Sunday, January 31, 2010

When the expert tells you you can't possibly write that.. rebel.

'Love' he said, 'did not feature in medieval marriages. It was all about contracts and allegiences.'

Um. Well, not in my story. I said. And, I say. I believe that love has always been there and that men and women have loved each other and made sacrifices for love all through the ages. This is gonna happen in my saga, you can be sure.

But, I also have learned that love isn't always about what one feels but also about one does. And my characters do things to show their love.

So, this is quite a vague post but I am walking gently through the paths of love which do not necessarily run smooth. (to mangle Shakespeare).

Pleased with what I've achieved these past few days but not as much as I wanted. Back to school tomorrow and I now have only one month to rewrite the what I've written. It's got some great stuff in it - promise.

and some surprises. heh heh heh

Friday, January 29, 2010

First draft pretty much finished; now the work begins...

I have finished the sh**ty first draft but now I have a lot of research reading ahead of me. The two books I'm focusing on at present are The Western Medical Tradition 800 bc to ad 1800 and Medieval and early Renaissance Medicine by Nancy Siraisi.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending an hour with Dr Takashi Shogimen, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History, University of Otago who gave me invaluable information about the time and answered some of my strange questions. He also lent me a book called Medieval Maps

I also have pages of photocopied notes on William the Conqueror, medieval marriage and death, and the Vikings. I confess to not enjoying reading history despite it being my minor at university.


School starts back on Monday and one of my publishers is revamping my two grammar books so the pressure is on. Both these books and Bloodlines have the same deadline of 1st of March.

Still, until I find out what Rachel knew about medicine, I can't fix up this SFD and make it a decent second draft.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nothing to do with the books but part of my life

Today, I saw my foster mother buried. As I write this, my heart is filled with a swirling mixture of good memories, pain for the loss and pride because I knew her. This sort of post may seem at first not part of the purpose of the blog but this is the eulogy I was privileged to give:

George Orwell said there were a number of reasons why writers write. Apart from fame and making money (which is always good) one was immortality which he called ‘sheer egoism’. Cos once it’s in print it is forever. Writer use, often, what they see around them. I ‘immortalized’ Ailsa firstly in Runaway. She was Mrs C. I won’t tell you who The Major was. [at this point I nodded to my darling foster father Martin].

Why? At the beginning of 1982, Ailsa and Matin became my foster parents and, though I only stayed nine months, that title and its significance has stayed with me always.

For my entire adult life, Ailsaisms, as I call them, come to me on an almost daily basis. You see, Ailsa and Martin are to blame for me becoming a dedicated tea addict.

However, despite huge effort on her part to teach me to make and drink a proper cup of tea, I have never been able to make anything other than what Ailsa called “piss water!”’ In fact, I often hear her deep chested chuckle each time I make my tea. One time, I wanted to please her with a cuppa in bed. ‘What is this?’ she said. ‘Did you wave the tea bag over the cup?’

I used to cut her hair and once asked her what it meant to be in love. She told me she thought it was commitment and companionship. ‘Martin in my mate,’ she said. And, over the years, I have watched them and endeavoured to follow their example in my own life and marriage.

She always told me how shy she was as if that was a weakness. I told her a few years ago that one of the greatest things about her was her sharp observation skills. Whenever Ailsa spoke, truth, wisdom and, sometimes wickedly funny jokes, where on her tongue.

Over the years, I have made infrequent visits: once with my new husband; another with my children. We have always tried for catch ups when in Christchurch. I am sad that there were not more catch up times.

Thank you, Ailsa, for the hugely significant input you and Martin had in my life. I was changed because of you.

I love you and look forward to seeing you again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book signing and author egos in Whangarei

As I predicted, Whangarei has well and truelly 'grown up'. The weather here is beautiful, the shops are humming, the singers and other buskers in the outside mall (oh I do remember the controversy in the 70s when the council made the decision to close off Bank street!) bring the place such a festive atmosphere.

With my friend Lynn, we trawled the bookshops. She had always wanted to be there when someone said 'The Tania Roxborogh? How wonderful!'. I was more cynical especially because, when I first began writing and I went into a chain store offering to sign copies of the book, the manager said 'No, thanks. We can't send them back if you mark them.' Charming.

Actually, just a few months ago, I went into the same store and the one of the old hands was very keen for me to sign Banquo's Son only to have the new manager scurry over and say 'Only two. Only two. Otherwise, we can't send them back.' Charming (again!). Did the women not take note of the best seller lists?

Anyway, I digress. First store: Storytime. I mentioned to Lynn that I knew the manager but thought she probably wouldn't remember me.

I didn't spot her but I went shyly up to the counter and said: Um, my name is Tania Roxborogh and you've got one of my books here. Would you like me to sign it?'

Very happy response, we collected Banquo's Son and, when we got back to the counter, the manager was there and she did remember me and it turned out most of the staff had read and loved Banquo's Son and were thrilled to hear I was a good way through the sequel. Of course, these people know their books and I left with The Graveyard Book under my arm (we later came back and I bought another: Grace by Morris Gleitzman.)

