Tuesday, 10 March 2015

My new Swiss Misses

I'm working on a new series!

Sadly, it won't be set in Brugel. It will be set in Switzerland, in an old-fashioned finishing school that has to modernise or perish.

The books will be a series of linked stories, so they don't have to be read in order. The characters are already competing for my attention (as they do), and Marina is winning so far. She's American, (Mom's American, Dad is Russian. He defected in 1990, a year before the Soviet Union collapsed.)

What I'm loving so far is exploring the idea of 'connection'. Marina's story begins with her losing all contact with her legion of fans via the loss of her phone. She's surrounded by new people but she's so lonely!

Another character, Gabby, has come to Switzerland to deliberately hide away from the world.

'Miss Beatrice' who runs the Swiss school, is reaching out to the world and desperately trying to make new connections to keep the business from going under.

By the way, finishing schools aren't just for a Swiss Miss. You might be tempted to attend a real one - for a day class or a whole week! Or an intensive six-week course that will set you back about $20,000!

As tempting as this sounds, my kind of 'school' would be a writers' retreat. Any location is fine - in fact, it doesn't really matter where it is as long as I have a place to write. Being away from home, even for a couple of days, is a brilliant way to focus on the latest writing project. In fact, I wrote the first 5,000 words of Marina's story on a writing weekend. I don't think I've been that productive for years!

What's your ideal 'retreat' or 'school' that you'd love to attend?

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Protecting a dead man's reputation at the expense of a trailblazing woman's.

Australian best-selling author and neurophysiologist, Colleen McCullough, best known for The Thorn Birds and Masters of Rome series, died on January 29.

News outlets around the world paid tribute to her passing, and her incredible contribution to Australian literature. Whether you read her books or not (The Thorn Birds sold an estimated 30 million, Rome sold even more), she was a trailblazer.

Yet one newspaper got it badly, badly wrong. The news came in late at night, so journos would have scrambled to put a story to press. The Australian did a sterling job on the lead pages, then grabbed a pre-written obituary (this is common in daily newspapers, where many obits are prepared in advance) and ran it on page 9.

That's when "the fertiliser hit the ventilator". This is the opening paragraph. Read it and scream.

COLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”
In a nutshell, The Australian obit told women that no matter what we achieve in life, we'll always, ALWAYS, be judged on how ugly and fat we were.

It also told us that even though we might be ugly, by some miracle some people might even end up shagging us? Now there's something to look forward to!


It's a day later. I am still angry. I've gotten rid of the f-bombs in private. I have tried to read the obit in full, but I can't get more than a few paragraphs in without red mist falling down over my eyes.


(I've just locked myself in the swear-room and let off some more f-bombs, to keep this post clean).

Then things got seriously insane.

Crikey media made a call. A source at The Australian said the obituary was pre-written and that the obit writer himself was now dead.

 A source with knowledge of the matter declined to name and shame the writer.
I'm sorry, what? Your obit writer is himself dead, but you won't name him. You won't name a miserable, no-talent cog-in-the machine? Possibly to protect his reputation? Because he can't defend himself now that he's dead?

My irony gland just exploded, because this is the same newspaper that was happy to fat-shame Australia's most successful author, who herself is unable to reply because, oh yeah, she's dead.

So, this is an editing failure, then? A pre-written obit wasn't read before going to press and going to internet. Because it went out to the internet. It is STILL THERE!

(breathe, breathe, take off the ALL CAPS)

Somebody must also not be reading the tweets The Australian sends out, because this was tweeted to The Australian's 255K followers, with that sexist bollocks of a first paragraph right there (dear GLOB, she sold 30 million copies of The Thorn Birds, but the very first paragraph focuses on her looks and weight!).

We have serious problems.
Sexism is alive and well, and people will keep making excuses for men responsible for such awful, casual sexism. Even dead ones!

The good thing to come from this was the #MyOzObituary comments on twitter. Gleefully sending up the newspaper for focusing on women's looks ahead of achievement, people wrote some dazzingly good 140-character character-assassinations.


As of 10.30 am Saturday, January 31,  The Australian is yet to apologise.
I can't imagine why. It's not like they've got a reputation to worry about.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Monday, 5 January 2015

I'm so good at procrastina - SQUIRREL!


Happy New Year everyone!


I hope you're having a brilliant start to the year, wherever you are in the world.

Five days in and we are melting in the heat here in Melbourne, Australia. It's a tricky time of year as summer dries everything to a crisp. The country regions, and even some outer suburbs of main cities can catch alight so easily.

I generally don't make New Year Resolutions, aside from promising I'll write more and being healthy and all that. But, one thing I started just after Christmas is now becoming a habit (OK, I started this two weeks ago, but I'm still going, so I get credit for that, right?) is listening to hypnosis apps. I have one for helping me get deep, restful sleep and another for helping me with my all time worst habit.

Procrastination.

I could procrastinate for my country.

Sure, I have good intentions of getting things done. I even mean it at the time I say, "I'm going to do this." And then I get distracted. Or let myself get distracted. But I tell you what, I can't blame anyone else. This is my problem and it's about time I acknowledged it and did something about it. I can't keep saying "Ondine 4 is coming soon," because Christmas just came and went and no final Ondine instalment. Who am I kidding?

