Friday, October 31, 2008


The hours are ticking down.

Here, as I write this, there are five hours to go. Not that I'm going to start Nano on the stroke of midnight, that's simply inviting madness and some really screwy writing. But I expect to be up bright and early to start.

I'd like to say I have my schedule all worked out, but I have family visiting this weekend so I'm going to work around them. And I have cable, so a couple of hours - or more - shouldn't be a problem.

And there's the beach, too, for the kids so that equals more time.

I mean, it's not as if I won't catch up now is it? Most of my word count will be during the first week.

Let the games begin...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A major distraction

Just when I think I'm free of distractions for the month... J.D. Robb's new book, Salvation in Death is due out in a week.


What am I gonna do? I can't have Eve and Roarke and whomever running around in my head while I'm writing, I only have space for one author and that's me. But to wait?

Oh, 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'! I'm just going not look in the bookstores. Yeah. If I don't see it, it's not there, right? Right??

* * *

Anyway. I had an interesting e-mail today from a cousin. A cousin, I might add, who I haven't seen nor heard in a good twenty-five years. Yes, that long. My side of the family didn't really get along with them and when you leave home, there's no reason to contact people with whom you had a less than cordial relationship.

She's interested in my genealogical search, that was it. No 'hail, fellow, well met', no familial updates, just 'watcha got?' I think it's a cultural flaw in the family not to consider how much time has passed. Is that good or bad? In this instance, I think good... as long as no invitations come along. I hated being forced to be nice when all I wanted was to be somewhere else.

And that is the great thing about the internet and e-mail: you can chat about anything without meeting. You can be as formal or informal as you like.

Man. Twenty-five years. Well, I guess it's been a month for it given the couple of school friends getting in contact. I wonder if Karma has something to do with it?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Count down

Participants are being pushed towards the cliff called Nano, or NaNoWriMo (it sounds like a miniature rhinoceros).

For me, there's a hint of panic (I'm not ready!) and anticipation (come on, start, damn it!) The first chapter is swirling - though sometimes I think that's the drain it's swirling around - and I am ready to write; what comes after is up to the characters.

For those who need that little bit extra help, Paperback Writer has 20 hints for you. I'd like to add to number 19, the reminder of where you left off. When you finish writing the day before, stop in the middle of a sentence. When you're ready to continue, you can read back the previous paragraph to get an idea of where you were up to and finish off the sentence with a clearer idea of where you were headed when you stopped.

For me, I do take a coffee break, rather than water. It's too easy to have a water jug nearby and I have to physically leave the computer to make coffee. It matters not if I finish the drink, only that I have that small distraction.

I also have my essential books nearby: a dictionary (Oxford), a thesaurus (also Oxford) and a baby name book (for those irritating characters who don't want their identities known). A notebook and sticky notes are also important for the 'scathingly brilliant idea' for a future chapter.

I should note that I've already got the beginning and the end of the work. All I have to do is connect them via the muddle, er, middle. And I have the significant clue ready to write within the first three chapters.

The last thing to do is clear the desk... oh, and hope it all comes together by the end of the month.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The other challenge

Okay, the weekend is done. The kitchen looks fabulous with the new tiles, two of my sisters managed to get together for a gab fest and then the brother turned up. Much nattering away and catching up with assorted children.

And today, I finally caught up with my e-mails. I'm like others in prioritising which to read first, so I thought the Nanowrimo e-mail was a pep talk coming up to the actual day.

Well, roll me in the mud and call me a pig! How wrong could I be? An excerpt:

CreateSpace, an Inc. owned company, is generously offering every NaNoWriMo 2007 winner a "free proof copy" of their 2007 manuscript. What this means: A free proof copy of your manuscript in paperback book form–just by following the instructions below. They'll even cover the costs of basic shipping to you.


Once I got over the shock, surprise, greed, dreaming and all around squee moment, I got to thinking what this meant for the book I'm planning (okay, not really; I have the main character, a couple of villains, a hero or two, a situation, conflicts, some surprises, some history, language adjustments, scenery and an ending... um, is that a plan?).

Anyway, when I write for Nano, I look for areas where I can boost my word count. It's lazy and unproductive in the long run because the editing has to be more intensive to get rid of so many passive sentences and adverbs. It's straight writing without considering the after work. If I'm to use this freebie though, more care in the writing will happen.

The offer is good for six months - I still have to read the small print - and that's a time frame I can work with, but the more care I take in the writing, the less editing and reconstruction has to be done.

