Persistence Is Key (As Shown by a Balloon)

It’s funny how life sends you a sign. Or, in this case, a balloon.

Persistence is key, writers are told. When writing. When editing. Especially when querying. And all writers know that it’s easy to lose faith. In your ability. In your work. In your tenacity and will to succeed in this fickle (and slow) world of publishing.
I was pondering my own trials and tribulations on the weekend, as I leant on my decking balustrade and watched the sun travel toward the horizon. And that’s when the balloon floated into view. From where it came, I do not know.

It was a vibrant orange, full of life, hope, as it danced toward my backyard. It entered on a slight gust, like a finger prod from an invisible giant, and flew straight into my ash tree. As it weaved its way through an obstacle course of branches, I waited for the “pop” that would announce its defeat.

Yet it did not come. Instead, the balloon escaped its woody snare and drifted across my veggie patch to be grabbed by a gum on the far side.

This is it, I thought, its end is near.

But the balloon, its orange burnt bright by the approaching sunset, wriggled its way between the gum’s limbs. And those of the pine behind it.

Until the balloon was free to continue its journey.

As it disappeared over the crest of the hill, I couldn’t help but see similarities between this orange circle of stubbornness and a writer’s life: the struggles to succeed after setback (after setback), and to continue on your path in spite of those who tell you, “No”, those who question why you do what you do, and those who have given up themselves.

Persistence is key.

Rebecca

Have you seen or heard anything that has served as a metaphor for, or become symbolic to, your thoughts or feelings?

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Book Review: New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey

I’ve always found the idea of time travel to be quite scary. So much can go wrong. The same can be said for writing time travel novels. When I came across Daniel Godfrey’s novel, New Pompeii, with its “Gladiator meets Jurassic Park” concept, I was intrigued.
In this novel, a company called NovusPart has worked out how to transport people from past to present and uses this technology to yank citizens of Pompeii through time (right as Vesuvius is erupting in AD 79, I might add). It brings them to a replica city in modern time, New Pompeii, where the citizens believe they have been saved from the eruption by the deity emperor, Augustus Caesar.

After exploring the dungeons of Rome’s Colosseum in June, and having visited Pompeii itself on a previous trip to Italy, I was fascinated with where this story would travel (so to speak).

The protagonist, Nick Houghton, a history graduate brought in by NovusPart as an advisor, soon learns that the company has not thought through every implication of its actions. For instance, NovusPart gives New Pompeii’s citizens fairly limited rights and freedoms, and seems to overlook that these citizens come from a society responsible for many of the advances we utilise today:

“So, Nick,” said Whelan. The NovusPart operations chief took a step forward. “What do you think the most important thing is, in making all of this work?”

Nick’s mind cycled quickly, trying to find an answer that wouldn’t make him look stupid. The buildings? The logistics? The technology?

No.

The people.

New Pompeii’s residents have been told by NovusPart men (assumed to have been sent by Augustus) that it is too dangerous to travel outside the city as the Italian peninsula has been severely damaged by the eruption and is in turmoil. However, these people are intelligent and questioning, which is especially apparent in the small details, read, anomalies, they observe (for example, carrots in AD 79 did not have the added colour of carrots grown today). Their increasing doubts and concerns serve to build tension between the two cultures.

I enjoyed reading about the political and cultural aspects of Roman life – what a fascinating period in human history – but found a few errors in depiction. For example, those of relative importance such as our protagonist would usually travel with an attendant in tow. Yet Nick took off on more than one occasion to explore New Pompeii on his own, without a thought as to what the citizens would think of this and how they might judge him. And with limited regard for his own safety in a community becoming more and more on edge.

And then there’s the second story running through the narrative concerning a dead girl in a bath, which I found more distracting. Although it ties in with the main plot near its conclusion, I thought it added little to the novel and could easily have been left out.

For the most part, New Pompeii was a decent read, with action-packed scenes, and articulate characterization and dialogue. However with such an intriguing concept, the author could have done so much more in terms of the clash of eras and its potential ramifications. Instead, the narrative fell short and the conclusion was less than satisfying. Saying that, I am interested to read Empire of Time, the sequel released a couple of months ago. I’d still like to see where things “travel” 🙂

Hope your own travels are great!

Rebecca

What time travel novels have you read that you liked, or didn’t like, and why?