Tags: challenge, depression, historical fiction, re-writing, teen fiction, Young Adult fiction
For the last month or more, I have been re-writing my second novel, (its working title is Thursday’s Child, although that will probably change). It isn’t complete – I had written about 62,000 words but, about four-fifths of the way through it, I had hardly written anything on it in the year until this January.
I was stuck. I couldn’t get motivated. I had no enthusiasm to get the story finished. I also had a year in which depression played too big a part. I wondered if my book would ever get written.
Then, after reading a few teen/Young Adult novels at the end of last year that worked really well, I decided to change my story from past tense and third person to present tense and first person. So now, my main character is telling her own story instead of someone else telling it for her. It works so much better!
With my new-found enthusiasm and will, I have so far re-written and edited my manuscript to over 60,000 words. I have another 5,000 words to go until I get to the place where I almost gave up a year ago.
I am hoping – no, expecting – that when I get there, I will be able to carry the story to its conclusion. After all, it is so much better to be telling the story as if I am the main character than telling it from an outside perspective.
My main character, Tori, has become much more real to me in the process of re-writing, and at times, I can feel her emotions as if they are mine. They are raw and real.
My first novel, Ben’s Challenge, was written in first person past tense, and that seemed to work well. But this one does better written as an unfolding story in the present. That present being Australia in 1959-1960.
I simply must finish telling Victoria’s (Tori’s) story!
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: acrostic, memories
I have written just a few memories here in the form of an acrostic, using the above title. They are from my first thirteen years, and are limited by the letters I had available to me. They are also very brief, though I have already, or will in the future expand on some of them in other posts. It actually wasn’t that easy to do this self-imposed exercise!
School days at St Mary’s, St John’s, St Paul’s, St Mary’s & Dapto High
Oswaldtwistle, where I was born, and left when I was five
Making my own bows and arrows to play Indians
Entertaining ourselves with simple toys and games
Mowing the lawn at twelve
Easter rituals at Church and school
Mum’s green leather belt when we were naughty
Ordinary – that is how I saw my life; nothing special at all
Reading to find worlds of adventure
Ironing before heat controls or steam and burning my white school shirt
Earning a few pennies by opening & closing the railway gates for motorists
Singing old songs from England with my parents, uncle & Granddad
Odd one out – the middle child of five who didn’t fit anywhere else either
Finances always strained, with no money for extras
Milk – our milkman came around with a horse and cart
Yearning for I knew not what, but something more than I had
Yelling at my sisters & brother when I was angry – too often!
Eating Mum’s trifle at Xmas & New Year with Grandma, Uncle Fred & our families
Sitting at the kitchen table on stools that Dad had made
Taking Peter’s canoe onto the lake when I was forbidden to
Eating tough mutton chops & being unable to swallow the over-chewed meat
Radio serials like Superman and Tarzan that we listened to after school
Dad, David & Pauline hospitalised with polio
Accident, where I fell onto a joist when Dad was building an addition to the house
Yearly tests and trying to beat the two boys who were my main rivals
Songs from the 1940s, 50s and 60s that we listened to on the radio
What memories would you write if you did this acrostic exercise?
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: childhood activities, creativity, independence, interpreting memories, living with nature, versions of the past
I sometimes wonder whether my childhood memories are as authentic as I believe them to be. There have been times when my siblings have reminded me of an event that occurred which illustrates an alternate version of those times, one that I may have pushed aside or interpreted in a different way.
I know that people can focus on aspects of their youth that colour and reinforce a version they have become used to. Sometimes, that version is a happy one, sometimes a negative one. I know of two brothers who see their experiences in a way that makes it seem they lived in different worlds – one seeing a society accepting of migrants and the other seeing discrimination everywhere. That has to be related to how their personalities have been shaped and to their natural optimism or pessimism I think.
Of course, there are some who really have endured awful family backgrounds, situations that could break them if that is what they focus on. And it does break some – but paradoxically makes others, even in the same family, stronger and more resilient.
