Mutt, seal and plague.

Here we are in the wilds of the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia (alhtough, in Internet Land I haven’t moved an inch). Within five minutes of our arrival Rex the Wonder Dog managed to leap through a screen door head first. The Old Boy has just finished replacing the screen with much muttering under the breath. He left it a few days just in case the mutt repeated the procedure. We saw a seal sunbaking on a boat slip all by himself. Perhaps the rest of the family were off getting the seal version of fish and chips. Perhaps it was a harrassed mother trying to get a bit of “me” time. As it was lying bellyside down, I couldn’t tell if it was male or female. The seal people like to keep you guessing. So far I’ve found a couple of writers, new to me, that have gone on my “find more of these” list. That’s always a happy event. I haven’t done one teeny bit of “work” and that’s even happier. Happiest of all, I can feel the stirrings of my next book in my imagination. I’d begun to wonder if I’d have to leave the poor boys stranded and that would have been a disgrace. I’ve also discovered a terrible malady that, according to the medical experts (well they certainly sounded official) is in plague proportions. I had no idea! I admit I’ve been sidetracked by less significant issues such as cancer, the asylum seekers, the capture and killing of Gaddafi, the floods in Thailand, the earthquake in Turkey and so on. All this time there’ve been hundreds, perhaps thousands of women in this lucky country suffering the debilitating condition: stomach bloating. Apparently they need a dose of special yoghurt every day just to cope for the next 24 hours. Oh the humanity! It beggars belief. From what I’ve seen on the idiot box there are support groups for the afflicted. They go on picnics and talk about their problem while scoffing down the yoghurt. It seems to be helpful because they laugh a lot…unless they’re just putting on a brave face for the cameras. Hats off to you ladies: soldiering on in difficult circumstances. I wish I’d been as brave when I was having chemo and radiotherapy and adjusting to being without one breast. You’re an example for us all. I’m feeling a tad nauseous, so I’m off to find some yoghurt. Wishing you all a bloat-free...

Read More

Hoo roo!

My apologies, dear reader, if I’ve made you a little anxious. I hate to think of you chewing your fingernails, pacing the floor, wondering: Where’s Wendy’s blog? Is she still posting? Has something happened to her?… The thing is – I’m about to go on holiday. (Excited wriggling in chair!) I’ve been working like a wild woman, trying to finish everything before I go so I can just relax. I’ve heard it’s the fashionable thing to do while on holiday, and I’m not afraid to try new things. I finished the final editorial job this afternoon. Phew! No more editing, now, until the new year. I want some “creative” time, to work on my own projects. My characters have been living in suspended animation for quite some time now. One of my readers (the twelve year old) is asking for book two and my standard reply – It’s on its way – is starting to get old. I’m still waiting to hear from Publisher #1 (submitted in April), Publisher #2 (only two weeks to go before their acceptance time ends) and Publisher #3 (two and a half months to go). I submitted to a new agent a fortnight ago, but she hasn’t replied yet. Obviously she’s either extremely busy; is still working out how to rephrase “you stink” so that I’m not shattered, or is in hospital suffering from an attack of the screaming heebie-jeebies. (Or all the above.) I’m slow on the uptake but the message is finally getting through: writing a short email takes months and months of planning. I don’t know why I keep hoping for a quick reply. Get a grip, Noble! So… I’m off to the Yorke Peninsula, staying in a friend’s holiday house. I plan on reading lots, sleeping lots, watching Rex the Wonder Dog frolic on a beach, and not doing any strenuous thinking whatsoever. Therefore, next week’s blog may well be late as well. I hope you can cope. Meanwhile, if you want to improve your writing: read lots of good stuff. If you want to improve your brainpower: read lots of good stuff. If you want to help the economy: buy some good books (and then actually read them. Books aren’t just for reaching things up on shelves, or propping a door open, you know). Hasta la vista, baby! Adieu, mon brave! Hoo roo,...

Read More

Post BC

Tonight I’ll be speaking at an evening aimed at raising awareness re Breast Cancer, raising some money for research, and encouraging women to face life’s difficulties with faith and hope. Actually I can’t be definite that the last bit is the aim of the organisers, but I’ve made it one of mine. My own experience with BC was a long time ago now (17 years – I can’t believe it!) but, unlike other things that happened more than a year ago, the memory remains clear. It helps that I have a daily reminder. The scarred, boob-less half of my chest and accompanying bloated lympheodemic arm is a dead give-away. And then there’s the giant rubber falsie that gets tucked into my bra… Ah, good times. I’ve spoken to numerous women’s groups about my journey and the message always seems to go over well: they laugh, they cry, they groan. Afterwards there is always a stream of ladies wanting to share their own stories. Either they’ve had something similar, or they’ve just found a lump and are having tests, or their mother/sister/aunty/best friend had it or has it or died from it. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’ve survived when so many haven’t, especially if the cancer victim was a child. I remember speaking at a church camp years ago and someone prayed: Oh Lord, why did you take Jim and leave her? There wasn’t a resounding “Amen!” but I definitely heard some assenting murmurs. For a few years I considered writing a memoir about it, but I had trouble getting past the first chapter. What’s more, every time I had another go some celebrity would put out a book about their cancer experience, and I’d think: Who’d want to read mine? Perhaps, one day when my books are best-sellers and they’ve been made into award-winning films, I’ll have another go. (Don’t hold your breath.) Preparing for tonight has brought back a lot of memories; good and bad. It’s reminded me of just how much I have to be thankful for: a faithful, supportive husband; loving family and friends; fantastic medical care; false boobs in giant sizes, and a renewed appreciation for the wonders of life. Take care out there. Life’s...

