It's the end of January and I still don't quite have my rhythm back for 2014. To be honest that's pretty normal for me in January. It's not really until school goes back ( which happened today) that I find any sort of routine.
Of course the fact it is summer and life outside is impossibly pleasant is an easy distraction. Who wouldn't rather go for a walk at the beach or go boating than push through a little writer's block? (I took this photo on Sunday near where our boat is moored...pretty distracting right?)
Still time to get back in the saddle or perhaps for a better metaphor, get back in the boat and just keep rowing. I have some exciting things planned for 2014...time to start making them happen.
Meanwhile if you would like to win not just one of my books but some other fabulous books you can pop over to Karen E Martin's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/karenmartinauthor/app_228910107186452
or enter via the rafflecopter below.
It's Australia Day today so I thought I'd do a post of some of my favourite Australian novels. I have chosen classic stories that have stayed with me over the years.
1. A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute
I loved this book. I have read it several times. It's an epic love story about an Aussie soldier and an English woman who meet when both are prisoners of the Japanese in Malaya after the fall of Singapore in WWII. It's about their struggles through the war and their journey home afterwards. There is also an excellent mini-series but read the book.
2. Harp in the South by Ruth Park
This is one of Australia's must read books (or 50 Top Australian novels) in case my opinion isn't valid enough. This is about a family growing up in the slums of Sydney between the first and second world wars. It paints a picture of poverty and hardship but it's ultimately a story about love and family. It certainly shows how much Australia has changed since that time. I love all Ruth Parks books and her autobiography is also fascinating.
3. Come in Spinner by Dymphna Cusak & Florence James
This is a book about the lives and loves of three women who work side by side in the beauty salon/hairdressers in Sydney's nicest hotel during WWII. It shows how war impacts these women all at different ages and stages in such different ways. This is quite a long book but it's worth the effort.
Obviously there are so many more amazing Australian books but I wanted to focus on books that have impacted me and that highlight how different life is now to Australia of a hundred or even sixty years ago.
Have you ever watched the Bold and The Beautiful, you know the soap opera? Here is a list of the names of some of the main characters:
Have you ever met a 50 year old man called Brick? Thorn? No me either. I've long postulated that the show's creators went away for the weekend, took some nice drugs and came up with the wackiest names they could, thought themselves hilarious and expected that the show would never be made or they would be told to change the names to Mike, Stacey and Alexander.
My point is ignoring the fact it's a soap opera and is pure fantasy I think ridiculous names for characters take you out of the story. ("Make love to me Brick?" Sorry he can't he's an inanimate object...Ok I think the point is clear.)
It's true that now people do have names that are unusual but most of those people are aged under twenty. Even people in their twenties tend to have more traditional names. They have family names or names that have been popular for years. You know they're called Ben, Adam, Isabella, Chloe or something with Biblical origins like Noah or Mary or Jacob. That's why in your class at school the teacher struggled to come up with so many nicknames for Elizabeth and why one got Beth, another Liz and another Lizzie and why there was a Mark A and Mark S in your math class.
It's a fairly recent phenomenon to name your kid after a car part (Hi Axel), a pop star (Hi Marley, Hey Shakira), or another famous person (Hey Kennedy, Hey Regan), where they were conceived (Come on down Sienna) or a fruit (Apple). Although being named after other plants is a long tradition - Poppy, Fern, Rose, Sage - so I'm not sure why fruits were exempt for so long.
It isn't that this isn't a positive evolution but it is recent so having a thirty five year old male character from a conservative, suburban family called Pistol just doesn't ring true.
I'm thinking about this as I start a new novella and am naming the characters. I don't want to give them dull names that make them pedestrian but I also want the names to have resonance. It's hard to find a balance between distinctive and just plain silly.
So here's my question what are the silliest character names you've read in a book lately?
Today for Taste of Tuesday (a semi-regular meme here where I usually interview authors about the use of food in their novels) I thought I would instead talk about a few of my favourite books that feature food as a major theme. Today I'm sticking with some older books that have stayed with me over time.
One of my all time favourites has to be Like Water for Chocolate. Interestingly it is one of the best book to movie adaptations I've seen as well. This book is so beautifully written with so much passion and so vivid. The book was written by a first time Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel.
Part of what appealed to me about the book apart from the language was the way things were described. I actually love reading books from Mexico and from South America because the turn of phrase is so different from the dry Australian way of describing things.
Here's an example:
“She felt so lost and lonely. One last chile in walnut sauce left on the platter after a fancy dinner couldn't feel any worse than she did."
I also love the way the emotions are conveyed through cooking. It adds a whole different layer to the saying we use about the food in our house "you can taste the love."
Another classic book I love that has food themes is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I know this one was also another excellent movie but you really should read the book. Fannie has a real gift of creating a small town and making it real, even though the characters seem to be so quirky as to be unreal they're very believable. I've read all her books including her most recent one just last week, and I love her writing.
I love lots of things about this book which is essentially a story about love and friendship with some mystery thrown in. Mostly I love the theme that you can choose your own family and create your own if the one you have is lacking.
Here is a recipe for fried green tomatoes should the urge hit you.
Have you got a favourite food themed book that you often think about time and again?
I'm having trouble getting my writing motivation back in this new year.
There are several reasons/excuses for this - it's summer holidays here so there's no routine, I had a big end of the year work-wise and I'm regrouping, I probably have too much time on my hands and I do better when I'm busy - among other things.
Still I need to get back on track so what are some good strategies for this?
I find reading to be motivating for me. It gets me thinking about my own characters and what they might do in a similar situation. If a book is well-written and engaging that inspires me to do better and if it's a bit lack-lustre (especially if it sells well) I think "surely if this book can find a market mine can too.
2. Connect with other writers
Right now most of my writing buddies are away at such exotic locations as India, Paris, Uluru and Byron Bay to name a few which is part of my writing problem I think (they keep me honest) but I belong to lots of online groups where I can go for advice and motivation.
3. Make a plan
Honestly, having a plan motivates me. I like to know I have deadlines to work towards. What's that saying "Fail to plan, plan to fail."
4. Focus on the marketing
Write some blog posts, line up some guest blogs, get my social media hat on and focus on that aspect of writing. It's most definitely not my favourite part but it's a necessary evil and you can at least get to the end of the day and say "Hey I did achieve something".
5. Just write
I know that seems kind of obvious but you just have to start sometimes. Start small - write a scene or a page even and you often find that you just keep going. Or set a word limit of just 500 words. That's nothing really.
In the end a combination of these things usually gets me moving again. Fingers crossed that happens today. Meanwhile I'm off to read.
Here is a little video I did last year down at Manly Beach. I'm talking about the beach or a place as a character.
To further illustrate the point...this is a picture of the same beach I took yesterday in the height of summer. The sun is brighter, the sky is a different shade of blue and it is a whole lot more crowded.
I love using the beach and the ocean in my writing because it is so much a part of my day to day life.
This beach is at Manly in Australia and features in my novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels.
The new year is an excellent time to look back on what one has achieved and what one may not have.
I'm a person who enjoys setting goals and making plans. I'll be honest with you there are lots of goals I don't meet and plenty of plans that get left on a list of paper, but that almost doesn't matter to me.
Having a plan gives me something to work towards and it's like a map showing me the way. Sometimes I ignore the map and take a side-road but that's fine with me, I just like knowing I have the map.
For the record I really don't like those GPS devices that talks in a car. It drives me nuts. I want to yell at it and say "Stop nagging me already." I'm a bit that way in life as well. If I say I'm doing it then I'm probably doing it and you asking me "how's it coming" will stop me in my tracks.
Last year I released two books under my name and another under a pen name - that's about half what I set out to achieve. Still not a bad outcome while running a small business and keeping a family happy.
This year my goal is to release two full-length novels and two novellas, oh yes and a box set. (As well as a couple under my pen name). We'll see if that all happens. I think it will.
I also hope to be a bit more consistent with my blogging. The last third of the year my work sapped much or my creativity and I lost track a bit, I also didn't market my two 2013 releases as well as I should have. I guess we live and learn.
In a perfect world I'll write 1,000 words a day. Of course I won't make it every day but it's a reasonable goal. Writing every day is the best way to stay in a story and keep your mind in the mind-set of your characters. All writers know this, but ask around, not all writers succeed. Life intervenes, stories stall, characters rebel and confidence can fade. Still, much better to have the goal and fall short than have no goals at all.
So onward....to 2014 and another year of making up new friends in my head.