I jump into worlds that I know little or nothing about and write about them like I've lived in them all my life.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bohemian Rhapsody (a little bit of what you fancy does you good...)

Hello there!

I know you've missed me on the blogs (((laughs uproariously))) so I thought I'd let you know what a great Easter Holiday I'm having. No school for two weeks, so I'm up at the beach catching up with teacher friends, visiting family and beginning remodelling works on the beach house with the idea of moving back up from the city next year.

So, the bohemian life--in between cyclone watching a la Cyclone Ita, coffee and wine, and cooking and eating some amazing meals like Pork in Cider (thanks Manu Feildel, French chef turned Australian celebrity chef after living here for 20 years and hosting a fabulous cooking show My Kitchen Rules) I've been wielding a paint brush and checking out interior design shops. Peregian (Aboriginal word for emu) Beach is well equipped. For a small village of about 3,000 people it's got everything--great beaches, great surf, great shops, great people...

And as much as I've wanted to blog, there just never seemed to be the time. But most of you have been frantic with the A - Z, so I feel a little guilty for choosing to live real life over the virtual life for a couple of weeks, but just a little. I do a runaround every so often, and the posts I've visited are high quality.

I haven't managed to get much writing done, but I always find time to read late at night. Picked up Sebastian Faulks' Faulks on Fiction (the Village also has a fabulous book shop!) which is wonderful. Love his chapter on Mr Darcy especially. Faulks says reading such books as Pride and Prejudice 'made me think literature was the most important thing on earth.' 

Faulks expresses how readers relate to books:
'I felt myself unaccountably eager that Elizabeth Bennet should be united with Mr Darcy; Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye) seemed to express almost everything I had incoherently felt; and when at the end of David Copperfield, the hero turned rhetorically to the woman he loved, 'O Agnes, O my soul!', I found I was making strange snorting noises. These were caused by the fact that I was sobbing but trying to keep my eyes open so that I could read the sentences.' 
Oh yeah Sebastian Faulks! I know where you're coming from!

So as well as reading Simone de Beauvoir's The Mandarins (post-war intellectuals in Paris) I've been flipping between e-books. Reading several at the same time--Roland Yeoman's Death in the House of Life, Whiskey Sour Noir by Mickey J Corrigan, and the latest, The Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey. I will be interviewing Ella on this blog in early May, so impressed am I by what I think is her first novel.

So lovely people, keep enjoying your life of frenzy. I'm going to enjoy this last week of holidays before jumping back on the treadmill of teaching and writing that is my life. 

So I wish you could join me for an iced coffee at Baked Poet's cafe which makes the best coffee I've ever tasted and I've tasted A LOT OF COFFEE!! 

I'll be back with a funny little story next week for the Write...Edit...Publish April challenge. Decided to go ahead even though it was A - Z month. You're welcome to join us if you have a story, poem, photograph/s or whatever that would suit the April Fool prompt. More details on the WEP blog. You can sign up right here in my sidebar.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

IWSG post. I finished my first novel, now comes...Writing the dreaded synopsis ..with links.

Hello writer friends!

Even though it's A - Z month, IWSG is going ahead. This gives me the opportunity to tell you...

...I finally finished my first novel! It rocked in at nearly 60,000 words. I have four other novels in the works, but I decided to finish my 2013 NaNo project - Fijian Princess, a romance set naturally enough, in Fiji (where I spent six wonderful weeks house-sitting for Nas Dean). I've always been a stickler for writing about what you know, or finding out what you don't.

Being a snarky editor myself, I didn't want to send my novel off into the world with mistakes in structure, formatting, and egad, even a typo or two, so I went the Manuscript Assessor route. For those who haven't heard of this option, this is an editing type of person who goes over your manuscript with a pair of fine tweezers, plucking out those unnecessary bits, finding those bits you have in the wrong place, then writing an 8 - 10 page explanation of the tweezing, with suggestions on how to wax lyrical.

The Assessor I chose, Louise Cusack is a much-published Australian (local) author whose writing workshops I have attended, and who knows her way around Harlequin et al. Louise doesn't just want your manuscript, she wants the Synopsis of your novel and the Query too. She will advise on both of those pesky little items.

