Monday, March 29, 2010

What’s in a Name?

I have been thinking about names a great deal over the past few years.
As a writer the subject of names comes up repeatedly.

How do you pick the name for your main character (or characters)? Or for that matter how does your villain (assuming you have one) come to have a name that is just right?

How on Earth do you name a novel?

Perhaps names are something that are easy for some people. Perhaps they are something that seem to leap out of nowhere.

Not for me.

Names are something I have struggled with. A lot.

My soon to be published book Veiled in Shadows is a perfect example. I didn’t finally pin down a name for the book until I began submitting it.
I was at a total loss.
Deb suggested a few names which didn’t grab me, I couldn’t hit on anything.

Then I read the manuscript again and the name finally came to me.
My book features a number of main characters, on both sides of the conflict in WWII.
Naturally, most of the characters believe that their side in the war is “right”. But one of the main characters is, so to speak, “caught between the lines”.

At one of the turning points in the book she describes how she sees the choices she has to make: ‘I don't know anymore. I have lived so many lies. Nothing seems black or white any longer. I live in a world veiled in shadows.’

I had my title.

Some of my characters were no easier. For a start many of them are from non English speaking backgrounds. Picking non-English names is a minefield. I wanted their names to be authentic, but they couldn’t be so unusual that readers found it hard to identify with them.

Some names were easy. Danny Parnell for example had his name chosen by me pulling Christian and surnames out of a hat.

Another, Peter, had a name as soon as I thought of him.

Yet others like, Katharina and Ebi my most central characters (and who feature in my back cover blurb) had provisional names for most of the time I was writing the book.
Ebi was “Erich” and Katharina was “Katrina”.

I knew them intimately, but it was almost as if they hadn’t yet trusted me with their names.

Oddly, I don’t remember how I eventually came up with Ebi’s name (a contraction of the name Ebert).

Katharina came to me from, of all things, a cemetery. I wasn’t happy with “Katrina”, but had just as much success picking a name for her as I had with the book. Desperate, I went to one of the best places for authentic names I could think of. A cemetery.

In the Lutheran section of a large cemetery I had a huge database of names of people born in Germany from about 1870 until 1950.

Being somewhat of a nerd and loving cemeteries I compiled a list of men’s and women’s names of people born in Germany and did some very basic statistical analysis. In this particular cemetery the most popular German male name was Heinrich and the female name – Katharina.

Katharina, a German form of Katherine was very like my provisional name, but unlike “Katrina” it seemed right.

It felt like Katharina finally trusted me enough to share her name.

While on the subject of names, at a loose end on Sunday afternoon Deb and I went on one of our usual lightning trips

This time we drove about 130 km (around 80 miles) to the North West. We ended up in Bendigo, in what was Victoria’s largest goldfield.

Like my characters and my book, Bendigo seemed ambivalent about its name for its first forty years of existence. According to Wikipedia “Although the goldfield was always known as Bendigo, the first official name was Castleton, which was quickly replaced by Sandhurst, after the British military establishment Sandhurst. The city was not officially called Bendigo until 1891”

Like Melbourne, Bendigo shows signs of the immense wealth that flowed into the town from the gold diggings.

In the main street the original Post Officeand former Crown Lands Office.A pub, The Hotel Shamrock. Something tells me there must have been an awful lot of money in beer in the gold rush days.

In the gardens on Pall Mall Queen Victoria averts her eyes, from the nudity on the Alexandra Fountain, which stands slap bang in the middle of Charing Cross (what was that about names?)
I think this fountain is a classic case of the fact that money does not necessarily mean good taste!
Within a few hundred metres of the main street is a reminder of what gave the town its wealth.
The Central Deborah Gold Mine.
A metric tonne of gold was dug from this mine, while it was operational from 1939 until 1954. The mine was bought by the town council and preserved for posterity in 1970.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Progress? And A Wild Sunset

I have been so busy recently that Veiled in Shadows continues to crawl to a final publishing date.

It is a case of so near but also, frustratingly, so far.
Anyway, realistically it is probably only weeks rather than months before I hold a bound copy in my hand.

One other thing I have been working on that is Veiled related has been the script for 90 a second film which I will use as a book trailer.

I know that the impact of Trailers as a marketing tool is debated, but I think Deb has hit on an idea, an idea that hopefully will generate some real interest.

I don’t want to say too much just at the moment but essentially this clip will dramatise one of the key dilemmas of a main character in a way that should be very catchy.

Deb hopefully has a line on a couple of people who can handle filming.
We have an actor who has agreed to do the part for a nominal fee (Quote “A couple of bottles of wine”).
I am tracking down a costume from a theatrical specialist at the moment.

A bit distracting in some ways, but realistically marketing will ultimately make the difference between success and …

Now for a little light relief.

