Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sephiroth - Final Fantasy XII Tattoo

Sephiroth - Final Fantasy XII Tattoo

The World's Happiest Andrea

25 Feb '10
Dress - vintage, gift (originally from Tete a Tete Vintage)
Bag - vintage, thrifted
Shoes - thrifted
Sunglasses - vintage, thrifted
Belt - thrifted

My friend Christina gave me this vintage dress yesterday. It was one of several that Tete a Tete Vintage lent to the wardrobe department of The World's Fastest Indian - I'll have to watch the film again and see if I can spot this dress! I'm not sure whether it was worn by an extra or by a principal actor, but I'm excited either way. I can already tell it's going to be one of my very favourites: I love the print, the colours, the neckline, and the shape - perfect for windy Christchurch days! You know I love my full skirts, but the gusty breezes here play havoc with them. I'm constantly flashing unsuspecting passers-by.

The weather continues to be wonderful. I can't tell you how happy it makes me. I am a hot weather person through-and through, and I only really feel alive in warm weather. I think it's because I grew up in Africa - I've acclimatised to New Zealand's cooler climate to some extent, but I still find the winters very difficult. The darkness is harder to stomach than the cold. There are some things I enjoy about cold weather - hot chocolates, soup, winter clothes, boots, ice-skating - but, a couple of weeks into winter, the novelty of all these things has worn off again, and I'm ready for summer. I'm making the most of these hot days while we have them!

P.S. I am behind on replying to comments, but I'm going to catch up over the next couple of days. Thanks for your patience!
P.P.S. I have discovered that rompers/playsuits are the best things to wear while doing the housework and gardening. They're comfortable, easy to move around in, and they look cute. Perfection!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Happy birthday, Hannah!

One of my very best friends, Hannah, turned 25 yesterday. We walked her two lovely dogs in the park yesterday afternoon, and she held a party in the evening, too.

Have a fantastic 25th year, Hannah - I know it's going to be a special one!

P.S. Here's what I wore to the party ... clearly I have moved from rompers to peplums.
20 Feb '10
Headpiece - Diva
Dress - thrifted for $5! It was wadded up in a wrinkly ball in a Salvation Army bin.
Shoes - No 1 Shoe Warehouse

P.P.S. I need your advice! I'm going to a Disney-themed party next weekend, and have to dress as a character from one of Disney's animated films. Who do you think I should be? I have some ideas but am open to suggestions.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Edits and covers and feathers, oh my!

14 Feb '10
Feather headpiece - Diva
Blouse - thrifted
Dress - vintage (70s Jonathan Logan), thrifted
Shoes - thrifted

Yesterday we went out to the little town in the country where my mum lives. The weather has returned to its semi-autumnal state after the glorious sunshine on Saturday, but I think I photosynthesised enough then to keep me going for a few days.

I'm starting on the edits for The Cry of the Go-away Bird very soon - the marked-up manuscript is in the post and on its way to me! I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in to them ... but I would really love to have the revisions on my current book nearly finished before it arrives, as it will be difficult juggling the two. I am heartily sick of my work-in-progress (which is natural; you always reach this stage), but there is still a lot of work to be done on it.

In other exciting news, my publishers are starting work on the cover design for Go-away Bird this week! I can't wait to see the options. I needed to send them an author photo, and so LOML took some shots for me yesterday while we were visiting Mum. These are my three favourites - it's exciting to think that one of these could, potentially, be looking up at me from a book cover soon!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Plot party!

Friends of ours have recently bought a plot of land outside the city, and are starting to build their own house. They held a 'plot party' - a land-warming - on the property. It was the perfect Saturday afternoon. Despite the forecast being something like 'warm and sunny, with cloudy patches, wind, some rain, changing to cold winds in the afternoon', which basically means 'we have no idea what the weather is going to do, but hurricanes are unlikely', it was a glorious day. The only structure on the land at the moment is the gorgeous old corrugated iron barn: we set up tables and chairs inside it, spread out picnic blankets, got the barbecue going and spent the day eating, drinking, talking and lazing in the sun. And listening to the soothing sound of the neighbouring farmer shooting rabbits. But even that didn't spoil the idyll. My friend Christina and I had great fun playing around in the paddock, too (and it's not often you get to see me play air guitar on this blog!).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Need Cash?

