Friday, October 29, 2010

Progress Friday

Again, progress at a standstill. Not helped by the fact that I'm still studying (and not understanding a thing about this marketing paper!). I've also run into the proverbial brick wall - not writer's block but the story needs an overhaul if I'm to continue forward sanely. I mean, nothing of what's to come in the remaining two-thirds of the book will 'gel' with the first third unless I rewrite the start and redo the heroine's GMC.

I often find that's the case for me. Because I have the book already mapped out in a fast-draft sort of way, I know I won't 'lose my way' if I rewrite now. However most of the time when I'm writing, the heroine at 30% of the WIP shows me who she really is and why she's the way she is. It's almost an aha! moment for me. This just happened with this WIP and suddenly it's all clearer and making sense to me. But it won't to my CPs, who will be reading the 'new' continuation and scratching their heads because the story takes an unexpected turn in the heroine's motivation.

So I thus see myself needing to tackle this rewrite/redo/overhaul/ironing out, whatever you wanna call it, before I can move forward. Usually once I do this on any story, the rest pretty much writes itself, thank goodness. It's just a question of finding the 'click' deal and seeing the way.

Bright weekend in perspective, though half of it will be spent studying marketing and retail distribution jargon. Sigh. But, a student's gotta do what a student's gotta do. :)

Have a great weekend, peeps!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Link Thursday: How To Break A Toxic Love Pattern

This is the article that I had been waiting for without knowing it! On my Today's news page on Tuesday, there was this link about how to break a toxic love pattern. Thinking it would make a great basis for characterisation, I clicked the link... and was left speechless when I read the article. For, you see, this is exactly what is happening with my heroine N in my current WIP. The article spelt it out in such terms that it was practically like having her on the couch and psycho-analysing her! This info is moving her GMC in ways that are getting me past the possible block every writer feels with her characters.

So while this is giving me food for thought as to how to re-do the character and re-channel the rewrite, this is advice all of us women must know, especially the ones who are single and still looking for Mr. Right. And lol, we all know our heroines too are single gals looking for the elusive Prince Charming!

The link was up on Tuesday October 26, 2010 on MSN Love & Relationships page, and is penned by Korin Miller.

******

How to Break a Toxic Love Pattern

Even though you swear your exes are totally different, experts say most women have a relationship pattern they keep going back to. See how to break yours for a love that won't leave you hurting.

By Korin Miller

We were shocked when we heard that the first guy Rihanna seriously dated after Chris Brown had been accused of domestic abuse by an ex-girlfriend. After everything she went through, it would seem as if she'd be repulsed by men with that kind of reputation.

Turns out, the opposite is more likely to be true. "Most of us have a relationship pattern — that same type of guy we keep falling for — and it can work for or against us," says couples therapist Deborah Dunn, author of Stupid About Men. "It's not uncommon for women to keep going back to the type that wronged them in the past." How do you change whom you're drawn to dating? It's not easy, but it starts with figuring out where your attraction to these guys came from in the first place.

Family Ties
Experts say we develop our taste in men at a young age — anywhere from childhood to adolescence. "Whether it's positive or negative, everyone has a relationship pattern based on what they learned about love when they were growing up," says Alon Gratch, Ph.D., author of If Love Could Think.

Repeatedly choosing the wrong guys signals that you may be driven to re-create the drama you had with your father or first boyfriend. Many women who had an absentee dad or let the arrogant JV football captain string them along for years will go for men who are unavailable or talk down to them because they're subconsciously trying to resolve things with the guy who let them down earlier in life, says Dunn — even though, clearly, that's not solving anything.

Women in these toxic patterns get hooked on the ups and downs of their relationships and can form what experts call betrayal bonds, which cause them to feel even more attached to men who show them these extreme — and sometimes ultimately dangerous — forms of attention. "You eventually feel like a guy doesn't love you unless he's either yelling in your face or trying to win you back," Dunn says.

Break the Cycle
All guys have less-than-admirable moments, but there are major tip-offs that your type is bad for you. Consistently feeling worse about yourself as you become more involved with a boyfriend is a giveaway that something isn't right, says Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., author of Love in 90 Days.

Other red flags: feeling like you have to walk on eggshells around a guy and dropping everything to spend time with him even though he's proven he wouldn't do the same for you. And while only you know what your relationships are really like, pay attention if your friends and family disapprove of every man you date, says Gratch.

To alter whom you're attracted to, you need to believe that what you've experienced isn't how love has to or should be, says Dunn. Ask friends who are happy in their relationships to describe how their guy behaves toward them so you can hear what you're missing out on. Or if you're coming off yet another bad breakup, consider seeing a therapist to make peace with the guy who originally wronged you, recommends Kirschner. For extra motivation, picture what your life could be like in 10 years if you're still choosing men who treat you badly versus men who will care for you in a positive way. Which future do you want?

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Blank

Sorry people - no writing advice this week. My mind has struck a blank and I didn't want to subject you all to nonsensical rambling (lol, as if I don't ramble most of the time!).

Still, I'm up to my scalp in studying. Never thought these could get so time and brain-consuming. I know, I've been a uni student for quite a few years now so I should know what to expect, but my life situation has not been the same all this time and I find new challenges every day. It's as if it's become a non-ending race, and I have no idea where to look and what to do first.

I was also quite stumped after writing the Tuesday post about breast cancer awareness. That drained me, I think, and I couldn't string sentences together on a meaningful post when all I thought about was this topic. Thought of posting something about writers' need for social responsibility in their writings, but I think this will be for next week.

Again, please forgive me for not posting any advice today. I'm burnt out, seriously, and need to catch my breath. I hope you understand. You, my readers, are fantastic folks and I'm sure you know there's a human somewhere behind the one posting on this blog. This someone does break down and flop onto the floor wanting to do nothing from time to time. It's the only way to allow the batteries to recharge.

Next week, I promise I'll be back.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: Breast Cancer Awareness!

Common stuff most women (usually over 30) know about breast cancer:
  • It happens after you turn 40.
  • It happens after menopause.
  • If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, get yourself checked.
  • If you're on the pill, the risk for breast cancer increases.
  • Have a mammogram every 3 years after 30, yearly after 40.
  • To have breast cancer, there needs to have a family history of it.
All of this is true, to a certain extent, but this is just the tip of the iceberg where breast cancer is really concerned!

I knew all about these aspects of breast cancer. Hadn't heard about them but read about them online (thanks to newsletters of women-oriented sites like iVillage.com and sofeminine.co.uk). I'm also one of those anal 'patients' who reads all the literature about any drug I take, thus I knew there was a risk when taking the pill because I read that small sheet with the kill-your-eyes small font.

I thought I knew. I thought I was covered. I thought I had time (I was in my early twenties).

How wrong I had been! It took me finding a solid, golf-ball sized lump in my left breast to drive it all home. I had celebrated my 22nd birthday a week earlier. That's when I fell on any information about breast cancer I could find, and helped along by my terrific oncologist answering my every nit-picky question, I found a picture that is most of the time hidden.

Let's take some of those common knowledge stuff listed above.

It happens after 40.
Not necessarily. It depends what type of cancer - estrogen-receptor positive or estrogen-receptor negative (more on that in a minute). Most women are more at risk of the estrogen-linked cancer than the rest.

It happens after menopause.
Again, largely due to the estrogen receptor. A big catalyst of the 'after menopause' debate is the use of Hormone-Replacement Therapy.

If there's a history of breast cancer in your family, get yourself checked.
Only too true! Breast cancer in the family is the genetic type of cancer, the one that gets passed on through genes. A mutation in specific genes, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, is responsible for the cancer triggering. And these don't heed age - they won't wait until you're over 40 to strike! (as it was the case with me).

If you're on the pill, the risk for breast cancer increases.
True - but again this is the estrogen-receptor positive type of breast cancer that comes into play.

Have a mammogram every 3 years after 30, yearly after 40.
True - prevention is better than cure. But a mammogram is not prevention enough, not even yearly, at any age! I'll tell you why shortly.

To have breast cancer, there needs to be a family history of it.
Yes, and no. Furthermore, do you know your whole family history?

Let me explain some more.
So there is a difference between breast cancer brought on by hormonal changes (estrogen. No need for me to tell you estrogen and progesterone are the main female hormones. Pills and hormone-replacement therapy work on altering the level of these hormones in the body to get the desired outcome, ex prevent pregnancy in the former's case), and breast cancer brought on by genetic mutation.

A cancer is basically cells growing too quickly especially where they shouldn't. The difference between breast cancer brought on by estrogen (thus which has estrogen-receptors positive) and one brought on by genes (estrogen-receptor negative) is the development and proliferation rate of the abnormal cells. A genetic-type cancer is many times more rapid and more aggressive than one brought on by hormones.

So then we know that hormone-type cancer's risk increases the minute you go over 40 (your body preparing to go into menopause, even if that if still a decade away). Genes do not wait for you to turn 40.
Which is why having a mammogram every 3 years after 30 and yearly after 40 is not prevention enough if it happens that a genetic-type cancer hits you. With a gene-mutation cancer, a lump can develop overnight, and double or even treble in size over 1-2 weeks (it was the case for me. Between the day the lump was noticed and the 5 days after which it was removed, it had nearly doubled in size!). You can thus have your mammogram in January, the cancer declares itself in February, and in March it has already hit your lymph nodes and spread.

