Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm home!

I’m back! I have no money, I still haven’t unpacked my suitcase, and I’m pretty sure the scratching sound in the ceiling means a possum has moved in while I was away, but I’m back from my convention in Chicago.



If you ever get the chance to go to a convention, take it. Not just for the workshops and the networking, but for the chance to actually meet fans. I’m not actually sure I have the words to explain what an absolute thrill it is when someone says, “Oh! I love your books!”

Writing, to me, is something that happens late at night, usually when I’m in my pyjamas. It’s a thing I do to entertain myself, primarily. The idea that it might entertain others is so far removed from the process that it doesn’t feel real.

Until Chicago, writing was an online activity for me. I communicated with my publishers, editors, co-writers and readers through email, Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes parcels of books arrived in the mail and I get stowed in the box under the bed in the spare room, but that’s as real as it ever got. Until Chicago.

Until I was sitting at a table and there were people lined up in front of it, with books for me to sign. My books. Also, I had to remember to sign in my pseudonym, which was fun! And some people actually wanted pictures taken with me. And—get this—some people actually got flustered when talking to me, because they were nervous. Ha! Nervous of meeting me! I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before in my life.

Suddenly, my perspective has shifted. Writing isn’t just a solitary something that I do now. That part of it—the part where I eat Barbecue Shapes and sing loudly along to Aussie rock from the 1980s—is only a very small part of the big picture.

Meeting fans—readers who are as excited about your stories as you are—is so much fun, and I hope I never get tired of it. And seeing the big picture inspires me to keep writing, and, most importantly, to keep my enthusiasm for writing. Because even though writing is becoming more and more like a job for me, it’s also a complete privilege.


And it’s great to be reminded of that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I know three things about Chicago:

Here are the three things I know about Chicago. 

This: 


This: 


And this: 



Oh wait, let's make that four things. I know that I'll be there on Friday for my first ever writers' convention, and I'll be signing stuff for people and trying to remember to answer when they call me by my pseudonym. 

And hey, if I totally stuff things up, at least it all happens under a fake name in a foreign country, am I right? 

See you in three weeks! 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Write Like Nobody's Watching

So, everything here happened under my pseudonym. Which most people still don't know. Although some people at work like shouting it out to see if I look up. I generally don't. It's going to be awkward in about 2 weeks when I'm at a convention and people call me by "name". 

That bitch, they'll think. She just ignored me. I'll never buy one of her books again! 

I think I'd better write my pseudonym on my hand or something. 

Anyway. 

Back in 2012 (I think!) I published a book that turned out to be fairly popular. If you're into romance. But I mean, people really, really liked it. I wasn't sure that they would -- I wasn't sure that I did -- but I've never been a good judge of my own work. It's why I took so long to submit anything. 

And before you know it, a few people had asked if there would be a sequel. 

And I said yes. 

I say yes to most crazy ideas. If I didn't, I'd never get anything done. 

But here's the thing. I've started that sequel at least 4 different times, and I can't get it past 25 000 words. Because I know people are waiting to read it. 

For me, releasing a book is like dropping a stone into a well. You might hear it hit the surface, you might not. You don't care. You've got other stones. It doesn't even matter. In fact, you're bored now, so you should probably go inside and watch some TV for a while. 

source
Basically, the key to not stressing about how a book is received is to be distracted by shiny things and oblivious to what's going on all around you. This is a role I've been practicing my entire life. 

I write like nobody's watching, because nobody is. I take weird plot detours, strange shortcuts, and if I want to kill a main character just for the hell of it, why not? I'm the only one invested in this, after all. 

Well, I was. 

Because people are waiting to read it. 

I've stalked reviews and discussions on Goodreads. I know what people want, and what they don't want. And I think that maybe that was a mistake. I think that now I'm too fixated on giving people a sequel that lives up to their expectations, instead of just writing the book that I want to write, and, when the time comes, dropping that pebble in the well again. 

I've never tried to write anything before with the weight of expectations on me. It's flattering, but it's also a little bit crippling. 

So my goal for the next few weeks is to stop worrying, stop overthinking it, and get back to writing like nobody's watching. 

Wish me luck! 


