Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Back It Up

Usually a post like this would start off with a horror story. You know the kind: guy spends half his life writing the Great Novel Of The Universe on an ancient stone laptop, only to forget to hit 'save', then offers himself up for ritual sacrifice.

No horror stories here, though. And that's the point.

Back up your work before it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

Ways to do it:

  • USB flash disk: you don't need a big one because novels don't take up much space. Even a 32MB disk bought from your local convenience store will do. They're cheap, and any computer bought in the last few years should have no trouble using them.
  • Blank CDs / DVDs: you really should be finding ways to backup your entire system, so if your hard drive crashes you can get up and running within minutes, not days. Stick your writing on these too. Norton Ghost is something worth looking into in terms of system backup if you use Windows.
  • Email: get a gmail account. Send your novel to your other email address. If you're worried about privacy, zip the files up and add a password. Yes, these things can be cracked, but not without a considerable effort.
  • Other computers: if you use more than one computer, carry that flash disk around and leave copies everywhere. You do have a flash disk, don't you?
  • External hard disk: It's easy to buy a cheap external case that connects through USB or Firewire. Stick a hard drive in there that's the same size as the one you have, or find some backup software that compresses your work. Lacie and Maxtor have a range of these to suit, but I prefer the cheap ones from the local computer store.
I took care of the last option today. A friend of mine sold me his external case for twenty bucks and I happened to have a spare hard drive lying around to fill it with. It's the same size as the hard drive in my laptop, and I use a very simple program called SuperDuper! (Mac only) to back it up. It makes an exact duplicate of my laptop's data on the external hard drive, and I can even boot from it if the hard disk in my laptop fails.

These are all solutions designed to prevent loss of your work. The work you sweated blood, tears and other bodily fluids over.

But that won't help if you don't back it up. Do it every day, or when you hit a milestone. At the very least, once a week. Back up dated versions of all the files in your writing folder every so often, and keep them. That way if something has stuffed up a couple of weeks ago, you still have a way of resurrecting the work done before.

Sing it with me, children:


Sunday, January 29, 2006

City Of Shadows Exhibition Write-up

Four days off work has been good for me. It started off with a peaceful Australia Day and it's ending in much the same way. The cats are out on the balcony and I'm wasting electricity by having the windows open while the air-conditioning is on.

I dragged my favourite Demon Goddess along to the City Of Shadows exhibition running at the Justice and Police Museum at Circular Quay. Thanks to the magical powers of a new digital camera in our family, I bring to you a decidedly different write-up of our day out.

City Of Shadows

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, the day where everyone in this sunburnt (ie covered in skin cancer) country has a day off work to get together and have a barbie. Like Christmas, this is all about mass consumption of food and drink, most often snags and beer.

TRANSLATION: Australia Day = barbeque = sausages on bread with tomato sauce + beer

Or failing that, take the family out to Darling Harbour or Circular Quay and watch the Jamaican guy with the big smile and the steel drums do battle with the silver-painted Statue Of Liberty impersonator.

For me, it's all about sleeping in. An hour or so extra can make all the difference. Then, because a public holiday is a great excuse to do things you don't have time for during a work day, I think I'll go shopping. Buy some things I don't really need.

Maybe ...

  • a gold plated blank DVD
  • shaggy red drink coasters with built-in hot plates
  • hybrid fuel cell/electric Converse high top sneakers
  • a bicycle helmet with pictures of other bicycle helmets
  • an imitation fur covered cordless laser mouse with real feet
  • a granite hacky sack
  • sandpaper tissues (I'm thinking wet & dry No. 45)
I'll shut up now.

Happy Australia Day!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

Time for the Down In The Hole town crier's news update:

  • There's a new CrimeSpot in town, with your's truly added to the fantasmagoric smorgasbord of fellow crime bloggers. It's a great way to keep up to date with your faves, and to find new ones as well.
  • A new short story, Dollars And Sense, has been added to my fiction pages. But you've probably already read it.
  • All my stories are now available in PDF format for your downloading and printing pleasure.
  • You may have noticed changes to the way comments are handled: now you don't have to load another page to read them, they just appear out of nowhere when you click.

