Monday, October 31, 2005

Ready, Set...

It's almost 'Go' time for Nano. There are a lot of nervous people over at the Nano site; those for whom this challenge is their first. For me, this is the third and I'm still nervous.

Various worries have surfaced again: do I have enough scenes for a book, is it interesting, will I get stuck, can I do this with a full time job? Of all these, it is the last that concerns me the most. The first two Nano books were 120k and 160k respectively, but I had time, I wasn't working. Now, I can see the challenge will be getting the minimum done during the week and 20-30k done on the weekends and another 10k done on a planned day off. Say an average of 25k, that gives me 100 plus an extra 10 for 110 and 2k every day of the week for a total of about 154k. Meh. That's a book.

I'll also have to consider that my contract ends on the 22nd; and that gives me extra time should I fail in getting the daily counts done.

One might wonder why I am worried. As I've said previously, it's not the 50k that's the challenge, but the writing of a book, in toto; that's the challenge. I fully expect a book at the end of the month. I also have to consider other pesky interruptions, like family dropping in for a weekend visit, or even a day. Yeah, I can afford to lose a day, or even a weekend. The problem is: I don't want to. This is my one yearly challenge to write a book; practice makes perfect and I'm still at an apprenticeship level. Writing is one of the longest apprenticeships around.

Some writers are blessed with spectacular talent; I have above average talent, but that does not mean I can expect a contract at the submitting of a precis. Oh, no. It's an ongoing process, this writing business. Any writer worth their salt will tell you they are constantly honing their craft, constantly searching for a better book, and that, dear reader, is why you go out and buy a particular author. Because they have spent years practicing and improving. That's what I want to do.

And when Demonesque, or Oracle, or Gateway, or Banker's Trust hit the shelves, they will be the best I, or an editor, can make them; and that you'll want more.

So roll on Nano, I'm ready!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tempus Fugit

Yeah, times flies. Nano is getting close and I'm not as prepared as I'd like to be, or, to put it another way, I may well just dive straight in and see what happens. Creative, undisciplined minds are like that.

I'm trying to get through my TBR pile, so I won't have any distractions. I still have two David Weber's, one David Drake, and two Peter Fitzsimmon's to go. I aint gonna make it, so it's a choice for what stays on the shelf until December.

We're also heading into Daylight Savings time so my internal clock is going to be fucked up; royally. I'm going to be tired and grumpy and sooo not wanting to do 'real' work. Gad! Getting up at what amounts to 5.30 in the am is not my idea of fun, even if I'm going to bed an hour 'earlier'. I'm not a morning person. It will take me a month or so to adjust. So much for managing NaNo with Daylight Savings. Sigh.

My act is just going to have to get together. Motivation is the key, but with that comes the peril of stress-related problems; and they are painful. Maybe I'll take up meditation, tai chi, or Valium.

This book is coming out whether I like it or not... and I do. It's not a namby-pamby, telegraph everthing kind of book, it's a watch what the villian sees, fear what the protagonist fears, and follow the clues if you can. I'm doing this for one reason: predictability sucks.

I posted a large section of a book for critique to Forward Motion and got complaints of not giving enough clues to what was about to happen. Someone wanted to stay in their happy place. Well, nuh-uh. I write what I want to read, and I want to feel chilled, I want to feel that hot/cold of 'oh, jesus'. Yeah, that's what I good book is about, I think. But I'm not cheating, either. No Deus Ex Machina. It's all there for you to work out.

And if interested, I'm going to be posting here and on the Nano site for anyone who wants to read the excerpts.

Three days and counting...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Where's the shame?

The Bali nine are getting increasing media attention because of the AFP's letters to the Indonesian police.

One, Renee Lawrence is suing the AFP because their information could lead her to the death penalty. Apparently, it's okay for her to try to import heroin, but it's not okay for the AFP to protect the rest of us from that import.

The others a similarly scrambling to cast blame everywhere except where it truly belongs: with themselves. Okay, so they are young, does that mean they have no personal responsibility? Does that mean they blame others for their own actions?

Not in my book. I have personally seen the result of chronic drug use and I have little sympathy for those who think to earn cash as a drug mule to bring that shit into my country. Every one of them knew it was wrong; knew what the consequences would be should they be caught. Did they pay attention? Of course not, it wouldn't happen to them. Or, it wouldn't have happened if those evil protectors of our country hadn't betrayed them. The bastards. Imagine the local constabulary doing their job? How could they? Couldn't they see the Bali nine were only trying to earn a little cash?

I don't think I'm being harsh, either. Those idiots were caught with the stuff strapped to their bodies.

And for those who believe the AFP should have stopped them before they left Australia, how could they? The nine had yet to commit a crime here. Maybe they should have waited until they returned to Australia, ladened with narcotics? The original crime was perpetrated in Indonesia, not Australia, hence it is the Indonesians responsibility.

I lack compassion? Nope. How many drug addicts die from overdoses every year? How many could have died if the nine got through? Why are the officials the bad guys in this? At least the Indonesians are trying to stamp out this kind of crap with deadly sentences. At least they stopped a shipment from reaching our streets.

