Friday, November 12, 2010

Tomorrow I'm down south for a writers conference.

Probably a bit under my level since I'm already a published author, but they are very invigorating and I know,

No matter how long

You have been in the publishing world

There is always something

You can learn

And the minute you forget this

Forget publishing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A quandary of jinxes

I'm a superstitious character. Don't like it. I don't, for example, walk under ladders. But that's quite sensible. And if I don't know it exists, such as looking through glass at a full moon - well then I happily live in blissful ignorance.

Some omens are just plain unfair. For example, the neighbor's cat sits on the gate post. If I come out of the house with the dog on the leash then the cat hops down, runs in front of me and wallah! That's supposed to be a bad omen.

Not quite sure what bad omens can do. Like bad things happen - is that the result of a bad omen? Like, my husband left me? Did the cart come before the horse. He left because of a bad omen. Or did he create a bad omen? Was he the bad omen?

And if the vacuum cleaner is giving problems. Is it a bad vacuum cleaner. Is there a problem because of my neighbour's cat?

But then I also have my own in-built superstitions. They pop up in my head quite suddenly and they really are quite annoying. Like if I send a manuscript, do I tell people? If I tell them does that jinx it. But if I don't tell them will that also jinx me? I then get confused and in a quandary of jinxes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Writing as an Adventure - or - Be In It To Win It

Writing as an Adventure - or - Be In It To Win It
Somebody once said to me- "Oh I always meant to write when I retire."

Given the age of retirement is 65 here (recently I think, moved to 67 or something like that) that's a long time to wait to start writing. And while there are many people who don't get published until they might be that age, their motivation to write will have been with them all their lives and they should have spent many long nights writing before or after working all day in the office.

In other words a writer is born that way.

So I nod politely when people say this type of thing because they think because I can do it, anyone can. Either I look stupid, or... ah... I look stupid, full stop.

Writing is an adventure. It is painful. It is fun. It hurts. It can be triumphant. There are good times. There are bad. There are.

Advice to beginners, middlers and patient always have written hopefuls is just don't think - do. Don't plan. Just do. Don't sit down and try to plot the whole story like you were planning an overseas trip. Don't use precision and don't procrastinate. Just sit and do.

Some tips would be to carry a notebook with you at all times. You never remember good ideas. Good ideas are spontaneous little devils and like to play catch me while you can. Cheat them. Just tell them "later" and sneak it into your notebook while they're not looking.

Lucky you if you are technologically savvy. One of my writing group I am totally envious of. She puts them into her cell phone.

Another tip. Have a plot board. One of those cork jobs you can move around, throw in frustration or whatever. But pin things on it relating to a broad aim. I just tear up sheets of A4 and I can rearrange the chapters, ideas, etc. at will. This includes basic facts such as names, relationships etc.

Personally I don't do that, but some people like to answer quizzes about their characters, their aims, well... whatever it takes to motivate you, help you, grab it with both hands - every mickle makes a muckle.

Don't let people discourage you. My mother once said "oh that's just a silly romance" - "absolute rubbish". I also write and illustrate children's books and she was proud of them, but didn't realise that just because she wasn't a romantic soul, doesn't mean I needn't be one. You will probably think what sort of awful parent I have but my father once said to me "what makes you think you are so special as to anticipate you can convince somebody to like this rubbish?" again referring to my romance. Well. Given that he hadn't even read it makes it nonsense. But I don't let them discourage me because my sister once described the sort of books my father like to read then would pass them onto my mother and sister to read. She was most scathing herself. Consequently I learned to keep my own counsel as far as my parents were concerned.

Another tip. Love your characters. People don't like to read a whole book full of some nasty little nark nobody could love. You have to give them somebody to barrack for. I hope you don't hate your baseball, or footy team. Don't know about you, but Greg Norman and the old Tige got a vote of unpopularity from me because of their ego trips, leaving normal moral values hanging on the fence, forgotten.

Biggest, most important tip? Keep writing. Persevere. Thomas the Tank Engine. "I can do it. I know I can do it."

Edit, edit and edit. Make sure that what you publish will never be shamefully hidden away when you are famous. That's a bit like Marilyn Monroe's little nudie calendar done in a moment she needed some cash and haunting her once she hit the big time.

Not every day will shine for you. Good days and bad days happen. But in a way, they are good for you. Good days make you want to dance. Bad days make you (a) try harder and (b)realise what a good day you had yesterday and (c) anti ego.

Okay, enough. I'm off to write. Where are you going?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Well, it's done...

I met the deadline for two short stories. One of them was a regency. And once again I am charmed by it. And once again, I am talking like it because that is where my head has been whilst I wrote it.

And yet it has led me to contemplate what it is that charms me so much about it. In actual fact it is a period of stilted interraction between people. They did not say what they thought. There was a lot of double standards. The rich were rich and the poor very poor. Children swept chimneys. Women died in childbirth. There were no penicillin drugs to keep babies alive. And Jane Austen didn't have a typewriter.

Of course when I set a Regency, of course it is set in the posh side of town. If it isn't it's going to at least be a rags to riches kind of story because a riches to rags story doesn't cut to the tone.

