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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Bev Robitai is renovating for Christmas

T’was the night before Christmas – the house wasn’t done

No chance for the poor Robitailles to have fun

Four months they had toiled by day and by night

Their clothing in tatters, their hair looked a fright.


They’d landscaped the garden with digger and truck

When it bogged in the driveway poor Eddie said f*…!

They built stronger muscles from shovelling dirt

Effective for weight loss but hell how it hurt!


The house was all painted in stylish BlackWhite

New tiles, new carpets - it changed overnight.

New showers, new toilets, a stone kitchen bench

Designed to delight the most fussy young wench.


And once the inside was all shiny and clean

They started on fencing, in Karaka green.

Bev painted for hours on trellis and tin

While Ed measured timber and put the posts in.


They’re on the last stages now – new steps and gates

Thankful for all of the help from their mates.

In the month after Christmas it goes on the market

(Assuming they handle the pace and don’t cark it.)

When the work is all done and they get a good price

They can rest and relax then – won’t that be nice?


Wishing all our blog readers a very Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season. See you back here in the New Year when new adventures await!


Bev Robitai

Friday, 11 December 2015

Payment to authors for library copies.

I've seen more authors than usual posting about getting payments from the library system this year so I wondered if they'd changed the rules. Apparently not, according to the website - you still need 50 copies of a single title to quality. Here's their definition of the Public Lending Right.

Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors

The Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors scheme was established in 2008 to compensate New Zealand authors, illustrators, and editors for the use of your books in New Zealand libraries.
As an author registered with the scheme, you’re entitled to receive annual compensation based on the number of copies of your title held in New Zealand libraries. This number is determined by a regular survey.

Registering for the scheme

You must register with the scheme each year in order to be eligible for payment, whether or not you have any new books.
You need to be a New Zealand resident to register, meaning you have been in New Zealand for at least half of the last year, or you have a permanent abode here.
The registration period is between 1 January and 30 April each year. We make any owed payments in December.
Registration for 2015 is now closed.

Payments from the PLR fund

The Public Lending Right fund ($2,000,000 annually) is divided among registered authors, based on how many copies of their works are held by libraries.
See how the fund has been distributed so far
If you’re eligible for a payment, you’ll receive it by December 31, directly into your nominated bank account.
In the unfortunate event that you die after registering, the payment will go to your estate. However, your heirs may not re-register for you in subsequent years.
We cannot make payment for years when you were not registered.

Titles included in the scheme

The scheme makes payments for books published by 31 March of the registration year, and doesn’t include ebooks or audiobooks.
  • Adult books must be at least 48 pages long.
  • Children’s books must be at least 24 pages of text or text and illustrations
  • Poetry must be at least 24 pages in length.
  • Editors registering must have contributed at least 48 pages to the book they are editing.
You need to have at least 50 copies of a title in New Zealand libraries to get a payment.
You must be entitled to receive a royalty payment or income from the sale of your book. Self published books are eligible.

More information

Send registrations, requests for information and queries to:
Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors Coordinator
PO Box 1467
Wellington 6140
Phone (04) 470 4528

Operation of the scheme

The Public Lending Right Advisory Group advises the Chief Executive on regulatory proposals, policy, and administrative matters relating to the scheme.
The National Library pays for the scheme’s operation, and the fund goes entirely to registered authors, illustrators, and editors.

Surveying New Zealand libraries

We count titles by surveying a sample of New Zealand libraries, based on advice from Statistics New Zealand. The nature of the survey alternates each year, between counting all titles, and only counting new titles.
We survey the National Library, all the large public libraries, the university libraries, consortia like SMART, and a rotating selection of the rest of New Zealand libraries
All the print copies of a title held by the library being surveyed are counted.
This weighted survey methodology gives us an estimated count – you may find your title count is 58.5 copies, or (frustratingly) 49.9. To maintain the fairness of the fund, we can’t round counts up to meet the threshold for payment.
Title counts may go up or down each year as we survey different libraries, or as they purchase or dispose of copies.
While you could boost your numbers by donating copies to libraries, it’s not likely to be cost-effective.

Problems and disputes

If there is any dispute about a book, we check the received information against a copy from our collections, or contact the publisher directly.
To query a payment, contact us in writing at the above address before 15 April of the following year.
If there is a dispute about the royalty entitlement we may ask for evidence of your royalty payment, or contact the publisher directly and review the contracts.
End of quote from the NZ National Library site.

Several authors I know have received unexpected payments for their books, so it seems like a good idea to register for next year and see if some of the lovely money will come your way next Christmas.
Good luck!
Bev Robitai

Friday, 4 December 2015

Evan Andrew asks "Is This The Reason One Buys A Book?"

A few weeks ago one of my fellow writers Vicky Adin asked the question, what makes you buy a book?

