Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm done...

...for. No, not really. Nano is over for me and I can only breathe a sigh of relief. One hundred and eighty thousand, one hundred and seventy five words. One and three-quarter books. Thirty days of writing with a full time job tossed in just to make things interesting.

Ker..iste! What was I thinking? The smug has leaked out of me and all I feel is tired. That will pass by tomorrow, I suspect, because the second book aint done yet.

I'd do more tonight, but hell, I'm typing with dyslexic fingers. It would be too ugly, and too much to delete. So I'm done. Calling it quits. I have my book done, the second one is a bonus. An interesting read so far, but unfinished. A couple of days rest, and I'll come back and finish it.

I'd like to thank the music of Mike Oldfield, Pat Benatar and Laura Branigan for getting me through the last week of writing. Without their emotional impact, I doubt I would have accomplished so much in such a short time.

So. I'm off to stare blankly at the television screen. Tomorrow, I shall read, or watch a dvd or two, shop, do the house work, or none or all of the above. Whatever I do, it shall be away from the book - although I have sneaking suspicion the characters won't let me.

Ah, well, such is the life of a writer.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Practical Magic

Science Fantasy. That genre that crosses the void between science fiction and fantasy. It joins the two in marriage and gives the reader a taste of both worlds.

It is the genre where magic happens in a technology world.

Once upon a time, the main genre was called, sci-fi/fantasy. The one genre encompassed both magic or science fiction, but not both. If you had a book of science fantasy, well you had to choose one or the other, you couldn't be both. If you didn't choose, someone chose for you.

Now that genre has split into two and face each other across an ever increasing void. I think some writers groups forget where they came from, writing pure science fiction or pure fantasy. (I'll just point out that all fiction is fantasy.) Some suggest that the twain shall never meet. You cannot blend the two genres.

Well, you can. All you have to remember is to be scientific about fantasy.

Of course it takes research to do this, but we also live in a world where practical magic is done every day. I don't mean card tricks, I mean spells and incantations.

It's been around for thousands of years by thousands of people, on every continent. And if you don't think it works, think again. I'll use Australia as an example.

Our indigenous population have the Kadiachi man. He is used as punishment and he doesn't have to touch the perpetrator to cast his magic. If convicted of a crime against the tribe, he will cast his spell. Word will get to the convict. If the Kadiachi man says in five days you will have a temperature, the convict, five days later, will have a temperature. If the curse says two days after that you will experience pain... and so on, it will happen. Why? Belief. Absolute, total, unwavering belief. I would say that the Christian Church has similar magic and before I'm accused of heresy, Christians pray and sometimes those prayers are answered. What is that if not magic?

To the fictional world, then. Magic within technology. We consider ourselves sophisticated, intellectual beings, and yet the idea of magic is not uncommon. Think you on JK Rowling's books. Magic is an integral part of the books. Okay, you say, but it's the suspension of disbelief. Is it, though?

Consider more closely the use of magic. Each character has a wand, speaks an incantation and voila. A spell erupts from the wand and does wonderful or terrible things.

A wand is a stick.

Nothing technological about it. Nope. It's an inert object.

A stick is a piece of fire wood, it's a tool for digging holes, it's a measure, it's a guide pointing in a particular direction, it's a weapon, a toothpick, a lever, a piece of art, it's part of a structure and a lot more. That's the physical.

On an emotional level, it can be whatever you want it to be. It's the memory of throwing it for your dog, it's the fingers you burnt while prying off the melted marshmellow, it's smacking your evil sibling and the tears that followed. Combine that with something as esoteric as magic, and you have science fantasy.

The magic comes from within. Point and flick with your stick and see what happens. Magic mixes with technology and out pops science fantasy. The genre that bridges two worlds.

It does need explaining. With the two, it is the science that has to be explained, and to explain the science, you have to explain the magic. It's not hard, just think of where the magic came from and that's all the explanation you'll ever need.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Speed Demon

I've had some comments - not here, elsewhere - on the speed at which I produce work. In particular, how I manage to write so quickly.

For example: this Nano challenge, I have written - from scratch, without plot or plan - 120k on the thriller Deception and 31k on the Science Fantasy novel SABLE. That's a big total for twenty-seven days of writing. And that is exactly how it sounds: Twenty-seven days of writing. No days off for good behaviour, no squibbing on the total or the writing, no shirking the muse because family came to visit. That's sitting down at the keyboard and pounding out the words, one after the other, no matter how late in the night.

That is how a book is written, with your focus on the story, on the characters and what their doing, on What Happens Next.

