Author: Madeleine D'Este (Page 2 of 4)

My favourite audiobooks of 2016

Another 2016 list…yes, I know. But today’s it’s all about the audiobook.

I’m a new convert to the audiobook and here are my favourite audiobooks from 2016 featuring conspiracy theories, crime, creativity, meditation and Victorian history. Diverse much?

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My favourite books of 2016

Yep, another top 2016 list. But this one is all about me.

Here’s my list of 5 star rated books from my own goodreads list (because I can’t rely on my own memory) filled with vampires, time travel, near future spy thrillers and two present day thrillers.

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What exactly is a Bunyip?

For all of you non-Australians still wondering what a Bunyip is, I wrote a piece for FolkloreThursday.com on Bunyips, exploring the folklore and the blurry details of the mysterious Bunyip.

Read The Bunyip: Australia’s Mysterious Man-eating Swamp Beast in full here.

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Birching, medieval peasant life & Norse names: random writing research

I’m in the midst of Nanowrimo and closing in on 50k. Hoorah! I dip into research as I write and so I thought I’d share a few random links for interesting things I’ve researched during the past few days. My Nanowrimo manuscript is fantasy, so I’m going all medieval on your arse.

Birching

The use of birch rods for punishment and birches were always my favourite tree. I now look at them in a different way.

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The tale of two projects: kidney stone or maple syrup?

I still don’t have my writing process down pat. This has become bleeding obvious with my two most recent projects.

The Production – a high gothic YA novel – was a constant struggle, getting out 60k words was like passing a kidney stone. Whereas my current Nanowrimo project – The Ravens of Ambrovna: fantasy –  is flowing out like maple syrup.

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My Top 5 Childhood Movie Scares

Despite my earlier post about being the Halloween Grinch, I love a scary movie and this is the time of year to talk horror.

So, I’ve been inspired by my favourite movie podcast, Filmspotting, to list my top 5 childhood movie scares.

In no particular order, here are the top 5 movie moments which scared the pants off me as a little ‘un.

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Why I struggle with Halloween

I love the dark stuff. I love ghost and witches, vampires and werewolves, folk horror, the supernatural and everything spooky in between. I was a goth for gawd’s sake, brought up on a healthy diet of the Cure, Twin Peaks and black eyeliner in a place known for it’s own brand of gothic literature.

And yet, I have real troubles with Halloween as a celebration.

Maybe it’s cos I’m Australian.

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What book are you most grateful for?

I think I’ve established here, I’m a bit of a new age-y personal development type (in amongst the love of horror movies and heartless disdain for anything romantic).

As part of my routine, I keep a gratitude journal beside my bed and at the end of each day, I write down five things I’m grateful for. Sometimes the five things are puerile and short (coffee seems to feature often), other days they are fundamental and deep (being safe and empowered to make my own decisions in life).

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I stumbled across a “30 days of gratitude” infographic and I’m using these suggestions as a prompt for new things to remember to be grateful for.

I checked Day 8. – what book are you most grateful for?

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My novel writing process is like making a fancy layer cake  

I’m in the process of writing my umpteenth novel (I’ve no idea how many exist on dead computers or in notebooks probably recycled into toilet paper) but I’m still learning what my process is. I’ve decided my process is like making a real fancy layer cake.

Warning – this blog post is going get a bit hippy-dippy. You have been warned.

I can be a force of nature when I put my mind to something. Get out of my way, people. I can make anything happen through sheer will power and hard work. Until I can’t and I end up banging my forehead against a wall. The universe kicks me in the bum quite often and tells me I can’t force everything. Like creativity and inspiration.

But where’s the cake, you ask? I’ll get to it…

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Great sci-fi holiday reads – High Castle and Temp Job of Doom

I’ve been spending some quality time by a pool with books attached to my face. I started many, finished a few and really enjoyed two.

Here are my highlight holiday reads. Quite different but both sci-fi.

Let’s start with a classic.

