Monday, 27 June 2011

Your Best Lips Now (not by Joel Osteen)

Ha ha!!

Thanks for reading. This original post has vanished and may soon reappear. It was a humorous look at what I think are three of the most memorable smooch-scenes from three different novels, why they worked and posed the final questions, "What kills it for you?" and "What makes it work?"

They come from the following:
1) Arabian Winds by Linda Chaikin (the kiss that was almost a kiss),
2) The Pirate & His Lady by Linda Chaikin (the kiss that changed his mind for the better),
3) Kissing Adrien by Siri Mitchell (read it to appreciate it because this is the best ever).

I'd love to know what you think constitutes everyone's favourite scene. Hmmm... Wonder why kisses are so important...?

In the meantime, if you have any favourite comments about your favourite scenes from any novel, please leave a comment. I'd be stoked to know about it ;)

Tongue-in-Cheek Syndrome

You could say I’m fairly new to Twitter, and I’m even newer to blog posts. Suffice it to say I am enjoying both immensely (though occasionally feel a little ‘spammed’ and would rather read six decent Tweets in 24 hrs than a barrage of ones I skip over like a rusty section in a novel so I can get to the part I like). It’s a good lesson for me on what not to write ;)

One tweet caught my attention recently by @agentgame:
“Dead on about sample pages. RT @arcaedia: new query post - yes, still open to queries, and what 5 pages does not equal

Naturally I clicked the link to read more. It led to a page explaining an agent’s submission guidelines. The tongue-in-cheekness of agents will never cease to amuse me. I’ve learned that the writing world is much like the music industry. Thick skin is required. The dry humour of agents is necessary because they get it all!

Some writers don’t take too kindly to being taken down a peg or three. It’s best not to be too precious about one’s work, and agents are worth listening to because they’re the go-between listening to the publishers who listen to the book sales and have their finger on the pulse.

As I read the above link/page’s contents, it occurred to me that even though I’m not where I want to be, I’m not where I used to be. For example, I know what a query is, whereas once I never knew I even needed one. Faced with the insurmountable mount of knowledge, it’s encouraging to reflect I’ve done some miles since I first began this trip and am growing.

One thing I’m guaranteed in the blogs and tweets I follow, I’m never afraid to ask and will never be made to feel like a dork for asking. Surely the patience of those in the know is as valuable as their knowledge. I am soooo grateful for both!

Decide: Are you precious? Often our words and characters are our babies. If someone bruises your ego, can you separate the difference of who you are from what you do?

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
   and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23

Savoir donner la bonne réponse est une source de joie,
      et combien est agréable une parole dite à propos.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Necessary Christian Art

As a reader/writer, what topics do you feel should be left alone in fiction?

A girlfriend gave me a copy of Seaside Letters for Christmas two years ago, and I have to admit that when I first read it (and loved it), I felt a little scandalised. It was a frank Christian novel and it astonished me to see it published by a Christian house, yet at the same time the truth behind the content made me both wince and nod with agreement because it is real world stuff between those covers (and my assessment of what houses are going for broadened immensely).

The ‘real people with real problems’ bell was ringing, and in fact, Seaside Letters is tame, and of course this is just one example of lots of good, necessary books. Facts are facts no matter how delicate their nature or how pressing their need. We can’t pull the ‘Holy’ card every time because something offends our spirit. Instead we need to discern why our spirit is offended and remember the people Jesus hung out with and helped (and was criticised for).

I read a good article following this link on Twitter
It does raise a perfectly legitimate point, much the same as discussions to do with YA subject matter and what people should and shouldn’t be writing or reading.

For me, the facts are that we do live in a fallen world where life sucks sometimes. Let’s be honest. We don’t all get to float around on the glory cloud all day, happy moments can be snatches in time for some of us more than others, and some even spend most of their days under the cloud for any number of reasons.

