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A lot of what I read online about writing stories focuses on churning out novels every few months and that the best form of marketing is writing more books.
It’s an interesting thought and one that I ponder as I pack for my latest research trip. In this age of frenetic writing should I just stay at home and google the information I need? Worse, youtube it?
Is the idea of the research trip, of hitting the road and walking in the steps of my characters, a quaint overhang of a bygone era?
I’m at the historic Malanda Hotel on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland where my heroine meets her betrothed (he is but a short term hero as I kill him off eventually).
The occasion is the arrival of the railway in 1911.
As I stand in the echoing emptiness of what was once the ballroom of the hotel I know that the decision to throw the kids and a tent in the car and head north to the Tablelands was the right one.
i can already see my heroine dancing in the arms of her handsome beau, hear the swish of her crinoline frock as she sways in time to some inner waltz tune and feel the breeze drifting in from the balcony and hinting of the descent of another crisp Tablelands night – a night my heroine will always remember as the night she lost the only man she had ever truly loved.
To prologue or not to prologue, that is the question…our middle grade novel, Dirt Busters, A Cracker & Gilly Mystery, was originally called, Old Bones, and was based on the bones of a WW1 aboriginal soldier and and an ancient burial site. The site was being turned into a housing development and Cracker and the gang were determined to stop this happening.
Despite rewriting the preface to our story a zillion times, I made an executive decision to cut it. That’s the advantage of being executive but my co-author is still mad…and that’s okay because our novels are based on sibling squabbles, and our co-aurthorship has more than its fair share – yep, exactly like Cracker and Gilly, and yep, Gilly always wins, sort of, because her creator is the one who makes the executive decisions in our co-authoring team. And Cracker always saves her because that’s what big brothers do.
And being an Indie author team, I figure we can always put the prologue back in one day, and change the name back to Old Bones…but here are the reasons I made the decision I did (yeh, I know, self-justification is no justification:))…
1. My beta readers – Yr 5 & 6 kids – wanted to get straight to the action
2. I’ve been following the prologue/no prologue debate for years and it seems the no prologue team always have good reasons not to prologue
3. I wasn’t confident of our material – I don’t know a lot about our aboriginal history
4. With the right research and help I can always include it in a future edition
5. It’s a great talking point in my writing workshops and my students always engage (maybe I’ll put it in our non-fiction writing book as a discussion point for writers)
6. I went with the old maxim, if in doubt leave it out…
7. Our publisher agreed with me
But I still like our prologue…as my co-author says, it has just the right amount of spookiness…what do you think?
THE night air was thick and pungent with wood smoke emanating from a fire built high above the tide line where a group gathered under the light of the full moon recently risen from the west.
It was a night like no other Tanjatjiri could remember and the thought made him uneasy. He sniffed at the air as he watched the men of the Wulbunga people dance the corroboree.
Namittitnan, middle-aged and spry, danced to the rhythm of the night, as did his son,Nappittitan, beside him. Karipcoycae and his son, too, danced and Tarijatjiri momentarily forgot his worries as his gaze rested on his own young son who swayed at the feet of his elders, ready to take his place amongst them although he was only seven.
These people looked up to Tarijatjiri, the men and boys of the Wulbunga, and as their leader, Tarijatjiri took his duties seriously, which was why on this night of dance he stood to one side and tried to understand what it was that made him uneasy.
Ochre outlines painted onto the skins of the dancers, with feathers attached by animal fat long horded, showed the care each man took to present himself to the “old ones”.
From his vantage Tarijatjiri could see the sea, the sky, and the land where the men danced and as he gazed around him there was nothing amiss. Yet still he was uneasy. The melodious ‘r’ rurr r’ rurr r’ rurr’ of the dozen didgeridoos played in time to the pounding of the surf as it crashed onto the beach added to his unease.
As the dancers clapped the flats of two nulla-nullahs together, the sharp ‘slap slap’ emphasizing the driving beat, Tanjatjiri turned back to the shadows where the sea met the sky and frowned.
And from deep within him came a guttural cry.
He began to run, his words of warning unable to compete with the ancient rhythms around him, of pounding feet and the fury of clapping wood sticks. It was the crescendo of the tribal dance and as Tanjatjiri ran his brain was filled with the sounds of the dancers, but still he heard it, above the sounds, louder than the sea and the earth combined, and he knew that his warning would come too late.
As the men of the Wulbunga tribe danced to a rhythm passed down from father to son for as long as Tanjatjiri could remember, the big wave struck.