WHN is of paramount importance here. If you don't know where you're going with a book, it doesn't matter how fast you type, the words won't come.

Typing is a learned trade, but a practiced art. Like writing, the more you practice, the better you'll get at it; well, that's the theory, anyway.

And there, grasshopper, is the secret to high word counts. Write every day until the book is done. Then you can take a break. Know What Happens Next, even if, like me, you're a free writer. Have, at least, a vague idea and hit the keyboard. If it doesn't work... well, it works for me, but if it doesn't, you can always go back and fix it at the editing stage. Learn to type properly. Not this hunt and peck method, that smacks of a lack of commitment and arrogance. Do it the conventional way before you do it the unconventional way.

By the end, you'll have your book; do your happy dance. (For some of you, do it privately, please?) Then let it rest. It needs it after all you've put it through. When it's matured and you've got some distance, go back and edit; that is another skill to learn.

Go, young Jedi, use the Force and create. With every word, sentence and paragraph you type, the faster you will go.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


For some reason, and I figure it is secret blog business, my last post went straight to archives.

I think, maybe, I was too quick to look at the post on my blog. I should have waited, but there you go.

And so it goes on

Oy, where does the week go? My last post was on Wednesday and here it is Saturday. Having too much of a good thing, I expect.

Oh, yea, verily, in the land of make believe, I do continue my journey.

FYI, here's an important fact about writing: do not rest on your laurels for too long after finishing a book. Have a time out, by all means, but keep going. If you're going to be a writer, then be one and break out the next book to write.

I've looked at the Nano site and seen many a wannabe author doing the hula, toasting one another, slapping each other on the back and generally celebrating the finishing of 50,000 words.

Can you see one eyebrow raised? Yeah, that's me, and the lip curl. It's probably churlish of me, but hey, 50k a book does not make. Novella? Yeah, but realistically, these are the people who won't succeed because the 50k is all the challenge they see. It's a great, almost compulsory starting point, but it's not the whole challenge.

Writers, write; wannabe's crow over the green bar and do no more. And that is a shame.

You'll note that a number of authors have hitched a second book to their profiles. These are the one's who take writing seriously. They finish one book and begin another.

Publishers, agents, editors want to know what kind of a track record you've got; whether you can be relied upon to keep producing. What are you going to say to them? "Um... no, not yet, but I'm sure an idea will come to me next November." Yeah, and they'll show you the door.

This is a money making business, people. Not for you, of course; let's face it authors, agents and editors make shit money, but for the publisher. You want to be a success, you've got to keep going. Eventually, if you're good enough, produce enough, work hard enough, have an enormous imagination and sacrifice enough virgins, you'll make it. Maybe.

So, while you're in a good mood from completing Nano, three words: Plot, Plan, Begin.

They are the words that will carry you through. Get into the habit of writing because your books won't write themselves, there is no book fairy, if you don't do it, no one will and finally - I don't know who said it, but it's brilliant: You have no right to keep your imagination to yourself!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

'Tis done

The Nano book is done. My challenge is complete and not without angst, girly hair pulling and swear words. It is 120k of first draft; some of good writing, some of it bad writing and some of it mediocre. No doubt it has plot holes you could drive a truck through, but no book ever written is a total loss. Re-written, yes, great gobs of it thrown out, but not a total loss.

If the idea is sound, it can be worked into a book; if the idea is unsound it won't progress no matter how much you try.

That should give hope to all those who want to write, who need to write. Those first few attempts, while exciting at the outset may not have had a workable idea, and so failed. Of course, motivation may have flagged into non-existence, too, thus scuppering the writer in his/her tracks.

What happens, though, if the idea is sound? For the writer, the idea won't go away, no matter how much your try. For those wannabes, the idea drifts into obscurity, never to be thought of again.

I know I've had some brilliant ideas, but didn't have the motivation to write them down. That is my loss, for they went away in a fit of pique into the universal pool of muses to sulk.

Now if I get an idea, I write one sentence down on anything I can find. The muse has a sense of humour and is continually testing my patience.

Every creative person has a muse who whispers in their ear. Some may not hear it, but others do. And not every creative person achieves public success. The private thrill of having a book written in enough.

This is my tenth book, but none have yet made it to publication. It's a tough world out there, with thousands of books being printed each year. Worse, trying to get noticed is like being one rice bubble in a bowl of many.

No matter how crackly you are with the milk of inspiration, you're still one of many other cracklies. (Huh. Strange analogy that. But it shows my point adequately, I think.)

