December 27, 2010

The nameless one

Currently pondering cat names as this little cutie came home with me this morning.



After all the various cat dramas, it's lovely to finally have another feline member of the household. So far orange cat doesn't seem too fussed by strange cat smells or noises coming from the bathroom and the new girl seems pretty relaxed (if not outright keen to explore beyond her current bathroom hangout). So hopefully they're going to be good friends eventually.

The new girl is teeny (she's about 9-11 months old but nowhere near as big as Tabasco and he's not a huge cat) and smoochy and playful. She's an RSPCA cat and has already had a litter just after she came into the shelter (far too young...please desex your pets!)

Looks like I'll be having a fairly quiet week at home mostly while we integrate the household. Good time to write and spin and tackle the pile of tax paperwork looking at me balefully from the kitchen table.

December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

I feel like I should write an inspiring Christmas post but it's been a long and tiring year in some ways and I had sad news re my expected kitten (the upshot of which is that he won't be my kitten and I'll be looking elsewhere for another kitten/cat next week) this week and the orange cat has had a few extra yowly nights because it's been cold and I'm kind of just plain tired.

So I will keep things simple and just wish everyone a lovely, relaxing, safe holiday season!

May you have loved ones and happiness, good food and drink, naps and belly laughs, hugs and good times, inspiration and passion and the odd dream coming true! 2011 onwards and upwards we come!

December 13, 2010

Finishing

The revisions are done! Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in the land. Or, alternatively, Numfar do the dance of joy!

Finishing a book is always a very very good feeling, no matter what draft it is. (For the record, we're on draft 5 of Shadow Kin, so far. Hopefully that number won't go much higher and there will only be line edits, copy edits and galleys to go.)

So hopefully that good feeling will carry me through fighting the crowds to do some Christmas shopping this morning! Then there will be rescuing of my house from it's current revision in full swing way too messy status!

Then I have to haul my brain back (or forward?) to Book 3. Whose hero is going to be lots of fun (In theory...you never quite know what they're going to do once they're given free rein on blank pages belonging to them!)

But for now I shall just bask in being done, done, done!

December 11, 2010

Gadgeting

I'm a light sleeper. Light sleeping and the orange cat are not always the best combination (to be honest, they're not EVER the best combination it's a bit worse lately as he's still being "I'm lonely" yowly more than usual lately).

Anyway, to combat this, I've been falling asleep with my iPod and headphones listening to audiobooks (which necessitates much remembering of where one actually was up to when one lies down as generally I fall asleep after just a few minutes and wake up hours later in the book lol), or music or some BrainSync tracks. Now, I have mutant ears and cannot wear ear buds, as they fall out as soon as I breathe or even think about moving, so I've got fairly slim old fashioned band over the top of the head head phones but even with my memory foam pillow, they're still not the greatest things to sleep in (not to mention moving around while sleeping is shredding the foam covers like nothing on earth).

So today, when an ad for SleepPhones popped up somewhere I was randomly surfing on the web, I thought "WANT!" and ordered some. And now I'm also lusting after the summer RunPhones version as they might be a bit cooler for summer sleeping plus good for exercising without headphones falling off (plus I tend to wear a headband anyway on the elliptical, so why not combine the two?). But I shall wait and see what I think of the SleepPhones first. But if anyone else out there is like me and likes to drown out the night noises (I'm thinking these will be good for hotel rooms too) I thought you might like to know about them.

I shall report back once they've arrived. US types can by them at ThinkGeek but TG has pretty expensive OS shipping, so for me, buying them direct from the website was cheaper (only $5 or so shipping). I wish more US sites would offer a basic shipping offer. Lots of us would be happy to wear the slower times delivery times and increased risk of something going astray, I'm sure vs being asked to pay more than the cost of the item in shipping as seems to happen quite a bit!

December 10, 2010

Things I'm lusting after...December edition

While I'm in revision and pre-Christmas work craziness...a selection of the desirable things whirring around my brain:

1. More hours in the day (for writing, for spinning, for knitting, for sleeping, for...everything really)
2. Fibre (of the spinning kind)
3. A DSLR camera
4. For my kitten to arrive (two and a bit weeks left in kitten countdown)
5. Summer clothes (no idea what I wore last summer because there is NOTHING in my wardrobe)
6. A gardener to transform the backyard
7. A portable airconditioner
8. The new teeny mac book air (so pretty, so far down the list of things I need)
9. To be past the point in revisions where I have no idea if the book is any good at all any more
10. For Melbourne to decide what season it might be
11. For everyone to be safe and happy and relaxed for the holidays
12. For the necessary winning lottery tickets and magical powers for all of the above to come true!

December 05, 2010

November contest winner

Sorry, this is a bit late but the winner of the November contest is Tez Miller, so Tez, email me and I'll get the book out to you!

Given that December is the month of much craziness, not to mention revision finishing, which may yet equal not a lot of blogging, I'm going to skip the contest this month and bring it back in January, so stay tuned in 2011.

A study in orange

We were talking about bucket lists/life lists at my crit group yesterday, which got me thinking about some of the things I want to do. Learn more about photography is one of them (along with buy a digital SLR). But given I've just paid for cat palaces and a new spinning wheel, the camera yen has to wait. I do have both a point and shoot canon and a fancier does more stuff without being an SLR Panasonic Lumix camera. The Canon and the iPhone tend to get reached for because they're either handy or little. The Panasonic does take better shots than the Canon but it eats its battery really fast plus the battery tends to die if you leave it out of use for a while. (to which I am applying the brilliant solution of buying some extra batteries!). But I shall have to pull it out and play with it some more to satisfy the photography yen for now.

Today, for a giggle, I bought the iPhone Hipstamatic app which makes your photos look like old film camera photos from the seventies etc which is fun.

So today I played around with that, and the recharged Panasonic and the orange cat being the nearest subject, I present...a study in felinus orangus.

First, felinus orangus hipster







And second, felinus orangus more really toastus these days, in close up









There were lots of other things on my list...the question is how does one get the time and/or money to do some of them??? Who's got something they'd love to learn/try/take up?

November 30, 2010

Random numbers

The inside of my head goes something like this at the moment....

Raining! Cold! Work! Revisions! Christmas! Holy crap, it's December! Orange cat is meowing again! Cat palace! Garden! Raining! Sunny! Work! Revisions! Sleepy! Spinning is cool! Hot! Cold! Orange cat! Kitten! Chocolate! More caffeine! U2! Work! Revisions! Morning is too early! Christmas! Work! Bon Jovi! Glee! Revisions! Bump into something! Lose something! Did I do that other thing?! Forget something! Work! Revisions! Zzzzz! House is messy! Where's my clone army?! Revisions! Traffic! Remember something previously forgotten! More caffeine! Work! Socialise! Argh!

No wonder we all pass out after Christmas dinner, December tries to kill us!

November 26, 2010

It's good to be a cat!

When my little Jessie girl passed away, I decided any new kitten needed to be a mostly indoor kitty. Jessie never went beyond my backyard and the orange cat limits himself to the front porch and the backyard but a young frisky cat might want to roam.

Because I don't like the idea of completely indoor cats (plus the orange cat would probably have a meltdown if I tried to keep him in completely), I decided to get a cat enclosure.

So I did some research and weighed some options. There's a couple of companies that do cat enclosures around (or if you're handier than me you could probably build one yourself). I however, went with the expert version. A process which has involved me completely digging out my garden beds, experimenting with bodgy paving and doing a fair bit of prep work.

