Literaleigh

Literaleigh, Writing

Day 5 #introtopoetry

Woo hoo! I made it half way. And a fun way to reach the middle mark is with a limerick challenge – here’s my two efforts.

Prompt: Imperfect

Form: Limerickleprechaun

 

It’s hard to find the right line

To fit with the beat and the rhyme.

I gave it a shot,

But Yeats it is not.

I’ll try a bit harder next time.

 

Next time….

 

There was a young man named Steven,

Who had some trouble believin’.

When they called, “Fire, Fire”

He replied, “Liar, Liar”

And now his young wife is a-grievin’.

 

 

 

 

 

Literaleigh, Writing

Day 4 #introtopoetry

Path to sea

Prompt:  Journey

Device:  Simile

At Journey’s End

Like an undemanding lover

Patiently you wait for my return.

Although I’ve laid with others,

You forgive –

my fickle ways.

I know your lumps and dips

And unfashionable,

Squishy bits

And the way the seabreeze

Caresses me

When I lie in your embrace.

Oh, those that I’ve endured,

The low and barely stable,

The smelly and the squeaky

And the just too-perfect,

Crisply starched.

Curse, the ocean-going ones,

All sickening and rocky.

The hard hip-breaking types

Under canvass,

Flapping and leaky

Soon this house

Won’t hold me and

I’ll wander once again.

But there’s comfort in knowing

My own bed’s at

Journey’s end.

 

 

Literaleigh, Writing

Day 3 #introtopoetry

I haven’t quit but my internet connection did, for two days.  Hence I am posting Day 3 now. Rather then inundate you with 3 poetry days all at one I will still post one per day. For the Day 3 acrostic challenge I wrote two poems. The first in praise of my writing group and a preface to a blog entry that I will soon post about the value and workings of a good writing critique group. The second is a rather childish offering but a good excuse to post a picture of my constant companion – the distractordog.

Prompt : Friends

Form:  Acrostic

Writing Group

We gather each fortnight

Round a table with tea

I want to say it’s engaging and educating but

There’ isn’t any ‘e’

I‘d like to say it’s fun and friendly but there’s definitely

No eff. So I’ll say our

Group’s supportive, informative andteapot writing group

Giving. Its listening, critiquing

Reading aloud, commiserating

Oh, and congratulating too

Uplifting and motivating. A real

Pleasure to be with you.

 

Faithful Friend

Muzzling wet nose

Yucky licky kissesDistractordog for blog

Devoted doting eyes

Obedient for food

Gambolling in the garden

Gorgeous waggy tail

Your faithful friend and mine

 

 

 

Literaleigh, Writing

Day 2 #introtopoetry

Day 2 Intro to poetry wordpress challenge

Prompt:  A face

Device:  Alliteration

 

The Retail Face

A plastered on smile,

The latest in style.

She’s never grumpy or glib.

 

She’ll offer you socks

And tick off each box,

Of phrases cheerily chirped.

 

You look good in that.

It goes with this hat.

Are you paying cash or with card?

 

Become an insider,

an email subscriber,

Sign up to our convenient club.

 

Won’t react to the rude

The fussy or crude

She’ll keep the smile pleasantly pasted.

 

I think, as I shop,

When did they swap,

Humans for these mindless machines?

 

But I look in her eyes

And note with surprise

Her eyes mismatch with her mouth

 

Yes, her eyes are her own

They say take me home

Away from this tiring tedium

 

Where I can shout.

Scream and sing out.

I am mad and I’m real.

and I don’t give a damn that you don’t care for that colour.

It doesn’t come in ANY OTHER.

 

shopping mall window

 

 

Literaleigh, Writing

Having a stab at #introtopoetry

Poet, I am not, but I take heart in knowing that the only path leads upwards as far as my knowledge and appreciation of verse and all its forms. I promised in this blog that I would push myself out of my comfort zone. Well, writing poetry for a ten day challenge is out of my zone and into outer space. So here goes.

Day One of the Intro to Poetry WordPress challenge.

Prompt: Water

Form: Haiku

Once wild pristine stream.
Mine tunnels. Sandstone bed cracks
Toxic soup stagnates.

 

Nepean River for Haiku
The Nepean River near Douglas Park, a once clear river.  Polluted as result of longwall mining. Large bubbles can be seen rising to the surface from the fractured river bed.

