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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Because I Love A Good Writing Quote or Two (And Haven't Got Much Time For Blogging)

Here, over at SFWA, Larry Hodges has provided a bonanza of 50 quotes. Hastily skimming it, I especially like the obviousness of 13 & 35, and the Jasper Fffordeaness of 17:

13. "Writers never quit and quitters never write."

17. "Choose your words carefully because somewhere in there is a character who has to live with what you choose."

35. "If you write regularly, soon you'll have a lot written. If you don't, you won't."

Now I have to head off to the city for medical crap even though it's my designated don't-take-the-train-to-the-Arvo-Job-but-stay-at-home-and-do-stuff-like-reading-and-writing day. Toodles.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flowers For A Mood Lift

I've been feeling a bit blue this week - I think the last month of medical mucking arounds finally caught up with me a couple of days ago - so after concluding some business in Bendigo this morning, I gave myself permission to take few hours off to indulge in a spot of op shopping (I scored a hard copy of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood for $6) and to just walk about and wander and wonder and be. The autumnal greyness of the day suited my initial gloomy disposition, but there's nothing like strolling the streets of a goldfields town full of beautiful buildings that ground you with their palpable history to calm one's mind, and the gorgeous old parks reeking of the past also do their bit to soothe the soul.

Then there was this conservatory full of chrysanthemums that I came upon (a Mother's Day exhibition?) to gladden even the most down in the dumps heart, so all in all, my vagabond turn was time well spent.

When I got home, I squeezed in some writing, and was quite pleased with the results, and then retired for some cosy reading (I finished The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter) with the cats sociably piled about me in my armchair. Now I feel a lot cheerier and ready to face the world again.

Walking and reading and writing - as far as I'm concerned, they're better than drugs. Oh, and purring cats to pat are good too.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wow, She Did It Again!

I forgot it was the weekend of the Aurealis Awards! Luckily, there are plenty of bloggers to remind me of that fact.

The winners are all listed here. Congratulations to them one and all.

Perusing the list, I saw a familiar name - that mysterious writer Thoraiya Dyer I posted about here back in December 2012 when The Wisdom of Ants was published in Clarkesworld. It's a great read, and well, as you can see from the list, she's gone and won the Aurealis for the Best Young Adult Short Story for that exact story. And not long ago, she won a Ditmar for it too. Let's not even talk about all her previous Aurealis wins. The woman obviously knows how weave a tale, so a great big congratulations to her on her multiple wins.

However, I thought it was time that I really buckled down and found out more about this Thoraiya Dyer person, but alas, for all my wonderful Googling skills, all I could find was this photo from Conflux 9 over at Donna Maree Hanson's blog. Apparently, behind all those nibblies, the elusive Ms Dyer is lurking within that impressive steampunk samurai outfit .

It's a wonderful photo - nice composition, lush greenery as background, classy dessert stand, delicious cakes, polished armour - but it really doesn't help me any with my enquiries.

So, my investigation continues.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Laughing at Locales and Lola

There wasn't a single movie on at the local theatre that interested me this weekend, so we headed up the highway for a nostalgic visit to ye olde Sovereign Hill. The last time I was there, I was about eight or nine years old, and I suffered a great great disappointment that has haunted me ever since. It was time to seal and heal that old childhood wound. We're talking bucket list stuff. More about my trauma later.

 But first we had to get through Daylesford, cutting straight through the middle, which meant I yet again had to giggle when we went down the main drag (my sister and I go around when we head for horse riding). I'm sorry, but it's almost a programmed reaction ever since I read this 2009 article by David Sedaris in The New Yorker in which he threw this evocative paragraph at his readers:

