Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Competition Time!

There is a very cool competition happening over at Medeia Sharif's blog. Check it out here: 


The competition is for three winners to chose one book of their from the list to follow of Medeia's read in 2010 list 

The competition is open internationally to these countries that The Book Depository ships to for free, and is only open to blog followers. The competition closes December 31st at 11:59pm E.S.T. 

1. Mercury Falls – Robert Kroese
2. Evolution, Me, & Other Freaks of Nature – Robin Brande
3. Shrinking Violet – Danielle Joseph
4. My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters – Sydney Salter
5. Rat Life – Tedd Arnold
6. WTF – Peter Lerangis
7. Lessons From a Dead Girl – Jo Knowles
8. Looking for Alaska – John Green
9. The Only Alien on the Planet – Kristen D. Randle
10. Push – Sapphire
11. The Fat Girl – Marilyn Sachs
12. The Crimson Petal and the White – Michel Faber
13. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
14. The Earth, My Butt and other Big Round Things – Carolyn Mackler
15. Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) – Justina Chen Headley
16. The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie
17. The Geography of Girlhood – Kirsten Smith
18. Bras and Broomsticks – Sarah Mlynowski
19. Paranoia – Joseph Finder
20. Once Upon a Marigold – Jean Ferris
21. Living Dead Girl – Elizabeth Scott
22. Outside Beauty – Cynthia Kadohata
23. Positively – Courtney Sheinmel
24. Wherever Nina Lies – Lynn Weingarten
25. Blue is for Nightmares – Laurie Faria Stolarz
26. The Red Umbrella – Christina Diaz Gonzalez
27. The Shape of Water – Anne Spollen
28. The Missing Girl – Norma Fox Mazer
29. Hush, Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick
30. Infected – Scott Sigler
31. The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary Pearson
32. Good Enough – Paula Yoo
33. Neil Armstrong is my Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me – Nan Marino
34. Gone – Michael Grant
35. Fat Hoochie Prom Queen – Nico Medina
36. Indigo Blues – Danielle Joseph
37. What I Saw and How I Lied – Judy Blundell
38. The Dark Path – Luke Romyn
39. Shooting Kabul – N.H. Senzai
40. Pictures of Hollis Woods – Patricia Reilly Giff
41. Nightshade City – Hilary Wagner
42. The Freak Observer – Blythe Woolston
43. The Dust of 100 Dogs – A.S. King
44. Hunger – Jackie Morse Kessler
45. Shine, Coconut Moon – Neesha Meminger
46. Light Beneath Ferns – Anne Spollen
47. Shiver – Maggie Stiefvater
48. A Blue So Dark – Holly Schindler
49. Fancy White Trash – Marjetta Geerling
50. The Force is Middling in This One – Robert Kroese
51. Manifest – Artist Arthur
52. The Mosts – Melissa Senate
53. Silver Phoenix – Cindy Pon
54. Total Constant Order – Crissa-Jean Chappell
55. Such a Pretty Girl – Laura Wiess
56. The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson
57. Firegirl – Tony Abbott
58. Life as We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer
59. Tears of a Tiger – Sharon Draper
60. How to Say Goodbye in Robot – Natalie Standiford
61. Dragon Chica – May-Lee Chai
62. Feed – M.T. Anderson
63. Suck It Up – Brian Meehl
64. The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Ninth Grade Slays – Heather Brewer
65. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
66. The Duff – Kody Keplinger
67. Matched – Ally Condie
68. Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students – Christine Fonseca
69. Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver
70. Burger Wuss – M.T. Anderson
71. Perfect – Natasha Friend
72. Loser – Jerry Spinelli
73. Chasing Brooklyn – Lisa Schroeder
74. The Boyfriend List – E. Lockhart
75. Hex Hall – Rachel Hawkins
76. Paranormalcy – Kiersten White
77. Freefall – Mindi Scott
78. The True Meaning of Smekday – Adam Rex
79. Kick – Walter Dean Myers & Ross Workman
80. Annexed – Sharon Dogar
81. Oh. My. Gods. – Tera Lynn Childs
82. Whales on Stilts – M.T. Anderson
83. The House of Dead Maids – Clare B. Dunkle
84. Jennifer’s Body – Audrey Nixon, based on a screenplay by Diablo Cody
85. Eighth-Grade Superzero – Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
86. The Iron Bodkin – Amy Allgeyer Cook
87. Deenie – Judy Blume
88. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl – Barry Lyga
89. Ball Don’t Lie – Matt de la Pena
90. Ricochet – Julie Gonzalez
91. Crank – Ellen Hopkins
93. A Long Walk to Water – Linda Sue Park
93. Glass – Ellen Hopkins
94. Fallout – Ellen Hopkins
95. The Pigman – Paul Zindel
96. The Replacement – Brenna Yovanoff
97. Bird in a Box – Andrea Pinkney
98. Attack of the Theater People – Marc Acito
99. Identical – Ellen Hopkins
100. Bleeding Violet – Dia Reeves
101. The Witches of Worm – Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Some seriously ace books to be won! Don't miss out!


Thursday, 25 November 2010

NaNo Never Again...?

