Showing posts from 2011

The Short Story Abysm

Seasonal disruptions being what they are - the getting ready for parties, cooking, socialising, extra cleaning etc - I thought I'd have a try at a short story this month.

There's a strong beginning, yes.
Is there a plot? Not yet.
A narrative, yes. Premise, scenario, world building, no problem. 
An interesting main character needing a bit of research to clarify his/her various genetic possibilities? In the bag.
No plot yet, but a squad of different scenes trampling the ground while they are waiting. For a plot, of course.   
No plot yet, apart from an escape. 
A cast of thousands, still being whittled. 
No plot yet. Or rather, the only plot that auditioned, the escape, refuses to fit itself into a three thousand word story. It's crying out for a bigger vehicle. 
There are a couple of levels of meaning, which is not really a short story thing as I understand it. The superficial adventuring thing and the ethical/philosophical thing. There's no bloody violence. There's…

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

Atul Gawande Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance 2008 Profile Books London.
The sorting trolley at the local library can be the source of good reads without having to go to the shelves. When I’m in a hurry, must not tarry and cannot not allow myself to get sidetracked, I stick with the sorting trolley. There will be the usual squad of noirish detective fiction. The odd sf and fantasy. Literature. And a few non fictionals. Like this one. Better: a surgeon’s notes on performance.
I opened it a quarter of the way through, my usual check, and began to read. Page 65, the chapter heading was Casualties of War. Why soldiers refused to wear their goggles and that the reason for the increasing eye injuries. I glanced back at page 64, where a section conclusion said, Ask a typical American hospital what its death and complication rates for surgery were during the last six months and it cannot tell you.
About ten pages later I realised I was hooked. I checked the book out and took it home. I b…

Woodwork for Women

For the last five weeks I’ve been learning to join wood in a class taught by Patt Gregory at her workshop in Mullumbimby, NSW. In the first series of classes I learned how to make a housing joint, a rebate joint and a butt joint.
Patt is such an inspirational teacher, that the process of work and the finished beauty of my beginner project led me to immediately sign up for a second series of classes with the mortise-and-tenon joint as the objective.
I went home and revived my once-upon-a-time want-to-make-this-one-day list and embellished it with sketches. One and a half courses in, I’m fantasizing that I’ll build the window seats and bookshelves I’m planning as part of my house renovations, myself and from scratch at that.
Along with writing, gardening, knitting and embroidery, I’ve also always done do-it-yourself stuff searching out cheap second-hand timber furniture and taking it apart and/or changing its function. In that way I made a couch from a single bed. A sewing table from a d…

Lodestar Part III, Free Read

Sard Kerr is Srese's twin brother. Where she is chosen to act in the new, habitat-wide entertainment, he is remaindered and must leave home or be moldecked.

1: Sard Sard forked his breakfast down as fast as he could swallow it, to be out of here. Scrambled eggs it was supposed to be. Pap in different colours, most of it. As usual, Youk diagonally across the table, watched everything he did. Didn’t the guy ever have anything better work for his yellow eyes than make sure the avatars didn’t get ahead of him?
Youk said, “Shovelling it in rather, aren’t we?”
“What?” Sard said, mentally kicking himself. When would he learn not to react?
“Shovelling the food in like the farmers didn’t grow it to your taste.”
Phin, beside Youk and directly opposite Sard, smiled benignly at his henchman. Kicking Sard’s feet out of his way, he stretched his legs under the table. Phin, the bloody boss-farmer. Youk his off-sider, and Sard his yokel.
“Finished?” said Youk. “I’ve got some important news for you.”

About Blogging, One

What I've learned over 2011 (so far) about blogging. I write three blogs of varying success, due I believe to the level of popular versus specialist interest in their topics.

Despite the fact I began it over eight months after this blog,, my blog about biodiversity in my backyard, interest in it has by-passed interest in this one with leaps and bounds.

Although I began the blog to interest local gardeners and build up a community interest in the biodiversity of life we all have access to in this region, that we can all help to maintain in the face of the big changes coming, it has been of more interest by readers world-wide. Its hit count is approx 1225 from 102 posts.

Mullum Yard's format is simple. I always have a photo of something happening in the one or two days of the time, accompanied by a little story of about 500 words. For the titles I'm often able to dip into the large public domain of 'sticky' words, where sticky means cur…

The Use of a Verb Book

An off-line commentator queried my need for a verb book. Dictionaries and the thesaurus would surely be enough, he said.

I thought that too when I began to want to write in the active personal voice.

This is more difficult than you think for a person trained in the story telling tradition. Where you get things like this, '... and then this happened and then that happened ...'

Writing funding applications for various institutions isn't the appropriate training either. Here the format tends to be something like this, '... The educational, scientific and cultural arguments and resources for this project are contained in the following ...'

Added to which fiction writing has become more visual in the last fifty years or so, influenced by the rise of film. There's the "Show, don't tell." exhortation. The way to do this, is to describe particularities and specifics.

