My Go-To Christmas Movie.

One of my Christmas traditions is watching my go-to Christmas movie: ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’. 

It combines the genius of Charles Dickens with the genius of Jim Henson’s Muppets, featuring Gonzo as Charles Dickens, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. It retains key dialogue from the book and adds some delightful character development and interactions, and complements both with an original soundtrack that includes some delightful Christmas songs.

As far as movie adaptations go, this is one that stays faithful to both the storyline and the spirit of Dickens’ classic novella

It’s charming in the right places, and Victorian and Gothic enough to be spooky when it needs to be. It still delivers the crucial message of Dickens’ attacks on Utilitarian thinking and selfishness, encouraging the audience to focus on the value of people and family rather than on making money and treating others as though they are worthless unless they can work. 

It’s great entertainment for the whole family, and even when Scrooge is awful, the Muppet cast is entirely adorable. 

Helpful Tips on How to Research Your Novel

Like Tyson Adams, I’m a writer and I’m very happy to be labelled a nerd. I’m also a History teacher, so I understand the value of research.

That value is never, ever so clear as when reading a book that is poorly researched and presents events or settings that are inconsistent with what one knows to be the truth.

Tyson makes some very good points about research here, but for me, the crucial point is believability. Our readers have to be able to accept what we write as not only conceivable, but also credible.

Tyson Adams

I’m just going to say it: I’m comfortable with the label of nerd.

More specifically, I’m a Nerdius scientifica.

Being a nerd is more accepted nowadays, what with our bulging brains and chiselled knowledge. And the reality is that us nerds have a lot to offer, like research skills.

Writing requires a lot of research and writers generally fall into two categories in this regard: those who need to learn how to research, and those who took up writing to justify those dodgy topics they’ve researched. This post will hopefully help the former. But if anyone does want to know how much slack rope you need to hang someone correctly from your homemade gallows, I have a spreadsheet calculator for you.

I stole am reblogging a post from Writer’s Digest with a few of my own comments.

Ernest Hemingway said writers should develop a built-in bullshit detector. I imagine one…

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The Myth of Writing Every Day: Realistic Tips for Increasing Your Productivity

Everything Jodi Herlick has written here is true: the snark, the realism, and especially the advice about self-care. Her words provide a very real reflection of my own writing experience.

Whatever your experience is, whatever your writing pace, and whatever the other demands on your time, each of us can only do what is achievable within our individual limits.

The takeaway is this: You do what you need to do, and write your own way when you’re ready. None of that is for anyone else to judge.

Jodi Herlick

We’ve all heard the well-intentioned advice: Write every day. It always seems to be spewed by privileged people who have a flexible schedule or a stable income without a day job or who have somehow managed to eschew all other commitments. And while there’s truth to the advice–I certainly find that writing is easier when I’m doing it consistently–for most of us, the pressure only leads to a cycle of despair that actually reduces our creative output.

Image result for crushing despair gif

So if you’re not one of the privileged few, here are some tips for getting all that daily writing in:

  1. Find yourself a wealthy significant other/sugar daddy/sugar mama/patron who will support your daily writing habit, and maybe buy you bonbons to munch on too.
  2. Wake up three hours early and get your writing in before your day job. Then hope that no one notices that you’re sleeping at your desk or in front…

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On Top Of The Mountain

Today, I reached the top of Mt Marking

Assignments finished.
Essays graded. 
Exams done. 
Results entered. 
Reports written. 
Proofreading completed.
Boxes ticked. 

And it feels like a huge achievement. 

Sure, there is always more work to be done. 
But tonight, I can relax knowing I have done my job well. 

Why Writers Should Read Lousy Books

I confess that this is how I started writing horror.

While reading a book which was a real let-down. I said to my husband, “I could do better than this!”
My husband said, “You should.”

So I did.

Four books later… I’m working on stories for the next one.

A Writer's Path

by Larry Kahaner

All writers get the same advice. Read the great writers; study the great works. Learn how seasoned, professional, and successful authors get the job done. All true, but I maintain that it’s also crucial for writers to read crap to learn what not to do.

