Saturday, April 29, 2006

And why not?

For the past couple of weeks, I've had cable (satellite, really) teev. It's certainly an interesting piece of entertainment; no more am I restricted to three commercial and two non-commercial stations.

Of particular interest, at least to me, are the History, Biography and Discovery channels along with... um... the Cartoon Network and TV1.

Recently, the History Channel has shown a number of programs on predicting the future and aliens. (Why is it that the two seem to always be shown together?) It's as if the programmers put both together, neither will be believed, and anyone who turns up on one of these shows - no matter how believable - are immediately branded as crackpots, liars or grifters.

Do I believe in the likes of Mother Shipton, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce? Yep, sure do. Do I believe in aliens? Yep, sure do.

With the first question, they have predicted the same things accurately, centuries apart. With the second, I've heard too many stories from friends and family, seen to many strange things in this world for it not to be true.

Why should we be the only one's in the Universe? Because old Christian teachings tell us so? They also said it was heretical to mention that the world wasn't, in fact, flat, nor was Earth at the centre of all things. Because there's been no definitive proof? There's plenty around if you take into consideration the similarity of stories world-wide and Area 51. Because scientist and the military are always coming up with excuses or reasons? Swamp gas, a meteor, lights bouncing off an atmospheric anomaly, a prototype or simply "you didn't see anything" to quote the penguins.

I can understand why the world isn't ready for such a revelation, but to keep denying it with such lies is wrong... Think about this: the scientists of the world can only use what has been discovered previously and what they know as 'absolute truths' to search for other entities. Once upon a time, that 'absolute truth' was that the solar system revolved around earth; that if you went too far, you'd fall off the edge, that there was nothing smaller than what the eye could see, that an eclipse was a harbinger of doom, that earthquakes, floods, droughts and hurricanes were a sign from the gods of their displeasure. These were 'absolute truths'.

Are there things we can't see or detect because we don't yet have the technology? That is an Absolute Truth. What's beyond the light spectrum we know, for example? Why can't we travel at light speed? (Apart from the obvious that our frail bodies can't handle it, that is.) Lasers, microwaves, satellites, space flight, book readers were sci-fi, yet we have them now and the future is rushing towards us with ever increasing fevour.

Anyway... the point is, is that I'm astonished by the lack of imagination from these naysayers. People recalling what happened to them is a boon to us writers. We can take their stories and make up similar stuff to write. It doesn't have to be a confrontational episode, it can be any-damn-thing. These people open our minds to what's possible.

The soothsayers are even more wonderful and scary. What of the future? For sci-fi writers, anything is possible with a leg up from the most famous psychics in history.

So I say again, and why not?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Navel gazing

As any blogger knows, sometimes it hard to find a subject to post about; sometimes, it's easy.

This week has been one of navel-gazing, and it's not even my birthday. Read it or not.

Tuesday saw the commemoration of the men and women who lost their lives in war. Thursday saw the coming home of one of those men - except he wasn't in the casket; another mother's son, wife, brother, husband was. And today...

Tonight, I walked up the street to the shops with mah dawg. It was twilight. I breathed in the scents of the sea, of chill autumnal air, of wood burning from heath fires, of spicey, fragrant dinners on the stove.

Ten years ago today, I was somewhere else: walking down the main street of Seattle, Washington, taking in the man in the three-piece suit with multi-coloured hair and facial piercings, the Seattle Coffee Company, the shoppers, the cafes, the homeless, the students, the view.

I recall that I walked the same distance (from home here, to the local shops) in New Orleans and had a black barrelled gun held by a desperate, grubby, and equally black teenager, shoved in my face; that the police cruiser in Dallas slowed down to allow the suspicious cops check out me and my backpack before speeding up; that I was followed by the calculating eyes of homeless people resting on the steaming grates in Washington, D.C.; that I heard gunshots close by in Chattanooga, Tennessee...