Our destination that afternoon was a place called Daylesford, which looked, when we arrived, more like a movie set than like an actual working town. The buildings on the main street were two stories tall, and made of wood, like buildings in the Old West, but brightly painted. Here was the shop selling handmade soaps shaped like petit fours. Here was the fudgery, the jammery, your source for moisturizer. If Dodge City had been founded and maintained by homosexuals, this is what it might have looked like.
Then it was on to Ballarat and a highly entertaining and interactive afternoon of watching blacksmiths, coach builders, candle makers, tinsmiths, bakers etc strutting their stuff the old fashioned way, redcoats marching, caped policemen keeping law and order, people panning for gold (we swished a few pans of grit, but no fortunes were made, so my castle with a moat and a writing turret located on a isolated hill must wait a while longer), and of course saw lots of mining machinery. We also went down a couple of mines to get a vague sense of the hard conditions the miners endured, and hearing a whistling tune from one of the side drives while our guide exhorted us to stay together and not wander off of course triggered a story about someone (a kid, I suspect, a good kid) who does wander off, following the ghostly tune of a dead miner...  See, writers are always on the job. When above ground, we constantly jumped out of the way of horse-drawn carriages.

I especially enjoyed the re-enactment of Lola Montez whipping Henry Seekamp, the editor of The Ballarat Times, in the main street after he'd published a bad review of her infamous act and condemned the salacious Spider Dance that had miners throwing gold nuggets up onto the stage while she performed.

I've always loved reading about Lola's exploits. Now there was a woman who lived life to the full and didn't give a fig about what folk thought of her. If time travel ever eventuates, I'd sign up just to go back and catch her Spider Dance at our local theatre (she stopped off here and collected a small fortune before continuing on to Ballarat). It'd be fun to see what the fuss was all about. Probably not much by today's standards.

Then it was time to close the circle on my unresolved childhood issue. You see, way back when I was a kiddie and the whole family went to Sovereign Hill, I wanted with all of my youthful heart one of the horseshoes you can get at the blacksmith's with your name stamped into the metal. I was denied this prize (my dad pitched some completely unreasonable argument about if I got one, my siblings would also have to have one each, and the cost would add up to too much for, it was implied, such useless rubbish) and never quite recovered, especially when a few friends turned up at primary school proudly showing off, well, you guessed it, horseshoes from Sovereign Hill with their names on them. How I coveted those metal crescents. My envy was only surpassed by my great sorrow at not having one. 

But today, for the princely sum of $8.00, I finally put an end to my longing and got my horseshoe. It's over my writing desk now, proof that it's never too late for wishes to come true, and that sometimes dreams are surprisingly cheap to achieve. 

Viking Victory

Where would we be without the free spirits of the world pottering about doing their own thing? Archeology is the latest area to benefit from the exploring mind of a self-confessed nerd - Danish teenager Michael Stockbro Larsen and his trusty metal detector discovered a hoard of rare Viking coins with the cross motif of good old Harald Bluetooth and other spectacular items in a field in Northern Denmark.

 As I've said before, I love treasure hunt stories like this - the everyday triumph of someone being true to themselves and pursuing their vision, even if it means long lonely days roaming the freezing Scandinavian countryside, and reaping a fantastic reward.

I used to have a Thor's hammer like this one. I lost it a few years back. I miss it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

When Barely Enough Isn't Nearly Enough

Trust the Germans to have come up with a concept for something that has been bothering me for years. They did, after all, come up with the word schadenfruede to nut out that guilty, unspoken and mostly unacknowledged shameful feeling of joy you get when things go pear-shaped for someone else either because you feel, for whatever reprehensible reason, they're getting their comeuppance, or because phew! the bad thing isn't happening to you.

Anyway, I've always been, depending on the context, fascinated/enraged/bewildered by the type of people I usually call Low Energy Users. These are individuals with a strange mindset who only put the bare minimum amount of effort that they can get away with into their everyday tasks, jobs, and sometimes even their personal lives. They cruise at sub speed, are happy to palm stuff off on others either overtly or covertly, don't question discrepancies lest the answers produce more work, don't correct things as they go, and in organisations, are happy to hide in structural niches and use their co-workers to cover up their own lack of initiative and responsibility. They NEVER go even that extra inch, so forget about that extra mile that is sometimes needed to sort things out or to prevent a mistake that will just get messier down the line. And when things do go wrong, they usually fade into the woodwork and leave the cleanup to others.

Such people drive me potty.

