Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Tis the Season

This is my final blog until after Christmas (thought it was a good idea to take a blogiday like so many of my favourite bloggers are doing).

I wish you all a Merry Christmas where ever you may be, whether you are enjoying a white, wet, wintery one or a sunny, hot one with the traditional kiwi bbq (that's barbeque for those who don't know).

Happy reading or writing if you aren't abstaining over the holidays. Personally, I haven't vowed to take a formal break - we'll see what happens.

Lots of love, laughter and best wishes for the Season from the Dragon's Pen!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reviewing Murder

And now for something completely different! I've been reviewing a few YA fantasy books lately and I thought it was time for something new.

So today we get a taste of murder, mystery and mayhem.

I'm a little nervous and more than a bit excited because this is the first time I'm reviewing a New Zealand author. Not only does Vanda Symon hail from the same country I do, she actually lives in the same fair city!

Earlier this week I worked a couple of night shifts. During the wee hours of the night and in the weary days in between I read Vanda's first two novels Overkill and The Ringmaster.

Vanda is an immensely talented writer. Her voice - and I think this is where Vanda shines - manages to capture and portray the evasive "unique kiwi voice".

The books are written from the the perspective of Sam Shephard, policewoman, and set in modern day Southland, NZ. I quickly fell in love with Sam's character. She is gritty, opinionated, ballsy and a shamelessly a woman. She wants justice for the victims of injustice - they aren't just bodies - she cares about them about their stories, who they were and how they came to die. She gets angry - furiously so at times (a note of caution: she does swear a bit). And sometimes she cries (I cried with her). She is thoroughly human and thoroughly "kiwi" and I loved her for it!

Sam really resonated with me. She felt so real. Though she's a character in a book she feels like a friend and I can't wait to read Containment and the next book in the series (So, hurry up with the fourth one Vanda!). You can visit Vanda's website here or check out her blog here.

From Blurb: When the body of a young mother is found on the banks of the Mataura River a small rural community is rocked by her suicide. But all is not what it seems. Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide, and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duties she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands to find the murderer and clear her name.

The Ringmaster
From the blurb: Death is stalking the Southern City of Dunedin. And what role does the visiting Darling Brothers Circus have to play? Sam Shephard is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigations there when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens. Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin.

I haven't yet read Containment, this is on my list of books to read in the New Year. Can't wait!

So if you like a good mystery story I highly recommend Vanda Symon's books: Overkill, The Ringmaster and Containment (at all good bookstores now!).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wildwood Dancing

Wildwood Dancing is written by Juliet Marillier. Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, she now lives by the Swan river in Perth, Australia. This was her first YA novel but she has gone on to write a number of others which I can't wait to get my hands on.

I read Wildwood Dancing over two days. It was near impossible to put down, grabbing my attention and ensnaring my curiosity from the first sentence:

"I've heard it said that girls can't keep secrets. That's wrong; we'd proved it. We'd kept ours for year and years, ever since we stumbled on the way into the Other Kingdom."

Who could resist? I couldn't!

Set in Transylvania, Wildwood Dancing draws on the mythology and rich folklore of the region, mixing it and melding it with familiar elements of common fairytales. There are hints of the Frog Prince and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, stories I know and love from my childhood.

The book is rich in fantasy and imagination. Darkness and the foolishness of greed overshadows everything even as love seeks to overcome it. Things are not always as they seem. The st
range and wonderful revelations kept me turning the pages, hungering for more and desperate for true love to prevail. And yes, I even shed a tear or too.

So I'm adding this to my list of favourites. I hope you enjoy it too.

Five adventurous sisters...

Four dark creatures...

Three magical gifts...

Two forbidden loves...

One enchanted frog...

From the blurb:
"The Wildwood holds many mysteries. Jena and her sisters share the biggest of all, a fantastic secret that enables them to escape the confines of their everyday life in rural Transylvania. When their father falls ill and must leave their forest home over the winter, Jena and her older sister Tati are left in charge.

All goes well until a tragic accident allows their overbearing cousin Ceza to take control. The appearance of a mysterious young man in a black coat divides sister from sister, and suddenly Jena finds herself fighting to save all she holds dear. With her constant companion, Gogu,by her side, she must venture to realms dark and perilous in her quest to preserve, not just those she loves, but her own independence as well."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More on the Dreaded Query

Once again Natalie over at Between Fact and Fiction has hit the nail on the head with her latest post about the dread query. If you haven't read it yet, I urge you to go check it out (whether you are in the midst of the fire swamp that is querying or not).

I'll be back in the next day or so with a new book review.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Longer and Longer

I hit 45,000 words today. It has taken me a few days to add the further 5,000.

But with it has come a realisation.

This novel is going to be longer, I think, that the 70,000 words I planned.

For the last few days every time I sat down to write I thought, okay, today I'm going to write the scene where my heroes and heroines escape the Silver Snakes at The Crossing. But every day something else has come flowing out instead.

I love when things just reveal themselves as you write, leaving you going: "Oh, yeah, that's cool. I like that. That explains..."

It isn't that the scene I planned isn't going to happen, it's just that it seems to be taking (chapters) longer than I anticipated. I don't think this is a bad thing.

A lot of important stuff is coming out: information about the characters, their abilities and their relationships to each other. All of it helps to build a bigger, bolder, deeper and more holistic story. (That's what I tell myself anyway.)

I have finally begun The Crossing chapter, so we're there now, finally. Almost a week later than I thought, but we're on the verge none-the-less.

Suspense, terror and surprise here I come!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Draft Update

The picometer ticked over 60% today. I've broken the back of 40,000 words. Whoopy!

I'm feeling really good about the story thus far and reasonably happy with the pace I am writing at: Steady.

In other news, our new writing crit group (of which I am one of the founding members) is officially up and running. At the moment we have four members which is small but works really well for what we aim to achieve. We had our second meeting last month. The Mad Scribber's Tea Party meets on the last Monday of each month.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Revision Game?

Here are a couple of somethings to lighten your day.
(Hat tip to Chris for the links.)

If you liked the old computer games you are bound to find this take on novel editing and this text adventure amusing.

It made me laugh ... and cringe 'cause it's so true!!

Enjoy :D

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Curse Dark as Gold

Since I promised to review the books I have been reading, here are my thoughts on A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce which I finished a few days ago.

Follow the link above to visit Elizabeth's site and see further reviews of the book.

I admit it took me a little while to get into the story, but once there I was hooked.

This is a fairytale-meets-novel with a twist: The classic Rumpelstiltskin story re-wrought.

It's a dark story haunted by ghosts and the evil deeds of the past. And while it is fantasy, it is set in a reality so close to our own cultural past you feel it might perhaps be a true story or a legend from our own history. For me, this helped heighten the suspense and the terror as the story unfolded.

This is a story about love and loyalty to those who depend upon us and self-sacrifice, of ancient hatreds and grief, and of a battle to lay the ghosts of the past to rest.

If you like a spooky story with suspense, intrigue and a bit of romance I recommend A Curse Dark as Gold.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Question Answered: "MG or YA what's the difference?"

Last week I asked the lovely Natalie a question over at her blog Between Fact or Fiction. She kindly answered my question in a post a couple of days ago.

My question was basically:
How can I be sure of the age bracket my novel fits into?
Is it MG (middle grade) or YA (young adult)?
What is the difference?

Well, that's three questions, but you get the idea. This is what I wanted to know.

I'd been pretty sure my novel fell into the genre of YA fantasy fiction until I posted a very basic draft query at The Query Slush pile, noting the sorts of books I thought it was similar to.
Someone there pointed out that those books were in fact MG not YA.

Oh no!
I panicked and started searching the net to find out exactly where those book fit. Problem was the more I looked the more confused I got. Some people were labeling them YA others calling them MG, some saying they were cross over books. So how could I be sure where my novel fit?

