Saturday, June 12, 2010

Frustration all Round (or saved by some fungi)

I’ve been on two kinds of journey today.

One has been very real; through the mountains of Eastern Victoria.

The other has been entirely in my head; it has been through the outline of my WIP.

Both have involved frustration of one kind and another.

My WIP has essentially languished for the past couple of months. I have written a few pages now and then. However, my limited creative time has been largely tied up with preparing Veiled in Shadows for publication and working on the beginnings (planning stage) of a marketing campaign.

I should say a little about the WIP. It is tentatively titled Veiled in Storms. The WIP is the second of a series of four stand alone novels that I have planned.
The first Veiled in Shadows, is set in the years 1937- 1945 and follows a number of characters against the backdrop of war and the Holocaust.
The WIP Veiled in Storms runs from 1941 – 1949. A few of the characters in the first book appear in the second but the backdrop shifts to the war in the East and the terror of Stalin’s reign.

Both books have a backdrop of world changing historical events. But in both books the main focus is on the characters, events may create challenges for my characters but what I am interested in is how they respond and grow (or otherwise).

So as I say my WIP has been languishing. That is something I want to rectify.
So today as Deb and I drove out to the East, I had my plot and what I have already written running through my head.
I ran into a problem. I realised that too much of what I have written so far is bogged down in the realities of the war in the East. I don’t want my WIP to become just a ‘war book’. Yes it is set in the war, but like the first it is meant to be about characters not events.

So frustration of frustration, most of the many thousands of words I have already written will never make it into the final book. The only saving grace is that most of what I have already created will become ‘back story’. My characters will be shaped (or even scarred) by the events they pass through but most of it will be simply touched on in the book rather than being the main narrative thread.

So most of what I have already written will be (figuratively speaking) mulched and turned back into the soil of my imagination.

Anyway back to the real world. Deb and I set off into the mountains of Eastern Victoria today. We had intended to go to a State Forest Reserve to see a tree called the ‘Ada Tree’.
The Ada tree is reputed to be the largest tree remaining in Victoria, so it sounded like it was worth the effort of a bit of a trek.

Anyway, after a lazy morning off we went. We drove to the east to the Yarra Valley before cutting south east into the mountains.

After driving along a windy mountain highway we turned off the main road onto what is essentially a series of unsealed forestry trails.

This firts piccie shows a fork in the trail about 20 km (13 miles) from the main road. As you can see it was wet and muddy today.

The reason for our stop: to look at a logged forestry coup.
A ‘coup’ is an Australian forestry term for a portion of a few acres in a state forest that is logged for timber.

After the area is logged the remains of the trees are burnt in-situ. You end up with a mess like this.Now before this apparently wanton destruction elicits howls of outrage I should say a little about Victorian forestry practice.

This coup, like most of state owned forest in Victoria has been logged this way before. This second piccie shows a few large tree stumps. The tall one in the foreground is an old stump that was cut a long time ago (I would guess 60 – 80 years) by hand saw and axe. The low stump in the middle ground is a recent chainsaw cut stump. The low stump is a tree that has grown since this coup was previously logged.
The trees in the background are all young (probably 10 – 15 years) and are in a neighbouring coup that is being regenerated. Victorian forestry is probably as close to a long term sustainable industry as you can get.

The burning of the waste is the first step of regeneration. Many Aussie tree seeds won’t germinate until there is wood ash in the soil. It is a trait that helps the native forest regenerate after a bushfire. Rather than clearing large areas forestry will log a small area and then leave it to regenerate for decades before touching it again.

So a state forest will be a mosaic of areas of trees of differing ages. In terms of native vegetation and most wildlife it works really well to both have an industry and preserve diversity.

There have been problems though. Some species of possum and bird have become quite rare in the forestry areas. The reason for this seems to be a lack of very old trees with suitable hollows for nesting.

Forestry has taken some steps towards rectifying this. This third (not very good) piccie of the coup shows a couple of large trees that have been left. These are designated ‘habitat’ trees that either already have hollows or are expected to develop hollows as the bush regenerates here.

It’s a good idea, and a step in the right direction. But if forestry really want to solve this habitat problem in the long run, I suspect they will have to leave more large trees standing in each coup that they log.

So back to the car, which as you can see from this piccie was already very muddy.

