Wednesday 29 December 2010

IT'S TIME TO GROW GILLS (i.e. I've made a decision and want to ask you some stuff)

So, the New Year is coming up and all, so I figure I need a New Year's resolution. (Well, no I don't, the decision didn't come about because I thought I needed a resolution, the resolution element is just a convenient addition to my decision.)

Anyway, I made a decision, and the idea of telling all who are willing to hear seems to be a psychological trick to set the decision in stone - so here I am - setting it into cyberstone.

The decision:
In 2011, I am going to prioritize reading works (which I have not yet read) by authors that inspire me to become a better writer - i.e. Margaret Atwood, Marilynne Robinson, Raymond Carver, Milan Kundera, Rebecca Miller, and my new-found love Anne Lamott. (But do not fear, if you have a debut coming out that you'd like me to read, gimme a shout and I'll TRY MY BEST TO MAKE time for it.)

You see, in 2010, I read A LOT of debuts, and took chances on A LOT of authors I'd never read before. And it was great. Really, some mega surprises can be found in the unknown, so I'm SUPER glad that I did that. (I also read a lot of stuff that really wasn't my cup of tea and kinda think I wasted time - but yer know, live and learn). But I will do it again - when the time is right.

But you see, I've missed my lovelies. And I have a novel coming out next year, which has made me realise, "OMG, my 'career' is being kick-started. I need to keep growing as a writer.' And to do that I need to be inspired. So, I've decided to be a little more selfish with my reading.

I need to swim in literature that makes me grow gills so that I can breathe under water. I need to read the works of authors that, somehow, take me to a place deep deep under the sea, where all exterior noise is drowned out; where the world around me turns into an unfocused swirl of unidentifiable color; a place where my own creativity is sparked; where my mind is free to roam in worlds only I know how to breathe in.

So there you have it. My decision. But if you have read the authors I mention above, and you know of any authors you think I might be inspired by, please holler. This decision doesn't mean I don't want to explore new authors, it just means that I want inspiration and am going to go where I'm guaranteed to find it.

On another, more smaller note, I'm also hoping to find a good work/writing/love-life balance. Something I am yet to perfect. I should get my butt in gear, I dunno, I should write up a daily schedule or something instead of living in my usual fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mode. I need some structure. Because 2011, is already filling up with 'have tos'. Yep ... I need to find a balance. I need a routine. I also need something that forces me to get out of the house and away from the computer more. Perhaps a part-time job, doing something non-editing/writing related. Hmmm ... that's a thought ...

So this leaves me with a few questions for you:

1. What authors inspire you to become a better writer, and why?
2. Have you found your work/writing/love-life and/or family balance? If yes, how? If no, are you going to try to in the New Year?
3. When you make a decision, do you feel the need to 'set it in stone'? If so, how do you go about that?
4. Do you spend too long at your desk? Do you feel you need a 'reason' to get away from it, or are you good at self-discipline?

Have a wonderful New Year!

Sunday 26 December 2010

There Are No WordsThere Are No Words by Mary Calhoun Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It didn't take long for me to realize that this book was going to be one-of-a-kind. On page fourteen I was already salivating at Mary's stunning prose.

It is a heart-warming YA historical fiction tale told from the perspective of a 12-year-old autistic girl named Jaxon. Though I believe it suits more to the Middle Grade genre, it definitely will not disappoint any young adult reader, nor will it disappoint an adult! Beautifully written - magical. It pushed me directly into her world and I found it very difficult to put it down. It had me turning the pages as if I had to before they melted from my fingers.

And I totally agree with Jaxon when she says: "The problem with most books is that when I read them, all the adventures in the book happen to me right then. But the authors almost always write about everything in the past. Sometimes the authors will go on and on, describing a hill or a sunset, and I can't help thinking it wasn't worth remembering. If they would just tell what's happening when it's happening, then there would be no need to remember."

Well, there is definitely no need to try remembering anything about this book because the story is eternally engraved into my mind. Thank you, Mary, for the wonderful experience!

View all my reviews

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Praise = Constructive Criticism. What do you think?

