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I have new science blog post up and ready over at fionamcmillan.com.
It’s a story about the unexpected consequences of losing your grip: when human ancestors began to walk upright, the infants slowly lost their ability to hold onto their mothers and this may have set us on the path toward language and bigger brains. I was fascinated by the hypothesis and I thought it would be a straightforward story to write, but the more I researched the more complex the story became. This was at once wonderful and frustrating. There was so much interesting science that it was difficult to include every angle without ending up with an unreadable deluge of facts. For all that I loved the topic, I almost gave up on the story several times; it was such hard work finding and holding onto the story arc. I guess you could say I lost my grip a bit.
I then remembered a wonderful piece of advice from science writer Carl Zimmer who wrote about his early days as a journalist, and how – at first – he’d try to painstakingly build these incredibly complex stories; each one like a ship in a bottle. But the problem with that approach is that there is often too much information to include and if you want to tell a good story, in addition to deciding what to put in, you also have to decide what to leave out. He explains in more detail here: “Don’t Make a Ship in a Bottle” by Carl Zimmer.
And so, I got back to work. It was a learning process, figuring out which research served the story and which didn’t. There were heaps of random facts that I’d stumbled across and just loved and wanted to share, but when these were included in the story they made it dense and difficult to follow. Sometimes, you just have to say ‘OK, that can be in a story, just not this story’.
It seemed to work.
I made it through, and here is the result:
Farewell 2014! What a year you were. Many things happened of the writerly kind. I wrote a YA, a novella, finished an new urban fantasy I’d been kicking around for a while and then subbed Chaos Broken (Book 3 in the Chronicles of Applecross) to my publisher. The YA novel is in the publishing ether and for the novella, I’m thinking of venturing into the self-publishing world. Chaos Broken will be published in April 2015, when I shall put on my book promo underpants and shove it forth for everyone’s attention. Maybe even before, as those underpants sure look comfy.
Many other things happened int 2014 as well. I went on a writers retreat with my fellow Sisters of the Pen, and we did strange writer things and ate strange writer food.
I also went on my first marathon Hen’s Night, involving…
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Here it is, Fiona 🙂
It’s been far too long since I posted anything on this blog. Been a very demanding year on far too many fronts. But here is a little something I wrote around 1am the other night. I think I need to keep on reading this, reminding myself over and over of the ‘practice’ of what i’m spontaneously calling ‘radical acceptance’. Which is what life/love is and does, really, left to its own devices. Deep gratitude goes to my friends Isaac and Meike http://www.isaacshapiro.org/, for the support to see all this a little more clearly over the past 10 years or so. ❤
Love it. Love this life. Love the worries, love the pain, love the resistance – so futile – love the love.
Love the shove, the strife, the living of this life … the struggle, the struggle, the struggle … the float … the resilience
The picked scabs…
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A winter warmer book pack giveaway – just comment to enter!
Now that the chilly brrr weather is finally upon us, it’s the season of coats, doonas and hot drinks. If you’re down south, maybe you’re already cracking ice off the windscreen. And if you’re up north, well, maybe you finally put on a t-shirt instead of a singlet!!
Regardless of where you are in our great land, to celebrate the appearance of winter, perfect season for reading in your long socks, dressing gown, or snuggie**, I am giving away a winter warmer reader’s gift pack, including:
- Personalised signed copy of both Ryders Ridge and Iron Junction
- Chocolates to nom nom while reading
- Tea mug to hold hot beverages (perfect for melting chocolates in mouth into saucy heaven). To set the mood for your rural reading adventure, mug is carefully selected to be at home either in a station kitchen or crib room, aka “trendy industrial chic”***
- Tasty tea to brew…
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Woo ho! So, it’s release day for Chaos Bound, book 2 in my urban fantasy series, Chronicles from the Applecross. Yays! Chaos 3 is underway, with the tentative title of: Chaos…Baby? Okay, maybe not.
Official blurb for Chaos Bound below…
Lora Blackgoat — mercenary and smuggler — has only just recovered from the last threat on her life and hasn’t even begun to sort out the mess of having both a nephilim warrior and a reborn hellspawn as potential lovers. Work should be a refuge, but a job finding missing persons puts her in the crosshairs of a violent gang and a merchant with a taste for blood sport.
Reluctantly, Lora turns to the two men in her life for help. Roman — the nephilim — professes to be her soul mate and turns to her when he feels the darkness of nephilim madness descending. But though Lora is drawn to Roman, it is Seth, ex-lover and reborn hellspawn, who Lora must ultimately ask to protect those she loves. Can she trust Seth to save Roman and her adoptive family, or will this be a fatal mistake?
My first poem in a loooong time … a bit rough, fresh-hewn
Home Is A Place You Can’t Escape From
You wake in your soft bed
To find a weight, a presence
On your brow
You ask it its name
You try to find its story
It gives you clouds
That are treetops
And there are rooted, downward
Strokes that are trunks, swaying
In a silent wind
But they are also puppet strings
And so you are pulled from
Your soft bed
And into your shoes
And the outside
You walk hard and fast
Shed your wool
You aren’t exactly angry
And you’re beyond frustration
You chant your attempts
All that you wish away
And it’s a struggle
You surrender to
Reaching the corner
On the hill
The trees breathe darkly
You recognise them – treetops, trunks
A yellow ribbon flutters
from a branch
And the world is suddenly
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I haven’t posted anything in ages. It’s been a strange couple of months. There have been changes within and without. The inner changes are I think due to the fact that I am fast approaching the age of 40. A process of reassessment and taking stock has been taking place, without me actually going out and looking for that to happen. It’s kind of been foisted upon me, and it’s been raw and sore at times. And will continue to be for some time to come, methinks.
Anyway, so I haven’t felt I’ve had much worthy to share in the midst of all this messy rawness. Mindfulness has often felt desperately clung to and not very adequately achieved … if mindfulness is indeed something ‘achievable’.
Work (financial survival) and parenting have been taking up much of my attention, and sometimes I have felt quite distant from my home and the non-human beings around me … cut off, disconnected. I noticed this on my return from a flight to Melbourne to visit my sister and attend a Fairy Tales conference … and wondered whether the flight was what did it (superstitiously enough) … weeks and months have gone past and still my sense of at-homeness has not fully returned to me, my sense of grounded connection.
A few weeks ago I had one moment of choiceless connection and relationship. I was lighting the fire and I heard a desperate quacking coming from the creek. It took me a while of hearing it before I really listened beyond it being mere background birdnoise and heard the desperation in that voice. It prompted me to go outside and listen harder. That’s when I heard other voices, tiny, peeping voices, just as desperate as the louder quack. Quietly, quickly, I made my way down the bank to the creek’s edge and upstream a little way I spied five or six tiny, and I mean TINY baby ducklings … they looked freshly hatched. All striped and fluffy and being buffeted by the unseasonally strong stream (we’ve had another wet winter … and don’t get me started on THAT!). God, the motherly pang that kicked in my breast at the sight. The mother was nowhere to be seen or heard and I began to feel their desperation also. Maybe she was hurt, why were they separated from one another, what had happened? Was there a wild dog or cat nearby? I crossed the creek and got my sneakers wet in the process (was just about to head to exercise class) to see if I could spot the mother. Blundering like a great big troll, super-aware of how frightening I must’ve been to the ducklings but feeling I must try to do something anyway. Then all of a sudden there was a startled flapping and the mother emerged, doing that thing that mother ducks do – they act wounded so as to attract predatory attention to themselves and away from their babies. And I realised I was the predator, in her mind, and then I felt like even more of a great big noisy scary troll. But at least I was reassured that she was still there, and fine. I kind of knew she wasn’t really wounded. I just knew, and I quickly removed myself so they could reunite. But overall what I was left with was that sense of being seen as the predator, of not being seen as being friendly, connected in a good way. This sense of disconnect has been hanging around for weeks, as I said.
This morning I went to a breakfast at our local hall to celebrate the achievements of the Landcare group and their project on Branch Creek. My dear friend Emma has been instrumental and indefatigable in this work. Such an inspiring, deeply connected woman. I went to celebrate her as much as to celebrate their achievements. But celebrating connection and achievement when you yourself feel in the midst of disconnect and non-achievement, is a pretty tough gig. When someone asked me how I was, I honestly answered ‘Vulnerable, like most human beings’. I didn’t last there long, ended up walking home alone with the dogs, trying to honour my vulnerability, feeling fed up with my disconnect and aloneness, but not knowing how to bust out, whilst still honouring this truth of vulnerability and rawness.
On my return to the gate of home, I suddenly heard voices. Voices I’ve been hearing for days but haven’t really tuned into. Too busy, too caught up in my frustration and disconnect and aloneness and general busyness of life, getting by. I realised though, then, on hearing them, how quiet the walk had been and how noisy with life it was here, at my very own door. What a racket was being made and it was time I found out who was making it. Quietly I made my way down the side-path and squatted at the edge of the stand of bamboo, where the voices were coming from. There were at least three distinct voices, coming from different spots. And then I saw her, right in front of me, perched on a black, rotting, fallen piece of bamboo. Her throat was a beautiful rusty red, her wings a brindle of black and dusky browns and they shook as she shrugged her shoulders and belted out her piping song, that was being answered so fiercely by the others nearby.
She was a Logrunner. And for a moment I didn’t feel so disconnected. For a moment, I felt welcomed home, despite my largeness and human trollishness. For a moment, I simply marvelled at her beauty and boldness, making herself so heard, despite her smallness and vulnerability.
I know that there is a power in vulnerability, that is the message I’m starting to hear. It’s early days, early moments yet, but I am starting to listen beyond it being my own inner background noise, my own fierce, desperate inner voice, crying out and wanting to be heard, not ignored. I am starting to listen, I am trying.
More on Logrunners: http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Orthonyx-temminckii
Now that we’re approaching the business end of the uni semester, I’m spending a fair bit of time marking. Now, I love teaching for its own sake, but it’s also a fabulously instructive experience for my own writing. And this week, after marking about 180 critiques of fiction, I’ve been thinking a bit about the art of critique.
I’m hardly the first to write about this, and I won’t be the last (see here for a great vid on crit partners). Like many writers, I remember well my first experience of critique, and the meltdown that followed. Given I consider writing an apprenticeship, that was some sort of initiation ritual. But for those of us who didn’t pack our bags after the experience, it does make you stronger. And by stronger, I really mean: tunes your senses for who’s good to critique you and who isn’t.
Good critique is an…
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I had the lovely opportunity to meet Whitney K-E at the 2012 Romance Writers Convention. Her book, What Happens In Ireland, was contracted by Secret Cravings Publishing and is out now. I decided to ask her what all the fuss was with these Irish men…
Haha, what can I say? The Irish charm got me haha. What Happens in Ireland was inspired by my trip to Ireland. Or rather, my anticipation of it. I was so excited to travel there but I had a two year wait. And that two year wait was the perfect amount of time to start my Irish series. Based on my research, I wrote the draft and edited it when I travelled to Ireland itself. But as for why Ireland? Well, who doesn’t love an Irish hero?
Did you know that Michael Fassbender is Irish? And would you agree his hips are too narrow, but he is generally hot anyway?
I didn’t even know who Michael Fassbender was. But! Thank you for introducing us 😛 haha. Generally hot, indeed. He looks good with a ginger stubble haha.
What is your writing process like?
Hmm, a little unorganised and sporadic. But sometimes it can be quite the opposite. I started off as a pantser (I’ve moved over to the plotter side however) and the ending for What Happens in Ireland was the first scene I wrote! So, sometimes it’s a little all over the place.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
In What Happens in Ireland, it was the conflict. But as I said earlier, I became a plotter and learned to make sure I avoided these potholes which were marring my road to publication.
What was your journey to publication like?
A journey I have learnt much from. Sometimes it got a little rocky, but now I know I am ready for anything. I’d rather know what to expect in my future career than go in completely blind to the complications that can occur in the publishing world.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Confessions of a Romance Writer, haha.
For the impending zombie apocalypse, what will be your weapon of choice and why?
Oh, god. I don’t know anything about zombies! Umm… does an Iron Man suit count as a weapon? Hehe. I reckon one of those world work haha.
Best advice for beginner writers?
Never give up. Treat every milestone in your career as a lesson and work hard every day. Only you can make your dreams come true.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently editing Deceive Me in Ireland (the second novel in my Irish series) and Fixing Fences, a standalone single title rural romance I wrote last year.
Whitney’s Novel: What Happens in Ireland
Ever wondered what happens in Ireland?
When Australian, Kate Barrow, meets a handsome Irishman in a Dublin bar, she has no idea that he’s about to turn her world upside-down and inside-out.
In Ireland to take on a position on a thoroughbred stud, Kate is shocked when her manager-in-co reveals himself to be the same man she’d met in Dublin.
Jack is drawn to Kate. The problem is, she won’t have him. But Jack has always loved a challenge and the intriguing woman from Oz is one he cannot resist.
Harbouring the sting of another man’s betrayal, Kate is certain she wants nothing to do with love and nothing to do with Jack O’Reilly. But when naked torsos, Mother Nature and dysfunctional umbrellas start plotting against her resolve, she realizes the charms of an Irishman are going to be hard to resist.
You can check it out here!
Comment below to be in the draw to win one of two What Happens in Ireland blog tour gift packs.
More About Whitney
Whitney K-E is an Australian author writing for Secret Cravings Publishing. Always a lover of the Romance genre, it was no surprise that she one day began to type her first story of love. Now, three years on, she’s contracted her first novel What Happens in Ireland and bringing reader’s tales from the Emerald Ireland to the Sunburnt Country. What Happens in Ireland releases on the 26th of April, so prepare yourself to be charmed by her story and by her characters.
If you’d like to find out more about Whitney or her novel, you can connect with her on: