That’s a wrap – Sunday 10 December 2017

Monday before the rain

This week has brought with it deluges. Yes, I know that sounds exaggerated, but deluges we’ve had. Just when I thought that it wasn’t possible for rain to come down any heavier than we’d already seen it come down, Monday proved me wrong.

We had a waterfall in our backyard, and the pool lounge simply floated up and out of the overflowing pool.

Then just as we thought that was as heavy as we could get, down it came again last night. Again the pool overflowed, and the high water mark in the backyard was briefly a number of inches above the sodden ground.

In between was sunshine.

Now I love a good storm. Give me a bit of thunder and lightning and a downpour and I’m inspired. But this was damaging and low lying areas near us did suffer some flooding – including one of my favourite cafes in Mooloolaba, The Velo Project. Their Instagram account showed the water literally pouring in.

Anyways, enough about the weather…

What I’m loving…

The colours in our frangipani. Whether it’s against blue sky or grey, it’s striking.

A random sunset…

After a massive storm on Tuesday night. Striking, hey?

Where I worked…

While I always do my corporate work at home, I’m finding that I work much better on my personal writing projects away from the home office. Mooloolaba Surf Club is a favourite – as is Chances at Mooloolaba Wharf.

Where we lunched…

At Saltwater, one of the new offerings down at the revamped, re-energised Mooloolaba Wharf. What the developers are doing down here is fantabulous. Not only does this place have a really smart menu, the price point is very affordable ($10 for excellent fish and chips on a plate with a view), it’s licensed and the chips are amazing…really amazing. You know how sometimes the idea or the smell of chips is better than they taste? Not this time. All crunchy.

the view

Hubby had the fish and chips, Miss 19 had a couple of salmon cakes ($8 for two) that she said were better than mine – yes, I’m wounded – and I had the prawn sandwich ($10) which was essentially a prawn cocktail in a soft roll. I was in heaven.

What was disappointing…

Eumundi Christmas Markets on Friday night. We were all set to have a night of Christmas cheer and shopping with street food. Unfortunately, it not only pelted down with rain, but only a small proportion of the stall-holders set up. Very disappointing – and after we’d got the sort of carpark that you usually can only dream of getting.

What made my week…

Yesterday I caught up for lunch down in Brisbane with some ladies that I’ve known in the blogosphere for some time. Not only was it great meeting them in real life (IRL, as we say it) but it truly was like catching up with friends that I hadn’t seen in months. We all just clicked. Don’t you love it when that happens?

What I read…

I didn’t so much read as devoured Nicki Edward’s “One More Song.” It made me cry buckets in an absolutely good way, it took me to a part of Australia that I adore, and it told the story of characters that engaged me from the first few pages.

What I watched…

Miss 19, Adventure Spaniel and I had a movie afternoon today with Elf -one of our Christmas classics. It’s even better on the big screen…

I’m also beyond excited that The Crown Season 2 has landed, but I just know it’s going to play havoc with my word count. I can resist many things, but that isn’t one of them.

This is usually a political free zone but…

I restrain my personal political opinions here as much as I possibly can, but this week when the marriage equality bill passed, I was not only thrilled but relieved. It’s been an embarrassing fact that Australia has lagged behind other countries in legislating something that I personally believe we should not even still be debating in 2017. Love is love, and now it’s yes.

What I’m loving…

Just how over the top some people are with their Christmas decorations. There’s an entire street just down the road from us where every house (bar two….tutt tutt tutt…) is decorated to such an extent that the electricity grid must groan every night when the lights are turned on. Christmas seriously is the one time of the year when more is absolutely fabulously more.

How was your week?

Happy Ever After – the Week 5 Update

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to write a novel?  I’m in the process of writing a new novel and will be blogging my progress week by week here.  

I’m back into the manuscript. I still haven’t decided what it will be called, but given that I’m just shy of 60,000 words and on track to finish the first draft by Christmas, I’d probably better think about that. At the moment the working title is Happy Ever After.

When I’d first got the idea for this story, I described it to friends as being sort of like what happens after the happy ever after. The stuff they don’t tell us about. The curve balls that life throws us when we’re in our late forties, early fifties and the kids are almost off our hands. The things that happen when we should be coasting happily into, if not retirement, then at least something not as exhausting as what we’d spent the last twenty or so years doing.

I was going to write about the ageism in corporate life – and the bullying that goes on behind that. It was to be my revenge of sorts against the company my husband used to work for. I wrote all of that into the story and then deleted most of it – while I still have zero respect for them, we wouldn’t be living where we are now if they hadn’t done what they’d done. Once I’d let that go I was able to see what was going on around me and my characters began to take shape.

