Thursday, May 21, 2015

Being A Bookish Tart - Dean & Georgina Talk Writing.

Last weekend, I braved a dodgy internet connection between myself, here in Adelaide, and the delightfully delicious Georgina Penney who was broadcasting from Aberdeen, Scotland, so that I could participate in Georgina's "Bookish Tarts Podsnuggle". 

In a roughly 20 minute interview, Georgina and I discussed writerly topics, including how my blog became my first novel (The Hambledown Dream), how my "Close Talker" tendencies have nearly gotten me a punch in the face and why I am drawn to strong, female characters in my writing. 

Not only that, but Georgina and her regular partner in debauchery, Rhyll Biest, kick on after my chat with a toe curling discussion about Toaster Porn. You have *Got* to stick around for that one.

Ours was a fantastic conversation and it can be heard now via the Soundcloud app which is available for Apple & Android devices, as well as PC.

Here's the direct link;

The Bookish Tarts Episode 24: Dean Mayes & Taken By The Toaster.  

The Bookish Tarts is fabulously racy podcast hosted by chick lit writer Georgina Penney and erotica and contemporary romance writer, Rhyll Biest.


Unrestrained by Rhyll Biest is available now.  (Click Image).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When A Period Is As Good As A Punch In The Face.

One of the biggest challenges I face as a writer is the scourge of repetition.

It seems embarrassing to admit to it but I know I'm not unique. So today, I want to talk to you a little bit about repetition in writing.

When I sat down with the first completed draft of my manuscript for The Recipient, I was quite shocked at the amount of repetition I found littered through out the document.

Actually, I wasn't so much shocked as I was FUCKING HORRIFIED.

I have always been aware of my tendency to over use certain words, such as frustrated, panicked, malevolent, quipped, murmured, muttered and shocked (pun not intended). While these words, in isolation, aren't particularly extraordinary, when they begin popping up more than a few times per chapter, things quickly get to be a touch screwy. If there was a gold medal on offer for the most frequent use of these words, you can bet your arse I would win that medal...and probably the silver and bronze as well. To me, they felt safe. Too safe, as it turns out.

The use of exclamation points was another (parasitic) feature of the early draft. Ellipses too an hell, while we're at it, let's round off with a trio - because that's always good - italics. I very quickly realised that they were present on virtually every second page and I clearly remembering exclaiming - "Who Does That??!!"

Well...I do.

I suppose it's because I spent a lot of time trying to clearly convey the impact of a plot point or a line of dialogue. In the case of exclamation points, they are rather idiot proof. But therein lies the problem. Readers are not idiots. Exclamation points have more punch if they are used sparingly and, more often than not, they don't need to be used at all. There is nothing like a period to add the punch you are looking for.

"Tell me again, how punchy that exclamation point really is." 
(image copyright © 2006 MGM Pictures Inc.)

Ellipses are one of those grammatical devices that I frequently employ in the mistaken belief that I'm adding more to a scene or a line of dialogue - uncertainty, for example, or a moment of reflection. Again, there a better ways to achieve this that are much tidier.

Likewise, the actions of characters can run the risk of being repeated ad-nauseum - or, in my case, to the point of projectile vomiting.

A perfect example of this is "she/he shook her head...[insert emotional state here]". Another is the use of a " wry smile".  I did not realize just how pervasive these phrases were throughout the early draft of my manuscript but it became hair tearingly apparent to me as I delved deeper into my revisions.

Seattle based author, Molly Ringle, told me recently that you can get away with one or two instances of these in any given work, but anymore than that and you can find yourself with a mightily annoyed reader.

The task I set for myself in the early stages of editing was to identify instances of repetition  - and junk about 75% of them.

Having found each one and assessed whether they were needed or not, I then thought about alternative words, phrases and actions that would suit as a replacement. Now this doesn't mean you have to arm yourself with the thickest thesaurus you can find and search for the most flowery, literary alternative. In my case, simply removing the "wry" from a wry smile was enough on its own. People are allowed to just simply smile. If a descriptor for said smile is necessary, know that there are more ways describe a smile. In other instances, where impact was what I was after, the period was all that I needed.

