Sunday, May 31, 2009

What Inspires You?

The last story is done and posted. Thirty-one. One for each day - a true marathon, second only to November's manic pace.

Some are good, destined to be enlarged into books and some are... not so good; okay, they'll probably never see the light of day again.

The stories are either fantasy or sci-fi, a change from two years ago when some were set in the modern age. I'm guessing it's because I've been reading lately.

Grandmaster writer, Anne McCaffrey, once said a writer's style is based on fiction reading material. A new writer will take elements of their favourite authors and blend them into a new, personal style.

When I was younger, Anne McCaffrey was one of my idols, though I don't think I've ever written a story with dragons in it.

I've got different fav authors now, each one an inspiration and each one with different styles across a number of genres. What they have in common is they inspire me.

I'd read Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Patrick Tilley or Robert Heinlein and I'd have to set pen to paper; it was an imperative, an irresistible lure... like that last square of chocolate. Other writers in different genres had the same effect: Nora Roberts, Tess Gerritsen, Tami Hoag, Maggie Shayne, Dean Koontz.

Today, it's David Weber, S.L. Viehl, Rachel Caine, J.D. Robb and others. I still read all the others, but they all conspire to influence how and what I write. All manage to provoke imagination through creative use of language, of evocative imagery; to raise the question of 'what if' to another level.

Every writer needs to challenge and be challenged. For me, the story-a-day marathon and Nano does that. The May marathon in particular, because before I started my first marathon in 2004, I'd never written a short story, decided I couldn't because my focus was on much larger pieces and to write so much in so few words, I felt was beyond me.

I found I really enjoyed the work. Not just the writing, but the prompts. Some meant thinking outside the box - a significant object is an elevator; your story is set in the desert and is about vampires - or getting around historic fact - a diamond is important; your story is set in ancient times (diamonds were called 'adamas' in antiquity).

More importantly was I found I could write short stories. Some were even pretty good.

Challenge plus inspiration equals success; you don't have to be published for the equation to work, just have an open mind.

What inspires you?

Friday, May 29, 2009

End game

So I have two more stories to write to complete the Forward Motion marathon.

Now comes the hard part: what to write.

After nearly a month of generator-produced prompts, the two left have me in a dilemma. Like what genre I want to write in? How long? Character profiles and so on.

This is the part of the marathon I dislike the most. I'm always tempted to carry on, although I put off a number of things in real life I need to get back to.

Still, thirty-one new stories isn't anything to sneeze at (sorry if you have the 'flu, swine or otherwise).

As luck would have it, this weekend - like today - the forecast is for wet, windy and cold conditions; just the kind of days that beg to be huddled up in front of the computer and bashing away at the keyboard.

I'm going to think of something interesting to write about, something new... come on imagination, show me whatcha got!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Okay, so me and the desktop computer have reached an agreement: if I plug the keyboard into the right USB Port, it will work for me.

Quite simple really...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Late to the party

I'm no Luddite, but it's finally dawned on me to upgrade. But not in any major way.

So, I spent the morning trying to track down the scent of melting plastic that's been hanging around the desktop computer.

I duly unplugged everything and checked all the leads - did some dusting, too - and rearranged plugs and cables, all to no avail. I could not find the problem.

Defeated, I put everything back and fired up the computer to see if it was just the dust (you know how dust bunnies are: feral, belligerent, ferocious). Everything worked perfectly... until I tried to log into my main e-mail account.

Uh-oh. No keyboard. Yer... what?? Nothing I did would connect the damn thing - it kept asking me for the software. Now, I keep all my software CDs filed, but do you think I could find the blessed thing? No. Not. HAPPY!! At all.

I shut everything down and went away to think about it. Have coffee, will brainstorm.

The solution was simple: "Use the laptop, my young Padwan, yooose the laptop!"

So I've connected the laptop to the broadband and I'm somewhat mollified. Of course, most people I know have rid themselves of the bulky tower unit and separate monitor; not me, I like the beast, but I fear it's time is at an end.

