Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Well, wonderful.

That hiccuping I mentioned yesterday? Video card. Phizzziittt. I also suspect it was the source of the vague scent of burning. sigh One of the things I didn't upgrade the last time.

All I can say is that it's had a long, fruitful and useful life; it should have enjoyed retirement somewhere, but no - I had to work it to death.

I'll take it to the shop next week. So much for the end of the month deadline I set for myself.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sick? Nah, just old

Ah, yes. The cool sun moves slowly across a painfully blue sky, a light breeze brings the scent of wood smoke from chimneys, the sound of busy birds going about their daily business, the hush of waves on the shore and the spasmodic hiccups of the computer...

Just another glorious day on the coast.

Back up a minute, the what-ups of the... uh,oh; this can't be good.

This desktop unit is five years old. Yep, and some parts are even older. I'm guessing the Microsoft updates aren't compatible any longer and the computer is struggling to keep up or match what's happening out there in techno-land.

But what do you do with hardware that still works as it is, even though it's nearly an antique compared to what's on the market these days? I'm not a fan of replacing something just because it's old.

We had, until a couple of years ago, a waffle-maker bought in Germany when my Dad was based in England. It was thirty-plus years old before it turned up its toes and failed. The Kenwood mixer - bought at the same time - is still in use and shows no sign of stopping.

It's a sad comment that, in today's society, products don't last as long, nor does the technology when something newer and shinier comes along. How many people actually understand, let alone use, everything their mobile phone, pda, DVDR, cable set-top box does?

I recall being part of a test group used by my former government department, to decide which software package was the best for the staff: the new WordPerfect or current Microsoft Word? As a desktop publisher and journo, I duly put both through their paces and followed up with questions to staff.

The result? Seventy-five percent of people would use less than 25% of WordPerfect's capabilities and Microsoft came in at about 50-50. My results mattered not a jot. WordPerfect was the one they chose because it was newer and had a more attractive interface.

Then the IT complaints came in about staff not using WordPerfect to its full potential and how... different... it was to use. The Department then had to spend lotsa money training staff.

If they'd stuck with Microsoft Word and just updated it, money and time would have been saved.

But back to the computer. It's old and not getting any younger. I also have a laptop. It's loaded with Vista which sucks, so I sometimes avoid it.

The bottom line is I love my desktop unit, XP platform and all. I'm comfortable with it, physical size and all. I don't want anything else when I sit down to work. It isn't broke so there's no need to fix it. (Out and about, fine, I'll take the laptop - at home, I want to sit at my desk.)

Yet, I'll have to upgrade to a faster, shinier, newer unit. Again. A week without its comforting idiosyncrasies; it's humming and occasional beep, it's red flashing light and skip when I play cds.

With all the hiccups and pauses and odd noises, I don't think it's Swine Flu, nor a bad case of dementia; chances are, the next thing I see is The Blue Screen of DEATH. That's what happened last time and I lost a complete manuscript in the change-over.

Upgrade it is. Sigh. Maybe a new system will write what I mean, not what I've keyed in... something to think about, techno-geeks.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cakes Ahoy!

Gah... I think I'm all caked out. I know, I know. Is there such a thing as having too much cake?

Well, after two days of it - for morning and afternoon tea - yeah, I think so.

The overseas clan returned from Sydney to camp out here until Thursday when they fly back to Denmark. Over the weekend, S. and the boys came down and there was more cake: honey roll, honey-cream-and-custard cake, blueberry, apple and walnut. More sugar and calorie soaked fare than you can shake a whippy stick at.

And I will confess right now, right here, that I loved every sticky, sugar and cream rich piece. As a failure to reign in the rampant polite-company-must-have-snacks-accessible-at-all-times part of my upbringing, I have now made three banana cakes. Fortunately, they can be frozen, but I doubt any will make it into the freezer.

Sigh and not a chocolate confection in sight.

Still, Tuesday is my Godson/nephew's birthday. Does he want a chocolate cake? No. He's gotta have a big, fat-screaming, cholesterol-creamy, hip-wideningly luscious, roll-me-in-the-mud-and-call-me-a-pig, blueberry cheesecake.

Then there's this 'sharing' business. What's up with that?

Ah, well. I guess I'll have to man up and help him out in the eating, be more responsible in my eating habits... next week. I may even get some editing or writing done, but I don't count on it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More shinies

The Del-Rey Internet newsletter dropped in my e-mail this morning, so now I know what new releases are coming up.

But those books aren't what caught my eye. The free books did. The newsletter has a link to the suvudu free library. It's a year old and I'm wondering how I missed it.

