Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stuck in a Rut #amediting #amwriting not at all

I couldn't think of anything to write about this week. Post Christmas is always difficult: all the excitement is over, there's mundane stuff to catch up on, clearing up to do, the weather has got colder and more dismal though at least the days are getting longer again. I don't much like this time of year, as it's just the long, grey crawl toward spring. Even though I only work two six hour shifts a week, which should still leave me plenty of time to work on writing, I seem to spend less and less time at it and the real life jobs just keep piling up. Where does all that time go?!
At the moment I'm in the planning and accumulating materials stage of building a bigger ultimate coop for our chooks, and one that we can walk into rather than have to crawl. The plan is that this will be the last build, allowing us a maximum of 12 chickens, so I'm determined it's got to be absolutely right. The maths has been complicated because half the materials are measured in Imperial, and half in metric. Talk about brain ache!

Anyway, this is just a quick update. I...still haven't finished edits on Reunion at the time of writing this post, but hope to complete it later in the day. I really do need someone standing over me with the threat of a cattleprod these days...

Chook Update
Little Firefly is growing up and has developed what I call that matronly look of a typical Pekin. She's still the smallest of the flock but is no longer a baby, and her black feathers have a glorious metallic green sheen to them which unfortunately doesn't show in the picture.

And no, that bunch of brown feathers isn't part of Firefly but Fizzgig's fluffy behind!
Meanwhile, Kala and Phasma are definitely still right at the bottom of the pecking order, and still spending most of their time running away from all the others, and from me. They did feel brave enough to briefly venture out into the garden at the weekend though.
Kala: whut?!

Kala: are you still pointing that phone at me?!

Kala: look, quit it with the camera already!

While Phasma chooses to give me a truly Imperial glare


Monday, January 15, 2018

In Special Observance

Martin Luther King Jr. Day


For all that he stood for,
 
       For everything he believed in,
 
             For the many powerful words of wisdom
 
                    that have stood the test of time.
 
  
 
                         
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
 
—from Strength to Love, 1963
 
 

Friday, January 12, 2018

A REALITY METER SET ON LOW



As a fan and a writer of science fiction romance, my “reality meter” is set pretty low. In fact, I love all things paranormal, supernatural, weird, out-there, futuristic, not-readily-explainable and mind-expanding in addition to your usual adventure-in-space tales. I tend not to demand that a story fit within the normal boundaries of “real life.” I imagine most of you feel the same, dear readers, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

Though I will occasionally pick up a good history or biography, or catch an interesting TV documentary, I read—and watch—primarily for escape. That’s why I so often choose romance novels, which can not only transport me to another place and time, but also assure me of an emotionally satisfying ending. On-screen, too, I look for an experience that offers something very different from my daily life—a trip back into history, a glimpse at the future, an adventure in an exotic setting, or, at the very least, thrills and chills and stuff blowing up while I remain safe in my theater seat.

My mom (gone for many years now) always used to say she had no interest in soap operas because she had enough of that kind of drama in her own life. I react the same way to novels or films about dysfunctional families, young people trying to “find themselves,” romantic comedies, or—the latest trend—quirky old people on some kind of quest. (Apologies if those happen to be your favorite kind of stories or films; exceptional examples can always be found, of course.)

A friend with a much higher “reality meter” setting and I recently disagreed on just such a film: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. Now, already, this is not a film I normally would go for, with its premise of a woman (Frances McDormand) who seeks to shame the local police into solving her daughter’s rape/murder by calling them out publicly on said billboards. But the movie was filmed locally, and my friend recommended it. Since I like Frances McDormand, I tried it.

The acting was great, but the film was disappointing. In particular, I thought the ending left the audience (me) with no sense of closure. The film seemed to have no point, I protested to my friend. But, she responded, that’s just like real life. You often don’t get answers in real life.


Ah, but a film is not real life. It’s fiction, an artificial construct that may reflect real life to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the writer’s choices. The writer is in charge of that construct. The writer can give us answers, unlike real life. I can blame the writer (and the filmmaker in this case) for not giving me the answers I want.

This is the reason I rant and rave at the random killing of beloved characters on television series. I understand that sometimes actors need to leave and move on with their careers. But sometimes, writers just decide to kill characters off for the apparent hell of it (Game of Thrones, Blue Bloods, Walking Dead, Person of Interest, any number of others), weakening the story and leaving fans in gaping disbelief. 

