Saturday, January 31, 2009

surviving a meeting with my intrepid readers/critiquers

Nearly two hours of listening to what could be better with the 2nd draft. But, I did survive and thanks girls for being so passionate about this story.

Bottom line: storyline is spot on.
Fine print: need bigger battles and more of a climax.
Footnotes: dang - they easily pick up on all my clunkers.

We spent about 30 mins coming up with a fantastic storyline for the sequel - yay.

They've given me homework. I have to watch the dvd of Prince Caspian and Imogen has lent me 'Ranger's Apprentice book one by John Flanagan and 'High Rhulain' by Brian Jacques to help me with those ikky battle scenes (I'm such a wuss).

So, this is my plan for the next five days: Go through the notes from my publisher, mentor (that's you Fleur), and the girls attending to the itty bitty things.

THEN, it's off to Wellington to spend Waitangi Weekend with Fleur and my researcher to flesh out and fix up the gaps; to colour in the outlines. To check for continuity.

I can't believe I've done so much so quickly especially as my number one advice to writers is to allow time for the brewing process - I am breaking my own rules.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Finally done

I have been sitting at my desk in my writing space since 7am this morning. It is now 1:50 Pm. I have only left to get food and cups of tea - I am still in my PJs.

But, I have finished. I have emailed it off to my publisher and my 'babes' and will have a couple of days rest before I trawl through the whole manuscript again to bring it to the 3rd draft.

I have written over 85,000 words since the 1st of Dec and it is now the 29th of Jan. Two months to write an epic novel while still teaching, marking and being a mother. Wow. Just wish I could stick to my diet with as much diligence and determination.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

research and finer details

I am very grateful to my dear friend Mrs Wainwright who is feeding me wonderfully useful historical information - the latest, a very fuzzy ancient drawing of the layout to Glamis castle circa 11th century. The astonishing thing is, it's EXACTLY how I imagined the rooms and the placement (just as well, eh?). So, like the character Margaret (Malcolm's wife) who turned out to be a saint in real life (which I didn't know about until after I wrote of her), these true pictures just confirm for me that I am not alone in writing this story. (cue spooky music).

I have now finished the SFD of the final ten chapters and am making my way through them again to get it to a point of being at least half way decent for my intrepid, knife weilding readers.

I drank coffee tonight at a friend's place at 9pm so, in a completely out of character moment, I am still awake and working on the book. Whether I get up at my usual 5am will depend on whether the glass of wine I'm sipping has more power over the cats!

Monday, January 26, 2009


Fleance just punched Duncan!

I think I have to go lie down. As usual, it's about the chicks!

Writer's support

You know what it's like: you're running the 3000 metres at your school athletics day (which is what I did last year) and you are at the back - waaayy back but now the whole school it watching and every time you run past the stadium, the crowd roars 'Go Mrs Roxborogh! You can do it! You're my hero Mrs Roxborogh!' and you're thinking - why the heck did I even think I could do this. You have two laps to go.

It's stinking hot. You're stinking hot. And then, out of nowhere two people join you: the gorgeously fit PE teacher and the 'just-as-stunning' deputy head girl. Flanking you on either side, they run the last lap, calling encouragement. Though you really just want to stop and have a cup of tea, you can't let them (nor the crowd) down. So, one foot in front of the other. Steady, steady, steady.

Finally, ahead, it's the last 200 metres. You think, stuff it, I'm going out with a bang. You lengthen your side and pick up the pace and you finish the race, head high, crowds going wild and then find a shaded spot to collapse in.

But, it's not over. Wave after wave of students and teachers run up and congratulate you for your determination and steady approach (and, as one said - yer mad, mate. Stark raving mad. Well done!)

That pretty much sums up what's been happening to me these last 24 hours. I rang my dear friend Fleur and said 'Stuck!' And, for the next 25 minutes we talked scenarios and I got excited and then I was off again - those last few hundred metres conquered because of the willing input of a dear friend and a amazing writer (I wanna be as good as her).

