Interlude

With the quick approach of Christmas Day, I find myself stretched to the limit and too exhausted to write…or even read! I’ll be taking a short break from the internet while I get myself organised for a busy Christmas and New Year period.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas and I hope 2009 is a good year for all of us. May you stay healthy, happy and safe. And I would also like to say thank you for showing your support during the past year. It has been appreciated more than you know.

2009 will bring one change to this website. It will be a year when I interview published authors and will post their responses here. The first interview is scheduled for New Year’s Day, so please be sure to drop by and find out what happens there. I’m sure you’ll find it informative. There will be 12 interviews – yes, one per month – throughout the year. I’m looking forward to seeing how that pans out.

Merry Christmas, everyone! 🙂

Page 56, fifth sentence

Alan Baxter is asking people to get involved with a meme he put up on his blog the other day, so here’s my contribution. First, you need to know the rules:

* Grab the book closest to you
* Go to page 56
* Find the 5th sentence
* Write that sentence as your status message
* Copy these instructions as a comment to your status message
* Don’t go looking for your favourite book, or the coolest one you have – just grab the closest one

OK, the book closest to me is a book from the library I intend to read next. It’s called “The Mirror’s Tale” by P W Catanese. Unfortunately, the book only has three sentences on page 56, so I’ve pulled the fifth sentence from page 55 instead.

He put his nose an inch from the wall, peered carefully, and saw an edge as thin as a hair around the spot he had just touched.

I haven’t started reading the book yet, but I’m guessing this is when the main character finds out something interesting about the mirror in question. I find it interesting that a random sentence can give such a big clue as to when I can expect the excitement to begin. All I can say is that the 54 pages and four sentences before this line better be worth it, because I like stories to start in the middle of the action! You will find out, of course, once I’ve finished the book.

If you are reading this, then you can safely say that you’ve been tagged. 😉

Research: Comparing Young Reader Books

no-fraidy-catfishy-field-tripCatKid by Brian James is a series for young readers – I’d say 7 to 9 year olds. I borrowed a couple of them from the library in a batch of books I wanted to read for research. I picked “I’m No Fraidy Cat” because the title reminded me specifically of one of our cats (who acts tough but is a scaredy cat through to the core). “The Fishy Field Trip” was randomly picked.

These books, of course, are way too young for me, but I wanted to find out what was being published for the age group. The books I read, there were also two others I haven’t mentioned here, were good research material. They were published by two major publishers – Scholastic and Simon & Schuster – and I found that they all gave the same results, which were:

1. They stayed within a single storyline, which were not too complex.
2. They spoke to the target audience, using words I suspect the age group would find amusing and would trigger copy cat usage (kids love to mimic things they love).
3. Most centred on two main characters. The other characters were only used to help the main characters and the plot advance. There was little information provided regarding these other characters.
4. They were quick and concise. No flowery descriptions in any of these books.

I had a few more books to read, but I don’t think I’ll bother with them. I don’t actually write for this age group – or I haven’t to date. Instead, I’m going to move on to the next age group, which is 9 to 12 years olds. This is the age group I write for and it will be interesting to see the difference between the two age groups.

Book Review: Deep Water

Deep Water (Castings Trilogy, Book 2)

Deep Water by Pamela Freeman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last night, I finished reading Deep Water by Pamela Freeman – book 2 of The Castings Trilogy. I must say that I particularly enjoyed how the author ties everything together. Even the “mini stories” play an important role in the overall plot – and not only because they give the world and the characters more depth. My only complaint is that the third book won’t be released until late in 2009.

My apologies for the lack of enthusiasm in my “review” of the book. It really is a good book and deserves much more than what I’ve written here, but I have a tummy bug, so I’m not feeling 100% and don’t have the energy to think and be creative. I might come back to this post and expand on it at a later stage…when my brain isn’t fried and I’m feeling better.

Edited on Tuesday 9 December 2008

Well, five days later and I’m still not 100%, but I do feel much better than I did and I’m ready to add something more to my review of Deep Water now.