I've struggled with the 'Dreaded Synopsis' for years, which may account for my lack of submissions. But if I wanted Louise's professional eye over my synopsis, I had just a week to get it done. Which I did. But then she asked me to cut it from nearly 2,000 words to 500. Egad! I thought all sense of the story would be obliterated with such severe culling, but there's still enough remaining to get the drift.

I found it useful to read others' synopses while struggling with my own, so am posting my final 500 worder. I hasten to add that I haven't had feedback from Louise on this. It may royally suck.

Fijian Princess
Bosco Brookes wants Adi Vakalevulevu. Adi Vakalevulevu wants Bosco Brookes, but he’s from another world. Will their differences prevent them from living their love story? Will the power of their shared passion overcome all obstacles?
Thirty-year-old Bosco Brookes, confirmed bachelor and millionaire architect, arrives on Fiji’s Italal Island for his sister Callis’ wedding. He has two passions in his life – being Callis’ ‘father’, and making millions. But when he meets Adi Vakalevulevu, the Fijian Princess, she becomes another passion. However, he can’t have Adi and his future resort. But Bosco always gets what he wants.
Adi Kaca Rani Vakalevulevu is twenty-three years old. Her life has been one of ‘duty’ – to her father the chieftain, then to her betrothed Ethan Naevo. Ethan makes her his partner in Italal Lagoon Resort to keep her close while he pressures her to marry him. Adi forgets all about Ethan when she finds the handsome Australian Bosco Brookes mesmerised by her. She would love a happily-ever-after with Bosco, but if he finds out her secret, Adi knows he will fly out of her life as quickly as he flew in.
Bosco is captivated by Adi; he is Adi’s fairytale hero, come to rescue her from her life of duty. Bosco’s original plan is to seduce Adi, but his deepening attraction surprises the playboy; he wants more than a casual fling.
Adi can’t believe her luck - attracting such a dashing tycoon. He’s out of her league, but it can’t hurt to indulge in a little fantasy, can it? Adi and Bosco’s flirting starts at the bar that first night and continues at the Kava party. Adi’s flirting stops cold with Bosco’s faux pas. She also learns he has a girlfriend, Australian supermodel Frieda Adolphson. Just Adi’s luck!
Next morning, Adi accepts Bosco’s fumbling apology. Bosco keeps quiet about his planned resort, keeps quiet about Frieda, but he can’t keep quiet about the potential disaster that looms over the resort thanks to Ethan Naevo.
On a day trip to dive at Uknan Island, Bosco and Adi’s mutual passion for each other is uncovered. Callis nearly drowns; Bosco hits rock bottom - he’s failed his baby sister.
Bosco’s life is changing; he can’t come to grips with the new direction his life is taking.
Bosco and Adi make love on a mountain top, make love on a stormy beach – metaphors for the highs and lows of their relationship.

The wedding and fist fight with Ethan behind him, Bosco’s quest leads him to the highlands in search of Adi who has disappeared. Here in her village, the crisis and resolution of the novel occur. He endures a hazing, then surprises Adi in her father’s bure. Adi confesses her lack of trust in assuming Bosco will reject her once he knows she’s the mother of Ethan’s child. Bosco, after his initial rage over her lack of trust, confesses his love.

All obstacles overcome, they make passionate love in Adi’s room. Bosco gifts Adi a sperm whale bone, the traditional Fijian symbol for trust. The engagement ring will follow. They both find their happily ever after.

 Forget the query. I ran out of time...

  • What do you think? Does it make you want to read the story? That is the whole point of a synopsis. The editor asks: Do I want to read more? Uh uh...nah...or...Send me the first three chapters, and quick!





Please visit other IWSG posts here...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Through the eyes of a child - my story for the March WEP challenge.

There are many children in the world whose lives are far from optimal. Some experience various types of abuse on a daily basis, some are trafficked for sex, some are used as beggars…and the horror goes on. In warzones, children are often stolen from their families and trained as child soldiers, trained to kill. Others remain with their families, but whole families seethe with hatred against the enemy...who don't always understand they're the enemy.

My story is creative fiction - partly true...partly fictional...