Luck plays a big part, but so does professionalism. No fanciness with your manuscript, no diatribes on how wonderful the book is, no threats. Be professional, adhere to the submission guidelines. Make sure you find out everything you can about the publishing company you want to publish your work. Make sure it's the right one. Then cross your fingers.

Never stop writing. One book is fine, but publishers like to know they can rely on you for more work.

That's my next job: to get this manuscript, or another one I'm thinking of, ready to submit. It will take a while, but that's okay. Next year looms large, for it is the to get my work out there. Short stories, longer stories, books - out there in the world at large. I have enough of a back list to work with and more ideas.

Hopefully, 2006 will see me in print, not just excerpts on various sites.

Now, though, I have another book to write while NaNo is still on. That inner athlete won't quit and while she doesn't, neither will I.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


I've managed to write myself into a rut. Not the kind of rut you'd expect either, but the rut of writing x amount of words per day and struggling with more.

Over the past three weeks, I've averaged out at between three and six thousand a day. I get up, go to work, come home and write for three hours. A good habit to get into... except when I want and need to write more.

My inner athelete accepted this challenge, but now is unwilling to be pushed beyond the pain barrier. She wants to watch the end of cricket, read a book, watch a DVD, take a break.

I don't blame her. I've been writing every single day and it's tiring; the constant focus and creativity wears on a body. No amount of cajoling and promises are working. Weekends are usually my high time for writing. 10k is common in one day, more when I'm in the groove. Not this weekend. I've barely done the same for two days. I'm close to the end, but picking my way through the ending choices is tough. And I still haven't decided which way to go to get to the end point I want.

Yeah, yeah, I should trust my characters to know what to do, but they're a little off stride too. I think they're just as tired as I am and I'm so not going to have an Deus Ex Machina step in. I need my characters to be honest with me and themselves.

And yes, its sounds like I'm talking about real people, because to me, they are real, otherwise they'd be two dimensional and that is death for a book.

I think I'll take a moment, an hour, and ponder the quandry.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Aiming for 'The End'

The problem with freewriting is knowing when to end the book. Sure, you look at your word count and think, "hmm, I need to kill someone." Or, "I need more sex." Personally speaking, yeah, sure, I do, but writing wise, we're talking about word counts. Pay attention. Free writing is a process by which you have an amorphous idea and run with it. You have no middle and no ending in mind, just a vague thought that the book will finish on it's own.

Hah! I have over 100k and have just killed off two more people. Jeez, am I blood thirsty or what? That makes five, no, six dead bodies on the ground. I have one accident, one assault and one near-rape, too. It's all go on the Deception front, but I now need an ending. Should I kill the fucker off? Should I have him duly beaten by the big, buff cop? Should I have him escape? Now that would be cruel, wouldn't it?

I'm in nowhere land with a number of solutions available. The perp has finally lost it, and if I go his way, more people are going to die. If I go the cop route, a kidnapping and assault ensue. If I go the 'accidental arrest' route, that lets the reader down, I think, because there's no real climax until the unveiling.

This is what free writing is all about: the uncertainty. I can see why Sue Grafton doesn't, or didn't plot, because the author is in the dark as much as the reader, and surprises always happen.

I think I'm just going to see what happens. After a bit of sex. In the book! Perverts!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The middle bit

Writers are often filled with a sense of urgency to get something down. They may have done all the research, plotted, outlined, spoken to their characters, worked out the structure, whether it will be first or third person, everything that needs to be done.

But when a writer finally gets down to it, there is that ever so slight tremble in the fingertips as they rest on the keyboard to start the book.

Many writers, structured ones in particular, will say that the hard work is over. There will be no hesitating because they have the guideposts already set. They know what is going to happen, are familiar with the whole book. And, I have to say, they are right.

It's not my style and each author has their own way of doing things. Mine is just as exciting as a structured authors. I don't know what's going to happen, the characters do what they will within the bounds of their personalities. For example, a church-going virgin, will not suddenly break into curse words and screw anything on two legs; a soldier will not suddenly toss his gun away and start picking flowers - unless it is a part of their personalities and the story has led to this point. But I digress.

A writer, poised to start the great work. If everything is set, fingers will dance across the keyboard in perfect step to the thoughts, the plan, the ideas. A frenetic pace, perhaps, or measured, in beat with music only the writer can hear. For pages, the prose will flow, the muse will dance and the writer is filled with a sense of purpose, with excitement, with pleasure.

But then: The Middle.