I'll have to take responsibility for the work, make it the best it can be; a shrug of the shoulders and a 'meh, it'll do' won't do this time around.

And so, I've found this year's extra challenge: write the book and sequel (if necessary) to the best of my ability using everything I've learned during this long apprenticeship. Because the other part of the e-mail says:

After you receive your proof copy, you can then choose if you want to make it available to the public at large—everything from showing up for sale on to complete invisibility.

It's a step up to be available via Amazon, and I don't want to stumble.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Since I'll be busily tiling and mowing and cleaning and dining this weekend with rellos, I thought you'd enjoy this:

A man in Scotland calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your Mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."

"Dad, what are you talking about?" The son yells.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer." The father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like hell they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this."

She calls Scotland immediately, and yells at her father: "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're both coming for Christmas and they're paying their own way."

Oh, and just fyi, some of my ancestors came from Scotland. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Me Casa

I've been busily writing away this week so I have something to post on the Takeaway during Nano.

It keeps wanting to expand into more than it actually is and I can't let that happen or I'll still be writing when Nano comes around in ten days. And to use this for Nano would be cheating.

I don't think I could expand it into a book, but that's just a temporary block. I'm sure I could write it out into 100,000 words or so, but I'm not going to; I have something else in mind.

It's also been busy around the Casa this week with some simple cheesemaking happening, hypocras simmering and recipe books scanned for Christmas. Friday, I'm trying to make some semi-fredo - just to make sure it works, you understand. Christmas here can get bitchingly hot, so a cool dessert will be refreshing. There will also be wall scrubbing because we are doing some tiling in the kitchen over the weekend.

For now, I have to wrestle some characters into submission...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hip, Hip, Hypocras!

To let my mind rest from thoughts of Nano, I've decided to start making Hypocras for the Christmas season.

Hypocras is a spiced wine that can be consumed hot or cold and is good for you. Attributed to Hippocrates, it's first mentioned in texts in the 12th century. Romans also drank spiced wines. King Henry VIII also had some after his two hour breakfasts because it was reputed to aid digestion, though his had gold flakes in it.

A few years ago I was at a Medieval banquet where it was served. I could not stop drinking the stuff! And determined I would make my own. As with most recipes, it takes a little practice to get the ingredients and the timing right; it depends on who's recipe you're using.

It's definitely a love/hate thing - I think because cloves smell medicinal. Anyway, I've found a recipe using white wine that I'm eager to try. It's reproduced as it was written in 1596 so it will need some thought to translate. Who knew reading Geoffrey Chaucer would have any benefit at all?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jeez, you'd think those Nigerian scammers - and the others - would have enough sense to e-mail from the country they say you've won the lottery of. Today it's the British National Lottery and one million pounds. Yep, I could use it since I fear how far down my portfolio has plummeted. I'll be receiving my quarterly progress report soon. Problem is, the e-mail was sent from the Czech Republic.

Ah, well. If I believed the e-mails and they were true, I think I'd have won about 50 million by now.

An-ee-way. New story up on The Takeaway.

The next story is due in November and we all know what I'll be doing then. I'll try to post something, but I make no promises.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


While reading the weekend paper - as you do - I came across a list of words that are due for extinction.

These are words no longer used by people other than those who wish to show off, at least here in Australia. I've never heard of them, but does that mean they should be written out of dictionaries?

Skirr: the sound a bird's wing makes in flight.

Fubsy: short and stout.

Niddering: cowardly.

Caliginosity: dimness.

Embrangle: embroil/entangle.

Oppugnant: combative.

Fatidical: prophetic.

As you can see, not common. But if we'd retained words, writers like Shakespeare and Chaucer wouldn't be the torment they are today (and I wouldn't have such a hard time deciphering Medieval recipes). Then again, if you think of how large the Oxford English Dictionary is (20 volumes), how much bigger would it be if all English words were preserved?

The OED is updated quarterly with between one and two thousand new and revised word definitions. It is also the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language - which is why I use it.

The argument to delete certain words is a good one, but I can't help thinking some words should remain. Oppugnant is a great word, so is niddering. The others, well... I can see why they've fallen out of use. Perhaps the OED should produce a dictionary of deleted words. I'd like to have one and I'm sure many scholars would too, if only to see the genesis of the English language.

Maybe Bill O'Reilly could use them: "When writing to us, please do not be oppugnant."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And the winner is... Europe!

The Nobel prize for Literature goes to: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio!

