Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bargain hunting

I'll admit it.  I'm a cheapskate.  I hate paying full price for stuff.  So I'm always on the lookout for a bargain.  And finding one makes me all kinds of happy.

Last weekend I went looking for a new duvet cover since our favorite Ikea one had several huge holes in it.  I went to a couple of different stores, both having sales on bedding and found a few really nice duvet covers at 50% off.  "hmm..."  I thought.  "50% off $160 is $80.  That's okay."

But I kept looking around and finally spied some duvet covers that were on a bottom shelf, covered with various pricing stickers.  They were the end of a line, a gorgeous purple (my favorite color) and reduced from $89.95 to... you won't believe this... $17!

You'd better believe I went home happy!

Today my friend and I went out to our favorite second-hand clothing store to hunt for bargains.  It's a huge, barn-like place out in an industrial area.  It's stuffed full of all kinds of clothes, most of them fairly tacky or worn out, but if you take the time to really look, gems can be found.

Like today.  I found a pair of pants from one of my favorite designers, near new, for $7.50.  I was looking at the same pants in the actual Ricochet store just a couple of weeks back and lamenting that I just don't have $200 to spend on pants.  Score!  They're about half a size too big, but I don't mind.  They just sit well on my hips and are very comfortable.

I came home with 6 things, including the Ricochet pants.  Total spend?  $58.30.  So I'm a happy girl.  And because I saved so much money, I think I'm going to go out and buy these.

Do you like finding a bargain?  What's your best bargain purchase?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Changing the way I read

I've been very slow to climb on board the e-reader wave.  Partly this is because until last year you couldn't even get a Kindle in New Zealand.  But mostly it's because I love books.  Real books.  I love the weight of them in my hands, the way they smell, the physical sensation of the paper against my fingertips.  You don't get that with an e-reader.

I love bookstores and libraries and can spend hours wandering around, pulling books out here and there  to see if they might be things I'd like to read.  And I mainly read in the bath which is not a great place to be with an e-reader, especially if you're like me and often fall asleep in there.

But times change.  I got an i-Phone earlier this year, and the first app I bought was Kindle.  And it's changed my life.

I used to panic about getting stuck somewhere without a book to read, so I always had to carry a bag big enough to fit one inside.  My work bag is heavy anyway, with a laptop and everything else in there already, and if I happened to be reading a 500 page book at the time, it made my shoulders ache.

I no longer have that problem.

I still go to the library every two weeks or so.  I still have a real book to read at home and in the bath.  But I also always have a book loaded onto the Kindle in my phone.  It means I have something to read on the bus on my way home.  I have something to read at the pool while my kids have swimming lessons.  I have something to read if I'm waiting in a queue at the post office.  In fact, I never get stuck without something to read.  If I finish the book I'm reading, I just buy another one.

Yeah, my credit card kind of hates me now....

Are you an e-reader fan or still clinging desperately to paper books only?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Something new

I started a new book last night.  Sidewalks in in the hands of my readers at the moment and to keep myself from going bonkers while I wait for feedback, I decided to just dive into a new story.

This one is something different for me.  It's historical and kind of a western, with romance thrown in.  I'm calling it Between Paradise and Nowhere.

I actually already wrote this story a couple of years back.  I planned it to be a category romance but it never really worked.  I keep thinking about the characters though, and about a month ago I started wondering what might happen if I rewrote it as YA.  The idea wouldn't let me go, so here I am.

While I'm essentially following the same plot outline, I've changed one of the POV characters to make the love triangle (or square) stronger.  I've also made the characters younger, which changes the dynamics a little.

After one night's work, I'm feeling quite good about the project, but who know's how I'll feel in three weeks...

Have you ever reimagined a book you've already written?  How did it work out?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cabin Fever

I love writing challenges.  I've shared the results of some here before, most notably 100 word stories with no repeats.  But here's a different one.  For this challenge you have to use an many song titles as part of your story as possible.  And to make it even trickier, see if you can make them all from the same artist!