Then what do you do, if mammograms are not prevention enough? Simple - you take matters into your own hand, literally! No one knows your body as well as you do.
Breast self-exam is your biggest pro-active shield towards recognizing breast cancer!
Ideally, this exam should be done 10 days or so into your cycle. But it has become painfully aware, to me, that a lump will not wait for Day 10 of the cycle to happen. Carry out the exam more often than just once a month, if you can.

Now you can tell me I'm blowing hot air over genetic-type breast cancer and there is no history of breast cancer in your family. Fine - but do you know your full family history? Maybe someone had it but didn't advertise it. Maybe one of your ancestors had breast cancer in the 1800s or in the 1900s - the gene might be there, silent for generations, and then bingo, it decides you're the lucky winner for it to become activated!

The final line - better be safe than sorry! Be aware of your own health, and take your well-being into your own hands, whatever your age! A breast self-exam takes 15 minutes tops, and the more you do it, the more attuned you become to your body. 15 minutes now and then, regularly, is not a heavy price to pay compared to cancer, the hours of worry, the agony of surgery and recovery, the hell of chemotherapy treatment and the torture of radiation therapy!

Do your self-exam. Get a mammogram yearly. Get regular check-ups with your gynecologist. Breast cancer caught early has an almost 100% survival rate.

I wrote today's post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing Blanket Tour for Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey by Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN
(www.dianaraab.com).
The book includes Diana's experiences, reflections, poetry and journal entries, in addition to writing prompts for readers to express their own personal stories. A survivor of both breast cancer and multiple myeloma, Raab views journaling to be like a daily vitamin--in that it heals, detoxifies and is essential for optimal health.
Diana, the author of eight books, spent 25 years as a medical and self-help writer before turning to poetry and memoir. She teaches creative journaling and memoir in UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

If you comment on today's post you'll be entered to win a copy of Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. To read Diana's post about breast cancer and a list of other blogs participating in Diana's Blanket Tour visit The Muffin.
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2010/09/blanket-tour-for-diana-raab.html

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, October 25, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Return to Rambling

1 paper down, 1 more to go in 10 days. Not gonna focus on the next for the moment but just gonna bask in the glow (and crash and burn feeling!) of completing a paper that had me sweating bullets late last night. Imagine thinking your story is as polished as can be, and your beta reader/editor just hands you her crit and it turns out you have 5 pages of notes to 're-do' in the story. Hell, innit? That's how I felt last night when I completed my revisions and took a peek at the lecturers' feedback! Can you say panic and hyperventilating? I think even Jack Bauer and John MacClaine together couldn't have saved the day the way my future looked like right then!
Still, we writers are resilient ones, aren't we? Tackled the notes after a big breath (and a frappucino) and managed to see where my revisions and lecturers' notes didn't mesh perfectly. Went to sleep thinking/dreaming/talking in my sleep about meta ethical theories as individual conduct guidelines and normative ethics as the societal component (yes, that makes as much sense as Valium or Prozac).

Went through one of the worst traffic jams ever this morning. Left home at 7 am to get to the exam center at 8.15, tops. This takes 17 minutes during the day. Turns out we were still about a kilometre from the center at that precise time, thanks to morning commute to the capital city of Port Louis! Dashed into my classroom with exactly 3 minutes to spare before the paper started. And did I mention I just found out along this trip that there was no longer any coolant for the radiator and the car was dangerously heating?

All in all, the questions turned out to be do-able, and I managed to turn my answer book in with 5 minutes to go to deadline. Covered 12 A4 pages (that's 3000 words, innit?) with answers, written in longhand! Turns out I still recall how to write, but now my wrist is killing me and the crash and burn means my arms, legs, and back feel like jelly. :)

And did I mention my brain took this exact moment to slam-dunk me not just one, but two, story ideas? One is a totally novel story idea that is screaming to be heard/written/be done with. The other is a 'revelation' about my heroine N in the WIP, and something terribly pertinent and vital about her relationship with the men in her love life.

Oh, and another thing - silence is over-rated! When I was younger, my parents always complained of me studying with music blaring out of the radio cassette player (yeah, that old!). Between Rob Zombie 'puking his guts out' as my Mom so graciously spelt it, and Boyzone and Backstreet Boys singing about eternal love, and Britney asking to be 'hit one more time', it seemed, even to me, as a miracle that I ended up my school years with good-enough grades.
Now, it turns out there is a correlation between studying and music in the background. I did that this Saturday when studying and it seemed a block suddenly lifted as music played. I dunno - it could be that listening to music engages a different part of your brain and this helps to concentrate with the part that is assimilating the study. Strange but it works - I'm gonna study with music now!

So I go back to the regular madness now. The past weeks have been a rollercoaster of getting things done and now all I wanna do is sink into my comfy bed with a thick quilt and lose myself in a book. The dilemma - which book to choose?

From Mauritius with love (and totally wiped out!),

Zee

Friday, October 22, 2010

Progress Friday

The graphic here should pretty much spell my stand. Yup, still study time. Final cruising to the finish line, if that can be said. The first paper is on Monday and thankfully I seem to be able to clearly recall what it is I'm supposed to talk about in the answers!

Writing-wise, not making much progress. Did manage to add some 2K or so to the WIP this week, the result of sitting out of hospital appointments and having time to kill. Take out the trusty qwerty phone and start typing while forgetting the world around you. Seems to be working thus far, because a block I'd had about a scene, which just refused to clear no matter how much I thought upon it, just vanished into thin air when I was writing. In an overcrowded, over-loud, over-heated waiting room, of all places. Guess my mind still works under stress and dire environmental conditions - that should be a relief, innit?

Still, chugging along nicely. Got past this block, and finding new aspects about my characters. I'd say it's working.

Small progress on the meter, but progress anyhow.

Leave you off for a weekend of intense study and trying not to go nuts. Hope yours is much, much lighter and pleasant!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Link Thursday: Field Guide To Guys

Which one of you readers and writers ever hoped men came with a translation manual? Look no further - the Field Guide to Guys takes you on an almost scientific and anthropological trip where you'll find all the different types populating the big, mad world out there!

Enjoy - this is a great one for penning heroes, zeroes, and all the different types you can hope to people your writings with!

The article is taken from MSN Lifestyle, Relationships section, accessed around February 20, 2010.The authors and Josh Aiello and Genevieve Roth.

*Big grin*

******

Your Field Guide to Guys

For any woman who's ever wished that men came with signs on their backs explaining how to date, mate and relate to them, we present the 17 types you might meet out there in the wild.

By Josh Aiello and Genevieve Roth

1. The Sexy Foreigner

Plumage: He's totally hot, from his great hair to his you-can't-tell-if-they've-ever-been-washed tight jeans. If he smokes (likely), he owns a Zippo.

Mating Habits: Attracts females via his impossibly sexy accent and the ability to transform out-of-date machismo into charming banter.

Field Notes: You could grow tired of the SF's Vespa and chest hair. But he makes you feel like a lady, drives exes mad with jealousy, and delivers capital-R romance. If he's not a cad, just say oui.

2. The Hobbyist

Plumage: More identifiable by his hobby than his physical appearance, this guy inspires your girlfriends to refer to him as the Wine Dude, the Beekeeper, the Racquetballer, etc.

Behavior: He's incredibly loyal, friendly and talkative, though most of his anecdotes will appeal only to fellow hobbyists. To you, it may sound like he's speaking another language.

Field Notes: You have two choices here: Familiarize yourself with his passion and join in the cork-sniffing fun, or give the guy loads of space and time (maybe even a wall on which to display his trophies) and cultivate your own obsessive pastime.

3. The Coffee Shop Intellectual

Plumage: His attire is mostly composed of black, and he has the rare ability to wear tight jeans without looking ridiculous. "I think every guy should own a pair of skinny black jeans and boots," says actor Sebastian Stan, pictured above. "When I showed up for the photo shoot, I had been wearing mine for like two days."

Behavior: He knows how to have fun, but big groups scare him. "Karaoke bars are up on the list of places I like to hang out. I really like going out with just my closest friends."

Mating Habits: He dislikes anyone — man or woman — who is fake. "Pretention is a huge turnoff," says Stan. "There's nothing more amazing than if you're lucky enough to be with someone who can inspire you. It's that, mixed with passion."

Field Notes: The CSI wants a woman who is comfortable (a) with herself — that's sexy — and (b) letting him be who he is, whoever that may be at the moment. "I'm a completely different person than I was four years ago," says Stan. "I try to meld with the times and stay open to new ideas."

4. The Workaholic

Plumage: His wardrobe costs more than yours.

Behavior: He asserts his manhood through a maniacal desire to make money. Works a 90-hour week and probably uses his BlackBerry on the john.

Mating Habits: Courts you by buying you jewelry no sane woman would refuse.

