Progress and Deadlines

Well, despite life continually getting in the way of writing, we have made good progress in the last couple of weeks.

On reviewing our story arc, we have identified five more scenes remaining to be filled in the last gaps of Jaime and Daniel’s story. Of course, we could keep writing forever but we need to get onto the next book.

So when we’ve completed those gaps we need to do the chapter breaks, yet another spell check and then get the drafts out to our beta readers by the 20th February. Why 20th Feb you ask? Well, because…LISA STARTS HER NEW JOB!

It’s an amazing opportunity and I know she will be awesome but it does mean her days will be back to being even more chokka than they are atm (and as you know, that’s pretty busy!).

 

The other cool news is that once we have the feedback from our kind (but always brutally honest) beta readers, our next move is to enter Out of the Shadows into the Romance Writers of NZ Pacific Hearts competition (31 March).  Once that is done we can sit on our laurels with fingers crossed for a bit before we crack on with the next story which is already buzzing in our heads and becoming more insistent as we dally over Jaime and Daniel.

Here’s a wee teaser: who knew a little place like Fisherman’s Creek could harbour such a dark secret in its past?

What deadlines are you working to, and what progress have you made? Do you work better with a fixed timeframe?

 

Book review: Just for Now by Rosalind James

book-reviewCaro came across these books in one of the Amazon Kindle sales and picked it up to try out because it was set in New Zealand. Of course we’re quite keen on reading other romance novels by both New Zealand authors and authors from around the world setting their books in New Zealand.

Caro enjoyed the book. It was a tidy little romance with engaging characters and a nice happy ending. The author had done her research well and evoked a sense of New Zealand. She’d worked really hard on getting the patois right, even including a glossary of terms at the conclusion of the book to help out non-Kiwis. More about that later.

The main character, like the author, is an American, which helps to smooth any linguistic and cultural bumps and Caro really appreciated the effort that had been gone to. This was no Ben Kingsley in Ender’s Game or Anthony Hopkins in the World’s Fastest Indian. Only a Kiwi would pick up that Ms James wasn’t a Kiwi!

Ms James also had a few notes about Maori pronunciation which were pretty good. Caro and I have just had a discussion about some words as she has learnt Ngai Tahu (aka Kai Tahu) dialect and being brought up on the East Coast, I am firmly Ngati Porou. Also as we both live in Auckland, we’re exposed to Ngati Whatua. So we could come up with three different versions of the same word or phrase. Given that, we think Ms James was on the money.

We liked the recipes section at the back of the book, although they were missing such Kiwi classics as the pavlova, although again the cook was an American.

Reading through the glossary provided us with lots of room for discussion. Some of the terms were spot on and phrases that we use every day (even though a lot of people look at us like we’re bonkers and ask for explanations!). Here are a few of our favourites:

  • berko – berserk (only I use this one, normally prefaced by “crazy ape”
  • boofhead – a foolish person. We used to use this an awful lot, complete with accompanying hand gestures!!
  • chokka – full
  • flattie – a flatmate. I use this all the time, in fact have a friend who I only call Flattie (and he calls me Flattie) but Caro says she’s never used it!
  • gutted – we do like this, although I am very amused by the teenagers who frequently misspell it as “guttered”
  • kiwifruit  – “The fruit. Never simply called a kiwi.” Big props to Ms James for this one, as it’s only overseas that it’s called a kiwi. To us, if you say you’re eating a kiwi, we think of the brown flightless bird and are frankly horrified!
  • littlies – the kids. We do use this.
  • mad as a meat axe – we both use this often, but we may be in the minority.
  • oldies (wrinklies) – we use wrinklies
  • rattle your dags – Caro uses this, but agrees it’s old fashioned
  • shonky – a shady person – we would use in terms of an object which is a bit broken or a bit off
  • sparrow’s fart – crack of dawn
  • stroppy – prickly, taking offence easily
  • this arvo – this afternoon. We both use this all the time

But there were a few which gave us a good giggle, or caused us to raise an eyebrow and ask “have you ever heard that?”

