Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Friday, December 31, 2010

My Best Blogs in 2010

Blog Logo courtesy Blogger
The year is almost over - what a great blogging year 2010 was, too. I came on to Blogger in August and since then acquired quite a few followers, and wrote an average of 1.5 blogs a week. The topics were varied, but most - of course - centred around reading and writing.

My most visited blog was
The Most Beautiful Image in the World

The blog I wrote that got most comments was
Why You Need a Computer-Free Day

The least visited of my blogs was probably
A Very Brief Interview With My Keyboard

The blog with most Australian visitors was
How to Announce a Winner

The blog with most Russian visitors was
6 Things You need to Know about St Luke

The blog I enjoyed writing most was
Venice: A Great Location for a Book

The blog that received most visits from the UK was
Are Controversial Books a Fad?

The blog that attracted most Maltese visitors was
Malta and the New Testament

It was a very enjoyable year, all in all, where blogging was concerned. Here's hoping that 2011 will bring all my readers, followers, fans and friends a great number of amazingly pleasant surprises.

A very happy New Year!

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Monday, December 27, 2010

How to Make a Resolution

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Writers greet the New Year a bit differently from the rest of the population. They tend to cling to things that work. There is no room for resolutions. What they have worked for is pretty well set. There's not much one can do to change the way one gains inspiration. Or with the thought processes that take the inspiration and run with it, until there's something in mind that resembles a story.

Writers tend to hang on to something that works: a style, a voice, a genre. One does not reach a satisfying voice - after years of trying - and then abandon it or resolve to find another. One does not abandon a style that seems to work with a hard-won audience. One sticks with a genre that seems to suit and welcome the style and voice.

That's the WHAT. How about the HOW? The way writers work is where there is room for New Year resolutions. The methodology can be pruned. The routine can be managed and altered. Surely the discipline and time management can stand a tweak or two. Perhaps the way one files ideas or stacks the concepts that weave together plot and sub-plot. Or there might be a better way to construct a day around one's most fruitful writing time.

This year, as we lurch inexorably towards 2011, this writer has resolved to make only one resolution. Any more, and they will get broken - as always - about halfway between Christmas and Easter. One resolution should be easier to manage and keep. It's going to be a HOW resolution about methodology, organisation, preparedness, and keeping a neater mind.

Perhaps the idea of just one resolution might suit you too: find one whose concept will affect all other niggly things in your life you feel could do with adjustment. It could be an all-encompassing resolution about stress, or free time, or time management. It might sound big and grand, or small and manageable. You choose: but choose something that can be done in small steps and will still be around in April. By all means leave a comment about how you intend to go about it.

See you then!
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

From Idea to Story - A Guest Blog

Dale Harcombe
An equal happiness to being asked to be a guest on someone else's blog is hosting one.

Today I have the greatest of pleasure to have Australian author Dale Harcombe round at my place. Enjoy her article:

One of the questions writers get asked most often is where do you get your ideas?  Actually, for the writer it’s more a case of not where you get ideas but how can you not have ideas?

Ideas come from life. They are all around us in the world and the people we meet and the conversation we have. The difference is the writer sees these things and then builds on them. They may see exactly the same scene as someone else but their writerly (if that’s not already a word as spell check insists it isn’t, it should be) brain then starts to imagine.

So writing is a combination of experience and imagination, of reality and fantasising. It also about empathising. Putting yourself into the other person’s place for a time, imagining how they feel for example when a loved one dies, or their marriage breaks up or a new baby is born, or disaster strikes or they see an amazing sunrise.  It means tapping into our fears and joys, our emotions, passions and anxieties.

Most of all though writing is about story. I’ve just been re-reading, thanks to another author friend’s reminder, The Rock that is Higher – Story as Truth by Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favourite authors.

She stresses in that the importance of story. Facts though are not story. So often you hear someone say but that’s what really happened after they have written a piece. But that doesn’t make it a story. The facts then need to be shaped, added to, embroidered and maybe some things deleted or changed a little. It needs to be worked into a structure.

Some people proudly tell me they never read fiction. That’s sad as they are missing so much.They downgrade fiction as being unimportant and irrelevant. The opposite is true. Cognitive scientists in Toronto have found that people who read fiction have better developed social skills. The reason for this is that they will be more empathetic and understand other people better. In other words we learn about the world, the people and our place in it, by reading fiction. We learn to see more clearly. That’s why I read and write fiction.

Dale’s latest book is Streets on a Map. Interested readers can find out more about it at Or you might also like to check out Write and Read with Dale, which is her very interesting blog.
If you scroll down to Friday December 10, you will find out how the character of Abby came into being and how story was created from an incident. 

