Friday, March 31, 2006

Writer's Opportunity

Over on Anna Louise's site, there is an opportunity for writers of contemporary paranormal and romantic suspense.

Study the submission guidelines carefully, and if you think you have a manuscript worthy, then have a shot. I am. I'm working on the final edits of Demonesque and I'm going to submit - as per the instructions.

On the upside, Demonesque is 127k, and change, long; on the downside, that means I'll have to do some ferocious editing. On the upside, it's better to cut back than to insert padding. On the downside, 27k is a lot of words to lose.

On the second opportunity, Deception (for want of a better name) could fit the bill. It comes in at 117k, so it's within the range. It needs double edits, because it's only a second draft, and I'll need to put the plot doctor through it.

As a side point, I was readjusting the formating from Times New Roman to Courier New on both ms's and the page counts blew out. Where once Demonesque was a handy 465 pages; it's now 610 pages long! Deception went from a measely 416 to 553 pages.

It appears amazing that a change of font could do such things, but you have to remember that each letter is spaced differently. As you have gleaned, the Courier New font letters are broader than the Times New Roman.

But all 'wowing' aside. It matters little how many pages you write, it's the quality that's important. We've all read books that are shite, wondered how they were published. As Anna Louise points out, it's up to the editor who bought it. I guess that's good news for us newbies. Our first outing might be less than stellar, but if an editor likes it enough to buy it, the bullet has been dodged - for the moment. Years down the track, you might remember that first book and wince. Hopefully, by then, you'll have improved your craft.

All you need is that first opportunity. Anna Louise is giving you two!

There are plenty of authors out there who are aiming for the same prize; Be One Of Them!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


An excellent link for newbie writers from someone who's been there: JA Konrath. (Unashamedly filched from Vanessa Jaye).

On Joe's weblog you'll find all sorts of useful information, including outlining, writer's block, writing conferences and using weblogs - what makes a good one.

Weblogland is a growing market for advertising your wares. People are curious, so if you've got something you want to tout, get out there and post, but do it politely.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Read versus Write

Sigh. Every apprentice writer knows that real life gets in the way of writing, or reading. Every apprentice writer has the conundrum of wondering which is the more important.

Two schools of thought: write every day and reading is research.

You won't get your book finished if you don't write at least every day; you need to work to some sort of schedule to get those words down on paper, whether it is really early in the morning or really late at night (I'm assuming the writer in question has school-aged kids). Outside of this, there is working life, there is family life, there is friends life; all of whom take up valuable writing time. Some days, it's going to be pure hell to even make one hundred words, other days you'll resent any interruptions, like sleep, food, housework, conversations. A lot of authors organise their time so when they're writing, no one interrupts on pain of... insert your favourite torture here.

Some days, it's simply not possible to write because you are simply exhausted. You don't need a guilt trip on top of that; the nagging little voice that tells you to put down a few paragraphs. Don't. They'll either be angry and crap, or weird and crap. It's up to you whether you'll finish the book this month, or next. Take your time to craft it.

On the other side is reading time. Any reading is research. Whether it's subconsciously recognising punctuation or grammar or a particular turn of phrase or information, it's all research and grist to your mill.

There is no guilt in reading. There is no either or with reading. It's not a sacrifice to read when your work-in-progress needs more words. Ideas, solutions, directions can be gleaned from reading. When you're tense about the writing, reading is relaxing passtime, not a waste of time.

But how do you find time for both? Many professional writers confess to not enjoying reading for pleasure as much as they did before being published, others confess to not having time; both are a tragedy. The former get caught up in the technicalities, the latter in their own projects. The consequences can be... difficult. While the first will improve their own writing, there's the risk of losing why they started writing in the first place: to write better books, to write what wasn't in the market. The second is a simple loss of ideas, or getting update on the current styles and what's selling.

Always, no matter how far you go in this industry, make time to read: what's new, what's old, what's popular, what's not, what's cutting edge, what's different, what's selling.

You can have the best of both worlds and what other job is there where reading every genre can be considered research?

Monday, March 27, 2006


This is the last thing that happens before your book goes to press, and it must be as right as you can make it.

You’ve seen books that have boo boos and wonder how they can happen since they appear obvious.

To take on the role of proofreader means you have to be a perfectionist and have a high degree of concentration. A proofreader aims for perfect grammar, spelling, facts, punctuation; perfect everything.

As you can imagine, this is a difficult task, especially when reading a four-hundred page book!

But wait, it gets worse: you as the writer must do your best to make the proofreaders job that much more easier. No thinking that any mistakes you make will be picked up in the editing or proofreading stage: that is just lazy and will get you the corresponding reputation. Keep doing it, and publishers will consider your work too hard.

Publishers and their staff, as we know, are busy people. Get a reputation as a perfectionist for your own work and publishers, editors and proofreaders will breathe a sigh of relief.

A writer must pursue the same perfection as the proofreader, must produce the best possible work, must know when to let it go, too. And no writer will be completely satisfied with the work. There is always something that could be done better.

All this, just when you thought writing the book was the hard stuff. Nup.