Yeah, I have no idea who he is either, but I don't read 'literature'. Monsieur Le Clezio writes about 'the perils of modern life' and often deals with globalisation and the environment.

Of more interest is that the Nobel judges have, once again, been accused of an anti-US bias. Only three American authors have won the prize in thirty years. The Swedish Academy president Horace Engdahl replied to the criticism, saying American writers were too influenced by their own pop culture to be able rival Europe as the centre of the literary world. ABC

Whoa, harsh and arrogant. Alfred Nobel made no mention of the winner coming from 'the centre of the literary world' in his will that bestowed the $US2 million prize. He said: "to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency".

After reading Mr Engdahl's comments, I would suggest the Academy is biased, not just against U.S. authors, but any country other than Europe. It begs the question on what he would say about African writers, Australian writers, South American writers or Asian writers - since they're not European - or whether he thinks about them at all - since they're not European.

Is he saying that to win, you must be European and write about world issues in a literary style? Oh, no! That means I'll nevah win!!!!

While I deplore such a comment, the worst damage has to be to the institution of Nobel. The prize is held in high esteem; there is no greater literary award. Now, I think it's tarnished a little by the ill-considered words of an idiot, and Monsieur Le Clezio's achievement diminished. Two million dollars should ease the sting.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Um... No.

I unashamedly love my superheroes.

As a kid, I'd sneak my brothers Batman and Superman. They were so cool!

Once I could afford them, I'd buy X-men, Justice League with the occasional Avengers thrown in if the cover or series appealed to me.

There's something about them that interests me. On an intellectual level, you could look at the good versus evil, of people trying to accept they are different and fit in, or that the world simply needs heroes, to know that someone extraordinary is looking out for them.

Or it could be I just love the anatomically incorrect drawings of buff men and overly endowed women... Nah.

So. I've been buying comics for years. When the movies came along, I, with other fans, awaited the casting of them. And approved. Except for one.

I loved the Spiderman movies, the original Superman flicks and yes, Supergirl though the effects were a little dodgy. The first two X-men were great, the third veered so far away from the comics that I've yet to convince myself to buy it. Fantastic Four is up there, though Daredevil and Electra were meh.

Now I've just seen Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. is terrific but there's a problem. No, it's not Gwennie Paltrow - though she could have put a little more emotion into the piece - it's the very end.

I admire Samuel L. Jackson and I love his movies but there is no way, not now, not ever, I will every think of him as Nick Fury. No. Nick is a white dude, with grey sideburns, a buzz cut and rrriiipppling pectorals (he also looks tasty in a skin suit). He's a testament to middle-aged buffity-buffness; he's not Sammy L.

If there's going to be an Iron Man 2, someone is going to have to rethink that little piece of casting nonsense.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nano fever

Nano is like an itch.

It starts off as a minor irritation in late September, something you can ignore because there's other stuff to do that relates to real life. Then October arrives and the itch is becoming more noticeable. You find yourself zipping over to the site to have a look. Who's registered, is there anyone from your area, your writing group? Are there widgets to download?

But... you've got plenty of time to think about something to write. Then the itch worsens. Ideas float around, never settling, just taunting you with potential.

Come the end of October and you're snarling at anyone who asks about the blank expression you wear. You're constantly wiping away the sweat (at least, here Down Under where the weather is warming up for Summer), making notes, checking the coffee and snackage supply and warning people that during November, you are categorically unavailable.

On the 1st of November, bright and unspeakably early, you're sitting at the keyboard, fingers poised to write that great epic, ready to throw yourself into the maelstrom that is your own mind and let the words flow...

Unless you have The Blue Screen Of Death! Kidding. Once you start, it's scratching that itch. Doesn't it feel so good?

The first tip I have for you is about that blank page and how to overcome the panic of where to start.

Write: Chapter One.

There. No more blank page and no more panic. Need more to get you started? Okay. Start with a dramatic scene. You've been thinking about this for some time and I know you've got an action sequence. Start with that and go from there with a 'and then...'

After that, it's up to you.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Past, present, future

I'm back from my sojourn to Canberra and looking after the kidlets while their parents went off to Taswegia - otherwise known as Tasmania for the long weekend.

As usual, I bought the weekend edition of The Sydney Morning Herald and you could have knocked me down with a feather to see a woman I went to university with on the careers page. I mean... wow. This is a widely read newspaper!

She's the founder of Vision Walks, a bushwalking enterprise you can do at night to see what the Australian bush has to offer at night. Too cool!

