Friday, August 31, 2007


I’ve spent today doing journalist work for this political organisation I’m involved with. So far, it’s been an exercise in frustration.

The ‘force’ behind this organisation, G, constantly second-guesses himself and allows for interference from a former member of Parliament.

Sure, J has a lot to offer the organisation, but so far, he’s succeeded in delaying important work until G agrees to do it his way. An important document to be sent to Parliament was put back to Monday, now, it’s unlikely to get to the Minister until later on in the week, regardless of the fact it was announced on television news that the Minister already had it! Worse, J keeps expressing his desire to keep himself at a distance.

For my part, this means everything I write has to be checked, double-checked, discussed, extra suggestions made, veted by all and 'improvements' made and then deleted, before it’s issued to the media. I really want to slap G and tell him to move on. Can’t though. But I can say nope, I’m no longer willing to help because you keep metaphorically hand-washing and won't let me do what I do on a professional level.

A four paragraph media story should not be turned into a bloody circus, nor take a good five hours to produce!

Now the submission I’m preparing is in jeopardy because G wants me to consult with someone else.

I don’t need this kind of stress, and I will not take a more active role when my advice is unilaterally discounted or open to discussion.

I’ll give them another month and if they haven’t got their act together by then, I’m out. O.U.T. out. I’ve got other things to do.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ah, another beautiful day on the coast; seems a shame I've spent most of it indoors doing stuff on the computer or at a meeting. Still, I managed to finally mow the lawn; it was looking particularly green and junglely. Now, it's green and short and I'll be able to see the dog's little bombs, rather than finding them by feel- ew, squishy! - or smell once I'm inside. Heh, heh, like you needed that imagery!

But there is nothing like the scent of freshly mown grass on a spring morning. Well, okay, apart from coffee... and chocolate... and...

Anyway, there's a new story up over at The Takeaway. I'm off to enjoy the sunset and the scent of the sea.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


You know I was out there last night taking photos of the lunar eclipse. It really was the blood moon astronomers describe it as.

I could only wish my sister had returned my tripod, but I improvised with the help of the step ladder, tilting the steps.

So, here you go; and yes, that little white dot is a star (I couldn't see it with a nekkid eye):

I'm hoping to get the short story done; if not today, then manyana.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

MeMe... it's all about Me

It's been a while since I've done one of these; this one is from Paperback Writer's site.

Four jobs I've had or currently have in my life:

1. Journalist;
2. Carer;
3. Vegetable Grader;
4. Dining Room Manager.

Four countries I've been to:

1. Denmark;
2. United States;
3. Fiji;
4. United Kingdom.

Four places I'd rather be right now:

1. Thredbo (snow country);
2. Ireland;
3. Cashing in a winning lottery ticket;
4. At a convention discussing my work.

Four foods I like to eat:

1. Mocha self-saucing pudding;
2. Red wine casserole;
3. Beef roulade;
4. Passionfruit yoghurt.

Four personal heroes, past or present:

1. Both grandfathers;
2. The Duke of Wellington;
3. Joan of Arc;
4. Madam du Pompadour.

Four books I've read or are currently reading:

1. Embraced by Darkness, Keri Arthur;
2. Chronicles of Crime, the Second Ellis Peters Memorial Anthology of Historical Crime, ed. by Maxim Jakubowski;
3. High Noon, by Nora Roberts;
4. Night Lost by Lynn Viehl.

Four words or phrases you would like to see used more often:

1. I love you;
2. Ours;
3. Welcome;
4. I'll keep in touch.

Four reasons for ending a friendship:

1. Abuse;
2. Racism;
3. Peer pressure;
4. Manipulation.

Four smells that make you feel good about the world:

1. The sea;
2. A field of hay after a rainstorm;
3. Woodsmoke at night;
4. Freshly brewed coffee on a cold morning.

Four favourite activities you did as a kid:

1. Swimming at the beach;
2. Playing pretend in the garden;
3. Reading;
4. Watching TV with my family.

So, there you go. More about me. And I'm tagging anyone else who wants to give up some info.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I've been busily working on this political stuff - admin work, media releases, letters, petition page counting, signature checking - and it's not left me a lot of time for my work. I haven't read a book for over a week! And how pissy am I about that?