We had a pretty good family, where we were loved and cared for, but during which we also endured some pretty tough times. I do remember those hard times, but I also remember the good times. Perhaps I have created a world that was somewhat better than it actually was, but at least it helps me to focus on the good stuff. Here’s a poem I wrote that does that:
In spring, summer and autumn,
we walked along muddy creeks,
along lake shores and ocean beaches,
over expanses of sea-side rock,
dotted with crystal-clear pools,
our bare feet tickled by weed and grass,
salt water and sand.
We collected driftwood and shells
and wave-smoothed stones
and carried them home
in bright red or blue or yellow buckets.
We spent hours sorting them
by shape and size and colour,
and days making sea-drift sculptures,
shell borders for photo frames and mirrors,
shell pictures and maps.
We strolled through wetlands,
dense with melaleuca,
wary of spiders and biting mosquitoes,
through lakeside forests of casuarinas
with their wind-eerie sounds,
and through paddocks and gullies
studded with eucalypts & blackberry bushes,
wary of red-bellied black snakes.
We collected sheets of paperbark
to make three-dimensional pictures,
flexible green sticks to make
dry reeds for arrows,
and bulrushes for spears.
Our Christmas decorations
were made from strips of crepe paper
that twirled across the room;
the star on top of the tree was
a piece of cardboard covered in
silver paper from cigarette packets.
From the huge pine trees
that bordered our school yard
(long gone now)
we fashioned their thick bark
into serviceable pistols, or dolls,
and their pinecones sawn through
created wide-eyed owls.
Inside, on cold or rainy days,
a sheet of newspaper could make
a ship or a plane or a hat,
or a row of dancing dolls.
A block of wood
made great cars and trucks;
large circular off-cuts from
holes drilled in plywood
made wheels for them.
Making our own entertainment was normal,
a stimulus to creativity and independence.
Not for us the electronic wizardry
of television or video games,
of computers or mobile phones.
We made what we could out of what we had
and enjoyed a childhood
rich with stimulation and experience.
What was your childhood like? Are your memories pleasant or negative?
© Linda Visman
Tags: body clock, control, gratitude, luck, night owl, tree-planting, wisdom
Here are my responses to Cee’s latest questions to get to know each other at Share Your World
What would be your preference, awake before dawn or awake before noon?
I am a night owl, so I find it both hard to go to bed and hard to get up in the morning. I know I get a lot of writing and scrapbooking done in the later hours, but I also miss seeing the sun rise and getting household tasks over and done with early.
I used to be up and about very early when I was teaching in remote Central Australia, starting at school about 6.30am, before anyone else arrived. So I know I can do it if I have to. But it is so hard to stop what I am doing at night!
- I think I will have to go with what my body clock tells me and do what I normally do – go to bed around midnight and awake about 8 or 9am.
If you could choose between Wisdom and Luck, which one would you pick?
If you rely on Luck, you put yourself in the hands of blind Fate. However, if you have Wisdom, you can more or less make your own luck. I would rather have the wisdom.
Most probably not. I like to be in control of my life as much as possible. Skydiving is a great example of loss of control. It might be good for me but I would say thanks, but no thanks!
Is the glass half empty or half full? What is in the glass?
It depends what mood I am in. If I am very depressed, it is hard to see the glass at all. If I am a little depressed, I can usually persuade myself that the glass is half full. If I am in a positive mood, then the glass is usually running over.
What is in the glass? Love, friendship, good will, gratitude, empathy, happiness.
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
Last week: I am grateful to have had several days in which to finally chill out, after several months with a lot of activity, travel and responsibility.
This week: I am looking forward to planting more Australian native trees. Several lovely trees next door to us were cut down today (Monday), and my husband and I want to plant a tree to replace each of those we see cut down in our neighbourhood. Trouble is, we can’t keep up with them all! L But we do our best on our own little patch of ground.
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: alchemists, chemicals in fireworks, Chinese invention, firecrackers, fireworks, fireworks in celebrations, Li Tian
Fireworks of a kind were used in China over 2,000 years ago, well before the discovery of gunpowder.
These early ‘fireworks’ consisted of green bamboo thrown onto a fire. As air pockets inside the bamboo heated, they exploded, creating a frightening noise. They were used to scare away bad spirits, and it became part of a ritual to scare away the evil spirit Nian at the start of each new year.
