Monday, October 23, 2017

Helen has retired, yes, really retired this time.

For the past three years I've been telling people I'm retiring. I've cut down my commitments a lot, but until now, I could never completely let go.

I really love travelling. It's what I want to do. But it doesn't mesh with a job, even a part-time job, that requires me to be nearby to the internet every day.

Australia is a vast land with a lot of empty space in it. So there are far too many places nowhere near mobile (cell) phone reception or internet reception. And I want to see them all.

So this is it. I am really, truly, absolutely, definitely retired now.

Adiós, adieu, addio, adeus, aloha, arrivederci, ciao, auf Wiedersehen, au revoir, bon voyage, sayonara, totsiens, vale, zàijiàn, shalom.

And most importantly, Have Fun. I will.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

From Port Phillip Bay to the Gulf of Carpentaria...

I've driven from Port Phillip Bay (Victoria) to the Gulf of Carpentaria (Qld) and east up Cape York to Cooktown, from less than 100km from the Northern Territory Border to the eastern coast, and just about everywhere in between in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

9847 km, 1386 photos, 44 days, 3 states, and one motorhome hauling my mobility scooter.

Yes, I had fun. Amazing, excellent, fun.

Ayr, Qld.

Cardwell Range Lookout, Qld.

Mount Isa, Qld.

Moree, NSW.

Mount Carbine, far north Qld.

Wandoan, Qld.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Australian Wildlife

These are crocodiles, not alligators. This one, Krys, was over 6 meters long.

Little green tree frogs everywhere.

On the Jump Up (mesa) near Winton, the scientists have discovered 6 new "animals" including a parrot thought to be extinct, and a red-back spider the size of a saucer.

Cane toads.

Lots of things that bite, including hugely enormous flies at Mamu and meat ants at Augathella.

Kangaroos, wallabies, emus, koalas and even cows wandering on the roads in the Outback (no fences there).

And, of course, scrub (bush) turkeys.

I'm loving the heat (high 90sF, 36-37C) and the travel.


Monday, October 2, 2017

In the Wheel Ruts of the Pioneers

Quite literally!!

Australia's National Highway 1 - but not how those who live in the capital cities know it.

Burke and Wills, explorers.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Trees and Flowers

I love looking at interesting trees and pretty flowers although I don't know much about them. So enjoy.

Scribbly Bark Gum. The "writing" on the tree is caused by caterpillars eating the bark.

In Charleville, Queensland.

Grafton, New South Wales.

Gosford, NSW.

Ghost Gum, Barcaldine, Qld.

I'm almost at the Gulf of Carpentaria, and still heading north.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Heading North: Old Buildings

Bairnsdale, Victoria.

Cobargo, NSW.

Poet, Henry Kendall's House, Gosford, NSW.

Slab hut, Orbost, Victoria.

Moruya, NSW.

I'm having fun. I hope you are, too.

Helen Woodall

Monday, September 4, 2017

Ben Boyd and Twofold Bay

This is Twofold Bay, as seen from my aunt's kitchen window. Stunning by day or night, ever-changing, always amazing.

Twofold Bay (in New South Wales) was historically one of the few safe deep-water ports along the coast here, so there are still plenty of old buildings to look at, as well as a huge National Park.

Ben Boyd's Tower is where sailors used to watch (100 years ago or so) for whales, and where locals kept watch for bushfires and other dangers.

Here's a section of the National Park. Does it remind you of the enchanted woods in a child's fairytale?

Helen Woodall

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Colloquial speech, local dialects and bad grammar

Not all bad guys use bad grammar. Some are very suave and sophisticated. Similarly, not all persons doing minimum wage jobs use bad grammar either.

Every person from Scotland does not use “wee” or “drap” in every second sentence, nor does every Australian call you “mate”.

Typecasting happens because there are similarities inside groups. An Australian is far more likely to call you “mate” than an American person is, but both of them are more likely to use your given name.

Please don’t typecast your characters. If that strong young man on the road crew drops his mallet on his toe he probably will swear. But then, so would a doctor or lawyer. And all of them are equally likely to say invite (verb) instead of invitation (noun) because they’re probably all on Facebook. But there is no excuse for bad grammar in narrative. Nor is there need for endless “local color” in dialogue. The lady in the Scottish hotel may offer your hero “A wee drap” of something alcoholic to drink. But leave it there. Don’t overload your story with colloquialisms or poor grammar.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The ingredients for a good book

Characters. If the reader cannot relate to your characters she will not continue reading. She may love them or hate them, but the author has to draw the reader into their lives so she keeps reading. If a character is Too Stupid To Live (eg. walking alone into a possible murderer’s house) you will lose the reader right then and there.

These days, female characters are expected to make an effort to solve their own problems. The hero may still come riding up on his white horse to sweep her away, but she should have been endeavoring to solve her own problems, not crying in a corner and wringing her hands.

Plot. There must be a plot. It is through the plot the characters show their development. This plot has to make sense. No big gaping holes allowed. In an erotic romance the sex may be part of the plot, but there must be something else happening as well—a bad guy to defeat, the world to save, or whatever.

Genre: Be sure the blurb and publicity material accurately depict the genre. Don’t call it a cozy mystery if there is violence, blood and horror described carefully and at length. If you are marketing your book as an erotic romance there must be detailed sexual encounters as well as hot, steamy looks. Otherwise what you have written is a mainstream romance.

Fiction writing is a very tough, competitive world. Be sure to get these three basic necessities correct.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Who or Whom and some comments about adverbs

Grammar book explains when to use who and when to use whom really well.

Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct.
he = who
him = whom

Who/Whom wrote the letter?
He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.

For who/whom should I vote?
Should I vote for him? Therefore, whom is correct.

We all know who/whom pulled that prank.
This sentence contains two clauses: We all know and who/whom pulled that prank. We are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom. He pulled that prank. Therefore, who is correct.

We want to know on who/whom the prank was pulled.
This sentence contains two clauses: We want to know and the prank was pulled on who/whom. Again, we are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom. The prank was pulled on him. Therefore, whom is correct.

I know many publishers/editors/agents hate adverbs, and that is because often if you delete them you have not removed any additional information.

The old man’s bones creaked and groaned as he slowly, gradually lowered himself into the armchair.
Take out gradually or slowly and you still have a clear picture of what happened.

Words like “just” and “actually” can almost always be deleted without changing the sense of the line.
I just walked in the room and saw him.
I walked in the room and saw him.

I actually walked in the room and saw him.
I walked in the room and saw him.

Some authors seem to think if they delete the suffix from a word it magically is not an adverb. Ah no. if you are using it as an adverb you’re now using incorrect grammar instead of the adverb.

When she stood on my toe I yelled loud.
No. You yelled loudly.
But since you can’t yell softly just "When she stood on my toe I yelled" would work fine.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wandering Body Parts

Almost every reader has been pulled out of a story at some time by wandering body parts.

“His eyes were glued to her face.”
Ah no. His gaze may have been fixed on her face, but his eyes were probably still in his head, like normal.

“His feet raced to the door.”
What? The rest of him stayed behind?

“It might seem romantic to say, “He gave her his heart,” but to some people, who’ve watched too many horror movies, that is not a romantic image at all.

Some publishing houses have rules that prohibit body parts moving independently.
“His fingers wandered onto her thigh.” No, in these houses, he has to be in control, so “He let his fingers drift onto her thigh”. Besides, I’m betting those fingers were still attached to his hand, so therefore the second version makes more sense. Although, “He gently stroked her thigh” might be even better.

Before sending your book to a publishing house or agent, be sure to check it for wandering body parts. Even if self-publishing, always remember that some people will be icked by the thought of body organs having an out-of-body experience.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Planes and Monuments

Lake Boga is the home of the Catalinas.

At Griffith, it's all about the Firefly.

World War I lasted from 1914-1918. When it began in July 1914, everyone assumed it would be over by Christmas. Young men rushed to enlist, to join up before it was all over. It became known as "The Great War" and "The War to End All Wars" due to the vast number of countries involved and the huge devastation it caused. Nine million combatants and seven million civilians died in four short years. As I travel around Australia almost every small town has a monument to this war. Reading the names can be heartbreaking. Entire families of sons, brothers, fathers, cousins, all dead. Some little towns lost virtually every able-bodied man. And many sixteen and seventeen-year-olds pretended to be 18 so they could enlist.

Wentworth, Echuca, Berrigan.

Helen Woodall

Monday, July 24, 2017

North into the Desert

Everyone knows I like hot weather, and in winter it's not so easy to find. But the days in the desert are gloriously warm. And the nights - well they require lots of woolly blankets. But the days make up for it.

Look at that wonderful red dirt!

Far horizons.

Occasional salt lakes.

And kangaroos, emus, and goats instead of cows and sheep and people.

Then, after driving for five or six hours, without so much as a petrol pump, a bustling mining town.

Happy days.
Helen Woodall

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Locks, Weirs, Paddle Steamers

One hundred years ago, before the roads were much more than cart tracks through the dirt, supplies and people traveled the length of the Murray River by paddle steamer and barge. Due to differing water levels this meant locks and weirs were built.

This is the lock at Robinvale.

Meanwhile the river runs on, serenely beautiful.

And today's tourists enjoy trips on houseboats and paddle steamers as well as more modern water vehicles.

Helenm Woodall

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Following the Murray River

Did you ever watch the TV series "All the Rivers Run"? Or read the book by Nancy Cato on which it was based? The show was a massive success in the 1980s.

It's set on the Murray River, which is the border between Victoria and New South Wales. Back at the time of the movie life there was pretty adventurous and there is still a genuine rivalry between the states. Don't try fishing in the river with a Victorian fishing license. You need a NSW one.

My latest journey is following the river from Albury where it runs into the Hume Dam, all the way back across Victoria and NSW into South Australia.

So here are some pictures of the Hume Dam as I begin this, my latest adventure.

Helen Woodall