Wednesday 30 May 2012

Lover's Cove - Challenge #1


I'm adding my lines to Simran Kaur's for Andy David's Lovers' Cove Challenge. He was #15, I am link #16.


"My perpetual allegiance belongs to you and no other. Believe my words of truth." 

Word count: 14. (The challenge is 15 words or less...)

Good luck #17.

Find out more of what is going on and do participate and join in the fun here at -  

Monday 28 May 2012

Write about what you know? Did Hemingway, Joyce, Forster?

This is what I know
Hi my friends!

I know blogging is a bit of a scattergun approach and you may/may not have noticed that I'm keeping my posts down to about one a week. This allows me to write a more considered post and to leave it up long enough for it to be found by you. Welcome! Fewer posts mean I have more time to write my stories, more time to social network and more time to visit you when you leave a comment. Did I forget more time for real life? That's probably the MOST important thing. We bloggers can live in a surreal world, missing out on the beauties of the outdoors (and the outdoors are at their best at this time of year in Australia - a few days from Winter) and 'real' live people which is sort of relevant to my topic today...

A recent novel workshop reminded me of the adage, 'Write What You Know.' I've always disagreed with this advice and have subscribed to the opposite - 'Write About What You Don't Know But Want To Find Out'. A bit like those diagrams we teachers use to assist school students get started with their research for a history project.

At first I was resistant to the idea but decided to give it some thought. Maybe my idea was that the advice meant you must write autobiographally. Further reading showed me that as writers we may not have first-hand knowledge of something but we know a lot intuitively. Hemingway never had a son returning from war, but he was able to write convincingly in his 'Soldier's Home'. Hemingway was no stranger to disillusionment and apathy so he was able to use these emotions and his own first-hand experience as a war correspondent. Oh the pathos:

 By the time Krebs returned to his home town in Oklahoma the greeting of heroes was over. He came back much too late. The men from the town who had been drafted had all been welcomed elaborately on their return. There had been a great deal of hysteria. Now the reaction had set in. People seemed to think it was rather ridiculous for Krebs to be getting back so late, years after the war was over. 

Most of us don't see the value in our own lives, but Flannery O'Conner said: '...anyone who has survived childhood has enough to write about for a dozen years.' When I did my BLOGGERS WERE CHILDREN TOO! series for the A-Z Challenge, some of the comments were saying they'd like to hear more of my childhood in the wild, free and horsey Queensland bush.

Back to Hemingway who I think is far more interesting than I am. He is one of the mythical figures of literature who believed passionately in the value of violent and intense personal experience. He chose a life revolving around war, big game hunting, deep sea fishing, bullfighting, drinking and so on...It was intense and desperate. So despairing was he that he shot himself. However Hemingway also wrote, drawing directly on his own experience. His 'Nick Adams' stories, for example.

James Joyce lived as an expatriate, yet his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (click to read the ebook) covers his outwardly uneventful youth until he leaves university. What was so endearing about Joyce's Portrait? He experimented with a variety of styles which capture the exact feeling of each period of his youth. His Dubliners is a series of sketches of the city he both loved and hated.

So to wrap up, I'll remind you of the literary giant, E.M. Forster, and his attempt to write about what he didn't know - the lower class - in Howard's End. He tries to show the divide between social classes and how to bridge this chasm. So he included a character from the Working Classes! He had one tentative stab at it in the form of Leonard Bast, insurance clerk. Anyone familiar with this character will recognise that despite his good intentions Forster failed dismally as he concentrated on having Bast 'improve himself' by reading and attending classical concerts. Forster didn't 'know' this type of character and ended up just making poor Leonard a figure of fun.

There is a goldmine of fiction that uses the writer's early life. Here are just a few that come to mind:

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Empire of the Sun - J G Ballard
Indian Camp, The Killers and A Day's Wait - all by Ernest Hemingway, all spare, shocking about a small boy learning the hard way about the ugly facts of life in Thirties America.


