"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wrapped and knitted

Arvo Job: done and dusted and filed and forgotten – holidays (writing and reading) here I come. Last minute present buying: done. Grocery shopping: done. Ris a' l’amande: done, and tasting rather yummy too, if I may say so myself. Present wrapping: almost done.

To anyone who happens to drop by: have a Merry and Safe Christmas.

I’ll leave you with this, because nothing quite captures the essence of Christmas like a knitted Nativity scene in the front window of a country craft shop (double click to enlarge it so you can enjoy the fine handiwork).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Course for Christmas

Today was the last, endlessly long, end-of-the-year slog day at the Arvo Job. I still have to go in for a couple of arvos of mopping up, but I can now turn my attention towards getting the last Christmas shopping done and starting on the ris a' l'amande.

Ah, family traditions. Believe me, a Danish Christmas is not for the faint-hearted. To cope with the preparations, my brothers and sister and I split the cooking tasks. Initially, we renegotiated who was to do what every year – the pork, the red cabbage, the caramel potatoes - but over time, we’ve settled into a routine. I’m the ris a' l'amande maker. It’s not an easy job, and it is not a job you can rush, but when I get it just right, and everyone is scoffing til they burst, aaaah, the triumph.

Alas, however, there is also the possibility of getting it wrong and ruining everyone’s meal...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cygnets of Respite

I took a break this morning to eat breakfast in the park. I sat by the lake and was treated to this before I headed off for another rushy day at the Arvo Job:

Cygnet. I just love that word. Anyway, after tomorrow, things should start returning to normal. I just hope the story-writing part of my brain is still working. It pretty much feels like fudge at the moment.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Prezzies!

I woke up this morning with Arvo Job stuff going around and around inside in my head - a sure sign that I'm spending way way too much time in the Real World. This week at the All-Day and All-Night Arvo Job was absolutely nutso. I'm also getting seriously grumpy. Too much mundane stuff pushing the writing stuff from my brain for too many weeks on end tends to make me crotchety.

Fortunately I got an early Chrissie present today, which cheered me up immensely - a swing chair with a canopy from my brothers and sister, upon which I can sit or lie in the back garden and write, read, daydream and nap. I've already done a test run with the daydreaming and napping. It went well on both counts - the gentle swinging was incredibly calming. I'm looking forward to doing a lot of reading out there during the upcoming Xmas break, and taking Rover out the back for the occasional session of alfresco writing . Aaaaaah - holidays. So close now that I can smell 'em.

Of course, I may have a fight on my hands claiming ownership of such a fabulous piece of snoozing equipment:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Salvation

I'm not at the Arvo Job - this doesn't feel right. And why not? Because there's a man with a mower (hurrah!!!) clearing the jungle out front, so soon I'll be able to hold my head high as I come and go. As soon as he's done, it's back to the rush, rush, rush of pre-Xmas arvojobbing with the thought of the holidays up ahead fixed firmly in my mind.

In other news, my vamp story was pretty swiftly sent back with a big, electronic no-thanks stamp on it. That's okay - the time period I set it in makes it suitable for another anthology, so I'll polish it over the next 4-5 days and send it off again.
You have to bounce back and work hard on remaining optimistic in this business.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Drats

Whilst internetting around to look for new markets, I just discovered that I could have worked on my Aussie vamp story for another 7 days. Poo! I thought Dec 1 was the deadline, and I hurriedly sent it off at midnight after a feverish edit on the train on the way home, but it turns out that it was in fact Dec 8. Double damn. When I think what I could have done with that submission, how I could have fleshed it out and pared it back and played around with the dialogue for seven whole more days, well ... curses and oaths galore!!!!

Ah well, serves me right for jotting down the wrong date. Moving on. Next up, I must commit to one of the three versions of the story I want to send to the Anywhere But Earth anthology and then polish it to perfection. The core of the tale is the same - alien society, traumatic event, repercusions - but I've written the first drafts of three different structural approaches. But which version should I go with? The one with the very alien and poetic beginning that I love despite the fact that that alien and poetic beginning was thoroughly bagged by 7 out of 9 participants at a workshop last year? The one that is in danger of becoming a travelogue through an alien society? The one with the main character's older self as the POV? Or a combination of these three?

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

A week of blah

It started with a traffic fine, segued into long, long, long, long days of Arvo Jobbing at a hasty, Xmas pace and lots of snoozing on the trains, and finished off with a series of major Arvo Job stuff ups. On the home front, the grass out the front is knee-high (I want to put up a sign saying 'Coming soon to this lawn: a man with a mower' just so that people know I'm on it) the rose trellis is coming off the front porch after the storms of the past few weeks, a bathroom sink is blocked, and my vacuum cleaner is dying.

