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G is for Greatness

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“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”  ~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

I thought that I would open this post with one of my most favourite quotes from one of most favourite plays – and a Shakespearean one at that! I bet that when Shakespeare wrote that quote, he never expected that he would be classed as one of the greatest writers of all time.

There are many writers out there who I consider to be some of ‘the greats’, but even though they are incredible writers, they still have regrets about their writings.

For example, J.K. Rowling recently stated that it should have been Harry and Hermione that got together in the end of her books, instead of Harry and Ginny or Ron and Hermione. Why? Well because it was Hermione that sacrificed so much across the series of books for Harry. Ginny didn’t sacrifice anything, well – nothing in compared to Hermione. Hermione was the woman standing behind Harry every step of the way. She even sacrificed her last year of schooling for Harry’s cause; even though education was one of the things she was most passionate about.

It’s always an incredibly interesting thing when writers come out and say something like this. It makes you double think as a reader, and as a writer, as to how to make things better and more realistic in our books. It also shows that writers are only human – they’re not gods. They make mistakes, just like everyone else in this world, even with their creations.

Miss Jane Austen was another ‘Great’ that reneged on the matching in some of the greatest love stories of our time. On her death bed, her last words were about the silliness of having Elizabeth Bennet get together with Darcy, or the fact that she inflicted Edmond on poor Fanny Price. On her deathbed, Miss Austen had regrets about her characters and the books she wrote.

I am sure that someday in the distant future, I will probably have similar regrets – maybe not about how I could have paired off characters in their relationships, but I’m sure there will be something that I will have wanted to do better. The problem writers face, is that once their work is published, it is no longer their book. It’s the reader’s book. And yes, you could always release new editions, but there will forever be copies of the older editions floating out there, that hopefully, one day, someone will pick up and read.

Desert Island Research

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I’m trying to come up with ideas for another book (once I finish this one and the next one I have already planned and intend to write this year) and anyway… I have a couple of characters that are going to get stuck on an island.

 

So – this is more of an ideas post – I’m wanting to know what you would take as everyday items on a boat that could possibly assist you. My characters will obviously have their mobile phones with them, which won’t get wet because they are going to run aground, and break their hull – so they’ll be able to jump off. But mobile phones aren’t exactly useful tools for survival now, are they? (Apart from phoning for help!) I just can’t decide if they’ll still be able to retrieve a few things from the boat before the tide sweeps it away and sinks it first or not.

 

I’m wondering if perhaps I should watch or read Robinson Crusoe again?

So – if you were going on a boat trip – with the potential to get stranded on a desert island – what would you take?

A GIFT GUIDE FOR WRITER’S

Since it’s less than two weeks till Christmas, I thought that I would do a little Writer’s Christmas Post. I know, I know – some of you would have already seen posts like this one, but I thought I would do it anyway. Often when I get to Christmas time and people ask me what I want – I have no idea how to respond. Perhaps other writers out there don’t know either. Usually what I would really like is some uninterrupted writing time so I can just potter about at my own pace and get some things done, whether it be planning or plotting or revising, or just plain old writing. Most of the time that just doesn’t happen.

So – what are the best gifts you could give a writer for Christmas?  

AWESOME WRITING BOOKS:

 
 

WRITING SOFTWARE:

  • OmmWriter(Seriously, I can’t live without this amazing software. It’s blocks out the rubbish from distracting me, creating a perfect mental-Zen environment.)
  • Scrivener (I don’t use this for writing, but I do use it extensively for revisions and edits. I know a lot of other writers who use it for everything.)
  • Dragon – Dragon Naturally Speaking (Dragon is apparently the world’s best-selling speech recognition software. You just have to train it first.)
  • Image editing software for writer’s who are self-publishing and want to do their own layouts and cover design.

 TECHY STUFF:

  • Hard drive for backing up
  • USB Sticks
  • More memory loaded into the DropBox account
  • Laptop or computer
  • Kindle/e-reader (for reviewing their own books, of course!)
  • iPad or Tablet (plus you’d better add in a Bluetooth keyboard with it as well.)