I too, have asked myself this question, and find there seems to be no easy answer to this question, as like books, people are different too, with their own reasons and foibles, that there is no easy answer to.

I am not an impulsive person, but sometimes things just happen.

One hot, sunny day in late August whilst I was on holiday at Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, I was just finishing drinking a cup of coffee outside in the lovely Sunshine Plaza, at Maroochydore, when I noticed a well known Australian bookstore was having a sale outside their store.

The banner read ‘Give Away Prices.’

I can never resist a bookshop.

 So, coffee finished I wandered over to the outside tables, and browsed around seeing all the variety of books from children to cooking, sports star, fiction, non-fiction, through to the classics of Shakespeare and Austen.

One stack of books caught my eye.

Smaller in size than the traditional book, but quite thick, with a buff coloured grained cover, it screamed good taste and quality.

The title said it all, ‘The Death of Lyndon Wilder,’ and the Consequences Thereof.

I knew immediately it was an historical novel, even before I saw the small tasteful cameo picture beneath the title, and I was hooked.

I turned it over, and read the two paragraphs from the novel at the back.

Eagerly, I opened the book, read the flyleaf, flicked through to the middle of the book, read a few paragraphs more, felt the quality of the paper, and the clarity of the print, and I was completely hooked.

The author, E.A.Dineley is female, and lives in London. This is her first novel, said the oh so brief, two lines in the back of the fly leaf.

I immediately took my copy to the bored looking girl beside the cash register at the table, and for the princely sum of two Australian dollars, the book was mine.

Crazy, ridiculous, I could hardly believe it!

All I could think of was what it must have cost to produce the book, and what royalties the author could expect, if they were giving it away like this!

I couldn’t believe my luck though, as I was desperate for something to read, and I knew I’d struck a winner here.

 I was aglow with pleasure at my purchase, however as a fellow author, all I could think of was why are they throwing this excellent, quality book out. Sure, they had a stack of them, but two dollars?

To cut a long story short, I devoured the book and it lived up to my expectations in every way. It started off slowly, and just got better and better.

Even though you knew, (or thought you knew), before you got to the end, you read on, loving every part of it, and not wanting it to end.

The research, English, descriptive passages, as well as the characters, could not be faulted in any way, so full marks to the author.

The really good news is that when I Googled Ms Dinerey, I found that she had written a second book, ‘Castle Orchard.’

This book, an identical copy to the first, apart from the title and small cameo picture, (they call it branding), takes one of the lead characters from the first book, and weaves another complete story, with a fresh heroine thrown in.

This book was equally as good as the first, and I am awaiting eagerly the arrival of another book, appearing soon.

Which brings me back to Vicky’s original question of why did I buy the book?

I think it was the cover design, title, quality, period, substance, and the impact of the author’s writing as well.

I must confess the reason for my original perusal of the books was the drawcard of all books at $2.00, but that couldn’t have been the reason.

Or could it?


Evan G Andrew









Friday, 27 November 2015

Barbara Algie gets in festive mood!

Why in the Southern Hemisphere do we consider it’s not enough to celebrate Christmas once a year and deem it fashionable to have another one in mid-June when, admittedly, lower temperatures tickle the taste buds for food, lots of food, and all that goes with it?   Once the magic word ‘Christmas’ is out,  sufferers of Writers Block rush to find recipes by Mrs Beaton, Aunt Daisy, or one of the new, modern authors setting out  57 ways to stuff a turkey, whilst regretting not having written the damned cookery book themselves.   Every week book launches are taking place in this genre emphasising its extraordinary ongoing popularity.    So, why didn’t we think of that?   We could have called ours ‘Cooks Tips with Cooks Nips’, ‘The Hungry Writers Handbook’ or even ‘Handy Hints – How to train Hopeless House Husbands’ (the latter being the ‘in thing’ with its titillatingly long title).   Ah well - it costs nothing to dream.   Back to writing ...  Back too to the festive season.   Not that silly non-event in the middle of the year but the one which is still about a month away – although one would think, by its sudden appearance in the shops, it is tomorrow.   Stroll down to your local town centre, you’ll find the telegraph poles are festooned with sparkling garlands.   Fir tree have sprouted overnight into forests in the Shopping Malls and we’re being brainwashed into buying early to ‘avoid the rush’.   Greetings cards are suddenly half price as an incentive to put you in the mood.   Which brings me to think about Santa.   I wonder what qualifications a new-age Santa ought to possess?   His knowledge of formerly acceptable presents, once quite straightforward, may fall well short of the mark with today’s high-tech-minded children.   And Santa himself - who was once so jovially old-fashioned, rotund and with an unbelievable cottonwool beard - wouldn’t fool the keen eyes of any smart 4 year old so how, I wonder,  will he look this year?

