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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A New Book

No, this post isn't about another new idea I've had.

Today I went out and bought a book!

"Wow," you say. "So, what?"

Well, for me this is a big deal. Yes, I read huge numbers of books - I'm the kind who haunts libraries - and we own huge numbers of books too. But most of them are books I've bought for my kids, or non-fiction books about history, literature and mythology, or theology and philosophy (looks at hubby), or classics like Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Georgette Heyer, C. S Lewis and Tolkien.

I actually don't own many modern novels.


I know, shocking isn't it? It was a serious lack I noticed only recently.

Knowing I'm a compulsive reader, a friend ask if she could raid my bookshelves. Needless to say, she gave me a very odd look and said, "You don't have many real books do you."

Real books? They're classics! What more did she want? ;)

But she had I point. So I've started collecting "real books" - not for my kids, 'cause I'm always buying them books - but books for me!

My collection began with with my fav cousin gifting me the entire Twilight Saga (what a honey!) and today I bought myself Host. Now I have the complete Stephenie Meyer collection. Yes, I'm a fan - but I'm not stoopid about it.

I now have my sights firmly fixed on Vanda Symon's detective series. My first one should arrive in the post tomorrow. I'm watching the post box like a hawk.

I think I like collecting books. I don't think I'll ever have enough. Sigh.

What about you? What do you have in your collection?

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I have just finished reading the first two books in Judson Roberts' Strongbow Saga, Viking Warrior and Dragons from the Sea.

Judson obviously has an extensive knowledge of ninth-century Viking history. He hosts the site www.strongbowsaga.com where you can find more info about the Vikings and their world. He was (is?) an attorney and special agent.

Being a bit of a history freak and having a oral family history that claims one branch of my mother's family descend from Vikings, I've read and own a number of Viking histories. Armed with this knowledge I have to say I was seriously impressed with the quality of Judson's work.

I felt as if I had been sucked back in time and was truly experiencing the Viking world.

Often in movies and stories Vikings are portrayed as mindless beasts that only live to harass and murder the innocent. This always annoys me. That didn't happen here.

Judson portrays the uniqueness of the Viking culture, the faith, the traditions - and the violence - with insight, sensitivity and honesty.

His story is compelling and exciting, lingering in your mind and teasing your thoughts when you aren't reading it and urging you to pick it up again to find out what will happen next. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Halfdan is the son of a captured Irish princess enslaved by a Viking chieftain. A slave his entire life, Halfdan suddenly finds himself freed, the acknowledged son of a chief, thanks to his mother's grim sacrifice. But freedom is not everything he dreamed of. It brings its own troubles and heartache ...

So, if you are looking for some solid historical YA for boys (and girls who like a bit of adventure) I highly recommend Judson's Strongbow Saga.

Chocolate Earning Milestones

Tonight is a night for rejoicing!

I have reached a Chocolate Milestone. That is a writing milestone which entitles me to gorge myself on my favourite indulgence, CHOCOLATE.

Tonight I cracked the 50,000 word mark on Tremorgan's Quest, my YA fantasy.

Yes, my picograph is reading 70% complete.

This is cause for a hearty celebration of the chocolate variety.

Celebrate with me - enjoy a little chocolatey indulgence.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Point of View and What to Do?

Whose point of view is best?

Do you struggle to decide what will be the best POV in which to write any given story you are writing? Do you ever read your MS and wonder if the POV is quite right?

Way back in The Dragon's Pen's earliest days (last year) I wrote a post on POV. If you haven't read it you can see it here.

Yesterday at the blog Writer Unboxed, Sophie addressed the issue of POV from an other angle entirely. While I looked at what the different POVs are, Sophie looked at what they can do for our writing.

Sophie shows us how thinking about the story we want to write can point us to the POV that will best support that particular story.

She asks about the personality of your main character, the genre of your story, the atmosphere you are seeking to create and shows how the POV you use can make all the difference.

She has some real gems to share so check it out. Read it here.

Additional Note:
Nicola Morgan over at Help! I need a Publisher has just written a timely post about POV so for more info follow the link. And another one here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rejection: A Write of Passage

Yesterday I received my FIRST MS rejection.

Some of you may remember that months ago I blogged about a new publisher I had discovered called Shooting Star Stories. Their lovely editor chatted with us here and shared a little of their vision for childrens literature (see here and here).

It was here that I submitted, I am ashamed to say, a very over written and not at all ready to be seen by the world MS. Of course, at the time I thought it was ready - or I wouldn't have sent it - now however, I would like to hide my head in the sand and say "Who me .... NO ... I didn't write that!" but of course it has my name on it and no one is likely to be fooled.

What I will say is, after reading about all the horror rejection experiences of other writers out there my first rejection experience was a "nice one."

The editor explained why she rejected my work - partly because it wasn't the sort of thing they planned to start off with (it is historical fiction) and because it was terribly overwritten (my words not hers), which I already knew so it wasn't a big shock that she thought so. She even gave some suggestions of how I could improve it.

She was very encouraging saying nice things like "you have a huge amount of talent" and "a knack for storytelling," which helped cushion the blow.

If anything it has made me want to keep writing and learning and improving.

Surprisingly the rejection hasn't depressed me in the least.

I feel ... invigorated ... as if in receiving my first rejection I've passed through some Writerly Rite of Passage and I'm now a real writer.

Some might say, "I hate to break it to you sweetie, but it actually means you FAILED!"
But I'm not listening to those nasty voices right now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hopes and Dreams for the Year to come

I'm writing again. Yippeee! It feels so good to be back.

So what is my writing plan for 2010?

