Author Archives for nmcunningham

And another November is over!

National Novel Writing Month is over for another year. This year I became a ‘Nano rebel’ – choosing to review and edit a previous novel. I think I made some significant improvement to the story and managed to edit 58k words – with around 40k of that being complete rewrites of scenes! Another 30k will see this edit done and hoping to complete it by Christmas.

Having said that – I’ve enrolled in an online course in Characterisation through Narration by Michelle Somers, whose work I often get to read before it goes up on the RWA blog (I’m the blog co-ordinator). Michelle has some great advice for aspiring writers and her blogs for RWA have been very useful to me in the past.

In other news I am planning a stort story for an anthology with some fellow Historical Fiction writers, and very excited to get that underway in the next month too!

The Regency Buck

I’ve gone a complete Regency binge of late, and having only read Georgette Heyer when I was a teenager I can’t remember a hell of a lot about the stories. I do remember there were rakes and dandies and lovely fiesty heroines.

In the last 6 weeks I’ve read: The Talisman Ring, The Grand Sophy, Frederica, Sylvester the wicked uncle, and Arabella. I can’t remember any of them, except maybe The Grand Sophy because I remember the dog. Maybe my priorities in retaining details of novels were different back then.

Time reading them has been lovely, and with BBC1 Sanditon now playing on tv it feels like I have been transported once again to nineteenth century England.

I’m currently reading the ‘Nonesuch’ and it has to have what I consider (and many others consider) one of the most annoying female characters Georgette Heyer ever wrote. Miss Tiffany Wield is a an annoying brat of 17 year old whose temper tantrums and general unlikeability contrast greatly with the books heroine and Tiffany’s governess – Miss Ancilla Trent. A woman from a genteel background only bought to seek an independent living by the circumstances of her family’s impoverishment. In contrast to her, the hero is Sir Waldo Hawkridge, called ‘The Nonesuch’ for his superior sporting ability, talents and of course extreme wealth. He doesn’t have a title but it doesn’t matter because he’s rich! Not a lot happens in the novel, but watching Ancilla resisting the urge to fall in love and Waldo’s general good natured amusement is utterly delightful.

I’m almost finished reading the story, and I can’t wait for them to kiss, but I know when they do I’ll also want to go back a few pages and read it all over again.

Stolen butterflies, charismatic ski-jumpers and NaNoWriMo 2019

It’s that time of the year again lovelies! I’m going to be editing my novel from last year as I’ve had several requests for full manuscript submissions and it needs work! It’s had a title change – but not much else.

I had intended on writing a new manuscript – based on this chappie:

Colin Wyatt, was an Englishman, who came to Australia in 1939, left to complete service during the war but came back soon after. He was best known for his prowess as a champion ski jumper. He spoke over half dozen languages and was an accomplished painter and landscape artist who held several exhibitions here. He was also a very charismatic individual by all accounts!

What sets Wyatt apart – aside from his champion ski-jumping and overall charm, he was also a learned entomologist, and collected many rare specimens.

He was also a thief.

In fact he stole over 1500 butterfly specimens from the Australian museum in 1947 and as it turns out many others from museums around Australia during his time here. When the theft was traced back to England, over 3000 Australian species were found in his vast private collection.

The species he stole were from the Ogyris genus of butterflies, many of which are a pretty mettalic blue. I can definitely see the attraction! I’m sure we have several species from this family at the Waite Insect and Nematode Collection (where I work) I should takes some images. In fact South Australia has several species – SA Butterflies.

It’s a fascinating story, one that bears retelling. After I did Hannah Kent’s workshop recently on historical fiction I’ve been much enthused about the project. For now its on hold until early next year and until Nano is over and done for another year!

RWA Conference roundup

What a great conference in Melbourne this year, a highlight for me was that I was a finalist in two awards – The prestigous Valerie Parv Awards (for unpublished author/unpublished manuscript) and runner up in the Selling Submission competition.

I did the wonderful Natasha Lester’s plotting masterclass and attended many insightful sessions. Nalini Singh and Anne Gracie’s presentations were definitely high craft moments.

The panel on diversity chaired by Amy Mathews and with participants MV Ellis, Nicole Hurley-Moore and Renee Dahli-Geelen was a particular important milestone for the Australian Romance community and I found it enlightening and heartfelt.

A new blog and website soon!

I’ve been investigating a new website for my writerly persona – one that involves a mix of science, romance and history (and a little on craft and technique) it’s something I’ve been thinking of for a while if I am to take this business seriously (AKA something an actual published author would do). I want to commit to a blog post once every 4-6 weeks (I honestly can’t make a more than that with work and family) on my fave topics and provide some outward face to the world. Today, authors have to be savvy about marketing themselves and their ‘brand’! Anyway, watch this space!