Yet I don’t think we need to be so entrenched in ‘reality’ as to be filling our minds with it non-stop. Call most non-secular novels 'pansy frou-frou', but people began reading fiction because it took them away from their reality. They want the happy ending because they like to know there’s hope and that good things still happen to those who’d love to escape their rut.

The last secular novel I read left me feeling absolutely yuck, and I was sooo thankful I have Christ in my life and heart! If that's the way the world lives, thank God I don't have to live with that much defeat! Isn't it our job to show a real, better way?

We’re in a reality-hungry world, but God’s goodness IS reality. Just because we don’t get what we want, the way we want it, when we want it, does that mean God got off the throne and our lives are on hold, permanently in the valley? His Word says we might need to adjust our POV if we’re that fixed on ‘reality’.

When Philippians says to ‘think about these things’, one would assume the verb is instructive. Think. Do it on purpose. Don’t be conformed to the point of making no impact.

Also, let’s not forget the Proverb that gossip is a tasty morsel, going down to man’s inmost parts. Novels are largely exactly that. So what are you eating? If our position is to edify, where has God put you?

Decide: What was the last novel you read, full of so-called pansy frou-frou that brightened your day and also your walk with God? Did it make you want to keep on in hope? At the conclusion of the “Love Chapter”, what three remain?

“Everything is permissible for me— but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me— but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6v12 NIV

“All things are legitimate [permissible--and we are free to do anything we please], but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome). All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life].” 1 Corinthians 10v23 Amp

Tout m'est permis. Certes, mais tout n'est pas bon pour moi. Tout m'est permis, c'est vrai, mais je ne veux pas me placer sous un esclavage quelconque. Du Semeur

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Does Your DEUG Bite?

From the Pink Panther movies we have gained some invaluable quotes. Here are a couple from the legendary Inspector Clouseau:

  • This IZ Chief Inspector Clouseau speaking on the pheaun.
  • You have ra-ceived a bimp. One could get a concussion from such a bimp.
  • Do you have a REUM?
  • Good evening commisonaire. How are you, your lovely wife and all the little commisionaires?
  • Not now Cato.
  • I suggest you count your bees, you may find that one of them is missing.
  • It won't be easy, that is why I have always failed where others have succeeded.
  • All I require is a telephone, my little bag of tools, and some privacy with which to work. That is all I require.

The irony is that a few of these could apply to writing. Some would instantly pinpoint that last one, but when it comes to proofreading, I’d pick the second last one. Why? Because we can be our own worst enemy when reading our own work.

(for example, my pc doesn’t like that last sentence and I’m ignoring it)

They say you should never rely on a friend or family member to critique your work because their opinion will not be the one you need to hear. Perhaps I’m experiencing an exception to that rule because my Mum is a phlegmatic-melancholic, curious and insightful to a tee (and fussy, so if there’s an error in plot or script she picks it instantly), and two of my friends are “grammar-tarians” by way of occupation and know how the English language should or shouldn’t work (hello plot and craft).

The first time I told one of my friends to “let rip and hold nothing back” by way of criticism, she didn’t believe me.

“I had a friend who said that once when she gave me her manuscript,” said JH, “and when I told her the truth it took a long time for her to speak to me again.”

Once she knew I would speak to her no matter what she said (after all, we’ll be in Heaven together for, like, Eternity) and made one or two other comments in regards to other feedback I’d had, she felt comfortable enough to voice her thoughts. I trust her because of her occupation, and because she is well-read and informed when it comes to style and voice.

My other proofie is a high school English teacher, and she’s good for picking out my ‘naughties’ and misdemeanours. When I hand her a red pen and a 120,000 word MS, she doesn’t exactly slip into Teacher Mode, and I don’t want her to. She’s learning my voice, and I’m learning everything I didn’t know about proper use of pronouns and adverbs, as well as alliteration and things like that. She tells me what’s overkill, and which paragraphs kick butt but need rewording.

Neither of these friends hold back anymore, and their suggestions are invaluable to me. If all three people are saying the same thing, I need to take stock and pay attention, and when all is said and done, their advice is making those MSs far stronger.

