Friday, October 29, 2010


I avoided it for weeks, thought of a million reasons why it wasn't for me, then BAM! I was caught. NaNoWriMo  (National Novel Writing Month) for those who have somehow avoided knowledge of this event, starts on Monday November 1st.

Pen, over at The Dragon's Pen, is also joining the challenge with a cool steam punk YA novel. And fellow Mad Scribbler (that's our critique group) Chris is taking part as well.

So what is it I'm writing and where am I with Blackbird?

If you've been regularly reading this blog then you will know that for the past months I have been scratching together the final chapters of my first novel. And to be honest I feel like I have been going around in circles. I have made lots of progress, but the end has always been just out of grasp. To remedy this dilly dallying I decided to put the book aside until the end of November.

Isn't it amazing what a bit of space can do? Not two days after making this decision, a huge hurdle dissolved in front of me. I realised several chapters at the end of Blackbird had to go. They were first written when Blackbird and the next book were being written as one, but they don't fit what is now the end of the book. Removing them makes the ending much stronger. Huge sighs of relief!!! The mountain of work before me has shrunk to a mole hill.

Now to NaNoWriMo. I'm going to write the third book in my trilogy - Logan's Legacy. The year is 1892, seven months after the close of book two (still untitled) and about 3 years after the close of Blackbird. It continues the saga of Logan, Maddie and Ethan and is set against a backdrop of horse ranching in the Wyoming mountains, outlawing in Montana and the city life of San Francisco. Each of them struggle with loss and betrayal in their own way, but when love and forgiveness are finally in their grasp, the terrifying acts of two men threaten to tear their world apart.

This week I have been working on the structure and layout. The characters and setting are of course well known to me. What I am looking forward to is writing it chronologically. Blackbird was written in no order at all and I had no firm idea of the plot. I just had these people and this place I had to write about. Now, with three years experience under my belt, I have story arcs, a storyboard covered in little yellow post-its, and a very definite idea of where it's going and where it will end.

Quite by chance there are 29 post-its, each with an event, which means I can attack one for each day in November and have one whole day up my sleeve.  That's the plan anyway. Although it's a sequel, I'm looking forward to the freshness of a new story and a new way of approaching it. I'll keep you updated with my progress.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


This weekend is labour weekend, which means Monday is a holiday. It's the weekend for putting in vegetable gardens. Peas planted now will be ready to eat for Christmas Dinner. It is also the weekend my Mum used to bake the Christmas cake, before wrapping it up in newspaper and giving it a weekly dose of sherry.

There is another tradition for this weekend in Dunedin. It rains. Cold, blustery and wet. It's a dead certainty. We make plans and they are always dashed with rain.

But not this weekend. Dunedin has turned on blistering hot weather. The sun has been shining and the temperature is rising. And we've been busy.

We've moved the strawberry plants, planted the sweet peas and turned the soil for the potatoes. I've selected two new highly scented lavenders for the deck and for my garden under the kitchen window I've bought a huge tray of blue pansy seedlings, one of white lobelia and a mixed tray of angel's wings.  I've also got my eye on a tray of yellow pansy seedlings, which I'll buy next week.

We've also got the duvets out for a good airing, spruced up the deck and organised shelves in our glassed in porch where I plan to grow perpetual lettuces and herbs. I want to grow basil as I've recently learned how to make pesto.

If you're wondering whether I had time to bake the Christmas cake, I stopped making it several years ago. I never could get it 'just like Mum's'. On the Christmas theme, I was in the supermarket today and stock for the festive season has arrived. Only 61 days to go!

There is still one day of the weekend left and I'm wondering if I'll squeeze in some writing, but I guess I just have.

Happy holiday!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


In a recent post I talked about the similarities between New Zealand and Wyoming in the late 1800's. Today I'm going to explore one of the differences: wildlife.

