Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zealot

After much hand wringing and hair-pulling, I managed to find the way into the book I'm trying to write.

Of course it was through writing in the POV of the character I least wanted to write because she's about as far away from me as any character I've ever written before.

She's a religious zealot.

I'm not religious at all.

So to make this story work, I'm going to need to think like someone who believes wholly that the path her religion is taking her down is the right one.  She has to argue against ideas and beliefs I personally believe strongly in.

It's going to be an interesting ride…

But because I've tried several other POVs and failed to get where I wanted to, I know this zealot's voice is the one the story is demanding to be told in.  Her's is the only one that felt natural and easy for me.

So if I act a little erratically or out of character the next few weeks, it's just because I'm living with a zealot in my head…

Do you ever find that you have to write characters who oppose everything you stand for?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for Year

With the A-Z winding down, it means April is almost over.  Where has this year gone?  It feels like it should be about mid-February, yet we're grinding toward the middle of the year already.

I feel like I've achieved virtually none of the things I've planned for the year, so if I'm going to get them done, I need to get my ass into gear and start working.  Or it will be a new year and I still won't have done them.

It feels like years go bay much quicker now than they did when I was younger.  Is that because a year becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of your life as each one goes by?  I'm sure it felt like decades between Christmases when I was a child, but now it seems like the stores have Santa in the window every five minutes.

And birthdays seem to come by with alarming regularity.  I'm sure I just ignored one, yet another is looming ahead of me and people have already started asking what I'd like to do for it.  Another birthday?  Um…. Ignore it?  If you don't celebrate it, then you're not a year older, right?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for Xavier

I love the name Xavier.  Partly it's because it starts with an X and so few names do.  In fact, Xanthe for a girl is the only other one I can think of, and I don't like that name much.

I wanted to name one of my sons Xavier (or Quincy), but we ended up choosing Orson instead.

Xavier is widely thought to have come from an ancient Spanish word for 'savior', but in reality it's a Basque name - one of the few native Basque names - and comes from the Basque word meaning 'new house'.

The most famous person with the name Xavier would have to be Saint Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest who was in fact of Basque origin.

Historically it's been a popular name in France, Spain and Portugal, but in recent times it has grown in popularity in English-speaking countries.  In fact, my son is going to a birthday party tomorrow for a friend of his called Xavier.

Do you know any Xaviers?  Xanthes?

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for Writing (and Wringing my hands)

Anyone who has read this blog before will know that I am a writer.  Or at least, I try to be a writer.  Being a writer requires me to write, and actually doing that part has been a struggle this year.

Partly it's been revising which is an important part of writing.  But revising isn't what I love doing.  It's a thing I have to do to make my writing work the way I want it to do.  Revising is like renovations where writing is building a house.

But right now, I wish I was revising again.  I haven't found the right way into this new story yet, so I'm writing a lot of words I know I'll end up throwing away.  But for me, that's how it starts with some projects.  I have to write a bunch of beginnings to find the way into the story.

Other stories feel like they've already been written and just fall out of my brain onto the page.  I love those ones.  They need revising too - often a lot of revising - but it doesn't take me time to get into the story I want to tell.

But I can't not write.  I've tried and the stories keep coming and bombarding my brain and then I eventually have to get myself in front of my computer and let the words come out.  Sometimes they're good words, and sometimes they're not.  The book I started last week is my 12th.  There are a lot of abandoned novels lurking in my hard-drive, some finished, some only a few thousand words in.  I have to hope that one day I'll have the energy and drive to resurrect some of those stories, because when I wrote them, I loved them enough to spend that time getting them on paper.

Then again.  There's probably a reason why I abandoned them...

Do you write?  Do you struggle with it?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for Vegetarian

When I was twelve years old, I decided to be a vegetarian.  My mother was not thrilled and told me that if I was going to eat differently than the rest of the family, I had to cook for myself.

So I did.

I had always enjoyed cooking, so it wasn't a huge chore except on the days I got home late after activities and then had to think about what to eat.  And my mother was always harping on about protein and a balanced diet.  Of course she was right to do that, but at the time it was a huge pain in the a**.

