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

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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Hey, it's a heatwave Down Under - no snow, no freezing weather, just good old-fashioned sizzling heat.

40 degrees Celsius = 104 degrees Fahrenheit 
50 degrees Celsius = 122 degrees Fahrenheit

Hello there!

We live in an alternate universe Down Under, where the weather from the Northern Hemisphere saturates our news, but our own weather hardly rates a mention. Polar Vortexes, Sub Zero temperatures, high winds and destruction - so much more exciting than boring old heatwaves and the consequences. Australian weather? We just accept that it's summer, so we expect ridiculously-high temps, with drought/and/or floods/and/or bushfires/and/or cyclones thrown in. What's new? It happens every year when December rolls around. (Funnily enough, that's when I escape to the Northern Hemisphere, being someone who prefers cold to heat, lol!)


The fact that this heatwave has been in full force for about two months, makes it a bit harder to ignore. So I thought I'd do a post and show you a typical day in Australia during 40 - 50 degree Celsius temperatures (Conversion at top). 

This photo was taken near Brisbane (where I live), on a day when it was expected to reach 50C. I think it only got to 46C. Welooked at the sunrise, and commented - 'Looks like we're in for it!'

So if you're lucky enough to be at the beach on the Sunshine Coast for the weekend, you head to the wonderful Baked Poetry Cafe in Peregian Beach and imbibe a cooling iced coffee - bliss!
Baked Poetry Cafe iced coffee, the best I've ever tasted!
Okay, you can't sit there under the shady trees drinking coffee all day, even if it's 46C, so let's head for the beach! Yeah, yeah, I know, you shouldn't be sunbaking in this heat, but what the heck! You can easily cool off with a refreshing dunk!




If you can't get to the beach, you might cool off under the moisture fans wherever you see one!

But we coast dwellers always remember the Outback, where there's no beach and little water for pools - (they head for the nearest dam)...drought is severe and stock are dying. 
The Australian Outback...always sizzling! A great setting for Australian romances...from Australian authors like Annie Seaton, Jenny Schwartz, Anna Campbell et al...

Our native koala is parched too. Anywhere for a drink! Lucky suburban koalas.


Bushfires always abound in summer, especially in 40C+ heat and in the south where the heat is dry! Queensland where I live is humid.


Victoria, in the south of Australia, has had on-going bushfires for weeks. They're really suffering. Many homes have been burnt to the ground.

And of course, it's not a Queensland summer without bushfires. Here's one on North Stradbroke Island, off the coast near Brisbane.

It was 54C this day!

What about writing? Not easy in the heat...



Too hot to be inside, so the Vannguard Writers Group met at the Coffee Club in the city and participated in a writing exercise at the Wednesday Farmer's Market.



My youngest daughter lives in Townsville, where they've already had their first cyclone scare for the year. Luckily, Townsville was spared. It hit the towns to the south, but not too badly.




At the end of another unbearably hot day in Brisbane, you head to South Bank beach, which is open all year round, well into the night.


Too hot to go home to bed, so you may as well take a ride on the Brisbane Wheel.



Ha ha! I hope you enjoyed my photo essay. And the good news is that it has cooled down a little!

  • Speaking of Australia, Australian author and friend, Charmaine Clancy, has just released her third MG novel - Undead Kev. Kev follows on from My Zombie Dog and Dognapped?



And I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, Tracks, where a young woman goes on a 1,700 mile trek across the deserts of Western Australia with her four camels and faithful dog. Drama/Biography/Adventure


And finally, let's all cheer our friend Roland Yeomans up by visiting him after his facial surgery. D.G. Hudson has a brilliant post on Roland's progress and his novels. 





















Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Michelle Wallace's UBUNTU bloghop. An excerpt from Malala Yousafzai's address to the UN on her 16th birthday.

Hello my friends!

Today I'm participating in The Ubuntu Bloghop.

What's that you ask?

