Posts Tagged ‘books’

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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July 1 question – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I guess the biggest thing that comes to mind is I wish the various services for self publishing were more reasonably priced. At the moment every single stage of putting out your own book, from proofreading to copy editing, to book design to PR to distribution, to printing costs a fortune. I’ve spent over $10,000 self publishing over the last five years. Now, I’m working toward launching my third book, The Last Tree, and publish new editions of the first two books, The Or’in of Tane, and The Sasori Empire. I’ve already spent over $3000 on The Last Tree and we’re only halfway there.

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I know from firsthand experience that the exorbitant prices involved with being an Indie put a lot of young authors out of the race. It kept me from publishing my books for years. I always remember my dearly beloved sister-in-law, Tanya, had a wise head on her shoulders. She’d witnessed my struggle to get published, and equally she had seen how hard I worked on my fiction. One day, Tanya said, “If I was you, and I really really believed in my stories, then I’d put my money behind them. I’d put every cent I had into getting my stories out there.”  That was 2004. I was living with my brother and my sister-in-law at the time as a “nanny” for their baby Daniel, while they worked full-time jobs. I had free board, free food and they paid me a stipend of about a hundred bucks a week. I had no car. I had no savings. At the time I couldn’t back my own books, unless I had taken out a loan but what would I have used as collateral?

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It has taken me a long time to be in a financial position where I could back myself.  I’d been writing for thirty-five years when I put out my first book in 2015.

Whenever I’m preparing to launch a new book I look first at my wallet and think about whether I can afford it. It shouldn’t have to be like that. I look forward to the day we can buy a simple machine, or a simple program which would do it all for us at home, the same way we buy a home printer to cut down on printing/copying costs for documents. It would be a ‘wish come true’ to see the cost of book publishing come down. I’d like to see a day where we can all comfortably take part in the wonderful world of book publishing without financially crippling ourselves.

How about you, what was your wish for the future of this industry?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles. – Roy Bennett

 

 

I’ve finished reading my sixth novel for 2020, Once Upon a River, by the award-winning British author, Diane Setterfield. My sister gave it to me as a Christmas present. My sister has a reputation as the book giver in the family and she has excellent taste. I started reading it immediately but you can’t rush a book like this. I had to savour it in stages and read other lighter books in between. So rich, so complex, so steeped in magic and myth is Once Upon a River, that I didn’t want it to end.

By reading slowly and in stages, I made it last six months! And it has been a beautiful ride.

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They say that opening lines, or opening pages, are vital to get right to draw most of us into buying or reading a book. From the first moment, ‘The Story Begins… There was once an inn that sat peacefully on the bank of the Thames at Radcot, a long day’s walk from the source’ we know that this tale is something special. It’s a subtle choice of opener with the promise of glorious things to come. Once Upon a River opens by introducing us to the Thames river along with the ancient, brooding inn called The Swan where the regulars gather every night to hear and tell stories. Then we get hit between the eyes by the central question that kicks off the novel, a man arrives late at night, his face split apart, carrying a girl who has drowned in the river…until she comes back to life again.

So the mystery of the dead girl who came to life unwinds and draw us in.

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This richly told haunting historic novel takes us back to the dawn of Darwinism and has the delicious darkness of British Gothic Literature. It is as if Setterfield transports us to that era. I enjoyed the interplay of mythology and symbolism alongside the visceral rendering of a bygone time in history.

We follow the fall-out of this strange event at The Swan, as the ripples continue outward from the central mystery of the mute girl’s identity and what has happened to her. Setterfield answers nothing quickly. We hear the lyricism and enjoy the tale as we become involved in the characters, described so vividly we can see them every time we close our eyes.

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Setterfield’s genius way of blending astute observation of human characters and the brilliant rendering of setting and scene has its own music just as does the river that flows through the story. I cannot downplay how moved I was by the sheer mastery of the storytelling. There is horror, romance, mystery, drama, suspense, and I love that there is an emotional underpinning, too, in this story. That this lost girl brings up the issues of parenthood, losing children, and wanting children in the surrounding people, sentiments which are feelings familiar to most of us. We’re engaged on the emotional level, which is important.