As a reader, I found that the first two books of the trilogy spoke to me. I enjoyed the characters, especially their depth, and I related to their stories. I also enjoyed finding out what made them tick by reading their “mini stories”. Often we accept traits of characters on face value, but the author of these books offered reasons and circumstances that made me feel sorry for even the nasty characters. As I said in my review of Blood Ties (Book 1), this trilogy is the best adult writing I’ve read in a while.

As a writer, I found the “mini stories” worked well in captivating my interest, yet we are told time and time again that flashbacks should be kept to a minimum. I believe these books prove that rules are meant to be broken, if it is done well. I also took note that the flow of the writing was easy to follow. There were no strange words that stopped me in my tracks because I didn’t know what they meant. The character names and the names of places were easily pronounced, which again didn’t divert my attention away from the storyline. And…there were no long descriptions and no weather reports, which are two of my pet hates.

I think the only real criticism I have about this trilogy is the fact that the story is continuous from one book to the next. I’ve never like books that do that – especially when I have to wait almost a year before the next book is available to continue to read – as my memory isn’t the best anymore. But even when my memory was great, I didn’t like it. I prefer each book of a trilogy to have a main story that starts and ends in that book, even if there is a thread that stretches over all three books (which there should always be, in my opinion).

I enjoyed both books a great deal and they are highly recommended.

Cat’s Eyes: Full Manuscript Requested

I used an email address for the submission of Cat’s Eyes that I rarely receive or send anything from. Moments ago, I realised I hadn’t checked it for several days. Imagine my surprise when I heard the tell-tale “ding” that announces new mail has been received. Immediately recognising the publisher’s email address, I held my breath and prepared myself for a rejection.

So it was an even bigger surprise when I read the email and discovered the publisher liked the synopsis of my story and liked the sample of my writing, and was requesting the full manuscript.

I realise this isn’t an acceptance and the manuscript could still be rejected, but this request has lifted my spirits. I now have a purpose! I now have a reason to sit at the computer and work diligently. I’ve been given hope and that is something I needed.

My plans for the weekend have suddenly changed. I won’t be working on Mirror Image as previously stated, I’ll be ensuring Cat’s Eyes is perfect before I send it off next week.

If there was a mood reader on this blog, it would be saying “happy and excited” right now.

Finding a Way Forward

I actually started writing this post on Sunday 23 November 2008, but never got around to finishing it…or posting it. This is how the post started:

Today, when I complained about the difficulty I’m having with the edit of Mirror Image, someone close to me asked what I was trying to achieve. At first, I was a little taken aback and my defences went up. I thought I was going to have to defend my decision to write to another person who believed everyone wants to be a writer so you’re wasting your time. But then the person elaborated on the question and I realised I had misunderstood what was being asked.

“Don’t writers do many edits?” the person asked. “What are you trying to achieve with this one?”

What was I trying to achieve? In fact, when I thought about it, this was a good question. I realised that whilst I’ve been acting as if I’m trying to turn the first draft into a perfect polished draft (which, at the rate I’m going, will only happen by some miracle), I should be concentrating on something less ambitious and then maybe, I’ll actually get somewhere. As soon as I had this thought, the edit didn’t seem so scary…and hard.

This edit should be all about getting the plot straightened out. If I can fix those large holes in the climax where all the storylines come together all at once; and if I can write the “missing” scene from the secondary character’s point of view; then…and only then…would I be able to say that I have satisfactorily completed the first edit. Only when the things listed above are done should I turn my attention to a second, more intense edit of the actual characters and their reasons for being in the story.

You see, if you think about it, you will agree that the manuscript is actually incomplete in its present state. And that is why I’m having so much trouble with the edit. How can I edit something that hasn’t been written? It also explains why I keep going back to the arc I’ve been working on, instead of editing the minor character’s storylines.

With this in mind, I have decided to change tactics. I will continue to work on the arc for the climax. My progress on that is going well – slow, but well – I have already completed three quarters of the work. Once that is finished, I will start another arc for the secondary character’s storyline. Something went horribly wrong in the first draft and I can’t allow it to remain like it is as the character must provide a very strong message to the reader. In fact, this character is one that I have a lot in common with and I still find it strange that this is the one I had the most trouble with. Anyway, now I need to pull it back into line.