But heck it does suit my kind of sense of humor. And I do love Jane Austen. And the vocabulary is very flowery.

I wonder were history to go backwards rather than forwards, and they would sit in judgement of us, would they be as fascinated by our way of doing things. Somehow I don't think so. Look at us...

Men don't vacate their bus seats, you can't scold a school kid for littering, they'd only swear at you. Rapes take place every day. Women get themselves tattooed with growing enthusiasm. Rudeness is rife. People have little regard for each other. They'd have to look at the Holocaust and shake their heads at the breakdown of humanity. They'd have to wonder what manner of man can walk into a community and blow himself up in order to seek the comfort of 75 virgins in heaven and to kill as many of his fellow creatures because they didn't agree with his opinion... need I go on...

But writing a regency is great fun.
Go to this site:
And look at the wonders of modern technology if you love Jane Austen.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

You gotta admire diligence.

Well, I've been very good. My last blog was at least in 1010.

Today I feel like a wet rag. Maybe rather, a wet dishcloth. There's something strange on in Sydney. It's called a 'footy final'. For me it means Sydney regains some sort of sanity, but for a lot of people it's some kind of rights passing.

People all over Sydney, with strangely painted faces gather - in the rain minus an umbrella to watch a bunch of muddied individuals fighting over a ball.



Well, I won't be there. I'd rather show my cellulite in an untouched photograph in Vogue.

There will be 85,000 people in a stadium.


As we speak, the games in Delhi are about to start.

Maybe I'm just not tribalistic? Or patriotic? But sorry. Commonwealth Games? Who'd want to get Delhi Belly or Denghi Fever over this sorry bunch. The Commonwealth of Britain ceased to be a viable entity decades ago. Most of Europe is going under the weight of its illegal immigration and the current financial hardships. Africa is a cot case.

And all they'e got to look forward to is a group leader shot of Government heads of mostly corrupt dictators with the man who talks to plants sitting in the middle in a grey suit and looking totally out of place - as he is. (That's Prince Charles for anyone not in the Commonwealth.)

Hey Canada! Wanna bet? We win the 200 butterfly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The problem with Bloggers

You have to keep at them.

I have a wonderful book. It is the diary(ies) of Blanche Mitchell. 15 year old in the 1850's, daughter of the Public Surveyor of early settled Sydney government. He's deceased but his family live in the affluent eastern suburban expanses down near the harbour of Double Bay (very posh) at the grace and charity of her brother who inherited the wealth.

Her father was a very educated man and Blanche is a product of his affluence and influence in believing an education is as important for a woman. He is also the benefactor of the main library of NSW/Sydney - The Mitchell Library. His own extensive library is housed in this library. And I have had the honor of exhibiting my illustrative artwork there - as well as lecturing on being an author.

Blanche is in my soul. She infiltrated it to the extent I felt the need to seek out her grave in Newtown, an early suburb of Old Sydney. Her father is buried there. Interesting, maybe even spooky that I could not find the grave. Frustrating! I looked and looked but nothing. So I gave up and walked back to the car. But I fell over in the long green rather neglected lawn. The gardenia I had brought with me for her fell out of my hand. I sat up and dusted me down feeling slightly awkward. Looked around to see how unnoticed I'd been and I had been totally ignored. BUT GET THIS... I looked up and guess where I'd fallen. Right beside Daddy Mitchell and Blanche Mitchell. He did expect the gardenia was for him, but I reassured his presence that this was well and truly meant for my little friend, Blanche.

Blanche lived in the 1850's and sadly died early... not much into her twenties. She wrote beautifully about the things she did on a daily basis in that time. And when one reads these things, though they are/were mundane they take on a new context in another age.

Toothaches end up at dentists who don't have the sophistication of todays adherents.
The internet doesn't exist so a sister marrying and living in Britain might write and receive mail twice a year. Excitement came in the form of parties involving the visiting officers of the Royal Navy. Walks and picnics on beaches with officers from the barracks. The arrival of packets (boats), or a navy ship was a big deal. Sundays were for church, and teaching Sunday school. Does anyone remember mending. It was a real activity.

But the real point about diaries is this. Even though it was a yesterday, it takes on an element of here and now. Our lives as we go through them are progressing through a daily round on nows. For Blanche it is a future. For me it is now. And for me, Blanche is a past - at least I thought so until I read her diaries and realised that this is a confounding fact.

If I didn't sleep last night, that is important to me. I will wake up tired and possibly angry in the morning... if I don't eat dinner at some point in time I will become ravenous. If the postman doesn't come today I am frustrated but he'll probably be here tomorrow... mundane things.

Of course I'm being philosophical. I wonder if this is part of my makeup as an author. Whether it is people like me who reflect on things like this that might end up in elements of my sense of being and eventually in my writing. I need this kind of world in which to place my characters.

So blogs are very important. They are like diaries. But diaries are nasty little nagging duties. You have to be persistent. But so do you as an author. Without persistence you don't end up with a story. Without a story your frustration grows because being an author is being part of you.


I will blog.
I will blog.
I will blog.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On writing novels

Elizabeth's spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. "How could you begin?" said she. I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?"

"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. IT is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun."