Thursday, September 25, 2014

What the hell just happened to Harry Potter?

It’s one of those news stories you hope can’t be real. A writer in the fan fiction world , claiming to be an evangelical Christian, has rewritten Harry Potter. It may be satire. I hope it’s satire, but sometimes it’s so hard to tell. I mean, I want to believe that no halfway intelligent person in the world would think that Harry Potter is satanic, let alone that this dross is an improvement, but you should never underestimate people’s capacity for stupidity.



Here’s an exchange between Harry and Hermione:

"This is the boys' dormitory," the devout young woman explained kindly; and she gestured to the heavy, oak door beside them. "I would show you inside; but I would hate to cause a scandal."
"I understand," Harry declared graciously. Too many young men these days pressure young women into things undesired and forbidden. It is the mark of a true, old-fashioned gentleman to respect the fact that every young woman is another man's future wife. And we all know that it would be a dreadful, terrible sin to bring another man's wife into intimacy. Why does modern culture suddenly treat that as okay simply because he does not have her yet? Man's laws may permit it; but the laws of the Lord are not bound by time.

And here’s Harry "defending" women when Malfoy says they shouldn’t have careers because they are stupid:

"Women shouldn't not have careers because women are stupid!" Harry shouted indignantly. "Women are not stupid at all! Women should not have careers because women are nurturing and loving and their gifts serve them best in the home!"

Thanks so much, Harry. Nice to know you've got my back.

But it’s this line that really makes me hope it’s satire. Aunt Petunia is explaining to Hagrid that she doesn’t want Harry to go to Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles:

“Thank you very much for your concern, sir, but he does not need your religion, he has science and socialism and birthdays.” 

Genius.

I like the fan fiction world. I love it, in fact. But I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite this weird before. And I’m saying that as someone who knows what “sour skittles” means. (You might not want to Google that at work.) And this is much, much weirder than that.

So far Snopes has this one listed as "mixture". The rewritten story is absolutely real, but nobody seems to know if it’s taking the piss or not.

Check it out here at fanfiction.net, and let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unreliable Memories

In a previous blog post I talked a little about how memory is a strange thing. A magical ship full of books turns out, after a talk with my mum and a bit of Googling, to be the MV Logos, a missionary ship.

Missionaries.

Sometimes it even sounds made up to me, that I lived in a place of volcanos and cargo cults and earthquakes, a place that missionaries visited, and we had a houseboy…and could I in fact sound any more like the British in India?

Arawa.
Source: my amazing paradise.
Scrolling through the photos on this post was like revisiting my childhood.

My mum loves to tell a story about when my sister Kath was high school geography and they were studying Papua New Guinea. Every day Kath came home and filled her in:

Today we learned that there are over 800 languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, but I already knew that because we lived there.

Today we learned the copper and gold are the main exports of Papua New Guinea, but I already knew that because we lived there.

And so on.

Until one day she raced home, aghast: Mum! Did you know that Papua New Guinea is a third world country?

We didn’t, of course, because we’d lived there. We were kids. Kids don’t pick up on stuff like that, necessarily. Kids take things as they come. Some people lived in houses like we did, and some people lived in dirt-floor huts in the bush. To Kath and me that was a fact, and there was nothing remarkable about it at all.

I remember when I jumped off the bed and Dad failed to catch me, and I went face-first into the corner of a trunk, that there was a lot of blood. There was also a trip to the hospital and a heap of medication. I remember that when Nick, our houseboy, slashed his leg open cutting the grass with his machete, Dad drove him to the hospital too. Except Nick wasn’t a four-year-old white kid with parents who were rich by local standards. So Dad had to help the hospital staff hold him down while the gaping wound in his leg was stitched up. No anaesthetic.

So I guess that New Guinea might have been a third world country for most of its population—the sort of place that missionaries still visit—but not for the expats. We were doing okay.

Maybe this is where my love of unreliable narrators comes from. Because we are all unreliable narrators, to some extent. It’s why police can interview four different people who witnessed the exact same event, and get four completely different statements.