I don't mention these events to infer the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, that there are more self-serving and selfish people in the world, or that America is bastion of bad times. It's not. I spent a week looking over my shoulder in England in case the Mafia caught up with me because I'd inadvertantly worked for them before they found out I was a journalist (on holidays, but a journalist nonetheless). I did escape them by four hours, all on my lonesome, and it scared the tripe outta me.

No. I mention these things because those were adventurous times, whether I wanted them to be or not. Life happens. I mention these events because there are things beyond your control out there, and the relief at surviving is, momentarily, all consuming.

The last ten years have been pretty quiet for me; the worst, I think, was getting fired from a job and being blackbanned, but that's hardly a life-threatening occasion and barely rates a mention.

Life, as you know, moves in circles and maybe I'm coming around to adventure again, who knows?

What I do know, is that ten years ago, while walking down that Seattle street, I saw a newspaper, with the massacre of Port Arthur emblazoned across the top. It was a moment in time when I looked around me to see I was the only one gobsmacked. Australia didn't do that kind of violence. And yet... we often think of where we were on a particular anniversary that is pivotal in history.

The phrase "where were you when..." is bandied about. You now know where I was. What was I feeling? Exactly what I felt when taking mah dawg up the street: contentment, wonder and happiness to be somewhere I truly enjoyed.

We often don't take the time to stop, look and listen. We're comfortable where we are; we know where we are, but do we ever understand why?

After all the near misses I've had - and there are more than just what's above - I learned to appreciate what Mother Nature provides for me every single day, whether it's bucketing with rain, or blisteringly hot, or blowing two Gales and a Mary; whether it's storming like the End of Days, or still and quiet.

Of those killed or wounded that day, ten years ago in an historic convict town, how many truly appreciated what life had given them, what their loved ones had given them or what they gave to the world.

My advice? Take a moment to look around and listen, really look and listen, without prejudice; appreciate the beauty and wonder of this world no matter where you are in this global village, for during the good and the bad times, you may not have the chance, and it surely won't come again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Reminder

Let me reiterate what every writer should know, regardless of age, gender or genre:

Plagiarism is bad!

You can make stuff up, summarise, expand, quote, but you cannot copy someone else's work:

Plagiarism is bad!

There is no excuse for copying. It is stealing, it is theft or any other word you'd like to pluck from the Thesaurus. It is wrong, it is making money from someone else's hard work.

What has prompted this reminder? This has.

It's a great thing that such a young author could command an advance of this size for a first book; it gives hope to others, to every struggling author out there. Yeah, sure, there's envy, and wishing; there are sneers and disappointment that it wasn't them, but the big advances are still out there if you have the talent.

It's destructive that the author has been exposed as a cheat, a liar and a thief. The author as allegedly said that the suspect passage had probably be written from her subconcious. I'm sorry, but writing this because it was so firmly set in the subconscious? I know people can have a near-photographic memory, but a photographic subconscious? I'm pretty sure Harvard is really, really pissed off about this, as is Dreamworks who bought the rights.

Plagiarism reflects badly on the writing world as a whole. I could wax lyrical about the ongoing and deliberate allowance of plagiarism at schools, but that would be lengthy indeed. This kind of thing needs to be punished severely; it should not be acceptable in any situation or school.

Unless those in authority return to integrity before money, unfortunately, this will continue.

For those who still believe in their own work, their own worth, we fight the good fight, regardless of those rejection letters, the bad reviews, the okay sales. We do this because we love the language and we want to share what we create.

One last time, people:

Plagiarism is bad!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Remember the ANZACs

Today is ANZAC day; a day we remember the fallen during times of war, and why they died.

Some might say that for Australians to fight and die in foreign wars meant they died for nothing but a Colonialist ideal; that of king (or queen) and a country on the other side of the world.

Not so. With the ANZACs (the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was born a legend; a legend that our troops endeavour to uphold today, still fighting in foreign territories.

What is it that makes today so special? There were more British, French and Canadian troops killed at Gallipoli than Australian or New Zealand. It was a failed campaign in an area that had, in retrospect, little military value. So why commemorate our greatest defeat and the loss of so many young men?