I then started looking at definitions and guidelines for YA and MG.
This is what I discovered:

Middle grade: 10-12yrs (typically 20,000 - 40,000 words)

Upper middle grade: 10-14yrs

Young adults: 14 and up (approx 125 - 250 pages long)

The lovely people at write4kids.com had this to say (go there to read the whole article).

Characters are also a key element to young adult novels, but these books often have more complicated plots than those for middle grade. Protagonists experience an internal change, but this change is triggered by external events and fits into a bigger picture. They begin to step outside themselves and see how they influence, and are influenced by, the larger world. They go beyond their backyard and encounter adult problems for the first time.

The author of the true, classic middle grade novel does not worry about vocabulary choices or simple sentence structure; once children are ready for these books they are good readers. Middle grade novels are characterized by the type of conflict encountered by the main character. Children in the primary grades are still focused inward, and the conflicts in their books reflect that. While themes range from friendship to school situations to relationships with siblings and peers, characters are learning how they operate within their own world. They are solidifying their own identity, experiencing the physical and psychological changes of puberty, taking on new responsibilities all within the boundaries of their family, friends and neighborhood. Yes, your character needs to grow and change during the course of the book, but these changes are on the inside. Middle grade readers are beginning to learn who they are, what they think. Their books need to mirror their personal experience.

This place has some great hints for understanding YA fiction. I've pasted a bit here, but do go there and see what else they have to say.

Don't let its name fool you: Young Adult fiction is not watered down adult fiction. It's also not children's fiction with older characters. It is literature that doesn't waste a breath. YA fiction moves at a clip that keeps pace with busy teens who are pressed for reading time, whose attention spans are brief, who are accustomed to and crave instant gratification. YA lit is the movie version of a great story... gripping from the first line, never slowing down, with all the slow parts edited out. YA literature is crisp, lively, and hip.

Now, if you haven't already, go read Natalie's post.

So what have I learnt on this roller coaster journey?
  • That peoples ideas of what is YA or MG can be subjective.

  • The libraries ideas about what is YA and what is not is not necessarily the same as the option of random folks on the net (So far, in my reading, my library has been right).

  • Read a book if you're not sure, then classify it.

  • My novel is YA. I was SOOOO right!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Embracing Your Creative Process

Just a quick note to encourage you to check out Bookends latest post about the writing process.

Jessica is so right.

Each one of us is a unique individual. We look different, we speak differently, we think differently, we are born in different cultures. Heck, we come from different ends of the earth with different life experiences, so it in makes sense that our creative writing processes will be as unique as we are.

And that is okay. Diversity is (mostly) a good thing!

So embrace your process. If it works for you it's the right process for you. (It's when it doesn't work that you really should question your process!)

So stop the self doubting and get WRITING people!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shannon Hale's Goose Girl

I haven't blogged or written for a wee while, I've be working too hard, catching up on house work and snatching the odd snooze in between.

What I have been doing is reading (at breakfast, meal breaks at work and to wind-down when I get home).

My new favourite books to read, while I'm exploring the world of YA fiction, are unashamedly the fairytale-meets-novel variety.

Note to self: Could this be the next project?

My latest find has been Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl. It has won a host of awards, and with good reason. The story melds deception, intrigue, and murder with the golden virtues of loyalty, friendship and true love - and magic.

Shannon Hale has an amazing gift. I'm in awe of her talent and only wish I could write such creative imagery. Her words almost sing on the page, painting visual images so delightful they linger in your mind. When you set the book aside you're left with a deliciously sweet after taste that begs for more.

Ani sat under the beech and listened to the wind. It sought out trees, running around their trunks and weaving through their branches, the way a cat arches its back under a hand, seeking a good scratch. When it touched her skin, she could feel the rumbling, wispy voice that let images of its wanderings whisper out into sound. Not speaking to her, but just speaking, its existence alone a language. (The Goose Girl, pg 252)

Shannon is the author of a number of fairy-tale novels you can check them out at her website and blog at www. shannonhale.com

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Books, Books, and More Books

I dropped in at our little local library this evening and ransacked the YA section. I found a stack of authors I have never read before, mostly fantasy, and brought home a small mountain!

I decided I really need to drop myself in a few good YA fantasy novels. Live them. Breathe them. Eat them? Write them!

I am excited about delving into a few new worlds. Experiencing new tastes and sights and sounds, new sensations and mentally-visual feasts. Sigh. The joys of a great read...

I'll post my thoughts on each one as I finish with it.

Happy writing - Happy reading to you all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Half Done Draft

Whoop! Whoop!

The picometer hit 50% tonight.


The SFD is half done. We are half way there. The glass is half full.

I've written 150 pages in under 2 months. Not bad.

Of course it is all very rough. Most of it hasn't even had an informal edit yet. Still that is nothing to sneeze at.

So, to celebrate I think I'll curl up with a coffee, some chocolate and a book.

Books I am reading for research and inspiration:

Eragon by Christopher Paolini (again!)

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

Bulfinch's Mythology

Arthurian Legends by Marie Trevelyn

King Arthur and his Knights by Stuart Campbell

Celtic Myths and Legends by T.W. Rolleston

Ah, yes! That should keep me out of mischief for a while.

Query Letters and Book Proposals

I found this little gem at BubbleCow when I was wandering aimlessly about on the net tonight.

I'm struggling with the whole query-letter-and-synopsis-thingy at the moment. I'm trying to write it as I write the novel, the theory being that while I am full immersed in the book I will be able to easily capture the essence of the story.

Honestly, I'm not sure if it is working!

I'm finding all the conflicting ideas about how exactly a query letter should (or should not) be laid out and what should come in where very confusing.

I mean, does it really matter if the hook of my novel comes first or my reasons for approaching the agent/publisher. Will I really be penalised for getting the order wrong here?

Personally I doubt agents are quite that anal. So long as I can hook them with the unique power of my story I should be right, right?

But then, that is a chore in itself, isn't it?

How can I capture the magic of my story in one or two short paragraphs without it sounding like any other fantasy (in a made up country in jeopardy from within, inhabited by fantastical creatures).

After all there are other stories out there about princesses who save the day, other stories with magic and shapeshifters and dryads and centaurs and ... well, maybe not collosus. Sure my creatures are different, but how does one capture that uniqueness in one or two short paragraphs?

Needless to say, it's a work in progress.

Note to self: STOP banging your head against the desk - I'm getting a headache!

Thus ends my rant for today...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blog Update

I'm added a few things to the blog.

I've added a label list. Hopefully this will make it a little bit easier to find what might interest you here.


I've added "reaction" boxes. These appear at the bottom of each post, so if you don't want to leave a message but you'd like to let me know what you thought of my post you can click on one of the boxes to let me know. :D

Creating the World

Writer Unboxed has an awesome post today about creating a fantastical world and the questions to ask yourself as you embark on this journey.

I am in absolute agreement.

The world in which your story is set must be as real and as vivid as the characters themselves. If the world isn't believable the rest of your story will fail to capture the epic feel that makes a compelling fantasy story.

Your reader wants to live and breathe your fantastical world. After all this is why we read fantasy: To escape into an alternative world, an alternative reality.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creating Fantastic Fantasy

One of the fun things about writing fantasy is the fact that it is, well, fantasy! You get to make stuff up. Anything can happen because it is your world, your people, your creatures and your mythology. I love that!

The catch, of course, is that if you are going to make stuff up and fiddle with mythology, re-shaping and moulding it to a shape you want, it has to be convincing. It has to be believable. You have to persuade your reader to BELIEVE. That's the trick.

I've managed to add a 1000 words to the MS this morning. This evening I'm doing a bit of research - researching mythology - what fun. Dryads in particular. Yes, I have dryads in my book. Sexy, mysterious and environmentally friendly. What more could you ask for?

The fun bit is creating my own kind of dryad. There are many similar though slightly different takes on what dryads are like, depending on your ethnicity and the mythological religious relevance of the creatures. Celtic, Roman, Greek or Japanese, they all have a nature or wood faerie or deity, a dryad-like quality.

