Wednesday, October 31, 2012

RTW: Happy Halloween!

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week we're talking about Halloween! What is your favorite scary book or movie?

I'm an utter and total wimp. I'm just going to put it out there. When I was a teenager I loved scary movies. I'd watch them all with eager anticipation. Then something changed. I think I can pinpoint the exact time. It was about three years ago when I'd first started dating my FH and we went to see the first Paranormal Activity. I don't even know why I went. I was scared out of my mind. I spent the whole film curled up in a ball on the seat gripping the hands of my FH on one side and my little sister on the other. 

After the film I took the shortcut home which involved driving up a very windy and deserted road, in the rain, after midnight where you could see nothing but the dense bush and the very stunning but very creepy building of the Auckland Museum. I was convinced something was going to jump out at me any second. Later that night after my man and I had been asleep for a few hours, he awoke to find me standing beside the bed with my eyes open, staring out the window - very similar to one of the scenes in Paranormal Activity. I was dead asleep, despite my eyes being open. He woke me up, I freaked myself out and then got back into bed and fell asleep. Since then I have avoided scary movies like the plague. They just seem to haunt me well past the time the film is over!

So I can't say that I have a favourite scary movie; although I do have somewhat of an obsession for the Pretty Little Liars TV show, which at times can get very scary! Although I do love myself a little bit of Hocus Pocus and The Witches!

In terms of books - does Goosebumps count?! After I read a good portion of the Babysitter's Club books I started reading Goosebumps even though I thought they were really 'boys books'. I liked the ones that had alternate endings, where you chose what to do next. I'm sure Harry Potter could be pretty scary too. In fact, any book with a really evil and conniving protagonist I will probably find scary!

Sorry for being so fail on the scary books and movies front - it may be Halloween but... I really am a wimp!!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My kick-ass heroines!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Kick-Ass Heroines

I've seen the TTT topics flooding my feed for a while now, and decided it was about time I joined in! Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I love a good heroine and I've discovered recently that 99% of the books that are listed as my favourite books have a kick-ass heroine as a main character!

1. Fi from The Tea Rose. I have gone on and on about The Tea Rose and how much I just adore Fi, but honestly, she is the definition of a strong, independent, amazing women. She goes through so much and overcomes more than I ever could imagine and yet she continues to be a force of nature. Rising out of the ashes, so to speak.

2. Hermione from Harry Potter. This little lady needs very little introduction. From the moment she enters Harry and Ron's compartment on the train in first year, she became a force you wouldn't want to mess with. She has the brains, the strength and the heart. That definitely makes her a kick-ass heroine

3. Katniss from The Hunger Games. Katniss is another heroine who I'm sure needs no introduction. This girl is on FIRE (quite literally). She didn't kick-ass in that competition because she was the quickest or the strongest. She kicked ass because she was clever, intelligent and most importantly determined. 

4.Tris from Divergent. While she changes quite dramatically during the duration of the story, she's a whole lotta girl in a tiny little body. She's fiercely loyal, crazy independent, tremendously brave and sometimes a little bit stupid; but at the same time I totally want her to be my BFF. 

5. Emerson from Hourglass. She's another one who is tiny and she's fiesty but dang, she's not one I'd wanna cross when she's having a bad day. She knows right from wrong and she'll do anything to protect her friends, and that includes the people her friends love.

6. Tiggie from The Tiggie Tompson trilogy. This one surprised me actually. Many of you possibly won't have heard of this series. It's probably a MG book series from a New Zealand author, and I started reading them when I was about 10 years old. Tiggie describes herself as a dumpy, plain girl who is a total loser yet has a glamorous TV star for a mother. The book follows Tiggie in her journey of self-acceptance and growth. She's pretty kick ass, simply because despite all the bullying and teasing she's endured, she learns how to get through it and put her energy into something positive which she loves.

7. Ellie from The Tomorrow Series. When I was 13, I wanted to BE Ellie. Not that I wanted to have to go through everything Ellie goes through, but I wanted to be as strong and awesome as this kick-ass heroine is. The Tomorrow Series is an Australian series about a group of teenagers who's town is invaded while they're camping in a secluded spot in the bush. The story follows their survival tactics, largely led by Ellie who is the narrator of the series, as they try and take down the enemy and reclaim their town.

8. Kahu from The Whale Rider. Some of you may have seen the film adaptation of this book, which was very well done. Kahu is a kick-ass heroine who has to accept her destiny as the one chosen to restore the Maori people.

9. Lisbeth Salander from The Millenium Trilogy. Not a YA book but this girl is definitely kick ass. She's tough as nails and despite the fact life throws a lot of hardships in her direction, she overcomes it and comes out stronger than ever. With her photographic memory and sophisticated hacking tools, Lisbeth is a force to be reckoned with.

10. Daenerys Targaryen from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Also not a YA book, but there's no denying this girl's level of fiery kick-ass fierceness! Whether you've seen her on TV or read her story in the books, Daenerys is one girl you don't want to piss off. She's strong-willed, brave, and did I mention she has dragons? Don't mess with the Mother of Dragons! DRACARYS!

And there you have it! My top ten kick-ass heroines! I feel I've left off a few that are really important from my teenage years, but these ones were the ones yelling inside my head. There are also a lot of books coming up on my TBR list that I know will have kick-ass heroines! This time next month I would say my list has changed!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Country music and the hunt for books

For the last five or so years I've struggled with where I fit when it comes to music. I would try and follow along with the lastest music on the radio, and while I was a teenager I mostly managed that. I enjoyed some of the pop music but I hated the rap, the hip hop and the electronic. I tried. Everyone who was 'cool' was into that stuff. Me, not so much.

I listened to The Beatles, The BeeGees, The Carpenter's and Abba. I borrowed my parents records and CDs, then eventually they, along with my Broadway favourites, made up the bulk of my iPod and iTunes. My FH knows music. He plays the piano like a pro, if I'm singing and slip slightly out of key, even for a nanosecond, he'll hear it, and he loves all genre's of music. Except One Direction. He hates it when I play One Direction. I'm a little more selective though. I don't like listening to Dubstep or pop songs remixed. It seems though in the last few months that I've found exactly where I fit when it comes to music. Oh I do fit in with the oldies classics and the Broadway showtunes crowd, but what I've REALLY discovered lately is country music.

In fact, I've gone all out country. It crept up on me actually. All the country songs that I've known I really have loved, but in New Zealand there really isn't a strong country music scene so I'd never had that much exposure to it. With the release of the new ABC series, Nashville, I quickly became obsessed, not just with the show but also with the soundtrack. It led to me searching for more country artists and before I knew it my country loving co-worker had introduced me to a whole new world of music.

What I've found about country music is that it hold a lot of heart and soul in the songs, and it really transports you to a specific time and place. Namely, the southern states. I love that.  It conjures up a lot of images in my head of places in the South, and people who live there. It gives me a lot of inspiration for my writing, and ideas for entirely new books.

I'm wondering, do you know of any country style books that have been written? The only ones I've read are ones about race relations in the 50s and 60s. Plus one time travel book set outside of Nashville. I'd really loved to find some other books set in the South of which the setting is important to the story, or really adds to the story. Anyone got any recommendations?

I told y'all, I've gone all out country. As soon as I acquire my cowboy boots and try grits for the first time, we'll be set!

Ps. On a completely un-country music note, I'm going to watch my Broadway idol Idina Menzel perform tonight and I am so excited I can't even put it into words - squee!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

In preparation for Frankenstorm

It's crazy in New York City at the moment. The stores are PACKED with people stocking up on supplies, the lines snaked right down each aisle and the supermarket was running out of food! CVS had sold out of flashlights and candles and there was a general sense of insane panic. I feel like I'm about to be in the real life version of The Day After Tomorrow.

Here's out prep....

Madness at our normally empty supermarket

Taping up the windows

This is all we need to see us through, right?

Since I took this photo half an hour ago, the sky has got much darker

We're ready for you Sandy. This is going to be quite some Halloween Fright Night. Bring it On.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A strange morning of inspiration

Have you ever found sometimes you find inspiration in the strangest places when you least expect it?

Once I week I usually have to go pick up something for my workplace from midtown. It's quite nice to get out and about in the city first thing in the morning, seeing everyone rushing around like crazy, trying to get to work on time.

Earlier this week I was sitting on the subway, heading to midtown, and I had this strange feeling. I can't explain what it was, it just seemed like something wasn't quite right. I shrugged off the feeling and got off at Herald Square to head to my destination. I was standing outside Macy's when I heard this shout behind me. It seemed like a policeman on a bicycle chasing another guy on a bicycle. I couldn't quite gauge what was going on, but before I knew it, the guy in front had biked straight into the oncoming traffic and the cop was screaming at him to stop. I stood frozen in the middle of the road, with my eyes as wide as saucers, as the guy on the bike was hit by an oncoming bus.

It wasn't a disaster though. The traffic was pretty heavy in midtown, so the cars weren't going particularly fast. The driver of the bus hit the brakes as soon as he saw what was going on, so the impact wasn't as hard as it could've been. It was crazy though, seeing his reaction as he turned his head and saw a huge bus coming straight at him. He simply held out his arm in the hope that he could stop the bus from hitting him. He was fine. He was pretty angry at the cop who he believed had caused the whole thing (I can't see where that logic comes from, but whatever), but it left my heart racing. I replayed the whole thing over and over in my head, realizing just how incredibly lucky he had been. That scenario could have been much, much worse.

