Tag Archives: Inspiration

Publication!

I have to warn you, this story contains the F-word. Yes, there are farts in it. I was brought up properly, where a lady does not fart (unless asleep, but even then we deny it)… but that got me thinking about when else a lady might fart. And so A Reluctant Zombie was born.

I’ve been warned against publishing this story as it has a bit of a pull my finger quality that is perhaps not becoming of my writing career. I actually sat on it for nearly two years before finally deciding to send it out. There is no deeper meaning and no call to arms to make a difference in the world. It is just a silly story, written by a silly girl in a silly mood. Sometimes I can do that.

The other difference with this story to my usual offerings is that it is unashamedly biographical. The girl starts out watching my TV on my lounge, she lives with my cat, goes to my old office, and shocks my old boss. You could say it was me except for the lack of vegetables, and of course the farting. My mum brought me up right, remember.

So please, if you are going to read it, say no to the plastic bag at the supermarket, take your keep-cup to the coffee shop, and please turn off your standby power equipment at the wall. My story won’t tell you to do that, so it will make me feel better if you do.

I hope you enjoy A Reluctant Zombie, but please, put on your silly hat first. And no, I will not pull your finger.

Travel Journal – 1998 – True love lost

I read a lot of Bill Bryson when I was travelling, as a result I was inspired to make my own travel journal a bit more colourful. So while I rarely commented on the weather, or exactly where I was, the stupid things I did featured large. I’ve transferred some of my hand-written travel diaries (complete with ticket stubs and other holiday paraphernalia) into digital format so I don’t lose them. This snippet is cut from my US holiday diary, from the day my sister and I visited Six Flags Magic Mountain (the setting for Wally World in the movie ‘Vacation’). It made me laugh, so I thought I would share:

 

We were told the Batman Ride was terrifying. Strapped in, your feet were left dangling as it spun you through loops and barrels at breakneck speed. Naturally that put it at the top of our must do list.

It was while we were in the line-up to the ride that I spotted the guy. He looked like Val Kilmer from Top Gun, with cropped blond hair and a cheeky sparkle in his eye (okay, he might have been too far away for me to really make out the sparkle, but I’m sure it was there). Thanks to the back and forward snaking of the line I kept getting to glance at him from different angles. Then it happened; our eyes met and he smiled! Swoon! As we snaked further along the line we kept catching each other’s eyes. Suddenly I loved America.

The dark side of this tale came from the snippets of other people’s conversations I kept hearing. They talked about how this was the scariest of all the rides at the park. Some were even saying that they didn’t know if they would go through with it. The screams coming from the patrons who had made their way onto the ride definitely had more of a note of terror about then than fun.

Then I saw the first sign: No bag storage. It’s like when you spot the first cat hair on your pants and then suddenly you can see hairs everywhere; there were signs at every turn warning us there was nowhere to store our bags. I had a bag! As we drew closer to the ride I could hear a pre-recorded message telling us that whatever you had on you, you had to carry on the ride. I looked around, NO ONE ELSE HAD BAGS! Why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner!?! My whole world was in my bag.

It was at this moment I missed perhaps my one chance at true love. Lost in that vague world in which only I seem to reside, the snaking line brought the boy who I thought was beautiful within touching distance. He walked past me and asked ‘How you going?’

I  DIDN’T  REALISE  HE  WAS  TALKING  TO  ME  BECAUSE  I  WAS  PANICKING  ABOUT  MY  BAG!!!!!!!

My sister looked back at me and said, ‘What did that guy say to you?’ at which point I finally broke out of my lonely weird world (where I’m apparently forever destined to live) and asked ‘Who? What guy?” She pointed to him. It was THE GUY!

He didn’t look at me again and the line did not bring us closer as he was swallowed by the ride that was sure to rob me of my bag and all my worldly possessions. I wanted to scream out to him that I was sorry, that I didn’t realise he was talking to me because I was too busy worrying about where to put my bag, but I never got my chance.

