Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Embroideries: Whales on Fire

Whales on Fire, R de Heer
I named this little doodle so long ago that I don't recall what I meant with the title, beyond that the fabric is firey red and the main shapes appear to be whale-like. I also see that unfortunately the scan isn't sharp. Stitches are rather undefined which is a pity because the main stitch I used, running stitch threaded through, makes a nice show with variegated yarn. 

I will see if I can improve on it with a photo ...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What I'm Reading ...

As usual I have a few books open and face down around the house, ready to be picked up as the mood takes me.

The Wife Drought: why women need wives and men need lives by Annabel Crabb (2014), non fiction, in which Crabb makes the case that both men and women miss out in the present struggle to combine paid work and having a family. In Australia it is usually the woman in a family partnership who takes the part time, lower paid work when family things need more time. Crabb argues that fathers miss out on quality time with their kids through the accepted custom that mothers do the part time shifts.

I'm not progressing with this book, I admit. I guess at the time when I thought it might be an interesting read, I was in a non-fictional, alert to society and how it operates frame of mind. Different to where I am now, in the depth of a week or two of creativity.

My second non fiction read this month is a fifty cents acquisition from the local library's cast-offs trolley:

This image from Pan McMillan's website

The Spike: how our lives are being transformed by rapidly advancing technologies by Damien Broderick, and reading it on and off for a couple of weeks now. Though this book was published in 2001 it is still very appropriate, probably because the technical developments mooted haven't happened as fast as the optimists thought they would, or global economic circumstances impinged on their advance, or the goals have been much more intricate and difficult to achieve.

Probably a combination of the three. Though we are probably a few years into the rise toward the spike without generally realising it. The Spike, to Broderick, is the exponential curve as charted that represents the rise of technologies that will change who and what humans are. A spike is what it looks like, Broderick argues. The end point, the head of the spike, is more generally known as the technological Singularity. 

I recommend this book for its success of taking me beyond the Singularity to places described by other writers as unknowable. I always thought that was a cop-out. Broderick has a go at guiding a reader to a way of thinking about that beyond place.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme (1985) Was very happy to come across it in a secondhand place in Cygnet, Tasmania. My favourite book for a while in the late 1980's. I lived in New Zealand for six years, 1970-75. Will review it at a later date.

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, which I have read before and I am using as a pick up and put down, open anywhere book to read at breakfast and lunch when I need time out from the main two tasks this week. An Echo ... is number five in a fat-book series.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Embroideries: Tree of Life

Tree of Life by R de Heer
It's been a good few years since I did cross stitch work, in which one of the traditional motifs is the Tree of Life. This one is a freehand, almost doodled and certainly not a planned or designed work.

The strata/background is a piecework of badly joined bits of silk. They suggested something thrown in the ragbag. The tensions were wrong and the finished piece bulges uncomfortably though that isn't very noticeable in this format. The silks are as usual Colourstream's Exotic Lights. 

With one rather large difference, a hank of raw sheep wool to form the low relief structure of the tree trunk. What possessed me? I ended up covering almost all of the wool, it was so ugly!

The tree is surrounded by the elements it needs to grow and thrive. The sun. Water in all its forms ... snow, rain, mist, flowing rivers of it. A tree combines all elements and makes life, I thought. 

I made it before I knew the importance of fungi in the formula of life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Embroideries: Hastening Away

Hastening Away by R de Heer

In this little stitchery I have three little creatures hastening away from hot times to cooler, more verdant places. My intention was to form these creatures from the pale negative space in a pattern of aqua squiggles on a darker ink wash. 

Where their anatomy was colonised by the two latter elements I fudged and framed and finagled the background detail to cover the pattern and wash, to leave the critters their substance. 

The title came to me after I had taken the scrap from the ring. 

I always use Exotic Lights by Colour Streams now for the stitching. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Learning to Read: Het Leesplankje

Resharing this blogpost from July 2, 2012, I was still not able to get an illustration. At least could add a website where to have a look. 

Desperate to get an illustration of the object itself, I tied my computer into knots several times. It's still frozen several layers below this one and it refuses to let me close it. Words will have to do this time, and if you are totally interested check out this link, 
where is a nice pic of one with an explanation of the whole scheme.

I learned to read on a ‘leesplankje’. Aap, noot, mies were the first words. Aa p was printed under a picture of an organ grinder’s monkey dressed in a little red jacket sitting on a house gutter.

N oo t was under a walnut against a blue background. 

A tabby cat sitting on a cream gravel path with grass and a paling fence in the background, represented m ie s, a popular cat’s name at the time ...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Embroideries: In the Beginning

In the Beginning, designed and embroidered by R de Heer
Story: In the beginning there was an area of cracks in a lava field. If you climbed the steel tower at the edge of the lava field all the way to the top, and looked across the lava, you would see the flames in the cracks and the smoke still venting from the most recent eruption. 

