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Showing posts with the label writing

Writing Wipptee — a little mystery, a little romance

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 It's five years since I moved to the country, and I've wanted to write about it since the first day. I've always been a city girl, and I imagined the country as a quiet, somewhat behind the times, place. I was so wrong. There's a boiling cauldron of politics, and while retail is limited, there's no shortage of informaton or internet access. And the idea that people live and die in their native town isn't true either. People move all over the place. There's constant change. Another shock — the country is industrial. Trucks, machinery, warehouses, factories, and now wind and solar production, are everywhere. Some of the great issues of our time converge in the country. Animal rights, farm invasions, the right to protest, the destructive potential of agriculture, people's lifelong dedication to landcare and land repair, and mining rights, create a potent mix of conflicting views. In this book I try to capture some of this, against Maddison Debranz's qu

A rambling tale of shame

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Half a lifetime ago, I engaged in some political stirring against a local government decision affecting my child’s primary school. This was pre-internet, so I did it by a letterbox drop, about 1000 pamphlets across 3 suburbs. Being a newbie and completely clueless, I had no idea what would happen. I vaguely hoped that people’s ideas would be swayed by my wonderful pamphlet. What actually happened was that a reporter from the newspaper became interested. Yes, it was that long ago, when there were actually newspapers. I hadn’t put my name on the pamphlet, probably breaking a few laws, but the journalist wasn’t fazed. She called the school, and they directed her to me. And what was my response to this unparalleled opportunity to put my case to a wider audience? You guessed it. I panicked and said it wasn’t me and I knew nothing about it. Unbelievably stupid and embarrassing, but that was nothing to what followed. Common sense and commitment forced me to make the right decis

Reading journal: Hooked by Les Edgerton

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2007 Date read: March 2018 I read this book as part of a self-education program to improve my writing. The subtitle ‘Write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go’ tells us that this book is about writing good beginnings. Good first sentences, first scenes, and first chapters. That’s been a weakness of mine, that and good endings, especially for my current work in progress. It was illuminating to read this: As an author, you should have a firm understanding of your story-worthy problem before you begin writing. Oops. OK, so that’s the problem then. :-) Edgerton explains how past books and films had the luxury of spending immense amounts of time on descriptions and back story. This is no longer acceptable. Modern readers want to be plunged straight into the story with minimum fluff and refuse to read ‘the boring bits’. Interestingly, some older books that have become classics, such as The Thirtynine Steps , follow this mo

On writing — When characters take control

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This should never happen! Even a writer who makes it up as she goes along should be in total command of her characters. She is their creator. She decides whether they live or die, and what horrible things will happen to them along the way. She controls every aspect of their lives — their age, appearance, and personality. So what happens when a character leaps from the shadows and threatens to derail an entire well-thought-out plot? Well, firstly, that’s a clue that the plot wasn’t really as well planned as the author fondly believed. And next, something must be done. This happened to me when I was writing The Corrieva Contract (relaunched in 2021 as Runaway Spy).  My protagonist, Joanne, is not on good terms with her mother. In a vague sort of way, I saw this as just one thread in explaining Joanne’s character. But then the mother actually arrived on the scene. He [an interfering neighbour] turned to strut away, but stopped, transfixed by the sight of the ancient rustbucket crui

Researching a story setting — Antarctica

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Antarctica — remote, covered in snow and ice, and one of the most isolated places on earth. I’m working on a story set in a future (circa 2058) South Pole base, involving a former feral street kid from Sydney turned janitor, a floor-cleaning robot possibly called Gloria, a hostile dome security manager, and an alien mining ship. The plot refuses to work, so instead I’ve turned to displacement activities such as research. It seems the remote and isolated tags aren’t as true as you might think, unless you’re unlucky enough to have a medical emergency during the winter and the weather prevents evacuation. The place is a hotbed of activity. I didn’t know, for example, that there actually is a base at the South Pole right now, the Amundsen-Scott base. Amundsen-Scott Base. By Daniel Leussler, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31621072 Amundsen-Scott Base. By Bill Spindler, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation - [1] by way of [2], Pu

The Spy Racket (Tender Spies Book 5)