And more recently, the increasing fashion to write in first person point of view or third…

Ideas: Where From

While I was weeding in my garden and tucking bunches of weeds into the new compost heap made of  grass clippings, I realised one of the reasons for the hold up on Hezzie MacPhee is that I didn't know how to get the wizard to and through the next stage of his transformation.

Because not knowing what he would look like after the fourth spell, ie not being able to visualise him, I couldn't yet write back from that image to the place where he is transformed by Hezzie's next spell.

It's an interesting and frustrating fact that as soon as you put some rules into place in a story, their logical permutations are what drive you/I/the writer into the proverbial corner.

In the case of Hezzie MacPhee I did that to myself with Hezzie's spells and the (dis) order in which I used them. Writing myself out of the corner is now my task.

This image was a photo, I seem to remember of a bunch of azolla fern roots amid bubbles of air in water,  asking for transformation (with the help…

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

My book club is reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet this month.

This is a complex novel that begs for at least two readings. But while the story has a wonderfully exciting and complex plot, I was held up constantly in my first reading by the unusual mode of expression.

It is written largely in the present tense, with the actions of the weather and aspects of the natural world given as much importance, with active verbs, as people. eg, The incandescent sun is caged ...; the fire snaps .... leading to a vanGogh-type of scenario with every aspect in the picture as important as every other.

My second reading was much more enjoyable as I had the story, I didn't need to rush, and could enjoy the language at my leisure.

The use of active present tense verbs is so continuous and leads to such intensity of particularization of experience I finally did look for and find an indexed notebook to start noting down some of the examples most resonant to me. I've been promising myse…

Story Bibles

Now that I have finished Monster-Moored, a science fantasy, and am planning to write more instalments I need to have on hand for leafing through and checking details:

1) all my technological inventions,
2) all the mentions of the evidence of the existence of the Moogerah Monster in the action of the novel,
3) all the Monster's interventions in the mind of the main character,
4) the instances it uses incidents from his host's memory, and how it changes them.
5) Tardi Mack as the main character's appearance, mannerisms, attributes, speech markers and how he changes over the time of the action
6) The same for his little brother. Steve is the character that through his IT skills is able to get hold of some of the information needed.

Although I'm also doing a list for one of the women, Del but it is mainly to keep her part of the story straight. Tardi is trying to break up with Rowan, his girlfriend, who will not cope with the changes. Del offers herself but we will see.


Living in the Moment by Knitting

Knitting a complex pattern is a great way of living in the moment. No way can you let your eyes stray from the pattern without dropping a stitch or forgetting to loop the yarn over the needle.

This is an image of a small part of my present knitting project, a rug made of scraps left over from my mother's industry. She knits striped socks, about six hundred pairs a year.

I love setting myself limits and working out the greatest possible variations within those parameters. In this rug I'm inventing ways to knit holes. Very like writing, you'll be saying and I agree with you.

However, I can't write every minute of the day and knitting allows itself to be picked up to fill the odd ten minutes here and there, or on the other hand a relaxing hour in the evening.

During my usual writing times in the last few days I have been working on the 'bible' that I will need to write the rest of the Tardi Mack series. He who is the hero of the novel I have just finished.

The …

Work-in-Progress is Finished

Finally, I can relax into writing again. Catch up my blogs, my housework, my gardening, life in general.

Though I still need to write a synopsis, pay the fee and send it on its way.

But yesterday I called the main work finished at 350 pages and approximately 94 thousand words. That is not to say it is now cast in concrete. I'll need to send it out to be read. And edited after that.

Pheeouw! She whistles in amazement at her staying power so far. Will she stay the course through parts II and III, is the next question.

Life and Death - an Intermission

Last Thursday an elderly acquaintance became lost in the bush roundabout the town.

Most of the area's rescue personnel, police, SES, plus an unknown number of volunteers and friends, and a rescue helicopter tacking and booming above the town, spent two days searching for her.

All sorts of what-ifs were mooted for her disappearance but the plain facts were that she fell into the river and was probably drowned. That's where she was found on the third day.

Between the searching and comforting a couple of her anxious fellow residents, Audrey's last moments were all I could think of.

When there's a passing, or a death if that is what you call it, like I do, or a stepping off from the mortal coil, the person's last moments are what most exercise me. Until I have a go imagining them and writing them down, usually in some kind of poetic form, I cannot attend to the usual.

The End is Elusive

The end of Srese Kerr's instalment, second in the Lodestar Series, or Saga as I've been variously calling it, is almost nigh. But I wrote and wrote, I had three days straight. Poured out a lot of words. Seemed good while I was writing it.

Lay it away for a day.

Started reading. Oof. I hated it. It's Srese dealing with Youk while they both have to make a get away.

Started rethinking it overnight. Re imagining how Srese would feel the first time she steps outside the door and sees the desert. The burning sky. The red land stretching to the horizon dotted with dry spinifex tussocks. Thinking that actually they might need to depend on each other at first. The reality is so different than what they are used to.