Today, Dale from Catnip came to install the cat palace. Catnip do wire enclosures (there are other companies that do netting type things but I don't really have anything to enclose with netting. The good thing about Catnip, is the enclosures can be disassembled and move with me and they can also be extended later on down the track.

This way, the orange cat (and the fuzzy kitten when he arrives) will get fresh air and sunshine (and grass to nibble on once I plant some in pots) plus they can be up high (which the orange cat hasn't been able to do for a few years due to his arthritic knees). I'm sure there will be a bit of an adjustment on his part, and the cunning plan is to occasionally let him go out if he wants while keeping the fuzz ball in but it's safer for both of the and the pigeon and sparrow population will be safe (though as I've said before, any bird that gets caught by an old athriticky cat whose hunting technique involves meowing loudly probably is better out of the gene pool).

And here is the end result (and Tabasco's opinion so far in the vid). Excuse the garden rubbish, I'm still cleaning up.









November 22, 2010

Numbers

I think the year has officially reached the completely-crazy-lead-up-to-christmas part where the to-do list and social things and the year's goals and a thousand other things start to form a hectic sort of tangle to conquer before it's time for time off.

funny pictures-Energee?  Ai  haz  it  ...  sumwere.  Mite  be  hidin  behin  teh  cowch  or  maybe  ai  left  it  under  teh  bed.  If  u  findz  it,  jus  leeve  it  der  in  kase  ai  needz  it.
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

At this time of year, my virgo brains starts making list and calculations and numbers. Right now it goes something like:

1 revision due in 2-4 weeks
9 sleeps until U2 concert
1 election to vote in
2 parental birthdays in the next 10 days
1 orange cat to convince that 5am isn't breakfast time and sleeping all night is good
20 sleeps until the Bon Jovi concert
7 months til my next book is due
34 sleeps until Christmas
At least 3 big day job projects to finish
1 spinning class left
6 or so Christmas functions
1 complete nanowrimo fail
36 sleeps until Kitten day

And the list goes on. I'm looking forward to a well earned post Christmas collapse! Until then, caffeine is my friend!

Anyone else eyeing the silly season to-do mountain with a mix of anticipation and trepidation?

November 13, 2010

Princesses

I watched The Young Victoria last night, which is something I've wanted to see for ages and really, I have no idea why I didn't get to it when it was in cinemas. I really enjoyed it even though it's bittersweet to think Prince Albert died fairly young and Victoria went on for 40 odd years without him.

I'm always intrigued by royalty. Being a princess ain't all it's cracked up to be. Sure you get gorgeous frocks and some spanking great jewels but there's a lot of politics and control and duty and what has to be a strange private life to go with it. Power and obligation vs the personal turns up in my writing a bit. In one of Barbara O'Neal's writing courses, we had to figure out our favourite fairy tale and mine was Cinderella (much as I fought that discovery for a while). Now, I think the appeal of Cinderella for me is the "finding the place where you belong and are appreciated" theme rather than the "be rescued by a prince" theme but it's undeniably a royalty/princess story, if somewhat from the other side and stopping before she has to deal with being a princess.

I've never actually written a princess (not many princesses in urban fantasy) but I have some ideas that might be close to princesses. We shall see. At the moment I have to focus back on my messed up assassin girl. She's definitely not a princess and would stab you if you tried to make her one!

So who likes royalty? Or who has a favourite fairy tale?

November 11, 2010

In other news

Shadow Kin's publication date has moved to September 2011 (which will make a nice birthday present for me). So we'll all just have to be patient a few more months. Hopefully I'll have a cover to share soon!

November 07, 2010

October contest winner

The winner of The Perils of Pleasure is Cyndie!

Cyndie contact me on my website address or via twitter and I'll get the book to you!

November 02, 2010

November contest

Another month has zoomed by and quite frankly, I'm more than happy to see the back of October which was not the best month ever in Mel land. Hopefully November will be onwards and upwards. I'm learning to spin on a spinning wheel this month and am trying to get stuck into Book 3, expecting some more edits on Shadow Kin and I guess the pre Christmas madness will start soon too so who knows exactly what the month will bring?

Anyway, to start the month off in the right way, another contest. This month, we're heading back into sci fi territory though I guess technically this book is space opera. I stumbled across the first book in this series at some point in the 90's...not long after Amazon had come along, if I remember correctly because after reading the first book, I made my first ever big internet book purchase and bought all the other books then out in the series and glommed them all with delight. Hopefully you'll do the same and there's even more of them these days (plus some other series as well).

So November's book is Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold



which is the first book of the Vorkosigan series, which stars the irrepressible Miles Vorkosigan, who is a fabulous hero (though technically, Cordelia's Honor is the story of his mother but start at the very beginning as Maria Von Trapp would say). Lois writes funny, exciting, clever books about wonderful people who have real problems. Her world building is flawless and she's not afraid to make her characters, particularly Miles, squirm. So to win a date with the start of a wonderful series, all you have to do is comment on one of my posts this month.

As usual, I will draw the winner early in December and announce here and on Twitter and Facebook, so follow me somewhere to keep up with the news. The winner will have one week from the time I announce them to get in touch to claim their prize, otherwise it will be redrawn.

If you don't know why I'm giving away one of my favourite books each month, then the history of the contest is here.

October 30, 2010

Comfort

I've always been glad that I'm a reader and a lover of story but I think it's during the tough times, I'm even more grateful. When I'm stressed, when I'm sick, when I'm sad, I know that I can take myself away from it all with a good story.

I've been doing a bit of comfort reading lately, old favourites like Diana Wynne Jones and Lois McMaster Bujold and Jennifer Crusie and Guy Gavriel Kay. Loretta Chase and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. L.M Montgomery. Jane Austen. Stories to make me happy (and yes, there's been a fair bit of rom com watching and Big Bang Theory and Vicar of Dibley but TV and movies are just another form of story really) and give me a break. When I'm wide awake at 4am, I can read myself back to sleep (or audiobook myself back to sleep).

So I'm thankful for stories and my favourite authors who make tough times easier. Who are some of your favourite comfort reads?

October 25, 2010

If only he ruled the world

The orange cat would like you all to know that I have RUINED his exciting cat jungle by getting the backyard mowed. How on earth is he meant to play King of the Savannah now?? If he ruled the world it would be off with my head!

I would subject you to video of him complaining but blogger doesn't want to upload it right now.

And now, off to see if book three wants to play!

ETA: Video!

October 18, 2010

No words

RIP to my darling grey cat, Jessie, who left us today.



You stole a piece of my heart when you climbed up the side of the cage at the Cat Protection Society to get to me sixteen years ago and you've still got it. The world feels a little emptier today.

May you have sunshine to doze in and mice to chase and every good thing where you are now, little girl.

October 17, 2010

Be very very quiet...

We're hunting edits. We're very close to our prey...the completed submission draft.

Normal blogging activity shall resume shortly!

October 10, 2010

Polishing

So how does one polish a manuscript? That's going to be different for every writer but this is how I do it.

I'm a pantser so my drafts go something like this. Draft 1. Way too short and messy but gets the bones of the story down. Draft 2. Takes those bones, shuffles them around if necessary to fix them and expands the whole thing out to a reasonable length. And yes, I fix typos and any language I notice sucking as I go along but I can't do a full polish at this point because I'm too busy chopping and changing things plus it usually not until the end of draft two that I figure out what the book is really about.

