Friday, July 30, 2010

Progress Friday

... is nothing to write home about this week. Sigh. A measly 2K added to the tally, I don't really count that progress. Consequently, I'm not even allowing the WIP meter on the right-hand side here to move today.

I know I can blame it on the kiddie vacation, on the cold we suddenly felt again in the past few days, on my general running to-and-fro, especially with a new university semester starting and assignment deadlines flying in left, right and center.

But in the end too, I don't know. I don't like this feeling of lazy self-indulgence I get when I look at my WIP/word count and realise it hasn't moved as I had wanted it to. It's true that life happens, and we need to plan for this when we write, but still, it feels so goddamn awful to say you've gotten next to nothing accomplished.

And to think that there's one more week with the kid at home... Sigh.

I can also mention one of these unnerving writer-brain moments - you know, when the stories you are yet to write come over your consciousness like a sanity-devastating tsunami. Like many writers out there, I have a to-be-written list. A sort of compilation of every feasible story idea that's ever crossed my mind. Sometimes you can actually pull something out of this 'nothingness', sometimes not. You just never know which one might spark off at any given time. The worst that could happen is when said list just starts popping off like firecrackers and all you hear is the noise.

This week, I saw an urban fantasy/speculative fiction story on which I'd written Chapter 1 (to get a feel for the world) take a character-forward spin and it's now urging me to write it. I saw a sweet, children-as-catalyst contemporary series morph itself into a possible 4 book lineup - in Book 1, the 6-year-old catalyst, a little girl, even 'wrote down' her own prologue to tell me her story. I had a lightbulb moment as to a concept that could be worked as a red thread in many of my 'possible mainstream/culture-free' fiction. I saw the hero of another culture-based plant himself before my eyes, hands on his hips, going 'this is who I am, write my story!'.

In case, you're wondering, no, I'm not going mad. Not yet. Maybe next week, but not right now.

And strangely too - did I see anything about the current WIP? Uhm, no...

What's a writer to do, people? Ever been there?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Link Thursday: 11 Things Men Don't know about Women!

Following upon the heroine-building post of yesterday, I was browsing my file for some info to supplement that when I fell on this one.

Some laughs, some hiccups, most truths - this one has it all. Feel free to ask your guys to drive by here and check out the message you want to send out. I thought this one echoed our sentiments pretty much exactly!

The article appeared around mid-March on the MSN Lifestyle/ Relationships page, and is coined by Stacey Grenrock Woods.

The clothes one is so true, lol, and I can just hear my hubby and boys nodding in total approval. Not so true about the explosions - nothing better on PMS days than to watch Jason Statham blowing something up on the screen.

Think about it - your heroines might say a big thanks!

******

11 Secrets Men Don't Know About Women

The truth about "girls' night out," wedding obsessions, and more revealing insights into the minds of women.

By Stacey Grenrock Woods

1. Women don't like explosions, in art or in life.

2. Women aren't as funny as men. We're often cleverer, frequently wittier, but to be really funny demands a certain clownishness that our grace just does not allow. It's fine, really it is.

3. We grow pathetic goatees and look awful in cargo shorts anyway.

4. Women are aware of about 10 percent of the things men actually think and say about us. Best to keep it under five.

5. Women love to be taken out to eat. It makes our day.

6. A clean apartment will get you more bedroom antics than you'd think.

7. Given the chance, women will smell and re-smell the scented-candle display at the store. We really can do this for ages.

8. Our clothes are complicated, our shoes unforgiving, and our constitutions delicate, so please, valet park.

9. Every living woman likes wedding stuff. Even lesbians.

10. "Girls' night out" is usually some other woman's idea.

11. Women would rather be with you. We like you. Honestly, we talk about you all the time.

******

What else do you think those darling guys don't 'get' about us? Drop me a comment and let me know!
From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Shaping people - & how archetypes can (somewhat) come in handy with characters

What writer doesn't face this dilemma at some point - who is my character and what is he/she like? You might have your plot, your idea, your progression, but without your character and who he/she is, you're pretty much certain to hit against a brick wall.

Characters - they are the ones we write, who people our books. Clue here: they people the book, and as such, they need to actually be like people. Not making sense? I'll try to explain.

I remember when I was a teenager and I needed something, I'd got to my dad and ask. Well, what do you expect? Teenagers do live on daddy's money, innit? Well, I asked, and I got it.
Today, I am what is known as a housewife. I work part-time and am pretty much financially independent, but that doesn't cover every purchase I need to make. Like that new time-saving and chore-saving food processor I spotted at the shop a while back ( I did tell you, cooking and me makes three - a crowd!) So, I usually go the the hubby and ask, and I usually get what I want.

You might think I'm a man-manipulator. To a certain extent, that's true. You need to know how to tackle/handle situations. With my dad, the big-eyes-like-Puss-in-Boots-from-Shrek worked wonders. Not so with the hubby - a logical explanation and a clear balance sheet would most probably win me my endeavour. On my boys, a glare generally works.

So what am I getting at? In dealing with these 3 types of men, I am the same woman, the same character in the story of my life, but I show/use/display different facets with every one of them. I know what 'logically' works on every one of them to get me my goal.

Every life is a story in itself, and every person is the actor acting his/her part out. True - you may not always know the scenario and it's almost always improvisation. But even in improvisation, you need logic. This is no different from any story you're writing, even though you as the writer should, logically, know the scenario of your story and how your characters/actors are supposed to play their parts.

So what is logical and what's not where emotions are concerned? This is where archetypes come into play - basically models or templates of what a 'type' can entail (You can find good description of these on Tami Cowden's website). There are so many of them  - the Nurturer, the Free Spirit (heroines) - The Chief, the Professor (heroes), among others.

But these are just templates - they will give you a general idea in 2D. It's up to you to make these people 3D, to give them facets, sides, aspects: everything that usually constitutes a normal, existing person.

There is no better way to get this right than by knowing your characters.

I stress the plural on the word - knowing your main character, the heroine, is good - you know how she will act. Fine. But acting is not a one-way street, and it is always an interpersonal interaction. You act in relation to other people too. Know those other people as well as you know your heroine. Because a Nurturer is supposed to nourish around her doesn't mean she does only that. Nourishing doesn't mean that a plate of cookies or a basket of muffins solves everything and brings the solution to world peace and a happily-ever-after. And a Nurturer doesn't meet one single type of people throughout her life.

An archetype is not a person! You make that person come true!

Let's apply this to real life, taking the heroine whose archetype is the Nurturer. She is a person with a functioning brain too, and she has to see and know what is happening around her. She uses her abilities as per what the situation demands.
Thus, when she will take on the stoic banker, she will be professional, not an insipid, crying and bailing-her-heart-out wimpy creature even if that's how she feels inside because she isn't used to tackling hard situations as she always "fixes". When she takes on the tough-as-nails, cynical hero, she won't be commanding that he do this and he do that. She'll work him through emotion, through an indirect approach that will slowly work a way into his heart, because she fixes broken things and the best approach to do that is through patience and little gestures.
These are aspects/characteristics tied to a Nurturer archetype, and this is what you should be using in characterization.

Listology has a really good article on this - giving examples of every archetype out there. Check it out too and you're bound to be able to pick up more aspects of what constitutes each 'template'.

A lot of writers also work through preconceptions, stereotypes and the like as the starting point of their 'logical' approach. But this can be tricky, since preconceptions and stereotypes happen as a result of a skewed perception or of bias, which can result in over-generalization that throws your whole characterization off center. If you say that 'all men have their mind in the gutter', fine - but do make sure to know how much of your hero's mind is actually in said gutter. Another pitfall of this type of approach is that you can easily fall into the trap of surface logic and cardboard-cutout-character-logic.

Know your characters. Find everything you can about them, and let 'templates' and other such notions be a red thread guiding you on the journey. Don't make these the be-all and end-all of your characterization.

Questions are more than welcome, in the comments!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: Welcome to Mauritius

I promised that when my heroine would land in Mauritius, I'd bring you here too! Well, today's the day. Everyone says Mauritius is a paradise on earth. Beautiful beaches, amazing scenery, rainbow nation where every culture/religion under the sun lives in harmony.