Australian officials pass along information to a lot of governments, including the US, who, if memory serves, also has the death penalty, though not for drug running. Should we not send them information because of that?

Yes, the parents are pissed at the Australian government. Yes, they are fearful for their children. Yes, I'm sure they have a lot of support. But why are they blaming the government for their children's actions? Why didn't they speak to their children about this? Family dynamics are complex, but it's a shitty way to discover love for a child, or the error of your ways. I see no embarrassment, no shame in the eyes of the parents, nor the faces of those caught, no sign of culpability or remorse. These people were caught with the stuff strapped to their bodies. I can only assume the ranting and raving are because most people realise they are not going to get away with this.

It's sad that they won't get the opportunity to learn from this monumental mistake. If not the death penalty, then an extended stay in prison awaits the Bali Nine. And I cannot, in all honesty, feel sympathy for them. The best thing that could come out of this and the Michelle Leslie case, is that young Australians learn not to take or use prohibited drugs in South East Asia. The consequences will be catastrophic, not only for them, but their families as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Seven Days

It's a week until the madness of Nano begins. I've no doubt that there are people who are feeling just a might anxious. I know I am. I still have a bit of world building to do.

Yep, world building. It's all very well to write this book sans outline, that's doable; it is not okay to write without having some idea of what your world looks like.

I need to find things like weather, topography, recreational activities, abnormal psychology, firearms, and a few other things I'm mulling over.

Being a freewriter doesn't mean I'm lazy. I prepare as much as possible for challenges like this. If I don't know my world, my characters, their motivations, how it starts and where it finishes, things will very quickly fall apart and be disjointed. That makes editing a real bitch.

By researching the topic, you can avoid the hunt for information while you're writing. I have to be prepared for this book, it's out of my usual genre and I'm going to hard pressed not to incorporate any mythology, any science fiction or supernatural aspects. It's a straight up thriller. To avoid that trap, I have to steep myself in this real world.

I have my protagonists - the secondary characters will appear as needed - I have my end game, I have main events. How they join, how they interact, that's the challenge. That and writing until it is finished. I don't know how long it's going to be; my second Nano finished two chapters into a second book. I don't want this to be a tome, I don't want to end up with 200k, that is too long and I'd have to spend a lot of time taking stuff out. There will not be a sequel, it's a stand alone.

So, I'm almost ready. The world building is going well, the characters are at the starting blocks in my head, ready to play. What more do I need? The patience not to dive into this before November begins. The best thing about the wait is that the story, the images I'm getting, is becoming more solid and that can only be a good thing.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A cliche of characters

I've been surfing online for books, since my local stores are lacking in anything resembling what I'd like to read. When I've read the blurbs, I'm appalled at the cliches describing books.

To use the romance genre as an example:

Regency: Heroes are dashing, rakes, arrogant; heroines are ravishing, virginal, haughty, respectable, or spoiled.
Paranormal: Heroes are brooding, dangerous, dark; heroines are determined, passionate, feisty.
Medieval: Heroes are ruthless, arrogant, reckless; heroines are passionate, proud, pampered, feisty.

You get the idea, but with one caveat: all the men are alphas, as are the women, one way or another. The behaviour of these characters leave a lot to be desired and are in no way a reflection of current day people. I know, I know, that's not the point; when it comes to romance, it's the ideal, the fantasy that attracts readers. The more the merrier, it seems, an echo of when men were men and women knew what they wanted. But...

Dream Mountain puzzled me because the hero is such a prick. The Carpathian series pisses me off because they're about domination and taking choices away. Anita Blake is, so far, about moral decline. The historicals and futuristics where control over a woman is paramount. I could go on. But I won't. The point is, these books are popular. Do modern day women want to dominated in such a manner? How can this be called love? Where is the equality? How can women give up so much and the man so little? Am I wrong in thinking that love, and yes, marriage, should also be about partnership? I'm not talking about wanky 'metro-sexuals' - what kind of a word is that, anyway? - I'm talking about the fantasy ideal that women want to be controlled via sex. They don't. Or, I should qualify, I don't.

I'm aware that it is fiction. I'm aware that people love these books. I'm aware that writers, good ones, write from the heart. I'm also aware that reading material can influence people. For example, the court case that involved best-selling author Patricia Cornwell.

Good, bad or indifferent, writers have a responsibility when creating characters that they be true. Readers have a responsibility to understand that it is fiction.

Regencies, Scottish, Viking - historicals, have little basis in fact. Most marriages then were for convenience, not love. The paranormals? Hmm... I don't think vampires or werewolves are nice creatures, but some women like the edge of danger, you certainly know you're alive if your lover can rip your throat or heart out in the throes of passion. Futuristic ones, or the ones I've read, are basically regencies of the future. I won't be reading them anymore.

The books I write, the dark fantasy, the sci fi, the science fantasy, now that I think about them, all have an equality in them. None discriminate between the sexes. Each hero and heroine is as capable as the other, each rely on the other to survive. Partnership. A happy medium, I think, and I'd like to see more of it.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Roasted Grammar

Gotta love a good bit of argy-bargy, and over at Smart Bitches there's a long argument involving grammar. Sara Donati also gives a bit of history on the English language. Let's remember that it is an amalgam of other languages that was then mixed with peasant commentary. The language is versatile and flexible, but it is also the most mongrel of all the languages.

