Tag Archives: humour

The never ending cover story

Ok, I know you’re sick of this by now, but…Just. One. More. Time.

At least I’ve managed to pick one of the two concepts. I went with the more literal one, which also happens to use a face. The research shows that people respond to faces, and it also shows that I respond to research findings. So there you go, one decision made.

I’ve also spent hours searching Shutterstock for better images. Here are the previous version (on the left) and the new one (on the right):
Version 3 vs version 4
I’m practically in love with this new model. Not only her facial expression is spot-on, she’s also not stick-thin, like most of the pretty blond girls on Shuttersock. At one point, desperate, I was going to hire a model and a photographer, but I don’t think I could wish for a better girl.

I’m also happy with the background, which (when I pay and download a proper photo) shows a view of a downtown city. The colour is also fitting.

The man’s arms read better, but some people were confused and thought Isa just has “man hands”. May have to look more.

Not at all happy with lettering, but being an optimist, I’m sure a solution will come to me, maybe in a dream or in the middle of a meeting.

So there you go. One baby step closer to the finish. Brilliant ideas and suggestions would be much appreciated!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Shizzle-style book marketing

I know, I’m still weeks away from actually seeing my novel on Amazon, but being a planner I just had to think of a few marketing ideas. For if a book hits an overcrowded marketplace and no one is around to read it, does it make a sound? I mean, of course it doesn’t unless it’s an audiobook, but you know what I mean.

I looked around to see what others are doing. It’s not pretty. On Twitter, you get spammed by messaged from authors begging you to read whatever it is they wrote. Some of them send out a message once EVERY MINUTE. What can it possibly get you, other than getting blocked, and fast? I can’t even understand some of those messages, #because #they #are #so #full #of #hashtags. Most authors are following other authors, and thus the circle of spam is complete.

I was thinking of doing a blog tour, but the problem is, I’m really shy for an extrovert. Sure, I can chat up a stranger at a party, but I can’t bring myself to ask for help. How do you even contact another writer with “Hey, can I blog on your site about my awesome new book?” without being blocked and reported? I might have to figure this one out eventually, but not now.

Instead, I’ve decided to try some unconventional ideas, the kind of idiotic and rebellious crap my characters would try. I can’t use home-made bombs and kidnapping for obvious legal reasons, but here are a few possibilities:

1. Shock and awe tactics. Like paying a million dollars for a gorgeous blonde to run naked through a footy game, with “Shizzle, Inc” painted across her bum. It worked for Virgin. The problem is that I don’t have a million dollars. I could of course do it myself, but then I could lose my job and possibly my fiancé. For now I’m going with a relatively lame idea of hanging a massive poster off the pedestrian pass over King’s Way. Saying something like #ShizzleInc and maybe a pic of a blonde. It needs work.

2. Begging my readers like they’ve never been begged before. Forget spam, I say. Do it in person. I’m going to print the novel cover and as much of the beginning as I can fit on a folded A4 sheet, so it looks like a mini-book with details on how to download the real thing at the end. Then I will stand at one of the CBD train station in the evening peak hour and hand them out to women in their 20-40s with lame come-ons like “Something to read on your way home?”. That’s legal, right?

3. Reinventing the already invented. Thinking of posting a few chapters on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. I don’t know if it’s even possible or wise, but I will try. Cause that’s how I roll.

4. Creating a Shizzle, Inc virus that delivers copies of the book to every desktop in the world. Yeah, you can scratch that one. I’m still not sure how computers work.

That’s about all for now. I wish it was a nice fat list of ten. If you have any suggestions, I’d really appreciate them, the crazier the better!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Do you prefer the apple or the orange?

Well, now that I’ve decided not to use the pro to design my book cover, its time to put my Photoshop skills to where my mouth is…You may recall my frustration at the designer’s attempts to create a cover for Shizzle, Inc. Some of you have actually really liked his first concept. Choosing one is so hard!

I finally got a chance to spend a few solid hours on the concept development today and would love your input on my top two so far. These are just concepts, so please ignore the sloppiness of execution, resolution, and watermarks (I just need to sign up and pay for the images). Once I get my head around which way to go, I will further develop that one. Or start from scratch…
Cover mock up bubble girl and man arms2 Cover mock up 6

I know, they couldn’t be more different…so which one do you like? The apple or the orange?