And so, dear reader, I'm about to finish the SFD of the last section. The book, as they say, is cooked.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

two chapters to go

Well, it's been remarkable how much time I've wasted and yet how much I've actually managed to get done. These last ten chapters are very much in the raw stage but it will be a relief to finally get the bones of the story finished and then go back through chapters 26-35 to embellish and improve so that they are at least presentable to my waiting editing crew.

It has also been very interesting getting to know these characters: the sensibility and pragmatism in Rachel, that, despite him being a mad odd coot, Donalbain is passionate (though mis-guided) about making Scotland the best place, that Duncan actually loves his father despite the above, that Fleance, because of his experiences, has little regard for class and status: he regards Macduff in the same way as he does Blair.

My hope is that when it's all finished and polished, the reader will believe in the credibility of each character who has walked into the pages of the story. That not one will be two dimensional. That the reader will get a sense each person in the story has their own past, their own lives and their own futures (except the ones I kill of course )

Saturday, January 24, 2009

a wee problem

It's currently 36 degrees here in Dunedin. I'm glad we installed another heat pump cos it also works as an air conditioner. I had to vacate my writing studio and come back into the house because it's so hot. My problem is, back at Glamis Castle, 11th Century Scotland, it's been snowing. Apparently, it's very, very cold (secretly, I wish I was there right now.)

So my SFD is even more so because I'm struggling to capture the time and setting in this unusual weather.

Also, I have purchased a wall planner - not to plan my life, but to ensure consistency in the time movement of the novel. All things which are making me avoid facing what I need to do: finish the novel! I'm three chapters away.....

So, if there is anyone out there reading this, TK Roxborogh could do with a bit of 'ra..ra' to keep going (cos, I'm in the living room and hubby is watching stranger than fiction which is very compelling)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fight scene for your dissection (SFDx3)

They had been fighting for three hours and only the runners, who came with water and supplies, and their determination to fight to protect Scotland, kept them going. Fleance had trained his mind to see the men before him as the same as the difficult branches he had to cut down for Magness. It would undo him to imagine them as flesh and blood.

The rebels were not so well armed or trained as they had all been led to believe. Their weapons were inferior and the soldiers poorly armed. Only anger and strength, it seemed, propelled them forward.

For the Scottish army, however, there were the best of fighters and armament. This sometimes hostile land bred warriors keen and well equipped to deal with any usurper. Over the years, many nations had tried to quench the spirit of the Scottish heart – and had failed.

It was a land peopled by those who lived amongst the vast and cruel and wonderful, and who adored its lochs, highlands, lowlands, ports, and mountains. But, these were folk who quickly changed allegiances and had many among them who openly spoke against the establishment. At this time, however, many gave their support to Duncan, content with God’s appointment.

Beside him, fought Macduff. The old man talked all the way through his fights with whomever he was up against – sometimes with humour and sometimes with rage. In another life, Fleance thought at one time, the man would be a great jester of the court. They killed many men. Fleance was glad to have Macduff by his side as he fought against those who came against him. Some he killed; a number he fought but they, knowing they were out-smarted, quickly ran away.

Such was the case of the last man to try his luck against Banquo’s sword. After two attempts to thrust his own sword into Fleance’s side, (which were skilfully blocked by Fleance), the rebel threw down his sword in defeat and lifted his hands in surrender.

Macduff had dispatched his last enemy and turned to the trembling man who stood before Fleance. ‘Away with yer, yer skanky dog. Take yer tail between yer legs and tell yer leader Macduff says it’s a foolish man who tries to conquer Scotland.’ The man hesitated a moment and Macduff feigned to charge him. The poor soldier turned on his heels and sprinted back across the battle field to his own side. ‘Foolish git,’ Macduff growled. ‘You were kind to spare his life.’

