Need A Good Book?

Librarians are Writers’ Greatest Allies in their Ability to Influence the Joy of Reading

 

 

It gives me great pleasure, today, to introduce you to Fiona Sharman who has kindly shared her passion for her favourite books. One of Fiona’s favourite quotes is from ‘Pride and Prejudice’, when Mr. Bennet says, ‘for what do we live but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in turn?’ Continue reading “Need A Good Book?”

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Podcast: In Conversation – BOOK TALK

 

Book Talk today is with my guest, Sevgi Yildiz, Coordinator of the Sydney Book Club, on her reading of Across Time and Space and the writing process.

I hope you enjoy listening in. Please leave a message in the comment box below or subscribe to receive future posts, newsletters on writing and updates on the upcoming sequel to, Across Time and Space.

In Conversation on ‘Across Time and Space’

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TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK?

 

The writing life is one of quiet solitude if writing in crowded spaces is not conducive to creative thought for some.

While writing fiction might entail living within the confines of one’s imagination, there emerges the gratitude for precious moments spent with close friends who understand the writer’s period of ‘absence’ from the social hub. The art of conversation keeps books alive as stories unfold, are morphed and recreated to generate hours of pleasurable reading.

 

Precious moments are often a coffee catch up and soulful reconnecting.

 

Being in the moment, in conversation with the person should be valued for the human contact with authentic people who question nothing and accept everything for the sheer pleasure of personal engagement.

 

Being in conversation with someone, seeing their joy and fears, hearing their laughter and feeling their moments of distress is priceless – no mobile phone interaction or other social media platform can replicate the shared face to face rather than face time interactions. To be able to reach out and touch the hand of someone to console them or share belly aching laughter is the essence of human communication and interactions.

 

I recall some years ago being in a restaurant in LA, having an early dinner, after a day of sightseeing, when I noticed a young family, parents and two children at dinner with heads down, eyes glued to the handheld devices they scrolled through as they ate dinner in silence.

 

Cyberspace engagement in favour of human company is creeping into relationships, eroding the exhilaration of animated or quiet conversation between and among people. This makes those in company, particularly the elderly, for whom a virtual world does not equate with social engagement, feel ignored or unimportant.

 

Looking someone in the eye as they speak to you indicates you are responsive to what they are saying- it makes them feel valued that you are attentive.

 

Going out to coffee or lunch should be valued for the precious connection to the human face, feeling the pulse, as it were, of those in company.

________________________________
As you would know by now, there’s always a quotation or two ready to seal the message of the day.

 

My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company. ~ Jane Austen

 

Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative~ Oscar Wilde

 

A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books. ~ Chinese Proverb

                             ______________________________

Are we slipping further and further into an age where the only conversation we might be exposed to will be the dialogue in a novel?

 

Are you keeping the art of face to face conversation alive? Share today what you value the most about conversations with good friends and family or if you have a different view. Share your views in the comment box below.

 

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Book Launch – Writer’s Joy!

I look back on Sunday with a glad and grateful heart. To see so many positive, supportive readers, friends, and family at the book launch of my novel, ‘Across Time and Space’ makes the process of writing a blessing – a joy!

What a wonderful afternoon of sharing ideas and experiences, reading and making new friends. To gather with people who are appreciative of the craft of writing is what cradles a writer through the quiet periods of solitude when the creative muse is the only other presence. Authentic voices that speak in the language of the mind and soul makes readers want more as they eagerly anticipate further stories.

To see aspiring young writers wanting to know more about the craft is invigorating.

My message has been and always will be – We all have a story to tell, let your voice be heard, do not let fear inhibit you.

This reader view sums up the connection to characters and events:

‘To be able to recognise human effort and spirit and hear voices that echo the wisdom that long creates our sense of self is the essence of the novel, ‘Across Time and Space’. The sentimental and poignant voices of the characters are authentic in their quest for recognition of self and existence, with both protagonists striving for justice both literally and metaphorically. The courage of conviction and desire for liberation may come at a cost, but dismantling the shackles of human limitation is far more rewarding. ‘Across Time and Space’ proves that the difference between impossibility and improbability is our own fear – abolishing fear and harking into our soul will set us free. I truly believe from a reader’s perspective, that’s what the psychological journey of Marcia nd Meryl is all about’. ~ (Khadija Taiba –  reader perspective at the book launch of ‘Across Time and Space’)

‘Across Time and Space’ straddles the positivity of coexistence in society regardless of difference, a message that is palpable today.  Decisions, choices, danger, and love connect to our essential state of being. Bullying and professional injustice, crime, and deception all knit together in the fabric of life where challenges serve to create the best version of those who struggle. The endurance of the human spirit shines as the brightest star on the darkest night in this tale of possibilities now and into the future.

I hope you will pick up a copy of ‘Across Time and Space’ and share your connections.

Which characters and situations resonate with you?

