Sunday, May 29, 2011

Home Safe

Our Tassie vacation came to an end on Friday night.
We were back home in Melbourne in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Our last couple of days in Tassie were as packed as the first few.
Like our trip there in January I’ve come home with far too many piccies to share.
I will probably do a few posts on the trip over the next couple of weeks.

I am a little weary still from our trip and I am hitting the sack early tonight to be ready for work in the morning. So I thought I would share just a few piccies of our last couple of days there.

In Thursday we drove down through the Huon Valley. When we got to the Huon River it was amazingly still. The river’s surface was like a mirror and I was lucky enough to capture some beautiful images of reflections.

I’ve turned one of these upside down.Can you tell which way is up?
That afternoon we caught the car ferry over to Bruny Island. This piccie shows “The Neck” which joins the north of the island to the south.
I captured this sunset from Bruny Island, the strip of water reflecting the sunset colours is the D'Entrecasteaux Channel which separates the island from the Tasmanian mainland. The mountains in the distance are those north of Recherche bay which featured in my post last week..

On Friday we headed to the Tasman Peninsula.

Heaps of Banksia species were flowering in the bush.On the north side of the peninsula are the remains of the convict era coal mines. I love archaeology and ruins so I took hundreds of piccies.
These two are part of the remains of the convict barracks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Cold Light of Dawn

Yesterday we drove from Hobart where we have been based over to Tasmania's east coast.

Our destination: the Freycinet National Park. On the way I noticed this semi-ruined boathouse and knew I had to have a closer look.It was very photogenic, and in the background the mountains of the Freycinet NP.

We took our time stopping for lunch along the way and finally reached the park just before dark.I caught a few photos, but unfortunately the weather turned nasty and we had to run for shelter. We drove to Swansea about an hour away where we checked into a chalet overnight.

This morning I was up before dawn. I drove back to Freycinet, hoping to catch the rock faces of the cliffs in the dawn light.

The difference between OK landscape shots and brilliant ones is the light. The best landscape pictures are captured in the warm light of dawn or sunset.

But it was not to be. In the ten minutes after I took this piccie of the clouds beginning to pink up more cloud had rolled in and it began to rain!I caught some shots anyway, but they were taken in a cold grey light not morning warmth.

A Taster

Our past couple of days have been full to the brim.
I'm a little weary this evening, not exactly what you want from a vacation. But it is a good kind of weary. We've walked a lot and covered a lot of ground.

Yesterday we headed to the South East of Tasmania.

Just a quick couple of piccies (by the way these are well worth clicking on to get an expanded view).

Recherche Bay at around sunset.And the Lune River half an hour before.Can you tell which way is up?

Today we headed up into the South West Wilderness area.
The world heritage area is a mix of temperate rainforest and alpine wilderness.

I caught this cutie in the rainforest in the Mount Field National Park. She is a Tasmanian Pademelon (Thylogale billardierii). Pademelons are a cat sized relative of Kangaroos and Wallabies. These guys were widespread on the mainland before European settlement. Unfortunately in the old days some “gentlemen” decided it would be nice to have foxes to hunt and released European red foxes in mainland Oz.

Oz + foxes = extinct pademelons

There are none of these delightful creatures left on the mainland. Fortunately there are no foxes in Tassie.

The last pics are the Russell Falls (isn't that a good name)and High in the South Western mountains... Lake Pedder, just before sunset and in driving rain.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Al Ventures South

As I said earlier in the week I am on leave for a whole week!
This pause for a recharge is what I really need.

Anyway as my title says we have ventured south for our holiday.
If you venture south from Victoria there are only two places to go.


And a bit closer to home Tasmania.

Now my Queensland friends think I am mad going further south at this time of year (remember Downunder the further south you go the colder it gets, we do things upside down here). But we enjoyed Tasmania so much in January we thought we'd have another look.

So getting up at 6:30 to catch an early flight we were here in Tassie by early morning.

