Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Gifts from Hell

With Christmas coming up, gifts are never far from my mind.  I was telling my husband this story recently, and thought I'd share it with you.

When I was 13-14 years old, I was at a sleepover at my best friend's house.  As girls of that age do, I was rolling around on her bedroom floor, laughing my head off at something, when I spotted an album hidden behind her dresser.  When I made a grab for it, she was very embarrassed.  I, however, thought it was even more hysterically funny.

The album was a Leo Sayer one.  Not cool, not even in the mid-80's (the New Romantics era - if this doesn't make any sense to you, Google it.  If nothing else, it'll give you a laugh).  She refused to say where the album had come from but I can guess why it was hidden.  She was the epitome of cool (at least, to me), so I'm not surprised she had a burning desire to hide it from the world.


As it happens, our birthdays were nine days apart.  Mine came first.  When it came around, six months later, I had forgotten all about the Leo Sayer album.  Imagine my surprise when I unwrapped the album as my birthday gift!

After laughing hysterically (yet again), I carefully put it away.  When her birthday came around nine days later, I re-wrapped it and gave it back to her.

So began a gift-swap that lasted a few years.  I don't know who ended up with it it in the end - pretty sure it wasn't me. 

I wonder if she still has it?

Do you have any gifts-from-hell stories you care to share?  I'd love to hear them!

~ Amanda

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

"Between Before and After" - Teaser One

Thanks to those who voted on my Facebook page, here's a teaser from "Between Before and After" for you.  If you missed the synopsis for this, my next book, you can catch it here.

As always, I'd love to hear your feedback (either here or over on my Facebook page).  Keep in mind that this is an unedited teaser as the manuscript is still in Editing Mode - it may change yet. 

Enjoy (if that's even the right word!). 

~ Amanda


BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER

DUE FOR RELEASE: 2014

TEASER (unedited version, subject to change)


Max sat on the edge of the small wooden dinghy that was dry-docked in the boat house and stared out across the water. The bay was still, the water not even lapping the shoreline anymore. It was crystal-clear, the mountains on the opposite shore reflected in it. In stark contrast to the peace and tranquillity around him, his mind whirled so much he could barely think straight. The air was thick with the sound of chirping cicadas and it felt like he was hanging onto the last threads of sanity with only one hand, fighting off the incessant cicadas with the other.

He could feel them watching him up at the house. He knew they meant well, but it was nobody’s business how many beers he had or how fast he drank them. A sense of entitlement bolstered him. He took a mouthful from the bottle of beer in his hand, as if proving a point. Shuddering in the afternoon heat, goose bumps rose on his skin. He was hoping the peace and tranquillity of the water’s edge would somehow make things better.

He tried to recall Danny’s face. He tried to remember the sound of his laughter. He fought to remember the simple things but it all seemed hazy and unclear now. The only thing he could recall in crystal clarity was the blood. So much blood. Not red and clear, like in the movies, but dark and sticky.

Breathing heavily, he hunched forward, resting his elbows on his knees. The edge of the wooden dinghy he was sitting on became hard and uncomfortable as he picked at the label on his beer bottle.

"Hey.”

Max almost jumped. He rolled his eyes and shook his head as Gavin peered around the boat house doors that he had pegged open to catch the most of the view.

“Man – you nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“Sorry.” Gavin shrugged apologetically and walked into the darkened boat house, thick with the stench of damp, settling himself beside Max.

They sat in silence for several uncomfortable minutes.

“I keep forgetting how quiet it is out here.” Gavin mumbled after a while.

“Yeah, if you can get past those bloody cicadas.” Max mumbled, his eyes scanning the horizon as he took another long swallow from his bottle.

“Noisy little buggers.”

They sat awhile longer, the afternoon heat gathering around them, stifling them.

“You think we might take the boat out later? Think it’s still watertight?” Gavin asked suddenly, turning around to scan the boat suspiciously.

Max shrugged, glancing behind him.

“Yeah, maybe. Who knows.”