Notes: This scrap of fabric, a delicate velvet, didn't stand up well to being stretched in an embroidery hoop. Impossible to press out the creases. The wavy watery sculptural pattern made it a test to come up with an idea. I could've stayed with the water and waves, but I like to see if I can subvert a fabric's original pattern. 

Additional Materials: The embroidery floss is Exotic Lights, a 100% silk floss from Colour Streams. I like to work with a split thread, one of three in this yarn. The embroidery floss frequently got hung up in the velvet which I therefore suspect to have an artificial component. As a result, the stitching became loopy and not as neat as I would've liked. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Potholes - literal and metaphoric

One of the many many potholes around the Byron Shire
Potholes around the district are almost too many to count. The complaints are many and fierce. Tyres, suspensions, wheel rims are all suffering. People's pockets. As you can see, the hole above has been there a while, with grass growing in it. 

The local council has only 23k ratepayers, more than 1.5 million day visitors per year. Car movements in the millions. Hundreds of kilometres of road. Old-timers remind the rest of us of the days when all the roads were gravel, cheaper to fix and cheaper on wildlife by way of slower traffic.

The pothole is a metaphor for the hole in my back, neatly sewn it is true - the excision of a suspect skin spot - the excuse I have for not performing any shoulder exercises, possibly 'overdoing' it by posting something on a blog, reading #Saturday Scenes for the first time in weeks, and various other no-no activities that can only be performed while sitting in a chair and not being too active.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Embroidery: In the Fields

In the Fields, designed and embroidered by R de Heer

One of my favourite method of decorating cloth is to take a scrap, a piece of sheeting in this case, clamp it in a little embroidery hoop and superimposing a design onto it. I start by accentuating parts of the background and then fill the resultant shapes with stitches and objects suggested by the enclosures.

In this piece, the new-way-of-seeing began with the three flower shapes in the bottom right quadrant. After I'd outlined them they resembled trees. Next, a web of chain-stitched fencing outlined the overview of a farm, which variously filled became fields of different crops.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Editing: Keeping the Subsequent Drafts Apart in my Mind

Graffiti on the local water tower
One frustrating thing about rewriting a novel of some length is trying to remember the version in hand. A bit like looking at ten layers of graffiti and wondering which you liked best.

When the particular book has been on the boil for a while, say five or six years, and the older versions have worn a groove in your brain, the draft in hand can be difficult to keep in the forefront of your awareness. 

At least I'm assuming some of you have the same problem. The beauty of the internet, there is always someone with similar problems. 

Hence I have again begun printing my newest draft out as I go. A couple of pages at the time, after each session. This after a few years managing everything on the computer. I find I've got too much history now with Monster-Moored to be able to recall just the latest words I wrote. This is especially the case where I'm making big changes. The older more familiar decisions keep popping up, like palimpsest ghosts, and confusing the new story no end. 

Tardi's love interest now is Del. This is big, and entails some lively rewriting. I bit that particular bullet because only Del continues into part two. Might as well look to the future and give her a bit more work.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Editing: The Importance of Names

I admit to resisting changing names of characters late into the piece, but when two beta readers confuse a character's gender because the male character's name resembles a female name, I thought I'd better do something about it.

Apparently English speakers may read 'Polk' as 'Polly'. The ones that did then totally glossed all the masculine pronouns meaning that they discovered the gender swap pages later.

So, I spent the morning reading my favourite name book. I decided I need to get a Scandinavian dictionary because I came to no inspiring conclusions. Changed 'Polk' to 'Poul' in the end, the Swedish version of 'Paul'. But I don't like it. It looks to me like an abbreviation of 'poultry'.

I try to have different initials for every name to cut down on confusion. All the other Scandinavian names the book came up with had initials already in use. And dammit, I'm only going to change that one name!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fungi in Fiction: Raising the Stones (1988)

Book Review: Raising the Stones by Sheri S Tepper (1988)

The first couple of times I read this speculative fiction novel, I totally missed the first clues pointing toward its fungi related theme. The title, Raising the Stones, comes from a poem by George Seferis, Mycenae. Twenty years ago, I thought it to refer to some once-upon-a-time Greek islands ruined by volcanic action. As a consequence of missing the word play, I could never reconcile the title with the content.

At that time, several other important themes kept me reading. Godless then and now, I’ve nevertheless always been interested in the way in which gods seem to arise out of the natural world. Tepper’s treatise on the animistic religions of the past, I read this as. So much so, that I always thought the book could easily have been titled The Hobb’s Land God.

There’s more to it though, with a feminist plot in which the Hobb’s Land matriarchal society is pitted against a fiercely patriarchal society shouting ‘Ire, Iron and Voorstod’, where ‘Voorstod’ means ‘death by whip’. A society uncannily similar in operation to some of the fundamentalist groups operating today, even to the revival of slavery, considering the novel was published more than twenty years ago.

Then there are the explorations of the different psychological effects of legends, and stories. Tepper discusses the idea that the legends we retain from our Greco-Roman-Germanic history might lead us into these dangerous fundamental patriarchies.

