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I just posted a blog titled Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (ABNA) – My Submission.

Further from that, I am now writing a blog so I can get feedback from you, the reader. Below is a copy of my pitch and I would really appreciate if you would read it and gave me some constructive feedback on it.

Even though I have submitted by manuscript to ABNA, I still have a few days to make changes to it if required. So feedback before 2nd March 2014 will be appreciated.

My pitch is below. Be as harsh as you like, just remember the feedback must be constructive. Tell me what works or doesn’t work and what will help to improve it.

Amazon’s definition of a pitch is this: ‘your pitch should highlight your concept, protagonist, setting, and writing style—all the elements that make your story unique’.

With that in mind, my pitch is below. Just to confirm, the novel I submitted is called ‘The Matchmaker’ and is submitted under the romance category. Thanks in advance.

Comment away! 🙂

***

Pitch

It’s the beginning of summer. School is nearing its end. Three best friends are determined to have the best summer yet.

Shannon, Brian and Nathan have been friends since primary school but when school ends, everything changes. Shannon and Brian realise they have feelings for each other that extend beyond friendship.

A summer romance begins. When the three friends go camping for the weekend, Shannon and Brian realise they have more than teenage infatuation.

One week later, Shannon wakes up in hospital with no memory of what happened after their trip. Unexplainable emptiness consumes her, terrifying images and nightmares haunt her day and night. Something momentous has happened but she can’t remember any part of it.

Her father explains that after losing everything in a house fire, her mother abandoned them but he will not say more. She trusts him but deep down she knows there is something missing. Has he lied to her? What really happened?

As terrifying images and unexplainable emotions consume her, Shannon tries to bury her fears. She begins to take an active role in other peoples’ lives. She becomes The Matchmaker.

Focusing on other people’s happiness helps her forget her own turmoils. Running her friends lives helps her ignore the pain of her own.

As years pass, Shannon becomes a stranger to those closest to her, even Brian. She can’t bear to be close to anyone because every time she is, her emotions run out of control and the pain becomes unbearable. Brian vows to wait for her but even the best of men have limits. When Shannon takes things too far, Brian can’t hold things together any longer.

As her world collapses, Shannon finally uncovers the horrifying truth. Now she must find a way to rebuild her life and win back her true love.

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I don’t usually do this, but today I am going to share with you a short story I wrote a while ago.

Just to give you some background information, this is set in the mid to late ’90s, when internet and mobile phones were around but were not as common as they are now. Hand written letters were still a common thing and communication in certain parts of the world was very limited.

I decided to write it as a reminder of how things once were. We are all guilty of forgetting how difficult it was to contact people in remote areas. Nowadays it’s easy as pie with international text messages, Skype, email etc. Sometimes it’s nice to reflect on the good ol’ days when technology wasn’t the be all and end all of everything.

This is a fuzzy, feel-good, romance but not the sappy and cringe worthy type like some romances. My husband, who is not a romance reader at all, enjoyed this.

So sit back and continue reading. I hope this puts a smile on your face. 🙂

***

Holding On

“He’s never coming back.”

Yvonne ignored the comment and proceeded to make her morning trip to the letterbox. The postman arrived right on time. Exchanging their usual morning greetings, he handed her the mail and sped away with a friendly wave. Holding her breath, Yvonne sifted through it.

They were all window letters—in other words, bills.

In frustration, Yvonne spun on her heel and stormed inside. The door slammed shut behind her causing a picture on the wall to come crashing down. She threw the mail on the side cupboard.

“When will you ever believe me?” the voice taunted. “He’s never coming back.”

“Nina, shut up!” Yvonne glared at her sister. Nina leaned carelessly against the wall in the hallway, her arms folded across her chest. “What do you know?”

“What I just said. He’s not—”

“Alright! Enough already!”

Pushing past her, Yvonne entered the kitchen and retrieved the milk from the fridge. Tears burned her eyes as she made herself a cup of coffee. Two heaped teaspoons of extra-strength coffee. No sugar. A dash of milk. It was the only thing that got her through the mornings.