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Evangeline and the Bunyip – out now

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of Evangeline and the Bunyip – available now on Amazon as an ebook. 

Evangeline is back with another adventure with Balls, Bunyips and blancmange.

In 1882, Melbourne is under threat from a fearsome Bunyip and The Argus announces a reward for the capture of the beast. But Evangeline is not afraid, this is a perfect chance for Evangeline to test out her new monster catching device and save the day. With help from her best friend, Mei, and plenty of raspberry tarts of course.

Evangeline and the Bunyip is the second episode in The Antics of Evangeline series of mystery and mayhem set in steampunk Melbourne.

See here for a sneak peek of page 1.

 

Evangeline and the Bunyip – sneak peek at page 1

Evangeline and the Bunyip is due out any day now and I can’t wait to show you the cover.

But in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at page 1.

Enjoy.

Evangeline and the Bunyip

Chapter 1

“And another thing, Evangeline. You mustn’t eat too much. There’ll be ample food and I know you have a… healthy… appetite,” Uncle Augie said.

Evangeline glanced at the buttery shortbread in her hand. What could Uncle Augie possibly mean? It was only her third.

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Shadows and Bunyips

Last week’s freebie sale on Evangeline and the Alchemist: A Novella: Mystery and Mayhem in steampunk Melbourne (The Antics of Evangeline Book 1) was an overwhelming success (over 2,500 downloads). I was blown away. I hope you snaffled a copy and enjoy it.

In the past week, I’ve been exploring my shadow side with my new gothic horror work and finalising proofs/cover for Evangeline and the Bunyip.

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Free Book promo – 6th and 7th August

Evangeline and the Alchemist: A Novella: Mystery and Mayhem in steampunk Melbourne (The Antics of Evangeline Book 1) is free until 8th August but I’m also taking part in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Free Book promo over 6th-7th August.

Over a hundred free books with all e-book retailers.

Get amongst it! I’m gonna load my Kindle too.

Writing round-up (without that toxic chemical)

When I read informative information on how “optimise my author platform”, there is always a mention of a consistent blog content strategy. Mmm, well, big fail here. This blog and my blogging is awfully random. I’ve decided to go with my randomness and only blog when I feel inspired, which waxes and wanes.

Today is a little round-up (and not the noxious chemical) on what’s going on with me. Something new, something old and some classroom time.

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Interview with Annelisa Christensen – the Popish Midwife

I do love a bit of historical fiction and today, I’m talking with UK author, Annelisa Christensen. Some might know her from the weekly writers’ game, #1linewed, and some might know her from her blog, Script Alchemy, but she’s hoping that we’ll get to know her as the author of her debut novel The Popish Midwife: A tale of high treason, prejudice and betrayal.

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How I got over my self-doubt this time

This week has been another brutal week in world affairs.

I feel quite selfish talking about my own struggles with trivial words on a page when there is pain and death in the lives of so many others.

But this week, I’ve really battled with self-doubt and motivation. I was sick of Evangeline and didn’t want to write another word about her. I was convinced I was writing a bunch of rubbish and would never be able to write again. Blah, blah, blah. Self-indulgent writers rant.

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Cross-Stitch, Jekyll and Manila – other creative outlets

I can be a bit single-minded. All work and no play makes Madeleine super freakin’ boring. I have to remember to stick my head out of the writing cave and do other stuff, like talk to people and put shoes on. Today I’m going to talk about stuff other than writing and Evangeline.

Writing is not my only creative outlet. I like to make tangible stuff. After spending all day in my mind, it’s fun to make stuff with my hands – cook or craft.

At the moment I seem to be obsessed with cross stitch patterns. My mum used to be an avid cross stitcher and has some beautiful framed work around her house. For some reason in the past week, I’ve been drawn to the world of cross-stitching and I’m stalking various patterns and kits on Etsy. Maybe I’ve also been inspired by the cover of the Steven Pressfield’s new book on writing (Nobody Wants to read your sh*t). I’m seeing some cross-stitch action in the near future.

