Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Evolution

2011 is the year I became a writer. I think it is, although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly, since I’ve been writing ever since I could pick up a crayon. 2011 is certainly the year I became a published writer, although not in a genre I could have predicted in a gazillion years. Life’s kinda funny like that.

2012 is going to be the year when I think hard about becoming a professional writer. By that, I mean actually setting some goals: finish the first draft in x weeks, edit in x weeks, finish the second draft in x weeks rinse, repeat. I might even get a year planner for my wall I’m that motivated. Anyone who knows me will tell you that’s as serious as it gets for me.

In 2012 I’m going to treat writing like a job, and I’m going to act like a professional. In 2012 I’m not just going to pour a glass of wine, plug into iTunes and dive straight in. Well, I’m still going to do all of those things because that’s how I write, but the difference is I will be working towards a goal.

In 2012 I will finally get my shit together.

Mind you, I’ve been saying that for years.

What are your resolutions?
Will you keep them?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Barry Christmas (A Challenge)

I dare you to watch this and not laugh: 

And here's festive Barry: 

Have great holidays, everyone! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Genre is bunk

I don't read books with aliens and spaceships in them, he said. So he didn't read 

I hate Westerns, she said. So she never looked at

Isn't that a romance? he asked. He never picked up 

Autobiographies don't interest me, she said, and never got to read

That's a kids' book, he said, so he didn't borrow 

Have you ever discovered something wonderful in a genre you don't usually read? 

Genre is great for telling bookshop employees where to shelve products, but don't ever let it tell you what to read. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

7x7 - with a twist

Yay! I have been given the 7x7 Link Award again, this time by Marian Allen. Thanks, Marian!

For those who don't know, you are to link to the following: 

- Your most beautiful post
– Your most popular post
– Your most controversial post
– Your most helpful post
– A post whose success surprised you
– A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

– The post that you are most proud of

Because I did this one quite recently, the answers haven’t actually changed. Here they are again. 

So instead of just reposting them here, I thought I’d bend the rules and do something different. Instead of telling you about 7 of my posts, I thought I’d tell you about 7 things that I’ve discovered that I love.

1. Tiddly Wiki. Claudie got me onto this. It’s like a tiny personal Wikipedia for your WIP. Really, it’s a godsend for people like me who believe they can remember every character’s name, date of birth, and third aunt removed, and then find out weeks later in editing that they don’t even know who the hell this character is. Tiddly Wiki is fabulous for creating your story Bible. A word of caution though -- it is way too easy to spend so much time creating and linking entries that you forget you were supposed to be writing that novel in the first place.

2. Edit Minion.Everyone wants a minion, right? This minion will help you find weak words, passive voice, often misspelled words and more. 

3. Wordle. I love making word clouds or, as I’ve discovered they are called, wordles. Not only do they look pretty, but they show you what words you overuse and how prominent your characters and themes are. (If you are writing steamy romance though, do not do this. The results will only scare you.)

4. Free personality tests like this one at HumanMetrics.I love to answer these in character and let the crazy shine through. It’s fun, and it just might just give you a little more insight into your characters. Or pause for thought about your own mental stability.

5. Can't get a fix on your character's physicality? Try sites like this one, where you can search for faces based on age, sex, height and more. 

6. Scrivener. No joke, if you're not on the Scrivener band wagon yet, let me help you up! It's fantastic, it's cheap, and it's available on Mac and PC. Just download the free trial, and I promise you, you'll fall in love. 

7. Nuff said.


What are you packing in your writing arsenal? 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This blog is brought to you by...

Okay, so I had this whole post typed up. No, seriously, promise, cross my heart, true god and no gammin.

Lies. All lies. I had half a post typed up, and then I remembered that it’s been ages since I posted anything, and I was going to blame work and Christmas and “Omigod, I was supposed to get Kath something really nice when I went shopping today, and I got myself bookshelves instead.”

So instead of a proper post, here are two ads that have been making me laugh this week. They’re both from New Zealand, and I love them even though the first one is making fun of us Aussies.

