Norman’s pool – a magical place

normansPoolOne of the sites visited by our protagonist Mira Abrose Argent in Library of Time was Norman’s Pool at the Norman Lindsay Gallery. It is an amazing place all on its own and I wanted to share a little more about the location. It is the former home of artist Norman Lindsay, a multi-talented Australian artist.

When I lived in Sydney, I visited the gallery every couple of years. It is one of those places that rekindles a sense of wonder and child-like enjoyment. Norman’s talent ran all the way from illustrating children’s books, writing novels, model ship building, painting in oil and watercolor, sculpting and sketching. His lithographs are multi-layered exemplars of the art. His work was one of the reasons I studied print-making in art school; I wanted to experiment with the techniques he pioneered. It ought to be noted that it was his wife, Rose Lindsay, who did most of the print runs. She was pretty amazing as a person, a model and an artist.

th3DG401AVHowever, it is the grounds of the place that are the most evocative to the would-be artist. Life-sized statues of nymphs, fauns and satyrs romp through the grounds, sculpted hastily from chicken wire and concrete that seems to linger on beyond their ephemeral materials; their sly smiles and sidewise glances provoke smiles from the visitors to the gallery. It is clear that the spirits that the artist saw animating nature did not remain elusive to his maker’s hands.

An Artist is a kind of magician I’ve always thought, making something from nothing and giving the viewer a sense of connection with what the artist sees of the numinous or hidden world of spirit.

Vision and the sight are recurring themes in the current set of novels. What happens if you look too deeply and see too much? How can true sight be a gift and a burden at the same time? Does knowledge equal power, or does it show too clearly the hidden cost of wielding magical power and mundane power in the world. All good food for thought, and Norman Lindsay saw and revealed many hypocritical attitudes in the early half of the twentieth century. His clear vision got him into a different kind of trouble than my characters experience, however, it was fun to add the place to the story. It stars as a meeting place where almost anyone or any otherworldly being might just drop by for a visit.

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I remember the place fondly for the art, the statues, and for the half-glimpsed view of the world of the artist who lived there. It is a place that has inspired more than one artist and author over the years and I am pleased count myself among them.

If you caught the film ‘Sirens’ a while back, that is set in the same location. It stars Ella McPherson, Hugh Grant and Sam Neil. It may not be a spectacularly good bio-pic but it does the grounds and the mores of the time justice. A fun romp of a movie, it is quite naughty in juxtaposing the bohemian ways of the artist and the models with the more straight-laced morals of the preacher who thinks himself rather ‘modern’ in his views. It is a quirky send-up, though fairly gentle in its humor. I found it charming.

As a place, Norman’s pool is now empty of water for most of the year; you’ll have to imagine what it would have been like with water lilies. In the hot Australian summer, it would have been a favorite place to get some relief from the heat. The surrounding bush is beautiful, resinous and fragrant with Eucalyptus. The surrounding walks are private and a little wild and the calls of the birds could be the laughter of women or dryads calling from the bush. Quite a magical place, and a great day-trip from Sydney. I recommend it highly.

 

A writer exploring her medium

It is an exciting time to be living in as an author, exploring the medium of fiction in multiple formats. The electronic book feels so ephemeral, while the trade paperback feels more lasting and tangible. Both have their charms but I am struck by how different the same work can feel in the two different mediums.

Print will always have my heart I think with the feeling of the pages, the smell of the ink, and the whole experience of interacting with an artifact. Yet my kindle has made it possible to keep a whole library with me; as long as I have a power charge, I can visit with old friends any time I like, no matter where I am. I no longer run late for work in searching for a book to add to my bag before I run out the door; it’s sad to admit how many buses I’ve missed over the years just because I couldn’t bring myself to leave before I had a book in hand. As an author, each of print and ebook is satisfying in its own way – both get into the hands of readers and that’s a happiness.

Fiction is a new departure for me and I’m as happy as a kid in the candy store. For the past twenty odd years, I’ve been focused on technical writing and non fiction. I had no idea fiction could be so rewarding! The characters are about as noisy and demanding as a screech of lyrebirds in the Australian bush. Those pesky creatures are mimics who love to make the sound of squeaky playground swings. My characters keep up the racket in my head until I get their words and stories out.

I must admit to experimenting with the novella format more than a bit; Child of Time is a story in three parts that could be considered three separate short stories. Thematically, it moves through time and explores a single protagonist as she grows up and grows into her magic. It is a single story, yes. It is also a set of stories about a character at different ages. Will be experimenting with the novella form more as time goes on. I already have ideas for another sequence of three stories, threaded together through time.