Due to its themes and intent, which are not just to entertain, I don’t believe this novel should be classed as a space opera though events play out in a fictional star system.  Tepper’s omniscient narrator often lectures on branches growing from the main themes. Because these digressions tend not to be more than about three paragraphs, I keep my cool and read them, where normally I am quite impatient with lengthy lecturing.

Hobb’s Land is a small planet in The Belt, a farm world supplying the three large massively populated planets. Twelve settlements and a central management village house a population of about 1300 farmers. Children born into this society know their mothers, grandmothers, aunties and uncles; friends and siblings. Fathers are progies (for progenitors) if they are known at all.

At the time of settlement, twelve of the planet’s original inhabitants, the Owlbrits, still live. Most die quite quickly, seemingly glad the invaders have come to now be responsible for the work. An older somewhat dysfunctional settler takes over the care and welfare of the one remaining god. A couple of pages in, both he and the god die. The whole population of Settlement One falls down in a faint, not waking till the next day.

Whilst the characters discover the effects the god had on them, we get our second clue as to the nature of the Hobb’s Land gods. ‘Birribat (the old settler) was where Sal had left him, in the central chamber, except now he was curled on the floor, covered with a fine black dust, dead.’ (p8) If you have no knowledge of fungi you’ll probably won’t realise the importance of that ‘fine black dust’.

An omniscient narrator can express every point of view as well as recount hidden processes such as the following: ‘The dust brooded wetly in the manifold womb of the earth, brooded and soaked and changed. Individual particles swelled and replicated themselves, and again, and yet again. From a single grain a filament came, thinner than hair, white as the light of stars; palely gleaming it snouted its way between infinitesimal grains of flesh, among microscopic remnants of flesh, stretching out through the rags of clothing into the earth beyond.’ After another couple of paragraphs of lyrical description we are left with this: ‘Beneath the soil lay Birribat Shum: what was left of him; what he had become.’ (p38)

The settlers recover, taking about ten days to work through an inexplicable grief. Though the god lives, as only we readers know. The children of the settlement start restoring the temple, and when they ask for help with the roof, the adult who goes to check on their work has the roof almost falling in on her.

The mycelial web that was Birribat Shum continues to grow, and grow, until it takes over the surrounding land, growing under the fields, roads, the settlement itself. It looks for food but doesn’t find much it can use. Here’s where we enter fantasy, at least I think we enter fantasy. ‘And in the thick mattressy felt where Birribat had once lain, the hard strange nucleus continued to grow, laid down molecule by molecule …’ (p100)

The kids working on the temple, when a settler dies of old age, bury that body near Birribat’s. There is a lot of underground growth while the story above ground also continues. Two of the children, Jeopardy Wilm and Saturday Wilm, cousins, become god-carers. The rest of the settlements grow jealous at Settlement One’s peaceable demeanour and consequent high production rates. Barely suppressed warfare breaks up an intra settlement sport meeting. Sam, Settlement One’s Topman (chief/manager), while in the throes of one of his hero fantasies kills a monster. Events in far away Voorstod draw nearer.

After a philosophical discussion on the possible need for sacrifices, the settlement’s cats begin to bring ‘ferfs’ rodents native to Hobb’s Land, as offerings to the god. Feeding the mycelium, in other words. The mycelium pushes on toward Settlement Three. Soon all the settlements have their gods and their god-carers. When Jeopardy Wilm is kidnapped by the Voorstoders, Saturday Wilm accompanies her grandmother – the actual target – and her uncle Sam to Voorstod. Saturday smuggles out pieces of the mycelial mat to start up secret temples in the Voorstod world.

In the last few pages I learned that ‘Gyromitra, false morels, a class of fungus upon Manhome, can only be eaten after you boil the rocket-fuel away’ (p446) when the fungus builds shelters for the evacuees and weapons with which to beat the Voorstodders. After a great deal of disaster and growth both above ground and in the soil, the fungus and its people win their freedom.

There is a lot more of interest in the novel. The Doors, the way to travel from planet to planet. A kind of time travel, I presume. Some of the futurist technology is now commonplace. Computers everywhere. Enforcement by a robotic army is not. De-bonders I hope will never be.

By the end the fungus rules! As you would expect. This is one of my favourite fictions using fungi as part of the plot. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Re-purposing Embroideries

The usual troubles getting the scanner working today ... frustration, frustration! This time it was that the printer needed a new ink cartridge ... that's an almost unethical strategy to get people to buy more expensive ink. Because of course it always happens when sending away for the inks takes one or two weeks and the scanning job is needed now.

I may get a standalone scanner. After I have finished the inks. There have got to be some sustainable models around.

Anyway, as well as the must-do scanning job, I digitalised a bunch of embroideries I did a few years ago, before I began writing in earnest ... with the idea of having some post cards made of some of them, and me printing them out for greeting cards with others.

Forest Scene, needing a bit of photoshopping. I want to keep a circular frame but narrower. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fungi in Fiction: The Fungus (1985)

Book Review: The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight (1985)

Though the structure of this novel is confusing and some of the story-telling strategies distracting, the science (IE mycology) is surprisingly well-informed for a story reminiscent of 1950s pulp sf. 

The many species of fungi featured are described and named correctly as far as I can tell. Fungal processes such as mycelial growth are up to date (to 1985) and for the sake of those surprises, The Fungus is quite an interesting read.

The first four chapters are pure pulp, describing the spread of a mysterious fungal plague in lurid detail, with each chapter following an unfortunate human to his or her end.

Chapter five is the beginning proper, and skips back in time to before the spread of the plague described previously, leaving a reader to wonder how these previous chapters are involved.

Jane Wilson, mycologist, cradles the result of her experimentation, a giant Agaricus bisporus. Quote: “For one thing its pileus, or cap – which was resting against her left breast – was over a foot in diameter, and the stipe, or stalk was over two feet long and seven inches long. Altogether it weighed nearly four pounds.”

She is disappointed to discover that there are no spores, no sexual reproduction.  

Towards the end of nearly every chapter, the author finds it necessary to step out of the character’s viewpoint to explain something that happens outside the knowledge of the chapter’s character. Reader, in this case me, trips out of the story every time. In this chapter: Quote: “Unknown to her, several thousand microscopic mushroom cells still remained in the cut and under her fingernail.”

The next chapter continues with the effects of the unstoppable spread of the fungal plague, this time as related by a medical doctor, Bruce Carter, the strategy I feel to seed in that character for his role at the end of the story.

Part II, titled the Journey, concerns Jane Wilson’s ex-partner living and writing in Ireland who, after being forced to volunteer to travel to London to find Jane’s notes about her experiments, is sent on a violent journey accompanied by an obstreperous soldier to protect him and to get him there, and a sexually hungry doctor to administer anti-fungal drugs to herself and them.

After many of the sort of adventures we have become familiar with in modern filmic adventure/thrillers, Wilson succeeds in discovering the tower where Jane is working around the clock to find the processes needed to promote spore production.

Wilson, accompanied now by Dr Carter, cuts a swath through the women guarding Jane with his flame-thrower after overcoming his earlier horror at using the device. It’s a matter of survival after all.

Since Jane has also used their children as guinea pigs for her research, and they are both consumed by fungi, Wilson feels justified burning Jane. The fungus infecting her makes it easy. He and Doctor Carter, who happens to be a radio geek, manage to broadcast Jane’s research to enable scientists outside the area of infection to control the outbreak.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A New Beginning

This piece of stone to illustrate that nothing is 'set in concrete' as the saying goes. Even stone can be changed. By the flow of water in this case. By lichen growing on it. and in the goodness of time crumbling it. Repeated freezing and thawing will break up stone. Landslides will break up stones ... 

Today, just for the heck of it, I started Monster-Moored in a totally different place. One page into the existing chapter, at the actual point of contact between the Protagonist, Tardi Mack, and his burden.

1: Tardi Possessed
Tardi swam frantically down and back. A white boat keel came straight at him through the blue underwater morning. The boat lifted over a final little swell and crashed onto his surfboard. Bet the bastard did it on purpose.

A million bubbles hiding a dozen pieces of his board punched him back down the sunlit water column, onto the old trawler’s wreck he’d been filming. His back shredded over the mysterious silver-barbed coral.

Aah! He gulped water trying to get air for a scream. The pain! Up! He had to get to the surface!

Wait, said a thing in his mind. A huge tongue slurped over his back.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Orb in a Shop Window

Orb in a Shop Window
This is a shop window I pass walking to the CBD in Mullumbimby. I love the way the cherub as magnified in the orb almost looks right-way-up. Only on looking closer do you realise it's not a plain reflection.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Style: Sentences & Sentence Fragments

One thing I won't be doing in my latest edit, or anything else I'm rewriting, is getting rid of sentence fragments. This is one of the things that every editor and all reviewers have noted in my writing for the five years I've been asking for feedback.

Every book I read contains verbless sentences, usually to good account. Jeff Vandermeer's Finch is a recent find. A brilliant fantasy if you enjoy noir, detective fiction and fungi.

The first sentence reads:

Finch, at the apartment door, breathing heavy from five flights of stairs, taken fast.

Though there are two verbs, breathing and taken, they are the wrong forms to make this a complete sentence. But the effects are a sense of immediacy and the feeling that you, the reader, are right there at the apartment door with Finch.  

The second sentence has a couple more no-no's. Two, mark that well, two passive verbs! How often are we told passive verbs are not allowed on the first page?

The message that'd brought him from the station was already dying in his hand. 

I hope sincerely that you ignored the passive verbs to wonder how a message could be dying? 

Red smear on a limp circle of green fungal paper that had minutes before squirmed clammy.

