Thursday, 31 March 2011

Lost and Found - The Last Great Mystery

Myne Whitman is currently hosting...



I lose things all the time. My housekeys, those for the car, my sunglasses, credit cards, you name it, I've probably lost it fairly recently. They always turn up again, though, so that's hardly an issue (ok so credit cards need to be ordered but still).

What really gets to me sometimes is that one great mystery we all have in our lives (yes, I'm sure you do, too). It's inexplicable, it happens to everyone, there's no logic and it's as annoying as wearing ice skates in hell.

No, I'm not talking about lost love(s). This is much more relevant to day-to-day living in the corporeal rather than emotional sense. Here it is:

What is it, exactly, that happens to our socks when we put them in the wash?


I've lost many, many socks that way. Usually my favourite ones, too.

Actually, it's always my favourites. (duh)

I've come up with many theories over the years as to how, exactly, one of at least one pair of socks per wash goes AWOL, some...ehm...scientific, some not so much.

Explanation #1

Socks can lose threads, which in turn get caught in the mechanics of the drum you put your washing in. They then get sucked into the filter or to some other mysterious place in the washing machine, never to be seen again (unless they're reincarnated as the fluff you need to pick out of the filter when the machine refuses to pump off the water).



Explanation #2

It's a conspiracy between the washing machine companies and the sock companies to make sure you can't ever stop buying socks, especially those really soft and snuggly expensive ones, or those delicate little summer socklets you like so much. For the men out there, that's also the reason why a blue sock is never the same blue as another blue sock - imagine if you could make up pairs with two 'widowed' socks... the sock industry would be ruined! GASP!



Explanation #3

There's a sock eating monster that comes with every washing machine. It's a distant cousin to the one that pokes holes in your thights to give you ladders, and probably related by marriage to the little gremlin that makes sure toast always lands on the buttered side. This sock eating individual takes fiendish pleasure in picking out one of each pair of socks, never two the same, and displays them in it's home like hunting trophies. Imagine a room full of christmas stockings, only without the presents or santa or christmas. Once a month or so there's probably a sock eating monster poker evening where they compare the size and length of sock they've managed to capture. Maybe they even stuff them, who knows.



Explanation #4

The single sock that comes out of wash #1 is in fact the same one that comes out of wash #2, wash #3, wash #ad infinitum, because for some reason that one sock always lands back in the laundry basket in the hope that the second one might make it there eventually, too.

Explanation #5

Sock 1 ends up all alone after wash 1 because sock 2 is in fact amongst the bedding of wash 2. They shall eventually meet again, but only if you pick sock 2 out of the pillowcase AND remember that this is not Another Lonely Sock but in fact the partner of sock 1.



OK I'm all explained out. All I know is this:

  1. Pairs of socks go into the wash
  2. Single socks come out of the wash
So I'm going to go with Explanation #3 and hope for the best. Maybe the Sock eating monster has a cousin that eats dust bunnies? 

What have you lost and/or found lately? 

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ps. do go check out Myne's blog, her second book, A Love Rekindled, will be out soon!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Finalists for The Nature of Magic Blogfest!

It was hard, really hard, to pick a mere FIVE amongst all those fantastically magical entries you graced our blogfest with. Laura and I have been reading and reading and arguing and arguing and, without further ado, came up with these five super-magnificent entries:

Those that didn't have their own title now have one courtesy of moi, Tessa - hope you don't mind! It was just so much easier talking about them this way...

FINALISTS: 

  1. Cloak of Shadows by Raquel Byrnes @ Edge of Your Seat Romance
  2. Cinderella 2.1 by Morning AJ @ Jobbing Writer
  3. Cave of Miracles by Sarah @ The Wit and Wisdom of another Sarah
  4. Canvas by Elise @ Gladiator's Pen
  5. Eldala (excerpt) by Michelle Gregory @ Beautiful Chaos
Please vote on your favourites (poll in sidebar)! The winners shall be announced on April 3rd (that's Sunday). Just in case you forgot....


THE PRIZES are.... 

Voter's...


