Monday, December 31, 2007

New stuff

Yes... well... let's not talk about the football, hmm? Not one of the teams I was supporting won, so. 'Nuff said.

It's taken awhile, but I'm hoping the books to the right can be downloaded in toto by right clicking the mouse and saving the link; if not, I'm sure someone will let me know. I'm also going to try something wa-ay out and put the covers up, too.

I used to be a whizz at this stuff, but technology has moved on... and I haven't - that will teach me to have my head in a book! I'm hoping that with practice, it will come a lot easier than it is. If not, then I shall throw myself upon the mercy of those who do know.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a happy and New Year, and play safe at your chosen celebration.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Other Worlds

While entertaining the rellos this weekend, I've been putting together a book of the short stories from the Takeaway.

The plan is to post In Other Worlds onto the new website I'm building. Added to this will be the full, third draft version of Huntress.

"But wait! There's more!" As a bonus, In Other Worlds contains three new stories.

All this is planned for January 1, and I'm going to take down the stories from the Takeaway. That doesn't mean anything other than "I'm taking the stories down". More will be posted as scheduled.

I've left a number of the stories out - presumably, I'll be putting together another one when there are enough. Though since I'll be in Europe in May 2008, this means no story-a-day marathon. I'm working on getting around that - I love that marathon.

Okay then. This is all dependent on my getting the website done in time. I have Jason over at Scribbling of a Madman to thank for the idea. He has a freebie on the blog attached to Freewebs and this is what I'm using - it has to be better than the current one.

On that score, I'll post a link to the new site when it goes live on the old site.

I'll let y'all know. (There's lots of American Football on the teev tomorrow - how can I not watch?)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Back online-ish

I finally managed to work out how to connect the new modem. Yeah, yeah, how hard can it be? Well, without the username and password from my ISP, impossible.

Today though, I'm zipping from page to page.

Of course I should be working, but I'm not. I spent some time watching the college football and playing with the modem.

I am working on a new website, but my CSS skills are sadly lacking; nothing like a bit of practice, though, to brush up those skills... and that means it's time to get back to it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post Christmas

Christmas Day went surprisingly well - but then, I planned it that way. Yes, I'm absolutely dripping in smug. (I'll wash it off later.)

The food was great - only half an hour late - there was plenty of bubbles (oy...) to keep the chef lubricated, the kids happily played with toys or watched brand new DVDs, while we adults caught up. And no-one, no-one caught the 'tired and emotional' disease that often plagues families at this time of year.

But... Murphy. Always an uninvited guest and always creating mayhem. I'm munching away at the crackling (mmm.... crackling...) and crunch - one chipped molar. My dentist won't be back in the office until the New Year; it's more an irritant than anything major, but still...

The worst is that my modem packed it in. I'm using dial-up for the moment and tomorrow, I'm off to brave the ferocious battlefield of post-Christmas sales to find a new adsl modem.

Today has been quiet and peaceful; recovery day, if you will. For my part, I've posted another story over at the Takeaway.

For the New Year, I'm going to take down all the stories and pdf 'em into book format with a couple of extra stories. I'm going to create a new web page too. The one I've got sucks like a lemon, and I know it.

Actually, now that I think about it, that's a lot a work to do in a week; maybe I should say in the New Year. Yeah. In the New Year - it's all a part of my cunning plan to up the tempo of this writing gig.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sancta Bovina!

Or, Holy Cow! in Latin.

It's just before nine a.m. and my writing chores are done. The little brown dog I'm looking after stayed true to form and got me up at 5.30. (She'd better not do the same tomorrow...) So I've been buzzing around. One last shop this morning at 6.30 for milk, a turn around the neighbourhood with the animal companions and bacon and eggs for brekkie.

It's another beautiful day on the coast; the sunrise spectacular, the air fresh but warming and all's right with the world... until the mad tourists start makin' noise, that is.

I have a couple of things to do, then I can sit and enjoy some down time - at least until Wednesday when I'll post another story.

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Well, woo...

I managed to carve nearly 5200 words out the book and I'm embarrassed to say most of those were the bane words.

I've put in some long hours on this so I could set it aside and enjoy Christmas. Now that it's done, I have no energy left to celebrate, hence the bland 'woo'.

My own fault, of course. I didn't set aside enough time and had work the long hours, like fourteen hour days long.

I'll give it one more read through before New Year, then post it on the first.

For now, I'm going to share a bottle of bubbles with my eldest sister and catch up.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


The banes of my existence are: had, was, that and -ing.

I'm double editing. That is, I've gone through the hard copy and I'm putting them into the electronic copy, but I'm also editing on screen and those baneful words pop up with vulgar regularity.

It's a time consuming job and I hope to have this done by tomorrow; I doubt it though. I am determined to have it done by Christmas Eve - family is descending and I'll be busy with other stuff.

Still, it's not so bad: I'm over halfway and I'm going to post the completed version of Huntress for the New Year.

Since I'm doing this, I've had no time to write a Solstice story - not that I could think of anything to write. My muse has already gone on holiday, I think, and my focus is on this book. But there will be a short story on Wednesday. (They'll all be off to the post-Christmas sales.)

It's time for a break - dinner - before I throw myself back into the work. Writing is easy compared to this; all I have to do is place my fingers on the keyboard, imagine and off I go. This editing stuff takes concentration.

Blessed be, everyone and happy Solstice!

Friday, December 21, 2007


I'm starting to feel a little cramped up with all the stuff I have to do before next week.

But rushing around like a mad thing, will not get things done any faster and will only piss me off. And who needs to be bad tempered at this time of year?

It must be seasonal anxiety... or the weather. Sitting at a computer all day when it's hot and humid is not my idea of a fun time; and no, I don't have air conditioning. Santa is mean that way.

There's a definite temptation to cool off at the beach, but it's not going anywhere and the screaming hordes of tourists are about to descend on this peaceful village... oh, and then there are the sharks.

Yeah, I shudder too, but the warnings are out because the water temperature has risen due to La Nina. I ain't stickin' my toe in. They can, if they must chew on a tourist.

Work. I have to get back to work. The promised storms are approaching, but with them, a cool breeze. Another hour or so and I'll have to give the editing away. *sigh* Summer can be such an annoying bitch.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hard Yards

Finally finished the edits - that is: red pen all over the place on 376 pages of hard copy. Tomorrow, I get to correct the electronic version.

Now that I'm done with the paper, it got me to thinking about how I edit.

Most writers hate the editing phase. Some days, I'm not a fan either, even though I have the professional qualifications to do it. I don't know why. If the book is good enough, why worry about the small stuff?

And I think that's the fundamental problem. While we write, everything is perfect. We see with absolute clarity the characters and scenery and dialogue and... everything. But when the editing comes around, we have to take off those rose-coloured glasses and put on the executioner's hood. We cut and hack, slice and dice and remove what we thought brilliant at the time of writing; and we wonder what the hell we were thinking.

For me, if a book doesn't write well, I don't finish it; and that circumvents the need to edit. But when I've finished writing and set the tome aside, I come back and read through it with a fresh eye.

Most of the problems with Huntress are cosmetic: grammar, missing punctuation, a missing word here or there. I've only deleted a part of one scene and that's because no man has that kind of stamina. This book was, however, written for Nano 2003, and the aim then was the word count. Nothing boosts a word count like S.E.X. so, out that part goes.

There are more pages with corrections than not, but I should be done by tomorrow afternoon, and that makes me happy.

I may even give myself some of next week off, after I've done the story for Saturday and next Wednesday.

* * *
On another note, I was saddened to read on Sci Fi Weekly that Terry Pratchett has announced he's suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer's Disease.

I'm not a fan of his work, but I have heard him speak and he is as entertaining as he is erudite. He says he has time yet to write more books, but I can only say it is a tragedy to the sci-fi and fantasy genre to lose such a clever mind.

And yes, I have experience with this kind of disease; my father had it and there is nothing more cruel.

I'm not going to suddenly rush out and buy Terry Pratchett's books, as I said, I don't like them, but I know he has fans and they are legion. Maybe someone will come up with a cure in time to save him. We can only hope and pray.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A good day

I got a lot done, more than I expected, no matter my grumblings of yesterday.

In between the phone calls, the nagging dog - Maggie is a guest dog who constantly wants her back rubbed/scratched or fed (my dog, Saxon, is so intimidated by this bundle of eight-year-old Staffordshire muscle that she hides even at dinner time) or walked or whatever - fixing the coffee machine *gasp* (water wouldn't run through so I cleaned it; can't do without my cappuccino), shopping for food stuffs, I managed a hundred and fifty pages. WOOT!

Two packages also turned up; one for my mother and the other from Denmark, yay, under the tree they go! Add to that the seductive lure of three letters from England containing marriage certificates and a birth certificate for the family tree and it's a wonder I got anything done on the editing scene.

Tomorrow won't be as productive as I've got to go into town - then again, Maggie likes to wake me up at oh-my-Goddess-it's-early, otherwise known as five o'clock in the a.m., for a wee break. Since I'm up already and the sun is rising, it's the start of my day, too. I can't go back to sleep; tried it. Failed. It's a beautiful time of day and I spend an hour or so with the coffee, watching the news before heading to the computer.

If I can get the same amount of work done, then Friday I can finish off and do the story for Saturday. That's the plan, but, as always, Murphy might have something to say about that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Work avoidance

Editing, while my stock in trade, can sometimes be a drag; any work can become a chore when you'd like to be doing something else.

