Practice Until You Can’t Get it Wrong

This is the most incredible piece of performance art by Japanese dancer and circus artist Miyoko Shida. She is performing a piece called “Sanddornbalance”, from the production “Sanddorn” (Sand/Thorn) created by Maedir Eugster Rigolo in 1996. She is a member of the Rigolo Swiss Nouveau Cirque.

Don’t practice until you get it right; practice until you can’t get it wrong.

See more performances by Miyoko Shida on YouTube, or follow her on FaceBook.

Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin

Madison Lane CoverMy teen science-fantasy book Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin is now available in print and electronically (Kindle MOBI, ePUB, and PDF).

Maddie becomes Earth’s best hope of survival when she uses a magic wand to travel to its quantum-entangled twin planet, Ground. But there are other people after the wand, and they have suspicious intentions and unfair advantages. Can she keep it from falling into the wrong hands as she completes the quest that will save both worlds?

Meanwhile nine-hundred-year-old Lady Sa finds herself in serious trouble when she is captured during her quest for the Source of magic. Worse, she is unable to fulfil her duty as guide to the wand-holder, and her disappearance puts new wand-holder Madison Lane at risk in an unfamilar world.

Click here for purchase options.

Sand Animation with Kseniya Simonova

As I mentioned yesterday, transient art fascinates me. I sometimes become frustrated while writing and entertain the thought of pressing the delete key on my files. But I know I have back-ups, so it would be unlikely my work would be irretrievable. I’ve done it with knitting, though, when I’ve spent months knitting a particular pattern, put it aside over summer, and then the following autumn I’ve changed my mind–I’ve frogged the entire thing, reclaimed the yarn, and started something new. Continue reading “Sand Animation with Kseniya Simonova”

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Book Discussion)

My first introduction to Catherine Fisher’s books was with The Conjuror’s Game, which I read as a preteen when I “worked” for the only bookstore in our town as a beta reader, helping the middle-aged owner select new children’s and YA books for the store. I was paid in books (probably a lousy deal, but I was over the moon at the time). Of the dozens of books I read for them, The Conjuror’s Game is the only one I’ve kept, and read several times. Catherine Fisher disappeared off my radar for a while, but, thanks to Google, when I discovered she had a new series available, I couldn’t wait to get reading. Continue reading “Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Book Discussion)”

The Lost Diaries of a Future Author

I first read Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl when I was about eleven or twelve years old. In the self-centeredness of prepubescence, what I most identified with was Anne’s difficult relationship with her mother. And I was awestruck at the audacious way she wrote about their arguments and how angry she was at her mother.

It wasn’t long before I decided to start writing a diary of my own. It served as a record of things I did and places I went so that I could remember and transcribe the most relevant news into letters to my best friend, who had moved overseas when we were ten. I made a pencil mark at the end of the last entry to have made it into the current letter, so I would know where to begin the next. In those days, it took several weeks for our mail to be delivered, so it was easily two months’ worth of diary entries that went into each letter.

And, emboldened by Anne, I also used my diary to vent my frustration, devastation, and rage over my mother’s behaviour towards me. It would be twenty years before my mother was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder; all I had for support was pen and paper.

When I was nineteen I left home and escaped overseas, taking the current diary with me to record my adventures—but, stupidly and in the rush of packing, I forgot to lock away the six or so books I’d amassed over the years. Or maybe it was fate. My parents moved house while I was away, and my mother found and decided to read my diaries “to try and figure out why [her] daughter was so unhappy”. When I returned, she confronted me about their contents that described “family business” and abuse that I’d been told never to reveal. Although we managed to have it out, tearfully but semi-constructively, she “won” that round and I complied with her orders that I burn the diaries with their damning evidence against her.

I stopped keeping a diary until about seven years later when I realised I was being left behind while everyone and their dog was happily blogging away. My first attempts to join in lead to panic; it was then that I noticed how deeply but subconsciously I’d been affected by my mother’s condemnation of my personal writing. I had developed a complete and painful mental block against writing about myself and my feelings. For an author, this was a serious problem: I couldn’t even manage a decent bio, let alone a blog. Even Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages failed for me—I ended up using them to write general articles at one point rather than stream of consciousness, because stream of subconscious said, “Don’t you dare write down what you really feel.”

It has taken me ten years to get to the point where I can blog. But, still, I have found it painful and laboured, posting probably once a month on average, if that. So this A-Z Challenge seems an ideal way for me to desensitise and push through the discomfort, and learn to talk about myself.

This post got left behind, and now you know why. It’s taken a couple of weeks to write, but a lot longer stuck in my head knowing one day I was going to get this down on screen.

And painful as it was for both of us, my mother reading my diaries did have a positive effect thirteen years after the fact, shortly before she died. As part of the counselling that followed her diagnosis with bipolar disorder, my mother reopened communication on her behaviour during my childhood. It didn’t go smoothly, but she gradually came to understand and accept my point of view, and had the grace to apologise. I think we both achieved closure on the issue and reconciled before she died, and I think this is why I have slowly been able to write about myself again.

Now I just have to click that Publish button.

Who was Joseph Bell?

I began reading Sherlock Holmes as a teenager and was so intrigued by the clever detective and his deductions that I moved onto other well-known Whodunit authors such as Agatha Christie and P.D James, and decided that this would be my genre as I began my apprenticeship as an author. While working through Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, I decided to try my hand at adapting one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories—The Valley of Fear—into a screenplay. It was a fascinating exercise, and gave me a lot of insight into story construction and characterisation. Continue reading “Who was Joseph Bell?”

The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft (Book Discussion)

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Find The Art of Falling at AmazonAt the heart of Kathryn Craft’s long-awaited debut novel The Art of Falling is the story of the intense and life-changing friendship between three very different characters. Penny is a dancer treading the finest of lines between disciplined diet and anorexia who regains consciousness in hospital after a 14-storey fall. Marty is her worst nightmare–a baker who tries to sweeten her life with glazed dough-nuts. But he is also her saviour: it was his van she landed on, and he’s determined to check up on her. And Angela is the woman in the next bed with cystic fibrosis, a great sense of humour, and a perfect stick-thin body to die for. Continue reading “The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft (Book Discussion)”

How to Keep a Conversation Going

Just as some people find it hard to start a conversation, some also battle with what to say next. If talking to people doesn’t come naturally to you, you might want to think of conversation ideas ahead of time. Don’t rehearse too much or you’ll sound unnatural.

Tennis Friends - photo by Windsor Tennis Club Belfast
Tennis Friends – photo by Windsor Tennis Club Belfast

Another way to keep talking is to think of conversation as a tennis match. Continue reading “How to Keep a Conversation Going”

How to Talk to People

How to Talk to People
Happy Time – Myaccountnice

Many people just don’t know what to say and will respond to any attempt to start a conversation. It’s worth a try.

Here’s a neat trick: Start by asking the question you want the other person to ask you. What’s the most interesting thing you do or know or like. Because, usually, the polite thing to say after answering a question is “How about you?”

When I was working as a typist or secretary or personal assistant, I never asked people “What do you do?” Continue reading “How to Talk to People”

How to Make Friends

Friendship is one of the themes that crops up in my books all the time. I’ve made lots of mistakes with my friendships, and learnt plenty of lessons along the way (the hard way). I thought I’d share some of the good stuff.

Hold My Hand - Elizabeth Ann Collette - Be a Friend
Photo by Elizabeth Ann Collette via Flickr

1. To Have a Friend, Be a Friend

You can’t “make” someone be your friend. The only person you can control is you. So look for ways to be friendly and let friendships evolve naturally.

How can you be a friend? Continue reading “How to Make Friends”