Lest We Forget

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

 

We will remember them.

 

Lest we forget.

 

Taking a Breather

After a three day marathon rewrite of my latest short story, I’ve decided to give myself a two day much deserved break. I probably wrote for a period of, at least, 24 hours in those three days. I rewrote the first two thirds of the story and edited the remaining third, but the results were worth it. However, it’s still not ready!

Not only has this project shown me that I can come up with ideas under pressure, it has also proven that I can buckle down (the seat belt–to stop me moving about and procrastinating) and put the hours in that are required to get the job finished. Yes, I have floundered and I have doubted my ability, but I’ve managed to push those negatives aside. I’m proud of that.

This project has done something else for me too. It has shown my family that I’m serious and that someone in the publishing world has taken me seriously enough to invite me to write the story in the first place. This has boosted my confidence.

At this stage, I must mention my association with two people who have stood behind me and pushed me all the way. Sasha, a writing friend come editor, has swapped countless emails with me over the last two weeks. She has shown me what it would be like to work closely with another person to produce the best story I can. That experience has been wonderful. G has supported me by supplying feedback, encouragement and endless cups of tea. He has also ensured I’ve had the writing time I need and his is the voice ordering me to get back to work when I try to slacken off.

I have a good story, but now I have to make it great!

Thinking Blogger Award

About a week ago I was nominated by Struggling Writer for a Thinking Blogger Award, which was a lovely surprise.

I’ve had webspace on the internet since 2002, but I’ve only been blogging since about mid 2004. I’ve moved a couple of times and a lot has been said in that time, but I’m proud of my contribution to the web.

Here is the list of five blogs I nominate for the Thinking Blogger Award:

1. Benjamin Solah’s Blog – filled with informative writing posts and his view on the world in general from a political point of view.

2. Under the Stars – a down to earth look at writing, art, and family life.

3. Enter the Laughter – a blog that always manages to make me smile, no matter what the topic.

4. Miss Snark – sift through the (funny) snarkiness and you will find gems of information.

5. Never Was – a determined podcaster whose persistence will pay off.

Those of you I have “tagged” above, here are the rules of participation:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

A Writing Record

I’m the type of person who generally thinks before they speak. Naturally, I do put my foot in my mouth sometimes and regret it instantly. I do react to certain situations too, but doesn’t everyone. However, generally speaking I’m cautious of the words I use in general conversation. I never deliberately set out to hurt anyone so I think about the consequences of my words and often the thinking takes so long, the conversation has turned a corner and veered in a different direction by the time I want to add my two cents worth. Because the topic has been changed by this time, I often just let it slip and say nothing. I’m talking about face to face conversations only.

In my lifetime, I’ve been called snobby, quiet, withdrawn – and a number of other things, but in truth I’m shy and often don’t think my opinion accounts for anything. I also suffer the affliction that if you can’t say something worthwhile then don’t bother saying anything at all. Although that doesn’t appear to be true with blogging either. 😀

What’s this got to do with writing? Everything.

I write the same way. I think for a long time before a single word is written down. I plan for just as long. I want to know everything I possibly can about the story and its characters before I advance to the next step. I never actually discover everything before I start writing, but that’s fine and it supplies me with excitement as the words flow and new discoveries are made.

Yesterday, I realised something. I have set a new record for myself. I did something extraordinary and I’m very pleased with myself as a result. I thought about a short story for 1 day, I planned and researched the story for 2 days and I wrote the story in 7 days. I know some people plan and write a story in a single day, but that just isn’t me. To think about, plan and write a story in 10 days is a gold medal performance for this writer.

Grab Your Reader With Conflict

by Lea Schizas

No, not conflict of interest…not conflict within your being…but conflict found in a story.

What exactly is conflict in a story? Simple…a problem/obstacle your main character needs to overcome by the end of the story. Think of it as your engine that drives your car forward. Without one your car remains idle, collecting dust in the driveway. Give your car a super booster engine and you’ll be coasting the streets with no worries. Well, until the police stop you.

