Category Archives: The Writing Life

I’m Back!

There – didn’t that month go quickly? Writing wise, I have picked up two possible freelance jobs, and heard a whole lot of nothing from everyone else. I have completed three short stroeis and two articles.

June 2017

Cogpunk Steamscribe and the Eldest Coglet.

Real life just wanted to get in the way this month. I have been having preventative medical proceedures like colonoscopies and eye exams and visits to my Diabetes doctor … which are all time consuming. There has been a death in my family (one of my aunts, a lovely woman) and the little dog had massive medical problems of his own. In fact, the little dog’s having quite the time of it, but now he is getting better.

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My eye cavity was filled with tears, (my eye was removed when I was a puppy), caused by a huge and painful tooth abscess that involved pulling eight of my teeth. I also have ear infections because of the abscess. However, all the love and cuddles is making me better.

I will now be back to posting three or four times a week.

Hey, how about the current season of Doctor Who? Isn’t it amazing? I love Bill and Nardole.

I have 88 rejections, with my goal of 100 rejections, but I don’t hear back as often as I would hope. Still, I have been sending stuff off and getting acceptances. I am going to make my goal for 100 rejections for next financial year as well.

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Filed under Doctor Who, Personal experience, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, Writing Career

Feeding the Muse

Muses

I have been working on the end to my Steampunk Work-in-Progress (yep, I’m WiP-ped). In the past week, some serious thinking and research helped me come up with the logical progression for constructing the ending. This will mean more re-writes, but not huge structural edits.

muse-3

I see research as part of the process of feeding the muse. My main problem is that I can never predict what is going to inspire a good (or even great) idea. So, I do a lot of research. I read news stories, science articles, textbooks, anything and everything gets fed into the files for the muse to sort through. Sometimes I wish I could just click my fingers and the best idea would swim to the front of the pile, but that isn’t how it work.

Sorry, but feeding the muse takes effort, just like anything else. This is why I am a little cynical when I hear a writer claim that he/she doesn’t do any reading.

aggressive muse

The muse is unforgiving. It just ins’t a case of ‘Garbage in, garbage out’. No fuel, and the flame splutters out entirely.

Currently, I am reading up on Victorian-era model villages. These were both a great concept and a really bad idea, depending on who was in charge. On one hand, these were developed to create ideal living conditions for a planned community. creating comfort for families and a guaranteed population base for businesses. On the dark side, these were nearly gulags for imprisoning a workforce to labour under unpleasant and dangerous conditions. What a perfect setting for both a hero or a villain!

Muse

This is the last piece I need for the puzzle that is my book. It is almost a frightening thought.  I’ve worked with these characters for so long, that I will miss them once the book is complete. However, I’ve been through this ‘breaking up’ period a few times now, when you have to distance yourself from your creations. The best solution is have a new project in the wings, a shiny new toy for the muse to play with.

outsidethebox muse.jpg

 

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Filed under Steampunk, Steampunk Work-in-Progress, the Muse, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, writing

The Brick-wall Happy Ending: a Steampunk Perspective

mmeteor1_roman fortress in Bulgaria

When I imagine changing places with her I get the feeling I do on finishing a novel with a brick-wall happy ending – I mean the kind of ending when you never think any more about the characters . . .

Dodie Smith; I Capture the Castle

I am currently rereading I Capture the Castle. It is one of those novels that always reveals something new when you read it. This time round, I can see where, on page 324, the author, Dodie Smith, is foreshadowing to the audience exactly how she will be ending her book. In case you’ve never read it (and why not?), it doesn’t have a ‘brick-wall happy ending’. She wanted her audience to think about the characters after the book has finished, and this has contributed to the continuing popularity of the novel.

Why am I bring this up?

I am rather terrible at writing endings.

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I’ve never been a woman able to write a brick-wall happy ending, where they “all lived happily ever after.” Is this because I don’t like ending the story and leaving my characters behind? Is it because real life never has a neat and tidy ending? Is it because an ending is sort of sad and melancholy, and I am avoiding those feelings? It is probably a mixture of these reasons, among others. Endings are complex.

What makes a good ending? Tidying away all the plots and subplots satisfactorily? Vanquishing the villain and leaving the protagonist victorious? A slap-up feast with a roast boar and gallons of ginger-ale? Do you prefer a tragedy; seeing everyone sitting in the ruins of their lives? Or – like me – do you prefer a drawn line in the sand, with the expectation that the characters still have an important part of their lives to go on with?

