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Archive for April, 2013

Long shadows – Anzac Day reflections

Long shadows – Anzac Day reflections

Yesterday was Anzac Day – always a day of recognition even before I understood its significance. Among other youngsters in Sandgate, the words of the services floated above our heads and hearts as we slipped away from the knots of parents, soldiers, scout and guide groups, dignitaries and others who gathered in front of the memorial in the park near the town hall. We frolicked, delighted by the hopping myriads of tiny green frogs startled by our play along the hedge enclosing the ceremony. Those little frogs were plentiful then.

My first awakening probably came from reading The singing tree by Kate Seredy which was sent from our Scots grandparents – a haunting and beautiful tale of the lead-up to and experience of the First World War by the different members of a Hungarian farming family – on the farm and at the battle front. I have read it many times and it is now tattered and almost unreadable after many moves and storage in a box attacked by mould. Recently when I tried to see if it was still available I was delighted to find that older copies can still be bought through Amazon and that some publishers are releasing new editions, identifying it as a classic. I wholeheartedly agree with that definition.

The passage of years brought deepening awareness of war and an overwhelming ache for peace and understanding between nations and a hope that no more wives, parents, siblings, other relatives or communities would be subjected to the consequences of loss – to death, emotional damage or physical injury. The graphic World War II newsreels, trench drills at school with gas masks, search lights at night, sounding sirens, ration coupons and food parcels for UK family made it real by stirring the imagination and years of nightmares. From our safety I used to worry how the soldiers on any side could bear it and how ordinary people in the midst of bombing and other madness managed to survive their own trials while concerned about those in the fighting. Even though I lost no-one I always find Anzac Day an emotional experience.

Anzac Square - Brisbane

Anzac Square – Brisbane

We no longer attend the dawn services, but often watch them on TV, starting with New Zealand, and then follow them across the time zones of our nation and on to Gallipoli and France and tuning into the marches between times. Somewhere deep in my psyche is a buried hope that the annual reminders through the words of the soldiers and their families, that were so much a feature of this year’s ceremonies, will become a powerful enough force to bring changes towards peace.

Although, as befits the day, the main emphasis was on the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish forces in 1915, with attendance by representatives of successive wars where our countries were involved, we cannot help but be reminded of what is happening to ordinary people in so many places around this world right now.

In my late teens, on the voyage between Australia and the UK, I had time to read from the ship’s post-war library and to reflect on numerous factual and fictional stories of many conflicts from various perspectives. Arriving at the conclusion that I am pacifist at heart, I eventually decided that if a war was inevitable in my time and there was a need to participate, it would have to be as a nurse or in some other helping role. That never did happen, but I was concerned to read recently that some of the civilian nurses and doctors who went to Vietnam to support Australia’s part in that war have been denied support equivalent to members of the regular forces. And I am certain that scrutiny would find many other unacknowledged personal costs and anomalies under the radar.

War casts long shadows that have haunted my safe life. Maybe that was a subconscious trigger for a major plot stream through my Long Shadows family saga series. In the first novel, recently e-published, the shadows stretch from World War II and the Balkan unrest through the generations of the Dunbar and Marcou families in Past Imperfect, into the 1990s. Other conflicts populate the pages of the next two books of the series.

I fear there will never come a time when there are not new generations to mourn and care for.

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Reading and neuroscience

Interesting study that shows how various regions of the brain are involved for different types of reading – for pleasure or close reading. Although preliminary, it might surprise how widely areas of the brain are involved. No wonder we like to read. Very encouraging for authors as well as fascinating for the scientists.

http://www.salon.com/2012/09/19/your_brain_loves_jane_austen/ Edit

Wonderful gesture

Stella Prize

Have a look at the wonderful gesture by Stella Prizewinner – so generous. Carrie Tiffany was announced on Tuesday night as the winner of the first Stella Prize, for her book Mateship with Birds.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/national/stella-winning-author-shares-prize-money/story-e6frfku9-1226622056717#ixzz2QhPVVC1M

I haven’t read her book yet but will put it on the ‘to-read’ list straight away. I enjoyed watching her on TV this morning.

