Monday, October 21, 2002

I resubscribed to Aurealis today after a long hiatus -- I was pretty impressed with their con issue this year. I think the style of the magazine under the new editor suits me better than previously. I used to only enjoy one or two stories per issue but with issue 29 I liked all but one! Plus I found out Maxine has a story in issue 30, and that settled it. I'm officially a subscriber again, or at least I will be when they cash my cheque.

Belated, of course, but the most exciting thing that happened last week was the arrival of my copy of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Third issue out in the month it was supposed to -- pretty impressive stuff. Of course, as a member of the co-op producing the thing, anything I say should be taken with a pinch of salt...

Les has done another blinder of a cover for us, and a brilliant back cover too (advertising that we need advertising - I'm Ad Girl, so I should know! My favourite story is the one by Tom Holt, but I particularly liked the ones by Simon Haynes and Mikal Trimm as well -- only I'd already read them due to being a slush reader for the mag, so they didn't have as great an impact.

Only twelve months to go until my own issue comes out! I've picked 3/4 of the stories already, so that's 3/4 of the fun down the drain, but they are very good stories. Can't wait to see it. In the mean time, I can look forward to seeing one of my stories in issue 4, due out in December. Give someone a subscription for Christmas!!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The reading on Saturday went pretty well - my story got a serious workout in the days (and hours) before it, though. Nothing like an impending public reading to tighten your prose! Trouble is, I cut out the first two and last three pages to make it a perfect 20 minute reading, and only polished the middle bit, so even though the bit I read is definitely at a publishable stage, I still need to work on either end before I can submit the piece somewhere! And I am _so_ sick of cathedrals by now, I can’t even bring myself to look at the manuscript. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Wednesday is my writing day. The tradition goes back to my regular undergraduate days at uni, when I usually had at least one full day without lecture or tutorial - in other words, had no requirement to leave home. During Honours I think the day was a Tuesday or Thursday, and once I started postgraduate work it became resolutely a Wednesday. This is the day when, usually, I do not leave the house at all. Once my partner Finchy goes to work, I stagger out of bed and throw myself into a wholehearted day of procrastination which eventually, with any luck, results in some actual writing. This ends at about 4pm at which time I tidy the house, do the washing up, prepare dinner and smile sweetly in greeting when my man comes home - should point out, of course, this is the only day of the week on which this happens. The housewifeliness, not the writing. Sometimes I write on weekends too, when I can grab the time.

The last few months, however, have been completely topsy turvy, with my partner home on sick leave and all sorts of other complications. It has been a long time, in other words, since I had a proper Wednesday.

Today I was determined. Got up earlyish, allowed myself to wake up gradually over half an hour of renovation TV on the Lifestyle Channel and was sitting at the computer by 9:30. By a grand stroke of luck there hadn’t been much email overnight, so after a little websearching (since I was online anyway) and catching up on the last episode of EastEnders (got addicted when in London over Christmas and now keep up with doings via daily web blurb on BBC site - v. sad, I know) I was offline and into Mocklore by 10.

I’m severely behind on this novel, mainly because it is turning out to be longer than I imagined. Finishing 80,000 words by the end of the year (currently on 52,000 and counting) shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but I’m beginning to suspect the actual book will turn out to be 90-100,000 words, which is going to be difficult to schedule. It _has_ to be finished by the end of January (possibly Feb?) so I can send it off to the RoR participants to be thoroughly critiqued before our workshop in April, but I was counting on having the bulk of it done by the end of December so I could actually do some revision before sending it out into the wide world. Plus I’m just bursting to get it out of the way so I can write short stories.

Anyway, I got a good 1000 words written by 11am, then emerged quite pleased with myself, or I would be if it wasn’t for the fact that the real work was still to come. I had to revise & restructure my story, the Chaos Cathedrals, which I am reading aloud on Saturday. Now, readings are hellish anyway. I’m okay when on stage but hate the before time nerves, and I simply cannot read confidently if I’m less than confident about the work. I used to go through agonies trying to find two pages from my novels that I could read without cringing. In that respect, reading from a new story is probably a good idea except that it has to be finished, polished and marginally perfect before I can bring myself to read from it!

Anyway, I went through the notated manuscripts of my story from the Invisible College meeting (at which it became apparent that the ending I had cobbled together at the last minute was less than satisfactory, rendering the story a little pointless) and started writing the new ending. Was interrupted at noon by Finchy with lunch, which was very well-received since I hadn’t got around to breakfast yet. At 12:25 I considered my options. I could go back to the story and continue slogging though it, or I could watch the Bold and the Beautiful.

No contest, really.

A good daytime soap has always been a staple of mine on a working at home day -- gives me an excuse to stop for lunch, plus drains away all stress. No, really, it does! Fiction is often less than relaxing for me, but a good brain-numbing soap does wonders for me, particularly when working very hard. It used to be just Days of Our Lives, but the insidious B&B has kidnapped me of late. It’s very hard to justify watching both...

Okay, back to work. I finished writing an alternate ending (and alternate scene-setting paragraph) and dragged my written notes to the computer. Hate typing in revisions, boring boring. Then I started amending the revisions as I went, and before you know it, 4:00 & it’s finished.

Finished for now, anyway. Still need to do some polishing and a read-aloud practice, but that’s enough hard work for the day. When I write it’s hard and fast and I come away feeling faintly comatose after an hour or two. I typed up an agenda for the Tasmanian Friends of the Archaeological Institute at Athens (accidentally became secretary a month or two ago) and handed my revised story over to Finchy while having coffee (and starting to read Christopher Lee’s biography which sounds suspiciously like Terry Pratchett wrote it -- v. dry sense of humour!). Then back here for weblogging, since my working day is well and truly over.

