From Hook to Book

Standing in Elite Company

Hemingway stood up to writeStanding up to work is a growing trend, though it seems Ernest Hemingway always wrote standing up due to a WW1 war injury. Only he stood at a typewriter balanced on a bookcase according to a 1954 interview with George Plimpton in The Paris Review. “He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.” 

I can’t boast such an exotic foot mat as Hemingway, but I’m really excited to have a brand new standing desk thanks to writer and Facebook buddy Tania McCartney heralding the Varidesk you see pictured below.

Hemingway wasn’t alone. Well he probably was, while he was writing, but it seems that a few other well-known writers stood up to write too i.e. Lewis Carroll, Alexander Nabokov, George Sand and Virginia Woolf. So it seems I’ve joined good company.

Varidesk standing deskLots of medical studies these days are revealing the health benefits of standing up to work too, at least part of the day, including James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic who cites the following benefits:

  1. Reduced Risk of Obesity
  2. Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Other Metabolic Problems
  3. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
  4. Reduced Risk of Cancer
  5. Lower Long-Term Mortality Risk

(You can read more on Levine’s study: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-health-benefits-standing-desks-180950259)

I’d never heard of a standing-desk until I went to work in 2004 for a company run by an innovative and very creative Dane. To me, at first, standing up to work seemed a very tiring idea. But, as I learned through my occasional opportunities to stand up at one or other of the two standing-desks in the office, it’s really good for your concentration, not to mention your back and posture.

I’ve often thought of getting a purpose-built stand-up desk in my own office at home since, but couldn’t justify the expense fearing that my good intentions might tire quicker than my legs.

So, YAY! to Tania because the Varidesk is a very good idea. More a riser than an actual desk as it sits on top of my desk, but it’s really easy to put up and put down so I can stand up or sit down to work at a whim. It even comes with an app to download onto your computer to tell you when to stand up, sit down and even how many calories you’re burning. I don’t quite care how accurate it might be calorie counting-wise, but it’s a great reminder when I’ve been sitting awhile to stand up again.Varidesk timer  calorie counter

I’ve got to say I work best standing up to email, research and even type a blog post, but when serious prose writing I tend to need to sit down. I get so absorbed that I don’t want to strain anything standing too long, since in these early days of adjustment, I’m not quite in tune yet with the whole standing business. I just know that my back is going to thank me long term and hopefully my butt and hips too.

Mainly I’m just aiming to be fitter and thinner, and hopefully live a whole lot longer to write a whole lot more books!

 

 

It takes a village…

Chris Bell SCBWI meeting 2The thing I love about being part of SCBWI (Vic) is the support of fellow creationists who share and care and encourage each other. So standing up to speak in front of a large group of them last Saturday to share my Varuna Fellowship experience was a real pleasure, actually fun, and not at all fearful. Though I do recall that six years ago, as a relative newcomer, I was knock-knee terrified when I stood up in front of a similar group of SCBWI fellows to share my writing journey to that date.

scbwilogoI’m sure that becoming more confident in my writing, and more a part of the SCBWI community over the years since, (including more recently as assistant to SCBWI Vic ARA, Caz Goodwin) helped any likely nerves immensely, not to mention seeing so many familiar faces, and lots of new ones too, in the audience.

Having such a wonderful subject as Varuna meant I had plenty of fuel to speak of, but I always think the best industry talks are those where the audience come away with some little insight or new aspect to explore for themselves beyond the speaker’s experience.

I was fortunate at Varuna to have a chance to chat with CEO Jansis O’Hanlon, who generously shared her insights into the application process and criteria and, from some of the keen scribbling during my talk, I was happy to see that some of Saturday’s meeting attendees seemed to find her nuggets the same gold I did.