Walking back to the subway to head back to my office, I accidentally took the subway uptown instead of downtown. I must've still been shaken from the whole bus incident that I failed to notice the train was going in the wrong direction. Annoyed at myself, I jumped off at the next station. It was while I was walking to the correct train that I saw a really amazing site. I saw an old homeless guy sitting against the wall, looking very alone and sad. He wasn't wearing any shoes and his skin was pale. Suddenly a beautiful little puppy appeared out of no where, went up to the old man and cocked its head at him. The old man's eyes lit up and he held out a hand. The puppy went closer and then climbed onto the lap of the old man. He got settled into the old man's lap then looked up and gave the old man a lick on his lips. As I walked away I saw the old man settle back down against the wall, snuggling into the little puppy, with a small smile playing across his lips. He looked much less alone than he had just a minute ago.

Ten minutes later I arrived at my correct station and emerged from the street to find my subway top surrounded by twelve policemen. Two of them were speaking to a street vendor who had closed up his cart while the rest stood around watching the crowd. Half the street had been blocked by 5 police cars, yet I still couldn't figure out what was going on.

I tentatively walked through the group of NYPD officials and carried on down the Manhattan street to work. The sky was a deep grey colour, and with the buildings looking the same shade of brown and the street looking dark and dirty, the area didn't look particularly appealing at all. In fact... it looked depressing. After the last hour, all I wanted to do was go home and go back to bed. Then I saw something amazing. A vibrant looking monarch butterfly was flitting along beside me.

I love butterflies. I have a butterfly tattoo on my ankle, I have all sorts of clothes, decorations, lamps and various other objects that are butterfly shaped or have butterflies printed on them. For me, butterflies symbolise simple beauty, peace, freedom, calm and tranquility. When I was growing up my primary school (elementary school) used to have a swan plant which was filled monarch butterflies. They were everywhere. Every summer, they'd come out to play and I was always in awe of their great beauty.

Since I moved to New York 12 months ago I haven't once seen a monarch butterfly. So you can imagine my surprise to see one flying along beside me without a care in the world. The butterfly's vibrant colours stood against the dreary Manhattan backdrop and it seemed to linger in front of my head before accompanying me down the street. I was speechless. I don't even know how I could possibly explain how I felt in that moment. It was almost like some sort of sign - except I don't know what it could possibly mean. The butterfly lingered in the doorways of a few shops before flying near my head again and then circling around and flying off into the distance.

When I couldn't see the flash of orange and black anymore I turned around and headed to work somewhat in a daze.

In each of these little events from my morning I could easily pull out a few scenes or storylines for a novel.  That's certainly not what I was expecting when I headed off to run my errand this morning.

Have you had an instance like this where inspiration has literally jumped up out of no where and slapped you in the face until you took notice? It's crazy....!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

RTW: From Page to Screen...

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.
The topic this week is: What is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?
This is an interesting topic for me because as I said in my post earlier this week I am a big supporter of books into films. This means, whenever I read a book I love, I'll frequently say "holy moly, that would make a GREAT movie."

So I have a few books I've read over the past year or so that I would really love to see put on the big screen, some are in the YA genre, and some are more adult novels. 

So, here's my list!

The first one was Divergent. When I was reading the book I couldn't stop saying how much I loved it and how great it would be on the screen. After I finished the novel, as I do when I finish a story I love, I googled everything about it and read Veronica Roth's blog in it's entirety. It was there that I discovered that the film rights had been sold and there was a very good chance of the film being made in the near future. (For those up with the play, it's now really moving along- there's a director and the actress who may play Tris is in final negotiations.)

For those who don't know Divergent, it's about a young girl, Tris, who's dystopian Chicago society is divided into five factions. Each faction is dedicated to a particular virtue of which the factions members must devote their life to. One each member of society reaches the age of 16 they must decide whether to remain with the faction they have grown up with, or choose another faction all together.

The second one I could imagine being made into a film is Hourglass by Myra McEntire. Again, this is actually another (amazing) book which has had the film rights sold (to Twentieth Century Fox of all places!) I guess I wasn't the only one who thought this novel would translate beautifully into film!

 Hourglass is a time travel based book which follows a 17-year-old girl who can see 'rip's'. That is, apparitions of people from the past appearing right in front of her in the current day. Naturally she thinks she's going crazy, but it turns out there's a lot more to it that she could possibly imagine. Things that could change her present, future....even her past... in extremely terrifying ways.

The third is Skylark. While I wasn't wild about the writing of this book, I really liked the premise and I'm convinced that it could work really well on screen. I can even imagine all the scenes so clearly and I know it'd be very do-able so that'd be cool!

Skylark is a novel I read primarily because part of the premise was very similar to my WIP at the time. Turns out, of course, that the actual story of Skylark was so incredibly different from my story than you could ever imagine. Once I started reading, I wanted to know more. It follows a young girl, Lark, who has never been outside her domed city. The city's dome is powered by the magic (or resource) harvested by the children of the dome. Once you're harvested you become an adult. Lark has been waiting for years to finally be chosen for harvesting, however once it's her turn, the last thing she imagined was to become the city's power supply rather than just another citizen of the city. Consequently she then has to plan an escape and discover the horrors of life outside the dome. This story was full of twists and turns I never expected, so I'd really love to see it on the big screen!

