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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

End of the Month Report: May 2011

Submissions: 4
Rejections: 4
Acceptances: 0
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 8
New stories completed: 2
Mood: I wouldn't mind looking like the lady in this painting when I'm writing. My jammies just aren't quite as picturesque or romantic (but they are comfy.)

Monday, May 30, 2011


This week's planned project Dust Bunnies has been muscled aside by three other stories (two new, one from 6/4-11 that petered out into blahness but which, riding on the coat-tails of the first two stories, I think, suddenly got its act together) all of which have a start, middle, end, and voice, and should be reasonably short. They're definitely insistent about being written now!

Needless to say, I had a very productive train ride and walk through the park on the way to Arvo Job today. Pity about the bunnies though.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Splitting up

Today, the Abigail is in charge. Sick and tired of the irrititating tasks that have been building up around here lately, she's a whirlwind of activity, airing stuff, cleaning stuff, sewing stuff, getting the odd stuff done, blackmailing me with threats about how she won't let me concentrate on writing until I get it all tidied up. She's letting me check my emails, post this and send a couple of submissions, but then I have to get onto this before lunch:

Raking leaves. A whole tree's worth that has suddenly dumped all over the Xmas swing and herb pots. AAAAH.

The Abigail is such a bitch. She always does this when she senses an imminent takeover by the Artist - she wants everything squared away so we can all coast along on her industriousness for a couple of weeks. Once satisfied that the place is shipshape, she'll retire into the background while the Artist, who'll want me to stay at home and write, fights it out with the Accountant, who'll want me to go the Arvo Job and earn real money as opposed to the will-o'-the-wisp pittance one receives from writing. The Athlete, who used to get to take this body out and about on a regular basis, unfortunately doesn't get much of a look in these days.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

So long (?), Spirit.

NASA sent the shutdown command to the Mars Spirit Rover on May 25, seven years after the exploration vehicle landed. Spirit was scheduled to operate for approximately three weeks and cover a distance of a couple of hundred yards. Instead, it operated for more than five years and travelled almost five miles. Spirit made its last transmission on March 22, 2010.

Still, you never know...

Spirit‘s sister craft, Opportunity, is still operating.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bat Train

As a long time commuter, you get to know your regular train drivers from the way they approach level crossings, climb hills, take corners, and tear, or don't tear, through the countryside.

Tonight's driver was easy. He's the one who likes to speed through the empty night playing Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell album. You can tell he's loving it. And it might be my imagination, but I'm almost certain that the usually staid and respectable V-Line choo-choos thoroughly enjoy the chance to put on their metaphorical leather jackets, shake loose their heavy metal hair and play demon-train-with-captive-passengers-racing-towards-a-Hellmouth.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pulling out rabbits

I finished the first draft of a new story this morning (although the general idea for it has been kicking around in the back of my head for about 3 years, inspired by something I saw that made me furious whilst walking to the Arvo Job, back when the Arvo Job was just a quick trot around the corner away *sigh*) I'll rewrite a few parts of it tomorrow and Friday and then let it sit before the final edit. I already have next week's story lined up in my head, and I'm extra excited about this one. It's called Dust Bunnies, and I suspect it'll be one of my better stories.

Ooops, I've just realised I'm going through a rabbit phase, because there's a rabbit in this week's story too. None of these rabbits, I'll hasten to add, are real. One is painted, the others are, well, dusty. Ah well, it makes a change from by tree phase, my desert phase, my rubbish phase, my robot phase, demon phase, tentacled creatures phase...

Anyway, just so you know, I'm scribbling along, singing a song...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Life goes on

Another of the many good things that we can still celebrate today now that the EOW didn't eventuate (apart from ponies, ice cream, books, cats, movies, licorice, cups of teas, good food, muffins, sunsets, martial arts, flowers, rainy days, sunny days, samurai swords, open fireplaces, Gothic mansions, the humble earthworm etc etc etc because there's a lot to enjoy) is the list of winners from last night's Aurealis Awards. The Aussie SF blogs this morning are suitably quiet after the festivities, which just goes to prove it must have been a wham bang affair.