Yes, all this is true. For someone who lives here, lol, no, it's not exactly seventh heaven, but it comes close. True, people are people. When in a land where so many cultures and ways of life mix and collide, friction is bound to exist - hence the nagging old aunties, nosy biddies, neighbours who know your every business before you even think said business through...

But for all the pitfalls, I think life is well worth living here. To find out more of what I'm talking about, *hint, shameless hint* pick up my works!

Most of you wouldn't know how the island even came about its existence. The place is a tiny speck of land in the Indian Ocean, south of the Equator, east of Africa and Madagascar. Discovered in the 16th century by Dutch sailors, who named it after their prince Moritz, the Dutch left somewhere in the 17th century, and the French took hold of the island (especially because of its proximity to then island colony Bourbon and still today French colony, Reunion Island). In 1810, the English made an out and out war bid for the Ile de France, as the place was known. Britain won, and Mauritius it was renamed.
From the French settlers to the British governors (Catholics and Anglicans, amongst others); from the African slaves pre-1835 and the abolition of slavery, to the indentured Indian labour (Hindus & Muslims) brought to work the abandoned cane fields post-1835; from the Chinese, Tamil and Muslim tradesmen and craftsmen who came to the British colony in and towards the end of the 19th century, Mauritius ended up being peopled by every race and religion of the world.

Attaining independence in 1968, and becoming a republic in 1992, Mauritius has built upon its foundation as colonies and brought its people together as a diverse and dynamic melting pot of what constitutes today the Mauritian people.

I spent most of the morning on YouTube trying to find the perfect video to show you what my island is like and what it is about. I found this video that makes a perfect entree into the topic! The second shows more snapshots of the island. Check it out - this is what my heroine sees when takes a first glance from the plane, and this is what I want you to see too.

Now, Mauritius is just not the same without its sounds! That's the sega, our local music. Derived from ancestral African tradition, with lyrics sung in the mother tongue of Creole, this is the sound and beat adopted by all Mauritians alike.

The first and second videos are of the island, the third is the music. I couldn't find one that melded them well, so watch the second with the music of the third playing!

And yes, the comment of 'Mauritius inspired heaven itself' is a quote from Mark Twain! Find it here, since embedding is disabled... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3p2uwMWttg0&feature=related

Enjoy!





From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, July 26, 2010

Random Thoughts Monday: Still of kids and madness

One week of kids' break down, and my sanity is AWOL. Okay, didn't expect it to be here too much, but still... Not a pleasant feeling to be so in the clouds half the time. True too, no way of coping with kids otherwise. Work at a standstill, though research did happen for the book. Amazing how sometimes your characters will just spring something on you and off you go, needing to make sure you'll get your info right. Yes, motorcycles, but not just - heroine has also let the cat out of the bag that she has a jewellery fetish. Precious stones actually. Now I need to work that into the story/plan.



Other than the research, weekend was pretty ok. Stayed in most of the time 'coz the weatehr is just back to be wintery awful again. Got a break on Saturday as my mom all but threw the red carpet out to the kiddo. Hubby and I ended up with a evening and a morning alone after ages. That was indeed pleasant - rekindling  a relationship is often as sweet as establishing one in those very early, heady days. Yes, romance was in the air... :) Then too, I always maintained that real romance takes work - you work at keeping a relationship alive. It takes guts, making a few mistakes, making a lot of compromises, and giving lots of trust, love and acceptance to be a real life heroine. Or hero too, for that matter!



With focus back on the real-real life (understand by that, kiddo back home yesterday!), life's drifting by into its usual array of to-do list and what else other chore.
Thank goodness for some mindless distractions then. First up, the Internet! What can you not find on the web? I was watching Click on the BBC the other day and their web address section had this site up as a feature - Wordle. Strangely, lol, I also find this site featured on a fellow writer's blog the next day (Annie Nicholas).

Now what is Wordle? It's a web-based tool that analyzes the prominence of word usage in a specific text and then puts up the result up in a tag cloud form that looks quirky and fun. Check the one I did for this blog:


Now, lol, I had no idea the word Fisher was even on the site, let alone so prominently! Annie on her post mentioned this could be a really nice tool for writers. How? Well, none of us are immune to echoes or crutch words. This tool could identify them.
Next up - what are the most prominent concepts in your story? The tag cloud will show you which words appear more. Some will stand out (just like Characters stood out in my above tag cloud). Now what if you take those words to find your main points, and from there trickle down your tag lines, blurb, and synop?

Okay too - Wordle is totally addictive! You can customize and change basically everything in the way the results look. There's the option to upload/paste your own text (say, for your WIP) and you can also get the app to analyze your website/blog (like I did with my blog). Check it out, it's really astounding!



From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, July 23, 2010

Progress Friday

It's not easy being a writer when you have little boys screaming bl**dy murder or 'The force is not with you, I will demolish you with my light saber and transform into a megaTransformer to annihilate you and all your Hot Wheels garage!' Yes, that's typical play day at my place, and with just 2 boys. No need to tell you where the sanity heads to - yes, Bedlam.

Still, did manage to get 'some' done on the WIP. It's now sitting down at 15K-something, not bad when it was around 9K last Friday. Bursts and spurts - even these get the word count to tally up!

So I'm at this stage where the dynamics in the story change, and a new pivotal character comes in - the hero. Yes, in case you're wondering, it's women's fiction hence the delay to get the man on board. Right - the man. Who is he? I have an idea. I mean, you don't write a full outline without knowing who your hero is, innit? But while I know who this bloke is, I don't know him. Not yet. This is what I set out to do for the last few days - flesh out this skeleton and breathe some life into him (Poor hero. For a man who's supposed to be drop-dead gorgeous, he's just a sack of bones right now. Sniffle...)

I cannot tell you exactly how I go about getting to know my characters. I have an idea of their background and where they come from, what their life story is, but that much doesn't really tell you what a person is really like. Giving it lots of thought (especially during cooking time, when I'm not singing along to ABBA - long story, that I might tell one day!), I'm letting this man tell me who he is. Almost like my heroine, I'm getting to know him.

And lo and behold - he's into bikes! The serious, heavy, thoroughly sexy and fast competition motorbikes! Now what do I know of these machines other than they're powerful, make a lot of noise, and are, well, sexy-looking? Dilemma, dilemma. Hero wants his bike. What to do?

This is how I found myself contacting a good friend/family member who is into motorbike racing. The good thing is, he know I'm a writer and he's all set to help me. Spent a good portion of this morning on the phone with him, and he tells me all about bikes - makes, models, accessories, engine power, defensive v/s competition driving, gear, lifestyle, et al. All the while, I keep going, why don't you spell it all in Greek so I can understand? At which he slows, and I start to note things down. Figures, alphabets, wacky combinations of both that look like a huge mash-up between calculus and algebra, and I need to point out I barely passed maths in secondary school!

At the end of our call, I'm seriously hyperventilating. What on earth have I gotten myself into? Or better yet, who on earth is this crazy hero who couldn't be into anything normal like cars (and that's another story - I always thought you put water in the carburator. Hubby debunked this myth for me saying this was the surefire way of breaking the car down - water goes in the radiator!). Then this absolute darling of the bloke on the other end of the line laughs, and tells me I'll be just fine. Because he has faith in me... Now if that doesn't make your day...

So this weekend I'm gonna get better acquainted with bikes, and with this unnerving man trying his darndest to make my life hell (Hero, hello? You have a heroine to woo, remember?)

Wish me some sanity, because the Transformer-Hot Wheels-Star Wars fights have just gone past warming up stage.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Link Thursday: Dating and Mating Rituals... Decoded!

Or, how non-verbal communication and cues are sending out a message!

One of the first things I remember studying when I started my degree in communications science was non-verbal communication. Call it body language (simplified version, actually), but our body, our mannerisms, our culture, our lifestyle - all of these play into how we behave and how we present ourselves as people.

