ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Monday, 16 January 2017

Barack Obama, the writer, the son...Dreams from My Father...Obama gives insight into writing his memoir.

Hello there!

Writers come from all walks of life. It's not odd that many famous people choose to write/ghostwrite a memoir after they retire, but it's unusual for a very famous person to write one before he becomes famous.

Image resultI'm talking about Barack Obama, out-going US President. Dreams from My Father, first published in 1995, then re-published in 2004, makes riveting reading in my opinion. According to the blurb, "...it is a 'lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir [about] the son of a black African father and a white American mother [who] searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American."


If you haven't read it, you can probably guess what lies between the pages. Sure it's provocative, as Obama describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither, but I'm posting about the writer, Barack Obama, here today.

I'm a sucker for Prefaces/Acknowledgements and so on, and I found the Preface to the memoir intriguing when Obama talks about writing this memoir.

"Like most first-time authors, I was filled with hope and despair upon the book's publication--hope that the book might succeed beyond my youthful dreams, despair that I had failed to say anything worth saying. The reality fell somewhere in between. The reviews were mildly favourable. People actually showed up at the readings my publisher arranged. The sales were underwhelming. And, after a few months, I went on with the business of my life, certain that my career as an author would be short-lived, but glad to have survived the process with my dignity more or less intact."

There was a spate of publicity following Obama's election to the Democratic US senate seat for Illinois. His publisher was prompted to re-publish the book. Obama said:

"For the first time in many years, I've pulled out a copy and read a few chapters to see how much my voice may have changed over time. I confess to wincing every so often at a poorly chosen word, a mangled sentence, an expression of emotion that seems indulgent or overly practiced. I have the urge to cut the book by fifty pages or so, possessed as I am with a keener appreciation for brevity. I cannot honestly say, however, that the voice in this book is not mine--that I would tell the story much differently today than I did ten years ago, even if certain passages have proven to be inconvenient politically, the grist for pundit commentary and opposition research."
"And then, on September 11, 2001, the world fractured. 
It's beyond my skill as a writer to capture that day, and the days that would follow--the planes, like specters, vanishing into steel and glass, the slow-motion cascade of the towers crumbling into themselves, the ash-covered figures wandering the streets; the anguish and the fear. Nor do I begin to understand the stark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction."

I think he captured the day and the aftermath exceedingly well.

Then there's the bond he shares with his mother:

"She traveled the world, working in the distant villages of Asia and Africa, helping women buy a sewing machine or a milk cow or an education that might give them a foothold in the world's economy...We saw each other frequently, our bond unbroken. During the writing of this book, she would read the drafts, correcting stories that I had misunderstood, careful not to comment on my characterization of her but quick to explain or defend the less flattering aspects of my father's character.
...she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and that what is best in me I owe to her."
I think Barack Obama shares many of our insecurities about writing. I felt inspired to know someone of his ilk struggled with his subject matter and syntax. How many times have you asked yourself as a writer, 'Why does the world need a book by me?'

Farewell, President Barack Obama, much loved here in Australia, and I suspect, in many countries around the world.




 Thanks for reading.




Sunday, 1 January 2017

All the best of 2016--What does your list look like? And and #IWSG late note...

Hi there!

Sheesh! I've been checking out a few blogs and see I've missed the IWSG, probably for the first time ever! Sorry if you came by to check out my post, but hey, I've been too involved in real life and forgot digital life there!  Anyway, while I'm here, I'll just say that I'm not feeling insecure this month. I'm feeling very grounded in my writing and am back to writing hours every day. How about you?

The awesome co-hosts for the January 4 posting of the IWSG will be Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!

If you want to hang around, I have some pretty pictures for you as I relate my Best of 2016...

But before you do, I should answer this IWSG question:

What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?


Well, there's a lot of writing rules I wish I'd never heard. Most seem to be just to trip up newbies, as I see best-selling authors breaking these so-called rules every time. One that I find particularly galling is the 'never use as except as a comparison.'


As in (((snark))) (((snark)))

'I fell over as he threw the ball at me.'

Should be...'He threw the ball at me. I fell over.' Yes, sometimes the 'as' makes the sentence out of order, but there's times you just have to use 'as', in my humble opinion.