Describe some of the things (you could confine yourself to your own house) which you regard with particular affection, or loathing. Try to avoid telling the reader directly how you feel about them, letting your emotions come through instead in the way you describe the objects.

Minutely describe the sounds you hear going to sleep late at night, or in a fever. Try to capture the sense of drifting into sleep as you describe what you hear.

With thanks to Julian Birkett, Word Power for some of the inspiration for my post and for these exercises.

  • So what do you think? Do you write about what you know, or what you want to find out?
  • Will you try the writing exercises? I often find doing this type of work leaves me with the essence of a short fiction piece.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

My favourite websites for writers - Creative, Agents and Online Writing Communities and just added, free books!!

Hi all! I hope you managed to click on a couple of the participants in the RFW A-Z Appreciating the Zealotry challenge. Next post down if you'd like to have a read...

Now onto today's post which is all about links. I do a lot of web surfing while sitting in cafes or libraries with my netbook while I procrastinate about which project to work on out of my myriad of projects. I thought it was about time I shared the results of some of my searching for writing edification.

STOP PRESS: Kiru Taye just sent me a link to a Beach Book Blast. There are free excellent kindle books to be had from 23-25 May. I just bought myself some...

Here are 10 of my favourite web hang outs:

  1. Easy Street Prompts - first of the creative sites for when your writer's brain needs a boost. You can troll through photos and video-based writing prompts. Somewhere in there you'll find inspiration for sure. I'm amazed at how many short stories I've written based on a prompt or a first sentence.
  2. The Story Starter - There are over a billion opening lines here, more than enough to keep you writing for a few lifetimes. Great if you write short stories, especially.
  3. Story Starter for Kids - If you teach writing to school students as I do, or if you just want to get your kids to write, here is a junior Story Starter. (This one only had 2,360 story starters when last I checked).
  4. Pub Rants - Moving onto some agents' sites. This is a great site for when you're knocking your ms into shape - everything you ever wanted to know about publishing and submitting. There are big-time authors sharing advice and there are real query letters to learn from.
  5. Rachelle Gardner - Writer's Digest gives Rachelle's site the 'Best of the Best' agent's award. Great questions and answers about writing and publishing, great discussions in the comments. Always something to learn/think about, and hopefully eventually do something about when you finish your coffee. Here's a cracker of a post I loved on 7 Bad Habits of Successful Authors.
  6. Absolute Write - moving on to online writing communities. This one offers forums where you can get advice from real people who have experience in the world of fiction, freelancing, editing etc.
  7. Backspace - A third of the members here are published/agented, well worth a look. You have to pay to participate in the forums but even nonmembers can lurk and read advice-filled articles.
  8. National Novel Writing Month - one of my personal favourites. Join 250,000 writers who challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Lots of interaction if you like that sort of thing, lots of novel tracking which is exciting, but I join it just for the motivation and I never give up when I've set myself an achievable goal. I've written three novels in the past three years using NaNo as my inspiration. There is a follow up editing NaNo type thingy but I somehow manage to miss that! 
  9. - I'm sure you probably already visit this site on a regular basis. You can do a lot for free - share your work, enter contests, join writing circles - lots of writer-related activities.
  10. Review Fuse - If you like writing reviews, you can get three reviews back for every four you write. You have to be a paid-up free (haha) member though to use this service. 
  • Do you have any favourite sites to share?
  • Would you like me to share more another time or would you rather just get back to your writing? 
PS. And talking of finding inspiration through prompts, keep your eyes open for the next RFW prompt on Friday June 1 - Yes, No, Oh, alright then! Write your 400 word story/poem using this prompt. (Sounds right up my alley). Go to the RomanticFridayWriters site for more info...We'd love you to join us. Open to all writers.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Appreciating the Zealotry of the #atozchallenge - Sign up and re-post your favourite April post...

A Romantic Friday Writers challenge - No 36

get the InLinkz code

Further questions? Leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

Monday 14 May 2012

Alex J Cavanaugh's First Loves Blogfest - what and who did I fall in love with?