Here's a little story I wrote using song titles from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.  The titles are in bold and underlined.  I think I managed to squeeze 20 into this one....


Lucy stretched a, slender leg, tracing the tattooed python that snaked its way from ankle to thigh.  She breathed in the burnt-hair smell that emanated from the tiny bar heater sitting in the corner, struggling to warm the frigid air.  The canvas tent smelled old and musty even though it had been standing for four days already.

The circus were stuck in Tupelo; had been for three days now, the entire region blanketed under fifteen feet of pure white snow.  It was unseasonable to say the least, and Lucy was getting bored.  She stretched the other leg, this one featuring a Chinese dragon that wound its way up and up, finishing beneath the tight fabric of her sequinned leotard.

Deanna,” Lucy whined.  “I’m so bored!  There’s nothing to do!”
“Practice your act,” Deanna called back, giving Lucy an upside down grin, her back bent at an extreme angle, legs splayed in a perfect split.  Bending back even further, she let one of her feet touch the ground and pushed herself back into a standing position. 
“Bravo!” sighed Lucy as she watched Deanna contort her limber body.  Behind her was a poster advertising her act.  Christina The Astonishing” it read, and showed Deanna in this same impossible position but dressed in a red satin bikini that barely covered the bits that needed covering for decency’s sake.

Hey, Joe,” Lucy called to the carny who was sitting on a pile of mattresses just inside the door, pulling wings off flies.  “I’m bored.  Entertain me.”
“You’ve got a bad case of cabin fever,” Joe muttered through clenched teeth.  “Why don’t you go out for a while? Check out the loom of the land?”
“Maybe…” Lucy hesitated, eyes moving fearfully right and left.  I had a dream, Joe.  A bad one.  And you know…”

Lucy’s dreams were enough to strike fear in the stoutest hearted men.  Rarely were her night-time visions wrong.  Circus folk are superstitious at the best of times, and after so many of Lucy’s prescient dreams proving correct, when she announced she’d had a dream, well, everyone listened.

“What was it?” Deanna stopped her contortions and came over to the mat on the floor where Lucy lay.
“It was horrible.” Lucy shook her head and sat up.  “I was back home, by the river, where the wild roses grow.  Suddenly a shadow fell across me, blocking the sun.  When I looked up, there he was…”
“Who?” Deanna was leaning forwards, hands clasped under her chin.
Blind Lemon Jefferson!” Lucy choked, shuddering at even uttering the name of the singer who had lost his mind at a performance three years earlier, opening fire on the crowd in the tent before turning the gun on himself.  “It can only mean something bad is coming.  I’m frightened.”
“So am I!” Joe admitted.  “You’ve never been wrong before.  This can only be an omen.”
“Oh!” Deanna shivered in her leotard, reaching for the sweater she’d thrown across a chair.  “I hope it’s nothing like what happened to John Finn’s wife!”

A sudden noise from outside the tent sent the three occupants rocketing to their feet.  It was a pounding sound, muffled somewhat by the thick snow.  Before any of them had a chance to move, think or say a word, the side of the tent bulged inwards.  Seconds later it exploded as the body of a young horse ploughed through the ancient canvas, all scrabbling legs and flying hooves.  Lucy squinted in the sudden brightness of the sun reflecting off the snow.  The horse stopped just in front of her, snorting and blowing through distended nostrils.
“Shhh…” Deanna stepped forward and cautiously touched the horse’s nose, flinching as it tossed its head away.
“Careful,” warned Joe, coming around to stand by the horse’s left flank.  “This one’s Sorrow’s child; he’s not much more than wild.” 

Deanna shrank back against the far wall of the sagging tent, eyeing the horse warily.  Joe stroked the horse’s heaving side with a gentleness that was at odds with his size.  Taking the mane in one hand, he turned the beast.
“You’ve got him!” Jack’s shadow filled the rent in the canvas and the horse trainer easily slipped a bridle over the calming nag’s head and ears.  “Everyone alright?”
 Oh my Lord! We could’ve been killed!” Deanna breathed.
“I know,” Jack shuffled his feet as he led the horse from the ruined tent.  “I’m sorry.  He got away on me.” 

