Saturday, December 24, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS




I'm having a bit of a break from writing and blogging, but I just wanted to wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

I hope your days are filled with family, good friends, great food and awesome books!!!

I'll be back again in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CHRISTMAS IS ALMOST HERE

Well, I've done it again, done a disappearing act. I can't quite believe it's been another two weeks since I last blogged. I've been busy getting everything organised for Christmas and for the first time in years I'm totally organised before the school holidays start, which is a wonderful feeling.

The tree is up:



 


And my favourite angel ornaments are gracing the piano:


By the end of this week everyone in the family will be finished school and six long weeks of summer holidays await us. We're hoping to complete a couple of projects in the garden, go for day trips in the car and find some new places to explore on foot. And for the inevitable cooler, rainy days there is a pile of books and another pile of movies to get through. What are your plans for the holidays?

The writing has taken a backseat for just a little while (just for the Christmas season), although there are the results of a couple of short story competitions coming up at the end of the month. (Fingers crossed!)

Wherever you are - knee deep in snow or basking in the sun - I hope you have a blessed and peaceful time leading up to Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

HELLO SUMMER

Today is the first day of summer and it is a perfect hot sun-shiny day. This morning I took a scrubbing brush and hose to the table on the deck to remove all that winter had thrown at it. Then I pulled up a chair and ate breakfast under the sun. A couple of resident fantails swooped around me and I spotted a large dragonfly. A lovely start to the day.



Along with the coming of summer is the end of the school year. This week my oldest finished school - forever. Second son has spent the week performing in the school show, playing a mighty mean bass guitar. Last night we went as a family and it was loads of fun. And my youngest is winding down her last year of homeschooling. She's off to high school next year and we are both looking forward to the change. There will, hopefully, be a much more prolific writing schedule for me next year.

An almost completed first chapter got an airing on Tuesday night at Mad Scribblers (the awesome critique group I attend). It received favourable reports. So with that boost to my confidence I'm dying to get stuck in and write up a storm!

I still have no title for this new novel, so I'll refer to it as Tegan's Story for the moment. I must admit to thoroughly enjoying writing a modern story. There is very little research needed, which is a nice change, although I do need to interview a friend with the same illness as Tegan's brother. I've never interviewed anyone so it will be another learning curve.

And I'll finish up with a big shout of CONGRATULATIONS!!!! to all those who have completed NaNo. Well done to you all.

Congratulations Graphics

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CHASING AFTER CHARACTERS

‎"It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does."  William Faulkner
 


A perfect quote for where I'm at. I really am chasing after new characters, watching how they react with one another and how they cope with what I'm throwing at them. Exciting stuff.


When creating characters, I fill out questionnaires that tell me things like what they wear to their greatest fears and everything in between. I find these really helpful.


The other day I came across a unique idea in an email from Writers' Digest. It was to put your character on the witness stand then interrogate them from both the prosecutors and defenders point of view. A good way to bring out the worst and the best of your character.


But despite all the preparation, for me, the best way to really get to know my characters is to just start writing. That's when they leap off the page and start to tell me their story. 


So how do you create your characters?




  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WHERE HAVE I BEEN?

Well, I could tell you I've been on a dream-come-true trip to Italy, or a road trip across Australia, but I'd be lying! Truth is I've been here all along carrying out all the normal, slightly predictable routines of being a mother and wife. The one difference being: Internet issues!!!

Now I could rant and rave about a particular internet provider, but that won't get any of us anywhere. Instead I'll say a big HELLO to all of you wonderful loyal readers who are still stopping in despite my absence. I must say the Stats button on Blogger is a wealth of interesting information. It seems that for every New Zealander that pops over for a visit, 3 readers from USA come by. This is a new trend in the last week or so. Not sure why, but hey, it's good to have you.

Since this blog is supposedly about my writing journey, I should catch you all up with my latest doings.

My latest short story, written for a speculative fiction competition, failed to get a place. It's a gothic historical tale entitled The Scent of Lilies. I really enjoyed trying a different genre. I've had good feedback on it and will rework it for another up coming competition.

It is now four years since I started on this great adventure of writing, and therefore I've spent the last four years with the characters in my novel, Blackbird. I had put it aside earlier this year and dabbled with a different story, then went back to it. Big mistake! But we're allowed those, as long as we learn from them and I have.