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Half time score for 2016

It’s 30th June, half way through 2016 already and so it’s time to reflect and revisit my 2016 resolutions.

  • Publish something
  • Write or edit daily
  • Learn from the experts

How have I fared?

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Evangeline and the Alchemist – Available now.

I’m thrilled to announce my new novella Evangeline and the Alchemist: A Novella: Mystery and Mayhem in steampunk Melbourne (The Antics of Evangeline Book 1) is available now on Amazon and through Kindle Unlimited.

In coming weeks, I’ll run a special free offer on Amazon. So stay tuned for the dates or sign up to my newsletter.

This is a milestone in my writing career and I must thank the following people .

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Continuum Melbourne – June 10

I’ll be appearing at Continuum – Melbourne’s Speculative Fiction Convention on June 10 on a panel about “Magical Melbourne” at 10pm. We’ll be discussing Melbourne as a setting for speculative fiction and I’ll be talking about Evangeline and the Alchemist in steampunk Melbourne.

Check out the rest of the program here.

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What inspired The Antics of Evangeline stories?

Now, what inspired the stories in The Antics of Evangeline?

Since I was a child, I’ve loved the weird, the wonderful and the supernatural. I am a big fan of Dr Who, Whedon-worlds, Hammer horror, the X-Files, folktales and all manner of forteana.

The Antics of Evangeline combine a steampunk setting with an exploration of folklore and the paranormal.

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The Deepest Black by Rainy Kaye – launch and giveaway

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Today, we’re celebrating the release of THE DEEPEST BLACK by USA Today Bestselling author Rainy Kaye. THE DEEPEST BLACK is 99 cents for a limited time! Check it out, then scroll all the way down to enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

 


 

the_deepest_blackEmber has a little problem…fairies want her dead.

Ember spends her Friday nights lurking in the bad parts of town, killing fairies. It’s either that, or become a victim to their flesh-eating hung

Then she meets Remy, a fae who, despite getting on her nerves, isn’t evil. He tells her that a shadow has been consuming his world, changing its inhabitants and letting destructive beasts into his city. He is searching for his brother who went missing during the catastrophe.

When a team of mercenaries come for Ember, she has little choice but to join Remy in his quest. Together, they decide to bait a trap. What they find reveals the destruction of the fae world means the end of the human world, too–and it’s Ember’s fault.

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Rainy Kaye writes paranormal novels from her lair somewhere in Phoenix, Arizona. She is represented by Rossano Trentin of TZLA, and her Summoned series was acquired by Bastei Lübbe. In 2014, she reached the USA Today Bestseller list. Today, she’s taking care of her small zoo of furry animals and trying to remember where she left her coffee.

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Why the Monthly Twitter Writing Challenge rocks – join for June

I’ve been a part of the Monthly Twitter Writing Challenges for over a year now. Finally in June 2016, I’ve stepped up to lead the challenge. The Challenge has helped me build a regular writing routine, but there are plenty of other reasons to join the ride.

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Sometimes reading counts as plotting, right?

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What inspired The Antics of Evangeline – style

Today I’m talking more about the inspiration behind Evangeline and the Alchemist (coming in June 2016).

The book which sparked the whole Evangeline series was Blameless by Gail Carriger. (Yes, I read her series completely out of order.) Aside from being a cracking good read, I was struck by Carriger’s wit and the possibility of silliness within a Victorian world. As soon as I finished the last page, I was hit with an idea for a character, Evangeline.

I’ve tried writing urban fantasy before (vampire chef, anyone?) but it didn’t sit right with me. The humour felt forced and, to be frank, just plain dorky. Somehow in the artificial world of steampunk, I’ve felt the freedom to be silly and funny in an overblown and flowery way. Bring on the adjectives, chums! At first, this was a release from the more serious world of my Monolith series, but it has turned into something larger and Evangeline is now my first release as an independent author.