York

I prefer being able to peep over the wall, rather than slamming up against it. Yet this means that I have to make hard decisions about where to leave things for the characters. I do tend to punish my villains and antagonists, but I am less inclined to ‘reward’ my protagonists with a tidy ending. I prefer to infer they go on to have further adventures.

There is plenty of time to rest after you are dead. Who wants to laze around for the rest of their life? Where is the fun in that? It is fine to take a breather and relax after an adventure, but no one really wants the adventure to end.

In I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith ends the book well before the ‘happily ever after’. It is left up to the reader to decide whether or not the protagonist and the romantic lead end up together. I’ve spent many a happy daydream giving them a range of happy endings, and wondering which one is the correct one (from Dodie Smith’s hints throughout the text).

In my Steampunk work-in-progress, I’ve got two areas in the timeline when I could end the story. Neither will provide me with a neat and tidy ending, but one of them is ‘tidier’ than the other. However, that ending also brings a better resolution to the end of the adventure. At one point, I was tempted to end the story sooner, and that second ending was going to be a whole new book. The problem was … there wasn’t really enough story left to write a whole new book, at least, not without adding in more subplots. I prefer not to add subplots for the sake of adding to the word length. It feels like you are trying to stuff more clothes into drawers that are already full, and just makes everything cramped and crushed and creased.

I think too much of my current story to do that.

But it still leaves me with the problem of how I am going to end my story in a satisfactory manner.

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Filed under Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Work-in-Progress, Steampunk Writer, The End, The Writing Life, Writing Style

Descriptive Language: from Spartan to Purple Prose

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, from his novel, Paul Clifford

stormy-night

Every writer has heard about the horrible first line for a novel: It was a dark and stormy night. The irony is that this is just an excerpt from the actual sentence, which rambles on for several more lines. As a sentence, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ is just fine. Add in the rest, and you are into the realms of purple prose.

Purple prose is where the language is so florid and baroque that it distracts the reader away from the story. However, no novel can survive without some sort of descriptive language. It is a matter of style and personal taste as to how much ornate phrasing you use as a writer. Modern tastes tend to favour sparse, short, strong sentences; in Bulwer-Lytton’s era, the fashion was for more flamboyant writing.

I see no reason why you can’t use ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ as it gets the job done. In Bulwer-Lytton’s case, he was trying to get too much done in just one sentence and let it amble onward without a real point. He might be notorious for bad writing in these modern times, but he was (and still is) a well known author who could create a memorable turn of phrase. He coined such memorable catchphrases as ‘the great unwashed’, ‘pursuit of the almighty dollar’, and ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. He deserves a better reputation than as the Father of Purple Prose, since he has contributed much to the English Language.

Let’s look at what is right and wrong with his original sentence. As I’ve previously noted, it is trying to do too much. It is trying to set the scene and provide information about the time and setting. A better method might have been to break the sentence down into smaller structures.

It was a dark and stormy night. A torrential rain was falling in London. A violent and gusty wind rattled along the housetops. It fiercely agitated the scanty flames of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

As you can see, in this first rewrite I am attempting to retain the language of the original sentence.By breaking the sentence into four separate sentences, I get a much better idea of what Bulwer-Lytton was saying, because I don’t get ‘lost’ in the middle of the sentence. Clarity is improved (slightly). But there are certain ideas that are ‘repeated’ and this snippet of text could be given a more modern flow with a slight rewrite.

A violent rainstorm rattled the rooftops of London. The gusty night wind shook windows, and threatened to douse the scanty flames of lamps.

Of course, this is still descriptive writing even though I’ve taken out ‘struggled against the darkness’ as I already know its dark because it is nighttime. I dropped ‘fiercely agitated’ because I used ‘threatened’ instead. This also conforms to the modern fashion of discarding adverbs. I kept adjectives like ‘gusty’ and ‘scanty’, because they are doing a stalwart job of describing the wind and the flames of the lamps. I don’t know if this is better than the original sentence, but it is certainly more concise while retaining the descriptive flavour.

The other end of the scale would be something like this.

Nighttime London was rattled by a violent storm.

or

A violent storm threatened nighttime London.

