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.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blog Up

As you may have noticed, I've upgraded the blog. What you may not have noticed were the curses and creative swear words in doing so.

The books I read didn't come across, so I had to type them in again; nor did the stat counter move and I re-posted that too. Disappointingly, it won't let me have my coloured gradings of the books I've read - but I shan't give up, I'll find a way to post the icons.

The upgrade hasn't done much other than prettify the sidebar. I'm wondering if it was worth it; so far it's a 'no'. I'm sure there are some interesting widgets out there to put in, but I haven't had the time to search... yet.

One question is whether widgets distract from the content of the blog. I've visited a number of other sites and checked out the add-ons. I'm of the opinion that less is more. I'm also of the opinion that a blog space is for personal preference; like a house, the decorating is up to you. Although, coloured text on a black background is annoying, as is a multitude of photos.

I was watching a house renovation programme yesterday, and what struck me was the ideology that 'themed' rooms are no-no. I'm thinking your blog space uses the same idea. Fussy, over-the-top spaces throw me off, and I'm less inclined to visit again, no matter how interesting the host is. Plain, simple stuff with accessible archives is what I look for in a space. Of course, that's just me and I'm not up-to-date on all the fabbo stuff out there I can put up.

I think I'll keep it simple and easy to read. I'm not part of the blogging generation and I'm happy not to be; there are some things in your life, you really, really shouldn't be posting about. I'm sure you can think of a few. Things that defame, things that come under the heading of 'too much information' and things that are just plain ugly - racist, sexist, spiteful and generally unpleasant. You've also got to remember copyright issues. It might be a big world out there, but bloggers have friends that have friends, that have friends, and so on and the original blogger will find out if you've nicked someone else's work.

Still, it's a great exercise in writing, in finding like-minded people, and help when you need it. I think I'll keep the blog after all...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A new author is born

S. and I have worked diligently for the past couple of days, working on her English assignment. The book is now done, complete with cover and she is chuffed.

It was actually quite an entertaining project for me and an exercise in restraint. It's not a large tome, filled with complicated plots, fabulous world building or deep characters, just a twenty-page story of murder, theft and insanity - kids like that I understand.

The worst of it is waiting for a mark. The kidlet is on school holidays - which is why she's with me - and still has a week left before handing the piece in. Then there'll be the endless waiting. I can cope... I think.

As a reward - not that I use such methods, of course - she's off to the beach today with a couple of friends whose parents own property down here. It's a safe area, but she's taking the mobile with her, just in case. That means I get to clean house before her mother turns up for the weekend.

We've had a great week. No dvds, she's only surfed once to catch up on e-mails, and we've played games, like Mah Jhong (S. takes delight in beating me, like all teenagers, I suppose, playing an adult), chess (doesn't like it too much), checkers (yep, she likes that one) and an old 1980s game, Mastermind. Then there were the morning walks. I said she could sleep in since I go early, but nope, she wanted to come too.

S. is a testament to good parenting, I think. She's polite, rarely argues unless she has a point to make, smart, friendly, chatty and doesn't mind being without her friends. What more could an Aunt want? Oh, okay, cooking and cleaning... but I'm still teaching her and she's a willing student. I couldn't be more proud. S. is going to be a wonderful adult.

Now, if only her teacher gets back to us quickly...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Heat Wave

Jeez, I write one post on climate change and the climate changes.

It feels like we've skipped Spring and headed straight into Summer. It's currently a blistering 33C. I know there's something wrong with one of my temp gauge in the back yard because it's registering 46C! (Probably has something to do with it being in the sun and in a clear plastic tube.) Humidity is also down to 13 percent, which is drier than a burnt chip as far as I'm concerned.

I'm not putting the jumpers away just yet because October is notoriously fickle when it comes to weather. Cold in the mornings, hot in the afternoon, or just plain windy - okay, gale-force winds.

For anyone who wants to check out their carbon footprint Action Earth has a nifty little program. It's in metric so you'll have to do the calculations. For our house, the footprint is 4.8 tonnes a year. Hah! The average for an Australian household is 20, so we are doing rather well. We can do better, we're just a bit lazy...

Still, I have to note that, with all this brouhaha over climate change, I've yet to see the post-apocalyptic genre take off. There were so many in the 90s, what with the threat of nuclear devastation, bio-weapons and the like. Will we see books with climate change as a source for disaster? How would the human race survive? There are so many projections, which ones come close to being true - although any of them could work.

The best I know of so far, is the vignette program Afterworld, which is, I have to say, intriguing and addictive. Looks like I'll have to write something myself. Now there's a plan.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Sky is Falling

Mother Nature, as we all know, can be sweet and generous, or a total skanky bitch.

