Blast from the Past

Just the other day, a friend I hadn’t seen or heard from since the end of high school, found me on FB and friended me.

It was the weirdest experience. High school was forever ago, and I hadn’t thought about this friend for years. The rush of memories was profound. Things I’d forgotten. And things that had changed. He talked about other friends I hadn’t thought of for years and had lost track of. And also those people who weren’t friends, and of whom I was glad to have lost track.

I remember leaving high school and having plans. This was what I was going to do with my life. I was going to Uni and I was going to be an English and Drama teacher. It wasn’t a glitzy or glamorous, but this was my plan. Just connecting with my old friend had me looking back at this plan, and tracking how it never came to be. But how different things came to be instead.

Once we got talking, I released that his life hadn’t gone to plan either. At least not the plan he had at the end of high school. Both our lives had gone completely in different directions. Looking back like that was the weirdest experience.

It made me think of the Tammy Cochran song – Life Happens.

I don’t think I know anyone whose life turned out how they planned it. And that, for me, was a strange epiphany.

 
“I’ve learned that life isn’t really about failure and success. It’s about being present, in the moment when big things happen, when everything changes, including yourself. So I would tell us, no matter how bright we think our futures are, it doesn’t matter. Whether we go off to some fancy university or stay home and work. That doesn’t define us. Our purpose on this earth is not a single event, an accomplishment we can check off a list. There is no test. No passing or failing. There’s only us, each moment shaping who we are, into what we will become. So I say forget about the future. Pay attention to now. This moment right now. Let go of expectations. Just be. Then you are free to become something great.”

– Cynthia Hand (Hallowed)

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Confessions of a Cereal Killer 4

Photo: Lettuce by Ruth Hartnup (CC BY 2.0)
Photo: Lettuce by Ruth Hartnup (CC BY 2.0)

The other day we started our own hydroponics system. Just a small one.
1 metre x 50 cms (about 3 feet x 1 foot – ish, maybe. I’m terrible at metric to imperial conversions.)

At any rate, it’s pretty small as hydroponic systems go.
A few months ago we saw a documentary on aquaponics and kept searching for info on it. It’s fascinating. Using fish water and stones to grow plants.

No dirt.

If you’ve read my confessions of a cereal killer  (one, two and three), you’ll know my track record with plants isn’t very good. My epiphany was, they only liked me when there was no dirt involved.

Hello, aquaponics.

We wanted to try one. We have a miniature courtyard and that’s about all the space we have. So, small was our only option. Too small, unfortunately, for aquaponics. So we thought we’d give hydroponics a try. Kinda like aquaponics, only without the fish. You use organic liquid fertiliser instead.

Our ‘bed’ has 3 types of lettuces in it, 6 seedlings of each.

We planted them in pearlite and set their little tootsies in the water. And they did well.
For the first few weeks.

You see, in hydroponics the pH levels of the water is important. It needs checking weekly and adjusting when required. Plants work best in pH levels of 6-6.5. Our tap water is higher than 7.6, so we have to keep adjusting.

Planting the seedlings was the easy part. Getting the pH levels right – not so easy. We’ve been at it for a week now and we’re still not in the correct range for the tiny plants. I’m kinda worried. With my track record and plants, this may just be the last for our seedlings. Hubby tells me we’ll get the pH levels right soon and I hope he’s right.

The idea of growing our own food is amazing. Going out to the courtyard and picking greens for dinner would be wonderful. Literally minutes from field to plate. Me…growing food. All plausible.  If my black thumb doesn’t rear its ugly head, that is.

Here’s to success and living plants.
Wish me luck.

Leave a Review

If you’ve ever read a book and as you enter the real world, thought…

“Wow! That was a great book.

…or the equivalent, don’t just leave it there.

If you’ve enjoyed the story, there is one thing you can do to help the author.

Review the book.

Books are not read because they are for sale, or an advertisement was seen. Books are sold through word of mouth. If you liked a book, you’ll tell your mother, your cousin, your sister, your aunt, brother, next door neighbour, and the guy serving you at the grocery story. Reviews are just the same.  If a book looks interesting, people will go and read the review to see what other people thought. Reviews are word of mouth…only written down.

And herein lies the crux.

Apparently, writing a review is scary and hard. I’ve written a few, but I am by no means an expert. Despite that, here are a few tips that will hopefully make it less scary and a little easier.

Photo: light and books by Katie Hiscock. CC BY 2.0
Photo: light and books by Katie Hiscock. CC BY 2.0

1. Keep it simple

I liked the book because…

The KISS principle applies. While a review is ‘a critical analysis’ (according to the dictionary), you’re not attempting a thesis for a Doctorate. What would you say to other people about the book? You wouldn’t go into an analytical analysis of thematic process and character motivations. (Well, perhaps you would, but for a review it’s not necessary.)