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Ten things I’ve learned from my copyeditor

Despite being the single highest cost of self-publishing so far, the copyedit will be the one expense I will never regret.

That would have been the list if this article was entitled “A single most important thing I’ve learned”. But it’s not, so there are ten more below. Which I guess makes it eleven…never mind! Anyway, after getting eight quotes and four samples from Australian and American editors, I chose Lu Sexton of A Story to Tell to copyedit Shizzle, Inc and I’m blown away with the results. To be honest, I had a lot of reservations about paying for editing. After all I’ve already had a structural edit; I’ve revised the draft no less than a hundred times myself; I speaka English real good. Handing over cash for a promise of making your draft better is scary, even if that promise comes with a professional reputation and an exceptional sample edit.

In the end it was probably that sample that did it. Lu didn’t just pick up grammatical errors and turns of phrase, she made a few clever suggestions for heightening the drama and comedy without losing my protagonist’s voice. I had the balls to ask if the rest of the manuscript would get a similar treatment and got a polite answer that yes, it would. And it did. I got back not just an improved manuscript, but a lesson in writing, customised just for me. Here’s the list of lessons I promised, in no particular order:

1. Confusing turns of phrase, such as “my destiny was to be discovered”. Isa thinks she is meant to be discovered, but Lu thought it reads as if Isa is about to find out what her destiny is meant to be. I couldn’t agree more.
2. People jump off bridges, not from them. Snakes are venomous, not poisonous.
3. How often my characters “waived” their hands and got their feelings “crushed”.
4. Continuity and circumstances not matching what characters are doing. It’s lunchtime, but Isa is not hungry. Dress is matte in one sentence and shimmery in the next.
5. Explaining things too much. Once the character is in a lobby, you can call it “it” and not have to remind the reader that we are still talking about the lobby. They will get it.
6. Character’s voices not matching their choice of words. The posh evil antagonist slipping into slang, or dim Isa using formal speech.
7. Impossible combinations of actions, such as “I managed to close my mouth and said”.
8. Rhythm. Amazing how cutting a few words or moving sentences around improved the flow. For example, when describing a person, its awkward to move from face to shoes and back to face. Unless of course it suits your character, which in my case it didn’t.
9. Using more contemporary references. It’s hard to pretend to be a girl half your age. Twenty-year olds would compare massive speakers to those that can be found at a Skrillex concert, not Rolling Stones.
10. I have writing tics. Several of them. Everything was “something-looking”. Metaphors are great, but there are more interesting ways to describe them.

Most of the suggestions were not just track changes, they were accompanied by comments explaining the reason for change. Not only that, I got a separate style sheet, to help my proof reader. I didn’t know those existed!

I could go on, but this is starting to get embarrassing. Plus, as we know, numbered lists attract more attention, and what is better than a nice fat top ten? So keep on writing, and start a savings account for the copyedit. You won’t regret it.


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

“Insert comment here”

The hardest thing about writing a novel is not knowing if my target audience, or anyone at all, would actually find it amusing. Originally I was going to self-publish Shizzle, Inc on this blog one chapter at a time, but not while I am hoping against all odds to get it traditionally published. In a desperate attempt to get feedback from someone other than friends and family, I even paid a professional at Writers Victoria to review the draft. To my surprise and delight, the anonymous reviewer found it funny. They also sandwiched in some constructive criticism, but that will be material for another post.

For now, I’d like to share with you a short story that started as a character development exercise for Shizzle, Inc. The story is set about five years before the novel starts and it introduces Isa and her family’s dynamics. I’d love to know what you think about it.


“Isabella? Is that you?”

I freeze, unable to say anything, or even think. Instead, I stare at his bedroom door, waiting for the door handle to turn.

“Isabella?” he says again. His voice is weak, but it resonates in the dead quiet of the house. “I need your help.”

I take a deep breath, let it out slowly, then turn the handle.

It’s dark, because the curtains have not been opened for days, and the last rays of daylight produce only a faint glow around the edges of old-fashioned heavy velvet. I shuffle towards the middle of the room, towards the greenish light of an alarm clock. I hold out my arms in hope of avoiding anything that could poke out an eye and, of course, bang my shin into the edge of the bed.

“Mother…!” I manage to catch myself just in time, finishing with a whisper of “Could I turn on a bedlight?”

