Friday, 28 August 2015

Antipodean spring chaos

Years ago, a farmer friend of mine was lamenting hobby farmers. He said the area was being overtaken by these amateurs with their tiny plots of land, exotic animals (like alpacas and ostriches) and total ignorance as to what they were doing. I thought his rant was funny at the time. It's not so funny now, especially as I've just realized I'm one of those ignorant hobby farmers! (Well, my husband is and I'm guilty by proximity. Or possibly guilty because I turn all of our animals into pets!)
One of last year's babies. We called her Buttercup.
Right now we're dealing with the problems of spring over here in New Zealand. The sheep are lambing. Which, in our case, means the sheep drop a lamb, forget they birthed it and wander off leaving the poor wee thing to bleat frantically. At this point, I generally freak out, stalk up our hill and rescue the abandoned lambs. I then spend weeks getting up every two hours during the night to bottle feed the lamb. As a reward for my sleep deprivation, I get to dress the lambs in pink jumpers and cuddle them continually. As punishment for my soft heart, I get another pet sheep. Or several pet sheep, depending on the year. Pet sheep are different from normal sheep in that they are named, fed treats, allowed in the garden and are never, ever turned into sausages. At this rate our place is going to be overrun by pet sheep. See what I mean about ignorant hobby farmers???

My first ever rescued lamb - Fuzzbucket. This was taken years before I realised she'd grow into a noisy, whining sheep who kicks the door demanding bread and wants to live in the guest room.
That's Fuzzbucket on the left. She brought some of her mates with her to demand sandwiches.
This year we accidentally started breeding chickens. I say accidentally because we didn't realize one of our chickens was a rooster until he'd already done the deed with most of our hens. Because he was cute, and a pet, it took a while to find someone to take him off our hands. Someone we trusted not to turn him into Sunday dinner. Don't get me wrong, chicken is one of my favorite foods, just not when it's called Sparky. Anyway, I was in the garden yesterday when I spotted three little grey chicks following a hen. That's how we discovered we were breeding the things. We'd been wondering where the eggs had gone, turns out there are two hidden nests being kept warm by two grumpy hens. The potential for a whole lot more babies is considerable. This would be exciting, if it wasn't for the fact I now have to monitor the cats to make sure they don't treat the chicken coop as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The white one was the culprit.
On top of all this, the goat is molting. I thought she was sick, she's shedding a tonne of fluff, so I loaded her into the car and took her to the vet. Turns out most people with goats call the vet out to them, rather than putting a lead on the goat before walking her into the vet. After a pricey visit we learned she's losing her winter coat. She seems genuinely irritated by the hair loss, so I've taken to brushing her coat in an attempt to calm her. There's probably a right way to do this. It's probably not the way I'm doing it. I use one of my hairbrushes and I spray her coat with a detangler product before I start. The detangler works great on my kids, so I figured it would work on the goat. She does look less messy now. She also smells like strawberry hair product and has a slight sparkle to her fur.
The goat on her very own chair. The goat lives in my old greenhouse. She gets a snack box every evening.
I'm told that none of this is normal...
As you can see, hobby farmers like me really don't know what they're doing. I should probably do some research into how to take care of things properly. I'll get right on that - after I counsel our alpacas, who I'm sure are traumatized by our overly friendly highland cow. And I really need to email someone about an ad I saw for ostriches looking for a good home...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

I don't write propaganda

This week, I read a scathing review of one of my books. I try not to let negative reviews get to me, as we all like different things, but this one stuck in my mind. The reviewer took particular issue with the heroine. They said the heroine was weak willed, that she relied on a man to sort out her problems, that she behaved like a throwback to the 50s. They said she was a bad example to women. That she wasn't a strong, independent, contemporary woman and therefore the book itself wasn't worth reading.

Now, here's the thing: the reviewer is partly right.

I didn't write a strong, independent heroine who could sort out all of her own problems. The guy did step in to help her and she leaned on him. The reader is right about the character, but wrong about the heroine being a bad example. And wrong about the character not being a contemporary woman. The reason the reviewer is wrong is this: the heroine wasn't written to be an example for women.

Because I write a character who is weak, or troubled, it doesn't mean I don't care about the strong, amazing women who blaze a trail for all of us. I have two daughters. I want them to grow up to be strong, independent free thinkers, but I don't expect them to learn how to be like that through reading my books. I expect them to develop into amazing women because they are surrounded by other amazing women and because I have striven, through the way I live, to show them what it's like to be strong, independent and intelligent. My books are fiction. The characters in them are different from me. They don't say the things I say. They don't do the things I do. They don't think the way I think.

They are made up people. Invented for a story. Fleshed out to tell a tale.