Here's the blurb:

We know it can be hard to navigate the countless fantasy and science fiction series out there and figure out which ones are right for you. Well, we're here to make those tough decisions a bit easier on you. With the Suvudu Free Book Library, you can read the first book in some of our most acclaimed series absolutely free! We're kicking off the library with five full-length novels for you to sample, but we'll be adding new titles on a regular basis, so be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you're the first to find out what our newest free offerings are!

You can read Karen Marie Moning's Darkfever, Steven Baxter's Manifold: Time, Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom for sale: sold, Michael Moorcock's Elric: The Stealer of Souls, Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon, Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars... among others.

The best thing is that you can download for Kindle, Sony Reader and from Scribd.

I, for one, will be downloading a number of the free titles to have a look; others are on my bookshelf already.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Suck it up, Princess

Nearly half way and I see a couple of re-writes coming up.


Still, that's what getting a stranger to do the edits is all about: no family to say it's wunnerful, just point-blank changes and suggestions - all for the betterment of the work. It's still tough seeing all the red ink, but the phrase 'hoist on your own petard' springs to mind.

I've had the 'oh, to hell with it, what do they know' moments, when I'm trying to find an alternative that works, a different word or approach. It was so much easier writing it than going through edits. This is definitely a 'suck it up, Princess' moment. Fortunately, I'm over rejecting edits because my way is better. Jeez, I was arrogant when I started this gig. I remember all too clearly. Nice to know I've moved on and the suggestions have a lot of merit.

I won't be doing a total re-write, just a scene here and there. I can see the end result will be much better than it is now.

At least the middle doesn't sag... and the ambition to post it to Scribd by the end of the month is still viable.

Back to it... I suppose... in for a penny, in for a pound as the pithy aphorism goes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The hard climb

Slogging through the edits and I do mean slog.

The important thing is to trust whomever is editing your work to make the words flow better, to make the storyline blend without the lumps, for all the red ink and comments neatly inserted.

I'm tempted to stop transferring edits from one manuscript to the other and do them on the computer - take a short cut - but I have to wait until it's all done. On a computer screen, it's easy to miss stuff; on a page, not so much if you're paying attention.

This is the nitty gritty; the line-by-line, scene-by-scene, chapter-by-chapter look at the work. I've made copious notes, inserted markers for re-writes, tagged plot deletions or adjustments, corrected grammar and spelling, considered suggestions and comments.

It's like climbing a mountain. The first challenge is to plan you're trip (or, in case of an organic writer, stare at the peak and wonder if you can do it). The next challenge is to climb to the pre-planned point or the writing of the thing. For organics, it's looking for a place to rest. You can insert a 'yippee' here for having the courage to finish the book; not everyone with the ambition does.

Then, the slope gets steeper, slippery, cracks and crevasses appear as you navigate towards the next goal: the editing ledge. It's at this point a lot of writers slid back to the beginning and start a new climb, a new book, because that editing ledge just seems a little bit too far, too hard and you finished the damn book, isn't that enough?

Not if you want people to read and enjoy. So... onwards and upwards, following an interesting track or a planned route, with scrapes and bruises and frustration and the voice of temptation suggesting you give up getting louder; but finally you get to the ledge. By golly, look how far you've come! Why, I can see my house from here!

You can sit and rest a spell, let the work breathe and regain its composure from the intensive battering its taken, not just from you but someone else's pummelling as well. The next ledge is further up the steeper side of the mountain. Craggy peaks occasionally hidden by the cloud of the unknown. Dangers lurk up there: unscrupulous agents for one, editors demanding payment first, for another. But from here, you can actually see - if you squint and lean out a little... a little further... there - the golden ring held aloft by a publishing house.

Between you and that ring lie traps and pitfalls, people who don't want you to succeed. Time to close your ears and put on the oxygen mask, because this is going to be hard. With each laboured step, each rejection slip, the goal is closer. Some will fall, accept the criticism that it's just not good enough or it really is too hard. Others will turn willingly and return to the bottom for more equipment and a better understanding. Others will not come back to this mountain, it's too frightening, too competitive. And the few who persevered and refused to accept the rejections will ascend to clasp that golden ring, to be congratulated, cheered and applauded.

And then, the publisher will push you off the mountain, yelling it's time for another book and to stop slacking off.

Of course, you know the route now, the pitfalls, the nasty voices. You've got the equipment, the experience and friends to help. It should be easier now.