Well, the money that is important in our lives. I am an atheist, but I'm not sure I have to admit, the money directly, indirectly, the quality of life is affected. Imagine that you have enough money to cover daily are not. How do you feel? Of course, and the world is too small, I think that it is limited in all cases, will not be enough to have money. Buy a piece of cake early, you can not imagine that you do not have enough money to supermarkets want. So, I hope I see you is important. So, once a scene that other money, emergency cash, a wallet with a shorter to save money or as a family. You must pay for the land.

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Payday Loans are Easy to Find

It was a good recovery in 2010. A number of important products, prices remain high, many people are unemployed, not just their own trust funds. In addition, more and more companies outsource their workers and staff to be fired if their subcontracting goals. Economic aspects of this difficult situation. When we walk in recent months, money is, of course. Because we still have drinks and food, we do not want to wait until next pay day, everyday foods, like other gases. This is why more people to cover the cost of credit or obtain Payday loan to date of the next payday.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

The importance of hot beverages

9 Feb '10
Beret - vintage, thrifted
Trench - thrifted
Dress - 80s, thrifted, altered
Leggings - Glassons
Shoes - No 1 Shoe Warehouse

I have been working in cafes almost every day recently - I go through phases of doing this rather than working at home, particularly when I am feeling a bit Overwhelmed by Life and need to be away from the house. My beverage order at the cafe, however, varies according to mood. To whit:

1. When I'm feeling ferocious and energised ("Right, Book. It's just you and me. Are you feeling lucky? Go on, make my day,") I order a whole pot of plunger coffee meant for two people, and power through it by myself in an hour.
2. When I'm feeling relaxed and thoughtful, ready to consider different possibilities, look at the big picture and be open to change, I order a pot of Earl Grey and sip it slowly, making it last for as long as I can.
3. When I'm horribly stressed and on the verge of a panic attack, I order a chai latte to calm me down and help me concentrate. The scent of cinnamon is very soothing.
4. When I'm depressed and convinced that the book is the Worst Thing Ever Written, I order a hazelnut latte with extra syrup, cream and marshmallows.

This is a digression, but can I just complain very quickly about the lack of table service here? So few cafes do it. It's a real pain having to get up to order another coffee when you're hauling a laptop case and a pile of books around. I don't want to leave my handbag or laptop on the table while I order, because that would just be stupid, but then I have to carry them all up to the counter. And then back again. And someone may have stolen my table in the meantime, even if I have left my coat on the chair or a strategically placed notebook by my empty cup. It is very frustrating. All right, rant over.

Off I go! Today is an Earl Grey day, I think.

P.S. As I mentioned above, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by current dramas in my life, and I'm afraid I've fallen behind in replying to comments. I do hugely appreciate every comment left, and I apologise for my late response - I'm going to try and catch up this afternoon and tomorrow! Thanks for your patience.
P.P.S. I have all these exciting things I want to tell you, but I can't yet! Some interesting pieces of news will be coming soon, I hope.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Guest post: Solanah of Vixen Vintage on hats

Solanah is the undisputed Queen of Hats. Usually seen with an impeccable topper of some kind perched on equally impeccable locks, she has become a style icon in the blogosphere. Solanah's blog, Vixen Vintage, has been one of my favourites for a long time, and when I started thinking about posting an article on hats, I knew that she would be the perfect person to write it. I was thrilled when she agreed, and tackled the subject with her characteristic expertise and humour.

Thanks again, Solanah - and enjoy the post, everyone!

Andrea xx

Buying a hat for the first time can be almost as daunting as wearing it for the first time. Hats tend to lie on that thin line between "stylish" and "ridiculous", but with a little help you can choose just the right one to fit exactly who you are.

Buying a hat

The same rules apply to buying vintage hats as with buying vintage clothing. If you find one ask yourself these questions:

"Do I like how I look in the hat?"