New Zealand is a country of birds. The Kiwi of course being one of the most well known. (Not to be confused with the green fruit). The Kiwi, along with many other of our native birds is flightless. The reason being we have no native mammals. Once the white settlers arrived they brought stoats, weasels, rats, cats, rabbits, deer etc, which is why many of our birds are endangered.

So back in the 1800's or even today, we can go out into the countryside in New Zealand with no fear of wildlife. We may get stung by a bee or a wasp, or on a rare occasion a grumpy seal might give chase across a beach.

Things are rather different in Wyoming. I make no claim to be an expert on their wildlife and I've never  been there, but the following is a list of animals that I know are in the vicinity of the setting of my novel and that I have mentioned in my writing.

Bears - very large and very dangerous.
Mountain Lions - also called cougars, pumas, panthers,
  catamounts or painters.
Big Horn Sheep
Pronghorn deer
Skunks - sometimes called polecats. (Black and white
  stink bombs.)
Beaver - although they were almost trapped to
  extinction by the mid 19th century.
Prairie chickens
Jack rabbits
Rattle snakes
Blue jays, and of course the Red-winged Blackbird. (Blackbird being the title of my novel.)

One of the things I have really enjoyed while researching my story has been finding out about these creatures. Their habitats, habits, life cycles and how they affected the people they lived beside. Many of them provided food and clothing, others were a colourful or entertaining distraction, but some of them were dangerous, to the point of death.


Yesterday I found this book stuck beneath a much bigger volume in a dusty corner of my shelves. Glad to have found it, I sat down straight away and read it.

I knew a little of the story and had heard about the movie too. I was expecting a powerful and moving read and that is exactly what I got.

Here's a quote from the back cover by Ireland on Sunday: "Simply written and highly memorable. There are no monstrosities on the page but the true horror is all the more potent for being implicit."

I've read several other books set during the Holocaust, but this was such a different perspective.

Nine year old Bruno, the son of a Commandant, doesn't know why there are so many people behind the fence in Out-With. He's angry with the Fury for sending his family to this place where he has no friends and he just want's to go home to Berlin and his five story house with a bannister to slide down. And then he meets one of the boys from across the fence and a friendship develops.

For those of you that have read this story, you know the ending and it will have touched you deeply. If you've not read it, I urge you to. It is one of those stories that will stay with you for a very long time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


As a writer of historical fiction I spend a lot of time in the past - whether it's reading novels, reference books, surfing the net, or watching movies and documentaries. I love the old-fashioned lifestyle, or the idea of it. At this stage I should point out that I can't live without a car, dishwasher or hairdryer.

Whether it is my novel, or short stories, I seem to always end up in the late 1800s, with a particular attachment to the decade of 1880. I have set my short stories in New Zealand, but as you may already know, my novel is set in Wyoming with a few excursions to San Francisco. What has surprised me in my research, is how similar life was for Americans and New Zealanders at this time. Although New Zealand did lag behind a little in industry and technology. (I'll keep their differences for another post.)

In rural areas life was simple but hard. Heating and cooking came from wood stoves or coal ranges. Food came from the garden or the end of a rifle, supplemented by very basic supplies from the store. No five minute noodles for these cooks.

Clothes were made from natural fibres, wool, cotton and linen. They needed a good deal of ironing and took much longer to dry. My skin crawls at the thought of wearing woollen long johns (or union suits) all through the year. The luxurious softness of Merino was untapped at that stage.

Entertainment came from family members with an ability to play the fiddle or the piano, or from sing alongs. Books took pride of place and families might sit around the fire at night to listen to the latest serial edition of a Charles Dickens novel.

And they worked hard. For the women there were cows to milk, butter to churn, meals to cook from scratch and endless sewing and mending. For men there was hunting, ploughing, haymaking and the endless chopping of wood.

In the cities, during this period, the industrial revolution was well under way. Telephones and electric light were common place in the bigger cities. Some of the poshest hotels even had elevators. There were cable cars, steam ships and of course the train was well established. Refrigerated ships transported meat around the world and many homes sported treadle sewing machines.