Needless to say, “Bro, Monique says you’re dumb” is now the standard comeback to anything in our family. As is, “No surprises there.”

What’s making you laugh this week? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Me no speak Americano...

Dear Americans,

Youse are a weird mob, ay. *

Most of the time we speak the same language, then suddenly we don’t. We have cultural differences as wide as the Pacific Ocean that divides us. Or the Atlantic, if you’re coming that way. I first realised this when I had a discussion with MC about wheelie bins here

And now that I’m working with an editor and publisher in the US, it’s gotten interesting. I can handle American spelling. No worries, mate. I’ll cull the “u” from “colour” and switch the “re” around in “theatre” and swap the “s” for a “z” in civilisation, and she’ll be right. Or, if you will, bonzer.

(NB: I have never used the word “bonzer” in real life.)

Translation: Come on, Australia!! 

I’ve seen enough TV to know that you Americans go to the bathroom instead of the toilet, eat cookies instead of biscuits, and you walk on pavements or sidewalks instead of footpaths. But there were a few little things that my ripper line editor caught for me.

Did you know that you go forward, backward and toward? You don’t go forwards, backwards and towards. Struth.

(NB: I have also never used the word “struth” in real life.)

A bit of background first. The book I have just finished line-editing has an Australian protagonist, which was bloody grouse.

(NB: I have never used the word “grouse” and neither has my character. He’s not a bogan.)

To start off with, the entire thing was told from the POV of the Aussie. Then my editor suggested alternating POVs with the love interest. Who is American.


I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Google Maps, Wikipedia, and the internet generally. Seriously, mention that a character’s dad likes to go fishing, and suddenly you realise you should probably be able to name the fish. Thanks, Fishing Minnesota!

My line editor also saved me from making a real clanger, when I had my American character mention a car park. “An American would use the term parking lot,” she told me. Of course you would! I knew that one, and I'm kicking myself for it! 

And the best thing about my editor? She let my Aussie protagonist keep the word "arse". (As in, pig's arse, mate, you're having me on! Or not.) Because, I'm sorry, you can take my "u"s out of my "our" endings, and you can make me write "er" instead of "re", and  you can take my "s"s and make them "z"s (which is pronounced zed by the way), but I have to draw the line somewhere. I drew it around my arse. 

(Image not available.)  


Ever found out that English is not the universal language it's cracked up to be?
Or, can you make any sense out of this pearler?

This arvo, Robbo the garbo -- he’s a bit of a yobbo -- come a gutsa on the lino and now he’s off on compo. The drongo.

* Yeah, not just the Canadians that do that!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What Bert Hinkler taught me about writing.

Who is Bert Hinkler, you may ask? He's this guy: 

Bert Hinkler was the first person to fly solo from England to Australia and he came from a town called Bundaberg on the Queensland coast. I lived in Bundaberg for a few years as a kid, and Bert Hinkler is their most famous export. Apart from the rum, I suppose, and they must have figured it was more edifying for school children to visit Bert Hinkler's house than the rum distillery. Shame. 

Anyway, going through a stack of old primary school stuff, I found a Bert Hinkler-related writing exercise. It could be Grade Six or Seven. I'm not sure, because the cover has fallen off and, frankly, my handwriting was always that bad. But I'd like to thank whichever teacher it was who set this exercise, because this is good stuff. 

Although I obviously didn't get into it at the time. My map of Queensland isn't even coloured in properly, Hinkler's house appears to be in the ocean, and there is no way in hell that plane would get off the ground. 

Do you run through what your character sees, hears, feels, fears or enjoys in each scene? 
How much makes it into the scene? 
Do you ever wish you could illustrate your own stories? 
Are you jealous of my plane drawing skills? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lie To Me

I’ve been thinking a bit about my main character Danny this week. Mainly because it feels like ages since I paid him any proper attention and, like a neglected pet, he’s making himself known by ripping the couch cushions apart while I’m at work. Hmm, I’m not sure when that veered off into a weird analogy, but you know I don’t mean he literally rips the cushions apart. I understand that Danny’s not real, despite the number of prickly conversations we’ve been having lately.

Huh. Why can I imagine myself trying to explain that to a sympathetic psychologist in the future?

Anyway, Danny is an evasive one. Unfriendly, untrusting, and, as last week showed, unwilling to mingle at social gatherings. He's hard to pin down, and I think it’s because he’s full of lies.

There is the lie he tells his superior officer: It doesn't matter.
There is the lie he tells his friend: I’m good.  
There is the lie he tells the bully: I’m not scared of you.
And there is the lie he tells himself: I can make it home in time to save them.    
Tell me about your main character.
What secrets do they keep?
What lies do they tell?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Love or money?

“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” - Moliere

I’m currently picturing myself wearing a feather boa, a corset, and a hard look on my face. I’ll be the scariest madam in all Dodge, and I can't wait!


Get me a whiskey, straight up.

Do you have a favourite quote about writing?
What about some invaluable writing advice stuck above your workspace?
Or perhaps an ambition to be a madam?

Sharing is fun!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Plotting vs Pantsing - Now With Salty Plums!

You know when they say if you can’t make your mind up about something you should write a list of pros and cons? Yeah, that’s crap advice. It’s right up there with putting money away for a rainy day. Because that way you just end up spending your money on lifejackets and ark-building supplies instead of awesome stuff like Angry Birds stickers and a phone case that looks like a cassette, and salty plums, which you haven’t tried since you were five and oh my god, how did you ever eat them, they should come with some sort of health warning. Like this one: Salty Plums. May induce feelings of nostalgia. Do not eat.

Anyway, apart from my corner shop selling salty plums now, the big news this week is that I have been once again wrestling with the plotter/pantser issue. And I did one of those lists as well. I came up with a heck of a lot of pro-plotting anti-pantsing reasons, and only one anti-plotting pro-pantsing reason. But it’s a doozie.

Warning: Do not eat

Remember my happy place WIP? The one that, if finished, will be dedicated to the good people at Banrock Station? It gave me this:

Anti-plotting pro-pantsing Reason One

On reading back a scene I wrote, I just said “Holy hell, I did not see that coming!”

And I kinda like being surprised.

So as much as I want to be a good plotter, I don’t think it will ever come naturally. Like a half-sucked salty plum it will stick in my craw while I panic about whether or not I can actually stand the taste, and whether or not I can actually force myself to finish.

When it comes to plotting I’ll keep to the barebones of an outline thanks to the corkboard in Scrivener, but that’s as far as I can plan ahead without driving myself insane, and it’s further than I ever used to plan, so that’s progress right?

Meanwhile, I’m going to walk to the corner shop and buy some more salty plums, because I live in a state of denial and I refuse to believe I can’t eat something that I lived on when I was five. Also, I'm stubborn. I will not be defeated by salted fruit.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Are you happy with that?
Salty plums, yay or nay? (This is not a euphemism.)
Salty plum analogies: disturbing, yay or nay?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Come in, come in!

So, you’re the main character in a WIP. How exciting! I do love to meet fictional people.

My main character, Danny, is skulking around here somewhere. By the buffet table, probably. He's going through a difficult phase. You know teenagers. Every day it's You don't understand me, and I didn't ask to be born, and When our nightmares hit the Wall, I hope they kill you first. Well, that last one might just be Danny.
So, tell me a little about yourself!
How would your main character introduce him/herself to new aquaintances? With a smile, a snarl, or something else?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Winner of Shine, and a blog award!

Okay, so I said I'd draw Shine by Lauren Myracle in two weeks. That was three weeks ago. I have the time management skills of, um, let's say a jellyfish. I'm fairly certain jellyfish have no concept of time, right? Just washing back on the forth on the tides, floating in the warm waters of the world's oceans, weird, gelatinous, occasionally distracted by the howling screams of agony from unwary swimmers.

