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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Can Hear God Laughing

In some parallel universe, there's a Gitte flat on her back in a hospital bed zonked out on drugs. She’s probably in much pain after the operating deed has been done, but at least she’s firmly set on the long, winding path to recovery.

This in not her story.

Plans just keep coming undone this year. The story of the Gitte who inhabits this reality goes as follows:
Everything was organised with military precision, and so many people went out of their way to wish me luck and help me. My brother picked up the cats, myself and all my baggage with this sign on his car to make the whole event a little cheerier.

The cats sooked all the way to my sister’s, where everything had been set up to take care of their, and my, needs over the next few weeks. They took their sweet time vacating their containers, and were full of self-pity for their "terrible" plight, but were soon checking out their luxury indoor/outdoor home away from home. My sister made a delicious last-meal-before-fasting dinner, we chatted and watched TV, and early next morning she drove me down to catch the train to Melbourne.

I was admitted to the hospital and got a single room with a great view. My brothers dropped in to visit, one bearing a fluffy, pink unicorn. My sister was constantly texting cat updates, and other folk sent mood-boosting messages. Thunderbirds were go!

I was in hospital for two days! One whole day of pre-op preparation– tests galore, pharmaceuticals pumped into my system, cannulae inserted, consults with surgeons (unfortunately, the surgery will involve an extra procedure or two) body readied for the ensuing slicing and dicing - and one whole day of being gowned up, drugged up and psyched up only to have the surgery cancelled late yesterday afternoon! I was scheduled as the fourth operation. The surgeons started at 7.30 in the morning, but there were complications with two of the three ops before mine, and they were still working on operation number three at 4pm, from what I understand, so they had to postpone my fiddly operation until next week. It was the professional thing to do, I do know that, because who wants tired surgeons squeezing you in at the end of a long and complicated day? And I do feel sorry for the two women who spent so many hours on the table – I got to know my fellow patients, and they won’t be feeling well today. But it was immensely frustrating conclusion to a long week of running around nonetheless, and it means I'll have to deal with the pain for another week. Also, it's cut down the amount of time I'd cleared for the recovery afterwards.

So I had a bit of a cry about what a mess it all was, called people (I feel so bad that this rescheduling is putting so many people out), made new plans (I know, I know), had something to eat, packed my hospital bags, flowers and fluffy pink unicorn (who’ll be returning with me next week), and my brother drove me all the way home to my catless house (best to leave them settled at my sister’s), where I ate pizza, drowned my sorrows in a pot of tea, and watched the final four episodes of season one of The Walking Dead. What can you do?

However, the universe did toss me a mood-lifting bone in the shape of an acceptance after I got home last night – my Aussie vampire story, on its eighth foray out into the world, has finally found a home in an upcoming print anthology! Yay. It's my first acceptance for 2012. Phew, I was beginning to think I'd lost my groove. The thing is, I probably wouldn't have checked my emails until next week if I'd had the op, and the editor did want a quick reply as the whether the story was still available so they can finalise the line-up, so if there's a sliver of a silver lining to this whole debacle, the fact that I could respond immediately would be it. Of course, as a writer, a sale is also about the best consolation prize I could get. Anyway, the editor has suggested a tweak that I agree would better the story, which will also give me something to work on over the next few, unexpectedly free days.

Then it’ll be off to hospital. Again.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Going Dark

Whoa - nerves are really hitting big time. It's at times like these that I wonder how anyone can walk with dignity up the steps to a scaffold to be hung or have their head chopped off. I'm doing this voluntarily, otherwise they'd have to drag me kicking and screaming and begging for mercy to the op table.

It's time to try and herd the cats into their containers - they know something isn't right, so it should be fun.

Anyway, see you all on the other side.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

And So It Goes

  Well, I can strike off the two potential pro sales. Normally, a week of writerly disappointment like this would throw me into an existential crisis, but there’s nothing like a health scare to fine tune one’s sense of perspective. Anyway, that leaves the two possible semi-pro acceptances, and of course, the countless, as yet unknown possible sales.

