Month: May 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air: Thursday’s Children

thurschilbadgejpgA weekly blog hop
where writers get together
to discuss what inspires them!

Farewell long hot summer, winter’s icy breath has been making itself felt in the Land of the Long White Cloud this week. We’ve had a dusting of snow on the Tararua Ranges, a southery blowing straight off the South Pole, and I’m pretty sure I turned blue during the school run the other day.

However one of my favourite things about the change of season is it really wakes you up to the world around you. And today was one of those rare days when despite the frosty start, the sun came out and we had clear blue skies and that gorgeous soft winter light that makes everything glow.

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Tararua Ranges from Paraparaumu Beach, Kapiti Coast.

Sometimes the stars do align in your favour, because this morning was the first day in months I didn’t have anything scheduled. So I dropped the kids at school and headed out onto the walking tracks. I didn’t see a soul. Just a couple of hours of me, the birds and the view. And it was amazing.

Back in February, Kate Frost posted about Taking Inspiration From Nature. It reminded me that as writers we sometimes need time and space to blow out the cobwebs, take a breath and really look around us. I’d like to say I came home and wrote up a storm, but real life was waiting. A meeting at the Rest Home (my mother-in-law has advanced Alzheimer’s), the children had sports and scouts, and tonight I just had to watch the final episode of the latest Dr Who Series (yes we’re a bit behind here – but major, major kudos to Steven Moffat!!!).

But word count aside, I have a bright new colour palette ready to mix into my story. The sound of footfalls on a dirt path; the unrelenting sting of thorns catching in your clothing; the feel of a light breeze against your skin. And I  know precisely how one character feels when she is able to get away and find that exact solitude.

There’s nothing like a breath of fresh air to stir the soul and freshen up a story. Even if it is blowing straight off the Antarctic!

Many thanks to both Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez for hosting this blog hop. If you want to join us, or check out what’s inspiring everyone else, click on this linky.

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The Beat of the Heartstone: WIPpet Wednesday

It’s my favourite time of the week again – the Wednesday WIPpet! Time to crack open the WIP and see if there is anything vaguely related to the date that is worth sharing with the world.

Like everyone else, it’s getting hard to find a passage sans spoilers to share. So in deference to the date, I’ve just taken 29 lines from the middle of The Fall of the Kings that doesn’t give much away. Bear in mind it’s very much a first draft!

In this scene Jae and Zak have managed to avoid the soldiers chasing them (for being ‘fey’ – a hated ethnic group), but after losing themselves in the Sanctuary Garden, they turn a corner and find themselves face to face with the Heartstone. Although they know the legends, they’ve never seen it before. Zak is not known for his sensitive side, so he’s also acting out of character in this scene.

Then, as though all thought of pursuit were forgotten he turned towards the Heartstone.

“Can you hear it?” Zak was walking towards the great stone, one hand extended, his face a picture of reverence.

Jae looked back at the path, half expecting someone to come barrelling down it.

“What?” She couldn’t hear anything. The guards hadn’t been that far behind them, so the silence was disturbing.

“The Heartstone. It’s humming.” Zak was almost at the stone, his hand hovering over its amber surface. “Listen.”

She frowned, frustrated he wasn’t taking their safety seriously. “I don’t hear anything. Come on Zak they can’t be far behind.”

“You’ll hear them crashing through the garden well before they get here. Listen.” His voice softened. “It’s – beautiful.”

“Beautiful? Zak! We’ve got to go.”

But he ignored her, placing hand against the great stone, and then to Jae’s surprise, he smiled and leaned his body into the stone so his cheek was pressed up against it.

“It’s warm Jae!”  He closed his eyes. She’d never seen him look so… contented?

“Don’t touch it.”

He opened his eyes and gave her a funny look.

“It was set by the hand of the One God, for all who would seek him. That includes us. Come on – you’ve got to feel this.”

Jae moved closer, her gaze flicking between Zak and the Heartstone, poised to run. But as she drew near, the golden warmth did seem inviting and she could make out a gentle humming – no a pulsing that seemed to beat with her own heart.  She raised an eyebrow at Zak who was now grinning like a loon.  Zak – grinning? And tentatively reached out a hand.

As her fingers grazed the smooth surface she felt a warmth, a comforting warmth flow up her arm.  She snatched her hand back and stared at her fingertips, before pressing her palm up against it.

She’d heard the stories, but nothing could have prepared her for the overwhelming peace she felt being here, bathed in the light of the Heartstone.

I hope you’re having a great writing week. If you want to join our merry band of WIPpeteers, it’s as easy as posting something from your own WIP, with some relevance to the date and linking up to this linky. Many thanks to the ever lovely K.L. Schwengel for hosting!

Kindness: Thursday’s Children

thurschilbadgejpgA weekly blog hop
where writers get together
to talk about what inspires them.

Someone once asked me what I hoped for my children; what parental dreams and aspirations I had for them? Did I want them to be clever, funny, sporty or creative? They’re great kids, and as any parent will tell you I want the best for them – that they realise all of their God-given gifts and find genuine happiness. But if I’m honest, I hope I’m raising these children to be kind, because sometimes an act of kindness can make an enormous difference to someone who is struggling.

I know, I’ve had a difficult week and I’ve been the recipient of many small, but hugely significant kindnesses. From the ((twitter hugs)) from my Wednesday WIPpeteers, who missed me this week when I did not have an ounce of anything left to post on Wednesday. And ReGi who tweeted an old link, so I could still be part of the group! Although I’ve never met any of you, I feel part of a writing community that’s more than a date in the diary. Thank you. You totally rock.

So this week I am inspired by acts of kindness!

One of the most moving moments in my life occurred when I was at University and our youth group volunteered at the city mission. We’d gone down to prepare and cook lunch for local homeless people, and when we were done we were asked to go out and eat in the main hall.

I ended up sitting with an old Maori gentleman, who looked very much like an old uncle of mine. After exchanging hellos I was horrified to find I couldn’t think of anything to talk about. Everything that came to mind seemed trite or irrelevant. Last week’s rugby scores don’t mean much to someone who doesn’t have a television. So we ate in silence and smiled and nodded at each other, and I felt like the most useless person in the world.

When this gentleman got up to leave, he stopped and squeezed the top of my arm gently. In a very soft voice, not much more than a whisper, he said, “Thank you for eating with me.” I can still see his face all those years later, his eyes glistened with tears and his smile was heartbreaking. All of 18 years old, I bolted out to the kitchen and bawled.

Sitting with him had cost me nothing, but it certainly seemed to mean something to him. Wordsworth’s Simon Lee, has always seemed to sum up that experience for me: (If you’re not familiar with the poem, the narrator chops a few logs for an old man. What is no effort for the narrator has a huge impact on the man). The final line is:

The gratitude of man hath often left me mourning.

That’s exactly how I felt.

Because sometimes it is the smallest things that make a difference. A smile from a stranger. A kind word. Or waiting patiently while the stressed out shop assistant deals with a funky computer.

In life I try to look for opportunities to be kind, because I remember the time when my child screamed for an hour on the plane (despite my best efforts to calm him) and my husband got stuck in traffic and didn’t meet us at the airport. Just as I was about to dissolve in tears a woman stopped to tell me that she’d been through it herself and that I was doing a great job.

Or the time when we were backpacking students and my husband’s final pay didn’t go through on time, so we found ourselves in a foreign country with no cash and no idea what to do. A stranger in Carlisle told us she trusted us to send the money for our accommodation when it came through (we were anticipating sleeping at the train station). The money turned up the next day and we were able to pay her before we left. Her kindness had a huge impact on me.

I try to keep this in mind when I’m writing. A well timed act of kindness can change a story, add hope and lightness and can powerfully impact both a character and the reader. In my current WIP, an act of kindness is a game changer, ultimately saving lives and eventually a kingdom.

On a final note, I am encouraged to keep writing even when real life has so many balls up in the air I’m only aware of what they are when they come crashing down on my head.

My friend and writing buddy called me up and said ‘write something – even if it is only a paragraph. You need to do something for you.’ I laughed. Out loud. Every time I’d been near a pad or paper this week it had been to write a list. (There have been a lot of lists). But she wouldn’t let me laugh it off and her words stayed with me.

So when I ended up with an hour to kill (waiting for a child to finish an activity) I pulled out a notebook and wrote a short story entitled, The Moon is Made of Glass. There was no planning, only words and a story which didn’t involve any sort of kindness at all. But it was good for me. Because I remembered that something in me needs to write. To that friend, you know who you are – thank you. Your few words did me a great kindness.

I hope you have all been the beneficiaries of loving-kindness this week. Please feel free to share you own experiences in life and in writing in the comments. Many thanks to Kristina Perez and Rhiann Wynn-Nolet for hosting this blog hop (and for being so patient when I’m consistently turning up for Thursday’s Children on Friday).

Is Your Plot Bunny Leading You on a Wild Goose Chase?

thurschilbadgejpgA weekly blog hop
where writers get together
to talk about what inspires them.

This week I’m inspired by plot bunnies. Those marvellous story ideas that turn up at the most inopportune moments, dazzle you with their clever brilliance, and then bound off at speed, so you have no choice but to follow and see where they end up.

In my experience chasing a plot bunny is by no means a sure thing. Sometimes you follow a character, a twist or an idea that leads nowhere. When the initial excitement wears off, you realise it’s chewed up a big chunk of your writing time and hasn’t taken the story anywhere.

But at times, and what times they are, the plot bunny delivers an unforeseen twist that grabs a floundering story by the lapels and infuses it with new life.

For me, the most enjoyable plot bunnies include unexpected characters. Characters that were supposed to have a small role in the story, but manage to shoulder their way into the action and demand the story take a whole new course. Usually with them centre stage.

I was seduced by one such character a few months ago. She wasn’t supposed to have a big role, but at one point I seriously considered telling the story entirely from her POV. For a heart-stopping moment, a considerable part of the WIP was in danger of being shelved, all because this character couldn’t possibly have been involved in it.

This time, caution won the day and I indulged her by writing about six chapters in a row entirely in her POV (unusual for me). Although I love this new storyline, once I got it out of my system, I can see how it will work just as well woven into the larger story.

I think.

The verdict is still out.

But what a fun character…

More recently I‘ve been struggling with a stalled plotline. Where I’d planned myself into a corner.

No matter how I hit this particular point in the story, the result was sleep-inducing scenes. And when you’re putting yourself to sleep, what hope does the reader have?

Honestly, I was a wee bit desperate. To the point when I wanted to send ReGi McClain’s plot ninjas in to cut off everyone’s head. You know how it goes: Josiah stands up to dedicate the Sanctuary, a ninja swoops in – zwhack. Marcus is crowned, and both head and crown hit the ground. Stella flirts with Artemis, surely she won’t lose her head over him… Sorry I know it’s bad, but you get the idea. Things were pretty dire.

Fortunately another true blue plot bunny turned up.

Follow me, it seemed to say. You know that insignificant scene you wrote about the dedication? The one you were thinking about cutting – well maybe there was something in that look. Maybe that one little look started a whole chain of events leading to kidnap, blackmail and opening up a whole can of emotionally charged worms. Maybe the bad guy isn’t as bad as you thought. Maybe he was manipulated by someone… er, badder?

Really? I answer casually, reaching for my notebook. Badder you say? Tell me more. I’m totally prepared to step away from my carefully plotted, but at this point totally uncaptivating outline, and explore this new path… (Notice the calm tone of voice – in my experience plot bunnies are very easily scared off).

So have I found my story equivalent to the Rosetta Stone? The telling moment that might pull everything together? Or am I off on another wild goose chase?

Who knows? But all of sudden my WIP is looking exciting again. And if some of the twists and turns leading on to my (already planned) out ending are shrouded in the mists of wait-and-see, I think I can live with it. Because the muse is up and hopping again!

If you want to know more about plot bunnies, and the myriad of forms they come in – check out this awesome, funny and scarily true post from wikiwrimo, entitled simply Plot Bunny. You may be more familiar with them than you realise…

Many thanks to Rhiann Wynn-Nolet for hosting this blog hop. To join in, or check out what’s inspiring the other participants click on this linky.

Thursday’s children according to the rhyme, have far to go. This week I’ve travelled all the way into Friday to post this… so wishing you all the love and best wishes Friday’s child can deliver. Happy writing!

What’s Up Buttercup? WIPpet Wednesday

We’re having one of those glorious autumn mornings in the Land of the Long White Cloud. It’s cool but not the promised southerly that pierces the bones, the few low-lying clouds are burning off and the sun is shining. My poor sick children have recovered enough to be at school and I get to hang out with the wonderful WIPpeteers and their awesome creations!

My work in progress has been undergoing a fairly hard edit over the past few months and I think I’ve gotten a handle on how to improve the story. One of the things that has become very clear, is that the story at times can be fairly heavy. There are people making letting themselves down, at least one seriously disturbed individual causing trouble, grief, betrayal and a dose of politics to give the world some structure. Add in the warm fluffies that is the editing process and I was starting to depress myself. Is this the story I really want to tell?

The short answer is yes. But in order to balance out what at times can be quite a heavy story, there needs to be shades of light too. And as I’m starting the rewrite, and gearing up to write the next act, I’m looking for places to soften the edges and add a bit of humour and colour. There are a few characters that are key contenders to lighten the mood. Stellar leaves a trail of stardust where ever she goes, Tobias can be an unfettered ray of sunshine when he turns on the charm, and Jae and Zak could fight over their own names. However, Simon (Josiah’s old aide / assistant) is one of my favourites. He is the original old dog – who is so set in his ways he’s not moving for anyone. Anyone. So it’s kind of fun to watch people go around him.

Today’s WIPpet is a follow-on from an earlier post – People Skills. If you remember Simon, was having a moment about a novice who he thought was getting a bit above himself. When Simon found out the novice (Tobias) was being relegated to digging privies for the dedication he was (quietly) mollified. This WIPpet is from the next chapter when Tobias is gearing up to run the Simon gauntlet, but the path is unusually clear. Suspiciously clear…

The very talented ReGi McClain has already posted about a very savvy assistant this week, so as we’re on the same wavelength I’m going to shamelessly steal her clever mathematical formula to make this WIPpet conform to the ‘strictly enforced’ requirement that our WIPpets relate to the date. So here are 20 lines, (May 15 + 5 (for the 5th month) = 20… nothing contrived about that at all…) from The Fall of the Kings.

Before he ventured up to the Overseer’s Quarters, Tobias swung by the stables and having clapped eyes upon Josiah’s horse was determined to get past Simon if it was the last thing he did.

He still smarted from the stand-off the evening before.  The Overseer’s aide, or the bull-dog which seemed a more accurate title, had stonewalled him.  Refusing to discuss Josiah’s whereabouts and then chasing him off as though he were a junior kitchen hand rather than a novice under instruction from the Overseer himself. 

This morning Simon could snarl and snap all he liked, but he was going to see Josiah.

As the big iron-bound doors came into view, Tobias felt Simon’s presence before he saw him.  Squaring his shoulders and pulling himself up to full height, he told himself he was ready for anything Simon could throw at him.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

He found the old man in a sea of boxes; his focus clearly on creating order out of chaos.

“Oh it’s you.  He’s expecting you.  Knock before you go in.”

 Simon barely glanced up from his work; yet he seemed almost cheerful.  And was it his imagination or was there a slight lift at the edges of the granite hard mouth?

The change was so disturbing, Tobias opened his mouth to say something; but with the path to Josiah clear for the first time in living memory he thought better of it and closed it again before tapping gently on the door.

To join in with the WIPpeteers, or to check out what they’re working on at the moment click on this linky or cruise on over to the lovely K.L. Schwengel’s blog for more details.

