Cutting the Cloth to Suit the Coat

November 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Writing, Writing and Life | Leave a comment
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It is the evening of the last day of November today here in Australia (though it may just be starting in other parts of the world).  And it is the last day of NaNoWriMo.

Many people, all over the world have thrown themselves into their manuscripts, aiming for that 50,000-word jackpot. They have scrimped and saved their time so they can write. They have gone without and pushed aside temptation in order to write more words, get the characters and the setting and the plot outlined and moving towards a completed work.

Just to commit oneself to such a goal is a big thing, and I wonder how many of them have made it. However many it was, I hope that they are satisfied with their output, whether it was 20,000 or 60,000 words. I also hope that those who wanted to commit but didn’t don’t feel like failures.

I didn’t commit, although I wanted to give myself that push to write more than I have ever done before in such a short time. I knew I couldn’t make it – post-cancer medications and regular bouts of depression would see to that, so I didn’t even try.

However, I did accomplish something I have been trying to do for the last six months. As well as more regular blog entries, I have written two more chapters (about 3,000 words) in my follow-up novel to Ben’s Challenge. And I have also begun another chapter.

To me, that is a real achievement, and I am pleased with what I have done this November. We have to cut the coat to suit the cloth.

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Chemo Helped me to Write

November 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Health, Writing, Writing and Life | Leave a comment
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When I was writing Ben’s Challenge, my characters sometimes hid from me – at least, that is what it seemed like to me. There were many times when I sat at the computer or with my notebook and nothing came to me.

I didn’t know where the story was going to, or what event was about to happen to challenge and bring out my characters. Mostly, that would happen when I had other things on my mind, when I couldn’t settle to work.

The strange thing was, that on my chemo days, I was hardly ever stuck. After I had been connected up, had chatted with the lovely nursing staff and got to know a bit about the other patient who might be sharing the room with me, I’d take up my pen and I would write. Often, by the end of my two to three hour session, I would have a whole chapter written.

Eventually,  Ben’s Challenge was finished, and it is now published as both a printed book and an e-book. Now I am writing a follow-up. It isn’t a sequel as such as in when a story continues in a saga, it is just another story about Ben and his life back in the late 1950s.

The book started with a rush, and I soon had three chapters written. Then is stopped. It was another six months before I managed to get three more chapters written. One reasons for this is the time I have had to spend promoting and selling the first book. However, I want to get back into Ben’s life and that of the other characters; some of them the same as before, and some new ones. But none of the characters are speaking to me.

It is only recently that I have realised that it is not the characters who aren’t speaking with me, but that, if they are speaking, I am too distracted to listen. I am distracted by the promotion and selling; by everyday life; and especially by the computer, with its emails, e-zines on writing, interesting blogs – and Facebook.

When I was undergoing chemo, I was in a recliner chair, ‘tied’ to a drip. I couldn’t go anywhere. There were only two of us in the room most of the time, and the other patient would often be reading or dozing for much of the time. The only interruption would be when a nurse came in to check or change the drip. But, most of all, there was no computer. Thus, I could focus on what I was doing, listen to the characters and write their story.

Obviously, the strength of my will power – or won’t power – is sadly lacking. I can’t keep the internet unconnected; I can’t close the door on my husband and on the other people who require my attention. So, if I do not develop that power to say ‘no’ and stick with it, the only way I can listen and write is when I go out somewhere – to the lake, to a coffee shop, to somewhere that life and the computer do not distract me.

So, because it is not my characters who aren’t talking to me, but me who is shutting them out, I just have to open the door to them again. But I don’t want another series of chemo treatments to help me do it!

(c) Linda Visman

Birthing Characters

November 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Australia, History, Writing, Writing and Life | Leave a comment
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I used to wonder where authors got their inspiration for their characters. Now that I write my own stories, it is other people who ask me where my characters come from.

My recently published novel, Ben’s Challenge, is a case in point. My eldest son recently asked me to write to him (he doesn’t have a computer, and lives in Japan), to explain where Ben and the other characters in my novel, set in the 1950s, came from. He said they seemed very real to him.

Strangely, I really had to think deeply about that question. You see, when I began to write the story, Ben was already there; and the other characters appeared just when they were needed. It was as if they had existed in their own world all the time, and I had simply taken part of their life and written about it. Indeed, at times, they didn’t seem to want to share their story, and I had to wait until they allowed me to re-enter their world.