I feel as if I’ve discovered a secret path which will take me through a maze I admit I was lost in. This makes me feel excited and eager to get back to work, which I think I’ll do right now. 🙂

And that’s where I had stopped writing last Sunday. Having read over it again, I can see that I did finish the post, but never got around to adding it to my blog (or doing the writing I said I was going to do). Now, however, what has been said isn’t actually true as I haven’t done any of the things I said above. On Monday, I received some news that has made me think about other things for most of the week – private things that I will not go into here. I’ve spent every moment of every day focused on this other thing. I could even say I’ve been thinking about while I sleep because I’ve dreamed about it too. My writing hasn’t been given a thought in this time, but I found my thoughts straying to Mirror Image yesterday so I opened a character’s storyline and read it right through.

It was the other secondary character; the son of the secondary character I’m having trouble with. He is a character I enjoyed writing and it really does show in my words. Everything about him is so different to me and I felt as if I was on an adventure when I wrote his story. I admit that it needs some work, but overall I’m pleased with the way it turned out. I even found tears welling in my eyes in one spot. His message is strong and clear.

Anyway, in reality, this means that I’ve edited four of the six viewpoints. The only two left are the main character and her mother. I’ve decided to go back to my original plan and fix up the secondary character’s (the mother’s) viewpoint.

I’m a woman. I’m allowed to change my mind. 🙂

The Birthday Month Personality Meme

I’ve been tagged to do this Birthday Month Personality Meme by Sherry. I’ve always found birthday (or zodiac) traits to be amusing and weirdly close to the mark, so let’s see how this one measures up (or should I be saying how close I measure up to it?).

The instructions:

1. Mention the person who tagged you and create a link back to them.
2. Copy-paste the traits for all the twelve months (see below).
3. Pick your month of birth (see bottom of list).
4. Highlight/bold the traits that apply to you.
5. Tag 12 people and let them know by visiting their blogs and leaving a comment for them.
6. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve done it.

JANUARY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Ambitious and serious. Loves to teach and be taught. Always looking at people’s flaws and weaknesses. Likes to criticize. Hardworking and productive. Smart, neat and organized. Sensitive and has deep thoughts. Knows how to make others happy. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Rather reserved. Highly attentive. Resistant to illnesses but prone to colds. Romantic but has difficulties expressing love. Loves children. Loyal. Has great social abilities yet easily jealous. Very stubborn and money cautious.

FEBRUARY: Abstract thoughts. Loves reality and abstract. Intelligent and clever. Changing personality. Attractive. Sexy. Temperamental. Quiet, shy and humble. Honest and loyal. Determined to reach goals. Loves freedom. Rebellious when restricted. Loves aggressiveness. Too sensitive and easily hurt. Gets angry really easily but does not show it. Dislikes unnecessary things. Loves making friends but rarely shows it. Daring and stubborn. Ambitious. Realizes dreams and hopes. Sharp. Loves entertainment and leisure. Romantic on the inside not outside. Superstitious and ludicrous. Spendthrift. Tries to learn to show emotions.

MARCH: Attractive personality. Sexy. Affectionate. Shy and reserved. Secretive. Naturally honest, generous and sympathetic. Loves peace and serenity. Sensitive to others. Loves to serve others. Easily angered. Trustworthy. Appreciative and returns kindness. Observant and assesses others. Revengeful. Loves to dream and fantasize. Loves traveling. Loves attention. Hasty decisions in choosing partners. Loves home decors. Musically talented. Loves special things. Moody.

APRIL: Active and dynamic. Decisive and hasty but tends to regret. Attractive and affectionate to oneself. Strong mentality. Loves attention. Diplomatic. Consoling, friendly and solves people’s problems. Brave and fearless. Adventurous. Loving and caring. Suave and generous. Emotional. Aggressive. Hasty. Good memory. Moving. Motivates oneself and others. Sickness usually of the head and chest. Sexy in a way that only their lover can see.

