Sunday, February 28, 2010

Elemental Elements

I went another round with the weather tonight, and I must ask: why does this happen when I'm feeling, well, second hand?

We've played host to family for the last few days, so it's been late nights and... way too much of the vino.

I didn't wake up with a hangover (yay!), but the tiredness of a very late night lingered. Figured an early night would do me, but that was before the mightiest thunderstorm evah.

How mighty? The noise of wind and rain overwhelmed the sound of thunder - and the falling branch into the front yard. Within ten minutes, the water level out the back rose three inches to lap at the back door.

Tiredness fled under the "Oh, shit!" moment. On with the gumboots and out into the water, icy rain, howling gale and bright strobes of lightning. I'm becoming very handy with the yard broom, sweeping the water around the side of the house and down the driveway for the next half hour.

The street drains were simply overwhelmed by the volume of water; the lone car (a 4WD) crept along the street because it couldn't see far enough through the sheets of rain and falling debris from the trees. Storms arrive fast and ferocious here, but are over relatively quickly.

For the second time this month, we've water damage in the back room, and with this storm, damage from water coming in under the front door.

Tomorrow, I'm putting in some remediation pipes. I'm over the neighbour's excess rainwater gushing into the backyard. Sure, according to my weather records February is the wettest month of the year and we probably won't get such a downfall again until this time next year, but climate changes and I'm not entirely confident in the Bureau of Meteorology: they cancelled the severe thunderstorm warning at 5.30 this afternoon - this torrent came two hours later.

What a way to end the Summer...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Out there

Sometimes, I have nothing to write on the blog, even as I have plenty to say.

I've always thought this by Silvan Engel is appropriate: It is better to be silent, and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

I prefer - mostly - to stay away from the topics of sex, religion and politics; all are personal and all reveal bias, which is why they are taboo topics at a dinner party. Like everyone else, I get bent out of shape with those subjects and I'm unwilling to engage in arguments that descend into rectitude. The topic I refuse to discuss have been the global financial crisis, government debt, climate change, homosexuals in the armed forces, the bestowing of sainthood on Mary McKillop - and the people on the pulpit thundering out their views. Just so you know.

So. Lip: buttoned. And no post for a week.

In the e-mail box today is the latest Writer's Digest. It has some interesting links. Brian Klems at Questions and Quandries informs us of the difference between lay, lie and laid. He also has a nice sidebar list should you need answers to other questions you might have.

How about the do's and don'ts of writing a synopsis? With the global economy still in a slump, writing dollars are hard to come by, so try 5 Ideas for unconventional writing success.

James Plath begins his article on 21 Tips to Get Out of the Slush Pile with some good advice:

During the 16 years that I edited Clockwatch Review, I often found myself wishing that every writer could work as an editor for a year. After all, it's impossible to read 60-plus manuscripts daily and not develop a pretty fair sense of what makes a short story work.

I'm guessing every editor feels the same. Just because you've written a book, doesn't mean it's publishable. The list he presents is excellent.

Writer's Digest, on occasion, has very little I'm interested in; then it hits the jackpot. Go. Read. Inwardly absorb and become the best writer you can be.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

History as fiction

Every week, I take myself off to the local maritime museum to work on their newsletter. It’s part current events and part history – and yeah, okay, I do both.

When I put my historian’s hat on, I spend a lot of time on the National Library of Australia’s newspaper archive site. It. Is. Amazing! - oh, and distracting with the life and times...

I’m currently working on the people who started the shipbuilding industry in the local area, and the NLA’s site, plus the State Records Office, have provided me with lots of information to wallow in.

Obviously, this is not fictional writing here, but wait, there’s a point. Let me tell you a little story:

In 1816, James Dent was sent to Australia, convicted of forging banknotes. Four years later, he was granted a Conditional Pardon – that is, he was allowed to wander the colony, but not leave it. In 1820, he married and in 1824, moved out of the main township of Sydney to the Cooks River where he leased a farm.

His neighbour was one Dr Robert Wardell. Wardell and another lawyer, William Charles Wentworth, started the Australian newspaper and proceeded to criticise the Governor of NSW, General Ralph Darling, for his attempts at running the penal colony as a military camp.

In 1828, two separate incidents happened: James Dent was sent to trial for stealing timber from Dr Wardell’s property (he and two co-conspirators were caught when a constable, charging through the bush after a bushranger, found one cutting timber and tossing it over the fence to Dent’s side.) On the same day, a convict named John Jenkins was sentenced to three years transportation to Newcastle for robbing a fellow inmate.

Move forward in time to 1834. John Jenkins has returned. He and two other men are camped on... Dr Wardell’s land. Dr Wardell sets out to inspect his land and come upon the trio. An altercation takes place and Dr Wardell is shot dead. Jenkins and one other are convicted and sentenced to execution after the youngest member turns informer.

James had nothing to do with the crime. He died in 1837. His wife, Elizabeth, marries twice more before dying in 1858. She is buried at St Peter’s near Cooks River.
A son of James, George, eventually came down to the Huskisson area and began cutting timber for the new shipbuilding industry, and started constructing ships – an industry that lasted until the 1960s.

Now then. One of Australia’s greatest architects was Edmund Blacket. He designed and built a good portion of the cathedrals of NSW, including St Andrew’s at Sydney University. What’s interesting is that in 1875, he refurbished... St Peter’s near Cooks River. His son, Cyril, was also an architect and lived... near Huskisson, designing and building a lot of the houses here, including the local church.

History has a lot of co-incidences that seem incredible.

To me, this story is a metaphor for fiction: Wardell, Darling and Blacket are all listed in the Australian Biographical Dictionary – and rightly so; each man built a little piece of this country and left a legacy still recognised today. They are Literature.

Dent and Jenkins aren’t; they are unknown, forgotten, and yet stamped their own mark on history – they are Pulp Fiction.

The difference between the two groups is that one are written about, known about, are famous for what they did rather than who they are; the second group are no more than items in old newspapers or convict records, but are more interesting because of their connections to fame, because of who they are, more than what they did.

Two disparate groups: Literature filled with accomplishment, stories of conflict and noble triumph or bitter tragedy of ambitious men in building a new land; and clinging to Literature’s lower leg, Pulp Fiction, filled with struggle, action, mistakes, happily-ever-after and a villain brought to account, events repeated throughout colonial history. Common to virtually every convict family who also struggled to build a life for themselves in a new land.

One couldn’t survive without the other. Without Pulp Fiction, Literature has no basis; without Literature, Pulp Fiction has nothing to aspire to.

History is made up of both: the luminaries who came to Australia to ensure its’ success and guide the colony, and the convicts and free settlers, who did the labour and built the structures, who farmed the land, who desired to be free.

As a writer and part-time historian, I’m more fascinated with Pulp Fiction than Literati, because it is Pulp Fiction who move the nation without recognition, who have the gritty, complicated lives that engage the emotions – despite Literature thinking I should read it instead.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book posted

Finally. After problems with converting Spring's Reign to .pdf and then difficulty uploading the sucker, it's posted on Scribd.

Ahh... sweet relief - even if it is raining. Again. I can go off, do a happy dance - or maybe not, the weather gods might think it a rain dance and do something I'll regret.

I think I'll put my feet up and read a book, or the newspaper, or watch a movie or anything I damn-well please until I decide what's next. Actually, I already know. I'm just trying not to think about it yet.

Writing one book, editing four and posting them all within six months is kind of draining, even if the results were... mixed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lizard thinking

Printed out a final draft - I'll be reading it tonight and tomorrow for last minute corrections - and went ahead with the cover. Since this is the last of four books, I intended that all cover fonts and pictures match.

Oh... the horror!!! For previous books, I used a different computer, with an art package and fonts. Of course, when I tried to start the damn thing, it pouted, crossed its arms and said 'Nup'. After trying everything, I had to admit defeat.

My own damn fault. I changed to the laptop for convenience and because the desktop was making whiney-ass noises. Now, it won't go at all. I think I killed it; killed it stone-motherless-dead.

I set the desktop aside and did some pouting of my own.

Now, it's hot and humid here, tropical even; just moving around produces sweat - and a lizard.

Lizard?? Yes. A Blue Tongue, in fact. The garden has about five that sneak out of the garage to ambush snails and slugs (although, I don't suppose snails would rear in surprise and make a dash for the tomatoes - funny image though).

Because it's hot, I opened the front door - but not the security screen - and the back door - which doesn't have a security screen - to allow a sea breeze to pass through.

While pouting at the tragedy of a dead computer, I heard a rustle and glanced down. I looked at the Blue Tongue, and it looked at me. Then it made a dash for the couch. Those things are fast.

It took half an hour to remove the beastie back into the garden, but the sudden change in thought processes did the job.

I remembered the handy-dandy font software I bought... mmm... years ago. Sixteen hundred fonts to choose from and import. Oh, frabjous day, calloo-callay!!

Cover's done.

All I need do, is a final run through and the book should be posted on Scribd by the midnight deadline.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Music to edit by

I'm putting in the edits on Spring's Reign. By the weekend, it will be posted and I can turn my attention to something else.

As I put the edits in, I'm listening to some 'old' music. I went through my cd collection - which desperately needs organising - and plucked out stuff I haven't heard in ages.

Ah... not the hippest but these are what I've run through the player:

Shawn Colvin: Steady On
Shawn Colvin: A Few Little Repairs
Aqua: Aquarius
Alan Parsons Project: Turn of a Friendly Card
Fleetwood Mac: Tango in the Night
Mike Oldfield: Voyager
Mike Oldfield: Amarok
The Corrs: Forgiven, not Forgotten
Robbie Williams: Sing When You're Winning

and more modern ones:
Lily Allen: It's Not Me, It's You (The neighbours are probably fed up by now.)
Kelly Clarkson: All I Ever Wanted
Michael Buble: ALL OF THEM!!!

They're getting a bit of a flogging, but I find it relaxing and I can concentrate. So, back to it or I'll miss the deadline.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Finally, the rain has ceased for the time being. This morning dawned sunny, right before a sea mist rolled in, a sure indicator of a hot and humid day.

We've had more than twice the monthly average for rainfall and eight days of the stuff out of nine. Everything has that dampness about it that reminds me of England. I'm just about to get someone from Seattle to send me the t-shirt: In Seattle, you don't tan, you rust. Coz, I'm feelin' ya.

I can categorically say: "I am over Summer." I want the coolth of Winter, the bitey mornings and cheek-nipping breezes. I want the scent of burning leaves and mown grass. I want the sun to rise later and set earlier... okay, it's doing that now, but I want it to be obvious. I guess I'll have to be patient.

Edits are on track for Friday - barring any unforeseen screw ups.

Oh, and as for the Super Bowl I watched. Can you say, Cha-ching-ing-ing! Who dat?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Fantasy in Death

I love a good locked door mystery and J.D. Robb's Fantasy in Death delivers.

Long time friends Bart, Cill, Var and Benny are on the verge of releasing a state-of-art holo-game. Bart tests the game in the isolation and secured holo-room of his locked apartment and is killed. There are no clues. No weapon, no evidence of an intruder, no witnesses, nothing.

This is the crime super-cop, Lt. Eve Dallas, investigates with a little help from husband, Roarke. His input is more as a consultant and assists Feeney off screen. Eve struggles to understand e-tech, as always, but it is because she doesn't understand the environment that she can think of the unusual solution. I had my own suspects, but didn't truly settle on one until late in the book. Canny readers will pick up on the pivotal moment.

Fans of J.D. Robb will be excused for thinking this book is familiar with a particular scenario in the first of the series, Naked in Death, I know it rang a bell with me - but when you consider the two-year time frame, it's not such a leap.

I would have given the book five stars, except for the laziness of the copy-editor. This English version has unfortunate carriage returns in the middle of sentences, words that need spaces in between and comma issues. There are also problems with 'voice'. At one stage, I couldn't tell who was speaking, Roarke or Eve. Roarke doesn't have the speech patterns from previous books and the concept of 'friendship' is a bit belaboured.

Overall - if you can ignore the copy-edit problems - the story is a great read and fans will be satisfied.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Rain, rain, and more bloody rain

The last twenty four hours we've had buckets of rain, 100mm in twelve hours. Not much sleep since I had to check the back drains at midnight, 3.00 and again at 6.00.

The house is set on flat ground, with the rainwater run off coming through the backyard since builders behind us changed the natural watercourse some years ago. It's been eight or nine years since so much rain fell in a short time.

October I was out checking the drains, but the rain eased mid-evening.

The humidity is still high and we have a severe weather warning for the rest of the day. Sigh.

I'm hoping my beans and brussel sprouts survive - I only planted them at lunchtime yesterday, before the bucketing. The veggie patch is looking waterlogged.

On the editing front, I have about three chapters to do in this draft. I'll set it aside for a day or so and let it simmer... Okay, fine I have J.D. Robb's Fantasy in Death waiting. From all reports, it's an absolute cracker. Work first, then play. Which means, weather warning or not, I need to get back to the editing so I can have my reward.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010