For my part, the language grows more complex. To give you an example: the Americans use the Webster's Dictionary, the English use the Oxford, and we here in the land of Aus use the Macquarie Dictionary. I don't know what other English-speaking countries use, and I don't care unless called upon to edit work from there. There will be endless arguments about the correct use of words; for some aspects of grammar, it is simple and straightforward. An example, the confusing in the use of its or it's. It's is a contraction of it is. That's is a contraction of that is. Who's is a contraction of who is.

Actually, if you really want to know this stuff, find yourself a book on grammar. Better yet, lobby the government to reintroduce grammar into the English curriculum. It's a kind of hobby horse, but I'll say it again: we are raising a generation of illiterates who won't be able to communicate properly. They don't know how. I'll leave it with a final comment that the above problem is one reason why I became an editor.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


I don't mean Darwin, but personal evolution; self-growth, self-actualisation and all those other 'selfs' that sociologists love to fling about.

It occurred to me that growth, soul growth, happens without conscious thought. How do I know this? Well, I was doing my latest assignment on my Diploma. The assignment is on electronic publishing. That led me to how long I've been using the 'net, and how long I've been apart of the Forward Motion community. From there, I realised how much I've learned while there.

Writing is not an easy thing to do, but I can look back at the beginnings of my posting work and see how much I've learned. From head hopping and rushing my work, I'm now circumspect in scene writing and slower in consideration of why something is where it is and how it works in with other scenes. All of this wasn't really thought about, just watched for. Now my writing has a better flow.

Same thing for editing. I'm more focused, more evolved in what I'm looking for. Others, I know, appreciate the care I take with their work.

Life works the same way. Sometimes, I think we learn through osmosis. We absorb information every day and when someone asks about something, we know. Some of us may pause and wonder how we know others simply accept it.

I'd like to think most people realise this, but I know it's not true given the selfish behaviour I see.

Evolution, personal growth, professional growth. If more people thought about their own philosophies and how they interact with others, we'd probably live in a happier place. Maybe it's because of the aging process, but I don't think so. I think it has more to do with how introspective a person is; I think it has to do with what kind of emotional roller-coasters people have ridden during their lives. The steeper the hills, the lower the valleys, the more evolved people become. If you don't have any rough rides, how can you appreciate the wonderful ones?

Think about that the next time you're tempted to bad behaviour.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Director Who Films Your Life

Ever thought about who would play you in a film of your life? No? Well, cripes, aren't you boring? How about the director. Sure, everyone wants Angelina, Ashley, Jennifer, etc. or Brad, Colin, Dwayne, whomever as the stars, but what about the director, hmm?

Had a happy life? One filled with action or humour or lurve? Here's a quiz you can take to find out.

Roger Corman
Your film will be 51% romantic, 25% comedy, 48% complex plot, and a $ 37 million budget.

An action-complex tale about a complex character that is you. Corman was responsible for a very early Jack Nicholson film, 1963's The Terror (Francis Coppola was associate producer), filmed in three days! The actor who plays you will emote complexity like Jack ... maybe Christian Slater or Gwyneth Paltrow. Also, Roger filmed the original Little Shop of Horrors film -- which in the 1980s was the basis for a hit Broadway musical and another film. All his films were shot for mere thousands of dollars, sometimes completed within the week. Roger knows talent, and knows how to keep costs down with complex stories such as your life story. His versions of Edgar Allen Poe stories are considered classics (The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum), and also directed Deathsport and Bloody Mama in the 1970s. Oh, yeah, man, this guy will make your film a cult classic!

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 24% on action-romance

You scored higher than 19% on humor

You scored higher than 75% on complexity

You scored higher than 45% on budget

I like the complexity part. No one's life should be simple. Okay, Paris Hilton excluded.

Here's the link if you want to find out who would direct your life's movie:
The Director Who Films Your Life Test

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I love word games. And since I haven't anything else to write about at the moment, perhaps you'll be as amused as well:

Those who jump off a bridge in Paris are in Seine.
A backward poet writes inverse.
A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.
Dijon vu - the same mustard as before.
Practice safe eating - always use condiments.
Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.
A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.
A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.
oes the name Pavlov ring a bell?
Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.
Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.
When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.
A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two tired.
What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead giveaway.)
Time flies like a arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana.
In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.
She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.
A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.
The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.
You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
Local Area Network in Australia: the LAN down under.
He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
Every calendar's days are numbered.
A lot of money is tainted - It taint yours and it taint mine.
A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
He had a photographic memory that was never developed.
A plateau is a high form of flattery.
A midget fortune-teller who escapes from prison is a small medium at large.
Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
Once you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.
Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.
Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
Acupuncture is a jab well done.

Some days, I just can't help myself.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I was reminded, today, that summer is on it's way.

It wasn't that the sun is getting up unspeakably early, it wasn't the feral hoards of tourists, or the sickly white stick figures baring all down at the beach. Oh, no. It was a mosquito big enough to carry a small child away.

