Yasi’s tail hits Melbourne

More than four inches of rain overnight (much more in places), hail, blackouts … Yasi’s long tail lashes Victoria causing major disruption and damaging property across Melbourne. Spare a thought for those poor buggers in the regions who’ve already been flooded this year, now copping another soaking and wondering if the river’s coming up to meet them yet again.

Up north, the clean up is beginning while the search for a missing couple continues. These before-and-after images give some idea of the destruction.

Media Diary goes into PR mode

Following up yesterday’s woefully presented remark about the effect of cyclone Yasi on Queensland, the editor of The Australian’s Media Diary has updated the offensive post headlined, dismissively and offensively methinks, Much Ado.

What a shame that the full context for posting the two pars of reportage wasn’t posted in the first place — it might have helped reduce the outrage to a mere WTF?

If this was the best summary quote that the editor could find to give a picture of what was happening — bearing in mind the effects of the cyclone were still being felt at the landing point at that time (in fact, storm and flooding flow-on will continue for days) — I can’t help but think something was amiss. To pass the caller’s comment on without the context now supplied (a “good news” story from somewhere in north Queensland), and with what comes across as a patronising tone (“palm trees have of course lost fronds”): why? I guess those having their roofs torn off were otherwise engaged at the time and couldn’t make it to the phone to call Sydney talkback.

I’m still not sure why this item even made it onto a blog dedicated to the comings, goings, pratfalls and indiscretions of the media.

So what we’ve got is:

Headline: FAIL

Content: FAIL

Presentation: FAIL

Timing: FAIL

The update isn’t much better. A bunch of tweets showing that, really, the editor really did give a damn (just not on the blog), the unconvincing defence of the decision to post those two pars, and then a return salvo at the irate but telling blog at Grog’s Gamut taking the original post to task.

Nice try, Much Ado, but something is rotten.

Such vileness at The Australian

It’s not unusual for me to be embarrassed to be associated with News Ltd, but now, I’m actually ashamed. This piece of gutter commentary, no doubt aimed to garner a few of those precious internet hits that consume News’s online presence, simply amazes me. Lives torn apart, farms in ruins, infrastructure on its knees, the storm not even over yet, and this creature is lamenting the absence of what? Death? Corpses?

This could be our Katrina

Cyclone Yasi is closing in on north Queensland. It’s category 5, of a size and packing a punch that puts it on level pegging with hurricane Katrina, the monster storm that tore New Orleans apart in 2005.

Five years ago, Innisfail suffered the brunt of cyclone Larry. Three quarters of the state is still recovering from massive flooding. Now this.

Spare a thought for Queensland, hunkered down with Yasi expected to hit the coast in just five hours. Yasi’s coming in on a full tide — huge storm tides are predicted, just to add to the woe.

How big is Yasi? Handy reference maps.

The Bureau of Meterology radar shows how the rainfall is following Yasi’s cyclonic motion.

The ABC’s website seems to be among the better ones of posting up-to-date warnings without sucking up too much bandwidth. The network’s 24-hour news channel is feeding in reports from all over the far north.

I’ve been watching the rain radar, tracking the storm’s approach, dumbstruck by the size and the inexorable nature of the disaster now unfolding. It doesn’t give an impression of the wind and the surge and the godawful racket that wind is going to make, for hours and hours while the storm works its way inland.

Good luck and godspeed up there.

Addendum: I just heard that Yasi is likely to reach Mt Isa on Friday as a category 1 cyclone. The town’s about 900km from Townsville on the east coast. I’m sorry, but WTF?

Writers on Rafts — help for flooded Queensland

writers on rafts by QWC

The Writers on Rafts site is now live. You can buy a ticket for books, services from writers such as story assessments, and other stuff, such as having a character named after you in a book. It’s a raffle, not an auction. The initiative is being run by the Queensland Writers Centre, who still have not been able to return to their offices since floods devastated South East Queensland earlier this month. The floods meant that, in the past month, three quarters of the state has been declared a disaster area — Queensland is more than twice the size of Texas or France.

Other initiatives by writers to help flood victims are running, too. Check them out!

Amidst the destruction, cancer takes two star musicians

As my old home state begins picking itself up out of the mire, burdened by destruction across three-quarters of its area and a death toll at 20, my new state of residence faces an ongoing flood menace.

Adding to the woe is the news that two members of legendary Aussie bands died at the weekend: Cold Chisel’s Steve Prestwich and Sherbet’s Harvey James.

Writers, and readers, to help Queensland flood victims

Please check out these sites set up by writers to raise money for charities assisting Queensland flood victims:

Ocean Hearted: poetry book, proceeds to charity

100 Stories for Queensland: send in your stories, buy the book

After the Rain: Fablecroft had already got this anthology on the drawing board, and has turned around a quick e-version for charity purposes.

An auction site, offering signed books, manuscript assessments and plenty of other stuff, is now running at Authors for Queensland.

And don’t forget, cash donations can be sent to numerous charities online. This is the State Government’s website.

Spare a thought for devastated Queensland

Queensland is my home state. It’s the second largest in Australia. You can fit France three times over into Queensland and still have room, almost, for the United Kingdom. As I write, 75 per cent of Queensland is a disaster zone.

Floods have ravaged the state for more than a week, and now have reached a frightening, calamitous new stage. Nine people are dead, more than 50 missing. Entire townships have been wiped out. Roads are cut. Industry is at a standstill. The state capital of Brisbane is in various stages of evacuation.

Two add insult to injury, many of the affected areas were hit by devastating flooding only two years ago. And it’s still raining. The worst is yet to come.