2. Keep it short

Wow. This book was amazing!

Not everyone has the time to read a 11 page essey. A few sentences or a paragraph is fine. A few paragraphs even. Leave the novel writing for the author, though.

2. Don’t review if you haven’t read it

I only read up to page 45…

That sounds like a ‘no-brainer’ but I was surprised when someone told me they wrote a review for a book that they heard other people talk about. I still can’t wrap my head around it. It doesn’t make sense to me. It isn’t possible to gain a balanced perspective on a book you haven’t read or have only read halfway through.

3. Review the book you read

I would have liked it better if it had vampires…

Review the book you read, not the book you wished it was. If you normally read romance and this book is a crime mystery don’t review it as a ‘2 star’ because the relationship ended with the heroine being murdered and there was no ‘happily-ever-after’.

4. Be constructive, not nasty

This author had better not think of giving up her day job…

If you didn’t like something it’s perfectly okay to say it in the review, but make sure you’re not being mean about it. Books are subjective. There will always be things that not everyone will like. Say why you didn’t like it. Perhaps the characters could have been better developed, or you would have liked more description of the location…but don’t attack the author. There is no need to say that you thought the book was a sanctimonious pile of camel dung. That helps no one.

5. Do say what you liked

I  give it 5 stars.

Great, you’ve given a book a ‘5 star’ rating. Yay!
Why? Did you like the characters? Or one in particular? Did you like the twist? Did you like the location? Did the book make you cry? Or laugh? Was it a book you couldn’t put down? Was there a scene you particularly loved? Say it in the review.

6. Don’t give spoilers

They all died…he took poison and she stabbed herself. 

This is the one I appreciate the most. The people who are reading your review are interested in the book, but if you give things away in your review, they might as well not bother with reading the story. You can say ‘I was surprised at who the murder turned out to be’, you don’t have to say ‘I was surprised that the murderer was Harry, the best friend’s little brother’.

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Those are my pointers for writing a review. Do you have any others? I’d be interested in reading them in the comments below.

The RWDU Experience

RWDU 2016 logo
RWDU 2016 logo

 

I’ve done it.
I’ve survived my first Author Event. I live to tell the tale. Oh my gosh, I was so nervous prior I didn’t think I’d make it though. But I did, and here I am unscathed and eager for the next one – which ever Author event that may be.

As I journalled my experience, before, during and after things, some of the tense may jump around.

Fair warning.Read More »

RWDU Author Signing

RWDU 2016 logo
RWDU 2016 logo

 

On the 4th of March, I’ll be at my first Author Signing.

I am sooo excited…and nervous.

I’m excited that I’ll get to meet so many new people, and people I’ve known on social media for years, but have never met. I’m excited that I’ll be able to talk to people about my books, their books and writing in general for an entire weekend. I’m excited about meeting readers who’ve contacted me to say that because I’m there, they will be too. Just to see me, say ‘hi’ and purchase signed paperback copies of my books.

I’m nervous because I don’t know if I’ve prepared well enough. Will I forget something vital – like a pen? Or someone’s pre-order? Will I sit there the entire day without a single visitor? Well, I know I’ll have at least four visitors, but more than that?

During the weekend, I even have the opportunity to pitch to an Agent. So, while that is exciting and an amazing opportunity – it serves to make me more nervous. Will I be prepared for the pitch?

I leave this weekend on the road trip down to the Gold Coast for Readers Writers Down Under (RWDU). (So no post next week.) I’ll keep notes about the weekend and let you know after how it all went…and if I forgot anything. 😀

I went last year, as a reader, just to check out what RWDU was all about. If you’d like to read about my experience of that, you can – HERE.

See you on the other side of RWDU.

Behind the mirror

Ashcombe man thy vanity keep thee
Till Love shines Beauty and in purity
Till shattered heart within pierce free
And with single breath, mirror pass’ed be

If you’ve read my book ‘Shattered’ you’ll recognise these words, and know how they fit into the ‘world’ of the story. When I wrote the story, I didn’t realise that I was writing a ‘world’. I thought world building was what sci-fi and pure fantasy authors did. I mean JRR Tolkin created maps and languages, histories and cultures. I had a girl show up in a ‘haunted’ manor.

A few months ago an internet friend showed interest in how I created the ‘mirror world’ in Shattered. I really, really had to think about it. After thinking about it, I shook my head and told myself that I hadn’t created a world. After all, the story is set in England. That’s not a ‘created world’. It exists. As I’ve mentioned before, past high school English, I don’t have an education in writing, so I’m not always aware of the exact ‘science’ of writing a story. However, the question kept going through my head.

So, to shake it off, I went on a research mission. I researched ‘world-building’ in writing.

There are many blogs, websites and tips/tools for world building. They teach similar things. I’m not going into a list of the things I learned about world building (although I’m planning another post for that), but I am going to mention the main ‘theme’ as it were, that I picked up from my research.

World building is basically ‘the rules and boundaries around the internal workings of the world’. And it doesn’t simply relate to ‘place’.

Like a stunned mullet, I came to realise that I had actually created a ‘world’. The world of the curse and the workings of Bastian’s reality within the mirrors. Now that I had a grasp of that, I had to go back and find how I had actually managed to implement the mirror world.


The curse

The curse only potentially affects men of the Ashcombe family line.

The curse is activated by a particular action. (No spoilers – go read the book 😛 )

The curse is set against one particular mirror, and traps its victims in a solitary world behind the mirrors of Ashcombe Manor.

The ‘one particular mirror’ cannot be smashed, broken or destroyed by ‘normal’ means.

The riddle of the curse is the creation of the curse and the clue on how to break it.

There is one more rule about the ‘particular mirror’, but it’s a huge spoiler. Um…ripples are involved.

Reflections Photo: Farmhouse by Andreas Resch (Used with permission)
Photo: Farmhouse by Andreas Resch (Used with permission)

“Reflections…like sunbeams into a room.”
_____________________________

The mirror world

The world is empty darkness.

There are no solid items.

The mirrors of Ashcombe Manor are like windows, allowing the victim to see into the ‘solid’ world.

Reflections enter the world like sunbeams into a room. This a ‘rule’ I consciously added. It was an image in my head that I couldn’t get rid of. Instead of light, translucent images of furniture and items ‘beaming’ into the world.

When an item is reflected into the mirror world, the victim can solidify it for his use.

Solidification requires concentration and if the victim loses concentration he loses the use of the item.

The victim doesn’t require sleep.

The victim doesn’t require food.

There is no hot or cold in the mirror world.

The victim doesn’t physically age.

No sound passes from the mirror world into the solid world.

Sounds from the solid world into the mirror world is distorted. All sounds are muffled while shrill sounds are amplified.

Between worlds

No one can fully and sustainability see the victim of the mirror world unless there is love between the two.  –> I have a confession to make. I may have bent this rule just a little bit. I needed to have Mattie see Bastian for the story to work. So in their case … unless there was the potential for love between them. (Hey, I’m the author. I’m allowed)

There is one more rule between worlds, but again…spoilers. Think – mirror-reversed writing.

 

Photo: Sign shop, 1985 from Seattle Municipal Archives (CC BY 2.0)
Photo: Sign shop, 1985 from Seattle Municipal Archives (CC BY 2.0)

“Once the rules are set into place…”
________________________

Although I did bend one rule slightly, the research I did, emphatically emphasised that even the author cannot BREAK the rules s/he has created for their worlds. Once the rules are set into place, they are fixed.

Since the world within ‘Shattered’ was organically created, as in without knowing I was creating a world or creating rules and boundaries for a ‘world’, I think I did a pretty good job at not breaking any of them. As to the ‘why’ of creating the rules as I did, to be honest, I don’t know. Other than…that was what made sense to me as I was writing.

Now that I know more about world building and what it actually is, I’m finding it a fun process. There’s a certain megalomaniac element in creating rules that the characters (and I) must follow. And I thank Susan Roberts for setting up the challenge for me to discover the hidden world within Shattered.

If there are any more ‘rules’ that you’ve found in ‘Shattered’ that I may have unwittingly created, and I haven’t mentioned above, please feel free to let me know.

Shattered by TP Hogan – Book Trailer

Shattered has a book trailer. I’m so excited about it.

Until I won the book trailer for Nova, I didn’t know book trailers existed. And to be honest, when I say the words ‘book trailer’ to anyone they give me the strangest look…and invariably ask,

“What is a book trailer?”

Well, a book trailer is like a movie trailer, but for a book. (It is not, as my husband suggests – the thing you hook to the back of your book as you go driving down the road !!! )

Didn’t you know they existed, either? Look it up in You-tube. Some of them are horrendous and some of them make you want to go right out and buy that book.

Apparently, Shattered’s book trailer makes people want to go out and buy the book – phew – as seen by this recent 5-star review by reader ‘AM’.

I had lost my reading mojo… But I seen the book trailer for this book and could not download it quick enough I read this book today I could not put it down, had me on the edge of my seat because I could not wait to see what happened. Love the characters Matilda & Bastian and thoroughly enjoyed the journey TP Hogan took me on.

Would you like to see the trailer?