Once again Jane Austen has summarised for me the act of authorship.

Can anyone put it better?

That once can find themselves in the middle before they have realised it has begun?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Time flies said the monkey...

As he threw the clock over the cliff.

Why do people wait for New Year to make resolutions? Well, I guess that's another way of asking why don't I? I seem to make resolutions all the time. Some are good, some are bad. Some are fattening. Some are good for your head. Some are good for your credit card (it's called Sense and Sensibility)...

Here are some of my resolutions:

Drink more water during the day. I try to.
Edit, concentrate, edit, concentrate, edit, concentrate. I try to.
Eat more greens. I've got a crush on spinach and cauliflower at the moment.
Edit, concentrate, edit, concentrate, edit, concentrate.
Eat more fruit, and... speaking of fruit...

I wrote a cute poem this week. It was following a call from a magazine which needs filler stuff. It's for kids of course, but I also intend to illustrate it.

But it has been a mixed week. I bought a Kindle on Ebay. Of course the person I bought it from would never have known but it was a first generation model which was only available in the US for the US market. And it took me a day to find this out. I was so disappointed. I've sold it to somebody in the U.S. who can use it like normal and re-purchased - I do like the look of the text on the little machine. I have an iphone and I know I don't need the iPad because I will not use it for a lot of the things many people would do with theirs.

But my today's resolution is to come to blog more often.

That way all none of you get to know what's going on in my creative life.


Friday, April 9, 2010

My characters are my friends.

It's true. They are my best friends at the moment in my current editing WIP. I love them and they love me.

I gave them life, so they are obligated to me.

But then I'm obligated to them because without them, I'd be very lonely.

So here's to you Simon and Daphne.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Aren't they dead yet?

Somebody died today. I thought WOW she was a one of those people you don't expect to die yet.

However there are people who you think are dead and aren't and ask ...

I thought they were dead... Somebody on the radio talked about Doris Day. Yes people, she's still alive and kickin'

I reckon Gregory Peck's still kickin' and I'm too lazy to Google. I think I really don't want to know.

What about Charlton Heston. I think I turned off him when I found out he was heading the gun lobby. I can't bear the thought of guns and shooting animals. I even hated deep sea fishing when they were all so gleeful about pulling in all these huge fish. Yes I eat fish. (If you are a New Zealander that's fush and chups). Just watching the poor things actually being able to flop around in somebody's cooler turns me off.
Yes I do eat oysters. Yes I do know they are alive when they slide down your throat. Okay so I have perfected the art of double standards. THat's one of the things I know I am good at...

But then who'da thunked Hudson would turn out to be gay.

Life is just a big question mark. What do they say?

Nothing stranger than fiction.

Well it's really nothing stranger than life. Even fiction.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Yes. It's true. It's official. I'm a benign idiot. My links don't work. I can't figure out how I got my original list to look nicer. Either they've tried to make it easier to use for people like me - intelligent people who are trying to think like idiots like me - but GUYS IT ISN'T WORKING! YOOHOO! ANYONE THERE?

Write it down before you forget.

It has occurred to me that you should really walk around with an ideas diary. I mean it didn't just occur to me because I've known this for years. For both artists and writers.

Ideas are very fleeting things. Some of them are worth keeping. Some of them are best forgotten. Some of them probably are only temporarily forgotten, and come around every so often, but because we have forgotten them we mistake it for a new idea.

Today I am thinking this because I'm editing my story and I have completely forgotten the plot, even though I know the general plot, the particular, incident by incident has been forgotten. The WIP is good. I know it is, but I still need to work on the editing. It needs upping the drama, without being over dramatic.

Over drama is worse than underdrama.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oh hell I might as well write it here too...

This day, in response to a post by Miss Snark's First Victim... my comment to her today's post...

It was nice to see you, like me, is a thunderstorm person. “It was a dark and stormy night” and you have to admit, they are a wonderful word backdrop for an old mansion in which its inhabitants are connected by both accommodation for various reasons and… murder. In fact you can almost believe, as you read that first line, that third murder of the night, that dead body of an old lady in the library. And finish off this awful discovery with the words…

“She must have been murdered. She knitted so carefully.”

Well, given that… Sanguine? I believe the word is more closely connected to masochism. You don’t live in the Philippines and participate in that Christian self-flagellation, or, jump in over the barrier to a street in Barcelona which is squashed, squishy tomato spattered blood-red, and let yourself be chased by a bull, or climb the Himalayas rather than wait at the bottom for the video… you, Authoress, write. With quivering heart and mind you chase those words which will set a pathway for you to clash head on with the future and hope… or is it hope and the future?(?)? < this was a cyber shrug by the way. Negativity is part of your make up. Because you have imagination, you can imagine the letterbox or the inbox with that sinking heart when your radar detects signals an imminent and spectacular fall from grace. You sit around eating a box of chocolates. You don’t care if you put on 19 kilos and your face ends up looking like the pestilic red middle of a volcano and you ring up council to come and collect your computer. You go to bed, and turn into Thomas the Tank Engine… I can do it – I know I can – I know I can and ring council the next morning, cancelling the collection order.