I suppose I'm especially angry about LEUs today because I wasted a whole lot of time in a hospital yesterday - not my usual hospital where everybody knows my name, but another one where contempt for patients seemed to be part of their clinic's medical motto - and ended up finally getting in 3.5 hours after my scheduled appointment. Others were also delayed by many hours. Making it worse, a certain nurse got up a four times and loudly declared the situation was the fault of seven new patients scheduled for the day who were holding up the queues with their newbie questions and demands for attention - it was a deplorable, divisive tactic that had a well-worn feeling about it, and my investigations soon revealed it was patently untrue. Gathering information, I discovered that all 4 of we patients still waiting after many hours in the almost empty room by the end of the clinic were new patients, which, given simple arithmetic, would mean that just 3 of our newbie comrades held up over twenty people for 2-3 hours?

 I think not, which turned out to be the case. I discovered that I, and presumably the many others inconvenienced that day, had been booted a number of times because of reshufflings made by the nurses to cater for squeaky wheel people. I also discovered that they'd known about these delays the day before and that someone could have, with a series of simple phone calls then, told me and the others not to come so early (I got up at 4.30 to catch an early train!). Obviously they couldn't be bothered doing their job properly. Or didn't care. Instead of heading off a known problem and adjusting the schedule to save a lot of people a lot of aggro, they let a roomful of ill people waste hours seething and frothing at the mouth safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't be held accountable for the stuff up. I'm not suggesting people give up their tea breaks or put in unpaid labour or such, but just five minutes spent leaving messages would have cut down on the problem and demonstrated some real empathy for others. And I still can't get over the ploy to deflect blame from themselves by repeatedly blaming of sick people for a problem created by lazy staff members.

So yeah, reading this post this morning which mentions der innere Schweinehund, or 'the inner swine-dog',  resonated with me. As explained there, it's a fantastic German metaphor for the part of ourselves that prefers laziness over productivity, comfort over challenge, and routine over achievement. Apparently, they even have a statue of the creature in Bonn.

 In my present state of mind, I'm assuming that the Low Energy Users are in fact people, like the medical staff yesterday, who even while on the job are in thrall to their innere Schweinehund, cutting corners whenever they can and never straying into the energy-burning areas that just might make the world run a little more smoothly, and in the process make it a happier, less stressful place.

 Not that there isn't a time and a place for heeding the puppy dog eyes of der innere Schweinehund, such as when an exciting, must-see box set or a fabulous new book is calling for one's attention :) As long as the lazy beastie doesn't cause others grief and inconvenience, by all means feel free to indulge it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Boy's Own Universe


I went to see Star Trek Into Darkness yesterday, a movie that has left me feeling strangely conflicted. I went brim full of happy expectations, a carry-over from a Trek loving childhood that still causes me to get tingly all over when I hear the theme music or hear the words to boldly go, and yes, I laughed at the banter, oohed at some of the special effects, cheered on our heroes, was moved by the lets-go-explore-the-universe-rather-than-make-war message, and generally loved it.

And yet...

The first shudder of uneasiness to pull me from the movie was a scene depicting a gathering of senior Starfleet officers. It looks like a modern boardroom, was the most unwelcome, very un-twentythird century thought that popped into my head - mostly blokes and a couple of ladies. I might prove wrong if I go back and freeze frame the scene, but while I was in the theatre, instead of listening to the dialogue, I found myself searching for more than the two women I'd spotted. And to add insult to injury, their sole purpose in the movie turned out to be sprawling in their skirts in the debris and looking more helpless than the trousered blokes when the expected crap hit the fan. It took me a while to get over that.

But the damage was done. My brain split in two, and while the ST fan watched and enjoyed the movie, the disappointed part of me went into analytical mode and noticed that the only two female main characters were mostly defined by being someone's girlfriend (who wanted to talk about personal issues with her boyfriend in the middle of an away mission) or an Important Man's daughter, that one was validated by getting Kirk's 'you're hot' seal of approval when she gratuitously stripped down to her undies, and that worst of all, when Uhura finally got to be a brave Starfleet officer despite Kirk's obvious lack of faith in her, she was made to look afraid and not up to the task. This can be an effective dramatic device - facing a challenge and conquering one's fear to finally triumph and show one's worth, and all the male characters got to run the full gamut of various versions of this personal journey - but Uhura was ultimately denied the opportunity to prove herself. She looked vulnerable and deep in over her head, and just when I was expecting her to master her jitters and strut her stuff (hah! Take that Kirk!), biffo happened and the boys got to have a shoot-up. She was left looking somewhat inept. We'll never know whether or not she really had it in her to take on those Klingons with her professed smarts.

I know how the world works, alas, but 1960's reboot or not, I wish that in 2013 we could at the very least try to imagine the future as something other than the same old wearisome same old with jet packs attached. To me, STID says that starships are for boys. And since I've always wanted a starship of my very own to command with all of my science fiction-loving heart, and I like to believe the future will accommodate my as yet unborn, like-minded sisters, this aspect of the movie made me sad.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Walking My Notebook

This week has involved a lot of resting up, hospital visits and organising stuff. At the moment, I'm trying to get myself organised to head off to the Arvo Job for a couple of days, but it's an uphill battle, especially with the weather being so gorgeous and my trusty writing computer calling me...

I went for my usual medicinal walk yesterday evening after putting in a few hours of writing in the afternoon  - 3 laps around the local botanical gardens and home again - and it turned out to be one of those walks. You know, the ones where you end up pulling your notebook and pen from the depths of your rucksack and pop them in a handy pocket because you keep getting ideas and dialogue and text, and you're experienced enough a writer to know by now that you will not remember all those ideas and dialogue and text when you get home, and also know that if you do not immediately record them, you'll consequently wail to the heavens about your artisitic laziness and the resultant lost work. So it was one of those walk fifty metres, stop and jot, walk twenty meters, stop and jot, walk to the bend in the path, wave arms in excitment because of a stupendously amazing inspiration for a certain character, stop and jot etc etc walks.

I love those kinds of walks.

But no walks today, well, at least not around the leafy, sunlit gardens. I shall pound the cold, mean, city streets today for exercise. Not that those walks can't inspire too, but they're not quite as languid and otherworldly. Yep, Real World, here I come :(

Sunday, May 5, 2013

No Clunes For Me

It's Clunes Booktown weekend, but I didn't get to go this year. *sob* Slicing and dicing and the attendant aftereffects always seem to overlap with something I want to do. It's very annoying :)

And the worst of it is that Clunes is so close, a mere skip and a jump and a bit of a drive from where I live, and it's become something of an annual habit to pop across to this event, which might explain why this whole weekend I've been constantly hearing the cries of thousands upon thousands of books wafting across the landscape on fresh country breezes saying, Gitte, Giiiiiitte, come hither, come hither at once and buy us. Unfortunately, the crowds there are quite thick, and increasingly so every year, and no matter how politely these bookish folk push and shove, they still push and shove, the mere thought of which gives me the heebiejeebies in my present state. Now, if I could have devised a fetching, zone-protecting cage of some sort, possibly a steampunkishy creation with extending mechanical arms that could seize books from the highest shelves, I'd have been good to go, but alas...

Ah well, one must be realistic. Besides, I haven't even read all the books I purchased last year. I'll look on this as an opportunity to reduce the respective heights of my 5 TBR stacks a little. That's always something.

Friday, May 3, 2013

End of the Month Report: April 2012

Submissions: 2
Rejections: 1
Acceptances: 2 (The Real Deal & The Stars Their Hesitation)
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 5
New stories completed: 1
Mood:  More focused on health than writing at the moment, but I'm nonetheless eager to get stuck into some serious writing and submitting. Happy about my sales, of course, and am greedily wanting more, more, more of them.

Back Where I Belong

After a couple of days of being fed delicious food and recuperating at my sister's place (aah, the mystical healing powers of sitting on a bench in the sunshine and watching chooks potter about), my brother transported me across the state, so now I'm home again.

Say no more.

Except, I don't think I mentioned I got a cute, red plush dragon this time, to go with my cute, pink plush unicorn from last year's slicing and dicing. It was almost worth the pain and bother. If this keeps up (and I hope it doesn't), I might end up with a cute, plush, mythological menagerie.