It’s both hard to review a book as brilliant as this and even harder to come up with criticism. The only niggle for me was the number of different plot-lines and the multitude of characters were hard to keep up with, but even that couldn’t stop me reading with sheer joy. Setterfield brings each person’s story to life in such a genuine way I was happy to juggle them in my head while I waited for the overall story to make sense. A superb writer will make you read, anyway, right?

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Diane Setterfield (born 22 August 1964)  is the writer I want to be when I grow up. Her first novel, The Thirteenth Tale, released in 2006 became a New York Times No.1 bestseller and won her the 2007 Quill Award, Debut author of the year. The BBC adapted it for television in 2013, starring Vanessa RedgraveOlivia Colman, and Sophie Turner.

Critics have hailed Setterfield’s latest offering, Once Upon a River, as ‘Magical’ and ‘Dazzling.’ Released in 2019, there is now a television series being made by Kudos, the same people who created Broadchurch, Spooks and Grantchester. Some reviewers have compared Diane Setterfield with other great writers from the past. Some have placed Once Upon a River somewhere ‘between fairytale and a science story.’ I think Setterfield is creating a new breed of fiction, borrowing from the old, drawing from the new, and creating an evocative, spellbinding, fresh form of historic literature in a class all her own. More power to her!

My rating: Four and three-quarter stars.

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Afterwards there was a pause. It wasn’t done to jump in too quickly with a new story before the last one was properly digested.’ ~ Once Upon a River

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 Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

June 3 question – Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

Fascinating question. I’ve got an excellent secret. It’s one of those weird, walking a thin line type of techniques a creative person uses to move the muse into responding. It’s a method I use when I get writer’s block. I’ll explain how it works. I act the story out. I get my butt off chair (the opposite to butt-in-chair, as recommended) and I act out the scene, saying aloud the dialogue and embodying the emotions.

Several times working on my latest book, The Last Tree, there were parts of the story that just wouldn’t work. I’d written them, torn them down, rebuilt them, sandblasted them, destroyed them, rewritten them and hacked them to pieces again and again. But I had no joy. The little inner writer’s voice kept nagging, ‘it’s still not right, it’s still not right.’ Then I tried the acting-it-out technique and ironed out the kinks. It got the story flowing again every time.

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This is how it works. *Note: for this technique I need to be home alone!  I set a pad and a pen on the counter, ready and waiting for the words of inspiration. Then I pace the house and start talking aloud.

I find it best to keep moving. I walk about around the rooms and put myself in the hero, Aden’s shoes. I say something like “I’m Aden. I’m a boy, thirteen-years-old. The enemy has recaptured me. I’m sore, I’m tired. I’m homesick. The hours are going past. What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What happens next?” and I talk it out with myself until I find the answers. As soon as ideas form, I write them down.

I’ve fixed every problem that way. It really is an effective tool. Yet if anyone had been a fly on the wall, I’m sure they’d have carted me off by the men in white suits. Lock her up, the neighbours would say, she’s ready for the loony bin.

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Another great secret from my past is that when I was in my twenties I used to work as “Barbie” for the Mattel toy company. They sent me to malls during the holidays, where I had to don my pink polyester suits, white high heels and an enormous blonde wig, and walk around handing out autographs. The funny thing was every time I entered a mall I expected to stand around twiddling my thumbs, but something about the whole Barbie magic would make the girls come running. They swamped me every time. I carried a stack of my own head shots, and would ask the kids’ names, write them on a postcard and then sign Barbie in a big flourish at the bottom. The girls loved it! Come to think of it, the job paid pretty well, and it was a cool gig for a junior writer.

And I’ll finish with the revelation that I like to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I have a circle of rather wonderful friends whom I’ve known since high school. What they don’t know is that they’re all more high-brow than I am. They like to do things like going to the art gallery, poetry readings, listening to lectures and so on. I go along because we’re friends, or I try to join them mostly for the lunches and dinners.

