Saturday, July 30, 2011

Passing it on....

The lovely and talented LisaAnn gave me this award. Thank you!

The goal of this award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

I always have way too many people I want to give these things to. It's so hard to pick! But here goes...

1. Kelley Vittolo is a fabulous YA author and you should totally follow her. I was lucky enough to beta read one of her upcoming projects (written with a co-author, the equally wonderful Jolene Perry) and all I can say is 'Wow!'.
2. Laura Barnes is another up and coming writer with an amazing future ahead of her. Follow her to watch her success.
3.Callie Kingston is someone I've met through contests on this weird world wide web. She always has useful ideas to offer when critiquing.
4. Laura who is my critique partner and both my biggest champion and my harshest critic. She's also an incredible writer and has me on tenterhooks every week while I wait for her to write the next chapter...
5. And for being the most hilarious blog I read on a weekly basis, I have to give this award to my good friend Amie. If you like to laugh, check it out!




Friday, July 29, 2011

Losing Life

So, since this is supposed to be a writing blog, it's time for a little writing. Here's a very short story (148 words) for your enjoyment.... As a novelist, trying to be concise is a real challenge, so doing exercises like writing 500 word stories, 300 word stories or 150 word stories is good practice.

LOSING LIFE

The boy was knifed in the alleyway behind the video store. I’d gone out to smoke a cigarette while there were no customers and saw a dark shadow fleeing into the orange blush of the streetlights on Main. It was not until I moved around the dumpster to stub out my smoke that I saw the bleeding boy. He lay in the shadows, too-thin arms and legs at weird angles as oily blood pooled beneath him.

“Hey!” I said, kneeling gingerly beside him. “Are you okay?” I knew he wasn’t, but needed to say something, the silence of the alley having become oppressive. His eyes flickered open and he blinked, once, twice. He stared at me for an eternity, eyes cat-like in the neon glow from the Chinese restaurant across the way. The eyelids lowered slightly then widened, the eyes beneath glazing over, losing focus. Losing life.

Do let me know what you think. And if you like, share a super-short story of your own!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Treasures in ice

This week saw the coldest day on record in the city where I live. Yes, it was cold. Very cold. So of course, I chose a day just after that to defrost my freezer. It was time. Actually, well past time. Ice hung in delicate fringes from the roof and it was impossible to cram another thing in there.

So yesterday, I attacked this miniature Arctic.

Amazing the things you find.... My son was delighted with a strawberry popsicle I unearthed, and slurped it down while asking for a cup of tea to warm him up. I discovered plastic pots of risotto I made for my youngest son when he was in the early days of eating solids. I found a single freezer-burnt hamburger patty. There were 4 different kinds of pastry too, and I don't use pastry much. Plus a whole stack of burritos. I have to ask why the manufacturers of burritos always put either 6 or 10 in a package. 6 is too few for a family of 4, but 10 is too many. So I always end up buying the 10, using 8 of them, and shoving the other 2 in the freezer for next time. But do I remember they're in there? No, of course not. So there were about 15 packages of 2 burritos in there.

There were several almost-empty packets of frozen veggies too. I excavated these and used them in last night's dinner (don't tell the 4 year old...). Now the freezer is clean and there is a ton of space in there for new delights. Not more old burritos, although I'm sure a few will sneak their way in there again.

What treasures have you unearthed in the back of your refrigerator/freezer?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gearing Up to Get an Agent blogfest

It's the final week of Deana's blogfest and for this round, we have to post the first 200 words of our manuscript. So, once again (so sorry folks... this must be getting SO dull) here are the first 200 words of my novel.

TITLE: Chasing the Taillights
GENRE: YA Contemporary
WORD COUNT: 87 000

The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I can’t think, can’t make sense of the darkness threatening to drown me. Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.

The ground? Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of… gas? Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Broken

I am a broken woman. I've had a week off work to take care of my 6 year-old because it's the two week break at school. And I'm exhausted. Actually looking forward to going back to work tomorrow because it's more relaxing than taking care of an energetic boy-child.

I was subjected to a 3.5 hour marathon of water slides today. Now, I'm a swimmer from way back. I swam competitively right through high-school and still enjoy swimming whenever I get a chance. I like water slides too, but not 3.5 hours of them. In Taillights one of my characters is a championship diver and complains about how much his legs hurt after marathon practices where he has to climb to the platform over and over. I understand his pain....