In a story conflict moves your character through various situations he must overcome. This intrigues and pulls your reader deeper into the story, connecting with your character’s predicament. A character needs to have a hurdle tossed at them, makes for an intriguing situation to find out the outcome. Without an outcome, there is no magnetic charge with your reader.

Before writing your story and making up your character profile, ask yourself these questions:

1- What will be the main goal my character will face and need to overcome?

2- Who will be my target audience?

The second question is important because it will help to focus your words and subject matter to suit the appropriate audience. For stories aimed at children, your focus will need to adapt to a child’s view of the world around them. Most of the time the story is told through the character’s point of view aged a few years older than the intended audience. For example, if you aim your story for the 8 – 10 age group then setting a story for a twelve year old character would be best since kids always like to read and associate with kids a bit older than them.

What subject matter can you write about for this age group? Middle grade readers love mysteries, soft spooky tales ( no knife-wielding maniacs, head chopping, blood and core etc, more suspenseful and ‘goose-bumping tales like in the “Goosebumps” books), magical tales (Harry Potter), even teeny bopper stories like Baby Sitters Club or Sweet Valley High. These latter ones are suitable for the Young Adult market, too.

TYPES OF CONFLICTS:

Here are some examples of conflicts in some books:

– the almighty tried and successful ‘good against evil’ Think Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs…yes, these fairy tales were using the ‘good against evil’ method if you sit down and think about it. The wolves in both fairy tales were intent on overcoming their ‘so-they-thought’ weaker counterparts.

In the above examples, something stood in the protagonist’s way:

Harry tries to defeat Voldemort but problems and other antagonists along the way makes this quest difficult for him.

The Lord of the Rings finds Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring but evil and dark forces stand in his way, too.

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars needs to defeat the new order of evil, and he, too, faces many obstacles and characters along the way.

In each of these examples, these obstacles (new smaller conflicts against the bigger goal they are after) causes a reader to continue reading to find out if he’ll be successful, how he will outsmart them, and what change will this cause in the main character. Along with these obstacles, throwing in some inner conflicts alongside the outer emotions helps to cast them more as three-dimensional beings, for example:

Luke Skywalker deals with the knowledge he has a sister somewhere out there. His inner being and emotions help to make him more sympathetic, which eventually bonds the reader to him. The same with Frodo; his world has been thrown for a loop when he takes on the quest of the Ring…along the way he begins to doubt if he, indeed, is the best man for this job. Also, he questions his will power to avoid succumbing to the dark forces once he has tasted the Ring’s power.

Another example to show you what ‘inner conflict’ means:

Let’s assume your book is based on a police officer who mistakenly shoots a young child while pursuing a suspect. It’s dark in the building and the kid jumped out of nowhere with a toy gun. The police officer is suspended while the case is being investigated.

INNER EMOTIONS:

How he deals and is dealt by his immediate peers His struggle to remove the visions of the killing The emotional turmoil as he waits for the investigation to conclude. His dealings with the parents of the child he accidentally killed.

Throughout all of these emotions the one factor that will bind your reader to continue will be: How will he fare at the end of this book. The way you first portray this particular character in the beginning will be totally different by the end because of the various upsets he’s had to deal with. Show him as upbeat, nonchalant, no change at the end and you will lose your reader’s interest in the book and in you as an author.

Think of real life: if you had to go through a trauma as the officer in the example above, how would it change you? A writer needs to wear his character’s shoes and get inside his head to fully understand him. Write a story with a stick person and you get stale material. Write a story with powerful emotions and you have one interesting read.

THE ALMIGHTY ENDING

By the end of your book all inner and outer conflicts need to have reached a conclusion. Whether your character overcame or failed is not as important as making sure he tried to meet them head on. You cannot place a conflict (or foreshadow) without making sure by the end of the story some sort of a resolution was made. This is cheating a reader and they WILL notice, especially if one of those conflicts was the one he’s been hoping to see the outcome to.