I’m not in a critique club, don’t have access to writer’s conferences, can’t afford my former lawyer friend who runs an editing service, but I am relying heavily on books and blogs and emails from previously published authors (some of whom have become friends and, God bless ‘em, are totally amazing with what they are willing to share) as well as the feedback of several worthy sets of eyes.

I don’t want to fail where others have succeeded. Finding that necessary advice can be difficult, but it can be done. If someone says they luuuurve your MS, seek a second opinion for the sake of your own growth. Do everything you can to ensure your deug... ahem, I mean your manuscript doesn’t bite.

Decide: When someone offers criticism on your MS, do you say, “Not now, Cato”, or do you endeavour to succeed where others fail repeatedly?

“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” Galatians 6v11
Vous remarquez ces grandes lettres; c'est bien de ma propre main que je vous écris.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

My fossil looks AWESOME!

Dex: “Are we gonna die?”
Tung: “I’m gonna stand like this (strikes pose) so my fossil looks awesome!”

These are yet more words of wisdom quoted by my 7 year old who produces parrot playback to perfection. The quote came from the cartoon, Dex Hamilton, Alien Entomologist. Such words often make me relate them to other more practical areas of life, like what will I leave behind when I die, or do I really want to be seen wearing that colour nail polish, or what impression would I leave on an agent at a conference?

Where I live, conferences are not easily accessible. Let’s put it this way. I might as well walk barefoot across the blistering desert to Ayer’s Rock in summer. All the writer’s conferences for my genre are as far from my home as the far, far away galaxy in Star Wars. So far that my fossil really would look awesome once my bleached bones were discovered thanks to not being able to afford the plane ticket when I first began walking there.

I’m not spewing at all, because I’m convinced that time will come. However I have an inner spasm-quiver thing going on because in honest to goodness, I’m a little bit shy and ever wary of making a total fossil of myself in front of an agent I might love to procure. My anticipation of this experience is shrouded in what if’s.

What if I say the wrong thing? What if I don’t sell enough? What if my tell-it-in-fifty-words scenario gets jumbled on the way out of my mouth? What if the tell-it-in-fifty works, but they didn’t like my pitch because I ain’t no salesman? What if (oh heck) I come face to face with Chip McGregor and he laughs me all the way out to the car park after I sneeze on him and a booger flies out of my nose and I have no tissues to cover this mortifying, career-end sealing, publishing-defying moment? What if I FAIL!!!???

Hmmm. Is it worth the risk?

I tell ya what. I’d rather run the risk of failing than live to see me and/or my stories become fossils in the pitch dark of writer’s midnight. I want more than my fossil to look awesome.

Decide: In the hindsight of life's autumn years, what do you want to look awesome in your life? What are you allowing to fossilize before your very eyes thanks to fear, or the fear of fear? If you sneezed on Chip (or any other potential agent you’d love to work with), would you be bold enough to work with it, even though it was seriously a gruesome moment of potential failure?

“Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.” Genesis 5v7
Il mourut à l'âge de 969 ans.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Frankly my dear...

Have you ever had a rejection that wasn’t a rejection as such? It’s the silent rejection of the un-rejected kind. The type where you get accepted, but for whatever reason, the rejecter doesn’t give the rejectee the actual reason and you're kaput.

Evidently, there are those who are at perfect liberty to use this tool as required. I experienced this earlier in the year after submitting a freelance article to an editor for his magazine. The Ed loved it, had the grace to tell me why, and took the time to point out which parts he would change and why. Naturally I was stoked.
Ed was excited that the subject matter had been written from the viewpoint of a woman in a male-dominated genre with insight and smooth readability. He was keen to run the article and would contact me again in the near future.