Lucy and Deanna gathered their belongings and stepped through the torn canvas into the cold.
“What now?” Lucy asked, peering around the circus grounds, deserted in the thick snow.
“There is a town,” Deanna said slowly, gesturing northward.  “Perhaps we ought to find a motel room.”
Bring it on!” Lucy grinned at her friend.  “No stupid horse is going to lay me low!  Onwards!  To the city of refuge.

Have you ever tried anything like this?  How'd it go?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Twiddling my thumbs

In an effort to preserve what remains of my sanity, I'm taking a week or so off from writing.  And it's making me snaky.

I'm not used to having all this spare time.  What do I do with those pockets of 30-50 minutes?  After the kids go to bed, what am I supposed to do with the time before my bedtime?  When I wake up at 5.30am and stumble to the computer, what do I do?

I'm trying to immerse myself in spring cleaning.  I spent 2 hours on my younger son's bedroom yesterday.  Today I attack the older one's.

But once I've done the cleaning, what do I do?  You know what?  I think I'll just have to go and start a new book.

Are you any good at relaxing?  Any tips for someone chronically unable to do it?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

One of those days

There's a great children's book I read when I was a kid, and that I've enjoyed reading to my kids: Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  It's about Alexander who's having one of those days when absolutely nothing seems to go right.

Today is one of those days....

When I got up it was hosing down with rain.  Absolutely bucketing.  Which meant the kids couldn't walk to school.  Which meant trying to get my partner organized early enough that he could drive them on our way into town for work.  On the way back from dropping the kids I realized I was supposed to feed a neighbor's cat, so we doubled back to do that.

When we got into town I fed coins into the parking meter outside the cinema only to discover it ate my money without registering any time.  My partner called the number on the meter to get the code that would waive a ticket should we get one.  He stayed on hold forever, then they hung up on him.  He called back, and after eons, got through and received the code.

I got inside the building to discover that the roof had been leaking and there was a lot of water on the floor, the chairs and all over some lights in the theatre.  I called the landlord and was summarily dismissed (as usual).  When I went out into the back theatres, I discovered on was not just wet, but completely flooded and stank like a swamp.  I organized for the carpet guy to come and clean up the mess and rang the landlord back to inform him that he'd be getting the bill.

It's not even noon yet.  The carpet guy hasn't shown up and my first session is supposed to be at 1pm.

What else can go wrong before bedtime?  Have you ever had one of these days?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sigh of relief...

It's done!

Yes.  I finally finished my second draft of The Sidewalk's Regrets.  I'm realistic enough to know that's not the end of it, but as of last night, the manuscript is winging its way to two of my beta readers who I know will find all the funky spots and places the story makes no sense.  I can no longer see those things.

The last two days of writing were a dream.  I had to entirely rewrite the ending (about 4 chapters) and it was like the words were already there, embossed on the inside of my eyelids.  All I had to do was type fast enough to catch them as they scrolled by.  I love days like that.  I wish they came more often.

So now I'm in that weird limbo where I'm not sure what to do.  I have two potential projects to work on next.  I could rework my historical story which I have some good ideas for, or I could start planning out the new idea I have which is still just a sketch.

Or I could just take a break for a couple of weeks, but I'm not that great at taking breaks.

What would you do?  Do you jump right into a new project when you finish one, or do you take a rest first?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I've been thinking a lot recently about how far out there you can go with your story before people start shaking their heads and snorting "Preposterous!"

I think it's a lot further than we generally believe.

And what am I basing this on?  Well, I've seen two films this year based on stories by a well known Norwegian writer, Jo Nesbo.  Both film have been impeccably plotted and paced.  In fact, the first one I saw (Headhunters) had me seething with envy over how neatly everything was wrapped up.  There was a point where I thought the film was finished, and I was satisfied, but they went that extra step to wrap up every single little thread which utterly delighted me (if you haven't seen it, rush out and find it now.  You won't regret it.)

But...  When I was reviewing the film, I realized that while I'd been totally swept along by it while I was watching, on reflection, many of the plot points were utterly implausible.  In fact, the whole story was as mad as a box of badgers.  But I didn't care.

The second film (Jackpot) is probably even madder, but just as much fun to go along for the ride.

I think it has to do with internal logic.  If what you're putting up there makes sense within the world of the story, people can overlook the implausibilities.  And this comes down to the characters and making sure they act and react in ways that are realistic to them.  As soon as a character does something that's unrealistic for her, the audience takes note and that suspension of disbelief is strained, or broken.

What do you think?  And have you seen either of these films?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Reason number 1 036 452...

There are eleventy-million reasons why I love my critique partners and beta readers.  They are always full of useful ideas and suggestions and corrections that make my writing stronger and better.  But the biggest reason I love my CPs is when they come up with a solution to a problem I've been struggling with.  And yesterday, my gorgeous, wonderful CP, solved the huge plot problem I was having with my book.

You know the one?  I've been agonizing over it for weeks.  I rewrote the chapters involved five times in 3 weeks and still wasn't happy.  Yeah, that one.

My CP read the chapters and with one line, managed to solve the entire problem.  I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it myself!  It was so simple.  And it will make the ending even more effective.  Not to mention I can cut two whole chapters out which will give me an extra 3-4K to play with later on in the book.

I'm so relieved!  I spent four hours last night tweaking and cutting and playing to make this new direction happen, and I'm surprised at how easy it has been.  And I know the book is that much stronger now!

If I get a good day's writing in tomorrow, I should still be on track to finish the draft by the end of the week.

How much do you love your CPs?  Give them a shout out in the comments!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Next Big Thing Award!

The Next Big Thing Award!

I've been tagged in the Next Big Thing award by Laura from My Baffling Brain.

Thanks , Laura!  Always nice to get some recognition from fellow writers!
I have to answer a few questions about my writing, so here goes....

What is the working title of your book? 
The Sidewalk's Regrets.  Interestingly, I usually don't find titles easy to come up with.  Most of my books spend the first few drafts being called things like Chris and Casey until I come up with something more interesting.  But for this one I knew the title had to come from music and one line from one song kept creeping back into my head.  Amazingly, I've even managed to make the title work into the novel too!

Where did the idea come from? 
The whole book came to me in under 24 hours after seeing a documentary about a musician friend of mine.  There was one line his ex-girlfriend said that just handed me the book on a platter.  It was something that spoke volumes to me at the time, but after finishing the first draft, I went back and re-watched the film and couldn't figure out which thing she said was the one that sparked the book!

What genre does your book fall under? 
It's YA contemporary, like almost all my books.  It's a little more of a romance than anything else I've written, but I wouldn't call it a straight romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie? 
To be honest, I couldn't cast this with movie actors.  All the characters are very much based on  musicians I've known and worked with over the years, so in my mind that's who I'd cast.  Except those people as they were 20 years ago or so....

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 
When faced with life-changing decisions,  Sacha discovers that despite what the songs say, sometimes love isn’t all you need.

Will your books be self-published or represented by an agency?

I couldn't say at this stage.  Hopefully represented by an agency, but you never know...

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
About seven weeks, I think.  I started at the beginning of May and finished toward the middle of June.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
Probably the musician the documentary was about and his girlfriend....

What else about you book would pique the reader's interests?
It's the sex, drugs and rock n roll book I was probably born to write, given all the years I've spent hanging on the fringes of that world....

And now I need to pass this award on....  Hmmmm.....

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cover reveal!

I'm thrilled to be able to unveil the cover of Nyrae Dawn's newest book, Charade, here on my blog!

Isn't it pretty?  Nyrae writes such hot boys, and this cover totally brings this one to life!  Charade will be available from November 30th.  If you're a Goodreads person, here's the link to it there...

And what good would a cover reveal be if I didn't let you know what the book is about?

CHARADE By Nyrae Dawn

Nineteen-year-old Cheyenne tries to portray the perfect life to mask the memories of her past. Walking in on her boyfriend with another woman her freshman year in college threatens her picture of perfection.
Twenty-one-year-old Colt never wanted college and never expected to amount to anything, but when his mom's dying wish is for him to get his degree, he has no choice but to pretend it’s what he wants too.
Cheyenne needs a fake boyfriend to get back at her ex and Colt needs cash to take care of his mom, so they strike a deal that helps them both. But what if Cheyenne’s past isn’t what she thought? Soon they’re trading one charade for another. The game and the emotions building between them become the only things either of them have that feels real.
Both Cheyenne and Colt know life is never that easy. When tragedy strikes, their love might not be enough to hold them together.

Now, doesn't that sound like something you'd want to read?

Semi-weekly progress report

I realized I didn't do this last week, so I can't call this a weekly progress report.  So let's just stick with semi-weekly, shall we?  Like the semi-annual post holiday greeting cards I sometimes manage to get out in February each year.  So yeah.  I'm hopeless.  But at least I recognize that.  It has to stand for something, right?

So where am I?

I'm revising.  Still.  I've managed to get a lot done in the last two days.  Eight or nine chapters.  I'm thrilled.  Not entirely happy with the results, especially chapter 36 where I think too much happens in too short a time, but I'm leaving it because I don't want things to drag.

My first draft was 42 chapters long, but I've moved and changed things as I revised, so I'm thinking I'm going to wind up with 44, maybe 45.  They're all relatively short - under 3K, and most of them between 1500 and 2K.

I've reached the point where I need to write a bunch of new stuff because I've decided to change, not the ending, but the lead up to the ending.  I think that's going to be most of a chapter.  Then I have a few more things I want to tweak and change to clarify the character arc.  But I think I'm definitely on track to finish this revision by the end of next week which was my deadline.

Then it's off to the betas.  I hope they are full of fantastic ideas to smooth out the funky bits.  I'm already seeing a huge improvement in the chapters my awesome critique partners have read.

How are you doing with your WIP?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gearing Up To Get An Agent Meet & Greet

I'm taking part in this month-long event run by the gorgeous Deana Barnhart.  The first event is this one, a meet and greet bloghop where all the participants can, well, y'know, meet and greet each other.  So I'm going to answer a few questions Deana helpfully supplied...

-Where do you write?
I usually write at home, in my dining room.  But in the middle of winter (no central heating), or when I'm really struggling to focus, I have a table I like to use at the public library.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
The dining room table.  Which is, for once, not covered in a week's worth of clutter since I did the housework this morning.

-Favorite time to write?
Any time I can get.  With a full time job and two young kids, I grab whatever scraps of time I can get to write.  I prefer evenings though (I'm a night owl), but since I work a lot of nights, and often have functions to go to, I  get up at 5:30 every weekday morning so I can get an hour and a half in before the kids get up.

-Drink of choice while writing?
Red wine at night, but not too much of it or I can't type straight.  Green tea any other time.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
It really depends what I'm working on.  I find some books need a soundtrack, while others need quiet.  I prefer music without lyrics when I'm writing though, or music with lyrics in foreign languages.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
The book I'm working on now, The Sidewalk's Regrets, came to me almost fully formed after I saw a documentary about a musician friend of mine.  His ex-girlfriend said something, just a single line amongst many others, that struck a real chord in me.  And by the next day I knew what my next book was.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?
Keep writing.  If you get stuck, write yourself a note in the manuscript and move on to the next part you know.  And if you get really stuck, set that project aside for a few days while you work on something else.  You'll come unstuck.

So, that's me!  I hope to pop around and see as many other participants as I can, so I hope to see you all!