Saturday, February 28, 2009

Getting Feedback

Yesterday I picked up five copies of the manuscript which I had arranged to be printed and bound and gave four away: to three dear friends who have been waiting in the wings to read it finally, and our clever Penelope who, hopefully, won't find any holes. The final one has not left my side: the shiny cover and its thick body amaze me.

It's like looking on the face of my new born daughter and thinking, did I make this? I guess I will behave the same way all over again when the real copies arrive in August.

Anyway, I was so nervous handing them over to my dear friends who have suffered months of me talking about the characters and my highs and lows of the writing.

These ladies are very, very intelligent (and know so many big words), are inhalers of literary texts and are great wordsmiths themselves. What if they are disappointed? What if, in my telling of the story, I've made it sound much better than it is.

Still, one of them (an Oxford Grad no less) has a gifted daughter who sent me this encourging text yesterday afternoon:
'Am eating toast reading banquo's son at lounge table. is delicious. the book i mean, not the toast.' Though her past English teacher and her current creative writing tutor, I shall forgive her punctuation errors - afterall, not everyone is as anal as me when it comes to txting.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm finished!

Wow, what a strange feeling. This morning I emailed the final manuscript to the publishers. I'm a bit crossed eyed with all the track changes info on the screen so I hope Vicki will be able to make sense of it all.

Today is athletics day but I hope to make it to town to get the manuscript printed and bound so that those who have been waiting (that's you Jo) can finally get their hands on it.

Now what am I going to do with my time? I guess there's always the housework.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Finding cool bits....

I'm up to chapter 21 of the 'accepting or rejecting my publisher's edits' stage of the process and am delighting finding wee snippets. I think to myself: did I write that? Hey, that's kinda cool.

Here is one such moment found in a 'Rosie' chapter:

“The low times are more important and testing than enjoying the high times,’ Ma had said. ‘To find purity in any metal, one must expose it to the extremists of heat. So it is with love. Any weakness and it will not endure.’

‘Do you think Flea and I will endure,’ Rosie had asked.

‘Only time will tell, lass,’ Ma had said and turned back to pulling out weeds with her bent and twisted hands.

word count and new readers

I can't believe I've hit the post 120,000 mark. When my publisher first suggested, way back in late November, that this would be an epic, a swallowed down my apprehension and nodded. And, who would have thought back then that, within three months, I have the sequel firmly secured in a five page synopsis and the third in a one page outline. So, what started as a one book story has become a trilogy.

Also, apart from receiving Annie's lovely picture, I had given three copies of the alternative beginning to three Y12 students who had heard nothing of the story or its process. Their comments?

'I LOVED it,' sez Greer.
'Yeah,' sez Leigh. 'It's sooo cool.'
'And,' I asked nervously. 'What did you think of Rosie?'
'Loved Rosie!' Lauren said enthusiastically. The other two nodded. 'Yeah, Rosie's cool.'

Sigh. Great, mission accomplished (so to speak).

Next period, I had my Y13s and they asked for the whole story (all three books). At the end of the period, two of my lovely internationals sidled up to the desk. 'Can we read?' they asked pointing to the manuscript on top of a pile of marking. 'You want to?'I asked. They nodded vigorously.

I DO actually teach my classes, it's just that the Y13s were less than half a class cos of a Bio trip and it was only a short interruption of their work - promise.

As Annie said, the alternative beginning doesn't work for her because the prologue isn't really a prologue and chapter one (in the original version) is so good. I agree. Somehow I've got to maintain the impact of the initial start with the lovely introduction of Rosie and Flea's first real 'kaaziing!' moment.

Piece of cake.

Monday, February 23, 2009

square peg in a round hole

I finished the 'opening bits' this a.m. and everyone hated them - babes, my publisher, new readers. Hate is too strong a word, I know, but it reflected what I knew when I printed it off: I was just trying to please the new readers who found holes in the story (bless and curse them). It really wasn't where I was heading with this story.

