Monday, September 28, 2009

No good deed...

So this month I've been collecting for the Heart Foundation. Here, in the country, streets are long and houses widely spaced, but I figured I'd get some good exercise.

Of course, it's been a struggle over the last couple of weeks to actually get out there. Saturday was the last weekend of collections, so out I went, into the dusty, cold wind... and came back wind-burned, eyes red from rubbing the grit away, but heavier in the pocket.

Rather smug, I figured Sunday would be just as lucrative, except on waking I had a stinging face and rather swollen left eye from the dust and the rubbing...

Sunday was thus spent doin' nuthin' but watching teev.

I've done my bit for the charity and now I will bank the proceeds, send the information and call it done since I doubt the eye will go down soon, nor will the wind abate for a couple of days.

Besides, I got work to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Craft

Given Nano is just over a month away, I was thinking about writing. Writers always think about writing whether they know it or not: scenes flicker through the mind, characters come along and snuggle down in a corner to mature, dialogue pops up from conversations overheard... It's there.

So I thought, do engineers constantly think of... engineering things? Do accountants think of numbers, physicists of formulae, geologists of rocks, sport professionals of sport? Do people always think of aspects of their chosen careers?

I think it's what directs us in life, to what we genuinely want to grow up to be.

Writers are a curious breed, we not only need to understand the language in which we write, but also the subject matter; imagination isn't enough. We have to acquire a working knowledge of the subject, how a bridge is constructed so we can collapse it, how accountancy works so we can defraud, how to break the laws of physics, whether granite is more dense than concrete to gauge shrapnel, the rules or physical requirements of baseball, football or curling so we can introduce a player who isn't atypical.

A writer doesn't need multiple degrees to work in the craft, but they do need to know how to research the subject; basically they need to lie well enough that the reader will believe.

Without this skill, Harry Potter would have been just another children's book, Bella and Edward, just another angst-ridden teenaged couple, Robert Langdon would be an ordinary symbol interpreter. I should note I've only read Harry Potter, but the popularity surrounding all the books is staggering, thus demonstrating just how effective research, imagination and technique can be.

Nano is an opportunity for first time writers and experienced hacks like me. An idea is nothing until it is given a forum - and Nano is the perfect arena for those ideas to be given life.

Consider the goal - 50,000 words. Consider the time frame - one month. And before you defeat yourself by wondering if you can do it, consider the prize - a book, or a large chunk of one.

Imagination is now, for Nano; the research and techniques can wait for December, or January when the smug has worn thin... or maybe that's just me?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pressure

I'm feeling a little pressured at the moment.

I have a book to post on Wednesday and I still have to go through the final, final edits; I also volunteered my time this month for some donation collecting and, as you know, it's been a tough month. Tomorrow is AFL grand final day, Tuesday family is visiting and Crystal Healer turned up in the mail box. I am tempted to ignore everything, curl up in a comfortable corner of the couch and just read.

Ain't gonna happen, so I've prioritised. (Is this the first step in my decline into organising?)

Tomorrow, I'll ramble up and down the streets, charming people out of their money. Then I watch the grand final. Sunday and Monday, with Tuesday morning set aside as spare time, I'll do the book, re-do the cover and post. Then I get to do the edits on the last book of the trilogy - probably... hmmm, at work on Friday, so next weekend.

I think I'll get to reading for pleasure oh, about December?

Of course, everything is subject to change...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Red Dawn

Photo: Kate Geraghty

Yep, Sydney this morning. The news is also reporting Melbourne was shaken by a couple of earthquakes and Hobart is being dumped upon from a great height with buckets of rain. Oh, and we've already had a bushfire in our local area.

Weird weather? Pissy Mother Nature? Climate change?.

Well... there's this story on the shrinking of the ozone hole over Antarctica where a reduction in the use of household chemicals is credited with a narrowing of the hole.

It's been raining red mud here and there's a fine layer of dust on everything. It's unusual, but the same thing happened a couple of years ago - with similar squeally 'It looks like Armageddon!' 'birds are falling out of the sky!' and 'my cat's gone missing!' comments from sophisticated city folk.

The dust, of course, comes from the Outback. With low rainfall this winter, the spring winds pick up the dust and blow it towards the coast. Wind is the harbinger of spring - happens every year. With an impending El Nino event predicted, the atmosphere is dry. But when the wind turns in a 180, the fog will roll in because the water temperature is cooler than the air temperature and mist develops.

Earthquakes? On Saturday, The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story warning Australians to Be Prepared for Volcanoes. Could be Victoria is about to erupt.

Excessive rain in Tasmania? No, it copes a lot rain most years.

Bushfires. El Nino is drying everything out, the weather is warming sooner.

Climate change, then. I have issue with the man-made climate change proponents. The Earth's weather moves in cycles larger and for longer than we've been around with our technology. Can a scientist tell me the hole in the ozone layer has never happened before? That the Earth hasn't been warmer than it is now followed by much colder weather? I could go on... but I won't.

The point is (yes, there is one) that weather and climate (and they are different) constantly changes. We only notice when we're jerked out of our nice, comfortable assumptions.

World building works in a similar fashion. When you've built your world - environment, civilisations, religions, political structures, military, etc. - the arrival of a comet, unusual weather, can cause all manner of upheaval: think religious portent, prophecy; a strong military that suddenly finds itself helpless; an all-powerful civilian government in panic mode; the public focusing on a man in the street holding a sign that reads 'the end is nigh' and realising it's true.

How would an impending natural catastrophe affect your world? It takes a lot of work to create a new world, a new civilisation, but so little effort to destroy it and the consequences can make for an intriguing book.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bad Days

Suffice to say it's been a brutal few days.

All I will say is that Saxon was sick, she died in my arms and I'm still really upset. I'll be picking up her ashes on Thursday and then attending the funeral of a family friend's father. As I said, a brutal few days.

I now understand the idea of working, of concentrating on other things, to take your mind off tragedy.

I'm waiting for the third disaster, but I really hope it doesn't happen.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Preparing

I'm actually off looking after my ailing dog, and I'm working on edits to post a book on Scribd by the end of the month. Not sure how long either will take...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Font speak

Every now and then, I come across a column in the newspaper that just tickles me.

Richard Glover, in the weekend edition of The Sydney Morning Herald, had a column that made me smile - and wonder.

Entitled, Funny Fonts Key to the Futura it begins thus:

I'VE decided to change the font in which I speak. I've spent a lifetime conversing in Arial 14-point but I'm finding it a bit meek and self-effacing as an everyday speaking font... I've now chosen Baskerville Old Face 16 as my new font for daily discourse, lapsing into Goudy Stout 32-point when drunk.

...

Drinking certainly affects your speaking font. My father used to prattle on in a Times New Roman monotone, usually in about 12-point, until he'd had a few gin and tonics, after which he'd revert to Lancastrian Redfaced Bold in a hearty 96-point bellow. It was as if he needed the extra size to speak over the roar of machinery in the English coal mine to which we'd all suddenly been transported.

Among drinkers, this is common. The font becomes increasingly italicised as the night goes on, tending to be horizontal by midnight.

With other people, it's more about mood than alcohol. Jocasta normally employs an elegant Palatino Linotype but when enraged loses all her serifs, lapsing into a punchy Gill Condensed. Occasionally, she even employs 104-point BLOCK CAPITALS, a process so discombobulating I find myself only able to reply in very tiny Wingdings.


I know some people who display some of the above and I shall probably never listen to anyone speak again without thinking about what font their speaking. (I think my background as a desktop publisher and journalist will exacerbate the problem, since I spent a lot of time working out what fonts to use.)

Me, I guess I'm a working font, Times Roman 12, who drops into very precise Edwardian Script 104 (bold and italic) when consuming alcohol.

So, what font are you?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On time

I'm actually ahead of schedule for the editing - all the second book needs is for me to input the corrections - and it's done; the third book needs a tad of research to make sure people in Thailand don't laugh at me.

The thing is, the second book, Winter's Heart, is due for posting on Scribd by the end of September and the third book, Autumn's Fall, is slated for the end of October.

That's so I'm in a similar mindset to finish the 'trilogy in four parts' during November. Yeah, NaNoWriMo.

At the moment, I have some significant ideas on the characters involved, the where, the when, good guys, bad guys, guys just doing their jobs. I don't have a title yet, or the main man's name - I'll have to hunt up something exotic. A manly-man cannot go through life with the name 'Spring', and I can't see a suitable contraction either, so.

The woe is November is still seven weeks away an' I wanna do it now!

Seven weeks of having this story roaming around the canyons in my head, stewing in it's own juices, and other metaphors you might think of. Still, I expect by the time I put fingers to keyboard, it will all work out.

And for those thinking "Crikey! One book for Nano? It'll be massive!", no it won't be. I'll also be writing the sequel to Huntress, which, I'm absolutely chuffed to say, some people have e-mailed me about.

Once those two are done, well, who knows? Something new?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Newbies

Over at Shadow and Fang, Kait Nolan has a post on Why Do Pantsers Get So Riled Up About Planning? It got me thinking about new authors.

Not the writers who clutch their first published novel in palsied hands, but those just starting out.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an idea must be in want of a novel. A truth acknowledged by anyone who ever set pen to paper, or finger to keyboard.

There are other universal truths, but I shan't go into the argument of whether a writer is born or develops - both are true.

Do you remember the moment when that first shiny idea popped into your head and you had to write it down? Do you remember the moment you realised it wasn't working and set it aside? Do you remember the next brilliant idea and promising that this time you'll finish it? And setting it aside.

Do you recall thinking that maybe you need to do some research on how other, published authors worked and deciding that their way was the gold-paved road to success? That you went out and bought 'How To...' books that now fill your shelves? That once you'd read those book, it all became clear and you set about writing that great novel you dreamed about.

And then came that magical moment when you wrote... The End. Oh, the thrill, the glee, the happy dance and wonder. It's done! It's brilliant! My God, you're a genius! And visions of book contracts, adoring fans, awards and money start dancing in you head.

Oh, well. Lucky you. Me, I was tired, chuffed, but tired. Even had myself a celebratory drink.

I handed the piece around, received various comments and thought it good. And, as you can imagine, reality slammed my fingers in the door when I hunted up a professional comment. It was certainly as painful.

Well, that sucker now dwells in a bottom drawer, unread, unedited, but a reminder of how the gloss can quickly tarnish under real scrutiny - and that book was severely scrooted.

I wallowed in self-recrimination for some time until I realised the criticisms had nothing to do with me, but the work. It's a hard lesson to learn and it takes time and intestinal fortitude to move on to the next work. I mean, what if this one sucks, too? And the next one? How will the ego survive such hammer blows?

Answer: by learning from your mistakes, but understanding that writing is in a constant state of flux, by knowing that the more you read and write, the better you'll become.

It matters not whether you obsessive plan a novel, or think of an idea and run with it. New authors cannot afford to precious about their work, or their attitude.

Learn from the masters, but do not mistake their way of writing for the best way; there is only your way.

I like to think I've improved since that first piece of nonsense. Writing it taught me a lot, most importantly that I could finish writing a novel. I understood the good and the awful about it - and set it aside for new work. Not as bad as the first, but again, in the drawer to keep The Saracen's Apprentice company, and so on until I felt confident enough to release work out into the wild world.

How good is my work now? I leave that to the readers. I'm constantly working to update my skills, because unless I'm happy with the piece, it ain't goin' nowhere.

As Yoda said: Do, or do not, there is no try.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Review: Shadowlight by Lynn Viehl

In New York an antique bronze case containing an ancient Roman scroll is sold.

In Savannah, Minerva Starret begins a new job at an investment firm and walks into tragedy.

Shadowlight continues in the dark, sensual world of Darkyn, although its focus is on the Kyndred, ‘made from birth to be unique among humans’, developed, in essence, by the Brethren to fight the Darkyn. But something went wrong and the orphans were scattered, adopted out to families, without knowing of their special talents – until they experience their first ‘death’.