The silence settled over them once again.

“Here’s the thing - we’re worried about you, dude. Lacey sent me out here to check up on you – she told me to be discreet but I don’t really do discreet, shocker, I know.” Gavin said simply. “So how are you – really? Because you look like crap.”

Max gazed out over the water, sighing. He didn’t even bother to lie and tell him that he was fine. There didn’t seem to be much point.

“Did you ever, y’know, wonder what Danny was thinking about, the second before he pulled the trigger?”

The silence hung between them like a shroud and time stopped for a moment. Even the cicadas seemed to hush.

“Honestly? Yeah. I used to think about it a lot.” Gavin said finally, his voice barely audible.

Max nodded solemnly, glancing around at him. “And?” he prompted, when no further details were forthcoming.

Gavin shrugged. “And, I don’t know - I don’t have a clue.” He paused for a moment, breathing out heavily. “Honestly, I’m not sure I even want to know anymore.”

Max nodded. He understood the sentiment, but somewhere deep inside him, he had really wanted Gavin to say something else. Something reassuring. Something that he could live with.

“I just wish he’d told someone.” Gavin continued quietly. “That might’ve made a difference. Maybe we could’ve helped.”

They sat looking out over the bay as the late afternoon sunlight caught the water, making it sparkle like diamonds bobbing in the deep.

“He didn’t want help.” Max said quietly.

He could feel Gavin’s eyes on him, digging deep inside his brain, trying to dredge up the images from that day.

They’re right there, he said to himself. Right in front of you. Help yourself.

His hands trembling now, he took another long swallow of beer, trying not to choke on it as the memory of that day lodged in his throat.


Monday, 2 December 2013

Sharing is Caring

Writing a book is like open-heart surgery (minus the anesthetic...and the blood).  You literally open your heart and pour it out onto the pages, hoping that some of what you have written will strike a chord with someone else.  Someone you don't know (or possibly, someone you do, which is both better and worse), will pick this piece of yourself up and step into the world among the pages, a world you have created, and come out the other side having felt something.  Preferably something good, but something at least.

It's not easy and it's not quick, either.  It takes time and it takes guts - and a whole lot of effort.  For as long as it takes to write the book, your mind is somewhere else.  Even when you're supposed to be concentrating on [insert anything other than the book here], the characters and their story are always there, lurking, demanding attention.  You learn to multi-task.  You might think you're taking a break from it by going to the cinema, going for a walk, watching TV, spending time with your family, doing housework or [insert any other activity here], but deep down you realise you're kidding yourself.  Your story won't allow that.  Not at all.

So, when you take that giant leap and throw this lovingly hand-crafted giant piece of yourself out into the world, you hold your breath.  You hope.  You dream.  You pray.  Not for accolades or for awards, not for fame or for fortune, but just for the simplest thing: that someone will LIKE it.  Even better - that someone will like it enough to want to share it with their friends.  The more someones who do this, the better.  The net will widen.  The book will find "an audience". 

Did you read "Absolution"?  Did you enjoy it?  If so, please share it with your friends!  Let them know where they can buy it (Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo), ask them to pop on over to my Facebook page and say hi!  Help me widen that net, just a little bit.  A review at the site you purchased the book from would also be fantastic (or on my Goodreads page).  That really helps - and at the moment, I need every recommendation and review I can get.

Please?  I'd really appreciate it.  Truly. 

(And while I'm at it - thank you so much to all of those who have left reviews or let me know how much you enjoyed the book.  You make my day every single time!).


 ~Amanda


Monday, 11 November 2013

So, you want to write a novel?

I've had so many people ask for advice or tips on writing a novel lately, I thought it might be easier to put my comments into a blog post. Disclaimer: this is by no means "Writing A Novel 101" - these are purely my comments, as this is how I do it.  I'm sure if you ask other writers, they'll give you totally different information, but as you asked me (or some of you did, at least), here's my two cents worth.  In no particular order:

READ
Read anything you can get your hands on in the genre you want to write in.  Take notes, mentally or physically. You might want to note how characters are introduced, what takes place on the first page of the book to drag you into the story, how much or how little background information is relayed to the reader in the first chapter, the amount of scene-setting that takes place - whatever.  Just familiarise yourself with other ways of doing these things.  You will have your own way of doing things, but like anything, there is always room to learn.  The more you read, the more you learn.