There are lots of different types of women in our world today. There are women who are strong and independent. Women who are weak and insecure. Women who are dependent on those around them, and women who are responsible for everyone they know. Women who are intelligent and women who aren't. There  are women with strong bodies, and skills, who know how to fight and women who faint at the thought of shedding blood. There are women with brilliant careers and women who choose to concentrate on raising a family. There are women who buckle under the weight of abuse and women who survive and come out stronger. There are women who find it hard to make decisions and women who are extraordinary leaders. They are ALL contemporary women. They all have valid stories. They all react differently in any given situation. If I were to only write about one type of woman, I'd miss out on all those stories. And there is beauty in all of them. We learn something from the stories of people who are NOT like us.

So, I feel I should warn you: I have no intention of changing how I write.

I know there are readers out there who only want one type of woman and who think that only one type of heroine is correct. I disagree and I want to write about lots of different types of women. So if you're looking for a book that promotes an ideal you adhere to, and it isn't in my books, then don't read my books.

I don't write propaganda. I don't try to push any belief or message with my work--although I have very strong beliefs and views on many things, including what it means to be a woman today. What I try to do is step inside the head of someone who isn't like me and make them as real as possible. If you don't agree with the actions of the character, then that's fine. The character isn't you. The same way she isn't me.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

FREE for a limited time!

There's been a hiccup and Lingerie Wars is being offered FREE in all online bookstores. Go grab a copy before they sort the mistake and the price goes back up!

Friday, 21 August 2015

FREE romance books!

iBooks are giving away hundreds of great romance novels, including Lingerie Wars! These books are all written by New Zealand and Australian based authors. This is a limited time offer, so make sure you don't miss out. Pop over right now to see what fab new reads you can find. :D

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

7 romance novel pet peeves...

Recently I've been less than thrilled with the romance novels I've been reading. Don't get me wrong there are a lot of really good books out there and some truly amazing writers. But I seem to have hit a run of things I hate to find in a good romance. It's annoyed me so much that I've decided to share my pain! When I find one of my pet peeves in a romance novel, I want to throw the book at the wall. Am I alone in this? Does this stuff drive you nuts too?

1. A romance heroine who is too stupid to live

Imagine the scene, you're happily reading away, enjoying the story when suddenly the heroine decides to walk down a dark alley. She needs to follow a blood trail, even though she's all alone and has no skills to deal with what she might find. Or how about this one: the heroine, who's been told by the experts in the story not to do something, does that exact thing as soon as their backs are turned. Even though commonsense and basic logic would tell any woman that it's a bad idea. These heroines are TOO STUPID TO LIVE. They have no place in a decent novel. Didn't this sort of thing end with the bad horror movies of the 70s? Aren't we over dumb women walking into places no sane woman would ever go??? I mean, seriously, it's the 21st century. What woman in their right mind would do something like this? When I find someone like this in a book I just want to throw it out the window.

2. It's all a misunderstanding

I HATE when the characters spend a whole book fighting over something that could have been solved with a conversation in the first chapter. This is not a plot. It's a farce.

3. Repetitive internal monologues

Enough with the endless emotional angst already! What age is the character? 13? I sometimes wonder if writers think readers are dumb. You don't need to tell your reader something over and over for them to get it. Reading one paragraph where the hero ruminates over his childhood trauma is enough. You don't need to bring it up every couple of pages. Instead of telling me what he's thinking about all the time, how about showing me through the action how he's dealing with it? Page after page of angst is only interesting if you're a fifteen year old writing a diary. For the rest of us it's BORING.

4. Characters that have nothing endearing about them AT ALL

I read a book recently where the hero and heroine were totally unlikable. I kept waiting for a scene or a turn in the story where I'd find out they had depth of character. I wanted something - ANYTHING - about them to make me like them. It never happened. Why would I read about people I can't identify with and don't like? This boggles my mind.

5. Characters who act out of character

This one really makes me mad. I read a book recently where the heroine was smart, sassy and cautious - until about 10% from the end! Then she suddenly did something so stupid and out of character it made no sense whatsoever. It pulled me out of the story and ruined the book for me. I can see why the author did it. It was an easy way to move the plot along and get the ending she wanted. It was also the lazy way. I won't be buying this author again. I'm worried she'll do that to me in future books. Once bitten...

6. NEVER, ever use this phrase: velvet over steel

I think this was used to describe a penis once in the 70s and a whole bunch of romance writers thought: "Hey, that is so groovy, I need to use it too!" NO. DON'T DO IT. For a start it isn't accurate. I wrapped velvet round a steel pipe and it is nothing like it claims to be. On top of that it's a screaming cliche that's so overused it makes the reader laugh. And you generally don't want a reader laughing in the middle of your oh-so-hot sex scene. Unless you're writing romantic comedy and intend for this to happen. Which gives me an idea... :)

7. Flogging a dead series

Three times recently I've read the latest books in series by authors I love and discovered the same thing--they should have let the series die! It's obvious from the way the books are written that the author is totally over it. Their lack of interest, and joy, comes through loud and clear. Readers might want more of the same from you, but if your heart isn't in it you aren't doing them any favors by writing those books. Do something else with your talent. Give me a book that's just as well written as some of the books in your past instead of a half-hearted attempt to do what you think I want. LET THE SERIES END.