About the Author of this post:
Lea Schizas is an award-winning author/editor and founder of 2 Writer’s Digest top writing sites since 2004. She is the author of the YA fantasy “The Rock of Realm” and the paranormal suspense/thriller “Doorman’s Creek”. http://leaschizaseditor.com

Friday the 13th, Unlucky for Some

Today is Friday the 13th. For some, it’s an unlucky day. They spend the day hiding in the shadows, avoiding contact with other people and not daring to venture outside. For me it’s been a good day all round. For starters, it was my day off. Now that’s gotta be a good thing. Then, I got to sleep in. Brilliant! The sun was shining. No complaints there. And…most importantly…I finished the short story. 😀

As you can see from the progress bar, the word count has gone over by 671 words, but that’s not a problem either. This is the first draft. There is plenty of work to be done to it yet. The story has been written and now I have to fix it and make it as brilliant as the day was for me today.

I finished the story about an hour ago. I’m having a short break now and then I’ll go and read it right through and see what I think. I already know changes have to be made, because this story wasn’t planned all that well and the beginning is hazy.

For now, however, please accept a glass of cyber-wine and celebrate with me. Yoohoo!

Chocolate Eggs, Untitled Short & Harry Potter

Belated Happy Easter to everyone! I hope you haven’t made yourselves sick on eating too much chocolate. I’ve been very good this year and have only had one chocolate item all weekend. 😀

I know Easter is meant to be religious, but for me it’s just a four day holiday from work…and an extra short week coming up, because I only have to work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Yoohoo! I wish it were like this every week. Anyway, the weekend had my attention turned away from chocolate eggs and totally focused on another purpose – writing!

I spent most of Friday (and by that, I always mean on and off sessions; I never sit for hours writing, I just can’t do that) writing the beginning of my new project – Untitled Short. I do have a working title, but I don’t want to get attached to it as it’s not a “true” title, so I won’t mention that title here. I sat down to write at about 8am on Friday morning. Being Good Friday, all the shops were closed for the day. This meant peace and quiet for me. It took me hours to write the first 400 words, but upon completion, I was extremely pleased with those words. I had provided names, setting, background, emotions and a realistic conflict.

In the three days that followed, I have managed to reach 2,855 words at the time of this post. I feel I’m waffling on a bit (in the story), but I intend to keep writing and see what happens. I can always edit out the waffle later. I don’t think I’ve started this story in the right spot either, but that’s OK too. For now, I just want to get the story down. Editing this story is going to be like buying items from a jumble sale. It’s a mix match of scenes that need to be fitted elegantly together. Both can be done, it just takes some patience.

In between avoiding chocolate and writing scenes, I’ve also started reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6). As I’ve said a million times on this blog, I’m a slow reader, but I’ve already read 150 pages. I’m amazed at myself. All I can say is that I must be enjoying the story. (I’ll write an official review when I’ve finished reading the book.)

Untitled Short has top priority at the moment. If I don’t write a post for a while, you can safely assume I’ve got my head stuck in the laptop (and I don’t mean literally).

Enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend.

Excerpt: Evil Genius

by Catherine Jinks

The following is an excerpt from the book Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks: Published by Harcourt Children’s Books; May 2007;$17.00US; 978-0-15-205988-1 Copyright © 2007 Catherine Jinks

One

Cadel Piggott was just seven years old when he first met Thaddeus Roth.

Dr. Roth worked in a row house near Sydney Harbor. The house was three stories high, its garden shrouded by a great many damp, dark trees. There was moss growing on its sandstone window ledges. Curtains drawn across all its windows gave it a secretive air. Its front fence was made of iron, with a spike on top of each post; beside the creaking gate was a brass sign bearing Dr. Roth’s name and qualifications.

