Friday, April 30, 2010

Work, work, play!

So, I all but blew off my second deadline today; the boss is away for another nine days and I have no-one else to consult with on corrections.

I've been doing a photograph hunt instead for pikkies to add to the webpage.

Posted on Scribd is Huntress: Sacrifice as a freebie.

It means I have the whole weekend off to play with family who are coming down. Much joy, many photos from France, and copious amounts of alcohol to imbibe - can't ask for much more than that.

Oh. Right. Story-a-day marathon starts tomorrow. Well, I'll do that too. How bad can it be writing a couple of thousand words, trashed?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm werkin' here!

I'm up against two deadlines... okay, I've decided to let one slide since it was a pre-deadline deadline - and the webpage could go live as it is.

The book, however, was promised at the end of April and it nearly is; the end of April, that is.

Both have similarities. The webpage is down to the final editing of text and selection of appropriate photographs to go with, and I've got to check the links; the book is fifty pages short of the end and I keep going back to add description or more information or globally changing name spelling. Little stuff, irritating stuff, essential stuff.

I really need to get both finished. Twelfth Planet Press are calling for submissions for an anthology to be released next year and it just happens to co-incide with Forward Motion's yearly story-a-day marathon that starts on 1 May. My first story - or maybe the second - will be for the anthology. The theme is urban fantasy in the Roaring Twenties. Elliot Ness: Vampire Hunter anyone? Kidding.

So, I'm flat out like a lizard drinking. Yeah, okay, I'm on the 'net. I'll get off now and get back to it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hot, cold, wet

Yeah. It gives new meaning to the words "wet patch".

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Män som hatar kvinnor... finally

Män som hatar kvinnor - Men Who Hate Women - was retitled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for the English version.

The true title reflects the movie and the book, the second is a glimpse of art on counter-culture Goth and computer hacker, Lisabeth Salander.

I read the book and thought it a little slow. The story got bogged down in extraneous descriptions and minutiae of lead character Mikael Blomkvist's day. Thankfully, all that's been cut out of the movie and distilled down to its essential parts.

The spiel: Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, ruthless computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

The makers of the film have done an excellent job. The book has complex plots all weaved together to form a fascinating story arc. The film touches on these aspects and sets up the next movie The Girl Who Played With Fire with brief glimpses. However, those who haven't read Stieg Larsson's trilogy might be a little dismayed at some of the near miraculous resolutions. For example, the instant decryption of an important clue by Salander. She has a photographic memory, but that is only touched on in the film. I'm guessing the film makers assumed the majority of Scandinavia read the books.

Some of the scenes are brutal. The film does not shy away from the sexual violence that's integral to the story line. On the big screen, it's confronting. (I wonder how Hollywood is going to deal with it? The U.S. version is in development and due for release in 2012.) Salander is certainly ruthless in dealing with violence perpetrated against her.

The original title, Men Who Hate Women, should have been kept; the current title reflects nothing more than a curiosity. Throughout the books and the film, thoughtless and deliberate violence against women is explored. Blomkvist is almost a peaceful raft floating in the sea of blood and brutality, a refuge for Salander. That doesn't mean she needs a man to save her - her revenge is as nasty as the crime committed against her! She'll get justice her own way.

I would suggest reading the book before seeing the film for a better understanding. It's the first book-to-film I've appreciated in a long, long time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Force of Nature

I've finally finished the second edits of Huntress: Sacrifice. I now have about nine days to put in the corrections and do another edit. At the same time, I now have nine days to finish writing the webpage for the local museum before it's supposed to go live. Bah, who needs a weekend?

* * *

Is this cool or what? It's lightning within the Icelandic volcano whose name no-one but an Icelander can pronounce.

I actually hunted around the 'net to find out why volcanoes can generate their own lightning, but the discussions varied from "I dunno" to the idea that the eruptions cause mesocyclones, thus generating the conditions for lightning.

I'm guessing no-one has managed to get close enough to take the readings they need to solve the conundrum.

While a lot of people seem bent out of shape over this (my sister is stuck in Paris... whatever shall she do?) it provides an opportunity for all those clever engineers to create an ash-proof engine. Remember Dante's Peak with that yummy Pierce... ah, the helicopter? Or 1991 when Mt Pinatubo went up in the Philipines? How is it we still don't have a totally weather-proof engine? That aircraft are still so fragile? The peeps who develop an engine unaffected by ash clouds, or smoke, or ducks could probably name their price.

Maybe Virgin Galactic have the right idea and we should leave terrestrial airspace. Just pop up outside the atmosphere and then down again. I have visions of it...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Big Oops, there

Family is staying the weekend and last night, we sat down to watch Julie & Julia. All I knew about Julia Childs was that she cooked with an awful lot of butter and yet lived into her nineties - not a bad innings.

The movie was great, without Norah Ephron's usual saccharine sweetness. Meryl Streep is a marvel at characterisation and expressed Julia's exuberance for life and French cuisine wonderfully. Amy Adams, too, was excellent as the woman who decides to complete all of the recipes in Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year and blog about her efforts. Not the kind of thing I'd do given the amount of butter used in the recipes.

So it was with interest that I read the headline Cook-book misprint costs Australian publishers dear. Unwilling to take the BBC's word for it (I'm such a charlatan), I headed to the Sydney Morning Herald site where the news item came from. Sure enough, Penguin reprints book, peppered with an error, wants it taken with grain of salt. (Terrible heading I think.)

Head of publishing, Mr Bob Sessions, said: "In one particular recipe [a] misprint occurs which obviously came from a spell checker. When it comes to the proofreader, of course they should have picked it up, but proofreading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task. I find that quite forgivable [sic]."

Um... no, not forgiveable. Laughable, absolutely, forgiveable, not on your life. The problem? A line in a tagliatelle recipe that called for salt and freshly ground black people - instead of 'pepper'. I don't know about you, but I think there are two letters wrong here, not something a spellchecker or proofreader would miss unless they were lazy. And the excuse that the correct line is in many recipes and that cook-books are hard to check, is no excuse at all.

I doubt Penguin will be so sanguine in the future, since it cost them $20,000.

The lesson today is to really check your work lest some unfortunate words cause dismay, or finanicial loss.

Oh, and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dragons Ahoy!

How To Train Your Dragon was a lot of fun - even in a theatre full of kids, and the popcorn delayed.

The artwork was beautiful, especially on the dragons. I imagine there were varieties no-one thought of. Toothless, the Nightfury, bears a striking resemblance to Stitch (from the Disney film Lilo & Stitch) and an oversized, winged axolotl; the other dragons are equally spectacular... well, you'll have to see the film.

The Vikings are suitably big, rugged and bloodthirsty - except, of course, for our hero, Hiccup, who is thin, weedy and very unViking-like. He's an inventor and consistently gets himself into trouble whenever the dragons attack. This time, his invention downs a Nightfury that he befriends and trains. Misunderstandings, deceit, suspicion and an epic battle follow.

The flying scenes are better than Avatar and the final battle, man, I was so impressed by the CGI. The fire, the water, the movement of the flesh under dragon skin!

For me, the chatting children, the shushing of the adults, the crunch of popcorn consumed and slurping of soft drink all faded away under the visual beauty of the film. That might be just me, but I love kids' movies; they can present complex issues in a simple way.

Oh, and I saw the shorts for the next Shrek movie. I'm just gonna hafta see it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Clash of the Movies

I took myself off to see Clash of the Titans yesterday. I have vague memories of the Harry Hamlin version on television, along with other Ray Harryhausen movies like Sinbad.

Clash of the Titans won't win any awards, but it's great for 90 minutes or so of focusing on eye candy. The special effects are great but the storyline is only loosely related to the real Perseus legend. But... no matter.

I loved the Djinn, all shining, crystal blue gaze and bark-textured faces; so cool and lends to the mythology of the piece. The fight scene with the scorpions was frenetic and the sneaky Medusa was, well, sneaky; kind of reminded me of Angelina Jolie in Beowulf.

Liam Neeson was all shiny and a little bit perplexed as Zeus, Ralph Fiennes suitable evil (and channelling Voldemort, I think) as the smoky, dark Hades - not as sinister as he could have been, but the bad guy nonetheless.

I only have one question about the movie: why did Perseus have a marine haircut, when everyone else had long flowing locks?

Will I buy the DVD? Hmm... probably; I love these kinds of movies. I don't watch 'real life' films, I get enough real life in... real life. I like escapism - although I will make an exception for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Today, I'm off to watch How to Train Your Dragon - probably with a bunch of kids. I love popcorn films, too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sensitive history

I've been working my ring off for past week on three pages. Yep, three pages of text for the webpage I'm working on. It's taken three weeks to complete nearly forty other pages for the site and downloadable fact sheets.

I need no approval for those pages, but I do for the three; see, they deal with Indigenous history and information and thus require cultural sensitivity. While that has been monumentally frustrating, it's also been an education.

When I was at school back in 19... blah, we were taught about Captain James Cook discovering Australia, Captain Arthur Phillips of the First Fleet, various governors and important white people who formed this nation. Nothing was ever taught about indigenous affairs and yet, they were an important part of our history.

Who knew, for example, that the Aborigines had a resistance group who tried to save their land from the English settlers and convicts?

Pemulwuy saw Cook lay claim to Terra Nullus, Empty Land, and to the arrival of the First Fleet. He understood what it meant and set about causing as much trouble as possible. To him, it was war, the British were invaders upon land sacred to his people and he led raids against the farms and farmers, for food and for revenge for the atrocities committed against his people.

In the end, in 1802, he was shot dead, his head removed and sent to England for scientific investigation. All up, 3000 Aboriginal body parts were sent as part of biological curiosity. Pemulwuy was a pest, a troublemaker, according to Governor King who signed the shoot-on-sight order for any Aborigines seen around the Parramatta area. Guns were always going to win out since the Aborigines brought spears to the fight.

The British did not see the land as being occupied. The definition of civilisation was settlement, and the indigenous people were wanderers, following the food, never setting up villages. The French and Dutch had already looked at the land and declared it harsh and worthless, moved on, although we still have Dutch and French names for suburbs or areas.

For more than a century, this country has been divided between the rights of Aborigines and those of British settlement. We're still divided, though to a much lesser degree: instead of a re-enactment of James Cook's arrival at Farm Cove, we have an Indigenous Woggan Ma Gule or Morning Ceremony at the site and celebrations of what it means to be Australian. The flag raising is more to do with celebrating citizenship than historic origins. History, it seems, is of little importance when bringing diverse ethnicities together.

I agree. Previous Australia Day celebrations were tainted by groups protesting 'Invasion Day'; but I don't think we should re-write or disregard the good or the bad of our history. Both are important and make us who we are today.

Prince William - recently in Australia - has announced that he will try to find Pemulwuy's head and the other remains. The indigenous fighter is a hero to the Aboriginal Nations here.

And this year for Anzac Day, commemorative ceremonies will be held for the 500-800 Indigenous personnel who served during the First World War. It's about time; a soldier is a soldier no matter his skin colour and should be treated with the same respect.

In the meantime, I need to get back to work; I have to finish this project before I can get to my editing. Thankfully, these three pages are the last of the big stuff, everything else is of the editing and formatting ilk.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Words to consider

There's an interesting interview over at Writers Digest with writer Sue Grafton.

Of particular note is this:

What about this voice you talk about, the Shadow?
My problem is I can’t get out of my own way. Shadow knows how to write books. Ego does not. So when I’m trying to put together a book, Ego is the one saying, “I’ll do it, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.” And I’m going, “No you won’t. You don’t know what you’re doing.” Shadow is just that still, quiet voice in your soul that tells you if you’re on track or off track.

I find this compelling because it is so true. And, I think, it's the reason why so many newbie authors fail. Ego.

