Category Archives: Writing

What I’m writing. Writing advice. Writers Block (or blech…as the case may be!)

New Adventures

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Recently, I decided it was time for this old dog to learn some new tricks.  In my efforts to do so, I’ve:

Created a new Facebook Author page (which you can like…if you like…right here).

Begun a new blog that’s only about writing (that you can find here…if you’re a word nerd).

Learned to Tweet (which is hilarious fun and highly addictive.  Oh yeah, you can find me here).

I’m also learning to format ebooks and have begun work on my new book.

All in all, it feels like my period of stagnant hibernation is over.  HELLO SPRING.  What have you embarked upon since the change of season?

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Short Stories

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In between books, in fact, sometimes during books, I write short stories.  Writing them keeps me sharp and makes me use my skills.  For me, short stories are a chance to really indulge my perfectionism and love of words.  The same rules that apply to writing short stories, apply to writing books even to the point that  I generally approach each chapter within a book, as though it’s a short story.

Recently my short story, The Water Cure, was published in Epiphmag.  Check it out.  It’s free and there are plenty of stories to read.   Tell me what you think but be warned, my short stories are usually dark, scary and at least a little unnerving.

Will Work For Food

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Food is a great motivator for me.  While I may not work for food alone, it certainly helps. As it turns out, I will also work for gratitude, adulation and friendship.  Sometimes I even work for money.  Cake however, will smooth all pathways to productivity.

Having just finished Book Week presentations, I can honestly say, I’ve never before, been so foodily

Me pretending I know answers!

flattered.  At every school I visited, I met cute kids who listened attentively.  They asked clever questions as though I might know some answers and they thanked me for my time.

Then they took me to morning tea.  Book Week morning teas consist of coffee, cakes, fruit platters and a whole range of wondrous things, which resident authors scarf, in case the food either disappears…or the bell goes.

Following a Book Week morning tea, there were usually more presentations to different classes.  By this stage, having grown unaccustomed to such long stretches of continuous speech, my voice became a little hoarse.   As if magically attuned, teachers and teacher librarians, heard the initial vocal croak.  They quietly sneaked from the room, to return moments later, with cooling glasses of water.  Wondrous.

Note the attentiveness

Then they took me to lunch.  Bread rolls, more cake, juice, biscuits, fruit, coffee.  Again conversation between writers, teachers and librarians, was interspersed with chewing, lip smacking and finger licking.

After lunch there were more in class presentations.  I was thrilled when teachers took notes and afterward told me how well what I’d discussed with students, would fit with their upcoming lessons.  I was even more chuffed when kids stayed back to have a chat, ask about my books and their own writing.

Then it was home…for afternoon tea.

Of course, this was just the schools.  I also visited the YMCA in Browns Plains, where the girls were funny, interested/ing and fed me lamington squares filled with cream.

At Logan City Libraries, I met students from Browns Plains State High.  They were part of the school’s writing group.  For some reason it makes me inordinately happy to think on teens who willingly spend their time imagining and writing new worlds. These kids filled me with hope, rather than food.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s the hope, rather than the food that’s left me feeling so satisfied.  At every one of my Book Week locations, I found myself inspired by my audience.  I was awed by the depth of their questions, their eagerness to learn and their determination to dream.

I was humbled by the staff (teachers, librarians, youth workers, counsellors etc)who arrange these events.  Their commitment to improving outcomes for kids.  Their palpable need to bring words,

Sometimes a girl needs to sit between snacks

understanding and a love of language into people’s lives.

Over the past two weeks, these people, the staff and the students, restored a little of my faith in humanity, so maybe I need to reappraise my remuneration package.

Will work for fulfillment…and food!

Will Botox Flatten The Uncanny Valley?

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The ‘uncanny valley’ is a term used in robotics.  It refers to the fact that when humans are shown perfectly humanoid features, they feel calm and happy.   This indicates that the viewer can relate to the humanoid specimen.  The specimen can be understood.  Whether the humanoid features are actually human or robotic, doesn’t matter.  The same feelings are also elicited, when the viewer sees a robot that is obviously a robot. However, when shown a robot that is ‘almost’ human, the viewer enters the ‘uncanny valley’.  In the uncanny valley, viewers experience revulsion, dislike, fear and other iterations of distaste.

Graphing the Uncanny Valley goes something like this.

Reading this article and then this one, I thought about all the women I’ve seen recently.  The ones with their flattened nasolabial folds*, their artificially wide eyes, filled cheeks, tattooed eyebrows and lips.  When I meet these women, I have to try not to stare.  I’m not revolted, I’m just…disconcerted.  I find myself wondering what to say to them, which is strange because I can talk to anyone.

It occurs to me now, that these women, may well be humans who’ve inadvertently entered the ‘uncanny valley’.  Consider the face below.  Not entirely dissimilar, right?  Which one is more expressive?

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here’s the next question: will the current tide of Botox, Restilin, implants and surgery, actually flatten the ‘uncanny valley’?  Will we become so used to looking at ‘almost human’ faces on humans, that they’ll no longer worry us when they appear on robots?  If so, are we going to replace models, newsreaders and others in visual industries, with robots?

Is this just my writer’s mind making unrealistic leaps, or is it likely?  Who knows what dreams/nightmares may come!

*nasolabial folds are the cheek lines that run between nose and the corner of the mouth

21st Century Authors

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Well, I did it.  I joined the 21st century.  I realise that probably happened when my books appeared as ebooks on Amazon.  It might also have happened when I started being allowed to submit queries by email.  Or, I might have considered myself ‘modern’ the first time I Skyped.  But no, today outstripped all my other technological advances.  Today I signed a Kindlegraph!

