Tag Archives: writing

I wish it would rain

The full moon in cloud. So atmospheric.

The full moon in cloud. So atmospheric.

I know, it’s been far too wet in too many parts of Australia. Lake Eyre is still full, farmers in Tasmania and Victoria wish it would all lift its skirts and bugger off elsewhere and there’s STILL snow at Falls Creek. Western Queensland is well satisfied with the precipitation, thanks very much. But here along the Fraser Coast the grass is crunchy underfoot. And up North Fitzroy Crossing isn’t the only place watching the water levels. Bring on the monsoon.

Sure, I’ll complain about the rain when it gets too much, but in the meanwhile, a few inches would be nice.

I also wish the media would stop with sensationalising natural phenomena like the moon up there. We’re all so used to supermarkets going on about super sales and super size. But the fact is, the recent “Super” moon was just our regular old full moon at perigee-syzygy of the Earth–Moon–Sun system. Which means it’s at its closest point to Earth, so being closer, it looks a tad larger. Even so, if nobody told you, I expect you’d be none the wiser. You might say, “isn’t the moon bright tonight?” but that’s about it. It’s all rather well explained here, with a nifty diagram showing the actual difference in size to a ‘normal’ full moon.There’s also a reference to the apogee-syzygy, which has been called a micromoon. It’s not talked about much. We humans prefer to talk about larger sizes in all sorts of arenas.

That’s not a super moon in the photo, by the way. Personally, I think dear old Luna is pretty special all the time.

In other news, we attended my nephew’s wedding in Brisbane a few weeks ago. What a fun event it turned out to be. Very best wishes to Jake and his lovely wife, Amelia. It was our pleasure to attend.

On the writing front, I’m getting back to my Work in Progress provisionally entitled The Stuff of Legend. It has been a hard slog for a lot of reasons. The main one is that, although I write space opera, I still like to ensure the science works. If I find myself thinking, “but why would…” or just as important, “why wouldn’t…” then something’s wrong and I have to backtrack. Some people would just say I’ll fix it later and charge off to finish the first draft, but I don’t work like that. I need to know it’s all making sense. So… progress hasn’t been as fast as I’d like, but it IS happening. I’ve even booked a spot with my favourite cover designer.

Meanwhile, I keep abreast of the US craziness via my Facebook family, where I particularly enjoy the Obama-Biden memes. Here, take a look. The coming months will prove interesting.

I sincerely hope my American friends all enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends. But – and I say this from the heart – you can take your Black Friday and stick it… somewhere. We don’t need Black Friday in Australia anymore than we need Halloween, or, for that matter, Thanksgiving. Huh. Yet another ‘Super’ sale. Ours (traditionally) happens on Boxing Day – the day after Christmas, which I believe is not a holiday in the US. In many respects, globalisation sucks.

Let’s see now… this week’s photo gallery. A few sights that took my fancy.

Kimberley gorgeousness - the Ord river

Kimberley gorgeousness – the Ord river

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Summer at the Bay – low tide and fluffy cumulus cloud

The Chichester Range in the Pilbara

The Chichester Range in the Pilbara

Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island

Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island

What’s the opposite of writer’s block?

1239877Writer’s insomnia. That state when you’re on a roll, the story is flowing – but there are holes and questions (there are always holes and questions) and ‘oh hey’ moments and ‘is that plausible’ moments. And they all get together in your head and shake you awake at 2am. You think you’re getting up for a wee and a drink of water. But no. They ambush you, make you listen, pour words in your ears.

It’s fabulous. I LOVE this story. (It’s still called WIP – that’s Work in Progress for those not in the circle.)

Meanwhile, a huge storm built up to the south of us, complete with mammary clouds, thunder and lightning. Fortunately, we got to enjoy the spectacle at sunset – but didn’t have to face the fury of the storm.

Impressive, it was. Share photos, I will.

sky3

Sky1

sky

Diversity is much, much more than skin colour

PrintOver at Space freighters Lounge, we’ve been talking about diversity in science fiction. Again. Here’s what I had to say. Heather Massey who has been a great supporter of diversity in stories, and POC (people of colour) writers in general, weighed in with some comments. Here’s what Heather said:

Diverse characters not only makes for better science fiction, it’s just plain necessary realism! When I go from seeing my local neighborhood full of diverse groups to an all-white SFR ensemble cast, I’m like, uh-oh–someone made a conscious choice to erase people of color.”