BACK STORIES
Decide who your characters are and then write back stories for each of them.  By the time you come to write the actual novel, you'll know your characters inside out, which will make it easier to know how they'll react in any given situation. Your characters become your friends, and when you know your friends really well, you can write about them with confidence.

PLAN
Plan your beginning and your end from the outset.  The middle usually happens all by itself (and you want to leave yourself some playing room to brainstorm etc along the way).  If you don't know where your story starts and ends, it will make figuring it out as you go a long, tedious process.  Been there, done that.  Of course, you can change either of these things (beginning or end) - this is only your first draft.

WRITE!
Get in there and get that baby written!  The first draft will probably suck - although at the time, it won't feel like it does.  Even if it does, stick with it - finish it anyway.  Do not - I repeat DO NOT - edit as you write.  Just write, plain and simple - you can edit later, and you don't want to get bogged down with getting it perfect the first time.  Trust me, that won't happen so let go of that right now!  As an aside, I tend to pre-plan my chapters as soon as I have an idea of where I'm going.  I write a few lines per scene, and then work on fleshing out each scene when I sit down to write again (I usually only get small chunks of time to write, so I don't want to forget any ideas I had from the last writing session).  When it comes to the middle, I will usually pre-plan each of the remaining chapters, fleshing them out as I work my way through the book.  This usually helps me see ahead and make sure the story will work out the way I want it to.

PUT IT AWAY
Once the first draft is done, put it away for a month.  You can put it away for longer, but a month usually does it for me.  Allow your brain to NOT think about it every moment of every day.  Relax.

DIG IT OUT
Once the month is up, dig out your manuscript again and look at it.  You'll see it with fresh eyes - try not to cringe.  Edit it to within an inch of its life - change it, improve it, play with it.  Then when it's done, put it away again for a couple of weeks.  Repeat the process until you're happy with it.

SHOW IT TO SOMEONE
Give it to someone you trust to read - one who will give you honest feedback and (here's the key) IS YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.  Listen to what they say but only take on board the advice you believe will improve the story.  Everyone has an opinion but YOURS is the only one that matters here.

EDIT IT AGAIN
If you feel it needs it.  Show it to someone else and repeat above process.  If the same feedback keeps coming up (ie: unlikeable hero), you should look at this seriously.  If more than a few people bring up this point, it might be they are seeing something you are not.  Take another look.  You may also consider gaining feedback from one of the many online writing communities - www.authonomy.com, www.fictionpress.com or www.wattpad.com.  Feedback is valuable!

I'd love to give you advice on publishing, but I don't have any at this point.  "Absolution" is my first published novel, so I'm a complete amateur in that field, however I've written several novels so I feel able to share the above with you with some measure of confidence.  Like I said at the beginning though, this is what I've found works for me.  What works for you may be different, but you'll only know that once you get your head down, your butt up and WRITE!

Oh and one last piece of advice: stay focused and believe in yourself.  It's a marathon not a sprint.

Good luck!


~ Amanda

Monday, 4 November 2013

Taxi!

This past week has been a whirlwind.  Anxiety, relief, fear, joy - multiplied to infinity.  As the reviews for "Absolution" slowly filter through, the anxiety has eased slightly and the fear, although still there, is no longer so overwhelming.  Apparently, my baby might find an audience after all.  Despite not being able to be pigeon-holed in any particular genre, despite being on the long side and being a first novel, people seem to like it (well, the ones who have reviewed it anyway).  I'm fully aware that it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but my expectations were always fairly low: as long as no one flames it for no good reason, I'm willing to take notes.

So, while one baby has flown the coop, it's time to get the next baby ready for it's solo flight.

