Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The next best seller is coming along nicely...


I have had a few readers ask me lately when my next book will be coming out. The truth is I don't know!

For the last eight years I have been occupied with the thing called "career" as I rose to being a senior executive. While I liked to think it didn't interfere with my writing, the truth is it did. I will be the first to admit I am not superwoman. After a day at the executive grindstone, I would crawl home from work too tired to do much more than throw some food on the table, watch an hour of mindless TV and go to bed. Weekends were then spent catching up on cooking, shopping, cleaning and life. So those spare five minutes on a Saturday afternoon were not terribly productive. I could feel all my creativity just disappearing. I couldn't write and I couldn't sew - my two creative outlets. All I had was work.

In November last year I quite suddenly found myself "differently employed". The circumstances don't matter...it is one of the realities of corporate life and the higher up the ladder you are, the shakier it becomes. If anyone has ever found themselves in the same position you will know that it is a horrible experience and despite all the silver linings (and there are plenty!), it shatters your sense of self.

I suppose I am more fortunate than most. I didn't feel defined by my career. I realised that I had one solid rock to cling to and that was my writing. While I don't think my "career" is completely over, I have consciously taken the time out to consider where it was going and, more importantly what it was doing to me (I think that is the subject for another blog).  In the meantime I have thrown myself into my alternate career - writing.

The reality is that By the Sword and The King's Man were mostly written during my time in Singapore where once again I had found myself "differently employed" (as an expat wife). What this means is that I have a cyber sock drawer stuffed with ideas and half started novels but nothing close to submission quality so I have set myself this year to finish some of those "UFOs" (Unfinished Objects).

I believe the best tool of writing is "time" and by that I mean setting your work aside to "set" for a while (months is good) and then coming back to it with fresh eyes. My writing style is to complete a rough draft (and I mean ROUGH) - the plot may change from the beginning to the end, it will have missing chunks with "put more stuff here" annotated into the manuscript but what it will be is the skeleton of the story. I will then put it away and pull out the ugly object some months later and begin my favourite part, the rewrite. This is like putting flesh on the bones, or for an artist starting to apply the paint to a rough sketch. This process will need to be repeated several times as you deepen the layers of paint, add complexity to the characters and depth to the plot. It is like any craft, it needs to be done with care and love and above all, time.

Time is not a commodity that many professional writers enjoy. There are nasty things called "deadlines" so the honing of their work needs to be tailored to meet that deadline. I suspect this is why so many writers first couple of books are infinitely better than their subsequent books (until they get into a rhythm of writing).

So where am I at? I currently have four pieces of work on the various burners of my literary stove.

  • A ghost story set in 1922  encompassing a Regency mystery and the shadows of the first world war. A big departure from my usual period of history and quite a complex story. 
  • The long awaited sequel to By the Sword and The King's Man. Set in 1680 it brings the strands of both stories together with the "next generation" plus Barbary Pirates. 
  • A Regency-set romance. I am venturing into very well covered territory here so I am not hopeful this will get much of a run but it has been interesting playing in another period of history.
  • A time travel novella...English Civil War to modern times. It's been fun to write!
There we are...that is what is simmering at the moment, in various stages of production. I am shuffling them around and my hope is by the end of this year, they will all be to submission standard. It is one thing to write them, the next thing will be to find a publisher and in this rapidly changing world of books, I have no idea how hard that is going to be!

So thank you for asking, I would love to say my next best seller will be coming out soon, but I would be lying!

However what I am doing is putting together a collection of my short stories which I will self publish so watch this space.

Alison

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Colours of Lake Eyre

The early settlers in Australia clung to the fragile coast line of this great country and could only dream of what lay beyond there own existence. They watched the sea birds flying inland and explorers began to venture into the interior in search of the great inland sea that drew the birds. Charles Sturt carried a whaling boat with him into the dry interior in the hope of finding this mythical sea. Other explorers found the great sea but it was an illusion...a great salty sink in the centre of Australia, named Lake Eyre.

We have watched in horror as massive floods raged through Queensland earlier this year. Some of the water went out to sea but a great deal of it filled the inland waterways of the Cooper Creek and Diamantina River systems and after 10 years of drought the rivers flowed at last, spilling out into Lake Eyre. The filling of Lake Eyre is said to occur only once a lifetime but it seems that this phenomena may become more common as the climate adjusts. As it fills, life comes back to it, filling it with fish and water birds. It is no coincidence that the pelicans have gone from my own waterfront in Melbourne. Some primeval urge draws them to the waterways of Lake Eyre.

Just as it draws the birds, so too it draws people and my husband and I headed off on a 4000 km round trip to see Lake Eyre for ourselves. Our own explorations have already taken us to Innaminkca, Longreach and Birdsville and we have seen the "channel country" as it is called in drought and flood. Lake Eyre was the final pilgrimage.

The human ability to settle in what seems utterly inhospitable country never ceases to amaze me and on those dry, barren desert plains of northern South Australia, you come across the ruins of old homesteads and railway settlements from the days of the great Ghan rail link between Adelaide and the north. Lake Eyre itself is very hard to approach from land as the country around it is privately owned - the great Anna Creek Station, the size of Belgium, being one such landholding.

From William Creek, a one pub town that once used to be a siding for the Ghan, we took a flight in a small pain over the great Lake which is the only way to get a real appreciation of the size of this inland sea.  Pictures speak volumes so here are some of the colours of Lake Eyre