A few minutes later, she heard her sister enter. The fridge door opened then closed again. When Yvonne turned around a few seconds later, Nina sat at the table with a glass of juice. She was glaring at Yvonne.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Yvonne asked, feeling uneasy under her gaze.

Shrugging, Nina picked at her nails. “No reason…” she trailed off then looked up at Yvonne and said, “well, actually I was thinking that maybe you should see a doctor. I mean, it’s been six months and—”

“Nina!” Yvonne ran her hand through her short brown hair in frustration. “Why do you keep going on at me about depression? I am not depressed!”

“You can’t blame me for wondering. You’re like this every morning. And for what? All because you didn’t get a letter from Sean.”

“Be quiet, Nina.”

“No I won’t be quiet. When will you ever learn that Sean is gone? He’s never going to send you a letter begging you to come back. He broke up with you.

Yvonne bristled at the comment. Setting her mug in the sink with more force than intended she said, “This subject is officially closed.”

“No it’s not.” Nina’s hazel eyes were dark with anger. “You change the subject every morning!”

“Well, can you blame me? You bring it up every morning!”

“Maybe I wouldn’t if you would listen to me!”

“I always listen! I’m sick of you repeating yourself!” Taking a deep breath, Yvonne said in a calmer tone, “I just want you to drop it. Please.”

“Fine,” Nina said. Standing up she turned to Yvonne and in a cold, hard tone said, “But I am going to say this. It’s time you got over Sean. You saw the letter. Get it through your thick skull once and for all: he is not coming back.”

Before Yvonne could respond, Nina turned and stormed out of the kitchen. The mornings never changed. Once upon a time, she and Nina had a close relationship. Two years earlier something changed and they grew apart. Yvonne never knew what caused it.

As she got ready for work, Yvonne caught her reflection in the mirror. It had been a long time since she took a long, hard look at herself. She was shocked at what she saw. Her once shiny, happy, brown eyes were now sad and empty. Her face, which used to always have a smile, now wore a frown.

Perhaps I am depressed?

Shaking her head, Yvonne pushed the thoughts away. It wasn’t true. The truth was: getting over Sean wasn’t easy. Before she received his break up letter, they had been steadily dating for a year and a half. They had long term plans. His sudden disappearance had shocked her. He offered no explanation.

How could one recover from that?

She didn’t know what it was but deep down she knew there was a missing link. That was what she clung on to—a glimmer of hope that he would come back.

An hour later she arrived at work. The moment she walked in the door, she was greeted with an overpowering fragrance. As she looked around all she saw was an array of red roses, fluffy teddy bears and romantic cards. Valentine’s Day. Her heart ached as she was reminded of Sean.

Approaching her desk the ache in her heart grew. It was still the same. Plain and boring. She had no flowers from that special someone.

Sitting down, she placed her head in her hands and groaned. If she had remembered what day it was, she would have called in sick.

The temptation to order herself a dozen red roses was overwhelming. Of course she didn’t. Naomi, her desk neighbour, who happened to be single more often than not, did that every year. Yvonne refused to stoop to her level.

As if on cue, Naomi arrived with a vase of red roses. Two dozen red roses. She smiled brightly at Yvonne and proudly put them on display.

“Aren’t I a lucky girl?” Naomi cooed, lovingly running her finger across a rose petal. “Liam went out early this morning to buy these for me.”

“I don’t see why you had to bring them into work,” Yvonne said. “They would keep much better at home.”

Naomi clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Of course I’m going to bring them in. I’m not going to look like an outcast by not having any flowers.” She glared at Yvonne with one raised eyebrow. “So where are your flowers, Yvonne?”

“We’re having a romantic dinner tonight instead. He’s cooking for me.”

Naomi huffed and turned away, not convinced. Busying herself with some paperwork, Yvonne’s guilty conscience ate away at her. She had never told her workmates the truth. That glimmer of hope she held on to stopped her from saying it.

“So, when will we see Sean again?” Naomi asked a few moments later, turning to look at Yvonne suspiciously. “It feels like we haven’t seen him for ages.”

