Saturday, October 30, 2010

Craft - Competition

How is your muse behaving? I've been reading, for research, a Rosa Praed book written just a bit later than my WIP is set. She had some great little character sketches which made me think I want to learn to write like that...
So, here it is, write me a character sketch - just a couple of sentences about a character. Doesn't need to be just how he/she looks, though that can be part of it, tell me what they are like as a person, what they do, say... that makes them unique. Something that guides your reader, tells them whether they should love, hate, admire, envy or despise that character.
Let's pick on Sami as an example, just because she did the last blog...

"She waltzed through life on a cloud. Tall and slender with glossy black hair and a style as elegant as her dress, Sami drew the eyes of men and women alike wherever she went. Yet, she had a warmth about her that made you want to know her, be around her, have her as your friend..."

Well I told you I need to learn to do this... Come on, I know you can do one so much better!
Oh, and, there's a prize involved. I found this book about verbal seduction... you know you want it! Now, because there's a prize, there has to be a closing date. Ummm I'll give you a month just because it's Nanowrimo starting Monday and I will be like you, very busy writing - see there you go, submit one you write for your Nanowrimo book... just do it before 30 November.
Good luck
Zoe Y

Monday, October 25, 2010

Animals in writing

I read a few years ago to limit the amount of animals you have in a story. I also read that the hero shouldn't be terribly enamoured with his pets. I can't remember exactly why, something along the lines of if he shows too much compassion towards animals, the reader may find him a little "soft". Also because the hero may direct all his attention towards said animals instead of the poor, neglected heroine.

Now, saying that, most of my stories include animals - ghost cats, horses, pegasus', dragons etc etc. Yes, the heroes are quite fond of the pets, but generally, I make the animals work for their appearances in my books.

Personally, I enjoy pets in stories. They often bring a little light relief from the seriousness, or they add spark to the storyline. Many famous authors include pets in the majority of their story lines. For Teresa Medeiros, it's cats. I read a Georgette Heyer story where the hero's dog was told to sit and watch the heroine, so it did just that and the heroine couldn't even get herself a drink.

To some readers, pets are their lives. They love their dog or cat or fishy friends with more enthusiasm than they love other humans. I think having animals in stories is a good way to connect with a reader, especially one who loves animals.

Ok, maybe not a pet. I could dream

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Craft Corner Episode 1 - Feeling Alright (sort of)

Back in the day, Joe Cocker sang about feeling alright. I’m so glad for him, really, even though he was probably stoned at the time. I don’t begrudge Joe his mellow pre-munchies euphoria. What I have a problem with is the usage of ‘alright’ a word that by all accounts isn’t a real word.

I hate to be a buzzkill and I’d really love to chillax about the whole thing, but bad spelling is bad spelling, even in a song lyric.

The fact is the word ‘alright’ is not a recognised word. It is a misspelling of the phrase ‘all right’, which means ‘adequate’ or ‘satisfactory’, e.g. “Do you feel all right?”. The correct usage is always as two words, all and right. The one word version is not correct (or not all right). Here’s what the dictionary says about it:

—Usage note

The form ALRIGHT as a one-word spelling of the phrase ALL RIGHT in all of its senses probably arose by analogy with such words as already and altogether. Although ALRIGHT is a common spelling in written dialogue and in other types of informal writing, ALL RIGHT is used in more formal, edited writing.

Alright is a common spelling which according to many is gaining in popularity (dare I say because it is so often misused the grammar geeks are getting tired of correcting people?). I’ve seen it used not only in song lyrics, but published novels and articles. It may well become an accepted word in future. That is how new words are coined after all, by sheer weight of popular use. But for now it is best to stick with the two word, widely accepted usage ‘all right’. That way, no one can ever say you’re wrong!

NB: Already and altogether are distinct words, different in meaning to the phrases all ready and all together. Already is concerned with time e.g. ‘is it summer already?’ whereas all ready has to do with preparedness in a collective sense e.g. ‘are you all ready to go to the beach?’. Similar for all together e.g. ‘are you all together?’ the waitress asked the five diners, meaning are you all in the same group. Altogether means ‘entirely’ as in ‘we are altogether too tired to go to the beach.’ (Or colloqially ‘Sami went to the beach in the altogether’ meaning in the nude. Not on your life, by the way).

So there you have it. Until further notice, alright is not all right—or at least it’s not supposed to be.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review! Unhallowed Ground by Heather Graham

Yes, I put myself through another Heather Graham book. This one, however, was so much better than the last Heather Graham I read. Unhallowed Ground was written in 2009, and I must say the author produced much better characters.


When Sarah McKinley is finally able to buy and restore the historic Florida mansion that she has always loved, she dismisses the horror stories of past residents vanishing and a long-dead housekeeper who practiced black magic. Then, in the midst of renovations, she makes a grin discovery. Hidden within the walls of Sarah's dream house are the remains of dozens of bodies--some dating back over a century.

The door to the past is blown open wide when Caleb Anderson, a private investigator, shows up at the mansion. He believes several current missing-persons cases are linked to the house and its dark past. Working together to find the connection and stop a contemporary killer, Sarah and Caleb are compelled to research the history of the haunted house, growing closer to each other even as the solution to the murders eludes them.

But there is one who knows the truth...a spirit who follows every move they make. Soon Caleb begins to fear that if he can't stay a step ahead, he could lose Sarah to a killer with the ability to transcend time in a quest for blood sacrifice.

Well, after typing out the blurb, I've realised that it has nothing to do with the actual story. She's very crafty, this Heather Graham, with her ability to pull a reader in with the blurb.

