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Words

t‘s been said that words are pegs to hang ideas on. But if you’re a writer and you wish your writing to flow, to express your ideas in the best way possible,  then you need to choose the best pegs to showcase your ideas . A writer should think of words as either diamonds or stones. The great writers made sure they included a fair share of diamonds among the stones in their sentences.

By this, I don’t mean to shun the use of common words, but to choose those that evoke an idea in the most effective way, words that have strong connotations. For instance, you might want to describe an old man walking down the street. You say, ‘The old man walked down the street.’ Picture that in your mind’s eye. Then change it to, ‘The old man shuffled down the street.’ Only one word altered, but isn’t it a different picture?

You don’t need to use long words to impress, a good writer chooses simple words full of meaning – strong words. Take Shakespeare’s, ‘the sands are number’d that make up my life’. Simple words – big idea. He knew a thing or two about words.

Sounds can make words sing. Listen to them, let them run through your consciousness.  Beyond the sense of a word is its sound, its spirit. Words strung together to show their melodies, playing off one another, can build like a piece of music, creating a beautiful harmony. If you read a passage that flows easily, pleasing your ear and conveying its message with simplicity, then the writer has achieved his goal – his words will live!

Of course, words are not just written, we speak them all the time. And how you say your words can categorize you, every time you open your mouth.

Take ‘Pygmalion’, later updated and presented as that all-time favourite musical, ‘My Fair Lady’. Who can forget  the shrill tones of the early Eliza Doolittle as she tells her would-be teachers, ‘Eeeeooowww, I washed me ‘ands ‘n face afore I come, I did.’ There’s no mistaking her as the grubby little flower-seller from Covent Garden. However, after Professor Henry Higgins, who intones ‘the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain’ ad nauseam, finishes with her she is taken for a lady – and dubbed a princess.

Such is the power of words!

 

Breast cancer – no death sentence

A week ago I attended a reunion dinner—not for authors, but for women, young and old, from all walks of life. And as I looked around at the sixty or so women in the room, I felt inspired, and I had an upsurge of hope and gratitude, for we were all breast cancer survivors… and all still ALIVE.
We were part of the Encore group, run by the YWCA for those who have breast cancer, where I had participated in their wonderful hydrotherapy program.
I was a ‘newbie’ among the group, only in my first year of survival. The lovely lady alongside me told me she had been diagnosed fifteen years ago and had been back each year for her check, with no recurrence of the disease.

And as I felt the lifting of the dread that affects all of us who are diagnosed with that scourge of womanhood, I thought that if I can give hope to only one woman, then it is worth writing about my experience.

When my GP told me she thought the thickening in my breast was cancer, I found it hard to accept. It couldn’t be! Not me! But a mammogram confirmed the deadly suspicion.

At my first consultation with the specialist he spelt it all out. There was no doubt about the diagnosis, and he explained all the possibilities, and I was left in no doubt that I must have a mastectomy.
Yes, I was going to lose a breast. That takes a bit of coming to terms with.

I went through a range of tests – MRI scan, PET scan, blood tests etc. …you name it, I probably had it.

    I was grateful for the loving support of my husband, who was with me every step of the way.

Then back to the next consultation. The cancer had not spread…yet…but I must have surgery as soon as possible, and we were given the next available date; in two weeks time.
Then a consultation with a breast nurse. These dedicated nurses are there to answer all the questions you have about the process. We discussed breast reconstruction, and prostheses, or breast forms as they are called, and she had examples there for us to see. Amazingly these are so realistic now they even feel like the real thing, and absorb the body temperature when you wear them.

The day of surgery arrived, and I admit I was scared. When I woke up in recovery I remember my first words were, ‘I’m still alive’. I had little pain, then or at any time while in hospital, and, while recovering at home, simple panadol was enough to ease any discomfort.
The next morning my specialist called in early to tell me the surgery had been successful, and the cancer had been all removed. A little later in the morning the whole breast cancer team visited, and we discussed all relevant issues.

After a short stay in hospital, it was home, and then a few months of visits to the hospital for treatment. I was fortunate in not needing Chemo or radiotherapy, and after I returned for my first annual mammogram and visit to the specialist, I was able to dispense with the drug I had been taking, and I was told my prognosis was good.
To celebrate, my husband and I went on a cruise, and returned just in time for Christmas, which we spent with family, including our two young grand-daughters.

So now, after a year and more since diagnosis, I am looking forward to a long and healthy future. Along with all my fellow-survivors at the Encore reunion dinner.

So don’t lose hope—remember…
BREAST CANCER IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE.

Research before Writing

I am re-blogging this from an Eescapades post

When I decided to write my first novel, ‘Inheritance’ I had been up in far north Queensland for several months, and had come to love the area.

We were based at a little place called Flying Fish Point, a few kilometres east of Innisfail, bounded by the mouth of the Johnstone River on one side and the ocean on another. A glorious place, where the forest is lush and deep green, the golden beach is long, and the cerulean sea and sky almost seem to merge.

From here we made trips to the Daintree rainforest, to the huge plateau of the Tablelands, up to Cairns, Port Douglas and as far north as Cooktown. All wonderful places. And wonder of them all, we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

But there was a downside to this paradise, for we were all aware that in the waters of the Johnstone River and the myriad creeks and rivers nearby lived that most fearsome of creatures, the saltwater crocodile.

I knew my book had to be set in this superb place, and that my main character would be a spirited young woman. In such a place the story needed to have elements of adventure, and mystery, and to reveal something of the soul of the place. It should also include some of the lore of the aboriginal people who were the original inhabitants of the land.

I set the story on Yallandoo, a cattle station (ranch). But I was born and bred a city girl, with little knowledge of cattle stations, or rodeos, or aboriginal culture and spiritual beliefs, and their burial rites. Or the habits of crocodiles.

What I do know a lot about is life, people, and human nature. The rest I had to research.

That included how to brand a steer, how points are allotted at a rodeo, the Aboriginal Dreamtime, how immigrants to the Snowy River scheme were housed on arrival, how a fire is fought without piped water, and just how dangerous is the ‘saltie’?, as the local crocs are called, (very dangerous!), to name a few.

Ihad the most wonderful time for weeks and months, delving into all these fascinating subjects – in books and papers, in libraries, and on the internet. I love research, but I am so easily led from my subject into interesting by-ways, which runs away with the time!

I have tried to keep things authentic, and if you pick up any irregularities in the facts of the story, you must blame it on the fact I’m really just a city girl!

Inheritance is now available as an Ebook in all formats on Harlequin’s Ecscape Publishing.

 

 

 

On being a woman

It’s never been easy being a woman, and perhaps this is a good time to reflect on that, and the  attitudes to women and their rights in general today.

  It is the week in which Australia’s first woman Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was deposed. She had crashed through the glass ceiling to become the first woman in Australia to reach the highest post in the land, but its shattering must have left her with cuts that will take a long time to heal.

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Gracious in defeat she thanked her supporters, but added, ‘I’ve been a little bit bemused by those colleagues in the newspapers who have admitted that I have suffered more pressure as a result of my gender than other prime ministers in the past.’ I would like to think that her following words are correct –‘What I am absolutely confident of is it will be easier for the next woman and the woman after that and the woman after that.’ But how long will it take?

            I have no intention of going into the politics involved here but, given that she made mistakes, I believe she received more bad press than previtabbottous PM’s had for their mistakes. Take, for instance, this photo reporting of Tony Abbott, the leader  of the Opposition, as he addressed a rally, standing beneath a placard  saying ‘Ditch the Witch’.

Of course these are not the most pressing issues women are facing today.  

Amnesty   USA recently reported, following results of their current research, that, compared to her male counterpart, a girl growing up in the developing world is more likely to die before her fifth birthday and less likely to go to school. She is less likely to receive adequate food or health care, less likely to receive economic opportunities, more likely to be forced to marry before the age of 16, and more likely to be the victim of sexual and domestic abuse.

