“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
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
The story is full of tragedy, secrets and discovery. There are three story lines happening, ranging from the present to early 20th century Victorian times, and all are tied together to create a suspenseful story of a family over several generations. The transitions between these periods create great tension, for example, the heat and frangipanis of the Brisbane setting is such a strong, marked, contrast to chilly Victorian England.
Morton uses wonderful descriptions, especially of the places she grew up in. As one who has experienced many a sub-tropical summer in Brisbane, her imagery captures the heat:
The characters are vivid, wounded and flawed in interesting ways that feel more Gothic than depressing – the story could be described as a combination of Daphne du Maurier and The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett puts in an appearance in the story.) The places are often as vivid as the characters, whether it’s the garden and cottage in Victorian England, Nell’s home in Australia in the now very trendy Brisbane suburb of Paddington, or a flat in London.
This is the second book of Morton's. If you can, chase down her other novel, international bestseller The Shifting Fog, every bit as breathtaking as The Forgotten Garden. I may review it next.
Friday, 24 September 2010
As John Gardner says in his book, Creating Fiction, characters are the first reason readers read a book, therefore they must be alive and three dimensional, in other words, compelling.
How do we make our characters compelling? Aristotle, writing 2,000 years ago, wrote that sound characterisation was founded on four principals:
- good (morally worthy and sympathetic)
- appropriate (representative of their sex, class or age)
- lifelike, and
I'm no Aristotle, but I have a list too:
- They must relate somehow to the real world, while at the same time be larger than life.
- They must be believable - they must be written as convincing and consistent.
- They must be fully fleshed, motivated, interesting.
- Characters must speak with the right voice, often the most difficult part.
- Let the characters face the expected, but also the unexpected to bring depth.
- Let the characters reveal themselves through believable exchanges with other characters.
- Minor characters have their place. They are not so important in a short story, but in a novel minor characters help move the plot along, bolster the main theme, add layers of suggestion. A good writer always uses minor characters well as they keep an eye out for their potential in the story. We've all heard cases where the minor characters take over the story, demanding a bigger role.
- Take maximum advantage of brief moments in your story to let your characters shine.
- Even if your character is a monster, they should/might/ have a soft spot, a crack in their armour.
- Finally, if your readers don't care about your characters, they won't bother reading on. Make your characters sparkle, make them capable of change.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Thanks to Angela at JadedLoveJunkie for hosting the blogfeast.
I have experimented with a genre I have never tried to write before. It is a bit different from my usual odes to food and drink and all things delish, but I enjoyed dipping my toes into this idea. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed playing with words.
The hazy moon hovered in the inky sky, asking the stars to dance.
The milky brightness shone upon the earth, lighting the way for two cloud-shadows who swiftly passed by the trees.
The cloud-shadows drifted through the forest in the perfect silence of the night, onto the bright green carpet of the upland grasses.
Vipunin and Cuchulain, strolling through the trees from the opposite direction, paused, alert. Camouflaged by foliage, they watched, their pale, stony faces rapt, eyes starry bright.
‘Something delicious this way comes,’ murmured Vipunin to his companion.
‘Hmm, delectable...oh, Vipunin, the journey has been tedious thus far. May we feast?’
‘No, Cuchulain, you are too impatient. Let’s watch awhile. Humans are endlessly fascinating. It takes me back...’
The two hungry vampires tugged their cloaks around their tall, slim bodies, blending into the cobalt night.
They watched, bodies twitching, eyes burning, thirst raging within their breasts.
Vipunin and Cuchulain looked at each other and nodded, knowing each other’s thoughts. Yes, the two humans were uncommonly beautiful as they stepped from the shadows into the Verdant Valley, a male and a female.
The male was strikingly handsome, so much so that Vipunin, who considered himself the most arresting representation of the male form on this earth and the next, was instantly awash with jealousy. He clamped his teeth, his jaw fixed in a scowl. This human could be his double, with his thick black curly hair falling to his shoulders and his features etched with pride and strength.
This male pretender will not live, Vipunin mused. He continued his incantation inside his head:
‘The male’s mine,’ Vipunin spat.
Cuchulain gazed at the humans, enraptured. Vipunin was welcome to the male. The female was enchanting. Her long tresses glinted in the starlight, a shimmering curtain of silk. Her face was as sweet as an angel’s, her lips luscious and red. Cuchulain tugged his cloak tighter, his hands spasming at such an extravagance of beauty laid before his feasting eyes.