Much has been said of the appalling planning and execution of the landing: with boats off course so the troops had to scale sheer cliffs to reach safety, with British commanders throwing Aussie Diggers into killing fields, when it was impossible to reach the Turk trenches.

But time and time again, the Aussies obeyed and went over the top, knowing they were going to their deaths. Few made it a quarter of the way, even fewer, halfway, none all the way. The Victorian, New South Wales and Western Australian companies all went; most died.

At night, the cries of the dying could be heard. Brave soldiers sneaked into noman’s land to retrieve them. And the next morning, they’d be going over the top again, to see who could get the furthest. But the Aussies were never bowed during the whole campaign.

They swam in the water, a pool of money set aside should one win and get wounded; they snuck into Turk trenches to steal objects, just to prove they could; they played cricket and football during lulls; they disrespected the British officers but they climbed impossible cliffs to snipe at the enemy, and they died in job lots.

The larrikinism of those soldiers is quintessentially what Australians are all about: get on with the job regardless, but doing it our way.

When the time came to evacuate – or retreat to the rear – it was the Aussies who came up with the way out: by a tin filled with water and a hole in the bottom. In that hole was a piece of string tied to the trigger of the rifle. When the string dried, it contracted and fired off a round. The Turks – a couple of days away from planning their own withdrawal – thought the Aussies were still there. It is a testament to ingenuity that no lives were lost during the evacuation.

Once the ANZACs were in another theatre of war, things changed. Statistically speaking, when the Australians were under the command of one of their own, they had the highest kill rate and lowest mortality rate than any other allied force.

My grandfather missed the Gallipoli campaign, but was awarded the Military Cross in action in France. He was a towering man to a five-year-old, more grouchy than friendly; more a source of wonder and intrigue than of fear, and I would climb into his lap while he told me stories of that time. I can’t remember those tales, but I remember his gentleness, his sadness, his pride, the twinkle in his eyes and his smile.

Apart from that time, he never spoke of his soldiering days, never told of how or where he got the medal; it was as if it was a source of anger, of betrayal. It wasn’t until I was at university studying history that I found out why: That he’d organised his men to destroy German machine-gun nests that were holding up the allied advance. That he’d led from the front in the assault: that a higher ranking officer had an extraordinarily similar citation in his file and been awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest medal awarded for valour under fire.

I’ll never know if it’s true or not, or whether that was the reason my Grandfather was so pissed off. He didn’t seem the kind of man to be concerned by such things. Maybe it was the sense of betrayal for his men, none of whom where awarded anything.

To me, he was hero, in the truest sense of the word: he did his job, he saved lives, and, most importantly, he came home to my Grandmother.

Through fire, blood and military incompetence, the ANZACs showed their worth, as they had done in the lesser known Boer War. They are still one of the best fighting forces in the world. It is the courage, the indomitable spirit, the willingness to do the impossible that we revere today.

While there are no more of the original ANZACs, their ideal lives on in the generations that followed: in the Second World War, in the Korean War, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. For their inspiration, for their sacrifices, for their Aussie spirits, we will remember them.

Monday, April 24, 2006

More than just an edit

I'm currently printing out and editing, again, Demonesque.

Chapters one and two were a lot of fun, although I could boost the descriptions a little. Chapter three, I hit a snag, or, more importantly, a Note To Self. It reads: "Find info on Vancouver/Seattle, change home to forested area outside city."

Sigh. I suspect I'm going to find a few of these NTSs from my last edit.

The good news is, obviously I've let the book rest for long enough if I've forgotten the NTSs I made; the bad news is, it means more research and another edit to make sure everything is at it should be.

Why I do this to myself, I don't know... (whinge, whinge, whinge). Actually, I suspect I prefer to write the book, then do the more intensive research. I also think I'm the kind of writer that if I did all the reseach first, I'd get bored with the whole thing and end up not writing it at all.

I know, I know, I should be more focused, but once the bug hits, that's it, I gotta write it all. In my head, I can see everything: characters, scenery, dialogue beginning, middle, and the end I want. I just let my fingers flow across the keyboard until it's done.