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Climbing Mt Marking.

I’ve been largely out of action here this week, because I have been on my annual personal personal pilgrimage attempting to scale Mt Marking.

You may not have heard of Mt Marking. It is a steep and imposing mountain, located right near Mt Grading and Mt Evaluation in the End-Of-Year Reporting Ranges. It is difficult to climb, and can quickly turn into a slippery slope if one does not pay attention to one’s preparation, time management, and self-discipline. 

After several very long and arduous days, I have made it about half-way up. It is getting somewhat harder to breathe, and it is exhausting, yet I must persist. I find myself relying more and more on coffee and, while I have been careful about nutrition in past weeks, I find now that I need to supplement my diet with chocolate to keep my strength and attention at sustainable levels. 

And when Miley Cyrus sang that “it ain’t about how fast I get there” and “it ain’t about what’s on the other side”, it was not Mt Marking she was climbing. There are deadlines, after all, and the dangerous, rapidly-flowing Reporting River is what awaits on the other side, with the broad and intimidating Planning For Next Year Wilderness beyond that. 

I will be able to see it all once I stand triumphantly on top of Mt Marking. On a clear day, you can see almost all the way to the end of the term. 

The Most Beautiful Reading Experiences

More than a year ago, I began my book review of Eric Tanafon’s fabulous historical paranormal fantasy novel ‘Robin Hood: Wolf’s Head’ with this paragraph: “Every now and then, as a reader, I experience an incredible moment of revelation when I take in an expression or image of something that is so powerful, it takes my breath away.” 

There is something incredibly magical about that moment when a writer’s words take my breath away. It doesn’t happened as often as one might like, but it has happened to me twice in the space of a week. 

Once was when reading Cortney Pearson’s steampunk mystery ’The Perilous In-Between’. The second was when reading Bridget Collins’ historical fantasy novel ’The Binding’. 

All three books are exquisitely written, full of incredible imagery, rich and imaginative world building, and powerful writing that make the reader’s emotions and mind soar. 

Proudly, two of those books are by independent authors, published without the support of big traditional publishing houses and the budgets that the other enjoys. But if you picked up all three, and read them, you’d be pushed to know which was which if you were using the quality of writing or production as your yardstick.  You’d only know by looking for a publisher’s imprint. 

It is true that there are some rubbish books produced by independent authors who don’t bother having their work edited, proofread or produced properly. It is also true that there are also some rubbish books published traditionally. I’ve picked up a few books in my time that have, in all honesty, made me wonder exactly how they got published at all. Other people may think they are wonderful — and they are welcome to them. 

And that is exactly my point. What makes a book ‘brilliant’ is highly subjective, and people will have many and varied reasons for the choices they make. Even so, the assumption that traditionally published books are of superior quality is becoming less and less valid as time goes on. 

It’s fair to say that independent publishing has come a very long way, and the industry has become quite proficient in setting and achieving very high standards. 

If you’re not reading Indie authors, you’re missing out on both discovering some incredible talent and reading some brilliant books. 

For great Indie book recommendations, follow Book Squirrel on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

How To Not Make Someone Feel Worse Than They Already Do

Despite having worked hard, going more than one “extra mile” and achieving some good things, I have spent much of the past  few days feeling absolutely, irretrievably inferior. Totally sub-standard. An awful disappointment.

It’s not a new experience, by any stretch of the imagination. It happens far more often than most people will ever know or realise. Even so, it is never pleasant feeling as though most of the world thinks you’re rubbish. 

It’s not as though any of us is perfect. I certainly make no claim to be… which is a good thing because I am most definitely not.

And yet, when others discover a flaw or weakness, or find I have made a mistake, they very often speak or act as though they feel they have a right to be outraged and judge me for my imperfection. 

So here’s a news flash. 

I am not perfect. 
Neither are you. 
Everyone makes mistakes. 
Everyone misses a beat every now and then. 

But you know what is more hurtful than someone making a mistake? 
Treating them as though they are less than you. 

Because, you know, they’re not. 