This year I decided to give NaNo a shot. I heard about the National Novel Writing Month last year, but being in the middle of a project already and not wanting to lose focus on it, I figured there was always next year.

So this October I wasn't working on much, just tidying up a few old works I eventually want to rewrite, when I remembered it was almost NaNo time. There were a few ideas I'd had kicking around my head for a while, so decided there was no time like the present to get at least one of them out there.

I didn't do much in the way of planning. For a first draft, I find the more planning I do, the harder it is to write. I concentrate on the outline too much and don't give myself enough room for the story to develop. What I did do, was look really deep into my characters.I did a lot of profiling and background stories for them, really fleshed them out before the actual writing started. I'm a firm believer in characters and how they evolve all by themselves. Our characters carry the story, so I figured the more developed the better. If I got stuck, they could help me. I knew the general outline of my story and the direction it was headed, but other than that I was flying by the seat of my pants.

The morning of November 1st I woke with a knot of fear in my belly and a racing mind. I was terrified of starting my computer, to look at my notes and the very worst - getting that first sentence out there. But that last part always terrifies me. The first sentence of any new project is daunting, but once done is done. And if it sucks, hey, that's where rewrites come in. 

On November 1st I realised I'd made a mistake in signing up for NaNo. Not because I didn't think I could do it, because I did. If I sat down on any given day and said, right, you've got 30 days to write this bad boy, and you don't even have to finish it in that time limit, just get 50k done and we're golden, then I don't think it would be a problem.  What I did have a problem was the fact I had to write to someone else's deadline. Someone else decided it HAD to be November, it HAD to be 30 days started November 1st. And that seriously, seriously freaked me out. 

Once I got started I was fine. The ball was rolling, the words were flowing, the characters were making me fall in love with them and thought about them every spare second I got. 

I hit 50k earlier than the schedule predicted, 'finishing' NaNo on November 10th. This allowed me breathing time, time to relax and realise it wasn't the Hounds of Hell snapping at my heels, just a website encouraging people to write. The book I was writing wasn't finished, not by NaNo's standards. A part of me is glad I got so much done in so little time, as a dear member of my family took a turn for the worst and after a few weeks we lost her, obviously turning my thoughts to her rather than writing. When things got bad I used my book as a way to distract myself and disappear from the world, for as little time as I could.  Today I uploaded my work and got it validated, the final word count of the first draft coming in at 67,813k. There's still a long road until the book is even ready for other eyes to see it; a heck of a lot of editing needs to be done, loose ends tied up and fleshing out to be done.

When I first started, NaNo seemed to be everywhere. My blog feed was overrun of people sharing their past experiences or thoughts about NaNo; Twitter had the hashtag where NaNoers could meet and chat to each other. It almost made me wish I had avoided reading anything about it. Tweeters gave people hints and tips how to expand their novel, encouraged long winded sentences that really only needed a word or two. Bloggers either did the same and encouraged overuse of adverbs just to boost the word count. Others tarnished NaNoers with a hateful brush, calling them hacks and wannabes. Agents slammed NaNo since their query box is always full of half finished and unedited manuscripts come December. 

It got me thinking - why? If you're going to do NaNo, surely the win would feel all the sweeter if you actually wrote fifty thousand words you absolutely loved, rather than fifty thousand words of drivel that when you edit, will probably only be half that amount of words? 

But then there is the flip side - the people who take NaNo seriously, the people who have writing right down to their soul. The people who after having a good chunk of words start all over again because they know it will work better from another angle. 

That's the thing about writing. Whether it be for yourself and no one but you will ever, ever read it, or for future publication, whatever you write, you have to love it. You're going to be spending a long time with this project and you're more likely to keep pruning and polishing it to perfection if you care about it and want to see it at its very best. 

Now, I'm not saying my NaNo project is perfect. Far from it, in fact. But I do love it. I haven't added words just for the sake of it, I haven't had characters talking about their problems over and over just to bump the word count. When I'm done editing and rewriting I hope to have at least fifteen thousand more words on top of the 'finished' NaNo total.

Do I regret doing NaNo? Not really. But I'm sort of glad it's over. The best thing I got out of it wasn't being able to call myself a 'Winner', but for thirty days I got to write alongside some of the best and coolest people I've ever known. The road of writing is a long one, but thanks to NaNo it isn't a lonely one. Your friends are right there beside you, cheering you on. 

Would I do it again? Now there's a question.


Saturday, 20 November 2010


Your voice whispers in my memory
of summer days gone by.
Your gentle touch and soft embrace
that always felt like home.

I try to remember everything
from smiles to your shoes.
The way you held my hand
or made me laugh when I was sad.

The memories will soften
I want to keep them strong.
It's hard to remember everything
but I'll always remember you.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Shielding Me

Don't try and protect me
it hurts no matter what you say
no matter how you say it
no matter how long till you tell me

Don't try and shield me
I'm too big to hide behind
no matter how high you hold it
no matter how fierce you defend

Don't look at me like your young one
I'm no so small any more
Look at me like your equal
I can help you, too 


Insensitivity Training

Something occurred to me today. Something hard, something hurtful...something painful.

Last week I lost someone very close to me, a family member dear to my heart. 

But the point of this blog post isn't about grief or the support network people have around them that they rely on in times of need - sometimes finding solace in surprising places. The point isn't about the kinds words that make you feel better.

