Wednesday, December 22, 2010
It is that time of year once more.
Half the world is shrouded in a blanket of icy snow while the other half, the half I'm in, is baking under an unseasonally hot sun.
On my side of the world Christmas is associated with camping trips, outings to the beach, bbqs on the deck, ice blocks and dripping ice cream cones.
When I was growing up we often traveled 10 hours by car to the Bay of Islands to stay at my grandparent's batch (or crib, for you southerners). There we spent idyllic days splashing in the inlet, building sandcastles and clambering over the rocks looking for crabs and playing in the huge pohutakawa trees that grew right down to the beach.
Both my mother and my father's mother are English. So while others were having their kiwi Christmas bbqs my family were indulging in the huge traditional English feast. Glazed hams, roast chickens, roasted vegetables and salad, fruit puddings with custard and brandy butter, Christmas mince pies and shortbread. Yum!
The best of both worlds! Sun and great food!!
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, whatever side of the world you're on. May God bless you richly in the coming year.
BTW, if you haven't yet watched The Nativity Story with your family (staring NZ's very own Keisha Castle-Hughes) this is the perfect time to do so.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
I just wanted to reassure you all that I haven't been crushed beneath a mountain of boxes - though I have come close once or twice. I'm still here, still kicking.
We're moving house this weekend. A very long and and convoluted story it is too. One I may share with you next week when I get some breathing space.
For now it is enough to say, thank God! it has all worked out. We have a house, it's the house we wanted and we are moving in. We started running a number of loads of boxes today and will move in the final large items of furniture on Monday and finally, the new place will be home.
Thanks to all of you for all your support over these last crazy few weeks. You're the best.
I'm off to get some much need sleep, hope you all have a good weekend, and I'll catch you back here for the next installment next week.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
So one way or another we'll be moving next weekend. It'll be our last chance to vacate before the new owners move in here, so stress levels are high, patience is thin and faith is being tested.
The boxes keep piling up. My towers have become teetering cardboard mountains. To be honest I'm a bit surprised none of the children have been crushed in an avalanche of boxed books, toys and kitchen paraphernalia. Still we have five days to go, so there is still time for that to happen.
And no, I still haven't written a word.
I have been thinking about my stories though. It seems the muse is stirring. No doubt it's rather hot, dark and not a little dull in that box he's been hiding in for the last month.
After much discussion and consideration I've decided to try rewriting Tremorgan's Gift in first person. I had written it in third person limited, so changing it to first person shouldn't be too much of a leap. Hopefully it'll add a little more pizazz to the story.
I'll only be changing the scenes from Tremorgan's point of view in to first person, the majority of the book. This will make it even more her story than it was before and will hopefully add a little more depth to her character. I'll able to take the reader deeper into her story - that's my hope anyway.
It'll also add a point of difference when it comes to the scenes from Drostan's (the villan) POV which will remain in third person.
My steampunk novel Mercy Me (my NaNo attempt) is also stewing away quietly in the back of my brain. I haven't forgotten my light fingered heroine and her rather weird family of eccentric secret agents.
So I'm musing and packing and sorting and cleaning and looking forward to getting settled in somewhere new and being able to get back in to the writing. Hopefully I won't have forgotten how...
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I have failed NaNo. Not that the month is over yet but reality bites. I know I'm not going to get much - if anything more of Mercy Me written this month.
The count down to our "must be out of this house" date is creeping steadily closer and we are still looking for a new place to live. In the mean time I'm busy with work, I've picked up an extra shift, and packing all our many belongings into boxes. We have more boxes of books than anything else and they tower precariously along the walls. The house now has that odd echoy feeling when I'm home alone.
So with all the work and packing and house hunting and everyday housework there hasn't really been time to write or space in my head for stories to grow. Stress is a serious creativity killer!
Still, in a matter of weeks it'll all be over. We'll have moved and resettled. Some measure of normalicy will return (one hopes) and our creative juices will start flowing again. Perhaps then the Muse will crawl out of the box he's hiding in and agree to go back to work.
For all of you out there who are still plodding through NaNo, all the best! I'm rooting for you!
Monday, November 8, 2010
We had a totally incredible time with family and friends, many of whom we haven't seen for around 10 years. The wedding was beautiful. Awesome and busy times were had by all as we tried to cram in as many moments together as we could in to a few short days.
I didn't have time to even think about NaNo. I did take a notebook with me but it never got to see the light of day.
I'm tired but still buzzing from the trip. I'm back to work this afternoon for the first time since I was in hospital a few weeks ago, so today will be yet another that I fail to clock in a NaNo word count.
Life is unpredictable. The house we're renting has been on the market for about seven or eight months. Last Monday we were told it has finally been sold. Why did it have to be this month? NaNo month?
So now my head is full of moving related scenarios, issues and contingency plans. It could not be any less focussed on NaNo.
I shrug my shoulders. What can ya do?
If we don't make it we don't make it. Never mind. We'll play again next year.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I was thinking I'd get nothing written today, but I had everything sorted by this evening so I curled up in my armchair and got typing.
I'm making slow but steady progress. The words are struggling on to the page. Today I tripped my way through some interesting scenes.
It's an altogether different experience writing in the first person POV of a character who is the dark about so much that is going on around her. Of course as the writer I know the big picture but it's tricky getting the balance right and not revealing too much to the MC or to the reader too soon. I hope that makes sense, it's late.
Happily I've managed to slog out my word count for the day and we're now sitting on a jolly 5,969 words.
I'll be back on Sunday, have a productive NaNo weekend. I look forward to checking in on your progress when I return.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Today has been a bit slower thus far. I sent a bit of time pottering around home and on the phone making health related calls and I had to pop out to the chemist and pick up some more medication, so all in all it didn't make for a terribly productive morning. I did manage to write 1000 words before I crawled off to bed for a nap, totally exhausted.