And, as always, my laziness comes back to haunt me. Like now. I'm doing that surfing to find what I need and it interrupts the flow of what I'm trying to do.

I could name a few authors for whom edits take on Sisyphean proportions. I'm probably one of them, although I won't go as far as picking to pieces every single sentence to make sure it is absolutely perfect. That's just anal. (Yeah, there's an argument in there, but I'm not playing.)

All I can say is it's a great read, so far. I'm happy with what's happened, what I can see coming up and all the mind games involved.

With an opening like:

“I could take one,” I murmured, “just a small one to taste, to feel the crunch of bone, the spurt of hot, salty blood, the soft flex of muscle. No one would miss one.”

I crouched above the human city, stared down at the walking meat sacks with hooded eyes. The thick, brown claws of my toes and fingers gripped the concrete ledge as I watched the human prey on the street below.

They don’t know I’m up here, I thought with a smirk. Civilised humans, sophisticated humans, ignorant humans, rarely look up, especially in a city. Once they did. Oh, yes, once they did, for death could and did fall from the sky. Snatched them up, devoured them while they screamed, while their blood rained down upon the verdant forest.

Even if no-one else likes this book, I sure as hell do. And so I should stop messin' about, and get on with it. I want to be reminded about what happens next.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Given the amount of books I've read, and post to the sidebar, it looked like a daunting task to link the author sites to the aforementioned books consumed. Hah! Done and Dusted, I believe the saying is. It's a brave new world this weblogging, but I'm finally twisting the sucker into submission. The world is mine! MINE! I tell you!

Now, what else can I do...

Mind your coffee

For those of you who enjoy the Smart Bitches take on romance novel covers, I found this via Agent Kristin's Pub Rants site. I should warn you not to sip coffee while reading the covers, I know I should warn you, but what the hell. It's an amusing wake up call, and put me in a smirking mood all day. Where do people come up with these ideas?

There are some truly sick and twisted people out there, and they're no doubt very proud of that fact.

Kristin also has links to other agent's sites, if you're interested. My impression that the majority of the book publishing market was a closed one, is obviously wrong. Agents are out there, just looking for 'the one'. Maybe that's me, maybe that's you. Go and investigate.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Surfin' the narly cyberwaves

There are some interesting things out there. Over at Agent 007 has the ultimate truth between authors and agents. It's an excellent post because it succinctly gets to the heart of how to write wonderful prose.

Over at Sex, Sizzle and Snark Janie R has been nominated for FAR blog of the month, so you can go over and congratulate her. She also seems addicted to quizzes...

And speaking of which, here is where you'll find all manner of quiz. Yeah, I did some, and I can't resist posting this:

You Are 62% Evil

You are very evil. And you're too evil to care.
Those who love you probably also fear you. A lot.

Sometimes, I just can't help myself...

The Lost Fort has a link to the readability of your work.

The Seventh Sanctum, for all your story generator needs, has announced it's into the top 101 Writer's Resources as announced by Writer's Digest. Congrats to them.

For something entirely different, The Smart Bitches have announced the winners of "First Annual Smart Bitches Trashy Books Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors!" Go over and have a look, see if you agree with them or not.

Following on from there, Evil Auntie Peril has a weblog, go to Animals Stuck to the Wall and make Auntie feel welcome in this new world of blogging.

JA Konrath explains the good and the bad of being published.

And if that's not enough for you to be going on with, Tess Gerritsen is back from her sojourn to Libya and is posting again.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Who put the Crass in 'Democracy'?

At this particular juncture in time, there are three different ideas on the interpretation of the word. The first: democracy is only democracy if you vote for the government we want you to have. The second: democracy only works if I'm in charge. The third: democracy is about betrayal by your favourite MPs.

Can you guess which countries I'm talking about? Yes. No. Maybe?