Perhaps you find a beautiful hat you love sitting on a shelf, but once you put it on it does not love you back. Play around with the placement, tilt it to the side, back, front. Try your hair up, down, or imagine different makeup (I can never wear a hat without red lipstick). If after all that you don't love how you look, put it back and move on, there are other hats to try in the world!

"What condition is it in?"

If the hat has wire sticking out, holes in the felt, stains, glue globs, or brittle trimmings, don't buy it, unless you feel like taking on a hat restoring project. However, dents or bends can be easily fixed; just hold the hat over a steamer or tea kettle and shape it back with your hands.

"How much is it?"

Because there's not much of a demand for hats, you can generally find them at an affordable price. There are those hats that hold designer labels or incredible trimmings that are worth a pretty penny, but truth be told the most I've paid for a hat was $40, and some of my favorites cost less than $20! Once you familiarize yourself with hats, and explore the costs, you'll know what is a fair price and what is not. Of course age has a lot to do with price, the older it is the more expensive it will be.

Displaying hats

Hats make such pretty decoration, on or off your head! Most can be hung on hooks or knobs on the wall, mannequin heads, hat stands, or better yet a hat rack! Just make sure they are out of direct sunlight, and overly damp or dry rooms.

Storing hats

If you need to store your hats, invest in some hat boxes and store the hats upside down stuffed with acid free tissue paper to keep shape. Some of the less delicate ones can be stacked in each other. Again make sure they are not stored in damp or dry rooms.

Traveling with hats

Taking hats on vacation requires a traveling hat box that is large enough to fit multiple hats. Just make sure you carry it on a plane instead of checking it, and don't bang it around a bunch. And you'll look super chic walking around with a pretty hat box!

Caring for hats

If a hat sits in one place a while it will probably collect a bit of dust. Take a soft bristle brush and lightly sweep the surface every once in a while to prevent dust from settling.

Don't wear your hat out in the rain - the structure will be compromised. Berets make good light rain hats, or if you must wear a hat, carry an umbrella! As for washing, if a stain does not come out with a lightly dampened cloth, take your hat to a professional (or cover the stain with a flower or ribbon!).

Buying online vs. buying in person

For your first few hats go with buying in person so you get a feel for what you like and what looks good on you. Once you know which shapes, details, and colors are most flattering it becomes easier to buy online. Perhaps your local vintage shop has some great hats, but don't work for your budget. Try on different styles, then look for a good deal online for similar hats. Always pay attention to the size; women's hats (if labeled at all) have the size in inches or centimeters. To find your size measure around your forehead at the widest part, with hair down.

Hats for your lovely face shape

Here is an incredibly helpful post on finding a hat for your face shape.

Photo credits:
1940s hat, Little girl in hat, Hat rack, Hat boxes,, Hatbox for traveling, Head measurements

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Back Tattoo Sexy

Sexy tattoo for women, minimalist yet look elegant in the back of a woman.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Glasses are not just an accessory to me. For a long time they defined my personality - largely because I was given no choice in the matter. I was the Girl with the Big Glasses. It was the first thing people noticed about me, and it was the first thing they remembered. It didn't help that I was a 'brain', as well. It just made me more of a cliche. I was really unhappy during the majority of my school years, and, unfortunately, my glasses-wearing was a big part of that.

I have shocking eyesight - really, really bad - and always have. My mum bought me my first pair of glasses when I was just over a year old, because I kept bumping into furniture. At first she thought I was just clumsy, but soon realised that I actually couldn't see the couch/chair/pointy edge of the coffee table.

(I would still absolutely wear this outfit)

When I was very little, my friends did not comment on them. If anything, they thought it was quite cool that I had these interesting bits of wire and glass on my face. When I started primary school, however, the older kids made sure that my classmates learned what glasses really meant - egghead, nerd, four-eyes. Along with the fat kid in my class, I was the token target of jokes. It didn't get better as I grew older and started to (heaven forbid) become interested in make-up and clothes and boys. I was a big pair of glasses with legs and arms, and it didn't matter what I wore or how I did my hair - the glasses were all anyone saw.

