Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Discovery of Witches

I discovered this book through Goodreads, and checked it out because I liked the title. When I read the blurb and realised it was set in Oxford, where my brother and SIL both received their doctorates, it became an autobuy. And I'm so glad I bought it!

Deborah Harkness' book gripped me from beginning to end (and cost me two whole nights' sleep!). It might be a paranormal, but A Discovery of Witches is no teeny bopper romance. This is an intelligent story with an adult heroine and hero (who just happen to be a witch and vampire respectively). The mix of realism and magic was skillfully woven, and I loved the varied settings - from the dreaming spires of Oxford, to the richness of the Auvergne countryside, to the homeliness of New England.

A Discovery of Witches reminded me a great deal of AS Byatt's Possession, and it's even easier to read. The author's knowledge never feels forced or like a lecture. She threads history, biology, science and philosophy so seamlessly into the story that it doesn't feel like you're learning anything, but trust me, you will. I suspect that every reader will take away something different from this story.

I eagerly await the next book in this Trilogy. I hope I've caught up on some sleep by then, so I'm ready!

If you've read this book, please share your opinion in the comments. If not, check out this really detailed and informative review by Bibliophile Jen. And if we've convinced you to try the book, you can find it here on Amazon for Kindle and as a paperback.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Inspiring Women

It's Monday morning and not only is it Back to Work day, but it's also the first day I start The Great Commute to take my daughters to their new school across town. Far from letting any of this get me down, I'm cheering. Because for 2012 Mondays are Inspiration days here on my blog.

Last week I posted this picture, and opened a brainstorming session, asking blog readers to share their inspiration of what lay behind the door. If you haven't yet had your say, please leave a comment.

This week I'd like to pay tribute to women. To all of us, because we are incredible.

We are stronger than we think. We hold down demanding jobs, raise children, run households (and sorting insurances, car service, grocery shopping, and general maintenance is a full time job. Ask my PA. Ha-ha.) We support each other, not just our friends and families, but sometimes strangers too.

We are often faced with really tough situations that aren't of our own making. And it amazes me again and again ust how strong and resilient women can be. My fellow Wild Rose Press author Kellie Kamryn is hosting a series on her blog, featuring women who've survived abusive marriages and come out the other side.

Far from being depressing, these are stories of brave women, starting with Kellie herself, who are survivors and examples to us all of just how amazing we women are. Please visit Kellie's blog to read both her story and this first post in the series. Thanks Kellie, for offering support and encouragement to the women who need it most.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We can do it!

My good friend Mandy and I are planning to start teaching novel-writing writing courses soon. Here in South Africa there's a dearth of courses aimed at writers (or aspiring writers) of commercial fiction. Here, if you're a poet or write literary fiction dripping in political angst, you've got it made. Write commercial fiction? Not so much.

Another reason I see a huge need to pass on what I've learned over the last few years is that I really believe anyone can write a novel. (Can anyone publish? Well, that's a whole other blog post.)

But I very strongly believe that anyone who wants to write a novel can - and should.

We all started at that place where we said "I want to write a novel one day". Some of us did it because we had the discipline and focus to make ourselves sit down and write. Some of us needed a bit of a shove from friends or family. All of us discovered along the way that we had a helluva lot to learn. And hopefully, like me, most of us discovered that the learning is just as fun as the writing.

I'd particularly like our courses to be for those who need that nudge. I would absolutely hate for people to never follow their dream and end up regretting that they didn't do it, when all they needed was that little shove in the right direction.

Some people start with greater advantages and get there a little quicker. Some of us take a little longer to get there. But no matter how long it takes, we can all get there if we learn and we persevere. Don't believe me? Check out author Helen Lacey's call story.

The next part of why I want to pass on what I've learned the long, slow, hard way is, in Bob Mayer's words to "Write it forward". If I can help speed up someone else's journey just a little, I'll be happy.

So now I'd like to learn more about you. Were you a self-starter, or did you need a nudge to follow your dreams? Or are you still in need of a shove?

Monday, January 2, 2012

How NOT to make new year resolutions

There are a few basic rules to making resolutions at the start of the new year. This isn't ground breaking stuff, I know, but I need to remind myself.

1. Don't keep them to yourself, as no-one will keep you accountable unless they know what you want to achieve.
DO make your aims public.

2. Don't make resolutions that rely on other people making things happen (eg. my publisher of choice will request a full within the next 3 months. Yeah right.)
DO list things you can do yourself.

3.  Don't be too general. "Write more" might be an achievable goal, but it's also very broad.
DO make your goals specific.

4. Don't aim low. I have a sign at my bedroom door that says "Aim for the moon. Even if you fail, you fall among the stars."
DO push yourself with your new year's resolutions.

Susan Meier has done a really wonderful series of blog posts on goal setting which you can read here.  She points out four more important elements for effective goal setting: they should be "1) clear, 2) specific, 3) measurable, and 4) time bound."

So in that spirit, here are my resolutions for 2012. It's quite a list this year!
  • Complete both my current WIPs by 1st March (thanks lovely Twitter friends for giving me a date and a swift kick in the derriere)
  • Submit a partial of When September Ends to at least 4 of my A-list agents before the end of April.
  • Write at least one full category-length manuscript aimed at RIVA between March and December.
  • Write The Orchard, my next novella-length 1920s story, between March and December.
  • Keep up with my blog(s) all year!
  • Get my new German passport sorted before April
  • Promote the pants off Dear Julia when it releases in June
  • Attend the RNA conference in Penrith in July
  • My friend Mandy and I are planning to start teaching courses together. I'd like to get the first underway no later than March.
  • Go to the gym at least twice a month this year. Every month. 
  • And finally, I have a few friends I've neglected terribly this last year. In 2012 I'm going to make a conscious effort to stay more in touch.
It's do-able, and if I achieve all of that I'll be a very happy bunny.

Have you made any resolutions?