Tag Archives: books

Say it isn’t so :(

I’m a little bit in mourning, yesterday was the last day of my Refine Your Novel course. I am going to miss it so much, I enjoy looking forward to it and I enjoy the work while I’m there and I love the motivation in the days after it.

I’m also going to miss the tutor. I did this course with Toni Jordan 3 years ago so this is my second go around with her and she was just fantastic. This last day is possibly my favourite. In my favourite exercise she gives us an early draft of her debut novel, but a version very close to what she sent to her publishers, and then a photocopy of the printed book and she gets us to mark up the changes, of which there are many. This is incredibly brave of Toni and so helpful to us writers. It’s all well and good hearing about the things you need to do to a manuscript to whip it into shape, it’s another matter entirely to see and create a real life example.

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That’s a lot of green pen!

While we work on this, Toni takes a sample of our manuscript and line edits it for us. Most of us provide our first 1500 words, 3 years ago she marked up the first page for me (of a different manuscript) this time she marked up three pages. It’s such a fantastic opportunity, to see where it is you need to concentrate, where you’re going right and where you’re missing the mark.

20150726_152903And in a bit of a fan girl moment I got my copy of her first novel signed.

There’s much to be done, so much…

Flash fiction – in search terms

This week I have been thinking a lot about short forms of fiction. Another advertising sign I love that tells a story of complex possibilities hangs on a road in Melbourne, it’s been there for years and simply says ‘Going to Europe? You’ll need a coat’

image It always makes me think, it’s a little phrase but it suggests that you are coming from somewhere so warm you don’t already have a coat, and perhaps wouldn’t have considered packing one. That you are travelling somewhere so strange you need to purchase special protective gear. And how do they know what I’ll be doing, how do they know I’ll need a coat. What would happen if I don’t have one? Heck I better get one before it’s too late! Maybe it’s just me.

Also I’ve been contemplating the book I need to choose for the next book club I am due to host. It’s not until October so I have time, but I’m considering a book of short stories. I’ve picked up a couple from the library to read and see if they are suitable. Of course there’s an Alice Munro, Dear Life – she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I have to at least consider her, I also have Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Have you read any of these? Any recommendations?

And to the flash fiction. Good old Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds posed a flash fiction challenge to tell a story in Google search terms. He used this great example from @AbrasiveGhost:

Cat armour
buy armour for cats
Cat jousting tournaments
How to stop armoured cats
Cat army how to stop
National guard phone #

– Great isn’t it? So I am having a great time at the moment on my rewrite. I wanted to do a flash fiction but didn’t want to steal the time from my rewrite so I quickly dashed out a flash fiction search term story. Here ’tis!

Getting past a bad day
Getting past a really really bad day
Bad luck
Difference between bad luck and curse
Am I cursed
Removing curses
Kittens free to good home

Have a great weekend folks!!

Book Review – The raw shark texts

20150420_140721I almost don’t want to review this book here as when I picked it up from the library I really had no idea what I was in for, and discovering it along the way was a heck of a ride. But I also want people to read it. Tough one!

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall was his debut, published in 2007, he hasn’t published anything since.

It is literary fiction, speculative fiction, kinda science fiction – it’s a complicate, unique and rich read.

It starts with the protagonist awakening – yes I know you should never start a story with waking or the weather but this is fantastic, you truly believe he has surfaced from a near drowning and is gasping for breath on his living room floor. He has absolutely no memory of who he is and finds a note.

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Intriguing right? What follows is an amazingly complex dive into an alternate view of the world we live in, or is it into the psyche of a disturbed mind?

I found this novel through a recommendation in comments on a blog post suggesting novels to introduce people to science fiction reading, so picked it up not really knowing much about it. Flicking through the pages though you find pages like these:

20150420_14113820150420_140947and it’s not a gimmick, it’s an intrinsic part of the story. While I found the technology of the story a little hard to understand at times, the story itself was fantastic.

This is a novel that will stay with me for quite some time. I don’t immediately want to pick it up and reread it but I found it difficult to part with and return to the library.

My writing tutor, the fantastic Toni Jordan, told me that she had huge bookshelves installed in her loft conversion, so huge she thought she’d never fill them. Two years later she is going through her books and choosing what she really has to keep – this, she said, is unequivocally on her keep pile.

I’d recommend this book, yes, I don’t want to tell you much more about what it is about, I want you to discover it as I did.

Has anyone read it? Love to hear your thoughts – I think if I ever do reread it I’ll get a much greater appreciation of some of the explanations but I appreciated reading it with some confusion as Eric Sanderson (the protagonist) had.

Lost between the covers

bookmark_2673937I just love this idea – a bookstore that has on display all the bits and bobs they find inside the second hand books they receive. SO many story ideas spring from this!

