You may have noticed that — prior to the review of Cinnamon Girl that I posted on the weekend — I vanished off the radar for a week or so there. Or maybe you didn’t, given my posts on this blog can be sporadic at times. Either way, the absence was because my son and I went north (where the warmer weather is in Australia) for the winter.
Okay, for nine days.
Good friends of ours moved to central Australia at the start of the year, so we went to stay with them and do local touristy things — the biggest of which was a two-night stay at Yulara, the resort near Uluru.
You’ll probably guess from the above photo that it wasn’t as warm as I might have hoped. The weather was interesting, I don’t know, maybe it’s typical for a desert, but it seemed to change from day to day without much sense to it. One day it’d be cold — coats and scarves weather — and the next it’d be shorts and T-shirts weather. We got fewer of the latter kind of day than I might have liked, and two of them were the day we arrived and the day we left again. Typical!
That being said, the lowest maximum temperature we got while on holidays was still higher than the highest maximum in Canberra during the same period, so I shouldn’t complain. And it was wonderful to catch up with our friends. They have two girls, the younger of whom is close to my boy, so he had a lot of fun having a playmate in his pocket. Of course, I also got an insight into what it might have been like if I’d had two kids. So. Much. Bickering. Gah!
And Uluru was … well, it was everything I could have imagined, and several things I hadn’t. There’s something about seeing a cultural icon, a popular landmark, in the flesh for the first time. You’re so used to it being on postcards or the TV that, when you see it with your own eyes, it’s both unfamiliar and so familiar that you feel like it’s the landscape equivalent of an old friend. I’m positive at least part of my awe of the place was that feeling.
Another significant part was the overwhelming sense of the Aboriginal history. Cave art, sacred spaces where photography was discouraged, rock formations that looked like snakes or spear holes and so became them in dreamtime stories. I could easily imagine young hunters stalking across the dunes, spears in hand as they hunted for prey.
The rest of my awe was at Uluru itself. Not only is it one of the world’s biggest rocks, it stands out in the middle of a sandy plain — the terrain makes it even more striking. There were a few things that really struck me about it. Because central Australia has had a fair amount of rain recently (relatively speaking), there was a lot more greenery than I’d imagined, the rust red sand dunes covered in clumps of grass and low shrubs. We also visited a couple of waterholes at the base of the rock during our day there — they weren’t lakes by any stretch of the imagination, but there was more water than I’d imagined in a desert. One of them was swarming with tadpoles, and the other had water trickling down into it from the top of the rock, probably the remnants of overnight dew, despite it being mid-afternoon.
Finally, despite Uluru from a distance looking exactly as I’d dreamed it would, when I got up closer I was surprised at how many crevices, caves and protrusions there were. Later I discovered that, from the air, it looks sort of like a fat, wrinkly, reversed comma. (Someone make a font for that!)
Now, as much as I’m sure you’re loving hearing me ramble about my holiday, there is a point to all this. Research is great. I’m a huge fan of Google street view and Wikipedia. Huge. But, where you can swing it, there is no substitute for actually going to the place you’re writing about. I’m not writing a book set in central Australia — not yet. But visiting there sure made me want to try.
As I mentioned a week or so ago, at the end of January my boy and I went to the coast for five nights with a friend and her son. The lead-up was a bit traumatic as, two days before, my boy managed to slam his finger in the car door, so we had to get it x-rayed to see if it was broken. Thankfully, it wasn’t, just very badly bruised (and I’m sure he’ll lose the nail). Then the day before there was a massive hail storm and my friend’s skylight smashed, so she had to organise the SES to come and patch it up.
It was as though the universe was conspiring. But we overcame!
It was great to have a break, jump waves at/nearly get drowned at the beach, and generally make happy gold-memory-orb-style memories. A highlight for me was successfully flying a kite for the first time in years — on the beach, with the waves threatening to soak my shoes. The boy declared he would remember it forever. Winning!
Another highlight was the crazy thunderstorm that hit the night before we came home. The lightening was constant but erratic, like a misfiring strobe light, and the thunder just rolled on and on. And on. We got over 100mm of rain overnight, and not a lot of sleep. I’m amazed we didn’t wash into the Pacific!
I did a lot of reading. I gobbled Storm in a Teacup by Emmie Mears (review to follow, but spoiler: I loved it), and also finished doing an alpha read on a new release by K. A. Last (spoiler: I loved that too!).