I was never a vegetarian for ethical reasons (although of course I understand them), but because I never really liked meat.

I remained a vegetarian for eleven years.  Then I started working as a chef and had the opportunity to taste really beautiful cuts of meat, cooked perfectly.  Little by little I started eating meat again.

Then I met my partner who is a vegetarian and we moved in together.

So now I have a happy balance.  I eat vegetarian at home, but if I go out and want to eat a big hunk of rare beef filet, I do that too.  And I think I'm probably much healthier for it too.

Are you a vegetarian?  A vegan?

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for Underperformance

I started a new book this week.  In my head, it sounds really cool and I had a really interesting way I wanted to tell the story.

But when faced with a blank screen, the words didn't come as easily as I'd hoped.  The structure I thought I wanted to use doesn't seem to be working as well as it did in my imagination.

I thought writing each section of the book in two weeks was achievable, but unless the words start flowing much more smoothly in the next day or so, that just isn't going to happen.

I'm under-performing.  My expectations were much higher than what I find I'm capable of.

And I don't know why.

Maybe it's the structure I chose.  I tried a different approach last night, cutting in a chapter from the POV of one of the other characters in the hope that might help.  It did a little, but I'm still not certain I'm heading in the right direction.

I've thought about tightening the timeline so each character only gets a day or two of the story to cover, but I'm not sure that's going to work either.  I even got desperate and tried to outline a little bit, but that never works for me.  I just ended up getting more discouraged.

I know I'll find a way into this story.  But I doubt I'm going to finish the first 15K by May 1st which is what I had planned to do.

How do you deal with your own underperforming?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Talent

Talent is a tricky thing.  It's something you're born with,  but unless you work at whatever it is you're talented at, it's not worth anything.

Can you imagine a dancer with innate talent being able to perform Swan Lake without a lick of training?  No.  A runner being able to run a marathon without training?  No.

So talent is only a small part of being a success.

And talent can be a burden.  Once it has been identified, other people suddenly expect something from you.  There is a reason why so many great talents throughout history have crashed and burned, died young or gone mad.  Living up to your talent is not always easy.

And what if you actually hate doing the thing you're talented at?  The pressure to keep doing it, to make yourself a success must be huge.  But if doing it makes you unhappy, it must be so hard to get up each day, knowing everyone around you has this high expectation of what you're going to achieve doing this one thing.

Makes me glad I'm not really talented at anything…  How about you?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Spin

I never thought I'd be a gym person.  The few times I went to gyms when I was younger, the relentlessly perky, uber-cheerful instructors really got on my nerves.  So it was with great trepidation that I agreed to join a new gym near our house a few years back.

But once I started doing classes, I realized not all gym instructors are as awful as the ones I came across as a student.  In fact, I've even become good friends with a few of the trainers at my gym now.

These days I mainly do spin classes.  I really enjoyed doing weights, but my new job means none of the weights classes are at times I can go, and because I'm sitting most of the day, I feel like doing cardio is probably more important anyway.

If you've never done spin, it's a cycling class.  Over an hour, you work through a series of different 'terrains' on the bike by turning resistance on the wheel up and down.  It's a great workout and I always come out dripping with sweat.  I like that it's entirely in my hands how hard I work.  If I haven't been all week and am feeling tired, I can keep the resistance lighter than if I'm feeling in peak form. And doing it with a group of people keeps you going far longer than if you were working out alone.

Have you ever done a spin class?  Did you enjoy it?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Reading

What else could R be for?  I love to read.  I learned how when I was three and I haven't stopped.  I probably read three or four books every week, but I still never make it through half what I want to read.  Just check out my books on Goodreads if you don't believe me!

My oldest son loves to read as much as me.  Almost every time I want him to do anything, I'll find I'm on his bunk bed, earbuds in, book in hand.  He's 10, but he seems more like a teenager every day.

My youngest, on the other hand, isn't a great reader.  It's really only this year, when he's almost 8, that he's even started picking up books to read alone.  And I have to really push him to do that.  It worries me because I can't imagine a world without reading.