Writing is a perpetual motion machine. You get an idea, you start the research, you develop your characters, plot, and theme, you break it all down from chapters into scenes, you start to write, you wrestle with ongoing issues, recalcitrant characters and a plot that doesn’t seem to be working as well as when you first thought of it, you finish the first draft and do a happy dance, you then go back and edit, and re-write, and restructure, and delete, and re-write and the second draft is done, you go back and do a third draft, you send it out for critique, you do another re-write or edit, you send it to a publisher, you receive (let’s be positive here) and acceptance with major corrections, you go back and do them, you send it back, they send it back with minor adjustments, you do them and send it back, praying it’s for the last time, the galley proofs arrive, you read through it, send it back and sit down, in need of a very large drink, the publishers send you a publishing date, you start worrying that the book is good enough to succeed, to break even, not to fail, you understand it could have been better, should have been better if only you’d… then you get an idea, you start the research…

I haven't even mentioned the ongoing saga of finding an agent - whether you should or not - finding a publisher, finding the right publisher, agent, editor, critique group, etc...

And somewhere in this, you’ve got to concentrate on being the perfectionist, do a line edit, re-read it all to try and see what the reader will see. Sigh, and this is supposed to be… fun?

It can be. If you've got focus, drive, ambition, a thick skin, imagination...
and a sense of humour. Never lose that, and never lose sight of your goal.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mirror, Mirror

Ah, yes. The worst possible device a writer can use when trying to give a description. For me, the only reason to use this is if the writer has fallen into another cliché: that of the amnesiac.

There is always another way, even for the amnesiac character.

Someone else describes them. “I fell for your cerulean eyes first.” “This long, wheat straw hair of yours has got to go.” “If you were any taller, I’d be the one looking up to you.” “I had no idea you pale Brits could blush so rosily.”

Just from these four lines – if the description was about the same person – you’d know they had blue eyes, dark blonde hair that’s rough, was tall and had pale skin. You could put in another, “Damn, but you’re a skinny thing.” And you know the body type.

If your character is alone, why do they need to know what they look like? Vanity? To provoke some memory? For effect? Ah, ha! A clue, a device! A shimmering reflection in a pool of water? A pale, faded glimpse of a stranger in a piece of brushed metal? The forlorn image superimposed on a porthole view of a star-speckled night sky? Mirror, mirror. For a single amnesiac, maybe.

Using a mirror is an easy way out. The alternative also slowly gives the reader information without the dump, it feeds it out. You don’t want your reader to be bored with timeless reflection in the mirror. Who actually stares at themselves describing what they see unless they’re narcissistic or and actor?

Speech patterns are the same. Don’t use unnecessary words. ‘Said’ is perfectly acceptable, or nothing at all if it’s a short conversation. We get the emotion from the action surrounding the speech. And there have been many an essay on using -ly words where none are needed, here is one and it explains it well.

Think of your reader as watching a movie. Play it out for them, their imagination will fill in anything else. If your character is in a warehouse, the imagery is of boxes, usually wooden, stacked high. Add a little to it; if your character is on the bridge of a space ship, well, Star Trek, Firefly, Space 1999, even Doctor Who will spring to mind unless you give the reader a reason to think it’s not like that at all. Ask yourself if you need to.

True description is needed for monsters/aliens/mutations, medical/forensic/mechanical, technicals/inventions/scenery and the like. People can be describe via conversation/action/attitude. And the best are short, sweet and informative.

There in lies the rub: how do you do that? Experience, for one, practice for another, reading authors who do it. There are so many ways, but if this job were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Yeah, I've been blog-hopping. Most blogs are nicely laid out, but a few, man. The way they're set out hurts the eyes.

Blue text on a black screen, in my opinion, is asking for fewer readers, especially when the author writes a lot. In fact, coloured writing on a black screen is a big no-no to me. I don't want to spend the next half hour with striped vision, thanks very much. I can even understand the thinking behind such a screen: author of dark and sensuous material, must have dark and sensuous weblog. Thank God it's not red writing!

Readers don't like to be confronted with such things; be modest and think of them, plowing through row upon row of stark writing (and I don't mean the style).

I found a beige colour with black writing enough. Nothing fancy; which neatly segues into writing itself.

You could easily take the metaphor further and agree that a bold, stark weblog is appropriate for the author's books of a similar ilk. A couple of weblogs I read are a virulent pink (a colour I loathe) that expresses exactly what the author is all about: romance, in all it's prettiness and unashamed femininity. Another weblog has a militaristic feel because the author writes about the military. It gives the reader exactly what's expected.

In a nastier mood, I could say it's all whitebread: bland, uninteresting, atypical and cliched. I won't because on the other hand, the reader knows what to expect. You don't go to a military romance site if you're looking for, say, legal romance. If you mention a particular author's name, someone will say 'oh, she writes ....' and you'll know what to expect when you get to the site.

Yet another author does precisely nothing to indicate the genre. Nor do I, but I'm not copying.

My weblog is like it is for another reason: I was a desktop publisher and learned what was easier on the eyes and what wasn't; what lent itself to long reading without any eye-strain.

Books are the same. Lurid cover - sensual or erotic text; space battle cover - sci-fi military text; doctor cover - medical text; and so on. You know what to expect.

However, there are those covers who hide what's inside or give minimal clues. These are the best. So unassuming, so innocent to what's going on between the covers. You've seen them, read them, enjoyed them.