  • Do you ever hold back praise in fear of not constructively criticising someone's work? 
  • Do you ever hold back praise because you think the author/writer is brilliant and knows it? (Believe me, we may think we're brilliant in small bursts of temperamental self-confidence, but it never lasts. More often than not we think we're terrible.)
  • Do you ever hold back praise because you think the work has so many problems that need to be dealt with before offering any?
  • Do you ever hold back praise out of jealously?
  • Do you ever hold back praise due to thinking the writer might believe you're not very well-educated in literature and therefore can't find anything to criticize?

Well, I say stop it. You know why? Because praise can act as constructive criticism too. Sometimes praise motivates us to do better because we want to continue to impress the person who has offered it. We want to continue to write well (or whatever the project may be) in fear of disappointing the praiser the next time.

  • Praise is a push in the right direction.
  • Praise inspires.
  • Praise goes a lot further than you think.
  • It's not just flattery - it's validation.
  • Praise makes writers want to write more - artists want to keep creating.

So go ahead! Praise someone. You might even make yourself feel good too. :o)

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Yikes! My To-Be-Read list is getting OUT OF HAND!!! How many are on your list this holiday season?

Monday 20 December 2010

Godspeed You! Black Emperor inspired me to write.

Anyone heard of this Canadian band? Well, my 'significant other' brought them to Athens on the weekend to play a two-night show and I went to see them on the second night. Absolutely amazing!

They play instrumental post rock, which isn't something I'd usually pop into the CD player because I usually like to sing along to stuff, but I tell you, seeing them live was an experience I'll never forget. Not only was the show sold out, which added to the whole experience (you know - being squashed, hot and having to jump up and down to get a decent view above everyone's heads), but the music seemed to tell a story - moving sepia images behind the band also played a big part.

The dynamics of the music were up and down and all over the place. One minute, all that could be heard was the tiny pluck pluck squeak of the violinist, and the next a deafening ensemble of two drum kits, two guitars, synthesizer, bass guitar, double bass and electronic voice samples that made the earth move under my feet (OK, now I'm singing Martika).

This all got me thinking about how to include all the amazing senses I experienced. For example, this is how I could describe a mere sixty seconds of my night:

A desperate whine of violin and distorted voice samples hush the chattering crowd like ebbing rain. A deep groan of double bass vibrates through the ground, through my legs, body, arms, tightening my throat - my eyes flit in epileptic awe at images of morphed refinery fire. Hash and beer breath from the aggressive goth stepping on my toes tickles my nose like cat fur. Flashes of youth pulsate from my fingertips as I grasp the sweaty metal railing. A rigorous bass drum enters on the off-beat. Synchronous delayed gritty electric guitars unite with the rhythm, creating an eruption of sundry emotion - hot tears sting my cheeks. It should be me up there. It should be me on that stage.

Here's a video of the night I found on YouTube:

So how about you? Did you do anything on the weekend that inspired you to write or create?

Friday 17 December 2010

A Woman as an Element on the Periodic Table

Today I'm going to leave you with a little laugh, wishes for a Merry Christmas and a New Year!!! Enjoy the holidays everyone, and see you all again on January 3rd! :o)

Thursday 16 December 2010

My impression of love ... What's yours?

Tears stain the porous page with nostalgia for a time when love meant the world would stop spinning on demand; when obsession meant an urgent need to create, rather than anger, regret and yearning lodging themselves below my nails.

When the heart, the chest, the beat of hunger, heaves in anticipation to experience the most desired intimate act, before words become routine—the embrace—the original kiss—the permeation of love through touch, through body, a mere vessel to penetrate my soul.

I dissolve into this thought, this heat, this wave, letting my arms fall to my sides, as a sweet mauve scent plunges me into a place I have yearned for all my life—a place where love is not an expression of lust, or ink, or the familiar yet distant voice I remember now and then—it is a place where love is tangible, and lush, like the fruit hanging from the grape vine in the rain. Ripe. Wet. Waiting to be devoured.

What is love to you?

Wednesday 15 December 2010

A mess of infidelities ... or not? (caution: controversial discussion topic ahead)

I've been reading 'Life Before Man', by Margaret Atwood, and last night wondered ... what would I do in Elizabeth's position?