T’was the Night Before Christmas and all through the house
everybody was partying, even the mouse
The stockings that should have been hung by the fire
were on shapely legs for all to admire
Grandma did the Can-can but baulked at the splits
Grandpa told the fairies he loved them to bits
Sylvester the cat was dancing the Twist
with Nippy the Dachshund who looked a bit pissed
With his reindeer in ‘drag’ Santa turned out the lights
took out his whip – pulled on black fishnet tights
‘Get your A’s into G, we’ve a long way to go
Merry Christmas to all and to all HO HO HO!’

Friday, 20 November 2015

Jean Allen on the delights of real books

Having a discussion time with other authors is an excellent way to boost energy and to keep up with changes in our modern writing world. Recently our group's discussion time included ‘the drop in demand for books’. (‘Books’ meaning the old, solid type of book, with pages the reader can turn.) 
Today, business systems are in constant change – the selling and buying of books being but one aspect. Pure ‘Book Shops’ are rare now, most having reduced their book numbers and increased their stocks to include greeting cards, stationery, knickknacks, gifts and art supplies under the same roof. The cheapness of online bookstores, such as Amazon and The Book Depository, have reduced the sales of traditional books while television and the internet are vying for custom. In the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th century (before the advent of the microchip) we did not have such options.

This came home to me while browsing our home bookshelves last week.  I picked out a very old book of my father’s; a much used copy of Westward Ho, and felt myself whisked back one hundred years to a time when the famous Charles Kingsley wrote of action, adventure, love and solitude. My father would have been 16 years old in 1914. “I enjoyed that book,” he told me several times. “Read it often.” A hard working lad; he had written his name and his town in cursive letters in pen and ink. Books were treasures in his world.

 On that same shelf stand six books I have kept since my sixteenth year. The largest and most worn book is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare; a favourite book which I won in a writing competition in 1952. At sixteen, living our own generation, neither of us would have had the money to buy books. Books were few and highly prized. Both my father and I were avid readers and used the library to feed our love of reading. ‘Westward Ho' meant something special in my father’s world while Shakespeare opened a new world for me.

Progress, in my opinion, is ever a two-edged sword. I used to believe that time brings a balance to new inventions and ‘advancements’. Now I’m not so sure. In the cold world of supply and demand it’s ever ‘short supply - high price: over supply - low price’. Yet I can’t help but dream the magic of the paper book will win out … perhaps in the next generation? What do you think?

© Jean ‘Angel’ Allen, in reminiscent mood, mid-November 2015

Friday, 13 November 2015

How and Why do you choose a book? Vicky Adin wants to know!

Dear Reader – Please, tell me HOW?

How do you choose a book to read? Carefully or on impulse?
Research has told us the majority of books are read because a friend has recommended the story. But what if that friend reads a different genre and style?

I once recommended a book to a friend who liked modern, down-to-earth crime stories with realistic characters and plots, whereas the story I’d recommended was set in the past, used lyrical language, had a bunch of dotty characters and a plot line any amateur private eye would have walked through. I enjoyed it mostly because of the setting and the language: she hated it. The books were a bit like comparing Agatha Christie with Dan Brown.

So, I’d like you to rank the reasons you would choose a book – other than it had been recommended by someone you know.

Reason 1:
So, first up the book itself. Why do you choose a book?
In which order do you rank the following choices?

  1. The title.
  2. The cover design.
  3. The shout line on the front cover, which tells you a little about the setting and mood of the story.
  4. The blurb on the back cover, which provides hints of the troubles the leading characters will meet along the way.
  5. The price.
  6. Reason 2:

Now, where would you buy it? Do you prefer print or e-books?

  1. In a bookstore as a print book.
  2. Online via book sites like Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, etc. - as an e-book
  3. Online via a bookstore – eg: Whitcoulls, Mighty Ape etc. – as a print book
  4. From a market stall or sales table.
  5. From the author at an author talk, or book signing.
Reason 3:

And how did you know about the book?

  1. You follow the author.
  2. You saw (or heard) it being advertised.
  3. You saw someone reading it.
  4. You asked a friend.
  5. You didn’t know about it beforehand – you bought it on impulse (see first set of questions about the book.
I’d love to know.

Please type the Reason Number and the 1-5 of your ranking in the comments below.

Reason 1:  1-5

Reason 2: 1-5

Reason 3: 1-5

Thank you!