Number one is Palestine. The EU and American governments cannot accept that the Palestinian people voted for Hamas, a group that has been indicted on terrorism, and yet has had the fortitude to support its people with money, food, law, order, water, electricity... everything that a people need to survive regardless of Israeli oppression. The Fatah government was a corrupt, milquetoast, spineless authority legitimised by outsiders willing to bribe them for their own ends; yet that was the prefered government. The European Union and U.S. governments have seen fit to stop all aid to the Palestinians until the people vote in a government that is acceptable: without giving Hamas the opportunity to govern; all because of past grievances. Excuse me, but that's not democracy, that's tyranny. It's manipulation of the wrong kind and if anyone thinks that by applying this sort of pressure will convince the Palestinians to vote someone else in (approved by the EU and US, no doubt), they are blind, ignorant, and do not understand Middle-Eastern politics in the slightest.

Number two is Italy. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is still refusing to admit defeat even though the Italian Supreme Court has confirmed Romano Prodi's win. Berlusconi is accusing the opposition of vote rigging, flawed counting procedures and problems with the overseas vote. (I have to say I was surprised to learn that an Australian has been voted in to the Italian Parliament.) Mr Berlusconi is considering further legal action. Which is a joke considering this is a man who was able to pass laws to stop any legal action being taken against himself for corrupt business and government dealings. Does anyone understand Italian politics?

Number three is the Solomon Islands. Today, the Prime Minister-elect, Snyder Rini, was sworn into office in a secret ceremony. Secret because the locals were rioting over their Members of Parliament choice of Rini. A number of Australian Police were injured during the rioting and we've sent, along with New Zealand, more troops and police to restore order. International observers declared the elections 'free and fair', but Rini has been accused of being corrupt and taking bribes. The main accusation, that he's been taking money from Chinese interests, resulted in Chinese businesses being targetted by the rioters. Allegedly, it is Taiwanese money and was not given to Rini, but to business concerns.

Three different attitudes towards democracy, all of them destablising, and all of them unnecessary. No foreign country or organisation has the right to dictate what type of government a nation has. No one person has the right to stop the workings of a government because his ego's been bruised. No minority has the right to take out their frustrations on an ethnic group or peace keepers in a violent manner because of an unproven 'allegation'.

In a dictatorship, none of this would happen. To put them into a school setting rather than a geopolitical one, the big boys (the EU and US) don't want to play with the poor, feisty little one (Palestine) because he slapped their friend (Israel) next door for beating him up and stealing from him; Berlusconi lost the game of marbles and is accusing the winner of cheating; and some Islanders are pissed because Rini got more from the tuckshop than they thought fair, regardless of where the proceeds might go and who it might help.

This is what happens when you have democracies running around the playground, making friends or enemies, getting into fights, bullying...

Maybe the boys should step aside and let the girls take over. No fights, just a lot of bitching and preening.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Blogname generator

Shamelessly nicked from Paperback Writer is the Blog Name Generator for those who want to find an alternative name for their blog.

Here's what it came up with for mine:

Jaye Patrick Pit: For when I want to bite someone.

Jaye Patrick Existence: Umm... yes, well, so many words, so much flaming. Have I mentioned I sometimes let my arrogance out of it's cage? It's hard to keep it locked up.

Jaye Patrick Galaxy: See above comment.

Jaye Patrick Conscience: My... what?

Jaye Patrick Coma: Only when Mr Daniels, Mr Jack Daniels, comes to visit.

Jaye Patrick Rhapsody: Tunes and buckets... la, la, laah!

And the random name generator.

Abstract Forgery: Philosophical arguments that are fake? No author wants to be exposed in this way.
Polluted Venus: Ladies of the night who should see their doctors? Or simply that I can be a total beyotch; shattering the stereotypical myth of what a woman is supposed to be?
Strange Kaleidoscope: Only after too much Jack. And the writing would be... weird.
Counterfeit Skeleton: Is that like, um, the boneless chicken ranch?
Mystic Boulevard: Must be something to do with Dali, or Escher, I think. Maybe to do with fantasy writing?
Write Piehole: Wrong Bakery.

Well, they're a little odd, and I don't think I'll be changing the name any time soon - not unless I have a brain explosion.

However, it's a reminder that the Story-a-day marathon is coming up in May over at the Forward Motion site and I have to check out the Seventh Sanctum for some story generators.

I do this every year; not for the pips, though they help, but for the stockpile of short stories I create. And from those stories come novels or, if it's good enough, I'll edit further and submit.

Monday, April 17, 2006

But... But...

Authors cheerfully break and ignore rules all the time; mostly for impact than a deliberate sneer at grammar.

'And' and 'but' are two examples that can be confused as to whether either are appropriate as a beginning. The rules dictate never to start a sentence with either, however, both can be acceptable, depending on the circumstances.

People are always talking over one another. They are stuttering, pausing, shouting discussing, lecturing, and a whole host of other things. Sentences, when spoken, are incomplete, poorly constructed, have wrong words, can be barely understood, and easily misunderstood. People aren't wrong or poorly educated, merely expressing themselves.

When you're on a bus or standing in a line, listen to the conversations around you. They're not only a great source for inspiration, but also for understanding how people communicate. It's more through body language, facial expressions, voice intonation, than perfect language skills. Actors are an exception as they read from a script.

You might note the commercials that have: "But wait! There's more!" A useful device to attract our attention. When overused, it's simply irritating.

As you have recognised, 'and' and 'but' are conjunctions. That is, they are words that join two sentences. For emphasis, though, they can be dramatic. And attractive. And give an indication in a sudden thought. And finish up a story: "And so I went to my grave in peace". And... so on, and so on.

'But' can be used with equal effect. When a character is shocked: "But... but... I did put the jewels in the safe!" When a character is filled with sly knowing: "But you knew that. Didn't you."

To me, the English language is the other side of the coin from Mathematics. Maths is filled with unbreakable rules: 1 + 1 = 2; English is changeable and fluid: What equals 2? 10 - 8, 40 / 20, the square root of 4; there are many answers.

As a writer, knowing when to use and or but at the beginning of a sentence is tricky. Keep in mind whether the sentence and paragraph would benefit from the abrupt use, and whether the two sentences should be connected. Be the actor reading a script and emote the lines; listen to see if it works; if it doesn't, use the conjunction.

You can play with the rules of English. But be careful. And make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Okay, I'm an idiot

And I apologise whole-heartedly to all those who tried to post comments on my weblog and never had a reply.

Thanks, too, to Gabriele of The Lost Fort for pointing out the problem when I didn't realise I had one: uh... I, um, didn't look at the 'moderate comments' bit, so the comments were never posted. There I was, thinking no-one was reading my blog - oh, the mortification, the shame! It will take me while to get over this piece of ass-backwardness. Definitely an 'oh, jeez' moment. Heh, heh...

I am so sorry everyone. To think, I have a Certificate III in Information Technology... what a putz!

Now, I'm going back to reply to most of them.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


FYI Netscape peeps: find a way to transfer bookmarks, damn it!

I went to a site and received the message that my Netscape 7.0 browser wasn't going to cut it and to download 8.1, which I duly did, much to my grief.

I have a lot of bookmarks, from weblogs to a variety of encyclopedia and writing/research sites. They did not accompany 8.1. Now I have to go to the sites and bookmark them again. What a pain in the butt!

Lucky for me I kept the old browser open and copied the sites onto a Word document. It's still a pain to sort through them and enter the sites. NOT HAPPY, Netscape.

It's fortunate I loathe and despise Explorer or I'd change. Maybe Firefox or Mozilla is better...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The End

Those two innocuous words that, when put together, mean you are done with your novel. Whether it's the first draft or final there is a sense of satisfaction.

If it is a first draft of a first book, there's happy dancing, celebratory toasts, smugness and accomplisment; the 'wow, I finally did it'. For others, the sense of accomplishment and, perhaps, the toast is still there. I'd like to think that it's all there, even the dancing.

We've all ached, despaired or simply gritted our teeth to find the perfect opening to a novel, but what about the last sentence or paragraph? It's just as important as the first.

