Saturday 31 December 2011

What will this year be like? I wonder...

When I look back on this past year, I see a tumultuous year of change and loss. 

Lost people. Lost jobs. And lost dreams.

For many, 2011 was a year that fundamentally changed their lives. Even those with the strongest foundations quaked.

From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, the old ways of life were challenged on a collective level.

From the loss of those people, values and material assets that we held dear, the old ways of life were challenged on an individual level.

Some, shaken and stirred, remained standing. Others, like my fabulous father-in-law, were swept away as the solid mountain is inexorably washed away by the river of time. A few, like my Dad with his gritty determination, still cling precariously to the last few moments of the old year.

What will this new year be like? I wonder…

A friend said to me that 2011 was a year in which God held a clearance sale. All those things that no longer served their purpose in our lives were cleared out. 

And that, of course, makes space for all that is new to come into our lives because change is not loss…it’s only different.

Throughout 2012 there will be loose ends from the previous cycles in our lives to tie up and pack neatly away. While I quake at the thought of what those final losses may mean, mostly I look forward to 2012 with a flicker of hope that can, with very little effort, burst into a flame of excitement at the new adventures that await.

A new year with twelve months...what’s so fearsome about that?

May 2012 be a year of clean endings, peaceful transformations
and of seeking dreams, both old & new.

Thursday 22 December 2011

The Skeleton Dance

Do you remember doing the Skeleton Dance as a toddler?  I remember my Mom, with her boundless enthusiasm and vibrant energy, teaching us the song.

“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dancing bones,” she’d warble as my strong, silent Dad  tapped his foot along. And then, because it wasn’t all fun, but a song to teach us about the different bones in our body, she’d make us repeat after her, “The footbone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the thigh bone,” and so on until, with gales of giggles, we’d work our way through all the connections until we had a complete skeleton and could do the Skeleton Dance (I still occasionally burst into the song, without the wiggly actions though!)

Those halcyon days of carefree childhood fun are lost for, as many of you know, over the past few years my beloved Dad has suffered a serious of strokes. He is more silent than ever, as the strokes have also diminished his verbal capacity. But he is no longer strong. 

My Mom, too, is fading as, at age 77, she deals with the hard task of physically caring for a man who is her husband and yet is no longer the same man who was the first person to love her after a sad and abandoned childhood in an orphanage. That strong spirit of hers, the one that helped her rise above so many of life’s challenges, is fading under the multiple losses she bears. 

We grieve for her too. Mainly because her joyous spirit is slowly being smothered under the dual pressure of emotional grief and sheer physical exhaustion.  We, her two daughters, are filled with anticipatory grief because everyone tells us - with morose 'comfort'? - that long-term caregivers always die first.

All we can do is be there as her support. We help in any way we can, but it’s never enough to bring either of my loving parents back to us.

Isaac & Dawn, my  much loved parents,
on their 50th wedding anniversary in 2005
My Mom’s world – as it must in the current circumstances – has narrowed to the single focus of caring for this man who was her protector and lover for nearly 60 years. She has no energy left for us; I, thinking myself a strong independent woman, have disappointed myself with how deeply I have felt the loss of the unconditional support she so generously showered on us all ...until now. Although she still tries so hard to be there for us, there is just not enough of her bright star left to spread around.

My Dad’s world is...well, let's say that at times it converges with our reality. He momentarily comes back to us, as he did the other day when we chatted about death quite rationally, and he picked up my hand and said, “I’ll miss you when I go to the moon.” In his mind, with its broken synapses and lost connections, the white light of the full moon has become associated with the Divine Light of the God he so faithfully believes in. But those moments of my Real Dad are further and further apart.

As the skeleton's bones become brittle with age and use, the sinews and ligaments that connect them begin to tear and wither too. With each successive stroke that my Dad is subjected too, the connections that hold our family together are taking more and more strain.

But sometimes, other connections are formed that return to those muscles the much needed strength and the ability to somehow dig deeper and go on with a renewed sense of the power of Love.

One such unexpected connection was a book review on Patricia’s Wisdom, a blog that also reviewed my own novel. Patricia reviewed a memoir called SO FAR AWAY: A Daughter’s Memoir of Life, Loss and Love. Written by Dr Christine Hartmann, this story chronicles the author’s journey through both her parents' very different deaths.

