Monday, March 29, 2010

The final stages of the final draft (I hope)

Have just sent off the first 64 pages (out of a predicted 300) in the final draft of Bloodlines. Am hoping to get the rest out in the next day or so and then need to write the ending (which I know all about).

I've worked out that my way of writing is lots and lots of going over it again and again. It's been wonderful (with the short time frame) to have the babes and my good friend Jo to pick over what I've written.

In an ideal world, I would have done this myself. I tell my students that the best writing comes when you put what you've written away for a bit and then come back to it with a fresh and critical eye. The babes and Jo have been that fresh and critical eye for me.

And I also must mention the imput of my agent, Josh, (who has not been afraid to tell me what's wrong with the writing) and my publisher Vicki. Vicki has been great at continually reminding me of the big picture. Of the grand scheme.

I can't believe how much research I've done. Mostly I've been frustrated by my lack of knowledge but I did a bibliography yesterday and I've dipped into 13 history books and visited 18 websites NOT counting Wikipedia (which has been most useful again) nor google earth (which has been a god-send).

My research this time has been: Finding out about the political situation of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Norway and Normandy; looking at the medical situation of the time; finding out about real people in history: Harold Godwinson,and his wife (Edith), sister (Edith) and brother-in-law, King Edward, Willam of Normandy, his wife, Matilda; learning about the seasons and cropping and fishing; investigating medieval marriage and death and costume.

There's still soooo much I don't know but the story I've created is strong and the themes are universal.

Today I am feeling positive about my book. Tomorrow might be another story.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Banquo's Son Receives Award

Banquo's Son has been named by The Storylines Children's Literature Foundation as a notable book for 2010 at the Margaret Mahy Day

Now Unstuck

My wonderful friend Jo pushed me aside and had a play with the start and lo it was good. I've been having a play too and, though not quite there yet, I thought I post some of it for you to see:

Rachel stood at the entrance to the castle, watching as the ragged line of men, horses and wagons wound its weary way up the incline towards her, a moving column of blacks and browns against the spreading purple heather haze on either side. She felt the solid ground beneath her feet – and the same warm breeze that buffeted the manes of the horses below her in the valley, kept blowing her hair into her face and obscuring her vision. Somewhere down there in the line of men, her brother Duncan and beside him, she did not doubt, Fleance.

Rachel’s reserves of stillness and calm were legendary among all who know her – but right now, she shifted impatiently from one foot to the other. Hurry up. Be here. It was a warm spring afternoon and she had been waiting since morning, hour after empty hour – and at last they were home. Rachel smiled with relief. Her affection for her dear friend and her eagerness to see her brother’s face again, bubbled up inside her – an uncontainable surge of happiness filled her heart.

She lifted her head, listening intently for the first sounds of the approaching procession. At first, all she could hear were the martlets, wheeling above her in the cracks and crevices of the castle walls. But gradually, she detected new sounds – the chink of shields piled together on a cart, the whinny of a horse as it sighted familiar castle walls at last – and the deep grumbling of the metal-bound wooden wheels against the stones on the track. Behind her, someone speaks her own hope aloud “Duncan comes here tonight.” She can’t place the voice – and it is as if the castle walls themselves have uttered the words. Rachel shivered suddenly, despite the warmth of the air around her but kept her eyes on the line of warriors trudging up the hill towards her. Where is he? Which one is he?

Closer and closer they come and Rachel starts to search the faces, searching for Duncan’s familiar cloak, her eyes flicking over the animals, looking for the familiar shambling bulk of Willow, Fleance’s horse. Now the first riders are close enough to be recognised and she smiles in anticipation.

But these men are not walking like the victors she knows them to be. Something is wrong, she thinks, as the front man puts his shield down and the second rider lowers his hood. First one, then another and then another. Every single one turns towards her, silently, their faces smeared with blood and dirt. As they come closer, Rachel cannot turn away and her horrified eyes see the terrible details: here an arm snapped and hanging useless, beyond all her healing powers. There, a yellowing, dripping wound.

Over the dull trudge of battered feet on stones, a low moan of grief reaches her ears. The stench is overpowering and the smell of death and despair overwhelm her. She steps back in horror as a man falls from his horse in front of her, his face still hidden by a torn and stinking hood. Overhead, a swift screams echoing her own despair. She hears a voice pleading hoarsely to her. ‘We are lost Princess! He is dead. We could not save him.’

