About Me

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Brisbane, Australia
I'm an Australian author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Action/Adventure, and Historical fiction. I live in Brisbane, Australia. Visit my website at www.noelleclark.net

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rejection letters piling up? You’re in good company.

“The best revenge is massive success”  -  Frank Sinatra

The publishing industry is fickle. Like fashion, it fluctuates according to the perceived market. What was in vogue yesterday may well be a no go area tomorrow.

So, how do first time authors get published? We are at the mercy of the massive, multi-billion dollar publishing industry; we are faced with the juggernaut of e-books and self-publishing which is proving very popular; we have to first get through the publishing house gate-keepers – the Agents.

Well, take heart. Look at this brief and far from complete list of some of the biggest selling authors of all time. They suffered rejection, humiliation and despair, before finally breaking through and getting their first book into print.

Stephen King’s first book, Carrie, was rejected thirty times before finally getting published. He apparently threw the manuscript in the waste bin, but his wife extricated it and made him keep sending it out.

Margaret Mitchell received thirty-eight rejections for the classic Gone With the Wind.

James Joyce was not a good commercial bet with the publishers, receiving twenty-two rejections, and when he was finally taken on, they would only print 1250.

Australian author Matthew Reilly was so sick of being rejected that he opted for self-publishing. Apparently he talked book shop owners into putting his book in the front window alongside all the big names. Talk about making your own luck!
Even J. K. Rowling apparently received twelve rejections for the first Harry Potter book. Can you believe that?

Other great authors such as John le Carré was told his first book was no good, and John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by twelve publishers and sixteen agents before being picked up.

So, I like Frank Sinatra’s idea. Don’t give up, and when you DO get published, be as successful as the above great authors. As the famous saying goes,  Nolite te bastardes carborundorum – don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unlocking the past – the joys of Research

Turning family history into a novel – a challenging path to take.

I have just finished writing my historical novel, Stone of Heaven and Earth. This story is largely based on the real lives of my grandparents in China, and spans the years 1914 to 1929. I never met my Grandfather, but remember being told their story as a child. Their life together was one of the highest of highs, and abysmal tragedy.

I was able to draw on two memoirs written by my mother and my aunt. I also had a couple of letters, but the actual details were lost over the years.
Before I could start writing, I needed to know some details so that I could bring to life the characters of my story. It took me many, many hours, but I remember a rush of warmth flowing through me when I found my Grandmother and her sister’s name in the passenger list in the Brisbane Courier dated 22 June 1914. No one in the family knew the name of the ship they left Brisbane on. I felt like I had dug up a long forgotten treasure chest when I discovered the ship was the Tasman from the KMP Line, captained by Captain Lucardie. From that moment on, I felt like I was holding my Grandmother’s hand and she was leading me along the journey.

I went with her in my mind. I heard her voice, saw her eyes and her smile. Shed tears with her, and fell in love with my Grandfather with her.

A month spent in China retracing, as best I could, their footsteps, helped me to understand why they loved China, a very exotic land, especially a hundred years ago.
As I walked along the Bund in Shanghai, I knew that my Grandfather had walked there too, on his way to work at the Customs House which still stands proud on the Bund. In my story, I have both my Grandmother and Grandfather walking along that very place, talking to each other, falling in love.

My Grandfather, Oliver Clark, holding my mother aged nearly two
Jack and Annie, Oliver and Darl about 1915
At one stage of the writing process, I felt that the research was distracting me from the job at hand, but I know that I now have an intimate knowledge of the lives and times of these special people. The internet pointed me in the direction of Professor Robert Bickers at the Bristol University in England. He has done a major study of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, my Grandfather’s employer. He sent me the service record of my Grandfather, and even searched for his tombstone, but alas it does not now exist.

Research has given me back my Grandparents, who I am sure are both very happy with my story, as I can feel them with me, and they are smiling.

Passenger list for Misses Houston, KPM Line 'Tasman' 20th June 1914
Dining Room of the Astor House Hotel
The Shanghai Bund, circa 1915. The Customs House is centre of picture, with a clock tower and flag flying
Map showing the foreign concessions in Shanghai
Shanghai, 1912

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Grabbing a Bargain in Bangkok

Two days in Bangkok is just not long enough.

Bangkok, the vibrant capital of Thailand, has some wonderful mega shopping centres, ranging from knock off bargain markets where you can haggle for a good price, to the ultra-luxurious designer shopping centre where you can buy everything from Jimmy Choo shoes to a Ferrari, right off the floor. They are very large, and it is easy for the meandering tourist to get lost, thus wasting valuable shopping time in trying to work out where you are. The staff at our hotel told us that the two best, close by, shopping malls for us were MBK Centre, and Siam Paragon Centre.

So, armed with plenty of Thai Baht and a long shopping list, we set off in a taxi to go and shop, shop, shop!

MBK Centre  is seven floors of shopping, entertainment, and restaurants. You need a map, and even then, you will get lost. Trust me. We entered MBK through the Tokyu Department Store, a very western department store reminiscent of Myer or David Jones. We were looking for something a little more ‘Thai’, and our budget was more aimed at bargains than standard items we could get back home.

We exited Tokyu through a back door, and entered the labyrinth that is MBK. Luckily, we entered on Floor 3, stumbling upon the area where real bargains and good quality goods can be bought. This area is called The Image, and is made up of market stalls selling very cheap clothing, footwear, bags and jewellery. The stallholders in this area are more than happy to bargain, although some of the prices were so cheap that there was really no point. The conversion rate between Thai Baht and the Australian Dollar was 1 THB equals 31cents Australian. In other words, a polo shirt selling for 99 THB was only $A3. I found some fabulous clothes for my grandchildren, really nice, really cheap.

The stallholders here are happy, not pushy, and you get an extra discount if you happen to be their first customer of the day. I loved the way they would take your money, then go and touch it on all their goods in the shop. Apparently it brings good luck to them if they do this when you are the first customer. My travelling companion bought some really good quality designer shorts that he can’t get in Australia for a good price, satin Thai Boxer shorts, shirts, Calvin Klein and Dolce and Gabbana jocks. I managed to get a lined Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie for my daughter for about $40 Australian.

We eventually tore ourselves away and went to level four which is a massive floor of electronics, cameras, mobile phones. All the big brands. I am not sure of how good the deals were as I had not researched the prices in Australia, but I did buy a great set of headphones for $A20. There are designer shops, bespoke hand carved furniture stores, exquisite jewellery stores. We explored every floor, but our feet and legs were crying out in pain.

TIPS -
  • Work out what you want and research the prices at home before you leave
  • Get onto the web site and become familiar with the layout of the place
  • When you first arrive, go to one of the Information booths and get yourself an MBK Tourist Discount Card for even better deals (you’ll need your Passport), and you can also get a free welcome drink of Thai Iced Tea on Floor 5
  • Take a backpack or something to carry all your purchases (they get heavy after a while), although there is a bag deposit on Floor 6 where you can unload some of the weight
  • When bargaining, ask how much, then offer half price, and negotiate a price up from there
  • Put a currency converter App on your smartphone. Makes it so much easier to work out if you have a bargain or not
  • Finally, wear comfortable footwear and take a bottle of water. It’s hard work shopping!

Siam Paragon Centre  is a magnificent, opulent centre which has all the designer stores anyone could want. With seven levels, this Centre needs at least one full day, possibly two, to explore it properly.
You could run into absolutely ANYBODY at Siam Paragon Centre - my friend Brittany Spears

At Basement level, you will find the Siam Ocean World, an underwater fantasy that would rival anything Disneyworld could offer. Next level is totally dedicated to gourmet food! The Main Floor at street level is where you will find the luxury stores such as Cartier, Bvulgari, Burberry, Chanel, Hermes, Armani – oh the list is endless. Go to their website and have a look.

The Siam Paragon Centre is probably the most glamorous and luxurious shopping centre I have ever seen. Alas, we didn’t buy anything here, just window shopped, so not sure if there is any bargaining to be had. I doubt it. But the prices would still be a lot cheaper than at home. There is also an Imax Cinema complex, restaurants, Madam Tussaud's Waxworks, and family entertainment. Check it out!

Chatuchak Weekend Market   is the largest weekend market in Asia and is easily accessed by public transport, including the Bangkok Skytrain. Next time I visit Bangkok I will make sure I am there on a weekend, as it was disappointing that I didn’t get to visit this trip.

With 15,000 stalls spread over a huge 27 acres, Chatuchak Markets boast that it is the place where you can find absolutely everything. Bargaining for the best price is expected, and they say that tourists will be given ‘local’ price. Worth testing.

The markets are open from 6am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

We felt we bought some real bargains and have decided it would be worth visiting Bangkok annually to stock up on new clothes. The prices are just unbeatable, and the quality very high. Shopping therapy at its very best!