African Hearts

African Hearts

Story Bridge, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia - © Noela Cowell 2019

Story Bridge, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia - © Noela Cowell 2019

It’s been some time since I wrote a blog. In fact, it’s been three years. A lot has happened for me during the three years and I just want to share with you what I have been doing. I have moved house twice. Yes, I am still living a fluid lifestyle, allowing the wind to blow me around like a dandelion flower seed.

I moved to the gorgeous country town of Maleny, where I worked for an accountant, and wrote and learned to paint on the weekends. Unfortunately, I felt extremely isolated in that environment. I missed the city buzz. A lot of people can’t believe I left the country to return to the city. Everyone has their special place.

I came to Brisbane, right in the middle of the city. Immediately, I felt as if I had come home. I worked for an accountant again for a year and then realised I needed to get back to my writing. Since writing Kate’s choice I felt as though I was blocked creatively. I have been called to write, that’s a no-brainer, but doors opened for my technical skills, helping other writers revise and edit their writing for ebooks. So I started my coaching and editing business to dovetail with writing fiction.

This decision has unblocked the creative juices and I am again back to writing. These two years have involved a lot of soul searching and digging deep to find the person I am. There were times when I was lost, alone and confused. Why was I in this position? I was undergoing transformation and I didn’t know it. All I knew was that I was lost, and unsure of where to turn to next. I have come through the fire and have renewed enthusiasm and commitment for my future writing life.

So what’s next? I am settled, for the moment, here in the heart of Brisbane, until the wind picks up and wants to take me elsewhere. This stability for the moment means I am writing the sequel to African Hearts and I am loving it. This is Justin and Kizza’s story. They are off to university to study medicine so they can return to Gumboli and help Kam in the hospital. Living in Australia in Gold Coast in Aunt Gina’s apartment is not easy for them. They are tempted by the fun and easy lifestyle of the Gold Coast. Will they be able to handle the temptations put before them and the influences of the young people who have grown up in Australia? For those of you who have read African Hearts, you will be aware Justin and Kizza are orphans. Each of them struggle with their identity. Justin more than Kizza.

Our identity is important to us. Identity assures us of our existence, who our parents and grandparents are and where we got our hair colour, eye colour and body shape, what diseases run in our genes and the different parts of our character can be traced back to our forefathers. Identity is important to all of us.

Identity for Justin is important because his father was Marco, Gina’s brother who was of Italian descent. Marco married Ella who was German, so Justin’s identity is mixed up with Italian, German and Australian cultures. it’s no surprise Justin is confused about his heritage.

Identity for Kizza is different. She was born in Uganda of indigenous parents, so naturally her skin is dark. She was raised by elders of the village, Moses and Lulu, but who is Kizza really? What’s her identity? Who were her parents? Where did they live? Who were her grandparents? Kizza doesn’t know. She was raised in the culture of her parents, but still she has no identity as to who her parents were.

I’d like to refer to the movie, Lion, about the Indian boy who got separated from his brother and got on a train in the hope he would find his way home. Saroo was his name. This little boy, having grown up in a poor area of India had survival skills. He was lucky, he found his way to an orphanage and from there he was adopted by a couple in Melbourne where he lived with a loving family until adulthood. But Saroo knew he had another life, and he hungered to know where he came from. He spent twenty-five years searching, first for his mother. By searching in his free time with the help of Google maps he was able to finally reconnect with his mother. To date he is still searching for his father. Saroo is tenacious, he will find his father, I hope sooner rather than later.

Justin and Kizza’s parents are dead. How will they find out the important information about their genetic make up? The African Hearts sequel is about the search for identity. Are you comfortable with your identity, or are you searching for answers? Have you completed your search to find who you are? Did finding the answers help you to understand yourself? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a message.

Core values

A few years ago I didn't understand what core values were. I hadn't consciously thought about what I believed in. Why? For many reasons that I will talk about in future posts. In order for me to understand my core values, I used my alone time to understand who I am.