Although it's an old book, I'd really love to see The Giver made into a film as well, and maybe its sequels could be included in there somehow! That could be awesome! The Giver is, of course, one of the classic dystopian novels about a young boy who is content with his plain, black and white life. It is only when he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory that he begins to understand his world isn't quite what it seems and there are some dark and complex secrets right underneath the surface.

Aside from solid YA novels ...

I've talked about this book time and time again, but really, I love it so much. The Tea Rose. Although this book is so hefty it might be better as a mini-series. Oh, how I would love to see this on the screen! I'd love to be the one to put this on the screen! I have all the plans in my head, if only I could make it a reality!
 Read my review on The Tea Rose here.

Another would be 'A Grown Up Kind of Pretty' which is a relatively new book this year. It's not the typical book I read, but something about the cover and the premise made me pick it up and read it. Of course it hooked me in. I think it could translate quite well to the screen.

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty is a saga about three generations of women. Fifteen year old Mosey is terrified she's going to wind up pregnant at fifteen just like her mother and grandmother before her. Mosey's world is turned upside down when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard. Liza, Mosey's stroke-ravaged mother is haunted by her past and the choices she made as a teenager; and Jenny - or Big - Mosey's kind-hearted and strong grandmother who's love binds the women together and who will stop at nothing to defend the family's future.

There are so many more I could list. Any book I truly love I can typically imagine turning into a film, but at the moment these are my top picks! That's not to say that if they're made into films, they'll do the book justice. In my head I can see exactly how each of these books could be made into films, yet your ideas are probably very different from mine which is exactly why so many people are disappointed in seeing their favourite books made into films. As I said in my last post, I just accept it and enjoy it for what it is. I find it the best way to go!

What books do you think would translate well into film?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Follow me on Twitter!

I decided to semi-ditch my other Twitter and create one that was solely focused on writing. It's a lot more relevant that listening to me harp on about line dancing, cowboy boots and Kiwi barbeques in the summer!

So come follow my 130 character rambles here or type into your browser.....

Hip hip hoorah!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book to Film

I've been seeing a lot of debate about this all over the internet lately, and both sides of the argument really do have fair points. Should books be turned into films or should they be left alone? Does making a movie out of a favourite story ruin the book? Does it prevent people from reading? Some people are very strongly anti-books into movies and while others are sitting on the absolute other side of the fence.

Me? I have to say I'm pro- books into movies. Before you jump down my throat, let me explain. My FH is in (well, trying to break into) the film industry. His process with making a film is the same as my process in writing a book. From the very beginning he'll have a vision for the film of how he wants a story portrayed, and he becomes very passionate about it. It becomes his baby just like my writing becomes mine. I have hope that many film makers around the world are like this, and therefore when handling your baby (that is, your novel), they'll be as careful and as passionate as you are.

I know a book can be adapted into a film in a really wonderful way. If the story is handled properly it can be a great success which can consequently have more people turning to read the book. Take Twilight for example. Uh, who hasn't heard of Twilight. Well before the film, I hadn't. I saw the film, and then was compelled to read the books. Within a week I'd purchased and read all of the books. Now what about The Hunger Games? I had heard about this film called The Hunger Games that was being made, and as the release date got closer more and more people began talking about the book. I had just purchased my kindle and made The Hunger Games one of the first series I read, and then I was beyond super excited for the film. Perks of Being a Wallflower? For months before the movie came out I'd heard a lot about the book, but I never read it until I watched the trailer for the film. 

So the point I'm getting across here is that it's not a particularly bad thing for a book to be made into a film, it can increase the fan base ten fold and it can help the author to write more stories for you. Granted, what you see on the screen won't always be the vision you had in your head when you read the novel, and sometimes you will be disappointed, but isn't it cool to see one of your favourite books played out in front of you like that?

To be honest, I've rarely been disappointed with a film adaption. I'm one of those people that won't particularly scrutinize a film, but will simply take it for what it is and enjoy it. I was very disappointed with the changed ending of My Sister's Keeper, but as a stand alone story it was a really lovely film. I was also disappointed with The Last Airbender adaptation, but that wasn't from a book so is a whole new rant!

To be honest, a number of my favourite novels I've discovered through going to see a film adaptation of the book. That has often led me onto reading more of the authors work. So when I hear that books I've enjoyed are going to be made into a film (or have at least had the rights sold), I do get excited. I know watching the film won't be the same as reading the book, but I take it for what it is and enjoy seeing how the film makers have made the story into a 90-minute portrayal.

In saying all that, I do get very nervous when a beloved book is being made into a film. I'm nervous about Divergent going to the screen. While it sounds like the film is in good hands, I can't help but worry about the casting, a known actress vs unknown, the director, how they'll shoot it etc. But at the end of the day, you can' t please everybody! We just have to sit back and let the professionals do their job!

