Monday, July 30, 2012

The dragon: a repetitive story

We're at it again. Since April, and therefore earlier than expected, the iguana has been in mating season. It started with a few signs, him being a tad more active, jumping at his reflection or reacting to my movements a bit more. It will gradually become harder to handle him, one wrong look and he jumps straight from his upper shelf at me, aiming at my face. Needless to say that I would probably need plastic surgery if that ever happens. So I'm on my guard all the time when dealing with him. Mature big male iguanas are dangerous animals when they are in season and it lasts a few months. So every time I approach him, I have to be careful. They can jump a meter or more with ease, especially if they are sitting on something they can push themselves off (a sofa, a chair, a table, a side board, a shelf). And they are incredibly fast when they attack. If I had carpet in my flat, I'd only be able to approach him in boots as he'd go for my flesh. An iguana of that size (almost 5 feet) would easily take a piece out of me. And it's painful, too, in addition to the infection that will follow. Now I'm an experienced iguana keeper and therefore know how to read him, but even then, I got bitten before. One careless moment and wham! you're bleeding.

Today, though, it was him who bled. Silly boy had jumped against the window (luckily, I had bubble wrap on it), due to me moving around the room. His aggressions become worse in the evenings and he reacts to anything or anyone going near the vivarium. And I wore white! Not one of his trigger colours. He jumped and must have bitten his tongue. Nothing to panic about, unless the bleeding doesn't stop within minutes. Normally, they will puncture their tongue with their razor sharp teeth, but it will heal quickly. It may swell a bit which will be uncomfortable for the animal, but there's not much I can do. He doesn't eat anyway, as usual in season. But I felt a bit sorry for him. Of course he blames me for his pain, which doesn't make it easier for me to deal with him.

Compared to last year, though, I'm pretty happy so far. He is difficult, but less aggressive. Of course, I can't just go inside the vivarium and clean it. I have to remove him first or I'll have a massacre in my flat and I wouldn't look too good coming out of it. I would never recommend to walk into an aggressive iguana's enclosure unless the person wears protective gear and that means a hat, long (thick material) sleeves, long trousers and gloves. They may seem like they are just sitting there dozing, but they can switch to an attack with a blink of an eye. 

Never mind. I still love him to bits. Sprayed him with the pressure sprayer and 'cleaned' his mouth with it, so everything will be good.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A bit of Friday fun: I ate a penis

About a year ago, I started a thread with the title 'I ate a penis', which made quite a few people laugh and others cringe. Probably not the fact that I apparently ate the phallus, but that I mentioned the word penis. How dare I? Well, of course I didn't chop off a man's best bit to eat it, nope; I tried a new recipe with Monkfish, which frighteningly resembled a certain sexual organ when finished. Add the tomato sauce and you have a blood bath after making a man sing an octave higher. Needless to say, that I won't add said recipe to my collection. Imagine you open a cook book and are greeted by a shrunk penis in a pool of blood? It was rather funny to joke about it, though, and my friend Catherine kept teasing me I should have taken a picture.
Anyway, it had sparked a fun discussion with plenty of hilarious comments. ]
Now, today, I felt a bit German and threw a Bratwurst on the barbecue, when it was all done and browned, I poured ketchup over it and dusted it with curry powder. That's called Currywurst and I love it. But when I placed it in front of me and looked a bit closer, I realised I had created another penis. Brilliant, I thought, let's take a picture now. So, for you, Catherine, here's the proof, will you know stop teasing me? :-)
I promise to always take a picture of the penes I'll eat in future.

There you go, a little lesson in how to be a German in style. But fear not, I also had a healthy salad with honey mustard dressing.
The lettuce, of course freshly picked from the garden. You can't get the type of variety in the shops or supermarkets.

Wishing you all a great weekend.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Self-set deadlines and troubles with massive walls

