Critique partner or Critzilla from hell?

critique partnerI have often felt that finding a good critique partner is like joining a dating agency and going through blind dates until you find “The one.” Over the last decade, I have been through many first dates, some even extended to second and third dates, and only two made it to “live-together-on-a-trial-basis” stage. Why?

The reasons are simple-

You often find that once your critique partner reads your first draft, or even the second draft, she/he loses interest and turns unresponsive. Around third date, you send them an email with your precious WIP, cross your fingers and toes, and hope for the best. A week or two later, you’re still waiting. No response. Since you’re the optimistic kind, you make up excuses for their lack of reaction, and try again. It might take you another week or two of silence to realise that at some point, the relationship has gone stale. So with a heavy heart, you move on.

Back to the dating agency. More forms. Little tweaks to your profile and expectations column.

Then you might encounter with an entirely different scenario- Your critique partner turns into a Critzilla who takes offense when you don’t follow their instructions to the tee. These are the kind of people who like the theory of open communication, but when it comes to practice, they expect things to go their way. This happened to me once in the beginning of my writing career. When it reached a stage where I felt that my crit partner’s suggestions weren’t entirely acceptable for my storyline, I chose not to make the changes she recommended. The result- she bad mouthed me in the writer’s group, managed to turn them all against me in the span of a week. I had to say ‘Hasta-la-vista’ and run for my life.

Oh, I shouldn’t fail to mention the sugar coaters. These are the kind of crit partners who are overly sweet. They don’t want to offend you, so they always give you a positive comment about your work. This isn’t ideal either. Unnecessary praises will give you a false impression that your work is excellent, when in reality it may need a lot of work to tighten the story line or fill up the crater-sized plots holes you’ve created.

There is yet another possibility for your dating life to go wrong- It happens when your critique partner turn into a toxic jerk who ‘shredit’ rather than edit your work, and constantly pile you with negative comments that turn your muse into a wimp. You go into the relationship expecting constructive criticism and end up getting bombarded with destructive diatribe. You feel so devastated, you begin to doubt every word you manage to write.  If it happens to you—don’t even think about it—-just run.

Having said all this, I feel obliged to add that your crit partner isn’t always responsible for the failure of your critiquing relationship. I once took on a newbie partner who turned out to be too pushy. Always demanded her work to be critiqued in the set time frame and never returned mine in the turn around period. If for some reason, I was unable to deliver, she would send me a minimum of ten emails a day, demanding a progress update. Well, my low tolerance for pushy characters won out in the end and I terminated that relationship in eight weeks.

What was point of this blog post again….ah, yes……Getting that one ideal crit partner is a blessing. Like any relationship, it takes work, dedication and honesty for your critique partner relationship to last long. If and when you find that someone who ticks all the boxes, never let them go. Beg, lament, whine-do whatever it takes- but no matter what you do, do not let them go. (I have heard that wine and a box of Godiva are often good choices of bribe. Just saying :))

 

Do not gawk at Julius Caesar

rome

Stalking. Eyeballing. Giving a fast once over.

We’ve all been caught doing the above at least once in our lives. If you haven’t been caught out yet- well- hats off to your stalking skills. You’re a pro.

I am the least professional when it comes to the art of gawking. I almost always get caught, simply because I get all flustered, my eyes get a nervous tick, and I give myself away.

The following incident is one which started off as simple fun but ended up as a Nightmare for me.

This was about 8 or 9 years ago. Like a squirrel who gathered acorns for a rainy day, me and my partner saved up enough to go on a most anticipated European trip. One of the best holidays of my life. Our tour ended in Rome- land filled with architectural wonders, mouth watering food and beautiful people. On day 13 in Rome, I packed up my bags and reached the airport with a heavy heart full of memories to last a lifetime, and enough experiences to write at least three romantic novels. Caught up between weaving a story of an Italian winemaker in my head, and going through the motions of security checks, I looked around and – BAM- I saw him!

