Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Stories, where does it all come from?

Well I know where this passage came from, it's a similar conversation that many of my friends had with our bankers during the eighties. Some businesses and farms didn't make it, some people couldn't take it and a piece of rope or a rifle was their choice of escape others like Ron persevered for as long as they could. This piece from Les Gillespies gold is some of my story.

A bit of  history from my Orroroo Days
Mk 1 Cortina trunk-lid Danny Probert's
Dirt Circuit Car
Ron Reardon pushed a hand through his greying hair, he and his banker were walking around the paint and panel shop. Grass had died between the back walls and the fences, everywhere between was cleared by the four, pet sheep laying in the shade of an abandoned four-wheel-drive. A few wrecks in a line against the back of the used car yard fence. Ron had never used the second-hand yard and to him it was useless real estate.
Two months ago, a major customer declared bankruptcy, Ron had hoped for thirty cents in the dollar, but after the tax office and the first mortgage holders, there was nothing left for creditors. Now he was in trouble and the banker had told him as much only a few weeks ago. He had to sell, his latest loan application could be approved, but only with more security and at a higher interest rate. The last thing they could afford was more interest.
‘I can’t do it to Polly, there’s no way I’ll put the house on the line.’ He said.
‘I’ve known you a long time now, mate and I know how much you’ve invested yourself into the business. If you don’t find the security, maybe it’s time to call it quits. Look, if it were me, I’d declare the business bankrupt and walk away. Ron, you’re not fifty yet, start again.’ The banker tried to keep their mood upbeat.
‘The house is freehold. If I did it, we’d still keep our home, yeah?’
‘I don’t think so.’ He shrugged, ‘personal guarantees...’ He rested his backside on the front tyre of a tractor. ‘I don’t expect you’d have much to pay creditors either.’
‘Just my debtors’ ledger?’
‘First mortgagee. There’s the personal guarantees too, so the bank ’ll take that too, I’m sorry.

‘Sorry bullshit, what your saying is, I’m fucked. Twenty years of slog down the drain. Got any good news.’

The Port Fairy Priest

Another novel is gelling in my mind, this morning I couldn't sleep and rather than try to finish a piece of poetry I have had in my head for days, I pulled out a short synopsis I was working on for my Voss series. I like seascapes and have an affinity with boats and the people who use them. So finding a setting was not so difficult.

How I feel trying to get the wrinkles out of my thoughts.
This story will feature the mentor who pointed Voss onto the straight and narrow by encouraging the police force to take him under his wing. Father John was more than a man of the cloth he was someone troubled kids could talk to. Secrets are safe with him. However, when Voss finds him in Port Fairy, he is no longer a priest and has become a loner in a town living with people who despise the retired priest.

Now using the name he was born with, Gunther Wiseman is a fisherman who can't swim with a fear of the sea and Voss is intrigued with the change in his nature.This man is aggressive and shows none of the trust he had when he served God.

Now to Visit Port Fairy and see where this detective story takes us. Wish me luck.

Friday, 7 April 2017

A New Work or my thoughts on writing

When I started to record my yarns and stories on the computer I gave little thought to the way they should look, or what made them easy or difficult to read. Many writing courses later and weekly meetings with my critiquing group have prepared me well. Now with four novels sitting around waiting to find a publisher I have started to make notes about my writing journey. This is not intended to be a step by step guide, more the memoirs of an author's addition. 

Over time I hope to make it an interesting read, but for now here's a little bit of back story to put somewhere in a longer work.

Since my children have blessed me with grandchildren I have gained a better perspective for the importance of good stories in a child’s life. I remember with my own children sitting on their beds and reading Dr Seuss, Enid Blyton, Rudyard Kipling and Australia’s own Colin Thiele to them.


