Tuesday, May 31, 2011

10 Signs of An Approaching Deadline (take 2)

As I battle with my deadline, here's a timely list from a few months ago.

10. Your normally loquacious imagination now mumbles "Umm..."

9. You've worn a path in the carpet from your pacing.

8. You notice you're typing more typos than actual words.

7. You have to describe a sunset. The only word that comes to mind is 'pretty'.

6. You're drinking cold coffee.

5. The manuscript you swore yesterday was near-to-perfect now reveals itself as riddled with errors.

4. Your knowledge of rudimentary grammar and spelling seems to have disappeared along with your typing skills.

3. Your closest relationship is with your thesaurus (see #7).

2. You're convinced this manuscript is the one that will give away that your previous success was an error and you actually have no talent at all.

1. You promise yourself you'll never put yourself through this again. You know you're lying.

Monday, May 30, 2011

First Impressions

I'm busy finishing up a mystery game which is due this week, so here's a rerun of a popular post I wrote a few months ago. I found rereading it served as a good reminder for me - I hope you'll enjoy it.

Most of us try to make a good first impression - we check our clothes for stains, ensure we're wearing matching shoes, maybe even practice a few phrases. Good first impressions pave the way to second impressions; and after that, the sky's the limit!

Take a look at your current manuscript and see what first impression your main characters make. I always try to ensure:

  • The reader may not necessarily be meeting him/her at their finest moment (or maybe they are) but it is a moment that will demonstrate one of the character's priorities.

  • There something intrinsically likable (in my opinion) about my main characters. People want to learn more about people they like or can identify with in some way. It might the situation the character finds themselves in, it might be their background, it might be their love of shoes - but there's something that makes the reader want to read on.

  • No character makes the same first impression as another. My logic is the reader is just getting to know these people - I try to keep it as easy as possible!

  • I will not introduce a continuing character in a way that harks back to a previous event in an earlier story. The reader may not know the event and will start off feeling that they're missing something. That's just mean.

  • I'll always choose dialogue over description.
First impressions - you can only make them once.

Make them count.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fun Friday

Welcome to Fun Friday. Here's a selection of puns to make you smile - or groan.

Have a great weekend!

Those who jump off a bridge in Paris are in Seine.

A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

Dijon vu - the same mustard as before.

Practice safe eating - always use condiments.

Shotgun wedding - A case of wife or death.

A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.

When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.

A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two tired.

What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead give away.)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.

She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in
Australia - the LAN down under.

Every calendar's days are numbered.

A lot of money is tainted - Taint yours and taint mine.

A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

A midget fortune-teller who escapes from prison is a small medium at large.

Once you've seen one shopping centre, you've seen a mall.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

Acupuncture is a jab well done.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thirties Thursday

If you went to the movies (or, as they would say, the cinema) in Britain during the 1930s, this is the beginning of what you would see first, before the feature presentation.

Unfortunately, this is only the introduction to the newsreel, not the newsreel itself. Remember, there were no televisions - if you wanted to know what people looked like or sounded like, you had to look at pictures printed in magazines or the newspaper and listen to them on the radio or these newsreels.

It was a useful tool to direct public opinions....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Size Doesn't Matter

In writing...

there are moments like this...

and moments like this...

Of course, this is an accomplishment...

But some days...

so is this...

The important thing to remember
(I think)

Is whether you're enduring days like this...

or rejoicing in days like this...

We must all strive to do this...

So retreat into your version of this...

and grab your this...

or this...

hey, whatever works...

and remember...

you too...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

10 Steps to...

You woke up with that feeling...today you will write and you will write well.

Step #1: Get out of bed as the echo of the trumpet call is still ringing in your ears.

Step #2: Remember legos - that wonderful, educational toy that your children played with when they were small? Remember how you were sure you cleaned them all out?

Step #3: Now relive the agony of stepping on one of those little **&&#ers in your bare feet.

Step #4: Remember now you're in one of the still-slumbering children's bedrooms. You can't scream...or give loud voice to that poetic phrase that leapt to mind.

Limp downstairs.

The coffee carafe is empty.