I guess that's what I call what lies beneath books. I love 'em. And I'm thankful I've found weblogs that are similar; I'm tired of the garish, the outlandish and the just-to-damn-hard to read.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How... coy

The new Australian Tourism ad continues to attract criticism from around the world.

First it was the Brits who objected to the word "Bloody" even though the Royal Family uses it as does a number of television programs. Through diplomatic efforts, the ad can now be played. Next were the Canadians, who, at first, objected to the word "Hell". They then changed their mind and objected to the unlabelled beer in the ad. If it had been branded, no problem.

Now the Americans, or, more specifically, the American Family Association - an organisation with reputedly two million members, is set to protest the ad.

According to a news report via AAP, the group are upset at 'bloody' and 'hell', and will boycott holidays to Australia.

"I just feel pretty sure the typical American family who is watching TV with their children and they're exposed to this ad are going to be upset," AFA director of special projects, Randy Sharp, told AAP.

"I don't want my children to hear that phrase.

"It's a shocking phrase because we're not familiar with it.

"I guess they use it all the time in Australia, but it's a foreign language here so I think it'll have a negative impact rather than positive."

I'm sorry, what? "... but it's a foreign language...?"

Bloody Hell! And here I thought Americans, Canadians, English, New Zealands, Australians, etc. all spoke the same language but with different accents!

In all fairness to the AFA, I went over to their site to check, but there was no mention of the ad. It could, of course, change. I'd dearly love to put the boot into this organisation, but... I can't; not on this issue, because there is nothing supporting the story.

The fundamental point remains: it's an ad. You can turn it off, mute it even, not watch at all. But this prissiness about a couple of words people have been using as a common part of the English language for decades pisses me off: the hypocrasy of the Brits, the confusion of the Canadians - as if they know they should object, but don't know about what - and the AFA, who's only wish is to return to the oppression of women, gays and minors in a country that's the world leader in pornography and violence. Yeah, yeah, this group is trying to stop the x-rated industry and violence on tv, but until the Americans get rid of their "God Given Right To Bear Arms", go argue with someone who cares.

Remember, it's an ad and while the pictures accurately portray what Australia looks like, not everyone goes around saying 'Bloody Hell'. "Howthefukareya", sure, but 'bloody hell'? Only occasionally, and only when necessary: we have other language idiosyncrasies. Come on down and learn a few.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Days like these

I knew I should have stayed in bed. God. The sun wasn't even up. I am so over Daylight Savings, and to have it extended for a week to cover the Commonwealth Games, well, that's just mean. I expect the sun to be up before me. Weather forecast: it's too dark to see, just go with the flow.

But work beckoned. Gotta go if I want to pay the bills and all that.

Yeah, got there a little late; no big deal, I'm the first one in anyway. The main database computer wouldn't start, gave me a 'cpu changed, input new information and save!' Sure, only I don't know it. Weather forecast: rumbles of thunder and doom heading my way.

Everyone else piles in and each and everyone of them say, 'hey, the computer's not working'. I repeat ad nauseum that I know and there's nothing I can do except put a call into the technician. "Sure, we'll put it down as 'urgent'." I'm sure I can hear muffled laughter in the background. Glad I could amuse someone. Weather forecast: cloudy with the promise of sunshine that probably won't happen.

Turn over of duties because my supervisor is going on two months leave. I didn't remember signing up for all this extra stuff, but okay, it'll be fine. Now I'm responsible for Court proceedings and financials. Hmmm... weather forecast: expect hail and lightning strikes. Day going to hell.

Customer comes in ranting and raving about not being treated with respect. Actually, it was "You treat us like shit, you fucking c...s!" No, I'm not going to reconnect your electricity until you pay us what you owe. I didn't remind her that she was two months late. She pays up and demands immediate connection. I politely demure. The electrician is 30 miles away and won't be able to do it until the morning. More ranting, but accepts this. Wants to lodge formal complaint. Isn't happy with my offer of speaking to the Deputy Director, wants the top bodgie. Okay, here's his number, may I have yours so he can call you? Customer obliges with ill-grace. I'll have him call you as soon as he returns from his meeting. Weather forecast: storm front moving on, but expect showers to continue.

Relate situation to supervisor who wusses out and arranges reconnection for the afternoon, thus giving the bitch the moral high ground, the ammunition to trash us and to spread the news that a little pressure will bring the right result even when not entitled to it. Supervisor goes on leave in two days leaving two of us to deal with the fallout. Weather forecast: Sunny periods as lunchtime approaches.

Director interrupts lunch and blissful peace of illusion via Eric Flint's Ring of Fire to tell me customer is unhappy about the way she was treated. Chastised for being rude. I express my lack of faith in her honesty and again explain the situation adding there were witnesses. Boss unimpressed, but it has been dealt with. Don't have to apologise. Well, phew, can't have that can we? Fancy apologising for being polite and calm? Weather forecast: Sunny periods obscured by fog.

More customers come in to pay electricity. Give them hand written receipts that will have to be inputted into the computer later. Expect these customers to be sent automatic final notices with added fees because the computer is down. Weather forecast: Heavy rain of "I paid this on time!"