It didn’t matter that Mr Percival was lost we knew Stormboy would save the situation. Noddy and Big Ears shared many scrapes and came out the other side better for their adventure. The Famous Five taught us courage and Anne of Green Gables helped my girls discover the enjoyment of reading. While they were reading they also watched movies and listened to music. Every piece a story told in its own way. Sure some of the stuff served up was trash, but over time they learned to differentiate between the two.

Who didn’t sing along to Achy Breaky Heart when it came out, Billy Ray had a story to tell too, and the song did very well for him. Everything we do has a story to it and hopefully we can teach our children to be confident when they speak. Helping them to understand the stories they see or hear helps them to craft their own presentations. We are assured this century will be spoken of as the, Information Revolution, in much the same way as we speak now of the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. If that is to be the case then reading and understanding what has been read is important and the best way to understand is to learn how to craft your own story. Therefore we need to help our children see the subtleties of good writing.

Now it's time to find a publisher for one of my manuscripts, good luck with your own writing.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Just Who is D.I. Sam Voss?

Name’s Sam Voss and I catch killers.
Born sometime in the winter of 1968 at five days old I was left on the steps of a South Melbourne Police Station. All they had to identify me was the beer box that served as a bassinet, a Jack Daniels bottle full of formula or breast milk, no one bothered to test it and a copy of Patrick White’s Voss. Desk Sergeant Vaughn Samson took care of me until child services arrived, when the paper work was finished I’d been tagged Samson Voss, a Christian name I’ve hated ever since. Friends can call me Sam, but not often.
A weak and ugly child I was overlooked by many, loved by none. After years, living in an endless roster of foster homes, I became convinced I was always destined to be an outsider. This coupled with the never-ending fights with teachers and Nuns and every one of them making me believe I was born of the Devil’s spawn. For years, those bastards made me feel despised and unworthy.
That was until the day I asked an old man in a cassock to describe evil. That old German priest dismissed that any notion I had of being the work of Satan, was rubbish. I remember him saying that every child is born innocent. However, he did point out that if I didn't sharpen up soon, I was headed for death or gaol.
Neither of those options held a lot of hope, or interest for me and for the next few years he kept an eye out for me, pushing, prodding me to do better. This old man in a worn and tattered clothes cared for people, street people, working girls and the wealthy. It didn’t matter, in his eyes everyone was the same. He taught me to care, he showed me it didn’t matter where people came from, they could fall or fly, the choice was theirs.
At seventeen, he passed me into the care of the police academy. I finally found a place I fitted into, something I was good and a career that interested me. I had somewhere to learn about structure. Not just about how a building is put together or what makes men and women different, but everyday structure. Rules, the framework a free society is built on.

So here I stand on the page before you, a seasoned and accomplished police officer determined to put killers behind bars.

The Price of Innocence - What Kevin Said

Review – Voss - The Price of Innocence - Kevin Drum

Terry – Congratulations for completing your first (of many we hope) Voss adventures.
In keeping with the genre the language pace and plot moves along really well. It’s not difficult to stay with the plot despite the emergence of the many different characters as events unfold.
I haven’t bothered to edit as in punctuation etc. as I consider someone much better qualified and more proficient than I will accommodate your requirements in this regard.
Rather I have focused on the story as a critical reader.
I found this a very enjoyable read and relished the Canberra underground porn scene with all its jealousies and competition as the underlining reason for Estelle’s brutal murder. This is Australian fiction at its best.
In the final chapters it was still  ‘all bets off” as to who was doing all of the killing and made for a gripping read.
I have been attending Wordsmith for around 18 months, and I must say that of all the participants, you are the only one to have made a major change of direction in your writing, and some most significant progress.
From an ‘old truck seller’ to’ an old tractor seller’ from way back I couldn’t be prouder of you.
May Voss, Una, Lucy, Eddie and Donna live on and prosper.
Well done and I wish you every success and huge enjoyment with Voss.
Cheers!
Kevin Drum

03/2017

Monday, 3 April 2017

Voss - The Price of Innocence, Manuscript Assessment

A few weeks ago I received the following from Merlene Fawdry, the editor who worked wonders with my novel Kundela. Reading this again made me feel a little chuffed and for aspiring writers an assessment like this is gold.