Still, I don't think it's going to be too hard to fix. The key point was that the they did not care about Rosie as much as I needed them to so my aim was to show the connection between the two young leads.

My lunch time, today: Babes calling me over to their table in the dining room. 'Mrs Roxborogh. We need to meet. Please sit.'
'Meet?' sez I. 'Why?'
'This new start,' sez Dannielle. 'Barks like a dog.' (actually she didn't say that but I love that phrase from an NZ ad with a groovy NZ actor)
The rest nod.
'Smacks of info dumping,' Imogen says. 'You can do better.'
I sigh and look out at the persistent rain which has been falling now for three days and nights. 'I'm over it, girls,' I say.
'No,' comes a chorus. 'Don't give up. It will be okay.' They give each other meaningful looks. 'We are here for you.'
Imogen pats my hand and smiles. I look at my Columba sub sandwich and want for the all the world to retreat to my warm classroom.
As I battle the blustering wet, three Year 9s nab me. 'Aren't we supposed to be on the trip today?'
I pause. Trip. Trip? Oh, hell, trip. I look at my watch. 'Yes ladies,' I say convincingly, tearing myself away from 11th century Scotland. 'To the bus. To the bus.'
And so, I have to push away my thinking of one of the greatest stories ever to help my dear wee petals think about Otago, one hundred years ago.
Rosie and Flea better sort out their deal before I'm driven insane.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Finished - kind of

I woke about a quarter to 3 in the morning (not an irregular thing for me) with scenes and conversations swirling around my head. I did try to ignore them and go back to sleep but, what with the hubby quietly snoring and the clock ticking, I thought - might as well get up and write.

I have just sent off the last four chapters of the book and I'm pleased with the ending. I had wanted to put Zeus the cat in there somewhere at the end but I think he was too busy hunting mice to make a final appearance.

I'm certain, in the polishing stages, the publisher may call for more weather or other embellishments but it will be good to see the whole thing together.

I will print off a copy of this last lot to give to the babes to read as well as consider the chapters which show you how Rosie and Flea fell in love - it's really rather sweet.

Monday, February 16, 2009

oh and can you add 3 or 4 more chapters at the start.

So, the good thing about giving your manuscript to two very good readers who have had nothing to do with the project is that they get to taste your offering as a freshly presented feast.

The bad thing is, they can detect where you haven't added enough spice. In this case, the entre is not up to par.

The solution? I need to write more chapters at the start to show you, dear reader, what I fully experienced and saw in that initial dream: the most passionate and exciting love between Rosie and Fleance. And I MUST do this because I need you to want with all your heart Rosie and Fleance to be together at the end.

This news came from my publisher around the same time I was writing the brilliant end of the second to last chapter. What I wrote there needed me to write more at the start - needed? No, demanded.

I guess I won't be finishing the book tonight.

My problem is that I have a full week of teaching. Today, Monday, I did not get home until 5:30 and then had a meeting back at school at 7pm. Tomorrow, it's teacher only day but it will be full on until 5pm; Wednesday - meetings until midday then teaching all afternoon and then meetings again until 5pm; ditto Thursday. Throw into the mix the mummy responsibilities I have and things are tight.

But, though it means more work, I'm pleased because what these readers picked up (and what my publisher and I suspected) was a bit of a weakness to the start.

So, homework for 16 year old and her boyfriend: tell me EVERYTHING you did, felt, thought, when you began to like each other and when did you know you loved each other? Give me details, conversations, jokes, it all cos yer mumma is getting old and may not remember the same about her first loves (yes, there have been a few!)

I discussed this with a couple of kids today and they all nodded wisely (as only teenagers can) and launched into a heated argument as to why Bella (from Twilight) was not so cool in books whatever than she was at the start. We don't like b**ches as our girls - not cool. We want them angry and powerful and capable and able to affect their futures but we don't want pouting, spoilt madams who slap the hero in the face. Our heroines are above that.

I want it right. I want you to see what I experienced in my dream all those months ago - cos, dang, it was great.

