Saturday, January 30, 2010


Nah, no work today. It's raining, a day for lazing on the couch and watching DVDs.

So: Terminator Salvation - DVD has an impurity, so I watched maybe half and it froze. No amount of cleaning or change of player would get it going again.

Four Brothers, with Mark Wahlberg. Not bad, but why do script writers have to televise who's going to die? I mean Star Trek has the red shirts, war movies have 'I'm short', or 'let me show you a picture of my girlfriend'?

The Italian Job, I love this movie, so slick and polished and so damned clever. It made me think about other scenarios I could use in writing.

Ice Age 3: Age of the Dinosaurs, What's not to like about animated comedies for kids? I'm gonna get me a copy.

A day off from outside influences, or from my own work is great and I'm trying not to feel guilty. I have the manuscript separated into chapters next me, I probably should have put it somewhere else; but it's ready for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I think I'll watch Appleseed - the CGI version. I need some more wallow time.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Missing the Plot

Finally finished the draft of Spring's Reign. Now I can break it down into chapters and sort out the plot line I missed - this is what happens when you don't plan a novel; you get to do more work after you've written the first draft.

How do you miss a plot line? I mean, really? A plot line? Left out? It's actually easy. You get so caught up in the now of the story, in the information to progress the story, you sometimes forget to put in a break; something to interrupt the flow and shake the characters out of their... well, not comfortable situation, but to present the information in a different way, a more active way.

And when you're writing romance, a way to throw the characters closer together. And the missing plot line will do just that.

The draft reads fine as it is now, but in that reading, I felt there was something missing; now I know what it is. Action doesn't have to be biffo, it can be verbal; for my characters, however, travelling thousands of miles together in close confinement, something outside that atmosphere has to happen. And so it will.

Hopefully, it won't affect the direction of the manuscript; that would be... bad.

At this stage, I've added nearly thirty pages, or about ten thousand words. With the added plot line, the word count might lift by another ten to twenty thousand, bringing the book to between 90-100,000. A nice size for the final in the series.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Aussie Day

Whoo-hoo! Australia Day! So I worked on the manuscript this morning and then big sis turned up with Lamington cupcakes, home made bread, Dijon mustard and franks for hot dogs. Not exactly Aussie fare (she picked up a pork pie for the maternal influencer - her being British and all) but we were actually sitting down to watch a replay of the American Football match between Indianapolis and New York.

Sadly, we were going for the Jets.

I did get to watch the Vikings/Saints match live yesterday, and wow, what a game! Might have to watch the reply of that one on Saturday.

Yes, I know it's Australia's day, but we had the lamoes and I did watch the cricket. And this is a multicultural country full of wonder cuisines and cultures that blend well with our own and make this country... great. So the Italian Pasta tonight with the American Football today isn't odd, just all part of the scenery.

I'm not one for the beach or the sun given the basal cell carcinoma removal from under my eye a couple of years ago - the sun is not my friend any more. The best I can do is watch vicariously via the teev. To wit, the above picture of the Great Sydney Ferry Race. Buckets of small boats and tall ships on the Harbour to watch.

It matters not who wins, but the sheer enjoyment of being on the water.

Now, I'm back at the desk, beavering away. I've spotted at least one plot that's missing and I'll have to go back and put it in once I'm done with this draft. It will make the book larger, but by the end of this draft, it will have more pages than the other three. There'll be other stuff I've missed, too, and the notes are growing.

I have to get back to it. Tonight, there will be fireworks and bubbly and I fully expect to become 'tired and emotional' since the parent doesn't drink much...

What? I can't let a bottle of bubbly go to waste, now can I?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bad torrent

Jeez, I'm a lazy snot, but in my defence, I have been a wee bit busy to update the blog.

My mother once told me I analyse stuff to death - then analyse why it died. Which is pretty much true. In the interests of upholding the vice, I'm being nagged by the success of Winter's Heart over on the Scribd page.