It’s not just photos – ‘One of the most intriguing finds was a white DVD, labelled in green texta: ‘Mitch and Rob’s Massive Bangkok Adventure’. Mr Kemp hasn’t viewed it – he’s afraid of what he might find.’

But is it a disappearing treasure trove now that our photos are digital and not printed out? What strange things have you used as a bookmark?

Book Review – State of Wonder

State of Wonder by Anne Patchett

As you know this was my selection for wine, I mean book club. I had wanted to choose something that was a good yarn but also contained enough interesting issues to generate discussion. I wanted to choose something I hadn’t read before and also something that was easy for people to access, whether at the library or to buy.

Phew! On top of that it couldn’t really be too long a book, all the book club members have young children and most struggle to finish the book in the month allotted, so when I read The Circle by Dave Eggers, while I loved it and it would have been a fantastic book club book, there was no way many would have finished it (oh, another one I need to add to the book review list!)

So, I found it tough to choose!

I haven’t read anything else by Anne Patchett I know her novel Bel Canto won both the Orange Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and it looks great – it’s on the ever growing list.

state of wonderSo State of Wonder is about Dr Marina Singh who works in the lab at a major pharmaceutical company. Her lab partner is sent to the Amazon to convince the obstinate but brilliant Annick Swenson to return with her research or to avaluate how close she is to producing something they can test. There has been no communication at all from her for 2 years and she is deeply resentful of any level of ‘interference’ from her sponsors. Unfortunately the first letter in two years from Dr Swenson informs Marina and the drug company CEO, her older lover, Mr Fox of the death of her lab partner.

Marina is then dispatched to find out what happened and also to finish the mission. They are in the jungle investigating what it is that allows the women of the ncredibly remote Lakashi tribe to continue to bear children into their 70s – with implications for western IVF and fertility.

I really enjoyed the novel, I read it at Christmas time to make sure it wasn’t a dog’s breakfast before recommending it to the book club, and then quickly a second time in the week before the meeting. It’s funny that the middle section that I felt dragged the first time I read it, didn’t bother me on the second reading, and others felt that while this section did drag, it needed to, to convey the emotions of Marina being made to wait by her former mentor with no knowledge of when she may be granted an audience. This nicely mirrors another evening from years before when Marina, a medical resident, was on obgyn rotation with Dr Swenson as the Dr in charge. In an emergency, Dr Swenson made Marina wait to an ultimately devastating end, resulting in the end of Marina’s medical studies and shift into pharmacology.

The novel is full of clever little writing tricks of this type. The childless Marina and Dr Swenson investigating a fertility drug, Dr Swenson’s clinical approach to reproduction but extreme attachment to a remarkable native boy.

We all felt that the ending felt rushed, that another chapter was called for, not for the neat bow-tying to satisfy a happily ever after, it just felt such a rush from the jungle, that there were consequences to be addressed if not resolved and relationships that would be changed that needed a spotlight.

However it is a wonderful book, with evocative language painting a vivid picture of the oppressive and cloying nature of the wildness in the Amazon – well worth the read.

The latest…

I have a couple of book reviews I need to write up and post, some diverse options which is nice.

Not sure if I mentioned it before but I am in a book group and so I get to read books I wouldn’t otherwise pick up. Of course in my household the second Friday of the month is more commonly referred to as wine club than book club – it has been surprisingly difficult to convince BMan that yes, we do actually spend quite a bit of time discussing the book, no really, we do!

wine clubAnyhoo, wine club is at my house for the first time this coming Friday and so I was responsible for choosing the book for everyone to read. It was funny I actually found it a really difficult task. I wanted to choose a good yarn but with a thought provoking issue that would inspire discussion, I also wanted to make sure it was easy for people to actually get their hands on. I also wanted it to be a new book to me. I finally settled on A state of wonder by Anne Patchett. I’m happy with my choice but will wait to write and post my  review and let you know how wine club goes on Friday 🙂

In quite the literary weekend for me, Saturday is the first day of my Refine Your Novel course. We are concentrating on plotting and structure and have been asked to bring along some kind of plot outline or synopsis. That’s what I’m working on today – my plot outline/synopsis. Arrr, the dreaded synopsis, I’m yet to start, I know it doesn’t need to be sparkling and brilliant, this is a writing workshop not an agent or editorial submission, but I’m a little nervous, hence the blog post procrastination.

I think I’ll go grab a caffeine heartstarter and Pomodoro it. Wish me luck!

Just as a sidenote – book reviews to come are Funemployed by Justin Heazlewood, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and The People Smuggler by Robin deCrespigny.