This leaves the fantasy writer (int this case moi) free to take and leave what I want, shaping and sculpting my own Meliai into the creatures my story needs them to be.

What will they look like? What will they be like? What will they wear? What powers will they possess? What beliefs will they have about the human world, will they be sympathetic or indifferent?

Wikipedia refers to Dryads as nymphs of the trees.

In Greek mythology there was a definite hierarchy amongst the many Gods. Below the highest gods were a class of entities known as the demigods and unlike the gods the demigods were mortal in the extent that they could die or be killed. The dryads fall into this class in particular. The dryads were the lovely wood nymphs or forest nymphs. These were beautiful and carefree maiden spirits who lived in the wooded areas and gamboled about while protecting the trees and creatures in their domain. Dryads are very peaceful and usually known to be very shy.
(Hat tip to dryads.net)

On another interesting note they were always women (an point which I plan to exploit) and in England often referred to as the "Green Lady".

So, all in all a productive day. Now I have to get back to writing.

And so do you!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recharge your Creative Batteries

Andrea has some great advice about keeping your creative tank full and pampering your subconcious. If yours needs some loving care go sneak a peek, then take her advice and start recharging your batteries.

Congrats are in order. Sue once again cleaned up at the Dunedin Writer's Workshop's final competition for the year. Clever girl!

The MS is chugging along nicely at just under 30,000 words and I started working on the query letter and synopsis for it this morning.

How are you going with your writing this week?

Now I'm off to follow some of Andrea's wise advice and have a nap (working late tonight).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Red Ink

Well, the MS in chugging along nicely. I'm about a 1/3 of the way through now and sitting on close to 27,000 words. I'm really pleased with how it's going.

Sue came round today and read most of it. She was engrossed (mostly) while I sat there trying not to chew my nails to the quick. It is totally different to anything I have ever written before - fast paced, mythical adventure. She loved it which was really exciting.

But I'm tired after writing really hard out for two days so I haven't added to it today, instead I've noted the next steps of the journey so I know exactly where they (the characters) are going and what is going to happen at each stage. I can relax now. I know what is going to happen next.

In other news, my dear husband managed to get our printer (which never seems to want to go when I ask it at the mo) to spit out the first five chapters of my Princess MS. This afternoon I got out my inky red pen (my editorial scalpel) and began slicing ugly "over written" and "authorial" type bits out of it. I'm having a blast! It felt so good.

I think my kids thought I was slightly nuts as I shouted; "Got ya." "Oh, that's terrible!" "I can't believe that was in there!" "How could I have missed that?" and other such things as I wielded my pen like a sword, slashing wildly at the page.

Still it amazes me that I've edited this MS no less that 10 x and still it needs so much work.
It is awful!!!!

Well, it's not that bad - but really how do we miss so much?

I can happily say I have learned so much (hat tip to Nicola Morgan and Natalie Whipple for their wonderful blogs) and my writing has improved phenomenally - the spelling not so much - over the last few years and in leaps and bounds over the last 6 months, if I do say so myself. Now I'm SEEING much more clearly when it comes to tightening up my work and cutting out the fat.

The improvement is quite evident when I compare my two MSs.

PRINCESS OF THE PIGSTY (historical fiction) is quite pudgy and warm and cozy (and "over written"!), where my YA fantasy is trim, sharp and fast paced.

I always loved Jane Austen's books. Jane Eyre and The Scarlett Pimpernel and Anne of Greengables were among my favourite books and my voice echoed this older style of writing. Of course, it is harder to sell the more literary, lovely wordy prose these days.
My Princess MS feels a little like these.
My YA is nothing like this!

It's an interesting experience to be a writer of two such contrasting pieces of fiction. Apparently, so I've read, this isn't an uncommon experience in new writers trying to find their voice.

So now what I am wondering is, do I want to submit PRINCESS OF THE PIGSTY to be published first? Is this the book I want to build my brand on? Is this how I want to "come out"?
I'm not sure. Perhaps I should let my YA fantasy lead the way.

Advice anyone?

Have you ever change genre or writing style? Tell us about it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Where Rainbow's End

No writing of the MS thus far today.

After church this morning I picked up a book Sue had recommended to me. She reckoned it was one of those "impossible to put down once you start" books. She told me, in great excitement, I might add, that it was written entirely as emails and letters between the characters. Well, I was mildly intrigued, it sounded like an interesting concept. AND written by the woman who wrote PS. I LOVE YOU. I really liked that movie so I agreed to give the book a look. Ever since then she has been pestering me about whether or not I had started reading it yet. Talk about nagging!

So, anyway, I started reading it today. The childrens novel I had tried to read had failed to grab me and I was looking for something else to sink my teeth into, so I picked up ROSIE DUNNE (sometimes entitled Where Rainbows End) by Cecelia Ahern and began to read.

Well, I have to confess I was hooked from the first page.

To Alex
My birthday is on Tuesday not Wednesday. You cant bring sandy to the party because mum says so. She is a smelly dog.
From Rosie

To Rosie
I do not care wot your stupid mum says sandy wants to come.
Form Alex

To Alex
My mum is not stupid you are. You are not aloud to bring the dog. She will brust the baloons.
From Rosie

I just had to keep reading. I was in love with the characters already. I am now almost half way through and totally hooked. I just have to know what happens. (Sue wouldnt tell me)

Cecelia is truly gifted. The story flows so effortlessly. You know the characters, their quirks, their flaws, their passions, their issues, and yet you only experience their world through their own words and what they share with each other in their letters, emails and instant messages. It is witty, delightful, charming, frustrating, heart breaking and romantic, it has it all.

I am loving it and I am sure you will enjoy it too, if you have not read it already.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Writer Constipation?

It has been four days since I blogged last so I thought it was time for an update.

I have been working, fighting off the cold that hit me mid week, and trying to write my MS which for some reason has been a real struggle over the last week. I knew where I wanted to go but I've had writer's-constipation (if there is such a thing) and it has been a real battle to get the words on the page. Even a small section seemed to take all night to write. Totally frustrating!

I don't know about you, but I do a lot of my brain storming and get a lot of my inspiration in my semi-conscious state before I sleep or when I first wake. It's then that my characters often "visit" me. (Sounds totally loopy doesn't it?) However this hasn't been happening much recently, what with me having to get up at 6am for work and falling into bed totally exhausted at the end of the day and instantly falling asleep, I haven't been having my usual "dream time."

This morning was the first Saturday I have been able to lie in and be lazy for a while and I made the most of it. When I finally got up I was bursting with excitement and desperate to write. In spite of constant interruptions and noise from my children, I have managed to write a couple of chapters and the end scene of the book thus far today. Needless to say, I'm reasonably pleased.

In other news, a wonderful author friend of mine got back to me with some feedback on my children's novel. She was very encouraging and honest. (I love when people are honest.) And pointed out that while she thought my book was good she didn't think it was 100% ready to be submitted as I sometimes had "overwriting" and "author intrusion." (Whoops!)

Well, the over writing is no surprise. I am a little too fond of the odd adverb or two and I love to describe things (sometimes with a little too much enthusiasm). So it's back to the editing board to attack it with my editorial scalpel. (Maa haa haa haa!)

Still if this is the worst thing she had to say about the MS then I'm over the moon ... it could have been so much worse. She could have said, "Sorry love it ain't never gonna happen for you. You just can't write to save yer self!" But she didn't, she had much, much nicer things to say.

If you are worried you might have issues with over writing and want to know what to look out for so you can nip it in the bud in your own MS, Nicola Morgan has an awesomely helpful post here on the subject. (Yes, I'm now inventing "ly" words. Perhaps there is no help for me.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Foreshadowing and my unofficial Nanowritmo

Rachelle Gardner has a great post on her blog today about foreshadowing vs. telegraphing. While I recognised the concepts she is talking about instantly, I have never heard these terms before. She has some great insights so go here to check it out.

