Spare a Thought for the Spare Heir

Prince_Harry_and_Meghan_Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on 19 May 2018 is hot news, so here’s my little contribution to the #royalty craze, a tribute to the spare heir.

It must be a tough gig being the little brother of the heir (of the heir apparent). Prince Harry, bless him, seems unlikely to reign. Heck, who knows if his father, the heir apparent, will make it to the throne.

History is speckled with spare heirs winding their way to the throne. Tempestuous Henry VIII, a spare himself, fathered three children, all of whom had a turn holding the sceptre in the hot seat. More recently, Elizabeth II, a daughter of a spare, could have pursued a life of quiet obscurity if love and duty hadn’t collided so violently in the life of her uncle Edward VIII, the abdicator.

Fascintating Spare Heirs

Late in 2014, I encountered the intriguing concept of spare heir. After pondering the potential for sibling jealousy, the impact on family dynamics, and the effect on one’s sense of identity and purpose, I followed it deep into the rabbit hole of  research and emerged with some cool background conflict for a story.

I wondered if there were ever any twin heirs and spares? Imagine missing out on a kingdom and a crown (or, conversely, relative freedom from duty)  by a matter of minutes! A quick shake of Queen Victoria’s family tree and out fell a golden apple, AKA the propelling nugget of goodness—a historical fact that leads to a series of compelling what-ifs that beg to become a story!

I found heir apparent twins. Almost…

William_IVVictoria wasn’t the daughter of her predecessor. She was the niece of William IV, who’d failed to produce a (legitimate) heir. William and his mistress, actress Dorothea Jordan, produced a herd of children surnamed FitzClarence. But William and Queen Adelaide had a string of bad luck in the progeny department. Their two daughters, Elizabeth and Charlotte, both tragically died shortly after birth. Adelaide’s final pregnancy ended in a devastating stillbirth of twin boys, who, as far as I can tell, were not named.

If those boys had lived, one would have become king, and the other a spare—but a spare by only moments. Meanwhile,  Princess Alexandrina (Victoria) would have remained an obscure princess—a round-raced, royal hanger-on, probably sequestered to a drab apartment at Kensington or worse. No pretty young queen, possibly no marriage to Prince Albert, and no dour, widowed monarch. How would the 19th century have fared without her formidable imprint? How would the 20th century differed?

See what I mean about a series of compelling questions?

History’s Loss, My Gain

I gave those unsung twin boys life and names, and I dug into their family history for a bit of intrigue. I didn’t have to go deep; the boys’ grandfather would have been King George III. Remember him? His illness rendered him unfit to rule and was the reason for the Regency period. He was considered mad (which I must point out is one weakness among many other good and noble qualities he possessed, like being a faithful family man and an ardent promoter of scientific enquiry. He was a fascinating and misunderstood character.)

Augustus (my name), the firstborn twin in my story THE TEMPLE OF LOST TIME, inherits not only the throne but also his grandfather’s illness. Though fairly young, he’s slowly dying and losing his mind. King Augustus’s desperation to extend his reign makes him volatile, cruel, and vulnerable to exploitation. His dangerous obsession with olden magic puts both his life and empire at risk. This is the world of my story: London, 1853, during the dark and unstable Augustan Age. Great Britain teeters as time ticks away.

Meanwhile, King Augustus’s twin, the spare heir Prince James, is healthy, capable, and wildly popular with the masses, a fact that torments the paranoid, enfeebled king.

#RoyalsBehavingBadly

King Augustus not only inherits a genetic illness, he also adopts his philandering father’s habit of pursuing beautiful actresses. His prime target is the lovely Lucy Le Breton, a popular actress and singer at the Theatre Royal. She does everything she can to avoid the despicable king.

Eleven-year-old Toby, Lucy’s son, is the hero of the story. More than anything, Toby yearns to know his father. What he doesn’t know is the clock is ticking, and there’s no time to lose…

So, a bit of wondering about spare heirs plus a few years of writing and rewriting and rerewriting has resulted in a story, THE TEMPLE OF LOST TIME, a middle grade historical fantasy adventure, which is currently in submission. It is the first of three books. Wish me luck as I try to find a good home for it.

Temple of Lost Time 5_1

To the Real Spare Heir!

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have a rich and colourful royal history behind them and a life full of possibility ahead of them. Here’s wishing them happiness and long life together. May the real spare heir be spared the wild adventures of my imagination! To the royal couple! Cheers!

Image Credits

Prince Harry & Meghan Markle

By Mark Jones CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

William IV, Public Domain

Noah’s Nose Knows

Noah's Nose Knows

Noah’s nose knew something was wrong. He smelled a siege. Nervously, Noah followed the odour to the fridge. He peered inside. Organic leafy lettuces crowded the veggie bin; lumpy helmets of broccoli lined the shelves; spears of asparagus stood menacingly in a glass.

Inside the chiller drawer lay a suspicious package: tofurkey. Tof-what?

In the bottle next to the milk, a murky substance bubbled sinisterly. Its name sounded like a sneeze. Kom-BU-cha! Ew.

