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A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams

UnknownI have finished the structural edit on my novel Castle of Dreams to be published by Allen & Unwin in April 2016. While I was in the midst of this edit it was a priority. I didn’t watch television, go to the movies, have dinner with friends (well, occasionally) and this was the only way I could finish editing by the due date. I had a sense of excitement when I got up each morning and while I knew I’d probably be at the computer for hours during the day and evening I didn’t mind. I went to another place: the world of my characters. Castle of Dreams is a duel narrative story set in the nineteen forties (a period in history I love) and in contemporay times:  2008-2009. The main characters you will meet in the historical narrative are Vivien and Rose, two sisters who have grown up in Castillo de Suenos, and Robert an American serviceman stationed in Brisbane during WW2. In the contemporary narrative you will meet Stella, the granddaughter of Rose. The historical strand of the story, set in far north Queensland, is about the two sisters and Robert Shine the man they both love. It will be nearly seventy years before the consequences of their potent desires are fully played out as Stella looks at a light filled photograph of her grandmother and wonders at the intensity of it. The question will lead her to the truth about those fevered years in the nineteen forties. The story explores the quixotic nature of memory and the perils of obsessive love, and shares dark family secrets which have long been hidden. Paronella Park was the inspiration for Castillo de Suenos the Castle of Dreams and if you google Paronella Park you will see the beautiful images of the ruins of the original castle. In future posts I will write more about Paronella Park and its history.

Good writing and reading to everyone, Elise x

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A Writer’s Notebook – Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf on Art

Every flower seems to burn by itself, softly, purely in the misty beds; and how she loved the grey-white moths spinning in and out, over the cherry pie, over the evening primroses.

On Jacob’s Room from journal entry of January 26, 1920 on “some idea of a new form of a new novel”:

I figure that the approach will be entirely different this time: no scaffolding; scarcely a brick to be seen; all crepuscular, but the heart, the passion, humour, everything as bright as fire in the mist. Then I’ll find room for so much – a gaiety—an inconsequence – a light spirited stepping at my sweet will.

Woolf used the phrase “Moments of Being” in an essay in THE COMMON READER: SECOND SERIES (1932).  She describes a “moment of being” in “A Sketch of the Past”:

How fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale – as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations its arum lilies was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower—roses, carnations, irises, lilac – glows; white, violet, red, deep orange; every flower seems to burn by itself, softly, purely in the misty beds . . . .

From ‘Modern Fiction’ :

Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being “like this”. Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions-trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it.  Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.  Let us not take it for granted that life exists more in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small. . . .

Woolf’s Diary,  November 28, 1928 :

The idea has come to me that what I want now to do is to saturate every atom.  I mean to eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it includes.  Say that the moment is a combination of thought; sensation; the void of the sea.  Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that don’t belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist:  getting on from lunch to dinner:  it is false, unreal, merely conventional.  Why admit anything to literature that is not poetry – by which I mean saturated?  I that nothing?  The poets succeeding by simplifying: practically everything is left out.  I want to put practically everything in:  yet to saturate.

Lucy Swithin experiencing a “moment of being” in Between the Acts:

Something moved in the water; her favorite fantail. The golden orfe followed. Then she had a glimpse of silver – the great carp himself, who came to the surface so very seldom. They slid on, in and out between the stalks, silver; pink; gold; splashed; streaked; pied.   Ourselves,” she murmured. And retrieving some glint of faith from the grey waters, hopefully, without much help from reason, she followed the fish; the speckled, streaked, and blotched; seeing in that vision beauty, power, and glory in ourselves.

