As is customary at this time of year, I’ve spent some hours over the past week thinking back over the year that’s almost finished.
And it’s been quite a year.
The highlight was, of course, the dream trip to the USA to visit the settings for my books. It’s been two months since I returned and I still think about it every day. And yes, I want to go back.
I’ve published another two books, Secrets Within and Bombshell, written three books, several short stories, over 60 blog posts, plus other bits of writing (my recent ‘random writing’ equalled one third of a novel). Not a bad effort.
Then there’s the thirty-seven books I’ve read—there’s been one more added to the list since my blog post last week. I also taught myself how to use InDesign (to a degree) and learned more special effects on Photoshop (which included a bit of frustration and the occasional swear word).
I learned how to deal with my personal physical limitations when it comes to actual writing, aka not pushing the dodgy hand so far that it spasms and hurts.
And I’ve had several more story ideas. Still no writer’s block!
What’s on the cards for 2018?
I will publish at least one book, hopefully two. One of the books is the third and final book for the New London books, and I’ll be celebrating that milestone with a launch party/celebration with family and friends. I hope you’ll think about coming along, but more about that later in the year!
My newsletter – Writing Roundup. The first edition of Writing Roundup is currently in the final stages of preparation for launch on this coming Sunday. I’ll be focusing a fair amount of effort on it each month as it will be my main way of giving back to my supporters.
I will write at least two new books. Depends on the hand.
I also want to do some professional development, particularly relating to book cover design. I have a course in mind and it should be fun to play around with techniques and ideas.
I think that’s enough goals to start with. No doubt the year ahead will throw up its own challenges and I’ll deal with those as they arise.
I hope you all have a wonderful New Year and 2018 is kind to you!
I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again—I see ideas and inspiration everywhere.
Take the past week or two, for instance. I’m trying to get things together so I can launch another book (announcement coming soon) and it’s not going my way.
First, I uploaded some files, ordered a hard copy proof, and when it arrived said “Well, that’s not going to work”. Tweaking and uploading of new files happened, and then the electronic proof had the page numbers off line. “Hmm,” says I. “That won’t work either.” More tweaking, another upload, and lo and behold—the page numbers hadn’t moved! Checked my file, checked the proof. Then followed a politely worded email along the lines of “Can you check that you used the latest file?”
Response arrived along the lines of “I’ve moved it to review and we’ll check the correct file is being used. Come back in 24-48hrs.”
Sound reasonable? I guess so. Or not. I’ve had reviews completed in two hours, but it’s a busy time of year. And I have a date looming…and what if there’s a bigger issue that will take longer to fix?
Then my writer’s brain kicked in.
Imagine a writer who has worked long and hard on their book only to be frustrated by delays. They take matters into their own hands…. Okay, not me. Seriously, I won’t be doing more than waiting and checking my email.
But I bet I could make it work.
Make a note of that...
This short talk is incredibly powerful.
Ric Elias was on Flight 1549 when it landed on the Hudson River, and this is what he learned.
What would you change?
I know I’ve talked about writing with passion on previous occasions, but I want to revisit it this week.
There’s been a recurring theme with my Facebook writing communities these past few days, and in a few other articles I’ve read—a writer needs to write with passion.
Conventional writing advice says to write what you know. I don’t always agree with that, and I’ve said so, but I’ve realised I do follow it because what I know is my passion for certain things, places, and people. When you’re passionate about something you tend to want to know more about it and you learn all you can. It doesn’t mean you know everything or always have, it means you feel it.
And what better to focus my writing on than something I feel passionate about?
I’ve always known that I write about law enforcement and the military because of my past life in the Army Reserve and Air Force. My recent visits to the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery reinforced that. Dramatically. I felt passionate about both places. It spoke to something deep inside that I hadn’t realised still existed. It reminded me of the community, the family of the defence force that bound me to my fellow service personnel. Nostalgia? Possibly. Whatever it was, I felt it.
I’ve started what I currently refer to a random writing—writing with no real purpose other than to let out the story growing in my mind. I have no intention of publishing it or letting anyone else read it. The story is of course, based around what I feel passionate about, and that’s what I know. I feel this story, and with that comes freedom and inspiration. I loving it, and who knows what come from the release of my creative juices!
I never liked the rule, write what you know, because to me writing rules restrict my writing. It’s not turned out that way. My stories have all been about what I know, and they've all come from my imagination and my emotions. Maybe I’m not the rule breaker I thought I was!
I have a Word document that sits on my desktop. I don’t open it often, but it is a working document I add to when necessary. The document’s title is ‘Dilemma Journal’ and I use it whenever I need to mull over a problem or dilemma. It’s a great way for me to put out all the arguments for and against, to express my tangled thoughts and come to a decision—hopefully!
I have a dilemma that has been coming and going in my mind for several months now. You all know I love writing, but I never seem to have enough time to do it. By that I mean I will write the first draft of a story, but then I have to stop to edit, edit, edit, and then get it ready for publication. The whole process of publication usually takes me anywhere up to six months, and while I don’t devote all of my time to that and I do write, it’s a time consuming task. That takes me away from writing.
You see what I mean by a dilemma?
I could just forget about publishing. It’s not an option I want to follow, and one I won’t follow. There are people out there who want to read more of my stories and I won’t let them down. These people inspire me to keep writing and keep producing, they lift me when I’m down, and without their encouragement I wouldn’t be as productive as I am. Of course it would be a lot easier if the editing fairies came to visit and I didn’t have to do it myself, but that’s not going to happen.
So what’s the solution? Well, once I’d untangled my thoughts I realised I find it harder to write during the depths of winter. Strange, really. You’d think the darkest months would be a perfect time to spend inside, writing. But no, I have to be illogical. I like writing when the sun is out, when there is light outside. I could make myself write during winter—and I’ve done that—but it’s not as enjoyable. Besides, if I still have to edit then surely its better done in winter—which is the conclusion I’ve reached.
What this means is there will be a change in publication pattern. I have a book almost ready for release so that will be published as I originally planned (hopefully before Christmas). While I pull that together, I will start writing another book and I will keep writing over summer. When the days get shorter, I’ll get out the next manuscript or two and start with editing them. I hope by doing this I will find the dark months more productive. Those books will then be released at a later date. In effect, next year I’ll probably only release one new book (towards the end), but I’ll have to see how it goes.
In the end, if I don’t write when I want to write, then I’ll have nothing to release anyway. All I can do is try it and see how it goes.
As always, thank you for your support.
The big trip to the USA has been and gone. I was constantly awed by the places we visited, and that was increased ten-fold for the writing related stops. To walk the streets my characters had, to engage my senses the way they would, was an experience I can’t find words to describe. It was almost sad, as if they had been there and I had missed seeing them by a matter of days. Strange, especially when you consider they are works of fiction!
The bridge dominated the area, the magnificent structure spanning the Thames River between New London and Groton. Like all large pieces of engineering, I found it fascinating and beautiful. The river itself opened out in a similar way to the Derwent River here in Hobart and I found a lovely familiarity in that, as though the two places were somehow related. Seeing places that were so familiar to me was satisfying – I didn’t need to be told what certain structures or places were, or where they lay in relation to each other. The streets of New London were a little different to what I expected, but the feeling was right.
The submarine museum – wow! The website states that it takes one to one and a half hours to see it, but we were there for almost three hours! The displays, both hands on and other, were fascinating. I particularly loved the periscopes that went out through the roof of the museum. You could look into them like a real submariner and scan the surrounding area! The tour of the submarine, the USS Nautilus (the first nuclear powered sub) was excellent. They had the areas set up with mannequins so you could get a true idea as to how cramped the spaces were. All in all, a place worth visiting.
New London will also live in our memories as having the best taxi drivers – friendly, chatty, informative, and all round nice guys.
I feel no compulsion to revisit New London. Knowing I have written the first draft of the third book is probably behind that feeling. I wanted to visit the place, to see where my story is set, but having done so I was ready to move on and not return. I guess it was as though I was content to let my characters live their lives without any more scrutiny on my part. A weird feeling, but it’s a kind of closure for me.
It was strange to visit somewhere I’ve never been before, but be instantly comfortable because I knew it so well. Arriving was emotional. We flew in over the city and I saw the memorials from the airplane window. Leaving was just as hard, but I was ready to go on to the next stop of the holiday. I will return there one day, and knowing that made the leaving a little easier. We barely scraped the surface of all there is to see in that wonderful city.
The hardest thing about visiting DC was allowing time to sit and absorb it. There is so much to do and we had so many things we wanted to see that sometimes I had to force myself to slow down and take a long look around. The White Rose series still has books to be written, so it was as much a research trip as an affirmation (like New London). The experience of seeing the FBI headquarters building (which window would have been Warren’s?) was one of the most incredible moments of my life. I’d dreamed about it for so long, and I have fulfilled that dream. Our hotel in Crystal City, where my main characters live, was another satisfying experience. We spent some time walking around the streets and it was so perfectly right for the character’s home.
It was everything I could have hoped for, and more.
DC gave me so much more than just that. We were fortunate enough to be allowed to tour the Pentagon and we drew double luck with our guide. Jesse is a sergeant in the US Army and I can’t speak highly enough of his knowledge and his willingness to share elements of his overseas military experience. We followed the tour with a visit to Arlington Cemetery, a profoundly moving place. Jesse belonged to the same Regiment as the Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and he gave us a lot of background on their training, expectations, and dedication. There were twenty-nine funerals at the cemetery the day we visited. Twenty-nine. We heard the sound of the gun salutes several times while we were there – a sobering experience. I felt a deep sense of connectedness with both of the places we visited that day. It’s been a long time since I left the RAAF, but I felt the strength of purpose, the commitment to country, the preparedness to make sacrifices, of those around me. A reminder of my own choice to serve and the reason why my writing revolves around law enforcement and military. A kindred spirit. It was an honour to be there, and I will never forget it.
Where to from here?
There are more stories to be written, memories to be sifted, ideas to write down (before they escape!), and the real world to be embraced again.
I made a dream come true. Not a bad feeling.
And my character’s world is now real to me and lives in my memory, not just my imagination.
(More images at the end)
Washington DC. I’ve wanted to come here for so long, and here I am. Another dream come true.
I’m typing this sitting in the café in our hotel, located in Crystal City – specifically chosen as this is the area my characters for the White Rose series live. It’s nice to know I’ve placed them in a location that suits them, ie, a place where people like them would live. I can picture them here, and it’s a satisfying feeling – not to mention giving me ample opportunity to do research into the area for future stories.
As I’ve said in Facebook posts over the past few days, DC feels comfortable to me. I know it’s because I’ve spent so much time researching the area and writing about it, and its yet another affirmation for me. We’ve played the tourist, but with an eye on my writing – we’ve walked streets my characters have walked, eaten at restaurants that have/will figure in my writing, and I’ve tried to absorb as much of it as I can.
Writing ‘items’ ticked off:
J Edgar Hoover building, aka FBI Headquarters
This was the number one item on my ‘must do’ list. I had to see where Warren worked, and hubby and I had lunch in a little bakery café across the road from the main entrance (by accident, honestly!). I had a real opportunity to watch people go in and out of the building and the amount of security they used. I didn’t make detailed notes or anything like that - I’m not silly - but it gave me a real world view of the everyday life around the FBI HQ. Oh, and it gave me the chance to have my photo taken with a copy of Roses outside!
Old Ebbitt Grill
I send Beth and Warren to this restaurant for dinner early on in the next White Rose book and I really wanted to have a meal there. Another thing that didn’t disappoint! The place was gorgeous, just the kind of restaurant I could picture my characters eating at. We walked from the area of the FBI headquarters to the restaurant – perhaps a walk that Warren does to meet Beth for dinner.
The National Mall
On our first day in DC we walked part of the Mall. It’s a place that is used day and night by the people in the area and again I had no trouble imagining Beth and Warren strolling along under the trees. The Mall was in a part of their story that got cut from the first version of Roses, but it will make an appearance in the future.
In particular, the FBI exhibition. It was interesting to look at the displays they had there and read about the work of the FBI. I may have bought a few FBI items from the Newseum store while we were there…
There are three places on my list to go. The first is the National Arboretum, and in particular, Fern Valley. Readers of Roses may remember this is where Beth and Warren had their wedding. Hubby and I are also going to revisit the WWII Memorial on the Mall, which also plays a role in the next White Rose book. We have done a ‘Monuments by Night’ tour (fantastic, even if it was drizzling most of the way), so we briefly saw it lit up at night, but I want a better look. The other thing I plan to do is spend part of a day exploring the Crystal City area. I want to see the shops, the parks, the streets, and take loads of photos.
Non-writing stuff that might become writing stuff one day..
We did a tour of the Pentagon this morning. Wow! No, I’m not planning to write a story based in or around the Pentagon, but our tour guide gave us lots of information about the history of the Pentagon and a feel for the US military. We also saw where the plane hit on 9/11 – not that there is any sign of it. When it was rebuilt there was a deliberate decision not to leave any scar or mark on the building. I love the defiance of that! This afternoon was Arlington Cemetery. The morning’s tour guide had told us about the Sentinel Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and it was a real privilege to see them in action. Away from the crowds (so many people!), the cemetery was a solemn and beautiful place. The sound of gun salutes echoing several times while we were there reminded us it is a working cemetery. There were 29 funerals held at Arlington today – a sobering thought. The cemetery gave me lots of inspiration and that and the Pentagon tour really brought back the feeling of my time in the Defence Force. An amazing day, all up.
Yesterday, as we sat opposite the FBI having lunch, we witnessed a cavalcade going through the city. First was a police officer on a bike, sirens and lights going, stopping all the traffic. Next came three coaches, with a police car weaving in and around them. The whole street came to a standstill as the cavalcade zoomed past – they weren’t going slowly! Fascinating, and more information stored away for possible future use!
I’ve loved every second of this amazing city so far. Okay, not every second. It was a little scary going into the Pentagon this morning, but once past the various security measures, and given a little time in the waiting area to relax, I started loving it! I can’t begin to express how I feel, seeing the places I’ve written about and channelling my characters to envision them here. It’s been a truly remarkable experience, and it’s not over yet!
Yep, more tears. I always knew it would be an emotional trip.
The Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival was everything I hoped it would be, and nothing like I expected it to be.
The two master classes I attended were worth every cent. The fiction writing one reinforced many things I knew, and showed me lots of things I didn’t. Or should I say it showed me things I knew, but hadn’t acknowledged I knew—those vague snippets of information that sit in the subconscious and act without me realising. It’s good to have the out in the open, so to speak.
The travel writing class. Wow. Just wow. The class was taught by Tim Cope, who had spent two and a half years riding across Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to the Danube. He gave a small grabs of the story as he explained how his editor helped him to shape his writing and give it focus and theme. I was impressed how Tim gave credit where it was due, sharing his (often harsh) critiques with us to help us grow in our writing. He never once implied writing beautifully had come naturally to him, and freely acknowledged the work of his editor in teaching him the craft. I now have so many ideas for my upcoming trip to the States. I can visualise a companion book to my two series; a story of discovering the places that are familiar to me because of my writing, and connecting my travel to the stories in my books.
One the real highlights was meeting Tigon, Tim Cope’s dog. He was given to Tim in Kazakhstan, and travels Australia with Tim whenever possible. Tigon slept for the first part of the class, and then woke so he could make the rounds of all the attendees, collecting pats and back scratches.
Probably the biggest thing I learned from the whole festival is to seize opportunities when they come along. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not big on doing writing classes, but if I hadn’t gone to the ones I did, I would have missed so much.
The main thing about writing is…writing. Sitting your butt down in the chair and doing the work. – Ben Fountain
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. – Louis L’Amour
This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It’s that easy, and that hard. – Neil Gaiman
Wouldn’t it be nice if all a writer had to do was wait for inspiration to strike and then write. It sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
I’ll tell you a secret—it rarely happens that way.
The only book I really experienced that sensation with was Roses. Why? Because I spent so long developing the story in my head that for the most part it was easy to get out. It was all there, ready and waiting. But not all of it was like that, and I’ve learned (kicking and screaming in rebellion at times) that a story rarely appears by magic. As the quotes above say, the only way to get a project written is to write it. And that often means writing when inspiration is missing.
Here’s the good bit though. I can sit down and stare at the screen, not knowing what comes next, and when I write something—anything—then clarity comes and it all flows. I often say my characters show me what needs to happen, but in reality the simple act of typing words will let my instincts and imagination work together to produce the story.
But it won’t happen unless I start the work. Which is where the sitting my butt down and making myself type comes in. It’s sometimes hard to force myself to do it, and there have been many times in the past where I’ve failed. However, I’ve recently made myself write every day—a minimum of 500 words—and it genuinely helps. I even allow myself to stop in the middle of a scene, so long as I’ve hit the 500. The story is slowly coming out, but that’s not the best part.
The best part is it’s getting easier and easier to do. I now have the faith in myself that if it sit down at my computer, the words WILL come. And there’s nothing better than the joy it brings me.
There’s been a bit happening in my writing world at the moment so I thought I'd fill you in.
The next book for release has been critiqued by my beta readers and is now with my editor. The image for the cover has been chosen, the blurb has been drafted, and I’m hoping to be able to announce a release date soon!
It’s now only two months until the big trip! So many of the destinations are wrapped up in my stories that it will be an emotional time, and an exciting one. I plan to post on my blog while I’m away, and there will be heaps of story-related photos too. I’ll be putting an itinerary of the book related places I’ll be visiting up on my blog before I leave.
Work on a new book is progressing sporadically. It’s frustrating – I get a load of words down and then something happens (like getting a head cold) that stops me from being productive. It is coming along though – I’m about a third the way through writing it. I’m loving taking my characters through an adventure. Some of them are showing me new things about themselves, and some are pushing their way forward for more attention. It’s a wonderful process and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
While I’m working on that story, I’ve also started planning the first book of a new series. At the moment I think there will be three books in total. Early days yet. I hope to start writing the first book over Christmas. That’s always assuming I don’t choose to do one of the many others I want to write. So many ideas!
That’s it for now. Don’t forget – if you want to hear the big announcements before anyone else, sign up to get them delivered to your email.
What's it about?
My thoughts on writing, the research I do, and what interests and inspires me as a writer.
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