Noah pulled out a bottle of liquid the colour of pond sludge. Vegetable juice? Blech! No way! That was wrong—as wrong as carrot cake’.

“Mu-u-m! Help! The vegetables are taking over the fridge!”

Mum breezed into the kitchen. Don’t be silly, Noah. It’s a new year, and we’re on a health kick!”

Noah put back the gross green juice.’ He stared at his mother. Oh no! Yoga pants AND a crop-top. This was serious!

“But I’m hungry! What am I supposed to eat? Everything in there is green!” His tummy snarled. I’ll die!”

“Noah. You’re overreacting.”

“Mu-u-um!” He clutched his belly. All I want is some nice morning tea! Is that too much to ask?” He raced to the pantry and scanned the shelves. In place of his snacks were creepy packets:

Lentil crackers
Protein Balls
Millet NumNums

Quinoa Surprise

“AHHH!” Noah screamed. Where are the Iced Vo-Vos and my volcano-flavoured corn chips? I want my neon squeeze cheese!”

“Noah, please,” Mum said. I made your favourite muffins. Go sit down while I warm one up.”

Noah skulked to the table, clutching his ravenous belly and imagining a sweet muffin, warm from the microwave, oozing with melted choc-chips and slathered with butter. Mmmmm.

As the plate was laid in front of him, he closed his eyes contentedly and let his nose do its work…

He gasped. His eyes popped open. “Something’s in there! My nose knows!”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mum said sliding a Fitbit on her wrist. It’s just a muffin. Here. Have some millllk.” The corner of her mouth twitched.

Noah narrowed his eyes. Why’d you say it like that?” He squinted at the cup.

“Like what?” she said, snapping a sweatband across her forehead at a jaunty angle.

Noah’s nose sniffed and sniffed again. Wild-eyed, he pointed at the muffin. You sneaked zucchini in there. And turmeric! My nose knows! I bet you slipped in some of that QuiNOAH just to be cute.”

“It’s Keen-WAH.”

“Whatever.” He slumped in his chair and glowered at the icky muffin’. His tummy panged with hunger.

“I’m going next door to do yoga-kickboxing with Prue.” She kicked her leg sideways. YA-maste! Enjoy your snack.”

The screen door banged shut, and Noah frowned. My nose was right. It’s an all-out assault,” he muttered. He picked a crumb off the suss muffin and put it on his tongue.

A flash of green at ten-o-clock. Cauliflower paratroopers armed with asparagus spears stormed the table.

AHHHH!

Photo Credit:
Boy on River Cruise by Bernard Yeo, CC BY-2.0
Modified by Ali

Releasing Stories

LaunchMyPaperBoat_artak-petrosyan

How do you know when your story is finished? One thing is certain: a story is most definitely NOT finished on 1 December right after the NaNoWriMo hoopla.

This question has plagued me ever since I started writing seriously. And I think that word—seriously—is the thing. In fact, IMHO, the difference between a hobby-writer and a serious writer is the latter is willing to rewrite. And rewrite and rewrite until the writing is right.

But when it is it right? How far does a writer have to go? How many rewrites does it take? When (how!) do you stop? My most recent project has had at least twenty beginnings. Not just ideas or sketches—full-on beginnings, some with minor changes, most with drastic reimagining. I probably wrote more than 100,000 words of beginnings and many middles and ends too.

When Is It Time To Stop?

Is there a way to know when it’s time to release the story to the world? It’s a relief to find it’s a common quandary. One Google search (‘How do you know when your story is finished?’) threw up 14,000,000 results (in .61 seconds).

Some of the common answers included:

  • Trust your gut.
  • Stop when you can’t stand to look at it another time.
  • When it stops waking you up in the middle of the night, it’s done.
  • Time to quit when your ‘improvements’ have a negative impact.
  • There’s a fine line between attaining your best and not pissing off your editor.
  • And so on.

My Answer:

Stop when all the ghost-kinks have been exorcised. For me, ghost-kinks are writing problems I don’t want to see. On some level I know they are there, but it’s as if I have blinkers on. I skirt around them instead of tackling them. I ignore them hoping they’ll evaporate. They bother me, but I pretend they don’t.

Usually, sadly, someone else has to point at them.

Someone Else: “Um Ali, omg, there’s a massive ghost-kink hanging out here. Geez, it’s enormous! Maybe you should, like, do something about it?”

Me: Oh, yeah. Right. I was just … excuse me … [Shoves ghost-kink back into closet and slams door]. It’s all good. Nothing to look at in here.

Someone Else: But what about that ghost? It’s pretty scary… Seriously? You can’t hear that banging or smell that funky smell? Far out…

Me: What? There’s a ghost-kink? Let me see! [Peeks in closet] OMG! Would you look at the SIZE of that ghost-kink! BRB…

And having thus ‘discovered’ my ghost-kink(s), I take it (them) on. I stop kidding myself and start culling some stuff—even good stuff. We’re talking full-scale Darlingocide. A busyness detox.

Despite the utter violence of the toil, the results feel great. Like the way people must feel after a sauna +ice hole swim combo or a seven-day silent retreat or liver cleanse. But it’s the work, the writing, that feels better. Not your body. At the end of it, your body feels crap—cricked and sore and ancient.

