Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fun with Stereotypes

Busy week this week, so here's a fun thing I found on Youtube. It's from Smith and Jones, a brilliant sketch comedy show from the eighties. Nobody does comedy like the Brits. 

So here they are, a bunch of stereotypes we all recognise: 

What are you up to this week? 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cohabiting with lizards

My house is full of lizards.

Specifically, geckos. I like geckos. I always have, but that’s a geographical thing. I mean I don’t know for sure, but there are probably places in the world where you don’t look up at the ceiling and see this, right:

I currently have eleven geckos. I counted them last night. But it’s been a while since a new bunch hatched, so I’m sure there will be a crop of tiny pink translucent babies appearing shortly. I will have to come up with some new names.

All my geckos have names that start with G. Gordon, obviously. Goliath, the largest, then Gary, Graham and Gargamel. Even though I have eleven geckos, I don't need more than five names because, honestly, who can tell the difference between them? 

The geckos live behind picture frames and in my fez during the day. They come out at night and eat insects. In a city that has occasional outbreaks of both Ross River and dengue fever, I appreciate their mosquito-killing abilities.

When I bought my house, the geckos didn’t know about cats. It was a killing field that first week. Now, the geckos stick to the ceiling and the architraves. I don’t know how many generations of geckos it’s been since I moved in, but they’ve obviously developed some sort of genetic memory that warns them the floor is dangerous territory.

Geckos are very territorial. They fight a lot amongst themselves. Sometimes, if a moth lands in the middle of the ceiling, three or four geckos will make a dash for it at once. Usually this is where I stop watching TV and watch the ceiling instead. It’s like a cross between Animal Planet and Spartacus up there. It’s vicious.

Geckos can shed their tails when they’re in danger. This is truly disgusting. And weird. And I mentioned disgusting, right? Okay, it’s evolutionarily fascinating, but come on! The cats don’t fall for it anymore, and I hate having to pick the tails up. I hate how they keep twitching even though they’re not attached. I hate how they tickle in the palm of my hand. It’s more like demonic possession than biology. Detached limbs should not move.

Scientists will tell you that geckos stick to the ceiling because of their toepads. I don’t believe this. I believe they do it by the power of concentration. And sometimes this concentration lapses and — splat! — a shell-shocked gecko is suddenly on the floor instead, wondering what the hell just happened. 

Geckos have taught me a lot about situational awareness. Before I take the lid off this pot on the stove, I will look above me and make sure I’m not about to scald some gecko and have him fall to his death into tonight’s dinner. Before I hit the button to boil the kettle, I’ll make sure it's uninhabited. That way a parboiled gecko won’t come sliding out into my coffee, and I won’t have to wonder how many cups I made, and drank, before he was dislodged.

Both true stories. Not mine, thankfully.


What wildlife do you share your life with? 

(Next week I'll introduce you to my window sill frog, Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle. The second. The original died of old age.) 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Inspiration: Sweet Lullaby

This is the video for one of my favourite songs: Sweet Lullaby by Deep Forest. The song sampled is a traditional song from the Solomon Islands called  Rorogwela. My fellow Aussies might remember this song and the accompanying video as the ad for the TV channel SBS in the 90's.

The ad finished with the tagline and voice over: The world is an amazing place. 

Sure is. 

Where are you finding your inspiration today?  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reasons Why I Love It When I Hate My Day Job

Or, How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Get High On Carpet Cleaning Fumes.

1. Sometimes when I get my notebook out and scribble angry sentences in it, it makes me feel better to know that my employer is unwittingly paying me to write.

I do all my heavy-duty imagining in work time. I might be looking at you with a serious face and an attentive tilt of the head, but inside I’m somewhere else entirely. And it feels right.

2. When I hate my job, I visualise my escape plan. Do I want to be here in ten years? Hell, some days I don’t want to be here in ten minutes.

 I like to imagine working somewhere with luxuries like windows. And a fire escape. You know, things like that. But I’m not going to get mad, I’m going to get even. I’m not making enough money yet to quit my job, but I know that it’s possible and that gives me a goal.