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BUY EBOOK About The Spy Racket Anything that can go wrong with Stephen Zammit’s missions usually does. This outing seems straightforward enough—ride herd on a notorious racketeer who has offered to help the agency close down crime networks that could support terrorists or foreign spies. If only the racketeer wasn’t the vicious, estranged father of Stephen’s partner Andrew. And if only they hadn’t been forced to abandon Stephen’s ex, Joanne, just when she needs them the most. The racketeer has an agenda of his own, and in no time at all the mission spins out of control, stranding Stephen and Andrew far outside their comfort zones. The mission is particularly difficult for Andrew, throwing him back into a world of casual violence that he thought he had escaped forever. Joanne manages to find some peace of mind, but is dragged back into the covert world when the agency itself comes under threat. Do Stephen, Andrew and Joanne have what it takes to survive and win through to what

When does the future begin?

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How near is the future? Tomorrow? Next week? Next year? In political terms it’s decades away. Sitting in the driver’s seat knowing that other car is about to hit you, the future is right now. Isaac Asimov wrote a story about this (in 1956) called The Dead Past. A bereaved parent wants to travel back in time to see his loved one once again. He discovers that all time travel has been suppressed, and exerts himself to circumvent this. His success begins a new era of mass surveillance—he hadn’t thought it through. Time travel into the past is indistinguishable from real-time surveillance of everyone everywhere, since the past begins anew every second. And so does the future. My short stories are set in the near future; they could happen this afternoon, or next week. They are rooted in the present, but make assumptions about how the present might develop. The stories: Dronejack What if a drone achieves sentience by accident? (I know, not a very original idea, but sti

Terrible typos

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As a writer, I try to read widely. I often buy ebooks outside my usual interests to expand my perspective, some indie publications and some from large traditional publishers. Unfortunately, some of these are poorly edited and full of errors. Some of the errors I hate most: Loose canons ( cannons , guns not priests) Discreet items (NO! Discrete !) Hoards of attackers ( hordes please) And my favourite of all time, seen yesterday for the first time ever (and the last, I hope): His sir name … Yep, that’s surname to the rest of us. I know I make mistakes. Everyone does. The more words I pound out on the keyboard the more egregious errors I produce. Tricky  issues of spelling and grammar that I mastered years ago can still trip me up sometimes. But really, these are truly terrible. Any halfway competent proofreader should have caught them, so I can only assume no such individual was allowed near the draft. Not playing fair, guys. Lift your game.

Old fairy tales never die

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Trolls under the bridge   is a flash fiction story in which I tried to capture the fear of crossing over a bridge where anything might be lurking, unseen, below. Read my story  here  and let me know what you think. Why did I write this story? Updating or expanding old fairy tales or children's stories is commonplace. Think films like Shrek . Or Australian writer Christopher Ruz’s story, Pan , (available in  Andromeda Spaceways #62) . The original Peter Pan was disturbing enough, but this is chilling. One of my favourite fairy tales has always been The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and not just because my brother is called Billy. I love the idea of something nasty lurking in an apparently benign landscape. Why do trolls live under the bridge and wait for goats to cross over? Are goats really all that tasty? And what are trolls anyway? Terry Pratchett included trolls in many of his wonderful stories. Terry’s trolls have names like Detritus, and can only think clearly when it’s

Change the spelling and you're done?

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I’m an Australian author, writing about Australia. I use Australian English, with all its weird slang and strange usages. What should I do to make my writing more accessible to international readers, especially the giant USA market? Tricky. I can change the spelling , of course. Turn “colour” into “colour”, “centre” into “center”, “organise” into “organize”. Fairly easy to do. But spelling isn’t everything. It’s hardly anything at all. There’s usage . I would say “he parked the car behind the shop”. An American might expect to read “he parked the car in back of the shop”. I would write, "that wasn't as big a surprise as he expected", not "that wasn't as big of a surprise as he expected". In fact, that seems rather quaint. There’s vocabulary . A knitted woollen garment is a jumper in Australia and the UK. Not in the USA, where people don’t know what I’m talking about. We say “autumn”, not “fall”. A glossary might help a little bit, but p