So if someone ever reads this who knows a guy who looked a bit like a young Val Kilmer and rode the Batman Ride on November 21st 1998 please let him know that I’m not a snob, just stupid!

 

Funnily enough I wrote that last paragraph as you read it. So no idea how I thought anyone else would be able to read my diary. Maybe he’ll get the chance now? 🙂

 

Signs or super brain?

The other night I made a very healthy vegetable stir-fry for dinner and, while feeling pretty pleased that my gut flora would eat well in the morning, I was still a bit peckish. Suddenly I remembered I had an unopened box of BBQ Shapes in the pantry. I never eat BBQ Shapes, I don’t really know why I bought them, but they became my sole focus for the next two or three minutes.

Knowing they were not an ideal post-dinner snack, I decided just to have a look to see what the best before date was (I knew they had been in there a long time). It was the next day. Not the next week, or month, but best before the very next day. Clearly it was a sign that I should eat them.

I see signs all the time. I make decisions on signs, some a little more important than if I should allow myself to snack after dinner. I have to confess, I’m pretty happy with where those decisions have got me so far. While I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, I’m also not worried that ignoring the signs would have got me any closer at this point in my life.

But something about the BBQ Shapes ‘sign’ worried me.

The brain is a much more powerful thing than we ever give it credit for. I’m always setting it tasks which it consistently delivers on after spending a bit of time off in mysterious-brain-world. I can’t help but wonder if nearly a year ago when I bought those BBQ shapes, my brain took note of the best before date? Maybe there was a reminder set at that point, and when it did exactly what brains do best, I interpreted it as a sign?

How many of my other signs are actually super brain? And should I be worried? I’m a ridiculously logical person, so my normal brain always gets the last say over signs or super brain (for example, I didn’t eat the whole packet of BBQ shapes). But for me a little bit of magic disappeared from the world when I thought that my amazing sign was actually just amazing biology.

I guess that means the best thing to do would be the other thing my brain is really good at; forget about it. However the rest of the BBQ shapes might just find their way into the compost bin instead of me. I’m sure my microbiome will thank me.

Wham, bam, thank you spam

“Life, no end to this there will be bonded, finally, it will reach the heights of success. Love you could also gift your soul mate diamond…”

Yes, it is very nearly a coherent sentence, but doesn’t quite get there. This is a quote from one of my recent spammers. I get these sorts of things all the time and would dearly like to lift them and put them into a story. I read these little snippets and smile at the idea of a computer getting a chance to be creative. Okay, it doesn’t make sense, but sometimes it almost does.

Of course computers becoming sentient has been done to death, and done really well (Terminator is one of my favourite films of all time). It’s up there with meet the devil or win the lottery for ‘no more please’ stories. But that is like a red flag to a bull for me. I want to find a different angle and I’m sure if I keep reading my spam, I will see it there one day.

I have a terrible habit of setting my brain a subconscious task (yes, I know I’ve told you to work on the novel, but hey while we’re sleeping you have all that spare time on your lobes) and it almost always delivers. There is a magical Eureka! moment when the story, fully-formed, pops into my head.

So let’s see how long this one takes. The clock starts ticking today. Maybe the clock knows it’s ticking? Maybe there is no clock? Honestly, who would want to live in my head!?!

The secret language of handwriting

My approach to the library recently has become more like my approach to Twitter; I let others find the good stuff for me. If I go into the library without a specific book in mind, I’ll head straight to the ‘to be re-shelved’ pile to see what others have recently borrowed. This is where I found a book on decoding handwriting.

It is annoying me how accurate it is. I started with the approach that it would be like star signs and you can probably see yourself in every scenario, but it is a whole lot more precise than that. It has picked up on things about my personality that even I don’t like to admit to myself. I am starting to worry about the hand-written notes I’ve given to others and how much I really told them if they knew how to read it.