If you're looking for a more debating on the merits of genre fiction, Ian M. Banks has some amusing things to say about "literary" writers slumming it by knocking up a science fiction novel without doing their homework first here. Now I love a good novel of any sort. I consciously alternate between mainstream and genre books, so apart from readerly timidity, peer pressure and intellectual snobbery, I don't really understand what the problem is. There's as much bad "litfic" out there about "meaningful" dross and middle-class whinging as there is bad "specfic" about clichéd aliens and trite quests. However, the opposite is also true - both are treasure troves of good stuff. You just have to go looking for it, not read one book and pass judgement. For those of us who at times grow a little weary of the rolling eyes or patronising expressions from the 'I-only-read-litfic' crowd whenever one mentions SF and fantasy, Ian M. Banks' pearls include:

Science fiction can never be a closed shop where only those already steeped in its culture are allowed to practise, but, as with most subjects, if you're going to enter the dialogue it does help to know at least a little of what you're talking about, and it also helps, by implication, not to dismiss everything that's gone before as not worth bothering with because, well, it's just Skiffy and the poor benighted wretches have never been exposed to a talent the like of mine before . . .

Now, back to the writing keyboard so I can knock up some hopefully interesting SF of my own. It's a dark and generally drizzly day, with the occasional noisy thunderstorm and downpour adding to the good-to-stay-at-home atmosphere, most suitable weather for my designated submission day. I plan to look over the poor, trembling rejections presently huddling in my computer, check them out, give them a confidence boosting pat on the back and send them off again. And while I'm at it, I can pat Polly, who has perked up but is still feeling very sorry for herself.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Left behind?

Well, it's 18.20 and there's still no sign of Arnie...

I might as well unpack my bags and go bake some bread.

Pets, punches and Polly

This morning, since the world hadn't ended yet (of course, despite the doubters, I can't be utterly sure until 6pm, but I'm sort of thinking that I'll get a heads up if the Apocalypse is making its way around the globe as each region turns into the 6pm doomsday time slot) I went into town and gleefully paid a trained professional to torture one of my cats. At least I'm sure that's how Polly interprets our visit to the vet. As far as she's concerned, the next 5 days of saline washes, antibiotics, and confinement to the writing room will be the equivalent of a thousand years of fire and brimstone.

Apropos animals and this latest of EOWs, I'm impressed by this bit of capitalist exploitation reported in one of the links:

An enterprising New York business is offering to take care of the cats and dogs of those who believe that their Lord will take them to heaven without their pets.

My antipathy towards Doomsday mongers goes way back - when I was a little girl, a man lugging a sandwich board accosted me while I was outside playing and preached a loud and fiery message about my worthlessness and my heavy burden of mortal sins (many of which I didn't understand - I was 8 years old! - but I remembered and understood later) and explained what was in store for me in glorious detail. He scared the beejeezus out of me until he was shooed off, and I had nightmares for weeks after.

I know now that he probably had mental health problems, but nonetheless, I've always wanted to hunt him down and punch him in the nose for picking on a little girl like that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Clunes, and a Confederate Widow

So, I’m back from the booktown with bags full of bargains, must-haves and curiosities. It was a grey, damp kind of Sunday, but once we got to Clunes, there were happy book folk everywhere muttering things like "But then I got to chapter 10 and lost interest", music from a bandstand and zippy tunes from the restored Australia Fair Grand Concert Street Organ, and a Punch and Judy show that was a huge hit with the kids. As we ducked in an out of buildings scavenging for goodies, you could hear the littlies in the background laughing their heads off and yelling advice to the puppets. Amazingly, some things never change. However, at one point while we were passing, a concerned parent did object to the needless violence, but was instantly dismissed with a loudly broadcast “Well, what do you expect? This is a Punch and Judy Show”. Many passers-by nodded.