It's all FREE, so grab it now, for an unlimited time only!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Poodle Girl In The Gutter

Some of you may have read my story POODLE GIRL before, but Tribe has given it a new lease of life by publishing it on his new flash fiction website, Flashing In The Gutters.

Click away below to read the new incarnation.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Heist Is Over

Inkslinger's Amored Car & Kid's Clothing story contest is officially over.

The votes have been totalled and here are the results:

1st place: GUARD YOUR TREASURE - written by Clair Lamb
2nd: THE STAIN - written by James Lincoln Warren
3rd: KID GLOVES - written by Bryon Quertermous

You can read all about it here.

I didn't place, but my story, Dollars & Sense, did get a mention, as well as a couple of first place votes.

Thanks to everyone that took the time to read and vote.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Owner Reunited With Car

Following my last post, a dollop of serendipity came my way. Here's the kind of crime story that really tickles me:

Owner Reunited With Car

See? There's like this old guy in it, and he's like, smiling.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Compulsions & Conformity

WARNING: Writery Wanking Dead Ahead. Wrong Way, Go Back

I feel compelled to completely rewrite my novel. Just ditch the whole thing and start again.

Word around town is that every novel for every writer creates the same kind of soul sucking doubt. In my case, while I do have doubts about the novel itself, my doubts lie more in the direction I'm heading.

What's changing that direction?

There's a subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle undercurrent that runs through most of the blogs I read. Hardboiled, hardass noir is good; cozies are bad. And I can completely see the reason for this. Crime affects people, and it doesn't do this in cute and funny ways. It's a wrenching. To have your property stolen, to lose someone close to you, to lose one of your own limbs is not a fluff-filled experience.

It hurts.

As my novel stands, I have the feeling that it comes across as something slightly more than fluff.

Danny Hawaii is the type of guy you'd want to get together with at a pub, shoot some pool, tell some jokes. He's finding his way through the world of the PI by trial and error, and his general viewpoint is decidedly not serious. There are moments of tension, but there's plenty of fart-arsing around in between.

My vision for the novel, and probably one of the running themes in all of my writing, is to find a healthy balance between comedy and tension. Start off silly, and as things fall apart, get serious.

But the more crime fiction and non-fiction I read, the more I feel like what I'm doing is pissing up the wrong tree. I feel a pressure to write more about the alcohol and drug-fuelled, introspective hard ass, than a young and stupid PI with an off-centre view of the world.

When it comes down to it though, I'm not a hardened, jaded kind of guy. I'm a rampant optimist that finds the quirky side of human nature the most interesting. Crime fiction for me is probably more of a vehicle to explore these kinds of characters.

Now I come to the end of this self-directed rant and find myself back where I started. I'll just finish what I'm doing and see where I go next. In the end, I don't think I could sustain an output of dark, soul crushing art.

I'm just here for the fun of it. Beats programming poker machines, that's for sure.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Vote For Me

About a month ago, Paul Guyot of Inkslinger fame, issued a storytelling challenge to the blogging world: write a short story that included at least a mention of both an armored car and kids clothing. I prefer armoured, but that didn't stop me entering the contest.

There's eleven stories, one of which is mine, but I won't tell you which. If I win this thing, it's going to be legit. So rush over, read all the stories, and send your votes in. You have till the 24th of Jan.

Here are the relevant links:

The Background

The Contest

EDIT: Some of you reported problems with accessing the site. Try again, it's all hunky-dory now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

How To Make A Bestseller

It's all in the title. Jamie Ford clued me in on this strange tool for analysing the probability of a novel being a bestseller, based entirely on its title.

Lulu Titlescorer.

My result?

The title Loving The Law has a 44.2% chance of being a bestselling title!

What's great about this is that it matches another book out there that's reportedly doing quite well.

The title A Million Little Pieces has a 44.2% chance of being a bestselling title!