The point of this post is the opposite of condolences, in fact the opposite of sensitivity completely. The point of this post is insensitivity and the heartbreaking places it comes from.

In life we meet all sorts of people. White, black, Asian, Mexican, deaf, illiterate, special needs, tall, short, man, woman, robot. We meet all sorts of people and, well, depending on your upbringing I suppose, you're taught how to talk to different people and the reactions, or lack thereof more to the point, you're supposed to have when you meet them. There are so many politically correct terms for absolutely everyone these days. Janitors are 'custodians' or 'caretakers'. Blind people are 'visually challenged', deaf are 'hearing impaired'. We can't even say fireman any more, it has be gender neutral , so now called 'fire fighters'. 

I'm not trying to say we shouldn't be correct. My point is this - we are so careful these days of what we say to people in case we offend them. And the most shocking of all - to complete strangers. We watch our tongue more with people we've never shared more than a single conversation with in our entire lives than the people who have actually been around for large portions of our existence.

When did it become okay to be polite and careful with strangers...and not with the people we call family?

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I lost someone last week. Today I received a text message from the matriarch of the other side of the family asking a very insensitive question relating to the deceased. No support. No condolence. no offer to help. Just an insensitive question. 

So, I'll ask again. When did it become okay to become considerate with strangers, and not with family? 


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Interview With A Writer

I was lucky enough to be asked by the lovely Nic, a dear writer friend of mine from Fanstory, to do an interview for her blog! It was a lot of fun and you can read about it here:

Keep on reading the blog for Nic's adventures during (what I personally think is crazy, but we won't hold it against her haha!) NaNoWriMo AND NaBloPoMo (what did I tell you) and for all the insider gossip on writers that you might not have heard of yet, but definitely will soon. Come find us both on NaNoWriMo as pamelaroach and Nic Nac.

Thanks again, Nic, it was a blast!


Sunday, 31 October 2010

Michael and Freddy and Chucky, Oh My!

Since this is the second part of my Halloween themed blog posts, I thought I would dedicate it to something other than what I usually blog about, usually being about writing or books lol. This blog post is about my other obsession - movies! Horror movies to be more accurate.

When we were younger, me and my friends used to stay up all night on Halloween watching the scariest movies we could get our hands on. As we got older, we tended to go out to bars wearing stupid costumes rather than stay home, but I personally have always tried to spend at least part of Halloween watching a fright-fest!

Over the years horror movies are getting mixed reactions from me. Usually annoyance, since modern scary movies just don't cut it. If the nude scenes outnumber the scary scenes, then something ain't working. A horror genius shouldn't need to rely on sex to sell their movie. 

Thing that really gets me these days, is horror movies were far more cutting edge years ago than they are today. In the seventies and eighties there saw a change in how we liked to be scared. Before the scariest movies had monsters in them, then the movie makers got smart. They figured out what scares people most is something that could actually happen to them in their own home. 

Of course, there was nothing wrong with the odd movie monster. Even in the far-fetched cases of Nightmare on Elm Street, they still managed to strike fear into our hearts by sticking close to the reality factor, and that is no one likes scary dreams. They scare us. Freddy terrified an entire generation, and built up hype for their kids. And as a child of someone who was terrified of Freddy, let me just say it wasn't false advertising. 

Anyone remember the first time they saw this little critter :- 

I do! Not likely to forget in a hurry, either. 

But my point of this post is this - horror movies just aren't what they used to be. Even in the cases where the movie maker decided to go for a monster of an axe wielding maniac, they still managed to scare us more than film makers can today. Why? Maybe they like the sex and blood too much. Maybe it's a generation thing.   Maybe the just need to go back to basics.

Who was Michael Myers? Michael was just a kid when he stabbed his big sister, Judith. He came from a relatively normal home (if you believe the original back story of Michael, and not the stupid one released a few years ago) yet there was something dark inside him. But underneath it all, he was still a man.

Mrs Voorhees was a grieving mother, angry at the children who neglected her son and caused him to die. Okay, fair enough, it wasn't the people she actually murdered who were at fault, but the reasons are still the same.

Even Freddy, when you look at his history, was just a man. A terrifying and disgusting paedophile,  but still just a man. Who gave him power? The people who tried to restore justice. 

The scariest thing I've ever seen, is The Hitcher. Why? Because it could happen. Really, really, happen. Why was C. Thomas Howell the unfortunate man chosen to die at the hands of a maniac? Bad luck. He picked him up, and that's that. No motive, no back story. Just plain old bad luck. It could have happened to anyone. 

Having said that, last decade saw the return of non-movie monster horror movies. Drew Barrymore set the tone for Scream in her ten minute intro for the movie, and paid her due in blood, as does everyone who opens a horror movie. We saw the return of the axe wielding maniac who managed to scare us, and not by going over the top. Of course, there's the typical girls running in the wrong direction and the obvious one's who are going to die, but when Scream was released I sighed a sigh of relief. I thought horror was coming back, real horror, real honest to goodness fear. 