I’m living in Melbourne now, texting my friends, checking Facebook and email, watching the nightmare unfold on the TV and the news websites, watching the red dots of flood spots spread like acne across a map of Brisbane as they follow the river towards the sea.

It’s a dichotomy of nature that not long ago, Brisbane’s water situation was dire, much of the state was gripped in drought. In Western Australia, suspected arson-lit bushfires have claimed four. This is Australia, it seems: fire and flood and drought and very few easy breaks.

The comments sections of the newspaper websites are home to venal, despicable inanities, the kind of sneering and posturing that makes you want to poke the writer in the eye.

Fortunately, the majority of the country is showing its kinder colours. Charity coffers are being well supported, all tiers of government are doing what they can. There are choppers in the air and the prime minister is on the ground, sharing the hurt and helping to shoulder the burden of not just survival, but recovery.

There are several aid providers taking online donations: this is one of them — www.qld.gov.au/floods

It’s not over yet. The body count will rise, the number of houses inundated will rise, the misery and disruption will rise. The damage will take years to repair, the economy … well, the impact of all those flooded and unworkable mines is already being felt on the global market. And along with all that, hopefully the compassion will also rise. That the towns and the state will recover, I have no doubt; it’s just a question of how long. This is, after all, Australia.

Kill your darlings aka I’ve got you now, you bastard (I think)

crime scene gifThere’s an axiom in the writing fraternity: Kill your darlings. It might have started with Faulkner or Twain or someone else entirely, but it’s a splendid piece of advice. It’s about not being precious, about letting the text be true to itself and keeping the author’s ego and cleverness the hell out of it. It’s about trimming the fat.

I killed a darling last night. It was the original scene that inspired a short story. It took four days, on and off, to realise it had to go. Four days of staring at a two-thirds finished yarn and wondering how it should end — who was doing what, how should they get what they wanted, who was stopping them, what did it all mean? And the final answer, delivered after numerous endings (amounting to more than 1500 words) had been written and discarded, was that the story had become bigger than that original scene. The pretty prose, the atmosphere, the spiffy dialogue: all surplus to requirements. Gone (or, at least, I confess, some tucked away in the glory box for a possible outing in another, more appropriate story).

And doesn’t it feel good? A bit like dieting like crazy (but, you know, healthily) and finally being able to fit *that* set of clothes.

Funny old game, this writing biz. After not having so much as looked at writing a short story in a couple of years, I’ve knocked over three in the past month with five or six others making wee blots on the drawing board. The first came after a day spent bleeding words over something else: 6000 thousand words downloading in a glorious rush in one day, needing not much more than some tinkering and polishing to reach a state I was happy with. Still haven’t got back to the abandoned idea, and maybe I never will. And since then, two more, squeezed with all the ease and joy of shitting razor blades: a thousand words excised from the overblown second (and I’m still not totally convinced it’s done) and this pesky third one still needing a damn good bit of work to make it shiny. But it’s there — I know how it ends (I’m fairly certain). It makes sense (I think). I’ve got you now, you bastard (I think).

It’s a joyful thing, isn’t it, to take that bare idea — a line of dialogue, a character, a situation — and explore it, tease it out, find out just what it’s all about and if it’s really worth sharing. At least, it is when it’s flowing. Not so much when it’s treacle, an idea that just won’t condense into a usable form. I have pals who hate editing, they find it boring because they already know the story; this is fine, as long as they still do the editing. I enjoy the editing because, whether the story popped out near right or had to be teased and goaded and agonised over, I love watching the raw form take a shape that’s (hopefully) pleasing to the reader’s eye. Even if it means killing your darlings. And maybe, *especially* if it means killing your darlings.

Speaking of short stories…

While I’m banging on about short stories, some folks who can actually write the darn things *really* well are scoring some serious recognition. Check out:

Ticonderoga going large on collections: Lucy Sussex, Felicity Dowker, Sara Douglass and Lezli Robyn slated for future release, with collections from Angela Slatter (one of two from this awesome writer out this year — over-achiever!) and Kaaron Warren being launched in only a few weeks!

Twelfth Planet Press is adding to its enviable catalogue with a collection from Marianne de Pierres.

And Cat Sparks is due to see a hot collection of her shorts entitled The Bride Price on the shelf this year!

These are just some to arrive in my inbox recently; Australia is a hotbed of writing talent at the moment and there are small presses popping up all over the place championing those with the chops. Expect to see plenty of them taking a bow at Aussiecon, where not just collections, but a bunch of drool-worthy anthologies are also slated to be launched.

And now for the long stuff

And while I’m at it, I direct your attention to the Queensland Premier’s literary awards, where spec fic from the likes of Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld makes a big impression in the YA section, and my former workmate and all-round good guy Noel Mengel has been shortlisted in the emerging Queensland author section. w00t!

Traveston Dam overturned

A small sigh of relief, thanks to Peter Garrett, the federal Environment Minister, who has rejected a Queensland Government proposal to build a massive dam near Gympie. The ABC reports on Garrett’s decision here. The dam was always a bottom shelf idea, dragged into contention during the state’s recent, dire drought. So why am I breaking my convention and mentioning political stuff on what is, nominally at least, a writer’s blog? Because Gympie was kind of my turf, way back when, and the thought of prime agricultural land being deluged by a dam that just didn’t add up in the efficiency and environmental stakes, made my blood boil. It must be a big relief for those affected, who haven’t been able to develop or plan for their properties under the shadow of the flood. I wonder what happens now to the land already bought to make way for the dam?