on the writing & reading trail

Archive for November, 2012

Editing and writing

29 November

Editing: Steady progress. Nothing startling – the usual changes – rejig sentences and paragraphs, chop some adverbs, get rid of repetitions, turn passive into active, and transform ‘tell’ to ‘show’ where possible.

I’ve included a short extract from Past imperfect – Eyemouth again but from an earlier time. This is where Freya’s father grew up after the war after being found alone on the shore as a baby.

Freya remembered their family visit to Eyemouth in 1970 when she and Jacob walked to this same cottage all those years ago. Claire and Nessie and Douglas were unpacking in the little house they’d rented for a few days. All of them were excited to be celebrating the fiftieth wedding anniversary of their Dunbar grandparents over the weekend. Seventy-something had seemed so old, beyond imagining. Before they arrived, Freya had pictured them as tiny, wizened and helpless. It was mind-blowing that old people could be energetic and full of laughter and thankful for their lives. So different from Gramma.

The breeze had blown sharp off the North Sea, ruffling their hair and stinging their cheeks. Papa’s words were still clear in her mind. ‘Feel that bracing air, Freya, seaweed and salt, it makes your lungs hungry for more.’ He pointed out the harbour wall where he used to chat with the fishermen and the boat-builders at weekends and after school, and to the large shed where he learned so many of his carpentry and building skills.

For Papa he’d been quite talkative. ‘I hope the old pair are not too frail. Their writing has been getting spidery lately. I suppose that happens after seventy.’ He’d suddenly turned and touched her shoulder, ‘Don’t say anything about the war, Freya, unless they do. Remember they lost their two boys when they were teenagers. So sad. I only got to know the younger one vaguely, he left when I was four, but those boys were the ones who found me.’

Writers Group get-together: Carole recently travelled to the US and hosted a wonderful show of carefully selected photographs from Hawaii, California, the north-east and New York. What a wonderful range of experiences. Thank you Carole.

We were also pleased that the launch of our Ten Minute Tales anthology (find it on Google) had local press coverage with quotes from two of the group, Carole and Nene. The anthology is free on Smashwords.

On the way home I stopped to photograph the wonderful avenue of Poinciana trees.

Reading: I finished the Koomson book – a satisfying end. Had to be like that. Ready to read a book I bought recently I am frustrated – it has disappeared and is not to be found in the usual places. Time to clear all surfaces.

Writing: Hopefully I’ll manage to complete the second story with a twist, probably destined for our next anthology. There are so many stories buzzing – fiction and some memoir fragments. Will I live long enough? Probably not because I’m sure the font won’t dry up.

Edit diary

24 November

Editing: The work on Past imperfect is trundling on – more than half-way there. Am approaching the end of Part Two and the bombshells for both Freya and Alexander. Neither has an inkling of what is ahead. They will be left unbelieving, their lives changed forever.

Not finding so much to change beyond the occasional passive sentences; I suppose because this is the umpteenth sweep through.

Working through a dialogue between two Gorbals women in war-torn Glasgow in 1941 reminded me how difficult and confusing it was to understand what people were saying when I first visited that city not too many years after that war ended. Hopefully the dialect included in one of my scenes is not too testing for non-Scots readers.

I also did a quick pass over the reference to Freya’s first experience of Hogmanay with her father’s parents in Eyemouth, a village on the east coast of Scotland, south of Edinburgh. A little nostalgic I’m including a chorus from the famous Auld lang sine, which is usually sung at New Year; a time when friends join hands to remember old times and have a drink to celebrate. And how enthusiastically so many Scots do celebrate! I remember a few night shifts as a nurse at that time of year when some had revelled far too well, with dire consequences.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

Robert Burns collected the words from an old man and sent the material to the Scots Musical Museum. It is always emotional for me and I love to join the singing when watching the Edinburgh Tattoo on TV, the part where the audience say their farewells. The real thing was quite an experience. The song also has its place at most Burns Supper celebrations and sometimes at funerals.

A visit to http://www.eyemouthmuseum.org/the-museum/the-eyemouth-tapestry/will introduce the history of the tapestry to commemorate the loss of 189 fishermen. Freya and her sister Ness later visit the memorial. That part of the Berwickhire cost is a walkers mecca.

Berwickshire coast

Computing: I’m finding my new machine just a bit awkward, but know when I get used to the slightly smaller keyboard and Word 2013 differences from Word 2010 and Word 2003-2007 that I’m very familiar with, it will be easier. Sometimes I spend ages working out what used to seem so easy. Can’t use ‘help’ at the Library as there is no universal internet connection. If only I could find the glitches at home. Never mind I guess the grey matter can do with the odd challenge. What do the medicos say? Use it or lose it. This is on my mind as last night brought news of a distant friend diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. So sad – my age too.

Reading: Still with Dorothy Koomson’s book. A modern tale that explores a serious aspect of surrogate pregnancy. I’m not predicting how it ends as there are many threads, just waiting for it to unfold.


