Dog humour

Taylor 2

Taylor grinning (most likely she was impatiently waiting for her ball to be thrown)

Have you ever wondered if dogs have a sense of humour? I’ve always thought they do.

My old dog Taylor, a smart Kelpie x Border Collie with a big personality, loved playing games with us. One was hide and seek with me around the front entrance of my parents’ place, where you could circle from the little foyer into the dining room, the lounge room and back into the foyer. We’d try to outwit each other – she knew to look up to catch my movement through the glass window between the foyer and dining room.

So of course I would try to duck, which slowed me down… and she was usually too quick for me. The couple of times I managed to creep up behind her, she was poised in a crouch, absolutely quivering with anticipation, trying to work out where I was. It was rare to catch her, but when I did, she jumped on me like a little kid, with a doggy expression that’s only equivalent to laughter in humans.

She also had a rubber doughnut toy that was her great love indoors. One of her favourite games was to lay it on the couch beside one of us, then wait, eyes glued to the doughnut. When we’d reach for it, she’d leap in and snatch it away just in time, then prance around flipping it in the air, ears back against her head and eyes shining with the joy of having outplayed us yet again. Again, her form of laughing.

Tillie, our big German Shepherd/Malamute/Mastiff-or-something cross, plays chicken with us on the oval. The look on her face is pure devilment as she bores down on us at a gallop, feinting and dodging aside just in time. Then there’s the playful dance around us, the ‘gotcha’ moment. She also entertains herself by scaring our chickens, suddenly bounding at them so they explode into flustered squawks. She never actually chases them, just walks off afterwards with a facial expression that can only be described as smug and satisfied.

Dogs express a lot of emotions and feelings – excitement, love, anticipation, fear, dislike, anger, pain, hate, shame, boredom. No, I don’t think this is being anthropomorphic (people seeing human characteristics in animals). You’ll be nodding along with all of the above feelings if you’ve spent enough time with dogs.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why so many humans love dogs, apart from their guarding abilities or their many other attributes which are useful to us (guiding, finding, rescuing, fetching, etc). Not only can we be ourselves and show all our emotions in front of them, but we can share their emotions too. Apart from the big welcome home, or the affectionate smooch, or the snuggle when you’re feeling sad or ill, there may also be a shared moment of humour. It’s a wonderful thing 🙂

Has your dog ever displayed a funny side? I’d love to hear about it!

Below is a video from three years ago when Tillie was a little more energetic and a lot rougher in play (don’t worry, Elvis is a tough little guy!):

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100 words to 64,000

izzie-computer

Izzie assisting with the writing process.

Well, the 100 words a day was a success! I changed it to writing 200 words a day, mostly on my manuscript, with a daily reminder in my phone so I couldn’t just forget. I achieved that target most days. Often I did much more that 200 words. So yes, it can work – I’ve finished a draft of Inside Out, my second YA novel 🙂

I can highly recommend this method for writers who are strapped for time, or who (like me) constantly tell themselves they’ll set aside a day to write, then find themselves achieving nothing except procrastinational housework and the rearranging of their desks.

Inside Out is now about 64,000 words and is cohesive enough for me to have sent it out to four beta readers this week. Now I’m working on the dreaded synopsis, blurb and tagline.

Here’s the tagline: Bullied horribly, the shy, clumsy daughter of sports stars refuses to attend PE classes – and finds herself on stage instead. 

instagramcapture_ade03c35-21da-4c9d-81fe-fecf4a552c17_jpgIn other bookish news, I enjoyed myself attending a few events during the Melbourne Writers Festival, including the launch of Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue, a lovely book about losing and finding love and letters in a secondhand bookshop. Fiona Wood and Simmone Howell introduced the book, and Cath is a warm and humble author who happily signed books and chatted. I love that the launch of an eagerly awaited novel by one of Australia’s best YA authors had plates of homemade food from herself and a couple of the other writers!

I’ve also joined a monthly brunch with other YA readers that’s very enjoyable, discussing (with much fervour) what we’ve been reading while brunching (my favourite meal of the day). Except for the part where wiring started burning and smoking in the cafe last Sunday… hopefully that cafe is still there for next month’s meeting 😉

dogs-on-grass

Elvis and Tillie find a really good scent

The animals have been featuring on Instagram between all the book posts. I’d ask their opinion on this, but I suspect they don’t care at all apart from the treats and attention they receive during photo taking!