He mumbles something that sounds like “If you must”.

I hold onto the edge of the mattress for reference and shuffle around it until I bang into the bedside table. This time I manage to keep quiet and pat the table until I find the lamp cord and the switch.

The light is weak, but he moans and turns his head away. I look down at him, waiting, but he does not move or say anything. He looks pale, like the sheets, and his matted hair is stuck to his forehead and temples. The room smells like sickness and old age. I try not to breathe.

Finally, he turns his head and looks at me. A weak smile is playing at the corners of his mouth.


“Yes, Dad. You said you need help?”

The smile fades. “Yes, but I’m afraid you can’t help me.”

“Oh,” I say. I hate to admit it, but I’m relieved. The fear that I will have to help him walk to the bathroom and wait outside the door, like yesterday, subsides.

“I’d like some water,” he says.

There is a full glass on the bedside table next to him. I pick it up and hand it over, but he just looks at me with that faint, pained smile, until I bring the glass to his lips and help him lift off the pillows. He drinks greedily, most of the water spilling down his chin, then falls back onto the pillows, exhausted. There is another moment of uncomfortable silence.

“Okay,” I finally say. “If that’s all, then I will get going. I will be back in a couple of hours…“

“Where are you going?” he asks, his voice quite a bit stronger. He must have really needed that water.

“Just to the movies, with girls,” I lie. I can’t quite tell him that I’m going on a date. Dad still thinks that dating should be reserved for college. I disagree, of course, and so does my older sister, who has never been to college and yet is currently in a hospital, trying to push out a couple of babies.

“The movies?” he asks and pauses for an effect. “You are leaving me here alone?”

“I thought you were asleep,” I lie again. “You need your rest, and I will only be a couple of…“

“I’m starving!” Dad announces. The illness has not affected his appetite, and ever since Mom practically moved into my sister’s hospital room, I’ve been required to serve full breakfasts, lunches and dinners, most of them in bed.

“But you just had pasta…“

“That was hardly a balanced meal,” he says, covering his eyes with a plump hand. “I need protein to repair tissues and help sustain my bodily functions.”

“It had cheese…“

He peeks at me from behind the hand, his gaze permeated with hurt feelings. “What I really need right now is chicken protein, preferably in a form of a chicken soup with vegetables! The vegetables would provide the antioxidants I so desperately need to support my immune system.”

“No problem!” I say, trying to sound helpful and feeling guilty as hell. “I have a can of Campbell’s…“

“A can!” he says and lets the hand fall onto the pillow. His gaze directed to the ceiling, he asks nobody in particular, “Perhaps I have a bowel cancer, too? It must be the BPA levels in canned soup that left me unable to pass a stool since yesterday…“

“Okay!” I say and back out of the room. “I can make some soup from scratch, that’s no problem!”

In the kitchen, I empty two cans of Campbell’s chicken and vegetable soup into a pot, add a chunk of butter, and light up the stove. I open and close cupboards and bang pots and pans, as I dial Brad’s number. My hands are shaking. We’ve only been going out for a couple of weeks and tonight was going to be the third date, making it officially okay to let him put his hands under my shirt. Brad is the hottest guy on the football team, which makes him the hottest guy in school, and me the luckiest girl in the entire universe. I put the phone to my ear and listen to the beeps and the pounding of blood in my ears.

“Hello there,” he answers and I nearly burst into desperate tears.

“I’m so sorry,” I say. “I can’t go out tonight. My Dad is sick, and I thought I could sneak out, but he heard me, and he wants soup, but not from a can, and my sister is in a hospital, she is having twins, and Mom is with her, and I can’t go out. I’m so sorry!”

He doesn’t say anything for a second. “Brad?” I ask and take a breath, ready to explain the whole thing again.

“That’s okay,” he says.

“Really?” I nearly burst into tears again, the relieved kind.

“Yeah, I can wait,” he says. “I wouldn’t wait for anyone else, you know. But you are hot, babe.”

He’s never called me hot, or babe, before and my heart stops for a full second.

“Thanks,” I say. “Babe.”

I carry the pot of soup into Dad’s bedroom. He looks suspiciously at me as I ladle a bowl for him. I help prop him up with pillows and watch as he brings a shaky spoon up to his mouth.

“This is good,” he says approvingly. “Not like that canned crap.”

He asks for a second helping and then I carry the pot and bowl back into the kitchen. I dial Mom’s number, but it goes to voicemail. I think for a second, shrug, and dial Felicity’s number. It goes to voicemail, too, which is to be expected, I guess. She is probably all drugged up on an epidural or something, anyway.

I turn on the TV, but there is nothing even half-decent, which is really off-pissing on a Saturday night. Whoever comes up with a TV schedule must assume that people either have plans or paid channels. I, of course, have neither. Mindlessly flipping through ancient movies and infomercials, I wonder how long I can bear being alone with Dad and his mystery illness. It came on gradually over many months, starting around the time my sister announced that she is pregnant. It was right before her graduation, but when it turned out that her highschool sweetheart Mark knocked her up, Dad didn’t have the strength to kill him, despite many earlier promises to do so. Dad went to the graduation, but complained a lot more than usual, although I’m not sure if others noticed. Felicity was too happy to notice anything, glowing from either the pregnancy hormones or the wedding plans. She married Mark, despite Dad’s rumbles of “over my dead body”. He didn’t die, but started growing weaker every day, missed work, had trouble walking up the stairs and often paused to grasp at the left side of his chest. When Felicity told us that she was having twins, Dad announced that his pulmonary artery was on the verge of collapsing. Mom begged him to go to a hospital, but he refused, on the grounds that doctors are charlatans and hospitals are hotbeds of new and deadly bacteria.

Eventually Mom stopped begging, probably because she was too distracted by the excitement of getting not one, but two grandchildren, and by the constant need to remind Felicity of what to eat and what to do. When Felicity checked into the hospital at around the eighth month of the pregnancy, it was probably to get away from Mom, rather than to have her blood pressure monitored. Of course it didn’t work, because Mom never left her hospital room. Upon hearing of that development, Dad announced that his liver has joined the ranks of the defiant organs. He explained over and over again, usually during dinner, how the toxic waste accumulating in his blood stream was slowly destroying him from inside out, and what his liver probably looked like at that stage. Then finally, when Felicity went into labour three days ago, Dad refused to get out of the bed.

I was alone with him, and also alone with the crazy thought that maybe he was faking it. I could not say it to anyone, leave alone constantly weeping Mom, but it was there, in the back of my mind. It was in fleeting moments of anger at being involved in his bodily functions, in long stretches of wishful thinking that he will be okay, that my sister and her yet unborn twins will be okay, and in constant selfish wishes that I will be okay. It was all too much at the time when adolescent depression was ready to sink its claws into my teenage body.

A raspy cough interrupts my thoughts. Dad is in the doorway, leaning heavily on the frame and blinking at the light.

“Dad!” I jump up from the couch. “What are you doing up?”

“I tried to call for you,” he whispers. “I guess you didn’t hear me over the TV.”

I help him back into bed, choking with guilt over my previous thoughts. He looks old and defeated, not at all his usual fieldmarshal self. I can’t believe I could ever think that he is faking it, he probably is dying. I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes, and I swallow to hide them. They taste like remorse with a touch of love.

When I’m finished re-arranging the pillows and refilling his water glass, he pats the side of the bed for me to sit down. I perch on the edge, feeling very uncomfortable and using all my psychic powers to will Mom into coming back and relieving me from this duty.

“Isabella,” he says. He started calling me by my full name lately, which is not a good sign. When things are good, I’m usually “Isa”. “Isabella” is reserved for lecturing me about my poor grades, or attitude, or lack of common sense, and I honestly have not done anything wrong lately, except maybe dating Brad behind Dad’s back.

“Isabella,” he says again and takes my hand. This is excruciating. He is not a touchy-feely person and I can’t remember the last time I got a hug from him. This holding-hands-on-a-deathbed is worse than even waiting for him outside the bathroom door.

“I have to tell you something,” he croaks. I can’t help but brighten up. I’ve always hoped that I have some kind of a birth secret, like I’m actually related to royalty and will one day be shipped overseas to take my rightful place on the throne. The deathbed is a perfect place to spring that kind of news on a teenage girl.

“Your maternal grandfather,” he begins, and I nearly faint. This is it! I always knew I was special, not the learning-disabled kind, but the psychic, or magical, or at least royal blood sort. I grip Dad’s hand, and he takes it as a sign of encouragement.