When you're in the thick of writing a first draft, it is easy to overlook repetition and its easy to be unnerved when you look back on what you have written. However, having said this, one shouldn't necessarily fret about it. That's easy to say here but, trust me, I am an expert worrier so I know how fretting can trip up your momentum. Knowing that you're going to be revisiting the text in subsequent drafts should nullify any worries. In the beginning, getting words on the page is what counts. You are going to be getting more than one set of eyes on your work later on too. That will go a long way in helping you achieve a succinct and repetition free manuscript.

So how about it? What have been your experiences with repetition? What words, phrases or actions have you been known to flog like a dead horse and what did you do you to eliminate them from your writing?


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Flying with Georgina Penney - A Look At Fly In Fly Out.

So, you know how I've told you in the past that I'm a sucker for a good romance novel. Well, I just have to tell you about one that fell into my hands last week while I was waiting for a flight at Adelaide airport and it had me enthralled for the whole rest of the week. 

There are few books that I can say that I've devoured from the first page. With the Australian penned romance Fly In Fly Out from Georgina Penney, I was suckered into this delightful story from roughly page two and it did not let me go until I closed the last page earlier today, sleep deprived and thoroughly satisfied.

After months working on an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean, engineer Jo Blaine can't wait to get home. Her job is tough, and she is desperate for some long-overdue girl time. When she walks through her front door to find an unexpected man in her house, she's tempted to head straight back out to sea.

Stephen Hardy has always felt guilty for the part he played in ruining Jo's leaving home years earlier and jumps at the chance to make amends. It takes some fast talking, but he finally convinces Jo to let him look after her apartment and her giant cranky cat while she's away on the rig. And by the time she leaves for her next shift, they're both eagerly anticipating her return.

But balancing family and friends with a new relationship when you're never around is tricky, and Jo is also keeping secrets about her past. After a lifetime of taking care of herself, Jo isn't used to sharing her problems – especially when they involve her messy family history. Picking up the pieces every time she comes home is getting harder, and Jo begins to wonder if a fly-in fly-out lifestyle is really worth it . . .

image credit: Georgina Penney.

Billed as a romance, Penney's Fly In Fly Out offered so much more - a story of real depth and emotional weight that came after a sassy, smart and sexy beginning. At times, the twists and turns were quite unexpected and I found myself completely invested. It explores the often rough and tumble world of the Fly In Fly Out oil rig worker as seen through the eyes of Jo Blaine, a head strong and independent engineer who is holding her own deftly in a male dominated industry. It also ventures into complex family relationships and Penney takes some risks in portraying difficult moments which come off really convincingly. The supporting cast are all vividly drawn and very appealing. From Jo's vivacious and perky sister Amy, her photographer best friend and confidant Scott, to the rugged and enigmatic Stephen Hardy, they all became real to me in short order and I really liked being among them. Penney's dialogue is sharp and witty. I could hear it naturally and it flowed effortlessly off the page. Penney's settings too, from the chic river side Perth suburb of Fremantle to the picturesque vineyards of the Margaret River in Western Australia are tactile and all consuming. Once I found myself there, I had a very hard time wanting to leave. 

Fly In Fly Out is a surprise packet. A modern Australian romance that satisfies on a number of levels - from the deliciously sexy to the emotionally heart felt. I was hooked and remain so, long after having my fill. 

Georgina Penney first discovered romance novels when she was eleven and has been a fan of the genre ever since. It took her another eighteen years to finally sit in front of a keyboard and get something down on the page but that's alright, she was busy doing other things until then.

Some of those things included living in a ridiculous number of towns and cities in Australia before relocating overseas to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam and presently, Bonny Scotland.

In between all these travels, Georgina managed to learn to paint, get herself a Communication and Cultural Studies degree, study Psychotherapy and learn all about Hypnotherapy. In the early days she even managed to get on the IT roller coaster during the early noughties boom, inexplicably ending the ride by becoming the registrar of a massage and naturopathy college. There was also a PhD in the mix there somewhere but moving to Saudi Arabia and rediscovering the bodice ripper fixed all that.

Today she lives with her wonderful husband, Tony in the Scottish wilds surrounded by hairy coos (yes - coos, because that's how they roll in Scotland) and far too many procreating rabbits.

Georgina is also one half of the Bookish Tarts Podsnuggle - the other half being Australian based author Rhyll Biest - which can be heard roughly fortnightly on Soundcloud

Visit Georgina Penney here

Tweet with Georgina here

Buy Fly In Fly Out here