Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy Friday

Friday night. The end to another busy week. The beginning of a busy weekend. <Sigh> Fridays. I can't help but think another week is over and what did I accomplish? Both at my day job and home, the to-do list seems endless. At work, I think about what I need to do at home. At home, I constantly think of things I need to do at work. I am the human rope stretched between my (at-times) conflicting duties.

My day job pays the bills, but it's not my whole life. I have a wonderful husband and two precious, little boys plus friends and hobbies. I have a full life. I am (mostly) living the dream. When I was a little girl, I wanted to become many different things when I grew up. The top recurring occupations - writer and mother. So, I can feel deeply accomplished that I have become both. The boys occupy much of my "spare" time and I don't get to write as much as I'd like. But I wouldn't change it for the world. Even with the hardships we've had over the last 6 years, life is good.

Nearly 6 years ago, when my oldest son was about 5 weeks old, my husband became sick. We had no idea what was wrong with him. It took over a month and a week long hospitalization to determine he had multiple sclerosis (MS). Since his diagnosis, we've made a lot of changes in our lives. Some voluntary, others not. We lost friends. We had to change the way we spent money. We changed our diet. Again and again. I went back to work. My husband has not been able to work since he took ill. Although that was initially very hard for him - he was a complete workaholic - when I went back to work, his role became the stay-at-home dad instead of just the disabled person. I began to write again. I've tried to write fictional stories about the effect disability has on relationships. It hits too close to home. I am fortunate that my husband and I have been together a long time and have a very solid relationship.

I met him when I was 15 years old. We started dating when I was 16. We got married a week before I turned 23. He knows me better than I know myself. How lucky am I? I found my one true love at 16. How unlucky are we? At 30 years old, he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease with no cure. Just when all the pieces of our lives had come together - good jobs, beautiful house, new baby boy - just add MS.

Life is hard, but life is hard, in some way, for everyone. Life is also good. When I look at my sweet boys playing well together, eating their meals, tidying their toys, dancing to whatever CD is their favourite, doing pretty much anything, I am filled with an indescribable joy. When my kids give me a hug, I swear it's the best thing ever! I can't imagine life without them. Even the YEARS they didn't sleep through the night... or in their own beds.

I guess Fridays put me in a contemplative mood. How do I measure the success of my week? By what I accomplished? The items I scratched off my to-do list? The precious moments spent with my family that I will cherish forever? No contest.

Although there is something very satisfying about completing a task. I finished the line edits for my soon-to-be published novella on Wednesday and e-mailed them to the editor. It was a great relief to finish that particular task, but I have a feeling it won't be the final edit. There are some areas I changed in order to address the editor's questions and comments and I have no idea how these changes will be received. I never realized how much work went into the editing process. I have a new appreciation for all the writers out there. By the time we're through, I'll have spent as many hours editing as I did writing the damn thing - slight exaggeration, of course.

These are my musings for this week. At least this weekend is four days long for me... Happy Canada Day! Prelude to the summer... park, beach, and enough warm days to help us forget the long, COLD winter. And, if I'm lucky, a little time to write.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Digital Dependence

I couldn’t post my blog on Friday this week… this time it wasn’t because I forgot. I have been trying to post weekly on Fridays. But this Friday the Internet wasn’t working. At least we had electricity, water, and the phone. But my little boys didn’t get to watch a show on youtube before bed and we couldn’t check our email. I`m not that old, but I remember what life was like before the Internet. We used libraries and encyclopaedias (the printed kind) for research. We used the postal service for mail. We listened to the radio for music. We watched shows on TV. We used a paper map instead of mapquest. I remember what life was like before computers. We played board games. We wrote stuff out by hand. I used to write stories and poetry in notebooks which are now in a box under my stairs. We used a dictionary and a thesaurus (the printed kind). Our brains did the computing. Were these the good old days? Not a chance. We live in an extraordinary age. Just this year we added an iPad and iPhone to our list of technology. It’s amazing what my boys can do with an iPad, iPhone or laptop. Even with limited screen time, they know exactly what they’re doing. We even bought my husband a remote controlled helicopter that uses an “i” gadget for a controller for Father’s Day. It’s awesome! The possibilities are endless – what can’t technology do? It’s like Star Trek come to life. The whole “if you dream it” thing. Well, someone’s dream certainly became a reality and we are living it!

Without technology, our society would be crippled. Already the use of computers is impacting how we teach in schools and how we live. My five year old son is already asking for an iPod. I didn’t have a walk-man until I was at least ten.  I first used a computer at school when I was six. My family got our first computer when I was ten. And there was no Internet until I was sixteen. I barely used email until university. I got my first cell phone at twenty. It was a different time. I now have two email addresses and two Facebook accounts to manage daily. A blog. My own laptop, an iPad, and an iPhone. The iPhone is the most recent addition. But no data so I can still claim I don’t have to be connected all the time. Just when I have access to Wi-Fi.

I love the fact that my boys are so tech-savvy. By having access to technology we are giving them a leg up for survival in this world. I was teasing my five year old about wanting an iPod and I started singing “‘Cause I’m a twenty-first century digital boy. I don’t know how to live, but I’ve got a lot of toys” to him, then I brought up youtube on my phone and started playing it. I forget the artist – I’d have to google it. A few years ago, I couldn’t even imagine the possibility. Yet here we are with access to a world of information literally in our hands. And the possibilities are endless. But we still take time as a family and make an effort to have screen-less time. We play board games, build lego, and go to the park. They play soccer. They ride their bikes. My kids play outside and aren’t glued to a screen 24/7. They watch their Saturday morning cartoons and their shows on youtube. They play games on the iPad and iPhone. But they also know how to play without screens.


We have technology. We use it. We may even need it. But we can live without it. At least for two nights when we go camping. Or when, for whatever reason, it isn’t working.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Almost 30,000 Words. . .and Counting

My WIP is coming along nicely. I have 50k as my final target and I am nearly to the 30k mark. Writing is a fun hobby - but an unbelieveable amount of work. I have literally poured blood, sweat, and tears into this. And the worst is yet to come. . . editing! I can best describe editing as a heart wrenching, devastating experience. A situation where you go out on a limb and bare your soul only to have it trampled on and quite positively crushed. Even the kindest critic makes me flush with embarrassment over all the little mistakes and omissions I've made. I want to be better. I know I can be better. Why can't my critics/editors see inside my head and immediately know what I meant? There's always room for improvement. . . I guess. . . and I hope I am improving. Time will time.

Right now, I'm also tackling some professional edits. After 3 intense rounds of content edits, my line edits are in for my soon-to-be published story. I thought my story was about the best I could make it, but I was sorely mistaken. My manuscript is covered in comments. This editor is different than the one who did my first 3 rounds so some of the comments are contradictory. We'll see how it goes. It's my first experience with line editing as it is my first time being published. Published. Now that takes the sting out of my latest writing fumble. Let me savour the satisfied feeling that word creates for a moment. I am driven to write, but I am so pleased and proud to have my work published. It motivates me to work on my current WIP, propels me toward the 50k mark.

I used to find finishing a story was the challenge. But the real challenge is in the polishing. Like a diamond in the rough, my editors are guiding me to polish my story into a sparkling success (I hope). I am eternally grateful for this opportunity even though the process is both heart wrenching and devastating. No pain, no gain, right? The end result is all that matters. Completion. The holy grail of writing.

My editor also mentioned my cover art is almost finished which is really exciting. This whole process is amazing and exhilarating and somedays I have no idea what I'm doing or where I'm going next. But I know one thing, I love books. I love reading them and I love writing them and I am fortunate enough to have the chance to do both.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Guest Post from author Summerita Rhayne

Guest week concludes with a post from the talented Summerita Rhayne with some writing pointers. Enjoy! 

Five pointers for your perfect chapter #writetips

Hi Maya, thanks for inviting me to your blog. Lovely to be here. Today I’m feeling rather pleased with myself and I’d like to share why.

Often writing is full of setbacks and frustrations. Characters veering away from the story. Dialogue dragging. Descriptions ballooning into essays...we have a phrase in India - sleeping, weeping and eating (sona rona khana) can be stretched any length and so can the descriptions. You name it, you got it. All writers know, the troubles are innumerable. And let's not even mention the pov woes. Sometimes I have started on a character’s pov and nearly written almost a whole book. Some characters have lots of internal dialogue ;)
But then there's the rewarding aspect of writing. When you go back and read something you have written and it's perfect. You know when your writing says exactly what you want to say in the same tone and without the description of it taking away from the flow of the story. That moment is what you write for! This happened with me yesterday. I was reading a book and as usual comparing myself to the writer and bringing myself down. Thinking I could never get to THE point. Then I closed the book, in a woeful mood and began to reread the work in progress. I came across what is at present chapter seven. And voilĂ  it was there. I had written a perfect chapter. One that satisfied my logic seeking mind and also was re-readable. There are parts in my ms which I like, love or hate and some which could be done better (thank God I’m editing) but this one I’m not going to retouch.