Apart from the climb up to the top of the slides (over and over, first the blue slide, then the black - I wonder if this kid might be a little OCD...) there was the noise. Pools are large, cavernous buildings. Fill them with shrieking kids and the decibel level becomes extreme. I'm sure permanent hearing loss is a distinct possibility for all employees. What is is about little girls in groups? They SQEAL!

I actually had fun, despite my complaints, and my son is still bouncing with excitement over how excellent it was. So it wasn't all bad. But I have to say, there were a few things I noticed while being crammed into queues with large numbers of soggy kids.

Firstly, there are a lot of fat kids around. Not just plump, but fat. Especially boys. When I was a kid (yes, back in the dark ages... well, the '70s and '80s) fat kids were rare. There was maybe one fat kid per year at school and they were teased mercilessly. Now there seem to be almost as many fat kids as thin.

Secondly, what is up with teeny bikinis on pre-pubescent girls? These things must be miracles of engineering because there isn't anything there to hold them up. I'm well endowed in this area, and I struggle to find bikinis that work for me. How the hell do they stay in place without any weight there to hold them?

And on that subject of bikinis on pre-teens, has anyone else wondered if all those doting parents and grandparents sitting on the sidelines, just watching the kids play with an indulgent smile are who they say they are? This could be a pedophile's paradise. Hmmm... Can't think that way or I'll be too scared to let the kids go swimming anymore...

Do you have any observations about swimming pools? Kids school holiday activities? A cure for aching calves?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teasing you...

I got all excited last night about an idea I had for a blogfest. I've taken part in so many wonderful ones in the past year, and decided it was my turn. I even starting writing the post to tell you all about it. Then I remembered I've had this week off work, so next week is going to be hell. Not to mention I have a major 18 day event starting Friday. So running a blogfest would be a stupid thing to do. I won't have time to enjoy it or participate nearly as much as I want to.

That being said, I still think this is a cool idea, and I promise, post- Festival, I will run it. So keep an eye on the blog after August 15th or so.... I think it will be fun!

What have been your favorite blogfests? Why?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baths

I love taking baths. Great big, steaming hot, bubbly, sweet-smelling baths. I love the way my muscles sigh and I sink into the water, the way the hair on the back of my neck rises. It's my one luxury, and one I'm unwilling to do without.

Especially at this time of year. I write in the evenings in an unheated room. I don't tend to notice how cold I've gotten until I stop and stand up, toes aching with cold, fingers stiff, shivers wracking my body. Then I plunge into the hot bath and re-discover circulation.

It makes climbing into the cold bed better too. Rather than curling into a ball and waiting for the sheets to warm around me for several minutes, I can just lie down and feel the heat radiating off me into the bedclothes. I'm sure I fall asleep much faster.

Baths also give me time to read. I lie there, cup of tea within easy reach, and read books. No e-reader for me, folks! I do occasionally fall asleep in there and baptize a library book, which is not so great, but I have a pretty good method of drying them out again without getting that terrible swollen book thing going on.

I often have my best writing ideas in the bath. I'll realize I've been staring at a page in my book for an aeon, not absorbing a word, while whole sequences of scenes and characters run riot in my head. The beginning of Taillights came to me in the bath. A huge number of short stories too. And my new WIP, The Boyfriend Plague.

Do you have an everyday activity which inspires your writing? And what kind of bath products do you like best?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Auntie B's Book Club Blogfest

Brenda Drake is running this awesome blogfest where the four teenaged members of the book club she runs will decide which books they'd want to read based on a 35 word pitch and the first 250 words of your MS. This is an awesome opportunity for those of us who write for teens!

So, here goes. Apologies to all of you who have read this first 250 more than once before. I promise, in a few months I'll be pimping a new book, so we'll have a new 250...

TITLE: Chasing the Taillights

GENRE: YA Contemporary

PITCH: Lucy and Tony share nothing except their genetic code. When a car accident kills their parents, they are thrown together and forced to rely on each other - and decide whether to reveal their secrets.

FIRST 250 WORDS: The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Teetering on the edge of consciousness, wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I struggle to keep my wits about me - what’s left of them - fighting the darkness threatening to drown me. Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.

The ground? Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of… gas? Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do.

