Friday, October 28, 2005

Eat My Shorts

My last month was spent in a frantic and ill-advised attempt at spitting out two short stories. One was to be 3000 words for a local competition called the 'Queen Of Crime', the other would have been 4000 words for a Writer's Digest short story comp.

One is a Danny Hawaii story, set a couple of months before the novel. He's still finding his feet, but he does his best to help a shop owner track down a vandal--by making the vandal come to her.

The other story is a more ambitious piece. I've been reading a book called Destructive Emotions. It's an account of a series of talks held in the year 2000 involving the Dalai Lama, neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers. One of the speakers mentions how prisons have been experimenting with Buddhist meditation classes for the inmates. He talks a bit about the successes ... and the failures.

Obviously the story I was trying to write is about one of the failures. How else could I call it a crime story?

I had two deadlines to work to, both days apart, both at the end of the month. 7000 quality words encompassing two stories in that short a time was something I found impossible.

So I gave up.

What I did do was concentrate on the story that was more important to me. The Danny Hawaii one. To get it up to speed, I did a lot of back and forth with various 'critters', one who I'm sure will comment here.

Hi, M!

I'm pretty happy with the story I sent. It's the first decent sized short story I've written and it's been a hell of an education. I've heard short stories compared to small sports cars, whereas novels are more like trucks.

Fingers crossed, I hope to become the Queen of Crime for 2005.

I'm sure I'll never live it down.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Viral Tagging

Mary tagged me.


1. Go into your archives
2. Find your 23rd post
3. Find the fifth sentence (or the closest one to it)
4. Post the text of your sentence in your blog along with these rules
5. Tag five other people

Because my blogging is becoming more convoluted than fettucini mixed with spaghetti, I chose to use my old Danny Hawaii blog as the source, and this blog as the destination.

Here's my sentence:

"Eat food."

Which of course is a reference to my other blog: Food What I Ate.

And because I'm a rebel, I refuse to tag anyone else.

The virus stops here.

If you're a rebel too, that means you can go against my word and pretend that I've tagged you. If you do, and I strongly suggest you don't, tell me about it.

But if you do, think on this: who are you rebelling against?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

Diamanda Galas at the Sydney State Theatre, October 21st, 2005


The lights went down and Diamanda walked out, taking her seat in front of the piano under cover of darkness. I could see this because I was in the second row, almost dead centre.

Small sounds of her adjusting the seat and microphone, then the first low notes from the piano. Powerful and percussive, hidden somewhere inside them were the blues.

Then came the voice.

From the pits of her soul, she started as low as a woman can go. A single light faded in. She moved, she writhed, her feet worked at the pedals, her face was part of the song. Anger, sadness, frustration, pain. It all showed, and it all could be heard--in her voice, in her playing, in the stamping of her foot.

No banter, no patter, nothing to appease the audience or give us a reprieve from the intensity of her art. After every song, the light would fade and she would turn away to drink water. And Diamanda needed to. Her four octave vocal range was used to full effect, tearing from the furnace of her lungs, shifting to sweet, angelic tones, then back to a chattering, scratched soundscape.

Her voice startled me at times. She would lull us into security, then rip into a screeching, banshee wail. A strobe light came on to pierce the eyes as well as the ears. Just as quickly, back to a soft touch on the keys. Back to a single red light.

There was humour among the darkness. A song she wrote with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, entitled 'Baby's Insane', started off as a ragtime tune. With choruses of 'hide all the knives, cause baby's insane', there were a few chuckles from the audience, who otherwise were simply too scared to utter a word.

Themes of guilt, death, and isolation were constant. The old bluesman, Skip James, played piano in a similarly disjointed fashion. He would tell the audience that his music existed solely to inspire dread. It was not for dancing.

After her hour long set, there was begging, chanting, and whistling for two encores. I couldn't decide whether the audience's stamping of feet on the floor was something to be pleased or embarrassed about.

Encores over, Diamanda walked to the front of the stage and bowed slightly three times, centre, left, and right. We cheered and clapped, and then she smiled and walked off stage with music in her moves, waving good-bye.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Not So Mean Streets Of Sydney

For those of you that read this blog and don't know Sydney too well, or even for those that never venture far outside their suburb, here's a website for you.

