Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Introducing Andy Holloman

What I love about hosting Indie Authors on my blog, is that I am exposed to new authors I might never hear about.  Andy Holloman, author of Shades of Grey is one such author.  While y'all are reading his insprational message for authors and writers alike, I'm going to be downloading Shades of Grey onto my Kindle.
This Kindle was definitely my best investment of 2011.  Without any further ado, let me introduce you to Andy Holloman.

Reflections of a writer as 2011 draws to a close
So it's that time of year.  The time when all of us are suppose to get nostalgic and reflect upon the "soon to be ending" year and wax poetic regarding our goals for the upcoming year.  My response to this overdone pastime is "Bah Humbug!"

I had a pretty decent, no EXCELLENT, 2011.  So perhaps I should be more inclined to enjoy my accomplishment of having my first novel be published.  Hey, not bad!  Damn, now I'm stuck because it does feel mucho chic to be writing the phrase "my first novel ...published".   I can feel my earlier "bah humbug" melting away.  
So, here are my   THREE IMPORTANT PUBLISHING LESSONS I LEARNED IN 2011

Lesson One -  Hold onto EVERYTHING you write.
For those of you who have that novel, memoir, or non-fiction book tucked away in a drawer, I did too.  In fact, my copy of my novel was SOOOOO old that it was saved on a 3.5 in. floppy disk!  Remember those!  I had shelved plans to be a published writer because, well, it just didn't seem like it was gonna happen.  I read the recommended books, polished my MS, and queried until my fingers bled.  I only received a few nibbles.  But I was realistic. I didn't expect an agent to scoop up my MS and shout from the highest mountain that they had just discovered the next bestseller. (Well, maybe I had a wee bit hope that it might happen!)
Because I had floated my MS out to members of a writing group I had joined in 2005, at the end of 2010, a friend from that group
advised me that she had passed my MS along to a local publisher and that they would want to publish it because they typically
went by her recommendation.  And she was right!  Finally, someone wanted to publish me and I hadn't done a thing for almost
5 years!!

Lesson Two -  Don't isolate.
Get into a writers group.  Network with authors, readers, anyone that you can find.  Work at it (and it truly is work).  Use Twitter to meet other authors.  Reach out to as many folks as you can.  There are millions of people like you who want to be writers and who have a MS and who need the EXACT same things that you do.  When you connect with folks who have the same needs as you, then it becomes very easy to swap MS's, critique, suggest connections, point folks to good websites, etc. 

Lesson Three -  Control your Publishing Experience.
Even though I received a publishing contract from TWO different publishers (both were small, indie publishers) I wasn't exactly blown away with what they could deliver in regards to helping me sell books.  By this time, I had also discovered that even the big boy publishing houses depend on authors to do MOST, if not all, of their marketing and promotions themselves.  There simply isn't any money floating around to assist new (read: unproven) authors.  Plus, even if you DO get a publishing offer from a BIG BOY company AND they throw some money into promoting your work, it is STILL VERY UNLIKELY that your book will sell enough copies to earn back the printing costs for your first print run. (Remember that a novel is labeled a "success" if it sells 5,000 copies.)
So take the step that I did and publish yourself.  I knew that I could promote my book effectively and I knew that I had a decent novel.  So I hired a cover designer, editor, and book production company to handle areas that I wasn't familiar with.  Then I got my book onto Amazon, BN, and a few other places.  Hey, I'm a published author!  It all happened on a much faster timeline than would normally be the case and I was involved with every step.  I made the final decisions on everything.  I also have control over the PRICING of my book, which is a HUGE advantage and a lengthier topic than can be addressed here.
Unless you truly do have the next bestseller (but don't be fooled into thinking that ANYONE can predict this) or you have some
insider connection to the publishing world, sending your book out to agents and hoping for a publishing offer is akin to winning
the lottery (only book publishing pays MUCH MUCH less). So don't pin your hopes on the lottery. Take control of your publishing
experience as I did.

So, against my better judgement, I have just written down my "year in review" for 2011.  It was a very special year for me, so I've earned the right to shout out a little.  Make 2012 YOUR year to publish.  It can happen.
Have a great 2012,
Andy Holloman

And if you'd like to know a little more about Andy, here's his bio.
Just like the protagonist in my novel, Shades of Gray,  I was the owner of  travel agency for 12 years (mostly in the 90′s).  But this is the only similarity between myself and John Manning!   (I never ventured into the cocaine business, I swear.)
 I grew up in Greenville, NC and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Economics.  All through high school and college, I was notorious for scribbling out stories and ideas for novels (hey, this was before wordprocessors!)  and always kept them in a top secret shoe box. (and the box is so top secret that I’ve been trying to find it for 15 years!).
       After college, I fell into the travel industry by accident and was able to grow a travel business  into an Inc. 500 company.  The agency grew  through the use of the Internet and by acquiring three other companies.  Late in the 1990’s, I became familiar with the story of one of the my company’s clients who was murdered in Durham, NC and was a suspected drug smuggler.    This story and the subsequent downfall of the travel agency industry (and my company)  after 9/11,  planted a seed in my head that grew into my first published novel, Shades of Gray.  I began writing this novel in 2003, shelved after completion in 2006, and revived in 2011 thanks to a great friend from a writers group in Cary, NC.
      Today, I live in the Raleigh, NC area.  I am the father of three,  and have been happily married for 20 years.  I enjoy (mostly) attending my kids sporting and school events, supporting the local real estate industry, and watching fine films with my wonderful wife.  Whenever possible, I enjoy the beauty of North Carolina’s mountains,  running, camping, and short walks on the beaches of the Outer Banks (several references to OBX in my book) .    I am also an avid reader (time permitting), and a social media goofball.   Most evenings I can be found tapping out my next novel,  due for release in late 2013.   Stay tuned!

