It’s been quiet here and there is a bloody good reason for that! I’ve been incredibly busy since February when my two boys went back to school. I’ve been head down, bum up, writing to finish my new rural romance, Water Under The Bridge.
This is the book I started in NaNoWriMo last year (National November Writing Month). In November I got to my personal target of 30,000 words on the book. The vast majority of those (particularly the latter half) were drivel… and have since been dumped. Then it was end of school, Christmas, New Year, school holidays, camping, back to school, and I didn’t do much writing in January.
But the day school started in February, my new work/life balance of working two days in my administration job, and writing Wed-Thurs-Fri, kicked in… and I am so happy to tell you I’ve been very disciplined!
I finished my book on Friday last week. I typed these words with such gusto!
That means I wrote about 53,000 new words (probably more because some of the earlier drivel had to get cut to smithereens), and edited the entire lot, in about 5 weeks. That’s good going. That’s about 10,000 words a week, with edits along the way.
Here’s how I did it (if my tips help any procrastinators out there):
After I dropped the kids to school on Wed/Thurs & Friday, I set the oven timer for my 1.5 hour sprints, and sat down and wrote. I would have done this at least 3 times in the day, so 4.5 hours of writing, usually with a bit of an edit after school.
So that I didn’t go too hard and hurt myself (writers/office workers, all types who spend hours at the keyboard will know that neck/back issues can be a problem) when my oven timer ‘timed’ I’d get up and move and do something else. That might be make a coffee and take a walk around the garden; hang out some washing, empty the dishwasher, go for a quick 45minute walk etc. I’d stretch against the door on my way into my writing room and stretch coming out, using an elastic rope of my hubby’s. My great mate and pilates’ instructor neighbour explained that it was important to stretch/release the chest muscles to counteract how tight typing can make my back and shoulders… and so far it’s worked perfectly.
I made myself accountable for my time – using the adage of “make an appointment with your writing self”… and it worked too.
I didn’t give in to temptation to do other things, like lunch with mates, coffee, longer walks. See – disciplined!
I surrounded myself with positive people who were cheering me on! Thanks Louise Allan and the Lollygaggers, my mates, and all the usual suspects!
So now that the book is with beta readers, I have time for other things – like blog posts! I have a few to do. One for the Naughty Ninjas, one for Maureen Eppen’s Shelf Awareness series. I’ve been for a walk this morning down the beach – just beautiful – and tomorrow is my Mum’s birthday so we’re going out for lunch. I’ve been catching up on my reading and I have to share with you how much I’ve just loved a book called SHELTER by the amazing Rhyll Biest. Here’s my review.
When your book is out with beta readers, the waiting is such a killer, so keeping busy is the plan. Then it will be a case of acting on what they come back to me with, then submit, submit, submit.
Then I get to write a new book! And you know what the really cool thing is? I’ve discovered Water Under The Bridge, featuring Jake and Ella, is the first in what will be my Chalk Hill series… and it’s Abe’s story next 🙂
One of the brilliant things about being involved in a writing group is they challenge you to write stuff that is out of your comfort zone… I love being part of the Naughty Ninjas for just this reason, but it’s also kinda scary because… you know… they’re a bit naughty. (They do nudie runs at romance conferences and have been known to hand out penis lollipops at book signings… that kind of thing. When this happens, I tend to make sure I’m rearranging books on a shelf somewhere, all innocent-like).
Anyhoo, earlier this year Rhyll (The Lady Biest) posted in our Ninja Facebook Group about a call for submissions to an American anthology called Strange Shifters. In romance writing (for the uninitiated) there is a sub-genre called Paranormal (all the vampires, ghosts and angel/demon stuff); and I guess Shifter romance is a sub-sub-genre of Paranormal. Shifter is the ‘hero or heroine can morph between human and werewolf/bear/wolf/leopard…’ That type of thing.