I never heard back. Six months after the initial acceptance (giving time and not willing to pester), I replied to his original email so the content would evoke happy memories but I never heard back. I did not reply again and consider the subject closed, and he didn’t take my bait on another idea I pitched which was certainly relevant to his quaterly magazine (which has recently been picked up by Virgin Airlines. Nice).

Perhaps the very similar article to mine which was run in the next issue explained why I never heard back. Maybe it doesn’t. It’s all part of the risk we take when we pitch or submit.

What to do in this uncomfortable situation? At least when I pitched my TV commercial to a leading car MF, the marketing manager thought it was ‘terrific’ and would love to use it, but on the cusp of the GFC, was refraining from any TV at that time. Peace out, homey. I was down with that.

In spite of these and other losses, I was extremely encouraged at the time, and still am. It’s as if God gave me points for trying, but more than that, He’s showing me I can do it, and I am good enough because He approves of me.

Decide: What will you do upon the next rejection? Do you know you are good enough, even without seeing your name come off someone else’s printing press?

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Proverbs 19v2
Dans un désir irréfléchi, il n'y a rien de bon et précipiter les pas fait commettre une faute.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Why my novel is 100 times better now than an hour ago.

The reason is so simple that not everyone will love it, but any agents and editors out there are bound to give me a big thumbs up. Today I read Rachelle Gardner’s post on some sure fire MS killers, and one of those is overuse of italics.

This is something I’ve struggled with in the past and have cut back on considerably in the last four or so years (I’ve had plenty of practise). My problem is that when I’m writing, the characters are acting out the scene in my head and I’m like this innocent bystander. While they’re busy enunciating every word with inflection, I’m the stenographer writing madly from the sidelines, desperately trying to keep track and give the truest portrayal of what’s going on inside the scene.

Note to self: Pretend Italics do not exist. In fact, forget the word altogether.

So, I didn’t actually count, but you could say my novel is 100 times stronger because I removed 100 italicised words, but you didn’t hear me admit to that because I’m not using the “I” word anymore as far as fiction is concerned (maybe once or twice?).

It’s a tough literary world out there. Paying attention to the advice is crucial if you hope to slide out of the slush pile. ‘Find other ways of giving emphasis’ was the advice I will echo, and it’s worth deeper consideration as to how one might do that.

Decide: How important is that word you italicised? If you undo the italics and re-read the sentence at a later time with fresh eyes, can you live without it? Your Ed will say you can. Remember, it’s not about what you ‘hear’, but how it reads.

“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong, do not fear...” Isaiah 35v3-4a

Fortifiez les mains défaillantes, affermissez les genoux chancelants. A ceux qui sont troublés dites: Prenez courage, n'ayez aucune crainte...

Friday, 10 June 2011

It’s all 6’s and 7’s to me.

Don’t know how it happens, but I can remember the essence of something but not always where it came from and when. Perhaps it’s thanks to that wonderful quote of Albert Einstein’s, that you should never commit to memory anything you can read in a book ;) Thankfully when I’m doing my research I write everything down and leave nothing to chance.

Whatever the case, I can recall the crux of something John C. Maxwell said probably two years ago in a Joyce Meyer magazine. What he was getting at is that in terms of how we perform, we live our lives on a scale of 1 to 10. For example, I might be a 7 or 8 at writing but only a 3 or 4 at art, yet I might be a 5 or 6 at servicing cars (I am definitely a minus 1 at kung-fu, but I do know Pastor Brian Houston of Hillsong church can enlighten one as to how best to knock down a door at the top of a stairwell).

I digress J

JCM says that if you cut back on improving whatever you’re a 3 or 4 at and spend that time improving and refining your 7s and 8s, you would almost certainly see your 7s and 8s become 9s and 10s, and even pouring a little more energy into those 5s and 6s can be very worthwhile. Adversely, devoting your time to something you love but aren’t necessarily gifted in (those 2s, 3s and 4s) can produce frustration and struggle, and you may only ever amount to a 5 or 6 at best, with time and energy (and money) spent that could have made you better in that other area.