Reading takes you to other worlds.  It's entertaining.  It's educational.  It's informative.  I can't imagine my commute to work without reading, or flights to other cities or countries.  I read in the bath before bed each night and it's so much a part of my nightly routine, I doubt I'd be able to sleep without that forty minutes with my book each night.  I read while I drink my coffee in the morning.  And in any other little pockets of time I might find myself with during the day.

While I'll always be loyal to paper books, I love having an e-reader on my phone.  It means even when I'm going out to a gig or to the theatre or to a fancy party, I always have a book to read on the way or way home.  I think one of my biggest fears must be being stuck somewhere without something to read….

Do you get panicky when you're out and about and finish a book?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Q is for Quiet

Quiet isn't something I get a lot of.  I have two sons and they make a lot of noise.  My partner is a sound engineer and is often making a lot of noise.  I work in an open plan office so there is usually quite a bit of noise there too.

And I need quiet to write.  I'm not someone who writes with music or the TV on.  I need to fall into the world of my story and live in it and if there is a lot of talking or background noise, I find it hard to do that.  So I end up writing early in the morning because everyone else is still asleep and it's the only time I get the quiet I need.

And I'm not a morning person.  Not by a long shot. I've always felt that I really wake up around 4pm…  So getting up at 5:30 every morning for the quiet is not an easy feat.

How do you find the quiet you need?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for Panic

Yes, that feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you haven't written an A - Z post for that day….

I am enjoying doing this totally random, pantsing it thing for the A-Z this year, but when I'm in another city, without a laptop and in a hotel with a rather wonky internet connection, it is something of a challenge.

So yes, I was up at 3am writing a panicked post on my phone in a hotel room last week.

And there was another crazed moment when I realized I'd missed a letter somehow and forgotten the O post.

Have you had any panicked, last minute posts in this year's A - Z?

Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Out takes

Sometimes at the end of movies, during the credits, scenes that were cut out of the movie are shown.  Often it's scenes where the actors made a mistake, or couldn't get through the scene without laughing, but occasionally it's a scene that got left on the cutting room floor.

On DVDs, often the 'extras' include out takes or deleted scenes, sometimes even whole characters that didn't make it into the finished film (I'm working on a film at the moment where a character has disappeared completely between the first cut I saw and now, and there is another one who has been in and out of the film more often than I can count).

Books are the same.  I have whole folders of deleted scenes.  I have characters who have gone from being boys to girls or been written out of the story all together.  In my first draft of An Unstill Life, Livvie and Jules had an older brother, and several of the things that ended up being Livvie's experiences were initially his.

I managed to recycle this character, with a few tweaks, for my next book, and often scenes I cut out are able to be used somewhere else, in another story.  But I think there are still a lot of word graveyards lurking in the depths of my hard drives.

Do you re-use your outtakes or let them lie where they fall?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Nightmares

I don't often have nightmares, but when I do, they're never really about anything scary.  Yet something about the ambiance, or the emotion of the dreams leave me feeling rattled.  And when I have one of these scary dreams, I rarely forget them.

I can still remember one I had when I was 5 or 6.  It was about the Pink Panther following me around the swimming pool where I had swimming lessons.  Now, there's nothing scary about the Pink Panther, or the pool (I loved my swimming lessons) yet I can still remember how terrified that dream made me feel.

A few years later I had another one about a guy pumping rainbow-colored foam out of the side of the classroom my mother taught in.  Again, nothing scary about it on the surface, yet for some reason, terrifying.

Now my nightmares always seem to be work-related and they're more stressful that terrifying.  I'm usually trying to get somewhere urgently, but for whatever reason, the place I'm going has changed so getting to wherever I need to be is impossible.  Or people stop me to ask silly questions which don't take long to answer, but add up to making me later and later to whatever appointment I'm supposed to be getting to.

Occasionally I dream about the kids.  I remember a particularly vivid nightmare where I was getting off the bus with my eldest son, while my youngest was still in a push-chair.  As I made sure my eldest was safe on the sidewalk, the bus pulled away with my baby still inside in his push-chair.  And everything in the world conspired against me catching up with that bus to get him back…

Do you have nightmares?  Do you remember them?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Melbourne

I lived in Melbourne for five years and I loved it. It's a fantastic city in that it's big and busy and a real city, but still manages to be relatively friendly and artistic.  I still have a lot of friends there, and I miss the place a lot.

