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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Rod Dearing is inspired by Biggles!

For the last year or so I’ve been in a bit of a quandary. Not your ordinary quandary which can be solved with a bit of rational thought and suggestions from friends. Oh no, nothing so simple. This quandary is so fundamental that it brought me to a standstill.Yet I’m not the only author to meet this beastly problem – all authors make its acquaintance.
It happens just after you’ve completed your last book. Flushed with pride with your new creation and having got its publication under way, you front up to the computer as you normally do only to realize that you’re about to start a new story. The other one’s finished, completed, concluded. In front of you now lies a river of new ideas begging to be taken up and explored. But which do you pick? Is it to be a chapter book for children or for young adults? ( the two genres I generally work in). Or is it to be a new story using the same characters previously used or a new story with new characters? Or perhaps, a new genre altogether?
I remembered an old adage from one of my earlier business mentors. ‘Rod, he said, ‘when in doubt do nothing.’ It seemed reasonable but it’s led me nowhere and simply heightened my stress levels! As time rolled on I became acutely aware of the production consequences of any decision. The time it takes to physically research, write and edit. It takes me about a year to write an 80,000 – 90,000 chapter book for young adults and about six months to produce a 15,000 fully illustrated children’s book.
I thought I’d at least make a start and get cracking on another illustrated children’s book using the characters from previous stories. It seemed the sensible and practical course of action to take. I got busy and drafted out a Chapter Plan and read it out to the members of my Writers Group. All seemed well except for a nagging thought at the back of my mind. The storyline lacked conflict. Dissatisfied with that effort I drafted out the Chapter Plan for another story and read that out to my Writers Group. Again all seemed well except for another nagging thought. The storyline was pitched at the wrong age group.
I was getting nowhere fast and then last Sunday as I was listening to the breakfast talkback programme inspiration struck. A young lad, just 8 years old was telling the talkback host what he’d been reading over the school holidays.
‘Biggles’ books, he said proudly. And then he launched into a splendid account of why he loved Biggles stories. It was wonderful. It could have been me talking about the Biggles stories I loved as a young teenager. My eyes drifted over the six ‘Biggles’ books in the bookcase in my study and then I thought of my unfinished ‘Cadet Willie McBride’ young adult manuscript collecting dust in the cabinet. Time to revisit it, I thought and come up with a revised Chapter Plan - but this time with tons of conflict and pitched at the right age group.

Col. Rodney Dearing

(I loved Biggles books myself - always full of adventure and excitement and characters you loved to spend time with. Ed.)

Friday, 25 April 2014

Anzac Day thoughts from Evan Andrew

Today is the 25th April, when we look back and remember all the wars that New Zealand has been involved in. Because of that, I feel I cannot, in all conscience, write about anything else.

Next year it will be one hundred years exactly to the day, since the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey, when New Zealand became a nation, according to general consensus.

I had a grandfather who fought in the Boer war in South Africa, then was deployed to China for the Boxer uprising. By the time he arrived it was all over, however he fought in the Great War 1914-18, and my own father joined the Coastguard Naval Patrol when the Second World War broke out in 1939, and stayed until it was disbanded in 1941. He then went to Egypt from 1942-45, so I do have a fellow feeing for all the men and women who fought and defended us during those difficult days.

This year the book market will be flooded with a plethora of books written about war in all its different aspects. In June, it is the centenary since the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, that caused the spark to set off the First World War.

In our writing group we have some wonderful books dealing with war-related subjects, written by four of our members.

Gabrielle Rothwell has written three enthralling books. The life of Jack Hinton VC, in  'A Man Amongst Men,' 'New Zealand Secret Heroes,' dealing with men behind the enemy lines, and 'The Man with Nine Lives,' the story of her husband Geoff, and his war as a pilot in Europe flying over Germany.  I cannot praise them enough, and their bravery is humbling.

Vicky Adin's marvellous book 'Daniel,' is the true story of her husband's great-grandfather, who fought in the New Zealand Land Wars in the 1860's, and the difficult decisions his family had to make with the outbreak of the First World War. A heart warming read that you can relate to.

Jenny Harrison's wonderful book, 'The Lives of Alice Pothron,' is the true story of an American woman of French extraction, trapped in France with her husband and child at the outbreak of war in 1939, and the experiences she went through in occupied France, until the amazing ending, which proves that fact is stranger than fiction. A book you won't forget in a hurry.

Jean Louise Allen has ready for publication her new book 'River At War,' which is a sequel to 'River, River, Raupo, Rye'  and is set in her beloved Northern Wairoa, and gives a perfect picture of life for those who lived there, during the difficult days of World War Two. Beautifully written, and it flows, just like the river she loves.