Monday, December 26, 2011

An interview with Miss Snark

Christmas time, the season to be jolly.  What people don't tell you is that the days before Christmas are spent rushing around like a blue-arsed fly trying to get shopping done and presents wrapped.  By the time Christmas day arrives you are exhausted, spent, and all you can do is smile inanely and thank your nephews for all those bars of chocolate they bought you as presents.  Even if your top New Year's resolution was to lose weight and get in shape for June's big European adventure.  The day after Christmas you wonder what happened.  Has Christmas already been and gone?  OMIGOD that means the year is nearly over! 2011 is nearly done and dusted.  Another year older and deeper in debt.  Wasn't that a song?  And then you remember.  Crap.  I had to read a book and write a review and post it on my blog on December 26th.  Surveying the dirty dishes from last night and rolls of unused Christmas wrap on the floor, I figure I'd better get started.  House cleaning can always wait.
Rachel Thompson is the Queen of Snark.  The Mancode: Exposed is her latest book and it is overflowing with snark.  I love it!  Straight-talking, shooting from the hip, calling a spade a spade.  This lady doesn't mince her words or disguise them in brightly colored Christmas wrapping.  She says it like it is, and if you can't understand what she is getting at, it is probably because you don't have a vagina.  God's truth.  That's what she said.
Rachel Thompson has an easy-to-read writing style.  You might think you were only going to read a quick chapter before doing those dirty dishes, but believe you me, you'll sit smiling and nodding your head in agreement as you read The Mancode: Exposed in one sitting.  Those dirty dishes can wait.  They weren't going anywhere and there are no such things as fairy godmothers who'd fly in, wave a magic wand and they'd be done.  They'll still be there waiting for you.  I promise.  From men's penchant for farting and hiding the remotes, disgust for directions and having cabinets installed in the garage, The Mancode: Exposed exposes it all in a very witty, snarky way.  Highly recommended for anybody who doesn't suffer from sense of humor failure.
It is my great pleasure to introduce to you Miss Snark herself, Rachel Thompson.  Can we have a drum roll here please?

Rachel, can you tell us why you started writing, what motivates you to write, etc.

How much time have you got? J
I started writing as a child after my fourth grade teacher read us The Secret Garden. I’d always been a reader from an early age. My mom always had her nose in a book – still does (well, a Kindle now). But when my teacher read that book to the class, one chapter a day, I thought I was going to die – I had to know what was going to happen to Mary and Colin! #deargod

On my first date with my husband, he took me to see The Secret Garden on Broadway, front row center. He’s a very, very smart man.

Though I have a degree in Communication Studies and Journalism, professionally, I made my living as a pharma rep (hated it) and trainer (loved that) for a good fifteen years so writing took a backseat, though I always kept journals and wrote stories and poetry.

As for writing as an adult professionally, I began my blog RachelintheOC.com in 2008, in addition to writing for The Examiner and Blogcritics, reviewing books, music, events and beauty products (I’m quite the makeup junkie). I didn’t find it fulfilling but marketing-wise, it gave me great exposure.

Once I expanded my social media platform and began my Mancode essays and really found my niche writing about men and women, the whole idea for my first book A Walk In The Snark formed. About that time, an old boyfriend (whom I almost married) reconnected with me on Facebook and within three month, committed suicide. This was in 2009. Though happily married, his death really threw me and my way of dealing with my grief was to write about it. A few of those essays made their way into the book.

Around 2010, I cofounded the Indie Book Collective also with Carolyn McCray and Amber Scott with the goal of helping authors learn social media and self-publishing.

While the book is primarily male/female humor, loss is a natural extension of love, and many people have contacted me with their own stories. It’s been an amazing experience.

The book reached #1 on the Kindle Motherhood list in September this year for the first time (during the first Indie Book Collective Indie Book Blowout event) and has hit at least 15-20 more times. It’s currently #1 right now! It’s also tops in Parenting and Family, and Family Relationships with an average 4.8 star-rating. I’m so honored.

As for my latest release, The Mancode: Exposed, I’ve become known as the Mancode chick. Those are clearly my funniest essays (as long as one HAS a sense of humor). There are plenty of cranky men who gave me a hard time with the last book who thought I was stereotyping men (though I’m not sure how citing actual examples of behavior is stereotyping but whatev) and became in some cases livid and even wrote me expletive-filled letters, unfollowed or gave 1-star reviews – surprisingly, I love those Mancode-type reactions because it just proves my theories #hehe.