The manuscript has now had a copy edit and several proof reads, all it needs now is a publisher.

Wish me luck


MANUSCRIPT ASSESSMENT


Manuscript: Voss
Author: Terry L Probert
Genre: Crime
Word Count: Approx. 57,000
Date: 18 January 2015
Editor: Merlene Fawdry

Summary
The story is built on layers of intrigue that make it a compelling read. The quality of the writing is high and shows a crafting of all elements that make a complete whole. There are some areas requiring attention and these are listed under the relevant categories below.
Story Concept
This is a solid crime story that follows a series of murders through from detection to resolution. Along the way the lawmaker becomes a suspect law breaker, when a perceived conflict of interest is detected, sidelining him from the case. Determined to prove his innocence and bring the killer to justice he works behind the scenes with a reclaimed dropout from society, 
Plot
The plot has sufficient conflict and resolution, with carefully crafted rising action woven as subplots throughout the chapters, to keep the reader interested from first page to last. Most importantly, it is realistic and believable.

Characters
The characters are well developed, some more than others, with most evoking emotional responses from the reader. Although stereotypical to some degree, in terms of the setting, they manage to retain their own sense of uniqueness that is required to set this story apart from others in this genre. I have some difficulty with the relationship between Una and Voss. At times this is inappropriately flirty, considering their rank, even though they go back a long way. You get it right when he states he sees her as more of a sister and it would work better if she responded with this parameter. Consider revising last para on P 150.

Structure
There is a clear beginning, middle and end, with each component serving the story as a whole. It has a strong opening, which is well written, graphic and enticing to the reader. The middle, which is most of the book, is a marvel of plots and subplots that are believable and all relevant to the bigger picture.  The end, when it comes, is surprising, yet believable and satisfactory to the reader. Another strength of this ending is the sympathy and understanding it invoked in the reader. Well done.

Point of View
The first person POV is consistent throughout. It works well to give immediacy to the story while allowing the reader insight into the protagonist’s thought processes and actions. We hear Voss’s voice loud and clear and this helps the reader in the knowing of the man.

Pacing
The plot move at a pace fast enough to grasp and maintain the reader’s interest. There are a couple of places where it flags a bit due to a deviation from the story line and these are mentioned below.

Chaptering
Chaptering has been masterfully done, finishing each with satisfaction for the reader while propelling the reader into the next chapter.

Language
The use of language is fresh and appropriate to the characters or narrator most of the time, the dialogue is realistic and immediate and research into the subject adds authenticity to word choices.
 An example of ambiguity:
I dumped everything into my brief case and started to unplug the laptop.
‘Leave that and your car keys. I’ll need this for somewhere to drop in to check up on things and I’ll use your car too, at least until you get back.’ She turned and I opened the door for her. She leant in and whispered to me, ‘That’s if you do get back.’ And not for the first time, I watched Una Knight leave my office.
I’m not sure what this means or even why she would need to use his laptop and car when she would have her own. If her taking these things is important to the story then there needs to be a disclaimer in there somewhere, like maybe her own car is out of action – going in for a service or repairs and she’ll use his to save requisitioning another one from the pool her use. You would also need to have a concrete and believable reason for her to use his laptop instead of her own.

Fictional Dream
Writer and teacher John Gardner had a concept he called the fictional dream, which was the idea that fiction does its job by creating a dream state for the reader, and as long as the writer is doing a good job of maintaining that dream state, the reader won't "wake up" from it and will continue to read and believe in the fictional world the writer has created. Gardner argues that this fictional dream first happens in the writer's head, and the writer's job is to write it down for the reader.
I felt the Fictional Dream was established early in this work and maintained throughout through fast paced plotting and use of language to create imagery to enable the reader to step inside the story. Areas that detract from this are mentioned below.

Distractions and issues
A distraction for me was in the selection of names that dated the characters, giving the impression that either they, or the work itself, were older than intended. One older name might slip past the reader, conjuring an image of parents thinking outside the box or using a family name. Use too many, and the work and the writer become dated. Older names in this category include: Una, Baz (Barrie- even the spelling doesn’t save this one), Gerry (Roger), Ronald, Marion, Dulce, while names that work for this contemporary story are Estelle, Gabby, Lucy, Tamsyn, Patrice, Brigitte, Steph etc. and all the ethnic names, with Tony and Peter just scraping through.
I took on board your desire to keep her name and have taken the following approach on P21:
‘For Christ’s sake, Voss. I must have told you to call me Una, a hundred times.’
‘But these days, you’re my superior ma’am.’ Besides, I didn’t really like the name. It reminded me of a fusty great aunt and this Una was anything but. I remember her telling me once her parents choose the name for it for its Gaelic meaning, “she knows”, well they got that right. Someone just forgot to add “it all’ on the end of it.
When building characters, once their age has been established, one tip is to research names used in their year of birth and choose from these. This adds authenticity to the work, while not placing the writer into a particular age demographic. This can be quite challenging at times for the older writer as using contemporary names that we aren’t used to hearing can take us out of our comfort zone.
Regarding Gerry, apart from his name which puts him in the 60 + age range, I recommend you revisit a number of facts about this character.
  1. If he had been living for several years as a homeless person with a penchant for drink, his habits would be established and it would be virtually impossible to make the rapid and almost seamless transition back to the world of the living.

    ‘Don’t you ever want your old life back?’ I had heard about him once in a police economics lecture, a bloke who’d had it all. An eighties entrepreneur who made it in property development. He’d ridden the crash out in the nineties, but the GFC smashed him. Seven years later and he’s living in my front yard.
  2. If he had a problem with drink then one assumes he is an alcoholic, then having alcohol around him in any form would be a recipe for disaster, before or after he moves in.
  3. Homeless people don’t live in suburban front gardens, particularly in the garden of a cop, as they usually hang closer to services for ease of access, so I think this needs to be reconsidered. A solution could be to have Voss living in a townhouse closer to the CBD or welfare service precinct.
  4. No cop would have a homeless person living in the front yard so to make this believable you’d need to establish a former relationship. This doesn’t need to be complex, maybe consider Gerry as a former cop before moving into the world of finance, perhaps someone who was at the academy at the same time.
There is a section, pages 53 – 56 which does nothing to progress the story and I wondered why it was in there at all. It didn’t work for me and I suspect any reader from the LBGT community may find it offensive, which I know is not your intention.
There is some confusion around Estelle’s will. If she was divorced from her husband and had a legal will naming beneficiaries then the order of death is academic.

Other recommendations
P 46 reference to Voss collecting ex pursuit cars. This crops up later with the mini and the subject of garaging the collection hasn’t been broached. Also the mini isn’t mentioned when first the garage is first referenced in relation to setting Gerry up in there. You could take care of this by mentioning storage elsewhere.
I went to the police garage. Eddie the manager knew I collected pursuit cars and kept me informed about anything special that was coming out of service. I’d have to pull back on this at some stage though as my storage unit was almost at capacity.
P 107
‘Thanks, I think I might slink over to Patrice, see how she’s doing.’ I put another twenty on the bar. ‘Order up boys or leave the barman a tip, up to you.’ They ordered drinks and Beach counted the change, they had enough for a couple more.
$20 probably wouldn’t buy a glass of water in this place so maybe increase this to a fifty.
All in all Terry, this is an exceedingly well crafted story that only requires minor tweaks before the final edit, although it is always your choice as to whether you accept the suggestions for change. I look forward to hearing your views.

Merlene


18 Jan 2016