I didn’t do much writing. I was setting out to do no writing at all, but I slipped and fell* and accidentally scribbled a couple hundred words down while the boys were playing an elaborate game involving Transformers and a sunscreen bottle. Eh. Nobody’s perfect.
Putting no pressure on myself was worth it, too. I’d been feeling quite drained going into the holiday, but on the drive home my brain kept yammering story ideas at me. Not fully formed plots, but hints. Whispers. Most of them were inspired by the names of roads or rivers. Shoemakers Creek. Wild Dog Creek. Mount Darragh (which is apparently near Myrtle Mountain — what a great name!). Others were by sights, such as the businessman walking along the single lane highway with a briefcase in hand and his tie flapping in the wind, farmland all around us. Others were by things we were told: apparently there was an earthquake the night before we passed through Bombala. For tectonically stable Australia, that’s rather noteworthy news.
People always ask writers — not just me but properly famous writers — where we get our ideas. Some days, the real question should be how do we get them to shut up?
Still, I feel blessed, and thankful I live in such a gorgeous country, with such awesome names. 🙂 Now I can get stuck into finalising the publication of Melpomene’s Daughter and writing the sequel to Lucid Dreaming.
* I didn’t literally slip and fall, for those familiar with the fashion in which I ruined my first and only overseas holiday.
In the spirit of Halloween, and ghost stories, today at Aussie Owned and Read I shared the inspiration for the seance scene at the start of “Isla’s Inheritance”.
Once upon a time, when I was in my late teens, my party trick was seances. I know that sounds kind of weird, but it’s true. We used to improvise an ouija board, use a (clean) scotch glass as the focus, and then have at it. And for some reason, whenever I was touching the glass, it would glide around the board like an ice skater on a rink — even if I wasn’t really paying much attention.
I’m pretty sure my friends thought I was pushing the glass around, although they never accused me of it. And although I wasn’t doing anything deliberately, I sometimes wondered if there was something subconscious going on, because I often “heard” the word reply in my mind as the glass started spelling it out.
During one particularly freaky incident, one of the guys taking part had brought along what he claimed was a…
View original post 728 more words
There is a lot of different advice about what writers should write. I see the occasional clickbait article on social media claiming to give advice on how to write a bestseller, for example (although I’ve never clicked, because I know when someone is trying to sell me something!). The more common mantra for writers is “write what you know”, something I believe in so long as the definition of “what you know” is expanded to include things you’ve researched, or a fantasy world you’ve built until you know it inside out.
But probably the best bit of advice — IMHO YMMV etc — is to write the book that calls to you. I don’t believe in a muse in the literal sense, but there’s no doubt that when I’ve been choosing between two projects, the one that drags me in like a whirlpool, that won’t leave me alone, is the one that gets written.
I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, for various reasons. So here are my three reasons to write the book that calls to you.
Because chasing trends is pointless
If you’re thinking of traditional publishing, there’s not a lot of point in chasing trends. Say you look around the bookstore and think, “Gee, were-swans are hot right now.” By the time you write your were-swan book, edit it, get it beta read, edit it again (and again), and start querying agents or editors, your idea is one of many were-swan books on the slush pile. Publishing is a slow-moving beast; that new trend you see breaking in the bookstores today was actually bought by a publishing house 18 months ago (or longer). Right now, they are buying something new, not the trend you’ve just discovered.
This is also true, although to a lesser extent, with self-publishing. If you’re going to be a proper author–publisher, that still takes time to do right. (Again with the editing, but also with the typesetting and acquiring of or designing a professional cover.)
I’m not saying you shouldn’t write your story about were-swans if that’s what you really want to do, but don’t write it because you think it’s going to be the next were-swan hit. Write it because it’s the story you have to write.
Because writing a book is hard
I don’t want to sound like I’m having a pityfest over here, but sometimes writing a book is simply hard work. It’s not always glorious, giddy typing to the Murder, She Wrote theme — sometimes it’s awkward transition scenes and words that move about as quickly as my son gets dressed when we’re in a hurry. (For the record, that’s not very fast.)
If you love your story, if in the middle of the night you think about your characters and ways you can mess with them, getting through these writing rough patches will be so much easier. This is particularly important if you’re still working on your first novel, wondering whether you can do it. (Note: you can.)