You probably wonder if someone has finally beaten me up for being so mouthy about the quality or better the lack thereof, in many self-published books. No, no, far from it. The only person who beats people up is me. In my fiction, I hasten to add. That's the reason for my not posting anything for a little while: I'm in the finishing state of my thriller, while I have three beta readers going through the book, taking notes of anything that may need addressing. My deadline was the 31st of July, and it looked as if I would be making it easily, but then I hit brick wall after brick wall, and, you see, I'm not really good at climbing walls, so I sat in front of it, pouted and sobbed, whined and complained everyone who asked what's wrong with me. It reminded me a little of a childhood memory: I got lost (okay, nothing new here), tried to remember where I had to go, but couldn't. Then sat on a kurb and cried bitterly. True story, no kidding. Don't know how old I I was, may have been six or seven, perhaps. A nice woman came, asked me what's wrong and I told her, sobbing and sniffling. Good thing I had my grandparents' address hammered into my head. The lady took me to them and the tears dried quickly after that.
I didn't cry at the latest walls, but screamed in frustration. You know when you have your eyes on something in front of you and just as you are about to run for it, someone switches out the light? No? Well, it never happened to me either, but I felt a bit like that. Tapping in the dark. Very annoying. As you know I had scenes written already a few months ago, to use for later. Well, that 'later' is now. And I'm trying to merge those into the book, making it seamless. Easier said then done. A few need rewriting, others, I'm not sure yet where I should put them and I also need to write an additional 7k. Nothing I wouldn't be able to manage, albeit with a lot of huffing and puffing, but it's definitely something I won't do again. It has set me back with my deadline, something I can react to like an autistic person. Even if it's only a few days. I don't like it. I've always been realistic with my deadlines as I know how I write and I calculate the brick walls, but this books takes the biscuit so far.Those weren't brick walls, they were concrete that needed a bazooka to get through them. I had severe difficulties with a few scenes I didn't like and rewrote several times. I can't just move on and go back to them later. I need to fix it right away. And I can't just ignore the book and do something else, I ponder all day long and even at night, stare at the screen, write, delete, write again, and so on. It seems not only my main characters are being tortured. I get a healthy dose of it, too.
Good news is that the beta readers enjoy the book, are hooked and say they can't wait to read more, which, per se, is a good sign and even bigger motivation. Who knows, maybe I manage the deadline after all?

By the way: take a look to the right; I've got a new cover for Candlelight Sinner, too. ;-)

And here's an interview with me. If you have time, stop by and leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Cover celebration!

To those who've known me for longer will now snigger and roll their eyes. I have a new cover for No Wings Attached. Since I only paid for a year for the girl in the picture, I had no choice but to change it again. It had been my problem book no.1. Because of the unusual nature of combined chick lit and paranormal romance, it wasn't so easy to create a suitable cover. In total I had six (including myself) people working on it and about ten different versions, six of them since it was published about a year ago. Even I got dizzy at some point. And since it's a series, it's even more difficult. Yesterday, an author friend of  mine offered to play around a bit and after plenty of e-mails sent back and forth, the following was the end version I fell in love with.
Although there are no wings or angels in the novel (Tom is a wish consultant, more like a cross between a guardian angel and a genie) they are perfect for the title. I woke up today, looked at the cover another time and fell in love with it all over again. It's simple, it's bold, it's just pretty. (Thank you, Sandra.)

Life couldn't get any worse for 32-year-old Celia: single again and working in two jobs she hates; the last thing she needs is falling for gorgeous, out-of-her-league, arrogant Tom.
Being a wish-consultant, Tom has to make up for a failed case and is sent to make her wishes come true without his usual skills. Not easy when she's reluctant to talk to him. In order to help her become happy, he needs to win her trust and unexpectedly develops feelings he shouldn't have.
When finally everything seems to fall into place for Celia, she receives a phone call that turns her world upside down once again.

Read some of the reviews by clicking here.

And if you are curious who Sandra is and what her books are like, you can find her here:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Like it or not, I do what I want

I'm talking about my novel. When I told my friend about my original concept for the thriller, she screamed, 'No, you can't do that. I hate it! It's like having a character wake up from a dream!'
If there's one rule, then it is to not mess with a reader, if they feel cheated, they will be unhappy. 
To be honest, I can't remember the exact plans I had, but I'm sure it involved my character writing a book in which she basically tortured and killed off the characters, and in the end, she'd put the pen down and smile. I found it rather suitable, since it's basically what I'm doing and the characters won't suffer any less. Just that it's a book in a book. I had a really good brain storming session with someone yesterday, who wasn't sure about the idea either. Yet, the more I think about it, the more I love it. And the way I'm doing it, means the reader knows exactly what's going on, like in Inception, which was a massive hit. If well done, the reader will quickly be in the story and only be reminded at the very end.

When my friend rejected my concept, it shot a massive hole in my creativity and I couldn't write for weeks. Things like that, you know? My problem was how to integrate the first character, which is the real heroine, but takes a backseat after the prologue and doesn't appear anymore until the very end. I have thought back and forth and whatnot to find a solution to that problem, but to no avail. I can be stubborn as mule when it comes to concepts and plotting. Once I fall in love with something, it's hard to convince me otherwise. The fact that I struggled so much means I had doubts, but not anymore. I like breaking the rules. If someone says you can't do that, I'm all the more determined to do it, but to do it effectively.