... 1st choice: Chapter critique from both of us + $ 10 Amazon Voucher
... 2nd choice: Chapter critique from one of us + $ 10 Amazon Voucher
... 3rd choice: Chapter critique from one of us


Mind you, we're not professional editors... think of us as thorough proof readers, lol. 


Because there were so many wonderful entries, we've also come up with a few

Special Mentions 

...favourites who almost made it into the top 5. If you could fit that many into five spaces, we would have.


They shared magic...

Thank you so much to EVERYBODY for sharing their magic (and their time) with us! For those who have time, here's a list of the rest of the participants linked to their entries, in no particular order:

If you're not on that list and you should be, do let me know. It's a long list, I might have missed someone!


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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Paris and back again

Soooo some of you might have heard, I've been off on a short trip this weekend. Paris was beautiful!!! I was there with a cousin of mine and we had a perfect weekend of shopping and art. It was great. The Louvre is always an experience, and definately worth more than one visit (I've been before but it's HUGE so there's always something else to see). And because it was such a nice trip, I'm sharing some photos with you... ; P

Place de la Concorde with the Eiffel Tower in the background

Would have been nice if the tree had been in bloom already... ah well. 

Isn't this brilliant? A statue that includes a matress?? 

Groovy baby

stung by a scorpion... you can see it there in the middle

Michaelangelo's Dying Slave *snort*

and this is my favourite - Ares at rest... 
Nice, no?


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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Ides of March today! Time for Delusions of Dooooooooooom...



This blogfest is hosted by the wonderful Watery Tart. Here's what she said:

You can do ANY (or all) of the following:


Predict your own death
Predict someone ELSES death 

Write your own obituary
Write someone ELSES obituary
Plot a murder of someone sorely asking for it, step by step

I don't care whether you do it by story, plot list, news article, PROPHECY (any seers in the group?). All I ask is that SAID DEATH be either very strange, unusual, bizarre...conspiratorial... or that the reporting be entertaining. 

I am okay with gore, but if you choose to include it, please be considerate of other festers and post a WARNING.  And if you really ARE a soothsayer or seer, keep that stuff to yourself. Nobody wants to know... this is FOR FUN. 
Doom-doom, doom-doom, doom doom doom doom doom doom DOOOOOOOM!!!!

*ahem*

This is a letter that could have been written by the Duchess of Sunere, who might or might not be plotting to kill her sister the Queen. (imagine this written in very ornate writing with purple ink)

 Dearest Brother, 


I know Your position as Chancellor of Ambras prevents You from visiting Us. You are Vital to the running of the Realm for Our sister the most beloved Queen. I have no doubt that Her Majesty could not do without you even one moment - this I must accept, even though I would be so very happy to have You here, visiting Diassan and Myself in Our humble castle. We have, I believe, much to discuss regarding Our sister and how We might further assist her in caring for Our people. 


After all, Our sister has trusted me with Her own flesh and blood, Our dearest niece and princess Camille. She has grown into quite the beauty under My watchful eye, and seems rather fond of My own Diassan. I believe We can anticipate a favourable development between the two of them. 


Have You had contact with Our Mutual Friend? I would be fascinated to hear of his opinions on our plans. Your importance in Our sister's court will surely work to Our advantage there, and Diassan is poised to travel - at Camille's side or without her - whenever the word is given. 


I look forward to hearing from You soon, 


Your most loving Sister, 


Esa, Duchess of Sunere, Guardian of the Crown Princess, Third in Line to the Throne of Ambras


There! Suitably obscure? Esa is that kind of person. She even talks in Capital Letters (or would if that were possible). 


Go HERE to find lots of other Doom-Like stories!





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Thursday, 10 March 2011

YES you CAN get past that stupid roadblock (without GPS)

Welcome to part 2 of

YES you CAN get past that stupid roadblock

(when travelling WITHOUT GPS)

Part 1 was all about getting past the rock on the road when you're travelling with a definite route in mind. Now, things are a little more complicated - or maybe easier? - when you're just joyriding, travelling along any road that appeals of you, with only a vague idea of your goal (or your waypoints) in mind. You can't just teleport ahead, because you don't know where you want to go. You can't really recalculate your route, either, because you don't have one. 