I’d been watching a lot of Ice-Age movies at the time thanks to Mr 5 and Mr 7, and for some reason, I got inspired by Diego, the Saber-Tooth Cat in the movie franchise. And Diego inspired my saber-tooth-cat story. (Minus the smut because Diego wouldn’t do that…)
I found out yesterday that my 3000-word story, Tar Pit Triage, made the cut and will be part of the Anthology: Coming Together: Strange Shifters.
The beneficiary of my flash of Shifter creativity won’t be me. Any royalties earned by the anthology go to the Bat World Sanctuary! (Yep, this story gets battier). Coming Together supports Smut for Charities, and the charity for this collection is the Bat World Sanctuary. (https://batworld.org/) The editor, Lynn Townsend, said she chose this particular charity simply because “she loves bats.”
Lynn says: “Bat World Sanctuary cares for injured bats and homes ones that cannot return to the wild, as well as helping to spread awareness, prevent deforestation, and other bat-saving efforts.” Adding to all the complete weirdness of this story so far, Coming Together: Strange Shifters, with Tar Pit Triage inside is due out on Halloween!
How cool is that?
Sometimes it’s fun to step out of the contemporary romance comfort zone, and now I get the super ninja kick-ass feeling of being Bat Girl. Or maybe it’s the warm and fuzzy feeling that I’m a bat fan.
First, my next book for release, So Far Into You, is currently in the hands of one of the wonderful team of Harlequin editors, the lovely Belinda Holmes. Belinda has edited some of my work before, for an anthology called It Happened At Cafe Nix that was released by a group of Escape Publishing authors earlier this year. It made me all warm and fuzzy inside to think I’d be working with Belinda again.
So Far Into You begins in Margaret River and moves to the Adelaide Hills, so it’s sort of mimicking my life. I was born near Margaret River and went to school here before moving to South Australia in late 2001 (although I’ve since moved back to Margaret River in 2013). The book is set in the wine industry and involves several events from my memories, the Margaret River Vintage Festival being one.
My early memories of the Margaret River Vintage/Wine Festival were way back when it was set in what was then a vacant lot (now a carpark and supermarket) beside the Settlers Tavern. I remember plank-walk races, and barrel races, and that the festival involved laughs, community, and drinking lots of wine.
So Far Into You begins with a meeting between the heroine, Remy, and the hero, Seth, at the Margaret River Wine Festival just prior to a storm that puts paid to the day. The book also includes some other favourite memories, such as bushwalking in spring and looking for orchids, which these characters do. Seth doesn’t know his donkey orchid from his cowslip, but Remy sets him straight.
I’ve been told the book will be ready for release in October 2015, which is very exciting!
Yesterday, I heard from Escape about my last remaining self-pubbed work, the novella, The Goodbye Ride. After picking up Fairway To Heaven last year (this too was originally self-pubbed), Escape Publishing has now agreed to take The Goodbye Ride into their expert hands.
For me right now, I’m moving away from self-pubbing my work and I’ve been happy with this decision.
Last, just for a change of pace. A few of us in our writing group, The Naughty Ninjas, challenged eachother to write a shapeshifter romance in the last week or so. So I just did that (you know, as you do). It’s about 3500 words, involving a prehistoric animal as the ‘shifter’… I don’t have a name for the story yet, but it might just find a home at Wattpad.
Georgina Penney (author of Irrepressible You, my most giggled-over book of 2014) has a new book out this month called Unforgettable You. I’ve been lucky enough to read it already, and I loved it every bit as much as Irrepressible You. The two books are part of a series, but while Irrepressible You was released first, Unforgettable You is actually its prequel. Which order you decide to tackle Georgina Penney is your decision. Just tackle her, soon, with bells on. She’s worth it.
So in Unforgettable You, we have the heroine, Jo, who works on an oil rig off Mauritiana in the glamorous-sounding role of ‘Mud Engineer’… yes, I think that’s kind of different for a leading romance lady, too. So I set out to learn more about what makes Mud Engineers tick on a mission to discover the murky depths of the character of Jo Blaine in Unforgettable You.
I know a little bit about wine, but zero about mud-engineering… so I talked to Anja Dreyer, who has been around oil rigs most of her working life, to find out more. Anja is originally from Perth, and now lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She’s also Georgina Penney’s great mate, and the inspiration for much of Jo Blaine…
Let’s start with the easy one first, Anja. What is a Mud-Engineer? Can young girls consider it a cool job? Mud Engineers, otherwise affectionately known as Mud Doctors or mudmen, design the drilling fluid used while drilling oil wells. They adjust the chemical quantities to give the fluid exact dynamic and static properties.
Cool – definitely. Glamorous – not so much. Although it depends on your definition of the word. It’s exciting, unusual, a little bit messy and will definitely take you to some far flung places.
If you go into a job like mud-engineering, is it pretty much guaranteed you’ll end up working offshore, or in the desert somewhere. In other words, somewhere highly remote and not particularly scenic? There’s a joke in the oil patch that the most reliable way to find oil is to be in the hottest, coldest, windiest, wettest or driest place on earth because there’s guaranteed to be oil there. Sometimes you can get an assignment in a decent spot. The day they find oil in the Bahamas, I’m there!
What’s the best joke you ever heard on an oil rig? An old time Driller always writes “Fucking the dog” on the books whenever they are on down time. The Tool Pusher tells him they have a new secretary in the office and she’s real religious so don’t be writing that anymore.
The Driller starts writing “Chasing the dog” instead. This goes on for a while. One day after being down for a while he’s in a hurry and forgets. He writes “Fuckin the dog”.
A few days later the Pusher brings out the pay cheques. The Driller opens his and inside is a note from the secretary. It reads “I see you finally caught that dog.”
Have you ever had to tell a six-foot something 100-kilo something roughneck, that he’s fucked something up so severely, you don’t know how he ties his shoes in the morning? “Billy-Joe-Bob, you’re an idiot every day of the week, why can’t you just take one day off!” But seriously, sometimes it’s easier to just stare at them with an intense look of disappointment on your face. I dunno know why that works so well. Maybe I just remind them all of their mother. Apparently my new nickname around here is Mama Bear. As in ‘don’t piss off the bear’. I’ve also been affectionately known as ‘Dragon Lady’ and ‘Iron Maiden’.
How many women are there (on average) working on an offshore oil rig? And how many blokes. Any idea of the ratio? Yep. Usually there is around 100-120 people on an average offshore drilling rig. Of that, maybe 4 or 5 are women. And that’s quite high compared to when I first started in the early 2000s. Back then I was the only woman.
Do the blokes really look like Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and Owen Wilson in Armageddon?
They usually look more like Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty. But after 6 weeks offshore, even that starts to look good. That’s when you know you need to get off the rig. Like, right now.
In Unforgettable You, Jo has to share a room with one of her male colleagues? Could that really happen? Yep, there are a limited number of rooms on a rig. They will usually try to have all the girls in one room, but if there’s an odd number, or not enough rooms, then you can find yourself sharing a room with the blokes. I learnt how to sleep with ear plugs, because based on my experience, 90% of men snore. Loudly.
Is the food on an offshore oil rig generally crappy and bloke-ish? (eg lots of grease) If you were vegetarian, or gluten-intolerant, would they cook that for you or would they tell you to get a job in a bank instead? I think they would probably stare at you dumbly and ask what “gluten” is. The food is generally decent and there’s a lot of it, but it’s definitely not haute cuisine. And the quality is indirectly proportional to the amount of time since the last supply boat came by. 1st day: steaks. 2nd day: stroganoff. 3rd day: stew. 4th day: pie. 5th day: indeterminate meat in a thick curry sauce that hides all flavour.