Since I dropped my “4” (in spite of my love for it), my “7” has improved so wonderfully that I can’t understand why I didn’t do it earlier! God totally blessed that commitment and I was literally left gobsmacked at my productivity in that area. Know what you are, and also what you’re not. Most importantly, be prepared to use it so you don’t lose it.

Lastly, here’s a tweet by Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak extraordinaire: Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. John Wooden

Decide: What is eating up your productivity and causing you frustration? What area in life could you pour more effort into and see encouraging results? NB: You can’t drop your family because they make you work, but you CAN kick their butts and make them help you ;) Heaven knows sometimes I need my butt kicked, too ;)

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain.” Psalm 127a
Si l’Eternel ne bâtit la maison, en vain les bâtisseurs travaillent.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Hook, Line, & Sinker

Today I followed a link from a tweet made by one of the gorgeous peeps I follow. It yielded such a tasty treat for a writing monkey to eat that I simply MUST put the link right here!

Too good to pass this one up, so digest it if you will. Cheque, please! ;)

We concentrate A LOT on other avenues of writing, but in my humble opinion, the hook really is very important!

“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, and a light to my path.” Psalm 119v105

Ta parole est comme une lampe / qui guide tous mes pas, elle est une lumiere éclairant mon chemin.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Y'gotta be bloggin' me!

In my day job I have been asked twice recently by two difference sources why I don't take more photos of my work and build a portfolio. Generally I give excuses about time or opportunity, but the bigger reality is that I can't be bothered because I see it as being of no lasting worth and value, no matter how much I love the results of many hours hard work. Sure, they might be handy while I'm here on earth going about life and business, but Eternally speaking, I am convinced these works will be dross.

So why do it? Why do I stick with this meaningless day job?

Back up the truck a minute. I never said it was meaningless. In fact my job is far from meaningless because I am blessed to encounter new people all the time, and the people I deal with, I love (my clients are fantastic). These encounters come from the hand of God as time has proven, and considering I'm not in a "Christian" occupation, you have to admit that's a dang special by-product. The interactions with these individuals are the clincher everytime. People are seeking affirmation and truth, and God is still looking for willing people to step into that niche, and I'm afraid it's one-on-one (a two-way interaction, not a 'poke' thanks to a mouse-click).

I'm hoping that my life will have something far greater to show for it that photos or portfolios will never suffice. Images are good, and may say a thousand words, but if we're doing what God laid out for us and we obey Him, that lasts for Eternity. I KNOW my blog will not last for eternity (thank heaven), but its words may be inspirational enough to make someone consider their eternal future and worth. I hope!

There's a saying by a popular preacher that goes along these lines: If you try to make something happen to get you somewhere, chances are you're going to have to keep doing that thing and more to keep you there. Conversely, if God puts you somewhere, your effort will be anointed and there will be a grace on you to keep doing that thing and the majority of that time it will be fun and won't even seem like real work.

Call me old school, but when I'm dead I won't be counting my blog posts ;) Is this meant to thumb the nose at everyone who successfully blogs? By no means! Do I think everyone should quit their blogs? No way. I benefit from many and appreciate them, and say as much. Blogs are informative opinions, and this one is mine tonight.

Decide: Our modern word is reality starved in spite of 'reality TV' and the like. When was the last time you were REAL!!?? Can you 'fast' from Fb? Can you 'diet' from twitter? Are you able to escape distraction for more than a whole day? Are you addicted to unreality?

Answer Urself: Who do I need to connect with in reality? Could it even be God?

"If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames." 1 Corinthians 3

Si la construction édifiée sur le fondement résiste à l'épreuve, son auteur recevra son salaire; mais si elle est consumée, il en subira les conséquences. Lui, personnellement, sera sauvé, mais tout juste, comme un homme qui réussit à échapper au feu.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Daily Verse

“Oh! How I love Your Law! I meditate on it all day long.”