Her mother didn’t want to suffer a loss of her mental acuity through old age diseases and so become a burden. She openly planned her death by suicide. Hartmann’s father, like my Dad, saw his death as so far away that he (and his family) were caught unawares by a series of massive strokes that (again like my Dad) kept him physically alive, but at the cost of his mental and spiritual essence.

Browsing Hartmann’s website, I found another connection: like my Mom, Hartmann suffers with glaucoma. And, of course, Hartmann’s parents were teenagers in Nazi Germany during World War II. My parents where white South Africans during the rule of the Apartheid Nationalist Government.

No wonder SO FAR AWAY has had me crying – no, sobbing – inconsolably for the past two days as I read it. I am drained and exhausted and utterly relieved that I am no longer alone in my journey of grief. Another daughter has trodden this path and she has shown me that there is a way through this loss; there is even life and love at the end of this seemingly endless road that has drained all my energy, my enthusiasm and my optimism, turning me ever more isolationist and remote from real life and unable to write a word on the new novel that is hammering away inside my head. 

And, she says, addressing one of my most painful fears, when her father's physical body eventually died, she was able to recapture the spiritual essence and memories of how he was before the strokes stole his essence and left only a shell.  For too long, it has become more and more difficult to remember who my Dad was, before he was reduced to what he is.

What makes this book special is that Dr Hartmann’s life, losses and love are mine too. Reading Hartmann’s story allowed me to cry for her that which I cannot yet cry for myself: the loss of my hero, my “pardner,” my beloved Dad.

I could cry, too, for the fading of that strong light that was the hallmark of my courageous Mom, her joie de vivre overshadowed now by the endless day-to-day caring of the physical body that houses the lost soul of her husband and my father.

Hartmann’s compassionate caring, the relentless journey to understand both herself and her parent’s emotional wounds, fill this memoir and made me realise that I have carried the burden of this private grief and double loss inside me for too long.

I had forgotten that this cycle of life, too, can be a path of mutual love and respect between special parents and a daughter they had, despite their own wounds and private griefs, always surrounded in love and support. "Autumn," said John Keats in his most famous Ode, "thou hast thou beauty too."  Hartmann has reminded me to search for the beauty in even this, a challenging life situation.

The subtitle of this book is that it’s a “memoir about life, loss and love.”  Ultimately, SO FAR AWAY is simply an Ode to Love and it has gifted me with the memory of love at its best. Whether singing the Skeleton Dance or sitting with my Dad daily so my Mom can wallow for twenty uninterrupted minutes in a hot bath filled with bubbles, I know once again that connections forged in love ever remain.

SO FAR AWAY has "soothed the ragged tears of my heart" and, for that, I sincerely thank Christine Hartmann for having the courage to so honestly share her life, loss and love with us.

You can buy your own copy of SO FAR AWAY from Amazon and other major bookstores.

And, of course, this post would not be complete without one more rendition of The Skeleton Dance:

Friday 2 December 2011

Can We Both Condemn and Understand the Past?

My reading of the English translation of "The Reader" by Bernhard Schlink may be influenced by the outstanding movie version, which won Kate Winslet her (well-deserved) Oscar.

Often, when I read the book version of a movie that has moved me deeply I’m disappointed (or vice versa – the movie version of the emotional “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” was a huge disappointment.)

The Reader doesn’t disappoint on any level.  Perhaps because of my personal experiences (a white South African born to the generation who voted the Apartheid government into power), this novel moved me in ways I can’t begin to describe.

Stripping away the love story between Michael and Hanna, the way this novel explored and articulated the nature of guilt reflected many of the questions in my own mind. The deceptively simple prose style is ideal for keeping the focus on the soul-wrenching and difficult issues the illogical love Michael feels for Hanna raises in the reader’s mind (excuse the pun.)

At times I wondered if Hanna wasn’t symbolic of Germany herself, and Michael’s statement “I wanted simultaneously to understand Hanna’s crime and to condemn it” is a poignant echo of the post-war (or, for that matter, post-apartheid) generation’s complex patriotism.