“He didn’t like me from the start, you know? I was too young, too poor, and too skinny for his Princess.”

His voice sounds as if from afar. My head is swimming with royal images: kings and princes staring at me with admiration; walking through an endless cathedral isle, with an equally endless train behind me; a heavy crown being placed on my chastely bowed head.

“He said that I would never amount to anything. ‘Over my dead body’ is what he said when I asked for your mother’s hand in marriage. Thankfully, your mother had a lot more sense than him, although lately I’m not so sure. ‘Over my dead body’! I showed him, of course. I am a well-respected historian, as you know, and he always was, and remained to the last day, a car mechanic.”

The images in my head disappear, as if blown aside by a cold gust of reality.


“That’s right, a car mechanic! Sure, he maybe owned the shop and made a lot of money, but it didn’t change the fact that his nature, his very essence was that of a tinkerer! He tinkered with car parts, which required no original thought, no analysis or theory! In a way he was like one of those doctors your mother insists on, the simpletons barely able to look up symptoms in a reference manual!”

A heavy cloud fogs up my brain, as I realise that this is no deathbed revelation, that this is the same story I’ve heard at least a hundred times. I can’t tell him that, of course, just in case he is dying and this is the last time I’m hearing it. The combination of disappointment and guilt is overwhelming and I look down in hopes that he will not see it in my eyes. He doesn’t, of course, and keeps going on and on about Grandpa.

Thankfully, the phone rings in my pocket and I answer it despite Dad’s protests. It’s Mom and she is crying. For a second another image, of my dead sister, enters my head, but then Mom starts screaming, “Boys! Boys!”

“What?” My first thought is that she somehow found out about my dating, although I’m dating only one boy. Mom explains that Felicity just had two boys and that I’m now a fifteen-year old auntie.

“Wow,” is all I can manage to say, over and over. I mouth “two boys” to Dad, who seems to be either pouting or smiling that sad smile again. Mom passes the phone to Felicity, who sounds tired and groggy, just like I’d imagined.

“Congratulations!” I exclaim and inwardly congratulate myself on coming up with something appropriate to say.

“Thanks,” she says. “Boy, I’m glad it’s two of them, because I’m never doing this again!”

I laugh hysterically and she asks when I’m coming to see them.

“I don’t know, Dad has taken a turn for the worse,” I say and Dad nods in approval. “Maybe when Mom is back home?” I look at Dad and he nods again.

“When is he coming to see them?” Felicity asks and suddenly she doesn’t sound groggy at all.

“I don’t know, talk to him,” I say and pass the phone to Dad, who looks at it as if it’s a bomb, but takes it and holds it to his ear.

Dad starts saying his version of congratulations into the phone, but Felicity cuts him off. I can’t hear what she is saying, other than it sounds like barking. Whatever it is, it has a magical healing effect on Dad. Color returns to his cheeks and he even sits up in bed.

“I’m not…“ he says, but the barking does not stop. I can only hear his side of the conversation, and it sounds like a defendant trying to appease Judge Judy. The color in his cheeks turns from peachy pink to beetroot red.

“You don’t understand…“

“The symptoms…“

“Of course I do!”

“Please don’t!”

Finally the barking stops. Dad takes the phone away from his ear and looks at it for a moment, then pushes a button and hands it back to me. I stare at him.

“We are going to the hospital,” he says finally.

“Oh my God!” I freak out with realisation that the news must have pushed his liver over the edge. “I can’t drive! We have to call you an ambulance! Can you wait for an ambulance?”

“Not for me,” he waves me off and pushes the comforter away. “Let’s go see the babies.”

“But…what about your condition?”

He ignores me and swings his legs down, searching for slippers with his feet. His face is contorted in a deep thought.

“I still can’t drive…we can call a taxi, I guess…”

“I’m not paying for a taxi,” he says and shuffles towards the wardrobe.

I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing, just follow his lead. When fifteen minutes later we get into the station wagon, the color in his face is back to peachy pink and he almost looks healthy. We drive through the dark streets in complete silence.

“Grandpa,” he says.

Not again. “I know, he was a car mechanic and he didn’t want you to marry Mom…“

“No, I mean me. I’m a grandpa. A bit early, if you ask me.”

I laugh from surprise and relief. “Tell me about it. I’m an auntie at fifteen! I’ve never even babysat! I’m probably going to drop one of the boys and Felicity will have to kill me…”

“Nah,” he says, and smiles. This one is good, a hearty full smile. “You’ll be great.”