I plan to have another crack at the story again tonight. The more I can write before going away to my sister-in-laws wedding the better as I'm going to lose at least four days of NaNo writing time.
Still. Over all the word count is healthy.
Part of the fun of writing are the unexpected things that happen when words are pouring on to the page.
One interesting such thing has come out of today's writing. Something totally unexpected! Something I'm going to have to work into the plot arch and use to create strife and complications.
It turns out that Mercy, my MC, has light fingers. Yes. She is a bit of the thief with a weakness for shiny things. She just seems to collect them without really thinking about what she is taking or why.
I've never had a main character with a tendency to do stuff like this so I'm looking forward to playing about with this weakness.
Monday, November 1, 2010
We got off to a bit of a shaky start, but that is to expected with the first draft of a brand new novel.
I'm still getting the feel of the characters, especially Mercy. It's written in first person, which aside from the odd short story isn't a POV I tend to use, so that is something of a challenge in itself. I'm much more comfortable writing in the third person.
The first 700 words felt a lot like pulling hen's teeth, but it got easier and after plugging away for a few hours I have reached today's goal of 1700 words. So over all I'm happy.
After all it doesn't matter so much at this point if it's a whole lot of dreadful waffle NaNo is all about getting the words on the page.
Besides, with the eclectic cast I have to work with and a plenty of chaos and misadventure to visit upon my poor main character I think we're in for a fun ride. So let the adventures begin!
Sunday, October 31, 2010
While I haven't managed to get to the plot points I talked about on Friday I have made good progress on my Character List - it is full and over flowing with interesting characters. I've complied an intriguing list of gadgets. I have lots of information about the culture and place swimming through my head, though I haven't had the time to set much of it to paper at least it's there and I can note it as I go.
I have to confess on the eve of NaNo I'm feeling really exited about getting immersed in this new world. I've had to tie my darling muse to his chair and gag him, he's that keen to get started. My head is buzzing and my fingers are itching to get writing Mercy's story.
So how about you? How are you feeling on NaNo's eve?
Inspired? Unprepared? Are you nervously biting your nails to the quick? Or are you just chillin and surprising relaxed?
Friday, October 29, 2010
If you are an avid fan of Steampunk - or simply curious - and you happen to be kicking your heels somewhere in the Southern Island of New Zealand you might like to take a gander in the direction of Oamaru.
This weekend sees the official opening of the first ever New Zealand Steampunk Exhibition. Oamaru is world famous in New Zealand for their annual celebrations of all things Victorian making them the perfect place to host this exhibition.
For more info you can check out their website at http://www.steampunknz.co.nz/
My plan for today is (aside from the odd foray into housework) to glue my bum to the chair and get working - planning, plotting and designing - to my heart's content in readiness for Monday morning.
Things I need to work on:
- Character list
- Plot outline (filling in the story arch as best I can)
- Evamere's Culture and History
I might also dig out a few movies over the weekend to add a little more fuel to the fire. Sherlock Holmes will be at the top of the list. I might also re-watch Van Helsing, Around the world in Eighty Days and a couple of Jules Verne's movies.
I'm open to any suggestions of Steampunk/Victorian-esk films to watch. Ideas anyone?
Update: I have to confess I got a just a tinsy bit distracted after writing this and went off on a tangent hunting up Steampunk-esk movies to curl up and watch.
After a few recommendations from friends I trotted down to my local video store and have returned with a tidy stack which should give me lots of hours of fun viewing this weekend.
I brought a copy of Sherlock Holmes (something I'd been promising myself for a while) and rented a few others. Steamboy, an anime film. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The Prestige, which was on TV recently but I missed it. The Rocketeer, which isn't technically Steampunk but comes highly recommended and is gadgety enough for me to give it a whirl.
With these under my belt I'm good to start. But any other suggestions are more than welcome!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I had hoped with NaNo just days away that I'd be a lot more organised and plot prepared than I am. As it stands though I have the first 5 or 6 chapters pretty clearly in my head, after that things degenerate into pretty misty details. Ah, the joys of writing...
A couple of my Mad Scribbler friends have decided to join me in my crazed leap into NaNo this year - a first for all of us - and I'm really excited to have them along for the ride. One of them, JT Webster, has plotted out each and every scene she plans to write! I must admit when faced with my plot-haze I'm just a little jealous of her.
On the plus side I've been having a lot of fun trolling through Google images looking for inspiration. Victorian fashion. Steampunk gadgets. Gothic architecture. All these things and more are teasing my imagination and giving my muse fits of excitement. Here are a few of the pictures that inspired me today.
I'm dreaming up amazing gadgets for my steampunk-come-secret agent characters to play with and weird and wonderful creations for the Professor to invent. In the gothic-steampunk world of Evamere just about anything could be possible.
Friday, October 22, 2010
As promised here's the long awaited second part of my interview with T K Roxborogh, New Zealand author of Banquo's Son and Blood Lines. Here she talks about the challenges of writing a trilogy and offers some advice for the aspiring writer.
PART 2: BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS
DragonsPen: So T K, let's talk about trilogies. Having written stand alone novels and now a trilogy, would you say there is a big difference between the two when it comes to the writing process?
TK: Yes. Firstly, if everyone loves the first book, you have to make the second one at least as good as the first. There is that expectation now. You need the book to be complete in itself so that your reader is looking forward to the next one but is also satisfied. You don't want them to throw it across the room. You have go from who the character is and take them to another place, to who they will become. You can't just start with a fresh canvas. There is that pressure to get it right, to remain consistent. You have to keep the continuity.
DP: What would you say are the unique challenges of writing a trilogy and how did you overcome them?
