I hope you will forgive me. I’m struggling to keep up with everything, working at my day job and giving value for my wages, getting my submissions in, blogging plus being a wife and sister and friend and dealing all those things we all have to deal with every day. So is the life of a writer.
At the same time I’m loving revisiting Liam and Mary in Torn. I so love this story and I hope everyone else loves it too. Submission time is coming up fast so it’s polish, polish, polish time.
You may have noticed that my beautiful friends Elsa and Letitia have very generously gifted me with some beautiful covers for Torn and Shattered. I think they are just beautiful and I want to say a big thank you to the girls. Hang Le is a great cover artist and I’m in love with my covers. I’d also love to hear what you think.
And last, but not by any means least, shouting out to Sylvia who is finally out of Intensive Care but still in pain after major surgery. Love you my gorgeous friend and wishing I could take some of that for you. Can’t wait for you to bounce back and get on top of that pain.
Well, what a topsy turvy month this has been! A month of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Feeling a tinsy bit manic actually, there seems little solid ground between the two just now. Would howling like this guy above help do you think?
After just over one day at home I was off to the RWA Conference in Melbourne. It was an excellent writers conference over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I’ve been a member for 9 years and try not to miss a conference. It’s great meeting up with long time friends and new ones too. Our organisation is stuffed full of generous, wonderful writers. Everywhere I went they were especially lovely, plenty of hugs and sympathy along with so much to learn and to keep my mind off myself and on learning what I need to know to be a better writer and get this new career on the road.
My pitching went well too. (That’s a 5 minute opportunity to try to get a publishing professional interested in my book). I got three requests from three pitches (translates to they wanted to read some of my writing) which was very encouraging and had me on a high. Torn is the book of my heart. It’s been a long time in the writing and I’m hoping the agents and editor like it too. The ultimate goal being that it gets published and everyone gets a chance to read it too!
The downer came again at the end of the conference when I learned that one of my close writer friends passed away on Saturday. Damned cancer. Two lines is not enough to communicate what I’m feeling but I think it will have to wait a little longer. She was a very special person and I’m only one of the myriad who will miss her very much.
So, I’m back at work, busy getting my submissions ready to send and tired. Emotionally and physically exhausted. How do you go on? Yes, I’ve lost four of the most important people in my life over the last four months. But I know there are others out there who have lost more.
This is why I started writing Torn. I wanted to understand how you could not only survive but thrive after going through the heaviest of losses. Maybe my lesson is “be careful what you wish for”!
And to finish off with a new high – How do you like my new banner? Isn’t it great! “New Horizons”. I don’t remember naming this series but I’m assured that I did! Sometimes I surprise myself. So, what New Horizon are you looking forward to? What kind of stormy sea do you have to navigate to get there and how will you ensure you thrive when you get there?
Well, it’s all over bar the shouting. The memorial service for my beautiful mother was held yesterday. It was a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman. Above is a copy of a selfie she took in 1950 with a box brownie in a mirror. Maybe I’m biased but I think she was beautiful, inside and out. She was well loved and will be sorely missed.
So I flew home this afternoon. The good news is that my cough has settled down. Not completely gone but under control. It has been a very busy time so I don’t think it’s properly hit home yet that my Mum has gone. It’s good to be home but I’ve got a lot on over the next few days so I’m hoping to just get through them with my sanity at least partially intact. The first load of washing is almost finished and the suitcase is ready to be packed again. This weekend I’m excited to be going to our annual RWA writers conference, this year being held in conjunction with the Melbourne Writers Festival.
I’ll also be pitching “Torn” to some publishing professionals so think of me on Saturday and Sunday as I take some big steps to becoming a published author, one way or another. It’s crunch time. The big decision looms: whether I can find a traditional publisher or whether I should self-publish. Watch this space. Exciting things are on the way.
Now, I have a pile of mail waiting for me to give my full attention, a suitcase to repack, some bills to pay, preparation for the conference to finish and a bed that is calling my name. I’m so happy I had started my preparation before my month went to hell in a handbag. Can this month turn out to be the worst and the best of the year? You know it might yet prove to be just that!
Yes, it was not something any of us had expected so we’ve all been in shock. So where did I go? Up the dark tunnel of disbelief and on a plane to my Mum’s home where I’ve been assisting my family to make all those horrible decisions which have to be made at such a time. I’ll be away from home and internet connection again soon but will be home next week after the memorial service.
As you may have gathered, I am from a large family. The good side of coming from a large family is that there are lots of people to love one another. The down side of a large family is that there are so many to lose. This year we’ve lost three loved ones in the space of four months.
Three in the space of four months is bad enough but in Torn, my leading lady loses her entire family and many of her friends in a long painful lingering death from starvation and disease. One top of her own near death from starvation, could you expect any less than that old black dog of depression and grief to bite hard? On top of that, imagine having to move not just from your home and your hometown but your homeland to a land so rough and harsh as early Australia, such a contrast to Ireland.
Yes, I know, she’s a fictional character. However, throughout history and right up to today there have been and still are many real people in similar circumstances. In fact, that is where the ideas for Torn came from, wondering what it would be like. How would I cope? How would you cope? So, yes, a part of me is in Mary. Part of me wonders how strong I would be in that situation. Would I survive with my sanity and sense of humour intact? I hope so.
How did I spend my Saturday afternoon/evening? So glad you asked. Last weekend I did a workshop on writing book blurbs with the wonderful writer, Anna Campbell. Read more about Anna by clicking on this link: Anna Campbell
What is a book blurb you ask? It’s writer speak for the text you see on the back of a book, or the advertisement you read on Amazon before buying it. I wasn’t happy with what I wrote in the workshop so I’ve been playing with it today.