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One time we were all out at dinner, the nine of us, and one friend was telling me about someone she was having difficulties with. As if indicative of this person’s low character, she said, “She even watches KUWTK.” I had to bite my tongue, thinking, ah, so do I. I confess I like reality shows, trashy magazines, big budget movies, rap and R&B, and my favourite treat on my nights off is eating a big bag of crisps with a glass of cold, full-cream milk. I can happily solely watch the E channel night and day. I’m sure it would horrify my friends if they knew. They’d probably disown me. But that’s why these are secrets.

Shh! Don’t tell. What about you, do you have an interesting revelation to share?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard

I’ve finished reading my fifth novel for 2020, Infernal Devices, the third book in Philip Reeve’s children’s series, The Hungry City Chronicles, better known as The Mortal Engines Quartet (2001-2006). The first book in the series, Mortal Engines, won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize for readers aged 9-11 years and made the list for the Whitbread Book Award. The book made a huge impression on my boys and I when I first read it to them as a bedtime story some years ago and inspired many late-night discussions about the post-apocalyptic world. I reviewed both book one and book two, Predator’s Gold, for my now-defunct Goodreads account. The kids and I were looking forward to reading the third volume in the series, Infernal Devices. And it didn’t disappoint.

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It is said that Philip Reeve worked on The Hungry City Chronicles for ten years. Coming up with the original ideas in 1989, he developed the story between illustrating jobs. When he felt sure he could do the series justice, he cut back on illustrating and began writing, leading to the publication of Mortal Engines in 2001. The story centres on two young protagonists, Tom Natsworthy and Hester Shaw living in a lawless, dystopian world with the intriguing premise of being populated by roaming predator cities. We followed their adventures through the second novel, Predator’s Gold, and in the third book, Infernal Devices, we catch up with Tom and Hester, sixteen years later. They have settled in the now static city, Anchorage-in-Vineland, where they’ve raised their daughter, Wren, in peace. However, Wren has inherited her parents’ wandering genes, and she escapes seeking adventure, taking with her a mysterious Rasmussen family artefact called “the Tin Book.” As Wren falls into captivity and slavery, and loses possession of the Tin Book, it becomes apparent that every criminal also wants the Tin Book, because it contains the activation codes for weapons left over from the Sixty Minute War. Hester, bored to tears by her peaceful life in Vineland, leaps to mount a rescue expedition for Wren. She and Tom set out to find their daughter, and a chase ensues, while Wren works on her own escape and the Tin Book changes hands again.

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As always with The Mortal Engines Quartet, Infernal Devices, was action-packed, full of imagery and description – a futuristic world sumptuously brought to life. You can count on Reeve to take you on a journey. The world is so familiar while remaining unknown that it continues to capture us and inspire thought even on the third outing. The book delivers gut-wrenching, scary, sad, and triumphant moments in equal part. Reeve doesn’t shy away from bloodshed, gore or killing people off and sometimes you read between the fingers you’ve thrown over your face it gets so graphic and startling. Yet, you can’t stop reading.

My son and I would end up in moral discussions after each night’s session. When the world has blown up and the survivors are fighting to stay alive, what changes, what is right and wrong, what’s permissible when there is no government and every moving city is out to “eat” the next? You could think about the repercussions for days. And we did. I love it when a book makes you think.

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Philip Reeve (born 28 February 1966), is an English illustrator and author. We can find his illustrations in the Horrible Histories and Murderous Math series. His 2007 novel Here Lies Arthur also won the Carnegie Medal, a British award celebrating the year’s best children’s book published in the UK. However, it was through Mortal Engines, and the sequels and prequels, the Fever Crumb series, with his keenly imagined world of predator cities, that Philip Reeve made his name in the literary world.

Made into a movie in 2018, the film of Mortal Engines received a lukewarm reception globally. But according to reports, Reeve praised the  Mortal Engines film adaptation, saying they had “done a fantastic job – a huge, visually awesome action movie with perfect pace and a genuine emotional core…. There are many changes to the characters, world, and story, but it’s still the same thing.”

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Was there anything I didn’t like about book number three, Infernal Devices? I found it a wrench to leave Tom Natsworthy as the main protagonist. Being asked to switch allegiance from him (and Hester) to Wren was a “hard ask” at first, and I resisted it. But the action drew me on and I ended up getting invested in the teenage daughter of our former heroes. The only other thing for me is that sometimes, as an eternal optimist, I find the tone of the series too bleak. A story well told is still worth reading, however, and I persevere with this series because it’s so darned fascinating.