As many of you will already know, I like taking the occasional photo of sunsets.

Tonight there was a spectacular show from our back deck.

So here are a quick few piccies.

A ball of fire sinking through a cloudy and a smoky sky to rest for the evening.
Painting the Western Sky as it went.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Triple Barrelled Post.

First and most important, it is the love of my life’s birthday.
Deb isn’t quite my childhood sweetheart, but to be honest we weren’t much more than children when we met.

For more than twenty five years we have shared everything, from deepest joy to personal tragedy. Together we have grown into the people we are today, walking side by side and holding each other’s hand as we went.

It never ceases to amaze me how much you have sustained me, with inspiration, with far more patience than I deserve, and most of all with love.
Happy Birthday Deb! Happy Birthday my Love!

Second, by pure chance this happens to be my hundredth blog post.
Yay I’m 100!

Third, just this Friday past I commented on Jaks’ blog Lassy in Lancashire “…Mind you the only times I have had really good looks at koalas in the bush I didn't have a camera at all.”

Just yesterday I was in the bush down on Cape Otway and I was able to rectify the situation.

Koalas live in trees, usually in the tops of tall trees. So they are hard to see.
Add to this the main thing they do is sleep. Hence, most Aussies have never seen a koala in the bush. If they have it is usually a view like this. This sleeping ball, high in a Eucalyptus tree, is a koala.I have been lucky to get some really close views of the little beasties, but alas never with a camera in tow.

Yesterday I took the above photo of a ball impersonating koala and was reasonably content.

Then I got this guy, as a ball impersonator he/she is not great.
I could see a cute leathery nose and one furry ear. This was easily the best piccie of a koala I had ever taken. Contentment level increases.

Then on a branch so low I could almost reach.
My all time record best koala piccie is blown away already! Contentment level threatens the integrity of my contentment meter!

Excitement plus! This patch of bush almost had more koalas than leaves!

Less than a minute later I spot this fellow and he (I know he is a he because of the brown stain from a scent marking gland on his chest) is not only awake but moving! A rare treat in koala observation!He climbed out along this fairly spindly branch before deciding better of it and reversing back down.Finally he settled in this elbow and began munching on some fresh green leaves.
Anyone know where I can get a new contentment meter?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another award.

Last Saturday Michele Emrath of Southern City Mysteries passed on the Beautiful Blogger award to me.
Thank you Michele!
Michele’s blog is well worth a look, so check it out when you get the time.

The rules to the award are: link to the person who nominated me for this award; share seven interesting things about myself; and nominate seven other beautiful bloggers.

Seven (hopefully) interesting things about me:

1. I grew up in a “hippie” family

2. Perhaps because of the above, I am most at home living on a mountaintop, miles from anywhere.

3. When our kids were young, we did live on a mountaintop miles from anywhere.

4. Despite the above I now live in the second largest city in Oz.

5. Two of our three girls almost died when they were children (see below)

6. Io our number two used to get really bad croup, late one night we drove her 25 km (15 miles) at over 160 km/h (100 mph) to the nearest ER (thank goodness we weren’t living on a mountaintop at that stage).
Io went from virtually not breathing, to breathing normally after a simple dose of adrenaline. Two nights later another little girl in the same town died from croup. Sadly she died while her parents waited for an ambulance.

7. When we were living on our mountaintop, E our number one daughter, was coming back to the car after closing a farm gate. The gate was hit by lightning when she was alongside the car. Fortunately, the lightning earthed through the fencing wire and steel posts. If she had still been touching the gate I am sure she would have been a goner.

Now I have to nominate seven blogs.
In no particular order, some of my old favourites and a few blogs I have found (or perhaps have found me) recently.

Heather at Gofita’s Pages

Kristen at We be Reading

Sonshine at Sonshine Thoughts

Rolf at Roffe the Viking from the North

Ann at Ink Pots and Quills

Alyssa at The Writers Block

And Finally Christy at The publishing Maven

Christy is running a givaway of a copy of Aaron Shephard's Perfect Pages at the moment. So if a book on formatting is useful to you head on over.

And now, yet another Banksia variety
Bored of Aussie wild flowers yet?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Question of Time

On Saturday afternoon Deb and I went for a drive.
Unusually we didn’t head away from the city, rather we went through Melbourne to one of the old Melbourne ports Williamstown.
I have been there a couple of times before when I went down to have a look at the old RAN minesweeper HMAS Castlemaine.

This time we went down to the point that juts out into Port Phillip Bay. It was here that I took some shots of this tower.

I posted quickly on Saturday asking if anyone could guess the purpose of the tower. There have been some great guesses, but no on has been quite on the money.