What would the ultimate worst-day-on-the-job be for an Mud-Engineer? Like, nightmare of nightmares where everything went wrong. Hmm let’s see. Your roommate snores all night louder than any possible decibel level earplugs could block. You get woken up in the middle of the night because your night hand screwed up some simple task. The well starts drinking mud (that’s when the drilling fluid is being lost to the rocks you’re drilling through) so you have to keep building more mud to replace it. Some rig hand flips a wrong valve somewhere and you spill a bunch of mud into the ocean. That’s very, very bad and requires a shit-tonne of paperwork. And then you get told your relief isn’t coming back to the rig and you have to stay an extra week or three. Yep, that would be a pretty bad day.
What about the ultimate best day ever on the job for a Mud-Engineer? The day you go home!
Oil-rig jargon must get fairly suggestive… all that rigging, drilling, piping… can you give us some of the best (or worst) lines/jargon you hear on the job? It’s a zoo on the rig. Everything seems to be named after animals. Cat walk. Monkey board. Dog house. Pipeline pig. Donkey dick. Then of course there’s all the ‘technical’ terms related to the well. Somebody once told me an oil company discovered a field and named all the wells after senior executives’ wives. But when they drilled the wells they were all found to be dry and tight (yes, those are actual terms used to describe wells).
How do mud-riggers like to let their hair down at the end of a shift (like when they hit dry land or home)? Get drunk. Very, very drunk. Which isn’t hard when you haven’t had a drink in over a month.
Me? First I would take a really, really long shower or bath, wash my hair twice, loofah till my skin was red, wash my hair a couple more times for good measure, de-hairify. Sleep for about 16 hours. Eat some real food. Walk around naked, because I could. Sleep a bit more. Wash my hair again. You get the picture.
If you just arrived back home after your five-week work stint, and you discovered your house-sitter had kind of sub-let your house to a mate because they thought you were still away… What would you do to get back at the house-sitter? I think Jo’s reaction in the book is exactly what my reaction would have been. I would be too exhausted to even argue. When you get back from a month offshore, you are bone tired, and all you want is space, peace and quiet and to just generally be away from people. I probably would have gotten a hotel room until I felt human again (which usually took about 4-5 days) then I would have had a very serious talk with the house-sitter.
What do mud-engineers dislike (i.e. it makes their job harder)? Trainees. Actually, no, we get paid extra if we have a trainee because it means you get woken up a lot and will usually work 20+ hours a day. I would really hate it if I had to work with someone that had just been promoted from trainee (so I didn’t get the trainee pay anymore) but they were so stupid I still had to work 20+ hours a day because they couldn’t do anything on their own.
Geologists. Because everybody on the rig hates the geologist. Sorry to any geos out there, but it’s the truth.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever accidentally overheard blokes speaking about on an oil-rig… like if you’re in the canteen and they’re talking all blokeish within earshot? I once walked in on a group discussing the finer points of donkey sex. The weird thing is they didn’t stop when they saw me. That’s when I realised I had truly become “one of the guys”.
Which celebrity would you like to see cast as a female mud-engineer in a movie? Well it depends if it’s going to be a realistic movie, or a Hollywood blockbuster.
If NASA arrived at your oil rig and said there was a meteor that was going to demolish the earth and with one week’s training, they needed you to join a hand-picked team (led by Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck) and fly up to land on the meteor and drill a hole in it to set off a nuclear bomb and thus save the world… would you put your hand up? Yes. Because I know that there’s no way blowing up that meteor would have saved the earth and I’d rather die quickly in space than slowly on Earth. (Hey, I’m an engineer, we’re known to be overly logical!)
What do you think is sexy about female oil-riggers? They are capable, take no crap from anyone, usually in pretty good shape (it’s a physical job), and they know what they want and how to get it.
How do you feel thinking that a book character has kind of been ‘moulded’ on you? I feel absolutely honoured. George always told me I lived a very interesting life, but to me, it felt normal. It still does now. Seeing it in print, I realise I have been lucky enough to see and do some amazing things, and for that I am thankful.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about mud-engineering, Anja? Not really. There’s a reason George is the writer in our friendship. She has the talent for words, not me!
Thanks heaps for being part of it! No worries, thanks for asking!