Three years ago, I finished writing "Anniversary", with the intention of going back to it "at some stage".  I use this term, "at some stage", a lot.  I know this.  I'm an impatient person.  I'm usually in such a hurry to get the next story out, I'm happy to leave the last one behind (and all it's problems).  But, well, there comes a time when you need to just put on your big girl knickers, hike them way up and just get on with it.

So, after a week of throwing around possible new titles, I've settled on one which:

A) I like.
B) Hasn't been used a hundred times before (courtesy of an Amazon search).

So, now "Anniversary" has become "Between Before and After".  In typical Amanda Dick style (procrastinator extraordinaire), I then created a playlist (very important - need mood music).  Then I mocked up a cover with a print I found online (to set the mood).  With all of this important (hmmm) ground-work laid, it was time to get down to the business of writing.  Or editing.  The lines tend to  blur, especially with this story.

I've decided to split the story into three parts (not books, parts).  Each part covers the same weekend - the anniversary of Danny's death - one year, two years and three years on.  Effectively, this means I have to re-write the manuscript, as it wasn't written this way initially.  I was afraid that this would end up being a LOT more work, but as it turns out, it's not going to be as time-consuming as I thought. 

Why not?  Well, I think because I spent a year with these characters when I wrote the initial draft.  I know them now.  Also, I'm seeing them with fresh eyes.  I have had the luxury of distance (three years of it!).  As far as self-editing goes, this is a bonus.

Today, I wrote the prologue and beginning of part 1, chapter 1.  Almost 1,000 words, which doesn't sound like a lot, but if I can do this each day, this thing will be ready for beta-reading in no time!  There is a lot in the first draft that basically makes up the final part of the story, so most of the new writing I need to do covers the first and second parts.

Changes.  Yes, there are a lot of those!  I've changed the setting back to New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington - briefly - Picton and the Marlborough Sounds).  I wasn't totally sure about this to begin with, but now that I've given it a lot of thought and had a play in that sandbox, I think it's going to work.  I hope.  I'm also changing the ending (those who read the original will probably thank me for that!).

As for the title, "Between Before and After", it means many things.  Mainly though, it refers to the time after a loved one dies, when you're in limbo. You're waiting for the world to right itself again, for life to pick you up and dust you off and send you on your way.  You're wanting to be a human being again, to leave the pain behind, but you don't know how and you don't want to lose any precious memories in the process.  It's a balancing act.

I'm looking forward to sharing it with you, maybe giving you a few teasers along the way.  If you want them, that is :-)



~ Amanda

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Happiness is a form of Courage

I posted this pic on my Facebook page today:


 Sometimes, it takes courage to allow yourself to be happy.  I can think of a hundred different scenarios that apply to this simple observation (Hello!  Writer here!) but it reminds me of "Absolution" and what these characters go through during the course of the story.

Ally faces each day with a smile on her face, determined to show the world that she is not a victim.  As Jack says to her at one point: "It's just what happened to you.  It's not how you define yourself."  Yes, she has her moments (don't we all) when she wants to crawl back into bed and hide, but she wants to be happy.  And being happy, for her, means she has to put her doubts aside and fight for that happiness.

Jack faces up to everyone he walked away from and asks for a second chance.  This is something I think we can all relate to in some way.  Regrets are common.  Asking for a second chance when you think you don't deserve one takes guts.  He has two choices: run and hide (he tried that - all it brought him was misery) or stand and fight.  There's no such thing as the easy way out.

To allow ourselves to be happy is a choice.  It takes guts.  It takes determination.  Sometimes, you have to make that decision to put your fears and doubts aside, and go after that happiness with both hands.

I began writing this story four years ago.  Now, with barely 2 weeks until it's release, you can bet I'm biting my fingernails and feeling more than a little twitchy.  But the hopes I had for this story were beyond it making me happy and then sitting in a drawer for the forseeable future.  And in order to realise those hopes and dreams, I'm putting my doubts and fears on the backburner too, and I'm sharing it with you. 