Which brings us to Draft 3 (which is the one that gets sent to my editor and agent). This draft is the detail draft. So what do I do?

1. Put the manuscript together in one chunk. Draft one and 2 I tend to work in chapter documents. No idea why but it works for me.

2. Print it out in arc form so I can read it in hardcopy (I find it easier to spot typos etc on paper).

3. Copy the whole thing and dump it into Wordle. Wordle is something one of my crit buddies found last year when I was at this point with Shadow Kin. It's great. You dump in your text and it gives you back a picture of the most common words in your book. The bigger the word, the more times it appears. This is brilliant for two reasons. Firstly, it makes any the habitual weasel words you tend to use (that, back, like, just, slightly etc) that have been overused, stick out like a sore thumb so you can then go back and specifically search for them and kill them. And secondly, it tells you the other things that stick out in your book. This is helpful (if you're kind of visual) for getting a feel for character screentime (though in first person this is trickier), how your subplots are balancing and maybe spotting any other words that might be coming up a lot (clues to theme!).

4. Do a couple of passes to kill the weasel words discovered via Wordle. I sit down and do a find on each of the words and work through the manuscript for each. It doesn't take too long to do. I find this usually highlights a few other things that might be repeated as you work through (repeated character actions and phrases etc). After I've done this, I'll dump it back into Wordle and check again.

5. Read the whole thing and note clunky bits, typos, anything else that bugs me. I'm not looking for wholesale structural things (though of course, if I found something I'd fix it (and probably cry at this point!). I'll also look for worldbuilding things. Have I broken any rules I've set up? What new rules or mythology have I created? Have I got languages etc right? (If I'm clever at this point, I'll add this into my world bible). The last thing I'll look for in this read will be continuity. Names, clothes, hair color, eye color, places, timelines. Does it all make sense?

6. Reading will also trigger some story things to fix (hopefully only small things...plots to flag earlier, threads to weave in a bit more firmly etc).

7. Sit down and fix all the stuff from the read. While I'm doing this, I'll be paying close attention to my character's voices. Do they sound distinct enough? Do recurring characters sound like they did in the first book? Do the new character's sound different enough?

8. Possibly dump it all back into Wordle yet again, just to see if it looks right.

9. The last thing I'll do will be a spell check, a US language check and another typo hunt.

10. Send the darn thing to my editor and agent and crack open some bubbly.

11. Open up a new document and start Book 3.

October 09, 2010

And done!

It's a book, it's a book! All 100,000 odd words of it. Sure, I need to do a final polishing pass, and god knows how coherent the forty odd pages I wrote today are, but the hard bit is done for now. I have written my first book under contract and (touch wood, throw salt, turn three times widdershins etc), it will be handed in on time, if not slightly early.

Now excuse me while I go pass out.

PS Done! Yippeee!
PPS. Don't write forty pages in a day. It's stupid. And most of me hurts now.

October 07, 2010

Preparing

Okay world, I am having a night off tonight but tomorrow am attempting a three day deathmarch to finish this draft of Book 2. One of us will emerge victorious!

funny pictures-TRUTH OR DARE
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

I shall report my progress. I shall attempt to do this without eating chocolate. It could get ugly. You have been warned!

Just keep reminding me that I can buy an e-reader when I hand this book in!

October 05, 2010

October contest

Once again, sorry for this being late. Sometimes life happens and in the last week there have been dinners with friends, a hens night with the obligatory male revue, a wedding, day job, family members breaking bits of themselves and various other diversions.

But we shall ignore all that and turn our attention to October's contest. After a very hectic September (last week was possibly the busiest month of that month but only just), I'm in the mood to relax with a bit of wit and sparkle, so I thought we'd return to regency historicals. Back in June, we did Loretta Chase (oops, that sounds a bit wrong!) and the lovely Rupert Carsington. This month, another brilliant regency writer.

Julie Anne Long writes gorgeous witty, sexy regencies but most of them have somewhat unusual settings and or heroes/heroines. Not necessarily the normal balls and Great Houses which is part of their charm. One of my favourites, is Ways to Be Wicked which features a ballet dancer and the owner of a somewhat risque London theatre. With mermaids and little people and French plots! What's not to like? But my all time favourite is the book I'm giving away this month.



The Perils Of Pleasure is a brilliant romance with an awesome heroine who has the very good fortune to be paired with another of my all time favourite romance heroes, Colin Eversea. Who well deserves his ballad! So if you want to discover Coliand find out just why he deserves his very own song (though sadly he doesn't get a hat like Jayne from Firefly, the other worthy fictional recipient of a ballad), comment on this or any of my other blog entries this month!

As usual, I will draw the winner early in November and announce here and on Twitter and Facebook, so follow me somewhere to keep up with the news. The winner will have one week from the time I announce them to get in touch to claim their prize, otherwise Colin will be redrawn and the mystery of the ballad will go unsolved.

And if anyone is a late joiner and wants the history of why I'm giving away one of my favourite books each month, then the history of the contest is here.

September contest winner

Sorry, I'm behind on my posting. Weekend of crazy busy. I'll post the new contest shortly but the September contest winner of The Thief is Robyn! Who has the usual week to contact me to claim her prize.

Anyone else ever get jealous when you know someone is going to read a book you love for the first time? Or is that just me being weird?

September 28, 2010

Books I'm looking forward to - Spring edition

Back in May I did a blog on books I was looking forward to for the rest of the year. Since I've read everything on that list that has been released and added a few more things to my "ooh, interesting/cool/yay book by favourite author" list, I thought I'd do an update. So here's a taste of some books I'm going to be reading in the next few months.

Cold Magic - Kate Elliott (Out now) (The world sounds intriguing and I love her Jaran books)
Graceling - Kristen Cashore (Out now) (have been meaning to read this for ages and found it at the library yesterday)
Blood of Ambrose - James Enge (read an excerpt thanks to the Big Brother so am hunting it down)
Bayou Moon - Ilona Andrews (Out today I do believe!)
Breathless - Anne Stuart (October) (Having devoured Ruthless and Reckless I'm waiting impatiently for the mailman to deliver this)
Dark Road to Darjeeling - Deanna Raybourn (October)
Butterfly Kisses - Jeanne Lin (October) (Just read Tang dynasty based fantasy by Guy Gavriel Kay so now for some Tang-y romance)
The Accidental Wedding - Anne Gracie (October) (Just scored an ARC of this but will no doubt buy it too!)
Pegasus - Robin McKinley (Not until November but new Robin is worth anticipating)
Cryoburn - Lois McMaster Bujold (November - new Miles, squee of frabjous joy)
Heaven's Spite - Lilith Saintcrow (November)
The Iron Duke - Meljean Brook (November) (Steampunk romance...intriguing!)
How to Bake a Perfect Life - Barbara O'Neal (December...which will probably push it to a Jan 11 read but it's a good way to start the year!)
Call Me Irresistible - Susan Elizabeth Phillips (January) (holy cow, that's next year...someone hit slow down on the year!)
Blood Challenge - Eileen Wilks (January)
Loose Ends - Tara Janzen (January)
What I Did For A Duke - Julie Anne Long (February)
When Beauty Tamed the Beast - Eloisa James (February)

I'm sure there are some I'm missing. I'll update as they come to me. How about everyone else? What bundle of storytelling joy are you eagerly awaiting?

