Thursday, March 29, 2012


Today felt like a good day for change! So welcome to my new look. At least it gives me a topic to blog on! (Yes, I've been scraping the barrel for ideas lately!)

On a more positive note I finished a short story I had begun last year, just in time for our latest competition at the local writers' workshop. Results will be announced on April 11th at our AGM. Which means it is a year since I put up my hand to be president of our group. Time certainly flies.

In my last post I talked about beginnings and that is what I am in the thick of at the moment. I'm almost at the end of the first chapter on my total re-write of Blackbird. It's coming out as a quite different story and that really is good news.  The essence is the same, but it's a more 'together' story. Progress is slow, but sometimes that is just the way it is. 

In other news, I've joined Goodreads. I'm finding it a great way to find new books, read reviews and keep a track of my TBR pile. If you haven't visited yet, it's worth a perusal.

As I'm learning Italian, there's a pile of historical novels set in Italy that I want to read. I'm quite familiar with the art history, but not the political history. All I really know is this family called Medici ....

And now that leads on nicely to a good excuse for another wonderful Italian picture.

Volterra, Italy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Last week I prepared a lesson on Beginnings for the writing group I belong to. To round it up I shared my own journey with the beginning of my WIP: Blackbird. I thought I'd share it here so we can all cringe at my myriad mistakes and maybe learn a thing or two.

Here's a brief outline of  my story and the main conflict, or inciting event that fuels the story.

My primary protagonist is 18 year old Maddie. She lives with her outlaw father in the mountains of North West Wyoming in the 1880s. Despite hating the outlaw lifestyle of her father and his men, she seeks to carve out a life for herself on the land she loves. 
The inciting event: Maddie will be given an ultimatum by her father: Be shipped off to an unknown aunt in the city of Boston and never return, or ride with his gang. Being the stubborn, pig headed girl that she is, she chooses to stay; confounding her father and every one else and setting off a chain of disastrous events. This is, of course, where the story truly starts. Everything before this is back story. 

Some setting up is required. The reader needs to understand the setting and time, and know enough of the protagonist to care about her decision. The question is: How much setting up?
This is the journey I have made over the past four years as I have learned how to write.
First draft: I started when my protagonist was about 10. Over ten chapters I set up her background, her relationship with her family and Logan (secondary protag) and threw in a few adventures for good measure.
The inciting event was perhaps 300 pages away!! But believe me, trashing those 300 pages was easy - my writing at this stage deserved to be trashed! 

Lesson learned: At this stage every sentence was a learning curve, but as for beginnings it was to find the 'inciting event'. 
Second draft: I started much later. I started at the point that Logan joined the gang. Still two years and far too many chapters before the inciting event! (You can laugh at my ineptitude at this point! I do!)

Lesson learned: I may need to know all these details but my reader doesn't. 
Third draft: I'd been reading plenty of writer's blogs and read a lot about starting with action. So I started with a bang: A high stakes action scene. Guns blasting; blood spilled. But after the gunsmoke cleared there were no consequences to this scene, it went nowhere. 

Lesson learnt: Action only works if it's relevant.
Fourth draft: I’m almost there: The inciting event is only a few months away. I opened with Maddie watching a funeral. It was meant to show how she felt about her Pa's gang , but was just plain passive. 

Lesson learned:  Don't start with a passive protagonist. 
Fifth draft: Opens with Maddie, spade in hand, increasing the hay field to support the extra cows she plans to buy. This shows her determination to make a life for herself on the land she loves. It shows her goal.
Her Pa turns up and tells her to stop! Immediately we have conflict and this conflict will slide into the inciting event within three to four chapters. Phew - I’ve finally got it. 

Lesson learned: Have the protagonist being active and show her goals. 

Now I just need to work on the middle and the end!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


This year, with homeschooling behind me and a few more hours to play with, I've decided to take on something new. I'm learning Italian and I'm loving it.

Why Italian, you may ask.

Back in the dark mists of time, when I was at high school, I studied Art History. The Italian Renaissance was one of the units and my love of art and Italy - particularly Florence - was born. I would love to visit Italy and with the kids approaching the age of independence, hubby and I are starting to dream of new and exciting adventures.