It started me thinking about everything else – how lives can change in a heartbeat right at that time when we’re thinking about coming down a gear. Divorce, health issues, death, ageing parents, adult children, loss of employment – all of that seems to hit at this age. Right at that point where we’re about to reap the rewards of the hard work and stress, whoever it is who rules the roost up there seems to decide that she has other plans for us – and life all of a sudden looks very different to the version that we’d envisaged.

That’s the premise of this story. Neil and Kate Spence fell in love when Kate was just eighteen after a chance meeting at a Midnight Oil gig that never happened. Then they fell out of love. In between were a few decades, two kids and a lifetime of memories.

Rather than the career that she’d envisaged – fighting the good fight for those who couldn’t fight it – Kate’s reality is one where playing happy families now includes Neil’s new (and very young) girlfriend, Vanessa. It’s not at all what Kate expected when she encouraged him in his quest to find himself by hiking to Everest Base Camp four years ago.

But when Neil finally asks for a divorce, secrets and longings that Kate thought she’d buried begin to surface. Can there be another chance for Kate and Neil, or has the universe got other plans for them?

Yes, the above reads a tad like a blurb – something I tend not to even contemplate until I’ve finished a book, but here I am writing it now. To put that into perspective, I haven’t even written the blurb yet for I Want You Back…and I need to.

The words stopped for a while – I wrote nothing for the week after I hit the 50,000 mark. That coincided with the wall that I’d seen approaching in the distance – a wall that was a pivotal scene that I knew that I had to write, but that I truly didn’t want to.

I’d got to know Neil and Kate and care about them. This scene would change everything – and it was the hardest thing I’d ever written…so far. In writing it, not only was I challenging myself, it almost felt as though I was tempting my own fate – ridiculous, I know, but since when does logic come into it? I cried buckets as I wrote it. I guess that’s a good thing.

Anyways, once I got that scene out of the way I was able to push through the wall and the story is again moving. I still have no idea how it’s going to end, but that’s all part of the fun.

My target is to hit 65,000 words by the end of this weekend. I’m on track for that. Watch this space.

That’s a wrap…

 

I’ve been in Sydney (for work) for most of this week, so not a huge amount to report. We’ve had rain – buckets of it, gallons even. Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad, but we did get about 300mm over 3 days – more than 3 times the usual October average. The tanks are full, the lawns are green, and things are all still a tad soggy. We needed it but.

What I’ve been reading…

 

The Word is Murder, by Anthony Horowitz. You know how much I love Midsomer Murders, well, Anthony Horowitz was the one who adapted the series from the books by Caroline Graham. he’s also responsible for Foyle’s War – which I also love. Why wouldn’t I be into his books?

I picked up The Word Is Murder at the airport the other day and was unusually grateful for the inevitable delay that rain brings to Jetstar flights out of Sunshine Coast airport. As an aside this is because there are no air bridges and people seem incapable of walking in rain in a purposeful manner. Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen? Your hair gets curly?

Anyways, this is essentially the story of a reluctant author named Anthony who happens to have written Foyle’s War and Alex Rider, and some Sherlock Holmes, who gets dragged into a murder mystery with an unlikeable detective he met on the set of another of his creations Injustice.

It was all so realistic I found myself googling the names of the murder victims. Aside from the story – which is very cozy crime, something else I adore – I loved how he laughed at himself and the life of the successful writer throughout. Without giving any spoiler alerts, there’s a particularly farcical scene involving a script meeting with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. The reviews I read haven’t been great, but what do they know? I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What I’ve blogged…

I’m updating some of my older Bali posts from and anyways for this website. So far I’ve posted why I’m so hooked on Bali and a recipe for Bumbu Bali. I also posted a training plan for nanowrimo and managed to get a newsletter out. If you want the recipe for Dragon Wings with Avocado Dip that I included in the newsletter, you’ll find it here.

Over on the Sunny Coast site I popped up posts on the new kid on the Mooloolaba block, Central Beach Club, and something on a seriously luxe bar under the Spirit House wing, Hong Sa.

What I wrote…

Not much, I’m in copy edit mode!

What I scheduled…

Baby, It’s You and Wish You Were Here will be available on iBooks from October 25. I’ll pop the links in next weeks wrap. Of course, all 3 books are already available on Amazon… If you’re interested, and of course you are, you’ll find the links in the top menu bar.

What I decided on…

My cover for I Want You Back, and some new logo designs. Below is a screenshot of the cover – I’m yet to receive the jpeg, but you get the idea.

