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Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
Writing and Writer’s Tools

I have a selection of interesting posts and info today.

The first is a link to Holt Uncensored that talks about ten mistakes writers make. This post makes for interesting reading and serves as a good reminder of the basics.

For those of you who like gadgets, Paperback Writer has a post about shareware and freeware especially for writers.

At Novelist Inc. Joe Nassise tells us about another writing tool, one to help in backing up a work in progress and for syncing on two different computers.

And finally for both readers and writers: I did my answers for an interview today. One of the questions was: if you could choose one dessert, what would it be? My answer, after much deliberation, was ice cream. Which dessert would you choose?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
New Zealand: Cabbage Tree

I’ve mentioned the cabbage tree in several of my books. It’s a native New Zealand tree and part of the lily family, the largest one in fact. The official scientific name is Cordyline australis and the Maori name is Tî râkau or Tî kôuka. It has a single trunk and the leaves are long strips. The leaves hang in rounded bunches and look like huge pom-poms.

Early settlers used them as a subsitute for cabbage (the heart part of the leaves), hence the common name cabbage tree. They grow in various parts of the world and tolerate the cold. I’ve seen them when I’ve visited other countries. There’s even one on Alcatraz Island. We have some growing in our garden, although it’s not good to run over the leaves with the lawn mower because they’re fibrous. That’s asking for trouble!

The trees grow up to forty feet high, although the ones around where I live are on the short side. They’re not very old. During recent years lots of cabbage trees have died because of a disease called ‘Sudden Decline’, caused by the pathogen Phytoplasma australiense. The disease makes the leaves fall, leaving a pathetic looking trunk behind.

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This is a cabbage tree – the one with the long strip-like leaves.

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These are mountain cabbage trees. Hubby and I took this photo during our recent trip to Tongarairo National Park.

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This is a shot of our Parliament buildings in Wellington, affectionately known as the Beehive because of its shape. Notice the row of cabbage trees planted in front.

When I think of New Zealand trees a cabbage tree is one that always springs to mind, along with the mighty Kauri tree (a topic for another post), the pohutakawa and the kowhai trees. (both pretty flowering trees).

When you think about plants and trees native to your area which ones do you think of? Have you seen a cabbage tree in your country?

Saturday, February 14th, 2009
Fingers, Butter and Choices

Mr. Munro is on the injured list at the moment. He jammed his finger in a shipping container after a fumigation yesterday and is feeling miserable. He has to go for x-rays tomorrow but meanwhile has it strapped and the doctors have given him drugs. I feel so sorry for him but there’s nothing I can do. He didn’t sleep well last night. Hopefully some of the drugs the doctor gave him will help with that tonight.

The Body Shop has a mega sale on body butter. I’m a huge fan of their body butter and have purchased a large supply to last me for the entire year. I use it in lieu of perfume and have, in times of desperation, used it to tame frizzy hair. It works like a charm. Does anyone else like body butter?

I went to the local mall today and saw a billboard sign. The text captured my attention rather than the product it was advertising. I think it was alcohol of some description. Anyway, the text said: would you rather walk in on your parents or have your parents walk in on you?

An interesting dilemma. I know which I’d choose. I’d rather have my parents walk in on me. Some things just sear to the eyeballs, and I reckon this is one of them. I’d rather it wasn’t my retinas imprinted with the scene!! What about you?

Friday, February 13th, 2009
Love is…

I’m blogging over at Access Romance today, and since it’s Valentine’s Day in New Zealand, I’m talking about love. Here’s the link to the Access Romance blog.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Do you celebrate and if so, what do you do to celebrate this special day for lovers?

Thursday, February 12th, 2009
An Eye for An Eye

Thursday Thirteen

I had a couple of topics ready to do a TT, but I’m feeling grumpy and a bit bloodthirsty today so I decided to do my TT on REVENGE.

1. Some philosophers would give a sex to revenge, and appropriate it almost exclusively to the female mind. But, like most other vices, it is of both genders; yet, because wounded vanity and slighted love are the two most powerful excitements to revenge, it has been thought, perhaps, to rage with more violence in the female heart. ~ Charles Caleb Colton

2. An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind. ~ Ghandi.

3. Revenge is a bitch. ~ Anonymous

4. Live well. It is the greatest revenge. ~ The Talmud

5. Revenge converts a little right into a great wrong. ~ German Proverb

6. Well, remember what you said, because in a day or two, I’ll have a witty and blistering retort! You’ll be devastated THEN! ~ Calvin & Hobbes

7. You cannot get ahead while you are getting even. ~ Dick Armey

8. Revenge is often like biting a dog because the dog bit you. ~ Austin O’Malley

9. Don’t get mad, get even. ~ Robert F Kennedy

10. Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavor, metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned. ~ Charlotte Bronte

11. That old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing. ~ Martin Luther King Jnr.

12. Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. ~ Confucius

13. Revenge… is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion. ~ Albert Schweitzer

I’m sure like most people, you’ve thought about revenge and maybe carried it out. It’s human. I mean I kill people off in books all the time… Just sayin’…
What do you think about revenge? Good, bad or ugly?

Monday, February 9th, 2009
Love Scenes: Risque Business!

I’ve just finished reading a book by a fairly well-known author. The writing was solid. The characterization good. The dialogue made me chuckle in a few places, and then I reached the love scenes…

Most of the love scenes took place on horseback. Now I’ve ridden a horse before. I know anything is possible, but honestly, when the hero and heroine started having anal sex on horseback (the heroine was a virgin and they were in the middle of nowhere with the baddies after them) I was ready to throw the book at the wall. The love scenes were also really long. The characters chit-chatted for so long while doing the deed I became bored and lost track of who was doing what. Pages and pages of chit-chat during a love scene does not work. I fast forwarded to find more of the same. After that I became cranky and started to notice the plot holes in the story.

My love scenes range from a paragraph to half a page to several pages. It depends on the characters, the story and what stage the relationship is at. I like to change it up when it comes to length. When it comes to location: bedroom, kitchen, hallway, outside, spa pool, a tent, a vehicle, mountains, sea, space ship… A horse or other similar moving object such as camel or elephant–no, because it doesn’t strike me as safe or sane even though it might be possible. Animals are unpredictable creatures and I keep thinking about the injuries…

So, my question for you is: how long do you like the love scenes to be in a romance? What is the strangest location you’ve read/written in a romance? Are there locations that make you go ewww!?

Thursday, February 5th, 2009
G-g-ghost Towns!

Thursday Thirteen

My first introduction to ghost towns was on TV. New Zealand doesn’t tend to have many ghost towns. We’re people who believe in recycling and we take our buildings with us when we leave! I remember Shaggy, Scooby and the gang exploring ghost towns and the baddies running after them. I remember the Brady Bunch going on a road trip and getting stuck at a ghost town. When we visited the US, hubby and I were determined to see some of the real thing, and we did–until we were both ghost towned out!

Here are Thirteen Ghost Towns:

1. But first – the official definition of a ghost town is a place where people once lived and deserted for some reason or another – usually it’s to do with economics and a town no longer producing enough work to support the population. We usually think of them as historic sites but there are modern ghost towns too.

2. Kolmanskop, Namibia

People rushed to the Namib desert to make an easy fortune and a town, complete with a casino, school, hospital and exclusive residential buildings, was established in the barren sandy desert. The diamonds gave out and the town was abandoned. Drifts of sand fill the buildings these days.

3. Bodie, USA

This is one of my favorites. The entire town is well preserved and in the middle of nowhere. It took ages to drive there and I remember the heat! I understand it’s pretty cold there during the winter. The people walked out when the gold ran out. At its peak around 10,000 lived there and it was a town with a bad reputation. One little girl, whose family was taking her to the remote and infamous town, wrote in her diary: “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.” This phrase came to be known throughout the west.

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And here’s a photo of me at Bodie.

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4. Prypiat Ukraine

Prypiat is an abandoned city in the Zone of alienation in northern Ukraine. It was home to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers, abandoned in 1986 following the Chernobyl disaster. Its population was approx 50,000 prior to the accident.

5. San Zhi Taiwan

This futuristic pod village was initially built as a luxury vacation retreat for the rich. However, after numerous fatal accidents during construction, building was halted and not completed.