Memory is incredibly malleable. It’s not a matter of playing back images. Our minds are not editing rooms where we can play back the footage, freeze it, and zoom in. Everything we take in is subject to so many different layers of interpretation and bias before we even begin to process it into memory, that by the time it comes to relating it, it may bear no resemblance to what actually happened. We don’t just regurgitate memories, we interpret them and reshape them first.  And that’s okay. That’s human nature. It’s an important part of what makes us what we are. We are always trying to make sense of things, not just to experience, but to understand.

And I think, for most of us, it’s a part of why we write as well.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dog Days

Twelve years ago, I got a dog. Last week, I had that dog put to sleep, and it will be a long time before I stop missing her. But I thought I’d share the story of how I got her.

A baby photo of Cleo

I’d wanted a puppy for a long time. Except my mum said I couldn’t get one while I was still living out the back of her place. So I bought my own house. I’m sure people buy houses for dumber, more juvenile reasons, but I’ve yet to hear one. But it’s okay, I like my house.

Anyway. I wanted a yellow Labrador. The yellow Lab we’d had when I was growing up had been the sweetest, most loving, most patient dog in the world. Also, I wanted a breed I could pretty much trust. And Labs are total sooks.

One day, I saw puppies advertised in the paper. I phoned the lady up. Yes, they had one female yellow Lab left, and yes, they could keep her for me for a few hours.

Road trip!

In hindsight, I could have waited for a dog to become available somewhere around the city. But I didn’t, and ten minutes later I was knocking on Mum’s door asking if I could borrow her car because it was more roadworthy than mine, and also if she could come with me on a drive to Euramo, 200 kilometres north along the highway. And I really, really needed her to come, because someone had to hold my puppy on the way home…

You know, that woman spent my entire childhood telling me I couldn’t have any more puppies, kittens, mice or, that one time, a monkey. And guess what? Suddenly she was looking at her allegedly adult daughter, and what could she say? So she only shook her head, gave me the car keys and climbed into the passenger seat.

Euramo is a tiny little town which it turns out is famous for one thing: it is the UFO capital of North Queensland. I did not know this at the time, but I do feel it explains a lot.

When we got there, I met Cleo for the first time. So, so cute. A round little yellow lab who, when she lay down, had a protruding layer of puppy fat that made it appear as though she was squashing a smaller, less fortunate puppy underneath her. Of course it was love. And of course I was going to take her, but not until I did some due diligence and met her mother.

Her mother was lovely, sedate, and I suspect secretly relieved I was taking one of the pups. Beautiful temperament, I told my mum, and my mum begrudgingly agreed.

I paid the money. I got my puppy. And then, on the way out, I passed a large cage with a very hyperactive Lab in it. I have never in my life seen a Lab that could jump that high, and from a standing start. He was like Tigger. On crack. And he barked every time he hit his high point.

“Henry!” the lady said. “Henry! Henry! Henry!

Bounce. Bark. Bounce. Bark. Bounce. Bark bark bark.

“He’s excitable,” my mother said.

“Oh yes,” said the lady, and then patted Cleo on the head. “He’s the father.”

My mother looked horrified.

“It’s too late now,” I whispered. “I’ve already paid.”

Luckily Cleo took after her mother: short and round. She might have been as silly as a wheel, like Henry, but she never had the reach to bounce as high as he did. She could, however, knock dishes of cat food off the kitchen counter right up until the end, despite her arthritis. I think I knew things were getting serious when she didn’t even try anymore. Luckily Grub, the cat, could be relied upon to knock it down onto the floor for her. Teamwork.

On the drive back from Euramo, Mum held Cleo in her lap and made me promise to take her to dog training. I did, for weeks, until I was too embarrassed to continue. After all that time she was still the only dog there who confused “Sit!” for “Fling yourself onto the ground, show everyone your belly, wriggle like you've got ants in your pants, and get tangled in your lead.” 

In the end, she only ever responded to two commands. And only occasionally. One was, “You sit, you drop, I rub your belly.” Which isn’t a command, I guess, as much as a negotiation. The other was “Swap!” which was shorthand for “Please don’t eat whatever you’ve just stolen. Look! Here are some cat biscuits to bribe you with!” 