Two more customers come in for licences fifteen minutes before closing. Nope, you're not on the system, must contact a different state to confirm. Well, hell. Here, fill out the paperwork and we'll be ready for you tomorrow. Fine. Apologise for the lack of information. Not our fault, system sucks. Don't it just. Weather forecast: forget it. Start again tomorrow.

Close up shop. No sign of computer tech. Weather forecast: Strong winds of denial followed by cold front of disbelief and frustration. Expect sunny periods late Friday about 4.30pm.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Cyclone Larry

At his most ferocious, Larry, a category 5 cyclone had a pressure reading of 915hPa just before he hit the coast at Innisfail. That rose to 930hPa as he crossed the coastline bringing destructive 300kmh wind gusts and driving rain.

Residents had early warning and those who wanted to be, were evacuated in good time, especially those on the resort islands of Dunk and Begarra Islands.

The destruction is amazing, according to some who were in contact with media organisations via mobile phones. One resident said she heard the electricity transponders explode down the road. Others reported garden sheds, signs, tree branches and at least one chicken, flying at speed down the roads.

The Australian Army at Townsville, two hours south of the impact zone, worked all night to prepare for this event, loading essential items like water, food, tarpaulins and chainsaws. They were ready to go on a moment's notice.

Larry is currently category three and is wreaking havoc on the Atherton Tablelands as he moves closer to the Gulf of Carpentaria. This is good because he will be away from land, but bad because he'll have the opportunity to re-intensify before moving on to the Northern Territory.

Both the sugar cane and banana crops have been devastated. "Flattened" one farmer reported, and at least one in three houses have been damaged; some totally destroyed.

Following on from Larry, cyclone Wati, currently category 1 is moving towards Queensland and could hit later on this week.

Minor injuries have been reported, as have missing people. So far, details on casualties is sketchy at best, with the Cairns Base Hospital reporting at least 20 cases so far. That, no doubt, will rise as the army arrives to take charge.

Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, has declared the area a disaster zone and a hotline is being set up.

The long term effects of this one cyclone will be felt for some time, economically, environmentally and socially; in the short term, the clean up has already begun.

The rest of us Aussies will be there for the people of Innisfail, no matter what and we're all thinking of you guys up north. Stay safe.

Friday, March 17, 2006

ABCs of Jaye

I found this over at Vanessa Jaye's site and thought I would do one myself, so, here goes:

A is for Age: 40s
B is for Booze of choice: Bourbon
C is for Career: Admin and Court officer
D is for your Dog's name: Saxon
E is for Essential items you use every day: Computer, car, eyeglasses, lighter
F is for Favourite song of the moment: KT Tunstall, Suddenly, I See, Gorillaz, Feels Good
G is for favourite Game: Doom
H is for Hometown: Vincentia
I is for Instruments you play: None
J is for Jam or jelly you like: Plum
K is for Kids: 0
L is for Last kiss: hmmm.... when I was young...
M is for Most admired trait: sense of humour
N is for Name of your crush: none
O is for Overnight hospital stays: 2
P is for Phobias: spiders
Q is for Quotes you like: "You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don't take." Wayne Gretsky, "You have no right to keep your imagination to yourself." I don't know who said it, but it's great.
R is for biggest Regret: Jeez... okay... Not falling in love.
S is for Sweets of your choice: Rocky Road!
T is for Time you wake up: 6.30am
U is for Underwear: bikini
V is for Vegetable you love: Hah! Brussel Sprouts!
W is for Worst habit: Smoking
X is for X-rays: um... 7 - foot (fell out of a tree), ankle (soccer), 3 abdomen (car accident), wrist (hockey, car accident), knee (hockey), jaw (teeth)
Y is for Yummy food you make: As a specialty, cheesecake, all sorts, love 'em. I'm a decent cook otherwise
Z is for Zodiac: Gemini

And there you have it: more information than I would normally divulge.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Power of the Dragon

I've always found it interesting, the things that people collect, from bottle caps and beer bottles to quilts and baseball cards and everything in between. Everyone is interested in something. For me, it is the arcane. The mysterious Dragon.

Were they real? Oh, I can hear you laugh and say: "Of course not. There are no records, no remains, no pictographs on cave walls." No one can find the missing link between simians and homo erectus either. Archaeopteryx is the closest fossil we've found. Dinosaur or Dragon? Well, okay, dinosaur, but you can see the evolution, if it had taken place.

The Eastern dragon, as depicted in asian art, is a powerful entity. Often shown holding the Pearl of Life, the Shen Lung represents good fortune and abundance and is the herald of good tidings. With an open mouth the dragon is breathing the Cosmic Breath, or Chi, which can be good or bad depending on your Feng Shui.

I had the Shen Lung presented to me as a gift. He came from Singapore, and good luck followed. Not overt win-the-lottery kind of good luck, it was much more... soul deep: the return to a job I like, the creativity and focus of novel writing, the early arrival and perfection of my new desk, finding the perfect hutch to go with it, the quiet, less stress-filled life I lead now; that kind of luck.

Last week, I added to my collection: twin green and gold dragons; Yin and Yang, Masculine and Feminine energy, Northern and Southern hemispheres, the good and the bad. The twins are beautiful, carefully sculptured and up to their tricks: Lost money, upset breakfast bowl, temporarily missing file; nothing malicious, simply... provocative.