How is this supposed to help you as an author? Well, your charater doesn't just talk, or act. She/he also cues in via her/his non-verbal communication. How many times do we use movements such as a head tilt, a nod, raised eyebrows. Most of these symbolise a universal message, but did you know that in some cultures, a nod can mean 'no'? Or that in some cultures/places in the world, not looking into someone's eyes when talking to him/her is rude, and in other lands/cultures, looking up, especially when speaking with an elder, is a sign of disrespect and defiance?

Of course, you do not need to study every anthropological aspect of a culture and its people to portray your character. But what happens when you're writing romance? Words associated with romance - dating, mating, flirting... non-verbal cues and communication!

A minefield? Indeed, especially when you're the single chick/lad going out into this crazy world where nothing makes sense! It could also happen that it's been ages since you last dated, and then how do you put your characters through the dating/flirting/meeting up wringer?

I found this article once and thought it was killer information. Since I saved it, I don't have the exact link but it appeared on the MSN Love and Relationships website around the end of April. Journalist Judy Dutton accompanied anthropology professor Dr. Helen Fisher on a trek to Singleton Land, and here's how they decoded all the non-verbal messages being passed.

From signals like the 'broken wing so protect me, you big and strong man', to the unconscious direction your feet take when sitting, to 'grooming talk', to fighting 'million years of human evolution' - these make for some pretty good cues and signals that can definitely help in portraying your characters.

******

Dating and Mating Rituals ... Decoded

Anthropology professor Dr. Helen Fisher shares what's really going on with your date's body language…

By Judy Dutton


When it comes to flirting in the hopes of finding The One, what works? The direct approach, "Hey, I couldn't help but notice your beautiful eyes"? Subtle glances? Playing hard to get? These were among my questions as I headed out on a field trip with Dr. Helen Fisher, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, and the author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. Dr. Fisher has devoted her career to understanding human mating rituals — and her knowledge applies perfectly, she added, to today's pickup scene. "Even in this modern age, humans adhere to courtship strategies that are as old as the hills, and used throughout the animal kingdom," says Dr. Fisher. And that's why she and I headed out for a night of café- and bar-hopping, to observe what works (and what doesn't) when it comes to mingling and the human mating call. Six hours, two coffee shops, and one — or was it two? — bars later, we had some interesting findings. Come along with us as we make the rounds — and learn!

Destination #1: The classic coffee bar for flirting how-to's
Our first stop: Starbucks. To me, the woman in the green shirt is sipping a cappuccino and catching up with friends. But in Dr. Fisher's eyes, something much more primordial is happening: The woman in green is on the hunt, and has already staked out her quarry — a tall man in a blue-checkered button-down sitting next to her.

"See how her body's twisted toward him in the 'crouch' position, with her hands near her face when she laughs?" Dr. Fisher whispers to me as she sips her chai latte. "It's the 'broken wing' tactic. She's sending a subtle signal his way that says, 'protect me.' Men love that."

Indeed, Dr. Fisher says that secret signals of sexual attraction are at work whenever people mingle. The way you sit down with your cappuccino or Corona begins the courtship dance. "The first thing all animals do when attempting to find a mate is to set up their territory," says Dr. Fisher. People who place laptops on their table or their coat and bags on a chair next to them, she explains, are attempting to carve out a perimeter so they can proceed to the next stage of courtship: Attracting attention.

"Notice how that guy's stirring his drink with his entire arm?" Dr. Fisher points out. "He'd never bother to do that at home." The man then casually stretches his arms back in a gesture Dr. Fisher calls the "chest thrust" to appear as large and formidable as possible. "Pretty much all courtship postures fall into two categories: Attempts to look big and attempts to look little," she explains. Traditionally, men generally try to look big, or "loom," while women try to look small, or "crouch." The direction someone's feet are pointing can also convey interest: Smitten women turn pigeon-toed; men pivot outward. "Feet can be a real giveaway," says Dr. Fisher. "People are quite conscious of their body and hands, but forget to control their feet."

So, how do hopeful singles transition from a "loom" or "crouch" to an actual pounce? For women, Dr. Fisher suggests trying the tried-and-true "five-part flirt." "You catch someone's eye, cock your head to the side, raise your eyebrows, look down, then away," she explains, adding that women are usually more socially adept than men and thus better at initiating courtship. But at some point, she conditions, a transfer must happen: In other words, the man has to pick up the ball and make his move.

Destination #2: A quirkier coffee bar for connection lessons
Dr. Fisher and I decide to move along to a coffee bar with more of a lounge-around atmosphere. Here, we observed some more mating rituals: "See those two girls over there? I think they want to be picked up," Dr. Fisher says, nodding toward two bubbly twenty-somethings in cool, dressed-down clothes and knit caps, who are sitting in the corner of Grey Dog's Coffee. While hardly dressed to impress, the two young women are nonetheless employing a different courtship strategy called "handicapping." "They're saying, 'I'm so cool I don't have to show off,'" Dr. Fisher explains.

While four men seated nearby can't help but notice the two giggly girls, no one works up the guts to break the ice, and their reluctance is understandable: After all, what can you say to a complete stranger that won't come off as corny? Fisher suggests trying questions ("Excuse me, do you know a good place around here to grab dinner?") and compliments ("That's a great laptop case. Where'd you get it?") since both require a response and get you engaged in the next stage of courtship: "grooming talk." "It's called 'grooming talk' because it really doesn't matter what you say," Dr. Fisher says simply. "If someone's interested in you, they'll keep talking."

As the conversation heats up, a behavior called "mirroring" can kick in, says Dr. Fisher, furthering the connection. When mirroring, couples sip their coffee or cross their legs in unison, subtly mimicking each other's movements. "It's a very powerful way to develop rapport, since it actually helps your brain waves get in synch," Dr. Fisher explains.

Singles should also keep an eye out for "intention gestures." "Basically that means the other person wants to touch you, but since she's not sure if you're receptive, she'll rub her own arm or leg," says Dr. Fisher.
We notice a couple in the corner, plying each other with forkfuls of cake. This is more mating in action, says Dr. Fisher. To further forge a bond, couples may engage in "courtship feeding" — each offering the other a sip of tea or a bite of food. "Nuptial gifts of food are common among many animal species," Dr. Fisher notes. "When a male chimpanzee offers a female a piece of sugar cane, she'll copulate with him and then eat the sugar cane. Humans don't move that quickly, but we all know there's no such thing as a free lunch!"

While both men and women respond similarly to many courtship cues, one area where they're wired very differently is eye contact. To prove her point, Dr. Fisher gestures towards a man who's moved his chair so he can sit next to a woman rather than across from her. "That's because while women gain intimacy from face-to-face interactions, men would rather avoid it — they find it uncomfortable, even invasive," she explains. The reason for this dates back to the dawn of mankind, when males were forced to face their enemies, but sat side by side with their friends. It's also why, these days, men love nothing more than sitting at a bar with their buddies watching the Rams vs. the Redskins, while women love nothing more than staring into their amour's eyes over a candlelit dinner. "When couples fight over these types of differences, they're also fighting millions of years of evolution," Dr. Fisher explains. "Men and women are fundamentally different in many ways, and nothing's going to change that overnight."
Destination #3: A busy bar on Friday night for the laws of mating
We decide to see how the courtship dance looks when in a more "intense" pick-up environment — a bar called Peep. As we sit down, Dr. Fisher points out that clearly, the couple sitting next to us is in love. They're mirroring each other's movements, "courtship feeding" off each other's cocktails, and displaying other tell-tale signs of a honeymoon period. Even so, their mating dance is far from over, says Dr. Fisher. At this point, keeping the person they've got, or "mate guarding," becomes a priority, and this pair illustrates this principle perfectly. "Now, normally the man would offer the woman the seat against the wall to signal he's protecting her," says Dr. Fisher. "But in this case, he's in the back seat and she's sitting facing him with her back to the room. It could be due to what she's wearing."

The clothes in question? A camisole with a plunging neckline that, had the woman been seated facing the crowd, would have probably had every guy in the vicinity eyeing her. "By dressing that way, she's asking to be mate guarded," Dr. Fisher explains. "And maybe that's why he took the back seat: So she attracts less attention."