The challenge was to make sure that this whole story – which is the trilogy – had a beginning, a middle and an end. So that at the end people will have tears in their eyes and go … “Ohhhh!” and then they'll live happily ever after. Though Bree will probably be growing up and making a real nuisance of herself somewhere. I haven't written the third book yet but I think that, by thinking about that story arch the whole way through, we'll get everything sewn up. I keep copious notes and there are lots of threads that need to be tied up. You don't introduce stuff if it's not going to be important to character development.
DP: What have been the high and low points in the writing of this trilogy?
TK: The high point was Banquo's Son being short listed for the Children's Book awards, being short listed for LANZA and winning the LANZA. That was wonderful.
The low points have been the sheer hard work: to make yourself sit there when you don't want to and you have to and it's long, tedious and boring. When you know what you're writing isn't good enough but you have to keep going because you have to at least have something you can work on. That's the hard thing.
DP: You told us at the launch that you had a year to write the book, but you wrote the first 60,000 words and had to scrap them, was that the lowest point for you?
TK: I think at that time we, as a family, were going through a really difficult time and I had to not beat myself up about that. We were already in the place of grieving and being angry, we were involved in legal matters and financially it was taking its toll. I know my publisher was worried I wasn't going to do the job. She was worried I was going to tip over the edge. I almost did. The stress of everything the family was going through, continuing to teach, the pressure of trying to write and trying to market the first book. It was a really hard time.
DP: Given all these pressures it is amazing that you managed to produce the book you did, Blood Lines is great!
T.K: I wonder if some of the deeper considerations in the book are because I personally went to some pretty dark places. I was pretty angry with God. I knew I was going to test Rachel, to send her to a pretty dark place. There is a quote on page 41. I had been going through this thing, asking “why, why, why?” And I wrote this almost automatically, so I don't really feel that this came from me.
The dowager's words came to mind. They had spoken often over the last month but always Rachel had tried to grasp an answer to this question of why.
“This is a dangerous question to ask, Rachel. For, after each answer, another question surfaces just like a weed in the garden. If you depend on knowing why, a good life, one that can makes a difference in this world, will be taken from you just as those weeds drain the goodness from the soil, leaving the plant gasping. If you why is to do with human behaviour, you must look only to the story of The Garden on Eden: why? Because someone had a choice and their choice has caused you pain.”
I finished writing that and I was sobbing. That was an answer for me. It didn't take away the pain but it stopped me thinking that I'd done something wrong. When I wrote Banquo's Son, I prayed every time I wrote. For Bloodlines, I didn’t because I was so angry with God, and yet the message is still there.
DP:What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
T.K: There are two things:
The first one is to do with the mechanics of writing. Bum Glue. Persistence. Not giving up. Go out there, do the hard yards. Just DO!
The other one is simple: Show don't tell. I see it creeping in, even in my drafts and I'll put a little highlighter to remind me to come back. Don't tell me that he is feeling guilty. I want to see it! Don't tell me she is cross. I want to see it!
I think it's really good to be part of a group of writers who are honest and supportive of you. People who have your back and want to see you succeed.
Writing is hard. I don't believe there are any born writers. You might be a great story teller but you still need to learn the craft of writing.
DP: So there you have it folks. Thank you so much TK for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. It's been fun! Congratulations too on how well Blood Lines is doing and we look forward to the next installment.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I'm back home, having finally been released from the hospital this afternoon. I was admitted quite suddenly on Wednesday with an extremely low platelet count. Turns out I have something called ITP or Indopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura which basically means a blood disorder of low platelets (the blood doesn't clot as it ought) due to an unknown cause.
After a bit of therapy my platelets are still low but no longer at critical levels, and I've been released back into the wide world.
So thanks everyone for your kind words and your patience. I hope to get the second part of my interview with TK online tomorrow, so do check back.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
I'm discovering that writing a trilogy is an entirely different beastie.
The second book has to continue the first story, while also being a separate story in it's own right. It must be true to the characters and continue to challenge and grow them. The world and culture must continue develop, containing intrigue and interesting surprises without giving away too much. After all, there still has to be something worth revealing in book three. I can't spend all my pennies at once, as it were.
All of this must be kept in mind as I try to knit together the story of book two.
The challenge I'm facing right now is to take the over arching outline and under this umbrella create three other arches, representing the three linked but distinctive stories.
Book one is done(-ish). Book two is plotted out. Book three, on the other hand, is for the most part a dark void of possibilities.
I now have enough plot points or stepping stones to actually begin writing book two. These scenes are brewing in my Agorian dreamscape, taking shape into something worthy of the book. Now to tap them into existence...
And Here is the rub!
I have the second book hovering there, waiting. But I can't quite bring myself to open a new page a start typing. Hence all the blogging I've been doing lately.
Perhaps I'm afraid the words won't live up to my expectations. Perhaps it's that I worry it won't be as good as the first book. I heart book one. Will I heart book two as well? Perhaps ...
Oh, I don't know!
Is this something like the pre-marriage jitters? Am I ready to commit? Is it really going to be as awesome as I'm hoping or will my dreams be dashed? Can I trust my muse to keep the inspiration coming? Am I going mad?
Is this dithering typical when writing a trilogy?
Does everyone get "the next book jitters"?
(Trilogy ... smilogy ... wilogy) Yep. I'm mad! Stark and Raving.
That explains everything ... I've gone and lost my marbles.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
It's the story of an English Lady who travels to America to met a prospective husband. However upon arriving she discovers the man is only interested in the influence her connections can provide him. He even has the audacity to call her by the wrong name! So Sydney decides to take matters into her own hands and skips town to find her mother's brother, someone she has never met. But things quickly get out of control with disastrous results.
When "Big Tim" Creighton spies the mincing fop headed toward Forsaken Ranch, he is appalled. Thankfully his boss isn't around to witness the arrival of his kin, Tim decides he'll turn "Fancy Pants" Hathwell into a man worthy of respect.
Lady Sydney Hathwell never intended to don men's attire, but when her uncle mistakenly assumed she was a male, the answer to her problems seems clear. Her disguise as "Syd" was meant to be temporary... but the arrange marriage she is fleeing, her uncle's attitude to the fairer sex - and her own pride - compel her to continue the guise far longer than she had planned.
Cathy Hake is the author of over twenty books. Her prose is smooth and easy to read, her characters are spunky and distinctive. All in all, a great book to curl up with. Four and a half stars from me.
Hmmm, makes me want to go write a romance....
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Recently I blogged about the launch of New Zealand author T K Roxborogh's latest book BLOODLINES. At that time I promised I'd soon be posting excerpts of an interview with her.
Yesterday I enjoyed a couple of hours chatting with T K about books, authors, writing in general and, more personally, her writing journey and her trilogy. She's a lovely lady and shared quite openly about the difficulties she faced in producing Bloodlines (but you'll have to wait until the next installment to learn more about that *teaser*).
I'm going to post the interview in two parts. In this post, Part 1: Writing History (sort of...), we talk about the books and writing in general. Next time, in Part 2: Blood, Sweat and Tears we'll be talking about writing trilogies and T K will share with us some good writing advice. So do up your seat belts, here we go!
PART 1: WRITING HISTORY (sort of...)
DragonsPen: Hi Tania! Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with us about your books and writing in general.
DP: My first question is one I like to ask every person I know who writes, and that is:What is it about writing that really gets you? Why do you write?
TK: I really like reading. I love stories. I get these stories and these characters in my head. I think it's a bit on a knock on effect in that I wrote a story, someone really liked it, that gave me a buzz and then more stories came. I discovered writing was something I was quite good at and something that I could work on getting better at. Because it becomes easier (HAHA) I don't block the stories. The trilogy aside, I have lots and lots of stories in my head.
DP: You have had quite a few books published previous to Banquo's Son, haven't you?
TK: Yes. Twenty-five or twenty six. Most of them were designed to be used in schools. My first published work was a text book for drama teachers and I wrote little Shakespearean skits and they were published. Then I wrote couple of novels. I got a publisher who was very supportive and I made a name for myself. Because I was a secondary school teacher, the stuff I was writing really appealed to teachers and so my name got known and it flowed on from there.
DP: Do you think being already well known in this way helped you when it came to approaching a publisher with Banquo's Son?
TK: Absolutely. Vicki, my publisher, was already familiar with my work and full of praise for me. She had moved to Penguin and kept saying to me “I want to publish you” which was really wonderful. So I sent in something – a novel called G Force that I wrote when I was on residency at Otago - she didn't like it! That really annoyed me.
At that time I had this idea that I'd just scribbled down. Fleance's story. It was her passion and excitement that made me shelve all the other things I'd been going to do and start on Banquo's Son.
It was only going to be one book deal until I got to know the characters quite well and I realised that I'd created more problems for Fleance than I had room to solve in one book.
I've done the hard yards. I've been writing and publishing for fifteen years. It's not as though I've just become an over night success. I think in part it's being available to be involved in writing workshops and making myself available. It's in making a name out there, like you're doing with your blog. The online community is really, really helping people getting to know each other and supporting new writers.
DP: In a way Fleance's story is a 'sequel' to Macbeth. What was it that sparked or inspired the idea?
TK: About three of four years ago when I was reviewing for the ODT I reviewed a John Marsden book called Hamlet, the novel. In that review I said “Hmmm, it makes me want to dust of my plans to write a sequel to Macbeth”.
And then, I had this dream where I could see Fleance. I knew him who he was. I knew he was hiding but I didn't know why. I knew that there was a ghost or someone dangerous in the woods with him. It's like you get an image of something and you go, “I wonder what's going on here? Why is he here? Who was he staying with? How did he get there? Why is he not in Scotland? Why is he in England?
So I was thinking, if I'm going to say Fleance becomes King, how is that going to happen? How is he going to go from the Northern woods of England to Scotland? What is going to spur him and motivate him? As I started asking those questions the story came to me very quickly.
When I was about half way through the book, Vicki suggested that we make it a trilogy. So what I had to do then was to make three story arches. So I did the one, over-arching arch, from the beginning to the end of the trilogy, and then considered the story arches for each of the three books.
At the start, I had no idea what was going to happen in the third book. I was getting an idea of what might happen in the second book but I wasn't quite sure because I hadn't finished writing the first book. Things can often come up unexpectedly.
I have an idea of what my main characters are going to do but I have no control at the moment over the other minor characters. And I have a feeling that a couple of them are very dodgy and that some others are going to become very important. They haven't shown themselves to me yet but I'm sensing that they're there.
DP: One of the things that was very cool in Blood Lines was the intrigue you had going on. There were a few characters who you were never quite if sure they were really good or not. That was really great.
How scary was it for you to try to bring the historical figures, like Harold and William, to life? I know I 'd be really nervous of putting my stamp on a historical figure.
Well, yeah, but it's so long ago. One of my students gave me a CD of the History of Scotland by an archaeologist. It went from about 300AD but, dammit, missed the whole area that I'm writing. It jumped from 1020 to 1240 or something like that. Still, it was a great thing to watch,
Also, we have the Bayou Tapestry and a few others things like the Doomsday Book (which is, unfortunately, after the time I’m writing) and archaeological digs but that's all really. It was just so long ago. The written word was very laborious because it was before the printing press, but it's very hard to pick out the personality of man from these records. For example, it's well known - and backed up by the Bayou tapestry and other writings - that William the Conqueror had very long arms and very big hands and he was quite short. So, I have used such detail in some of the description of my story.