We all live with such things every day - I'll write about so called 'gremlins' in a future post - but for me it's a rare occurence for so many things to happen at once.

I've now separated my Eastern dragons from the Western ones (there are more of them); and I think they'll be happier. I mean that. Think of the esoteric, the metaphysical, rather than the physical and with our alleged more sophisticated mind.

Our culture teaches us that such things are impossible; worse, that to do so is expressing a sort of insanity since it cannot be proven to be true. Faith, for wont of a better word, is an esoteric event. Does God exist? Did dragons? Both are leaps of faith and I am unwilling to say 'nay' or 'yay' to either.

What I do know is that magic happens, whether we want it to or not. And one of the most power icons in eastern or celtic philosophy is that of the dragon. I'm comfortable with creature of myth. The dragon holds no fear for me, only comfort. It matters not what the dragon is to others, only what it is to me and my id.

It is that magic that each of us holds inside - and for some, denies - that makes us who and what we are.

The truth of the matter is that only the true cynics, the truly unevolved (and I'll get into that, too, later) disbelieve in magic. It's an unfortunate consequence that it is these people who are in control.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bombs Away!

I was asked to laminate and bind two dozen copies of a government emergency procedures flipchart, that is to be placed on workers' desks.

Below is taken from the Bomb Threat Checklist, so you’ll be able to understand my astonishment at some of the questions.

These 'general' questions are real and in order, I’ve taken the liberty of answering these dumbass questions:

What it is? Let me speak more slowly for you… it is a bomb.
When is the bomb going to explode? When the timer runs down.
When will the substance be released? Uh….
Where did you put it? Where it will do the most good.
What does it look like? Oh, let me think, it looks like a bomb!
When did you put it there? Me? No-one one saw me do it, you can't prove a thing!.
How will the bomb explode? With a loud bang, I hope.
How will the substance be released? When the bomb goes bang.
Did you put it there? Nah, the bomb fairy did, I saw her.
Why did you put it there? Me? Ask the bomb fairy.

But wait, there’s more:

What kind of substance is it? Bomb-like substance.
How much of the substance is there? Enough to be really impressive.
Is the substance a liquid, powder or gas? Um… vegetable? No, wait! Animal...
What type of bomb is it? A bomb-type bomb.
What is in the bomb? Oh, you know, this and that, with a pinch of another thing.
What will make the bomb explode? People asking me stupid questions while my finger is on the button.

How much time do you really have? Does anyone really believe that a bomber is going to answer any of these questions or are they going just tell 'there's a bomb' and leave it at that?

I know I shouldn't be facetious, but God! Which idiot came up with this? I can’t even change it, no matter how much I really, really, want to.

At least we're prepared, right?

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Are emotional creatures. Any writer knows he/she will get both the good and the bad, and most will not enter into debates about reviews. Hell, a lot won’t even read them. They’ve done their work, they’re happy with the result and over the moon to be published. Reviews, however, can make or break a writer. A bad review can doom a fledgling career or damage a growing reputation; a good review can propel a writer to stardom or simply to an increase in income.

For readers, it’s a little different. By reading reviews, a reader can garner a few spoilers and the opinions of others. They can then go out and buy the book, or borrow it from the library, or not buy at all.

I read reviews, especially of those books that aren’t out in Australia yet. I like to know what others think. Not because I’m so weak-willed as to be influenced by them, but because I’m interested. For particular authors, I’ll buy and read the book simply to find out what the fuss is all about.

Most times, I’m right in thinking the reviewers missed the point of the book totally. And sometimes, I find that they are right.

Two examples just to show I’m not squeamish.

S. L. Viehl’s book Rebel Ice, has come in for some criticism for basically destroying the relationship between Reever and Cherijo. One reviewer, a reader, went so far as to say he tossed the book into the trash (see, another said she wouldn’t be reading the series any more because after all the adventures they’d had together to finally find happiness, she didn’t want to start all over again. These two reviewers missed the point, and the theme, and what the book was about. If they want a series of clichéd happy endings, this is not the series to indulge in. If they want truth and consequence, then this is a great series.

Yes, it’s a departure from the norm, but hey, what a ride!

How can you keep a character like Cherijo from always winning the day and falling into predictability? Ms Viehl has answered that question admirably and sneakily.

This book is the harbinger of new beginnings, and to do that, something had to happen. And did, in spades.

Micha, by Laurell K. Hamilton, on the other hand, is more of the same angst that has populated the Anita Blake series since Narcissus in Chains. The navel-gazing is tedious and bores me to tears. Anita has gone from a strong, self-possessed and honourable woman to an emotional train wreck unwilling to make hard decisions. I don’t give a rat’s bladder about how many men she’s fucking in how many different ways. I don’t. And as such, I’m tired of the scenes. They add little to the story, and have no consequences worth worrying about. I'd be telling all the men to simply fuck off. Anita broke the fourth mark back in Circus of the Damned. She's much more powerful now, and it's time she used it to divest herself of the leeches she thinks she loves.

Just to kill any misunderstanding here, Ms Hamilton has already stated that the pregnancy issue in the upcoming Danse Macabre is a ‘scare’, so all this debate about who the father is, is nothing more than bullshit. Will I buy the book given that it’s reportedly a thousand pages long? How much of it will be useless sex scenes? I don’t know, but I want the series to return to the supernatural, and not be a reflection of Ms Hamilton’s own sex life. There’s been precious little of the supernatural so many readers bought the books for, and as such, only the hardline fans are still buying.