I want that the reader is sucked into the story and forget that it's just a book in the book, and feels for the three MCs who'll go through hell and never come back. Since it's my revenge on my former neighbours, I can't save any of them. Normally you'd have the good win over the bad in a thriller, wouldn't you? Which means, they would need to survive, maybe be better people after that experience. But I don't want that. I want them dead! Oh, nasty me. I want that Karma hits them hard, which, in that novel, it does. I'll also leave the ending open and a bit mysterious, so the reader can decide if it really happened or not.

After breaking through that beast of a brick wall, I'm much  more confident finishing the novel until the 31st of July. 15k to go and that hopefully all guns blazing.

Wish me luck. :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Confessions of a self-published author

I'm talking about publishing my novel Candlelight Sinner with errors. Maybe fifty all together, typos, missing words, missing speech marks, extra speech marks. Okay, fifty errors in an 80k novel may not seem much, but I find it almost unbearably embarrassing. After a lovely friend helped me with my Germish and with that having the awkward phrasing out of the way, I decided to proof the book myself on the Kindle as I normally spot those errors easily. I know, it's said everywhere, but I wanted to show I can do it. Look where it got me. Stupid, really. Although one can overlook those errors if they don't distract from the story, the vast amount alone makes me cringe. Luckily, I have found a wonderful proof reader for the future whom I've tested and who knows what is expected.
Self-publishing has been a trial and error experience; overall, I'd say, a really positive one, apart from my being rather tired of promoting and hence not doing much of it anymore. I'm almost sure that I've lost sales due to the errors in the books, for which I could kick myself, really. Despite receiving great reviews for all three books, I'm sure I could have sold more if it wasn't for the errors.
As you know I'm writing on a Thriller, which will be published under a different pen name some time this year, a clean slate for that book, if you will. I don't do it because of that, but it would be nice to have a book judged on its merit, without anyone knowing about the author; it's an experiment and if it goes well, I may publish some more, completely different books -- thriller, horror, sci-fi, etc. -- under that name. All of which will be properly proofed.
But I'll also bring out another book as Stella Deleuze this year. And my aim is to have it error free. I'll not make the mistake again to proof my own book. From what I've learned, errors occur when you rewrite, swap scenes around, add, delete. That's when a manuscript is the most prone to get messy. Best advice is to let it rest for a few weeks and go through it again. Slowly, then, when you're done, either get a professional to work on it, or someone you trust. I've noticed that I've added errors when correcting what the proof reader sent. So that's a fault on my part. Not sure how I'll deal with that in future, but I'll find a solution. No book of mine shall contain more than a few errors in future. Best would be to have zero, but you can't even guarantee that with a professional proof reader.
Please do me only one favour: do not say that you find errors in traditionally published books; just because there is the odd book which contains errors, doesn't make it right. :-)

PS: I've corrected mine. (Thank you, Sandra.x)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Male green iguanas and female owners

Yes, Zorro is in mating season again, but, compared to the last two years, he's reasonably calm. I can't even tell you how happy that makes me. Although he is very aggressive towards me and tries to sink his teeth into my flesh, I can deal with that. Sort of. Touching him is out of question, or only if he really is generous and lets me. He's not eating, only bits of banana, a few leaves of rocket or some blueberries, which is normal for mating season. I have also covered the glass with bubble wrap, so if he jumps against the window, it'll help prevent him getting a bleeding and swollen snout. A typical injury in iguanas during mating season and all too often ends up needing a visit to the vet and antibiotics. So far, it's working just fine. he only bumped his nose a couple of times and that was when he tore the bubble wrap down. It just can't withstand sharp claws and 6kg hanging on it. My observations show that his being calmer might have to do with my being not as stressed as I was the last two years. The situation with my upstairs neighbours had me so cornered, that I didn't have any opportunity to relax. Since I've move house, the iguana seems to pick up on my vibes. Interesting, isn't it? They are rather perceptive.
Those of you who read last year's entries regarding Zorro being in mating season will remember that I wanted to have him a hormone implant, but that needs to be done well before they get into season. Somehow, I had the feeling he started a bit earlier than expected so I missed having it done. Since he's 'fine' I think it may not have been too bad. I don't like messing with his hormones and would only do it if both of us are in danger, which we were last year, but if he remains as he is now in future, I'd be more than happy to deal with a grumpy iguana. What's new anyway? :-)
That said, I'm really glad to have wooden flooring as he recently, when I had him out to clean his vivarium, attacked me. If that would have been on carpet, I'd have stitches in my shin right now. He just shot forwards in order to bite me and his powerful jaw and strong teeth would easily be able to take a piece out of my leg/arm or wherever he manages to get me. They sometimes, will bite into something and shake their heads violently. If that's tender human flesh, it'll result in a blood bath.
However, I was a lucky girl and locked him away in the bedroom for the time being. If you have a female with an iguana in mating season, you have to watch your back. They are smart and sneaky; the moment you don't look, you'll make yourself a target.