I read every book from those 4 guys who sell the most popular fiction in the world...Lee Child, Michael Connolly, Dean Koontz, James Patterson...they must laugh themselves silly at this rule, not that they would care. I counted about 20 supposedly bad uses of 'as's' in one page of a recent Lee Child Jack Reacher book. It bothered me that he can do it and still sell gazillions of books. Goes to show readers want a story, not a rigid conformity to rules. Don't get me started...oh, you did. Now I'd better stop or I'll offend the rules police even more.

Happy Writerly New Year!! And blast those rules!! Tell that story!! 

2016. 

The year that was. 

Tough. 

The great humanitarian crises in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, the rise of nationalism in Germany, the terror threats/incidents in France, Germany, Iraq and Turkey and so on, multiple terror threats thwarted in Australia over Christmas, Brexit in Britain, Trump in the US, a killer president in the Philippines...oh, wow, get those fireworks happening! 

I'm not into New Year's Resolutions. Why shoot myself in the foot? But I rather enjoy thinking about what's been good in the past year while at the same time wondering what the New Year will bring. If you'd like to write your own list of My Best in the comments, that'd be awesome!

BEST...

MOBILE APP: Tinybeans (a baby-picture sharing app for those who don't want their baby's pictures all over the internet). My daughter is a social worker and sees too many wacky things. She chooses not to share photos of her baby, my one and only shiny grandchild. It's tough for me as he is the most gorgeous little fellow, but I totally understand.

INTERVIEWER: CNN's Christian Amanpour. Love the way she takes on the biggies and crooks of the world and at times squeezes a little truth out of them.

DOCUMENTARY: Utopia, produced by John Pilger. A very, very disturbing trip through central Australian aboriginal communities, showing the long history of mainly white abuse and how the situation is even worse than it was in the '60s despite millions of $$$ being spent. Unbelievable.

BOOK I READ: THRILLER - I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes. I hated being so fascinated by the evil, but it felt a reality in our world.

MOVIE: The Light Between Oceans, based on an early Australian true story of a young couple living in a lighthouse on a remote Western Australian island who find and keep a baby who washes up on the shore. Tragic.

BINGE WATCHING:

NETFLIX TV SHOW: The Killing

TV SHOWS: The Good Wife/Madam Secretary


OVERSEAS TRAVEL: China, although it took me 2 weeks to get the pollution out of my system.

WITHIN AUSTRALIA TRAVEL: Sydney/Hunter Valley Wine Region

THINGS ABOUT MOVING BACK TO THE BEACH: Watching whales frolicking from my deck, growing my own tomatoes and herbs. Begone, plastic tomatoes.

BLOGGER MOMENT: Meeting Lynda Young in person on a terribly humid day after her move to Brisbane and sharing a French meal together.

POLITICAL MOMENTS:
-- Bernie Sander's run for President, albeit brief.
-- Michelle Obama's speeches and positive actions for African girls.
(Okay, not Australian political moments. Our politics are deadly boring which is not necessarily a bad thing after seeing the global trend)

DRINK:
-- Baked Poetry Cafe, Peregian Beach, iced coffee.
-- Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory's Mexican Hot Chocolate.
-- Pink Champagne from Peterson's Champagne House, Hunter Valley

CHRISTMAS SNACK: Chocolate and hazlenut truffles from the Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory

ANTICIPATIONS FOR 2017:
-- Finishing my Paris novel and getting it published.
-- Writing most days
-- Meeting with my 2 fabulous critique partners every month and exchanging chapters every few weeks

-- The opening of a French restaurant in Peregian Beach. (No big deal if you live in a big town, but Peregian is a little village of 3,500 people who enjoy the best of everything!!)
-- Finishing watching Netflix's House of Cards.
-- Travelling to the UK in April/May to visit my daughter who's there for a year, then taking her on a guided tour of Paris. Tres magnifique!


Happy New Year!! May all your dreams eventuate in 2017!!

  • The WEP winners are announced at Write...Edit...Publish. Please check them out if you have a moment.
  • And I'd love to read your list of Best of 2016. Please play along. 


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#WEPff entry--flash fiction for Utopian Dreams--Venice's Black Cape

Greetings of the season to you! Those of you who haven't shut down for the holiday season, thank you for coming by. Write...Edit...Publish (WEP) is happening this month when we post our responses to the prompt, Utopian Dreams.
I hope you will enjoy reading my response, a flash fiction set in Venice at the time of Carnevale. 

