In With the New


Hello and welcome to the last day of 2012! I hope you have exciting, peaceful, and/or relaxing plans for ringing in the New Year. Last year we spent it on the sofa watching TV at my mother-in-law’s and while this might not have been the most exciting, it was fitting for the year that was. This year we’re going out for a meal and some merry-making, and I’m hoping being a bit more active might be symbolic of the year to come ūüôā

I’m not going to lie. From my list of 25 goals for this past year, I crossed off 6 of them. That sounds pathetic except one of them was plan a wedding and get married, which I did (and we did :)) so I’m not complaining! But I do hope to be much more active this year. It felt like a lot of waiting and planning happened in 2012; a lot more doing for 2013, I think.

I thought I’d take some others’ leads and share a few of my goals, since reading their goals inspired me to focus on some realistic (but still challenging) ones, and yet also remind myself that life isn’t about checking things off for the sake of drawing that line. Productivity and results are worthy goals, but I want to enjoy the journey more and more, rather than berating myself this time next year for not doing X, Y, and Z.

  • Decision-making: I recently read that successful people make quicker decisions rather than hemming and hawing, because they’re confident in their values. I am confident in mine, so why do I spend 10 minutes trying to choose from a menu, or a week on whether to apply for a certain job? I¬†know what kinds of things I want and enjoy and believe in. I need to work on this.
  • The BIG one:¬†focus on ONE step at a time. Finish what I start.¬†Multi-tasking is great and the sort of prerequisite all employers want on your CV. But let’s be honest. If you can’t fully focus on what’s right in front of you, what good are you at the peripheral tasks, or the ones coming down the pipeline? It’s great to be able to keep track of several things at once, don’t get me wrong. But I think multi-tasking in our culture has become grossly overrated. It’s prompting a whole generation of people with ADD traits, and I’m not using that term loosely because I know people who really struggle with it. Yes, for the sake of doing the best I can at a job, I can keep tabs on 10 different things, but in my personal life, when it comes to writing, painting, cleaning house, organising, reading, etc., I want to be concerned with the one thing God’s put in front of me, and do my best with that before moving on. I can’t do anything with tomorrow’s bread, hence, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And the more tangible ones:

  • Finish fantasy, polish, CPs
  • Keep working on WF.
  • Blog regularly through the month, when I have books to review, things to say. I don’t want to force myself to a blogging schedule when actually¬†writing stories is what’s most important to me, which brings me to . . .
  • Read 1 writing craft book per month, and review it on this blog.
  • Have at least an outline for next book by the year’s end.
  • Start kickboxing.
  • Run/kickboxing/volleyball/hike 3x per week, no matter where I am and what I’m doing!
  • no Bible, no breakfast (we’ll see… I might have to breakfast¬†while reading).
  • Write with a timer (in 30-minute chunks). This proved super effective during NaNo this year!
  • Unless writing, get off the computer by 9 pm.
  • Write a handwritten card/note to friends & family 3x a month.
  • Complete 12 paintings by the year’s end.

That’s a lot. I could add obvious others like “FINALLY¬†get a job” and “eat more fruit and vegetables”, but I already know I need to do those. Making them a goal for the year seems a bit of a cop-out.

Do you find making lists like this is helpful? Have you ever crossed off EVERY item on your resolutions/goals list? Whether you write down goals or just plan to make the best of each day, I wish you the absolute best for a peaceful, productive, safe, healthy, and amazing year!!

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7 Things & #Writemotivation

So fellow writer Jody Neil Ruth set the challenge of answering a series of questions which I’ve put off for nearly 7 days, but now it’s blog time again for #Writemotivation so I’ll throw them all together. Sorry for my tardiness ūüôā Doesn’t help that my new-in-June MacBook Pro decided to get a dead pixel, which required a new display, and the new display 2 months later had a faulty bit that crashed the Wi-Fi, so I was given a brand new MBP on Saturday which took all weekend to restore from backup. Fun!

Absolutely nothing relevant here. But it’s me in the Brecons.

