Writing New Things

For some years, I’ve been writing the Frontier Trilogy. By writing, I mean first, second, third draft, submission, acceptance, editing, editing, editing (I could keep typing that one), and then proofreading it.

Now that the series is complete and has been released, it all feels a bit weird.

It’s not like I haven’t been writing other things as well over the same period – I have. I’ve completed a fantasy novel, written half a sequel, and have finished two thirds of a first draft of another science fiction novel. I’ve also written quite a number of short stories, and multiple blog posts.

I had always intended to only write three Frontier books – that is, after I realised that the story was longer than one book – and I always knew where it was meant to end. Or so I thought.

Ever since Frontier Defiant has been proofread and submitted, I’ve had more of the story suddenly begin to percolate away inside my head. I’m not sure whether this is a good or bad thing right now, as I really want to finish the fantasy series. (Mind you, it doesn’t have a publisher at this point!) In fact, I’m torn.

I think that I’m now so familiar with the world of Frontier and its people, that my brain keeps saying things like: What about character X? Has her story actually finished? Are you sure – what if such and such happened? Because, you know it will, don’t you? It couldn’t possibly just finish there – think about the mayhem! Think about what you’ve just set up! There’s so much about to happen on Frontier, not to mention the rest of the galaxy!

Anyway, that’s possibly way too much insight to the inside of my head right now. As I wrote that, the questions kept falling out of my fingertips onto the blog page and multiplying. So you can see my dilemma. I’m now wondering if I should answer some of those questions, or at least address them.

Of course, we’ve all read the author who should have stopped and didn’t. I don’t want to be that author, either.

Or maybe it’s just because I love my starcats and don’t want to let them go. Let’s face it, who can resist a hundred kilos of purring, glowing, love, parked on the end of the bed?

 


Things on the TV

I’ve been sitting here pondering a few things. Last week saw the release of Frontier Defiant, the final installation in the Frontier Trilogy. Thank you to those of you who purchased both it, and the preceding two volumes!

Now I’m in the middle of writing a fantasy Trilogy and a Science Fiction story (sort of at the same time) along with tweaking a few more short stories and percolating an idea or two.

Having said that, I’m half watching the television as I write. Australian Survivor is currently on. I don’t usually bother with reality TV, because I hate all the strategising and other stupid stuff that goes on.

A few minutes ago, one of the contestants said “Now X has brought morality into it. It doesn’t belong here.” I found that a sad comment on the state of reality television, where greed often seems to win over morality and integrity. Perhaps that’s what makes it so popular.

Once upon a time, I used to read the Mamamia recaps of The Bachelor by Rosie Waterland, because they were hilarious. I didn’t bother watching the actual program. Having said that, I’ve even given up reading them, mainly because even Rosie herself seems fatigued by the ridiculous concept of some random bloke/woman trying to find true love on television while competing with a pile of other people.

I often wonder what we hope to see on this type of TV. Not pleasantness or integrity, because they’re usually sacrificed for alliances, backstabbing and broken promises. Certainly not portrayals of normal relationships, because they’re sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism and drama.

Why is it that we human beings like to see disaster and nastiness, played out by real people in real situations, no matter how manufactured those situations are, that may have a long term impact on those people?

Personally, I’d much rather watch a fictional program, where I can be completely involved in the plot, knowing it’s only make believe. Then I’m able to cheer on the hero/ine while despising the antagonist.

While a fictional program can move us to tears, anger and laughter, it is only make believe. Reality TV puts real people into artificial situations for entertainment purposes, and plays on their foibles and their drama, manipulating both them and the general public in order to make dollars for their television stations.

Of course I do understand that people deliberately go on such shows in order to make money, or gain notoriety, but it still sits awkwardly with me. Particularly when some of those shows shame them, deliberately set them up, or play on their fears and vulnerability.

Where is the morality in that? Where is the responsibility? And why do we, the viewing public, sit there and enjoy it all? What does that say about us?

 

 

 


Frontier Defiant Released Tomorrow!

Well, it’s here at last. Who’d have thought that the book begun during my recovery from cruciate ligament reconstruction is now about to be a completely published trilogy.

From  an image sitting inside my head twenty plus years ago, Frontier, Shanna and her starcats, and the alien Garsal have now exited my headspace and taken up residence in the pages of the Frontier Trilogy.

The whole story has taken almost 390,000 words to tell, and tomorrow, the last 127,000 or so will be available to readers. I have thirty paperbacks sitting in my kitchen, ready for the official book launch on Saturday, and at least one of the boxes has been (very appropriately) tested for quality by the cat.

In some ways I’m sad to reach the end of this trilogy. It’s a funny kind of thing – Shanna and her starcats have been with me for such a long time that it feels sort of weird not to be constantly thinking about the story and the writing of it.

Having said that, a few more ideas have popped into my mind, and there is still much room left to tell stories about them and their role on Frontier – and perhaps even in the wider galaxy.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing several other things – a fantasy story, currently titled ‘Amethyst Pledge,’ which is book 1 of another trilogy, and a more adult Sci-fi space based story, tentatively called ‘Tainted.’ Amethyst Pledge has been out with a target audience reader group, and so far they seem to like it.

I’ve also written a few short stories. I’ve had another one rejected recently, but with rather nice comments (particularly one which told me that the dialogue, tension and world building were good), which is always helpful, and one which clearly tells me that I haven’t yet mastered the short form of story telling: “Overall, this felt like a couple of scenes from a larger picture/work, with the ending left unsatisfyingly open.”

I think I’ve written previously that this seems to be a theme of my short story rejection replies. Apparently nearly all my short stories sound like I’m writing a book, rather than a short story. Perhaps I should just stick with novels…

No, I’m determined to master the short form. I just need to figure out how. It sounds so easy, but it isn’t! I find it slightly funny that I can tell a story in tens and hundreds of thousands of words and keep my readers engaged, yet struggle to tell one in less than 5,000.

As some rather successful authors said at the NSW Writers Centre Speculative Fiction Festival – the two forms are very different, and require quite different approaches. I have to say that it was quite encouraging to hear that they had all had multiple rejections themselves.

Anyway, enough of short stories. If you’re looking to investigate my Frontier Series, here’s a book trailer.

You can purchase any of my books from Hague Publishing (eBook or Paperback) or from all the major online eBook platforms. Amazon also sells the paperback version.

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Finally Back and Writing Again

Last weekend marked the end of our local production of The Sound of Music. After six months of hard work, eight shows, and eight standing ovations, we turned the local high school hall back into a hall, and left the mountains of Austria.

I spent the months pretending to be Sister Margaretta, while helping teach harmony singing, and filling in for whoever was away at each rehearsal. Over the months, I was Liesl, Maria, the Captain, Frau Schmidt, Marta, Gretl, Max, Elsa, Franz and Rolf. There are a few very dodgy pictures floating around with me dancing to Do Re Mi and So Long Farewell.

On that subject, here’s a few, because everyone needs a Sound of Music photo.

And in just two weeks, Frontier Defiant will be launched into the world. I’m in the throes of trying to organise an official launch while awaiting the arrival of the paperbacks so that I’ll have everything on hand.

It’s getting rather exciting!

And now I’m about to embark on an hour or two of writing, which has been sadly neglected over the last few weeks of performances and fun.

 


Being Busy, Yet Again.

As I write, I’m sitting here in my pyjamas, trying not to fall asleep.

It’s Sunday evening, and I’ve spent today and yesterday helping to ‘bump in’ our local production of The Sound of Music. I still have paint under my fingernails, despite the shower, and I’m rather tired. However, I’m home, and some of the crew are still working hard.

We perform in two and a half weeks, and we run over three weekends, so if you’re in the Upper Hunter, pop along and see the show. I’m Sister Margaretta – the nun who likes Maria, and we have a truly wonderful cast and crew.

