Monthly Archives: July 2012

Meet My Character: Lily Collins

This is the second of my ‘character interviews’, where I pose some questions to a character in one of my novels.

Please welcome a very special character, the young Lily Collins from THE LIFE MAKEOVER CLUB! If you missed the first interview with Lily’s mother, Cara, here it is.

 

Name: Lily Collins

Age: 7 going on 37

Occupation: school student

 

1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

A lawyer, a politician, or a journalist. Maybe all of them.

2. What’s your favourite school subject?

English, or Science. No, English I think. Especially when we get to write stories. I wrote a really good one about kings and queens once, and my king was called Lord Viagra. Mum said I should choose a different name, but Dad said it sounded good. It made him laugh for some reason, I don’t know why. He also said the kingdom would rise in his honour… well, duh! He is a king, after all.

3. Who do you like best: Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny?

Well I do love chocolate, so I’m pretty pleased with the Easter Bunny, but I also love Santa because he brings me great presents like pink calculators and yearly planners. Plus, poor Santa has such a hard job, he deserves some recognition.

Hey, you forgot about the Tooth Fairy! I also like getting money under my pillow. But Mum says the Tooth Fairy has a new budget, so I only get fifty cents for each tooth instead of two dollars. The Tooth Fairy should really see an accountant, they help with money stuff, and Dad thinks the money that the fairy leaves could be tax deductable.

4. You have two little brothers, what do you think of them?

Sometimes I love them and sometimes they annoy me. Like Toby, he often wakes me up in the middle of the night when his teddy bear falls out of the cot. It wakes up Mum and Dad too, but they look terrible in the middle of the night so I try to help Toby sometimes so they don’t have to get out of bed and make grumpy faces. Jacob is good at drawing, but I got very angry once when he drew a martian on my pillow case in black texta.

5. Whats your favourite food?

I like sushi best. It tastes delicious and I like collecting the little fishy shapes they give you with the sauce inside them. I used to like chicken nuggets too, until I found out that they make them out of chicken boobies.  Now I don’t eat them. Chickens need their boobies.

Thank you, Lily, for chatting with us today!

You’re welcome. I like talking very much.

 

Do you have any questions for Lily? If so, leave a comment! 🙂

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Meet My Character: Cara Collins

This is the first of my new ‘character interviews’, where I’ll pose some questions to a character in one of my novels.

First up we have Cara, from THE LIFE MAKEOVER CLUB!

 

Name: Cara Collins

Age: 26

Occupation: Mother of three, wife of one (until Channing Tatum realises he loves me), taxi driver, personal shopper, chef, room service attendant, nurse, housekeeper (a bad one), artist (unpaid as yet), magician (I’m great at making chocolates disappear), human vending machine up until six months ago, and… what am I forgetting? Did I say I’m a mother?

1. What do you like to do in your spare time?

If I ever get any I’ll let you know.

2. What’s your favourite part of the day?

When I’m so fast asleep not even an earthquake could wake me up. No seriously, I love it when I snuggle with my kids before bed. It makes it all worthwhile. Sometimes.

3. What do you think is the hardest part of being a mother?

When you’re awake.

4. What do you do before going to bed each night?

I write my ‘To Do List’ (which can take a while), and my ‘Done List’ (which usually takes me about fourteen seconds), and transfer the ‘not yet completed’ items from the previous day’s To Do List to the new To Do List, and then add ‘Notepad’ to the Shopping List because I’ve run out of room on the To Do List. Then my son wakes up and after attending to him I forget what I was about to write on the new To Do List and then I usually pass out with the pen in my hand.

5. What scares you most in life?

Not having my husband and kids around. I know I complain sometimes, but really, they are my world and I love them more than life itself.

Thank you, Cara, for taking time out of your busy schedule.

A little birdie told me your seven-year-old daughter, Lily ,will be joining us for an interview on Friday!

Yes, that’s right. God help me.

