Walking and wordage: week 1

Cygnets on Lake Wendouree

First week check-in for the September-athons, and it’s going … OK.

Steptember is encouraging me to get out and about, with mixed results as the weather and the V/Line intrudes.

Last Thursday was a beauty – I ended up accidentally walking around Lake Wendouree. I’d intended to just walk up to a marker and back again to stretch my legs on a glorious spring morning, but ended up doing the full circuit. Maybe it was the first of the cygnets and ducklings I saw wobbling around that spurred me to wobble on, too.

All up, so far, about 84,000 steps logged for Steptember, and the three others in the team have also been taking it in their stride 🙂

If you’d like to donate, you can do so here

The wordage for Writers Victoria’s #30kin30days has, as expected, not come close to the nominal 1000 words a day goal, although I am stacking up the daily writing prompts, which have been excellent, to work through as the month unrolls. Location, character and plot have featured so far, ideal for someone like me in the throes of working out a new story.

I’ve kicked around some scenes, mapped out a plot skeleton, started working out who the characters are, so some wheels are in motion.

I haven’t been counting words written for my D&D campaign (cleverly blogged by one of the players, which has been a valuable creative outlet this year as I work out the story and world and challenges for my players to encounter.

I’m hoping the walk to and from the station plus the commute will keep both mileage and wordage ticking over, even if not quite at optimum.

 

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Walking and wordage for spring challenges

In September, I’ve got two -thons happening: one charitable, one creative.

The first is Steptember (thanks, Ellen, for inviting me to the team), raising money to help people with cerebral palsy.

It kicks off on 3 September, with a goal of taking 10,000 steps a day till the end of the month. The daily average is 3000, we’re told. A trial run yesterday revealed some disparity in our pedometers, but what the hey. It gets me out of the chair and maybe does someone else some good, too.

If you’d like to donate, you can do so here

The other distance effort for the month is Writers Victoria’s #30kin30days program, which, as the name applies, set a goal of 1000 words a day for 30 days.

I’ve written bugger all this year, just a few bits of flash fiction since the PhD was signed, sealed and delivered, so I thought this might be a good way to jar the creative synapses out of their stupor.

I’ve chosen a project that’s been hanging around for a very long indeed, and while I’m not expecting to roll 1k a day, I will be very happy to have a solid outline and some scenes drafted by the end of the month.

The program started on 1 September, with a prompt to work out WHEN the story is set. Excellent, I had that in my head, but the prompt called for a room description to conjure the era, and that led to a short scene (250 words on the V/Line; hello again, my office between offices!).

You can join in or follow along on Twitter.

2 September’s prompt was to make a list of 10 locations and then go to town fleshing out one of them. Well, I have a road map for my story, so I’m going to see how I go at selecting key locations and working up their significant details, including smells and time of year (thanks, prompt!), over the next couple of days.

 

Dreaming up a story: Eromon No More

dreaming in the darkWhere do your ideas come from, folks ask. Good luck answering that (aisle 3 at the shopping centre doesn’t cut it, I’ve found). But here’s an insight into the making of my yarn Eromon No More, which I’m bloody chuffed to have included in Jack Dann’s anthology Dreaming in the Dark (now available to order) where it rubs shoulders with some truly impressive talents — and is also a rare occurrence of Kirstyn and myself having a yarn in the same book.

So, I can trace the spark of the idea back to a panel at a Continuum convention in Melbourne (happening again June 9-12 2017) where the absence of variety in high/second world fantasy was noted. Not many old people as protagonists, for instance. And I’d been taken with the portrayal of Lamb in Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country, a damaged soldier trying to find some peace.

I nutted out a short yarn, deliberately generic, in which an old coot and a young thing have fled war for the peace and hard yakka of a farm, only war comes to find them — it was meant to be kind of a satire or a critique, but never really got there.

I sent this to Jack for Dreaming. And he said: Give me more.

My story in Jack’s Dreaming Again remains one of my favourites: his faith and commitment to that yarn kept me in the game at a time when I could happily have given it away. Then, as now, he said to give him more. Now, as then, I went looking.

winds of change anthologyThe original skeleton of the yarn remained much the same, but I tapped the feel of a fantastical Australia (most of my yarns are set here, one way or another; I need a very specific reason to not set a yarn in my country) I’d conjured up for another story, Wraiths (Winds of Change, 2011) to breathe life into the setting and add some cultural nuance.

But where did those two characters come from? They’re probably a construct or amalgam of stories read and watched, maybe even some D&D played, their characters assembled consciously and subconsciously … Who knows? Aisle 3 is as good a suggestion as any.

I do know the story title is a nod to the suburban habit of naming houses Emoh Ruo I first encountered in My Brother Jack, and perhaps was a call to George Johnston’s desire to escape that reality that ultimately he didn’t seem able to. Maybe it illustrates the characters’ motivation and ill fate. Or perhaps it had no deeper meaning than a bit of fun wordplay for a dark story that tries to end on (for me) an uncharacteristically lighter note.

Funny, too, how what was meant to be just a bit of scenery, in this case a chicken, came to have a metaphorical role in the story. That idea must’ve been on special in the supermarket that day.

Funnily enough, I’ve still got another iteration of this story in the back of my brain. One with a goose. And even half an idea for another story involving these two characters. Another trip to the supermarket may be required!

  • Dreaming in the Dark has 21 stories from writers including Sean Williams, Garth Nix, Angela Slatter, Terry Dowling … it’s a cornucopia of Aussie writing. Check it out here.

  • The Brisbane launch is at Dymocks, 17 Albert St, on Thursday 8 December from 6pm. There will be readings, live music, drinks, signings and bonhomie! It would be lovely to see a few Brissie pals there! Free to attend, but please RSVP!