There is a measure of freedom. I try to imagine what a character is wearing? Is she wearing woollen garments? For instance, if I was her and I'm feeling unwell, how would that cloth feel against my skin?
DP: How long did it take you to write the first book, Banquo's Son?
TK: Three months.
DP: No way!
TK: I wrote the synopsis in September, a month later I began writing. Two months later I'd written 106,000 words. I was also teaching and marking NCEA in that time as well.
(I think my jaw was hitting the floor at this point :P)
TK: I really did nothing but write.
DP: How do you fit it all in? You're a wife, a mum, you teach full time. How do you find time to write?
TK: The kids are teenagers and I expect a bit of independence. I'll still cook and stuff like that but I don't mollycoddle my children. I don't garden and the dusting might get done occasionally. Plus, I type very fast. We all, particularly women, have something that we do. Some people knit and others have groups they attend.
DP: I'm curious ... who is your favourite character?
TK: In the first book, the one I killed. Duncan. I cried. After I killed him I said to Vicki, “I've changed my mind.”
At the moment, in the trilogy, I really like Henri. He intrigues me. I still haven't fully figured him out yet. I think he reminds me of me because I say the wrong thing or the right thing at the wrong time. Henri doesn't give a shit about procedure and protocol especially if he sees it as being pompous, but he isn't perfect. He gets it wrong. He can recognise when he has over stepped the mark.
DP: It's obvious in reading Blood Lines that you have done a lot of research in order to write the book. Which scene was your favourite to write?
TK: The nits! I had to research what natural remedies they would have used at that time. There were two things. Britain and Scotland used bacon fat and ash. That root, which is the method in the book, was used in Europe. It's made into a paste and had a sting to it.
The other scene I liked writing was where Rachel was getting the clothes off the dead bodies. I know, it's terrible. It's all the gross stuff that's the most fun to write.
DP: I have to admit I love the hard, gory stuff too. Thanks for sharing Tania!
Everyone join us again soon for the next installment!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
This year I've signed up for NaNoWriMo. What this means for those of you at home who are scratching you heads and saying "You're what now?" come November I'll be doing my best to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
That means writing a minimum of 1,700 words a day, which is easily do able.
It also means that I'll be doing nothing but writing, no fluffy and procrastinating, no stopping to edit and prettify my prose. It's simply about the word count and getting a short novel written in a month, as badly written as it might be when the 30 days are up.
I have to confess, hubby isn't best pleased. He seems to think this means that come November I'll be checking out of life. I might be a little more distracted than usual but I'm not going to kill myself trying to met the goal. It's meant to be fun after all!
The challenging thing about this is coming up with something new to write. I've decided to use the experience to try something new. Something I've wanted to dabble in for a wee while. Steampunk Fantasy.
All in the name of fun this is my short synopsis for my NaNo novel:
On her fifteenth birthday Mercy discovers there is far more to her eccentric family than she ever imagined. Her Father isn't just a mad scientist, he is a secret agent. In fact her whole family is in on the game and now they expect her to join the team. Then on the eve of Mercy's first mission, her father is attacked in his lab and the mysterious Gizmo he has been working on is stolen. Now Mercy and her siblings must do everything they can to get it back before the people of Evamere start to die.
All over the world this November thousands of writers will be putting their fingers to the keyboard in an attempt to write a 50,000 word novel. If you have ever considered giving NaNoWriMo a go I encourage you to join the fun. Go here to find out more and join up.
As many of you know the MS of my fantasy novel is with beta readers. In the meantime I've been slowly and quietly chipping away at a short story due in next week for another competition, though I'm not holding my breath about it being placed.
What I've really been hoping for over the last few weeks is that my Muse would drop a few idea gems for the sequel to Tremorgan's Gift. Unfortunately he didn't seem too keen to come to the party and co-operate. Maybe he was determined to have the holiday I promised, in spite of my growing restlessness.
Well, the Muse seems to be back. Half unpacked travel bags are strewn through the hall ways of my mind, half formed ideas are everywhere.
My Muse can be a very lazy and disorganised creature! Last night, frustrated by his mess I sat down with my lap top and started tapping out Plot Points.
Things that I knew had to happen, crisis points, relationship conflicts and resolutions, and scenes that I'd only glimpsed fragments of. When I'd finished I had two pages of bullet points!! Awesome. Thank you Musie.
At the moment I feel a bit like Hansel and Gretel when they escaped from the witch.
I want to get home safe. In theory I know where I'm going but the empty page is shrouded in gloom. It's as if I'm lost deep in the forest in the dead of night, the story is there, I just can't see it clearly. The only clues I have to keep me on the path are these shiny white pebbles gleaming in the moonlight.
It's all a bit daunting but I'm excited too. This is a new journey! A new adventure with characters I already know and love, though I'm sure they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. I know I have... ;)
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I work in an old folks home part time. When I won the trophy for my short story recently one of the staff took in a copy of the news article (I was soooo embarrassed). The old folks were totally thrilled, some of them have photo copies of the article on their wall!
Many of them asked me to bring in a copy of the story so they could read it. I warned them that it was a young adults fantasy / fairytale but they were quite insistent.
So earlier this week I enlarged the font, printed off a copy, put it in a clear leaf folder and took it in.
It has been making the rounds ever since and the latest word on the street is that they're going to read it aloud sometime this week as one of the activities.
Now I know that it is really small time, so-what type stuff, but the experience has really opened my eyes to the buzz of writing.
I've always said I wrote to share something with others, to make others smile and give them a taste of another world. But lets be honest, apart from my beta readers and my writer's group the world hasn't been reading my work.
This past week I have experienced what it's really like to have the world read my writing, embrace it, be thrilled by it and make it their own as only readers can.
