Friday, February 27, 2009


I'm guessing that because we're good cable customers, Austar gave us the Movie channels to play with for a while.

Today, I watched 300 wif dat bi' 'o eye-candy, Gerald Butler... actually, there were plenty of rrr-rippling abs. But all perving aside, I enjoyed it. I'm assuming certain... disturbing... parts were edited out from the television version. But I don't recall studying (I did ancient history all through school, but modern at uni) that Xerxes was a debauched meglomaniac.

Yes, I know it's from a Frank Millar graphic novel, but that struck me as... odd. Meglomaniac, sure, given his father Darius tried the same thing and got his ass kicked, but a messianic hedonist? Hmmm.

Anyway, I was impressed by the history of the piece. The Spartans epic defence at Thermopylae has echoed down the centuries as an example of the determined few against the overwhelming might of the many. And the Spartans may have succeeded in defeating the Persians militarily at Thermopylae if not for the betrayal. As it was, the 300 died, but Xerxes's army was destroyed by the Greeks.

I've read the criticisms of this film, and all I can say is "they missed the point". Sparta was a city-state based on militarism - from birth to death and including women. Yes, it was brutal, but it encompasses what the Spartans were willing to do to keep their city as a regional power. It was a society much revered and much reviled.

'With shield, or on it.' There is no other choice for a Spartan Hoplite. King Leonidas and his men live on through history, achieving the glory they knew would be theirs. It's a mindset we see today in... certain, more radical elements of society. A mindset that is as difficult to understand today as it was for Xerxes then.

It is a piece of history more people should consider; it is the story of the few against the many, fighting for a noble cause while other sit back and watch. If news of the Spartan fight hadn't reached the rest of Greece, I imagine history, world history, would be very different.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Flash, crack, boom

Howling storm last evening, and I'm not a fan of them. It isn't the noise, or the crackling of the air, I just don't like 'em.

There I am, in the middle of editing - and having a right time of it too - and I can hear the rumbling come ever closer. When I looked out the window, one, then a second jagged bolt of white light streaked down.

I didn't want to shut down the computer, but, you know... lightning strike, fried circuits, destroyed work.

So I took myself upstairs, made myself some coffee and leaned against the door to the balcony to watch. Sure as eggs, flash, crack, boom, a streak of pure white hit the house across the street.

I think it took out their electricity, because when one of lads got home, he couldn't get the electronic garage door to open.

We don't usually get storms coming right over the house - the last one was some years ago and hit the house next door; saw that, too. Fried everything in the neighbour's house.

Saxon, mah faithful hound, was near havin' a panic attack. She stuck right by my leg; where I went, she followed and touched. I could feel her tremble and shudder. She didn't settle down for hours.

I think there was another strike on one of the boats in the harbour. It was close by, I know that.

The result is that I backed everything up.

Mother Nature can be pissy and the randomness of lightning strikes means if I hear a storm coming, everything goes onto thumb drives then electrical devices are turned off and unplugged. It doesn't take much, but if the worst happens, I won't lose my work, nor any other device I absolutely need - like the coffee machine (that's essential).

So. Go and back up your work. Right. Now. While you remember.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Back to the edits

I've spent the weekend reading through - and making notes on - the first two books of the Season trilogy. Oh, okay, and perving on the buff bods in their body-hugging shirts and bike pants... mmm...

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Editing. Sometimes, when you're pounding away at the keyboard, getting those words down, an event seems like a good idea at the time. (This is the stuff I wrote for the 2006 Nano.)

Summer's Rule reads well enough, but I got tripped up at one particular scene and had to ask the question: can you really have sex between prison bars? I'm thinking... maybe. Awkward and less than satisfying... probably. I'll have to do some research. Academic research, thank you very much! Things like how far apart the bars have to be (it's a private prison cell, think old Western cells), where is the horizontal bar, body width, muscle strength, and... well, stuff like that.

I need to put in more imagery. I don't think I need to boost the emotional side - two scenes near brought me to tears - but on the whole, this book is nearly read to go out there into the big wide world.

Winter's Heart is actually the better of the two - editing-wise. I didn't find anything major to fix - although I'm sure somebody will.

Today, I'm working on Autumn's Fall. I know this one has problems; not the least that it's unfinished, so there'll be writing involved.

My goal, when I send the first out, is to say that the trilogy is complete; no waiting around for the rest.

So it's back to make sure the characters haven't changed in appearance, that the ongoing sub-plot is maintained and the action continues - oh, and if it is possible to have sex through prison bars or if I'll have to change it...

Saturday, February 21, 2009


There's a triathalon on this weekend around the neighbourhood. Yep, buff bods on display right out in front of the house... sigh.

They're doing a practice run for tomorrow's race. It can't be pleasant, it's raining and there's a haze, the scent of wet, burned wood in the air.

