Getting the facts right and/or those pesky hashtags


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Everyone is different of course and I’d love to hear how other writers do it. Mark their manuscripts where more facts need to be added or checked, I’m talking about. After the first draft of Tomaree I had over three hundred points to check. I can’t remember how I highlighted them. It might have been the first manuscript I began using hashtags but I know I had a long list that I wrote out and worked my way through over the next few drafts.

During the writing of Crossing Paths I had a lot of research assistants in the form of international bookcrossers. #site of traffic buildup in France after the tunnel from England? #popular make of car driven in Canada by an upwardly mobile young female executive? #the layout of Green Gables farm? One of my dear friends and bookcrosser Bill Staubi answered that one (and some other tricky ones) through emails and the forum at

Whilst writing one of the many later drafts of Tomaree I had a luncheon with some of the elderly female residents of Nelson Bay to check one or two pesky points. By this time we were firm friends and the conversation went something like this:

“So, one final thing. I’m just checking about letter boxes.” (The letters of my two young lovers were being passed in a letter box of Peggy’s neighbour, Sarah Linden, the main character in my current manuscript).

“Oh, darling, we didn’t have letter boxes in 1943.”

“What?” (Insert shocked expression on yours truly.) “What did you do about the mail?”

“We just picked it up from the post office, dear,” says another of my elderly ladies.

“So when did you all get letterboxes?”

(Insert animated conversation around the table. The consensus was 1946/1947 but definitely after the war.) I then had to rethink and rewrite how the letters would be passed/left between Peggy and Tom, her American GI boyfriend. I decided on a blue pot (from memory) that Sarah had around the side of her house.

With my last manuscript I Remember the White, a lot of my chasing the facts/hashtags has been chronicled in this blog and I seem to have been in tight control of all those pesky, time consuming points that needed to be checked. The main one that proved very frustrating and almost elusive, as Robert Watson will remember, was how to transport my heroine from Sydney to Salonika in late 1917. Submarines were making things very difficult so road and rail was involved.

With my current manuscript Paris Next Week in its first draft, I’m afraid I’ve been a bit blaze and as a consequence disarmed. This is a seemingly light novel told in the first person about two very wealthy girls, Sarah Montague and Louie Gilbraith who live in the exclusive suburbs of Elizabeth Bay and Darling Point in the 1920s. Lots of parties, beautiful clothes, stunning houses and the party to end all parties. Just the other day, getting near the final chapter or two of the novel, I thought I’d check the state of the hashtags. OMG! 214 and its only a 50,000 word manuscript! They must have snuck up on me. Just checked today. 228! They have been breeding. Well those pesky hashtags will have to wait until further drafts but more in my next blog.

What I’m currently reading and/or am about to read or are on my bedside table.

Yes, I know it’s ridiculous but what can I say? And you haven’t seen my TBR (to be read) pile yet. I’m a bookcrosser – lakelady2282 at and things can get out of control. Goodreads – doesn’t help either. According to goodreads I am currently reading 8 books. Seven of those are pictured above and the eighth is Dracula which I began reading about two years ago whilst at work (at a job where there was nothing to do).

Wikisource is wonderful for this. You open up the book on your computer screen, say The Scarlett Letter or Sense and Sensibility (making sure the chapter heading is not showing and it looks like you are reading some sort of detailed manual). Perfect! It’s how I read both the last two books.

As to the pile pictured above – well let’s see. I started The Facing Island by the historian  Jan Bassett ages ago. It is about WWI so it should be a priority to read but somehow I still haven’t got around to it. I know I will though.There’s With My Body by Nikki Gemmell which I keep interrupting to read other books, mainly because it’s too heavy to take to work (to read in my lunch break). And then as you will have spied by the familiar cover there is Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James which I have pretty much abandoned like a hell of a lot of other readers…evidently. I keep thinking I might get around to reading at least to the heavy BDSM section but always end up reading something else.

Also on the goodreads list is Early One Morning by Robert Ryan. The book is about SOE (Special Operations Executive) agents in WW2, a subject I’m really interested in and I should finish this book soon. Reveries of the Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau I began (before I finished any of the other seven) so I could send it out on the VBB (Virtual Book Bag) 1001 (1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die) being run by a lovely bookcrosser. There’s And So Forth an excellent collection of essays by the erudite Robert Dessaix (but I don’t always feel like reading essays so it’s still not finished). And lastly The Collected Wisdom of Florence Scovel Shinn which I dip into every now and then.

Now we come to the remainder of the books pictured. These are the ones I lugged home from Speers Point Library yesterday.I still need to research Australian nurses during the First World War so I borrowed Nightingales in the Mud by Marianne Barker. I am also currently trying to find a few books that my character Phyllis Summerville is reading and sharing with other passengers on board ship to England in September 1917. The 1001 book is useful for this. D H Lawrence is also very useful as I wanted a few risque books. The Rainbow seemed perfect until I found out it was banned for eleven years. I chose Sons and Lovers and his first novel The White Peacock (the small orange book, top of the right pile). I won’t use the latter. I’ll probably settle on Sons and Lovers for its shock value but I need to check this so will scan through the book. That’s three down of the second lot. I borrowed The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan because that’s the book Phyllis actually chooses to read instead of the Lawrence (so now I need to re-read it). When I chose the Buchan book from the stacks out the back I discovered Singleton’s Mill next to it by an Australian author Sinclair Buchan. (It’s the book on the top of the left pile.) I just might have to read this book too.

