Category Archives: champagne

Aspiring authors; make a pact.

I was visiting Ollin’s site, Courage to Create this morning, and remembered an important part of my journey towards publication. It happened a long time ago, took seconds, but I suspect it was a pivotal moment.

I’d joined a writing group. I think there were about ten of us; all keen and excited to be working on our manuscripts, looking for useful advice and hopefully some positive feedback and encouragement.

Slowly, the numbers dwindled.  Some left after a rejection from a publisher. Or because life can get hectic and writing can start to look like a self-indulgent hobby. For all kinds of reasons.

In the end, it was just me, and Stephen.  We were both passionate about writing, absolutely determined in our desire to improve our work and stubbornly fixed in our quest to find a publisher.  Over a glass of red wine one night we shook hands and made a pact.

To never quit. Not ever.

Not when the rejection letter came in. Not when we couldn’t see a way to write the ending or improve one of the sagging chapters in the middle.  Not when we read a brilliant book and feared we’d never be good enough to scrape the mud from this author’s boots.

We sent each other interesting articles on writing. {Thank you Ste for the McKee book} We commiserated when we got rejected. And celebrated the wins. We gave each other stern talkings-to if one of us wavered and wanted to quit.

And we did it.

The books we were originally working on when we met were put aside and we started new ones. We were working at different speeds, trying different approaches, contacting different publishers, writing different genres, but somehow, in a weird twist of fate, we somehow managed to have our novels come out in exactly the same month: June this year.

So, here’s my question, writing friends; who can you make a pact with? If no one comes to mind, then perhaps it’s time to reach out and find some like-minded literary types to connect with.

Then, once you have your buddy ready….

… just hold out your hand [virtually is fine too] and shake hands, and make the same pact Stephen and I did all those years ago.

To never quit. Not ever.

I wish you all success and joy along the way.

xxx

Lisa

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How can you know someone intimately and still get their name wrong? And other notable book launch moments.

The Milk Fever book launch was a day that came wrapped in a pretty box. The forecast was for rain and cold weather but the sun made an appearance, albeit briefly. A huge arrangement of “Secret Admirer” flowers arrived as I was making coffee; working out who sent them was relatively easy as only four people call me “petal”, and the other three fessed up quickly.

I remembered everything I needed to remember, which wasn’t much.

My family and friends took care of everything else, which included, but wasn’t limited to; organising the catering and drinks,  producing huge posters of the book cover and sticking them everywhere, straightening the seams on the back of my stockings, pouring champagne, fixing my nail polish, (because my hands were unsteady}, reminding me not to drink too much, bringing food, loading and unloading boxes of stuff, giving me a guest book for everyone to sign.

There were people doing the money side of book sales, saying kind words, taking photos (which I will post soon}, reminding me not to drink too much, making canapes that looked too good to eat, and yet eaten they were, sending me secret signals to smile, while I was squirming with embarrassment at all the kind words being spoken by the angelic, talented MC.

There was generous praise from a beautiful, warm-hearted, best selling author, an angel singing her latest single, which she subsequently titled “Julia’s Song” after the main character in Milk Fever, floral arrangements that took my breath away. Every copy of the book was sold and orders taken for more.  I was hugged to pieces and loved it.

A perfect day.  Until, a Leo (read; ‘honest’} friend, told me that I’d spelled someone’s surname name wrong in the acknowledgment’s page.  Impossible, I said.  So I marched over to ask my friend if this was true. Yep, he admitted, I got it wrong.

At which point, a Scorpio (read; witty} friend said something that I can’t actually print here, but it was along the lines of, “how can you know someone so intimately, and still get his name wrong?”

That is a good question. But in my defence, I… I…  Okay, there is no defence, I should have checked and double checked.  But if it’s any consolation, there is a copy of Milk Fever out there that has my name spelled wrong. It was a lapse in concentration, a slip of the pen. I wrote Lia, and had to squish in an “S” between the two last letter.  And yes, Lisa is my real name and I’ve been writing it correctly for years.  But we all make mistakes.

The good news is, I stuck to my “two glass limit”, woke up full of sunshine, and received giddy calls from people the next morning who read the book overnight and fell in love with it.