 

 

Book Reviews

Wool

By Hugh Howey            Century 2013                Adult fiction

Score: 9/10                    Genre: Post-apocalyptic, Dystopia

The community in Wool are confined to an underground ‘silo’. 150 floors are joined by a single metal staircase bustling with porters transporting goods and messages between the levels. There are floors for agriculture, supplies, deputy stations, apartments, the down-deep mechanical level and the mysterious, powerful, IT placed in the mid-levels. The ‘wool’ in the title is a reference to the material of the cleaning pads that doomed outcasts must use to scrub the outside camera lenses. The view of a desolate landscape captured by these lenses is projected onto a screen in the upper level cafeteria. This is the community’s only connection to the outside world.

Within the confines of the silo many restrictions are imposed on love, birth , marriage and communication. Order is maintained by discouraging curiosity, limiting interaction between levels and imposing taboos around speaking of the outside. Secrets are kept, and lies are told about the past and the ‘cleaning’ procedures. Those who ask too many questions risk  being sentenced to the publicly-viewed death by ‘cleaning’ in the toxic outer world. Who is pulling the wool over the eyes of the silo community and why? Can Juliette, the newly appointed sheriff, cut through the deception or is she also doomed like the truth-seekers that have come before.

The setting and the dystopian concept of this novel are intriguing but it is the characters that drive the story forward and make this a tense read. Without giving too many spoilers, the unwelcome deaths of three likeable characters in the first quarter of the book sets the pace of the gripping narrative that you never trust to deliver happy outcomes. Juliette the central character is a non-nonsense, down-deep mechanic when she is approached to take on the high-up position of sheriff. She is a well-drawn character who this reader barracked for every step of the way. Although there are action sequences aplenty these never dominate human dramas and relationships. Even minor characters are carefully and often beautifully described.

Perhaps the only character that was weak and hard to get a grasp on was Lukas – Juliette’s love interest. It was difficult to understand what Juliette sees in him. The reason for this unflattering, ambiguous portrayal may be become more evident in future books.

Overall this post-apocalyptic world and its people really hooked me and I will definitely be buying the next two books in the series – Shift and Dust.

Recommend for: Everybody, even those who do not generally read science fiction/dystopia will find the human element of this story has depth and warmth.

Use to writers : Hugh Howey shows us that rules can be broken as long as they are broken with flair. Some of the conventions broken by Wool :

– the central character does not make an appearance until pg 89 and doesn’t get her own POV chapter until page 123 (try pitching that to an editor!).

– two POV characters are killed off early.

– there are many changes of point of view. It is written in third person limited but Juliette is only one of many characters (over six) that get a section of limited viewpoint. In the wrong hands this technique can dilute interest in the main character’s journey but Howey uses it as a technique to elevate suspense. The multiple viewpoints enable the reader to visit dramatic events in various parts of the setting and timeline that impact on Juliette’s struggle. The reader forms a greater connection to minor characters but is always  anxious to return to Juliette’s scenes to check her progress.

 

 

Literaleigh

In and Out of my Comfort Zone 2

My second (somewhat belated) post of things I have done IN and OUT of comfort zone. The out is the important one as these are the things that  have taken a little courage or effort to push beyond the everyday.

IN : Stayed in a lighthouse keepers house. It has always been my fantasy to live as a lighthouse keeper, far from civilization, surrounded by the wild ocean and coastal bush. I got to live this fantasy for two nights at Green Cape Lighthouse in Ben Boyd National Park near Eden. We had unlimited access to the classic lighthouse and an enthusiastic ranger to give us some fascinating historical insights.IMG_4221

We learnt that in the sitting room adjoining our bedroom an inquest was held into the tragic wreck of the Ly-ee-moon in 1886. This ship grounded on the rock platform attempting to round the cape, resulting in the violent death of 71 people, many of whom were women and children. It was eerie to sit on the lounge chair within sight of the churning ocean and think about the harrowing testimonies that took place in that very room. The third officer who was at the helm at the time of the grounding blamed the Captain for not responding to his call for assistance. Both men were charged with manslaughter after the Green Cape hearing but were later exonerated by jury in Sydney.

The exIMG_4194perience lived up to my expectation but I have a new slant on the life of lighthouse keeper families. One of the keeper’s living in our accommodation had eleven children and his assistant in the neighbouring cottage had 16 (or was it 17) children. The wives had to be trained nurses and teachers and only had a cook as help. At least the children would have had fun playing with each other. Right? Wrong. The children of the head lighthouse keeper were not allowed to mix with the assistant’s children and were kept indoors when the assistant’s family were out, and vice a versa. This was to eliminate the risk of arguments between fathers over their offspring’s spats. I think I will revise my fantasy and be very happy with my breif cushy lighthouse keepers experience.

 

OUT:

Became a nervous passenger (again)

I got in the car with my L-plated son. Ok, so this shouldn’t really count because it is inevitable (and I made my husband do the first twenty hours). If you are a parent it is just one of life’s humps that has to be endured. Unlike teaching your child to read, catch a ball or even cook, there is little joy in sitting white-knuckled in the passenger seat trying to stay calm, very calm. And its hard to explain how to do something that you rarely analyse.

‘Which way do I turn the wheel to get out of here,’ my son asks.

I don’t know I just do it, I feel like saying, but I don’t. I grab an imaginary wheel and pretend to reverse the car out of the car park. ‘Anti-clockwise,’ I say.learners collage 2 cropped

Completing the 120 hours of driving time required for a NSW drivers licence is onerous. Every time I’m tempted to just hop in the car and relax into the driver’s seat a little voice says, You should be making Unruly Son drive or you’ll still be filling in his driving log on the way to the retirement village.’ I know parents who have put the task off and then Freddy’s Higher School Certificate looms (can’t do it now) and then suddenly he’s off to university or has to move away for work (no time then). Before they know it their Freddy is in his twenties and is restricted to using friends or public transport to get around. I shouldn’t whinge I only have two children and Son Unruly is my last to go through the driving log marathon. I know, all too soon, he’ll be an independent driver and I will be anxiously lying awake at night hoping to hear the sound of the car pull into the drive.

Let go of my manuscript

I sent the manuscript I have been working on for four years off to a manuscript assessor Was it ready? Probably not. Will it ever be ready? That’s what I need to know, no matter how painful that revelation may be. The novel I have sent off is the first book in a middle grade wannabe trilogy. I’ve heard some words of wisdom regarding series advising to write all the books before submitting, in order to minimize plot inconsistencies. Unfortunately with this practice you have no idea (or at least I haven’t) if the whole premise is flawed or unmarketable or targeted at the wrong age group. Could I be  wasting my time doing subsequent books in the series? Halfway through Book 2  I had this very crisis of confidence and realized I needed some professional feedback.

It was difficult pressing that send button knowing that a stranger will be reading my manuscript with a critical eye. In a month’s time I may be sitting in a corner rocking after reading the critique. However at least I will have an independent opinion on whether to move forward.

Any writers who have any thoughts on how to handle series submissions I would be interested to hear.

 

Book Reviews

Bitter Greens

By Kate Forsyth            Vintage Books 2012             Adult fiction

Score: 8.5/10                Genre: Historical Fiction & Dark Fairytale Retelling

Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been exiled to an austere nunnery by Louis XIV. The story follows her recollections of her journey from French country nobility to the decadence of the King’s court at Versailles. Charlotte-Rose is neither beautiful nor rich but gains admiration through her quick wit and storytelling abilities. Scandalous love affairs and accusations of witchcraft damage her reputation. Finally, she finds her true love but obstacles of different faiths and status conspire to force them apart.

The Rapunzel-based tale is a story within the story. It is told to Charlotte-Rose by an old nun, Soeur Seraphina while they work in the garden. La Strega is the youth-obsessed witch of the tale and Margherita, the beautiful girl who she abducts and imprisons in a high tower.

This is an ambitious novel blending genres of fairytale fantasy and historical fiction. Forsyth uses a backdrop of real historical figures and events. The settings of 16th century Venice (La Strega’s domain) and 17th century France are described in vivid detail – from the festivals of Venice, to the squalor of the Bastille to the ridiculous fashions of the French court -it is obvious all facets of French and Venetian life of the periods have being meticulously researched. The story of Charlotte-Rose (based on a real writer) could have stood alone as an historical fiction novel but the added fairytale strand inject magic and romanticism.

I wavered between preferring the Charlotte-Rose story and the Rapunzel story but I worried most of the way through about how the plot strands would come together in the end. Rest assured they do. The resolution of this story was satisfying and complete.

This wasn’t a page turner for me. Perhaps it was the inappropriate circumstances in which I read the novel (see below) or perhaps it was the sometimes confusing parade of French noble names or maybe the complexity of the plot didn’t allow enough room to relate intimately to the main characters. Strangely I admired this story more after I finished it than when I was in its midst.