September 26, 2010

Home stretch

September has been the month of very busy all the time. I have one more week of the crazy to go and then I will be officially entering the writing hermit cave until the book is done. Which is getting close. Have basically three sequences left then the climax and resolution. So hopefully it will come together fast! Ideally I want to be done mid October so I have time for a quick fine tune the prose pass before it heads off to my editor.

Then there will be pondering of book three's plot. I know the start, I'm looking forward to throwing my hero and heroine together but the rest is a vague foggy blur. Hopefully fog lamps will appear and illuminate it all when I get there!

Also after the book is done, I get to learn to use a spinning wheel. Hey, the girls in the basement think it's cool, so I'm going with it. More about that over on the crafty blog (see the link at the side). The girls like colour a LOT so I think that's part of the appeal. Plus I find watching a wheel soothing somehow. Hopefully it's as soothing when I'm the one feeding it fibre!

So blogging may be a bit scarce for the next four weeks or so but I'll try and catch up while I can!

September 24, 2010

September 20, 2010

A note to me

Next time, do try and write a first draft that's less like a jigsaw puzzle. There will be less headbanging involved in the revision!

Ta

Love

Me

September 05, 2010

Sunday fives

A random Sunday post about things running through my brain.

Five things I'm lusting after right now:

1. An e-reader
2. A spinning wheel
3. Some sort of sneaker/trail shoe as comfy as my hiking boots (yeah, my feet are sore from yesterday) for the warmer weather
4. New carpet
5. A new iPhone

Five things I'm over:

1. The election
2. Football
3. My current klutzy phase
4. Weird tasting mouthwash
5. Things that are weird on my Windows netbook

Five things I am thinking about:

1. How to do six different first person POVs in three books and get them right
2. Drop spindling (including wondering if the girl I saw spindling at AussieCon was American because I've never seen anyone spindling in public in Australia before outside a fibrey type event)
3. Various AussieCon4 food for thought from panels
4. Music I like (thanks to a Facebook meme)
5. The next chapter in my book

If I had five wishes right now I'd:

1. Have a finished draft of book 2
2. Have a free two months in my schedule & the money to spend it traveling and relaxing doing various crafty and writing buddy things
3. Have a personal chef/maid/butler/trainer
4. Have a mac that is not sick
5. Live on a planet that wasn't going crazy with the weather and causing many people lots of grief
6. Solve the e-reader format wars & geographic restrictions/pricing weirdness overnight (okay, that's six but hey it's my blog)

Five things I need right now:

1. More caffeine
2. To find some bridesmaid shoes in the next few weeks
3. To write
4. To wrap my Dad's Father's Day present
5. September to magically expand to be about sixty days long so I can fit everything in!

Five things I'm happy about:

1. Lunch with the folks coming up
2. My spindling is improving
3. Having a backup computer
4. My book going pretty well
5. Spring!

What's on your mind this Sunday?

September 03, 2010

August contest winner

The winner of my August contest is Aik!

Aik, you get a copy of Barbara O'Neal's The Lost Recipe for Happiness.

I'll be in touch with you shortly.

September 01, 2010

September contest

It's Spring! Yay! Time for a new contest to go with the glorious (or rather soggy so far) turn of the season. Spring is my favourite time of year, so goodby winter! Hello blossoms and (hopefully) warmer days.

This month, we're taking a turn into YA. Well, kind of YA. This is one of those books that I think is classified as YA but really, if I didn't know that, I'd just call it fantasy. The hero is said to be young at the start but never definitely how young and given what he does, he can't be THAT young. But regardless of the classification, it's a fabulous book. Which is, by the way, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.



I'm not sure whether I first heard this book mentioned on Justine Larbalestier's blog or on Sarah Rees Brennan's blog (or twitter feed) but I do know it popped up several times in rapid succession in seemingly unrelated places in one of those weird moments of universal synchronicity some time last year. I didn't know much about the book but decided to check it out from the library. Then promptly went out and bought it and the next two in the series (The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia). I've since read all three several times, hooked my mother on them too and today am very happy because I just got Book 4 (A Conspiracy of Kings) from the library (which I will definitely be buying but not until it comes out in paperback...not because I wouldn't pay hardcover price for it but because I am weird and like my series to be all in the same format wherever possible and I have the other three in paper. Yes. I am strange. You should know this by now).

I love The Thief and the other books because they have one of the all time greatest ever trickster heros (Gen is so clever he's in danger of cutting himself) who is also remarkably human, it has a glorious difficult romance, some pretty ruthless politics and more twists and turns and surprises than one can poke the proverbial stick at. All written is a beautifully sparse style that somehow still manages to evoke the very unique world gorgeously. One of those series that makes you groan and bang your head on the desk because you'll never be quite so brilliant. So comment away on the blog posts this month to win (and if you don't, hie yourself to the nearest bookstore or library and get your hands on them).

I should also mention that Megan seems to have gotten herself some seriously good cover karma (or else an in with the good cover fairy) because the covers for the whole series are beautiful! If I was her I'd have probably died of happiness when I laid eyes on the first one. But luckily I'm not and so we have more than one book to enjoy!

As usual, explanation of why the contest is here.

Rules are simple, comment on any blog post this month to score an entry. Winner has one week after being announced here and on Twitter and Facebook to get back to me to claim the prize, after which I will re-draw.

August 28, 2010

Faith, hope and controlled insanity




Joss was, not unexpectedly, awesome. I could have listened to him for far longer and he said many things that will probably make it into blogs at some point but there was one thing in particular he spoke about that I loved.

When asked whether he ever dreamed that his shows would be wildly popular/have huge cult followings, he said "Yes." He then went on to say that to be a writer, you have to be slightly megalomanical. You have to have the sort of controlled insanity that lets you say, "Yes, my stuff is very cool and people will like it so I will sit down and write a one hundred thousand word novel or a TV series or a movie," because without that faith in yourself and your stories, you're never going to survive the constant rounds of rejection and criticism that putting your work out there will bring.

Which I've heard other people say variations of before and which I one hundred percent agree with. But it's a difficult thing to talk about, that sort of self-belief. I would say it's even harder for an Australian because we have a deeply ingrained cultural prejudice against people who "talk themselves up". Tall poppy syndrome is alive in well in this country. And it's probably doubly harder on top of that for women, because women are also culturally conditioned to put everyone else first and not stand up and say "yep, I can do that and do it well." Even as I type this, there's a part of my brain saying "Mel, you can't blog about believing in your work, people will think you're up yourself."

But here's the thing. I do believe in my work. I love my writing and my stories and my worlds. I write the books I want to read. But that in no way means that I think "I am the Goddess of all writing and everyone else is a hack turning out dross and every word that drips from my pen is gold." Loving my work doesn't mean there aren't other writers out there that I love and other writers out there that I adore and would give my left arm to get as good as. There are. Plenty. I don't think Joss Whedon thinks he's God (well, he does but he doesn't believe in himself, so that's okay) and the greatest writer on the planet either. I think, to be a little Whitney about it, he believes in loving what you do. I think if someone had said "did you expect great success", his answer might have been 'no, but I hoped. I wanted it. I believed I was capable of writing something really cool'.

I don't think that my first book is going to be a number one New York Times bestseller because i'm just that damn good and I'm the best thing to hit the writing world ever. I'm not. Doesn't mean I wouldn't love that to happen, that I don't let myself dream that one day I will hit lists (because, to quote Joss again, "Dream Big" is another thing I believe in), I like to hope one day I could achieve that if I work hard and keep trying to be better.

