Synopsis Writing for Your Novel – Advice from Senior Editor

Synopsis

The agony of writing a synopsis!  For writers who find it hard to chop their synopsis down to size, this video from Nicola, senior editor of HarperCollins Publishers, steps us through a seamless 500 word synopsis.  It will grab that attention your manuscript deserves.  And, yes, a synopsis does include plot spoilers.

First Page

Read why the first page of a manuscript is so important.  Anna Valdinger, HarperCollins commercial fiction publisher knows – she reads a tonne of submissions every year.
Click Importance of Manuscript First Page

The Banjo Prize

HarperCollins is Australia’s oldest publisher and The Banjo Prize is named after Banjo Paterson, Australia’s first bestselling author and poet.  His first collection of poems The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses was published in 1895.  Who’s up for 2019?

The Banjo Prize is annual and open to all Australian writers of fiction, offering the chance to win a publishing contract with HarperCollins and an advance of AU$15,000.  Submit entries via HarperCollins website.  Entries opened 25 March 2019 and close 5pm AEST on Friday 24 May 2019.  Good luck!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward 


✏  Give it a go!

Art of Camel Hair Shearing

Check out these camel hairstyles!  Proud cameleers display their abilities in various competitions from camel racing to designer shearing.  Love those patterns!  Camels are versatile, thriving in harsh desert conditions similar to the Australian outback.  Since visiting a local camel dairy farm, I read the blog of Dr Raziq of Communities Animal Genetic Resources and Food Security to discover more about the biodiversity of original camel country.  And beautiful camel hair designs.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Camel Haircuts Designer Shearing

Communities' Animal Genetic Resources and Food Security

The region of the Indo-Pak is rich with camel culture. Camel is an integral part of the heritage of the camel keepers’ communities in the region. As a source of livelihood, a camel is also a tool of recreation and entertainment also. This picture is about the haircut competition of great Thar desert. One can see the artistic theme of the designer/hair cutter.

The barbers make different designs according to the desire of the camel keepers/owners. Such designs are made by art loving, son of the soil, and very specialized barbers. The barbers are well known and have very busy days in the season. The season of the design is usually the cooler months of the year as the camel sheds his wool in the hotter months of the year. The complete design of a camel takes 2 to 5 hours, based on the size of the camel and the design of the…

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A Dragon Delivered My Parcel

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I was waiting for the delivery of a book written by UK author Maria Donovan.  The title and synopsis of ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ hint at a delicious yet deadly coming-of-age mystery.

There was scratching at the front door and our well-trained pet dragon stood there with a grin on his face.  He had collected the parcel from the letterbox in anticipation of a treat.  I patted him on the head and said ‘Good boy’ then picked up the parcel.  He whined.  I laughed.  ‘Okay, I’ll get a couple of nuts’.

Inside the door, I placed the parcel on the sideboard.  Underneath was an old rusty toolkit containing old rusty bits and pieces.  I selected a couple of flange nuts and one bolt, gave them a squirt with WD40, and went back outside.

Part of the game was a quick toss-and-gulp and if you weren’t ready you’d miss it.  I closed the front door on the slobbering noises and went to find a pair of scissors.  The Booktopia cardboard was tough but I wrested it open.

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And there was the pristine book I had so eagerly awaited!  At the moment, I’ve only read up to Page 20 so I am sorry to disappoint you but my book review will be in another blog post further down the track.  As my auntie used to say ‘Keep you in suspenders.’

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Blogosphere Ebb and Flow

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Tropical lagoon and green algae swirls at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019

The swirls and ripples of the blogosphere will let your post resurface any number of times to an ever-widening pool of readers.

Never underestimate the infinite lifespan of a blog post.

Your post may not make a big splash the first time, nor days later, but it has the potential to be viewed many times into the future.

I know, because I have certain posts which haunt me.  In the nicest possible way, of course, but it is still rather disconcerting when an old post gets a sudden flurry of views.  It’s like they tread water waiting to bob up.

The reason behind my floating posts remains unclear to me.

Where, or why, my original blog story becomes resuscitated could be caused by any number of factors from reblogging to tweeting or—

  1.  linked on someone’s page
  2.  kindly mentioned in a comment
  3.  family members on Facebook
  4.  topic of interest and my tags swum into view
  5.  tumbled into the lake of eternal blogs…

I’m sure the tech pond at WordPress is teeming with answers but that’s too factual for me, I prefer the serendipitous, the happenstance of it all.

Overall, I am always pleased and still thrill to see those stats wade across the WordPress map!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Tropical lagoon ebb and flow of green algae at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019

Why Writers Write

Is acknowledgement a cherished goal?
Is reimbursement the final accolade?
Or will a writer write regardless?