I did, however, manage to pare back the loser submission that was rejected on Sunday. Being tired is good when hacking superfluous words from an indulgent piece - one has no patience with one's own misunderstood "genius", and annihilating fun-to-write but unnecessary prose is suddenly easy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nicked

You’d think I’d have an easy time of it staying on the right side of the law, what with me not being a driver, a financial consultant or drug dealer, but no, this morning I managed to get a fine. After travelling all the way to the city to get in some extra hours at the Arvo Job (we're busy, busy, busy up to Xmas), after getting off the train and battling my way across Spencer Street, I saw my tram coming down Collins St and anticipated the changing light a little too early and ...

Oh, all right, I crossed the pedestrian crossing while the little man was still red.

Still, I contend that stupid city planning makes for stupid behaviour. A major train station on one side of a major intersection, with 2-6 lanes and 1-2 sets of traffic lights to cross before you can connect with the city trams that many rail passengers will be trying to catch does not make for a safe environment. If you knew for sure that there was another tram coming along in a few minutes, it also wouldn’t be a problem, but to watch an empty tram whizz by and possibly wait another 20 minutes for the next and the little man is about to turn green but isn't quite yet ...

But the fact remains that I done wrong. If only I had stayed home this morning like I really wanted to, I could have saved some money. And if only my fine were going towards the construction of underground tunnels that allowed Southern Cross Railway Station patrons to swiftly and safely emerge at the tram stop of their choice, I wouldn’t mind so much either.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leaping logs & a longtime loser

I’m just back from a day of horse riding through the Wombat Forest in Daylesford. There was more rainy riding when a storm, complete with thunder and lightening, hit and thoroughly soaked us. Mind you, after the Snowy River ride, this was a piece of (soggy) cake. Fortunately the skies cleared, and post lunch we, a small group of experienced riders, headed off again for an afternoon of bush bashing and lots of log leaping. It was a higgledy-piggledy, but most fun day.

And now Foalwatch brings you these cute pics:
This still nameless, and strangely marked colt was one of the two born foals a couple of months ago (after, if you recall, Butch the stallion jumped the fence one night). In the second picture, he shares the frame with his doting mum.

My only writing news is that I came home to a rejection. It’s a funny old thing the rejected story – on its very first outing, it made it to the final round of an American anthology, and when they finally rejected it, they did so with much praise. I, of course, had high hopes for its future, but ever since then, it’s been all downhill for this poor tale. I’ll cut it right back to the barest of bones, I think (the consensus seems to be, among other things, that it's too long) and give it one or two more goes, then I’ll have to admit defeat and bin it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

More Monsters


Everything that Skyline wasn't, thank goodness.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

End of the Month Report: November

Submissions: 2 (all time low)
Rejections: 0
Acceptances:0
Published: 0
Stories presently out: 5
Mood: Gotta finish my vamp story, gotta finish my vamp story

Monday, November 29, 2010

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen

While others will wax lyrical about the Naked Gun series, for me, Leslie Nielsen was first and foremost the dashing space ship commander in Forbidden Planet. He was, I thought, everything a dashing space ship commander should be - handsome, brave, and able to shepherd a screaming woman through a collapsing mad scientist's lair.

I saw this movie at the drive-in when I was a wee, scifi loving sprog, and it scared the crap out of me.


But oh, how I longed for my very own Robby the Robot - sort of the olden days version of getting your own Arnie-Terminator to perform feats of abject subservience (and possibly payback on mortal enemies a.k.a school bullies). Ah, the power!
Thanks for the memories, Leslie.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Catnip, cleaning and cottage cheese containers

Cooper was crazy for the catnip today.

Otherwise, t’was a day of catchup cleaning, consummate creativity, council workers putting up Christmas decorations, and citizens complaining about the election.

One alphabetic aberration was the little lizard that the cats caught and carried into the kitchen to cavort with, and I carefully carried outside again in a cottage cheese container.

I also read a piece this morning in The Age about Stephen Fry’s latest chronicle in which the reviewer churlishly claimed Mr Fry used too many words starting with “C”.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Floods, freebies and farewells

After a mad / bad week in the Real World, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it to the final session of the Year of SF & Fantasy with Paul Collins workshop, but I woke up early this morning determined to finish off what I started so many months ago.

First, though, I had to brave the weather. Across the road, where not so long ago one looked down from the 1-2 meter high embankment at a dry creek bed, there is now a raging river. This morning it looked like this:

As with all good quests, I did get some help from a passing stranger – a nice lady from Maryborough gave me a lift to the station in her white car.

I’m glad I got to Melbourne, wet as it was, because it turned out to be an excellent day. The critiquing went well (I was chuffed by the kind words said about my MS) and Trudi Canavan* was a brilliant guest speaker and downright lovely person who not only shared her knowledge of the writing industry, but also took the time to talk individually with each of us. To our great joy, she brought a bag full of freebie books for us, and then signed them. I nabbed:


Once we completed the afternoon session of critiquing, it was time to party. There was bubbly and cheese platters and savoury snacks and a killer cheesecake, accompanied by lots of laughing and talking. Plans for keeping in contact and setting up a writing group for next year were made, and finally it was time to hug and kiss cheeks and say farewell for 2010 to a group of people who started out as strangers, but came to share their visions and dreams with each other.