If you zoomed in on the piccie you may have noticed this unusual piece of equipment on the roof.
It consists of a large ball that can be moved up and down on a mast.
This odd contraption is known as a “Timeball”.

What is a timeball you might ask?
Well before the days of GPS and radio beacons ships navigated using celestial navigation.

Dava Sobel outlined in her book Longitude how the difficulties of calculating longitude were solved using navigation based on accurate chronometers. The chronometers needed to be checked periodically to ensure precise navigation. This tower was part of that system.

The Timeball was designed so it could be easily seen by ships well out in the harbour. Every day at exactly 1:00 pm the ball was dropped. The ship’s officers responsible for navigation observing from a distance could set their chronometers.

Originally the time the ball was dropped was calculated by an attached observatory. Later, once the electric telegraph connected Victoria to England, the ball was dropped based on signals sent out from the Greenwich Observatory in England.

The time service here was finally discontinued in 1926, by then most ships set their clocks using a radio link.

So there you go mystery solved. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article on timeballs.

From the tower we strolled the short distance to the foreshore where I took this piccie of the CBD peeking around some fuel oil tanks.

Out on the bay plenty of boats were taking advantage of the glorious weather.
We strolled along the shore, most of the way along here there seem to be almost as many shells as there is sand.

I stopped again to capture this shot of the city complete with a casual fisherman.

One of the most colourful boats came close to the point.

Deb insisted on borrowing the camera and took this shot of me.

Another shot of the city silhouetted against the sky beyond.

Finally, we wandered down the main street of Williamstown, where the shops are still all in Nineteenth Century buildings.
We stopped for a treat, ice-cream!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

An early Start Again!

Well I had hoped to do a proper post tonight.
Unfortunately about ten minutes ago one of my staff phoned in saying he is down with gastric and won't be fit for the morning (No I don't think he's chucking a sickie).
I don't have anyone else who I can put in at such short notice.
So instead of lazing about tomorrow I'll be up before dawn and off to work.

Hence I'm off to bed so no post.
But a teaser, a piccie I took today.

Can anyone guess what this little establishment might have been used for?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I look Very Hard For Nothing.

I swear I am getting square eyes.

I have been doing final preparation of my manuscript and cover of Veiled in Shadows.
I have decided to run with Lightning Source as my printer. They are more than competitive in terms of cost per book and they give some advantages in terms of distribution.

Like CreateSpace, the Amazon subsidiary, they have an easy path onto Amazon listings. A presence on Amazon is a vital part of my planned marketing campaign, and my main target will be the American market because it is so big in comparison to anywhere else.

Yet, if I want to sell Veiled here in Oz (or in the UK) Amazon is too expensive. It can cost as much (or even more) than the price of a book to airfreight a paperback from the US to Oz. Lightning Source is an Ingram International subsidiary, which means the potential of international distribution.

I don’t really expect many (if any) shopfront resellers will pick up Veiled, not unless I can get some real sales and interest happening. More to the point, from my perspective, is if Veiled is available at Ingram (which it will be) I may get it listed by the Book Depository. The big advantage of the UK based Book Depository is they don’t charge postage for air freight. And that’s anywhere in the world!

They are well worth checking out, I buy nearly all my books from them. Their prices are competitive with Amazon and no freight cost.

Now I am digressing from my square eyes. I have to submit my MS to Lightning Source (LS) as a PDF. No problem I thought, I already have converted it to PDF using some open source software.
Wrong! LS will only accept PDFs formatted on Adobe Acrobat.

So after a lot of hassle I manage to organise a copy of Acrobat. All good.

Wrong again!
My MS, which happily converted to a PDF using the other software, wouldn’t convert with Acrobat. One of the fonts I have used wouldn’t embed in the PDF using Acrobat (fonts have to be embedded so the printer can access them and I was using an odd one for a few pages of “letters” in the book) .

OK change the font to something similar that will embed.
Still won’t work. Acrobat reports the dodgy font is still in the document.

Much rending of clothes and tearing of hair!

When I calmed down I began a search of the MS to find wherever the font was hiding. No luck on a hard copy. So I begin trawling through an electronic copy. I can’t find it anywhere.

I realise with dismay I am probably looking for a few stray characters (of the font variety, not even Acrobat has taken a dislike to my villains).

No luck. I break the MS into separate chapters and test the most likely (the ones where I know I used the font).

Hallelujah I narrow it down to one chapter and scour that with a fine tooth comb.

Still no luck.

Then, as I contemplate retyping this chapter in a blank document, I look one last time.
I find it, a single solitary space in the wrong font. No wonder I couldn’t see it. I was effectively looking for NOTHING.

Just for your enlightenment I have included the offending space. Here it is. See there? There in front of the last carriage return. See it?

No, neither could I.

So finally last night I got the whole MS into an Acrobat PDF.