When I first got the good news that my book was going to be published, I couldn’t figure out if that meant I was lucky, or clever. Standing in the room on Saturday with so many generous, warm, smart, funny, loveable people, I realised that it was the former; I am very, very lucky.

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Should I be me or pretend to be someone better?

Milk Fever tiptoed into the book stores on Tuesday, and I thought long and hard about what image (or brand) I needed to project as a writer (many people have told me I need an image).

Right, an image.  I should probably try to look intellectual. [No more pink; my favourite colour].  Perhaps I should dye my blonde hair too?  My best friend claims to feel smarter now that she is a brunette.  Or do people just treat her differently? Not sure. I might experiment with that one.

My biggest fear is that I will say something ridiculous.  I am a blurter, you see.  I say whatever thought drops into my head in the moment, without censoring. I was born without the censoring chip.

Well, here is the list so far:

1. Dye blonde hair dark, people will assume I’m an intellectual.

2. Glasses?

3. Wear black more often, ditch the pink stuff.  Fortunately, I have a sleek looking black dress for the launch, although that leads me to number 4…

4. Observe a strict two glass limit on champagne in order to lessen blurting tendency. [I’m quite likely to blurt out things like, I love you, I don’t want to, Let’s go for it, That looks horrible etc. These are the mild ones.]

5. Do not engage in political conversations with anyone, ever, because this is an area where I can really show my ignorance. Stick to the weather.

6. Do not do a book reading when nervous, because nerves can make me dyslexic.

It’s not an inspiring list. I don’t feel like doing a happy dance when I read it. Although, it will probably keep me out of trouble. It’s what a lot of authors are, naturally, without trying.

Let’s see how I go.

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Is a book like a baby?

Books and babies can both be difficult to put down. They demand your attention when you have other things that need doing. They invoke a feeling of fierce loyalty when someone criticizes one you cherish.

An uncommon romance

And writing a book is a bit like being pregnant; morning sickness (nausea; when you discover that the words you wrote yesterday are not as brilliant as you suspected).  Fluid retention from sitting on your backside for hours and days at a time. Cravings for food, coffee, substances in an attempt to get the brain working.  And tiredness. Because using the brain and imagination can take up a lot of energy.

Then, the advance copy finally arrives in the mail; the moment you’ve been waiting for.

Holding the book in your hands after all the writing, stressing, rejections, stressing, re-writing, stressing, acceptance….stressing, editing, proofing, acknowledgments, stressing, photos, cover, is sheer heaven, and it’s quite likely that the baby won’t leave your hands for the rest of the day.

But tomorrow TODAY!! my baby is stepping out into the real world. Its first day of school. In the world of books. It will find its place on the shelves in the ‘R’ section. And I hope the other books will shuffle over a little to give it a place. I hope they are kind, because it’s still a bit wet behind the ears.

Hopefully, it will be read, and people will like it, although they might not, and that’s as it should be, because we all have such different tastes and I do respect diversity of opinion.

Yet, ultimately, we have to let our children go, out into the big wide world, no matter how scary that is, no matter how much we fear for them. And perhaps it’s scarier for mum than baby anyway. I do recall that I was the one who cried when my real child went to school for the first time; he, however, did not even look back. Sigh.

Not to worry, I think I’m pregnant again.

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5 of the Best Writing Tips I’ve been Given

One thing I’ve noticed about writers is that they seem to be a fairly generous bunch, well the ones I’ve met have been anyway.  Whether its a best-selling author, a teacher at the local school, writing buddies met online, they’ve all have a few kind words.  There is a sharing of information, a camaraderie, a willingness to help each other.

Perhaps it comes down to the fact that most writers are sensitive; we probably spent most of our childhoods with faces inches away from the printed page.  We still spend long hours with our faces close to the page, although it’s often a blank one; as we strain to make our brains and imaginations work.

Coffee can help.  Red wine too, on occasion.  But don’t make the mistake I made and email a potential publisher after consuming more than two glasses.  There will be typos, grammatical errors, and sections of text which might not make any sense when you re-read it the next morning.  Fortunately the one I emailed was lovely, and slightly amused.

