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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

End of the Month Report: July 2013

Submissions: 9
Rejections: 9
Acceptances: 0
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 10
New stories completed: 2 (1 amusing, 1 dark and sad)
Mood: Starting to get antsy about rejections, as is per usual for me after a few months of No, thank you, but please try again emails. Longing for a sale to break them up a bit. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And Lo, Retribution Was Swift. Very Swift.

Yesterday's off-centre graffiti is no more. After but a day or two, it's universal wisdom is already lost to the ages (except for a short appearance here on my blog). I suspect the council is engaging in new, tough tactics along the lines of  'fame is ephemeral in this tunnel, so take your spray cans and skedaddle, kiddies'. I wonder who will tire of the game first? Teens are notoriously resilient.  But then country councillors are a stubborn bunch too.

On the weirder side of municipal life, apparently Satanism = civic pride and social responsibility. You can read about the campaign to raise funds that will enable the Satanic Temple to adopt a New York highway here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-satanic-temple-adopt-a-highway-campaign

There are buttons and mugs for purchasing, and noble aims are proclaimed:

This campaign will do more than keep the Highways clean. It will help to send a clear message to the world reaffirming American religious plurality. We will demonstrate that all religious perspectives are indeed free to engage their communities in a productive manner.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Too Deep For Me

The local council repainted both train underpasses battleship grey again last week, which means, of course, that the local teens wielding their trusty spray cans were out in force over the weekend, happy at the prospect of a couple of clean canvases.

Since last week, the tunnel I use coming home in the evenings has acquired a giant skull (soooo passé, and it isn't that scary, or at all well-drawn), lots of silly, talentless, meaningless scribbles, and then this strangely gentle I'm-not-sure-what:

The scent of the universe is actually very lovely.

I did stop and study this one for a while. I really enjoyed the insertion of actually very, and honestly, you just don't see the work lovely featuring in graffiti much, but figuring out what it was trying to tell me about life and everything kept slipping from my grasp. I sense there's a deeper meaning that I'm missing.

However, there also lurks a suspicion in my mind that the kid might have been smoking something mellow that opened his/her expanded mind to the real nature of universe - you know, the one that smells good - but that something was lost in the translation from ephemeral truth to spray-painted slogan. Still, there's an elusive feeling of it being close to some kind of revelation. I just wish I could understand its transcendental wisdom :)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Talking About Fight Club

What I call rah-rah rejections (in the nicest and most appreciative way), Elizabeth Bear calls rave rejections, and she has posted some advice here on how to move from these almost-there stories onto the next stage in one's writing career.

She evocatively equates apprentice writers with garage-band guitarists that all sound alike or like rip-offs of more experienced musicians - anyone who has ever been "lucky" enough to live next door to a budding rock star and his/her hard practicing pals immediately knows what she means -  and she counsels writing, writing, writing and then some more writing, as well as working on each story's voice and narrative. Solid stuff.

For me, the greatest pleasure, in a deliciously naughty he-he-he way, came from reading a line that a lowly scribe such as myself cannot risk writing without it sounding like sour grapes or an unprofessional tantrum, but which an established writer with major credentials can blithely put out there:

(Plenty of salable stories aren't actually really good--but without the push of an established name, a new writer's will probably have to be. Sorry about that, in the immortal words of Rowlf the Dog.)
We all know this to be true. We all know that when starting out as a newbie in most spheres of life, you have to be just that little bit better than the old guard to break through the established hierarchy, or to jump up and down energetically in often undignified ways whilst bragging about your amazingness to be noticed, or to have the support of someone powerful to move up the ladder. Then you have to back up that lucky break with hard work and talent, of course (unless those network connections are really powerful), and keep that hard work coming and that talent sharp lest the next newbie to come alone bumps you from your spot.