The humans spread a blanket that looked as soft as fairies’ wings. The female fussed, smoothing the creases, then turned, soft and slow, to recline on the silken cloth. Cuchulain glimpsed a shapely elbow where the sleeve of her peacock-blue tunic slipped away. The male, outfitted superbly in peacock-green from his aristocratic shoulder to his leathered toe, produced an old-fashioned wicker basket. He placed it reverently in the centre of the blanket, then lay beside the female, taking hold of her glorious face and kissing her again and again.
Cuchulain scowled, a deep growl forming in his throat.
With a rapturous sigh, the female sat up, smoothed her skirts, excitement written on her cherub’s face. With her delicate white hands, she daintily lifted the lid of the basket and gazed inside its hidden depths.
Vipunin and Cuchulain heard the humans gurgle with pleasure. The male lifted a flagon of red wine aloft. Vipunin saw it was an ancient, dusty bottle, probably a vintage from the nearby vines. He gritted his teeth. He remembered how he used to drink such wine. He thought of his vines, not an hour’s journey from this very spot, where his life had revolved around the pleasures of the harvest, the wine-making and the celebrations that attended a bountiful bottling.
He remembered with a terrible remembering the night when his human heart ceased to beat and his existence as one of the living dead began...
As he watched the humans sip from silver goblets filled with the rich red nectar, he was smitten by a thirst more powerful than his thirst for human blood.
He ground his teeth in frustration, tempted to rush in and snatch the precious bottle from those frail human hands and taste every delicious drop. He felt Cuchulain's constraint.
‘Not now Vipunin. Not now. Soon, brother.’
Vipunin watched as the female reached into the basket and drew out a loaf. Ah, freshly baked bread. Vipunin could smell its yeasty freshness, but it held little appeal. The male drew his knife and began hacking chunks of the doughy stuff. The female reached inside the basket for a second time, this time withdrawing a chunk of cheese. The rancid smell drifted across the clearing, assailing the vampires’ twitching nostrils.
‘Always hated the stuff,’ Cuchulain sniffed, 'where's the appeal?'
‘You'd wonder at that,’ Vipunin allowed, ‘but it is a good choice to accompany that vintage they’re drinking. Ah,' he laughed softly, 'let them have their stinky cheese. They’re only human, after all. And this is their last feast, remember. Indulge them.’
Cuchulain snickered, his thoughts racing. When was their feast to be? Why was Vipunin standing and staring instead of sinking his teeth into that tasty, tender flesh? Did he wonder, like Cuchulain did, if this was some sort of trap?
There was something a little off about these humans.
Was that why the great immortal Vipunin bided his time?
The vampires watched as the hazy moon shone its milky brightness onto the bright green grasses..
...waiting for the perfect silence of the night.
Please leave me a comment, then click on Angela's link at the top to read some more foody stories.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
The Spare Room didn’t read like a work of fiction; it seemed a factual account of two friends tested beyond endurance. Some wags have said that Helen Garner has published her diaries and called it a novel. There's some truth in this as I’ve since learned that the writer Helen Garner had nursed a terminally ill friend. Maybe that is why The Spare Room is not at all sentimental; rather it’s cruelly down to earth, a tide that surges between tenderness and brutal truth as for three harrowing weeks the women battle with each other.
When her bohemian friend Nicola arrives, weak and ill, Helen is launched into nursing care. She puts her life on hold and at first pretends to share Nicola's hopes for a miracle cure. Nicola has come to undergo a three-week program of what Helen considers quack treatments.
On seeing the clinic, Helen’s description is telling: it ‘is painted a strange yellow, the color of controlled panic.’ She keeps her murderous anger to herself while seeing her friend naked in an ‘ozone sauna’ while charlatans chatter about the miracle of vitamin C injections which ‘sort of scoop the cancer cells out of your body.’ Nicola laughs at Helen's skepticism and explains that the devastation done to her body is ‘only the vitamin C savaging the tumors and driving them out.’ I, as a reader, think Helen is somewhat harsh – if you are terminally ill with no hope, surely you are permitted to look for a cure that may be illusory, yet offers some little hope.
The Spare Room is powerful. The illness of Nicola, the anger of Helen – it is all over quickly, a few weeks gone by in a few reading hours. Helen shares insights on death: ‘It leaches out virtue. It injects poison into friendship, and makes a mockery of love.’ She is so honest in the telling.