We arrived at the Ada Tree Reserve car park.

Frustration again, what with one delay and another it was already 4:00 pm. With winter the sun sets early and the cloudy wet day meant it would be dark in less than an hour. Not nearly enough time to do the return walk to the Ada tree itself (about 3 km or 1.8 miles of bush track).
Getting lost in the bush in the dark is not one of my hobbies.

So like my WIP we had to re-jig what was left of the day.

Deb ensconced herself in the car with some knitting and I set off to see what I could photograph in the immediate vicinity of the car park.

First, in the car park itself an old tree stump. This stump was cut before the days of chainsaws with old hand axe and crosscut saw.I can tell by the height of the stump that it is old, with a modern chainsaw you’d simply cut through the tree close to the base.
In the old days they cut a tree above the wide buttresses to minimise the amount of timber they had to cut through by hand.

This notch was cut part way up the stump. The timber getters would then stand on a plank inserted into the notch and cut away at the tree by hand.

The muddy posterior of the car caught my attention briefly before I ventured a short distance into the bush.The main thing I found to photograph is a huge number of fungi that are busy putting out their fruiting bodies at the moment. Fungi love the wet winter weather.

These orange mushrooms were growing in the soil.These odd little mushroom-like bodies protruded from a decaying moss-covered stump.These little beauties were sprouting from the bark of a living tree.They were tiny, with the heads of the 'mushrooms' about the size of a fingernail.

The same delicate little fellows viewed from below.
It's worth clicking on these piccies to get an enlarged view.

I spotted these ragged looking little fungi at the base of a stump as I went back to the car.It was getting late so we began heading home.

On the side of the road not far from the first coup I spotted this odd sculpture.
I presume some bored forestry worker has been busy during a lunch break.The result, a throne and table carved out of solid tree stumps with a chain saw.

The throne had a grand view down a logging trail into the mist wreathed mountains beyond.


Christine said...

This blog post is amazing, Al and I have neglected my spaghetti bolognaise in progress, in order to read it twice!

Commiserations with the writerly frustrations. Your book series sounds wonderful and just the sort of thing I like to read. I love your idea of mulching and turning back into the soil of your imagination.

Pics are stunning, as always and I particularly like the 'little beauties'.

As to the muddy car, I didn't bat an eyelid. Living in the north west of England we spend our winters mired in 'clarts' with our cars filthy.

KarenG said...

Such beautiful scenery must be really helpful in getting those creative juices flowing.

Old Kitty said...

I love fungi!! It's such a shame that Deb stayed in the car and not explored the forest to see these marvels of nature with you! :-)

Mind you - mud, cold, onset of darkness - I'd have stayed in the car to knit too!LOL!

Anyway - fungi are fab and I never go rambling without my little pocket of fungi identification book. :-)

Sorry you didn't get to see the Ada tree - I was looking forward to a grand pic of it! LOL!

I always get quite upset when rambling through woodland to see swathes of it cut (not burnt) but just cut down - all part of managed forest sustainability I know but there's something quite sad seeing stumps of what were once living things.

I think keeping backstories of your characters is a brilliant way to use all the edited stuff. That will certainly keep your characters alive. Good luck with this Veiled in Storms.

What a lovely title to follow on from Veiled in Shadows!

Take care

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm with you in that I hate knowing that so much of what I've written will never see the light of day - however, it is important and useful info that will impact your characters (and thus round them out fully). That, my friend, is a huge plus!

Loved the pics and the commentary behind them :)

Lisa said...

Wonderful piccies! Sorry to hear about the setback in the book. I'll bet it's starting to be obvious why there are often decades between an author's books!

Susan Fields said...

Such beautiful pictures - thanks for sharing your journey with us! My favorite is the last one with the misty mountains - just gorgeous! I know it's frustrating to have to cut out parts of your novel, but what's left will be richer for it - it was not wasted effort!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

They whole thing with writing is that even as you write, you know that a lot of what you write is going to end up out of the book. But that is what keeps us going, isn't it?

Love the idea for your "series", though.

Al said...

Hi Christine,
Wow! I must have done a good job if you are going to read it twice (and at the expense of your cooking). Thank you!
I’m all too happy that you like the sound of my series.
I used to garden quite a lot so I think that way a bit, plus the metaphor kind of fitted with the rest of the post.
I was happy with the beauties. I had to use a tripod, it was very poor light so long exposures, well worth the effort though.
The car was about 5 times as muddy when we got home.
Hmm, I’ll have to look up ‘clart’. Not a word in local use, although I’ll guess from the context.