My rating: four-and-a-half out of five stars.

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“…and then we shall release a storm which will rid this world of the infernal devices happily ever after forever.” ~ Stalker Fang in Predator’s Gold.

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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May 6 question – Do you have any rituals you use when you need help to get into the ZONE? Care to share?

The first thing I always do when I write the rough draft, is to go through the techniques we learnt in Tiffany Lawson Inman’s writing class, Method to Madness*, in 2012. I won a grand prize through commenting on a blog that year, and the prize was a writing workshop with Tiffany at the Lawson Writer’s Academy. As a trained actor, Tiffany applied the techniques actors used to relax and get into character as a way for writers to get into the zone and let the inspiration flow to write “Oscar-worthy” moments.

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Tiffany taught the workshop based on the principles she’d learned as a Method actor. She was inspiring. She told us Method acting helps actors tap into deep sensory memories and draw from actual life, bringing memories to life, and that a writer can use the same techniques to tap into their own memories and create more vivid fiction. We learnt to use relaxation techniques and exercise as the key ways to access our native creativity.

Tiffany set us a daily assignment of relaxation exercises we had to do before writing. We could not do the routine after a meal but on an empty stomach. We were to wear comfortable clothes and no heavy jewelry. We had to do the routine in a quiet, dim room with only natural light.

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Then we had to lie on the floor, not a bed or a couch, and breathe deeply. Slowly tense and release each muscle group of the body working from the toes to the head, holding each contraction for five seconds, mentally releasing the tension in each muscle group. We moved onto head rolls from side to side and consciously releasing each muscle group in the face by making funny faces, poking out the tongue, frowning and smiling and so on.

We returned to the deep breathing to a count of five or ten, on each out-breath letting out an AAH or an OOH sound. When standing up the body needed to be floppy, and we had to roll up the spine until the head came up last.

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The entire routine takes about twenty minutes.

“Tension is a creator’s worst enemy,” said Tiffany. “Can I persuade you that physical tension paralyzes our whole capacity for action, our dynamism, how muscular tension is connected to our minds,” said the acting teacher Konstantin Stanislavski.

The other part of the technique was to exercise daily. The combination of moving the body to get the blood flowing and then relaxing completely was the magic formula. It must work because it’s the one I still use today, eight years later. You know when something is a valuable tool and when a tip is worth keeping. These things helped me and still help me whenever I need to get into the zone to write.

I hope they help you, too. 

p.s. I highly recommend Lawson Writer’s Academy, the courses are short, high intensity and well priced.

*Copyright©2012 by Tiffany Lawson Inman, All Rights Reserved

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“An actor’s instrument is his whole self, it is his body, mind and being, complete with thoughts, emotions, sensitivity, imagination, honesty and awareness.” ~ E.D. Easty

I’ve finished reading my fourth novel for 2020, The Haunting by one of New Zealand’s best  loved authors, the iconic Margaret Mahy. The Haunting follows the story of our young protagonist, Barney Palmer, an ordinary boy as extraordinary things happen to him. Barney and his sister, Tabitha suspect he is being haunted by his Great-Uncle Cole. The story introduces us to relatives of the Palmers, the Scholar family who are weird and wonderful, and there is talk of magicians. The cast is eclectic as one would expect from a Mahy novel and the story holds you gripped, as poor Barney becomes threatened by the ghostly presence with a family connection. Veering into possession it is a scary ghost story for children. Kids love a scare as long as they can trust the author to deliver it with a light touch of humour. And it has a good unexpected twist at the end. On this score too, Mahy delivers.

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Margaret Mahy (21 March 1936 – 23 July 2012) was an award-winning Kiwi author of children’s and young adults books and short stories. She received international recognition towards the end of her life with the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for her “lasting contribution to children’s literature.”

I was lucky enough to meet Margaret once, when she was appearing and I was volunteering at one of the Storylines Children’s Literature festivals. She looked just like she did in all the photos wearing a rainbow wig and a hundred badges. She walked past me with a trail of enthralled little children in her wake reminding me of the Pied Piper. I sat at the back of the room when she read one of her books, The Lion in the Meadow to a room full of three-five-year-olds and she held them in her palm. She was a magical storyteller. Full stop.