Next stop, Paper Plus. Chris, the manager was very warm and delighted and said the book was selling really well. I signed all the copies they had (about six, I think).

Next Whitcoulls. Even better, the manager had also read and loved the book and when I told them I used to live in Whangarei and went to school here, they asked me to write down these details so that they could go along side the displays (at both ends of the shop). I signed ALL their copies too. Lovely, positive place.

But, the highlight was going into The Second Hand Bookshop. Not only was their collection extensive, but I managed to get an extra copy of Maxine Altero's Ribbon's Of Grace.

I went up to the counter and chattered to the owners and mentioned to the wife that I knew Maxine and that I was a writer myself. We talked some more and then she asked 'And might we know your name?'

'You might,' I answered. 'I'm Tania Roxborogh.'

I could not have written better what happened next. Her face lit up, she gasped, a huge smile on her face and grabbed her hands to her chest. 'Oh. Oh, how wonderful. Oh my, Fat like me and Banquo's Son are so popular.'

'Thank you,' I said.

'No, Thank you' she said. 'How wonderful to meet you.'

The rest is a blur but she said lots of nice things about my writing. Wonderful wonderful stuff for this author to hear. I looked around to ensure Lynn had experienced this exchange but her nose was buried in Arthur Conon Doyle down the back of the shop. Typical. She was most unimpressed to have missed it.

So, by the time we got back to Ngunguru, I was suitibly uplifted and ploughed through the afternoon's writing, turning in over 2000 words of some pretty decent stuff.

This photo is almost what greets me in the morning. Stunning!

Thanks Whangarei, for the warm and very warm welcome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This author is off on holiday and...

I'm taking the laptop and a suitcase filled with summer clothes and Scottish characters. I'm going to Whangarei: a place which once filled me with angst because it was in this town so many bad things happened to me - some self-inflicted. But me and the town have grown up and it holds a few dear friends so I am really looking forward to landing at Onerahi airport (a stone's throw from one of the houses we lived in) to catch up with mates.

I expect a bitter sweet reunion.

And, lots of writing.

And, swimming in water that is warm.

Have a great week.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thank the Lord for afternoon catch ups with writer friends

I had a great afternoon writing after a torturous morning. Then, suddenly, plot turns were coming thick and fast (could it have been the lubricating effects of a glass of wine at 1pm? gotta love school holidays!) and it wasn’t long before I’d written my one thousand words and it was coming down to the wire as I only had five minutes to get down to one of my fav restaurants to catch up with my date.

My date was none other than good writer mate Vanda. I told of her of aforementioned plot twists and she listened politely. Then, as her boys ate their lolly cake, asked a question. Like that. One. One question which has now propelled me into the stratosphere of excitement because what I didn't know but was there all along, I now know!!

Writing is so hard. Seriously, being a writer is very, very difficult. Okay, not so hard as other jobs I’ve had like working in shearing sheds or painting houses, or being a builders mate but definitely harder than being a waitress even with stroppy clients and teaching? Pfff – a breeze compared with the emotionally charged, ego scouring life of a writer.

Someone (and I can’t remember who so don’t ask me to reference) once said that to be a writer is to rip your heart from your chest and hold it before you as you walk through crowded streets. Wait. I said that. So, I agree with myself. Sometimes though, when you are walking those streets, you stop traffic and people gather around and kneel at your feet and sing songs of praise and your heart pumps hard and is fuller than it was moments before and you know the risk was worth it.

This is me right now. Today.

Friday, January 15, 2010

when characters misbehave

So, I'm used to teens disagreeing with everything:
Me: have some breakfast.
Them: no
Me: you should take a jacket
Them: no
Me: You look great
Them: I look like a retard (thanks mr henry)
Me:wanna hang out(okay - I admit - pushing it)
Them (aka predictable response): Are you serious.
Me: go on, take a break and have a good time.
Them: money please.

See, raising children is easy - you just need to understand the tricks of the trade.

As for characters. Well. We're talking a whole different situation sugar.

Writer: So, my boy will do this and then the bad guy will do that and then my boy will defeat bad guy and, well, it's over - dude.

Reality (aka the writer's real world): boy defeats bad guy. Bad guy does not go down without a fight. Boy defeats bad guy (again). Bad guy has a right hand man who wades in a screws everything up.


Cue writer now spending the rest of the day dealing with this development.

Aside from the muse: Knew it was gonna happen. Try to warn her but no one listens to me

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A year ago I was at the same place

I have been getting anxious that I will not finish in time. 'in time' to me means getting the SFD finished before school goes back on the 1st of Feb. But, I looked at what I wrote on this blog just over a year ago and realise that I am at exactly the same stage: first third written and critiqued, second third almost finished (to be edited again before being sent out). So, I guess I can do it. I'm procrastinating as I did last year and I can't rememember where I posted it on the blog but I do remember wishing I could insert a USB cabel into my brain and just download what I see.

