Monday, January 31, 2011

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

I bought The Hunger Games trilogy because I’d heard a lot of buzz, and because I found the box set in Big W. Also because I’d just finished night work, hadn’t slept, and tend to spend money compulsively when I’m tired. It hasn’t always worked out for me in the past – hello, milkshake maker! - but this time it was money well spent.



I’ve been burned by buzz in the past. The first book I ever bought just because everyone was talking about it was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Again, money well spent. However, when the time came I borrowed Twilight off a teenager. I read the next one just to see if something had happened yet. And then the next one. All credit to Stephanie Meyer for tapping the market the way she did and for inspiring kids to read, but I really didn’t like Twilight. I prefer my vampires threatening, not sparkly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

An update on Anthony

So, Anthony didn't show. As I post this, he is hitting Bowen. And, after a day of stressful anticipation, it's hard not to feel strangely cheated. As a mate said: I think I'll go outside, knock down a few trees, and turn the power off just do I didn't waste all that preparation. 

I prefer not to think of it as wasted preparation. I suspect Cyclone Anthony was this week's practice cyclone. Because hard on his heels comes Yasi, and she (I think she's a she, I'm not good on Fijian names) is big: 

Anthony is the teensy swirl at the bottom left. Yasi is the monster of a thing on the right currently menacing Vanuatu. The disorganised smudge at the top left is probably the one after that. It's going to be an interesting week... And, because I'm being optimistic, also the perfect time to get the inspiration for that story I've always wanted to write set during a cyclone! 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Visit from Anthony

I wanted to have a nap this afternoon, but now I can’t. I have to clean up my house because Anthony is coming. I’ve never met Anthony but everyone’s talking about him today. And he’s going to turn up at about 5 am on Monday morning. Or is he? He’s like those people that promise for weeks they’re coming to that thing you organised, and don’t bother showing up in the end. All that anticipation, all that stress, all that work, for nothing. But I’ll try not to hold it against Anthony if he changes his mind because Anthony is a Tropical Cyclone: 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Hundred Different Stories Here

Jack Marx, the author of Australian Tragic, has written a blog post about suicides. Being historical suicides, we can read through them without feeling too ghoulish or intrusive. Suicide then or suicide now, the question is the same: why? It might be hypocritical, but the passage of time allows us the opportunity to speculate as much as we want. It is an exercise in imagination, filling the blanks – and there are a lot – with the little what-ifs that we use to flesh out our own characters.

There are a lot of entries that speak of alcoholism, unemployment, broken relationships and hopelessness, but many more that don’t have any easy answers. I was intrigued by the twenty-one year old philosophy student Percival Andrew Taylor, who in 1938 drank cyanide. His suicide note, which ran to two and a half pages, finished with: “I believe there is one thing we shall never know: We shall never know that we are dead.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Plotter or pantser?

There are two types of writers, apparently, those who plot, and those who fly by the seat of their pants. I am a pantser. It’s why I have a gazillion unfinished pieces, ranging from a couple of interesting paragraphs to massive sweeping epics shoved haphazardly into my failing cabinet. I am also the most disorganised person in the world. I can’t open my filing cabinet anymore. This is partly because the drawer is busted, but mainly because I’m too afraid of what I might find in there. I mean, some of that stuff dates back to Grade Eight. And it’s largely crap. I keep it for nostalgic reasons, I suppose, and in case any burglars may want to blackmail me in the future. I’m thoughtful like that.

I envy plotters. I aspire to be one. I try to write index cards, and chapter overviews, and character profiles, and, oh, it lasts about a day before I realise it’s just too much hard work. Also, I suspect that if I allowed it I would just use it as the ultimate form of procrastination. What? I can’t possibly write my novel, I’m too busy planning it!

I am a pantser. It’s good, at the beginning, when you start off with nothing but a few vague ideas and a rush of enthusiasm. Unfortunately for me, that enthusiasm is never enough to carry me through to the end. Sadly, novels are not like meandering streams. Well, mine are, and that’s the problem. Hither and thither they dart, burbling happily and exploring their way, and then all of a sudden they peter out into a sludgy little mess. This would be the point where the plotters could take out their index cards, play around with the weft and the weave of the narrative, and push on. When I get to this point I tend to lose interest and get distracted by another half-arsed idea.

My resolution for 2011: Strike a balance. Start with more than a picture of a character in my head. Write a synopsis. Write chapter overviews, broken into basic scenes. Write the theme on a Post-it note and stick it on my computer. Look at it occasionally. And, when the moment comes to diverge in an entirely unexpected direction, still go with it because it’s always fun to explore. I just need to find a way to do it without getting totally bushwhacked. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Queensland Floods

Time for a serious post. I don’t do serious very often, but I’ve got a good reason today.