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Mahy wrote eloquently of relationships, people, and growing up. These themes underpin The Haunting. Published in New Zealand in 1982, it won the Carnegie Medal, an award given by the Library Association celebrating the year’s best children’s book by a British subject. A lot of Mahy’s considerable body of work, including The Haunting, is low fantasy otherwise known as “intrusion fantasy,” when the fantastical plays out in a realistic setting. Intrusion fantasy can mete out shock and awe in the hands of a master storyteller when the supernatural intrudes on an otherwise ordinary everyday world.

I remember when I started out writing, one of my tutors called my sentences “kaleidoscopic” so I shortened them. Some of Margaret Mahy’s sentences are delightfully kaleidoscopic and she uses a lot of head-hopping and so on, but there is no time to care about the issues when you’re hurrying to read the next page! You know it’s a marvellous story when you’re so immersed, you finish the book and think, I forgot to take any notes.

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Every time I read a book for review I’m always looking for the errors or flaws to give a balanced view. But all the rules go out the window when you’re in the hands of a master. It reminds me of when J. K. Rowling published the first book in the Harry Potter series, and it scandalized published authors around the world. They laughed at the old-fashioned style of writing. Here was Rowling flaunting the rules everyone else in the modern literary community tried to live by. Yet the Harry Potter series became the most widely sold books in the world, second only to the bible. Why? Because Rowling is a gifted storyteller. With the gifted, the rules don’t matter.

As Diane Setterfield wrote, in The Thirteenth Tale, ‘There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner.’

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I thought The Haunting was an engrossing tale told with aplomb. It was an interesting take on a ghost story and not one I’d read before. I think that’s the other thing I love about Mahy is the element of the unexpected. The only problem I have with The Haunting if I had to pick one, and it’s minor but still knocked off half a star, is that it was too short. Just as I wanted to get my teeth into the story and stay there, it was over. It was an all-too fleeting jaunt into Mahy’s imagination that whets the appetite and leaves one hoping for more. That’s class.

My rating: four-and-a-half out of five stars.

N.B. They made the Haunting into a movie, The Haunting of Barney Palmer, released in 1987.

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Along the borders of this world there lie others,

There are places you can cross,

This is one such place. ~ Diane Setterfield

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One thing I have noticed recently has been the explosion of creativity both from me and from other people similarly cooped-up around the globe. I know friends and family who are having the longest holiday they’ve had in years, and other people living in fear and suffering. I’ve heard friends say they’ve gotten out of their comfort zones and taken online classes in playing guitar and learning new skills, a friend who had always wanted to start a blog wrote her first blog post. As a writer, I’m driven to put it all into words, daily, whether that be through writing my blog, snippets for my monthly newsletter or using my daily journal. Everyone’s finding ways of expressing themselves. There have been copious blog posts, home movies, Zoom recordings turned into podcasts, vocalists singing on balconies, musicians recording songs of hope and live streaming on various social media, memes, tweets, tik-toks and so it goes on. It seems isolation brings out the creative soul in people.

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In times of crisis, the artists of the world come to the fore.

I watched a fascinating webinar last week. The webinar was a conversation between three people in the media entertainment industry. Michelle Walshe, co-founder and CEO of creative content agency Augusto Group asked questions of a local girl made good, Chrissy Metge, in the UK, author, founder and creative director of Fuzzy Duckling Media, and Sam Witters, CEO of Fuzzy Duckling about how Covid-19 has affected the world of entertainment media, films, TV and animation, and what things will look like for the creative community going forward, in New Zealand and abroad.

Sam Witters spoke about the phenomena we’ve all of us noticed and been talking about, and that is “the incredible velocity of connectivity.” Since lockdown started in New Zealand, I’ve had phone calls, Zoom calls, Skype calls, online meetings and virtual drinks, I’ve had daily phonecalls with the family and I already have face times planned for the week ahead. As we are all at home and connected to the web, it’s as if we’re available to everyone around the clock.

