I was making a curry tonight for dinner and I thought about something I had been told regarding curries. Supposedly they were invented to cover the flavour of rancid meat back when refrigeration was not possible and meat often went off. You would just cut the green bits off the steak, whack in a few herbs and spices, flick out the flies and then you had a delicious curry (I should point out this is not a re-enactment of how I made tonight’s curry, I’m talking historical curries here).
Sometimes as writers we can pen a rancid story. There are bits that stink and other parts are so putrid that they fall apart. Yet underneath the slimy green stuff, there can be something that looks like a real story.
The cooking process to get that little bit of red-grey meat spiced up and turned into something delectable is called EDITING. The tricky part is in being able to recognise when there are just off bits that can be cut away, and when the whole thing is rotten.
So back to my analogy; if you wanted to know if you curry was made with meat that really was beyond saving, you could just feed it to someone. If they got sick you had all bad meat, if they smile at you while rubbing their belly in a non-pained way, it was good meat. With your writing it is exactly the same; feed it to someone. Give it to someone you trust to give honest feedback, preferably a writer or avid reader, so if any bits do make them feel a bit green around the gills, they can tell you and you can cut them out.
Just because your story pongs enough to bring the magpies swooping in from three blocks away doesn’t mean it is a bad story, it might just have bad bits. One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make (besides holding onto a story that should be let go) is chucking one out before it has been given a chance.
Anyway, no one has been sick yet, so at least I can rest assure that tonight the meat was all good.
This weekend I had a fortieth birthday party followed by a sixth birthday party. What surprised me most was not the difference, but the similarity between the two. Both were equally noisy, messy and jovial. Everyone seemed to have a good time and relished the chance to let their hair down.
Which makes me wonder how much we really grow up when it comes to spoiling ourselves? Or more to the point, how much should we grow up?
Perhaps instead of splurging on that beauty treatment, new pair of shoes or gourmet meal to lift our spirits, we should actually just go outside and play in the mud –not giving a hoot about how grubby we get! Better yet, invite your friends over so you have someone to fling clots of dirt at while dodging their earthy missiles.
Now that sounds like fun!
PS I thought I was overdue for some koala photos, so here they are;
The Aurealis Awards are one of the biggest events in the Australian speculative fiction calendar. Started in 1995 the Aurealis Awards set out to celebrate Australian speculative fiction in its distinct categories; science fiction, horror and fantasy.
The shortlist for the awards (winners announced in May) has been released here and I’m proud to say that there are a few members of SuperNOVA (my writers group) represented across several categories.
Another point of interested I read with great enthusiasm was the inclusion of a self-published novel nominated for best Fantasy novel of the year. It just goes to show that self-publishing (or indie publishing as it is now being called) can bring otherwise hidden gems to our attention.
Congratulations to all the nominees and best of luck to the Novarians!
I have to confess I’ve been feeling a little despondent this week. After nearly 10,000 impressions (displays of my Paragon ad) I’ve received exactly zero click-throughs. I also know everyone who voted for my story in the Trading post competition (not the intention, my comic genius was meant to shine through so the public would hand over their vote, catapulting me to the top 5) and exactly none of my share-a-secret stories have been picked up by the women’s magazines.
Things are not sticking to my script.
March is a significant month for me; it is the end of my six months off. My search for work has begun and the urgency was *meant* to be offset by the burgeoning success of my writing career. I was meant to be getting some income by now, or so it went in the script. Reality is turning out quite differently.
A great philosopher (I think it was Calvin –form Calvin and Hobbes) once said; [we all think we are the lead character in the movie of our life, but one day we realise we are just the comic relief in a much bigger story].
Has that day come? Have I realised that perhaps there is no happy ending?
Not a chance! I’m a writer, and by definition we are dreamers in one way or other. I will look at this as just another bump that I have to overcome. Attitude is 90% of success, I’m sure, so as long as I don’t let myself wallow for too long (but give myself at least a few days, there is nothing as cathartic as a good wallow now and then) I’m sure I’ll get back on track soon.
So if you are down about something that is not working out as you planned, don’t listen to Calvin, you are the star of your own movie. Whatever is happening is just another plot twist to make the punch line that much more exciting.
This is my 100th blog post, which I will take as an auspicious occasion on which to announce that Paragon is now available in a kindle edition on Amazon
If you don’t have a kindle you can still buy copies in different formats, including those for reading on your computer, from Smashwords.
Sales are starting to take off, so my sincerest thanks to those of you who have already bought a copy!
What can you say? So many people missing, so many people gone. It is so sad, and frightening, and unnerving. No one will ever forget the sight of that black wall of water washing over the fields, taking away buildings and cars along with all the people trapped inside.