Such displays of possessiveness are hardly unnecessary or "Neanderthal," as some people might put it. One recent study found that 60 percent of men and 53 percent of women admitted to "mate poaching," a practice of stealing partners who are already taken. While it's distressing to think that someone we love could be so easily ensnared by new prospects, Dr. Fisher points out that a little competition also pushes us to become more caring, attentive, and in short, better mates.

In fact, as we look across the bar, we see this principle in action: A woman in a slinky tank top, jeans, and stilettos who's flirting with two men. "She's giving them equal attention," Dr. Fisher notes. "Since she obviously hasn't made up her mind which one she likes, both of those men are working really hard." We head home before finding out which man, if either, wins in the end. But it gets me wondering: Does courtship really boil down to winners and losers? Is the game of love really that cutthroat rather than warm and fuzzy? "The game of love is not nice," Dr. Fisher says, "but then again, you're playing for the biggest stakes in town. Nothing is so important." And after listening to Dr. Fisher call the play-by-play on our night out on the town, I feel like my skills are definitely ready for the high-stakes game of romance.

Judy Dutton is the executive editor of Happenmag.com. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, and has contributed articles to Women's Health, Redbook, Cosmopolitan and other national magazines.
Article courtesy of Happen magazine, www.happenmag.com.

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Of characters & their potential (& why you the author should listen to them!)

Hey everyone

Hope you're having a nice middle of the week. I'm not, not really. Dunno why Wednesday is a bit of an 'off-feeling' day for me. But now I've got something to look forward to - the weekly advice slot on the blog. Okay, call me a masochist, but I love to talk and the blokes at home shut me out after 25 words. That's verrrryyy far from my daily quota!

So, what's it about today? Following upon the little review I did for a movie yesterday and the fact that I am at a character-developing point in my WIP, it all got me to think of characterization and the utter potential in that one (big) word.

Here's what I'm talking about:

I remember the first time something on TV captivated me. I was watching the sitcom Friends, and I was on the edge of my seat, because Monica was suddenly looking at Chandler like a potential shag! I was like, whoa there, wait a second!! Monica, this is Chandler! Chandler Bing, from across the landing, the guy who dated Janice for God's sake!!

I'm pretty certain there were thousands of people out there who just like me, were having the same reaction. Ever wonder why?

Let's see - what's Friends basically? A sitcom, about the life of 6 friends in New York. I'm not sure there was even a plot behind there, but lo and behold, Friends went on to complete 10 seasons, and its reruns are watched by millions still, with almost the same enthusiasm and anticipation as when you first catch an episode on air.

You have these 6 very different people then, brought together in the same building (Rachel/Monica in one flat, Chandler/Joey across the landing, with Monica's brother Ross and their friend Phoebe dropping in to complete the cast). So there you go, starting point - 6 young people struggling in New York. It wasn't any more than that.

But what made Friends so memorable and so followed, is that the story centred around the lives of these 6 people. In short, the characters drove everything! There was Ross pining for Rachel since he's a teenager, Joey who sleeps with almost everything in knickers, Phoebe who gave a new meaning to crazy-loony-mad, Monica who was obsessed by cleaning, Rachel who's the little rich girl who wants to spread her wings and get away from daddy's credit cards, and Chandler who frankly, was so uptight and 'twisted' he didn't make much sense in the start.

You had Ross, always trying to woo Rachel (especially when his marriage to a woman who discovered she was a lesbian fell through). Rachel who doesn't want to give Ross a second glance, like she's always done. Over the course of the ten seasons, Rachel and Ross had hooked up and broken up at least thrice, and had had a baby together! Then of course there was Monica, looking for her Mr. Right, who on the day of Ross' second marriage to British girl Emily, was so down she knew only a shag would do for her, so she goes for the one who's always ready to shag, Joey. But instead of Joey she finds Chandler in the room, and suddenly they are in bed. It's the prelude to one of TV's most cheered on and satisfying relationships and marriage!

And what happened plot-wise? Nothing! Friends was about people, and as a writer, you must realize that Friends was all about the characters! The characterization of this show was so well sketched that the characters just grew on you, you felt you knew them. You would've wanted to bash Rachel when she has that one-night stand with Ross and then finds she's pregnant! You'd have wanted to group hug Monica and Chandler when they finally declare their love for one another! You'd have wanted to take Joey aside and tell him that this is not the way to treat a woman. You would've gladly thrown a shoe at Phoebe when she got into another rendition of the song "Smelly Cat".

You as the audience were made to forget that these people's names were really Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer. They were simply Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross. Period! It's the characters that were real, not the actors!
It makes me think of another instance where this has happened. One man, two roles, two Academy Awards nomination (one win). Russel Crowe, Maximus in Gladiator, John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Two characters that when you looked at them, struck you as THE man/hero of the story. Not as Russel Crowe, because he became the characters he portrayed. Take another look at the same actor as Ed Hoffman in Body of Lies, or as Robin Hood in the eponymous movie, and you'd see someone else!
Another good example would be Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia, and as Forrest Gump in the eponymous movie. Put these two men side by sidee and you'd go - yes, a passing physical resemblance, but never would you say, that's the same man!

So what does it come down to in the end? Characters, and characterization. A key ingredient of a good story is the characters peopling it. As the writer, it is your job to make these characters transcend from the page into fully-fleshed, living, breathing, human people. Actors do it when they take on a part. The writer too needs to do it armed with words, and with the inherent knowledge behind his/her characters.

Think of it - if you don't know your characters, how will you put them across to the audience? How will you make worthy and captivating things happen to them? If the writers of Friends didn't know that when Monica went to look for Joey in his bedroom when the wedding reception was in full swing that she'd find Chandler asleep there, how would we have gotten the twist that they have sex and find out there's more between them? They had to know Chandler is not one for receptions and all the hoopla and so he goes to bed when everyone is partying away. They needed to know that Monica does not give in to casual sex and that this is a turning point for when she sleeps with Chandler. They had to know that there's no way skirt-chasing Joey would be in his own bedroom before the early hours of morning when there are gorgeous bridesmaids to chase after!

You see thus that the story of Friends could not have progressed the way it did, the way it gripped its audience and captivated people's attentions, if the writers hadn't known the characters. Ask anyone what one of their favourite sitcoms is, and they'll say Friends. Why? Because while it may not have had a plot per se, it had wonderful, human and totally well-rounded characters at its heart.

So next time you're thinking of penning a good story, think of this underestimated and undervalued ingredient called characters and characterization. You may be holding the rough, unpolished gem of a story in your hand and not know it!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: A movie and its people

Since this is winter break for the kiddo, I usually look forward to such times to be able to catch up on my To-Be-Read or To-Be-Watched pile. Books take a few days to get through, but a movie is just an evening, innit?
That's how I found myself browsing the TBW pile during the weekend. I planned to write at night, so in the afternoon, to kill time (and to not get into a book in case the writer's voice 'got' under my skin), I went looking for something light to watch. That's how I landed on this movie, Waitress.

At the time I had acquired that DVD, I dunno what really made me get it. Could've been the blurb - this sounded like one those sweet little stories I love to read . Could've been the 'impossible' love between the pregnant, married heroine and her Ob/Gyn.

So I sat down to watch this and I can sincerely say that no movie lately has caught me the way this one did. Allright - Jenna, the heroine, is married and pregnant. Jim, the Ob/Gyn, is married too, but these two do fall in love. And in what a way too! You can see them fighting the attraction, but then they're kissing like there's no tomorrow.

Two lovers, both cheating on their spouses. Doesn't sound like a good idea. However, the magic of the story is that it makes you root for these characters. Yes, they are flawed, but they're very human. Watching this is almost like reading a book, with the GMC spelled out in front of you. You have no trouble understanding these characters.

Another thing that won me - the secondary cast. Each one has his/her bit part and that made the movie memorable. Like Ogie, the over-the-top 'loser' who sets out to seduce Dawn, one of the waitresses. Becky, another waitress, saddled with an old, invalid husband and who finds stolen moments with Cal, the 'odious' diner boss. Old Joe, the really niggling and unnerving old man in the diner.