I must admit that some of the characters demonstrate certain similarities to people I know and have known, during the last 60+ years of my life. Others are an amalgam of traits and characteristics I have absorbed from the numerous people who have crossed my path over those years.

I think that Ben was inspired by a combination of my older brother and myself as youngsters. Peter was able to do the things that Ben did – like going into the bush with his dog and catching venomous snakes -but I, being a girl, could not. I always wanted to be a boy, so I could do them. Ben, of course, is himself, a person in his own right, not Peter and not me; well, perhaps just a bit of us.

Ben’s father, Karl, although not alive, is a potent character in the story. He has a little of my father and my grandfather in him. He has wisdom, love for his family, and a sense of both responsibility and fun. Ben loves his father as I love, admire and respect mine.

MV "Skaubryn" arrives in Sydney, bringing European migrants.

What about Joe, who becomes Ben’s best mate? Well, I had my childhood in 1950s country Australia, the era in which the novel is set. That decade saw a huge influx of migrants from Europe. They lived in the towns nearby, and I went to school with some of them. I have not based Joe on any individual at all, but on what I might reasonably expect of a young lad coming from war-ravaged Europe to the promise of a new life in another land.

The shopkeeper, the bully, the two policemen, and others in the story are representatives of the variety of personalities one might find in a country town during those post-war years. Each has his/her own history, genetics and experiences, which have helped to form them.

I am pleased that many readers have commented upon the reality of the characters, the setting and the story in Ben’s Challenge. That was always my aim; to bring to life a time that is so different in many ways from the present, but which was home to people who are no different in their hopes and fears, loves and hates, and in the kinds of challenges they face, to those living and growing up in the present.

Ben’s Challenge is available as both a print and e-book here.

© Linda Visman

Parramatta Park

November 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Gardens, History, Nature | 2 Comments

The Parramatta River runs through the park

I visited Parramatta Park on Thursday. It is the first time I have been there, although I had been to Parramatta before. Do you like the name? It derives from the language of the Dharug who inhabited the area around Sydney: ‘Barra’ meaning ‘eel’ and ‘matta’ meaning ‘river’. The people around the river called themselves the Barramattagal.

The town, about fourteen miles west of Sydney city centre, was established very soon after the first settlement of Australia (1788) at Sydney Cove. Explorers had found the land along the Parramatta River to be a fertile area for growing food – something the fledgling colony sorely needed.

Old Government House

Parramatta Farm was established and, by 1790, vegetables, cattle, fruit trees and other food crops were doing well. Cottages sprung up and a residence was also built for the governor. It was later re-built and then enlarged as the town grew.

The park is very large, though its website doesn’t give an area. But I do know that I walked in and around the park, often in a drizzling rain, for about four hours. There were other walkers too, and these and the joggers increased in number when the lunch period came – workers getting their exercise endorphins for the day.

Lovely jacaranda tree

The good rains in the last year or so have given the park a beautiful green that usually disappears through summer. The jacarandas were in full bloom, with carpets of mauve flowers all around them.

Ducks, ibis and pigeons vied with each other to get the bread that one small boy and his mother tossed to them. The ibis, about the same size as the little boy, actually took the bread from his hand. The bird’s long curved beak made it all rather scary for him. 

The old Dairy

I saw Old Government House and several other historic buildings in the park. Two large, strangely shaped stones also remain. These supported the transit telescope at the observatory that was built by Governor Brisbane in 1822.

I left the park reluctantly, but with my shoes, socks and the bottoms of my jeans saturated. I didn’t mind at all. I’d had an educational, enjoyable and relaxing time, and I had gotten some much-needed exercise into the bargain. And I hope I can go there again before too long.

 

© Linda Visman

Barking up a Tree

November 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Posted in Destroying nature, Gardens, Nature | 1 Comment
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It seems that there are very few responsible dog owners who actually train their dogs in good habits. I can certainly do without those barking dogs that exist in abundance here. The only bark I like around my home is tree bark.

 

Spotted gum in our yard

 In late spring, the trunk and branches of the Spotted Gum, Corymbia citriodora (subsp. citriodora in our area) outgrow its clothing. The bark begins to split and, over a period of a few weeks, the bark falls off in patches. As each patch of bark drops away, it reveals a soft, clean, green undershirt. This undershirt darkens over time, and the bark colour varies from blue-grey to pink.