I've finally got my act together and posted another story on the The Takeaway. And there I was thinking the beginning of the year meant a fresh attitude and to hit the ground running. Silly me. I'll try to post more regularly, but things happen, ya know?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I see a major rewrite coming up - at least for the first book.

The problem is the goal, oh, and I think I've made it a leedle too easy for the characters.

I'm not saying late 16th Century living was laid back and worry free, but for those with money, it sure beat being a labourer or servant or farmer, or anything else. It was hard then.

So I'm going to give the main protagonist - Isabella - a significant shift in... occupation. No longer will she be lady of the manor, but a serving girl. No more the fine clothes, the good wine and excellent food, but coarse cloth, water or mead, and scraps from the main table. I'm going to shift the time-frame back a hundred years or so, too, and the country, since there was lots of fighting and bitching about who was the king of France at that time.

This is going to affect a number of other characters and to avoid throwing the whole book, it's going to take some sneakiness.

After all, who wants to read a book where life is easy? What writer doesn't enjoy torturing their characters? We're an odd bunch...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Splits and danglings

Well. That was embarrassing. Here I am, with a degree in professional writing and an advanced certificate in editing and proof reading and I still managed to screw the pooch.

Natalie, over at What Time is it Again? has a link to the University of Bristol's Improve your writing.

In particular, Natalie went for the split comma exercise. I figured, "hell, I know commas" and duly did the exercise.

Two out of ten, people. I managed to get two out of ten right. Ohh... the shame.

I'm going to have to redeem myself; maybe with dangling participles. It remind's me of a teabag ad catch phrase: "Are you a jiggler or a dangler?"

These exercises are great. Even when you think you know the answer, you might just be wrong. Go and try them out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Meaty bits

Nope, that scene didn't work either. It looks like I'm going to have to do the dreaded... *gulp* back-plotting.

Yes, peeps, back-plotting; that slow, laborious task to test the continuity of your book. The scene-by-scene dismemberment of the story line to make sure everything is in its place and the characters haven't suddenly disappeared or changed appearance or personality.

It's the part of writing I least like, a necessary eee-vil. But if the whole thing is to stand up and be counted, the internal structure has to be solid enough to support the flesh of action and dialogue. If not, then all you've got is a body laid out for autopsy: all the bits are where they're supposed to be, but it ain't movin'.

It's what well-adjusted writers do before they start writing. Me, I'm a maelstrom of tangential thought when it comes to writing. I do the plotting after - but only if I'm having trouble; which I am. Buckets of it. Meaty, bloody, gobs of it.

The saving grace is that I'll be able to spot inconsistencies that an atypical read-through misses...

To get this trilogy done, I have to start at the beginning, wallow in what I've written and be schizophrenic about it: one part reader - one part editor; or, if you will, half patient and half doctor.

Maybe I need to look up some technical manuals to diagnose the problem. Ah, well, time to create a database...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Let's try this...

I've been a little distracted this week. So distracted, I've had to re-write one scene five times and it still doesn't seem right.

Technical reasons, continuity reasons, cliche reasons, men-in-black reasons and just plain dumb-ass reasons. My characters are getting a little tired of trying different routes to get to the end point. I don't blame them, they want to wrap everything up and live happily ever after. Me, I gotta torture them one last time to reach the word count and the ending.

I need to crack the fundamental barrier to my two protagonists getting together. And it's not so easy when the scene that brings them together is, well, sucky. Maybe the sixth re-write will be the one...

* * *

On the subject of the Victorian fires, the people of Australia have raised more than $AUS 75 million. It's an incredible total and I hope the money not only goes to those who need it, but towards paying for the burn-offs of bush debris during the Winter so this doesn't happen again. (But that's a button I really don't want to push at the moment, except to say that burn-offs aren't "a threat to bio-diversity".)

Okay, back to work...

Monday, February 09, 2009

National mourning

As you can imagine, we're all in shock here in the Land of Aus. We have fires across four states, with the weather about to deteriorate again, and sixty percent of Queensland is flooded, with more rain on the way. The lower half of Australia is praying for rain to douse the fires; the northern part praying for sunshine to dry them out.

That's what this country is about - extremes; but this has been more extreme than we've had in decades, nay, ever.

At this stage, 126 have perished with over 750 houses lost. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue operations reach areas currently too dangerous to enter.

It wasn't as if people were unprepared; they were. It was the fire moved so fast. As one survivor said: "I could see the smoke a couple of kilometres away; then I got to my car and I could see flames."

The media have stopped mentioning the more awful of stories. Censored stories like the couple who could hear screaming up the street but could do nothing but save themselves. The survivors who drove past cars on fire with the knowledge of people trapped inside. Of blast furnace conditions that evaporated water before it hit the ground. Of the firefighter, trying to save homes and then discovering he'd lost his own home... and family. Of the couple who put all their valuables in the shed, knowing they would lose the house only to return to a safe house, but destroyed shed. The journalist who was on the phone to his wife as all around her burned, of the shock and tears in his voice as he described her screaming and hearing an appalling rushing noise. She survived where most did not. And of a beloved newsreader and his wife who perished in their home. The horror and grief is unimaginable.