So what does a pantser-style writer do when stuck? Here's some ideas: 

1. Retrace your steps  




When you can't go on, one thing you can do is go back. This is rather similar to recalculating your route, only because you have no exact idea of where you wanted to go beyond that roadblock, it requires a little more care. Take your work and read back, one paragraph or chapter at a time, and find a point where you feel comfortable taking a turn elsewhere. Maybe your character has lunch somewhere else. Maybe he doesn't kiss her just yet, or does kiss her when you though he would not. Maybe, maybe, maybe - it all depends on your story, of course.

As you do this, it is vital that you keep in mind what you DO know about your story. Everyone has some idea of what they want to write about, no matter how vague. You just haven't plotted it out. Take this story idea and compare the words/paragraphs/chapters to it. Anything that doesn't feel right - that's where you take a turn and bypass the roadblock. After that, the road is all yours.




2. Barge through


Sometimes getting past a roadblock requires brute force. Take a kitchen alarm clock (you know, those minute timers with the really annoying ring), set it to 10 minutes (or 20 or 30), and just WRITE. No matter how crappy, no matter how inane, how uninspired and how NOT what you want to be doing, just write, starting right there in front of the roadblock.

This is a chancy way of getting on, I admit. Either it works for you or it doesn't, but it should be worth a try. When I do this, what usually happens is I find myself on the other side of that big rock after a couple of pages of embarrasingly rubbish... "writing" .... but I AM on the other side. Even if I'll probably have to scrap the section in my first editing round.


3. Get out and walk


This is similar to barging through, only with a little more sublety and probably a little more time required. What you do is get out of your car and work your way towards the block one word, one sentence at a time. It'll be hard work, definately.

Especially once you're right in front of that big rock and still, one word, one sentence at a time, you keep going. Slowly. But you'll get past it in the end. After all, one drop of water at a time can hollow out a whole canyon. All it takes is time.


4. Go drink coffee


This worked fine for those with GPS, it can work just as well for those without. Take a break. Put aside your WIP and have a coffee, a cupcake, a sandwich, whatever catches your fancy. Sit and listen to people around you, or read a book, watch your favourite TV series. Anything but write - but only for a short while. When you get back to it, you may well find that your roadblock has dissolved into a few pebbles.


MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER: Don't lose sight of your goal

You are writing because you want to get your story idea down on paper and, ideally, share it with the world. Don't forget that in order to do so, you need to finish (this has always been a major problem for me - I have endless WIPs and only one that's vaguely done). You also need to stay true to the story as it presents itself to you. If you figure out halfway throught that the love interest should be the arch-enemy, that's fine. But you still need to finish writing, and in order to do so - with or without GPS - you need to have at least a vague idea of where you want to go. Even pantsers have some idea of what they're writing about - or perhaps who it is they're writing about. Keep that most important idea firmly in mind as you write, and you're less likely to encounter roadblocks or take a wrong turn. 

I wish you all the best with your writing and I hope these two posts helped!

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Giving it up for Lent

Now, the internet being such a wonderfully equalizing thing, I have no idea what most of your religious views are. Not that it would make any difference - I already love you all. The point is that for those of you who don't know, tomorrow (wednesday) is actually Ash Wednesday, the first day of the catholic fasting period, Lent. It marks the end of what is, in Austria at least, the 'ball season'. Today was (the last day of) Carneval, in fact - which basically means good-bye-to-meat by the way.



You're meant to give something up for lent, something important to you. Something that is a true sacrifice for you, and thus meaningful in some way. I'm not really very religious - or at all religious, to be honest - but I am roman catholic if you really want to know. 

As such, it was a childhood constant (almost everyone else in my primary school was roman catholic, or some species of catholic, too) to (try to) give up chocolate, or TV, or some such for lent. Things that seem important, given up because it was a ritual all of my school friends performed rather than for any deeper reasons. 

I'm still not religious enough to give something up for that reason, but I am going to take this opportunity to give something up - not for the sake of ritual, not for the sake of religion, just for my own sake. For myself. 