When I was fifteen, I got contact lenses. It sounds dramatic, but it really did change my life completely. I had eyes for the first time, it seemed. People started to notice their colour, which had never happened before. I had a whole face, in fact! People had trouble recognising me for the first few weeks - I honestly think that they had no idea what I actually looked like. I also felt more involved with the world; a physical and mental barrier had been removed. I was no longer safe behind a glass shield. It felt very raw and vulnerable for the first few days, and I remember how naked my eyes looked; how dark my under-eye shadows were. The wind and rain and sun were harsher.

The contacts met with mixed reaction. My stepdad didn't like them - I think because he was scared of who I might become minus my handy-dandy boy repellents. My best friend, who also wore glasses, thought I had betrayed the secret society of glasses-wearers - that I was giving in to peer pressure. Someone in my class told me I no longer looked 'smart.' I didn't care. I could wear eye make-up! I could wear non-prescription sunglasses! I could walk in the rain without needing a tiny pair of windscreen wipers! And, most importantly, I could use other things to define my appearance (which, like it or not, is often taken as the first indicator of personality).

I still feel like I wear glasses. I push imaginary specs up my nose all the time. When I draw pictures of myself, I instinctively draw them with glasses. Inside, I am still the nerdy 'brain' with the pudding-bowl haircut, braces and enormous plastic specs. Now liberated by contact lenses, I talk about how much I hate my glasses, how ugly I look with them on. My husband has tried to convince me that I actually don't look that bad, but I have never believed him (still don't).

And I'm wearing a pair today. Not prescription, yet, but it was still surprisingly hard to wear them in front of people again.

I've been thinking a lot about my younger self lately. What would she think of me now? Would she be pleased with how I've turned out? All this thinking has turned into a sort of tenderness towards younger Andrea. I want to go back in time and tell her that she isn't as ugly as she thinks; that school doesn't last forever; and that she will find friends who are like her. Eventually. I think that is why I was drawn to these glasses: a pair as enormous and prominent as my old ones. I don't think I am ever going to stop being the Girl with the Big Glasses inside, but perhaps I can take back some of the power; wear them by choice, not by necessity. Be proud of them. Maybe.

Did any of you wear glasses when you were younger? What was your experience? Do you still wear them?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Writing a good synopsis

3 Feb '10
3 Feb '10 back
Beret - vintage, thrifted
Dress - 80s Laura Ashley, thrifted, altered
Shoes - thrifted

I used to think that synopses were evil, soulless things (even worse than the Dreaded Query Letter). I used to think that they sucked all the life from the novel, reducing it to a list of 'and then and then and then'-s, and that they were pure drudgery to write. Now, however, I am a fan. I really am. I still think they're devilishly difficult to write, but I also think they are immensely helpful as both a personal writing tool (keeping track of the big picture) and as a way to market your book to potential agents and editors.

At the moment, I am finding my synopsis to be a really useful part of the revision process. I'm essentially rewriting my work-in-progress (as I did with my previous book - it seems that I have to finish a first draft before I say "Oh, so that's the story I was trying to tell." I wish I didn't work that way, but it seems I do). My style of plotting is similar to my style of navigation. I start out with great enthusiasm in the general direction of my goal. I get horribly lost. I stop and consult my map, and work out my route. I start out with great enthusiasm (again). I get lost (again). I stop and consult my map ... and so it goes on. At least doing this with my story doesn't waste any petrol!

So, to over-extend this metaphor, my synopsis is my map. It is a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline that lists all of the major events in the story. It is also a fluid document rather than a locked one: as I work through the rewrites I come across new and better solutions from time to time, and so I change the synopsis to reflect them. It acts as my big picture. I'm a details person, as evidenced by my colour-coded clothing and love of filing, and I need something that reminds me of my larger goal.

If you are still searching for an agent and publisher, however, or are promoting a new book, a synopsis is a marketing tool, and has different requirements. There is no one 'right' way to write a synopsis - as with everything in this business, different things work for different people - but I thought I would compile a list of some points that I find helpful.