It would be unrealistic to maintain that the Writing World exists within a hermetically sealed dome populated by unprejudiced and unfailingly fair-minded folk who remain unswayed by friendships, sticking with what and who they already know and feel comfortable with, personal tastes and sales figures, but we mostly don't like to admit it. We want to think the Writing World functions as a meritocracy of the purest sort, but I doubt any human organisation can attain that level of idealism or professionalism. People are people. As soon as you have more than one person in a room, politics of some sort always comes into play. And some play the game better than others. That's just life. Every day, in both the Real World and the Writing World, we suck it up, and we deal with this often frustrating truth as graciously as possible. Those who can't handle it risk becoming bitter and twisted souls.

Anyway, what I take from this post, apart from a good giggle, is not a swollen sense of injustice, but the lesson that we low-level writers just have to be like the characters that Elizabeth exhorts us to write about - the ones who love something, who hold fast to a dream, and who fight for what they care about no matter how hopeless the odds seem.

And yes, I just received one of those rave rejections. The pro sale that might have been and almost was now won't be.

I've already sent that story somewhere else.

Fight on.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's All About Us, Maybe.

I often pop over to this NASA site. Like many others, viewing the breathtaking images from NASA's telescopes and probes often reminds me of Douglas Adams' famous Total Perspective Vortex. You know, the machine that lets an individual experience how utterly insignificant they really are in the greater scheme of things and this truth basically melts their brain (unless, of course, they have an ego big enough to confidently compete with an infinite universe). A true sense of perspective, therefore, is not a entirely desirable thing for your average citizen. It can lead to much brow slapping, moans of What's it all about, and existential crises of the truly epic sort.

Still, skirting around the edges of that true sense of perspective can induce gasps of amazement and feelings of heart-swelling wonderment, and for me, today, that WOW! came from this image, taken on July 19, 2013 by the Cassini spacecraft, which shows the rings of Saturn, our very own, little blue planet Earth, and our moon as well :

I prefer the uncluttered image above, but for those who need a helping hand, NASA also kindly provided a touristy YOU ARE HERE version:

If only one could shrink oneself down and hitch a ride on one of those crafts gallivanting around the outer solar system, or better still, a daring little probe leaving for realms unknown beyond our home patch.

It'd be a cold and harsh trip, for sure, but oh, the things one would see!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Mist: The Ride

My sister and I went horse riding in Daylesford today, and I managed to stay in the saddle for both the morning and afternoon rides, which isn't bad given it's been 5 months since my last equine outing, and even before that, my track record was reluctantly sporadic due the past 18 months worth of hospital crap. It wasn't a hard all-dayer. Both times, it was just the two of us so we could set the pace according to what I was up for, which was not a lot compared with my derring-do of yore, but any attempt to move faster than a trot was also seriously thwarted by the weather.

The morning was wet and hazy enough - the rolling hills remained obscured by fog for the whole ride - but my sister and I crossed fingers that it would clear up by the afternoon.

Alas, it was not to be, not by a long shot.

When we headed out again after lunch, the mist was thicker and more saturated, and it grew increasingly more so until we were moving through a drizzly, surreal, Stephen King-created, vapour-shrouded landscape of limited vision, stands of spooky, leafless trees vaguely outlined by the white stuff, sky and air and land and lakes merging with each other into dreamlike scenes, and an intense silence broken only by the sounds of horse hooves clopping, wet things dripping, and the plaintive bleats of newborn lambs coming from the unseen fields beyond. It was the kind of thick mist from which tentacles suddenly reach out to pull poor, helpless riders from their horses and drag them back into the murky miasma.

And it was cold, bone chillingly cold - we were mightily glad for our drizzle-repelling drizzabones, with many layers of clothing and downy vests underneath - and the ground was wet and far too soggy for speedy riding unless one desired to take a chance on spending the next few months with various limbs in plaster casts.

But we had a good time, took it easy, made jokes, and enjoyed the unreal atmosphere and strange visual and aural effects created by the uncanny weather. Afterwards - and this is a very important part of the Winter horse riding experience - my sister and I warmed our boots and bums in front of a roaring log fire, drank cups of hot tea, ate steaming leak and potato soup with toast followed by berry strudel, and all was wonderful and well with the world.
*satisfied sigh*

But for sure I'll be sore tomorrow...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Archeological Gumption

So genuine looking...
The Jibaozhai Museum, a sterling institution in the northern Chinese province of Hebie, was closed a few days ago after claims hit the internet that most of its supposedly ancient relics are fakes. You can enjoy pictures of their not really very old at all vases here.

 All very terrible archeologically speaking, of course, but reading about it in the Age on the way home I had to giggle at one of the museum's chief consultants admitting that the museum did not in fact have the proper provincial authorisation to operate, and then going on to say he was "quite positive" at least 80 of the museum's 40,000 objects had been confirmed as authentic.

80. Out of 40,000. Well, that makes the whole thing go away, doesn't it?

Best of all, said consultant wants to sue the blogger who uncovered the scandal. Because, like, it's true, the museum is full of knock-offs. And mostly bad ones at that. So that's what you do when you're exposed as a criminal. You sue the accuser, even when you've admitted the accusation is true. Well, except for those 80 possibly genuine relics.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Wonderfully Gloomy Day

Today, the sky was inspirationally dark and gloomy, and it rained most of the time, so I ended up cosily hunkering down with the cats in my writing room and writing a lot - 6 hours plus worth of quality effort. And subbing quite a bit, including my new, fully finished, bird-based story. Forget about baking bread, which I'll probably regret tomorrow. Forget about the ironing, composing a deep and meaningful post, doing my tax return and tidying up all those everyday businessy must-dos that are accumulating. Go with the writing flow while it's flowing so flowingly, I say, because, well, it totally suits my purposes to say that.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Been Busy

Hallo, blog. Sorry about the break. There was a birthday to cater for and celebrate (mine, he-he) and a neglected house to clean so my weekend guests weren't too overwhelmed by dust bunnies, and emails with pictures of overly cute cats and kittens wearing conical party hats to read, and ponderous buses to catch to the Arvo Job instead of speedy trains both last week and this week (this yearly fortnight of track maintenance is another reason why I usually take my Annual July Winter Writing Break around now, but alas, I've already had lots and lots of time off from the Arvo Job, and I'm still not sure if I'll need more this year), and a new, dark, bird-based story that suddenly appeared whole in my head to write for an upcoming deadline, and since I can't write on buses, it had to be beaten into shape here at home (done, and pretty close to dusted after I cannibalised parts of a flashback from an old story that I rather liked but never used), so something had to give.

Anyway, I've got a post about dialogue on the boil, inspired by a couple of tiresome gents who sat behind me on Tuesday's bus ride to the Arvo Job. I was going to finish it today, but Wednesday R&R (some of it spent on finishing up that bird-based story) got in the way. I'll try to finish it ASAP.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Woolly Thoughts

Today was my traditional Wednesday R&R day, thank goodness (I missed out last week because of hospital crap) so I really slept in, and really lazed about the house in my dressing gown well beyond the socially acceptable 11am deadline (I made that up - I'm not actually sure what time good etiquette deems is the cut-off point for schlepping around in one's PJs), did a spot of writing (new story, my first children's tale in a long while, a dark fantasy, I'm a few hundred words in and, even though I had a plan for this one going in, a sassy but kindly 1930's character opened her mouth and the story took an interesting turn to the left instead of the right, so I've now ditched an intended main character in favour of the sassy, formerly bit-part actress - she's earned herself a close up), went for a walk, then settled down to read one of the books I bought last week.

Yes, it was time to finally catch up with the rest of the world and read Wool by Hugh Howey, if only so I can have a valid opinion on the subject of this publishing phenomenon next time the topic comes up. And read it before the movie comes out so I can grumble about Hollywood's inadequate script. I haven't finished it yet, but here's my verdict so far:

Qs: Does it live up to the hype?  Are the friends who recommended it to me complete dithering idiots?

A (sort of): Well, as I was reading, I started out thinking Yeah, yeah, hmm, not bad, but I think I see where this is going... WHAT?

Then I moved on to Okay, this is interesting, I'd better read another chapter. And maybe  just one more. Oh, what the heck, I'll read the next one too. Surely one more teensy chapter won't derail my evening. One more for the road? Sure. And maybe just one last chapter before I get up and...

So, make of that what you will.