The Last 7 Songs I Listened To:¬†(just now realising the potential for embarrassment here. I’m on my “Chill” iTunes playlist, so … don’t judge ;))

  1. Aurora – Hans Zimmer
  2. Songbird – Kenny G (this is the part about not judging)
  3. The Road of Trials – Austin Wintory
  4. The Secret Life of Daydreams – Jean Yves Thibaudet (Pride & Prejudice)
  5. Trane to Conamarra – Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
  6. Green Mile – Esowellnic
  7. Rebecca – Craig Armstrong

Last 7 Books I Read: (this is hard because I’ve been doing a lot of beta reading lately)

  1. The Fiery Cross – Diana Gabaldon
  2. Drums of Autumn –¬†Diana Gabaldon
  3. Voyager –¬†Diana Gabaldon
  4. Dragonfly in Amber –¬†Diana Gabaldon
  5. Cross Stitch/Outlander –¬†Diana Gabaldon
  6. Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
  7. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (not the first time ;))

7 Favourite Movies: (I stink at narrowing down this category)

  1. LOTR trilogy (yep, one movie, I cheat. But if I had to choose, I’d say Return of the King)
  2. Harry Potter (I’m SO cheating here, but if I list 3 of them, Deathly Hallows Pts 1 & 2, and Prisoner of Azkaban, I’m just taking up too much real estate… deal with it!)
  3. Atonement
  4. Dances With Wolves
  5. Withnail & I
  6. Sliding Doors
  7. Happy-Go-Lucky

Whew. That was hard. There are about 10 more that should technically go in my favourite-films-ever list.

7 Songs that are Significant to My Stories (two different stories):

  1. Raining at Sunset – Chris Thile
  2. How to Save a Life – The Fray
  3. The Cottage on the Beach – Dario Marianelli
  4. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri
  5. The Hospital Room – Leon Willett (Dreamfall soundtrack)
  6. Everybody Here Wants You – Jeff Buckley
  7. True Love Waits – Radiohead

7 Favourite Authors:

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. J.K. Rowling
  3. Simon R. Green
  4. Ian McEwan
  5. Kazuo Ishiguro
  6. Diana Gabaldon
  7. Emily Giffin

I’m going to be lazy and omit the last, which is to bestow the¬†questionnaire on others. Not that I don’t care what others are interested in – by all means, answer away and let me know! ūüôā¬†But I think this has made the rounds and a lot of people will have already done it, and as I’ve just amped up my job search to¬†find something before the end of this flippin’ year, I choose not to make time to track down who’s not done it yet ūüôā Sorry.

Which brings me to my resolution last night to spend a lot more time on the 2 things most important and vital right now: finding a job, and finishing the stories I’m on. I love emailing and tweeting and all that, and I will never stop! But I need a bit of a break right now so if I’m less active, it won’t be for forever. I just really need to take the reins and get myself organised. I’ve been in limbo for way too long.

On to #Writemotivation…

1. Reach 70k word mark on WIP first rough draft.

This is looking less and less likely. As previously stated, at the start of the month, amazing Leigh gave me some much-needed feedback on MS#1 and I’m DETERMINED to finish edits for this bastard baby by the end of the month. This month. So that I can then do #4 below.

2. Revise 1st MS based on any beta feedback received.

That’s what she said!

3. Send feedback for beta reading (if not done by end of August).

I finished one round. But I’ve acquired a lot more beta reading (yay!) since I wrote this goal. Probably not possible, because I’m going SUPER slow (boo!). Sorry, Andrew & Jamie & Rebecca. I want to be thorough! Thanks for your patience ūüėÄ

4. 1st MS x3.

Even if I do this on the last day of September, I’ll be relieved, because that’ll mean I finished the edits for MS#1 FINALLY.

5. Revise query for WIP to include changes. Done.

6. Set aside specific time weekly to read blogs/comment/cheer! Doing.

There you have it. Thanks for reading & I hope your goals are much less overblown & far more successful ūüėÄ Chin chin!

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1st July Goal Check

Gratuitous shot of the Med from our trip to Corfu, since the UK is having no kinda summer at all.

I’m calling this the first goal check for July since while technically last week was my first July post about it, it was the 2nd of the month so obviously not much had been accomplished yet!

I’m not doing too bad. My goals as they currently stand:

1. Finish new round of edits to MS #1.¬†Completed! Just this morning, but still completed. Big thanks to those who cheered me along on this goal last week. You know who you are ūüôā
2. MS #1 x5. On the to-do list for tomorrow.
3. Finish edits to WIP to Chapter 9. By the end of this week.
4. Write 10k in WIP. Next week.
5. Balance job hunting with writing, CP/Beta work, and blogging. Be realistic!¬†So far, okay. I’ve read through one CP’s first draft and returned comments, have found 5 jobs to consider applying for this week, applied to one last week, and am trying to get around to everyone doing July’s #write motivation¬†and read their blogs, cheer them on Twitter, and so forth. Quite a bit more of that to do this week, but I will do my best!