End result: 1000 words of novel, finished short story.

Oh, something else. Finchy checked my postbox when fetching lunch and I had received a rather charming rejection letter from Gordon Van Gelder (Fantasy and Science Fiction) -- my best so far. He says the narrative voice was engaging, but he didn’t find the overall storyline compelling enough, which I can’t help but agree with. My problem with creating satisfying endings again! The story in question is “Hobgoblin Boots,” a short novelette (13,500 words) from the POV of Bounty Fenetre, a character who turned up briefly in Liquid Gold and was a main character in Soapy Ballads, the book that never was (ie. the first third Mocklore novel I submitted to the publishers, which they were less than thrilled with). I love the story, which is in first person and beautifully illustrates the relationship between Bounty and Luc Triclover, who was the hero of SB. Unfortunately it doesn’t really have a proper ending, so I probably will just end up using it as the opening when I revamp & restructure Soapy Ballads.

Right, got to run and do the washing up -- it’s been building up for days and is seriously my turn to do it. Not cooking, though. Can’t do everything!

Scrub that, the reading is actually at Gallery 3 in the museum itself, next to the gothic archictecture exhibition, for the ambience. Still from 2-4. Apparently there will be drinkies.

I'm doing a 20 minute reading on Saturday 12 October, as part of the Blank & Free: poetry & prose readings, from 2-4pm in the historic Bond Store at the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (enter via the Courtyard between Davey & Macquarie Sts, Hobart). The theme is 'gothic' and I'll be reading from my new (still unfinished but hopefully will be soon) story, "The Chaos Cathedrals." The other readings will be from various local and visiting writers, including Brian Andrews as well as the 2002 Burnie City Writer in Residence, Sydney playwright, Julie Janson, and visiting Indonesian writer, Nurhidayat Poso. This series of readings supported by the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery and the Tasmanian Writers' Centre. The event is free so if any of you out there reading this are actually in Hobart on the 12th, please come along.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

A biography of a science fiction writer is a pretty rare thing, which was why I was intrigued to pick up Dragonholder, by Anne McCaffrey's son Todd McCaffrey, at the library yesterday. It's not a particularly long read, the conceit being that it is a scrapbook of photos with some text, although the photos were a bit thin on the ground. Particularly, I couldn't help noticing that although we got at least one teen/adult shot of Anne's other children, the author only appeared in kiddie photos which was rather disappointing. It's a great little insight into McCaffrey's work, though, with a focus on her early years pretty much from the point she started submitting & selling stories, although there is a digression back into her early years and family history. I don't know much about Anne McCaffrey since she's an author I missed in my teens, and am only really playing catch-up now, but I found this biography a very satisfying blend of information about her personal and writing life -- plus lots of namedropping courtesy of her convention-hopping! Todd McCaffrey has done a great job of explaining how his mother works and, perhaps more importantly, how she thinks. The big let down of this book is that it ends around the point that The White Dragon becomes a bestseller, meaning financial independence for Anne and her family after years of struggling to make ends meet. Having followed them on that journey, I would really like to have seen at least the next 10-20 years of her career and how that unfolded. It's a little frustrating to have seen the process only so far, and I should think a successful writer would be just as interesting as one still building up to it. In other words, Dragonholder is a very good early bio but roll on parts 2, 3 & 4! I want to see how it all turns out.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

I just finished reading The Eyre Affair, and this has to be my book of the year. I only picked it up because the sequel looked interesting (and Richard in Ellison Hawker Books said, what, comic fantasy and you haven’t read it) and promptly fell in love with the character, text, even the damn layout of the book.

Should point out that Jane Eyre is one of my least favourite classic works of literature, I’ve always been a Wuthering Heights girl (and, more importantly, a Pride & Prejudice girl) and found Jane quite stifling and a tedious bore to drag myself through. That said, I do have a really nice 19th century bound edition (only because it matched my Wuthering Heights) and as soon as I finished Jasper Fforde’s book I had to drag out my copy just to check how it ended.

The Eyre Affair is the kind of first novel that makes me cringe about my own. It contains a masterful example of complex world-building, so beautifully set out that you long for the next revelation about this alternate reality, and yet it all comes together quite casually as the plot unfolds. In short, this book is a bit of a Fred Astaire in that he makes the whole writing thing look terribly easy.

And of course, it’s comic fantasy. It doesn’t look like comic fantasy on the outside -- the simplicity of the book jacket actually gives you very few clues except the charmingly tiny image of a dodo on a scooter -- but it most certainly is. It’s comic SF at the same time, and far beyond anything Douglas Adams managed with his novels, but the fantasy elements somehow overthrow the use of technology. It’s the kind of speculative fiction that gives SF and fantasy a good name, and is totally accessible to all those people who cringe at the sight of dragons on a book cover as well as being totally accessible to all those people whose heart lifts at the sight of a new Josh Kirby cover (alas, no more).

It’s almost enough to make me go back and re-read Jane Eyre. Almost. Or maybe I’ll just buy the sequel...

Had a great meeting of the Invisible College writing group on Saturday - 5 people turned up which is a definite improvement on most of our meetings this year! My long gothic story got a good workout which is both good and not so good because now I have to figure out how to fix the damn ending. I had written myself into a corner, with my heroine necessarily dead (for travel purposes) and therefore stuck. It’s hard not to write a cop out ending in those circumstances, and much though I tried, the ending I had come up with was not entirely a non-cop out. Sigh. Back to drawing board.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

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