Scenario in brief:
It's set in the late 70s. Elizabeth is depressed because her lover committed suicide. She's married with two children. Her husband, Nate, screws their cleaning lady. They both know about each others' lovers and accept their infidelities - they even know when they're going to see them to make sure there is someone always home for the children. They continue to live together 'for the children'. Elizabeth gossips with her cleaning lady about Nate, gaining psychological power over her. Nate breaks up with cleaning lady when she asks him to leave Elizabeth. Cleaning lady whines to Elizabeth afterward. Nate starts to have another affair - with Elizabeth's work colleague. He even speaks to Elizabeth on the phone about evening plans at his mother's while he is in bed with his new lover. Neither Elizabeth nor Nate have any intention of breaking up their marriage ... so far.

I'm only half way through the book, so I don't know what will happen when Elizabeth finds out about her husband's new lover. Will she start to have an affair with her husband's lover's boyfriend now? Or will she realise the whole thing is getting ridiculous and start another life? Who knows.

Anyway, my point here is ... how long can something like this go on? How can two people who once loved each other be knowingly promiscuous in front of one another and not hate every minute of it? Who in their right mind would put themselves through that hell? Or is not hell? Is it freedom? Is it ideal? Perhaps it's better not being tied to one person all our lives.

What do you think?

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Funny Greek to English translations

I was waiting in line in the post office the other day and overheard someone on the phone which inspired this post. All she said was 'kaneis diakopes'. Which literally translated means 'You're having a holiday'. But guess what it means in context? 'Your phone signal is cutting out.' Weird right? So I thought I'd share with you today some other odd phrases. Caution - some are a tiny bit rude.
It will go in this order :

Greek - literal translation - meaning in context

koufalitsa - small hole in a tree - crafty/cunning person

ade kourepsou - go have a haircut - stop talking about things you're oblivious about

tha se fao - I'm gonna eat you - I'm really angry for what you did

Tha sou alakso ta fota- I'll change your lights - You're screwed.

Tha fas ksilo - You'll eat wood - You'll get a smack.

Siga ta Laxana - slowly the vegetables - It's not a big deal.

Tha mou tripiseis tin miti - You will pierce my nose - You can't do anything to me.

Tha mou klasis ta frithia - You can fart on my eyebrows - You can't do anything to me.

Ai Pkniksou - go drown yourself - leave me alone

kolopedo - bum child - misbehaved child and/or bastard

min mou zalizeis ta arxithia - don't make my balls dizzy - Stop saying nonsense to me.

Pao na kano ton psofio - I'm going to act like a corpse - I'm going to have a rest.

Kane ton psofio korio – I’m going to act like a dead bug. – I’m going to pretend that nothing happened.

se grafo sta palia mou ta papoutsia - I am writing you on my old shoes - I'm ignoring you.

If you live, or have lived, in a foreign country, were there any strange phrases that caught your attention?

Monday 13 December 2010

I want an Aussie Xmas. Beer, Beach & Barbecue, Baby!

I want to crawl into a corner and hide until Christmas passes. I used to love Christmas. When I lived in Australia. It was hot, festive, full of beer, beach and barbecues in the backyard with raucous dirty-minded family members who filled the holiday season with laughter.

My mother, too, thrived in the environment - spitting out penis jokes using sausages as props. Everyone's free-spirits came out to play. Quite an unusual way to celebrate to the unaccustomed, but a celebration I will always hold close to my heart as the 'essence' of Christmas - pure uninhibited fun.

But now, I live in Greece. It's freaking FREEZING. I am a million miles away from family. My parents and Greek family live on an island eight hours travel from me, and to top it off, Christmas isn't even really celebrated. New Years Day is the day people exchange gifts here. And on New Years Day it is tradition to spend the entire day with family until midnight - a family who don't understand our 'sense of humour', and the whole event (if we even get together, that is) is all too civilised for my liking. I want to hold a bottle of beer in front of my groin, tip it over, and pretend I'm a bloke relieving his bladder, with a comic, almost orgasmic, sigh to boot. Ha! If I did that in front of my old frail Nona ... well, I wouldn't even try to do that.