Anyway, the following 5 tips have been passed on from very kind, wise authors, who would probably never drink and email:

1. Just write and don’t edit – yet. There are two very different hemispheres of the brain involved in the writing process.  The right side, which is the creative part, the home of the imagination.  This part needs to be uncensored.  It gets shy easily and will flee at the first hint of criticism.  Get too mean and it will give you a serious case of writers’ block.

The second part relies on the other side of the brain.  It’s a champion at editing; the cool, rational, fault finding part.  What’s important is to not confuse the two.  In the beginning, just get the words down on paper.  Don’t be tempted to fuss and fiddle with the first sentence over and over in order to get it perfect.  Write and don’t look back. Then once you have say 1000 words down on paper go back over what you’ve written and, with a more critical eye, see what’s working and what’s not.  Even better, put the writing away until the next day.  Some distance will allow you to be even more objective.

2. Be willing to cut and burn. Okay, you’ve just written the most brilliant sentence, paragraph, chapter, book.  The words should be framed, put to music, immortalized.  But if they don’t fit, and sadly sometimes they won’t, get rid of them.  A friend suggested I get a special folder for the deleted stuff and put anything I chop safely in there.  What a great idea. Now I can cut and paste it and know that it’s all retrievable. Although, I must admit, I very rarely use it.

I have two whole manuscripts I’ve dumped because they just weren’t working.  But that’s okay.  I could always go back and tinker with them one day if I get bored.  One of my favourite chapters from Milk Fever was given the boot.   And I loved it, I really did.  It was well written, it was haunting and a bit scary.  But my editor suggested getting rid of it.  It just didn’t fit.  And as I sat with the idea I realised she was right.  The chapter was good, but it just didn’t fit.

So, remember, if it isn’t working dump it, chop it, change it, delete it.  Or better yet cut and paste it somewhere else.

3. Be inspired by others, but be yourself. Reading some of the brilliant books out there it’s tempting to try to emulate one of the greats.  This is a good practice initially.  One of the best exercises I came across in a writing book suggested taking a paragraph or so from your own writing and then re-write in the styles of different authors; try Hemingway, Austin, Flaubert etc.  Quite amusing.

But ultimately, you will need to find your own voice.  Let’s face it there is no one else on the planet exactly like you.  You have a unique way of experiencing the world.  So let your own expression come through.  And I suspect that our own voice is the one that comes most easily to us.  There is a rhythm to it that matches the way we speak and think.  It will be fresh and uniquely you. So, don’t be a watered down version of someone else.  Be you, beautiful you.

4. Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait. Charles Reade’s immortal words of wisdom.  Whether it’s in the theatre, on a stage or in a book.  This is simply terrific advice.  The raising of questions and then delaying a readers gratification for the answer is a clever devise.  I’ve waded through pages and pages of trash, just because I can’t stand not knowing the answer.  And no, I never flick to the end  and read the last page.  Just can’t do it.  Wish I could.  Check your own writing to see if it contains some unanswered questions.

5 Don’t get Aunty Bev to read it.  Unless Aunty Bev happens to be an editor at a large publishing house – but even then I’d hesitate.  I’ve let my mum read a couple of my novels and she thinks they’re brilliant.  Every single one – even the ones that make me hang my head in embarrassment.

But is my mum, or Aunty Bev or my best friend going to give me honest feedback?  Probably not, it’s kind of like asking your boyfriend how you look those skinny jeans.  The fear factor, and the love factor, prevents him, and them, from telling you the truth.  So either send it off to a Manuscript Appraisal Agency or if that’s out of your budget, then consider a writers’ group.  I was blessed to find a great one through the CAE.  Also, once you’ve written your novel, short story, autobiography, recipe book, put it away for a couple of months – at least.  When you drag it out again, it will be almost like reading someone else’s work and you’ll get a much clearer picture of how how it’s working.

Well, that’s it for now.  Thank you to all those literary angels who shared their wisdom, who encouraged and motivated me and commiserated sometimes too.  I’m very grateful.

ps. For a reason I can’t understand I am lazy about blog editing.  Why is that?  Must explore further.

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