Is Hanna’s illiteracy and ignorance enough to excuse her? And is it a metaphor for previous generations of people the world over who were simply unaware of the darkness to which that ignorance/lack of education/whatever could lead them to? Should we condemn or understand them? And, if we condemn those who have lived before us, what will future generations – those yet-to-be-born generations who will have more knowledge on which to base their choices and actions than we have – find to condemn in our behaviour? Perhaps in a hundred years times vegetarian children will have to bear the guilt of previous generations who (considering themselves perfectly civilised and moral beings) today deliberately slaughter living creatures to eat.

This novel almost defies categorisation and review. As Michael himself says, “The tectonic layers of our lives rest so tightly one on top of the other that we always come up against earlier events in later ones, not as matter that has been fully formed and pushed aside, but absolutely present and alive. I understand this. Nevertheless, I sometimes find it hard to bear.”

Sometimes I find it hard to bear that I and my beloved parents – good, ordinary people, all of us, or so I like to think – were simply too concerned with bread-and-butter issues to fight the evil of apartheid and become heroes of “the struggle.” Sometimes I find it hard to bear that, just as the German psyche will never be entirely free of the guilt of the Holocaust, so the white South African psyche will never be entirely free of the guilt of Apartheid.

Bernhard Schlink does an admirable job in addressing a topic that raises difficult moral and legal questions, none of which has easy answers.

Kate Winslet in her Oscar winning performance as Hanna Schmitz
“The Reader” is a necessary read for anyone who needs to learn that there are three sides to every story in our collective and individual histories: the victim’s side, the oppressor’s side and the truth that can never be fully known or understood. As Michael says “Whatever I had done or not done, whatever [Hanna] had done or not done…it was the path my life had taken…there are many different stories in addition to the one I have written.”

There are no guarantees that the story of the good and evil that mankind is capable of will not be repeated: the victim may become the oppressor, the oppressor the victim. As I write this review, the Palestinians live in ghettos under Israeli rule. On Black Tuesday 22-11-11, in South Africa, the black ANC government has voted in favour of an information bill, which limits the democratic freedom of speech, while the good, ordinary people (as in previous eras) were too concerned with bread-and-butter issues to care about some law whose significance they didn’t fully comprehend.

So, who knows what those who find it easier to condemn than to understand would do if a malicious Fate places them in Hanna’s shoes? “What would you have done?” Hanna asks the judge presiding over her war crimes trial. But she got no answer and nor did she expect one.

This simply written tale is a melancholy and insightful book that will linger in my mind for a long time. While it gives no easy solutions, it does provoke a deep and thoughtful analysis of how the human spirit copes when confronted with deep and horrifying truths about one’s individual and collective identity.

Friday 4 November 2011

Dona Nobis Pacem: Peace begins with a Smile

As South Africa’s iconic leader, Nelson Mandela, points out, the quest for peace is indeed a cause for universal concern.

But how do ordinary people like you and I make a real difference in a world beset with troubles and hatred?

Peace begins with a smile, said Mother Theresa.

How right she was!

Can we have peace in a world in which so few people have peace within their own souls?

For, if we can’t even negotiate a small, personal peace — during an argument with our family members or our neighbours — how can we expect the world to live in peace?

Lasting peace begins within the parameters of our ordinary lives. Once we, as individuals, are able to live in peace and harmony with our own flaws and with an acceptance of the trivial differences that separate us from those people closest to us, then we will be able to help spread that peace to our neighbours, our communities, our nations and, ultimately, the world.

Today, along with nearly 100 other bloggers, I’m blogging for peace.

Tomorrow, and all the days that follow, I will strive for peace within myself. When I’m tired and I want to snap at my husband, I’ll try a smile of peace instead.  When my neighbour plays his loud music incessantly, I’ll aim for a peaceful solution. And when the rude driver in the shopping mall steals my parking, I’ll attempt to keep my inner self calm and peaceful.

None of these actions seem like much but, like freedom, peace can only come from within. 

No-one can disturb my peace: I can only give it away. If, no matter what the external circumstances, I can strive for peace within my soul, perhaps then I can be a flicker of hope in the midst of the chaos and confusion, the despair and sorrow that is overwhelmingly present in our world.

And, from that flicker of hope, from that simple smile, perhaps peace can spread from my heart to yours…and into the greater world beyond.

Peace be with you and yours, today and all the tomorrows that await.