What are your thoughts on books --> films. What are your favourite films that have been adapted from a book? For more film chit chat, check back on Wednesday for a book-->film themed Road Trip Wednesday

Friday, October 19, 2012

Images that inspire

When I was 14 I had to have surgery. I had another at 15, another at 17, two at 18 (one was for appendicitis), another at 20 and then countless other procedures in between (I was such a healthy teenager, ha!). The recovery times for each of these surgeries varied significantly, but for the most part they always involved some form of lying in bed for at least a couple of days. After my first surgery, my parents got me a bunch of DVDs and brought one of the TVs into my bedroom during my recovery. The only problem was, after the anesthetic I was too sleepy to be able to focus on anything other than music and staring at the ceiling.

For my next surgery, my parents bought me a bunch of CD's and before I went into the hospital I printed out a selection of images and arranged them on my bedroom wall so I would easily be able to see them from my bed. 

These pictures would be of places I wanted to go around the world, vibrant cities, European villages, tropical beaches, the Northern Lights, rainforests ... they'd be pictures of places where in my mind I could escape to and pretend I was there instead of lying in bed trying not to pull the stitches in my stomach.

These pictures would inspire me, I would create a world around me which could be completely different than the world I was living. As I started traveling around the world, I would buy postcards in each town, village, city or country I would visit. I stuck them all over my bedroom until I had each wall filled with pictures of places all over the world. Some could think I was obsessed with traveling. This is partly true, but primarily these pictures gave me inspiration.

I could stare at these images and write an entire novel in my head (let's face it, I had plenty of time up my sleeve!). It was a really good way to exercise my brain and to stretch my creativity beyond what I thought I was capable. Many of those ideas have never seen the light of day, however the WIP I'm currently working on is a product of one little idea that came to me during one of those recovery periods. The story was never formulated in my head, but I had this image of a girl, and her surroundings were so curious and interesting... and she looked slightly different than most people I know. I think only one scene played out in my head, but that scene stuck with me, and all these years later I am finally telling her story.

Now, whenever I go to write I think of those images, or I ask Google to give me some more inspiration, and those images will help create my story.

What images inspire your writing? Here's a few of mine....

File:Costa rica santa elena skywalk.jpg
Photo by Dirk van der Made
File:Rainforest Fatu Hiva.jpg
Photo by Makemake

The stunning Niagara Falls! Photo is my own :)
Rarotonga, one of my favourite places on earth! Photo is also my own

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

RTW: NaNoWriMo ... Oh how I wish!

Another hump day which means another Road Trip Wednesday - one of my weekly highlights!

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog hop hosted by YA Highway! The lovely ladies at YA Highway post a topic and everyone writes their answers to the questions on their blog before hopping all over the place to check out all the other answers. It's fun!

This week's question.... Are you doing NaNoWriMo, or have you ever? Does having a deadline inspire you?

The short answer is no. To be honest I only recently found out about this. I'm sorry, I've been living in a cave and should really hold my head in shame.

The longer answer.... I really, really want to do it. It would be such a great experience and would be so much fun! Unfortunately my American work visa expires in November and I'm then taking off with my significant other on a two month road trip across America! (I'm bound for St Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Montgomery, New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Denver, Vegas, San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, Long Beach, Anaheim, San Diego, Los Angeles!) So I'm going to be on the road without a computer for a good part of November, December and January. I'll be in full on tourist mode and will be beyond exhausted.... so unfortunately the prospect of entering NaNoWriMo isn't even a possibility this year. I will be spending countless hours on buses and a few airplanes here and there so will be getting plenty of reading done!

Next year however, I will hopefully have finished my WIP (which has been in the planning phases for the last six months but I'm holding off writing it until I'm back in New Zealand in January and can give my full devotion to the book), and I'll have plenty of peaceful me time that can be devoted to NaNoWriMo. I'm looking forward to it already! I must confess, I have spent a lot of time pouring through the website wishing I could sign up, but I must be patient! Patience, they say, is a virtue.

Just to give you something pretty to look at, this is the view from the balcony of my little piece of paradise, my writing retreat in New Zealand. If I'm lucky and work doesn't get in the way too much, I'll spend my NaNo month up there next year, pumping out a story!

As for the part about the deadline - I love deadlines. I find it hard if I don't have an initial idea, but a deadline really puts my a into g and gets things moving. I often set deadlines for myself, which is why I haven't started writing my WIP yet beyond doing full on plot, setting and character breakdowns. One I start writing I'll be able to put a deadline on myself and work towards that. Without a deadline I'm known to flounder a bit like a fish out of water.

What about you... are you doing NaNo? Have you done it before? I want to hear all about your NaNo experiences! What do you think about deadlines? Do they help you or hinder your creative process?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Writing Community

Warning - I'm not witty at the best of times but this post rates 98% on the sappy factor.

This post isn't particularly about writing per se, but I wanted to write a post that talked about the online writing community in general.

I haven't been blogging for very long, it's really only been a couple of months since I started this blog and I still haven't told any of my friends or family about it yet. Mostly when I start a new blog, I tell people I know about it and get everyone to follow me, but my writing.... at the moment it's something I don't feel ready to share just yet. It's like it's my "dirty little secret" - just kidding ... but not really. One day I'll definitely tell them my blog exists, but it's almost like I need to prove to myself that I can really make a go at being a writer first.

