Monday, 27 May 2013


I love totally immersing myself in reading a book.  You know, that feeling you get when you look at your watch and realise you've been reading for over an hour and you can't even remember turning a page.  You get so lost in what you're reading, the page-turning becomes automatic.

One thing for me, as a reader, that really hauls me back from this dreamworld is when a conversation just doesn't ring true.  It's not real.  And by "real", I mean thus:

"Hello.  How are you doing today?"

As opposed to:

"Hey.  How's it going?"

When I'm reading contemporary fiction, I like to relate to the conversation.  I like the language used to be believable.  I like to imagine the characters speaking those words (refer to earlier posts where I confirmed that I'm a visual gal) - I don't like to imagine a wooden person speaking from a script.  Conversation like that just breaks the spell.   So, yes - I use 'gonna' and 'kinda' and the occasional cuss word (mild) to illustrate my point.  I think it lends a realism to the conversation.

That said, each character definitely has to have his or her own voice.  Some of my characters swear - like I said, it's mild and scattered here and there (no f-bombs) - not naming any names (Callum).  Some of them don't swear at all.  Jack speaks in short sentences with one syllable words when he's trying not to give too much away.  Ally's very matter-of-fact so she doesn't waffle - but Maggie sometimes does, especially when she's upset.  I think it's important that each character have their own style, just as we each have ours.

To illustrate how important I think realism is in conversation, I spent over an hour today re-visiting a conversation in "Absolution" that never really read right to me.  It took awhile, but I got there in the end and I'm glad I took that time because it punctuated the whole chapter.

And no, I'm not going to share it with you...yet.  You'll just have to trust me on this :-)

For those who are following the great "Editing Journey" - I'm currently editing chapter nine.  I hope to have finished editing chapter fifteen by this coming weekend, and then I'm in full-on writing mode.  I've set myself the goal to have this finished and to the publishers by the end of July!

Wish me luck...

By the way, if any of you have any questions, ask away and I'll do my best to answer them!  Goes without saying that I'm not going to give too much away about the story prior to release, but I'm getting good at handing out teasers...!

~ Amanda

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Drawing on Experience

There is a famous expression which states "Write what you know".  I guess the more experiences you have - both good and bad - the more able you are to put yourself in your characters shoes.  Writing from experience puts you squarely within your comfort zone - you know what it looks like, how it sounds, and more importantly how it makes you feel.  This is something you can transfer to your characters with a certain amount of ease.  Research is a major part of writing, but there is something about having some personal knowledge of what your characters have been through, or are going through, that feels much more comfortable.

The single-most shocking incident in "Absolution" is the car accident which Jack, Ally and Callum are involved in.  For this reason, it was important to get it right.  I think I have written, and re-written, then edited, then re-edited, this part of the book in numbers that are well into double figures.  It is a critical point.  And luckily - or unluckily - for me, I was actually involved in a car accident a few years ago, so this put me well within my comfort zone.  However, it did require me to think back to that time, and that was...interesting.  I discovered, sitting on my couch late one night when everyone was in bed and the house was quiet, that I remembered more about what happened that day than I had previously thought. 

When I started writing, the experience came out of my fingertips.  I remembered how the car was suddenly upside down, that there was no noise and the air was literally buzzing around me, that everything happened simultaneously in both fast-forward and slow-motion.  It was enlightening, to know that I could recall all this detail just by digging deep - by remembering and drawing on that on behalf of my characters.  I hope it adds some realism to the story, when you get to read it.

By the way, this was our car after our accident.  Four adults climbed out of this car with only minor bruises.  It was truly a miracle.  I'm so glad we got to say that, because Jack, Ally and Callum certainly didn't.


Saturday, 18 May 2013


Leaving the characters alone this time, I thought it might be fun to talk about inspiration.

I mentioned in my first post, that the inspiration behind the "Absolution" story came from a single question:

"What if you felt so guilty about something, you ran away?"