Another sentence with a missing word, an indefinite article at its beginning this time, the third sentence describes the physical attributes of the message. Who's got time to worry about the incomplete-ness of the sentence when faced with red smear, limp circle, green fungal paper, and squirmed clammy to try and make sense of?

The fourth group of words is a complete actual sentence. 

Now he had only the door to pass through, marked with the gray caps' symbol. 

In the first section there are six complete sentences out of a total of twenty groups of words that some would say are masquerading as sentences. 

But not me. I love what you can do with incomplete sentences. But I have a question of all the people who are still saying that incomplete sentences are an anathema to good writing. What have you been reading lately? 

Monday, June 8, 2015

When You Can't Type ...

I see I've been off-line for almost a month. I've been recovering from a combination of overusing my wrists, elbows and shoulders without moving my shoulder blades adequately. This how interpret the Osteopath's comments, and the exercises he set. Sitting still and typing too often and too long is another way of putting it.

I'll be well content if I can get myself fit enough to do my Tai Chi warm up routine every day, as taught me by Michael Rose who learned from Patrick Kelly.

View of Byron Shire Valley from the Eastern Flank of Montecollum
As well as hundreds of arm and shoulder exercises, I've been walking. However, this view is accessible only from a Bed & Breakfast place where I visited a while ago. All my recent walking has been around Mullumbimby which lies to the upper left just out of the frame.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Writing SF? Editing Out Metaphor

Threads on Repair Job
Sometimes editing is just like preparing to darn a knit. In the same way that it is necessary to choose the colour of threads to use for the needlework repair, it is also necessary to choose the 'colour' of imagery to use in specific genres.

And just like the obvious wrongness of the above threads for that repair job, I've been using figurative phrases of the wrong sort in my SF stories.

I've had three complaints about two different stories. Readers have been finding it difficult to visualise what was happening. Twice I explained the problem away. 

The third time I couldn't ignore it any longer. After some serious study over the weekend of a couple of my How-To sources, I discovered that my weakness for using metaphor is part of the problem, with metaphor being a way to add meaning, by describing something as though it is something else. 

In SF and Fantasy there can be no metaphor until the world is well set up, and readers are completely accustomed to the mode of speech and the organisation of the world. Only then can metaphor be used, and only such that use elements of that world. In other words, no elements from our everyday world. Meeting a 21st century timepiece, aka a watch, in a metaphor set in a medieval fantasy is such a disruption.   

Analogy and simile, that state that one thing is like another thing, are fine to use. 

The story presently under consideration, at about 8000 words, is probably too short to support metaphor at all. I had the sentence: The suit locker was like a disaster zone with eerily empty, broken bodies scattered everywhere.

 Picking the analogy is quite easy: The suit locker was like a disaster zone.

The second part, describing the empty suits: eerily empty broken bodies is guaranteed to confuse.  

The next problematic sentence reads as: It lit a forest of stems, most as thick as an arm or leg, some with the girth of Lank's torso. 

I know that most as thick as an arm or leg is a simile. ...some with the girth of Lank's torso is a metaphor. More than one reader tripped over this. 

Looks like I need to study up on metaphor, go through this and every other manuscript again, re-write plainer, re-write only what can be pictured.

Out in my G+ stream there's a discussion in progress this minute about rewriting. How it is essential, yet also possible to lose the story's soul. Re-writing 'plainer' is not necessarily the way to go. Plain stories leave me cold, if they haven't got a lot of amazing technology and interesting ideas happening. It is yet another balancing act. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Is This How Thor Began?

This god-like image made of volcanic ash, thunder and lightning from

Seeing a sight like this amongst the catastrophe of a volcanic eruption is enough to get anyone to their knees.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Editing: The First Paragraph

Roadkill by R de Heer

This rather macabre image, a photo of a bit of squashed road-kill, was a beginning that led to the invention of many interesting images and illustrations.

In the same way a first paragraph needs to be able to lead into a reader's enjoyment and indeed tweak a prospective reader's intention hard enough to make them want to read. The promise of the whole story to follow must be in the first paragraph.

In my novel Monster-Moored I didn't have that yet. My beta readers found my first paragraph a turn-off. They didn't want the geography lesson I had there. They wanted a description of the main character.

But I resisted for a while. I didn't just want to insert a couple of sentences listing Tardi Mack's attributes. I needed to weave an indication of the whole story into it. I wrote out the first paragraph in longhand a few times, making changes each time. Left it overnight. Next breakfast I had it.

Old first paragraph:

Tardi stopped paddling. He sat up on his surfboard. He imagined his legs hanging in the sea. Shark bait. He hurriedly compared the distances from himself, a dot in the bay, to Cape Byron in the southeast, the Quarry Lane Ridge, and Mt Chincogan in the north. 