I love feedback, so let me know what you think!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gearing up to get an agent - Query Contest

Part 3 of the blogfest Deana Barnhart is running, is a query critique round. Since I've just re-done my query, this is a perfect opportunity! I'm going to post both versions I have so you can tell me which you think works better. Because my book is a dual narrative, each focuses on a different character's journey.

EDITED!
Thanks to some fabulous comments, here is a new version with the best of both queries included..

Dear Agent of my Dreams,

# #butter ‘em up stuff about why I chose them and why I thought they’d like my book ## and thought you might be interested in CHASING THE TAILLIGHTS, an 87 000 word contemporary YA novel told in alternating perspectives.

Lucy and Tony share nothing except their genetic code and a love of rock music. Tony’s the driven high achiever, the champion diver destined for greatness. Lucy’s biggest concern is getting the cute guy from the burger joint to ask her out.

When a car accident kills their parents, Lucy and Tony are forced to rely on one another--and decide whether to reveal their secrets. Tony has a crush on Jake, his best friend, while what Lucy knows about the accident is so devastating it sends her into a spiral of self-destruction.

As the siblings struggle to overcome a lifetime of past conflicts and jealousies, they discover they might have more in common than they ever thought.

My short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Residential Aliens, Cutlass and Musket: Tales of Piratical Skullduggery, and Rapunzel’s Daughter: After the Happily Ever After among others.

As per your submission requirements, you will find the first XXX pages and a synopsis below. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards,

Kate

So, what do you think????

Friday, July 15, 2011

Don't miss out...

So the lovely Cassandra Marshall is having another edit giveaway on her blog. Get on over there and enter because her edits are worth their weight in gold...

Slowly but surely....

I've just crept over the 20k mark in my new WIP. And boy has it been a hard 20k. I don't know what it is about this book that's so difficult, but I'm finding it really, really hard. The idea is there, the characters are interesting (or at least I think they are) but I can't help feeling like I'm writing something duller than ditchwater and twice as slow.

I usually fly through first drafts, but this one is more like a slow plod. Maybe I'm not inspired enough? Maybe I've started in the wrong place? Maybe it's not the right book to be writing right now? I don't know. For the first time ever, writing feels like hard work.

I thought getting the rough draft knocked out in 6 weeks would be easy, but I'm 12 days from my self-imposed deadline, and there's no way I'm going to meet it (even if the kids school holidays hadn't just started).

Should I put it away until I feel it screaming at me to work on it? Should I push through and ignore that nagging inner voice telling me it's a pile of horse manure? Should I start something new? Or should I take a break from writing all together?

Certainly, this week has been a crazy week for me. Some work stuff has been getting me down, and the weather hasn't done much to improve my mood.

Perhaps I'll spend a couple of nights trying to get through the MS critique I'm doing for another writer. Maybe then I'll find the inspiration I need to keep slogging on.

What do you do in situations like this? Work through it? Or just quit for a while?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Head on over...

There's a fantastic contest happening right now over at YAtopia, one of my all time favorite blogs.

With only 50 spots (well, I think 46 now after my entry) you'll want to hurry on over and get your pitch in!

Continuing the story chain...

The lovely Deana's blogfest continues this week with a story chain. I'm the second link in the chain, so to read the first, head over here.

Dio pushed herself to her feet. At sixteen, she was old enough to have a driver's license. Surely she was old enough to change her name? It was worth looking into, anyway. She strode into the house, determined to discover the laws about changing names right away. Her need for a new identity seethed in an ache inside her. Who could she become? What name could she choose? Alice? Mary? Too dull. Ernestine? Too old-fashioned. Skye? Larronda? She shook her head. Jumping the gun a little, aren't we? As she turned on the computer, she ignored the insistent whisper of her subconscious. She sat down, terrified when the hushed voice grew to a high pitched whine that ricocheted off the walls of her skull.

Done? Now pop over here to read the next part!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A challenge...

One of my favorite writers' challenges is the 100 word story - no repeats! To do this, you write a story of exactly 100 words, but cannot repeat a single one, not even 'a' or 'the'. It's hard. 100 words isn't much, but when you have choose them carefully, it can feel like a lot.

So, today I'm challenging you to write one for me. Post it in the comments so we can all get a look at your take on it. It's easy: only 2 rules - 100 words and no repeats.

And to get you going, here's mine...

