Friday, March 23, 2012

Matters Irish

Apologies for missing my Monday update - it was a public holiday here following St. Patrick's Day on March 17th, so I wasn't near a computer. Hope everyone who marked the occasion had a lovely St. Paddy's Day!

There are a lot of very vehement groups on Facebook informing Americans that in Ireland, Patty is never used as a short form of Patrick so it should be called St. Paddy's Day for short, rather than St. Patty's Day. Personally I don't care, call it what you wish (some sources suggest St. Patrick was three people, so I'm not going to come over all 'This is AUTHENTIC Saint Patrick!' since we actually can't pin the facts of his life down too closely. For all we know, he could have been called Geoff).

But I would like my American readers to know that Patty is a more usual nickname for Patricia, the female form of Patrick, so if you call an Irishman named Patrick 'Patty', he is going to think you're a little strange :)

Geoff is not recommended either.

In other news, my friend Trish and I have started a blog dedicated to the endlessly interesting subject of tea. So far most of our posts have been from Trish - I have chimed in only once to comment on a Scotswoman who has managed to sell tea to China. If you're a tea enthusiast, please come and say hi!

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Friendship, Time and Effort

I keep seeing statuses like this on Facebook, accompanied by CAPITALISED exhortations to Like or repost them (details changed to protect the guilty).

True friendships can survive anything - if you are truly friends, you can go for long periods without speaking, without calling, without emailing and your friendship will remain just as strong. If you know what I mean, if you have a friend with whom you can pick up where you left off, LIKE THIS, REPOST it on your wall, SPRAY PAINT it on your town's water tower and HAVE IT TATTOOED on your body in honour of true friendship.

Some of my closest and most valued friendships are like that, so short of tattooing myself or getting busy with the spray paint, I wholeheartedly agree. Those kinds of friendships are wonderful.

But how about a bit of love for people who are actually willing to contact you and be in your presence?

I'm not mad about seeing the internet go on about how great it is when people you really like don't contact you. It kind of sucks, actually. I've had a lot of friendships wither on the vine because I got tired of constantly making calls that weren't returned. I have no doubt that I have done the same to others, and I'm sorry for it.

Not calling your friends does not necessarily mean you have a deep and true friendship that can survive anything. It means you are not calling. And they may not be calling back.

This may mean that you have a wonderful, indestructible friendship that survives without the need for constant tending. It may also mean you are drifting apart - not a nice process, but a natural one.

So without taking from the loveliness of less-frequent friends, how about we say something nice about the people who are there for you every day? The people who send emails or texts to say hi. The people who are willing to occasionally demonstrate the fact that they like you in real ways.

It is wonderful knowing that, when circumstances get between me and a friend, we can survive it. That's a lovely feeling.

But so is knowing that someone likes you enough to meet you for a cup of pink tea. Knowing that they are willing to pretend to give a crap about how your novel is going. Knowing that if you can't find time to meet this week or next, you'll meet the week after - because you both care enough to plan something.

Woody Allen says 90% of success in life is just showing up. A sizeable chunk of Facebook's population seems to think that showing up is not only an optional extra in a friendship, but an undesirable attribute.

It's not. It's more a calculated risk.

So today, I'm going to fly in the face of what the internet says friendship is. Thank you to the people who are there for me in my everyday life. Thanks especially to the people who manage to be there in spite of busy schedules, distance and other obstacles. I also love the people who show up every couple of years - but they're getting enough love just now. I want to say thanks to the people who tend to their friendships, who demonstrate their feelings by showing up, and who never make me wonder if they've changed their email address. You guys are wonderful and no less true.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Need Your Help: The A-Z Challenge Update!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to my call for place names for this year's A-Z Challenge :) I got a very wide range of suggestions and am already mulling over ideas for microfiction!

However, I am still looking for placenames for the following letters:

  • A
  • F
  • H
  • I
  • J
  • O
  • Q
  • R
  • U
  • V

Any and all suggestions are appreciated!

I am trying to choose a wide cross-section of suggestions, so that it's not to Euro-centric, Irish-centric (although there may be two in Ireland, I'm not sure yet) or North-American-centric. Apologies if your suggestion isn't chosen - if that happens, it's probably because variety demanded I choose something else.

Many thanks again for all the suggestions so far!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lucky Seven Meme: Preview of my Work in Progress

Rachel tagged me for this meme and I couldn't resist taking part! Here's how it works:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS.

2. Go to line 7.

3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating.

4. Tag 7 authors.

5. Let them know

So here is my entry:

James and Uncle Max had met a few times but only spoken twice, once on graduation day and once when Max had gone to the pub for Claire's birthday. Claire still remembered him tottering in on his ebony cane, his cravat neatly tied and the creases in his trousers razor-sharp and straight. 'I'm not stopping, my dear,' he had called, in his most refined former-nationally-syndicated-journalist voice. 'I was just passing and wanted to wish you all the best.'
Claire's mates had all loved him. How many people had a well-spoken, beautifully dressed and super-cool old man in their lives? 