The Queensland floods have devastated the state. For those overseas, the area affected is bigger than France and Germany combined. It is bigger than Texas. At least twenty-five towns have been flooded, and many more cut off. Approximately 200 000 people have been affected, to say nothing of businesses, farms and industries. This will cripple us for years to come.

Today, the town of Toowoomba was hit by a wall of water. Four people have been confirmed dead, and three children who were washed away remain missing. The death toll is unknown at this stage. On the 6th of January it stood at ten, but that was four long days ago. Emergency services are already stretched to breaking point. 


Toowoomba

In 1893 in the town of Gatton a record flood peak was recorded of 16.33 metres. Last night it was at 18.92 metres.

Brisbane is bracing for tomorrow, with fears the Wivenhoe Dam won't be able to hold back the worst. The floods are now starting to affect northern New South Wales as well.

And, in the catchment areas, the rain is still falling.

Read more and see the pictures here: News.com.au.

To donate please visit either the Premier’s Flood Appeal  here or visit Red Cross Australia here

In Australia, phone 1800 219 028, or visit any major bank to make a donation. 

Melbourne

I am going to Melbourne in two days, with my sister Kath and my friend Kate, to celebrate my birthday. It will be more of a celebration for Kath, I think, since it will give her time off from the kids, but I’m looking forward to it. I have never been to Melbourne before, which is not as strange as it sounds.

Reason 1: It is too far to drive. It would take days.

Reason 2: Whenever I have the money and the time and look at flights and travel times, I realise I could actually be in Vanuatu in less time for just about the same price, and you all know how I feel about Vanuatu…  ah, Vanuatu. 

But this time I am going to Melbourne, despite having nothing planned and no idea of what to expect. I could have looked it up, but I’m looking forward to going in blind. I like surprises.

Here is the brief list of things I know about Melbourne.

1. Melbourne was founded by a guy called Batman. I remember that from Grade 6 Social Studies. Who could forget it, right?

2. It has trams. Trams are what cause Victorian drivers to do the death-defying stunt known as the hook-turn. This is where, if you want to turn right, you swing as far left as possible first. Nobody knows why exactly. People just mutter mysteriously about the trams.

3. Underbelly. In Melbourne, Vince Colosimo might shoot you.

Find out about Underbelly at IMDb



4. Melbourne has a zoo.

Here endeth the lesson. After my holiday I hope to have more to share.

And, if anyone has any tips on what to see or do in Melbourne, let me know! 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bislama

At the moment I am leaving Ancient Rome behind me and playing around with a few new ideas. I have always wanted to write something where several of the characters know a language other than English. Since this story is set in the Pacific, I have chosen Bislama, from Vanuatu. Bislama began as a pidgin English, but is now an officially recognised language. It is similar to Pijin, spoken in the Solomon Islands, and Tok Pisin, spoken in Papua New Guinea. Here are a few of my favourite Bislama words:

Bagarap – broken

Solwota – sea

Bebi - baby

Hoknaet – owl

Fuldrong – completely drunk

Sipos – if

Lelebet – a little

Kilim – to hit *

A lot of Bislama can be followed by English speakers with the right ear, a bit of patience and a lot of leeway. But in the early days it was a clash of cultures as well, where a very new and somewhat limited language was used to describe totally alien objects. The saw:

Wanfala samting blong kaekae wud; i kam i go i kamback; brata blong tamiok.

Literally: Something which eats wood, it comes and goes and comes back again; brother of the axe.

The description of the saw comes from Evri Samting Yu Wantem Save Long Bislama Be Yu Fraet Tumas Blong Askem (Everyting You Wanted to Know about Bislama but Were Afraid to Ask) by Darrell Tryon. It is available from Amazon but do yourself a favour and visit Vanuatu instead, where you can pick up a copy cheap in Port Vila.



* When I was five and living in New Guinea, but not quite bilingual yet, I ran screaming from a girl who threatened in Tok Pisin to kilim me. Kilim ded would have been a death threat. Kilim was just a slapping, and I’d probably mouthed off and deserved it.   

Monday, January 3, 2011

Things I Wish Would Move Out Of My House: Part 2: The Toilet Frog

The Toilet Frog is a frog that appears every night in my bathroom in the wet season. He comes in, gets covered in dust and dog hair, and waits for me to rescue him. I wet my hands, clean him off, and then put him out the window. And I know it’s the same frog, because he knows the drill. The first few times he tried to get away, but now he just gives me a narrow look: I’ve been here for ages. Where the hell were you? 

The Toilet Frog looks a little like the frog in this picture, although the frog in this picture is a lot more sensible frog than the Toilet Frog. The frog in this picture is my favourite sort of frog: an outside frog.


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