Saturday, November 26, 2011

last chapter; last paragraph; last...


See, we want you to sigh, cried out 'noooo', weep, inhale deeply and shake your head with bittersweet satisfaction.

I have spent two days over the last lines of Birthright. Epilogue was done and dusted right from the start but the ending??? How much to give you? Over state? Understate? Offer hope (of course!) but the realization that there was much work to do which was not in the scope of the book...? That's what I've done.

Vicki, if you're reading this know that the kiss didn't happen but the marching back from battle etc etc did.

There is more to be done before it's ready for public consumption but I am grateful for my team who will set upon the story, find all the flaws and then leave me the summer to fix them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why William Shakespeare Rocks!

Blame your English teacher!
If you are reading this, chances are, you had were taught by someone who got William Shakespeare and passed on his genius.

I was 13 years old when I was introduced to Puck and Helena and Hermia and that dips**t Lysander. 14 when I met Shylock (who remains my most admired hero - If you prick us, do we not bleed?

15 when, one winter's day (which meant rain and rain and rain in Northland in June), in the school hall, I watched Zeffrelli's Romeo and Juliet and fell in love with love and decided then and there that Romeo was a dick (a view I have never shifted from).

16 when I discovered Ms Herbert in the toilets during half time of the court theatre's production of Macbeth and realized even an adult felt - FELT - what I did: despair and sadness.

The only 'Shakespeare' I did at university was Antony and Cleopatra. Thought both characters idiots - confirmed when, in the early 2000s I put on a production at my local school. The only characters redeemable were the servants. The best line of the play which I quote often now in my dotage: my salad days, when I was green in judgement.

I began teaching in 1989. Since then I've directed so many productions of Shakespeare's plays (including the 15 minute versions of mine and Tom Stoppard's making) I've lost count.

From a declle two school to a decile ten school, I've done it. The kids get him. They get him if you reveal him in a way they can see him. And, when they do - they love him.

This year, my 13 year olds produced A Midsummer Night's Dream (as much in the 1950s as we could); In previous years, with various schools, I have directed said play set in the Cook Islands in the 19th Century; The Merchant of Venice in Wall STreet, 12th Night in the roaring 20s, Macbeth in a shearing shed....

And it is not just his plays but his poetry which nabs our teens. Sonnet 18. Shall I compare thee et al...

Hamlet. Othello. Lear. Richard the third. Much Ado..... I could go on but it doesn't matter because he covered it better than I ever could.

The man was a genius.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Meet Fleance's key enemy

Like the rebel leader before him, fearless Magness, Robert Graham pissed early in the cold dawn before even the most hardy arose. Better to have his bladder empty when he needed to fulfill his obligations than it be full and a chance it dishonour his him.

And, like Magness, he went no where without two trusted men: one to keep watch; one to provide information.
‘Report,’ Graham said as the three of them made their way to the edge of the campsite.

‘Three men struck ill with dysentry,’ the first man said, shivering in the dark, the flaming torch in his hand a lying promise of warmth. ‘But no other show signs of the sickeness.’

Graham finished his toilet, tucked himself back in and tied up the stays of his breeks. ‘We have no time for illness or death outside of battle.’ He walked toward his tent, the two aides following alongside. ‘Their throats are to be slit this evening to save them their ungodly suffering and we shall bury them in the morning.’

‘Aye, Sire.’

He continued walking back, the welcome smell of freshly cooked stew stirring his hunger. Though only in his service four months, the young man had proved himself over and over: a quick observer and a keen listener. Slow to voice comment without good thought. Grandson of the Earl of Angus was a valued servant. The lad would convey his orders, they would be carried out without question and another peg in his plan for Scotland would be put in place.

Still, he thought as he brushed aside the tent’s awing, this damn malaise was an annoying interruption. They had lost too many men and men on both sides were is rare supply. Perhaps it was time to enlist the women.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Birthright - the final touches

I have been culling seriously the climatic scenes which include alliances made, witches, promises and a battle. I am pleased to be writing this book as a 46 year old woman who has lived a very full life. Like Fleance, I have been in the limelight most of my life - mostly by my own orchestration; some because of others' actions. I have learnt a lot. I have learned from reading scripture, Shakespeare, the classics, poetry and literature from a wide range of the English speaking world (and even some translations - I've read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables for example). I am blessed to be a holder of wise words from those gone before me.

I watch films as much as I read and I listen to the stories of others.

These, along with the lessons I've learned from my own life, inform my writing. Not that I am being preachy at all (that is far from my intention). It's just that, when a teen in my care comes to me about an issue that is of dire importance for her, I can look down the tunnel of experience and see what she cannot. Not that I would dare say that. Hey, I'm not stupid. But that concern reminds me again and again that if you have not bumped up against the railings once or twice and been bruised, then you don't know that the knock only toughens you up for next time.

Philosophical dribble, maybe, but when you put a 22 year old into the situations I've done for the past three years, you'd hope the author had something reasonable to draw on.

Damn right. When this story goes viral as it will, you can be assured of tracing 21st century lessons to 11th century truths. Scripture warns us (and it is a warning) that 'there is nothing new under the sun'.

I have also learnt a lot from my characters and enjoyed, if that is the right word, opportunity for healing and growth in my own life's struggles.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Submission Day

Okay, I've sent off Part One and man-o-man are things dire for our boy Fleance and Scotland. Part Two is written but as I was editing through Part One, a number of consistency problems arose as well as a few questions that didn't get sorted in Part One so I have a list of 'to dos' beside me and I shall make my way through the second half of the book fixing those before sending it off to my publisher.

This is the nerve wracking part of being a writer - probably worse for me than waiting for reviews. By the time the book is published, you've had a great team working on the novel to make it fantastic. My editor and agent are crazy amazing at picking up sloppy writing, typos, places where things need more developing etc and I think it's one of the hardest things a writer has to do getting back the manuscript from the editor. I guess it would be like giving birth and the midwife or doctor saying: oh, no, not quite good enough - let's put that baby back inside for another three months! Ouch!

On a positive note, I have stumbled across quite wonderful writing which I forgot I'd even done. I like those moments.

I was trying to twist a scene into shape yesterday during my lunch break when a couple of Y12 students came in early for class. I was muttering away to myself and then told them how rubbish I was as a writer. 'Here, listen to this,' I said. I read them a couple of paragraphs. 'See, rubbish!'
'Ah, actually, I liked that.'
'yeah. That was really good.'

It was enough to stop me pouting like a stroppy child and keep going. I now have a serious twinge in my right shoulder from being hunched over the computer all evening but I think it has been worth it.

I feel like I'm now at the top of the hill about to glide down the other side. Will post again when Part Two has been sent off and I can have a break before Katie and Josh (editor and agent) hit me with all their 'suggestions'