That’s sad because the series started out with so much promise.

One of the rules of writing a great book, or series, is to have ups and downs. Series are just really, really long books. A writer must lift the reader, crush the reader, take the reader on the same journey as the characters. If you have the same ‘ole, same ‘ole, readers become bored and move on to someone else. To keep a reader, you must hurt them, make them want a solution, make them keep going to find out how to achieve happiness or at least give them an appropriate resolution.

If you’re tempted to write a review, never look at the surface of a book, look to the underline themes and plots, how it’s progressed, whether the consequences of actions is appropriate. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see the book as the writer intended, and not be influenced by the nasty prejudice of Happily Ever After at all costs.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hot Button Week

It's been a tough week. Hot buttons being pressed everywhere; from the abortion debate in South Dakota to the question of using material when the owner of the copyright can't be found. Both are contentious issues and the weblog rounds are full of argument.

Neither of these arguments can be understated, nor can they be dismissed lightly. Both seek to challenge the rights of the individual - one to control over a woman's body, the other to earn a living, fundamental human rights in my view.

But it's not just about the here and now. It's about the insidious undermining of individual rights. For the abortion amendments, it's an attack on Roe v Wade, one amendment at a time until R v W becomes obselete. Take note, for instance, of a recently defeated bill in Illinois that required a doctor to report to authorities any woman who suffered from a miscarriage. As an invasion of privacy, it's reprehensible; that Senators can come up with such proposals and have support indicates a growing radical religious right wing willing and able to usurp an individual's rights just because they don't believe it is the 'christian' way.

For the copyright issue, it's stripping an artist of the right to make a living from their hard work.

The issue of Fan Fiction is already out there causing problems and this is one more step towards legalised plagiarism - theft, in fact. When was that legalised?

The good news is, this is happening in the U.S.; the bad news is that America influences the world.

I'd like to say it is moral decline, but it's much worse than that. These two issues are yet another example of a government willing to listen to the self-servicing whores who sit on Capitol Hill pursuing personal agendas rather than the issues of the people who voted them in.

What lies in the future? Why does America have a president who is unwilling to support women in need of an abortion - for whatever reason - and is yet ferociously killing off young men and women in a war? What price that hypocrasy?

Friday, March 10, 2006


I belong to the Forward Motion site, and as a member, I also belong to the Kiss and Spell critiquing group. We deal with fantasy with a romance tossed in. It hasn't been very active lately, although I put that down to the busy lives the members lead. I know that with all the stuff going on in my life, I barely have time to actually check in, let alone do any critiquing.

It led me to a thought about needing critiquing. Don't get me wrong, every work needs someone to look at it, because authors, for all their skill, have blind spots. Mine is thinking a particular piece of work is as good as I can write it before I post. The reply is usually that as a first draft, it's good, but needs work.

That usually leads me to a number of emotions: the first is that it's not a first draft, thank you very much; the second is well, shit. And the third is whether I need that kind of crap in the first place.

It's hard, really hard, to know what is good work and what isn't. Writing is subjective. I've had a critique by a total stranger wax lyrical about the book and others who have said simply: "it needs work". How the hell is a writer supposed to know when something works or not?

Some of it is gut instinct: I write what I'd like to read and if it has minor problems, well they're fixable if pointed out. That's the emotional side.

The other side is professional: those cold-blooded creatures who know what will sell once your 'brilliant and un-put-downable tome is in their hands.

It's a delicate balance, one I have yet to achieve. Writing is not only about time, it's about emotional investment. A good writer will put themselves into a book, a great writer will open an emotional vein and pour it onto every page.

One of the hardest things I've had to write was a rape scene. Murder, betrayal, even war was easy; rape touches off all sorts of emotions in people. Did it work for me? I don't know. It's one of the best pieces of writing I've ever done, but no-one has read it... yet, but they're about to.

Writing is being brave, it's gathering your courage and putting out there your hear and soul and expecting both to be kicked really hard.

The book, Deception - for wont of a better title - is the last book I wrote and I'm going to put parts of it up for critiquing in my circle. Wish me luck; it's a difficult book and I'm expecting difficult reviews.

Maybe I'll gird my loins, hide the fear of rejection and post some it; it's about time I did so.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Exercising mind and body

When I come home from a hard day's work, I fire up the computer to do some editing and writing - if I have time.

I get out the 'thigh-buster!', load up what I'm editing and get to work, both on the machine and on the editing. (Exercising the abs is a morning thing.)

The music I play supplies the beat for my legs and the screen is large enough for me to read the work. I suppose it's an odd way to do things, but it works. Firmer thighs and focus on the text.

What I discovered in reading my work is a result of not plotting. As ideas occur, I work them into the story line; it's a simply way for the evolution of story and character. The problem is that an idea comes shortly before the solution or it's needed. Yeah, I winced too.

To get around this, I have to plot after the book is written. Tedious, to say the least, but a skill I learned at journalism school. Have the story in your head and write it straight to paper or screen (as it is these days), then you can edit afterwards.