In fiction, random acts do not occur. (I would also argue that truly random acts don’t occur in real life, either, but that’s just my personal philosophy.) Things happen in fiction because writers cause them to happen. In the fictional worlds I create, people die when I want them to die, for reasons I lay out carefully in the plot. These deaths cannot be avoided because they trigger other events; they push the hero and/or the heroine to action, or they signal a pivot in the plot. 

In the same way, if a story is left without an ending I find satisfying, it’s not because “real life” seldom has a neat ending, though that may be the writer’s argument. The writer chooses to tell the story a particular way, and chooses to end it a particular way. If that’s the case, then, as the reader (or film-goer), I can object to the writer’s choice.

Unlike in real life, where I can only act with the knowledge I have, then lodge a futile protest—or send out feelings of gratitude—to the Great Author in the Sky for whatever surprising turns my own story might take.

Cheers, Donna



Thursday, January 11, 2018

Happy New Year and an SFR trope



Pete and I decided to spend Christmas on Norfolk Island, a remote volcanic peak in the South Pacific between Noumea and New Zealand. The island is a fascinating place full of history and I've written a series of posts abut it on my own website. (You'll find them here) I'm a writer. History excites me. But I can't see myself writing another historical fiction novel in the near future.

Then again…

One of the most popular tropes in SFR is 'aliens need Earth women'. I don't write it, I don't read it – but on our recent visit to Norfolk Island I had to admit that the concept might be actually plausible. After all, most of what we write/read in SFR probably has its counterpart here on planet Earth.

Come with me to the European beginnings of that wonderful country I call home – Australia. In the 1780's Britain had a growing problem with convicts. As a result of its harsh penal system, and the even harsher conditions for the less well-off, who resorted to theft to survive, the jails were overflowing. Some prisoners were kept in the hulks of sailing ships that were past their use-by dates. The gentry wanted the riff-raff out of England. After the American war of independence ended in 1783 the Americans wouldn't accept any more English convicts.

What to do?

Answer: ship them off to the other side of the world. What about the Great South Land, mapped by Captain Cook in his great voyage of exploration in 1770? So it was decided. Eleven ships set sail from Portsmouth carrying around 1500 convicts, settlers, and marines. They settled on the shores of Port Jackson at a place they called Sydney Cove. Here's a potted history.

It wasn't an easy life. Europeans at that time didn't really understand that things were not going to be the same as at home. The seasons were different, the climate was different, crops failed, starvation loomed, illness threatened. And to top it all off, most of the settlers were men. Some women were transported on the First Fleet, but not enough to form a stable society. So the powers-that-be in England emptied the jails of women – especially those sentenced to death – and sent them off to the fledgling colony on the Lady Juliana as part of a second fleet. The ladies were lucky – unlike the crews of the other ships in the second fleet, the captain of the Lady Juliana was a reasonable man who looked after his passengers. To be sure, the 'ladies' were happy to look after the needs of the captain and his crew, and any gentlemen they might encounter when they were in port. Only one woman died on the journey to Australia, in stark contrast to the many men who died on the other ships.

One of the females on the Lady Juliana was 11-year-old Mary Wade, sentenced to death for highway robbery (stealing another child's clothes). After a good deal of adversity, Mary went on to be the mother of 21 children, one of Australia's founding mothers.

History isn't about dates and names. It's about real people living in times often not of their making. This article about the Lady Juliana provides so many plot bunnies to anybody writing stories. For fantasy or science fiction, just tweak your settings.

Here's another story to whet your appetite – the mutiny on the Bounty. Forget about the mutiny itself, let's get to the story of what happened to the mutineers. After he'd set Captain Bligh and eighteen loyal crew adrift in the Bounty's longboat, Fletcher Christian was left with a few loyal mutineers and a number of crew who would have gone with Bligh if there'd been room. Christian knew he'd have to disappear to avoid the noose – the Admiralty would come looking when the Bounty didn't show up. The Bounty had spent five happy months on Tahiti, so Christian eventually returned there to off-load the dissenters. He left again with eight loyal mutineers, six Polynesian men (three were stowaways) and twelve Polynesian women. Substitute 'alien' for Polynesian, and you have your SFR trope. Christian and his motley crew ended up on Pitcairn Island, safe from being found because Pitcairn's location was wrong on the Admiralty maps. The history is simply fascinating and you can read some of it here.

As 2018 begins, I'll make one promise to anybody interested – I'll write a sequel to For the Great Good. Puss will be going into space again, in the Dryden Universe. It should be fun.