Mrs. Ramsay’s “moment of being” in To the Lighthouse:

Everything seemed possible. Everything seemed right. Just now (but this cannot last, she thought, dissociating herself from the moment while they were talking about boots) just now she had reached security; she hovered like a hawk suspended; like a flag floated in an element of pure joy which filled every nerve of her body fully and sweetly, not noisily, solemnly rather, for it arose . . . like a fume rising upwards, holding them safe together. Nothing need be said; nothing could be said. There it was all around them. . . . Of such moments, she thought, the thing is made that endures. (104-5)

Woolf on Modern Poetry from ‘Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown’ (1924) :

Grammar is violated; syntax disintegrated; as a boy staying with an aunt for the week-end rolls in the geranium bed out of sheer desperation as the solemnities of the sabbath wear on. The more adult writers do not, of course, indulge in such wanton exhibitions of spleen. Their sincerity is desperate, and their courage tremendous; it is only that they do not know which to use, a fork or their fingers. Thus, if you read Mr. Joyce and Mr. Eliot you will be struck by the indecency of the one, and the obscurity of the others. . . . Again, with the obscurity of Mr. Eliot. I think that Mr. Eliot has written some of the loveliest single lines in modern poetry. But how intolerant he is of the old usages and politenesses of society–respect for the weak, consideration for the dull! As I sun myself upon the intense and ravishing beauty of one of his lines, and reflect that I must make a dizzy and dangerous leap to the next, and so on from line to line, like an acrobat flying precariously from bar to bar, I cry out, I confess, for the old decorums, and envy the indolence of my ancestors who, instead of spinning madly through mid-air, dreamt quietly in the shade with a book. For these reasons, then, we must reconcile ourselves to a season of failure and fragments. We must reflect that where so much strength is spent on finding a way of telling the truth, the truth itself is bound to reach us in rather an exhausted and chaotic condition.


I read somewhere that a writer should read anything and everything, that’s fine if you are castaway on an island and have limited reading material. I don’t agree. By reading you learn to write.  Read the best in the genre you write in. Of course ‘the best’ varies from person to person and the main thing is to enjoy what you read.

Good writing,

Cheers, Elise

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A Writer’s Notebook – Tara Moss

A lovely photo of Tara holding Betty Draper’s blue Monarch beauty case.



Photographer:  Berndt Sellheim

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A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams

Jose Paronella was a Spanish migrant, who came to Australia from Catalonia in 1913.

He built a Spanish castle in the tropical rainforest of far north Queensland.

Jose’s castle was the  inspiration for Castillo de Suenos the castle in my novel.

To be published by Allen & Unwin in  April 2016 Castle of Dreams is a story

I like to think Jose and his wife Margarita would have enjoyed my story.

You can visit Paronella Park and see the castle where Vivien and Rose,

the two sisters in my story grew up. And you can read about the natural

swimming pool under the Falls where Rose and Vivien learned to swim

and the kauri avenue they walked along.

Enjoy the video

Elise x

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A Writer’s Notebook – Dance Through the Years

Enjoy: Dance Through the Years

This is a great video

Elise x

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I have a friend who is staying with her family in Turkey. It’s a country I’d love to visit.

Meryem Ana – The House of the Virgin Mary is in Turkey.

It is a Catholic and Muslim shrine located on Mt. Koressos also known as Mt Nightingale in the vicinity of Ephesus, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) from Selçuk in Turkey.

See below for the beautiful image of a woman at the wishing wall.

The shrine itself is not extensively large, but may rather be described as a modest chapel. The preserved stones and construction date back into the Apostolic Age, as consistent with other preserved buildings from that time, but with minor additions such as garden landscapes and devotional additions outside the shrine. Upon entrance to the chapel, a pilgrim is met by one single large room where an altar along with a large statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is prominently displayed in the center.

On the right side, is a smaller room traditionally associated with the actual room where the Virgin Mary is believed to have slept. Marian tradition holds that some form of running water used to flow like a canal in the smaller room where the Virgin Mary slept and rested, leading to the present drinking fountain outside the building structure.

Meryemana, the wishing wall
Wishing Wall
Outside the shrine is a particular wishing wall which pilgrims have used by tying their personal intentions on paper or fabric. Various types of florals and fruits are grown nearby, and additional lighting has been installed within the vicinity of the shrine for further monitoring of the site. A water fountain or well is also located nearby, believed by some pilgrims to have miraculous

powers of healing or fertility.Meryemana_(4) copy

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I finally have a title for my novel!

Castle of Dreams

The castle in my novel is based on Paronella Park in far north Queensland. If you Google it you will see images of the place I have set much of my story in.

Now I have a title that everyone loves I can’t wait to see the cover!

I’m  working on the Structural Edit which is due back to my editor in three weeks.

