Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's New Year's Eve and time for my last musical post of the year. I have three songs for you this week that are each beautiful in their own way, and each, to me, tells a story of our hopes and dreams for the coming year.

The first song should more accurately be classed as a Christmas song, but I knew I had to include it this week instead, as it definitely represents a message of hope for the future. The video also makes me cry. Every single time I watch it.

The title of the second song will probably tell you instantly why I've included this one. The lyrics will just illustrate the point :-)

Finally, just to prove that I'm a traditionalist at heart, I've included the one song that will be sung around the world as the clocks strike midnight.

Thank you to the people who have welcomed and supported me in the past nine months. I've had such fun, and learned so much. I've shed a few tears for some of you, quietly behind my keyboard, and cheered for others. I can't wait to do it all again next year.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's a good job other people have great ideas

You know what is supposed to be here? My entry for Heather's competition* over at My Demon Spirits. In fact, I had planned to post it last Monday. However, you can't post what isn't written, and right now I've got nothing. Instead, I bring you a couple of public service announcements.

*The deadline mentioned in this post is 19th December, but Heather has kindly extended it to 31st December.

I'm pretty sure that you're all following SB Jones Publishing but, just in case you didn't realise, he released Guardian, the second novel in his Eternal Gateway trilogy, on December 15th. Go here to see how you can tweet to be in with a chance to win a copy until December 30th. Don't worry if you haven't read Requiem, the first in the series. SB is offering everyone a free ecopy from Amazon, also until December 30th. You can download it for the Kindle, or for the Kindle app (if, like me, you still haven't got a real Kindle and you're pretending that your pc is an ereader).

Have you got a romantic 'short' just looking for the right home? Jami Gold on her Paranormal Author blog is offering a great chance for writers. I'll let her explain it herself, as she did in her post here:

Several editors from Entangled Publishing will be visiting my blog in the second week of January to take pitches for shorter length works.  They’re interested in stories with strong romantic elements that end in a “happily ever after” or a “happily for now.”  They’re looking for stories in the 10-60K word range and are open to many genres:
  • Contemporary
  • Historical
  • Romantic Thrillers
  • Science Fiction, Dystopian, Steampunk
  • Paranormal and Urban Fantasy
  • Fantasy
If you have stories already completed that would fit those guidelines, get them polished.  If you have ideas along those lines or if you’ve thought about attempting a short story, get writing.  (Another great thing about short stories is they’re quick to write and revise.)
The editors have promised they’ll make at least one request from those who pitch on my blog, and for the pitch that excites them the most, they’ll offer detailed feedback.

So, if this sounds like something you might be interested in, check out Jami's blog before January 10th and make sure you get your chance to pitch. Good luck!

In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be here in the corner trying to turn a vague idea into a 500 word story.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A musical Christmas to you all

By the time you read this it will probably be Christmas Eve and, in the spirit of the season, I'm suspending Musical Stories for two weeks. This week, in a move that is neither surprising nor original, you get Christmas songs :-)

I love me some Last Christmas by Wham!, and Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl is probably my favourite Christmas song of all time, but I've gone for two songs that, in my opinion, aren't played enough, and a third that I heard for the first time only this morning and knew I had to share. It was hard deciding which one to push out to make room for it, I can tell you :-)

The first song has been covered by many many people, and I spent a lot of time listening to various versions with the intention of bringing you something different. In the end though, I had to admit defeat. Nobody sings it quite as well as this woman!

I've loved the second song since I first heard it as a little girl. At that time, it never struck me as an odd pairing - I was about eight - I'd never heard of either of the singers. Since then, I've decided that whoever thought of putting these two together was a genius.

The last song was one I heard for the first time this morning on Sarah Wesson's blog, Earful of Cider. I think it struck a chord with me instantly, because my parents live abroad, along with my brother and his wife and three children. I feel the distance especially at this time of year. I wish I could be there with them, drinking white wine in the sun!

