Saturday, January 31, 2009

nearly finished!


At last! I've nearly finished all the material for my writing tips website - it'll be done by tomorrow, all 143 pages of it! I don't know exactly what happened, I started working on it 3 months ago and somehow it just grew and grew. A helpful resource for intending writers turned into a vast compendium. These last few days, it's been almost like finishing off a novel. (3 months! I could've written a short novel in that time … but, like Everest, once it was there, it had to be done.)

My brain is now completely drained of EVERYTHING I ever thought about writing. I'll have to start thinking about it all again in 5 weeks time, because it's what I've sent out for our ROR critiquing retreat. I thought it would make a bit of variety to throw in among all the narrative MSS.

In the meanwhile, I've put up about two-thirds of it on my author's website at
under the Writing Tips button.

It needs graphics and piccies before it goes up on the writingtips website proper.

I wonder if we should invite Flinthart junior along to the retreat? The lad shows talent!


Friday, January 30, 2009

Does This Stuff Run In Families?

Being a writer is great if you really can make a living at it. Otherwise it's an addiction, never adequately sated. You don't learn to be a writer. You can learn the craft, but I don't believe you can learn the underlying drive, the thing that keeps you telling stories. Either you're stuck with the storyteller thing, or you're blessedly free.

Clearly, I'm stuck with it. And unfortunately, it's starting to look like the Elder Son is stuck with it too. By his age - eight - I was already reading full-length novels and composing stories of my own. Of course, I used pencils and exercise pads, but times have changed. Elder Son has been sitting down at his mother's laptop and pecking away, one finger at a time.

Gotta get him to learn to type. He hates trying, but he's just gonna have to suck it up.

Meanwhile, with his permission, here's:

Terry Anderson the Bug Buster
"Chip" Flinthart, age 8

Well, it all started one night when I accidentally left the toilet light on. Quite a light and bright night, quite a long one too. The next morning I got up and there were heaps of biting bugs there.

“Oh no this isnt going to be good” because I didn't notice them until I got into the toilet because I am sort of woozy in the morning.

I went on the toilet seat but unaware to me there was a wasp on it and it stung me on the bum.

“Yow!” I said as I flew off the toilet seat. Then the other bugs started to attack. The march flies swarmed me while the really weird wasps start to swoop at me. I eventually got out but I knew I had to get a plan. I couldn't let those bugs take over the toilet. I didn't want my bum stinged and I didn't think I could hold on much longer.

I went over the the washing machine where there was a pile of supplies.

“Mmm fly spray, good. Underarm deoderant, good. Bath bombs, good”.

I spotted a big piece of ice in the ice bag.

I brought it with me into the toilet and took a few chunks off. Then threw a few at a swarm of marchflies.Crash! One window broke. I took another chunk off and threw it at some moths. Crash! The window didn't get broken but the wall got dented. I threw another piece. Crash! The wall got dented again. This was getting no where. These bugs, they were very, very agile, and I mean AGILE! So instead I used my bath bombs to turn into mist and try to choke the bees and bugs and things. But something bad happened. The bugs were not easily choked by that so I tried deodorant and washing powder that I just found on the floor. Also something else, something very bad - insecticide. I added a few more things like perfume and things like that. Then the whole toilet room was filled with smog but I couldn't keep on spraying so I put bricks on the sprayers and just kept on spraying.

It looked like my job was all done but later it looked like I forgot that I had toxically smogged up the toilet room with perfumes and stuff. I jumped right in and almost got choked to death. I desperately grabbed the hairdryer and blew a safety circle around me and that was not good cause standing there were my parents.

“What have you done to that room!”

So I just stood there and thought “ Yep, they are going to kill me – again”.


That's pretty much verbatim. He got a little help with quote marks, and some stern advice from his mum about staying in the same tense, but other than that it's all his. It's based at least partly on the results of the night before last. We usually leave the toilet light on for the little ones in the middle of the night, but with the warm weather, there were a host of insects in there the next morning, much to the horror of the kids.

What I like about this story is that it has all the right elements: a problem to be solved, a protagonist who actually gets involved to solve the problem with his own actions and decisions, a complication which ensues as a result of his efforts -- it even has a real ending, in which the consequences of his decisions and actions rebound upon him.