The same people who lived through the gold strikes and the cattle drives, experienced the first motor cars. Some may have lived long enough to witness the first airplanes. The technology race we are entrenched in now, had its beginnings in the 19th Century. It truly was an exciting time to live in.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I rolled up my sleeves at the beginning of the week, ready to put my muse to work. The short story that I blogged about earlier was finished, but in need of major surgery. It took me very little time to realise it either had to be binned or rewritten in the third person. I'm opting for the rewrite, which I'll attend to at a later date.

In the meantime I had a dead line for a short story, written in first person and under 3000 words.

So I pulled my muse back from holiday and this is what I achieved:

*Sunday night I had an inspiration for a story.

*Monday afternoon I wrote the first half.

*Tuesday afternoon I finished it.

*Wednesday I gave it a thorough edit.

*Wednesday night at the Dunedin Writer's Workshop I entered it in the competition.

Now I just have to wait until the second Wednesday in November to see who wins the trophy. In the meantime it's back to my novel. Maddy and Logan have been abandoned for long enough.

Friday, October 8, 2010


The school holidays are all but over. We've had some awesome weather here in Dunedin, but a cold snap is forecast for Sunday. There is even a mention of snow!

As Hubby is a teacher the whole family have been on holiday. We've had trips to town, take away teas,  and watched some good family movies. Marley and Me had us all in tears, while Pink Panther 2 had us hooting with laughter. We also checked out The Golden Compass, which had my youngest wanting to read the books.

Hubby and I managed a couple of 'dates' without the kids and the odd sleep-in. He's back to work today with a First Aid course and I'm dealing to a pile of washing. Funny how the uniforms only made it to the laundry last night!

I've totally ignored the writing for a couple of days and put the muse on holiday. The short story I blogged about earlier is complete, but I'm leaving it to marinate before I do the final edit. I think I'm overdue for recharging the batteries and blowing away the cobwebs.

 This isn't the same pattern, but it's similar.
Tomorrow I plan to lose myself in the sewing room. Something I haven't done for a while. I hope I remember where to find it! A friend lent me a pattern for a wall hanging that I want to make a start on. It's an applique of three sheep stacked on each other's backs. Mmmm, I know that sounds odd, but it does look nice - cute and country. I'll post a photo when I get it finished.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Book number five completed, and what a read. Taken up almost a year after the last book, we find ourselves in a completely different setting. Hannah and her half brother Luke have finally found Jennet on an isolated Caribbean island. They embark on a daring mission to free her, only to find that Jennet and Luke's baby son has been kidnapped by a powerful and evil family.

The baby's trail leads them first to Florida then on to New Orleans, where the three of them become separated. Added to this complication is the 1812 war. The English are converging on the Louisiana coast while Andrew Jackson and his men have poured in from the north, to protect New Orleans.

Amidst the war torn city the three must find each other, save the baby and make their way home. Help is sent to them in the form of Jean-Benoit Savard - a man of French, African, Choctaw and Seminole extraction. Can he work a miracle?

Add in a love story, or two, and a pinch of voodoo and you have a gripping story.

There is now only one more book to read in this series. I'm looking forward to reading it, yet I know I'll miss these people and their stories.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I have been taking a short break from my WIP as I'm in the thick of writing a short story for the Dunedin Writer's Workshop's latest competition. Over the last couple of years I've rattled off several short stories. Most have had an historical setting, somewhere in Otago and this one is no different, yet I am tearing my hair out.

I have had moments of wondering if I've lost the touch. Perhaps a short story will never evolve from my muse again. Then today I had an epiphany!

The requirements of this competition are that the story be written in the first person. And there's the rub. I always write in third person.

So today, with the help of a friend, I took a fresh look at the story and everything's starting to fall in place. By the time I blog again I'm hoping the story will be finished, polished and ready to submit.
Clutha River, Otago. Where my story is set.