I haven't been at this very long and I can already see a time when I'll have to say enough is enough. I want to help these people, but there is a limit and that limit is when it affects the other stuff I do.

The problem, of course, is that we're all a bunch of part-timers trying to do full time work. And that means, I'll have to create a strategy for recruitment so the work can be spread around. Isn't that a paradox! To have more time for what I want to do, I have to give up time to work on the strategy. Then again, I can always say 'nuh, don' wanna do this anymore' and that leaves it to others.

I won't do that; not yet.

Still, I'm determined to have a story done for Wednesday, regardless of the time pressures; and I know just the one. Now all I have to do is carve that twenty-fifth hour from somewhere...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Look! Up in the sky

I have all the movie channels free this week on cable; I’m not asking why, I’m simply enjoying them.

The second three of the Star Wars movies played; not the originals, but the 20th Anniversary ones from 1997. I watched them all with nostalgia and interest – since I hadn’t seen the digitally remastered versions.

My parents took me to see Star Wars when it was first released and I was enchanted. Can you imagine? Two adults and six kids sitting in the balcony seats without a murmur, without popcorn or Coke, staring wide-eyed at the screen. The drive home was silent, each of us enthralled by the adventure we’d just seen.

I even remember sitting by my window at home, staring up at the night sky and wondering ‘what if’. My imagination had already been stirred by Space 1999, Doctor Who, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica.

I was reading Ann McCaffrey and Andre Norton, along with JT Edson – books I still have on the shelf – listening to Yes, Rick Wakeman and Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds (that red weed bit really scared me; I still can’t listen to it at night).

As I grew older, I remained a fan of science fiction; it was the best. But I still didn’t know how to create my own worlds. My first fiction piece, in fact, was a spy novel – light on words, heavy on action – written before I’d ever heard of Ian Fleming.

What intrigued me about Star Wars is that it started at number 4. Like a lot of other people, I wondered what happened to the first three: did we miss them? Where they not released in Australia?

Now, I know different and there are a number of series that don’t start at the… well, start. Anita Blake is already scarred in Guilty Pleasures with relationships established and references to what came before. So, too, Honor Harrington had already commanded a starship before On Basilisk Station, Diana Tregarde, Rachel Morgan, all had adventures before the first books; even Bilbo Baggins had a life before he found the One Ring.

So where to start in a series? If your character has had adventures before hand, the first book is simply a part of a series, albeit an unwritten one. Is it simply a device to lure readers in to wanting more? To wanting to know what came before? To understand how a character came to be like they are?

Well, if readers are asking that, you’ve hit the jackpot, because what it means is that you’ve written a three-dimensional character; more importantly, it means you know more about your character than you need to.

I’m still working on that, but for now, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country is on. One of the best lines in Wrath of Khan is Spock telling Kirk: “You forget, I am Vulcan; I have no ego to bruise.” I wish I’d written that; maybe one day I will.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is it worth it?

Like most unpublished writers, I wonder if my work will ever be good enough to publish, if it will ever climb the thorny tree of bestseller lists, if it will stay in the minds of readers and make them think, want to revisit the worlds I’ve created.

Sometimes, I think it would be better if I simply wrote for myself and not be subjected to the sinister criticisms of those who think they know best; to keep my work to myself. I wonder if it is worth the nerve-trembling angst of wondering if anyone will like the stuff I produce or even if I should care.

Why should I bother exposing disguised inner truths to world? Why should I let people see into me and nod sagely with patronising understanding and gleeful knowledge? Why should I allow others to see the crushing uncertainty and doubt? Why should any newly hatched and vulnerable writer put themselves through it, when all they need do is write in the silence of their own making?

What value is there in exposing heart and soul to an uncaring and selfish world, where cruel rejection awaits?

It is all so depressing, so tragic and so… unimportant.