Vicky Adin

Friday, 6 November 2015

Jenny Harrison on the benefits of Writing Groups

A few years ago I attended a Book Festival and I was behind the counter of the Mairangi Writers’ Group stall when a woman came up to me. She appeared slightly nervous but not as nervous as the man standing some way behind her.
“My husband has written a book,” she said. “He would like to get it published.”
“That’s marvellous,” I gushed. “Would he like me to…”
“Oh no, he doesn’t want anyone to read it.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“No, he wants it published but won’t let anyone read it.”
Top marks if you can see the problem here.
The gentleman hadn’t joined a writing group or had a beta-reader look at it or even sent it to an editor. But he wanted it published. Now, is that deep humility, fear of criticism or total arrogance? Perhaps the gentleman thought I was far too much of a pleb to read his masterpiece.
There are hundreds, no, make that thousands, of us who want to write, or dream that one day we will or even are in the process of writing. And why do we do it?
Because we want to share. We have a story or an idea, or perhaps a moral we want to re-enforce. We may be an expert at something and have a wonderful idea for a “how-to…” book (check out Bev Robitai’s  The Reassuring Guide to Self Publishing). But the basic desire is to share what we have with others.
I have been exceptionally blessed by being in a vibrant, colourful and trustworthy group, the Mairangi Writers’ Group in Auckland, New Zealand. We each have a different style of writing and we write on different subjects. All of us want to share our story with other people and the group has about forty titles to its name. Now, that’s what I call sharing! Does this group follow the old adage – write what you know? No! They don’t, but they write what they love and that shows in every book that is published by someone in our group.
Evan Andrew writes historical fiction and his love of historical research shines through every book. I particularly like The Spanish Woman, a story that came from the diaries of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who was intrigued by a Spanish noblewoman in the court of the Pasha. Evan loves research and it shows.
Vicky Adin is likewise entranced with history. She started off writing about her husband’s ancestor, Daniel Adin, in her book Daniel. Further books all demonstrate her sure grasp of history and family.
Bev Robitai has a great love of theatre and her two murder/mystery books, Body on the Stage and Murder in the Second Row, are gripping and filled with theatrical jargon and expertise.
I have had to resort to creating a mystical village, Panui, as the background to my books. I think that as an immigrant I have difficulty placing myself solidly into the Kiwi psyche so I have had to ‘invent' it. My two silly scallywags, Rusty Naills and his brother Slasher, live in Panui and I would hesitate to say they are typical Kiwis. I might get deported! Read them in Rusty and Slasher’s Guide to Crime and Rusty and Slasher and the Circus from Hell and let me know if they’re typically Kiwi!
I love crime novels, not too gory, and I think it’s about time I wrote one. Once written, may I share it with you?
Jenny Harrison

Friday, 16 October 2015

Ever thought of doing NaNoWriMo?

If you're looking for a kickstart to your novel writing, then set aside November to have a crack at bashing out 50,000 words of a rough first draft in the hellfire challenge that is NaNoWriMo. Guest blogger Matthew Wright has some ideas to get you started in the right direction.

Posted on

If any of you are looking for a bit of how-to guidance for your NaNoWriMo story – or, indeed, any fiction – one place to start researching is with Arthur Porges’ classic 1953 sci-fi ‘The Ruum‘.

It’s a simple enough tale. Alien ‘bio-collector’ robot is accidentally left on Jurassic-age Earth. Skip forward 130 million years and it’s still hard at work, undiscovered in the wild back-country – until a rugged outdoorsman runs into it.
A beautiful picture from the other week of Earth from 1.6 million km sunwards. NASA, public domain.
Earth. NASA, public domain.
What follows is a classic man-vs-wild survival tale – with a stunning twist. I won’t say anything more – but what I will say is that ‘The Ruum’ remains an absolute archetype of all that a short story of this general type should be. It has:
  1. A simple and sharply contained plot – one man, one task, one thread.
  2. Character-based drama of the highest order – the inner struggle by the woodsman to find strength in himself to stay alive.
  3. Sustained conflict – pursuit of the man by the Ruum – moving in rising waves.
  4. A surprise twist at the very end.
This is storytelling at the very highest level. It’s worth hunting out ‘The Ruum’ – it’s online, these days, and it won’t take long to read.
After that, check out Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea, which carries the same themes and handles them in a very similar way. In this case, the ‘relentless enemy’ isn’t an alien robot, it’s the sea itself, however the storytelling principle is identical. That particular novella won Hemingway a Nobel Prize for literature.
There are deep lessons to be learned here.
Now get writing.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Monique Hale on the perils of inspiration at midnight

Dear Fellow Writer

I am delighted to make your acquaintance.  When our gazes meet, I acknowledge that you understand things about me that even those who have known me for many many years cannot comprehend…

You identify with the constant chatter of characters in my mind that simultaneously keep me company and harass me for attention.  The details of my day are considered through their eyes, weighed by their moral compass, and all that I see, hear and do is pondered upon by their fictitious point of view.

You also understand the inconvenience of being plagued randomly during a peaceful night’s sleep by a perfectly constructed sentence that has chosen this untimely moment to demand recognition. 

You comprehend the pain of a hand aching from the ferocity of spilling the contents of your mind onto paper, any paper as your characters instruct you to keep going.

