I've been reading The Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume - just ask anyone I know or vaguely know or just bumped into this week - and finished it this morning on the way to an earlier than usual start to the Arvo Job.
What a perfect train book - snappy chapters, colourful characters, philosophical musings, spiffy language, rather avant-guarde views of the two sexes mixed with a generous sprinkling of genuine, Victorian Age, teeth gritting declarations about the frailty of women (plus lots of fainting and screaming) and toe curling boasts about the manliness of men (plus lots of horse riding and shenanigans with actresses). Both sexes, however, equally suffered from attacks of brain fever.
All this, as well as an evocative tour of Melbourne back in the 1880s, and a murder mystery to boot.
So I got to my workshop on time (thank you, V-Line) and had a most productive, and fun day. I am, however, far too pooped for in depth blogging about it. Also, I’m a firm believer in the ‘what happens at the workshop stays at the workshop’ principle. But it was good. Now I have to get to work on my YA novel ASAP so I’m ready for the next session in 2 months.
And due to the above mentioned poopedness, I’ll just say that A Single Man is beautiful and poignant, and a must for 60s fashion lovers (a.k.a. Mad Men fans).
Tomorrow I'm off to the first of five Saturdays that make up the Year of SF and Fantasy workshop at VWC. After a week of morning writing, commuting and arvojobbing, one isn't the freshest daisy in the vase, but hey, I thought, I'll get to bed "early" and drink lots of coffee tomorrow and I'll be right.
Alas, I came home to party music from the neighbour on the one side, and my old friend the waves of low-frequency doof doof hitting me from the other side. This is the first time this has happened - I can usually rely on the nights being as quiet as a country town is supposed to be. Why oh why did it have to be tonight? It'll be impossible to sleep if this keeps up, which will make it hard to get up and catch the early train, and I'll be bleary eyed and brain dead by the time I stagger into the workshop. First impressions? Hmmmm. Ideas? I'll be lucky if I can remember my own name.
My goddamn colourful monkey-folk story won't let me finish it. What was once a charming tale, simple and delightfully deadline-doable, is skittering out of control at the last moment. I do not have time for this nonsense! Just be what I planned you to be, you @$&%*@& story! The naughty couple in the castle are also giving me grief. Their ending is decidedly lacking in ooomph. Aaargh - my Sanctioned Six writing schedule is looking increasingly shot.
Yesterday, I hoiked my socks up to about, oh, mid-calf, by diligently writing (deadlines fast approaching) and sending off 3 submissions, one of which came ever so quickly bouncing back as a rejection this morning, but hey, it'll give my rejection tally a much needed boost - achieving a dream record of 100 rejections in one year is not as easy as some people might think.
I’ve heard so much criticism about Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland that I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted to see this movie, but in the end curiosity, and Johnny Depp, got me to a session this morning.
Where to begin? First of all, I liked it -anything that promotes Girl Power in an age that increasingly seems to be doing its darndest to make young women feel bad about their bodies and their abilities and their prospects is all right with me.
I’m not sure why people would bother bagging it for not following the original story, since this is a different journey altogether. So Alice is 19 year-old Victorian lass (entrapped by a corset rather than raunch culture) – well gosh, that’s the whole point of the movie. She’s on the cusp of adulthood and has to make choices about what kind of a woman she wants to become. Whether this Alice is the Alice is something all the characters debate over and over, and just how much of the original Alice is still left inside her is something the protagonist herself must discover.
And why shouldn’t Tim Burton use Alice? She is the quintessential Everychild, or more specifically, Everygirlchild. Who is better suited to the typical tale of a girl who is told to be sweet and good and obedient, and who is about to married off to a life of decorative conformity which puzzles her as much as the hypocrisy of adults? The world isn’t telling her to grow up, however – it wants her to remain submissive and infantile, pretty and passive, to in effect become a girl in a woman’s body, but to abandon the imagination and sense of wonder that can make childhood such a powerful place.
As for Wonderland, it, like Narnia, is one of the archetypical kingdoms where kids can wander without adult supervision, where quests are taken and boundaries are pushed, where mettle is tested and character is formed. It is childhood.
Alice and Wonderland are both a part of our common narrative, and together they provide Tim Burton with a shortcut to a story that is ultimately not about prolonging childhood, but about taking the best things from childhood with you into your adult life. It encourages imminent adults to go bravely forth into a big wide world that can be every bit as exciting and wonderful as imaginary places.
