Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Renovations Grind On ...

Living room, hall and front door
Photo by R de Heer
While my floors are being resealed I am living in my new back extension. No books, just the laptop and mobile. The modem working away in a far room. Everything but the basics are packed into the spare bedroom.

My house is 95 years old, old for this area which was settled in 1830s by cedar-getters. Forty years later the timber was gone and people started clearing the forest for farming.

The town began in the 1880s. My house was built in 1918, as a rental. The then owners lived next door, in the house still known as Cosy Corner.

Over the years that I have lived here I have had many visits of people who once lived here or had some connection with it. One lady (in her eighties at the time) came to ask for cuttings of the rose bush out front planted by her mother.

An elderly gentleman came one morning for a yarn. He was the baker's boy in the 1940s. He'd come to work in the dawn, harnessing up the horse, driving the cart round to the bakehouse and taking the bread around the town.

A plasterer working on the new extension used to play  with one of the kids living here.

While the varnish dries and cures I am spending my sitting time coming to grips with the story I'm working on. Writing a Scene Map with the various Plot Points for each scene, and protagonist's Internal Journey as shown by his Externalizations (IE his behaviour). Capitalised words are the headings I'm working under.

As usual I forgot to do the Scene Map before I started writing, meaning I'm having a lot of trouble in various areas making the facts fit. Reap what you sow, as the saying goes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Biggest Thing in a Big Year, So Far

Excellent health has been my most unattainable precious attribute for about fifteen years now. Six years ago a doctor who shall remain nameless prescribed an anti acid for me to control stomach acid. Less stomach acid in its turn was to control the tendency of my stomach cycling through breakfast so fast that I'd be feeling shaky with a tendency towards fainting due to hunger, from about mid morning.

I remember asking why an anti acid and I remember being told "It's OK to do without the acid. We don't really need it." I accepted it. In those days I wasn't  paranoid yet. About seven months ago a young GP refused me the drug, quite correctly as it turned out, as the drug is not meant to be prescribed for longer than six weeks.

Which I learned from a different doctor. Also different in that he listens to his patients. The problems I have been having with my legs, facial muscles, nerve pain etc all point to nutrient deficiencies as a result of not much nutrient uptake in the stomach where it is meant to happen, and increased sensitivities to a host of foods. IE I had a cherry at a party last weekend and was nauseous for the rest of the day.

This all led to the doc suggesting I try the low-FODMAP diet. Hard word to remember, it is actually an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. The way I pressed it into my brain was by making it into FOD(der) MAP, a map for eating fodder. Joking of course.

It's what I have been doing. Researching and downloading recipes. Off-loading my stores to people who can still eat beans, peas, lentils etc. Coming to grips with the changes. I can eat 12 fruits and 33 vegetables from the list. No dairy foods. I don't see eggs or carrots on the list, two of my favourites.

I will be infusing olive oil with garlic and throwing the garlic away. I will be baking bread with teff. Both these recipes and more from Fructose Free Me where I found the explanation and a swag of information. I will be digging under the carrots and soy beans growing in my garden, planting capsicum and lettuces instead.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Knitting Hands

My mother knits. Though she now knits nothing but striped socks, the whole family has garments left from when she still knitted jumpers, lace shawls, baby layettes, panne-lappen, dish cloths, you name it she would have a go.

She has knitted so much in her life that her hands seem to have shaped themselves for knitting. She casts on and off, and handles the needles (knitting pins, some people call them) the traditional Dutch way.

Knitting Hands Knitting Socks
After she had a brain operation six years ago, it took her some weeks to retrieve the pattern of socks from her memory. Since that time her family calculates she has knitted nearly a thousand pairs.

She is slowing down now, but still producing about three pairs a fortnight. She has always knitted for family. And for overseas guests of the family. Christmas and birthdays. There are plenty of us. And for the various money raising stalls run by the facility where she lives.

Then she added knitting socks for a Domestic Violence Support Group, a whole class of Indigenous children, orphans in Mongolia, and great grand children when they started to come along.

The socks are always striped. Stripes help with the counting. Her eyes are as old as her hands.

The socks are made of an acrylic yarn, ideally with 10% nylon. Though such yarn is more difficult to get now. We don't use much wool yarn here, high humidity means a high moth count. And besides, she'll tell you, acrylic doesn't wear into holes so quickly. There is after all not much sock-mending going on these days.