Loving your work means thinking "I have a story to tell. It's a good story. I think other people will like this story". Loving your work means "I will work hard to write this story the best way I can write now and then I'll work harder to learn more and write the next story." It means "Okay, I got a rejection, what do I need to do to get better, or fix the story because damn, I believe in this story and I am a writer and I will crack this." It means that deep down in your gut feeling that this is right for you and the pig headed stubborness to keep writing for nine years (or five or fifteen or however long it takes) before you sell a book.

It means finding it within yourself to fight through the moment when what you're writing really is terrible (or at least feels terrible) and your inner critic tells you you're a hack) and you get the horrible critique or rejection or review and get back to the important thing, the love of your story. Which is what I try to do. I have many doubting moments. Many. Many. I had almost an entire year of doubting moments not so long ago. But I slogged it out. I'm lucky in some ways, I had parents who did bring me up to think I could achieve what I wanted if I worked hard at it (not that they ever said "hey, Mel, you'd be a great writer") and I've found ways that work for me to keep me going (which are going to be different for everyone but I like goal-setting and visualisation and meditation and sometimes sheer bloody mindedness, through reading books and doing classes and listening to other writers talk about tools they use) and get me back to "I am a writer. I love this story, let's get to it." How you do that is up to you but I do think you have to find a way because writing is a hard gig and you have to be your own best cheer squad.

Also, because Joss said so and because he was right.

August 27, 2010

Heroes

Tonight I'm off to see one of my writing heroes....the man who created this:



and this:



which are two of my all time favourite TV shows, as well as many other things of geeky goodness.

Part of the reason you connect with any writer is the voice, and I do adore Joss Whedon's writing voice but I also love his worlds and characters. He writes strong women and strong men. He writes humor and pain, darkness and light. His characters are real even when they're facing the unreal. I'd probably prefer it if he gave some of his couples a real HEA once in a while (but that's partly a problem of writing for TV where such a thing is hard to pull off) but he does do romance and yearning pretty damn well, so we'll let that one slide.

And tonight, I get to go and listen to him talk about how he does it! So woot! And possibly squeee!

August 24, 2010

Slippery little suckers



One piece of advice writers often get is to understand their process. Good plan. Trouble is, processes shift and change with each book. I've had books that have roared onto the page like a freight train, books that have come at a steady slog, books that have fought me, books that have come in bits and pieces like a mixed up jigsaw. Whenever I think I have a vague idea how my stories will work, they shift.

The current wip has mostly been coming in bits and pieces and not really showing me its hand. I knew something wasn't quite right as I could never quite see the last scene but figured I'd get to the end and work it out from there. In the background, I've been turning it over in my mind, trying to see a different angle. Seems that worked, because last night, the story woke me up at 1.30am, telling me the last four scenes and a whole lot about what I needed to tweak. So I wrote for a while in the middle of the night then got back to sleep. And now the muse seems to be saying that the discovery draft is done, we have enough of an idea and onwards to the next. Never done that before...I mean my first drafts are horribly talking head-ish and there are often some unfinished scenes and chunks but this is more like that than ever before. Plus I haven't actually written a few of the last scenes. But what the muse wants, the muse gets so onwards to the next draft we go. She's even kindly provided a rough synopsis.

Stories. They're slippery little suckers. So are writer's brains. You've just gotta hang on for the ride!

August 21, 2010

In brief

Drive by update as I am somewhat brain dead after cranking out six pages after crit group. Muse continues to jump around in this story like a frog on steroids. Hopefully it will all hang together!

Progress - Holly

New pages - Six (yay, 13 more and we hit 300!)
Intriguing things - Ballsy sisters
Annoyances - Jumping around the timeline
Linear/non-linear - Non
Music - Various from the soundtrack.
Location - Desk. Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Nap. Chocolate. Tulsi Tea.
Muse food - About to see what the muse feels like watching given there's nothing but the election on telly!

August 20, 2010

Pretties

My books aren't steampunk...they're more gaslight fantasy (Steampunk is Science Fiction)...steam tech but with magic and critters not so much steampunky gadgets. Having said that, I do love the Steampunk Aesthetic and a conversation on Twitter today with BookThingo, kicked off some searching for a steampunk iPhone cover amongst other things, so I thought I'd share some pretties with the world.

First up, possibly the closest thing to mass market steampunk iPhone cases...gorgeousness from Exovault



I confess to being a little bit sceptical about how much shock these absorb if you drop them compared to a leather case but they are beeyootiful!

Then, possibly even cooler...this bit of wonder from Japan (Factron)



Now, over to the category of people are just very very clever....

Handmade steampunk iphone cases!



via Laura

Or



made by Lilibat on deviantart

Or how about a steampunk iPhone dock?



Freeland Studios

Then we got onto the subject of e-readers...how cool would a steampunk e-reader be? (Though Mel picks an e-reader is going to be a whole 'nother post!).

I haven't yet found an actual punked e-reader but I have found a cover....

Outside



Inside



Wishwords on LJ Steamfashion (hattip to @Misssteamstess on Twitter

And just because, this is awesome and one day when I own a mansion with a library the size of Neil Gaiman's, I shall work at a desk like this...



via Steampunk Workshop

Though someone would need to invent me an ergonomic steampunk keyboard! lol

So there you go, some pretties from the steampunk world. Don't get me started on the jewellery (don't type steampunk into Etsy! Danger Will Robinson!)

All very familiar

Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, yes, we have reached that time again, the time when Mel needs to pull out the progress stats to keep her inner taskmaster happy and get the darn draft finished. Today I decided to write twenty pages. No idea why. It was a little bit nutty. But I did it. So that seems like as good a time as any to start this again. Technically, I'm in the last quarter of this book. Maybe I'll figure out what it's about soon. Though possibly not. That's why the powers that be invented second drafts, after all! Weirdly, usually I know the last scene of my books. This time, I think the scene I have in mind is more like third or fourth last...the muse, she is secretive at times!

Progress - Holly

New pages - Twenty
Intriguing things - Sneakiness. Things I thought would happen earlier, happening later.
Annoyances - Not many. More arms would sometimes be nice.
Linear/non-linear - Non
Music - Various from the soundtrack.
Location - Desk. Write or Die and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Chiro. Exercises. Tulsi Tea.
Muse food - Notting Hill about to be watched!

In other news, I am going to see Joss Whedon next Friday (woot and squee) and also going along to AussieCon 4 for a day the week after! Having never been to a SF con before, it should be fun!

August 18, 2010

Post-conference wrap up

Now that the brain has recovered a little and I seem to be keeping the post conf crud at a low level, herewith my wrap up of the Romance Writers of Australia 2010 conference in the always beautiful Coogee. And given that I seemed to forget I had my camera with me or that my phone took pics at all times except when staring out at the view every morning, you get a conference in seascapes.

Day 1 - Wednesday

In which the view looked like this, just to emphasise we were no longer in cold, wet, soon to be stormy Melbourne.



Keri and I arrived early afternoon, caught up with some friends, began the dietary havoc by eating a club sandwich and hot chips (which sensibly we shared because it was HUGE), then she, Tracey O'Hara, Jenn Schober (Tracey's agent), Kelly Hunter and I went into town to Galaxy so Keri and Tracey could do a signing. Galaxy, might I just add, is a fabulous den of temptation (I mean, I am very fond of Minotaur and Of Science and Swords in Melbourne but Galaxy beats them for sheer volume of books on shelves) and the staff were lovely and very interested in my book (which is awesome but a strange concept to wrap one's head around...hey, these people will be selling my book next year!). I managed to restrain myself to only buying four books (willpower, I haz it). So that was fun. Then we all trooped back and ate burgers and more hot chips (conference calories do not count!).