I don't usually tag people in memes, I prefer to just invite anyone who fancies participating to consider themselves tagged. I must admit I'd especially love to see a few lines from Paul, Donna and Misha :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

I Need Your Help: The A-Z Challenge

The A-Z Challenge is bearing down on us and I need to reach out to my fellow bloggers, Tweeters and online folk for some help! Don't worry, it's the fun kind of help.

Instead of blogging about my usual unpublished-writer shtick, I've decided to write a daily piece of microfiction for April. And I'm going one step further - I have a Theme, the holy grail of every school essay on Jane Eyre and Hamlet :)

Here is my idea:

Each piece of microfiction will be themed around a place. It could be a country, a city, a state, a suburb, a village, a forest, a national park, an attraction, a street, a county . . . you get the idea. So on Day One, I may be writing microfiction set in Alice Springs, Australia, and on Day Two we might be in Belgium, and on Day Three in Camden County, New Jersey. No place is too big or too small.

But I don't want to be boring, so I'm not just going to write about the handful of places I know well. And this is where you guys come in.

I want you to make suggestions! Give me a place - as large or as small as you like. I'll read about it (this is probably going to be the most fun part for me, because I love learning about new places almost as much as I love going to them) and then I'll write a short piece of fiction set there.

I'm hoping to get some variety so feel free to suggest anywhere you think may be interesting - it doesn't have to be your home - and spread the word!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Writer's Kit - Getting Metaphorical

On Monday I talked about my fantasy writers' kit - the items I would like to pop into my patterned box to set me up for hours in front of the computer.

Today, I want to talk about another kind of writers' kit. DL Hammons posted last week on the A-Z Challenge about the survival kit every blogger needs to get through April. He included items like brevity and the ability to use the scheduling feature on your blog client - not physical items, but as any survivor from last April will tell you, certainly very important.

So what metaphorical items should be in every writer's kit? My suggestions are:

A bad-writing detector (this feature should have a time delay so that it doesn't activate at first-draft stage)
A crew of beta readers (just speaking for my own crew, they would get  abit upset if I stuffed them into my patterned box)
A thick skin, for possible rejections

What do you guys think? What qualities does a writer need?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tagged: In Which I Answer Some Questions

I'm deviating from my twice-weekly posting schedule today to take part in a meme - Donna Hole tagged me, so I am invited to answer some questions. It looks like fun, so here we go:

Who is your favorite fictional character, and why?

Oh, this is a tough one! For the moment I'm going to say Cassandra Mortmain in I Capture The Castle. She's interesting and compelling, a little naive, with enough self-knowledge to be interesting but not quite enough to keep her out of trouble. She also has one of my favourite opening lines: 'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.'

How do you come up with the names for your own characters?

Honestly? Usually I start with an initial ('she just feels like she has an S name, you know?') and go from there. Sometimes they just drop into my head perfectly formed (Becky Bailey did this, although I since discovered there's a Beth Bailey in the TV show Spooks so she is in the process of becoming Becky Barrett). Other times I think about names that are from that era or region (this is how I came up with Rosie Martin in an old novel). It varies!

What book would you pass up, even if it was offered for free?

I'm embarrassed to admit this, because it's a classic, but I didn't like Great Expectations. At all. I found none of the characters sympathetic and - probably because Dickens wrote it in serial form - it was full of cliffhangers that went nowhere. Not for me.

Do you listen to music while you write?  If so, what is on your playlist?

I don't, I find music quite distracting.

Do you have to make time to write, or have a set schedule; and do you have any writing quirks?

I make time, and I don't do it as much as I'd like. Usually I write most of a first draft for Nanowrimo and spend most of the year revising it. None of them have been of query-able quality yet! I wish I could have a set schedule but my commitments vary a lot week-to-week?

Writing quirks? I far prefer single quotes to double. In this I differ from the entire publishing industry, so I spend a lot of time replacing single quotes in my novels.

Who is you dream agent/publisher?

Oh, there are so many! There are so many agents and publishers out there doing great work. The honest answer to this is 'Whichever one is willing to represent/publish me' but if I could choose, I would be very drawn to someone with Kristin Nelson's positivity and pleasantness and/or Jessica Faust's straightforwardness. Those qualities, and a willingness to edit, would be the key things I would look for.

Do you prefer printed books or ebooks?

Ooh, this is tough. I prefer printed books hands down, but there is a lot to be said for the ebook reader as a storage solution. I have a small house and a big book habit. Also I find ebooks are often cheaper. But I will abandon print when I die and not before!

What is the weirdest dare you ever accepted?

I have never accepted a dare. I'm too neurotic!

I won't tag, because I think half of my readers have been tagged already, but if anyone wants to play, let me know and I'll give you some questions :)