After taking care of business in the city, I headed for home, writing away on my vampire story (will I make the deadline?) while torrential rain slammed into the train. It was quite cosy. Then I practically paddled home from the station to find SES tape set up on the flooded pavement outside my house:

As I took this photo, a SES car sped past, siren sounding, on its way to another emergency. It’s still raining heavily, and the “creek” across the road is even higher than it was this morning, and its current is unbelievably strong.

This most writerly day then ended well with an email from a specfic magazine notifying me that one of my stories has graduated to the next round.

*Trudi illustrated my story 'Voyage to Abydos' way back in Aurealis #24, before she became a mega bestselling author. I wish I'd had the guts to get her to sign one of the issues I have stashed away.

Monday, November 22, 2010

So true

"A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing."
Eugene Ionesco

Don't blame me

If I don't get my YOSF&F workshop critiquing done on time, well, it's NOT my fault:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweet Sunday

It was a day of driving (lovely weather, gorgeous scenery), of eating pancakes, ice cream, strawberries, birthday cake, and lots of lollies and licorice whilst chatting and laughing, then driving home again.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Xmas is coming

I'm not an overly Christmassy person, but if I had an obscene amount of cash at my disposal, I would definitely nip across to the US of A to catch 'A Klingon Christmas Carol'.

Scrooge has no honor, nor any courage. Can three ghosts help him to become the true warrior he ought to be in time to save Tiny Tim from a horrible fate?
Performed in the Original Klingon with English Supertitles, and narrative analysis from The Vulcan Institute of Cultural Anthropology.
The Dickens classic tale of ghosts and redemption adapted to reflect the Warrior Code of Honor and then translated into tlhIngan Hol (That's the Klingon Language).
To me, this falls in under:
Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time. John Stuart Mill
I believe that as long as there is a Klingon theatre production showing somewhere in the world, there is still hope for humankind.
♪♫ So, have yourself ♫♫ a Klingon ♪♪♫♪ Christmas... ♫♪♫

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

This morning, I finally sent off my YOSF&F MS for our final workshop next week - shame on me for waiting so long - and I'm reading MSs on the train on the way home in the evenings and preparing comments. I can't believe it'll all be over soon. I also cannot believe that Trudi Canavan will be our guest speaker for the last session.

I'm also madly writing a short story to submit to the upcoming Aussie vampire anthology by the end of the month. After weeks of mucking around with different ideas that led to nowhere once I started working on them (vampires are not my strong suit) lightning struck yesterday as I was walking through the park on my way to the Arvo Job, and I finally hit upon a concept that excites me complete with a few scenes. The final scene came to me walking back through the same park on my way home tonight. I'm loving that park. Fortunately, it's a 1-2k kind of story (I hope) and I churned out 500 words on the train trip this morning, so it seems doable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Self-sufficient

‘Tis Monday morning, and the sun is shining warmly upon the tomato seedlings that I planted yesterday. Inspired by the veggie gardens in my new hood, over the weekend, apart from weeding and writing, I started to grow my own private food supply. So far, I have cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes and jalapenos on the go. A limited diet, granted, but if zombies/aliens/uncontrollable weather hit and civilization crashes into chaos, those cherry tomatoes will be worth gold.

Of course, the apocalypse may be more prosaic than that. I have a horrible feeling that all my work just might equate to putting out snacks for the impending locust plague that everyone is predicting will hit soon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Not Sci-Fi

I was sooo looking forward to this week’s Thursday night movie, as I do any upcoming SF film, but I’ve now filed it in the ‘time-I’ll-never-get-back’ folder of life. This is the kind of movie that some people will use as ammunition when they bag SF.

Whilst watching this awfulness, most of my thoughts fell into these categories:

1-A plot would have been good.
2-Internal logic would have been good.
3-There’s a reason these movies usually have a scientist or a journo or soldier as the main protagonist. A few brain cells and/or the ability to decide on a course of action makes the journey much more bearable for the audience.
4-Where are my Independance Day / War of the Worlds (original version) / Matrix DVDs? I need to watch them again to sluice all these ripped-off scenes from my head.
5-Bring back Ripley, pleeeeease! Female characters don’t all have to be Amazons, but they certainly shouldn’t ALL be unreasonable, hysterical, sooky wife and/or slut stereotypes constantly spouting ‘I-told-you-so’ and throwing tantrums when the blokes don’t take care of an alien invasion, like right now!

The ending is brain bogglingly stupid, but we did enjoy tearing apart on the way home afterwards. Maybe that makes it a 'so-bad-it's-good' film. Basically, as far as I'm concerned, the trailer was better.