If it all goes swimmingly, fantastic!  If it doesn't, I have another couple of stories I think you might possibly enjoy.  Either way, I'm not giving up.  That's my choice, that's what I want. 

~ Amanda

Friday, 4 October 2013

Publication Day

Publication Day (or "pub day", as they call it "in the biz").

Hmph.  "They".  I guess, technically, I'm also part of "they" now, aren't I?  Wow.  That's a head-spinner, right there. 

I have so many emotions about the release of "Absolution" on 29th October.  It's been there, in the back of my mind (and sometimes in the forefront) for the past week or so, since I found out about the actual date from my publisher.  In the hope of organising my thoughts into some kind of sense, I'm going to list them here.  Bare with me.  (I'm hoping this will be cathartic).

1.  Fear. 
Number one.  Numero uno.  This goes right at the top of my list.  In my head, it's in caps, in bold and in red.  Fear that the book won't go down well.  Fear that this might be the only time I get to experience "pub day".  Fear that I've wasted four years of my life on a story that is going to sink without a trace.  Fear that people I know will read this (I know how silly this one is, but it's still there). 

2.  Excitement.
I'm about to release my first novel!  Four years of hard work, sleepless nights, missing out on family time and staying up till the wee hours writing, re-writing and editing.  Sweating buckets over word counts (is it too long?  Will people be turned off by a 169,000 word/over 400 page story?  Maybe I should shorten it...where would I begin?  What should I cut?), the inclusion of cuss words (too many?  not enough?), realistic dialogue, medical jargon, specifics (should I include the music or just make it generic?  If I include the music, will that turn people off?).  Blood, sweat and tears went into this project and if I get just ONE good review, it would all be worth it!

3.  Panic.
What if it does well?  Then what happens?  (Note that I can't win here - if it does well, I worry.  If it doesn't do well, I worry!).

4.  Pride.
Four years ago, when I began writing this story, I never thought in a million years that I would ever get to the point of having it published.  I thought I might anonymously post it on a website full of other original works, in the hopes of getting some positive feedback.  Perhaps I would be brave enough to show it to a select group of friends and see what they thought.  (I did both of those things).  But share it with the general public?  No.  Far too scary.  I'm proud to say that I overcame this particular fear, and that through the magic of t'interweb, my publisher found me.  And then...I found all of you *smiles*.

I teeter between thinking that this story is one of many millions out there, and it probably won't even make a ripple in the market, to wondering if I have written something really special.  Something that I can be proud of, and my children and grandchildren can be proud of.  Something that will launch me on a wave of self-confidence that will see me buckling down and finishing the edit of my second book ("Anniversary"), and my third ("Redemption"), and then finishing writing my fourth ("Missing") and possibly more.

Just when I convince myself that this story and this experience is all rather ordinary - that it's no big deal - I hear a little voice in my head saying "you never know - they might just love these characters as much as you do".

I hope that little voice is right.  I really do.

I have taken "pub day" off work - no day-job that day.  I imagined myself pacing my house, afraid to go online but also too afraid not to, waiting for reviews to come in as friends, family and complete strangers cast their eye over my characters and read their story - my story.  In order to avoid that scenario, Mum has offered to take me out to lunch.  We have pledged to drink champagne (well, sparkling wine).  For a couple of (basically) non-drinkers, this is Big.  Out there, makin' memories.

So, on "pub day", spare me and my rapidly-disappearing fingernails a thought - and if you do buy the book and enjoy it, please put me out of my misery by letting me know! *smiles*

25 days and counting...

~Amanda

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

My Y2K Baby

This time in 2000, I was nine months pregnant, nervous and excited.

