“Show us what you’ve got”: An extract from The Seeing Place

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That woman’s face was incredibly familiar … And she was beginning to address him. It was her. No doubt about it. Andile froze.

Damn, she’s lovely. She was wearing a kind of skin-coloured chiffon number that made her look almost naked.

What the hell is she doing here? Was she Gordon Tshabalala’s buddy? Or, heaven forbid, his sister or his wife?

“Yes,” he stuttered, hearing her say his name.

“My name is Thuli Poni.” She cleared her throat. OK, it looked like she was going to pretend they’d never met. “I am the producer and casting director here.”

First his heart leapt into his mouth and then it ricocheted down to his feet, with an almighty clang.

“How do you do?” he said politely, thanking God and his theatrical training that he could play nonchalant.

“Perhaps we could have a brief word before you begin. You are aware that these are the auditions for The Lions at Night?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And you are auditioning for the role of David Ranaka, the Reverend?”

“Correct.” He marvelled that his voice was holding up so well.

“Then why, may I ask, are you dressed so stylishly? The character is a rascal and a jailbird.”

“Doesn’t mean he can’t be a snappy dresser.”

“Explain.”

“Well, I don’t have a penny to my name and I managed to source this suit, so.”

“Don’t get sassy, wena.” It was Gordon, tapping a pen on the desk. Andile ignored the comment.

“Why are you dressed like that, Andile?” Gloria asked, rescuing him. “This is not The Matrix.”

“Ranaka has resources. He’s no fool. He’s an inveterate ladies’ man, so he’s likely to have a few tricks up his sleeve. And some stylish outfits.”

Thuli seemed to shift uneasily in her chair. Or perhaps, he thought, admiring her shapely leg slung over the seat in front of her, she was getting turned on. “Carry on,” was all she said.

“This is how he works it. It’s his suit for special occasions, for getting a girl, like this is mine for getting parts.”

Gordon snorted. Andile went on, “In the first scene, the one I’ll be reading from, we see him in full strutting mode. That’s why it’s such a shock to his wife later. She has no idea about this side of him. That he’s the lion at night. That’s the deception. All these years, she’s been loving him, thinking he’s the quiet one, meantime he’s more like the Long Street Festival.”

It was a foolish thing to do, alluding to their earlier meeting under these circumstances, but he couldn’t help himself. Besides, he was getting heartily sick of the attitude coming from the director’s table. What did they think this was, So You Think You Can Dance, wena?

“Go ahead,” Thuli said in a voice like ice. “Show us what you’ve got.”

****.5 stars on Amazon

Ankara Press 2016

Love in a time of crisis

A tree

We all go through difficult times. Times when you’re hurting, disappointed, hopeless. A bad situation seems like it just won’t get better soon. I find it hard to write romance at times like this. I find it hard to work, full stop.

The only thing that I have found really works for these moments in life is to surrender. Dreadful word, I know. Who wants to do that? You want to fight the pain, you want to fix things, or lash out. Revenge looks good.

None of that works.

Surrender is another word for acceptance: of the situation, and what you feel – and the next step is asking for help in the sense of plugging into universal energies. Life works on a vibrational level and this is the moment to choose the high road (raise the vibration). Higher, towards love.

Usually, I need to start with feeling the pain. It can be huge, your chest cracking open. I don’t leave myself standing alone at these times. Yup, I call on the Great Beyond to assist me. Or whatever you want to call it (you choose). Have a good cry. A deep, core cry. You have to do it. Honour yourself in this way.

Next I will calm myself with a mantra. I’ve spoken about fear and the power of affirmations before. You need to tell yourself that all is well over and over again at times like this. I flow with life.

Allow yourself to be guided and held.

Plus, a gratitude list helps. What can you say thank you for despite this awful moment? Write it down. This tool always makes me feel better.

Finally, a happy dance. Yes, you can. Get up, even if you’re miserable. Shake that booty.

(Folks, do I need to add Read a good romance here? Didn’t think so.)

I hope you’re feeling better soon.

 

Only connect

inspiration This is the first in my promised series of posts about how to handle The Fear. Writers know it, we all know it. The voice that asks, “What if I’m not good enough?” “What if I can’t do this?” Sometimes it presents as someone else’s comment in your own head about how you’re going to fail, in someone else’s words. But convincing none the less.

I’m here to tell you that entertaining The Fear is putting the cart before the horse. You will be dragging yourself, and it, along. The Fear is the problem, not the thing that you think you’re afraid of! The battle is in a different place. It’s not tomorrow, when you will be sitting down to write. That will be a breeze. It’s now, when you’re at 10 000 words, and you’re not sure how the next 5 000 will go, and you’re worried about it. The worry is the problem.