New first paragraph:

Tardi stopped paddling. He sat up on his surfboard. He imagined his latte-coloured legs hanging in the sea, being shark bait. Why couldn't he have taken after his mother? With both his eyes and hair dark brown, Threen used to say he was her very own good-looker. Rowan wouldn't want to encourage him. All of it a bit of fun on the days that he didn't compare himself to his father. So think of untameable sharks, instead. 

What do you think? Does the new first paragraph herald a better read?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

About Editing

There's more happening with editing, but due to my shoulders not working properly, I am suddenly limited to 3 x 15 minute sessions a day on the computer.

So it's back to amending a paper print-out of Monster-Moored. With a pencil or pen, as the day may be. This is a sample of the previous 'real' edit of the same novel. What it may look like when I'm finished with it.

Why did I ever think I could edit any other way? I'm finding so much more to improve. It's so much easier to go forward and back, to check on details. So much easier to make notes than with Tracking.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Nitty Gritties of Editing

White Forest by Azot2014 on
This borrowed image, thank you for your art Azot2014, a near-perfection illustrating the mood of the forest scene in my post.

Del, a supporting character in Monster-Moored, is in the clearing at midnight. The moon turns off. Clouds perhaps. A storm threatens. Yet she can't go yet, there's a strange light.

This post is about editing. Making the scene stronger by untangling clauses to clarify sequencing, rewriting in the active mode and ratcheting up tension.

Notes for page 107
1: In my first version I had:
In the clearing there was enough moon light to see by.
She switched off the torch.
Transposing these sentences, and making the new second one stronger, works to strengthen Del as well. Good sequencing makes a story stronger, so it is said, and I can see it becoming so on this page. The new version reads:
She switched off the torch. There was enough moonlight in the clearing to see by.

2: My awareness of the need for clear paragraphing has obviously grown since I wrote this. The main rule seems to be to start a new paragraph when you start a new subject. I knew that rule already when I wrote the old version but took the passage of time (then/now) as the new/old subjects. The old version:
A pair of small trees stood to one side in front of the log and another grew quite near the well.
Last anniversary they would’ve been saplings, that’d be why she didn’t remember them. The backpack squatted …
In the new version the small trees and the saplings are deemed the same subject, despite the time gap, and the backpack is the new subject. Works much better …
A pair of small trees stood to one side in front of the log and another grew quite near the well. Last anniversary they would’ve been saplings, that’d be why she didn’t remember them.
The backpack squatted …

3: My third big change on this page was to another instance of weak sequencing. The old version: 
Del retrieved the bag and the flock-backed cloth – it would make a blanket of sorts come the pre-dawn cold.
In addition to the improvement in sequencing of actions, the new version has Del acting those actions in verbs that can be visualised.
She folded the flock-backed cloth – it would make a blanket of sorts come the pre-dawn cold – and stuffed it into the bag.

4: My last big fix-up on this page was to strengthen the suspense in the last part of the scene. Seems to me I’m always raving on about increasing the suspense in other people’s stories, here’s my chance to concretize that in my own writing practice. The old version:
She turned to go.
The moon was switched off.
She stood in the absolute dark, fumbling for the torch.
There was still the breeze, night time cool, but nothing whatever to see.
No, wait. There was a light.
In the well, in the water, tugging at her gaze.
Why would the water be glowing without the moon giving its light to reflect from the water?
She drifted there, taking hesitant steps in the dark.
Silver streaks curled in and out of one another. Yellow light glinted in between.

New version:
The moon switched off.
Had to be clouds passing in front of the moon. But the dark so complete? She fumbled the torch from her pocket.
A breeze, night time cool, stroked her face. Overhead it blustered among the tree canopies. Wind like that was the harbinger of a storm.
A glimmer of light from the well tugged at her gaze.
How could the water be glowing with no moon to reflect its light from the water surface?
She had to know, didn’t she? Taking careful, hesitant steps she made it there without falling.
The stillness in the air was the calm before the storm.
In the water, silver streaks curled in and out of one another. Yellow light glinted in between.
No source that she could see.

All this on one page. With three hundred and some pages, I can see it's going to be a long winter, editing this book. I must have been dreaming thinking it was ready for beta-readers.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Editing and Proof-reading

Mandala someone made in a local park, I thank them for their art.

This mandala was not made by the professional mandala makers, the Tibetan monks, who often visit  these climes. But you might agree that it has a certain charm, and really, if you wanted to use it to meditate over ... sit down, though there's only the ground, I'm afraid, and go for it. Up close you will see enough detail to keep you going a while. 

In the same way that this mandala is 'home-made' so must my novel Monster-Moored be home edited. I'm sure some people will consider it foolish. Or unprofessional. Even impossible. Needs must. 

I had it printed out. Double sided and 1.5 line spaced to save paper. Spiral bound so it can lay flat when open. (Having a go at beta-reading a digital file convinced me that for a comprehensive edit I'd need a paper copy.)

Way back when, when I first began to write, someone advised a loose leaf file. Throw it into the air was the next instruction, and pick it up any-old-how. Edit as the pages come to hand. Pick up 52 they call that when it is a card game. I'm doing a variation. Open the manuscript at a page and edit. Circle the page's number when finished.