Rachel’s stomach turns to stone.
Now they are all around her, needing her help but she can do nothing. Her own tears well up as she reaches down to turn back the hood from this dear face, sees the blood on her own hands, and recoils in horror.

‘Rachel, lass! Will you wake?’

Morag’s voice broke through her nightmare and Rachel opened her eyes. She is in her own bed, in her own room inside the castle. For a moment, she lay utterly confused, the moans of the men ringing in her ears and remembers the vision. She sat up, the feeling of terrible grief still so real. ‘Tell me, Morag,’ she asked. ‘He’s not dead is he?’

The older woman clucked. ‘Come now, child. You’ve just been having a bad dream.’

‘But I saw him on the ground and there was so much blood.’ She pulled the covers up and saw that her hands were shaking.

Morag sat on the bed next to her princess, and took Rachel in her arms. ‘Hush. This will never do. You were dreaming, bairn. No one is dead. We would have heard.’

Friday, March 26, 2010


So, after the injection of enthusiasm from the girls, I wrote over 3000 words. The trouble is, they are Sh**ty First Draft words. I came back to it this arvo and want to delete it all.

And, my wonderful publisher says it still aint right and she's right but I need time to make it right.

I think I will write another scene that the girls and I dreamt up yesterday: it contains, Blair, Rosie and the three witches....

I don't think there is a writer on earth as lucky as me

Today, I ordered an audience with the babes. If you are new to this story, the babes are a group of my students who, from the beginning, have encouraged me in the writing of this story BUT have also nailed me with criticism if I've written crap. They have been as good as any literary agent/editor.

Today, I cornered them at the end of an English lesson (I have them as students as well). Meet me, sez I, if you can, at lunch.

At lunch I was late 10 mins cos I was having mine with the glorious Vanda Symon down the road, and walked into a classroom filled with noises of discussion about thanes and witches and discussion about battles and intentions and oh oh oh passion about my(their?) story.

'I have a problem,' I say. I tell them of my problem. We talk, chew, nibble, tug, pick at and then, WAHOOOOO, come up with the solution.

So exciting.

One day, the world might read this blog but for now I say: love you guys! LOVE YOU. Thank you.

and, ooh, the witches, and the mysterious stranger at the start of the book and oooh ooohh oooh.

We are pleased, precious, yes we are.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's a new day

I might kinda moan about having to work at another job (Teaching!) instead of being a full-time writer but, man, I love the kids. I felt like crap most of the day cos of last night but their kindness and enthusiasm and smiling faces and support helped me not only get through the day but, especially after my writing club meeting, helped me to see that it will be okay. The words will come again because they always do.

I walked the dogs and thought about the ending and saw a wonderful scene which I'm about to tuck into.

so, though I still am stuck about how to fix the start, I am sure of the ending. I 'meet' with my agent tomorrow morning (via phone call) to chew the fat.

Thanks for all the supportive emails I've recieved the past 12 or so hours.

Now, it's back to Fleance's *cough* bare chest and .... wouldn't YOU like to know? Heh Heh.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Right now I am bawling my eyes out

Tonight I wrote for three hours - great stuff and though I kept doing the ctrl s my computer (apparently) decided not save and I've lost it all.

Computer guru hubby could not find what I'd done and I am so gutted. It was good stuff and I know and I can replicate it but time is so precious for me.

I can't stop crying because I am so disappointed (it was really good things that I wrote) but I'm afraid I won't get it right this time in time for my deadline.

Sorry to be so bleak and your're prob thinking well stop moaning and get back to it but I am gutted. Gutted! I just want to crawl into bed and forget the world for a bit.


Monday, March 22, 2010

I wrote great stuff today but...

This is intended to encourage other hard working parents of teens and those who are writers: Me got up at 6am to check emails and I wrote some stuff. 8am had an interview with a newspaper (45 mins). Woke husband and reminded him dogs needed attention.

9-3 I tried to write and succeeded - almost 2000 words. In between, cleaned kitchen, bitched at kids and did washing and vacuumed.

3-5 was out with the horse kid. In between went to supermarket and bought food for eldest's dinner party. Marked five Y12 essays.

5-6 made lasagne for 8 people and pizza for 8 people and salad for eight people. Washed dishes. sorted washing.

Eldest comes home and says: you are a goddess - oh and can you not have any more wine.

Are you serious?

