Things to keep me writing when I'm not writing other things
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
This Train Now Departed
Finished off the first draft of This Train Terminates... and it's now winging its way to editor-chap Mark for consideration. Knowing the kind of people who would have been asked to contribute, I'm guessing the competition for this anthology will be pretty strong - should find out some time next month if I've got in.
Next job - to put a bit of effort into the project I've been teeing up with my Melbourne mate. Feeling a bit guilty that I've more or less left him to it for the last fortnight or so, so it's time to start pulling my weight.
Paulwill be tearing his hair out, no doubt, but yesterday evening was my daughter's school Christmas concert. In November. As I've already explained, however, the somewhat previous nature of the performance isall Robbie Williams' fault, so you can call off theChristmas Cops.
Anyway, a good time was had by all, especially since child number one has overcome the tendency to freeze up on stage. This time out she lapped it all up, treating everyone to the kind of air guitar performance she could only have picked up from watching Jimi Hendrix. Or her dad.
The early advent of festive spirit has also resulted in badgering, hectoring and other forms of subtle persuasion from the small ones to get the Christmas tree up. It's a task we've been putting off, in no small part because of the venomous creepy crawlies likely to have converted the tree box into their own des-res since the tree was last used. One thing northern hemisphere types are blissfully free from is the sensation when ared backruns at you from out of the foliage...
Still, even this had a serendipitous consequence - the layers of insect spray with which I had to cover the tree parts to ensure no fanged surprises remained hidden inside have double remarkably well for faux snow. Fortunately my kids are now both old enough not to lick the branches.
A busy weekend, with an early draft of T3 under my belt and rampaging littlies absorbing what remained of Friday and Saturday.
The nippers were shunted off to the grandparents this afternoon, however, so my wife and I could slip away for some rare time off - an afternoon at the footy.
I've mentioned before that while we were living in Sydney we adopted the local team as our own in the inaugural season of the A-League, Australia's (much smaller) answer to the UK's Premier League. Moving to Perth hasn't changed our loyalties, but thanks to the vagaries of the fixture list, Sydney only play one game in Perth this season. It was a few weeks ago, and we couldn't get sitters.
So, still wanting to catch a game or two, we went to see local outfitPerth Glory take on the New Zealand Knights- incidentally the winner of the Longest Distance a Team Has to Travel to Compete in a Domestic Fixture by quite some considerable mileage. In the event, Perth rolled over the A-League's whipping boys 4-1, with a lovely hat-trick from Perth's captain, Jamie Harnwell.
But while the game itself is the same, it's the little things you'd rarely see in a Premier League game that really set the experience apart. Things like
A large number of fans wearing shirts in support of teams other than the two actually playing the game. Turn up at a Premier League fixture in another team's colours and you'd probably be asking for trouble. But as well as plenty of purple Perth tops on display today, there were also rival Sydney and Melbourne shirts from the A-League, while the city's vast ex-pat community also meant outings for Man Utd, Arsenal, Tottenham, Sunderland and Newcastle supporters, all in search of a game, all welcomed by the home fans. Tribalism falls stunned by the wayside ...
Everyone on the pitch suddenly stop playing after the first 25 minutes of each half and walking off to have a drink. Understandable, considering the temperature was in the mid to high 30s down on the pitch, but it still throws you for a loop when you see it for the first time.
Sheepdog trials for the half-time entertainment. Don't need to say any more than that, really.
Western Australia's Legislative Council has finally voted (after weeks of procrastinating) to go ahead with a three-year trial of daylight savings time, putting us back in line with all the other regions on earth who really can't understand why it's even an issue. Starting December 3, our clocks go forward an hour, just like they should have done back in October.
No more 5.30am starts! Woo-hoo!
Meanwhile, as the higher-ups have been engaged in their weighty debate, I've had to put T3 on hold for the day to work on a fabulously grotesque tale of plastic-surgery-gone-wrong for one of the nationals. You know the kind of tale, the grimly fascinating sort of yarn you know you shouldn't enjoy reading but you just ... can't ... help it.
Also been watching a very interesting DVD, but it's still on media embargo, so can't talk about it yet. Next week for that one ...
Apart from that, the day's only been distinguished by catching my daughter in the middle of creating a crisp-crushing mechanism on the living room carpet, involving the use of a hand weight and some string.