Aside from Carriger, I channelled some

  • Wodehouse,
  • with a little Hugh Lawrie as Prince George in Blackadder III,


All these style influences mixed around in my brain to create Evangeline and her Marvellous Melbourne world.
Next time, I’ll continue with my Evangeline inspirations and move onto the story itself.

What inspired Evangeline and the Alchemist – Place

Evangeline and the Alchemist, the first novella in my Mystery and Mayhem in steampunk Melbourne series, is almost ready to be launched upon the world.

Stay tuned for updates, but get ready to meet Evangeline in June 2016.

Today I’m focusing on what inspired Evangeline and the Alchemist and in this post, I’m focusing on place. The place is Melbourne and Melbourne is where I live.

The Antics of Evangeline are all set in Melbourne in 1882-83. In that period, Melbourne was the second largest city in the British Empire outside London.

After the Gold Rush of the 1850s, there was a flood of cash in Melbourne. The Government invested heavily in construction and infrastructure, and there was an ill-fated property boom. During the Victorian era, many beautiful and decorative buildings were constructed. Many of these buildings still exist today and I’m lucky enough to walk past them daily. A constant reminder of our Victorian past.

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Why My Advice Won’t Work for You

The internet is full of advice. Do this. Do that. Lose weight. Find Mr Right. Make millions from home. Get a billion followers and rock-hard abs by lunchtime.

I could do the same. This is how I managed to conquer **insert “flaw” here** and achieved **insert “success” here**.

But what works for me won’t work for you. Necessarily.

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Fuck you Resistance…and the horse you rode in on

Dear Reader

I’ve been feeling low, like my writing is a waste of time. My head’s been full of stupid thoughts.

There’s no point
Why am I bothering?
I’ll just be a big failure. A laughing stock.
I’ll never get a book deal or an agent
I’ll sell no copies
I’ll get 1 star reviews

Basically I feel like giving up.

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Why I write steampunk?

In my last post, I proposed my own pithy definition of steampunk.

But why does steampunk appeal to me? Why do I write steampunk?

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Folklore Thursday – interview with Dee Dee Chainey and Willow Winsham

I’ve always been fascinated by tales of strangeness, especially folktales, superstitions and ancient wisdom from past generations. So I was super excited when I came across #FolkloreThursday on Twitter, a new hashtag for all things folkloric. Now it’s become my weekly dose of weird and wonderful wisdom.

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Today, I’m talking with the founders of #FolkloreThursday, Dee Dee Chainey and Willow Winsham to learn more.

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What is steampunk? My pithy definition

When I tell people I’m writing a series of steampunk novellas (The Antics of Evangeline), the first question is often ‘what is steampunk?’ Not everyone appears to be familiar with the world of steampunk.

Here’s my pithy definition of steampunk.

Steampunk is a science-fiction genre based in the Victorian era but with anachronistic technology, generally steam-powered.

Steampunk is an alternate world where Victorian innovations are taken to new heights and fun inventions are inserted alongside the Victorian clichés of parasols, whiskers and London pea-soup fogs.

I hope this helps. Next up, I’ll post about “why I write steampunk?”

Further reading (with considerable more detail) on ‘what is steampunk’ including the history, the community, the elements of a steampunk story and of course, the fabulous fashion.

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Interview with Beverley Lee on dark fantasy novel, The Making of Gabriel Davenport

Today I’m speaking with Beverley Lee as she launches her new dark fantasy novel, The Making of Gabriel Davenport.

Beverley is also the moderator of April 2016’s Monthly Writing Challenge. A great way to form habits in your writing. But let’s hear about Beverley’s exciting new release.

How would you describe The Making of Gabriel Davenport?

It’s a dark fantasy, set in the present but with definite ties to the past.FC

In a house built on truth something lays hidden.

Beth and Stu Davenport moved to the English hillside town of Meadowford Bridge to give their young son, Gabriel, an idyllic, rural childhood. But in a single evening, the Davenports’ dream is shattered by a hidden, ancient darkness– and their lives are forever changed.