I have been hanging out for this all day. I've done the hard stuff for her and the hard stuff for me (the beginning of Bloodlines) is still to be tackeled. Glass of wine, I think, is essential.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How did Shakespeare do it without Google Earth?

We (as in most academics and I wouldn't really call myself one) believe Shakespeare did not travel outside England. He read a lot and enjoyed the visits of the guilds who travelled putting on plays.

So, how did he know about Rome, Venice, Denmark, Scotland, Verona, Athens, Greece, France, Germany, etc etc?

When I look closely at his plays set in those places OR which mention those places, it's not the landscape, not the flora or fauna which he mentions - rather it's all about CHARACTER. Characters and their relationships. Themes pertaining to this subject which are universal - they traverse time and space.

So, I am being a bit hung up trying to ensure authenticity (such is the demand - and rightly so - of today's readers) but I keep reminding myself that it's about the story.

And the story? Fleance's quest to find ultimate happiness in a world which brings him challenges.

Loved this from the Children's Book Council of Australia: Shakespeare constantly raises philosophical, ethical and moral questions. Banquo's Son challenges us in the same way through the 'novel' form as distinct from the 'play'.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bloodlines: counting down

This is how I torture myself with the editing process: I highlight in yellow those parts which need work. Arrrghhh, there are so many yellow bits.

I've got two weeks left to write 40,000 words AND rewrite the beginning AND fix the last 40 pages (take from 3rd draft to 4th draft) and then check for historical accuracy (cue highlight yellow) and the Latin (cue HOD Languages at my school).

It's all there but but but I've just come home from Parent/teacher evening, my children are buffeting me with can I, will you, I wanna, comments and hubby with his: meeting this, spread sheet that, statistically analyse umm....

But the pull of the 11th century is so huge at the moment that even during the day when I am my alter ego (English teacher extraordinaire) I'm one foot in another place.

Last night, I confess, I got back up at 1am and wrote/edited some more.

If anyone knows of a great cloning machine, please call.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Banquo's Son and Kill Shakespeare

Came across this exciting project coming out of Canada soon. A graphic novel entitled Kill Shakespeare by Anthony Del Col(Co-Creator)
Conor McCreery (Co-Creator) and Andy B. (Artist)

I showed my students the book trailer and they were very excited.

I love the illustrations and I would love Banquo's Son to be turned into a graphic novel. Many people agree it would make an amazing GN.

May I suggest you have a good look around the website. It's a fun place to visit and any fans of Shakespeare will, I'm sure, be looking forward to publication.

Also, go here to find out why they are doing what they are doing. In a word: GENIUS!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Value of Time

Monday to Friday 8am-4pm teaching.
Monday to Friday, sometimes I snatch 30 mins or an hour after school or an hour in the early hours to write.

But, the best time to write is when I have nothing else to do BUT write. It is during these times I look closely at what I've written and see opportunaties for a bit of a chin wag; a bit of a story within a story; a time to see where things need fleshing out.

Because of my deadline, I'm saying no to pretty much all evening (and daytime) activities. See you after the 1st of April, I'm telling people. This is a good strategy.

This is what is happening right now and I'm loving it even though today I've cleaned the kitchen (think greasy dusty gunk on top of the range hood, wiped the cupboards, cleaned the toaster and the kettle, washed the floor) and vacuumed the house with my friend Jo's amazing machine, got the hair cut and coloured, shopped for food, and sorted bills.

AND, I managed to get youngest to damp dust key areas around the house and eldest to clean the bathroom.

Tonight, we have both children out (youngest at a sleep over; eldest with bf's parents for birthday bash). Hubby is surfing net and watching tv. I'm in the living room WRITING (or EDITING and WRITING) cos it's really really windy here in Dunedin which makes my studio really noisy.

Why are you blogging you may ask? Consider it a rest room break.

One of my writer friends alerted this clip from YouTube

which I have found hiliarious. Thank my God that I don't have an editor/agent like this.

Now, interval over - back to Scotland.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Banquo's son insanity

It's insane, I know, that I usually wake in the early hours of the morning. It's often because of one of the cats; sometimes it's hubby snoring; or it's because I've come out of my deep sleep and gone into light sleep which is always about either the current stress in our lives or a scene from 11th Century Scotland.

So, I lie there. Awake. Listening to the hum of the fuse box, the night birds (or far too early birds) outside, the tick of the clock in the main bathroom - placed there to help the girls keep track of time. I think: I'm fully awake. Time is precious. Get up.