Yvonne cringed but didn’t face her. Six months of lying was taking its toll. When Sean was around, he visited her at work frequently. When he disappeared, of course everyone noticed his absence. Her excuses were running dry. There were only so many times his grandmother could be sick.

“He’s got better things to do,” Yvonne spat, turning to glare at Naomi.

She turned back to busy herself once more.

A few moments later, a bustle of excitement from the reception desk captured her attention. Glancing up, she saw a delivery man with a large bunch of red roses. They were even bigger than Naomi’s.

Approaching her he said, “Are you Yvonne Harrison?”

All she could do was nod.

“These are for you,” he placed the roses on her desk then turned and walked away.

“Wait! Are you sure you have the right person?”

He turned back and looked at her quizzically. “If you’re Yvonne Harrison then yes I do. Have a good day.”

Before Yvonne could contemplate the situation, a small crowd of women gathered around her desk. They were jealously admiring the roses.

“Oh no you don’t,” Yvonne snapped, snatching the note Naomi tried to pinch away from her. “Just because you don’t have a boyfriend doesn’t mean you can go reading my private notes.”

“You liar,” Naomi cried. “You’ve seen my flowers!”

Yvonne snorted. “What those? They must have cost you a fortune, Naomi.”

Naomi’s face reddened with anger. Stamping her foot, she turned and stormed out the door.

When everyone had returned to their desks, Yvonne took that moment to open the note. Her heart stopped when she read it. It was from Sean.

Her chest tightened as she held back her threatening tears. One lone tear escaped and dripped down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away.

What was going on? Was this some sort of cruel joke?

“Yvonne? Are you ok?”

She looked up to see Samantha, the receptionist, looking at her with concern.

“I’m fine, Sam,” Yvonne wiped away more of the dreaded tears.

“Did Sean send those to you?”

Yvonne nodded and fresh tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Why are you upset?” Samantha coaxed. “Can he not do dinner now?”

Dinner? Quickly remembering the lie she told earlier she said, “Oh that. No he can still do it. I suppose he decided to send flowers after all.”

“They’re beautiful.” she sighed mournfully. “I wish my boyfriend would send me some.”

The change in conversation calmed Yvonne down. Taking a deep breath she said, “It’s not all about flowers, Sam.”

“Oh I know that. It’s not just the flowers, Von. We’ve been arguing so much lately. Things aren’t what they used to be.”

“Is he stressed? Maybe you two need to talk?”

She smiled sadly. “I wish it was that easy. He doesn’t have feelings for me anymore. He told me so.”

“Then why don’t you—”

“End it? I know I should but I can’t bring myself to.”

“Why not? You have a right to be happy, Sam. If he’s not making you happy, someone else will.”

A tear dripped down her cheek. “I just want what you and Sean have.”

Samantha turned back to her work with a heavy sigh. Yvonne felt a stab of guilt. Perhaps the time had come to stop playing games. Rather than admitting her lies of the last few months, she could make up another story. Perhaps that they broke up after Valentine’s Day?

Yvonne pushed the thoughts aside and returned to work. As the day slowly progressed, she got little done. Her concentration was not on the job. She couldn’t stop thinking about Sean. Why had he sent the flowers? Was it him? Or was someone playing a trick on her? Perhaps it was—

Nina! Yvonne’s suspicions arose immediately. Her mind worked overtime as she tried to piece things together. The missing link! She knew there was something missing. If only she could figure out what it was.

At last the day ended and she went straight home. She was thankful Nina was working the nightshift. She needed time alone to think.

When she pulled up into the driveway, she saw a man standing on the porch with a suitcase at his feet.

“Can I help you?” she asked as she stepped out of the car.

The figure turned around and that was when she saw his face.

Sean.

The sight of his handsome, chiselled features made her heart race. Oh how she had missed him. He broke out into a grin, showing that one dimple in his left cheek she adored so much. In two large strides, he was standing in front of her.

“I was wondering where you were,” he said, stroking her cheek softly. “I thought you would be ready.”