Fleance shook his head. ‘Honour, not kindness. He had surrendered. Had I run him through, it would be murder.’

The field lay before them. Many fellows were down. Sounds of moaning and crying drifting into the cold, spring air. Fleance and Macduff lent against their swords, breathing heavily.

‘You have your father’s skill and strength,’ Macduff said.

Fleance shook his head. ‘Twas not from Banquo I received this education but from my adoptive father who spent many long hours teaching me the skills of the sword and crossbow.’

Monday, January 19, 2009

Confessions of a procrastenator

I'm in avoidance mode - I don't want this to end but, thanks to some eager beevers waiting for the final installment, I cannot rest on my laurels (excuse tired old cliches). I think my problem is that I don't have enough concrete information to write the battle scenes - I avoid movies with horrenduous blood and guts as much as possible. Fleur Beale reminds us that if we have 'writer's block' it is because we do not have enough infomation in our tool box. I could go watch gladiator (eww), or Rob Roy or Brave Heart (though these two are a lot later than 11th Century).

How much do you want to 'see' in these fights the characters have with the rebels? Do you want blow by blow accounts of each swing of the sword or just a general idea? Later in the morning, I will post an example of each of the above.

The other reason I've not written much is because I need a tidy space and my writing room (which we call the sleep out though no sleeping happens) needed a major reorganisation. Then there's been problems with the wireless (wasn't so good out here but hubby has found cables and dragged the modem around the house so that we can both get great reception).

And, of course, there's the blog and forum which I love going to.
Post your response with your preference and then check back later to see what I've added.

Here's a link to an account of our fraught relationship with our novels

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Forum

The 'problem' with the blog is that we may give too much away as to the story. The forum is an opportunity for ANYONE (in my specially chosen circle of readers *grin*) to post a comment and then have others respond.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), with a forum, there are many threads. So, you need to first go to the main page and select, then look individually at the subject headings to get the discussions.

Keep trying. It's all good and I appreciate the comments.

The sequel

Just to let you know I have starting mapping out the sequel. I am embedding information into Banquo's Son and, though you will be satisfied by the ending of this first book, I am hopeful you will be keen enough to go onto the second one because you will love (and hate) the characters enough to want to find out about the next exciting stages in their lives.

On the homeward stretch

I have been away in Central Otago reading a lot about Scottish Battles and studying maps of Scotland. I was fortunate enough to have to take one of the kids (who'd come of his bike) to Maniototo Hospital and grilled the dear doctor about all sorts of horrendous things which happen to the body after being shot by the bolt of a crossbow, stabbed, cut, etc etc. He gave me lots of details about complications and how long death takes - brilliant.

I have about six chapters to go until I have finished the SFD of the last third of the book. Then, I shall gather up all the comments I've received and start going through it again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


My husband wants you all to know that, not only do I read aloud (the revisions and the new additions) I act them out too.

Just worked through a dramatic encounter with Rosie and Fleance - sigh, gasp! Husband came into the family room to see if I was okay. I looked at him and spoke the words I was writing. He nodded and said - just don't begin to cry - oh, and let everyone know you live it and so do we. (Smiley Face).

A writer's tool kit

How do you imagine a writer creating a master piece? Cloistured away in a tiny writing haven, clanking away on typewriter or key board or sitting in the garden with a moleskin journal and fountain pen? Me, mostly I sit at the kitchen table amongst the daily paper, someone's empty plates, a box of tissues, a sprawled stack of videos due to go back to the store, my water bottle, lolly papers (some of them mine), the telephone book and crumbs from my toast.

I also have at the ready the following: The book of historical atlases (see previous post) newly discovered, Macbeth, The Oxford companion to Scottish History, Scotland the Making of a kingdom, a dictionary (though is way quicker), a fabulous wee pocket theasuaras which is falling apart but I refuse to upgrade, a warm blanket to wrap around me (this is Dunedin), and copious cups of tea (I'm on to my fifth in three hours). I also have two rolled face clothes to go under my wrists to minimise oos (thanks Annie's mum for the suggestion - doctors can be so handy!)

As I type, I talk, much to the annoyance of the whanau, especially if they want to watch telly. As I edit, I read aloud. This is what I'm doing at the moment and osolate between absolute joy as I rediscover brilliant sections I've written to despair when I read the cliched dribble I've written - needless to say, that is hacked out or reworked (thanks to wee book mentioned above).

The things which keep going through my head as I re-read this SFD are these: be mean - don't rescue (you'll be impressed Fleur); show, don't tell; why: does he do that? think that? say that?; remember the heart of the story: love and honour.

Anyway, I'm editing chapter 18 where Fleance has found a most interesting piece of information. Best I get back to him and his stroppy horse before he gets himself in more strife.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How I'm doing it - ie the writing/editing process

People often ask me how I manage to write, teach and parent - all at the same time. When they learn about this project, they are gob-smacked.

Well, here's how it's working for me: I wrote out the chapter summaries for the whole book because I knew the story.

I wrote the first 35,000 words and then edited them. They went to my publisher, my mentor and my lovely girls who read with knives and roses while I went on with the story. I now have a lovely pile of comments for the first third of the book.

I've written the 2nd third as SFD (shitty first draft) and am about to trawl through it fixing terrible clunkers. AT THE SAME TIME, I am continuing with the final third of the book.

Next week, I hope to post off the 2nd third to the above and finish the SFD of the end of the book (though, quietly, I have written the last four pages already).

Aim to meet with team end of Jan to discuss 2nd third and I will give them the final bits, which they will pull to pieces in a loving way (eh, guys?)

Despite going back to school, I will then collect all comments for the first two parts and begin fixing all my terrible bloopers.

The manuscript is due mid- March so hope to have all comments and tweaks attended to by then. God willing (and let me tell you He has been most encouraging and generous in his provision).

I guess it helps that I wake too early and manage to stay in bed until 5am whereby I get up and do my 2000 new words a day. (Oh, and clean the kitchen).

See, we writers are NOT normal people.

Why the printed word is best

Today, I spent an hour searching the internet for a map of Scotland from the middle ages and an outline of one so that I could sketch the action. I went out to my sleep-out to get my complete works of Shakespeare (just to check some details from Macbeth) and what should a find amongst a large pile of books lent to me by John Roxborogh? "An Historical Atlas of Scotland c.400-c.1600" Brilliant! Thanks John. Not only does it have maps of all sorts of things but it has detailed discussion of the contents of the map.

I have never written a fiction before where I had to do some much research and about a place I have never been to. I have a huge map of Scotland on my wall and often times the family can find me muttering in front of it while I try to work out which route my intrepid hero(s) would take.

Fleur Beale once said when asked about writer's block that one is 'blocked' because you don't have enough information - I can grind to a halt over a simple thing as the name of what they carried their water in. Any ideas? The cowboys used canteens but wrong time and place.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What I wrote this morning

Before he knew it, he was at the top of a small incline and the village was below. Fleance spied the tavern and happily cajoled his weary horse down the hill. With his heart beating fast, he slid off Willow, tied him up and went into the tavern. Dougal was behind the bar and looked up as he came in.
Suddenly and with a roar, Rosie’s father rushed him, knocking back out of the tavern and onto his backside. “You’ve got a nerve,” he cried. “I don’t know what your excuse is this time but you’ll never see her again while I live.”
Fleance was stunned. Painfully, he stood up. “I was set upon, Dougal. Look at me. See my scars.”
“I don’t care, Flea. She waited and waited for yer. Now, I’ve sent her away. She’s not here and you will not find her.”
“But, I came for her as I promised.”
“Actions speak louder than any empty promises. She’s better off without you.” He put his hands on his hips. “Now, away with you. You are not welcome here.” Then, he stomped back into the tavern and slammed shut the door, leaving Fleance outside in the rain, his heart breaking, no food, no gold, nowhere to go but worse than all of this, no Rosie.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I've put a new discussion thread up on the board