Would you like to read my draft? Would you like to tell me what you think? You would? Well, I’d like to hear your opinion.
A New Horizons Novel
Famine orphan Mary Ellen’s first challenge was to survive the starvation which took her beloved family. Taken from the docks of the “Harbour of Tears” when she was about to board a “coffin ship”, she has lived in London with a childhood friend for four months, recovering some of her former spirit. Despite her pretence at of being Scottish, she has no intention of ever leaving her beloved homeland, Ireland, ever again.
Despite Liam O’Brien’s deathbed promise to his father at the tender age of nine, he and his English stepfather are fighting a losing battle with their tempers. When war between English and Irish erupts at Ballemore Castle his stepfather helps him decide that Ireland is not big enough for them both.
Forced to risk his horses on a long sea voyage to “The Great South Land”, Liam takes the chance to build a new life on land of his own, responsible only for his men and his horses. Fake Scot Mary and two small boys never figured in his plans for the future.
I’d like to hear your opinion. Would this make you want to read my book?
There’s a scene I particularly loved writing in Torn, set on a beach just like this one. My two main characters learn about a decision by another character which will seriously impact both of their futures, almost every aspect of their lives from that point on. They discuss what it will mean for them and decide how they will handle the consequences of those decisions.
Is there somewhere you like to go when you have a decision to make? Somewhere which gives you a sense of peace and serenity, time to think and decide?
It does my head in if I think how long that would have taken for my characters in 1850. There were no flying visits in those days! No flying at all although one of my characters might just have had a broomstick she could ride…
What would they think if they time-travelled to 2015? Electricity, gas, electronic gizmos, kitchen gizmos, cars, traffic, recorded music whenever you wish to plug in some headphones and I’m sure you can think of a million other things which would be objects of wonder for those from a simpler time.
On the other hand, what do we miss, with all our technology and convenience?
We live our lives at a much faster pace, there is information coming at us from every direction, fewer ‘home’ musicians who would play for a sing-a-long, family time without the idiot box in the corner, when people would play games, read books aloud to the whole family. Even books were a much more precious resource. How many of you can remember when every new book was something to treasure and marvel at? When libraries were the only source of reference books, unless a fast talking travelling salesman had convinced your parents to invest in the latest expensive set of encyclopaedias.
Oh and when I pack for my conference in August I’ll be grateful that my 23 kilos of baggage allowance isn’t consumed by all those layers of clothing and corsets, neck to knee and smothered in petticoats to within an inch of your life! Yes there are pros and cons which are fun to think of and important for a writer to know so that your experience reading is as authentic as I can make it without any of us having to live that life. Pity really though I’m sure, if we could travel back to that time, after a while we would miss at least some of our modern conveniences.
What would you miss most? What do you miss most, even from your own lifetime? I’d love to hear from you.
New Year? In June? Yes, well, I’m being forced to think about where I am, where I’ll end up if I keep on my current direction, and whether that’s what I want. I fear change will come whether I’m ready for it or not so it seems prudent to make some New Financial Year Resolutions, to set the direction for the year ahead.
Change is one thing we can count on and yet we almost all of us resist change sometime or other. The more drastic the change the harder it is to force oneself to make it, usually.
Mary Ellen, in Torn, is forced to make a life changing journey. How will she cope with having to move away from everyone and everything she has always known and loved to a country and a life on the other side of the world with people she barely knows? Leaving behind what you know and love can be like tearing out your heart. Having to do all of that when your body is in a weakened state by starvation would only make it harder. When you have lost your family and friends in death by the same starvation would test the mettle of anyone.
Would going on be easy? Of course not. What would she be thinking, whether she wanted to or not? Would she sometimes feel guilty that she survived when her loved ones did not? Would she sometimes wish she had not lived to watch them die? Of course. She would sometimes wish she didn’t have to go on without them.
What could give her the strength to go on? How could she drag herself back from the edge of the abyss of self pity and depression? What would give her comfort in the harsh world she finds herself in? Would she willingly put herself in the position where she could lose everyone she has come to love all over again? How can she motivate herself to begin all over again?
Questions I’ve had to answer for Mary in my book and some of the questions we might sometimes have to ask ourselves in real life.
Our winters are pretty mild here. It’s rare to get down into the low single digits but after the warmth of our summers, it feels pretty chilly to us. I learned so much in my research for Torn. The Great Famine was not the first famine. There had been a number of them, one after the other.
It was strange really, when I was trying to find a place where my Leading Lady (I intensely dislike the tag Heroine) would have grown up with her family, I went around and around and couldn’t decide where to set them down. In the end I took the map, closed my eyes, drew a couple of air circles and my finger landed in Skibereen. There couldn’t have been many places more likely. Reading about the history of Skibereen broke my heart.
Clothing in those days was not as easily come by and though the rich may have had more than enough, not everyone had what was necessary to keep them warm. In the warmer months many had sold their warmer clothing to buy food and when the winters came in hard their already weakened bodies suffered, many fatal consequences.
We all know that there are people even today who suffer from starvation and privation. It makes me grateful for what I have, realise how fortunate I am. I love stories which make me think, to learn about other people, other places, other cultures and lands. I hope my readers will learn something from my book too. Talking of Torn, the edits are upon me again. Hopefully, this will be the last round and I can release my baby into the world sooner rather than later.