Everyone seems to be talking about Nanowritmo (or whatever its called) at the mo and while I am not officially taking part I've read so much about it now that I thought it might be fun to see how much I can actually get written in one month. I doubt I will make 50,000 words but why not aim for the stars? I might surprise myself.

Of course, I'll have to lock my inner editor in a box and throw away the key if I'm to have a hope of getting close to the goal. I make no secret of the fact I am a compulsive writer, what is less well known is that I'm also have a terribly compulsive inner-editor.

To turn it off I have to gag it, truss it up and stuff it in a dark cupboard. My first teenage attempts an novel writing were never completed, not only because they were pretty dreadful, but because my inner-editor had a habit of getting totally out of control and taking over the whole thing. (She really is terribly bossy and a bit snarky at times.) I'm a bit older now though, a bit wiser and I'm learning to tell her to shut up and wait her turn. Here hoping that she can patiently wait out the whole month.

On an exciting note, if I can make it to 50,000 words my SFD will be done and we can all share a nice drink and some chocolate to celebrate. :D

What is your best ever word count for a month?
Will you join me in my writing challenge?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Picograph: Look! Look!

You may, or may not, have noticed that I now have a nice picograph in my side bar. That's the thing telling you my progress on my YA MS. Look! 28% done!

I have been enviously eying these little gems on other authors blogs for a while now, but it wasn't until I happened to stumble upon Andrea's blog (a fellow NZ writer) and her generous link pointing me in the right direction, that I found these little beauties.

Now I'm passing it on. You can find info on how to embed your own picograph here.

I should admit that this way my first time fiddling with html code and though the instructions were easy to follow I did need a little help from my very patient husband to untangle the exact way to present the code. Oh, and if you are a blogspot blogger like me, you'll need the html/Java script gadget.

Happy picographing everyone!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

First Drafts and Self Editing

In his latest blog post agent Nathan Bransford suggests we go visit the blog of author Natalie Whipple to read her latest offering "Tips for First Drafting." So, like the good little girl I am, I went and had a read. Gotta say I love her blog. (You can now find a link to it in my blog roll.) And I am going to echo Nathan's cry: Go check it out!!!

On a related note, for some light hearted self-editing revelations you can go here, where author Stephanie Perkins shares some of her wisdom with us lucky ducks. Don't let her chatter about her celebrity boyfriends put you off, she does get to the point eventually. :D

Read and enjoy ... and keep writing.

Structure and Plot

Nicola Morgan, the awesome author of such books as THE HIGHWAYMAN'S FOOTSTEPS and its sequel THE HIGHWAYMAN'S CURSE (she has also written many others but these are the two I have read ans loved) has a great post up on her blog today about story structure and shape. You can find it here:


Reading Nicola's post got me thinking about the very varied methods we writers use to structure or map our stories. Some of us don't map in any way shape or form, while others of us are quite anal about the method we use.

To be honest, my methods seem to change from story to story and book to book. I tend not to do any sort of physical mapping when I write a short story, I just keep the story plot in my head.

The first book I started writing (and haven't yet finished - it needs too much work and I have too many other things to write about at the moment) has a working title of THE BLACK HAWK (adult fantasy). When I started writing it (many years ago) I vaguely knew where I wanted the story to go, so I had the big climaxes worked out, but I ended up mapping and plotting the story as I wrote it. It had a mind of its own and while I managed to tame it enough to get the highs and lows I wanted it to have, getting to those moments was a wonderful ride of surprise and suspense. :D

Once it was half written, I mapped the whole novel from beginning to end, charting every high and low point and wrote in the event at each peak and valley. This really helped me SEE what the story looked like. It helped me figure out where I had desert wastes (long dull bits where not much happened) and oceans (where too many peaks were happening one after the other) and my readers might drown due lack of breath from too much excitement. See Nicola's comments about allowing your reader to breath.

The children's historical novel, PRINCESS OF THE PIGSTY, began in much the same way. Though once I began to write, I quickly knew exactly where the story was going and plotted it out from start to finish. This made it much easier and faster to write. I did muck around with the placement of some of the minor events in the story which made for a smoother read, but ultimately the plot and story structure remained unchanged. I was able to finish the SFD in about four months, though my tendency to be finicky about editing dragged the whole process out much longer.

My new YA MS has been a different experience altogether. I got the idea in a sudden flash of inspiration, then thought about it and chatted about it with my writing buddy for a month or so. Then one afternoon I sat down and plotted in detail the whole novel from start to finish, and wrote a short synopsis for the two follow-on novels. It was amazing! Now I understand how writers can churn out a couple of novels each year. I started writing it at the beginning of October and my SFD is now 1/3 written. (I know some of you write much faster than this, so stop gloating!)

Plot outlines and story structure maps might be tedious to draw up, but I am now totally sold on how worth while they are - especially if your story in complex and multi-layered. So, if you have never tried it, I encourage you to give it a go.

I'd love to hear how you formulate your story structure.
Do you just write and see what happens?
Are you like me and vary in your method from story to story?
Or are you very ridged in the method you use?
How do YOU do it?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Effective Query Letters

Are you struggling to write a query letter? Are you staring at the blank screen willing magical agent / editor irresistible words to simply appear? Uncertain where to start or how to go on?

The agent Janet Reid has some great advice about what to make sure you include and what you ought to be sure to leave out. Make use you check it out.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's hot and what's not

If you're a YA writer like me and keen to know what subgenres are most popular now and what's not pop over to Susan Adrian blog. Her guest, literary agent Suzie Townsend, gives a detailed analysis of the 5 most common genres she's seeing and what she would like to see more of. So drop in and have a look see.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Praise for Catherine Gilbert Murdock

I've just finished reading PRINCESS BEN by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. If you like new fairy tales you will love this quirky YA novel about a young princess's journey of self discovery and coming of age. Its a charming, witty, fantasy-fairytale with a generous sprinkling of magic, tragedy and love.
This is a fun read, hard to put down and sure to bring a smile to your lips.

With her parents lost to assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia. Starved and miserable, locked in the castle's highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts:mastering an obstinate flying broomstick, furtively emptying the castle pantries, setting her hair on fire ... But Ben's private adventures are soon overwhelmed by a mortal threat to her kingdom. Can Ben save the country and herself from foul tyranny?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

YA update

Since writing yesterday that I haven't been writing much since I started the new job, I am pleased to say I am back into it once more and my YA MS is now a healthy 15,000 wds. It is coming along well I think.

I know technically it means nothing to have members of your family tell you your work has merit, but yesterday I persuaded my ds (dear son) to read the first chapters. He is very particular about what he reads. He loves fantasy, but usually won't touch something with a heroine protagonist - lets face it he'd rather read a boys book. What boy wouldn't?

He read the first five chapters and told me, with a shy smile on his face, that it was very good. Now, this is VERY high praise coming from my ds. :D I was so thrilled he liked it I gave him a hug - which made him blush.
But then he said, "What if I said it was really, really good?"
I grinned even wider.
"What if I said it was excellent?"
I said, close to leaping off the chair in excitement, "Do you really think so?"
He grinned back a me. "Yup. It's really excellent. Can I read some more of it tomorrow?" Laughing I pushed him away and said, "You better get to bed and let me write some more then!"

So I am thrilled!

Hopefully I can keep him on the edge of his seat until the end and his enthusiasm will help me maintain my momentum.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Published in the Challenge

Things have been a little crazy around here lately. Not much writing has been going on, instead I have been trying to get my head around the sudden way my life has changed. I was a home schooling mother of four, but since the beginning of term my kids are now all in school and I am working part time and planning to write on my days off.

Things have been so nuts I forgot to blog about the fact that I had an article published in the Challenge Weekly. If you don't live in NZ, this is the primary nationwide Christian Newspaper. It was featured in Vol 67, issue 39 under the title Unique writing for a good purpose.
So, I was pretty happy about that. :)

Our new writing group starts up this coming week. We will be sharing a piece of our work and giving each other constructive criticism and praise, of course. We'll do an exercise or two and later chat over supper. It'll be great fun and all in the name of encouraging each other to write better, tighter and ultimately getting published.