I even gave one section of this book the title DNA & STEREOTYPES to deal with the detractors head on. I hope they realize that women are part of the reaction as well and I discuss chicks (Chickspeak) plenty in the book (“give us chocolate or we will cut you”).

I released the book right after Thanksgiving this year and it’s already reached Top 10 on both the Marriage and Parenting and Family Humor lists with an average 5-star rating. I hope you enjoy it.

In fact, I’m writing Chickspeak: Uncovered right now…ya know, why we say stuff we don’t mean, or how to interpret what we say when we’re in a chocolate coma. Why you should have taken AP Chick in high school. Like that.

I’d love to hear any questions from your readers or interact with them on Twitter, Goodreads, or Facebook. My email is RachelintheOC@gmail.com, Twitter or Goodreads @RachelintheOC, or my Mancode: Exposed Facebook page.

Thanks Cindy for the time and opportunity to chat!
Seriously, if you want to read something that is full of light-hearted truisms that will make you smile and think "That is on the mark," then buy your copy of The Mancode: Exposed today. 
Hope you're recovering from the festive feasts!
Cindy Vine
How to Say No to Sex and other Survival Tips for the Suddenly Single



Friday, December 23, 2011

Introducing David Knight

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you a wonderful author on this fine day. 
DAVID KNIGHT was born into his current physical embodiment in 1964. He is married to Caroline and they live with their adopted cats Toby, Treacle, Spiky and Missy in the UK. In growing up he describes himself as a Mr. Average or like a 'Joe Bloggs'. Whilst earning a living in various types of work, (this ranged from HM Forces, Financial Services, a Care Assistant and also self-employment) his search for fulfilment changed from the exterior and without to the interior and within.

Spiritual education gained a greater momentum and at the age of 21 a more urgent sense of dedication as well as a new realization had set in. New evidence of and from God, were soon revealed through his life experiences. With the aid of Spirit guides and beings from the ethereal planes, the foundations were laid for all who wished to develop and experience their Hearts flame of love and light and to embark upon a unique opportunity for all soul's in this lifetime.
 Part of David's book launch is an exciting contest.  David's book is being launched on 2/2/12 on Amazon.  There is an exciting contest that is in effect from now until the Launch.  There are great prizes that are involved:
$100 gift certificate for Amazon toward a Kindle
Two $50.00 Amazon Gift Certificates
Authors can substitute their choice of a video book review or Facebook Welcome page for the Kindle Gift Certificate if they win.
To enter, visit David's blog: http://www.ascensionforyou.co.uk/blog
FOOD FOR THE SOUL
Welcome once again to my blog! As Christmas is only around the corner, I thought you might like something festive to wet your appetite.  It’s difficult sometimes to tear ourselves away from the shops, pretty lights and the mince pies ….but how about a little nourishment for the inner you! This is an extract entitled ‘A Christmas Carol’ and is from I am I: The In-Dweller of your Heart
A
s you sit you can feel the pressure in and around your head, could this be communication from the so called ‘dead’? As you become ‘still’, many other souls draw close to you, from all walks of life and existence. This is because they can grow, learn and digest truth and meaning too. Not only do they hear and see, but they feel the information and the love that is given and sent ‘within’ and ‘out’.
Often people think they are alone, this cannot be so as I keep reiterating to you. I shall always remind you of this until it is etched firmly within all aspects of your being. When one experiences natural or so called unnatural phenomena, the receiver or practitioner will sense numerous different feelings and also come to many different conclusions.
When something feels correct for the individual (or for those that hear, sense, view, and are nearby) then a resonance, a spark, a true feeling of joy and fulfilment occurs within the heart. It is through these experiences that I help you on your journey, quest and only true desire to become permanently with me in all aspects of your being.
With these coming festivities, I hope the masses celebrate with open hearts; sharing the love within, sowing seeds of truth that can grow fruitfully and can be harvested at a later date when required to do so.
Those with Christian beliefs will probably have a Christmas tree. These trees, whether real or artificial, will be adorned with decorations and the like. In reality this is but a reflection of the truth. A real pine tree with its pine needles, (which can be soft and gentle or hard and sharp) bears so much more.
A tree such as this has a wonderful shape and its aura of luminosity as it lives is something to behold. You can sense its light like a star which manifest from all points and radiates in all directions. It is both beautiful and serene, created by and from love.
I explain this to you (and it is so reticent) because although many bring such stresses and strains upon oneself due to commercial, materialistic, and family pressures, it is only when you start to relax and actually be at peace that the same light and  ambience as the pine tree then manifests itself to touch those around you.
Understand that happiness, joy, peace, goodwill, friendship, forgiveness, and  compassion for another soul or being are all magnified and personified when truth flourishes from the heart, especially now.
So, when in this special atmosphere of love and light, be like the pine tree’s branches and extend your arms and heart to another. Let it touch a broken heart; let your light be a beacon when those who have cast aside their doubt go looking for guidance. Nurture and nature go hand in hand. So many aspects of a human being’s life are like this and in time all will understand who and what they are.
As Christmas approaches many will gather in the name of the Lord and sing praises of ‘God’s love’. People will come together for many different reasons, but all will be touched in some way by the uplifting hymns and carols. Often it is the words that bring meaning to one person but for another, it could be the ‘sensing of’ or a heightened awareness of much more than this.
Indeed, over the millennia and eras of time, souls have gathered in worship and prayer to many a so called ‘God’. Civilisations since time immemorial have believed in one form or another. They have felt that there was always something greater than themselves. As I am all things and all Creation is me (as you all are), then all along they have just been recognising what was inside of them. If one should bear witness to scenes, images or actual events (such as a solar eclipse), though they are but physical and impermanent, this does not matter. It is in the sensing and in feeling that the soul receives the key. It is a key to the remembrance and experience in whatever way makes sense to the individual, or masses, of me. Remember, I am love and love is all things.
Tonight will be shorter for you in terms of the ‘understanding’ shared and known. I pause in liaising with you at this time, for you to reflect on a Christmas feeling, a prayer or carol. Let the reader decide what part it plays in their hearts.
A Christmas Carol             
Two hearts that beat as one,
Louder and louder they do become.
Linked in truth and by hand in hand,
Travel through time to the Promised Land.
Souls drift by in search of the Son,
They pass through the love of the enlightened ‘one’.
Knowledge and understanding given freely to all,
Open hearts and arms wide when you hear the call.
Time waits for no man, or beast, or being,
And I am the truth, all perceiving and all seeing.
All you have to do is to become the one,
Your immortality, the bliss in truth you’ll have won.
Your goal has been set and is the path you now take,
Lives and your history are not what are at stake.
It’s the present you’re given, like under the tree,
Find victory not defeat and forever be in me.
One love and light that encompasses all things,
Not manufactured by hands or made by machines.
The ingredients of your body and of the ‘physical’ world,
Always to be erased, just like I said and have told.
So then go forth, with a spring in your step,
Renew your ‘own’ faith no matter what you ‘get’.
As long as you hold, true love in your heart,
It doesn’t matter which, for we will never ever part.
Peace, love and blessings to you all,
Amen.
I am I: The In-Dweller of your Heart is a stepping stone for all who embark upon their own quest for 'Spiritual' education and guidance. So, even if you are comfortable with your own faith and religion, you may have decided to explore new interpretations and such issues on a personal or global scale.