But she was very good at living with a shift worker. “Cleo," I could tell her at any time of day. “It's bed time.” And she’d wander into my room with me and go to sleep.

We never did figure out that owner/dog hierarchy.

Once, we were sitting on the couch watching TV and – bang!—a car backfired in the street. We both jumped, and stared at each other wide-eyed.

“You go and check it out,” I whispered at last. “You’re the dog.”

But I don’t think she believed me.



Friday, September 12, 2014

The Book Ship

Memory is an interesting thing. Today when I was at work I caught a bit of a TV segment on mobile libraries. Basically, busses that drive around full of books. We used to have a mobile library in my city, but I haven’t seen it pulled in up at the park for a while. Maybe we don’t have it anymore.

So, catching a few minutes of that program, I suddenly remembered something similar, but altogether more magical, from my childhood:

A ship full of books.

Maybe a boat. I was about five. It seemed as big as a cargo ship to me, but probably wasn’t. It seemed magical too, but it probably wasn't. 

source

We were living in Arawa at the time – a town that has been pretty much wiped off the map thanks to the civil war in Bougainville – but if there was a ship, it would have come to the port at Kieta. I don’t remember much about the drive to Kieta. Just lots of jungle, and, after a sharp turn, a clearing at the edge of the road with a single hut in it. There were always chickens outside that hut and, sometimes, an old man sitting on a stump outside.

I knew we were halfway to Kieta, or halfway home, when we passed that hut sitting in a clearing carved out of the jungle.

The book ship was special. It was a big deal. I don’t know who ran it – some sort of missionary group, maybe – but to step inside was to feel overwhelmed by choice. I’d never seen so many books. It was probably every book in the world!

There weren’t any book shops in Arawa. The local supermarket – Ples Bilong Sun Kamap – stocked Golden Books, but Golden Books lose their lure quite quickly, don’t they? There’s not much of a challenge in a Golden Book. And the books we got from school weren’t very exciting either. I still hate Sam, Pam, Digger the dog and Nat the cat.

So to step onto a ship full of books – rows and rows of shelves, bigger than any library I could remember – was like stepping into a magical wonderland. It was like a birthday and Christmas all rolled into one. I chose a picture book about cats. I still have it somewhere, even though the dustcover has been torn and the pages are stained and dog-eared. I loved that book so much when I was a kid. Looking back, it’s not the book I love as much as the story of how I got that book – that mysterious ship full of books that arrived one day and was gone the next, vanishing on the glittering blue waters of the Pacific like a dream.



*** 

And thanks so much to everyone who left a comment on my post about losing Cleo. Seriously, anyone who thinks that online friendships aren't as important as "real" ones, is doing it wrong. My co-writer Jill sent me a picture she took of Cleo when she was visiting Australia last November. It was Cleo sneaking into the guest room wearing her "I love you. Do you have food?" face. 



She wore that face 90% of the time. It worked well for her. 




Monday, September 8, 2014

Ouch

Well, this isn't the sort of post I'd intended to kickstart the blogging again, but...well, it's what happened. 

On paper, a dog shouldn’t mean so much. But often things aren’t the same on paper as they are in your heart.

Today I had to get Cleo put to sleep. The vet said it could take up to a minute, but it was a matter of seconds, really. She was old, and she was hurting, and she went very quickly.

So I’m a mess, of course.

Twelve years is a long time. I think it will take me a while to be able to go to sleep without listening for her claws clicking across the floors, as she’d flop down beside my bed with a long sigh before snoring like a chainsaw.


Cleo and her BFF Grub being accidentally photogenic recently.

Once upon a time – and I’ve probably told this story before – Cleo ate Christmas.

It was my first year in my own house, and I was going to make the latticed veranda beautiful. I went and spent a lot of money on Christmas lights and decorations, then spent hours threading them through the lattice. Hours, getting the spacing just right. My arms and shoulders were killing me by the time I was finished. I flicked the lights on once to make sure they worked.

God, it would look so good at night when I turned them on. I could hardly wait!

Then, studying the molding above the front door, I thought to myself, That would look great with a piece of tinsel above it.

I went inside to get some tinsel.