Tillie, at 13, is struggling a bit with her arthritis, and we’re a little worried at how she’ll cope with summer coming up. But her treatment and medication are going well, and she’s still happy, loving and extremely interested in her food and walks, so that’s a good sign to say the least.

Other than that, I’ve recovered from an operation on my right middle finger which was just day surgery to remove a benign lump. As it turns out, the lump was growing in an artery. No wonder it hurt! So my whole hand was bandaged for two weeks to allow it to heal, and while I had two weeks off, it was a bit restricted (no driving, difficult showering and um, toileting, plus one-handed typing – with my weaker hand). I highly appreciate having the use of both hands, that’s for sure.

bookshelf

Time to find more bookshelf space

And spring is well on its way here in Melbourne, with lots of rain which is a change to the past… well, fifteen years, really. It’s nice to have all the green and growth right now, but it doesn’t bode well for bushfire season this summer. Hopefully everyone will be on the ball and keeping paddocks, bush and weeds under control.

Well, I’m off to do a little more writing, and then reading before bed. I’ve achieved my Goodreads goal of 50 books already this year, so another three months should add a few more. I haven’t read this much for years – I discovered it just takes some practice to get back into it. And it’s doing my own writing a world of good.  Tonight I’m beta-reading a draft of a YA manuscript for one of my beta readers – it’s fantastic and very funny so far!

Hope you’re all well, and what are you reading yourselves?

 

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REPOST: Review: ‘Coming of Age’ at Melbourne Writers Festival — Liz McShane

A re-post of Liz McShane’s great review of a fantastic session  🙂

It was great to be back at Melbourne Writers Festival this year, particularly given there was a series of panels devoted to YA. The panels were grouped under the umbrella of ‘Eye on YA’. I attended ‘YA Superstars’, ‘Coming of Age’ and ‘Fantasy Fiction’. The standout event for me was ‘Coming of Age’. ‘Coming of […]

via Review: ‘Coming of Age’ at Melbourne Writers Festival — Liz McShane

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Antiheroines to the rescue

I had a great opportunity to be interviewed by Belinda Crawford, indie author of the Hero Rebellion series. Belinda has been running occasional interviews with writers who have created antiheroines, those fabulous females who run against the grain.  They’re not good girls, but often they do good in their own inimitable ways.

Noomi_Rapace_as_Lisbeth_Salander

Noomi Rapace played Lisbeth Salander in the movies.

One of my favourites (and most unique) would be Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson. She was so badly damaged and antisocial, yet was highly intelligent, utterly determined and protective of vulnerable people.

My character Carly, in my Young Adult novel Facing Up, is an antiheroine in her own way, grumpy and antisocial but trying to deal with the guilt eating away at her. Below is a link to Belinda’s website where she has interviewed me about  writing Carly, so please click if you’re interested:

http://belindacrawford.com/

Who’s your favourite antiheroine from books or movies?

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The Aussie YA Blog Hop – some #LoveOzYA recommendations

Aussie YA Blog Hop Banner

This is something a bit different for me, but it’s a subject that’s close to my heart 🙂

This week, the Aussie YA Bloggers Group is sharing the #LoveOzYA love across the blogosphere by talking about their favourite Aussie YA (Young Adult) reads!

Thank you to the group moderators: Happy IndulgenceGenie in a Book, Loony Literate, Thoughts by J and My Life in Books – please drop in on their blogs as well.

Join our Twitter chat on Sunday 14 August at 6pm on #AusYABlogChat and @AusYABloggers!

What I love about Aussie YA: It’s pretty damn diverse, often quirky and surprising and out there, and umm, just so AUSSIE in flavour! It’s so important for us to read our own stories and voices, as well as reading about other cultures.

Favourite Aussie YA authors: Sooo many… Melina Marchetta, Vikki Wakefield, Fiona Wood, Kirsty Eagar, for a start.

Alibrandi

Melina Marchetta’s debut novel, now an Aussie classic

The Aussie YA book I grew up with: As I’m a little older than most of the bloggers in the group, I’d have to say Robin Klein’s books, particularly Came Back to Show You I Could Fly. In those days it was mostly US stuff, like Judy Blume and the Sweet Valley High books, so it was a revelation to read about Aussie teenagers. There definitely wasn’t the variety back then that we have now.

