Sunday, September 10, 2017

Heading North: Old Buildings



Bairnsdale, Victoria.


Cobargo, NSW.


Poet, Henry Kendall's House, Gosford, NSW.



Slab hut, Orbost, Victoria.


Moruya, NSW.

I'm having fun. I hope you are, too.

Helen Woodall


Monday, September 4, 2017

Ben Boyd and Twofold Bay



This is Twofold Bay, as seen from my aunt's kitchen window. Stunning by day or night, ever-changing, always amazing.

Twofold Bay (in New South Wales) was historically one of the few safe deep-water ports along the coast here, so there are still plenty of old buildings to look at, as well as a huge National Park.


Ben Boyd's Tower is where sailors used to watch (100 years ago or so) for whales, and where locals kept watch for bushfires and other dangers.

Here's a section of the National Park. Does it remind you of the enchanted woods in a child's fairytale?


Helen Woodall

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Colloquial speech, local dialects and bad grammar



Not all bad guys use bad grammar. Some are very suave and sophisticated. Similarly, not all persons doing minimum wage jobs use bad grammar either.

Every person from Scotland does not use “wee” or “drap” in every second sentence, nor does every Australian call you “mate”.

Typecasting happens because there are similarities inside groups. An Australian is far more likely to call you “mate” than an American person is, but both of them are more likely to use your given name.

Please don’t typecast your characters. If that strong young man on the road crew drops his mallet on his toe he probably will swear. But then, so would a doctor or lawyer. And all of them are equally likely to say invite (verb) instead of invitation (noun) because they’re probably all on Facebook. But there is no excuse for bad grammar in narrative. Nor is there need for endless “local color” in dialogue. The lady in the Scottish hotel may offer your hero “A wee drap” of something alcoholic to drink. But leave it there. Don’t overload your story with colloquialisms or poor grammar.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The ingredients for a good book



Characters. If the reader cannot relate to your characters she will not continue reading. She may love them or hate them, but the author has to draw the reader into their lives so she keeps reading. If a character is Too Stupid To Live (eg. walking alone into a possible murderer’s house) you will lose the reader right then and there.

These days, female characters are expected to make an effort to solve their own problems. The hero may still come riding up on his white horse to sweep her away, but she should have been endeavoring to solve her own problems, not crying in a corner and wringing her hands.

Plot. There must be a plot. It is through the plot the characters show their development. This plot has to make sense. No big gaping holes allowed. In an erotic romance the sex may be part of the plot, but there must be something else happening as well—a bad guy to defeat, the world to save, or whatever.

Genre: Be sure the blurb and publicity material accurately depict the genre. Don’t call it a cozy mystery if there is violence, blood and horror described carefully and at length. If you are marketing your book as an erotic romance there must be detailed sexual encounters as well as hot, steamy looks. Otherwise what you have written is a mainstream romance.

Fiction writing is a very tough, competitive world. Be sure to get these three basic necessities correct.

helen.woodall@gmail.com

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Who or Whom and some comments about adverbs



Grammar book explains when to use who and when to use whom really well.
http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/whoVwhom.asp

Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct.
he = who
him = whom

Examples:
Who/Whom wrote the letter?
He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.

For who/whom should I vote?
Should I vote for him? Therefore, whom is correct.

We all know who/whom pulled that prank.
This sentence contains two clauses: We all know and who/whom pulled that prank. We are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom. He pulled that prank. Therefore, who is correct.

We want to know on who/whom the prank was pulled.
This sentence contains two clauses: We want to know and the prank was pulled on who/whom. Again, we are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom. The prank was pulled on him. Therefore, whom is correct.


I know many publishers/editors/agents hate adverbs, and that is because often if you delete them you have not removed any additional information.

The old man’s bones creaked and groaned as he slowly, gradually lowered himself into the armchair.
Take out gradually or slowly and you still have a clear picture of what happened.