Dale Harcombe is the author of seven books for children, one book of poetry, numerous articles about marriage, home and family and now her general fiction book Streets on a Map.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Guest Blogging at Dale's Place

Dale Harcombe
Dale Harcombe is a well-known writer and blogger - a fellow member at the ANZauthors group. She has a book coming out right now called Streets on a Map. To celebrate its release, she has invited me - along with a handful of other writers - to write guest blogs at her place: Write and Read with Dale.

Dale gave us all the same theme to write about: a jumping-off point from which to start. She linked it to the title of her new book, of course, but it could not have been more up my alley if she tried. Maps! I could write for hours about maps - they are the quintessential symbol for location. They encompass all that there is to say and feel about place, about leaving, about getting there.

Image from Uncyclopedia
I would like to invite you all to read my blog post - and the fascinating variety provided by the other writers - and comment on the blogs as you see fit. You might like to write about what maps mean to you. How they affect your writing, your travel, how you plan your holidays, and how you remember them.

For me maps mean location - a concept that is writ large in all my writing. Without my locations, my stories would fade away.

Please visit Dale's blog: the insights into how writers see maps, and the different takes that are possible, can be quite entertaining.

Afterwards, for another blog about location, why not click onward:
Venice: A great location for a book

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Challenges Within and Without

A solved Rubik's Cube, showing the yellow, blu...Image via Wikipedia
When an author decides to start writing a new book, the different sides of the project - like the different sides of a cube - present themselves. Just like a cube, the new project does not reveal all its sides in one viewing. There is always a hidden aspect - or an aspect that is very difficult for an author to address.

One could possibly give the six sides of the cube the different facet names or tags associated with writing a novel: story, plot, structure, characters, locations and the all-important premise. They all present challenges to the author, and none more so than the last. How can an author afford to address the premise last, though? Turning the cube so that premise is always on the blind side might be possible when scribbling out a plot outline. It might even seem possible when one is sketching out the various characters.

Erasmus by Holbein from Wikipedia
When it comes to deciding upon and creating the protagonist, however, and the plot that drives the story, one cannot move onward without a good strong premise: one that is based in some way on some aspect of the human condition. Sometimes a premise can be found by looking at ancient adages: they were created, and found some sort of permanence, because of the universal quality of their meaning. "Too many cooks spoil the broth." "It takes one to know one."

An author cannot go past Erasmus when looking for a premise that will hold a book together. Applying one of this philosopher's adages to a book can quickly bring about that 'aha!' feeling one longs for when faced with a new task. It can show the way: it can reveal a method, an understanding, or a trajectory. And when a writer can see these things, the reader will be able to see them too.

A reader is often challenged by an author: plots can be complicated, characters can seem dull and lifeless until the action starts. The premise too, is sometimes elusive. This is because the author is challenged in two dimensions. One is the dimension and time-line of the novel and its story: it exists outside the author's own life and needs to stand alone. The other is the relevance the novel has to real life, and how it needs that relevance to reflect something inside the author's life. This is something readers need to guess, but they certainly feel it if it is authentic.

The premise is important to the writer: the challenge is to be brave enough to choose one that is close to what the author is all about. It is exposure. It is showing the world something private and personal: something meaningful and weighty. It is risky: dare one show the world how one feels about issues that are contentious and private? Would it be turning the story inside out?

The challenge for a reader is to decide whether the premise - and the humanity of the author it reveals - is valid, a seamless part of the story, and the most important part of the book. The challenge is to take According to Luke, my forthcoming thriller, and decide what the main premise of the book is, and whether anything significant is revealed.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

What I Eat When I'm Writing

Vegemite on toastImage via WikipediaAuthors are creatures of habit in the main: they stick to a routine whether or not they create it intentionally. My habits are a big secret, mostly because like my office, they're in a bit of a state at the moment. But that's what's so fascinating about different authors and the different ways they live. Just as there is no such thing as a typical actor or a typical painter, there's no such thing as a typical author. But they do tend to fall into a routine.

Mine, now that I write full-time from home, is pretty mundane for a writer of art history thrillers. I have never stolen a masterpiece, and have not been chased by a gun-wielding extortionist for some time now. I sit at my desk and in between paying bills, ordering class photos of my kids, and agreeing to meet friends for lunch, I tap out a couple of blogs, half a chapter, and the revision of an outline. I also edit and re-write, which is the bulk of my work. And this happens most days, Monday to Friday.