Visit the founder of BlogBlast for Peace, Mimi Lennox and visit the links to other blogs to find out how peace is beginning to spread throughout the world...

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Author Interview: Jessica Bell

Today my author guest is Jessica Bell. An Australian, Jessica now lives in Athens, Greece and has recently had her novel "String Bridge" published. "String Bridge" is not your typical women's fiction. This is a story about a woman filled with regret who still finds the courage to strive towards her dreams. Can you tell us more, Jessica?

How would you describe String Bridge to someone who has not heard of it before? 
I hope you don’t mind if I quote an author friend of mine to answer this. The way she describes it flatters me so much and I can’t possibly thank her enough! "Jessica's prose has a wonderful lyrical quality that transcends preconceived (and often incorrect) literary boundaries. As Jessica would concede, every word, every sentence, every paragraph is written and re-written until the page sings … Jessica’s work overflows with exquisite description, perfect metaphors, tight dialogue, and brilliant use of sensory detail. Somehow she has the ability to take a seemingly ordinary three-chord type story and turn it into a mainstage event.” Dawn Ius, Bridge Social Media 

 What was your favorite section of the book and why? I can’t really answer this without spoiling the story, so I’m just going to say that my favorite part of the book is the darkest part. I really struggled to write this section of the book. I even put it off until the very end because I dreaded experiencing the emotions. Of course, I had to eventually. Cried the whole time I wrote it. It’s very raw and a little shocking too. I still can’t believe some of the material in this novel came from me!

 Who do you imagine is your ideal reader? Any woman from the age of 18 and up. I don’t think it’s very appropriate for young teens as some of the language and images can get a bit coarse. The story may be centred on music and motherhood and marriage, but ultimately it’s about overcoming loss. And I think every person on this planet can relate to that. I also think some men would get something worthwhile out of it too. Even if they can’t identify with the story, I think they’d at least be able appreciate the way in which it’s written.

Which book do you wish you’d written and why?  I think I’ve said this over and over in answer to various questions. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a brilliant piece of literary work in my life. In my opinion, it’s even better than any of the classics I’ve read, and I’ve read plenty.

 What famous person, living or dead, would you invite for a tête-à-tête, and why? Oh my, there are so many inspirational people I would love to invite such as Patty Smith, Nick Cave, Marilynne Robinson, Margaret Atwood, Raymond Carver, Gwen Harwood, Anne Lamott, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Elliot Smith and many more. But, I guess my first choice is PJ Harvey. Her music has boosted my passion for every single creative endeavour I have pursued. Really, she just pushes the right buttons. I can’t tell you exactly what buttons they are, but they definitely make something inside me spark.

 Vedrana Rudan is a Croation journalist turned author. In an interview with Ana Lucic she said this, "I am a human being who lives in a country in an age that allows the poor only one weapon in their duel with life, and that’s swearing. Swearing is the scream of a victim, their only normal way of speech." When Beric and I travelled through Croatia, we were struck by the poverty, which we didn’t expect in a European country.  How do you feel about her statement and what do you think of swearing in novels? I think what Ana says is brilliant and certainly holds a decent amount of validity in this day and age. There is nothing wrong with swearing. Sometimes it’s almost like tool to release an unwanted abundance of emotion. I understand that concept completely. I have no problem with swearing in novels. In fact, there is a decent amount of it in String Bridge. The thing is, it’s there for a reason. And that reason stems from the fact that swearing in a language that is not your own often seems like a game and it doesn’t tend to have the same impact as swearing in one’s mother tongue to the person uttering the words. But it does to the person on the receiving end. I explore this concept in String Bridge. Basically, what I’m saying is, it needs to be there for a reason. Even if that reason is as simple as it being a character trait (i.e. the person swears a lot just for the sake of it). I resent it when readers claim that an author uses too many swear words. Writers have a reason for doing everything. Sometimes we mull over a single sentence for hours. Nothing is ever there for the sake of it. Also, what’s the big deal? They’re just words. It’s not murder.

Where can we find out more about "String Bridge"? 

Buy the soundtrack (Note from Judy: Jessica's voice and lyrics are terrific!

Buy your paperback copy of "String Bridge" 

Jessica, thanks for an interesting view into your world. Wishing you the best of luck with your story and looking forward to your next book! 