Now all I have to do is figure out a way to pass it off as non-fiction. Which should be easy, seeing as it's written in first person already.

Search, replace. Danny = Daniel, Hawaii = Hatadi.

Quarter Pounder P.I.

As you may or may not know, I've been doing a P.I. course, more correctly known as Certificate III in Investigative Services.

At least, I was doing it. I dropped out after only a couple of months, but I now have some novel-relevant education behind me, as well as an academic record. For some strange reason, this makes me feel like I'm sixteen.

As a way of making it real, here is the transcript of my results:

Practical law for investigators: Distinction
Planning an investigation: Pass
Prepare and give evidence in court: Credit
Law for an investigation practice: Pass

It's a two semester course, but I only ever planned on completing the first semester. I really don't need to know about occupational health and safety issues to write a novel.

I hope.

Speaking of hope, I have a vague plan to finish the course, just so I can say I saw it through. But for now, I'm only about a quarter of the way, a Quarter Pounder P.I.

Friday, January 13, 2006

It's Pimpin' Time!

Chances are you've already read this about five times today. But here goes:

Bryon Quertermous and Dave White have banged their heads together to produce the bastard son of Plots With Guns, and it's called:


(image stolen from David Terrenoire)

They've kicked it off with a four story issue from previous Plots With Guns talent. Think of it as the battleground where literary fiction and pulp fiction fight to the death.

I think pulp will have the advantage, because it's already beaten to a ...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Too Much Blogging?

Oh, man. This is bad.

But first:

I'm happy to say I've made it past the half way mark of the second draft. It's unclear whether it's still half way or not, but the point is that I got to the section where things are picking up. Danny Hawaii's being more active, doing things rather than letting them happen. The pace picks up and that means more fun. Cause that's what I'm really about. Fun.

Also, the second half of the novel was written after I'd learnt a whole lot about writing and it shows. So I'm glad I'm through that. The rest of the novel should be much more of a joy to work with.

Now back to the bad. It's short, but worrying.

I was typing the word 'blob'. That was my plan. It didn't come out as I expected, though.

Can you guess what I typed instead?

What's In A Title?

A title has to grab you from the get-go. If you're walking past a book store and you've just broken up with your lover who's dying from cancer because they have a fetish for sex with uranium exhaust pipes, the title has to make you turn your head and bump into someone walking the other way.

I've been using LOVING THE LAW as a working title because it suits the story and is alliterative. But it's somewhat dull.

Lately I've been thinking about a new title, one that can be extended into a distinctive series title. Sue Grafton's alphabet novels and Janet Evanovich's number novels come to mind as good examples.

I thought of going the whole hog and naming the novel something like DANNY: VOLUME 1, and that got me onto the possibility of including the word DANNY in every title of the series. The story is something of a balance between comedy and tension, so I think this could work.

Or I could just write a children's mystery series.

Here's some titles I came up with, some of which would be more suitable for later novels in the series:

If anyone has a fave, leave me a comment and I'll tally up the total of three votes I get.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Second Drafts

Second drafts. Could be from the air conditioning. Or maybe that was dinner.

No one tells you when you finish the first draft of your first novel how hard the second draft is going to be. I've read a couple of handfuls of books on writing and it's not something that's touched on in any kind of detail. I suppose that each writer has their own personal way of going about writing, their own process. Covering that in a text is like trying to explain the entire human mind in one chapter.

It's a slog, that second draft. I'm about half way through it, maybe less, judging by my notes.

After I finished the first draft I went at it with a big red pen, noting minor and major problems. As I read, I also kept a short list of the major structural elements I planned on changing when I plunged into the next part of the process.

That list keeps growing.

At first it was a page of numbered items. Then I added a few plot points at the bottom as notes. As I worked, I kept thinking of extra things that really do need to be done. Location changes, character changes, plot changes. Research.

Now I have three full pages of numbered issues to sort out.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and feel tired just thinking about it. About how much work I have to do.

That's a problem that's easy to solve, though. You put your blinkers on (not like a car, like a horse) and focus on the task at hand. Break it down into small points.

If you can knock off a couple of those in a day, you're well on your way. If you can edit a couple of chapters tonight, everything's gonna be alright.

That's enough singing. Back to work.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Million Words

If I ever think I'm not working hard enough, I want this here as a reminder of what can be achieved when it comes to writing.

Rough Edges (James Reasoner): The Wrap Up

Over on the writing front, I wrote 5524 pages of fiction, my all-time high. This translates into 14 books, and a little over 1.1 million words, the first time I've hit the old pulpster level of a million words a year.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Great Linkage Experiment

That wacky and zany writer of alcoholic adventures, J. A. Konrath told the world to Get Off Your Ass And Do Something. In the last few days, I've taken the message to heart, especially the bit about internet presence.

Over the last year I was spreading my energies too thinly. I had a Danny Hawaii blog and a food photo experiment called Food What I Ate. Don't bother looking for them because they've both been deleted. Now I've cut down to one blog, and if people are going to read it, I need to get them here. This is what's happened so far in that regard:

  • I asked for a link exchange with Konrath himself. And he did it. He's a man of his word.
  • I also figured if Rickards links to me, why can't his American counterpart, Bryon? I mean, they're almost exactly the same, except one likes weasels and banana paste and the other likes rubber chickens with peanut butter. Bryon was up for it too.
  • Tribe went ahead and linked to me without my asking. So did Jennifer. Now there's a polite bloke and blokette.
  • I've been linking to an excellent website called the Australian Crime Fiction Database for a while now. The creator himself emailed me to thank me for linking, and he's returned the favour. So now I'm between the sheets with authors like Peter Corris and Gabrielle Lord (with Tara Moss in the corner, watching us).
Thanks to all of you for the linkage.

EDIT: Aldo, Gerald, and Tania have joined the hordes. Cheers, guys.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Where Next?

I've been reading the Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. It covers the history of the genre from its beginnings in the 18th century to the modern thriller, with every category in between. At least that's what I believe, because I'm still a wide-eyed lunatic when it comes to crime. It started me thinking about the different types of crime story and where crime was heading.

One side of crime fiction is detective and police fiction, where the good tries to catch the bad, even if the border between blurs. The other side is that of the criminal. In these stories, we learn to empathise with someone that we'd normally have nothing to do with. A serial killer, a stand-over man, a shylock, a robber, a rapist. You can break it down into sub-genres and sub-sub-genres, but to me this is the core of it. Two sides of the same crooked coin.

So how do you write a new type of crime fiction? What else is there?

My brain was powered by lack of sleep and an excess of caffeine in the form of black liquid with bubbles. It worked away at the connections between police, detectives, criminals, spies, sleuths and the like.

And I came up with an idea.

Instead of trying to solve a crime or commit it, I could have a character that just wanted to be part of it. A crime chaser.

A man with a lack of social skills. An observer in life: too gutless to steal or kill; just as unlikely to become a hero. He wants to find a way to live, to feel the rush of something, anything, through his veins. Isn't that why we read crime?

But what kind of person would chase crime, without being a criminal or a hunter of criminals? A taxi driver or a journalist maybe, but I think I prefer the idea of someone who doesn't chase crime in a professional sense. Something more along the lines of an obsession.

Not sure if there's anything concrete here, but I'll see where the idea takes me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Over at Lee Goldberg's blog, there's a post on where we write. It's spreading like smooth peanut butter across the writing blogosphere, so being the tribal animal I am, here's my contribution:

Do I need two computers to write? No. One is for games and music, hence those pretty purple cones. Yes, I'm having breakfast, and yes, Mr. Potato Head is always watching over me, making sure I'm keeping it clean and drug-free for the kiddies.

My room's somewhat cramped, so a panaromic view isn't possible, which means my bookshelf and rack of guitars need special attention. The piles of paper on top of books combine to make up the first draft of my novel.

And for the final piece we have Workspace: The Noir Years (see if you can spot the rubber chicken).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006