I've been working on it for a couple of days, whenever I sit at that table I do a few pages. 

Spelling and punctuation are not my main problems. Surprisingly, considering I edited closely at least half a dozen times, my biggest problem is clauses in the wrong place. Clauses out of their sequential order ruin a reader's expectation of getting the meanings in the order that they happened. 

I've also still got paragraphs that I've let stand intact (Why?) through all the previous edits, in the exact way that I wrote them down in the first place. Beyond belief, really. It is necessary to change them because while they reflect how a brain works, the beginning is not the best way to deliver the punch-line. 

We often think of the kernel of an idea first. Then we proceed to layer it with ancillary and descriptive thoughts. In half a dozen places already, I have had to transpose the kernel to the end of a paragraph. 

Interestingly, most of the above errors seem to be happening in the parts of the story happening in the Main Character's head. When I do read a page completely without errors, it is usually dialogue and or the main character's experience of various parts of the landscape. 

I've decided to mainly ignore the two beta reader reports I've been blessed with. There was no area of overlap other than that both were irritated by the Antagonist. Did that mean they both got so involved they viewed the Antagonist as she was meant to be seen? I don't know. Their explanations were inconclusive. 

I suspect the experience of real readers will mirror that of the beta-readers, though I'll be lucky if I get a 30% hit rate of readers. It's a mystery. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Nuancing The Game of Thrones

As I began to read The Game of Thrones once more, feeling myself get involved with the characters and seeing them in my memory in their filmic characters, I realized that the texts and TV series will forevermore be intertwined in my experience of the Song of Ice and Fire series.

It struck me then, that what I was experiencing, were two different nuances of the story, a double serving of the different ways that the story has been and is being told.

Reading the book, I am nuancing it, and viewing the TV version I am nuancing it, albeit a a set of different but overlapping nuances. An audio version would still be that story but yet another set of nuances.

Nuancing can be reading, listening to another reading such as in an audiobook, viewing a film or a TV version. Even spending time on is nuancing.

Books, film and audio-files are all different modes of story delivery. Adding drama, dance and video gaming and we are starting to get a collection of modes for story delivery. Each mode, due to its inherent characteristics, can give us a slightly different experience, or nuance, of a story.

'Nuancing' in this interpretation of the word, could mean enjoying, taking in a story in any of its delivery systems. I can already imagine the following conversation:

"I've just nuanced Tow Sawyer."
"Oh? What media? The film?"
"No. The podcast."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Mysteries of Blogging

I was pretty amazed on April 1 to open the Stats page to this blog and find about 200 more hits on than normal for the day, making a pretty impressive spike in the graph.

This is Not an Ant

What? I thought. I don't believe it. Google is playing me for an April Fool?

But no, after I checked different pages and posts, the hits were doled out over the usual topics of interests and panned out pretty well, leaving me only with a few questions.

What interest group did I hit on ... was it the sewing and handcraft cohort with the posting of the twin dollies put in an evil spotlight?

Was it my story in the #Street Scenes page that attracted all these people to my neighbourhood?

Was it something in the outside world that suddenly attracted a truckload of US readers to an Australian blogspot?

What? What? What?

I want to know.

I want to do it again.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Writing Two Novels at the Time

I'm sure it's not a new thing to be writing two novels at the time. But I'm doing it. I've given in to the daily and nightly stream of ideas being generated in my unconscious mind and sent into my awareness for dealing. Or some such mental process. And writing it all down. It's a new thing for me, ideas glissading at me non stop. Who am I to deny any of them?

I know I'm going against best practice, and writerly advice, and all the other well-meant commentary as well as pedantry like: You'll see what I'm talking about. Wait and see. Progress on both is slowed. Can you afford the time?

I'm putting them in the virtual corn-cob pipe I suck on while I'm typing. Because I'm working on/typing out the stories alternately, spending a few days on each. Right now I have Cele King the MC in EarthFall, the Monster-Moored prequel, being given a gift to deliver to Allie, her live-in Antagonist.

I've borrowed an image from to illustrate: (Good stuff on this site, check it out)

This image with just the right sort of innocence to contrast with the macabre thing
to happen to them. 
The gift (different in looks but with same general idea) is being made in the scene below. 

Nancy wrenched her bulk out of her chair. She went to her craft cupboard and gathered some things into a basket. Spread everything onto shop counter. Two of everything, with pink things predominating. “I’ll give you something to take back with you from us, to make her feel better about coming in.”

“That’s good thinking,” Maeve said.

Cele nodded. “I’ll have Nalbo give it to her. She has a hate thing going toward me."

Nancy caught two round white soaps in a pale pink lawn hanky each, and passed them to Maeve one by one, for Maeve to catch the corners of the hankies together and make a neck with an elastic band.