The colours are also an important part. I bet there a couple of hundred colour combinations out in the world. And always using just two yarns. Often a variegated yarn with a contrasting plain colour.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Ort Bag That Was: A Knitting Project

Ort Bag that Was by R de Heer
This knitted cap, what in Australia we call a beanie, was meant to be an Ort Bag. Apparently an ort is the useless little bit of thread left after you have finished sewing something up. People save orts to use as stuffing, for example dolls legs.

The pattern was originally for tunisian crochet but I needed a quick project to experiment with tweed stitch. Pattern by Robynn-El Ross. It  was in a magazine in a waiting room. 

My bag/beanie is made with four pieces of knitted fabric, of 8ply yarn, each 21 stitches wide, length 4x the width.

You need two colours. I used two variegated colours per rectangle, resulting in a green-, red-, yellow- and blue-flavoured panel. For line 1 knit colour a, b, a, b, a, and so on to end, carrying the yarns at the back of the stitches. .........For line 2 knit colour b, a, b, a, b etc. again carrying the yarns at the back of the stitches. Both sides of the work will be the same. 

Sewing the project up can drive you a little crazy because it seems very contradictory when you have it about 2/3 done. At the end you may have a little ort bag, or you may have a beanie with fold up flaps. The flaps can be up or over your ears, good for cold weather. 

Pattern by Robyn-El Ross

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Celebrating First Times

Half-finished Ceramic Installation for Front of Garage
R de Heer
Sixteen weeks after breaking my wrist I was finally able to resume this half-completed ceramics project. The width/height is fifty centimetres, the length will be about two metres. The sun shining over the local landscape. Mt Chincogan in the middle. The Mt Warning/Wollumbin volcanic plug in the left-most as yet unglazed tile. The Brunswick River estuary, Nature Reserve, mangroves and beach in the righthand unglazed tile.

The ten weeks since the cast came off have been a long sequence of private little celebrations of achieving this that or the other for the first time.

First time eating right handed with a fork.
First time brushing my hair right-handed.
First time driving again.
First time cutting up vegetables.
First time brushing my teeth with my right hand.
Etc etc

The break made me conscious of the amazing dexterity of our hands and wrists. How much we depend on them. How weak in comparison our non-dominant hand is. Before the accident I could lift a full kettle of water with my right hand with ease. Left-handed, I discovered, I could only lift the kettle half-filled.

I could type with two fingers, but not click, drag and drop. I did no knitting or any kind of handwork this winter. Hardly any photography. Even a phone-camera was difficult. First time using the mouse was only two days ago.

Bottle tops, jar-lids and zip-locks continue to present almost unsurmountable frustrations. I've taken to cutting zip-locks from the bags and using clothes pegs to reseal. Jar-lids get stabbed with a knife to break the air seal. Bottle tops? No thank you!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Canterbury 2100: Pilgrimages in a new world.

Six hundred years ago Geoffrey Chaucer created one of the first great works of English literature about a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury.

A century into the future, Canterbury is the new capital of an England struggling to rise from the ashes of the 21st Century. A nuclear-powered steam train is stopped on its journey toward Canterbury by a massive storm.

The waters rise with the storm's fury. The lights on the train dim. In the saloon car a coal stove is the only source of light and warmth until the passengers, these modern-day pilgrims, begin to tell their tales.

They are from every kind of background telling each other tales high and low. The  Metawhore tells of her love. The Tingler makes his living frightening people young and old. He tells the tale of a Hangman. Stories of the Calamity follow, and the way the Mincer-men survived.   

You’ll read stories about Plague Babies, Moon people, ghosts, glowing men. Llygers from Whipsnade roam that countryside. The Aberdeen Hulks. Wolves, and robot horses.

 The carbon-knitter is on her way to her guild house in Canterbury. She tells the story of Ram Pan the Rain-Hero, a story from the villages of Stoke. The gnomogist follows the blind evangelist.

Even the train’s conductor must tell his tale. This while he holds steady the ledlight so the spy may disarm the bomb that could blow them all to radioactive pieces.

The Geoffrey Tailor story patches the individual tales into a whole, making it so much more than an anthology. This book, edited by Dirk Flinthart, is truly greater than the sum of its parts. 