Favourite Aussie YA book released in 2016: Ask an easier question, please! For now, I’ll pick this one: Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar was sexy, smart and on point with its subject of sexual inequality between genders, set on an Aussie university campus. One day we won’t need to have books dealing with this subject – I hope!

Aussie YA Debut I’m looking forward to: Yellow by Megan Jacobson. I know, it came out in February this year, and I still haven’t read it and don’t even own it yet! But I’ve read all the other debuts I was excited about, so it will happen, soon 😉

Favourite Aussie YA series: Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden. Yep, a common favourite, but it’s what young Aussies need to read. Happily most Aussie-born kids don’t know what it’s like to live in a war zone, and this series made us think about what would happen if we were invaded. And it made us cry. A lot.

Tomorrow

A must-read for Aussie teens

Unexpected Aussie YA surprise: Clancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie. Not sure what I was expecting, but Clancy (she’s a she) is just so endearingly quirky and awkward. She knows what she wants but is scared to get it, considering the narrow-minded small town she lives in. And it’s more Aussie in flavour than a lamington 😉

Aussie YA Book I always recommend to others: Stay With Me by Maureen McCarthy. This hasn’t had huge publicity, perhaps because Maureen hasn’t got an online presence, but it’s an intense read about a young woman trying to leave an abusive relationship. With toddler in tow. It’s perhaps more NA than YA, given the older MC, but it explains how a smart-enough girl can find herself unable to escape a once-charming boyfriend. Ugh, makes me shiver just writing this…

Stay

Chilling

An Aussie YA book on my TBR: One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn. I’ve only read one of Claire’s so far (The Protected) and I’m really looking forward to this!

Recommending my favourite Aussie YA Bloggers! Emily at The Loony Literate always makes me laugh and think! And the lovely Michelle at The Unfinished Bookshelf for her book recs 🙂

CLICK HERE TO FOLLOW THE BLOG HOP VIA HAPPY INDULGENCE 🙂

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Secondhand Love

2ndhand books

Not the bookshop I worked in but typical of some secondhand bookshops I shop in 🙂

In my past life as a bookseller, I once spent thirty looong minutes with a customer who insisted on checking through piles of books to find the perfect copy. She wanted only pristine editions, preferably ones that human hands had not touched prior to hers. While I respected her wishes (and that she was buying at least ten titles), it was an exacting process that somehow required me as well as her to inspect each one for microscopic scratches and feathering of the corners. The removal of the price stickers caused even more angst, for both of us.

There’s a sharp division between brand-new and secondhand buyers. Some people come out in a sweat at just the thought of touching something pre-loved. And paper in particular can be a depository of germs and stains, so yes, secondhand books are not for everyone.

But I love them for several reasons – they’re cheap, it’s a great form of recycling, and they have a history – someone loved and read them at some point, but their time has come to move on to another reader’s hands. Or they’re just the dreaded syllabus novel that wasn’t even cracked (the movie was watched instead).

Gwynne signatureI also love opening the front page to find a prior owner’s signature inside, with sometimes the date and location, or a ‘Happy Birthday’ message from an aunt and uncle. This sets off my imagination as to why the book was eventually given away. And early this year I found a secondhand book signed by the author – extra bonus!

I find it very hard to give away books myself and have titles on my shelf from my childhood. I am however missing quite a number (like the early 1960’s editions of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree  and Famous Five series that went to my nieces and nephews and then disappeared forever *sigh*). But I still have most of my pony novels, inherited from a cousin or bought one by one out of my pocket money. Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series, Marguerite Henry’s series based on the stories of real-life horses (Brighty of the Grand Canyon, Black Gold, etc), The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley… All read many times, well worn and much loved old paperbacks from the seventies.

There are so many memories of the excitement of buying them myself, taking them home and pulling them out of their paper bag, smelling that amazing new-book smell, and then the joy of diving into the story, far away from my boring suburban life at the time (for which I am truly grateful – I wish all kids could experience a peaceful suburban life). I could never give those books up. But I’m glad that others can, or there’d be no secondhand book sales!

Books are ideal for re-using – they can keep going for as long as their fragile paper and glued spines hold out. And as with my childhood books, they can be over forty years old and still going strong. They are definitely worth giving that extra life.

Even better, buying books from op shops raises money for charity, as does donating books. I do confess to donating back the odd few books – usually a double-up because I’ve bought a book secondhand and then find I have a copy at home.