So how do I measure perfection?

Here are the things I look for in a perfect chapter. 

1) Pace
 This is the absolute, foremost must for me. If the story drags, reading slows down and becomes weighty to the reader. In this, dialogue is a handy tool. Smart dialogue sprinkled with what action characters are doing, adds to the pace.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter I’m currently liking too much (no knowing tomorrow it may show up some flaw ;) I like the way the dialogue adds pace to the reading. Do you agree?

‘Samara. Inside. Now.’ Tahir paused a nanosecond near her desk on his way to his office to deliver the imperative.

There was no reason her hackles should rise, she was used to his brusque ways, wasn’t she? 
‘I’ll just finish typing this letter and come.’

‘I said this instant.’ A sharp tap of a blunt index finger on the glass top of her table punctuated the words. He didn’t wait for her response, striding off beyond his office door.

2) Conciseness Next thing I work on is brevity. This is a bit tricky because you need to write the necessary action without being clipped. I’d say for emotional reaction, just show small changes in facial expressions or some telling gesture relatable to the character. You want to show anger? Write terse, pithy phrases. Want to show surprise? Just have your character drop something.

Here’s another snippet in which the hero’s mood is conveyed through short pithy phrases.

‘Have you prepared the due diligence report I asked you to?’
‘It’s in my drawer.’ 
‘What’s it doing there? Laying eggs? Why don’t I have it?’
‘Because you hadn’t asked for it.’ Mutiny sparked through her, her pulse rate increasing as she waited for his reaction, sure he would come up with something sarcastic.
He didn’t disappoint. ‘So I have to ask before you’ll do your work?’ His tone was loaded with sarcasm, as soothing to sensitive nerves as a needle bed.

 3) Description without detraction This is just a follow-on from the above point. Since we don’t want to just leave the reader scratching their head, some description is necessary. Just stay close to what is needed. If we want to feel the breeze, focus on a single object like your heroines hair whipping across her neck, rather than describe the effect on each and every thing the wind is blowing at in the scene.
Soon they were weaving out of Delhi traffic. He turned on the road to Manesar. She slid up her sun glasses, attempting to enjoy the breeze on the open road, finding her eyes straying to him as he leaned back, handling the controls with ease, looking deadly with those aviators and those spikes. Thank God he couldn’t see behind her glasses.

4) Show characters’ motivation and emotional state without passive telling Does your chapter focus on their behaviour in synchrony with their internalization? If your heroine is tired, does she misplace things? Put the cookie jar lid on the mixer instead?

In this portion, the beating of his pulse is the external sign of his anger.

‘Do I pay you to cross-question me?’ His brows lifted in what looked like mildly inquiring expression but she could see by the pulse that beat at his jaw that she’d angered him. This man was living breathing fire. She didn’t want to get in the way of his blast.
Or maybe she did.
‘It isn’t easy when you keep on trying to find fault in everything I do.’ She told him, meeting his glance.

5) Interaction between the characters propels the scene forward  A punch should mark the end. Something you need to establish or change or the charcaters react to. A chapter – not even a first one – can’t just be there to set the stage for your story. Have the characters act the change or react to the change.

A short time later they descended the lift and came out on the compound. Samara hesitated as he led the way to his silver Audi. She knew he drove it himself. It wasn’t that she hadn’t been in the car with him before but on those occasions they had been in the backseat discussing work. Driving with him seemed much more informal somehow.
‘Let’s go.’ Tahir directed.
‘But the team?’ Maybe she could travel in the company car.   
‘They’ve left. I just feel like a drive today. Why are you hesitating, Samara?’ He moved to the driver’s side, a sudden edge appearing to the apparent soft voice, ‘Not afraid to be in the car with me, are you?’ His drawl sent her hackles up, combined as it was with a mocking grin. 
‘Of course not. It just feels odd to be driven by my boss.’ she said coolly and climbed in beside him, determined not to give him anything to get hold of. 
  She drew her legs in and shut the door, her skirt riding up in the process. ‘Aren’t you wearing your skirt shorter than usual?’ She’d been about to draw it down but now she resisted the urge out of a mutinous impulse she hadn’t known she could have. It arose from the censorious tone he’d used. And the deliberately personal nature of the comment. 
‘I don’t see it’s any business of yours.’    
‘So it wasn’t for my benefit?’ he fired the car and soon they were turning out of the gates.