Image result for venetian carnival masks images

Venice’s Black Cape

 ‘Francoise, I’m going to Carnevale. Every year I dream of the parties, the dancing, the beauty of Venice, but you refuse to accompany me. This year I’m going. Alone.'

Ma chérie? Your home is here in Place Vendome. Is Paris not enough for you?’

‘Paris is a dream which I’ve achieved. Venice is a dream I’ve yet to attain. My Utopia. I’ve read so much about Carnevale. I must experience it for myself.’

Ma chérie, I beg you, stay.’

‘Pouf! I’m going.’

‘But Anouk, I must warn you. I went one time before I met you. The men…’ He took out a handkerchief and rubbed a spot from his Ferragamo loafers.

Anouk refused to let this man in his three-piece charcoal bespoke suit, his crisp white Dior shirt, and his Louis Vuitton tie, prevent her from reaching for her dreams. 


     Darkness floated over Venice like a black cape, its edges reflecting the glint of the moon. Anouk watched from her hotel balcony as gondolas floated as in a fantasy world, dipping above the water like slick black swans. The gondolier’s serenade drifted across the water, calling her. The vaporetti hummed as they navigated the icy waters of the Grand Canal, disembodied voices of the passengers bouncing atop the waves. The baroque palaces along the canal dazzled, grand residences of past glory, now inhabited by revelers. Anouk shivered. She was part of this night. Her dream was about to unfold. 

Image result for image gondolier on grand canal

     She dressed in her purple and silver satin gown. The fabric rustled deliciously as she flounced her skirts. Glancing into the Murano glass ornate mirror next to the door, she admired the way her long blonde hair curled past her shoulders, entwined with silver ribbons. Then, the pièce de résistance, the mask, decorated with ermine, gems and feathers to which she added a deep purple floppy hat trimmed in lace. Slipping her feet into black satin slippers, she spritzed herself with her favourite Borsalino perfume.  Opening her black lacquer fan, she swished it over her face, a face hot with excitement.

She was decadence itself. 

Anouk drifted outside into a frosty, starry world. She was ready to lose herself in Carnevale, where the power of the mask lured party goers into lurid rites of celebration. Tonight, no rules applied. 

Masked and costumed figures ran through the cobbled streets, tugging her into their band. They hurried alongside the Grand Canal, past candle-lit icing-cake palazzos dusted with snow before stepping over an arched bridge, heading deeper into mysterious caverns and back alleyways of the city. 

The happy band entered a baroque apartment, so opulent Anouk gasped. Lifelike black statues stood in homage around the pillars that edged the magnificent vestibule. The cold of the floating city melted away in the heated rooms as she danced with a succession of gloriously-dressed masked men who pressed her close to their bodies and plied her with wine from silver goblets. She was passed from caped stranger to caped stranger with a flourish and a kiss.

Back on the street, she slipped and slithered at the back of the long line, ignoring her damp dress that threatened to trip her up.

The line stopped to watch fireworks exploding above the Grand Canal. With each burst, light traced patterns across the inky sky. Then out of the foggy darkness came a man, a man who clasped her hand and drew it to his chest. While she stood uncertainly, the crowd ran off, leaving her alone with the masked stranger. He began to run, tugging her along in his wake.

Through passages and beneath arches they ran until they came upon a magnificent doorway which appeared burnished in gold. He brushed snow off their cloaks and shoes before he led her up a flight of stairs to a luxurious apartment. He hurried her through a warm sitting room where a log fire blazed. She longed to sit close to the fire and thaw her numb hands and feet. Instead, she was tugged into a huge bedroom dazzled by moonlight, its rich furnishings the colour of the Burgundy she’d been drinking all night. 

The stranger unfastened her buttons and her dress rustled to the floor. She would offer herself to the allure of Carnevale and her mysterious seducer. This was her dream. Her fantasy.

They fell naked onto the bed, bodies now warmed, hungry, fired with the lust that decadence brings. They surrendered themselves to the madness of the night. The mouth that plundered hers, tasted like the wine that had flowed all night, enhanced by sea and smoke.

Then he tensed. 

Footsteps.

Slipping and sliding on the stairs. 

The occasional curse word, ‘Merda. Merda.’

‘My Contessa comes,’ he said. ‘Go. Presto! Presto!

He gathered her clothes from the carpet, thrust them into her arms and pushed her onto the balcony. Shivering with cold and shock, she huddled, uncertain. The lapping of the water against the pylons were slaps to her freezing face. The fog’s tendrils reached up and whirled around her misery. Fool! Fool! Is this the dream you imagined?

The Contessa’s Borsalino fragrance hung, trapped, in the freezing air. My perfume. Is that why he chose me?

‘Ah, Contessa, come, I’ve been waiting. I’m desolated we lost each other in the frenzy of the chase.’

‘I, too, my count.’

Is this a game they play on this one night of the year when there were no rules?

Tears running down her frozen cheeks, Anouk struggled down the dark stairs, gripping the ornate balustrade. She hid in the darkest corner of the carpeted foyer and dressed herself with agonising slowness. Her frozen hands fumbled with the intricate clasps and zips. What a joy it'd been to fasten them earlier tonight. Now, her joy had become terror and abandonment.

Wrenching the heavy carved door open, her ruined slippers stepped into the bewildering night.

Stepped into a nightmare. 

She was lost in Venice's black cape.



WORDS: 984
FCA
If you'd like to read more entries for the WEP challenge, click on the names on the list at the top of my sidebar with DL (Direct Link) next to their name or go to the WEP website.

Thanks for coming by.
Merry Christmas!
Happy New Year!

Denise 


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#IWSG--Where I see myself and my writing in five years' time, God willing.

Hello visitors!

I didn't think I'd get to post for the IWSG this month, but, cliche alert, where there's a will, there's a way. So I'm flying down to Sydney and the Hunter Valley tomorrow (Monday) and in between throwing a few clothes and toiletries in my bag, I'm penning my post. Usually I come up with my own ideas, but in the interests of time, I'm going with the official question--
In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

So, people, let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Let's post away and tweet on @TheIWSG and hashtag #IWSG

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the December 7 posting of the IWSG are Jennifer Hawes,Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield!

So, that half-full luggage bag is waiting while I  ponder the question.

Five years? 

That's a long  projection. Who knows if I'll even be alive by then? Hopefully I will dodge the Grim Reaper and I'll reach my publishing goals. I've turned a corner from 'dabbling' in writing, to being deadly serious. I've hardly ever submitted anything except to the lucrative magazine market, so I don't know much about rejection except from all the agonising posts I read. (I'll probably become quite well acquainted in the next five years!) I did have one from Harlequin awhile ago which hurt. They praised my pretty writing, but from what I've learned since then, publishers would rather a badly-written piece with a great storyline, lots of conflict, stressed-out characters, over pretty writing any day. Okay, I hear you squeal--no, no, you're wrong, but really, they do. I know enough editors (who actually edit) who say they can fix bad grammar, punctuation and clunky phraseology, but they're not into fixing a story which lacks conflict and page-turning-quality, exactly my weakness.

Now, my turn-around point was when I was pointed ('scuse the wordplay) to two critique partners who shared a Margie Lawson writing retreat with me. All three of us are 'romantic' writers, not so much 'romance' writers, (although one does lean in that direction) in that we have romantic elements, rather than the whole story revolving around the hero and heroine. Well, think Gone With the Wind (romantic elements with a lot happening other than the romance) compared to a Danielle Steele or a Barbara Cartland novel. Not that I'm dissing romance writers, just saying we're not that writer, at least on our current novels.

So, my two critique partners are relentless in helping me with my conflict, my plot...so many suggestions for making my story better. In five years' time, I hope I have several novels accepted by a publisher, who'll like my conflicts, my character motivations and my story AND my pretty writing.
My crit partners Tania and Sheila (a crazy American!) are such fun, even though they're relentless in pursuit of plot and structure.
Currently, I'm working on Carpe Diem, Art and Love in Paris. It will be my first published novel, I know it. I already have most of the second novel written. It's on a Paris cookery school. Yum.

So, aren't I an optimistic little writer? Why not? Otherwise, why bother? And my plan to get there--write every minute I can and listen to my critters and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. (Margaret Mitchell rewrote her Chapter One of GWTW 60+ times, so the story goes...I'm sure I can outdo her~on that point, at least).

Now, instead of opening up my WIP, wondering which chapter I'll fiddle with each day, I'm powering on, rewriting and editing Carpe Diem. It's delicious.

Click HERE for more IWSG posts. 