I had all the classic symptoms: I tidied my desk, got out the sticky arrows I needed and lined them up, unwrapped a new Post-it(tm) note pad, re-arranged the coloured pens, fixed my editing board - the hinge was loose - went and made myself another cup of coffee, checked the dogs, then the rain gauge, re-filed some of my cds, made a phone call; then printed out the copy for editing.

Of course, while that was happening, I had to check my e-mail, some of the blogs I read, the news...

When I realised what I was doing, I stopped myself and got on with it.

Yes, I can say I concentrated until my brother dropped in for a cuppa tea, then we sat and watched the Bears-Vikings game before I returned to do more pages.

It's not that the book is boring; I like it. It's the volume of work to be done and the time it takes. The writing part is (ha!) the easy bit; the editing, well now, that takes more concentration, more thought and more care.

I've done 52 pages and only two of those are clean. The first twenty pages though... oy... are covered in red pen and sticky arrows. I can see, however, that after those pages, I was in 'The Groove'. Text flows much easier and there are fewer paragraphs to re-write. (I am shite at the first thirty-odd pages.)

The dogs need feeding now which is another delaying tactic. Tomorrow is another day, and I have the rest of the week to do all I need before the family arrives for Christmas. I hope it's enough time.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Housewife 49

I saw the most amazing drama last night, called Housewife 49. It's based on the Second World War diaries of Nella Last, the wife of a terse, insensitive man and mother to two, less than ideal sons; one, just as carelessly cruel as his father, the other who shuns her after his 'friend' is killed during the war.

Victoria Wood - better known for her comic roles - stars as Nella Last and is brilliant in the role. Nella begins writing for the Mass-Observation, a project that examined the lives of 'ordinary' people and finds an outlet for expressing the feelings she can't share with her husband.

The astonishing thing about this movie is that you never see a war reel, never see anything of the war really, only the consequences; in lives lost suddenly and more importantly, how the war affected those who survived, in particular, Nella's favoured son, Cliff.

Victoria Wood goes from a woman who is lost within the confines of her marriage and the times, to someone filled with energy and hope as she helps with the local branch of the Women's Voluntary Service. She is no longer alone, no longer isolated in her marriage. As a glimpse into the ordinary lives of people in England during the war, it's a real eye-opener.

I didn't think I'd like it much, but I was riveted from the beginning; by Woods and by the storyline. The stoicism, the grief and the inability of John to communicate effectively with Nella is perfectly played, especially as the film goes on, you see him struggling to come to terms with his wife's new found independence. The world has changed and he doesn't know how to deal with it.

Stephanie Cole as Mrs Waite, head of the Women's Voluntary Service, is as formidable as she is progressive. It's easy to see the genesis of the 'liberation' of women in Housewife 49, and if you get the chance to see it, it's worth a look.

Friday, December 14, 2007


It's been a madhouse around here for the last couple of days; you'd think Christmas was this weekend!

I've finished the Christmas present shopping (I do my Mother's as well), wrapped them all, done the housework, mowed the lawn and just come back from a present exchange with my sister up on the Highlands - about an hour and a half drive - oh, and picked up her dog to look after for a couple of weeks. Man...

This weekend I have my youngest sister and her boys coming down for some time at the beach and a prezzo swap since she won't be here for Christmas.

Here they come:

Just in case you forgot what season it is, this photo is the Santa Bike Ride. As you can see, everyone dresses up and rides to the pub some three kilometres away.

It started last year and this year there are nearly twice as many riders; I have no doubt that next Christmas, there'll be even more.

Each Santa donates money to the Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade and, at the end of the ride, there's a sausage sizzle, or barbeque and few cleansing ales, which, now that I think about it, is a really good reason for buying a bicycle and joining in! Shame it only happens once a year.

And there they go:

My one complaint is that in previous years, the Fire Brigade always had a slow parade down the street and tossed sweeties to all and sundry; no such luck now. Ah, well, my waist don't need no more sugah.

I think our brand new, crispy clean kerb and guttering looks rather nice. The Council boys did an excellent job, even laid down new turf. All I have to do, is keep the new grass alive... or I could just leave it alone to grow and not mess with it at all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spiced Solstice

It's time to make Hypocras, and I'll need a few bottles of the stuff. What is it? It's spiced wine.

Hypocras is a beverage steeped (ha!... sorry...) in history. Although it's named after Hypocrates, it's a medieval drink. Yes, I know, the Romans drank spiced wine but I suspect it used different spices.

King Henry the VIII drank Hypocras to aid digestion after his two hour brunch. His had gold flakes in it, but I think I'll forego that.

Hypocras is an acquired taste: half my family love it; the other half says it tastes like medicine. The best thing is, it makes the whole house smell like an English Christmas; must be the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves with the pine tree.

I use a modified recipe - without the ambergris which is "an opaque, ash-coloured secretion of the sperm whale intestine, usually found floating on the ocean or cast ashore: used in perfumery."

There are plenty of recipes around: Winemaking has a number of recipes, but it's best to fool around with a recipe until you get one you like.

I first had Hypocras at a Medieval banquet a couple of years ago. It was the kind of drink I couldn't seem to stay away from. Every time the wench put a bottle on the table, I refilled the small tankard. The food was from authentic recipes and exceptionally tasty - I still have the menu printed in fine script.

One year, I think I'll try my hand at having a Medieval Banquet for Solstice. Might be hard work, but it will be worth it; just have to gather the family for it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

History's Echo

‘What if…’? A question every writer asks in order to create. It’s usually followed by ‘and then…’.

As fiction writers go, Harry Turtledove comes to my mind when thinking of alternative history. He asked himself questions like: what if the Confederacy won the American Civil War (Southern Victory series), what if aliens invaded in the middle of World War II (World War and Colonisation series). And Robert Harris asked what if Nazi Germany defeated the allies in Fatherland; his answer is chilling.

In non-fiction, leading historians have asked the same question: What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? (Camelot Continued by Diane Kunz in Virtual History ed. By Niall Ferguson) Or if the Japanese either invaded Pearl Harbour, or didn’t attack it at all? Or there was no American Revolution, or that the Brits won it? That the Gunpowder Plot succeeded, that Arch Duke Ferdinand and his wife weren’t assassinated or that the Black Plagues never arrived? Or even that the Dutch decided to colonise Australia rather than the English?

Any one of these can be described as a turning point in history. In each case, the world we live in would be a very different place.

How about if the Roman General, Varus, defeated Arminius? Rome hadn’t suffered such a defeat since Hannibal and his elephants three hundred years earlier. The consequences of Arminius’ victory echoed down history for centuries.

Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, a military historian of the last century, suggests that the defeat of Varus had far reaching consequences than Augustus demanding ‘where are my legions?’

For centuries, Arminius represented the pride of Germany; a statue of ‘Hermann’, as Martin Luther christened him, stands at Detmold in the Teutoborg Forest wherein he lured Varus and his legions to their deaths. Described as a brilliant tactician, Arminius was twenty-five when he destroyed Varus and kept the Romans out of that area of Germany until his death by assassination ten years later.

The Romans never really conquered the Germanic tribes again, and it is this that resonates through history because Arminius was used throughout history as a symbol of German nationalism.

Fuller postulates in his Decisive Battles: Their Influence upon History and Civilisation, that if the Romans had defeated Arminius, the Germanic tribes would have been totally incorporated into the Empire and ‘civilised’; no more inter-tribal conflicts. Pax Romana would have held sway and Europe wouldn’t have been plunged into the conflicts it subsequently had; that there would be no Kaiser Wilhelm, and no Adolf Hitler.

Personally, I wonder if another ‘Arminius’ wouldn’t have risen up to wrestle Germania from the grip of Rome. But, there again, history would have taken another dramatic turn.

The comparison, I suppose would be Roman Britain and what happened there some sixty years later. Of course, where Boudicca failed in Britannia, Arminius succeeded in Germania and history stands.

What a different world we’d be living in if the results were reversed?

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Great Slaughter

For the past three days, I've been reading Les Carlyon's epic history of The Great War - at least, the Australian side of it.

Australians grow up venerating the tragic sacrifices of Gallipoli - our first major test in battle; and we all know who to blame for that disaster. Through poor planning and arrogance, the boats landed at the wrong end of the Gallipoli peninsular.

But it wasn't just the Australians who were slaughtered, in fact, the Brits and Canadians lost more. It was, however, our 'baptism of fire' in a war just beginning. Winston Churchill - yes, that one - lost his job over it and rightly so.

What happened in Europe - which this book deals with - beggars belief. If Gallipoli was a defeat, then the Western Front was an unmitigated disaster for the Aussies; and for the same reason. British generals who quiet literally fucked up in major ways. Worse, they were never called to account for that wholesale murder of troops.

Carlyon, in parts, tries to ease off on the criticism of the generals: Haig, Gough, Haking, Birdwood, McCay were the worst offenders. Haig, for example, never saw the ground the troops had to fight across. He and Gough searched throughout the war for the ultimate cavalry charge through the gap. Nor did the generals appreciate the advantage artillery gave them. Carlyon fails in trying to present a less critical picture because the facts, casualty figures, personal diary entries, dispatches contradict virtually every attempt to lessen the blame.

Time and again, Gough oversaw ill-planned attacks and wasted thousands of lives - not just Australians, but British, New Zealanders, Indian, Sengalese, Canadians... and never thought it a bad thing. He and Haking were of the opinion that 'character' would see the troops to the enemy trenches. If not, well then...