The current panic over global warming is a case in point. Yet another report, this one released today suggests we're going to have significant climate changes: more drought, more cyclones, higher tides, the end of snow in the mountains, stronger winds, etc.

I don't disbelieve the scientists, but I don't quite believe them either. Sure, reducing your carbon footprint is good for the environment and yes, recycling water for the garden is great as is solar energy, electric cars, energy efficient light bulbs and faithfully doing your recycling every week leads to a reduction in the breakdown of the ozone layer.

It makes me wonder what type of world we'll have: Mad Max, Waterworld, The Day After Tomorrow or Demolition Man.

But, I wonder if these scientists have gone far enough back in history? Europe has had a history of the most atrocious winters, for example. Napoleon and Hitler were jammed up in Russia, the troops had an awful spring and summer during the First World War, the rye crops in Europe during the 1600s grew mould due to a wet summer and led to accusations of witchcraft when people fell ill. It's also rumoured that the Aztec, Incan and Mayan civilisations fell because of chronic adverse weather conditions - drought, in particular. Then there is the last ice age some 12,000 years ago and that we're overdue for another one by a couple of hundred years.

Mother Nature has a habit of correcting what is wrong with the environment. We humans could merely be advancing the next change - already the magnetic poles are shifting.

We dump millions of tonnes of chemicals into the air, oceans and land. Indonesian and Brazilian farmers think nothing of burning square miles of forest. Multi-national corporations think little of dumping noxious chemicals anywhere they can and in the past, the indigenous population here in Australia burned so much of the natural bushlands it changed the environment here (not that you'll hear them admit to such environmental vandalism); surely this has to affect the environment and I would agree that, yes, it does. But has two hundred years of industrialisation scuppered the natural balance? That I don't know, but when scientists use words like 'probably', 'most likely' and 'it's reasonable to assume' I get a little pissy. Words like 'definitely, here's the proof from five hundred years of records' would assure me that we're doomed by the end of the century.

Now I have a lot of respect for the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), they do a lot of good works, except for the rumours a couple of years ago accusing the hierarchy of slanting reports to support Ministerial opinion. Then, scientists were fired, forced to leave or do the bidding of the department, whether it be true or not. And there are certainly people high up in environmental portfolios who want/need Australia to sign the Kyoto protocol regardless of any follow on impact it might have. Including the financial and economic burdens it would impose on every citizen.

Australia doesn't need Kyoto, we're doing fine without out, especially when it comes to reducing emissions and recycling. Kyoto imposes ridiculous deadlines for such a large country, but that's another argument.

My point is that Mother Nature is going through yet another change of environment all on her lonesome. We are accelerating that change. Whether it comes this century or the next, it's going to happen. And one last thing: should terrorists get their filthy little mitts on some nuclear devices and use them, climate change is gonna happen a lot faster than current predictions.

This strident caterwauling isn't helping. Instead of predicting doom and gloom, I'd much rather see solutions. I want to know how I can help, like tree planting, composting, turning switches off, recycling, putting in a grey water system, useful stuff, because I am sick and tired of the doomsayers predictions without any positive solutions. I also want some real punishments for corporations - massive fines that will hurt, creative solutions for industrial waste, population control, you know, the bigger issues.

Whether it all happens is another matter. In the meantime, all we can do is await the next report of how we'll all be sorry by century's end for what we've done in two hundred years of progress.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Oh... the temptation

I'm looking after my 14-year-old niece this week. It's been a while, but we get to do stuff together, like go to the movies, the beach, simply talk.

Over-riding all this is one of her projects: to write a murder mystery with items in the story taken from a list. Yesterday, we sat down to write a kind of plot. Today, she started writing. I've just finished looking it over.

The temptation to write it for her is nigh overwhelming, but I've restrained myself. I need to also clamp down on the editor side. I'm there to help, not take over. It's gonna be tough because I want it to be the best. More importantly, I want S. to be satisfied it's her best. To that end, I'll just have to reign myself in and settle for advice.

I said I'd do a cover for her - full colour an' everything. Her mother, C., is going to print it all out and bind it for her, just like a book.

In the meantime, I have to teach her not to go off on tangents, to stick to the point and follow the plot. Hah! Me, an organic writer, teaching someone to follow the plot line. I think we're both going to learn something from this exercise.

We're taking a break until tomorrow. We're off to see Stardust. Then we'll get back to it, finish it by week's end without disrupting play time.

Sigh, I must not interfere too much... I must not interfere too much...