Where every author knows, is a place that can be as dry as a desert or as impenetrable as a jungle. The right words dry up or are blocked. The story slows down, is choked with unfortunate passivity, where action is an emotion, a thought, an intention.

We all know the beginning of the end is coming up and we can't wait. We all know the surprises coming up, the stunning conclusion, the gobsmacking climax is a few chapters away, but we must wade through The Middle. Have a place from which to set up the incredible, original, amazing End.

To get there, we must scale mountains, plumb the depths of our creativity, bash through The Middle.

I'm currently bashing away at that Middle. Eighty-five thousand words later, and I'm up to my waist in emotional, psychological and worrisome Middle. It's not something that 'will pass'. I have to fight for each paragraph, for each sentence, for every, single damn word. It doesn't have to be perfect, I can edit later, but the ideas, the form, what I'm trying to say must be right, or I'll not know what I meant to say.

I could throw myself upon the mercy of structured writing. Beg forgiveness from the muse of convention, plead for the demon Freewriter to let me go. But I won't.

Part of being a writer is the constant learning curve. For every writer, no matter what they write, writing is an ongoing learning experience, be it creative or not. This is part of what being a writer means: to push further than you think you can. To grow, to experience, to understand and to feel accomplished when you've discovered something new about yourself and your writing.

Middles: the most challenging of all, and the most rewarding.

To quote best-selling author, Holly Lisle: Writing. It's one damn word after another.

And that's how you get through the dreaded Middle.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Inside the bad guy's head

As NaNo progresses, I'm finding all sorts of things about my characters. This marathon, to me, is all about freewriting; that is, not having a recognisable outline to follow, just some ideas about characters. If you know your characters, everything else follows.

It's been an interesting ride to watch these people who've come out of my head, but I wonder if authors are sometimes a little psychotic.

To write well, or even great, you must get into their heads and see things from their point of view. Sound odd? It probably is to the population at large, but an author has to get in touch with 'The Dark Side' to create not just the moral, upstanding, heroic person, but the evil psychopathic enemy, too - unless the story is deliberately structured that the bad guy isn't an integral part of the book, or is better served as an ideology (see Tolkien).

I'm still unsettled by yesterday's writing, though, because of what my bad guy did. Sometimes, I think authors have to be brave to write what they do. Not because of controversial ideas, but personally brave; to write what disturbs them, upsets them, or pisses them off.

I had a scene where my two protagonists finally get together and make love. That was fine, but with the Stalker nearby, the act was going to have consequences. I'd forgotten that the characters were in charge of this book and were going to act accordingly; and he did.

I spent alot of time wrestling with the first scene; a slow word count, deleting because it wouldn't work, or the motivation was wrong, but finally got it right. Yay, happy dance. Then came the dark cloud and I had to walk away from the keyboard as I realised what had to happen.

In what non-writers would call some seriously fucked up thinking, I couldn't stay away. I had to write it down; and did, with fingers flying over the keyboard. One serious assault of my lead character - okay, let's not be squeamish, it's a near rape scene, with accompanying violence. Shocking, devastating and... right.

And when it was done, my hands were shaking, hell, I was shaking. I really wanted to write a happy scene after that, but I couldn't think of one and it would have been wrong of me. So I finished the day's work on a really nasty scene.

More fucked up thinking: I slept really well after that. I won't revisit the scene until it's time to edit, but it's a good piece. It fits in with the book and the characters. Now, we get to the aftermath. I have to get this right too, or readers will see it as false, or superficial and throw the book across the room. I don't want that. I want readers to hurt, to ache, to be furious and hoping for appropriate vengence and a just end.

Authors must step out of their comfort zones to portray truth in their novels. Not your truth or my truth or an amorphous universal truth; the truth of the novel.

And sometimes, that means getting in touch with your inner psychopath.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Death of the Sickie

We regret to inform you on the recent death of the sickie.

Unfortunately, for those out-of-touch union reps and the Opposition Laborites, the sickie has been dead for sometime and it is the stench of the rotting corpse that has awoken you from torpor.

Most industries are more flexible than the hardline enemies of Industrial Relations reform realise, or even want to know. If you are genuinely sick, you get to a doctor and get your medical certificate. If you are just looking for a day off, why, lo and behold that's what flexible working hours are all about.

Remember flexi-time? Yes, boys and girls, it still exists.

What the reforms are trying to do is untie employers hands so they can get on with negotiating a better deal for the employees and the company. It works both ways, do you see?