One of the most important things I've learned is where to start a story. I have a real tendency to start early, to set the scene etc etc. Three times I have cut the beginning chapters off, once I needed to trim about ten of them. And now I finally have worked out where the right beginning should be and what form it should take. I just have to write it.

And that's the rub. I can't find it in me to write another word. I'm just so tired of the story. So, with a sigh, I have consigned it to the bottom drawer. Do I feel like I have failed? No. I've learnt to write on that story. I've moved from the 'truly terrible' to the 'almost there'. Will the novel ever see the light of day again? Yes. With a long break I hope to pick it up and rewrite it from scratch, because I still love the characters and I believe in the story.

So what will I do in the meantime?

Well there's this techno savvy girl, who's found herself in the black blocks of Central Otago, and she's whispering her story in my ear.

photo of Ida Valley from the Otago Daily Times

Friday, November 4, 2011

HOLIDAY TREASURE

When I set off on my travels a couple of weeks back, I hoped to return with the inspiration for a story or two. As you know from my previous post the short trip was not what I bargained for. I returned home stiff, tired and a little disappointed.

However, when hubby and I returned to fetch our daughter from camp we stopped off at a little antique store in Clinton. And this is what I found.





My dream is to have a farmhouse kitchen and at the moment I'm about halfway there. I've got pine furniture, open shelves, a collection of old tins and the odd ornamental chicken or cow. And I've got plans involving a stack of T&G wood, some chicken wire cupboard doors and more than a few patchwork creations.

So when I saw this treasure I snapped it up. There's something cosy about those eggs nestled in that lovely warm toned wood, isn't there?

The little metal disc is stamped Northern Prairie Timber Company, so I assume it hails from Canada or USA.

I've never seen anything like it. Have you?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

HOLIDAYING IN ARROWTOWN

As promised here's a post about my trip to Arrowtown with my hubby.

We set off very early last Monday morning with daughter's camp gear squashed into the back of my wee car. By mid morning we had left her at her second home - Pukerau Christian camp.

We drove up from Gore through rolling green farm land to Kingston. Tucked in under mountains at the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu, Kingston is a tiny town where the Kingston Flyer resides. At present the steam train is out of use and in the hands of new owners. Hopefully it will be up and running again soon. Several years ago we took the family on the restored train on its roundtrip to Garston.  A 20 minute trip if I remember rightly. New Zealand readers might remember the role the train had in the Cadbury's Crunchie Bar adds.  A very western style add with gun-brandishing outlaws!! One of my favourites, of course.

The shore of Lake Wakatipu - Kingston

By the time we arrived in Queenstown the weather had closed in. We ducked between shops trying to avoid the rain. It's almost ten years since I last visited and I was amazed at how large this town has become. In my younger days it was a quiet holiday town. Now it is the adventure capital of New Zealand and even has its own international airport.

A short drive from Queenstown had us in Arrowtown; cold and wet. After settling in to our accommodation we searched out a nice place for dinner. We ate at an old converted stable in the middle of this picturesque little village.

The Stables - built by Bendix Hallenstein in 1873.


I love how this little town, foundered on the discovery of gold in the 1860's, retains its frontier look. Here's some photos. Imagine there's no cars, add a few horses, a wagon or two, perhaps a lady in a bonnet and a long dress ...







The next morning brought torrential rain and after a virtually sleepless night, due to a bed which I'm sure was made from lumps of concrete, we decided to return home. So our holiday was cut in half, but it was  refreshing to get away and revisit some interesting and beautiful places. Here's a few more pictures.

Several cottages in Arrowtown built in the 1870s.

A little house close to the restored Chinese Settlement. This place tugs at something deep inside.  I've a feeling it's going to feature in a future story!




On the way back home we went off the beaten track to visit The Lonely Graves. Before I took this photo a Magpie dive bombed me and tried to take off with my hood - he failed!

Last year I wrote a story about these graves. You can read it here.

With summer just around the corner, I'm going to have to organise a few more of these excursions. I'll need to pray for soft beds and no rain first!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

KOWHAI BLOOMING

I can't quite believe that the first week of the school holidays is over. It only seems a moment ago that I was waiting for them to start!

On the writing front, things are ticking along nicely. My short story is finally finished and I handed it in for judging on Wednesday. I found writing in a completely different genre a real challenge. It required me to change my usual writing style, both sentence structure and choice of words.  I feel like I've had a vigorous workout and have given myself a few days off!

Recently I had some in depth and really helpful feedback on my novel, Blackbird. It's given me much needed inspiration and I'm looking forward to getting back into the thick of it.

