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

Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the Month Report: December 2012


Submissions: 7 (3 to the same antho)
Rejections: 4 (2 came in this morning. Better today, in weary old 2012, than tomorrow's fresh first day of 2013, I suppose.)
Acceptances: 0 (but 1 is up for consideration!)
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 10 (which would have been a more impressive 12 if I hadn't received those rejections this morning.)
New stories completed: 1
Mood: I definitely don't feel like doing one of those 'things I achieved in 2012' posts. It would be a very short list. This year was mostly a depressing waste of time - lots of pain, drugs, cannullae, treatments, doctors, hospitals, procedures, sleeping, lazing around waiting for parts to heal, lots anxiety about tests and results, a brain that didn't work properly for a good six to eight months, and a lack of energy such as I have never experienced before. Deadlines were missed, stories remained unwritten, ideas didn't happen, I had to say no to a couple of wonderful opportunities that may never come my way again simply because I couldn't be sure whether I'd be able to fulfill my obligations, I struggled to accept my utter loss of control over my body and possibly my future, and things were less than stellar in other quarters of my life as well. Sometimes when you're down, there are actually people out in the world who put on their jack boots. Very Darwinian. That surprised me.

But, of course, plenty of good things happened too. Family and friends were incredibly supportive, so kind, thoughtful, and helpful on a practical level that you really appreciate when you can barely move. I've almost recovered from my operations. It looks as if I might beat this thing. A couple of horrible, life-changing scenarios that might have happened on the operating table didn't come to pass, and I avoided the worst of therapies afterwards. I could have been in a really bad state now, and am keenly aware of that fact and am extremely grateful I escaped. I've even managed to get out on a few short horse rides, which were good for the spirit. In between all the crap stuff, I had a couple of stories published this year, which upped my happiness index, nice reviews that had me dancing around the house, encouraging letters from editors, great sales that make 2013 look like it might be a far far better year for me, and I'm ending 2012 with a wonderfully productive writing holiday. I still feel optimistic about my writing, and I'm full of plans for the days ahead. This actually surprises me too.

So, all in all, I'm going with the flow and trying to do so with a smile. You never know what's waiting around the next corner, so I'll just take 2013 as it comes, one day at a time, and make sure I enjoy the good times as they happen.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ummmm, Misty Mountains, Ummmmm


There are dwarves inside my head, singing their plangent tunes of yearning and longing and sorrow and homesickness and the good times, before hubris struck, when dwarves were cashed up and powerful and lived in sumptuous surroundings, and folk from all over Middle Earth tipped their hats to them.

All together now:

Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells,
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.


The rest of the movie lyrics for Over the Misty Mountains Cold are here, where you can also catch up on all things Thorin Oakenshieldish.

The Hobbit is exactly what you expect it to be. Wonderfully padded with plenty of asides for Tolkien fans, with characters taking time out to sing and eat and tell tales and give swords their proper names and due respect, as well as lots of old friends dropping by to catch up with us and each other and, continuity-wise, set the 'something Evil lurks in the shadows' vibe for LOTR. It's as comfy as bed socks and pyjamas in Winter, just with orcs. And trolls. BIG trolls. You can never have too many trolls. I actually prefer them to the orcs. Less gnashing of teeth and grunting, more personality and comedy. Disgusting as they are, the trolls of Middle Earth nonetheless know how to use the word whom correctly, I noticed. If Peter Jackson ever does a George Lucas and fiddles with the first three movies, I'm thinking he needs to go back and add a few well-spoken trolls to LOTR.

In fact, after today's rich, Tolkienesque serving of The Hobbit, I feel like digging out the LOTR box set, extended version of course, and heading back to Middle Earth for another heaped helping. Not today (I'm stuffed), but sometime soon. It'll be interesting to see how the whole eventually ties up once the next two movies of The Hobbit trilogy have been delivered for our viewing pleasure.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Real Is As Real Does


I worked well today - another 6 hours of writing interspersed with lots of pottering around organising work boards, sending off submissions and such stuff. I feel quite cut off from the outside and cocooned in the multiple realities of the stories I'm working on, which is a wonderful wonderful extravagance. Time to nut out those particularly knotty problems! In between writing bouts, I sat on my Xmas swing in its cosy little bower to get some fresh air and dazedly watched the cats chase butterflies or falling leaves or each other as I lined up my next sentences and pondered new ideas, and more than once I thought Yes, I could live like this, I really could!

Yeah, me and a million other dreamers.

Tomorrow, however, I will be ruthlessly forced to re-enter the Real World beyond my keyboard, beyond my writing room, beyond my front door, and be made to mingle with flesh and blood folk who want to talk about subjects other than how my stories are going (the selfish bastards), marched into a darkened cinema, then cruelly coerced into immersing myself in the Tolkienesque universe of The Hobbit for many hours. Afterwards, no doubt, I'll be subjected to lengthy discourses on dragons, Bagginses, Dwarves, Orcs, Wizards and Elves.

Ooooh no, how will I bear so much rough and tumble reality?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Princess Palooza

So I'm back, in more ways than one, after a series of shopping sprees, cooking sprees, eating sprees, laughing sprees, unwrapping sprees, aaahing sprees, recovering sprees, reading sprees, spreeing sprees. Consider Christmas 2012 done and dusted!

 After limbering up my writing brain by spending most of of yesterday, when I wasn't napping and digesting the last remnants of my rich Danish Christmas, on reading my new Connie Willis book (my cats give the best presents!) I hit the keyboard today and got in 4 hours of solid work and a few more of tinkering. I spent the first couple of hours on a zombie story, even though I was seriously put off the antho in question that I've hitherto been so excited about when I discovered a recent addition to the guidelines specifying that the editor wasn't accepting any more stories set after a certain historical date. That smacks of my pet hate, the 'until filled' anthology. I pity the poor souls who were happily planning to polish over Xmas the great works they'd laboured long and hard on, and now can't submit them because they'd committed to the "wrong" era. As I've mentioned, I had two ideas for the antho, and had to angstily choose which one to focus on. The one I was really tempted to go with, but guessed I wouldn't have enough time to do properly, would now have been deemed ineligible. Thank goodness I went with the shorter one set further back in history, otherwise I'd be RANTING and GRRRRing and THROWING FURNITURE now instead of just grumbling about the injustice of it all.

I then spent the rest of my writing day scouting around for, looking over and editing/rewriting princess stories for an upcoming anthology that accepts multiple submissions. I love editors who accept multiple subs. That way, if I have more than one story that fits the theme, I don't have to agonise over which one might be the best fit. I was surprised to discover I actually have four stories that tick the key criteria, which are, loosely,  'must feature a princess, and be dark, twisty, sinister, Gothic etc, or combinations thereof'.

So no, they're not looking for passive gals who live happily ever after, thank goodness, because none of my princesses are that psychologically flaccid, or that fortunate. Only one of these four stories is out at the moment, so I'll have to wait for it to be rejected before it can join the other three, which I'll send off tomorrow. Or possibly the one already out singing for its supper will be accepted. And so will one of the others. All of these stories have garnered good comments and/or been shortlisted for publication, but never quite made it into print. Maybe one of them will score this time. Maybe I'll end up with a slew of princess stories (well, two) hitting the market at the same time, and people will roll their eyes and mutter about my limited range :) Hah! I should be so lucky.

Anyway, the upshot of this princesserly prattle is that it looks like these holidays will be reasonably productive and full of positive writerly doings.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Zombies And Hot Cherry Sauce


Knowing we were in for a stinker of a hot day, I did my writing this morning (two zombie stories have sprung from my revved up mind - now I have to pick the one I think will have the best chance of making a certain antho, which is bound to cause me much angst), then slapped on some sunscreen and a hat, and hurried off to get Xmas supplies. I managed to return before the tub of super luxurious Belgian chocolate ice cream I sneaked into my shopping trolley melted (it was on sale! Also, I'm on holidays! And it's Christmas!)