Recently I’ve discovered the best online bookshop – Brotherhood Books. It’s a second-hand bookshop that raises money for the Brotherhood of St Laurence, a charity based here in Australia. The website has a very good search engine and they are very efficient, delivering within a couple of days of ordering (I’m in the same city as their warehouse though). And while they are a little pricier than your average op shop, they give free postage (Australia only) for orders of three or more books. The warehouse utilises volunteers to keep costs down. A win-win situation for charity and booklovers!

Brotherhood books 2Here’s my haul from there so far (at left). After working in bookshops and publishing for nearly a decade, you’d think I’d have collected every book I ever wanted. But often I just read particular books on loan and didn’t realise until much later that I might want to own copies. Also I got many books for free, or at least cheap, so it took me some time to get used to having to pay full-price for books once I left the industry.

Secondhand is a great way to buy up a series, and I’ve spent years searching bookshops for some of my (slightly eccentric) interests, such as Monica Dicken’s World’s End series, about four children left to raise themselves and their menagerie of animals in 1960’s England (I’m only missing the final one now, Spring Comes to World’s End, which I want in a particular edition to match the others).

Online secondhand bookshops take a bit of hard graft out of the search (some street secondhand shops are serious fire hazards in their method of shelving and stacking), but it’s still hit and miss as to what you’ll find when. But it’s all for a good cause, whether it’s recycling or raising money for charity, or just fulfilling the eternal booklover’s dream of overflowing bookshelves and TBR* piles 🙂

So, how do you feel about brand-new versus secondhand books?

*To Be Read – the pile which never gets any smaller, no matter how much you read 😉

NB after writing this post, I went back online and bought three more books from Brotherhood. Whoops.

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Synopsysizing

JamesStewartKimNovak

“Don’t worry, my dear, I’m sure she knows what she’s doing”

That’s not a word, you say! No, I don’t think it’s a word either, but I like it. And it’s about as difficult to spell as it is to write a damn synopsis itself.

How do you sum up your novel in one page or thereabouts? Or even in one sentence, for that lucky moment when you find yourself in a lift with a publishing-type person and you need to approach them in that split-second between telling them you’re a writer and the moment their eyes roll wildly looking for the ‘Open Door’ button?

So, I’ve decided to give my Facing Up synopsis another re-write. Mainly because I would like to get it published traditionally eventually. And also because I need the practice for my second almost finished YA novel (yes, I swear, it’s almost finished – I know I’ve been saying that for at least a year! It’s amazing how many degrees of near-completion are covered by the phrase ‘almost finished’).

JStewartVertigo

Jimmy Stewart knows all about survival in ‘Vertigo’

Where was I? Oh yes, in the middle of attempting to leap ship from self-publishing to traditional publishing. Whoops, caught. Well, I’ve had a go at it, and I know I’m not great at the publicity thing, so I thought why not use the knowledge I’ve gained and try to sell my novels to agents and publishers? There’s not a lot to lose, as I’m already well and truly caught up in the enjoyment of writing. Just a matter of some slightly dented pride with the coming rejections, but I know I’ve survived all that before.

This time, I figure, if I give it a red-hot go and work on all the things needed, like synopsis, blurb, tagline – and of course the novel itself – then I’m putting a lot of things in place that can be used if I decide later on to self-publish the second (and third! yes, there is a third in gestation). They do say it’s hard to get noticed as an author, especially self-published, until you’ve got several books out and have built a following.

So I’m working away on the Facing Up synopsis, summarising 55,000 words to preferably less than 1000. And then preferably around 300 words, going by what the publishers seem to be wanting. All this for something that may or may not be read! But writing a good synopsis shows your ability to build a story arc, to hold interest, build tension, and bring it all home to a satisfying conclusion, so here goes for what may be my fiftieth attempt to produce a decent synopsis for this book.

Hitchcock

“Of course, using one of my movies as an example is a perfect idea!”

Here’s a few different articles I found useful – in this one, the plot for the Hitchcock classic movie Vertigo is used as an example (spoiler alert!).

In this interview from Writers Victoria, Aussie YA writer Shivaun Plozza gives an insider’s view, both as a published author and as a manuscript reader for a major publisher – how I wish I could attend her workshop in July, but my full-time job is getting in the way.

And here’s a challenge – write one sentence for each of your novel’s major plot turns. Phew.

Good luck with that, and wish me good luck too!

Posted in Self Publishing, Writing, Young Adult book | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments