For book lovers on a budget

24h offer. up to 80% off. Great Discounts at The book Depository

For those of you who haven’t heard, the Book Depository is having a 24 hour sale, with up to 80% off selected titles over the 24 hour period. With free shipping worldwide, it should be worth a look.

Click on the banner above for more details about the offers. Or head to their website: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk

~storytelling nomad~

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Potential Energy (via The Bailey Daily)

Enjoying this blog.  The post on how to get yourself writing by lying to yourself is also worth checking out.

Potential Energy “You have a lot of potential.” Anyone ever said that to you?  A lot of my high school teachers told me this.  At the time, it kind of sounded ok, I mean, compared to what other people were saying about me.  Then I got older.  Not all at once, but rather slowly.  And I started to realize that this wasn’t a very helpful comment. I tried to define the comment.  That’s what older people do.  They like to define things, to draw a nice, little mental b … Read More

via The Bailey Daily

 

~storytelling nomad~

My long distance relationship with the Wheel of Time

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 16

Longest book you’ve read

Although it may be argued that this isn’t actually one book, and to be fair, I haven’t *exactly* finished reading it, I still think Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time deserves a mention here.

Jordan began writing the series in 1984, but in a sad twist, as he was working on the final volume, he passed away in 2007 after an almost two year battle with a rare blood disease.  Fortunately for fans, in anticipation of his untimely death Jordan left extensive notes for another author to complete his work should he not be around to finish it himself.  Author Brandon Sanderson was left to complete the final volume, but it was not long before he resolved to split it into three volumes, finding it impossible to fit everything into the one.

I’m still undecided as to how I feel about these books.  The first one took me a while to get into, the second one was good, the third one I sped through in a couple of days and now I’m about half way through the fourth one and haven’t touched it since the beginning of the year, although less by fault of the book than of my own.

So far, I can at the very least acknowledge them as extraordinary works of fantasy fiction, and with (according to Wikipedia) a sub total to date of 13 books, 11,308 pages, 635 chapters and 4,012,859 words (!!), I still cannot get my head around the sheer size of this epic series.

There are a few reasons we’ve had such a rocky affair, the Wheel of Time and I.  I started reading the first book at the beginning of 2010 on high recommendation from my beautiful best friend Mel, who has excellent reading taste.  She raved about them, but when I heard that there were set to be a total of 14 books, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated.  I was just about to start a writing course at uni and my pile of study related books to read was already unnervingly high.  Nonetheless, I read book one.  I found I was reading relatively sluggishly but I was soon enjoying it, and started book two just before I had to stop due to aforementioned mandatory reading.

I am often guilty of reading several books at a time, picking up where I left off when the mood suits me.  Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something familiar, something I’ve read before, something easy, or something epic.  So when I put book two down, I wasn’t too concerned.  Eight months later, uni had finished and I picked it up, only to find that the very things I had enjoyed about the book – the immense detail and plethora of main characters – were the very things that were hindering my desire to continue reading.  Too much time had passed and I found it impossible to pick up where I left off.  There were too many characters and too much information to remember after so long an absence, and it was a genuine effort to try and recall what had happened.

I was reluctant to start again from the beginning, knowing that I had struggled with the first few chapters of book one, and acutely aware that no less than ten more books in the series awaited my attention.  So what to do?

Cheat, of course.

I googled “Wheel of Time plot summary” and found myself a nifty website which gave 1-2 line chapter summaries.  Win.

I was ready to start my Wheel of Time journey once more.  I picked up the pace with book two, and as I said before, I sped through book three very quickly, I was enjoying it so much.

Then a sad thing happened.  Unfortunately, I started reading book four at a time when life decided to throw me some lemons when I really wasn’t in the mood for lemonade.  With my brain 90% occupied with work, money and life woes I found it more than difficult to concentrate on a series that ultimately requires a lot more attention than I had to give.  I put it down when I realised it had taken me several days to read only a couple of pages, and started reading the Secret Garden instead.  Simple, fun, brilliant.  I was in my happy place.

Since then, life has decided to back off with the lemon hurling and I have found that my brain is plenty more available for books requiring a certain degree of concentration.  Unfortunately, I have since procured even more books to read and am not sure where the remaining ten and a half Wheel of Time books will fit into that schedule.  I suspect that with a fourteen book series it is never going to be a convenient time to get into them, but considering the rave reviews, the massive following and the great gratification to be had in being able to say “I’ve read a 14 book series made up of 11,308 pages, 635 chapters and 4,012,859 words,” I think I’m just going to have to suck it up, go the distance and get back into it.