You fathom the satisfaction experienced as you switch the light off and nestle once again into the bosom of sleep.  Your muscles relax, your eyes grow heavy, awareness floats further and further away until...oh my god, nooooo!  Yet another bout of the most perfect configuration of words strikes, capturing a concept with such sweet accuracy, you are compelled to take the voyage of creativity once again.

Like me, you too have borne the scathing irritation of your significant other, as you knock several items off your bedside table in your plight to find a pen in the dark.  Instead of being proud of your literary achievements, they selfishly resent the invasion of noise and light interrupting their blissful slumber. 

After the ordeal of placing your thoughts on the paper, hand aching, snuggling under the cosy blankets, you get how unwelcome a fresh flood of ideas, and the need to turn on the light yet again, can be.  Conflicted between a sincere desire for sleep and gratitude for the wave of inspiration, begrudgingly you switch on that light as many times as it takes to empty out the contents of your thoughts.

Because, you realise, dear fellow writer, that if I don’t write then and there, the only remnants of these words present once the light of day hits, is the shame of being too tired to jot down what has been gifted in the depth of the night.  You empathise with the feeling of failure that engulfs should you resist recording that pearl of brilliance allocated to you by the writing gods. 

You know how an everyday interaction can trigger a myriad of concepts worth expanding on, and you suffer as you realise that there is not a pen in sight to jot down these precious jewels before they escape – lost forever.

Like me, you also suspect that pens have legs, and run away from the place where you securely placed them to allow easy access during the next abrupt wave of inspiration.

For these very reasons, my comrade in words, silently the creator in me honours the creator in you! 


Monique Hale


Friday, 2 October 2015

A poem by Pam Laird

The Mud-Coloured Beret


He stands beside

A pyramid of apples

Close by

The market door.


‘Are these apples

fresh?’ he asks.

‘They are, I bought six

Only yesterday.’


‘Are you South African?’

‘No, I am a Kiwi.’

‘From the South Island?’



He is tall,

More than six feet,

His skin is clear

And olive.


‘Are you going

To buy

A bag of apples?’

I ask.


‘You speak,

So nicely,’ he says.

But his presence

Is not quite present.


I wonder,

‘Is he lost

Or sad, or drugged,

Or is he ill?’


He wears a

Beret, mud-coloured

Pulled low over

His ears.


There is no smile,

A guiless naivety


My face.


‘Is there something

I can do?’

‘No, no,

No, no.’


‘I must buy

The apples now, I

Thank you, that

You stopped to talk to me.’

Pam Laird

Friday, 25 September 2015

Maureen Green on the cathartic effect of national sporting pride.

 It’s the Rugby World Cup, an international fixture on the calendar that occupies the thoughts of many nations. The fixture that engenders a plethora of emotions that bring grown men to tears has arrived.  Everybody's an expert. This stage is the moment of truth. Hours of training, planning, team work and honing of individual skills are now to be pitted, nation against nation. This is the moment when dedication and preparation are to be put to the test. National expectation runs high.  I settle myself into my chair, switch on the T.V. for the long awaited moment of our team's first match. The hubbub of the opening ceremony sidelined, the teams take the field, line up behind the national emblem and 'male bond.' The music strikes up. The first strains of the our National Anthem fire my emotions; send me back fifty odd years when I too, with the silver fern on my chest, felt the surge of national passion rise.

Then, my heart tight in my chest pulsed with uncanny speed in my ears at the opening phrase, Eh Ihowa Ahtua. Nerves jangling and muscles taut, I tried to sing. My body on fire, only a squawk  squeezed from my constricted throat. I ranged my eyes over the sea of faces looking down on the oval.  A tingle of doubt wormed its way so I averted my eyes and stared at the ground.  Exhilaration dampened and a sudden fear that I would not perform gripping, tears trickled down my cheeks. I raked them and doubt away and concentrated on the ground until the closing phrase of our anthem, 'Make her praises heard afar.' "Yes," I mumbled. My mind cleared of niggling doubts. "Our praises will be heard afar."

Maureen Green

Thursday, 17 September 2015


Re-blogged as an excerpt from Kristen Lamb's Blog - a fount of useful information for writers making a career.
We writers have to be really really careful about worshipping perfection, and I think fiction can be far more vulnerable because it is far more subjective. There comes a time when we simply have to SHIP. Just let it go. Time to move on to something new. We could edit forever. This applies to blogs, books, query letters and eyeliner.

The world does not reward perfect books, it rewards finished books.

Maybe it is time to let go of that first novel you’ve been working on for the last year three years six years. You know what? Maybe it just sucks and that is okay.

Very often, our first novel is a learning curve. Just like children develop fine writing muscles, we do too.

The first novel is our first attempt to do something most mere mortals can’t. Can we sit and finish a work spanning 60,000-100,000 words?

Or, in my case? 178,000 words.