This might be a silly thing, but I found tremendous inspiration this past week in a very simple Tweet. I’ve exchanged Tweets a few times with one of my favourite authors (okay, Diana Gabaldon… I’m a groupie like that). I’m 1/4 of the way into DRUMS OF AUTUMN, the fourth book in her OUTLANDER series, and I’m reading them super slow because they’re¬†so good, so chock full of history and detail, and I want to continue feeling like I’m living with these characters as long as I can. Usually I’m a fast reader but this series has slowed me way down, by choice! Unfortunately, it also means I’m up until about 2 AM and beyond every night, light on and Kindle in hand.

In any case, I thought I’d ask her, after days of perusing her website and interviews, if she outlines or not. If you’ve read her books, you’ll know that she masterfully weaves storylines and secondary characters and seemingly small events into the breadth of the overall story, pulling them in and out, sometimes making you think they won’t come up again but they do – and then you’re wondering how on earth she planned so far in advance. Not unlike JK Rowling.

This made me warm & fuzzy inside. Everyone writes in their own way, and what works for some won’t work for others – there’s no secret technique that will suddenly make you a gifted storyteller. But it’s nice to know that someone whose work I admire approaches some things the same way I do ūüėČ

On a totally unrelated note, how about Andy Murray yesterday at Wimbledon?? I’ve been a fair-weather fan over the last few years of starting to watch (and play) tennis, rooting for him because he’s Scottish. But this Wimbledon he’s played his best yet, gave Roger Federer a serious run for his money, and gave a very moving short post-game speech. I still wish he’d won, but well done!!! ūüôā

Hope your goals for this month – writing or otherwise – are shaping up!


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Reviewers Who Cry Wolf

"This is the BIGGEST TREE EVER and I'm the lord of all I survey in it!!!! Wait. No, actually, it's just a tiny tree. And I'm just a cat."

Since I’ve become more of an avid Twitter-follower (because¬†there¬†are so many awesome writers, contests, blogs, and just plain old entertaining people on there), I’ve noticed a disturbing rise in¬†overly-glowy¬†peer reviews. I love that some people are keen to toot the horns of their friends or writing peers, and when one of those peeps gets their book published, said friends and peers want to give it a stellar review – not only because it sometimes deserves it (yeah.. I went there… I said,¬†“sometimes”), but because they want shiny reviews back, and want¬†to be¬†seen¬†to be¬†positive and cheerful and just *likeable*. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that in my opinion. I’m in that boat.

But I do know a¬†little bit¬†about reviewing, from a film background. I took two years of film journalism at university on my film degree, and I’ve been writing since 2008 for a film magazine. Critical writing was a huge part of my course, and I loved doing it. We¬†were taught¬†to be¬†honest, have thoughts to back up whatever we had to say, and of course, be mindful of the house style, voice, or tone of whatever publication the review would be placed in. Basics, right?

Then why do I see so many scorching film reviews out there – fearless, unrelenting – but when it comes to book reviews, a lot of the Tweets I see are all, “5 OUT OF 5!!!! OMG, BEST STORY EVER!!”?

To quote Lester Bangs (in¬†Almost Famous), “Be honest…and¬†unmerciful.” I can hear Philip Seymour Hoffman in my head when I see Tweets like that, and I know they’re nowhere near following that advice.

I do understand. No one wants to look like negative, or seem hurtful, or God forbid, sound disparaging, including me. I know that professional (good) advice tells us writers¬†to be¬†very mindful of how we present ourselves online. With excellent reason. But nowhere does it say that we cannot be honest. The¬†old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” may apply here. We don’t want anyone in the industry, or the reading public for that matter, to think we’re displaying sour grapes or worse. So then, how do we fit in a bit of honesty? Maybe saying less is saying more, in that case.

Seriously, no one wants to send vibes out to those working in publishing that they’re negative or picky. After all, they want a following who will be kind to them, as well. They want the publishing industry to approve of their blog and reviews.¬†And when I say, “being honest,” I am¬†*not*¬†talking about tearing people down, name-calling, mud-slinging, or anything. I’m just saying the more you say how amazing something is, the less inclined I am to believe you. What’s wrong with just saying, “Hey! Just finished THIS BOOK by Author Woman. Thoughtfully written! Check it out!! (insert link).” Personally, I’d be much more likely to click that link than if you start drooling and shouting at me in caps about how¬†uber-fantastic¬†it is.

