Thursday, August 28, 2008

No good deed...

The more I think about this next project, the more frustrating it is.

I've been kicking around a few ideas with the thought 'no good deed goes unpunished' in the back of my mind.

I've been looking over a character sheet, trying to list a few things without much success. No name, no physical description, no birth date or astrological sign; no partners or parents or history. I have an occupation, a talent and an opening scene with dialogue that keeps changing. That's it. But I've started with less.

Okay, I've got a villain, of sorts; an amorphous, strident, spoiled, briefly glimpsed, villain.

It's as if this story is holding back until October 31; that it doesn't want to be told until someone presses the start button on Nano. For once, I want to be further along than just a thought when I start.

And before anyone suggests it, yes, I've tried the interview technique as was met with resolute silence - from every single character I could come up with.

Sounds like writer's block, but it's not. It's all there, the flashes of insight, the brief sounds, half heard questions of dialogue, the colours of magic...

I'm slowly - oh, so slowly - building the picture, but it's two dimensional yet. It needs to be three dimensions, with depth, vision, and full blooded characters I can torture for four hundred pages or so.

The difficulty, I think, is reconciling a protagonist who has the ability to both harm and heal with the same hand and at the same time. Cryptic, vague. No good deed goes unpunished. Magic has consequences. Modern, ancient or fantasy world? A mixture?

I'm gonna have to give it some more thought, coz, damn, it's a good idea!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Agents and... stuff

Writer's Digest has an interesting article on 10 Tips for Querying an Agent.

I figure the tips also work for international peeps. It's all just good manners, co-operation and common sense - which sometimes, doesn't seem so common.

There there's the article on 28 Agents Who Want Your Work. Kudos for them putting themselves at risk of being dumped on from a great height with thousands of queries.

Maybe the tide is turning and the publishing industry has finally wised up that if they don't make time for new authors, they'll end up not having any at all.

* * *

I mentioned in a reply to a comment that I didn't have an idea for Nano. The Muse - in her infinite wisdom (ha! Suck up that I am!) - then proceeded to deliver an interesting image; one where good equals bad and vice versa.

I've been trying to nut out the specifics. The image won't leave, I suspect, until I have worked it out. But brick walls are so uncomfortable to bash your head against.

The details are slowly seeping into my thick skull, though. Maybe there is something to this careful plotting thing... I'm waiting for the elegant twist at the end, though.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A dark and stormy...

Ah... Spring!

The Wattle's in bloom, the scent of Freisias drifting on a mild breeze and the McCartney Rose has more buds than a beer factory; you know, that beer, which smells of yeast and beer and hops, only it's a flower...

Last week, the Bulwer-Lytton winner was announced. It's a competition of "wretched writing", sourced in the paragraph by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, in his book, Paul Clifford (1830).

The infamous paragraph?

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

This year's winner is Garrison Spik who wrote: Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

Dunno... There are some absolute howlers this year. Like the winner of the Detective section:

Mike Hummer had been a private detective so long he could remember Preparation A, his hair reminded everyone of a rat who'd bitten into an electrical cord, but he could still run faster than greased owl snot when he was on a bad guy's trail, and they said his friskings were a lot like getting a vasectomy at Sears.

Or this one, from the Adventure category:

Leopold looked up at the arrow piercing the skin of the dirigible with a sort of wondrous dismay -- the wheezy shriek was just the sort of sound he always imagined a baby moose being beaten with a pair of accordions might make.

My favourite? Runner-up in the Spy category:

The KGB agent known only as the Spider, milk solids oozing from his mouth and nose, surveyed the spreading wound in his abdomen caused by the crushing blow of the low but deadly hassock and begged of his attacker to explain why she gone to the trouble of feeding him tainted milk products before effecting his assassination with such an inferior object as this ottoman, only to hear in his dying moments an escaping Miss Muffet of the MI-5 whisper, "it is my whey."

Go on, go and have a laugh!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Captain's Log

I received a new notification in my e-mail box this morning; one I've been waiting for.

Captain's Log is the new newsletter from Voyager, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of Harper Collins.

It's important because it's focus is on Australian authors then international ones. And added to the site is a blog where peeps can gather information. Aussie author Jennifer Fallon has an interest three part series on Dispelling Myths of Getting Published and on Why Manuscripts Are Rejected. I've got some serious catching up to do.

Maybe I should have checked in sooner...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Three Years....

Well, I missed it - the third anniversary of this blog. It was earlier on this week, Monday, actually.

Geez, three years! And I'm suddenly at a loss for words... or not...

Every now and then, I think of deleting the blog - for a variety of reasons - and then I think I've still got stuff to bitch and moan about. And it's good therapy. These days, you've got to be careful about what you say for fear of being accused of racism or political incorrectness, or ageism, gender bias or any number of things because you don't think like most people feel you should.

But on a blog... ah, well, you can say whatever and be virtually guaranteed of someone out there agreeing or ferociously disagreeing. On either point, a breaking out of common sense debate might just happen.

As a habit, it's fairly innocuous. For a writer, it's good practice. It's also a place I can vent my spleen, whine, cajole, explain, test and otherwise say stuff I don't have another forum for.

Anyway... I'm busy sorting out this plotting thing other writers swear by. Being an organic writer, I've decided, only goes so far for me, so I'm trying for a more disciplined approach before Nano hits; and it's not that far away, either.

It's time to wrestle manuscripts into order and beat characters into submission. That's my new focus for the next year(!).

And just because I can, here are some Engrish (yes, engrish) signs sent to me by my funny as hell sister. Politically incorrect, too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Words are important

Since I'm still beavering away on stuff, a leedle something my sister sent me to amuse you:

The pastor asked if anyone in the congregation would like to express Praise for answered prayers. A lady stood and walked to the podium. She said:

"I have a Praise. Two months ago, my husband, Jim, had a terrible bicycle accident and his scrotum was completely crushed. The pain was excruciating and the doctors didn't know if they could help him."

You could hear an audible gasp from the men in the congregation as they imagined the pain that poor Jim experienced.

Pat continued, "Jim was unable to hold me or the children and every move caused him terrible pain.We prayed as the doctors performed a delicate operation. They were able to piece together the crushed remnants of Jim's scrotum and wrap wire around it to hold it in place."

Again, the men in the Congregation squirmed uncomfortably as they imagined the horrible surgery performed on Jim. She continued, "Now, Jim is out of the hospital and the doctor's say, with time, his scrotum should recover completely."

All the men sighed with relief. The pastor rose and tentatively asked if anyone else had anything to say. A man rose and walked slowly to the podium. He said, "I'm Jim and I want to tell my wife, the word is sternum."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Neverending story

I've gone through and listed all the characters in both books...

With everyone mentioned, it comes out at 104. It includes the characters-in-passing. You know, the bit players: drivers, dead people, historical people, soldiers, assistants - those who either don't say much or nutin' at all. I don't think I need to put in their life stories.

But I've got character sheets to fill out - lots of 'em - then the time line, the settings, the time periods (and there are a few) and finally, go through the manuscripts scene-by-scene, paragraph-by-paragraph and each sentence. When all that's done, it's another read through with the word colour changes to make sure I've lessened the impact of passive voice, show versus tell, adverbs, name changes, descriptions, action sequences and anything else I can think of.

I have PBWs The Novel Notebook, Holly Lisle's Mugging the Muse and various posts from the Left Behind and Loving It workshops as my able assistants. All it will take is time... oh, and patience. Lots of patience.

I might even get it right this time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Watch words

The week that was has moved by in a blur.

I dragged out the two Knight Stalker books to read through and discovered that, combined, they totalled over eight hundred pages - double spaced.

Before I began, I changed the colour of words to watch from black to red: that, was, were, have, been, is, are, be, will; you know the list. Changing the colour of watch words is a great way to learn not to use them; you'll see just how red the page can become.

To give you an example, these two books are about 207,000 words. Of those words 8,259 are from the above list. That's one in 25 words that need review, but doesn't include: -ly, not, very, am, up, down. With those words, raise the number to 13,169, or one in fifteen words. And there are others to search for.

I'm sure you can imagine pages speckled with blood red...

Anyway, it's not doom and gloom. (I recall one of the first pieces I wrote for a creative writing unit and it came back with more red than black; I felt so disappointed I nearly left the course - until I saw other student papers that were worse than mine.) By highlighting where you've been lazy - and I admit it; Nano is, after all, about word counts - you can correct, or give deeper thought to the sentence or paragraph.

So now that it's done, I can go back and change stuff, along with back-plotting. That's plotting after you've written 'The End'.

Back plotting should be fun. I got a laugh out of some parts of the books, and a touch of tragedy, horror, and wonder that I'd written it. This is why it's good to not look at your work for weeks, or in this case, months. I can cast a fresh eye over it.

Time to raise those statistics... a lot!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I've put together last year's Nano project Knight Stalker in preparation for editing.

I've also studied and inwardly digested a number of editing techniques; some are similar to my own, and others are something to keep in mind.

Oy, I gotta say I'm appalled by the amount of red words to revise peppering every innocent page. I recall when I wrote this that passive voice and extended sentences didn't matter because I was aiming for a word count total. I also recall how smug I was.

Not doing smug now; stomping all over smug with hob-nailed boots and a bad attitude.

Lesson learned in an ugly, unattractive way. This is going to take time and effort.

When NaNo comes around again, remind me to be more focused on the story and not on how much I can write.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Yeah, I've been watching the Olly-impics, probably against my will... not anything with China involved though - my little protest - but sport which I don't usually watch, like handball, beach volleyball and the like. The main broadcaster here sticks with the popular sports like swimming. Ack.

Anyway, I finished Omega Games.

It has a lot of familiar territory for those who have read S.L. Viehl's freebies; more chunks that I expected, actually.

However, this story presents its own issues, like the Cherijo/Jarn identity crisis, Duncan's nature and an argument between the two that raises interesting questions. But that's a spoiler.

Overall, we are one step closer to resolution on who Maggie is and what she wants, the immortal issue and the Black Crystal.

Not much else to say because I think this book is a pot-boiler: a book written to bridge the previous to the more important next book.

It's still a good read. If this is a pot-boiler, it's one of the better ones I've read and I'll still buy the next one. This story line has something intriguing about it and I'm guessing 'all will be revealed' soon.

So... what's next on the tbr pile?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Last play

Don't bother me: Omega Games turned up a coupla days early with Gale Force.


I'll let you know what I think...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Books to grab

Mmmm.... boooksss!

I've been rummaging around my TBR pile. Then, today the Nexus catalogue turned up from the Galaxy Bookstore.

Being in a rural area, this is a good thing; the local bookstores in town only shelve best sellers/authors, but will order something for you if you're willing to wait up to six weeks. I think 'to hell with that', even the U.S.-based can get books to me faster than that. Much as I'd like to support local businesses, if you cain't git it to me within five werkin' days, tough.

So, there they were: two books I've been hanging out for. Rachel Caine's Gale Force, a Weather Warden book, and our favourite S. L. Viehl's Omega Games, a Stardoc novel. Woo hoo, with a capital WOO!

Both books should be here Friday, or Monday at the latest. I'm glad the sales clerk didn't see me do my happy dance, he would have been embarrassed.

Next week, Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox comes out.

Sigh. So much for good writing intentions...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thanks to participants

And so the week long Left Behind and Loving It workshops come to an end.

Thank you to Paperback Writer for hosting the workshops and for the invaluable material; and thanks to:

Cheryl Corbin for pointing out Gender Differences in writing;

Alison Kent for Voices in Your Head;

Belinda Kroll for Everyone Has to Edit;

Emma Wayne Porter for a the insightful information on Self Editing;

Sasha White for the voice workshops;

Su Elder for Astronomy for Writers; and

Shannon Stacey for When Only the Right Word Will Do.

There were a lot of other involved, and I thank them too. This week has been a blast and extremely informative.

Now, all I have to do is apply the lessons learned by using the downloads and stylesheets and keep in mind all those interesting little tidbits while I do so!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Singled Out

Today's topic over at PBW's is voice and style.

It brought to mind working in England. Eh? How does that connect?

Well, one of my jobs was to pack herbs into plastic bags. Being a chatty kind of person, I conversed with the other slaves around my table. During a ten hour shift, you've got to do something to take your mind off the tedium.

Throughout the day, a supervisor kept wandering over, a scowl painted on her pale face. She kept instructing us to keep it down, even though other tables created more laughter. Eventually, she decided to tell us not to talk at all. (Not that I could; people cannot keep it zipped in a crowd, and when spoken too directly, I answered, drawing the supervisor over again.)

At the end of the day, she said I would not be invited back to work. Surprised, I asked her why and she said: you are too noisy, you disrupt the work. You, I hear all day.

How, I wondered, could she hear me over all the others chatting? How did she identify me in the crowd of thirty or so?

Turns out, when I asked how she knew it was me, I had a unique aspect: my accent. I was the only Australian in the room and she identified that accent, zeroed in on it and decided it was too out of tune with the more familiar English and South African accents.

Now you see where it connects: You have to have something different about your writing to stand out and be noticed. The best way to do that is to have something unique.

If you compare your work with others, what stands out as different? Word choice? Plot? Your characters? Have you taken a cliched plot and twisted it? What makes your voice stand out?

Friday, August 01, 2008


With PBW's Left Behind and Loving It program, the one thing I didn't understand at the time was how many others would be joining in with their own 'courses'.

I've downloaded stylesheets, worldbuilding stuff, editing stuff, self-editing, voices, body language, the list goes on. It makes for interesting reading, but not much time for anything else.

At the moment, I'm 'too busy to write, but I would, ya know, if I had the time...' For once, I'm calling that a legitimate excuse! Time to go absorb more pithy nuggets from the dozen or so authors and editors generous enough to join in.