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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Year of Shaun

First an Oscar, now Shaun Tan has just been announced as recipient of the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. What a great year he's having! Go Shaun, and congratulations. Certainly when one waxes lyrical about The Arrival these days, no-one asks “Who is this Shaun Tan person?” anymore.

I love the ALMA. Back in 2008, Sonia Hartnett, another fantastic Aussie writer with a truly unique style was plucked from ”obscurity” when she won it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How delightful

At the Arvo Job, during breaks, as I think I've mentioned before, I listen to audio books to give my brain a blessed reprieve from work stuff and my eyes a soothing rest from computer screens.

At the moment I’m listening to the most divine of all such aural treats - a Phryne Fisher novel, namely Murder on a Midsummer Night. I absolutely adore listening to these books by Kerry Greenwood. In fact, I’ve listened to so many of the Phryne books that sometimes, when I’m in a bit of a rush or a tizz, I’ll hear the voice of the unflappable Phryne, as read by Stephanie Daniel, chastising me in her perfect diction, saying “Do calm down, Gitte dear.” In fact I’ve considered adopting 'What would Phryne do?' as a guiding principle for surviving everyday life. Phryne’s solutions to trying situations always involve actions both civilized and imminently sensible, like taking a nap, or having a refreshing shower, or sharing a delicious meal whipped by one’s inestimable cook in the company of honest, interesting friends, or sitting down in a library with a cat on one’s lap and good book whilst being served tea by one’s stalwart butler. Knowledge, culture, art, food, history, loyalty, courage, personable cats, tolerance, sartorial splendour and impeccable manners, all these things make a dip in a Phyrne book a true break from the crassness of the Real World.


Give me an independent fortune, a slender figure, a great dollop of panache, a Louise Brook’s bob and a time machine, and this wannabe Phryne would be off to the late 1920s in St Kilda in a shot.


Anyway, the reason for this post is that I was a few days ago utterly thrilled to discover that there are plans afoot to make a Phryne Fisher television series. I can hardly wait. But by gosh, they’ll have to get it right for it to work, for if they make our peerless heroine any less poised, less chic, less kind, less utterly divine than she is in the books, there’ll be hell to pay. I almost pity the actress who has to step into Phryne's elegant shoes.


And where, I wonder, will they find a cat inimitable enough to play Ember?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Re: Gobsmacked

I had a little think about this morning's scandalous affair on the way to the Arvo Job and was going to write some more about it, but this pretty much sums up the unease that hit me around midday: http://benpayne.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/authorfail-humanfail/

Gobsmacked

Boys and girls, this is NOT how you conduct yourself as a newbie writer: http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html Filched from Karen Miller because, well, it rendered me speechless. *paragraphs still not working obviously, and I don't have time to mess around wih this.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

When deadlines loom

It’s the last Sunday of the month and there are quite a few anthology deadlines for the end of March, so I pulled out the special gotta-get-stuff-done coffee mug that I got for Xmas from my sister (bigger than your average mug, Boo-Boo) and, well, got stuff done. I’ve stopped starting new stories from scratch for themed anthologies because my best stories are those I work on, then rest, work on, then rest, and finally, in a surge of energy and/or inspiration, complete to my satisfaction. Instead, I now search through the many half finished and almost done stories in my ‘working on’ file to see if there’s anything suitable that I can whip into shape in time for the deadline. If so, off it goes. If not, short of a lightning bolt moment and a firm voice in my head dictating a story with a beginning, middle and most definitely an end, well, tough. Luckily the rejection that came back Friday that I was a bit glum about (I'd let myself hope...) fitted the theme of one antho, so I looked it over and sent off again. It’s the only way to deal with those suckers. Another rejection that keeps almost making it got the once over and taa-daa, it too is out there doing a repeat performance on the world stage. I sent the vamp story off again (not to an anthology) after checking that I do still in fact like it, but we’ll see. The market is flooded with such toothy tales at the moment. There’s also a couple of suitable stories out at the moment which, if they get the boot over the next few days, can still make the Thursday deadlines. Once I’ve posted this (or maybe tomorrow) I’ll launch on its maiden journey the big SF story that I worked on for ages for the ABE anthology. Unfortunately, after a bout of compulsive polishing that lasted right up to the deadline, I went to send it the night of the final day only to discover they were already closed for submissions. Bummer. I should have sent off the less shiny version the week before. Ah well, that’s what you get when you sail too close to the deadline wind. *I give up - I just can't make this blog do paragraphs tonight.