Words like “just” and “actually” can almost always be deleted without changing the sense of the line.
I just walked in the room and saw him.
I walked in the room and saw him.

I actually walked in the room and saw him.
I walked in the room and saw him.

Some authors seem to think if they delete the suffix from a word it magically is not an adverb. Ah no. if you are using it as an adverb you’re now using incorrect grammar instead of the adverb.

When she stood on my toe I yelled loud.
No. You yelled loudly.
But since you can’t yell softly just "When she stood on my toe I yelled" would work fine.


Helen Woodall




Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wandering Body Parts



Almost every reader has been pulled out of a story at some time by wandering body parts.

“His eyes were glued to her face.”
Ah no. His gaze may have been fixed on her face, but his eyes were probably still in his head, like normal.

“His feet raced to the door.”
What? The rest of him stayed behind?

“It might seem romantic to say, “He gave her his heart,” but to some people, who’ve watched too many horror movies, that is not a romantic image at all.

Some publishing houses have rules that prohibit body parts moving independently.
“His fingers wandered onto her thigh.” No, in these houses, he has to be in control, so “He let his fingers drift onto her thigh”. Besides, I’m betting those fingers were still attached to his hand, so therefore the second version makes more sense. Although, “He gently stroked her thigh” might be even better.

Before sending your book to a publishing house or agent, be sure to check it for wandering body parts. Even if self-publishing, always remember that some people will be icked by the thought of body organs having an out-of-body experience.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Planes and Monuments


Lake Boga is the home of the Catalinas.


At Griffith, it's all about the Firefly.


World War I lasted from 1914-1918. When it began in July 1914, everyone assumed it would be over by Christmas. Young men rushed to enlist, to join up before it was all over. It became known as "The Great War" and "The War to End All Wars" due to the vast number of countries involved and the huge devastation it caused. Nine million combatants and seven million civilians died in four short years. As I travel around Australia almost every small town has a monument to this war. Reading the names can be heartbreaking. Entire families of sons, brothers, fathers, cousins, all dead. Some little towns lost virtually every able-bodied man. And many sixteen and seventeen-year-olds pretended to be 18 so they could enlist.




Wentworth, Echuca, Berrigan.

Helen Woodall

Monday, July 24, 2017

North into the Desert


Everyone knows I like hot weather, and in winter it's not so easy to find. But the days in the desert are gloriously warm. And the nights - well they require lots of woolly blankets. But the days make up for it.


Look at that wonderful red dirt!


Far horizons.



Occasional salt lakes.


And kangaroos, emus, and goats instead of cows and sheep and people.


Then, after driving for five or six hours, without so much as a petrol pump, a bustling mining town.


Happy days.
Helen Woodall

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Locks, Weirs, Paddle Steamers


One hundred years ago, before the roads were much more than cart tracks through the dirt, supplies and people traveled the length of the Murray River by paddle steamer and barge. Due to differing water levels this meant locks and weirs were built.

This is the lock at Robinvale.



Meanwhile the river runs on, serenely beautiful.



And today's tourists enjoy trips on houseboats and paddle steamers as well as more modern water vehicles.


Helenm Woodall

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Following the Murray River


Did you ever watch the TV series "All the Rivers Run"? Or read the book by Nancy Cato on which it was based? The show was a massive success in the 1980s.

It's set on the Murray River, which is the border between Victoria and New South Wales. Back at the time of the movie life there was pretty adventurous and there is still a genuine rivalry between the states. Don't try fishing in the river with a Victorian fishing license. You need a NSW one.

My latest journey is following the river from Albury where it runs into the Hume Dam, all the way back across Victoria and NSW into South Australia.

So here are some pictures of the Hume Dam as I begin this, my latest adventure.




Helen Woodall

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Current American traditions did not exist in historical Europe!!




I’m excited to see American authors writing historical fiction. I love historical fiction but I do like it to be accurate. Or at least come with a warning that it’s a “wallpaper” story not a researched one. I have no problem with authors making up their own world based on a historical period as long as they freely admit it.