In a routine visit to my midwife the week before, I had discovered to my amazement that my baby had done a complete 180 and was now sitting in a breach position inside my belly.  Thinking back, she had been super-active that week, so I really shouldn't have been surprised.  I think at that point nothing would have surprised me.  I had suffered with Hyperemisis Gravidarum throughout my pregnancy, so it hadn't exactly been a cake-walk.  I had spent four months off work, losing kilo after kilo, and at times wondering if someone had made a mistake - I wasn't actually pregnant, I was dying.  At times it definitely felt like I was.  But I had made it past all of that, and finally started gaining weight again at 6 months pregnant - yay!  I finally looked pregnant!  So, after all that, when I was told that my baby was breach and that I would have to come in on my due date to have a c-section, I took it all in my stride.  Nothing else with this pregnancy had gone to plan, so why should the birth be any different?  Those around me said "Oh, you must be disappointed to not be having a natural birth.".  Wrong again.  At that point, all I cared about was having a happy, healthy baby.  How the baby got into this world was just a minor detail.

On Monday, 25 September 2000, hubby and I arrived at Simpsons Maternity Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, two bundles of nervous energy.  I remember being asked to keep still as the epidural/spinal block was injected - I was so excited, I was shaking.  Hubby went away to don surgical scrubs for his entry into the delivery room. When he came back, he had squeezed his size Large self into a size Medium pair of surgical trousers and top, with fetching hat.  Apparently, that was the only size left.  He was afraid when he sat down he would split his trousers.  Of course, I was oblivious.

At 11.50am, our 8lb 4oz bundle of joy was finally delivered.  She was born with one leg stretched up in front of her face and the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.  She cried almost immediately and I remember being so relieved.  As they lay her down beside me, the first thing I noticed was her thick shock of shaggy black hair.  That explained the heartburn.

Up until that point, we had not agreed on a name - I wanted Georgia, but hubby was still not convinced.  When the doctor settled a swaddled up bundle of baby girl into my hubby's arms and asked him what her name was, he immediately said "Georgia".  We fell in love with her from that first moment. 

As the months flew by, the shock of dark hair was replaced by downy blonde locks, which grew to curl around her ears and then down her back.  She was cheeky, fun, loving and fond of the colour purple and her stuffed bear, Wah-Wah.  When Cameron was born 3 and a half years later, it took her a few days to get used to the idea.
"This is Cameron - he's your baby brother." we said. 
She looked him over dubiously, finally frowning up at us in all her three and a half year old seriousness. 
"I wanted a puppy."

From dubious beginnings, she went on to show extreme love and patience.  She loved him as if he were one of her dolls, tucking him in and watching over him when he slept, playing with him when he was awake.  She was always attentive and very loyal.

Tomorrow, she turns thirteen.  Our baby girl will be a teenager.  Where did the time go?  Tonight, we went out to dinner to celebrate, and I found myself looking at her with new eyes.  She is beautiful, she is funny, she is sassy and she is ours.  We are so blessed.

I'm going to try to hang onto that as we traverse the teenage years together.  Wish us luck...





 


February 2011
12th Birthday - 25 September 2012

July 2013

~ Amanda 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

My Personal Philosophy

I often get asked how I manage to fit everything in.  Honestly?  I don't know myself.  So, in the interests of self-discovery, let me sit and think about that, while the house is nice and quiet and everyone else is in bed.

Some time later...

I guess, drilling down into it, I am an "active relaxer".  You won't (very often) find me laxed out on the couch, watching TV.  I usually do minimum two things at a time (watch TV/read a book, watch TV/do some beading, help kids with homework/do some beading, listen to music/bash some metal into shape, write/listen to music).  Often it's more than two.  My own personal sense of satisfaction comes from collapsing into bed each night and doing a mental inventory of what I've achieved that day.  I don't mind being tired the next day (hell, these days I'm used to it and expect it), as long as I've got something to show for it. 

"Geez, I'm exhausted - but look at the pretty ring I made!" or "Man, I'm shattered, but at least I finished that chapter!".  That's my own personal measure of success - getting somewhere.  Even if it's just something small, it's a step forward.

Ain't nothing so satisfying as taking a step forward!