  • ambo – Australian for ambulance
  • bull’s roar – close e.g. they never came within a bull’s roar of winning. We like this one, but have never heard it before.
  • come a greaser – have a bad fall. Neither of us had heard this – we’d tend to say “came a cropper”.
  • cossie – swimming costume, but it’s Australian. We say togs!
  • flat to the boards – in our minds, usually accompanied by “like a lizard drinking” and more Australian
  • on the front foot – we’re inclined to say on the back foot rather than this
  • out on the razzle – we never use this
  • SAFA – South Africa abbrev. We’ve never heard this.
  • speedo – direct quote “Not the swimsuit! Speedometer. (the swimsuit is called a budgie-smuggler)”. Ms James is correct re speedo, but we don’t often refer to small fitted men’s togs as budgie smugglers. However, this did bring to mind a rather amusing guide to the difference between togs and undies.
  • stonkered – drunk, but we’ve never used this

One glaring omission from the glossary of this book – there was no JAFA (Just Another F***ing Aucklander). To be fair, it tends to be those living south of the Bombay Hills who refer to Aucklanders as JAFAs, but Caro is proud to be a JAFA!

Just a note here that although NZ is small, there are regional differences for example, “wee” or “crib” in Southland and Otago. It may be that wherever Ms James was based, she heard the phrases used whereas we don’t consider them common. We should also note that there were rugby terms in the glossary which Caro denied all knowledge of!!!  We should also note that all the reo was correct, so big props again!

All in all, we’d recommend this book, and the series. In fact, I am off to download them right now. Any romance novels about rugby will get my vote! You can find out more about Rosalind James at her website, on Twitter @rosalindjames5 or Facebook (we especially like the video of Tutira mai nga iwi on this page)  rosalindjamesbooks.

What are you reading right now, and why do you like it? Share in the comments below!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all. The holidays seem a very long time ago to Caro who is hard at work already and for whom the family fun has faded into the long-distant mists of memory…I’m (Lisa) still searching for a new job, but in the immortal words of the wise Pie Man, it would be a shame not to enjoy this time, so I am!

Holidays for Caro involved a huge family get-together down country, with rivers, toasted marshmallows, cricket in the sheep paddock, bonfires, dogs and of course, food – they even ate Jerome (a very tasty piece of beef). As an added bonus for the city folk, the cow had a calf (Vinnie, named after Vinegar Hill which they’d visited that day). For me, there was a week of bliss on Waiheke Island, with lots of walking and swimming – even if there was a nasty south-westerly and the water wasn’t exactly warm!

We also achieved significant progress on the book! We have a March 1st deadline, which is when the Romance Writers of NZ Pacific Hearts Award competition opens. Caroline did an on-screen edit with lots of great changes and then we printed it out for me to go through again. I made a few more tweaks, found some consistency errors and together we highlighted our gaps, which means we are working much better to a plan, which is probably quite important when there are two of you writing.

So, in the next six weeks, we need to finish the damn book, have a couple of beta readers check it out and then call in a couple of editors we know to get it ship-shape before the competition closes. We both work very well under pressure and to tight deadlines, so that will really help. Hopefully, I will have a job soon too, just to make life interesting!!!

How did you spend your holidays? What were the highlights for you? We’d love to hear from you!

 

How to fill the hours

writer

Lisa writes: as some of you know, I am between jobs at the moment.* You might think that would be quite nice coming in to summer, giving me plenty of time to do things around the house, volunteer work, exercise, write the book, cook gourmet dinners every night and binge watch Offspring and Gilmore Girls while eating delicious bon bons.

Sadly, no. Looking for a job is taking up a good chunk of each day, and is my first priority as it should be. I am enjoying the quiet and all the time to myself, as you would expect from an introvert. But actually, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not cut out to work from home. I quite like seeing the people each day, even though I need my recharge time. Despite the busy-ness of my days, time seems to hang oddly heavily.

Here’s how I spend my days:

2-3 hours looking for jobs. This means checking all my searches, seeing if there is anything remotely suitable, then spending some time on the company website to see if I like the look of the place. If I do, then I try and find someone to speak to, in hopes that my CV will attract their attention when they remember my name. Once I’ve done that, I redo my cover letter and fill in the online application form. This last can take up to an hour if it is a complex one. So in my 2-3 hours, I may actually have applied for one job.

1-2 hours dropping children off and picking them up. Having a stay-at-home parent has been a real boon for my non-driving teenagers!

Two or three mornings a week I am a volunteer driver for Eat My Lunch, delivering lunches to schools in the Mt Roskill or Mangere areas. That eats up a couple of hours and it is nice to see people and talk to them. The best thing about it is that I am giving something back and that makes me feel good!

Then there’s all the normal chores – cooking, washing, tidying (if there’s any day left over). I’m managing to swim 2-3 times a week and last week cycled into school to pick the boys up and we all cycled home (a round trip of about 10km for me) so I guess I’m managing the exercise portion.