Unfortunately, it turned out more to be a three-trick-pony, and after a few decent efforts, the horror died down again. The beginning of the noughties introduced another new brand of scary, this time in the form of Saw. And whilst it was enjoyable (the first few times), and damn hard to puzzle out what was going to happen, the over the top blood and guts ruined what could have been a terrifying piece of cinema.  

And now onto my biggest horror-hate...the dreaded remake!!!!!  

I beg of you, film makers everywhere, stop remaking all the best horror movies! You degraded Michael, plain forgot the original killer in Friday the 13th and tamed Freddy. The worst part of all the remakes is they forgot what made these movies scary in the first place, and instead of trying to achieve that level of fear again, went with flashing a pair of boobs instead. 


So that is that, my horror-movie-freak lovelies. Happy Halloween!

P.s....what's your favourite scary movie?


Saturday, 30 October 2010

A Few of my Scariest Things

This is the first of a two part Halloween special here on my little old blog. Tomorrow's post, centred around the best part of Halloween - the movies. Today it's a little different. It's a little personal.

Given the tradition on Halloween to try and scare everybody senseless, I thought I'd share a few unorthodox things that actually, seriously, terrify me.

First up... food processors! I hate them. Always scared I'm gonna get my fingers trapped in them.

Next...tomatoes. Stupid and totally irrational, I know, but I can't stand them. Not the taste or anything stupid like that, but looking at them makes me feel all faint and weird, like I'm watching live surgery or something. Ick.

And the very, very worst... Daddy Long Legs. It's actually freaking me out just having that picture there...*shudder*. I don't know what it is about them, but they terrify me. Did you know they are poisonous to humans? Yup. Evil gits. It's just their teeth or something isn't sharp enough to penetrate the skin. Ick. Double ick.

So there you have my scariest things! Weird, all of them, but please don't judge me!


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo

So...I've decided to try NaNo this year. I know, shocking, given the title! But that sentence has rung in my mind over and over the last few weeks as it has dawned on me just what I've let myself in for.

For those who have been living under a rock, or are just not familiar with someone in the writing community, the month of November is set aside for those crazy people called writers who aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I know, sounds nuts, right? Well, this year I'm joining them, so that shows what it says about me!

When I'm writing, it's pretty much all I can think about. Like when you read an awesome book that lingers or a movie that strikes a chord with you, or a new person in your life, it invades my every waking thought. And my non-waking thoughts pretty often, too. And now that I have a goal, or deadline, whatever way you look at it, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be more scatter brained than normal!

As I've said in previous posts, I'm not a writer who does a lot of prep work before I begin a new project. But I've had to this time. I'm not confident enough starting something like NaNo without at least a hint of a game plan. It isn't much, and it's by no means detailed, but I have a vague plan and my job over the next few days is to do as much character profiling as is possible before NaNo starts this coming Monday. Because at the end of the day, stories can be altered and fixed and primed and pampered, but your characters carry it. If you don't do a good job with them, then forget it. Every writer will tell you the fabulous moments when the characters break free from their moulds and write the stories themselves.

I don't think of myself as a seasoned writer or a pro or whatever. I've finished four books, have three unfinished partials and a few drafts needing polished. That said, I don't think the skill of learning to write is ever finished. No matter how many books you write, or even if you get published or not. Because there is always research to do, and for those that say they don't are lying - no two characters are the same and each is individual and need their own prep and research.

I didn't sign up to NaNo to prove anything. I don't think that's the point. I don't think those lucky enough to 'win' can sneer at those who don't and say, well you didn't finish therefore you aren't a writer. NaNo, to me, is a fantastic chance to join a wonderful community of people. And like characters, no two writers are the same. Everyone has their own way of doing things and it's interesting to see how others work and progress.

Would I like to achieve the goal and reach 50k in 30 days? Of course I would, I'd be lying if I said no. But I don't think the word count is the be all and end all of NaNo. It might be cliched, but it's the taking part that counts.

And I can't wait to meet my fellow contestants.


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Playing It Safe?

The first book I ever wrote is a monster. Sitting currently at 500+ pages, it feels like a mountain to try and edit. It's a historical romance set during the second World War. I haven't made it easy for myself, having to do so much research for this time in history. But despite all the work it needs and all the other books I have written since this one, I'm still completely besotted with it. I love it above all my other books. Maybe because it is my first...who knows. 

A year and a half after finishing the book, I'm only now going back to it. It needs a major face lift and many plot developments tweaked, but it doesn't put me off. A lot more research needs to be done and more references to the time period. 

During a particularly long editing session earlier today, I fleetingly wished my story was easier. Wished it was something I knew absolutely everything about and therefore was an absolute dodle to write. It made me wonder how many other writers feel like this at some point? Wish they had taken an easier road with their manuscripts.

I have a few more other historical novel ideas and the idea to start the research needed is daunting, but not off-putting.

So let me ask you this - when you get a killer idea for a book, how many of you are put off by the scale of the project? 

A part of me, probably the masochistic part, likes the challenge. The more hard work you put in, the bigger the achievement when you finish. 

There is a huge difference between having a moan at how much work is involved and actually deserting an idea because it might be difficult. Does anyone actually take the easy way out? How many of us play it safe rather than accept the challenge?


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Inspiration Vs Perspiration

A thought occurred to me as I was writing late the other night, working on my new WIP. How much of what we write is inspired and how much is damn hard work? 