I love signing my books at any time.  It’s such a compliment for someone to buy, read and keep a book for an autograph.  It’s true, I worry over what to write and whether my handwriting is good enough, but ultimately, I really just love that someone wants my autograph.
For this reason, I’ve always felt a little ‘detached’ from my ebooks.  I never really considered them the kind of thing that people might keep, pore over and get signed as a keepsake.  I don’t know why I felt that way, I just did.
As you can imagine, signing myself up to Kindlegraph, was an eye opening experience.  I had thought it would involve me scanning my signature etc, etc.  But no.  For the sake of convenience, they let you choose your signature.  Serioiusly, the Kindlegraph program takes your author name and offers up a dozen different ‘written’ signatures from which to choose.  The one I selected is almost identical to my handwritten signature.  It was so exciting to see, I can’t even tell you.
The image below is the entry to the Kindlegraph site.  The front page is Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ (great book btw).  You can see how the dedications and signatures come out looking.  They’re great!

Don't know how much this cost Ms Fey's publishers, but I bet it was worth it!

So the summary of my day.  Finished ghost-writing a GINORMOUS book, but got excited about my Kindlegraph.  I guess there’s just no helping a technogeek, right?
Oh yes, if you’d like me to sign a Kindlegraph for you, you can click on this link, request my Kindlegraph, your request will appear in my email inbox.  I’ll sign and then BAM it’ll be magically transported to your Kindle.  **sigh** life is just full of little miracles, is it not?

Something Different

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The ladies at my writers group today, pointed out that it’s been a long time since last I blogged.  My apologies, I’ve been a bit busy.  In the last few weeks, I’ve done a number of workshops for Logan City Libraries, where I had a great time and learned a few things.

Getting to express my love of books at Logan Central Libray

I’m learning new things everywhere lately, whether it’s from my son who is a walking encyclopedia, new aspects of my daughter or interesting tidbits from my writers group.

At my writers group recently, one of the members explained the process of accessing different ideas,perhaps from a different hemisphere of the brain.  The process for doing this is really simple and I encourage you to try it out, just for something different.

First- Write your name at the top of a page and

Second- Number two columns on the page from one to ten

Third – Using your dominant hand, write a list of personal characteristics in the first column.

Fourth – Cover that column of writing

Fifth – Using your non-dominant hand (in my case my left hand), write a list of personal attributes in the next column

Sixth – Compare the columns

At first I thought this was one of those self-fulfilling things.  People are convinced the columns will be different, therefore they are.  Today, I sat down and tried it out myself.  The column from my left hand was completely different from the column my right hand produced (and I’m not just talking about the handwriting either).

I’m thinking now, that this activity will be particularly useful on Saturday when I present my workshop on Characterisation for the Queensland Writers Centre.  Imagine doing this with a character’s name rather than your own, or even answering character interview questions with both hands.  You could end up with a much more well-rounded character.  I like it.  I think I’ll try it 🙂

By the way, if you’re looking for a workshop on characterisation, I’ll be in the State Library, upstairs at the Writers Centre from ten am on Saturday morning.  Look forward to seeing you there!

No, you are not more talented than everyone else…

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Today my writers group discussed plotting. We  covered everything from noting basic plot points, to graphing points of rising action to circular plots, the heroes journey and how an external journey should be mirrored by an internal journey.   We discussed the way twists of a plot expose characters, how plot gives scenery purpose and movement.  I explained that plot helps keep backstory from becoming the story.  Most importantly we came to the conclusion that eventually, everyone must plot their novel.

Plotting is the beginning of the ‘work’ part of writing.  It’s all very well to collect ideas, cuttings, photos and stimuli.  At some stage all this creative collecting, needs to lead somewhere, preferably to a dynamite ending.  If a plot isn’t linked, clues aren’t dropped and pieces aren’t subtly joined and related, readers feel cheated, deceived and ripped off.

For me (and coincidentally Derek Hansen whom I heard speak at a writers festival one year), the end is the perfect beginning.  I never put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, until I know where the story is going.  The last scene in my manuscript is so clear and beautiful in my mind, that I can describe it in vivid detail long before I know the rest of the plot.  Before I start, I’m longing for that ending.  I don’t know where that ending comes from, I just know it’s my end goal.

So, when I was telling my group today, that I’m currently Jonah in the guts of my whale, in the process of working my way out at about fifteen hundred words a day, they had one main question.  “Do you reread each day, before you start again?”  I replied “No.”  Then they wanted to know how I do that, how I keep on track without back checking.  The answer is simple, “I’m not writing backward, I’m writing my way forward to the end of the story.  I’ve got my plot points, so I know where I’ve been and I know where I’m going.”  Every now and then, while writing, I’ll knock up against a previously plotted moment and have a little celebration.  A mini-milestone moment.  Eventually I’ll hit the last one and type ‘the end’ (maybe it will be all in celebratory , tear smeared capitals).

I am not, however, a natural plotter.  I’m a character driven writer.  As such, I don’t plan minutiae, I just mark the points of rising action, the climax and the end point.  The funny thing is, I don’t think many people actually are natural plotters. Knowing that, I get a chuckle when aspiring writers wriggle and squirm, in an effort to avoid doing something that seems so mundane and boring as a prelude to a creative act (after all, graphs belong with mathematicians not writers).  Without fail, they  make excuses, tell me this is not how they work, explain that it’s all in their head and worst of all, that even though they’re a hundred thousand words in…they’re not sure of the plot yet.  My response is always, “Go home.  Plot your story”.  Because honestly, everyone, everyone, one way or another, at one time or another, has to plot their story…and no…you are not more talented than they are.

P.S.  I promised this video to my writing gang, so here it is: