Monday, May 22, 2017

Adventures In Beta - Journey To Walhalla Journal Entry 2.

I'm sitting here at my computer on a rainy Adelaide afternoon. My daughter is home sick from school today - her chest sounds like a freight train. It's cold outside and very gray. 

I've just completed the initial editing phase on my manuscript and I have just submitted it to my publisher, Central Avenue Publishing

I kinda, sorta can't believe it! 

In the month or so since I last posted here, I have been furiously working on the manuscript, going through several phases of editing. Part of that process has involved putting together a team of beta readers.  A beta group is something that will be familiar to a lot of writers in the pre publishing phase, but for the general audience, a beta group for a story works the same as a beta version for a piece of software. 

I put the draft out to my group to test the early version and I sought their participation to get their impressions of the story, to offer advice on what works and what doesn't and to discuss the technical aspects of the narrative. The group came through in spades and I took all of their feedback, printed it out and stuck it on my office wall so I could refer to it as I worked my way through the editing process here.

And, to me, they're not just any readers. They are an amazing group of people - my own Story Group, if you will. I want to take a moment to give them a shout out here, because each of them have brought something really to this part of the process. 

Molly Ringle is a Seattle based author and ridiculously brilliant word smith. I have come to regard Molly as my mentor and shadow (me being the shadow). 

Molly has had a fantastic career an author who has routinely explored multiple genres. Her works have explored the paranormal, romance, coming of age and epic fantasy.

Having recently completed a trilogy of novels informed by Greek mythology, Molly is about to release a another genre bending epic with The Goblins of Bellwater which is due for release later this year.

Scottish based Australian author Georgina Penney has been a mainstay of romantic fiction in this country over the past few years with her much loved series of novels set in the gorgeous Margaret River region of Western Australia. 

Georgina has also been a strong supporter of up and coming romance authors and has spoken widely about the genre to writing groups and professional organizations. 

This year saw the release of her latest novel "The Barbershop Girl" which marked the conclusion of a series of books following the Blaine sisters.

Georgina has been a champion of mine. She kindly offered her assistance on my previous novel "The Recipient" and her romantic nous has been invaluable on Walhalla. 

Another of my Central Avenue Publishing stable mates is Minnesota author Abbie Williams whose Shore Leave series of romance novels along with her more recent Civil War epic romance novels have won hearts all over the world as well as significant plaudits from her peers. 

Abbie has been a constant support of both myself and other Central Avenue authors and we've benefited from her astute story telling skills and eye for detail. She's encouraged me to be brave with the editing process. Whenever I have felt unsure about how to proceed (or whether to proceed) Abbie has been there, giving me the nudge towards editorial courage. And I've loved it. 

I've been a fan of Melbourne based author Ashleigh Oldfield for a long time now and she has always been in my corner, encouraging me and offering her perspective on story telling which I have always valued. 

Ashleigh is another author who consistently steps outside of her comfort zone, exploring multiple genres and occupying them handsomely, with rich narratives and bold characterization. 

Ashleigh has been great in identifying little character nuances and encouraging me to explore them deeper. 

Queensland based blogger and reviewer Gem Blackwell has been a dear friend of mine for several years now. We've shared the coal face as paediatric nurses and we've continued our friendship into our respective writing pursuits. 

Gem is a food and health blogger and she has extended herself into longer form writing, undertaking further education in creative writing. Gem is another writer with an astute eye for word economy and I've valued her advice greatly. 

It has been a long and laborious task. Working back through a years worth of material, you come across scenes and story that you may not have looked at for a considerable amount of time and it can be a little jarring. You see all of its warts and imperfections. You see how bloated and full of repetition, over description and riddled with errors it is. It makes you cringe and want to tear it to pieces. Well - it did me.

Somehow, the ingredients were all there, laying underneath the fat and blubber. Gradually, I've uncovered them, cutting away all of the gunk and grunge and, I have to say, it's looking pretty sharp. 

The process is not over and, indeed, the life of this book is not yet assured. But, I am encouraged to be in the place that I am now and free to think a little more clearly before I delve back into more revisions. 

Stay tuned. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

When The End Is Just The Beginning - Journey To Walhalla Entry 1.

It never ceases to feel special to me, whenever I type the words "The End" on a writing project. 

For my latest work in progress, a romantic fiction novel that carries the working title "Walhalla", I reached that milestone yesterday - and I almost couldn't believe it.

I've spent just short of a year working on this one, if you include the time that I spent *not* working on it because of some health challenges, and it was because of those health challenges that this milestone feels all the more sweeter. 

When I lost my voice after I had surgery on my throat and vocal cords, I mistakenly believed that I would actually throw myself into the project during my enforced convalescence at home. In truth, I lost all motivation for writing. My writer's voice had become just as silent as my physical one and there were times when I thought I would abandon "Walhalla" completely. I grew to hate writing and I grew to hate myself because I hated writing. 