EXTINGUISHED

Campfire smoke curls skywards as darkness descends over treetops. Colours streak clouds in pink, gold and lavender shades, amber light illuminating my face. Leaning towards fiery warmth, tears trickle across shadowed cheekbones, falling, melting into frozen ground. Charred meat scents brittle winter air - dinnertime soon: freshly slaughtered deer, innards piled carelessly just feet away. Dad’s knife still clutched white knuckled in bloodstained hands. I can’t let go. Death came too easily to this beautiful creature. One moment alive - prancing, leaping amongst foliage - single gunshot echoing while the deer tumbles, lying prone, blood pooling beneath. An innocent life cut short. Extinguished.

Are you up to the challenge??

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Abandoning Ship

I'm just over 14K into my new MS, and already I've gotten so far away from my 'outline' that I just tossed it in the bin. My plan to write beginning to end also went into the toilet when on Friday I went to the library and wrote 3.5K of scenes from much further on in the book than Chapter 5, where I'm supposedly up to.

I think it's time to just accept that plotting and writing beginning to end are not things I can do. I need to embrace my kooky, out of whack way of throwing a book together. I've written 5 books in that way, and trying to force myself into a style or technique that isn't mine, is probably going to kill what makes my books mine.

So, I'm abandoning my outline. I'm going to write whatever part of the book I want to write, whether it's the beginning, middle or end. And hopefully in a few weeks, it will all come together and become the novel I wanted to write.

How do you write? Do you go beginning to end? Or do you like to start in the middle like I do, and work out in both directions?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stormy Weather

It's just after 6am and I haven't slept all night. The wind howled around the house all night, shaking the windows and the foundations. It picked up fistfuls of rain and hail and hurled them at the windows just as I was dropping off each time, startling me awake with its violence. Every time I thought the storm was relaxing from its frenzy, a new assault on the glass was made.

In between the wind's siege, my son's coughing kept me up. Twice I had to brave the icy wooden floor to find his water, or his teddy bear. Finally, I gave up and came out to the computer.

So I now have an extremely long day ahead of me, with no sleep behind me. I have a function for 100 corporates tonight, which is challenging enough with a good night's rest. Plus, I'm so far behind on my book, it's ridiculous. I promised myself 3 hours writing time at the library, and I'm damned if I'm giving that up.

Why did my coffee machine choose this week to break down???

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What's in a name?

I'm taking part in Deana Barnhart's blogfest this month, and the first week challenge is to ask a random writing question. So here you go...

Names are funny things. I think choosing a name for your child is one of the most important things you ever do, and its the same for characters in a story. The wrong name can create expectations about who a character is before the reader has even gotten past page one.

I was thinking about this yesterday because I'm reading a book at the moment where the main character's name is Eli. My oldest son is Eli (Elias actually, but we call him Eli) and even though the writer has described this Eli as being rangy with dark hair and sad green eyes, I can't help seeing a skinny, freckled redhead as I read. Because that's my Eli.

In one of my books, I had 3 characters with names starting with M, and various critique partners told me it was confusing. So I changed one from Matt to Steve, and it completely flummoxed me. Every time I read through the MS, I'd come to this name and go "Who?"

My characters almost always come to me with their names already decided. I don't give them their names. It's a little disconcerting sometimes, because the names are not always ones I like or would have chosen myself if given the option, but they are always the right names for the character. I think that's why it's to hard to change them later, even if it is just a matter of 'find' and 'replace'.

How do you pick names? And do the people you know with those names affect the way you see characters in books?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mid-Year check in

Okay, I know I'm late. The middle of the year was a couple of weeks ago. But anyway, I thought it was time to do a little check in and see where I've gotten to with the goals I set myself in a letter at New Year. Here's the original letter, with my comments on progress in bold...

Dear Me,

2010 was a great year with many successes and I learned so much about the publishing world. So I’m feeling far better prepared in 2011 to drive my writing career to the next level. Since writing my goals down was so useful last year, I’ve decided to do it again.

I will enter Assignment 9 in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest again. It made the semis last year, and I think the latest revision has fixed the problems my previous drafts had. Or at least, I hope so… But I’m not going to leave it at that and hope to win. I’m going to punch up my query letter and start submitting again. Hopefully someone will bite.

Entered ABNA, but only made it through round one. Latest round of queries ended up with nada, so I've given up on this book for now. I still love it, but I think I've done as much as I can with it, and it's time to move on.