An Italian airport official wearing a suite came out of nowhere and filled my focus while I was waiting at the emigration for a clearance. Needless to say, my jaw dropped. He had the kind of classic looks- tall, dark, with a high-bridged nose and perfectly cut jaws (I know–you’re cringing- bear with me.) He reminded me of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. He looked up, our gazes clashed and I am pretty sure he smirked at my expression. Busted! When it was my turn and he asked me for my passport, my hands shook. When he asked me about my holiday in Italy, I croaked. Words were stuck, along with my tongue at the roof of my mouth.

He narrowed his gaze at me and I was positive my heart was a puddle on the floor. It was only when he asked me to repeat my name in a rather forceful voice it clicked to me that while I was off in la-la land, here in the mortal world, things were progressing downhill like a landslide.

It turned out, thanks to the innumerable T’s and O’s in my legal name, my name printed on my Visa was wrong and as such, he couldn’t let me travel back to Australia without further clarification. Very patiently, he summoned two of his other colleagues, who moved a red-faced me into a small room for further questioning. Minutes ticked on. Half an hour turned to one. I wasn’t feeling hot flashes now. I was hyperventilating. Screw my story line and romantic musings. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

After a few phone calls and emails that bounced back and forth between two continents, they gave me an all clear and I was back in the queue to face him. Caesar smiled, shrugged, and continued with the proceedings as normal. I thought I saw a flash of humour in his eyes. Which irritated me to the point of acute embarrassment. He asked me all the right questions. I answered them as patiently as I could. In the end he asked me if I would return to their beautiful country. I wanted to say, “Not a snowflake’s chance in the hell, buddy!”. But the memory of their interrogation room forced me to nod politely.

And so I moved on.

Note to self : Newton’s third law applies to gawking.

 

Bat those eyelashes, Lassie :)

pooh

Now, when you read the above meme, you might think the following post is all about philosophical, hard-to-digest, life changing stuff. To be able to pull off such a stunt, I need to know the merits of philosophical approaches to life. Which I don’t. I know squat when it comes to life. So you are safe.

What I really want to tell you today is a dating lesson I learned through my career Journey. In mid 2006, I started off my career in an aged care setting. My job mostly consisted of dealing with elderly folks and their geri-antics. And believe me when I say that you’re not always dealing with sweet, gentle folks who smell like betadine and walk at the pace of a snail. You’re often left to deal with geriatric power walkers who dash around in their shiny zinger frames,  who would give you a run for your money, and who would almost always win if you pit against their wit.

But I digress.

The following incident had me in a fit of giggles for days. I hope it will give you a chuckle or two.

There was this eighty five year old lady who was a bit of flirt in our village. She was outspoken, head strong, yet sweet as candy when she chose to be (Which only happened when she was around the hot Physiotherapist.). Apart from my Mom, I guess she was the one who worried I did not have a partner at that point. Subtly, then not-so-subtly, finally with the subtlety of a steam roller, she began to give me dating advices.

One day while I was assisting the folks with Bingo, she pointed to an elderly gentleman two tables away and said she was going to demonstrate how the whole “Flirting and trapping” your baby daddy was really done. I subtly pointed to her that they were both well past the “baby making” age. But she snorted and said she was more interested in the practice sessions. (I told you, she was a holy terror.)

For the next few minutes, she actively demonstrated to me and the old girls at our table how to flash our ankles at our suitors (Which didn’t make any sense as it was a hot day and most of us were wearing shorts). She then proceeded to show us how to give coy smiles, and finally bat our eyelashes like a fifties movie star. The elderly gentleman she was trying trap looked surprised at first, then I saw his expression morph from surprise to confusion as my  dating-guru kept batting her eyelashes at him. At this point, I warned her not to go messing around with new, unsuspecting guys. The older residents knew her and kept a respectful distance from her. But this guy was new, hence clueless. Obviously this had the reverse effect. She steamed ahead, at full throttle, challenging me.

At one point I saw the gentleman lift his arm and summon the village manager. Trouble. This was trouble. I just knew it.

Another few minutes, the village manager came up to our table. A nurse accompanied her, with a small white tray.