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As Chrissy Metge put it, “It’s like there’s no off button” which can have a draining effect.

Yet even so the mood among the experts was one of optimism and they showed progressive thinking, which is the feed we need in these lean times. “All the rules have gone out the window,” said Sam, “it’s open season. There is a huge opportunity to reinvent. He who tells his story best will get their product across.”

And Chrissy went one step further in her unashamedly glass half-full view. “It’s awful to say it, but I’m actually very excited. New Zealanders are renowned for creating something out of nothing, the no.8 wire. New Zealanders just need an opportunity to shine. There are going to be so many opportunities to come.”

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The feeling was that the pandemic has brought people closer together, despite the physical isolation, in that people were being more open with their feelings. “There’s a common bond,” said Chrissy. “This is affecting everyone. Whether you are directly affected or not there’s still a high stress level. There is strength in unity. Leverage each other and other people’s experience.” She suggested artists should create content that will really entertain people because they “have been through hell.” I related when Sam said “it’s traditional in tough times that the creatives lead us out.”

Sam predicted that when this is all over, “there’ll be a need to fill the air.”

We creatives and artists of every kind should prepare our stories, our pictures, our songs, our “bibles,” our pitches now.

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I’ve been working hard on the editing and reproduction of the first two books in my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, and the third book, The Last Tree, as we intend to release in June. I have been a whirlwind of productivity. Yes, the kids have been home underfoot, and yes it’s been stressful, but isolation has helped me to sit–put my butt in the literal chair–and plough through the stacks of editing.

I’ve found it inspires me to watch podcasts and webinars like the Creative Class, hearing from other artists in the creative community. Their proclivity to hope and growth is who I am. These are my people. It also helps the fire keep burning to hear from the movers and shakers. I think Sam Witter’s ‘parting words’ were brilliant. “Don’t be afraid. Move forward. Evolve. Pivot.” Exactly.

I believe we will get through this if we are creative thinkers and look out for each other.

Thomas M Madsen, visual artist

Thomas M. Madsen, visual artist

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Tóg go bog é. ~ Feel the stillness.

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I’ve finished reading my third novel for 2020, Child Power. I like a story set in ancient history and Book two of The Amazon Series by Kiwi writer, Raewyn Dawson, takes place in c.300 BC.  Raewyn set her debut novel, Slave Power, in the area around the Black Sea, introducing Melo, a fifteen-year-old rider of the Amazonian Wild Horse Tribe, pitched against slave traders who tyrannise The Plains.

A story of slaves triumphing over oppression is a rousing theme.

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Book two, Child Power, picks up with a sixteen-year-old Melo, who is now a leader in the combined tribes of the Wild Eagle Horse Tribe. There is friction for the newly formed tribes people. To assist her people with all the changes, Melo helps the unruly children of the tribe by letting them take on leadership roles. Melo’s friend, the young Atalanta is abducted and taken to work as a slave with many other mistreated child slaves at a pig farm. Atty becomes a leader among the slaves and teaches them the methods of inner resilience of those who follow “the Peace Way,” which translates as shedding as little blood as in resolving conflict. The children learn how to work together as a team and look out for one another, in the process gaining the strength they need to fight for freedom.

It’s a story of child empowerment which is a cool idea. Nice one, Raewyn. *High five.

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Christchurch based author, Raewyn Dawson, teaches Classics and plays piano. Born in Wellington, she lives with her three daughters and her husband. Of her novel, Child Power, Dawson said, ‘The second book was about how young people too can work together with real success despite hardship.’

As a poet, I think Dawson writes fiction with a poet’s touch, with rhythm and rich descriptions, and she definitely is a great storyteller. I look forward to the release of the third book. There’s a lot to like about Child Power. I like the fresh ideas. The novel and pleasing notion of “the Peace Way” is such a soothing balm in these fretful times. I also appreciated reading the female protagonists. It’s nice to hear from the girls.

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There were only two little niggles for me with this book. First, was the style used of inserting pieces of narration by a “voice of God” type character, His feeling was mistaken, which come across as a little old-fashioned. I sometimes found the narration intrusive. Personally, I’d rather not have a warning, preferring to read the action as it unfolds.