Prayer and Prey, my Western/Romance novel was read by a couple of agents in 2010, and both came back to me with similar feedback. So a revision needs to be done, adding 20K to the manuscript’s length, primarily in Alice’s POV. I hope to get this done before June so I can re-submit it to the agent who said she’d take another look, and start submitting it to others.

Haven't gone near this book since early in February. It's just not calling to me the way other stories do. And until it does, I'm leaving it alone. It was always an experiment anyway, just to see if I could write a romance/western.

With my NaNo novel (tentatively called Chasing the Taillights) still in a very raw, first draft state, I need to dive into major revisions and get the chapters up for my critique group to review. My aim is to have this book polished and ready to submit to the Delcorte Press First YA Novel contests that closes in December 2011.

This one I dove right into and it has now been rewritten from start to finish, critiqued, beta-ed and is being quietly queried. And I've already had more success querying this one than I ever had with A9.

I also want to continue writing and publishing short fiction although with so many novel projects on the go, I don’t think I’ll be submitting at the rate I was in 2010. I will continue to write and publish in as many genres and styles as I possibly can, always seeking ways to extend and expand my capabilities as a writer. I’m still working on that Sci-Fi thing, since that’s the one genre I haven’t managed to conquer yet.

Yeah, not so much. I've had two stories published in 2011, both in anthologies. I just haven't been writing shorts, because I've been so busy working on novels. Something to think about getting back to between novel projects, maybe.

I will remain active in my critique groups and plan to get back into a regular routine with my reviewing again. As soon as I get back from vacation, I’ll schedule regular reviewing time, to go along with my regular writing time. I plan to be very productive in 2011, in every facet of my life.

This I've done. I've even done some beta reads/critiques for writers outside the WDC community which has been great.

I plan to continue blogging regularly, and hope that I can keep the blog engaging and interesting for the people who stop by regularly. Hopefully I will be able to run more contests on the blog too.

I'm still here, and the number of people following this blog keeps growing, so I guess I'm doing something right! I've only done a couple more contests, but I plan to keep doing them as the mood strikes. I may also run a blogfest soon, since I had a cool idea for one yesterday...

As far as my day job goes, I think 2011 may be a year of change. I have a new boss and there seem to be a number of interesting avenues I may be able to pursue. I’ve been reviewing on National Radio for a few weeks, and hope this may lead to other reviewing spots on TV and radio.

So far, no change in sight, but you never know... The reviewing didn't lead anywhere either, but for the moment, the job suits me even in its most frustrating moments.

On a personal level, I’d like to lose some weight (don’t we all). I’d like to say 10kg, but that’s probably a little crazy. I’d weigh the same as I did in high school then… But it’s a goal, anyway. I hope to be able to up my gym-going from three days a week to four, and I’m going to be very careful about portion sizes in what I eat, and not eating up my kids’ leftovers because its wasteful not to. Also, no chocolate biscuits after dinner!

Hmmmm... Well, the less we say about this one the better. Although I am going to the gym four times a week, most weeks...

So, that’s a bunch of things to aim for! We’ll do a half year review in June and see how we’re tracking on this, shall we? Then again at the end of 2011.

Love, Me

So, there we have it. Not tracking too badly, I'd say, although I've done different things than I had planned to. How are you tracking on your New Year's goals?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beating myself up

I've had a very busy week, and as a result, I haven't had enough writing time to meet my goal for the period. And now I'm stressing myself out about that which is, of course, not helping me write anything at all. Sometimes you just have to accept that you're going to fall short, and rather than worrying your head off about it, it's better to just accept the failure and move on.

Unfortunately, while I know that advice is sound, I find it hard to actually do. I'm great at chastising myself, of obsessing about the things I haven't done. And it's all a waste of time and energy.

So this week, I know I probably won't get through the 10K I want to write, let alone make up the extra 2K I didn't write last week. I need to be okay with that and just get through what I can get through. The world is not going to end if I don't finish this first draft by July 27th. That was a goal, a target to get me started and keep me moving. It's not the be all and end all.

Sometimes it's hard to admit to failure, even when what you've failed at is just a self-imposed deadline. But if you do fail, it's important not to let it bother you so much you can't move on.

Why can't I listen to my own advice? Do your internal monologues sound as neurotic and psycho as mine?