Field Notes: It can be hard to tell whether there's a real guy behind the money clip, so here's a litmus test: If he sleeps on an Aerobed without complaint at your parents' home, he's legit. If, on the other hand, he wakes up cranky and checks into a hotel, he's not The One.

5. The Pickup Artist

Plumage: First you're impressed by his fashion sense and perfect hair. Then you notice the shark tooth necklace and … is that a manicure?! Red flag!

Mating Habits: He's a disciple of pick-up manuals like The Game, and prepares for a date like a general plotting a battle.

Field Notes: Remember that, to him, dating is sport. You're like Mount Everest in heels, a test of his manhood. To win him over for real, you'll have to be his equal. Beat him at his own game and call him out on his tactics. (Unless, of course, all you want is no-strings-attached fun. That's fine too.)

6. The Surfer Boy

Plumage: With a glow like the last day of summer vacation, the Surfer Boy is one of nature's great gifts to women. His sun-bleached hair, perfect body squeezed into a vintage tee, and ability to walk barefoot are, at times, awe-inspiring.

Behavior: He overuses the words rad and gnarly. He shies away from anything resembling an actual job. He spends half the year in Tahiti … or something. But seriously: Have you seen this guy?

Field Notes: The Surfer Boy might not be husband material, but he's super positive and fun. A few flirtatious months together can be a life-affirmingly carefree experience.

7. The Man You Thought Was Gay

Behavior: This thoughtful and caring guy is always there to listen and is game for a quick detour into Bloomingdale's. You assume he's into men — all the good ones are.

Mating Habits: He's the most nonthreatening male you've ever encountered, but just as you're starting to open up to him, something's off. Wait, is his hand on your thigh?

Field Notes: TMYTWG has no idea you think he's gay. So keep an open mind — he could be the greatest boyfriend of all time. Still worried? Here's a tip: Ask about his dating history. Ambiguous, pronoun-free statements like "there once was this person I dated" are not good.

8. The Cowboy

Behavior: The Cowboy builds muscle roping steer, hitting the gym and doing physically intensive weekend projects. He's proud and traditional, and can wear a belt buckle like nobody's business. Note: Do not confuse him with the Suburban Cowboy, who, despite having never actually ridden a horse, dresses the part and enjoys grilling meat and yelling at the TV. Avoid.

Mating Habits: Rest assured, ladies, his rugged individualism extends to the bedroom.

Field Notes: He may not be quick to share his emotions, but the Cowboy is an all-around good dude with a lot of love to give. Giddyup!

9. The Life Coach

Behavior: Like Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, the Life Coach makes it his personal mission to "improve" the woman he's dating.

Mating Habits: He prefers young and impressionable women, and he takes a mate under his wing using a mixture of hints, tips and passive-aggressive suggestions. Whatever you're doing, this guy knows a much better way to do it.

Field Notes: The Life Coach may seem sophisticated (he might even remind you of that college professor you always had a thing for), but the bottom line is that this dude feeds off controlling you. You're too good for that!

10. The Man-Child

Plumage: Anything comfortable and bright. "I tend to stick to T-shirts and jeans," says rapper and singer Kid Cudi, a child at heart. "Oh, and my Surface To Air leather jacket is the favorite thing I own. I love that jacket, and if anything ever happened to it, I'd be really hurt."

Behavior: He is happy spending the night with his video games. Really. "I've got an Xbox and I've got a Wii and I've got a PlayStation 3."

Mating Habits: The Man-Child is looking for someone who is as confident with who she is as he is with himself. "I love a girl who is true to herself. If you're not a girl that wears heels, then don't wear heels."

Field Notes: To be with this guy, you have to know how to have fun. "The first thing that attracts me is personality," says Cudi. "I'm a silly dude, and I love to crack jokes …. I want somebody who can hang with that. If I spit out a joke, I want somebody who bounces right back and spits out a joke at me."

11. The Undercover Hottie

Plumage: He's like Mr. Invisible: You wouldn't glance twice at him in the supermarket, couldn't pick him out of a police lineup, might not even notice him if he worked in the next cubicle …

Mating Habits: … and yet, despite appearances, the UH routinely attracts women way out of his league, leading to the intriguing conclusion that there must be something great about this guy.

Field Notes: He's a highly prized species, so if you spot him, pounce! (Many women report meeting the UH on a blind date.) He may not be tall, he may not have all of his hair, but this cool, funny guy will check off every other box on your list, in bed and out.

12. The Passionista

Plumage: Whatever he's doing, the Passionista dresses the part. His gear is always first-rate, and he always looks great, whether he's hunting big game or attending the opera.

Behavior: His joie de vivre is enthralling … and exhausting. He's into extreme sports, fine food, great wine, high culture. He's never tired, can hold his liquor, and is up for anything, anytime.

Mating Habits: This type's exploits aren't designed to attract women, but who can resist a guy whose desktop image shows him BASE jumping inside the Grand Canyon?

Field Notes: His zest for life may overwhelm you, but the Passionista is downright magnetic. And the bedroom prowess? Ridiculous.

13. Mr. Right

Plumage: He has no set look, dress, body type or style. Mr. Right can take on the form of any man, so attempt to stay at least a little open-minded.

Behavior: Startling truth: For all of Mr. Right's life, he may have been in one of the previous categories. To everyone else in the world, he may still be.

Mating Habits: He has no act, no game. He calls when he says he will, focuses on your needs in bed and is basically the coolest, nicest person you've ever met.

Field Notes: The most elusive of men, Mr. Right is difficult to locate but well worth the effort. Many women settle before finding him, so go out with your friends, be yourself and he will appear. Mazel tov.

14. Mr. Jealous

Behavior: At first, Mr. Jealous comes off as normal, attractive and well-groomed. You can't believe this guy isn't married! But eventually certain traits that seemed cute at first (he calls you every five minutes) start feeling … weird.

Field Notes: Mr. Jealous dates women like the CIA monitors terrorist activity! He casts a net of surveillance, grows suspicious of any male you encounter and is known to hack into your e-mail. Your relationship will devolve into a constant effort to prove you aren't doing anything wrong, until you finally dump him.

15. The Sensitive Rocker

Plumage: His wardrobe has been culled from the finest Goodwill stores around the country. And yet he wears $300 retro sneakers. Has been spotted wearing a leather jacket in July.

Behavior: Sweet and introspective, this guy can pick up more chicks than a high school quarterback in Texas. (And he sings!)

Field Notes: The very sensitivity you love him for can make him a bit … touchy. Major warning: If he's an actual singer, like one who goes on tour, you heard it here: Groupies are real.

16. Mr. Selective Memory

Behavior: So nice, so charming, so perfect. Oh, but he forgot to mention his girlfriend. Or that, you know, he's about to move to Alaska for work.

Habitat: Mr. Selective Memory can be found anywhere — at the office, at school, sipping green tea at the coffee shop — which is what makes him such a dangerous species of dude.

Field Notes: He might seem OK at first, but dating Mr. Selective Memory will only lead to heartache. At the first sign he's not being totally honest with you, run!

17. The Prepster

Plumage: Even this guy's casual is a bit dressy, and he knows how — and when — to rock a suit." I'm a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy," says Matt Bomer, actor on USA's White Collar. "But for a nice social function, I like to make an effort. It shows people that you give a damn."

Mating Habits: Good manners are a huge turn-on. "Anybody who is rude to anyone in the service industry is automatically out."

Field Notes: The prepster loves high-end hobbies, a full bookshelf and someone who can challenge him intellectually. "I like strong opinions — I'll take that any day over someone who agrees with everything."

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writing Wednesday: A Rough Start For A Rough Draft

As you all probably know, I'm currently working on a WIP. Culture-based, women's fiction with a romantic slant. My heroine is not your typical/traditional Indian 'desi girl'. In fact, she isn't even Indian per se. She grew up in the South-Asian community of London, but her life is very far from that of the traditional, subservient Indian girl looking for a proper boy to marry. Actually, she's divorced, and her ex is not Indian. He's Black, of African origin.

So I, as the author for this story, know all this. My readers don't. Here's what I did - I put together a Chapter 1 that 'explained' all of her quirky origins/life path, why she is is where she is, what made her who she is, etc. Yes - readers need to know who they're dealing with, especially more so is the case with a culture-based.

I put this chapter up for crits, and an almost blanket comment that came back was - too much backstory.

I agree with the critters.

***Wait a second! Did you just say you know you have an info backstory dump in there? And you did nothing to remove that but left it in? How could you send out something that's sub-par even for crits? Don't you know this is the first step towards sending a sloppily-written copy to an editor/agent who'll reject you flat because of lack of quality???***

Yes to all your questions, except a big fat NO to the last one.

Here's why:

I'm a compulsive plotter. All of the 90K of this WIP is already outlined on an A3 sheet. 'How things happen' in there dwindle to 'thing happening' the closer I get to the ending on that sheet. I know the end but not exactly sure yet how it takes place.
Now to be able to outline, you need to know your plot, your story, and your characters. This is especially true of your main characters, in my case (and women's fiction in general) my heroine. Her name is N.

So I know who N is (I've created her after all). But what I have about her is a rap sheet - with her details and past. N becomes a fully fleshed person as I write her and slowly but surely, I get to know her in the scope of this story of hers.
When I start my story, she's a sum of parts, even to me.