Gimme a break! I was NEW! :P

Yes, I was that writer. The one the agents talk about? It’s me. I am the “Alligator-in-the-Sewer” of the publishing world. I am real. I really queried a 178,000 word novel that was all genres and written for everyone to love and that would make an awesome movie and I already had started the screenplay. Did I mention merchandising?

But what I didn’t understand was that novel wasn’t meant to be queried or even published. It had already served its purpose and it took me a long time and way too many fruitless revisions to understand that. One of the best lessons I have learned in my career is to simply let go.

Shop it, ship it, or kill it but move forward.

Write the first book and move on. Write another and another. Sure, the first one might suck, but each one will suck a little less. We learn by doing. Writers only improve by writing MORE.

Perfect is the enemy of the good.

If we hope to be successful at this writing thing, we must master two diametrically opposite skills—latching on and letting go. We can’t finish if we don’t sink in our claws, but we also can’t finish if we fail to ever let go.

Virtually every long-term successful author didn’t make it with ONE novel. We make a good living at writing by writing MANY novels. But, if we don’t get good at shipping? Odds are we will never be able to write full-time. So breathe and just move forward. It gets easier.

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself too concerned with being perfect? Do you think you allow perfectionism to feed you procrastination? Are you still trying to “fix” that first novel and haven’t let go? Do you have trouble moving forward?

Excerpt from Kristen Lamb’s blog. You can read the whole post here.

Friday, 4 September 2015

How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis

Re-blogged from Pub Crawl

One thing writers hate doing but will inevitably have to do (one day or another, at least) is the Dreaded Synopsis. An agent may request it in his/her submission materials, or an editor might want it once your agent has you out on subs. My film agent needed it for shopping around Something Strange & Deadly, and I would imagine other rights-agents would want a short, simple synopsis for the same reason.
So in other words: you have to learn to do this. You need it before you’re published, and you’ll certainly need it afterwards. Specifically, you’ll need to be able to write the 1 or 2-page synopsis.
But Sooz, you say. It’s hard to boil my whole ingenious novel into a few key sentences.  To convey the depth, the emotion, the literary power of your novel in 500 words or less–impossible!
Ah, but is possible my friends.  It’s possible and can even be fun (if you enjoy mental torture like me).  To learn how to write a short synopsis, I took workshops, read books, and wrote a few drafts until I had a gleaming 1-page book summary.  And after all that practice, I realized I had my own method (built from the methods of my various teachers, of course), and I’m sharing that method with you here.
To use this worksheet, fill out the questions in sentence form. Though your story may not follow this exact format, try to find some critical event in the story that can be placed in that space.  You will likely notice that the worksheet is very similar to the Hero’s Journey (because most stories follow that format!), and I have filled out the questions using my All Time Favorite Movie as the example.
Once you have filled out the worksheet, rewrite them on a fresh sheet of paper and try to eliminate words, tighten sentences, and variate sentence structure. How many words do you have? You want to shoot for under 500, and you want to have some “space” left for inserting connective words (e.g. meanwhile, then, after, etc.). You also want to have extra space to add any events that are needed for explanation/flow.
Rule of thumb: You should only name three characters in a short synopsis – usually, the protagonist, antagonist, and possible love interest/side-kick/contagonist. All other characters should be referred to by their roles (e.g. the waitress, the mother, the basketball player).
Rule of thumb: You must tell the ending! The purpose of a synopsis is to show an editor/agent you can tell a story from beginning to end. You will not entice them into reading your whole MS if you don’t share the ending – you’ll just tick them off! :)
Rule of thumb: Do not include subplots unless you have extra space at the end!!!!!  Stick to the MAIN PLOT EVENTS.

Fill in the Blanks

1. Opening image
An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.
2. Protagonist Intro
Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.
Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland.
3. Inciting incident
What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.
When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.
4. Plot point 1
What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vader – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.
5. Conflicts & character encounters
Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.
To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vader’s home and the Empire’s main base.
6. Midpoint
What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 180 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.
7. Winning seems imminent, but…
What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.
After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vader kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship.
8. Black moment
The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?
Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vader and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.
9. Climax
What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?
The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.
10. Resolution
Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?
With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism.
11. Final image
What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?
Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.

Putting It All Together

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.
Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland. When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.
Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vader – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.
To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vader’s home and the Empire’s main base. Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.
After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vader kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship. Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vader and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.
The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.
With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism. Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.
I hope this helps you all!  I know I use it as a general guide every time I write a synopsis.  Sometimes, I even use it before writing a novel to help me get an idea of the general plot I want to follow.

Thanks, Sooz at Pub Crawl - I'll be back to take a look at your other articles!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Evan Andrew has been to the movies!


On Sunday I saw my last film at the 47th NZI Film Festival. I used to go to heaps of them years ago, but in recent years July has been the month I go traveling overseas, in search of sun to escape the dreary winter. This year though, I was at home, so on going through the catalogue I was more than pleasantly surprised by not only the variety, but the quality of the films to be shown.