His touch left her cheek tingling. Yvonne’s breath caught in her throat. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. She wanted to ask: what did she need to be ready for? Instead, she heard her own whimper as the tears she had been holding spilt down her cheeks.

“Oh I’ve missed you,” Sean whispered as he pulled her into an embrace.

His arms around her triggered the memories she had locked away. Memories only couples share. Memories she couldn’t bring herself to think about over the last six months. Memories she never wanted to forget again.

“Why are you here?” Yvonne finally managed to choke out.

Sean pulled away and looked down at her, his brow furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean? I told you I’d be back. I wrote you a letter six months ago. I told you to be ready.”

Yvonne felt a sob rising up in her chest. “What do you mean? What should I be ready for? Sean, six months ago you left me a letter saying we should break up.”

“Break up? Why would I want to break up with you, Yvonne? I want to marry you. I said that when I got back, we would get married.”

Another tear dripped down her cheek. “I never got that letter, Sean. I thought you had left me.”

His grey-blue eyes filled with tears. Pulling her back into his arms, he stroked her hair and said, “Yvonne, I’m so sorry. I love you. I would never leave you.”

“Then where have you been?” she demanded, pulling away from him.

“Africa,” he said simply. Then remembering she hadn’t seen the letter he continued, “I got offered a six month research contract. I had to leave immediately so I didn’t get to see you. That’s why I wrote the letter. Where I was working I had no access to postal services. I couldn’t send or receive anything. So in my letter I said the money I got from the job would set us up for our new lives together.” He smiled and kissed her softly. “I said the moment I got back I would ask you to marry me. And that’s what I’m doing.”

The missing pieces fell into place. Yvonne knew exactly what happened. Overcome with a feeling of love and adoration for him, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him tenderly.

“Oh Sean, of course I’ll marry you,” Yvonne cried, tears of happiness dripping down her cheeks. “I want to marry you right now!”

He smiled down at her and planted a kiss on her forehead. “That’s why I thought you would be ready. That was my intention.”

“Oh Sean, I’m sorry. You were expecting me to be waiting—”

He silenced her with a kiss. “None of that matters, Yvonne. Why don’t you go pack your things? Let’s get married now.”

She nodded eagerly and ran inside to do just that.

Ten minutes later, they were in the car ready to start their new lives together.

Sean said, “So about that letter—”

“Oh don’t worry about that,” Yvonne interrupted, “I’ve sorted it out.”

“Let me guess… Nina?”

Yvonne nodded.

While Yvonne was inside preparing her things to elope, she had left a note for her sister.

 

Nina,

I know you’re in love with Sean. It’s taken me two years to realise it but now I do. I know you destroyed Sean’s original letter and replaced it with the breakup one. I must give you credit for fooling me for six months but did you really think it would last? Sean returned to me today, Nina. He told me the truth. I’m not angry, even though I know I should be. Actually I want to thank you for doing us a favour. You brought Sean and I closer together. You made us realise nothing can break true love.

We’ll talk when I return from my honeymoon.

Yvonne

***

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. I can accept criticism. 🙂

FYI – This is also available to read for free on wattpad.com at the following link. On this site you have the capacity to vote and comment on the story.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/8807128-holding-on-short-story-completed

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2013-Winner-Vertical-Banner

Okay I’m going to be upfront and tell you one thing that I need to get off my chest: this month has been the hardest month of my life. One part of me almost wants to say ‘I never want to do this again’ but that’s the part of me I’m not listening to. It’s the part of me that’s exhausted after a month of full on writing. It’s a part of me that has just squeezed in 1500 words before bed, on a work night, in a desperate attempt to reach 50,000 words before the end of the night.

The truth is, I will do this again. In 2014 to be exact. 🙂

So the million dollar question is, did I win? And the answer is…YES! I am now considered a NaNoWriMo winner.

So here’s a brief overview of this month:

At the beginning of November I was rearing to go. In week one I was going strong and felt like nothing would stop me. I even thought I could reach 50k in two weeks. Did that happen? No sirree.

Come week two, that determination and ‘going strong’ feeling all but disappeared. Words failed me and I struggled to get any words down. I was beginning to feel quite deflated and unmotivated. It turns out it’s a typical NaNo feeling. Everyone struggles with week two. So unfortunately I really fell behind then.