In addition to that, I’ve finished the proofreading of the paperback version of Frontier Defiant – the final book in my Frontier Trilogy. You can pre-order it now on most major book platforms, or from Hague Publishing. The official release date of Defiant is the twenty-sixth of August, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Add to that, the federal election – voting day was yesterday, although due to bump in, I pre-polled. We’re now awaiting the verdict, and so far it looks as if we might be waiting for several days for the outcome, due to the neck and neck nature of the race. And if it looks as if neither major party will have enough seats to form a government, we might be voting again.

Well, the fatigue is catching up fast, so I think I’ll stop writing and fold the washing, as it’s too early to crawl into bed.

 


Sadness. Why don’t they learn?

Several mornings ago I awoke, once again, to the news that there had been yet another gun massacre in the US. I’m Australian. As I’ve previously written in this blog, we have some strong gun control laws here, enacted after we suffered the worst massacre in history in 1996.

In April, I listened to our Prime Minister at the time of the Port Arthur Massacre talk to Richard Fidler of the ABC about the decision to enact those laws. You can listen to that Conversation, here. It’s fascinating listening.

At the time, I thought it was a no brainer that we had to do something, and I had no idea how difficult it must have been for the government of the time to decide to do as they did. And in this case, it was a bipartisan act of parliament. For some politicians, supporting those gun laws cost them their seat, and in one case, it probably cost the state government an electoral loss at the next state election.

I have nothing but admiration for those laws, and I have nothing but admiration for the stand that our politicians took. No matter what I think about some of their other policies, this was a legacy that every one of those politicians can be proud of.

Since 1996, we’ve had no massacres.

Contrary to what some people believe about our gun laws, Australian gun control laws do not prevent Australians owning guns. Unless of course, you fail the background check, or have no reason to have a gun.

What they actually do, is to prevent the purchase of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.They also prevent those who have no reason to own a gun, owning one.

If you want to know all about our laws, you can go here, and follow the links.

Of course, all over the internet are people writing and speaking about gun control in the US – both for and against it.

I have friends from the US. Both personal friends, and also friends online, who I’ve met in various author groups and chatted to on the internet.

One such friend posted a comment about his hope for gun control laws in the US. Immediately one of his friends responded with a diatribe about how he, ‘a responsible gun owner,’ should not be penalised for the actions of someone else. Various people responded, and a ‘discussion,’ ensued.

What struck me most, was the utter inability of the diatribe poster to even consider that better gun laws might be a good thing, despite him stating things such as ‘maybe make it harder to get the gun’ or suggesting that assault rifles probably shouldn’t be available. Most of his responses were along the line of ‘I shouldn’t have to give up my gun because someone else was stupid with one,’ or ‘I like my gun, and I want to have one.’

There was an awful lot of ‘I want/I like/It’s mine and you can’t have it.’ Sadly, I was reminded very much of a two year old stomping its foot and having a tantrum.

When the poster talked about ‘needing to protect myself’ and ‘What do you plan on defending yourself with when the time comes?’ I couldn’t help shaking my head. Maybe it’s just being Australian, but I don’t think like that. Of course we have criminals here, and we have rapes, murders and burglaries, just like everywhere, but nowadays, what we don’t have, is gun massacres, and I don’t fear going out of my front door.

A friend recently posted this on Facebook. It’s a true representation of how we think.

As is Jim Jefferies’ (a comedian) take on things. (Language warning – his language is very fruity!)

Part 1

Part 2

I truly hope the US decides to enact gun laws, but they didn’t after Sandy Hook, and if small children being massacred didn’t provoke those in power to do something about this enormous problem, then I can’t imagine this latest travesty will.

I feel so sad for the families and loved ones of those who died. But sadly, I suspect that I’ll be writing about this issue again.😦


Proofreading

Frontier Defiant is slated for release in August this year, from Hague Publishing. It marks the end of the Frontier Trilogy.

At the moment, I’m in the middle of proofreading the (hopefully) final draft. The hardest thing about proofreading is making sure you read every single word. I’ve learned that when you’re a writer, no matter how good your basic skills are, at some point you read what you thought you wrote.

Now, if you’re not a writer, you might not appreciate what that actually means. You see, I know what I wrote – or more correctly, I know what I think I wrote. Inside my head are the words and story that I thought I put onto the paper. My brain believes that I know exactly how I placed each word and idea, and in what order.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned how wrong that is. Once upon a time, I’d finish a piece of writing, and immediately begin editing. That’s the best way to allow many errors to slip through – or at least it is for me. Nowadays, I finish the first draft and then put it away for a while. I have to return to the story with fresh eyes.

That takes patience. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from galloping straight back into everything, particularly when I believe I’ve had a plot revelation. However, if I don’t give the story enough of a break, I now know I won’t pick up on the true plot holes, writing errors, or even spelling mistakes or misplaced words.

My current practice is to write the whole thing and then put it away for at least a month. (It’s a bit like resting pastry, actually – the whole thing needs to emulsify, or percolate perhaps – maybe it’s more like really good coffee.) Then I pull it out again, and begin the editing process.

The second run through is a combination of tightening up and structural editing. I make sure the plot hangs together, tweak the sentences and ruthlessly slash and burn where I need to. Then I put it away again. At this stage, I usually get a test reader or two to see if they like the story. At this stage I’m not worried about dodgy spelling, but dodgy story.

On the third pass, I read to see if the writing is as tight as I can make it. Sometimes I still have to adjust the plot and structure, but hopefully if I’ve done a good job on the second pass, the third is more for polishing.

I usually don’t use spellcheck until the third pass, and even then I don’t trust it. Because I’m a pretty decent speller, it tends not to pick up much, so I can be lulled into a false sense of security. I’m more likely to misplace a letter in a homonym (like to and too because I’m typing so fast my fingers run away with me) or leave off a full stop.

By then, the manuscript is usually looking pretty reasonable. Once again I put it away. Finally, I read through it again, and at that point, hopefully there’s very little to do. On that read, I try and lose myself in the story, much as I hope my readers will. If I’ve done my job well enough, I’m not going to be jerked out of the story because of dodgy writing.

Because I’m a fiddler, sometimes I have to tell myself to stop being super critical and to ‘just stop’ with the editing. I’ve heard writers talk about never finishing with their editing. I can understand this, because I always look back and think “Oh, I should have done this/that/the other thing/written it better/oh my goodness did I really write that?” Even after it’s published. There’s always something I feel I could have improved upon.

I’ve had to learn that if I ever want to finish something, that I have to stop with the fiddling.

Finishing a trilogy is a funny thing. It’s sort of a relief, and it’s sort of sad. I’m extremely fond of my characters. To say goodbye to them is a bit weird. Mind you, I’ve a quite a few more ideas for stories about some of them, so perhaps it isn’t goodbye, but just farewell for a little while.

In the meantime, I’m working on book 2 of what’s tentatively titled ‘Kazari’s Story.’ I’ve written the first one, currently called ‘Amethyst Pledge,’ and am working on ‘Dark Times’ the second story.

 


Thinking too much again.

This afternoon, I attended a performance by the Hunter Singers. They’re a choir based in the Newcastle region of the Hunter Valley, and are all young people of high school age.

It was truly beautiful. I love choral singing, both to listen to, and to participate in myself. Making music in a group is one of the most delightful things for a singer to do. There’s something about singing with others that transcends singing alone.

Whether it’s simply the sound of massed voices, or the interweaving harmonies and rhythms, I find that singing in a group, singing words and music designed for multiple voices, exhilarates me. This afternoon I was able to sit and relax and just listen as the words and music rolled over me, evoking images and sounds and thoughts.

This afternoon I was able to sit and relax and just listen as the words and music rolled over me, evoking images and sounds and thoughts.The concert featured a new work called ‘Fromelles’ by Paul Jarman. The Hunter Singers are off to France shortly to sing in Fromelles itself. The music was inspired by the battle of Fromelles, and the words and music together were truly evocative.

I got to thinking after the concert. Readers of this blog have probably realised that I spend way too much time thinking, so I apologise, but here I go again.

This time I was thinking about history, and how it helps to define the present. I was also thinking that we can choose to let history define us individually, even if the values we now espouse aren’t particularly consonant with those at the time the history was made.

