Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Chapter of Bloodlines

Here is the first chapter of Bloodlines (not including the Prologue). The book should be available now in all good bookshops.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Procrastination has come for a visit, dammit!

Okay, so I was allowed a couple of days rest what with the end of a very busy term and the launch of the book. And, yesterday and today, presenting the writing workshop to the lovely group of students. And, my study is ready, the whiteboard filled with lists and goals and inspiration and the hubby and kids have (esp the eldest who has read both Banquo's Son and Bloodlines over the past five days - and gave them the big thumbs up!) given me permission to set myself apart and just WRITE.

Yes. Hmm. Well, the first time I did this, I was not on FaceBook. And, I didn't get the volume of emails and queries I do now. My email traffic has double quadrupled in the past 12 months. I have a website as well. I have won an award. I am more known than I have ever been.

So, like now, writing this for you, I am avoiding doing that which I must do. The first chapter of Birthright (if I take again the analogy of art) has been sketched out with charcoal and many of the details of the scene are in. There is some colour and a couple of places which are vibrant.

The problem? The muse is there alright but there are, what I call, the anti-muses. These wee buggers have different personalities but they do the same thing - they tell me I can't possibly pull this off: you're not a good enough writer; you are neglecting your family; you should do the housework (this one needs to be hunted down and eradicated); your fans need you - you must update the blog and the facebook page; this story is not going to work; you should be exercising (I hate this one but I kinda think it's got a point); your friends miss you; you're a better teacher than a writer; why don't you take a break, Tania? You work so hard all of the time. Wouldn't you like to just spend the next two weeks lying on the sofa reading, watching DVDs and eating pasta? (okay, I really, really like this one but my muse hates it the most and, really, I should trust her cos she's got me this far...)

I look back on what I achieved with Banquo’s Son in such a short time and I know I am much more ahead than that. But, I do want this to be so good, so very very good, in the writing. The story is going to be fantastic – promise – but I want it breath-taking for the reader.

It is wonderful that I am already getting responses from readers. Wonderful Louise, whom I wrote about last year, told me at the launch that Bloodlines was even better than Banquo’s Son (and I loved Banquo’s Son she said). My astute eldest says the same. Bloodlines is very good. I want Birthright to be even better. No pressure.

So, dear reader (and, you too, Tania), time to get off line and back to that banquet hall and deal to a whole lot of stuff which is going to go down. Poor Flea. This time, however, I think you might just go, hooyeah!

PS should I mention the teacher's curse? Healthy all term and then what happens? Yes, I have developed a rather nasty chest infection. Just grateful my head is all good.

Monday, September 27, 2010

When not writing, I teach writing

Today and tomorrow, I am tucked away at Balacava School teaching a keen group of 11-13 year olds the art of being a good writer.

I think today I dismayed then and inspired them. They are much better than I was at their age or when I was 10 years older or even 20 years older. Damn them.

They already know it sucks when you have no ideas; when you can't make your story do anything; when you are completely stuck! Wahh. These guys are so young to know such painful truths!

But, they also do not seem to yet understand the importance of the reader and his/her power. To appreciate the need to carefully manipulate the trajectory of the story arc nor the potency of the reading experience.

Today we looked at where to find ideas and what to do with them - more specifically structure, conflict, character creation and the use of dialogue.

Tomorrow, we will take what they have started to write and do what we kids used to do with the sheep skins back on the farm: wash and comb and tug out burrs and knots and anything overlooked by the fleesos. Comb and comb and comb until the fleese was a soft fluffy thing without a hint of its former life.

It's a great credit to these young people that they have given up two days of their school holidays (and some of them and their parents have travelled long distances) to sit in a classroom to learn some things which might improve their writing.

I suspect that in years to come, based on what they had read to me to far, we will hear of these authors (for this is what they are) in the future.

Warm weather in Dunedin is a rare thing and I might be resentful of losing it to a classroom for ten hours except I don't notice because of the joy of hearing the voices of these most articulate and intelligent children.

Also one knows about the Banquo's Son trilogy and another read Grit, one of my books. Now that's a good thing in my book: know what you're facing.

Teaching writing is a very, very strange thing my fellow tutors agree. We just hope the kids go away inspired.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Launch for Bloodlines

last night, at the Dunedin Public Library, we launched Bloodlines out into the world!

What a wonderful evening it was for me personally. It started with a panic when I realised that members of my writing group could not help with food preparations but was rescued by some of my lovely Y11s who were so willing to give up their lunch hour to help out.

We had so much fun making the food.

The evening went well (despite the fact that, for the second year in a row, our border collie dog ate a whole tray of sandwiches!).

I have uploaded a video record of my speech on YouTube. Go here to have a look.

Thanks to all those who helped make it a great night.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My dilemma - forget about part two or three...