Get your copy of ‘Across Time and Space’ today. (Amazon, Book Depository, Abbeys Bookshop)

http://amzn.to/2mVO3z4

http://bit.ly/2sp4eEy

http://www.abbeys.com.au/book/across-time-and-space.do

http://www.loot.co.za/search?cat=qb&terms=Across+Time+and+Space+by+Mala+naidoo

 

 

 

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Research and Sensitivity in Stories

A post read recently suggested writing from a knowledge base and not from imaginative creations that might be insensitive if writing about mental illness, physical disabilities, emotional disorders etc. While I agree with being sensitive by not causing injury to others, art should mimic and extend reality if understanding and connections are to be formed.

The question is – does one have to proceed with caution when creating a character with mental illness or a physical disability in a novel?

The depiction becomes insensitive when it supports stereotypes, insults, separates and denigrates actions and situations the character is placed in. To create a character who overcomes a difficulty by honing other powerful skills or having amazing support from family and community to achieve goals is indeed not insensitive but rather supportive of what a cohesive humanity is – certainly a message for raising the lot of the human condition.

The foremost purpose of writing, fiction, in particular, is to entertain the reader more than to inform. However, if the writer is able to strike a balance between entertain and inform, the reader is likely to gain valuable understanding from such a piece of writing. If written without dictating what is right and wrong then sensitivity should prevail and the writer is more likely to connect with the consciousness of the reader which might motivate the reader to read more books by the same writer.

When entertainment and purposeful information are included in a work of fiction, a level of research is necessary to sustain the story to its logical, authentic conclusion. If the storyteller/writer has first-hand experience of events, social issues, illness, particular ways of thinking and behaving then research is not the prerequisite as it would be for a nonfiction book that covers specialised areas such as crime, history, science, psychology, culture, economics etc.

Research will not go amiss in fiction writing, it should add colour and depth to the story plot and character representations. When creating characters with a medical condition, research around the condition or perhaps speaking to a medical specialist on how the condition manifests will add authenticity to the story. How much research should one engage in is dependent on how significant that character is to the overarching story or plot. Striking a seamless balance between the story and research is essential to avoid having the story appear like an ‘unofficial’ handbook or textbook. Shaping characters in true to life situations are more likely to lead to an enjoyable reading experience. For the writer to create authenticity in a story, it is necessary that the purpose of writing is to entertain first and then inform on matters that pertain to character and plot.

The writer has to give voice first to what he or she is passionate about. If one is to expose the harsh reality of particular situations prevalent in society, then that which makes the reader uncomfortable is equally necessary. We bandy around that we need to be ‘moved’ for change to occur – to be ‘moved’ is either happily or unhappily so, with joy or sadness. If we are to be catalysts for thought change through writing fiction or nonfiction books, it should come with some thought-provoking messages – George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four might leave readers either grateful that they have control of the decisions they make in life or it might result in a re-examination of whether they are indeed free.

Fiction and nonfiction books are of equal value to the reader when they create thought change or thought searching connections.

What do you think? Should sensitivity be at the heart of all our writing? Should the writer entertain, inform and shock the reader?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.

 

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What’s Your Line? Who’s Your ‘Person’?

 

Why do certain quotations remain etched in memory long after the lines have been read or heard?

The association is attached to an emotion – painful or jubilant. When similar situations recur the lines that created an impact are recalled, linking the past emotional association to the present. Painful or joyous emotional experiences are triggered by words that emulate and express what the heart feels. Lyrics of particular songs act as a balm to ease pain, reignite bliss or act as a conduit to purge pent-up emotions.  Likewise, a character in a novel triggers an emotional response in the reader who feels a kinship with the character. Connections through language and people are the commonality we seek to belong in an ever-changing world.

Do you connect with any of these lines from literature?

‘I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then’

-Lewis Carrol – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

‘I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.’

-Herman Melville –Moby-Dick

‘The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.’

-Toni Morrison, Beloved

‘Do I dare / Disturb the universe?’

-TS. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

‘People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for’

-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 

‘I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.’

-Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

‘Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.’

-George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

‘Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise’

– Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

 

What about the characters in literature that strike a chord with you?

·         Catherine Earnshaw from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights– in her torrid love for and forsaking of Heathcliff

·         Hamlet from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark- caught in the web of the fratricide against his father and his mother’s marriage to the murderer, his uncle.

·         Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird- a father par excellence- role model extraordinaire.

·         Frankenstein’s monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein- abandoned creation seeking love

·         Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby– he creates exorbitant wealth to impress the girl who has his heart.

·         Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray- a handsome aristocrat who loses his virtue that his portrait cannot hide.

·         Winston Smith from George Orwell’s, Nineteen Eighty-Four– living in hope and rebelling to reclaim his unattainable individuality.

·         King Lear from Shakespeare’s King Lear- an aging king who is misguided in dividing his kingdom based on the narcissistic need to hear how much he is loved.