The River Baptists I especially ordered from the library after hearing Belinda Castles speak at This Is Not Art last weekend in Newcastle. I googled her name and found out that this book is set in the Hawkesbury River, a place I know and love from my teenage years when my parents owned a Halvorsen cruiser. I am really looking forward to reading this book. It is high on my list to be finished first but its tied with the other book that was on display at the library entitled Why Not Say What Happened? a memoir by Ivana Lowell. Who can resist “a heartbreaking account of a gifted woman, her brilliant but destructive parents, and a glamourous, aristocratic life that was laced with arsenic”?

Certainly not me! So there is the complete list of the books pictured above which pretty much exemplifies my life at present – researching WWI whilst being distracted by sex (as such), the glamourous life (the grass is greener) and generally taking too much on!! What more can I say, except reviews to follow… I hope.

Doing a TV interview

It was fantastic. I’m not quite sure how Channel Ten Sydney came to approach the Adelaide BC group but bookcrosser Newk put up the information at BCAUS, the yahoo BookCrossing group, that the station was looking for bookcrossers. Yours truly, never backward in coming forward, put up her hand and also contacted the station.

Eve Neylon the segment producer was wonderful and the online intro the station put together to explain BookCrossing to the general public was one of the best examples I’ve seen. BookCrossing really is a parallel universe. It is a tricky thing to explain in a few minutes but the bottom line is that is about sharing books. If you love books and want to share books with others, read reviews of your favourite books, meetup with people to discuss books and even receive books in the mail from faraway places then BookCrossing is definitely for you.

For me discovering the site has literally changed my life. I have not only been to 4 conventions: Adelaide, SA in 2006, London in 2008, Greece in 2008 and the Sydney Unconvention in 2010 but it has also inspired me to write my second published novel Crossing Paths: the BookCrossing Novel.

One of the questions my interviewer Paul Henry was going to ask me was how did I get into BookCrossing. Well, a week before Christmas in 2003 I saw an ad in an Australian Publications mag about the site and immediately I was intrigued. I couldn’t wait to get home and sus it all out!

After an hour or two going over the site (it is a very comprehensive with a lot to take in) I immediately realised “This is so me.” I love books and I love synchronicity and BookCrossing is about both. After a little while I also realised that BookCrossing was also a book – a book that I could write. I remember working out that amazingly people can be tracked through BookCrossing. And you could also anticipate where people might be travelling to next, by the books on their “virtual” bookshelf.

I also remember, within a day of discovering BookCrossing, studying my “real” bookshelf to try and work out what books my character would take with her and how many. I initially decided on 10 but then lowered it to eight to allow for books she might pick up on the way. Also important was where she was going to release the books and so began my journey of writing a book inspired by an online bookclub, the doorstopper that I managed to hold up in my TV interview, as you can see for yourself.

Doing the interview was a wonderful insight into how segments are produced. Eve was very thorough. First interviewing me by phone, keeping in touch by email, phoning me again to confirm the appointment, asking more questions and a day or so before emailing me with background information that the interviewer would be reading to prepare themselves (Paul Henry as it turned out) for the segment and questions they would be asking to give me a chance to put together my best answers.

We only had three minutes and because the station decided on producing a small online intro to BookCrossing, that freed Paul up to ask different questions. He asked one or two on the list but the rest were dictated by his curiousity and the way the conversation went. Although he did interrupt a bit I’m glad he did because that’s how we managed to cover quite a lot in in such a short timespan.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to do the interview. It was such an enjoyable experience. I was lucky to have my friend Gina drive down with me from Newcastle and she was allowed to sit offscreen and watch the segment. Everyone was so friendly – the makeup girls, Lana, Eve, Paul and Kath. Thank you Channel 10! It was fun!

Reading Out Loud

Yesterday afternoon I read out loud to, well…. no-one in particular, really. I am participating in Newcastle Library’s program Out Loud as part of the National Year of Reading 2012. I even had a fancy chair to sit on. My timeslot was the last of the day, so with Crossing Paths marked with post-it notes I climbed up on the swish chair and began to read.

This was only my third reading of Crossing Paths, my first was last year at Sunset Books and ABC!/sunsetbooks and immediately I realised what an easy book  it is to read from, mainly because of the Bookcrossing journal entries at the end of each chapter. Like mini reviews – these are perfect to dip into and were what I mainly read from at Sunset Books, Raymond Terrace.

My second reading, at Wangi Library’s Books and Biccies in January this year was really more of a booktalk. I spent most of the half hour or so explaining bookcrossing itself and how I used it as the framework of the book. The whole world of bookcrossing forms the structure linking the eight main characters together.

Today was quite different in many ways. It wasn’t so much about discussing the book as about reading out loud. At first I found it a little odd that most people were just walking past – choosing books and borrowing books and looking a little askance at me on the white chair but after a while I just forgot about everything but the words on the page. My timeslot was from  4.30pm to 5.00pm. After about ten minutes I began to read as a reader rather than an author and the experience was comforting somehow.

At some point I heard the Newcastle Town Hall clock strike but decided it must be the quarter hour. A little later one of the librarians came over to me and said: ‘You can stop now, you know.’
I said, ‘Oh, can I?’
She said, ‘It’s a quarter past five.’
I asked, ‘Really?’ and she told me that a lot of the authors reading out loud during the day had been surprised how quickly the time passed. She also commented on the wonderful atmosphere the readings created in the library. It was the first time I think I’ve read aloud without fear of judgement. There was instead the rhythm of my words and the joy of reading.