We wondered around Hobart for a while enjoying a gorgeous autumn day.Then we decided given it was such glorious day we would head up Mount Wellington which towers 1,271 metres (4,170 feet) over Hobart

Hobart literally sits on the eastern flank of Mount Wellington by the Derwent river.

Anyway, we drove up the windy road that climbs the mountain side. I paused part way up to get this shot of mountains away to the north.Once we got to the peak we went for a bit of a walk along one of the many hiking trails.

Naturally I took dozens of piccies, but as uploading using my mobile phone as a modem is a bit slow I will share just two.

A view of a formation called the 'Organ Pipes' with a glimpse of Hobart's southern suburb Kingstown far below.And a close up of some of the 'Organ Pipes'.
A word about the piccies I will post while I am away. I am sorting and processing them on my netbook. That is really handy in terms of being able to store them off camera (I take far too many piccies to rely on memory cards) but the screen is too small and the resolution is too low to really pick the best. So an apology if any of my piccies are not up to their usual standard.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Al looks to the heavens

I said I’d try to do a quick post tonight. So here I go!

We have to be off to the airport at 6:30 in the morning. That’s the time I usually leave for work, but it’s a bit early for Deb!

And even earlier for our eldest daughter E who is going to drop us off!

I had a good morning on the way in on the train in terms of writing, but this evening I was tired and only managed just over 100 words. Still I think I developed an idea that will help me jump forward next time I write.

I’m taking my netbook with me so I might get some writing done while I am on holiday. If I get a chance I will put up a post or two as well.

Now a few piccies. You may remember back in March I posted this piccie of the ‘super moon’ that I took with my old camera.Well last night I walked out to meet my youngest Lu at the bus stop. I noticed the moon is close to full so I decided to have a play with my new camera.

This is one of many shots I took. The difference between an 18 megapixel and an 8 megapixel like my old camera is amazing!

And if I crop it down further the level of detail is amazing, even if it is starting to get a little pixelated.Al is in camera heaven!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I should never set myself targets in my writing. I posted a month ago about finishing my first draft of Veiled in Shadows in ‘a month or two’. A month further on and I had expected to have knocked over another 20,000 words or so.

Well I got more than half way toward that target. To be precise I have written 13,515 since that post. Now before you assume I have been beating myself up about a failure - I haven’t.

I write for the enjoyment of it.

The enjoyment of it.

Aren’t those four lovely words?

And I have been enjoying my writing. To be sure my inner sadist has been making some of my characters go through hell (don’t worry Valentina is still in happy mode) but I have been writing some bittersweet scenes over the past few days.

And it is fun!

You may know my first novel Veiled in Shadows was written from multiple perspectives. Shadows is a complete story on its own, but it is also part of a series. Veiled in Storms (my WIP) is also a complete story and while it is not exactly a sequel it is related to the first novel. Some of the minor characters in Shadows are major characters in Storms and vice versa. So Ronnie (that is Valentina’s Ronnie) for example is only mentioned by name in the first novel and is a significant player in the second. While his sister Penelope is a major character in the first and a bit player in the second.

So what have I been writing over the past day or two? I won’t say too much, but for those (few) of you who have read Shadows there is a reunion in the final scenes. So I am revisiting that reunion from another character’s point of view. Only for that character it does not come at the end of the story. It is both a sad and happy moment.

And fun to write.

Now a little news. I am hoping to post again on Friday, but from Saturday I will be away on leave for a week. So it is possible there will be no posts until I get back.

A photo from my archive
Rainbow Lorikeets

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Have Camera Will Wander

You’ll have to forgive me if this post doesn’t make much sense. I only had just over 3 hours sleep last night, and I don’t handle all-nighters like I did in my twenties.

This must be the first time in ages I have only managed two posts in a week.

Work is as crazy as ever. Then, I had my job interview on Wednesday. It seemed to go well. Not the best interview I have ever done, but I think I present well. Now it is just a matter of wait and see.

I went to post on Friday, only to find I couldn’t get on to Blogger at all. Seemed to be read only until after I went to bed.

Anyway so much for that.

