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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Barbara Algie finds friends in many places.

I do it once a week.   Well that’s not too bad, considering my age.   Mostly it takes me three quarters of an hour – but that’s understandable too.   One of the bosses is in the carpark.   Long legged, slim and elegant with eyes to die for (the colour of a cloudless summer sky), he saunters towards me.   My knees wobble even thinking about him.   WOW.   But, hang on, before you go all wobbly too, it’s not what you’re imagining, you rotten lot.  
It’s 9am but inside there’s already plenty of action – that is if you call wheelchairs in motion ‘action’.   It’s a home where the elderly and infirm find comfort and affection beyond explanation from other than the usual caregivers.

Some of these are hogging the best chairs, or curled up on laps, whilst others are still snuggled down in bed with their ‘owners’.   When I open the door at No.38 I find my friend in danger of being smothered by ‘Baggins’ who lies across her chest, pinning her to the bed where he’s spent the night snoring. Her room is his room – the Knox Home is his home.

This is obviously not your normal rest home where the idea of allowing animals is abhorrent and

unhygienic.   How many people do you know who’ve heart-wrenchingly had to have their pets euthanised because they were compelled to move into care.   If not sitting on still-warm car bonnets, Ole Blue Eyes is often seen snuggling up on a lap in the lounge.   ‘George’ (no relation to the Prince) ‘belongs’ to Peg in the next corridor.   This tabby disappears during daylight hours and Peg insists he ‘goes to work’ but I wonder if, with a Church opposite, he doesn’t sit bathed in the colours of the stained glass windows praying for the ‘oldies’ across the road.   ‘Romeo’ is small, with tousled hair hiding his eyes.   He arrives daily by bicycle (in a backpack) to visit Pat.   What joy she gets from these visits.   ‘Whisper’, the small black cat, sticks close to his ‘Dad’.   ‘Oscar’, a small dog with a tail in perpetual motion dashes about like a whirling dervish cajoling titbits at mealtimes.   And there are others too numerous to mention.

The hairdresser, who rescues neglected animals, often brings a selection of livestock in for a day. She arrived just before me carrying two cages, one containing a couple of brown ducks, the other a hen with a clutch of newly hatched chickens.   Incidentally she  has ten ponies and numerous cats and dogs but still finds time to shampoo and set the hair of the ladies of Ranfurly Road.   Yep- it’s not a bad way to help combat the blues that so often accompany  old age – that is if you’re an animal lover.


Pam Laird on 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

The title comes from an old proverb, “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’

Have you read this book? If not, don’t hesitate, I am so impressed, I bought my own copy.

Interestingly, there has been resurgence in the popularity of this novel and as a consequent several new printings of To Kill a Mocking Bird are now available. The recent 50th anniversary in 2010 of the launch in 1960 may have something to do with this. But I guess this novel based on Harper Lee’s own family and local town, would become a much-loved American classic.

Here, as writers, we have lush food for thought. As the pundits say, ‘write what you know.’ This is a shining example of freshness and validity borne of acute observation from an empathetic writer. This is a lesson in writing using a simply told story of a sad aspect of life.

I was delighted to come by this book just recently and ashamed I hadn’t read it years ago. I am full of admiration for Harper Lee’s clever use of language and her interpretation of the thoughts and actions of a young child, i.e. Scout or more properly, Jean Louise. Scout is around seven or eight as the story continues over a year or so.

I believe it has been standard reading in secondary schools, (certainly in the States) for many years and I can guess how much fun young students would have with the thinking, reasoning and logic of young Scout. They would see in her a mirror image of themselves, enquiring, wondering, frustrated, anxious, so much a part of a young child’s struggle to make sense of a big, confusing world.

If The Boy in Striped Pyjamas can be read and enjoyed by some 8 to 10 year olds, then this gently humorous story with the sadness of racism cropping up from time to time, would be a great read for any intelligent 8 to 10 year old and of course older children and adults. Especially those living where pitiless racism is still a given in life as it can be in parts of the States and of course to some degree in most countries.

If you haven’t already read it, line up one at the library because this is a real treat and unforgettable.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Mid-Winter Blues from Evan Andrew

Here in New Zealand it has been a wet and gloomy July just recently. The fact that June was the driest and supposedly warmest on record is soon forgotten as we light the fire, and put on scarves and coats when we venture out. Everyone seems to be coughing and spluttering with all sorts of dreaded viruses lurking about, and the hospitals are once again full to overflowing. Oh well, spring is only a month away, and the daffodils are out, so it can’t be all bad.

My dear mother always told me as a boy, that it is better to give than to receive, and I must confess there is a lot of truth in that statement. In June I put my first novel ‘Shadows In the Night’,  on a Goodreads Giveaway promotional list, offering twelve as giveaways for the lucky entrants here in New Zealand. It finished on the 19th July, and the following day I was duly informed of the fortunate recipients. I could not but feel sorry for the considerable number that had put their names forward, but sadly missed out.

Monday and Tuesday was spent addressing and sending the books around the country to a varied collection of men and women, of different ethnic origins, from the far North to the deep South of New Zealand. Naturally, I am hoping they enjoy the book, and write a favourable review on Amazon. (PLEASE!!!)

