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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

Today I’m looking at the grey winter sky from my desk and enduring the cold weather, which I’ve been reliably told, is the coldest anyone in Melbourne can remember. In the summer of 2014 the sun is still shining and in each summer of my life before then. I’m keeping warm by remembering them and also by imagining the summer days to come, for they will.  I lived for many years in Western Australian where I didn’t own an overcoat, where cotton garments sufficed in winter, although I do remember I owned several woollen jumpers and a raincoat. I grew up at Cronulla, a beachside suburb of Sydney, and spent my free days on the beach, on hot nights my family often slept on the beach.  I was born under the sun-sign of Leo. I love hot weather. I love swimming and the beach. Yet, there are good things about winter in Melbourne: hot chocolate, open fires, red wine, steaming soups, and clouds that will blow away. I read on Allen & Unwin’s website that what makes cold days (and nights) magical are:  a large sweater, warm tea, (I like my tea scalding as does a favourite character in the novel I am working on), soft socks, a good book and a box of chocolates.  Most importantly, while the days are shorter, writing time seems longer.

Each day, summer or winter, if possible I keep to my writing schedule. In the early morning, after my breakfast, I check emails and by 8 a.m. I’m at my desk ready to write until around 12.00 noon.

I read back over the day before’s pages before I start writing. Like most writers, some days are more creative than others. No matter what type of day it is I keep writing.

I consider the hours I spend researching delightful ones. I research as I go along rather than at the beginning of a story. This way I don’t have thousands of words of research that while fascinating is not used. I save many hours of time this way. A  well researched story is better than one, that while quicker to write, has errors of fact.

Writing each day is important. It is not necessary to write a certain amount of words but it is necessary to be consistent.

Sunday is my blogging day which I enjoy immensely.

Good writing

Elise x

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My Writing Journey

I have had a good writing week. I now have twelve chapters and it feels right. The writing is good in some chapters in other chapters I need to make them sing. I had advice from a writer I met recently and it has helped to make the story flow.
Needless to say I worked hard for most days.
Last night I went to the city of Melbourne with a new friend, she is an art curator and
explained  the history of White Night. It started in Paris, which is my
favourite city, and France of course is which is a country I love, well perhaps Egypt comes first! We parked near The Willows a restaurant in St Kilda Road and caught a tram to the city. We saw
wonderful light shows and our beautiful buildings were lit up and magical.
There were about half a million people and the going was tough to get through the crowds.
But the feeling and togetherness of the crowds of people made up for this. I spoke to my
daughter this morning, told her I didn’t get home until after three this morning, and
she too had been at White Night with her family, although I didn’t know they had
decided to go. Her comments were exactly how I felt about a wonderful community event.
I was very lucky to be with someone who knows so much about art and is an artist
and sculptor and a teacher and curator of art. A good night but I’m sorry,
because of the crowds (well-behaved and friendly) we didn’t get to see as many
of the art exhibits as we wished.
My son is off to Paris in June, to Spain and other climes! My small granddaughter’s
favourite place (although she has never visited) is Paris, she tells me she feels a connection.
Perhaps her uncle will bring her home a gift from Paris, and also something
for her brothers. My oldest grandchild is now taller than his mother, a handsome
and engaging young man, and his brother is the light of everyone’s life! How blessed
we are with family and good friends. Remember, today tell someone you love them,
and friends of the heart are family too!
Enjoy your writing week, best, Elise.

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Anais Nin and Henry Miller

Lovers and always friends

“Anaïs, I don’t know how to tell you what I feel. I live in perpetual expectancy. You come and the time slips away in a dream. It is only when you go that I realize completely your presence. And then it is too late. You numb me.
This is a little drunken, Anaïs. I am saying to myself “here is the first woman with whom I can be absolutely sincere.” I remember your saying – “you could fool me, I wouldn’t know it.” When I walk along the boulevards and think of that. I can’t fool you – and yet I would like to. I mean that I can never be absolutely loyal – it’s not in me. I love women, or life, too much – which it is, I don’t know. But laugh, Anaïs, I love to hear you laugh. You are the only woman who has a sense of gaiety, a wise tolerance – no more, you seem to urge me to betray you. I love you for that.
I don’t know what to expect of you, but it is something in the way of a miracle. I am going to demand everything of you – even the impossible, because you encourage it. You are really strong. I even like your deceit, your treachery. It seems aristocratic to me.”
Henry Miller (A Literate Passion : Letters of Anais Nin & Henry Miller, 1932-1953