Shadowlight centres around one of these orphans, Jessa Bellamy, whose strange talent leads her to open Phoenix Inc., a company that performs background checks for clients’ new employees.

GenHance tries to hire Jessa, but in truth, is after her talent and attempt to ‘take’ her. Instead, the mysterious Gaven Matthias steps in and kidnaps her to protect her from the all-powerful GenHance – what the company can do to destroy a person is frightening as it strikes the right balance with what modern technology and people in the right place can accomplish in today’s society of computerised records.

Jessa finds Matthias’ explanations are outrageous; he cannot know her secret, for she has never told it. As she explores her new environment, she becomes aware of others like her.

She becomes the object of obsession by the man from whom Matthias rescued her.

This book also sees a return of characters from the Darkyn series: the tough cop Samantha Brown, her life partner the arrogant and domineering Darkyn assassin, Lucan and a cameo appearance by Dr Alexandra Keller.

Action, sometimes brutal, abounds in this book, and lifts the book to the next level. Ms Viehl carefully builds the sensuality between the two main characters while also focusing on Jessa’s confusion that she’s not the only one with a talent.

Though at times it has the feel of an X-Men comic – which I love - this book expands on the world-building of the Darkyn series with a more in depth look at the talents hinted at in the Darkyn novels.

Anyone coming to this series without reading the Darkyn will find it an excellent place to start, with explanations of both Darkyn, Kyndred and the suggestion of a link between the two enough to tempt a new reader to the previous series.

Shadowlight comes with a preview of the next novel, Dreamveil, which I await with anticipation.

Shadowlight will be released on 8 October, 2009 and Dreamveil will be released in June, 2010.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Thanks, Sara

Yesterday I forgot to thank someone: so, a big thanks, ta muchly and excellent job to Sara in Oregon who helped me with Summer's Rule.

With Sara's help, the book improved, made more sense and... a plot flaw may not have been discovered.

So, thank you, Sara and good luck with your book.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

It is done

After a very long edit process, Summer's Rule is finally done and posted on Scribd.

Hmm... I must have an eager fan or two: it's been up an hour and had seven downloads already. (Waves to fan! Hiya!)

Still, the job ain't done yet. I kinda left the ending hangin' a little. Guess I'd better get on with editing the second book.

These three NaNos must be cleared off the decks before November. I got plans...

Friday, September 04, 2009

Tempus Fugit

Whoa! Friday? Already? Where did the week go? I'm only halfway through the final read of Summer's Rule!

I mean crikey, I'm going to be busy for the next... hmm... three months! It is fortunate I like wordsmithing because I've set myself up for some intensive work - no doubt I shall be blogging in bites.

But as Virgil said: Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus - But it flees in the meantime: irretrievable time flees.

Which means I'd better get back to it...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Morning

I am sleep deprived.

Yes, I've finished inputting the final edits and all I need do is let the ms rest for a day, then re-read to make last minute adjustments. It's been long and tiring work, but that's not why I'm lacking in sleep.

Two words: Thuh Dawg.

Saxon is an elderly beastie at seventeen who usually will sleep through the night. Not for the past few days, oh no.

Do you know how early five a.m. is? It's that time of the morning when the air is crisp and fresh, with the scent of wood smoke from the fires a little further south. It's still dark! The horizon in the East is lightly brushed with white-yellow, ready to paint the sunrise - and the dog is bumbling around outside, searching for an inconvenient place to do her business. That was yesterday morning.

Last night, around midnight, she was up with the squits. I gave her some canned dog food that didn't agree with her. Three a.m. and she got herself stuck under the bed, whinged until I gently dragged her out. She settled down until... Five a.m. and she's up wanting a drink of water. I got up because if I don't and she needs to out... well, I hate cleaning up messes. Miserable hound looks at me as if to say "What? I'm drinkin' here!" and wanders back to her bed.

So. I'm up. I'm awake. And with latte in hand, watched another glorious sunrise.

There's something to be said about wallowing in the beginning of a new day. No traffic, the kangaroos are nibbling grass on the neighbours front lawn, and the birds are singing opera to the sun as it rises over the Bay.

Not a bad way to start the day... if it didn't start so damned early!