I’ll be slack when it comes to writing; there are so many other things to do. And yet, I always return to the keyboard, pound away trying to write what going in my head, trying desperately to put down the images, the dialogue, the scenery and all that is detrimental, the doubts and fears, fade away under the weight of creating something new and different.

What inspires me to continue? Other writers; those who succeeded. Those fabulous worlds and characters and dialogues and plots and resolutions I didn’t see coming. The authors whose words are magic, whose books I return to. Not to seek to write something similar, but to feel the emotion of ‘I wish I could write like that’ or ‘that was amazing; I wonder…’ or even ‘damn, that gives me an idea’.

It is a long apprenticeship, this writing gig, but with those authors sitting on my shelves for inspiration, no manner of doubt or fear can stop me from writing just that little bit more. To know that as long as I practice, one day I might have someone think those same thoughts about my work. It is that one small and lonely thought in the wilderness that keeps me going: to maybe teach, albeit at a distance, a young reader that they, too, can make a difference in their writing; to be open to new ideas and thoughts and creativity.

And that, above all else, makes it worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Community Action

I've been going to meetings about protesting our local council's heavy-handedness in development applications, of which most are approved.

The main objectives are to get the council sacked and to have a number of applications rejected for various reasons.

Where I live is, I guess, a tourist area. Come Summer and the place swells with families and holiday-makers, here to enjoy the Bay and all the water activities they can handle.

The Council would take advantage of that to build apartments along the coast regardless of what the permanent residents want or need and regardless of any economic, social or environmental impact.

This one building we are protesting is set to be the benchmark for construction on any waterfront land in the Shire if it is approved.

We only have around fifty percent occupancy rate year round and yet this Council would build more residential facilities.

It burns my wick to see proposals for four storey buildings that will block views, shadow adjoining residences, are susceptible to flooding, will encourage road degradation, lack vision, will remain empty for most of the year, all manner of reason, all for the mighty dollars it will bring in from wealthy out of Shire purchasers.

All across this State, Councils are under investigation for less than optimum performance and yet the sheer, bloody arrogance continues.

Unless the citizenry become more vocal in protesting, a lot of the beautiful coast will be subjected to high-density, predominantly empty constructions and ruin what so many come to see.

The fight will continue, one ill-considered development application at a time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Yep, like that’s a surprise. Actually, I’ve been sick for the past few days; as in horribly, gut-wrenchingly, muscle-strainingly, strength-sappingly, tear-producingly, awfully – is that enough yet? – sleep-deprivingly, on-death’s-door, mortifyingly, migraine-thumpingly – okay, you’re right – sick.

The worst is over, but, like most people who get sick, motivation to do anything is at zero and glowing self-pity, about 110 percent. A good wallow in front of the teev, bundled up warmly, is therapeutic in my book.

I think the worst of it is that I kept thinking about CSI and House in the physical aspects of being ill; how the muscles react, the endocrine system, what goes on in the stomach when it doesn’t like something... Too much information? Sometimes, an overactive imagination is a torturous thing.

I don’t get sick often; in fact, the last time I felt this bad was in 2000 after eating bad fish. Woeful, I was, positively woeful; a real misery guts.

Then, I missed a day of classes; this time, I missed my two-year anniversary for the blog. No big deal, because it reminds me of my objectives and how much I’ve failed in reaching those objectives. I have to do better. I have to get my shit together and do better.

Just because I’m still a bit wobbly, is no excuse. Tomorrow is a new day; maybe my motivation will improve. It reminds of that pithy little aphorism: I finally got my act together, and now I don’t know where I put it. Or: My get up and go, got up and left.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Around here

The past couple of days have been busy: a meeting, a political briefing - which sucked, the patronizing bastards, getting the car serviced - oh... joy, rummaging around for an 80s outfit for my niece's 21st - why the youth of today think those fashions are cool, I don't know.

So I've had little time for writing or surfing the gnarly web. I mean, I didn't turn the computer on yesterday, and ended up with twenty-five e-mails. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but it's a lot for me.

Two of them were from Africa wanting to give me a few million if only I could help the out; I'm guessing these people will never learn because some schmuck will be greedy enough to be lured in.

Half a dozen were in reply to the political meeting - blood boiling stuff, that. Another six or so were spammish - one in, I think, Greek, and another empty of text. But there was a gem in all this, from my sister, which I present to you:

"Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.) describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that,when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men."

I'm thinking that some people are too clever for their own good, or they need to get out more. Made me laugh anyway.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Werd up

I was reading the paper yesterday and came across something that would be amusing if it wasn’t so serious.

Initially reported in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and picked up by Australian media, the story is of an Australian woman arrested for saying ‘Fair Dinkum’ to a flight attendant when informed there were no pretzels on a Skywest Airline flight to Pittsburgh.

Sophie Reynolds, 41, of Queanbeyan (a metre or so outside of the capital, Canberra), said the words were out of frustration. An unnamed Skywest Airlines spokesman said: “When other passengers or crew members feel uncomfortable, it’s our standard procedure to contact law enforcement, just as a precaution.” And also suggested there’d been ‘aggressive behaviour throughout the flight’.

When asked about her custody, Ms Reynolds was told by Pittsburgh police that: “You swore at the hostess and there are federal rules against that.”

[Pause here for impact.]

In Australia, that’s like arresting someone for saying: “Well, gee, really?” Worse words are ‘crikey’, ‘strewth’ and ‘bugger’. Strewth is an old word abbreviated from God’s Truth and bugger, well, we all know what that means. Yet the words are a part of the vernacular here as much as Goddamn, son-of-a-bitch and Holy shit are in the U.S. A more innocuous epithet would be hard to find than Fair Dinkum.

Would Brits be arrested for saying ‘Codswallop’ or ‘Blimey’?

Does every passenger on air flights have to undergo sensitivity training so as not to offend the tender mercies of crew and other passengers?

And there are federal laws against using colloquialisms? Which idiot came up with that? Would Ms Reynolds have been safer saying “Goddamn son-of-a-bitch?” Or should she have said something like: “Oh, well, I’m sorry to hear that and please accept my heart-felt condolences on the loss of the pretzels.”

Down Under we’ve heard of the over-the-top excesses of airline staff when dealing with fractious passengers, from diverting to remove an argumentative passenger, to demanding absolute obedience. All of which cannot make a long flight any easier.

Yep, I shake my head and think of the oft-used expression: Only in America. If it happened here, there’d be bucket loads of embarrassment spread around.

‘Fair Dinkum’ is not swearing, nor is it aggressive behaviour to grumble about the lack of snack food when passengers pay for food via their overpriced tickets. Maybe we should call it ‘The Great Pretzel Fraud’. Economy class truly has become cattle class.

I think I prefer to catch Amtrak.


While over at, I saw a link to an article on The Secret To Selling SciFi by Jane Espenson. It’s a worthwhile read with some home truths.

Monday, August 13, 2007

One of many

In a recent interview, Australian recording artist Vanessa Amorosi confessed to having to write thirty to fifty songs for one good one. This told me three things: one, that the woman has music in her soul; two, that she perseveres with her craft and three, that the volume of work didn’t matter as long as she was satisfied with that one gem.

Writers, both superstars and unknowns, are rarely happy with their work. Something can always be said more concisely, with more emotional punch, better. The difference is perseverance and the knowledge of when to let go. A lot of authors have files of unsold, completed manuscripts.

I’ve been editing again. And yeah, I say that like it’s a sin, like it’s an addiction I’ve given into once more, like I can’t help myself… woe.

I read through and change minor things and wonder if the setting is wrong (could it be set in Australia rather than the U.S.), the dialogue is off (would they really say that?), the motivation isn’t really effective (why would they do that?), the characters aren’t deep enough (could the language be stronger?), the consequences are too light (would they get away with it?), the timing (with technology, surely the beasties would be seen?) and so on until I want to burn the damn thing, or delete it all.

But, I keep coming back to the story being able to stand on its own. That it’s a good story and there are only a few places that I think ‘huh, that doesn’t sound quite right’. And so I let it sit some more, tired of second-guessing myself.