You are a religious masochist. You belong to the cult of publishing. To the cult of I write therefore I am. It’s an exclusive cult and sanguine is not quite the word. I think the description is more like, indomitable belief. It’s not ego. You are a Citroen and your logo is: The end of the road is not the end of the trip.

It’s an exclusive cult, and it’s members are few, because out of all those people who claim “One day I will write a novel” you are that one that has never said it. Never said those words. Because there was no beginning. It just spontaneously combustioned like a celestial event. J.K. Rowlings is a member.

But there is one cult you wouldn’t want to be in. The Cult of the Rejectors. It’s the equivalent of publishing hell. There’s a few editors in it. All crying over missed opportunities.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lay or


Lay or Lie?

English is chaos. Chaos is Anarchy. Any suggestions? Who do we blame for this?
The Anglos, the Saxons, the Danes, le French, das Germans?

I know that lay works in a department store. I put money on it and when I'm ready to take it home, I pay the balance.

And I can lay a table.

Or if I tell a little porky it's called a little white one.


When I'm buying a new mattress am I laying down or lying... will I lay down or will I lie...

Oh the quandary of self doubt... I'm an ignoramous, a dimwit,

But I'm not a liar, layer, oh heck.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kinda Kindled

Well, looks like I've been well and truly Kindled. It's the intrusion on a conviction that anything of mine should be a hard copy. Well I haven't changed I have to tell you. That is still my conviction. However, with my perfectly honed set of double standards I'm ready to relinquish my conviction when it comes to others.

It's not here yet. I won it on Ebay. I heard a comparison of the ipad and the Kindle and it seems that this person after seeing iPad (Apple) was still a fan of his Kindle. He took it away for a couple of weeks and didn't have to charge the battery. It wasn't back lit so the screen is friendly. It has one major problem people seem to constantly complain about. Apparently the page turner is a nuisance. But I'm happy with that - one can learn to live with a snarky little button.

So now I download books. But that's okay because there are certain books that I probably won't read more than once and they stay on the shelf, neglected and unread. And as is my eternal sin, should I want the hard copy to stroke and love them, as is my eternal sin, possession is only an Amazon away. In actual fact, lending libraries are frustrating for me because they tend to have a book or two that will be out of print, and me which will have a strong desire to possess them.

The bid went on last night. Eight hours later my competitor didn't know how close they came to my top bid. But that is now history. The kind of history that becomes irrelevant, blubbery and just disappears.

I'm Kinda Kindled.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The great language revenge.

We are very absorbed in what happens when English absorbs words and phrases from other language but forget that English is probably the most desirable to know and to use as an international language. Once French was considered IT but it seems to me that English is by far the dominant international communication tool.

So it's nice to see that yes, after hundreds of years, the Anglo Saxons have muddied other people's waters.

To steal the list from Mervynn Bragg's Adventures in English, English has reaked it's penalties on Russion. Look>>>

kemping (camping)
lider (leader)
spiker (speaker)
loozer (failure)


raiba intenshibu (labor intensive)
rajio (radio)
konpyu-ta (LOL)
karaisu (curry rice)
suppootsu (sports)
autodoasupo-tsu (outdoor sports)
sutoresu (stress)
insentibu (incentive)
akauntabirity (accountability)
ranchi (lunch)
kissu (kiss)

BRAZIL is looking to ban English words but until then they can say:

50 percent off
watch shop
New Garden.

But the ultimate revenge is on French. We are slowly making it easier to speak French by infiltrating that language where pronunciation defies the spelling...

le twin set
le weekend
le look
un holiday
le midwife
le parking
le gros rush (rushour)
le garden party
les drinks
le score
le front desk
le building
le mixed grill
un pullover
le babysitter
le barmaid
le camping
le cowboy
le cocktail
le hold up
le jogging
le jukebox
le jumpjet
le know-how
le manager
le name-dropping
le rip off
le sandwich
le self-made man
le showbiz
le stress
le supermodel
le zapping

The French have made an effort to ban this seepage and are worried that English is taking over the EU. The margin is growing.

And that leaves me the last say.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Art of Critiquing

When I first joined a critique group, I was like a bull in a china shop. I didn't have any training for such a task and it was a frightening experience. But what really makes a good critique.

I am an author with a history in childhood publishing. It is my creating career in picture books both writing and illustration where I did learn, quite instinctively, to craft a world, a believable and credible entity, and a suitable one for an early childhood learning experience. I was learning without knowing it about GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict = Wants, because, but). I learned the story arch in a very tight situation where words cannot be wasted and illustrations cannot be mere reflections of words but actually meaningful for little the enrichment of fresh, growing, curious minds.

In my decision to jump the fence or grow up a little bit, and start writing for adults, I did it alone and innocent. Locked away in my author's tower, where Repunzel would let down her golden hair, I tap, tap, tapped away on the keys releasing characters onto the pages every day. Magical grown up people who would become my obsession and my friends.

So when I typed THE END I ventured forth into the big world and on my clumsy walk I discovered the concept of a critique group and so the story began.

I remember those early days. And what I learned in my trip through critiquing was that it is an art, between diplomacy and honesty - and a genuine desire to be helpful.