Hi! It's time for Alex J's First Loves Blogfest. This sounds like a RomanticFridayWriters idea, but no, the Ninja thought this up!

So today I have to come clean and tell you about my First Loves: first movie, first song/band, first book, and yes, first person.

First, the first movie I fell in love with was:

Anything with Sandra Dee in it. I idolized her when I was a youngster. My room was full of her pin ups! That changed when I got a bit older of course! But if you've ever seen, or heard the song, 'A Summer Place', crooned by Sir Cliff Richard, that was from the Sandra Dee movie.

Embedding disabled in the clip I wanted to show you. You can see it here:

The first song/band I fell in love with was:

Nah, not Slim Dusty's Pub With No Beer (the No 1 Aussie beer-drinking song my brothers loved), but the preppy American boys Simon and Garfunkle's The Sounds of Silence. I went on to love a lot more of their songs, such as Bridge Over Troubled Water. On a par were the Byrds with Mr Tambourine Man. I continue to love Paul Simon solo.

The first book I fell in love with was:

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

This is what the cover looked like when my mother gave it to me for my birthday. I was enthralled by the adventures of this young orphaned girl in the mountains of Switzerland (gave me a thirst to see this strange world). Heidi goes to live with her grandfather who's a big grump, but her friendship with local goatherd, young Peter, adds joy to her days. The book's still selling today.

Just to show how things change, check out the modern cover.

My first love? Jeffrey in third grade. We used to sit in the back of the class and hold hands and win all the mathematics competitions. How cute! Wonder where he is now? No, I'm not going to look!

BUT I met Monsieur L'Aussie when I was 16 and married him at 19, crazeeeeee! My own HEA.

My Sir Galahad. He holds the weekend papers, my  shoes and guards monster dog
while I had a frolic in the surf yesterday.

This was a fun blogfest. Want to read more? Go here...

Monday 7 May 2012

#AtoZChallenge Reflection Post - plus other news...Another #AtoZ Challenge, Andy David, Glynis Smy

Hi my friends!

Monday, May 7, we have been asked to write a post reflecting on the A-Z Challenge.

I thoroughly enjoyed posting my BLOGGERS WERE CHILDREN TOO! posts during the challenge, getting to know my blogger friends better, and showcasing blogs to my readers/visitors. Overall, my commenters were generous in their praise for the theme and judging from the frequent returns I believe they meant it. So, thanks for visiting me during the challenge. I hope I returned all visits. During the madness of April it is too easy to miss someone.

My complaint is that I didn't get the time to visit as many new people as I'd hoped. As the links will be up for awhile, I hope to still visit more entries to the challenge. I didn't go out to get a heap of new followers, and I didn't. I visited/commented on far too many blogs. Some were good, some were nonsense just written to get something on the page and that happens, but some were blatantly self-promotional material.

But can we as writers really afford to tap out that many words in comments that really don't mean a lot? I'm jealous of my writing friends who took the month off to work on their WIPs or just to enjoy a blogging break. This might be the way to go next April, I'm thinking, unless someone can give me a good argument otherwise.

Now, life goes on after and even during, the challenge, so...moving on.

CHALLENGE NO 36 - FRIDAY MAY 18 - APPRECIATING THE ZEALOTRYNEWSFLASH NO 1: RomanticFridayWriters' next challenge (on May 18) is to re-post your favourite A-Z post in April. It's called APPRECIATING THE ZEALOTRY. Maybe a post you'd like more people to see, maybe a post that you think is great enough to expose to a larger audience, maybe a post you're especially proud of. The brainchild of Donna Hole, this is an easy challenge for those exhaused A-Zers, or those not participating in the challenge who wrote posts which had few comments due to the April challenge taking up most people's time. RFW will post a linky on their blog on Thursday May 17 so you can link your post.

NEWSFLASH NO 2: My dear poetic friend, Andy David, ex-Trinidad, now the US, is hosting a BLOG HOP the first Saturday of each month. All you have to do is link up your blog, OR a favourite blog OR a favourite post. The idea is like a continuation of the challenge, except you don't have to write anything specific, just post your link and during the month, visit some/all bloggers. If you want to extend your network, gain more followers, this is for you. Click on BLOG HOP above to sign up. 