I do this with nearly all the books I’ve written: good enough to revisit and tinker with; not good enough to send out.

To get away from that dilemma, I usually start work on another book. So here I sit, writing chapter outlines for book 24 (wow, that many) – ten are unfinished for one reason or another. Yeah, I know I’ve said I’m an organic writer, but I also wonder if the lack of confidence in my books stem from a doubt that they fit properly.

I’m trying a new way of plotting: write out the chapter synopsus, er, synopsii, synopsises(?)… ah, outlines… and then breaking it down into scenes - yahoo, I’m reinventing the wheel! – and trying desperately not to get bored with the process. If nothing else, the chapter briefs will be a guide even if I do toss the scenes. I’m expecting to keep on track for… maybe the first five chapters. After that, I’ll probably be back to the old stand by position of ‘and then…’ and start free writing again.

I live in hope that one of the many is good enough to be published. Maybe this one.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bookstore betrayal

In a stunning blow to the publishing industry, Angus & Robertson, one of the largest retail outlets in Australia has demanded publishers pay for shelf space.

In the Herald Sun story, A&R general manager, David Fenlon, said “As a commercial business, we have the right to make decisions about which suppliers we do business with

"In our negotiations with suppliers, we are the customer. Unfortunately we cannot work with every publisher in Australia, particularly if the relationship is not commercially viable for us."

Few small and medium-sized book publishers will be able to afford the price of between $1500 and $45,000 for the book space. One book to suffer is the prestigious Miles Franklin Award winner, Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria. This isn’t just another award winner, but the literary prize in Australia. The book is published by Giramondo Publishing, a relatively new publisher.

In my local A&R, the majority – 90% - of Sci-fi and fantasy books are by Australian authors published by the Harper Voyager imprint, which is nice. But will Harper Voyager and A&R still do business? Not at the price A&R want to charge.

If this is the trend of retailers, we can kiss the local industry goodbye. Authors earn a pitiful amount here in Australia and to add the cost of buying shelf space will cripple them.

No wonder our authors prefer overseas markets, and no wonder these authors are rarely heard of here; they get little or no exposure and this attitude makes it worse.

I won’t be going into A&R stores again; there won’t be my favourite Aussie authors on the shelves, so there’s no point. I’ll support the other stores.

The question is: how much will this hurt the A&R bottom line when the majority of small book publisher go elsewhere to sell their books? I hope it stings. A lot.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Spring is sprung

Sadly, Winter appears to be over and the Spring winds have arrived. I wasn't done with Winter yet; no 'damn, I'm tired of the cold', no 'I want warmer weather' and no 'bring on Summer'. Nope. Just cold one week, and mild and breezy the next.

I'm a little cranky about the whole thing because Spring brings on hayfever... either that or I've a late winter cold. I'm thinking hayfever; no hacking cough, no headache, just that irritating nose tingle and sneezing. What that means is I'm going to be snotty for an important meeting next week; way to make an impression.

The hayfever I get is bad enough to be annoying, but not enough for the tough medication that dries everything out so badly you feel desiccated. I know I get vaguely disturbed when others have a cold or worse in a meeting.

Ah, well, maybe it will have gone by Wednesday. If not, I'll take the damn moisture-sucking stuff. I think I'll have a pity party in front of V for Vendetta - the language V uses is simply beautiful, so lyrical; I love it. Makes me think I can do so much better with my writing. Maybe I can learn through osmosis. Whatcha think?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I'm getting my act together for a trip to Denmark and England next April/May, and I'm astonished at how much it's going to cost, just for the passport and visas. It's like ten times what it cost me the last time.

But, it's for my Godson's confirmation. The Danes seem to treat a confirmation like it's a twenty-first party. My sister and her family are going, and my other brother is thinking about it too - he's the Godfather, heh, heh.

I suspect it will be a lot of fun, and I might take a side trip to Sweden, or Germany, I'll have to check the finances on that.

Anyway, there's a new story up on the Takeaway.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Parents of a nation

Most little girls like to think of themselves as a princess – well, not me – usually when they’re playing. Fairy tales are littered with them. The reality is unlikely.