Whatever you celebrate, have a wonderful holiday. I truly hope that all of you can be with people you want to be with, doing things you want to.



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Musical Stories 22: YA

I've had a cold for a few days which seems to have progressed to some kind of flu-like thing. I sat down to rest on the sofa last night, and woke up this morning at five am. I was covered with the special blankie that we only use when we're sick. Nearby was a glass of water, nasal spray, flu tablets, a box of tissues and the blistex cream for chapped lips. The kitchen, (which I hadn't cleaned), was spotless, and there was even a cup and teabag laid out next to the full kettle. I love my wonderful family :-)

This week's Musical Stories are from the YA genre, and we're hearing it from the boys this week.

I heard the first song on Leigh Covington's blog, Something to Write About. I know that everything we go through when we are young makes us who we are today but, be honest, wouldn't you love to go back and give your younger self just a few words of wisdom to make the transition a little bit smoother? I know I certainly would :-)

I just want to shake the boy in our second story and tell him to look at what he's got, right under his nose. Also, Stacy honey, never bring a boy home on the first date!

Our final entry this week wasn't supposed to be this one, but as soon as I heard it on J. A. Bennett's A Book, A Girl, A Journey I knew I had to include it. It's less of a story, more of a chapter, but as I listened to it I could picture him and her laying on their backs on a beautiful day, seeing pictures in the sky and making plans for the future. Just perfect.

Next week's chapter of Musical Stories is supposed to be crime, but who wants that on the Friday before Christmas? Musical Stories will be taking a two week break, but if you like Christmas songs, come back next week for some of my favourites :-)

I'm supposed to be going shopping today, but I'm going to relax at home and not worry about everything I still need to do until Monday. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest

This week's Musical Stories will be posted tonight, but today you get an extra post. This is my contribution to the Deja Vu blogfest. Click here for details.

I chose this post because I've decided that I might start entering competitions next year. This is my reminder of what not to do. Yes, this post is absolutely true. It's the story of my one and only entry to a writing comptetion :-)

First posted May 4 2011

How not to win a writing competition

20 easy steps to guarantee failure

1. Find out about a competition ten days before the closing date and convince yourself that you can produce something of a high enough standard to enter, even though you rarely write short stories because you have trouble with the 'short' part.

2. Spend the next five days writing your story, even though you're not one hundred percent sure that you've managed to interpret one of the required elements correctly. Edit and re-edit until you've made it as tight as you possibly can.

3. Congratulate yourself on being 1000 words below the required maximum word length.

4. Re-read the rules and discover that you're 1500 words over the maximum word length.

5. Spend four days trying to reduce the word-count without destroying the original story.

6. Read the finished story immediately because you don't have time to let it sit like you'd planned.
Realise that you now have something so flat that it reads like an example on a 'how not to write' blog.

7. Read it to your beloved partner, even though he has a history of sending you back to the drawing board, because you need another opinion and he's the only one around.

8. Listen to, and agree with, his suggestions which involve you going back to the drawing board.

9. Struggle with writing a new opening. Write a rubbish one for now just so you can continue. Realise 1000 words into your new effort that you're boring yourself. Screw up latest effort and throw it across the room.

10. Go to bed.

11. Wake up the day before the competition deadline determined to get this right. Spend the day making some progress, realise that you're going to be working late into the night.

12. Spend the evening watching DVDs with your daughters because they came home a day early after being away for a week and they want to spend time with you. Go to bed late.

13. Set your alarm clock for 9am. Dream that your competition entry should have been posted instead of submitted online so that when your alarm goes off you think you've missed the deadline. Go back to sleep.

14. Jump out of bed in a panic at 10.30am, realise that you have no time to finish your rewrite.

15. Have a quick read through of your original entry. Decide that it would sound better in present tense. Rewrite and do a quick spell check. Realise you have 15 minutes to deadline, so submit story without even a read through.