Hi Karen,
The scenery is gorgeous, it definitely helps. We are so spoiled in Victoria, from desert to rainforest and from coast to alpine, all in a state just a little bigger than Utah.

Hi Jennifer,
I love fungi too! Deb did have a bit of a poke around before retreating.
She was actually a bit disappointed that I didn’t take longer :-)
I’ll have to see if there is a field guide to local fungi down this way. We have such a small market that sometimes those sorts of things don’t make it into print.
I agree, I find swathes of destruction heartbreaking too. But I console myself that forestry that isn’t touching old growth is incredibly sustainable.
Deep back stories can mean deep characters, so it isn’t wasted the trick is to hint at why the character may have changed.
Thank you for your wishes. I think Veiled in Storms works as a title of the second in a series. I have provisional titles for three and four that also link to the veil theme (without pushing the friendship too far).

Hi Jaydee,
It is frustrating especially when I am happy with what I have written (it would need editing of course). However, the bulk of it isn’t really what the book is about even though it is part of the experience of the characters.
I agree the rounder a character the better. I went through a similar process with Veiled in Shadows but I hadn’t written as much that needed to be cut adrift…

Hi Lisa,
Pleased you like the piccies.
Hey it is a bit of a set back but it certainly is no disaster.
I hope it won’t be decades…
All depends on time free for writing.

Hi Susan,
I love sharing, but you are welcome anyway. I love the mountains in cloudy weather, it is nice when the photos capture something of the feel.
I am mostly content to let the extra go. It is as you say, all part of developing a richer whole.

Hi Rayna,
You are absolutely correct. The pleasure of writing as an end is more than half the reason I write at all.
Thank you for the vote of confidence for the series.

Jem said...

Al, I love the fungi pictures. Beautiful. You are very knowledgeable about the logging practices in Vic and it was interesting to read about. Driving out in the countryside is a great time to ruminate on your plot. I find that my thoughts get clearer when I get out of town. Maybe because I can see more of the horizon.

Palindrome said...

Those are great fungi pictures!

Good luck on your WIP, I'm sure you'll get all the finer points worked out and the characters will shine through.

Zoe said...

I envy that lush scenery you have there to visit.
I've always found I write better when I have access to nature, be it hills, moors, forests, lakes or anything away from the urban sprawl.

Also, I love that throne!

Al said...

Hi Jem,
Only to happy to share.
I have lived on the fringes of forestry much of my life, I have had friends and family on both sides of the green/industry divide so forestry has always been a topic of conversation. Vic has probably the most sustainable industry in Oz. Driving is a great time to think, as long as I don’t forget to concentrate on the road :-)
The bush is simply liberating.

Hi Hannah,
Happy you like my fungi!
Thank you on the WIP I am sure I’ll get there in the end!

Hi Zoe,
Welcome to my blog.
We are pretty spoiled in this neck of the woods.
I feel almost compelled to get out of town on the weekends. Feels like breathing.
Wasn’t the throne fun!

Cathy said...

Hello Al
Thanks for this post - you've given me an insight to the problems budding and published authors face, an idea for somewhere to go when the weather warms up a bit and we are looking for a drive to see something special (not too far away) and also an idea for a post.
The other day I took some photos of the fungi I found in the garden and also some I saw in the park - reading other blogs showed me that the wet weather all round the world is producing fungi like its going out od fashion.
One Fungi post post coming up some time next week
Take care

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Best of luck on your prep for publication and your marketing plan! Not to mention your WIP!

Loved those mushroom pics!

Al said...

Hi Cathy,
I’m looking forward to a fungi post then!
The Ada tree is probably worth a look, but the mountains around the top end of Gippsland/upper Yarra valley are worth a look (or several looks)

Hi Alyssa,
Thank you for your wishes. As you must well know it all seems pretty overwhelming sometimes!
I am happy you liked my mushrooms!

Anonymous said...

Great pics. I love the little fungi - so beautiful :)

Al said...

Hi Rachel,
Welcome to my blog.
Thank you, and I am happy you enjoyed my piccies