Is the house tidy? No more than normal, although I now have a list and am tackling one small chore a day.

There is dinner on the table every night, but having had nearly a year where I was only responsible for dinner 3 nights a week, it’s a bit of a mental exercise. I hear some of you saying “menu plan” but I just cannot be doing with that!

Despite not doing very much and getting lots of sleep, I feel tired all the time. Everything is an effort. I find it hard to sell myself to prospective employers and it requires a significant amount of emotional energy. I’m very thankful that I’m resilient enough to take the constant rejection (with the exception of a couple of bad days) based on my own perception that I’m awesome!!!

writers-blockAll of this is a long way of leading into the next question – have I done any writing? Well, no. I have managed to review the first couple of chapters (note that Caro is working full time and managed to complete the whole thing!!!). We’ve reached that point in the process where we are bogged down, hence the review as that should get us moving again. So given that we’ve done nothing new, we’ll leave you with a little snippet to whet your appetite for the new book! This is very early on in Jaime and Daniel’s story.

…She had stared at all the men present; looked them up and down very subtly but in a very experienced way, then dismissed them. She had lingered longest on him – probably because he was nearly drooling! But those glances, combined with what he knew about her and what she looked like spelled only one word for him – trouble with a capital T. He made a mental note to stay well away from her.

Several hours later, Daniel was reminding himself again of this as he pressed Jaime up against the outside wall of the reception hall and dipped his head for another mind drugging kiss. His hands were full of her extremely shapely rear, and her killer body was plastered to his like a wet shirt. She pulled back for a short moment, laughed breathlessly up at him and said “My room or yours?”…

*If you know of anyone who would like a customer services team lead, coach, training specialist or social media content  writer, do let me know! Available for an immediate start!

Why do we write romance? AKA rainbows and unicorns…

Today has been a tumultuous day in world politics and we’ve been left, along with many others, feeling slightly shocked, a little horrified and mostly sad. This has made us both think about why we write romance rather than some other genre.

After a bit of thought and discussion, it comes down to two things: hope and happy ever after. Bad things happen or have happened to our characters, who in the main are good people. Their lives are not all sunshine and light. We challenge them by putting them in uncomfortable situations which we know will help them grow and which make them a more fully realised character. No matter how grim things get, we always have in the back of our minds that at the end of the story, there will be a happy ever after. There is always hope for us as writers, and for our readers.

And so, at the end of the day, it turns out we want to be happy and we want our readers to be happy and to all have some happiness in our lives.

It’s a good day to be reminded of this, as Caro has just started a new job AND moved house, and I am in the midst of interviewing (and being rejected) for a new job, all of which is a little stressful. We’ve been a bit lax about our writing, and neither of us has really had the energy to be creative, but we need to get cracking! We have competition deadlines looming and excitingly are over 70,000 words and have just printed out our first draft so we can find the gaps, write connecting scenes and do a harsh edit.

We hope you enjoyed last month’s teaser for Out of the Shadows, and we’ll give you a little more from time to time.

We’re also curious to know why you read romance. Is it because you read anything? Or because you love romance? Or is it just because you know us and want to support us by reading our books? Let us know in the comments and as always, thanks for reading!

rainbows-unicorns

 

A taste of what’s to come…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in our respective households with a new job starting for Caro, and a house move, and a change of job for me too. So life got in the way and so there was no post last week.

W’re making up for it today!! We promised a while ago that we’d put some excerpts of the new book (and possibly some bits of the older ones) on this blog, so today, for the first time, we’d like to unveil a small portion of the book to come!

To set the scene a little…Jaime Randall is a washed up has-been actress at the ripe old age of twenty-eight. She’s trying to get her life back in order, but is finding that it’s two steps forward, one back.

******

“Audition? Me? For a local amateur production? Seriously, they should be asking me to be their star.”

“Such humility. No one cares who you used to be, you do realise that? You didn’t make any friends when you came home, so you’ll probably need to start from scratch. In fact, rather than being in the play, why don’t you see if they need any help with backstage?”

“Backstage? Are you kidding? I suppose if I have to audition I can, but I’ll outshine everyone.”

“That’s the spirit, go in nice and modestly and let them see the real you. Your charm can’t fail to work.”

Jaime flushed slightly. Anne was unfortunately right most of the time and completely unimpressed by Jaime and her theatrics.  Suppressing a smirk, Anne continued, “Well now that’s settled, I picked up a flier the other day – auditions are this afternoon. I’ve got a few hours free, so I’ll come with you.”