Years later, Gabriel Davenport, now a capable, curious young man, makes the ill-fated decision to go looking for answers about his mysterious past. As soon as he begins his quest, his life becomes a place of shadows. The people he loves and trusts are acting abnormally. The strange woman who lives upstairs is even more haunted than usual. Even his most trusted friend seems to be hiding something.

As one fateful night deepens, and the line blurs between darkness and light, Gabriel must confront the terrible events that destroyed his family all those years ago. He is faced with a choice: continue living the life that was never his to begin with, or give himself over to a terrifying new reality more sinister than anything he’s ever known.

The darkness is watching.

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Three reasons why I’m glad for my day job

In my dreams, I would be a full-time writer. But in reality, some days I’m glad to leave my writing at home and go to the day job.

Here’s three reasons why…

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Writer’s Residence in a Scottish Castle – interview with Margaret Skea

Hmm…who would like the opportunity to write for a month in a Scottish castle?

Um…me.

So when I heard that Margaret Skea – fabulous historical fiction writer – had secured a residency at Hawthornden Castle, I was overcome with jealousy.

I caught up with Margaret after her experience and she shares a glimpse into the writing fellowship program at Hawthornden Castle as well as the imposed periods of silence, broken boilers in February and eating porridge from a pewter bowl.

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Mysteries and mayhem in steampunk Melbourne – coming soon

While I query on Return to the Monolith, I’ve decided to keep anxiety at bay (see last week’s post) by putting my Evangeline novellas out into the world.

The Antics of Evangeline is a series of novellas involving mysteries and mayhem in steampunk Melbourne. In the 1880s, Melbourne was the second largest settlement in the British Empire after London and flush with post-gold rush cash.

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What I learned this week

My own Yoda told me to work on something new while querying.

This is great advice, designed to stop me going nuts and checking my email forty thousand times a day.

So I went ahead and worked on something else. The sequels to my querying manuscript. So I’m ready to go with Books 2 and 3 when the call eventually comes.

But the anxiety crept in…. I started to fret and worry.

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My Top 3 Writing Podcasts

I like to walk. I like to listen to stuff while I walk.

I’ve been into podcasts for over ten years now, ever since my knitting obsessed days. Yes, there are knitting podcasts. Don’t you know, knitting is a thing – check out Ravelry with over 6 million subscribers. But I digress into knitting defensiveness. Back to podcasts.

I listen podcasts on various topics from personal development to exercise to the paranormal to current events to films and of course, writing. Today I’m sharing my top 3 writing podcasts (for today – podcasts come and go).

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A little writing meltdown

Some days, it’s just overwhelming. There’s too much to remember. Too many techniques.

 

Is the pace right?

Does the scene turn?

What’s the character’s motivation?

Is my first line punchy enough?

Is my dialogue boring?

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Top 5 Influential Children’s Books – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

Finally I’ve finished my series, re-reading my favourite books as a child. The last book in my series is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. A British classic of the 1980s.

Adrian is a painful teenager with delusions of intellectual grandeur living through Thatcher’s Britain with his dysfunctional and disappointing parents. Adrian copes with his first pimples, his parents’ marital problems and his own crushes with an amazing lack of self-awareness. It is laugh out funny and I knew most of the jokes already.

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Recent listens: How to Publish Your Book by Jane Friedman

I like my audiobooks. But for some unknown reason, I can’t focus on fiction in audio. My mind wanders and I miss sections of the story, so I’ve learned to stick with non-fiction for audiobooks.

A recent listen was How to Publish Your Book by Jane Friedman, available through The Great Courses. This is available through Audible and you’ll also receive the accompanying lecture notes in PDF.

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A little writing music

Music is a perfect pairing for writing. It can provide inspiration, pace and block out annoying noises. But it’s gotta be the right music.

The key pre-requisite for me is NO LYRICS. Words distract me and sometimes randomly appear in my manuscript.

This is what I listen to while writing.