Read the description from host, Michelle Wallace from Writer in Transit. Let's help Michelle celebrate 3 years of blogging by joining her in this fascinating bloghop. Hop around and read as many entries as you can -I'm sure you will be inspired.

THE UBUNTU BLOGHOP 
What is ubuntu? "In Africa, there is a concept known as UBUNTU – the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others." – Nelson Mandela.
So in the spirit of ubuntu, I invite you to join me in celebrating my 3rd blogoversary!
Date – 18th to 21st February. I've allowed 4 days to make it easier for you guys, since some people only post once a week… save the date that coincides with your blogging schedule!
What can you contribute?
Any form of creativity that captures the spirit of ubuntu is welcome!
~ You can write a poem.
~ Or design some artwork – an illustration, drawing, a photo (or even a series of pictures that tell a story)
~ Write flash fiction.
~ Or non-fiction (a personal story or one that you've seen on TV/in a newspaper/magazine)
~ A short inspirational piece/quote (if you're pressed for time, but REALLY want to participate…)
~ Or simply your thoughts/reflections/hopes with regards to an ubuntu-filled existence…
Here is my entry...
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban, has told the UN that books and pens scare extremists, as she urged education for all. Malala has been credited with bringing the issue of women's education to global attention. A quarter of young women around the world have not completed primary school. As a teacher, this resonates with me. Education is power.
Here is an excerpt from Malala's speech to the UN...(addressing the UN at sixteen years of age - what an achievement!)
"The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions," she said, "but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."
She continued: "I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists."
"The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens," added Malala, who was wearing a pink shawl that belonged to assassinated Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto. "They are afraid of women."
She called on politicians to take urgent action to ensure every child has the right to go to school.


"Let us pick up our books and pens," Malala summed up. "They are our most powerful weapons.
"One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first."

Another point of view regarding Pakistan is found in the novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid. (I'm currently studying this novel with a student.) I have linked to the read free online version. Some of you may have seen the film.
Thanks for coming by today. I hope you, also, are inspired by Malala.






Friday, 14 February 2014

Write...Edit...Publish prompt - What's in a face? My story, Beauty and the Beast, a fractured fairytale.

For my Write...Edit...Publish entry this month, I am offering a fractured fairytale. If you know the story of Beauty and the Beast, you will get some of the references. I struggled with how to finish it, but I think the ending belongs to a longer story, so I had to make do. I hope you enjoy the read...

The brief was...

TIME for the February challenge for WEP. The prompt is - What's in a face?
What comes to your mind - a ghost story? a treatise on the scientific dimensions of the face? a poignant poem? a photo that captures the face? artwork? Whatever strikes you as inspiration, go for it! 
February 14 is Valentine's Day. You are welcome to incorporate this romantic day, but it is not mandatory! Just remember to keep your flash fiction or non-fiction to approx. 1,000 words.


Beauty and the Beast

Why are some people blessed with beauty while other poor souls miss out, abandoned to the world with faces that look like they have been kicked, punched and torn by a savage beast?  He has heard the expression: kissed by an angel.  Well, he was kissed by the Devil when he gushed, kicking and screaming, from his mother’s womb some thirty years hence.

His life lacked beauty from that first moment, but he finally learned the truth from the birthing attendant, Marjorie. “Take this Devil’s spawn from me!” his mother had screamed. “Leave him on an anthill far inside the forest. I hereby name him ‘Beast’!”

Marjorie saved his life, but his mother’s rejection sentenced him to a life of misery. Every time he sees his reflection, he cringes, he hates, he dreams of revenge. His face is like a monster’s, his eyes black as the pitch he collects from the boglands, his hands permanently stained with inky sludge.

As Beast clumps along the muddy laneway, he oft-times examines his reflection in the smudgy shop windows. He is thankful that his hair has been overlooked by the Devil. It is long, curled and sleek from the rain and snow which falls upon him as he huddles in the abandoned garden near Grimwade Bridge.

***
Beast wakes to another day. Even without rising from his damp bed, he can guess the weather. Real books are denied him, but these are his books: the colour of the sky overhead at dawn, the cries of seabirds over the icy river, the noisy crackle of waves as the tide ebbs and flows.

He runs his work-wrecked fingers through his hair and prepares to leave. He shrugs into his torn black greatcoat which has offered some protection against the night freeze. Will I ever know warmth? He feels the throbbing need for love. Will I ever know the sweetness of a pure woman? The whores of Grimwade aside, what woman would welcome my cracked, broken hands on her soft body? I need a sweet woman to release me from this prison my witch of a mother sentenced me to.
 
Beast shakes snowflakes from his hair, brushes the white drops from his shoulders, then knocks on the nearest door. He salivates at the vision of the hot gruel the kind mistress will feed him.

He lifts his gnarled fingers to the shiny gold lion’s head and raps on the cheery yellow door. No answer. He tries again, clump, clump, clump. Strange. The kind mistress always opens her door speedily.

He reaches out his arm, then withdraws quickly as he all but touches the face framed in the doorway.

The kind mistress is not at the doorway.  Instead…a vision…Beauty…stands before him, dressed from head to toe in a silky robe, spun from sunshine.  He beholds a wondrous golden face wreathed in smiles, laughing eyes and perfect white teeth.   At the sight of her heart-shaped face framed by a crown of golden hair, he cannot speak. What lies beyond that perfect face? 

He steps a little closer, the better to smell her feminine sweetness; a memory of summer strawberries picked in the abandoned garden.

“Good morning, kind sir.” Her voice transports him to the buttresses of the Opera House where he was wont to eavesdrop on the melodies within. “My mother did speak of you, but is currently detained. She asked me to greet you in her stead.” She takes his hand and he feels how soft and small it is clasped within his rough, stiff claw. Beauty blesses him with a sweet smile, one dimple dancing in her cheek, as if her face itself is winking at him.

Perchance she is confusing him with another. He rasps with longing. “I have but pitch for sale, Mistress.”

“Yes, indeed. My mother has waited on you. She said that you never steal from us.”

She misinterprets his silence as he imagines by what trickery he will steal Beauty from her mother’s kitchen.  

“Oh dear sir, do come in. Shelter inside awhile. You must be chilled to the bone in this snowstorm. Our furnace rages day and night. When I lie in my warm bed it is like I have died and gone to heaven; I’m in a fairytale world. I never want to wake up. I expect that is why I have never seen you before.” She looks upon his hair. “I am too enraptured by my dreams.”

He watches as the thoughts dance beneath the surface of her skin, wondering at her dreams. He flicks his long tresses so they cover the lower half of his face, hoping she will be enraptured by his glossy mane and overlook his ugly visage.

He follows her into the grand foyer, his hungry eyes ravished by sights such as he has never seen before—tall ceilings trimmed in gold leaf; walls of green silk, the hue of the forest; furniture of the deepest mahogany, like tree branches. He wonders at the single red rose at the window. Is she already betrothed? No matter...

He drops his load beside the crackling fire while thinking - how can people live like this while I, the Devil’s spawn, live with no walls to enclose me?   His ceilings are the underbelly of Grimwade Bridge, his furniture crafted from scraps of timber he finds floating in the river. Why does God choose to give all to some and nothing to others?

“Please, kind sir, stand against the fire. Warm yourself while I make you coffee.” She holds out an apple. He crunches it with his sharp teeth.

Soon he feels uncomfortable. He is not accustomed to such a roaring fire, within or without. He has never known what it feels to be too much heated. He begins to think he would prefer the howling gale outside. It becomes just another part of the ordeal he is meant to suffer. But, be damned, I am done with suffering...I deserve to live...I deserve to wear splendid clothes...To sleep with a full belly each night...To sleep beside this sweet woman.

He strokes his hair, capturing a curl with a thick finger.

Beauty will know the Beast.

He will teach her.

Life is no fairytale.

***


WORDS: 1035



  • As always, thanks for coming by. I appreciate your visit. I hope you enjoyed my flash fiction. Please leave a comment and suggestions for improvement. Maybe you'll pick up some tense mistakes. It was tricky moving between past, present and future.
  • Please click on the names in my right hand sidebar to read more entries for WEP's monthly bloghop. And the invitation is open for you to participate any month that the prompt resonates with you...March is - Through the eyes of a child.
  • Don't forget Michelle Wallace's bloghop, Ubuntu, starting on February 18. Click on the image in my sidebar for more info. Mine is done, dusted and pre-scheduled.
  • Happy Valentine's Day! 











Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Insecure Writers Support Group - How are your Miscalculations and Missteps? Is this obliterating your chances of being published this year?

Hello fellow writers!

How are your 2014 goals tracking? I hope those of you who plan to finish your first novel, submit it, and see it published this year are staying true to your goal. That is one of my many goals this year, and I have been reading a lot (so what's new?) to make sure my submitted novel is the best it can be.

I love the Writers Digest for its predictability. Every January issue they post tons of articles on the topic - 'Write Your Novel in 20..!' True to form, in the latest issue there are so many helpful articles to keep us alert to the miscalculations and missteps we may make in the desire to be published.

Those who choose to self publish may take a different road to those seeking agents/publishers. In Australia, it is easier to find a publisher than an agent. Publishers are actually looking for manuscripts, '...looking for that fresh new voice, gripping story told with sensitivity and power, and characters who leap off the page.'  The accept submissions on certain days/times, but I'm sure they get inundated, so that Chapter One had better be good...or that first line...first sentence...

The WD states that they constantly see the same first-novel gaffes. These mistakes often ensure a manuscript's quick trip to oblivion.

Elizabeth Sims from WD (whose articles I always find helpful) is often asked to evaluate mss from first timers. She lists seven blunders we first timers make as a matter of course, and offers ways to avoid them. I've included quotes/suggestions from her in my post...

Most IWSG posts are short, so I'll just explore one, the one she puts first:

CHAPTER 1: CHARACTER CRAMMING

Elizabeth maintains that the weakest mss from first timers introduce all, or most, of the cast within a page or two. Why would a writer do this? Maybe we're anxious that if someone actually picks up our ms, we want the reader to meet the whole family at once! Do you sketch five, six...even more characters on the first and second pages? Woah! According to Sims, this is completely ineffective. The reader can't take in multiple characters at once! Easy does it...

On the other hand, a self-possessed, perhaps multi-published author: 'knows that a solid opening scene is all you really need to get going. You don't need to lay a lot of groundwork at the same time.' Hold those characters back...ask, who can I save for later? Who is essential to my opening scene?

Here are Sims' suggestions for avoiding this gaffe:

GO HARDER WITH FEWER CHARACTERS

Keep the focus on the action in the scene. She uses an example of a medieval jousting scene - it doesn't need the king and queen or anyone else like the king's mistress, at this stage. Just give the reader the action - thundering hooves, clanging steel, crowd noises etc. along with the knight.

WRITE VIGNETTES INTRODUCING SECONDARY CHARACTERS

Let your readers digest your setup, initial conflict and key characters. Then write one vignette - (maybe, in the case of the above example, a possible conversation between the king's mistress and adviser), before going on to the next.


***

So, dear fellow writers, as we trawl through our mss before submitting, or self-publishing, let's check for character cramming and find imaginative ways to work/link secondary characters into our story.

Click on the badge to access more articles for this month's IWSG.
Or find the Twitter hashtag #IWSG

  • Thank you for reading. Did you find it helpful? How many characters do you introduce in Chapter One?
  • Write...Edit...Publish's latest linky if open for submissions on the prompt What's in a face? - click on the button in my right hand sidebar or visit WEP.