Friday, February 13, 2009

how many drafts?

I am about to embark on the last of the chapters but have received the first 29 back from my publisher (btw, she should be a writer cos she's really good!) and will accept or reject her suggestions. Then, it's onto the final four. The big ones. I am excited and terrified at the same time.

So, this is now called (for my computer files) Banquo's Son fourth draft. This is the final one. This is what well known writer Anne Lamott says:
All good writers write them [shitty first drafts]. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.

Hoping fourth draft is perfection.

On another note, had the pleasure of meeting with the babes to test the waters on the sequel to Banquo's Son. For me, it was fun and I'm very appreciative of Dani's board work. After they had left to go to class (art, eco, french, history, whatever), I sat in front of the white board and scribbled down the whole story. Five pages of notes. We are very, very excited!

Oh, and we've got the third book sketched out too.

But, I'm now back in my sleep out (office, writing room whatever) to finish the FIRST book. Can't wait.
What? Now? Grrr, I've just been called to dinner!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Don't ya just love this?

It was dark by the time the wagon pulled up outside the entrance to the kitchen.
‘Stay here and keep well wrapped up,’ Rosie told Keavy. She climbed down, straightened her skirts and pulled the hood of her cloak over her head.
A soldier stood outside the main door and, with butterflies in her stomach, Rosie approached him.
‘I am here to see Flea. Fleance, son of Banquo,’ she said her voice shaking.
The soldier opened the door and motioned for her to enter. In the grand entranceway, she was approached by a servant.
‘I wish to speak with Fleance,’ she said a little more bravely.
‘You’re in luck, young lady,’ he answered, glancing quickly over her humble clothing.
‘The royal party are just coming down from dinner. He should be with you shortly.’
At that moment a door opened and noise and laughter quickly filled the entranceway.
Rosie dragged her gaze to the top of the staircase and her heart almost stopped.
There was Flea, looking more handsome than she had dared remember, walking arm and arm with another equally handsome couple. Both were fair, the man tall and with a serious air, the woman about her own age, long blonde hair framing a beautiful face.
But what pierced Rosie’s heart was the way Flea was looking at the woman – laughing and open, her beloved Flea sharing something of great amusement with this other woman who was so obviously in love with him.
She couldn’t see him now, it had been wrong to come here after so long, foolish, foolish girl that she was to even think he could still love her after all this time.
Quickly she turned and made to leave the room but in her haste she stumbled into a side table and a large, ornate vase crashed to the floor.
The party on the landing stopped their talk and looked her way.
Flea blanched.
‘Rosie,’ he cried. ‘My god is that you?’
Rosie swept from the room, even as Flea cried out for her to wait.
He caught her at the doorway and spun her around to face him.
‘It is you,’ he whispered, ‘after all this time, I can’t believe it.’
Then his face hardened and he looked like the old Flea on a bad day.
‘Why did you not wait for me?’
She lifted her head, clenching her jaw, a buried anger returning.
‘You had vanished without a trace,’ she said her voice quiet but hard. ‘We sent a messenger to the castle and they told us that you had gone to England.’
Flea shook his head. ‘That is a lie! I came as fast as I could but fate intervened, Rosie. First I was attacked and Willow left me; then I was lost in the woods.’ He looked at her. ‘I was delayed but by five days.’
‘You promised …’ she began.
‘ Aye and I kept my promise.’ He looked alone, lost and she wanted to reach out and touch him but pride kept her hands by her sides.
‘I believed nothing would separate us,’ he sighed.
‘It seems,’ she said, ‘your belief was misplaced.’
‘Rosie,’ he whispered. ‘Nothing has changed.’
‘Everything is changed, Flea,’ she hissed. ‘We cannot go back to what we were – foolish young things caught up in ourselves.’
She went to step away from him but he reached for her. ‘That may be true for some things but of this I am certain: my love for you, Rosie, has never faltered.’
For a moment, she wavered but then remembered her purpose. Gently, she took his hand from her arm and held it in hers. ‘Keavy is with me. I need your help.’
A look of concern flashed across his face. ‘Is she hurt?’
‘No, but she needs a home. Magness is gone and Miri is… dying.’ It was hard to say the word. ‘She sent me here to you.’
‘She sent you? You did not come of your own will?’
She wanted to tell him: yes, I came willingly. I needed to see you. I need to be with you. But, none of these words could she utter. She saw him watching her, waiting for her to tell him yes, she came of her own free will. She heard his sigh when she kept silent.
‘Where is she?’ he asked.
‘Outside. In the wagon. I will take you to her.’ She picked up her skirts and walked out the door aware of the sound of his soft breathing as he followed her.
It was colder and Rosie worried that she had been too long in the castle but, when they got to the wagon, Keavy was happily talking with a woman from the kitchen.
‘I see she’s made friends with our Morag already,’ Flea said.
At the sound of their approach, Keavy turned and for a moment sat completely still. Then, she let out a squeal of delight and threw herself from the wagon into Flea’s arms. ‘Flea! Flea!’ she cried. ‘It’s me – Keavy!’
Flea laughed. ‘Aye, bairn, I know that.’
‘Do you live here?’ she asked, her face suddenly serious. ‘Are you the king?’
‘No. Our king is Duncan.’
Keavy looked over at Rosie, a bit put out. ‘Flea is a general in the king’s army,’ Rosie explained.
‘Morag,’ Flea said to the woman. ‘I’m taking my girls inside. Could you arrange for their sleep and some food?’
The woman curtsied. ‘Aye, sire.’
This formality made Keavy giggle. He put the child down and grabbed her hand. ‘Your fellows will find warmth and rest for themselves and the horses at the stables,’ he said. ‘As for you two, you need warming up.’