We get a quick glimpse as to why the book is called Unhallowed Ground at the beginning, and again in the final few pages. Apart from that, nothing. I found Sarah and Caleb pretty okay. They were average in a good way, and I liked Caleb's special ability. I just wish he used it more often, and we, as readers, could get more of an insight into it. The romance started relatively early, and I found the relationship very credible.

There were the typical Heather Graham characters--the headstrong but confused but gullible but insistant  heroine, the "oh so good looking but way over bearing" male best friend/relative, the knowledgable hero who likes to keep secrets and doesn't really trust anyone, and the bevy of friends who think the heroine is way too good for the hero.

But, just like other Heather Graham novels, the beauty is in the plot. Twists and turns, characters who hop in and out, situations that lead the reader down the wrong path, skeletons in the walls, and dead bodies appearing at any given moment give Unhallowed Ground a fresh voice.

I give Unhallowed Ground 4/5 stars. I enjoyed this one.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Minutes of Meeting 13 October

Despite weeks of often torrential rain, our hardy Romantix members managed to trek to my place on Tuesday for the monthly meeting. What troopers! Kiss was unable to make it. Hope you’re feeling bright and sunny now that the weather’s improved KC. And Sarah who attended her first meeting last time was conspicuously absent. Did we talk too much about German Porn last month?

As the meeting was at mine, you know what that means: no agenda and no discernable structure. The zany just never stops at my house either. Zoe and I got our coffee and tea cups mixed up, but we each drank half before I thought to ask: "Ah Zoe, is your drink coffee? because this tastes like tea." To which Zoe replied: "I don't know." Clearly, it had already been a long week for both of us

I did manage to make a suggestion as to topics—writing craft books and the ones that have most helped us. I had an ulterior motive for wanting to talk about this. I’m on a mission to go back to basics with my writing and as a first step I read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, which I had heard several times over was excellent, rave reviews that weren’t misplaced, in my opinion. However I will not hijack the meeting minutes with a book review (might do that another time). I’ve loaned the book to Letitia and I’ll be interested to see if she finds it useful.

Other books discussed were The Writer’s Journey, brought in by Letitia, and Zoe’s Roget’s Thesauraus. Well, where would any of us be without a thesauraus? Using the same words over and over (and over and over), I imagine.

Another issue raised was this blog. Be assured that Melita, Zoe and Letitia all whipped out their telephonic devices (in one unified motion) and put reminders in there about which days to blog, so I expect that will fix the problem of sporadic posting! (Isn’t an iphone reminder like magic or something?) We also discussed topics to blog about, as several members cited difficulty in coming up with subject matter as a reason as to why they don’t post as regularly as they'd like. I hear this, I agree. It can be hard to come up with things to talk about. I suggested more book reviews would be interesting, and I’ve decided to do a little thing on Thursdays tentatively called Craft Corner (lord help me come up with a better title than that). Stay tuned for that next week.

Other issues discussed: Melita's having trouble writing her kissing scene. Letitia agrees that's a troublesome thing, she always feels like someone might come and look over her shoulder and see what she's doing. I told her that was her Catholic guilt whispering in her ear. My dog smells. He's old and not matter how well I bath him, he simply stinks. Apparently this can be common among pets. Speaking of among--among or amongst; which is correct? A topic for Craft Corner perhaps? Melita has also had some book reviews published in our local libraries paranormal focussed newsletter. Yay Melita! A publishing credit!

The meeting was interrupted several times by my Cherub, who decided as people were over it was no time to be snoozing her life away. She did eventually succumb to the temptation of sleep around 8:30pm, much to the group’s relief I’m sure. Next meeting is on the 9th of November at Melita’s.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Definition: Internal Conflict

When your shopping trolley is filled with weight watchers meals and this stuff...

Yes, I also order diet coke when I get a Big Mac meal.

Makes perfect sense to me.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review! Ghost Walk by Heather Graham

Over the weekend, I read a few books. Down time. My mind relaxes when I'm reading, rather than writing. One of the books I read was Ghost Walk, by Heather Graham.

Nikki DuMonde's newest employee is standing at the end of her bed at four o'clock in the morning begging for help. It's a joke, right? Besides, as manager of a successful New Orleans haunted-tour company, Nikki doesn't scare easily. But in the light of day, harsh reality sets in as a police officer informs her that Andy was brutally murdered--at the exact time Nikki swears the distraught woman was in her room.

No one believes her except Brent Blackhawk, a paranormal investigator desperately trying to forget his tragic past. Half Irish, half Lakota--and able to communicate with the dead--Brent is used to living in two worlds. But when he realizes the ghost of a slain government agent is also trying to reach out to Nikki, he knows that she, too, must listen to the dead...if she wants to keep living.

I think I expected a little more from this book than I was given. It was advertised as a paranormal romance. Yes, there's some romance. Yes, there's some paranormal. However, I certainly wouldn't call it a paranormal romance. The main characters were a little different. Nikki did nothing but argue. Brent did nothing but let her argue with him. I just couldn't endear myself to either of them.

The story was good, with the mystery and such. However, it would have been a whole sight better if Nikki didn't continuously argue with her friends, herself, the police, and her new boyfriend.

Also, I found I lost the story in the head hopping. For the first few chapters, I had to keep reading the blurb to remind myself who the main character was because the other characters outshone her by far. The romance started about halfway through the book, and failed to cheer me.

All in all, I give this book 3/5 stars, simply for the story line.

Big smiles, it could be worse!!!