The author David Knight has received and transcribed these passages of text in a process known as 'Inner Dictation'. He describes this as writing from within the connection of his heart where peace, bliss, love and light reign supreme. 

God's wisdom and teachings are laid out before you so you can simply choose and read whenever or whatever your heart needs or desires. They are guidelines, principles and simple directions for you to now dip your toes or dive headfirst into the waters of you're own Divine essence.

These books will form the very threads of life's new tapestry, each being spun into 52 lessons from, to and through our own hearts and soul's. They are like a father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, partner or personal friend who knows you better than you can ever know 'yourself'. 

Part 1 is a companion for life which does not judge, condemn or scold, but hopes to encourage, guide, console, teach and remind you of who and what you are, why you live and for what purpose too!


Title: I am I: The In-Dweller of Your Heart
52 Inner Dictations
Author: David Knight
Copyright:  11/23/11 by David Knight
Genre: Inspirational/Religion




Saturday, December 10, 2011

Seeing red

There are times when living the expat life can be a bit of a challenge.  Things happen that make you ache with homesickness, an ache that moves through your bones and goes right to your core.  An ache that makes you want to hop onto the internet and book a ticket home right away.  Today was one such day.
Like other places I’ve lived in, it’s an isolated incident that makes you want to hop onto a plane.  Most of the time life is quite humdrum and pleasant.  In Thailand it was the touts pretending to represent a travel agency who scammed money off me; in New Zealand a burglary that left me with just the dust where my furniture and belongings used to be; in Korea it was being nearly killed every time you tried to cross the road; in China it was the pushing and shoving, hoiking and spitting, and the globule of mucous left for me on my motorbike seat; in Angola it was my daughter’s camera being confiscated by the police because she took photos of some butterflies.  In Tanzania I have to say it’s the racism.  Not by the majority, but by a handful who target you because you have a white skin.
You see, a white skin seems to indicate that under that pale covering you are an ATM desperate to hand out cash.  You get charged more at the market than locals, parking attendants only demand money from you when you park in town, cops will pull you over and demand money for not having the right fire extinguisher, etc.
I parked on the main road, just around the corner from the market where I bought a small kerosene stove.  When I got back to my car, I was immediately surrounded by a group of young men all shouting at me, telling me I’d parked illegally.  Earlier on I’d had cars parked in front of me and hand barrows filled with pineapples parked behind me.  They had since moved on leaving my car the only one there.  Glancing behind me I saw that I was quite a few metres away from the corner so that was acceptable; I was the right distance away from the kerb, so that wasn’t a problem.  Their accusations that I had parked illegally made no sense whatsoever.  They crowded around me as I inspected where I’d parked, pushing me and poking their fingers at me, shouting, yelling.  One told me they’d put a thing under my tyre so I couldn’t move.  I guessed they meant a clamp, but when I peered between their legs I could see nothing on my tyre, no clamp.  At first despite their aggressive approach, I was calm and pointed out that I had not parked illegally at all.  Another pushed away some dirt with his foot, exposing a yellow square roughly a third of the size of a dollar note.  My front tyre was about 10cm in front of the yellow square which had been hidden under dust.  Obviously, I had to pay each one of the eight young men before they would let me get into my car and leave.  They had never met someone like me before.
I can be pleasant, I can be kind.  Try and rip me off and I undergo a complete personality change.
With my blood boiling I started yelling back at them, telling them I hadn’t parked illegally.  I threatened to call the police.  They told me to go ahead, calling my bluff as I didn’t know the number of the police station.  I opened my car door telling them I was going to drive to the police station.  Five of them crammed themselves into the back seat and one hopped into the front before I had time to lock the doors.  “We’ll go with you to the police,” they said.  “The police will confiscate your car and lock you up in jail.  You need to pay us the fine now for parking illegally.”