There are very few people who I have told that I'm writing, and even fewer know about the plot of my WIP. A couple of people who have known me for a long time laughed when I told them I was writing a book.  I'd never really talked about my desire to write to them in the past, and because I'm not one of those authors who has been walking around with a notepad and pen since I was old enough to stand up, people didn't believe me when I said I wanted to be a writer. I have to say, it was quite disheartening to see people who know me so well laugh at the prospect of me working on a novel. It got to the point where I was embarrassed to tell people that I wanted to spend the next year focusing on my writing because I didn't want them to think I was a hopeless dreamer.

It is true that any desire I had to write had been kept under wraps most of my life. I didn't talk about it much, any writing that I did was channeled into other mediums like blogs, magazine articles, reviews, newspaper articles, school essays and the occasional short story here and there... I always loved writing, particularly creative writing, I just didn't figure there was any point in pursuing it because, quite frankly, I thought I was rubbish. I channeled all my energy into performance - singing, dance and drama - until I decided I was rubbish at them as well!

It wasn't until I was stuck in a horrible, dead end job which was going no where that I decided I really wanted a job that would let me write. I remember a conversation to my mother where I literally just whined about how all I wanted to do was write. My mum then mentioned something about me writing a novel. I'd never even considered the possibility of writing a book. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it sooner because writing a novel would really be a combination of everything I love. I really try and make a conscious effort to focus on the things that make me happy in life, by doing what I love to do. This mentality gave me the final push to just go ahead and give it a try. While I have lived with this mentality for quite some time, I recently saw this video, which is quite inspiring, which might better help explain my 'seize the day' and 'do what you love' frame of mind.

Anyway, the whole point of this post was to talk about the writing community. When I started this blog I had no readers (I still don't think I have any regular readers, but it's nice to know my blog gets viewed by eyes other than my own from time to time)! After I started this blog I discovered a whole new part of cyberspace within the 'online writing community'. While I started reading a lot of other blogs written both by individuals and groups, one of my favourite places to check into regularly quickly became YA Highway. Aside from the great posts that are put up every few days, I love their weekly blog hop. Being able to discover new blogs and writers, and seeing everyone's answers to the weekly questions is my favourite part of the week. It is when the more personalized answers come out that the writing community has really given me 'warm fuzzies'. The questions that talk about aspects of our book or our future plans has always really surprised me. I certainly wasn't expecting the writing community to be so incredibly, unquestioningly supportive and lovely. It's really blown me away, and the comments I get on this blog really make me smile.

I'm kind of a 'blog noob' and can't always figure out how to follow people... in fact I've only just figured out how to schedule posts and imbed YouTube videos (oh the shame), but I'm working on figuring it out (I get the ones that say 'google connect' but after that I'm stumped... help?!) because all the other writers blogs I've been reading on here have really impressed me and I've learned so much from this community.

**update - I've FINALLY figured out how to put the 'followers' section in there. I always wondered why it was never showing up.... and here I was thinking I was tech savvy!**

So I just wanted to write a quick (well I intended it to be quick but it's actually rather long) post about how thankful I am to the writing community for being your amazing selves, for the lovely post comments (I will never, ever stop loving the awesome blog post comments) and for being all around awesome. The support I receive from others in the writing community really encourages me to be proud about my writing, to not want to keep it a secret, and encourages me to keep going. It fuels my love and passion for the written word and it inspires me to reach higher than I ever thought possible. I'm excited about talking more to all the amazing writers on here, learning from them and supporting them in their own endeavors.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Number One Reason

I was having a conversation recently with someone about books and writing and I mentioned the fact I was working on a novel at the moment. This person then turned to me and asked me why. I was caught of guard for a moment and didn't understand why this person was asking me why I was working on a novel.

When I probed her she said, "Well, why is it that you're working on a novel? Is it because you like to write - because you find joy in writing, or is it because you want to make a career out of it."

The question actually rendered me speechless. I really didn't know how to answer that. Why can't the answer be, "well it's because of both of those reasons."

Ultimately the answer is that I write because I enjoy it, because it allows me to get caught up in these different worlds. I love telling stories. I love communicating with people. Most importantly I do love to write, whether it's an email, a blog post, a newspaper or magazine article or a novel, I really love writing.

That's why I started working on my novel in the first place. I was taking on one job after another in marketing and public relations when I realised all I really wanted to do was write. I wanted to write articles for magazines, I wanted to be a full time blogger. I didn't want to get up and go to the office in the morning, instead I wanted to get up and watch my fingers fly across the keyboard as I wrote.

My number one reason for writing is because it allows me to feel free, to lose myself within the writing, to create people and worlds who exist only in our minds. Some people find this freedom with music - yes, I do find it in music as well, but not in the same way as I do when I write. Of course I don't love it all the time, there are those moments when I'm at a roadblock and just want to throw my computer out the window of my third floor apartment, but ultimately it's what I love, it's what I'm passionate about. So why can't that be a career as well?