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Name changes

Sorry guys, I've had to be brutal. Imogen is no more - Imy, I'll put your name in another Shakespeare sequel promise!
Imogen is now Carissa
Miranda is now Keavy (love this)
Miriam is simply Miri
Pearson is Preston (say the name - it's pointed and hard and sharp just like him)

I have closed the lap top, poured myself a delicious glass of Sav and will not go back to Scotland for a number of days. 'Wait until it calls you back,' sez my wonderful publisher. And, that is what I will do.

'You are tired,' sez Fleur who then quotes from chapter 30 'and fell to his knees'. 'I can tell - you just want it all to be over!' Oh how blessed I am to be surrounded by a team of supportive people.

Fleur and I did have a fantastic coffee time and excitedly found ins and outs and moments which will make you go 'Yay!' and 'Wow!'

Herewith, I remove my writer's uniform and emerge from the phone booth as mother and teacher - for that is how it should be.

I fly back to lovely ol' Scottish Dunedin, looking forward to seeing my girls: biological and scholastic.

Oh, and the hubby

Oh, again and the doggies.

Name changes

Sorry guys, I've had to be brutal. Imogen is no more - Imy, I'll put your name in another Shakespeare sequel promise!
Imogen is now Carissa
Miranda is now Keavy (love this)
Miriam is simply Miri
Pearson is Preston (say the name - it's pointed and hard and sharp just like him)

I have closed the lap top, poured myself a delicious glass of Sav and will not go back to Scotland for a number of days. 'Wait until it calls you back,' sez my wonderful publisher. And, that is what I will do.

'You are tired,' sez Fleur who then quotes from chapter 30 'and fell to his knees'. 'I can tell - you just want it all to be over!' Oh how blessed I am to be surrounded by a team of supportive people.

Fleur and I did have a fantastic coffee time and excitedly found ins and outs and moments which will make you go 'Yay!' and 'Wow!'

Herewith, I remove my writer's uniform and emerge from the phone booth as mother and teacher - for that is how it should be.

I fly back to lovely ol' Scottish Dunedin, looking forward to seeing my girls: biological and scholastic.