And that got me thinking. Heather is American. I am Australian, born in Amsterdam (the Netherlands). And the difference is more than the fact that Americans talk funny. My neighbourhood isn’t diverse at all, and really never has been. For me, an SFR with an all-white cast would be a future view of home. Let’s examine that for a moment.

My family emigrated to Australia ten years after WW2 ended, leaving behind battered, war-weary Europe and the spectre of Communism looming in the East. We settled in probably the most Anglo-Saxon of Australia’s capital cities – Perth, Western Australia. Bear in mind that Australia had restrictive immigration policies, designed to limit the types of people who could settle there. It was called the White Australia Policy, and it wasn’t dismantled until well into the 1960’s. “White Australia” was something of a misnomer. As the article says, white people from Eastern and Southern Europe could be treated unfairly.

In the ‘fifties, western European kids like my brother and me learnt English and were absorbed with little fanfare. My parents attended English classes and went to lengths to become part of their new world. Our neighbours were Aussies. As I grew up, the “different” people were the Greeks, Slavs and Italians; olive-skinned people with dark hair and eyes. The older women wore black dresses and spoke to each other in an unintelligible gabble. And they all seemed to live together, in the cheap parts of town near the city centre, or the market gardens, or the fishing boat harbour. Aboriginal people kept to themselves in areas as close to slums as Australia ever got. I rarely saw anyone with dark skin.

I moved to Melbourne  in my early twenties. For me, Melbourne was gobsmackingly different. Just outside the city centre shops had signs in languages other than English – Greek, or Turkish or Italian. You’d go into a shop, the people saw you coming and fetched their son or daughter from out the back to talk to you because they couldn’t speak English. And there was a China Town. But even so, the city was predominantly Anglo-Saxon.

These days, things have changed. We had a new influx of immigrants fleeing the Vietnamese war. That caused a stir. They moved into the market gardens and the inner city suburbs, replacing the original Greeks, Italians and Slavs. But after a couple of generations, their kids speak English with an Aussie twang and they’re just part of the scenery. The Greek and Turkish shop signs have been replaced with Vietnamese or Cambodian. And after them came the Sudanese, the Lebanese, the Iraqis, the Iranians. Many of those people have not, at this time, integrated. There are parts of Melbourne and Sydney that could be part of the Middle East, places where many Caucasian Australians don’t feel safe.

But I’m no longer in one of the big cities. Since we retired, my husband and I moved to a small town. I’d say 98% of the people here are Anglo-Saxon. There are a number of Dutch and German descent, a handful of indigenous or Islander folk and a smattering of Asians. So “diversity” has very little meaning here. And that is true in many, many other parts of our world – if we’re talking skin colour.

In the early nineties I visited Beijing, one of a group of about twenty Australians – all Caucasian. China was just starting to open up, although the massacre in Tienanmen square was a recent memory. The residents of Beijing were becoming used to visits from Westerners. But Beijing is also a tourist spot for Chinese. I remember standing in a group while our Chinese guide talked about the Forbidden Palace. As she talked, a second group formed around us – Chinese people wearing Mao suits, staring at us. They’d never seen people with round eyes, fair skin and fair hair before. And I’m willing to bet the same thing happens every day in Africa and India. It was quite an experience being one of the weirdos. In fact, probably the most ‘diverse’ place I’ve ever been is Singapore, where Chinese, Malays, Indians and a few white folk rub along together very well. It’s also a tiny little island.

So does that mean people with the same external characteristics are uniform, showing no layers of diversity? Not at all. You don’t have to look far to see the differences wealth and religion can make. Not to mention sex. Even in our enlightened Anglo-Saxon communities, white male privilege is a real thing. India’s caste system is a more regimented form of class distinctions that can be found in every human society. It’s how we roll, the tribal instinct. Even so there are other external cues that set people apart – weight, height, a missing limb, a walking stick, age, the length hair, clothing, tattoos, occupation…

Now, in the early years of the twenty-first century, we are grappling with the fact that ‘sex’ as in gender isn’t black and white, and doesn’t altogether depend on physical attributes – boys have these dangly bits, girls don’t. And love isn’t necessarily one girl and one boy. So diversity is much, much more than skin colour and eye shape. As writers of science fiction we should go outside our comfort zones and consider ALL the possibilities. If we don’t, we restrict ourselves. And that would be a shame.

 

A time of endings and beginnings

illustration, white cat

illustration, white cat

I’ve just finished reading the last Discworld novel. “The Shepherd’s Crown”.  The tile of this post comes from the book’s blurb.

A SHIVERING OF WORLDS

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning . . .

Endings and beginnings… It starts with an ending. An ending that stopped my bed time read. I wasn’t ready for… that. In the morning I tried again. With numerous breaks to clean tear-splattered glasses, or blow my nose one more time.

But as we all (should) know, every ending is a beginning. There’s a gathering of witches, the Feegles – it’s a Tiffany Aching story so that’s hardly a surprise – and a number of surprises. Oh – and laughs. Many, many laughs.

There’s a page at the end of the book, written by Terry’s editor. He’s anticipated the question so many of us must have asked ourselves as we read page one. How much of this is REALLY Terry? Yes, he wrote it. You can feel it, especially in that early part, where he writes about ending. “Nation” was published in the year his Alzheimer’s was diagnosed. It wasn’t Discworld, it wasn’t a part of any of Terry’s lexicon. And it was a hard read. So much death. So much pain. So much “why me?” “The Shepherd’s Crown” is much gentler, as though he’d come to terms with his mortality. It gathers together characters, and themes, from many of his earlier works. Although only one wizard, and none of the Watch, made the cut.

A reviewer on Amazon commented that some things were left hanging, things that might have been finished if only he’d been given more time. Even now, just writing about the book I feel the tears pricking. But it was a good ending. I’ll read it again. Hey – it’s a Terry Pratchett book. I’ve read every single one many times. I’m pleased to know there won’t be another Discworld novel. Terry’s legacy might not live forever – forever is a very long time – but it will last for as long as his die-hard fans live. And if something like Star Wars is anything to go on, new fans will read his work, and so it goes. Just like Shakespeare, Dickens, Asimov, Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he has a form of immortality. And now I’m blathering, so I’ll stop.

Oh, by the way, there’s a cat.

I’m busy #amwriting but I also talk about genre

Starfield shipThe title says it all, folks. I’m writing up a storm – or trying to. Writing is just like any other pastime – cooking, hockey, netball, swimming, tatting. If you stop doing it, the skills atrophy. But I’m around 6k into what will be a longish short story, and it’s all coming back to me. Like riding a bike.

Meanwhile, pop on over to this week’s post on Spacefreighters, where I talk about genre and what it means in science fiction romance.

Had a rotten review? #amwriting

TeddyEverybody gets rotten reviews. It’s part of the territory. Your first one or two star is a coming of age, your movement from beginner to seasoned veteran. I’m not going to lecture you on survival techniques. The world and his wife has done that already. I’m usually a subscriber to the DO NOT READ THEM school. Let’s face it, there’s nothing useful you can do  about it, anyway. For lots of very good reasons.

But there’s one teensy bit of advice I will share. How many of you remember John Locke and his best-selling ‘how-to’ book, How I sold 1 million ebooks in 5 months? That was in 2011 – or at least, that’s when I bought mine. It turned out that he bought quite a lot of his success by buying reviews and there was a huge scandal. But setting that aside, his advice on bad reviews was well worth reading. As I recall, he said that if the review is not coming from your target audience, shrug and move on. If you have a fan base, and those people like your work, that’s really all that matters.

Take it to heart, writers. Snuggle up in bed with that little teddy of truth hugged close.

Strands of scenes and planetoids of plot #amwriting

hs-2007-26-a-640_wallpaperWhoever told you that writing is easy lives on a different planet to the one I inhabit. Words don’t flow from my fingertips, even when I’m in the zone. I get there sometimes, hunched over the laptop, tapping away until I run out of ‘what happens next’. I look up and an hour has gone. Or maybe two. I’m happy to get down one thousand words a day, delighted to do fifteen hundred and right chuffed to break two thousand. Three thousand is usually a bridge too far for my arthritic fingers. They complain at me and demand overtime or (even worse) go on strike, so I find it’s better to call it a day and start afresh in the morning.

What I can’t do is write before I know where I’m going.