With her stomach squirming and pulse racing, Jaime waited to go on the stage.  She’d worn a short dark wig and used her mother’s maiden name in hopes of not being recognized. When the name was called, she stood frozen in fear. A shove from one of the other try-outs had her stumbling ungracefully onto the tiny stage.

“Name and what’re you going to torture us with today?”

“Jaime McGregor.” she replied softly.

“Speak up! You’re not going to be heard from the back of the theatre.”

Jaime’s head came up and her shoulders straightened. She caught a glimpse of Anne, giving her a thumb’s up from the cheap seats.

“I’m Jaime McGregor and today I’ll be singing ‘We’ll Meet Again’”

The casting director didn’t even hide her impatient sigh and eye roll. “Well get on with it then.”

Strangely, the hostility of the director steadied Jaime more than anything else. She’d dealt with people like her countless times in countless auditions. She took a few deep breaths and opened her mouth to sing.

The first clear notes rang out and filled the theatre. The set builder and painter stopped what they were doing, the lighting man swung the spot on to the stage and the director felt all the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. This was her star. Anne relaxed and beamed as Jaime’s voice grew in strength and confidence.

Looking out across the seats, Jaime truly relaxed for the first time in what felt like forever. Home. She was home. In the circle of the spotlight, she felt warm, comfortable, in control. She had her small audience in the palm of her hand. The song was an old friend, familiar, and she didn’t need to think about the melody or phrasing. The bright spotlight blurred her vision, making it hard to see the theatre stalls in front of her, until all she could see was light. Slowly, as her eyes grew accustomed, she began to make out the dim shapes of tables and chairs. What? She blinked. She wasn’t in the theatre any more. She was in…a club?

Dimly lit, the air was hazy but she could discern small groupings of people, most of them in uniform. She could smell the smoke of their cigarettes and the faint tang of spilled liquor. Where was she? She looked around, trying to see something to identify the place. A name on the wall caught her eye, “Midnight Jazz Bar”. She was standing on a stage, backed by a small band and she was singing. She was in a blue dress, sweetheart neckline, gloves, pearls around her neck. She felt so sad. So abandoned. So alone. A tear slipped down her cheek. For a moment, her voice faltered and the image flickered, then she regained control and continued singing. As the song came to an end, she closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, she could see Anne in the back of the theatre clapping wildly.

What on earth had happened to her? Had she been just swept up in the moment? She had felt like herself, and yet utterly unlike herself. It was as if she really had been Kitty, the tragic lead in the musical. She hurried from the stage and out to find Anne.

******

Hope you enjoyed it! Watch this space for more and let us know if you like it.

Please don’t reproduce this anywhere as it is Caro’s and my original work. 

A whole bunch of musings…

pralympicGiven that we won 20 medals at the Paralympics, not to mention breaking all types of records, why oh why did we not have the media frenzy that we suffered through during the prequel Olympics where we won 18??? Additionally, we won more golds at the Paras and ranked higher per capita.

All athletes train hard and long to excel in their chosen event but come on networks, how about a nod to the fact to how much extra effort does it take an athlete with a disability to get to that level? From my humble, non-athlete perspective, I’d say it’s a damn sight harder.

So we would like to congratulate all our fabulous athletes, both Olympic and Paralympic. You’ve achieved what so many of us couldn’t even begin to contemplate, we’re in awe of all of you.

Moving on to pop stuff..Lisa was gutted to hear the tragic news that Brangelina will be re-adopting their original, individual names as they go their separate way. Me, I’m not so fussed but we both hope that neither of them tries to use their children as a weapon to hurt the other, as happens in so many instances of a breakup. From my in-depth knowledge of the couple (not – I read Woman’s Day when I’m at my lovely hairdresser’s every 5 weeks or so), they certainly appear to love their kids. So here’s to both Brad and Angelina acting like adults and making sure your kids are kept out of whatever nastiness might ensue as they disentangle their relationship. This is between you, and children need a healthy relationship with both their parents, if at all possible. And despite what newly separated people might want, you are forever connected with your ex when children are involved so it’s best just to bite the bullet and be civil – at least on the outside!

Other than that, I was far too busy celebrating my birthday and getting a new job last week to think about much else, and Lisa is moving on to pastures new on the job front also so it seems like a miracle that we’ve actually done quite a lot of writing so the end of Jaime’s story is rapidly coming into view – hurrah!