These are all excellent books, and totally absorbing, taking the reader with them every step of the way.  I strongly recommend to anyone who hasn't had the good fortune to read them, to get them, either as hardback copies, or on line as e-books, or request them from your local library.

It would be a wonderful world if we knew that peace reigned and war was a thing of the past, but as I write Syria is still in turmoil, Russia and the Crimea are locked in uneasy peace talks, Afghanistan and Iraq are still in explosive situations, while Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria are fighting in civil wars that seem to have no ending. As if that's not enough, we live in the uncertainty of what the glorious leader in North Korea might take it in his head to do in the future!

However, here in New Zealand, we have much to be grateful for. I for one, will certainly remember all those brave men and women who gave us the lasting peace in our country, after those long difficult years of war.


Evan G Andrew



Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Jean Louise Allen describes the Birth of a Writer

My childhood memories of books are dim.  
I’d like to say I was a child prodigy author but I that would be a lie; because when I went to school books and toys were both in short supply. The Second World War had got underway and we were supporting Mother England. The first book I remember stands out because it had stand-out scene pages about Cinderella - with words underneath. No, School journals were the mainstay for my generation.
My memories of sounds are clear. Prior to starting school I had been trained that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ and could not kick the habit. So, during my first 6 months of school I did not speak. I listened: to voices talking, singing, and joking; to voice timbre, quality resonance. Sounds became my telepathy. Sitting on the classroom mat cross-legged, arms folded, we 5 year olds chanted (c-at cat, m-at mat, d-og dog) our eyes following the Nun’s pointer along letters and to bedazzling illustrations on the glossy canvas chart. I loved it.    
During the Second World War my mother and my four older sisters would sit around the fire on winter evenings - knitting (often socks) for soldiers. One at a time they would lay down their knitting and take a turn to read aloud from the current book. I loved, those sounds, that loving family atmosphere.   
Later, in my Standard Classes writing didn’t feature greatly either. I especially detested the Essays about “What I did on my Holidays” for by then we lived in Auckland. Holidays were barren hours. Through those two years, living beside a road of car and tram noises my ability to enjoy the sounds deserted me.
However, during my 4th and 5th Form years at Secondary College I wrote, and illustrated by hand, a family magazine. I still have 3 copies of those stapled papers called, embarrassingly, We Us and Co. Most of the contributions were mine. Yet some submissions were sent in by a sister or brother-in-law. I know it kept me safely occupied as there had to be at least 5 copies made with each issue!
In my last year at College I won the Cup for English but was persuaded to accept the one-off English Essay Prize instead. That year being the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth Second, Secondary Schools here were given Elizabeth First Coins as prizes for English Essay, and -   “Yours, Jean, were bright spots in my hours of correcting,” Sister Mary Veronica informed me. I still have that 1953 prize, thin as a wafer, minted in 1574, still in its original little maroon box, lies ‘the romantic coin’, an Elizabeth 1st sixpence. My name is beautifully penned in tiny, cursive writing, in Indian ink by my teacher. I left school to become a student at Teachers Training College, Auckland.  
However, those years of Secondary College and Teacher Training gifted me the words of writers such as Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Oscar Wilde, Lady Barker and Jane Mander. Kind teachers and Professors fostered my acting ability, coerced me onto the stage and into a whole new world. Sounds melded with words, blossomed and became books, poems and plays. I am so grateful to my teachers and although offered an acting scholarship, I continued with teaching.
The years of teaching, marriage, children and teaching again – flew fast. I did manage to have several magazine articles accepted during those childbearing/childrearing years. In the 1960s I wrote a children’s Reader and took photographs for Kathleen and Jongolly which went through Price Milburn and into schools for many years.   
At retirement I decided to give fiction a go and wrote a NZ Short Story - The Flatty. This story came from two sentences my father mentioned once or twice about flounder spearing. Both my parents had died in the 1980s so I consulted Dad’s old River charts to find a suitable setting. I had by then completed extramurally, through Massey University, Palmerston North, some papers in ‘NZ Women’s Studies’ and had a library of valuable books on the subject. As I wrote, long forgotten images of river excursions and summer river nights drifted up from my early years in an extraordinary, dreamlike manner. The characters, although based on my parents, took on a life of their own and the time is many years before my birth. 
I had heard of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards and without a thought of winning, in 1993 sent that story to the Novice Section of the Awards - which I won. As well The Flatty was published in The NZ Listener. Robin Dudding, the then Editor, being so taken with my story, went so far as to visit and compliment me making sure I had support. Since then I have mostly written NZ Historical Fiction, 90% of which is set on the Northern Wairoa and Kaipara Rivers. I am becoming known as The River Writer.
In 2008 I published Bitty by the River; a novella sized book of ten short stories. Two of these, The Flatty and Fancy Work were also accepted by Radio NZ and read over that station just after I had done a tour of the North with Bitty by the River.
I kept on writing and in 2012 brought out my first novel River River Raupo Rye. This historical fiction book features Iona. It is set from 1900 to 1932 and features Iona’s courageous life amid such events as World War 1, the1918 Influenza Epidemic, the ascendency of the motor car and Economic Depressions.
I am currently half way through River at War, about Miriam, which opens on New Year’s Eve mid-1930s. My book, Women of the Old River or (Called to Courage) also keeps me busy. It is 10, maybe 12, long, short stories set from 1840 to 1950 and is nearing its final edit. At the same time I am working on my story in conjunction with my family history. Doing this alongside my fiction keeps me in centred on both the facts of my life and the fiction of my own creation.
This is Jean L Allen hoping you are enjoying your reading or writing, today.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Barbara Algie muses on the changing world of Golf