My blood pressure rose and I literally saw red.  After jumping out my car I ran around to the kerb side and physically pulled them out of my car with adrenalin-induced strength, still shouting and yelling at them.  They started crowding me even more, telling me that I was in Africa and I’d parked illegally and paying them the fine was the African way.  The way they did things in Tanzania.  This made my blood pressure rise several notches more.  “I too am a born and bred African,” I shouted back, “And stealing money from people or trying to bribe them is not the way we do things.  You are just criminals, tsotsis!”
I locked my car and stormed off to get help from the curio shop down the road.  The gang had my car surrounded, if I tried to drive away I’d end up knocking someone over.  A young man with a backpack approached me as I hurried back to my car with my dreadlocked saviour from the curio shop.  “They are corrupt; just jump in your car and drive!”  So while the curio man and the backpack man distracted them, I drove off fuming.  Nobody besides the backpack man and the man I’d called from the curio shop came to my assistance.  They all stood around staring, like they were watching a play.
Luckily, I calmed down further along the road when I saw that Nakumatt, the Kenyan supermarket, finally opened.  There had been rumours of its opening for months.  Whether it was the lovely clean air-conditioned shop or the stocked shelves I’ll never know, but I decided not to jump on the next flight out.
If life was always smooth sailing it would be boring.  We need the annoyances as well as the happy times to keep us sane.  Unfortunately what happened to me is quite common in developing countries where you have people so desperate for money that they resort to crime and corruption to get it.  That doesn't make it right, but it does put it in perspective. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Times you want to live in a cave

I have been attacked!  Whether it is from a plague of microscopic minibeasts or an allergic reaction of some sort, I don't really care at this point.  All I know, is that I am unbearably itchy and itchiness makes me irritable.  When I get irritable, I have a very low tolerance level for annoying people.  In all fairness, the people are probably not deliberately setting out to annoy me, but when my whole body is one itching, burning, fiery mess, then you can expect that whatever you say might annoy me.  So be prepared and think carefully before you speak. 
At the moment I'm like the busy bee that was stung with its own sting.  Frenetic activity, the usual December madness that afflicts everyone involved in education. 
This year I have decided I fancy escaping to a cave in some exotic setting.  I think I can live there quite easily all by myself as long as I have electricity for cable TV and wireless internet.  Oh, and a flush loo with a privacy screen around it.  I don't want monkeys perving at me whilst I perform my ablutions.  A nice firm mattress would be good as well, getting sand stuck in all my crevices would probably be most unpleasant.  And a fridge with some cold coke and chilled white wine.  A cave might have bats, and after my adventures with rats, I might give a cave a miss.  Bring on a luxury beach cottage in an exotic setting, that's probably what I need.  Delicious seafood, okay, my mind is going off on a tangent.
People.  Who needs them?  Pestering, pedantic people.
I guess I do.  It makes life far more interesting.  And the strange thing is you can have a run-in with a long line of pesky people, and one person gives you a compliment or says something nice and all is well with your world.  Now, if only I can get rid of these itches!
Cindy

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coping with an Empty Nest, headaches, no power and NaNoWriMo

So the nest isn’t 100% empty, I have one chick left for the next eighteen months.  But the absence of the older two dwarfs everything else.  I was doing okay with just the one chick left at home.  We’d got into a routine, kind of, learned to put up with each other’s foibles and moods.  Rolling along rather like a car on a slope without a foot on the accelerator.  Not much effort, just existing, heading ever forward to the time the last chick leaves.  Our idealic life was blasted into a high energy one with the arrival of my middle chick for a two month stay.  Then the eldest came for two weeks and I realised just how much I miss not having all my chicks in my nest.  So much activity, sparkling conversations and debates, putting my body on the line to stop them from killing each other, eating together as a family, going away to Kenya - our first big whole family holiday in a year.  All that brought back so many old memories and created so many new ones, that I realised how much I miss out on with us all spread around the world.  Our solitary life, just the youngest chick and I is more of an existence than an actual life.