For purchasing details lick through to Amazon, here or on the Cover Illustration in the margin. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Formatting to Build Up Suspense

Clouds just before the rain that is much appreciated,
photo by R de Heer

As I just said on Google+ the news of the day is that it is raining here, after 46 days without a comprehensive drop. IE only 4.5 mm exactly 1 month ago.

True, it is winter.

True, winter is our dry time.

But still, we were in a wet year. By 28th July 2013 we had had 2 metres of rain.

Then ... nothing.

The trouble with that scenario and the increasing carbon dioxide in the air due to global warming, to use its honest definition, when CO2 acts as a fertiliser - is that trees grow lots of fuel. Central Australia is much greener now, we know courtesy of one or another satellite.

The Dry after a big Wet there are always very hot and destructive bush fires.

Much of the Australian bush has evolved to handle regular burns. But even the Australian bush is killed by a cyclonic fire. Not to mention all the animals that die.


Above is the strategy of formatting to increase suspense. Formatting directs the speed of reading by taking advantage of the physical movement of our eyes as we skim along the lines of text.

Flicking from the end of a short sentence down to the beginning of the next one is a more natural move than reading short sentences one after the other along the same line, and is related to what is termed 'saccadic eye movement'.

(I was going to link to a pithy explanation on Youtube or Wikipedia but can't find anything in plain English.)

You can study saccadic eye movement in yourself by staring at a nearby blank surface. Your brain likes patterns and will give you something to stare at.

Mine gives me a black spot. Which then floats along a path until my eyes get tired of not moving. I blink and it all starts again with my little black spot floating along a new path. Often along a lower path.

This action is what the three short sentences pounding away at the main theme in separate paragraphs links into. Finishing with an equally short exclamatory statement.

In this case followed by a rather long sentence (35 words! An absolute no-no in fiction writing) expanding on the theme and repeating the strategy, but with similarly longer sentences (averaging 12 words) The longer sentences this time for variety and because the crisis is over. The fires are a fact.

Formatting helps direct the speed of reading and the building up of suspense.

Simple but effective.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Writing Science Fiction: Strategies Two and Three

Unknown Spaceship
by R de Heer
This 'thing'reminds me a lot of an organically designed grown spaceship. That blurry, slightly out of focus front viewing bubble.

I can't remember which movie I saw it in. One of the Star Wars franchise with an underwater scene perhaps. 

The background is suitably wild and weird. If you can't pretend it is lying in water - it being impossibly clear -  think of the ship as resting on a ledge on a cliff. 

The metallic carapace is mostly out of the picture and we have to imagine its shape. Long and sleek? Or bulging with more of the observation extrusions?  

The crew I found in a different scenario. Cold. Dank. A long narrow cave. That didn't hold them back. 

They explored outside, suitably suited up. They got lost. Stuck. They starved. And died. Their bones ...

Remains of Unknown Spacefarer
by R de Heer
 The shape of the bones suggest various physiologies. Alien of course. Well, alien in relation to humans. 

The two largest bones have almost spherical ends. The being was two-legged? 

The spherical bone-ends suggests a couple of very agile joints. The being could jump like a frog? 

Several tractor-like scavengers are trawling over the disjointed skeleton. I wonder if she was eaten alive?

In the dark she wouldn't have known which way to jump. The underground passage wasn't very wide. When you start wondering if the rest of the crew is still waiting in the ship you have the beginning of a story. 

Strategy Two is to take an image and re imagine it. My first shot is a fungus believe it or not, found sometimes in the allo casuarina forests adjacent to mangrove swamps, growing in stumps near the ground.

Strategy Three is to slap together two unrelated ideas, or images in this case, and force a joining. The bones in the second photo are I believe of a frog, probably a Green Tree Frog which like to overwinter in drainpipes. When a long mat of tree roots was pulled from the storm-water drain, there were the bones. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Revisiting My Game-of-Thrones Thralldom

Part Four of the Series,
 only pic I could do with my recently-mended wrist. 

In company with the many many people waiting for the sixth instalment of George R R Martin's The Song of Ice and Fire series, Winds of Winter, I'm spending time in Westeros, that is, http://westeros.org  where at times I have fun on a couple of forums, though I am still unable to furnish my identity with an avatar.

On these forums I learned of the various tasters available, apart from the chapter about Theon at the end of A Dance with Dragons.

I read the Tower of the Hand on http://towerofthehand.com/

I follow The Race for the Iron Throne by Steven Attewell on http://racefortheironthrone.wordpress.com

Occasionally I visit the HBO Game of Thrones site.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Broken writing wrist = broken writing practice

Glade, badly 'shopped
As well as everything else still going on, renovations, life, living etc there's a broken wrist at the end of my right arm. The reason I fell was pinched nerve in my back.

Resulting in not much sitting, and not much writing. Just a four fingered hippity hop with my left hand and one finger of my right hand. Just keeping up with email, Landcare things, a tiny bit of writing to the tune of two hundred and fifty words a day, if that.

This is the first time blogging since it happened. Next time, maybe tomorrow, I will spend time on the Online Writers Workshop. Unfortunately I can as yet not use the mouse therefore no links.

No photography, nor the plaster nor the pain allow me to turn my wrist.  Therefore no recording of the stages of the build. No fungi photography. No craft photography. No insects and spiders as I see them.

As well as no links, I can't do sustained photo fetching to the blog. One is easy. This one because I knew exactly where to look for it.

This one represents Glade, bringing me to the positive side of the situation. I have had Scrivener for a while but because I'm very experienced using Word, I hadn't bothered learning Scrivener and it just sat there, an icon on my desktop.

In my present state of ineptitude, I started using Scrivener to set down background notes for my first Glade novel. Every so often I check back to the how-to videos on one of the Scrivener sites to learn something new and then go back into it to practice.

I was told by another Word aficionado I would be able to do everything I wanted to just as well in Word. Trouble is my copy of Word is five years old and how much is it to update? The price of a shower-bath for my new bathroom. I already had Scrivener and even when I bought it, it was a fifth of the price.

The bigger than everything else positive are my wonderful friends. Jude set up a roster. Everyone is cooking me scrumptious dinners. Jude does my washing. People are driving me to doctor's appointments.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Old Railway Viaduct Model of My Writing

Old Train Creek Crossing
What remains of one of the local railway viaducts. A rustic picture, you may agree. No trains have used these tracks for about fifteen years.

Lichens discolour the edges of the timbers. The giant screws holding the railway sleepers (cross-bearers) onto the beams are rusted solid. The rails themselves are rusted.

You'd be taking your life into your feet, crossing it, it is so rickety. And worse, brown snakes (aggressive and venomous) live along the span.

The timbers of the foot of the stanchion in the creek are about the only bits that look halfway to sturdy.

Beyond the viaduct the landscape is wonder-fully green. I can see tobacco bush, camphor laurel and even some yellow which is probably the introduced senna. All these are major weeds.

My writing habit is as rickety as this bridge at the moment.  My personal viaduct, the build, renovations, builders, are taking my attention. Good weather, ie winter sunshine, tempts me to be out in it. Without any writing implements.

The green world beyond beckons, even the weedy ones that will never let me go. The water below is only a shallow barrier in dry weather. I should wade across.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stage III Has Begun

Old meets What Will be Renewed
Renovations are in hand, despite the rain. Again. Showers.

Thirteen concrete pads with steel stirrups for timbers were poured today. The backyard is a swamp due to all the to-ing and fro-ing with a filled wheelbarrow. I stand on the back step to look at it all.

The old part of the house sits, and will continue to do so, unfastened on its stumps, as shown. Builder tells me that come a cyclone I'll be safer in the new annex than anywhere. We're joking of course. The annex will have one wall mostly of glass.

Writing today was at breakfast, in my scrapbbok. A scrap of the work in progress. And now, this blog post.

The rest of the day went in admiring the progress and the process, bits of cleaning up, bits of knitting, sorting stuff to keep, stuff to be tossed, stuff to be taken to the opportunity shops ...

There will be sorting forever, probably.

And now this is being typed with one finger, due to a large cat claiming a lap, the laptop relegated to the footstool.

The aforesaid cat, Maggy by name, Baggy-Maggy, and a variety of other endearments, has not coped well with the changes around her. Her black tail is sweeping and when I remove her paw from the computer, she thinks because I am typing she should be able to type also, she jumps away.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Writing Science Fiction: A Strategy

Diatribe: what I started to write about the craft of writing but deleted. Started again. See previous post.