Also, one antagonist, Mithrida, who had been a total bad-ass character through both volumes, and had prepared for revenge (like Linda Hamilton’s character training in The Terminator sequel to be a warrior) throughout Child Power, gets a mosquito bite towards the end which slows her down just as she would have her revenge. While it’s not responsible for a resolution of the story, it puts a dent in bad guy’s stride, and for me, the device grazed the area of Deus Ex Machina. It seemed a little too convenient.

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The head hopping I’ve already mentioned in my review of book one, Slave Power. Yet, given that she head hops, Raewyn has done an exceptional job in Child Power and Slave Power, of juggling such a large cast of characters. With this second book I felt like I was getting to know all these different characters and they became more real for me. So that’s proof that the author had developed the cast well and there was growth and development whether good or bad for most of them.

It’s an able piece of storytelling. I liked Child Power and the chance to go back in time to a fascinating era. I thought it was lovely, Raewyn letting the youngest character, Atty, be the one who took the lead role in this book, gaining more prominence over Melo. So this series has an excellent setting and a new voice to offer to the Young Adult genre, and it’s done well. Good job, Raewyn Dawson.

My rating: three out of five stars.

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Cadence is the difference between a piece that simply ‘works’ and one that doesn’t. The professional and the novice. So treat your piece like its poetry. Read it out loud. Do you stumble? Does something seem off? Clunky? That’s the cadence right there. The rhythm of a piece, the beat. The play on syllables, the alliteration. ~ Shreya Vikram

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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April 1 question – The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in a crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

We’re in the North Island of New Zealand, where the whole country has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, with two weeks still to go, unless the end date gets changed. It’s been so strange, almost haunting, as if one had gone back in time to one’s youth. The air is clear of the usual traffic fumes and jet exhaust and smells different. Clean. The streets ring with the sounds of children playing and adults talking. There are more cyclists than cars on the road, and there are families out walking along the footpaths in droves.

It reminds me of growing up here in the 1960s.

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Yet, it’s not like the memories I keep of my childhood because this bucolic idyll is fraught with tension and a keyed-up state of general anxiety. As my friend said the other night, in our virtual drinks, re the Covid-19 virus, “I could have it, you could have it, we could all have it,” and that’s the uneasy truth we’re living with. Every visit to the supermarket, every outing, we feel we’re literally risking our lives. And we are.

Those of us who are parents are also trying to help our children deal with the stress. I have three boys. My two younger boys, my nephew and I are in our “bubble” over here, and my eldest is in a bubble with his own little family on the other side of town. At present, I’m worried about my eldest and his twenty-two-month-old baby. My darling granddaughter has a fever and they’re not sure what it is yet. I’ve been receiving constant updates and staying in contact with them.

Thank goodness for the Internet.

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My youngest son has immersed himself either in online schoolwork or in gaming and watching anime. He practices the trombone and drums. He’s not worried about a thing, he is as happy as a sandboy.

My seventeen-year-old Sam has Down syndrome and does not understand the pandemic or anything about lockdown. All he knows is that everything is suddenly different. His weekly chart of activities went from being full with school every day, and extracurricular activities, dance class, gym training, and basketball at night to being stuck at home on endless holiday. For a special needs person, they thrive on routine, and they like things to be the same every day. All Sam knows is the personal disaster of everything changing and becoming different suddenly. His reaction is to act out, to do silly things, or to freeze up and refuse to cooperate with even the simplest of requests. As Sam can’t speak, bad behaviour is his way of expressing himself. However, he’ll get used to the new normal given time.

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I’ve been enjoying the virtual meetings. I’ve been attending Toastmasters’ meetings via Zoom every Wednesday. They’ve been a lot of fun. It’s so nice to see everyone and see they’re doing well. I think connecting in whatever ways we can is uplifting. I also attend Friday night virtual drinks with old friends, via Zoom. We’ve known each other since schooldays. We’ve called our soiree “cocktails & pigtails,” and we wear our hair in pigtails, too, for the laughs. I’ve been so grateful for my friends, and I’m on the phone daily with my family. We’re checking up on one another.

