Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Jane Austen Challenge

A while ago I challenged myself to reading all of Jane Austen's novels and those of you with beady eyes will have noticed that I have added Mansfield Park to my list.

I'd thought I would write a review about it, but to be perfectly honest it wasn't my favourite read. I've read a review of Mansfield Park by A.S.Byatt who said: "It's been used to prove that Jane Austen was secretly concerned to make a point about slavery." Now I know that has been utilised in a movie version, but I went through my copy with a fine toothed comb and no mention of slavery was present. Do I have pages missing, am I incredibly dense? If anyone can throw some light on this matter, I'd love to hear from them.

However, intrigue aside, I wanted to tell you about the beautiful copies of Miss Austen's books that I have gracing my bookshelf, courtesy of a very generous husband. They are published by Collector's Library and are  reasonably priced. Under the elegant dust cover are red silk covers, gold edged pages and a satin marker. I love their small size - perfect to slip into a ladies reticule.

They publish a large range of classics, from Alice in Wonderland to Moby Dick. I'm tempted to add a few more classics to the shelf.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where Do Stories Come From?

   This question was inspired by The Dragon's Pen's latest post. Pen, as her post reveals, is a very visual person. Her muse is inspired by pictures and things she sees. She posed the questions: What personality is your muse? What inspires you?
   It got me thinking. Where do my stories come from? And I had to think hard, because they are just there.
   I have always had an incredibly fertile imagination. I've always been able to stretch the truth. As a child I know I told some incredible 'white lies'.

 But what starts me on the creation of a story?
   I realised it's other stories, be it books, films, television, or the stories of family and friends. I store them up, marinate them with my own flavouring, then deliver them freshly baked onto my computer screen.
   I can see the evidence of this in my writing. I've always loved to read long, epic, historical novels and that is what I'm writing.
   Westerns - from The Little House books to movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have always intrigued and excited me. So it's no surprise that my novel is set in 1880s Wyoming and has a good mix of outlaws and God abiding characters.

   I'm known in my family for having the best memory. My head is full of stories from the lives of my aunts, grandparents, great uncles etc. Several of the more intriguing events in my families past have turned up in my short stories.

I think 'place' has a part in it too. I love Dunedin - I've lived here my whole life. I've set a few short stories here, and there are several more waiting to come out.
Central Otago is another favourite place. Recently I brought three books about the history of the Maniototo, Wanaka and Strath Taieri. Fodder for future novels.
So thank you Pen for asking the question and inspiring this post.
For the other writers out there in the blogosphere, how are you inspired?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Little Word Called When

I came across a wonderful blog a while ago on 'showing not telling'. It was by the author Janice Hardy, who has a real talent for explaining things. You can visit her blog here. I couldn't link the actual blogpost, but it was dated April 28, 2010. It is well worth checking out.

She has a list of words that can red flag when we are telling instead of showing. I did a search through my manuscript on these words and it highlighted many lapses. 

Here's the list: to, when, as, in, could see, the sound of, realized.

Not that we should do away with them totally. That would be impossible. But they do have the potential to lead into telling.

And the biggest offender in my manuscript?    WHEN!

It appeared 287 times. And apart from when it was used in speech, it almost always signaled a descent into telling.

Now, when I'm about to write that pesky word I stop myself and think again. So thank you Janice for your wonderful insight and your generosity in sharing it. 

Do go and check out her blog. It's full of helpful tips and information on writing.     

Friday, July 9, 2010


It's the school holidays and here in Dunedin we have had beautiful sunny days - until today. So fine in fact that we drove up to Palmerston, to buy an ice cream!

Most of yesterday was spent going through old photos with my 11 year old daughter. A fun thing to do. It's so hard to believe how little my three once were.

We caught up on old friends on Wednesday. It had been over 18 months since our three kids and their's  had been together. They stood facing one another in absolute silence, measuring each other up. It reminded me of cats meeting in no mans land. No fighting, but a cautious eyeing and a bristling of the tail. Within the hour they were the best of friends.

Tomorrow we are having a Birthday Party - mine. I'm not much into parties, but this is a special one. It has a 0 on the end. Hubby and kids want to arrange the hall and food and everything themselves, so I've been banished - apart from making the chocolate cake!

After lunch tomorrow, a friend and I are going to the movie to see the latest Twilight movie. We need to check it out before we let the kids go - seriously! A bit of book shopping and then tea at a cafe before the party. I am feeling spoilt already.

And when the dust has settled, there's another whole week of holidays. With hubby being a teacher it means he's home too. Which makes it that much nicer. We're planning on seeing an exhibition of Albrecht Durer at the Art Gallery, visiting the Chinese Gardens and then there is the usual rounds of haircuts, shoes that need replacing and the odd item of uniform that has been out-grown.

So, I hear you ask, how is my book going? I am, after all, so close to finishing. Well, it is going. Very, very slowly. I'm finding the odd moment here and there and I'm managing to get some reading in too, but for these two weeks, being a Mum fills in most of the day. And really, I wouldn't have it any other way.