6. Craco, Italy

Between 1892 and 1922 over 1,300 people moved from the town to North America. Poor farming, earthquakes, landslides, and War – all contributed to this mass migration.

7. Bam, Iran

This is another I’ve visited, although I don’t have any digital photos to show you. The modern city sprawled around the old abandoned mud city and both were mostly destroyed during the 2000 earthquake. It was a simply amazing place and I’m so glad I got to see it intact.

8. Oradour-sur-Glane, France

This is one ghost town with a horrid history. The occupants of the village were massacred by German soldiers as punishment for the French Resistance. It is left to stand as a memorial to the dead.

9. Gunkanjima, Japan

In 1890 when a company called Mitsubishi bought the island and began a project to retrieve coal from the bottom of the sea. Petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960’s, and coal mines began shutting down. Hashima’s mines were no exception. The town has been used for the 2003 film ‘Battle Royale II’ and inspired the final level of popular Asian videogame “Killer7”.

10. Famagusta, Cyprus

The Turkish Army gained control of the area during the war. They fenced it off and have since refused admittance to anyone except Turkish military and United Nations personnel. The Annan Plan had provided for the return of Varosha to Greek Cypriot control, but this never happened. No repairs have been carried out for 34 years, and all of the buildings are slowly falling apart.

11. Agdam, Azerbaijan

It was once a thriving city of 150,000 people, but it fell victim to vandalism while occupied by Armenians. The buildings are gutted and empty.

12. Kadykchan, Russia

When the Soviet Union collapsed, residents were forced to move to gain access to services like running water, schools and medical care. The state moved them out, and they were taken to other towns and provided with new housing. Once a tin mining town of 12,000 people, the city is now desolate.

13. Rhyolite, Nevada, USA

I visited this ghost town last year. It’s an old gold mining town and once again, it was in the middle of nowhere and an unpleasantly hot place to eat our picnic lunch. Trees, anyone???? It’s near Death Valley, btw, which was why it was so hot. The financial panic of 1907 caused the town to go bust.

Here’s a shot of one of the banks.

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Have you visited a ghost town? If so, where? If not, what’s your favorite TV show/movie featuring a ghost town?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
A Day at Munro House

I’ve been busy writing, editing, sending off queries and judging my pile of books for the RITAs. It’s unpleasantly hot here in New Zealand at the moment with today being the hottest so far. Scotty is really feeling the heat, too. Poor thing, although it doesn’t affect her appetite. She is still in possession of Dexter’s basket (see my post on The Curious Series of Events to get the scoop). Dexter hasn’t turned up to claim it so that’s good. I don’t think Scotty would be happy to see it disappear like her old basket.

Mr. Munro is still dragging me out of bed at an ungodly hour each morning to go for a walk, and we go for another after dinner. He’s determined to lose weight and is even having beerless days. I know he’s really serious when that happens. I have to say that my clothes feel a tad looser so maybe giving up an hour or so of sleep is a good thing.

We’ve booked a holiday to Samoa and that’s something to look forward to in a few months. Mr. Munro also came home with a very fat travel brochure today so we can plan a holiday for next year. We did intend to go to Nashville and that side of the US while taking in the RWA conference, but our exchange rate has taken a hit. When we went to the US last year the rate was around .78 and it’s sitting at .51 at the moment. Not good news for us or another US trip. Instead we’re looking at exotic places like Namibia, South Africa, Portugal and India. We both love the planning stage of trips and it makes for a very interesting dinner conversation. “What about xy?” one of us will suggest. “Yes, or we could go to zz.” the other will say.
LOL – we might win Lotto too. That would help!

I’m pretty sure a new scavenger hunt starts at The Samhellion today and I’m one of the authors. Check it out at The Samhellion and don’t forget there’s a new free story out each day to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

And finally, I’m guest blogging at We Write Romance. Here’s the link.

What’s happening at your place?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
A Reason to Diet

Last week I taped a travel show because hubby and I are considering where we might visit next and some of the destinations looked interesting.

Singleton in Australia is one of the places they visited. It’s in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales and is known for the wife carrying competition.

Wife carrying originated in Finland. The sport is thought to originate from two historic tales. The first is a 19th century legend has it that men stole wives from neighboring villages. In a second tale, an outlaw named Rosvo-Ronkainen made potential soldiers prove themselves in a race where they carried heavy sacks. The result is the wife carrying contest.

The rules are fairly simple: everyone involved must have fun. Competitors don’t have to carry their own wives. Rules state that a part­icipant may carry his own wife, his neighbor’s wife or someone he found “farther afield.” The onl­y stipulation is that the wife must be more than 17 years of age and weigh a minimum o­f 108 pounds (49 kg). If the wife weighs less than that, she must carry a weighted rucksack to make up the difference. The official length of the track is 831 feet (253.5 meters). The surface of the track includes sections of sand, grass and gravel. There are two obstacles to climb over, as well as a 1-meter- (3.2-feet-) deep water obstacle to wade through.

Last year, Anthony Partridge and Angela Moore, both from Singleton, came fifth in the World Championship with a time of 70 seconds. The world record stands at 55.5 seconds and is held by a couple from Tallinn in Estonia.

There are three methods of carrying a wife – the traditional piggy back, the fireman’s lift and the Estonia lift, which is shown in the video.

Hubby took one took at the screen, he looked at me and then said, “I hope you realize I’d never lift you.”
I said, “I’d never let you carry me around like that.” We looked at each other, grinned and settled back to watch TV. Neither of us have any desire to try the sport.

Would you like to try wife carrying?

Monday, February 2nd, 2009
Getting the Word Out!

One of the most difficult things for a writer is the promotion side of the business. There’s so many variables with promotion, and it’s hard to gauge what works and what doesn’t because royalties are often received months after the event. Sometimes it’s hard for a writer to juggle the time because there’s no doubt about it, promotion is a huge timesuck! It’s also difficult to know what will work for you. Each writer and book is different, and what works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Today I’d like to look at the pros and cons of promotion companies where the writer pays a company or individual to do their promotion for them. The theory is that this will free the writer to do what he or she does best. Write.

Advantages of a Promotion Company

1. They take over the chore of promotion for an author and therefore the stress.
2. A writer can save time and focus on their writing.
3. They (supposedly) have expertise and know exactly how to tailor a promotion for an author.
4. They can take care of both online and “real world” promotion, depending on the company.
5. A company can tailor make a package to meet your special needs.
6. A promo company knows all the right places to promote and all the posting rules on loops.
7. They can also help with printing needs i.e. banners, postcards, bookmarks etc.

Disadvantages/Cons of a Promotion Company

1. They can be expensive.
2. Some readers consider promotion posts are SPAM and delete them unread.
3. Sometimes overbooking clients can mean all clients are at a disadvantage and don’t get value for money.

Here are some links to a few author promotion companies:

Topaz Promotions
Millennium Promotion Services
Heartfelt Promos

In addition to promotion companies are author communities. These are groups of writers who pay to belong to a community. The owners of the community promote the authors together and individually. The theory is that a group of authors will attract readers and hopefully those reader visitors will discover new authors. Once again, it can be expensive to join a community and all communities are not equal. Some are over committed and not very good at communication. Some don’t attract readers as well as others. Some communities such as Writerspace attract large numbers of readers and have thousands of readers receiving their newsletters.

Some examples are:

Author Island
Writerspace
Access Romance
The Romance Studio
Eye On Romance
Fresh Fiction
I Read Romance

I am a current member of Access Romance, which I really like. They’re pleasant and efficient with a professionally run website. I’m also with Erotic Romance Writers, a sister site of I Read Romance. I found the owner friendly and efficient and the cost is very reasonable. I joined these two communities to help spread the word about my new releases, to gain traffic to my website and hopefully gain more name recognition. It’s hard to tell if I’ve achieved the name recognition, but my website traffic is up on this time last year, and I think more readers know about my releases. I’ve also had favorable dealings with Author Island and Fresh Fiction.

Readers: I’d like to know if you enjoy visiting author communities, and if you visit them on a regular basis. What is it that attracts you to the communities and which are your favorites?
Authors: Have you had dealings with either promtion companies or author communites? Good or bad? Do you have any questions?