What pulled me out of the hole I found myself in?

She... (image credit Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Carrie Fisher's death in December of last year had an impact on me. Apart from the fact that she was my most favorite "bad-ass princess" throughout the now 40 years of Star Wars, Fisher was widely regarded as a brilliant writer and script doctor - able to weave complex narrative tapestries and turn the most parlous of screenplays into something special. And she did all this while waging a none to secret battle with mental illness. In the ensuing obituaries and reflections on her life, I guess I received something akin to a kick in the pants from her. 

Somehow, I clawed my way out of the hole and I recommitted to this story. I realized that I actually loved it. For this is a story that I think will likely be my most personal one.

"Walhalla" is set in a little mountain town in Victoria, Australia - a place I have known and loved my entire life. Steeped in history and the site of one of the biggest gold rushes in 19th century Australia, Walhalla has refused to die - even though it was thought many times that it would. Somehow it has endured and is undergoing something of a renaissance, thanks to a renewed interest in its history and the opportunities afforded to it by tourism. 

For me, Walhalla serves as the setting for what I hope will be an engaging love story between a Doctor who has returned to his home town after the failure of his marriage and a Baker whose tragic past has instilled her with a steely determination to succeed with her nascent business. Walhalla - the story, like the town - is filled with a cast of quirky characters, all of whom are derived from people who have been a fixture in my life and I hope their presence will leap off the page as I develop the story further.

Because, even though I have typed the words "The End" on this first draft - it is really just beginning. 

Editing is a process that I love. It is challenging, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time. Once I have completed my first pass over the manuscript, I'll have a team of people to whom I will pass a second draft onto to get their insights, advice, criticisms and recommendations. I will incorporate all of those into a third draft - and then I'll be at a stage where I hope to submit it to my publisher.

I hope you might like to join me on this journey. I'll keep you updated - not too frequently - about my progress and I'd like to share a little bit of ephemera about the actual town Walhalla and how it has influenced me over all these years. 


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dragons Rising - A Look At Fyrebyrne Island by Ashleigh Oldfield.

Among the small community of independently published authors I've come to know here in Australia in recent years, Melbourne based fantasy scribe Ashleigh Oldfield has stood out to me as an individual of immense talent. Bursting with imagination, enthusiasm and commitment, Ashleigh has worked studiously over the past few years to hone her craft, producing literature across a number of genres that showcase her abilities. I'm proud to say that I have sought out Ashleigh's keen eye on my own books, contributing important ideas to both Gifts of the Peramangk and The Recipient. Now, Ashleigh has achieved that most special of milestones with the arrival of her first major release, Fyrebyrne Island.

Here of course, is the guff first and foremost;

With a thunderous roar it fell from the sky, all gleaming yellow scales, talons the size of broad swords with fanged teeth to match, wings held out from its sides like sails, magnificent and glorious. The time has come for thirteen-year-old Rachaya to embrace her dragon heritage. Not everyone is pleased by her arrival on the dragon sanctuary, Fyrebyrne Island, however, and her mother's enemies may well have become her own. Will Rachaya live long enough to take on the mantle of Queen of the Dragons or will her enemies prevail?

I had the opportunity to beta read an early draft of Fyrebyrne Island and, even its early stages, it was clear that Ashleigh Oldfield had crafted an exciting opening salvo in a projected three book cycle, bristling with a kind of old world literally magic that is essential to the fantasy genre. Central to this coming of age story is 13 year old Rachaya a human girl with trans-formative abilities that conceal a dragon persona - a key trait of most of the cast in Oldfield's meticulously constructed world. Rachaya is plucky, wide eyed and eager to harness the legacy of her kind on the sanctuary island of Fyrebyrne Island but her journey will be tumultuous as she finds herself at the center of an epic struggle that will threaten her future and test her resolve to the extreme.

Featuring vivid characters, sprawling, medieval inspired landscapes and a cinematic narrative that crackles, Fyrebyrne Island: Book 1 promises a thrilling adventure that will keep readers, young and old, on the edge of their seats from the first page to the last.

(image credit: A. de Niese.)

Ashleigh Oldfield is a fantasy fiction and children’s writer from Melbourne, Australia. Always having a love for  the written word, Ash wrote her first stories by moonlight at the tender age of five, long after her parents thought she had gone to bed. To this very day Ash still prefers to write by the light of the moon long after any sensible person has succumbed to sleep. 

When she is not working on her latest piece of fiction, Ash enjoys drinking good coffee, taking her dog for walks on the beach and hanging out with her two cats. In 2012 she took the plunge, quit her day job and has been writing full time ever since.

Fyrebyrne Island is out now. 

Purchase Fyrebyrne Island from The Book Depository.

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