Maybe there’s something to this

night circusI have spent a little time floating around writer’s twitter and blog pages today, yes you could call it procrastination. And I stumbled across Erin Morgenstern’s blog page – she wrote the fantastic The Night Circus and what did I discover – she did nanowrimo!

It amazed me to see that someone of that level of literary fame (she was one of 4 speakers at Margaret Atwood’s 75th birthday for crying out loud) does nano. What’s even better. Her novel, that wonderful, best selling novel, started out as a nano novel! Wow! Mind. Blown.

And now the real work begins

Winner-2014-Web-BannerWell I am quite chuffed that I managed to complete the 50,000 words in November. I gotta say I remember it being easier in 2009, although that may just the be rosy coloured glasses I’m wearing five years down the track.

And you know what, I’m pretty happy with what I produced. I haven’t read it yet so who knows if it’s really any good, there’s bits I know I need to develop, but overall, it’s a pretty good yarn.

I doubt I could have completed it on schedule without my weekend writing retreat at Cimarron – I knocked out more than 10,000 words in that weekend alone. At one point I had written half the word count in 20 days, leaving me just 10 days for the remaining half, it was looking dire.

I know I lost the sister at one point, she was important early on and then disappeared for like a third of the book, I hate when that happens in books I read. I also introduced a mother type figure, and I think my MC (main character) needs one in there, but I really didn’t flesh her out or give her very much to do. I can also ramp up the tension with another encounter with a grieving French mother.

But you know what, I’ve let it sit for almost a week now, and you know what keeps happening. The characters, they keep asking me to work it out, to finish creating them. I keep thinking about it.

The fabulousness that is Chuck Wendig who pours forth no holes barred writerly advice on his terrible minds blog had this to say (most of his excerpts would normally need the NSFW warning, but this is surprisingly expletive free):

Take some time away from the story. Just walk away. Cool and calm like an action hero strolling out of an exploding building. Hide it. Forget it. It’s not a thing that happened. It was a fever dream, poorly-remembered. And here’s where your brain will do insidious things because the brain is an insidious organ –

If you keep thinking about it even though you know you’re not supposed to? Then maybe you have something there. If you put it away and the memory of the thing slides through your fingers like so much dream-sand, hey, that’s okay, too. Maybe this one isn’t the one.

But if it is? Then it’s time to get to work. And the work always begins up here –

*taps center of forehead, which squeaks open on a rusty hinge so a squirrel can poke out, chitter at you, steal your bagel and coffee, then return to its nest inside the skull*

And so here I am, opening the file up again, and reading it, my first aim I think is to do a general typo fix and good god that sentence is ridiculous edit. Once I’ve actually read the whole thing I’m hoping I’ll have a better idea of what actually needs proper wrangling.

Yippee!

Final word count for the book, all written in November: 50,324. Phew!

 

Cimarron Session 2014 – writing retreat

Well I’ve checked in, settled myself, is it wrong to just want to have an afternoon sleep first? I mean, it’s a lovely warm day, I’m totally exhausted and it is oh so very quiet here! And look…that comfy bed is just waiting for me right?

20141121_142353And I picked up a book at the library, Jamie Ford’s latest Songs of Willow Frost, so I could just snuggle on down there, read a chapter or two and have a little snooze couldn’t I??

No, you’re right, I didn’t leave Bman and Little Man for two nights to sleep in the afternoon (well……). I have many thousands of words to write. And I have started, but 12 words is not really a start is it?

2014-11-21 15.03.31Oh and if you haven’t read Jamie Ford’s first novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – get you to a bookstore, pronto!

So it begins

Pre-saved post>>

Cobwebs – dusted. Today the fingers moved on the keyboard, the standard dune-plant-seedling_2542011procrastination distractors (mostly) ignored, and words were written.

It’s early, there are many, many, many more to be written. There are notes to be made, hair to be torn, teeth to be gnashed and joy to be had.

But a seed has been planted.

I’ve returned to my last project that I had abandoned. It’s a novel in two intertwining parts that got too messy to continue with last time. The two voices became too similar, seeds planted early in the manuscript made no sense later, plotting flaws were cracking it apart and the task to continue to the end or recommence just became too huge.

But some time away, the story still itches to be written and here I am again. I’m writing each story independently this time, taking notes, letting one character know what they need to reveal about the other as I go along. Let’s hope they play nicely this time, well, actually they can’t ultimately, they are in opposition.

I’ve also made the first step in arranging two mini writing retreats for myself. I have contacted the wonderful b&b I visited last time to book two weekends, a few months apart. It’s exciting!!

Nano update for you: word count creeping up slowly – a different project from the one described here, not planned at all and ideas are presenting as I need them. There are a couple I know will need to come up soon, things that have been alluded to, but I don’t know what they acutally are yet, hope they arrive at the right times!