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My Writing Journey

I had a good writing week.  I only have a couple of thousand words to write to finish my last chapter (there are still a couple of ones I have to write) then it’s editing and finishing some research. I left my short story unfinished but I may decide to  finish it as I don’t love it as I should. I also sorted through masses of clippings, print-outs and outlines for stories  long forgotten. I did find some interesting pieces saved from years ago. One is on the history of aprons. I sent it to my friend Bianca  and she wrote back:

I absolutely love it. It has to be high on my list of favourites, bringing back memories of my childhood in our little flat in Littlehampton when Mum used to work miracles in what was a landing (or free space area) converted into a little kitchen, where two was a crowd.

I don’t think our kids know what an apron is. The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material.

But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

I will continue the history of aprons next week.

The last verse of:

The Song of Wandering Aengus

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

The song is one of my favourite poems.

This is a description of the home of Anais Nin and Rupert Pole in the hills of Silver Lake, near L. A.

A glass- and-concrete house on a hilly Silver Lake street.

Eric Lloyd Wright, a third-generation architect designed the house for his half-brother Rupert and Anais.

In the sixth volume of her Diary, Anais described the one-storey dwelling perched above the city as ‘one large studio, no separate, small partitions. It had the sense of space of Japanese houses; it had the vista of a Japanese screen, all sky, mountains, lake, as if one lived out of doors. Yet the roof, held by its heavy beams, gave a feeling of protection while the big windows which separated the roof from the studio framed the flight of birds, the sailing of clouds.’  What I love most is the feeling of light and space that Anais writes about in their home. And there’s a small interior Japanese garden cut into the floor near one of the glass panels of the living room wall, where Anais would etch swirls in the sand with a small hand shovel. The stone fireplace, she wrote, was ‘like that of a castle’. There was a grand piano and packed bookshelves.


 I read recently ‘WAS’ is a passive word. Do not let anyone tell you  it is. ‘WAS’ is infrequently passive, and is a part of good English. It is a wonderful verb. If it suits your story use it freely.

English is fun. It is a flexible language for telling stories.

Have a good writing week and to all a Happy New Year, Elise x

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My Writing Journal

I have pasted the prologue from my WIP below. It is a time-split novel set in wartime Brisbane, Australia and also Leura, New South Wales in 1968, and Northern California in 1951.   It is the story of two women, Vivien and Katherine, and the American serviceman they both love.  The story may have a  happy ending but then again it may not. I know how it ends but my readers will have to wait to find out.

The reason I am posting this short prologue is because writers who read my blog  have expressed an interest in reading a sample piece. I hope you enjoy the prologue below.

On prologues: Keep them short, a page or less, if you are going to write them. A modern reader does not want to read pages and pages before Chapter One. I am not sure I will have this prologue (or any prologue) in my completed manuscript.


Brisbane, October 1944

 By the time the young woman walked halfway up the drive the drizzling rain started to beat down and the sky was darkening.  She straightened her headscarf and hurried on, the pea gravel hard under her wedge sandals. The high hedges hid the house from its neighbours and the smell of night jasmine from unseen gardens saturated the warm air.

Ahead, at the end of the long drive, was the dark outline of a weatherboard house with a spacious verandah and a garden, faintly discernible, filled with budding azaleas: red and pink, and rain-drenched.

The woman, despite her confident bearing, hesitated at the front door. Opening her handbag she took out a small torch and checked the brass name plate of the house. Reassured she was at Ashburton, she unknotted her headscarf, shook out her damp hair, and as if thinking of something else she rang the doorbell.


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My Writing Journey

As promised the next verse of The Song of Wandering Aengus  by William Butler Yeates:

When I had laid it on the floor I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And some one called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

Aengus, patron diety of young women and men,  was the Celtic god of love, beauty  and of youth. His words were as sweet as honey, attracting bees and birds. He fell deeply in love with a beautiful girl he saw in a dream and passed through many trials, including turning himself into a swan, to win her love. The poet William Butler Yeats immortalised his search in  The Song of Wandering Aengus, a song based on the Celtic folktale.