This book is a best seller here - in hardback - which is surprising for an almost 900 page tome on a part of history 90 years past. But Carlyon mixes dry recitations with excerpts from soldiers diaries and from Australia's official war historian C.E.W. Bean. Bean spent his time in the trenches with the men and with the commanders further back once he'd understood what was going on.

I used Bean for my History thesis at University; if Carlyon had written this book then, it would have been invaluable to me. Within it's pages, I found a clue to my grandfather's own diary. He'd been wounded, but, in transcribing the diary, I had to guess at where he was. Turns out he was wounded at Fromelles - one of Gough's disasters. The diary doesn't say, but from Carlyon's book, I can fit the pieces of the puzzle together and say Pa had his legs shot up bad enough to spend two months in England recuperating before returning in time for the ugliness of the Somme.

In another curious twist, I also discovered that a previously unknown great uncle, on my mother's side, was killed at Theipval, on the Somme while my grandfather - from my father's side was less than three miles away. My grandfather's diary entry for the day? B., C., and D. came out of line this morning covered with mud. Must be terrible in the line. He was big on the understatement.

It's unfortunate I only had one of his diaries for a month before handing it back to my grandmother; there were six in all and I would have loved to have read them. Sadly, she gave them away to people who weren't family.

When I'm done with this book, I'll get back to writing. For now, though, this stuff is as riveting as it is tragic.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Seasonal Stories

So I'm cogitating a Christmas story. It won't be one from the archives, but one I'll write speshully.

It got me to thinking about other 'religious holiday' stories. They're usually about the meaning of Christmas, ie, good will to all men, love, peace and the giving; not the overt commercialism. This time of year, you think about a lot of other things, too. Here in Australia, it's the beach, the heat, the flies, the barbeque, the cheeriness of everyone. In the northern hemisphere, I suppose it's all about the snow, the warmth of a fire, roasting chestnuts (blech), the cosiness. Around the world, Christmas - or the season - means different things.

But stories about the season revolve around Christendom. I've never seen, for example, a story about for Ramadan or Hannukah or any of the great religious festivals. Pagans celebrate the Solstice a few days beforehand, but here, there are no crops to go Wassailing around during Summer and I've not seen a story regarding the Solstice.

Is it simply a case of Western readers not being interested unless it deals with Christmas? Or do writers not write them because they're about a religion not their own and it's not profitable? Is there market for non-Christian stories?

For me, Christmas stories haven't been about the day; they've always been about the surrounding emotions, but Christmas is the catalyst.

This story is going to be a challenge. Not because I'm Pagan and still pissy at the Church taking over sacred days - a whole other argument - but how to engender the feelings these stories evoke in a reader without mentioning Christmas. Can I do that because the story will be posted close to Christmas Day? Can you have a Christmas story without the word?

Guess I'm gonna find out.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dark and Stormy

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

Well, not night, but it's been a dark and stormy day. Heavy rain, thunder, lightning. Our new curb and guttering is up to the task though - bless those workers who finished laying down the asphalt yesterday... The dog, of course, isn't a happy camper and is annoying the hell out me wanting to snuggle; tough if you're writing. Worse since we're experiencing a La Nina event this summer and expect more storms...

I've finally got around to trawling through my short story archive and posted a piece on the Takeaway. It's a little icky in parts, and has some 'harsh' language, but I like it. Maybe you will too.

I can hear the sky rumbling again, so it's time to shut down everything.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Life's too short

Every now and then, you read... try to read a book that you thought would be good.

The one I've just thrown across the room started off brilliant. I'm not Christian so to read about a devout Christian was an interesting exercise. No bible-thumping, though, just some kick ass action... in the first part.

The second part descended into a self-indulgent lecture on what goes on at a convention and the personalities involved; including - if you can believe it - the ill-disguised names of real writers, slush parties, the 'outsider' angst of the people who attend and, even more unnecessary, a comment on the 'women don't understand science fiction' argument from SFWA, thinly disguised as either a real comment or a tongue-in-cheek snark. (Since I'm not a part of the 'in' crowd the author runs with, I don't know and couldn't care less.) I couldn't cope. It bored me to f***ing tears.

And it was a waste, too, because the subject matter was intriguing. Unfortunately, I have no interest in wading through all the bullshit loosely disguised as a search for information on a killer. Why the editor allowed this section is beyond me; it's worse than a pot boiler!

In the writer's defence, I've just come back from the public wrestling match that is Christmas shopping, so that may explain the virulence. I sure as hell won't try to finish the tripe and I will, in future, hesitate to buy more.

Life is too damn short to waste on stupid fiction.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I'm finally getting around to the stats of Nano.

Worst day: 30th with 1816 - epilogue;
Best day: 26th with 12361 - your eyeballs hurt after a while and your fingers go all dyslexic;
Average: 6691.77 - which means you can have excellent days and shockers and still do well overall.
Pages: 880 double; 440 single - well, duh.
Books: Two.
Word count for each: 132056 and 75389 - one's gonna have chunks cut out and the other needs more.
Total: 207445
Result: Two books, ignored housework, jungle for a backyard, overdose of caffeine, too much snackage, not enough exercise, lack of sleep, one sulking muse, one over-the-top, getting-up-my-nose, smug inner athlete who's lookin' to die, one proud family and one exasperated sibling demanding publication.

So it's done. Nano is over and I won't mention it again - well, until I get down to editing, that is. I'm not sure when that will be: my edit pile is rivalling my tbr pile - so not a good thing. What's the point of doing all this hard work if I'm not doing anything with it?

I'm going to post a short story this week and another just before Christmas, probably on the Solistice... if I can get this tired brain of mine working again. Coupla shots of Jack, and who knows what kind of tripe I can write!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Resistance is futile

Having written the words 'The End', it was actually quite difficult for me not to head straight back to the computer on Saturday morning.

It's what Nano is about, really: getting writers into the habit of writing. But I resisted the siren's call.

While I did housework (mowing the knee-high lawn, cleaning the kitchen, defrosting the fridge...) ideas kept popping up and where I could do edits. It's hard not to drop everything and race back, to be seduced into doing... stuff. And it would be wrong.

Stories need to sit and catch their breaths too, you know.

And yet, here I am on a Sunday evening, pounding away at the keyboard again.

I tell you, this writing gig is addictive! And there's no cure. Nope. None at all.

Later on this week, I'm going to plunge into some short stories to appease the Muse. She's vengeful - especially after Nano. And the inner athlete wants more, too - the beeyotch.

Something good may come of it; I'll have to wait and see - and wonder, yet again, why I do Nano every year.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Small stuff

I was going to write a post on what a relief it will be to finally finish the second book (the first time I've ever finished on time and on word count). But my sister sent me an e-mail I thought I'd share, just in case something went awry for you this Nano:

"IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER - by Erma Bombeck
(Written after she found out she was dying from cancer).

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn! With my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love you's"; more "I'm sorry's."

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it... live it and never give it back. STOP SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!!!

Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what.

Instead; let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us."

* * *

Life is all about fresh starts and challenges. For me, the challenge to be able to write a book is over; the fear that I'll run out of ideas has faded under the pressure of Nano (thank you, inner athlete). The next challenge - not a New Year resolution, thanks - is to get some of those books to an agent or editor. It will me versus my greatest fear of all: accepting failure and moving on.

And since I'm in a philosophical mood, one last quote before I get back to work:

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover."

Mark Twain

Thursday, November 29, 2007

One day

I'm a day away from finishing the second book.

For all intents and purposes, I am done, except for the wrap up and two discoveries to finish one plot line and present a possibility for another. One is necessary, the other isn't, but I want to put it in anyway, because it's a delicious hint should I decide to write this as a series. (Yeah, getting published would be great, but if I don't plan for the future, what's a plan for?)

Next week, I'll be posting the statistics of this Nano from my database - and posting a short story since I haven't done one this month and I promised. I guess that means two stories for December.

I wonder if I should write a 'Christmassy' one? With a difference since I'm Pagan. Bears thinking about.

For now, I'm done for the day and it will be a short day tomorrow - yay! Actually, I'm baby sitting my elder brother's young children, so I have to be done as soon as possible.

And just as a side note, we had kangaroos grazing on the front lawn last night. Aww... how cu-ute! Except they crapped all over the driveway. Little dark green nuggets everywhere. Another chore to add to the astonishingly long list of neglect I have to fix. Ah, well. One day to go.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


A lot of people have music to write to; you might not actually hear it because you're so involved with your story - and that's a good thing.

One of the most inspirational songs for writers I've yet heard is Natasha Bedingfield's Unwritten.

So, if you're wavering a little in your sojourn to write, here are those lyrics:

I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined
I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Oh, oh, oh
I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions

© N Bedingfield/D Brisebois/W. Rodrigues

Inspiration can be found almost anywhere. Whenever I'm hesitating, I find it in songs like this. It says it all.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nano blur

Or maybe Nano rot. I totally forgot to post anything yesterday. I think that's the second time in a week.

I'm going to put it down to the curious state I mind myself in when I'm done writing for the day. I think all creativity has oozed out my ears, because I simply post a word count update, shut everything down and head upstairs. I sit and watch television for an hour, without taking anything in, and stumble off to bed.

There's a blankness of thought once the computer goes off, as if I'm shutting off, too. This last week, I've written 10k more than the week before, and I still have a day left over. I'm pushing it, I know, but it's not about the word count, it's about finishing this book by the end of the week.