Adieu, Diana, and thank you.


Diana Wynne Jones

1934-2011


Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's that time of the year (2)

And then there's the 2011 Ditmars.
What an emotional week this has been for Aussie specfic writers.

Urg

A busy, looooong day at the Arvo Job after a busy, loooong week at the Arvo Job, and two Friday rejections waiting for me just to finish it all off on a high note.

This writerly life of waiting and hoping and dreaming is a tough gig sometimes.

My jammies and some midnight chocolate, that's what I need.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

La Liz

The one and only Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, born in London on Feb. 27, 1932, has moved on to that exclusive resort in the sky for screen legends.

I have many fond memories of La Liz. She was a mainstay of my mother’s generation, and I remember listening to the mums sitting around many a kitchen table discussing Liz's latest escapades and mentioning things that I vaguely knew about but, in those distant, pre-Google days, did not yet have an in depth knowledge of – poor Mike Todd, poor Debbie Reynolds, whisper, whisper Eddie Fischer – but always the conversations came back to Liz and Richard, back to the parties, the boozing, the glamour, the clothes, the jewellery, the outrageous behaviour, the passion. The mums, I could tell, were breathlessly excited by the whole swoon-inducing business.

For me, however, La Liz was the star of National Velvet. If I’d been given a dollar for every time I watched that movie as a horse mad tot, I could have bought myself a tiny training diamond by the time I became a teenager. What’s not to love about it? A girl saves a beautiful horse, a horse which she knows deep in her heart is a champion. The girl defies the odds and risks social censure to follow her dreams. The girl gets to thumb her nose at boys by doing brave, physical stuff that the boys say girls can’t do and yet remain a polite, well-spoken and well-dressed miss. The girl and the horse win! So thank you Liz for that sterling adventure.

Another of my favourite Liz films is the much maligned Cleopatra. I saw this first at the drive-in when I was knee-high to a Nubian slave, mostly because Mum wanted to see Liz and Richard I suspect, and I remember being blown away by the spectacle of it. In the years that followed, I forgot most of it, and I heard and read so many bad reviews about it, everyone focusing on how much it cost and how much it didn’t take at the box office etc, all of which affected my perception of it. I probably wouldn’t have watched it again if I hadn’t recieved a DVD of it as a joke Xmas present many years ago. The next day, stuffed to the gills, lethargic and in the mood for a cheesy Hollywood spectacle, I settled down for a Boxing Day veg out to watch it and was, much to my surprise blown away by the sets and story. It's one of my favourite movie time sucks now. And I think I owe Liz for my love of court dramas like Rome and The Tudors.

So vale, Liz, thank you for inspiring young girls, and for brightening the days of many a house-bound mum, and for making fine movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and for flashing your diamonds, and helping chartities, and for just being you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rubicon riding and recoveries

(and a rejection that I won't mention).

It was up over the Black Spur early this morning, after a sleepover at my sister’s, for a ride in the ever so beautiful Rubicon Valley.
For a long time, this was a pretty depressing drive because of the devastation wreaked by the fires that went through the Marysville/Kinglake / Healesville area, and many, many other places, back in February 2009. Everything was dead, there were blackened ruins where there had once been houses and melted cars along the roadside. Even now, even though the bush is regenerating at an amazing rate and towns and homes have risen from the ashes, once over the Black Spur, you only have to look up to see, along the ridges and hill crests, kilometer after kilometer of tree corpses that still stand stark and black against the blitzed soil and skyline to once more recall the terrible firestorms that exploded across the area. As with all disasters, the people there are still rebuilding years after the world’s attention has turned elsewhere.

Rubicon Valley itself mostly escaped the fire, which stopped just short of the place where we ride. The national forest that adjoins the valley was not so lucky, and has only recently been reopened to the public, but we headed in the opposite direction today. We did what we call the ‘paddock ride’, which is far more beautiful than it sounds – lots of wide open spaces and cantering up grassy hills with the reward of a spectacular view at every summit, trotting along ridges surrounded by eucalyptuses and air so eucalyptusy it clears any congestion you might have within minutes, and ultimately reaching a peak with a 360 degrees view of curving ranges and undulating valleys folding and rising and stretching from horizon to horizon, a truly stunning, magical kingdom kind of sight.

Things were quite different when my sister and I first rode there four years ago. Before the fires, the longest drought in I'm not sure how many years was drying up Victoria, which was, of course, why the area was so volatile. Back then, the valley was brown and dusty, the earth hard and cracked, the trees close to giving up, and the creeks and rivers were just trickles, and we rode on a day with a high, hot wind blowing dirt in our faces. Do not ask me why. If you don’t know, I can’t tell you.

Anyway, it was quite different from this vision of greeness:



It's been a real pleasure watching the valley recover and flourish.



As for today’s Foalwatch, it is brought to you courtesy of my sister Cindy, because it was she who spotted this young resident of Rubicon Valley in a field (click to enlarge for a better look).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Simulcra and sideshows

Tonight I finished reading Living Dolls : A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood, a book that produced story ideas every time I turned a page, and even occasionally multiple times per page. There were facts and events so astounding, I was constantly telling my brain that it simply had to use this amazing historical occurrence or that fascinating character.

So far, my brain has obliged with just one measly 1500 word story about a king, a scientist, an android and a goodly portion of black magic, but I shall keep this book on my desk in clear view until it coughs up a few more tales featuring circuses, clockwork wonders, marvellous inventors and uncanny humanoid copies.

All of which reminds me there's a giant book sale on tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Let the sunshine in

Gardening. Another aspect of country life that I couldn't get a grip on until I called the Lawn Mower Man. Now I just potter around (the picture is of Sunday's haul of pear tomatoes artfully set amongt a pot of herbs), do the easy stuff, and sit in the Xmas swing pondering stuff. Nice.

The LMM is just finishing up a 2 hour stint of mowing and hacking the hedge along one side of the property that was threatening to engulf the house. I cannot believe how much light there is in the loungeroom and kitchen now. Darkness, it would seem, had crept upon me one tendril at a time, until, without realising it, I was living in a semi-murky environment.

And speaking of Darkness, it's time to start thinking about heading off to the Arvo Job. Well, I suppose I'd better do more than just think about it.

Police, police everywhere

I’m coming up to the end of the second year of my self-imposed three year experiment in country living.

To celebrate, or at least to issue a progress report, I was going to make this a week of blogging about the move from inner city St Kilda to the sticks in Central Victoria. However, tonight the train was first delayed at Southern Cross because of a police action in Ginifer, and was then held up again at Watergardens for another thirty minutes while more policepeople did policepeopley stuff, so I’m home forty minutes later than usual after a ten hour shift at the Arvo Job. I just want to feed the cats, put on my jammies and watch an episode of 30 Rock before I go to bed.

Luckily, despite all this, I did get some writing in on the way to work, and on the way home again.

All of which encapsulates one huge aspect of my new country life and something I've never ever had to deal with before - commuting.

Friday, March 11, 2011

For Lucy

My sister's dog for what seems like forever.

Such a sweetie.

R.I.P. old girl.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Petitions, petitions.

My email inbox overruneth with petitions. Well, 2, and I don't think I'm eligible for the UK one. Anyway:

Over at SF Crowsnest, Stephen Hunt dives into the contemporary (a.k.a. literary) v genre fiction wars.

http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/articles/news/2011/One-Genre-to-bring-them-all-and-in-the-darkness-bind-them-15938.php

The recent World Book Night on the BBC, apparently, was a farce of one-sidedness:

The highlight of this was presenter Susan Perkins in the ironically entitled 'The Books We Really Read': a 'Culture Show Special' making it sneeringly clear that she never normally reads any of our lowbrow genre tripe (although she might, you know, give it a whirl now, just for the sake of 'World Book Night'). Fiction has to be painful, a little like school, she explained, before gushing all over some bemused beauty salon clients that her favourite must-read was Dostoevsky, who is all, like, really dark and stuff.

He also wittily writes:

Of course, in retrospect, asking the 'Culture Show, to make a TV program called 'The Books We Really Read' was a little like asking Jeremy Clarkson to make a show called 'The Electric Green Cars we Really Need', with much the same facetious, ham-fisted and comical results raced at high speed across the screen.

Stephen has now started a petition for a letter of complaint to the BBC. Go Stephen!

The other petition is one in favour of alpine grazing - cattle stomping around national parks in an heroic, bovine effort to save us humans from bushfires. How selfless of them.

The sender of that email obviously doesn't know me very well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bad news

The fallout from the RedGroup's collapse hits the spec fic community:

Eneit Press is folding.

This is just awful. You do you job enthusiastically, and you do it bravely and well, and then, because of a bunch of overpaid A**holes not doing their jobs properly, you're left high and dry.

Cross fingers for a miracle.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Seven women have been killed in a peaceful protest in Cote d'Ivoire.

The anti government march was organised by women to call on Laurent Gbagbo to step down as president after losing an election. Uniformed men drove up and opened fire on the gathering of unarmed women.

http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/women-killed-in-ivory-coast-protest

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/03/ivory-coast-women-killed

Monday, March 7, 2011

Burbling along.

Today, after first writing at home, then while commuting to the Arvo Job, a quick reread of today's work as the train pulled into Southern Cross Station revealed that I had used the word burble four times, and always in conjunction with blood.

Now burble is an excellent word - flowy, musicalish, with a touch of froth and bubble - but 4 times in connection with the red stuff in the first 750 words of what will be a 1k story is 3 times too many. So one burbled was changed to flowed, and one to coursed, and the final one to dribbled, although any or all of these might be changed in later drafts.

Burble, burble, burble - just getting it out of my system.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Nine-headed lurgie

I slept in until 11.30 yesterday (not planned. I turned off the alarm clock then turned over and promptly fell asleep) and again today (same deal). Now, after my extravagant, party-til-I-drop (not) night out at the movies, I'm coughing and nose-blowing once more, and my list of 'must-dos' for today seems to be written on an endless scroll held aloft by some Greek god. The Twelve Labours of Hercules come to mind. Something as simple as giving the place a quick vacuum seems equal to cleaning out the stables of King Augeas. Everything else merges into a monster much like the nine-headed hydra of Lerna.

So I'll consider it a personal triumph if I get in 1-2 hours at the keyboard sometime during this fast-fading afternoon, damn it. I had plans, I had schedules, but the frailty of human flesh as it constantly battles microscopic organisms and bombardments of external nasties sometimes results in such defeats. One just has to suck it up and rest up.

Besides, time spent reading in the backyard on the Xmas swing isn't exactly suffering.

Swedish Star

Just back from Star Cinema in Eaglehawk, where we first saw Catfish a.k.a. ‘The Other Facebook Movie’ (hmmm, is it really a documentary, or...?), then The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. When the original Swedish title for the latter came up, we of Scandinavian background snorted, because, I mean, there’s a huge difference between Luftslottet Som Sprängdes, which translates as something like The Air Castle That Blew Up and TGWKTHN.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable evening. I love lounging in one of the big, comfy sofas at the Star Cinema, peppermint tea in hand, sharing the big, but homey, old town hall space with people who have actually come to watch the movies, not gossip about friends or work or whatnot.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pssst! Wanna buy a story on eBay?

The starting price is $3,000,000. Or you can just buy it outright for a cool $10,000,000.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rt=nc&nma=true&item=220744269251&si=OJ3zTQFGz6nshDx5CPFksHUX9JE%253D&viewitem=

(Filched from the SFWA website)

Convalescing

‘Tis a great pity that I cannot write anything meaningful whilst laid as low as Camille with this consumption, I mean, with this cursed common cold. However, all is not lost. In between naps and coughing/sneezing fits, with my trusty box of tissues at my side and hot, lemony fluids within easy reach, I’ve been looking up new markets and sending lazy-ass stories that have been hanging around my desk for way too long since their last rejection back out into the world.

Oh dear, you just know it's going to end badly when the heroine goes *cough, cough*

End of the Month Report: February 2011

Submissions: 8
Rejections: 5
Acceptances: 1 (Found in Translation - SF)
Published: 2 (Blame Games (SF), Nullipara (SF) - print version)
Stories out in the wild: 10
New stories completed: 2 (both SF, both biggies)
Mood: Snotty but happy (see 'acceptances' and 'stories completed')