In Florence we will visit the Uffizi Gallery where many famous Renaissance paintings can be found:

Botticelli's The Birth of Venus (detail)

The battle of San Marino (detail) by Paolo Uccello

And then there is the Florence Cathedral -The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or the Duomo as it's normally called - in my opinion the most beautiful building in the world! The dome, designed by Brunelleschi, is magnificent.

One of the other must see sights in Florence is Michelangelo's magnificent statue of David.

Michelangelo's David

We also want to see the Tuscan countryside. Vineyards, rolling hills, and cyprus trees interspersed with Medieval villages.

The ancient town of Siena

We want to drive or walk through these places, breathe the air, eat the food and absorb the culture. And when we've explored all that Tuscany has to offer, Milan, Venice, Rome and Assisi await us.

I also have a dream of spending a Christmas in Vienna - but that's another story altogether!

Where in the world would you like to visit and why?

Friday, March 2, 2012


Elisabeth, over at The Second Sentence, was tagged by a Blog Quiz and issued an invitation to run with it. So, I picked it up and will deviate from the rules in the same way Elisabeth has done. 

First, I've answered Elisabeth's 11 questions then written my own below. Instead of tagging 11 fellow bloggers, I'll let you choose if you want to pick it up and carry it on. Or you could answer my questions in the comments. Whatever you choose - have fun!

1. Novels or short stories?
I started off writing novels, but ended up writing short stories as well. And although I occasionally read short stories, I much prefer novels - the longer the better!

2. Do you usually read a book before or after watching the film version?
It just depends on which version presents itself first.

3. Are you a fast writer or do you work slowly?
Definitely a slow writer. In fact I'm slow at everything. 

4. Who is a favorite obscure or forgotten author you'd like to see get more attention?
R.F.Delderfield. I read many of his books over 20 years ago and loved them. My favourites were A Horseman Riding By trilogy and To Serve Them All My Days. Lately I've been thinking of re-reading them - again.

5. Best mystery you've ever read?
I don't usually read mysteries. I know I've read a few and enjoyed them, but I can't think of the titles.

6. What book made you laugh the hardest?
I'm not much of a one for comedy either, but The Help had some really good laugh out loud moments, and some teary moments too.

7. Have you read any author's complete works?
Yes. When I like an author I want to read everything they've written. I've read all of Rosamunde Pilcher, Maeve Binchy (novels only), Nancy E Turner and Brenda Rickman Vantrease. And there are several others that I am short by only a book or two: Sharon Penman, Sara Donati, Diana Gabaldon, and Cecelia Ahern.

8. What place used as the setting in a book you've read would you like to visit?
I think I almost always want to go to the place where the book I am reading is set; whether that is in an other part of the world or another time: Wyoming in the 1880s, Italy, Britain in almost any century ... and the list goes on. I know I wouldn't like to go to any place where there was a war - no matter how much I'm enjoying the book.

9. What is your favorite BBC miniseries adaptation?
The above novels by R.F.Delderfield were dramatised and they were excellent. Poldark was wonderful too and how can I not mention Pride and Prejudice - the Colin Firth, one of course!

10. If you had the chance to write the screenplay for a classic novel adaptation (whether or not it's been done before), which would you pick?
The Three Musketeers, but I would make it serious and not a comedy, because as a child it was deadly serious to me and I loved it that way!

11. Do you tell people where you got your inspiration for stories, or keep it a deep dark secret?
I tell people, if they ask.

Now here are my questions:

1. What is your favourite all time novel?
2. The first grown-up book you read?
3. Your favourite children's author?
4. Do you have an eReader and how often do you use it?
5. If you could be anyone - what hero/heroine would you chose?
6. Do you have a favourite New Zealand movie?
7. A favourite New Zealand novel?
8.Where do you find the best place to find bargain book 'treasures'?
9. How many books do you read in an average year?
10.What is your favourite classic novel?
11. What book do you wish you had written?

Let me know if you carry this on so I can read the answers to my questions. :)