The mastery of this movie? Its characterization! I love stories where there is a big cast and each one gets his/her little spotlight. I'm not a supporter of the 'H/h only should get exposure' mentality. Could be that Waitress was a bit of an indie flick (hitting mostly at Sundance and Deauville festivals) but if this is what it takes to get stories where there are 'normal people' going about their lives and everyone gets a slice of the pie - then maybe I slant towards indie then.

If you love women's fiction-type stories; if you love quirky characters; if you love a happy ending (and no, I'm not spoiling here!), check out this little gem! It'll make you laugh, cry, and have a good time.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, July 19, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Madness and Mayhem

It's official - the winter break has kicked in! To me this means more work since I'll have a little man on my hands almost 24/7. Kids are a lot of work, seriously. You think when they're out of nappies and eating on their own, you're pretty much off the hook. Uh, not exactly, no... Who actually makes the food they'll eat, eh? Now, when you know I am an absolute zero at cooking... I can make my way around a kitchen, but cooking for pleasure? That for me is an oxymoron! The blokes in my house always wish they could channel some Nigella Lawson into the vibes, but sadly for them, that ain't happening!

I'm not expecting to get much work done this week. At least not during the day. Maybe in the evenings I won't be so knackered as to just want to crash asap. Hope makes the world go round, innit?

So what did this weekend see?

Beach - yup, that's a pic of the one we managed to hit yesterday. For an insane weekend, the sun has been out and shining like there was no tomorrow (actually hasn't been any tomorrow since today is cloudy, rainy, and cold!). I've got a family of beach afficionados, while me... I prefer to remain comfy in the car or in the canvas tent, reading. That's the beauty of a smartphone - it supports PDF files! Actually touch the water? Not for me - I've got a cat's affinity to getting wet!

So sat down and kept an eye on kiddo while the man went snorkeling. Kid's there with all his beach gear, and he wants to build a sand castle. "Want some help, sweets?" Rolling eyes in reply. "Of course not," you crazy, loony woman who won't even come out in the sun! No, I'm not a Goth, in case you're wondering.
Have you ever watched a child building a sand castle? It always amazes me. They do everything so perfectly, and you just have to catch the happiness on their face when they lift a bucket and find out they've made a perfect sand cake-- sorry, perfect castle tower!
It doesn't matter to them that the high tide will wash it all away. What matters is they're making the best castle they can and enjoying themselves in the process, proud of what they set out to achieve.

Is that a lesson us authors should try to learn? Write as we want and how we want, be proud of our work, and not think too much right now of the high tide of the market/publishing industry?



Families - let's talk about them. Utter mayhem and chaos generators! I come from a big family. Actually, my parents do. I've got hoards of uncles, aunties, cousins, nephews, nieces, grankids (lol, yeah. My parents are the youngest kids in their families, and I was a late baby. That made the generations a little off-synch!). For all we're 'big', we meet maybe once a year, at events such as weddings. I'm not really used to the concept of 'big entourage'.
Not so for my hubby's family. His dad is the patriarch, and for their clan, every opportunity is good enough to gather and make merry! Yesterday, they sprung a surprise birthday gathering for one of the aunts. Everyone was there. It was cramped, it was loud, it had every current member of each generation in a tiny house. Should've been absolute hell, because I am not a social/party animal. I'm quite shy and reserved in public.
But strangely, you know what? I enjoyed this meeting. Why? The joy on the face of the auntie, the tears in her eyes when she realized everyone had converged to her place to celebrate her birthday.
I thought to myself - that's what families are for, and you know what, this gave me a big big high that is still taking me through.



From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, July 16, 2010

Progress Friday

2 weeks and the blog posts are rolling! Lol, I'll admit keeping up a daily blog is not easy, but it isn't the apprehensive, dreadful task I'd thought it to be. It requires lots of planning and lots of dedication, but it is definitely do-able!

So I've posted every single day of another week. I just found out that as long as I stick to a routine, things seem to flow fine. Mornings get lost somewhere between the inbox, FB, Twitter, and the blog. No point then in trying to fit writing in there 'coz I just won't be able to do it. As much as I want to be super-woman, I'm not (sadly... sigh...).

This means I've got my routine down, and if you think I am completely anal about routines and a stickler to deadlines and delineations, you wouldn't be far from the reality! There's just no way I can get things done unless they are 'pencilled' in during the day at their respective time/slot. So mornings are for my Internet stuff, by which time it's close to 1 pm, and lunch time. Get lunch ready (my worst nightmare!), eat and chill a minute or two, and it's close to the time when I have to pick kiddo from school. Then get back home, hit the kitchen for the domestic duties. Dinner, bedtime for kids, and then maybe a free evening to write. That's it - my very unexciting life!

Speaking of writing, 4K clocked into the WIP this week. I'm aiming to add a little more tonight and in the weekend. Not exactly how I'd have wanted this week to end but it's still something other than a big Zero! So I'll take it, thank you!

This being said, the fact that I got the outline down is definitely helping. I'm even hearing the characters talk (yeah, I'm that kind of mad writer), and it's dialogue that happens at the black moment. Hello characters??? We're at Chapter 2, nowhere near the black moment! Trust them to make life hell 'coz now all I wanna do is get to that huge row of their breakup and let the fireworks fly! Just my luck, eh? Or is it motivation to get me to said point?

In the meantime, little bits and pieces are painting themselves on the big outline. Like an episode involving the 'I'm sorry' gift of a pack of candy-coated almonds, or the very peculiar 'I'll give you the world' offer from hero to heroine.

Looking forward to getting a lot more written next week. Kids will be at home (kill me now, will you?), but at the same time, no need to rush around on driver duty and that'll free up some time to catch up on the writing and the TBR pile.

So happy weekend, everyone! We're gonna try to hit a beach this Sunday. Wish us luck, and good weather!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Link Thursday: 25 Fascinating Love Facts

Hey everyone

I was browsing the file of saved webpages and thought this one would be light and entertaining, as well as helpful. Most of us write romance, so here are some interesting little tidbits that could help you pen a better love story. Or, it could just be something nice to know!

The article originally appeared on MSN Realtionships and is written by Laura Schaefer. Since I saved this page a few weeks ago, I cannot find it's original link but a search on the MSN Relationships web page should bring it up.

Some of this stuff is amazing, like #10, the women of the Tiwi tribe.

Some are pretty much confirmation of coupledom - # 13 & 23. Yup, 'old' couple do end up like a pair of comfy slippers (personal experience speaking, sadly...).

Some is downright funny - #20, anyone?

And some pertains a lot to the modern, single woman out there (your heroine when she starts the story!!) - #3, 12, 22.

Others... eye-opening! :)

See for yourself!

******

25 Fascinating Love Facts

Love is mysterious, fascinating, and when you find it with the right person, there's nothing better. Here are 25 surprising love facts to puzzle over and embrace.

By Laura Schaefer

Love is a many-splendored thing … and a very surprising thing, too. As if you needed proof of that, here are 25 funny little facts about love. Study them, scratch your head over them, and share them with someone you fancy.

1. Men who kiss their wives in the morning live five years longer than those who don't.

2. People are more likely to tilt their heads to the right when kissing instead of the left (65 percent of people go to the right!)

3. When it comes to doing the deed early in the relationship, 78 percent of women would decline an intimate rendezvous if they had not shaved their legs or underarms.

4. Feminist women are more likely than other females to be in a romantic relationship.

5. Two-thirds of people report that they fall in love with someone they've known for some time vs. someone that they just met.

6. There's a reason why office romances occur: The single biggest predictor of love is proximity.

7. Falling in love can induce a calming effect on the body and mind and raises levels of nerve growth factor for about a year, which helps to restore the nervous system and improves the lover's memory.

8. Love can also exert the same stress on your body as deep fear. You see the same physiological responses — pupil dilation, sweaty palms, and increased heart rate.

9. Brain scans show that people who view photos of a beloved experience an activation of the caudate — the part of the brain involving cravings.

10. The women of the Tiwi tribe in the South Pacific are married at birth.

11. The "Love Detector" service from Korean cell phone operator KTF uses technology that is supposed to analyze voice patterns to see if a lover is speaking honestly and with affection. Users later receive an analysis of the conversation delivered through text message that breaks down the amount of affection, surprise, concentration and honesty of the other speaker.