And once you've tumbled all the way to bottom to begin you're climb again, you happen to glance over at the chalet. You know the one. It's got a balcony overlooking the valley of readers. People sit around tables, drinking lattes or hot chocolates and nibbling on pretzels, laughing and chatting; not once do they look at the mountain.

The longing to join them surges. Hell, they look comfortable, relaxed and a little bit more affluent than those climbing the mountain. Not many bruises over there, barely a scratch and not a sombre, defeated expression amongst them.

The sign above the chalet says it all: The Scribd Inn. Free entry. The construction going on out the side, all new and shiney, has another sign in big, bold letters: Opening soon, the Scribd Restaurant: you charge, we pay.

And as you look further along the valley, more chalets are going up around those already established.

So, here's the question: do you keep climbing the mountain, doing it the hard way, the traditional way, or do you slip into something warmer, easier and perhaps friendlier?

Thursday, July 16, 2009


So the current WIP is covered in red ink and blue Post-Its with the occasional yellow thrown in for variation.

The writing was easy, all it took was focus for ten hours a day and thirty days; yep, it's a Nano. The problem with Nano and that focus is that things changed within the story and you simply don't have time to return to fix it.

That's why so-called 'pantsters' (I prefer 'organic') writers spend so much time editing - to correct those... discrepancies. As the month wears on, characters change their eye colour, or motivations change or the conflict isn't strong enough. Even as strong as my concentration is when writing - to the point of putting milk in the cupboard and teabags in the 'fridge because I'm off planet in another world - it's still not good enough to avoid the pitfalls of changing thought.

With 'plotters' this isn't a problem because it's all there, laid out like a roast ready for carving (or a salad bar if you're a vegetarian). You cut the selected pieces and consume. Anything you don't like or doesn't fit, is set aside - maybe for stock later. Organic writers grab what's in the cupboard and toss it together; if done right, fabulous, if not then out come the herbs and spices with taste tests.

(Hmm... I missed lunch; maybe that's why the food analogy.)

Anyway. The result is nearly the same. I consider organic writing as 'fusion food', a mixture of this and that blended together for a complete meal. Plotted writing is the set menu, every course carefully balancing the whole meal. Each method provides satisfaction for the reader (or diner).

There's no right or wrong way no matter what anyone else says. It's up to each writer to chose their way. Do one or the other, or a mix of the two. Have a set entree, followed by a goulash and finished off with cake (mmm... ca-ake...). It matters not, only that you're comfortable with your choice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Say goodbye...

...to the Australian publishing industry.

The Productivity Commission, a body set up to "help governments make better policies in the long term interest of the Australian community" handed down it's recommendations into the Restriction of Parallel Importation of Books yesterday.

Australian publishers are currently given 30 days to publish a local version of any book published in the world. Bookshops must then sell the Australian version and cannot import a cheaper alternative.

Without this limit, local publishers will have to fight harder for market share - and will fail. And in failing, new authors will find it more difficult, if not impossible, to find a publisher here.

It means an influx of poorer quality books at yes, reduced prices local publishers cannot hope to match. Worse, Australia will become a dumping ground for 'remainders' and any non-profitable book from overseas.

The most contentious issues is that Parallel Import Restrictions (PIR) leads to higher prices for the consumer. Maree McCaskill, chief executive officer of the Australian Publishers Association, said New Zealand was the only other big market to do away with restrictions on book publishing, but there was little evidence that it had led to lower prices.

One underlying factor is that books here attract Goods and Services Tax, while ordering books online does not. But I saw no discussion of exempting books from that tax. Another factor is the exchange rate, but there's little anyone can do about that.

And who initiated this pile of excrement? Why, the Coalition for Cheaper Books headed by one of the largest book retailers in the country, Dymocks and the two major supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles.

The industry has three years before the recommendations take effect; that is, if the Government goes head and adopts those recommendations. It's now up to Prime Minister Rudd to save a vibrant, culturally significant industry, or see job losses, exports reduced and new Australian writers go elsewhere for publishing.

Or is the Labor Government comfortable snuggling up to Big Business at the expense of the small?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LB & LI up and running

Big weekend - too much fun, I think, because I am knackered.

Anyway, it's time for S. L. Viehl's Left Behind & Loving It workshops; for those who aren't going to the Romance Writer's of America convention.

Plenty of workshops to learn stuff - not only from Sheila, but those linking to the site as well - on how, what, when, where, who and why of writing and the publishing fields.

Go, comment; you might even win something.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Been a busy week, with family descending for the maternal influencer's 80th birthday celebrations this weekend and a faithful, senior hound demonstrating how easy it is to worry a human companion with fussy eating.