3. Hating my job gives me valuable material for building characters who also hate their jobs.

Sometimes it feels like every character in a book is something cool like an architect or a graphic designer or a doctor: those sorts of jobs where you had a dream as a kid and went to university and pursued it. Fine, but what about the rest of us who slacked off at school, bummed around at uni, and then sort of fell into jobs that pay okay but aren’t exactly a raison d’être?

4. My job gives me an unparalleled opportunity to speak to interesting people from all walks of life. People affected by drugs, alcohol, mental illness and, sometimes the trifecta: the heady combination of all three. A woman once said to me, “I wouldn’t trust him as far as a cheese rolling down the street.”

Please, tell me more. Unburden all your crazy on me. It’s all grist for the mill.

And that is hands down the best thing about being a writer: we can use anything and everything, and we do. And that’s kind of awesome. 

(I don’t really hate my day job. Or I don’t always hate my day job. Well, sometimes I don’t hate my day job…but last week just kinda sucked.) 


The day job. Passionate about it, detest it, or just figure you'll keep turning up as long as they keep paying you? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I once read somewhere that you should write with your audience in mind. 

Insert Audience Here
This confuses me, mostly because the audience isn't real. Or, it is, but so far it's made up of one unimpressed cat who knows it's time for her dinner, and a spider hanging from a web on the ceiling that I have called Simon. 

(The spider, not the ceiling. The ceiling doesn't have its own name. That would be like naming my hair. The ceiling is an extension of my house, which is called House. I know that because that time I was leaving for work before the cyclone, I hugged an architrave and whispered, "Please be here when I get back, House. I keep all my favourite things in you. Like the dog, and the cats. And Simon." 

That bit about Simon might be a lie. I'm not really that fond of spiders and don't care if they blow away in cyclones.


Despite the books that advise it, I don't even have a hypothetical audience in mind when I write. There's no room for them in my head what with all the plot and character craziness I've got to carry. And it feels pointless at this stage of the game. If dreaming up my acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature is considered jumping the gun, why isn't writing to the audience? 

I'm not setting out to alienate every human being on the planet when I write a story, but neither am I setting out to engage them. Because I'm not thinking that far ahead. Will my story suit 15-16 year old girls? Will it suit 12-14 year old boys? What about women aged 21-25? 


(The obvious answer is: anyone who reads my story. However, this isn't an acceptable answer in marketing terms.) 

So is my story marketable? I don't know that either. I'm not writing to market demand because, firstly, I don't understand market demand, and, secondly, that seems like a waste of time. Things change fast in the world of publishing. Today's hot YA romantic zombie dystopian spec-fic paranormal is tomorrow's... um... something uncool. 

When I write I'm not thinking about audience. I'm not thinking about the market. 

I'm only thinking about telling the story that I want to tell. 

I hope the rest will follow. 

Do you have an audience or a market in mind when you write? 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rhyming is Fun. Join me!

“If I lived in Bowen,” Daimon said the other night at work, “I’d start a tow truck company called Towin’ in Bowen.”

Okay, so maybe it was a slow night, or maybe we’d all had too much caffeine, but we came up with quite the comprehensive list. How could we stop? This is advertising GOLD, people! 

Horseshoe Bay Bowen: Source

The garden maintenance company – Mowin’ in Bowen
White water rafting – Rowin’ in Bowen
The travel agency – Goin’ to Bowen
The hairdresser -  Froin’ in Bowen
The tanning salon – Glowin’ in Bowen
The plumber – Flowin’ in Bowen
The storage facility – Stowin’ in Bowen
The cinema: - Now Showin’ in Bowen
The brothel – Blowin’ in Bowen. Or Hoin’ in Bown
And the new name for the Bowen Police? Po-poin’ in Bowen


If you lived in Bowen, what company would you start?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review Etiquette

Okay, so I've discovered Goodreads. Not as a reader, which would be awesome, but as a writer, which is ... terrifying. 