When we first arrived, we stayed with friends in St. Kilda which is a beach-side suburb about a half-hour tram ride from the CBD.  We wanted to stay near these friends, so ended up renting a place in nearby Caulfield.  Caulfield is part of Melbourne's Jewish area and the best place to get authentic bagels and other Jewish delicacies.

Unfortunately, even though I interviewed for a job running a cinema in a nearby suburb, I didn't get it, and the job I did get was in Carlton, on the other side of the city.  So I had a long commute.  45 minutes each way on the tram every day (or night when I did night shifts).  I got a lot of reading done on those tram rides…

When our lease was up for renewal, we decided it was time to move.  We'd been living with another couple and they broke up around the same time the lease expired, so my partner and I decided it made more sense to go and find a place of our own, preferably closer to my work.  After looking at a handful of different houses, we found a place in Flemmington.

Flemmington is where the Melbourne Cup racecourse is.  We lived on the other side of the tracks from the track, but it was still a nice area.  And close enough to work that I could walk if I wanted to.  It was also close to a very good friend of mine and we soon got into a routine of swimming and breakfast at a local cafe.

My oldest son was born in Melbourne, and that alone would be a reason to love the place.  But there are so many more reasons.  I love the little alleyways and boutiques tucked away along them.  I love the cafes and restaurants and how different suburbs have different ethnic groups associated with them.  Where I worked, on Lygon Street, it was the Italian section and that's where you go for Italian food.  If you want Vietnamese, you go to Richmond, and if you want bagels you go to Caulfield.

There were things I didn't like about Melbourne, too, but I won't go into them here because over all, the good by far out-weighed the bad.

Have you ever been to Melbourne?  Did you love it?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Lies He Told Me

When Chloe Bowman woke to find her husband gone, never did she imagine it would take so long to find him, or that in the midst of the search she'd discover she didn't really know this man at all. She soon realizes she has been left alone with her young son and a time bomb on her hands. Then the earthquake throws everything into question. Lurking in the shadows is the mysterious Rainman who travels under an unknown name. 

Police Detective Ross Cullen was already investigating Chloe's husband when he disappeared. Although he's powerfully drawn to Chloe, Ross also knows that when one member of a family disappears, the first place to look for the suspect is among those closest to him. No one is closer than Chloe. 

But the deeper Ross digs the less he knows, and the more he's attracted to the young wife as she struggles to put her life back together. Can Ross break through the Rainman's disguises to solve the case so he can be with Chloe?

I was sent a copy of this book by the author so I could review it.  I don't usually post reviews on this blog, but because it was a request, I will.  Just don't expect a whole lot of reviews here.  I usually just comment on things I absolutely love!

And I'll start off by saying, I didn't absolutely love this book.  Neither did I hate it.

There were parts where I was wholly engaged and reading quickly, eager to see what would happen next.  But those parts seemed to take a while to get to.

This is a book that is screaming for a good editor.  The story is all there.  The characters are there.  But because there are sections where nothing in the plot is really moving, there needs to be more character development.  For instance, I never understood why Ross was so taken with Chloe in the first place.  It seems to be because she's beautiful and that's not a good enough reason for me. Especially since Chloe was not a strong character in her own right.  She grew into being stronger, but only with a lot of help from friends, family and neighbors.

And there were too many characters.  Chloe takes in borders, so there are those characters.  She has a large family who all live nearby.  She has a neighbor with her own extended family.  Ross has a partner and a superintendent and a family of his own.  The bad guy has his own entanglements and relationships and to complicate things further, he and his cronies all use a variety of aliases.  So it is easy to get tangled up and forget who is who between chapters and pages.  Especially when a number of the characters didn't really serve any purpose in the book.  I kept waiting for there to be some big reveal about Janine being involved with Rainman or something, but no…. never happened.

The crimes committed here are interesting though.  I waded through the domestic detail and the rather plodding romance just because I was interested in what might be going on, what had actually happened to Chloe's husband.  My favorite sections in the book were the ones following the bad guy, Rainman.  His crimes, for the most part, weren't big, but that was what was interesting about them.  They were the small crimes that your next door neighbor might be committing.