Sure, I'll find the keyboard software, but is it worth it? The system is slowing - my guess, because I can no longer get the automatic upgrades I need - installing new hardware, like a motherboard, extra ram, memory, etc, will be expensive since it's been, oh, four years since the last upgrade, and I have a perfectly good laptop that's less than eighteen months old.

I'll be saving space, too, and power connections, and I have mobility with the smaller unit.

This means I'm catching up with the modern trend of the laptop and printer only on a desk. All I need do now is remove the files, and bookmarks, I need from the desktop unit and move them.


Oh, and the burned plastic smell? I'll be damned if I can find it!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Quintessential Aussie

Marina over at Pecked by Ducks expressed puzzlement over what 'uniquely Australian' might mean.

I think I have part of the answer.

In today's edition of The Sydney Morning Herald is a story entitled: Wedgies and petty theft tie up consular staff.

To quote Tim Elliott's story:

Touching up a Singapore Airlines flight attendant, giving drinkers 'wedgies' at Oktoberfest and pilfering bar mats from Phuket bars. Australians love to travel and are, it seems, finding ever more unorthodox ways of extending time overseas - even if it means bunking down in the lock up.

"Australians go everywhere, and everywhere they go they get into trouble," a senior official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says. "It makes you proud."

It's the last comment that made me smile. It's the type of innocent, carefree roguishness, otherwise known as larrikinism, that identifies an Aussie abroad. Such behaviour is rarely malicious, more filled with mischief in the pursuit of a good time. We are, after all, the children of a penal colony, like Americans are the children of Puritans. That essential beginning colours our upbringing in a societal way.

Not that everyone has ambitions of petty larceny here or that all Americans are prudes. No, it's the ideology that sinks in through osmosis. (Okay, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.)

But it's difficult to translate that type of persona onto the written page; that positively identifies a character as being Australian unless a writer states as much.

For example, a southern drawl anywhere else means Texas or Louisiana, a southern state. Here, it's Victorian or Tasmanian - and we do have subtle variations on our accents - though you have to listen carefully.

I've read a number of books with Australian characters, though not Sandra McDonald, and I've been vaguely disappointed in the characterisation and speech patterns. But to write about a true Australian character, and there are many, would render the piece nearly indecipherable to overseas markets.

It's not just words like car boot (trunk), torch (flashlight), garbage bin (trash can), flats (apartments), chemist (pharmacy) and other words, it's the phrases as well, the comparative lexicon: dry as a burnt chip, up and down like a bride's nightie (or fiddler's elbow, if you want to be polite), flat out like a lizard drinking, the frog and toad, a dog's eye and sauce, a dangler or a jiggler.

Not the old cultural cringe, either, but an evolution of language. An Australian is laconic, a master of the understatement and the bleedin' obvious.

No wonder I love this country, for all it's idiosyncrasies and the harmless, innocently funny behaviour of its' people.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I shift my work between a desktop PC and the laptop. One is attached to broadband, and the other to dial-up.

Lately, though, every time I turn the PC on, there's a faint whiff of hot plastic, as if something is about to have a meltdown. I don't think that's a good thing, is it?

I haven't had the opportunity to get under the desk to see if it's cord or connection or something else entirely, so I've been using the laptop and the dial-up. Not so bad, but I like the comfort of my desk and chair, of being able to lean back and contemplate what I've written.

The lap top is on a table, not surrounded by my reference texts and the chair is just plain uncomfortable - not conducive to writing.

Still, until I find the source of the smell, I can't do much else, though I know I could use the laptop down there.

I have another distraction, too, whose name is S.L. Viehl.

I thought to sit down and read, but... no new books (I'm economising, don't you know), so I looked in my bookcase. Ah, Blade Dancer and the kick-butt, don't-mess-with-me Jory.

So, of course, I want more! I'll have to settle (snicker, snicker) for the StarDoc series and try to concentrate on the rest of the marathon, work and real life, while waiting for Crystal Healer to come out in August.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Store

I was interested to see Scribd now offers the opportunity to buy uploaded books.