And yeah, I've mentioned it before and it's still nagging. The book has enjoyed a recent spike in readings and I'm at a loss to work out why, since the prequel and sequel aren't doing much at all.

There's a big gap, however, in reading and downloads, so all I can do is speculate that peeps are reading all or a part on-line and not keeping a copy.

I also know that the books are listed on other torrent sites (places with fast downloads) - along with other author's works that I doubt they know about.

This is going to be a major problem for the publishing industry. For free works, no big; for just released in the book store, yeah, it's big. I imagine some of the people are either typing or scanning in books to post free, and I did see a Nora Roberts book freely available less than a week after it came out in the stores.

Add to that an argument I saw last year on Amazon where a poster was offering a book - can't remember whose - free to anyone who e-mailed him. His position was that, since he'd paid for it, he could do whatever he wanted with it. Others rightly said he was infringing copyright. The poster resentfully stuck to his position, ignoring the suggestion that if books were constantly being bought and offered free, there was no financial incentive for authors to continue writing. Eventually, the poster disappeared - no doubt to a torrent site.

How does an author protect their work in this age of electronic sophistication? How much money would it take to shut down the torrent networks?

One suggestion could be to halt traditional book publishing and encode e-books with a limited use security code. If people want an actual book, print-on-demand companies could print up the book, say, a year after the e-book came out - like the hardback/paperback system.

The downside would be the death of bookstores; they'd have to move from the traditional market to an ordering market - and how successful would that be?

As a new writer who hopes to be published one day, the future actually looks more bleak and scary than ever. I can post a book to Scribd or any of the other e-book sites, have six thousand reads, and not make a red cent for it. If I put it up for sale, the future will be six thousand reads and still not make much money because it's listed for free somewhere else.

I think, for now, I'll ignore what's going on and keep trying for the sensual feel of my first traditionally published book in my hands. It's a dream.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Timing and research

I'm into the second draft. Joy. And it's all about timing. The timeline. Oh, and maps, roads, rivers, cuisine, hotels - a right little tourist guide to Brazil. sigh It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Fortunately, there aren't too many Post-It notes scattering the manuscript. I figure they'll come in the next draft when I break down the chapters.

I also figure I have two, maybe three, weeks before peeps start asking me where the book is - but no pressure.

I must be doing something right, though, because it seems like every time I turn the teev on, there's something about the Amazon. I've learned an awful lot of stuff - some I knew already, but a lot of it new - like the Amazon being the size of Australia! Survivorman and Bushcraft with Ray Meares have been invaluable, as has Wikipedia and other research sites. (I'm currently feeling too lazy to put it links.)

GoogleEarth is terrific. I can see where the jungle is and the roads and rivers that carve through the territory. It's an impressive place and while I'd like to say it's on my Bucket List... it's not. I'm not a fan of hot, humid places that have icky things like massive social spider webs. Squicks me out on a major scale - even writing about it gave me the heebie-jeebies - and I still have to do a little bit more research on them. (Insert shudder here.)

So... if all goes well, Spring's Reign will be up on Scribd by the 13th February. I still have some real life issues to deal with that may get in the way, but I'm working towards the date as a goal. Following that, then I'll get to the rest of the promised works.

It's good to be busy; now I need to insert some Brazilian cuisine into the book.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wisdom of ages

Here it is, the middle of January, and the overnight temperature dropped to a few degrees above zero.

Plenty of family time this past weekend, like the weekend before. We live less than a hundred metres from the beach so in Summer, peeps come for the sun. More rellos are popping up this weekend too.

Plus I've been busily editing... it's all go...

But, I've been watching a program called Elders. The introduction says it all:

"We live in a society that worships youth. On television, in magazines, in advertisements and on billboards, what sells and what is sold to us is youth. But in some cultures it is the elders of the community who are valued and whose wisdom is sought. In this series we are going to seek out six prominent elders of our tribe, each over the age of 65 to see what life has taught them. Welcome to the elders."

