New Year’s Notions

safe_image-phpIt’s coming up to a new year, after a year that left a lot to be desired (see previous post) and, as usual and culturally normal, I’m thinking about what I want the coming year to hold.

But I am emphatically NOT talking about New Year’s Resolutions, because we all know that they are not worth the paper or cyber-space they’re written on.

I’m also not going to participate in the annual self-flagellation that marketers love so much to capitalise on.

We (and the mags and websites with content to fill) love to talk about what we should do less of: we should weigh less (always, and quite regardless of whether our health will actually benefit).  We should eat less; less  altogether and especially less sugar/carbs/fat/cheese/meat… or whatever is the bête noire of the moment.  We should drink less coffee or alcohol or diet coke.  We should spend less money and less time on social media.  We should work less – or relax less, depending on who you ask.

It’s a curiously puritanical approach to life, in a culture that simultaneously urges us to indulge our every whim.  Continue reading

I’ve been tagged…

Fortunately, not with anything permanent!

No, this kind of tagging is for a blog hop.  Which is a lot like Chinese whispers as I remember it in primary school.  You come up with something to say, whisper it in the next person’s ear and end with ‘pass it on!’  Except, I suppose, one hopes that this version of passing it on results in something a little more coherent than the primary school version!

My friend Gabrielle was the one who tapped me on the shoulder.  She is a writer (which probably comes as no great surprise) but she is also a film maker who makes trailers for books, which hits me right two of my favourite things, books and films.  I like her a lot and I’m really looking forward to reading her novels, when they eventuate! (Hint, Gab. 😉 ) If you would like to catch up with her, you can find her writing blog at http://gabbawrites.blogspot.com.au/ (on which she answers the same questions as I’m about to below) and her fabulous trailers for books are at http://www.trailermadeproduction.com/.  I suspect I might be in the market for one of them one day soon! (And just because I love a video link, here’s her promo video for the trailers.)

So, onto the questions:  There are only four, but some are doozies!

1 What am I working on?

What am I NOT working on might be a shorter answer!  I have decided that this is the year of productivity, and I have decided that one way to achieve that is to make a start on several things at once.  That way, if I get stuck on one, I can at least do something useful on one of the others.  Currently I am planning and/or working on one full-length romance and one novella (although knowing me, it might not stay a novella), two young-adult books and one book which, for want of a better term, I’ll call women’s fiction, with a splash of danger, a dash of romance and a lot of friends getting each other out of trouble.  I figure that should keep me busy for a few months!  I’d also like to finish the short story I started last year for the Scarlet Stiletto, Malice Domestic division.  It appeals to a gruesome side of me that I haven’t explored in fiction before…

2 How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Ooh, tough one.  I think I’d have to say first, in the humour.  I like to have a laugh where possible, even when dealing with serious subjects – in fact, especially then.  I know I can improve at combining the serious and the silly but I hope my books are always fun to read.  Of course, there are plenty of other writers who use humour too, but I can’t seem to help myself.  If there’s a laugh, I’m going after it.  Also, my romances vary from some in that I like to write about people I can imagine knowing.  I’m not especially interested in the super-rich and glamorous and bossy alpha heroes give me a pain.  I like male characters I can imagine actually having a drink with, without wanting to strangle them.  The most exciting one isn’t really about me, but I’m the only writer I know of who has had works of art made, inspired by the books.  You can find them here and here and they are a source of constant joy and encouragement to me. (Hi Resa!)

3 Whey do I write what I do?

The short answer is because I have stories to tell.  I am interested in people.  I want to know why we do the things we do and especially why we are so often sad, lonely and broken.  Writing stories helps me answer those questions, at least for those characters!  (It also makes me realise that I will never get to a definitive answer, but that just means I need to write more stories, to explore more angles.)  I have said before that I write romance because its values appeal to me and that is true.  But I think part of it is wanting to give everyone a happy ending – or at least the hope of one.  My little romances probably won’t change anyone’s life, but they might bring some light into it for a few hours and that seems a worthwhile goal to me.  The other things I write come from a similar urge to entertain and to share the way I see the world.