Every Australian knows the song Redback on the Toilet Seat, but this was a jumbo jet mosquito! At first, I thought it to be a Daddy Long-Legs spider, all legs and attitude. It crouched there with spindly legs looking up at me from the rim.

Okay, I thought, just flush that sucker away and get on with it. Hah! One flush and it flew up, hair-thin proboscis out and ready to do battle. Missed, though, and I heard that sucker hum, a low, threatening sound. I'm gonna get the fly spray to it. No way am I waking up in the middle of the night with that stuck to me.

It also reminded me of what else is here to harm the unwary. With the warming temperatures and rising humidity, true spiders are starting to be active. The Funnel-Web spider, the Redback spider, Wolf spiders, Trap door spiders, White-tailed spiders and Huntsman spiders. Snakes, too; the Red Belly Back snake, Brown snake, Taipans, Death Adders. All are coming out to play with the ignorant.

The warming waters will soon attract the sharks, the jelly fish and blue bottles.

Oh yes, there is much to watch for in the Summertime that has nothing to do with salt rash, sand in your togs and sunburn (slip, slop, slap, people).

Reminds me of that song, Austraylya, it'll killya, that lists all the things in this Great Suthen Land that is potentially lethal. Hah! I love it here, man-eating sketos and all.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Prince of Denmark

Congratulations to the Crown Princess and Crown Prince of Denmark on the birth of their first born, a son. Mary and Fred are, not surprisingly, happy, proud, pleased at their boy. The majority of Danes were positive the baby was going to be a girl and thus create a constitutional crisis. Our Mary had a boy and avoided the political morass. Now comes the speculation of the baby's name. Christian - the traditional name - is the front runner followed by Frederik. Both are good names, but what about an Aussie connection?

Prince Macca? Trevor? Davo? Prince Wally perhaps? The Danes have a sense of humour, but I don't think any of those names would garner any support. Heh.

The family will probably be known as our Mary, Fred and Chris, or Fred junior - probably Freddo, given the Australian habit of abbreviating names.

No doubt the Danes, whose party instincts rival the Aussies (I know from personal experience) will be toast the baby for some weeks yet. Onya Mary!


And speaking of princesses, the TV program, Australian Princess is flagging the ratings race. One wag from the Sun Herald has suggested that the Republican movement could view that as support for their cause. Hel-lo? Could be that Australian audiences are more discerning than their overseas counterparts and view this program with disdain because it's full of shit? That it's positively awful? That it commercialises the 'fairy tale' of Mary meeting Fred in a bar in Sydney? Jeez, Louise! How fatuous can the television industry be?

The Joe Millionaire, Survivor, The Mole, Big Brother, and the rest are worthless. Who gives a rat's bladder that Joe Millionaire isn't? Who the toughest castaway is? Who the bastard is who's mucking up the challenges or how prurient and licentious the housemates are? What social value do any of them have? None I can see, and I don't think titilation is an acceptable value for our kids.

So. Australian Princess will either serve out it's time and never be seen again, or be cut (oh, please, oh, please, oh, please). I know who is the weakest link and I know what my vote will be: the off button.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Muse Muscle

Not to think about something, but the muse that sits behind you, urging you on to writer brilliance. Every writer has a muse, be they real or imagined. A muse is someone who inspires you, tosses you the bone of an idea and sits back to slyly watch your confusion, your puzzlement, your pause, interest and then frenetic pace as you plunge that bone into the plot pot and make a feast for the senses.

There's one rule: don't piss your muse off. Do that, and you're doomed to either mediocrity or, worse, no words at all.

My muse sits behind me, sometimes smirking, sometimes serious, always nagging. She is changeable. She is sometimes a Greek Goddess, sometimes a black-clad Goth, sometimes and arse-kicking biker chick, sometimes a chic business woman. She appropriates characters, interjects with dialogue, smacks her forehead when I get it wrong, puts a light bulb above my head when she gives me an idea. She is friend and foe, sage and savant, lover and lout, but she is always with me.

People often ask writers where their ideas come from. Well, my answer is the Muse. I don't know her name, I don't need to. She's observant, blunt, caustic, humourous, impatient and ever so willing to plunge into my stories to interfere, to boost, to guide the characters in whatever direction she wants. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's always entertaining.

We work together, she and I, to create. I guess you could say she's the brains and I'm the brawn, after all, she's an amorphous being who happens to have some terrific ideas. And I, I have the fingers on the keyboard.

All I have to do is listen. Writer's block isn't a problem. A blank page can be cured by the words "Chapter One". She curious enough to come over from the snack bar and have a look.

My muse and I are a team. Why not go and listen to yours? You might be surprised by what they're trying to tell you.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Writing Styles

With the National Novel Writing competition coming up soon, weblogs are abounding with advice on how to complete the challenge. I'm not linking them because the majority say the same thing I do: sit down and write. Simple, no frills advice.

The minimum to complete the challenge is 1667 words a day, five, six pages. It's not so much, if you've got a great idea, all your plot notes in order, your outline completed, your character interviews done and your research next to you for quick reference. Or... are you an 'organic' writer?

I came across this term a few days ago and wondered, yet again, why people are so determined to create a name for a group who sit outside the box.

An organic writer is one who starts with an idea and runs with it; who sits down at the keyboard and gets the words down, in order. They let the characters take them on the journey. I'm an organic writer... mostly. Here's how it works for me:

I get an idea. I let it stew for a week or so, write down a note about it. I'll spend time dwelling on various aspects of the book: the main character, other characters including the villain, the plot, the end, the beginning, whether there will be an intimate scene, how to kill someone, how a character escapes, weaponry, clothes, scenery, dialogue - I listen to other people's conversations for nifty sayings - weather, and so on. Each aspects comes to me like an excerpt from a movie. My job is to transcribe that movie onto the page, which is why, when I get these flashes, I'll jot them down to remind me of what I saw in my head.

Okay. When I feel ready, or the workings of the book get so overwelming that I must write, I will sit down and do so. The whole story is arranged in my head and out it comes. Most authors will tell you that they have characters living in their heads, but the pressure eases when they've been evicted onto a blank page.

So what does all this mean? It means that I don't have a lot of discipline until I actually sit and write, then I can write for fourteen, sixteen hours - with regular breaks to satisfy the Occupational Health and Safety gnome of my conscience - and write the first draft in a short amount of time.

How short? My first book - don't ask, it was appallingly dreadful and I keep it as a reminder of where I started and how much better I am at this - took me three weeks of fourteen hour days to write. It was 90k. Demonesque, last year's Nano, is 122k; the Oracle Duology is 280k and took me six weeks.

This method works for me. I would like to write three books a year, although I'm capable of more. This method doesn't work for everyone. Plotting is hell for me because it captures my creativity and cages it on the page before it's ready. When I have tried to plot, the book has deviated from about chapter three and that's an end to the plot notes.

Whatever you are, structured, organic, anal or free-spirit, the point is to actually put your bum on the seat and write. Your schedule doesn't matter, I don't think as long as you get the work done. Of course the challlenge of Nano is to guide you into a scheduled existence and into a routine. It's worthwhile. If nothing else, by the end of November, you'll have a book and you'll know what you like and hate about writing.

Sacrifices of the few for the many

Death and destruction, murdered civilians, suicide bombers, accusations of brutal tactics, complaints that America is losing the war in Iraq, that the death toll is too high, that the Coalition should leave Iraq to the iraqis and let them sort it out themselves.

Where, amongst this vitriol, is the good news? Where, amongst the sneering isolationists, is the proof that the invasion failed? Where are the "ordinary Iraqis" protesting the invasion? Why haven't they demanded the withdrawal of troops? How much damage have the Americans and her allies done to this country?

Well, it's all here, actually:

Baltimore Sun

The next time some whiney-assed, ill-formed, holier-than-thou, hippy wanna-be demands peace in a warring country, remember that sometimes war is the only solution; that peace is always bought at a price; that out of the blood and tears, sometimes comes happiness and contentment; that you cannot defeat brutal insanity with kindess and flowers. The sacrifice of a few should be worthwhile for the benefit of the many, otherwise, what has it all been about?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Red Cross, Double Cross

People across the globe donated millions to the Red Cross in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In an age of media, we all saw the devastation wrote by the storm and sympathised with the victims. We put our hands in our pockets to help. Where is that money now?

Larissa Ione is spitting chips about the lack of help from the organisation. And rightly so. I have noted that many webloggers are not publicly stating they will not support the Red Cross in light of this and the debacle following the 9/11 attacks. It's a sad indictment on an organisation that does so much good in the world, that it has made so much money vanish.


Update on my NaNo preparations: I've now done twenty five plot cards courtesy of Holly Lisle's wonderful site. I've not done plotting like this before, and I'm finding it tough. I'm a linear, organic writer, so this is definately outside my comfort zone. But, you've got to challenge yourself every now and then, just to see if you can.

I suspect I'll be falling over myself in anticipation for November. I can't stop thinking about the book, nasty scenarios keep popping up, conversations are in my head, appeareances, histories, motivations, everything I need to write this book... and I can't start it. Yet.

November will come soon enough, so all I can do is make this plotting and associated notes, the best they can be before the starting guns goes off. I know I'm not the only passenger in this ship, let's hope it doesn't sink.

A joke of politicians

It's hard to take our so-called representatives seriously when they are so ill-informed.

At the heart is the Government's new Industrial Relations package that introduces the idea of workers being able to negotiate their public holidays, allowances, overtime and meal breaks for higher wages. Bear in mind that these are automatically guaranteed anyway and are protected under the legislation.

Various religious groups, the Catholic and Anglican churches, have expressed concern about this, even though neither commentator has read the entire legislation.

Worse, these comments have provoked a number of politicians to applaud the churches for involving themselves in matters of state. Hello? State and Church are separate for a reason. And Kim? You should fucking know better than to give legs to a lie! Unfortunately, it's not the first time. The Kyoto Protocol comments being an example.

I would have thought Senators Joyce and Fielding would have the curtesy of informing themselves better before taking to the media and stirring up trouble that will, no doubt, backfire again. New Senators like these might think they are flexing their political muscles, but the Opposition must be snickering something fierce at their idiocy and the Government, rolling their eyes.

Have they learned nothing since the debacle of the Telstra sale? I'm sure they see themselves, at least Joyce does, as the conscience of the Parliament, but jeez, these guys should get a grip. If they want to remind the Government they are there, then for God's sake, become informed about a subject before shooting yourself in the foot!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Characters as people

I rarely do outlines for books, and when I do, they don't resemble the finished product. I've usually deviated within the first three chapters of actually writing the book.

This time, it has to be different. The book is complex and I'll need pointers. Eventually, the twists and turns won't surprise me but I hope will surprise the readers. I'm not concerned about that - though, perhaps I should be. What I don't want to happen is the deviation. What I have in mind is a terrific idea that twists the stalker/woman-in-jeopardy premise (and, no, it is not the atypical stalker story; I'm not telling any more).

So far, I've managed to write down the principles of outlining: the mood, the setting, the characters strengths and weaknesses, their moral codes, the evolutions, etc. I don't want them to be two dimensional characters. I don't want my villain to be unlikeable, nor my protagonist unsympathetic. And there in lies the difficulties of writing modern fiction: villains aren't your typical bad guys anymore. They have wants and needs, too; they have ambitions, joys, hurts, the whole kit and kaboodle, except... they must have or do something that is reprehensible, must have something wrong with them that is socially unacceptable.

They might be wonderful people you'd like to know, except for that one, disturbing element. That's the kind of villain I'm going for.

It's the same with the protagonist. They, too, might be wonderful, except for a peccadillo or two, except for a dark secret, except for a personality flaw. That's the kind of protagonist I'm going for.

The difference between the two is as simple as it is complex: one is redeemable, the other is not.

With thoughts of both characters swirling, I'm hoping to blur the line between the concept of good and evil.

I can't wait to start writing this book - it's the same with all I've written - but this time, I have to pace myself, I have to keep in mind the endgame, and I have to have an outline to guide the way for me. I'd better get to it: the sooner I have the outline, the sooner I can tweak it and get ready for November 1.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Web of Evil

I'm currently researching my Nano and the history on my internet looks very, very suspicious. I've gone from stalker sites to serial killers to criminal profiling to maps of small towns to photographs of streets to local weather. I've downloaded articles and street maps like a 'how to' list.

The scary thing is, I found my own street from two sites not based here. The phrase 'I can see my house from here' takes on a new meaning. I'm sorry to say... it was a lot of fun finding the information I need. Of course, I'm not done yet. The mind of a writer is just as dangerous as the perps written about.

If I can find the information, anyone can. The questions swirl, the plan evolves, but, in this instance, I shan't be going out to test my theories on stalking, to see how it's done myself. I'll settle for reading about it and using my imagination.

The difficulty in writing this book, is that I've never been to that particular state in in the U.S. A lot of the others, yes, and they would do just as well. But a nice isolated, low populated township - or two, three, four - is just what I need. Writers can be scary people. They can take on the characteristics of the bad guy, they can take on the personality of the good guy, the bystander, the victim, the enemy. They are, in an intellectual way, nuts; crazy people who talk to themselves, carry on conversations, sneak about, test weapons, argue with themselves, fight themselves or try to get family members to do so. We are an incomplete set of marbles - and we love it.

I'm creeped out by the coldness of my planning, but I'm also sprinkled with smugness at the cleverness, at the total lack of concern.

It's early stages yet, though. The whole thing might be too effective, or has plot holes a pantechnicon could drive through.

Yeah, writers are scary people who troll through the muck and mire of human depravity or the Elysian Fields of mankind's purity, for inspiration and creativity. No wonder I love being one.

Tomorrow, the week-long Forward Motion Outline Challenge begins. I'll let you know how the Stalker Plot progresses.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Nano wind up

It's October and it is time to start preparing for the National Novel Writing Month of November.

November is mayhem. Thousands of writers trying to finish fifty thousand words in a month. This isn't, quite, novel length, but it's a good start.

For me, the challenge isn't the 50k finish line, it's the novel aspect. To me, Nano means exactly that: write a novel in a month. Not 50k, not 60k or 100k, but a complete, beginning, middle and end, book. It has a plot, it has conflict, it has dialogue, it has questions to be answered, it has heroes and villans, it has it all.

For others, it is their first attempt at completing a book. It's their first attempt at writing more than a short story. For most it's a challenge they will fail at. Significantly, last year, if I remember correctly, there were about 48,000 people signed up for it, but less than 2,000 actually wrote 50,000 words or more.

The attrition rate is appalling and gives a better idea of how difficult it can be to write a book. It's about discipline, it's about ambition, it's about real life interferring, it's about not giving up, it's about the sense of achievement at the end of the month. (Especially when you're on that first page with the other high word counters.)

Of course, people cheat. There are always a handful of people who piss the rest of us off by putting down a million words or five hundred thousand or any other impossible word count. I don't count them, because they are not worth the attention.

Focus should be on those writers who have taken up the challenge and, for the first time, finished what they started. It's a monumental achievement given how many others gave up after the first week or so. And when I read some of the excerpts, I am amazed at the genius, ingenuity and cleverness of the works. A few I even want to read more.

I've had good feedback on what I've written in the past and I'm hoping for more, although this year it will be a different genre. This is my third year doing this challenge and a third different genre. Year one was a sci-fi, Prisoners of Time; last year was an urban fantasy, Demonesque; and this year is a... well, I suppose it's a suspense, tentatively entitled Deception. I'll have to research small American towns, police procedures, psychiatry and stalkers for this one and do an outline. That's going to be the challenge this year, because the previous years I had a starting point and just wrote.

I'm going to need an outline before I start this year's Nano so I don't forget clues and red herrings. I'll post excerpts here and on the nano site which is at:

There'll be a lot of people doing the Nano this year, and I can't wait to read some the new and innovative ideas people have.

For the next 24 days or so, I'm going to make reference to my progress and that of others... I'm a writer, after all, it's what I do.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The rise and fall of fictional heroes

I'm reading two series that are so far apart genre-wise as for anyone to wonder what similarities they have. I can answer that one: politics.

When I began reading these series, I was impressed by the characters intestinal fortitude to Get Things Done no matter what the cost to themselves - and, on occasion, others. You know the saying, there is no greater love than to give your life... for someone who probably doesn't appreciate the sacrifce and will resent the hell out of you for the rest of their lives because of the guilt. Hmm. Nothing noble there. Why do they do it? Something about honour, justice and love, I suppose. Although, it would twist a enemy character, wouldn't it, to know that a hero died to save them. "Damn their eyes! How dare they be more worthy than I? How dare they take my victory away by sailing between me and that rogue asteroid/out-of-control-ship/terraton-alien-missile/fighting-the-monster-to-the-last-breath?" Something to ruminate on for the rest of their naturally embittered life.

But I digress. The similarity. Politics. From starship commander to an Admiral of two two fleets, Honor Harrington is now more involved in the politics of fighting a resumed war than actually getting out there and kicking butt; from feared vampire hunter to fuck-bunny, Anita Blake is now more involved in the politics of monsters than in solving crimes and killing beasties. For those readers who enjoy the political side of these characters, it must be a relief to get away from all that nasty violence. For those of us who like the violence - within reason - in the pursuit of a stunning, dramatic conclusion to a book, it's a sad down turn of some truly original books.

Could it change back? Well, no. Characters need to grow and develop. Unfortunately, while Honor Harrington has maintained the code of Manticore, Anita Blake has, for one reason or another, betrayed her own code of honour and descended into the very depths of depravity she swore she would not succumb to. Hah. We have followed Anita's demise, some readers agree it is a natural progression, others do not. I'm in both camps, giving the author time to consider motives and reasonings; nothing changed. The character continued to plunge into the abyss.

Politics have stripped the original vampire hunter of humanity. It was that very part of her identity that made the Anita Blake series such a good one. Now, it is steeped in sex for very specious reasons, and with no emotional consequences, no thought to the betrayal of fundamental morals.

For me, there are things I absolutely will not do for any reason or any lure. I will not betray myself or my honor in the pursuit of power or for the betterment of someone else just because I think I love them. It's not about them, it's about what I can live with. Sadly, Laurell K. Hamilton's character is all too willing to prostitute herself for others needs, rather than her own. And yes, it has all come about by her own choices. She's taken the easy way out because it became too hard to fight against.

For David Weber's Honor Harrington, nothing would convince her to betray everything she believed in, even when the enemy was her own government. I don't know that I agree with the recent developments - White Haven is too old, forty years is too big an age gap even with prolong - but the characters are happy, well-adjusted, people. And yes, Harrington is well aware that she is a stone-cold killer, just as Blake is. The difference is attitude; the difference is how each dealt with the politics of the situation. One stood firm, held honor in both hands and earned unwanted political power; the other slipped, gave in to temptation, turned and embraced that which she abhors and accepted the darkness.

What will be the results of all this? Only the authors know that. But it brings up an interesting thought: Which is the more intriguing scenario? The rise or fall of a hero?

One clue is always whether new readers are attracted, or whether fan readers are repelled. For both Harrington and Blake, the juries, luckily, are still out.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I feel like a bucket of shit without the bucket. Yeah, it's Springtime and the Star Jasmine is out. Hayfever, rhinitis, what... everrrr, the bleary eyes, constantly running nose, muffled ears and headache. It's here, I got it and I'd rather be home, in bed, than at work being slightly vague. Sounds like a cold, but neither the ibuprofen nor the paracetemol is having much effect, ergo, hayfever.

I've got to find out where that blasted jasmine is: not to kill, but to avoid. It's fly spray to me. A real quick knockdown on me. I've just got to walk past it and wham! Headache time. Shitty stuff. If I don't find it, Spring is going to be awfully long.

What pisses me off is the exorbitant cost of anti-histamine medication. I don't get leveled by hayfever every year, but I got slammed this time. One minute fine, the next, I've got watering eyes, sneezing ferociously (no delicate achoos for me, pal, I let 'em rip). Blech, right at the beginning of the long weekend, too. *insert pout here*. I'm going to have to reach out and grab some o' those expensive drugs, three days of this is enough. I'll get attacked again before the spring is done, I understand and accept that, plenty of time to fork over a fortune for the the medication.