 

Do you have any questions for Cara? If so, leave a comment! 🙂

Writing a Synopsis: Some Things I’ve Learned

We all know about four-letter dirty words, but only writers know about the eight-letter dirty word – SYNOPSIS.

A synopsis is a summary of a novel’s main plot points and characters, from the beginning right through to the end. Most agents and editors like to see one when assessing your manuscript for possible publication, so it’s something almost all writers have to do at some point. I’ve noticed many publishing professionals request a ‘brief synopsis’, which I take to mean about one or two pages at the most. Others may ask for a more detailed five or six page synopsis. But this is something many writer’s struggle with, me included.

How can you possibly take a 300-400 page story and explain it in only one or two pages?

I don’t claim to be an expert on this (far from it, although I do my best!), but here are some things I’ve learned while writing my own synopses. I’ve called it ‘The Russian Doll Method’!

Open your manuscript and summarise all the main plot points, as though you’re giving someone a running commentary on a TV show or movie they can’t see. Use present tense. Don’t worry about length at first, just get the main plot points down (big Russian doll), and add in a taste of your voice, so if it’s humorous, show some of the humour, if it’s suspenseful, add that element to the synopsis too, as long as you don’t leave any questions unanswered. A synopsis’ purpose is to tell a potential agent or editor/publisher what the book is about and what happens throughout the story, including the ending.

Once you’ve written the summary, go through and highlight the most important events affecting the main character/s in yellow. Then highlight the slightly less important events, but still a required part of the story, in another colour such as grey (just one shade, not fifty. Sorry, couldn’t resist;)). You might find that some events can be left out of the synopsis, for the sake of brevity.

Now start again, writing the synopsis focusing on the highlighted parts, and tightening up the sentences (smaller Russian doll). Check the length to see if you need to cut further, and if so, go through the highlighting process again (even smaller Russian doll). Also, see if some plot events can be combined into one sentence as an overall summary of the situation, so rather than:

John arrives at his grandma’s house and notices the door is unlocked. He searches all the rooms in the house, but finds them empty, so he walks out the back door and through the overgrown garden. She isn’t there either. He goes back inside and stands in the kitchen, scratching his head, then notices a half-eaten toasted sandwich resting on the table. He picks it up and finds it is still warm. Thinking his grandma might have been abducted only moments ago, John immediately calls the police. (forgive the crappy writing, this is just an example!)

Using the highlighted parts (which I’ve underlined instead because I don’t know how to highlight on this blog!), the paragraph could be changed as follows:

When John arrives at his grandma’s house it is empty, and her half eaten lunch is still warm. Terrified something bad has happened to her only moments before his arrival, John calls the police.

And if you had to cut it even further it could be changed to:

John calls the police on finding his grandma’s house empty.

Sometimes it’s easier to work this way, starting with a long synopsis and gradually breaking it down. If you end up trying this process, I’d love to hear how it goes for you – let me know!

How do you go about writing a synopsis, are there any valuable tips you’ve learned through the process?

A Novella With Heart – Guest Interview with Tahlia Newland

On the blog today I have author Tahlia Newland to talk about her new young adult novella,  You Can’t Shatter Me,  Tahlia writes magical realism and contemporary fantasy for young adults & adults. She has a short story available free on kindle for a limited period – A Hole in the Pavement  from 3rd to 7th July.

Welcome Tahlia, what is the novella about?

It’s about Carly, a sixteen year old girl who wants to write her own life and cast herself as a superhero, but when she stands up to a bully, the story gets out of her control. Dylan, a karate-trained nerd who supports her stand, turns out to be a secret admirer, and Justin, the bully, makes Carly his next victim. While romance blossoms, Dylan faces attacking words, an unreliable movie director, a concrete habit that requires smashing, and an unruly Neanderthal. Meanwhile, the bully’s increasing harassment forces Carly to deal with flying hooks, unflushable cowpats, and deadly dragons. An old hippie shows her an inner magic that’s supposed to make her invincible, but will Carly learn to use it before the bully strikes again and Dylan resorts to violence?