 OFFICE STUFF:

  • A gorgeous designated writing space in the house!
  • Pens and pencils (Seriously – every writer needs a good range of pens, in different colours – and don’t forget the highlighters!)
  • Notebooks (Pretty ones are always nice, but writer’s rarely use them to scribble in… so just plain old boring ones will do fine.)
  • Post-it notes
  • Sticky tabs
  • Nice pen holder
  • Stapler
  • A3 paper – just in case they’re like me and like to note down scene revisions and edits on large bits of paper and tape them to the wall)
  • Whiteboard / corkboard
  • Frames for photos or printed out motivators
  • A standing desk – I have one at home, and I love it. It’s actually a book case with a monitor stand on it to lift my laptop to the right height, but brilliant.
  • A laptop table with adjustable height and castors – so the writer can write in their favourite chair or on the sofa, yet still be kind of sociable with the rest of the household.

 OTHER HANDY STUFF:

  • A nice tea cup and saucer (I know – not really writerly stuff, but a definite necessity!)
  • A tray – to carry stuff from the kitchen, like snacks
  • Chocolate
  • A set of decent wine glasses
  • Bottles of booze – doesn’t matter which kind – sometimes a writer just needs a little oomph. Wine is always a good choice.
  • Swizzle Sticks – for a writer like me who drinks Gin and Tonic
  • Amazon Gift Card
  • iTunes Gift Card
  • Writer’s jewelry and other bits ‘n’ bobs. Seriously. Check out Etsy.  
  • A home-made voucher from the family allowing the writer to disappear for a few days to their destination of choice for a Writing Retreat

That’s all I can kind of think of at the moment. If anyone else has any suggestions – I would love to hear them!

Cover Design: The Good, the Bad (average), and the Ugly.

DDandP LogoLucky me! I was asked to feature on the YAlicious blog a few weeks ago and talk about cover design. I whipped up a post, sent it through, and promptly forgot about it.
And then this morning I woke up – and there is was, sitting in my inbox. Lovely! So I thought I better share it with you all.
These are my thoughts on what I consider good, average, and bad cover design, then go have a read: The Power of Cover Art

New Light Casting Shadows

There has been a lot going on in my world lately – mainly surrounding my books.

I, strangely enough, am sticking to my plan. I set out to read my Urban Fantasy drafts this year, and I’m doing it. And there is a boatload to adjust and amend. But there is some good guts there, with some real gems woven within them. Good characters, evil characters, and so-so characters.

Both books definitely need work, but so far – I’m actually quite happy with it. Bear in mind that this is the first time I’ve actually reads them since I wrote them years ago, lol. They have never been edited or even revised. Raw drafts.

So my plan is after I finish reading the second book of this Trilogy, I’m going to look at my original plans for the third book and have some major adjustments inserted. And then I’m going to start my edits on Books I and II.

You see… there is so much happening in this world that I have created. And there is still a heap of things that my characters need to get through before the trilogy can end.

And then there is my friend, and she has suggested that perhaps I might like to keep writing stories set in this world – and you know what? She’s right. I would like to do that. It’s a world that I have built from the ground up. It’s a world that I love. But how many stories can really stem from just one world?

Then I look at all my other books that are all thrillers based in the real world, and I wonder why I couldn’t do this with my Urban Fantasy stuff. After all – it’s real world based.

Over the past couple of days I have been basically bed ridden with a super nasty head cold, but it has also given me a load of time to think about this world. And I have officially changed the title of the series from The Talent Trilogy to The Divitis Trilogy. (Divitis means Talented in Latin – don’t you think everything sounds so much better in Latin that English?) And I have also changed the Book titles.

So. It’s going to take a lot of work to bring these books up to reading scratch, but I think I can do it. No… I know I can. Wish me luck!

Here is a little taste of what could possibly come – sometime in the future…. Maybe.

 

 

 

Characterisations…

I have been reading a lot recently, as well as watching lots of different things, and what really intrigues me is characterisations. What traits or characteristics do authors pull from themselves and those they love around them to build their characters?
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Every author wants to create the perfect characters – because by doing that, they then hope that everyone will love that character, just as much as the author does. Naturally we want our characters to have the best of the best characteristics and traits – after all – they are our creation, and in some way, we are playing ‘god’ with our books. We are the creators of these worlds. Some authors set the characters up to have no flaws, lots of money, perfect features, etc etc, and therefore a reader can then feel the character is a bit ‘plastic’. Fake. False. They have thoughts about that character of – ‘how unrealistic; no body acts like that,’ and so on.

The author can become quite baffled by this sort of response, and in turn, they utter such phrases as: ‘How can you say those things?’ ‘This character is amazing – obviously you have no idea what you’re talking about.’ ‘They are the perfect creation!’