No author will tell you they get the story right first time, and if they do, you have my permission to call them a liar. It just aint so.

How authors evolve their stories is a personal thing. Some simply sit and write; some put on mood music depending on the scene; some will literally wear their thinking cap; some will act out the scene, reciting dialogue to get a feel for their characters; some have an empty desk and others are surrounded by clutter. It's personal. What's important is to find a way that works. I have a number of ways, which I'm not going to tell because they change. (I think it's a Gemini thing.)

The result of all this, is that exercise, no matter how you do it, is not only important to your physical health but your mental health, too.

I'm wondering whether I would have found this problem with my current work, or whether I'd have missed it and been rejected as a result. There are so many things to watch for when writing and I'm pleased I've got this one, at least, nailed down.

Now, on the weekend, I can focus on fixing it and making the book better; and have a better shot at publishing.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Over at Holly Lisle's Forward Motion Community, the March Challenge is on.

I don't do many challenges during the year, mainly the May Story-a-day marathon and the Novemeber National Novel Writing challenge. This month, however, it's book reviews. It's a new area of the site that I applaud, especially since books are becoming expensive to buy and various publishers are busy pimping unworthy novels.

The good thing about this challenge and new area is that fellow readers can give their opinion of what's out there.

In this global market, for example, it means that a US or UK published book can be ordered by those of us on the other side of the world. Sure, we gotta wait, but with a good review, it can be worth it.

For me, personally, I read a lot of books during the year. The side bar is actually less than what I would read in a year. That's because of work, both the real life stuff, plus writing/editing my own. And as you know, writing a novel is no easy, simple or short term thing.

So. I'm actually going to add to my workload by getting involved in the challenge. I don't know what my first review will be, but since I'm a 'pip' hog, and I'm reading it now, it will probably be Micah by Laurel K. Hamilton.

I wonder if I can review one of my own?

Loch Ness a Lot Less?

According to this, the Loch Ness Monster is merely the trunk of an elephant. In actuality, this photo, one of the most famous, is a fake.

This legend, according the article, has been around since 1933. While I admit the picture does indeed look like an elephant's trunk, I would suggest that the researcher dig a little deeper on reported sightings.

Here for example, or here. There are a number of places and websites dedicated to the alleged Loch Ness Monster, or plesiosaur, some are good some are not. There are dedicated sites and there are sites, which I'm sure you can find, that are a combination of all modern day mythologies. And you're wondering about my point.

Well, it is this: a lucrative myth has grown up around Nessie, just like it has around Bigfoot, Area 52, the assassination of JFK, werewolves, etc. The outrageous and astonishing have always captured the imagination of the public, even as they garner sneers in private professional circles.

I think media outlets should really check their facts - and photos - first before printing speculation unless the readership is told specifically that it is speculative.

I've long thought that media standards have dropped to an all time low since a certain someone came to the fore in the industry. Sensationalism has replaced Facts... but that's another bugbear of mine.

While Nessie and the other mysteries continue to be categorically unproven, the media should stay out of it. Have definitive proof and print it, or leave the myths and mysteries alone to be enjoyed by those who believe in them. Anything else smacks of the above mentioned sensationalism.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Passing by

According to Science Fiction Weekly Nebula and Hugo award winning author Octavia Butler has died, aged 58.

The number three comes into play here, because the same magazine has also reported the deaths of Kolchak: The Nightstalker star, Darren McGavin, 83, and Don Notts, 81.

I've never read Ms Butler, but I'm familiar with the name. As for Darren McGavin and Don Notts, I watched Nightstalker and some of the episodes scared the tripe out of me. It was scary stuff, compelling, and I often found myself leaning towards the television set just before the creature was unveiled. The shocks were real; my heart would pound and I'd get that instant hot/cold feeling. I have no idea why I continued to watch Nightstalker, I just did. Perhaps it was the slow build up of tension, followed by the creepy bit - it wasn't a bloodfest, or gratuitous, it just was. At least, that's my memory of it.

Don Notts I remember from The Incredible Mr Limpet and the Disney movies he was in. A cowardly, facially mobile, bug-eyed man of enormous talent and humour.

It's sad that all three have gone, but their work will go on.

Overly Sensitive

Also in Science Fiction Weekly is an interesting story on British author Michael Moorcock and the fact that his latest book, The Vengeance of Rome "has no American publisher and probably won't until 'the current political climate changes'." The gist of the problem is that Moorcock's protagonist is considered unacceptable to the American public at large. I don't agree and for the publishers to fear a 'backlash' is to deny the readers there the opportunity to form their own opinions. Moorcock has argued that "The publishers, with what strikes me as a typical contempt for their readership, feel they know best." You can read more at the above link.

This kind of thing is becoming more prevalent, with overseas authors rejecting US publishing offers because of publishers demanding changes to suit what they see as the current political climate in America. Contempt is right. American readers are perfectly capable of not buying a book if they're unhappy with the reviews or word of mouth about it, or even the blurb. They are perfectly capable of making their unhappiness or enjoyment of a book known. We do not need a book police, thank you very much; no democratic country does, nor do the reading public need publishers to tell us what we should and should not be reading. We can make up our own minds; it's why we've got them.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Writers Festivals

The first of the 2006 Writers Festivals is being held in Adelaide this week. Held from the 5th to the 10th of March, luminaries such as Val McDermid, Minette Walters, Ronald Wright, Vikram Seth, Delia Falconer, David Malouf, Helen Garner, Sandy McCutcheon are attending. Some of the interesting topics include: Tyranny of History, Imaginary Homelands, Learning the Craft and Raising the Dead. One day, when I grow up, I'm gonna go to this festival.