Read More

After the Fair.

Yesterday I attended a one-day conference for writers, set in the beautiful town of Stirling in the Adelaide Hills. It started at 8.30am so, being allergic to mornings, I spent the night before at a friend’s house a few minutes drive from the venue. Otherwise I’d have had to get up around 6.30 and that would have killed me. (And possibly other road-users on the way there.) Thank the good Lord for hospitable friends! I presented one of the workshops – Writing Your Novel and Presenting to a Publisher – and had to smile just a tad at the irony. I’ve certainly done my share of writing novels and submitting to publishers, but so far the success hasn’t followed. Perhaps I should have called the session: Do as I say, not as I do. Afterwards one of the attendees said: Wendy, I can’t find your book out on the sale table. Where can I get it? I confess I smiled sweetly at her and said: It’s with the publishers. Now, that’s not a lie. It is with the publishers…still. I just don’t know if they’re going to pick it up. Then again it’s only been 5 1/2 months, so I don’t know why I’m feeling a tad frustrated. Back to the conference. As my workshop was during the last time-slot in the day, I got to listen to other speakers, absorb the conversation and bustle around the coffee urn, chat to ladies in the loo, hover around the book table etc. I was rather chuffed to see several of my clients had books on display. If you’d paid attention you might have noticed the little glow of literary-midwife-pride radiating around me. Did I learn anything new? I think the only thing was the actual amount people have paid out to self-publish, which only made me more determined to be traditionally published. (I have no money.) However I came home re-inspired; re-affirmed in my “calling” to write; re-focussed on my aim to get into print and rejuvenated in my passion to write. Writing is such a solitary occupation, and most of the time I like it that way. However, all of us need to make time to connect with like minds; to creep out of our creative hidey-holes and share ideas, dreams, stories and encouragement with people of flesh and bone. All in all was a long, exhausting but very satisfying day. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be there. If you’re a writer I strongly urge you to occasionally make the time to attend a conference, workshop, retreat…whatever is available and do-able for...

Read More

Floating Heads

Today I thought I’d talk about one of the most common mistakes made with dialogue. Wait a moment while I dress for the part… All done. Ta da! Academic hat and gown on, pointer stick poised in right hand sdo39thh5… pointer stick lying on desk, glasses perched on end of nose, and here we go. Floating heads: We all do it. The writing is champagne dialogue: witty, funny, and so real you can taste it. In fact it’s so good that before you know it there’s almost a page full, or even more. What’s wrong with that? You’ve developed Floating Head Syndrome. As far as the reader knows your characters could be two headless bodies floating out in space. We can hear ’em, but we can’t see ’em. You need to bring those heads back to earth. Where are they? What are they doing? It doesn’t require long descriptive paragraphs between each line (in fact, please don’t!) but you’ve got to give us something. Example 1: Floating Heads. (Imagine this continuing for the length of the page.) “I went to the doc’s today,” Jane said. “You okay?” Bob said. “He wants to do some tests. It’s probably nothing.” “You sure?” “I should get the tea started.” “Not too much for me. I had a big lunch.” Now, we can tell a certain amount from this brief exchange: Jane’s been to the doctor and it’s serious enough to warrant further tests. Bob seems to be reassured and life continues as normal. If you can read much more than that into it, then I’m better than I think! Example 2: Non-floating Heads. “I went to the doc’s today,” Jane said. “You okay?” Bob said. He put his briefcase down on the kitchen table and went to stare in the fridge. “He wants to do some tests.” She moved the briefcase to the sideboard. Bob peered around the fridge door at her. A smile flicked across her lips but didn’t reach her eyes. “It’s probably nothing,” she said. He drank some juice straight out the carton. “You sure?” Jane rearranged the ornaments on the sideboard shelf. “I should get the tea started,” she said. She held the porcelain cat their son gave her last Christmas and stroked it’s back with her forefinger. “Not too much for me,” Bob said. “I had a big lunch.” She held the cat up to her cheek and closed her eyes. Not Grade-A writing, but now we know they’re in the kitchen; it’s late in the day because a) Bob’s home from work and b) she’s going to get their evening meal (tea); we know Bob isn’t as reassured as we first thought and Jane is more worried than she’s letting on. Bob is messy and Jane likes things tidy. They have a son. Hopefully there is a clearer sense of tension in the room and their characters are a little more defined. It’s difficult to do this in such a short space but I hope this gives you a bit of an idea. Happy writing...

Read More