Apart from books, both old and new, there were many old newspapers and magazines. I nabbed a Life Magazine from Dec 27, 1943 that caught my attention, first because of the Xmas / WW2-far-from-over-yet juxtaposition, then because of a certain article inside. Now that I’ve Googled a bit, it turns out to be quite a famous issue for the exact reason that I took it – the piece on Mrs Helen Dortch Longstreet, the 80+ year old widow of Confederate Army General James Longstreet (who became a character in Harry Turtledove’s 1997 alternate history novel How Few Remain) doing a Rosie the Riveter turn at the Bell Aircraft plant in Atlanta. The article tells how she commuted daily in her Nash coupe from the trailer she lived in alone near Atlanta to the plant where she was a regular on the 8 to 4.45 shift.

This picture, and the following quote sold me on the issue. She said, "I am going to assist in building a plane to bomb Hitler and the Son of Heaven to the Judgment Seat of God." She also informed the reporter that, "I was at the head of my riveting class. In fact, I was the only one in it." which, I've discovered, is constantly repeated in all her biographies.

Anyway, I’m glad I got it, because somewhere in the back of my mind, there’s a story bubbling about a Confederate widow, WW2 and...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A doubleplusgood rejection

What with it being Friday yesterday, I naturally got an end-of-the-week rejection. However, this was the best rejection I've even had, because it came with a story number and a link to a site, and there was an in depth breakdown of what worked and didn't work for one of the readers as he progressed through the story. It's wonderful, like a workshop critique, and has given me much to think upon and be hopeful about. At the coalface, one often loses perspective, and I also know that I'm prone to indulging in the writerly equivalent of hamming it up rather than delivering the goods (though I'm getting better), so I really appreciate that this person took the time to provide such detailed, and nicely worded but not pampering, feedback.

According to the notes, and, to tell the truth, my own gut, the opening doesn't work. I've indulged it for far too long because I had so much fun writing it, but fun for the writer doesn't necessarily translate into fun for the reader. I should have strangled my little Lovecraftian darlings three drafts ago, or at least cut back on the torturous excesses produced by my keyboard. Unfortunately, I had such a good time writing it that I kept convincing myself that others would be swept along by my joie de livre.

However, the reader noted:

Clever, but I wouldn’t have made it this far I’m afraid. We see too many stories with pretentious prose that don’t know they’re being pretentious to easily recognize one that does. You’re going to need to shorten and sharpen the opening and get to this phone call sooner.

And so I will. Pronto. Further on, I got this, and my heart lifted:

This is a hoot. Once I “got it” this became a joy to read. But I’m odd that way and I doubt most of our audience will react the same way.

I don't mind most people not liking it, as long as a few, possibly odd, folk think it's a hoot. I love it so much that I wrote something that someone thinks is a hoot - that's how easy it is to make me happy.

There was more constructive criticism, and finally:

I suspect this will have to be restructured to keep an editor reading long enough to get to the juicy bits, but it’s not too far from being really good. (I bolded the bit I especially liked).

So on I go. As long as there is a smidgen of hope that this story will eventually be published, I won't give up. I shall labour some more on it, and then one day this story might be really good, possibly even doublereally good enough for some publication to buy, and on that proud day, I will loudly rejoice and do an interpretive dance of happiness and send thoughts of thanks to a certain reader and his notes (see what I mean about the hamming it up?)

Saturday morning SF

Once again playing the if-I-had-unlimited-funds-with-which-to-indulge-my-slightest-whims game sees me getting ready to hop into my Lear Jet next week and zoom across the world to catch an upcoming exhibition at the British Library which presents the history of SF down the ages.

You can see a few of the goodies on display here. See - even Kipling wrote SF! (There's also a link on the side to a China Mielville interview in which he waxes lyrical about genre writing.)

The exhibition includes True History by Lucian of Samosata, possibly the first ever science fiction story. It dates from the 2nd century AD. (This is a 17th-century Dutch edition.)

True History is about a war to rule the Morning Star by the kings of the Moon and the Sun. It includes dog-faced men fighting on winged acorns, cloud-centaurs and stalk-and-mushroom men. What more could you want from a story?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Calling K.

Last year in October, someone, a complete stranger, and obviously a nincompoop, incorrectly filled in my address when starting up a new gas and electricity account. Nothing to do with me. I was just innocently going about my life.

Consequently, my account was terminated with Company X without any cross-referencing, and a new one was set up under another person's name with a Company Y. I didn't know this at the time, however.

I paid a bill in November. By late January, I began to wonder where my next bill was. I was also wondering why I was getting letters from a different power company adressed to someone who doesn't live here. But I don't open other people's mail, so I sent them back RTS.

Finally, I put aside the hour or two it usually takes when dealing with electricity and gas companies and called my provider. Or at least the company that I thought was my provider (Company X). They told me about the above termination.

After that, it's all a blur of phone calls, waiting on hold countless times, calling the Energy Ombudsman's Office and lodging a complaint, dealing with unhelpful staff from both Company X and Company Y (who, as the saga progressed, began to snippily refer to me as 'Oh yeah, the one who called the ombudsman'), and then finally reassurances that all was well followed many many weeks later by an official letter from Company Y to that effect. I waited breathlessly for a bill from Company X to prove that my account had been put back where it belonged. Nothing. I gave it a bit longer. Nada. So, I was about to get on it again (oh God, no!) when tonight, after a long day at the Arvo Job, I came home to find a letter from the power company that nily-wily hijacked my account (Company Y) addressed to - yep, you guessed it, the wrong person (a.k.a. the abovementioned nincompoop who does NOT live here).

How. Hard. Can. It. Be? I mean, all I want to do is pay my bill. Hand over money and make them rich. All Company X and Company Y have to do is tidy up their databases and, in the case of Company X, take my money.

Honestly, I won't be at all surprised if I wake up tomorrow and find (alert: here comes the expected Kafka reference) I've turned into a giant, roach-like insect.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One day maybe

Over the weekend I read the proof for one of my 'forthcomings', did much constructive writing, and received a request for the rest of my hamadryad story (I'd previously submitted the first 10 pages as per their guidelines) which I "promptly" did after looking it over again a few dozen times. The publication in question might not purchase the story, but it's always nice to make it this far. I also submitted my thalassophobia story for the first time.

So I feel like I'm humming along here, a regular little writing machine.

In other news, the Aurealis Awards are coming up fast. This year, the festivities will be in Sydney. Alas, as with Swancon, I don't feel I can justify the cost of going. One day maybe, but not just yet.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It all adds up

So 30 minutes before I headed off to the Arvo Job + 1 hour on the train in + 30 minutes on the train coming home instead of reading- yes, I did it! Despite everything, I got in my target of a minimum of 2 hours of focused writing per day today.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Battle of the Backpack

It might just be a smelly, ratty old rucksack that died of zipper failure to us humans, but to felines it obviously has hidden qualities that are worth fighting for. Behold:

Can we share it?

No we can't.

Swap over - for now.

If they keep this up, I'll give the damned thing to the chook.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Slack Sunday

NOT a writing day. Nope, not a single SFishly relevant word did I jot. Instead, I met someone for coffee (I had tea), trained it to Bendigo and bought a new rucksack (I've given the ratty, smelly old one to Gus to sleep on and love to pieces) and 3 DVDs because who can resist reduced prices PLUS a 20% of all DVDs sale PLUS buy 2 from the kids selection and you get one free. I got Neverending Story, Matilde & Inkheart for $15 - and I've only just realised that they're all writing / book movies.

Still, I did almost take My Friend Flicka...

The rest of the day went on having lunch in the backyard (the chook is still with us) and dreaded-domestic-stuff-which-must-be-done. I quite enjoyed the big cook up though (no, it didn't involve the chook).