There are countless evocative lines and characters that bring a connection in a moment of greatest need.

What is your favourite literary line? Who is your most endearing literary character?

Subscribe today and share your comment in the box below to be the one who receives a free copy of my novel, Across Time and Space.

 

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Why do We Crave the Truth?

 

In a world where people and politics become questionable, a world in which we are manipulated,  gulled or seduced into believing all we are served each day which leaves us wondering, is ignorance bliss or is it better the devil you know?

What’s your choice to be?

The question we all toss around is, What is the truth, pray do tell me, in a bid to remove our own sense of perceived ignorance on a matter or situation around us. The truth we crave might yield many a sleepless night and deeply felt pain… but pursue it we must.

My sequel to Across Time and Space to be announced soon (watch this space) sees the protagonist relentless in her pursuit of the truth. Much is revealed that is not always palatable for the protagonist. Layer after layer of truth unfolds, each truth confusing the one that emerges before.  Yes, the complexity of life in what we want to know and what we reject, creates a truth only we understand. Likewise, literature, fiction, in particular, should reflect this universal dilemma.

Ultimately the truth will prevail, so should characters in our stories wait in an unprepared moment for some truth to emerge or should they assume the role of truth sleuth to steel themselves for the speculations on the truth/s that will emerge.

Add another complication to the truth: an individual’s denial of a truth or complete fabrication of a known truth.
The complexity deepens.
What is fact?  What is fiction?
Why does feeling one is being duped make the individual so tormented and restless?

Othello is manipulated by the cunning Iago whose vulnerability creates the need to be accepted and loved, above all by his wife Desdemona. This is his Achilles’ heel. He pursues a lie because he upholds that  ‘seeing is believing’ – he needs ocular proof. The slow seduction of deception is powerful in the face of vulnerability – all reason is lost. In this tale of woe lies a dire message, to listen to ‘all sides to a story,’ which is palpable, for therein lies the truth based on individual reasoning drawn from collective perceptions.

Political truths are presented through the ‘Iagos‘ of this world.  A good story should reflect global attitudes through the representation of a character/s and their actions.

What will the sequel to Across Time and Space reveal?

How do we create characters who accept truth or truthful representations of others? What is acceptance or the dubiousness and rejection of others based on?

Acceptance could be based on:
– consistent kind deeds or gestures
– owning up to a transgression
– humility of the character/s in the expression of their values
– reactions to the deception of others
– a forgiving nature
– a gentle and giving nature
– one who makes no claims to greatness
– one who will uphold a view even if they are the only one in the room doing so
– body language – looking one directly in the eye when confronted

Rejection could be based on:
– negative attitudes and behaviours towards others – judgemental
– jealousy and envy
– sycophantic displays
– narcissism
– one who makes excuses for not delivering what  is expected of them
– pack mentality on ‘versions’ of the truth.
– displaying body language of one who is sly, looking away unable to deliver a straight answer.

So is ‘seeing’ really the only way to believe?

 

Timeless Wise words

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes

-Mark Twain

——————–

Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it

-Mark Twain

——————–

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored

-Aldous Huxley, Complete Essays 2, 1926-29

——————–

The more I see, the less I know for sure

-John Lennon

———————

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth

-Buddha

———————

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free

-Jesus Christ

———————

The world is indeed a mixture of truth and make-believe. Discard the make-believe and take the truth

-Sri Ramakrishna

——————–

As long as you are pure of heart, you speak the truth

-Umar ibn al-Khattab

——————–

To tell only half the truth is to give life to a new lie

– Chinese Proverb

 

Hidden truths will be unveiled in the sequel to Across Time and Space.

Have you read my novel, Across Time and Space?

The first two subscribers who sign up today and comment on your take on why we crave the truth will receive a free copy of Across Time and Space to read in advance of your reading of the upcoming sequel.

I look forward to hearing your views on why we need to know the truth.

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What’s In a Name?

Have you ever stopped to ask people you meet along the corridors of life, ‘what does your name mean?’ Or ‘Are you named after a family member?’

Have you ever entertained thoughts of changing your name because it hindered you in some way or are you the proud bearer of your name?

***

So what’s in a name? 

A thinking, vibrant being

A giving, caring individual

A hard-working, self-sacrificing soul

A woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter

A man, a father, a husband, a son

A loving grandparent

An innocent child, given a name with love and pride

Identity

A name might have meaning behind it based on family history, heritage or culture.

Who are we to judge the person, behind a name, the name we’ve never heard before?

Such is the individual’s dilemma that some face, that we face,  regardless whether the name is ethnic or western in origin.

 

 What is judged in a name that has no western origin?

* English proficiency in speaking and writing

* Concerns regarding professionalism

* Does the person have an accent?

* Does the name bearer understand and apply the rigours of social etiquette in the place and company they find themselves in?

* Is the person intelligent?

* Does the person understand the law of their chosen homeland?

* Does the person read intellectual and philosophical texts?