So while this isn't a book I'd rave about to anyone, it's not such a bad way to while away a long commute or plane ride.

Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Kate

Yes, K is for Kate, which is my name.  So I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce myself to those visitors who are not regulars to this blog.

Hello! Welcome!

Well, I'm Kate.  I'm a writer, although unfortunately not a full-time writer (yet).  I have a day job in the film business, which means it often turns into a night job as well….  But I love it.  I was a cinema manager for 23 years and have recently moved into a new role in marketing at the New Zealand Film Commission.

So yes, I live in New Zealand at the moment.  I haven't always.  I've lived in Austria, Germany, the UK, the US, Samoa and Tokelau, China and Australia.  I like to travel…  My dad was a diplomat so we moved all the time when I was a kid, and the habit seems to have stuck with me.  That said, I have been in New Zealand for almost 10 years now.  Nothing like kids to keep the travel bug under control.

I have two sons, one partner and a part-time cat I share with most of the neighborhood (but I swear he likes our house best).

I love live music, red wine, bitter chocolate, obscure movies and books that make me cry.  I drink my coffee strong and black.  As an ex-chef, I love to cook and eat delicious food, but don't have as much time for it as I'd like.

Your turn…  Tell me something about you.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for Jumprope

Walking past the kids' school the other day, I realized that in none of the six years my oldest has been there, has jumprope (or skipping as they call it here) been a thing.

When I was growing up, playground activities seemed to cycle around.  I could be wrong of course; I did go to about seven different schools in seven different countries.  But I'm pretty sure I'm not.

For a period of time, jumprope would be the in thing.  Then maybe it would be Dodgeball or Bullrush. A month or so later, that would become unpopular again and maybe elastics would be the big lunchtime game.

But somehow, it always seemed to cycle back to jumprope.  I remember long tournaments where multiple people would run in and out of the spinning ropes.  I remember learning the coordination needed to turn the ropes for double-dutch, and the rhythm to skip it.  There were hundreds of different rhymes to scream out s you jumped, and rules for getting in and out of the jump-zone.

Jumprope was fun and I'm sure were all fitter as a result of doing it.

I wonder why kids don't still do it….  Or is it just my kids' school?  Do your kids still jumprope?

Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for Ideas

As a writer, one of the thing I get asked the most is where do I get my ideas.  And it's not always an easy question to answer.

Ideas for stories pop into my head all the time.  Sometimes it's a newspaper article that sparks something, sometimes a movie or television documentary.  Other times it's a song.  I have one book that sprang entirely from a single comment someone made in a documentary.  And oddly, when I went back and re-watched it after writing the book, I couldn't figure out what it was that had affected me so deeply.

The thing with ideas though, is that they need to be more than just a spark.  Once that spark has been set, I need to think about it for quite a while, trying to figure out if it's a big enough story to make a book.  Often they're not and the spark fizzles out.  Sometimes it's only once I get a second germ of an idea that a single spark comes alight.  Which is what happened for An Unstill Life (which began its life called The Boyfriend Plague).  It was an okay story as it was, but once I read an article about a school that wouldn't allow same sex couples at school dances, I had an idea how to make it even better.

Often ideas get changed and twisted so much in the actual writing of the book, it's difficult to see where the starting point may have been.  But as long as the story winds up being satisfying, I don't think it matters what sparked the initial idea.

Where do you get your ideas?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

H is for Haloumi

Haloumi is a Greek cheese I discovered a few years ago.  It's also totally delicious and has fast become one of my favorite foods.

Haloumi is usually served grilled, but it can be cooked in a pan or on the barbecue just as easily.  The outside gets a wonderful crust on it, and the inside becomes soft, but not runny.  It has a slightly strange squeaky texture between your teeth when you eat it.