A note about the cover: The quote from the The Age on the front cover says ‘A darkly compelling novel which simply seethes with sex scenes.’ There are sex scenes in this novel some passionate, some violent however to put this as a prominent main descriptor is, I think, a misrepresentation. It is more historical fiction than erotica.

Recommended for: Historical fiction lovers and those who are nostalgic for fairytales. Particularly recommended for those who have travelled or are planning to travel to Venice or France. Take this as a holiday (or post-holiday) read. It will add a level of magic to your view of historical landmarks and the countryside. I read this during a tour of Australian country towns and it just didn’t feel right.

Use for writers: Historical fiction writers – read this book and weep. The rich detail and the historical authenticity is hard to live up to. I believe Kate Forsyth when she says that she read many, many biographies and history books in the course of her research. She also travelled to Venice and France to immerse herself in the environment of the novel.

Writers could also learn a lot from the ending. The concluding chapters tied up all strands of the complex plot and left me, not only satisfied, but somewhat relieved. Like long matted tresses that are magically untangled and tied neatly in a snood.

Literaleigh, Writing

Writing at Midnight

IMG_4027

I am going to indulge in a bit of magical thinking. I am going to be sitting at my computer writing at midnight and hope the act of writing in the first minutes of 2016 will be a portent for the rest of the year.

Truth is, I love not having to do anything ‘special’ for New Years Eve. My big kids have their own parties to attend. My husband is worn out after a hectic year and will probably just slump in front of Netflix sci-fi. That means I’m free! Not just to do what I like, but to do what I like without a pinch of FOMO. Yes, FOMO. My daughter taught me this acronym it means Fear Of Missing Out. I usually scoff at sms abbreviations but I find myself using this one more and more. Generally I apply it do my overactive, overcurious dog who wants to be everywhere she’s not.  At the neighbours when she is home, with every dog who walks past, outside when inside, inside when outside, upstairs when downstairs, eating your dinner when she has her own feast. She signifies all these longings by heartfelt crying. I’m thinking of renaming her FOMO.

I digress. New Year’s Eve is rife with FOMO. I don’t miss my younger years stressing over where to go and who with. You had to have a good time with drinking and shouting involved otherwise you felt like a loser.  In my experience this pressure to have  maximum revelry generally led to disappointment. Going out with friends on other nights of the year was less loaded with expectation and lecherous drunken strangers.

Later in life when the children were small we’d troop down to be beach close to Wollongong and watch the nine o’clock fireworks. Without small children to oh and ah fireworks are an anti-climax. Call me a Grinch, but nowadays I can’t help thinking about all that money going up in smoke and all the scared dogs and wildlife.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year’s Eve whether it be a noisy or quiet celebration or none at all. I’ll be sitting at my computer doing what I love – what better way to bring in the New Year.

 

Literaleigh

NaNoWriMo -I’m a Winning Loser

NaNoWriMo graph

My first NaNoWriMo is over and I didn’t make it to the 50000 words required to call yourself a winner. I crawled and clawed my way to 35595. This untidy figure is an indication of how tired I was the last night of November that I couldn’t do that extra five words to take it up to a more rounded number. Also an indication of how NaNoWriMo makes you a little obsessive about word count. The NaNo graph; the status updates from more prolific writers; the sprints where you race to get those words on the page, all make you very aware that the word count is ticking over in the bottom left of your word document (No. Not a Scrivener convert yet) Punctuation bah! Forgotten character names just put xxx. Chapter breaks – I’ll work them out later. This was my month of letting go of old habits. My practices of waiting till I was in the mood, editing for half an hour before I start each session, fiddling with each sentence, being distracted by pinterest clips of castles and costumes (for my late middle ages setting) – these had to be curbed.

So is the barrelling ever onward habit of writing better than my old ways. I have come to a conditional conclusion about that, but one thing I know for sure is that NaNoWriMo was good for my writing. Here’s why:

