Blog Tour Award Thingee

Is it possible that for a few moments, as you read this, you can pretend it’s already Monday (29)? I’ve been tagged for the Blog Tour Award (I wonder what I’ll win?!!) and I was given that date. But, I write on Saturdays and I didn’t want to do another one so I’m using my creative license to stretch time just a tad. If you disapprove, just stop reading now and come back on the appropriate day. I was tagged by Claire Bell, a poet and writer, who has a delicious way of stringing words together. You can visit her at: mountainbeautiful.blogspot.com She’s asked me four questions about my writing, which I shall attempt to answer below. 1.What are you working on at the moment? I’ve got two things on the boil. The first is book two of The Flight, tentatively named, “Dragon-friend”. (I guess the title is a clue that it’s a fantasy.) As my readers will tell you, it’s taking forever to get done. I made the silly mistake of doubting myself. I should have finished the set before publishing “Beast-speaker”. The thing is, I had so much trouble getting anyone interested in it, I thought: What’s the point of writing the lot if no one will print the darn thing? Of course, now I’ve got book one in print and as an e-book and, who’da thunk it, people liked it and now the pressure is on to get book two out. The second is an historical novel based on a true crime that took place in the mid-north of my state, in 1861. It’s the book that was recently rejected. I’m trying to get a better start to the thing. I always had a few doubts about the opening but, for the life of me, couldn’t think of a better way to get the story rolling. I thought, perhaps, I’d been working with it for so long that I was seeing problems that weren’t there. NOPE! Always trust your gut instinct. So, I’m working on the problem now and I’m fairly confident I know what I need to do. It’s a story that I’m passionate about, so I’m not giving up yet. 2. How does your work differ from others in the genre? My fantasy novel is what I call “fantasy-lite”. It’s not set in medieval times with armoured knights, castles and so on. There are no wizards or witches or gnomes or giants etc. It is set on another world, where water is as precious as gold. Some people have the ability to commune with animals; they’re called “Beast-speakers”. Some of those animals are dragons. Other than that, my work is unique because I write from my world-view, with my personality and flavoured by my experiences, opinions and quirks. I haven’t tried to copy anyone, although many writers have certainly inspired me with their creations. As for the historical work: as far as I know no one else has written a novel about this story. There are only a few paragraphs in a few historical reference books, and a small booklet put out by a local amateur historian with a legal background. I have done an extensive amount of research on the subject and have come to the conclusion that the four Indigenous men who were hung for the crime, were most likely innocent. The fleeting references in the historical books all take it for granted that they were guilty. 3. Why do you write or create what you do? Because that’s what I am: I’m a story-teller. I could wax on all philosophical about the yearning desire to craft a thing of beauty using words, but the short answer is: I’m being what I was created to be. It’s taken me most of my life time to give myself permission to do this seriously, instead of dabbling and dancing around the edges. It’s much more difficult than I expected it to be but, also, I’ve seriously underestimated how satisfying it can be. 4. How does your writing/creative process work? I have no idea. It involves a lot of staring at an empty computer screen. Lots of day-dreaming. Lots of reading, both for research and for pleasure (and asking, “Why can’t I write like that?”). Lots of cups of tea (used to be coffee before the medication ruined that for me). Lots of writing the most unbearable, boring, ridiculously bad prose you’ll ever see in your life-time, with lots and lots of rewriting before it becomes reasonable. Lots of conversations in my head with the characters, who are often the most egotistical, pushy, stubborn … (Deep breaths, old girl. Calm down.) I think the...

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Writing is easy

This week I received another rejection letter; all part and parcel of being a writer. It’s not the first and it won’t be the last. I could give you an extensive list of famous authors who have been rejected multiple times, (eg J, K. Rowlings) and who then went on to fame and fortune. Therefore I’m quite philosophical about it. I’m not bothered at all. Really, I’m not. Well, okay, I was just a tad disappointed. But I didn’t stamp my foot. I didn’t throw things. I didn’t even cry. I took it on the chins with a dash of savoir faire, spiced with just a modicum of self-pity. I took the negative feedback and turned it into incentive to do better. I sought advice from someone I respect and asked for suggestions on how to make the manuscript better. Her response was simple but brilliant. Now I’m working like someone possessed to change my manuscript into a winner. Yes, this rejection stuff just rolls off my back like the proverbial duck with the proverbial water on its proverbial back. Because, after all, being a writer is easy. Anyone can do it. All you need is a computer or, if you’re old school, some paper and a pen. Anyone can write a story on a Saturday and upload it on Amazon on Sunday for the world to read with gratitude and admiration. It’s easy. I’ve heard lots of people say so. Why, they’d all write a book (and it’d be a best-seller) if they had the time and when they do have the time, why, they’ll just do it. The thing is, being a writer is easy. It’s being a good one, that’s difficult. If you actually care about the stuff you’re writing down, you have to write it more than once. You have to write and rewrite and rewrite again. Then you have to get feedback from people you respect who know what they’re talking about, take their response on board and then rewrite again. (No cheating by asking family members!) Then after you’ve agonised over plot flow, characterisation, choice of vocabulary, point of view, metaphors and similes (not too many, not too few), grammar, spelling, research of time, setting and technology, why you rewrite it one more time to make sure it’s just right. If you can afford it, you get a professional to edit it, which will then necessitate another rewrite. Finally you research agents (good luck finding one in Australia who still takes on new clients) and you research publishing houses that will accept manuscripts from un-agented writers and you send it out into the cosmos with baited breath and hope coursing through your veins. Some times you never hear from the publisher…ever. Sometimes you receive a letter saying, “You don’t suit our list.” Sometimes you receive a letter saying, “It’s a no because (negative feedback).” Your heart breaks, your world is shattered and hope doesn’t even bother to wave goodbye as it flies out the window. Then, the next day, you open up that computer and you start again, determined that this time you’ll get it right. Yes, being a writer is easy. It’s a pity I’m so determined to be a good one....