Yesterday, we picked up one of our dear, dear friends from the airport. Merilyn was in Melbourne for the weekend. We went in to Melbourne for lunch and then Deb and Merilyn went shopping had some quality girl time together.

While they did that I shot off to Yarra Bend park and took my camera for a walk. I found a spot I haven’t seen before.

I walked down into the park and pointed my camera at anything that caught my interest. I am still feeling my way around the settings of my camera and enjoying exploring its capabilities.

A sample of the things I snapped.

The Yarra itself. Looking at stretches of the river like this it is hard to believe you are surrounded by the second largest metropolis in Oz.

And crossing the river here. The Fairfield Pipe Bridge. The bridge was built in 1934 to carry a pipe from the Yan Yean Reservoir to Melbourne. It replaced a similar bridge that was destroyed in disastrous floods that year.
Looking along the walkway on the bridge.All through this patch of bush various eucalyptus species are flowering. Some white.And one red.Rainbow lorikeets were darting around the bush sipping nectar. None of them cooperated with my photo taking endeavours. This guy was about ten metres up in a tree.

On the river black ducks were much more friendly.I found these delicate little fungi; the grass blades give an indication of their size.

Finally as I was leaving the moon was poking its face out above the trees.I drove back into the city to pick up Deb and Merilyn. We went to a restaurant for dinner before heading home.

The three of us sat up talking until nearly 3:00 am then I had to get up at 6:30 to run Merilyn back to the airport.

So that is it for this afternoon, because I am going to have a nap so I can make it to dinner time!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Miscellany

I was looking out the window of the train a fair bit this morning. I usually have my eyes pretty much glued to the screen of my computer to work on my WIP Veiled in Storms. But this morning was cold, close to as cold as it gets in Melbourne. We had our first frost of the season, I had to clean ice off my windscreen so I could drive to the station.

My journey to work starts with a ten minute drive to our nearest station at Hurstbridge. My next hour or so is spent on the train into the heart of Melbourne. On the way in I always get a seat because Hurstbridge is the first station (or last depending which way you are going) on the line.

Normally I write the whole way, with the occasional glance at the other passengers or at the passing scenery. For roughly the first half of the trip the line meanders along one of green areas we are privileged to have in Melbourne. In this case the Diamond Creek Valley (isn’t that an amazing name?). Normally, although the scenery is worth watching I don’t look because writing is more important to me than trees and fields I have seen hundreds of times.

This morning was different the valley was covered with thick white frost and enveloped in mist. So the routine had become almost a different place. Very beautiful and very distracting.

But of course the writerly side of me took over and I began imagining the frost was snow and the mist was a Russian Blizzard. I was half expecting Zhukov’s Siberian troops to come bursting out of the mist riding their tanks as they fought to save Moscow in December 1941. (Anyone want to guess what I am writing about at the moment)

That of course made me think about place. Place is very important in fiction. I’ve never been to Russia or experienced a blizzard so how do I write with authenticity about places and times I have never been to?

I guess there are a number of solutions. One is to take advantage of places you have been. So in my novel Veiled in Shadows I chose to set a scene at a university in Oxford in the UK rather than in Cambridge. I’ve walked the streets in Oxford, I never quite made it to Cambridge. Similarly I’ve seen country around the Black Forest in Germany where another section of the novel is set.

But I’ve never been to Russia, and most of Veiled in Storms takes place there. So in my case it comes down to research. I watch every piece of video of the time and place I can get my hands on. I look at maps (period if possible) and Google Earth and I read. Usually biography from the place and time is great. In translation I most definitely do not read Russian, I can pretend with German or French (OK I’m lying but at least the alphabet is the same). Fiction written in the place and time is also really useful even if it isn’t what you’d normally read. But be careful, translators can lead you astray, I am fairly sure that Russians in the 1940s did not use the term “motherfuckers”. Yes, something equally derogatory but probably not that term.

So if you are a writer what do you do? Do you stick to what you ‘know’ or do you venture further afield?
And how important is it to be authentic?