Saying goodbye to the eldest as she set off to start a new life on a ship was hard.  As she’s got older she has become a best friend.  She knows me better than I know myself.  I feel a large part of my heart went with her.  But I survived that goodbye knowing I still had two chicks in the nest for another month.  Yesterday the middle chick left.  I felt worse than I did after my divorce, the other huge chunk of heart that’s gone with him has left a void and a feeling of such emptiness and sorrow, there are no words to express it.  The house is silent; the youngest chick and I both experiencing our loss in our own way.  No happy banter, quarrels and fighting over which channel to watch on TV.  Just an eerie silence and the noise from the cicadas in the garden.  I expect I can only have myself to blame, passing onto my chicks the love of travel and living in strange places, exploring new worlds, living life as an adventure.

All of which does not help when you are trying to get into the right frame of mind, The Zone, for writing a novel.  NaNoWriMo couldn’t have come at a worse time for me.  50 000 words in 30 days was always going to be a big ask.  With a full nest it’s a near impossibility. Distractions too numerous to mention.  Add in a full time job and you start getting the picture.  NaNoWriMo has been tough this year, but I am still determined to get to the finish line even if it means writing like hell the last four days.

This past week has also had migraines added into the mix.  Chronic ones where you just get fuzzy concentric circles affecting your vision so you can’t read a page, see a computer screen or keyboard.  The medication I take knocks me out for two hours at a time.  These migraines plagued me on and off for four days.  Dehabilitating.  In the extreme.  Not good for NaNoWriMo either.

For two months, since the middle chick’s arrival, we’ve had virtually uninterrupted power which is definitely not the norm here.  This past week, the power has gone off a few times but nothing as bad as its been in previous months where we sometimes had up to 72 hours with no power.  And just so you no, no power here means no water either as you have to pump it into your tank attached to your house.  Yesterday, the power went off on three separate occasions.  First in the morning, putting an end to an early bout of writing, then when we came back from taking the middle chick to the airport we arrived home to no power, and at 6pm sharp the power went out and stayed out.  We watched the new season of Nikita until the laptop battery died and then put on the generator.  By that time I was unable to construct a simple sentence, let alone work on a novel.

So although this might seem as if I am just making excuses for not completing NaNoWriMo this year; watch this space.  Wednesday I’ll be at that finish line, just you wait!
Have a good week ahead!

Cindy

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gathering steam with NaNoWriMo

The rainy season appears to have arrived, bringing with it more ants.  The damn things are everywhere, so invasive.  I HATE THEM!  But enough about my pet hate. 
A week ago we suddenly started to catch rats.  It could be the new trap we bought at the market.  The commercial traps have so far met with no success at all.  A total waste of time and money.  The homemade trap from the market has been awesome and a credit to human ingenuity.  It’s a wooden box with sides made from strips of soda cans.  A hook hangs down like a fish hook that you hang the meat onto.  The rat has to enter the box to get the meat on the hook.  One attempt to touch the meat and the trap is sprung, resulting in the rat’s instant decapitation.  The actual mechanism of the trap is similar to that of a clothes peg.  Very clever indeed.  So far, FIVE rats have succumbed to the temptation to taste our tasty treats.  I LOVE IT!  Bring it on, Ratty!
NaNoWriMo has passed the half-way mark and I am still a way behind.  Work constraints, ant and rat-catching are distractions I can’t ignore.  The good news is I have crossed the 20 000 word mark, so that must mean something.
It’s amazing how difficult the first 10 000 words are.  Even though you have your outline and character sketches, that’s not enough.  Developing the characters and plot requires a lot of thought and grey matter that is often tired after working overtime throughout the day at work.  Writing and working full-time is not easy.  But by the 10 000 mark, something magical happens.  Writing is no longer a chore.  The plot is moving along, the characters have formed, and they start taking over so that the writing just flows.  My fingers develop a life of their own as they race across the keyboard.  This is the best time and when writing is at its easiest.  So even though I am behind where I should be my gut feeling is that I will eventually catch up.  My characters will see me right and carry me to the end.
Have an incredibly great restful weekend!
Love
Cindy