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Reading habits of a beta reader

Today, an interview with a beloved beta reader of mine, Andrew. Andrew’s a voracious reader and so let’s learn a little more about his reading habits.

Tell me a little about yourself?

OK, single. Love city living. Currently binging on the show Jane the Virgin.

What are you currently reading?

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. It’s about what happens when the world’s roatation slows down through the eyes of an 11 year-old girl. Good read.
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How and when did you develop your love of reading?

I’ve always enjoyed reading, but it wasn’t until around 2007 when I started really buying up books by the tonne each year to read.
It kind of got kicked started from a friend I worked with you would mention the books she’d read each morning to and from work on her 1 hr train ride.

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Writing spaces – ideal and real

In an ideal world, my writing space would be in a room overlooking craggy cliffs.

The floor to ceiling windows would open out to the sea, where I’d watch the ever-changing weather roll in and the waves crash against the rocks. I’d be inspired by the power of nature, the wild and moody weather.

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Unfortunately named “Suicide Cliffs” in Okinawa

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Recent Reads – Europe in Autumn

Why did I love Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson so much?

The book is a spy thriller set slightly in the future, in a time when the countries of Europe is dissolving. Every man and his dog is seceding, setting up their own principality. Borders are a bureaucratic nightmare and black marketeers are taking advantage of the chaos.

The hero is Rudi, an Estonian chef turned courier, who gets deeper and deeper into the murky world of espionage.

The book is in four parts following Rudi from his first gig until the point when it all goes wrong. It is almost like four novellas, pieced together eventually. The middle section with Rudi’s family in Estonia seems out of step at first until more details are revealed. I adored the excerpt from the map-making of Whitton-Whyte and the twist delighted this little sci-fi fan.

Why did I enjoy this book so much?

Perhaps it was the mix of vivid characters; the burly Hungarians, the obnoxious mentor Fabio, Rudi’s bizarrely robotic English captors, the grumpy crusty Pawel. The characters were well rounded and real.

Perhaps it was the slight weirdness of the world. Quite similar to our own, yet with minor technological and geo-political differences.It was familiar and yet intriguing. There was little time spent world building, the story jumps right in and explains the world as we go. Yet there are enough odd little details to remind the reader that this is not your ordinary Tom Clancy thriller.

Perhaps it was the wry English humour. The dialogue was sharp and believable. I chuckled out aloud a number of times.

Plus a cracking plot.

Let’s just say, I really liked this book.

But the topic of genre provoked the most thought for me. This is classified as a science fiction novel – which it is. The world is futuristic, but only looking a few years into a possible future. I was so curious about the genre of this novel, I contacted the author. I had a nice conversation with Dave Hutchinson over Twitter regarding the genre classification of this book. Hutchinson describes it as a “near-future espionage thriller”. This is a very apt description.

I struggle with the “science fiction” label because it brings to mind aliens and spaceships. My own writing is in a similar vein to Hutchinson’s – a different world not too dissimilar to our own. Is speculative fiction a better description or “fantastika” as Hutchinson offered? Yet, your average punter doesn’t use the expression ‘speculative fiction’. When I look at the categories for sci-fi in Amazon, the only vaguely applicable are “dystopian” and “post-apocalyptic” but my own writing and a book like Europe in Autumn does not fit with the other zombie invasion novels.

Anyway less about me and more about Europe in Autumn. If you like a well built near-future world with espionage, great characters and good writing, I recommend you take a look at Europe in Autumn.

I’m off to read the sequel…when I’ve finished The Wise Man’s Fear.

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Excerpt – Evangeline & the Alchemist

Today, I thought I’d share the first page of my steampunk novella set in Marvellous Melbourne in 1880s, Evangeline & the Alchemist.

I hope you enjoy….

Chapter 1

It all started with a rat-a-tat-tat on the Professor’s laboratory-workshop door. Evangeline and the Professor looked up from their inventing to see Miss Plockton in the doorway.

“Chief Inspector Pensnett ta see you, sir?” she said.

Evangeline perked up on her stool. A policeman here at 56 Collins Street? Something exciting was surely about to happen.

“Ah, yes. I plum forgot.”

Evangeline’s father stopped adjusting his new, improved auto-chariot and walked over to the wooden bench, placing his trusty brass screwdriver with the ivory handle down beside neat stacks of brass cogs, wheels and pins. Her father, Professor Montague Caldicott, the pre-eminent horological-engineer in all the Colonies, smoothed down his humongous moustache with his real hand.

“Your lesson is over for today, m’dear. Follow Miss Plockton upstairs and continue with your embroidery.”

“But Father…” Evangeline groaned. “I could be of some assistance.”

“Police matters are not for the ears of impressionable young ladies. All those dead bodies and smugglers and swarthy criminals. Far too sordid.”

“I never get to do anything interesting,” Evangeline grumbled as she stowed away her rosewood-handled screwdriver in the pocket of her dress, along with a handful of brass pins. The smaller and more delicate screwdriver was a recent gift from her father, an encouragement to pursue her own inventions.

Evangeline’s plain bottle-green day dress, buttoned to the neck, was not the latest fashion but it was better than she had ever imagined in her previous life on the grey foggy streets of London, when her toes poked through holes in her boots. Cold was something she had yet to worry about since she arrived three months ago on the dirigible from Singapore. She wondered whether Melbourne could be anything less than sweltering.

“Out. Out.”

The Professor shooed Evangeline and Miss Plockton from the laboratory-workshop, before carefully locking the door behind him.

 

There was a time when a visit from the police would have frightened Evangeline. She would have hurried to hide her loot, but not today. Today she was a reformed character, setting aside her urchin ways and learning to be a proper young lady. But being good all the time was a bit dull.

Evangeline and the Alchemist is now available on Amazon.

The 7/7/7 snippet challenge

Writing Challenge participant Natalie K challenged me to the 7/7/7 Snippet Challenge.

The rules are:

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress
  • Scroll down to line #7
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

Here are the 7 lines from the 7th row of the 7th page of my recently “completed” manuscript, Return to the Monolith. I’m stoked to announce, I’ll start querying agents with Monolith from early January. Hoorah! But here’s a sneak peek.

Dawn peeked through the pink-fringed grey clouds, lighting up the sky in the east. The snow-tipped mountains loomed in the distance.  Alga’s heart pounded. This was the first time she had ever walked away from her mountains.

Her stomach had stopped rumbling. Her tears dried up. She tried not to think about her Sisterhouse and what she had left behind.

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Now, I am passing on the fun to seven more writer bloggers. Consider yourselves challenged;

Looking forward to seeing other 7/7/7 Snippets.

Feast menu from Return to the Forest

I’m in the process of revising Book 2 of my Monolith series Return to the Forest. Today I’m sharing a menu from one of my scenes. Who doesn’t like descriptions of food and feasts in particular?

It is the solstice ceremony of Sundku held on a hilltop clearing, where the religious community of the Sisters live.  All the local women travel to the Sisterhouse for Sundku to welcome the early signs of Spring, the fading of the long Winter and to seek the blessing of fertility from the Goddess.

They dance, sing and chant around the pyre, honouring the Goddess and once the circle is closed, the women feast. Hungry after their homage, they need a hearty meal.

At the end of winter, fresh food is scarce but the women of the Forest are wise and resourceful. It would insult the Goddess to skimp on food at Sundku.

picnic

Each woman brings her own contribution to the feast. The long wooden table is piled with;

  • Rabbit stew: served in a thick gravy seasoned with pepper berries, slow cooked in a large pot over an open flame. The stew is served in carved wooden bowls.
  • Acorn bread: heavy and hearty, baked from ground acorn flour into loaves. The fire baked bread is coated with a crunchy caramel coloured crust. The loaves are cut into hunks and the women dip the bread into the rabbit stew, soaking up the gravy.
  • Jam cakes: local blackberries are harvested in summertime and preserved in earthenware jars to last throughout the cold winter. The jam cakes are baked with more acorn flour, dotted with dollops of sweet black jam. The cakes are golden palm-shaped discs with a hint of summer sweetness.
  • Red wine – of course

I hope you enjoyed a little view into the food world of Return to the Forest.