We've heard from Alan Alda, Sir David Attenborough and Bob Hawke (didn't watch that one - I don't like him at all).

Last night, Andrew Denton spoke with the incomparable Helen Thomas. What a fascinating woman.

A lot of people outside of the U.S. probably don't know who she is, but would probably remember the old lady, hunched over, in the front row of White House Press Briefings, grilling whoever is at the podium.

It's sometimes magical to watch. Helen will ask the same question, in ten different ways; and be given the same answer... in ten different ways. What is astonishing is the respect and accord given to Ms Thomas. I've never heard a speaker treat her with impatience or condescension - even as some commentators do.

At age 89, she's still working, still as wily as a fox and still asking the awkward questions. Ms Thomas is a journalists journalist - and age has not wearied her. What she says in the interview is sometimes pointed:

ANDREW DENTON: The old saying that that power corrupts absolute power corrupts absolutely. Do you believe that’s true?

HELEN THOMAS: Yeah. I think it can. I’ve seen people men go into the Oval Office with some trepidation. In a couple of days they think they’re President and they think that’s all powerful and people worship at their shrine and every wish is a command, no yeah I think very corrupting.

ANDREW DENTON: Who have you seen most changed by that office?

HELEN THOMAS: This man. I think he thinks he’s President and he’s led us into a very b-big quagmire morass.

It was an excellent interview and I wanted to hear more. Half an hour isn't nearly long enough to listen to all the fascinating things that happen in our eminent seniors' lives. Maybe if more young people paid attention to the older generations, things would be much more happier, if not livelier.

So next week, we get to hear from Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. Rupie's mum. He's 78; Elisabeth is 100. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A great idea!

So where do ideas come from? What makes one thought more special than another? How do authors take that one blip and turn it into a best seller?

Short answer: dunno.

Long answer: every author has a different way of going about the craft of generating ideas. There are ideas everywhere - and I should point out here and now that there is no copyright on ideas - from a sleeper's dreams to the overheard conversation to watching a bird take flight to the shopping mall, anything can generate the first kernel of a story.

That well of 'what if' never runs dry because we are surrounded by stimulus all the time.

It's true that writing is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. Writing is hard work. Sitting for hours at a time, focusing on 'what happens next', is no easy task. The imagination is running off in particular directions - sometimes to a point you didn't expect, sometimes into a brick wall and sometimes it just works.

Writers are observers as much as participants in the world, we just view it a little bit differently. We look for motives, we look for action, for romance, for tragedy and redemption. We hear conversations from imaginary people, demands from villains who aren't there, confessions, plots, plans from thin air. We see fantastic landscapes, architecture, vehicles, weapons. We feel the pain of betrayal, the joy of discovery, the exhaustion of escape and passion of that first kiss; and all of it based in real life and all of it twisted and shaped and bent to our will into something new and lasting.

But no-one can write the story but the individual author. Writers can have the same idea, but the story will be different: C.S. Forester - Alexander Kent - David Weber; all stories based on Nelson, all different. Stephanie Meyer - Maggie Shayne - Charlaine Harris; all stories about vampires and all different. J.R.R Tolkien - Terry Brooks - Robert Jordan; all epic fantasy and all different.

In each case, the authors had similar ideas but wrote individual stories. And while cynics profess that there is 'nothing new under the sun', I propose they are wrong. Each idea is developed differently and into a new creation.

As for turning an idea into a best seller, well, it's timing, it's work and it's sheer, bloody-minded luck. It's up to the author.

Write something; write it now. Take the idea from the conversation you overheard in the post office, newsagent, bus, train or wherever and turn it into something lasting. No one has to see it, but it would be a shame for that idea to be lost. Who knows? That piece of work might be the next Big Thing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Really, Reilly?