However, come week three I started to pick up again and that continued through to week four (which we’re still in). I had to jump over a lot of hurdles to get this far. Full time work being the most major one. Then I had a husband to think of, who might I say, was wonderful for the whole thing and very supportive. Then other commitments, religious, social etc. I didn’t want to let any of these things slip so I managed to keep doing them and writing.

So yes, it was a very trying month. It was frustrating, it was fun, it was exhilarating, it made me question all my writing abilities. But it was so worth it.

So you might be asking, what is the point of doing this to myself? It’s not like we get anything for winning NaNoWriMo, right? Well, that’s true, we don’t suddenly become famous and internationally recognised like someone on X Factor. But we get a sense of accomplishment. We get that feeling that we can write a novel, or at least get 50,000 words written in an entire month. That, my friends, is no easy task.

NaNoWriMo is a good way to figure out if you’re truly a writer. Writing is not for everyone and if you get sick of it in the first week, then it’s best to say you won’t be a writer.

Before I finish this blog, I want to say one more thing. NaNo is about setting goals, about reaching 50,000 words. However, it’s not all about reaching 50k for some people. Let’s not forget those passionate writers who spend the whole month writing because it’s what they love but they can’t make 50k because something holds them back. Perhaps they’re ill, perhaps they’ve had family problems, perhaps there has always been something in their way. But that doesn’t mean they’re not passionate. It means they’ve done the best they can and have had a great time.

So to all those people and all NaNo winners, congratulations and all the best on your future writing endeavors.

So this is me, over and out on NaNo blogging. I will be back with more blogs about anything, everything and nothing very soon.

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Last time I blogged about feeling deflated and overcoming it. You can read it here: NaNoWriMo Week Two Update – Feeling Deflated and Overcoming It

Well since that blog, I am very pleased to announce I have overcome my little blip and am now sitting at a healthy 35,116 words. I didn’t realise there was a ‘week two blip’ but knowing that there is, is a huge relief. I was convinced I was doing something wrong.

I have to confess though, at just over halfway through NaNoWriMo, I’m feeling the effects of it. Working full time while trying to write an entire novel in a month is exhausting to say the least. I’m constantly tired and the blocks are more frequent now than they were at the beginning. Like most participants, I’m starting to tire out.

But I am determined not to fail. I will reach the 50k limit if it’s the last thing I do.

What I find strange though, is despite my exhaustion and blocks, I still have lots of ideas go through my mind. The downside is, these occur when I’m at work. It is the most frustrating thing in the world. When I’m at work I’m expected to work. But it’s so difficult when my brain doesn’t want to be there. Instead it wants to be home writing my novel.

Of course by the time I get home I can get those ideas down but it does make concentrating at work extremely difficult.

So overall, this has been a challenging month so far but it has been very exciting. I’m already looking forward to NaNo 2014. 🙂 Although I better not get too ahead of myself, I’m going to need an entire year to recover.

Bye for now guys! If you’re a NaNo participant, let me know below how you’re travelling. I respond to all comments.

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I have to confess, I’ve been feeling a little deflated up until a few hours ago. You see, the  first week went so well for me. I had reached 20,000 words by the end of week one and I was rearing to go!

However, now that we’re in week two, in fact approaching the end of week two, I’ve come to a standstill. It’s annoying the hell out of me! My current word count is 23,488. *sigh* I had really hoped to meet, or even exceed, the halfway mark by now.

I keep asking myself: have I bitten off more than I can chew? Should I have continued an existing, incomplete novel rather than starting afresh? Then the biggest question of them all… am I really cut out for this?

It doesn’t help that toward the end of last week, and the weekend just gone, have been really hectic. Finding time to write after reaching that 20k mark has been almost impossible. Then I’ve been feeling so exhausted, the desire to write isn’t there.