The Child

The Muslim call to prayer rang across the Baluchi Valley, punctuating the silence with staccato bursts.

The dogs began to bark. The child gentled them with a light tap on each head.

He slid behind a rock on the mountain side. The desert spread below him, a dark blanket. He strained to watch the procession snake along the path.

Hate seethed through every pore of his grimy body. Filthy infidels! His fingers closed around a rock.

The patrol moved close by; he could see each soldier struggle through the cool sand. They were like cockroaches as they wriggled along. How stupid they were in their great big boots. He looked at his bare feet and smirked.

Then his smirk turned to alarm. There was a woman amongst the men. Infidel, he spat.

Elvira fought the exhaustion ripping her body apart. The lead soldiers were obviously fitter than she, a newly-arrived recruit. Her knees screamed, her thighs burned, her lungs were on fire.

This place was hell.

She was in another universe, a universe where nothing was as it appeared.

Who was friend?

Who was foe?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Mother's Offering to Her Children - What legacy do you wish to leave for your children?

Hi all!

I'm currently in Townsville, North Queensland for a week, celebrating with my daughter who has just received her degree in Social Work, Honours, from James Cook University. Her ceremony is tonight.

Thinking about the relationship between mother and child, my reminiscences brought me to Australia's first children's writer and her book, A Mother's Offering to Her Children. It was published 170 years ago by a woman known as 'A Lady Long Resident in New South Wales.' For almost a century her identity was Australia's most puzzling literary mystery.

By researching the 'Lady' in the 1960s, Marcie Muir, an award-winning Australian author of 25 books, uncovered one of the great lost stories of Australian history..

Eventually Muir's research found the 'Lady's' name - Charlotte Waring, a child prodigy who could read at age two. Her father was a man of fortune whose ancestors had come to England with William the Conqueror. Charles Darwin was her fifth cousin. All the father's money went to her brother, so Charlotte found a governess position and travelled to Sydney. Charlotte married a wealthy man, James Atkinson soon after arriving in Sydney. After her husband died, leaving the estate to his son, Charlotte remarried George Barton, a violent drunk. She eventually fled with her children. She had to find some way to house, feed, clothe and educate her children who were literally starving. So she wrote a book, an instant bestseller.

She released her novel in 1841 in time for Christmas. It appealed to adults as well as children, filled as it was with descriptions of storms, shipwrecks, strange animals, fossils and cannibals. Her income from it provided for her family for many years.

The book was structured as a dialogue between a mother and her four young children, complete with moral instructions and outmoded Victorian sensibilities. Charlotte wrote about what she knew - Australian history, native trees, birds and animals, the life of a settler, the first to feature the life and culture of the Australian Aborigines. She based her stories on those she had told her own children, who had lost everything - their father, their wealth, their home. Through these stories, she created an enchanted circle where her children knew they were loved.

The first edition of A Mother's Offering to Her Children is now valued at $60,000.

The final paragraph:

'We know not the day, nor the hour, when time may cease for us; and we be summoned into eternity. Let us, dear children, endeavour to profit from the frequent warnings we have of the uncertainty of life...(Let us) so pass through this life that we gain a knowledge of the things which belong to our peace; and become at last heirs of immortality!'

Charlotte was the mother of the first Australian-born novelist, Louisa Atkinson.

As a mother, I'd like to leave a literary legacy to my children, but I doubt I'm a Charlotte Waring. So, Candice Covey, your family (especially your mother) is very proud of you for never choosing the easy road.

  • This month's WEP challenge is: Through the eyes of a child, where entries are to be just that - told from a child's POV, whether flash fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Photographs and Artworks can also be posted that represent a POV of a child.
  • Your'e invited to join us on March 26, with your interpretation of the prompt. You can sign up in my right hand sidebar, or visit Write...Edit...Publish. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

POINT OF VIEW IN A NOVEL - To Kill a Mockingbird and Scout.

Hello everyone!