Is there satisfaction that everything has been solved or holds the perfect cliffhanger? Does it express finality? Or is it wishy-washy and vague? Has the promise given at the beginning be fulfilled at the end?

Endings, for me, are just as tough as beginnings; more so, because I can come up with a crackerjack opening sentence, but the last seems... inadequate.

Consider: from Holly Lisle's Sympathy for the Devil. "Heaven is for you," God said gently, "and for them," as he pointed to the Earth spinning lazily below. "For me, there can be no Heaven until the last of my children is safely home." It doesn't tell you what the story was about, but it does give an honest and thought-provoking finality.

On Basilisk Station by David Weber: "Well, Commodore Yerensky, I don't see how I could possibly turn your request down. It happens that I do have very strong feelings about the new armament -" her smile grew even broader "-and I'd be delighted to share them with Admiral Hemphill and her colleagues." Again, it gives nothing away but gives the reader absolute satisfaction given what has come before.

And Laurell K. Hamilton's A Kiss of Shadows: They say, be careful what you wish for. Well, be even more cautious with your prayers. Make sure, very sure, it's what you want. You never know whan a deity may give you exactly what you ask for. A warning of things to come? Or simply relief from what has happened?

All three endings are brilliant, well thought out, and perfect. There are many other examples I could give.

I won't give examples of my own work because they pale in comparison. They're okay, but need work if they're to be published and I don't want to give anything away.

My point, however, is that endings - in the hands of the masters - look easy, but probably aren't. Everything written before culminates in this one, final, moment and must live up to expectations. No matter what genre you write in, you must pay as much attention to the end as to the beginning. Everyone has read a book that ended with a curl of the lip or with thoughts for days, weeks, years.

In my keeper shelf, I have many books that I haven't been able to read again, yet, because I can pick them up and remember how the book started, what happened, and how it ended. Each one is a wonderful example to me - which is why I haven't thrown them out. They are there to teach me about writing; all of it: plotting, characterisation, beginnings, middles, endings, problem solving, everything I need to know is contained within those covers.

I think it wonderful that successful writers pen books on 'how to...', but I remain convinced that the way to learn is read the better books, and to try and emulate those books in my own style. Whether my dream of writing comes true or not, is up to me and how well I listen to my teachers and craft my own books. I have the beginnings and the middles; now the challenge is to write brilliant endings.

It could be the difference between a satisfied sigh with a vacant expression, and an angry huff followed by the book making an indentation in the far wall.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


I love this time of year. I'm actually more productive; as if the cooling weather stirs my creativeness. Better yet, I'll have that creativity until the weather warms up again in late spring.

There is something magical as the leaves turn, the jazz band plays outside at a local cafe, tourists sit in the park, sipping capaccino, feeding the birds, the sky is a crystalline blue, the air fresh, nipping with the scent of freshly mown grass.

Today, the surf added an extra extravagance. Big, booming surf. It was an astonishing sight to see towering waves crashing between Bowen Island and the headland, some ten kilometres across the bay. I could actually see the waves forming barrels before exploding in white. It's something so rarely seen, all I could do was be amazed.

Coming through the heads, between Point Perpendicular and Bowen was a Tall Ship, the training ship, Young Endeavour. All sails bar one were furled, and soon the jib was pulled down and the ship turned towards the Naval College. The ship wallowed in the swell, the hull disappearing then coming up the waves, the masts swinging left and right.

I felt sorry for the trainees on board. If anything was going to engender sea-sickness, that was it. It was a truly magnificent sight. I could have stood and watched for hours; Mother Nature at her majestic best, demonstrating how wild the sea can be while the shore is peaceful and calm.

What a day. It makes me so thankful I live here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lesson learned

Gah! Okay, I sent off the flash fiction Soul Food to Shadowed Realms as per their guidelines. I put in a cover letter with my submission and was lucky enough to get a receipt reply from the editor. Woot!!

I did everything they asked, name, e-mail address, writing credits - or lack thereof - and that's where I got nipped.