Ninety-nine point five per cent of employers aren't the mongrel dogs that the unions would have you think. Most employers just want to get on with business, and make money; that's why they're in business to begin with.

Employers are not there to coddle lazy layabouts who, when roused, bitch about their allowances, their holiday pay, their wage, their Union-given rights to work in an ergonomically-correct, equal opportunity and equitable work environment. And that includes personal well-being.

We are a long way from the 1860s when Labour Day was fought for. We are a long way from the oppressed worker, we are a long way from the halcyon days of unionism. Less than twenty percent of Australians belong to one. Surely this is significant?

I'm not saying we don't need them; we do, otherwise we really would be at risk. It is the union reps who study and understand the laws, so as to negotiate individual and collective workplace agreements... but JESUS get a grip, would you?

This is not about the undermining of individual entitlements! This is about the restructuring of them; giving the employer and the employee should he/she wish to do so the opportunity to negotiate on some rights and entitlements. This is not about stripping employee rights as the current media campaign would have you believe, and I would take issue at the misinformation being bandied about by the unions and the Opposition, that is commonly refered to as a 'lie'. The current campaign would have you believe that we are heading back into the Industrial Revolution, and work for thirteen and fourteen hours a day for a pittance. Here's a clue: some people do. They're called sweat shops. Go after them if you've got so much money to waste on lying to the public.

As for everyone else, most people are happy, or at least content, with their working environment. This change will not affect them.

Some people may be affected adversely. Show me legislation that doesn't affect someone adversely. The difference is the affected employee can choose not to work for that company; the affected person can choose to move on. Or, the affected employee may decide to accept the shitty workplace agreement, and keep an eye out for a better job.

In the current climate, there are plenty of jobs available.

And the unions should be negotiators on those jobs, not bloody namby-pamby squealie girls who protest anything to do with change that they haven't mooted.

Grow up people, the good times are here regardless of what those campaigns are saying. Get informed, stay informed and you won't lose out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What does it take?

Our Australian Navy has registered 1,800 patrol days every year from Cairns in Queensland to Broome in Western Australia. The protect our northern border and it is not enough. That's not a criticism of the Navy, nor indeed our government. It is a testament to the vastness of our continent that we just don't have the resources or the people to cover such an area.

This gap in our security is a cause for alarm for the obvious reasons. However, I could write a book on that. That's not what this post is about.

It's about the rare Patagonian Tooth fish and other endangered species poached from our waters. Last Friday, the Federal Court acquitted fishermen on the charges of illegal fishing. The men, a Uruguayan, three Spaniards and a Chilean were caught with over a million dollars worth of the fish, obviously in Australian Territorial waters, yet because the Navy didn't catch them in the act of pulling the fish out of the water, they've got away with it.

What did the court think they were doing? Giving the fish a guided tour of the oceans of the world?

It's also of concern the increasing number of Indonesian fishermen being caught in our northern waters. Again, we don't have the resources to catch these blighters.

Now, the bleeding hearts will comment that these are poor men, with no education and little resources to improve their lives. Bullshit. The Indonesians have a grape vine to rival none and the Australian Navy has been doing this for thirty or forty years. These people know what their doing is wrong, they just don't give a rat's bladder.

The Opposition Leader is pushing his billion dollar plan for an American-style Coast Guard. We don't need it. The legitimate fishermen of the north have warned that they will take action. Not a bad idea given that the northern shark stocks - fished for their fins alone - are facing annhilation. Worse, these illegal boats carry chickens for food with the real risk of bird flu.

Something has to be done about these people and their boats. This year alone more than 200 illegal fishing vessels were seized.

Australia has the toughest Customs Act in the world to protect our native flora and fauna, and yet, these pricks are fishing our waters as if that is of no concern, and the stocks belong to them. Well they don't, and the fishing is of concern. One day soon, some local fisherman is going to say enough, and blow the fuckers out of the water. Maybe that is the only deterent we can rely on.

Jail doesn't work, confiscating and burning the boats don't work. Maybe more direct action needs to be taken. Australia has to come up with harsher methods if it to save it's fish stocks for the rest of the world to enjoy. If local fishermen join the effort, then we will have more resources for patrols and local knowledge to hunt the bastards down.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Getting into the slog

I finished the weekend at 41k and some extras. I have written, over the two days about 21k. And yes, it was tough. The hours slipped away while I struggled with words, with scenes, with what happened next, with the damn characters themselves.