Novella inspiration — stile and wombat hole

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I'm slaving over a novella in the Bargains and Trades series, working title "Hustling Honey" (eventually published as Farm Stay , and relaunched in 2021 as Lies So Deep , Book 2 in the Tender Spies series.) One of my protagonists goes for a walk, but poor Andrew is not a happy man in the country. He narrowly escapes horrendous injuries from nesting ducks, assorted insects and a mob of kangaroos, then climbs over a stile and trudges up a hill, only to fall into a wombat hole. Stile for crossing fence This stile is at the Taemas Bridge over the Murrumbidgee River. That long grass is bound to be snake infested. I wasn't even a little bit tempted to climb over there, I guess I have a lot in common with Andrew. Wombat hole I had never seen a wombat hole before this one, extraordinary thing to find. I didn't see the wombat of course, they are nocturnal.

Taemas Bridge on the Murrumbidgee

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The Taemas Bridge crosses the Murrumbidgee River near Cavan in New South Wales. This bridge has been here since 1930 or so, replacing a number of other bridges, fords and punts that had been destroyed by flooding (more info on Wikipedia ). The road in is narrow, steep and winding, and from here gets even worse as you drive very, very carefully towards Wee Jasper. You can see the road to Yass in the photo here, it's the cutting in the side of the hill in the background. The river is quite high at present (October 2014). This is the view upstream. The Taemas Bridge is a location in my novel, Runaway Spy  (ebook available from Amazon) .  My heroine, Joanne,  makes plans to meet someone there. Here's an extract: Joanne made good time. The dirt road was well maintained and dry, and she reached the sealed road faster than she expected. She walked on the shoulder, facing oncoming traffic for safety, and arrived at the bridge well before the appointed time. She

Spring in Canberra: author inspiration

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Cockington Green Gardens isn't just a great day out, it has inspired me as an author. In my book, The Spy Racket , my heroine, Joanne, in all kinds of trouble, needs to retreat to a quiet place away from the pressures of her extended family. A friend lends her his farm. Here's an excerpt: Lin dropped down a gear, and the car persevered upwards, skirting a massive clump of granite rocks, and then climbing upwards again. The cottage came into view, looking small and insignificant, with mighty trees rising up behind it in a wall of green. ‘Cottage’ to many people would mean a solid stone building, maybe with a tiled or thatched roof and stone floors, but certainly a comfortable refuge. Joanne had no such expectations. This building was exactly what she had expected. A better name for it would be ‘hut’ or ‘shack’. It looked old. It was built from rough-cut timber slabs, running vertically from the wooden plank floor to the rusty corrugated iron roof. An uneven timber veran

Being a Canberra writer

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Canberra has many talented writers: journalists, academics and students, policy and speech writers, social media gurus, website content authors, and of course, fiction authors. What's it like to be a writer in Canberra? The same as anywhere else. There aren't any government freebies, just a city full of fascinating people to provide inspiration, fantastic libraries for research, and the internet to connect to the outside world. This post is part of a blog tour, and I was invited to take part by A H Gray, author of the historical series, The Northumbrian Saga , packed full of exciting Viking and Anglo-Saxon characters. You can get an insight into A H Gray's creative process from her blog   So what's my writing process like? What am I working on? (2021 Update: This book has been republished as The Spy Racket , Book 5 in the Tender Spies series.). I'm working on Book 3 of the Bargains and Trades series of short stories and novels, The Adila Arrangement .

Yass Junction

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Yass, around an hour's travel north of Canberra, is an interesting rural town dating from the early years of European settlement in the 1830s. It is on the main route between Sydney and Melbourne, both the Hume Highway and the railway. When the railway was built it bypassed the town because of construction problems and extra costs, although later a branch line into the town was built, hence the name, Yass Junction. Water was pumped up to the station for use in steam trains, and the pump house is still there. Yass Junction Railway Station Pumphouse In this photo (taken in spring, 2013) you can see the creek, but I couldn't find the location of the dam that must be there. The Hume Highway is in the middle distance. Yass Junction Railway Station buildings The station buildings, still in use, are beautiful as well. The NSW Environment and Heritage site has more information about Yass Junction  for train fans. Yass, and the Yass Junction railway station, are used as loca