On a writer’s wishlist, there would have to be the thrill of seeing their name in print.  My name under a bold heading on a hardback cover would show that I’ve made it.  Throw in a display stand, a book launch with signing table, coffee and cupcakes, and I would be in literary heaven.  No doubt hell would follow with the necessary writing of a sequel…

Recently a member of my writers group asked the question “Why do you write?” which seemed innocuous enough but there were vastly different answers—-see below.

My earnest reply went something like “Because I think in words hence the title of my blog.  Most things I experience can become a potential story.”  I am always mapping out first lines, or an introductory paragraph, or setting the scene.  This, however, does not mean I will be traditionally published.  I just keep doing it.

I believe a writer’s inner core is made of words and emotions which must be written down.

If I’m undertaking a complex household chore like chopping carrots, I may not jot down a sudden literary gem, but, no matter, I will find myself composing another while out grocery shopping.

For example “See that bloke over there, he’s uncomfortable and he’s trying to get up the nerve to...”

(1) ask the sales assistant out (2) steal that expensive car polish (3) abandon his trolley at the checkout (4) inquire about a job (5) hide behind the refrigerated cabinet to avoid his mother/parole officer/ex-boss or chatty neighbour.

See, I can’t help it!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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“All I Need To Write” by Grant Snider – A room with a view, No other work to do, A child-proof lock, A ticking clock, Natural light, A chair that fits just right, New paper and pens, Some animal friends, The right phase of the moon, Ambient tunes, A world of my creation, Or internal motivation – http://www.incidentalcomics.com/


GENUINE RESPONSES FROM 31 WRITERS WHEN ASKED THE QUESTION

“WHY DO YOU WRITE?”

A form of self-expression, the joy of crafting something meaningful.

I write because I can’t imagine my life without writing in it.

I started writing because I wanted to explore my creative side.

Because I can’t dance.

Mostly it’s because I have loads of inspiration and story ideas and I need to write them to get them out of my head!

It sets my soul free and my heart on fire….storytelling is an inextricable part of who I am.

I write because I want to.

I write because ideas, images and words come to me and they seem important to share.

I can’t help it, stories bubble and whirl around in my head all the time.

So I can draw the pictures, to be honest I find writing really tedious – I just want to illustrate.

I do not know why. It just is. And sometimes or often, it isn’t.

Because I like making people laugh and feel other feelings.

I’ve always imagined myself writing one day, but now that I’m finally trying to make it actually happen I’m finding it a lot harder than I expected.

If it’s any help, writing for me is mostly agony.

Starting is great fun…I love cracking the problems.

Because I know how it feels to not create.

Writing is, for me, a personal freedom.

Because I like making things.

Because I think in words, the title of my blog is Thoughts Become Words.

For me it is almost a subconscious act that I’m completely driven to do.

Because I have to, it’s not a want or a need, it’s an in-the-bones thing.

Writing is always there with me, sometimes we’re best of friends, often we’re not.

Cos I have to! I do my best to avoid it, I really do.

Can’t help it.

To put something wonderful out into the world.

It does get easier especially when you get a download in your head.

I think it’s a wonderful form of escapism.

It’s part of me.

At the moment I’d say that writing is a kind of masochism for me.

I love writing and hate it in equal measure.

Because it’s fun and because I find it impossible not to.


Pen Paper Clipart Boy Holding Pencil

EAGER FOR MORE LITERARY INSIGHTS?
Frank McKinley, author and writing coach, also raised the question—-
https://www.frankmckinleyauthor.com/54-writers-love-writing/

Blogging Pleasure and Pain

I’m reading blog posts which say ‘Posting has become a chore’ or ‘It’s hard to post regularly’ or ‘Feeling the pressure to post’—-stop right there!

Take a break, the earth, the sky and the stars will still be there, the world will still turn.

Conversely there are serious blog posts coercing, er, cajoling the writer into a formula.  Or worse, a winning formula to be the best blogger in the blogosphere.

There’s even a blog ideas generator, how unoriginal can you get!

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

Does a technique overcome bloggers block?  Better blogging supposedly comes with strategies, structure, schedules, regularity, planning…bah, humbug I say!  There’s probably enough pressure in your world without adding more via your blog.  If anything, blogging should be

a freedom,

a release from the daily grind,

your little patch of calmness,

a zone of personal creativity,

a focus on what you want,

how you want to say it,

and most of all, don’t worry,

let your originality take over.

The old hippie saying ‘go with the flow’ is appropriate when doing morning pages and you may like writing in the morning or writing in the evening.  Don’t push yourself to write to someone else’s rule, someone else’s timetable.  Free-writing is better than no writing.  You can actually write anywhere, anytime, and I don’t mean social media.

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Self-control up to a point.
Yeah, I know people who have to have a hammer hanging over their heads on a piece of string.  If they stand up, the hammer hits them on the head, they sit back down and do another 500 words of pain.  One famous writer actually tied his body to the chair to write.
Then there’s that annual trial by acronym.
Which does not spell  g-o-o-d  w-o-r-k  to me.

Do you really want a target audience?  Do you personally know anyone who is making a decent living from blogging?  They’re the ones in the pressure cooker.  If you are not commercially selling, I say ‘Do your own thing!’ and that’s exciting.

I speak from experience.  You will find your own rhythm if you truly want to write.  And nobody, least of all me, will help you or hinder you.  You’re on your own, kid.

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

‘Work hard to create great content’ if it’s too hard it won’t work.

‘Blog often while controlling quality’we all know quality varies.

‘Find your competition and observe them’nothing worse than a lurker.

‘Write to please your readers’first ask yourself ‘Am I pleased with it?’

‘Improve your blog writing formula’your creativity is not a prescription.

‘What is your target market searching for?’don’t pander to the people.

‘What type of content do readers prefer?’write your content and let them Follow.

‘Start internal link building’in other words Liking but not liking.

‘You need to know the right audience for you’ other bloggers will work that out.

‘Make your blog post titles catchy’why get hung up on headings.

‘Don’t have time to write then reblog or hire a ghost-writer’ha ha ha ha ha.

‘Images are important to highlight your post’keep them relevant, naturally.

Good eye-appeal in formats and layouts’beauty is in the eye of the blogger.

‘Learn basic SEO’because it’s basic but not life threatening.

‘Reply to Comments daily’meaning a proper reply or else deactivate Comments.

‘Bill Gates once said Content Is King’well, hey, that’s a given.

‘Keep wordcount down’there are people who can still read lots of words.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

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A refreshing nap or agony for hours…

Let’s Have Lunch Up Mt Coot-tha

It’s a sunny, springtime day in subtropical Brisbane and we are heading towards Mt Coot-tha, the ‘mountain’ which is really a hill.  The temperature is balmy and the drive is easy, out along a flat highway which decimated countless trees and native bushland.

We cruise by the Botanical Gardens, the Planetarium, the quarry (!), the cop with a radar speed gun, the tourists in an overheating VDub Kombi-van and climb towards the summit lookout which sits atop what was colloquially known as ‘One Tree Hill’.

Plenty more trees now, well, there is at the moment but Brisbane City Council may revert to one.  The council is keen to upgrade the area, adding tourist lures like a zipline and tree-top canopy walk.  Bye-bye quiet little harmless native animals and birds who take sanctuary there from the six-lane highway below.

We reach the carpark of our destination, fluke a spot, and notice the air smells eucalyptus fresh.  It’s an interesting walk through various nationalities of smiling, picture-taking tourists.  We join the milling crowd and peruse the Summit Restaurant & Bar menu before deciding the dollars signs are for high class meals.  It is easier to tag onto the lunchtime queue at Kuta Café with its two-tiered eating decks.

I enjoy a delicious chicken salad wrap and share a huge bowl of baked potato wedges with heaps of sour cream and sweet chill sauce.  After keenly snapping views towards the river and western suburbs, Brisbane CBD, and Moreton Bay with Moreton Island sandhills way in the distance, we detour the gift shop and head back to the car.

A friendly magpie lands on the car mirror, enquiring about food, but we have none to give, so it takes off—see below for this gripping encounter.

We agree not to drive the long way, the full circuit around Sir Samuel Griffith Drive which passes leafy barbecue areas, transmission towers and headquarters of local television stations.

Heading down the hillside, the city views and far-reaching scenery becomes less and less until ground level, then the highway roundabout appears, perfectly positioned opposite Toowong Cemetery.

The City of Brisbane is growing, the traffic is growing, the drivers are getting faster.  Or am I turning into a grumpy older person?  Time for a nap!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward   

Brisbane Logo

Ready to Read ‘Lethal White’

Just received a brand new copy of ‘Lethal White’ the fourth volume in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike detective series.  We all know that J K Rowling actually writes it but what I didn’t know was that this hardback edition is large and heavy!

The cover has a nice grungy look and, no, I did not skid it across the tarmac.

It was difficult to photograph because the bronze lettering flared but I wanted to illustrate the interesting trend of books getting bigger again.

I can’t help wondering how it will compare to previous adventures.  The book blurb reads “The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, ‘Lethal White’ is both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.”

I will post a review when I’ve ploughed my way through 647 pages.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Link to my book review https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/11/09/review-lethal-white-by-robert-galbraith/

Miniature Works of Art

After browsing the magazines at our local newsagent, I head for the greeting card section, well-stocked with original, colourful and varied cards, all shapes and sizes for all occasions.

My eye is always caught by a card which I think would suit the receiver.  Even if there’s no occasion on the horizon, I’ll buy the greeting card so I’m prepared.

This bookcase artwork is my latest purchase which came with a shiny gold envelope – I love it so much I don’t think I’ll mail it to anyone!


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Title M137 Bookshelves
Designed by Jane Crowther © 2016
Published by Bug Art Ltd, Nottingham, England UK
Website http://www.bugart.co.uk

 


Another newsagent and stationery shop is undergoing renovations.  The dog paintings make a nice change from blatant fashion store hoardings.  Balloons or thought bubbles?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Bill Bailey – Earl of Whimsy

Bill Baily Actor Comedian

I love searching for theatre performances out-of-town.  Just the ticket!  British actor, writer, musician, comedian Bill Bailey will bring his inimitable style to Queensland in the historic Empire Theatre in Toowoomba.

A thriving rural town with fine old buildings, a genteel air and beautiful gardens, Toowoomba is situated on the top edge of the Great Dividing Range so the weather is more temperate than Brisbane.  And they have successfully resurrected the art deco splendours of the Empire Theatre.

Bill Baily Actor Show Empire Theatre

Bill Bailey has appeared in various TV series including ‘QI’ and ‘Have I Got News for You’ and his most memorable character was Manny in ‘Black Books’.  The following details are all about his newest stage show––

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“After his 2016 sell-out tour, ‘Larks in Transit’, the UK’s very own straggle-haired polymath, Bill Bailey, returns to Australia in 2018 with his new comedy and music extravaganza, ‘Earl of Whimsy’.

“Bill describes himself in his own words, an Earl of Whimsy.  Whatever his title, this might be Bill’s cleverest, daftest, most eccentric show yet.  Quote from The Guardian ‘Scales the peaks of sublime silliness…this is a foray into Bailey’s magpie mind…a delightful place to spend time.’

“While the world tumbles into a seemingly more chaotic place by the minute, find a moment of calm in the chaos with a trip round Bill’s mind, described recently as ‘A huge, lavishly decorated and nicely untidy place… its contents spill out with an infectious enthusiasm during this wonderful show’.  This I gotta see!

“The show has Bill’s trademark blend of satire and surrealism, stories and dismantled jokes, crowd singalongs, weird instruments and musical showstoppers.  But there’s a distinctly historical feel.  With its tales of Britain’s fortunes past and present, of ancient Viking battles, of Shakespeare’s contribution to comedy, and Bill’s own ancestry, this is both a mockery and a celebration of national identity.

“It’s also a journey of discovery.  We find out where Knock Knock jokes came from, how we got days of the week.  And why Nicky Minaj rejected a puffin sample for her latest single.  (That last sentence means nothing to me!)  There are lively audience discussions, a mass German singalong, and even some Cockney crab-dancing.  Something for everyone.”

For more information on Bill’s extravaganza on Monday 15 October 2018, 8pm and other shows at the Empire Theatre, click What’s On.

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Hmm, I think dinner and a show is likely and perhaps an overnight stay at historic boutique hotel Vacy Hall. Love that place!

Thank you to local blogger Fiona Ryan of Tiffin who has images of the Empire Theatre art deco delights on her website http://www.tiffinbitesized.com.au/2015/02/13/art-deco-delight-the-empire-theatre-toowoomba/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My Visit to Koala Science Institute

The Koala is a laidback leaf-muncher who gets hassled by the bad boys of the Aussie bush.  Not by other native animals but tree-lopping developers and domestic pets.  Koalas are a unique marsupial which needs human protection to survive.  And eucalyptus trees, of course.

At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, an 18-hectare Koala conservation park in the Brisbane suburb of Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland, there is a new facility dedicated to Koala health and well-being.  I paid them a visit to learn more…

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Greeted by mother and baby on arrival at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane. On this visit I didn’t hug a real Koala but you can!

The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus, not a bear) is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia.  It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats.

To quote the KOALA SCIENCE COMMUNITY dedicated to Research, Connect, Protect:

“United by a common purpose to conserve koalas across their range, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Brisbane City Council worked together to build and establish the Brisbane Koala Science Institute, located at the sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland. The Institute and this online community are further supported by Lone Pine’s not-for-profit organisation, the Research for Nature Foundation, which will help fund various South-East Queensland koala projects, in partnership with local scientists, researchers, and industry professionals.

Our aim is to bring together like-minded individuals in a knowledge-sharing environment to foster innovation, facilitate collaboration, and enhance accessibility, with the aim to deliver real, practical outcomes beneficial to the local wild koala populations.”  Affiliated with https://www.zooaquarium.org.au/index.php/world-class-koala-research-facility-now-open-at-lone-pine-koala-sanctuary/

At the unique Brisbane Koala Science Institute at leafy Lone Pine, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Koala information I absorbed in a short space of time.  There are interactive (and multilingual) displays, research labs with public viewing areas and a koala observation area.

♥ Koalas have special teeth for grinding down eucalyptus leaves which ferment creating sleeping patterns which mean they can sleep more than 18 hours a day.  ♥ Koalas have large, strong claws to help them climb smooth-barked eucalyptus trees.  ♥ A Koala baby, joey, lives in the mother’s pouch for six months then grows up to become a big eater, consuming about one kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per day.  ♥ Koalas front paws can grip small branches as they reach for the juiciest leaves.  ♥ Koala lifespan is between 10 to 16 years which naturally depends on environmental conditions.

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This Blue-Winged Kookaburra swooped down and kept a watchful eye on our lunch, however, it’s best not to feed human food to native wildlife.
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Afternoon tea, two coffees and two muffins, one caramel and the other blueberry, both with edible chocolate circles iced on top.
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The wishing well outside the front entrance to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with plenty of coins and “I Love Australia” badge.

Although I focused on the Koala, there are many more unique Australian species to see here, from kangaroos to cockatoos, eagles to emus in a beautiful bushland setting.  I recommend the following link and video highlights featuring all the wildlife residents of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary:

https://www.koala.net/en-au/wildlife
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_XXqPirJUU

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A quick guide to the wild birds around Long Pine Koala Sanctuary. Behind the sign, an Eastern Water Dragon lizard came out to sunbathe on the brickwork.

And here’s my link to a post I wrote last year:
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/09/01/save-the-koala/
You can adopt a Koala through Australian Koala Foundation.

Koala Adoption Certificate (3)
Adopt a Koala today! https://www.savethekoala.com/adopt-a-koala

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Logo

Thank you, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for a relaxing, informative and enjoyable visit.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Floral Christmas Decorations Already?

These vivid flowers would be perfect at Christmas time.  But, no, this spectacular red Callistemon, an Australian native Bottlebrush, flowers in springtime and early summer.

It has long fluffy tubular flowers that look beautiful in gardens and taste delicious to all kinds of native birds, insects and other wildlife.  The flower 'brushes' are so soft, not spiky at all.

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There were two Rainbow Lorikeets hiding in the branches, eating the nectar and chatting away, but they wouldn’t keep still for a snapshot.

I saw this long row of flowering plants in an industrial-type setting in Brisbane yet Callistemon grows in every location, tall shady trees to knee-high potted shrubs and used as groundcover.

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Information from this website Australian Plants Online Flowering Callistemon indicates that I’ve photographed 'Hannah Ray' which is 4 metres high and suitable for streetscapes.

It brightened my September day!

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

What is Dads Read?

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This post will bore anyone without children in their lives.

Dads Read recognises that fathers reading to their children strengthens literacy, models positive reading behaviour and builds children’s self-esteem around reading, especially for boys.

Dads Read is an early childhood literacy initiative, developed by State Library of Queensland in 2010 and launched statewide in 2012 as part of the National Year of Reading, to promote family literacy.  The program continues to expand and is now being delivered throughout Queensland and South Australia and plans are underway in Tasmania.

You can host your own event with their resources.  I’ve seen this program in action with a dedicated group.  Children choose a book, a slice of pizza and sit with their fathers to read.

Discrimination doesn’t apply, the Dads Read message is based on the simple but true premise that reading 10 minutes a day to your children is not only quick but also essential.

Dads Read aims to:
  • Raise awareness of the important role fathers play in their children’s development.
  • Inform fathers of the importance and benefits of reading to children from their early years, even before they start school.
  • Promote reading as a family.
  • Encourage fathers to read to their children and promote the value of reading.
  • Provide fathers with the tools to give them the confidence to read with their children.

My father was my reading mentor, instilling interest in books, and Dads Read program follows research which highlights the importance of dads reading to their children during their early developmental years.  As little as 10 minutes a day improves children’s literacy levels and stimulates creative and critical thinking.

‘Investment in early childhood is the most powerful investment a country can make’.
World Health Organization, 2007.

The Dads Read program has helped:
  • Address a real and significant issue which is at the core of our wellbeing as individuals, families, employers and communities: the need to be literate.
  • Support literacy development and help to develop the skills of Australia’s future workforce by building everyday skills for sustainable communities.
  • Build literacy levels among our younger generation while promoting family literacy and boosting the ability of reading in adults.
  • Connect families and communities in a cost effective and invaluable way.

Visit the SLQ website for some great book ideas and age-appropriate reading:
http://dadsread.org.au/reading-to-your-child/must-reads/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Grandfathers can read too…

Tropical Romance Writer Annie Seaton

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Don’t you love being on the verge of discovering a new author, that feeling of anticipating!  Look at the beautiful location where romance writer Annie Seaton is holding the book launch for her latest release Whitsunday Dawn––in the Whitsunday Islands at beautiful Coral Sea Resort.

“Ecological impact, divided loyalties and the pristine beauty of the Whitsundays under threat, can mining spokesperson Olivia Sheridan expose the truth in time?”  Author Annie Seaton brings to life a new era of romance and eco-adventure.  Perfect for fans of Di Morrissey and a sun-kissed tropical lifestyle.

As WP readers will know, I’m not usually a romance reader but I’m rather taken by the beautiful location of this all-Australian story.  Watch out for my review.

On her website Annie says “I am truly blessed to live by the beach on the east coast of Australia.  I am following my lifelong dream of writing, and discovering that readers love reading my stories as much as I love writing them is awesome.  It’s what keeps me at my desk each day when the garden and the beach are calling to me!

“You can read of the topical human and social issues I explore in Kakadu Sunset, Daintree and Diamond Sky.  My latest release with Harlequin Mira WHITSUNDAY DAWN  (August 2018) is an historical/contemporary story set in the Whitsunday Islands in 1943 and 2017.​

“My inspiration comes from the natural beauty of our Australian landscapes and I’m passionate about raising awareness of the need to preserve the pristine areas that surround us.”

Will you be in the vicinity of the wonderful Whitsundays?  Visit the launch of Annie Seaton’s newest book WHITSUNDAY DAWN being held on Friday 7 September 2018 at Coral Sea Resort Jetty, Airlie Beach, Queensland.  A welcome drink then cash bar will be available with complimentary gourmet nibbles and canapes from the Coral Sea Resort kitchen.  RSVP via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AnnieSeatonAuthor/

https://i.harperapps.com/covers/9781489257802/y648.jpg

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Love Your Bookshop Day!

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This year bookshops across Australia are throwing a party and you are invited!

Here’s what their invitation says––

Love Your Bookshop Day is a chance to celebrate what makes your local bookshop great.
Whether it’s for their amazing staff, their carefully curated range or specialisation, a book launch or a must-see events program, we encourage you to visit your favourite bookshop on Saturday 11th August 2018 and join in with the celebrations.

Don’t forget to use the tag #loveyourbookshopday and share why your bookshop is special using the hash tag #whyIlovemybookshop

Get ready to party with those things made of paper with squiggles on them...books!
Visit the official website http://www.loveyourbookshopday.com.au/

DESTINATION:  I’m definitely going to visit Where The Wild Things Are, a wonderfully absorbing children’s bookshop in groovy West End, Brisbane.  See ya!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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An Unreliable Narrator

Reading Bookstack 08

No x-ray goggles needed because Wayne C. Booth discovered “An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility has been seriously compromised” which exposes the motives and integrity of such a person.  Character issues like faulty memory, deception, deliberate omission or a cheating self-deluded spouse are revealed over time.

A variety of genres use the unreliable narrator device but it’s usually attached to drama and crime situations where the protagonist cannot be trusted.  The trick is when the writer withholds information which only certain characters can know, and vice-versa.  The reader is lead along the wrong path, not exactly kept in the dark but not being told the full (or accurate) story by the narrator.

Unreliable Narrator 02

It’s easy to get into the whole first-person debate, and I wonder if the unreliable narrator is over-done.  Sure, you don’t jump in and out of characters heads but the trend is more towards different characters with different chapters so they could all be potentially unreliable narrators.  Like Agatha Christie’s penultimate “Murder on the Orient Express” or a game of Chinese Whispers, would the outcome of the story be entirely different to reader expectation?  Would that be satisfactory?  In my experience, I would have to say “no” it’s rather a cheap way out.

Two examples spring to mind, they are Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins which I didn’t enjoy.  My reason for discontent was because Rachel Watson is an unreliable narrator due to heavy drinking (a literary crutch second only to mental illness) and the other characters overlap with half-truths and lies which muddy the waters to the extent of annoyance.  And lo, I thought the resolution lacked power.

Search “unreliable narrator” and you will see many definitions e.g. Study Academy.com and examples like J D Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and titles like “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks, “The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel, “The Three” by Sarah Lotz and “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk.  My thoughts are echoed by Sarah Pinborough of The Guardian Top 10 Unreliable Narrators.

Unreliable Narrator 03

It’s similar to reading a book which is raw and experimental and you find out it is the debut novel of an Honours student who wrote it for a Master’s thesis and was lucky enough to have it published.  Kinda good, kinda not.

“The Last Time I Lied” a thriller by Riley Sager is narrated by the main character, Emma Davis, who is an unreliable narrator but readers like her even though they don’t trust her.  The tale is told in the present with flashbacks.  So, is this story hinging the plot on a memory flaw, selective truth or something else?  Naturally enough the answer can only be in the final reveal; that pause for reflection, that moment when the main character ties up loose ends.

In real life we are mostly unreliable narrators, just ask a policeman jotting down eyewitness statements, however that doesn’t always translate to an enthralling novel.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Read Books 02

Ridiculum ‘Plebs’ TV Series

Salve!  Three young men in Ancient Rome doing what three young men would be doing today except with more crudity, nudity and ribald humour.  Given my age and TV viewing preferences, it does seem unlikely that I would fall for such juvenile behaviour in a bawdy sit-com like ‘Plebs’.  However, you doubters, I have fallen for it.

Promo blurb reads “Whilst others revel in the grandeur, opulence and splendour of Rome, low-on-the-totem-pole Marcus (Tom Rosenthal), Stylax (Joel Fry), their apathetic slave Grumio (Ryan Sampson) and cheeky Jason (Jonathan Pointing) are more interested in doing what lads the world over do – which usually involves women.”  More often than not, the desire to earn money gets them into some funny situations.  It works for me, I even sing the theme music!

The actors, the location, the storylines, oh, the storylines!  Any writer looking for inspiration will get it from ‘Plebs’.  The circumstances in which Grumio, Stylax, Marcus and Jason find themselves are anchored in reality but always contain a twist – a comical and clever twist.  I think ‘Plebs’ has similarities to earlier episodes of ‘Seinfeld’ when the world was young and fresh and madcap.  ‘Seinfeld’ language was polite contemporary but ‘Plebs’ is uncouth contemporary.

Extract from The Guardian TV & Radio interview in which Roman historian Dr Anna Clark is surprised there are quite a few accuracies.  "It's set in 27BC, when Rome really did feel like the centre of the universe (to the Romans at least).  The main characters – Marcus, Stylax and their slave Grumio – live cheek by jowl in rented rooms, overseen by a dodgy landlord.  From what the ruins of Pompeii tell us, this seems to be how many people lived, though I suspect actual Roman landlords were much less pleasant."

Working well together with differing comedic styles (think ‘Upstart Crow’) the permanent actors are Tom Rosenthal, Ryan Sampson, Joel Fry (replaced by Jonathan Pointing) Tom Basden and Karl Theobald, whereas Doon Mackichan, Sophie Colquhoun, Lydia Rose Bewley and the supporting cast change accordingly.  To quote the executive producers Caroline Leddy and Sam Leifer “As has become ‘Plebs’ tradition, a host of dazzling adversaries will be stepping into the Roman arena, with special cameos coming from top acting and comedic talent.”

An early IMDb reviewer, Niki Timpson, hit the nail on the head with these comments:

“Loving this – it’s pretty much The Inbetweeners do Ancient Rome.  Class.  The story focuses around three guys living in a pretty dull area of Rome – not Gladiators, nor Senators, just blokes – hence the title.  Tom Rosenthal plays the very straight Marcus, who has the most resentful slave ever in the fabulous Grumio (Ryan Sampson, rocking a hairdo like Howard from Big Bang, and pretty much channelling Baldrick with a grumpy attitude) They live with the over-sexed Stylax (Joel Fry), next door to the gorgeous but dim Cynthia (Sophie Colquhoun) and her scary and whip smart slave, Metella (Lydia Rose Bewley) – both from Briton.  A must-see for Inbetweeners fans, do not miss the second episode with Danny Dyer being a very macho but sensitive Gladiator.  Brilliant.”

There’s been a lot of water along the Roman aqueduct since that review (four series, in fact) but the quality of ‘fortitudinem et honorem’ remains.

Over the course of 30 episodes I have spied familiar British actors, always excellent in their roles.  However, if pressed, I would have to say tetchy food-obsessed Grumio is my favourite character.  Actor Ryan Sampson undergoes a complete change to play the role.  It’s worth watching the show for his subtle underplaying of Grumio’s antics, especially the snail racing and chicken episodes.

Here are the stats if you want to track it down––

Executive producers:  Caroline Leddy, Sam Leifer
Producers:  Tom Basden, Caroline Leddy, Sam Leifer, Teddy Leifer
Location:  Nu Boyana Studios, Bulgaria
Running time:  25 minutes
Production company:  Rise Films
Original network:  ITV2
Distributor:  Universal Pictures

ADDENDUM:  Should you decide to view ‘Plebs’ on DVD, remember it’s NOT suitable for children.  If you are a sensitive type, I suggest you leave your prim, more formal self outside in the garden sipping tea.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Exquisite Corpse Parlour Game

Scribbles Masterclass Melbourne May 2018 05
Test your memory and see if you can name any poets from the lines I picked randomly during a timed exercise. “Like gold to airy thinness beat” is from Valediction, Forbidding Mourning by John Donne (1573–1631)

This game can be adapted for writers, artists, poets and movie fans!

 

  • There are two versions.  The version attributed to the Surrealist Movement is when the weirdest possible head, torso, legs of the Exquisite Corpse are drawn by three different players, each folding over the paper so the next person can’t see the results until it is unfolded at the end of the game.