Yeah, so this hypnosis app, which is quick and cheap, is making inroads into my cerebellum. It's about turning those negative bossy thoughts into 'cheerleaders' for getting things done.

Instead of the whiney voice telling me, 'you should be writing', it's becoming part of my inner cheer squad, saying, 'your writing is such fun, you love writing, look at you go.' or equivalent. In any case, it's turning the self-loathing into self-loving and that's good for the psyche.

And good for production.

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? Share them with me and we'll encourage each other through the year.

Tip: If you're looking at buying a hypnosis app, I recommend going straight for the 'pro' app in whichever one you're interested in. That way, you can load it from the cloud on to all your devices. If you download the free app, then purchase the rest as an 'in app purchase', the full program will only appear on that particular device. The cost is the same either way, which I only realised afterwards.

PS, this is an affiliate link, so if you buy through this, I get a kickback. I'll rolling in pennies!!!!







Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Lord of the Flies SPOILERS ahoy! (Or, 7 reasons why I hated this book)


Endings are hard.
I don't know how I'm going to end this book. I know, I'll have someone rock up from the Navy and say, "I'm so disappointed in you."

Do you know how I'd end it?
I'd still have the naval bloke rock up, then the boys all get on the  . . . ship? Frigate? I dunno what they're called, but they'd be on it AND THEN THESE LOST BOYS WOULD TAKE OVER THE DAMN SHIP!

That would be a much better ending. The adults in their lives have let them down, so it's time to take revenge!!!!! A few chapters of chaos on board the ship, ratchet up the tension, sail on to a new land . . .

If I'd read this as a paperback, it would have left a dent in the wall. As it is, I read it on the ipad and so I wasn't going to throw it. But dear heavens I wanted to.

Here are the reasons why I still hate Lord of the Flies

1: There are no girls at all. Sorry, there are girls. Two female pigs (sows) that are killed. This made it really hard for me, as a girl, to identify or sympathise with any of the characters.

2: The beginning: The characters were all instantly horrible to each other. None of them do anything remotely 'nice' or 'kind' at the beginning, so I'm left wondering who's supposed to be my favourite?

3: The children are being punished for not having adults around. The entire premise of the story is 'children turn into little arseholes when Mum and Dad aren't there to keep them in line', but they never stood a chance anyway. I felt like they were being blamed for being horrible, but what else could they do? The oldest one was only 12 or something.

4: The children did not think like children. They think like adults (because it was written by an adult who'd forgotten what it's like to be a kid I s'pose) but they behave horribly to each other. Right from the get go.

5: The omniscient third person kept me at a distance from the characters, robbing me, the reader, of a chance to empathise with them.

6: The reader knew more than the kids. Golding drops in the parachute bloke, who is dead, so his parachute is caught on trees and his body sits there, swaying and rocking in the wind. The reader knows what it is, but the boys don't. They think he's 'The Beast' and their imaginations run away with them. As a reader, this robbed me of the chance to empathise with the boys and feel their terror. Because I knew what it was, I was left feeling as if I was supposed to look down on the boys, 'it's not The Beast, you're being silly, come on, be sensible' etc. Then, when the boys worked out what it really was, the element of surprise and wonder was also not there. Because I already knew.

7: The ending. It sucks big time. Sure, they were all about being rescued (it's all Ralph could think about, hence the whole 'keep the fire going so we can have smoke' delirium.) But when someone does turn up, it feels to much like Deus ex Machina. Plus, thanks for driving home your point that the boys were such a massive disappointment. And what am I supposed to feel? Damn right, I'm feeling disappointment. But not with the boys, I'm disappointed in this book.

Wow, I feel so much better getting that off my chest.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Seven Reasons Why Plagiarism is Wrong

If you know me at all, you'll know my books are full of crazy. I'm all about embracing the crazy.
But plagiarism is a whole new level of crazy and I want nothing to do with it. If you steal the work of other authors, I want nothing to do with you. We cannot be friends!
There have been a couple of outstandingly hideous examples of plagiarism just recently that have set my blood boiling. An author in Germany who, bold as brass, said she was 'Mixing', and a writer in the states whose Christian (ie, super sweet and inspirational) books were being ripped off but getting sex scenes added to them. Blurgh!

I don't know why it even needs to be said - plagiarism is wrong - but clearly some people aren't getting the message!

But in case you were wondering, here's why it's wrong.

1. At its most basic level, plagiarism is stealing.

2. Plagiarism is lazy. Bust your own chops for a while and have a go at writing your own stuff you thieving, thiefety thief! (see point 1)

3. Someone else wrote it, you copied and pasted it into your manuscript (oh, you changed a few names along the way? Wow, that must have broken you out in a sweat) And now you call yourself a writer? See point 1.

4. Have you attributed your copied phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, entire novels to the person who actually wrote it? Didn't think so. See point 1.