What a week it’s been. It was always going to be very busy, what with clearing up my work at the Arvo Job before taking time off and the maddening logistics of preparing for a prolonged convalescence, but so many things had to be done (some fun) and a few things went awry, so  I’m now spending my Sunday evening madly catching up on must-done-by-tomorrow  tasks and madly washing and drying clothes that should already be packed.  Among other things, my SMI kicked in on Wednesday and seriously slowed me down for two days and scuppered my plans (I know, I know, I have to stop making them), I’ve had wrangles with sensitive hospital admin staff over missing paperwork confirming my operation details  (I didn’t accuse them of not sending it, I just said I hadn’t received it in the mail – there’s a difference ), I’m trying to convince other bureaucrats that no, I won’t be up for jury duty in June or July, and the back garden was suddenly knee deep in leaves from all the trees and had to be raked in otherwise they’d rot into a sludge while I’m away (there are only so many things you can ask housesitters to do).
But I did take time out yesterday to go to the Mesopotamia exhibition at the Melbourne Museum while I’m still mobile, went to the movies, and met a friend for a quick coffee  today – all welcome circuit breakers in between prosaic tasks like madly cleaning the house and purchasing a hospital worthy dressing gown and new jammies that I can wear in public.
These jammies are part of the drying extravaganza going on  at the moment,  and Gus is having a ball playing with the ribbons dangling from a pair hanging on the clotheshorse in front of the heater. Little does she know that her comfy feline world is about to be turned upside down.
Anyway, must get back to  it all.   

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Big Stuff

Damn, I just realised I'll still be too bed-bound to see Prometheus when it comes out. Boo. Another much anticipated SF event that will skedaddle by whilst I linger. I'll have to stick my fingers in my ears and hum as people opine about it. And stay off the Internet. Hmmm... pretty much mission impossible unless I isolate myself at the bottom of a deep sea trench, I'm thinking.

This looks more promising - a new Kim Stanley Robinson science-saga mega-tome to while away the hours. You can read about his thoughts on things futuristic here over at John Scalzi's blog : 
I'll just have to organise some kind of major support system to rest it on while I flip the pages :) Mind you, I'll probably zip through the audio book Mars series I'm listening to at the Arvo Job at the moment and am truly enjoying all over again. I originally thought I'd finish it sometime around Xmas, but there's a deadline I can move up now.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Computer and Cat Relevant Research

I'm rediscovering the joys of the Internet - the bits that involve more than just text. I can even watch Simon's Cat again! I love Simon's Cat. This one strikes a chord. I've been sooooo deprived. Now I remember why I keep my writing computer isolated from the temptation to click just one more...

Ooops, and good news just emailed in - another story is now being considered for publication.  It was one of those 'either it's a quick rejection or....' situations, but yay, I took a peek (get it over and done with) and it turned out to be the good stuff! That makes four pending possible publication positives. Or an equal number of almost-made-it rejections. Or variations thereof :)

Watch out! Here I come! Vroooooom!

Thanks to my oldest little brother kindly spending his Sunday afternoon on upgrading every aspect of my technological life and streamlining various connection problems, my internet computer, if it were a car, would now look like this:

No more gurgles and groans, and boy did I upload that picture quickly! Who knew blogging could be so easy?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Best-Laid Plans

Determined to have one last weekend pretending my health is fine before the whole hospital hoopla hits, I headed off to Melbourne for JD’s spec-fic workshop, where things went unexpectedly awry.

My original cunning plan: To use the workshop as an impetus to finish and polish a new story for the final session which would then knock the socks off everyone with its perfectly executed prose, sharp images, sublime dialogue, complete control over characters, wondrous world-building and multi-layered political-fantasy plot – all this, and a dragon too!

What happened: In an impromptu rejig of the schedule, everyone got to read the first, unfinished draft that I submitted at the second session two months ago (to show that I wasn’t cheating and was actually working on something). It was basically a clunky foray into the raw landscape of an idea, and most of it has been deleted, shuffled about or rewritten since then. *sigh* I’ve never ever shown such an undeveloped story to anyone before. I’m thoroughly hardened to people critiquing a finished piece, truly, but to have a whole room full of people eyeing off one's fits and starts and dead ends was just plain embarrassing.  

