Catching up with the cool kids: 12 for Christmas

Wow. December already. It’s been all hands on deck here at Chez Hectic, but outside the wheels have been turning. Some happenings of interest, 12 in fact, because that’s suitably Christmassy:

  • Ian Irvine talks oceanic pollution, climate change and his writing with Mary-Lou at ABC Sunshine Coast radio (and doesn’t Aunty need as many local word warriors as it can get). Mary-Lou has a trove of interviews for your listening pleasure, including Kimberley Freeman, Kate Morton, Gary Crew, Helene Young and many more.
  • So cool to see Traci Harding’s new Chinese-set series The Timekeepers heading towards the shelves. I interviewed her back in May last year and she was so excited about this series, sparked in part by a news item about a wristwatch found in an ancient Chinese tomb.
  • The Rabbit Hole, an intensive weekend of writing, has provided the content for an issue of Review of Australian Fiction — sadly, hosted on that most irritating of book platforms, Of particular interest to this former Queenslander is Jodi Cleghorn’s novelette ‘Elyora’ — hitting the right tone of outback weirdness — and the touching, non-speculative ‘The Slow Death of Plastic Stars’ by fellow Brisbanite Kate Zahnleiter. It’s worth noting that Jodi’s publishing house, eMergent, has a Christmas collection out. More Rabbit Holes are scheduled for 2013, the first on January 11-13.
  • Writers Digest has listed its most popular posts about writing.
  • Robert Hood has unveiled a new book, Fragments of a Broken Land!
  • Have snaffled tix for Emilie Autumn’s tour in March. Can’t wait to see the new show, based on her sumptuous book of asylum life.
  • On Goodreads the Australian Speculative Fiction Authors Challenge has been announced, riffing off this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge (which is set to happen again next year). Still haven’t decided whether to give it a go … hey, still haven’t joined Goodreads!
    Update 24/12: have signed up for AWW2013.
  • Poet a.rawlings, this year’s Queensland poet in residence, has unveiled Gibber, a project she conducted during her residency. Some gorgeous material here (so many birds!)!
  • Canberra’s Donna Maree Hanson has brought outer space to Harlequin’s Escape imprint with her Rayessa and the Space Pirates, due out in January.
  • Matt Rubinstein has an interesting essay at ABR about the digital book era including this quote:

    People who love books don’t steal books. But, you know, they might lend or borrow books, they might sample books and only pay for the ones they do love, they might torrent a book they have already bought in hard copy, they might pay what they think they can afford. They will do these things whether we like it or not. And it’s probably not in our interests to treat every illegal download as an act of aggression. As an empirical matter, it may turn out that that download has led to a handful of legitimate sales. Or it might not. We just don’t know. We can be pretty sure that insisting that book-lovers are our enemies will be self-fulfilling and soon self-defeating

  • Peter M Ball has, a while back now, offered sage advice for those considering indie publishing.
  • And I did mention my wife’s new book is now available as an ebook, didn’t I? And, ahem, so is mine.
  • Salvage on the media tide

    The Herald Sun‘s ‘Weekend’ section ran a review of Salvage on 25 August by Corinna Hente. Grand to see a novella published by a small press getting a run!

    salvage review in herald sun

    The lovely Sonja at Joy 94.9 FM‘s Sci-fi and Squeam invited Kirstyn and myself into the studio recently to discuss ‘horror’, Gothic and the language of writing. The longplay podcast is online.

    And Noosa Today has run a pic from my visit to the wonderfully supportive Noosa Library earlier this month, sharing the Salvage love and talking writing and publishing. Sorry to the guys who came in a little later and missed the surprise photo op! I love the kaffeeklatsch style of yarning with enthusiastic writers and readers.

    noosa clipping for salvage library visit

    Up a tree, with vampires

    kathleen jennings illo of Jason Nahrung up a tree

    A belated note to acknowledge that the wonderful Dr Brains have picked my grey matter for ruminations on things writerly and vampiric over at their Lair — if the wonderful Kathleen Jennings illo is anything to judge by, I’ve truly gone out on a limb! (Because the Brains, aka Angela Slatter and Lisa Hannett both host — a kind of left and right brain thing, perhaps — I’m linking to them both!)

    For those who haven’t seen the blog that this illo riffs off, Goths Up Trees is not only photographically interesting but comes with the kind of endearing snark one would expect — great fun.

