Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Very happy about new Nightrunner book

This evening I've discovered that another book in Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series is due out in June. I am so excited! I'm glad it's taken me until now to find out, because a year of waiting would have killed me. I think I can handle four months. The cover (left) is absolutely gorgeous, with cover art by Michael Komarck. Mind you, the cover we get here will probably be different, more's the pity. (I have previously posted about the Nightrunner novels here.)

Having more books in such a series is one of the BEST things about being a fantasy fan.

From Flewelling's web site, I wandered to her Live Journal blog, where it turns out she occasionally posts excerpts from her novels as they are in progress. What a boon for her readers! However, I think it is very daring of her, because I get the impression she sometimes posts material that hasn't even been edited -- hot off the presses, so to speak. I have always been wary of posting stuff I've written, for fear it will make me less publishable. Used goods, and all that. Of course, Lynn Flewelling is a successful author, so maybe she doesn't have to be so careful. Tantalising your readers with snippets can only persuade them they need to buy the book. Not that I even need the snippets to persuade me. I'm already considering pre-ordering it from Amazon.

Nevertheless, I have been pondering whether I could start posting little snippets of my own -- just for the fun of it. Surely a few paragraphs couldn't hurt? Perhaps I'll start with some scenes I've killed, just to stay on the safe side. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Another crazy week

I hate leaving so long between posts, but it's been another crazy week. However, the good news is that it has also been a productive one, all things considered. Although I am already lagging far behind my rewriting goals as we head towards end-March, I have written two chapters in the past two weeks. This may not sound like much to those who write a chapter a day, but for me (who's still in work hell, remember) it's great!

It has been an interesting week, where I suffered a crisis of confidence (a published author? who am I kidding? No-one would read this shite!) and worked out that I find narrative sections really really slow going. Today, for instance, I spent twice the time writing half the words in a section of narrative, compared with a short scene that contained movement and dialogue. I think this is because with narrative you're effectively condensing the number of words taken to convey events, so there's usually a great deal of information/consideration to be deployed just so. Whereas with a short scene, it rolls out as though you're watching a movie in your mind. This means, of course, you have to go back to insert accents of reflection and the other senses, but other than that it tumbles out nicely.

Also this week I have reinstated some early mornings for writing, although not every morning. They have not been working as well for me as they did when I finished the first draft last July, but I shall persevere as I can, particularly on days where it looks as though I can't write in the evenings.

Sometimes I fantastise about a life where I'm not a writer and I have every evening free to take up new hobbies or maybe just watch TV or even (radical thought) read a book! But at the end of the day, we write because we can't not write. Consequently I continue to plug away.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

The shoebox

It turns out that Chenna caught a second mouse, which was ready and waiting for my return from brunch yesterday afternoon. She hadn't yet finished with this one; it was a deal more alive than the one from the morning. Inspired by a friend's tale about rescuing doves from her cat, I put this mouse into a shoebox with some water. Yesterday evening it seemed in OK shape, but wasn't very mobile, having a wounded foot/leg. By the time I write this post, however, the poor little thing seems much worse off. I have brought the shoebox inside (as it's hot out) to perhaps ease its suffering, but I don't know what else to do. This is awful.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Chenna earns her breakfast

Chenna has really earned her breakfast this morning, but I feel too ill to eat just at this moment. I sit here, nursing a coffee, and shudder.

It all started at about 2:30am this morning when I heard Chenna playing under the bed. This in itself is not abnormal -- she'll often pick up a milk bottle ring or some other thing to scoot around the floors with. But the thing that woke me up at 2:30am was a squeak.

My stomach churns to remember. A squeak can only mean one thing. I switched on the bedside light, stuck my head over the side of the bed, peered underneath. Yep. She had a 'toy' that squeaked.

Panic flashed through me. Where had she got the mouse from? She'd been locked inside for the past few hours. Please don't tell me she found it inside!

But then I remembered two things from the previous evening . . . the skewed mat beside the bed . . . the intense fascination with the wardrobe as I was going to bed. As I had stood before the wardrobe for 10 minutes or so, clearing out some of my old frumpy clothes that had not yet been purged, lurking within must have been the small furry mouse.

My first reaction was to leap out of bed (because by now, she'd taken her toy out of the room) and open wide the backdoor, thinking I could herd her out there somehow.

For 10 minutes, I lurked in the kitchen, trying to get her attention. But by this time, the mouse was hiding behind something and Chenna crouched in waiting. Besides, I reasoned, she'd already brought the damn thing in, so she clearly wanted to play inside. If I let her outside, she might just go find another one where that came from!

If I just crawled back into bed, she would probably keep playing until the thing was dead. If it was dead, then I'd be able to 'catch' it and get rid of it. It couldn't actually get me if I was in bed. And anyway, even if it did happen to run over my foot, was that really going to kill me? I might as well just let her have her fun and deal with it in the morning. [So ran my thoughts at 2:30am.]

So I closed the backdoor again, turned off all the lights (except the one in my room) and went back to bed. Lay there listening to Chenna -- that devilcat -- romp around the house with her mouse. Heard the occasional squeak. Hoped desperately that the poor thing wouldn't go and die underneath the fridge or behind my massive bookshelf, or some equally unmovable item. Eventually slept.

This morning, I woke with Chenna curled up beside me on the bed. My first thoughts: What have you done with your mouse? She was hungry. Oh, so you haven't eaten it? No wonder you're hungry then, with all that exercise you were doing last night!

I crept out of the bed, eyes pinned to the floor. It didn't take me long to find it. Right in the middle of the hall. The centre of the house. I couldn't possibly miss it.