A new beginning – 2019

I realised that I haven’t updated this blog a while and probably it was about time to fill you in on all writerly things that are happening in my life. Mostly all good!

It’s been a tumultuous six months!

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Photo by Александр Прокофьев on Pexels.com

I guess the number one thing is that I now have a permanent job. Writing and communication (of an agricultural and scientific nature) will likely take up the bulk of my employment and I am still continuing to freelance as a science communicator and science content creator.

The second big thing is that I have been asked to submit my novel- ‘The Bridge’ to an agent. So I am polishing and tidying the prose, receiving feedback from beta readers and paying an editor to review it and point out where it falls down in pacing or tone. I think it still needs some polish in regard to some areas I need to work on (a writer should never stop learning the craft!) I am thinking that my previous submissions to editors were a little presumptuous, nothing like hindsight to help focus your goals! It’s getting there and there is nothing like waking up in the morning with a fresh idea having given up on an edit the night before in utter frustration of it just ‘not working’. Eight hours of sleep refreshes not only the body but the mind too!

I’ve been working on some smaller projects too, and my second manuscript ‘Emu’ is in the second draft stage – before I move on to a structural edit. I’ve a third manuscript in the planning stage and considering reviewing a manuscript I wrote three years ago, but it’s not historical which is my current area of interest.

I think the one lesson I’ve learned over the last few months of critique is that not to take things too personally, to not rush, take my time, let the craft of writing soak into my soul and try and keep my chin up (despite the downs and the utter hopelessness that you might drown trying to live the writerly life). The one thing I have is the support of loved ones and many writerly friends who understand the pitfalls and promises!

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I am hoping to have some time to myself, to read (Clade by James Bradley), drink delicious Fig Gin and put up my feet!

The ups and downs of a creative life

2018 has been a good year. Well I think it has, but with that good fortune has come the lowlights too, the ones where you continually question yourself, your motives and your abilities. First of all, I finished a manuscript I was confident to show the world. After two rejections and 3 non-answers and a follow-up with 3 agents (with 2 rejections and one non-answer) I now question that misplaced pride. It still needs work, still needs refining – I completed the first draft of it in 2017 during Nanowrimo and edited it several times over an eight-month period. I entered it into competitions, only for further rejections to follow. I’ve even edited further since submitting it and entered it into two other competitions, again one of those I put down to another failure. No one is interested in my novel. No one thinks it has merit for publication (aside from friends and family and they’re biased) and hearing the good fortunes of other writers and peers – is only bringing me down – misery loves company it seems (I want to cheer for them, but there’s a human behind these thoughts and I can’t stop myself).

Shout out to Brittany Dashiell

But I shouldn’t dwell on this – I have published my first work of fiction – a short story in Tulpa Magazine (a local lit and arts magazine) and found some stability in my employment. I participated in Nanowrimo again this year and wrote another rough first draft – part of it I also ‘won’ a design cover through their ‘30 covers in 30 days program’ My synopsis enticing enough to attract someone’s attention.

None of these achievements stop the feelings of inadequacy, with a small measure of imposter syndrome to boot – does this qualify me as part of the writer’s club now? I’ll persevere, it’s the key after all everyone keeps telling me, but some days are just hard.

 

 

Book review – A helmet for my pillow, Robert Leckie

I read and enjoy a wide range of fiction but rarely nonfiction and was recently compelled to read a war memoir, something I haven’t really read much of – here is my review from Goodreads.

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Years ago, a family friend told my parents that I would not like a certain movie because it was a ‘war movie’. Little did they know or understand that as war is part of the terrible human condition it’s one I find both fascinating and terrifying in equal measure and was driven to read some of the personal memoirs after watching the excellent HBO series ‘The Pacific’. I found here in the comfort of my home – at peace time and never been close to war – I never really knew or understood what the war in the Pacific entailed, aside from the Hollywood movies that so inspired Robert Leckie to write and ‘tell the story of how it really was’. Leckie’s personal narrative of life as a young enlisted marine is beautiful, eloquent and at times a humourous account of the horrors faced in the jungles by an enemy as equally dogged as those that opposed them. Starting in bootcamp in the USA, then on to the Solomon Islands and Guadacanal, Melbourne, New Guinea, Cape Gloucester, before he was wounded on the island of Peleliu, Leckie’s prose falls off the page with delightful ease. I found it difficult to put this book down – at times it was irreverent and made me laugh, at other times heartbreaking and full of the sorrows of war. If you have an interest in WW2 history or even in personal narratives of historical events I would thoroughly recommend this read.