It's a little odd to see someone you know in the public eye like that - especially when she and I played soccer together at uni and had some... uh... well, students will drink alcoholic beverages and get up to some shenanigans! But telling you more than that would only incriminate me.

It's all the more curious on top of the recent e-mails from high school chums. I can't decide whether it's just a 'this is how your contemporaries are doing', or fate saying 'pull your finger out and do something!'

I like to think it's the latter and with Nano only three weeks away, the book I have in mind is starting to gel. I have the opening scene with dialogue and the four characters involved. Good guys, bad guys and an ongoing plot line. Feels like I'm almost ready.

Sometimes, I guess, you need a kick in the right direction with a reminder of the past.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Giving up bad things

It's the Labour Day long weekend here and I'm in Canberra looking after C. and D.'s kidlets while they have a mini-holiday in Tasmania. I drove up yesterday and the countryside is really pretty early in the morning. Since it's Spring, sunrise means about 5.30 am. I left at just after six.

I confess I stopped, half an hour from home, at Mickey D's for coffee and bacon and egg muffin for breakfast. I am hangin' my head because, damn, it was good and I'm not supposed to like it. Is anyone?

Anyway. I'm driving along - it's a three-hour drive - over the mountains (okay, two) and thinking I could do with another coffee. Flat white this time, not a cappuccino.

Conveniently, there's another Mickey's out on the highway, another hour away - and according to the Government campaign, if you're driving long distance you should always take a break every hour or so to avoid fatigue: Stop, Revive, Survive. (That's my excuse an' I'm stickin' to it.)

On the radio, the day's horoscope is announced. "Gemini: it's time to give up something that's bad for you."

Well that could mean a whole lotta stuff and I ignored it. I pulled over, got my standard-size, extra-shot chap-a-kino, set it in the cup holder that's attached to the air vent and off I went. I'm zipping along the highway, obeying the speed limit and then... and then... and then... the cup holder broke.

After four sips. I nearly caught it, but I think that might have made things worse. Nah. It all missed me, but it sure didn't miss the floor. I had visions of white coffee streaming from the under-carriage and those behind me thinking I'd sprung a leak.

No more coffee houses on the way, either. sigh And it's all squelchy when I rest my foot. It was a definite mourning moment.

So, my daily horoscope? I'm giving up arising so early in the morning...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Top Ten characters

Empire Magazine has released its top 100 characters as voted for by readers.

Here's the top ten:

10. The Terminator
9. Forrest Gump
8. Han Solo
7. Tyler Durden (Huh. I had no idea who this was. Maybe I'd better see Fight Club)
6. James Bond
5. Dr Hannibal Lecter
4. Captain Jack Sparrow
3. Darth Vader
2. The Joker (Heath Ledger's version.)
and at Number One -

Indiana Jones! "He's Henry Junior! We named the dog Indiana!" Bwahaha!

I'd say they're all, with the exception of Tyler Durden, all worthy top ten characters, though I think Gollum should be there. His character and the technology behind his creation is simply amazing... my precious.

Each character has one defining moment that encompasses the whole personality. For me, it's like this:

10. "I'll be back." And he just keeps on returning. I remember thinking "What's it gonna take to kill this guy?"

9. "Run, Forrest, Run!" A testament to the idea that you don't have to be a genius, or especially talented, to be successful or happy.

8. What can you say about Han; a street smart, handsome, brave and lovable pirate with terrific flaws.

7. Don't know this dude.

6. "Bond, James Bond." As if it should be obvious who he is. The best parts of the movies are the gadgets. Gotta love 'em for all the political incorrectness of the rest.

5. Dr Hannibal Lecter. Didn't scare me in the book or the movie, though Anthony Hopkins cold emptiness was brilliantly portrayed. I guess it's the 'Chianti' remark that's most memorable.

4. Captain Jack Sparrow. The movies were okay, but nothing special. Johnny Depp's portrayal of a constantly drunk pirate was entertaining though.

3. "I am your father, Luke." Noooo-oooo! Wasn't Darth great? The simple ordinariness of evil. A dichotomy of good and bad. Everything he did was to ensure the continuation of the Empire and the stability of the galaxy, and yet... we cheer for the underdogs.

2. I've yet to see this film, so I can't comment.

1. Indy. A perfect character with good bits and flaws. If you look closer, he's a grave robber, stealing antiquities, but he has flaws we can relate to like his fear of snakes even after escaping the traps and poison arrows. Gotta love him.