On the domestic front, hubby and I are taking off for a few days. On Monday we're dropping our youngest at a camp near Gore then heading off to Arrowtown via Kingston and Queenstown. It's been almost 10 years since I have been up that way and I'm so excited. Central Otago is one of my favourite places in the world. I'm hoping that tripping around and visiting the cemeteries and museums will inspire some historical stories.

I'll tell you about our travels when we get back.

In the meantime, here's some photos of our Kowhai trees, which have just burst into flower. For my overseas readers Kowhai is the Maori word for yellow and is pronounced - ko (rhymes with no) , phi (rhymes with high). The flowers attract many native birds especially the Tui with its little white throat. We're fortunate to have several of them living close by.








A Tui, but not from my camera

Thursday, October 13, 2011

ELISABETH GRACE FOLEY ON WRITING WESTERNS




Today I'm pleased to welcome Elisabeth Grace Foley on the fourth stop of her blog tour. 
Her first eBook THE RANCH NEXT DOOR AND OTHER STORIES -  an anthology of western stories - is available at Smashwords and Amazon for US$2.99. It's a great read with wonderful characters and story lines that stay with you long after you've read the last word. You can read my review here. 


Elisabeth is a young writer (21) who lives in the north east of USA. Today she is going to tell us what inspired her to write westerns. 



I first got acquainted with Westerns in the same way many people probably havethrough film and TV. My dad always liked Westerns, and as a little girl I spent many weekend afternoons watching John Wayne movies and classic TV shows like Bonanza with him. I was also a thoroughly horse-crazy kid, so the presence of so many horses in Westerns was probably a big attraction.


Oddly enough, my introduction to Western literature came by way of Roy Rogers. One of Roy’s early films, The Border Legion (a.k.a. West of the Badlands) was apparently based (very, very loosely) on a novel by Zane Grey. I’d enjoyed the movie and decided to look up the book.

Well, I never did end up reading The Border Legion, but I began with The Light of Western Stars and went through about a dozen more books by Zane Grey. His often melodramatic novels of romance and adventure were a new reading experience for me. But I think it was the West, rather than the flowery prose, that had me hooked. From there I moved on to other classic Western authors, a variety of styles among themLouis L’Amour, Max Brand, B.M. Bower and others.

Somewhere during this time my own interest in writing resurfaced. I’d been writing stories for most of my life, and occasionally talked about getting published someday, but all of that had taken a back seat for a while during my teens while I studied music. I got back into writing by participating in National Novel Writing Month a couple of times. And my lifelong interest in history also experienced a resurgence. History had always been my favorite school subject, and the more I read the more it fascinated me. To me, the American West represents a fantastic opportunity for the historical fiction writer, because there’s such a wealth of material to draw on. So many different settings, climates, people and events—plenty of factual inspiration, and also plenty of room to let your imagination go to work with your own fictional creations.

I’ve started small and simply with this collection, but I put a lot of love and hard work into each of the stories. I hope I can take what I’ve learned in writing them and go on to more ambitious projects in the future. It’s exciting to think about all the stories that are just waiting to be written.


Thanks for sharing with us Elisabeth.
You can visit her blog The Second Sentence here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A BLOG TOUR

As an addition to my previous post, here are the details to Elisabeth Grace Foley's blog tour for the launch of her book: The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories.

Today:  Elisabeth will be at  Writing With Style sharing how she got her inspiration for the story The Ranch Next Door and a giveaway of her book.

Wednesday: An author's spotlight at Meg Mim's blog and a guest post on editing at K.M.Weiland's Wordplay.

Thursday: Here with me to talk about what influences her to write in the western genre.

Friday: An interview and giveaway at Writing at High Altitude.

I hope you can hop over to these blogs. One thing I like about blog tours is that apart from the author interviews and giveaways, which are always fun and informative, it's a chance to explore some different blogs.

Well, I'm off now to add the final scene to my short story. The competition closes on Wednesday night. I think, despite my annoying health issues, that I will get there. Phew!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

THE RANCH NEXT DOOR AND OTHER STORIES



Earlier this week, this collection of western short stories was launched by Elisabeth Grace Foley. I have been a regular follower of her blog The Second Sentence for over a year now and it is a great pleasure to be able to review her first venture into the world of ePublishing.

There are seven stories in this collection, all set on the prairies of the American west. The collection opens with 'The Ranch Next Door', a story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. The Spencers are cattlemen and the Ryans are sheepherders; never a good mix. So what happens when a Spencer falls in love with a Ryan?