Nor can I ignore it. It's still there. I'm going to have to deal with it very soon. A dead mouse on the floor is not exactly something you want to live with. But OMG I wish I didn't have to go near it! My stomach churns again at the thought. It's definitely a time for those thick gardening gloves . . .

10:23 - It turns out the mouse was not dead, after all. It lay there, a gash in its little side, chest heaving in and out. When I transferred it onto newspaper, it writhed. It is now 'dealt with'. I am weeping.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Like Neil Gaiman's shark

The other day I posted a link in the RH margin to a ‘pep talk’ from Neil Gaiman. In it, he talks about how writers have to keep going (especially when they’re in the middle of NaNoWriMo) and push through the exhaustion barrier. That nothing matters except putting words down on the page. The following in particular resonated with me:

You write. That's the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

This is not really anything new – you’ll get the same advice from any writer you happen to talk to. But as I was sitting at my computer last night, eyes falling out of my head (again), thinking that perhaps tonight I wouldn’t write, that I was too tired, that I really couldn’t be expected to write a novel and work in a crazy job at the same time, that it would be much easier to get into bed with my book, or switch on the TV . . . I thought about Neil Gaiman’s shark. And I thought about the massive rewriting task I’m currently undertaking, my goals and dreams and desires.

And so I opened my word document, my WIP, and forced myself to write something – anything – a sentence, a paragraph. For an hour and a half I sat there and forced myself to put down one word at a time. Numerous times, I checked how many words I’d written and forced myself not to accept anything less than I would accept on any other day when I was feeling fresh and alive. I kept thinking about Neil Gaiman’s shark.

As a result, I came out of last night’s session with enough words to make me smile. Far better than zero. So I proved to myself that you can push through the ‘can’t be bothered’ barrier. That you can write even when your eyes are falling out of your head! So now whenever I can feel myself fading, tempted by distractions, I will glance at the link to that pep talk and that will probably be enough to get me back on track again.

Words on the page, one word at a time.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Will write for chocolate

I have just spent an indulgent hour of procrastination reading the "Will write for chocolate" comic strip by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. I strongly recommend all writers check it out! The comic follows the exploits of a bunch of writers living in the one building, and is updated weekly on Wednesdays.

For two years' worth of archives, go here.

Friday, 8 February 2008

My brain is mush - again!

I didn't think it could get any harder than last week, but I was wrong. Every year, February ushers in work hell and this year is no exception. This week, I've been mired in the depths of two technical conference papers in parallel, both dive bombing for almost the same deadline. It's been ridiculous. I've been bouncing from one to the other as though I was fighting a war on two fronts. No sooner did I beat one side back, than the other surged forward. Utterly relentless. Throw in a half-day trip to Sydney, plus other bits and pieces, and you find my brains leaking out my ears.

As a result of this mayhem, I haven't written a word of fiction this week, which has me very frustrated. I can't even remember what the last thing I wrote was. I think I have to start a new chapter in my rewrite. Did I do that already? Who knows?! Right now I am going to bed.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Banana chips - on the hips!

Who would have thought that banana chips are 25% saturated fat? I confess I was very surprised -- and not a little perturbed -- when I read the packet just now. I was expecting something like zero fat -- it's fruit, right? But no! The culprit is coconut oil, one of the worst fats of all. No wonder they taste so good. And here was I picking them up as a healthy snack!!

Now what am I going to do with the massive packet of banana chips I now have in my pantry?

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Excrutiatingly engineered

For the past almost-two weeks I have been writing chapter 6 of my new draft. Although some of the events are based on things that happen in the previous draft, most of it has been entirely new. This of course takes a lot longer than editing. However, it did need to be done.

Even so, it has taken a lot longer than I would have liked. It is not so much the amount of time spent writing, which has actually been quite good in the grand scheme of work hell, but more the excrutiatingly slow pace taken when actually writing. I feel as though I have meticulously engineered every goddamn sentence to ensure the mood, tension, information, character, setting etc are conveyed just so.

It is unfortunately my natural tendency to agonise over such things, but why this particular chapter should have caused me so much difficulty, I do not know. Come to think of it, I had similar difficulties with the previous chapter, and I think it might have something to do with too much dialogue and not enough action. You have to work that much harder to make it interesting.

Anyway, now it's over, and I can finally move onto the next chapter. More action, I say!

Friday, 1 February 2008

My brain is mush

Why is it that instead of enjoying a four-day week, we try to cram 5 days' worth of work into it, leaving us wrung out and exhausted?

I've had a tough week -- up at 6am most mornings to write and home around 7:30 every night. Tonight I didn't get home until around 8:45. As a result I missed almost half the 20-20 cricket game I had planned to watch, and am now sitting here with my eyes falling out of my head.

The thing I like about 20-20 cricket is the way they mike up some of the players -- in this instance (as in others) they wired up Adam Gilchrist. Not only is he amusing and rather witty as an on-field commentator -- I don't know how he concentrates and talks at the same time -- but, being one of his last games, it was frought with emotion as well. The game didn't last as long as it shuld have, with Australia whomping India, but I'm glad I got to see Gilly bat and commentate at least.

I haven't written anything (fictional) at all today. This morning I simply couldn't drag myself out of bed, and tonight my brain is mush. In fact, my brain has been mush pretty much all day. I've had an absolutely mad day. One of those days when you hope nobody talks to you because you simply don't have time to answer them. One of those days when you find yourself staring at the screen, or a list, but simply not engaging with anything that is written there. You wait for something to click, but it's like your brain has frozen (like a computer does when it's overloaded). That was me today. (And now, if truth be told.)

(pauses to yawn) I really must go to bed now I think. Remind me to switch off the alarm.