With the help of nifty 1-2 lined chapter summaries of course…

Anyone else completed the WoT endurance test?

~storytelling nomad~

Book that changed your life

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 10

To be honest, no single book has changed my life.

Books (pl.) on the other hand, yes they have changed my life entirely.

~

From my early days reading Roald Dahl and The Famous Five, to my present day addictions to Robin Hobb, J.K. Rowling and Tolkien.  From those that have scared me, bored me, reminded me, moved me – books have granted me inspiration, escapism, magic, language, pleasure, entertainment, love, expression, adventure, community, relaxation, creativity and most importantly, knowledge.

Without books I would be without a primary source of learning, a source that encourages me to discover, to improve, to embrace, to empower and to inspire.

~

Without books I would not be me.

~storytelling nomad~

My love/hate relationship with studying books

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 9

Book that makes you sick

I have thought long and hard about this one.  There are books that make me angry, sad, bad-tempered, even jealous, but sick? No, unless my memory fails me, I cannot recall a book that has ever made me sick.

There is one book, however, that stirs up in me such a range of emotions – envy, awe, happiness, sadness, extreme rage – that usually results in a feeling of mild to moderate nausea.  It used to be a favourite of mine, but unfortunately I decided to use it as one of the primary texts I studied for my Honours thesis.  Two years, several crappy supervisors, and 20,000 words later, I was ready to chuck any book by Umberto Eco, particularly the Name of the Rose, into a bonfire whilst chanting voodoo curses at it and participating in an eerie ceremonial dance to ensure it never arose from the ashes.  I expected my finished thesis to meet a similar fate.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

It’s a mighty shame, this loathing for a book once loved.  Umberto Eco is quite the prodigy, hence why I wanted to write my thesis on him.  Described as an Italian medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, his masterful writing matched with his remarkable intellect is worthy of the highest praise.  He was my college brain crush, party because he is Italian (and boy do I love me some Italians), but mostly due to his creativity, his intelligence and his love for books and the written word.  He has written a number of books on writing, and has some excellent things to say about the future of books in the world of ebooks (which you can read more about in my earlier post about traditional vs new forms of publishing).

But I digress.  What I find a shame, is how often the forced (and even voluntary) intensive study of a favourite text, can often lead to a subsequent hostility towards it.  It happened time and time again in High School, with all the classics that we analysed, scanned, scrutinised and all but tore apart to arrive at the ‘true message’ within the text.  Back then, I couldn’t stand even looking at an Austen.  In bookstores I would see the orange spine of the Penguin classics section and quickly back away in fear.  The name ‘Shakespeare’ sent shivers down my spine.  But why?  Aren’t they classics for a reason?  Aren’t their messages still relevant today?  Isn’t their writing an example of great skill?

Yes.  But back then all I saw when I looked at these books was a collage of the following words:

Theme, essay, motif, essay, overview, essay, citations, essay, plot, essay, symbols, essay.  Oh, did I mention essay?

I loved English class, and to be honest I didn’t really mind writing essays, but it is just a little bit sad that we were given all these amazing books to read and never actually got to just enjoy reading them.  I understand why of course, and I learnt a lot about the aspects behind writing that I need to apply myself now that I’m writing my own book.  But writing my thesis proved to me anew how much damage over analysis can do to the simple pleasure of reading.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to pick apart a book as much as the next person, but those days at school, and the time I spent on my thesis, well, let’s just say there is a fine line between discussing various interpretations of a book, and butchering it into tiny tiny pieces and putting it back together again to form a new argument; a fine line that those study days used to fearlessly toe.

Thankfully, those High School memories have long since faded into the abyss that is my atrocious memory, leaving tortured recollections of essay writing and plot summaries behind, making room to enjoy those texts for the masterpieces that they are.  I now love Austen (see yesterday’s post), get excited when the Penguin classics are on sale and Shakespeare…well okay, I’m still a little shady about him.  Unfortunately the memory of my thesis is still too fresh to allow for such carefree reminiscing of the Eco books I once loved *she sobs in despair*.  I am confident, however, that one day that dissertation will torment me no more, and I will once again embrace the Name of the Rose and all of Eco’s texts as if I were setting my eyes upon them for the very first time.

N.B.  Although I foresee an emotional and happy reunion with the works of Eco, I can safely say that my thesis will remain banished in the furthest pits of hell, where I am sure it wickedly awaits to further torment me on my arrival.

~storytelling nomad~

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 2

Least Favourite Book

You’re kidding right? I have enough trouble remembering my faves, let alone the ones I’d rather not remember at all.  Okay restorative brain power, come to me now.  Go go gadget memory!