  • Finish writing Tremorgan's Gift (YA fantasy) and edit
  • Begin writing Tremorgan's Quest (YA fantasy)
  • Explore potential agents and query
  • Complete final edit of Princess of the Pigsty (kids historical fiction)
  • Write Enigma (dark romance) - just for fun!

Yes, a New Year a new story.

I've decided to write a book - just for fun - not necessarily to publish, but just because I want to try something a bit different, an experiment if you will. This is a first for me. Everything I have ever written before has been with a view to be published. It is so liberating to write something just for kicks, just for me.

Enigma is a dark romance set in New England in the early 1800s. As often happens to me, I had a dream that was so vivid I feel compelled to commit it to paper (or hard drive, as the case maybe).

I dreamed about Enigma one night as I struggled to re-adjust my body clock after two nights of night-shift. That semi-sleep state is a wonderful catalyst for the muse. I dreamed the whole book from beginning to end as if I was watching a movie. Needless to say I was exhausted the next day, having only managed about three hours of deep sleep. YAWN!

I was so inspired I rang Sue and gave her a rambling rundown of the whole plot. (She was very patient with me, poor thing.) I then sat down and charted out the outline.

A down side to this is that its bound to slow down the writing of my YA fantasies. On the up side, it will keep me writing when I'm struggling and that can only be a good thing.

At the close of 2010, all things going well, I'll review these hopes and dreams and see just how many have come to pass.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday Reading

I've really been enjoying the holidays (apart from all the extra hours I've been doing at my day job). I haven't done much writing, but actually it's been really nice to have a break and I'm really looking forward to getting back into it.

While I haven't been writing, I've been spending all my spare moments with my nose buried in a book - lots of books actually.

I read and blogged about my foray into the mysteries of Vanda Symons, one of my favourite NZ authors. You can read them here.

I then poked about in a couple of anthologies of short fantasy fiction, namely The Fairfolk and ... whoops, can't remember the title of the other. You'll just have take my word for it.

Turning my attention back to YA fantasy, I re-read Stephenie Meyers Twilight, discovered Stuart Hill's Cry of the Icemark (a great read if you love fantastical creatures, magic, mythology and great battles. It's the story of a young Queen determined to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of her kingdom), and Brisingr by Christopher Paolini. Yes, it took me a while to get round to it, but I've finally read it.

For a change of scene I then dived back into a couple adult mysteries. Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski is a great read. Kuzneski weaves myth, religion, history and mystery into a gritty and intriguing tale. A reviewer had this to say, "Kuzeski's writing has the same raw power as the early Steven King." I look forward to reading a few more of his books.

The one I'm reading now, The Conjuror's Bird by Martin Davies is captivating. A wonderful, light read that mixes history and mystery in a tale centred around the illusive "Mysterious Bird of Ulieta" which was once owned by the great 18th Century naturalist Joseph Banks who sailed with Captain Cook. I highly recommend it.

What wonderful books did you discover these holidays?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking Back on 2009

Happy New Year!!

It's the first day of 2010!

So, in fare-welling 2009 I began to contemplate my writerly year.

Much changed for me in 2009 in both my personal and writer lives - if one can separate the two.

I have learnt so much about myself and my writing this year which has been humbling, challenging and invigorating!

I've discovered many fellow blog-writers and new authors I'd never read before and I've benefitted hugely from their wisdom and their honesty about their writing experiences (Big hugs to T.K. Roxborogh, Nicola Morgan and Natalie Whipple). And I'm still learning and still honing my skills ... I know I still have sooooo much to learn and I'm excited about what 2010 has in store!

On one hand it feels as if 2009 passed very quickly, on the other, when I look at what has actually happened, it is hard to fathom that so much happened last year.

I'm pleased with what I've accomplished.

I joined my first writer's group at the beginning of the year and at the close of the year co-founded another.

In April I created The Dragon's Pen and started blogging.

I finished writing my first children's novel, Princess of the Pigsty, in February, wrote a novella titled There's Gotta be More to Life than This, and began writing a YA fantasy novel which is now 3/4 finished at 46,7000 wds. I also wrote 17 short stories.

One of my short stories was published in an inspirational anthology, Fuel for the Soul. A couple of my pieces were also placed in competitions. I collaborated with a friend to write my first play, Roman Runaway, and watched it be performed (an awesome and surreal experience).

Add in a few projects that I've started but haven't completed and I've written a fair few words this year.

But one of the things that excites me the most is how much my writing improved in 2009. Looking back at my work at the beginning of the year it is easy to see the changes. I began to dabble in short and flash fiction, a learning curve and a lot of fun, and really helped me grasp some of the finer points of writing tightly and succinctly. Compared with how much I tended to overwrite things my work it now cleaner and tighter than ever before - this isn't to say I never overwrite anymore, I just do it less.

I'm now more aware of some of the quirks in my work and my tendency to over use certain words and phases.

I've learnt to be patient with an idea, letting it brew and take shape before beginning to write, where once I would have rushed to the laptop and started thumping the keys way before the story was ready to be told.

I now have a better grasp of how to build a story, whether short story or novel, how to plan and develop the basic shape of the story before I begin to write. Now I have a method that works for me and I'm thrilled at how much easier and faster writing my novels is because of it.

As I mentioned earlier, my first story was published and I attended my first book launch!

And Sue and I enjoyed running away from "real-life" on a writer's retreat. We explored the landscape and history of Central Otago and immersed ourselves in our writing in our free-time. So much fun. Sue - my writing buddy - honestly, I wouldn't have got here without you! Thank you for all your insight and words of wisdom.

So, all in all, 2009 has been a successful and interesting year full of new experiences and learning curves - some more humbling than others. A year of constructive growth. A year of writing firsts.

Farewell 2009. Welcome 2010!