My mistake was the first one was too long, much too long, way, way too long, and I've left myself short on time for this one. I'd bash my head against the wall if I thought there was something left inside to rattle.

For most of this book, I have little idea of what I've put down. I know there's a virtual travelogue, but after that? No much of a clue. Violence, probably, sex, yeah; misunderstanding, has to be. The nitty gritty, nope.

And that is the Nano blur. You work so hard on it, on reaching the fifty thousand or a hundred thousand, or whatever your personal goal is, and it damn well wears you out! The final week is blurred. You sit at the computer - as you have every day in November - you set your fingers to the keyboard and away you go until your eyes cross and your fingers fumble simple words. Then you know it's time to quit. Oh, but first, you've got to update your word count and a smile blooms as you post the day's effort.

Crash and burn quickly follows.

And speaking of which, I'm not done yet, so I'll just load up on another cup 'o java.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Last Week

Well, the election has been won and lost. I only have two comments to make about the whole thing: Hallelujah, it's over; and how do the Americans put up with the advertising, bitching, counter-bitching for months, nay years? Six weeks was wa-ay long enough for me.

We're into the last five days of Nano, and I'm still motoring along. The guy has lost the girl due to some insecurities and a few judicious comments from a... wretched creature hell bent on getting someone else to end his existence.

The new bad guy is surprised by all three still being alive and is running out of time to hunt down the... things... he needs to ensure he has a new lease on life.

The bad news is I don't think I'll be able to finish this book with another fifty to sixty thousand more to write. The good news, or sort of good news, is that I've worked out a way to turn these two books into more than... two books; there could be three more after these.

I have a surprise conclusion to this one, much like the first book, only... nope, can't give away the ending, but sometimes, heroes do stupid things.

What I like about writing these two is that the characters are telling the story; they're as surprised by events as I am - which sounds a little odd, but that's what writing without an outline means.

So, onward and upward in the word count...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Seven Days

A week until the end of Nano and I can see the end.

Today has probably been the worst writing day. I just can't seem to get involved with the story.

I'm looking out the window at the long grass that needs mowing; I'm thinking of all the housework I've neglected; I'm thinking of the Christmas presents I have to buy and what the menu will be. I'm also wondering when a good time to vote is - yeah, it's election day and I've got to do my civic duty (not that I have a choice since it's compulsory).

All of this dithering means the story has gone off on a tangent somewhere and it's going to be a struggle to get back on track. What I thought was a good idea has turned into a slog because of geography - it's taking my protags too long to reach their destination and writing a travelogue isn't what I want. I doubt readers will want it either.

I still have a couple of pages to write before we get into it again, but at least I'm getting there.

The important aspect of this post is that if you're bored with the writing, the reader will be bored with the reading. It's important to note that, as a writer, if you're having a tough time, then there's something fundamentally wrong; not with style or dialogue or any writing skill, but with the imagery and the content. I'll be doing some significant cutting and rewriting.

I should have listened to my subconscious days ago and I wouldn't be bitching and moaning about it.

The bad news is I'm still writing this crap; the good news is that it will soon be over and I can get on with the real story.

Hmm... the windows could do with a wash and... look at those weeds!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Work rate

I got to the keyboard early this morning. Not because of last night's thunderstorm - though that was a disappointment - but because it was raining.

I've always thought of myself as a 'seasonal' writer; that is, I write more during winter and the cooler months than I do during summer. And now I can prove it.

Since June, I've kept a weather station to check on temperature and rainfall for virtually every day. From my database for November, I can see that the high word counts fall on days when it has been cool and/or rainy, the lower ones, when it's been hot.

I'm also an afternoon writer, with my morning counts abysmal, but rocketing up in the afternoon and evening.

Now, you might be wondering 'so what?', but it tells me I can take mornings off if necessary - and they have been - without putting too much of a dent in my word counts. It also means, I can sleep in, though I don't. But if I needed to, I could.

I also find the statistics interesting. So today, I'm busily beavering away and closing in on the 150k mark. Which means at the moment, I have to end this part of the story and present the more dangerous and devastating realisation that my protags have been set up. Much mayhem then, as they try to escape in order to save the world. Though how they're going to do that, I haven't quite worked out. Something spectacular and sudden, I hope.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Murphy hates me. I know this to be true because yesterday I said how much fun I was having. Murphy cannot have that.

My mouse began to fail. I changed it to a back up. That one went all wiggly across the screen. Changed to the back up for the back up. Nup. Nothing doing and nothing happened.

So, I used the keyboard to struggle along. How many people actually remember pre-mouse days? I'm probably giving away too much there.

Anyway. I got jack of it and shut everything down.

Today, I duly went off and bought a new mouse. Ooooo... shiney. And slick and the mouse zooms around the screen like it's on crack. Happy day! And off I went. A late start because I have to drive nigh on thirty miles into town. But, no problem as long as the mouse works.

Murphy can't possibly allow that: severe thunderstorm warning for the area!

I'm watching the radar and Holy Moly! Look at that those red patches heading in my direction! The dog is twitching, too - a precursor to panic.

And so, after less than four hours writing, I have to shut everything down again, and unplug. Leaving stuff, even on standby, is an invitation to disaster during a thunderstorm. I'll back everything up first, though, just in case.

Tomorrow, when the weather clears I'm... no, better not say anything. Murphy won't like it...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The end... but wait, there's more

What an ending. Kind of unexpected but I knew... well, even the good guys manage to lose the bad guys.

The book came in at just over 130k. I'm not worried, there are chunks, chunks I tell you that can be deleted - they're just... um, not as important as some of the other stuff. Then there are the bits I'll have to expand on, description in particular, which I'm not so good at.

I'll leave it to stew for a month or so.

In the meantime, I've got to get on with the sequel. Yes, indeedy. While Knight Stalker doesn't end on a cliffhanger, there's an ongoing plot thread that deserves a book of its own.

And so, I'm plunging into Knight Hunter. While in the first book, Dominica has to stop a madman from creating more 'immortals', in the second one, she has to stop one Knight from starting a nuclear war, and another from picking up where Rafe left off: creating more 'immortals'. I've even got a surprise or two up my very short sleeve (summer's arrived with a vengeance).

By golly, by crikey, this writing gig is fun. Who wouldn't want to do it?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ending? What ending?

And so, the end is near, blah, blah, blah, blah, the final curtain... Never could remember the middle bit.

Yeah. I thought this morning that I could finally write the ending of this piece, but then the hero decided he was going to rescue the heroine, even though she doesn't need it and got himself caught in the process.

Admirable sentiments, but sucky in the execution. He and a couple of others are not stuck in cells with magnetic locks. Where's MacGyver when you need him? Hmm?? Off playing about through the Stargate, that's what.

Well, for every problem there's a solution, though I can't see it at the moment. I'm guessing it will come to me - all it takes is to turn the problem around and look at it from an alternative viewpoint.

Good thing I've got everybody right where I want them: in dire straits. I've just got to get them out of the cells, defeat the virtually indestructible bad guys, let the anti-hero escape somehow, kill off a couple of people, destroy one man's dream and set the place on fire so there's no evidence of the Knights as a precursor to the next book. Yeah, simple...

Why am I doing this again?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lazy muse

My muse is a lazy slug.

Oh, yes indeed. She doesn't get revved up until after lunch, leaving me to struggle through the morning. The word count doesn't reflect that, but trust me, I haven't written more than two thousand words in a morning session.

It's not that she stays out late, partying to all hours of the morning, or simply refuses to get moving; it's a simple case of her not being a morning person.

It doesn't matter if I have coffee in hand, plan in mind on how to proceed, sitting in front of the keyboard ready to go, either. She just doesn't like to think that hard until after lunch.

Then I'm struggling to keep up. The dialogue, the scenery, the character interaction works better for the muse in the afternoon. I've checked my work after a marathon session and the amount of words I've missed or skipped... I know, I know, no editing until December, but these are the snippets I post on the site, and I can't guarantee I got all of 'em.

Of course, it could be her way of punishing me for starting this NaNo in the first place, when after last year, I'd all but decided not to do it this year.

Yeah, I think she's pissed off. She's had a lovely holiday this year and now she has to work for a living.

I also know she's gonna punish me for writing this. But, I'm off to Canberra this weekend so my nice little graph is going to be small steps, or no steps. But that's why I've numbed my butt on the seat, so I could 'bank' those word counts for days when I knew I'd be away from the keyboard.

All I can say is, she'd better be ready Monday morning, 'cause she is gonna get a flogging as I write the ending to this book.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The worst thing about Nano free-writing, is running out of ideas. Sure, you've got the characters, but then what?

I use the simplest of idea generators - the dreamscape.

Yep, just as I'm about to drop off to sleep, I think about the lead up to where I finished writing and let my mind work it out. So far, it's worked perfectly. Whole scenes and dialogue appear. Last night it was Dominica wielding a rather large Bowie knife, ala Alice in Resident Evil: Extinction with the Ghurkha Kukri. I thought that was really, really cool.

So I didn't forget the images, I replayed it from different angles until I was sure I'd remember. Then I went to sleep.

With this method, I can basically start the day's writing with ease. The difference in daily word counts comes about because, while I write, I also do the basic research I need on the 'net, or look it up in one of my reference texts.

I've never been to Somalia, Djibouti or Ethiopia. I knew they were partially desert, but what type? Sand, gravel, rocks, a mixture of all three? And what types of plants grow there? Are they edible, provide shade, have... things living in, under or around? Then there are the vehicles I'm using, Humvees. What do they look like inside? How many can they seat? What types of models? And the Apache helicopter...