Oh, and the hubby

Oh, again and the doggies.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Do not write when you are tired

These past few days have been incredibly fruitful but, with only four chapters to go, I find I'm exhausted. I will take a few hours off to refuel (with yummy coffee from the local Island Bay cafe), read the paper, a couple of psalms and then gird my loins for the big events: a battle, a death or two, and Flea about to make his ultimate choice: Will it be Rosie or Rachel and will you be satisfied with the way he makes this choice? This is my challenge - to have you all bawling yer eyes out but with a smile on yer face knowing it was the right decision.

No pressure.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

ten chapters to go

I am on the homeward stretch working this third draft. Fleur has written screeds of notes on the last ten chapters and I've got the comments from the babes which will help me keep true to the heart of the story.

My researcher is currently pouring over chapters 1-25 telling me such things as 'yes they had potatoes' and providing me with the name of the most northern English port off the east coast.

I have to keep remembering the fact that, though it is 'basically set in 11th Century' it is the sequel to William Shakespeare's Macbeth and what how I imagine he would have written it.

I think we will need to put an author's note in the front about this.

I keep finding more and more things I could do and say but I'm storing them up for the sequel.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fleur's place

I am happily sequested away in a turret (Fleur's upstairs study) going through all the notes and questions and scribbles from all contributors. I am currently at chapter 10 and am really happy with the improvements I've made. While I do this, Fleur is, with sharp pencil, scribbling all over the last third of the book. Sometimes saying 'no!no!no! and other times going 'yes!'yes!'

I hope to get on the plane back to Dunedin with the completed manuscript for my editor at Penguin to a have final read through.

One of the enjoyable aspects of this process is rediscovering good bits. Also, because I know the ending and the characters so well, I can see lots of places to embellish.

Tomorrow sees the arrival of my researcher. Later in the evening we will have drinks and nibbles with John and Ruth McIntyre from the Children's Bookshop, the unstoppable Barbara Murison and the exceedingly beautiful and talented Fifi Colston.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I think and I think and I think

So. It's done and kinda dusted - except for the small print. BUT. These guys won't go away. I walked to church and back the other day and, no, I did not have an ipod. What I did have was the story and voices of this novel. I tossed, to and fro, different senarios. I argued with myself and, dang, lost some of those arguments.

Today, back at school, I caught up with heaps of my students who wanted to know the progress of Banquo's Son. I said: I've finished. They said: can I read it. And I turned away because it's not ready.

I worry that I will be unable to give attention to the fictional characters I've created after giving attention to the real, live, flesh-and-blood young women who cross the threshold of my classroom.

You know what? Those kids are the first priority. But, this story. Man. It's pretty special for me. What should I do?

The dusting and washing and dishes and garden - nup - not a look in. Banquo's Son (after my hubby, children and students) is top priority.


This is the first time I've written a story so huge and, with such an epic, comes a lot of detail: places, distances, times, seasons, days, weeks, characters etc.

It's quite hard keeping track of everything. Characters, who so vividly exist in one or two chapters, are not heard from again. One man, I think I've named him four different names: Old Preston, Pearson, Pearce. Poor guy - by the end of it, I won't be surprised if he has an identity crises.

The other thing is that, because I feel I've spent a whole summer with these characters, some of my initial thoughts on them have changed. Their personalities have developed and I've learned their quirks and back stories. Now, starting the editing process for the third draft, I can see that some of my first impressions (and initial descriptions) will need modifying.

After the meeting with the girls, I realised also that, just like in life where we may disagree about whether a person is good, nice, spoilt etc, their response to some of the characters is quite different. There has been disagreement about what should happen to some of the characters or, at least, what they believe a character is capable of.

And, imput from my publisher and mentor is, on the whole, spot on but, occasionally, the way the story should go ends up with a possible three tracked storyline.

I need to keep remembering the heart of the story and the vividness of it when it came to me in a dream - I'm exceedingly grateful I wrote a detailed synopsis the next day because I often go back to that and, though some details have changed, the essence of it is still there.