Gradually, the green bamboo bangs because part of other celebrations like births, weddings and coronations. They were used thus for the next thousand years.
Invention of Gunpowder
There are several references to a Chinese monk named Li Tian, who lived near the city of Liu Yang in Hunan Province, who is credited with the invention of firecrackers about 1,000 years ago. There are other stories of an accidental explosion when an alchemist was heating a mix of chemicals.
What is known however, is that somewhere between about 600 and 900AD, Chinese alchemists discovered a particular mixture of chemicals that ignited with a flash and a bang when heated over a fire. The records show that they were advised to shun this mixture of sulfur, saltpetre (potassium nitrate), honey and arsenic disulfide.
However, some alchemists continued to experiment with it.
They discovered that explosions resulted when the mixture was heated inside bamboo tubes, and that flames, smoke and sparks erupted when it was ignited in an open container. The more saltpetre added to the mix, the more violently it exploded.
What we now call gunpowder became a useful as a military weapon around the 10th century, though initially it was only used to frighten and confuse the enemy. Later, it was it used also to inflict injury.
Bamboo was gradually replaced by thick paper tubes and fuses, made from gunpowder wrapped in long thin pieces of paper, were developed.
As well as for military applications, firecrackers continued to be used in China at important celebrations.
The main components of gunpowder and their ratios, developed over 500 years ago, are still the same as are used today:
1) Saltpetre 75%
2) Charcoal 15%
3) Sulphur 10%
Firecrackers go to Europe and Beyond
In its early years, the important part of exploding black powder was the light and sound that would scare off the spirits. Even when fireworks came to Europe and spread across the world, it wasn’t the colour that mattered. It is believed that Marco Polo brought firecrackers back to Europe from China in 1292. The Italians loved them. Three hundred years later, with the arrival of the Renaissance and the era of exploration and experiment, they developed a greater range of fireworks; especially skyrockets, fountains and spinning wheels.
These were refined and expanded over the years, and their use spread throughout Europe, where monarchs and other rulers used them (especially rockets) to demonstrate their power and majesty.
As exploration of the world proceeded during the 16th to the 18th centuries, the use of fireworks spread to new lands. Soon they had become a common element of major celebrations throughout the world.
Fireworks Become More Colourful
For almost 1000 years, the only colours in fireworks were orange and white (from black powder or metallic powder respectively).
By the 1830s however, knowledge of chemicals and their properties was greatly expanded. During that decade, fire masters in southern Italy were able to add reds, greens, blues and yellows by the addition of metallic salts and chlorinated powders. The discovery and use of electrical energy and hydrolysis meant that the chemicals could burn faster, hotter and brighter, and displays, especially aerial ones, became even more dramatic.
Fireworks can be classified broadly by whether they are used for ground or aerial display. Not until the last 200 years did the magical display of coloured sparks become the real focus of a fireworks show. Modern fireworks are also called pyrotechnics, and the experts who develop and stage them are known as pyro-technicians.
As well as science, there is and always has always been an art and craft to development and use of fireworks. Modern fireworks have a myriad of different effects depending on their chemical composition, strength and containment.
China is by far the largest producer and exporter of fireworks in the world. During the 20th century, the mechanics of mass production gradually brought their cost down considerably. Eventually, fireworks became cheap enough to be available to ordinary families, and they could be more personally involved in national, religious and cultural fireworks displays.
General history: http://www.pyrouniverse.com/history.htm
Use of fireworks by European monarchs: http://io9.com/the-first-fireworks-displays-were-terrifyingly-huge-1600541130
Depictions of fireworks in Europe from the 16th century: http://publicdomainreview.org/2014/06/25/picturing-pyrotechnics/
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: acrobat in circus, advice to my younger self, believe in yourself, chocolate, comfort food, jaye Ford - writer, Sydney Coastal Walk, writing blog
Here are my responses to Cee’s latest questions, where we get to know each other better. And, I think we also get to know ourselves better.
Have your blogging goals changed?
The answer to this is “yes” and “no”. When I first began blogging four and a half years ago (where has that time gone!), my aim was to create a habit of writing regularly. That aim has largely been successful, and I am pleased about that.