And if you really really get down to the nitty-gritty of the matter – perfect characters are boring to read. Who the hell wants to read about perfect people all the time? The world is not full of replicas of Ken and Barbie.

By writing flaws into characters it can enhance interest in your plot, character drivers, and if you really hit the nail on the head – you can create someone that everyone adores and loves – regardless of the flaws that you weave into them.

Nobody is perfect. No one. We love those around us who have flaws, so make sure that you let your characters have flaws as well. Let them even flaw themselves with their own flaws and working through the issues. That’s what makes them believable. That’s what gives the book depth with character plots.

Give your characters strengths, but more importantly – give them weaknesses.

Lance Armstrong - Far from flawless. Definitely an interesting character that one could write.
Lance Armstrong – Far from flawless. Definitely an interesting character that one could write.

Things are happening

It astonishes me how neglected I have been towards my writing and my blog over the last six months! To bring it back to life a little, over the next wee while I’m going to have some guests hanging out here with me at Parchment Place, who will not be at all dull or boring. I’m sure there will be entertainment all round for the masses.

Abby officially turned six months old on Sunday, and to be honest, that scares the crap out of me. I simply can’t believe how fast it’s gone. It was also Father’s Day here in New Zealand – so a couple of weeks ago, Abby and I had a special photo-shoot for the occasion. Here is a picture of the gift Abby gave her dad for his first father’s day. I find that a little bit of effort goes an awfully long way, and her Dad loved it. That said, he still said that the best present was her of course!

In terms of my writing – well – now that I have started to catch the train relatively consistently, I am starting to power through some work! It’s fantastic, and I’m feeling really good about the progress that I am making with my edits. I have decided to change the name of The Mediterranean Source to Mediterranean Dreams. I am a bit sad about losing the old name, but too many people didn’t quite ‘get it’ in terms of the storyline, so I’m changing it up. With the title Mediterranean Dreams it sort of collectively shows that each of my characters in the book all has their own dreams and goals. So that being said, I think that this new title fits a little better.

I have also been working on new cover design for it – not with self-publishing in mind at this stage, but more to keep my head in the editing/revision game when I have had interruptions or not any long amounts of dedicated time. This book is definitely one that will be going out on submission to publishers as a first option. Call me lazy, but at this stage in my life I simply cannot be bothered with the work required to self-publish. Perhaps if I didn’t have a baby, or worked and travelled long hours, then I would probably consider it as more of an immediate option. One day it may even become an option… but for the moment, I’m sticking to traditional.

The Nights Series that I have been thinking about and planning seems to be growing and growing. I’m looking to getting this backlog of work out of the way before I officially start. I did start writing Tijuana Nights back in January, however, that has been put on hold until I work a few things out with the series idea. Let’s just say that Mack (McKenna) my main character is full of klutzy awesomeness.  She is a right piece of work, but I feel my character planning of her needs to be a bit more rounded out with the planning of the series. After all – most books are character driven with a character journey. So I guess this means she is going to have a few journeys throughout this series.  

I think that’s about it from me at the moment. I will start coming up with better blog posts shortly about all sorts of interesting things, so there will be some decent fodder to read, instead of all my updates! I will also have a few guests here as well. Onwards and upwards – time to reopen Parchment Place properly for business.

Back on the wagon

Yes, you all read that correctly. I am officially back on the writing wagon – that same wagon I have been trying to climb back on for the past two months. However – introducing my new daughter to the world was a much more important job. But now that she is ‘sleeping like a baby’, it means that I can get a little writing work done!

So – this is a little update for you all since the last post I wrote on my writing stuff – Having a little faith…

Last week I rewrote the opening scenes for The Mediterranean Source. I’d had some feedback from one of my critique partners that I needed to bolster up the main character motivations. This was some seriously good feedback as the main character only really became the main character when I re-edited the book last November. So to give her more motivation for doing what she does was something that I really needed to work on. And – I am happy to say that my critique partner had a read of it, and thought that it was a much stronger opening for the book. It was excellent to have that feedback as I’ve been feeling a little rusty on the writing front lately. I need to re-sharpen my writing claws!

Needless to say, after rewriting the opening scene, I dived into editing again. Man, it felt amazing. It felt so damn good to be immersing myself back into my own world and story. I had to drag myself out of it whenever Abby woke, but it was just so damn good to be back.

So – that’s what I am doing right at the moment. Editing. Yippeee! And it’s a lovely way to ease myself back into the game as well.

Tijuana Nights is really sitting at the forefront of my mind, and I really want to get back into writing it once I finish editing The Mediterranean Source. So while I edit, I will be thinking about that story, and what I think it needs. I think that I will redo some of the planning on it, but structurly – the storyline remains the same. There are some characters that need a little work done on them to round them out a bit better, so I will probably start with that before I continue writing the book.

The Second book of the Talent Trilogy needs to be finished. Gack. I know. Honestly, I only have a couple of thousand words to write on it, and it’s finished, but something has been holding me back with it. That book had a number of alternative endings – any of which I could use. However, I’m going to go with the one that seriously ramps up some emotions I think. Once I complete it – I need to throw myself into some serious planning for the third book, and that’s gonna mean re-reading the first and second book for me to do it. (Thank god I have a Kindle!) When I originally planned this trilogy years ago – it was a good plan – it just wasn’t robust enough for the world I was creating. I never expected the Talent world to get so big. Now it needs to be broken down and sorted out before I continue.

In other news, I have been reading books like a fricking machine. My goodness, I can’t quite believe how many I am cranking through! It’s all this downtime while I am feeding Abby that is allowing me to read so much. It’s amazing. Once again – thank god I have a Kindle (or else it would be a real pain in the backside trying to turn the pages.)

Abby is growing like a wee mushroom. Every day is different. Some days are challenging, others are a breeze. She’s sleeping well through the night now, and it’s a hell of a relief for us. Every day we thank our lucky stars that she sleeps for decent periods through the night. This week she is transitioning into her own room. It’s a scary thing for me! When she finally has her first night in her own room, I know that I’m going to feel a bit off-key about it. I guess any new mother would be the same – even if it is only across the hall! Last night I had a chair delivered that is now in Abby’s room so I can sit in there with her to feed and settle her when needed. It’s a relief knowing that I can stay in there when I need to. When she’s older and she has her own bed – I’ll put the chair in my library.

She smiles loads now, and every now and then she even has a giggle. When I sing to her (off key, might I add!) she smiles, coos, and tries to sing along with me. It’s rather gorgeous. These are moments that I never want to miss… and ones that I’m afraid I will once I go back to work at the end of July. However – if I win Lotto, I guess I won’t miss a thing. *fingers crossed* It’s just so lovely seeing her grow and develop.

Life is very busy being a mother, wife, and writer. Every moment is worth it though.

Monday Musings

Goals... not resolutions

There are some super duper exciting things going down for me on the writing front in the New Year. For the record, I don’t do New Year Resolutions. I don’t believe in them. Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves they believe are negative. So, for the past few years I haven’t made any resolutions. I set goals instead. And no, they aren’t goals like ‘land a husband’, or ‘lose weight’, or ‘quit smoking’, or ‘give up drinking for 3 months’, or whatever. They are goals that I want to work towards. Goals that I have been working towards for years. These are goals that are ‘achievement’ goals towards my own hopes and dreams. Do I want to set myself resolutions to look like a magazine model? Oh yeah, sure, why not. But no matter what I look like, it’s not going to give me any life satisfaction if I can’t actually achieve what I have been working towards for years, now, can it?

So… as part of my goals to eventually become a full time writer – it means that I need to blow the dust off some of the old manuscripts and ideas that I have been hoarding around, and turn them into something useful. I did start doing this job this year, I must admit, but while I have the momentum going, I’m going to keep it up. I cannot become a full time writer if I don’t have books out on submission.

So for my 2012 writing goals – I would like to achieve the following:

Firstly, I’m going to write a new thriller. I know that I still haven’t finished off the urban fantasy trilogy, but I just feel like this is a book that I need to get off my chest, and so I am going to go whereever my Muse is directing me. I just feel as though I need to listen to the old Muse every once in a while. If I don’t, they’ll probably abandon me, and then I’d be really annoyed – because it’s just so hard to find good staff these days! ;-)

Secondly, there is going to be another round of fairly serious editing of another manuscript (thriller) that has been sitting in my literary drawer for years. This has all come to a head from Merrilee Faber and her brilliant idea of Project 2012: From first draft to submission.

Thirdly… if all goes well, I will have two completed and edited thrillers ready for submission by the end of next year. Hopefully – all going well that is!

In the meantime, this is what I’m thinking about:

  • Juggling my writing year with Bumpkin on my hip who is meant to arrive in February. Obviously Bumpkin will always come first, but there are still goals that I would like to achieve along the way. However, I have made an agreement with myself not to be dissapointed or to beat myself up if my goal line has to move about a bit. That can’t be helped, so I’m not going to worry myself over it.
  • New pool to wallow in

    After last weekend’s success with the paddling pool, when I eagarly went to uncover it on weekend to dump myself in it, part of it had slowly deflated over the week, much to my disappointment. So, instead of using a pool that is going to deflate every week (and we will be going into water-restrictions for our area soon) my dear husband felt it best that we go and buy a new one, that won’t deflate as easily. Happy birthday to me. I can just tell this thing is going to be my saviour over the next couple of months.

  • I’m still not ready for Christmas, but like it does every year – it will come, and it will go. This year I have been more than distracted by everything else going on in my life, and frankly, everything else is a hell of a lot more exciting. I would much rather nest, and get rid of junk in my house. I would also much rather potter about in my pool and cool down when I need to. It’s amazing how other priorities just take over. And Bumpkin is a pretty damn big priority right now, and one that I am more than happy to turn my attention and focus on, and get ready for at my own pace.

So…. on that note, there are some interesting things happening. I’m really really looking forward to them. In the past I have written a few books a year. Next year – I’m planning on writing just the one, and editing two. I think that’s pretty reasonable, bearing in mind that I’ll have a newborn Bumpkin on board as well. I’m looking forward to it.

Who else has goals lined up for next year?

Monday Musings

An interesting thing happened the other day. I was sitting on the train on my way into the city to meet with my husband to go to a 50th birthday, and I had my laptop open on my Nano novel. But for some unknown reason, the Nano novel just wasn’t calling to me like it should. I couldn’t pull my focus in the slightest to even remotely focus on it.

So I sat there, listening to music, day dreaming. After a few minutes, I slowly started to recognise the music in my ears as part of the soundtrack I had compiled together for my Urban Fantasy trilogy. The next thing I knew, I was opening up the second book of the trilogy (that I haven’t opened since July!) and I was reading the area that I stopped writing.

The Zen of sudden clarity in my world

With a sudden smack of clarity, I knew how to end this book. This is a concept that I have been struggling with since July. I’m not kidding. But I had turned my mind from it, and had been working on other things, knowing that due to my pregnancy – my creative side of my brain wasn’t quite functioning on all cylinders.

I actually still can’t quite believe that this has happened. I can’t believe that I now know how to finish off the second book. I knew that I had to raise the stakes, and hype it up for the lead into the third book… but there was so much going on that I just didn’t know how to do it. I had spent 80,000 words maneuvering my characters into the right positions… and then I managed to get myself stuck with no creative thought on how to get myself out.

I know that my critique partners out there are going to be rather chuffed that I have finally figured this out. It has been more than frustrating for me over the past few months. So… as part of the NaNoWriMo madness, I’m going to try to get the final 5000 words down to complete book II of the Talent Series.

So, this is what I have on my mind at the moment:

  • My gorgeous sister is bringing her new dude to come and stay with us this week. Very excited to have her coming. I miss her a lot, and us siblings are very close, so I am reallylooking to spending some quality time with her. She also wants to be introduced to Bumpkin as well… so I guess now is her chance. She’s probably going to find it just a little odd that her big sister is pregnant. (I think that I would find that odd if it were the other way around.)

    S Dali - Persistence of Time
  • I’m behind on my editing and revision of The Mediterranean Source. I really need to get through this hump that I am at, at the moment. The part that I am revising requires a crapload of focus… and I just need to really pay attention. But there are so many interruptions at the moment with everything else that’s happening… that I can’t seem to grasp a decent amount of time to pull my focus. I’m just going to have to keep trying.
  • I had a big book clear out in the weekend. Boxes of them. It’s a seriously marvellous feeling to clean out your crap. I just love it. There is a lot to be said about this nesting business. I would like to tackle even more rooms if I can get the chance. Perhaps this Thursday when I take the day off. Will just have to wait and see. I should probably be ‘slowing down’ a little, but I just can’t see it happening.

I think that’s it from me at this stage. I only have three days in the office this week, so I’m rather chuffed with that. Hopefully being at home a bit more this week will allow me to sort a few more words on the page.

I hope that you all have a great week, and that those you are getting Nano’d, do so good and proper :-)