I'll be taking the first few papers to my new YA novel and I have to admit I'm excited because I think they are reasonably good, but quite nervous too. It is always a little hairy when submitting your work for someone else's assessment. So, if you are looking for a serious writing group in the Dunedin (NZ) area you can email me at ruthDOTpeoplesATgmailDOTcom.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Futher clarification from Shooting Star Stories

After I blog recently on Camilla's comment about Star Stories, I contacted her again to ask for clarification on their method/medium of publishing. In short, I basically asked if they were primarily a "software based" publisher or hard copy, or both.

Camilla replied and gave me permission to post her response here for you all to see. So, thank you Camilla for your openness, and do let us know when the your blog is up and running.

Here is what she had to say about publishing with Shooting Star Stories:

We are an e-book publisher primarily. This gives us the ability to give authors about twice the percentage profit they'd receive on their book if they were printed hard copy. (However, should an author require hard copies published, we can do that too). That's not our primary distribution channel though.
To print a book hard copy, you'd be looking at about $12 per copy - just for the printing. Because we don't have that overhead, we can give authors better returns and make the books more attractive for readers/parents to purchase.
E-books are the way forward for publishing now, you only need look at mp3s and CD's to see which way people are consuming their information/media. The beauty of our idea is that our software will really allow the books to come alive, so for all those readers (and authors) who love the way their own childhood books ignited their imagination, we aim to continue that magic, in a modern day medium.
We're passionate, creative and forward thinking. And most of all - we're writers, working with and for other writers. Already we're creating an amazing community of people who are so excited to be a part of what we're creating, and that's exciting for me.
Don't get me wrong - this is a 16hr/day job for me now, it's a hard slog and at times you're so bogged down with submissions and email enquiries that you forget about the amazing, empowering idea that started this venture. And when I do stop to remember, I know that we're doing something that has never been done before and so it's important for me to do it right, do it with respect for my fellow creatives and keep the magic alive for the kids who will read the books we publish, fall in love with them and remember them long into their adult lives. It's a very important and special venture for me.
Please post this comment on your blog if you like - we have a policy of being transparent with those we're working with - and as a genuine author, I'm happy for you to share this information with your network. :)
Happy writing and I'll be in touch again soon with more.
Camilla Jones
Shooting Star Stories.
p.s - I'll be staring a blog soon with free hints and tips for authors to help them get published (either with us, or if they choose with other publishers).


I've re-organised my blog list so that it is easier to find your way to the sort of sites that might pip your interest. Now you can find a separate list of Agent and Publisher blogs, another for NZ writers like moi, and the others I follow.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Paragraph Challenge

For those of you who like writing competitions, Nathan Bransford is hosting a fun paragraph competition over at his blog.


Write the best paragraph of your life and be into win!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shooting Star Stories: A few Words from the Editor

Well, I was wondering what to blog about today when I received a comment on last month's post about Shooting Star Stories (the new childrens publisher) from their editor, the lovely Camilla Jones. So, rather than leave it there, where most of you would be more than likely to miss it, I thought I'd put it up in a post of its own for you all to see.

If after reading Camilla letter you're keen to join me on the growing list of eager writers banging on the door of Shooting Star Stories feel free to contact her.

Here's what she had to say:

Hi Ruth!

A friend sent through an email this morning mentioning she'd seen our company on your blog - so for your sake and those that read your blog I thought I'd get in contact as I'm the Head Editor for Shooting Star Stories.

Basically, yes it's a scary process submitting your work to people you don't know and whenever anyone is wary with us, we fully encourage them to hang fire and send a sample of work when our site is up and running (scheduled for early 2010).

When you're a new company and you have a brilliant idea for delivery (ours is software based) you are wary yourself as a company with regards to protecting your own IP. That's why we don't have a huge amount of info on the internet about the delivery method etc. This will come online closer to our launch date, when we can safeguard against any copy cats.

The company was started by myself (a full-time writer/ex-advertising copywriter) that wanted to sell my own work and found that in reality, I wasn't going to see much return on my effort with a traditional publisher. I started putting the wheels in motion to sell my work online, recruited the help of some good friends who were editors and had worked in the publishing industry, and all of a sudden, friends and family wanted me to help them sell their children's books TOO!

The idea has grown and grown, and we thought, "I bet there are a million authors out there that don't know where to start in the whole process of getting published and want some decent return for their work." So we published an ad on seek and the response has been phenomenal - we receive over 100 submissions a DAY!

So, as you can imagine, we've got a bit of a backlog. What we ARE trying to do though is manage people's expectations with regular email contact as to what stage in the process they're up to and also provide feedback where we can.
In-depth feedback for everyone is unfortunately not possible, but we try to give as much help as we can.

Anyway - just thought I'd send you this so that if any of your readers also are interested, they'll have some info too.

Best of luck with the process and as with all our applications, we'll respond personally to you.

Happy writing and have a great day!

Camilla Jones
Shoooting Star Stories
email me @: editor@shootingstarstories.com

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fire of Hope

Today, for something different I thought I would share with you the story of mine which was published recently in FUEL FOR THE SOUL. Hope you enjoy it.

Fire of Hope

It was a cold morning. The kind of cold that ate into our bones and made our teeth chatter. Outside the world dozed under a layer of white frost that could be mistaken for snow. It blanketed the trees, hedges and cars, and sparkled on the road like a thick dusting of diamonds. My kids huddled over their school work, dressed in multiple layers, quilts tucked over their knees. Their breath hovered over the table in white clouds.

Crouched beside the fire box, I looked at the few pieces of wood I had left and felt something akin to despair: There was no money to buy more. I felt helpless. Arguing silently with myself about the wisdom of using the last of the fuel, I glanced at my kids.

My daughter's nose was red, her lips purple. She held her pencil in a mittened hand. That decided it for me.

The hungry flames licked at the meager reserves of wood. I huddled close to it, desperate to get warm before it was gone and the cold settled in for good. Bitting my lip, I racked my brain for a solution. There seemed to be only one. I prayed:I don't know how you can do this, Lord ... but I need your help ... I have to keep my kids warm...”

Beside me, the fire burned with dancing orange light. My kids were squabbling over the pencil sharpener, again. Sighing, I confiscated it and wandered into the kitchen to flick on the jug. I needed a coffee.

While the the jug boiled, I spooned instant coffee and a generous helping of sugar into a mug. Outside, gravel scrunched on the driveway. I couldn’t believe anyone was prepared to drive on that road. Curious, I moved to the window and looked out. The nose of a white station wagon was parked in my driveway. It was Kate.

Odd, what would she be doing here? I watched her get out of the car. She looked like she'd dressed for a trip to the antarctic. I waved. She smiled and headed for the front door.

I opened it before she knocked. “Hi! Come in.”

She shook her head. “I can't stop. I know you're low on wood and when I saw how cold it was this morning I was worried about you. I've brought you a boot load of wood. It's not a lot, but it should keep you warm for a few days.”

My jaw dropped and I stared at her, stunned. “Thank you.” I couldn't believe it!

You don't mind giving me a hand to unload it do you?”

I laughed. “Not at all.” That was the least I could do.

Kate had gone. I sat by a roaring fire, sipping my drink, and staring at the small mountain of wood stacked along the wall. A smile curled my lips. God had provided. He had found a way. "Thank you.” I whispered into my coffee.

*** Do not copy or publish all or part of this story without the permission of the author: R. E. Peoples (c) 2009***

Friday, October 9, 2009

Missing Muse

This little gem was part of an email sent to me by a friend struggling with his inability to find his muse. I thought it was so delightful I asked his permission to share it with you all. After all we have all been there at some point or an other. Read and enjoy.