I had intended the main focus of my blog to be on the topic of writing. I have indeed posted a lot of entries about writing, but I have posted more on other topics. When I look back, I see that many of my posts, especially over the past year or more have been on history and, specifically, on my family history.
To me, that is still about writing. It is about writing more of my family history and putting together a book for my children and grandchildren to read. I want them to know something about where they come from, and about some of the wonderful ancestors who have had an impact on the development of my side of their heritage.
If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?
I cannot imagine ever wanting to perform in a circus but, if I did, I think I would like to be an acrobat. If I could physically perform those twists, turns, leaps and balances, then maybe I could also do them mentally.
If you could go back and talk to yourself at age 18 what advice would you give yourself?
I think I would tell myself not to rush into the things that others say you should do. I would say to look at what is possible, and don’t be limited by their expectations. I would say that you are capable of much more than you believe, so stretch your imagination and realise that anything is possible.
What is your favourite comfort snack food?
Like so many people everywhere, I think it would have to be chocolate. It tastes good, it has caffeine and thus gives a boost in energy, and it releases endorphins to make things look more positive. I just wish it wasn’t so darned fattening!
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
Last Sunday, we went on a six-kilometre walk along the Sydney coastline, from Coogee to Bondi. We went with friends who belong to the same sailing club we do. It was fabulous; the cliffs, the rocks, the sea, all bathed in beautiful sunshine for the last day of winter.
Coming up this week is the launch of the fourth book by local author Jaye Ford. Jaye writes psychological thrillers, and the latest is Already Dead. I have read and really enjoyed the first three books and am keen to pick up a signed copy of the latest.
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: Australia, Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana), cycad, garden, happy wanderer (Hardenbergia), kangaroo paw, native animals, native plants, Old man's beard, ponytail palms, stress buster, winter, Xanthorrea
It was a lovely sunny August day, winter here in Australia. I had been picking up the small dead branches that occasionally fall from the eucalypts in the wind. I break up the branches, and either put them in the green waste bin to be mulched by the Council, or give them to a neighbour who has a wood burning heater.
Before that, I had helped the MOTH (Man of the House) to fix part of a wire side fence that had been threatening to fall over. Our yard is mostly open, as we don’t like to feel enclosed – just a paling fence up the back, and an open wire fence along one side to keep the neighbour’s dog in. Most of it is hidden by bushes and trees. The other two sides are not fenced at all.
Our yard is almost all Australian native species of trees and shrubs, a habitat we are preserving for local wildlife such as birds, lizards and any other species that care to make their home here. Yes, even spiders, centipedes and snakes!
I love walking around it to see how everything is progressing. That day, I took a few photos as well.
This ‘Happy Wanderer’ self-sowed at the base of a Spotted Gum, and is growing up into another self-sown native sapling. It is a variety of Hardenbergia, like the one above, which we bought from a nursery.
Our Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) has grown well since we put it in as a small sapling three years ago. It is three times my height now.
The group of plants below really took off last summer. On the left is one of two cycads we planted some years ago. They are an ancient variety of plant, but I don’t know which species it is.
Behind it are ponytail palms (Beaucarnea species). I have only just discovered that they are native to Mexico! In the right front is a Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthus), native to S-W Western Australia. Behind that is a Banksia, and on the far right is a Christmas Bush. Two Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea) once called Blackboys, have been overtaken by the cycads in front of them. They are pretty slow growing.
Part of our garden has seen an invasion by a foreigner. This plant was probably introduced as an exotic ‘air plant’, but has recently escaped and can be found in many local yards. What we call ‘Old Man’s Beard’, comes from the U.S. Pacific Coast. Because it only hangs from trees and is not a parasite, it has been allowed to grow everywhere.
From one small piece that blew into our garden 3-4 years ago, it is now well established. It makes this part of the front garden seem very eerie, especially on a dull day of misty rain. The ‘beard’ hangs from the branches of a Pepper tree, two Bottlebrush (Callistamon), and a Tibouchina.
I love our garden. It is a place I can go to when I am stressed and need to feel the soothing power of nature.
Do you have a garden? What does a garden mean to you? If you don’t have one, would you like to?
© Linda Visman