Today I was in a place in my teaching whereby I happened to mention a book whose fires are stoked to keep it alive. It was because a student read an article for her wide reading NCEA assessment called Killing Time. Back in 1999, when I was teaching at Orewa College, the entire story for a novel pushed itself into my life. I wrote the synopsis and the first few chapters. Little changed for the written words but much has changed for my life - the Banquo's Son trilogy being a big part of it.

Anyway, I began to tell the class the story of Killing Time. One by one the girls stopped what they were doing (which was [cough] important assessment stuff) and urged me to go on with the story telling.

At about two minutes to the bell, I realised something about myself: I tell great stories. Better stories than some others.

Much more happened in that lesson and it had to do with the mermaid story and I am so using that interaction in the novel.

My point is: can someone please pay me to write these stories cos they are really really good - like and though I adore/love teaching, I need time to write.
wah - just saying

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A writer's dilemma: where to next?

Fleur Beale told me recently that, though she was supposed to be working on the third book in her Juno series, she had be kidnapped by another grunty, contemporary story. Grabbed as in: she has been up and down the Wellington surrounds doing research.

Having just finish Fierce September, Book Two of the Juno series, it makes me nervous that her attention is somewhat waylaid. Still, I know I don't need to panic cos Fleur, being the consummate professional that she is, will deliver.

But, it got me thinking: there is a particular story which is acting like Donkey in the first Shrek movie: Pick me Pick me Pick me.

This story is what I affectingly call my Mermaid story. In 2007, I gave the a section of the first chapter to the English dept to use for their end of year examination. Those kids (Y9/13-4 year olds) were so taken by the extract, a number of them came up to me to ask when the book would be published.

I have been asked the same question for the past three years. Just this Friday, a wee lass, now in Y11 (15 years old) said: when you write your mermaid book, you better put our names in the acknowledgments

I asked her why. Because it's going to be such a great story and we want the world to know that we saw it first.

This sounds so familiar. ie When I mooted the idea of Banquo's Son, I had a keen group of readers who became so enthralled with the idea of the story.

So. I have a contract and an emotional obligation to spend time writing Birthright. But, I have this wee story (it's scope makes me see it is as a baby) which is crying crying, crying...

Maybe I need to write the 'mermaid story' and get it out of my system before I turn my attentions fully on Birthright. Book Three of the trilogy (120,000 words) vs wee middle grade book (15-20 thousand words).

pfff. I should be able to knock that off in a couple of weeks, don't you think?

Here's the opening few paragraphs:
What would you do if you found a real mermaid? Would you call the police? The T.V. station? Would you suggest poking it in the eye with a stick? (That was Robbie’s idea – not mine).

Well, this is what we did. We took her home. And, we knew pretty quickly it was a ‘she’ not a ‘he’ or an ‘it’ because, unlike those Disney cartoons, mermaids don’t have scales and they don’t wear cute little shell bras. Mermaids let it all hang out.

There's plenty more and it's very exciting. Malcolm, the narrator, is an interesting kid - he only has one leg and he's Ngati Porou (like me though, to date, I've never been to Gisborne but I still have all my limbs).

And, I don't know why Malcolm has a prosthetic.

Yeah this post is prob outside the Trilogy boundaries but I'm thinking, after sorting and cleaning out my writer's study, maybe I need to finish this wee gem before I throw myself into the writing to Birthright.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bloodlines book launch

This will be in a couple of weeks here in Dunedin. 22nd of September. 5:30 at the public library. I will be making the sandwiches (along with members of my student writing group), getting the sushi and the chips and dips and buying the drink. Some of my kids will be helping out with the serving. Bless them. I will also be teaching in every other space of the day.

Why do we do it, we authors? Why do we outlay expense on a party for a book?

Because, it is like celebrating the birth of a child in some sense.

The effort required to actually write a novel is probably only really understood by other writers. The effort required to promote a novel is probably only understood by the sales and marketing and publicity team at the publishers. The cost of the sacrifices family had to suffers can only really be appreciated by said family members.

And, why shouldn't I have a chance to dress up nicely, eat and drink good food and wine with friends, family and fans?

So, to hold that book in your hand, to have others hold it, to have others respond to the story you have slaved over for 12 months are glorious, glorious moments.

Publishes don't tend to spend much money on launches, preferring to spend the small budgets of advertising or other marketing ideas but authors cannot let the release of a novel go un-noticed.

This is why I am putting on a party for Bloodlines. It certainly deserves it!

Monday, September 6, 2010

left side strong side aka sometimes it hurts to write

ACC doesn’t charge us much but they do charge us.

I wonder if anyone thinks about the physical cost of being a writer. I guess each writer does their own thing. I know of vegan, live off the land types who write away on recycled paper and others who trot off to their offices each day which result in them turning out published works.

Me, I type. And I move firewood and lift groceries and write on the whiteboard and mark scores of essays.

So, always, my right arm aches. And my right elbow.

In fact, I’m getting to that stage that I’m a little bit worried.
I lie in bed at night and am woken by the pain in my fingers and joints. Oh, yes, I’ve bought the Omego 3 10000000 pills.

The thing is, ACC is not stupid. They understand that a writer spends hours and hours hunched in front of whatever writing implement and it might just end up costing the government if the writer can no longer function. So they ping us with a tax. (Tania waves at her government).

I pick up the bucket with the horse feed and my right arm screams.
I lift my arm to write instructions for my Y11 kids and my elbow hisses with pain.
I go to pull a pile of washing from the dryer and I am stunned by the pain which shoots down the right side of body.

Right side. My side.

I am currently analysing Remember the Titans with my wonderful Y11s and there is a quote: Left Side, Strong Side. Yup. Geddit.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Earthquakes during 11th C Scotland?

Just wondering. Will have to go researching this. Why? Well, to those not in NZ, the place where I was born and spent some important years of my teenage hood has been devastated by an earthquake measuring 7.4 (only 10kms deep, centred in the sleepy town of Darfield where good friends reside).

Like many New Zealanders, we in our house have spent the day with the telly and radio on, listening to the stories and viewing the pics. Earlier in the morning, I was on the phone to many family and friends checking everyone was okay.
Praise God no one has been killed because of the quake although, sadly, a gentleman has died after suffering a heart attack and a number of people are in hospital with serious injuries.

Did we, as a family, feel it? HELL YES! My eldest and hubby awoke to the house rocking like it was being jiggled on the knee of some giant. And, the noise! And, like many in Chch remarked, it went on and on and on.
We have some damage to our 100 year old house which pales into insignificance to those who have had a monstrous day cleaning up broken plates and glass and bottles and jars of food and precious things....

But, what struck me was, how dependent we are on the simplest of things: water, warmth, power (which usually keeps the phones up and running) and sanitation. Presently, all these things are not working properly in one of New Zealand's cities – water-mains are burst and flooding streets and houses; sewage pipes, ditto.
While I was writing, the tv was on and there was bulletin after bulletin of officials warning the citizens about hygiene and potential problems. And, I was thinking: well, in Glamis right now there is no electricity, phones, cell phone, internet. Yet, the sewerage system is working. Even back then (and, I guess it’s always been) the people understood the importance of ensuring waste was managed. Thanks to the Romans, such systems (which included waterways) were all good to go in Britain.

I know this post is not so much about the writing of the trilogy but the earthquake has made me aware again of how dependent I am on the mod-cons. I went to the supermarket last night to get some food for dinner and was struck by the number of shoppers who had bottles of water and tins of staple foods in their trolley. A couple of years ago, Dunedin was shut down after a snow storm so that planes and trucks could not get in which meant bread and milk and petrol supplies were quickly depleted.

How is it that our society is so expectant of its needs being met. My eldest said to me: what if this was during the exams? (meaning the national examinations which occur each year in early Nov). What if this was us? She asked. Because, many of the schools in chch will probably not open this week because of the damage to their buildings. She has friends in this possible situation and of course they have been facebooking and texting everyone…
Yet, not so who live in the world of my story. Like the main roads in and out of Chch, there are obstacles; like the basic needs of my fellow Cantabrians – warmth, water, toilet – these are precious parts of a comfortable life. But, unlike our 21st C selves, they are less dependent on the others providing the basics.

We don’t have a king but our Prime Minister has been walking the streets. The people need their leader to come see their suffering and offer practical support and rousing words of encouragement (note to self).

In the end, I’m just glad that I have not had to contend with walls falling down on me or my kids.

Friday, September 3, 2010

looking forward and further forward

Right now (apart from finishing off the marking of the large pile of NCEA internals and Y9 Film reviews and attending to family matters) I’m gearing up for the launch of Bloodlines.

Tis a strange thing to be buffeted by three winds: those who have just read (or recently read) Banquo’s Son and want to talk about it; those who read it last year and are dying to get their hands on a copy of Bloodlines and, the nudging I’m getting from my publisher to keep going with Birthright.

The story of Bloodlines is, for me personally, in the past. I’ve lived it this past year and suffered with my characters and laughed with them too. But, my heart and imagination is now firmly captured by book three.

Though I might appear to be operating quite normally in the 21st Century, every now and then I see, in my mind’s eye, the banquet hall of Glamis castle: filled with distinguished guests, smoke from the torches, the smell of delicious food and something else (?) sweat, soil, damp…? And the sounds of the rush of a castle tending to the needs of its royal guests.

And, admist all that I sense some shadowy players. Those who are mingling in this room who wish ill on our boy. Like Fleance, I know and feel safe with Blair and Rosie and Rachel and Henri (whom the world is yet to meet) and Charissa – even Bree. But, something is lurking and I haven’t yet nailed it.

This first chapter is crucial and I want to ensure that I set the scene perfectly.
I look forward to the world’s reaction to Bloodlines. I have enjoyed reading it again as a reader but its onward for me to ensure that the finale is AMAZINGLY fantastic.