Sunday, October 31, 2010

Zero hour approaches

I can feel the countdown to Nano. Be it in thinking about the novels I'm writing or the simple idea of Nano, it's all in the back of my head while I'm doing other stuff. "Like sands through the hourglass..." the time is trickling away.

Anxiety levels are rising for those who still have to come up with something to write and the anticipation is palpable for those who know exactly how it's going to go. I have a foot in either camp. Will it work? Will the books be worthy of the characters? Have I taken on too much, again? Will the keyboard survive?

Come midnight tonight, I'll be snoozing - I just don't have it in me to stay up to start Nano; finish it, yes, but not at the beginning. Sleep is important. Sleep is good. I like sleeping. But... I'll be up at sunrise, pounding away at the keyboard like thousands of other nano-ers around the globe.

That's rather amazing when you think about it. A hundred thousand plus people, all not talking - a wave of silence circling the world, bent over keyboards and writing the most incredible stories. An infinite well of creativity tapped for a whole month. Muses of all shapes and colours, spread out over continents dictating terms to writers. Ships of aliens, bouquets of romance, beds of erotica, holsters of westerns, shadows of horror... a flood of prose gushing from the imaginarium of collective consciousness... O_o

Okay, obviously I haven't had my morning coffee. I'll just, you know, go and make one, get on with thinking up something for the third book...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spiced wine-ing

Hypocras making day today. The spiced wine needs to mature before Christmas and I'll be busy next month.

I have a nice, mellow Cabernet Merlot, with berry and plum overtones, that I'll heat to steaming and to which I shall add cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, honey, brown sugar and cardamom pods. Then I let it cool, strain out the debris and bottle.

By Christmas, it will have a full-bodied, syrupy and subtly spiced flavour - just the thing for toasting. And it's good for you: red wine has anti-oxidants to hunt down and absorb free radicals.

Henry VIII had a glass or two to help with his digestion. His breakfast lasted two hours and he tasted every dish laid before him. The 'left overs' were given to the lords and ladies, then any remains went to the staff who prepared his meals. They, at least, preferred to survive on pottage - a dish made of grains soaked in hot water - and had more roughage in it than Henry's meals. The king became obese and suffered for it, probably causing his death, although he also suffered from a continually festering leg wound.

Henry's hypocras contained goldleaf flakes, mine does not. Some recipes also call for ambegris - icky stuff from the intestine of a whale that's been regurgitate. All I can say is: "Oh, the horror!!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hatin' on Literature

Not even the most famous authors in history write the perfect character.

For your entertainment - and so you know some books considered literary classics and that are also taught in schools can have... execrable characters - I came across a list of:

The 50 Most Hated Characters In Literary History.

Some will surprise you, others will have you nodding in agreement. Most you should know.

The list mixes hated with love-to-hate characters and if you consider closely, you can see the whys and wherfores, understand the motivations and actions of those characters.

It's worth thinking about as Nano approaches. Are your characters 3D, or cardboard cutouts? Have you set up a few mistakes or an epic blunder for them? Is your antagonist evil because you said so, or because of a genuinely held belief?

Or are you going to make it up as you go along and fix it later?

Yeah... me,too...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nue Nano

Thursday is my 'in town' day, when I do the shopping. So there I was, wandering through the clothes racks, trying to come up with a solution as to why people would buy such unattractive apparel when... light bulb moment, out of the blue and totally unexpected.

Just to be annoying to those people about to plunge into the NaNo challenge, I now have the beginning, POV, characters and plot for book Number Two, coz, ya know, everyone has nearly an entire novel appear in their mind when standing in front of ugly blouses.

If I stood in front of the matching, equally unattractive skirts and trousers, will the third book show up?

I guess I'll have to wait patiently - the muse has, after all, been pumpin' iron out the back and is anxious to get started, she'll think of something...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bath Time

While it's probably not polite to take a photo of something taking a bath, the opportunity proved too tempting. This is one of two Mudlarks who took time out of their busy schedules of chasing each other and catching bugs to bathe. The pair do this at about four o'clock in the afternoon while the weather is warm.

The garden is full of birds, lorikeets, Rosellas, Wattle Birds, Willy-Wagtails, even the Superb Blue Wren drops in for a snack of catepillars, mosquitoes, moths, ladybugs, etc. They spread the seeds, protect the veggie patch and provide an early wake-up call, or entertainment with their colourful plumage and play.

I'm not usually a garden person - too many spiders for my liking, but they are a part of the eco-system, so I let them live - however, with the warm weather and rain, it's all lush and bursting with flowers; I'm hoping for a bumper crop of... anything. I'm not holding my breath, I've had flowers on the tomatoes all winter without fruit. I think they need more time in the sun.

Like a good story, in fact. During Nano, writers will put the words down, but any work produced will need time to mature. We plant the seeds of the story in our imaginations. We let it gestate, then the story sprouts. Under care, attention and the watering with a fertile mind, the work grows. Eventually, under our watchful gaze and ink-stained fingers, the flowers come, the fruit appears and the plant completes the cycle. For within that fruit are the seeds of future work, be it a part of a series, or a stand alone.

So spend time in the physical garden and relax, watch things grow; or spend time in the metaphysical garden and grow a book.

Monday, October 25, 2010


After ten years, New South Wales has been declared drought-free although some areas remain at risk.

This is excellent news for farmers and, just as importantly, food prices which should start to decline as the massive crops are brought in.

Also announced is that the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) is at its' highest level since 1973 - a big wow! there - at +25. What that means is above average rainfall, or the La Nina effect.

The weather will become more humid and the temps at night remaining higher with the cloud cover.

It also means... more 'pideys in da house. Spiders, it seems to me, don't like wet or damp weather, preferring - like any self-respecting beastie (unless you're a duck) - to be indoors when it rains. Red-backs, it should be noted, love damp places, so it pays to look in and under damp things before picking them up.

And... since I've already had a near miss with a baby Huntsman and a black spider, it means spraying the post box. I'm still squicked out by the Huntsman; they can grow to the size of a toddler's hand, fingers an' all.

It also just happens, that the weather will play a part in my upcoming Nano novel, because La Nina also brings cyclones (hurricanes in the U.S., typhoons in Asia). While most people don't really consider the weather, other than hot, cold, wet or dry to decide what to wear, it's important to consider trends when writing in fictional worlds.

Weather happens: it affects your characters, their actions, the consequences, dialogue, the society on a local and maybe a global scale. It might also create a solution to your characters troubles, or make them worse.

Remember, along with a nifty, if inappropriate sex scene, weather is great for the word count.

Now to ward off any eight-legged beasties with the Baygon...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Archive Opting Out

I don't think I'm happy.

I've just received notification from Scribd about their Scribd Archive program. It's not an invitation to join in, it's up to me to opt out.

It used to be that people asked before interfering with a person's work, not so much any more.

I post my stuff to be free. I've opted out and I'm hoping it stays that way. But if anyone finds they have to subscribe to the Archive program for a fee, let me know and I'll shift everything to somewhere else.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Huntress: Unbreakable posted

After much angst, hand-wringing and lip-chewing, Huntress: Unbreakable is up at Scribd. Now I'm off to relax - read a book or two - and then prepare for the word storm that is...


I'm still note-taking, not plotting; bullet points, not outlining.

I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

I took myself off to see The Girl Who Played With Fire this morning. Yeah, a foreign filum.

Interestingly, a number of critics have said the first film was better; I disagree. I've read the books, and the first, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, was slow and in need of a good editor. The second was action all the way - and so is the film.

I think the problem was that protagonists, Lisabeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist, don't get together until almost the last scene.

In this second instalment of the Millenium Trilogy, Mikael investigates the deaths of two of his new colleagues who are about to go public with a sex trafficking story that involves highly place people, and Lisabeth tries to clear her name of the murders. The trail leads both to the mysterious Zala, albeit via separate paths.

I only had one problem with the film and that was whomever did the subtitles, missed a few - one critical to the story.

It's not for the faint of heart, either, so if you're squeamish about violence or a gay sex scene, this isn't the movie for you.

I'll be watching the final instalment, though; the makers have done an excellent job on sticking with the book (which made it easier to follow, in spite of the lost subtitles).

Monday, October 18, 2010


Finally. The computer edits are in. All I need do now is create a cover and do a final read through. Then it will be posted.

The pre-note taking is progressing on the the first Nano novel... they're currently scattered about the house, depending on what I'm doing at the time inspiration strikes. I'll have to collect them, orga...n...ise... I'm beginning to sound like a plotter.

Fortunately, the notes are of different sections of the book, candy scenes. I get to connect them during the maniacal writing sessions.

Next up, the database. This contains the word count for each day, a rolling total, page counts, averages, current word count to target word count - and, occasionally, the word counts of challengers. Why? Probably because I need to get away from the lateral thinking to the logical.

During Nano, I will sometimes bang into a plot hole. Thinking about how to get out of it immediately may not work, but changing focus to something entirely different can allow the subconscious get on with working out the problem while the conscious mind is focused on another task. If that doesn't work, a long walk is needed.

So, once I've posted Huntress: Unbreakable and set up the database, I'm free to continue note-making and indulge in a few books or DVDs. I didn't actually plan on having a week off, but I'm sure I'll think of something to do while waiting for November 1.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Got Cake?

Aaannddd... just in case you missed it, Hyperbole and a Half blog presents the evilness and ingenuity of a child in: The God of Cake.

Jeez, my parents would have tanned my hide! But then, I was brunged up propa...

Wake up call

Rainbow Lorikeets, it should be noted, love chattering to each other in loud voices, like kids in a school yard.

My neighbour puts out native bird seed for their breakfast and dinner. The air is then filled with the noise of feasting Lorikeets, all trying to shout down the next bird... for a couple of hours.

And at six a.m., I'd like to take a shotgun to them. I'm so not at my best when brought out of a deep sleep by screeching...

However, the early mornings aren't wasted. (I'm the kind of person who, once awakened, is awake - no dozing here.) It's two weeks to Nanowrimo and already I have the first scene of the first book I'll be writing. My subconscious is slipping into Nano-fever and producing stuff at unspeakable hours of the morning. So it doesn't fade away, I've resorted to... gasp, squeak... writing notes.

Yeah, an organic writer making notes. Fortunately, there's no right or wrong way to write and the notes will help. I'm still putting in the edits and don't want to be distracted by what's next.

To that end, I need to get back to the mind games.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Shite and Briney

Six a.m. The rain and too much thinking has conspired to awaken me and keep me awake. I am not soothed by rain on a tin roof, it's loud and obnoxious. La Nina is in full swing, heading to rage.

With Nano coming up in a couple of weeks, I've got a bad case of hmmm-I-must-write-that-down-itis. A syndrome which has no compassion for the time. A lot of writers get it I believe and the only cure is to write the book - or take drugs.

So, I'm at my desk, beavering away (yes, I know I'm on the 'net, but I have the manuscript open and ready to put in the edits). A hundred pages to go and I'm coming up to an emotionally difficult part of the book. It's made me a cranky-pants around the house, because it's a part of the book that must be there. Sigh.

The day is brightening from dark to gloomy and it's chilly, almost back to Winter, except for the dampness. Time for a latte! And words, plenty of words.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bargain hunting

According to Publisher's Weekly, e-book sales jumped 172% for the month of August and are up nearly 193% for the year. I'd say it's a growing market, wouldn't you?

Maybe the Little Aussie Battler has something to do with it. With the Australian dollar nearly reaching parity with the American dollar, buying books from overseas is suddenly a hunt for the best bargains.

Gotta feel sorry for the tourists in Oz, though. A paperback here costs between $15 and $19 - and I've yet to hear a reasonable argument for it. The old excuse of 'we import them from the US/UK' doesn't work now, and hasn't for some months. Booksellers who boosted their prices during a currency crisis a few years ago, failed to drop their prices when the dollar recovered lost ground and then some.

I don't want to send my money overseas, but t's cheaper for me to buy from someone like Amazon and import it myself, than buy from a local store. And I have more books on the way. Hah!

And gee, Christmas is coming up.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The Hunger Games Trilogy requires a lot of post-reading thought to decide whether you love it or hate it, or even whether it’s an appropriate young adult series or not. I can’t say that about most books I’ve read and I like thought-provoking books. These books are dark, heart-wrenching and brilliant – but I speak from an adult’s perspective, not a young adult.

In Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen plays and wins – at costs known and unknown to her as she becomes the face of rebellion. In Catching Fire, she plays again, but ‘winning’ comes at a different cost, a greater one, when Peeta, her companion in the first Game, is captured by the evil Capitol. And in Mockingjay Katniss is consumed by the machinations of others and her own guilt (whether deserved or not).

This last book has been criticised for its lack of character development, for its disappointing epilogue, for being depressive, for a whole host of reasons. But for me, it was all appropriate. The horror of brutal oppression and war is bad enough for adults, for professional soldiers, but for a teenager? It’s even more tragic. And in this totalitarian world, the terrorizing and torture of the districts is heinous. It is worse for the teenagers who must accept that they will have to kill or be killed and accept the consequences of their actions for the rest of their lives. For Katniss it goes deeper as she is the face of the rebellion, a pawn in the machinations of others, a tool in the pursuit of power.

And Katniss is near destroyed by it all. She is not permitted to enjoy her revenge on those who used and abused her. Worse, she is punished for it, although if she’d spoken up, maybe things would have ended differently.

Katniss is cunning, petulant, impulsive, selfish, obstreperous, frustrating, indecisive and narrow-minded; but she will sacrifice everything for those she loves, she will protect strangers, beguile the enemy and gather allies to the cause. In short, she’s a teenager. She knows she’s not heroic, but she’s portrayed that way and she cannot escape what others are determined she do. Only once does she feel the power she has over others and even as she understands it, it’s taken away and guilt takes its place.

This is not a perfect book. There are events I found unnecessary to story or character development, one event in particular that served no purpose, even as I understood the reasoning behind it. Without that scene, Katniss had a shot at, if not happiness, then contentment as they rebuilt their lives. The issue of presidents Snow and Coin also raises questions. We know Snow is evil, but again, without a particular scene, it didn’t matter to Katniss whether Coin would make a better president, but Coin takes that extra, unnecessary step and Katniss and her family pay for it.

These books are filled with metaphors and themes from life and they refuse to shy away from the issues of PTSD, of heroes dying needlessly, of villains escaping true justice, of actions and consequences, and what happens to combat soldiers when the war is over.

The trilogy may be a young adult book, but it deals with very adult concepts and there is no escaping the underlying themes. It is no wonder that this is one of the most talked about books of the year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

In a dystopian future where the Capitol rules, the twelve impoverished districts are required to send two teenage tributes to the Hunger Games - a fight to the death in an arena of the Gamemaster's making to entertain those living in the Capitol.

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have thwarted the Gamesmaster and won the Hunger Games, much to the displeasure of President Snow. Katniss has found herself as the figurehead of brewing rebellion and Snow wants her to quell the subversion. Katniss, however, inadvertently becomes the touchstone of revolution, sparking more violence.

As punishment, two victor tributes from each district must compete again in the arena as part of the Quarter Quell, the 75th anniversary of the Capitol's triumph over the districts.

Katniss and Peeta survived the Games once against those of a similar age; can they survive against those with more experience and maturity?

Suzanne Collins has done a brilliant job with this trilogy. Katniss and Peeta are written well, with all the impulsiveness, emotional confusion, courage and self-doubt of teenagers. Mistakes are made, consequences are dire, but in this brutal future, hope remains.

Like any teenager on the cusp of adulthood, Katniss gets bent out of shape when she's not told of the plans older, supposedly wiser people have for her. She's justifiably furious in parts, petulant and spiteful in others.

The new arena is a wonderful, frightening construct, designed to kill, maim or send the tributes insane. To Katniss and Peeta, the other tributes are crazy and Katniss learns what true sacrifice is. She is the face of the rebellion, the favourite of the Capitol viewing audience, the enemy of President Snow because of one act of defiance.

She is the Mockingjay and she will learn what that truly means.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Tomorrow, when the war began

I took the teens to see Tomorrow, When The War Began. It’s based on the best selling series by Australian author, John Marsden.

The story revolves around a group of teenagers who go camping in North Queensland for a weekend. When they return home, they find everyone incarcerated at the local showground and that the 'Asian Coalition' has invaded Australia.

This isn't a Disney-esque series or film, it's real, sometimes violent and heart-breaking. There is nothing patronising about the situation or the way the characters react, especially when it comes to moral dilemmas. A lot serious, a lot Australian, it has moments of humour. The film suffers from a bit of newbie acting in parts, but overall it is a brilliant local production, one I hope does well in the overseas market.

Each of the characters will appeal to the teenage crowd - adults don't appear much in this. When they do, the tension ratchets up until you're leaning forward in your seat, wondering what the teens are going to do against armed soldiers.

Tomorrow, When The War Began got the big thumbs up from the kids and me. It's an excellent movie.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Teens in the crib

I've got teenagers in the house - I'm borrowing them so the beach doesn't feel so neglected while I'm editing. Actually, I buggered my knee and walking for any distance is a challenge (but the teenagers make a good excuse).

But I'm still editing. It's taking time because I keep getting distracted. You know, by the teens, by the teev, I mean... by the TBR pile and so many other things that conspire against me. (Teen one needed help on 'creative analysis of a metaphysical poem'.) Colour me bug-eyed. We didn't do metaphysics when I went to school. There's also the Cold War essay. But then, my niece is exceptionally clever and loves homework - teen two, not so much.

I think I'll be done by the end of next week. I had a scathingly brilliant idea for the cover - but I think I've forgotten what it was. Maybe I made a note somewhere...

Back to work. I'm taking the aforementioned kiddos to the movies later this afternoon - teen one I think loves homework a little too much and needs time away from it all.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Time shift

Sure, doesn't everyone enjoy getting up an hour earlier?

It's that time of the year when the winter season ends and summer-time begins: Daylight Savings (which is really weird, because we get the same amount of sunshine, so where's the saving?)

I remember as a kid DST lasted for three months. Then some bright spark shifted it four and following our Olympics it's now six months.

I'm still getting used to getting up, bleary eyed, and noting the time is an hour later than I'd like - then there's the staring at the ceiling when I go to bed because I'm there and hour earlier.

Sigh. This, too, shall pass...

Friday, October 01, 2010

Death of a Great

Bernard Schwartz has died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 85.

I remember him with fondness - he was an actor I crushed on, many, many people crushed on him.

Who is Bernard? Trivial Pursuit players know, but his stage name is Tony Curtis.

I loved his movies. Suppose They Gave A War and Nobody Came?, The Persuaders with Roger Moore, Some Like It Hot weirded me out a little, Taras Bulba, The Great Race, The Defiant Ones... so many great films.

The black hair and mischievous eyes, buff bod (when he was younger).

His daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, says it perfectly:

"My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages. He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world. He will be greatly missed."

I know I'll watch re-runs of his movies on the teev.