Thanks, again to Flavia, for the forum as I think it is going to be a much easier way to 'chat' about the things I bring up. So, I've got a couple of questions for you. If you have a moment, go to the forum and add your thoughts.
I think this blog should be mainly about progress - ie I'll put up snippets from the book (exciting scenes etc) and perhaps profile the characters over the next little while. As soon as I have a moment, I will try to upload the discussion video - snippets of it - not the whole thing.
Where ever you are in the country, have a great day - it's hot here in Dunedin.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The actors to play the characters - what do you think?

Donalbain: David Tennant..... he he
Fleance: some undiscovered god of my dreams (smile)
Duncan: NOT Edward! And NOT Matt Damon
Rosie: Ellen Page (juno) does it for me.
Callum: the actor who plays Malfoy Drayco
Macduff: Sean Connery (who else?)
Blair: Michael Cera (from Juno)
The list goes on. I invite you to name who you see as being the best pick

keep a record of your ideas please - they help

I know you guys are on holiday doing 'non-school-type-things' but if you do get an idea about something, whether it be character or setting or plot, jot it down and I will get it off you in Feb. I am now completely obsessed and find myself, at 3am hearing conversations between characters and/or having 'a-ha' moments.

Just yesterday at church, my brother-in-law (John Roxborogh) gave a sermon which was just spot on for this book. Here are the notes I took:

Esther and Ruth are both about: migration, love and intimacy, loyalty, political and personal and its place in the providential.

Strong influential women where men hold the power; conspiracy – where wile and patience is needed and loyalty is a virtue; new beginnings; hope after dark times; courage; God’s purpose; end to fear and anxiety; violence; Mordicai has been encouraging his protégée (Esther) to do the right thing but she needs courage; Haman is Callum; He went on to talk about a pressie minister who became a double agent but was rejected by his people when he came back because he couldn’t tell them what really happened. War because of pride and stupidity and European tribal politics. My brother-in-law said there are times in our lives where life is: morally ambiguous and the way is not always straight.

He said this phrase which I loved: “sometimes we need the soft power of influence not the hard power of might.” And “There are times when we cannot reveal the truth and we suffer for it.”

Don’t you think all of this fits with my story. What if Rosie becomes, like Esther, the person who approaches the king on behalf of her people?

Falvia, when can we get the forum going?
Also, have a sitemetre now so I (and you) can see who has visited. So, Annie are you in Porirua? Who's in Hawera? Is that you Waindog?

Anyway, am going to put up a poll.
Watch this space.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Eww, Callum is creepy

Callum has just dobbed in Fleance and is trying to convince Duncan that his friend is not to be trusted. He smarmy and clever, just like Iago. I see him surviving for the sequel. Mwha hahaha

And, Fleance is now under house arrest which is just awful because he has been reunited with Rosie and promised her he would see her tomorrow.

"Dougal lifted up the reins. “Mind you keep your promise Flea or I shall find you and kick your arse.”
Despite this warning, Fleance grinned. “Nothing, save death, will keep me from her, Dougal – I give you my word.” Dougal flicked the reins at the horse and the wagon moved off. Rosie turned around and blew him a kiss."

Dum dum dum

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Can Rosie read?

Let's think about this. Literacy levels among people at this time were very low - mostly it was Latin and mostly the monks and royals. Until the printing press was invented there was really no need to learn to read. I really don't think I can justify her being literate. Would that spoil things for you?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

this is so exciting

Duncan has a secret girlfriend. O, O, I'm so excited. I thought he was gay (and that would have been okay) but, no.

Take a deep breath, author. Readers, go to Catherine Tate and 'Derek' to understand.

I want Duncan to be my son-in-law!