It’s been a long time – perhaps even a hundred years – since we had a summer as long and hot as the one we are currently experiencing and, speaking of a hundred years, reminds me that I have just weathered a whirlwind of social events connected with my golf club’s centennial year.

Established in 1914, Pupuke is one of the oldest clubs in the country. Anticipating a week of hi-jinks, I stashed the bathroom scales out of sight and fortunately can’t now remember where I put them.

Our celebrations began at 7pm when 17 members of the Royal NZ Navy Pipe & Drum Band marched from the 18th tee, across the fairway to the clubhouse, where a commemorative plaque was unveiled by our Patron. This was a re-enactment of an event in the early 1950’s, when a tiny, dilapidated clubhouse was ceremoniously locked at midnight, a lone Piper led the small band of rowdy revellers across the course in the dark to where a new building was equally ceremoniously unlocked and the party continued until the wee, small hours.  

Sharing our Club celebrations was another, world-shattering, event. Well, I suppose the avid lady golfers of this world would consider it to be that. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club has for the past 100 years dictated every rule and regulation for those who attempt to play the game. Their word has been Gospel never to be queried. This formerly male-only stronghold has finally agreed ladies are to be admitted as members of St Andrews! Oh to have been a fly on the wall of the committee room in that historic building when the decision was hotly debated by elderly Scotsmen in flying Kilts and Sporrans. I would like to think our own Lydia Ko may have been an influencing factor in bringing this fuddy duddy outfit into line with how today’s world operates.

Since the game began the dress code changed to allow more appropriate attire – equipment improved to enable beginners to whack a drive some 200 metres away – children, such as Lydia Ko was when she began playing at the age of 6, may now be accepted as junior members of golf clubs but rules were rules and they’ve changed only marginally – so St Andrews deserves congratulations - belated congratulations for at last acknowledging that women do have a place on their hallowed turf.

I finish with some advice from an anonymous ‘veteran’ golfer. ‘By the time we get to the age when we can afford to buy a new golf ball we can’t hit the damned thing far enough to lose it!’

Barbara Algie

Friday, 4 April 2014

Vicky Adin writes about The Importance of Friendship

I want to tell you about friends: this group, my group, Mairangi Writers.

Recently, I read in MJ Wright’s blog,, that Tolkein was part of the ‘Inklings’ group, friends who met in an Oxford pub for over thirty years, including the likes of C.S Lewis and others. Their fellow writers would have listened to the early drafts of Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series – imagine that from a historical perspective. Wouldn’t that be something to boast about to your grandchildren? Likewise, Hemingway and Somerset Maugham, to name just two, met at the now iconic Writers Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, to swap notes and vent frustrations.

In more modest surroundings, Mairangi Writers is a shining example of how friendships like that work. We have, over time, become a collective.

We share experiences, we reveal our inner most thoughts, and we expose our weaknesses through the medium of storytelling. By reading our stories out loud to each other, we lay ourselves bare. We ask for feedback, criticism, and advice and we give what is asked in an endeavour to raise standards. We share our knowledge, our resources and our time. We trust. As with Tolkein and others, being part of a group makes us better.

Through this process, we have all improved. Our writing is better, our cover designs are enhanced and our marketing is strengthened. We know how to do a layout; we understand e-books. We can talk about Goodreads, CreateSpace, Amazon and Smashwords, about royalties and a Writers Diet. We talk about titles and fonts, about Beta-readers and proofreaders and copy-editing and publishing, and understand the language perfectly.

We also share our successes: we combine to promote our books, both collectively and individually created, and teamwork delivers the message.

If you would like to hear a talk, we visit libraries and schools, give presentations to community groups and service clubs, and do book launches and author talks all under the umbrella of Mairangi Writers and sell our books through Lets Buy Books

And who knows, maybe our grandchildren will be able to tell tales of when their famous ancestor shared stories with friends.

Vicky Adin