Day 2 - Thursday (A-Day or Published Author Day)

In which the sea turned moody



A-Day began at the very civilised hour of 10 am, so I did some writing first (the new netbook behaving well, though Open Office did not seem to like my quotation marks, so I went back to Word for now). A-Day was fun and packed full of good presenters. Wendy Harmer ended up at the wrong hotel but found us eventually. She talked about chick lit, Jenn Schober talked about branding and professionalism (be nice, play nice), Dr John Barletta talked about finding the flow, one of the writers of Underbelly talked about writing true crime and finding a story's through line (sorry, her name escapes me for now), Deb Dixon talked about small press and what to look for, Jennifer St George spoke about media and then there were breakout sessions for the various types of books. All in all, most excellent. Keri and I snuck in a somewhat windswept walk along the beach. By the time we had finished, Chris had arrived and we all ended up eating (this time far healthier pizza and chocolate and caramel fondant pudding) at the hotel's Ocean Bar with various fabulous folks before sneaking off for more writing and an attempt to get enough sleep.

Day 3 - Friday workshop with Deb Dixon

In which the sea sparkled and gleamed



Friday morning started with the lovely Robyn arriving to join us. Deb Dixon did half a day on Goal Motivation and Conflict and half a day on the Hero's Journey. She's very much a plotter and uses all this stuff up front. I very much do not but I do use all these types of things in a stir 'em into the mix and see what works sort of way in revision (I'm always a little surprised when people seem to think pantsing means you don't revise what you've written...everyone revises what they've written...it's just when and how we revise that differs), so it's always good to hear people who've written craft books you've read talk about their theories in person. Deb was lovely and I came away with a few interesting ideas to try out. But our main task of the day was stopping Robyn putting on her costume and wearing it all day. *g*

Friday evening was the always fun cocktail party. Our cocktail parties are always fancy dress and this year the theme was fantasy island, so everyone came dressed as their fantasy. Well, most of us did. Look, I'm not a big fan of fancy dress (though it is fun at the cocktail party and works as an icebreaker) but I tend to do big effort in Melbourne when I don't have to schlep a costume on a plane and less effort in Sydney and Brisbane. This year, I figured I had the perfect excuse because my fantasy of many years came true this year and I sold a book. So I went as me lol. But Keri, Robyn and Chris made up for my slackness. Keri looked hot as a Dark Angel, Chris had made herself a fabulous coat of many book covers and she'd also made the most absolutely beautiful Regency gown and bonnet for Robyn to wear. (Once again, I apologise, I am slack, I did not get a pic...maybe Keri will post one! Or Robyn! hint hint.)

Day 4 - Saturday (or Day 1 of the actual conference)

In which there was rough sea and pointy sun fingers



And in which the day started in a very cool way because I got this:



(okay, so maybe I took a photo of one other thing...)

There were many awesome plenaries and workshops. I did Single Title vs Category with Vicki Lewis Thompson and a very cool Web 2.0 workshop with Kate Cuthbert (who would probably growl at me for having such a long scrolly post, sorry Kate!) and then got to do participate in my first ever author chat as an author (hopefully I did not babble too much)!

Saturday night was the awards dinner in which Keri and I sat with Kate Cuthbert and Kat Mayo from BookThingo and were very web 2.0 and twittered the awards dinner somewhat. Robyn won the STALI , Chris came third in the VP and loads of other awesome folks won awards and finalled. A special woohoo to Tracey O'Hara for breaking the paranormal curse when it comes to the R*BY award! After dinner there may have been a little drinking and celebrating and a somewhat late night.

Day 5 - Sunday

In which morning seemed to start extra early but at least turned on a very pretty sea...



I started with brekky with Valerie Parv and other former winners of the VP award then did another walk on the beach. After that more awesome plenaries and panels. Then a great workshop on taking the pain out of writing with Terri Green which was all about looking after your body as a writer and great stretches/exercises and things to do. Lunch on Sunday was the regular fundraising lunch. This year, we did Ovarian Cancer rather than Breast Cancer (the message for both is the same...pay attention to your bits ladies. If something seems off, get it checked out fast!) I believe we raised over $10,000, including Harlequin's great $5k donation.

Then a completely awesome, entertaining and slightly scary workshop on fight scenes with Ray Floro which included killing people with a magazine, why the vulcan nerve pinch type approach doesn't work and how to massacre a leg of lamb with very little effort. After that we wrapped up. Sadly I didn't win an iPad in any of the raffles but I did win Kandy Shepherd's book and a very cute lead and collar (is the universe trying to send me messages about puppies??). Post conference there was more drinking and chatting then Keri and I headed back to the airport where, miracle of miracles, we got bumped to an earlier flight. Though sadly, when I got home I'd reached the adrenaline/caffeine overload stage and couldn't sleep until 1am. But I made up for that with a two and a half hour nap Monday afternoon!

So that was Coogee. Next year the conference is in Melbourne (so I'd better start planning my costume). The keynote speaker is Susan Wiggs, Bob Mayer is doing the Friday workshop and Kristin Nelson is the guest agent. It shall be fab, so come one, come all!

August 11, 2010

Nice!

This shall be my view for the next few days!




I'm off to the Romance Writers of Australia 2010 conference. So be good, internet people. There may be blogging and tweeting, it depends on how much fun we're having : )

August 06, 2010

Whoops!

This week got away from me and I haven't yet announced July's contest winner! Bad mel!

Anyway, the lucky gal who gets the Dragon Variation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller is none other than Australia's very own Golden Heart winner Kylie Griffin! (She obviously has the golden touch this month).

Kylie, drop me a line and we'll sort out your prize.

August 01, 2010

August contest!

July is never a great time of year for me. Peak day job busy period keeps me on my toes, and it always seems like I blink and the month is gone. This year has proven to be no exception and here we are in August (which is yay for being the last month of winter and yay for being the month of the RWAustralia conference but still somewhat mind boggling in the where-is-my-year-going factor).

But time marches on and a new month means a new contest prize!

This month, I thought we'd do some women's fiction. And my very favourite women's fiction writer. Who just happened to win a RITA today because she is brilliant.

So August's book is The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal.



And just because it's truly gorgeous, here's the Aussie cover as well.



Many years ago when I was still just at the start of my writing path, a critique partner kept raving about a book called No Place Like Home, by Barbara Samuel. Eventually I caved and read it and immediately fell in love (plus bawled like a baby which is something I rarely do with books) with the book and the writing. I've since read everything of Barbara's that I could get my hands on (she writes as Barbara Samuel, Ruth Wind and Barbara O'Neal) and have never been disappointed. I still cry every time when I hit a certain scene in No Place Like Home.

Not long after I read No Place Like Home, I met Barbara at the RWNZ conference, where she was very nice to a nervous newbie (I think I sat next to her at dinner and probably made no sense at all because I was up for a contest win). And a bit later still, five of my crit buddies and I did one of her first Voice classes where we discovered that Barbara is not only lovely but also a great teacher. That course was part of the reason I finally gave into my fantasy/paranormal leanings in my writing, so I will be forever grateful for that.