It took me a while, but I eventually got my answer. For me, anyway; every writer is different. Like zebras. I decided that whilst writing my first draft for anything, I pretty much rely on inspiration. 

When I first started taking my writing seriously I became greedy, and sought out writers everywhere. In blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, Verla Kay's...the list is endless. I was fascinated by how others work and I was amazed at all the different techniques writers have. Of course, in seeking out fellow writers, I got the crap scared out of me.  All I saw was people agonizing over detailed chapter outlines and blow by blow movements of every scene before they even put pen to paper. (Or, more likely, finger to keyboard!) 

I freaked out because I don't do anything like that - ever. Usually when I get an idea or I wake from a crazy dream and know my subconscious has served me up something delicious to write about, I let it stay in my head for awhile. That way, the story solidifies itself and I get a great feel for it. Then maybe I'll do a list of characters and that will be the start of my character bible for that project. But as for planning...the only planning I really do is maybe a paragraph or two of what the general gist of the story is.

Usually while writing the first draft, I'll note down a brief description of what goes on in each chapter on index cards after I've actually wrote it. See? No planning. Just a reminder. This is useful to me later on in a variety of ways: it helps with a time line; it can be saved later to help with a synopsis; it can even help me decide if I want to shuffle the course of events around, maybe have one event take place before another. It also keeps me straight and not stray around all over the place. 

I'm a firm believer of letting the story take control of you, not the other way around. I still remember the first time I was shocked by something my MC said or did, wondering how in the hell, as the creator, I could be shocked. So for the first draft at least, I just go with it, and have confidence my inspiration will get me to the end in one piece. 

The same goes for research. Depending on how much I need to do, I tend to do it as I go. One of my completed works features heavily around Greek mythology. But, I already knew a ton as it is a passion of mine, so it was only the odd thing I needed to research. For another, it was based during WW2 and my protag's love interest enlisted after the attack at Pearl Harbour, being sent to the Pacific. That took a lot of research. I wrote maybe two hundred pages before I stopped so I could seriously research the heck out of it. 

Having said all of this, and probably branding myself a lazy writer to anyone who may read this, when I get to the second draft and however many after that, I get down to business. I go through every chapter and think about what could be done to make it better. In some cases taking the whole thing out is the only option. 

The good thing about relying on inspiration for the first draft, is it leaves the road more open later on. More often than not, my final draft rarely resembles the first. If anything, the first draft is a skeleton for me to add muscle and tendons and eventually a smooth and clear skin to polish it all off. 

Without the inspiration of the first draft, there would be very little for me to work with later on. And without the hard work that goes into the later drafts, the finished product would resemble a cake half baked. You know it's supposed to be a cake, but you wouldn't really fancy having a taste. I rely on inspiration and perspiration in equal measures. You can't deny the glow you get from inspiration and knowing that when you write something great, it came from a part of you that you have no idea where it came from or how to explain it. And when you work hard on something, and there is nothing harder to work on than a manuscript, that satisfied breath at the finish line is so worth it because you know you worked your butt off and the end result is amazing. 

But this is all just me. What about you guys? How much is inspiration, and how much is perspiration? 


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Putting the 'I' in Writing

Any writer will draw on emotion to help fuel a particular scene. Whether it be a happy memory or a sad one, we take what we can get. A writer needs to be able to connect with a reader, and to do that the reader needs to care about the characters. They need to feel real. So how do we do that? How do we make figments of our imagination into living, breathing people? 

I don't think there is any wrong answer to that question. Every writer has a different process - a different way to bring their characters to life. For me...a lot of it is guesswork. Don't get me wrong, I don't just take a stab in the dark and hope I get it right. Instead, I think about it. A lot.

Usually I write from first POV and this makes the whole thing a lot easier. You only have one person to worry about; how they feel, how they react and how they perceive others. But when something happens to my MC (as, being a book, it inevitably does), I have to do a lot of thinking. In one of my books, my MC loses her father to cancer. I've never lost anyone close to me, save my Papa when I was a kidlet, but I was too young to either understand or properly process the emotion that goes hand in hand with death. 

So I imagined how it would feel if it happened to me. And there we had it. I've had a few people shocked when they learned that I've never experienced real, life altering loss. They said the feelings I wrote about rang true. I couldn't decide whether or not to be happy about this. In a lot of ways I was over the moon I got the emotion so true to life, but at the same time I felt like a hack. I felt disrespectful and a fraud. But then again, if I only wrote about what I knew or have been through, there would barely be enough to fill a novella, let alone numerous books.

Last weekend I got some really bad news. I felt the cuts, the stinging realisation that pretty soon things are going to change and my family will be challenged in the way you naively think will happen in the future, not right now. Instead of letting myself wallow, I put the pain to productive use. I was writing a particularly emotional scene, and I like to think all my feelings helped bring the scene more to life. But, as I was pouring my pain onto the page, I couldn't help but wonder if this method-writing is healthy.  