The reason I am reflecting on this is a meeting I went to yesterday. It is a network of authors which meets regularly each month to support, discuss, boast, complain, analyse and just be friends in this often rather lonely pursuit of getting published (and staying published). Yesterday at this meeting it was mentioned that a session by a panel of supposed professionals went hell-for-leather after the authors they critiqued. They were harsh, rude and took their roles as literally as possible, destroying already fragile sensibilities and that a lot of resentment had been generated in their wake.

So what makes a good critique? A good critique can only start with a good manuscript. It is not a one-sided endeavor. It is not fair to expect somebody to come up with the goods if the author hasn’t. This means that an author must basically present their best effort, in order to obtain appropriate feedback. It is not only fair but courteous. If the manuscript is not up to scratch then it isn’t a critique that is expected but should be relabeled ‘Help Wanted’ and conducted on this basis.

The critique then will be begin with a thorough reading. Looking for clarity and understanding, and flow. You should look through the m/s with encouragement in your mind. Concentrate on the positives which will expose the negatives automatically. Praise should be part of it. “Love this” can make an author feel buoyant and good. The critique should be on the lookout for ‘show not tell’, and probably also suggestions on rewording the odd sentence or two.

The trust between the critiqued and the critiquer should be very high. And not every manuscript will be identical to the next. And not every critique effort will be a compatible one.
And finally I think the self-confidence of the writer in their craft is probably important as well. This is the ability to sort out what suggestions to take on board, and what you will disregard.

It all, in the end, boils down to mutual respect.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Shampoo and set.

I have a small Shitzu/Maltese cross. Now I did get a half Maltese because I didn't know they were snippy little dogs. Normally if the Maltese half had been at the back end I'd be happier. But I inherited the front end.

She's a dear little thing. She had an ear infection and the vet gave us ear drops. Good luck! We had the great 20 kilometer zone to bypass to get anything into that little chamber. We were spectacularly unsuccessful.

But the honor of a dog hairdresser fell to a lady called Ruth, of Pawfection. She comes along in a nifty little towing salon on the back of her vehicle. She managed very nicely and despite snippy Maltese teeth at the ready, she managed to turn my little dog into a very cute little poodle look alike. The dog, Baby, is half the size without her woolly mop and at the moment is curled up into her little fluffy doggy basket, snug as a bug in a rug, while I write here.

It's turning into winter. I think day two of Autumn. The winter Olympics have just concluded and Australia has a record two golds. Russia on the other hand got three and are ready to sack their trainers and officials in disgust. Finland didn't get anything. This year I didn't get caught up in anything of the games. I think I might be over it. Since Sydney's blowup plastic kangaroos I seem to have grown tired of opening and closing spectaculars. Half the time the officials can't tell the difference between the New Zealand flag and mine, and I don't blame them because they are both very similar, but the Olympics have also managed at some stage to fly a couple up-side-down. That is rather funny but probably not very patriotic.

Okay I promise to find something life-changing to comment on next time. Today was enough just to get up and get motivated.

Today I do have a question. Is shoppatherapy fattening? I did some today. Penance was sushi. Mea Culpa.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Aussie Humor

There is a special kind of humor that is all Australian. It's hard to describe it to anyone who doesn't instinctively know it but we are an irreverent mob.

But this little bit of Aussie endeavour is called JUST A NOTE.
It's written by the famous, very famous Anonymous.

Just a note to say I'm still alive and haven't passed on yet,
Though these days I remember a lot less than I forget.
I've got used to my arthritis and I guess I'm now resigned
To my dentures and bifocals, but gee, I miss me mind!

I often can't remember, when I'm standing on the stair,
If I'm going up for something or I've just come down from there.
And I hold the fridge door open and I stand there, full of doubt;
Did I just put some food away or come to get some out?

Or I rush into the spare room and I hesitate because
I needed something urgently, but can't think what it was.
Now, if it's not my turn to write, you'll pardon me I'm sure.
Sometimes I think I've written to you just the day before.

Well, I guess it's time to mail this, think that's all I have to say,
Except, of course, I wish you didn't live so far away.
And I'm standing by the mail box and boy, is my face red!
Instead of posting this to you, I've opened it instead.

And irreverence?
How's this...

Again by the Honorable Anonymous.

Our lager
Which art in barrels
Hallowed by thy foam
Thy will be drunk
Thy pints be sunk
At home as it is in tavern.
Give us this day thy foamy head
And forgive us our spillages
As we forgive those who spill thee against us
And lead us not unto incarceration
But deliver us from hangovers
For thine is the sin done, the headache, the guilt trip,
For ever and ever...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just plain interesting stuff

As I have already told you. I am a fan of how this, the language, my mother tongue developed. And, with the help of a man called Melvyn Bragg, who wrote a book called:


Let me share some interesting things. But if you really want an adventure buy the book. There's a television series to go with it by the way.

He has a list of 100 most common words. Most of them come from Old English. Three are from Old Norse, and the first word of French origin only cuts in at 76 so what are these words?

Here goes.

1. the
2. of
3. and
4. a
5. to
6. in
7. is
8. you
9. that (this is a word you edit out of your manuscript)
19.they (Old Norse)
41.there (Old Norse)
49.their (from old Norse)
54.about (Useful word. Canadians say aboot. Americans don't ;-))
58.them (Old Norse)
76.number (first of the French origin words)

But wait there's more.