    Ready, steady, go … some Tuesday Therapy for the new year

    The calendar is flipped, the clock is ticking. Welcome to 2012.

    Back in the year just gone, Lisa Hannett was canvassing for inspirational sayings of a writerly bent for her Tuesday Therapy. I came up with a mere word, which Lisa has just published at her blog.

    Here, gathered sweaty and very non-new yearly limp around the water cooler — not much vim and vigour in the high 30s, I’m afraid, new year or no — the word, perseverance, sparked a discussion about the subtle difference between it and persistence; a degree of resistance to be overcome in one, an inner spring of tenacity in the other. It probably comes down to how you approach your writing challenges. The main point being, that you keep going.

    Of course, what I *could* and possibly *should* have sent Lisa was my favourite quote — I don’t know why it didn’t jump immediately to mind, it wasn’t even outrageously hot at the time; and yes, I am also shite at witty rejoinders. So here’s a bonus Tuesday Therapy and a rather timely one for this time of year, all those blank squares on the calendar, scribbled resolutions and what not:

    sandman's death

    It is Neil Gaiman’s Death and a wonderful saying that I’ve taken to heart, ever since I first saw the motif on a t-shirt. It speaks for itself.

    Tick, tock.

    Fonts of creativity

    So what typeface do you like to write with? That’s the question asked of these authors at this site, and it’s interesting reading, how a typeface can help a writer grapple with the process. It seems the typewriter era still leaves a mark on the font of choice! A friend changes font with each draft as he edits, to keep the text fresh, which is something I haven’t tried, but probably should if the amount of repetition in my latest piece is any guide.

    And while we’re at it, here’s another piece in defence of typography — some interesting history on the evolution of typefaces.

    For the record, I prefer to type in Times New Roman — I like my serifs.

    The ‘adobe’ method of story writing

    muddy boot
    We’ve all got our own way of doing things — a little idiosyncrasy when it comes to putting that story, whether long or short, on the page. There are the planners who meticulously account for every scene and every nuance before even putting pen to page. And on the other side of the coin, there’s the chaos merchants, who take the character or the situation and just run with it. Usually I fall somewhere in the middle, using that first, seductive scene to lily-pad my way across the pond from beginning to end, with just a few key scenes in mind, and almost always the final scene, drawing me on. But lately, and maybe it’s a comment about my frame of my mind, I’ve been using what I call the adobe method (nothing to do with a certain software firm, rest assured), so named (however inaccurately) because it amounts to throwing mud at a wall and seeing what sticks.

    While it sure is fun mixing the stuff and flinging it willy nilly, the end result is far from pretty. There’s a lot of wastage, and it can be hard to get it out from under the nails. It amounts to taking a character or two, and just letting them run with it: a mud fight of scenes and characters, often contradictory, some even overlaying previous scenes like a big stack of pancakes with different toppings. Somewhere in there, I hope a story starts to emerge. That some connections might emerge that suggest there’s actually some kind of structure in there.

    I’ve found a handy tool to help with this process, whether an 8000 word short story made up of vignettes or what will eventually be a novel. Simon Haynes as kindly made his yWriter free on his website, and while I’m using about a tenth of its features, it sure is an easy way of keeping track of the swirling scenes. Being able to drag and drop scenes is so much easier than cutting and pasting inside a Word file, and being able to see them all on the one screen helps the patterns emerge — much easier than my former method of keeping a spreadsheet. There’s an automatic word count, as well. And once the order is in place, one click exports the piece as an rtf with scene breaks in place — neat. For the adobe story builder, it’s a damn fine fit.

    Dan Brown writing lesson

    The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

    Doing the rounds at the moment is this article outlining 20 woeful lines from the pen of Da Vinci Code writer Dan Brown. It’s worth a read, not to knock Brown, but to learn from his mistakes.

    I’m going back through my current manuscript, removing all extraneous mentions of Mickey Mouse watches.

    And taking heart that you can bollox things up and still make a mint.

    How to write a novel (the Justine method)

    In her acceptance speech at the World Fantasy Awards ceremony this year, Margo Lanagan paid tribute to a blog post by fellow Aussie writer Justine Larbalestier about how to write a novel. Given I’m meant to be doing just that at the moment (writing a novel, that is), I looked up that post, and found it helpful indeed. Here it is. I’ve used the spreadsheet tracking method and it’s uncomfortably illuminating!

    I also thought her expurgated version held quite a lot of truth.

    Enjoy, and then get to it…