Next up is the St Kilda Writers Festival 24-30 April. No word yet on who's attending, but the list should be up soon - at least I hope it is.

The Sydney Writers Festival is 22-28 May. I haven't decided whether to go, they haven't posted any guests and they've had some seriously pretentious 'guests' in the past. Very much a 'literary' event where political correctness and the current fad in social outrage finds a willing audience. Not my bag really.

In the depths of a Canberra Winter, Conflux 3 is being held 9-12 June at the National Museum. This Festival is different to all the others I've posted here: It's all about Science Fiction and Fantasy and I'm there! Oh, yes, I've paid up, got somewhere to stay, money in my pocket and excitement brewing. Who's going to be there? Well, by virtue of virtual: Ray Bradbury, Sir Arthur C. Clark and Lloyd Alexander; live and in person International Editor Guest of Honour: Ellen Datlow, International Special Guests: Joan D. Vinge, Steve Jackson and Jim Frenkel. Other guests are: Sara Douglass, Kate Forsyth, Manga artist, Queenie Chan, children's author, Jackie French and a bunch of others. There will be an art show, film festival, as well as the traders room and talks/discussions/panels. I am soooo looking forward to this...

Hmm..., now that I've picked up and brushed off my dignity, I'll get to the rest:

Melbourne's Writers Festival is later on in the year: 25 August to 3 September, an excellent time of the year to have it. Melbourne is gorgeous in the Spring, and the Festival is celebrating 20 years.

Brisbane plays host to the writers from 14-17 September. Nice and warm. I don't know who's going to be there, I imagine their still organising. Until I know, of course I'm not going.

Byron Bay Writers Festival celebrates 10 years from 3-6 August. This festival attracts writers like Thomas Keneally (whose work I loathe), Peter FitzSimons (whose books are brilliant), comedian and social commentator, Wendy Harmer, and others. It's closer to me than Adelaide and Melbourne, so this year it might just be a goer - depending on which writers turn up.

There are other regional writers events going on, it's just a matter of tuning in to your arts area. Your local library is a good place to start hunting for the festivals or local writer's group.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


I've spent my Saturday moving furniture. Yep, the monster desk arrived yesterday and today I unloaded two bookcases, moved them, the computer stuff, the filing cabinet, the table the computer was on, the stereo and my beloved collection of dragons. I've also stained the desk hutch that will sit on the monster.

Some days, I wish I had a significant other to help shift stuff, but hey, I moved it myself and it's done. All I have to do now is wait for the hutch to dry, move it into position and I can stop procrastinating and get on with fling words around. Since the desk has a keyboard draw, I bought myself a wireless keyboard and mouse, so there are now no excuses.

If I ever have to move house... well, let's not create any nightmares. I'm smug and satisfied with the new look of my office. Uh, actually, there is one more thing I need: a chair. Not new, thank you, but a wooden one to match the desk unit. I'm patient though, I can wait until I see one, rather than dashing out and purchasing the first one I see. I searched for two years for the right desk, I can wait for the matching chair.

Actually, now that I think about it, I'm ready to get back to writing. I have a book to finish and there's no time like the present.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I've actually lost a couple of posts due to some sort of collision in cyberspace. But, not to worry. This is one I found rather interesting.

A couple of nights ago, I was watching CSI:NY. One young character, it was finally established, died from the bite of the "Brazilian Wandering Spider". This name was repeated a number of times.

This is the Brazilian Wandering spider.

I really dislike eight-legged creatures, and I'm aware that, here in Australia, we have a few of the nasties. I also get a little peeved when television programs all over the world use an item/animal, whatever, and it is so wrong. Is the international viewing community so little thought of that producers couldn't be bothered with accuracy? I mean, come on! Every arachnaphobe knows a deadly spider when they see it, hell we know the not-so-deadly ones, too.

It's not a good picture, but this is taken from CSI:NY

If anyone remembers the episode "Zoo York" (yeah, I know we're a long way behind, but what can you do?) you'll recall Stella 'milking' the aforementioned Brazilian Wandering Spider.

Nuh, not even close. It looked more like this:

Atrax Robustus, commonly known as the Sydney Funnelweb Spider.

Although I suspect that the spider on the carpet is something harmless (Can't really have a deadly spider running around, can we?). The part of the program I refer to is when Stella is 'milking' the damn thing. Two thoughts here: no one in their right mind would pick up a deadly spider to milk it that way - FYI pipettes are used so fingers are nowhere near fangs - and two, the image that stays in my mind is that it was a Funnelweb spider, a big one, all glossy carapace, big, downward striking fangs, spinnerets on its butt... I could be wrong, but I have seen 'em that big; down at the Snowy Mountains, yep, they're BIG.

I'd like to think that U.S. production teams would do better in authenticating their props. Guess I was wrong... again. Next thing you know, they'll be calling our Red-back spider a "Black Widow"!