Making strange a cactus by renaming it:
Shark Tooth Cactus
We will look at the word without referring to the actual meaning. 'Dia' when it is part of dialogue means a conversation between two people. 'Tribe' could refer to the whole lot of us, our tribe. Therefore 'diatribe' could mean a conversation among the whole lot of us.

What I just did was to make up a new meaning for the word. This is a favourite strategy of some writers. Science fiction writers more often than others but I will always remember the combination of such a rejigging, and its combination with a cliche in Vernon God Little by DCB Pierre. One of my all time favourite books.

In that novel 'a paradigm shift' became a 'power-dime' the ability to change powerfully through being able to use a powerfully-turning dime (ten cent coin) to turn on.

Online dictionaries gave me these meanings:

Paradigm shift:
a change in basic assumptions

a harangue, a criticism

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learning the Craft of Writing

Machine Crafted, Hand Detailed Chair
Someone asked me the other day how long it could possibly take to learn to write, in that tone of voice which said it should really not be taking you (that's me) as long as it has.

What could I say? That it takes as long as it takes? That I was late getting started and am slow getting along? That it will take me for the rest of my life? That I got good at essays but I'm still learning to write fiction?

All the above and some more. Learning to write probably takes about ten years. The same amount of time as in former times it took an apprentice builder, carpenter, knitter or weaver to get to journeyman/woman stage.

Ten years -- a long apprenticeship followed by four or so years working for a boss before the craftsperson got their ticket and could set up shop for themselves.

Learning to write well takes practicing your craft everyday for the rest of your life.

But crafts have been downgraded. We think we can press a lifetime of experience into one year. We think we can learn everything from books and or the internet -- as I used to before I took up Tai Chi. We think machine-work is pretty good and use it for the basics.

The chair above was made by pre-computerized men (I'm guessing the chair is at least sixty years old)) using pre-computerized machine-tools. the carving on the back of the chair is too regular to have been done by hand. Parts of it, for example the cane sides and backs, were woven by hand and must be repaired by hand. The panels were set in by hand, after the chair carcass was completed. I gather this from the slight off-centredness of the panels.

The cushions were re-upholstered by a person with the help of a sewing machine. The beading around the cushions, though a feature on industrial sewing machines, takes skill and experience in the easing around corners in the stiff cloth.

Even these days (early 21st Century) we would expect a person able to produce such a chair to have had a more than a few years of training. Some of us think we can write when we can put pen to paper (a rare bird, these days) or peck out a pattern of words on a computer. Writing continues to be intractably hands-on, where the hands is the metaphor for the mind.

Writing can't be automated.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Renovations Are in Hand ...

...but everything else is slipping through my fingers. This blog for instance. All week and all month I think of interesting topics, titles and fragments of ideas to blog. But I'm not near the computer. I might have my putty knife in hand to 'pack' (that is the term, I believe) imperfect seams between new upright interior timbers and old once-exterior chamfered weatherboards. 

Shower corner, tiled and painted. Good to go. 
Or I might be stripping back a door. This one used to be the door between my living room and latticed verandah. It will be the door from the hall into the new bathroom. It is a non-literary work in progress.

Door in process of being stripped of five coats of paint. 

 I'm going to be trying something new (to me). Writing a couple of posts at the time and having blogger feed them out to preset dates. We'll see how that works.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Stories I'm Living

This morning I counted up all the stories (things, projects) I'm involved with or in at the moment. Thirteen!!! Far too many, I know. Top of my list were the two crit groups, one online and in the raw. Probably at the top because today is the in-the-raw meet and I still need to prepare something. My conscience pulled them to the fore.

Paver path fearlessly striding over the swamp
Next were the two W-I-P I'm working on. One that I'm having critiqued at the Online Writers Workshop, so it's an edit. The second work is a first draft. I'm writing fragments, where and when they appear in my mind. This is where serviettes, old envelopes with shopping lists on the front and dockets from the hardware store come into play. 

Ceramics, I took home two half tiles, 30 cm x 15 cm each to paint up during the week. Three coats of orange. three coats of yellow. The design is the sun shining benignly over the local landscape, the work to be mounted above the roller door into the garage.

The Build, as I call it, where as Admin, I'm meant today to be attending to some outstanding paperwork.

The House itself needs cleaning up, tidying, dishes need washing, the kitchen needs TLC (tender loving care). I was in the kitchen a couple of minutes ago to prepare some lunch. Maybe later, I decided. Shouldn't take more than about half-an-hour.