And, in the thirty seconds I was gone, the dog chewed through the power cord for the lights. Hours of painstaking work with a chair and a step ladder… ruined.

“We are never doing Christmas again!”

I pulled all the lights and the tinsel and the decorations down while I ranted and raved and had a meltdown, and the dog just sat and placidly watched me go insane.

“Never again!”

We did, of course. Lots of times. And Cleo never really lost the uncanny ability to hone in on the things I least wanted eaten, and eat them. My brother-in-law’s new expensive sunglasses. Books. Yummy crunchy CDs. Any bra she could reach.

She was fun and stupid and lazy and sneaky and sweet and stinky and happy and naughty and bouncy.

I’m going to miss her like hell.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Words go here.

I hate writing blurbs. 

I've written a lot of them now. Way, way too many. And I hate writing them just as much as I hate writing synopses. Luckily if I avoid writing synopses for long enough, my co-writer does them for me. She's awesome. I must send her more chocolate. 

A few months ago when it seemed like a really fun idea to write a comic crime caper trilogy -- still romance, I'm not looking this gift horse in the mouth yet -- I didn't think about how terrible it would be to have to write three blurbs at once. 

Blurb 1 is kind of done. It's the hard one. It has to set the scene. Who are these characters, and, most importantly, why should the reader care? 

Blurb 2, surprisingly, came together quite easily. 

But Blurb 3... I hate Blurb 3 with an passionate rage that will haunt me to the end of my days. 

Because it's book three. The people who buy it have already read the first two books, right? So why do I have to spell it all out again? Why can't my blurb just be: 

OMG, you guys. All that stuff that happened in the other books, this is where it all ends. The loose ends get tied up. There's a gunfight! A kidnapping! A murder! Not all in that order. And, yes, the characters finally get together! There are also funny bits. If you've stuck with us so far, this one is your pay off! 

I hate blurbs. 

On the plus side, I read the back of books a lot more critically now. I find myself evaluating other people's blurbs. What interests me about it? What do I love, and what do I hate? What makes me make that face? You know, this face: 



I've always believed that just like you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (but I do), you also shouldn't judge a book by its cover matter (but I do). Heaps of writers joke about the blurb being the hardest part of writing the book, and in a crazy way it is. 

That book? Well, that's 80 000 or so words to tell a story. The blurb? That's about two hundred. Condense your story into that, don't give out any spoilers, oh, and make sure you mention the theme, and the tone, and make it exciting enough that someone will want to buy it, but don't go over the top or you'll just end up with an annoyed reader. 

And can we have it by yesterday, please? 





Saturday, July 26, 2014

Adventures on the Internet

Here's an actual email I got recently: 

I really hope you get this quickly. I could not inform anyone about our trip, because it was impromptu. we had to be in Ukraine for Tour.. The program was successful, but our journey has turned sour. we misplaced our wallet and cell phone on our way back to the hotel we lodge in after we went for sight seeing. The wallet contained all the valuables we had. Now our passport is in custody of the hotel management pending when we make payment.

 I am sorry if i am inconveniencing you, but i have only very few people to run to now. i will be indeed very grateful if i can get a short term loan from you ($2,580). this will enable me sort our hotel bills and get my sorry self back home. I will really appreciate whatever you can afford in assisting me with. I promise to refund it in full as soon as soon as I return. let me know if you can be of any assistance. Please, let me know soonest.

Thanks so much.



Natalie




Good advice, Admiral. 

For incredibly obvious reasons, I didn't reply. But I like to think that in an alternate universe, my answer would have gone something like this: 


Dear Natalie, 

I'm so sorry to hear about your troubles with your Tour in Ukraine, and that your journey has turned sour after you went for sight seeing. I won't aware that hotels in Ukraine were so accommodating as to not demand payment upfront. What a warm and welcoming people the Ukrainians must be, despite their recent troubles. Recent troubles I'm quite surprised you didn't mention, to be honest. A few months ago, when all that stuff was going on in Egypt, I got heaps of emails from charming Egyptian people telling me about their political upheavals and resultant financial difficulties. That seems to be at thing now. The bombs are falling, quick, get on the internet and ask people for money! 