Now that things are cooling down, it's time to get started on the annual Xmas tribulation of honouring my ancestors by making the ris a la mande for Tuesday's Christmas get together. Not that you'd catch any vikings eating the stuff. Good old rice porridge would have done them fine. Mind you, now that I think about it, where would they have procured the rice? During their annual Yuletide raids on China? Hmm, the history of this dessert is getting dodgier and dodgier. As is, with your average viking not knowing his je suis from his tu est, the a la part gives away it's pretentious and reasonably recent origins -  a couple of hundred years ago, when the rich folk of Copenhagen wanted to separate and elevate themselves from the poor, dirty-faced, rice porridge eating peasants, they took the traditional Danish risengrød, luxuriously added the whipped cream, chopped almonds, cherries and hot cherry sauce that only the best kind of people could afford, then gave it a fancy French name just to add to the general snootiness.

How Christmassy is that?

Ah well, as politically incorrect as its genesis may have been, the fact remains that ris a la mande is divinely delicious, and despite the bother, I look forward to the ritual of making it every year (and this year I can take my time, instead of cooking rice at 1 am after getting home from the Arvo Job), the overly dramatic brouhaha of eating it (we're usually already stuffed by the time we get to this calorific dessert) the cut-throat competition of seeking the whole almond hidden somewhere within the sweet mass, and the triumph of loudly gloating over one's prize (mandelgave) if you win (I usually don't. I was practically ancient before I won my first ever mandelgave).

Now that's Christmassy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Underlying Politics of Free Chocolates


The world didn't end again, but my work year at the Arvo Job did, so now I'm looking at two weeks off with a brain that's rarin' to go and a body that has mostly ceased its grumblings. Happy days! I have two stories I'm determined to finish, and two more that I have to start from scratch but which I'm hoping will be reasonably coherent by the time I have to start stuffing Rover into my train bag again.

Ah, trains. They' re such a big part of my life. I headed for the city before the crack of dawn to get my Arvo Jobbing finalised by midday, but as recompense, there were free Christmas chocolates for we frazzled early bird commuters at the train station today, and many jolly, seasonal asides over the loudspeakers. The effect that free chocolate at 5.45 in the morning had on people was amazing. Smiles all around and instant good will.

Country towns do love their train stations, and ours is a bustling hub of meeting and greeting and networking with its little cafe and magazine stand (I usually pick up the latest New Scientist there). There's a shelf of books made available to travellers by the local library, and the staff are wonderfully friendly and efficient, and dole out much local news as well as sympathy for weary travellers. As said, they give away free chocolate! It's not easy being a long distance commuter, especially for those poor souls who travel each day on the packed, early trains (I love my 11am train - it's so much more relaxed and writing friendly), and people are often stressed and grumpy, so I think it's a credit to the staff and service that they keep the place humming along, happy and human.

I'm mostly mentioning this because there are horrible rumours circulating about the government having secret talks to try and palm off the long haul, country services to the mega-multiple-stuff-up-and-cheapskatey-let's-just-stick-in-machines-that-don't-work-wherever-we-can-and-then-hire-roving-gangs-of-meanies-to-police-the-network management mentality that currently runs the metro trains.

They definitely do not hand out free chocolates.

I shall have to keep an eye on this rumour. I might have to write some letters and wave a banner or two. If need be, perhaps I'll channel the Perils of Pauline and tie myself to the tracks in protest. Because that's what you do when condescending politicians in faraway realms make free and easy with the everyday lives of their citizens.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Prime Piece of Pre-Christmas News


A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting around trying to come up with an idea that I could turn into a zombie story for an upcoming antho, because, well, it would be so cool to get into a Prime Books anthology, when in comes an email...

It was another one of those situations where I was pretty much expecting a rejection, so it took a few seconds to absorb the fact that this email was actually one of those happiness inducing 'yay' responses rather that one of the more common 'nays'. I'd sent off, as per the guidelines, the maximum of three alien encounter stories, and wouldn't you know it, the one I wasn't sure about, the one I almost second-guessed myself out of sending, made it!

So yes, here comes the news I've been dying to share - my science fiction story Nullipara, which was first published in 2010 in The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder, and Evolution edited by Chris Lynch, will appear in the reprint anthology Aliens: Recent Encounters edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane. It's scheduled for publication in June 2013.

The final lineup will be announced later this week, I've been told, or the following week, but I've been given permission to make my own private announcement now.

Inclusion in a Prime Books anthology is certainly a fantastic early Xmas present, and knowing I'll soon have an SF story in a book with the word 'alien' in the title is as geekily festive as it gets.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Things Fizzle Apart


Not blogging much because I'm busy with the usual Xmasy and Arvo Jobby rushy stuff at this time of the year along with my last hospital visits and medical doings for 2012 etc, plus my life is so full of brow-smacking woe at the moment that it's better to maintain a dignified silence than bore folk with too much sookiness.

The plan is to get to my Xmas break. Then, not only will I do a lot of deep breathing, but I will do some deep thinking about Life. And Stuff. In between all the writing, that is, and trying to size up the character of the new baby year toddling towards us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Giddy Up


My SF pony story is once more being considered for publication - it almost made it into a recent US antho that has since received a lot of publicity, but was unfortunately booted out at the very last minute. Much sadness ensued, of course. What a coup that would have been. I've always known this story would be a hard sell (there are starships! There are clones! There are ponies!) but that just means my triumph will be all the greater when it finally does find a home. And it will!

Cross fingers it makes it across the finish line this time. Not for my own sake - oh no, I'm a much bigger than that - but for the sake of the genre. To me, it's pretty obvious that SF in general is in desperate need of more equine tales :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

All Is Still Here


Excellent, no sign of a Mayan apocalypse yet. I bet those 12-12-12 believers are feeling a tad sheepish. Still, there's still time enough left for them to jump ship and join Team 21-12-12. That way, they can experience two end-of-the-world events in one month. Live life to the full, I say.

So, 21st December 2012 it is then. 

EOTW, here we come.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Love You, Tomorrow


Now I was lining up my brain and preparing myself emotionally for the end of the world on 21-12-12, or 12-21-12 as USAians would write it, but I've just discovered that, depending on which interpretation of the Mayan cycle you subscribe to, it might in fact vanish in an existential puff tomorrow on 12-12-12, or, in America, 12-12-12.

On my wonderful Wednesday off? I'm simply not ready for that. So I choose to stick with the 21st December. Cross fingers that's the correct date.

Now I have to head off to the Arvo Job. I'd much rather cocoon myself at home. Yesterday was a minor Mayan apocalypse of the catastrophic officey sort for me - a moment of distraction and an ill advised click of the mouse led to a maelstrom of chaos that has sucked in a lot of people. Ah well, off I go, comforting myself with the thought that at least I didn't pull a trigger and there are no dead bodies to clean up.

I just have to make it to tomorrow. It would be a great pity for me personally, and a few billion other people, if there is no tomorrow.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Verily, The Verdict Is In


Over here, Mike Allen, who edits the wonderful  Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, ponders the burgeoning mystery of the many writers who include a summary of their short story submission in their cover letter.

They what? I thought.

In the comments that follow, other editors and slush readers chime in with their bemusement. Apparently, this pushing of summaries is a new trend.  Often it's combined with much promotional pitching jargon and great dollops of writerly self-praise. Possibly Reader's Digest is to blame. The word newbie gets bandied about a lot.