After so much misery you would think 2011 had served up enough trouble to keep us awake with nightmares for the rest of our lives, but no, it delivers more. And it seems that each disaster scales up in both terror and tally.
It makes you a little fearful of what will happen in the weeks and months ahead.
Again we are reminded to keep our loved ones close and our (perceived) injustices in perspective. Life is not perfect, so don’t expect it to be. And always remember to be grateful; if you are able to read this you are very lucky indeed.
When my sister and I were very young we used to sneak out on a Friday night, long after mum and dad had gone to bed, and we’d watch the late night horror film. So began my early love affair with speculative fiction.
Now, back in the exact same surrounds, I find myself turning away from spec and I keep getting hit with non-spec fiction ideas. Perhaps it is the zoo that surrounds me each day that exposes me to the wonders of nature? Perhaps it is the replacement of horror movies with erotica on late night Friday TV (so I’m told, of course I don’t watch it), or perhaps I’m just finding enough dark and mysterious things in the known world as I get older?
I won’t lie, this non-spec writing thing scares me. For one thing, I don’t possibly know where I’ll sell it, for another; will all my friends assume the characters are them? It was easy with a serial killing alien to not offend anyone, but make a non-spec character blonde, and all my blonde friends will think it is them! Probably my brunette friends will as well; ‘she just changed the hair colour to cover it up.’
This could get messy.
So I’m trying to turn my back on this wave of normality and I will stare at those finches, and koalas, and lorikeets until somewhere in my brain a good horror story takes hold. Only then will I know I am cured.
In the meantime; does anyone know where to sell some non-spec, non-literary, non-chick-lit, non-genre short fiction? Yeah, me neither…
It might sound silly, but one of my biggest challenges when writing a new piece is picking the right name for my characters. I thought I had solved this problem when I started to christen characters with the names of people I worked with. This led to a bunch of ‘find and replace’ edits, because the problem when you write spec fic (or any interesting fiction for that matter) is often your characters end up doing not so nice things, and for some funny reason people don’t like to have characters named after them who do evil, stupid, or deplorable things.
So where do you get names? I’ve resorted to the phone book, my local newspaper, baby books, movie credits but invariably I come back to friends. Yes, most of my characters are a mix of my friends first and last names. I know that JK Rowling named some of the death eaters after her friends, so at least I’m in good company.
Paragon, the novel I have just published on Smashwords, had major character name changes three times during its pre-published life. It seemed that no sooner had I decided on a name and someone with that name would release a naughty video, or skyrocket to stardom for singing an inane song. Or both.
A character’s name is so important for setting the feel of a character that you don’t want to get it wrong. If my dashing male hero was called Blossom, well then it would have to be a comedy. Which then brings us to the whole life experience factor. If every Peta I’ve met has been lovely, but every Peta you have me has been a bimbo then we are on different paths from the outset.
Perhaps that is why so many fantasy books make up names like Bal’ash and El’argor’ror instead of just calling people Nick and Cindy?
We all suffer from a little OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). My personal demon is pegs. I have come a long way from my original affliction, where I had to match peg colours to the colour of the clothes that they were holding up. Now I just need to match pegs to the colour of their mate on the one piece of clothing. I love socks; only one peg. Sometimes I manage to use different colours, but I’m yet to be able to put a plastic peg with a wooden one. One step at a time!
Now while you might be scratching your head thinking perhaps I did all that psych training to cure myself (and I have come a long way) the truth is we **all** have our little OCDs or superstitions. I lump them together because often the OCD reveals itself as a superstition. The journey of an OCD starts as something logical; if the peg colour stains, it is best to have it the same colour as the clothing it is holding onto. It then grows into something almost pathological (see paragraph 1) and the final step is to go into the realm of lore or superstition.
For me this hasn’t happened yet with pegs, but in just three months it has happened with koalas. We have 2-7 koalas on our street at any one time (well, not on the street, usually in the trees that line it, but sometimes you do see them strolling along). My OCD started as just looking out for them as I went on my daily walk. Now it is a full blown superstition, where I’m convinced it will be an unlucky day if I do not see a koala.
Why am I confessing this? Well, besides the fact that I think that if you are going to have a mental problem, this is probably a cute one to have, the truth is it is these nuances that make us the 3-dimensional characters that we are. So if you are writing perfect characters with no faults and no quirks, then you are writing a fairytale.
So don’t necessarily make your character obsessed with koalas or pegs, but do make them irrationally scared of chickens, or when they go over a bridge they lift their legs, or when they pass a cemetery they have to block their nose!
I won’t tell you which of those I used to suffer from…
PS Share my koala affliction, can you see the koalas in this photo?