This morning (4am) I got a great scene so I got out of bed to write it down. It's now 6:30 and I've written 217 words - I've only just set up the scene. It takes so long! to write a book and only moments to read it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How you are feeling affects what you write (warning, long post)

I've had fantastic feedback from my agent and editor about the first 45,000 words. Both say very much the same thing and have identified an (easily remedied) flaw. I thought about what I was doing at the time of writing those bits and I can see how much they have affected the tone of my novel:

I was very, very busy at school - lots of marking and reports and teaching. Then there was the publicity and launch of Banquo's Son.

Also, since the beginning of August we, as a family, have been going through a very difficult time and though we are a tight unit, I was very affected by what happened to the agrieved person. I have spent a lot of time crying all hours of the day and night and not sleeping and being really, really angry.

What we believe is a huge injustice has consumed me and, though I have tried to do as Malcolm tells Macduff in Macbeth 'Let grief convert to anger; blunt not the heart - enrage it', this has sucked a lot of my creative energy and focus.

Now that I have been on holidays for a few weeks, I am able to gain some distant from the source of pain and turn my attentions back to energetic writing.

Interersting thing that I've notice these past few days: I have tried to write 3,000 words a day but I can't physically do it. I'm averaging about 1,200-1,500. I get tired. The scene I see in my head needs drawing out but I don't have the stamina.

A number of times, impatient just to get on with the story, I will write in square brackets 'more here' or 'fix this up' or (esp if I'm too lazy to find the accurate term) 'whatever the thing is'

I don't think this is cheating; I think it is a way to stop myself getting bogged down with detail when I know the thing I have to do first is get the bones of the novel finished.

A while ago, Rachel King asked the question: Are you a putter in or a taker out (see her blog post here).

Me: I think I put in during each draft. Kinda like how my mother paints her oils - layers upon layers until it's almost 3D.

So my advice: don't write if you're tired (your work will most likely read dull), don't write action stuff when you are sad (your warriors will more likely be wandering around angsting rather than weilding claymores) and don't write when you are angry because you will transfer that to your characters and that may not be what they need.

I have tried to leave my author self at the door before I sit before my computer. I then take a moment to pray and then mentally picture where I am (I being the reader) and who I am (I being the character) and then I begin.

Seems to be working so far and what I've written this past week is good - I don't think I've said 'I'm writing crap' even once (I said this a lot last term!)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ten years ago, writers had it easier!

Now that's a provocative statement. What I mean is, most of us who write, write on a computer which often means we have access to the internet and email which often means if we really want to avoid doing what we should be doing (aka writing) we can be reading about other writers and readers and enjoying their musings rather than creating out own.

Today, I walked down to the supermarket fully intending to catch the bus back up the hill but, because the fates ensured I was delayed by the candy aisle, I missed the bus. Acutally, I didn't quite. The bloddy thing was still there but the driver ignored my pleas to let me on.

So, I had to walk up the hill (it's a tough hill people) and it took me 15 mins.


I gained four key scenes in that time and I'm writing them now. Actually I'm not cos I'm doing what I'm complaining about - blogging instead of writing.

I also realised that I think I have to choose one of the characters and tell their story all the way and then go to the next character and then do a kind of jigsaw thing to make it all fit.

And fit it will.

Oh man, someone's just come in and Rachel has to amputate. Bye!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Response to the first draft of the first third of Bloodlines

Well, I'm very pleased to report that three readers have responded enthusiastically to what I've sent them (as well as providing excellent specific criticism to improve things).

Txt from Jo this morning: Read bl [Bloodlines] compulsively til 12.30am! It already fab.

Email from Imogen: I think this is great, rough in parts but i actually prefer this one to Banquo! It has great potential and I think you as a writer are coming more into your own and this book is demonstrative of that. Can't wait to read more!

And, from Penny: (I'll just include the final comment cause it was a detailed email with absolutely spot on comments)....But I still do like it all a lot.

Jo, Imogen and Penny have written over the manuscript with comments and questions and enthusiastic noises.

I feel I can breath easier and continue on knowing that I've got some great stuff to work with when I go back to re-work it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Banquo's Son - some more great feedback

This one from Face Book:
I have finished Banquo's Son....... and I loved it. It is a great story, well written and with honest characters.

Earlier in the year, after a challenge from my daughter, I read the Twilight series. I did enjoy them but in my opinion Banquo's Son is far better. I look forward to reading the next installment. Thank you Tania.

From the New Zealand Herald:
Top Kiwi authors tell us what they'll be reading on the beach this summer - and recommend some favourites.

Vanda Symon: My hot pick for the summer? If you haven't already read it, Banquo's Son by Tania Roxborogh. It's a sequel to Shakespeare's Macbeth and a ripping yarn. Great stuff.

Crime writer Vanda has recently released her third novel Containment (Penguin).