“That’s it,” said Mrs. Piggott. “Number twenty-nine.”

“Well, we can’t stop here,” her husband replied. “No parking.”

“I told you to park back there.”

“It doesn’t matter. We’ll try down this street.”

“Stuart, that’s a one-way street.”

“Dammit!”

“I knew we’d never find a space. Not around this area.”

“Just shut up for a minute, will you?”

Mr. and Mrs. Piggott were not Cadel’s real parents. They had adopted him when he was not quite two years old. Mrs. Piggott was thin and blond, Mr. Piggott fat and gray. They almost never agreed about anything, but that didn’t matter because they almost never met. Their busy schedules kept them away from home, and one another, a good deal of the time.

At the suggestion of the police, however, they had both agreed to attend this interview.

“We’re going to be late,” Mrs. Piggott warned her husband after they had circled the block four times in Mr. Piggott’s big, gleaming Mercedes-Benz. “Just let us out, for god’s sake.”

“I’ll park here.”

“Stuart, you’ll never fit in there!”

“Watch me.”

Cadel said nothing. He sat on the backseat, dressed in his good brown cords and a lamb’s-wool sweater, staring out the window at Dr. Roth’s house. He didn’t like the look of it. He thought it had a murky, ominous appearance.

“I don’t want to go,” he said flatly when Mrs. Piggott got out and opened the door beside him.

“I know, honey, but we have to.”

“No we don’t,” Cadel retorted.

“Yes we do.”

“There were no formal charges,” Cadel pointed out, in his high, clear voice. “It was just a suggestion.”

“That’s right,” said Mr. Piggott, yanking Cadel out of the back of the car. “And when the police make a suggestion, you always follow it. Rule number one.”

“Be careful, Stuart, you’ll wreck his clothes.”

Cadel was so small — even for a seven-year-old — that he didn’t stand a chance against Mr. Piggott. Though he dragged his feet and hung off his adoptive parents’ hands like a sack of melons, he was forced across the street and through the front gate of number twenty-nine. The path beyond the gate was mushy with wet leaves. There was a rich smell of decay. The door knocker was a ring in the mouth of a snarling lion’s head, painted black, like the rest of the ironwork.

Cadel noted with interest the switchboard near the door. It was obviously ancient, full of porcelain fuses and dial meters. The Piggotts’ own house was only three years old, with a state-of-the-art electrical system, so Cadel was fascinated by this dusty old relic.

But he was not permitted to gaze at it for long.

“Come on,” Mr. Piggott barked. “The door’s open.” And he pushed against it, causing it to swing back and reveal a long, dark hallway carpeted with dingy Persian rugs. About halfway down this hallway, a staircase the color of walnut swept up to the next floor. There were several doors to the right of the front entrance, but only the closest stood ajar.

“Hello!” said Mr. Piggott, marching straight through it. He wasn’t a man who normally waited for anything. “We’ve an appointment with Dr. Roth. For ten thirty.”

Gripped firmly around the wrist, Cadel had no choice but to follow Mr. Piggott. He found himself in a reception area: two rooms divided by a pair of folding mahogany doors. There were two marble fireplaces and two chandeliers. Cadel noticed cobwebs on the chandeliers.

A woman sat behind an antique desk.

“Good morning,” she said calmly. “What name, please?”

“Piggott,” Mr. Piggott replied, in pompous tones. “Stuart, Lanna, and Cadel.” He looked surprised when the woman rose, revealing herself to be almost as wide and as tall as he was. She had a broad, square face and small blue eyes. She was wearing a suit the color of dried blood.

“I’ll just go and tell Dr. Roth that you’ve arrived,” she declared, before lumbering out of the room. Cadel didn’t watch her go. He was more interested in the computer that she’d left behind, with its alluring glow and contented hum. The screen saver was one that he’d never seen before: a pattern of falling dominoes.

“Don’t even think about it,” Stuart rasped when he realized what was attracting Cadel’s attention. “Sit down. Over there.”