* Is the person educated?

*Is the person one to be feared or mistrusted?

*Where was the person educated?

* Where does the person live?

* What’s that postcode again?

——————————————–

What voice does the ethnic name bearer want to be heard?

I am me.

Get to know me.

Talk to me.

Try to understand me.

I would like to get to know you and understand you.

I live in a home with civilised values.

I might have the same goals you have.

I have a history.

I respect your history.

Please don’t judge me before you know me.

I don’t judge you, I seek to understand.

I am an ethnic individual, by whose definition I might ask?

I really don’t want another moniker.

 ______________________________

My name means rosary/meditation beads.

Hello.

What’s your name?

What does your name mean? How does it define you as you see yourself and your worth, which we all have, to share in this world?

________________________________

This makes me feel that I came into this world to write my name upon the face of life  with big letters.

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American Artist, poet and writer

A name pronounced is the recognition of the individual to whom it belongs. He who can pronounce my name aright, he can call me, and is entitled to my love and service

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American naturalist, poet and philosopher.

 

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish playwright, essayist, and poet

                       ——————

Celebrate diversity, celebrate the cultural origins of names. Value for the individual should come from what one upholds or defends to enhance the human condition. 

Was there a time in your life when you wanted to change your name to extend the opportunities that might have been available to you if your name had no particular ethnic or western origin?

Please comment in the box below, a history shared opens the pathway to understanding, tolerance and acceptance for a world we can boldly, safely and respectfully traverse.

 

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Can You Imagine a World Without Laughter?

How often have you heard, ‘laugh and the whole world laughs with you?’

When we create suspense and villainous scoundrels as characters in novels, we keep readers on the edge of their seats, reading on beyond the bewitching hour and sometimes we ignore the benefit of a moment of comic relief that allows the reader/us to ‘take a break’ from the mounting tension. An anti-climax with the eruption of raucous laughter to ease tension is not the only way, humour injected, subtly at an appropriate moment will not be lost on a reader who is likely to feel, ‘Phew, finally!’

Likewise, an intensely sad story does not have to weigh the reader down in grief invested emotions and images throughout the novel – some brief moments of humour allows your reader to breathe and enjoy the realism of life’s situations. If humour is subtle it adds credibility to the story, it mirrors life in its essence.

Consider this scenario

A family sits grieving at the passing of their father, a stalwart to all. A guest arrives, sees the sadness and decides to recall a moment when the departed induced laughter with something said or a situation they found themselves in. This is subtle but suited to the purpose that remembrance of the joy a departed member brought to life does not have to be weighed down by ongoing intense sadness. The message is subtle enough not to be disrespectful of grief but instead offers an understanding that grief can be expressed through what the departed one was noteworthy for. While providing relief for the reader it also has a life message – feel sad at an irreplaceable loss but remember the fun times, celebrate the joy spent with the departed, hang on to fond memories. A bit of comic relief strengthens the message the writer hopes to instil. As Oscar Wilde aptly put it, Life imitates art far more than art imitates life. This gives the writer the opportunity to transform thinking by creating connections with the reader beyond the plot of the story.

A classic example that springs to mind is the role the Nurse plays in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, her bawdy humour certainly lightens the weight of the dilemma both Romeo and Juliet face. She is a memorable character whose mirth is fuelled by a loving and caring nature which makes her an enduring character.

 

What’s the takeaway from this example?

Love, fun, and laughter are essential human attributes if we are to survive the challenges that life throws at us. In a similar vein, stories should reflect this need.

Here are some lines that elicit a smile

·         I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again – This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

·         Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.- Albert Einstein

·         The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.- Jane Austen

·         I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens. – Woody Allen

·         No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar – Abraham Lincoln

·         We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth are the others here for I don’t know.- WH Auden

·         Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.- Mark Twain

·         Life is hard. After all, it kills you. – Katherine Hepburn

·         If you can’t get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance- George Bernard Shaw

Laughter reminds us of our common humanity.

How much humour do you expect in a good story? Share your views in the comment box below?

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The Jury’s out on Mr Darcy!


Being a juror is a serious civic duty for some, for others, it creates a sense of entitlement and empowerment.

This recalls an experience from some years ago.

The early pleasantries of being a fellow juror soon diminished when baggage from the past and present private worlds seeped in, threatening to stymie a just call on the evidence presented.

Evidence pointed clearly to who was guilty, but, the demography of the victim, in this case, created speculation on innocence by two jurors making it ripe for a hung jury. Every flawed, argument was presented to ‘prove’ the victim was the guilty one.

The judge stood strong, ‘you’ve been a good bunch so far, go back and deliberate further, if you have to spend another week here you will have to. A verdict is imperative’.

Frustration filled the deliberation room as heads butted, bigots surfaced, anger flared and personal issues came to the fore, ‘those people are the worst elements in society‘ attitude created deep-seated animosity in what was a somewhat easy going, multicultural panel just a few days earlier. Most were committed to seeing justice served and were uncomfortable with the manipulations of the bigots.

The legal team dropped hints during the process, too, that their client, the accused, was ‘no Mr. Darcy’

A subtle reminder to one of the jurors mooting for a hung jury, the one who casually mentioned during the early days, of affable newness, that an overseas holiday was booked and expressed the hope that jury duty should be ‘done and dusted’ by then – a reminder that the holiday booked might have to be shelved if the deliberation continued led to a sudden turnaround from the miscreants who worked hand in glove – both had birth origins from the same geographic location – could this have been the reason for the shared bigotry?

Morning brought a dramatically revised attitude, their previously ‘innocent’ person was now guilty as sin!!

Mercurial!

Personal baggage weighing heavily, stooping the shoulders of the juror should be left at the door of the jury room,  just as the mobile phone is surrendered for safe keeping – to prevent external interference in the deliberation and evaluation of evidence.

Later it was revealed that the accused was being brought to court every day under tight security from prison. The accused was also under suspicion, to be tried at a later date, for rape!

No Mr. Darcy indeed!

What’s your take on jury duty? Twelve Angry Men or smooth sailing?

Share your views in the comment box below, subscribe to be notified when the next blog is posted. Your email address is protected and will not be shared with others.

 

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Villainous, Scoundrels! How far will you go?

The most memorable characters in literature are often those who remain indelible for their villainous acts, making them timeless scoundrels of literature!

Shakespeare has shaped villainous characters that resonate through time. In creating a dark and dangerous character, turn to some of his notable characters to consider why you loathe them enough to remember their ruthless antics with lucidity.

Are you writing a thriller?

How far will you go? How evil will your characters be? What atrocities will they commit? Will they be politicians? Leaders of some institution, a religious organisation perhaps. Is there a peculiarity other than the evil nature of this character? What positions of power do they occupy or are they aspiring to claim power? Who will they prey on – successful people, kind individuals or the weak and vulnerable? What do they want from life? Will they learn a lesson? Will they become kind and compassionate – perhaps by some ingenious stroke of luck, fate?

 

Remember Iago? 

‘The Moor is of a free and open nature.’

Artful manipulator, toying with the insecurities of Othello, the magnificent military man in a white world, loved by the beautiful Desdemona, his prized possession –  Iago’s manipulation leads to a brutal and bloody end. The characterisation of Iago is powerfully portrayed to make the audience despise him.

 And what about the evil sisters and the wicked and dissatisfied bastard?


Goneril and Regan in King Lear are the evil sisters, corrupt daughters of the king who manipulate the need in their father when he divides his kingdom based on how much his daughters love him.

‘Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eyesight, space…’

Edmund, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, half-brother of Edgar is out to be acknowledged, to claim that which he was denied. He, too, manipulates Gloucester, in his bitterness against the world, to turn his father against his son Edgar, his half-brother.

 

‘A credulous father and a brother noble,…

‘My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon’s tail, and my nativity was under Ursa major, so that follows, I am rough and lecherous,’


Two fathers so terribly wronged by their children. Look at daily media reports on domestic violence, incest, and murder at the hands of family members.

And then the desire for the crown and the position of first Lady?
Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, not to mention the conniving witches – ruthless and bloody endings in the quest for power and position.

Lady Macbeth’s power of persuasion is evident in her manipulation of her husband,

‘That I may pour my spirits in thine ear’

Local politics? International politics? Domestic politics? Timeless indeed!

A friend turning on a friend- is this the ‘fault in our stars’ or peer pressure? Really?
Julius Caesar – Brutus, noble friend to Caesar is at first two-thirds sold by the conspirators and then they have him all.

‘I kiss thy hand, but not in flattery, Caesar.’

He, too, plants a knife-wielding blow, mortally wounding his once respected friend.

Shakespeare created characters that are timeless representations of human foibles and the plight of the human condition.

In creating your villainous characters, think about what loathsome qualities will make them timeless, the bard certainly got it right. And there are many more examples, what about  Hamlet?  Mother and uncle behaving badly!

Here’s a memorable line on villainous, scoundrels from The Tempest. Ariel quotes Ferdinand to Prospero,

 Hell is empty and all the devils are here!’

Who are the notorious scoundrels in literature that are memorable for you? Add your comment below, subscribe for email notifications for  future postings.

 

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Wellness While You Write

 

Everyone is a writer- authors, students, teachers, business executives, talk show hosts, journalists, doctors, lawyers, engineers and the list goes on. Some of us write for longer periods in our day and others in short spurts, depending on what you do and want to achieve from your writing.

This post is different to my other posts but an area I think we all need to be aware of.

***

When the writing muse comes calling, all else is forgotten, the writer lives in the space where ideas unfold upon ideas, time stands still. 