MAY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Strong-willed and highly motivated. Sharp thoughts. Easily angered. Attracts others and loves attention. Deep feelings. Beautiful physically and mentally. Firm Standpoint. Needs no motivation. Easily consoled. Systematic (left brain). Loves to dream. Strong clairvoyance. Understanding. Sickness usually in the ear and neck. Good imagination. Good physical. Weak breathing. Loves literature and the arts. Loves traveling. Dislike being at home. Restless. Not having many children. Hardworking. High spirited. Spendthrift.

JUNE: Thinks far with vision. Easily influenced by kindness. Polite and soft-spoken. Having ideas. Sensitive. Active mind. Hesitating, tends to delay. Choosy and always wants the best. Temperamental. Funny and humorous. Loves to joke. Good debating skills. Talkative. Daydreamer. Friendly. Knows how to make friends. Able to show character. Easily hurt. Prone to getting colds. Loves to dress up. Easily bored. Fussy. Seldom shows emotions. Takes time to recover when hurt. Brand conscious. Executive. Stubborn.

JULY: Fun to be with. Secretive. Difficult to fathom and to be understood. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Takes pride in oneself. Has reputation. Easily consoled. Honest. Concerned about people’s feelings. Tactful. Friendly. Approachable. Emotional temperamental and unpredictable. Moody and easily hurt. Witty and sparkly. Not revengeful. Forgiving but never forgets. Dislikes nonsensical and unnecessary things. Guides others physically and mentally. Sensitive and forms impressions carefully. Caring and loving. Treats others equally. Strong sense of sympathy. Wary and sharp. Judges people through observations. Hardworking. No difficulties in studying. Loves to be alone. Always broods about the past and the old friends. Likes to be quiet. Homely person. Waits for friends. Never looks for friends. Not aggressive unless provoked. Prone to having stomach and dieting problems. Loves to be loved. Easily hurt but takes long to recover.

AUGUST: Loves to joke. Attractive. Suave and caring. Brave and fearless. Firm and has leadership qualities. Knows how to console others. Too generous and egoistic. Takes high pride in oneself. Thirsty for praises. Extraordinary spirit. Easily angered. Angry when provoked. Easily jealous. Observant. Careful and cautious. Thinks quickly. Independent thoughts. Loves to lead and to be led. Loves to dream. Talented in the arts, music and defense. Sensitive but not petty. Poor resistance against illnesses. Learns to relax. Hasty and trusty. Romantic. Loving and caring. Loves to make friends.

SEPTEMBER: Suave and compromising. Careful, cautious and organized. Likes to point out people’s mistakes. Likes to criticize. Stubborn. Quiet but able to talk well. Calm and cool. Kind and sympathetic. Concerned and detailed. Loyal but not always honest. Does work well. Very confident. Sensitive. Good memory. Clever and knowledgeable. Loves to look for information. Must control oneself when criticizing. Able to motivate oneself. Understanding. Fun to be around. Secretive. Loves leisure and traveling. Hardly shows emotions. Tends to bottle up feelings. Very choosy, especially in relationships. Systematic.

OCTOBER: Loves to chat. Loves those who loves them. Loves to take things at the center. Inner and physical beauty. Lies but doesn’t pretend. Gets angry often. Treats friends importantly. Always making friends. Easily hurt but recovers easily. Daydreamer. Opinionated. Does not care of what others think. Emotional. Decisive. Strong clairvoyance. Loves to travel, the arts and literature. Touchy and easily jealous. Concerned. Loves outdoors. Just and fair. Spendthrift. Easily influenced. Easily loses confidence. Loves children.

NOVEMBER: Has a lot of ideas. Difficult to fathom. Thinks forward. Unique and brilliant. Extraordinary ideas. Sharp thinking. Fine and strong clairvoyance. Can become good doctors. Dynamic in personality. Secretive. Inquisitive. Knows how to dig secrets. Always thinking. Less talkative but amiable. Brave and generous. Patient. Stubborn and hard-hearted. If there is a will, there is a way. Determined. Never give up. Hardly becomes angry unless provoked. Loves to be alone. Thinks differently from others. Sharp-minded. Motivates oneself. Does not appreciate praises. High-spirited. Well-built and tough. Deep love and emotions. Romantic. Uncertain in relationships. Homely. Hardworking. High abilities. Trustworthy. Honest and keeps secrets. Not able to control emotions. Unpredictable.