Wanted, Muse.
Last seen a year ago, scurrying under the sofa with the bleeding heart of this writer clutched in hand. Warning: May be armed with a poison pen, a cutting remark or swinging its trademark weapon: a busted computer keyboard dented by the heads of a thousand writers. Also prone to invisibility when approached directly. Unlike
what is depicted in popular media, Muses do not become visible again through the use of psychedelic drugs, prodigious amounts of imbibed liquor or by squinting your eyes at the ceiling. Also do not try to capture after midnight. While Muses don’t follow regular hours, you should if you intend to follow in their footsteps. Will only appear to the sound of a scratching pen or the clacking of typewriter keys.
- Muse Hunter Extraordinaire

First mile stone

I've just passed the 10,000 word mark of SFD.
Whoop whoop!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Just in case you're interested. I've updated my profile so you can see a little bit more about me. You might not be interested - that's okay too. :D

On another note...
Ages ago, well, it was a few blogs ago anyway, I mentioned that the results of the Katherine Mansfield Competition were to be released on the 1st of October. Well, the 1st has been and gone and since I haven't been screaming excitedly from the roof tops as you have probably guessed I didn't hear a thing. Nope. Not a peep. Still it was fun to give it a go. My story probably wasn't literary enough for the judges tastes. Never mind. Ten grand would have been nice though.
(My son was guttered that I didn't win. I told him I'd buy him a Nintendo Wii if I won. Alas, no win; no Wii. It's tough at the top.)

The story I submitted was set in WW2 and titled White Feather. I might expand it into a novelette or short novel one of these days.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New YA Fantasy

As I have mentioned before, the new novel I am working on now is a YA fantasy.
(For those of you who don't know, YA means Young Adults)

Now, I have decided, just for fun, to be very secretive about the name of my heroine. Why? Well, to be honest, I think the name is so cool I don't want anyone else to steal it. Her name will be the brand or signature of all the books in the series so I've decided to keep it under wraps for a while. So, when I talk about her here. I'll simply refer to her as "T".

I started seriously writing about four days ago. My word count now stands at approx. 8,800.
I'm pretty pleased with my progress thus far. That's about 1,800 words tonight. YAY!

By the way, is there a guideline as to roughly how many pages per chapter of a YA novel?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Princess Bride

I first saw the movie of the Princess Bride as a young adult (not that I am really old now, but you know...) and fell in love with it instantly.

I was always intrigued by the rumours that William Goldman was not the real author, but a guy called Morgenstern was the true and original writer. If the first two chapters of the "Good Parts Edition" of the book are for real the rumours are all true.

I have wanted to read the book for years - ever since I discovered that there was a book. Well, last week I visited my local library and there is it was: the 25th Anniversary Edition of THE PRINCESS BRIDE: S. Morgenstern's classic tale of True Love and High Adventure - the "Good Parts" Version, abridged by William Goldman.

I am almost half way though the book and loving every minute. It's hilarious!

If you enjoyed the movie you will love this read. It's quirky, funny and sweet. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fuel for the Soul

Fuel for the Soul is an inspirational anthology of 59 pieces of poetry or prose, the work of 41 New Zealand writers.

The pieces explore life, loss and hope in a way that is sometimes challenging and always encouraging.

It is nice little paperback (pg 134) interspersed with beautiful photographs. You can see the pretty cover of Fuel for the Soul in my side bar.

If you would like to order a copy leave a comment and I'll get in touch. Books are $20 + p&p.
All proceeds go to support the Pleasant Point Presbyterian Church's work in the community.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Off to Launch...

I'm procrastinating ... blogging when I should be writing. :(

Tomorrow morning, Sue and I will pile into her car, me with my red coat and lavender suitcase and ... well, actually I don't know what Sue will be taking.

The plan is to meander our way from Dunedin to Timaru, making it there in time to visit the Timaru museum, which I've been told, is quite good. On Saturday we will go on a tiki-tour of the surrounding countryside. If you're not from NZ this means we are going exploring. :)
We'll visit some of my families historical sights; a church, a graveyard and the ancient family farm of Castlewood. I've never seen any of them except in photos, so I'm really excited. We'll also visit Lake Tekapo and the church of the Good Shepherd which sits on the shore, I wrote about it in a novelette once, but I've never seen it in person.

The launch of Fuel for the Soul starts at 5pm on Saturday. It will be great to meet some of the other contributors and finally hold my first published work in my hand. YAY!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Finished. Another Begins.

At last I have finished the final editing for Princess of the Pigsty. It is done!

The relief ... I hardly know what to say. It seems strange to be putting it aside, though, of course, I hope it will not be the last I see of it. Hopefully a publisher will call me in great excitement to declare they want it, and then I will be back to scratching and scribbling all over the MS again (only figuratively, because I do everything on the computer now days).

But for now, I can sit back with a pleased smile and say, Yes! It is done. (- Though there is that one bit which I should probably go back and fix...)

Is it just me or are writers never really totally satisfied with their work?

One of the reasons I am so excited about having Princess finally finished and off to a publisher for consideration, is that now I get to begin my next project.

This time I'm writing YA fantasy (a trilogy of course).

I love fantasy. I grew up listening to C.S. Lewis' and for years David Eddings was one of my favourite authors. Today, I enjoy Terry Pratchett and Cornelia Funke while revering J.R.R Tolkien.

I'm also a sucker for history. Especially English and European Medieval history, which is a bonus when writing fantasy, after all, what fantasy would be complete without that ancient taste and feel which the middle ages always conjures up for us - well, for me anyway.

What excites me most about this project is the fact that I have the whole story in my head ready to go. I have been "meeting with the characters" for about a month and stewing over the ideas that have been banging around in my head, and getting really excited. Anyhow, two days ago I sat down and mapped out the whole of Book One in half an hour! It just fell off the pen on to the page. I couldn't believe it!

Everything is so clear: the landscape, the races, the characters and the conflict ... everything!
Is this what writer heaven feels like?

Now maybe this happens to you all the time, but it's the first time a story has, step by step and scene by scene, revealed itself to me. Normally, I have a vague plot. I know where I'm going and a few of the stops along the way, but the rest of it just 'happens' as I write.

And, not only do I have the first book plotted out, but I have a synopsis for the second book and a short blurb for the third. :D

I can't wait to start writing ... only now I'm scared I won't do the story justice (eek!).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shooting Star Stories

Late last night I sent off the first two chapters of Princess of the Pigsty, my children's historical novel, to a publisher along with the query letter, synopsis and the requested author's bio and C.V.

I must say, I thought the request for a C.V. intriguing, I have never heard of a publisher asking for one before. Has any one else encountered this before?

The publisher is a very new one, just setting up in Australia called Shooting Star Stories.
They are so new in fact, their website is still under construction.

Of course there are pros and cons when submitting to a new publisher.

They will of course be reasonably unknown, so it's hard to get a gauge of the sort of finished product they will produce. There may be little or no feed back from others authors they have worked with about what they are like to work with. But, as new writers must start somewhere so must new publishers.

On the upside, a new publisher may be in a better position to build a more personal relationship with their authors and to put more resources into promoting their work.

We shall see. Whatever the result of this little exercise I shall post it here.

Quote of the day: Mark Twain

Persons attempting to find motive in this narrative will be prosecuted;
persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished;
persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.


Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

T.K. Roxburgh's Banquo's Son

T.K Roxburgh is a local writer I have recently discovered, thanks to a tip from a friend and a full page spread in the ODT recently.

She has written a sequel to Shakespere's MacBeth, titled Banquo's Son, which was picked up by Penguin. It will be available in stores on the 1st of October $37NZ. The trilogy and film rights are about to be auctioned in America.

The book, set in Scotland in 1100AD, looks awesome; I can't wait to get my sticky little hands on a copy.

You can find her blog at www.banquosson.blogspot.com, a candid and enjoyable read about writing and her journey to get these books published. You can find a list of her YA books here as well.

NZ History Competition

It is competition time again for the Dunedin Writers Workshop. This time the theme is NZ history.

Apparently, so long as the story in set sometime in NZ's history it will qualify. I'm not sure how historical a piece has to be. For instance would a romance set in the 1800 stand as much chance as a piece based on an actual historical happening. From what I have been able to dig up both will have a shot, perhaps it will all come down to the judge; Susan Bell, writer of A Touch of Sleeve.

I am digging out a few of my short stories set in the early 1900s (1930 -1950s) and revamping them. We'll see how we go. I'll be entering three stories: Ring of Yellow Roses, Suitcases, and Martini.

Results will be out in November.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Staging a Play


I had a email yesterday to say that the play I collaborated on with my friend Sue, entitled Roman Runaway, will be staged by a small group of players in Dunedin on Monday 14th of September.

Whoo-hooo! I'm an amateur playwrite!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm Gonna Be Published!

It has been ages since I blogged last. Lots has been happening, both in my normal life and in my writing life - if one can separate the two.

I have moved house (and townships), survived school holidays and been away with my husband, without children! (That's a biggie - especially if you are a home-educator as I am)


I am going to be published!
Not just in a magazine or a newpaper, but in a book! One of my short stories, submitted to the spiritual anthology competition, has been accepted and will be published in an anthology!!!!

The chosen piece was "Fire of Hope."

I am not sure how many stories were accepted, I do know aprox 486 stories were entered in the competition.

The book will be launched in Pleasant Point, Canterbury, on the 3rd October 09. There will be a dinner and book signings with all the authors involved who attend.

In other, slightly less exciting news, I also received a third place award in another competition I entered with the NZ Christian Writers Guild.

I didn't get placed in our local writing groups competition, I didn't really think I would. However, I am very proud to say that my friend and prodigy, Sue, was awarded FIRST and THIRD places. You go girl!

Results of the Katherine Mansfeild competition will be released on the 1st October.

So, that is all my news. I haven't been writing much as I having been trying to put most of my energy into the Introduction to Journalism paper I am studying this semester.
I'll get back into writing come the end of October.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Things have been a little quiet around here recently, the reason being that we have been hunting for a new place to live - our landlord has decided to sell this place. House hunting is hideously time consuming!

We move in two weeks, so my hope is that things will pick up again after this.

I have finally emailed my entry into the Katherine Mansfeild competition. I have been frantically editing and rewriting for the past few days, on top of sorting and packing, to get it in on time. The ending was nice and predicable so had to be scrapped and re-written, and character's determined to survive eliminated. Sigh. Sometimes it is tough being a writer...

On the plus side, it is nice to have it done, out of the way, and not hanging over me anymore.
Now we sit, cross our fingers and pray, and wait and hope to hear.
If we don't hear we know we failed!

I have two entries sent into the NZ Christian Writer's competition; winning entries will be published in the August mag.

And on the 8th of July, I'll find out how I did in our local Writer's Workshop Competition. It should be a good night. The winning entries will be read aloud. All the entries will have been critiqued and I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of feedback I will get on the pieces I submitted.

So, on top of writing and homeschooling and moving and gearing up to study a journalism paper next semester and trying to find some very part-time work, life is pretty quiet.

Whoever said a writer's life was cruisie? They lied!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vocab Slot #1

Back in the day, after the evening meal, my Grandpa would read a page or two from the dictionary. Whether it was just because he liked words or because his own father had been a journalist and instilled the habit into him I don't know.

I love words, their history, meaning and music; they intrigue and fascinate me.

While I was musing today about the joy words bring and thinking sadly that my vocabulary is not as vast as I should like, I was struck by a flash of inspiration:

Wouldn't it be fun to include a vocabulary slot at the blog? Of course it would!

I shall share with you a new, wonderful and/or weird words I have stumbled across, and, if you want to get in on the act you can comment with one or two your own. I challenge you to a duel of words! What fun...

So, with out more ado,

lithe: pliant, supple, bending and twisting and turning easily (like an eel).

----The lithesome eel glided through the murky water.

To "hop the twig" is to depart suddenly just before being caught (like a bird taking to the air just before being shot).

----"Och, it hopped the twig!" Conner said, lowering his shotgun in disgust.

That was fun wasn't it?

Writing Tip # 3

These writing tips are coming to you in no particular order of importance, in case you were wondering at the random and disordered nature in which I am presenting them.

Today's tip takes us back to the fundamental groundwork behind the story.

When we embark on the journey that will bring a good story to life, no matter how long or short it will be, we first need to ask ourselves a few questions. The "5 Ws and an H."

Who is the story about?

What will happen to him/her/them?

When will it happen?

Where will it happen?

Why will it/does it happen?

How will it happen?
How will it be resolved?

I once read (I don't remember where) that when you write a story you must put a man in a tree and then, somehow, get him down again. The story must revolve around a crisis (physical, emotional or psychological) and its resolution. And the character/s should develop or change in someway through the crisis.

These questions are the skeletal framework of your story; the way you answer them will put flesh on the bones.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Query Letters

If you are at all serious about writing and getting your work published you are going to have to write a query letter. For those of you who don't know, a query letter is a nice letter you send to an editor/publisher telling them a little bit about your book in order to get them excited enough to ask to see your manuscript in its entirety.

When you have written and polished your novel to perfection it's time to write a query letter. They are incredibly hard to write and require a huge about of work, and so they should. After all, it isn't going to matter how wonderful your novel is, if your query letter sucks you are never going to sell it!

Where am I going with this? No, I'm not going to tell you how to write a query letter. What I am going to do is point you in the direction of The Public Query Slushpile over at: http://openquery.blogspot.com
Here you can submit your query letter and have others comment, critique and give you brilliant advice.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mugging the Muse

I am reading a great book at the moment by Holly Lisle entitled Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love and Money, a fun and insightful little read about how (and how not) to write.
I highly recommend it. In fact, I thought I'd post some of her tips for general story writing, just to get you excited.

1) Avoid passive voice
--- don't be boring!

2) Use active verbs
--- extend you vocab

3) Eliminate most adjectives and adverbs
--- "ly" words slow down the story

4) Use concrete detail
--- five senses

5) Tell a story worth telling
--- purpose, theme or message

6) Know your characters

I have left out all the meat sandwiched between these points, you will have to get the book to read the rest. This was just a teaser. In Mugging the Muse, Holly talks about everything from starting to write through to finishing a novel. Her style is witty, relaxed and encouraging, yet baldly honest about the realities and pitfalls of being a professional writer. Speaking about the personal cost of following the dream to be a writer, Holly says, "Every dreamer pays a price. But so does everyone who fears to dream."

So, hunt up the book, read, then get dreaming and get busy!

You can visit Holly Lisle's site at: http://www.hollylisle.com

Monday, June 1, 2009


I haven't blogged for a while, so I thought to start off the new month I'd update you on what has been keeping me away.

I am very new at writing for competitions but this is what has been consuming most of my writing lately.

I have recently entered four stories in a competition. They were due in at the end of May. I am excited about this, not only because there is a little bit of prize money involved, but because quite a few of the entries will be selected for an anthology which will be published. There will be a special presentation dinner and everything!

Our local writer's workshop also has a competition coming up (I mentioned I was working on some pieces for it a while ago), the stories are due in on the 10th of June. We will find out the results next month. I am entering four "True" stories here. There is no dosh involved with this one but the winner will receive a trophy. (I like trophies!)

The NZ Christian Writer's group which I am a part of has monthly competitions so I have been working on a couple of pieces for this too. The winning pieces will be published in the magazine.

The biggest competition is the upcoming BNZ Katherine Mansfeild Competition. This is probably the most prestigious short story competition in NZ. I am currently working on a piece for this. Submissions are due in by 30th of June.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lynn Truss on Punctuation

Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss, is officially one of my all time favourite books. Who would have thought a book about punctuation could have me giggling and snorting, my nose so glued to the page, I honestly couldn't put it down once I started reading it.

I'm going to share a couple of her little gems of wisdom with you, just to whet your appetite.

Taken from the "style book of a national newspaper: punctuation is 'a courtesy designed to help readers to understand a story without stumbling'."

Punctuation is just good manners and: "Truly good manners are invisible: they ease the way for others, without drawing attention to themselves."

"Punctuation directs you how to read, in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play."

What a lovely picture. Who ever dreamed punctuation could be so artistic, so beautiful, so precisely particular?!

Get the book! It is a must for every bookshelf.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Writing Tip #2

Today's tip:

Don't tell the reader what is happening, let them experience it for themselves.

Your reader wants to experience what the character is experiencing.
So, employ the five senses:

* See

* Taste

* Smell

* Hear

* Feel

For example: Tim showered and had a coffee.


Tim flicked on the shower faucet and cast a towel over the rail. Brushing his teeth over the basin he waited for the water to steam. Stepping in, a torrent of blistering rain hammered against his back only to trickle down his calves. Bliss. He lathered, scrubbed and cast away the showerbud. Then switching off the water, he stepped onto the bathmat, dragging the towel after him.


The jug whistled loudly, spewing forth a cloud of steam. Humming tunelessly, Tim spooned coffee into a mug. He splashed hot water over the milky granules and the rich, bitter scent filled the kitchen. He could almost taste it. Tim sighed contently and stirred it, watching a creamy vortex form in his mug.

I'm not saying that in every paragraph you write we need to experience every one of the five senses (God forbid!), but we should experience at least one, I think.

Nor am I saying, every time your character does something like eat, sleep, dress, shower or kiss, etc, you need to write an entire paragraph of moment by moment detail about what happened (your readers would fall asleep), rather you can use these experiences to draw your readers into your story.

This method is especially good for longer pieces of writing, use it sparingly in short stories.

So what inspired me to share this tip?

I critiqued the first chapter of a novel that was written entirely in this way.

Tim woke up. The alarm was ringing. He turned it off and got up. Tim went down stairs. He showered and had a coffee. Sitting at the table he thought about his girl friend.

That wasn't a quote, but it wasn't far off. Needless to say, I didn't read the whole chapter. I was bored. Why? Because nothing is happening! I'm not drawn to Tim. I don't know who he is, what he is experiencing or what he is thinking... nothing. Dull!

So happy writing everyone. Get busy experiencing your character's world!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Editing

It has been a while since I made my last post.

I've been procrastinating a little, I admit, and life has been a tinsy-bit chaotic. Unlike most parents of school age kids, my life gets crazier when school goes back. Why? 'Cause I home educate my kids. So, the first week of term is always mad: sometimes trying to get kids back into school routines after the holidays is like trying to pull teeth with no anesthetic!
The holidays were great though. I did a lot of chilling out, read some good books, and got heaps of editing done. So, I'm feeling great. I hope the rest of you are feeling as well rested.

My friend/editor, Sue, has given my children's novel back to me. I began making changes this week, most of it minor - which is great - since most of the big chopping and changing was done last edit. Except for one thing... I have sadly agreed that she's right, and this thing needs to be done, but I am dragging my heels over it.

And that is: I have to wipe out - eradicate - exterminate - delete - one of my characters. I am not even going to kill him off in the story, he is simply going to disappear and no one will ever know he existed (sob).

His name was Kentigern McKenzie. He was fifteen years old and a twin (his brother will still be in the book). He was born of a Scottish immigrant family. When he grew up he wanted to be a doctor. He loved to read, play the fiddle, swim, and go fishing with his brothers. He was sweet, gentle-natured, and unaffected.

So, why did he need to be erased?
Well, he was just too nice! He never played a big part of the story and was too much in the back ground. I deleted the first reference to him today! The story will not suffer with out him. But I will miss him.

Au Revoir Kentigern!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reading Bliss

Well, I haven't blogged for a few days - the reason?

I have been reading Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse , the third book in the Vampire love-story series. Yesterday, I sent most of the afternoon, encamped on the lawn, with my nose stuck between the pages - another great read!

Lots of people write these books off as silly teen vampire/fantasy romance; but I know plenty of adult women who are just as enchanted by them. And the teens who are reading them are not only girls - boys are enjoying them just as much, which probably has something to do with the werewolves. If girls have a thing about vampires, it's the werewolves that do it for the guys.

One thing I must say about Stephenie Meyer, which I truly appreciate, is the way her prose flows. It literally pulls you effortlessly through the story - before you know it you're on the last page and craving the next book - this is a talent. Nothing jars or grates as you read. You're never pulled up sharp, feeling slapped in the face, by an awkward sentence, hideous grammar or uncouth punctuation. Which happens often these days (sigh) - especially when one is a writer, I think we are more aware of flaws like this than other readers might be.

The other thing I admire in Stephenie's work is her mythology. These Twilight books (as everyone is calling them) are unlike other vampire books - take Anne Rice for example. Her (Stephenie's) vampires are not like anyone else's - nor are her werewolves, for that matter. She has taken the traditional vampire mythology and turned it on it's head. And while some purist's are jumping up and down and screaming: "You can't do that! They aren't real vampires!" I say: "You go girl!" It takes guts to buck the statusquo. It takes courage - especially as a new writer - to try to pull off something like this: It'll either be a great success or an epic fail! In Stephenie's case we have an Epic Success. One of the things that is so hard to do in fantasy writing is to pull off a convincing mythology, but I think she does it admirably.

Well, done Steph!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I don't know whether to feel excited or relieved. For the last week I have been working all out to finish editing Parts One and Two of my book "A Woman's Quest: Living for the Glory of God." Yes. The title is pretty self-explanatory. It's a theological tome, written by a woman for women. My first non-fiction work.

Yay! I am excited... and relieved. It feels GREAT to have it done!

Now, I just need to finish Parts Three and Four!

Sigh... Someone remind me why we do this to ourselves?

Writng is...

Writing is the struggle against silence.


Writing Tip #1

I thought it might be fun to periodically post a writing tip on the blog and share a little inspiration. A couple of weeks ago, the home work for our Writing Workshop was to come up with a list of writing tips and ideas for overcoming writer's block. I thought I'd share them with you.

Here's tip number One:

Points of View

Once you have an idea for a story and have decided what length it will be (are you writing a novel, a novelette, a short short or something shorter still), it's time to think about the point of view you will write from. Sometimes, as you begin to write the story will decide for itself, other times you need to make a conscious choice. We have four perspectives to choose from.

1st Person - this is told from an "I" perspective as if you were narrating the story.
Fury contorted Rob's expression. "I'll get you!" He swore.
I ducked. His fist whistled passed my ear. Gritting my teeth, I lurched at him. My fist buried itself in the soft flesh of his belly. The air exploded from his lungs in a guttural grunt. Stepping away, I watch with brutal satisfaction as he crumbled at my feet.

2nd Person - this is told as if the "you" are an invisible narrator explaining the character's story.
You cross the room to the window. Jerking it closed you scowl at the leaves littering the carpet. "I shouldn't have bothered to vax." You grumble.

(Personally I dislike this style. I find it awkward to write and uncomfortable to read.)

3rd Person - this is told as if events occur in the present tense from their, the characters, perspective.
Outside the wind whistled around the house, rattling the shutters, and tapping at the windows. Lucy huddled under her covers, her throat tight with fear. The curtains stirred casting ghastly moonlit shadows on the wall.

3rd Person Omniscient - This is often called the God Perspective as if the narrator knows everything. Though this is similar to the normal third person perspective, in this form a story is told to the reader rather than experienced by them.
Jilly kicked a stone and watched it bounce along the path ahead of her. She hated school. She hated home. She didn't want to be at either place. She hunched her shoulders and shoved her fists deeper into her pockets. "Life sucks," she said. The stone didn't say anything. She booted it again. It leapt into the air and landed with the splash in the puddle.

These examples have been quickly rattled off, but they should give you the general idea.

I know that for some of you this is extremely elementary stuff, but it never hurts to review things, and some of you may find this helpful. It may even inspire you to try a style that's outside your comfort zone. I hope so. Happy writing!