Often writing in the comfort of our own space can lead to poor eating patterns. This might seem like common sense but we need to be reminded to sustain ourselves for the long haul. Writing is mental, creative energy that needs sustenance – yes sustenance – I don’t mean food for the soul – that is important, but, you need good wholesome food, first, before the reward food if it’s your choice. Do you keep a jar of lollies at your writing desk?

Here’s my strategy for a healthier writer body and mind:

If you start your day at 5 am and head to the kettle for your coffee fix. Stop. You need to sustain your energy for the duration of your writing day/ hours.

Try this for three days and note the difference.

# fill a jug with water, slice half an English cucumber or a whole Lebanese cucumber, and add it to the water.Cucumber is a source of vitamin B. Leave the skin on and you add vitamin C to your drink which is much needed to ward off colds with winter advancing in this neck of the woods. A dash of chopped mint is optional but a great herb to add. Adding a thin slice of lemon will pack on more vitamin C.

# while the water, cucumber, and mint infuse,  get in a few back stretches while standing in the kitchen and a few more cat stretches on the carpet or exercise mat if you have one readily available. Arching and relaxing your back will serve you well for a day or hours in your writing chair.

Now for the refreshing drink:

# a tall glass of cucumber-infused water should be sipped while standing up – only because you will be sitting in your chair for an extended time. Keep the blood flowing like you would on a long haul flight.

# having that cup of coffee should come after the cucumber infused water which would have energised you by now, clearing the mind, cleansing and oxygenating the blood. The antioxidants perform their magic. Cucumber is an anti-inflammatory food which might aid with swelling feet if you are prone to this after hours of sitting at your laptop.It might help your aching fingers or wrists after hours/days of typing too.

# if you are an exercise junkie, (if you can fit that in with your writing schedule) and need your morning run, eat a banana before you head off.

# now for breakfast, you’ve stretched, cleansed, had your coffee treat or banana and run, what should your choice of breakfast be before you hit the writing page?  

Here are some options depending on whether you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose intolerant or diabetic etc.

– a small slice of fruit, if you had the banana, skip this step, – a small bowl of rolled oats will sustain you for hours of writing – if you prefer eggs – poach them and eat with a slice or two of lightly grilled tomato.

– If you have avocado on hand, a slice will add to a healthy mix. I would limit bread to wholemeal/gluten-free if you are going to have a slice of toast.

– take your jug of cucumber infused water and leave it close to your writing desk to sip at will – why should you do this? It hydrates you, keeps you clear-headed, mentally alert and the bonus is you will be forced to stand up to walk to the toilet! 

As writers, time does not exist when in the creative maze of writing, two hours may seem like twenty minutes. 

You might ask, what about lunch and dinner?

–        A light lunch perhaps, tuna on wholemeal or gluten-free crackers or bruschetta followed by a cup of green tea. Dinner could include grilled chicken, fish or red meat with a side of steamed vegetables or a salad followed by a cup of herb tea and perhaps…perhaps… a tiny treat of your choice.

Here’s hoping this works for you as it does for me, if you have suggestions on how you remain well and sustain yourself on your writing days, please share by writing in the comment box below.

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Wishing you many healthy, happy writing hours!

 

 

 

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Suspense

 

Stories that make us ‘experience’ a moment within a scene comes from the creation of suspense when characters or events invite expectation from the reader, stimulating the desire to read on.  Often several revised versions of a suspenseful moment might be necessary to achieve the desired effect to make the moment memorable for the reader, creating unease or anticipation. Feeling, seeing, perceiving and dreading imminent danger could be achieved through highly charged descriptive language and use of sensory imagery, which, when effectively done leads the reader to walk in the skin of the protagonist, seeing, feeling and breathing through the character’s eyes.

A voice recording of the suspenseful scene allows the writer to assess whether the desired effect – the light and shade have been achieved. This might lead to a reconsideration of how to enliven suspense in a scene. The first draft of such a scene most often requires several tweaks before the effect is achieved. The joy in crafting your stories is that you are in control, as the writer, to entertain the reader.

Listening to haunting or suspenseful music helps to centre the imagination in the creation of tension, suspense and anticipation.

Listen to this piece.

http://bit.ly/2qqNI5A

Try your hand at writing a brief scene that builds suspense.

***

Here is an example of a  suspenseful moment:

‘The wind howled down the craggy cliff – jagged rocks stood like crooked fingers in erect, forbidding stance. Within minutes the sky was obscured by dark clouds – day turned to night as she cowered under the overhang of a precarious rock. Flapping batwings were heard overhead in their frenzied flight away from this rising calamity- a cold shudder gripped her.’ (MN)


 

Here is a snappier version of the moment- which example do you prefer?

‘The wind chilled the marrow of her being, her refuge beneath a dangling rock was her only protection – dark clouds curtained daylight as mounting, panicked flapping bat wings was heard overhead.’

What would you add, take away or recreate in such a moment where the protagonist is challenged, losing his or her grip on the situation?