Oh, and trying to fit in watching Torchwood: Children of Earth. Tonight, of course, is the final of this five episode show, and I shall be dining out - damn it. Good thing it's repeated tomorrow.

So, I'm hoping normal scheduling will return by mid-week.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Not a velociraptor, but...

I think there's a reason why humans waited before descended from the trees; nasty carnivorous dinosaurs for one. Pictured is 'Banjo'. Australoventar (though I doubt it showed much love to anything other than a mate) is six metres long and two metres at the hip with clawed hands. All the better for rending flesh...

Banjo was found with two titanosaurs sauropods - Clancy and Matilda - in an ancient billabong in outback Queensland, near Winton. The names come from renowned Australian author, Banjo Patterson, who is rumoured to have written Waltzing Matilda in Winton. Clancy and Matilda are the first, giant, long-necked dinosaurs to be discovered in Australia and all three are the first found new dinosaurs since the Muttaburrasaurus way back in 1963.

The new species, Australoventar, Wintonotitan and Dimatinasaurus will go on display at the new Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History in Winton.

Australovenator is Australia's first big predator and Banjo was found with Matilda. Did Banjo try to take down Matilda? Or did the mud drag them both to their doom?

To give you a comparison in size, Deinonychus, the largest known of the velociraptor family was 3.4 metres in length and less than a metre in height. I think Banjo would have had Dienonychus for lunch, then used the sickle-claw as a tooth pick.

According to palaentologist Dr Scott Hocknull, "There are at least 50 other sites we know that are yet to be excavated so the next 20 to 30 years in Australian dinosaur science will be very exciting."

Yep. Given Australia's list of strange animals (platypus, echidna, wombat, emu, kangaroo...) I'm guessing we're about to add to it - well, our unique species had to evolve from something...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dashibles and other words

Ya know? If this wind gets any stronger, my undies are going to end up in New Zealand by sundown! Well... I'm jus' sayin'. Having your dashibles flying around horizontal on a washing line is no easy sight.

Dashibles? Ah, I feel a story coming on. The word comes from my maternal grandmother who had a friend that constantly seemed to be in a state of deshabille, a French word for - according to my Oxford Dictionary - "being only partly or not carefully dressed". My grandmother commented that her friend was always running around in her dashibles.

I've heard others, including fire distinguishers (are they people who can tell you what type of fire?), the telling of funny antedotes (I'm guessing it's a story with a cure), people who are bespeckled (no doubt because everyone who wears spectacles - bespectacled - also have spots), emeritious (pron. emerishus) professors (learned online fellows from Mauritius, perhaps?)

And none of these are misheard, but repeated. Unfortunately one is trying to become a writer. No names, but if I got a hold of the manuscript, I'd be having a few words with the alleged writer and making copious notes. Especially about posting an excerpt with such a glaring - if humorous - malapropism to a website.

If a writer is unsure of a word, well, there's the dictionary. Use it and check. Or if you intend to post it somewhere online, get someone to look the work over. There is nothing worse than a serious excerpt being laughed at because you've used the wrong word.

And yes, I've done it myself, but never (at least, I don't think I have) posted it. In one of my works, I had a character hit someone with a clenched fish. Any fish out of water would be tense, but a clenched fist is more effective against a villain.

It is easy to do, which is why editing your work is so important. Deliberately creating a character that expresses themselves using malapropisms is fine; accidentally is not.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hump day

Wednesday and I'm working on edits; mine. I figure to be finished in the next week or two - depending on the time available. (Parental unit's 80th birthday bash coming up, so I'll be partying.)

It's been windy today, a perfect day for the washing. Trouble is, the sheets kept wrapping themselves around the wires of Hill's Hoist. I went out to fix them and what do I see? A juvenile Kookaburra sitting on one corner, barely a metre away. And what was it doing? Why, enjoying the ride! The wind blew the line around in a circle, and there's the bird, head into the wind having a hell of a time.

Shame I didn't have time to get the camera, but there you go.

I also finished Nora Roberts' Black Hills. Not a bad read. Lil Chance is a more modern and sensible woman, but Cooper Sullivan still has a stereotypical "I am de man and I make de decisions and you don't need to know why" arrogance which annoys the hell out of me.

I think the lesson is learned from Face the Fire where Mia forgives Sam wa-ay too easily and too quickly for leaving her years ago. I read the criticisms and they were mine over that, so Nora has changed the consequences in this book.

And finally, what's up with politicians accusing oppositions of "playing politics"? Not just here, but in the U.K. and the U.S.; they're politicians, it's what they do!