I started writing it again, from scratch. All the above, and them being shut out, prevented from returning. Having to press on. Srese not wanting to go it alone. Knowing there's all this stuff she doesn't know.

Yes, so I have to walk the knife edge between her b…

A Day Late and a Posting Short

It's Thursday. Posting day is Wednesday but I was invited to go and see the Archibald paintings at the Tweed Art Gallery at Murwillumbah.  Good company and good paintings. One of my favourites was the painting of  Cate Blanchet and her children, 'Mother'. It was meticulously intricate with colour and textures and methods of covering the painting surface that I would be interested to explore. The Coetzee portrait next to it also impressive.

There were a couple of paintings there so like photographs they might as well have been. I decided that in this day and age of excellent photography, I like paintings to be painterly.

Also of interest is the Seven Little Australians exhibition, by a painter whose name escapes me. The paintings seem quite old, ie done quite a long time ago, though no dates were on the cards. What made this display even more interesting were the artifacts purporting to have belonged to the characters in some of the paintings, on display in glass cases near…

Lodestar Part II, Free Read

Just spent the whole weekend writing and thinking about the end of Srese Kerr's part of the story.

I realised I have to get her to where she'll be picked up by the traders, in part IV.  Meaning I have to have her do her farewell with her boyfriend, who isn't accompanying her on the next stage. I have to have her learn to use one of the survival suits and she has to have another run in with Youk. He leaves the caves at the same time.

Probably another two chapters after Chapter 14, What the Greeks Did, what I thought would be the last chapter in this section. Here a section of that chapter:

15: What the Greeks Did
Sresewoke. In the dark. She was lying on her back. She rocked herself, and so also rocked the bed she was on. It felt like a medi-bed. She felt constricted about her middle but her hands were loose. Her arm, when she raised it to her nose, stank of sweat and capsicum.
She sneezed. And recalled the red cloud bulking through the corridor and her on the stretcher high …

Lodestar - New Endings

While I've been busy with Hezzie MacPhee, the Lodestar story has been simmering on the back of the writing stove. Specifically the ending of Srese Kerr, Part II of the saga, which needed a completely new ending.

I found it incredibly difficult to let go of the previous ending in its entirety, that is, without referring to it while writing a completely new ending. Even the idea that a whole different resolution was possible was hard to get my head around. I think it must be a function of the years I spent on it, that the saga as it was then seemed that it had always existed and couldn't be changed.

But, since a saga it was, even unto its mythic and fragmentary nature, it needed to be restructured to make it readable by more readers than just myself. That's the plan, anyway, to take half a line out of Serenity.

What I did find interesting was that I couldn't begin the task until I had some really good chapter titles. Quite a few days of blank went by before I woke up one…

Intermission - Backstage

I'm running into the same troubles that i had with serialising Kosi Lionhair. (Point noted and taken on board. Mistakes do need to be made more than once sometimes to be recognised as bad habits.)

First are my writing habits/needs. I feel most comfortable writing the part, chapter, section, printing it out (scrap paper always) letting it lie to be able to come back to it with a reader's eye as opposed to with the writer's eye - because a writer does not see her own foibles.

You might be asking why I'm not writing ahead. I started ahead. Life keeps interrupting and suntime, when it shines, needs to be taken advantage of.

Yesterday I hade a very enjoyable photo shoot with Thommo and Cedar auditioning for their parts later on in the story, with Thommo showing off all his tricks.

Thommo shaking hands with his ears well back.

Cedar's portrait shot unfortunately too blurry to publish today.

Further I have Bertie making his appearance next instalment.

Now I'm cold. An…

What I'm Reading

After a busy week in my non-writing life, with a Landcare meeting and a Landcare World Environment Day function, family visiting from the north and south, I am gearing myself up for another push writing fiction. The final three chapters of Srese Kerr's first instalment, in particular.

Usually when I'm writing, I don't read a lot of fiction. Hence there are a lot of non fiction books lying around, with bookmarks in them or face down on the pages where I'm up to.

Jeff Vandermeer's Booklife I've been dipping into here and there in the odd bits of time I've been having while waiting for appointments.

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore (2009) was on special at my local bookshop. It's another thing to read in odd minutes. Lots of good info pertaining. Maps and charts and photos.

I read Deep Survival by Laurance Gonzales (2005) every couple of years for the great descriptions of survival stories, as well as the reasons why other people in…

Will I Twitter?

My ideas about Twitter last time I talked about it, here, have gone up the learning curve, and down whenever I slid back a couple of notches every time I allow myself to wander off track.

This chart from the Wikipedia article was very educational. Pointless babble is obviously not where I'd want to go. Spam not either. The rest of the categories can, according to Jeff Vandermeer writing in Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer , be bent to the conversation of writers with their readers, as well as being good for networking and promotion. He also mentions some twitterers use the platform for creative output, the direction I was leaning into, and others mainly for networking.

The second major use seems to require real time twittering, on-going conversing, which I would find difficult to maintain, due to the way being online cuts into writing time. Usually I give myself a couple of hours a day online, in the afternoon, after I've done a swag of words…