Step #1: This is fine. You can rise above this. Your ancestors have survived storms, starvation, etc. You can certainly get the coffee out and refill the canister.

Step #2: There is no coffee. None.

Step #3: Try to ignore the panic that threatens to engulf you. Breathe.

Step #4: Remember you hid a jar of instant coffee for emergencies such as this.

Step #5: Grab the jar and try not to notice that you are hunched over it protectively whilst hissing "My preciousssss..."

Carry the steaming mug of magical elixir to where you will write.

Carefully place the mug down on a flat surface.

You know what's going to happen...don't you?

Step #1: To hell with those trumpets. Go back to bed and try again later.

Stupid trumpets.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Peek into Victorian Life

Here in Canada, it's the first long weekend of summer. Celebrated on the closest Monday to May 24th, this holiday is named for Queen Victoria, who was the monarch when Canada became a nation rather than a colony back in 1867.

Traditionally, Victoria Day weekend is the time when Canadians plant out their gardens and head out for the first weekend of camping. I'm not traditional.

Here are a few pieces of trivia about Victorian life. Enjoy.

When a woman entered a room, it was considered rude for a man to offer his seat to her because the cushion might still be warm.

A glance into a bedroom was considered improper if viewed by a visitor, so bedrooms were located on the second floor.

A lot of men used macassar oil to slick back their hair. Crocheted doilies, called antimacassars, were put over the backs of chairs to keep this grease from staining the furniture.

Families were very important to Victorians. They were usually large, in 1870 the average family had five or six children. Most upper and middle class families lived in big, comfortable houses. Each member of the family had its own place and children were taught to "know their place".

Queen Victoria's white wedding dress is the beginning of the tradition that is still followed.

The Victorian era was a period of extravagant entertaining for the upper middle and high classes. Victorian meals consisted of as many as nine courses, although many dishes were light and petite-sized. Fine ingredients, such as exotic spices imported from distant countries, were used in lavishly prepared meals. Detailed measurements and instructions were written down for the first time during this era. New kitchen gadgets such as the can-opener and Ball-Mason jars were introducted. In addition, Victorians began adopting a host of manners and customs surrounding mealtime, in accordance with Beeton's maxim: "A place for everything and everything in its place."

The institution of afternoon tea became highly popular during the Victorian era. Afternoon tea was invented by Anna Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857), one of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting. During this time, the noble classes ate large breakfasts, small lunches and late suppers. Every afternoon, Anna reportedly experienced what she referred to as a "sinking feeling," so she requested that her servants bring her tea and petite-sized cakes to her boudoir. Many followed the Duchess' lead, and thus the ritual of afternoon tea began. Fine hotels began to offer tea rooms, while tea shops opened for the general public. Tea dances also became popular social events at which Victorian ladies met potential husbands.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun Friday

Here's a light look at the wonderful world of blogging. Enjoy. If the world doesn't end tomorrow, I'll see you on Monday.

Here's hoping.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thirties Thursday

More fashions from 1938 - featuring many Norman Hartnell designs who went on to design for the present Queen for many years (including her wedding dress).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Take a Breath

When you're busy doing this...

It's very easy to feel like this...


(let's be honest)

Our writing to get a wee tad this...


Take a moment to do this...

And do your equivalent of this...

Or do this...

Go outside and count the new this...

Although if you're me, it's easier to count the new this...

Listen for this...


and trust me...

Your writing will go from this...

to this.


At least, you'll feel better.

It's a start.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

10 More Lies You Tell Yourself While Editing

10. I meant to write this scene three times. It's an important scene.

9. No one will notice that the location of the rooms in the house keep moving.

8. My main character isn't an insufferable prig. He's just wise.

7. These jokes are funny. I know, I wrote them.

6. (if you're writing a mystery) It doesn't matter that any of my first readers haven't been able to solve the mystery.

5. It matters even less that they say my solution comes out of left field. It's not unsolvable - it's incredibly clever.

DANGER! DANGER, Will Robertson!!

Back to our list...

4. You can't have too many colourful, quirky characters. More is more.

3. Oh look. I didn't write that scene three times, I wrote it four times. Wow. It's like Rashomon.

2. My main character is in two places at once. Obviously, my he/she has an identical twin.

And one big truth...