That it is especially saying these things to our beleaguered girl children is, as far as I’m concerned, a great big plus.
Be careful what you wish for. I came home to a bit of much needed March movement, but it was only a rejection from a publication that I really want to crack, and since the story had been out for a while, I was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe...
BUT, on the bright side, it was a GOOD rejection. I received feedback from 3 editors, and they finished by saying they look forward to seeing my next story.
I must say, I do seem to be getting better quality rejections these days.
March is turning out to be a very sloooooow month - I haven't submitted a single story, nothing has been accepted, and I've only received one solitary, lonesome rejection. Me thinks my socks are in serious need of pulling up.
Well, despite my procrastination (read: subconscious desire to avoid the rigours of having my work publicly critiqued by a group of strangers) it looks like I've got a workshop organised (the enrolment should be finalised tomorrow). It's a year long endeavour, the longest I've yet attempted. I hope I'm up to it, because it will take a lot of time and energy, but, cross fingers, by the end of the year, I'll have a polished novel *gulp* ready for submitting.
Yep, with my writerly confidence slowly trickling back, it's time to pull out that dusty old dream of getting a novel published, give it a good shake, and see what happens. I might even work up the guts to start sending out again the two masterpieces I've got tucked away on various hard drives - I wasn't very good at dealing with rejections last time I tried that gig, but I've toughened up a lot since then. Rejections? I eat 'em for breakfast now.
And on the subject of guts, I'm also trying to work up the nerve to submit an old tale of mine to the anthology Australis Imaginarium.
Well, I got to write (2.5 hours) and I got to clean and do the washing and read, and I got to go to the movies and see The Road and chat about it afterwards, so this day’s journey is almost done.
I must say that there’s nothing like a spot of post-apocalyptic bleakness to put life into perspective. What’s a bit of doof doof and ‘oooh, I can’t get to write when I want to because I have to share the world with other people’ compared with the misery of plodding through a dead world and having neighbours who want to hunt you down, hang you from a meat hook, carve you up for dinner and suck out your eyeballs for dessert.
I loved this movie as much as I loved the book. Cormac McCarthy’s wonderfully lyrical language was beautifully transformed by John Hillcoat into visual poetry – bleak poetry, granted, but poetry nonetheless. I even think the father's dreams worked better in the film, golden memories of happy, lazy times and everyday luxuries taken for granted juxtaposed with the ashen landscape and the grimness and horror and vast hopelessness of his waking life. And the ending was nicely handled.
It took a while, but I'm glad I finally got to see this film.
My plan was to get up, write for a few hours, then do the domestic stuff, then send out a few stories before going to the movies tonight. Unfortunately, my neighbour's plan was to get up and play hours of bass-favouring music.
Aah, the peace and quiet of country living. This matter is now edging closer towards a Category 1, continually-interfering-with-my-writing status.
So, I guess I'll do the washing (started) and the shopping first, and hope that I can get in a few hours this afternoon.
Friday, finally, and apart from the usual habitual ruminating upon writing stuff, and sending stuff, and waiting for stuff to come back, my thoughts this weekend turn to signing up for VWC workshops, and organising stuff for said workshops.
My nonfiction reading at the moment is Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Seadragons by Christopher McGowan, another of my $4 finds from when I lived just around the corner from the Book House in St Kilda.
Things from today's reading that have stuck in my mind: -a brachiosaurus (approx 78 tons) would have weighed more than a Boeing 727 airliner (75.6 tons). - a giraffe’s blood pressure is so high that it would rupture the blood vessels of any other animal, and it’s tight skin functions like the anti-gravity suits worn by pilots. -a fifty-ton whale has an approx 200kg heart. Being aquatic, it is not subject to the same forces as a land walking animal and does not have to generate a very high blood pressure, so a fifty ton sauropod would have to have a heart about eight times heavier than a 50 ton whale – 1.6 tons.
This book a great megafauna primer, reminding you that as a specfic writer, you can’t just bung bits together and then upsize them if you want to concoct realistic gigantic creatures. Blood pressure alone makes it highly unlikely that sauropods raised their heads higher than their bodies or battled predators, so how unlikely is a Hydra? Or Ghidora? And lets not even start on flying turtles.
To my mind, for structural integrity, you can’t beat the Big G, who looks like a dumpy T-Rex:
Just writing (the colourful monkey-folk story and a way way too ambitious music story that will take an eternity to write if I stick with my "brilliant" idea), and commuting, and reading (dinosaur nonfiction and Holly Black fiction - lovin' her) and commuting, and Arvo Job working, and eating, and sleeping...
Although I did send off a signed contract and bio last night, which made me feel awfully writerly.
A lovely, lazy day today. Since Monday is a public holiday here in Victoria, one can slow down a little and smell the roses – or buy books. I’m quite please with today’s coup. I bought a couple of books by a writer I’ve been meaning to read for a long time – Holly Black. Many sing her praises, so when I saw a nice hardback copy of Ironside, I grabbed it. Then I found Valiant, and scooped it up too. Officially, I’m not buying new books this year, or at least not until the book table stops sagging under the weight of unread tomes, but in cases like this, well, you have to make an exception.
Last night, I went to St Kilda, my old stomping ground, and caught a movie at the George. It was just like ye olde tymes.
I was expecting The Men Who Stare at Goats to be an exposé of psychic charlatanism and a scathing indictment of army incompetence, full of cynicism and derision and soldierly pratfalls, and though the film did have much mocking of the military, I was surprised to find it at heart a rather affectionate tribute to a group of well-meaning men who just wanted to end wars and make the world a better place. That their methods were somewhat outlandish is beside the point. Ridicule is easy – any cooler than cool but essentially ineffectual numskull can bag oddballs and nonconformists. To recognize the Don Quixotes of the world and portray their lunacy sympathetically, that takes empathy and talent.
It was, however, rather disconcerting to hear Jedi jargon falling from the lips of a wild-eyed George Clooney and a spaced-out Jeff Bridges.
And now, this news from the Tangle Bank Press:
The ePub edition of The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder, and Evolution has just been released on Lulu.com for only $4.99. For anyone who likes to read ebooks on their iPhone or iPod Touch, this is the version for you. The ePub edition includes all content from the PDF edition in flowing text format. Want both ePub and PDF? No problem: purchase of any digital edition includes the other digital edition free of charge. Lulu.com doesn’t yet support single purchase of multiformat editions, but simply forward your proof of purchase of a digital edition to thetangledbank (AT) gmail.com and we’ll send you the book in your requested format. If you’d like to read the anthology in other formats such as .LIT or .MOBI (not supported on Lulu), we recommend purchasing the ePub edition and using the free e-reader Calibre to convert to your preferred format.
* The print version will be available 31st March 2010. (Yoo-hooo)
Oh, and I got the final proofs for ‘A Sweet Story’ today, and a contract, so it looks like things are moving with Moonlight Tuber.
'twas nice and quiet this morning, so I got stuck into the colourful monkey-folk story (one of the Big Six). Today I hit that sweet point where suddenly I know what a new story is all about, because even though I thought that I knew what this new story was all about when I started it, apparently I didn't really know what it was all about. Now that I do know, I'm excited about it all over again. So I'm chuffing along nicely.
This morning's writing was scuppered by loud volume, house-piercing, bone-shaking, bass sound waves from next door. I can block out many things (ear plugs help) but not those low-frequency, super long wavelengths that literally break and enter, then physically assault you.
Over the past month, there have been a few such doofie sound invasions. For now, I'm classing these over the top bass sessions as a Recent Development, and filing them under Real Life. However, should they continue to contaminate my writing time, I'll have to move them back to a folder labelled Real Problem.
*Sigh* If only I had a castle on a hill with a moat on Pluto.
I've got me a writing plan, it's simple and neat - there are six big, serious stories that need a' doin', and I'm a' gonna finish them over the next 4 months.
I must work on only these six stories. That's the rule. There's a list pinned up on the notice board above my computer just in case I forget. Two must be done by the end of this month, one by the end of April, one by the middle of May, one by the beginning of June, and the last one by the end of June.
Issue #6 of the Australian Horror Writers Association’s magazine Midnight Echo will be edited by David Conyers, Jason Fischer and David Kernot, and the theme will be science fiction horror. Why? Well we just don’t believe there is enough science fiction published in Australia , and dark science fiction is even better.
Cross genre SF/horror? This too (like the Coeur de Lion anthology) is right up my alley. I might finally get a story into ME...
Writer. Reader. Rider.
My speculative fiction has featured in Aurealis, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, The NSW School Magazine, The Year's Best Australian Horror and Fantasy 2010 and many other publications. I'm a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, and am currently a judge on the Short Works / Collections / Edited Works panel for the 2013 Australian Shadows Awards