'Disturbing The Peace' came next with a more reflective tone, followed by 'Cross My Heart' that had me holding my breath as the tension built.

'A Rangleand Renaissance' is my favourite. Old man Patton, an irascible old crone, has his granddaughter wrapped around his finger, he's even interfering with her courting! But are things as they seem? Elisabeth's prose shone in this story. Old man Patton leapt of the page fully formed, with absolutely spot on dialogue.

'The Outlaw's Wife' was riveting, with a wonderful twist at the end that I just didn't see coming and 'Delayed Deposit' was a fine end to a great anthology.

These stories are packed with cowboys and outlaws, yet beyond the high stakes and adventure there is a quiet, thought provoking quest for justice and integrity. These stories linger after the last word is read, which, to me, is the sign of a great writer.

'The Ranch Next Door' can be purchased at Amazon or  Smashwords for US $2.99.

And join me on Thursday 13th of October when I will be hosting a guest blog with Elisabeth Grace Foley, where she will be discussing why she writes westerns.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MUSINGS FROM A SLEEPY BLOGGER

It's sometimes hard to come up with a blog when not much has been happening. I'm getting over the last of the shingles, which have left me with an insatiable need to sleep! the weather is bouncing between glorious warm sunshine and cold overcast drabness, and I'm still grappling with the first three chapters of my novel - with a modicum of success. So really I have nothing awe inspiring or exciting to report.

Have I read some good books? Yes, definitely, but nothing I feel like reviewing - yawn - I need more sleep.

What about telly?  Well I did watch a doco about three men in a boat in Scotland. I enjoyed that and it rekindled my desire to travel there. A bit of a problem about all the boat rides to the islands though. Not sure I like the idea of little planes either.

Movies? I enjoyed one on the telly the other day. Can't remember the title - what does that tell you?

Oh, a light bulb flash! I watched Young Victoria on Sunday evening. Now that was wonderful. What really intrigued me was her succession to the throne. I always assumed she was the daughter of a king, but not so. This movie really highlighted my ignorance of the monarchy over this period. I know an awful lot about the Tudors - can't avoid them really, can we? Then, thanks to the superb writings of Sharon Penman, I have some knowledge of the Middle Ages, but the Regency? My knowledge of that era begins and ends with what I've gleaned from Jane Austen, and if you know her work then you know that the monarchy gets barely a mention. Well, not that I noticed anyway.

So, there you go. A glimpse into the not very exciting life of an aspiring novelist. I'll think I'll go take another nap now.  I'll just find a pretty picture for you first :)

Victoria and Albert - Quite the handsome couple aren't they?

Friday, September 30, 2011

SECONDHAND TREASURES

Just a few minutes drive from my home is the Gardens shopping centre - so called for its proximity to Dunedin's beautiful Botanic Gardens. Amongst the usual shops we are fortunate to have not one, but two secondhand bookstores.

On a recent trip I came across these two treasures:


WHAT JANE AUSTEN ATE AND CHARLES DICKENS KNEW by Daniel Pool.

From fox hunting to whist this book describes in detail the facts of daily life in 19th century England. Whilst Daniel Pool wrote this to help make the reading of 19th century books easier, for me it is an open window into the lives of the people who often frequent my stories and novels.

There are chapters on subjects such as Currency, Etiquette, Transport, Clothing and Disease. Then at the back there is a comprehensive glossary, covering words like reticule, tiffin, pelerine and cotillion.

It will sit comfortably on my bookshelf next to Ian Mortimer's 'The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England' and Candy Moulton's 'The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West'.


BLACK BILLY TEA - NEW ZEALAND BALLADS by Joe Charles.



This fascinating book is filled with ballads about old time New Zealanders. There's ballads featuring gold diggers, swaggies, shearers, drovers and even sailors, all written by Joe Charles. Before each song is a short history or explanation and a black line drawing.

I'm particularly drawn to his ballads, 'Somebody's Darling', 'Gentle Annie' and 'Roaring Meg', well known legends from Central Otago.



Here's a few lines from 'Roaring Meg.'



... No butter-milk maid with shy girlish ways,
    But a bull-busting barmaid of the gold-digging days,
    Who could handle a team and a full bullock yoke,
    A girl you could talk to and share a good joke.
    Her voice was as clear as a chime of brass bells,
    And the mountains fair rang with her bullock-driving yells.
    Her eyes were bright blue, a-roving and bold
    And her heart was as true as a nugget of gold.
    A bull-whacking barmaid - an Irish colleen-
    Was wild Roaring Meg, the gold-digger's queen! ...