Now you tell me: having read a little bit more about Anja and her life as a Mud Engineer… can you imagine how much fun it would be to read an entire book with a main character based on her?
Unforgettable You is brilliant. It is out on May 15. I gave it 5 big schmacking gorgeous stars… you can read my review here.
I have rubbed my eyes. I have checked it’s not April 1st.
My little golf (that’s not golf at all) book, Fairway To Heaven, reached 250 on the Kindle Paid Chart Australia today. I got so excited, I had to post it somewhere and I figure my blog is as good a spot as any.
Sea Adventures!! How gorgeous is that… It makes me think of swashbuckling pirates and buccaneers and Moby Dick, mermaids and giant waves… not peaceful, serene, Geographe Bay in Busselton, West Australia. But if ‘Sea Adventures’ is coastal, then colour me a ninja dolphin, and watch me wag my tail!
Wow. I’m feeling very lucky, and very chuffed this afternoon. (Given it’s Monday!) Thank you for indulging me!
Buy Fairway To Heaven at Amazon Australia: click here.
This little meme has been doing the rounds for a while now, it’s a ‘pass it on’ kind of post about how a gal (or boy) author, writes. I was asked by Jennie Jones and Susanne Bellamy to be part of the blog, but I was a bit busy back then because I’d just *ahem* released my new book,Fairway To Heaven.
So when Sandra Antonelli tagged me last week and said such lovely things about my work (she did, true, she said my books were “witty and enchanting and made her want to drink wine”) I said I’d love to!
First, a teensy bit about Miss Sandra (also known as Sandra CookieFace Antonelli who is one-sixth of the naughty ninjas). Sandra will not mind one teensy bit if it’s just teensy, because Sandra is kind of, teensy herself. Lucky she has a great big heart! She’s got two books that I know about, and probably many more that I don’t know about. This is a gal with a helluva lot of aliases!
And so to the Burning Questions Sandra asked.
What am I working on? *shuffles shoes* *takes beanie off* *puts beanie back on* and admits… I am not working on anything right now, at all. I have the biggest, most severe case of Writer’s Block you’ve ever seen. I’m more blocked than Elvis ever was. If I have to pick something, then it’s a book I’m calling “His Brand Of Business” which as anyone who visits here often will know, is a follow-up, though not with related characters, to my Escape Title His Brand Of Beautiful. But I am so struggling to get any words on the page… woe, woe, woe.
How does my work differ from others of its genre? My characters drink a lot. In Fairway To Heaven,my heroine has a dodgy vagina (her words, not mine). Her goal throughout the book is to have ‘normal, every day sex’ rather than multiple orgasms – because she has a physical problem that makes sex damn hard work most of the time. So yeah, I guess that’s different for a romance!
Why do I write what I do? I love sport and I love wine, so it makes sense that I’m writing about golf and wine.
How does my writing process work? See question 1. Right now, it doesn’t work at all. Particularly when I’m starting off, I need a lot of peace and quiet and just time to ruminate and write. I have two small boys and a husband and we’re currently building a house, plus I work four hours a day, each weekday. Time. Time. Time. I don’t seem to have it. Once I’m into something I can be very disciplined (which helped me release 3 books in 2013); but getting started is the hard part for me. I am Lily ‘The Beanie Queen’ of procrastination.
Okay! That’s the end of my part in the process.
Now I get to pass this mystical baton to the wonderful Kylie Kaden, she who is about to be a newly published Random House author in April with her mysterious and haunting book, Losing Kate. I am so looking forward to Kylie’s story. We are critique partners, and when I first read Losing Kate, it was under an entirely different name. There was a line in Kylie’s story in the early pages which was about the character Meg, a neighbour of the heroine, and it said something like: “Meg comes to my place with her sticky brood of boys…” I will never forget how the ‘sticky brood of boys’ grabbed me and some little lightglobe in my head went off and I thought *this* is a writer I will love!
Congratulations Kylie. I cannot wait to cyber-celebrate Losing Kate with you in April, and I look forward to the next time we catch up in person!