In my current WIP, there's a scene coming up that I'm dreading. My MC is going to go through an ordeal that I have personally gone through, and I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to handle it. Sure, a lot of people would say "don't do it then, it's your book, you make the rules". And that's true...to a certain point at least. But any writer worth their salt will tell you how amazing it is when a story takes on a life of their own, and plot point progress with very little effort involved. My story is headed in a dangerous direction, and if I quit or chicken out, then I couldn't call myself a writer.

The scene will bring back a lot of hurt, but I'm hoping it will be therapeutic. At the time, I didn't talk about what happened and chose to bury it deep inside  me. The result is the consequences haunt me still, and have affected every relationship I have ever been in.   

So maybe there is no sure fire way to bring your imaginary friends to life. Maybe its all trial and error. But the ever constant is this: no matter what you are writing, somewhere in there, at the very heart of it, is you. A little piece of your soul. Perhaps that is what brings them to life.


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Talking Out The Writing

It never really occurred to me how important the talking aspect of writing was.  Until I started talking about it. 

For the longest time my writing has been my dirty little secret - something I live to indulge in, something I can't get out of my head...yet something I rarely talked about.  Mainly it was because I felt like nobody was interested or wouldn't get where I, or the writing, was coming from.  

To say I have low self esteem would be an understatement, and I think I'm better at hiding it than I am at working on it.  Every time I thought about talking to someone about what I've written, or tried to bring it up in conversation all I can think about is my high school English teacher.  The teacher who stamped all over my dreams of ever becoming a published author and pretty much laughed at any writing assignments I handed in.  He was a jerk.  Plain and simple.  And while (after re-reading some attempts I made at literary greatness in my teen years, I would have to agree with him: they stunk) in a way it is a teachers job to be realistic with a student and will only set said student up for disappointment if he plies them with fake confidence and untrue compliments - but isn't the flip side just as damaging?  If someone hears for long enough they aren't worthwhile or why bother trying as it won't work out anyway, it's only a matter of time before they really believe it.

That's what happened to me.  

Every time I thought about talking about my writing I'd see that stupid bald teacher and clam up - convinced I'd be laughed at.

But something amazing happened.

I kept writing anyway.  

I didn't write to prove him wrong, or for any reason for that matter.  I write because I have to.  A day doesn't feel like anything unless I've done something writing related, whether its a bit of editing, some proof reading, or on those really great days - new words.  Those days are what makes it all worthwhile.

It's only recently I've began taking my writing seriously.  I've finished three full novels, two more in draft form and a dozen more ideas swimming in my brain.  And I'm on the hunt for an agent.  

But all that isn't the point of this post.  This is: the talking part of writing.  

As someone who never, ever, ever talks about their work, I was struck completely by surprise when someone wanted to talk to me about it.  A fellow book addict who wanted to read my work.  

Her name is Hayley and we met via Twitter.  Our friendship grew and after a little while I felt confident enough to let her read some of my work.  I could have fainted when I found out she liked it.

I always worry I sound egotistical when we chat about my writing, but in a way its such a massive relief to finally be able to talk about it, but that wasn't the best part.  The best part was when I started talking about the characters and the conversations about them batted back and forth between us, new ideas started forming.  She inspired me in the best possible way and came up with a few killer ideas of her own.  Suddenly plot points I haven't been sure of have new meaning and purpose - kinks have worked themselves out and even a sequel has solidified itself.  

None of that would have happened had we not talked.  She has made me more confident as a writer, and made me realise I can be bolder and throw different scenarios into the mix without worrying about the reactions - strong reactions are good things - they show people are connected.  Best of all its made me realise my characters are human and they have human flaws.  No single person is perfect, despite how they are perceived.  She has made my writing more believable.  

So my parting words to all my fellow writers shall be this: bite the bullet!  Don't be afraid to get yapping about the thing you're passionate about!  Seriously, only good shall come of it.

And to the listeners of writers: you guys are amazing and as important to the writer as they keyboard which the story is typed.  And as someone who was minus a keyboard for a little while thanks to an inquisitive two year old, this is saying a lot.  Without either, the words wouldn't be there.

And for my own personal listener: you are so going in the dedication page.


Monday, 26 July 2010

The Land That Time Forgot

Saturday started out like any other Saturday.  Until the afternoon came.  I got an invite to go out for the night in my hometown, and with no reason not to (except a weird nagging voice) I figured, what the heck?

It was only sevenish when we drove through the town on the way to my friend's house, and I couldn't help but feel like I still lived there.  I lived in that town pretty much my whole life and it's only now I'm away from it I can appreciate how much of life-sucking black hole it really is.

As soon as I was old enough to dream I wanted out of that town and away from the small-mindedness that came with its inhabitants.  My dream came true when I met my now husband and we moved half an hour down the road.  It sounds like nothing, but it feels like a world away from where I grew up.

And it really is.  Really.

The first thing I noticed on Saturday was how if anything, the only change was the scenery was more drab than it used to be.  The pub floors stickier, the toilets more disgusting and the drinkers drunker.  

It only fully sunk in how much my hometown had gone downhill when we got to our nightclub of choice.  I used to work in this club and I adore it from its giant 'gators on the wall to the pianos on stage.  Some of my fondest memories of a miss-spent youth are in that place.  I remember it in its glory days when there were three bars open and a crowded dance floor and a vibe that made you glad you were there. 