5. You are not 'mixing'. You are not 'repurposing' you are not 'echoing', you are stealing. See point 1.

6. You cannot sustain a career from plagiarism. Because you don't have the right kind of brain to create characters and situations and scenarios and emotional depth. Because you have a thief brain, not a creative brain. Your brain takes, our brains give. See point 1.

7. You will be caught. In order to not get caught, you'd have to remain completely anonymous. But that doesn't work because you want to sell your (stolen) words, which means you have to raise your profile, and once you do that, you will soon be found out for the thieving thief that you are.

I bust my chops making something I hope will resonate with readers. I hire editors, I workshop and brainstorm with other writers, I bitch and moan to my husband when plots don't work. Writing for me is a long term commitment. My books are the beginning of what I hope will be our pension fund. Because there won't be pensions when we 'retire' and anyway, I love writing so much, I love creating characters, that I won't stop until I have to.

Back when I started writing, I had 'fraud syndrome'. There had been very sad cases of plagiarism that struck fear in my heart. The writers of suspected plagiarism offered excuses along a similar theme: "I must have loved the writing (of other author) so much I unconsciously channelled them into my book."

So I lived in fear that I could do the same. Because I read so much, loved so many authors, how could I possibly avoid doing something similar?

But then, as more and more cases came to light (Black Footed Ferrets anyone?) I began to realise that this 'unconscious channeling' wasn't really a thing. Not when I struggled to get lyrics of a song right at the best of times and yet some books contained word for word, comma for comma cut and pastes from other books. Or a scientific thesis on the life cycle of the black footed ferret.

These days I don't fear that I have plagiarised someone else. Which is a relief. But that doesn't mean someone else won't try and rip me off. All I can do is hope that nobody does.

Friday, 21 November 2014

New Project. Do I still hate Lord of the Flies?

We had to read Lord of the Flies by William Golding in high school and I hated it.
I was 15, I was (and still am) female. There were no characters in this book with whom I could identify, and the story itself was hideous. People were doing such horrid things to each other!
So my memories are of a horrible time, and not enjoying it at all. In fact, this is the sort of book that can turn students away from reading completely.

But have I been fair?
In my 40s, do I still hate it, or do I just hate the memories of those years of being told what to read and what is 'good for me'? My year 9 English teacher told the class that an indicator of quality was one with an orange spine. (ie published by Penguin). Seriously. It's a wonder I ever read anything again. I'm not having a go at Penguin, but to tell a room full of 15-year-old girls to only read books from one kind of publisher? Come on!

It's possible I may still hate Lord of the Flies, but I can't keep hating on it (hate is a powerful word) without at least giving it another chance, right? I'm all about second chances.



I shall be tweeting and blogging this do over as I go along.
Who knows. It could do me in or I could gain a whole new appreciation for it.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Up all night reading

I am not a morning person.
Oh don't pretend you haven't done it either.
Stayed up all night reading something you simply can't stop.
"Just one more chapter" you tell your tired, frazzled brain.

Heh!

Then the morning comes and all you want to do is sleep. But the morning cannot be ignored, and so you drag your tired self into the world of the everyday. Meanwhile, your brain is telling you to get back to the book. NOW!

Michael Grant's Gone series has done this to me. They've wiped my brain and all I could think was "This is so good, I wish there was more," and also, "Why couldn't we have read this in high school instead of Lord of the Flies?"

So I gobbled the first three books in the six-part Gone series (Gone, Hunger, Lies) as they came out. But of course, they came out a year apart and I'd get to the end of each one and scream 'noooooooooooooo' and be desperate for the next.

So what I've done for the final three (Plague, Fear, Light) is buy them and have them sitting on my shelf so I can read them all in one marathon of non-sleeping insanity.

I'm gonna love it.







Saturday, 15 November 2014

If I admit how much I love Taylor Swift, will it make her uncool?

Because she is made of awesome. I love how she's driving her career, how she's handling fame, how she's writing songs making fun of herself. How she handled John Cleese's sexist faux pas while on The Graham Norton Show.

Her earlier stuff killed me. No, seriously. The number of times I died trying to sing Love Story. How does she sing non stop through the chorus without getting a collapsed lung?

Now her fifth album is out and she's only 24!

I think it's fair to say she's found out early what she's good at and she's nailing it!



Today, I found this, and she blew me away all over again. She's in a car with Greg James, a DJ from BBC1 radio, lip synching Blank Space, air drumming, acting, overacting, shoulder dancing and having fun.




Thursday, 13 November 2014

Dance like nobody's watching . . .

Dance like nobody's watching . . . and blog like nobody's reading it.

I just read a terrific and succinct article giving 10 reasons to persist with a blog even if it seems like nobody is reading it.

Here's my take home:
1. People do still read blogs.
2. People don't have as much time to comment any more.
3. People would rather 'retweet' and pass on information than comment.
4. The empty space in the comment box is too confronting. People don't want to be the only one commenting. (Whereas lots of comments makes it look like more of a community.)
5. I can't build a community unless I have something for people to read or a reason for people to come here.

In the mean time, here is a book I have absolutely adored.



If you have read Courtney Milan's novels, you'll know how awesome they are. If you haven't, then hurry up. She's an amazing writer.