicker and more savage as she continues.  I count under my breath, knowing she’ll brush exactly one hundred times.

She sets the brush down and crosses out of sight.  A moment later she is back, sliding into her ugly pink uniform, contorting herself as she jerks the zip on the side to the top.  She smoothes the cheap fabric over her hips, tugging the short skirt down over narrow thighs.

Sitting on the end of the rumpled bed, she pulls on pantyhose, inserting each leg languidly into the rolled-up nylon, taking care that her toe-nails don’t snag.  She leans back, points her toes and inspects each leg for flaws before rising and inserting her feet into the white shoes that await, lined up like soldiers by the bed.

A quick check in the mirror and she’s gone, the light snapping off abruptly, plunging her room into darkness once more.  I think, for a moment, I see her shape in the window, staring back into my own.  I shrink back, momentarily ashamed.  Caught in the act.  Branded a voyeur.

My breath is just returning to normal when I’m startled by an unfamiliar sound: the ringing doorbell.

Friday, July 6, 2012

What now?

It's been a week now since I finished the first draft of Sidewalks, and it hasn't been far from my mind.  I've done a read through of the entire manuscript and was pleasantly surprised to discover it isn't quite the mess I thought it was.  There's some pacing issues, and my MC's character arc isn't quite as satisfying as I'd like it to be, but overall I enjoyed reading it.

Which is actually pretty unusual...

So what now?

I was going to leave it for a few more weeks before jumping into revisions, but I'm kind of bursting with ideas for them and want to get started.  I know I should leave it longer to marinate, and I will at least until I manage to catch up on all the beta reading I've promised people.  But then I will start the revision process.

First up, an outline.  Because I'm a total pantser when I write first drafts, I don't have one already.  So the first part of revising is to draw up a fairly detailed chapter by chapter outline.  This helps me see where the pacing is off and whether all the major plot points occur at the right times.  it also helps me to see the character arcs and to make sure they are paced appropriately.

Once I have an outline I'm happy with, I can get down to the nitty gritty and revise each chapter so it fits the outline and the story plays out the way I want it to.  Then we get into the more detailed editing where I iron out stylistic wrinkles like overused words and images and make sure the prose sings the way I like it to.

The it's off to the critique group where I'm sure I will be given excellent suggestions on how to make it even better.

But for now, even though I'm itching to get started, I'm going to ignore that little voice in my head and get on with reading for other people.

What's your revision process like?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Since it's the Fourth of July, I thought I should share my story, FIREWORKS which was first published in Halfway Down the Stairs.

Hope you enjoy it!

And have a great Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Boys are different

I'm really loathe to admit this, because I firmly believe that people are people and we're all pretty much the same.  But having two sons, and watching them interact with other kids has lead me to the conclusion boys are different to girls.  Even as very small children.

My kids are off school for two weeks and because (miracle of miracles) I don't have any festivals or major events at work this week, I decided to take this week off to spend with them.  Since the weather forecast is crap for the rest of the week, I decided yesterday was our 'outdoor activity' day.  I had one of my eldest's friends to take care of too, so we trekked off to the Botanic Gardens.  It's nice to walk around and look at plants and there's a really good playground there.  So we climbed the gargantuan hill to the playground and the boys ran off in every direction.

It wasn't long before they gravitated toward another group of boys who were playing tag.  No one ever asked or invited the others to join in, but soon all these boys were playing freeze tag together.  No one asked each others name, or age or anything.  They just ran and tagged.  Other boys joined in.  Soon there were about 9 or 10 kids all playing, all calling each other 'hey you!'.

If this had been a group of girls, they all would have exchanged names at least before or during playing, and I'm pretty sure invitations to join the group would have to have been issued before anyone was allowed to join in.

Afterward, when I asked my boys who the kids were they were playing with, they just shrugged and said 'just some kids.'  They played for over an hour together...  Different.

Have you ever noticed the ways boys are different to girls?