Okay. To cheer myself up, a colour quiz. Thanks to Paperback Writer for the link:

you are lightgreen

Your dominant hue is green. You're logical and steadfast, focused on figuring life out and doing what makes sense. You value being trusted because you know you're taking the time to figure things out and everyone should just follow you.

Your saturation level is lower than average - You don't stress out over things and don't understand people who do. Finishing projects may sometimes be a challenge, but you schedule time as you see fit and the important things all happen in the end, even if not everyone sees your grand master plan.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
the html color quiz

Not exactly what I expected, but the colour would be different tomorrow. Different mood, different answers, different colour. For today, it suits me. Green - defintely a metaphor.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Bali bombing II

Again with the murder of innocents!

Thirty-two people dead and over a hundred wounded following three bomb blasts in Bali; and just days before the third anniversary of the last one that killed a hundred or so people

I'd like to know how such actions further the cause of Islam. Is it riding Indonesia of infidel westerners? No. Is it destroying the livelihoods of the locals? Absolutely. What greater good is there?

I know these fundamentalist groups blame western civilisation for their woes, for their poverty, for the undermining of the islamic faith, but they are wrong. It isn't the west who is to blame for this attitude, but the individual agendas of the clerics who manipulate the Koran and provoke emotionally unstable teenagers to blow themselves up. Martyrs for the cause? What a load of unmitigated bullshit! It causes grief, it causes anger and, worst of all, it feeds the egos of the so-called clerics with their display of wretched and twisted power.

The Koran doesn't say 'go out and slaughter innocence and your reward shall be great'. It doesn't say 'it is your duty to rid the world of unbelievers'. It doesn't say that 'every infidel is worthless and you shouldn't worry about the blood on your hands'. And it certainly doesn't authorise indiscriminate jihads. A jihad can only be called by a council of clerics, and only if the holy land is in peril.

Those days are long past when the Moors battled the Crusaders. At least then, both sides had a code of honour they stuck by. At least then, neither the Bible, nor the Koran, nor, indeed the Torah, were corrupted by power-seeking religious fanatics.

The strong are supposed to protect the weak, not the weak-minded minority kill and maim the stronger majority. But then, if a vote doesn't go your way, slaughter as many of the 'wrong-headed' community as you can and maybe they'll come around to your way of thinking. And what's wrong with this picture?

It's the civilians who suffer. These fanatics' only approval comes from the sick leaders they support.

It's time for a re-evaluation of the way young moslems are educated. It's time for some proactive bravery from moslem leaders. It's time for suicide bombers to face up to their own problems and not blame anyone but themselves for the ills of the world. Different religious beliefs should not be an excuse to kill people in job lots, and yet, more people have been killed because that same difference than any other cause of wars you care to name put together.

And maybe that's the way it's always going to be. We live in a much more dangerous world where nothing is sacred anymore, where human life has no value, where petulant bullies kill indiscriminately because they can.

Doesn't bode well for the human race, does it.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Moral Responsibility of All

Former Labor Prime Minister, Robert Hawke, raised the issue of nuclear waste and its recycling. He suggests that it would be a great economic boon to Australia if we took the world's nuclear waste and buried it in the deep, dark recesses of the great outback. There's nothing out there, nobody lives there, it's empty - except of course for indigenous flora and fauna.

The current Labor Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, smugly assured the populace that the issue was not one of Labor policy. Even the current Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard, demurred on the subject. But should they?

A former Greenpeace head has tentatively broached the subject of Australia's moral responsibility of uranium export. His reasoning is that if we are willing to sell yellow cake to the world, we should accept the resulting plutonium and other radio-active tailings.

And herein is the dilemma: nuclear waste is dangerous; yellow cake is not. Should we, as a nation, bear responsibility for what other nations do with our uranium?

When I first heard of this, I said a loud, mental 'no', 'not on your life'. Now, though, I'm thinking that Greenpeace - who I don't support because of its bloody minded arrogance - may have the right of it.

There are many who protest the shipping of our own nuclear waste to France aboard supposedly secure ships. But these are people who protest the nuclear facility just outside of Sydney, but refuse to come up with a viable alternative.

It's like prisons. Yeah, everybody is for law and order, but a prison in their neighbourhood? No way, no how, put it somewhere else. If these people had their druthers, we wouldn't have nuclear power at all, which means importing nuclear medicine at the very least.

There's no doubt nuclear substances are dangerous, but we cannot put the genie back into the bottle; we cannot unknow the science of it, we can't turn our back on it. What we can do is accept that it is our yellow cake out there being turned into nuclear energy and we can accept that because of that, we must make sure that the waste is disposed of in a suitable fashion.

In the outback? Buried in cement barrels under hundreds of metres of earth? I honestly don't know. Polluted groundwater is what immediately springs to mind.

Nuclear fusion is one of those things that I wish scientists had stopped to think whether they should develop it, before they thought of whether they could. It's a technology that is feared even as it's applauded, but never truly controlled until we can dispose of it in a safe manner.

This is a debate that can and should go on for some time before a decision is made.