12. Eleven percent of women have gone online and done research on a person they were dating or were about to meet, versus seven percent of men.

13. Couples' personalities converge over time to make partners more and more similar.

14. The oldest known love song was written 4,000 years ago and comes from an area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

15. The tradition of the diamond engagement ring comes from Archduke Maximillian of Austria who, in the 15th century, gave a diamond ring to his fiancée, Mary of Burgundy.

16. Forty-three percent of women prefer their partners never sign "love" to a card unless they are ready for commitment.

17. People who are newly in love produce decreased levels of the hormone serotonin — as low as levels seen in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Perhaps that's why it's so easy to feel obsessed when you're smitten.

18. Philadelphia International Airport finished as the No. 1 best airport for making a love connection, according to an online survey.

19. According to mathematical theory, we should date a dozen people before choosing a long-term partner; that provides the best chance that you'll make a love match.

20. A man's beard grows fastest when he anticipates sex.

21. Every Valentine's Day, Verona, the Italian city where Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet took place, receives around 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.

22. When we get dumped, for a period of time we love the person who rejected us even more, says Dr. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University and author of Why We Love. The brain regions that lit up when we were in a happy union continue to be active.

23. Familiarity breeds comfort and closeness … and romance.

24. One in five long-term love relationships began with one or both partners being involved with others.

25. OK, this one may not surprise you, but we had to share it: Having a romantic relationship makes both genders happier. The stronger the commitment, the greater the happiness!

Laura Schaefer is the author of Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor.

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Trends, how they happen, & what they mean to you, the author

Hello beautiful people

A friend of mine and I were recently talking via email about trends and how you just see them popping up everywhere. At times all you see is vampires, at times it's shifters, at times it's erotica. Haven't you always wondered how this or that seems to be a 'craze' right now? Is it simply a 'craze', a result of demand and supply laws, a result of hype? Or is it just plain no-reason?

It's a little bit of all these. Browsing through some really good articles/blog posts I had saved on my computer, I came upon this blog entry and thought it was spot on for the topic today. (Post appeared on CynthiaSterling's Market News for Week of September 20, 2009 - Focus on St.Martin's Press RWA 2009 Spotlight).

Jennifer Enderlin of St.Martin's Press deciphered the 'Anatomy of a trend spiral' in there, as such:

Anatomy of a trend spiral
1. Someone writes a really great book.
2. Readers snap up anything remotely like that 1st book
3. Publishers and authors sense a trend
4. More people write in that area and publishers buy in that area.
5. A few of those books sell well also.
6. Publishers start to creates lines and imprints in this area.
7. It becomes easier to sell in this area. The temptation is so strong to sell your soul and write in the area that people think is hot at the moment.
8. Publishers have slots to fill and lower their standards.
9. The quality of the books goes down.
10. Readers catch on become cynical and jaded.
11. Contracts aren’t renewed and authors become bitter.
12. Lines fold.
13. No one is happy - publishes, authors or readers.
14. Readers look for anything new and different.
15. Someone writes a really great book.

See anything logical in there? Indeed. It all builds one upon the other.

But here's how it starts - someone writes a really great book. How to know if your book could be this next best thing? Ms. Enderlin adds another line beneath her analysis: [Quote] “Once you see someone creating lines around a certain book, I, personally would head for the hills.” [Unquote]...
...and this one just before she details the trend spiral: [Quote] You shouldn’t pay too much attention to trends. [Unquote]

Your conclusion should be - if you want to break out, don't write the 'trend', or what's already out there, or for a newly debut-ed/hyped line.

How to make your book the potential next best thing? Think out of the box, out of the trend, spin, flip, and twist - but first and foremost, write a darn good story! (I'll have more on these in future WW posts).

Now we know the temptation is big to be the 'thing' all readers are bragging about. As authors, we write for pleasure, for love, for publication, but a huge part of the process is for our readers. We should give them what they want, but do you think folding yourself like flour in the cake batter of a 'trend' is how you'll endear yourself to them? Maybe for one book, you will. Maybe for two books, you still might. Maybe too, by Book 3, the readers will be going, 'this author writes the same thing, I want something new!'
What do you do then, and where does that leave you?

Something I learned in my economics lessons is that Demand and Supply form a cycle. There will be ups (where say, you are selling your 'trend' story and the 'trend' is there, hot commodity) just as there will be downs (where no one will want to even touch the 'trend' with a pole). Result for you - write for a trend and run the risk of tanking out. Or wait for the next demand cycle to hit, and no one has clear ideas when that will be!

Of course, you may tell me that some authors are really that good as to keep producing 'trend-generated' stuff even when the 'trend' is dropped faster than a hot potato. True - but are YOU this author? Maybe, maybe not. You wanna take the risk?

So you are an author and you write stories. Fine. To readers, agents, editors and publishers out there, you are just one drop in a sea of writers. Why will you stand out of the crowd?

Find who you are, what you write, how you write, what you're good at. Then build upon that. This is what will set you out from the swirling mist of hopefuls just like you out there. (More to come on identity and branding in future WW posts).

Another thing to ponder - You see a trend. You start a story. You even finish story. You query and submit story. Time elapsed in between - let's say 6 months.
If someone buys it, great! If not, and let's say a further 6 months have passed, not many will still want your story. Why? Because the trend might no longer be 'hot stuff' by then.

By the time a trend actually hits readers, it has taken close to (even over) a year between when that 'really good book' was submitted, acquired, and put through its publication paces. The trend hits when the 'really good book' releases, and that's when you as the author notice it. Publishers, editors and agents, among themselves, will already be in tune with the trend, because that's insider stuff they are privy to. When the book comes out, over a year could have elapsed then, and the wave is really at its peak. You can crest it right away, but sooner rather than later, the wave will hit the water and die out on the shore.

Take all this into consideration when you spot a trend. If you do decide to follow it, be very quick on your toes (or fingers, to the keyboard!) to get that book out and accepted before you end up with a hot potato on your hands.

Ending note, which leads us to - Stage #14: Readers look for anything new and different. Is this a clue...? Maybe authors should go right out to the readers and ask them what they want to see next...

Any questions, just holler!

With love from Mauritius,

Zee

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday - A music theme

Hello beautiful people!

I promised that Tuesdays would bring a little insight into the story I am currently working on. I'm still at the early stages on this one, very much at the start. I have so much I can say about this story, and at the same time I draw a blank! Stage fright, I guess. Yeah, even virtual!

Let's see - about this WIP. It's the story of a young woman looking to find her place in the world. Her dilemma? She has her feet in two worlds. No, it's not a paranormal, nor a fantasy. It's a very contemporary romance. This girl wants identity, roots, a place to belong, somewhere to call home. How can you be who you are meant to be, when you don't even know where you come from?

The world she has always known is that of culture, and that too, the culture of the Indo-Britons. Living in Southall, the Little India of Greater London, her world is full of nagging old aunties, ethnic clothing, bhangra music and fiery spices. But this is the problem - she is not Indian, nor is she really of Indian descent.

Will she find herself and those roots she longs for one day? Maybe the key is in the hands of  a man who suddenly appears in her life. Does he bring answers, or more questions? This is what she will have to find out, and along the way, will she happen to find love too?

Straddling between Southall, the very posh British settting of the Ritz in London, and the glamour, glitter, and lush beauty of a 5-star beachfront resort in Mauritius, along with my heroine I travel to these settings to bring this story alive.
When I describe my world, I can see, hear, and smell every little detail that makes it so obviously a cultural, exotic, or 'different' setting. I try to pass this across in my writing - I can show you the room or the way the sun sparkles upon the turquoise blue lagoon. I can make you 'smell' the spices by describing the reaction one gets upon inhaling such scents. I can paint this decor for you, maybe even make you 'taste' the food, touch the linen. But what I cannot really do is make you hear the background music. Not when you, my reader, don't know what bhangra, the predominant ethno-pop music of Indo-Britons is, or the sega, the folk music of my island.