As you can see, this type of research takes time and slows the word rate down considerably. It's all important, though. And tomorrow, I have to find out about Asmera - still in Ethiopia - and what kind of ships dock there. Should be interesting...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Comfort Zoning

The best thing about writing is that you can do virtually anything to your characters. I say 'virtually' because there's always the opportunity to try and get them to do things that would be out of character.

I've got my protagonists reconciled - to a point - and on their way to safety... or not.

In any book you write, you have to give your characters a comfort zone. Then you have to strip them of it. Mwahaahaaa! Sorry, couldn't help myself. So. I've got them running around the desert heading for Djibouti. No one chasing them, just a nice long drive to freedom. But. They have two dozen children with them that they rescued. Not much of a problem there: they're all nice, well behaved kids.

The problem I'm giving them is that I'm taking away their comfort zone. They had a destination, now I'm throwing something else into mix.

Yeah. Characters aren't happy, they were looking forward to a nice long soak in a tub, a thick, medium-rare steak, an aged merlot, and a night of... well... adult fun.

They should have expected it. I mean, how often do things go smoothly, even in real life? That's right: Not very.

Tomorrow should be an interesting day's writing, I think...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Life in Art

This morning, I was a little careless doing the washing up and dropped four pasta bowls into the sink. Two broke. A definite 'oh, shit' moment. Yes, these things happen, but they were a Christmas present to my mother some years ago, so the guilt factor rose alarmingly.

While waiting for her to awaken so I could confess, I spent time writing. As you know, I free-write Nano and it was no surprise when my protagonists got themselves into an argument and harsh words were spoken: Dominica finally tossed Ben out of the car in the middle of the desert five hundred miles north of Mogadishu.

Damn, that was mean of me. I thought. But it fit. A nice conflict in a desolate land and a down turn in the relationship. I heard the parental unit finally stir. Time to 'fess up. No harsh words, just understanding that, indeed, these things happen, especially with slippery crockery.

Dom and Ben still haven't made up, though and the rancorous exchanges continue. I think there's still guilt in me for being inattentive and it's being reflected in the book.

But... that's a good thing. If everything runs smoothly, it's boring, so I've got a different kind of conflict and I'll... replace the pasta bowls. I'll also have to find a way to reconcile these two or there won't be happy ending; I'm wondering if it's even possible, but something will occur to me. I hope.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I had thought that without the Author page over at Nano, the cheaters would be kept at bay, since they wouldn't be getting public recognition.

Sadly, this has proven to be wrong. I've come across some numbers that, quite frankly, don't add up.

For me, it's day ten, day nine for those in the U.S. and I've already spotted someone with 130,000 words to their 'credit'. Nope. I don't think so. I don't know any twenty-year-olds, who work full time, who could have that sort of a word count without cheating - be it writing for months before hand, or simply plucking a number out of the air.

And that is another clue to the cheaters: they like rounded numbers. Do you know how difficult it is to get an exact word count ending in 000?

Cheating is one of my buttons. It's dishonest, it's lying, it's disrespecting those who have put the effort in to try.

Oh, sure there are authors there that have great word counts, but I know they are true because I - or my inner athlete - keep an eye on them each year, so I'm aware of what they're capable of; and let me tell you, they rock.

This challenge is hard; I accept that. You've got to think of an idea and run with it at the very least. And it pisses me off that there are those out there who think it's funny or a joke to diss the serious writers.

Yep, it's a button all right. Maybe next year I should write a comedy and teach myself not to get so het up about it; and... maybe pigs will fly.

Friday, November 09, 2007


One marker down. That's the 50k mark, but I don't much feel like writing today.

It could be the completion of the challenge; it could be I'm a bit tired of sitting in front of the screen for hours on end. It's not because I'm stuck. How can you be stuck if you're in the middle of a chase?

Whatever the reason, I have to continue. It's part of what a writer is: getting through the tough parts to finish what you started.

Here's a snippet:

The prick of a blade near her kidney was as sharp as it was unexpected and she froze.

“Into the alley.” A low harsh voice demanded in German. “And don’t scream or I’ll stick you.”

“Okay.” She said and went into an alley between two shops. “What do you want?”

“All your money, for a start.”

Dom turned around. The man was middle-aged, unwashed with filthy streaks across his flat, broad and gaunt face. His eyes darted left and right as if expecting company. His fist clutched the dagger too tightly.

“You ever killed anybody?” She asked.

“Gimme the money. Now!

“Strung out, huh.” She oozed sympathy. “I tell you what. I’ll walk out of here, and you keep your balls intact. How’s that?”

He stepped closer and she coughed at the rank smell coming off his body. “You’ll give me money or I’ll…” He jabbed at her but she didn’t move. The tip of the blade nicked her t-shirt and the skin underneath.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the man who followed her hesitate at the mouth of the alley. He clearly didn’t know what to do.

“Too late, pal, you’ve been spotted.” She dipped her head and the man’s eyes went feral as he saw the other man.

He reached out and grabbed her hair, tugged it back. “Give me your fuckin’ money!”

She kneed him as hard as she dared. He released her hair as he folded over, but his fist struck out and the blade sank into her stomach up to the hilt as he fell.

Dom turned away from the man at the mouth of the alley, blocking his view.

“Damn it.” She said and stared down at the knife. She didn’t need anyone seeing this or the result. It didn’t hurt which told her how bad it truly was. The pain would come later and it would be… ferocious.

Dom pulled out her mobile and dialled Ben’s number.

“Yo!” He answered.

“Ben. Got a little problem.”

“And hello to you too, Dom.” He said cheerfully.

“Ben, get over yourself. I said I had a problem.” She slouched against the wall, her legs weakening.

“What kind?” He asked all cheefulness gone.

“I’m two doors down, in an alley. Bring my long coat would you, please?”

To his credit, he didn’t ask why, simply said he was on his way and hung up.

Dom glanced back to the mouth of the alley, but the man was gone. Her assailant though, still writhed on the filthy concrete, clutching his crown jewels with tears streaking through the dirt on his face, muttering. “Bitch, bitch, bitch.” Over and over.

A few minutes later, Ben came jogging down the alley, her long coat over his arm.

“What’s… up?” He skidded to a stop before the man on the ground. “Uh, oh, what did you do to him?”

“It’s not what I did to him, so much as what he did to me.” Dom replied and turned.

* * *

There you go, first draft only.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Well, damn...

...I didn't see that coming!

Stupid, arrogant bint got herself stabbed. I'm telling you, sometimes, these characters do the most stupid things. I mean sure, she's pissed at Ben for being nasty and storms out, but she should have known better than to let herself be mugged. It's the belief in her invulnerability, but, as you know, in situations where you think you're in control all it takes is a slight distraction and you're doomed. DOOMED, I tell you!

Ah, well, if there weren't complications, it wouldn't be fun to write and it would be a chore to read.

I wonder what Ben's going to do about? Guess I'm about to find out.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Late start today due to having to get it... ah, what's it called? Oh, yes food. Now, the shelves are stocked again, I don't need to waste any more time on the book.

My word count has slowed as a result and because of a need to do research on the run: things like how long it takes to get from Strasbourg to Berlin, what luxury hotels are there, whether there's such a thing as a handheld EMP emitter. You know, the usual.

It's a part of the fun of Nano, I guess, marking out the bit you need and setting the search engine to look while you're still writing.

But I'm up to an easier bit of the story mixed in with complications. You know, sex scenes boost the word count, but you've got to make sure it's appropriate. At least, I do. Now, our hero has discovered our heroine can heal rather quickly and it's put him offside.

What's a hero to do? Demand an explanation and the little woman give it? Nuh uh. None of his business and if he wants to take a hike, there's the door. She don't need nuffink from him; not even sex.

So, how can our hero convince her that a) she needs him, and b) he can help her?

Well, I think I'll let that stew overnight. The answer will appear by tomorrow. And I should reach the 50k mark in the afternoon/evening. It's all a matter of how much I can accomplish today. I don't want to leave myself too much to do - the more tired I get, the more dyslexic my fingers get.

Monday, November 05, 2007

For every problem...

...there is a solution.

Yep, I found a flaw in the so called impregnable security. A weakness, a flaw, that no one could see. Not that it's going to do the villains any good. Hah!

Death! Destruction! And a couple of lucky escapes, I think. We need witnesses to this travesty and the men of Alpha Squad are just the unlucky bods.

So, all up, it's been a fairly productive work day. I had to take a three-hour break to watch my boys demolish Philadelphia, heh, heh, and after that, the writing flowed much better. So I've done five and a half thousand words today. Five thousand a day is the average I'm looking for.

Actually, I'm 'banking' some words because I have to be away in a couple of weekends time and I don't want to regret not being further along than I want to be.

If I get into the groove tomorrow, the 40k is my target. Which means, oh hey, I'll be doing at least one... um... sex scene - they're always good to boost the word count, but it has to be for a purpose, not because I want the 40k.

So, on tomorrow's agenda is blood, guts, danger, sex, regrets, murderous intent, escape from peril... um... hmmm, a revelation or two, and a damned good recipe! I think I'll be posting an excerpt on the site and a snippet here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


It has been remarked, more than once to me, that writing is simply having an idea, sitting down and writing it. So what's so difficult about that? There's also the complaint that "I'd write a book if only I had the time".

I'm sure as writers, you've come up against this attitude. I don't know about you, but it pisses me off. If ill-informed persons actually sat down and did the work, an attitude would undergo a radical change.

And yes, I'm grumpy today. Why? Because of good manners and being too clever for my own good, that's why.

Visitors, while enjoyed, cause me angst when I'm doing a marathon like Nano, no matter how much I deny it verbally and are relieved by the interruption. Today, it wasn't going well. I'm damned well avoiding action, wrote pages of inaction because I couldn't see where to put it!

Characters talking, villains planning, scenery described, back story invoked, but very little in the way of actual action. And I want it.

I'm likely to write some wholesale slaughter tomorrow, just to rid myself of the frustration. But I've come up with a plan to... lessen unnecessary deaths.

I'm going to plan a nice big action scene and write towards it. In fact, I think I'll have the Chateau invaded and let the security system... ahh... you see the problem? I've written an impregnable fortress where Dominica doesn't have to involve herself and that is wrong. The Chateau is so strongly built, not even a nuclear strike can penetrate the walls, so I have to think about how the villains can get in and force my protagonists on the run.

When I thought of the security system, I thought it fun - a misconception on my part because now I have to think of a way to defeat the system, damn it!

I think I'll go and have a beer and brood over it. Something will occur... and maybe I'll let you know...

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Sometimes, it just doesn't work for me.

I've written 10,000 words and I've hit a roadblock. It happens. The story just doesn't want to move forward. Worse, I have to keep reminding myself that this book isn't first person, it's third.

I can see where I went wrong: I started at the wrong spot and probably with the wrong perspective. I could delete it and start again, but the work itself is fine, really, really rough, but fine. How do I get around this? I'm not the kind of writer who can write blocks of text and then fit them later. I write sequentially; I tell the story through the characters eyes.

But my mind was telling me I was wrong in so many ways, thus the current roadblock. The characters wouldn't move on until I saw reason; and so I have.

They're not especially happy with the third person, but they do accept it, knowing I can change that if it doesn't work.

The other change is that I went back to the beginning. It reads better starting in Medieval Germany rather than that part being told as backstory. Well... it's kind of both. I'm doing the block of text thing, but differently: I've written the Germanic scene and I'm now writing the stuff that comes before it, in the current day, if you get what I mean: I'm writing towards this piece, and knowing it is there means I have a link to work towards.

Yeah, it's a candy scene, one the scenes you know you're gonna enjoy writing but have to work towards it. I've now got that scene and am writing to match it. Agreed, it's out of sequence, but once it's done, everything else should flow nicely... I hope.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Getting through

The best way to get through NaNo is to take your time.

The idea of not spending hours and hours at the keyboard, pounding away as the ideas ebb and flow may seem self-defeating, but it does serve a purpose.

The first couple of days to a week are filled with frenetic activity, of people trying to get as much down as possible. That's all good, but if you're in for the long run, then steps must be taken to ensure that you can finish.

There is nothing worse than the second and third week doldrums. By the fourth week, panic sets in if you're behind on the schedule.

For those who have plots and outlines and have run it through the internal editor so many times the editor's run away, those weeks are more about the writing, because there's no need to panic; they know what direction to go in. For those of us who eschew such things as plots and outlines, the month is a mountain to climb, something like Everest, thought that is a molehill compared to writing.

So, how do I do it? How do I manage to put down 150+k in a month or less? By pacing myself. By not ignoring everything else around me and burning out before the deadline. By doing other things.

"Sure, and it's all well and good for you, because you have a fast typing speed." I can hear people say. That's true, but I can't type what I haven't got in my head and, like anyone else who worries about finishing, sometimes the ideas dry up and I'm stuck.

But I take measures against such an unhappy occurrence. I'll type for an hour, an hour and a half, but after that, I'll get up from the keyboard and walk away. I'll do something else for half an hour or twenty minutes. I'll be thinking of something different, too. I'll be blending some coffee to try, I'll be in the garden wondering if I've just killed a new plant or a weed, I'll watch the news or weather for an update, I'll clean part of a room, organise books, watch the muscular workmen building the curb outside my house. I'll do anything except think of the book I'm writing.

When the time is up, I'll sit down, read the last sentence and carry on. And when I'm done for the day, I'll shut down and relax; read a book. Eventually, I'll have, not only the word count, but a book to show for the effort.

It doesn't just work for Nano, it works for other stuff I write, too, and that makes it all manageable.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Yes, we're off and running in this year's Nano.

After a slow start and easing into the groove. It will take a while, the first ten or so pages are so much crap and will probably be deleted. At the very least, a major overhaul is necessary.

I know what I wanted to say, but it's all lacking a good deal of description and characterisation. I figure as I go on, that will come, too.

The first day always suck, no matter how well thought out the initial stages are. Every year I've done this, the first three chapters need major work to fix what I really wanted to say. As long as I hit the high points, I suppose it's okay.

It's not important until I'm done, but it sure is annoying.

I'm thinking I'm going to read this stuff and wince - rightly so, but I want something good enough to post as an excerpt, too. I'll look at what I've done today, tomorrow and make a decision then.

For now, I've done enough - 5k - and I don't want to wear myself out. The trick to completing a book, not just the Nano requirements, is to pace yourself.

I'm done with day one. Tomorrow, well, Dom has to get out of Afghanistan with the loot under the eyes of the United Nations and with a really, really pissed off CIA agent on her tail. I wonder how she's gonna do that?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nano is nigh

I'm making final preparations for tomorrow.

I've cleared off my desk of odd notes for various projects, so I won't get distracted by family tree tid-bits, or political stuff, or notes I've jotted down for other stories. It also means my reference texts, like the dictionaries and thesauruses are readily available.

I'm making up my playlists. These are blocked into mood, depending on what I'm writing. Action scenes are all robust instrumentals, like parts of the soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian, Tchaikovsky and Wagner. Other moods have songs with lyrics, but it's the music that creates the mood on a subliminal level. I won't remember hearing the songs, but the music is different, it's an subconscious thing.

I've done my daily update sheet to keep track of my word and page counts, and the automatic statistical data.

I have the first couple of chapters firming up in my head, too.

Then there are the peripherals: favourite coffee, ready to brew, snackage, exercise routine sorted, and finally the fingernails trimmed off (there's nothing worse than constantly hitting the wrong key because your fingernails are too long).

I'm also keeping an eye on the weather. We're expecting storms later this week, so I've got pen and paper ready, just in case.

Finally, there's a story up at The Takeaway. Regardless of Nano, another story will be up on or around November 21.

So, I'm nearly set. Action will commence at about nine am, Australian time - hours before the U.S., so the first excerpt will be up tomorrow afternoon. Good luck to all who are participating.

Monday, October 29, 2007

DST, Nano

Winter is officially over and Daylight Savings Time has begun.

I'm not very good at adjusting the internal clock. Messes with the thought processes to be getting up an 'hour' earlier.

Of course, it also means that Summer is moving in and that Nano is nigh. There's nothing like a challenge to shake out the cobwebs.

The characters are busily murmuring at the back of my mind and landscapes are also cropping up along with fights and dialogues. It's as if they're backstage muttering their lines in preparation for the stage; all the last minute stuff.

As an advertisement, it would probably read: Immortal woman seeks vengeance against fiancee and others for human experimentation.

I still haven't decided on an ending... happy or just continuing? I suspect it's all going to depend on how much I can write and how fast I do it. I'm trying to be reasonable and just finish the book, but if previous years are anything to go by, that's not going to work; I can't stand to write the 50k and have a week or two spare. I've got to keep writing. And before you curl your lip at such arrogance, I've been typing for a number of years and have a speed of close to 100wpm: story in my head + fast typing speed = high word count.

Maybe if I don't have a goal, ie 50k, one book, a trilogy, I can just sit, relax and write away. The downside of that will be the work done and it will be a lot.

Last year, the inner ather-lete came up against Scarlett Archer, whose word count kept topping mine grrr. Previous years, I've battled Zette and Maridius; I think it's part of my genetic make-up to have to write more. I failed against Zette, but then, she's the Master wordsmith.

Maybe, I'm looking at Nano as one long Word War and in war, there is only win. In the end though, Nano provides the opportunity to write a book and after all, you can't edit what you haven't written.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Old Times

Researching the family tree can lead to distractions.

One is from the Lincolnshire Family History Society where they have extracts from newspapers dating back to 1780.

The papers read like classfieds and have an unusual style to say the least. Where the coroner reports on unattended deaths, verdict phrases, while serious then, have a certain element of humour. 'Death by a Visitation from God', is one from 1817 where a man 'having returned from his daily labour at six o´clock in the evening before, ate a hearty supper, retired to rest, fell in into a sleep, and was a corpse by eight o´dock the same evening'. 'Death by Lunacy' and 'Death by Mental Derangement' are used for suicide.

There is also a report of the death of a ship's Captain who was presumed lost... until he turned up to surprise his wife! She had a fit and died on seeing him! And the birth announcement of twins to a wife and husband married for 21 years without having any other children - makes you wonder who fathered the aforementioned twins.

Interestingly, the pages also list some of those killed during the wars Britain fought at the time, especially if they were the offspring of prominent citizens.

It's disturbing to note that those found guilty of what we might call minor crimes, 'the prisoner was found Guilty and left for execution on Saturday the 15th, and afterwards to be dissected.' One such case was of a young woman who, she says, was asked to take prosecutor's mare for 'services upon my person'. The prosecutor denied the accusation, the woman was found guilty and sentenced to death and dissection. Nasty.