If someone does something that bothers you, or offends you, and you feel the need to talk to them about it, for goodness’ sake, be kind. And if you can’t be kind, then wait until you can. 

And please, please, oh please, go to them and speak to them rather than anyone else. Going behind their back and kvetching about it is only ever going to cause more complications and trouble, so unless that is your actual intent, it is a response that should be avoided.

Similarly, there is nothing achieved by being judgemental. In fact, it is entirely counterproductive. 

Sure, they might comply with what you ask or insist of them. But they might do that if you simply asked them to do something to resolve the issue, too— especially if you ask nicely and say please.

The saying that “you get more out of people with honey than you do with a stick” became a proverb for a reason: it is generally true. It is certainly true of how I respond to people. 

If someone treats me with kindness, I will do everything in my power to not let them down. 
If they dump judgement on me, I am just going to keep on beating myself up over it, because if someone tells me I am not good enough, I will believe them. I will also probably never again fully believe that they have any respect for me at all. 

And if someone else, completely unknown to them and in different circumstances, tells me the same thing, I will believe both of them, twice as hard and twice as long. 

It’s not deliberate, and it doesn’t matter if that is not your intention: that’s how I am wired. 

The consequence is that it makes everything I need to do in a day more difficult. I doubt myself and second guess everything, even the things I know I am good at. 

To be honest, life is actually hard enough without that. It’s bad enough knowing that I made the mistake in the first place, or that someone resents me for not measuring up to their standards. Add chronic pain, anxiety and depression into the mix, and it very quickly becomes both exhausting and excruciating. 

It’s almost certain that that doesn’t just apply to me, either. Many people have internal battles or burdens of one kind or another that they keep hidden, but which add another level of complexity to whatever else they have to deal with in a day. 

So when someone screws up— and we should all understand that everyone will, from time to to time— be kind. Tell them gently, person to person, and let them fix it, or at least try to. 

Please. And thank you. 

Can the Cold Case of Book Marketing Be Solved?

Everything David Gittlin has written in this post sounds remarkably familiar to me, as my own experiences are very similar.

This is precisely one of the reasons that I developed some budget-friendly book promotion options for Indie authors via Book Squirrel – it costs a lot less per month to get your book seen by people than it cost me, or David Gittlin, or countless others for that matter, for the months of promotion paid for with very low return. 

Of course, I don’t pretend that Book Squirrel is the entire solution. No one package ever is. But his options for book promotion definitely offer a few affordable opportunities, and provide some valuable parts of a good overall promotion plan. 

The other thing to keep in mind that promotion will not always directly result in sales. It’s also about building familiarity with your book and brand, getting your name out there, developing some credibility and presenting opportunities for people to think about your book as well as to buy it. Realistically, very few people will immediately buy a book by someone they haven’t heard of: in fact, very few people immediately buy a book by someone they have heard of. Those readers who have a “one click” response to books and authors are worth their weight in gold. 

A Writer's Path

by David Gittlin

Comparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process. The second step, creating an attention-getting book cover, offers its own unique set of challenges. However, the most intimidating and difficult undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—marketing. The word strikes terror in many authors’ sensitive little hearts because they want as little to do with the outside world as possible.

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A Director’s Perspective on Casting a Show

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the weekend with my production team, auditioning talented hopefuls who were trying out for a role in the Camperdown Theatre Company production of Little Shop of Horrors in May, 2020. 

The depth and variety of talent was incredible. It took us three hours to decided on the final cast, because we had some fabulous options – but that also meant that some hard decisions had to be made, too. You can’t give everyone the lead role, after all. 

When I looked at the final cast list, my first words were, “ This is going to be an absolutely killer show!” And you know what? It really is, because every one of the people the production team called last night with an offer accepted the role we offered them, even if it wasn’t the one they were hoping for. 

They are all super excited, and so am I. 
The cast list has just been posted, and I am looking forward to the excitement and anticipation that will create in the community as well as in the theatre company. 

There is a lot to do, and no time to waste, before rehearsals begin in February, but one thing is sure: It is a wonderful thing to be able to create and share this very special kind of joy and excitement that will flavour the whole six months before the show hits the stage.