What I was thinking about primarily, was our history as Australians. Australia’s history is complicated. Indigenous Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, lived in Australia for thousands of years prior to European settlement. They have a long and rich history, which is often not acknowledged or is completely ignored. At least recently, a welcome to country has become more commonplace during formal occasions, acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands.

Australia also has a complex relationship with both the first and second World Wars. The Federation of Australia, when Australia became an independent nation, only occurred on the first of January 1901. At that time, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Navy were formed.

Because of its close ties with the United Kingdom as a Commonwealth Nation, Australia went to war against Germany in 1914. As a result, over 400,000 men enlisted, and over 60,000 were killed. Many more were wounded, gassed or taken prisoner. The total population of Australia at the time was less than five million.

When you put those figures into context, the deaths and woundings affected nearly the entire population in one way or another. The ANZAC legend was born out of the Gallipoli Campaign and many stories grew up around the fighting across the world. Again, in the Second World War, Australian fought all over the world. Again there were legends born – The Rats of Tobruk, Z Force, the Burma Railway and the prisoner of war camps across Asia.

Much of our history is based on our war time legends, our relationship with Australia’s harsh landscape, and the complexities of being a ‘young’ nation.

While most Australians live in urban areas around the edge of this very dry continent, much of our national identity is also tied up with outback and country legends, and that laconic Australian image so familiar to the rest of the world.

So this afternoon, while listening to the superlative sounds of the Hunter Singers, I began wondering how we individually reconcile our history and sense of identity with how we actually are.

I grew up in the Hills just out of Perth, which means that my upbringing was a combination of country/city. I then moved to the remote Pilbara – the actual outback – where I lived for sixteen years in the wonderful land of red dirt and spinifex. Now I live in country NSW, in the iconic Hunter Valley. It’s a life that’s allowed me to experience all of the richness of living in Australia.

It’s allowed me to look at the legends, compare them to my own sense of Australian-ness, and my own personal identity. Today I wondered how those concepts work for all of us – as clearly we all come from different places, families, backgrounds and heritages. I suppose that’s part of our strength as a nation – we are a hodgepodge of heritages, and hopefully a truly multicultural society.

As you can probably tell, this is me rambling along again, thinking my way through all kinds of stuff, and I haven’t really come to any kind of conclusion, so I think I’ll stop boring you all and keep on thinking a bit more. Have you ever pondered your own cultural identity in the face of your national history? How does it define you? Or does it define you? Many thoughts.

 


What is Female Empowerment?

And here I am back after yet another blog hiatus! There are some good reasons – being flat out editing Frontier Defiant (Book 3 in the Frontier Trilogy) is one, and polishing up another novel, tentatively called Amethyst Pledge, is another.

Add to that, being part of the cast and crew of our local Sound of Music Production, my normal day job, and all the other stuff that life throws at you, I ran out of hours in my day.

Anyway, although I haven’t been blogging, I have been thinking – something that I clearly do way too much of.

I’ve been pondering quite a bit about feminism again. I know it’s a recurring theme here, but I think it’s because it impacts me so frequently. I’m a woman, and now I’ve hit the big 50, I’ve been reflecting on the last half century. (Which sounds dreadful, really.)

I was a teenager by the late seventies, and a young woman in the eighties. By the time the nineties arrived, I was into my late twenties. As a teen, I was inspired by the thought that finally women were approaching financial, educational and societal equality with men. By university, I knew that all I needed was a brain and ambition, along with the required physical skills, to do anything I wished. The world was laid out before me.

Now, as a fifty year old woman, I understand that despite those promising years in the latter part of the twentieth century, we women are still lagging behind in terms of wage parity and societal place.

Even as we’ve been able to work full time, and raise a family simultaneously, women still do, and are expected to do, more than half the family household tasks, rising to up to 85 % of the tasks involving laundry. Recently in the UK, 20% of men admitted to doing no household tasks of any description.

At the same time, women are still expected to behave and look a certain way. They are expected to wear certain types of clothes, shoes, and have specific body shapes, in ways that men never have to.