Now finally, and in a completely different vein. I got my new camera on Friday night (Yay!) It is proving more difficult to learn then I thought. It is so different to my rather basic previous model. However I am getting some good piccies from it already .

A random sample of what I have taken since Saturday (most of these are worth clicking to enlarge).
The Yarra River.A long exposure taken without a tripod, image stabilizers are brilliant!

Some tiny flowers (I have no idea what they are, but a succulent and so not native)

Some tiny baby ‘spitfire caterpillars’ Actually they are not caterpillars at all. They are sawfly larvae. If you think they are ugly now imagine them two inches long, covered in bristles and vomiting a sticky mess of eucalyptus oil at you. But they are native so I love them and they are very sociable (to each other).

Autumn leaves.Great colour saturation with this camera!

And finally as appropriate for the end of a post. The sunset last night.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Secondary Characters?

I think I am in a crazy mood tonight so you will just have to forgive me.

I have been puzzling about characters. Where do they come from?
How do we as authors (or daydreamers, or whatever) create them?

As I write my characters grow. In some ways that should be obvious, a novel would be fairly tedious if characters did not change with the progression of the plot.

But for me it almost feels like my characters shape the plots as I write.

I talked a while ago about Valentina, one of my characters in my WIP, forcing her way from a secondary character into prominence.

I have to say this is not the first time I have had this experience. In my first novel Veiled in Shadows two of my minor characters met and fell in love. It was a necessary plot device because those two characters being together meant two of my main characters could meet, but then sparks flew.

So how is it that the secondary characters shifted into prominence? Well in my first draft both characters Penny and Danny were present. Both had roles that were important to the plot but they never even met.
Yet by the time my final draft had been completed they had not only met. In fact it went much further, they had fallen in love and been married.

On the surface it made sense, the plot needed my main characters to be drawn together through a chance meeting. Logically it made more sense to me to have some of the characters already in the story bring them together, rather than creating new characters to use in one or two scenes.

So Danny Parnell and Penny Chesterfield were introduced. On the surface they did not seem at all matched. She was beautiful, elegant, educated and sophisticated. He awkward, not particularly good at anything and shy. Yet they fell madly in love with each other. (I will forgive myself that contrast. I have known many, many loving couples who seemed to have nothing in common).

As an author I have to take the blame. These characters sprang from my mind (at least I think they did). Yet it really seems like they were in charge. I’ll add a couple of points to show why -
I mean Penny and Danny? Would any self respecting author have a couple with such names. Daniel fine, Penelope fine but together?

And Penny Chesterfield becoming Penny Parnell, it is so alliterative as to be almost painful. Yet neither character would let me change their name once they were on the page.

I swear it was their choice not mine!

Have you ever created characters that took charge of your WIP?

Sunset and trees damaged in the 2009 Bushfires taken this evening with my new camera

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In which Al is Excited

A quick post because I am late home again.

But despite being exhausted, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.

I mentioned a while ago (in March) that I had put a new camera on lay-by, well tomorrow I make the last payment and pick up my brand new camera!

As a bonus, in the interim the price has increased. (Which is odd given the Aussie Dollar has continued to increase against the Greenback; the humble AUD$ is now worth about US$1.10). So I have paid $1,600 for a camera and lens set up that is now retailing for $2,000. I have bought my camera without damaging my credit card and saved cash into the bargain.

SO you guys can look forward to more of this:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A total lack of inspiration

I have come home tonight wanting to post.

But I am just too tired.

With the autumn running towards winter the days are getting shorter.

When I get to the station in the morning it is
That’s right dawn. (a crummy photo taken on my camera.)
Then when I get home at night it is sunset or later Now to end on a positive note. I have a job interview coming up next week (on Wednesday). I mentioned a while ago that I went for a public service job and the unit manager said she was really impressed, another panel member asked me to apply for a second job. I didn’t get either job.

However, the unit manager’s PA phoned and said they had another position they wanted me to apply for.
Of course I put in an application and they want to interview me.

It’s a strange experience to have people asking me to apply for jobs. Seems positive to say the least!