As is usual with me, I picked out about twenty films I wanted to see, then perused it again later and took out most of the commercial type films I knew would come back for general release. Finally I whittled it down to six I knew I could manage, and this was a mixture of documentary and fictionalized films. All were good, and very different.

Perhaps my favourite was ‘Crossing Rachmaninoff,’ a wonderful romantic story of Italian-born Auckland pianist Flavio Villani. Producer Rebecca Tansley has done a brilliant job with this documentary of a delightful personality in Flavio, which was filmed here in Auckland and Italy and is a Must See! I am sure it will come back for general release, and I cannot urge strongly enough, to anyone who reads this, to make the effort to go and see it. Truly wonderful on all accounts.

‘Around The World in 50 Concerts,’ was another delight, which left everyone in the theatre leaving with just one wish, to see it all over again. It must come on the Arts channel, and again I hope it gets brought back for general release.

‘Peggy Guggenheim, Art Addict,’ was another fascinating look into the life of this extraordinary woman, and the early film footage explained much about her that I never knew.

The Australian director Gillian Anderson has also done a brilliant job with ‘Women He’s Undressed,’ a fascinating title, for a fascinating documentary about the (little known today) Australian Hollywood costume designer 0rry-Kelly who dressed the stars from the thirties to the sixties. I feel sure that must come back for release.

‘Saint Laurent,’ beautifully filmed and acted, (but too long), will certainly be commercial, like the moving and poignant, ‘45 Years,’ with Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

There was a total of 155 films shown over the two weeks, and interesting for me, was the fact that ten of the films were either adapted from a book, or based on a story. Not a high percentage I thought.

 So come on you film producers and directors. The Mairangi Writers have got lots of excellent stories that would make wonderful films that the world could enjoy. And, wouldn’t we just love to see our name in the credits, on the BIG screen!


Evan Andrew

Friday, 21 August 2015

Jean Louise Allen is excited about the Independent Book Festival in October

Never did I think I’d see the day when I’d prefer Independent Publishing to ‘Old Time’ publishing. Verily, verily, verily, therefore, does it go to show how progress enters all areas of life.

These days we have spaceships zooming off to planets; replacement heart operations; electric cars … so why not have a new way of bringing books into our homes? It’s all perfectly normal. Life is a constant readjustment to change. Now who first said that?  And thank heavens for people like Louise de Varga of Auckland New Zealand for her foresight into this field of publishing change. This year on the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of October she will bring to Auckland another  Independent Book Publishing Festival at the North Shore Events Centre in Albany on the North Shore of Auckland.

I asked Louise what it was about this festival in October that ‘geared her up’.

Louise replied –

‘With the success of last year’s Independent Book Festival, held at Devonport, I knew it needed a bigger and better location. The North Shore Events Centre is perfect due to its centrally located position, ample parking, and close motorway access. It also has an onsite café which can cater up to 17,000 people. The change in venue also gives each exhibitor a much bigger space and so gives authors and literary business a real opportunity to have amazingly creative stands.

Knowing this festival fills a need in our publishing community is what continually motivates me. Authors from all over New Zealand get together and meet with a huge number of readers and sell their story ideas directly to them. The range of print books and ebooks on offer covers all ages and genres. New Zealand has a great writing history and this festival is about authors and readers connecting to make it even more memorable.’

This is Jean Louise Allen hoping to meet up with you at the Independent Book Festival this year.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Barbara Algie thinks wintry thoughts.

We have just experienced the longest, warmest summer for umpteen years, yet we complain about a few drops of rain.   What do we expect?   After all, the the pundits of the retail world tell us it’s ‘mid-winter’.  I always assumed June to be ‘mid-winter’ but, with climate change and all that jazz, this appears not to be the case any more.  

So, what do you do in mid-winter?   Do you rush out to those sales, only to find, had you waited, that dress you bought last week is now half the price you paid?   Do you dash out, in inclement weather, to mid-winter Christmas dinners where the mulled wine makes up, in part, for the stodgy yorkshire puds sagging beside the roast beef.  (Why is it that nobody these days can make yorkshire puds like grandma?)   If you are more adventuresome, or mad, do you strip naked to take part in a frivolous mid-winter swim to prove something – but I’m not sure if I know what this ‘something’ is.  

Not many really appreciate the beauty of winter.   Dressed appropriately, there’s nothing like a brisk walk beside the sea on a stormy day, savouring the drama of nature.   I’ve been on many such walks on the wild side.   Where the violence of the Tasman Sea, trapped inside the narrow entrance of the Manukau Heads, dashes its fury against the breakwater, sending plumes of foam high in the air where the wind takes over, tearing them into shreds of lace, before lashing them against my face.   Rogue waves send globs of ginger seaweed swirling around my ankles and rolls of far-off thunder, coming ever closer, follow my homeward footsteps, beneath an archway of skeletal trees, to where an open fire awaits.   I’m rather glad there were no mid-winter sales in those days, otherwise I’d have missed this unique experience.