Cheeky, innit? I still wouldn't change him for the world. Look at him being pulled out of his sleep. I tried to remove the shed skin on his horn on the nose while he slept. He opened his eye only that bit. I left him in peace and he immediately fell asleep again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

From seed to the plate

Our roof garden has come a long way and with it us people who look after it. It was and still is a matter of trial and error, as we have to fight with harder conditions: grow bags, wind and the roof. But nevertheless, it's
full of wonderful colours: red strawberries, black currants, yellow courgette flowers, green chard, purple turnips, lettuce ranging from light green to dark red, orange nasturtium, light blue borage flowers, blood-orange bean flowers, etc. I could go on. It's just wonderful to step in the garden and see how everything's growing. We will certainly have plenty of courgettes and tomatoes, and the snow peas should be ready to be harvested soon. Like last year, I basically take something home every time when I finish with a little session. Yesterday, I picked plenty of lettuce and chives and will have it for dinner today. The garlic we planted in October seems to be ready, too. My whole kitchen smells of it now, and I haven't even cooked with it.
Since the tomatoes (bush and cordans) are flowering and some of them have even fruit already, they need feeding every week. All of them are from organic seeds and home grown. Can't wait to have a tomato mozzarella salad with our own basil.
The snow peas didn't take too long, and they are delicious in a home made Thai green curry or stir fry. I love using the produce we grow, in the end, that's what the garden's for. Of course, also for the community and learning, but the end product is food. I can't even believe how much I've learned in the past year; even though I grew up with allotments, I only remember planting some carrots and potatoes and harvesting lettuce. I had no idea how to look after the plants. And that is fun, too. There's always something to do, weeding, harvesting, sewing, pruning, and not to forget: having tea and biscuits. :-)
We also have some chamomile and I picked some flowered to make tea with them. Yes, I know I'm weird. I drink almost every herb tea there is.

Unfortunately, we have some disease in the herb bed, which I'm not too happy about. We aren't 100% sure what it may be, but the leaves of the mint and lemon balm were all sprinkled with white. So I did what I do best and gave it a really good hair cut. It's growing back looking a lot healthier, but there are still a few affected bits which I just cut back again. It all started with the sage being covered in what might have been mildew. And the thyme and rosemary is dying off, so we are trying to fight what looks like the red spider mite. Again we're not 100% sure. When you shake it, little flies come out of it.
Where it came from and how it started, is unclear. It was all perfectly healthy last year.. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tip of the week: how to react to negative reviews

Yes, I know, it's been done to death and I thought that everyone got the message after the Howett incident, but I seem to be wrong. I recently read a blog post giving some advice that had me fuming. Massively. The self-published author, who had obviously been spoiled by positive reviews (I assume by his friends), started to receive negative ones saying the story is unbelievable, characters not likeable, etc. So what did he do? He thought to himself that writing an article about the 'how to' would be a great idea. Yes, I agree, it is, but only if the 'how to' contains the following: be professional about it and take it on the chin.

Of course he didn't do that. No. He advised to look up your favourite authors' books and feel comforted when reading all the 1-star-reviews. Whereas it doesn't do any harm, it's pointless, because it doesn't make your book better, does it?
I won't repeat all the points, but stress the two that made me want to slap him. Hard. Very hard.
1.) He advised to get your mates to downvote the negative reviews and
2.) to ask as many friends as possible, who are confident to write a 5-star-review and, yes, you guessed it, get them to post them.
I honestly couldn't believe my eyes. Not only is this particularly immature, but also highly frowned upon, and that rightly so.

Needless to say that it didn't take long until he got his wrists slapped by fellow authors and readers who weren't too impressed with such advice. Serious self-published authors have enough difficulties without those who pull such stunts. People like that want to play professional in the professional league, but are still in kindergarten.
Now, I'm not so much concerned about people being vocal about it, they'll be put in their places in no time, but I'm worried about those who just go ahead and do it. Fair play to this particular author, though, he has amended that post. If he's also altered his way of thinking, I don't know.

I'd keep it simple: if you receive a negative review, rise above it. Not everyone will love or like your book. If you receive more or them, all pointing out the same issue, stop huffing and puffing and instead get cracking, they may be onto something.
The only response a reviewer deserves is: Thank you for taking the time to read my book.

Stop messing with the system just because you can do it. You want to be taken seriously? Then act like it!

Rant over!