Okay, I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest. Phew! If you have any pet peeves, don't forget to share them with me. Trust me, you'll feel the weight lift from your shoulders when you do! ;)

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

the logic of a dieting man

Hubby came home from work this week and declared he was going on the "playero" diet. After some discussion I discovered he meant the Paleo diet. He'd been talking about it to a fellow nurse and decided he'd spend this week dieting.
"You don't eat carbs," he announced, like he knew what carbs were.
"You eat a loaf of bread a day," I said. "You realise this means no sandwiches."
He looked worried, but nodded. "I can do it."
"There's no dairy allowed on this diet either," I said.
There was stunned silence for a minute. "If I can't eat dairy what the hell am I supposed to eat? What kind of diet is this? I don't want to starve."
I took pity on him and gave him a healthy low carb cookbook and told him to do that diet. At which point he said, "I have to read this? Can't you just tell me what to eat?"
I glared at him, told him it was his diet and he had to do the work. He stomped off in a huff.

It went down hill from there. I was in the middle of writing a difficult scene when my office door thudded open. "Are cornflakes carbs?" he demanded.
"Yes," I said on a sigh.
"What about muesli?"
"What the hell am I supposed to eat for breakfast?"
"Read the book!" I slammed the door shut and got back to work.

Half an hour later the door opened again. I ground my teeth together and felt my eye begin to twitch.
"What about sweet potatoes?"
"Even if I deep fry them?"
My jaw dropped. "Frying them doesn't change their molecular structure. They'll still be carbs. Only they'll be covered in high fat oil as well."
"What if I used a 'healthy oil'?" He used air quotes.
I slammed the door shut on him.

There was silence for a while. I sighed in relief before heading to the kitchen for a drink. He was eating breakfast. I stopped dead in my tracks. His plate was piled high with fried eggs, bacon and sausages. He grinned. "This diet is great."
I shook my head. "Did you read the part where it talked about a low fat approach to eating?"
"I used healthy oil."
"How much did you use? A barrel?"
"Did you know sausages have carbs in them?" he said. "I read the package." He motioned to his plate. "I figured the carbs were in the skins so I took the skins off and now they're carb free." He grinned widely.
I left him to it and went back to work.

An hour later the door opened again. "Are peanuts carbs? What about Macadamias? Or cashews?"
I clenched my fists and resisted the urge to pummel him. "They have some carbs in them but they're mainly protein. But they aren't low fat."
"So I can eat nuts?"
"Fantastic! I'm going to the shop," he declared.
He disappeared. I took a deep breath and tried to get back into my writing.

A while later I heard the door slam and he shouted. "I'm making lunch. Do you want something."
"A bagel and cream cheese," I shouted back.
His grinning head appeared around my door. "Bagels are carbs," he told me in the same tone my five year old uses when she gets a math question right.
"Well done. Good boy," I told him.
Obviously pleased with himself he headed for the kitchen.
A while later I got a shout that lunch was ready. I followed the smell of cooked meat to the kitchen. At the table was a small plate with a bagel on it and facing it was platter loaded with three steaks, bacon and a mountain of coleslaw. He looked so proud of himself that I didn't comment. He pointed to the coleslaw with his knife. "They sell sugar free."
"Did you read the part in the book that talked about portion control?"
He looked at me like I was nuts. I took the bagel back to my office to eat.

That night's dinner was pasta for me and the kids. Hubby made himself an omelette with at least half a dozen eggs, a block of cheese and a pack of bacon.
"You can eat as much bacon as you like on this diet," he informed everyone solemnly.
"Shouldn't you be eating vegetables?" I said.
He gave me a superior look. "The key to a good diet is plenty of protein."
I pointed at his plate. "What about all the fat?" I asked.
"It's healthy fat," he told me then rolled his eyes as though I was too ignorant to be believed. The girls giggled.

After the kids went to bed that night, I went out with a friend. I came back to find hubby watching TV and snacking. He'd eaten a family sized bag of mixed salted nuts and half a block of cheese.
"I don't know why you complain about dieting," he said. "It's easy and you never feel hungry. You can't be doing it right. Next time you diet, I'll help you."
I didn't say anything because, seriously, what could I say?!

It's day three of his "diet". He's gained five pounds, feels like crap and can't figure out why. He thinks he might be using the wrong 'healthy oil'.

Friday, 17 July 2015

FREE Magenta Mine for Apple, Kobo and B+N

FREE for a limited time!

MMagenta Mine is now FREE to download from AppleKobo and Barnes + Noble. Go nab a copy before the offer ends! And if you already have a copy, don’t forget to spread the word. :)
Magenta 3D copy