What I started planning…

And I’m using the word planning extremely loosely…my novel for nanowrimo. I have an idea that I’d like to take 30 days and 50,000 words to explore. It’s about grown-up issues with grown-up characters and is sort of what happens after the happy ever after – what happens after bin night, I guess.  I have no idea whether it has legs yet, but if it doesn’t, I’ll have only wasted a month.

A photo of a flower…just because…

I’m loving jacaranda season and am thrilled there’s one in my front yard, but this lovely lilly that I saw at The Ginger Factory today was screaming out to be photographed…

Ok, that was my week…how was yours?

30 things that make me go aaah….

jacaranda tree

Yesterday morning I sat watching some whales do the tail and fin thing as they swam the length of the beach. I’d brought my coffee back to a seat at The Loo With A View and was gazing out to sea when I saw the first blow not far past the shark net buoys.

As others cottoned onto what was happening only a couple of hundred metres off shore, more and more people stopped what they were doing. They stopped swimming, they stopped walking, they crossed the road from the shops and coffee shops. Cars pulled over to see what everyone else was looking at, kids pointed, adults stared.

For those few moments we stopped and we were in the moment – regardless of what else was going on. We were all watching the whales and everyone was awed.

I’ve been completely moved by the whale migration this year. We didn’t see much from shore of the northern migration, but they tend to come in closer on their way back down south. Sometimes it’s just a tell-tale blow or a splash where there are no boats that give them away, sometimes it’s the curve of the body as they dive over and down, sometimes it’s the flash of the tail or the wave of a fin. It never ceases to make me just stop and watch. They’re totally amazing creatures and seeing them fills me with complete peace.

It’s the same on those days when the dolphins are about. Sometimes I feel that seeing them it’s a sign that no matter what other crap is going on in the world, these magnificent mammals are out there – so everything can’t help but be ok.

Anyways, the feeling from this morning stayed with me through the whole of the work day that followed. It got me thinking about the other things that bring me pleasure – often fleeting moments of pleasure, but pleasure none the less.

Once I started writing, I forced myself to stop at 30 although I could have gone on…and on…and on…and that’s a good thing…right?

  1. Early morning walks
  2. The welcome from my dog when she hasn’t seen me for a few minutes/ since last night/ since this morning/ since I came back from dropping rubbish in the bin
  3. Doggy smiles
  4. The flash of colour from a rainbow lorikeet
  5. The early morning warble of a magpie
  6. The smell of jasmine when the sun hits it
  7. Watching the sun come up
  8. That silvery sparkly look of the ocean when the sun is on it – when it looks as though a million diamonds have been sprinkled across the top of the blue
  9. Taking my bra off at night
  10. The bubbles in sparking mineral water
  11. Having a pee when you’ve been holding on for what seems like ever
  12. That smudge of new green in the Spring
  13. Jacaranda flowers on the horizon
  14. Jacaranda flowers when they drop and carpet the lawn
  15. Autumn leaves – I miss autumn leaves
  16. The crackle of frost on a blue day – yep, miss this now too
  17. Bees on lavender and rosemary bushes
  18. Fresh sheets
  19. Shaved legs and fresh sheets
  20. Clean hair after being on the beach
  21. The smell of sparklers
  22. Writing my name in the air in sparklers
  23. Writing the name of the one I love in the air in sparklers
  24. Blowing bubbles
  25. Popping bubbles
  26. Popping bubble wrap
  27. Seeing a dragonfly
  28. Making a wish on a dandelion
  29. That first sight of the ocean as I come over the hill from Buderim Rd to Mooloolaba Esplanade every morning
  30. Walking on the beach, in the water, after work and feeling the wind and the salt whip away the day

What are the little things that do it for you?

Because it’s Thursday, it’s also time to get our happy on with the Lovin’Life linky.

To join in the Lovin’ Life Linky, all you’ve got to do is: Link one post about what you’re currently lovin’ in life. Read two or three posts from other Lovin’ Life Linkers and leave a comment so they know you’ve dropped by. Spread the Lovin’ Life word and feel free to link back.

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | Debbish | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

The linky goes live at 7.30am every Thursday and finishes at 7.30am of a Monday (Australian Eastern Time). Click on the link below to join in…

Why you should write a novel in November

So anyways, November is around the corner…and if November is around the corner, so too is NaNoWriMo. Nano wtf? National Novel Writing Month.

Essentially the challenge is to, along with a few hundred thousand other people, get 50,000 words out of your head and onto a page – or a laptop -during the month of November. It’s a bit like a novel writing marathon.