Barbara Algie
Auckland, NZ

Friday, 7 August 2015

First Lines - fab or failure - from Jenny Harrison

First lines that capture the reader – or do they?

We writers know the first couple of lines of our book are going to either capture the reader or cause them to put the book back on the shelf. We spend time polishing, honing and agonising over those first few words and sentences, making sure there’s a splendid hook to lure the reader in.

I have a few favourites I’d like to share with you. And also a few that don’t particularly grab me but perhaps are supposed to.

Herman Melville starts Moby Dick with, ‘Call me Ishmael.’ Now, would you actually want to go on reading? Do you actually care? No, probably not.

Here’s one that is captivating and you will probably want to read on. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ It’s from George Orwell’s sinister and prophetic 1984.

 And the one we’re always warned about; ‘It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals….’ That’s the beginning of Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer. These words have become synonymous with bad writing. There’s even an annual prize for the worst possible first lines called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest  (

I went to my personal book shelves and took out random books to see what modern writers do with their first lines. Working on the premise that today a reader wants instant gratification, the first lines have to be smart, edgy, quirky, curious – all of those but most important – inviting. Derek Hansen starts Sole Survivor with, ‘Red O’Hara woke at first light convinced that he should be dead and ashamed that he wasn’t.’ Now, there’s a book you’d want to read.

Peter Straub’s Ghost Story begins, ‘What was the worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me … the most dreadful thing …” I can’t wait to read it!

Bev Robitai’s Sunstrike begins – ‘The sudden utter silence made me realise something was wrong’. I have to read on. What was wrong? Why was the world suddenly so silent?

My own The Falling of Shadows begins, ‘I was used to seeing ghosts.’ If you enjoy a paranormal, supernatural book then you’ll go on reading. If you think it’s all a lot of baloney that first sentence will put you off. I do hope, however, that you’d want to know what happens to a girl who sees ghosts.

Sometimes the first lines are great but what follows is not that good. I loved D R Meredith’s opening line of her Murder by the Book; ‘Sacrificing virgins isn’t common practice anymore.’, the book not so much.

It pays to spend some time rewriting your first couple of sentences. In this day of text messaging and one-minute noodles, readers are more likely to stick with your book if the first few lines are totally engrossing.

After all, who wouldn’t want to go on reading Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed, his novel about the Columbine High School massacre that begins like this, ‘They were both working their final shift at Blackjack Pizza that night, although nobody but the two of them realized it was that. Give them this much; they were talented secret-keepers.’

 Jenny Harrison

Friday, 31 July 2015

Mairangi Writers’ On Display at Take Note Bookstore

Mairangi Writers’ is an active group of twelve committed authors who like to keep pace with the constantly changing world of writing. Originally formed thirty-five years ago, the current group now meets once a fortnight at the Browns Bay RSA.

With over forty titles available among them, in both fiction and non-fiction and across all genres, the group’s work is on display at Malcolm’s Take Note in Mairangi Bay from 3 August for two weeks. Call in and see the display – you might even meet one of the authors there, if you are lucky.

Mairangi Writers’ is a multi-talented group, boasting a professional conference organiser, a photographer/cover designer, and a professional journalist and magazine editor as well as a formatter and layout designer - all skills essential to successful independent publishing.

At the meetings, each member reads their work aloud, which the group then critiques. From time to time, they invite publishers, book designers, distributors, agents and other professionals to talk to their group to keep up to date. Outside of the meetings, members help each other by ‘beta-reading’ and proofreading completed manuscripts prior to publication.

Mairangi Writers’ holds book launches and seminars, has a presence at writers’ festivals, gives readings at schools and libraries, as well as giving talks to service groups and clubs.

If you would like to hear a member of Mairangi Writers’ talk to your group, please contact one of the members below.

Their books are available locally, as print-on-demand and e-books on Amazon and through their sales site,


Look out for Mairangi Writers’ next time they are ‘On Display’:

3-4th October 2015

North Shore Events Centre.

Don’t miss it.



Over the years, many aspiring writers have asked to participate in the group’s meetings. Unfortunately, due to lack of space it has had to restrict numbers to twelve. There are currently no spaces available. However, the group is happy to assist fellow writers, and often invite aspiring writers to attend the group for one meeting to observe.

If any writers wish to set up their own group with the initial help of the Mairangi group, Contact Jean Allen on 09 4735910 or Vicky Adin

The following are alternative options:

U3A Creative Writing Group. Contact Elaine


International Writers Workshop. Contact Barbara


Authors Mouth. Contact Maureen