However, I really did enjoy packing the books up and sending them off. It gave me a pleasurable glow as I handled the books, while wondering all the time how they would be received at the other end, as I visualized the reader in my mind's eye. I guess only another fellow author can understand the pleasure and pride you get from handling your own work in this way. Certainly, nothing gives you so much pleasure as when you meet a complete stranger who tells you just how much he, or she, enjoyed your book.

I really think that, more than anything else, keeps you writing. Now I will wait with, to be perfectly honest, a certain impatience, to hopefully read my first review from one of the chosen twelve.

As my mother wisely said, ‘It is better to give than to receive,’ but sometimes receiving can be almost as good.


Evan G Andrew

Friday, 18 July 2014

Writing a Killer Synopsis by Mike Wells

A post 'borrowed' from Mike Wells, thriller writer, who has a sure-fire way to create that hard-to-write synopsis - the second most powerful sales tool at your disposal after the cover.
Here's Mike...

If you're like most authors, summarizing your book in a couple of sentences is a daunting task.  However, if you're going to sell your book, it's simply something you have to do.  If you choose to go the traditional route, agents and editors alike are bombarded with so many queries that if they find themselves having to do much mental work to understand the gist of your book, they will simply pass on to the next one.  The same goes for self-publishing--all the retailers and distributors require short descriptions of your book.  For example, Smashwords requires a description that can be no more than 400 characters, including spaces!  That's short, folks!

To help you do this, I want to share a formula I learned a long time ago, one that was created in Hollywood.  I can tell you from my dealings with the people in the movie industry that when it comes to stories and story structure, they really know their stuff.

Each and every story is composed of the same five basic elements.  If you can identify them in their purest, simplest forms, you will be well on your way to writing a good two-sentence synopsis of your book, regardless of its length or complexity.

The five elements are:  a (1) hero who finds himself stuck in a (2)  situation from which he wants to free himself by achieving a (3)  goal.  However, there is a (4) villain who wants to stop him from this, and if he's successful, will cause the hero to experience a (5)  disaster. 

Actually, what I've just written above IS the two sentence synopsis which will work for any story, no matter how complex the plot or characters may seem.

Before I go further, I want to stop for a moment and address the "Is this a formula?" question that will undoubtedly come up in many writers' minds.   Anyone with any experience in writing (or painting or composing music, etc.)  knows that formulas do not work when creating a new piece of art, that the most you can hope for is a cookie-cutter type result that will be mediocre, at best. 

However, what we are doing here is summarizing a piece of art that has already been created.  Because we know that each and every story must contain these five elements, if we can step back from our own story and identify them, it makes the job of summarizing the story much easier.

The only thing formulaic about this approach is the order in which the information is presented, and the structure of the sentences.  You can change this around later and make the synopsis appear as original and unique as you desire.

So, back to the method.  Another way to write this compressed synopsis is to move the goal into the second sentence into the form of a question, as follows:

Hero finds herself stuck in situation from which she wants to free herself.  Can she achieve goal, or will villain stop her and cause her to experience disaster?

All you have to do is identify the elements and plug them in to create the most basic  two sentence synopsis for your own story.  By the way, you don't have to put the second sentence in the form of a question--you could write,  She must achieve goal, or villain will stop her and cause her to experience disaster.    I posed  it as a question only because it emphasizes the main narrative question in the story--discovering the answer to that sticky issue is what keeps readers turning the pages until (hopefully) they reach the very end of your book.

Read the rest of the article here -

Saturday, 12 July 2014

In Fond Memory of Rodney Dearing

It’s with great sadness that we have to report the passing away of one of our members, Rodney Dearing, on Friday 11th after a long and fierce battle with cancer.

Rod was very much one of today’s writers, boldly finding his way through the labyrinthine task of getting his children’s books into publication. He wrote some corker stories, polished and perfected them with the help of our group, located and worked with talented illustrators, and created bright, funny books that will delight young readers. The Brilliant Mr Badger stories and his other Cadet Willie McBride series are a sound legacy that will live on in years to come.

We all admired his determination and optimism as he worked hard to succeed at a near-impossible task. That he has done it well is a tribute to his skill and persistence, and an unwavering dedication to his craft.

Our meetings will be quieter without his spirited participation. We will all be poorer for his loss, but richer for knowing him.

With respect,

Bev Robitai

An Obituary
Rodney was born in Whangarei, New Zealand, and educated at Takapuna Grammar School in New Zealand. He's a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England and served in the New Zealand Army. During his military career he's held various active service and staff appointments. He was the NZ Instructor at the Australian Officer Cadet School Portsea. He commanded the NZ Special Air Service in Borneo. He took early retirement from the NZ Defence Force in the rank of Colonel and was appointed Director, Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. He stood successfully for public election as a member of the Auckland Regional Services Trust and was a Director of Infrastructure Auckland and America's Cup Village for four years. He's a Fellow of the NZ Institute of Management. He's presently a Trustee of the North Shore Life Education Trust and runs his own company as a consultant in Civil Defence Emergency Management for local councils. His interests include science and technology, management, travel, children's and adult education and writing letters to the Editor of the NZ Herald! He's a member of the Royal NZ Returned and Services Association, Rotary International and KiwiWrite4Kids.He's married with four children and lives in Meadowbank, Auckland, New Zealand.