It's not literary genius, but I promise you this much: I have seen and rejected worse from the Andromeda Spaceways Slushpile, and even from the submissions to Canterbury 2100. And though I'm embarrassed to admit it, I think structurally it works better than the stuff I was writing at his age...

...poor little beggar.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Changing mental tracks

I've handed in my ROR book and am going through withdrawal. It's set in a tropical paradise with a dangerous underbelly. My mind is full of ideas to make the world richer/scarier, crank the tension higher and push the characters further for the next book.

But my next project is writing book two of King Rolen's Kin. This opens in midwinter. Meanwhile outside it is 30 plus degrees and the southern states are experiencing a record breaking heatwave. I'm experiencing a weird sort of dissonance.

No more grumbling. Back to work!

Cheers, R.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tansy needs to catch up on her sleep...

I've posted elsewhere about my Aurealis Award weekend experience. It was so exciting to be part of such a big event, after so many years of being sort of around the AA's (including four years as a judge!) but never actually making it to the night itself.

The closeness of my daughter's birthday made it impractical for me to get away on the Australia Day weekend (until this year we always had her party ON Australia Day) but this year I was determined to make it - after missing out on all of the year's conventions, I was hanging out to see everyone!

Then, out of the blue, I got my first actual nomination, which made it even more special. I love that our community does this - that we have a big shiny night of glitz and glamour. It felt like we were celebrating everything and everyone in the Aussie spec fic community, not just the winners. Books, authors, readers, big publishers, small press... and OH, the frocks. We all looked so pretty!

I think I may be addicted to the Aurealis Awards now, and considering the whole "Brisbane in January" thing, that's a bit dangerous... in any case, I'll certainly be trying to get to all future ceremonies, regardless of nominations, and will be fiercely jealous of anyone who attends those that I miss.

It was especially lovely to see all my fellow RORettes taking such an active part in proceedings - Marianne doing a fantastic job to launch Trudi Canavan's new book, Rowena presenting several awards and collecting Richard's AA for Children's Long Fiction, Margo glamming it up in her silver scarf to represent Jonathan Strahan for The Starry Rift... and of course our Trent - I was with the other Shiny editors when he won and we squealed like girls (except Ben of course who squealed like a manly man) and were completely honoured by the nice things he said about the little YA ezine that could. Absolute highlight of my night.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Richard still partying!


Can't believe that the WOLF KINGDOM quartet won the Childrens/Illustrated Fiction Category at the Aurealis Awards. Wow! I was so sure I didn't have a chance. I didn't fully believe it when Lee Battersby sent me a humorous sort of congratulations on the night - I thought it was maybe more humour than fact. It was only the next morning, yesterday, when other emails came through and I knew it was true.

Now I wish I'd come up for the ceremony - not so much for the ceremony itself, by all accounts Rowena did at least as good an acceptance as I could've done myself. But I', sorry I missed the party afterwards - all the good vibes. It's a great event they put on, and I'd have attended without hoping to win, except for the overload of work I was under (uni teaching, proofreading WORLDSHAKER, stories promised by deadlines - everything landed on me at the same time).

Anyway, I have to say it feels great to be an award winner. I've won 4 Aurealises before, but this was the sweetest of all, because it was totally out-of-the-blue. And I'm so glad Laura Peterson, my wonderful illustrator, also received an award. I was so lucky to have her working on the books - and she was out-of-the-blue too, a relatively unknown talent needing and deserving recognition.

I've been doing some judging myself lately, for the NSW Premiers Literary Awards - that's the other job that's used up all my time. The experience confirmed past experiences - that judges on panels take thir role very very seriously and really work hard to set aside all prejudices. No favours, no account of reputations, just the quality of this particular book. I can't give the shortlist or winner, of course - I'm not even mentioning the category. But all 3 of us did our very best to be open-minded. As when I did judging for the Aurealises, 5, 6 years ago, I ended up with real admiration for my fellow-judges. Not everyone will agree with our decisions, we didn't always agree among ourselves - but we talked everything out, recognised our own limitations and tried to go beyond them. Three cheers for human nature!

