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Monday, November 17th, 2008
Birds and Bees

I’ve been going to post this for ages. It’s an ad shot in Auckland (you’ll see quick glimpses of Sky Tower and the waterfront from Mission Bay) and it’s very cute. It never fails to make me laugh.

There’s a new version of the ad playing at the moment with the daughter asking her mother where she came from. The above version flashes through the mother’s head, then she turns to her daughter and says, “Ask your father.” That makes me laugh, too. I looked for it on Youtube but it’s a bit too new at the moment.

Well, it’s back to the writing cave for me. Things are going well. If you feel inclined, tell me who told you about the birds and bees…

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Characteristics of a Good Website

Michael Hyatt, the president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers has an interesting blog post about websites. He ran several author websites through WebsiteGrader to see how their websites performed.

I scored an 84, which shows room for improvement. I lost marks for too many images. Mr Hyatt’s post is very interesting and concludes that a slick website doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic.

This test made me think about the characteristics of a good website. I did a little online research and came up with the following list:

1. Good keywords – these are words that describe your site and what you do. For example I’m a romance author.

2. A simple design – nothing too complicated. Keep your page simple and on topic.

3. Easy naviagtion – don’t confuse your visitors. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.

4. Fresh content – update on a regular basis and give your readers something new to look at. Give them a reason to come back. Keep the content short and organize it.

5. The Wow factor – make your page different and original. Make it stand out from the crowd.

6. Optimized – make your website search-engine friendly by using page titles and meta tags.

How did you do with the test? Do you have author websites you return to time and time again? What keeps you going back?

Monday, November 10th, 2008
Busy Weekend: Turtles, Elections and Animals

Mr. Munro and I haven’t had such a busy weekend for ages. We’re both glad the week is here so we can have a rest.

Our night with the turtles turned out to be a lot of fun. As well as seeing turtles, we had a behind the scenes tour, watched the antics of the penguins as they stole nesting rocks from each other and sat on their eggs. We watched the stingrays being fed and wandered around looking at all the fish. I really like the fact that Kelly Tarltons focuses on New Zealand fish rather than having tanks of tropical fish. We ended up sleeping next to the seahorses. All the kids headed for the sharks and we decided we’d like to sleep!

I haven’t had a chance to download my photos yet but will post some as soon as I’m organized.

On Saturday it was our election day. Mr. Munro and I did our civic duty and voted. The polling booth was busy but very efficient, and we were in and out in ten minutes. We are both thrilled with the result and pleased with our new Prime Minister elect, John Key. Neither of us liked the way our country was going and it’s obvious that many other New Zealanders felt the same way.

On Sunday we attended the Clevedon agricultural show. I had an awesome time watching the horses perform, going around all the cattle, goats, pigs, donkeys etc and checking out the food and wine. I also had a back to childhood moment at the sideshows, lining up with the kids to have a turn shoving balls into a clowns mouth. Hey, I won a yo-yo. It’s a very cool yo-yo because it glows in the dark. I’ve decided I need a miniature donkey. They are SO cute!! I have photos from the show, too.

As well as all this excitement I managed to keep up with my daily word quota and hit the 50,000 word mark. I’m very proud of myself.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
Oldies But Goodies

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I went to town. Of course, I couldn’t resist visiting Whitcoulls. (the store I mentioned here)

While I was there, I purchased season two and three of Deadwood (my love of Deadwood and several photos of the town are here).

The shop assistant and I started talking about the Deadwood series and I told her how Mr. Munro and I had originally watched the first program of series one and were horrified by the swearing. I said how we’d visited Deadwood and decided we’d try to watch the series again. Obviously she didn’t need to know we’d fallen in love with the series this time – she could work that out for herself! But we started talking about all the old Western shows that are starting to come out on DVD. Shows like Bonanza, Petticoat Junction and Daniel Boone.

My father loved Westerns. He still does, and if Daniel Boone was on we had an early dinner then all sat down to watch it as a family. Another assistant joined the conversation and we started talking about Fess Parker who starred in Daniel Boone. She said she’d seen him on TV recently, and despite his advanced age, the man was still a hunk.

This is my long-winded way of asking what shows you enjoyed during your childhood. I liked cartoons and still do with The Flintstones and The Jetsons being some of my favorites. Doctor Who, and the daleks in particular, used to scare me silly, and Lost in Space wasn’t far behind in the scary stakes. What can I say? I’m a big wimp!

What shows do you consider oldies but goodies? And for you Doctor Who fans out there – who do you think they’ll cast as the new doctor?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Plain Wrong.

I went to my local town today to post parcels and do a few other things. A couple of the stores have Christimas trees in the windows and are in full-out Christimas advertising mode. We also have a few Christmas adverts on TV. No doubt the first of many to come.

I think it’s plain wrong to think about Christmas in early November. The year is going quickly enough as it is.

Am I the only one who thinks this way? Which date do you think Christmas promotions should officially start?

Monday, November 3rd, 2008
One of Those Days!

I hope my Monday isn’t indicative of the week to come because I didn’t enjoy it. Nothing really bad happened, just lots of little things that on their own would have been okay, but together made me grumpy. I’m going to have a late night trying to get my word total done for the day. Sigh…

Good luck to everyone who is taking part in NaNoWriMo this month. I see another Sweat with Sven challenge is about to start as well.