According to the press release, posted on Marketwire, Scribd is offering authors 80 percent of revenue. A nice little earner. For example, Douglas Clegg's Afterlife, sells for $3.50, has been read by 31,000 people. That's $108,000 in sales and $86,000 for Mr Clegg (note: I don't know how long the book has been for sale at the store, so in truth, it may not have earned anything. I'm just working on the figures available, but you get the idea). Like I said, a nice little earner.

Scribd is the largest social publishing arena in the world, so it has a lot of clout. Immediacy and economy being the biggest two. An author doesn't have to wait months or a year for their work to appear on the shelves, readers don't have to wait and both enjoy the economic benefits: An author, because they will get a larger slice of the pie, and the reader because they don't have to fork out big bucks in an industry where the publisher sets the price to cover their own costs first.

It's environmentally friendly, too. No more tonnes of returned books for paper bleaching and recycling.

But... there's another side to the issue: the quality of the available works, for one. Anyone can upload documents - I do - and the editorial quality on a lot of works is dubious at best, shockingly ill-educated at worst (grammar and spelling seem to be a burden few wish to carry any more).

Then there's the periphery of the industry: the booksellers, artists, editors, copy-editors, agents, deliverymen. And book tours... think about how that wouldn't work.

As with book stores, how much you earn depends on how many people buy your work, but the potential is both spectacular for authors to take back their earning rights and disastrous for the standard publishing industry.

Is this the way of the future and what are book publishers going to do about it? What can they do?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Real busy

Tough day with some emergency baby-sitting. Four kids, under the age of ten, all excited to be together.

Still, I managed to get some writing done. Let's hear it for DVDs!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I've spent some time this week shaking my head.

The budget came out and was a non-event. Nothing great and nothing too bad, but then, the Government has consistently followed that idiot in White House - except we don't have sub-prime mortgages and the effect of the so-called Global Financial Crisis hit the expected industries, like commodities and tourism.

But... that wasn't good enough for K-Rudd. He and treasurer Wayne had to talk down the economy, creating an environment where companies let staff go, closed down temporarily and cut production in an attempt to save themselves. All so unnecessary.

And the Government has done nothing for the newly unemployed, thus an increase in mortgage defaults, regardless of the fact that the property market has barely rippled.

But I didn't realise how closely the top bodgies followed the big 'B', until Wayne stepped up to the plate and mentioned, "shovel-ready projects". Hmmm... seems I've heard this term before. Oh, wait, Barack Obama used the phrase.

Oh, and the $57 billion dollar deficit we have to have? Well, 49 billion of that was spent on handouts to less than fifty percent of the population before Christmas and in April. That money could have rescued the ailing health system.

* * *

On another point, I was standing at the local Chinese takeaway for lunch today, and I had to wonder whether anywhere else in the world would have this:

Everything is labelled - spring rolls, peking chicken, honey prawns, etc, in nice large letters and yet... a man walked up pointed to the pale, round objects labelled Dim Sims and said: "I'll have a couple of those meatballs."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's Up?

Yes, I know, I've been slack in posting.

But I'm finally up to date with the marathon. Two short stories today and nothing... untoward happened. You know... life sometimes gets in the way of creativity. I've also been doing some editing and, as you can imagine, it takes time. And focus, since it's not my own work... though that doesn't sound right does it? No, I don't think so, but you know what I mean.

I don't suppose the pressure will ease until the first of June - something will interrupt my schedule, so I'm thinking of writing a few extras, just in case.

For me, the object of the exercise is to have a store of stories. I'll pick the eyes out of the bunch, edit, revise and send off. Those that don't make it, or are rejected, are the ones that turn up on my Takeaway. Of course, there are those that will nevvuh see the light of day again.

But that's the way it is: for every five or ten stories you write, maybe, maybe one will be interesting enough, written well enough to find a market. At least, that's my experience.

And it's practice, if nothing else, on how to be concise in getting the ideas across.

So, what's up with your writing?

Thursday, May 07, 2009


I'm one story behind already.

Yesterday was sucky, where nothing I planned worked out. So. I'll have to write two on the weekend; no way am I doing it tomorrow, I gotta werk.

But you know, I'm writing these stories, six in all, and there of different people, in different time frames, about different things, and I can't help but feel they're all connected.