Take a bite out of the apple (secret code for 'click on the picture').

Walk Sydney Streets
Alan, 91, walks every street in 182 suburbs of Sydney Australia - 401 photos
"Streets ahead of us, and he's 90" - The Sydney Morning Herald
"Australia's Forrest Gump" - 7 TV network's Today Tonight

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Go Aussie Go!


It may be too early to call this a bona fide trend, but then again, so often we get a trend of one these days. But considering Kathryn Fox's debut MALICIOUS INTENT will be out next month in the UK (from Hodder Headline) with US publication to follow soon, and now this new deal just announced, it may be safe to say that the next group of rising stars is female, and from Australia ...

Read more: Crime Writers Down Under

Now, if only I can figure out a cheap and easy way to become female.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Abbeys: Crime Fiction Capital of Sydney

I simply cannot believe that I haven't checked this bookstore out before. Living in Sydney for most of my life made me aware of it, but I only went in once to get a language book, many moons ago.

Saturday changed everything. I now have a new favourite haunt.

Abbeys Bookshop.

It has the best collection of crime and true crime novels in Sydney I've found so far. Authors that I previously would have had to order through Amazon are right there on the shelves in front of me. They even put out a monthly 'Crime Chronicle', a newsletter with blurbs on the latest and greatest.

I stumbled around, eyes glazed over, on a bookish high. When I saw the NEW CRIME section, I felt like I'd come home.

While systematically checking each section nearby, I got a big old smile on my face at this:

Then, my fantasies started playing out. Where would my book be on the shelf? Between which two authors does my name reside?

So if you're ever in the City Of Sydney, pop on over to York Street, just behind the Queen Victoria Building, and look out for the guy with the beanie.

Just don't punch me, okay? Just because I write crime doesn't mean I'm tough.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Guitar Shred Show

In my spare time, and before the days of The Novel, I've always played guitar. So you can imagine my joy, my wonder, my ecstasy, when I stumbled across this site.

It's a strange combination of flash animation, interactive music and Zen guitar method, all passed on to you by a Zen Guitar Monk Guru, hidden in an exotic location.

And you definitely have to explore the whole site. Do the Lesson & Jam and enter into a diabolical competition with a Demon Accordian Player.

Click on him, YOU MUST.

I think it's one of the funniest things I've seen this year.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Stolen from Inkslinger:

Decide exactly where you want to go professionally, then act as if you're already there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Five Year Plan

I've always heard of people having five year plans. It's a question that gets asked in most job interviews and it's one that I don't usually have an answer for. It's the nature of us creative types, always looking for the next Big Idea.

Rather than flounder around for the next few years, I thought I'd try coming up with a Five Year Plan myself. I'm pretty sure that if I use lots of Capital Letters, I should be able to make all of this A Reality.

The plan took about five seconds to come up with. It's pretty straightforward. Every year, write a novel, submit the previous year's novel, and make sure the novel before that gets published. I can't predict sales figures, but three novels out in the bookstores should allow me turn a living.

I hope.

And that is my goal. The goal of my Five Year Plan.

Earn a living as a writer.


Year 1 (2005):
Finish first novel.

Year 2 (2006):
Finish second novel.
Get first novel on the way to publishing.

Year 3 (2007):
Finish third novel.
Publish first novel.
Get second novel on the way to publishing.

Year 4 (2008):
Finish fourth novel.
Publish second novel.
Get third novel on the way to publishing.

Year 5 (2009):
Finish fifth novel.
Publish third novel.
Get fourth novel on the way to publishing.
Become a full time writer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Books On Writing What I Read In The Last Year

The last of my series on shameless Amazon links to books I've read and didn't buy on Amazon.

I'll plug a local bookstore instead, because this is where I bought this book: Better Read Than Dead.

Just one little book here. Look at it, isn't it cute?

* pats book on head *

The Writer's Mentor - Ian Jackman
I like this book. Good to keep nearby for those times when you need motivation to keep going. It's a great list of quotes from writers of all walks of life. Makes you feel like you're not the only one going through the torture that is writing.