A lot of things come to mind... chocolate, for one. And TV. 

But I don't want to fall back into old patterns, so it has to be something different. I thought of Coffee, but I don't think I could manage that. I don't want to set myself up to fail. Maybe that's not quite the spirit of things, but honestly, coffee? I need my coffee. 

I will, however, try to fool myself with decaf. One proper coffee, the rest will be fake. Or so the theory. 

The other thing I want to give up is wasting time. I'm really good at that, and it's going to be really difficult to do this...impossible, in fact. So let's say I want to waste LESS time. 

I also want to do more sport. I play squash regularly with my sister (we don't really do matches, we just hit the ball against the wall - does wonders for releasing aggressions, I tell you), I take riding lessons and tennis lessons. The latter have been really hard to organize lately, but I intend to work on that. 

One last thing, but for me, probably the most important: I will give up buying new books for Lent. 

No, I'm serious. I have more than enough books on my shelves, they deserve my full attention. So no books for Tessa until easter. 

To sum it up: 

For Lent, I will....
  • try to fool myself out of drinking so much coffee by drinking decaf instead
  • waste less time
  • do more sports
  • buy NO books
I'll let you know how I do. 

What about you? Are you giving something up for lent? Or for the next month or so? 



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Monday, 7 March 2011

Catch me if you can!


I found this blogfest @ KayKay's Corner and couldn't resist!

Here's the first 550 words (or so) of (one of my) WIPs.... Let me know what you think, if it works as a beginning or not, if it's rubbish (quite possible)....

EDIT: as response to Mara's comment, the (provisional) title is Shadow Council, and it's definately about werewolves.

(it's actually the start of a prologue, which I've considered scrapping entirely -  your reaction will help my decision!)


The moon was bright and beautiful and filled the night with a world of shadows. The trees stood silent watch, warmed by thick blankets of snow. The sky was clear and the air crisp with cold. A slight breeze blowing in from the north carried the smell of more snow to come, telling all who knew how to listen that, soon, shelter should to be sought. 
A lone wolf’s haunting cry startled one of the more resilient creatures of the forest into activity, rocking one of the snow-laden branches. The brief noise made the silence that followed seem all the more deafening. Then, as if the eerie howl had been the signal, life entered the forest. 
There, just behind the trunk of an ancient Canadian oak, rather modest in winter with its monochrome cover of snow, to the left of a frozen brook, something moved. Further back, almost vanishing between the trees, a glimps of fur. The soft swish of something moving over the snow nearby. Something silent, threatening. Something skilled at the hunt, skilled at the hide-and-seek, the catch-me-if-you-can game, the result of which could mean life or death in this wilderness. 
These hunters knew all the rules. They hunted, they killed. But they were also part of the great scheme of things, that great picture seen by so few. Their prey consisted of those too old or too weak to avoid them. They never hunted just for the sake of it. They hunted in order to survive. They knew it. Their prey knew it, also. 
The wolves who had gathered at the lone cry calling the hunt were almost completely silent. Those who didn’t know what to listen for, just like those who didn’t know where to look, would be easy prey. Even those who did know better were not safe. By the time the snow-white rabbit saw the amber eyes glittering in the shadows, they both knew it was too late. 
The rabbit saw its death. Instinct let him know that this was not a lone hunter, that there was not only this one black form detaching itself from the shadows. He knew that there would be others waiting, no matter where he ran. Adhering to the rules of the hunt, he tried to get away despite the knowledge of the death awaiting him. There was always a chance. That particular rabbit, however, did not make it. It breathed its last between the fangs of the youngest of the pack. 
The hunt was over almost before it began. Silently the rest of the wolves padded out of their hiding places, standing around the young hunter and his catch. Proudly the youngster offered the rabbit to the pack’s alpha pair. The young wolf whined a little, then wagged his tail, the equivalent of a smile. 
It wasn’t one of the pack’s own young, this wolf. He had come to them that summer, from one of the packs further north. He’d been little more than a pup at the time. This hunt was the last in a series of tests they put him through, to make sure he would fit into their pack. To be certain he would defer to the authority of the alpha pair, not start a fight for dominance. The young wolf, disconcerted by the scrutiny he was under, ducked his head down, offering his neck to the leaders of the pack. 