FYI people: don't put anything negative in!

We're lucky enough in this country that some editors will take the time to make personal replies. The negative I put in was that I had submitted poetry that was "rightfully rejected" by a newspaper. In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn't have. After all, that 'poetry' was written by me more than twenty years ago and was full of emotional angst, piss and vinegar, and - for me - experimental expression. (My parents loved it, since it was about them.) No one else would find it so.

At the time, I was confused about what I could write. I knew writing was why I was here, but not what. Novels were beyond me, short stories weren't - short, that is - and I simply couldn't finish them. Poetry seemed like a goer.

At the time, I was jobless, moneyless and almost friendless. Loneliness was my constant companion in a city where I knew virtually no-one and I was one step away from the street. Poetry seemed my only outlet; bad though it was, it still filled a need and kept me hopeful of better things to come.

It came down to a fundamental belief that if my writing gave me a sense of contentment, it didn't matter if no-one else liked it, or approved, it was for me; and I revelled in it.

So here I am, twenty years later, changed in more ways that I can say, still writing, though now it's novels - how I managed to finish a book, I'll write about later - producing short stories that I can 'down-size' to flash fiction, and have the confidence to submit them; although that's scarily new to me.

Whether Shadowed Realms accept or reject my story, Angela Challis has done me an enormous favour in sending me a personal note.

To quote some of the e-mail: Thanks for clearly taking the time to follow the Shadowed Realms guidelines. You can understand why this is important, if not, why the hell are you thinking?

Please don't talk yourself down in your cover letter; see above.

There is no shame in having no writing credits. In fact, it is an editor's dream to be the first one to 'discover' a clearly gifted author. I have a number of authors published for the first time in Shadowed Realms, and I am very proud to say so as I believe (not surprisingly) that their stories are damn fantastic. Whether other editors have the same belief, I don't know, but this gave me a warm fuzzy.

As I said, whether they publish my story or not, this kind of courtesy will keep me writing and submitting.

Anyone else had 'good' feedback and advice?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Submission scaries

I've just sent off a story to Shadowed Realms, an Australian flash fiction e-zine.

It's not the first time I've sent something off... it's the second, and it's scary. The churning of the gut, the re-checking of a story I know is okay, the re-reading of the e-mail, adding something here, deleting something there, even hitting the spell checker when I know ever word is spelt correctly.

Jeez. Then there's the moist palms, the rapid eye blink, constant rolling of shoulders and manic thoughts that shut out the NO! DON'T DO IT! IT'S AWFUL! YOU'LL BE REJECTED AGAIN! THEY'LL LAUGH AT YOU! All those negative thoughts that swim around like sharks, waiting for you to show a weak moment.

Well, HAH! It's done now, gone off into cyber-space to live or die on the word of an editor. I may get a good rejection - "not suitable for our mag" - or a bad one - "thanks but, nope" - or the worst - "you wrote this crap?" I'm kidding about the last... I think.

Whenever I get the submission scaries - that tremor of fear just before you push the 'send' button - I think of Wayne Gretsky.

Yeah, I heard that 'huh? What does an ice hockey player have to do with submitting a story?' He said: "You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don't take." Stating the bleedin' obvious, but true nonetheless.

So I've taken my shot with Soul Food, and who knows? Maybe they'll like it enough to buy it. Maybe they won't, but I've put myself out there.

Brrrr... now comes the waiting. And the work on other stories and novels (caint never stop the wurk).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Third Opportunity

It never rains, it pours. I have another writers opportunity for those of you who need another choice. Better yet, Moxie Press is looking for unsolicited manuscripts of the romance variety between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Go to the site and check out the sub-genres, they're looking for most of the popular sub-genres.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

More Ops

Courtesy of PBW should you need more opportunities for your writing. She has listed ten, from jokes for Reader's Digest to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and... eek! Christian Science Fiction!

There are plenty of opportunities out there, all you have to do is find them.

And now, it's back to editing my short stories for Shadowed Realms, and Demonesque for Tor.

Sigh, so much work to do in so little time...