For maximum viewing pleasure, you should approach this movie not as a science fiction film, but as a screamer flick, with psycho aliens instead of a chainsaw wielding nutter mindlessly cutting a swathe through a flock of annoying, clueless adolescent caricatures. That way, you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

All good

In case anyone was wondering how the doof-doof saga ended, well, it has done just that - ended. I'm savouring the quiet right now (Tuesday was traditionally a night of loud revelry), and I'm once more getting enough sleep to be functional at the Arvo Job and get some writing done. It was a tad tense there for a few months battle-of-willswise, and I did have to pull my bitch boots out of storage, but all is well now, thank goodness.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Feeling crappy?

Here's a spot of reading for those days when you feel a bit cynical about the writing industry, and weary of the whole writing-as-a-lifestyle thing:

Getting Published is Not a Crap Shoot
Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Many of the writers who contact me with Writer Beware-type questions seem to be convinced that the process of getting published is equivalent to a crap shoot. There are enormous numbers of people trying to sell a book, and very few publishing slots to go around. What slots there are go mostly to insiders and celebrities, rather than new writers. Agents and editors are so [pick one] busy/arrogant/sadistic that they're as likely to toss your query as to read it. All in all, you’ve got a better chance of getting struck by lightning than you do of getting published.

Read the rest: http://www.sfwa.org/2010/11/getting-published-is-not-a-crap-shoot/#more-10004

Now, pick yourself up, dust yourself off...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Rural reading

The local library had a Monster Book Sale today - the chance to scoop up hardback editions nicely covered in plastic for the price of only $1.00 each - so guess where I’ve been this arvo?

However, since I’m still reading the booty I gleaned at their last sale, I put myself on a 5 book limit this time, and actually stuck to the restriction. So I got The Year’s Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois (the 20th annual collection from 2003), and added to my Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn with The Harsh Cry of the Heron and Heaven’s Net is Wide, neither of which, alas, I can read until I have secured Brilliance of the Moon.

But the very first book I pounced upon was Naomi Novik's Victory of Eagles, so now my post-trail-riding-plus-three-long-days-at-the-Arvo-Job brain (which also decided that this week's movie should be RED rather than Gainsbourg because it wasn't up to accessing long ago French lessons or negotiating subtitles, but a bit of Bruce Willis blowing up things was just the ticket) is telling me to sit in the backyard in the beautiful Spring weather (outside reading is a joy I’ve rediscovered since moving to the country) and just go adventuring with Temeraire and Captain Will Laurence. I’m trying to negotiate the doing of a few chores before this Napoleonic bliss-out, and I think I will win because one of them is the baking of dill and onion bread that will go extremely well with dragonish daredevilry and cups of tea, but we’ll see.

I’m not even going to broach the subject of getting my last YOSF&F workshop submission sent off today. If I do, I think my brain will throw a tantrum.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tough as

My day: sleeping in, washing and drying and airing clothes, towels, riding gear and camping stuff, downloading photos, chatting and emailing about the trip, drinking pots and pots of hot tea, and lovely long afternoon nap under a warm doona.

Given that people down here in the everyday lowlands are still talking about Saturday’s weather, and given the amount of flooding my sister and I saw on the drive home, it’s no wonder that some folk took it for granted that the ride had been cancelled. But no, tough trail riding folk laugh in the face of torrential downpours and alpine squalls that leave non-horsey folk shivering in their non-riding boots.

On the first, and worst (weather-wise) day of the ride, not one person opted out of the ride. As we, or rather the horses, climbed mountains made of rocks and mud, and then slid down the other side, as we hunched against winds and sleet and cold, as we felt rain slip inside our drizabones and our boots filled up with water, not one person whined or did a prima donna turn.

Instead, everyone joked about the situation and made the best of it. Tales were told of other rigorous rides, songs were sung (Slip sliding away...), and when the weather turned really bad, everyone just hunkered down and rode through it. Then, when we reached the King Valley camp at the end of the first day, soaked and shivering as they were, everyone took the waterlogged saddles (so heavy!!) from their mounts and made sure their horses were okay before dashing to change clothes and warm their outsides with fire and their insides with food.

The kind of people with you make or break a ride like that, and fortunately on this trip we had the company of even tempered folk for whom horse riding is a way of life. And that’s what it all comes down to – the riding experience. Either you love it, or you don’t, and if you do, you take whatever it throws at you, the good and the bad.

After Saturday’s extreme riding (apropos which we came up with a business idea for a new sport that involves horses, rolling down mountainsides, and giant, rain-shunting bubbles, which we will, of course, base in New Zealand) the weather improved, and the occasional showers were a trifle compared with what we had already been through. Bonded by adversity, we set forth once more and over the next two days forded swollen rivers (no-one fell off, though a few horses submerged their riders before regaining their footing), picked our way down steep, narrow, muddy trails, had saddle and bridle malfunctions in the most awkward places, and were much amused by the requisite person-hanging-onto-a-low-hanging-branch-while-their-horse-walks-on-without-them episode.

Trail riding isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun time, but I love it (that’s me, in a photo taken by my sister).

End of the Month Report: October

Submissions: 5
Rejections: 4
Acceptances: 1 (Blame Games (SF))
Published: 0
Stories presently out: 5
Mood: Too tired from trail riding to register a mood.

Cold Riders in the Rain

Just back from a three day ride through the Snowy Mountains.

It started thus, with clouds descending upon us.








Then it started raining. And it kept on raining, and raining, and raining. Our days ended thus, with the mass drying of drizabones, and the wringing out of everything else we were wearing:



Believe me, there was a reason the authorities put out a severe weather warning for this weekend.

But much fun with tough horsey folk was also had. More about that once I've unpacked my bag full of sodden, and increasingly smelly, clothes.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I ♥ Democracy (2)

If you recall, back in August I tried to do my political duty and vote in the federal election, and despite having done all the correct paperwork, when I rocked up at the polling booths on the day, I was sternly told that I wasn’t on the electoral roll for the Division of Bendigo. I then had to do much mucking around with more paperwork, and ended up filling in ballot papers for the Division of Port Melbourne instead. It was most disheartening.

Well, now I’ve received a letter from Australian Electoral Commission chastising me for voting in the wrong division (and hinting that I’m a fool / a vote rigger / unAustralian?). So despite all my civic eagerness, my Senate vote was counted, but unfortunately my House of Representatives vote was not.

*sigh*

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A study in tent-airing, with cats

















I also got in 4.5 hours of flat out writing on a new story. It was a good day :-)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Encore

My story 'Blame Games' will also appear in Antipodean SF, Issue 152, in February 2011, so it will eventually be available both online and in a book.

In honour of its admirable work ethic, it shall henceforth be known here at home as 'The Little Story that Could'.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Flabby

Enough already with the faffing around - it's time to tauten those creative muscles and get a serious writing routine back up and running. It's amazing how one minute you're putting in Olympic style training hours, then you let it slide a bit, and a bit more, and then suddenly not much is happening, and you're just shoving words around, jotting insipid notes, Googling too much to see how other writers are faring, and rereading old stories and wondering how you managed to get so much done back then.

Back then, of course, you sat down every morning and wrote, idiot!

So I got in 3 hours of good writing today, and plan to do the same tomorrow and Wednesday morning. The should work off some of the brain flab that's been accumulating and reset my habits.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Let Me Think

This was good - atmospheric, scary, and respectful of the original though it explained more of the stuff that we enjoyed figuring out for ourselves,





BUT

this was better, mostly because the secondary characters around the children were more fleshed out and sympathetic, and provided a more textured community setting for the kids' actions. There was also more dark humour.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Monster Mash

I was going to bang on about me and my day, but this is so much better:

A Monstrous Manifesto
by Catherynne M Valente

If you are a monster, stand up.
If you are a monster, a trickster, a fiend,
If you’ve built a steam-powered wishing machine
If you have a secret, a dark past, a scheme,
If you kidnap maidens or dabble in dreams
Come stand by me.

If you have been broken, stand up.
If you have been broken, abandoned, alone
If you have been starving, a creature of bone
If you live in a tower, a dungeon, a throne
If you weep for wanting, to be held, to be known,
Come stand by me.

If you are a savage, stand up.
If you are a witch, a dark queen, a black knight,
If you are a mummer, a pixie, a sprite,
If you are a pirate, a tomcat, a wright,
If you swear by the moon and you fight the hard fight,
Come stand by me.

If you are a devil, stand up.
If you are a villain, a madman, a beast,
If you are a strowler, a prowler, a priest,
If you are a dragon come sit at our feast,
For we all have stripes, and we all have horns,
We all have scales, tails, manes, claws and thorns
And here in the dark is where new worlds are born.
Come stand by me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Electric dreams

Living in a country town means you get to trial new technologies before they hit the big city.

So now, after months of receiving letters very firmly telling me to ready the house for the arrival of men with screwdrivers interspersed with letters profusely apologising for the non-show of said tradies ( 'It's not out fault', these letters wailed, 'That part of the process is outsourced to another, less competent than us, company.' ) my electricity Smart Meter, which I was not allowed to forcefully or politely decline and am absolutely forbidden to fiddle with, has finally been installed.

Here's hoping that the PTB's definition of the word smart and mine come from the same dictionary.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Spot the foal

So I went horse riding in the Wombat Forest with my sister today, and there were 2 foals* at the place where we go, both only a couple of weeks old, so I was going to take some excruciatingly cute baby pics of them to post here, but I ran out of time to traipse across the paddock, so instead I tried zooming in on them, which requires a very steady hand...

The result? I got lots of photos of grass and this:

Adorable, eh?

*Addendum: these were not planned pregnancies. Butch, the stallion, jumped the fence and made a night of it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lovely as

So the long, long days at the Arvo Job are finally over, and last night I saw The Tree.

Now it's time to get back to my bleak love story, a possible vamp tale (I've never written one before), the clash of alien cultures drama, and a big, messy SF saga that needs disciplining. Nice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Silent Sunday

Today was quiet too. So perhaps ... maybe... dare I tentatively hope that my trials by doof-doof are over?

Seizing the [quiet] day, I got some writing done, and submitted 3 short stories and a poem. While looking around for new markets, I came across this advice in the submission guidelines for Theaker’s Quartely’:

Note also that if your story is published in TQF (or any other non-paying or low-paying magazine, for that matter) that will probably preclude it being sold at full price to any professional market later on. If you are making a career of writing, sometimes it's best to keep your work in the drawer. Even if it isn't in fashion right now, there may be a market for it ten years down the line.

A few of my stories are accumulating a serious number of rejections, and I’m running out of places to send them. They’re good stories (or so the rejecting editors have told me) all of which have been held for final consideration a number of times, some by pro publications, but they just can’t seem to find homes. I suppose this is what happens when you build up a large stable of stories. So perhaps I need to just relax and stash them away in a drawer, wait until the right opportunities come along and whip 'em out then.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

You just never know

Contrary to yesterday's extremely pessimistic expectations, today turned out to be a most productive and enjoyable day.


It was as quiet as, so I fired up the computer, did a few hours of so-so writing (a few hundred words of a sad (bleak?) love story and the overhauling of an amusing (?) poem that I'll send off tomorrow), made deadline plans for the rest of the month (finish four stories that possibly suit upcoming anthologies), and also fitted in a nice walk, reading (The Selected Works of TS Spivet by Reif Larsen - far too awkward a book to read while commuting) and domestic stuff like washing (still loving that I get to hang bedclothes out in the fresh air), baking (buttermilk scones, prune and walnut bread) cooking (a huge bean and vegie bake for portion freezing), and bonding with cats who are seriously cranky about me being away at the Arvo Job so much this fortnight.

Now to finish off with a spot of DVD watching. Dare I dream that I might get to write tomorrow too?

Oktoberfest

And the doof-doof goes on and on and on and on. Obviously officially complaining really helped.

I was hoping to get in a good weekend of writing to finish a few stories with impending deadlines, but it ain't looking good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

End of the Month Report: September

Submissions: 5
Rejections: 7
Acceptances: 2 (Hard Rubbish (SF) & Blame Games (SF))
Published: 0
Stories presently out: 5
Mood: Much WorldConning and Arvo Jobbing and horse riding do not a productive writer make.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quiet times

My sister and I are preparing (nifty camping / saddle thingies to buy, tents to air out) for a 3 day ride in the Victorian Highlands in November.
It’ll be quiet. It’ll be peaceful. It’ll be beaut.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Noisy times

I officially complained about the doof-doof neighbours last week (and in the process solved the mystery of why things suddenly changed for the noisier) and I'd say the message has been passed on because now, as happens when dealing with people with an inflated sense of entitlement, things are even worse.

For the past two nights, in a new twist to the adventure, within half an hour of my getting home from the Arvo Job, the doof-doof starts. Usually week days are quiet this time of night. I interpret this development as their way of saying, 'we control the horizontal, we control the vertical, we control the quality of your home life'. Typical bully behaviour. Still, there's a fine line between macho posturing and intimidation, and they're getting awfully close to crossing it. The important thing is to not succumb to victimthink, as in being pathetically grateful for what peace and quiet I can get in between and then putting up with such harassment.

So the great doof-doof adventure continues :-(

Still, there might be a story in it for me *starts to plot a vengeful fantasy*.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weeds and WIPs

Gardening turned out to be a good, post-workshop thing to do. It was a beautiful, peaceful Spring day, and as I yanked out the triffid-weeds, I cringed at the memory of my synopsis (it was deemed crap, but I already knew that) and mulled over how to make it better. I also pondered the critiquing of my MS and considered solutions. Overall, I realise that the book needs a massive structural rewrite – the passing of (too much?) time is a particular problem – dialogue shakeups, and, very importantly, a kick ass title. I’ve been using a bland working title for so long that it’s starting to stick, and it is NOT a butt-booting, gotta-buy-that-book kind of YA title, not by a long shot.

And gotta-buy-that-book inducements like good covers and blurbs are important, as our guest speaker Sean McMullen pointed out, because you have to convince someone to not only part with their hard earned lucre for your book, but also to invest an afternoon or more to read it.

Sean gave us a great rundown on synopses, pitches, and rather depressing examples of how much the cover layout influences the sales of a book. Paul then set writing a pitch to a publisher as extra homework for our next, and final, workshop. Gaaaah! The synopsis blew my synapses. Goodness knows what damage writing a pitch will wreak upon my brain.

Weeds

With only a St Kilda balcony to tend for over two decades, I never used to really get gardening /weed metaphors. I mean, how hard could it be to potter about amongst the flowers once a week and pluck a few interlopers while you enjoy the fresh air?

But now I really really understand. For months, everything is beautifully under control, then you turn your attention elsewhere for a couple of weekends, and when you look again, the lawn has become a jungle, vines are strangling the house, the roses have vanished under the onslaught of some aggressive, creeping thingie, and other wild stuff is standing as tall as triffids, and looking just as ready as those infamous plants to pull up their roots and march against humankind.

Lesson learnt today: do not underestimate the power of Spring.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Merrymaking (not)

So it’s off to the YOSF&F workshop tomorrow, which means, of course, that the neighbours have decided as per usual to indulge their love of all things doof-doofy and bassy and whooping tonight. This is getting extremely tedious, not to mention tiring. I’ve taken various forms of action, but methinks, no, meknows that I’ll end up moving again soon simply because I can’t plan a life and work and writing around this kind of ongoing racket.

Ooops, their "music" just got louder. And deeper.

Fire Flicka


When life's everyday irritations are getting you down, it might be helpful to consider the horrific trials of poor Lisbeth Salander and then suck it up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Done and dusty

There, *HUGE sigh of relief* I’m all finished with critiquing work samples and synopses for the YOSF&F workshop on Saturday, and I’ve still got one whole morning left to nicely type up reports. This is a first.

Now, I have to head off out into an increasingly messy messy world. It’s school holidays and the Melbourne Show is on, so the trains are packed with people, and resounding with the screams and laughter of over-excited kiddies. Forget about peacefully composing stories as the countryside glides by. Then, at the Arvo Job, there are renovations in process, and tradesmen and computer problems and dust and the smell of paint to negotiate.

Ah well, this too will pass. Ooooommmmmm.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do it, or don't

Find time to write, that is. John Scalzi says it all here

He finishes off with:
And if you need inspiration, think of yourself on your deathbed saying “well, at least I watched a lot of TV.” If saying such a thing as your life ebbs away fills you with existential horror, well, then. I think you know what to do.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Minutiae

I got a rejection for one story.

I got a hold request for another - but I won't hold my breath. I've learnt not to get too excited too soon about those.

I'm now on the Definitive List of Published Australian Spec-Fic Prose Writers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Poem

Once I wanted to ban the bomb
And create a world of peace and love.
Now I want to ban bogan bass
And up feral fundaments sub-woofers shove.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Double Whammy

So, way way back in January, the 14th to be precise, when this blog was still minty fresh, I posted this:

Good news that put a spring in my step today: two stories that I submitted to the same anthology have both been put on the short list. So, they might publish both. Or one. Or none, as occurred recently in a similar situation.

I must admit, I was pessimistically going with a repeat of the 'none' scenario.

However, *loud cheer* and *happy dance*, this time it went to the other extreme. On Sunday, I received an email from the editor, Stephen Studach, informing me that both of my stories will appear in the upcoming anthology 100 Lightnings.

Writing. Go figure.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Snaps and Submission Scores

Place: Airey's Inlet.

This is me and Sylvester, a big, boofy, very fast boy, and the Great Ocean Road beach that we’ve just been galloping flat out along.


Me and my sister Cindy, who is on Ginger. This was probably our last beach ride for 2010 – soon the holidaymakers and tourists will fill the beach with their towels, fishing rods, surfboards and Frisbees, and we wouldn’t be able to hoon and splash around.

Excellent people, excellent riders, excellent beach, excellent fun.

In the afternoon, 4 of us headed into the bush, and once more, much hooning on horseback was done.

And, in breaking news, as a perfect conclusion to this seriously perfect day, I came home to an email telling me that two of my stories have been accepted for the same anthology. The drought is over!!! But more about that later.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

(Writing) Life Goes On (2)

Many many many moons ago, I had 3 stories published in The School Magazine, all of which were illustrated by Kim Gamble.

Today, out of the blue, I got this email, which might be of interest to others as well:

I wanted to notify you of a forthcoming ABC Radio National Hindsight program, which will be a retrospective on history of The School Magazine. As a current or former contributor to the magazine, I thought it might be of particular interest to you.

Hindsight is a one-hour weekly feature program on Australia’s National radio network, devoted exclusively to social history. If you are outside Australia, details can be found via the link below and the show will be available as a podcast.

The School Magazine has been produced every year since 1916 and has been loved by generations of Australian children. The list of staff and contributors over that time reads like a who’s who of great writers and from Australia and around the world.

The program will include recent and archival interviews with a host of people whose paths have intersected with that of the School Magazine. Actors will be reading correspondences, story extracts and letters from our readers.

So tune your radio to ABC Radio National at 2.00 pm this Sunday afternoon, sit down with a cuppa, and enjoy!

For more information, please click on the link below:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2010/2997272.htm

(Writing) Life Goes On

So I received a rejection yesterday. Not just any old rejection, but a personal rejection from one of the pro publications. My work was praised and analysed and favourably compared with another work (oh no, I reinvented the wheel?). Then they asked me to send more work when it becomes available.

During Worldcon, I learnt a new word – rejectomancy. As in ‘Do not practice this.’

But I can’t help it. I gaze at the entrails of the email and try to divine my future. What does it all mean? Is my work good, is it bad, is it …?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Worldcon: A Really Rapid Roundup

So many people are blogging about AussieCon4, and most of them are insiders with far better photos of the behind the scenes happenings and major events, far more intimate meetings with interesting people to tell about, and certainly a higher grade of gossip than me, so I’m just going to do a ramshackle rundown of a few everyday things that happened to me, amused me, or in some way caught my inconsequential attention. There will be much gratuitous name dropping as well.

1) The funny film montage shown at the opening ceremony. Cutting back and forth between Aussie films and SF classics, it gave us, among other things, Sarah Connor watching Mad Max blow up Kenny’s poo truck and the Terminator emerging from the flames, Storm Troopers shooting down Ned Kelly, hobbits hiding from the Wolf Creek psycho, David Gulpilil watching X-wings bomb Darwin, and Crocodile Dundee doing his call-that-a-knife shtick to Darth Vader. By popular demand, the montage was shown again at the closing ceremony.

2) The Write the Fight workshop was fun because we got to get up for a change and jump around and pretend to hit each other. Predictably, there were a few guys, some in berets, who were eager to impress Alan Baxter by expounding their knowledge of commando techniques for quickly killing people or by trying to grab his leg when he was demonstrating kicks, but he very deftly and graciously deflected their attempts at hogging the limelight.

3) I enjoyed any session or panel with Kim Stanley Robinson in it. The man is brilliant, funny, compassionate, optimistic about the future, ideological, and just plain lovely. He got top points from me for continually referring to Economics as a pseudoscience, and belittling it as the astrology of our times.

4) While standing in a long line waiting for the above mentioned Kim Stanley Robinson to sign my Blue Mars, I got to chat and joke with folk from Finland, the UK and Western Australia. We felt sorry for poor KSR, but not sorry enough to remove ourselves from the queue, and explored the possibility of just asking him to simply spit on the title pages of our books. It got a bit gross. I suppose you had to be there.

5) The later people arrived for a session, the closer to the front they wanted to sit, and then preferably right in the middle so that half a row of settled folk had to get up to let them past.

6) I recall suffering through a dark, bleak, very weird, Brazilian SF film and groaning with the rest of the audience at the end when it turned out to have no point whatsoever. It was like a parody of an art house movie, and yet it wasn’t. The comments from the audience made it worth the agony. It was a real bonding experience, but the memory of that film still makes me shudder.

7) I got a bag of lollies from Twelfth Planet Press when I bought a book. I love freebies and personal touches.

8) Coffee with Kaaron Warren. I signed up for my first kaffeeklatch as a tentative exercise in practicing my convention socializing skills and overcoming public shyness, thinking there would be no pressure to perform because I could hide amongst the other 8 participants. Shock, horror, I was the only participant. Amazingly, I remained calm. Fortunately, I didn’t babble. I wasn’t brilliant, but I didn’t babble. Happily, Laura E Goodin and a few other writerly folk and their friends and family joined us, so I got lean back and listen to how the other half lives (you know, how it is when your stuff gets published a lot and editors actually invite you to submit stuff) and I even occasionally butted in. The only fudge was when Kaaron kindly asked me if I was a writer and I went into my default, dismissive waffly mode. The highlight of the klatsch was when Kaaron suddenly jumped up because she had spotted Robert Silverberg , sprinted across the room for an autograph and a fangirl chat, then returned with stories of his niceness.

8) Peter M Ball signed my copy of Bleed. I tried to ever so casually mention that we shared the TOC of Moonlight Tuber #1, but my brain inexplicably latched onto Midnight Echo, so I babbled something about Midlight Mumble Mumble instead. Peter was a real gentleman and very gracious about it.


9) Have I mentioned the Build a Lego Dalek workshop? It was fun.






10) I got a big hug from Sue Bursztynski, and she shared the news that her book Wolfborn has been picked up by a publisher and will be out in December. Go Sue!

11) Coffee with Catherynne M. Valente, during which I did not mumble or babble, said a few relevant things, and scored a treasure.

12) Coffee with George R.R. Martin (I just can’t repeat that often enough) during which I also said a few coherent words. See, practice pays.

13) On the last day, I was much amused by a panel with Greg Benford, Alistair Reynolds and Charles Stross during which many science jokes were made about centrifugal forces, teleportation, FTL ships and stasis fields, and the audience laughed in all the right places. I love SF people!

There’s more, but that’s enough. I’ve got some more sleeping to do.