Carers in our society are usually portrayed as saintly, but Helen doesn’t hide her irritation at taking on the role; having her life disturbed, often making interjections about trips she must take. Nicola’s refusal to face reality and the impact this has on those around her is told very honestly, not a saint in sight.
This novel will haunt me for years for the things that may be ahead – illnesses of loved ones, friendships tested, loneliness, frustration, anger. Maybe there will be a house with a spare room I will be setting up, or perhaps someone will be setting one up for me.
As well-known Australian media personality, Derryn Hinch, says as his sign-off line each day on his radio program – ‘That’s Life.’
For more Aussie Book Reviews, go here.
I first published this review on Bookersatz, where you'll find lots of excellent reviews of all genres.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Please join Talli’s BlogSplash!
On December 1, the e-book version of The Hating Game will launch ahead of its UK hard-copy launch next year!
So I'm dreaming big. Wouldn't it be great if my debut novel by an indie publisher made it into the top ranks of Amazon Kindle sales? It might sound crazy, but it's amazing how quickly your book can move up the ranks if a number of people purchase it on the same day. And with an ebook, there are no distribution issues. Anyone, anywhere can buy it!
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Well, it's time for me to 'fess up and let you know the answers to the seven questions from the Creative Writer Blogger Award. Some bright sparks did guess the ONE true thing I posted.
1. I really love to travel as Francine knows, so that may have been behind her guessing #1 as a truth. Sure, I'd love to go around the world in 80 days, but not like those krazy klutzes from the movie did - oversized goggles, biggles hats, balloons etc. Sorry Francine!
2. Laura and Jules played along with #2, but Clarissa was really hopeful...ha de ha.
3.L Diane Wolfe and Jai Joshi and Terry Stonecrop thought #3 might be the truth and I'd like to go to Vietnam to shout 'Good morning Vietnam!' and why not? Trouble is I have my baby daughter trekking Vietnam from North to South and I'm worried witless, so Vietnam was kinda on my mind. No, I'll leave the shout out to Robin Williams. Hmm, maybe I will do that one day, kinda the truth...let's get Candice home safely first!
4. Absolutely no-one was fazed by #4. North Pole/South Pole - too much of a stretch, or a mush or what!
5. Summer and Secret Writer went for #5 - why not? It's one of the coolest! Sadly, all my research on Antarctica comes from books/internet. But it would be very cool to go one day. Maybe one really hot summer in Australia - oh, that's every summer.
6. Funny, not even a whiff of a suggestion that Twilight is my favourite series. For those who have friended me on goodreads, you may have noticed me saying I've started reading them. Hey, I've got through the first two, now I'm heading for Eclipse! I thought seeing as I'm a writer/teacher/mother I should see what all the fuss is about and try to work out why Stephanie Meyer has been uber successful. I think part of the secret is heaps of dialogue and Bella's POV, which keeps the action going at a cracking pace. I'm totally sick of her whining, getting cut, looking for danger etc etc, but I totally get why this series has been a money spinner. Hey, but you're right, I don't even like reading about vampires/werewolves/zombies and whatever other monsters are lurking out there, so Twilight can never be my favourite series.
'Heck, this post took longer than the original. Thank you for playing along. I hope I got all the names/choices right!
Oh, and while we're on the American theme, Nick Thomas, thank you for the list of Bill Clinton lies/truths. Woh, he's such a role model! As I'm a tad political, I'll reprint them so others who missed this jewel of a list can have a crack at guessing which of Bill's quotes are the truth according to the Gospel of Bill:
- I have never lied in my life.
- I did not have sex with that woman.
- Hillary makes my toes curl.
- Hillary makes my toenails drop off.
- Chelsea is honest, beautiful, faithful, and adopted.
- I have no regrets, and sleep well at night - on the couch.
- Obama is the greatest president since Nixon.
Geesh, I must admit I'm flummoxed. None of them could possibly be true, could they?
Pop down and replay #7! Da, da, da, da....
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Friday, 10 September 2010
Well I've been waiting so long for this award. It arrived at just the right time to cheer me up. A nasty little virus was trying to take over my computer so I isolated it and sent it right back to virus hell where it belonged. Gotta give thanks to 'How to remove My Security Shield Virus' for such good ammo. That little sucker better not try a take-over again.
The beauty of receiving this award is you've gotta guess if anything I've actually said above is true, or, more likely, a lie. Well, hint. There's just some things a serial writer wouldn't joke about, no kidding!
It's all the fault of The Rainy Day Wanderer. She gave me this award several days ago. Do you see the title? It practically begs me to tell lies. I'm just doing what I'm told! If you've never checked out her blog, you're missing some really interesting lies, oops, great stuff. If you haven't checked out her blog, pop over now while I copy and paste the rules for all you goodly liars. Oh, I forgot. I have to thank her for this pesky award. Yeah, right, er, thanks.
The Bold Face Liar Creative Writer Award requires you to:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link to them.
2. Add the award to your blog.
3. Tell six outrageous lies about yourself and one truth. (Another variant: Tell six truths and one outrageous lie. YOU get to guess which variant I chose – and which statements are true, as well as which are lies.) If you'd like to play along, tell me in the comments which are truth and which are outrageous lies.
4. Nominate six creative liars writers and post links to them.
5. Let your nominees know that they have been nominated.
Can you figure out which group I went with? Do you know which are lies and which are truths? We'll see.
Here's my list:
1. I once tried to replicate the journey from Around the World in Eighty Days.
3. I want to visit Vietnam so I can shout: 'Good Morning Vietnam!'
4. I want to walk to the North Pole and if I survive, then to be fair I'd better do the South Pole as well.
5. I went to Antarctica to research my latest novel.
6. My favourite book is Twilight.
7. My favourite movie segment is from Apocolypse Now.
Okay, now, to pass the award on. I've been a bit ad hoc 'cause I've seen this award about so I haven't got time to check out who has it/who loves lying etc, so I hope I make some liars happy today or tomorrow, depending on where you live. I'm giving it to some followers who are wonderful writers so I'm sure they'll do a creative job on this one, no lie!
Calum @ The Secret Writers Blog
Jane at I'm Downtown!
Jackee at Winded Words
Brenda Drake @ Brenda Drake Writes
Robert Guthrie @ Kinda Going With the flow
These are all fantastic writers who continually post things interesting, open, challenging, humorous, uplifting, humane, and powerful. If you've never checked them out. You'll thank me...
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Aussie Author Challenge - 8 Aussie Book Reviews before 31st December 2010. My first, Breath, by Tim Winton.
I signed up for the AUSSIE AUTHOR CHALLENGE some months ago, but have not begun my reviews of Aussie books at this stage. I'd better get moving before NaNoWrMo starts in November when all other projects will be on the back burner. If you're not an Aussie, (for this challenge you're called a Tourist) but would like to post a review or 3 on an Aussie author, sign up by clicking the link above.
There are lots of excellent Aussie authors, some who're strutting the international stage and some who keep a low profile. Well, like, who hasn't heard of Germaine Greer or Mr Booker himself, Peter Carey? Not my faves, but reading is a matter of personal taste, isn't it?
This Challenge started on 1 January 2010 and ends 31 December 2010. If you are considering joining up, here are the rules:
1. Write a challenge sign-up post on your blog In that post provide a link to the original post:
acknowledging Booklover Book Reviews and put the Challenge Button on your sidebar (grab mine), linking the button to the challenge post.
2. Add your name and the direct link to your AUSSIE AUTHOR CHALLENGE sign-up post in the Mister Linky list.
3. Decide which Aussie authors you will read in 2010, although you can change your book titles or challenge level at anytime!
4. Each time you read and review a book as part of this challenge, share this with other challenge participants by adding a direct link to your book review to the list at this post AUSSIE AUTHOR CHALLENGE Book Reviews.
5. When you have completed the challenge, add a link to your completion post here: Completion Post List.
If you would simply love to read some excellent book reviews, there are over 100 already written, so click on the AUSSIE AUTHOR CHALLENGE Book Reviews link above and read to your heart's content.
Here is my first book review for this challenge.
Breath, by Tim Winton - not just another book about surfing...
As Sando initiates the two boys into the mysteries and terrors of surfing's outer reaches, encouraging, cajoling and finally bullying the two of them into joining him in taking greater and greater risks, they become a "select and peculiar club . . . a cult. Sando and his maniacal apprentices".