Except… my sister-in-law is actually descended from a Danish king, according to my brother’s research. Well, wow, I thought, genealogy turns up the most amazing things.

It’s not as special as you might think. Apparently the Danish royals had a lot of children born, shall we say, on the wrong side of the blanket? Yep, lots of kids born illegitimately to the king and just about every Dane has a royal in their background. Not such a burden then, but in doing the research, the mothers were paid off and kept their identities secret.

So, while we can trace the Danish royal family back, there’s no hope of researching the mother. That part of the tree comes to a full and complete stop, back in 1835, which is a shame. The best we can do is research the circumstances surrounding her coming to the attention of the King. That might be fun…

Skeletons, scandals and secrets make up every family tree, I think, if only you look hard enough. No one likes to think of themselves as ordinary, and no family is ordinary; there’s always something deliciously wicked somewhere.

For example, in my tree I have a number of ancestors who ‘had to’ marry – scandalous for the time – one who ran away from Scotland all the way to Australia to avoid an arranged marriage, and one who deserted during a time of war. I also think I have a convict ancestor sent to Australia. But I also have miners, farmers, innkeepers, tailors, teachers, a dairy maid – which isn’t what you think, blessed are the cheesemakers - wheelwrights, carpenters, a Household Guardsman, and others, hanging off the tree.

Some families simply stayed in one spot for a couple of hundred years, others were constantly on the move for work, a few travelled across oceans to help build a new nation, at least one who came to Australia didn’t have a choice.

So far, only Danish king is famous and rich and while there isn’t abject poverty, no one else made a significant mark – not that found yet.

It’s astonishing to think that I came from such a disparate group of people. Yet, here I am, and there you are.

One day, I might even write a book on some of them; an historical piece, but fictional and explore their time from mine.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Grrrist for the Mill

I haven’t been slacking off, not really, though some might think so.

I’ve been cutting and pasting and deleting and re-writing vast tracts of novel. But in the evenings, I’ve been reading.

Recently, I finished Marjorie M. Liu’s Soul Song - very entertaining - Lynn Viehl’s Night Lost - an excellent read – and Nora Robert’s High Noon - another well-crafted novel from La Nora.

All three are distinct in style. Soul Song follows an expected plot line that I’ve seen in other novels, yet Ms Liu brings her own talents to a story filled with mythology. Night Lost is more of the excellent Darkyn, but what makes this story terrific is the twist I didn’t see coming, and I should have. High Noon also follows an expected plot line, but what makes this different is the slow, inexorable rise in tension ending in the ‘will he’ or ‘won’t he’ questions and you know the villain has no reason not to. (Nope, no spoilers here, sorry.)

Of them all, it’s Night Lost that will stay with me, purely because of the clues I missed and the clever way those clues were hidden. I like books that lay down subtle clues.

Holly Lisle’s Midnight Rain is the same, though I knew the who, but not, quite, the how.

Good books are a pleasure to read; great books deserve re-reading. For writers, that re-reading involves a subconscious learning of how the author did it. I have found that I enjoy hiding those clues when I write, too.

But it’s not just the twists at the end. It can be the emotional punch, the OMG moment, the oh, no-oo scene. You want examples? Okay…

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - when you read it, you’ll understand, but there is a suddenness of death that shocks.

David Weber’s Field of Dishonor - the emotional punch is from being told, not shown as we’re all instructed.

Elizabeth Moon’s The Deeds of Paksenarrion - there is tragedy in this that is exhausting in its stoicism.

Dean Koontz’s Intensity - left me breathless with its, yes, intensity. Tension from go to whoa.

Lisa Gardner’s The Perfect Husband - oh, the cruelty of a character’s demise, simply because the perp could.

S. L. Viehl’s Endurance - being traded into torture can only provoke intense feelings in the reader; it did for me. D, you bastard! I don’t care why you did it, you should have… yes, well. To continue:

J. T. Edson’s The Cow Thieves - begins with a murder as foul as it was historic.

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Flight - reading this as a kid opened my eyes to the wonders of the imagination; like Athena from the head of Zeus, new worlds, new creatures, new ideas erupted from my own imagination.