Of course, in the greater scheme of things, my sensitive writerly ego barely rates a mention. I was actually a bit down on the train trip home. With everyone making plans for the final workshop and arrangements for going out drinks and a meal afterwards, and all the talk of Natcon panels and guests, it suddenly hit me that I really am going to miss out on a great big chunk of life soon. Exciting and interesting things will be happening in the world beyond, but I won’t be able to participate. I have to get used to the thought that for the time being, plans are for other people.

But not to worry - I will get used to the thought. And I will get through it all. And I plan to watch every HBO series and sci-fi box set in the known universe as I do so.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Thorn Is Not A Rose

Quickie musing:
I woke up this morning, as per usual, to the news on my radio alarm. The item was all about a political "challenge" that needed to be faced, and so my first thought for today was No, that's NOT a "challenge", that's actually a bone fide problem.

The interchangeability of these two words is getting very messy. It's all well and good for the cross-over generation that can keep the two concepts separate in their minds and appreciate the rah-rah psychology of turning adversity into character-enhancing terminology that makes individuals heroes simply because they successfully tackle a spot of bother, but what about following generations who grow up internalising this jargon, and the concept of semantically evading difficulties? What if the reverse also happens and the word "challenge" becomes a negative word, a synonym for bad stuff that's best avoided? I'm not saying this will happen, but when you start fiddling around with the meaning of perfectly good words, there are bound to  be (jargon alert) flow-on effects.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Deadline Deadbeat

It occurs to me that I  might possibly come across as someone always scrambling to make a deadline. Not so. Back in January I subbed a story a relaxing four months before the deadline, and yes, I wrote it specifically for the anthology in question (I still haven't heard anything, and I know that rejections ARE being sent out...) Last week I got another story in a leisurely 6 weeks before the cut-off, and a third submission, which is still under consideration for a themed issue, was sent off a whole month before the publication pulled the plug on their reading period.

The last minute submissions are usually brand new stories, which are always hard to let go under the best of circumstances and which can ALWAYS be better, or tales that insist on unfolding in their own good time and resist all attempts to get them to hurry up, and yes, sometimes my tardiness is the fault of a perfect idea that arrived too late for a leisurely write up or Real Life throwing a curve-ball. I suppose I blog more about these close deadlines because I'm caught up in the excitement of chasing down ideas and whipping them into shape within a short time frame, like those television shows where everything goes wrong but the contestants emerge triumphant, or I moan about the missed deadlines because I'm mourning the lost opportunity for some story that would have been PERFECT for the publication in question.

But mostly I don't raise a sweat getting submissions off ahead of time. Mostly I spend a lot of time waiting for responses...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Nazis Who Cheered Me Up

Yesterday, after overdosing on the Real World (explanation to follow) and treating myself to a spot of good food on Lygon Street, we went to see Iron Sky, a 2012 Finnish-German-Australian retro-science-fiction comedy with serious bits that I logged as a must-see a while back after reading about it on Robert Hood’s blog Undead Backbrain. This movie has Udo Kier in it – say no more. The premise is:

It was hilarious, with lots of catch-them-or-miss-them historical details and pay-attention-to-what-I’m-saying dialogue. Some of the euphemisms for Nazi are breathtakingly long and politically pertinent, and I found myself mouthing some of them in the cinema (the way one does with those delicious Joss Whedon bon mots) in an effort to remember them for later, because you just never know when you might run into a fascist in dire need of an ego-flattening insult.

 There’s much criticism of USA politics, but many other nations were also mocked, including production partners Finland, Germany (well, there are Nazis in it) and Australia. Mostly, it was about the absurdity of humankind. Anyway, this movie was exactly what I needed to perk me up yesterday.

As for my Real World problems, well, my minor surgery a few weeks back confirmed that I have a Serious Medical Issue which must be addressed, so I’m off to hospital again soon for major surgery followed by a lengthy recuperation. This SMI is not something I’ll be going on about a lot here – I prefer to blog about my happy writing place rather than the uncheery stuff one has to wade through away from one’s writing keyboard – but no doubt bits will creep in here and there, mostly because it’ll put a very frustrating crimp in my writing plans. But what can one do? Alas, this “hiatus” also means that I won’t get to Natcon, I won’t be able to finish up my spec-fic workshop, and there are a few deadlines that will whoosh by without me battling for a place on the TOC. I missed one yesterday because of all the appointments I’ve had recently, so my harpy story, which is really shaping up well, has missed a chance to be a contender for a certain anthology.

Ah well, it’s buckle-down-and-get-through-the-crap-time with help from family and friends, onwards to recovery, followed by a triumphant return to writing. I’ll go check my Tattslotto ticket now on the way to the Arvo Job – magical thinking, that treacherous enemy of rational thought, has me hoping that maybe I’ll get some upfront reimbursement from the Fates :) ***

*** Nope, no millions of dollars for me. Not even a single dollar...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quickie Congratses!

I almost forgot to check the 2012 Aurealis winners. Congratulations to all of them. The only ones I can throw in a personal yay for are these two:

Ghosts by Gaslight edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers (Harper Voyager)

“Fruit of the Pipal Tree”by Thoraiya Dyer (After the Rain,FableCroft Publishing)

Jack Dann because I'm attending his spec-fic workshop and now hear his voice in the back of my head dissecting every sentence I construct, and Thoraiya because she's left a few comments here, including a kind solicitation for a recent rejection :) Hmm, if memory serves, that makes two Aurealis Awards for Best Fantasy Short Story for Ms Dyer (Yowie - Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press, 2010). Some people just know how to write. 

Waiting to Happen

Ideas, ideas, ideas. Where do they come from? That is no mystery as far as I'm concerned. How can people can NOT have them? Now that's a concept that stumps me.

My leisurely Sunday morning read of a standard publication revealed that there's an upcoming movie called Safety Not Guaranteed about three magazine employees who answer an advertisement seeking a time-travel companion. It is, no doubt, based on this ad which was doing the rounds a few years ago and which was no doubt filed away in many writerly notebooks and hard drives, including, obviously, mine. There'll be a lot of folk now raising a clenched fist to the heavens and moaning Curses, I was too slow. Not me - I hadn't started on anything yet, but the fact remains that it was there on my hard drive waiting, waiting, waiting for the right cross-fertilization. Mind you, I was going with a title more along the lines of Bring Your Own Weapons.

In the same publication they wrote about the upcoming Napoleon exhibition, which will focus on the emperor's antipodean connections. In that article there was the solid foundation for an alternative time-line story - Napoleon wanted to send an explorer to claim Australia's south coast and call it Terre Napoleon. There was the interesting fact that the last book that Marie Antoinette was said to have read was Captain James Cook's account of his voyages - how can you not see the seeds of a sad story in that? And apparently Josephine established  a 70 acre estate called Malmaison which had a greenhouse full of Australian plants and a private zoo with kangaroos, emus and a black swan. Another cool set up.

All you have to do is observe, you've got to read, you've got to note down, hoard ingredients, constantly stir them, stick it in your brain-oven, wait (sometimes for years) and see what happens. Then the hard work begins.

Now, I'm off for coffee and a Sunday morning chat - another good source of ideas.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

He Made Our Hearts Sing

Maurice Bernard Sendak
June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012

Thank you for the stomping, frenzied, howling rumpus.

And he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Out With The Old

If my Internet computer were a person it would look like this:

It creaks and gurgles and groans, and it's just taken over 50 minutes to download an antivirus update and receive a few emails. Okay, one of those emails was full of horse pictures sent by my sister to show me what a great ride I didn't go on  over the weekend, but still, it's definitely time for an upgrade.

I also got a rejection, but an extremely lovely and flattering one along with an invitation to give the antho another shot. My mind is already churning, trying to come up with something suitable.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Top of the World

The girls have been issued with a warning. Instead of doing their job and keeping me company as I slaved away at my keyboard and wrote and subbed, they hung out with the Chook and pottered about up on the roof for most of today. If it happens again, they can look for other employment.

Oh, why is good, reliable writerly help sooooo hard to find?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Wish I Were There

My sister is up on a cold, dark, possibly rainy mountainside right now, and has probably just pitched her tent amidst the stunning surroundings of the Howqua River and had a nice hot shower to wash away the mud deposited by a day of trail riding. Soon there’ll be good food and a fire and chatter and horses moving in the background, but I’m not there *sigh*. I should be there, and I was so looking forward to that weekend ride, which we planned last year, but circumstances would otherwise.

On the other hand, my ‘to be read’ stack just grew significantly taller. As compensation for missing out on a horse fix (boo-hoo) I got a buzz buying a few books at the annual Clunes Booktown get-together. It was, as always, heaven on earth for bibliophiles, with building after building filled with fictional and non-fictional trash and treasure, plenty of bargains for literary shopaholics and the miserly as well as pricey stuff for serious investors adding to their collections, and everywhere, there were crowds of beaming people with bags and boxes loaded with their finds. The Punch and Judy show had the kids howling with glee again, there were musicians to entertain us as we browsed, and there was plenty of lovely food, though some of the frazzled-looking caterers had seriously underestimated the voracious appetites built up by we mighty book hunters when we’re on the prowl and were running out of provisions already around 14.00. They’ll be kicking themselves for days over those lost profits. Me, I'd have had a truckload of backup supplies on hand. Anyway, there were also lots of arts and crafts to give one’s eyes a reprieve from scanning kilometers of book spines.

Throw in a book shop cat whose lashing tail told me she was seriously displeased about the many folk invading her territory but she was darned if she was going to move for them, and it was a fun day out.

And my day wasn't entirely unequine. I did see many horses and ponies on the drive to and from Clunes, and just as I was dropped off at home, two local lasses rode right past my house on their fine steeds. I mention this because Polly, who was waiting for me in the front yard, could not believe her eyes. She backed off, arched her back, hissed, and crouched ready to attack. The girls laughed at her antics. The horses remained utterly unaware of her existence.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's For Dinner?

All connoisseurs of things feline should pop over the Robert Hood's very cool blog Undead Backbrain and read about this yummy horror movie:

There are pictures of mutant cat-monsters. Mutant cat-monsters that eat... well, I'll say no more.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

End of the Month Report: April 2012

Rejections: 3
Acceptances: 0
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 11
New stories completed: 0
Mood: A sale around about now would be nice...

Almost Human

As much as I hate kowtowing to reality, I had to accept yesterday that a week’s recovery probably means a week, or at the very least more than 3 days, and so I’ve deferred my commuting and Arvo Job schedule until tomorrow. Today I hope at the very least to string together a few ideas and do some meaningful writing, as well as go for a long walk during which I plan to inhale copious amounts of invigorating country air. Naps will be only be taken on an absolutely-need-to-nod-off basis, and schlepping around dozily wondering what to do next will be severely curtailed. I’m going to try for a normalish day.

On the upside, I’ve had time to catch up on a few Internet stories, including the ongoing adventures of Commander Camilla Corona SDO, the inspiring US Astrochicken who recently headed up an extremely dangerous NASA mission.

"I flew into one of the strongest proton storms in years. The source of the radiation was sunspot AR1429, which unleashed more than 50 solar flares during the first two weeks of March. At the peak of the storm charged particles hitting Earth's upper atmosphere deposited enough heat in only three days to power every residence in New York City for two years. It was pretty intense. Earth-orbiting satellites reported proton counts ~30,000 times normal," she said.

If you don't know her, Camilla is a true Renaissance rubber chicken. Not only is she NASA’s Solar Dynamic’s Observatory’s mascot, but being a type A rubber chicken, she spreads her enthusiasm for all things spacey by visiting classrooms, science fairs, festivals and exhibits to teach about the Sun, space weather and space exploration. Recently, prior to her latest mission, she trained (and hung out) with Russian cosmonauts in Star City, and posted about the experience on her blog. Not a prude, she freely recounts her recent run-ins with space station toilets and explains the whole business of going about your business when off planet. She tweets, and is on Facebook, Google+ and other social media, and tirelessly spreads the inspirational messages that science is cool, that science is for everyone, that space is the biggest adventure of all, and, very importantly, that space adventures are for girls too. She does all this while providing historical information about past space missions, slipping in a spot of gossip about astronauts, giving updates on NASA’s present work, and posting photos of the wonders of the universe. The world could definitely do with a few more rubber chickens like Camilla.

But not only is Camilla intelligent, brave, gregarious and media savvy, as an everygeek’s rubber chicken, she’s not averse to pop culture. After her Star City training, and an international meeting in Helsinki, our jet-setting Commander Corona stopped over in London to attend a Dr Who exhibition and investigate the Dalek phenomenon.

Ah, if only my life were as glamorous and exciting and useful as this rubber chicken’s.