I've been busy over the past week with family issues and family visits; one was fun - the other, was not.

Anyway, in between the worrying and the entertainment I've been reading one of Australia's favourite writers, Matthew Reilly. I've read Ice Station, Area 7, Temple and now I'm up to Contest. His latest book, The Five Greatest Warriors made it to the top of the 2009 bestseller list. That is, it was the top seller for 2009, out selling the likes of Bryce Courtney, Tim Winton and Di Morrissey.

Contest is Reilly's first book to write, but it will be the last one I read.

Reilly's books are roller-coasters of action and adventure, of quests and rescue, of derring-do and fantastical stunts - in fact, I kept hearing the James Bond theme while reading.

It's the inconsistencies that pissed me off. Using Methadone instead of Morphine, a Maghook with amazing capabilities, anatomy that doesn't seem affected by gravity, conversations that no-one but Superman could hear and give a reply, plus more villains tossed in than you can shake a whippy stick at.

But he does the right thing in having cliff-hangers at the end of chapters, characters that seem larger than life, atypical villains, resolutions that are, like, wow! The Abrahams tank falling from the airplane was just gobsmacking. In a lot of places you can see which movie they came from, for example.

These books are terrific for the young adult - if you move passed the bad language - but for those who've read Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Wilbur Smith, or other adventure books, the plot problems leap out and should have been fixed.

I know Elroy said, "I just cut out the boring bits" when he writes, but sometimes, those boring bits serve a purpose if only to get the author to think about whether something is possible or not.

As escapist fiction, they're a sugar rush - if you ignore the impossibilities - but if you like your work with more realism, give them a miss, or give them to the teenagers of the family - it's virtually guarranteed they will love them.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Boobs to Noobs

It's that time of year when the Darwin Awards are announced.

The Darwin Awards "Honors those who improve the species... by accidentally removing themselves from it!"

Two winners this year, both Belgian and both burglars who used too much dynamite to blow up a safe. They did, in fact, demolish the building, too.

With sixteen nominees, 2009 proved to be a year of monumental stupidity. Fortunately, these people have evacuated the gene pool on their own.

* * *

The Macquarie Dictionary has opened voting on the 'word of the year 2009'.

Words like 'noob', 'hypermile', 'cocooning', 'slacktivism', 'climate change denier', 'tweet' are all in the running for word of the year.

The inaugural winners in 2006 are:

General Interest: affluenza
Colloquialism: muffin top
Specialist terms: administrivia
The Political Scene: plausible deniability
Eating and Drinking: ethical eating
Fashion: ubersexual
Travel: envirotourism
Technology: cyberstalking
The Environment: water trading
Sport: blood doping
Health: norovirus

From 2007, the People's Choices:

Business: infomania
Carbon Terms: carbon footprint
Colloquialisms: floordrobe
Eating and Drinking: tart fuel
The Environment: food mile
Fashion: arse antlers
General Interest: password fatigue
Health: incidental exercise
Media: fauxtography
Music: nerdcore
Online: cyber cheating
Politics: Great Firewall of China
Social Scene: slummy mummy
Specialist Terms: facial mapping
Sport: cyberathlete
Technology: bloatware

And 2008:

Entertainment: car crash TV
Business: toxic debt
Colloquial: bromance
Communications: textaholic
Ecology: ecocentrism
Environment: guerilla gardener
Fashion: scene kid
Eating and Drinking: guerilla dining
General Interest: nomophobia
Genetics: divorce gene
Health: baby brain
Internet: lolcat
Law: lawfare
Politics: climate porn
Social Interest: helicopter parenting
Specialist: audiation
Sport: chicken-wing tackle
Technology: uberveillance
Tourism: flashpacker

I know English is a dynamic language, forever changing within generations, but are these words from previous year still with us, hanging around like a toxic debt or have they vanished like the debate on climate change?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

And so...