The psychology of the writer is weird -- well, mine is. We spend ages creating these words and people in this caffeine-and-sleep-deprivation-fuelled vacuum. Then we come out of our caves, blinking in the light, and tentatively show a few people: a beta reader, an editor, a publisher... 

Then the WHOLE WORLD can read our book. And they do. And then they go on Goodreads and talk about it. And then they review it. And sometimes it's horrible. 

You know the golden rule, right? DON'T RESPOND TO REVIEWS. Not even the good ones, seriously. And I'll tell you why: it's actually none of your business. I mean that. It's counter-intuitive, but it's true: what someone thinks about the book you wrote is none of your business. They bought the right to broadcast their opinion when they bought your book. 


If you respond to good reviews, you'll look like you're toadying. And, more importantly, you weren't invited to comment. If a reviewer is enough of a fan to email you, that's different. That's AWESOME when that happens, but it's in a different forum. Review sites are for readers, not writers. 

And if you respond to bad reviews...oh god, just don't. Please, just don't. Because we've all seen how that works out. You will come across as crazy, egotistical, crazy, rude, and did I mention batshit crazy? And do you know who will remember just how crazy you are when your next book comes out? Those same  reviewers on Goodreads. And they will not be rushing out to buy your new release, that's for sure. 

Just remember: for every one star review you get, you will also get a five star. Your neurotic writer brain will fixate on the one star, of course: OMG, why doesn't someone I've never met IRL detest my story so much? WHYYYY????  

Please note I said "detest my story". If that one star review actually attacks you personally -- and it happens -- then report it to a moderator. But DON'T RESPOND TO THE REVIEW. 

If someone asks you a direct question about a plot point or a character's motivation, feel free to answer them. But if they say in their review that your plot was crap and your character's were all over the place, they're not talking to you. DON'T RESPOND TO THE REVIEW. 

We clear on this?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-changes (eh-eh-eh-editing)

I do not suffer from Delicate Flower Syndrome. Seriously, I have that in writing from an  email from a managing editor to an editor. 

Kill my darlings? Sure. Line them up against the wall and pass me a gun. No blindfolds. I want to see their faces as they weep and beg for mercy. 

Which brings me to today's post. Ch-ch-ch-changes. Whether it's constructive criticism or editorial directions, how well do you cope with making changes? 

The last book I wrote, the publisher said they would prefer it if I changed the ending. They would offer me a contract either way, but they would prefer it if I changed the ending. 

My first thought was: "But I like the ending. I wrote the whole thing leading up to that ending." 

My second thought was: "Yeah, I'm keeping the ending because they said they'll publish it either way." 

My third through to about my sixteenth thoughts all ran along those lines. But my seventeenth thought was the killer: 

"Hold on a minute. These guys are the professionals. They have experience, both as writers and as publishers, and they think a different ending will make my story better." 

If you're an artiste, stop reading now. If, like me, you see yourself as more like an artisan, you won't be offended by what I've got to say. Which is this:

Get over yourself and learn to adapt. 

If your beta readers suggest a change, consider it. If you have at least three or four beta readers and they all suggest the same change, that's what's called a consensus, and you'd be an idiot to ignore it. 

If your publisher suggests a change, consider it. They're a publisher. They know what will sell. They do this shit for a living. 

If an editor suggests a change, consider it.  Because your editor knows more than you about editing. That's why she's an editor and you're not. 

And guys, I'm not talking about the big stuff, the absolute-heart-of-the-story stuff. If they try to change that, then take a step back. Don't cross the line. The line is different for everyone, but you'll know it when you see it. And if you see it, don't sign the contract.

But once you make the decision that you're in this for real, once you're on the track to publication, then it's not just about you anymore. It's a team effort between your publisher, your editors, the cover art people, the advertising guys, and even that woman in accounting who sent you that nice email welcoming you aboard. 

And if you can't be a part of the team, you're playing the wrong game. 


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