Monday, May 27, 2013

Good Writers' Habits: Make Backups

One irrefutable fact: you don't backup enough.

If you think manuscript01.doc and manuscript02.doc saved in the same folder is enough of a backup then you're in for a world of hurt. If you think multiple files saved in separate folders is enough, you're still going to get a taste of pain.

Computers house fickle little gremlins who have a nasty habit of deciding to cause crashes at the worst possible times. Keeping your manuscript on your computer, with no other copies anywhere else, is a huge mistake.

Not only can your computer suddenly fry, but something could happen to your house (heaven forbid), so store your work somewhere completely different.

  • USB storage devices are clever but easy to lose
  • CDs and DVDs aren't as durable or reliable as you think.
  • Printing is durable as long as you don't lose the pages to termites, fire, water, pets etc. You get the picture.
  • Dropbox is a free online service.
  • Trusted critique partners are handy.
  • The method I use: a smart IT husband who has set up an automatic backup system on 'the cloud' or whatnot. I don't understand it. It just magically happens.

Bonus tip: keep in mind that when a writing program releases an upgrade, it doesn't necessarily allow backward compatibility for all its previous versions. Always save your old files up to the new version to make sure you don't lose your older work.

You have been warned. Now go make copies of your work.

Have you ever had a bad experience where you've lost a portion or all of your manuscript? How do you protect your work?

A big THANK YOU to Alex J Cavanaugh. I received his awesome YOU ROCK award. This, and the kind words he said, made me very happy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Celebrate the release of Charmaine Clancy's new book and win prizes!

Dognapped? A dog show detective mystery featuring Kitty and her mischievous miniature schnauzer, Spade. In this adventure, they unravel the mystery of the missing dog -- simply lost, or something more sinister?

A lost dog 

A stolen dog

A mysterious will 

It all equals murder!

Meet twelve-year-old Kitty, friendless bookworm and amateur sleuth. All Kitty wants is to gain her mother’s attention, spend time with her miniature schnauzer Spade, and avoid Miss Perfect, Jessica Jones. 

Kitty’s world turns upside down when she finds a lost dog, and she needs Jessica’s help to find the owner, hunt down a dognapper, and solve a murder.

Introducing Kitty Walker and her mischievous dog Spade in the first Dog Show Detective Mystery.

Dognapped? is a mystery novel perfect for curious girls aged 10-12yrs. There are funny and cute canine characters, but also an element of danger! 

To celebrate the release of Dognapped?, the author, Charmaine Clancy (author of the popular kids' horror novel, My Zombie Dog), is giving away a Kindle Fire! (Kindle Paperwhite if winner resides outside the US - Amazon won't ship the Fire to non-US countries). That's not all, one lucky runner-up will receive a $25 Amazon gift voucher!

There are two ways to enter:

1. Purchase your copy of Dognapped?then fill in the entry form below. You'll be asked for your receipt number from Amazon (it will be on the receipt Amazon email you - keep a copy of your receipt as proof of purchase if you win). Dognapped? will be FREE May 22nd and 23rd, and yes you can still enter if you downloaded your copy FREE
2. Blog about this competition or about Dognapped? (you can review, talk about or interview) then fill in the entry form below. You will be asked for your blog post link in the entry form. If you'd like to review the book, Charmaine will send you a free review copy, simply email:

If you blog and purchase the book, then yes, you get two entries.

Too easy! This competition runs from now until 7 July 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 17, 2013

Best and Worst Movie Remakes

Hosted by Alex J Cavanaugh, Stephen Tremp, Livia Peterson, and Father Dragon Al.

When Hollywood runs out of ideas, they remake older films. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it fails miserably.

There are so many remakes around and yet for the majority of them I prefer the ones I saw first. This doesn’t necessarily mean the original. For example:

King Kong: This was originally made in 1933 and again in 1976. I saw the 2005 version first and prefer it over the others, even over the 1933 version which was an amazing feat of animation for its time. Truly ground-breaking.

The Italian Job: I saw the 1969 version before I saw the 2003 version. The 1969 movie was hands down the best. Perhaps it was the humour, the cute boxy minis, or the way the original ended.

The Thing: This would have to be my favourite remake of them all. I’m talking about the 1982 film directed by John Carpenter and with Kurt Russel in the lead. It’s a remake of a 1951 film, The Thing from Another World. Unfortunately the film was remade again in 2011 and it lacked the same scary spark.

Conan the Barbarian: This would have to be my least favourite remake. I enjoyed the 1982 B-grade quality of the original. They didn’t take themselves too seriously but they did a good job. I think they tried too hard in the 2011 remake. Or maybe, as I hinted above, it was simply a sense of loyalty for the first one I saw.

Which are your favourite and least favourite remakes?

Thanks to Kriti for the Creative Blogger Award.
Pop on over to her blog, Just a Little Time, and say hi from me.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Importance of Strategic Goals

During April, I received two blog awards: The Liebster Award from Suze of Subliminal Coffee, and the Very Inspiring Blog Award from Mel Chelsy of Writings, Musings & Other Such Nonsense.  As part of the condition of accepting the awards, I'm supposed to answer a series of questions and share seven things about myself. As anyone who's been following me for any time will know, I'm a bit of a rebel when it comes to rules. Consequently I'll answer one of the questions and in the process share a little about myself. Suze asked the big question:

What are your goals?
When I first started writing seriously in my teens, my goal was to become a published author by seventeen. That age became twenty one. Then I gave up on age when that deadline slipped by as well. In my mind I became a failed writer. It didn't matter that I'd had short stories and art published in a variety of small magazines. It didn't even matter that I hadn't finished my manuscript. I thought I was serious about my writing and yet I hadn't achieved my goals.

Making manageable goals
So I changed my goals to something more manageable: Finish my manuscript. Before that point I'd been writing my manuscript off and on for seven years. It took me a further two years to finish it. My next goal was to get the wretched thing published. So without any industry knowledge, without the use of critique partners, and only one pass of editing, I sent it off to a total of nine publishers—all 600 pages of the thing (ah, the fearlessness of the ignorant). Not surprisingly I received only rejections and gave up.

All that glitters is not a goal
Many years later I came to realise that my goals weren't goals after all. They were wishes. A wish doesn't make things happen except in Never Never Land. Helpful goals are much like a business plan. Sounds boring, even painful, and lacks the magic of a wish, but a plan is far more effective.

Effective goals require a strategy

If I want [this] by [this date],
then I need to do [these] in [this] much time.

To write up a strategic set of manageable, measureable goals, I first needed to know what I wanted. I want to get published. Sure, but how do I want to get published? Authors have so many options these days: traditional, small press, self-publishing, agented or unagented. Even if I want to keep my options open, there are some things I first needed to do:

1. learn about the industry
2. learn about the craft
3. write a sellable manuscript
4. write the killer query
5. nurture my online presence
6. relearn to be fearless and send those queries
7. keep writing.

Each of the above points can be broken down further into a manageable strategy to achieve completion. And each point is a milestone. For example, finishing an outline is a milestone worthy of much rejoicing. If you're anything like me, you'll need your milestones. They give a great sense of achievement and they tell me I'm another step closer to achieving my dreams.

This post is getting long, so I'll stop there with a mere taste of what a true strategic plan looks like. Perhaps I didn't answer Suze question after all that, but I'm sure she'll forgive me.

What is your dream? How have you planned to make that dream come true?

Mel's book Adversarius, Shadow of the Rose: Book One is now available in paperback on Amazon


Monday, May 6, 2013

A-Z Reflections

This was the third year I took part in the A-Z Challenge. The first year I did an A-Z of writing tips. The second year I did an A-Z of photography, and this year I let my geek out. I had a whole lot of fun reminiscing about all the books, movies, TV and games that influenced me into the geeky person I am today. I think I may have surprised a few people.

In all honesty, I want to continue raving about those favourite stories and activities. I’m not sure yet how I’ll incorporate that into my blog, but time will tell. I’ll work something out.

The things I learned from the challenge:
1. Scheduling. When time is tight, which it invariably is during the challenge, setting up a regular routine to get everything done is essential. That means scheduling. It was the only way I got through the challenge.

2. Planning. Another essential element, closely related to scheduling. As the picture shows, I wrote up a list on a single page of my notebook. Sure, it’s messy, but that was all I needed. It gave me direction and focus. And it meant I wasn’t scrambling around in a tizz trying to work out what I was going to post about each day.

3. Comments. I learnt I could visit everyone on the blogsphere while also online playing World of Warcraft, specifically while waiting in queue for the next raid or dungeon. Who knew?! Talk about a brilliant revelation! That means I can get more writing done during the day!

4. Followers. I gained more than I expected since I didn’t go out searching for new followers during the challenge. That was a happy bonus!

Final thoughts about the challenge:
I still came across the word verifications. They tend to be an indication of bloggers who are new, since it’s something you have to go find and turn off. I also still came across super long posts. Some were fascinating so I didn’t mind, but others could’ve been shortened. By a lot.

My favourite during the challenge:
Clarissa Draper. Wow, girl! Your theme rocked! Sure it took a little extra time to work out those puzzles and codes, but it was like a treat at the end of the day. And to my absolute surprise, I squeezed into the top five of her visitors who correctly worked out the solutions. I won a $10 gift voucher for Amazon! Thank you so much, Clarissa!

How did you go during the challenge? What did you think of my theme? Any surprises?


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Writer's Survival Guide #IWSG

Because our best work happens when we're at our most vulnerable, it could be argued that writing is one of the most hazardous professions in the world. It's up there with bomb disposal, only we don't get a shield to stand behind. It's almost as bad as being a clown at a kid's birthday party, only we don't have a mask to hide behind. It's equal to being a guard in an insane asylum, only there are no bars holding the insanity back.

Since writing is not unlike surviving a zombie apocalypse, I've compiled a short list of rules on how best to cope with being a writer:

Rule #1: Cardio
When we're in the zone, or worse, trying to be in the zone, we sit around staring at our computer screens, our blank pages, the fuzz on the carpet. Our brains quickly turn to mush before we've even typed 'Chapter 1'. We need to get the blood flowing, the creativity sparking. The sparks of inspiration come from memory and daydream, but we can't access those resources if we're slumped and sluggish. If you can't bear the thought of those nasty star jumps—who invented that torture, anyway?—then go for a walk, ride a bike, use your gym membership that's been choking under a layer of dust.

Rule #2: Safety in Numbers
Not only is writing a sedentary occupation, it's also a solitary one. It can get mighty lonely as a writer—no office chit chat by the water cooler for us. The problem with being alone for so many hours is that we start to get a distorted view of our work. We'll either think it's awesome when it's not, or we'll think it's the worst piece of gelatinous sludge on a pile of stinking refuse when really it's awesome. We need to hang out with not just a group, but a crowd of supportive people. Friends and family keep us sane. Other writers keep us writing. Critique partners push us to do better. Editors keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. Publishers make our dreams come true.

Rule #3: Knowledge is Your Weapon
To charge onto the battleground unarmed is folly at best. The more you learn about the craft, the industry, and all things writing, the better equipped you'll become. Read copious amounts, in a range of genres. Read fiction and non-fiction. Read books on writing. Go to seminars. Attend conferences. Learn, learn and keep learning, and all the while keep writing. Take up arms and charge forth with strength and courage.

Rule #4: Enjoy the Little Things
As with a zombie apocalypse, you'll need to maintain your sanity by staying positive. Remember why you started writing in the first place. Was it to silence the voices, explore a concept, indulge in a little escapism? Or perhaps it was simply the love of stories and words. Remembering our reasons for embarking on this crazy journey will buoy us up so we're able to float down the river of insanity without getting wet.

Are you are survivor? Can you add any more rules to this list?

This post was written for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group founded by Alex J Cavanaugh and this month it's co-hosted by Rachna Chhabria, Mark Koopmans, and Lynda R Young (yours truly)!! To learn more or join up, click here.