DECEMBER: Loyal and generous. Sexy. Patriotic. Active in games and interactions. Impatient and hasty. Ambitious. Influential in organizations. Fun to be with. Loves to socialize. Loves praises. Loves attention. Loves to be loved. Honest and trustworthy. Not pretending. Short tempered. Changing personality. Not egotistic. Take high pride in oneself. Hates restrictions. Loves to joke. Good sense of humor. Logical.

______________________________

My birthday month is September:

SEPTEMBER: Suave and compromising. Careful, cautious and organized. Likes to point out people’s mistakes. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Likes to criticize. Stubborn. Quiet but able to talk well. This might be true when I with my family, but not at other times. Calm and cool. Some people think this is true, but I know it’s not! Kind and sympathetic. Concerned and detailed. Loyal but not always honest. Does work well. Very confident. Definitely not true. Sensitive. Good memory. I used to, but not anymore. Clever and knowledgeable. Loves to look for information. Must control oneself when criticizing. Able to motivate oneself. Understanding. Fun to be around. I could pretend this is true, but I know it’s not. Secretive. Loves leisure and traveling. Hardly shows emotions. Tends to bottle up feelings. Very choosy, especially in relationships. Systematic.

I’m not going to tag anyone, but please feel free to tag yourself if you feel like it. I’d like to read your reply to this meme to see if I agree. 🙂

The Perfect Manuscript in One Draft

Imagine if we could write the perfect manuscript in one draft. How brilliant would that be? Of course, I’m dreaming here as very few writers would be able to do this with any amount of success. I feel it would be impossible to write 100,000 words and not make one single error of any kind. In fact, I think it would be impossible to write any manuscript of any length without a typo or some kind of grammar problem or a sentence that isn’t all it should be.

In reality, in order to get a manuscript anywhere near perfect a writer must not only write the manuscript but they must also subject themselves to rewriting and editing that work numerous times. Some people can get away with only a few edits, but most will have to plough through the same words over and over and over and …

I’m not keen on edits. I find them hard and frustrating because it means I have to iron out all those problem areas I was never quite confident about in the first place. Come to think of it, I don’t like ironing either. No wonder I’m finding the edit of Mirror Image so hard…and draining.

The first draft has huge holes in it. I suppose I should be thankful that I’m aware of this. There are a few problems:

Firstly, the main character’s storyline falls flat right at the most critical time – the climax, of all places. At the moment, the scene could be compared to a plateau when it should be a steep mountain. I’m still working on the arc I mentioned a week or so ago, so when I get around to rewriting this scene it will be much improved.

Secondly, another primary character’s storyline falls to pieces in the middle. Each storyline was planned, but this one kept going off in other directions until eventually even I became confused. In the end I stopped writing and moved to a spot in the storyline that got the character back on track and continued from there. This means, I have an enormous section of mess to fix…once I work out what went wrong!

Thirdly, the three minor character’s resolutions have to be played out in the climax, which is from the main character’s point of view. Once I reach the climax I cannot go back to these other character’s points of view. It would ruin the suspense and flow. However, these resolutions are important as they round the characters out and they are also important to the overall message of the book. The real problem is that the main character is in such a state by this stage, that in reality she wouldn’t be taking in what’s happening around her. So I have to provide quick snippets of information that provide the information needed to complete the minor character’s storylines without interrupting the flow of the climax, which should be quite intense and emotional.

The above is three major problems, which I’m finding hard to deal with. I haven’t come to a complete stand still, but I’m hovering close to it and that worries me. I’m tempted to put the manuscript aside and work on something else for a short time – give myself a break – but I know that if I do this I’ll never return to Mirror Image. I don’t want that to happen, so I’ll continue to struggle forward…even if it means I’m taking the smallest steps you could ever imagine.

Please excuse me while I day dream about how brilliant it would be to write the perfect manuscript in one draft.