Why should people read it?

It’s a heart-warming story that will inspire and empower teens and adults alike with its solutions for the bullying issue. It’s also written in a unique magical realism style that provides an exciting and unusual fantasy element in the form of extended metaphors for the characters’ inner experiences.

Like attacking words and flying hooks?

Yes. The words are Dylan’s thoughts, and the fishing rod and bait is the bully trying to annoy Carly. She has to try not to end up a fish struggling on the end of his hook.

Where do the dragons fit in?

Carly asks her Auntie exactly this. This is her reply.

The dragons are inside you, and you have to slay them before you can deal with anything outside.”

“So I’m living with an infestation of dragons,” Carly said. The conversation got weirder and weirder.

Aunt Anne chuckled, “I see a doubt dragon, right now. You need to get rid of that one, quick smart, or it’ll sabotage everything.”

Even though Aunt Anne says the dragons are inside, Carly’s battle with the Doubt Dragon is written as if it appears outside.

A huge purple dragon raced out of the bush towards me, snorting fire. I dived out of the way, but the flames licked my arms, searing off layers of skin, leaving it red raw like a lump of meat.

 

What’s the inner magic?

Light conjured up from arousing love and compassion. It’s very powerful but Carly doesn’t trust it.

Is that bit magical or real?

It’s reality written as if it were magic.

A karate-trained nerd sounds like a contradiction. What’s Dylan like?

He’s gorgeous, of course, and full of contradictions, which is what makes him so interesting. He’s very intelligent and preferred math and computers to girls until very recently, but now his naturally protective feelings for Carly threaten to turn him into a Neanderthal. He never wanted to do karate but his mother insisted, hoping it would stop him being bullied as a child. It worked too. A lot of the book is written from his point of view, so we get to know him quite well.

What about Carly?

She’s a very ordinary girl in many ways except that she wants to make a difference in the world. She wants to right what’s wrong, but she struggles to find the courage she needs to do that. She loves dancing, art, movies, chips (fries to the Americans), her cat and by the end of the book (after a few kisses) is entertaining the idea that she just might fall in love with Dylan too.

What kind of solutions for bullying does the book offer?

I use analogies for helpful ways of thinking. For example, when you stir a cowpat it stinks, whereas if you leave it alone, it crusts over and stops stinking. I draw a parallel between this and anger. If you stir up your anger, it’s going to hang around like a bad smell until you stop repeatedly thinking about what caused it. As well as being entertaining, the analogies make the points easy to remember.

Also, the main character, Carly learns to meditate, which helps her to handle the situation more calmly and clearly, and she comes to see her harasser in a compassionate light. This increases her self-esteem and eventually disarms him. Of course, she has a lot of resistance to learning to meditate. My teenage daughter made sure that the characters actions were very realistic.

Do these solutions work?

Yes. I’ve used the analogies and the viewpoints they represent to help my daughter negotiate the trials of the school ground and also various teens at the high schools I’ve worked in as a teacher. I’m constantly amazed by the immediate positive effect they have.

 

>>One of Tahlia’s short stories, A Hole in the Pavement , is free on Kindle until 7th July.

>>You can purchase ‘You Can’t Shatter Me’ on Kindle, or in files for all devices via Smashwords. The paperback will be available via all major book retailers worldwide. If you would like to be notified when it’s released please fill in the form here.

Thanks Tahlia for visiting the blog today!

Tahlia is an avid reader, an extremely casual high school teacher, an occasional mask-maker and has studied philosophy & meditation for many years. After scripting and performing in Visual Theatre shows for 20 years, she is now a bone-fide expatriate of the performing arts. She lives in an Australian rainforest, is married with a teenage daughter and loves cats, but she doesn’t have one because they eat native birds. Connect with Tahlia at her website/blog, Facebook, and Twitter.