Sherryl Clark - SCBWI Member SpeakerMy fellow speakers made the day too: Prolific, award winning author Sherryl Clark speaking about her hybrid/self publishing experience producing an Australian version of her (U.S. published) YA novel Dying to tell me, a fast-paced mystery now on my TO READ pile. And the very delightful Susannah Chambers, Commissioning Editor for Children’s Books, from Allen and Unwin sharing her insights into the U.S. YA publishing scene, research gleaned through her recent Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship.Susannah Chambers - Allen & Unwin

A great afternoon in every way, organised by our lovely ARA Caz Goodwin, topped off by wonderful social chit chat time, aka afternoon tea, and the chance to catch up with both some old and new faces.

Maybe it takes a village to raise a writer too!

 

 

Varuna logo

 

Grateful appreciation to Jansis O’Hanlon, Varuna CEO, for generously sharing her time, insights and advice for SCBWI Vic Varuna applicants. 

 

Writer Envy for Burial Rites *****

Burial-Rites3What’s not to envy when a bestselling debut novel, published in 2013, is printed six times in that same year (as it says on my bookshelf copy). Wow!

I’ve just finished reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and it’s easy to see what all the hype has been about. Kent’s beautifully written, empathetic novel of the last woman executed in Iceland in 1830 is an enviable telling. Based on the true story of convicted murderess Agnes Magnúsdóttir, it re-imagines the last six months of Agnes’s life, housed with an official’s reluctant host family, awaiting her execution.

The early manuscript won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award; the prize included a mentorship with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks (March, Year of Wonders, Caleb’s Crossing). A bidding war followed the book’s completion and secured an international two-book deal for Kent worth more than $1 million. (More writer reasons to envy!)

Kent first heard Magnúsdóttir’s story as a 17-year-old Australian exchange student to Iceland. The initial six-months of her stay were extremely lonely and isolating in a semi-dark, freezing, small community, without a common language, and it is easy to imagine how she would’ve connected with and become haunted by Magnúsdóttir’s story.

Kent’s powerful rendering of weather in the novel had this reader shivering and imagining herself huddled inside the icy Jónsson badstofa along with the family. The seasonal shearing, slaughter and harvest beautifully dramatised the rhythm of the changing seasons and passing of time, creating a palpable tension that it was not the animals alone running out of time.

Autumn has been pushed aside by a wind driving flurries of snow up against the croft, and the air as thin as paper.

Magnúsdóttir’s specific part in the murder was not revealed in the trial accounts or records, leading Kent to re-imagine Agnes’s part in the crime. Kent has said that where research couldn’t uncover certain facts or sources were contradictory, she had to work out what would be the most logical, or likely situation and in doing so she had to walk an “ethical tightrope”.

The portrayal of Agnes’s part in the crime was the one aspect of the novel that troubled this reader. Without giving away any spoilers, my initial response jolted me out of the narrative. However, upon consideration, it was probably the one explanation that could have worked plausibly for the Agnes character Kent created.

There could be no happy ending to what is an undeniably grim tale with a pre-determined fact based conclusion, still I found Kent’s quiet and sympathetic rendering of the ending emotionally satisfying despite the harsh finality.

It was somehow reassuring for me to read too, while researching this post, that Kent’s mentor, Geraldine Brooks, encouraged her to ‘let a bit more light in’, particularly to what Kent says was originally an even grimmer ending, since I tend to lock out the light a bit in my own novels.

Most of us can only dream of the type of success that greeted Kent’s first novel. But, according to interviews, Kent too suffered self-doubt during the writing. She really set out to gain a qualification and didn’t think the novel good enough to be published. She entered a competition and there you go… A fantastic result and book, Hannah Kent, and a wonderful inspiration to all emerging writers coming along the path behind.

Burial Rites Hannah Kent

WINNER OF THE FAW CHRISTINA STEAD AWARD 2013

WINNER OF THE 2014 INDIE AWARDS DEBUT FICTION OF THE YEAR

WINNER OF THE VICTORIAN PREMIER’S LITERARY AWARD PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD 2014

Young Writer Opportunities

Prize Winner - image by www.lumaxart.comThis is a fantastic time of year for young writers with some great comps and exciting opportunities on offer. Click here to check out the details of the many open right now, including The Future Leaders Writing Prize; the Patrick White Indigenous Young Writers Award; the National Young Writers Festival happening in October among multiple others.