This is why I’m wary of¬†GoodReads. I admit I haven’t spent a lot of time on there, BUT most of the reviews I’ve read are glowing. So the day I posted a not-so-glowing review, I felt¬†guilty, which is dumb.¬†I was being honest. One book I had high expectations for, because of the press, publicity, and people on Twitter,¬†fell¬†really low below those expectations. I found it¬†poorly written but with clever marketing. That was before my¬†naivete was stripped away and I realised that many author-written reviews on the internet seem a bit overreaching.

It’s like the boy who cried wolf. Instead, the reviewer who cried “OMG,¬†A-MAZING!!!!! WANT TO DIE, SO GOOD!” And the general reading public has every right to share those thoughts and scream with ecstasy over every book they love. They should– that’s celebration!! That’s a great feeling. I do it! I dwell on how freaking-amazing I think x, y, and z books are. I rave to my friends about LORD OF THE RINGS (because to me, it is the best book ever). But I’m talking about writers–who¬†are represented¬†or published–telling other writers and their readers.

I don’t mean to make fun of people who do that, because I love a gleeful optimist as much as the next. But¬†c’mon. Are you really being honest? I know I’ll be re-reading Tolkien’s work, Harry Potter, Jane Austen, etc. ’til I’m 90. But if you tell me a book is so good, or a hero so drool-worthy, or a heroine so inspirational, but you’re not likely to re-read this book in 5-10 years to relive its awesomeness, it might be time¬†to be¬†a little more Lester Bangs and a little less Sally Sunshine.

To keep this post from sounding utterly negative (it’s not! I promise!) I do understand that this is how the industry works. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. I’m all for that! If a friend asks me to review her book, I’m totally going to help spread the word. If it’s well-written, then even¬†moreso. I’ll post glowing reviews. But they¬†won’t be¬†filled with, “OMG,¬†SOOOOOOOO¬†PERFECT!” because while the industry of arts criticism is pretty harsh overall, that immediately tells me the reviewer is not thinking critically.

I often read a scathing review online or in the¬†Guardian¬†and still go see the film, and still LOVE it, because I rarely agree with film critics anyhow. They can say what they like, but I try not to let it colour my interpretation. ¬†I would, however, rather read a scathing review tearing apart something I liked, if they can back up their statements and approach it intelligently. I have respect for the fact they put thought into it, even if I disagree. But I’ve read a lot of critical reviews that make me think the viewer watched the trailer and 20 minutes of the film and decided it wasn’t their style so they’re going to rubbish it completely. But that’s another topic for later on ūüėČ

It’s a personal thing, though. Some people only need to see an OMG-alert and they’ll buy it. That’s cool!! I’d love someone to OMG my writing. Many someones! Just to clarify, I’m talking about writers and people¬†in¬†the industry, not the general reading public. If you are an avid reader and lover of books, then OMG away!! But if you’re a writer or editor or publisher, if it’s in all-caps, my personal taste tells me, for¬†my own sanity, I need to look elsewhere if I want help in deciding whether to read it ūüėČ

Besides that, if you’re a writer and¬†OMGs¬†and BEST¬†EVERs¬†are populating your reviews of others’ work, I’m going¬†to be skeptical about your own work ūüėČ But that should go without saying.

There. Good-natured non-rant over ūüėČ

Rainbows and ponies and happy, sunshine, smiling flower faces!
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I received a Kindle for my birthday two days ago from my incredibly thoughtful, generous, and wonderful other half. All the books in my TBR pile, however, are now jealously eyeing the shiny new technology sitting beside my bed. I’ve yet to download a book for it but grabbed samples of several that I’ve been meaning to put in my TBR pile for ages. THE HUNGER GAMES (Suzanne Collins), BUT I LOVE HIM (Amanda Grace), and A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (George R.R. Martin) are currently being sampled, and in the physical pile clamouring for my attention are ONE DAY (David Nichols), RETURN OF THE KING (I’ve just reread the trilogy for about the 5th time), and INCARCERON (Catherine Fisher).

Needless to say, with that stack and the most recent round of revisions nearly complete on my first novel, and plotting my second, it may be awhile before anything else is posted on here. Especially since I’m about to start August’s Camp NaNoWriMo (


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