How many times have you heard that 'writing is easy; I could write one of those romance books, no problem'? How many know that's smirk-worthy? How many have half a dozen unfinished works? How many thought the idea was a good one at the time? I know I've got a bundle on unfinished books squirrelled away.

Ego, if you let it loose, will only get you so far. It's the quieter, more considered voice that takes you to the end; and it's the quiet voice that goes back to the beginning while ego is doing a smug happy dance, to edit. Ego is that excited part that can't wait to get to work on that sparkly, scathingly-brilliant new idea, while the quiet voice is considering characters, plot, scenes, descriptions... All that hard stuff.

I'm guilty of this every November. Come October 31, I'll have something vague and ill-formed in mind. In the morning, the empty page awaits and off I go, no matter what. Some years I've been fortunate enough to have a relatively well-formed main character. Most years, I just let the ego run wild - that lasts for a week, maybe two, when ego is just so over it and the hard work to get the word counts done starts.

At the end of the interview, Ms Grafton gives this advice to new authors:

My big gripe about newer writers is they’re not willing to put the time in. Somebody’ll write one book and they’re asking me who my agent and my editor are, and I’m thinking, Don’t you worry, sweetheart, you’re not any good yet. Give yourself time to get better. Writing is really hard to master. You learn by failing over and over, but a lot of people don’t care for that, thanks. I always wish new writers the greatest good fortune. It’s a helluva journey — I’ll tell you that.

Yep, I've still got the first book I wrote... somewhere dark so it can get therapy... and it will stay there with the second and third books for company.

Doing the work teaches us what works and what doesn't; only when the quiet voice is happy should it see the light of day.

Of course, sometimes that quiet voice is silent, asleep and unconcerned. That's my excuse an' I'm stickin' to it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ooo, shiney... printer! Oh, the joy. It has double-sided printing (squee....). No more manual duplex of reorganising hundreds of pages and feeding them through the printer again. No more white lines through the text, or scratches. No more awkward paper jams and ink malfunctions that are indicative of a failing system. It does everything the previous printer did and more - though I think I'll have to read the instruction manual to find out what and I'm not interested enough... yet.

Really, I bought it for the double-sided thing. And price; it's not the latest model, but does what I need. The only downside is that it is about a centimetre too wide for the alcove I have.

I am now merrily printing stuff out as if the ink tanks are never going to run dry. But what the hell: it's a new toy and I'm playing with it until it becomes essential equipment.

I also have some new image software to play with, which I freely confess takes up time - but I have to explore it's functions to use it properly. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I'll have to search for some re-pixilating software that does what I meant, not what I told it to. I wonder if such a program exists?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Ginger rules

Uh, huh. Felled by food poisoning. Not so bad... now; a good dose of ginger marmalade on an English muffin and I'm near cured. It's the ginger, a natural nausea suppressant that dates back hundreds of years. For some, it's used to treat seasickness and in Asia, the common cold by making a tea. Should I contract a cold this winter, I'm giving it a try. I hate being sick - it's unproductive and makes me snarky.

Australia also went off Daylight Savings Time this weekend. Which means I'm up before sunrise and earlier than I want. I just can't sleep in that 'extra' hour. It takes as long to get used to standard time as it did getting used to DST back in... whenever (I swear they keep changing the dates just to piss people off). It used to be from the end of October to the end of February - now it's the beginning of October to to the end of March. Who makes the decision to muck around with time anyway? Time is time; it's relative, it flies, it's now.

It's time I got some work done...

Saturday, April 03, 2010


I'm feeling rather blech today. Aching joints and muscles, vague nausea and tired enough to want a nap. It came on around mid-morning.

Of course, the printer decided to join the desktop computer in the graveyard. sigh. Right in the middle of printing out a manuscript to edit and on the long weekend.

If I didn't have visitors, I'd curl up under the duvet and keep the world at bay. But... I do and I can't. In a few more hours, I can change the clocks back and hit the sack early; indulge in an extra hour's sleep tomorrow.

I hope this doesn't get any worse - I'm rarely sick and I have no idea where I got this dreaded Lurgy. Gotta go throw up now. Just talk amongst yourselves...