4 How does my writing process work?

It’s still a work in progress!  I started out a complete panster (as in, start at the beginning and write by the seat of your pants until you get to the end) but I’m moving towards more prior planning, as I get less scared of it and more interested in getting the job done a bit faster.  I like to do my ‘thinking’ with a pen and paper.  That includes character and setting notes, plot ideas and even snippets of scenes, but when I start writing the story in earnest, I move to the computer, because I can type faster than I write.  I’m trying to be more disciplined about getting work done every day, which means starting early in the morning whenever I can, so that if the day gets complicated (as they often do) I haven’t lost my writing time.  And that’s about as much process as I have!

And those are my answers!  I hope they’ve been a bit interesting.

a-basic-renovation_finalAnd now I would like to tag another friend.  Sandra Antonelli is a pocket rocket who I met at a Romance Writers of Australia conference and immediately fell in love with.  She writes, by her own description, ‘quirky romance novels for grown-ups… and smart asses’.  She is whip-smart (she has a PhD!) she’s got a smart mouth (and pen) and her stories of lovers who are no longer in the first flush of youth but still have plenty of living and loving to do are a delight.  You can find her at her website and blog and I highly recommend that you do and that you check out her books while you’re there.  She’ll be answering the questions next Monday, so if she takes your fancy, bookmark the page!

Now I must away, as I’m only just going to get this in technically still on Monday as it is!  Hope your week is treating you well!

Things I Learned in 2013: The one about reading

You may be wondering what a woman of my age (viz, no longer in the first flush of youth) can have to learn about reading.  The answer is, apparently, plenty.

You see, last year, I discovered, about half-way through the year, that I wasn’t reading much. Books, that is.  I was reading things on the internet – and no, not just status updates and captions on cat pictures.  In the course of a couple of quasi-scientific studies I conducted on myself during the year, I found that most of the time I spent on the internet was reading proper article-type things – serious newsy ones and amusing ones and a lot to do with the craft and business of writing.

The internet has, in effect, become my newspaper, my professional journal and my very own comedy channel.

And that’s all well and good (although, as I said in the previous post, the time spent on that needs to be controlled).

But I wasn’t reading many novels.

This, I hardly need to say, is not good.  I am a novelist.  For a novelist not to read stories is like an artist eschewing galleries, or a musician deciding to wear earplugs 24/7.  It’s as necessary for a writer to read as it is for some who likes living to breathe.  And it has never been a problem before.

But I wasn’t doing it.

Continue reading

What I learned in 2013: The one about writing

This January, I am looking at what I learned last year, so I can do better this year.  The first post was about Christmas, but now the festive season is well and truly over.  Epiphany (the feast of) has come and gone, the Christmas decorations have been put away (with the exception of the one that got missed, which will now sit on the windowsill until Michaelmas*) and it’s time to think seriously about what 2013 has taught me about writing and what that means for 2014.

*I don’t know when that is either. But it’s a long time from Christmas and it sounds good!

First, partly because it’s the most recent lesson, and because it encompasses some other things I’ve learned about me and writing this year, I have learned that…

…NaNoWriMo is not for me (don’t all faint at once).

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  It’s a joint effort where people around the world commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in November.  People do it as a way to encourage them to write.  The idea is to give yourself a challenging word count every day for a limited time as a spur to persist, push through and get down some words.

It sounds like a good idea and for several years now, I’ve given it a go.  In none of them, have I got anywhere near writing 50,000 words.  More to the point, I think I would have written more in November if I hadn’t attempted it.  And here’s why:

  • Arbitrary goals set by someone else (or even set by myself) with a ‘win’ or ‘lose’ status attached to them get my back up.  There are a few reasons for this.  One is that I think I’m naturally ornery.  I don’t like being told what to do.  Even when it’s good for me.  Maybe especially when it’s good for me.  But it also stems from my long and disastrous relationship with weight-loss dieting.  I have learned the hard way that diets don’t work.  They set you up by making you obsessed with food, then telling you not to eat.  They divorce you from your natural relationship with hunger, by dictating what, and sometimes when, you will eat, with no reference to individuality or circumstances.  They make you crazy.  (There is a much bigger post – indeed, thesis – in this, but I’m restraining myself because that’s not what THIS one is about.)
    And I worked out this year that NaNoWriMo feels like a ‘diet’ to me.  An arbitrary set of rules, that may or may not mean anything useful, that you ‘win’ if you follow and ‘lose’ if you don’t.  This makes me cross.  It Continue reading

Of Mice and Progress and the Undertoad…

First, allow me to explain the concept of the Undertoad.

It’s a concept I learned from the Victorian Storytelling Guild.  I’m sure it has it’s origins in a mis-hearing of ‘undertow’ and there is undoubtedly a story that goes with that (really, undoubtedly 😉  ) but that’s for another day.  Today is for what it has come to mean.

Oral storytellers are performers and, as all performers who have been doing it for more than five minutes know, when it comes to performance, planning ahead and rehearsal is really important.  But no matter how hard you plan and rehearse and think you are prepared, there is always the risk of the undertoad.

The undertoad is that unexpected something that you can’t plan for, that you couldn’t forsee, that can throw you for a loop and disrupt the best-laid plans.  It’s the school that overinvites, because, surely, there’s no difference between telling to 20 children and 200?  Or the festival that thinks that putting you outside on a stage with a microphone is exactly the same as inside in a library, as long as the weather’s good.  The only way to handle the undertoad is to know that he could appear at any moment and to be flexible enough to manage the situation.

Well, that’s how my November’s turning out.

Monday was supposed to be my first full day of planning for my new book, in keeping with my NaNo commitment to plan first and write next, I had my Alexandra Sokoloff board all sectioned off and my index cards and was raring to go.  I have very little of this story nutted out to date.  I have one character, possibly two, who I know quite well and some ideas and that’s about it.  But I had faith that with some work it would all come together.  And it would have.  Except…

Except my child woke up in a very bad way and needed looking after.  And in the course of looking after her, I discovered that I had a mouse resident in my under-sink cupboard.  And that he’d ventured into the cupboard next door as well and left his calling cards everywhere.  I actually picked him up, accidentally, in a cloth that he’d made his house, but sadly didn’t realise in time to catch him and put him outside.

So Monday, instead of a wondrous flurry of planning, became a day of disinfecting and washing things and nursing and all manner of things I didn’t intend.  Undertoads, in fact.

Tuesday was a holiday here and we had plans, so it was always going to be difficult.  And the mouse is still in the house somewhere.

Today I discovered that the voluntary commitment I thought I had for Friday is not for approximately three hours, but rather for the whole day – and indeed, a long day.  I still have cordial and brownies to make for the fête on the weekend (because there’s nothing like a mouse in the kitchen to put a crimp in your cooking plans).

And Saturday is Dancing Concert Day (forget getting anything but hair, makeup, ferrying, feeding and watching done on that day).

And the mouse is still resident.

And did I mention that the dog has done an anterior cruciate?  Not as funny as it sounds.

Very soon, this undertoad will qualify as an overtoad, or indeed an ubertoad.

So here’s what I’m doing.  I have let myself off my solid 3-hour-stint plans for the rest of this week.  There is only so much stress I can take without snapping at all I hold near and dear and it really isn’t worth that.  I have index cards in my bag, by my bed and on my desk.  While I’m cooking and shopping for mousetraps, I am thinking constantly about my story and jotting down scene ideas and character notes as they come.  I’m also writing down snippets of scenes as they come to me (in the gaps between disinfecting) and today I think I might have struck on an opening! And next week, after this toady mess has passed, I will put them together and have a running start at framing this new tale.  I can make this one better, stronger, more gripping and I shall.

Just as soon as I climb over this toad.

How’s your November going?

Where I’ve been and where I’m going (NaNoWriMo may be involved)

Heavens to Murgatroyd, it’s happened again.  Shameless, hopeless, blog neglect.  You would be forgiven for thinking I was dead.

Well, I’m not.  But I have been  in a funk.

The Cambridge dictionary defines ‘being in a funk’ as ‘being very unhappy and without hope.’

Yep.  Little bit.

You see, I got some bad news about my book.  Not the ones you see on the side of this page.  They’re out in the world (digitally anyway) and people are being mostly kind about them (although I could do with some more sales, so if you feel like a light-hearted romantic romp, do buy one!).

No, the one I’m talking about is the one I thought was the next big thing.  Which WAS the next big thing, for me.  A longer, more involved story, dealing with themes that are important to me, that I researched to death and worked very hard on for a very long time.  I finished it.  Finally.  I neglected the blog and quite a lot of other things to do it, but it was finally DONE and I was happy with it.  I thought my big resolution scene was strong.  All of that.  My beta readers loved it.

But my agent, not so much.

Now, I could have ignored her opinion and of course, I was tempted.  But her comments were industry related and knowledge of the industry is why I have her, so that would have been foolish.  Tempting, but dumb, and I try not to be dumb.  So I was forced to take the comments seriously.

Hence, funk.

I am not going to go into the details of the crying and throwing things.  They didn’t last that long.  (It is possible that I am finally growing up.) But the fear that maybe I should chuck the whole thing and become a plumber lasted a little longer.

However, I am pleased to say that, thanks to my friends in the Romance Writers of Australia, my friends in real life, my wonderful husband and child and my own bloody-mindedness, I think I am out the other side of the funk.  Now, I have an idea, I think I know what I did wrong and I am all fired up to write something new which will put my agent’s objections to rest and, oddly enough, make it easier to rework the existing story.

I am also beginning to believe that anything worth doing will break you and that only wanting it really, really badly will get you through the pain.  I kind of knew that before, but with each step further along the path, the breaking gets worse.  However, I am not giving up yet.

So, I have cast off (mostly) the funk and I am throwing myself into the insanity that is NaNoWriMo – at least in a manner of speaking.  For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a writerly piece of lunacy where writers attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  The idea is to get a novel written in a month.  Or a draft of one, or half of one.

Now, I have never been good at word counts as a measure.  I write in chunks – a legacy of my copywriting background – so although I may write thousands of words in thrashing out that scene, chapter or whatever, I only count the ‘finished’ words.  So word counting tends to give me hives and is not, for me, terribly productive.  Also, for this new project, I want to have a stab at doing a much more detailed plan – which means that first cab off the rank is not word count, but index cards and brainstorming.

There is also the fact that November is a completely crazy month for me in my non-writing life.

But the discipline of committing to a much larger than usual output is, I think, useful.  I can certainly use a boost to my productivity and since I am starting something new and need a kick to get out of my funk, I am going to commit to productivity measures this month.

So, here’s what I’m planning:  During November, I will commit to working a solid three hours on my novel five days a week (given the aforementioned craziness of November, 7 days is unrealistic).  That’s three hours of actual, worked time.  I will stop the clock for tea making or any other kind of break and during my three hours there will be no internet whatsoever.  Nor will there be research or other time-sucks.  Just story work.  I will work as fast as I can and once my plan is done, I will commit to producing a minimum of five pages in my allotted time.

And I will (deep breath here) report on my progress, every day that I do my three hours.  Gulp.  I will try to make those posts useful, for the writers among you looking for NaNo inspiration (or procrastination) but there may also be some inarticulate wailing, should the day go badly.  There may also be pictures of flowers and puppies, for purposes of sanity. It remains to be seen.

For those doing NaNo, best of luck – if you get a moment to breathe, wish me the same!

PS: If you are doing NaNo and are scared witless, you might want to check out Alexandra Sokoloff’s fabulous blog for writers, and the indefatigable Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds. Just sayin’… 😉

It’s school holidays…

And post submission, which means I am up to my neck in holiday shenanigans and trying to sort out the almighty backlog of home things that built up while I was finishing said submission.

Which translates to: one, three-day Karate seminar (I trained! A bit, anyway. I didn’t die!), one birthday sleepover party (with obligatory breakfast pancakes) one visiting nephew, a lot of thinking about/researching new stories, a lot of wrestling with a dodgy email system and a bit of washing of sheets and rearranging of rooms.  The tax and the filing have yet to be tackled (can’t imagine why).