In the vague mist of my long term reading memory (that would be, oh say, the last 5 years or so) I do recall reading a book that I thought was pretty good, light enterntainment.  Excitement, joy and happiness ensued at discovering an author who had written other potentially good books to occupy my twilight reading hours.  I sourced out another of her novels and set myself up in sweet anticipation.  But hark? What’s this? The first story told of a woman moving from Australia to Ireland, and this one now tells of a woman moving from Ireland to Australia?  The characters are different but some of the names are the same? Gees woman, in need of new material much? This royally pissed me off.

Honestly, I don’t remember much about the books other than that, and perhaps on re reading I wouldn’t be so harsh.  The author was Monica McInernay, and I think the two books were called Spin the Bottle and Upside Down Inside Out.  I’ve never read anything else of hers since, although that’s not to say nothing else of hers is any good.  Like I said, I enjoyed the first book I read, but didn’t appreciate reading such a similar story with the second.

On a side note, this book challenge business is obviously entirely subjective.  One person’s favourite is another’s least favourite.  I nearly went with Water for Elephants, because although spectacularly written and a moving story, it really was just too sad for me.  I could never bring myself to read it again.  But in fear of grand retribution, I thought it best to go with something a little less mainstream bestseller.

~storytelling nomad~

Ending Short Stories

In correlation to my previous post regarding my frustration with the lack of plot in my novel, I found this post at Foetal Positions very interesting.

When writing a story, I often find that knowing my ending acts as a good guide in navigating what will happen in the middle.  I have always written short stories with an ending in mind, which is partly why I’ve found starting my novel without having a vague outline of the ending so arduous. I think this post brings up some excellent points that can be attributed to any story, short or long, especially regarding ‘theme’.

It isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone stress the importance of a theme in a story. In Jennifer Fallon‘s MasterClass Series, she pointed out the importance of, and how to identify, your theme:

Think about the dreaded question “So… what’s your story about?”

Do you start by saying “Well… it’s set on this world where…”

If you say that, then your world building is taking over the story.

If you start by saying “It’s about a boy (girl, dragon, sentient flu virus, etc) who…”, then your characters are probably driving your story.

Ask me what the Seconds Sons Trilogy is about, and I won’t tell you it’s about a world with two suns, or a boy who sets out to destroy a religion, I will tell you it’s about deciding if the end justifies the means.

That, you see, is my theme.

The theme is what carries the story along and steers characters to their destiny. Whether it be grief, good vs evil, journeys, betrayal, peace and war, coming of age, heroism, or love, a theme is what leaves you at the end of a great story reflecting what you have learnt and thinking about how all the pieces came together to make a point about something.

Check out the full ‘Ending Short Stories’ post below:

it’s a process that leaves me feeling like a camel in a tropical rainforest: confused. I’ve been writing a lot of short stories lately, as a break from “novelling” and writing poetry, though it’s the end of my school year, which means I can barely motivate myself to do anything.  But laziness aside, I struggle to end short stories. It’s not that I drag them out — I fiddle with the ending, the actual words on the page, and the way it closes. Shou … Read More

via foetal positions

~storytelling nomad~

I can’t move…

…my arms, my legs, my back.  Everything aches.  My fingers are even struggling to type these words.  Much editing is proving useful to making sure this post sounds as though it was written by an astute adult rather than a deformed domestic animal stepping on the keys, which, in case you’re wondering, looks more like this:

bjªfsijo¡L7 ^% )@*Ynd uy%!0-2 8ªnsv uhs$dw90la 68§∞2ey7husdG&%#_*

And yet, what a magnificent couple of days spent on the mountain.  Clear blue skies, very little wind, and many happy customers.  I woke this morning to a beautiful snowy mountain sunrise, as you can see;

Ben Lomond Sunrise

For so early in the season we have amazing snow cover at Ben Lomond at the moment, and were extremely lucky that our first open weekend was over a long weekend.  Tomorrow, this hard life (#notreally) continues as I head back up to the mountain for another couple of days at the snow.  I apologise for the brevity of this post, and the reasonable lack of content, but as soon as I can move my bones again with a respectable amount of agility for someone my age, I’ll be sure to make up for it.  If I don’t, punishment by death will ensue.

~storytelling nomad~

It’s never too late…

…to find your voice. I think this post at Terri’s Little Corner is well deserving of being Freshly Pressed.