Nine times out of ten I do. So, at 4:45am many mornings I can be found un-stacking the dishwasher, sorting out the washing, making lunches (and sometimes making the evening meal). This takes me to 5:30, so I check email and blogs.

By 6:00 am I'm ready to write. That's what I do for an hour.
7:00 is me resetting the jug for my cup of tea while I go get the paper. (In our neck of the woods, we are last to get the morning paper - wahh). I also put on the eggs for my breakfast, call out to the hubby and eldest before I settle at the dinner table to do the Sudoku and Code Cracker.

All through this un-cracking of codes, I continue to wake the family; continue with the laundry.
By 7:30 they are surfacing and I'm dressed and fed and doing more chores.

Am I a goddess? No. Look at the end of the day. I'm in bed by 8pm; sometimes, if I'm really lucky, it's 9! I miss out on all those family things like discussing whether Chandler really is the best match for Rachel - meh.

Today I did equivalent to the morning routine, in the afternoon, took a child to the doctor (waited 45 mins - gah) then went out to the horse then came home. God-like husband cooked fab meal but I'd retired straight away to type the minutes of last night's NZSA meeting - cos I said I would. Oh, and I sorted the laundry and put another pile in the machine (don't be mad but this family ALWAYS uses the drier!) so that school shirts and socks are available for tomorrow.

During today, I fended off the bank, the gardener, the mechanic and the lawyer - such is my charm. I also marked 38 essays. And, my class room is still tidy.

Why do I do it?

Because I am a story teller and a teacher and mother and wife. Plagued with all these roles (not a cook - though I can; nor a gardener - though I can - nor someone who sews, paints, knits, runs - though I can and I can and I can - but I choose not to)

I am Tania Roxborogh who is a teacher who writes or a writer who teachers. I am also mother wife friend. And, I hope, good enough at doing all these jobs.

do not envy me, dear reader. The life of a write is not an easy one. We are driven. Plagued. Obsessed. Compelled. Exhorted. Required.

We must write.

I think of the line from Janet Frame's Poem 'Yet Another Poem About a Dying Child' (which I study with my Y11 class) which says: he must rock the web of pain until the kind furred spider with night lamp eyes and soft tread wraps him warm and carries him to a safe place, and eats him.'

Brilliant poem.

Says how I feel at present about being a writer - there are good bits and there are painful bits. We all have to go through what we have to go through to be what we are destined to be.

By the way, though I'm in a struggle place, the writing is coming along well and I'm pleased.

Watch this space

Friday, March 5, 2010

So soon after the awards announement I have subcumbed

Bloodlines begins with a kidnap.

It does not being with Flea.

But soon there is a battle.

Man, these Scots make trouble for themselves. heh heh

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Banquo's Son Shortlisted for the NZ Post Children's Book Awards

Wahoooooo. What an absolute thrill to receive this nomination. I am in excellent company and I am delighted to get the nod.
The other finalists in my category are:
My buddy Brian Falkner for Brainjack

My dear friend and mentor, Fleur Beale for End of the Alphabet

Mandy Hager, for The Crossing

And, finally, Lia Hills The Beginner's Guide to Living

A strong race if I do say so myself. I loved reading my fellow nominees' books. Let the fun times begin.

For details of all the finalists, go here,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bloodlines - third draft

I have a deadline of the 1st of April - my dear agent negotiated an extension to have this date, thank goodness, because I doubt I would have been able to meet the 1st of March (which was yesterday, New Zealand time).

I still have about 40,000 words to write in less than three and a half weeks.

you see, I'm sure you've figured it out, I teach FULL TIME in a secondary school (which I do not begrudge - I love my job!).

This is currently my life: up at 4 or 5 am and write for an hour or two; be mummy between 7am and 8:30am; be teacher extraordinaire between 8:30 and 4pm; mummy again till after dinner and, sometimes, if I'm not knackered, I might write again.

The response to the early draft of this book has been doubled edged: it is better by far, the critics say BUT you have a lot of work to do, they add.

And, I do.

Don't get me started on the whole historical accuracy thing. I have spent hours and hours trawling through books on early medieval life. You would not believe what I have learned about these amazing people.

Anyway, the story of my man Fleance and his quest for happiness continues and, dear reader, it will all be worth the angst - this author promises.