I’ve tried these types of writing challenges and have found they don’t work for me. I write at a fairly steady pace anyway and something formal like the above mentioned or a book in a month challenge seems to play with my head. I work better on my own. That said, I am pushing fairly hard for the next month to complete a 90,000 word manuscript. Apart from today I’ve been going pretty well, and if everything continues this way, I should have my first draft done by the start of the month.

Do writing challenges like National Novel Writing Month, Book in a Month or Sweat With Sven work for you, and if so why? Why not? Are you doing NaNo this year?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
Pumpkins and Kitchen Gadgets

I promised Gabriele a pumpkin soup recipe. There are lots of variations of pumpkin soup. I make a vegetarian version and leave out the bacon. I replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

knob of butter and a little olice oil
1 onion chopped
3 – 4 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons mild curry paste (I use curry powder)
3 – 4 rashers of bacon, rind removed and chopped
1/2 cup buttercup pumpkin pieces, peeled and seeded
5 cups chicken stock or 4 cups stock and 1 of water
light seasoning of salt and fresh ground black pepper
coconut cream to garnish (I use plain greek yoghurt)
fresh herbs such as coriander or thyme for garnish

Place the butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until softened with a gentle heat. Add curry paste and when fragrant (allow about 30 seconds) add the chopped bacon and pumpkin pieces.

Constantly turn the pumpkin to avoid catching. Add stock and cook until the pumpkin softens. Once cooked process with a kitchen whizz until smooth. Season and garnish with coconut cream and fresh herbs.

Note – this soup always tastes better the next day so make it in advance if possible.

And in totally random news – I saw an ad for some new pots. The knobs come off the pot lids. The handles also come off and this allows for easy stacking in cupboards and also the dishwasher. They also have these nifty plastic lids so you can stick them in the fridge. They also come in frypans. I saw some in our local kitchen soup. Man, I’m in love. I’m lusting after these pots, and unfortunately, they’re expensive. I’m not big on kitchen gadgets, preferring to do most things by hand, but I really want these pots!

Do you like kitchen gadgets? Kitchenware shops?

Thursday, October 30th, 2008
A Large Muscular Bag…

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about STOMACHS

I bet that title made you look. My post today is about stomachs, mainly because mine has been center-stage recently. I’m working to reduce the size of it. (on the outside) So, what is a stomach?

1. The stomach is a muscular organ. It can change its shape depending on the amount of food in it.

2. When you eat, food from your mouth goes down a tube called the esophagus into your stomach, where it is stored temporarily, then later digested. As the food arrives, the stomach wall starts its glands working. One type of gland gives off a mucus that lubricates the food. Other glands give off acids which kill any bacteria in the food; while still others give off special chemicals, called enzymes, to break down the food into tiny particles. (which sort of takes the shine off eating a chocolate bar!)

3. Tall, thin people usually have long, narrow stomachs, while short, stocky people have short, wide stomachs.

4. Most adults’ stomachs hold about one quart of liquid and food.

5. Once a female is past her teens, the stomach is naturally rounded.

6. Once you are an adult, your stomach pretty much remains the same size — unless you have surgery to intentionally make it smaller. Eating less won’t shrink your stomach. (I’m thinking that’s inside your body because outside you could lose some of the fat off it, right?)

7. I consulted my favorite characterization book, Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon for some stomach descriptors. There are flabby stomachs, spare tire stomachs, love-handles.

8. beer-bellied stomachs

9. flat stomachs

10. middle-age spread stomachs

11. pendulous stomachs

12. toned stomachs

13. And my favorite – washboard stomachs.

14. Oh, and pregnant tummies. :grin:

What do you think of stomachs? If you’re a writer what sort of stomachs do you give your heroes and heroines, your secondary characters? Do you like your stomach?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

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Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
How Do You Keep Track of Your Characters?

Here’s a question for all you writers out there – both aspiring and published. How do you keep track of a character’s physical attributes, their quirks and baggage? Their family history?

I’m forever forgetting what color eyes I’ve given my characters and little things like that. It’s becoming even more difficult now that I’m thinking about writing book eight in my Middlemarch Mates series.

So, how do you keep track of your characters? Spreadsheets? Notebooks? File cards? An incredible memory? A software program? How do you do it?

PS – Don’t forget to check out Christina Phillips post (just down the page a couple of posts) about how her witchy heroine came to her in a dream. Post a comment and go into a draw to win a download of her debut release.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008
Portrait of San Francisco

San Francisco would have to be one of my favorite cities to visit. I’m running a bit short of time today so I thought I’d post a few photos from our recent trip. I think I like San Francisco so much because of its situation on the sea. The hills are killers to walk up and down. Believe me, I know because Mr. Munro made me walk up and down several!

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The Golden Gate Bridge is an icon and known worldwide. During the summer months it’s also often shrouded in fog.

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Pier 39 is a fun place to wander. Lots of great ways to empty the wallet here! This is a shot of the merry-go-round. A shot of the resident sealions follows. You can smell them before you see them.

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Coit Tower is another icon. It’s fun to climb to the top and see the views of the city.

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This is a shot of Lombard Street. This end of Lombard Street is known as the crookedest street. It’s also very steep. There are traffic jams here as tourists queue to drive down the crooked street and grab a photo or two.

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Alcatraz Island is known worldwide. A trip out to the island jail is fascinating, although you need to book well ahead. This is a very popular trip.

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Cops on the beat.

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Here’s a statue of The Thinker. It’s at the Legion of Honor, a fine-art museum.

Have you visited San Francisco? If so, what’s your favorite place to visit in the city? If not, which place or thing in the city would you most like to see in person?