There are also public apologies for insulting someone. Maybe we should bring those back. But it's not all doom and gloom, there are a number of marriage announcements of people who have acquired a fifth or even sixth spouse, sometimes after two hours courtship, sometimes the day after a spouse has died. Some of them make great reading. The later extractions are more about wedding anniversaries.

Still, after an hour or so of reading all this, I found nothing of any of my ancestors. But that's the way of research - at least for me - I'm easily distracted by things that are interesting rather than relevant.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Books I enjoy reading engage the senses as well as imagination. The trick is to get those descriptions onto paper.

Today was all about the senses. I've been following the California wildfires with interest because I've never seen the like in this country. Sure, I've been in danger from bushfires; I've seen the gouts of smoke and heat, seen the leap of flames, heard the strident wail of sirens, tasted the bitter tang of ash, smelled the acrid stench of burning wood and grass and felt the disturbing increase in heartbeat as I watched an ember take hold halfway up a tree at the front of my house. But I've never seen lakes and puddles of fire.

For all the tragedy, that was fascinating. Our fires aren't like that. They burn hot, fast and leave ash behind, yes, but the fire front is ten, maybe twenty metres wide. It is possible here to jump through a fire line and onto charred, hot ground and be safe; but only as a last, desperate resort. Not so from what I've seen in the U.S. Lakes of fire where the very soil burns is something truly scary. Visually spectacular, viscerally frightening.

I also listened to the disturbing - and potential-filled - sound of the internet connecting via dial-up. Old tech, sure, but the echoing, digital sound of one computer talking to another in squeaks, burps and hisses is another language; as if, if you listened hard enough, you'd understand. A little creepy, really.

I had to buy standard coffee for the machine this morning; the coffee was just as ordinary, lacking the flavour of my usual brew. Slightly insipid, leaning toward bland. A coffee I shan't be buying again.

As for touch, well, I did touch the new spiderwebs near the lid of the garbage bin and squicked myself out. Does that count? I'm still a little shuddery over that. Oh, the horror! The stickiness of the fine strands adhering to my fingers, stretching out and crackling as they break. Ickety-ick, ick, ICK!

Evoking emotions in a reader is a prime directive of authors, I think, especially if you can write the good and the bad.

With one more week to go before Nano, I'm settling into the thought patterns of various characters. This means getting down into how each character uses their senses. And I'm hoping it will work. I want this book to work - that's not to say the others don't, but I want this one to be a little more organised and focused.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Smug and smoke

"Ah, my fine young apprentice, you have succeeded!" Yes, indeedy-do. My niece scored an A+ for her English assignment. Described as 'brilliant', her teacher copied the story to give to other teachers to read.

For some reason, she was embarrassed by the praise in class - but couldn't wait to tell me. We're all so proud. I can only hope I didn't help too much. The story, twenty pages in length, was hers to tell; I did the editing. On the downside of that, I missed a few punctuation problems - but that's on me.

Should S. decide to continue fiction writing, I'll help - until she becomes rich and shameless.

* * *

Like a lot of other people, I've been glued to the teev for the reports on the Californian fires. I've also been dismayed at reports of comments by people who think it's okay to say Malibu should burn because it's full of rich people. I'm sure those who aren't wealthy and who have lost everything are as devastated as those with money. These fires don't discriminate; nor should the public.

One commented on why anyone would want to live in such a fire-prone area. Well, why would you live in an earthquake zone, Tornado Alley, a hurricane area, a blizzard area or a flood plain? Mostly, I think, because the positives of the area outweigh the negatives. It's a lottery as to where disaster will strike next. As you'll have noted, some houses survived the fires while the neighbour's house didn't.

We get barbaqued here, too. I don't know what this year will bring, we're still hoping for a La Nina event, even a little one. It's been a few years since the last major burn; I don't think we're in for a roasting, but like I said, it's a lottery and Mother Nature is one fickle being.

My thoughts and good wishes are with the firefighters and all those affected by this catastrophe. And to the Democratic Senator who blames Bush because all those National Guardsmen that could have been home fighting the fires, are fighting in Iraq instead: You're an ill-informed, hate-blinded, publicity-hungry, xenophobic, idiot!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Swirling plot

There is nothing worse than trying to write during stinkin' hot weather, and for the past couple of days, it's been dire. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only a little.

But you know it's hot when the grass, previously lush and cushiony, now crackles under foot. This weather just sucks the juice right out of ya; and it's not summer for another month... woe.

Okay, enough whinging. I'm mulling over the Nano work, looking at scenarios, endings, differing the longevity stuff. I'd thought on what current writers see as immortality and decided to toss it. Sure, the character could become immortal, but I'm still thinking of the crucial ingredient; something available to the ancient Greeks and further back, maybe to the Etruscans, but is also available in Medieval Germania. It has to be unusual. A rare herb? A type of spice?

I have to get this right because the crux of the climax depends on it and the fundamental question of: if you could, would you save someone you loved who adamantly wants to die?

This isn't about suicide, it's about someone searching for a way to end their life after centuries of violence, anger and betrayal before they turn psychopathic. If you think about it, saving this person could result in a killer who feels no remorse, no compassion, just wants to end the existence of anyone who gets in the way; who regenerates. And no, not a vampire, werewolf or other supernatural being to be seen anywhere. Nor are there aliens or alien technology.

There are plenty of possibilities with this story. For example, what texts were held in the Library of Alexandria before it was destroyed? All of Archimedes inventions? Ancient maps, medical cures, engineering plans? These are the things I'm thinking about.

I'm going to make it difficult for the protagonists, both in beliefs and in finding the 'something' for longevity. And before you think, "Ah, but the hero could take the herb or whatever, thus ensuring both live long lives!" There is only one person who can do the longevity thing, and he is Dominica's arch enemy. One or both of them must die or plunge the world into endless war.

How's that for a premise?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time Travel

There's something about travelling overseas that's really exciting.

I'm booked to fly to Copenhagen next May for my God son's confirmation and already I'm revved to go. Sure, I'll be flying via Seoul and Amsterdam but, oh, the thrill of seeing new places. I have an overnight stay in Seoul and I'm looking at websites to see what I can see. All up, the trip will take 36 hours, but I don't look at how long it will take, I look at what there to be seen during the journey.

Then there's the week in between the confirmation and zipping off to London; what to do, what to see... I do plan on visiting the Tyne Cot memorial in Belgium to check out my great-uncle's name and maybe go to Sweden and/or Germany, but there's a problem: Distance.

See, Australia is a really, really big country; you can travel for hours and still stay in one state. I read somewhere that you can fit 8 Englands into New South Wales. So I'll have to think carefully on where I go.

Then there are the flights that screw with my head. For example: I take off from Seoul just after midday and arrive in Amsterdam just before five pm on the same day, yet the flight takes eleven hours. When I flew to America, I landed in Los Angeles an hour before I left Sydney. "Wow," I thought, "I'm in two places at the same time!" But it took two days when flying back, though not really. While living in England, I rang my twin to wish her happy birthday. It was the only time she was older than I. Time, I tell you, is a screwy thing.

It's all too easy to see why people believe time travel is possible: it happens every time you zip over a time zone, whether forward or back.

The trip is seven months away and I'll calm down... in a week or so, but I also know that the closer to departure I get, the more I'll have to do - but that's all fun to me.

I can see some time travel stories in my future; and if I'm writing them, I have no doubt they'll turn up on the story blog...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Discipline... or a lack of it

I looked at the masterpiece outline I did for Nano and have found it to be a load of old cobblers.

I've always thought that to be a writer takes a great deal of discipline. Not just to sit down and pour out whatever's in your head, but to concentrate on the who's, the whats, the whens, the whys and the hows. To do that, a plan of action has to be formulated to answer all those questions; careful research must be done so as to not incur the wrath of educated readers, dialogue sampled, especially if writing a character with an accent. A target audience thought about, a publisher of that genre sought out. The whole thing has to be crafted into bite size pieces, scenes, if you will, and a final word count aimed for. The list goes on and I am so aware of authors who take months to plan and plot before ever starting the actual story.

Yet, I seem singularly incapable of such discipline. I get an idea and run with it, without a lot of forethought. The characters appear, fully formed, as if they are someone I might meet in the street. They are hidden, though, from me as much as the reader. Through the story, they reveal themselves on the long journey. Which is why, I suppose, that twists surprise me - and lead me to wonder what else I'm hiding from myself.

Is this another form of discipline? Steven King and Sue Grafton both write without much of an outline. Others do, too, with great success.

It makes me remember my mother saying 'learn the orthodox, before you try the unorthodox.' Wise words, but I can't make myself learn this way. And, as yet another outline is dumped, I have to think that I've found my way of writing and no amount of force-feeding myself other methods is going to work.

It's time move on and just write, I think. What works for me, won't work for others - it's simply a different mind set; I'm happy with that.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Anything New?

Too much thinking can be a bad thing.

In the lead up to Nano, and in light of all the sci-fi I've been watching and reading, I got to wondering, 'how do I come up with something new?'.

I mean, think about it. Star Trek, all of them, Stargate, both of them, Farscape, Oddessy 5, Firefly, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Point Pleasant, The X-Files, Doctor Who, Torchwood... and so on. Then there are the books, comics, artwork, none of which I'm not about to list.

There's been so much produced on so many subjects under the genres of sci-fi, fantasy and science fantasy, it's a wonder that anyone can come up with something new. It makes me think that the end is nigh for the industry. Then again, wasn't it Bill Gates who said that the world would only need six computers? And someone else said that everything had already been invented - can't remember who. But everyone has at least one computer and things are being invented everyday.

Every week, something new is published; some new idea is pitched to the television networks or movie studios. There are also the same ideas, but with a new twist, a new perspective on what has gone before. Something renewed, recycled, reused, or invented. I've seen it: I've thought of something brilliant only to discover the same idea in someone else's book - I get a bit pissy about that, but move on to something else after cursing and swearing.

We're a clever bunch as writers. We use the world around us to ask 'what if?', to listen into conversations and create alternative scenarios, we dream, we think, we plot and we plan. We create such worlds as never seen but in our imaginations; we share those worlds with those who appreciate the different.

Anything new? Why, yes, as long as I don't think about it too much.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Returned from Canberra yesterday and don't feel like doing much of anything other than mooching. It's a three-hour drive and while that doesn't seem much, out on the highway in a strong wind takes concentration.

Yeah, I've done loads of laundry, shopped for essentials, oh, and picked up my brand-spanking-new espresso machine. Yay! The 'old' one - old in that I bought it in January - curled up it's toes a couple of weeks ago. I took it in to be fixed, but sadly... heh, heh, the whole machine had to be replaced; all under warranty.

As for any writing, no pen touched paper, and I did take a notebook with me. Children are just so attention focusing and exhausting. A triumph of a trip, though. The sister and her hubby had a fabulous time touring the vineyards around Adelaide and I picked up some new books for the tbr pile. And was gifted with some rather nice Cabernet Merlot for the baby-sit job. Mmmm... Merlot...

My focus, for the moment, is getting a new passport for the trip to Europe next May. Tomorrow, I gotta get a happy snap. I suspect that, like a driver's licence, whomever takes the shot will be using the ugly camera. I have never seen an attractive licence or passport photo. What's up with that?

It feels like I've been away for months rather than five days and I've a lot to catch up on, including the NaNo outline/notes. I'll save it for the weekend when I'm not so brain dead. At this stage, the plan is to enlarge on a short story I wrote for the May marathon. If I re-write and expand on the story, I figure I can include the work in the word count.

For now, I'm going to mooch in front of Stargate SG-1.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


It's a shite and briney morning here in the nation's capital; a little too shite and briney.

I've been looking after my sister's two kids while she and her husband and three other couples went on a long weekend to Adelaide. I'm hoping they'll bring something 'special' back from the wine tours they're doing.

For me, this weekend is getting longer and longer with kids out of sorts - bored, hungry or otherwise missing the primary care givers - dogs snarling at each other, schedules to meet, meals to cook, computer time to monitor, homework to supervise, shops to trash... hmmm, sounds like an ordinary parenting day.

I've had late nights and early mornings. Thankfully, C. left a rather nice Cab Merlot for me... she's a treasure... and after yesterday, I needed a glass or two.

Kid S. - 14 - wanted to see Stardust again - a terrific movie btw - and arranged to go with a friend, but could I pick her up and drop them off? Sure. Kid A - 6 - wanted to go shopping to 'buy things we don't need'. Sure. Mother - nope, not giving her age, sorry - arranged to visit her brother who was up from Victoria, could I...? Sure.

Okay, picked up friend, dropped off two at the movies, found parking, my parent didn't want to shop so she stayed in the car. I drag kid A. to the comic store (don't have one anywhere near me, so it was an opportunity) via the free face painting (aww... she soooo cuuttee!). I get Neil Gaiman's Stardust for kid S. Kid A. drags me away to the second-hand dvd store. Kid A. begs, pleads and otherwise cajoles and convinces me that buying Barnyard is a good idea.

"Now, you have to buy yourself a present." She says, beaming.

Right then. Since I have Miss A.'s approval for a presso, I go off to Borders and pick up two Vicki Peterssons.

"You have to buy me a present." A. says. "You have two now and presents have to be balanced."

"Ah." I replied. "I'm buying you lunch. Does that count?" She shakes her head. "Um... I bought you that little pendant in the comic store. Does that count?" She shakes her head. "I bought you a book yesterday." Again, the head shake. "That was yesterday, we started fresh this morning. You have two presents; you need to buy me and S. another one." Not bad for a six-year-old, but, being a cunning oldie, I successfully distract her with a Starbuck's hot chocolate.

I picked up kid S. and her friend, dropped said friend off and continued on to the visiting the uncle. He's a bit of a wag, with great stories. One day, I hope he'll write it all down. But, he's also a great cook too...

Stuffed to the gunnels, I drive the kids, the parent and me home. Dogs have been having disagreements and are in separate corners glaring at each other. My dog, Saxon, is sixteen; Maggie is eight and lives here. Quite a generous dog, is Maggie - for the first twenty-four hours, then it's jealousy all-round. Saxon is a gentle soul and will not fight unless forced into it. No injuries other than pride.

Kid A. rushes off to watch the movie, Kid S. simply has to catch up on-line with her friends. Mother takes herself off to read with a nice cup of tea and I sit outside with a glass of red and a sunset. Sigh.

It didn't last long; kids were hungry/thirsty/bored... dogs were hungry/thirsty/bored... Parent... happy with a book.

I finally got all responsibilities into bed by 11. Dogs didn't want to settle though and it wasn't until about 1 am that Saxon was finally, finally, happy that all the kids were abed - she checked their closed doors - the parent was abed - checked her door, too - all the doors were locked - checked them all, twice, and she huffed as if it was late and I should be in bed too.

Today is shite and briney.

"Aunty J.?" Miss A. has just woken up. "You still owe me a present."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I'm heading to Canberra tomorrow until Tuesday, so I might not be able to get to a computer to post. I'm going to give it a shot - if I can prise the kidlet off the internet.

But... there's a new story over at The Takeaway. Go, have at it...

Slow Countdown

I’m starting to think seriously about what to write for NaNo. To that end, I’m revisiting a number of ‘How to’ documents.

Yeah, it’s almost like being outside, in the dark on a snowy evening, cold and hungry, peering in a window to the happy and warm family sitting down to a sumptuous feast. I can’t help but look at this information and wonder why I can’t do it. Structured plots and outlines just don’t work for me as a whole, and yet, I’m still reading the ‘how to’s’.

Fantasy writer, Lazette Gifford’s Nano for the New and Insane, Crime writer, Lisa Gardner, Fantasy and romantic suspense author Holly Lisle’s Create a Plot, and multi-genre PBW are the one’s I have downloaded. Of all of them, the most comprehensive and humorous is Lisa Gardner’s series of eight lectures. Her lectures are for all genres, not just romantic suspense and crime.

At this time, I’m circling the drain that will suck me down into the maelstrom that is Nano. What does this mean? Well…

Every writer relies on inspiration, otherwise, no book – yeah, stating the bleeding obvious there. Once inspiration hits, you need to think about it, let it settle and make itself comfortable. A writer will make notes; I do, just not very many, only the main elements.

From there, a plotter will do everything else: write the outline to a satisfactory degree, worldbuild, character develop - throw in a few choice dialogue bits – nut out various conflicts and resolutions, identify problems, solutions and so on.

Me, I have a beginning and an end with vague ideas for what happens in the middle. If I have the start and the end (I’m atrocious at last lines, though), I can let my characters work their way through the story.

How the hell do I do that? By mowing the lawn, house cleaning, shopping, walking, cooking, anything other than writing everything down. The longer I let the main three characters (hero, heroine, villain) organise themselves in my mind, the better idea I have of who and what they are, what their motivations are. If I think of something spectacularly eee-vill, while I’m somewhere without paper, I repeat key phrases to myself so I don’t forget: ‘Nikos is a psychopath; kills on impulse’, ‘Bannister studied while incarcerated; make-up specialist’, ‘regenerative unguent fades’, ‘use of magic destroys cells’.

Once I’ve settled on the key phrases, issues like conflict arise. Characters must have two goals: one internal (needs the love or respect of someone, needs to forgive themselves, needs redemption) and one external (find the killer, save the missing child, defeat the aliens). Both take as long to resolve as the length of the book. Even villains have internal goals (revenge, greed, superiority) and external goals (defeat the man who killed his/her father, persuade, through force, the ‘hero’ to give up the talisman, rule the world for it’s own good). Even villains have motivation be they impulsive psychopaths or misguided, emotional wrecks.

If the reader can understand the villain, the line between good and bad blur. The question is whether your story needs such a villain.

An absolute must are the stakes: what do the protagonists and villain have to lose/win? And how far are they willing to go to achieve the goals? Also, each character must come with strengths and weaknesses otherwise they turn into Mary Sues – too perfect. Character flaws are great; everyone has them, and your characters should, too.

Lastly – so far – I think of humour. Joss Wheedon and George Lucas are terrific at this. Throw in some humour after a dire moment to relieve the pressure. Watch Indiana Jones, Firefly or Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you’ll see what I mean.

All of this is what I call ‘circling the drain’; not the usual interpretation, but when you’re into Nano, you’re sucked into the rush of the word stream. Dialogue, action, scenery are all swirling around you and you’re along for the ride. It’s a lot to think about, sure, but some how, it all comes together – as long as I have a starting point for the story and an end to work towards, the middle takes care of itself.

Um… well, that’s how I see it. The closer November 1 is, the more information the Muse is tossing up – and she loves a challenge as much as the inner athlete.