Friday, November 4, 2011

Moshi Wildlife Park

I've decided to open up my house to the public as a wildlife park.  I reckon I can make more money than I do from my writing by selling all day passes at my gate to tourists keen to see the real Africa.  Forget lions, elephants and buffalo.  Seriously, they are completely over-rated and look the same as they do in the National Geographic.  Rather experience the everyday wildlife found in Moshi houses.
Besides many different species of lizard which grace my garden, the bright turquoise ones with the neon orange heads are my personal fave, scratching in the lush tropical plants might unearth a snake or two.  But the best is the five different species of ant that have taken over my house.  The big sugar ants attack anything sweet.  The big black ants with a ferocious bite use my toilet bowl as their personal watering hole.  If you use the toilet in the middle of the night without turning on the lights, prefering to go in the dark, you are at risk of being bitten on the bum by an angry ant who was there to drink water.  Then there are the tiny ants which appear out of nowhere and descend on any kind of drink or foodstuff within seconds; and the medium sized regular ants who march in single-file along the doorframes of the house.  Just outside the back door are the giant siafu, dinosaur-type ants who attack you en masse if you stand still near them for anything longer than 5 seconds.
In the rainy season we had the flying termites leave piles of discarded wings underneath the outside lights but thankfully their time has passed.  Big fat juicy geckos hide in all the curtains waiting to drop on you when you open or shut the curtains.
At least once a week a giant cockroach makes its appearance before getting taken out by a spurt of DOOM.
But the most exciting thing I can offer at my Moshi Wildlife Park, is the chance to go on the trail of the cleverest rats on the planet.  You can follow their poo, see samples of their diet (half-eaten fridge magnets, soap with bite marks, chewed candles, half-eaten painted egg shells) and try and find their nests.  These rats have super-powers, able to drag the rat trap across the floor, remove the special treat, without setting off the trap.  In broad daylight a chicken carcass mysteriously disappeared and was found later, well-chewed, behind the fridge.  The rats even managed to lick off peanut butter which had been spread lovingly across the trap without setting it off.
The crows in my big tree next to the barbecue create a fuss everytime I light a fire and dive-bomb me while I'm cooking outside.  Seriously, how stupid can they be to build a nest in the branches of a tree above a barbecue!  They should get some brain matter from the rats.
The dogs next door save their howling, barking, yapping, whining, crying for between 11pm and 1am, so unless you want to do a night drive, you might miss out on them.
And this is November, the month I look forward to all year, the month I compete in NaNoWriMo and attempt to write 50 000 words of a novel.  Here's hoping that my wildlife grant me some respite so that I can get to do some writing this weekend!
Have a great weekend, and if you know any rat-catching tricks, please pass them on!
Cindy
PS. An added attraction might be the askari I am thinking of locking up in a cage after he entered my house while we were there, and stole my Blackberry off the kitchen benchtop.  He was hired as a security guard to protect the house occupants from local criminals, but instead turned into a criminal himself.  Luckily, the askari chief arrived and used psychology to persuade him to give the phone back.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo

So I finally did it.  I bought myself a Kindle and now I am addicted to reading.  I have to wonder about the timing though, with NaNoWriMo about to start.  If you plan on writing a whole heap then there's no time for reading.
For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo happens every November, where thousands of writers all over the world attempt to write 50 000 words of a novel in 30 days.  It's a huge ask and requires motivation, dedication and a huge abundance of time.  For me the issue is time.  I don't really have the time available and am not too sure how successful I'll be this year.  I did manage the previous two years, but this year it is going to be a struggle and a challenge.  I just hope I'm up for it.
I've done the ground work, research, plot, character sketches.  But despite my preparation I don't feel as if I am in 'the zone.'  I'm not sure how to get there and am hoping that once I start doing my 1600 words a day I'll just somehow magically fall into 'the zone.'  At this late stage it's all I can hope for.  Which is why I'm trying to frantically finish the new Jonathan Kelleman book I downloaded onto my Kindle.
Just over 24 hours until I start the 50 000 words.  Wish me luck!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Family holidays

I have to admit, I'm a slow learner.  The last time I had my hair cut in Kenya I came out looking like a lop-sided Beatle.  That should have made me have second thoughts about getting my hair cut in Kenya again.  It didn't.  So desperate was I to have my overgrown shaggy locks removed and fringe trimmed, that I decided to chance my luck.  This time I look like a stunned mullet.  Yes, you heard me, I now sport a beautiful mullet.  Actually, it's not as bad as it could have been considering the hairdresser never once used a comb or brush on my unwashed hair.  She did use lots of clips though, that she kept between her lips and pulled them out as needed.
Haircuts and bad hair days aside, it's not often these days that we get to have a family holiday with all three of my children together.  As they have grown older and left the nest, it's become quite a rare occurence.  In the past, I have felt my role has been peacemaker, putting my body on the line to stop them from tearing each other's hair out.  This holiday has been different and everybody has gotten along most of the time.
We started off the holiday with a couple of nights in Saltlick in Tsavo, where the infamous man-eating lions once roamed.  I let Tony drive on the safari and he did a great job and even managed to successfully reverse narrowly missing the sheer drop off a steep cliff. 
We did see lions and many other animals, but the most spectacular animal we saw was the aardwolf, I don't think you often get to see them.
On the way to Mombasa we drove through the worst downpour ever, torrential rain that blinded you completely.  It was quite frightening, but when it passed the skies became blue and have been a bright blue ever since.
The beach resort we are staying at in Nyali Beach just a little north of Mombasa is great!  We've been enjoying the swimming pools and stunning views of the Indian Ocean.  It's so peaceful here but it has made me too relaxed.  I know I should be writing, warming myself up for NaNoWriMo in November, but it's far easier just to chillax and enjoy my children. 
Tony and Kerri are both off to Miami for different reasons.  Tony to complete a 4 month internship at the Ritz Hotel in Naples, and Kerri to auction art on cruise ships plying their trade off the coast.  There is a part of me that wishes I was young again and doing something similar, but then I do enjoy my job and the life I lead now.
I can't believe November is nearly here and the start of NaNoWriMo.  I have been good, I've done some research and plotted out the story, so I'm ready to hit the keyboard on November 1st!  Novel Writing Month is just what you need to get your writing back on track again.  I haven't written anything since June, it's just been far too hectic at work, but NaNoWriMo forces you to make the time to write.
But in the meantime, I'll enjoy the rest of my family holiday as I garner the strength needed to write 50 000 words in the month of November!
Have a great weekend!
Cindy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oh Rats!