And that basically means I’ve walked around the garden, spruiking my dialogue to any tree or bush or passing bird willing to listen. Sometimes that’s an impossible hurdle. I know I want that scene where there’s the big confrontation, but I want THIS character to be there, and I can’t quite see how I’m going to make that happen. So I pull a weed, tell myself I really ought to trim that new growth, promise myself to get out there with the glysophate. And oh, it’s low tide and the sea will be calm – where’s my camera? And no writing gets done.

Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? I’ve got nine novels out there – NINE. I can DO this. I know how. Don’t I?

So I tried to work out which book had been easiest (easiest – huh) to write, and why. They were the ones where I had a pretty good notion of a plot because they were based on real events. To Die a Dry Death, and Kuralon Rescue. Oh – and A Matter of Trust was pretty easy, because I wrote it a writer’s eon ago, so mainly it was just editing. Well – rewriting, really. I’m good at that.

How had I written the others, though? Morgan’s Choice at one hundred thousand words and more? Morgan’s Return? The Iron Admiral? Starheart? I’m not a plotter. But I’ve just outed myself as being not quite a pantser either, so how?

Through many drafts. Many chapters written and discarded, others written and changed so much they didn’t look like the original. I wrote about that journey with the Iron Admiral books. And – here’s the epiphany – I DIDN’T WRITE THEM IN ORDER.

That is, I didn’t start at the beginning and keep going until I reached the end. I wrote the chapters as they occurred to me, and went back and edited to fill in the scene transitions, or bounced in my chair going ‘oo oo oo’ because I’d thought of a nifty new plot idea. I used Word to write each chapter in a document, then arranged the chapters in the order I wanted. And re-arranged them. And tossed one out and rearranged again… you get the picture.

So I’m going back there. I’m writing the scenes as they jump out and slap me on the bum, and as I do that those floating strands of scenes bump into each other and weave together and coalesce until I have a veritable solar system of planetoids of plot circling my head. It’s kind of the SF equivalent of the little red engine.

I think I can

I think I can

I think I can

I KNOW I CAN

Twenty-five thousand words written. I won’t say I’m on a roll, but the floating strands of scenes are starting to collide.

Woohoo.

At last there’s a work-in-progress

canstockphoto19778842It has been far too long since I last published a book, although it was this year. For anyone waiting for a new story about Morgan’s Misfits – sorry, but it will be a little while yet. Those of you who know me would be aware that I believe in the Muse as much as I do the Easter Bunny and Father Christmas (that is, when it suits me) But I do believe that when the writing just won’t come, it’s because there’s something wrong. Frankly, I couldn’t see where the story was going. The characters wouldn’t talk to me – wouldn’t even look at me. So I abandoned the Morgan’s Misfits story. I’ll get back to it when the characters come to find me. And they will. Oh, they will.

Meanwhile, I’ve embarked on a new Ptorix Empire story. Someone once suggested they’d like to hear a bit more about Senior Commander Butcher, who is Admiral, then Grand Admiral Saahren’s aide de camp in the Iron Admiral books. And why not?  So I had a quiet word with him, asking what happened after the decisive battle between the Ptorix and Confederacy Fleets off Qerra.

It seems he finally got that promotion, the chance to captain a Confederacy battle cruiser. He’d been in command of ships before, of course. Patrol ships, a cruiser. But this had been his life long ambition: captain a battle cruiser. While his new ship is in refit, Butcher takes leave on his home planet of Validor. He hasn’t been back for twelve years, hasn’t lived there for twenty. Six months ago, after ten years of marriage, his wife divorced him. He’s at a loose end, looking to pick up the pieces of his life. One piece he’s kept an eye on is his first love, Tarlyn. She’s a member of the ruling clan in this matriarchal society, related, if not directly, to the current queen. She suffered a bereavement not too long ago. Her husband died in a boating accident. She’s way out of his league in the social hierarchy on Validor, but he’s never forgotten her, and lately she has been haunting his dreams. So first day back on his home planet, Butcher turns up at a public festival celebrating the arrival of Humans on Validor. The queen and her court will be there. He might get a glimpse of Tarlyn…

That’s where the story starts. Validor has a large Ptorix population – as much as sixty percent. And as we’ve seen on our own planet, winning a war doesn’t necessarily build bridges. There are old scores to be settled, and new hatreds can blossom. On both sides.

I have an idea where Butcher and Tarlyn will lead me, and I think I know what the ending will be. But it’s all subject to change without notice. Hang in there. I’m hoping to get it out there in a few months. And no, I haven’t thought of a title yet.