Inspiration is a funny thing.  It comes at me from all over - anywhere, anything, anytime.  Once that seed is planted however, the fleshing out and actual writing of the story becomes something which needs constant nourishment.  The first thrill of that "eureka!" moment fades, and you need to (well, I need to) keep up the momentum somehow.

Usually, I cast stories in my head.  Having a face to put to the character helps because I'm a visual kinda girl.  I'll cast actors and actresses I like, which helps me to "see" them while I write. I think a lot of writers probably do this.  After all, we are control freaks, right?  We control the story.

I also use music.  I have an "Absolution" playlist on my iPod, and when I write, that's usually what I listen to.  Sometimes I need something a little less invasive though, and that's when I flip on my "thunderstorm" on my iPod.  I literally have a thunderstorm, complete with torrential rain in varying degrees, which I listen to while I write.  It's like white noise - it blocks out everything else and allows my brain to roam freely (scary thought, I know).  I imagine it's different for everyone, but this is what I've found works for me.

What's on my "Absolution" playlist?  Well, a lot of stuff, really.  Some of it might be predictable, some of it might surprise you.

Pearl Jam
Greg Holden
Missy Higgins
3 Doors Down
Pete Murray
Thirsty Merc
Paul Weller
Matchbox Twenty
The Feelers
Damien Rice
Bruce Springsteen
Nathan King
Brooke Fraser
Paolo Nutini
Our Lady Peace
Natalie Imbruglia
 So, how do you "manage" your inspiration?  Do you have a soundtrack, a pictureboard or something else you use that keeps you inspired and on task?  If so, please share!  I'm always open to new ideas!


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Standing Strong

Continuing on the theme of introductions, today's post is about Maggie ("Absolution", for those of you just joining in).

While Jack has headed for the hills, Ally and her friends don't have that luxury.  They have the aftermath of the accident to deal with and that takes a team effort and all their combined strength.  Ally wakes up in the days following the accident to devastating news - and the bombshell that Jack has disappeared.

Callum steps up and does his best to fill that gaping hole, along with his girlfriend Jane, Jack's father Tom and Ally's best friend Maggie.  Maggie doesn't have Callum's anger management issues, but she shares his sense of betrayal and disgust at Jack's sudden disappearance.  She is almost the opposite of Callum - calm, rational and quietly persistent. 

Like the others, she has celebrated and commiserated with Ally, doggedly determined in her belief that things will get better, sometimes despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Her unfailing strength and commitment is what Ally comes to rely on.  Their friendship is rock-solid and that's a running theme through this whole story - the power of friendship. 

Yet despite their closeness (or perhaps because of it) she knows there are things that Ally is hiding from her.  Watching from the sidelines, she can see the gaps in the facade but she knows that no matter what any of them says or does, they can't be filled.  Only Jack can do that - or perhaps a time machine.

I think watching a friend in pain is one of those things that both breaks something inside of you, as well as makes you even more determined to protect them.  

When Jack finally returns, the last thing Maggie wants is to watch Ally unravel all over again, not after they have spent the past four years helping her rebuild her life.  Grief, anger, a deep sense of betrayal and a strong urge to protect Ally overwhelms her.  As much as she wants to stand by whatever decision Ally makes, she can't just ignore the events of four years ago.

As far as Maggie is concerned, Jack needs to earn their trust - he can't just reappear with an apology and expect things to go back to being as they were.  Add to that the fact that the past four years have clearly changed him, and she is rightly suspicious.  She wants to keep Jack as far away from Ally as possible.

But of course, it's never that simple is it?  You can't make decisions for others, no matter how much you love them or think you're doing the right thing by them. 

Thanks to everyone for popping over and commenting, both here and on my Facebook page - it is always appreciated!  Facebook has a habit of hiding stuff from your timeline (most of my posts only hit about half of your timelines - I know because I can see those stats from my end), so if you are enjoying this journey, please let me know - then I know I'm reaching you!


