Monday, October 30, 2006

NaNoWriMo Planning & Plotting

Coming up with story ideas can burn some serious calories. During the last week I've dedicated my lunches and evenings to concentrated bouts of brainstorming which have often resulted in cracking headaches. An accompanying bottle of Tooheys Extra Dry Platinum can also be blamed, but firing all my synapses at once is an intense experience.

Hemingway said that a writer should guard his writing carefully, but I'll break his rule and share some of my work so far.

Character names I've come up with include: Jules Nolan, Walter Fitch, Mick Riley, Reggie Cooper, Louise Cooper, Anaru 'Ernie' Tominga, Edward De Gracy, Frank Dalton, and Patrick Ellis. I have trouble imagining a character without a suitable name attached, but once it is, I have a feel for them without even describing what they look like.

This next novel of mine is much more serious and far more ambitious than my previous effort (which I do plan to finish one of these days, if only for the experience). I have some broad plot points with a few scenes sorted out, but I'm crossing my fingers in the possibly mistaken hope that my story is somewhat modular. The reason is that there are two stories running in parallel: one set around 1910, the other in the present day, in Sydney and Melbourne. The scenes in the past are semi-flashbacks that the main character (Jules Nolan) experiences through the viewpoint of someone from the past (Patrick Ellis).

The link between the two timelines is a supernatural one, and I'm going to work very hard to make sure it's an integral part of the story. I've only written some flash fiction that used supernatural elements in the past, so that part of my novel is going to be quite a challenge. I can't say I've read a lot of horror in my time, but I think I have enough of an understanding of the use of fear to pull it off.

The plot will still revolve around crime as I'm drawing inspiration from the underworld 'wars' of Melbourne in the late 90s, as well as an exhibition of police photographs from early 20th century Sydney.

If for some strange reason you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, pop over here to find out. If you don't like clicking, I'll give it to you right now: the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month, the month being November 2006. I've installed a counter in the sidebar where you can track my progress, and I'll possibly post up excerpts that you can read by clicking on the thermometer. Writing involves a fair amount of procrastination, so expect semi-regular reports on my efforts.

Wish me luck!

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Meaning Of Life

It could lie somewhere in this article:

From The Australian:

JAMES Gleeson believes that art is society's strongest link between the past, the present and the future.

And to ensure the grand tradition of Australian art continues well into the 21st century, the painter is putting all of his money - $16 million of it - where his mouth is.

In what is by far the biggest monetary donation received by the Art Gallery of NSW in its 104-year history, Gleeson has pledged his entire estate to the Sydney landmark.

"I thought about it quite seriously for a long time, and I decided that it was the logical thing for me to do," said the 91-year-old, who is considered Australia's pre-eminent surrealist painter.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Whole Novel In One Month?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

If you think that sounds crazy, you're right. It is. But so am I. I'm also susceptible to dares of the 'what are you, a yellow-bellied coward?' type. When Stephen Blackmoore challenged me to join this insane collection of writing maniacs, I raged internally against the idea for a couple of days, but then he put up a bottle of 12 yr old Springbank.

I couldn't say no to that.

Since I'm only five thousand words into a novel, I've decided to make it my project for this wild gig. But don't worry, I won't include what I've already written.

If you're interested in tracking my progress through November, here's my NaNoWriMo profile. I'll probably throw up a word counter on this blog too, but hey, if I link to the profile it makes this whole damn ballgame real.

NaNoWriMo. It's so crazy, it just might work.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Twanging In The Gutters

Thanks to Tribe, the snazziest suit-wearer in the crime fiction world, we can now enjoy the fruits of his latest project: Twanging In The Gutters.

For the last two weeks of October, Flashing In The Gutters will only be publishing stories that have something to do with a country song. With authors like Lori G. Armstrong, Patrick Shawn Bagley, Patricia Abbott, Stephen Blackmoore, Margaret B. Davidson, and myself, you're sure to be in for a helluva party.

So grab a big old bottle of corn liquor, take your laptop out on the porch and suck down a gallon of all them tasty words.

My story, JESSE'S LUCKY KNIFE, is based on the song called The Dying Crapshooter's Blues by Blind Willie McTell (as pictured above). It's more of a country blues song than plain country, but hell, life is chaos out on the range.

Hope y'all enjoy it now, cuss n' tarnation dang nab it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Catch Up

Haven't been posting much here of late. Looking back over the last few months, the frequency of my posts has been erratic, with plenty of week-long breaks. I'm well overdue for a decent ramble.

So. What have I been doing?

The new job is taking up a fair amount of mental processing power. I'm still on a learning curve but enjoying it greatly and muchly. It's good to stretch my programming muscles again. I'm afraid that's all I can really go into here. It is the gambling industry after all, and if I tell you much more I shall have to kill you.

My passion for computer games has been resurrected thanks to the Xbox 360. I've been racing exotic cars, riding horses across medieval lands and, most importantly, killing zombies. Truckloads of them. Entire shopping malls full of them. Lots of good, clean, bloody gruesome fun. Which might explain the following.

I seem to be continually exposed of late to the ominous and looming presence of those little people called 'children'. Went to my first first birthday (two firsts in a row, what an achievement!) and spent it lazing around with a bunch of adults that were, well, tired a lot. The kids weren't, and they pranced and frollicked around in the sun, finding entertainment in the shape of balls, cupcakes, grass, each other. And I swear to my dying day that the birthday boy is an actual zombie. The eyes, the shambling, the strangely high pitched groans ...

Work, the threat of kids, computer games. None of these has been enough to stop me writing. Lunchtime is proving to be nicely productive and I'm finding my second novel taking shape slowly but surely under my calloused fingers. I hit five thousand words yesterday and that's not including the few thousand worth of notes. But I promised not to do a wordcount report this time, so I'll leave it at that.

I've also polished off a story called BUDDHA BEHIND BARS which is probably the most spiritual piece of crime fiction I've ever attempted, based on a snippet of a paragraph from a book called DESTRUCTIVE EMOTIONS. The book is an account of a series of talks between the Dalai Lama, philosophers, neuropsychologists, and a swath of other brainy types. It's a serious attempt by some of the world's greatest minds to come up with ways of improving life, and from what I have read, it seems that it was a success. The plan is to send this one off to Murdaland, if they'll have me, indeed if they'll have anyone (where did the submission guidelines page go?).

Another piece of flash fiction is percolating in my hard drive, waiting for the right moment to fire it off to Tribe's Flashing In The Gutters Country Extravaganza. We'll see how that one goes, then.

Me eyes is gettin' tired now and I must be off to sleepy-na-na-land.

Please do enjoy my latest post of rambling goodness. May I wake up tomorrow morning and not be embarrassed at the crapness of it.


EDIT: A murder of crows told me that the Murdaland website is on the verge of an update, which will include the submission guidelines. May I never be accused of slander.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Inside The Mind

Everyone on the 'upper' side of the crime blogosphere has been drinking, spanking, and snorkeling their merry way through Bouchercon, so I haven't had much to say lately, other than to repeat under my breath, over and over again, "Why couldn't I go to Bouchercon? Why, why, why?"

This obsessional trait does not bode well for my future sanity, especially in terms of the potential for violent, explosive crime. I say this because of a recent posting in an Australian newspaper's crime blog that goes by the catchy name of Gotcha. It's an excellent true crime blog run by Gary Hughes, a long time crime journo based in Melbourne, where most of the action is in Oz.

But back to my worries.

The post in question includes a list of attributes of serial killers put together by a Professor Paul Mullen, who is the director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health. The list is referenced in relation to the latest headline serial killer, Charles Carl Roberts, the man responsible for the Amish school massacre.

But the really worrying thing is how many writers this list describes.

Here it is then:

• Male.
• Under 40 years of age.
• Socially isolated without intimate or close relationships.
• Unemployed, or in casual or marginal work.
• Bullied and/or isolated as a child.
• Fascinated with weapons and usually a collector of guns.
• Have no history antisocial, criminal, and specifically interpersonal violence.
• Have no prior contact with the mental health services or a diagnosis of serious mental disorder.
• Make no threats, or overt or covert statements that they intend to commit a massacre.
• Have no significant history of substance abuse.
• Show rigidity and/or marked obsessional traits.
• Are suspicious and may have think they have been persecuted.
• Have a tendency to resentment with intrusive ruminations about previous experiences of humiliation and injury.
• Prone to daydreaming, particularly about acts of individual, and usually murderous, heroism and of revenge against a rejecting and uncaring world.
• Have narcissistic and grandiose traits, which emerge in a profound sense of entitlement and over-weaning self-righteousness.
• Intend to kill as many people as possible then to die among their victims.
• Adopt an existing script for murder suicide that they have acquired from reading about or seeing it in news and dramas.

Try reading the list from the perspective of a writer and you'll see that most of us are constantly on the verge of blowing our stacks.

Must remember to have a social life. Must remember to stop daydreaming. Must remember to build a history of interpersonal violence.

No wait, that's a story I was thinking about. That's not reality.

Must remember the difference between reality and fantasy.

Must stop this obsessive need to remember a list of things I must do.