Do you know that women account for 70 percent of the world population living in absolute poverty (on less than $1.00 a day), and that women make up 80 percent of all refugees and displaced people. Instruments of genocide such as sexurefuge womenal  violence and rape are often directed at women and girls, and the majority of persons smuggled illegally across country borders are women. Many of them have been kidnapped or sold by their own families into the sex industry.

Five hundred thousand women die every year from childbirth complications— that’s one woman every minute. Girl babies have even been killed in countries where males are considered more valuable.

Women are denied property rights and inheritance in many countries. Worldwide, women own only 1 percent of the world’s property.They work two-thirds of all the world’s labour hours but earn just 10 percent of the world’s wages.

In the developed world we are more fortunate, but even here gender inequality abounds. Domestic violence is all too frequent, as men use their superior physical strength to quell opposition to their wishes or vent their anger. Sexual harassment, sexual abuse and rape are all too common. The recent rape and murder of Jill Meagher in Melbourne, which brought thousands of that city’s citizens to the streets in protest at violence against women, received much publicity but for that one atrocity, that touched so many hearts, there are many more that do not receive much publicity.

We have come a long way, however, from the universal conditions that were standard  treatment of women in recent centuries, here in Australia and Britain and the USA as well as other developed countries. Then the laws of the day stated that when a woman married, all her assets became her husband’s property, and the law gave him the right to force her to obey him in every area of her life.  This meant she was totally dependent on him for everything, both financially and emotionally. If he turned out to be heartless, violent or miserly, she had little or no recourse.  Under the laws of the day a woman had few rights; prior to her marriage, she must obey her father, and when she married all her property became her husband’s on the day of their marriage. She became virtually his chattel, to treat as he wished. No matter how badly he chose to treat her, she had no redress. Women were considered to be physically, emotionally and intellectually inferior to men, and the entrenched and patronising attitudes of the time meant that the judiciary, all male, took the view that whatever the man did was right.

Rose Scott, a leader in the women’s suffrage movement in Australia, wrote: “Men have come to look upon women as a sort of appendage to themselves, a sort of tail that can only wag when man – the dog – is pleased!’ This meant that a woman was meant to be an obedient homemaker and bed-warmer for her husband, while not expecting sexual pleasure herself! For the average woman, life was not easy. It was these findings that led me to write An Independent Woman the first book in a fictional series based on my research.

Where did it all start, this supremacy of men over women that so many men seem to believe is their right? Back in the days of the caveman, I suppose, when his sheer physical strength meant that the man went out hunting to catch the food and the woman’s part was to serve her master, to cook his food, to share his bed and to bear him children to increase the population. It was the survival of the fittest, and he took what he wanted by sheer brute strength.

Yes, we’ve come a long way since then, but it’s taken thousands of years. Fortunately changes have happened more rapidly in the last century. We must thank the suffragettes for gaining women the right to vote, for that gave us the the power to influence the laws of the day. And today the power of the media in all its forms means that what happens today is known worldwide in a matter of moments.

           So where are women’s rights going today? I think this quote from World Vision Magazine – Spring 2007 says most of it:-According to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “No tool for development is more effective than education for the empowerment of women.”

This one thing can do more to address extreme poverty than food, shelter, health care, economic development, or increased foreign assistance. There is a saying in Ghana: “If you educate a man, you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” When a girl is educated, her income potential increases, maternal and infant mortality is reduced, her children are more likely to be immunized, the birth rate decreases, and HIV infection rates (especially in Africa) are lowered. She is more likely to acquire skills to improve her family’s economic stability, and she is more likely to ensure that her daughters also receive an education. Educating girls pays dividend after dividend to the whole community.

Many of us women in developed nations already have these advantages, but we still have many issues to address. There are still individuals in the male population, here and worldwide, who think that the advantage of their physical strength gives them the right to take what they want, when they want it. And here in Australia, in our enlightened society,  some males will do whatever they can to bring down the woman who achieves greatness, believing she is not worthy.

When will another woman be brave enough to aspire to be Prime Minister of our country?