Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Never-ending Sentence…

While editing my manuscript, I noticed that I’m quite partial to the use of commas, and had to rearrange many sentences. The problem with excessive use of commas, is that they create a never-ending sentence, which, although allows for a thorough and flowing description of whatever it is you’re writing about, can be hard to read, making the reader feel like they’re gasping for air, and most likely making them forget what started the sentence, therefore having to re-read it to understand what’s going on, only to have the same problem repeat itself. See what I mean?

So next time you go to add a comma, think again. Maybe add a full stop/period instead. Or… don’t.

Because sometimes, the opposite happens. The sentences become too short. Short sentences can be good. They give emphasis to certain words or phrases. This can provide a stronger emotional impact. But. Overuse. Can. Ruin. A. Paragraph. Or. Page. Or. Chapter.  

The best sentences read easily, and have a good balance between the two types of punctuation. Like this one.

Keep it simple, read it aloud, and cull those excess little buggers. That’s what I’ve learned. 🙂

Excerpt #2 from The Life Makeover Club

‘Ladies, keep your eyes closed,’ Liz instructed, ‘and take some slow deep breaths, innnn, and ouuuut….’

As soon as anyone told Cara to take slow deep breaths, her body would rebel for some reason. Her best attempts at relaxation were unexpected, like the time she fell asleep on the dining table while looking through ‘Nutritious meals for the busy family’, or when she took the kids to see the movie ‘Up’ and her eyelids went ‘Down’, the kids shaking her awake when the credits started rolling. Tell her to relax, and she couldn’t.

She was quite good though, at using this relaxation time to plan the next day’s activities, and mentally remind herself what sort of meat to defrost overnight for the next day’s dinner.

‘Clear your mind of all distractions, all unnecessary thoughts…’ continued Liz.

Is she reading my mind? Cara tried to triage her thoughts into ‘necessary’, ‘unnecessary’, and ‘only to be thought of once everything else has been thought’, but ended up creating more thoughts about the thoughts.

‘When a distraction enters your mind, simply wipe it away… all you need to do right now is relaaax, and breathe…’

Wipe it away, okay, I can do that, I spend a good chunk of my time wiping things away. Cara imagined getting out the Spray & Wipe, squirting it on the thoughts, and then wiping them away with a cloth. Problem was, she kept seeing remaining thoughts that wouldn’t budge, and then had to re-squirt them and scrub them with steel wool, and then she remembered she was running low on Spray & Wipe and would have to add it to her shopping list when she got home.

‘Imagine yourself in a beautiful place… perhaps on the beach, lying on the sand, soaking up the sun…’

Cara tried. At first she could almost feel the sun on her skin, but then wondered if she’d remembered to put sunscreen lotion on, and then wondered who was watching the kids, and whether they had sunscreen on as well.

‘…and listen to the gentle ebb and flow of the waves…’

All Cara could hear was the buzzing of a fly that had hijacked her visualisation. She felt like flicking her hand around her face but resisted the urge. Maybe if Liz had told them to visualise a fly buzzing around their head she would have been able to imagine the gentle ebb and flow of the waves.

‘Now, imagine yourself five years from now… where are you?… what are you doing?… who are you with?’

Paris… Opening my art exhibition… Orlando Bloom… Cara almost forgot she lived in Sydney, her garage was her art gallery, and she was married to Pete Collins, but hey, it was her visualisation.

New Beginnings…

I love the feeling of making a fresh start, like having a blank canvas of life in front of you, ready to be coloured with new experiences. I recently had a sea change, moving from the mountains to the ocean, and I love the fresh energy of this place! I feel like I’m starting over, creating a new life for myself filled with all the things I’ve always wanted to do and see.

Now, I don’t think you need to move to a new location to start over, sometimes a new beginning is simply in the mind; a change of attitude, or a fresh perspective on things. For me it’s about thinking how I want my life to be, and then taking action to make it a reality, and most importantly: following my passions.

New beginnings are a major theme in my writing; following characters through change as they go from one reality to another, and experiencing their joys, triumphs, and challenges along the way. I like the fact that when I start each new book, I get to experience my own new beginning all over again, through the eyes of my characters 🙂

Excerpt #1 from ‘The Life Makeover Club’

‘Twas the night before Christmas in the Collins’ house. The children had hung their stockings, or more accurately, their jumbo-sized Santa Sacks, over the couch with care, and Santa, er… Pete, soon would be there.

The kids were finally asleep after the excitement of Christmas Eve, and the talk-show-worthy debate about what sort of food to leave for Santa and the reindeer. Jacob brought out a plate of cookies, but Lily suggested Santa might have allergies like Toby, and perhaps they should leave out some rice milk and rice crackers instead. Jacob shook his head at this suggestion, reasoning that Santa might think they were yucky and not leave any presents, in a sign of protest. Toby didn’t contribute to the discussion, simply moving his head side to side between Jacob and Lily as they discussed the pros and cons of each option, as though he was watching Wimbledon. The final ruling decided by Pete (who would, unbeknownst to the children, be the consumer of their fare), was to have a smorgasbord so Santa could choose his preference.

As Cara kept guard by the doorway to Toby’s room, Pete, complete with his Santa hat, tiptoed out of the bedroom with the first load of presents. Pausing to peer discreetly into Lily’s room (who wouldn’t sleep with the door closed), he then locked eyes with Cara and performed a couple of strange hand signals, like a field agent, in effort to ascertain whether the coast was clear. Cara tried not to laugh, and came up with her own hand signals, while mouthing ‘Go, now!’.

Pete delivered the presents, then performed more hand signals to make sure it was safe to return to pick up the second load. He looked like a cross between someone on the Wall Street trading floor and Jack Bauer from the television show ‘24’. Cara had to cover her mouth to avoid an explosion of laughter as Pete/Santa/Jack scurried past quietly.

On his third and final delivery, after devouring a few samples from the smorgasbord, Pete tripped on a toy, waking up Bobo the dog in his kennel outside. After Bobo’s barking, the door to Lily’s room opened, and a sleepy Lily emerged, rubbing her eyes. Upon seeing his daughter, Pete’s eyes appeared to jump out of his head and he dove for cover behind the couch.

Cara approached Lily quickly, careful to act naturally, turning her away from the scene of the crime and ushering her back into her room.

‘I heard Bobo,’ Lily said before yawning. ‘Did you hear him too, is that why you’re up?’

‘Yes, but he’s fine, now you go back to sleep.’ Cara almost pushed her into bed.

‘Mum, can I check if Santa’s been yet?’

‘No, the rules are; we wait till morning, remember?’

‘Alright…’ Lily rolled over.

Cara waited outside Lily’s room until the sound of slow breathing signified her daughter was asleep again, then tiptoed to the living room. ‘Pssst! You can get up now!’ She whispered to Pete, before scampering back to her position.

Pete’s head appeared to float up from behind the couch, his eyes searching left and right to ensure his cover hadn’t been compromised. Quickly, he shoved the presents into the Santa Sacks and almost ran back to the bedroom, Cara following and closing the door soon after.

‘Phew!’ He collapsed breathlessly onto his back on the bed, Cara falling next to him, giggling. Pete raised his hand, and they high fived each other in celebration of another successful Christmas Eve mission. Pete winced and massaged his shoulder, Cara pulling back his t-shirt to reveal a bruise from his dive behind the couch.

Cara looked at her husband and made some hand signals.

‘What does that mean?’ he asked.

‘It means: I love you.’

‘So does this,’ Pete whispered, leaning closer to Cara and kissing her gently.

* * *

© Copyright 2011. Juliet Madison.

My ‘Inspiration Spot’

Inspiration sometimes strikes when you least expect it, and since moving house recently I set up a relaxing area on my balcony, which I now call my ‘Inspiration Spot’. Every time I’ve set myself down on the deck chair and looked up at the blue sky, the leaves of the tree dancing above my head, I’ve come up with new ideas. Great ideas. Whether it’s because I’m simply relaxing and letting my thoughts wander I don’t know, but something about my ‘spot’ ignites inspiration in me.

So now, whenever I need a boost, or a new idea, it’s off to the Inspiration Spot I go…

What about you? Is there a special place where you feel inspired?