One of my favorite things to do with Haloumi (other than just grilling up a slab and eating it on pita bread) is to use it in fritters.  I grate or finely chop whatever left-over vegetables I have in the fridge (carrots, zucchini, potatoes, peppers, beans, peas - whatever) and throw them in a bowl with a couple of spoonfuls of flour and a couple of eggs.  Once I've stirred that into a thick batter, I chuck a few chunks of chopped Haloumi into the mix, maybe a few sliced olives and whatever herbs I have on hand.  Then I just have to drop spoonfuls of batter into a pan, flatten with a spatula and wait until they're cooked.  A delicious way to use up leftovers or make a quick meal with whatever you have in the house.

Haloumi is also great in salads and can be used instead of a patty in vegetarian burgers.  It's yummy in sandwiches too, especially with some tangy hummus and fresh tomatoes.  Mmmm…. I'm getting hungry now!

Do you like Haloumi?  If you haven't tried it, are you tempted now?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

G is for Glass

One thing I've always wanted to do, but never tried, is working with glass.  I've been to watch glass blowers create their masterpieces a number of times, and every time, I want to learn how to do it.

I know I would probably get frustrated by it.  I'm not a particularly great crafter although I have tried a lot of different things.  Over the years I've done a lot of jewelry making, starting with beads and moving into precious metal casting and basic jewelry techniques.  I'd love to learn to work with glass so I could incorporate my own beads or other glass objects into jewelry.

I love the transparency of glass and the way it can be colored subtly or vibrantly, made opaque or clear.  There is such diversity of objects that can be made with glass.  Not just vases and drinking vessels, but windows and sculptures and in numerous other things.  I have beautiful stained glass panels in my living room windows and I'd love to be able to make my own for other rooms in the house.  I love the way the sunlight beams those colors on the opposite wall when the sun is in the right position.

Have you ever thought about working with glass?  Or had any other dream hobby you've never attempted?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

F is for Failure

The last few weeks I've been working on writing our company's new gender policy and as such, I've been doing a lot of reading about gender equality and initiatives similar businesses have made to address the under-representation of women in some areas of the film industry.

One of the more interesting things I came across was an article about how women deal differently with failure and self-expectation than men.  Women generally won't apply for jobs unless they feel they're 100% qualified or fit all the criteria asked for.  Men assume they can do it and apply anyway.  Women rarely ask for pay rises, and when they do, they ask for far less than men do.  Women often won't attempt a task unless they're certain they can do it.

Does this mean women set themselves up to fail?  Or are they just more cautious?  Is it because girls are told as children that being 'good' is more important than challenging themselves?

I don't have any answers.  But I found the statistics about failure interesting.  My sister doesn't deal with failure at all.  She failed one test back when she was about nine and hated it so much, she basically resolved never to fail again.  I feel like all her decisions from there on were based on whether she'd fail. She chose a sport very few people do so she could be among the best at it (she was).  She chose subjects at school she knew she would excel at.

I've never had a problem with failure.  I don't like it, of course.  Who does?  But I recognize that often you learn as much from failing as you do from being successful.  And being able to deal with failure means you're more likely to challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone.  And putting your heart and soul into a manuscript and then sending it off for a bunch of strangers to read and reject is definitely a challenge.

So while I wrote six or seven novels and queried them without success, I don't consider any of those books a failure.  An embarrassment in some cases, maybe, but never a failure…

How do you deal with failure?

Monday, April 6, 2015

E is for Exposure

The only way a writer can sell books or stories is by letting people know they are out there and available. But with so many books and stories published every day, getting your small voice heard is not an easy feat.

When my first novel was published, I did everything I could to get it exposure.  I did blog tours, got magnets and bookmarks printed, did interviews on blogs and on radio and everything else I could possibly think of.  I spent hours searching for sites that might review the book and sent off thousands of emails.  The amount of time I spent on trying to get exposure was probably more than I would have spent on writing a new book.

And I still didn't sell very many books.

I don't have a ton of answers.  I know from my day job that word of mouth is the best way to get people to buy your product, but how do you get word of mouth if no one knows the book is out there and no one is reading it to give it the word of mouth it needs?

I'm going to do a small experiment here…  My good friend L. X. Cain just published a short story which is deliciously gruesome and full of twists and surprises.  It's the perfect thing for a short bus or train trip and only costs .99c.