Ahh, sighs of relief all round.

Except now, I have to do another line by line check to make sure no errors in formatting have crept in with the change of font and PDF software.

At least this time I’ll be looking for things I can see.

I hope.

Now a totally random piccie, this time from my archive.
Another variety of Banksia
From the leaves I’d never guess this was a banksia, but these beautiful flowers are very distinctive.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And Now for the Weather

No I haven’t fallen off the edge of the world.
It seems an age since I last posted.
Yet now I check it is only five days.

We had a long weekend here in Victoria: Monday was “Labour Day.”
Pretty much every state in Oz celebrates the holiday but they all hold it at different times of the year.

I have had a busy weekend, my brother Mike and his wife Caro came down to visit from their farm in Northern NSW.
On Sunday we went for a drive down to the Mornington Peninsula. Surprise, surprise I took some piccies down there, I hope to post some of them later in the week.

Now for the weather.

As is traditional we seem to be swinging from a drought cycle to a flood phase.
For hundreds of years droughts in Oz have ended with flooding rains.
This year seems to be no exception.

Up north Queensland seems to be half under water.
While we in Melbourne have had to contend with local flooding and hail.

To put it mildly it has been bucketing down.

In between showers yesterday evening I went out briefly to have a look around.
As when I go almost anywhere my camera went with me.

I stopped to snap these two shots of an impressive skyscape. As you can probably see from the clouds it was blowing a gale.

These benches are in a local park.
As you can also see it is a bit wet.

Then another piccie of the rapidly changing sky (where the cloud was fast eating the blue) before scurrying home to get out of the rain.
If you are interested the ABC (that would be Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has a site with a lot of topical piccies. Topical for Oz that is, at the moment they are featuring a lot of flood piccies from QLD and Victoria

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Different Kind of Dawn Start, Emma Again and Disappointment.

Over recent weeks I have seen some really beautiful dawns while driving to work.
Now though, dawn is late enough that I miss it, by sunrise I am too close to the city and the roads are too busy and by then I am facing west not east.

I have photographed dozens if not hundreds of sunsets over many years.
Yet I have realised I have never taken piccies of a dawn.
So a few days ago, one morning I had off, instead of sleeping in I got up at my usual time.

Not being an absolutely dedicated photographer, I headed to the nearest location I could think of where I could get an uninterrupted view of the eastern skyline.

This spot happens to be one I have posted about before, the Arthur's Creek Cemetery.

So there I was setting up my tripod and camera in the dark.

Of course I thought of the people buried there. My thoughts once again went to Emma who bought a plot next to her young husband. Yet as far as I can tell she was never buried at Arthur’s Creek.

As a writer I feel almost compelled to weave a similar story into one of my tales.


So I stood in the dark and waited for the sunrise.
My first photo of the day.This piccie is very misleading, this was a very long exposure. So what seems a light eastern sky was in fact very dark.

But there was a problem.The dark bank of clouds in the above photo was advancing very quickly from the south.

I turned my Camera to face south where the sky was by now almost completely covered by cloud. The lights in the centre are some of Melbourne’s suburbs twinkling in the distance.

By the time the sun actually rose above the horizon...this was all I could see of the dawn colour.

So I packed up and drove home feeling somewhat disappointed.

As I drove I was given some consolation. The sky decided to relent just a little and I stopped briefly to catch this before the world was completely flooded by daylight.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Wet Afternoon

This weekend just past we did our usual thing and got out and about.
It was intermittently drizzling and the weather was quite cool (not compared to the northern hemisphere, but to the high temperatures we have had recently).

We headed up to the Dandenongs, a range of mountains on Melbourne’s eastern outskirts. It is a beautiful spot with fantastic views. On Saturday though, the cloud cover was too low to give us the chance to see the vista. My fall back position was to photo Mountain Ash trees standing in the mist. That didn’t eventuate either.

The day wasn’t a complete washout, Deb and I stopped for a coffee and went for a stroll in some gardens in between some showers of rain.

There were a number of native flowers in bloom including these Banksias.
Banksias were named for Sir Joseph Banks who explored the east coast of Australia with Captain Cook in 1770. Banks was the most famous naturalist of his period. He collected many specimens including Banksia around Botany Bay when the Endeavour stopped there on Cook's First Voyage.

Another variety of Banksia in the same area.
This piccie shows an un-opened bud, an open blossom and a withering flower.
Foraging around the flowers for nectar was this New Holland Honey Eater. Normally these little fellows are extremely active. They can be quite hard to photograph, which is why I was happy to post about one before.This fellow was fluffed up against the rain and just sat and watched me as I moved around for another shot.
If you click on either of the photos to enlarge it you can see the rain splashing down and spots of wet on his tail feathers.