What worries me even more is what I will learn about others when I look at their handwriting? After I read ‘What Every Body is Saying’ by Joe Navarro which covered the unconscious communications of body language, my success in meetings went up significantly. I often find myself resorting to tricks and reading people without even realising it. I think the handwriting book will give me an even greater insight into what is really happening inside people’s minds.

There is one big problem with decoding handwriting; you have to get your hands on a copy of hand-written text. In my current workplace, I think I’ve seen the handwriting of only one other person in the past 8 months. Even our informal notes are taken on the computer these days. It’s like I’ve finally been given the keys to the Jet a year after teleportation has been invented.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m going to let this pass me by. I’m reading the book over and over to make sure it sinks in (as would be expected of my evenly spaced, small-lettered handwriting). There are gems in here that I will one day be able to mine, I have no doubt of that.

It also reiterates that the re-shelving piles should always be my first stop at the library.

Top 10 writer things to do – go to writer talks

If you want to feel like a writer, you can’t go past attending writer talks. I have an amazing local library (Mt Barker) which organises fantastic meet-the-writer sessions for many well known local and international authors. But if you are not so lucky to have a library like that nearby, many book shops and universities will sponsor them as well. So let Google be your friend on that one.

When listening to a writer talk about their process of writing, you will be amazed at how often you find yourself nodding and thinking ‘yes, I find that too.’ At the Adelaide Writer’s Festival this year I listened with amused familiarity to a few authors discussing the merits of pantsing vs planning vs plantsing. I loved that I knew exactly what they meant, while many around me had clearly never heard the terms before. I totes felt like a writer that day.

These talks will also often cover the author’s journey to publication. I think it is invaluable hearing these stories, because the ones you read about in popular news are nearly always the overnight sensations who had just started writing six months earlier. For many authors there is a ten+ year slog, poor first book sales and countless low points where they nearly gave up (before they realised that there is no such thing as giving up, our writer daemons won’t let us do that – EVER).

These talks also give you an opportunity to meet writers who have succeeded. I find most of them are really keen for a chat at the inevitable book-signing, and it gives you a chance to see how normal and very much like you they are.

And let’s not forget the final benefit; there are a lot of unpublished writers also going to these talks. So this puts you in a situation where you can mix with many other writers and potentially expand (or start) your writers group.

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2017

I have to confess, aside from the time off work and my visiting friend from Melbourne, I wasn’t really that excited about Adelaide writers’ week this year. I had only heard of a couple of the authors in the line-up, and yet again genre writers were under-represented.

It was actually a great week. As always I heard from a bunch of authors I’d never otherwise be exposed to, and I bought a couple of books which might never have found their way into my collection any other way. The big thing I took away from this year was not any tips about getting published or putting words on paper, but how much I could relate to the experience of ‘real’ authors.

Many talked of things I’m banging on about in this blog each week; pantsing, hours editing flash fiction, and forcing yourself to write when doing anything else seems more attractive. Watching the novelty of these ideas wash over the crowd I realised I’m already there when it comes to knowing what it is like to be a writer. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, because I know a lot of these authors still have other jobs to earn a living. So really the main difference between us is degree of publication.

Alarmingly one author, John Marsden, talked about the never ending itch of finding purpose in his life, which drives him to do so much. Currently I’m consumed by this conundrum for too many hours of every day. I stupidly thought getting published and sharing my work with the wider world would sufficiently scratch that itch. Clearly I’m wrong.

But I have always said it is the journey you need to enjoy, not the destination, so I guess that means I’m already in the good bit. There was even a part of me that wondered if maybe I’m lucky that I’ve not had one of my novels picked up yet. I’m writing a book a year and writing exactly what I want. It sounds like getting published might hamper me on both of those things.

It is fantastic that writers’ week is free, and I hope it continues to be so. It is wonderful to share the experience with readers, writers and wannabe writers. Adelaide is not very good at bragging, but writers’ week is something of which we should all be proud. Just please invite some more genre writers next year!