Passion, the centre of your life

Let passion be at the centre of your life.

Let passion be at the centre of your life.

Do you have a passion? A passion to write, to paint, to create something the world needs? Have you followed that passion?

My passion started in year one at school when I opened my first reader. Who were the people on the page and what was their life like? It sparked a curiosity in me that has been with me ever since. In year four I walked into the library and I found rows upon rows of books. Intimidated by seeing so many books, I stepped cautiously into that world of silence. My pulse raced as the different coloured spines drew my attention. The more spines I looked at the more overwhelmed I became. How I was ever going to read all those books? My teacher assured me I only had to read the ones I was interested in and it would be a good idea to read something outside my interest every now and again as I grew older, she said.

I took her wise words to heart and I lost myself in the world of words, characters and foreign lands. This passion for reading has led me to write and now writing is as much a need for me as breathing. The simple task of sitting at my keyboard and typing words or using a pen, which I often do, puts me into a different level far away from my everyday life. You could call it escape, but that's what I want to do: help my readers escape from their everyday struggles and take them on an emotional journey where they will become good friends with my characters so that they live in their hearts for a very long time.

My next novel, Mr Bojangles is the sequel to African Hearts. I've been writing this story on and off while I wrote Dusty. Justin and Kizza floated into my mind every now and then reminding me their story wasn't complete. I pushed them back saying I wasn't ready, but they insisted it was time, so here I am enjoying being with them as they take the next step into the future out of their village, Gumboli to Bond University at the Gold Coast.

My process with this novel has been different. I've made notes whenever Justin and Kizza have entered my conscious and taken time to write a few scenes. This week I looked at these scenes in detail and discovered they don't fit the story I want to tell. These young people aren't just learning about medicine, they are learning about themselves and growing in ways they had never thought. They are young people with loving hearts and the desire to be loved by their peers. This need for acceptance challenges them in ways that have surprised me. Their presence is so strong now they have overtaken the story showing me their journey into the future instead of me writing the story.

My passion for writing this story is well and truly on fire and is all consuming so that I now can't not write the book. Has your passion taken hold of you and consumed all of your waking time? Is it a passion or is it something you think you'd like to do because you've seen others doing it? A passion will grab you and it won't let you go no matter how hard you try to push it away. A passion demands attention and you had better give in to it and follow it, otherwise you will be miserable. Are you feeling lost and irritable and unable to focus? I used to be like that when I was in the world of numbers. It has taken me a long time to take that numbers shirt off and put on the words shirt. It feels good in my words shirt. I've come home and I've settled in with Kizza and Justin and I have accepted they have as much to teach me as what they will learn on their journey.

So what's your passion? Are you following it? What's stopping you? Start making small changes toward your project and eventually you will find your passion shirt is just the right fit for you. I'd love to hear how well your shirt fits in the comments below.

 

Banished to Antarctica

It's been a while since I posted and prior to that my posts have been spasmodic. The reason for this is that I have been on an amazing journey into my writing self. I liken it to being banished to Antarctica. I allowed my writing critic, Drakar, to have control of my head and he did some serious damage to my writing confidence that resulted in me thinking every word I tapped out on the keyboard or scribbled on a page meant nothing. From time to time, every writer has doubts about their work and how it will be received by readers. My doubts overwhelmed me paralysing my writing so that for a long time I couldn't think words at all.

Believing my writing days were over I went back to the accounting world. For the past almost eighteen months I've slogged through the numbers believing I had to hang up my letters and pursue that career and make it into something I would be satisfied with. What I learned was that it was safe and secure with a regular income coming in to pay the bills. What I wasn't prepared for was the war raging within me. The letters and numbers beat against each other creating a potent cauldron of insecurity that left me beaten and confused, alienated and alone, and badly in need of some direction. I let the battle rage believing it would fight itself out and there would be an eventual winner and I would be stronger for the experience.