Some eras, such as the Regency and Victorian periods, have been intensely researched. Many books are written about them and authors have no excuse for getting any facts wrong. If the author does make a mistake the editor needs to tell the author to fix it before publication.

The example that started this blog was “Supper”. I have just read yet another Regency-set story where the family sat down to supper. NO THEY DID NOT! The evening meal was called “Dinner” whether it was eaten at 5p.m. (in the country) or 9p.m. (in Town). Dinner was a hot meal with several courses. Supper was a light meal, usually cold food, served at balls and the like after midnight, and children never attended such affairs. Even if a country family ate dinner at five, any supper they had would not have involved the children, who would have been sent to the nursery and would most likely be in bed. A country supper would have been at perhaps 9p.m. and it would have been a hot drink, and maybe a small serve of some cold leftovers, or some biscuits (cookies). But more likely they would have simply had a “nightcap”, an alcoholic drink, with no food, before bed.

Another mistake that really annoys me is calling a married woman in a European historical novel, Jane Smith Doe. Using a maiden name as a middle name is a strictly American tradition. If English Jane Smith married John Doe she was Jane Doe. An old family friend, much more familiar with her maiden name might say, “Jane Doe, Jane Smith that was” and people might refer to her as Jane Doe née Smith, but never never never as Jane Smith Doe.

Oh, and as the picture above indicates, there was no such thing as Thanksgiving anywhere except America until very recently indeed.

Historical authors please, do your research!

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How to be derogatory without using naughty words



Someone pointed this blog post out to me. It’s a list of old-fashioned words used to express disbelief in people or what they say.
It should be compulsory reading for people who can’t verbalize two consecutive sentences without swearing. Here are some great new socially acceptable words to add to your vocabulary.

How many do you remember your grandparents using?

Check out: http://www.buzzfeed.com/emmyf/silly-old-timey-words-you-should-start-using-again#.oq4waQn9v


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Historic Kilmore

Kilmore claims the title of Victoria's oldest settled inland town. It boasts many beautiful old buildings.




At the top of a big hill, which caused my electric scooter to blow a fuse, is the Old Jail.

The temporary death of my scooter put a halt to my adventures for a little while, but I'll be off traveling again soon.

Helen





Sunday, June 11, 2017

History and the Beach. My two favorite things together.



Alberton Cemetery. Port Albert was the first port established in Victoria.


And here is Port Albert.

Nearby is Port Welshpool with the longest historical jetty. As you can see it really is looooong.


Here's a close up of how old it is.

Here's the road into Nooramunga Coastal Park. It's more intended for Four Wheel Drive vehicles than 7-metre-long motorhomes.


But here's the proof I not only made it in, but didnt even get bogged.



Have fun
Helen


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ah, the beach. My favorite place!

Anzac's Beach, which is on Phillip Island, Australia. Not to be confused with Anzac Cove, which is in Gallipoli, Turkey.


Helen




Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dying then and now



There’s an old saying that goes, “The rate of death has not changed since the days of the Bubonic Plague. It’s still one per person.”

What has changed, and most dramatically, is people’s attitudes to death and they way it is dealt with. Many writers forget that penicillin (that is, antibiotics) weren’t in common use until 1945 and there was a war on then, so many ordinary people still didn’t know about them, or had no access to them. Germ theory wasn’t proven until 1905 and even after that many people refused to believe something they couldn’t see could make them ill.

Therefore death was common and expected. Most families, even in the early twentieth century, had a child who died from measles, or influenza or diarrhea. One hundred years earlier, one quarter of all teenage brides still died in childbirth, and most women were married before they were twenty. Families did not mourn their children any less than a family does now, but death was expected, considered a part of life. Death was a fellow-traveler, always present and as likely to strike from a simple infected cut as from cholera or typhoid—diseases which appeared regularly with droughts and floods.