Monday 10 October 2011

A Wounded Name

South Africa is a country with a bad-ass reputation.

Newspaper headlines blare MURDER CENTRAL! HIGHEST RAPES PER DAY! And don’t forget our recent history: APARTHEID!

This darkness is part of our past and our present, but what the scaremongers conveniently forget is that every country has its demons, just as every country has its moments of glory.

South Africa is not only a land of darkness; she is also a land of hope and glory and great natural beauty.

There is much to inspire us. The iconic Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu head the list, but we also have Oscar Pistorious, a double amputee athlete known as the Blade Runner, because instead of flesh-and-blood legs, he runs on steel prostheses. Dr. Chris Barnard, who performed the world’s first-ever successful heart transplant was born in the Karoo and performed his world famous operations in Cape Town. And did you know that the great JR Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein?

The list of South Africa’s achievements goes on and on, and includes nine Nobel Laureates: three medical, four peace and two literature prize winners.

Two Nobel Literature prize winners? J M Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer have both won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And don’t forget J M Coetzee was the first author ever to win the coveted Man Booker Prize twice.

Eish!* South Africa’s current literary scene has a big history to live up to.

There was the short story writer Herman Charles Bosman, who is best known for the Oom Schalk Lourens series set in the Marico region and for his semi-autobiographical book, Cold Stone Jug, based on his experiences in prison, where he served a sentence for killing his step-brother. Between his Bohemian life-style and satirical sketches of rural Afrikaans life, Bosman also found the time to translate the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam into Afrikaans.

Olive Schreiner is best remembered today for her highly acclaimed novel The Story of an African Farm (1883.) For a Victorian woman, Schreiner was ground-breaking in her free-thinking views: the novel deals with some of the critical issues of the day, including agnosticism, career aspirations of women and an insightful portrayal of the elemental nature of life on the colonial frontier. But Schreiner was no radical, for her writings tend to hint at universal values such as moderation, peace and co-operation among people, rather than promoting socio-political causes, such as feminism or anti-racism.

During the apartheid era, many of the most influential anti-apartheid activists were local South African writers. There was JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer, who was a close friend of Nelson Mandela's defence attorneys during his 1962 trial. When Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Gordimer was one of the first people he wanted to see.

Alan Paton, Andre Brink and Breyten Breytenbach all wrote passionately against the apartheid regime: perhaps for personal reasons, but their voices were effective nonetheless. One wonders what was discussed at the Sunday lunch table in the prominent Afrikaans Breytenbach family, for Breyten Breytenbach’s brother was Colonel Jan Breytenbach, who formed the elite 32 Battalion - known as the Buffalo Battalion - of the South African Defence Force; in the brilliant movie “Blood Diamond,” Leonardo di Caprio’s tragic character, Danny Archer, had served in 32B.

Our literary history also includes some well-respected poets, such as Guy Butler and Roy Campbell. In his poetry, Butler strove for the synthesis of European and African elements into a single voice, while Campbell was considered by T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas to have been one of the best poets of the early 20th century.

In contemporary South Africa, we have a vibrant literary community. 
Writers such as Lauren Beukes (who won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award) and Sifiso Mzobe (whose debut novel Young Blood won both the Herman Charles Bosman Prize and the 2011 Sunday Times Literary Award for Fiction) carry the torch of South African literature high.

South African authors today reflect the literary voices of this wounded nation as she struggles to throw off the demons of her past and overcome the challenges of her present.

And it is their myriad voices that are helping to rebuild South Africa’s reputation: one that will match the warmth and hope of a country battered and scarred by dark memories, yet ever hopeful of a future glory.


*“Eish!” A catch-all South African exclamation that expresses anything from surprise to annoyance. Not allowed to appear in print without an exclamation mark.

This post first appeared on The Literary Lab blog in September 2011.

Monday 3 October 2011

Author Interview: Michelle Davidson Argyle

Today we welcome multi-published author Michelle Davidson Argyle (left) to share some thoughts on her latest novel, Monarch, recently published by Rhemalda Press.

What sparked the idea for Monarch?

Monarch came about over a period of a few years. I wrote three short stories from which I gleaned the idea, but I think the original idea came from reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek where she has a section about monarch butterflies - and it's so moving and beautiful that I wanted to capture something like that in a novel. Of course, knowing me, I had to go and throw spies into the mix. *smile*

Which part of researching Monarch was the most personally interesting to you? Were there any facts or themes that you would have liked to include, but they just didn't make into the story?

I think the most interesting research was looking into the CIA. Just try getting straight facts on a government agency which prides itself on secrecy! I ended up reading a few biographies from now-retired CIA operatives. That gave me a lot of insight into how the agency is run, for the most part. Of course, my worst nightmare is that a real CIA officer or employee will read my book and just die laughing at how wrong it all it is!

As far as anything that I wanted to include, absolutely! I wanted a scene in Mexico with the butterflies. I wanted to include more about the illegal logging, but it just didn't fit into the plot and would have slowed the story down.

What is the toughest battle Nick must face in Monarch?

Nick's toughest battle is learning to face to his own heart and how he truly feels about his loved ones. This, of course, affects how he treats and thinks about them. This, in turn, seeps into his fledgling relationship with his new love interest, Lilian. He's never quite sure how he feels about his wife's suicide - and his daughter who could have stopped it. In reality, Nick is in limbo with his emotions. He's fine running around keeping everyone from physical harm, but when it comes to his heart, he's in that cocoon stage trying to figure out when and how he'll emerge.

 When writing a novel, how do you develop and differentiate your characters?

That's tough to say. Honestly, much of my novel character development happens on a subconscious level. I do write outlines, and I will write out character traits, but only loosely. In respect to characters, I like them to develop organically. If I try to force them into pre-made little boxes, I run into nothing but trouble.

What was the book that most influenced your life — and why?

I'd have to say Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I mentioned that book up above. It's not a novel, but a mixture of memoir, philosophy, poetry, and reflection. It's absolutely incredible, and literally turned me around to writing fiction instead of focusing on editing in my schooling. It's odd that a nonfiction book turned me onto fiction, but it was from that book that I wrote my short story, "Clover," and from that which two of my college professors said I had an amazing gift and should seriously consider creative writing instead of technical writing. I'll never forget that moment.

American author Susan Daitch once said "I feel a certain amount of embarrassment, a lack of preciousness about my work, and would rewrite all of them given half a chance . . . Once the books are in print I have to turn the spines against the wall." When you reread your own novels at a later stage, how do you feel about them?

That's sad for Susan! I usually always want to rewrite things, but there's a drive in me that won't let me leave my books untouched on a shelf. One of the main reasons I started writing novels in the first place was because there aren't other books out there that tell the stories I wanted to I have to tell them. Because of that, one of my greatest joys in life has been reading my own fiction, and I must say that getting it published and reading it in such a polished, beautiful printed format, is even better! I think it will be a sad day that I don't read my own fiction once it's "finished." It's true that a book is never finished, only abandoned, but I'm still happy to enjoy it even once I've abandoned it to publishing. 

You can read my review of Monarch here.

To thank Michelle for her time, I'm giving away a FREE PRINT COPY of MONARCH to one lucky reader. To enter, for the draw, please leave a comment below and on the 10th October 2011, I'll use to pick the name of the winner.

Monday 26 September 2011

If, at first, you don’t succeed…by Claire Robyns

Today's guest blogger is Carina Press author Claire Robyns, who will tell what to do if, at first, you don't succeed... 

Rewrite, rewrite and rewrite again.

There’s one publishing mantra that gets drummed into authors from the beginning of their quest for publication, “Put that one away and start something new.”

Sound familiar?

And, actually, that’s not bad advice. I’ve done it a few times more than I’d have liked. But what if there’s one story that won’t go quietly? Slightly troublesome, ever so brazen and utterly stubborn!

 Well, you don’t give up.

Buy the eBook
 from Carina Press
Can She Outwit Fate? 

Gemma is on a collision course with heartbreak. At least, according to the fortune-teller her best friend drags her to see. 

Gemma doesn't believe a word of it, but when other predictions start to come true, she begins to suspect that gorgeous, gray-eyed Nick is the man foretold to break her heart before she can find her soul mate. Too bad she's never met a man she's wanted more, because now she has to get him to dump her before she falls too hard.

Nick has plans of his own. 