Anger at the indecision raging within was my constant companion and this affected my relationships to the point of me staying away from family as much as possible and shutting down many of my friendships and terminating friendships before they got started. I was hurting a lot of people and myself. I withdrew from all social contact except the little (my own choice) I received in the work environment and a neighbour who showered me with unconditional love. These shaky relationships is what brought me through the battle and helped me understand my number days are over and I have a clear winner - words!

I am grateful for Kim and my colleagues at Your Wealth Corporation.

This week has started with a new-found confidence in my writing seeing me polish off my manuscript, Dusty, (working title) that I've been working on for two years. It is different to my other books and so needs to go to a different publisher. I wait impatiently for the verdict and while I wait, I place my fingers on the keyboard and work on the long awaited Mr Bojangles (working title), sequel to African Hearts. This story has been in the pressure cooker since African Hearts was finished. It is well-cooked and ready to come out of the oven, so I anticipate it will be written with nimble fingers flying across the keyboard requiring stops only for refuelling and other bodily comforts until the story is out.

This writer's life.

This writer's life.

Drakar, meanwhile ... heh, heh ... I'm pleased to say has been sent on a holiday to the lovely Antarctica where he will be for the duration of this summer and hopefully lost in an unseasonal blizzard. As for the numbers, they continue to be, but not with me. They are left in the hands of young vibrant people who want to make a difference to the bottom line of businesses and help them achieve their goals while at the same time working toward their own dreams.

As Mr Bojangles unfolds, I'll keep you posted...

 

Ouch...Rejection Hurts

In the beginning of my fiction writing career, I wrote five novels and had them all rejected. My motivation dived and I though I would never pick up a pen again. So how did I keep my motivation going to write that next novel and win that publishing contract?

Motivation helps us to achieve our dreams.

Motivation helps us to achieve our dreams.

I knew I wanted to be a writer. Ever since I started reading in year one at school, words had captured my heart and I had to read every day. I loved writing stories and I would get carried away in my own little world. My teachers said I had a vivid imagination and encouraged me to keep writing stories.

The journey to publication has been one of the most difficult adventures of my life. My first five novels were rejected. It hurt and with each subsequent novel I wrote after each rejection, the writing became harder. Once I realised my first five novels were my apprenticeship and that  I had to learn how to write scenes that had a beginning, a middle and an ending; and the ending of the scene, had to hook my reader so that she had to keep reading the next scene and the one after that, until she finished the book, I was on my way to achieving my dream.

I learned how to create characters and how to develop them throughout the story so that they had grown by the end of the story. I learned how to structure my story of where the crucial high and low points of the story occurred. In this apprenticeship there was a lot for me to learn.

So how did I deal with the rejection letters? I gave myself permission to be disappointed and to shed a few tears. Life is about rolling with the good and bad times and being emotionally honest during those times. In the privacy of my own home, the next step was getting mad at the editor for rejecting me, and then mad at myself for being so naiive thinking all I had to do was write a couple of drafts of a book and send it off to a publisher. I was on a steep learning curve. After I nursed the hurt, I asked myself why I was writing and was I prepared to put the extra hard yards into the work?

I write because I feel compelled to write. A day without writing is like cutting off my right hand. I'm useless. I wander around lost and confused. There is nothing else I'd rather be doing than writing. I also write to entertain and to encourage people in their own life's journey. So, that left me with no alternative than to learn all I could about the writing craft and keep practising until I became published. I am a determined person and I don't accept defeat easily. I read every book I could get my hands on to learn my craft.

Because of my perseverance I was rewarded with a contract for African Hearts. What a thrill that was, but success came twenty long years after I started writing. I knew I wanted to succeed but I had to get over the pain of rejection first, develop a thick skin and believe that I could do the job. The most important lesson I learned was to keep writing, every spare minute I had every day.

Do you believe you have the perseverance to be a published writer? How have you handled your rejection letters? What motivated you? I'd like to hear your story.