Anyhoo, what's my point? My point is, Christmas just feels like a chore to me right now. I could totally just spend the entire time at my computer pretending it is just like any other day. But I won't. I'll plod through it. Try and do some fun stuff with S, and with my parents if they manage to get to Athens in this weather. I will try to smile - to be happy - and hope that maybe one day, when I have kids, my dirty mind will rub off on them too, and we can start the Aussie tradition all over again.

What was your childhood Christmas like? Is there anything that you miss about it?

PS: Congrats to Chris Phillips who won C.S. Lakin's Someone To Blame! In the end, she chose the winner with a random number generator because she thought all of the answers were great! Chris, the author will email you directly. Enjoy!

Friday 10 December 2010

Dribz and Drabz, Bitz and Piecez and Reminderz ... Tell me your news and I'll add you to this post!

If you think your manuscript is ready for submission and are considering giving it to a professional editor for a fine-tuning, I am now expanding my Editing Services. Check out what I offer HERE or HERE.

An anthology called School Days, which includes a short story of mine called Knickers With Trucks On Them is now available at Pill Hill Press. It will also be available on Amazon soon.

Don't forget about signing up to win a signed copy of Someone To Blame, by C.S. Lakin. All you have to do is answer the following question in the comments of THIS POST and leave your email address:
How is blame destructive to ourselves and others? And what are some ways we engage in blame and don’t even notice?

C.S. Lakin will read all your comments on my blog and choose the best answer. The winner will be announced next Monday 13th.

Last but not least, don't forget about Shannon McMahon's Anonymous Critique #3! Shuffle on over and join in the fun!!!

Have you got any exciting news? Let me know, give me the appropriate links and I'll add you to this post!!!

Hannah Kincade, Summer, Sarah (Falen) are hosting a NaNoWriMo 2010 blogfest in January! Go check out the details!

Elena Solodow has just announced her 100 Words for $100 Blogfest! Wow! $1 per word! Check it out!

Jackee is having a 200th post celebration where for every time someone buys a book for a child (any child) this Christmas, I'll match it with a donation of a school supply kit to a humanitarian aid organization. There are also chances to win books for commenters.

Chris Phillips has a haiku contest on his blog that will end with his 65th follower!

Jamie Gibbs just received a letter saying that he achieved a distinction in his Egyptology Master's Degree :P (woohoo! Congrats, Jamie!)
Deniz Bevan is *this* close to finishing her second draft and only 11 followers away from 100 - she's holding a thank you contest on her blog!

Carolyn Abiad had a small victory this week. On December 5th, the Turkish national newspaper Milliyet's blog recognized my blog for presenting Turkish women in a positive light.

Thursday 9 December 2010

I like to speak my mind ... as you may have noticed.

Ok, well, this post has come about today because TWO of my lovely blogging buddies freaked a little, thinking that yesterday's post was about their MS'. Now, I'd just like to make it clear that I would NEVER publicly express frustrations about someone's unfinished MS. For three reasons.

ONE: it's unfinished.
TWO: it has been given to me to critique in confidence and I would never ever share my thoughts with anyone other than the author. That would just be totally betraying their trust. And I could never do that to ANYONE let alone people I've developed wonderful friendships with.
THREE: it's unfinished.

ALSO, I'm a very open kind of person. I like to talk about my feelings. It's me. It's who I am. I'm an in-ya-face Aussie who likes to rant and rave and not feel pressured to censor my thoughts.

BUT, I'm also very kind-hearted, and love my fellow writers as if they were family, and like to offer them support whenever possible. I also disagree with putting people down (whom I know and do not know) in public - which is why I DID NOT reveal the book I was talking about yesterday. I just couldn't do such a thing because I know how much it would hurt me.

So, yes, I'm a strong believer in honesty. And I WILL speak my mind. But I do take others' feelings into consideration. So, friends, you can trust that if you ever give me a WIP of yours to read, I will not talk to anyone else about it except you. That is a promise.

How are you with expressing your opinions online? Do you ever have second thoughts about what you want to say? Or do you come right out and say it?