Oh, okay, sure, the connection is me, because I wrote them. But I don't mean that. They feel connected. So I'm wondering if the last story I write does, indeed blend them all together. One massive more-than-a-short-story-less-of-a-novella piece.

Or it could be I thought of connecting them all before I wrote the first and the idea won't die. I tossed the idea, originally, because I didn't want to write a whole bunch of vignettes.

Anyway, today was a Necromancer, in the Arctic, and about the effects of alien contact. Tomorrow? Well... there's the peasant with uncanny abilities in a land where magic is forbidden and it's about surrender. Or... there's the bodyguard in the jail in ancient times and it's about acceptance; a word is important. Or how about the female brewer in a machine in the future, where a pot plant is important and the story is about illusion?

I'll have to think on them, try and come up with a nifty twist. One thing I can say about story generators: they sure come up with some strange ideas...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Name game

Story number four is done and I'm checking out the generator for tomorrow's piece.

One thing though: It's great to have the protagonist - gender and occupation - a time frame, place and an important item chosen for you, but names... that's where the problems lie.

I mean, think about it: thirty-one stories, three characters minimum (protag, sidekick and villain). That's ninety-three first names, 186 if you give them a surname. And the number grows the more characters you toss in.

But... I no complain. There are some wonderful sites out there in cyber space just waiting for me to use. 20,000 Names has names from around the world, so if you want something a little unusual, try one from a different nation and corrupt it.

Baby Names will give you the most popular names, celebrity names or there's the 'cool name lists'. You could choose a name from, say Shakespeare, a spooky name, biblical names, and so on.

The National Hurricane Centre has some nifty names too; storm names nominated by various countries.

Want to know about names? Their meanings and or origins, ancient or modern? Behind the Name can tell you; and there are buckets of names.

Of course, the Seventh Sanctum doesn't just deal with story prompt, it has name generators, too; a whole list of name generators.

So there you go: more names than you can shake a whippy stick at! All you have to do is match an exotic, or not so exotic, name to your character.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Slow start

It took me all day to write two thousand words.

I'd write a sentence or two, then get up and do something else. Not because I was distracted by bringing the laundry in, or making coffee, or lunch, or watching the teev or getting the papers, but because I couldn't think of what came next.

It all came together in the end, but it sure as hell took a significant amount of time! Much to my frustration. The generators are throwing up some real twisted prompts that require some deep thought to... defeat without violating the intent. Of course, it's the twist at the end that's causing the most difficulty.

Still, it's not all bad news, it's early in the story-a-day marathon, and I'm confident things will improve, be it in style or in creativity. Because that's what I like about the marathon, it gets the creative juices flowing.

I may be out of practice - given I missed last year - but practice will improve my skills, so take note young Padwans! Practice your craft, you must, if your destiny you will find.

Tomorrow will be better. If I chose something tonight, I can think on it overnight; that's the plan anyway...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Well, that sucks

Ech... sometimes it doesn't pay to get out of bed.

First up, I slept in. And while snoozing away, unwilling to leave my nice warm nest, the dog got up and promptly fell down the stairs. Her eyesight isn't so good and she took a mis-step right at the top. So I leapt out of bed to make sure she was okay. She was. Embarrassed, but okay.

Next up, the computer and lo, I discovered the broadband had been on all night; no telling what evil little bugs got in. Then there was the urgent download from Microsoft... that turned out not to be so urgent after all.

Then there was the laundry to do and the accidental blocking of the outflow pipe... sigh. Time for the clean up.

Since that took time, I managed to be late to work. Worse, a colleague of mine died yesterday quite suddenly and so I created a special edition of the newsletter I produce. Then there were the copies that took me way beyond the end of the day. I didn't mind. Daphne was special. To the Museum and to the staff.

But... on arriving home, I found the evening repast way behind schedule, since my aged parent wasn't listening when I gave instructions.

Now it's late - not time-wise - but in starting the Forward Motion Story-A-Day Marathon. So here I sit, writing this and plotting a short story. I like to think I can finish a sucky day with something positive, but don't count on it...