But as the waves they surf grow larger, the breaks more dangerous, Pikelet grows less easy with Loonie and Sando's patronage, until finally Sando and Loonie disappear overseas on a surfing trip in Indonesia, leaving Pikelet behind. Left to their own devices, Pikelet and Eva slip heedlessly into a sexual relationship, something Pikelet believes is love and Eva sees as something quite different.
The subject is one that allows Winton the space to unravel his remarkable linguistic gift for evoking place and the complex webs of association that bind people to the landscapes they inhabit. The repeated deployment of this gift to re-create the relatively confined setting of Winton's novels has led to him being regarded as a quintessentially Australian writer. Some reviewers consider Winton as the inheritor of the same American tradition as Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx or Jim Harrison, a tradition that for all its affinities with Carver's brand of pared-back social realism, owes its greatest debt to Faulkner.
It's unlikely Winton has ever written as well as he writes in Breath, a book that marries the lyricism of work such as his wonderful Cloudstreet to the adamantine hardness of the stories in The Turning. I love how his descriptions of the ocean leap from the page, revealing this wild landscape with a clarity and an intimacy that lets us see it all over again. Yet simultaneously this lyric imagination is further deepened by the darkness lurking behind it. For as Pikelet comes to realise, surfing may be beautiful but it is also something more: a pretext for a particular kind of male (and, as the ruined freestyler Eva demonstrates, sometimes female) risk-taking behaviour; a need for danger that is in its own way as addictive as drugs or drink or any one of a range of self-destructive behaviours.
Sunday, 5 September 2010
It is Father's Day in the Southern Hemisphere, so I'm saying Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! Sadly my father, one of my all-time heroes, is passed on, but he lives on in my heart.
Have been having lovely celebs today with the whole family together, lunching, browsing books at the Brisbane Writer's Festival book display, shopping and having dinner together tonight.
So hope your Father's Day has been great, Aussies and New Zealanders, and anyone else who celebrates this important day today.
Happy Father's Day!
Friday, 3 September 2010
Thursday, 2 September 2010
Lately I've been too busy writing to write much about writing, so I'm going to pass this award onto some of my most recent commenters who support me in what I do. They deserve a star for reading my flash fiction, blogfest entries etc. and leaving kind, helpful comments. But I want you, my little or not so little, stars, to let me know your answer to the question the Spunk posed - What Are Your Writing Habits? I'm going to list 6 of mine, so perhaps you'd like to use the same format. Please link back here so I can read your words of wisdom or leave a comment so I can go chase up these hot tips of yours.
I'd also love everybody who reads this to leave comments about their writing habits.
I'd like to hand this award on to so many stars, but here are six recent and at times prolific commenters and followers who I think deserve a star for at times making me feel like a star, however undeserved: Please spread the star dust around to however many of your stars, er, blogger friends, as you wish.
Talei at Musings of an aspiring scribe
Francine at Romancing the Blog
Rainy Day Wanderer and word's crafter extraordinaire
Ashley Ashbee that Loveable Homebody
Pamela Jo at There's Just Life
Aubrie at Flutey Words
Okay, here's my answers to the question...
What Are Your Writing Habits?
- My favourite spot to write is: in my little office when there's no one else within cooee.
- My favourite treat when writing: is not actually chocolate (which is surprising) but I like to have endless cups of tea tottering dangerously near my keyboard.
- For white noise I like: 24-hour news channel very low. Never know, I might learn something. Right now I hear Barack Obama telling the pesky Israelis and the Palestinians to behave themselves or else. Yes, they are there, right behind him, I checked, with pained smiles. I can catch it all later on twitter. Ooh, there's a distraction! Don't get me started!
- Water is very important whilst (doncha love that word? It's nearly obsolete or is it already?) writing because: It keeps the brain charged. It really does. Google 'reflexology.' Maybe dehydration leads to dehydrated prose.
- When there's too many people around I: nick off to the library to write, taking my little netbook. Oh, boy, in November, I'm going to take my air mattress and hide under a table when NaNo's on. Reminds me, gotta get some ideas for a new novel...
- When I lack inspiration I: make yet another cup of tea and raid the cupboards, drawers, behind the washing machine, or in the filing cabinet for my stash of chocolate. Suddenly it's all good!
Does this sound anything llike your writing habits?
C'mon, I'll bet yours are a lot more interesting than mine. Share with Denise. Everyone loves to write...in their own way...You might also like to pop over to Lenny's World where he's put his writing tips.
And for a bit of extra fun, don't miss the writing tips in my sidebar. They crack me up.