 

  • “Consequences” is the original name of this literary pen and paper parlour game which has been played since the 1800s Victorian Era.  A random sentence is written near the top of the page.  The paper is folded over then passed to several other participants who add to it and fold until it reaches the last person, or the bottom of the page.  The paper is unfolded and the whole “story” is revealed––often with hilarious results.

 

  • Alternatively, photocopied lines from classic poems can be cut into strips and jumbled into a bowl.  Each player blindly chooses nine strips but uses only seven to form a poem.  The mind takes over, sorting and assembling into a reasonably cohesive format.  The verse pictured above is what I put together in a recent Masterclass during a timed exercise.  My Exquisite Corpse earned the comment “feels Gothic and dark”.

 

  • To quote Academy of American Poets: “The only hard and fast rule of Exquisite Corpse is that each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem. Exquisite Corpse is a great way to collaborate with other poets, and to free oneself from imaginative constraints or habits.”

 

  • Minor changes have been added to Exquisite Corpse over time, from using a single word to including famous lines from books and movies.  For example, you can jot down your favourite movie quote, fold over the paper then pass it on.  See what you can pitch with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Hugh Jackman.  In book mode, an amalgamation of Germaine Greer and Nora Roberts could prove interesting.

 

  • This formula for fun was kindly supplied by WordPress blogger Life After Sixty-Five who wrote––“Here is my favourite version of Exquisite Corpse, though I have played the version where a human body is drawn”––

    He (male name, fold) – someone we all knew, or someone famous
    met She (female name, fold) – could be someone famous, or someone playing the game etc.
    at (place, fold)
    He wore (description of clothes, fold)
    She wore (description of clothes, fold)
    He asked, (question, fold)
    She replied, (answers question, fold)
    And along came (person, fold)
    And so they decided to (decision, fold)
    And in the end…(finish, fold)
    “…the gales of laughter at the silly stories…”


Language Is A Virus
website has the history of Exquisite Corpse and suggested books on the subject.  They started a poem which has been running since 2000 and you can add to the silliness.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Exquisite Corpse Quill and Inkpot

 

‘Don’t Keep History A Mystery’

Read a story which is thousands of years old.  I’d like to share the email I received from Mr Miller on National Sorry Day and to commemorate National Reconciliation Week––

“My name is Glen Miller, I am a Board Director of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and a descendant of the Butchulla people of the Fraser coast (Queensland). Today we acknowledge the 10th anniversary of National Sorry Day, a milestone in Australia’s history. This National Day of Healing is at the heart of our steps towards reconciliation. Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Reconciliation Week and we reflect on this year’s theme: ‘LEARN, SHARE, GROW – DON’T KEEP HISTORY A MYSTERY’. Here, we are invited to explore our past as a country; learn, share and acknowledge the rich histories and cultures of the First Australians; and develop a deeper understanding of our national story.

“Today I would like to share a story that is thousands of years old, that has been passed on from one generation to the next, and nearly came to be lost…

ILF Legends of Moonie Jarl Banner

“For many thousands of years the Butchulla people have been travelling between Queensland’s K’Gari (Fraser Island) and the mainland; catching winter mullet in stone fish traps set along Hervey Bay and trading with the mob up around the Bunya mountains. There are three laws that the Butchulla people live by: 1) What’s best for the land comes first, 2) If you have plenty, you must share, and 3) Do not touch or take anything that does not belong to you.

“While these were the laws that were taught to the children, they were also told stories that describe the origin of the land: The Legends of Moonie Jarl. These stories tell how the wallaby got its pouch, how the boomerang was invented, and how the little firebird came to have that bright scarlet spot on its back. These stories were told to me as a boy by my uncle Wilfy in the The Legends of Moonie Jarl. The year was 1964 and it was the first Aboriginal children’s book published and authored by Aboriginal people.

“Three years after its publication, Indigenous people were finally recognised as Australian citizens and 50 years on the stories continue to be shared among the Butchulla people. In 2014, our Foundation re-published The Legends of Moonie Jarl so now the stories are available to share with all Australian children.

Indigenous Literacy Foundation“A book isn’t just for reading; it’s more powerful than the information it provides. Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to look at the truths that need to be told and  celebrate our stories. This National Reconciliation Week I invite you to learn and share these rich histories and cultures of Indigenous people, and develop a deeper understanding of our national story. Please support the work of our Foundation by purchasing a copy of The Legends of Moonie Jarl or making a donation.”

Glen Miller
ILF Board Director
May 2018

“It was written by Uncle Wilf Reeves and illustrated by my mother Olga Miller” – Glen Miller.

Indigenous Literacy Foundation
PO Box 663 Broadway NSW 2007
Australia
info@ilf.org.au

Gretchen Bernet-Ward