By the end of November, our poor little novel writer’s wrists are burning, our eyelids need propping open, our body fluids have been gradually replaced by copious amounts of caffeine or alcohol, and most of us have hit a wall at some point through the process. In our case the “wall” isn’t extreme physical exhaustion (although it can be) – more often it’s a blank screen, or page.

The hardest part of the process by far is fitting writing a novel in around life – because, as we know, it doesn’t stop just because we’ve committed to writing a novel. For those of us with kids, November is the time of the year where end of year exams and end of year performances and presentation nights all start to fill up the calendar. In addition, most of us have jobs and other responsibilities. We don’t have time to add writing a novel to that list. Do we?

So, if it’s that flipping hard, why do we do it? To be honest, asking a writer that question is a little like asking a marathoner why they lace up the trainers to put their bodies through 42kms of pain, or asking a climber why they do Everest. The answer is simple – because it’s a challenge and it’s there.

I’ve done it most years since 2009. Each of my novels has started life during Nanowrimo. Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry were both managed while I had a full time job – with large chunks written in hotel rooms and airports during office relocation projects – and all the things that go along with being a Mum with a (then) school age child. The bulk of Wish You Were Here was written during nanowrimo in 2015 – even though I was on a road trip through Britain for the 2nd half of November.

I even signed up last year – even though I knew that I’d be on Milford Track with access to no technology for a week of the month. The first 30,000 words of I Want You Back came from that.

Should you enter? Yes. Especially if:

  • You’ve been talking about writing a book someday for ever and flipping ever
  • You’ve got a story in your head that needs to escape
  • You like a good graph

Need more convincing?

  • 50,000 words isn’t a full novel (unless you’re writing novellas, category romance or children’s books), but it’s a bloody good start.
  • It’s a great way to take a new idea for a test flight. By 50,000 words you’re going to know whether it’s got legs and, if it doesn’t, you’ve only wasted one month. In my view, that’s an efficient outcome.
  • It doesn’t need to be a novel. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about a non fiction project, a memoir, a collection of short stories or poems, a screenplay.
  • It never needs to be seen by anyone other than yourself. The book I wrote in 2009 was vaguely semi semi autobiographical shite. It will never be published – although I have used parts of it in everything I’ve written since. I’d had it in my head for so long that writing it down allowed all the other stories that had been waiting their turn behind it in my brain to come tearing out. (I think my brain is a tad like an air traffic control tower.) Anyways, that character – my runaway astrologer Alice – has her own story that I’ll be writing this year. And no, it’s no longer even vaguely semi semi autobiographical. Except for the astrologer bit.
  • It’s one month where you can experiment with different genres, different voices. Again, if it doesn’t work, you’ve only wasted a month. The year I drafted Big Girls Don’t Cry, I experimented with writing as if it were a project plan ie from the end backwards. The year I wrote Baby, It’s You, I wrote to a playlist. I wrote 3 different viewpoints in I Want You Back. Because it is only a month, you can try out different techniques to get you through the wall, through the saggy middle, and to have a little fun with the process.
  • Even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, you’ll have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning.
  • It’s great training. To be a writer you have to get in the habit of writing – every day.
  • If you’re a plotter or edit as you go, this is a great opportunity to just let the words flow. See what happens. No edits – not until December 1.
  • You get to see the graph on the nano site. It’s a great graph.
  • With nanowrimo, there’s no escape, no catch-ups. If you’ve been struggling to establish a writing habit, I can’t think of a better way to do it.

Am I entering this year? Absolutely. I have Alice’s story – or the The Book After The Book That’s After I Want You Back – to tell. It’s the last in my Melbourne Girls series and will tie up any loose ends – all the way back to Baby, It’s You.

If you’re up for it, you can sign up at the official site. You’ll find forums, events, cool widgets for your blog, emails of encouragement and a cast of hundreds of thousands of other people doing it with you. I’m Astrojo, so if you’re signing up, come follow me.

Introducing The Hungry Writer – and wrapping the week

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this week’s wrap-up is coming to you from a different website.  I’m phasing And Anyways out and am in the process of transferring some of the content across to here.

Why have I done this?

I originally created the author page midway through last year with the aim of showcasing my books and a focus on building my author profile – with a view to, of course, selling more books. There’s no point creating a product if no one knows about it.

And Anyways started life in 2012 as an overflow blog for everything I wanted to write about that didn’t fit on my astro site. With very few exceptions my astrology readers didn’t want to know about my travels, my life, or my writing. They just wanted the astro. Given that there’s a lot of them – almost 400,000 visitors in 2016, that’s what I give them. But I still wanted to write about my life – my travel, my experiences, the things that inspire my fiction. And anyways was created.

Yet, as I’ve begun publishing fiction the site address – a nod to a phrase I use constantly – has proven to be problematic. This came to a head a couple of months ago when there was a lot of confusion about what my site address actually was for the RWA program.

It’s become clear that I have 2 personas:

  • Jo Tracey who writes DIY astrology and
  • Joanne Tracey who writes fiction

My site statistics tell me:

  • There is negligible crossover from the Jo Tracey Astrology to either joannetracey.com or andanyways.com. Even when I’ve specifically linked in a post or a newsletter.
  • There is a little traffic from anyanyways.com to the astro site
  • There’s a lot of traffic from andanyways.com to joannetracey.com – and vice versa.

This tells me that the rambles of the hungry writer (my tagline for and anyways.com) and the books created by the hungry writer – based on those rambles – belong together.

It hasn’t sat well with me to have these posts on a different site from the books they inspired.  Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry are both set partially in Bali. Baby, It’s You, Big Girls Don’t Cry, and I Want You Back are set mostly in Melbourne – as will be the catchily titled Book After I Want You Back and Book After The Book After I Want You Back. Wish You Were Here is split between The Cotswolds in England and Queenstown, New Zealand.

In splitting the sites I’ve compromised both my traffic and my reach – and made life harder for myself from a content creation viewpoint. Yes, I’m a travel and lifestyle blogger, but primarily I’m an author.

To cut a long and increasingly boring story short, this site, The Hungry Writer, will be where you’ll find all my posts.  I’ve purchased the domain the hungrywriter.com.au and will be pointing it in this direction over the next week or so.

I still have some tweaking to do and widgets to set up, but I hope you can find your way around here ok.

For my and anyways readers, there will usually be one writing post a week going up here – probably on a Wednesday. For my author page readers, you’ll be seeing more travel and lifestyle posts. I’d really love it if we can all get along.

And for my astro readers? Jo Tracey Astrology is remaining unchanged. You’ll find it where it always is – here. I’m also keeping my Sunshine Coast blog separated for now too. If you’re interested in places to go, see and eat at on the Sunshine Coast, you’ll find them here.

Ok, without further ado, let’s do a quick wrap of the week. Other than redesigning my website, what else went down?

What I struggled with…

Time zone changes. Where I live – in Queensland – we didn’t go to daylight saving. This wouldn’t be that much of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that mine (and my husband’s) work is based entirely back to Sydney. I’ve kept my work laptop configured to Sydney time, but even so, it’s seriously doing my head in.

What frustrated me…

My astro website was down for what amounted to 2 whole days. This was due to an outage of the server that it’s hosted on. Beyond annoying.

What I didn’t see…

Sunrise. We had a couple of days of rain here this week – we really needed it – but mostly I didn’t see the sunrise because it’s now peeking its head above the horizon at about 5.20am – and getting a minute earlier each day.

What thrilled me…

Seeing the purple flowers appear on the jacaranda tree in the verge. There’s also a papaya tree, but that’s another story.

What I learnt…

The name of this plant – also in the verge. Thanks to my instagram followers, I now know that it’s an Ixora.

Where we lunched…

In our unrelenting search to find the perfect place to have a beer on a sunny afternoon – I know, it’s a challenge most sensible people would shy away from – we tried out Guru Life. I loved the spicy corn fritters, the pineapple wallpaper on the counter, the leafy courtyard, the mis-matched furniture and the duck pond.

You can read more about it here.

Also on the Sunny Coast site, was something on another beer garden/bar/Mexican restaurant – La Canteena.

Phew, that was my week – how was yours?

6 tips to writing a satisfying sexy scene

I’m writing this post on a Saturday afternoon. I have a zucchini slice in the oven that I’m keeping an eye on, and in the background is an annoying electrical alarm – like when the washing machine is out of balance and needs to have the load shifted. The problem is that it’s coming from next door and, as it’s been bleeping most of the day, I suspect that he put a load on before going out – and it won’t be stopping any time soon.

As for me? I’m sitting at my kitchen counter staring at my scrivener page and trying to sex up a couple of chapters. I’m working through my structural edit and my fabulously wise editor thinks there needs to be a tad more sexiness in a couple of chapters of the book.

She’s absolutely right – it was lazy writing…my words, not hers – and the scene felt, as a result, flat and lifeless. the same goes with my final chapter. It definitely needed the sensuality notched up a tad too.

So, I’m sitting here watching a zucchini slice do it’s thing and listening to the washing machine next door annoyingly bleep. My protagonists are getting sexy and hubby is now home and wants a detailed discussion about green fees and golf cart hire – and the relative value of each – at the golf course he’s looking for cost justification to join.

Each of the sex scenes in previous books has been written in equally unsexy settings – mostly on my lunch break in the food hall at Rhodes Shopping Centre with screaming kids and IKEA trolleys all around. Then there have been those scenes I’ve written while still in bed on a Saturday morning with hubby in the doorway asking if I’d like scrambled or poached eggs – or maybe an omelette?

The thing is, writing a squidgy scene isn’t a whole lot more different than writing anything else. Plus, if you let your imagination go wild, it can even be kind of fun – although it helps if you pretend that it will never be read by your mother. Speaking of which, after Mum read Wish You Were Here, she told me that she thought the sex was nicely done. Hashtag awkward. But, I digress.

One of the panel sessions I attended at RWA was about trusting your voice. Amongst other topics it touched on writing sex scenes when you’re uncomfortable doing so. The consensus from the panel – Anne Gracie, Marion Lennox, Trish Morey and Keri Arthur – was that if you’re not comfortable writing sex, that will come across. Marion Lennox – who has written over 110 romances – doesn’t write sex…and that’s how her readers like it. Trish Morey, on the other hand, writes some seriously steamy scenes and is eminently comfortable writing sex. I’m somewhere in the middle, I think.

Another of the sessions I attended at RWA the other week was a “round-table” with Amy Andrews. Essentially it was just 10 of us around a round table (hence the name) with Amy – and an opportunity to ask whatever writing related questions we wanted.

The question I asked was about her sex scenes – Amy writes scorching sex scenes. Seriously scorching ones. Not only are they hot (I already said that, right?) but they do what every satisfying scene should do – they are integral to the story.

I wanted to know if she has to get into any special sort of mood to write these – and no, I don’t mean that sort of mood, I mean as in a ritual sort of thing. Does she light candles, set mood music or maybe have some other method of getting into the right space? Actually no. She just writes.

She also had the following to say about writing them. Naturally I took notes:

  • The first sex scene between your protagonists should be the longest one in the book. It’s a turning point and a huge emotional whammy.
  • It’s also primarily an emotional act rather than a physical one. Whatever it is that our characters are doing – or how they’re doing it – we want to know how they’re feeling.
  • If you can delete the sexy bits without impacting the story, they probably shouldn’t be there. It has to advance the story in some way – either through bringing your protagonists together, pushing them apart, or complicating things enough to make a situation worse before it gets better

I’d add the following to these:

  • Sex is when we’re at our most raw, most needy, and most emotionally vulnerable – this should come across (no pun intended) in that first scene.
  • Stay away from the IKEA style tab A into tab B type of physical instructions. As, (I think it was) Anne Gracie said in the Trust Your Voice session, sex is about more than the docking procedure.
  • With your attention (and blood) diverted to areas much further south than your brain, deep and meaningful or philosophical conversations can happen before or after, but absolutely not during. Speaking of which, sex is real – as is humour – so don’t be afraid to lighten the mood as well.

So, there you have it – now I just have to put these tips into action myself. If only that bleeping washing machine would shut up!

 

5 Reasons to love your day job…

I’m not sure about you, but I have a day job. If I were a betting girl, I’d hazard a guess that most aspiring or emerging writers do – as do a relatively large proportion of (even) mid-list established writers. Sadly, we can’t all be JK Rowling.

I’m actually quite fortunate – since moving to the Sunshine Coast, not only do I work remotely (back to Sydney), but I’ve been able to cut my hours back to 3 days a week. After years of trying to juggle my writing with a full-time role and a daily 3 hour commute (90 mins each way), this feels awfully close to being the perfect balance. Surprisingly though, I think I wrote more feverishly when I had less time to do so. Go figure.

Ultimately my goal is not only to make enough money from my writing to not only pay the bills and travel, but to have the freedom not to work for anyone else again. In the meantime, though, the day job has to take priority – and I’m grateful for it. There are, however, still days when I’d prefer to be writing. On those days I remember these things:

It pays the bills.

Well, it pays some of the bills. It buys me time until my books can pay for themselves – and support us in the manner to which I want to become accustomed…and travel for research and…you get the idea…

It allows me the freedom to self-publish

The income from my partition job means that I have the funds available to invest in self-publishing. It buys me a control over my writing career that I wouldn’t otherwise have, and allows me to work with the people that I want to work with.

It provides inspiration

Sadly some of that inspiration will never hit the page – confidentiality and all that. Besides, some of the things I’ve seen and heard in the workplace would never be believed if I wrote it in a book. Some of the characters would definitely be criticised as being too clichéd or too completely unbelievable – sad but oh too true.

I read somewhere once that 30% of your characters are based on yourself, 30% on others, and the rest on imagination. You know what they say: don’t piss the writer off – you could end up in a book…dead. All I’m saying to this is stay tuned for my cozy mystery series…

Seriously though, the experiences of the day job provide layers and realism in my creative work. My current protagonist, Callie, is in human resources. I’ve never been in an HR job before, yet in the last couple of months I’ve been relieving in a recruiting role. I’m not sure whether it’s art imitating life or the other way around. Either way the experience has meant that a lot of what I’d previously written has been, shall we say, rewritten.

It provides the drive to write

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been stuck in a spread-sheet and had the best idea for a story, or the solution to a plot problem. If only I could write full- time, I say to myself, I wouldn’t have this issue.

The truth is, having the pressure of the day job, and the need to squeeze my writing into a relatively small space has resulted in me being more disciplined and more able to set goals and deadlines and stick to them. I’ve written and published 3 books in 2 years while working a busy corporate job and juggling my daughter’s school, life etc.

I now have the freedom to write more, but seem to be more productive creatively when the partition job is at its busiest and most, shall we say, problematic. Perhaps it’s at that point when the motivation is there to motor through and get the product out there. Just saying.

It helps from a business viewpoint

I’ve learned so much about running a business from my corporate roles over the years. Over the last dozen or so years every one of my partition jobs has taught me skills that I’m absolutely using in my indie publishing business today. Skills like project management, budgeting, deadline setting (and keeping), IT know-how, business planning, strategy, and so much more.

What about you? Do you have a day job? How do you juggle the 2 parts of your life?

Bellydancing for beginners…

Has it really been that long since I last posted here?

It’s been a pretty mad time – work and deadlines wise. My presentation for the session I’m doing at Romance Writer’s Conference next month was due on Monday (tick), and I’m working hard to fill in the gaps to get I Want You Back off for structural editing next week (on track). I’m committing to have Book 2 (still as yet untitled) in this mini trilogy ready for a structural look-see by the end of August, and Book 3 by the end of November. I know the things are tight, but because I’m working with the same three characters, over the same time-frame, I think it’s doable.

As for I Want You Back? It’s been a long haul getting this book done – partly because of the chaos of the first three months, but also partly because I just couldn’t hear my character clearly – she’s a Cancer, you see, and I suspect she was just a tad too far inside her shell for much of the time. We’ve gotten to know each other now, and every day she’s showing me more about herself. And yes, I suppose that it is weird talking about my characters as if they are real people, but in a way they are. As an aside, the session I’m delivering for RWA is about knowing your characters through astrology.

Part of the reason I’ve struggled is I’m distracted by some shiny new ideas that I’m refusing to allow myself to work on until these 3 books are out of the picture. Way back when I wrote Baby, It’s You, I had plans for these. What I hadn’t planned on was the idea for Wish You Were Here jumping on in at number 3. In the meantime I’m indulging myself with copious notes.

Behind it all, work in my day job has been pretty full-on. I’d like to say that I’m seeing the light in that particular tunnel, but I have the feeling something else will come along and obscure it again shortly.

In the meantime, I’ve been to my first belly dancing class in almost 10 years. It was really like going to my first belly dancing class ever. Aside from being 10 years older, I’m also 15 kilos heavier – most of which is around my belly.

I was worried that I’d feel like the oldest and the fattest in the room – and I definitely was the fattest – but everything was so comfortable that I very soon forgot all about that.

The idea of going back came to me a month or so ago when I decided that Callie, my protagonist in I Want You Back would begin attending a dance class. I wanted to use the dance as a sort of tracker for her progress, so it had to be something that would bring her out of the shelter she’d erected for herself. But what sort of dance would do it? The answer was simple – the sign of Cancer rules the belly, therefore it had to be belly dancing. I did mention that the session I’m delivering for RWA is about knowing your characters through astrology – didn’t I?

And, if I was sending Callie off to belly dance, there was no excuse for me not to go back too. So I added it to my winter bucket list, found my coin belt and scarf, and off I went. And I had a fabulous time. As did, spoiler alert, Callie.

Have you ever done something because you’d written it into a story? What about doing something because you wanted to write it into a story?

10 tips to work from home and get stuff done…

This isn’t my office…

Working from home. It’s the dream, right?

You lie in bed until five minutes before you’re due to log into work and then spend your day in your pyjamas while you are working. Yeah, that doesn’t work for me.

These days I work completely from home – juggling part-time hours in my partition job (remote work back to Sydney), with my fiction writing, astro writing, and content creation/ marketing. The thing is, I’m not naturally disciplined – I need the commitment to a routine in order to get anything accomplished. It’s a boundary thing.

Anyways, here are my tips to working from home and getting stuff done.

  1. Have a work routine

Just as if you had to get up, get dressed and commute to work, set a repeatable routine for yourself.

In Sydney, my alarm would go off at 5.30am so I could leave for the bus at 6.20am, to be in the city for coffee by 8 and at my desk and working before 8.30

These days, my alarm still goes off at that time, but I head down to the beach for a walk.

I’m still at my desk and working by 8.30, but I’ve had some exercise and fresh air as well. Hashtag winning.

  1. Get dressed

Yes, get out of your pjs. You don’t have to dress up and do the make-up thing, but getting dressed is you telling yourself that you mean business. It’s part of the ritual of going to work.

  1. Go to work

I’m lucky in that I have a dedicated office slightly away from the rest of the house –up 5 stairs. When I go to work, that’s what I’m doing. If you don’t have your own space, dedicate an area to your work zone. It doesn’t need to be huge, but it does need to be where you work. It’s a symbolic thing.

Of course, going to work could mean picking up your laptop and escaping to the nearest coffee shop, park, beach, or whatever. I do that too – especially if I need to change my headspace from partition to creative.

  1. Implement a reasonable internet use policy

Just as you have a reasonable internet use policy in the office, do the same when you’re working for yourself or at home. If it would be unacceptable to sit on Facebook all day while you’re in the partition, why is it ok to waste your working hours on it at home?

Naturally, the exceptions are if you’re on there for genuine research purposes, or for social media marketing/ content scheduling.

  1. Take regular breaks

Although the temptation might be to work through, make sure you completely stop for a lunch break. If you’d normally have a sandwich and a walk during your lunch hour, do this at home too. Just stop – for at least 30 minutes.

  1. Stock your pantry

If you don’t want your lunch hour spreading into a lunch 2 hours, have your pantry (or freezer) stocked with lunch options.

  1. Clock off

Again, because you’re at home, it’s way too easy to just keep working. Set a knock-off time and stick to it. Of course, the exceptions are deadlines and those amazing days when the words are flowing easily – but for all other times, close the laptop at the end of your designated working day.

  1. Put a full stop under the day

If you were commuting, you’d usually have a period of time between the end of the work day and the beginning of home time. Do the same here. Whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, relaxing with a book, pouring a glass of wine – whatever. Make a ritual of something that symbolises that your work day is done. I usually take the dog for a walk, or duck back down to the beach to watch the sunset. Then I come home and it’s time to make dinner.

  1. Set boundaries

By far, the hardest part of working from home is persuading others that you’re working from home.

My husband isn’t working at the moment, so is home most of the time. At first he had a few issues with this concept.

‘But I never know if you’re working,’ he’d say.

‘If it’s Monday to Friday and I’m in the office, it’s safe to assume that I’m working,’ I’d reply.

‘But I don’t know whether you’re work working, or working on your stuff working,’ he’d say, the inference being that if I was work working ie back to Sydney being paid directly for what I do working, he wouldn’t interrupt me. Hmmmm.

  1. Maintain a schedule

Ok, this is one I struggle with at present. The work I do back to Sydney is the only income producing activity at present – we certainly can’t pay the bills on what I earn from my writing…yet. This means that although I start each week with a schedule of when I’ll be doing partition work and when I can work on anything else, if it has to change to squeeze more partition hours in or move them around – then that’s what I have to do.

Blogging gets squeezed in usually on the weekends, and I always find extra time over the weekend or in the evenings for my novel.

I break my days into three sections:

  1. Mornings 8.30- 12pm I’m most productive in the morning, so this is the best time for me to be doing partition work, and anything where I need a clear run.
  2. Pm 1: 1pm – 3pm I use this for any leftover partition hours
  3. Pm 2: 2.30 – 5.30pm

At present I’m working on converting some astro blog content to an ebook, and my latest novel – although it changes depending on whether I have any freelance work booked. In general I prioritise whatever is associated with actual now income rather than future income e.g. from next week I’ll be putting together my presentation for the RWA Conference.

Anyways, on an ideal week, my days might look something like:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
am Partition Partition Blog to book Partition Blog to Book
pm 1 Partition Partition Novel Partition Explore & lunch
pm 2 Blog to book Novel Novel Blog to book content scheduling/ admin

What about you? Do you work from home? How do you get stuff done?