Pop your visualisations/ideas of this moment in the comment box.  I would love to read your versions of this moment or your own ideas. (MN)

***

This excerpt from an overview of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’ has chilled many a reader at the thought of what lurked between the pages of this riveting book:

The town knew darkness…and the awful, heavy silence of terrifying images grotesquely dancing in and out of the shadows…

But no one living in Salem’s Lot dared talk about the high, sweet, evil laughter of …

 

***

Here are two brief excerpts from my novel, ‘Across Time and Space’

  1). She knocked at the door.

It opened with the force of a heavy gust of wind. Meryl jumped away gasping. Framed in the light of the candelabra she held…chalky pale against her black head of hair left hanging about her shoulders…

2)….she awoke for the second time that night aware that she was not alone in this vast house beside the olive grove. …the silhouettes of two figures bending over were cast on the wall…


Try writing a suspenseful moment, use a piece of haunting music to beckon your muse forth!

Happy Writing!

 

 

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Authenticity

We want to believe.

We crave loyalty.

We need assurance.

We are human after all.

  • In creating characters in fictional tales, those that resonate with the reader are the characters who are either perceived as most authentic in their expressions of truth or deception.  Literature mirrors the fabric of humanity highlighting concerns on the human condition creating understanding and connections with the reader. Readers want to identify with characters in the books they read to keep hopes and aspirations alive.

 

  • In conversation, the following were identified as underpinning the expression of authenticity

#  motives,
#  relationships
#  sincerity

What does it truly mean to be an authentic person?

Fifteen character components that I identify as essential in this quest for personal authenticity or that which you create in your characters could include:

 

  • being true to yourself first before you can be true to others
  • going it alone even if you are the only person in the room holding a different view
  • saying you can’t do it anymore or that you need assistance
  • risking friendship by saying you feel used or need to be heard.
  • being proud of one’s origins, culture and values
  • acknowledging the presence of others
  • being comfortable in your own skin
  • being truly happy for others in all they accomplish
  • embracing diversity/ withholding judgment on race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation, socio- economic standing
  • greeting with a smile that extends from the soul to the eyes to the mouth
  • upholding the truth as it is
  • not allowing fear to govern choices
  • protecting vulnerability rather than exploiting it.
  • reaching out to those in need even if you don’t have enough for yourself
  • striving to be the best version of yourself.

—————————————————————-

How Difficult is it to be Authentic?

It does not require one to renounce worldly aspirations nor live like a saint or hermit.
Being authentic is simply being you, not a carbon print of someone else or living up to the expectations of others.

—————————————————————-

If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be- Maya Angelou

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.- Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the essence of true beauty.- Dr. Steve Maraboli

Enjoy the lyrics that beautifully and simply says it:

Enjoy!

 

—————————————————————-

Should your brave new world of being true to yourself be feared?

Only if you lose – your way – yourself – in a sea of manipulation and deception. The character, Meryl in Across Time and Space undergoes a steep learning curve to emerge as…I leave you to find out…and the sequel will reveal more.
When you are surrounded by authentic people, you feel the positive vibration around you. This energy allows you to flourish. Separating the wheat from the chaff comes with life experience as you glide towards the true, the real you.

 

Here’s to creating enhanced versions of ourselves and the characters we create

 

 

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Energising Creative Thought

 

Here are a few practical suggestions to a question posed this week which is a significant and very real concern:

‘How to centre yourself and clear your thoughts before writing?’

  • The time of day when your energy levels are high and you are rested is a good time to sit down to gather your thoughts.
  • Have a plan for what you hope to achieve for that particular writing session- is it a paragraph, a chapter or some research on a new idea? I have a skeleton plan of what I would like to create in my chapters- this is done through dot points which help to structure my thoughts that I build upon as I write.
  • Keep a journal on random thoughts that emerge each day.

 

  • If gathering your thoughts hits a roadblock, try this exercise:
  1. Look around the room you are in – what object catches your eye, write a brief description of that object using as many sensory images as you can come up with – visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile.
  2. Consider why you might have been drawn to that object – Colour? Shape? Associated memory? Who was the person who might have given you the object or where and when it became yours?
  3. Write a paragraph on the size, shape, colour, ownership and memory associated with the object.
  4. Record your thoughts, in your phone or other recording device, by speaking about the object first,  then write them down as you hear it on your recording adding on  the ideas as you go.
  • If this does not spark your creative energy, pick up a book, turn to any page and read the first line – stop – absorb – now write down what you think might happen next.
  • A quiet space, undisturbed, gives voice to your thoughts to pick up the pen or tap on your keyboard, a quiet space will lead to thoughts being centred where the noise of a crowded space might distract  creative thought. This also depends on whether you can work with complete stillness, as I do, you might find a bustling coffee shop, as the protagonist, Meryl,  in my novel, Across Time and Space, does suitable to creative thought  if undisturbed by intrusive newcomers like the infamous, ‘roving professor’.
  • Once you find the space that is conducive to creative thought, tune into your inner clock, establish a rhythm to clear and centre your thoughts. If this does not happen in one sitting, go back later, or the next day – persistence and consistency is the key.