And such a coincidence – yesterday as I was returning home I was captivated by the bird feeding on a shrub in our front yard. I couldn’t get close but managed to snap the incident. With all the sun, rain, sun, rain and warmth just lately you would think it is spring, not autumn – everything is so lush. Wondering if there is a hard winter ahead – not that we Queenslanders really know much about hard winters.

Feeding delight

Feeding delight

Next step

Book one of the Longshadows Series

Book one of the Longshadows Series

This afternoon, almost exactly two weeks after e-publishing Past Imperfect on Smashwords as a free download, I changed its price status to USD2.99.

Now I look forward to seeing if the steady, if small number of downloads (180) will continue.  If you are interested in having a look or reading the beginning of the story you will find it at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/301384

Social media

Social media

A novice with social media, I’m finding it time consuming trying to work out how to be economical in usage and still gain the benefits of building a network beyond friends and family. Even with many Twitter followers I know there is much to learn to take advantage of the media for marketing purposes. Whenever there is a spare moment I’m dipping into library books. Fun, but it interferes with writing and editing plans. It’s a balancing act – getting on with the work and managing new skills.

My resources
My resources

Had wonderful help with my new website (www.winfredadonald.com) though from Ryan McDonald-Smith. I’ve still a way to go to get it right. But do take a look at Ryan’s website – http://www.youniquecreation.com. I think his main page is terrific. Have a look.

New novel, Past Imperfect available

Novel available

Book one of the Longshadows Series

Book one of the Longshadows Series

It was such a delight at Writers Group today to see Past Imperfect on multiple screens – Ipad, Kindle, Kobo. All my colleagues with readers had downloaded it. What a thrill! It is available free on Smashwords for a short period – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/301384

Critiquing

After that it was on with the business of critiquing each other’s work. We had a big load today – everyone present contributed material for comment:

  • There was the first chapter of a new novel – a sequel to Nene Davies’ first book Distance, which will be e-published by Really Blue Books next month. The new book with a working title of Further promises another great read.
  • Another was an American-based YA novel that is moving along well – in our humble opinions, quite brilliant.
  • A wonderful short story – humorous and full of characters we’ve all met and wish we hadn’t.
  • Memoir chapter of life in the 1950s in rural Australia by a young English migrant – real social history there.
  • The first chapter of a story destined for the education sector about a wartime mystery – a couple of youngsters have a project on hand to follow an emotional trail.
  • And a chapter from the end of my second novel Present Tense – set in Amsterdam after the medical evacuation of a humanitarian aid volunteer from Africa.

Lots of laughs, constructive comments and helpful discussions. And a wonderful lunch afterwards as four of us have birthdays just past or imminent.

I’m also posting on my new website – http://www.winfredadonald.com

A happy book day – Past Imperfect

Book one of the Longshadows Series

Book one of the Long Shadows Series

Late yesterday I sent out emails and made phone calls to let friends and family know that Past Imperfect was published on Smashwords and available free for two weeks if they were interested in having a look. More of them than expected did just that, and so many sent lovely messages of congratulations and support, and a few were burrowing their way through the story straight away even though it was Easter weekend and most had family get-togethers on the go.

If you’d like to do the same go to  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/301384

I’m so excited. This is the first time I’ve used my pen-name as author. I plan to use Winfreda Donald for all my fiction writing from now on.

And today I also made a start on editing the second book in The Long Shadows SeriesPresent Tense. I sailed through two chapters just after Freya’s arrival in Africa.

Between times I’m re-reading Pearl Buck’s wonderful tale of The Good Earth. I’m still with Wang Lung during the tumultuous times of famine as he takes his family south. I felt immersed in the impact they experienced because of the barren soil of the Chinese countryside and the changed behaviour of their starving neighbours. The city is such an alien world for them and the story so simply and powerfully told. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in stories of change and comparisons between a past world and a present one. Even at fourth or fifth reading the novel is fresh and engaging.

I intend to keep this blog for a while longer but would welcome views of my new website even though it is a little sparse right now. It will expand soon. Find the covers of two other books in The Long Shadows Series by visiting http://www.winfredadonald.com

Tomorrow is critiquing day – to prepare for our Writers Group meeting on Friday. Looking forward to that.

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