Hungry?

 

 

Three tips improved my writing in 2015

It’s the time of year between Christmas and New Year, like the lull between two waves. Time for planning and reflecting.

Here are the three writing tips I learned in 2015. These three tips definitely made me a better writer.

  1. Specificity
  2. Simplicity
  3. Different scripts

*Disclaimer – I can’t remember where I got these tips from. If it was you, thanks and sorry.

Specificity

Let’s get specific. Lazy writing is full of things, stuff and them. This year I learned to be specific about what I am writing. In 2015, I got out my nouns. First drafts can be full of vagueness but once the red editing pen comes out, it’s time to be precise. But specificity must be paired with tip#2, otherwise the words will grow and multiply like mice. And there’s nothing worse than a mouse plague…shudder…

Simplicity

Why use ten words when you can use two? My writing style is simple, mainly because I don’t like verbose writing personally, but this year I learned to use embrace the simple (and specific). Why use an adjective when I can find the right verb? He didn’t walk, he strutted, she plodded, we ambled. There is more power in brevity.

Like botanical illustrations, I strive to be both simple and specific.

Different Scripts

The third tip is about dialogue. Any scriptwriter knows this stuff but it was a revelation for me. This year I learned that each character has their own agenda in any conversation. Everyone has their own desired outcome from any discussion and our agendas will clash. This tip has helped me to stop my dialogue from being an exposition fest

In normal conversation, there are misunderstandings and confusing conversations when someone doesn’t say what they actually mean. There are a myriad of reasons why we don’t speak our minds. This is also true in dialogue. Each character is reading from their own script and the scripts don’t match.

Your turn – what great tips did you learn in 2015?

Five things which distract me from my writing

I am boringly conscientious. It was always on my school report…Madeleine is a conscientious student. But stuff still distracts me from writing.

Noise, generally power tools

I live in an area filled with older homes under renovation. If the gentle roar of power tools isn’t coming from my own house, it’s one of my neighbours drilling, sawing or generally banging loudly.

Headphones are good.

drill-portable-and-electric

Social media & the internet

I’m not alone. I know the blasted internet and social media call to us all. Distract me. Validate me. Just check the weather. Maybe someone liked my tweet. A quick look at the news. Next thing I know, it’s thirty minutes later. Damned instant access to everything ever.

The day job

Unfortunately I’m not independently wealthy or a kept woman, so I have to work. This is a major distraction from writing. Although perhaps with more time on my hands to write, there’d be more opportunity for other distractions to creep in.

cubicle-farm

People – reminders I need to have a life too.

Note to self – occasionally stop writing and socialise. While Mr Madeleine and friends are a lovely distraction, if they interrupt at the wrong moment, they are in danger of encountering extreme grumpiness. As with many things, timing is important.

Resistance

I often talk about Resistance. The little evil man on my shoulder telling me I’m crap and I’m wasting my time with this writing stuff. He is the root cause of most of my writing distractions.Some days he is stronger than others. I try to ignore his little snarks and keep putting my fingers on the keyboard.

What distracts you from your writing (or other goals)?

When did you feel like a “real” writer round-up?

In early December, I ran a series of posts asking writers…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

I was lucky enough to get responses from Gail Carriger, Val McDermid, Joanne Harris, Ben Aaronovitch, Victoria Schwab, John Scalzi, Kim Newman, Neil Gaiman, Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Barbara Freethy and Kate Elliott.

There were a few themes running through the responses

  • Doubt and the imposter system persists (regardless whether you’ve sold millions)
  • Sometimes it’s your first big deal or success
  • Sometimes it’s not until you reach magic book no. 5

But mainly, you are a real writer when you write….

Now it’s your turn, when did you feel like a “real” writer?

 

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