This time...it was like the world moved on and forgot to tell it.  Only one bar was open with only crappy alco-pops to serve.  The lighting was dank and the whole place screamed depression.    It was like seeing your favourite person at their very worst and not even able to get that shocked and pitying looks off your face.

The places had gone downhill but it was like the people were the exact same.  Same old drama.  Same old bitching.  Same old arguments.  

The Land That Time Forgot - or is it just me who has moved on?


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Easy writing, or simply easier?

An empty, brilliant white Word document with nothing but the cursor blinking pretty much strikes fear into my poor writer's heart.  Usually, the getting going is the hardest part of my writing process.  Once the first paragraph is over, everything seems to flow way better.  But sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes it does.  So, my question is this: is there really such a thing as easy writing?  Or sometimes is what we write only easier?

For awhile now I've been working on a YA project which falls outside my comfort zone: its normal - minus the para.  The thing that struck me with this project is something I've never experienced as a writer before.  It didn't flow well.  I found myself staring at the computer screen for huge blocks of time and only getting a few words out.

I'm not a planner.  When I start a project I jot down some character points, a few plot ideas I have, and generally where I think the story is headed.  Once the story starts fleshing out and growing, then I go back and start scribbling notes and plans in my trust notebooks.  But for my current project, I couldn't plan anything.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  My concept ideas page was the only page filled in the notebook and so I (probably stupidly) just went ahead and started writing anyway.

Once maybe fifty pages into the story, I started getting stuck.  I knew generally where my characters were going, but it was like I had to put all my faith in my creative streak - or writing blind, as I like to think of it.  The further I delved into the story, the more stuck I got.  I literally wrote myself into a corner.  It was time to take charge.

One night I sat down at my desk and refused to budge until I had plotted out the story and did character info's and backgrounds and anything else I could think of.  Suddenly post-its were full, my desk hidden under pinks rectangles, green and blue squares, yellow small rectangles.  Using my bare wall in my office I stuck all the post-its to it and hey presto!  My story outline in full.  I knew where I was going.  The blinders were off, I could see.

And I haven't been able to write anything since.

I'm on page 160 and I know exactly where everything is going, whose gonna do what and whose gonna break whose heart.  I just can't get it out.

At first I thought this was down to what's going on in my life right now (a toddler, a big move, husband changing jobs and depression that I still haven't lost all my baby weight!) so I figured all these factors played a part in my slow moving writing train.

But then something happened.  Another book I wrote way before this one was even a musing in my mind started cropping up in my head with increasing frequency.  I've always considered doing a sequel for it, but I couldn't come up with a big enough story line, or not enough subplots to fill a whole book.  So, just for fun, I wrote a short story with one idea I had.  I wrote twenty pages in one night.

It was beautiful...it reminded me why I love doing what I do all over again...it was like going on that magical first date again, seeing my baby boy for the first time, kissing my husband on our wedding day.

Everything fell away - it was the kind of writing where you just go with it and you feel like you're just along for the ride.  The kind of writing where you pause for a break and you can't feel your butt, and you realise four hours have passed without you even realising it.  This, to me, is the definition of easy writing.

So why am I having so much trouble with my current WIP?  The best writing tip I've ever heard to avoid writers block is when you are struggling to write the scenes your most excited about, and fill in the gaps later, it will all come together easier.  How true it is!  Except for this story.  NOTHING makes writing this story easy.

My short story felt like easy writing in comparison, but was it really?  Or was it just easier?


Friday, 11 June 2010

New Take On Classics - Friend or Foe?

So I finished my current read this morning, and set about trying to figure out which book I was going to move onto next.  My last read was Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, and after reading about the decimation of the American Indians, I needed something a little light, a little fun - something NOT to be taken seriously.  

My eyes landed on a book I've had for a while and never got around to.  It was Mr Darcy, Vampyre Hunter.  I've only read a few chapters at this point, but something struck me.  While it's go so far and definitely hits the mark for getting the time period believable and everything, it blatantly wasn't as good as Austen.  Now, I'm not trying to say this was the author's intent but there is some controversy over this kind of thing.  Is it damaging Austen's reputation and spitting on her excellent work by twisting and distorting her loved characters into something modern society feels it can enjoy more?  Or is it simply a bit of a laugh and will ultimately make its readers want to reach out and grab what originally inspired it?  Have Austen book sales gone up since the release of titles such as this?  Did Pride and Prejudice and Zombies make people want to see where Lizzy and Darcy actually came from?  Or have we simply stolen ideas and slapped a different spin on it?

After reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I wrote a blog post similar to this, but since then my eyes have been opened further as I realised just how much Alternate Austen there is out in the world.  My first thought was, sure, I like it.  But now I'm beginning to wonder where the line is - and has it already been crossed?  A lot of people sneer on Seth Grahame-Smith and how he was altered and adjusted some of Austen's classics, but in my opinion the works are two different things.  It's like when I read a book then watch the movie - I have to separate them in my mind and make them two different projects in order to enjoy it.  Once you start comparing, you're never gonna be happy.  