It was no inconvenience at all to receive your email. I'm glad you feel we're close enough that you can turn to me, but, well, this is a little embarrassing... I don't know anyone called Natalie. I did, when I was in Year Three, have a friend called Natalie. She went to Monto State Primary School. I don't know if you're the same Natalie or not. We never talked much about her ambitions to travel to Ukraine. We talked a lot about kittens and toys, from what I remember. And Battle of the Planets. Remember that one episode where the insecty-roboty things came out of what looked like Kinder Surprises and bodysnatched all the kids on the planet? That was a hell of an episode. 

So, if that's you, Natalie, hi, how's it going? What've you been up to since the eighties? Apart from misplacing your wallet and cell phone. 

You know, I don't like to be one of those "I told you so" people, but come on now. This is why we have travel insurance. And, to be honest, if you're the sort of person who goes to somewhere as unstable as Ukraine without travel insurance, well, I do feel that my lending you $2 580 dollars would be a little like throwing good money after bad. Also, all of my finances are currently tied up in a complicated scheme to assist the widow of a Nigerian general in getting access to his funds. I'm expecting several million dollars any day now, so when that comes through I'm sure I'll be able to review your situation more favourably. 

Thanks. 

Jen 


What really amazes me about these sort of emails, is they must be profitable, or why would anyone bother? But, seriously, who is falling for this amateur hour stuff? 


Saturday, July 19, 2014

I have lost my word book...

My word book isn't anything impressive to look at. It's just a cheap supermarket telephone/address index book. The cover has been falling apart for at least the past eight years. But, now that I've lost it, I feel slightly panicked that I'll never find it again and I'll always have these blind spots in my vocabulary because I won't remember what I don't know... 

I should probably start at the beginning. 

My mother was the first person I saw who used a word book. But she probably called it something smarter. Basically, whenever she read a book, she'd have a notebook with her. When she came across a word of phrase she didn't know, or one that interested her, she'd write it down and leave enough space to fill in a dictionary definition later. 

Eventually, I got my index book and did the same thing. 

I don't remember what was in there now. 

Obfusc was. Of course, I don't remember where I came across it, or what I liked so much about it to write it down. Probably during my I-can-learn-Latin phase! 

Odalisque was. And Janissary. I was reading a lot of books set in Turkey at the time. 

Tabby was. I liked something about the etymology of the word. Was it a sort of fabric named after a place, that people began to associate with the pattern on some cats? If I had my word book, I could tell you. 

source
But my word book didn't just have interesting words. It had necessary words. The ones I always stuff up. 

Amiable. 
Amenable. 
Amicable. 

My own personal triumvirate of evil. Because I always mix them up. And, even though there are three words, I only know two definitions. Amenable is agreeable, right? So one of the others means friendly. Or both of them do. I don't know. What's the difference between amiable and amicable? There is a difference -- I wrote it down. 

But then I lost the book. 

And now I'm secretly afraid it will come up somehow. 

"Well, which was he? Amiable, amenable or amicable? Hurry up and answer! This is IMPORTANT!" 

And I'll stand there with my mouth open, desperately searching for meaning. And only finding obfuscation. 






Sunday, July 13, 2014

Answer this question...

In my last post, I talked a little about writing down ideas so you can do blog posts for promo. Today, I’m talking a little about interviews.

I quite enjoy doing interviews on people’s blogs, because, with editing, I can sound much smarter and more amusing then I am in real life. In real life, over half of my statements being with “Um”. The other half begin with a shrug and a sigh. But on paper…move over Dorothy Parker.  (I wished.)

One thing I’ve noticed with interviews, is that invariably you will get asked when you decided to become a writer. For me, and I suspect for most other writers out there, this is difficult to answer. It’s not like I was happily living my life one day and, having just read a great book, suddenly had a lightbulb moment: Why, I bet I could write one of those things!

I’ve always written. From the moment I could. Well, even before.

From the moment I could talk, I wrote a diary. Well, my mum did all the writing parts. But basically, she would ask “What did we do today?” I would tell her, and she would write it down. A toddler’s full day usually compressed into one or two sentences:

I fell over.
I ate cheese.
I paddled in the sea.

When I was about four, I wrote my nan a poem about mice. This was the poem:

I think mice
are nice.

I believe it was illustrated.

source

Writing is one of life’s cheapest pleasures. It only takes a notebook and a pen, or a piece of paper and a crayon, and you’re all set up. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where books were valued. We all read. It was the most natural progression in the world to write as well. I’ve always been a writer. I wish I had some Road to Damascus moment to share about it, some superhero origin story, but I don’t. You might as well ask me when I first decided to start convert oxygen into carbon dioxide.

And yes, writing is a bit like breathing. Pretty sure I’d die if I couldn’t do it.


What about you? Do you have an origin story I could steal hear?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thinking Ahead

I know that when you’re writing, a few sentences in a Word doc (or whatever you use to write in) don’t feel like a book. They have the potential to be a book, but at the moment they’re not. They are so far away from being a book in fact, that apart from occasionally planning your speech for when you win the Booker Prize, you really don’t think far beyond today’s goal, whatever it may be.

Finish this scene.
Finish this paragraph.
Finish this damn sentence.

So here’s tip for you. On the chance that those sentences do one day become an actual, proper book, do yourself a favour and start thinking now about the things you’re writing. About the process. About the research.

Think about your influences. Think about your inspiration. Think about the themes.

Got a funny anecdote about writing this particular thing? Like the time you found yourself outside in the middle of the night because you needed to research how leaves smelled? (I wish this was a random thing I’d invented for this post, but I’ve done it…) Write it down now.



Because when that Word doc is a book, people are going to ask you questions.

You’re going to need to talk about this book in a lot of places, and to a lot of people, and you don’t want to keep repeating the same things over and over again.

You’re going to be expected to provide content for blog tours.

This month, my pseudonym has to write eight different blog posts for eight different guest spots. My brain hurts already.

In August, it’s nine. But that’s for a co-written book, so really it’s only four and a half.

September, it’s five. Pfft. Five? I had eight ideas written down for that blog tour! For once I'm ahead of the game.

So, make notes now, even if it seems like you’ll never possibly need them. Because if that random paragraph in front of you one day grows into its own book, you’ll thank yourself later.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Faking It

Last weekend I met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in years. One of them, since Goondiwindi State High School, at the other end of the state. And it turns out that now she lives only two blocks from me. Weird.

It was a lovely winter's morning. We met up at The Strand, and then we went to brunch.

The Strand. Last weekend. 

Anyway, it came up during brunch that I’ve had books published.

Wow. A writer.

And here’s the thing. I don’t feel like a writer. Because, despite being a published author now, I’m doing exactly the same thing I was doing in high school, back when I was writing a scurrilous, possibly slanderous, fake high school newsletter called Tales of Dungadindi High.

I’m still making stuff up to entertain people.

Rose says she has copies of Tales of Dungadindi High somewhere. I hope she’s lying.

It was a newsletter produced mostly during typing class. (I did all my best work there… including the open letter where I compared our new principal’s moustache to Hitler’s. Also, his management style.) It was photocopied on the sly either in the school library or in my dad’s office, and distributed around the school on a Monday morning.

Names were changed. Slightly. Embarrassing incidents were related in excruciating detail. Terrible things happened to teachers.

I like to think Tales from Dungadindi High enjoyed brief popularity. I know I wrote at least three issues before it fell into the hands of teaching staff and questions were asked. I’m pretty sure those teachers knew exactly who to blame as well, but I threw in my burgeoning career in literary satire to avoid bringing attention to my other burgeoning career – fraud.

Fifteen dollars was a lot of money to write a senior’s English assignment. And, for only another five, I wrote his acceptance speech for school captain. That kid was an open wallet to me that year.   

So maybe I’ve always been a writer, chasing both praise and a paycheque.

Maybe, like we all decided last weekend, none of us have grown up at all. We’re not really adults with commitments and jobs and mortgages and superannuation. Mentally, we’re still fifteen-year-old kids, freaking out in case someone notices we’re faking it.

But of course, unlike when we were fifteen, we won’t get in trouble nowadays if we drink cheap wine.

*** 
How about you? What was the first time you shared your writing, for love or money?

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