Monday, October 10, 2005


I finished my first draft a few weeks ago, and since then I've spent every lunch hour, evening, and weekend on doing a first pass revision of the whole damn thing.

A few minutes ago, I finished.

It's a temporary satisfaction at best, but I still feel somewhat sad. I've lived with my characters and the story for just over the last year, and now I'm telling them I'm going to leave them alone for a month. They're sad too. I will be back though, soon, and there will be lots more work to do.

It would be much easier to take a memory forgetfulness pill and get right back into it, but hey, those things aren't without side effects, so I'll do it the natural way.

By just waiting.



Books On Writing What I Read In The Last Year

I honestly read each and every one of the books I link to. Which is a shame, because I could have spent time reading better books than these:

Private Eyes: a writer's guide to private investigators - Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet & John Landreth
I should have listened to the reviews on Amazon. The book tries to make the PI life seem more glamorous than it is, and doesn't offer much in the way of hard facts or details. How do I know this? I'm in the middle of a PI course myself, and the two textbooks I have for it are excellent (and not available to anyone but the students).

Christopher Vogler - The Writer's Journey
Joseph Campbell did a legendary amount of research into mythology in all cultures, finding striking similarities. At one point in the history of Disney, this author wrote a one page summary of mythological structure in film. Since then, it has become the boilerplate for most Hollywood films. Worth staying away from for that reason alone.

Robert McKee - Story
Robert McKee is passionate, opinionated, and some would say visionary. I would agree with the first two, and I would also like to add that his verbosity is out of control.

William Noble - Conflict, Action & Suspense
This book was a chore to get through, but I forced myself to do it. Why? The subject is an important one for mystery and crime novels. Some day I'd like to rewrite William Noble's book from scratch myself.

And look out for the next entry: PART III - THE FRIENDLY

Friday, October 07, 2005

Books On Writing What I Read In The Last Year

I've read quite a few books on writing over the last year, while working on the novel. So I thought I'd share, starting off with the books that were good.

If you're not an aspiring writer, you may want to skip to the Steven King book--it's probably the only one you'll read.

Patricia T. O'Conner - Woe Is I
I searched for this book for months in physical bookstores, finally giving up and ordering it from Amazon. After a month had passed and the other items in my order had all been shipped, I still hadn't received this book. I contacted Amazon and they sent me a new copy, free of charge, with faster air freight. It came to me within a week. A great refresher course in grammar.

Orson Scott Card - Characters & Viewpoint
Even though I'm writing crime, Orson Scott Card is my favourite author. I've been reading and re-reading his books since early high school. His writing is the definition of clarity. Which means that he has a pretty good idea on characters, viewpoint, and every other ingredient of a good story.

Orson Scott Card - How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
Has a great section on what Orson calls the MICE quotient. Milieu, Idea, Character, Events. The idea is that every story can only contain so much of each of these, and you have to decided which ones are the most important to your story.

Monica Wood - Description
I like to refresh myself on this every now and then. This book taught me to search for the telling detail - it can describe much more than what is told.

Nancy Kress - Beginnings, Middles & Ends
So far the best book I've read on structure and plot.

Steven King - On Writing
An interesting insight into one of the most successful authors' writing process, this one is more of a memoir, and that is where it is at its most compelling.

Gillian Roberts - You Can Write A Mystery
An amazingly concise and clear handbook for writing a mystery, this book gave me direction where I only had some idea of where to go.

Deadly Doses: a writer's guide to poisons - Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner
A good reference for deciding what poison a villain will use, it can be skimpy on the details. Worth it for the cross reference section, where poisons are listed by toxicity, duration, and symptoms.

Look out for the next post on THE BAD.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Covet Not Thy Cover

I'm right in the thick of my first-pass revision of the novel. The idea is to clean up the current prose so that when I come back to it after a month's break, it'll be a bearable read. Then I can look at the Big Picture and see how to improve the novel.

This can get pretty boring.

As a distraction, I've spent time dreaming of fame and fortune. One way of playing out my fantasies is to imagine what my book covers will look like. Today, instead of imagining, I tried my hand at book cover design. Here are a couple of the results:

If you want to see some examples of book covers done right, complete with critiques, have a look-see over at Most Coveted Covers.