Right! I thought it strangely appropriate given the title of this blogfest... Watcha think?

Let me know what you then hop on over to KayKay's to find all the other entries you can read!

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ps. if you'd like to see the first 550-odd words of the first chapter rather than the prologue, let me know.


CHEEKY EDIT:

here's the first bit of chapter 1:


The first time he managed to catch a rabbit all by himself was a day he would never be able to forget. It happened not long after his sixth birthday. Although it was only early spring, the weather had been beautiful, the sun shining all week. It was just warm enough to give a hint of the summer to come. The ground was beginning to thaw out, releasing the rich smell of fertile earth, and the fresh scent of green mingled with the sharp cleanness of the winter cold. The first spring flowers had already fought their way to the surface, defying the remaining snow with their bright little faces. Their soft pastels spotted the meadow surrounding the small log cabin, their colour not quite as bright as that of their summer cousins, but all the more sweet because of it. His mother had opened all the windows to their cabin, clearing out the stuffy smell of winter. The faint scent of lemon drifted out through the window, evidence of a morning spent cleaning the winter out of the house. They had eaten their breakfast outside on a rickety pick nick table, mother, father and child. The boy’s high-spirited laughter echoed through the woods. 


A sparrow was startled off its perch, its flight shaking snow off the trees. Their branches bounced back up towards the clear spring sky once they’d been freed of their burdens. It was by far too nice a day for one energetic little boy to remain home. So he snuck off into the woods without his parents’ permission. The scent of the rabbit that had been tantalising his nose all morning had, in the end, been too tempting. The big bad black wolf was on the prowl, off to catch that sneaky red riding hood. 


There it was, disguised as a juicy little bunny rabbit, but it didn’t fool an experienced hunter like him, oh no. Silent stalking, that was his talent, him the great experienced hunter of world-renown. A silent pad through the bushes, a quick huddle behind the thorny brambles and pow! Little red riding hood of the rabbit persuasion was history, and the great black wolf had triumphed again. 


He was so very proud when he managed to catch the little thing all by himself. He carried it home, intent on showing off his new-found skill to his parents. Certain that his hunting prowess would be enough to offset his running away without telling his parents, he felt no fear of reprimand. He was just about to run – no, make that saunter, with dignity, since he was now a veteran of the hunt -  into the clearing that surrounded their little wooden home when it hit him. 


Something was not as it should be. 


Something was very, very wrong. 


There was the coppery scent of blood and other, darker, things, hanging about the cabin. The air in the clearing was rich, almost heavy, with the scent of death. It wasn’t the rabbit he had only just dropped. There was too much of it to be caused by his prey. Something larger had died there, only a very short time ago. Scared, the boy changed as fast as he could and stumbled into the cabin, afraid of what he would find, of what his nose had already found. 

Friday, 4 March 2011

YES you CAN get past that stupid roadblock (with GPS)

(Gone But Not Forgotten post below!)

This post comes to you by popular demand... I asked you a while ago what writerly topics you'd like to hear me rant on, and this one was by far your favourite! Enjoy!

Now, I've giving this a great deal of thought, so there will be two posts on getting past roadblocks. The first one applies to you...

When Travelling with GPS

If you are a plotter, then this is for you. Those of you who go by the seat of their pants, tune in next Thurday (March 10th) for Part 2 of YES you CAN get past that stupid roadblock (without GPS).

Imagine it's a nice, sunny day outside, and you plan to take your shiny new convertible out for a ride. You have a definite plan of where you want to go - in fact, you've plotted out the entire trip. The fresh air teases your hair, you smile as your favourite song plays on the radio.


Just goes to show that life doesn't like it if we make too definite a plan. Your path is blocked, and the obstacle seems insurmountable. Your hands grip the steering wheel until your knuckles turn white.

Now what? Your perfect plan lies in ruins, the path you have chosen might aswell no longer exist.

Don't despair! You dig out your phone and give me a ring.

"What what?" I ask. "You're stuck?"