There's plenty of fodder in these pages for my fertile imagination! I'm sure they will inspire many a story.










And on a final note, this is my 100th blog post!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

Having just got back into the swing of blogging again, I came down with shingles. (Check out my last post.) Now one week and one day later, I'm back again.

Yesterday I ventured out, feeling much better, but still not 100%. And what a surprise was in store for me!
Trees that were bare and wintry a week ago are covered with green buds, pink and white blossom abounds, and daffodils have raised their bright and sunny heads.

Daylight saving started in the weekend and I'm enjoying the extra light at the end of the day. When it was autumn I know I said it was my favourite season, but spring comes a close second. It's the promise of new things, new life. Lambs bleating in the farm land behind us and the birds acting 'twitterpated'. (That's a word stolen from Disney's Bambi movie.)I like the bluer skies and the sunnier days of spring, but appreciate the cool breeze.



Last night was the monthly meeting of Mad Scribblers, which is the critique group I belong to. Six like- minds getting together to discuss our latest scribblings. I took along another chapter of the rewritten Blackbird and was pleased with the mostly favourable feedback. It's not perfect (of course) but it seems I'm on the right track.

Now, for the next two weeks it's back to the short story I'm writing for a competition. All going well, you will be hearing from in the next day or two.

Wish me luck!

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SO WHAT DOES THE DICTIONARY SAY?

shin·gle

1   [shing-guhl]  Show IPA noun, verb, -gled, -gling.
noun
1.
a thin piece of wood, slate, metal, asbestos, or the like,usually oblong, laid in overlapping rows to cover the roofs and walls of buildings.


Now in New Zealand we would call these shingles, tiles and mostly they would be made of terra cotta.  Although our older Victorian buildings have slate roofs. Our little church, which is well over 100 years old, has a slate roof; several tiles fell off with the Christchurch earthquake.

My favourite type of roof is tin. Good old corrugated iron. I love the sound of rain as it plunks down on it, or the scuttling of a possum as it races across. Almost every house I've ever lived in has had a tin roof. So when I write, my characters invariably live under one. Which works for 19th century New Zealand and the American West. In England there might be a thatched roof, or in Scandinavia a turf roof with a full 'head' of grass. I wonder what it would be like to live under one of those?

However, today is not about the roofing definition of shingles. It's about the following:

shin·gles

  [shing-guhlz]  Show IPA
noun used with a singular or plural verb Pathology .
a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, especially by reactivated virus in an older person, characterized by skin eruptions and pain along the course of involved sensory nerves.


As I write this, I am sitting up in bed, feeling sore and miserable.  I want to work on my short story, the next chapter of my novel, or critique a chapter for a friend. Instead, I think I will read, play some silly Face Book games and snooze a little too.

Oh, and thanks to Dictionary.com for the definitions.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

SATURDAY AFTERNOON IN DUNEDIN

This afternoon I had a pleasant trip into town with a friend. We went to the movies and watched The Help, then chatted over coffee at the newly refurbished cafe - Kitsch.

I recently read Kathryn Stockett's The Help and thoroughly enjoyed it. But sometimes when you go on to watch the movie it's disappointing. I'm pleased to be able to tell you, that wasn't the case with this movie.  Yes, they changed a few things so it fitted a movie format, but nothing was lost in the telling of the story. My friend and I laughed and cried and left the theatre feeling like we could watch it all over again.

Driving through town was an interesting experience too. The city is buzzing with Rugby fever. Flags flying everywhere and a general festive air. So many visitors, a good portion of them wearing the red and white of English supporters. Interesting that the English strip is all black now, but that's another matter all together!

Have you been following the World Cup and if you have what team do you support? Being a Kiwi it's the All Blacks for me, although I'm not a serious fan by any means.

At the Kitsch cafe the fire was roaring and my favourite 60's song - Eleanor by the Turtles - welcomed us. As the name suggests this cafe is devoted to all things kitsch. Formica table tops and 60's decorations everywhere. Models of Thunderbirds, pictures of The Beatles, LP records and the list goes on. If you live in Dunedin, or you come visiting, do check them out. I can tell you their caramel slice is divine.

Whatever you chose to do this weekend, enjoy!