“Really? You think so?”

“For sure. You are good at so many things.” He doesn’t say what they are and I hope that he is not thinking that lying is one of them. Still, it makes me feel warm inside, for the first time in weeks, if not months.

“Thanks,” I say. “You’ll be a great grandpa. I mean, you will be great at being a grandpa, not that you will be a great grandpa. I mean, one day, you will live to be a great grandpa. I hope.” I look at him, dreading his response, but he doesn’t look back. Only the hearty full smile is still there.

“For sure,” he says and we keep on driving through the dark.

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Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

Spreadsheets are the writer’s best friends

Well, maybe they are just this writer’s. Somehow, no matter what problem or challenge I’m facing, my first thought always turns to Excel. (Hmm, “Excel”…subliminal messaging? Or truth in advertising?)

Maybe it’s that whole idea of breaking a major problem into its component parts and tackling them one at a time. Maybe it’s tapping into the brain’s reward system, as I did last year, when watching the trend line of “actual words written” motivated me to finish the first draft of Shizzle, Inc. Or, most likely, it’s the fact that without a spreadsheet, or at least a to-do list, I would completely forget what I’m supposed to do or what I’ve already done…

Wait…what was I talking about?

To illustrate, here’s one of my “writer’s little helpers”, the word count tracking spreadsheet:

Shizzle word count log

You can see that the “actual” line is a bit jagged, and occasionally dips below the target, but all is well that ends well – and in this case I got what I wanted exactly when I wanted it – the draft was finished on the day the spreadsheet predicted that it would be.

The latest one is helping me track my progress towards landing a literary agent. Oh, I forgot to mention in my last post that in addition to everything else going wrong, my agent and I parted ways in a sort of messy divorce. So I’m back to square one in terms of plans on how to publish Shizzle, Inc. A depressing thought that only a tracking spreadsheet can fix. So here it is:

Selling Shizzle

It’s really simple. Paradoxically for a die-hard optimist, I expect to be rejected by agents. A lot. Let’s say 99 times out of 100. A simple logic would then dictate that in order to get one agent to believe into a future success of my totally rad first attempt at writing a novel, I will have to submit it to at least 100 agents.

As the spreadsheet shows, so far I’m up to 34 actual submissions. As an easy visualisation tool, the light grey shaded cells show all the agents to whom I’ve sent a query, and the more depressing dark grey ones, with strikethrough font, show the ones that sent a rejection letter or ignored me long enough to indicate a “no cigar” outcome.

So far my spreadsheets got me what I wanted, when I wanted it – 85,000 words in less than three months, and an apartment in about the same time frame. I will be very, very surprised if after 100 submissions I will not hook a single fish…er, agent. I’m not worried, though – if that happens, Miss Fix-it will make a spreadsheet on how to self-publish her “widely rejected” and “ignored by the best” debut.


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

Worst writer’s block and best excuses for it, ever!

I can’t believe that my last post was nearly a year ago! Before you write me off as just another wannabe without stamina and staying power, let me rattle off the reasons why. They are all really good excuses…

Since there are so many of them, and because my mind is warped by years of project management and corporate reporting, I shall present them in this easy to read, unemotional dot-point format:

1. Literally two weeks after my last post, I broke up with a boyfriend of five years. That by itself is a pretty good excuse to forgo writing for a while in favour of drinking cheap wine while wearing pyjamas, eating Cheetos, and watching endless reruns of the “Big Bang Theory”, but then…

2. The next day I turned 41. Turning anything 40+ is pretty traumatic under any circumstances, but it’s even worse when you are newly single.

3. And, as it turns out, it’s even worse when you are homeless. In the weeks prior, my home sweet home was repeatedly invaded by swarms of termites, the flying, mating kind. Out of obligation (and disgust), I reported the unwanted subleasers to the landlord. Little did I know that he would return the favour with an official-looking letter requiring me to vacate the premises in 60 days, so that the floors could be torn up and hundreds of litres of poison pumped into the soil below. I had every reason to believe he was the cold-heartedest landlord ever, until…

4. I’ve tried to rent a place with my dog. My adorable, miniature, house trained (sort of) Italian Greyhound. The only houses and apartments available to dog owners were complete dumps, the kind where I was sure to descend into depths of post-partum depression. Then it occurred to me, that at 41 I should shape up and buy a place of my own. Except…

5. I had all of 6 weeks to do it. Well, 10 weeks, after my tear-stained emails convinced the landlord to give me a month’s extension. How hard could it be? Apparently not as hard as…

6. The slap in the face I’ve received at work. My pet project, my baby if you will, was taken away from me with “thanks, we got it from here”. I was effectively demoted, although thankfully without loss of pay, which would have made the point #5 above practically impossible.

Let me pause here for a moment and reflect on where I was last April or so. At the rock bottom, ladies and gentlemen! Agh, the flashbacks! The horror…

Thankfully, this is where my alter ego, Miss Fix-it, stepped in to clean up the mess. Ok, so Miss Fix-it did have an occasional cry about it, but that was not all she did. She also:

1. Viewed over 50 apartments for sale in about a month. I still have the spreadsheet to prove that it was not just a cheap wine-induced nightmare.

2. Bid at three auctions and made two offers, including signing a deposit check with a shaky hand. Got outbid and had the check returned, with a mocking, red-hot “cancelled” stamp across its face.

3. After waiting a respectable 3 months, signed up for online dating. Went on a few dates, but mostly got material for a future book, a chicklit number about how hilarious it is to date in your 40s. It really is, if you drink enough.

4. Applied for jobs, so far six. Went to two interviews, but mostly got material for a future book, maybe something motivational, along the lines of “keep trying, even if you get beat by internal candidates” or whatnot.

I’d like to tell you that all those efforts paid off…that I lived happily ever after…funny enough, I can!

I bought an apartment, not the kind I set out to buy (an older, Art Deco with character, drafts, and leaky plumbing). I got a 2-year old place with a wrap-around balcony, floor to ceiling glass, brand new appliances, heating and cooling. I even pulled up the carpet in the living room and polished the concrete floor underneath, so that my dog can piss anywhere she pleases. It’s small, but it’s oh-so-me.

I also found a new boyfriend. Sorry, fiance – he surprised me right before Christmas! He is also not at all what I expected (a middle-aged man with a couple of kids, baggage and beginnings of a beer belly, who would watch TV and drink stubbies while I made dinner). He is gorgeous, fit, kind, and well-adjusted. He also gets up early every day and makes breakfast. Every single day. He is now in the kitchen, making dinner. Unreal…

The only thing that’s still not completely and utterly perfect is my job. But I’m not worried about it – Miss Fix-it is working on it. She also got a spreadsheet going of all the US agents that have received and will receive “Shizzle, Inc” submissions, but I’ll save it for another post.

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Why I write

I have been reading a lot of writing blogs lately, as well as comments posted on those blogs by wannabe and somewhat successful writers. (Really successful novel writers, I noticed, post little online. They must be saving every word for their publishers.)

Naturally, many post or comment about their reasons for writing. Most say that it’s for the love of the craft. Many write to remember and I can certainly understand that, because my own writing started with simple entries in a daily journal. I still have the journal and read it every now and then, wishing I kept it up.

Some writers think of their books as “messages in a bottle” or write to communicate with the larger community. Some do it for self-awareness, others to understand the world. Some even claim they would stop breathing if they were to stop writing (I assume a YA writer). Only one so far admitted that it was all about the money.

I became so fascinated with this topic, while procrastinating away valuable writing time, that i even googled “why i write”. (I know, it’s an OCD). Turned out it’s a George Orwell essay, in which he talks about the four “great motives for writing”, which are ego satisfaction, the pleasure of making up something beautiful, or a historical or political need.

Surprisingly, none of the bloggers (so far) or even Mr. Orwell have mentioned my main reason for writing. For me personally it’s being able to say, under pretence of writing fiction, everything I wish I could say in real life. Simple things, like telling my boss what I think about his brilliant new idea and where I think he should put it. Calling an ex-boyfriend and saying, “it wasn’t me, it was you”. Yelling “shut up!” at someone on the train who believes in letting everyone in on his phone conversation. My protagonist gets to do those things.

Oh, and I wish I could admit that I’m in it for the money. It’s okay, my protagonist will.

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It’s alive!

Have you ever experienced a shock of when something you created started talking on its own, and even getting an attitude? I am not just talking about kids here, although it is a hoot to watch my two-year old niece give commands to her parents and the family dog. I am talking about a fictional character that exists only on your laptop’s harddrive!

Forgive me if this is old news to you, but as I am nearing the end of my first novel’s draft, weird stuff is starting to happen. I had a plot, a chapter outline and character bios and naively thought that I knew where this was headed. The first paranormal thing happened when one of the supporting characters opened his mouth for the first time. He is one of the bodyguards, which were originally intended to lurk in the shadows and were meant to be cookie-cutter identical and dumb (for comedic purposes). As soon as he opened his mouth, though, things changed.

“What’s my name?” he asked.

“You don’t have a name,” I said, “You are a support character. You only have one line.”

“But my partner will be talking to me, so like what, he doesn’t know my name?”

“Fine!” I rolled my eyes, “How about Serge? Is Serge okay?”

“Okay,” he said. Then five minutes later he piped up again, this time with a funny idea for a dialogue. I liked it, so I wrote it down.

“Well,” he said, “Kinda looks like I have a personality now, donnit?”

“Yes,” I said, “You are a dumbass!”

“He sure is!” said the second bodyguard.

“Who the hell gave you permission to speak?” I asked him.

“Well, someone has to be a mastermind of this here unit?”

I was forced to agree. He demanded a name and didn’t like any of my suggestions until we settled on Kurt. Kurt and Serge then proceeded to argue with each other, which I definitely did not expect. It was funny, though, so I just did my best trying to write it all down.

The paranormal did not stop there. I am almost at the end (75K words, thank you very much!) and all of a sudden my protagonist threw a hissy fit.

“Wait a second,” she said, “so I am hot and blonde, but my boyfriend breaks up with me and nobody else loves me?”

“Well, that’s kind of funny, isn’t it?”

“No!” she screamed at me, “It’s not funny! It’s not even believable! Are you saying there isn’t even a male friend who is secretly in love with me?”

“Ahm…maybe in the sequel?”

“I am not waiting for the sequel!” she wailed, “This is not fair! I want someone to love me now! I just want to be lo-ah-ah-ved!”

So now I am trying to write in a male friend for her, which is really hard, as it affects her other relationships and changes her behavior in so many scenes. It makes much better sense now, so she was right.

And that’s the strangest thing of all.

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Happy International Hangover Day!

I know, IHD was on 1st of January and I am a bit late with my wishes of quick recovery and hopes that you lost nothing of value (like, say, your dignity). It has taken me that long to get over mine. I just wrote my New Year resolutions, and “no more drinking” was first on the list, even before “get a book published”.

I still sort of functioned and even went to work, although I’ve accomplished little more than cleaning out my inbox. The effort of sitting up straight and keeping my eyes focused when talking to people was just too much. Remarkably, I still wrote at night! The words may not have been as inspired, but the desire to click on the keys and get my jumbled thoughts on the page was still there. Somehow, despite everything, I am now at 65K words, a mere month away from printing out the first draft.

There has been one noticeable side effect, though. I don’t know if it’s the hangover, or the fact that I am actually approaching the end of the story, but I have suddenly found myself wallowing in self-doubt. This almost never happens, as I’ve learned over the years that blind enthusiasm pays better dividends than caution and pessimism. I’ve started doubting everything, from my writing style (it reads more like a film than a traditional novel) to the plot (just how ridiculous can a comedy get before the reader says ‘that would never happen!’)

Luckily, Google came to the rescue. I spent a few hours googling pathetic queries like “is my writing good enough?” and “can I make it as a writer?”. And you know what I learned? That a lot of people want to sell me ebooks guaranteed to improve my writing style, get me published, and get back my pre-baby body. I didn’t buy them of course, not only because I’ve never had a baby, but also because I suspect that they are not any better writers than me, just maybe more savvy and even more blindly enthusiastic.

Okay, there was one thing I did learn, and for free, too! Just about everybody who ever published a book says you have to keep doing it. No matter what, keep writing, editing, deleting, and writing again. So that’s what I’m going to do today – pick up my writing shovel and throw another couple of thousand words onto my mountain. I know that I will love every minute of it, which certainly helps.

So, in addition to quick recovery of your reputation, I wish that all your ridiculous New Year resolutions come true. And if there is a book in them, then what are you waiting for? Pick up your shovel, eh laptop!

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