1. Any editing pass will go quicker with chocolate. But...watch out for crumbs.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Evil Skippy's Writing Tips

Other writing blogs will give you tips on how to improve your writing. How to develop your characters. How to muscle on through to the end. How to be productive.


Today, your evil twin Skippy brings you 10 things to do instead of writing.

10. When was the last time you looked at your high school yearbook? Find it. This will either be a fond nostalgic trip down memory lane or a reason to go buy boxes of liquor.

9. Realize your house will never be as clean as the one you grew up in. Get comfortable with this thought while lying on the couch and watching the dust motes surf the air.

8. Reach into the back of your refrigerator and open that plastic container. You get 10 guesses on what it used to be. Bonus points if it has developed a pulse.

7. Go outside and marvel at how fast the weeds are growing in your garden. Consider how much easier your life would be if it was socially acceptable to just grow weeds instead of flowers.

6. Can you guess how many stairs there are in your house? Try. This might be important knowledge some day.

5. Think about how many writing projects you are presently working on. Although you are not actually writing at the moment, this will make you feel productive. Celebrate this productivity with a cookie for each project.

4. Start composing the thank you speech for the many awards you will receive one day. Practice your winning smile in front of a mirror while holding a shampoo bottle.

3. Turn on the TV and cruise up and down the channels. Remember when you were a teenager and there was always a good show on? When did this change?

2. Find out how many odd socks are sitting where ever you keep odd socks. Notice how the pile has grown since the last time you looked. Nope. Still no matches.

1. Wonder what your pet is thinking. Really wonder. Now, get a bit nervous and slowly leave the room.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fun Friday

For your amusement today, here's a selection of complaints received by a British travel service.

It is to weep...

1. "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."

2. "It's lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time - this should be banned.

3. "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all."

4. "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels."

5. A tourist at a top African game lodge over looking a water hole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel "inadequate".

6. A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she'd been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the "do not disturb" sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.

7. "The beach was too sandy."

8. "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white."

9. A guest at a Novotel in Australia complained his soup was too thick and strong. He was inadvertently slurping the gravy at the time.

10. "Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women."

11. "We bought' Ray-Ban' sunglasses for five Euros (£3.50) from a street trader, only to find out they were fake."

12. "No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."

13. "There was no egg slicer in the apartment..."

14. "We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish..."

15. "The roads were uneven.."

16. "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only took the Americans three hours to get home."

17. "I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends' three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller."

18. "The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation'. We're trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying here?"

19. "There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners."

20. "We had to queue outside with no air conditioning."

21. "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."

22. "I was bitten by a mosquito - no-one said they could bite."

23. "My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thirties Thursday

Here's a fascinating look at how Walt Disney made their cartoons, long before CGI was even a glint in somebody's eye. Remember, in the '30s this was cutting-edge technology.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Don't Panic!

Hey everyone....

Have you noticed it's already this?


Instead of doing this...

Do this...

Even if your desk looks something like this...

Don't hit this...

(or this...)

Take a look and see which project is the closest to this...

and remember how good it feels to do this....

and always try to remember this...


I'll be off in the corner doing this...

with a giant glass of this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

10 More Things I've Learned about Writing

10. It's okay that it's really rough because it's only the first (second, third, forty-seventh) draft.

9. Always have liquid within reaching distance. NOTE: reaching, not spilling.

8. Pacing and muttering quickens the writing process and (in my world) counts as exercise.

7. I am a far more talented writer in my head than I am on paper.

6. Writing suspense is hard. Writing a love scene is hard. Heck, writing is hard.

5. No, writing is easy. Writing well is hard.

4. There is no harsher critic than the one you hear in your head.

3. Cherish the brilliant plot twist that leaps into your mind just before you go to sleep because you won't remember it in the morning. NOTE: writing down "window is smeared" won't help. You may have thought that was all you would need to remember, but you erred. Grievously.

2. Crumbs are difficult to dislodge from your keyboard.

1. Remember to laugh. It will keep you sane. It's always better to laugh than pressing 'delete'. Trust me on this one.