What I did do was pack my tools away in preparation for the Build to consume the back of the house. It took four hours because inevitably, other things have to be done first. And they too have to be preceded by other things. They need more time still, because in their new temporary lodging they need to be sprayed against rust and spiders.

Large spider among tools

The Backyard calls with the next instalment of cobbles and the cry of the grass needing to be mown. It looks like rain again. I'm guessing there won't be time for any pavers to be laid. The grass ... maybe.

Blogs, this one and my fungi group blog, at http://calderafungi.blogspot.com 

The Expression of Interest for a grant I was doing for Brunswick Valley Landcare. Avery frustrating time of me trying to email it to a friend for vetting. I think I need a new email address.

My Fungi Project I assuaged with a blog post. Address and link above.

My Health. You would think I'd keep that at the top of the list, not near the bottom. Exercise in particular. I'm not too worried about missing my jogging on my mini-tramp as I must have walked four or five kilometres in the backyard this morning. It feels like it.

Finally my story, The Harrowing, published on Smashwords. I counted 23 downloads of the sample. One sale. I rejigged the labels then read Mark Coker's blog about Smashwords, reasons for such 'slow' sales. I'll probably look into getting a professionally designed cover.

RH, builder is here. Negotiating the drive. I must be away.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Not the Alien You're Thinking of ...

I've been calling my alien 'the monster' to signify how different it is from that other extremely well-known alien. Hence Monster-Moored.

The second reviewer of my Online Writers Workshop submission, Chapters 1-3, asked a handful of questions about the characteristics of my alien though he called it a 'mysterious alien entity'. Enough that I went searching back for my first notes.

First on the computer. Documents. Spent a couple of hours searching through what seems like everything I've ever written. Relabelling. Reformatting files and directories. A good clean-up. Finding amazing stuff I'd forgotten I had. Or I knew I still had, but not where.

Forgetting to write what I should have. The article in another of my stories. Mea culpa.

I printed some out and bull-dog clipped it together. Earth Fall, the beginning. Enough material for a whole other novel. A prequel it will have to be, to Monster-Moored. I remember now that ten years ago when I first had that idea, I thought I'd need to be old to know how it felt, to be able to write it convincingly.
Not This Old
This morning I searched for missing links, the pieces of paper with scribbled notes that I keep if I haven't typed them out yet. Somewhere. Added some of them to the new bull-clip file. And started another file with a particularly interesting scene, for Part Three.

A big reason for these goings on is also having to keep ahead of the builders with getting stuff out of their way. Stage III is imminent. The rear third of the house will be unusable.

Upshot of it all is of course that I'd better get my skates on and get on with the writing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When Renovations Stage II are the Story

When renovations are the story, I am Admin. I do the maths, the banking and the diary. RH is Project Manager, builder, carpenter and ditch-digger. I have the last word on spending. 

The new-bathroom-job began with RH ripping old lining, floor and ceiling from the veranda storeroom. Re-engineering the support structure. The house is nearly a century old and was built of local timbers. Not all of them have stood the test of time.

When all was revealed, AB, plumber, came in for the underfloor work. He was at first taken aback by the standing water under the house at ground level – it was the month of big rain – but was soon dressed for the operation. He installed a couple of temporarily lidded entry points for sewage and some taped-up outlets for water. He and Admin discussed mixers versus ordinary hot-and-cold taps and the quality of various makes of toilet pedestals.
Afterwards, Admin hared off to the local second-hand building supplies. She inspected various models of vanity basins, ordered one to be sourced with a mixer-sized outlet and put a deposit on a pair of French doors for Stage III.

MM, electrician, came in for the wiring. He left bundles of wire-ends, some of them ‘live’ and attenuated with dire warnings about touching – hanging at exit points where he later will install switches, power points and light fittings.

In between Admin made six trips down the highway to the tile shop at Byron Bay, to choose tiles. The samples she brought back were vetted by who-ever until the day she ordered her choices and organised for them to be delivered.

Admin fields phone calls from trades people and suppliers. The former are slotted into the diary for their site-visits, when they come to look the job over and offer their quotes. RH and Admin discuss the various pros and cons of quotes for the job versus hourly rates.

DM and D arrive one morning at 6.45 AM to repaint the brick garage wall adjacent to the commercial establishment next door, that early to not interfere with staff car parking. The painting is done by 8.45 AM, and in the afternoon, RH and C put in a drainage pipe and stand the fence back up. DM and Admin discuss the paint-job in the bathroom.

Windows have been sourced, quotes compared and they have been ordered. Admin liaises with her opposite at the factory and transfers a deposit. The three-to-four week waiting period flies by. The windows arrive and are installed by RH and his offsider, C. Admin is very excited to get new old-style louvre windows. The brushed aluminium frames match the existing new-style (IE non louvre) windows perfectly.

The tiler, K comes for his site visit, and again the following day to install the first layer of the impermeable membrane. Admin’s cat, Maggie, tests it before it is completely dry and has to be rescued – she leaves three trademark paw-prints on the pristine cream-coloured surface. They’re painted over two days later with the second coat.

The plasterers arrive for their site visit. They’ll return the day before Easter, when the mud is dry enough to stand on.

B, building consultant, comes to inspect the structural integrity of the garage (Stage I of the build). He marks the work in the bathroom as excellent – a feather in RH’s cap – and agrees to invoice Stage II and III together to save Admin the extra costs.

Tiler and mud-man K’s arrival is marked by a bucket being filled at the front yard tap by water rushing into the bucket. Admin will greet.

Admin has been unable to keep up her normal writing schedule. She uses her gappy time to catch up on blogs, such as this one, researching and writing an Expression of Interest for a Landcare funding application and writing critiques for the Online Writers Workshop.

She thinks about the critiques she received for chapters 1-3 of Monster-Moored, how she’ll need to change the W-I-P if she wants to take advantage of the ideas generated. How to rewrite. How to …
Maybe she’ll have time to do something about them over Easter. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Editing, Once Again

There always comes a point in rewriting when I think I’ve achieved the elusive quality of good readability, when there is nothing left in the work-in-progress to remind a reader that that is what they’re doing … reading. That’s when I head-up a draft with the fatal words, ‘Final Edit’.

And that’s also the point when a good critique will inevitably throw my plans into disarray. I’ve rewritten Monster Moored more than a few times now, attending to structure, story flow, characterization, sentence sequencing and a host of other detail, and was in the middle of what I thought would be that final rewrite.

Then I was tempted by the possibility of a critique or two after I rejoined the Online Writers Workshop (OWW) and discovered I still had some points in my quiver. I submitted Chapters 1, 2 and 3.

The excellent critique of them stopped me in my tracks. I’ve done no further rewriting. Not of Chapter 21: Tardi at the Depot, where he faces his father, nor of Chapters 1, 2 and 3 because I needed to think think think through the points raised in the review.  

Part of Page 1, Monster Moored, after editing
Stilted writing flow’ and ‘choppy sentences’ resonated in me like a fire alarm bell. I’ve fought both these tendencies for many years. Sentences of varying length and fewer passive verbs are suggested as the cure. Testing Page One of Chapter One (500 words) on active versus passive verbs, I counted 33 active verbs, 14 passive verbs and was able to change 4 more passives to actives. On the above sample, purple ticks and minuses mark passive and active verbs. The purple notes mark the changes to be made. 

One quarter passive verbs doesn’t seem like too many. There are things that can’t be said without them. Or at least, that I don’t know how to say in this story without them. The ‘choppy sentences’ problem led me, as a knee-jerk reaction, to count words-per-sentence. The results in pink, running alongside the paragraphs. 

I decided that those statistics are important if readability is compromised. I think now this choppiness could be caused by too many phrases and clauses beset by commas – in long sentences – where I tried to pile on descriptions. It's another thing to watch out for.

Sensory detail is yet another aspect I thought I had already addressed. Maybe in my more recent projects? I shook my head in disbelief as I checked and scored exactly one instance of sensory detail on Page One. I have to believe that because I began writing Monster Moored years ago, it missed out somehow on my more recent learnings. Yes, I do certainly need to add in more sensory detail.

And then there’s the logic problem. An event that doesn’t follow from the events so far described. I obviously need to introduce the prevailing concept (in the culture of the time in the story) of 'Ripple Time' now rather than further down the timeline. 

That's editing. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Free Read, Science Fantasy

The excitement over at Smashwords continues. The same week that I published, they had their Free E-reading week, with however many authors (self included) signed up to allow their work to be read for free.

This worked very well for me, since I hadn't grasped the coupon system yet. That first week I had three books 'sold', and the samples downloaded twice.

This may not sound a lot, but to me it's pretty exciting. At an e-publishing course I did a while ago, the presenter said frequently that it takes a slow start to gain momentum. We shall see.

Part of the book cover for The Harrowing
by Rita de Heer
Now I have the coupon ... KQ48G ... with which you will be able to get The Harrowing for free until the 30th of April. Just clicking on this, The Harrowing will get you there. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Harrowing, ePublished -- Hooray!

This is it, epublished. 

Available in a variety of formats as seen below: 

FormatFull Book
Online Reading (HTML, good for sampling in web browser)View
Kindle (.mobi for Kindle devices and Kindle apps)Download
Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others)Download
PDF (good for reading on PC, or for home printing)Download
RTF (readable on most word processors)Download
LRF (Use only for older model Sony Readers that don't support .epub)Download
Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)Download
Plain Text (download) (flexible, but lacks much formatting)Download
Plain Text (view) (viewable as web page)View

-- A long gestation it will seem for those that have been following the story of this event. As it has been a long drawn out affair for me, and the PayPal account still is wonky. 

Next, I'll learn more about Smashwords' voucher system. I may not have used the right term there but it is late. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Words 2: Tags, Labels, Keywords and Search Terms

Thommo Green Tracking

Dogs are great at finding their way with their superior (to humans) sense of smell and hearing. 
They might almost have been model for the 'spider bots' -- merely bits of programming, I understand -- crawling through the web to find the things required.

Everything typed into the google box is a search term. The spider bots take it and try to match it as closely as possible to whatever presents itself.

On this site, IE blogger/blogspot, searchable terms are called labels. Whatever label I set for this blogpost will appear at the bottom, check them out. ('Thommo' will be one of them, making it easy for his owners to find his guest appearance on this blog.)

In the HTML programming behind the scenes, that you can access by clicking on View on the browser menu bar above, and running down the pop-out menu to View Source, click on that to see the code necessary to bring this article up on your screen. Searchable terms are called 'keywords'. Smashwords uses 'Tags' for the same thing. 

Tags are the final component I need to marshal to be able to publish my story, The Harrowing. The second-to-final thing, the book cover, is however the hold-up.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gathering the Necessities ...

... to publish on Smashwords.com

I imagine much the same process as for other platforms.

Rita de Heer by C McNeill

1) Author bio and photo - see my About Me page. I'm particularly happy about this photo. A friend helped me after I took about 103 half and quarter shots the long-arm way. IE attempting to photograph yourself by holding the camera facing inward at the end of your arm.

2) The ISDN number - which I need if I want Smashwords to distribute my book to such publishers as Apple. When I googled "buy ISDN" an agency in Australia came up. I'm extrapolating that there will be agencies everywhere --Turkey, Russia, Indonesia -- wherever you live.

3) The "back cover" blurb for The Harrowing, as follows:

The Harrowing is a science fiction/fantasy meld, a tender love story from Seven Seas, a water planet. Most of the Nan are winged and roost on tall stone pillars rising from their sea. Only the brood-fathers return to the sea, there to raise the young.

Crash-landing, the aliens must gain a foothold. Their solution is Darwinian – the strongest beings will overcome the rest. When Fane, the greatest of the nanguy, fails to trap the invader, can Leery, nanny-guy and brood-father save all their people?

4) The "book cover" isn't quite ready yet, only because I'm being stubborn about using my purpose-made scissors-and-actual-paste collage as a background image. 

5) The formatted file of the story and its appendages -- title page, table of contents, author bio, where to contact author, sample of next read is sitting in a special folder on my desktop and also on a memory stick as well as still attached to the un-trashed email from the formatting service. 


Dire warnings came in the accompanying email. Even just opening the file to see what it now looks like can cause the format to be "corrupted" or changed, and I believe it. My experience of that same magical process is with a photo editing program, Preview for Mac. A photo file might read as being 6 MB in size.

I open it, click on the resizing tool. The submenu comes up and is usually resizing the photo while I'm watching, without having had further instructions. Very frustrating. 

So. Therefore. I'm leaving my primary copy of the format uncorrupted and pristine for its date with the Smashwords' Meat Grinder.

Yes, they really call their in-house multiple-format software their Meat Grinder! That in itself is rather confronting.