Because you’re going to read that book a lot
I just finished proofreading the galley proof of Isla’s Inheritance. I’ve read it from cover to cover (so to speak) at least two or three times in the last six months. Before I got my publishing deal, I read it maybe four more times, going over it again and again, looking at places to tighten or tweak. So not only was it my life for as long as it took me to draft it, it’s been a huge part of my life since then.
Regardless of how you decide to publish, you’re going to read your book again. And again. And again. If it’s not a story your passionate about, you’re going to get more than a little stabby. Even if you are passionate about it you may get a little stabby; it can’t be avoided. But love makes it easier.
I feel like I should leave you with some sort of uplifting message: art harder, or write the story you want to read. Something like that. But instead, I’ve decided to make you an inspirational meme. It’s my gift from me to you. 🙂
This week on This Writer’s Space we have fellow Fall 2014 debut writer, Ashley R. Carlson — although her debut is steampunk fantasy! I love it already!
Where I Write
This is my office, where I write fantastical prose about zeppelins, corrupt governments, and futuristic Victorian clothing (at least I am right now with my steampunk WIP). As you can see, I have an official “writing” chair, with the side ripped up by another item in the picture—my destructive cat, Ava. She rarely sits on my keyboard, instead preferring to leap onto the back of my chair at random times and give me mini-heart attacks. To the left is a notebook full of my WIP’s character names, places, and inspiration/themes to remember, as well paperwork for my one of my current jobs, as an editorial intern for Arizona Foothills Magazine. The post-its are quotes that inspire me, including my favorite by William James: “Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that assures the successful outcome of any venture.”
Where I’m Inspired
I get inspired in a variety of weird places, but felt it best not to take pictures of the inside of my cluttered car or shower—yes, the shower. Please tell me I’m not the only person who gets inspired there; the entire idea behind my current WIP came to me in the shower after watching a Real Housewives of Orange County episode…so yeah. Weird times and places. This is a picture of my whiteboard, which really helps to arrange my thoughts as I plod through my current novel. When I’m writing, I can just spin my chair around (and yell “Wheeee!” if I go ‘round a few times before stopping) and refresh my memory about the current scene, or brainstorm ideas if I get stumped.
To Be Read
Being that I am a huge supporter of e-books and the digital age of the publishing industry, I buy my books on my iPad more often than not. Currently, my TBR list includes Rosehead by Ksenia Anske, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, How We Fall by Kate Brauning (a first cousins’ romance?! What?!), and Divergent by Veronica Roth (to see what all the fuss is about).
Ashley R. Carlson is a fantasy author and editorial intern for Arizona Foothills Magazine and Midnight Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @AshleyRCarlson1 for thoughts on Tinder, animals, and self-publishing, and check out her blogs at http://www.ashleyrcarlson.com/ and http://midnightpublishingllc.com/writing-editing-publishing-industry-blog/. Ashley lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with two dogs and a mean-spirited cat. Ashley will release her debut novel, a steampunk fantasy, in Fall 2014.
Today on This Writer’s Space I have a fellow antipodean, Kiwi YA writer Kate Larkindale! Take it away, Kate!
Where I Write
This is where I write (most of the time, anyway). My partner is a recording engineer and he works out of our dining room which is also my at home office. So you can see the mixing console behind my laptop, and the speakers everywhere. As you can imagine, not a lot of dining is done in this room!
It’s not ideal because if we both want to work during the day, we only have the one desk, and because my laptop is easier to move than his whole set-up, I take my stuff to library to work. But since I mainly work in the early hours of the morning before the kids get up, and at night after they go to bed, the shared place thing works okay. One day though, I want a house with a turret so I can claim that as my writing space!
Where I’m Inspired
There is no one place that inspires me really, but when I go on vacation to the beach, my mind tends to be less full of boring work stuff so I often find myself solving problems with my stories or coming up with new ones. And really, who could help but be inspired by a place as beautiful as this? I apologise for the boats ruining the idyllic scene… My son is kind of obsessed with them and I took this for him to bring home the last time we were there.
To Be Read
My TBR pile? It’s neverending. This massive tower of fiction waiting to be read. And because so many talented writers keep writing, I doubt it ever will. Most of the books I’ve purchased to read are on my Kindle and that doesn’t look super-impressive, so here’s an interpretation of what it might look like if I actually bought everything I want to read as an actual book….
Having spent a lifetime travelling the globe, Kate Larkindale is currently residing in Wellington, New Zealand. A cinema manager, film reviewer and mother, she’s surprised she finds any time to write, but doesn’t sleep much. As a result, she can usually be found hanging out near the espresso machine.
Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.
She has written eight contemporary YA novels, five of which other people are allowed to see. She has also written one very bad historical romance. She is currently working on a new YA novel that is still looking for a title other than its Twitter hashtag, #juvvielesbian.
About An Unstill Life
Things at home are rough for fifteen-year-old Livvie Quinn. Jules, her beloved older sister is sick again after being cancer free for almost ten years. Her mom becomes more frantic and unapproachable every day. School isn’t much better. Just when she needs them most, her closest friends get boyfriends and have little time for Livvie – except to set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates.
Livvie seeks refuge in the art room and finds Bianca, the school ‘freak’. Free-spirited and confident, Bianca is everything Livvie isn’t. Shaken by her mom’s desperation, her sister’s deteriorating condition, and abandoned by her friends, Livvie finds comfort and an attraction she never felt before with Bianca.
When their relationship is discovered, Livvie and Bianca become victims of persecution and bullying. School authorities won’t help and even forbid the pair to attend the Winter Formal as a couple. If Livvie defies them and goes, she risks expulsion and further ridicule from her classmates. At home, her mother’s behavior escalates to new levels of crazy and Jules is begging for help to end the pain once and for all.
While searching for the strength to make her life her own, Livvie must decide how far she’s willing to go for the people she loves.
This week’s This Writer’s Space features new adult fantasy romance author, Melissa Petreshock, whose book Fire of Stars and Dragons came out in April.
Where I Write
I don’t have an office to work in, so I most often make do at the dining room table. It’s a good space for me since I’m too OCD to like clutter, and an office/desk would tend to gather piles of junk since it’s stationary. By having to move my things around each night when we have dinner, I maintain a minimal amount of general ‘stuff’. The staple items you can guarantee will be with me wherever I end up writing are: my laptop (obviously), my iPod touch, my notebook, an additional notepad (yes, that is pink paper), and what I call my ‘pretty pretty princess pen’. The pen is hand-turned by my dad and made from sycamore with a big blingy rhinestone on the top. (The green dragon is a recent addition. He’s traveling to BEA with me this year.)
When I’m working, I always have the current Word document I’m writing in (BLOOD OF STARS AND GODS, book 2 in the Stars and Souls Trilogy at the moment), my character ‘inspiration’ photo (Taylor Kitsch as Theo Pendragon seen there), and the Google Hangouts chat box with my sister open on my screen. She’s my go-to source for sudden frustration over sentences or paragraphs that don’t sound quite right or anything I need to bounce off someone else. Jen is my 24/7 sounding board. I have to keep her there at my right hand at all times.
Where I’m Inspired
I’m a music fanatic and always listen to music while I’m writing. Where am I inspired? Anywhere I am with my iPod touch. If I have it on my iHome stereo in the kitchen, hooked up in my car, or plugged to my retractable pink earbuds, I find inspiration when I’m with my music. Pictured above is part of the official playlist for FIRE OF STARS AND DRAGONS.
If I had to choose a physical location I find most inspiring, I would choose Boston, Massachusetts. I used to live in Massachusetts and spent a lot of time in the city. It’s full of history and amazing places to see. A future version of Boston is also the setting of FIRE OF STARS AND DRAGONS and the major hub location of the Stars and Souls Trilogy. I’ve been many places in the United States, including such interesting cities as Los Angles and the ever-fascinating New York, but Boston will always be my favorite.
To Be Read
I try to be careful about buying too many books ahead of myself, so my Goodreads TBR is the best idea of what I have on my list of what I want to read, but on the mobile Kindle app, I have a small assortment of books I am reading or will be reading soon.
Currently, I’m reading Running Home by Julie Hutchings and will begin Of Breakable Things by Amy Rolland as soon as I finish Julie’s book. They’re both friends of mine, and I want to read Amy’s book before I leave for BEA, especially since we’re sharing a hotel room in NYC, and I want to chat bookish stuff with her! (And her cover is epically gorgeous!)
Below is a screenshot of a small number of the books in my Kindle app.