Have you read Catherine Ryan Hyde?

Have You Seen Luis Velez?Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s hard to choose a favourite of Catherine’s beautiful novels, but for now at least, this one is IT.
I listened on audio via Bolinda Digital through my library, and did something I’ve never done before. When the story ended, I went right back to chapter 1, and pressed play. The rich deep point of view of young teen, Raymond, had me feeling, knowing, understanding his every reaction. I saw the beautiful blind woman he helps through his eyes, felt his every concern – and hers. What a delight. I am going to buy a paper copy of this and highlight all the fabulous internalisation and visceral reactions Catherine has portrayed in her charming (and the not so nice) characters, as fine examples for my writer’s brain. Her word skills leave me in awe.

Don’t stop CRH – you are inspirational, and yes, by showing the value of mutual help and understanding by pairing the young and the elderly in your books (with an animal or two for extra feels), you teach that every person has history, value, and a story worth hearing.

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The Art of “Skipping Around,” or Writing Out of Sequence ~ WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®

This is how I’ve approached my multi-generational rural Australian family drama.

A way of writing I am passionate about – there’s never a dull moment. No blocks. Just fun following a theme thread or writing a wow moment that dropped into my head out of nowhere.

The Art of “Skipping Around,” or Writing Out of Sequence ~ WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®
— Read on writershelpingwriters.net/2018/08/the-art-of-skipping-around-or-writing-out-of-sequence/

People on the margins

pexels-photo-462107.jpegSince the beginning of March I’ve been head down, back hunched as I Dive Deep into Margie Lawson’s Developmental Editing course. With one month down, and another one to go I’m getting a clear plan on how to best convey the heart of my story and am really looking forward to the outcome.

My fictional character is Maisy Priddle – an elderly woman who’s been living the life of a rural recluse for 40 years. I’m interested in the people who would normally be avoided or overlooked in society – but nonetheless the subject of gossip and derision. My Maisy is an amalgamation of two such women I encountered in my district. She’s cheeky, a bit naughty, and very, very savvy. I love her and I want to save her from herself…

Someone will arrive at her locked farm gate and step into the midst of Maisy’s life where she’s at war with her neighbour, with her past, and with herself… it doesn’t always go well.

Margie Lawson’s Dive Deep into Developmental Editing Course – my moment in the deep end.

It pays to know your theme…

Just want to report (shout out from the rooftops) something neat. I’d skipped over a few of the editing course tasks last week to dive into the theme lessons. I’m not a skipper-overer, nor a skimmer, but I had a purpose! I had a five minute telephone pitch opportunity with Harlequin Australia.

I live 190 miles from a capital city, and the Australian Society for Authors provided this for writers like me who often have to rely on our purses to advance or promote ourselves. I wanted to experience pitching, albeit a blind speed date with my ideal partner – one who was looking for what I’ve written: image

Thanks to my Lawson’s Writing Academy tutor Rhay Christou, who sped through my feedback, and of course the inimitable essence of Margie Lawson, I had a neat thematic statement to deliver in confidence to my chosen Commissioning Editor yesterday.

How precious it is to know your story in a nutshell. A five minute call, with only three of those for me and the other two for questions, felt like 60 seconds.

Five minutes folks. Think about it. One minute to get my tongue working around my genre and potential audience, while the other side of my brain was seeing the three minute story overview I’d prepared was never going to have its moment. I was asked whose/which stories I’d compare my work with. “Great choice,” she said. (Yay). “Three minute warning,” she added. (Gasped and told myself, Jay turn up the oxygen, you’re going down into deep water without a torch.)

I’d scribbled a three line overview of the essence of my story characters and what made it unique just before the call in case it all went too fast – it did – and along with my newly minted thematic statement, this reassuring CE had reason to care enough to ask if my MS was complete. I was honest and told her about my 120k MS being in the Developmental Editing stage, and that I had a fairly tidy first draft. And… she cared enough to request I send my story when I’m ready.

Ironic. Dive deep, and come up early with a tiny pearl that might just one day make a strand.

It’s time to add the weight belt—too easy with all the bum glue required for this— to go deeper. I’m aiming to surface in the tropics one day.

Reading for Purpose – Beyond Duck River

I’ve recently been concentrating on reading for purpose, rather than pleasure. I’m reading Australian historical fiction and memoirs to research for a novel I am writing. My aim is to gain an insight into the narrative of Australian culture during the 20th Century, and in particular, relating to WW1, WW2 and the Vietnam War.

It’s an interesting way to approach books: not diving into the latest best-seller, or the book that came before the movie. It has opened my eyes to different ways of seeing who we were, and who we are; of seeing… us.  Beyond Duck River, written by Angela Martin, Hodder, (2001) bears no exception.

Ms Martin has written of her kin. The Sydney-born author, academic and arts administrator descends from English and Sydney Aboriginal ancestry, and writes what she knows. She grew up around Duck River and presents a family saga based on three generations of suburban Aboriginal women.

I found her writing style drew me into each scene with subtle, yet deep point of view to enhance the meaning. Keenly observant and frank, dry and sometimes witty, Ms Martin presents the trials of half-caste assimilation through vivid characters to show their ways of avoiding the scrutiny of authorities, the effects of wars, the cruelty of stolen generations and of domestic abuse. The families try to belong, but through class and race division, can never truly blend in, even when forced.

To portray this, I have included a segment about the main character’s grandfather,     Jack Smith:

As the horse and cart took off from the orphanage, Jack Wilson stared at the reins as they steered him away from his sister and into a world without hope. He was delivered to his new home where the people were kindly.

 “We weren’t blessed with a child of our own,” Mrs Smith tried to explain, “but if you let us, we can look after you and love you just the same.”

 “And, your name will be just like ours too, Jack. You’ll be a Smith, like us,” said Mr Smith proudly.

“I don’t want to be a Smith. I want to be a Wilson, like Essie.  She’ll never find me if I’m a Smith. I’m a Bullamatta boy!”

“You mean Parramatta, Jack.”

“Bullamatta. Bullamatta! Matta’s place of water. Bulla is eel. Food, see?

You’s changed it, just like you wanna change my name.”

 Beyond Duck River is about a family’s place of belonging and the river which flows or trickles throughout the story – both are gradually degraded by the march of time, but their spirits endure. The story may appeal to fans of Bryce Courtenay, Kate Grenville, Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullough and Sally Morgan to name a few.  Not bad company in my view.                                                                                                          –  JJ Hicks.


Martin, Angela  
Description Sydney : Hodder Headline, 2001
298 p. ; 21cm.
ISBN 073361325X (paperback)
Subjects Women, Aboriginal Australian — Fiction.  |  Australia — Social conditions — 20th century — Fict

Historical Novel Society of Australasia Conference – September 2017



Annmarie Reid (fellow Fiona McIntosh Mini-Masterclass attendee) and I had a fabulous time at the Historical Novel Society of Australia Conference at Swinburne Uni, Melbourne, back in September. It was an informative and frankly, amazing weekend filled with some incredible guests and lots of familiar Romance Writers of Australia  (& famous) faces. The next conference will be in Adelaide in two years. Well worth it, even if history isn’t your thing … it just might be after such an insight into the human condition. This is why we write after all.

Seriously, some of the presenters were tearing up with their passion in tracing the lives of people of the past. Authors, screenwriters, scholars, publishers – everyone was there sharing that.