Next week I will give you the last verse of the song and I will write why the song is one of enchantment for me.

This past week has been busy with Christmas celebrations. I did not write a new chapter for my WIP as I had planned, instead I edited and  researched earlier chapters. I also decided to write a short story about an interesting true life happening that I read about some years ago. I might not love the story enough to write a novel about it! If the short story is all I hope it will be I will then decide if I want to develop it further. I won’t discuss it as I find other people’s opinions can sometimes influence a writer’s perception of a story in the early writing stage.  This coming week is also a busy one with New Year’s celebrations. I will endevour to write the new chapter of my WIP.  It’s the last chapter (with a few chapters in the middle to write) and I can’t wait to read it when it’s finished! I am more than happy to email you privately if you have any questions regarding writing that I don’t cover in my blog. I always answer comments and have been in touch by email with people who have written to me, it’s great to correspond with people from all over the world.   Every happiness for the New Year to you and your loved ones and I wish you lots of good writing, best, Elise



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My Writing Journey

I progressed with my WIP (work-in-progress) this week. Not as far along the journey as I would have liked and good intentions were lost due to unexpected family commitments.  I find the first draft the most difficult (as I am sure most writers do). I planned each chapter before I started and this helped. Of course  I veer off the path and change some of my original ideas. They go out the window if they don’t move the story forward. I’m  hoping to finish the first draft by the end of the year. Because I have the outline I can work on chapters in any order.  Writing is my priority. I plan my day to suit my writing and not the other way around. If you want to write why watch television?  Switch it off! Why do you need to do a million other things and fit writing around them? I know someone who goes overseas and writes for two weeks a year. That suits him but he’ll never finish the novel he is working on. That we need a balanced life is true, time for friends and family and exercise and reading. It’s  not difficult to put aside an hour a day to write. That means seven hours a week. Write five hundred words a day and it soon adds up. More importantly it becomes a habit. A problem for a lot of writers is the Internet; research outside writing time.  Check emails twice daily. If you are on Facebook or Twitter (or both) look at them once a day.   Each week for the next few  Sundays, as well as a progress report on my WIP I’ll give you a route map for your book. Lots of helpful writing tips, hopefully I’ll  re-absorb some of these tips myself!  Nothing has happened with the television proposal. It’s  the time of the year when the publishing industry slows down with people taking holidays and Christmas celebrations and parties coming to the fore. Dave Sabben, my co-author, is on his way to Vietnam and will be away  for a week. He was one of the commanders at the Battle of Long Tan and he will be doing a real-time battlefield tour with a group of cadets.  His first novel is  Through Enemy Eyes’ a ‘faction’ story where the ‘fiction’ is in the characters of the VC and NVA leaders but as much as possible of the rest of the story is fact. Currently in its second print. He is also one of the seven contributing authors to The Battle of Long Tan as told by the Commanders to Bob Grandin a factual account of the battle. The book went into a reprint within 12 months of its release. Currently in its fourth print. Good writing to everyone, I’m going to have a coffee and get back to my WIP, Cheers Elise


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My Writing Journey

Last Sunday, when I finished the outline for my new novel, I decided to write a page a day. I wrote on all days except one. On the day I didn’t write I researched historical details and edited what I’d already written. It’s a way to stay connected with your WIP during the times you may not be able to write. I’ve now written about three thousand words which is more than a page a day. It was hard work as I started with chapter one (finished) and wrote from a child’s pov (I’ve never written from a child’s pov before). I’ve put this first draft chapter aside and won’t re-visit to edit until I’ve finished the first draft of the novel. Although in saying that sometimes you need to change a small detail in a later chapter that impacts on an earlier chapter so it’s essential you go back and change those details immediately. I’m finding with an outline I can let go of trying to work out character, plot, settings etc I can concentrate on the writing. I haven’t researched every detail (research is a long piece of string) because I might not need to use it and that means precious writing time wasted. If I need to know what a certain street looks like I can research it when I need the information. The reason: I might find I don’t need my characters to live/work in that particular street. I might decide to move them to the other side of the country! I hope your writing is on track. Write everyday (even a few lines or connect to your WIP in some way), never give up, talk to like-minded writer friends, make writing one of the priorities in your life. Have a good writing week, thanks for your support and interest, cheers Elise

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A girl of my own heart.

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