There are so many tales of survival, of tragedy and loss. And it's not over. There are still more fires burning in Victoria, in South Australia, in Western Australia and here, in New South Wales.

I can smell the scent of wet, charred wood from the fire a couple of hundred kilometres to the south of here. But it's been raining along my part of the coast, dampening everything down. I feel a bit guilty complaining about the heat when it could have been much worse, and was devastating in Victoria.

Most citizens are pitching in to help, be it with skills, equipment or donations. People are coming together to assist those who have lost so much; the mobilisation of army units, the Red Cross and Salvation Army and ordinary people being there for the victims.

When it's all over, the houses and towns will be rebuilt. The bush will regenerate. But the tragedy will remain with us always.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


We consider Australia the 'lucky country'. Where you can do or be anything, if you work hard enough. Sure, it's a land of extreme. During Spring, for example, you can snow ski in the morning and be swimming in the sea in the afternoon. The weather can be perfect or atrocious. Bucketing with rain - as it still is in northern Queensland, or brutally hot, like yesterday in Victoria where in some areas, the temperature rose to 47 degrees Celsius or 116 Fahrenheit.

With those hot temperatures and 100kmh winds, the inevitable happened: bushfires.

North and north-east of Melbourne, the landscape is dotted with beautiful valleys and hills - and townships. As of now, twenty-five people are dead and more than a hundred homes destroyed. The death toll is expected to rise as authorities search through ash and ruins.

Tales of remarkable bravery and escape are all over the media, as is the unspeakable tragedy of people in cars over-run by flames.

Even as I watched the events unfold on the news, the cameraman caught sight of a small fire tornado. Witnesses speak of forty metre tall walls of fire, of homes destroyed in minutes and fire fighters saying that no matter how well prepared, the magnitude of the fire couldn't be prepared for.

One news story about the devastated town of Kingslake:

Kinglake, north of Melbourne, has been among the hardest hit in the Victorian bushfire emergency with six people in the township confirmed dead.

Resident Peter Mitchell told ABC Local Radio the town was at the mercy of fires which swept through it after a wind direction change.

Mr Mitchell said there was no-one to fight the fire because fire crews were already fighting other fires across the state.

He was forced to leave his home to shelter at the local fire station.

"The whole of Kinglake is ablaze, I live a couple of [kilometres] out of town, I heard explosions, by the time I got to the road there were fires everywhere," he said.

"[There is] flame everywhere, trees exploding, gas tanks exploding, buildings on fire, it's very, very, very serious.

"I can't quite see down into the main stretch of town, but there's a lot of flame coming up from there, so I presume most of the town is going up.

"It's worst-case, it's like Cockatoo back at Ash Wednesday."

Mr Mitchell said he feared for the safety of other Kinglake residents.

"We'll be fine, there'll be others trapped, poor souls I don't know."

Denise was heading home from her mother-in-law's house just outside Kinglake when she was forced to turn back as fires bore down on the town.

She was spared, but others were not so lucky. "The whole town is gone," she said.

She said her mother-in-law's house was surrounded by flames. "Everything around us is burning.

"Trees are burning, things are blowing up, there are a lot of houses burnt to the ground. A lot of houses ... It's pretty devastating actually."
ABC News

And the headlines go on. I'd like to say I can't imagine what's it like for them in Victoria, but I can. I was in Canberra, 2005, the day a fire took 500 houses in the southern suburbs. My own village lost a dozen houses in 2003. I watched the trunk of a tree in front of our house smoulder with a spot fire before a sibling doused it...

Bushfires are a part of this land, even devastating fires. But the tragedy in Victoria is appalling.

Today, the heat continues in my State of New South Wales and living on the coast is no guarantee of safety. We're as prepared as we can be, though no fires threaten our area - it doesn't stop some asshole from thinking how nice the flames look...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Phew... done.

I shall not speak of the weather; I shall not speak of the heat... except to say tomorrow will be hotter.

I've finally finished the 0th draft of the Nano books - nope, the titles still remain a mystery to me.

So, the 0th draft. The draft read through before you get tough with it and man-up to do the second draft (first draft is writing the thing).

These three books have been marinating for two months and while it's true I still suck at first pages, the more I read the fewer the problems - fountain pens notwithstanding. I've got to find a solution for that, because it's an important part of the story.

The work is still in one piece, 476 single spaced pages of one piece. I now have to separate them and finish writing the third book. I left it at a cliff-hanger, damn it, and I want to know how it ends!