The buzz it amazing!
Most of these people are in their eighties and nineties and they're being enthralled and inspired by a story for young adults, that in itself has been an eye opener.
One lady came up to me, her face aglow, and said, "I kept thinking, she can't die, she can't die. It's marvelous! I read it three times and I was almost late for tea!"
Another said, "I was there. It was as if I was her. It was so good!"
An old man said, "It was really good. I read the first sentence and I just had to keep reading. That's the rub for me, if the first sentence doesn't grab me I won't keep reading. But yours did and I had to keep reading right to the end. You had me the whole way through."
This is it. This is why I write. This is the buzz I crave. To have people love and enjoy the stories (the adventures, the worlds and the characters) that I create.
You know you have made it as a writer when ... your work has given pleasure to others.
This is what it's all about!
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I had planned to start writing book two today, but some feed back I got at our critique group on Tuesday night got me thinking.
Apparently hints about my villain's motivations weren't stressed enough in the story. Drostan is coming across like an atypical bad guy, too brutal with out any redeeming human qualities.
Sigh and groan and tear at my hair.
No one wants to be accused of creating a one dimensional villain!
My villain isn't really worse than any other medieval warlord out of the pages of our own history - they did monstrous things at times but they also had families, loves and flaws.
I have failed to show the other facets of Drostan's personality. After all the reader can only know of him what I, the writer, chose to reveal!
I might know what makes him tick - what motivates him, what inspires him, what he fears and what he dreams for himself and the people he loves - but that doesn't much help the reader if I don't show any of it.
Sure, he is the conqueror and a murderer, but that's not the sum of who he is. He is more than that. He is a man, with human desires and weaknesses. I need to stress these more ... and I can't wait until the second book to do it.
I don't need the reader to like my villain, but I want them to understand what motivates him ... and maybe even pity him.
So today, instead of beginning work on book two, I've started writing a short series of small chapters that will allow us to spend more time with Drostan, for better or worse.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I've been awarded a few insights, but not as much of the story I was hoping for. I know the general arch of the story and a few stepping stones along the way, perhaps it is enough...
I've been arguing (silently) with myself about whether or not I should start tapping away at the keys regardless. Maybe I should start with what I've got and trust the rest will come in time. But then, am I going to end up writing a lot of stuff that is simply going to have to be scrapped in the end?
Over the last few days my restlessness has been growing. I can't settle to anything. I start reading, making breakfast, doing dishes or washing and get distracted.
It occurred me today, I have Writing Withdrawal.
I need to write!
It's a compulsion. I have to write. I have to create.
My world isn't spinning along it's correct orbit if I'm not writing.
So, regardless of whether I think I'm ready or not I'm going to start plotting and writing book two this week.
Friday, September 24, 2010
I discovered this post by the author Shawn Klomparens over at Writer Unboxed today. He offers some awesome advice on writing kick ass query letters and breaks down one of his own to show us the process and over advice at each point.
Honestly, if you are querying for going to be in the near future, check this out!
I'll definitely be checking my own against this advice.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Blood Lines is the second book in a trilogy and carries on the story of Fleance (the son of Banquo, of Shakespearean fame).
Fleance is now the new King of Scotland, the ruler of a divided nation. He must marry a woman from a royal bloodline, but can he forget his first love? Before he can wed, the woman he plans to marry is abducted. His precarious rule becomes even more dangerous and bloody civil war seems inevitable.
The first book in the series, Banquo's Son, came out a year ago and went on to win and be nominated for a number of literary awards.
It was an enjoyable evening with many fans chatting and laughing as they clambered to buy the new book and get it signed by T K (myself among them).
I'm really looking forward to reading this latest installment.
As an added bonus T K has agreed to be my first interviewee at the blog. So, over the next few weeks I'll be posting interview exerts here. I'll be talking to her about her writing, particularly about this trilogy, and her experiences in the world of publishing.
I'm still compling my questions so if you have any questions you'd like me to ask her post them in the comments below. I'm open to your suggestions...
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Earlier this year the group approached me and asked if we would script another play for them since they'd enjoyed the one were wrote late year so much.
We were honoured ... and a little daunted; this years theme was Libraries and Archives! This year the Dunedin Library celebrated the centenary of the Children's library. This is what had inspired their theme and this is what we latched on to.
We brain stormed for a couple of months before we sat down and wrote the play. In "Between the Pages of our Childhood" the Library (an old woman) interacts with a series of characters from some of the best loved literature of our childhoods, such as Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland and Tom Sawyer.
Thankfully they liked it!
They had heaps of fun performing the play and it was enjoyable (though surreal) experience watching them bring the it to life.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
"The Star" came out today with a small article about the Children's Story writing competition our writer's group held recently, in which I won the trophy for my YA fantasy story. My friend Chris was awarded both the second and third places.
It's weird thing seeing oneself and one's name in a newspaper for the first time. It feels sort of surreal as if it isn't me, but rather the picture of someone else who happens to looks remarkably like me...
Still five minutes of fame in a small time local newspaper in nothing to be sneezed at, eh? :D
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The Dragon's Pen has been around for a wee while now so I thought it might be about time for a change. Something fresh and new, but still very Dragony.
I hope the lighter colours will be a little easier your eyes.
I'm still playing with things here, so this might not be the final look.
What you think? Out of five?
1 being AWFUL and 5 being AWESOME
How do you rate the new look?
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I'm enjoying the break and spending time curled up with a good book. The muse is kicking in again and the daydreams have begun. As weird as it may sound, dreams are a really important step in my writing process. Dreaming helps me mold and build the scenes in my head, like mini movies, before I commit them to the computer screen. Dreams are fluid, unsubstantial things and the perfect set scape for the characters of my story to guide and show me their stories.
The feed back I'm getting from my beta readers about Tremorgan's Gift is good thus far. Sure there are things that need to be tweaked, but the story is solid and compelling, apparently. Which is awesome news! One of my beta readers is a 17 year old male and the fact that he loved it, in spite of the MC being a girl, is really, really, really encouraging. So I'm buzzing and can't wait to get the critiques back and make the necessary changes.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
YAY!!! Jig with me ... I know you want to!
It's an amazing feeling to see the whole thing printed out, a vertiable mountain of paper.
My Mum is staying for a couple of weeks so she was eager to be my first reader. She reads a LOT of books, even this is a bit of an understatement. She's been here a week and aside from helping with the housework and the kids she's managed to read at least seven books! not including my MS. So she knows a good book when she reads one and she wasn't going to tell me mine was great just because she's my Mum.
Well, when she got to the end of the last page she pushed it away from her and cried, "Where's the next book? I want to know what happens next." Believe me this is a good thing, it's the first in a planned trilogy. I want you to want to know what happens next.
I'm planning to read through it from start to finish and then it'll go out to my beta readers on Tuesday.
But until I get it back and attack their edits I plan to twiddle my thumbs a little, read lots of books and maybe, just maybe, I'll start writing book number two.
Oh, and in case you were wondering...
Step One: Write the book (and re-write and repeat as necessary)
Step Two: Edit the book (and repeat as necessary)
Step Three: Edit the book as advised by beta readers (and repeat as necessary)
Step Four: Submit the book to agent or publisher
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
There are (or will be) six books in the Laws of Magic Series.
In book One, Blaze of Glory, Aubrey must discover who created the magical golem that attempts to assassinate Prince Albert and why, all the while trying to hold himself back from the brink of death.
In book Two, Heart of Gold, Aubrey is searching for a cure for his condition but finds himself with a spot of diplomatic espionage on his hands.
In book Three, Word of Honour, the top secret submersible Aubrey's riding in is attacked and he must get to the bottom of who is behind it.
In book Four, Time of Trial, Aubrey and his friends must confront his nemesis and prevent Dr Tremaine from tipping the world into chaos.
While these books are about a teenage boy who is skilled at magic, the similarity to Harry Potter stops here. These books are very different to JK Rowling's work. They feel more grown up. This possibly due to the political intrigue, but I think it also has to do with Pryor's voice; his work has a very different tone to Rowling's.
Pryor has a crisp, tight prose that draws you into the story and his skill at weaving an intriguing tale keeps you turning the pages. "How the author manages to weave all these strands together into a truly exciting page-turner is magic itself! Unreservedly recommended." -Abbey's Bookshop.
These books are bound to be loved by guys (and girls) everywhere.
I highly recommend The Laws of Magic Series.
A review by the January Magazine sums up my sentiments on this series very well: "The action is almost non-stop ... much as I loved the Harry Potter books, I'd rather go out and party with Aubrey than Harry."
**Micheal Pryor is a born and breed Australian and has written a number of fantasy novels such as the Chronicles of Krangor, the Doorways Trilogy and the Quentarius Chronicles, among others.
Monday, August 16, 2010
On quite a different note, the lovely author Nicola Morgan - famous for her YA novels and her brilliantly helpful blogs (Google "The Crabbit Old Bat" or click this link to find her site) - has just set up a Facebook page and is running a competition. To enter "like" her Facebook page and go in the draw to win a signed copy of one of her books. The more of us who join the more books are entered into the pool. To read more about her social experiment go here.
I'm making good progress editing my manuscript. I've passed the halfway mark now and we're steaming on towards the finish. Only a few thousand words to go! I'm really pleased with how the story is shaping up. It feels solid, cohesive and strong, and I'm thrilled to bits.
*** If you are keen to explore a few sites that specialize in encouraging and advising writers and aspiring authors head on over to Writeitsideways to find a list of 23 such blogs by writers and literary agents.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
My story "Reluctant Sacrifice" won First Place in the Doreen Paul Children's Writing Competition.
The competition was judged by Carol Krueger, author of 99 children's books and a local Dunedinite. She had so many nice things to say about the story and was incredibly enthusiastic and encouraging, but did caution me about my spelling (the bane of my writing life).
The whole experience was surreal, however the shiny trophy on my mantle is reassuring proof that I haven't dreamed up the whole experience.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Archery also falls in to my basket of things that fascinate. A bow is a beautiful thing. I'd love to draw a feathered arrow to my mouth and see it arc through the air to impale itself in the bullseye of a target. As it is, I think a Wii sport archery competition is the closest I'm going to get to the real thing for some time yet.
Due to the nature of the book I'm writing (YA fantasy) I've had to write a few fight and small scale battle scenes. I'm loving it! Who knew I was so blood thirsty?
The scenes I'm writing not only have to read well, they also have to be credible and believable.
I don't want to write a fight scene that will cause a reader who knows a thing or two to say, "There is no way that move would have worked!"
In an ideal world I would have joined a medieval re-enactment group and got someone to show me how to use a sword, but in the little city where I live there isn't one.
So instead I turned to Youtube.
When I needed to know all about archery I watched videos on how to make your own arrows, lessons on how to string your bow, hold a bow and arrow, and how to shoot.
When I needed to know about throwing knives I watched videos about different knives, the different throws you can make and how to pull them off.
Fighting with a sword and shield? Youtube came to the rescue again with videos explaining how to hold a sword and shield, how to make your stance and how to move when you're fighting, as well as different attack and defensive moves.
Not that any of this would mean I could defend myself if someone came at me with the real thing. Nor would it help much if someone put a bow in my hand and said "Shoot that target over there or I'll drop your laptop from a great height." I think we all know I'd shortly be weeping over my lost manuscript and filling out insurance forms.