Never mind the stiff neck, you know your MS is finally right. And that’s exciting.

That’s when I release my story.

Setting My Paper Boat Afloat

After a year of working on one manuscript exclusively, The Temple of Lost Time, I have finally achieved a sense of ‘rightness’ about the MS. It’s book one of a trilogy, so getting the foundation right is essential.

I was the lucky winner of a 2017 Australian Society of Authors Emerging Writers Mentorship, and I chose author-poet-editor-teacher Catherine Bateson to mentor me and make me face my ghost-kinks. It was an incredible learning and growing experience. Catherine patiently helped me improve my storytelling, honing in on the skilful use of third-person limited POV and strengthening story logic. She was so generous with her time and expertise.

This week, I let go of the project. I released a stronger, funner MS. Part of me feels like it’s a tiny paper boat bobbing in a great big sea, but I am optimistic that it will find its way in the world.

How about you?

How do you know when your MS is ready to be released to the marketplace/world?

 

My Epic Poetic Odyssey – January

matthew-lejune-493884

Last year I set off on a quest, my #EpicPoeticOdyssey, with a goal of memorising a poem a month. The idea was simply to expose myself to more poetry, to awaken my soul to the art form, to exercise my brain, and to enrich my writing. I continue my quest this year.

January’s Poem

January is a month of fresh starts. It’s deep winter to some, heavy summer to others. To me, January is about Australia, with 26 January being Australia Day, so with that in mind, my poem for January is by beloved Australian poet Henry Lawson.

Oh gosh, this poem stirs me. It’s about the effect of words on the hearts of humans. It speaks of the power of poetry to connect, and also of the poet’s desire and effort to forge the connection. How I love it!

Will Yer Write It Down For Me?

mike-wilson-263700In the parlour of the shanty where the lives have all gone wrong,
When a singer or reciter gives a story or a song,
Where the poet’s heart is speaking to their hearts in every line,
Till the hardest curse and blubber at the thoughts of Auld Lang Syne;
Then a boozer lurches forward with an oath for all disguise,
Prayers and curses in his soul, and tears and liquor in his eyes,
Grasps the singer or reciter with a death-grip by the hand:
‘That’s the truth, bloke! Sling it at ’em! Oh! Gorbli’me, that was grand!
‘Don’t mind me; I’ve got ’em. You know! What’s yer name, bloke! Don’t yer see?
‘Who’s the bloke what wrote the po’try? Will yer write it down fer me?’
And the backblocks’ bard goes through it, ever seeking as he goes
For the line of least resistance to the hearts of men he knows;
And he tracks their hearts in mateship, and he tracks them out alone,
Seeking for the power to sway them, till he finds it in his own,
Feels what they feel, loves what they love, learns to hate what they condemn,
Takes his pen in tears and triumph, and he writes it down for them.

–Henry Lawson

Oh yes, that’s it exactly, the writer’s heart distilled in verse. The ‘backblocks’ bards’ seek the power to sway. Here’s to finding ‘the line of least resistance’ this year…

 

Image Credits

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

New Year, New Focus

AThGet Something Down

As you launch into 2018, I wish you plenty of energy, time and resources to pursue your dreams to the utmost. May 2018 be for you a year of breakthroughs and satisfaction, of positive challenge and solid growth.

The new year is a wonderful opportunity for doubling down or an exciting time of reinvention. For me, 2018 is both!

The Next Chapter Begins

I start this year as a rookie free agent. I’ve retired from my career as a school counsellor, so it’s truly a new chapter of my life. With no salary or built-in support system, I have to imagine and create my own way to income, fulfilment and community.

I spent today, the first day of the new year, brainstorming possibilities. I uncapped my pristine .38 gel pens and created a colourful opportunity mindmap. I went wild and dreamed up all kinds of sources of income. Then, I shifted gears (and changed to my spiffy new Japanese dual highlighters) and picked out the themes and priorities.

Creactivity?

Finding the theme was easy with two focus points jumping off the page: Greater Creativity and Regular Activity. My previous job with its heavy emotional load affected my energy levels and took a toll on my health, but now I find myself in a blessed place where I can build energy, improve my fitness and develop creatively.

My mindmapping exercise led me to another conclusion: in order to generate an income, I have to have goods to sell. The more stock, the better the trade. Because of the demands on my time in the past, I have few finished, market-ready projects but oodles of inklings and half-formed ideas.

So Priority Number One for 2018 is to generate products. I must convert my notebooks full of ideas into tangible goods – namely manuscripts, stories, articles, and content.

Getting Things Down

I set my intention with Julia Cameron’s quote (above): “Art isn’t about thinking things up; it’s about getting things down.” My task for the early part of the year is cut out for me:

  • Outline and draft new manuscripts
  • Complete and submit current manuscripts
  • Research, write and pitch magazine articles
  • Pursue alternative writing-related income streams

Over to You

Do you have any tips to share about setting off on the full-time freelance path? Please leave a comment to inspire me!