I think I’ve written about it before – one of my female clients, with a severely sprained ankle, when I suggested wearing no heels to work, stated “My boss wouldn’t like that,” and was then slightly nonplussed when I asked whether he (the male boss) would place the same requirement on a man. “Of course not,” was her answer. She was then surprised when I pointed out that that was blatant sexism.

Her brain’s default was that she was expected to look different to the men, and that that involved wearing heels, no matter whether heels were suitable to her tasks, or her injury.

Recently I’ve been pondering the drive for ‘body confidence’ among young women. Now, I have no issues with anyone being confident with their own body. (See https://leonierogers.me/2016/01/30/the-art-of-onsen/ on this blog.) What I have issues with, is that for a woman to be confident with her body, it somehow means being obviously titillating in public.

I haven’t used the word ‘titillating’ lightly. You see, for me, being body confident means being confident that my body can do the things I want it to, like sport, or walking, or wearing whatever I feel like, regardless of whether it’s a fashion statement or not, or being able to go into a Japanese Onsen and strip down, as is traditional practice in Japan.

Maybe I’m weird, but being body confident doesn’t mean that I need to take my shirt and bra off in public, or pole dance, or wear clothing that emphasises my sexuality. In fact, when I see ‘body confidence’ being trotted out for such things, I wonder if feminism has been subjugated to the patriarchy once again.

For some younger women, stating things like ‘subjugated to the patriarchy’ might seem old fashioned, but I have a real worry that we’ve lost our way in our attempts to gain equality, by being backtracked onto the tangential pathway of ‘it’s all about sex.’

We only have to look at popular media to see that the biggest headlines around women are whether or not you should take your clothes off for a selfie. For a large part of the population, that appears to be only if you’re a socially acceptable shape.

What I’m not seeing however, is the equivalent pressure on men: slogans such as ‘free the penis,’ or classes or diets designed to ’empower the male body’ – perhaps something like male bellydancing, pole dancing or stripping – all of which we have for women. I do know that there are such things, but they’re certainly not promoted as ’empowering’ for men, and it’s empowerment that I’m interested in.

What I am seeing is ’empowerment’ stuff that seems all too titillating for the male gaze. Maybe you don’t agree with me. Maybe I’m wrong, but in a world full of sexploitation, where women still need to be a certain age/shape/type to be relevant in popular culture, while their male counterparts don’t, I’m not so sure that I am wrong.

What I’d like to be able to see, is women who are confident, not only in their bodies, but in themselves. I’d like women to not have to face constant criticism on their appearance by other women, or by men. I’d like them to know that they’re smart, intelligent, full of integrity, competent and compassionate, without an internal monologue running about their appearance.

Empowerment should be about empowering women to be themselves, not following someone else’s agenda.

 

 

 


General Stuff

I’ve neglected my blog a bit lately – mostly due to holidaying overseas, playing catch up on a few things when we returned, and being fairly heavily involved in our town’s production of The Sound of Music. Apart from helping with some of the singing stuff, I’m also Sister Margaretta – the nun who says “Maria makes me laugh.”

On the writing front, I’ve a second draft fantasy story out with some test readers for their thoughts and comments, a short story about to be released in the Novascapes 2 Anthology, and I’m working on another longish short story for a prospective anthology, put together by a group on Goodreads.

I also have another sci-fi story two thirds done, and a few other short stories that I’ll attempt to place somewhere this year. I always remind myself that there’s a home for every story somewhere, but that sometimes you have to knock on a few doors before one opens.

Frontier Defiant, book three in the Frontier Trilogy will be published this year, probably around the middle of the year, and that will bring the trilogy to a close. I could take the story up again, as I’ve left enough room to do so, and a couple of the minor characters keep waving their hands at me, so I might do that at some point, but I’ll have to think about whether I should, or work on something different.

I’m also off to Contact 2016, Australia’s National Science Fiction Convention, at Easter, which I’m really looking forward to.

I plan to blog more regularly again, now that the first two months of 2016 have galloped past. Just have to find enough time…