Before writing any story, whether flash fiction, a short story, a novella, a novel, the writer must decide on the point of view to adopt to tell the story. The choices are wide:

  • an 'all-seeing God', writing in the third person about something going on 'down there'. The advantage of this POV is the writer can talk about anything he/she wants to, but the disadvantage is that the story could be a tad impersonal.
  • 'second person'. Not many writers choose this POV, but it can be interesting to find the occasional 'you' or 'dear reader' interspersed amongst the 'first person' or 'third person' narration. But when an author chooses to address the reader directly, pay attention, it must be for a good reason.
  • 'first person', the favourite of YA and MG authors, where the writer 'becomes' an actual character in the story. This might liven up the story, make it more immediate, but again the writer has to stick to the rules and limit himself/herself in time and space as the character would be limited.
I do enjoy the old classic 'God-like' stories. Many remain favourites, but today the all-seeing narrator is not that common. Not everyone likes first person, so for them there are variations of the 'third person' style, a more limited viewpoint. I have no problem with first person, whether multiple viewpoints or a single viewpoint. One classic novelist made it her inspired choice, an unusual choice for her time - Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird. 

At first the reader struggles with the language - boy, is this little girl educated or what? How mature she sounds for such a young girl. The reader should keep in mind that there are two Scouts in TKAM: the little girl experiencing the story and the adult Jean Louise who tells the story. 

In TKAM, we are given the impression of incidents as they are experienced by six-to-nine year old Scout. Her name, too, is inspired - Scout is both a questioner and observer of people and events in Maycomb County in the American South. She asks tough questions because she is a child. She doesn't understand the full implications of the things happening around her, making her an objective observer and a reporter in the truest sense. 

This is a very nasty story, and Harper Lee could have treated it in a different way. It is a book about violence, hatred, bigotry and rape...just for starters. How do you think a Harold Robbins or a James Patterson would have told it? Lee's choice to tell the story through the eyes of a child was obviously deliberate; it softens the nastiness somewhat. Scout's innocence can be contrasted with the prejudice and hypocrisy, the dominant attitudes of the older townsfolk.

The first person POV gives the reader an insight into the story which Scout herself does not have. For example, Scout is not aware of the meaning of the objects in the knot hole, but the reader is; Scout is not fully aware of the danger outside the jail when Atticus is confronted by Mr Cunningham and his mob, but the reader is...etc... 

The POV presents moments of humour for the same reason. When Miss Maudie is talking about Stephanie Crawford's storytelling:
"Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of the night and found Boo [Radley] looking in the window at her. I said what did you do, Stephanie, move over in the bed and make room for him? That shut her up a while.
I was sure it did. Miss Maudie's voice was enough to shut anybody up." (p.51)

Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama. It is likely she based Maycomb on her hometown, and her own childhood experiences. The racial concerns she addresses began long before her story starts and continue long after her story finishes. Her story was informed not only by the laws and attitudes that were part of her youth and her culture, but also by the Civil Rights movement which continues to struggle today at various levels. This is what makes TKAM timeless. Harper Lee is Scout. And she told her story in the style of Scout's memoir. It begins lazily then grips the reader by the throat and never lets go. I'm proud to own one of the first copies ever published. Second-hand bookstores are full of treasures!


Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God's in his heaven
and all's well with the world is wrong.
The young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can't be counted,
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognise,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

(It could be an Atticus Finch monologue.)

Some other of my very favourite novels told through the eyes of a child:
  1. The Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank
  2. The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
  3. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  5. Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney (using themes from TKAM)
  6. Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  7. The Night Rainbow, by Claire King - (5-year-old narrator)
  8. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
My brain is working overtime now and I can think of plenty more, but will restrain myself and let you follow this link if you want to know a few more. There are also many novels in the third person omniscient POV, telling stories of children, such as The Lord of the Flies etc. There are heaps of others - can you add to the list?

  • So...why am I on about POV and TKAM today? Well, I'm a guide by the side of my Year 10 students every year as they study it for its timeless themes. 
  • This month's WEP challenge is: Through the eyes of a child, where entries are to be just that - told from a child's POV, whether flash fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Photographs and Artworks can also be posted that represent a POV of a child.
  • Your'e invited to join us on March 26, with your interpretation of the prompt. You can sign up in my right hand sidebar, or visit Write...Edit...Publish.
  • How many books do you know that are told through the eyes of a child?