However, it has given me the knowledge and understanding to write (I hope) a good fight scene that's not only believable but wickedly exciting!
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I think it's easier when we are in the writing phase to sweep these wee monsters under the carpet and pretend they aren't there. But come editing time it's much harder to pretend that all the problems and inconsistencies, plot issues, dull, boring, cardboard characters and lazy writing are not there!
They are THERE and they have to be dealt will. They can't be left as they are. These monsters must be vanquished or they will destroy any potential your story has of EVER leaving the slush pile.
For the last - lets be honest - six weeks I have been struggling with a particular large beast.
I admit I dragged my feet. I don't know that I was scared to face this monster, but I certainly wasn't looking forward to it. I procrastinated. I read books. I twiddled my thumbs. I didn't want to have to deal with the problems I saw. And there were many of them!
The whole passage was about 10-15 pages, about a quarter of the way through the book. Pieces I'd written way back in the beginning, some of the very first scenes I came up with before I really knew what shape the book would take on and who my characters were.
With the book now finished, bits of it no longer fitted. Scenes needed to be tweaked, characters filled out. New scenes had to be added in to provide info and to sew everything together seamlessly. There needed to be more character interaction, more conflict and more fighting. What a nightmare!
But today is a day to celebrate. I've conquered the beast.
This afternoon it breathed it's last breath and twitched it's last twitch.
It feels great to have it done and I'm pretty pleased with what has come out of it. The characters feel fuller and more vivid, and there are some nice action scenes in there too. Which is awesome!
Editing wise, it's pretty much all down hill from here. There's still lots to do, but there are no more mountains to climb and no more great, hairy, slobbering beasts to slay.
A days work well done, if I do say so myself.
I hope you're having as much success in your own writing corner.
Note: Sorry about all the typos. I think I've fixed them all now.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
This means getting into the your character's head and making her real on the page.
Whatever situation your character finds herself in you have to know and understand how she feels. Emotion is a huge part of our humanity. Our characters need to be convincingly human (unless of course you're writing SF and your MC is non-humanoid).
In the books we read it's the things a character experiences and their reactions, both emotional and physical, that will determine our own emotional connection to the characters of a story.
Of course, I want readers to care about my main character. It's my job to channel her so that she'll become real to the reader enabling that crucial bond to form between the reader and my MC.
In order to do this I need to know what she feels and why, right down to all minute the complexities of emotion.
Perhaps she has lost someone close to her quite suddenly, how might she be feeling? A whole range of emotions present themselves for consideration. Desolation, despair, panic, depression, anger, helplessness ... and possibly all of these at once.
Once I understand my character's emotion state I should be able to write a credible response or reaction to what is happening and one that the reader will empathise with.
I thought I'd share with you the image that is inspiring me at present. This is it. Isn't she lovely?
In this picture it's the wistful look in her eyes that speaks to me, as if she's thinking back to a better time. The time before chaos.
Sometimes I see pain and heartache in her expression. Other times it seems to me there's a coldness, a detachment and a grim determination in her face.
Each of these impressions can help me to enter into my character's emotional state. I see it in her face, I empathize and I experience those emotions though her, and with her, as she shares her story and I record it. Of course, I don't always write like this, but starting this way can be very helpful.
I often have a picture, like this one, as my screen saver. So the instant my computer comes on line my inspiration is staring back at me. This helps keep the story in my head (in technicolour!) and acts as a siren song, calling be back to work.
Much of the time the characters and the scenes I set out to write are so clear any extra visual aids are unnecessary. But writing isn't always easy. Sometimes it's just gut wrenching, hair pulling, frustrating, thankless work. When it's hard it's handy to have little tricks up my sleeve to get me going again; this is one of them.
How do you get yourself kick started when your writing grounds to a holt?
What method do you use to get into your character's head or really ground yourself in a scene?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
This blog is about Muse. It may lead you think I am completely insane or cause your head to explode. I take no responsibility for either outcome. You have been warned.
Muse. What is it?
My answer to this question is that Muse is the inspiration and the magic that transforms an image, or a song, an idea or a word ... an anything into a concrete something else. Ie: a story plot, scene, character.
According to the online dictionary a Muse is: the spirit that is thought to inspire a poet or other artist; source of genius or inspiration.
Some people say their Muse has a form, a personality. They look to animals or mythical creatures - the unicorn seems to be especially popular - to bring their Muse to life. I don't know if I'd ever want to confine my Muse in that way, its like putting it in a box. Perhaps it's because it seems to me that my Muse changes or alters somewhat depending on the story it brings me.
What about you? Does your Muse have a form? A personality?
I find myself intrigued by the different ways a Muse can be inspired. Not every Muse finds inspiration in the same places or in the same way. Some people find music especially inspiring. Others are visually stimulated. Some find it in the things that happen around them, in what people do and say.
I'm very much a visual person when it comes to finding inspiration for my stories. Art. Photos. Movies. I find inspiration in all these things, especially in pictures.
Sometimes I'll see something and it'll just hit me. An experience not unlike being shot by Cupid's arrow. Other times, I might be writing about a forest or a wood and need some inspiration, so I'll troll though hundreds of pictures to find the one that captures the kind mood I want to invoke in my reader. (I love google!)
When I find it the Muse kicks in. I can see and smell and hear and feel that place. I'm there. It's real. And that's just what I need to insure I take my reader there too.
This is one that inspired one of my forest scenes:
I find this method especially helpful when building characters. I know who they are in my head and what they look like, more or less, but I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. I cannot give my characters shape apart from the words I use to conjure them and yet I can find something of them in the art of others.
This also works well when I've been away from my work for a while and I need to get in touch with my characters again, fast. A picture can pull me out of reality and back into that other place and time in a snap.
What about you? What gets your Muse going? Where do you find your inspiration?