“Look, honey, there are toys for you to play with,” Lanna said, nudging a large basket with the toe of her expensive Italian shoe. Sulkily, Cadel eyed the basket’s contents. He was used to the broken activity centers and torn books offered for the amusement of younger patients at his local doctor’s office and wasn’t hopeful about the distractions provided here.

But to his astonishment, he quickly spied an old voltmeter, together with a book on flies, a plastic human skull (life-sized), a Rubik’s Cube, and a Frankenstein mask. Further investigation uncovered a dead spider embedded in a resin paperweight, a shark’s tooth, a Galaxy Warrior complete with Thermopuncher torpedoes, and a very curious fragment of puzzle bearing the picture of a staring, bloodshot eye over a set of claw marks.

He was puzzling over this macabre image when the sound of heavy footsteps reached his ears. It seemed that Dr. Roth’s receptionist was returning, clumping down the stairs like someone wearing ski boots. Lanna, who had flung herself onto an armchair, immediately jumped to her feet.

Stuart glared at the door.

“Dr. Roth will see you now,” the receptionist announced when she finally appeared. “You can go straight up.”

Stuart and Lanna exchanged glances.

“Are you sure?” Lanna objected. “I mean, does he want to discuss things in front of Cadel?”

“Oh yes,” the receptionist declared firmly. Something about her voice made Cadel look up. He studied her with care, from the top of her permed head to the soles of her brown shoes. She smiled in response, and the Piggotts all recoiled.

Her mouth looked as if it belonged to an older, harsher century.

“Why are your teeth black?” Cadel wanted to know.

“Why are your teeth white?” the receptionist responded, wending her way back to her desk. Lanna snatched at Cadel’s hand and hustled him out of the room. She and her husband whispered together as they climbed the stairs, which creaked and groaned beneath them.

“Stuart, what was the matter with . . .?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think this is a good idea?”

“Course it is.”

“But what about that woman? Her teeth?”

Stuart shrugged. They had reached a landing, but it wasn’t the right one. From above their heads, a voice said, “Up here.”

A man was draped over the second-floor banisters. He was tall and thin and wore a tweed jacket. His thick, dark hair was going gray.

“That’s the bathroom,” he remarked in a soothing voice with a cultured English accent. “I’m afraid my office is at the top, here.”

“Dr. Roth?” said Stuart.

“Yes, indeed.”

“We’re a bit late,” Lanna offered a trifle breathlessly. “No parking.”

“You should turn that front yard of yours into a parking lot,” Stuart added, climbing the last flight of stairs. Gracefully, Dr. Roth moved to push open the door of his office.

“I would,” he said, “if the local council would let me. Heritage listing, I’m afraid.”

Stuart grunted. Lanna smiled a meaningless social smile. They both passed into Dr. Roth’s office ahead of Cadel, who stopped on the threshold. He gazed up at Thaddeus.

“Why does she have black teeth?” Cadel inquired.

“Wilfreda? I’m not sure,” Thaddeus replied. “Poor dental hygiene, I should think. Her parents had very strange ideas about diet and doctors. Maybe they didn’t believe in toothbrushes, either.” He cocked his head. “So you’re Cadel.”

“Yes.”

“Come in, Cadel.”

Dr. Roth’s office surprised Cadel, because it was full of modern furniture and computer equipment. There were a number of glossy cabinets, some full of filing drawers, some with cables running out of them. Cadel’s eyes gleamed when he spotted those cables.

“Sit down, please.” Dr. Roth gestured at a cluster of couches placed between his desk and a pair of French doors. Lanna chose the crimson couch, settling down onto it very carefully, her bare knees drawn together. Stuart dropped into his seat like a stone.

Copyright © 2007 Catherine Jinks

About the Author:
Catherine Jinks is a three-time winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award. In 2001 she was presented with a Centenary Medal for her contribution to Australian children’s literature.