Top 10 writer things to do – Go to a convention

Just in case you don’t know what they are, writing conventions are usually two or three day events with a few ‘big name’ key note speakers and then a heap of other authors and industry people. These people participate in talks about all aspects of writing and sometimes they even run master-classes. The talks can cover everything from publishing trends to how to write action scenes. Most genres run conventions in most countries, just type in a Google search and you’ll find something.

I’ll never forget my first convention. The key note speakers were Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman and Poppy Z Brite. They were fantastic. Not only did they give great talks, but they mixed with everyone afterwards in the convention bar (and there is always an attached bar). But the key note speakers were just a small part of what made it so great.

Conventions attract people from all demographics who have one overriding thing in common; writing. Meeting other people who are serious about their writing is one of the most important things a writer can do. You get to talk about issues, successful tricks, and you can find out about resources or opportunities you might otherwise never hear about.

Being at a convention gives you permission to be a writer, and your presence there shows how serious you are about improving you craft. After you have been to a few conventions you will probably find that you get less out of the talks, but you still get a lot out of hanging out at the bar. More than a few life-long friendships have been born at conventions, and I would highly recommend you make the most of it.

The hardest thing about going to a convention is dealing with the downer you inevitably fall into when it is all over and you return to your ‘normal’ life. I channelled this feeling into making me seek out other opportunities to feel like a writer, which I’ll cover in the rest of my Top 10 blogs.

Wrong recipient

This week I had the strangest story idea experience. I was reading a light-hearted book, and (as often happens) a single sentence sparked off a totally unrelated idea for a story. This idea was dark. Not just creepy dark, but blackest-pits-of-the-soul dark. It scared me.

I stopped and ran the idea over in my head again, feeling revolted by it. I was simultaneously pushing it away while trying to delve deeper. I could see the sliver of good in it, but the good skirted so finely on the edge that it would be hard to see. It would be easy to read the story the wrong way, to get the wrong idea of what I was trying to say, but if read in the right way it could be amazing.

I don’t think the story was intended for me. I must have had my story rod raised and it caught a bolt intended for someone else. I’ve often said that I think stories come from the collective unconscious and we just catch them and write them down. The way tales come so completely formed, it seems like there could be no other way.

The weird thing about this experience is that now I can remember barely a thing about it. I have shadows of the story, but they are like the memory of a dream; you know you had the full plot, but you can only get tiny parts now. And I guess that makes sense, if it was meant for someone else, it can’t live in my brain at the same time.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day I come across the story and remember it? I’ll track the author down and ask them when they got the idea. I suspect it will be this week. I hope someone with the right skills does write it. I still keenly remember the incredible feeling of the idea, I just wasn’t ready to climb down into that pit.

Where don’t you get your ideas?

My friend and I have dared each other to ask every author at Adelaide Writers’ Week where they get their ideas – just so we can watch them roll their eyes. The truth is neither of us will have the guts to do this because it is just such an embarrassing question. Writers get ideas from everywhere! Usually the problem is deciding which ones you will let in and which you will ignore.

But it has made me wonder about the rest of the population. Do non-writers really not get ideas for stories? Do all their fantasies revolve only around them and other people they know? Or (and I refuse to believe this assertion) do some people actually not make up any stories in their head about anyone?

I watch a news story and I start imagining the fallout of events, I read a book and I think about where I would have taken the story, I listen to a song which might ostensibly be about the basic boy and girl falling in or out of love and I can turn it into a dark paranormal novel, maybe even a trilogy. Doesn’t this happen to everyone on some level???

If I was to list my top five favourite things about being alive, making up stories would be on there. If, and I hope I’m talking to no-one here, you have never made up a story after you left school, try it now. Even if you need to fan-fiction it and lift someone else’s characters and setting, try it (there are no copyright breaches when it stays in your head). You may just find you like it.