Britain was invaded. It was a nice little earner. And I'll dig up some more interesting stuff about this ministrone soup called English.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to write a romance novel

I started writing romance in Nigeria when I had more time on my hands. We had a housegirl, a gardener, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a special school for our kids and for a gal that had been working her butt off to keep a husband in university, a kid in preschool so she could work her butt off, and little time to breath. Some people just sat around in this little glass bubble of expatriates. Squandering their time.

But that isn’t me. I don’t sit around doing nothing. My brain constantly buzzes and skims around for activities and thus with my trusty little blue plastic typewriter two layers of carbon paper, the pages mounted on my first romance novel. My guide was a mountain of Mills and Boon which was very popular in Nigeria for both men and women and readily available.

I also had a friend who also loved romance, and perhaps it was she that sparked the awareness of a need for writing and for the genre.

My road to romance writing halted while I took time out to study and to write and illustrate picture books for children. But, in that space of time, I think I really did learn my trade and came back to romance because by nature I am a romantic soul. And of course from the early days of little blue typewriters I was lucky enough to be part of a generation that benefited from the blessings of the computer age. Carbon paper leaves a lot to be desired.

I do love comedy and so comedy and romance sat very comfortably on my shoulders. I can watch Sleepless in Seattle and Pretty Woman ad nauseum. Love Jane Austen to distraction.

I never really thought about writing an historical novel until my brief for The Enchanted Faerie turned up. I discovered, since I have an abiding love of research, historical novels can be fun. The essential to writing historical, indeed any novel is convincing world building. The setting must be very believable. World building in any genre is terribly important because the reader must quickly forget the real world and be suspended. Next step for me is Regency. This genre lends itself so easily to my forte – comedy so watch this space.

So what are the rules of a romance? As far as I can think, they are exactly the same for any other kind of genre.

Convincing world building. . I’ve often wondered what idiot said blue and green should never be seen, only on the faerie queen. That is stupid. I’m sitting looking out the window and there’s that tree I love, and a perfectly blue sky behind it.

Lovable Characters. Second most important thing is to make characters lovable enough to want to pursue them in whatever adventure they are undertaking. Even if they really are awful, make them lovable. One doesn’t want to spend time hating the main character/s. My characters all end up as friends by the time I’ve finished a manuscript.

Consistency. Make sure your characters stay the same. I don’t mean that they can’t suddenly discover God or that they are undergoing life changing experiences, but make sure they react in a way which is believable and the way they really would behave because leopards don’t change their spots.

Be clear and precise. Plant the facts for the reader in a logical way so they don’t have to work hard to remember the plot direction. You do not want them having to double back because they’ve missed something.

Never take the reader for granted. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving romance novels. They sell more books than anything else. The reader will smell an author who is treating them like idiots from a mile. Don’t write down to the reader as if they are a moron. If you don’t like romance then don’t write romance.

All the normal needs of any novel, plot, arc and ending, goal, motivation and conflict are all important just as they are in any other kind of novel worth its salt. The basic premise of a romance is the conflict. The demands of GMC – goal motivation and conflict. This basically is translated into: He/she wants – because – but. You must have this to make a story move.

Know your target audience. If you have a specialist genre – paranormal, time travel, contemporary, comedy, suspense then of course you will have to know what publishers of that genre require. That means you should know what publisher/s you want to target. Specially important because the readers will be expecting a certain standard and they will be very tough on judging anything that doesn’t convince them in their belief systems. You are suspending belief in a believable manner and unless you fulfil this then forget writing because neither agent, nor editor, nor reader will even be slightly interested.

Probably the best piece of advice I, as a writer, has ever been given is this.

Make every work you do your best. Never just let a manuscript drift because it’s good enough. It will end up in a bottom drawer and you will cry over rejection slips. And also be your own harshest critic. Of course every time you start a new manuscript it will probably be the inheritor of your skills getting better.

Edit, edit, and edit again. Be your own harshest critic. Don’t be precious about a piece you really know shouldn’t be there. The best novel doesn’t waffle on. If you are at a party listening to a drunk waffling on about nothing you soon get bored. So what’s different about a reader?

Make sure you have a good hook system. Hooking is important because it’s grabbing the reader’s attention. First line of the novel is important, but hooking throughout the novel is also important. Between point of view changes, and chapter changes.

Which does remind me to mention the importance of establishing the main characters. I have seen some people introducing so many characters in the beginning of the novel that it’s almost like trying to remember everyone’s name at a convention in the first day.

And there’s the biggy. Show not tell. This has been discussed by aspiring writers and authors constantly. What it means is simply don’t fall into a trap of boring description. Keep the writing vital and fresh. Don’t waffle on. Let’s say the character is lighting a cigarette.

Sam wanted a cigarette so he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cigarettes and red lighter.


Sam’s craving was strong. An irresistible urge he’d been fighting since he was twenty. Fingers danced impatiently and finally gave in to the urge for a cigarette.

I don’t need to mention the pocket. That’s a given and not really important where what and how he accessed them.