Well I hope you’re having a good day wherever you are! Do you have a favourite stubborn character, or one that lightens the mood of your more serious tales?

I Know How He Feels… WIPpet Wednesday

I was thinking of renaming this blog WIPpet Wednesday with Raewyn, mainly because real life obligations have been crazy time-consuming and the WIPpets have been about all I can manage. Saying that I adore the WIPpeteers, and at least I’m still tapping into the writing (it’s alive, but on life-support at the moment). However I have my eyes on next week, when the schedule should settle down, and apart from my sister visiting from Aussie *happy dance*, this blog will be receiving some TLC.

Until then, thank you for bearing with me!

Here is this weeks WIPpet, a sneak peek into my work in progress The Fall of the Kings. In honour of the 8th of May, here are 8 lines from page 8. Let’s just say Josiah is feeling out of sorts.

After Marcus left, I couldn’t concentrate. I tried to go over my speech for the dedication ceremony, but my mind kept wandering and the words swam about on the page, slippery and impossible to hold. 

Simon brought a tray of food, which should have been a welcome distraction. But the smell of the spiced stew, fresh from the kitchen and steaming hot turned my stomach. I picked at a piece of plain bread, but even that seemed to stick in my throat. In the end I left it, and started pacing around the room; rolling my head and stretching my neck in a futile effort to relieve the headache that was rapidly building.

Have you ever felt like that? Sadly, I know the feeling well.

For those who want to meet the other WIPpeteers and check out their WIPs – click on this linky. If you’re feeling brave, join us! We’re a pretty friendly bunch. Just post something out of your own work in progress that has some correlation to the date, 8 words, lines, paragraphs, from chapter 8 etc. Be as creative as you like with the math (we often are). Many thanks again to the super-talented K.L. Schwengel for hosting. If you haven’t checked out her book First of Her Kind, it’s well worth a read!

Have a great week, and to steal Kathi’s term – keep cracking that WIP!

A Little Tenderness? WIPpet Wednesday

Wednesday’s almost flown the coop here in NZ, and all this bashing on about being at the start of the timezone is coming back to bite me today. So before the date ticks over, here’s my WIPpet Wednesday offering and a request for help!

In honour of it being the 1st of May, here is the first paragraph (as it stands) of my current work in progress, The Fall of the Kings. It is told in Josiah’s voice:

Gareth looked at me with such tenderness, I was almost undone.  When he reached across the table and grasped my arm, only the iron discipline forged as Overseer prevented me from breaking down and giving my grief full reign.  Never mind he was the longest serving of the twelve kings of Gaelladorn, and I the Conscience of the Kingdom.  Because of my exalted position no one had as much as patted me on the shoulder since Alyssa died.

Now, if you could see my schedule at the moment you would know I need help on many levels just now. However on the writing side I’ll keep it short and sweet.

When I first started writing Josiah’s story, this paragraph launched me straight into his head. It was the first time I’d ever written in first person, and it appears to be the only way I can write him. Yet as much as I love this character, I’ve had constant feedback that this paragraph makes people immediately assume the POV character is a woman.

Hmm, methinks this is a problem.

Because I’m still a bit precious about this paragraph (I haven’t hit hard edits yet), I tried to get around it by putting Josiah’s name at the start of the paragraph to indicate POV (man, man – but kind of soft lovely man really), and paragraph three alludes to his wife (Alyssa), but I’m really wondering if tenderness is the right word for a couple of old blokes having a moment.

If it were set in NZ, Gareth would just nod sagely and say, “Mate!” in a long slow meaningful drawl…

Is tenderness the problem? Is there a better adjective? A more manly one? I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas or impressions.

A big shout out to my fellow WIPpeteers! We’re very friendly and love company. If you want to join us, just post a section of your Work in Progress that has some correlation to the date (trust me the correlation can be very loose), and click over to this linky to add yourself to the WIPpet crew! Many thanks as always to the lovely K.L. Schwengel for hosting!