It Took Me 57 Years Artistic expressionism.  Drive.  Passion.  I get it.  I finally get it after 57 years and 9 months.  And I’m one of the lucky ones.  Many people go their whole lives without getting it.   Many people go through their entire lives in robotic motion, sans emotion, taking up space…wasting precious time.  I don’t want that to be me.  That will not be me! I saw a beautiful human being rendered a crying, hopeless, helpless mess on a reality show this w … Read More

via Terri's Little Corner

Have you been tagged?

The lovely Angela Wallace has just tagged me on her blog in what’s called a meme.  As far as I can gather, it’s like a chain letter for bloggers.  Here we go…

Do you think you’re hot? I have a pretty attractive brain…I can’t prove it to you, but trust me, it’s smokin’.

Upload a picture or wallpaper that you’re using at the moment. I switch between dreamy scenery and fantasy scenes for my desktop wallpaper.

When was the last time you ate chicken meat? Yesterday…home made chicken soup nom nom

What were you thinking as you were doing this? That somebody probably should’ve thought up a better question than “when was the last time you ate chicken meat”.  In fact, I’m going to ask TWO new questions to make up for this travesty:

If you had to make a choice between never being able to read again, or never being able to write again, which would you choose? I think I’d have to go with never writing again.  I found a loophole you see…If I could read and still find inspiration to create stories…then I could just tell them and get someone else to write them.  I’m pretty clever like that.

If you could domesticate any wild animal, what would it be? A lion.  Because they’re like giant dogs, but cats.  If you haven’t heard of Christian the Lion watch this video:

Do you have nicknames? What are they? Not really. Can’t really do much with Katy.  I’ve had someone call me Kitty Kat Katy, while others just don’t understand the whole Katy with a ‘y’ thing as it’s not a common spelling in Australia, so they call me Kathy – no I didn’t forget how to spell my name douchebag, there’s no ‘h’ there for a reason!  One friend calls me Kat-why to emphasise the ‘odd’ spelling of my name.

Tag 8 blogging friends…

  1. Stef
  2. Angela
  3. Kate
  4. Danielle
  5. Charlotte
  6. Gabriellan
  7. Gajjex
  8. Andrew G. Cooper

Who’s listed as No. 1? Stef.  Our inner nannas have proclaimed us kindred spirits!  She also has a great blog over at dodging commas with some excellent writing tips amongst other great reads.

Say something about No. 5. I enjoy reading Charlotte’s posts, particularly what she had to say about females in fantasy.

How did you get to know No. 3? My NaNoWriMo writing buddy! We ‘met’ blogging through WordPress and we’ll be keeping each other motivated when we participate in NaNoWrMo this year.

How about No. 4. Again, through blogging.  Danielle is a 23 year old from Ireland and I love her accent. I’ve never actually heard it, but I love all Irish accents.

Leave a message for No. 6. Very impressed with the quality of your writing at such a young age.

Leave a lovey dovey message for No. 2. Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m sending blog love, right back at you.

Do No. 7 and No. 8 have any similarities? They are both very encouraging and supportive of my blog, and both have impressive blogs of their own.  They are also both male, which I think is worth mentioning, for no other reason than this list is 75% female.

Where did the writing begin?

I believe it all started with being an avid reader.  As soon as I could recognise the letters of the alphabet I was rather enthusiastic about sounding out words wherever I could see them.  My sources tell me that I would sit in the car and gleefully sound out all the words I could see as we drove along.  Just so you know, small things still entertain my small mind.

At the age of 7 I dabbled a bit in the art of telling stories but as you can see it didn’t go quite to plan:

My disappointing start to writing fiction

I didn’t even finish my first sentence.  Sigh.  A flick through this notebook shows that I was thankfully more successful with later attempts. I am, however, happy to see that even at this young age I was not predisposed to telling stories that were all about me, taking a mere four sentences before I got ‘board’ with writing about myself and my day.  Also, my stories may have improved, but I believe my handwriting has unfortunately deteriorated since this time.

So, up until about the age of 10, I concentrated on my love of reading.  I remember during my school years in England having book lists and participating in reading competitions.  I would stay up late and read as many books as I could from the designated lists and ask family members to sponsor my reading challenges.  I should probably note here that I wasn’t quite so enthusiastic about the texts they asked us to read in High School.  Shakespeare vs titles such as “I Want My Potty!” There was no contest really.

Success! Young Writer's Award 1st Place - Age 10

Then 1995 came.  The year my family moved to Australia.  A new country, a new school and what seemed like a new language.  The words that I had loved chanting in the car for all those years, suddenly became a point of interest and cause for light hearted jest to my new young Australian comrades.  “Listen to how she says darrrnce! It’s daaance!” I was already quite shy, but I retreated some more, embarrassed by the accent that coincidentally I now wish I still had.

Nonetheless, the words didn’t disappear just because I no longer spoke them so often.  Instead of speaking them I found great pleasure in writing them.  Within my first few months at that primary school I had won my first writing award.  I believe I wrote a riveting piece on dolphins, with a hand drawn illustration to match (N.B. My artistic career was not so successful).  My career as a writer had begun, and that trophy still sits on my bookshelf with pride of place.  Coincidentally, my new best friend was most displeased by my success, as she had won this particular award the previous year.  As young children sometimes are, she became quite cruel with jealousy and not long after, I transferred to a different school where I was not laughed at for my accent, and made a new best friend who is still my best friend today.  Happy endings all round.

Meanwhile, I continued to pursue my budding career as a writer and just before my 11th birthday became a member of the Starfish Young Writers Club.  Their motto: “The very next starfish star could be you!” I was quite determined to become a starfish star.  Today I found a few things they sent me when I joined.  One being a welcome note from the publisher, and another a poster to put on my wall.  I find that the advice they gave me as an 11 year old, still applies at 25 and probably will for a very long time to come:

Granted, these days the boxes are more along the lines of folders on our computers, and instead of ‘terrible stories’ and ‘great stories’ they’re called ‘absolute crap’ and ‘not so crap’.  But the message remains the same.  Practice and just keep writing.  It all keeps coming back to those relatively straightforward words of wisdom.  The manner in which we write may have changed with the speedy evolution of desktop computers and the internet, mostly to our benefit as writers, but the way we write, the way that we become better writers, is still the same.  Practice.

Over a decade later and here I am, still happily writing away and enjoying the process of telling stories and sharing them with others.

My ‘terrible stories’ box, however, remains quite a bit fuller than my ‘great stories’ box, but as far as I can tell, even the most successful writers have this problem.  As the poster says, “You need to do lots of terrible writing, too.  And in between, you’ll write something great.”

20 ways in which I channel my inner nanna

This is an accurate representation of my inner nanna

I may be in my mid 20s but I’m under the firm belief that deep down I’m channelling my inner nanna.  These are the top 20 reasons why:

  1. Nanna naps – My friends will attest to this one.  If I don’t get at least a solid 7 hours of decent sleep then I will need a nanna nap.  If I don’t get my nanna nap then I usually go very quiet and wear a sour look on my face.  It’s most unbecoming.
  2. Knitting and lawn bowls – Both sound like very reasonable extra curricular activities worth pursuing.
  3. I have many senior moments – Oft mistaken for ‘blonde’ moments.
  4. I would rather spend a night at the theatre than a night at the pub – I’m just cultured that way, you know?
  5. My eyesight – Is pretty bad.
  6. I have an unreasonable fondness for cardigans – [intentionally left blank]
  7. I don’t do fast mode – I don’t exactly dawdle, but I won’t run to the crossing to catch the flashing green man.  Honestly, I don’t think the red man gets enough credit.
  8. I look down on those who use too many acronyms when texting – Shakespeare wouldn’t approve either.
  9. I like receiving actual letters by actual mail – Preferably with a wax seal.
  10. Handwriting – I appreciate good penmanship.  This stems from my Primary School days when I spent much time and effort working towards getting my pen license and refining my cursive.  It was an exciting time in my life.
  11. My memory – My long term memory, heck my short term memory, is pretty unreliable.
  12. I have friends with seniors cards – They’re my entourage, my possy, my crew…my kindred spirits!
  13. I refer to close friends as kindred spirits – see above.
  14. I get nostalgic – A lot.
  15. My vocabulary – I regularly say things like “good grief!” “Oh dear!” and “knickers”
  16. I enjoy classical music – Bach, Tchaikovsky, Mozart.  They knew their shit.
  17. Fashion – I would like to see a return of the top hat.  And the dresses from Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version, naturally.  In fact, send me back in time to Jane Austen’s day and surround me by soldiers in uniform, men in top hats and lots of ladylike activities such as reading and knitting (see point #2) and I will be most content.
  18. Comfort – I take my pillow EVERYWHERE.  This is sometimes awkward and leads to concerned stares, but I’m the one having the last laugh after a terrific night’s sleep.
  19. The Queen – I think she’s pretty hip.
  20. Technology – I have a pretty clued-on inner nanna when it comes to technology, but she comes on quite aggressive when it comes to remote controls.  There are simply far too many buttons on that thing.  See here for further evidence of abuse against the elderly via the remote control.

Overcoming a fear of writers’ groups

Last night, with some trepidation, I attended my very first EVER writers’ group.  I’d say it has been nearly two years since I started flirting with the idea of joining such a group, knowing that deep down it would be greatly beneficial to my writing.  But rather than having high ideas of sipping tea with my pinky in the air, smiling coyly as this fictitious group of intellectuals throw their heads back in laughter at my quick witted genius as a writer, I kept terrorising myself with the following hypothetical scenarios:

a) Enter scene.  Group of teenage emos stare back at me (as best as they can considering the matted down hair that covers the majority of their central and peripheral vision), growl slightly under their breath and shift in their tight jeans before continuing their discussion over their latest compilation of pain induced narcissistic poetry.  I spend the meeting acutely aware of not making any sudden movements in fear I might be stabbed with a black biro.

b) Enter scene.  Group of young hip creatives welcome me to their spiritual endeavour to enhance their writing through intense meditation and prayer.  They smile a lot more than could be considered humanly reasonable and offer only encouragement, love and positive energy to every piece of overindulged prose that enters the room.  My short story on death is less than well received and I am assured by said group that as I read, the room became darker and negativity sparked across the walls.  I sit quietly amidst suspicious stares wondering if I’m a diabolical sinner.  I also frown a lot at the lights, cheeky buggers.

c)  Enter scene.  Group of high end novelists, script writers and multi-published authors look me up and down over the rims of their D&G glasses, before resuming talk over their latest book release parties and the celebrity guests that were rude enough not to rsvp.  They scoff impertinently at my lack of writing credentials and squint their eyes at me when I tell them I have not been paid for anything I’ve had published, as if they distrust me and the low end scum I’ve obviously been associating with.  I go home and burn everything I’ve ever written.

As you can see, I was fairly tormented by these visions.  Essentially it came down to wanting to fit into a group of like minded people.  I wanted feedback on my writing, but only positive feedback when it was warranted.  I wanted constructive criticism, but not so much as to be discouraged to never write again.  And I wanted to benefit from a group of people with more experience than me, but also be able to help those with less experience, and share hardships and success with those at a similar stage in their writing endeavours.

So terrorised and all, I grew some proverbial balls and decided that if I was serious about all this writing business, it was time to stop dipping my toes in the water and just dive in.  So I did.  And boy am I lucky I did.  Last night I met some of the most interesting, intelligent and varied group of people/writers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  As we all introduced ourselves I was inspired by their experiences and their success, their sincerity and their enthusiasm.  Everyone was there for a different reason, but all were there to improve their writing, share their experience and be a part of a group of like minded people.  Jess, Ralph, Fiona, Peter, Marjorie, Josie, Penny, Chris, Liz and Ian, thank you for welcoming me to your group with open arms, for the support you offer each other in your writing aspirations, and for firmly squashing my comical fear of joining a writers’ group.  I can’t wait for the next meeting.

If any one is considering joining a writers group I would recommend just giving it a go.  Some of the larger towns have many to choose from, but you can usually (at least in Australia) track them down by joining your state or local Writers’ Centre.  The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre was where I found this little gem of a group listed, and they also send out a valuable fortnightly ecalendar with the various writing activities, workshops, news, competitions and awards happening across the nation.

Tasmanians aren't so scary after all

~storytelling nomad~

On non-existent plots and an ill-fated writing goal

Day 8 of National Young Writers’ Month and I thought one week in is as good as any for an update.  My 3 goals, as detailed in my earlier post, Go Go Gadget, Write!, were to: Blog every day, join a writers’ group and outline the plot for my novel in preparation for this year’s NaNoWriMo.  Blogging every day: Check.  Join a writers’ group: First meeting tonight – Check.  Outline plot: Big fat FAIL.  I’m struggling something chronic with this goal, and although I’ve made ‘progress’, in a sense, it’s just not turning out how I’d like, which is ultimately discouraging and therefore counter-productive.

My problem is this.  I have an idea.  I think it’s a pretty good idea. I have my character, a special ‘ability’ and a world to create around her.  But I have no plot.  No rising action.  No climax.  No falling action.  No conflict.  I can see my character in this world and the things around her, I know she’s special, but I don’t know what she’s fighting for.  Is this a sign I should give up now? Let it go? Start afresh with something new?

I understand the conventions of a good fantasy – characters going from ordinary to extraordinary, good vs evil, the anti hero, destinies, prophecies, isolation.  And the fantasies I love most are the ones with multi layered plots, a universal theme, an underlying task to achieve as well as smaller tasks to carry the protagonist through, individual character agendas, secrets and surprises.  I love endings, god how I love good endings.  So, naturally, this is what I want my book to read like too.   Did J.K. Rowling, she who ties everything together superbly over a massive seven books, did she work out these things before she began writing or just start with a boy finding out he’s a wizard, and work out the rest as she went?

Perhaps I could just start by writing my character in a scene and see where she takes me.  Or do I need to have some resemblance of the nitty gritty figured out before I dive in?  Do I need to know the evil, need to know my Voldemort before I can start writing?  I’ve read that people will often scrap a large majority of their drafts before they get to the final masterpiece.  Is this the reason why? Because they are fleshing out the story as they go and don’t really know where it will end up when they begin?

These are the questions I ask myself today.  Perhaps they are also questions that I will ask at the writers’ group tonight.  In the meantime, I’m going to sit here and panic, possibly bang my head against the wall a few times, and hope that my good idea will not be stuck inside my head forever without the plot to let it shine.

~storytelling nomad~

Today will henceforth be remembered as the day Robin Hobb sent me an email

Robin Hobb Book Love

See this —> :D Yep, that sideways emoticon, with the beady eyes and unnaturally large mouth indicating extreme happiness.  Well that right there, that is an accurate representation of my face right now.  Why?  Because this morning I had the pleasure of waking to an email from Robin Hobb herself.  Now, I may sound very calm and collected, but inside, not so very far from the surface, I am jumping up and down, kinda like they do in the Toyota ads, shouting out things like “OH EM GEE!” “Life will never be the same again!” “Hallelujah!” “Robin Hobb, you complete me!”.  Or thereabouts.

Now, as much as I’d like to claim that the queen of fantasy herself sourced me out just to say hi because she heard how awesome I am, well, surprising as it may be, this just wasn’t the way of it.  Instead, it transpired as follows.

You might remember a previous post (or two) about my undying love for Robin’s Farseer Trilogy, which I have only recently discovered.  Well, a few days ago I finished the series.  After much consideration, and a few tears, I decided that I didn’t want to monopolise this blog with too much of one thing (no matter how good a thing it is), and so, in the name of keeping things varied, I did not post another blog about how AMAZINGLY AWESOME the trilogy was once I finished it and how DEVASTATED I was when it was over.  You’ll be happy to know two things.  Since then, I have started reading the Tawny Man Trilogy, where the story of the Farseers continues, so no more devastation.  Secondly, by not writing about it then, I feel like fate has allowed me to write about it now, and let’s face it, I’m sure you’d much prefer hearing about my intimate correspondence with Robin Hobb as opposed to simply reading an update of joy every time I finish a page.

In any case, seeing as I felt I could not justifiably express myself on my blog, I instead decided that if possible, I would speak my mind to the source itself, and email Robin Hobb.  Just to be clear, I am not a stalker.  I dabble in a bit of Facestalking every now and then, but stalking of the actual kind, well that’s just rude…and creepy.  So, inexperienced stalker that I am, I had no idea how to go about contacting her majesty, but after a surprisingly short time on Google, I was privy to her email.

I won’t copy and paste the contents of my email, it’s her response that I’m sure you’d rather read, but basically the gist of my correspondence to her was to communicate how brilliant I thought the Farseer Trilogy was.  I told her how I came about reading her books (I was at Supanova, standing in the Isobelle Carmody line waiting to get my Obernewtyn book signed and saw the long, snaking line of Robin Hobb fans and knew that an army of fantasy book lovers never lies!) and told her that I hoped to see her return to Australia soon.  Finally I thanked her for her superb writing and how it had encouraged me to persevere with the writing of my own fantasy novel.  Your average fan email, or so I assume.  And her response?

Dear Katy,

What a wonderful letter to receive! Thank you so much.  (And now you can see why I sit next to Isabelle . . . it’s to steal her readers!  Well, no, not really, but it sounded good.)

Good luck with your fantasy novel.  I will tell you the only trick I know.  Persevere.  Push those keys down every day.  The only way that anyone writes anything is one key stroke at a time.  So when it is dark outside and you are alone with your little lamplight shining out the window, think of all the writers all over the world who are doing the same thing, and keep at it.

Best of luck!

Robin

Ah-maa-zing!  The only thing better than a brilliant writer, is one who will take the time to respond to the fans and even give them a little piece of encouragement and advice.  My heart swells with joy!  So, I’m sorry dear bloggers, but I’m afraid this Robin Hobb infatuation won’t be going away any time soon and I can assure you this won’t be the last you hear of it! *cue further Toyota jumps*

~stoytelling nomad~

Last Night, Death Came

A strange thing happened this morning.  Firstly, I awoke to that horrible feeling that creeps over you after having had a nightmare.  In this nightmare, my friend had died and it felt as if I had spent the entire night grieving her loss, with my mum comforting me.  As tends to happen with dreams, the memories and images of it started fading pretty quickly, but the sick feeling remained.  The second thing that happened, was that I went to tell my mum about my horrible nightmare, but when she saw me, before I could say a word, she said “Katy, I had a horrible nightmare last night that Jack (our dog) died.”  My mum rarely dreams or has nightmares, so needless to say we both thought it was rather creepy that we had both dreamt of death on the same night.

I find that because I read a lot of fantasy books (and quite possibly also due to my over-active imagination), I’m prone to start conjuring supernatural scenarios when this sort of thing happens.  I imagined death as a shadow passing through town inspecting all the houses and plaguing dreams as it stalked the night.  I saw it come right through our house, carefully scrutinising each inhabitant for signs of weakness and frailty, ready to hungrily seize us at the slightest scent of vulnerability.

Having realised that I’ve spent a lot of time lately writing about writing, I thought it might be a good idea to do some actual writing and put my over-active, albeit sinister, imagination to good use.  A short, and pretty rough, poem was the result of this wild, untamed resolution.  I might just add here, that even though this is the second poem I’ve posted on here (the first being Bones of the Wicked), I’m not actually a poetry writer.  I’m not sure what makes a poetry writer, but I’m fairly certain I’m not one.  I rarely read it and more rarely write it.  But alas, a poem is what came to me today and so a poem is what I wrote, so forgive me for that.

Image courtesy of sharenator.com

Last Night, Death Came

The sun set early,
A shadow rose.
Last night, death came,
To seize its foes.

The moon shone dimly.
The air was still.
Last night, death came,
To haunt. To kill.

Our dreams, it haunted,
With screams and cries.
Last night, death came.
I longed to rise.

When morning came,
Death faded fast.
Last night, death came.
Last night, death passed.

~storytelling nomad~

Article published today in Biscuit Magazine – Joy!

So if you’re wondering about the ‘nomad’ part of this blog’s name, then I suggest you check out my article just published in this Australian publication, Biscuit Magazine.  It’s entitled So, where are you from? and it’s on page 10.

Check it out! http://www.biscuitmagazine.com.au/issues/june-2011-issue-availabl/

Sweet name in print joy!

~storytelling nomad~

Scrivener – The Writer’s Tool

So in a further attempt to move the novel along, or more accurately, get it started, I purchased the well reviewed Scrivener program today.  I had heard many good things and after watching a few video tutorials on the Scrivener website and seeing some of the nifty things I could do with it, I was sold.  I was also pleasantly surprised at the $AUD38.04 education price tag … which for any program, not to mention one so highly regarded, is pretty amazing.

Check out the video below to see all the basic fun things Scrivener does.  Obviously I’ve had only a little time to play with it yet, but I especially like the split screen editing tool, being able to have your research all in one program i.e. not having to click on multiple browsers/windows to access all your information, and the ability to create ebooks (check out that video tutorial here), which seems very cool to me.

As a writer’s organisational tool, this program seems invaluable.  I was only today reading an interesting blog discussing the different organisational and methodical approaches writers use when they are drafting their stories, whether it be freestyle or intense plotting.  Either way, I figure it would be more a help than a hindrance with an 80,000+ word novel to have a program that helps organise, streamline and keep everything neatly together.

Most importantly, however, is that so far it’s all been very simple to pick up and use.  There’s nothing worse than a program that offers to clean the car, do the washing and write your story for you, only to discover that the damn thing is so hard to operate that any person with an ordinary sized brain never gets to utilise any of those functions.  Scrivener doesn’t seem at all pretentious in that way, which is good news to my cerebrum.

~storytelling nomad~

“Blackout” writing exercise

This exercise is loads of fun.  As part of National Young Writers’ Month, an email was sent around today to those signed up, encouraging us to get in the writer’s headspace and check out the Friday Writing Workshop: Blackouts! on their blog.  The gist is this:

All you need is a writing device (sharpies work pretty well) and a newspaper, book or something along those lines. Then start circling words or letters you want and crossing out the ones you don’t to make something new and, hopefully, awesome.

Here’s my first attempt, although I’m sure there are opportunities out there to do much, much better – and I know you’re a creative crowd worthy of the task! Anyone care to share their Blackouts?

~storytelling nomad~