16. Be too ashamed to even read it back once it's been submitted as you know there are formatting errors, and probably a ton of typos and it's too late to do anything about it.

17. Resolve never ever to submit anything to a competition again that you are not proud of, and thank the writing deity of your choice that no-one, except the judges, will ever know what you did.

18. Hope that the judges of a competition for a TV station will never judge any other writing competitions and be glad that you don't have an unusual name that would stick in a judge's mind.

19. Make a note to check the competition website on June 1st to read the three that did actually make the short-list.

20. Go and work on your novel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Contests and blogfests and corn, oh my!

The family trip to the art college on Saturday was a huge success. Practically from the moment she walked in, Diva was sure this was where she wanted to be next year. Each new thing she learned about the studies involved only strengthened her resolve. She's already working on extra pieces for her portfolio to show her diversity. Fingers crossed that she's accepted. They accept 200 students a year and last year had 420 applicants so it isn't a foregone conclusion, but at least she knows what she's working towards. I wish we could say the same for poor Blue. The school she has set her heart on accepts about 20 students from the UK and have over 500 applicants. So far, we haven't found any other viable schools that offer the International Baccalaureate rather than A' levels, but we keep searching! Send us positive thoughts if you would :-)

I have some interesting things to tell you about today, so let's start with some contests:

Medeia Sharif is offering a book of your choice from the Book Depository. This is an international contest which closes on 31st December. Click here to enter.

Joanne at Whole Latte Life is offering a $20 ebook gift card for her lucky winner, but this one closes tomorrow so be sure to click here today to enter!

Here's a nice one. Heather at My Demon Spirits is holding a competition for the best short holiday story (it doesn't have to be Christmas related). The closing date for entries to be posted on your blog is 19th December and she's offering three prizes including a $25 Amazon gift card. Go here for all the details.

Now for some blogfests:

A nice easy one to start. Katie Mills at Creepy Query Girl is co-hosting the Deja Vu blogfest, along with Nicole Ducleroir, Lydia Kang and DL Hammons. Click on one of the links to sign up, and repost one of your old posts on 16th December. Easy, and a good chance to remind us of something you might be particularly proud of :-)

The Wrap It Up blogfest is being organised by David Powers King, J. A. Bennett and Leigh Covington. Sign up before 16th December, then write something in less than 300 words for somebody, (real or imaginary), and post it on your blog before the closing date. There are prizes for this one. Click on one of the links for full details.

Finally, if all this Christmas joy is just too much for you, here's a bloghop especially for you. Grumpy Bulldog is offering his very own Bah Humbug Blahg fest. Hit the link to sign up before 15th December then, on that day, simply answer the question: What are the 12 things I hate most about the holiday season?

Before I go, I promised you corn. Enjoy :-)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Musical Stories 21: SciFi

Thank you all for your kind comments and suggestions on my last post. It really meant a lot, and stopped me feeling sorry for myself. Things are moving on in the editing department, but more about that some other time! Tomorrow, Techno and I are off to visit an Art College with Diva to see if it will be a good fit for her next year, so wish us luck!

After our recent special editions, it's time to begin the third series of Musical Stories. As usual we're starting with SciFi. Enjoy :-)

I'm almost certain that somebody recommended the first song to me. Unfortunately I didn't make a note, so if it was you could you please let me know so I can credit you? On the surface, this is a cheerful, cheesy song but, listen closer, and you will realise it's actually very sad. (It's also a retelling of another, very famous, SciFi song).

If you watch Breaking Bad, I have two words for you: Gale Boetticher.

The second story comes at the usual 'humans meet aliens' idea from a slightly different angle. The reaction our visitor has, after seeing how people on Earth behave towards one another, is one that I think we would all have now and then if we had the choice.

This week's final song is a boy's fears that he is no longer exciting enough for his love when she returns from an amazing journey. He points out some of the good things there are on Earth too. I'm not sure I'd include fried chicken but, hey, whatever works!