Leaves and bark

Like their leaves, many of which also fall in spring, their bark covers the lawns. This drives some people to distraction. If they don’t cut them down in frustration, then out come the leaf blowers. These infernal machines are every bit annoying to me as unrestrained dog barking. However I simply cannot understand anyone who will cut down a beautiful and healthy tree just because it drops leaves on their lawn. They should move to the city if they don’t like trees!

I welcome the leaves (I wrote of this before) and the bark. I get out my trusty rake and gather them together, getting exercise and sunshine in the process. And soon, the leaves and bark are gathered and spread over the garden, providing a surface mulch that protects it from water evaporation and weed growth.

Forest of spotted gums

Spotted gums normally grow tall and straight and their very hard and termite resistant wood is a very popular timber. It has a wide variety of uses: poles; wharf and bridge supports; railway sleepers; timber framing in buildings; fencing; and even for fine furniture. This timber is the best for axe and hammer handles, as it does not split easily.

Spotted gum floor.

 Whenever I see a block of land being cleared of spotted gums so a house can be built, or when someone has one cut down for dubious reasons, my heart aches.

You may ask, ‘After the trees are felled, do they use the timber for any of these or for other uses to which it can be put?’ Almost invariably, the answer is no. Instead they are chipped, usually for garden mulch.

Oh, why don’t people just use the leaves and bark for that, and save those beautiful trees?

© Linda Visman

10th November 2011

My Number – Five

November 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Posted in Psychology, Writing | Leave a comment
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My writing group was posed a challenge to write about a number that has some meaning to them. Here is my response:

I don’t mind numbers – they can be very helpful. But, long ago, the concepts involved in numbers were strange to most people. That gave rise to an association of beliefs and superstitions to certain numbers, many of which have carried on to this day.

Lots of people believe in the pseudo-science of Numerology. Numbers can be lucky or unlucky, depending on which culture you belong to. If it is lucky to find a four-leaf clover for example, imagine how much luckier it is to find a five-leaf clover.

I don’t believe in the power of numbers, but I do sort of like the number five. Do you know how many beliefs there are surrounding the number five? Lots! In every culture across the world, numbers have special representations, whether to gods or to elements or to superstitions 

The number five has its own plethora of esoteric connections, probably the most well known of which is the five-pointed star, the pentagram, believed by Wiccans and others to ward off evil. And did you know that, if you dream about the number five, you will become famous? I have obviously never dreamed about it!

 The number five has certain symbolic connections for me, but they have nothing to do with superstition or belief in the occult. They are much more personal. I started school when I turned five. There were only five years of high school when I attended. I have two brothers and two sisters, so we are five siblings. I just loved the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton when I was a child. Five also seems to be an appropriate number of digits to have on each hand – and I notice how difficult it is when my arthritis prevents me from using all five of them.

But mostly, five is associated with my five sons. They are my special number, and I think five will stay my favourite, even as the number of my grandchildren changes and grows. Those five boys, now arrived at or about to enter middle age, will always remain very precious to me.

 

© Linda Visman

5th November 2011

Getting into the electronic act

November 3, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Posted in Publishing, Reading, Writing | Leave a comment
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My novel, Ben’s Challenge, has not drawn many customers from CreateSpace. In fact, only one copy of the print book has been sold since it became available in August. I don’t know how to track the sales, if any, on Amazon or other outlets. However, it doesn’t look like print is going to sell, and if I want to get people buying it, I will have to get into the e-book market.

I see there are now many different e-book readers being put out by different companies. Many of them appear to be limited in the variety of formats they will operate. But I suppose you pay less for them.

Kindle is still the leader in e-book readers it seems, with Kindle 3 and Kindle DX. They operate a good range of formats, in fact more than most other readers. So, Kindle is probably the best e-reader to get my book into.

So, I am now in the process of converting Ben’s Challenge to a kindle e-book, through CreateSpace. It will be available on Amazon and on CreateSpace in a few weeks, and I will put up the link to it when that happens.

In the meantime, if you would like to have a print copy of Ben’s Challenge, just click on the book cover and you will be taken to the Amazon page where you can purchase it.

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