Random fact: Oceans confused me as a child. I thought they were a rort invented by cartographers. How can they have borders and different names? Water doesn't respect geographic boundries. IT'S ALL THE SAME OCEAN!

My random fact was entered way too late to win Shine. Miss Cole's wasn't.

Congratulations, Miss Cole, you've won a copy of Shine!

Also, today Magpie at Magpie Writes gave me the One Lovely Blog Award. Thanks, Magpie!

I am passing it on to:
Shannon from The Warrior Muse
And if you guys don't know Shelley from Dark Writes, you should head over there!

In other news, I am completely obsessed by this song at the moment:

Completely obsessed.

What songs are stuck in your brain this week?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Uniqueness of Place

I’m guilty of neglecting place when it comes to writing. A couple of broad brush strokes, and I’m straight to the action. But place is important. We are all products of our environment, after all, and that includes our characters.

It doesn’t matter if your novel is set inside a cardboard box. You have to make me feel like I’m seeing a cardboard box for the first time. You have to own your setting. You have to make it unique by showing it to me in a new way.

I’ve been working on developing place lately. For me, this is using what I know: humidity, saltwater, the dry rip of a heavy palm leaf tearing from the tree, the scream of a bat, the heart-stopping crash of a mango on a tin roof in the middle of the night, and the smell of a hot road the minute before the rain hits.

I’ve been getting out more, and taking notes, because this is my cardboard box and I want to show you guys what it’s like.

I said to my sister (and co-author for my current WIP) Kath the other day: “I’ve got a great idea.”

I laid out the bare bones, and she agreed it had potential.

“The only thing is,” I said, “we need to do a field trip.”

I tried to explain about place. It would be very important for this story, which so far is made up of these as yet unconnected elements: A Picnic at Hanging Rock; paranormal; a ghost -- probably; an unhappy ending -- almost certainly; and (inspired by last month’s Monsterfest) a very scary and, as far as I know, uniquely Australian phenomenon called the Min Min Light.

“A field trip?” Kath asked. “To Boulia?

Actually, the old Min Min Hotel is 73 kilometres west of Boulia.

The old Min Min Hotel. It burned down in 1912 or 1918, depending on which source you believe.

And Boulia is 961 kilometres away from Townsville.


My maths skills are hopeless, but however you add it up that comes out to a very long, very boring drive. I have a feeling I might be on my own.

Having said that, I’ve got a few months to convince her, because there is no way I’m heading west in the wet season. Research is one thing -- getting stranded on the side of the road for days, possibly weeks, waiting for the rivers go back down, no thanks.

How far have you gone to research place?

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Wet Season Retrospective

It's that time of year again: the wet season. The days are humid, and the clouds are rolling in. They're bringing a sense of unease with them this time, because we've been once bitten. This time last year the wet season began with Cyclone Tasha. Then, the floods that devastated central and southern Queensland. Then here in the north, Cyclone Anthony. Four days later, the big one: Cyclone Yasi. Yasi made landfall almost exactly between Townsville and Cairns, the two most populous cities in north Queensland. Lucky for us. Not so lucky for the many smaller towns in between: 

Cardwell post-Yasi. Picture from The Brisbane Times

Port Hinchinbrook. Picture from The Brisbane Times

Tully.  Picture from The Guardian

There are more photos here: 

So this year, please Nature, we'd like less wind with our wet season. And less water. 

Here is southern Queensland in January: 

Sometimes we forget how precarious our dull, everyday lives can be. We forget that not everything goes according to the plans we make. When we're reminded, we're shaken to the core. But we keep going, because that's what people do. 

What is the weather like in your corner of the world?

I blogged about the Queensland Floods back in January, here.
I blogged about Yasi here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

That Time of the Year Again...

It's NaNoWriMo season!

I'm not doing NaNo this year, for various reasons that include, but aren't limited to:

1. The day job. Some stuff going on here that needs my attention.

2. Editing. My pseudonym is working on her Second Book That Cannot Be Named, and getting into final content edits and line edits.

3. Private life. Oh yeah, I'm trying to have one of those.

But to everyone doing NaNoWriMo, this is for you:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest: Antagonist

This week I am participating in the Killer Characters Blogfest, hosted by Deana Barnhart and E.R. King. Today it is the Antagonist. The role of the antagonist in fiction is to oppose the goals of the protagonist. The antagonist can take many forms -- a villain, a boss, that girl who always does better than you in exams -- but the greatest antagonists are those who are deeply enmeshed with the protagonist. You don’t get more enmeshed than Edward Hyde.


Dr Henry Jekyll is a man struggling with dark impulses who strives to be a decent, morally upright man. By drinking a potion he separates himself from his baser instincts becoming -- literally -- a different man: Edward Hyde. 


 At first, Jekyll doesn’t try to fight Hyde. Hyde is free from conventional morality; free to be violent and lustful, and wanton. Jekyll is working on a theory of moral dualism: if Hyde holds all the wickedness, then Jekyll will hold all the goodness. It spirals quickly out of control.  When Hyde starts appearing without the aid of the potion, Jekyll realises Hyde’s true strength. By then Jekyll has lost the battle.


Hyde, as a facet of Jekyll, is one of the most frightening antagonists in literature. Because if Jekyll has a Hyde just waiting to burst out of him, don’t we all? Am I my own worst enemy? Are you yours?


Who is your favourite literary antagonist? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest: Protagonist

This week I am participating in the Killer Characters Blogfest, hosted by Deana Barnhart and E.R. King. Today it is the Protagonist, and I’ve picked a literal killer: Alex from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.


Alex is one of the most complicated, most unlikable, and most intriguing protagonists in fiction. Is he an irredeemable rapist and murderer, or a fifteen-year-old victim of political machinations? The disease or the symptom? He’s both. He’s a monster, and also a kid. He is our guide into the underbelly of a very unsettling world.  Alex says, “O my brothers” and we listen.

Alex doesn’t justify himself. He doesn’t have to.

“But, brothers, this biting of their toe-nails over what is the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don’t go into the cause of goodness, so why the other shop?”


“But what I do I do because I like to do.”

The genius of A Clockwork Orange is that it makes Alex an almost-sympathetic victim. When the government uses a behaviour modification technique that makes Alex physically sick when he thinks of violence, when Alex jumps from the window to escape the torture of music he once loved, we recognise this as an atrocity. We know this isn’t just about Alex. This is about free choice, and Alex should be free to choose to be a monster. 


Even Alex’s redemption -- his realisation that he is growing up and growing out of violence -- is tempered by his belief that the cycle of violence will, and must, continue as the natural order of things.

"But you, O my brothers, remember sometimes thy little Alex that was. Amen."


Who is the protagonist that gets into your head and won’t get out? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest: Supporting Character

This week I am participating in the Killer Characters Blogfest, hosted by Deana Barnhart and E.R. King. Today it is the Literary Supporting Character. I have chosen Sam from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.


Samwise Gamgee isn’t particularly brave, or particularly clever. Sam just got roped into this whole walk-into-Mordor malarkey because he wanted to hear a good story. In the beginning Sam has modest ambitions (glimpsing another Elf and maybe seeing an oliphaunt) and fussily worries more about Frodo’s wellbeing than Middle Earth’s. He’s the most homesick of all the hobbits, but it never once occurs to him to turn back because Sam is, above all things, loyal.

His loyalty and his love for Frodo push Sam further from home than he has ever been before. They take him right into Mordor, and right into heartbreak.

"Don't leave me here alone...Don't go where I can't follow!"

But hobbits, as Gandalf reminds us, can still surprise us. And Sam does the most surprising thing of all: he becomes a hero. When Frodo finds the weight of the Ring too great to continue, Sam does the only thing he can: he carries Frodo and the Ring, all the way to the end.


Sam saves the world. 


Who is your favourite literary supporting character? 


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