Oh ! que j’aime ta Loi! Je la médite tout le jour. Psalm 119v97

It's not talking about meditating on the impossible, but on the boundaries set by God. Operating within those, we should know we are safe. This is one reason the psalmist LOVED God's Law.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Thank God it’s Fr-Fr-Fr-Friday!

Where I come from, it’s already Friday. The end of the week is always a good time to take stock as we tend to slide into the mode of not really wanting to do much at all. Seems a good time to not write much either, and as always, will aim to keep it short (You should value your time, even if no one else does!).

Here’s the key thing I learned this week about writing:
I’m suffering from information overload!

Truly, there is so much advice out there and I know I would benefit greatly to know all of it. It seems there is no shortage of people wanting to download on us ‘prospectives’, and I have to say this is a good thing. We would die without knowing what would help us (people do perish sometimes for lack of knowledge).

Whilst I want the information on offer, I simply can’t digest it at the smokin' rate it’s being delivered, and somehow that’s a blessing because I know I’m not left wanting. Ha ha! What an oxymoron. For now, I’m going to enjoy the beauty of rest – at least for two days.

To my mind, this sums up a difficult aspect of the writing life. With all that we are told and advised and warned about doing or not doing, there’s a little sunray peeping through the dark literary cloud that in spite of all the ‘rules’ and regulations, if we just keep plodding and are true to our writer selves, we’ll get there no matter which rules we forgot or accidentally broke because it seems like there are so darn many (if only we could just get it right, right?). Do the math. Getting into print is a ginormous miracle, but the math also proves it can be done.

Don’t know about you, but this always seems like a motto verse for any writer ;)
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27v13
Que deviendrais-je si je n'avais pas l'assurance de voir l'amour de l'Eternel au pays des vivants?

Decide: Are you still confident of seeing the goodness of the LORD while in the land of the living?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Eating Rainbows

“In my world everyone’s a pony, they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies.”

This is a quote from Horton Hears a Who! that my 7 year old recited to me at bedtime recently. Naturally it really caught my attention and I asked to hear this strange line again.

How unrealistic, I thought, briefly entertaining the mental picture of someone actually eating rainbows and pooping butterflies.

As a writer hoping to join the honoured ranks of the published, expectations need to be similarly realistic. Have you been writing long? Have you ever submitted to an editor or been in print? Have you ever been rejected (let’s face it, who hasn’t?). You won’t always get the why and wherefore behind a rejection, but if you do, grow from it! Whatever you do, don’t get defeated. You might need to rethink your imaginings of a day-job a little bit, but life’s like that. Is this writing life your thing? Are you writing in the right genre or field?

If you can take the feedback in stride, you can use it to fortify yourself and your expectations in the future. When I go back and read my first works now, I still enjoy the stories but they are so cringe-worthy that I know they could never be published as they are. There’s a lot to be said for form versus craft, and this is just one area where it’s necessary to stop and take stock: (Rachelle Gardner's blog is a wealth of information!).

Decide: How long am I willing to wait to see this dream come true? Am I realistic about the work I produce? Am I eating rainbows and hoping to poop butterflies?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Daily Verse

Every day a verse is sent to my mobile by a good friend, my Mum. She's a legend, always thinking on the Word, and I love her to bits. Sometimes she sends a saying or quote, other times it's actually a verse from whatever translation she happens to be reading at the time. She sends them as she finds them and never to have a go at those on the receiving end of her text messages. I'll share some of them here in the hope they will encourage you, too right where you are at.

I'll never intend for these posts to be especially long because there is so much in life that demands time from us as it is. So kick back, relax. Catch it as it comes ;) Someone somewhere has got to have some mercy on the time poor!

"The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; (unless you willfully run to it) He shall preserve your soul." Psalm 121v7

Oui, l'Eternel te gardera / de tout malheur: il gardera ta vie.


Hmmm... This is seriously a work in progress. Being new to this blog thing (self-confessed Luddite at work here), we'll see how it goes, shall we? Stay tuned.