I've done other courses with her since then and gotten to know her in real life and she remains inspiring and encouraging and generous. And even if all that wasn't true, I'd still be recommending her beautiful, lush, lyrical writing to you. Barbara evokes setting like a poet and her books will make you laugh, make you cry and probably make you very very hungry. She writes very real women and sexy men and adorable dogs and you should rush out and buy one of her books now. Or comment here and win one! The Lost Recipe for Happiness was Barbara's first book as Barbara O'Neal and someone gets to take it home this month.

As usual, explanation of why the contest is here.

Rules are simple, comment on any blog post this month to score an entry. Winner has one week after being announced here and on Twitter and Facebook to get back to me to claim the prize, after which I will re-draw.

July 23, 2010

Signed

Sometime in late July 2001 I attended a talk at the Victorian Writers Centre given by Anne Gracie. I think she was pretty much the first real live author I'd met at that point. Fired up by what she had to say (and somewhat struck by the somehow-had-escaped-me-until-then fact that authors are just people and maybe I could really be one), I finished my first novel manuscript in September 2001.

Today, about nine years later from that fateful talk, I did this...



First contract signed and about to be delivered back to Penguin! Woot! It makes it all feel that much more real and another step towards seeing my book as a real live book!

July 11, 2010

Done!

The revision is all finito. Let there be celebrations (or at least a day or two of mindless activities before we contemplate book 2!)

My first for-an-editor revision done. Feels like a milestone somehow, even though it could yet come shooting back to me for another round.

In the end it took me two months and 9 days which isn't too bad given I think I've cut at least 100 pages of old material out of it and yet the book is 90 pages longer in total. Plus every scene in the hero's POV went from third to first person (which is omg fiddly and time consuming....I'm hoping I've caught all the stray he/his/himself/they etc floating around).

But the work is worth it. I feel like it's a stronger book now and I feel like I learned some things in the process. Let's hope Jessica agrees!

And now, I shall take myself off to the movies to let the brain chill out...

July 08, 2010

On laughter

Lately I've been thinking a bit about my work and romance and the elements of a book that make it appealing to me. In particular, what makes a believable happy ending.

When I first started writing, I was writing category and my books were mostly romantic comedies. Or at least, I had a fairly snarky/humourous voice. I think I'm pretty much incapable of writing a hero and heroine who have no sense of humour, who won't occasionally crack a joke or react sarcastically something or (hopefully) be quick with the witty retort because, for me, a shared sense of humour is something that's very attractive. And not just a sense of humour, but maybe also that sense of play, the feeling that a hero and heroine can have fun together in or out of bed, that they take delight in each other's company and that's there's that matched...something...zing/wit/intelligence/world view...that click. That, for me, is a key part of chemistry. It doesn't have to always be there at the start, sometimes the fun is that the hero or the heroine will bring out that side of the other, but I do need it to be there eventually.

My urban fantasy and fantasy books are much darker in tone than my categories were and go to some dark places but there's still humour and play in them. Because, I guess, when it boils right down to it, I can't imagine spending my life with someone who didn't make me laugh and I don't believe a happy ever after where I don't at least get a sniff of the possibility of that between the characters. A man who was completely serious would make me want to brain him with a coal scuttle and run off with Captain Jack (who at least would be entertaining before he was sidetracked by the next pretty face or treasure map). My heroines tend to share that world view. So even though I have to take my characters through some darkness, I want them to end up in the sunshine. Which is sometimes a juggling act but one that I love and one that I love in other people's work (there's a reason I'm a Joss fan, after all).

So how about you? Do you love a man who makes you laugh? Would you run away with Captain Jack or Miles Vorkosigan or Rupert Carsington or do you want to be swept away by a dark and brooding Mr Rochester or Heathcliff? Smiles or silent mystery? Or somewhere in between?

July 03, 2010

Happy

I feel like I've got hold of the new shape of this book now. The weight of it is sitting right in my head and I can tilt it and turn it and see the whole picture nearly.

Sometimes writing feels like hiking up a heavily wooded trail. You get glimpses of the destination now and then but mostly you can only see what's right in front of you, the twists and turns hiding the next part of the path. And like, hiking, sometimes it's damn hard work and you doubt you'll ever get there and your mental feet hurt and you want to kick the next damn fallen log that gets in your way and everything you're carrying rubs the wrong way and all you want to do is sit down and not move and let someone else do it while you drink something and pass out.

Then you reach the top and the view spreads out before you and it's kind of gorgeous and well worth the blood, sweat and tears and it all falls away. Not sure there's a good analogy for the feeling like the end of book (or even nearing the end and feeling like it's all working out) but that one's kind of close.

And even though I'm not quite there yet, I think that's deserving of a glass of wine or two tonight while I'm out with the girls.

June Winner

So who's the lucky gal who gets to take Mr Impossible with her?

Nicola Marsh!

Nic, email me and we'll figure out the details.

July 02, 2010

July contest

Okay, so I'm a day late with this...I shall blame end of financial year and revision craziness and we'll just let it go.

This month, we're taking a swerve into Sci Fi. I read less sci fi now than I used to and not a lot of hard sci fi at all. I'm more a space opera kind of gal. Adventures and derring do in space. Aliens, space ships and giant turtles! If it comes with a hint of Jane Austen and a large dollop of true love, then all the better (sadly, this doesn't happen often in sci fi at all! Boo!).

However, this month's book has all of the above (well, you'll have to wait until later in the series for giant turtles from memory). This month, I'm giving away The Dragon Variation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.



Lee and Miller write one of my two favourite space opera series, the Liaden series (the other being something that readers of the blog can probably guess and that will possibly feature another month). The books are witty, fun, adventurous and romantic. And the world building is fabulous, the Liadens definitely have a touch of the Regency about them but in an even better way! I've read them many, many times and their heroes are some of my favourite fictional men ever.

Sadly this series had been out of print for a while (though there have been both a further prequel and two sequels out recently) but Baen have seen the light and are re-issuing them. Even better they're doing omnibus editions, so The Dragon Variation is actually the first three books of the series (bonus!). Or rather the first two prequels and then the first book of the series. (I'm not sure which order they were written in but I came to the series a bit late so read them in chronological for the characters order which is what this will be and it all works). So for one tiny comment you could get three books of Lee and Miller goodness - Local Custom, Scout's Progress and Conflict of Honors).

As usual, explanation of why the contest is here.

Rules are simple, comment on any blog post this month to score an entry. Winner has one week after being announced here and on Twitter and Facebook to get back to me to claim the prize, after which I will re-draw.

June 28, 2010

Details details

The revisions are hopefully getting closer. Well for a "still a couple of weeks work" value of closer.

I've done the heavy lifting of inserting new scenes and changing plot and a POV. Like adding another wing and knocking out a few walls. Now I'm circling back to finish the rooms, paint the trim and make it all a cohesive whole.

I need to polish scenes, flesh out a couple that weren't quite done this last pass and weaving one or two threads in more tightly. Detail work. And as they say, the devil is in the details. But then it will be done and I can go back to book two until the next round of edits. Kind of the circle of life for books. Draft, edit, edit, edit, be loosed into the world.

In other writerly occupations, I spent the weekend doing a seminar with Michael Hauge and Steve Kaplan about writing romantic comedy. Not exactly the current wip but something I do love. Michael has a really good way of explaining structure and the character's inner and outer journey's. I could feel things going click in my head throughout the weekend, so hopefully its bubbling away in the background and will help when I come to sort out the plot of book two.