So where is the line that says it isn't entertainment and it's merely plagiarism hiding behind a 'new' face?  The further I delve into this world of revamped classics, the more torn I get.  Generally speaking it doesn't bother me and I'll happily read the original and the spoof (I mean, what else can you call it?) but the more I think about it, the unhappier I get.  As a writer myself, I can understand where people are coming from and think that yes, they have every reason to be upset.  It takes a lot to create characters, plot and settings and even more to create ones that readers will fall in love with.  So how would Austen feel if she knew people were taking her ideas and twisting them into something else?  Would she be flattered? Or would she cringe?  I don't know.

What I definitely do have a problem with is new 'discoveries'.  People pretending to have discovered previously unpublished works from literary icons and passing them off as the genuine article, when all they are is glorified fan-fiction.  When I first saw Pride and Promiscuity - The Lose Sex Scenes of Jane Austen, I was all 'hell yeah!  I gotta read that!'.  I have since discovered this isn't the truth.  People have pretended to find this work and passed it off as Austen - when in fact it is a work of their creation.  I'm still curious to read it, but now feel apprehensive.  Had the people who brought this lie into the world marketed it differently and for exactly what it is (ahem, fan-fiction) then I'd been more willing to read it.  But it feels almost dirty and cheap - like reading Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun after it was leaked onto the internet.  No fun in that.  

So as of right now, I'm undecided.  I can enjoy them to a certain extent but I keep changing my mind on where I stand.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed one day the classic lovers and the modern freaks (I can say that - I class myself as freaky on the odd day) can live in peace and maybe find some common ground.  But I won't hold my breath.


Monday, 17 May 2010

Flash Update!

Okay, so to say I've been neglectful of my blog lately would be an understatement.  A big one.  So...here's a flash of what's been up with me the last few months.

Lot's of reading...

Updating my super duper new Moleskine Book Journal...

Devouring my new bible...

Mad hair, bizarre take on eating peas and watching TV...

 The cat who doesn't know he's a cat...

And trying to figure out what the heck I meant with these notes...

So that's it for now.  Off to tackle a synopsis.  Wish me luck!


Friday, 5 March 2010


I celebrated my 24th birthday last week, and being a complete and utter book fiend, Husband wasn't shocked when a few weeks before I presented him with a list of books I wanted to read, and were safe for him to buy me.  Some may think this is selfish/brass/presumptive etc, but in reality this is how me and the other half operate.  He knows I have tons of books, my taste ranges wildly, and both of us would rather have a few options, knowing any of them will be well received.  So, in prep for my wish list, I scoured Amazon.

One book that peeked my interest, was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  On the page, I also saw there was a movie version, staring Elizabeth Perkins and Kristin Stewart.  I grew curious and curiouser, and decided I fancied having a looksie at the movie (something I hardly ever do, FYI - check out the movie before the book).  Anyway, I got it and watched it. And it affected me way more than I expected it to do.

That night I left Husband working on his computer and went upstairs to bed, the movie playing heavily in my mind.  The character of Melinda and her reaction to a violent and soul-crushing attack brought back a torrent of memories, one's I often try and push away.  In a lot of ways, I reacted to my situation in almost the exact opposite way Melinda did.  Instead of retreating inside myself, I pretty much gave the finger to my life and everyone in it.  I partied harder, put my body through the ringer and focused on proving to the world that I wouldn't let it affect me, I refused to be the victim.  You can put me down, but you can't keep me down.

But in the end, I did the same as Melinda.  I didn't SPEAK about it.  I ignored it best I could, but as is inevitable with these things, they don't go away, no matter how hard you try.  It took me a really long time to face up and admit how broken I was, and if I'm being perfectly honest, a little bit still is.  People may react differently, go off the rails or hide inside themselves where they think it's safe, but I doubt anyone really gets over it completely.

And really...I don't mind that a tiny bit still lingers.  I have peace now, something I struggled to achieve for longer than I care to think about.  I still flinch occasionally, still have to battle through the instinct to withdraw if my personal space is breached suddenly, but gone is the outright fear, the feeling of worthlessness and anger.  But I don't mind the tiny bit that lingers because it reminds me of where it brought me.  I never regret anything in my life, the good choices, the bad one's, the situations I wish hadn't happened.  But I can't regret anything - they all led me to the point in my life where I am now.  And where I am is amazing.  I have a beautiful son, a wonderful husband who I know is way to good for me, and a circle of friends I know I can trust with anything and love me for who I am.  The circle may be vastly smaller than it used to be, but that's okay too.  I'd rather a few friends I love and trust completely than dozens who don't really get me.

All our decisions and experiences make us who we are.  Mine may not be perfect, but they made me me.  And that I can't regret.


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Little Cumbria

So, as some of you know, a few weeks ago I was asked to participate in a show on Radio Cumbria called Little Cumbria. Basically it is a week in the life of people living in Cumbria (original blog post here.) As I said before, it was a lot of fun to do, and I was really pleased when asked if I would participate again.

The producer of the show kindly sent me a CD, so I can now share with you my time on Little Cumbria. I'm one of three featured on the show, and for those who don't know, my name is Pamela Roach.

Day One:

Day Two:

Day Three:

Day Four:

Day Five:

As I already said, I didn't record the segment myself, I'm way too shy to be doing something like that! My mum was pleased the voice they gave me was Scottish, as we are very proud of our roots. Anyway, I hope you guys like it!

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