So this is my take on the necessary ingredients to whip up a pefect mousse of a chapter J
Since I don’t often feel like this about my writing, this chapter did a huge uplifting of my spirits...the feeling stayed with me...still is...and it's going to psyche me to write better for days to come.

That's how praise from a reader can work. That’s why you shouldn't hesitate to share your work. In the beginning it’s very hard to show what sounds like our own gibberish to anyone. We are full of wonder but to actually have someone read it, still requires courage. So do show, but look for genuine praise only where it is deserved. Give yourself encouraging pats when you hit the nail right on head. 

Me, I'm going to hug this floaty feeling for a while yet
J

So what are the things which make you love your writing? What makes you feel frustrated with it? What are your must-haves in a perfect chapter? Would love to hear from you.
.........

Twitter : @summeritarhayne

Monday, June 2, 2014

Guest Post from author Allyson Carter

It's guest week with Maya... visiting me today is the lovely and talented Allyson Carter here just in time for her latest book release, Wounded Hearts.

Q: Tell us something about yourself and how you got into writing? How long have you been writing?

A: I’m a wife and mother. I home school my four children and have three on the Autism spectrum. In my free time, yeah like that happens often, I knit.

I was going crazy 5 years ago stuck in a snow storm with the kids. I remember waking up with this idea in my head. At this time, I’d not written anything since high school. Only a couple friends knew that I wrote and back then it was mostly poems. This idea for a YA book wouldn’t go away, so I got my two oldest daughters going on their schooling for the day, and then sat down at the computer and started typing. The book just poured out of me. That’s when it all clicked and I knew I wanted to be an author.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: This book came to me 5 years ago after I worked on the YA book. It was strong and I could see and hear the hero and heroine speaking. I just thought what would happen if a woman had been so burned by her ex? I went from there. It took me 5 years to get it just right. The book went through two major rewrites.

Q: Please briefly describe your book.

A: It’s a book about a woman being stalked. She’s been burned bad by her ex-husband, doesn’t trust him. She must learn to turn and trust her brother’s best friend to keep her and her daughter safe.

Q: Who is your favorite character and why?

A: I can’t pick just one. I love them all!

Q: This book is a part of a series (Southern Morality). How many books are you planning in this series? There will be 4 books with maybe more. Who will be featured in the next book?

A: Shelby’s best friend Mary and her brother Jace.

Q: Any advice for those aspiring novelists out there?

A: Don’t ever give up no matter what someone might tell you. You keep pushing through and chasing your dream.

Thanks for your time, Allyson. I wish you success with Wounded Hearts and all your future work!


Thanks so much for having me on your blog!



Blurb

After a bitter divorce, Shelby Johnson is looking to rebuild a life for her and her daughter, Hannah, while avoiding the thing she mistrusts most: men. Her resolve is tested, however, when her brother’s best friend, Mark, moves in across the street and her long-buried feelings for him return. Can she possibly open up her heart again? Is she willing to let herself love? When someone threatens her life she quickly realizes that her heart isn’t the only thing on the line and she turns to the only man she feels she can trust.

Reliving everything he lost overseas, Mark Daniels goes back to his hometown to try and live a peaceful life but instead gets caught up in Shelby’s troubles.. He knows she needs someone to protect her but can he be that man? Except, being near Shelby again is making him feel things he’d rather never feel—again. When his past comes to haunt him in a way he never excepted, he vows to protect Shelby and her daughter until his last breath

Excerpt

“Stay right here, sweetie.”
Reaching in, she picked up the paper. At first the words written on the thing didn’t register. She had to re-read them twice.
Keep quiet or else.
Her hands shook. A lump formed in her throat. When Mark walked out to the car, their gazes met. She noted the concern on his face as he stared at her.
“What’s the matter, Shell?”
She tried to talk, but nothing would come out. When he rushed to her side, she gave him the note. The words had been created with letters out of magazines or something, glued to the paper. She tightened her hold on Hannah. Someone had put the paper there when they were a few feet away. Why?
“Take Hannah and move to the sidewalk.”
Shelby nodded then moved to where he told her. He pulled out his cell and punched in a number. Mark moved with determination as he talked on the phone with the police. Within moments, a squad car showed up. So much for not having attention on her while she was out with Mark. Who had put the note in her car? Better yet, how did they get in when she’d locked the car?
“Shelby, do you have someone mad at you?” Detective Moore asked as he shut the door to his car and made his way over to her.

You can buy Wounded Hearts here.  Allyson can be found around the internet at Facebook, Twitter and her website.