Wishing everybody a wonderful 2018. And here are a few photos from Norfolk Island to widen your eyes.







Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2018: Looking Ahead And Upwards #amwriting #amediting

2017 was not a good year, not one that prompted me to be optimistic either in real life or in fiction. However, much to my surprise and despite a hefty laptop repair bill right at the start, I finished the year almost $50 in PROFIT for publishing: my first in five and a half years as an author. Mostly down to not paying out for any promotion (which never pays me back in sales at the time and rarely leads to follow up purchases, so a waste of money for me). I currently have funds enough from the past two years to edit and cover another short story, or possibly a novella: a healthy starting point.
However, I still have two unpublished novellas with edits and covers already paid for, plus a short story from even further back. Financially, my publishing plans should be obvious - get those three pieces done, out, and earning back their costs before I move on, but I've really struggled with them. I'm not sure if that's down to burn out, actually getting worse at writing, or my editor expecting more of me than I think I'm capable of. I guess she believes in me more than I do. :P
Coming 2018...
The other nice surprise for me was, despite minimal promotion, my only release last year sold well enough in the first couple of months to have almost make its costs back (I'm about $8 down still). Not bad going considering (although probably down to my buying a premade cover for just $15 rather than my usual cost). Still, it proved to me I actually have a small band of dedicated readers who auto-buy my release, and that's a nice feeling.
Keir is still selling consistently, and there finally seems to be some follow on purchases for Keir's Fall. From what I've read on the success of series and a couple of review comments, it seems book three needs to be done...which means book 2.5 also needs to be done. >.<
So my writing/potential publishing plans need to be:
Finish up and publish the two outstanding novellas and possibly the short.
Finish book 2.5 in Keir's series. Publication of that and book three depends on finances. Right now I don't see me having the funds for a 2018 release (sorry!).
I would really like to finish up a couple of short stories and finally do an anthology collection, enabling me to release all the shorts in a print book.
I want to finish the sequel to When Dark Falls and turn that into a series (I even have a name for that!).
Even those aims are ambitious considering I have less time than last year, and I'm cautious about trying to do too much and end up with burn out again. It's taken me 18 months and a lot of readjustments to recover from that, so I really don't want to risk it again, not when I'm feeling just that little bit more optimistic. We shall see...

Status Update
Reunion is that little bit closer to done. I got the next round of edits back from Dani just after Christmas, but between chickens, work, and getting the monsters back to school I've not had time to really dig back into them yet. It shouldn't take me long but...

Chook Update
The weather's been rather mild so far, though that does inevitably mean wet (my girls' least favourite because it means I don't let them out into the wider world of the garden so often). It also snowed, which they took exception to, even refusing to come out of the coop - I can't blame them! I tried putting down some hay to help keep their feet off the cold ground, but they took a rather dim view of this strange new flooring even when tempted by mealworms. Silly things.
Snuggled up - left to right is Pitch, Effie, and Firefly
with Scoop and Kyru in the foreground.
But this past weekend we added to our flock, this time with a couple of Orpington bantams instead of Pekins. They're bigger than the Pekins, though these two youngsters still have a few weeks growing to do, and are reputed to be the sweetest chickens on the planet. At the moment they're rather timid and are going through the process of finding - or rather being told - their place in the pecking order, my least favourite part of chicken keeping. Fortunately it's mostly by them running away, placing them squarely at the bottom to the point where even little Firefly - smallest and youngest of the entire group - is rather lording it over the newbies and taking a bit too much extra effort in going up to them and having a go. I can't really blame her - she's enjoyed some protection from her higher ranking surrogate mum Pitch but still had to run the gauntlet finding her position...at the bottom. So I guess it's only natural for her to now take a certain pleasure from no longer being the new girl.

But let me introduce our additions. This is Kala, a gold laced Orpington bantam. She's the braver of the two and likes to keep up a quiet but constant commentary on her explorations. She apparently also likes to sit on a shoulder to get a good look around rather than be held.
This is Phasma, a silver laced Orpington bantam. She's much more reserved and nervy, though she's now found her voice which is almost a purr. She will tolerate being held but would much rather run away and hide.
At the moment, the names seem a bit ironic being as they're both from kick-ass female villains of rank, but the names fitted their colouring. Hopefully in the next few weeks they'll settle in and their personalities will emerge a little more clearly.




You can see the size difference between Firefly on the left and Kala on the right, but it hasn't stopped Firefly asserting her position!

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