Next week it's the turn of YA literature. Have a wonderful weekend :-)

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group 3

It's time for this month's post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Thanks, as ever, to Alex Cavanaugh for putting this together. Here are the participants if you'd like to read more.

So, what am I thinking about this month? If you read my last post, you already know my feelings about editing. This is kind of an extension of that.

I'm not sure I actually have a full length novel in me.

Before I started my first novel, I assumed I would write long and have to delete thousands of words. At school, my stories were always longer than everyone else's. At uni, my essays were double the length they needed to be. I used to cut and paste them. I mean, literally. I would cut paragraphs up, move them around and stick them onto paper. My dissertation, which had a 16k limit, started life at 40k words. So I resigned myself to having to kill a lot of darlings.

I wish. I've written four stories, (I can't bring myself to call them novels), ranging from 36,000 to 55,000 words. I know there is stuff that needs to be added, but there's stuff that needs to be removed too. I think my problem is that, whilst I have good ideas for main plots, I don't have sub-plots. I tell myself to concentrate on the stories and not to worry about the length, but if I do that then I feel like I'm giving up on publication. Which isn't so bad, publication still seems like pie in the sky to me right now anyway, but then I feel like a fraud, being here with all of you, having this blog.

Perhaps these are just not the right stories, but I love them. In the right hands, I think they could be really good. If only they were longer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Starting with the basics

Now that NaNoWriMo is finished, it's time to turn my mind back to editing. I had just started to edit one of my stories at the end of October, and I thought that I would continue that whilst writing something else. I realised very quickly that it wasn't going to happen. Still, another month of leaving it to sit won't have hurt it at all.

I'm after some recommendations, if any of you have any, as to some good books that might help with the editing process. I've got a ton of posts from around the web, saved in my editing folder but, faced with a mass of my words, I'm really struggling to know how to do this. I know that you should leave the small stuff until last. What's the use of correcting punctuation and deleting adjectives if you're going to rewrite great swathes of the story? Still, it's those little things that I find myself focusing on because I'm not exactly sure how to go about fixing the big picture.

What's frustrating me is that sometimes I'm sure there's a good story buried among the rubble, I'm just not sure how to find it. I'm scared I'm going to end up as one of those people who just write story after story, and never edit any of them. I have four now, and not one of them has had a proper edit. To steal someone else's analogy, I've painted all the bedrooms before I've built the staircases. Can anyone help me with a good carpenter?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Musical Stories Special Edition: He's just not that into you ...

Sorry I've not been around this week. It's mostly due to the end of NaNo and joining the beta test of a new online game, Star Wars, The Old Republic (WoW in space and absolutely amazing). I'm hoping to catch up with your blogs over the weekend and, from next week, I'll be blogging three times a week for the foreseeable future.

This week is the last special edition of Musical Stories before we start series three. I know that 'he's just not that into you' is not a genre but the title was too good to pass up! I'm not sure there's a category for broken romance, but perhaps someone could put me right on that score.

I've broken my own most rigid rule this week. The last of these songs is over eight minutes long. I had to include it though, as it is one of the best examples of this kind of story I have ever heard. I've tried to balance it out by choosing two other songs that are shorter than usual. I hope you enjoy them.

My first choice has to be the ultimate demonstration to a woman that yes, it really is over and he's not going to change his mind. And, even if he does, girl you really don't want him back!

For the second song, you just know he still loves her, but he's going to keep telling himself he doesn't until he believes it. I actually wanted to give you Elvis Costello's version of this song, which is incredible, but I couldn't find it anywhere online. So you get another singer who I love instead.

The final choice is a truly epic tale. If you get the time to watch the video, you should. The interaction between the singers is great. A true cautionary tale for loved-up (or 'lusted-up') teens everywhere!

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend. I'm looking forward to catching up with you all soon.

Lyrics here

Lyrics here