All fabulous opportunities to get your writing in front of judges, publishers and selection panels and there’s some not insignificant cash prizes going.

So get those stories and poems in fast for those comps closing soon.

Some tips for success:

  • Follow submission guidelines (exactly)
  • Redraft, redraft, redraft
  • Read your work aloud to pick up jars and jolts and to check for rhythm
  • Vary your sentence structure
  • Be strenuous at spell-checking and proofreading
  • Flick off that fear goblin nagging on your shoulder. If you’ve put in the work – it’s ready. Repeat – flick and submit.

If anyone reading here knows of any writing opportunities or competitions for young writers, not listed on the YWR page, I’d love you to leave me the details in a comment or email me the link. Thnx.

Varuna Inspiration

photo (3)The magic of Varuna is time to think, as much as time to write.

This thinking time, free from outside distractions and interruptions, resolved a niggling missing element  in my manuscript, yesterday, in the simplest, now most obvious way. All I needed was to clear the clutter and noise in my head and remove myself physically from the clamour of everyday life – and there it was waiting for me.

DSC04763Sitting here in my writing space, this morning, gazing out at the trees and sky in the peaceful, blissful, quiet, I am ecstatic to know that I have a whole second week at Varuna ahead. I am blessed and oh, so grateful to be here.

DSC04762So I’ll let the photos from my early morning walk speak Varuna’s inspiration as my head is full of story and words and I’m ready to jump back into that other world.

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A New Friend for Marmalade – Alison Reynolds

Today I welcome international best-selling author, wonderful writer and friend, Alison Reynolds to celebrate the launch of her, and very talented illustrator, Heath McKenzie’s newest picture book A New Friend for Marmalade.

Alison Pith Helmet

A New Friend for Marmalade is the sequel to Alison and Heath’s first collaboration, A Year with Marmalade, which has sold more than a whopping 30,000 copies and is being released in the USA by publisher Simon and Schuster in July. Alison is also the multi-talented, best selling author of the Ranger in Danger, Why I love and Baby Talk series as well as the gorgeous picture book The Littlest Bushranger. 

Hi Alison,

Welcome back to From Hook to Book. Thank you for stopping by on the very first day of your blog tour. Warmest congratulations to both you and Heath on the launch of A New Friend for Marmalade, your gorgeous new Marmalade adventure.

Thanks for the invite, Chris. I love reading From Hook to Book, so very nice to be here.

A Friend for Marmalade_COVER_PB copy

Ella, Maddy and Marmalade are best friends. Then one day everything changes when Toby, the boy from across the road wants to play with them. This gentle story is about accepting people, even when they do things a little differently from you. And it all revolves around a very special little cat named Marmalade.

 

Alison, I’m so in awe of how in A Year with Marmalade you manage to portray the complexity of how we are all different and play differently, yet can play together. Can you explain the thought process or process of elimination it takes for a picture book author to boil down such complexity to a minimum of words that expresses it so simply and beautifully?

I actually wrote this by writing a list of my thoughts about the two friends from A Year with Marmalade, and a new annoying boy  who wants to be friends, but doesn’t understand how to make friends.

I  jotted down random thoughts, for instance Toby, the new boy, annoys the girls so I thought of what he could do to annoy them without meaning to be annoying. I didn’t actually worry about the storyline, but kept writing down images and thinking what if? Eventually, a story emerged. I eliminated a lot of the extraneous words  and ideas that didn’t further the main narrative. There’s usually no room for going off on a tangent in a picture book. I always have to remember that simple is good, especially when you’re dealing with complex issues.

A Friend for Marmalade_Internals_PB_Page_06 copyA New Friend for Marmalade is really as much about the girls’ acceptance of a new friend too. There’s a significant, but subtly shown, change going on when the girls must not only share their space and creative play, but their beloved cat Marmalade too. There’s a lot going on. A lot of tolerance required by the girls for the new boy who clumsily upsets their games and yet still wins over the affection of Marmalade. As the writer, what came first for you the theme or the story?

This book started with the theme. The publisher suggested the sequel be about friendship and accepting other people even when they are different to you. I imagined an exuberant boy, Toby, who wants to be liked and make friends with Ella, Maddy and Marmalade. Astute Marmalade can see that Toby is a good friend, although he is very different from him. It takes the girls a little longer to realise this, but eventually they do. I can imagine how irritating the girls found it that when they were trying to give Toby “the cold shoulder” and Marmalade loved Toby. I really enjoyed writing that strand.

The resolution in the story got me to thinking and wondering: Is it the commonality of the childrens’ shared concern/common goal to rescue Marmalade that unites them in friendship as much as tolerance? Do you think this is a strategy that schools and those working with children might employ to bring together warring factions or isolated children – a common goal or concern?

I think by the resolution, the girls were beginning to soften towards Toby. They had the example of how much Marmalade liked Toby, suggesting that Toby was really a nice person. I do believe that sharing a common goal unites people. And the process of working together allows you to get to know another person better and most times you end up liking them.

I do think a shared concern or common goal can be used to bring together warring factions or isolated children. Often people don’t like somebody they regard as being the “Other” but once they are in a situation to really know them, their feelings can change. I don’t think that children are often given the skills to befriend somebody who is different to them. They can feel awkward and scared of doing the wrong thing and hurting the other person’s feelings. It’s easier in a sense to isolate that person. I can remember being scared of children who were different when I was little. I’m not sure why looking back.  I never bullied anybody, but I probably kept away from children who were perceived as different.  I didn’t know what to do. In this book I’m trying to show that if you accept that not everybody is the same, that can lead to different, special friendships. Toby’s brilliant idea to use the cape not only acts as a solution to Marmalade’s problem drawing the children together, but also provides the children with an excuse to be together and develop a friendship. I always felt they all wanted to be friends, but only Marmalade knew how to make a new friend.

Have you experienced a “Toby” in your life, Alison? If yes, what swung your affection his or her way?

I’ve met a “Toby” or two. Luckily, I’ve developed much better social skills and know to give people “a go”. I think if you look hard enough there’s always something to like in most people. Nobody was born mean, and most people are lovely if you give them the chance.

I should also admit that I based the character on the exuberant character of our beloved Labrador, Toby. He would run through boxes, upset drinks with his wagging tail, and lick our faces if we fell over. He never meant to be a slobbering nuisance. He just wanted to join in.

A Friend for Marmalade_COVER_PB copyA Year with Marmalade_cropped

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alison, I’ve heard a thrilling whisper that Marmalade is taking a trip abroad. Can you tell us about this exciting development?

Yes, A New Friend for Marmalade has already been released in the UK by The Five Mile Press UK and is padding in A Year with Marmalade’s paws by being published by Little Simon (Simon and Schuster US) in July this year. He is a well travelled cat!

A New Friend for Marmalade is published by The Five Mile Press ISBN: 9781743466599

Visit Alison on her website www.alisonreynolds.com.au.

WIN, WIN, WIN! – GREAT WRITER & PET OWNER COMPETITIONS:

As part of Alison’s blog tour she is offering some fantastic prizes in two different competitions. Anyone, any age, can enter her  fantastic PET PHOTO competition and AUTHORS get the fabulous opportunity to JUMP THE PUBLISHER’S SLUSH PILE.

Jump the Slush Pile

Win a free pass to a Children’s editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials CB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free pass to a Non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk.  Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials NF. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win an assessment of Chapter One of a chapter book by the fabulous mentor extraordinaire Dee White. http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/   Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials DW. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free picture book assessment by Alison! Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials PB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Pet Photo contest – for all ages!

Marmalade the cat is full of personality. Do you have a pet with personality? Win a piece of artwork by Heath McKenzie. Send along a photo of your personality-plus pet to www.alisonreynolds.com.aualrey@msn.com.au or upload to https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524

Random book giveaways!

Just leave a comment on one of the posts in the blog tour, comment on facebook or even email me that you want to enter competition to win A New Friend for Marmalade.

FOLLOW ALISON’S BLOG TOUR

11th March Dee White – review and post http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

11th March Chris Bell – interview http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com

12th March Angela Sunde – interview with Heath http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au

12th March KBR – book giveaway http://www.kids-bookreview.com

13th March Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

14th March KBR Guest post http://www.kids-bookreview.com

14th March KBR Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com

14th March Sally Murphy – Meet my book http://aussiereviews.com/reviews/blog

15th March Buzz Words – Interview http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com

17th March Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au

17th March Pass-it-on Post and Review - Jackie Hosking http://jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/school-magazine

18th March Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au

Tagged

Alison Pith HelmetI have been tagged by lovely and prolific writer and friend Alison Reynolds to share my writing process in the “Tagged” blog tour. A bit of a worry since, as a child, I was “Chris of the Scabby Knees”, more likely to fall over than tag anyone. So just as well email is faster than me at tagging.

The Littlest bushranger_FRONT COVERAlison Reynolds is the author of the gorgeous A Year with Marmalade and The Littlest Bushranger picture books as well as the popular Ranger in Danger (choose your own adventure) series. And, “TA DA”, very, very soon a brand new Marmalade adventure. In fact, I’m excited to host Alison – next week – on her whirlwind blog tour to help launch A New Friend for Marmalade.

To find out more about Alison and more of her brilliant books you can visit her website at http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au.

What am I working on?

I am working on a YA historical novel set in convict Tasmania. It’s a bit scary saying that, because really it’s done and time to send it out into the world. That’s the hard part though, because a writer always fears – it might come back.

DSC03909 copyHow does my work differ from others in its genre?

When writing my last two novels, both the main characters’ voices  arrived strong and distinct. I hope this originality of voice will help set them apart from some other historical works. I write very much from story rather than the historical period I’m writing in. Of course, I want the details and history to be correct, but I don’t want to give my reader a history lesson. Detail is soon sacrificed if it ruins the moment or pace.

Rue de Kanga - Peronne copyRooDeKanga 1918 Peronne copyWhy do I write what I write?

These days I write mostly historical fiction because it’s become an absolute passion for me and, as it turns out, it’s what I’ve always loved most to read. Starting with A Little Bush Maid by Mary Grant Bruce, back in the days when I could read all night by torchlight to get to the end of a book or crash to sleep trying. I get so lost in the research, learning about the different ways of doing day-to-day tasks, gutting and skinning rabbits, lighting a fire, dressing and talking, that sometimes I forget to write.

I love that I get to talk to so many interesting people from all over the world too, including an ex-Scottish coal miner, the owner of a French chateau, and an expert on antique weapons, discussing everything from botany to broomsticks, cockatoos to crinolines. Plus I’ve been fortunate to go to some truly amazing places. A lot of the time only in my mind, yes. But my research has taken me to Scotland, down a real coal mine, onto the battlefields and into towns in France still bearing the scars of WW1, and forced me to face some fears stepping nervously through tunnels deep under the city of Arras.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How does my writing process work?

My process varies depending on what I’m writing. For short titles, I tend to plot first and then write out the story. But for my historical novels, I found the settings first and then the main characters arrived. I always knew what the problem/conflict was to start, just not how my character would solve it. With a basic starting point, I wrote to find out how things turned out. Themes and subplots emerged later, through many hours of daydreaming, midnight musing and redrafting, as well as during the writing.

ww1 mortar in wall IMG_1351 copyUntil I really get to know a character, many thousands of words into the writing, I can’t know how they will react to different challenges or what decisions they might make. Sometimes they surprise me and their decisions can lead to a plot twist that I wasn’t planning on. I can write copious notes in notebooks, ideas and scenes, and possible scenarios for the story, yet when I look back, months later, it has all turned out so differently. The character/s I planned in my notebook never turn out the same as the one/s that come to life on the page.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s  thrilling when a new character I hadn’t planned turns up. Shattering when one dies unexpectedly, yet rightly for the story. Sometimes things occur because they’re inevitable and no other way things could have worked out.

Then the editing process begins. Stuff gets chucked out, stuff gets rewritten and stuff gets added. So I guess my process is not systematic, though I’m always in control, even if I do have to wrench it back sometimes from my characters.

Now it’s my turn to tag. I’m out of breath, but have managed to catch up with three wonderful writers and friends.

Liz CorbettElizabeth Jane Corbett is a fellow writing group buddy and beautiful historical fiction writer. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth Jane works as a librarian, teaches Welsh and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com. In her spare time, she also writes copy and reviews for the Historical Novels Review. In 2007, an early draft of her historical novel, Chrysalis, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another story, Silent Night, was also shortlisted for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. She is currently in the final stages of re-drafting her original historical novel. She expects to have it ready for submission by the middle of the year.

clairesaxbyThe multi-talented Claire Saxby is hard to catch. She’s busy, busy with three new picture books in production and the author of the stunning Big Red and gorgeous Sea Dog.  Claire writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry for children. She has published picture books and chapter books, short stories and articles. Her poetry appears in magazines, anthologies, on train walls and in museum resources. Claire lives in Melbourne and loves it, despite what anyone says about the weather.

Claire’s most recent picture books are ‘Meet the ANZACS’ illustrated by Max Berry (Random House), ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ illustrated by Graham Byrne (Walker Books) and ‘Seadog’, illustrated by Tom Jellett (Random House) which won the  Speech Pathology Award for Young Children in 2013. You can learn more about Claire on her website.

KatApel_Bully_B&W_SmLastly I’ve stretched all the way to QLD to tag the beautiful and very talented, Kathryn Apel. I met Kat through Month of Poetry, which she runs and coordinates each year. Kat was born and bred a farm girl – but she’s still scared of cows! Kat lives amongst the gum trees, kangaroos and cattle, on a grazing property in Queensland. Her chapter book, ‘Fencing with Fear’ is part of the Aussie! Read! series, and her rural rhyming picture book, ‘This is the Mud!’ has been read by Justine on ABC PlaySchool. Kat’s verse novel for younger readers, ‘Bully on the Bus’ will be released in July, with UQP. Prior to publication it won the published author’s manuscript section of the 2012 CYA Competition.

Kathryn co-ordinates Month of Poetry each January, and has had poetry published in magazines and on CD in Australia and New Zealand.

You can read more about her work at katswhiskers.wordpress.com

A Room with a View

How great and inspiring has been my view over recent weeks? What writer would curse the happy distraction of sunflower heads nodding and bees puddling in pollen? Whenever I looked up from my desk they made me smile. Sunflowers copy

Every day for a fortnight, new ones to see!

Sunflower view copy

My cheery bird’s eye view. (Okay, there is a zoom lens in play!)

Sunflowers Bees puddling copy

The bees forgot to visit the beans in their thrall. And at times I forgot to write!

Last sunflower copy

Now it’s time to farewell the last solo sunflower and get back to work.

But I am going to plant more next year and, in the meantime, a few colourful distractions to take their place.

Don’t all writers need a room with a view?

(aka reason to procrastinate.)