  1. The practice of writing every day is habit forming. I couldn’t make the 1667 daily word count that was required for a win. I started off quite well but then tapered off as my plot became more difficult to navigate. But, with the exception of two days, I wrote every day. Before November I would often only write once or twice a week. It is now December and I am still writing everyday. No Zero Days is my new motto and I reckon I can sustain that (I might give myself a break on Christmas day)
  2.  Immersion in the one project. I don’t write for a living. I do part-time work unrelated to writing. So during NaNoWriMo my head was in my middle ages fantasy (ok I still had to be a mum taxi, cook, washerwoman gardener, dogwalker, holiday planner etc) but most of my waking thoughts were with my characters. This was all-consuming at times and I had to listen to a comedic podcast or blast loud music to give myself a pause from my own thoughts. But there was no extended breaks. I didn’t have to warm up to my characters or reacquaint myself with the plot by rereading previous chapters. My project was like a member of the family rather than a friend you meet for an occasional coffee. When you are immersed in a story there is more opportunity to come up with off-the-plan ideas. And I did. I think a few of these ideas really strengthened my story.
  3. Engaging with a community of writers. I have a long-standing writing critique group who I value immensely (later post) But NaNoWriMo connected me with a wider circle of writers via on-line platforms. I joined two facebook groups and connected with some local writers to do Skype sessions. These groups served a  different purpose to my critiquing group. They focussed on encouragement, engaging in word sprints (word wars) and tips from NaNoWriMo veterans.  Members bond over  triumphs and struggles (I had nil obstacles compared to some) and the general craziness that is NaNo (what was that weird shit I wrote at 1.00am?). I particularly enjoyed the sprints with my Skype group. I was always the slowest but it was still fun and challenging. Many local areas organise write-ins and you can participate in twitter and NaNo website initiated word wars at various times. There is no end of advice, from planning in the pre-NaNo period, to how to stay motivated in the middle, to how to go forward post-NaNo. One of the closed facebook pages I am in has decided to continue as everybody seemed to enjoy it so much.
  4. Pushing forward. Turn off that inner critic that wants to change every sentence and go back and read the beginning of the last chapter. This was a lesson I really needed to learn. There is time for editing and time to just finish the damn book. I didn’t finish my book in NaNo but I am confident I will now – by my estimation I have only three chapters to go. I have no intention of editing or even printing it out until I write that last sentence. NaNo taught me that. Yes, my story is a mess but editing is mostly mechanics. I don’t lay awake at night wondering whether I will be able to edit a chapter into shape – I do lay awake wondering whether I will be able to tie up a plot or whether I have even got it in me to finish at all. Get the creative, scary part out of the way first.
  5. Writing at every opportunity. I fitted 500 words in while at my son’s swimming lesson, 800 words in a hospital waiting room, 200 words in my morning tea break. I became unfussy about whether I had my computer or not. I kept a note book in the car and my bag and if I had a pen I could write. Of course I had to transfer my terrible scrawl to my computer when I got back to my desk. But strangely I found hand-writing freed me up and I was able to get past difficult plot points this way. I am going to use this method when I get stuck in the future. Of course this was always difficult previously because I didn’t have Point 2. I wasn’t immersed in my novel, so I at any one time I didn’t know where I was up to. With a daily writing habit this problem is solved – you always know where you are at in your story. Some of the people in my facebook group said that dictation worked for them. I tried it briefly and couldn’t operate without being able see the sentences laid out. Maybe it is a skill that has to be developed.

    westmead edit
    Hospital waiting room writing

As I said at the beginning I have come to a conclusion about the barrelling forward approach. In the heady days of the first week of NaNo I was able to write at a pace I have never achieved before. This was because I had my world’s calendar mapped out and the research required for those first few chapters had already being done. As I got further into my novel I realised I had to stop and do a few more weeks on my calendar I had to look up aspects of middle ages life eg the effects of poisons, herbal remedies, foods etc. Some may say that for the purpose of NaNo you should have just glossed over these and done the research later OR should have done all my research first. The problem with the first suggestion is sometimes a plot point is determined by the research eg Can they even make that journey if it is a new moon? or did they have ‘take-away’ food shops in middle ages? (turns out they did). You don’t want to waste time on an unfeasible premise. The problem with the second suggestion is you never know quite know what research you are going to require until you start writing. I didn’t know my main character was going to stop for a fish meal by the seaside. So altogether it is more efficient to do much of the research as you go. Which of course can slow you down.

My book is a fantasy so historical facts and timelines are not absolutely critical but I do want to stay true to the middle ages theme of my world. There are other genres such as non-fiction, true historical fiction or even some science fiction where research would be even more rigorous. This is where the barrelling forward method has its limitations.

I feel NaNo is more suited to contemporary fiction and pure fantasy but if you are prepared not to necessarily ‘win’ and barrel forward when you can, and stop and plan when you need to, then every writer can benefit from the experience of NaNoWriMo because of the points I’ve outlined above.

35595 words in November that is more words than I had written in the entire previous year. I have inherited a supportive community of writers and a regular writing habit. I would say that was a ‘WIN’

 

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.