It has simply never occurred to me that I should make an extra effort to wreck my chances of scoring a sale by getting on the wrong side of an editor with too much suckiness or spin. Keeping cover letters as simple and politely professional as possible has always been my maxim. If the guidelines require a summary of my submission, fine, I'll do the best I can to knock one up. Otherwise, forget it. Fortunately, the consensus seems to be that that's the way to go. All in all, when it comes to submitting short story summaries, the finding seems to be: Don't. Do. It.

Phew! After investing countless hours on creating a multi-layered story of much wit, depth, dialogue and complexity, I'd hate to have to start spending more time on agonising over how to sell it in just two snappy lines that might end up irritating more that they entice.

So begone, annoying short story summary fad, and return forthwith to the dark and dank writing advice forums that birthed you.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Hasty Horticultural Grumble


I have enough problems with the whole 'slow food' movement because I've never been much of a fast food person myself and to me it goes without saying that when you cook something up, you take your time and enjoy the process, but hey, their hearts are in the right place so I mostly let it slide. However, this morning I was reading about slow gardening.

Slow gardening? Unless you have only 3 potted cacti to look after, are a regular Edward Scissorhands with the whipper-snipper or bomb your backyard with copious amounts of Agent Orange to keep things under control, gardening has never been something you whizz out and do when you have a spare five minutes. That's why we all complain about how messy it all gets when we're busy. Still, once again, I suppose their motives are pure and they simply want to turn weed pulling into a Zen experience. Alas, my nose gets twitchy whenever I sniff a new trend that might turn into another hyper competitive, must-do craze that will make folk more miserable than happy if they can't keep up with the serenely rose-beheading Joneses.

Not that there's anything wrong with slow. There are a few stop-and-take-your-time fads I would like to see catch on.

Slow financial advice for one. Slow business management. Slow politics. Oh yeah, leaders of great nations taking their time to think deeply and make wise, long term decisions. I could live with that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Permission to be Slack


So, that was my designated, midweek collapse relax day.

It was lovely, and I feel topped up with enough energy to get me through the next two days of Arvo Jobbing, but I didn't really get much done.

 I slept in, I read, I did a spot of gardening, I napped, I read, I exercised, I napped...

I did squeeze in a couple of hours of writing, which made me happy, but couldn't help but feel that it wasn't much considering I had a whole day at my disposal. I've spent so many hours this year just, well, recuperating. I know, I know, it could have been worse - I might not be recuperating. But alas, for 'tis part of my nature, I can't help thinking of all the countless hours from this year that have just sublimed into the ether, and grumbling about how far behind I am with my writing plans, and wondering how much longer this is all going to go on for and when I can get serious about setting goals and targets and deadlines and such stuff again. I keep wondering how long it's going to take just to get back to where I was over a year ago, before being Not Well started to seriously sap my energy and sidetrack my days. And always, I know it's ungrateful of me to do anything but celebrate that I'm on the road to recovery (cross fingers and toes).

Not getting much done really is the whole point of having these Wednesdays off, so please, just ignore me and my whinging. I'm being unreasonable. I'm an impatient patient, that's all.

Let's Do the Heron Dance

Up on my SF book shelf, there's a hardback, Gollancz 1986 1st edition copy of Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home. Such is the stature of this book in my mind that taking it down just now to peruse its pages again, I was somewhat disappointed by its size. I'd almost expected to stagger backwards from the weight of it as it slid off the shelf. In my mind, it had grown HUMONGOUS, but I suspect now that had more to do with the content than actual physical size. It's one of those books that, if you love them, they infiltrate your neural pathways and stay with you forever on a cellular level. Always Coming Home is big, and it is a challenge to get through at times with its different styles of writing, poetry (gasp!!!!), songs ( and it isn't even Tolkien) and factual cultural information about a future tribe of people called the Kesh, interspersed with the adventurous tale of a woman called Stone Telling, but most people seem to agree it's well worth the effort. This book initially confused me when I first read it many years ago, but I was mesmerised nonetheless and, thank goodness, stayed with it. Always Coming Home helped expand my ideas of what writing SF could involve, and it taught me that you can experiment with the genre and have fun with it. Then there are also the illustrations by Margaret Chodos, which made reading the book a real treat ( I mean, there were pictures! In a serious science fiction book! How cool was that?)

All in all, how can you not love a book that starts with the jaunty line: The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California.

Anyway, the reason I've brought this up is because over at Book View Cafe, where they're presently having a bit of a Ursula Le Guin palooza to celebrate the publication of three new books by hers truly, this caught my eye:

Le Guin’s classic novel was originally published with a cassette tape, Music and Poetry of the Kesh, Music by Oregon Shakespeare Festival Resident Composer Todd Barton, words by Ursula K. Le Guin, who performs many of the selections.
I didn't find out there was a cassette of music until years after I read the book (there was no quick Googling back then). The fact is that that I didn't get one (cheated! I want my money back), and I've never caught up with this olden days, multi-media addition to the Kesh package. Fortunately, I can now pop over here and fix that deficiency, although I should probably reread the book and once more submerse myself in all things Kesh before I do so.

Who knows? Come some Winter's day, you may find me swanning about the house, making wild Keshian moves to the mystical tunes of a future California dreaming...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Who's That Girl ?


Doing a quick Sunday spin about the Internet this morning, I popped across to Clarkesworld and saw that the December 2012 issue is out.

I perused the cover and TOC.

The Wisdom of Ants by Thoraiya Dyer, I read, and paused.

Hmm, I thought, there's something awfully familiar about that appellation. Thoraiya Dyer, Thoraiya Dyer - I was pretty sure I'd heard that name somewhere before, but try as I might, I couldn't specifically link it with anyone. It's been bugging me ever since.

And nup, I still can't place it. Thoraiya Dyer, Thoraiya Dyer... Not to worry though, I'm sure it'll come to me eventually.

Anyway, and alas, even though it's Sunday, I won't be getting much writing done today. I spent all of yesterday on driving across the state to celebrate two birthdays and then making my way home again, so I'll have to dedicate most of today to seriously resting up for the work week ahead interspersed with bouts of catching up on must-do household tasks. That's okay. Sitting about reading isn't exactly suffering, and it's nice to do so in a clean house. Besides, yesterday was a great day, full of delicious food, fun company and lots of laughs, well worth the trade off.

When I finally got home last night, I finished off with the first episode of the ten-part Swedish science fiction series Real Humans, which looks to be a good and accessible show about the myriad of possible relationships and interactions that might be introduced into our everyday lives if we ever do mass produce simulacrums to function as our workers/slaves/friends/carers/whatever your frail human neediness or twisted mind can come up with.

Being Swedish, the writers were not at all coy about the fact that the availability of androids for easy sex would definitely drive a huge part of such an industry, or about mentioning the kind of problems you'd be inviting by having gorgeous, compliant bots and randy teenagers under the same roof. This was not done with lurid scenes either, but through mature adults acknowledging reality in their conversations. I enjoyed their upfront way of dealing with a fundamental human drive and the unlikelihood of the young being able to resist such overwhelming temptations rather that enduring gratuitous scenes, righteous ranting, or cloying, puritanical hints of naughtiness going on in the shadowy back blocks of Happy Family Land.

With multiple, interweaving storylines taking place in a parallel present, just one episode in, the series has already set itself up to explore the hatred of androids (called hubots) by displaced workers, hubots making better and truer friends and lovers than emotionally messy humans, hubot carers acting more like jail wardens than servants, humans becoming utterly dependant on their hubot companions, and many other scenarios, as well as tackling tricky ethical questions about android rights and what to think of humans who treat these strange, new lifeforms like toasters. I appreciate that we humans don't come across as uniformly evil and uncaring, and that our frustrations and suspicions in the face of such a massive social upheaval are treated with understanding. To make the dilemma even knottier, many of the too-cute hubots are exceptionally creepy, occasionally ever so subtly patronising, and a couple of hubots are also showing some seriously bad ass tendencies and signs that they're anything but as pure as the driven Scandinavian snow. However, I suspect that  pickled red herrings are being cast about with abandon. All this, and it was entertaining too.

Of course, a US version is already in the works. I wonder how they'll deal with the sex issues.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this series unfolds.

Friday, November 30, 2012

End of the Month Report: November 2012

Submissions: 4
Rejections: 6
Acceptances: 1 - Celebrate!!!!
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 7
New stories completed: 0
Mood: See 'acceptances'. Am celebrating. Am happy. Very happy. But, of course, I could always be happier. Am always hungry for more happiness of the sales sort. Am hoping that a couple of 'holds' pan out. One in particular. Now that's just asking for trouble.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Aaaaah, I Sooooo Needed That


After a long day at the Arvo Job:

Good news, good news, good news, of the best kind, of the publishing kind, of the anthology kind, of the confidence boosting kind. Grinning, grinning, grinning. Unfortunately, I'm not sure whether or not I can share this news yet - after all, one must make an effort to exercise a modicum of professional decorum in these cases - but believe me, the moment I get the go ahead, I am soooooo posting it.

Good news, good news, good news....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Evening Eavesdrop


It's not that I wanted to listen in on their conversation - really and truly, I didn't - but excited teenagers trapped in a group on a longer train trip are hardly prone to quietness.

The topic? Facebook.

First they bagged their mothers' Facebook pages. Thoroughly bagged them. They were not kind. Not at all. Embarrassingly unkind, in fact. Unkind in great detail. They were all girls of a certain age, so I suppose it was mostly about them creating their own very cool Fb identities separate from their mothers' annoying, cloying, suffocating online presences. Cyber psychology. Another layer of struggle added to the already fraught dynamics of your typical mother-daughter relationship during the rebellion years.

Next, those who had fathers on Fb went on about the general dagginess of Dad Pages. The venom levels were far lower with the dads though. More of a chuckle than a screeching diatribe. The Fb dads obviously didn't represent the same threat that the Fb mums did. It was all very Freudian.

After that, their nearest and dearest and bestest friends got it in the neck. Apparently, one girl thinks she's so funny on Fb, but really, her jokes are so lame they're like dad jokes, and everyone is making so much fun of her behind her back.

After that, the conversation became so bitchy I was blushing for them. Wow, with Fb friends like these girls, who needs enemies?

Hopefully it's just a stage they're going through.

Hopefully.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Soothing Sounds of Sunday Plus Some Honking.


It's been a bit of a noisy Sunday so far, but not bad noisy (like the infamous doof, doof battles of yore). The local Rotary truck show is on this weekend, so the township is full of painted rigs and dressed-up utes, and after my much treasured Sunday morning sleep in, while I was having my lazy Sunday morning read with the cats piled on my lap, the annual Sunday morning truck convey went past. Horns were enthusiastically honked and blasted, and many great vehicles rumbled by and shook the earth. But it was soon enough over, and the show does raise a lot of money for good causes.

Later, next door launched into a lunch time barbecue with friends, kids and dogs, and there was much rambunctious scrambling for sausages and shouts about their deliciousness, calls for mummy or daddy to fix this or that, exuberant splashing about in the inflatable pool and the hosing down of dogs accompanied by squeals of joy and barks of approval - the normal, family business, background sounds you'd expect on a hot Australian Sunday, boisterous, but not at all bothersome. I've been writing well through most of it, only occasionally pulled from my concentration by the naughty chuckle of a child about to do something that is definitely a no-no or kiddie squabbles about who gets the wield the watery power of the mighty garden hose.

In between the trucks and the barbie, the Chook (henceforth referred to as the Occasional Chook, unless she moves back in, of course) came to visit, and volubly made her presence known as per usual. She's still here many hours later, prevented from returning to her new digs by the barbecue. Although constantly grumbling, she's making the best of it and is presently sunning herself on the patio with the cats. Things are settling down next door now, so she'll probably scoot off soon, once the dog numbers go down.

As for me, I'll send off a few emails, and then I'll be getting back to the loveliest of all Sunday sounds (although the clip clop of horse hooves is a very close second), namely that of my keyboard finishing up a new story. It's big. It's SF. It's spacey. It has aliens. But no humans. I'm a bit excited by it :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ye Olde Blogge


So modern bloggers do tend to go on about service providers, eh? Sorry. Still - off on a tangent here - we humans being what we are, if les blogs had existed in the fantastic old days, do you think folk would have used the medium to bellyache about missing telegrams? To moan about dawdling posties? To wail about how they were certain that Beryl down at the post office was steaming open their letters and reading the contents and then gleefully sharing her information with all and sundry? To go on about the deteriorating quality of letter writing paper and how uncaring companies would not listen to legitimate complaints about how their inferior pulp caused smudged lines, warped penmanship, and thus reduced the standing of otherwise upstanding citizens within the letter writing community? To natter about their brand new fountain pen nib bending out of shape at the slightest pressure and how the rude man at the stationary shoppe refused to swap the faulty product or refund their money?

I was just sort of wondering.

Good News and Bad News


After waiting for only seven minutes, I finally got past my good friend the automated response system and spoke to an actual real live human being.

It seemed too good to be true. It was.

You see, the service provider's computers are down for the next two hours so the girl couldn't really do anything but tell people she couldn't do anything. That was why she could respond so quickly, I suppose.

She did wish me a good morning though. That was nice. The human touch.

So I guess I'll have to try again tomorrow. Or write that letter.

All Serviced Out


Hey, I'm an adult. I understand that service providers aren't really about providing services but about getting as much money as possible out of us general public schmucks for the least possible effort. They're about profit. They're about PR spin but no substance. They're about sneaky accountancy disguised as customer benefits. They're about cutting service staff from the bottom so there's more money for those at the top. They're about contracting out the nuts and bolts of the operation so they don't have to deal with the messy business of actually providing the services they're supposed to provide. They're about companies doing whatever they like and us desperately trying to get them to abide by their original agreements. I get it. I do, really. Still, you'd think that a smidgen of embarrassment would kick in after a certain amount of stuffing around. 

Oh, what am I saying? That would imply that such companies recognised us as human beings with other things to do besides waiting in phone queues for the opportunity to politely beg them to fix their mistakes. If they never get to hear about their mistakes, well, it's less work and more $$$ for them. It's a cunning tactic. As you can probably guess, I've been trying all day (well, yesterday), on and off, in between multiple naps and getting out of the way a whole lot of grown up, officey stuff that has accumulated over the past few months, to get through to a certain telecommunications company. I've given my intimate details to the automated system so many times that I feel we know each other well enough to go out for coffee sometime, but the very best the machine could offer me was, at one point, to wait for 20 minutes until someone (maybe) got around to me. I'll probably end up calling them a few more times tonight. I'm hoping that that other folk are heading for bed around now, thus shortening the queue. Of course, then there might be the other arvo and night shift people of the world to contend with. And the company might roster less staff to deal with the fewer calls. *groan*  

If I can't get through to them tonight, I have a cunning backup plan -  I'll write them an old fashioned letter. I know for a fact that modern service providers hate letters. Once upon a time not long ago, I sent off just such a quaint thing. In return, I received a rather pompous note telling me how they'd taken care of my problem, although in future they recommended that I use their amazing automated customer service system (which I'd complained about). But. They. Fixed. The. Problem. As far as I'm concerned - major triumph!

Yes, a formal letter of complaint might be the way to go. Maybe I'll even dig out a fountain pen to write it. And some violet ink. That'll really mess with their minds.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Letter with a Dragon on It


After a long day of negotiating the new train schedule (many more minutes added to my commuting - blah!) and an early start at the Arvo Job, it was nice to come home and find an envelope with a dragon on it in my letterbox, and inside that envelope with a dragon on it was a letter with a dragon on it. Oh yeah, and the word 'Chaosium' as well.

It was my copy of the contract for the upcoming werewolf anthology. Signed here in Australia, it went all the way with its partner to CA in the US of A, was signed there, and finally returned home all alone today. I've never had a writing contract before that was so multiply signed. Anyway, that means it's full steam ahead with that antho now.

It's the writerly crumbs like this that guide me through the darkest of Real World forests.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Chicken Who Drops by for Cheese and a Chat


I've had to abandon my theory that the Chook is a secret crime fighter and/or international political fixer. The more mundane reason for her increasing absences turns out to be that she was slowly moving in with the chickens three houses up. In my heart of hearts, I suspected as much, for I would hear a great, fowlish hullabaloo in the distance, and about five minutes later, the Chook would turn up in the garden with ruffled feathers and an angry attitude. But she was lonely, I could tell from the way she smooched up to the cats all the time, and the call of her own kind was a strong one. As a most stubborn chicken of independent mind who usually gets what she wants, she kept at it and wore the flock down, much the same way she in the end had me jumping up to answer her knocking or clucking at the kitchen door each morning. Anyway, I think it's safe to say that after eighteen months of co-habitation, the Chook doesn't live here anymore.

She does, however, pop by to visit us once or twice a week, as she did this fine Sunday morning. I  heard her imperious call, and like any good hostess, immediately jumped to and put out the cheese and sunflower seeds. I suspect it's the cheese that brings her back - her new home might not be sufficiently catering for her deep love of dairy products. They're probably not even aware of it. It was her habit of bossily pushing in to nick Cooper's cheese cubes (and since he loves his cheese too, Coopie wasn't happy about sharing) that tipped us off in this household. That, and her practically diving into the cats' milk bowl.

A visiting routine is gradually settling into place. Once she's sufficiently fed and watered, the Chook then hangs around the kitchen for old time's sake, contentedly follows the cats about for a while, takes a quick tour of the house if she can sneak in, loudly clucks and complains about goodness knows what, checks the garden for tidbits, and after a final sip of milk and goodbye cluck, she slips away again, back to her new, and obviously more satisfactory (I'm not good enough any more *sniff*), life in the company of her feathered kin. Part of me is chuffed she wants to keep up the contact. Another part of me suspects, complicated creature that she is, that the Chook is just keeping her options open in case the new joint doesn't work out to her satisfaction. She's like that. Cute but devious.

Gypsy. Waif. Free spirit. Freeloader. Manipulator. Charmer. Warrior. Greedy guts. Whatever her guise, the Chook has always been the ultimate free-range chicken.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

'Snore' and 'Ouch'


Compared with my usual Saturdays, I've pretty much frittered away the day so far with sleeping in until I woke followed by a leisurely pot of tea and long, long read. I did get the washing started, but then I had breakfast out in the backyard on the Xmas swing, after which, seduced by the cosiness of that nook and susurrus of leaves overhead, I promptly fell asleep again and didn't wake until 14.00. Then I had to scurry around to finish the washing.

Ah well, in such cases, one just has to accept that one obviously really really needed the nap time and take it from there. It has been that kind of a week. I've been constantly tired, mostly, I surmise, because I'm almost off the serious pain killers and am no longer enjoying their get-up-and-go chemical kick or pharmaceutically induced happy feelings. I'll have to be more realistic about my energy levels from now on, which is both good and bad, but definitely preferable to having a drugged up brain dazedly chugging along at quarter speed. Still, I do find myself yearning to pop a power pill every now and then. That's okay. They've served me long and well, those tablets, and it's only natural I should miss them. It's only an addiction when you give into that yearning. I won't.

Anyway, just as I did on my nap-filled Wednesday, I've caught up on my two days of Arvo Job and commuting sleep deficit and am quite perky now. I also did get in some daydreaming time whilst staring at the canopy over the Xmas swing this morning, so I shall try to squeeze in an hour at the keyboard before I head off for an evening of company, culture, and possibly fingerfood.

Apart from tiredness, napping and rationing drugs, this week has mostly been about rejections. One slipped by without causing more than the usual oh, darn and drats, I would have liked to have made it into that antho reaction, but the other one, well, I'd foolishly let myself get to the point where I was expecting at the very least one of those nice rejections. Alas, and oww, oww, oww!, the one I received from the editors was anything but. So why did I abandon my usual phlegmatic wait-and-see approach and let myself build up hope? Well, 'twas the fault of the report I received from the initial three readers, which was so positive and enthusiastic and full of phrases like well written and intelligent , pieced together extremely well, fun and interesting style and good flow, funny and sharply put together, the unusual structure works well, I enjoyed it, etc etc etc, I could go on and on quoting, believe me, because they were so darned spirit uplifting and had me smiling for days. The readers all agreed the story needed further tweaking, which is why I thought it would probably be rejected, but in the needs more work kind of way. At worst, a it didn't grab us was on the cards, I thought. But the editors' combined verdict was much harsher. I shall abstain from quoting. It never ceases to amaze me how very differently people react to the same story. Luckily, I have both the readers' reports, and previously received positive comments to keep me from hurtling said story into an abyss. I shall simply buck up, pull out a spanner and tweak the story some more, and it will go out again.

After all, possession of an often irrational stubbornness perseverance in the face of repeated rebuffs is a character prerequisite for writers. And 'keeping on keeping on' is our writerly job description.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Beautiful Day


After just two days of commuting and Arvo Jobbing and squeezing in a bit of writing, my get-up-and-go levels are running seriously low. By the time I get home late Tuesday night, I'm hanging out for my midweek, battery recharging day. Slowly, but surely, the energy thing is getting incrementally better, but I still get very pooped.

Aaaah, Wednesday, here you come, you big, beautiful, boofy conglomeration of heavenly hours off. I love you soooo much.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Moon Dreams

The word on the street is that NASA will soon announce plans along the lines of We're going back to the moon, attempting a first-ever mission to send humans to an asteroid and actively developing a plan to take Americans to Mars. The scuttlebutt is that these plans have already been approved, but were kept under wraps in case Mitt Romney won the US presidential elections. Rumour has it that the Mittsterman was less than enthusiastic about investing in the commercial possibilities of offworld mining to supplement our dwindling resources and a glorious future that possibly encompasses space travel and worlds beyond our own tiny planet. Ah well, his lack of vision is shared by many.
It all looks very exciting. And the Europeans want to know if they can play too.

Heading out again on manned missions is the kind of right stuff which, if it gets the go ahead, will no doubt inspire a whole new generation of scientists, writers and astronauts. However, to someone who was a child during the Apollo program and experienced a couple of moon landings a year until budget cuts forced NASA to switch its focus, the fact that these lunar happenings, if they do come to pass, are scheduled for 2021 and beyond, well, it seems like an awfully slow process to me. Here we are in the future in possession of technology well in advance of what was available over forty years ago, but it'll still be another 9 years or more until we repeat the feats of our forefathers and then finally build upon that foundation?

When I was a littlie, manned space exploration was moving at such a good clip that it didn't seem the least bit unreasonable for we young ones to plan a career that involved working on the moon as a grown up. And if  NASA had kept up their then pace, who's to say it might not have happened?

Alas, at this rate, that lunar vacation I've always wanted to take simply isn't going to eventuate. And let's not even talk about how I'd planned to enjoy my retirement in a low gravity environment to ease my aching bones.
 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

'The Bread Also Rises' or 'There Will Be Butter'


I'm baking bread, which involves first stage preparations, letting it rise, adding more ingredients (it's a savoury bread) and bashing it all together, letting it rise, another kneading stage, letting it rise, and finally into the oven it goes. The butter is standing ready. Copious amounts will be slathered onto the finished, piping hot product. You only live once, and there are some things you really should not deny yourself. And a movie will be picked to compliment this yumminess.

Anyway, in between, during all the rising times, there's the Internet to cruise around on, checking markets, catching up on industry gossip, following links and finding new things to make one smile or go 'ooooh' over. Following a link provided by Jay Lake, I went to Grant Snider's blog Incidental Comics, and there found much fun of a bookish nature to amuse me. Grant does comic strips for the New York Times Book Review and sells his work as posters. I just might have to decorate my writing cave with one or more of the following:

I do agree with the comments that the Murakami Bingo Card really needs a sheep square, but that's just the friendliest sort of literary nitpicking that book people love to indulge in.
Now,  I'm off to whack some dough.  Then - breadtime!
 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Good Rover


So today, my trusty notebook Rover and I, for the first time in over six months, got some work done on the train on the way to the Arvo Job - 45 minutes worth of rearranging and adding to the SF travelling salesman story which started out short and funny for a humour antho, then turned serious, went back to being funny, and has now decided to be a longer, serious-weird, slightly amusing story about implant technology, Artificial Intelligences, circumventing an Orwellian bureaucracy, love (but not as we know it, Jim) and loyalty with a few futuristic farm cows thrown in for good measure.

'Tis good to be scribbling again :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Getting my Groove Back


Yesterday was Melbourne Cup Day, a holiday here in Australia, and today was my regular midweek day off for resting up, so I've just had two whole days off to invest in coaxing my writing mojo back into active duty. I'm not sure what kind of a day the punters had down at the races yesterday weatherwise, but up here, the grey skies, pouring rain, and thunder and lightning were perfect for staying indoors and getting work done.

It didn't go too badly either. I searched up a few more markets for 2013 and put them up on my work board, and wrote down long lists of the different themed issues that various publications have coming up next year and matched some up with already finished stories or partial stories I have on the boil. I also edited and subbed another three stories, so I now have 13 of my little lovelies being scrutinised out there in the wide world, tried to figure out what might be wrong with a few stories that I've parked to one side until I can decide whether or not I should stick to my guns or start fiddling with them, and spent some time sitting at my desk staring at the titles of upcoming anthologies and just letting my brain float on thought breezes to see if it could come up with any useable ideas (it presented me with two interesting historical scenarios, but without any characters or plot, and one tickle of a suggestion that feels like a good 'un but which I need to prod some more.)

Also, I wrote. Not for quite as many hours as I had hoped to accomplish, but a respectable number nonetheless, so I'm giving myself a pat on the head and a gold star for effort.

I also received good news about a story that I particularly adore but which is, as one editor said, and I have to agree, structurally challenging - it has cleared the first hurdle a.k.a the slushpile, and has been passed on the head honchos for consideration. The readers all wrote very nice things about it, which made me happy, but I've been here too many times to get excited yet. I started the year with a few pro sale possibilities that then fell through, so from now on, it ain't a sale until it's a sale. I think I'll adopt the catchphrase 'Show me the acceptance!' Still, nice words about one's work are always welcome.

 And tomorrow morning, I plan to load up Rover with stories and get back into the habit of writing on the train as I head to and from the Arvo Job. There are many hours of tinkering that I can scrape together there, and it does make the trip seem a lot shorter.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There's a Word Stuck in my Craw.


Last night, on the train home, reading this article about the fast growing industry that specialises in home-delivered meal and grocery services to income rich but time poor folk was a reasonably innocuous affair until I got to this quote:

''For us the demand is coming from customers who work hard and don't really want the trauma of going to the supermarket and planning meals for the week. Instead, everything is on their doorstep and can be cooked within 30 minutes.''
Trauma? Really?

Inconvenience, that I can go with. Chore, sure. Hassle, undoubtedly. Logistical botheration and absolute pain in the butt at times, especially at the checkout, I totally agree.

But trauma? When did the everyday nuisance of general housekeeping become:

1. A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
2. An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
3. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption

So let me see if I understand this. Certain people are fortunate enough to have obviously interesting jobs that provide them with enough disposable income to spend lavish amounts of money on the necessities of life coupled with a ready access to a great variety of healthy and fresh food, yet these blessings in combination are deemed a profoundly disturbing psychological experience?

Try starvation. That's distressing. Or unemployment. Ditto with the stress levels.

By all means outsource these onerous tasks if you're really that busy, busy, busy (and really, really, really important), or if you deep down inside hate cooking but don't want to confess to this terrible sin in our present Age of the Masterchef lest your chook-raising, vegie-patch digging, jam-making foodie friends (and good on them) recoil in horror, but please, lay off overdramatising the everyday tasks that we all have to squeeze into our days just to make them sound like a gruelling challenge akin to scaling Mount Everest. Next thing you know, we'll be turning shopping and cooking into major emotional hurdles that possibly need specialised counselling and multiple sessions with support groups to negotiate. Quite honestly, the day that one is so flat out rushing around that one thinks of shopping and cooking as traumatic is the day one needs to take a serious look at one's life and possibly schedule a little time off to restore one's teetering sanity. Developing a sense of perspective would be good too. And while we're at it, showing some genuine gratitude for the bounty we enjoy and take for granted in our well-off country wouldn't go amiss either.

And yeah, yeah, I know it's just the usual sales jargon going overboard so as to be heard above the promotional racket swamping the world, but today's spin is tomorrow's accepted platitude. I just don't want us as a society going to a ridiculous place where I have to endure people putting a hand to their brow and blather-bragging in great detail about how taking ten minutes out to crack a few eggs and cook an omelet the night before induced such stress and suffering that they're now on the verge of a nervous breakdown .

Oh, all right, just possibly I too am stupendously overreacting and making a towering croque-en-bouche of out of a single profiterole. But these days, so many heavy-handed people wield words without any finesse, debasing their meaning and lowering their impact, not caring in the least how they, dare I say it, traumatise those of us who respect and love the power of our wonderful language.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ssssh! Don't Ssssay 'Ssssteampunk'


Yesterday, instead of going to the movies as usual, I was whisked off into the hinterlands of Victoria for an unexpected adventure. Apparently, or so I was told, as a writer of steampunk (doth one, lone steampunk story amongst many non-steampunk stories in fact make one a bonafide steampunk writer?) I was honour-bound to enthusiastically hike it to the Lake Goldsmith Steam Preservation Association's 100th Steam Rally instead of sitting in a theatre watching Argo. Fortunately, I'd read about the event a couple of weeks before in the entertainment section of the Age, and the proposed evening entertainment Steam! A Theatrical Extravaganza, openly labelled as steampunk by the paper, in particular had caught my eye, so I was amenable to the jaunt.

It really was a fun day. I love it when people have a passion - I simply cannot fathom folk who have no hobbies or interests - and am fascinated by the bubbleworlds created by people who share the same fixations and together create a safe place to enjoy a delight that others, often dreary people of narrow interests, might mock. Writers and readers of different genres have their respective bubbleworlds, as do horse fans of the various equine disciplines, car enthusiasts, comic book geeks, fashion lovers, music folk, stamp collectors, and aficionados of countless obscure, but to them endlessly fascinating obsessions. Within these worlds, like attracts like, and it's easy to spot the visitors from the permanent dwellers. My brother, for example, who builds stuff and is always complaining about the shoddy tools sold by most hardware stores, was very quickly greeted as knowledgeable fellow when we wandered into a tent full of drill bits and other whatnots of apparently superior quality. It was funny to watch how the salesblokes there zeroed in on him instantly, and much conversing in the universal language of expert tinkerers and machine-makers ensued.

Steam preservation is definitely the province of mostly male enthusiasts, and the rally was chock-a-block full of stoic, patient, obviously retired blokes wearing baseball caps sitting on camping chairs next to the working scale models they'd painstakingly assembled or old steam engines they'd lovingly restored. When a kindred spirit stopped to talk about their project, these blokes instantly perked up and launched into an animated discussion that was heart-warming to behold. There were also crowds of fascinated boys moving respectfully amongst the older men, lads whose eyes lit up at the sight of giant wheels turning and great gushes of steam issuing forth. No doubt, one day in the far future when they have time to lock themselves away in workshops and tinker to their heart's content, they too will pull up a camping chair, slap on a baseball cap and continue the tradition. There were some women in the forefront with oiling cans tending to the needs of various pistons and shafts, and many young girls riding high on the family steam engines, but mostly the steamie women there were wives having cups of tea together at kitchen tables set up at the back of the sheds.

There was no doubting the majesty of these great old machines, some of which were over a 110 years old but were still trundling along in a dignified manner and jauntily blowing their whistles. To me, when they had the grand parade, it was strange that there wasn't more dress-ups going on, costumes to compliment the periods that produced these wonderful behemoths, but that was the steampunk fan in me missing the point. I'd already been wondering as I wandered between the exhibits why the steampunk angle wasn't being pushed at all, if even just for promotional purposes. You simply could not find the word anywhere, not on any posters, not in the brochure, not in conversation. The penny farthing and odd-kinds-of-Victorian-Age-bicycles people did don period costumes, but the whole families, often up to three generations, atop the steam engines were mostly in plain overalls or jeans and t-shirts, the kids usually sporting colourful hearing protection devices. But then I gradually realised that steam preservation is all about the engineering, not about dressing up the beautiful functionality of those great creations for casual onlookers. It's by devotees for devotees within their steam loving bubbleworld, and anyone who needs razzmatazz to jazz it up can go jump in a lake. The machines have the spotlight, not their dedicated attendants. Steampunk, I thought, after a spot of casual investigation, with its focus on people using steam machines as a backdrop for their dress ups, was viewed as possibly suspect.

My hunch was confirmed when the loudspeaker guy began to speak about the evening's forthcoming entertainment. His long-winded ambiguity about the project was treat to listen to. He rambled on for quite while and in some depth about how he'd been dubious about the whole thing, how he'd frankly questioned the decision of the society's committee to allow the theatre people to use their beloved 90 tonne steam shovel for goodness knows what kind of arty shenanigans, but how after catching the dress rehearsal the night before, well, he'd had to admit the show was impressive and probably worth a look. And always it was the 'steam extravaganza'. Not even once did the word 'steampunk' pass his lips. In fact this is one of the few sources I've been able to find that unashamedly proclaims it a steampunk show.

Unfortunately, utterly pooped as we were after five hours of wandering from one shed full of tractors to another shed full of busily pumping machines, and watching steam-powered hay baling, ploughing, earth shifting and other such impressive demonstrations, we couldn't hang around another 3 hours for the twilight show. It was a long trip there and back, and we had to get moving. However, if they decide to repeat their steampunk experiment next year, we'll plan ahead so we can catch it then. Who knows how this tentative, budding relationship will develop? Perhaps, if this collaboration works, in future the steam preservation bubbleworld and the steampunk bubbleworld might even grow comfortable with each other and eventually accept at least temporary mergings of their respective passions. Surely not a bad thing, although I suspect it will difficult to convert the baseball-cap wearing blokes to the idea of grown-ups donning ringmaster top hats.

As an addendum to the day, after arriving home, I noticed my clothes were a bit stinky from smoke and the various petrol fumes. Soon after, I realised I could actually draw lines in my soot-covered face, and I must say the romance and allure of a steam powered world paled a little then.


.

Friday, November 2, 2012

End of the Month Report: October 2012


Oops, I nearly forgot :

Submissions: 3
Rejections: 3
Acceptances: 0 (but I did receive notification that a story is being held for consideration - not quite, but almost as good.)
Published: 1 (The Snowy River Feral)
Stories out in the wild: 10
New stories completed: 1
Mood: There doesn't seem to be much movement out there in  rejectionland acceptanceworld. Not much went out in October because there wasn't much coming in that I could turn around and straight away send out again. But any month with a publication is a good month :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

And the Lucky Winner is...



So. The Halloween draw for a free copy of Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking anthology full of stories about undead folk of all shapes and sizes. The road to this draw was not an easy one, I can tell you, and there were dramas a' plenty. Extravagant plans for a glittering gala event at my neighbourhood centre for struggling scribes with some local literary luminary desperate for exposure drawing the winning number fell apart when our usual last Wednesday of the month meeting was replaced by a non-Halloween, Friday night trivia contest. Since I seem to have misplaced my tiara, perhaps this was for the best.

Fortunately, a busy friend who is not me kindly agreed to pop around this evening and do the honours for a quick cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit or two.

Unfortunately, with that settled, I realised I'd forgotten to buy a witch's hat or pumpkin. No worries, I thought, I'll get one at the cheapo place next to the supermarket when I go shopping. So, after putting in a few hours of flat out writing here at home (yay!) I sauntered into town, but alas, I was so diverted by winning $13.90 on my lottery ticket and procuring a whopping great pineapple for the low price of $3.95 that I forgot my original mission. My mind at the moment, as I may have mentioned a few times previously, is not exactly a steel trap. The superhuman ability to improvise under great duress, however, is still mine to wield, so a woven hat covered in giant seashells became an official Sea Witch's Hat. My friend turned up, tutted at the lack of a suitably black and conical piece of head attire or pumpkin for the draw, took her cup of tea and chocolate biscuits up front, politely declined to be photographed, then adequately performed her task. Five slips went into that Sea Witch's Hat on this balmy Halloween evening, but only one came out again.

I won't even go into how my computer then stuffed me around and it looked as if I might not be able to post this notice.

And so without further ado, but lots of trumpet blowing to celebrate the event (a freebie!!!!), the lucky winner is:

Congratulations, Mary!!! If you send me your mailing address, I'll forward the information on to the people at Bards and Sages Publishing, and they'll make sure you get your prize. Enjoy.

And a big thank you to everyone who participated. My blog stats show that oodles of people clicked the pumpkin picture and checked out the competition, but it seems that only the few, the fabulous five, were brave enough to commit. I wish I had more copies to give away so you could each get one. Thank you again.

Now I'm off to put on my pyjamas and watch a suitably scary Halloween movie.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Zombie Thesis


Large Hadron Collider. The Higgs Boson particle stars in a physics experiment that accelerates out of control. Zombies ensue.

Yep, zombies. More zombies. 2012 is definitely the Year of the Zombie.

In a breaking piece of Halloween-is-fast-approaching news, a group of Physics PhD students have put their degrees to good use and made DECAY, a horror movie set in the LHC. Apparently: The greatest discovery in physics could be our last.

But be warned, you nitpicking science buffs. Amazingly: This film has not been authorized or endorsed by CERN.

You can check out the trailer HERE.

Also, here's an ever so gentle reminder that the Halloween Giveaway will be drawn soon. If you'd like to possibly win a free print copy of Return of the Dead Men (and Women )Walking, click the pumpkin picture to your right sometime over the next forty-eight hours, or thereabouts, read about how easy it is to enter, and then do so or forever hold your peace.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another Horse Riding Hit


I'm feeling good, though tired (naps have been taken), after another swig of that greatest of get well tonics called horse riding.

My sister very kindly came up Saturday and stayed over to make everything easy, convenient and low-energy for me, so all we had to do after brekky this morning was head on up the road to Daylesford, turn a sharp left, and arrive in time for a ten o'clock ride. Words simply cannot describe how gorgeous the weather was today or how lush and colourful the Spring landscape was - everyone was commenting on it, everyone was radiating contentment. With oodles of good cheer, we headed off into the Wombat Forest together, just my sister and I, on lively horses that were both fully and joyfully in tune with the utter wonderfulness of the day. It was just a short 2.5 hour ride like last time, but it went so well that we're planning one more short ride next month, then I'll try to tackle an all dayer in December. Hopefully we can resume our usual riding trips after that.

So, now I just need to get my writing routine up to scratch as well and I'll once again be a fully functioning Gitte. Ah well, steady as she goes...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's All Hush Hush


The Chook has stayed away for a lot longer than usual this time. Obviously, her mission is one of extreme importance.

I can't say anything for certain, but I do have four words for you : United States presidential election.

Say no more. And please, keep it under your hat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Experiments in Self-Exposure


I've only ever been asked exactly four times to write pieces for other blogs, but each time I venture out into the wide world of the Internet, I learn new things. The most important lesson I've learnt is the most obvious, that once something with your name on it is out there, it's out there, and there's no undoing it.

The first invitation I received was an email from the ether last year soliciting my help for a project that looked fun and interesting - a blog about writers and their loyal lap warmers that might eventually become a book to be titled A Cat on my Keyboard. I was flattered to receive the request, and enthusiastically set about ruthlessly exploiting a member of my feline tribe for self-promotional purposes. Also, I wanted to share with the world just how damned cute he is. The result was this piece about Cooper. As you can see, I was obviously the only person who responded to the request for cutesy, catty material, which now seems a little embarrassing. The whole blog and book thing seems to have completely stalled too. Ah well, I couldn't know that at the time. Lesson learnt: check out who else is supporting such projects before you commit.

The second invitation blew me away - an offer to participate in this 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. My gosh, was I excited and flattered and all of the above or what? I carefully crafted my answers to David McDonald's questions, but then ruined the effect by sending off a hastily snapped selfie to accompany the post. All I can say in my defense is that I'd just been through one operation and was rushing around getting things ready for the second major operation, my mind addled by pain and my judgement seriously impaired by pain killers, so the photo seemed okay at the time. Then, while I was in recovery, my two, ever-so-sensitive brothers began to tease me about it, because that's what brothers do. When I looked again with my post-op eyes, I saw they had a point. Lesson learnt: I desperately need to scrub up, find a photographer who specialises in diffuse lighting, and procure myself a professional looking author pic for self-promo purposes.

My third invitation was the one I blogged about a few weeks ago - the author interview for Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking, which hasn't been used yet. Possibly it won't be used because it will require too much editing - I did go on a bit, and it turns out the interviews are actually micro interviews. Lesson learnt: find out how much space you're supposed to take up with your wafflings.

And now for my most recent foray out into the world of letting it all hang loose - I'm this week's Wednesday Writer over at David McDonald's excellent blog Ebon Shores. And a big thank you to David for extending this invitation. I think it's an okay piece, but of course I'm having second thoughts about it now that it's too late to go back.  As you can see, it does need an author pic, but since, as I told David, I don't have any reasonable and attachable photos that don't include a horse, the book cover will have to suffice. Lesson learnt: the same one as earlier, namely that I still need to secure a tolerable author pic.

Funnily enough, late last night, mere minutes after I emailed off this piece about second-guessing, I received notification from two editors, who last week quickly rejected my first submission to them for a themed publication, that they're holding my second submission for further consideration. It was a story I sent off on a whim when I suddenly realised it fitted the guidelines even though I was sure they'd outright reject it...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oh No, Not Noir!


I had a movie-going experience yesterday that hasn't happened in many years - people constantly walking out of the cinema all throughout a film. By the end credits, about a third of the audience had left. The movie was Killing Them Softly, a gritty, stylish, outrageous, exceedingly bleak but, for those tuned into its vibe, smart and funny film that was all about the characters being true to themselves, even if that meant them being tiresome and obnoxious, rather than pandering to the audience's entertainment needs. It's set in a tough guy underworld almost entirely populated and ruled by cock-of-the-walk men all looking to accumulate huge amounts of cash and garner alpha male points to impress their colleagues. The dialogue made my ears hum with joy - noir knows only too well that it needs to provide us with snappy lines and cut-glass observations about society amidst the unrelenting noirness as recompense for all the nastiness, human frailty and seediness it throws at us in spades -  and I knew right from the start that I would love it. Others, probably, knew right from the start that they would hate it, and the first disappointed person left just five minutes into the film.

Up on the screen, two young men discussed with brutal frankness how best to survive a spell in prison and the second audience member exited in a hurry. A short time later, when hopeless addict Russell (Ben Mendolsohn), not looking pretty and ensconced in a grotty setting, shot up, a couple jumped to their feet and scurried out, and when the film showed Russell's disjointed POV of his surroundings, two more people left. When the sharp dialogue finally stopped long enough for the first action piece, the non-glamourised violence drove more people out. The next scene to inspire an exodus was a brilliant piece of showing, not telling, or at least I thought so, where a character is allowed to whinge and whine until the audience and the character forced to listen to this self-pity fest are thoroughly sick of the man. I wanted to smack the man around and yell at him to shut up and get a life, and so the filmmaker's desired effect was achieved as far as I'm concerned. After that, people left in dribs and drabs as they reached the end of their respective ropes.

Based on the crime novel Cogan's Trade by George V Higgins, Killing Them Softly is a movie that stirs up the old debate about whether a writer is obliged to create likable characters. Do creators have to slip in a neglected childhood or personal trauma as a quick excuse to explain why a character walks darker paths? Do bad main characters have to ultimately redeem themselves so as to not disturb the audience too much with troublesome moral dilemmas? Do crime works have to imply that their scummy protagonists would rather have a nice job in an office but life won't give them a break rather that upset readers and viewers with the knowledge that killers and swindlers and thugs go about their business as blithely as others go about their legitimate trades?

I can only imagine that the people who left the theatre were expecting more of Roberta Flack's cool vibes and less blood, bullets, exploding craniums and sometimes foul dialogue. Smart, classy hoods humming bluesy tunes as they coolly hustled each other instead of scruffy, obnoxious bottomfeeders cheating, stealing and endlessly making blatantly bad and stupid decisions. Misunderstood boys just trying to survive rather than calculating idiots who actually want to be career crims. Palatable stuff rather than visceral promptings.

Mind you, there were a certain two people in the audience whose departure early on would have been celebrated by those of us in the audience enjoying the film - a couple of lovely, but very very very chatty old ladies in the row behind us. I still find it odd that they, of all the people present, weren't the first to decamp in disgust. Anyway, when it became clear that they weren't going to settle down and cease their continuous commentary, we issued a polite, but firm, request. It was, I quote, "Could you please stop talking all the time."

They shut up instantly. Not a peep did we hear from them after that. When the lights went on, the old ladies stayed put. We were a bit slow moving off - too busy discussing the movie - and it took a few moments before I noticed that the old ladies still hadn't moved. Leaving the cinema would require them to walk down the aisle past us, and it soon became obvious to me that they weren't going to budge until we were gone. They did not want to risk any kind of contact with us. Feeling a tad guilty, I smiled at them, but they looked away and hunkered down. We left. I'm sure the old ladies eventually did too. If not, I hope the cinema attendants are keeping them well fed and watered.

And so it was that we, from the two lovely old ladies' POV, became the true bullying hoods of yesterday's piece.

***Update: I wish now I'd titled this post 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Noir'. It would have been Sooo much better, and given the week's blogging a more linked feel.