The manager knelt down on the floor and asked my dating guru is she was feeling okay. I rolled my eyes skyward. She was a little too okay for everyone’s comfort. Then the manager proceeded to ask my Guru if her eyes were giving her trouble. Apparently the new resident had seen her batting her lashes and thought she was having trouble with her vision. For the next few minutes there was a heated argument about eye drops, cataract, surgery, eye doctors etc etc. Finally, satisfied that my Guru’s vision was okay, the manager and the nurse left.

I waited for a whole minute and half. Then I couldn’t hold back. I cracked up. My Guru was sporty enough not to take it the wrong way. Soon she joined in and we had a good laugh. But from that day forward, she never gave me a dating advice.

Life lesson 102= For Christ’s sake, don’t bat your eyelashes at the guy you’re trying to trap***cough****I mean, marry. Unless he is an Opthalmologist. Then all bets are off.

 

 

 

Not-so-despicable Line Cutter

Queue cutters, line cutters, butting inners…we all know who they are. We have all experienced them at least once in our fast paced lives. Without a doubt, 99.99% of human population loathe them. (The remaining 0. 01 %  are the champions of the hateable. They stand for anything and everything despicable.)

The prompt for this post came to me when I was waiting in line with a few pint sized humans to get their face painted by Elsa the Fairy queen. The winter night was chilly; air thick with the scents of freshly popped corn, hotdogs and s’mores. If it weren’t for the kids who demanded a trip to the wonderland festival, there was no way I would have ventured out on a night like that.

Time, I have noticed, moved at a slower pace when one wait in a queue. Yet somehow, after an hour of patiently fielding the  “How long?” and “My legs are tired. Can you carry me? “questions, we finally reached within an arm’s length of the esteemed Fairy queen. Two more kids ahead of us. Things were finally looking up.

It was the commotion and the sound of hiccups that alerted us that something was wrong. Like a hound sniffing out blood, my senses caught snippets of an argument. Since snooping was part and parcel of creative writing, I used that as an excuse and edged forward to get more scoop.

So this was what happened-

A young girl, about ten, Asian heritage from her looks, stood to one side- red faced, sobbing quietly. Her mother was arguing with Elsa’s body guards- namely two rotund security guys in black and black. From the sound of it, the man ahead of me- father of a 4yr old cherub- caught the Asian girl’s family cutting in the line and called them to task. To this, the girl’s mother replied that they had been waiting in the line all along. Unfortunately, her kid had to go to the toilet. The Mum, with no other choice, advised the lady ahead of her to hold their place and the woman agreed. They had been gone for all but ten minutes. But when they returned, the lady in question had disappeared. Not wanting to wait another hour, the girl and her Mum moved to the front of the line, hoping they could convince the Queen’s guards of their plight.

A very plausible explanation. Things like that happened all the time. Kids do have the most inconvenient bladders. I had no doubt the young girl and her mother were telling the truth.

Now came the clincher.

The father of the cherub, who I strongly believe was on meth or steroids, muscled forward. Hands on hips, he turned to Elsa. “Why are you guys listening to this crap? These people, these bloody Asians always have an excuse for everything.” Then he went on a tirade about Asians, asylum seekers and migrants. A bucket load of pure venomous racist remarks.

I don’t need to say that things went downhill pretty fast from that point. One venomous crack- he damn near started a civil war in that play space.

Luckily, he was alone in his opinions. No one sided with him. I fully expected the gathered crowd to remain in silence, pull the cloak of Cowardice tighter around themselves and look away. Let’s face it, that is what most people do in these situations.

But the crowd reacted. They vocalised their opinion about the man’s rant in some colourful language I dare not repeat here. In the end, it was a most satisfactory sight to watch that man get escorted out of that space.

Case to the point: See human beings as human beings. Not color-coded packages

 

 

 

 

There was an idiot who booked a ticket…

Okay, the following incident is going to make me look like a dumbass moron. But since I promised my readers full honesty in this revamped version of my blog, I have to write it as it happened.

Night has fallen, but as the moon has not yet risen, the landscape looks harsh and dismal as we speed along the national highway. After enduring two hours of terse and stifling silence, not to mention covert hostile glances, we reach the fortress, a sanctuary of gleaming marble and glittering jewels set amidst a lesser-known section of the rolling Thar Desert. The car winds through the red sandstone-paved courtyard lined with mature golden palms, and comes to a rolling stop before one of the four arched entrances that will lead us to the assembly hall. A warm desert wind blows in as I step out into the courtyard, dragging the scents of sand and night jasmine past us.”-This bit here is a snippet from my book- Soul Reaper’s mate.

Now, the things about this book, its mostly set in India-Thar desert in India to be precise. I have never been to that part of India before. Yet, for some strange, deluded reason, I decided to set my story there. My character demanded it. Obviously this required research, meticulous planning, folders after folders full of images and notes about the sun-kissed desert plains, the marble palaces, the village folks etc etc. Not to mention all those hours spent watching the Bollywood movies that portrayed them ever so beautifully.

I got so wrapped up in the story that at one point I talked myself into actually going there. To live and breathe in the air where my main protagonist grew up. To get a feel of the land and the beauty of the culture.

Onto cyberspace to hunt for a airline ticket.

After hours of plotting the routes and flights and stop-overs, I finally hit gold. With one stop over in Singapore, then another in Chennai, I would get to my destination through a semi-respectable airline at the lowest price my savings could afford. Joy. Joy. Filled with bubbling excitement, I didn’t bother to double to check the credibility of the third party website offering this cheap deal. I hit the ‘buy’ button faster than I could say “Hasta-la-vista-baby.”

All good. Date set. Bags packed. News spread through all social medias possible. (Hey, this was a big deal for me.)

Then it happened.

A death in the family. There was no way I could go at that point.

My thoughts- Its a simple matter of  ringing up the airlines to change the dates.

Wrong!!!

Back to the third party.

A whole load of intense BLT- beg, lament, threat.

The solution- $400 as penalty for not travelling on the date agreed. Then another couple of hundred for changing the dates.

Me: Not a happy Jan!

 

Junkie got her next hit….

Reader advisory- This post contains stuff that made me bawl my eyes out. Proceed with caution.

Working in aged care has its benefits, especially for a writer like me. Older generation has a different take on life than most of the younger generation these days. Contrary to popular belief, spending time with elderly is actually an uplifting experience. Whenever I am hit with a writer’s block, or a character conflict, all I have to do is drop by to see one of my clients. It is in my prowl for ideas for my new story when I met this cute couple.

Both in eighties plus, with their share of health issues.  But they had settled into the village life style smoothly. He was a Glass half full kinda guy. Always had a joke or two to make you smile on your crappy day; a real ladies man. A charmer. She on the other hand was this serious school ma’m type, but she too had a sense of humour and a dry wit that often left your speechless. Some thought they were like chalk and cheese.

One day when I couldn’t contain my curiosity anymore, I asked him how they met. Because there had to be a story. Everybody got one.

With a secret smile, he began.

He said he had known her all his adult life, and loved her since the first moment they met. But she didn’t feel the same about him. Not then, anyway. For years, he carried his love in his heart, pasted a smile on his face and carried on with his life as if everything was okay. But the blow came when he heard that she was going to marry his best friend.  Like a trouper, he braved through the wedding as a best man.

For years since then, he deliberately kept himself away. It was only when he had an accident and couldn’t work anymore, he returned home.

He said watching her raising another man’s family had been pure torture. But there was nothing he could do. He was an outsider, she was his best mate’s wife. There was an unspoken bro-code that he had no intention of breaking. Her kids grew up calling him ‘uncle’ and he wouldn’t have jeopardised that for anything.

Thirty years  fast forward, his best mate passed away due to lung cancer. In the years that followed, he was there to support her and her family.

At this point of the story, I got really mad at him. Why, I asked, did he keep his love a secret from her at that point? His best mate was dead, she was a widow. To me, it was a black and white scenario.

He laughed and shared a smile with her at that moment. He said, “I knew her more than I knew myself. I knew she wasn’t ready. I had waited a life time for her to see me. The real me. A few more wouldn’t have killed me.”

So how did they end up together? Believe it or not, it was she who made that decision. One day after her kids had moved out, and loneliness had become an unbearable burden for her, she sold her house, put her savings in a bank, wrote her will, and packed her bag. She didn’t wait for him to say yes or a no. She simply used the spare key he had given her for emergencies and moved into his house.

The story goes that seeing her in his house made his heart go all gooey, and he ended up with a pacemaker to get it back up and running. At least, that was his version. But she claimed it was too much bacon and sex which made his heart go all stutter!

I for one didn’t want to dig deeper into that particular point. So I left them alone to their late marital bliss.

 

 

 

 

Dude repulsor technology….

barWe all know what pick-up lines are- an icebreaker intended to crack up the person you’re trying to pick up. Without them, some guys (and girls) don’t stand a snowflake’s chance in hell when it comes to landing a partner.

The idea for this blog came to me when I went to a tavern the other day and saw a guy try to pick up a girl. My mature, grown-up self, immediately flashed back to the days when similar things used to happen to me. These days I would have to stick my leg out and trip a guy to make him take notice.

But I digress.

I’ve been subjected to a few pick-up lines in my college days. Even fell for one or two. Guys have approached me, hoping to win a score. (Reading this you might envision an upscale bar and a hot chick surrounded by guys waiting in a queue for her attention.) Errr…No…That was never me. If there was a table for ordinary girls with their ordinary smiles, ordinary hair, and last season’s clothes- there you would have spotted me.

Back to my story. This happened one night in a dark and seedy pub in a little corner of my world. I was with a group of friends, warpaint as thick as clay on my face. As we sat there, trying to figure out what the hell was a dirty Martini, a guy approached us. He came in my direction, then the last minute made a beeline for my BFF. The truth was, I wouldn’t have gone out with him even if he’d offered me a million bucks. Because he had desperate written all over him. Slightly glassy eyes, two inch boots to give him vertical enhancement, a bleached smile and a wallet full of cash he kept flashing as if it was the golden ticket to Wonka’s factory. But for some weird reason, the fact that I didn’t make his cut miffed me. Women are weird that way. We don’t want them, but we don’t want them not to want us!!!)

He started off with my BFF, giving her his opening ammo- “Do you have a Band-Aid, because I hurt my knee falling for you.”

Ugh….Pass.

A few minutes later, he approached another friend of mine- “You look a lot like my next girl friend.”

Seriously….Double pass.

Finally he approached me. By then the girls were in a fit of giggles. Amped with Dutch courage, I waited for his cheesy line.

“Hey, I lost my phone number. Can I have yours?”

I gave him a saccharine-sweet smile. If he had any sense, he would’ve run for the hills. But the guy was plastered. So he stayed.

“Sure, hun.” Ignoring the groans of my besties, I rattled off my number.

The guy was a bit taken back by my quick answer. It took him a moment to reorient and figure out that I had given him an actual number. There was a flurry of activity while he frantically searched for his phone, jabbed it with unsteady fingers to get it up and going. Then he asked me to repeat the number. So I did.

“So, can I give you a call on this number sometime tomorrow?”

“Sure. I can’t wait.”

He gave me a funny look. “Ah…okay.”

“Hey…before you go, I just want to tell you that our wedding, it has to be in Bali. I’ve always dreamed about a beach wedding. I hope you’re okay with that.”

“Err…I…”

“I knew you were the one the moment I saw you. I am so glad you asked me out.”

He was beginning to sweat by this point. “But I didn’t…”

“What’s your sign? Mine is Scorpio. I hope you’re a Pisces. Because a Scorpio’s best fit is Pisces. Are you a Piscean? It’s okay if you’re not. We’ll make it work somehow.”

He took two steps back. “Can I…I just need to…I’ll be back in a sec.”

I flashed him another smile. And fluttered my very fake lashes. “Sure I’ll be waiting.”

A decade later, I am still waiting 🙂

Darkness