Which is why I myself need to know her backstory when I'm writing so I can figure out who I'm dealing with and how I can tell her story convincingly.
The backstory/info-dump is more for my sake as the author than for my readers who I want to 'get' who N is and what her GMC is.

A couple of months into writing this story, 150 pages and 35K into the WIP, and I now have a clear idea of who N is and how much my opening chapter is hindering me rather than helping me move her forward. Putting N face to face with the man with whom she'll fall in love showed me that she's got a sharp tongue and a rather impulsive, act-before-you-think stand. When I wrote the original Chapter 1, I thought N was a quiet girl a little browbeaten by life but who would have a chance to make something out of the cards Fate has dealt her. The real N (whom I'm coming to uncover now, 35K into the ms) is the one I'm finding out as I write! How she'll end this story will be a different N than the one shown in Chapter 1.

So this means - Chapter 1, and probably till Chapter 3 too, will need a rewrite. Nothing in content but mostly in form. I'll need to work out the backstory and put just what is necessary across.

Which brings me to my point today (sorry, I am long-winded. I've also been told an example is worth a thousand explanations, hence the example of my own 'folly' up there).

I allowed myself to write backstory/info-dumping into my Chapter 1 because it is not my final draft! As simple as that!

A big mistake many new writers make is thinking that what they write has to be perfect, that their finished draft is finished, needing just a few punctuation/redundancy polishes. That is not true!

A draft is just that - a draft, nothing finished or complete or perfect! While you're writing, there are things you will come across and uncover about your characters, about their GMC, about your plot. Things will turn out in an unexpected way, and this might or will force you to re-evaluate everything you've penned so far on this story. Rewrites, sometimes a full overhaul, are part and parcel of putting a finished product out there. Nothing ends at - I've finished the draft.

The biggest thing needing the cut and 'plastic surgery' is your start, usually your Chapter 1, occasionally your chapters 1-3.

The trick to writing a good story is to let yourself go. Write it the way it wants to be written, not the way you want to control it right now. You pen a first draft, you perfect that first draft. Writing/penning and perfecting are two very different things.
How many time have you heard people doing NaNo or fast draft projects and they tell you it's as if a block had been lifted and the story just poured out?
That's because these people were simply penning a story, not trying to perfect it.
How many times too have you heard that you cannot tweak a blank page?
You can however tweak, revise, rewrite, perfect your first penning.

Give yourself license to write a first draft, complete with info-dumps and backstory. That's how you'll come to know who your characters are. Don't stifle them from the get-go just because 'this is the right thing to do'. Right by whose rule/law?
Take heed of redundancy (if you know you pepper every sentence with 'look' or a variation of, be on the lookout for that). Use good grammar and punctuation (they're b*tches to correct at perfection stage, so you might as well get it over with from the get-go). Choose your POV and stick to it (very hard to streamline later on, easier to lay down right away). Write sensibly (your story should have a logic behind it!).
And then just write, people!

So what if you have a rough start? It got you started, innit? That's basically what you need. When you reach your 'The End' finish line, you can, will, and should look back to the starting line and wonder whether or not the start needs to be tweaked/altered/streamlined, based on what you have learned/discovered along the journey that was writing this story.

Write a rough draft. Take this first draft and perfect it. Then think about editting and polishing. Two-thirds of the time when you write an ending, your start will not be reflecting the true logic of the whole story. You'll need to rewrite your start to corroborate with your ending.

I'll give you another tidbit I realized about my current ms - I don't have the right starting point for it at the moment. The real starting point is buried inside my backstory dump! But by going along and not beating myself over Chapter 1 and getting it to be perfect already, I allowed myself to see the forest for the trees and this ultimately is helping me make my story stronger.
Another confession - my stories when they come out, bear little resemblance in form (but not in content) to the stuff my crit partners got to see as my first draft.

Hope this helped! Any questions, holler!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: Disclosing...

Now you know my brain is half-to-fully gone at the moment, so I was scratching my head wondering what to post today. The lovely thing called tag-your-friends-on-FB proved to be a lifesaver (or scalp saver... I dunno.) and gave me my material for today.

So totally overkill, totally TMI, and totally rambling nonsense, here's...

100 Truths About Me! (ta-da! LOL) Here's a very good insomnia cure for you all! *wink*

Let's start:

WHAT WAS YOUR:

1. Last beverage: Iced Green tea, in a half-and-half mix with white grape juice.

2. Last phone call: My mom (yeah, I know...)

3. Last text message: To my stepson

4. Last song you listened to: California Girls by Katy Perry

5. Last time you cried: Two weeks ago, at a very emotional news

HAVE YOU EVER:

6. Got back with someone you've broken up with: Yes, but these never seem to last (getting back, I mean)

7. Been cheated on: Unfortunately, yes

8. Kissed someone and regretted it: Yeah...

9. Lost someone special: Yes

10. Been depressed: Had the blues, yes

11. Been drunk and threw up: No

LIST THREE FAVORITE COLORS:

12. Black

13. Red

14. Purple

THIS YEAR HAVE YOU: (2010)

15. Made a new friend: Yes! :)

16. Fallen out of love: No. Despite writing romance, it's really hard for me to fall in love, so when I do I expect it's the real thing, and you don't fall out of the real thing.

17. Laughed until you cried: Too many times, thanks to my boys! :)

18. Met someone who changed you: Yes

19. Found out who your true friends were: Did I ever! I found out all about the truly wonderful people I'm honoured to call friends.

20. Found out someone was talking about you: Yes. In both good and bad.

21. Kissed anyone on your Facebook friend's list: Real kiss kiss? No. :)

22. How many people on your friends list do you know in real life: Quite a few

23. How many kids do you want? As many as I have right now, :), but a new kid would be welcome any time if he/she does happen to come along.

24. Do you have any pets: Do men/boys count here? No? Then, the answer is no.

25. Do you want to change your name: On some days, but then I'm a writer, I can afford to play with names and live vicariously. :)

26. What did you do for your last birthday? Watched Love Happens, Love Actually, & Mamma Mia back to back and went out for food.

27. What time did you wake up today? 5.50 AM

28. What were you doing at midnight last night? Just gotten into bed coz I had to read Ruthless by Anne Stuart to the finish, even though I only started all 400 pages of it about 24 hours earlier.

29. Name something you CANNOT wait for: Being done with my degree!

30. Last time you saw your mother: Sunday

31. What is one thing you wish you could change about your life: A lot of 'mistakes', but all these made me who I am and I ultimately don't wanna change who I am.

32. What are you listening to right now: Kiddo's Need for Speed: Underground music from his GameBoy

33. Have you ever talked to a cat named Tom: No. My cat, whom I talked to all the time, was named Mimi.

34. Who is getting on your nerves now? The kids with motorbikes outside, turning our street into a racing arena (it's the super loud, 'farting' exhaust pipes I can't stand!)

35. Most visited web page: Facebook (I know...)

36. What's your real name: If I told you, I'd have to kill you... Nah, seriously. Same one you see here.

37. Nicknames: Mommy!

38. Relationship Status: Married

39. Zodiac sign: Pisces

40. Male or female? Female (last I checked or asked the hubs...)

41. Elementary School? Don't recall the name really

42. Junior High School? None in Mauritius

43. High school/college? Queen Elizabeth College (high school equivalent). UNISA (college/Uni)

44. Hair color: Black

45. Long: If I can help it, never!

46. Height: 5' 3"

47. Do you have a crush on someone? Yes - Jason Statham!

48: What do you like about yourself? Not to sound presumptuous but I am loyal. It's a quality I appreciate and look for in others too.

49. Piercings: Ears only now.

50: Tattoos: Nope

51. Righty or lefty: Right

FIRST:

52. First surgery: A biopsy

53. First piercing: Ears

54. First best friend: Shein

55. First sport you joined: I was allergic to practising any sport!

56. First vacation: A trip to Singapore

57. First pair of trainers: School shoes

RIGHT NOW:

58. Eating: Doritos Fiery Habanero

59. Drinking: Iced Green tea mixed with white grape juice

60. I'm about to: Go watch a DVD with my son

61. Listening to: The Only, Static (Need for Speed: Underground soundtrack)

62. Waiting for: Evening to come.

63. I'm feeling: tired, but manageable tiredness

YOUR FUTURE

64. Want kids? Already have 'em!

65. Get married? Not unless I divorce my man or become a widow, neither of which I want to happen. :)

66. Career: Author

WHICH ONE?

67. Lips or Eyes: Eyes - the window of the soul

68. Hugs or kisses: Depends on the mood! :)

69. Shorter or Taller: Personally, since I'm so short, Taller makes more sense.

70. Older or Younger: I definitely go for older but as I'm getting old too, won't be much scope there in the future. :)

71. Romantic or Spontaneous: Depends on the moment

72. Nice stomach or Nice arms: Nice mind trumps them all!

73. Sensitive or Loud: Depends on the moment. ;)

74. Relationship: Hopefully with the same man I'm with right now.

EVER:

75. Kissed a stranger: Yes

76. Drank hard liquor: No

77. Glasses/contacts: Glasses all the time. Tried contacts but they dry up too quickly.

78. Sex on first date: No. Need to know the person before sex, and first dates are all about getting to know the person. :)

79. Broken someone's heart: Sadly, yes...

80. Been arrested: No

81. Turned someone down: Yes...

82. Cried when someone died: Oh yeah

83. Fallen for a friend: No

DO YOU BELIEVE IN:

84. Yourself: If I didn't, who would? 'Course I do!

85. Love at first sight: Yes, because it's happened to me

86. Heaven: Yes, most definitely

87. Santa Claus: No!

88. Kiss on the first date: Yes. Can be a big part of the 'getting to know someone' phase

89. Angels: Yup

90. God: Indeed!

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY:

91. Had more than 1 boyfriend at a time: No. One kid is enough to handle at one time, thanks.

92. Did you sing today? Bad rendition of California Girls (Katy Perry, please forgive me) since my playlist did not choose any ABBA today

93. Did you eat candy today? No. Holding out for a mini Mars later tonight (when the kid's asleep!)

94. If you could go back in time, how far would you go? The day my son was born. I wish I could go back and not be the freaked-out new mom who didn't know how to savour her time with her sweet baby.

95. The moment you would choose to relive? The day I realized my man loved me

96. Are you afraid of falling in love? No. You just have to have faith.

97. When was the last time you lied? A few moments ago, when I told kiddo all the mini Mars had already been eaten... :)

98. Are you usually late, early or right on time? Usually on time.

99. Would you give your life to save someone else's? Depends who... But usually, yes.

100. Are you afraid of posting this as 100 truths? Me? No. I'm afraid my readers will be traumatized though.

Ready for your final Test?

101: Any Regrets? Yes, but regrets are a big part of what shapes us into who and what we are. I wouldn't change who I am.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, October 18, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Doom!!!

Apprehension is grabbing hold of me as I start the countdown to my first exam. Less than a week to go - next Monday at this time I'll be done with the media ethics paper. Something I'm looking forward to, before delving right away into the distribution and promotion management module. Sigh. When is the life of the student ever quiet/mundane?

It seems everything is conspiring this end of October to put us all here on the edge of our seats. Could it be the buildup to Halloween? It's universal exam time, it seems. This week, my stepson is taking the end of primary cycle exams, and the big deal is that these exams are akin to what SATs are to US students - the results pretty much make or break/spell out what future school you're eligible for. Don't tell me - silly system, to impose this on 11-yr-old kids. It was the case 16 years ago when I took the same paper too, and despite talks, talks, and more talks of eradicating this archaic system, nothing really gets done. Worse - parents themselves fall into the rat race, pushing their kids to this frontline to 'prove what they're worth', all at this tender age. Sheesh...

Now, starting next Tuesday, my 7-yr-old starts the end of the year exams for second grade. It seems like yesterday that we were buying his school supplies and he was all hopping and excited to 'not be the new kids' in school. Where did the time go?

And don't ask me where the time will go after that - on November 4, they both go on summer break. 9 full weeks of staying at home. Lord, how will I survive???

So on those very dismal perspectives for my sanity and livelihood, I leave you today. Any positive thoughts/vibes you can send my way are more than welcome!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, October 15, 2010

Progress Friday

Measly progress this week, but beggars aren't choosers, innit? I'll take it with open arms!

Not making as much headway as I'd want to given the current state of things - studies done and one textbook down, 9 days to go till my first exam. At least I finished the course load 10 days before the exam, instead of something like 10 or so hours (yeah, been known to happen...).

Also stuck at a certain point in the WIP. Know the feeling when your brain has been going too fast and then suddenly slams into a wall because it's overwrought? That's my current plight. I know what's to happen, just not yet how. Sigh.

Still, looking forward to a restful weekend. I need it after beating the heck out of my media ethics module these past few weeks!

Have a great weekend, everyone. Catch up with you all on Monday.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Link Thursday: 5 Love Mistakes Even Smart Women Make

Have you ever been with someone and then poof - it was over, and you wondered, what on earth has happened? If not, lucky you. Yeah - many a time, it happens he's a jerk. But too often too, we are sabotaging our own efforts at a relationships.

Now as writers, of romance on top of it all, how many times do we look at our heroines and go, why did she break up with that guy from her past? What's her GMC? Where is she coming from? What does she want out of a relationship? What will go wrong with your hero when they do hook up?

To any non-writer, this might seem like a lot of questions (and we writers know that's just the tip of the iceberg behind what constitutes a story!). But yes, we have to ask ourselves all this. Now maybe you write a bit from experience, but how long do you expect this to tug you along? There comes a time when your fodder becomes stale, and you need to refresh your relationship-busters database.

In sweeps this type of article! I was nodding all along when reading it, and could so see a romance heroine falling into those 'traps', or how these issues could work out to be solid conflict for a romance black moment.

Take a look, and see if that ain't inspiring! As usual, it's from the article bible, MSN Love & Relationships webpage, by Christina Frank. I accessed it on April 4, 2010.

******

5 Love Mistakes Even Smart Women Make

Even the smartest women, blinded by love, make these relationship mistakes. Do you recognize them?

By Christina Frank

Maybe you’re so smart, you’re running to the patent office every day with a new invention. Or, if there was such a thing as an office valedictorian, you’d be the obvious candidate. But being totally together or a brainiac in some areas of your life does not, sadly, save you from being completely clueless when it comes to love. Even if you have loads of relationship experience, or are a pro at negotiating your female friendships, you can easily fall into some common relationship ruts when faced with a member of the opposite sex. Below are five major love blunders to avoid at all costs.

Mistake #1: You Do All the Work
Does getting involved with a new guy turn you into the relationship’s social director? “After my first date with a guy I was with for a year, I planned almost all of our dates and outings,” says Aimee Cirucci, 31, of Philadelphia. “I was always the one initiating weekend plans, coming up with things to do and changing my plans around to accommodate him.”

“Many times a woman will take over for a man subconsciously, believing that if she organizes his life, she will be indispensable to him,” says Susan Elliott, author of Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing that Ever Happened to You. “Healthy relationships require two adults. If you are afraid to let go for fear that your relationship will fall apart without your direction, then you are involved with a little boy. What will happen if you stop doing this? Will he fail or step up to the plate?” asks Elliot. “Many times when we stop enabling someone, that person actually takes charge of his or her own life.”

Cirucci got tired of doing all the work, and the relationship faltered for other reasons as well. “I knew he wasn’t trying to be lazy or mean or uninvolved, but I grew weary from making all the plans... and also a little resentful. One person by sheer force of will cannot run an entire relationship. You want the guy to plan things once in a while. It’s one of the ways he shows his love, respect and commitment.”

Mistake #2: You’re His Life Coach/Mother/Therapist
A few years ago, Brettan Bablove, 27, of San Diego started seeing a guy who was more of a project than a partner. He was seriously depressed and she went into savior mode. “We lived in different towns and he didn’t have the energy to drive to where I lived, so I would drive to his place every weekend to be with him,” Bablove says. “I’m not a super-bubbly, positive girl by nature, but I put on an incredible show. I decided that no matter what kind of mood he was in, I was going to put on a happy face, smile and laugh. He said I was the only thing that made him happy — but he wasn’t happy, so I felt like it was my fault.”

Women are especially vulnerable to falling for needy men, says Deborah Dunn, author of Stupid About Men: Ten Rules for Getting Romance Right. “We are naturally mothering and nurturing and sometimes confuse being needed with being loved. It usually backfires when we realize that wounded men can’t really be there for us.”
Bablove tried to get her boyfriend to see a therapist, but he resisted. “In a way, I think he liked being broken. He didn’t want my help, but he didn’t want to fix it himself, either.”

Mistake #3: You Expect Him To Read Your Mind
Get with your girlfriends and it’s clear that you were born with the gift of gab. Communication and feelings flow smoothly. But put your guy-of-the-moment next to you and your verbal abilities seem to vanish, forcing him to become psychic in order to figure you out.

Women — even bright, in-touch, articulate ones — often have a fantasy that if the connection is really special, he should “just know” what you need and what you’re feeling. When it turns out he isn’t clairvoyant, you’re shattered and angry, worrying that his intuitive deficit proves that he doesn’t love or understand you enough or that the relationship is doomed.

“This is magical thinking,” explains Elliot. “It comes from a distorted view of what healthy relationships look like. In healthy relationships, people make their needs and wants known and they are negotiated. To expect anyone to read your mind is not fair. If a person continually falls short of being what you want or doing what you want or satisfying your needs, then perhaps it’s a compatibility issue. Instead of haranguing someone for not anticipating your needs, either make your needs known and see if he’s capable of fulfilling them or pick someone who does what you need without a lot of prompting.”

Tina Tessina, Ph.D., author of Money, Sex, and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, adds that men respond better to direct requests rather than hints. For example: “Honey, will you please take out the garbage?” is far more effective than muttering “I have to do everything around here” as you do the task yourself. Bottom line: men need direct communication to complement their logical minds.

Mistake #4: You Lose Your Identity
It’s wonderful when a guy opens up your world and introduces you to new things, but if you’ve ditched your own hobbies and friends as a result, that’s a problem. “This is a huge mistake that a lot of women make,” says Elliot. “They drop everything for a guy, get lost in the cocooning phase and can’t get out. As a result, they become less interesting to him; worse, if the relationship ends, you end up wondering what happened to your life.”

Patrice Behrend, 41, of Appleton, WI, experienced this firsthand. “I left my career, my house, my family and my two beloved pets with my mom to be with my former fiancĂ©,” says Behrend. “It was a long-distance relationship at first and he said he wouldn’t move, so I did. Then I started helping him out with his business because he didn’t want me working outside of the house. He would only marry me if I got pregnant first, and when we learned we had infertility issues, he didn’t want me telling my friends or anyone about it. After three years together, our relationship finally ended and I was a shell of the strong, confident, vibrant woman I had been.” (Patrice is currently single, pregnant and back to feeling like herself again. She recently started an inspirational jewelry company called Life Medals: www.lifemedals.com.)

Mistake #5: You Push For Closeness
Forcing intimacy on a guy is about the fastest way to get him to spout the dreaded verbal sucker punch: “I need space.” After dating a guy for six months, Doree Lewak, 29, of New York City, started dropping not-so-subtle hints. “I would initiate deep, intense discussions about the nature of marriage,” Lewak says. “I told him that no couple should continue dating beyond a year if they’re not engaged.”

Lewak’s boyfriend understandably felt pressured and wondered if she was more interested in the idea of getting married than in being with him in particular. Women struggle with loneliness and the need for companionship more than men do, says Dunn. Ironically, these women are often attracted to men who aren’t ready to commit or are emotionally unavailable. Trying to rush intimacy never works and will only make a guy feel smothered and ready to back away even further.

Looking back, Lewak thinks she was so eager to get married that the relationship didn’t have a chance to develop naturally. “He sensed my desperation and came to resent it. Eventually, it wore away at our relationship and we broke up — and only now can I attribute it to my over-eagerness to pin him down. Now, thankfully, I appreciate how much more important it is to be with the right person than it is to simply get married to satisfy some arbitrary deadline.”

Christina Frank has written for numerous publications, including Redbook and Shape. Check out her blog,Living in Splitsville: Notes on a Midlife Makeover.

******

So, basically translated, your heroine (and YOU!!) should know this while navigating the treacherous waters of the love ocean:

1. You're not his event planner/PA. You're supposed to be his girl. Full stop.
2. You're supposed to be YOU, not an alive substitute for Prozac.
3. Remember you don't have Las Vegas neon-billboards braodcasting your thoughts on your forehead, privy to his eyes only.
4. You shouldn't become a female carbon copy of him. You're supposed to be YOU.
5. Choose - the bloke, or marriage. Not one with the idea of the latter as the backdrop of your horizon.

I'd love to know your thoughts!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Life as a Juggling & Balancing Act

Sounds like what someone working in a circus would write. Well, would you believe me if I told you the life of a writer often resembles a circus? Why? Because we need to juggle and balance! On most days, all we want to be is the writer blissfully penning tales in her office while the world outside just melts away. However, that's not reality - we're writers yes, but we're also spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, living people! And all of these roles are hard to juggle and balance together, especially if life is giving you a hard time. Equilibrium is the name of the game!
Yes, it's easy to strive for this equilibrium when your life and everything in it is ho-hum. You take the kids to school, make their food and snacks, help with the homework, play those mind-numbing games you wonder why kids like. You welcome the man home. You shower TLC on him (and hopefully he returns some back!). You sit and chat over a cup of coffee while the kids are killing themselves in their room (but that's not your problem currently since you're in couple's time). You sit down and grab a book to read before going to bed, or you turn on the TV and plonk down in front of whatever soapie is airing, wondering how this woman was chasing this guy nine months ago when you last caught this show and how she still hasn't got him even now. Oh no wait, she got him and then she left him for someone else, and now she realises she shouldn't have left him in the first place, and yada yada to make mush out of the remaining brain you still had.

So all this is fine on most days. And then the writer in you pokes her head up. Some call this their muse popping by, or being struck by inspiration. Whatever you call it, the urge to write settles in. On most days, it may just happen that you open that Word doc and stare at the words, asking this woman featured there, uh where did we meet...? And you go, oh yeah, you're the gal who's hooked onto that hunk of a fella, but he isn't looking at you, right? You want me to hitch you together. And that's where you also go, pray tell me how on earth I'll do that!!!

And then there are the days when nothing else exists, nothing but this story inside you that you desperately need to write. Forget chores and welcome a whole family of dust bunnies in your house. There's so much laundry to do you can simply tip the baskets over and have great free-form furniture. And last you checked, no one died from a diet of instant noodles and carbonated drinks.

Yes, this is what you want to do when the writing bug bites you. There's this story screaming to get out, and I mean screaming, as in yelling, screeching, hollering, using one of those sound-magnifying things the police use to call to a hostage taker.
Right next to it something else might be screaming, something you dream of doing - aka my current plight, completing my finals for my degree and write my WIP to completion. Both are eating at my time and my brains, and without a brain, how do you hope to function?

How do you hope to fit life in there?

It's tempting to throw everything out and just focus on what's screaming to be done/written/completed. But that's just a part of you being shown TLC - and you need all of what makes you YOU to be complete!

Life is going on, whether you want it to or not. Things are happening right here, right now. Don't just think of writing away in your bubble, people!
What happens to your kid now is not gonna happen again the same way after you finish penning this story down. The hug and cuddle he wants to give you sounds like a break you don't need from your keyboard, but this may just be what will take this child through another hour with you zoning out in writer land. You think you got your man? Yeah, you do - that's your ring on his finger, innit? Well, get this - a ring is not fixed onto his finger, just like you're not the only woman in the world (well, maybe you're the only woman who will take him with all his pig headedness and lousy bathroom habits and strange food eating ways, but you wanna risk that?) What happens if after you've penned this story, which may not be a masterpiece even, you look around and find that there's a stranger in the house with you? The worst thing is, it's not him the stranger, it's you, because you retired into your world and lost touch with the reality he's been living in.

Want to try to rekindle everything then? Fine, go ahead. If there is anything to rekindle. Cold ashes do not blaze back to life.

So whenever the writing bug bites, you'll feel kinda weird. You want to write, write, write. But remember that you also have to juggle and balance, because unfortunately for us writers, there is also the real world out there and it won't stop existing because we will it to.
Life is going on all around us - don't stop living each and every moment of your existence. That's what living is about!

Bitten by the writing bug, bogged down by laundry, gone over the hill senseless with studies - any of that ever happen to you? How did you create your equilibrium then?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: The Brainstormer

I'm at such a time when trying to think straight is a terrible strain for my brain. I have no idea why everything is piling up this week - my to-do list seems full with stuff and I have no idea where to look and what to do to even make a productive dent.

Strangely, I am writing - at least there I'm lucid. Or maybe you could argue that my mind is so wacked out that this state of affairs is actually conducive to getting a story on paper.

Still, what do you do when you have an inkling for a story but no idea what to do with it? Say, for example, you're struck with this image of this hunky warrior in your mind, or you see this woman alone in a dark, deserted street, or the idea for the perfect title strikes you.

A fellow CP on one of my crit loops posted this link the other day, and I thought it was a fabulous tool for when you're stuck on the brink of a story idea but have no idea where to take it. It's called The Brainstormer. Check it out.

The basic idea is this sort of wheel with different (literally thousands!) possibilities that you spin and watch what combination of themes/ideas it comes up with. You can spin the wheel using the 'Random' button, or you can spin each wheel individually if you already know one aspect of what your story is about. One ring has Theme, one has Location, and one has Story Element.

Try it out - it's a great kick-starter on these dull, brain-won't-work days!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, October 11, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Hastily Looking For A Brain...

Somehow, I knew this day would come this October. Yes - this is a backdated post, going live on Tuesday actually, not Monday. Don't ask me how I didn't find a minute to drop by here and post yesterday - I have no idea how that happened.
But I was expecting it - October is my exam month (first one Monday after next) and I still haven't finished the syllabus for it. Yeah, you read that right. Just so you don't panic for me, I'm always in this 'predicament' before exams. I 'cram' stuff in better when the deadline is right behind my door. Told you I was an adrenalin junkie - my brain seems to power off the stuff.

Still, not exactly a good thing coz I'm considering myself lucky if I can utter 5 complete sentences that make sense in a full day. Brain is fried, neurons are dead, and I took up a challenge with my husband to figure out who will walk the most on the treadmill daily. Insane - but also the only way to get me to move myself off my chair/couch and get some exercise. I'm doing it for health reasons, nothing more. Or else he's never have caught me in that bet! The exercise is killing the rest of me that could still function autonomously!

Speaking of the hubby, I left the kitchen in the darling man's hands during the weekend and as usual when that is the case, I ended up with a bombed-out zone on my hands yesterday to clean. I should've written the exercise off this Monday as the sheer effort I gave to clean the floor, sink, stove and the oven (he only cooked in there for one day!) more than made up for a full body workout.

Anywayz, wish me luck, and forgive me for the late posting. I have one more study unit to go before I complete this module, and damn if I ain't gonna tackle that this week!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, October 08, 2010

Progress Friday

Chugging along nicely with the writing. WIP is standing at a word count figure that's not too shabby, given the current state of things. With studies eating up two-thirds of my time, I'm surprised I'm making any writing progress at all, let alone at the pace I'm moving right now. On average, I'm able to add at least 3K every couple of days. Guess the management thing is working. I never thought I'd become a morning person (well, after I've had coffee!).

Still, not exactly what I'd have wished this week to be like, product-wise. But beggars can't be choosers, and with certain upheavals going on in my personal life at the moment (among others, a death in the family), it's a miracle I'm functioning clearly. Or maybe I'm a stress and adrenalin junkie - I seem to work better when I have a 'deadline' or other such thing to cause worry over me.

I beg off leaving you with new progress on the meter - from 30.7 it moves to 34.7% ( I wonder how I got such a 'round' progress figure from last weeks's!).

Hoping for a sane weekend, but then again, maybe that's asking too much with my entourage.

Have a great weekend, wherever in the world you may be!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Link Thursday: The 6 Worst Things You Can Say To A Guy

Sense and sensibility in guys... *insert screeching disk sound* You mean blokes are sensitive? Yeah, we know that have feelings, well, sometimes, some would say. But many a time, these big great hulking pieces of flesh and bones are just hiding it all, and a simple thing as a misplaced word can hurt. And I mean really hurt! Guys are not like girls - girls know how to deal with emotional stuff, roll with the punches (even if it takes pints of Haagen Dasz, boxes of tissues and endless reruns of Love Actually). But guys don't know how to do that - the stiff upper lip is ingrained in their genetic code.

I saw this article yesterday on MSN Lifestyle, Love & Relationship section. It made me pause to think - I have a special man in my life, I have kids growing to become men, I write about men in my stories.
I'm sure this is the case for most of you, on all or some of these fronts.
The article is by Jessie Knadler.

Here's to penning the type of hero every woman wants to fall in love with!

******

The Six Worst Things You Can Say to a Guy
Insulting his mom or screaming out the name of an ex in the heat of the moment? Yeah, those are bad. But the most damaging mistake you can make is to continuously drop loaded phrases that you don't even realize are harmful.

By Jessie Knadler

You pretty much know when you're being blatantly rude, mean, or crazy around your guy. Hey, it happens. It's when you use seemingly innocent but actually harmful lines that you can cause the worst injury to your relationship. "It's precisely because they're intended to be nice, helpful, or benign that makes them so insidious," says Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., author of Love in 90 Days. "He may not consciously realize how much they bother him, but if a guy is sent these messages long enough, he'll start to shut down." To avoid unwittingly triggering that kind of resentment in him, we compiled the six shadow phrases that can create the most lasting scars. We suggest you eliminate them from your vocabulary ... like, now.

1. "You're so much better than all the other jerks I've dated."
Absolutely, it seems like you're paying him a nice compliment. But when a guy hears this, alarms start going off. "It sounds like something a girl who's had terrible luck in relationships would say," explains professional matchmaker Rachel Greenwald, author of Why He Didn't Call You Back. And since guys tend to be pretty rational, he'll figure out that the one constant in all those awful relationships was you ... so you must be the problem.

That's not all. He'll also assume that since you think everyone you've ever dated is a jerk, you will eventually think he's a jerk too, which provides very little motivation to try to build on your bond.

How do you let him know you value your relationship above all others? Simple. "Don't mention your exes," Greenwald says. "Most men don't want to be reminded of the other men in your life, even — or especially — if they were all jerks." Instead, keep the focus on the present relationship by saying something like "I've never met anyone like you before. I'm having such a wonderful time." That way, you come off as empowered.

2. "Can you really afford that?''
If he's blowing money he doesn't have on cutting-edge electronics, an expensive car, or pricey gifts for you — well, a couple of those are okay — it would seem only natural that you should point out the error of his ways. But most guys tie up a huge part of their self-worth in their finances, so criticizing his money-handling abilities is, to him, the same as calling him a loser. Furthermore, it'll make him associate you with the least sexy, least desirable woman in his life: Mom. "When you communicate a maternal 'I know what's best for you' attitude for long enough, he may even start treating you like his mother," says Jan Hoistad, Ph.D., author of Romance Rehab.

He could react by morphing into a clueless man-child (think of pretty much any dude at the beginning of pretty much any Judd Apatow movie and you'll get the idea). And if that happens, you'll find yourself trapped in a vicious cycle in which you annoy each other endlessly: He'll act out, which will make you nag, which will make him act out, which will make you nag some more, etc.

So if you're engaged, married, or involved in a large joint purchase, pick a neutral time to discuss money with him — in other words, not when you're seething about the five new video games you just spotted on a credit-card statement. Then sit down together, and make a budget with the help of a Website like mint.com.

If, however, you're just dating, what he spends on himself is generally none of your business. Unless, of course, he then proceeds to mooch off you, in which case, you need to question why the hell you're with him in the first place.

3. "So we're running a little late. Relax."
It's almost never good to keep people waiting, but as far as he's concerned, that's not the point. The real issue is that it sounds like you don't care about a pet peeve of his. "It's as if you're telling him he doesn't have a right to be annoyed, which makes him feel like you're rejecting or ignoring his feelings," Greenwald says. What's more, by implying he's the one with the problem, you're triggering an argument. How did you react the last time you were upset and he brushed it off by telling you to chill out?

A better way to handle his pet peeves — whether it's tardiness, slovenliness, or driving too slowly in the left lane — is to make sure that he knows you heard what he's saying. Tell him, "I'm sorry — I know this is important to you. I'll try to be more aware of it next time." Not only will it disarm him enough to avoid a fight, but it'll also reassure him that his feelings are important to you, making him far less likely to feel defensive or hold a grudge.

4. "He's a great guy — you should be friends with him."
Your intentions may be totally innocent: You met someone you thought was cool, you think your guy is cool, so you figure they should be cool together over a beer. But trying to direct his social network will not only make him wonder if there's even more commandeering to come but also instantly make his mind race with jealousy.

After all, why do you care if he's friends with some dude? If it's because the friendship will aid in your own social machinations — the guy is the boyfriend of your best friend; imagine the double dates! — you're being selfish and trying to engineer something that should happen naturally. And if it's just a guy you work with or met while you were out, he'll wonder if you have another agenda. "It can be threatening for him to hear you praise another guy," Kirschner says. "It's like you're saying that it's actually you who wants to be close to him."

If you really think there's potential for a great bromance, arrange a group outing and let things unfold however they may.

5. "She made me promise not to tell, but..."
"Sharing a secret with a guy feels like building intimacy," Kirschner says. "It's a way of letting him know that you trust him so much, you're willing to divulge delicate information." But to him, it may sound more like gossip, a type of conversation that makes most guys not named Perez want to kill themselves.

Okay, if it involves sex, he may find it interesting. But you'll still sound like you take a certain amount of mischievous glee in betraying a friend. She asked you not to tell, and here you are calling attention to the fact that you can't be trusted. Even if you and your guy, like most couples, assume that telling you something is basically the same as telling you and your boyfriend something, you still sound like you're betraying a confidence. And if you can do that to your friend, what's to say you won't do it to him? The result could be his feeling a relationship-killing inclination to be far less open with you in the future.

Of course, there are some secrets you simply have to tell someone. So when you do, pay him a compliment first. Saying "I'm only telling you this because I trust you to keep a secret" will both show him that you care about respecting your friend's wishes and make him feel like he's part of the secret instead of an outlet for it.

6. "Don't be silly — I haven't done that in ages."
What, just because you're coupled up, you can't dance until 4 a.m ... or take a spontaneous road trip with your friends for some sun? Yes, we understand that you may want to downshift some of your wild ways once you're in a long-term, committed relationship. But telling your guy that something is behind you forever is basically like saying, "I used to be fun. Now I'm not." He'll immediately envision a future filled with nothing but egg whites, boring sex, and weekend nights spent at home in front of the TV.

He may have seen you get wild and crazy when you first started dating ... or at least heard stories from your friends. So if you suddenly become a homebody, he'll wonder why you were willing to be wild during your single days — even if you weren't — and assume that there's something about him that makes you dispassionate and tame. "A lot of people fall into what I call checklist thinking," Kirschner says. "They think they should behave a certain way to match where they are in life, so to them, doing keg stands is not committed-relationship behavior. And that type of black-and-white, 'that was then, this is now' thinking lays the groundwork for a dull relationship."

Even if you do tend to stay home on Friday nights watching DVDs together, guys want to think that you're night-clubbing, prank-pulling love machines who are simply choosing to take it easy. So a better way to talk about your desire to "grow up" is to discuss what you're into now without mentioning the past. Excitedly talk about a dinner party you want to plan or a museum exhibit you'd love to see. Just never forget how much fun it is to make the occasional prank call.

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Reconciling Backstory & Info Dumping

Here comes the second leg of my writing posts on Backstory, which I started last week using pop culture examples.