I do hope that one day I won't have to get up in the morning and head to the office and work my way through analyzing trends and data, writing end of campaign reports or write press releases. I hope I will get to wake up in the morning and continue giving these characters in my head a voice. I want to make a career out of writing so I don't have to work another day in my life. So I can simply get up each day and do what I love - writing. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

RTW: Looking forward to the future

Another Wednesday, another Road Trip! Road Trip Wednesday is a blog hop hosted by YA Highway!

This week we're talking about what we hope to be writing in one year, two years...five years..

I've started this post a number of times and really struggled with what to write.

A year from now I would love to be in the near-final stages of editing my current WIP and writing the follow up to this story- that would be ideal. I originally wanted to make my current WIP a stand alone, however from where I'm standing now, my main character's story seems to be so far from over. I don't know if it will end up as a trilogy, but I'm very against writing a book when there is no story there just to make it into a trilogy. In my mind at the moment, it seems like the story will be told after two books, and I wouldn't want to force the story just to make it into three.... but you never know what will happen!

Three years from now I would love to have my current series done and be writing more challenging stories, perhaps a historical piece (I have a few ideas for this) or an epic saga or some form... I would love to set a story in the late 1800's, either in New York or London I think. That's as far as I've got on that one though, not sure about characters or plots as of yet!

In five years, I just hope to be able to be writing something I'm passionate about. A story that gets me really excited that I can't wait to share with the world. There is one in particular I think about.... I want to make my Grandad's life into a book. He died when I was 12, however a few years before he died he wrote an autobiography on one of those really old original computers and got a number of copies bound for his friends and family. There were a few sections of the book I particularly found interesting when I was young, particularly his adventures during World War Two (even as a seven year old I was fascinated with the war). It wasn't until last year that I read the whole book in its entirety and wow, he was a really spectacular man who lived a very full and interesting life. It really is the type of story you'd see in a film or a book... and I would love to tell the world his story. I need to do him justice though, so I need to wait until I'm 100% ready before I tackle it and figure out a good way to make it into a novel. I just wish I was alive so I could probe him for more (luckily my Dad remembers a good portion of the parts after he was born so I can question him for more information!)

Ultimately I want to make sure my full time work doesn't get in the way of my writing and to be sure I don't lose my love for the craft. I would love to get to the point where I don't need a full time job, where I can just spend my days writing stories and immersing myself inside these worlds I create inside my head. That would be the ultimate.

Who knows what will happen, but it's good to dream! When it comes down to it, if I'm writing, and have stories kicking around in my head, I'll be happy. What do you think you'll be doing?

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Writer's Retreat

A couple of the authors on various blogs I follow have gone on writing retreats lately. I read their updates eagerly and poured through their retreat photos, insanely jealous. Having time to just get a change of scenery and just focus on the writing sounds heavenly!

I've been thinking about where I'd love to go for a writing retreat and there are a number of places that come to mind.

The first is Alaska. Something about Alaska to me just sounds so magical! Sure it would be freezing and I would have to wear hundreds of layers every day ... but having many, many centimeters of snow right outside the window, with all sorts of animals strolling around, and hopefully even the northern lights at night just sounds so perfect. Particularly if I get to snuggle up with a hot cocoa and blanket beside the fireplace while I write. Doesn't it sound like perfection to you?

The second would be somewhere in the Ireland with views of the rolling hills, a steaming plate of potatoes and that accent everywhere I go! I would imagine I would be writing a different sort of story in Ireland than I would be in Alaska but they'd both be fantastic places, don't you think?

Another place I think would be quite interesting to write in would be Venice. I've been in love with Venice since I first visited at the age of 15. The atmosphere, the European culture and the history that is seeped into every canal and street is breathtaking. It would be a fantastic place to set a novel and a great place to write from!

I can certainly tell you where I wouldn't be able to write .... that would by a beach or in a tropical location as I'd be too desperate to get outside and lie in the sand or swim in the water all the time!

Where I would probably end up going for my writers retreat is my family's vacation home in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand. It's a lovely little chalet up on a hill with views of the mountains and forest. In the winter time it snows regularly and in the summer it's just the perfect temperature. The area is a thermal reserve village, so it's also the perfect place to head down to the hot spring pools every evening. It is a great place for a writer's retreat actually! So, who wants to come with me....!

Where would you go for your dream writer's retreat?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Squeezing past the road block

How do you overcome writers block? That massive block in the road which you just can't seem to get past. That moment when you're ripping through a new story, you have so many great ideas.... and then suddenly you don't know where to go next....What happens? How does your character get from A to B? How does your character overcome this obstacle?

So what do you do?

Here's a few things I do

1. Take my favourite novels and pull them to pieces (not literally. Please do not hurt your novels!). I think about what it is that I really love about them. Chances are the things I love about those stories will help me overcome my current roadblock.

The character in my one of my favourite novel's loves sitting by the river. That is something I love about the book. It's her place to go, to think, to reflect, to get away and to dream. This could open my brain to new possibilities for the character in my novel. Perhaps instead of trying to escape on land, she escapes by swimming down the river. Perhaps instead of hiding in her bedroom, she has a place on top of a mountain she goes to think. It's the perspective thing - stepping back and getting a new perspective. This was a terrible example - but you get the gist! (I hope)

2. Plan the next plot point. I'm a planner, I like details and I like to know where things are heading. My life, my relationships, my travel plans, my career and my novels! This freakish planning often helps me avoid too many roadblocks. It means I know where my character needs to get to. If she's at point A and she needs to ultimately get to point B, what is going to happen in between point A and B to get her there. If I didn't have a point B, I feel she'd wander around aimlessly, but the fact I know where she's heading, where she has to end up, it helps to work past those blocks.

3. This point I got from Pixar! Make a list of what wouldn't happen next. If you sit down and say, okay, well I don't think there'll be an earthquake or flood you might see that a volcano might erupt. Basically writing down what wouldn't happen next helps you find the things that COULD happen next. It helps unblock the road!

4. It is a character you're having trouble with? You don't know what to do with your protagonist? Think about what you would do if you were in their position. Identify with the character and the situation. Write down 5+ ideas, then think about which of those ideas would be the most exciting for your audience to read.  Don't be afraid to be honest either. Honestly will often be more incredible than a fabricated feeling or emotion. It will feel more genuine as well.

5. Throw in some action. Have the character meet someone that is a total opposite. Challenge your character and take them out of their comfort zone. A positive for a negative, a tall for a short, a beautiful for a plain, a jock for a nerd. Someone that will clash with your character, someone that will create some drama and action. Having that character in there might help move the story forward more smoothly.

6. Just keep writing. Who cares if what you put down is absolute crap....... Keep writing, then come back to this point later and rewrite it. By the time you come back you might know what needs to happen here.

7. Skip this section. Figure out what is due to happen next and write that, then come back and fill in the blanks.

What ideas do you have? How do you get past writers block?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

RTW: How our writing changes with the seasons

Wow, the week just flew by! I didn't even get a chance to write any other posts since last Wednesday! Not only that but I almost forgot to post today's RTW! I'll have to remedy all that this week! So, this weeks RTW topic is talking about the seasons and how our writing (place, time, inspiration, etc) changes with the seasons?

As I write this I look out the window at the trees down the street which are slowly changing colour into that gorgeous shade of orange and yellow that can really only be associated with fall (or autumn as I call it back home). The sky is a misty deep grey colour and the rain is pouring down. It's what we would probably call 'miserable'. Because lets face it, it is kind of miserable to have to leave the house on a day like this. Lucky for me (or unlucky really), I'm sick today and had to stay home from work, so I sit here cuddled up under the blanket (although it's not really that cold), watching the rain come down outside.

Like so many people, my mood really does change with the seasons. In the summer I feel a kind of freedom. The weight on my shoulders from the winter has lifted and I feel much happier. The neighbourhoods come alive, people seem much friendlier and the atmosphere completely changes - especially in New York! In the winter it's cold and dreary and you have to wear a gazillion layers and that includes hats, scarves and gloves (not something we need to do back in New Zealand). People have shorter tempers, everyone is in a hurry (more so than usual) to get to where they're going because it's too cold to stay outside for long, and if you count the frowns on the faces you pass you'll be well over 200 by the time you get to your destination.

In that respect, my writing changes a lot with the seasons. In the spring and summer the settings I talk about are very magestic, they're inspired by the summer - long grass, tulips, daffodils, blue skies, scorching sun, lakes and beaches, endless and carefree days. I get inspired by the people I see flocking to the parks, by the smell of the barbeques, by the hot and sticky nights. My storyline, scenes and characters may form from the Independence day fireworks, the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island which kicks off the summer, or the mass exodus from the city as everyone heads to the Hamptons. Often when I think of the American summer, I get transported back to the 50's, 60's and 70's. Not that I was alive then, but just because I can imagine these carefree, small town American summers.... OR I will think of the New Zealand summers, the traditional 'Kiwi Bach' or the camping holidays by the beach.

In the fall and winter I'm inspired in a different way. The gloomy dark skies will give me ideas for dark stories and events, for bad characters or for horrible and painful scenes. On a day light today when I can almost see down to the park from my window, the scene is almost magical. So I may get inspiration for something beautiful, something mystical or mysterious. It may build on the material I already have or it may spark and idea that takes me in a totally different direction. The winter seasons also transports me to different times and places, specifically the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, to London, Venice or sometimes back home to New Zealand.

Even if I don't realise it, the weather, the seasons and the atmosphere the seasons bring to the city have an impact on my writing and my thought process. I have never really thought of the impact it has before, so it's interesting to really pick through how it inspires our writing.

To read more answers to this topic, be sure to head over to YA Highway