Then Nancy took them back and folded a white face flannel around each of the hankies to make a little body, sewing the shoulders to the pink necks with a couple of stitches.

She lay each baby diagonally on a pink face flannel and swaddled it together, stitching the outlines of the arms with a darning needle threaded with pink yarn. She sewed each of the top triangles with smaller needle and small stitches to make a hood.

She lay the babies together yin-yang style, each little head on her sister’s feet, and caught a few stitches here and there to fix them in position.

Cele glanced up at triangular window in the elbow of the roof. The colour in the sky meant it was middle afternoon. “I should be going soon.”

“I need to mark in their faces,” Nancy said. “What have we got, Maeve?”

“Eyebrow liner?”

“Of course we have. Can you believe I sold a pencil of that yesterday. Well, gave it away. Young hussy making eyes at the Orbit boy.”

“That reminds me,” Maeve said. “Young Orbit is due tomorrow. We sort and pack the rest of the day, and that night. I make a run the next day. Have to because of the perishables people ask for.” She shrugged. “Instead of stores against a rainy day, you’d think.”

“Which we are doing for them,” Nancy added.

“So. I can pick up Allie the day after tomorrow?”

“Wonderful!” Cele said. “I really think that will work better than what is being planned.”

“You bet,” Maeve said. “Imagine me making a midwife call out there?”

“There you are,” Nancy handed Cele the dolls. “Gave them a bit of individuality as well. One of the dolls smiled. The other stared seriously.

“Marvellous, Nance. And you did that with two dots and a line each.” Cele packed the dolls gently into her backpack, despite that she should be in a hurry. Nalbo I love you. “Here’s my list. I can’t come home with it. Can’t drop it anywhere. Make a fire with it. I’ve really got to get going. I’ll go out the front, if I may?”

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Amble, Part 3

What I should be writing is .... the prequel to ...

Monster Moored, a novel still hanging around unpublished. With a beautiful front cover, ready to go ...

I know I'm slow, when in my Google+ writing groups people are publishing constantly. Talking about publishing. Talking about marketing. Talking the talk.

My health is slowing me up. Dare I say my age is starting to slow me up? Regular life is slowing me up. I'm at a stage where Writing, with all its bells and whistles, can not be number one. Bummer.

Following is Page 1 of what I would like to be writing. 

Amble woke in someone else’s skin, seeing through not-his-own eyes. A woman’s. Impossible. It was only men and herd animals he could be, for the weit sicht.

Then he remembered. She lay her hand on him. Made him hers. The Esse. The damned stone wolf called her that.

All he saw through her eyes were bare grey walls. She woke to an empty room. As though she'd been abandoned as a piece of collateral shit.


That sound. He opened one eye. The newly re-upholstered seat-back of his own cab? A hole in it! With clean cream foam rubber bulging out.


Another hole, closer to him. The scream of a projectile followed it an instant later. Windscreen totally gone? How? He was being shot at?

Both shots too high. Safe for now. Don’t move, just feel. Observe.

Hurt. Handbrake digging into his side. He lay across the seats of his own car. Knees under the steering wheel.

“I want to see a white flag, Surly!”

Surly? Yeah well, who he used to be. Don’t give them the satisfaction of telling them he was awake. Esse stood waiting for a bus. Busy city streets in the background. Not the person she was, either. A crow on that sign near her. Keeping her company?

Caw caw.

A couple of them flew across above him. He glimpsed the scene through their eyes. An open valley. Eucalyptus forest either side. A creek/gully at the feet of the southern trees. …..

The rear vision mirror angled into the car bothered him. What if the damned shooters could see him reflected? Shoot at the pretty toys dangling from the mirror you dumb bastard and show me where you are. He blew at the charms hanging from it. Delayed reaction while the force travelled through the air. There, they jiggled.


“What the fuck are you shooting at?” Older voice. Man in charge.

“Ow! He moved! Something moved! If only we had some real guns!”

At least two of them. They were close. And ha ha ha, they didn’t have a real gun. The sun’s rays were nearly level with the dash. Early morning. The Esse was on a bus making for the harbour. The crow flew ahead. Go Esse. I am with you.

“The passenger door is swinging open. Shoot?”

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reading, Writing, Writing, Writing.

A story is as ephemeral as clouds before it is written down, or memorised, or told. 

I've been reading #Saturdayscenes, the local newspaper, brochures and leaflets
for I cannot read a novel while I am writing one.

I've been editing Tech Wizard Bard one last time. Found out just now I missed at least one passive sentence.

I've been writing a second draft of the Cele King and the Alien story. It's the hard grind, the have-to, the sit-down-and-do-it story. It's the prequel to Monster-Moored and I can't take its protagonist further in his story until I have the Cele King and her grand daughter waiting for him at the Reefarium.

And I've been writing Amble's Story. It's a first draft, just getting my ideas down. I write long hand and shorthand, with biro and by keying in. I'm very partial to Amble just now.

And very conscious of a story's kinship to clouds before it is written down.