Thursday, June 29, 2006

Historical resources

I finally remembered to put a link in the sidebar to the Historical Resources for Romance Writers wiki that I set up a while ago. I haven't done a lot with it yet, but I updated a few things today and realised that despite me not spreading the word about it much, there's been 300+ visitors to it in the past few months. Nobody's added anything yet, but I hope I made the invitation to do so a little more obvious in my minor edits today.

So, don't make me feel all alone and unloved in the webiverse. If you've got interesting information about anything historical that might interest romance writers, go and add it!

(Yes, Kate, that includes you. You know lots of interesting stuff - like food, and photography, and NY police.)

And talking of hysterical stuff, we watched the DVD of 'The Mists of Avalon' a week or two ago. That spinning wheel in the opening scene?? About 1,000 years before its time. Spinning wheels didn't come to western Europe until about the 11th century - and treadle wheels like the one in the film were a 15th century development.

Yes, yes, I gnashed my teeth. Wonder if I could make a living advising movie makers on historical spinning and weaving...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Adverbs - A podcast experiment

In my day job, I work with academics, assisting them in developing online teaching materials. So, I need to make sure I know how to do things, in order to assist them.

I've been experimenting with making short, teaching podcasts, so I recorded a podcast on using adverbs in writing. If you'd like to, you can listen to it here (2.47MB, 5:24minutes).

It's mostly aimed at early career writers. I may record a series of podcasts on aspects of writing, if anyone thinks it's worthwhile. Feedback's welcome - just post it in the comments. I know it's far from perfect, and I'd like to know what works and doesn't, so I definitely won't throw a hissy fit about constructive criticism! (Yep, I talk a bit fast in the last half.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


I've been sick lately, so there hasn't been much to blog about. But this morning my mood lifted when I looked out the kitchen window to the tangle that is called 'the herb garden' and saw that our little Eastern Spinebill Honeyeaters are back. There were about six of them, flitting in and out of the tree and into the 'garden', feeding on the rosemary flowers.

We don't have them all year; it seems that they follow the flowering plants around the region. Why we get them in winter, I've never quite worked out, but in previous years they've fed on a pineapple sage that we've had growing, which flowers in winter. Unfortunately, the sage has few flowers this year - just as well the rosemary has grown up enough to have some!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Old English, new English

I'm looking for a word for 'envoy' that isn't French in origin. Envoy, ambassador, emissary - they're all Frenchy. I'm fiddling with an idea for a Viking/Saxon historical, and seeing if I could do it without any of those new-fangled French words that the Normans brought later.

I suppose I could write it all in Old English (I did study it for a while at university), but, well, there might be a limited market for that ;-) And I'm not going to write it in any form of fake romancelandia dialect (cringe!); I just want to convey a sense of the language, through word choice and rhythm.

So, I'm trying to avoid obviously French words for things important to the plot. Words like, you know, 'marriage'. Which, for a romance, may be something of a challenge.

Fortunately, 'wife' and 'man' have their roots in good old Anglo-Saxon, as do an assortment of words related to sex in its rawer forms. But finding an equivalent for 'envoy' currently has me stumped.

I can see, if I ever decide to actually write this book, that I'll have to go and re-read some Old English... just as well I never threw out all those text books!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A bit of fun

Wow. I'm famous. Or maybe that's infamous.

We had a bit of fun today on one of my writer's loops, and the Bat Dame herself (aka the amazing Ann Wesley Hardin) thought my contribution was amusing and copied it to her blog.

That's me - the occasional rare moment of brilliance, interspersed with interminably long periods of boring inanity.


I'd copy it here, but the Dame's blog is much more interesting than mine, so you should go over there and read it. Read her books, too - they're great.

I will however comment here (purely to a. get you to go and read the whole thing, and b. get an increase in my stats), that I probably should have added 'premature ejaculation', 'disappointment' and 'regret' to the definition.

And no, I am not referring to my love life ;-)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

'Answered by Fire'

I've just watched part 1 of the excellent 2-part mini-series 'Answered by Fire', which is about the UN Mission to oversee the Independence vote in East Timor in 1999. David Wenham (he played Faramir in LOTR) plays an Australian police officer, part of an *unarmed* international force there to protect the voter registration process and the vote itself, amid violence from Indonesion-sponsored militias.

I remember it being on the news at the time, but seeing this dramatisation, focusing on one UN post in one region of the country, was unsettling and moving. Especially so, given the new wave of violence and political turmoil in East Timor in the past two weeks. The sorrows and the struggles have not yet ended for the East Timorese people; the legacies of colonialism, invasion and occupation, and international politicking have human ramifications, on through the years. Ordinary people, like you and me - fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, young men and women, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. People who have lived most of their lives under foreign rule, who risked being hacked to death or shot or tortured simply to register to vote - but who went, anyway. Ninety percent of East Timorese cast their ballot on the question of independence; over seventy percent voted for it. And then the next nightmare began.

What has this got to do with my writing? It reminds me of why I write what I do - quite serious romances. Stories of people facing very real and difficult circumstances in a world which isn't always right or just, where complexities make shades of grey instead of an easy black and white.
Yes, I enjoy a light romantic fantasy - there's nothing wrong with a bit of escapism! But the stories I'm moved to write aren't light or fantasy. I have to acknowledge, somehow make sense of, the real world out there. To write my belief that the emotions that join us, keep us going through dark days and times, are the strongest, most human aspects of us, giving both courage and the possibility of healing.

Only a few of my stories have world events as backdrops or part of the plots, but even in the 'Darkness' trilogy, set in an outback Australian town, dealing with local events, there's still I think a sense of the town and those events in a broader context and history. At least in my mind, anyway! My outlined 'Shadows' trilogy has a more extensive international context, with part of the action occuring against the backdrop of Central Asian struggles. I did think for a while about making up a fictional country, but I decided that I couldn't do that; that I had to go with the fictional story in a more real context. Which of course means that, in order to do justice to the issues, even in a romance book, I need to do more research.

The second part of 'Answered by Fire' is on tomorrow night; I'll be watching it. It deals with the time after the results of the vote are announced, and the impact on the police officers forced to abandon their post, and the people they'd come to care about, in the violence that follows.

(And please, don't anybody from any of the lucky countries try to tell me that they were 'too busy' to vote in their own elections. It's not an excuse I have much patience for. In some places, people die for the chance of voting; so, as far as I'm concerned, for those who can, voting is a sacred responsibility.) (Here endeth my political comment.)