...the time off I set for myself comes to an end - and it's been great. There's still plenty of American Football to see yet, but I shall endeavour to drag myself away and get back to work.

Tomorrow, I will return to manuscripts and red pens, attempting to beat the aforementioned works into submission and some sort of readability.

The thing about writing and editing is that it's initially a solitary event - and that is the key to all writing. You really do have to do the work. No one else can write it nor should they do the first edits. You know what you want to write. And in the editing process, clearing up any vagueness or misunderstandings is what the editing process is for.

A bug-bear of mine is authors justifying what they've written. If a reader doesn't understand something, it should have been explained in the writing, not after it's published. If you do it right in the first place, you don't need to justify anything.

A particular writer - who shall remain nameless - is forever justifying the work, explaining the deviations, and when the questions continue, condemns readers and critics for not understanding. A failing of epic proportions.

And having said that, I have no doubt that the above will come back to bite me. But then, I'm not writing a series that should have died years ago.

I can only hope my trilogies don't suffer the same way. I'd like to think not since I write all three in one go. I've probably said enough...

Oh... look... there's football on the teev...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The World

The last time I saw a ship this large in the Bay was the Royal Australian Navy's flagship, HMAS Melbourne - which was an aircraft carrier.

The World stopped off along the coast on its way to Sydney for New Year's Eve, and if you look really closely, or squint, you might even see Matt Damon; yes, that Matt Damon - or someone who apparently is the dead spit of the American actor. Shop owners in Bateman's Bay, further down the coast, aren't entirely sure because we rarely get international megastars, or if we do, the locals have doubts. I mean, really? A movie star? Here?

We just don't get stars here. Elsewhere has much more to offer the discerning traveller. This virtually assures well-known faces of anonymity. Okay, we have an internationally renowned marine park, a national park, white sand beaches, blue waters, not much population, various water sports, spectacular views, museums... um, right, we do have attractions, but don't tell anyone; privacy is also one of our attractions.

I'd be interested to know of any star sightings in our own little part of the world. People here will probably have the same attitude as down south in the fish and chippery:

"Hey, anyone tell you, you look like Matt Damon?"

Enigmatic smile.

"You must get told that a lot. You want salt on those chips?"

Friday, January 01, 2010

A New Day

Happy New Year to all. 2009 was a hell of a year and I'm glad it's over.

Time to plan for new stuff - not resolutions, who sticks to them?

Anyway. Last night it was like a war zone here. Fireworks went off from all directions, like gunshots, with machine-gun intensity, with the deep boom of mortars and around the Bay, like the distant sound of artillery. There were shouts and whoops and cheers and ambulance sirens and people clutching bottles wandering the streets uncaring of any vehicle that might be on the road. Clouds of smoke, the scent of gunpowder and swirling blue lights of police.

Nope, I don't live in the city, but in the country. Jervis Bay and the towns, um villages really, is a tourist mecca come holiday times but especially for the week between Christmas and New Year. The hot sun, the clear waters of the sea, the pristine, blindingly white sand... all attract city-folk to the area.

We are bursting at the seams with people!

Locals, however, either leave or stock up on supplies and stay home. We roll our eyes at the tourist antics - the lobster-red sunburns, the lack of car indicator use, the packs of teenagers wandering around searching for something to do, cyclists without helmets or shirts, drivers busy on the phone...

But in a week, most will have returned home, satisfied with the holiday by the sea and thankful they're back surrounded by the trappings of civilisation lacking in the country. How do I know this? A certain amount of tourists are less than circumspect in their public comments and conversations.

We locals will sigh with relief and await the influx of the more polite grey travellers; the retirees touring the country in caravans and motorhomes.

In the end, this time of the year is an enormous boost to the local economy. We're a beach community and those beaches are jammed with people enjoying the sea.

I know there are a lot of sharks out there, but we have have hourly air patrols, so our visitors should be safe; I'm staying out of the water and out of the way. I'm staying in to watch College Football.