Take a walk through any old cemetery. Take note of the ages on the gravestones. There’ll be dozens of babies and children, a lot of people in their thirties and forties, and a very few in their eighties or even their seventies.

Any historical novel needs to accurately reflect this situation and the attitudes of those times. Today’s treatment of diseases, death and dying, are totally different from those of last century. Every time I read about a heroine washing the wound, pouring alcohol over it to cleanse it, then carefully sterilizing her needle before sewing up the wound, I shake my head. No, no, and no. A village wise woman may have learned that cleaning a wound helped it heal, but the local water supply was probably full of germs, alcohol was more likely to be forced down the victim’s throat to help them bear the pain, and the wound may have been covered with moss, or spider webs, or a dirty piece of old fabric.


Helen Woodall

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Crazy things authors do in the name of research



Over the years as an editor, I’ve had to ask various authors if what they’ve said in their books is accurate. The internet is a wonderful place for an author to begin their research, but it’s not necessarily completely correct.

I know of several authors who had to check whether certain buildings were still in various towns. Google Maps is a good place to start, but Google Earth is even better. Best of all is a friend living in that town who can do the leg work for the author.

I know of several authors who’ve been on a police program where they travel with officers on their daily/nightly duties. That really gives immediacy to the writing.

I’ve previously mentioned the well-known erotic romance author who freely confesses to having broken arms and legs off some of her Barbie and Ken dolls while researching her sex scenes. But it’s good to know what finally gets in her book works.

Then there was the author who wanted her heroine to escape from a certain model of car. Not owning that type of vehicle herself, she went down to the local car sales yard and asked to view one. I’m not too sure what the salesman thought as she practised climbing in and out of the trunk, but hey, I knew her heroine could do it!

One of my favorite stories is the author whose heroine needed to escape from a villain during a romantic scene. Her husband came home from work one night to find candles on the table and an unopened bottle of champagne. He was really happy until she explained that she was going to hit him over the head with the full bottle, and see if she could drag his unconscious body down the hallway as her heroine would need to do. Her husband just looked at her and said, “Can’t I drink all the champagne and get unconscious that way instead?”

You may already have read of Anny Cook’s research into making acorns into food. An entire chat loop of authors was waiting with bated breath for each new step of this adventure. It ended up as a great blog, but the actual book she was using it for went in a different direction from the one she was expecting and her hero and heroine never had to cook the acorns.
But maybe one day in a future book….
The acorn story is here: http://annycook.blogspot.com.au/p/great-acorn-hunt.html

Helen Woodall

Monday, May 8, 2017

Achievement unlocked. Helen sees white kangaroos


So it turns out that white kangaroos are extremely camera shy.

This is the sort of land where they live. Bordertown is the absolute middle of nowhere, just on the South Australian side of the SA/Victoria border.


I chatted to the locals and learned where the white kangaroos like to hang out, then drove my motorhome as close as I could get to the paddock. I could see maybe five white blobs in the distance. As soon as I zoomed my camera in to look at them they bounded off into the distance. My RV and I pursued them along a track that was probably not designed for cars let alone motor homes. The roos saw me coming and headed off in the opposite direction. It took me quite a while to negotiate a U-turn (did I mention the track was very narrow? And there were 2 trees in my way as well). But finally one of the white roos stared at me and permitted me to take its photo.


I also visited one of the original 1955 soldier settlements. This area was pioneered by servicemen who returned from the Second World War. There was nothing at all here and they built a farming community between them.


Back across the border in Victoria, I visited the site of the Gold Miner's first hospital 1859.


Fascinating stuff, history.

Helen

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Helen heads to the desert



Amazing craftsmanship. Miles and miles of dry rock walls.


Lovely old stone buildings. Inverleigh (Victoria).



Today's surprise. Wetlands Gardens, Penshurst (Victoria), and yes, it was raining there.

Next week, the real desert.
Have fun,
Helen