Listening a song on my MP3 player the other day, it struck me that this tune actually portrays the Indo-Briton world of my heroine so well! It's taken from an Indian movie, and lol, you should know that 99.8% of Indian movies are what the Western world calls Musicals. There is always music, songs, dancing. The actors dance and lip-sync! That's right - the songs are playback, and being a playback singer in India can make you even more famous than a movie star!

So check this video. It's actually the music I wanna make you listen to, the rhythm, the mix of English and Punjabi, but it doesn't hurt to watch it either! The movie is titled Singh is King, and it is a riotous comedy of errors, where one misunderstanding follows upon another. From rural India to metropolitan Autralia and the Indian-expatriate community there, this is the world and sound of modern, fusion bhangra. Modern Indian girls do dress like Katrina Kaif, the actress in the clip, when they are not sporting the traditional ethnic wear.
If the video doesn't load (just my luck!), you can catch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezd-ZMjRJJY&feature=related

Enjoy!!



I'll tell you more about the sega another Tuesday, when my heroine will have landed on the island in the story!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, July 12, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Of kids & the World Cup

Hi everybody! Welcome back to another week on my blog. Can I keep it rolling? Stay tuned and we'll find out, won't we?

So we're Monday, and since it's the day that should be banned from the week (according to the wise Garfield), I hope you don't expect me to make much sense. Actually, I myself am not expecting it because thoughts are just running in my mind and I'll put them down as I go along.

This weekend and start of the week *drum roll*...

...saw the end of the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa. I cannot believe we've been watching 64 games over 1 full month already! Yesterday was the final. Anti-climactic... Maybe. I wasn't really supporting Spain. Heart was to the Oranje crew. I saw these blokes playing with their whole hearts to get here (while Spain had looked more 'clinical') and to see them lose at the 117th minute goal was really heart-breaking.
Who knows what will happen in 4 years' time now? Brazil - and that means most of the games will be playing at around 2-4 am here in Mauritius. In winter, which is expected to get colder...


Now, World Cup. Who's on the pitch? Guys, of course! Some reflections on said guys:

- Anyone ever notice how these blokes look so mature (sometimes even old!) in their jersey, but catch them in normal clothes and then they seem to portray their real age?

- Or, they're really so young that just looking at them makes you think you're getting close to cougar territory...

- Anyone notice too that football players get married really early? Half of the men on the pitch are in their early/mid twenties, and most of them wear a wedding band! What does that say to us authors? That the 30+ hero we usually create is not the typical 'real' guy out there? Food for thought.


Hotties v/s Notties
Can't say I really saw any notties there (though Puyol from Spain should get a haircut considering this is no longer the era where this type of hair was in style! I shudder so much I'm not putting the pic up. Google Image him at your own risk!).
At first I didn't see many hotties either. Most of the men I'd found good-looking were not playing in this World Cup as they were  too 'old' (in and around late thirties!). BUT, that was before I saw Germany play.
My all-time favourite hottie (and the man who lands the part of most of my heroes!) is German. Clean-cut good looks, piercing eyes, sexy &mysterious allure and that hair... *swoon* Who is he? German actor Thomas Kretschmann. Nopes, sorry, no man really comes close to this ideal for me (the hubby is in another, 'real' category!). Until I watched Germany play, and this man happened onto the TV screen. His name? Arne Friedrich. 31 years old, plays in defense (though that didn't stop him from scoring in this tournament!).
Kretschmann is on the left, Friedrich on the right. Do I need to say more? No, guess not! *smile* Friedrich might even be in the 2014 Germany squad - guess I'll be looking forward to that!



World Cup Final: The hottest man on the pitch was him. British referee Howard Webb. 38, 6"3, built like a bull, and real-life cop. And yeah, I say 'man', 'coz he actually looks like one! Makes you think of a dangerous, bad boy cop a la Vic McKay of The Shield, innit?








Football aside - bringing kids up today is no easy job. I took my son to a birthday party yesterday. The mom of the birthday girl is a girl I grew up with. She's in all my birthday pics, and now my kids are in hers and vice versa. Time flies, and then you look around you and see the world in which your children are growing up. Yesterday morning my boy complained of numb thumbs. No surprise there - he'd just spent close to an hour playing Need for Speed Underground on his GameBoy. I know next to nothing about those games. I check the rating and stuff but play it? Not for me. I can never remember the sequence of presses for special attacks/tuning/winning/whatever. Out of touch? Definitely yes.
Not so in tune with girls either. My nieces are all into either the Twilight hype (for the oldest) and Hannah Montana (the 3 youngest). Whatever happened to Disney princesses???

As authors, is it easier for us to bring boys up? My boys (7 year-old son and 11 year-old stepson) talk to me and their dad about practically everything. Even girls (and yes, the youngest has once asked, not so long ago, if it was okay to love a girl in your class). When I reply them, I always think of how I expect heroes to behave and act, and thus it's not hard for me to tell them to act as heroes in their real lives. I know, it's never as simplistic as that, but that's why dialogue lines kept open at all times need to be there.
With girls... How are you supposed to tell them to behave like a heroine, when most of the time, the women we write about are 'searching for their way' too? Question, question...


I should've titled this Monday's random ramblings!

See you tomorrow, when I'll put up a little something pertaining to my current WIP.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, July 09, 2010

Progress Friday

Hello people! It's Friday and it's sooo close to the weekend! Okay, hang me over coz my boys will be home tomorrow, but the good thing is, they're not going on winter break this Friday but the next (thank you, I'll deal with the possible mental breakdown then, okay?)

I've managed my personal goal of blogging every single day this week! Not exactly easy to handle, but definitely doable, and I suppose it gets easier with time. So I think this format is gonna be rolling over for the weeks to come!
That aside, I haven't gotten much writing done in the past 10 days. I was in negotiations with my university over whether or not to continue with them next year, given that it would be a shame to stop studying when I am so close to finishing my degree (3 modules left on a total of 30). So I'm glad to say that I am going ahead with it. Hopefully in 2012 I will be a uni graduate. That is, if the end of the world (2012, anyone?) hasn't happened yet! :)

Writing-wise, I've just found out (further confirmation actually) than I am a plotter. No other way about it - I simply cannot write by the seat of my pants. I need to know where I'm going and how I'm gonna get there. Thus, I found myself without any direction on the current WIP. Chapter 1 was down on softcopy, Chapter 2 was in my head but not getting anywhere because I needed to know how 2 played onto 3, and 3 onto 4, etc. Confusing, I know. Hence why I sat down yesterday and wrote the outline. Start to finish. I'm pretty sure the ending's gonna change, but at least now I know how to get there. Gotta admit it's made me feel lighter, like a weight is off my shoulders or something.

All things considered, this single-title ms should finish in and around 90K. I'm trying to find one of those wip-countdown/progress bars from Blogger and still looking right now. Hopefully I'll find it and have it up so I can clock in my progress.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend! To all the lucky peeps in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy your warm summer. Here, we're close to freezing!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Link Thursday: When writing the single heroine... What not to write/say

Apparently the last thing a single girl (and who's been single for a while) wants to hear about is her single status.

I came upon this article this morning during my browsing trek. Have to admit I'm guilty of some of these 'sins'. The last time I was single was ages ago and I might have lost touch with what it's like to be a single gal today.

But while some really do sound awful (the poor souls who heard these!), some really doesn't apply 100% of the time. Like, it happens when you're not looking. This did happen to me! I met my husband at, of all places, a religious ceremony, the kind of which generally put insomniacs to sleep. I really wasn't looking for a nice jeans-clad butt there!

Others are classics that go beyond borders and boundaries! Like, so why are you single? Uh, because I just got divorced? Watch people scamper faster than a bolt of lightning hitting their arse then!
The Mum-&-aunties' favourite - you're too picky. Really? Asking for a bloke who won't 'reject' the proposal of marrying me because I appeared in front of his mother that very first time in jeans and not a sari/kurti suit? That's being picky?
The best  though - he's out there! (I've never said that to any of my single gals, thank goodness). Okay, so where is he? Hitchhiking his way around the galaxy?
And oh yes, don't forget - at every wedding, you're next, say the aunties and the uncles too. And you're only sixteen. Yikes!

Others, yup, guilty as charged (he just wasn't the right guy for you).