NEWSFLASH NO 3: Last, but not least, today writer/poet, Glynis Smy adds author/novelist to her name. Her debut novel; Ripper, My Love, is launched in ebook format and paperback. The genre for this love story falls into the one of Historical Romance Suspense.

Growing up in late nineteenth century East London,
Kitty Harper’s life is filled with danger and death – from her mother, her
neighbour and the working women
of the streets.

With her ever-watchful father and living surrogate
family though, Kitty feels protected from harm. In fact, she feels so safe that
while Whitechapel cowers under the cloud of a fearsome murderer, she strikes
out on her own, moving into new premises to accommodate her sewing business.

But danger is closer than she thinks. In truth, it
has burrowed itself right into her heart in the form of a handsome yet troubled
bachelor, threatening everything she holds dear. Will Kitty fall prey to lust –
and death – herself, or can she find the strength inside to fight for her
business, sanity and her future? And who is the man terrifying the streets of
East London?

Who is Glynis Smy?

Glynis was born and raised in England, in the coastal town of Dovercourt, near the port of Harwich (where the captain of the Mayflower lived). After qualifying as a nurse, she married her school friend, and they produced three children. During her rare quiet moments, she wrote poetry and articles for magazines. In 2005 she and her husband emigrated to Cyprus for a new life in the sun. It was here that Glynis lay down her cross stitch and started making writing friends on the Internet. With their support and encouragement she shared her poetry, and was successful in a few contests. She shared a short story with a friend, who wrote back telling her it was worthy of becoming a novel, and not to waste the premise upon a brief plot. The story is the one being launched today. Glynis found her love of writing 19th Century, historical romances and her second novel, Maggie's Child, will be published at the end of 2012.

Aside from writing and Cross stitch, Glynis enjoys creating greetings cards, and sells them to raise funds for a small hospice in Cyprus. One of her pleasures is to sit on the back porch with a glass of wine, and reflect upon her good life. She can often be heard chatting to new characters urging her forward.

Her desire to pay back those who had supported her is realised in a blog designed specifically to promote the books of others: New Book Blogger You can find her personal writing blog at Glynis finds the community spirit of writers on Facebook a valuable one.

Want to purchase a copy?  Launch day price for the Kindle is 99c/77p!

I hope you enjoyed my post.

  • Did you participate in the A-Z Challenge?
  • If not, did you reach your writing goals you'd set for yourself, or any other goals for April?
  • What are your goals for May? 

Thursday 3 May 2012

#RomanticFridayWriters - Challenge No 35 - May 4 - Response to Image

RomanticFridayWriters is back! During the A-Z Challenge we have been posting flash fiction nearly every day. Now we're back to our usual format - posting to a prompt each fortnight on a Friday. This time the rules are:

  • You must respond to the stimulus in some way.
  • From the image, choose who will be your viewpoint character.
  • Place your character/s in one of the following settings:
              * a nightclub
              * last day of high school/college
              * at a carnival/festival
              * a private party
              * an exotic island
              * audition for a part in the latest Romeo + Juliet production
              * a combination of two or more of the above settings...

My viewpoint character is the girl on the right. Her best friend has her back to us.
They are celebrating the last day of high school.

Here is my story:

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Zora reached for Michelle’s hand. It was clammy, even in the freezing night air. The trees pressed closer. Animal sounds sent icy shivers down her spine.

‘Michelle ,’ she whispered, ‘what are we doing here?’

‘Having an adventure. You wanted an adventure on your last day of high school!’

‘This isn’t what I had in mind. I thought you’d finagle us into your brother’s nightclub.’

‘This s’much funner than alchopoops and ecstasy. This forest is alive.’

‘Creepy alive. I feel like we’re being watched, like there’s eyes in those trees. Let’s go back.’



‘They’re coming.’

‘Who? Ghosts?’ Zora was terrified. Did ghosts make sounds? Is that what she could hear behind those trees?

‘See that up ahead? That light?’ Over there!’

Nothing had prepared Zora for the beauty of the soft grasses encircled by the giant kauri trees, the silvery moonlight dancing in the centre of the glade. She could imagine fairies gliding above the branches.

‘It’s beautiful,  Michie.’

‘Better than strobe lighting in Rob’s club?’

‘Much. But I don’t feel like dancing here.’

‘I do.’  Michelle stepped into the circle of light. Zora watched, awestruck, as her friend transformed.  Michelle, who’d never been beautiful, became beautiful. Her tight white dress took on a silver sparkle as she held out her arms and spun round and round in ever-increasing circles. The bracelets she wore became magical things, glinting with light. Her frizzy red wig was afire in moonbeams. Her best friend, her plain  Michelle, had become a night creature.

Michelle jerked her head back as if to drink of the moon’s elixir. Her movements became disjointed, she was a puppet loose of her strings.

‘Come Zora! Dance with me! I’m drunk with the…hic…night spirits.’ She drew a tiny silver flask from her pocket, tipping the contents down her throat.

Zora stepped back, confused. She thought her friend had given up the drink.

‘Come Zor! Don’t reject me like everyone else. Share this with me, my best, my dearest friend.’

‘What about Emerson?’

‘He dumped me. He said he had enough trouble at home. He compared me to that bunch of Irish alcoholics he lives with.’

‘Come home,  Michelle.’

‘No…dancing in the moonlight. Who will dance with me?’ she yelled into the night.

‘I will.’ The voice was deep and true and came from beyond the trees.

‘Emerson. Wha’ - you doing here?’

‘I’m sorry  Elle. Let’s work through this together.’

Michelle collapsed into a heap in the centre of the soft grass. Emerson was beside her, whispering words for her ears only.

The wistful moon dipped behind a cloud.


She jumped. ‘Gavin? How did you - ?’

‘Emerson brought me. This is their special spot.’

'It's magical.'
'Want to feel some magic with me?’


As Gavin took her into his arms, the warmth was a silken blanket thrown lightly over their bodies

‘This is the way to celebrate the last day of high school,’ she whispered. 

Words 490

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Insecure Writers Support Group post - Be your own structural editor

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month which means posting for the Insecure Writers Support Group.

For the next few weeks I want to pass on some things I've learned recently through attending a Queensland Writer's Centre novel workshop conducted by a structural editor.

Who is a structural editor? Well that would be the person who gets given your ms after it's been accepted by a publishing house. It's the structural editor's brief to look for flaws in your story structure, character arcs, well, your whole ms really. (Not that you'll have any obviously!)

Today I'll just share general tips that were passed on:
  • Publishing requires a lot of luck as well as a lot of hard work.
  • Your novel has to be commercial or publishers won't want to know you. (Go here to read more on Jane Friedman's site - invaluable!)
  • Your novel has to be structured and clear.
  • In other words, you have to do it right.

Now a little more particular:

Get your story idea - the editor suggested you write about familiar things. Write about people you know, by blending people. Take events that have happened - your life, newspapers, television...and use these events in your story. (This reminds me of Jodi Picoult's style. She gets her ideas from current events then thoroughly researches the event, then peoples it with her characters - always quirky, always showing multiple viewpoints.)

As Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, first drafts are 'shitty'. She even says that 'all writers write them'. But the good news is: 'This is the way they end up with a good second draft and a terrrific third draft.'The difference between a 'shitty' first draft and a 'terrific' third draft is...editing...and that's what I'm going to post about next time. Here is a great link to Write to Done, a great article, 15 Ways to Write Tight which might help you with your first draft.

What do you think? Stephen King in 'On Writing' says much the same thing as Anne Lamott - get that first draft down, put it away for a month, drag it out and go to town on it, discuss it with others, then start your third draft. Do you agree? Do you get bogged down in the first draft, self editing as you go and driving yourself and your story crazy! Like me?