The most potent muse of all is our inner childStephen Nachmanovitch 

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Guilty but Vilified?

I bleed, you bleed and so should we all upon seeing and hearing of the travesty in the miscarriage of justice in WA.
I watched this segment on ABC 7:30 pm presented by Stan Grant, last night, and bled for the young man and his mother who became victims of a misguided system reeking of discrimination. This story has been in the media before –  the segment on the ABC last night cut deeper this time.

Watch here:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-12/gene-gibson-josh-warneke-manslaughter-conviction-quashed-appeal/8436550
How does a justice system ever undo the immoral judgement and carelessness in convicting an innocent young man for a murder he did not commit? Was this a deliberate act of discrimination?

Five years spent in prison despite the murdered young man, Josh Warneke’s, mother categorically stating that police had the wrong young man. Five years shut away with no understanding of why this has happened. The compassionate mother, of Josh Warneke, said that seeing Gene Gibson freed was one of the most, “profound moments of my life,” quoted in a WA news article.

Why was this allowed to go on for five years in WA? Who is really being held accountable for this gross miscarriage of justice? Will the details of who the perpetrators of injustice are be revealed while exposing the penalty they will receive, is disciplinary action going to undo the damage already done? It will never get Gene Gibson his years wrongfully lost in prison back. Five years. A life lost. The murderer out on the streets.

Gene Gibson, quoted as being ‘shy and gentle’ with ‘cognitive impairment’ was defenceless against a system that judged the colour of his skin first, ruling out all possibility of his innocence while making him believe he had to confess to that which he did not commit?

How does an apology bring back those lost years? Those years were stolen from a young, innocent man. How does the grieving mother, of the young man murdered cope,  knowing her son’s killer is still out there?

What’s happening in the rest of the world is critiqued with vigour, every day.

Our own backyard needs attention.

A fair go for all…where is it?

 

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Unforgettable

Nelson Mandela’s name was magical to the tongue, heart and brain to all who lived in hope for acceptance, tolerance, understanding and democracy. Amidst the much-anticipated release of Nelson Mandela from prison into civilian life, a life of iconic stature, I waited with bated breath.   South Africa exploded into a tidal wave of celebration creating a carnival atmosphere of street dancing, a cappella singing and a profound sense of unity!

The early 1980’s was conscientised by the ideology that students were the voice of a nation – students could improve the human condition that prevailed in South Africa by raising their voices to cry out for democracy, freedom, the right to vote and be accepted as human with no references to race but rather be referred to by nationality – simply ‘South African’. The release of Nelson Mandela was palpable.   The moment hung on the ears and lips of a nation whose citizens were shunted into ‘Group Areas’ zoning in a country where the Immorality Act made love across ‘the colour line’ a crime.

Amidst the celebratory mood that prevailed, one night stands out like a flaring beacon in my memory.

Nelson Mandela was visiting the community I lived in, he was to address residents in this little town, to quell fear and spread wisdom that a peaceful transition to democracy was essential.

Throngs of people gathered at the venue from around midday to secure a spot to ‘see’ this iconic man in the flesh. He was the timeless hope alive in the human breast of apartheid oppression.

At 6:30 pm in strode a tall, lean, upright figure smiling broadly waving a greeting like a father returning from work to his family.

The community hall broke out in an emotional outpouring of song and dance as Nelson Mandela strode in, men, women, and children wept as wave after hypnotic wave of this chant rose in unison to the rooftop and beyond into the night sky:

‘O, Mandela!  O, Mandela! O, Mandela! O, Mandela!’

Strangers hugged each other and shook hands. I stood up on a chair to get a better view of Nelson Mandela, holding onto my little girl and husband both of whom were immersed in the jubilation of that moment – here was the man who held the promise to end suffering, promote the need for education and literacy for all, the hope for justice and equity regardless of race, socio-economic status, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation and religion.

The soaring joy of that moment lives on in my psyche as the legend enshrined in my parents’ home was now before me in the flesh, smiling, looking at all with love and hope without a trace of the solitude of twenty-seven years of incarceration and hard labour. Here was the symbol of grace, dignity, compassion and warmth spreading the word by his very presence that one can make a difference regardless of the challenges faced.

To denounce the identity, contributions, and presence of a people is tantamount to obliterating their very existence such was the horror and brutality of the apartheid era in South Africa and many oppressed nations around the world.

In that moment basking in the light of Nelson Mandela’s presence, I was as proud of my identity as was every other person in that small community hall – those who felt the full blight of oppression.

I have relived that moment, that moment of seeing the gigantic Nelson Mandela, many times in my life – it’s the wind in my sails, the fuel in my tank, it keeps me whole and free…

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