These are both crisp sentences. They get the job done, but they don’t create an atmosphere or enrich details of the setting. I personally prefer a bit more descriptive language than this, but in certain genres these wouldn’t be out of place. Nonfiction and factual historical recounts often use language like this, when it is important to stick to the facts. This is description cut down to the bones.

As a tweenager, I was in love with purple prose. I read a lot of Victorian-era fiction, and was a fan of Elyne Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby series. Mitchell loved to minutely describe both the horse characters and the scenery in her books. (I’ve read every Silver Brumby book, and yet I still see Thowra as a grey and not a palomino. My Seventies paperback book-covers always displayed silver-white horses.) As I’ve mention, there are fashions in writing styles, and at the moment overly descriptive writing is  considered ‘bad’.

When the descriptive writing draws you into the setting, can it still be considered purple prose?

snoopy

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Filed under Descriptive Language, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, Writing Style

List of Publishers from the Picture Book Notables List 2017; from Australian Children’s Book Council

 

1/ Allen & Unwin – they have a Friday Pitch

https://www.allenandunwin.com/about-allen-and-unwin/submission-guidelines

2/ Hardie Grant Egmont

http://www.hardiegrant.com/au/egmont

http://www.hardiegrant.com/au/egmont/about/copy%20of%20contact-us

3/ Walker Books

http://click.walkerbooks.com.au/walkerwednesday/

4/ Scholastic Australia – closed to submissions

5/ Five Mile Press/Bonnier

Open to submissions of illustrated manuscripts at the moment.

http://www.fivemile.com.au/about-us/publishing-guidelines

6/ Penguin Random House Australia

– open February to November for submissions to their children’s imprint.

https://penguin.com.au/getting-published/children

7/ Working Title Press

Not taking submissions at the moment

http://www.workingtitlepress.com.au/contact.html

8/ Fremantle Press

Only takes WA authors or stories with strong WA focus

https://www.fremantlepress.com.au/submissions

9/ Ford Street Publishing

http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com/ford/index.php/about-ford-street/submissions

No email submissions

10/ Windy Hollow Books

https://www.facebook.com/windyhollowbooks/

Website won’t open for me

11/ Hachette Australia

Limiting genres for submission

https://www.hachette.com.au/submissions/

12/ HarperCollins Publishers

Have suspended submissions for the moment

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Filed under The Writing Life, Uncategorized

What happened to Crabtree and McGee’s Writing Careers?

constable-george-crabtree

Jonny Harris as George Crabtree

Two of my favourite television characters have a lot in common, even though they exist in two very different universes. Constable George Crabtree, played by Jonny Harris, is a science-loving gentleman with literary ambitions. Special Agent Timothy McGee, played by Seam Murray, is  science geek & computer nerd who has literary ambitions. At one point, the literary ambitions played a major role in the plot lines of their respective shows. However, both seem to have abandoned the writing life.

murray_sean_ncis-as-timoth-mcgee

Sean Murray as Tim McGee

Now, I was thrilled when these young men wrote their books and saw them published. Sure, they were given a hazing by their friends and colleagues, but they were successful authors! In both television series, their new status as authors played a part in the plots of several episodes. However, all that has fizzled out. If their books or writing careers are mentioned, it is only in passing.

crabtree-teaching-a-writing-class

Crabtree teaching a writing class containing L. M. Montgomery, the author of ‘Anne of Green Gables.

I think it is a shame that this aspect of their lives ended up put on the back-burners (so to speak). I know they are both characters in predominantly crime-fighting shows, but these  shows have had decade long runs with plenty of time to build up the background and personalities of their characters. George and Tim just aren’t about their jobs. No character should be defined by just one aspect of a life.

tim

From writer to action man?

Both characters were light comic relief at the start of the run of their shows. But these are characters that have shown immense growth and added maturity. I hope that ‘growing up’ didn’t mean that they had to give up their writing careers. Writing isn’t a kiddies’ game.

I’m hoping that they both still write, but have developed the sense to keep it from their workmates.

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Filed under Characterization, Murdoch Mysteries, NCIS, Pop Culture, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

Monsters Among Us -an anthology

Monsters Among Us

monsters-among-us-02

An anthology I currently feature in…

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Filed under Personal experience, The Writing Life, Uncategorized