I'm guess that's a good thing. The 0th draft is the draft you read through making minor corrections and notes of where to change what; just like you picked the book up in a book store.

Tomorrow, I'll start finishing the piece and next week, separate and bring in the internal editor. The internal critic? Why, she's still in a box where Sven and Oleg put her and I can't hear her any more.

Friday, February 06, 2009

It's the little things...

As you know, I'm editing my Nano books - all of which are still without titles (what's up with that? I'm usually pretty good with titles).

Yeah, it's taking time but 200+k can't be done overnight.

Anyway... fountain pens. Yes, indeedy-do, fountain pens, the current bane of my existence. Why? Well, I've got a character writing with one. I have him in my mind, in a lantern-lit library (hey! Alliteration!) surrounded by tall bookcases, sitting at a slightly tilted desk, busily making notes on medieval feasts. The scent of old books permeates the room, the creak of the chair as he shifts position. This is early Victorian England.

I even highlighted the year, 1845, as a marker for research. In this year, Congress approved the annexation of Texas, Florida became a State, the Flagstaff Wars in New Zealand were on, Annapolis opens, the British defeat the Sikhs in Punjab. Rubber bands were invented in England, the Great Irish Potato Famine, Scientific American begins publications. All sorts of neat stuff happened, and I had to resist the temptation to find out more. History, thy name is distraction!

But fountain pens? Nope, they don't come into popular use until the 1850s. Oh, they were around, and have been for centuries, but they weren't so... useful. The modernising of ink flow, the application of air pressure, the development of a more appropriate nib, these didn't happen until later.

Now I know - do not use fountain pens; quills, that's the thing. All is not lost though, it's certainly interesting to find these problems and discover the history behind the invention. Such a small thing to have greater consequences.

And one last small question: Why do mosquitoes wait until you are just about to slip over the edge into sleep to dive bomb, whine and generally piss you off?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

No... debate?

I am feeling much better today, except for a simmering outrage. There's a bit of a rant coming up, so be warned.

Last night, our Prime Minister, the esteemed Kevin Rudd, announced a further stimulus package to stave off the impending affects of the so-called 'Global Financial Crisis'.

This is the second of such packages - the first, 10 billion dollars, was handed out just before Christmas. Of this package, one result is in on its effectiveness: a forty percent rise in... gambling. Yep, gambling. Still, the money goes into the economy.

Now, forty-two billion is up for grabs. It's for upgrading schools, roads, trains and infrastructure with cash payments to Joe-public to boost spending. None for hospitals, even though they have been in crisis for years.

My current outrage is sparked by the demand by the Prime Minister that the Bill be passed in two days. No debate, no study of the documents and no inquiry into it's long term consequences.

Eighteen months ago, the economy was in surplus. Billions of dollars in surplus. Now, we'll be in deficit, billions of dollars in deficit.

It took the previous Liberal government eight years to pay off the $AUS96 billion dollar debt the Labour government racked up and another two to create the 'Future Fund' that would ensure spending for superannuation and education. Fifty billion dollars set aside for the future. That's all gone now. Gone because this government has the idea of spending its way out of perceived trouble without studying any data or projections. It's mass hysteria on a global scale.

Has anyone, in any particular country done a study on the effects? Or is it just because the U.S., Britain, Germany and Japan have announced they're in recession that everyone else has to be too?

The GFC makes an excellent excuse for fiscal irresponsibility.

Without expecting debate on this second stimulus package, the Labor Government is making another poor decision. It's hoping that with the flood of money, the people won't look too closely at its lack of transparency. Who doesn't like money thrown at them? All the interviews I've seen say it's a great thing, but what of the future? This deficit will be with us for years and the government has decided it's okay and will deal with it later - kind of like a patronising pat on the head, really.

It's said in this country that when people are tired of 'tightening the belt', they elect a Labor government. But I can think of no Labor government that has spent so much, so fast, so soon after taking power.

It does not bode well for the rest of their term, nor for the people of Australia.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Not so good

Yes, it's been a few days - sorry about that - but I'm still hacking up some gruesome stuff (I don't think I'll go there, it makes me slightly nauseous thinking about it).

The good news is the joint aches have gone, I don't have a sniffle (didn't get one, in fact), but there's still the wicked cough. From my research (the internet can be a dangerous thing), I have a lower respiratory tract infection - in the bronchials.

With lots of fluids and rest, I should be fine in a couple of days. This heat and humidity doesn't help - who wants to dress warmly to keep away the draft at night when all you wanna do is run around nekkid to keep cool? And there's an image I'm sure you didn't need!

Oh, and antibiotics won't help because it ain't that bad. Death's door I tell you... Death's. Door! Yeah, you guessed it: I don't do 'sick' very well. But, jeez, I want to hunt down that mongrel who coughed on me!

More fluids, more paracetamol, and suckin' on lozenges. Should be as right as rain in a coupla days.