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Middle-Man

"Absolution" is a love story.  I don't just mean romantic love though - I mean the love that we have for family and friends, too.

Case in point: Tom.  Jack's father - Callum's surrogate father - is a hard-working, church-going, law-abiding man who lost his wife, Jack's mother, several years earlier.  Jack is his world, and anyone who is important to Jack is also important to Tom.  If you're from a close-knit family, you'll understand what I mean by this.  You know who your kids are hanging out with and you know their families.  You gather them into your own family as a result - relationship by osmosis, particularly so in small towns, I think.

Tom doesn't know why Jack left so suddenly, only that it was guilt that drove him away.  He makes some assumptions and Callum doesn't correct him, believing it's not his place to do so.  So Tom is stuck in the middle - using the infrequent phone calls from Jack (whereabouts unknown) to try and convince him to come home while also staying strong for Ally, because she needs him, too.

Callum is also leaning on him.  Between the two of them, they are getting involved in decisions they never thought they would have to make.  Tom puts on a brave face during the daytime whilst lying awake in bed at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering how his "family" got to be this fractured, this broken.

Tom is classic of his generation.  He's just trying to keep his family together, the best way he knows how.  He's hanging out for the next phone call from his son, hoping that wherever he is, he's okay.  He just wants him home and safe, where he can keep an eye on him.  That hope keeps him going, even as the weeks and months eventually turn into years.  Jack has cut himself off from everyone and everything - except his father.  Tom can tell that whatever Jack is going through is changing his son, and it breaks his heart.  He is conscious of not pushing too hard, afraid that the heavy burden of guilt Jack insists on carrying might push him away from him forever.  Everything seems so much more fragile now.

As frustrating as the whole situation is, Tom can't afford the luxury of dwelling on it.  Ally needs him and so does Callum, with the weight of the responsibility he has taken on threatening to drown him at times, too.  The only thing he can do is keep going because sooner or later, Jack is going to have to come home, and when he does he's going to need him more than ever.

Love is a powerful force, there's no denying that.  It's up to you whether you let it pull you towards someone or push you away from them.

As always, I'm keen to hear your thoughts (either by leaving a comment below or by heading over to my Facebook page and chatting to me there). 

Thanks for popping in!


Monday, 6 May 2013

Of Betrayal and Strength

We've talked about Jack and Ally: now it's time to uncover Callum's story.

Callum was the most fun to write.  He's honest, he's direct (almost to a fault - diplomacy is not a virtue he possesses) and he's fiercely loyal.  He calls a spade a spade, he wears his heart on his sleeve.  If he's frustrated, you'll know about it.  If he's angry, you better get out of his way.  He's been in trouble with the law more than once, but he also has a huge heart.  If you're in his inner circle, there's nothing he wouldn't do to keep you safe.  For me, he just jumps off the page - any chapter that involves Callum has the propensity for either bone-jarring explosiveness or extreme tenderness because he's more than capable of both.

He's one of those characters that is just so unpredictable, even I don't know what he's going to do until he does it!  Where Jack keeps his cards close to his chest, Callum is the complete opposite.  They do have some things in common, but like most close friends it's the differences they bring to the relationship that makes it stronger.

So, back to the story.  Jack and Callum go back a long way, they know each other inside out.  It was Jack's house that Callum took refuge in when his father was on the rampage, and Jack's father Tom who was more of a father to him than his own ever was.  In fact, he considers Tom and Jack as his family.

Only Jack and Callum share the knowledge of what happened after the car rolled on that fateful night.  During the tense hours that followed, Callum could see Jack was grappling with guilt and he tried to keep him from drowning in it and keep him focused, but he failed.  He still struggles with that.  Maybe he should have done or said more?  It took him a long time to come to terms with the idea that Jack would rather abandon them all than face up to what happened.  The knowledge cut deep.

When Jack disappeared, Callum buried his emotions and concentrated on helping Ally recover.  He didn't know where Jack was, he couldn't drag him back home, so what else could he do?  He simplified the situation: Jack was gone, he was here.  He had to step up to the plate, he didn't have a choice.  Somewhere deep down, he hated Jack for putting him in that position.  He could see that Ally would much rather have had Jack there, although she never said as much.  She didn't have to.

As the weeks ticked by, it got harder and harder to remain detached.  Jack had called Tom but not him.  It hurt.  What was he thinking?  Where was he?  When was he coming home?  The whole situation was beyond ridiculous.

Months passed and anger kicked in.  Maybe they didn't need Jack after all.  Let him hide out from the world, for all the good that'd do him.  Let him suffer in silence.  He deserved it.  If he was too weak to face up to them all, then maybe that was for the best.    Ally was having a hard enough time as it was - she didn't need him around if his heart wasn't in it. 

The net pulled in tighter around Ally as time passed.  He unloaded on Tom when it became too much, and in return he received the strength he needed to carry on.  Over time, he and Ally developed the kind of relationship you can only have with someone when you've seen them at their very worst and come out the other side.  The trust is absolute, the ties undeniable.  After everything they've been through, he knows Ally better than Jack ever did.

A lot can happen in four years.  When Jack returns, the first thing he wants to do is punch him in the face - payback for everything he should have done but didn't, everything he had to do because Jack wasn't here to do it.  The anger and the betrayal that he had buried for all that time comes flooding to the surface like a rush of blood to the head.

And that's when things gets really interesting.

(Don't forget to leave me a comment either here on my Facebook page if you have any feedback. Thanks to everyone who's engaged so far - it's really been fun hearing what you all think!).

Until next time,

Friday, 3 May 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

Firstly, thanks to you all for your comments, both here and on my FB page - so glad I'm not talking to myself here!

Back to "Absolution" and the character intro's.  Today, I wanted to talk about Ally.  This post has been the trickiest to write so far, mainly because I think she is the most complex of all the players.  She was certainly the most difficult to write.  I have rewritten this story a hundred times over the past four years, and every time she changes slightly.  I think because I was so desperate for her to be more than just a victim.

She's had it pretty tough.  One minute, she's in the car with Jack and Callum and everything's great, the next minute she wakes up in hospital.  As if that wasn't enough to wrap her head around, Jack is gone and she has some pretty serious injuries.  He should be there - she needs him to be there.  So add a broken heart to a broken body and suddenly she also has a broken spirit.  Not a fun place to be.

She can see that what happened that night has affected not only her, but everyone around her.  They have all been through hell and while she doesn't feel responsible for that, she does feel like she has to protect them from more heartache.  There is a dark place she crawls to inside her head that she is desperate to keep from them. 

So she claws her way back from the brink - she pieces her life back together and she holds on tightly to everyone she loves.  She is not going to risk this happening again.  Life goes on and so must she.  She throws herself into her work and she tries to forget about what might have been.

When Jack finally returns home, her carefully constructed "new normal" topples like a house of cards.  All the feelings she had tucked neatly away in a box in her head with Jack's name on it, come hurtling out and it's time to face the past head-on.  The heart is a difficult thing to ignore.  She is torn between the Jack she knew and loved before, and the one who abandoned her in her time of need.  A classic "heart versus head" dilemma.

I have to say, Ally and I have some things in common.  She uses her work as an artist as a way not only to express herself but also as a way to hide out from the world for a while. We also have the same taste in music *ahem*.

I love the thread of friendship that weaves through this story - it's something that I wanted to make clear from the beginning.  These people know each other inside out.  They know each others strengths and weaknesses as only good friends do.  They've seen each other at their best and their worst.  They know when to push and when to leave you alone.

When Jack disappears, it takes them all by surprise because it's so out of character.  And when he returns, he's definitely not the person they used to know.  But then, none of them are.

Next time: Callum's story.

Again, thanks for your comments - it's so great to see!