The amount of words written give lie to just how difficult it was. There isn't really an outline for this book and I haven't looked at the cards. I will, but later, when I do a reverse construction as a precursor to editing. I just can't set a book up that way (probably why editing takes so long, too). But that's the way I work.

My characters are growing, kind of in synch. The more evil the bad guy, the more genius the protagonist and the more nasty her childhood. The lurve interest is just there, not developing much, except for the ubiquitous emotional growth. I think he needs more; he needs something to get him going... and I have just the thing, mwahaha!

Okay, so I'm slogging my way to the 50k point, but that won't be the end. The end will be when the book is done, hopefully by the time 1 December comes around.

My aim is another 4-41/2k tonight and again tomorrow. I'll be able to relax once the objective has been reached. So, to horse...

Sunday, November 06, 2005


The book is humming along, although it's been tough. Like I've said, this is outside of my usual genre so I was writing in fits and starts.

At the beginning of the middle, things began to flow. So much so, that I had to write a scene that didn't come into it until about four scenes. But I had to get it down. It was so totally evil.

That, in truth, is what I like about NaNo, there is no set format as long as you get to the 50k mark. After six days, I've hit 34k and it's going more smoothly.

I've never been comfortable with starts, it always seems to stilted. Of course, I can go back and edit later.

For now, I need some sustenance before heading into the afternoon's session. No more fooling around online, checking sites out and generally goofing off.

Those words won't write themselves.

Friday, November 04, 2005

And we're off

I've been pretty busy the past few days, with work and with the Nano, but I think I'm off to a good start. I have just over 14k for three days work. Not up to my usual manic standard, but I do have a job this year.

It's unfortunate that there are also the usual wankers out there posting unreasonable totals and flat out lying. This pinheads are usual young adolescents who think it's funny to fuck up the statistics and people's aims to accrue a legitimate spot on the leaders boards.

I'm not so pissed off about it as I have been in previous years because I just cut them out of my calculations. I can see who the honest writers are, and it's not those who cheat and post that they've virtually written a book in three days. No, I'm sorry, that's just not happening.

Many writers are trying hard to get the work done and it's pitiful that there are others trying to take away that achievement.

There's plenty of time for the genuine participants to get going. Many already have, me included. I love this challenge, and this weekend, Forward Motion is holding a marathon. It will have these word fests every weekend until the end. It's a great mechanism for people who need that extra push to do the words.

For me, it's the extra push to get closer to the end of the book, as long as I can concentrate on it. Of course, real life has a habit of getting in the way, but I'm going to do my level best not to let it. Hah!

People should know not to contact me during November, it's just... wrong, and I'm not in the best moods when interrupted. Still, I may venture a conversation or two, decide I'm done with them and get back to it.

That's a writer's life. Focussing on the book, not necessarily live people. Ah well, we're an interesting breed, otherwise, what on earth would you read for entertainment? The newspaper? The TV guide? Your kids' homework?

From Nano, can sometimes come great things. I hope so.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Today is Melbourne Cup day. A public holiday in Victoria where it's held, and a virtual afternoon off for everyone else. It is truly the Race that Stops a Nation. It is also, arguably, the toughest horse race in the world.

Race horses from around the world come here to compete, to win the tri-handled trophy and five million dollar prize. They come from Ireland, England, New Zealand, Japan and the great Godolphin stable.

History was made today, by an astonishing mare: Makybe Diva. The greatest horse the southern hemisphere has ever produced, and I include Phar Lap in that. For the first time, a horse has won the Melbourne Cup three years straight.

Think Big was the last horse to win it twice and that was back in 1975/76. Thirty years on, the Diva has taken it for a third time. A feat that shall remain unparalleled for decades to come.

All hail the Diva!

(Shame I didn't put any money on her... not even in the office sweeps.)

* * *

Okay, accolades aside - and I'm still staggered by that triumph - today also marked the beginning of the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short.

As you can imagine, it was a tough day to get anything done. Work, horse racing sweeps to organise and trying to get a few words down on my new book.

Most of what I've written has been after work, and for that I guess I should thank Daylight Bloody Savings. I've been sitting here typing away on a murder scene while the sun is still in the sky. Now it's going down and I have just over four thousand words. Not a bad start, but there is a long way to go. I have no doubt there will be a lot of frustration, but if I keep my mind on what's going on, I shall be fine.

The only trap I see is to get to involved in the killer's head. He's a twist fuck, but aren't they best? All reasonable and calm, charming and charismatic, I like him. I'm having problems with my other characters though. For some strange reason, I identify more with the killer than the catchers.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing. I'll post something soon.