I guess I have low standards, in a way.  I don't mind that what I achieved today was go to work, help my daughter with her new temporary hair extension (she's 12 - it's a Big Thing), start the housework (too tired to finish it), do a couple of favours for a couple of friends, clean up the kitchen and work for a couple of hours on a custom order necklace (embroidering seed beads onto lace).  That's fine - that's something, right?  Tomorrow, I'll have a whole new set of tasks.  By the end of the week, I'll have finished this custom necklace and then I can start on the pink sapphire and sterling silver earrings for my daughter's birthday.  Or write the synopsis for my new writing project.  Or tidy up my studio.  Or And a hundred other things.

Baby steps.  I just want to fall into bed tonight and know that today, I made progress - I got somewhere.  I used my time wisely.

 ~ Amanda

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Q & A Time!



I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because the trapdoor in my house that takes me to my quiet place is broken and I didn't trust myself to proof-read under the current circumstances (world war three going on around me right now - thanks kids). Ugh. What are the odds?

I was struggling for a blog post this week, so I thought I'd throw it over to you all to ask me anything you liked. Ten points to me for delegating, right? So here's what you wanted to know:

How much of your story lines are completely fictional and how much are drawn from your own life experiences? (Danielle)

One hundred percent of my stories are fictional, plot-wise.  There are facets here and there that are drawn from my own experiences, but usually they are tweaked and moulded so much to fit the story that I can barely recognise them myself!

What do you think people search for when they're reading a book?  How does what you write help them find it? (Danielle)

Honestly? I have no idea what people are looking for. I basically write a story I would want to read myself. If others like it too, that's great!  I've found that if I try to see it from outside of my own perspective, it just clouds things until I lose my focus completely.  You can’t be all things to all people, you have to be true to yourself and trust your judgment.

What advice would you give to people who "run out of creativity" when writing? (Danielle)

I think trying to find an answer to this one is like trying to nail jelly to a tree!  I have a feeling it’s different for everyone.  For me, when I get creatively blocked, I’ve learnt that distance works wonders.  I walk away.  I do other things.  Usually, the answer comes to me.  Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t easy, in fact it bugs the hell out of me.  I’m no quitter!  But sometimes being too close to a problem stops you seeing the solution (the whole forest/trees scenario).  I think the trick is not to take too much distance – if it hasn’t come to me within a week, I try to skirt the problem and carry on with the story.  Too much distance creates its own issues.  Like I said though, the solution may be different for everyone.

How do you create your characters? Are they (loosely) based on people you know/tv/movie characters, or are they totally from your imagination, or both? (Vicki)

This question is multi-faceted, and so is the answer.  The characters mostly come from my imagination, but what sparks my imagination can vary.  Sometimes a particular facet of a movie or TV characters personality will fire me up and I build an entirely new character from that one facet.  Sometimes a character is created to be the complete opposite of another character, just to make things interesting.  I’ve never yet created a character from someone I actually know, although sometimes things friends/family say can find their way into the mouths of my characters (shhhhhh!).

Views on the 10 most influential books, movies in your life. (Scott)

Pretty sure this was meant as tongue-in-cheek (thanks Scott!).  Since this blog post would be super long if I decided to detail each title with my views, I’m going to skirt the question slightly and just answer what my top ten are. 

Books (in no particular order): 
Outlander series (Diana Gabaldon)
The Heart and the Fist (Eric Greitens)
Lifes That Way (Jim Beaver)
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton)
The Time Travellers Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
A Thousand Acres (Jane Smiley)
An Angel at my Table (Janet Frame)
A Game of Cards (Witi Ihimaera).  
(I know that last one is a cheat because it’s only a short story, but it’s still a fave!)

Movies:
I can’t dwindle it down to 10 (I can’t even dwindle it down to 100!).  I have 30+ years of movie-watching behind me…where does one even begin?  Let's just say I'm a big fan of movies.  I prefer action movies to rom-coms, but there are some exceptions where I go all girly and can't watch without a box of tissues beside me.  I like gritty films and dark humour.  Not a huge fan of comedy for it's own sake.  Hate slapstick.  Love heist movies.