Backstory. The word alone is enough to send many writers running for cover. Why? Because it's supposedly not to be done, it's to be avoided, it's nothing but a worthless dumping, it doesn't help you--

Stop it right there!! You need backstory. Why? Just think of who you are. You meet someone new and he/she asks, who are you? You go, I am this and that and that. How did the 'this and that and that' come about? It's been shaped by what you've experienced and been through. In short, it's your backstory.

Now imagine meeting this new character in a book. You need to root for this person, feel for her, empathize with her. For this, you need to know her, and how do you do that if you have absolutely no idea who she is and what she's been through?

The big question that comes up at this stage of the reflexion is - how much is too much?

Well, you can find yourself spewing 3 pages of her life story - Mary was born in Bromley in Kent on the outskirts of London on May 14, 1978 to a plumber father and a housewife mom; did her schooling at St Catherine's School for girls; got her degree at the London School of Economics with honours and went to work for Hensley and Scarbridge, the biggest investment firm in the City right after she graduated. Along the way, Mary dated Nate and then they broke up and she went out with Steve, but this too didn't work out and she tried her luck with Mike but this too failed and now she's single again in this big town.

Come on guys - backstory doesn't mean you're writing her obituary! There are ways of giving this info without needing to drone on and on and without dumping a pile of information on your reader.

A good way of adding backstory is through conversation. A good/trusted friend engages your character in a conversation when they are, say, on the way to meet a medium whom they hope will tell Mary when Mr. Right will cross her path. Using the information you have on Mary, you weave this through the dialogue. For example, her friend may go -
"Drop the Catholic guilt, Mary. Going to see a medium is not a cardinal sin. For a girl who graduated from LSE with honours, you can be so daft at times!"

That's about 3 lines in your story, yet check to see how much info it has already conveyed on Mary. This can even be your opening line, and you get to know all this before Mary even makes her appearance and opens her mouth.

The key to escape the info dump with backstory is to weave it through. Whether through dialogue or through little reflections on the character's behalf along the way, you plant little seedlings of backstory that after a while, bloom into the big picture for your reader.

Avoiding the info dump is also about showing rather than telling. Consider the above example again - the first 'obituary' told you who Mary was, while second showed you who she is (the catholic guilt being mentioned - shows she is nervous and maybe having second thoughts about the trip.)

Any questions, feel free to holler!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: A Touch of Indian Fun!

Ao, jhoome, gaae, nach kare!

Lol, not making much sense? I'm asking you to come enjoy yourself, sing a little, and make merry, but all in Hindi!

As most of you know by now, I write culture-based fiction with Mauritian culture as the base. But the thing is, the Mauritian culture I am most conversant with is the Indian culture, since my ancestors came from there. Indian-origin Mauritians are just another facet of the diaspora across the world.

It's no wonder that I'm a rabid fan of Indian movies, Bollywood as it's known. The particularity of these movies? They're almost always (99.9%) musicals. The soundtrack of a movie can make or break it, and sometimes the music is a hit while the movie is a flop.

I heard this song over the weekend and I immediately thought of the heroine in my current WIP. She too is a Desi Girl. That's the way of calling an Indian girl - desi being the adjective derived from the word des or desh, which means the homeland/motherland of India.

Listening to the lyrics and watching this clip was a load of fun! Here it is for you, and lo and behold, I even found translation for the lyrics (Courtesy of http://www.bollyfm.net/).
The clip is from the movie Dostana. The story basically is about the two blokes (Abhishek Bachan, who wears the black waistcoat, and John Abraham, the other hunk who happens to be a former Indian supermodel converted to acting) and this girl (Priyanka Chopra, former Miss India and Miss World). Set in Miami, the two guys are looking for the perfect flat, which they do find. The catch - the landlady has her niece coming over to stay in the flat across the landing (Priyanka) and doesn't want to let the flat to 2 blokes. In order to get the flat, the guys pretend they're a gay couple. Everyone thinks they're an item, including Priyanka, but each is trying everything to make her fall for him! Needless to say, there's laughter galore in this one!

Now check the clip, and jhoome aur nach kare!

Side note - Priyanka is wearing a sari in there, which traditionally is wrapped around the legs and tied around the hips, below the navel. See why Indian girls need hips, a little belly flab, and love handles? Or else their saris won't hold on flat, non-existent hips!
Second side note - John Abraham (the one in the dark grey, opened shirt), is the man I see when I close my eyes and picture the second man in the love triangle I have set up in the WIP! :)




These are the lyrics, with the translation:

Translated Lyrics
Male:

My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl
Girl Girl Girl Girl……
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl
Girl Girl Girl Girl……

Jhoomka Girade
(IF) SHE DROPS HER DANGLING EARRINGS
Jo Mila Le Agar Woh Nazar Se Nazar Mitade
(IF) SHE MEETS YOUR GLANCE, SHE'LL DESTROY YOU

Nachke Dikhade
(IF) SHE DANCES
Sabki Dhadhkan Bhi Kadam Se Kadam Milade
EVERYONES HEARTBEATS WILL MATCH HER FOOTSTEPS

Verse 1:
Lehron Se Chal Ke Jaal Bicha De
SHE'LL WALK ON WAVES AND SET A TRAP
Dil Ko Ye Behaal Banade:
SHE'LL UNREST YOUR HEART
Saare Deewane Maane
ALL THE CRAZED ONES BELIEVE
Na Dekhi Koi Aisi Girl
THEY'VE NEVER SEEN SUCH A GIRL
Na Dekhi Koi Aisi Girl
THEY'VE NEVER SEEN SUCH A GIRL

Chorus:

Dekhi Lakh Lakh Pardesi Girl
I'VE SEEN A MILLION FOREIGN GIRLS
Ain’t Nobody Like My Desi Girl
AIN'T NOBODY LIKE MY INDIAN GIRL

Dekhi Lakh Lakh Pardesi Girl
I'VE SEEN A MILLION FOREIGN GIRLS
Sab Toh Soni Na Saadi Desi Girl
EVERYONE IS PRETTY BUT THE SIMPLEST IS INDIAN GIRL

Who’s The Hottest Girl In The World
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

Thumka Lagaike She’ll Rock Your World
WITH A HIP THRUST (AS IN A DANCE), SHE'LL ROCK YOUR WORLD
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

Verse 2:
Ade Kamar Pe Jo Nazar
IF YOU GLANCE AT HER WAIST
Saare Saapnon Mein Rang Bhar Jaaye
ALL YOUR DREAMS WILL BE FILLED WITH COLOR
Jo Tham Le Woh Haath Toh
IF SHE HOLDS YOUR HAND
Huske Hi Aashiq Mar Jaayein
THE LOVER WILL DIE SMILING

Female:
Dhoondon Jahan Mein Chahe Kahin
NO MATTER WHERE YOU SEARCH IN THE WORLD
Na Tumko Milegi Koi Aisi Girl
YOU FILL NOT FIND SUCH A GIRL

Male:
Dekhi Lakh Lakh Pardesi Girl
Ain’t Nobody Like My Desi Girl

Dekhi Lakh Lakh Pardesi Girl
Sab Toh Soni N Saadi Desi Girl

Who’s The Hottest Girl In The World
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

Thumka Lagaike She’ll Rock Your World
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl
Girl Girl Girl Girl……

Female:
Jahan Jahan Bhi Jau Main
WHEREVER I GO
Saari Nazrein Toh Peche Peche Aiye
ALL EYES FOLLOW ME
Ruku Zara Mein Jo Yahan
IF I STOP FOR A WHILE HERE
Thandi Thandi Saari Saase Tham Jaye
EVERYONE HEAVES A COLD SIGH
Sabki Nigahon Ne Hai Kaha
EVERYONE'S EYES HAVE SAID
Ke Khwaabon Mein Hai Dekhi Meri Jaisi Girl
THAT IN THEIR DREAMS THEY'VE SEEN A GIRL LIKE ME
Meri Jaisi Girl
A GIRL LIKE ME

Dekhi Lakh Lakh Pardesi Girl
Ain’t Nobody Like A Desi Girl

Dekhi Lakh Lakh Pardesi Girl
Sab Toh Soni Lagdi Desi Girl

Who’s The Hottest Girl In The World

Male:
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

Female:
Thumka Lagaike She’ll Rock Your World

Male:
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

Jhoomka Girade
Jo Mila Le Agar Woh Nazar Se Nazar Mitade

Nachke Dikhade
Sabki Dhadhkan Bhi Kadam Se Kadam Milade
Lehron Se Chaal Ke Jaal Bicha De
Dil Ko Yu Behaal Banade
Saare Deewane Maane
Na Dekhi Koi Aisi Girl

Na Dekhi Koi Aisi Girl

Dekhi Lakh Lakh Pardesi Girl
Ain’t Nobody Like My Desi Girl

Dekhi Lakh Lakh Pardesi Girl
Sab Toh Soni N Saadi Desi Girl

Who’s The Hottest Girl In The World
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

Thumka Lagaike She’ll Rock Your World
My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl

My Desi Girl
My Desi Girl
Girl Girl Girl Girl……

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee
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