New technology for me – learning

20 November

Disappointing start to the day after an exciting evening yesterday when, with phone help, my new combined tablet and PC became operational. Then I discovered that the charger wasn’t working and this morning there was almost no power. Late in the day after much rigmarole all was made right. It is such a neat and light marvel. Although it will take a bit of getting used to it seems just what I wanted, worth the wait and the long search. When the search started I had no idea of this possibility. So the learning commences with Word 2013 preview, a different computer language and a touch screen and detachable tablet.

No edit progress worth mentioning today.

But what a difference our couple of storms have made to our surroundings. Everywhere is alive with colour – poinciana branches are heavy with red, pink and white frangipani are blooming, both white and purple agapanthus look magnificent and I saw an enormous tree with vibrant yellow flowers.

A favourite place

Looking forward to tomorrow’s progress with writing and editing and learning.

Edit diary, reading

19 November

Arrived at the library before opening time. Returned a book I could not finish reading; interested in the subject in the broad, but found it too heavy on detail that got in the way of my vision of the characters and the surroundings. Will check my own work on the next sweep through to see if I’ve done the same. Probably not; more likely the reverse. While waiting, I found new colour to photograph. Don’t know the name of this wonderful red foliage but it looks well with the nearby jacaranda still in flower. Now there are both red and purple carpets, courtesy of our recent high winds and storms. No damage in our locality but much elsewhere.

Windblown carpet

Editing: Slow. Made quite a few changes, mostly chopping sentences where I’d already cut content. And the same old business of changing the order within both sentences and paragraphs as well as finding the passive sentences that an agent had mentioned were there. Didn’t change them all; kept some for variety, and deleted some. The following is a short extract from the prologue of Past imperfect.

Glasgow – mid-October, 1970: – Rushes of energy rippled through the girl’s body like it sometimes did at home when a storm was building. There, it was always safe under the house or in one of the rooms. Puzzled at feeling scared like this inside her grandmother’s flat, she tightened her fingers around her father’s hand and half-stepped sideways to sense comfort from her mother’s soft wool coat.

The old lady was almost spitting, her face contorted, ‘No . . . No, I won’t go with you. I’ve told you before I’m not interested in traipsing about. Certainly not to that godless place.’

The girl cringed inside, but showed no expression, as the grandmother’s dark eyes bored into her. Fretting at the dissension she wondered if the reaction was stronger because today’s visit was her choice?

She wanted, . . . needed, to see where her mother had lived as a small child; to claim some insight into her mother’s life before it had been swallowed by the depressions. Mother’s memory of those years was vague, and grandmother would only say, ‘It’s all best forgotten.’

The older brother and younger sister were fidgeting, standing by the door, ready to leave. They didn’t mind if grandmother stayed home or went with them but their sister let her breath out gently, and felt her father’s hand relax around hers as he ushered her towards the door. Mrs Brown, the housekeeper was holding it open for them.

Outside, life in the grey city hummed under a lowering sky. Happed up people huddled and hurried along streets and cobbled paths that were greased and dark with the smirr of morning rain. It could turn into an anything kind of day but hadn’t yet made up its mind; to sun, or stay with rain, or sleet, or maybe even drop some early snow.


Spent a lot of time rejigging the short synopsis (300 words) and playing with the idea of the elevator pitch. No short synopsis can embody the complexity of a family saga with a couple of sub-plots, but I did the best I could to show the over-riding conflicts for the two major characters. Next task will be to work on the longer synopsis.

Reading: Found another Dorothy Kroomson book, goodnight, beautiful. Now there’s an author who seamlessly does detail, both physical and emotional and I never want to stray. I’ve only started the story but it is powerful, about complicated personal and family matters. You can find out more about Dorothy at http://www.dorothykoomson.co.uk/before-the-rose-petal-beach-a-special-free-ebook-prequel-available/ I’m predicting that many people will be hooked if they take a look at this website.

Also started a book about brain health but may not keep going. It seems a bit out of date and I’ll jettison it if I don’t find any new material in the next couple of chapters. I can get updates on old information in later publications for sure. My fault, should have checked publication date.

Critiquing: It’s almost time to be pulling a chapter together for our next meeting, and to have the chapters piling in. I always enjoy this time of the month to travel far afield, literally and metaphorically. My chapter will still be with Alexander, in Kruger National Park on his solo flying survey, when he stumbles (can you do that in an aircraft?) on what may be an illegal elephant cull.


Slack week

November 18

It’s been more than a week since I was here and I don’t know how the days passed so quickly as there doesn’t seem to be much to show. Routine health checks with travel time etc. swallow up time so that is part of it. Also made a couple of research visits to computer stores to decide on a lighter and more easily portable computer set-up – reason: struggling into backpack straps caused shoulder problem. Found something I really like but haven’t set it up yet as advice needed. That will be tomorrow’s priority.

However a little work did get done, but I missed the usual continuity and flow of whole days.