I was going to blog yesterday, but I was too busy celebrating. Today I'm feeling a little seedy. But when I get over the seediness, I'll be back on a high. It's great to receive recognition from the spec fic community - from people whose opinions I specially value.


PS Isn't it amazing how well the spec fic community does awards? I mean, compared to any other genres. Nebulas, Hugos, World Fantasy (as won by our very own Margo) - we're just GOOD at it! And the Aurealises keep going from strength to strength - they've done so much to raise the profile of SF & Fantasy & Horror in Australia.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Trent & yours truly at the ceremony.

Well, I'm back from the Aurealis Awards. What a great night. The AA team did a wonderful job. Glitz Glam and Fun.

When Richard sent me his speech, he said he was 99% sure he and Laura wouldn't win best children's picture book. And what happens? They win!

So I did a mad scramble to grab the speeches and get up to the podium trying to look cool calm and elegant. I was so focused on doing my bit as a presenter of the fantasy awards that I wasn't mentally prepared to deliver Richard and Laura's thank you speeches. But I managed to get through it without stumbling. Way to go, Richard and Laura.

Next section was the Young Adult Short Story and who should win but Trent with his story 'Cracks' printed in Shiney #2. Tansy was terribly proud as she had been involved in the editing.

The reactions of the different winners were spontaneous and delightful.

And congratulations to all the finalists. The judges had their work cut out for them. For instance, in the fantasy section there were 156 short stories which one team of judges read and 38 books, which were read by another team of judges. Since most fantasybooks are 100K plus, this was a lot of reading!

A big thank you to everyone involved in the award, judges convenors and helpers on the night.

Cheers, Rowena.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Countdown to Aurealis Awards

All across the country, the writers were stirring, packing their bags, preparing their acceptance speeches and crossing their fingers ...

Tomorrow is the Aurealis Awards' night. It's exciting to see your friends' books and stories on the short list for awards. I'll be crossing my fingers for them. But most of all, it is exciting to see the genre celebrated with so much talent.

Nothing beats getting together with a bunch of friends for a few drinks and laughs. The Aurealis Awards are a great opportunity to catch up with everyone in the industry, writers, artists, agents and publishers.

So dust off those little black dresses and snappy suits and get your tickets, only 8 left!

Cheers, Rowena

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mister Flinthart Wants To Whine

Okay, so I'm desperately getting the ROR manuscript into shape. I'm also working on a short story. And since it's school holidays, all three kids are underfoot. So is my wife; she imagines she's helping by being here to look after them... but they're getting under her skin and she's getting cranky, which means the kids are getting cranky, and they're all getting noisier and more unpleasant.

Happily, they're supposed to leave in about half an hour: off to Launceston to see a movie on the big screen, and then home by way of a pick-your-own blueberry farm. Yummy fresh blueberries for me tonight!

Normally I'd go blueberrying too. I really enjoy that -- a day in the mild Tasmanian summer, picking masses of fat, ripe, perfect blueberries, chatting to strangers in the rows, eating blueberries until I'm disgustingly bloated... hooray! But I really need the time today, because of course Natalie is off again on Wednesday. A couple days in Brisbane, on business. She's taking the Younger Son, which is useful, but that still leaves me as Sole Parent for the time. So... no blueberrying for me today. Just writing.

Now: what I really wanted to whine about. I'm just catching up on a bit of my slush-reading for ASIM, going through stories that have come in, seeing what's fit to pass on to the editorial pool and all. As usual, it's a mixed bag: some good, some bad, some almost-there-but-not quite. For some reason, today I'm seeing a lot of one particular construction which ranks as one of my personal bugbears. It's this:

"Loop-de-doop-de-doo," she thought to herself.

Disregarding the actual contents of the thought... can anyone explain why the damned character has to think it to herself? Does she habitually think loudly? Is her telepathy so wildly uncontrolled? Who the blazes else could she possibly think to?

Okay, it's minor. I admit it. And of itself, it's not enough for me to turn aside a decent story. But... the little stuff adds up. Throw in enough of this sort of thing, and you'll find the editors will leave your story on the scrap-heap because there's too damned much work involved in tidying up.