GOOD NEWS!  I met one of the IWSG admin team in person two days' ago. The venerable Lynda Young has moved to Brisbane (as if you didn't know) and we finally managed a meet up at one of my fave Brisbane eateries, French Martini. What a lovely lunch. Here we are finishing our wine and about to sink our teeth into creme brulee. Afterwards, I gave Lynda a walking tour of more of my fave eateries on the South Bank and showed her my hallowed teaching room at the State Library. Finishing off with a boutique-brewed apple cider at The Charming Squire, it was a perfect day, if exceedingly hot. WELCOME to Brisbane, Lynda. 




.Thanks for coming by? I'll be interested to hear where you see yourself and your writing career in five years' time
  • Meanwhile, I'm enjoying seeing the sights of Sydney and sampling the wines and great food in the Hunter Valley. I hope you're having fun, too. I'll come by and comment when I'm sober, LOL!

And in case you missed it, Write...Edit...Publish is rocking and rolling again. Final challenge for the year--Utopian Dreams. Please, if you have a moment or two, please join us. Not a bad sign up so far considering the time of year. Some new writers have joined us. I hope you'll come along and have some fun!

Thanks to Olga Godim for creating the WEP badges. 



Friday, 25 November 2016

The Seven Basic Plots of storytelling...number one...Overcoming the Monster...comparing Jaws and Beowulf.

Hello there!

Image result for happy thanksgiving imagesHappy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate this feast!

But I'm not talking turkey today, I'm sharing stories with you.

I've always been fascinated by the idea that out of all the stories in the world, there are only seven basic plots, or so they say. I recently found an excellent book by Christopher Booker called exactly that.

He maintains these seven basic plots are:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage & Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

Okay I've seen these called by other names, and the Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell combines some, but Booker used interesting comparisons when he compared Steven Spielberg's Jaws with the ancient Beowulf tale...both examples of the Overcoming the Monster plot.

Here is a quick overview of the Jaws' plot (cue the Jaws theme...):

Image result for image jaws

The peace of a little Long Island seaside resort is shattered by the arrival of a monstrous shark of almost supernatural power. For weeks, citizens are frightened and confused by the shark's savage attacks on one victim after another. When it gets too much to bear, the hero, local police chief Brody, sets out with two companions to do battle with the monster. In the climactic fight there is much severing of limbs and threshing about underwater before the shark is slain. The community comes together in jubilation. The threat has been lifted. Life in Amity can begin again.
So, twentieth-century movie goers were gripped by this horror story as it unfolded on the screen. But how many noticed that the story had a lot in common with a smelly bunch of unkempt animal-skinned Saxon warriors gathered around the fire in a wattle-and-daub hall 1200 years earlier, listening to a minstrel chanting an epic poem.


Image result for image beowulf

This ancient poem has survived fire and humans and has been dissected by baffled students the world over. (I had to work my way through much bafflement as I taught this poem to my students.)


Image result for image beowulf
The first part of Beowulf tells of how the peace of a little seaside community of Heorot is shattered by the arrival of Grendel, a monster of almost supernatural power who lives in the depths of a nearby lake. The inhabitants of Heorot are frightened and confused as night after night, Grendel makes his mysterious attacks on the hall where they sleep, seizing one victim after another and tearing them to pieces. Finally, when the threat seems too much to bear, Beowulf sets out to do battle, first with Grendel, then with his even more terrifying monster mother. There is a tremendous climactic fight, with much severing of limbs and threshing about underwater, until both monsters are slain.
Spot the similarities? Pretty obvious.

In terms of bare outline of plot, they tell the same story. Did the author of the modern book, Peter Benchley, steal the Beowulf plot? Hardly. Yet the fact remains that the two stories share a remarkably similar pattern, as do many others down the centuries. Beowulf's plot is basic and we still follow the structure today. It's a prime example of Overcoming the Monster, as is Jaws as so many others.

"Legends of the slaughter of a destructive monster are to be found all over the world. The thought underlying them all is that the monster slain is preternatural and hostile to mankind."                                            
                                                                 E.S. Hartland, The Legend of Perseus (1896) 

  • Thanks for coming by! I appreciate the time.
  • Where does your genre fit into the seven basic plots?
  • And the winner of the WEP October Halloween/Constellations challenge was Pat Hatt. Today he's over at WEP  dishing out some writing advice. I'm sure you could learn something if you pop on over!
  • And on December 1st, WEP announces the December challenge--