He's ready to settle down with Ms. Right, and everything points to the beautiful Gemma. He's determined to prove to her that he's the perfect boyfriend—even if she does seem to be trying her best to scare him off…

The first version of Second-Guessing Fate was written almost entirely on a plane as I travelled extensively between Cape Town and Johannesburg for work during that period. At that time, I was determined to be published in category style romance, even though I kept getting told I had too much external plot and too many important secondary characters. Stubborn as I am, I wrote the book I wanted, subbed to the publisher I wanted, and got rejected. Not totally unexpected and not the first time I’d fallen down this hole.

Obviously something had to change and it wasn’t going to be the type of stories I loved writing. So it would have to be the publisher I was subbing to.

I rewrote the story, changing the point of view (POV) from 3rd person to 1st, jazzed it up to my heart’s delight now I didn’t have those category restrictions, and shopped it out to agents in the UK. Over here, it’s practically impossible to get published without an agent. And it’s practically impossible to get an agent, but that’s another story for another time :)

A few nibbles.

No bites.

Obviously something had to change and it wasn’t going to be the UK publishing business.

I changed the  (POV) back to 3rd person and relocated from London to Manhattan. I practically rewrote the book, but kept the main characters, the theme and plot thread.

And it wasn’t long before my wonderful publisher, Carina Press, said they loved Second-Guessing Fate and went to contract.

If you’re in the mood for a couple of laughs, you can read the first two chapters of Second-Guessing Fate here

Thanks for having me here, Judy! :)
Claire, it was my pleasure. After all that hard work re-writing this novel, we wish you top ratings and mega-sales for your new release.
My review of Claire's fun, flirty and fabulous contemporary romance Second-Guessing Fate is up on Goodreads and Library Thing
You can buy you own copy of Second-Guessing Fate from Carina Press, Barnes and Noble Nook and Amazon.

Friday 23 September 2011

I'm Versatile (or maybe just unfocused!)

Thanks to Carina Press author Claire Robyns for nominating me for "The Versatile Blogger" award! That sounds much better than being an "unfocused" blogger - my blog reflects my eclectic tastes and therefore, so I've read, breaks all the good blogging rules.

To claim my award I must share 7 things about myself you may not know:

1. I've wanted to be a writer from about age 12, but never had the confidence, so I only started writing in my 40's!

2. I'm always on diet but never seem to lose weight (maybe all those chocolates have something to do with it?)

3. I prefer a mild temperature - one of the reasons my parents left Zimbabwe was because I was always getting sick from the heat in the hot months.

4. No matter how many extra language lessons I take, I can still only speak English. In a country where there are 11 official languages, and most people speak three or four of those official languages, I feel embarrassed at my complete inability to learn another language.

5. I'm a terrible procrastinator. I put things off as much as I can, especially starting new things (like a new novel or a new diet)

6. I'm cat mad (maybe this should be number 1?) I was 6 months old when I got my first cat and have had cats ever since. Husband had to choose between a dog or me and my cats! He said it was a hard decision, but luckily me & my cats pipped the canines at the post!

7. I'm addicted to blogging and social media. It's very sad really, but what can I do?

I also have to pass this award on to new blogs I've recently discovered:

Positive Letters...Inspirational Stories: Hilary talks through a variety of topics, and always in such a positive, happy way I leave her blog smiling!

Frances Garrod: Author Frances Garrod has a way with words. Her blog posts are short, sweet and often hilarious (and sometimes serious)  

Tabouleh: Lana's blog is full of wisdom and culture from an unusual part of the world. 

40 and Loving it (well, mostly): Follow Canadian Barbara on her heart wrenching journey of grief

Simon Hay Soul Healer: Magical. That's all I can say. Magical.

Meandering in a Field of Words: Jennas's blog meanders through a variety of topics on how life can be an inspiration for writing

Cold as Heaven: For keeping me reading about everything from trips to Moscow to tales of Winterland.

One Stoned Crow: His blog makes me appreciate how lucky I am to live on this beautiful amazing continent, Africa.

And there we go. Have fun browsing. And, if you get chance remember to visit Claire's blog - she's launching her new novel "Second Guessing Fate" on 26 September and will be having an orgy of launch prizes - the pre-launch party giveaways have already started!