So I'm thinking something as loudly as I can right now. I bet you can't hear it -- but I bet you can guess!

Tansy Catches Up (for a given value of 'catches up')

I had plans for January, and I think the fact that it is now the 19th is deeply offensive.

For a start, I was going to start January having already revised and completed Book One of Power and Majesty and sent it off to my fellow RoRettes for our March Odyssey.

I was also going to lay into my revision of French Vanilla, my chick lit crime novel for Pulp Fiction Press, as January represents 4 of the 6.5 weeks I have before that book is due.

Also, I was going to make a good start on Book Two of Power and Majesty - just a mere 15,000 words per month until I start working on the book for real. 500 words a day, dead easy after the frantic pace of Nanowrimo.


It seemed like a reasonable plan. Except that I forgot that the week between Christmas and New Years which seems so tempting and empty is not actually as work friendly as it seems. And that the 1st of Jan is not a special day on which projects magically start ALL ON THEIR OWN (I spent that day making mini quiches and cauliflower cheese and going to a DVD party).

One thing led to another, and I am still one scene away from finishing my ROR manuscript (it's a hard scene and yes, I'm totally putting it off). I started my French Vanilla rewrite on the 14th, exactly one month before it's due.

And today, I wrote the first 500 words of my Book 2. Just 14,500 to go this month!

(see, I just knew you were all sick of those posts when authors talk about how brilliantly fast their novel is being written)

For what it's worth, I haven't lost hope that I will catch up by the end of the month. Maybe I'm insanely optimistic. Maybe I'm just insane. But where there's time...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stories save Society

According to the latest issue of New Scientist (Jan 17, 2009) 'Novels help to uphold social order'. Priya Shetty asks 'Why does storytelling endure across time and cultures?'

She goes on to look at the results of a study into the way people respond to Victorian Literature. The study came to the conclusion that literature could condition people to fight against base impulses and work cooperatively. In the study people were asked to define novel characters and describe their personality traits. Self seeking ambitious people were villains and conscientious, supportive people were heroes. While characters like Heathcliffe were seen as combining both good and bad qualities. The point of it was that for a society to survive the cooperative types who worked for the greater good had to outnumber (triumph) over the greedy types.

If you look the epic fantasies you see the same theme played out on a grand scale. The villains are powerful and totally evil, conversely the heroes are often the little people who seem to have no chance, but find greatness in themselves. Like romances with their 'happily ever after' endings, quest fantasies enter into a contract with the reader who knows good will ultimately triumph over evil.

If people didn't have a need to repeat this scenario with the pay-off the underlying message -- you can make a difference, no matter how small and unimportant you are -- then they would not seek out the traditional fantasy.

The underlying theme of classic science fiction is similar. Instead of using magic to battle evil, the SF protagonist uses intellect and logic to make sense of the world/universe/aliens, ie. to battle ignorance.

The genres we choose to read reflect our world view and the way we interpret the world.

Story tellers serve a purpose!

Cheers, Rowena.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Time I said hello really. I'm Marianne de Pierres 1/8 of this ROR ratbaggery. The group, of course, is really an excuse to eat and drink too much and run away from home for a weekend every now and then.

I'll be back when I've got something juicy to chew over.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Clarion South 2009

The other exciting thing that's happening up here in sunny Brisbane is Clarion South!

This is a biannual event which ROR's very own, Margo Lanagan, has tutored on several occasions. When I first met Margo back in 1999, she had just heard that she'd been accepted to Clarion in the US. I was so excited for her, I hugged her. And she confessed that hardly anyone she'd told had known what Clarion was.

Clarion South is based on the US Clarions. Basically, the workshops are a 6 week boot-camp for writers of speculative short fiction. The attendees are selected on merit and live-in. Each week a different published author/editor tutors. This year the international tutors are Kelly Link and Gavin J Grant.

Personally, I can't think of anything better than spending 6 weeks, focused totally on writing. I know when I was tutoring at EnVision, which lasted one week and catered to book length authors, the writers came on leaps and bounds because of the intense atmosphere and one-on-one time with their tutors.

Wishing the 2009 Clarion South students and tutors all the best!

Cheers, Rowena.