Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Birthoween

We don't do Halloween much in Australia. But, because my brother-in-law's birthday falls close enough to the date, and the shops are full of cheap plastic spooky things, this year my nephew Tom and my niece Meg decided to dress up for Halloween/Dad's birthday. And my mother, who is an awesome Nanna, sewed this:

I would have got a picture of Tom dressed up as a vampire ("But not one of those sparkly ones!") but by the time I arrived he was already glued to the Nintendo and I didn't really see him for the rest of the night.

So, happy birthday Mark, and happy Halloween, Tom and Meg!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bananas. What possums are driving me.

So, apparently possums eat bananas. That’s not so surprising. What’s surprising is that they can sneak into your house at night, silently eat a whole banana, leave the peel on the floor so you find it in the morning, blame the dog, realise the dog couldn’t reach the bananas, chalk it up as a mystery, then find the rest of the peel on the windowsill of the spare room later that day and know exactly who to blame.

I hate my possums. They are trying to drive me slowly  insane.

It is working. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel.

The Good Soldiers follows the 2nd Battalion 16th Infantry Unit from Fort Riley, Kansas, to a fifteen month tour of duty in Rustamiyah, Bagdad. This is not a book that will explain the politics or ideology of the Iraqi war. This is a book about what it’s like to experience war. It follows the soldiers, the commanding officer, the translators, and the families at home who have to deal with the aftermath of severe physical and psychological injuries.  The Good Soldiers pulls no punches.

There’s nothing I can write that will do this book justice. It is pitch perfect. 

Wet Season

For some reason I write very little about Townsville, where I live, and about the seasons, which shape life in the tropics. We still call the seasons spring, summer, autumn and winter, but those terms don’t fit the tropics. We have two seasons here: dry and wet. The dry season corresponds with winter. Days are lovely, nights are cool, and the tourists start to appear. The wet season, summer, is a different story.

My yard - wet season
The following are excerpts from a manuscript I’ve sort of given up on – it turns out there’s only so much you can write before you need to figure out where the hell it’s going. The protagonist, J (it’s not a literary device, I just couldn’t think of a name), works as a security officer in a refugee camp in a dystopian near-future north Queensland. It’s the wet season, and I’ve tried to make it feel as long and oppressive as the real thing.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back-Story, Music & Procrastination

Every character has a back-story.  Even if it’s just the girl who works in the bakery where the protagonist buys his lunch. The reader might not know her back-story, because it might not be relevant, but the author probably knows that she’s twenty-two, she lives with her boyfriend even though she doesn’t see them together in ten years, and she’s worried that she won’t make her car payment for the month.

Back-story is even more important for major characters. Back-story adds depth, even if it’s not immediately apparent. The back-story is your character’s skeleton. You build every thing else around it. You don’t have to see it to know it’s there. It gives structure and form to what would otherwise be an absolute bloody mess.

I love working on back-story. It’s a higher form of procrastination. If I spend hours puzzling out the familial relationships of a character who is only going to appear for a couple of paragraphs, well, that’s not really wasting time, is it? That’s back-story.

The continuing saga...

The possum saga, like the possums, just won’t die.

A few days ago I was confident I had finally evicted the possums from my ceiling, by setting up an exit strategy so convoluted that it wouldn’t look out of place in a prison escape movie:


Out of the ceiling, down the sheet, down the ladder, across the planks, through the bars, onto the windowsill, onto the rubbish bin, into the yard...and watch out for those guards! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Judging A Book By Its Cover

I was at Big W the other day – I know, I’m such a trendsetter – and I saw this in the book section:

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm calling it...

I am possum free!


Dune, by Frank Herbert

I have just finished reading Dune by Frank Herbert. For the first couple of chapters I was confused – way too many characters with weird names, titles and religions – and then I got into the rhythm of it. It’s a good sign that as soon as you finish a book you check the back to see what the sequel is called.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

I like Stream of Consciousness writing. I like the way it makes associative leaps, and dissects the mental process. I like it, but I can’t write it. The closest I’ve come is with a character called Macquarie. I wrote the dialogue and action when I was sober, and the Stream of Consciousness when I’d had a few. Reading it back later I didn’t know whether to be more concerned for my character’s mental state or mine. Still, it was an interesting experiment.


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