Writing: Completed one of my draft short stories with a twist. The plot is there, and there is more than one twist. I’m up to word count but can maybe incorporate more characterisation. Maybe not. Can’t decide on title between Cruel fate or Beyond belief. Will keep much as is meantime, but the plot would lend itself to a longer story. In the future. Am looking forward to group critique before we publish.

Critiquing: I had some remaining critiquing due for a couple of Writers Group members on material that does not fit within our monthly meeting tasks. One is a very moving mother’s story about her daughter with a disability.

Finished reading an evocative short travel memoir for a member of another group with which I have a very loose attachment. The wonderful photographs made for nostalgic memories of my own too-short time in Venice long ago. I want to go again – but not right now when the magical city is having its regular over-flooding time.

Other things: Received an exhilarated email from a friend just returned from her trip to the eclipse and the wonderful photos she took via telescope. A spiritual experience for her in good company and with superb arrangements by the organiser for great viewing.

Hoping for a more productive week even though there is another routine health check that will rule out productive work because of timing in the middle of the day.

Editing, writing, reading

November 10

Editing: It’s back to the drawing board. Amazingly the agent I approached viewed my sample chapters straight away, but the answer was negative – not interested – but might consider again if I undertake a lot of work. The suggestions were helpful and I’ll rework the novel again with some of them strongly in mind, and think some more about others. Am leaving that till next week.

Writing: I’m working on two short stories for our next anthology – there needs to be a twist. That is a challenge, but an item I read in a weekend supplement last week and an internet story I stumbled on have provided inspiration for family oriented tales – that is not a surprise for me. One focuses on the early stage of life, the other on the later stage – this isn’t new either – in one theme of our Ten Minute Tales anthology the same beginning and life end matters found their way to the top of consciousness. Is that what being the eldest of seven does?

Reading: Mainly focused on books the library will want to have back on the shelves again soon. Would love to keep Caleb’s crossing by Geraldine Brooks a while longer, to savour it. Denise Leith’s book What remains is another I will dip into several times before returning. Am also reading a local author Paula Watson’s YA story Shadows (about love, nightmares, angels, war) since hearing her speak about it at a local Author talk run by Redlands Libraries – had to wait a while for it as I was well down the ‘request’ list. Very clearly and well written; I’m enjoying the read even though fantasy type writing is not a preferred genre.

There are some books piling up that I couldn’t resist buying as well and I’m thinking of reviewing some indie titles on Smashwords or through Library Thing. Should keep me out of mischief. Won’t slow down the new writing though as reading is an evening activity.

Colleagues: Nene, a member of our Writers Group is busy working on her novel on advice from an e-publisher. I wish her well. Keep up with progress on her blog at nenedavieswrites.weebly.com Another member is also on the brink of submitting a novel for consideration as well. It’s a big step to let go. Thoughts are with her as she makes that decision.

The jacaranda are still magnificent.

Purple beauty against a stormy sky

Edit diary and author talk

November 1

Editing: That feels like a long-ago activity. Much else has invaded the agenda in recent days. Hopefully I’ll get back to that task by the middle of next week – ready to start on another sweep of Book Three, working title Future hope.

I did finish working on Book One (Past imperfect) and am seriously considering an approach to an agent to gauge interest. If that comes up negative I think it will be a move to e-publishing, possibly in mid to late January after all the well-known authors on the Christmas lists may be out of the limelight. There are pros and cons for either outcome. I leave it to Fate.

A publication: Thinking of Fate, I wrote last week of the opportunity to present our Ten Minute Tales anthology to a local audience in the Redlands (that is the Redlands in SE Queensland) which we did today. We were delighted when offered a half-hour slot because the advertised author could not meet the planned start time because whoever set up the event was unaware that Queensland does not have daylight saving. We would never have attracted so many listeners ourselves.

Four of the anthology’s seven authors took the floor. We were well received and had quite a few positive comments. See some photos from our rehearsal yesterday. Sarah was our helpful interviewer for a Question and Answer session. That exercise stood us in good stead for today.

Easiest way to find Ten Minute Tales is by Googling Ten Minute Tales anthology.

Sarah, Nene, Marci

So we were curtain-raisers for Peter Fitzsimons who was promoting his latest book Eureka which brings to life an influential part of Australia’s early history. Peter arrived in his trademark red bandanna. What a performer he is. The audience was carried away, acknowledging him as an historian, a talented writer, and a passionate and humorous presenter.  A look at the internet will tell of his many other books, about sporting personalities, politicians, and important events in the country’s war history.

The sales for Eureka were good and the signing line was long and slow, but friendly – fostering community spirit.

We are proud of our local libraries in the Redlands and the way they support local writers and would-be writers as well as the readers.

Writers Group: This week has been critiquing time. We look forward to our meeting tomorrow when we share our responses to the work submitted. The writing skills of all have developed well over our few years together, and we have matured as a group to feel exactly right for the tasks ahead. The email responses received on my chapter today raise much food for thought and point to a hazard for saga writers that I will need to think about quite deeply. Wonderful to have a group so willing to be constructive in a supportive way.

Laurie, Marci, Sara

The jacarandas were looking good today.

A favourite sight

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