If you go out and buy this creepy little zombie story because you heard about it here, and you enjoy it, let someone else know about it.  Let's see if good word of mouth really does increase sales and generate the kind of exposure you need.

How do you get exposure for your work?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

D is for Deadlines

I love deadlines.  I need them.  A deadline creates a need for forward movement and if I don't have an actual deadline for my writing work, I always give myself one.  If I don't, it's far too easy to take three or four nights a week off from writing and not achieve what I want to.

I learned to be ambitious about my deadlines from doing NaNo.  If I can write 50K in 30 days during November, then I should be able to do something similar at other points in the year.

Over the course of writing a novel, I usually set myself multiple deadlines.  First, a first draft deadline.  I know I can finish a first draft in 6-8 weeks so once I sit down to write the first pages of a new project, I pick a date 8 weeks away and set that as a deadline for finishing the draft.  If I get close to that date and am still floundering around toward the middle of the book, I re-assess and pick another date to be done by.  But usually, just having that date in mind is enough to push me through.

When revising, I set myself smaller deadlines.  Maybe a week to get through the first five chapters.  If that works for me, I can look at the number of chapters I have in total, divide that by five, and set a deadline to finish revising.

Of course I don't always meet my deadlines.  I promised myself I'd get STUMPED back to my agent on Tuesday this week, but although I've finished the revising, I haven't exported the file from Scrivener into Word and formatted it yet.  I've given myself until the end of today to do that.

Do you like deadlines?  Do you work better with them?

Friday, April 3, 2015

C is for Celebrate the Small Things

This post is part of  Lexa Cain's bloghop, Celebrate the Small Things (Lexa has just taken it over from VikLit who has hosted it for the last 2 years). Head on over there to join up! 

So, what am I celebrating this week?

Right now I'm celebrating the fact C in the A-Z challenge falls on a Friday!  How convenient is that?  My bloghops line up!

I'm also celebrating the long Easter weekend.  4 days off work!  But I'll need it.  The next two weeks are going to be busy.  My kids are on vacation and I have a lot of big events happening at work, including two overnight trips to Auckland.

Another thing to celebrate is that I finished my book and sent it to my agent.  I still get nervous every time I send send, but I did it.  There comes a point where reading it just one more time isn't going to help.

What are you celebrating this week?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

B is for Books

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I love to read.  I'm never not in the middle of something.  Usually two somethings because I tend to have a paper book going for reading in bed and in the bath, and an e-book for reading on public transport.

I love my Kindle app, but nothing will ever replace paper books as my true love.

There's something about the smell of the ink, the tactile nature of turning pages, the soft whisper of paper against paper.  I love being able to see the cover art without squinting at it and finding all the subtle nuances and references to the story in it.  Or noticing how flawed the artwork is at showing what the book is about.

So as much as I appreciate the convenience of the e-reader, and the fact I can carry 100 books around with me without breaking my back, paper books will always be my preference.

What do you prefer to read?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A is for Avocado, Asparagus and Artichoke

My three favorite vegetables all start with the letter A and since I'm winging it on the A-Z this year, I thought I'd start with something I love.

I love avocados in salads, on toast, as guacamole, in sandwiches and pretty much anywhere else.  Over the summer when they're stupidly cheap, I use avocado instead of butter in my sandwiches.  It's delicious with cheese and hummus and tomatoes.  In winter when they're not so readily available, and more expensive, I miss them….

Asparagus is special because the season for it is so short.  No one else in my house really likes it, so I get to eat whole bunches on my own.  I like it lightly steamed with just a little salt and pepper.  Or with a poached egg sitting on top so the yolk runs over the stalks.  I also make a very delicious soup with it sometimes, with lemon in it to give a little tang.  And of course, you can't really beat fresh stalks with hollandaise sauce drizzled over the top.

Hollandaise is also a big part of artichoke eating.  I like to steam my artichokes whole and dip the bottom of the leaves in hollandaise and scrape off the delicious part with my teeth.  It's messy and you need a big bowl to put all the used leaves in, but when you get down to the soft, delicious choke in the middle, it's all worth it.

What are your favorite vegetables?  Do you have any great recipes?