Day job wise we're about to hit crazy time of year (those Happy End Of Financial Year ads are obviously written by people who aren't accountants!) so it's head down and work on all fronts. Which should means July will fly by and I'll be at the RWAus conference in Sydney in August before I know it.

PS End of financial year is also end of the month, so two days left to comment on the blog and be in the running to win Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase! Someone might as well have a happy end of financial year : )

June 20, 2010

Hmmph

Sometimes, when revising particularly dumb things you've written, it's hard not to feel like this!

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

And when wrestling with plots, I could do with some of this...

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

June 19, 2010

Almost

Heading into the home run of the structural part of my revision. A few scenes to reslant to make sure all the new threads are lining up, a few new bits to write and then it will be done.

I think it works but I'm at the point right now where I have no idea whether it does or not. I guess I'll find out once I hand it in. But first, I have to make it to the end then another pass to polish things up one last time....then it will start all over again with book 2.

June 09, 2010

Scheduled!

We have a publication date, ladies and gentleman....Shadow Kin will be out in June 2011. Woot!

Twelve months will zoom by if this year is anything to go by.

June 05, 2010

Not big enough



I went to see the second Sex And The City movie on Friday night. I was a fan of the series (what's not to love about female friendships, relationships and hot guys? Plus the whole Big and Carrie thing is exactly the right sort of on screen romantic relationship to suck me in and keep me watching) and really liked the first movie. But as much as the fan in me was excited to see the new one, the writer in me was nervous.

Turns out the writer was right. For me, the movie was uneven and just didn't feel like a big enough storyline for a movie. Leaving aside the advisability of the whole Abu Dhabi idea (which I'm not going to get into), the whole thing, despite some very funny and very poignant moments, felt more suited to a 2 episode TV arc maybe rather than a two hour plus movie.

Naturally, being a writer type, this made writer brain perk up and start wondering why I had the reaction I did. And, after much more pondering, I think it boils down to this.

Stories have natural end points. If you drag them on beyond said end points then they start to retread old ground and either feel tired or you feel like the characters are backsliding. Which makes writing an ongoing series a tricky, tricky proposition. Personally, I don't think I'd attempt an open ended series for this very reason. You have to be very very clever and skilled to pull it off. Of the ongoing open ended series I've read over the years, I think I can think of three that I still read and think still have legs after the 8 or 9 book point.

One of these is the Discworld series, which is probably a different kettle of fish as it's more a series of connected stories in a shared world. It jumps around between characters and focus and while the characters do grow, the books are more about the ideas than the characters. Pratchett is also a genius.

The other two are the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold and the Eve Dallas books by JD Robb/Nora Roberts. Again, two genius level writers. Both these series work because they have hugely hugely compelling protagonists who started off with an awful lot to learn and overcome. The Eve books have also had the added cleverness of only covering a relatively short period of time so far in Eve's life (a few years maybe) even though we're up to 20 odd books. But even these two series will have a natural stopping point I would imagine (though I would rather neither of them happened any time soon).

For most other series, I think it's better to have an arc in mind and then you have to give your characters their well deserved, hopefully mostly happy ending. Otherwise you circle around and around and no-one grows or changes and readers other than those who just have become completely enamored with the world and are the die-hard fans will wander off in search of other characters who are doing something. The same thing happens with TV shows. There's only so much stuff you can put a character through before they're either idiots for not figuring stuff out already or should be in a mental hospital because of all the life trauma. At least, imho.

There are some other open ended series that I still read off and on because I love the voice but I've pretty much accepted with those books that that is the reason I read them and they won't be blowing my mind. They won't resonate and stay with me. They won't give me the tingle a really great book does. They might feel comfy and nice and I'll like visiting with old friends but that's about it. Which is why I'm not attempting to write an open ended series any time soon.

But back to SATC2. I think the first movie worked really well because it did tie up some loose threads from the series (namely Big and Carrie's arc) and left you feeling like everyone was okay and they'd go on being okay in their little universe. So coming back to visit again and they're all having niggly problems does start to feel repetitive. None of the issues they were facing were big like in the first movie. And the problem is if they had been big (cheating or death or that sort of thing), then that ground had already been covered. So the writers made the other choice, to write about the ongoing hassles of married life and parenthood (which are worthy subjects, don't get me wrong but for these characters, it did feel like going back to old territory). Pretty much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't. Which is probably a good test of should we keep doing this...do we have anything new to say that ups the stakes for everyone and makes them change in ways that they need to change and doesn't make them over into entirely new characters for the sake of keeping the story going (which is the other thing that can happen). If not, then someone has to make the hard call of letting things lie.

Which I understand movie studios and publishers and televisions stations have a motive not to do. Going out on a high point is a tough thing to do when fans and the people who pay you still love the characters.
And each writer has to make the choice for themselves and their vision of their stories.

For now, I think I'll stick to shorter series and hopefully avoid the problem all together! Though that brings a whole other set of issues...

This writing thing, it's hard, people.

June 04, 2010

May Contest Winner

Is Keziah Hill!

Who wins Daughter of the Blood, by Anne Bishop.

Keziah, email me with your details and it's all yours!

June 01, 2010

Happy Winter

Well, not really. I actually am not fond of winter. I feel the cold at the best of times without the weather adding to my woes. But I shall rug up and hibernate and keep warm by typing like a good little writer : )

How the heck it got to be the first of June already is beyond me. But hey, that means it's time for a brand new contest prize. Given we've done urban fantasy, contemporary and fantasy so far, I thought we'd zag over to another of my great reading loves, the regency historical romance.

And who better to illustrate the perfect divine witty romantic sexy delight of that era than Loretta Chase? Loretta writes my sort of historical. I'm not generally one for gothic and angsty when it comes to Regencies (though there are some exceptions). I like sparkle and bouncy repartee and gorgeous gowns and hot dudes in breeches. So when I first discovered Loretta Chase (thanks to the fabulous recommendation of Myrna from Rendezvous in Melbourne), I was immediately blissfully addicted. That first book was Lord of Scoundrels, which is wonderful but this month's prize is not LOS. Instead, it's my favourite Loretta book, mainly due to the sheer adorable sexiness of its hero, Rupert and the charm of the Egyptian setting). Rupert is a wonderful brawny hunk with a heart of gold and more brains than he gives himself credit for and his delight in Daphne's braininess and her in general is irresistible (hmm, maybe he should be Mr. Irresistible but he's not...instead, ladies and gentlemen, I offer you Mr. Impossible:



which is the second of Loretta's Carsington books and one of my all time favourite regency romances. (My second favourite book of hers, is the next book in this series, Lord Perfect, but Rupert won my heart first so he gets to be given away.) If you've never read Loretta and you love the lighter side of regency romance, then run to a book store and buy her. Or, as another option, simply comment on any of my blog posts this month to go in the drawer to win Mr. Impossible and be swept away by Rupert and Daphne and dastardly Egyptian doings! Then you can join the rest of us in eagerly awaiting her new book in August (unless you're too busy reading the rest of her backlist, of course!)

As usual, I will draw the winner early in July and announce here and on Twitter and Facebook, so follow me somewhere to keep up with the news. The winner will have one week from the time I announce them to get in touch to claim their prize, otherwise Rupert will be redrawn (poor Rupert, to be so snubbed!).

And if anyone is a late joiner and wants the history of why I'm giving away one of my favourite books each month, then the history of the contest is here.