Here's what I suggest you try:

Solution Number 1: Recalculate your route

Have you ever not taken the right turn when you're trying to follow a GPS' instructions? When you do that, most of them tell you they're 'recalculating the route'. Well, you can do that, too. Go back to your plan, your plot, and rethink your route.

Is there anywhere where you could take a different turn? Some side action you could build into more? A minor plotline that you need to cut out? Maybe a specific character is getting in your way and you need to re-design that one. Or get rid of him.

The easiest way to do this (I think) is to take your plot, go one step back from the 'roadblock', and try to figure out a different turn from there. If that doesn't work, take one more step back and so on. When this happens to me it's usually because I've missed a point in character developement or developed them in the wrong direction.

Solution Number 2: Teleport




Now here's the great thing about working from a plot (even a not very detailed plot) rather than flying by the seat of your pants. You can do magic - yep magic - and simply TELEPORT over the roadblock to the next plotpoint that strikes your fancy and tickles your muse. Easy peasy. Well, in theory. I'm not really a plotter (most of the time) so this is not an approach that works well for me...

The idea is to get your juices going again without stepping out of the story entirely. By skipping this spot you can carry on writing. You can always come back to it later to fix the problem. Maybe it will fix itself while you write the next chapter/scene/section of your story, you never know!

Solution Number 3: Go drink coffee






OK so this is not an exclusively a plotter roadblock solution. Taking a (short, mind you) break can be useful for getting everything straight in your head, for getting new ideas. Go sit in your favourite coffee shop/tea shop/bakery/park/mall, have something sweet or a sandwich or something, and just listen. Listen and watch everything and everyone around you.

Me, I love listening to people. You get the greatest ideas like that. And snippets of dialogue.

Of course you can also just sit and read a good book (preferably in the genre you're working in), or go see an art exhibition.

Then, once you've rested your mind a little, only then go back to your car and figure out how to solve the roadblock problem.

***

I hope this can help you! If you're less of a plotter and more of a pantser, or if you need some more advice, tune in for part 2 on this topic (on Thursday, March 10th).



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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Super Snooper Blogfest

It's March 2nd today, and do you know what that means? It's Super Snooper Blogfest time!!



Without further ado....

High up in the Southern Tower there's a large, circular room accesible by a single narrow door on an almost deserted corridor of the Castle. The inner walls are bare stone, huge blocks of dark grey granite, the seams marked almost white by the characteristic clay mortar used in the North. The room smells faintly of cedarwood, beeswax and the kind of oil used to care for weapons and armor. 

There's a large bed on the eastern side, big enough for two. Blankets and furs and pillows are piled high at the back of the bed. The sheet is clean but the bed clearly hasn't been made up properly in some time. There's bits and pieces of clothing, some of them from a uniform, peeking out from under the white-oak bedframe. 

A desk, specially made to fit the rounded walls, covers much of the southern quarter of the room. There's a large window above it, flooding the room with cool white sunlight. The desk itself is accompanied by two chairs and surrounded by a veritable herd of books. They're teetering on messy piles like drunken soldiers, leaning against each other and the desk where they can. Left and right of the window, bits of paper are tacked all over the walls, sketches of battles past and notes analysing strategies. 

The surface of the desk is covered in parchments, books, pots of ink, pencils and quills. One of the ink pots has been knocked over and now stands as a lone island in a sea of black. To the left of the bed a large cedar clothes-chest stands open, messy contents clearly visible. The only properly folded clothes inside are sets of uniform, and even those could do with some pressing. 

To the right of the bed there's a large weapons' rack filled with various types of swords, daggers and even two lances propped up against the wall. Above the rack a parade shield hangs on the wall, shiny and beautiful and mostly for show. The real deal is only just visible from where it's hiding behind the door. Behind the shields, purposefully hidden from view, lie two sets of boots, one half-cleaned the other still covered in mud. 


There! Who do you think lives there? I've written about this room before. I'll let you know whose it is tomorrow, shall I? Or maybe you can guess? 


Thank you Alison for hosting this cool blogfest! Everyone else, let me know what you think then go see what everyone else's rooms look like

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