Castle of Dreams will be published by Allen & Unwin in April, 2016.

Elise x

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A Writer’s Notebook

As a twelve year old I discovered H Rider Haggard and read She his novel that has sold over 83 million copies worldwide.

It was one of the books that influenced my interest in the Gothic novel. I live in Australia and while my parents, living in suburbia, would never have thought of Australia as having Gothic elements, (they would more likely connect Gothic to haunted castles in England and Europe) these features were part of the Australian landscape to early settlers in the bush and isolated parts of the country. Women were often left alone, some with small children, while their husband worked away, fearful of the unknown, and unseen dangers around them. The bush was a living, alien thing to them.

She is also one of the central texts in the development of Imperial Gothic. Many late-Victorian authors during the fin de siècle employed Gothic conventions and motifs in their writing, stressing and alluding to the supernatural, the ghostly, and the demonic. As Brantlinger has noted, “Connected to imperialist adventure fiction, these interests often imply anxieties about the stability of Britain, of the British Empire, or, more generally, of Western civilisation”.Novels like Dracula and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde present depictions of repressed, foreign, and demonic forces at the heart of the imperial polity. In She the danger is raised in the form of Ayesha herself:

“ The terrible She had evidently made up her mind to go to England, and it made me absolutely shudder to think what would be the result of her arrival there… In the end she would, I had little doubt, assume absolute rule over the British dominions, and probably over the whole earth, and, though I was sure that she would speedily make ours the most glorious and prosperous empire that the world had ever seen, it would be at the cost of a terrible sacrifice of life”.
She’s threat to replace Queen Victoria with herself echoes the underlying anxiety over imperialism and European colonialism emblematic of the Imperial Gothic genre. Indeed, Judith Wilt characterises the narrative of She, in which British imperialist penetration of Africa (represented by Holly, Leo, and Job) suddenly suffers a potential “counter-attack” (from Ayesha), as one of the archetypal illustrations of the “reverse colonalism” motif in Victorian Gothic. Similarly, She marks one of the first fictional examples to raise the spectre of the natural decline of civilisation, and by extension, British imperial power, which would become an increasingly frequent theme in Gothic and invasion literature until the onset of World War I.

This week I received the structural edit from my publishers Allen & Unwin. A busy week coming up with this edit but I am enjoying the process of creating a book from the first word to the last full stop.

I sent my work to Allen & Unwin’s Friday Pitch and this was the first step to publication.

Enjoy your week, keep writing and when your work is polished send it to the appropriate publisher.

Good writing, Elise x

Ref: Wiki

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A Writer’s Notebook

This poem by Sylvia Plath is intense and luminous.

The Moon And The Yew Tree

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky —
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness –
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness – blackness and silence.

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A Writer’s Notebook

My novel will be in the bookshops towards the end of April, 2016. The manuscript is in the editing process and I’ll receive the structural report in a week. I’m thrilled my publisher is Allen & Unwin. So no work done by me on my as yet, unnamed novel.

I’ve  tossed around several ideas for a new novel. Quite a few of these ideas have been tossed out the window. Today, however I made a start and I’m happy with the half-page prologue. I hope to write a page a day or 1000 words per day. I intend to try!

I found a book of poems recently:  The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Selected and Introduced  by Caroline Kennedy.

Caroline Kennedy writes:

‘To me, the most meaningful poem in this section is Robert Frost’s  “The Gift Outright”, which the poet recited at my father’s inauguration. By asking Frost to read that day, my father expressed his belief in the power of language and connected the inaugural ceremony to an enduring traditon of using poetry, in a sense, to sanctify and occasion.

‘A snowstorm had blanketed the Capital the night before, but the morning was glistening bright. When Frost stood to read the poem he had written for the occasion, the glare was so strong he couldn’t see the words on the page. He recited “The Gift Outright’’ from memory. The contrast between his age and my father’s youth, the poet’s frailty and the power of his words gave the moment special significance.’

One of the poems in the book is ‘Meanwhile in Massachusetts’ by Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.  It’s a long poem, and Jackie’s love for her husband shines in every word.  It’s worth a read.

Good writing

Elise x

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