You need to battle it in a different place – namely, here and now. The present moment.

The way I do this is to put the energy elsewhere. Firstly, recognise that Fear has got you by the throat. Then do the opposite of your usual knee-jerk stress reaction. SLOW DOWN.

This involves trust. I make sure I take care of myself (get ten hours’ sleep, eat a good breakfast, read a book – Marian Keyes is great). Light some incense. Gently clean the floor with some cedar oil or frankincense in water. Do a few affirmations to recentre yourself (I like to write them out or sing them). Play with your child. Then, when your ease comes, or even if it doesn’t, just write (or do whatever your own particular bugbear is).

Remember the joy and the love in all that is. The rest is illusion. Connecting with universal energy is the real work. It’s the only work you actually have to do.

Just show up.

EM Forster said: “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect …”

I’m sure you will.

Africa Online Book Fair 2017

I’ll be taking part in this wonderful event in June. Fans of African romance, whether readers or writers – get involved and share the love! Gifts and prizes galore. Follow my blog to receive updates.

Inge Saunders

Africa Online Book Fair Facebook Cover 2 (1)

It’s funny how some of the ‘worst’ days and experiences can turn out to be saving graces. And for me propelled a proposal I’ve been tinkering with since September 2016‒an online book fair for romance authors who are from Africa and authors who write romances set in Africa.

A traditional book fair is an exhibit of books typically by a group of publishers or book-dealers for promoting sales and stimulating interest, often authors are also featured with their own booths and engages with readers. It takes place at a certain venue over a specific period of time and requires those who are exhibiting their books to be physically present, as well as those attending the book fair.

An online book fair in contrast takes place on the internet, but with the same underlined principle as a traditional book fair, to exhibit books for promotion of sales and stimulating interest, typically…

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The beauty of notes

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I just love notebooks. I have drawers-full. But none of them are about plot lines. They’re mostly about personal growth (which I think is vital for writers, like everyone else!) But there are also ideas notebooks. These are recognisable by their utter randomness and lack of order. In fact many of them are not notebooks but receipts from restaurants, with scribbled words like

Smoke machine!

Jokes aside, I do keep a notepad next to my computer, and I try to keep a small one in my handbag. And a pen. Am I the only writer who never has a pen?! My child, who can’t write, has claimed all forty of my working ones.

The notepad is good for ideas that come to you when you are tapping away, and for doodling of course. I believe there is a relationship between words and images in your head, and it’s good to keep those linked. When I first started trying to write (the Agony Days, more about that later I promise) I actually put a set of paints and a small canvas next to my laptop, because I knew the painting mindset was important somehow. I didn’t get much of either done!

Nowadays I know that it’s the freedom that writing and painting share.

I also jot ideas down on computer at the end of the manuscript, a section of text that can become up to twenty pages long and play havoc with my word count!

If there is any advice I can give authors, it’s to honour the uniqueness and weirdness of your own creative process. Never try to hone it or make it more like someone else’s (and other people will suggest you do.) Do it your way. Receipts and all.

By the way, in my latest manuscript (being finalised now) the heroine gets into a bit of trouble surrounding her own notebook … hopefully be bringing you this one by Feb next year! You can check out all the exciting research I’ve been doing on Kenya for it lately on Twitter.

Thanks for tuning in.

Clean your house!

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This blog post could equally be entitled Love vs Perfectionism. And yes, it is about how writers need to clean their homes.

I mean this both literally and metaphorically. In a previous post I wrote about needing to be able to sit down amidst the chaos, dust and dirty dishes and just open that document. There is a heap of procrastination and work avoidance behaviour (WAB) available to you if you choose that. I agree with the inimitable Ms Hay that procrastination is just a lack of self-love: it’s delaying your own good. We all do that sometimes.

That’s not what I’m talking about here.

I mean that occasionally you have to put the brakes on and re-group. Even if you have only an hour in which to write, it may be necessary to get your head space organised first. Not in order to write, or to write better. Just for your own sake. Writers can become a bit obsessed and single-minded when it comes to work.

I recommend taking a breath and cleaning the floor. But give it a bit of a ceremonial air. Infuse it with love, rather than more of that deadline-beating angsty energy (my personal worst). You might want to add a few drops of lavender oil to the proceedings. Or go the whole hog and smudge the place. But do dust as well, and sort out that pile of books. Throw a few things out. Light a candle. Get clear.

The place doesn’t have to be perfect (nor do you, or your manuscript) but it does need your loving attention. As do you.

Enjoy.