So, if you write - I believe Nora Roberts once remarked: reading is research – and no book is worthless. Even those you hate. At the very least, you learn how not to do something.

But the best are those books you love, for within those covers lies the genesis of your own great works.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Grama? What Grammuh?

As writers we have to be careful about our word selection, the order in which they appear… and any punctuation that might be vital to the understanding of sentences. Here are genuine examples - put together by a local newspaper - of why:

Lost: Small apricot poodle. Reward. Neutered. Like one of the family.

A superb and inexpensive restaurant. Fine food served by waitresses in appetizing forms.

Dinner Special – Turkey $5, Chicken or Beef $5, Children $4.

For Sale: An antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for antique lover.

Now is the chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home too.

Wanted: Unmarried girls to pick fresh fruit and produce at night.

For Sale. Eight puppies from a German Shepherd and an Alaskan Hussy.

Great Dames for sale.

Mt Kilimanjaro, the breathtaking backdrop for Serena Lodge. Swim in the lovely pool while you drink it all in!

What more can I say?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Where is...?

It gives you a happy glow to know your characters, to understand the evil plot you’re going to involve them in, even to the point of smugness that you know how it ends, and no-one else does.

A slight creasing of the brow comes into play when you try and decide where you want all this action to take place.

The city you live in? One you’ve visited? Another country you’ve thought about? Another world?

The city you live in is easy: you just go to places your characters will. For one you’ve visited, you can drag out photos or dig into your memory. Another country… hmm, hard, but not difficult given the internet. Stephen King wrote a spot-on description of an Asian city he’d never been to from research. For another world, you’ve got to create it: Axial tilt, distance from a particularly classified sun, flora, fauna, seasons, weather, temperatures, whether other close celestial bodies are possible, minerology… the list is long. Of course, you can simply apply Earth-like categories and give your planet a new name, but then you’ve got to deal with the history of the place, politics, perhaps militarism.

For sci-fi writers, this is a part of their work; it’s assumed the story is futuristic so anything is possible. For fantasy writers, it doesn’t matter so much because most fantasies are medievalistic – if there’s such a word – and technology isn’t such an issue. Science Fantasy, however, creates unique problems all on its lonesome.

How do you reconcile fantasy creatures with modern technology? Alternative reality novels deal with it in two ways: accepting creatures of myth live amongst us openly and explain the ‘coming out’, or accepting mythological beings exist, but are hidden and intend to remain so for one reason or another.

Popular supernatural fiction maintains the latter: that ordinary Joe Public would panic if vampires and werewolves were real and so create a hidden world where the characters can play. The one major problem with this is technology, especially seeker technology: satellites, infra-red, sonar, forensics, a Mark 1 eyeball, digital cameras, all put the squeeze on the hidden worlds.

What will we do when someone, or a group, prove categorically, without question that supernatural beings do or do not exist? Does it matter?

Well, yeah, to me it does. Realism is important to me. If I’m writing about a modern world with myths running around, I want the reader to believe it’s possible. Flying beasties are obviously at the mercy of satellites; blood suckers leave victims and enough of them in one area will cause police to investigate the cluster; weres thundering through the forests risk hunters, campers, naturalists and scientists, especially if they leave something of themselves behind, like fur, to be examined.

It could be that I’m being too pedantic, but I’ve always thought that to make fiction work, you have to stick as close to the truth as possible – with a speculation thrown in. The reader will take that up and I think that’s what makes writers like Stephen King so successful: it could happen.

This brings me back to where a novel should be set, or, more precisely, the problem I’m having with one of my own pieces. Should my flying mythical beasties be vulnerable to modern technology in this world even as they struggle to stay hidden? Should I set it on another planet? Or should I ignore the possibility of detection all together and give the beasties stealth capabilities? Is ‘the ability to wrap shadows around them’ realistic?

Readers are canny people; I suspect I’m gonna have to be cleverer than I think I am to find an acceptable solution.