Do you insert yourself into your characters, live the story with them, and develop the plot/characters/emotional trails from feeling what they feel? Or are you completely bipartisan!? Do you feel the emotions you are writing about?  (Leanne)

Another great question!  Whew, this is harder than I thought!  Firstly, I mostly plot the story out before I begin to write (if not totally, then at least loosely), so I know where the characters are going before I start (to some degree).  As to whether I feel the emotions as I write them?  Absolutely.  I don’t think it’s possible for me to detach myself emotionally – I think if I did, my writing style would be very different.  I know that when I get to a particularly emotional part of the story – when the plot has come to a head and its make or break time for the characters – it can get emotionally draining for me, too.  I liken it to listening to a friend tell you their woes – you love them, you can’t listen to what they’re saying without becoming emotionally invested yourself.  At least, I can’t.

Have you written about how you were "discovered" yet? Or when/how you decided to take the plunge from 'spare-time' to 'I'm finishing this book and it will be awesome dangit!' writing? (Maria)

I think this first question has already been covered in the newspaper article that came out in May, but as to the second question?  The contract I signed with my publisher, then the looming deadline, pretty much took care of the “finishing” part.

So thanks to you all for playing - hope this was sufficient to satisfy your curiosity!

Don't forget to visit my new website, too - www.amandadick.com.  And if you have any comments and don't want to use this blog to air them, you are welcome to pop back over to my Facebook page instead.

~ Amanda

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Next!

I was just thinking today - no wonder I'm exhausted.  I took a half-finished story and pushed, pulled, finished, and edited it (3 times) within 10 weeks.  Yeesh!  As much as I'm super-proud of it, it did come at a price.  My poor family - I've basically been coming home from the day job and locking myself in my studio.  Thank goodness they realised it was only a short-term thing!

These past few days have been spent catching up on family time and sleep, and I'm just about feeling "normal" again.  My body clock is slowly righting itself after all those 2am bedtimes, and I no longer have to wear a name tag to remind my family of who I am.  Things are looking up!

So, what's next, you might ask?  Well, I finished a story a couple of years ago that I'm keen to revamp and edit into my next release.  I've been thinking about it for the past few days, and I made a momentous decision regarding the format of it today: I'm going to split it into three parts.  Not three books, but three parts.

You see, the story takes place over three days - an anniversary get-together by a group of friends - and over three years.  So, I've decided to write those three days in each part, one part per year.  Hopefully this will work!  I'm hoping this brings about the character progression that I think this story needs.  You see, the subject matter is not a light one: suicide.

The story is titled "Anniversary" and here is the synopsis for you:


Danny was larger than life - right up until he shot himself.

Each year, his friends mark the anniversary of his death by meeting at the beach house owned by Danny's family.  Together, they relive the memories, both good and bad, and try to deal with the questions that his suicide inevitably left them with.  Why didn't he tell anyone what he was planning?  Why did he do it?  

Danny's girlfriend, Kate, blames herself.  She should have known - shouldn't she?  Max was the one who found him that day, and what he saw has altered his entire future.  His best friend Finn is tired of watching everyone tear themselves apart over what went wrong, but you can't speak ill of the dead - can you?  

Told over the course of three years, and three weekends, we see the effect that Danny's decision has had on everyone he loves.  It may have seemed like the easy way out for Danny, but there is no doubt about the devastation he left behind.  

Friendship.  The word itself conjures up images of camaraderie, of trust, of love.  But what happens when that trust is broken and when that love is thrown back in your face?


Over the next few weeks, I intend on beginning the editing process (once the other parts of my life are back in kilter!).  I'm aiming to finish in 2014 and will look at publication options then.  In the meantime, I'm hoping to be able to share some snippets and teasers with you!

Thanks for all your support thus far - I can't wait to share "Absolution" with you all, and hopefully "Anniversary" too!  If you have any comments, I'd love to hear them - either here on my blog, or over on my Facebook page.


~Amanda