I’ve been busy, more so than ever, since lockdown. I’ve been an editing machine and in two weeks, I have edited the entire manuscript of my work-in-progress twice! I’ve also been communicating with the book designer and figuring out how we will redo my first two books and do the design for the third. With luck, I’ll stay on target for publishing The Last Tree by June. I’m still going after my dreams, despite my insecurities, virus or no virus, lockdown or no lockdown.

What about you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Life is the love that reaches out, building bridges across gulfs of uncertainty to touch hands, hearts and souls in the experience of union,” – P. Seymour

The city has gone quiet and the noise from the motorway barely audible. In New Zealand, we are officially on lock down as the government helps everyone in the fight to contain the Covid-19 virus. We have four weeks ahead of self isolation and with luck the government will step the nation down from a “Level Four Alert” to a Level Three. It’s okay. I can hear more of the bird calls and the songs of the insects. It sounds poignant. Some people say they don’t like the quiet. I love it. I haven’t seen the streets this quiet since I was a kid growing up here in the sixties. The stillness feels peaceful, which is just what we need as we curl inside our family “bubbles” and prepare to hibernate.

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Essential services are still running. I ventured out yesterday to do the grocery shopping, and it was nerve-wracking. Police outside the supermarket, hazard signs, and perspex barriers between us and the checkout operators.

How do I cope with going out in public? I take preventative measures.

There are face masks available at some local chemists. I’m doing my best to follow all the preventative measures. The boys and I are washing our hands regularly and using Hand Sanitizer. We keep a distance of two meters from others in public. When we get home we shower, wash the clothes we were wearing and put shoes and coats out in the sun. We wash all the groceries, fruit, vegetables, and the packaging of processed foods in warm soapy water. There are many things we can do to minimize the risk.

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It is still scary. Every day we hear about new cases of people infected. I hope my family will be okay. But yesterday, while in the supermarket, two men sneezed and did not put an elbow over their faces. In another aisle, an online shopper was putting goods in his basket and did a sneeze over the goods he had collected. Horrible. Though sneezing is not a symptom of Covid-19, when there is a deadly virus around, any sign of illness is off-putting. If they’d had face masks on they wouldn’t have shared their illness with us. I realized how little control I had over the situation and for the first time I was afraid. There is an invisible danger every time I leave the house, and yet I still have to enter the supermarket and grocery store to get supplies each week.

How do I cope with the fear? Deep breathing helps. I sometimes say a mantra. I find meditation helps me stay on an even keel, so I’ve been meditating more than usual.

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After this week’s sneezing incident, I’ve taken the boys’ father up on his offer to do the shopping for both households for the duration of the lock down period. The fewer people out there, the better.

Yet, as social animals, we still need social interaction. It can get lonely in isolation. Thank goodness for modern technology. People have been reaching out to each other, face timing relatives on Skype and meeting with friends online. I’ve heard from friends, family, and Toastmasters colleagues. I’ve had videos sent to me via Facebook of friends singing. My old friends from schooldays are meeting up via Zoom room this Friday night for “virtual drinks.”

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This week we had our club’s first ever online Toastmasters meeting, and it was great fun. In among the fear, there have been positive things that have come out of this extraordinary time as people find new ways of connecting and supporting one another.

However, there’s also such a thing as being too plugged in. With world news at the moment, I think less is more. I sat and watched the BBC news with my son the other night and afterwards I felt almost unable to function. Stress lowers immunity function. I think for now, a light touch with the news is necessary for one’s well-being.

If we give in to the fear, we spiral downward. We have to stay strong mentally and emotionally and physically. That’s the only way we can be of service to our families. We have to persevere, keep our spirits up, the morale high.

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How do I keep my spirits up? I gravitate towards things I enjoyed doing as a kid.

I read books, watch movies, draw pictures, doodle, write stories, listen to music, sing, dance, go outside into the garden, plant things, and spend time with my family.

The boys and I have done their schoolwork together, gone for family runs, and we’ve played board games. I’ve seen whole families out biking to the park, couples walking dogs.

We’re reminded we can get through this together, and we will. How about you, how are you doing?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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 * There are free counselling services in New Zealand. Call or text 1737. Check what’s available in your area.