Reaching for the stars – writing Australian fantasy

Hunting for riches in a foreign land, a disgraced mercenary must marry a young matriarch who is hiding the fateful legacy of her enchanted silveriron tattoo.

Skeleton outline of a gumleaf
Leaf skeleton in the bush

I recently finished the first draft of my current work in progress Binding the Strays, which sees the mercenary protagonist selling himself into a ‘binding’ (marriage) with a young pastoralist, who takes him away from his poverty-stricken country and introduces him to the flourishing matriarchy of her own country.

Being a fantasy story, there’s whispers of magic, and plenty of settings and characters inspired by Australia’s countryside and history. The twist on social hierarchy and arranged marriages has been a fun one to explore.

At the moment I’m close to finishing my first read through, to get a feel for areas that need more attention, then I’ll pick up the red pen and get stuck into the second draft. I tend to knock out my first drafts without much description of settings, so one of my first jobs is to add flesh to the skeleton.

What are you writing at the moment? What approach do you use to revise and edit your work?

I look forward to your thoughts and advice in the comments below.

Leaf curling spiders in the Aussie scrub

Spider web in the Australian scrub

I spent last weekend in a special little corner of Australia where the bush meets the ocean. There were lots of leaf-curling spiders’ webs around, but this one caught my attention because of the haphazard looking extension ‘downstairs’.

The homeowner, which would be a member of the orb-weaving spider family, was carefully tucked away inside its leaf. Can you spot it? It’s the brown curl in the middle of the big round web at the top.

Looking for black opals in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales

Lightning Ridge, in north-western New South Wales, Australia, is famed for its opal mining, and in particular, for being the largest source of precious black opals in the world.

Sandstone opal mine cavern and timber support posts
10 metres underground in a Lightning Ridge opal mining cavern

During Lightning Ridge’s searing outback summers, the temperature underground is around 20C, making it a comfortable place to search for Australia’s national gemstone: the opal.

The protagonist in my current fantasy manuscript is from a fictional continent similar to outback Australia. His mother scratches out a living in the local mines, so I was particularly interested to learn about the history of opal mining. Opal Mine Adventure offer the fascinating experience of visiting an old opal mine, which gave me an insight into the motivation and practicalities of digging for these brilliant gemstones.

In years gone by, miners sank shafts using a pick and shovel, then chipped away at the sandstone deep underground armed with a pick and candle, looking for a valuable find.

Waste dirt was traditionally raised in buckets by hand windlass, often into a truck such as the one below. The dirt then underwent ‘puddling’ to remove the dirt from the sandstone and harder materials.  If colour is found in the stone, it is buffed to determine the quality of opal that lies within.

 

Martindale Hall at Mintaro, South Australia

Built in 1879, Martindale Hall is located near Mintaro in South Australia. It featured in the famous Australian movie Picnic at Hanging Rock, and is now open as a museum.

It’s the inspiration for a homestead in my current work in progress, ‘Strays’, a fantasy fiction in which a young matriarch buys herself a foreign husband in order to save her pastoral property.

50 shades of blue

This is Main Beach at Point Lookout, which stretches for 28km down the eastern side of North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, Australia. Parts of Aquaman were filmed here, and the day I took this photo, filming was underway in South Gorge, which is below the rocks on the right hand side of the photo.

Ocean and beach
Main Beach at Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island