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imageIf you wanna write the best you’ve gotta read the best. Here’s two new additions to our bookshelf.

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In ‘Novel Writing, a Writers’ and Artists’ Companion’ Philip Pullman says, ‘Don’t make plans. A plan is not a map, it’s a straitjacket. Your imagination needs the freedom to roam wherever it wants to go, and if you constrain it the book will suffer.’

And I have to agree.

There is so much advice around now in the Indie Publishing world that says outline your novel, fill in the blanks, press ‘publish’, and you will make thousands. Alas, there is little written about the creative process itself in comparison, a process that takes time, lots of it, sweat, lots of that too, and tears…in order to to trust your imagination and give it the freedom to roam you have to step back at see where it takes you…and nobody can sell you anything to make the process any easier.

Remember, the best things in life are free. All they take is time, hard work and tears…there are no shortcuts.

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Times sure have changed. A research trip to hunt down archival material used to take me weeks of self-indulgent white-gloved hiding out in the dungeons of one or other of the State Libraries dotted around our vast coastline, turning page after fragile page of old journals, records and obscure newspaper accounts of little remembered historical happenings of interest only to the social history researcher intent on tracking down tidbits to add colour and vibrancy to their latest exotic fiction set in times long past. Stories packed in dusty boxes in the dungeons of libraries, bestowed to crusty keepers of the long forgotten tomes waiting to be repackaged to new audiences only if the writer did the legwork required to find, record and transform such tomes under the bespectacled gaze of the tome keeper – take off white cotton glove to wipe an eye teared over in joy or sorrow at life’s cruel ironies recorded in what is now considered an illegible scrawl but was once the fountain-tipped cursive of educated scribes of our yesteryears? Only if you’re really brave…

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Enter Trove – no need to leave the comfort of my study for all but the most intricate detailed research (like obscure newspapers that funding has forgotten and remain only on micro-film in the aforementioned State Library dungeons, caretakered by modern day bespectacled keepers of historical records who also, luckily in my case, have the forethought to view the modern digital record keeping methods with a touch of skepticism).

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I was chasing 1890s copies of The Wild River Times, tracking down social tidbits on Carrington, an old timber town of the Atherton Tablelands. The new digitalised system at the Library was unhelpful but my crusty bespectacled librarian came to my rescue. She had a PDF of all the old newspapers available on microfilm ‘just in case’. Lucky me!! I now get to spend the next few weeks in the dungeons of the State Library trawling through micro-filmed copies of 1890s Wild River Times in search of tidbits to bring the world of my Timber Cutter’s Daughter in Carrington, Atherton Tablelands, to life.

MIDWINTERBLOOD

In a blog post, titled ‘YA is not, nor should be, a genre’, Marcus Sedgwick says the following:

I have been witnessing a stream of books sent to me to review, or quote for, every single one of which was written in the first person present tense, with a certain breathless intensity of oh-my-weird-little-life.  Usually there’s cancer, death, divorce etc. thrown in to the mix. Let’s be clear, there’s nothing wrong with writing in the first person present in itself. Many good books have been written this way. Well, one or two, at least.

You can read the whole post at http://www.marcussedgwick.com, and while you’re there don’t forget to check out our latest favourite, ‘Midwinterblood’, winner of the Printz Award, 2014. It tells the story of love strong enough to withstand centuries, painted in seven brief vignettes that spiral backwards in time to a moment of sacrifice that tore two lives apart.

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halfway down the stairs is the stair where I sit

there’s no other stair quite like it

it’s not at the bottom it’s not at the top

like Winnie The Pooh

it’s the stair where I stop

Every Saturday evening I put on my best 20-year-old Doc Martens, my red velvet waistcoat, fine double hunter Victoria hallmarkeked silver pocket watch and off I go to the Royal Hotel…(John, 76, The Sunday Mail, 8 March, 2015)

The letter from John in the Sunday paper had my long suffering daughter scratching through her wardrobe for ‘that velvet and lace stuff you bought at the op-shop’ – she drew a line at the Doc Martens – ‘Mum, I’ve got homework to do, you know.’ But I was determined. I wanted a picture for my blog and a balm for our Sunday drive picnic to the local waterfall gone wrong (sorry, Brisbane, but that ain’t no real waterfall). I wanted romance, dammit, and what could be more romantic than the image of an old gentleman dapperly adorned in a red velvet waistcoat and fob watch? Did I mention my current WIP is an historical romance set in the Far North Queensland tropics where real waterfalls reign?

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Picture the historic Malanda Hotel, a picnic and a grand ball to celebrate the arrival of the first train to ever grace the Atherton Tablelands from Cairns, the building thereof a masterly feat. The year is 1909. I have a setting, an era, a heroine in a lace ball gown and my hero? Yep, he dons a red velvet waistcoat and a silver fob watch. Shame about the Doc Martens but they’ll just have to wait for another story.

References:

Dressed In Fiction, Clair Hughes, 2005

the Australian Novel 1830-1980, John Scheckter, 1998

The Woman’s Historical Novel, Women British Writers, 1900-2000, Diane Wallace, 2005

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