For me, it feels like around a hundred pages, or around 20,000 words is a good chunk of story. I hope that the readers agree as it means publishing is feasible as soon as there is a sequence to share in ebook and print. Less than 100 pages doesn’t feel print-worthy to me, but other folks mileage may vary.

Stages of writing – the first draft

The first and quickest part of the writing process, for me, is getting the first draft done. Quite like writing non-fiction, I start anywhere. It might be an introduction to the character, a scene that may be incorporated, or a piece of dialog. From there, I figure out where that piece fits in and write scenes before and after it. Only then does an outline emerge.

I use scrivener for writing for the most part, however, if I’m stuck in a meeting I’ve been known to scribble in the back of a notebook or put some words down into one-note when an idea comes to me. On my phone I use one-note and am learning to use some audio recordings while I’m driving in the car.

Before the first draft there is usually an idea about the scene, some questions that reveal something about the main character and their cirsumstances.

  • Mira has issue with her family that sets her at odds with them. What is that?
  • About the magic? Her place in the family? The arranged marriage they’re trying to get her to agree to?
  • What is it about her magic and power that is at odds with their pursuit of power?
  • What does she see with her gifts that makes her step away from them?

I throw the main character into the first scene against the backdrop of the questions and see what happens. During this phase, I pay attention to the rhythm of the scene – quick, quick, slow or slow, slow, quick – depending on the energy of the events. As the stories are urban fantasy, I want to ground the action in everyday events. The mundane is punctuated by the magical actions and, ideally, the rhythm brings the aspects of the scene into balance.

I may decide to do a second pass on the draft to add action sequences or dialog that shows more of the motivations, especially for the political tensions.

During first draft phase, I also read it aloud to my partner or one of my beta readers. Getting their initial feedback helps me to refine the story on the next pass. It also lets me know which pieces to keep, especially if they clap their hands or laugh in delight. My partner is great at asking questions I hadn’t thought of, or asking about motivations.

Occasionally I’ll plot out a whole short story. For the most part, however, I allow the characters to tell me what they would do as I write. It’s more exciting to me that way and I get to learn as I go along. My first draft is usually in chunks of around 2000 words a day, with the odd day of 5000 words; I live for the 5000 word days. Being that much in the story makes me happy.

New story by Ria Loader

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A story of magic

What a lovely feeling to have a new story published today. Child of Time  is a novella in three parts, inspired by questions from readers who enjoyed my first novel, Library of Time. Fiction is a new departure for me and I’m enjoying the character driven story line.

This sequence started with a foundation story. One reader asked “what happened when Mira threw her brother off a cliff – how did that happen?” I asked my character, who was more than happy to tell me all about it.

“He said he could fly!” Mira said indignantly when her Gran came to find out what had happened.

And who is to say otherwise in a family with such strange and otherworldly magic? Why would she think he was exaggerating? Pushing small girls can be an unpredictable thing when they have strong magic to defend themselves. To find out what happens next, read Child of Time on paperback or kindle today.

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I awaken from dreams that inhabit the worlds that exist inside books, especially my own books. More surprising, my partner also dreams in those worlds. He tells me that this is what makes a book real – when that book becomes ‘my world’ and the characters become ‘my friends’ it is a shared place. My created characters are not just mine any longer, as if they ever were. In the beginning, that may have been true. When I first created a character sketch, it was as if the character was a flat construct. Then they got some color and form and not long after that, there they are – standing up and walking around as if they were as real as a living person. As they grow and change, it seems the characters take on a life of their own. They start telling me what is going to happen next in their world and in their story.

It can be a bit unexpected the first time it happens; now that I am accustomed to characters talking in my dreams, it doesn’t startle me so much. It feels a bit like we authors collaborate and play with the shape and meaning of the places we create and the characters who inhabit them.

Our task is to tell stories that capture the moments and transitions that occur. However, it isn’t always clear what is going to happen in a given scene. You set up the circumstances, drop the characters in and watch or feel what happens. Soon enough, either the situation changes to suit the characters, or the fictional beings turn around and let you know what they would really say or do. Often what you thought was the point of the scene morphs and changes to bring out a different nuance. Sometimes it is even a major plot point, or a new person arrives in the scene as if they had been waiting in the wings, ready to walk on stage. I love that part of storytelling.

As an avid reader, I love books that draw me in. The stories that allow me to put myself into the world and feel like part of me lives there, that the characters are my friends, those are the stories I return to again and again. I hope to be able to build some of that into the stories I write. My characters are demanding their voices, and more stories and that’s a good place to begin.