Which all results in terrible blog neglect.  And any minute now, I have to take said nephew out to see the sights of Melbourne (the bits that haven’t been washed or blown away, that is – it was a bit wild overnight!).  So I thought I’d share a post from the vault.  It was one of a series about what makes a man sexy.  In this case, it was about clothes.  Specifically coats here, but other clothes can do it too.

In my recent release, Playing by the Rules, my heroine, Kate comes over all unnecessary when she claps eyes on the hero, Josh, wearing a dinner suit.  It was the first scene I ever wrote that made my beta readers fan themselves with a manuscript.  And it’s just a bloke in a suit.  Fellas, take note!

So without further ado, I introduce you (or remind you, if you were around the first time) to the wonders of the coat.  Enjoy!

My Baby’s up on Goodreads (and Netgalley)!

DESTINY_Playingbytherules_cvr smallApologies for yet another ‘look at my shiny book’ post.  It’s just that I didn’t know about all these groovy things like Goodreads last time, so this time, I’m revelling in all the little milestones.

Anyway, just wanted to say that Playing by the Rules is up on Goodreads.  This doesn’t mean an awful lot yet (except to me, because I love to go and look at the prettiness of a cover with my name on it), but I wanted to mention it to any readers who also happen to be book reviewers, because it means it’s also up on Netgalley.

(If you aren’t a reviewer of contemporary romance, look away for a moment, as I’m about to be completely shameless.)

If you like contemporary romance at the sweet end of the spectrum and you are on Netgalley, I would love it if you would consider Playing by the Rules for a review.  And if you have a review blog or site and would like to interview me or ask me any questions about it (or my writing process or whatever), I’d be happy to answer them!  If you would like more info or a sample first, please feel free to contact me (form below)

Thank you and hope you have a good weekend!

Just flying through to say…

RAFB cover with ARRA Finalist graphicThat I just discovered that Rules are for Breaking is available in print (almost certainly for a limited time) from the Penguin website.  That was a nice discovery, as they aren’t available in the Australia Post shops any more.  Also, I kind of love that I have more than one title up on the website now, even if the second one hasn’t landed yet.  Small joys! 😉

Ta-da! Book (and other) news

DESTINY_Playingbytherules_cvr smallI have a new cover!  Which is because I have a new book coming out.

Ta-da!

This one is another contemporary romance, a companion book of sorts to my first one.  Those of you who read it might remember Kate, the heroine Jo’s pregnant sister-in-law?  Well Playing by the Rules is the story of how she came to be Jo’s sister-in-law.

Here’s my quick, hasty-tasty blurb for Playing by the Rules…

Playing by the Rules is the story of Kate, a woman who had her life all planned out – until her intended dumped her. Now, her best friend is pushing her to have a fling and, with the gorgeous Josh on offer, she’s very tempted.

But she’s never been very good at casual. Before long, she fears she’s falling for him: a man who can’t commit to anything past lunch and who’s flitting off for another adventure at the end of the week. She doesn’t know the rules of this game but it seems its name is heartache…

Tempted?  I hope so!  And if you are, you don’t have too long to wait.  Playing by the Rules is out next month from Destiny Romance.  The buy links should all be live on September the 15th – trust me, I’ll let you know!  (UPDATE: There’s a ‘coming soon’ link up now, with a rather cute blurb on the Destiny site.  I’m coming soon!)

And now, for the reason why the blurb above is a quick, hasty-tasty one: I’m not in Kansas any more, Toto!  In fact, I am typing this from Perth – or, more correctly, for those who know Western Australia, Fremantle –  where I have come to attend the annual Romance Writers of Australia conference.  The conference doesn’t start till Thursday night, but I have family here, so I’ve come a bit early to catch up.

I probably won’t be posting much to the blog over the weekend, but I will be tweeting, from https://twitter.com/Imelda_Evans, so feel free to follow the shenanigans there.  And watch this space next week when I get back.  I’m planning a bit of celebratory carry-on for the new book, which will probably include prizes…

It’s always hard to know what readers will like, but this book is close to my heart.  I am very fond of the characters and the story and I really hope you will like it as much as I do.

But for now, off to the conference, to learn to be a better writer and to see my writer buddies.  I hope you have as great a weekend as I hope to!