So really, what I am saying is that there aren’t any special rules for a romantic novel. It is simply a genre like all novels and employing all the rules of good story writing. Weave your spell, make it magic and make the reader extremely sorry they reach the end because they love it.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Today Miss Snark's First Victim, an excellent blog lost from my link list along with all thirty of the others into internet Heaven, and I haven't yet learned how to retreive them or to start up a new list... Google time!

She raises the point that there are two extra vowels, Y and W. You will have to go there to find out what she says in her post of today (Friday 20th Feb). And this was my answer:

English is mashed potato. The rules we know today are tampered with, and made as one size fits all. They are wrong, wrong, wrong. First of all I became aware of sounds when I studied Pitman Shorthand. Without realising it I was learning to use symbols rather than letting the printed word block my linguistic sensibilities.

Basically consonants and vowels are floating entities. Consonents are hard sounds. The ‘l’ in look is a hard sound. The ‘l’ in could is a soft sound. Of course this sound is lost on us today. But once it was a vowel sound. A crude attempt at capturing a sound it was meant to convey.

Firstly may I recommend you go directly to Amazon and order yourself a copy of THE ADVENTURE OF ENGLISH. A BIOGRAPHY OF LANGUAGE by MelvYn Bragg. He talks of English in a section on which he describes as GVS which means Great Vowel Shift. He says that printing largely fixed spelling pre GVS but that took place after the setting of words. Thus a language which is in turbulence with its printed equivalent ends in the two being out of sync.


“When properly read aloud, the fourteenth century English of Chaucer sounds strange to modern ears in a way that, on the whole, the late sixteenth century English of Shakespear does not. For example, Chaucer’s way of saying “name” would have rhymed with the modern “calm”, his “fine” with our “seen”; he would have pronounced “meet more or less as we would pronounce “mate,” “do” as “doe” and “cow” as “coo” (as it is prounced in parts of Scotland).
“In the years between Chaucer’s birth and Shakespeare’s death, English went through a process now known as the Great Vowel Shift. People in the Midlands and south of England changed the way they pronounce long vowels… (held in mouth long time) (meet, street) rather than short vowels (met, mat). Unquote.

He goes on to say on this subject that the invention of printing had an impact on language and the written word. Gutenberg in Mainz invented printing (press) in Mainz in 1453. And Caxton started printing English in 1453. The first dated book printed in England in English was Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres 1477. Caxton also printed romances, books of conduct and philosophy, history and morality and the first illustrated printed book in English was “The Myrrour of the Worlde 1481. Caxton worried about how to achieve a common standard. Caxton wrote “Certaynly it is harde to playse every man by cause of dyuersite & chaunge of langage. For in these dayes euery man that is in ony reputacyon in his counter, wyll vtter his commynycacyon and maters in suche maners and termes that few men shall vnderstonde theym.”

So really the vowels and consonants are loose translations for modern logics of today. They crude. Logically a consonant should be a hard sound. And a vowel a soft sound. I learned Hebrew and I find that – apart from being a neater language – its written word illustrates the vowel sounds apart from the hard sounds. Almost the way Pitman symbols do. Of course to a native Hebrew speaker they would read words out of familiarity much the same way we English speakers read and are not disturbed by words such as could, would, wrong, write etc. And understand how one mouse turns into two mice, while one house turns into two houses, but that’s another whole chapter isn’t it. Sheesh who’d want to learn English!

But basically, your suspicions on lurking vowels is very very logical and we are all heading up the garden path where the sign says THIS IS HOW YOU MUST GO AND DON’T ARGUE WITH ME. But you know better.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Reviews

This is an exercise in the necessary evil of putting one's work out on the stage. And one must apply the very apt saying:


No. It's true.

They can hurt me. They do hurt me. They don't stop me. I just have to remember that a review is written by one person. And if I apply logic, some people must like Brussels Sprouts because if nobody did, then nobody would bother to grow them - or sell them - so it's basically a matter of personal taste.

And also, to be mean back, there is another saying:


So one wonders whether there's a little element of jealousy? A little bit of "Oh I can do that, but I'm too busy."

But perversely a bad review is probably better than a good review. How? Imagine that everyone always loved your work. It's what happens in every artistic industry. If it works don't fix it. And your publisher/movie mogul/gallery director etc., confines the artist to continue in the style that makes their work successful. Thus they are robbed of the artistic scope to further explore the potential of their work.

But it's nice to get a good review.

Monday, February 15, 2010

On being a dinosaur

I have to struggle with today's technology. I only revel in the knowledge that somewhere in the world is an idiot bigger than me. Where? Don't know. But logic tells me there's a bigger idiot. In fact I know one of them. My mother. She is a technology idiot. But that spooks me because I don't want to be like my mother. One isn't supposed to. That isn't natural. Unless maybe she's Meryl Streep or Audrey Hepburn.

But I know I'm like my mother. One generation more modern than she. That generation didn't know what computers were and probably a small percentage of them coped with computers and digital knick-knacks.

I'm trying to download a Norten but I can't see how. It's supposed to ask me questions, but it's as dead as a Dodo. I am waiting for my daughter to come and help me.