So needless to say, I’ve been feeling a little down in the dumps. But then last night, after voicing my worries on the NaNo facebook page for Adelaide, someone said something to me that made me feel better. He said: Don’t let it get you down. The week two wall hits all of us at one point or another. Stick it out, keep your chin up and just keep battling away. If you can slog your way through it, week three will be upon you in no time and you will start chugging along nicely again.

Well all I can say to that is, thank you! I’m realising now it’s not just me. I never meant to sound selfish and go ‘oh woe is me’ but I didn’t realise this was something that happened to all, or at least most, NaNo participants. I thought I was failing as a writer. That perhaps I had lost my ability to write something good.

But perhaps that’s not the case at all. Perhaps I just need to get over this blip and I’ll be fine. At the moment I’m still on target. Just. But if I can write 20k in one week, what’s to say I can’t do it again in week three?

This new novel I’ve chosen to write is a real challenge for me but when I stop and think about it, it is coming along nicely. I want to see it to completion in November. So this is why I don’t feel so deflated now. I realise that everyone is feeling the same thing. And I realise that I can and want to do this.

Do you know what that means for me? It’s time to stop wallowing in my self-pity and get my butt back in to gear!

Hopefully by the time I post again I will have some happier news! 🙂

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nanowrimo

Well that’s all I really had to ask. 🙂 who’s taking part in NaNoWriMo?

Also, What genre are you planning to write and do you have any idea what you’re going to write about?

Me, I’m a romance writer. This year I’m going to write a tragic romance brought about by an avalanche. This will be a challenge for me as I usually write sweet, happy ending romances. Hurting / killing off any of my characters I grow attached to is so hard. But I almost have my story planned and I’m excited about the challenge.

So anyway, leave your comments below. This isn’t a means to steal ideas. This is just a lighthearted discussion so we can see the varying ideas people have. Perhaps it will give all NaNoWriMo participants a little encouragement.

The best part about NaNoWriMo is that there is nothing you can’t write about. So don’t be afraid of writing ‘out there’ stories, just do it!

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Take a break

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much writing means to me. I am an avid writer and if I could live and breathe it, I would. However, there comes a time when you need a break. Well, that’s what I think anyway. Who knows, maybe there are writers out there who can write for hours / days / weeks on end without a single break. Sadly not everyone can.

There comes a time when you need a break. It’s like a normal job. You have holiday pay for a reason, so you can take a break and not think about work for a while. Writing is a job, so you need to take a break occasionally. Even if it’s a day, it’s enough to recharge your batteries so you can start fresh next time. Although remember, it’s okay to take more than a day. Sometimes taking a week or more off can do wonders.

So be practical and don’t overdo it. You look around and see those dedicated career workers who live and breathe their job. And what good does it do? It does them no good at all. If anything it can cause family trouble, it leaves them exhausted and their social life goes down the gurglur. Who wants to be like that? I know I don’t. If you do, then that’s up to you but just remember, sometimes you do need time out.

I take a break from writing from time to time. When I do, I always go back recharged and rearing to go with new ideas.

Speaking of taking breaks, I am doing just that starting today. I’m not taking a break from writing as such, as I did that only recently. I’m taking a break from something else, which is connected to writing.

I spend a lot of time on wattpad writing stories, reading other people’s stories and offering critiquing and editing services. Sadly over the last few weeks, I’ve become exhausted with how much I’ve had to do and I don’t like that feeling. So I’m not going to have much to do with it for a few weeks.

Pressures with family and work haven’t helped either. So yes, I’m taking my own advice seriously. By the time I return, my batteries will be fully recharged and I’ll be rearing to go again.

What this means is I can focus on other writing. I am in the process of putting some final touches to a manuscript so I can send it to a publisher. I really want it done within the next couple of weeks so I can send it off.

It also means I’ll get November to myself. Why? NaNoWriMo of course! I am in the process of planning out my story for that month and I am very excited about it. I don’t want any interruptions then. I am determined to write my 50,000 words.

My plan is to return to wattpad in December.

So there you have it. Take a break people, it’s important! If you decide to just take a day, do something that doesn’t involve writing. Go down the beach, spend some time with your family, bake… whatever tickles your fancy. But don’t write. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.

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