Authenticity vs Action

Certain indisputable beliefs were planted in the minds of all television-watching children of the fifties and sixties raised on a diet of cowboy and wild west movies. And of course John Wayne.

john-wayne imageSettlers rode horses, carried guns, could shoot an indian off a hillside half-a-mile away and pick off their dinner prey with a single shot.

And that’s what I believed about hunting and shooting in colonial days. But it seems our forebears in Van Diemen’s Land – circa 1830 – were not blessed with the sharp shooters of the American wild west. They could neither afford nor had access to rifles or shotguns, their single option being to purchase the cast-off Brown Bess muskets of the British military. Even the military themselves could not afford to upgrade to the easier loading, more accurate rifled guns.

Muskets proved useless though to hunt wary kangaroos, wallabies and emus. The timid creatures, unused to white man and his weapons, were quite safe from the inaccurate Brown Bess, even if they had been curious enough to stick around and see what the noisy, long, hit and miss sticks were about.

Muskets work best at a range of no more than twenty yards (18.28 metres). Beyond that the hunter would be lucky to hit his target. Too close and there wouldn’t be much left to salvage for the cooking pot.

Settlers, convicts and bushrangers used snares to catch rabbits, which were populous already in Van Diemen’s Land by the 1820s. To go after larger game, they used dogs aka imported hunting hounds. Even the first settlers on the island, the aborigines, quickly converted their own hunting strategies to include the skill and speed of dogs.

tasmanianaboriginesNative herbivores, having lived a previously dogless existence, bar the thylacine who it’s believed went in for a more ambush than pursuit attack, were no match for the speed and power of the dogs. The open grasslands of Van Diemen’s Land provided a perfect environment for the chase and few places to hide.

An interview with Dr Leo Laden (antique gun authority and owner of the Colonial Arms Museum in Perth) provided me with a detailed explanation on loading, firing and the range of the Brown Bess for my novel. Thanks to him, I’m pretty confident I could load a Brown Bess. Hitting a target, I’m not so sure about. But it seems even well trained soldiers were more lucky than reliable at hitting their targets in the Brown Bess era. Dr Laden explained how, to his disappointment, modern day movie reenactments of colonial life and war more often pursue effect rather than authenticity. I’m confident though, with his guidance, that I’ve got my story portrayal right at least.

Don’t you love writing in the days of the internet? Articles, experts, videos only a Google search away. Who have you interviewed lately? I’d love to know what you are researching?

If you’d like to see the Brown Bess in action, click on the youtube video link below.

Every writer needs a hobby

Writers are lucky. We love our work. Well we do when we’re not having to rewrite whole slabs that seemed so promising at first, but fell so flat; or freaking out didn’t I change that bit last week? Have I lost that draft? Aaah! Or suddenly discovering that something we’ve set up cannot work and it’s all about to come crashing down. Eeek! Etc, etc.

We love our story so much that sometimes it’s easy to keep writing, day in and day out, until one day, you realise that you’ve not only forgotten to smell the roses, but they’ve budded up, bloomed and fallen while you’ve not been looking. I think the official term is “lack of balance”.

This year I’m going to try working to more like office hours, take weekends. (Of course flexi-time is included. And maybe even RDOs, since I do the roster.) At least when not working to a deadline or in that heady, urgent “new” story zone that demands you write, right then, to catch all the ideas and characters buzzing in your head.

It’s sort-of hard getting away from writing/work when one’s hobbies are reading and writing poetry though, but, with a new address and larger garden, I’ve discovered a new passion – growing vegies and herbs and all things edible.

DSC04620Growing food is not unlike writing a new story, especially watching it grow from seed. Waiting to see if that tiny kernel will sprout into a seedling. One that will grow and grow and flower and once the prettiness falls away, the fruit remains to develop and mature into something palatable. Something to be enjoyed and satisfy and leave  you recalling it later. (Sorry, that could just be indigestion!)

I’m loving the watering (thinking time), harvest, and the eating of what we are growing. Nearly as much as sending a new manuscript out into the world and seeing a published book come back.

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