Coping with disappointment is never easy.  You psyche yourself up for something you believe is going to happen, then circumstances beyond your control throw you a curve ball.  Feeling let down can be depressing.  The recent quarter final loss to Australia is a good example.  In my heart-of-hearts I had expected the Springboks to win.  I could already picture them holding the Rugby World Cup Trophy up in the air again.  The number one team in the world.  It was not meant to be.
Once the initial shock of the disappointment has passed, it's time to look at the positives.  I was just as proud of the Springboks in defeat as I would have been as if they had won.  Their sportsmanship and graciousness in defeat was something our youth can learn from.  They played like world champions right up until the final whistle.  All I am saying, is watch out in 2015!  The boys will be back!
There are always things that happen which puts disappointments in perspective.  You can't let them rule your life, you have to move on and focus on something else.  In my case, it is rats in the kitchen.  You all know that UB40 song, right?  Well, please don't sing it.  The rat problem is actually not very funny.  It is traumatising.  Maybe, dare I say it, even more than the Springboks unfair loss.
 Rats are cute.  However, when they get into your food cupboard and leave their droppings everywhere, some of their cuteness dissipates.  A few weeks ago I opened the food cupboard to see a rat quickly jump down and hide in a box amongst the neatly folded supermarket packets I recycle.  My housekeeper called the gardener and he managed to batter the rat to death.
I should have realised that rats are social creatures.  They have friends.  If you have one rat, you surely have another.
A couple of days after the death of the rat, I noticed some items knocked over in my cupboard, a half-eaten biscuit where it shouldn't have been, and what looked suspiciously like some rat droppings.  When I told my housekeeper about it she assured me the rat was dead and those brown crumbs were coffee granules, or cocoa.
On Sunday afternoon while I was reading a book on my bed, I heard a blood-curdling scream from the lounge.  A hysterical Siobhan said she'd seen a rat run down the passage.  We called on Tony, my strapping 1.95m rugby-playing twenty year old son to attack the rat.  He ran into his room screaming like a girl and jumped onto his bed.  If this is the future of rugby in South Africa, I have to wonder about winning the world cup back in 2015.  Eventually he calmed down and grabbed his Maasai spear and went to attack the rat hiding in the bottom of the food cupboard.  The rat, like lightning, jumped over Tony's foot and sped across the kitchen floor to behind the stove.  Although Tony moved the stove and the fridge, the rat had disappeared.
The screaming didn't stop with the rat.  Tony closed his bedroom curtains and a large gecko dropped down onto him.  He flung it across the room with a high-pitched yell.  Siobhan went to the bathroom and started screaming as a large cockroach had positioned itself blocking her way to the toilet.  It seems as if all the Moshi-wildlife had come out after the rains and were determined to make their presence known.
Most shops and markets in Moshi are closed on a Sunday afternoon so we weren't able to purchase some rat traps.  I managed to get two lethal-looking rat traps on Monday.  Tony tested one with my ballpoint pen and it snapped the pen clean in half.  I imagined walking into the kitchen to find a decapitated rat's head stuck in the trap and the body at the other end of the kitchen.  Despite using some of our choice imported chorizo to bait the trap, the rat and his friends weren't interested.  This morning the traps were still set, the chorizo untouched.  Tonight we might try smearing the chorizo with peanut butter.  I am determined to kill these rats, however cute they may look.
So the moral of this story is, when you are faced with having to cope with upsetting disappointments, redirect yourself and find something else to focus on.  Like rats!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trying to live the dream

Work.  Something you have to do to survive which will hopefully give you the means to bring you closer to your dream.  Unfortunately, the constraints of work often hold you back from your dream.  Commitments, time constraints, all sent to try your patience.
Last night I dreamt that I owned six houses, each one in a different country.  I spent the year traveling around the world spending two months in each house.  That dream is probably a bit unrealistic considering that at this precise moment I don't own any property anywhere in the world.  And 3-4 houses would be better so that you can spend longer in each country.  But hey, it was just a dream.
Thinking about it though as dawn approached while I watched the Fiji Samoan World Cup Rugby game at some god-forsaken hour on a Sunday morning when all intelligent life were still firmly ensconced in their beds fast asleep, I realised that I quite liked that dream and might need to tweak it a bit and adapt it to make it my own.
The first step will be trying to save some money.  You can't buy a property without any money.  That is a sad fact of life.  Unfortunately, I don't have any of that hugtight sticky glue to keep those dollar notes firmly stuck to my coffers.  Exotic holidays are too much of a temptation and I can't resist flying off to explore somewhere new.  And then, life is so short so you really should make the most of it and not short-change yourself on those holidays.
What I'd really like to do is give up my day job and then spend my time writing and traveling.  Following my team for the 2015 Cricket and Rugby World Cups.
These dreams are not impossible; they just take a bit of conscious effort to work towards making them a reality.  A dream is broken down into small goals.  Each goal is then broken down into steps.  Don't be afraid to dream big.  It's the goals to get there that need to be small and achievable.  Maybe today is the day to work out the blueprint, the road map to achieving your dreams.  Good luck!