So take a look at this advice and find out whether you're guilty too. Your single friends and ultimately, your heroines who always start as single (desperate or not... Chick lit, anyone?) will thank you for it!

The original article appeared on the MSN Lifestyle webpage, written by Erin Meanley. You can find the full page here http://lifestyle.msn.com/relationships/articlematch.aspx?cp-documentid=24519920>1=32023

******
19 Things You Should Never Say to a Single Person

A Glamour dating blogger collected of 19 of the most-hated, tired and depressing clichés about being single. Read them, and swear never to use them on any of your single friends. Ever.
By Erin Meanley

As a writer, I avoid clichés like the plague … ha, ha! But seriously, clichés are old, tired, and they show absolutely no thought. I mean, do I make you read that some guy's skin was as white as snow? No. It's a major insult to your intellect. So when I have to hear a cliché or overused saying in the real world, as a response to my newly single status or some other dating dilemma, it's offensive and frustrating.

Why do we have so many sayings and maxims for dating? A single gal is likely to get slammed with them ad nauseam as soon as she expresses any unhappiness at her situation.

Since we could all use a good laugh, I asked some friends and Twitter followers to send in their most hated adages. I know you've heard them all before (obviously), but I just couldn't believe how many there were! Here's a tiny compilation. Enjoy — today, they're not directed at you!

1. It happens when you're not looking.
"This is just bull. Some people find people when they're looking; some don't. You're not doing anything wrong by going out and meeting people." —Beth

2. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
"I dated a guy whose last name was Fish. People just had a BLAST with that one." —Kelly

3. So, why are you single?
"I generally dislike this question. I mean honestly, if I knew why, I don't think I would be single right now, now would I?!" —Erica

4. You're too picky.
"This may be true, but it feels like I'm getting criticized for my taste, vision, and close-mindedness — when I'm already down." —Sarah

5. You'll find the right person for you.
—Kelly

6. He's out there.
—Kelly

7. It was just bad timing.
"Like it's so easy to dismiss a guy on such an emotionless and objective reason." —Taryn

8. Just have fun with it!
"Um, don't tell me how to date in my thirties when you got married at 24." —Maya

9. Have you tried online dating?
"Duh!" —Elisa

10. He just wasn't the right guy for you.
"I know! That's what I'm complaining about!" —Elisa

11. Well, when my boyfriend and I first got together…
"Wait, I still want to talk about me." —Elisa

12. When the time is right, you will meet someone.
—Betsy

13. Wow, I wish I were single and in your shoes!
"Really?! I'm pretty sure you CAN be single if you actually want to be. That there is an attainable dream, so if you aren't messing with me right now out of pity (which I suspect you are), please go for it!" —Kim

14. Your turn next [at weddings].
—Natlondon, via Twitter

15. It will happen when you least expect it.
—dlegas05, via Twitter

16. Some guy is going to come along and ruin your career/life plans.
"I am 32 and no one has ruined the last 10 years of plans." —frolicblog, via Twitter

17. But you're so pretty! Why don't you have a boyfriend?
"There's just no graceful way to answer that." —earnesteats, via Twitter

18. It just wasn't meant to be.
"Any of these platitudes are exponentially more annoying when coming from the mouths of smug marrieds." —Reberoodle, via Twitter

19. Sure, my guy rescues kids from abusive homes, donated my sister a kidney, and picks up fresh flowers for me daily on his way home from work, but will he QUIT IT with the sports on TV already?
"Single people just hate to be complained to about petty relationship stuff. If you do this, I'm not going to want to hang out with you. (In fact, maybe I'll call your boyfriend and ask him if he wants to grab a beer and watch the Yankees game?)" —Kim

Bottom line, if you're in a relationship or married and you don't have any specific, original advice or wisdom for your single friend—and you must use an established saying — we would prefer to hear neutral ones like, "This too shall pass" or "Take it one day at a time." They are so much more helpful and comforting — you have no idea!

Also of note: not one person I polled mentioned they were tired of hearing, "He's just not that into you." I think that's because it's not condescending. And apparently, it's not overused. So that one is still okay to say. For now.

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Should you write from the heart or for the market?

Hi peeps! Welcome to the first writing-geared post on the blog. This should be a regular feature of Wednesdays (days on which I'm still somewhat energized and not yet brain dead!).

Am I tackling too big a topic today? Maybe. All I know is that this discussion has been creeping up on me and my author friends lately. With the state of the economy and the writing market being what it currently is (Print v/s epub, Kindle, self-publishing, cutting of mid-list authors for the big names, etc), you may wonder what you really need to do in this business.

I cannot speak for everyone but I can definitely speak for me. Most of you know I write Indian/Mauritian cultural stories. I thus wrote my first story about a divorcee in Mauritian society (The Other Side) and instead of giving it the heavy and tortured flair of Mauritian literature, I chose to make it a light and breezy romance with a definite HEA. Spurred on by the success of that book (it was picked right off the bat by a local publisher and is still in print today), I started my second book in and around the same kind of society, this time the focus being a young woman of traditional origin who's on the fence with modernity.

Both stories featured behind-closed-doors or barely-mentioned-in-passing love scenes, which worked because of my 'conservative' market and because culture-based stories do not generally include racy sex scenes.
Then I tried to branch to mainstream - a whole different kettle of fish, I was told. The advice I received? This - you need sex in there.

My first instinct was to say no. I wasn't comfortable writing sex scenes (always thought my very traditional and conservative mum and aunties were reading over my shoulder!). But hey, I was told this was the rule of the market - no sex, no sale. And keep the works short so you have ample opportunities to rack up the heat! I bit the bullet.
The result was a 2oK-something time-travel set in the Regency era. Of course, it had the 'required' rake, and he bedded the heroine graphically at every opportunity. That, as I was told, was apparently what sold! And sell it did, right off the bat too!

But this story, thanks goodness, never made it to the e-shelves. Why? Well, when I got an opportunity to grab the work back before it came out, I jumped on it. You see - I wasn't comfortable writing graphic sex, even if that's what the market wanted. This just wasn't 'me', neither as a person, neither as an author.

So before you jump on any market fad or any market advice or market trend, ask yourself this question - will I be comfortable writing this? Right - you never will know unless you try. Fine - try writing it and see if your heart's in there.

Is it? Or is it not?

That's the question you should ask yourself.

What I'm getting at is this - if your heart is into something, it shows in what you do. How many times have you dragged your feet to do a chore? Granted, yes, you got the job done, even got it done well, but the fact remains, you had to drag your feet to do it. Now imagine doing something you're all revved up for. You can hardly remain still until you can get to this task, and when you do get to it, you immerse yourself in there so much time flies, and when it's over, you're like, that's too soon, I want to hang on to this feeling.

Ask yourself then if your writing is a feet-dragging chore, or an elation-filled endeavour. If it's a chore, you might need to reassess your position. Is it the writing itself that's drudging, or is it that this just isn't 'you'?

The fact remains that while writing should be a labour of love, it should also be a task you undertake with all your heart. When this is the case, have no doubt that the story that flows out of your pen (or keyboard) is one that is bound to be strong, solid, and overall a round story that covers all aspects of what constitutes a good story. Why? Because you wrote it with your heart in there, not just to fill a slot of the market demand and to make a quick buck or to get a shoddy credit.

Ask most good writers what they are after, and they'll most probably tell you that their goal is strong stories that they have invested all their heart and soul in.

Is it that hard to do? No, but you need to sit down and decide what you want. A good story most often brings you all of publishing contract, publishing credit, readership, and some money. Add to it that there's also the elation-filled author satisfaction that can tide you through weeks on end. Take all of these elements apart - contract, credit, money - and without your heart in your work, you may end up with any or all of these, but all of it may not last long - it may not bring you more contracts, credits or money. Whereas a good story, well, it can pave the way for your future career path.

Think with your brain and common sense, think with some logic - find what you want to do, and then think with your heart when you are writing. A story that has author investment and the author's heart and soul into it will shine out of the lot without you needing to do much work, and that, I believe, should be every writer's big goal.

Any questions, just holler!
From Mauritius with love,
Zee
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