The basics

A synopsis needs to cover all the important plot points and describe the story clearly and well, while also being a good read. It has to be clear, well-organised and coherent. It also has to be engaging, entertaining and lively. Your synopsis should be a sample of your writing, not just a bland summary of events that could have been written by anyone. Your voice has to come through.

Make sure that you are focusing on the important plot points, and not on details that may be wonderful in the actual book but are just going to confuse and bore people in the synopsis. If a minor character makes a brief but hilarious appearance before disappearing, never to be seen again, that's perfectly fine - but don't include it in the synopsis. I have to be very conscious of this when I'm summarising, because I have a tendency to get hung up on the details. It is not really important for the reader to know that your main character is wearing a purple sweater, unless that purple sweater turns out to be a Magic Sweater that will save the world by the end of the book.

Make it exciting

Imagine you have just seen a really amazing movie, and you're describing it to a friend who isn't sure whether they should go and see it on the big screen. You loved it, and you have to convince them. That will give you some sense of the tone you need.

Add local colour

I think that, if your book has a really distinctive tone, some of that should come through in the synopsis (and in the query letter, but that's another story). If you are writing a comic novel and the 2,000-word synopsis is a yawn, that does not bode well for the 80,000 - 100,000 words of the supposedly hilarious actual book. That is not to say that you should write your synopsis exactly as you wrote your novel - it serves a different purpose, after all - but that some of the flavour of your book should come through.

Edit, edit, edit

This goes for everything you write, really - even emails! I was always hugely paranoid about emails I sent to agents and editors, because a spelling or grammatical error (while unlikely to tip the scales one way or the other), does not look good. You are meant to be an expert wielder of the language, after all. If your synopsis is riddled with errors, that is going to ring alarm bells.

Ask someone else to read it
Give it to someone else to read: or, even better, read it out loud to someone. That way you will both pick out the problems. If you stop and they say, "What happens next?", you've done a good job. If they say, "This doesn't make sense," then thank them profusely and make sure it's clear, because you can be sure that an agent or editor would be thinking the same thing. You know your own story so well that it's easy to skim over the gaps and leaps of logic: someone else's input is crucial.
A good test is to let your friend read the synopsis (or read it to them), and then to ask them to tell you the plot, as they understood it. If you have written a good synopsis, they should be able to give you a pretty clear, comprehensive summary of what happens in your book. If they get confused and leave out important points, get back to work.

Hopefully helpful points
  • The synopsis should always be in present tense ('the aliens land, and John meets with their leader' rather than 'the aliens landed, and John met with their leader.') It should also be from the omniscient author's point of view: do not write in first person, even if your book is written in first person.
  • When a character makes his or her first appearance, it is customary to print his or her name in capitals. Only once, though! After that, write it normally.
  • You have to tell the whole story in the synopsis. Even if your story has a surprise-twist ending. No cliff-hangers!
  • Format the synopsis as you would format your manuscript. It's a good idea to double-space it, as this makes it easier to read.
  • It's difficult to say exactly how long a synopsis should be, as opinions vary. Generally, the shorter, the better, but I have seen some attempts at one-page plot summaries that make no sense at all because there simply isn't room for all that happens. I try to keep mine between two and four pages (double-spaced), but that's not an Unbreakable Rule of Doom, it's just my own personal preference. Of course, if an agent or publisher has requested a specific length, then go with that.
  • I sometimes start the synopsis with a quote from the book, to give it a bit of flavour.
  • Many people swear by The Snowflake Method. I find some of its points helpful, but I would start chewing off my own fingers if I followed it to the letter. That's just my opinion, though, and it may work wonders for you.
  • This goes for everything that you submit to an agent or editor, but make sure that your name, the title of your work (with the word 'synopsis' mentioned, too) and the page number appears on every page.
Synopsis checklist
  • Is it interesting?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Have you covered all the major plot points?
  • Is the conflict clear?
  • Do you get a sense of who the characters are, and do you care about them?
  • Has someone else read over it?
  • Is it free of spelling and grammatical errors?
  • Is it correctly formatted?
Once you've done all this, pour yourself a stiff drink (or break open a bar of chocolate). You've earned it!
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