You see, she's one generation further on and doesn't look anywhere near to being a dinosaur like me. (She'll probably be glad.)

Friday, January 29, 2010


When did you first become aware of a desire to write?

I didn't invent this question. It was asked on Miss Snark's First Victim blog (see the link to your right).

But it's a good question.

So, fire away. I'm interested. Pretend this is an interview and lay down on my analyst couch.


You are now hypnotised and will reveal all your deepest darkest secrets...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tickling Funnybones.

I’m a natural comedian. And my writing reflects this. I am not a dark character and personality wise I’ve that kind of nature with the glass half full.

But I’m also dramatic. I think the two go perfectly together, hand in hand. There’s something about pathos, like black and white, ying and yang that combines the overall effect together.

Irony also lends itself well to comedy.

(Charlie Chaplin knew this so well.)

But comedy needs to be well done. It’s dangerous ground unless you are supremely confident because it can so easily descend into the grossly ridiculous.

Perhaps that is why I love Jane Austen so much. She had such a sublime sense of comedy. Subtle, like pearls with a little black dress in that Audrey Hepburn way. And one of the best opening pieces… which I had recourse to refer to only yesterday, which is both enlightening, as in summarising the essence of her novel and loaded with the subtle promise of an ironic and light hearted romp… promise being the key word because at no point in the ensuing novel does the promise let the reader down, and now just look at this little gem, the jewel in the tiara:

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Then in a supreme little spoonful she nudges the reader further into her novel:

However little known, the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood,

In other words the poor bastard won’t know what hit him and look at this slam/dunk:

This is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Signed, sealed, delivered to the slaughter.

Isn’t it funny, but Austen still fits in today. Comedy can be a victim of it’s time because what we find funny in one generation, can be lost to another. I think people in today’s world have lost a lot in the current politically correct atmosphere of overcautiousness not to touch sensibilities of elements of society.

But then good comedy, well done, perhaps doesn’t have a use-by date.

Google “Who’s on first base” and you will see what I’m getting at.

So what's next?

I admire people who can do the cryptic crossword. They must be very clever. But then...?

I get to write THE END to a long manuscript full of my imaginings.

IQ is like art. It's so subjective.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happy Endings for New Beginnings...

Happy endings. Funny but two of my favorite things don't have any endings at all - other than perverse...

George Bernard Shaw went out of his way to disappoint me by informing me in no uncertain terms that the glamorous Audrey was going to pursue her ambitions for a flower shop, spawn dozens of rug rats and ankle biters to the flop, totally on-the-street-where-you-live Eddy. Why? She could have lived happily ever after with crusty old 'enry. Oh Audrey. How could you, when you came to fetch 'is slippers, think Eddy could be a happy ending.

And there's Scarlett. Well you silly fool, you mucked around all that time pining for Ashley and missed the Gable charm...

But never mind, whenever she promised to think about it tomorrow, Rhett better have a good excuse to resist her onslaught, altho' he did quite well avoiding her in the awful attempt at a sequel which is about the only book I've ever gladly disposed off at the second hand bookstore. (I cannot throw out books but I'm happy to dump them onto somebody else's shelf.)

Why do I love happy endings? There is something satisfying about happy endings. There's an awwwwwww factor. GMC + HE = happy me. Hopeless romantic soul.

But there are people who consider happy endings to be tragically trashy. Sure they win Pulitzers and probably qualify for the Nobel, and the New York Times will write extensively about them with varying degrees of angst and praise...

... but little old me, she who loves Jane Austen with a fervor of a Beatles fan in the sixties is happy with Miss Lizzie's happy future with Colin Firth. And I ask why not? He was such a hunk they recycled him in Bridget's Diary.

Me and millions (This is a note for my mother - YES! Me and -) of other people are quite content to tuck our toes next to the fire and to awwwwwww our way out of the worries of the world. Earthquakes in Haiti and the horrors of the nuclear threat in the hands of terrorists.

If you happen to trip over my simple musings for this day, let me know if you agree or disagree and why.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's time.

No matter what, the cocoon must eventually turn into the butterfly. No matter how cozy the cocoon was, nature demands we move on to the next stage. In this case the cocoon is cozy against a blitzkrieg of heatwaves beating down on this, my city of Sydney today.

But we are waiting for the inevitable southerly buster which will come like the hero of the south and drop the temperatures to a liveable extent and then life will go on as normal.

And so must my writing activities.

Over the holidays, my son was visiting with his new wife from London. It was lovely to see him, meet my new daughter in law and to try to revitalise my drooping spirits, to be teased back into being inspired.

Yes, my batteries have been sputtering lately. I'm like a little car which is needing a jump start.

Batteries are my problem. Just ask anyone who wants to ring me on my cell phone. I'm the original forgetful charger. But maybe that should be my New Years Resolution. Charge your cellphone, your internal battery and get back onto the track - no excuses - head down, butt up hard work, determination, focus.

I've been treadmilling with determination this week. No excuses treadmilling. Exercise works It works on the butt and it works simultaneously on the head. The power of being positive so watch out manuscripts here comes Penney Positive...

Lean and mean Zara Penney is going to edit you all to within an inch of your word counts... because...

It's time!