I also eat. You will find that most authors will confess to this habit, which we have to support in one way or another. One way is working with a keyboard and mouse in one hand and a salami roll in the other. Another is to plan your life around finger food. There is no way to skirt the fact that writing is a sedentary business: so staying fit enough to bend double and tighten a USB connection that's far underneath the desk in cable spaghetti-land becomes a challenge.
They tell you to get up and exercise every twenty minutes. Yeah, right! They tell you to eat a one-lettuce-leaf salad accompanied by a mug of green tea. Uh-huh. Writing is hard work - any novelist will tell you it's gruelling to take a protagonist and a friend on a wild car chase with stuff moving and rolling around in the back of the car and lots of hills and dead-ends on the way. Breathless stuff.

Good nutrition is essential. Here's what I eat when I'm writing, to keep up the energy:

Good, Australian egg sandwiches with a moderate amount of mayo
Good, Australian sausage rolls
Bacon and egg sandwiches
Shapes (no writer can do without Shapes) They are tessellated in the oven.
Vegemite sandwiches
Cheese and pickled onions
Oreo bars
Rice pudding

There's more, mostly in the way of leftover pasta and pastizzi. Then there's drinks: "Tea, and lots of it," a character demands in my forthcoming book. Yes - I must confess that's autobiographical. And some Pine-Lime cordial, which gets pretty popular around here in the hot weather.

Routine stuff, you would remark. Yes - it's hard to break out of a habit that's taken years to perfect, and who would want to? Food and drink are an important part of a routine, too, so one must stay disciplined and remember to stock up.

Do I include food and drink in my writing? Yes - for sure. Here's a link to a previous blog that proved very popular. Go to this link and scroll down until you see:

Food in Fiction

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Some Artists Who Have Painted Saint Luke

c. 1440Image via WikipediaThere was a time when sacred art was just about the only permissible art. Church decoration and the establishment of private chapels, shrines and mausoleums meant there was a lot of work for artists in certain centres of learning, big cities, and cathedral towns.

Being an artist meant understanding realistic representation, and heeding the scriptures. It meant listening hard to what patrons wanted, and studying pictures 'on site'. There was no means of reproducing paintings: one had to go and see them for oneself or view another artist's copy.

Artists would visit famous depictions of saints, make sketches, return to their town and regale everyone at their 'shop' or studio about what they had seen. In this way they spread styles, fashions and innovations.

The evangelists, Mary and Baby Jesus, the Crucifixion, the Annunciation and Nativity and famous martyrs were depicted over and again by various artists to grace alterpieces, vaults, monastery walls, churches and palaces, the ceilings of libraries and private chapels.

St Luke was a popular subject, because his testament, or gospel, was one that narrated some very special stories, unique to the saint: duplicated nowhere else in the scriptures. The evangelist was painted by a great number of artists through the ages. Most can be found online. Many show the saint painting Mary, since legend has it that the two had met in person, and Luke could depict the Holy Mother from memory.

Luke became the advocate of painters, and was the patron saint of many artists' guilds and associations, a custom that began in the Middle Ages, or perhaps before. The symbol for this evangelist is the calf, or young bull, and artists' paraphernalia is often placed around the picture: an easel, paints and brushes. Being also described in the Acts of the Apostles as a physician, Luke is variously painted with herbs and flasks, which signify healing.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the various ways Luke has been depicted by artists through the ages is how most of them chose the clothes, interiors and artefacts of their own times with which to portray the saint. So it is possible to find Byzantine Lukes, Medieval Lukes, Renaissance Lukes, Baroque Lukes and Neoclassic Lukes.

Artists who have painted Luke include: El Greco, Nicklaus Manuel, Rogier van der Weyden, Giorgio Vasari, Jacobsz van Heemskercke, Quentin Massys, Marten de Vos, and Guercino.

Why this fascination with a disciple who lived almost 2000 years ago? The fact we know so little about the saint adds mystery to a story that - from the little shown in the New Testament - seems to hint at a life of adventure and risk.

Adventure and risk that intrigued me enough to write a book that concerns some of that life, how it was lived, and what mysteries it holds to a present-day reader. I wove it into a modern-day thriller, complete with mobile phones, guns and lifts. Complete with magazines, computers and planes. Complete with USB drives, text recognition software and yes, a car chase.

According to Luke contains more than one story. How they are woven together might be interesting to read. Chapters One and Two are available. The paperback and eBook will be out in a matter of weeks.

More Rosanne Dingli blogs about St Luke:

Why I write about St Luke

6 Things You Need to Know About St Luke

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