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The Dark Ages, Mark II

What a weird, upside down world we inhabit. In South Africa, a rich, famous white guy kills his girlfriend, is only sentenced to five years jail and is getting out having done about 10 months. (I can hear my not-so-white friends saying, “Nothing changes.”) Our government has always justified it’s draconian policy of ‘stopping the boats’ (of refugees), by claiming it saves lives and stops the people smugglers. Now it seems that they have paid the people smugglers to take the refugees somewhere else. How is that right? (How is it legal?) All I can think of is that their policy isn’t about stopping boats and saving lives; it’s about stopping refugees from finding a safe haven in Australia. Maybe if they were all rich, famous, white people it’d be a different scenario? IS (ISIL/ISIS whatever the hell they call themselves. They change their name more often than the performer formerly called Prince.) Anyway, you know who I mean. They specialise in barbaric forms of torture, mass slaughter of innocents – including children – and the sexual exploitation, abuse and slavery of women. It’s always confused me as to why men would join that satanic mob but I’ve put it down to susceptible youths being sucked in, or adult psychopaths who would enjoy having free reign to do whatever their sick little psyches tell them. But now women are joining IS. Women, who have a free and affirming life here in a democracy that allows them equal access to education and equal standing before the law, willingly join the men who are sexually abusing, exploiting and trafficking women and children. Can anyone explain what the attraction is? Are they psychopaths, too? How can any sensible, right-thinking person think this is ok? Coal is coming to the end of its viability as an energy source. Scientists have been warning us about this for years. Instead of being sensible and funding the development of alternative, and greener, forms of energy, this government has sung the mantra: Coal is good; wind farms are bad. One of the big power stations (coal powered) in my state is closing down because it’s no longer viable. The people in that area have been begging the government to fund a solar farm in the area. There are even foreign investors who would love to back the initiative, if only our government would let them. Instead, hundreds will be out of work and many small rural communities may become ghost towns and just a week ago our Prime Minister was singing the same old song: Wind farms are ugly, noisy things but open-cut coal mines are a thing of beauty. I may be just a cynical old bag but I find myself wondering: Besides handing him bucket loads of money, does the mining industry have some secret knowledge that they’re using to blackmail him? If it’s that he’s paying people smugglers to smuggle people to somewhere other than here, that one’s out of the bag now. No wonder I love to lose myself in the world of fiction. At least there the bad guys get their comeuppance. The wicked eventually, finally, get their just desserts. Good triumphs over evil. The little people are looked after and love wins the day. Has it come to this, that the only place we can find true justice and decency is in ‘fiction’? Writers: we need more books that show the world how things should be. The world needs our stories to remember what its true destiny is. It may well be that our art is one of the few things keeping the barbarians from plunging us all into darkness again.  ...

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A little bit of selfishness

I woke up this morning with this thought ringing in my head: I want to take the family to Disneyland. It’s not the first time I’ve thought it. The Old Boy and I had the fun of going there in the 70s and we always said that when we had kids we’d take them there, too. Then we had the kids and lost one of our wages and life happened and I got sick a few times and we bought a house and then we sold that house and the Old Boy went to theological college and… Well, you get the idea: we never had the cash, so it never happened. I used to pin my hopes on Readers’ Digest. They were always promising me big bucks if I just sent their pieces of paper back with the right stickers stuck in the right boxes. Promises…promises… Now my kids are grown up and, counting the grandchildren, there are 8 of us. It’s looking less and less likely. (Come on, Readers’ Digest, I’ve been faithful for years!) We can’t have everything we want, right? I only have to watch the news or see the posts on FBook to know that people are suffering all around the world. Children don’t have enough to eat, or they’re sold into slavery, or they’re being sexually abused. IS is slaughtering people and sexually abusing women and children, under the impression this sort of evil is actually pleasing God. (They’re in for a big shock.) My own government is sending asylum seekers to concentration camps – they call them ‘detention centres’ – where they are abused and live in fear and despair. How, in the light of all this suffering, could I be so selfish as to want to take my family to Disneyland? Up until this morning I’d pretty much given the idea away. But, this morning I woke up out of a dream where I was a contestant on “Deal or No Deal”. I told the host, Andrew, that I had metastatic breast cancer, which is incurable. I told him I wanted to take all 8 of us to Disneyland. Counting the airfares, the hotel accommodation, the tickets into Disneyland and meals etc I’d need to win at least $40,000. I woke up and instead of thinking, What a ridiculous dream! I thought, I really want to go to Disneyland with my family; a week away would be enough; I can hire a wheel chair once I’m there; let’s do it. Other people get to do a bucket list. Other people get help from Make a Wish Foundation. Other people get surprised by television programs. Why not me? Come on Readers’ Digest!!!  ...

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