Reaching for the stars – writing Australian fantasy

Hunting for his sister 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.

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.

 

No-one sings like you anymore

This quote resonates with me because reading, writing and music are such big parts of my life. I was lucky enough to see Chris Cornell, one of my favourite singers, perform live four times. Gone but never forgotten.

A good song or a good film or a good book, they don’t work because they’re making you feel the pain of the characters, they work because they’re tricking you into feeling your own. #HigherTruth

Posted by Chris Cornell on Saturday, 5 September 2015