No more Road Runner cartoons for her for a while ...
After a lethargic weekend it was a good day for writing today. Aside from the news about the Old Friends cover I also managed 2,500 words on the short story, which currently exists under the title This Train Terminates ... Fair warning that I'll just be calling it T3 from now on because I'm extremely lazy and can't be bothered typing it all out.
Better yet, only about 75% of what I've written is pants. Hurrah! Nothing a good rewrite can't fix, though, and at least I'm getting the shape of the story down.
In other good news, my wife's lawyers have swung into action on her dismissal case - should find out soon if there's going to be a settlement or not. Maybe Tiny Tim will get a Christmas after all.
A child-free day today, which allowed me to clear the last of my immediately due magazine work and make a start (finally) on my horror short for Mr Deniz.
Made some reasonable progress, but failed to get into the groove I so comfortably occupied writing for Old Friends. Back in June, I was knocking out 2000-2500 words a day, and only about a quarter of them sucked. Today I managed less than half that, and ended up rewriting almost all of it
It's a major change of pace and technique, moving from short story to novella and back again, the two forms requiring very distinct kinds of discipline. One way to describe it would be as the difference between a sprint and a marathon - except for the fact that I appear to have got them the wrong way around. Word-for-word a short story always seems to take me more time to physically write than something longer.
I'm sure other writers cope with it differently, breezing through the shorts and taking proportionately longer on more sizeable stories. My principle difficulty, I think, is the need to fiddle. On Old Friends, I'd happily hammer away at the keyboard for hours on end, and only when I was done would I go back and rewrite. For some reason - probably the perception that on a short story every single word counts - I've spent today going back and rejigging sentences after every other paragraph.
Like as not it's symptomatic of my not having written a story for a while. With a bit of luck I'll be able to knock the premature tweaking on the head and get back into a rhythm tomorrow.
All my trans-hemispheric meeja mates are posting on their blogs about how they've been to see the new Bond flick, Casino Royale (or The Thighs Who Loved Me, if you'reUK Rach).
Anyone who knows my email address will have spotted that I'm a massive Bond fan, and I've been looking forward to seeing how this one turns out, so it's heartening to hear positive rumblings about Daniel Craig's spin on the suave super-spy.
Less heartening, however, is that it's not in cinemas here until December 7. If I still had my old job I'd be watching it tomorrow.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the good people of Australia have done something to annoy someone on high.
If you live in Victoria, chances are you woke up this morning to this:
(It's almost the middle of summer down here, by the way. Supposedly).
Tasmania's also copped a frosty blast in the last 24 hours, while by contrast those living in New South Wales's Blue Mountains area have been facing up to aninferno. Started by lightning strikes ... If you're a Queenslander, meanwhile, you could be living in one of 30,000 homes left in the dark after a massive storm hit the Brisbane area this afternoon.
But the naughtiest bunch of the lot are the Western Australians. We know this to be true because it seems God's decided to gettruly biblicalon their arses ...
Contrary to expectation, I'm probably getting less done now that my wife's out of work and helping with the kids than I was before. There's no one good reason for that, but today, perhaps, it's been down to the heat - the high temperatures certainly haven't been conducive to anything more than vegging in front of the TV with as many cool drinks as can be lined up on the coffee table.
Nonetheless, my weekly reviews are due tomorrow, the precious TV Week job is needed as soon as possible and my horror story is expected at the end of the month. Despite plugging away on all three projects, however, I can't seem to kill any of them off. Still, if I can get a few hours in tomorrow I'm hoping the first two will be cleared by mid-week.
One thing that is starting to bubble away nicely is the set of ideas I discussed with that fine writer chappie from the east coast last week. Something extremely nasty popped into my head at around lunchtime and I'm reasonably sure I can weave it into his suggestions for a story setting.
Dragged myself to the pool again this morning, both to work on my back and get out of the heat. Went at a different time than usual, and rather than having the place almost to myself, I ended up having to share a lane.
Which is how I suffered the ignomony of being lapped by a granny.
The junk mail's got a lot more interesting since moving to WA - in Sydney it was all store catalogues and real estate agents touting for business, but in Perth it's far more diverse. Here's what was clogging up our letterbox this morning:
Martial arts school (first class free!)
Open-air personal training ('Do it outdoors - with friends!!')
School of Performing Arts (who include programmes designed to 'assist with personal hygiene'. Which is a weight off)
Tuck Pointing (something to do with brickwork, apparently - not choosing sweets at the school shop)
Guaranteed weed-free sheep manure (Free delivery - minimum five bags)
Equipment hire (rent all kinds of exciting tools, including my personal favourites the Penetrometer (I'm not even sure I want to know ...) and the Pedestrian Roller Compactor, which I'm reasonably sure was outlawed by one of those human rights conventions. And as for the Rotary Hoe ... I bet the Lion's Club's losing members in their droves).
Real estate agent touting for business. Well, there are some universal constants ...
Spent a couple of hours on the phone last night with a fellow scribe in Melbourne, kicking around thoughts for a project on which we could work together. The time difference between there and here meant the poor sod didn't get off the phone to me until 1am (sorry, mate!), but by the time we were done yakking some interesting ideas had been dragged into the open. Now I just have to jam them back into quiet bits of my head and see what ferments. It's not the most efficient way to work, but it gets results eventually.
Today was set aside for gainful employment, which warrants a quick shout-out to a couple of people in Sydney for responding to my distress call in a more than timely manner. Cheers then to Louisa (it's always nice to have a friend in a high place ...) and Helen at TV Week for the commission. Much appreciated the both of you - that's the rent paid for next month.
The last few days have been characterised by my waking up in the morning to find the surfaces in the kitchen/bathroom/laundry/other living space black with ants.
My guess is that it's the rising temperatures driving the little buggers in from outside to escape the heat - we're certainly not leaving any sweet treats around for them to latch onto. (And how do they know if we are? Do they send out scouts, little advance parties that move under cover of darkness, returning in numbers later?). Whatever's bringing them in, though, I'm going bananas trying to keep them out.
At first it was almost fun, descending on the scuttling hordes with my spray cans and blasting them into piles of chitinous corpses. But then they came back. Only more so.
One trip to the DIY shop later and I was dousing the approaches to the house with surface spray, lethal to any insectine interlopers who dared to cross it.
And the next day they were back, presumably having crawled across the bodies of those killed by the surface spray, like troops climbing over the backs of comrades who'd fallen on barbed wire.
Apart from professional exterminators (not an option in our current financial climate), all that's left now are insect bombs - little canisters that resemble CS grenades, placed in the centre of a room and triggered. You abandon the house for a few hours as the place fills with gas lethal to your ant adversaries, then return later to sweep up what's left.
The problem with that is that the gas is extremely flammable ... and our boiler's on the blink. One little problem with the pilot light and we'd be returning to our house to find it transformed into a smoking crater.
With, presumably, a crowd of ants sitting around it, happily toasting bread crumbs.
No posts for a couple of days because life has suddenly moved into crisis mode. On Friday my wife lost her job - the very one that I quit my job for and that the whole family moved from Sydney for her to take. Since I've been, to all intents and purposes, full-time dadding it since arriving in Perth, it's put us in a lot of trouble.
It doesn't help that the circumstances of her departure were exceedingly dubious - can't go into too many details but there's going to be a call to the relevant workplace tribunal tomorrow - heaping damage to her self-esteem on top of the financial pressure. If there's to be any kind of silver lining it's that having my wife around the house will free up vast amounts of time for me to write. Made a few calls on Friday evening to my magazine contacts in Sydney to cash in some offers of work that I wouldn't have been able to even think about until my daughter started school in January. Suddenly I've got all the time in the world to take them on.
And if anyone out there knows of any writing gigs I can take without having to move back east, you know where to find me ...
I've had the same dream for a couple of nights now, that an ex-girlfriend has flown all the way out from England to tell me that she has incurable cancer.
Not sure that I'm a big believer in things like dreams pre-figuring or echoing events in real life - and even if I was, there's no way to check. Haven't seen or heard from the woman concerned in more than ten years and wouldn't even know where to start looking. (And can you imagine what would happen if I did track her down? 'Hi! Long time! Not terminally ill, by any chance, are you? Hello? Hello?').
What it does suggest to me, however, is that my subconscious is in a bit of a jumble regarding old flames. A different ex, one with whom I remained in touch and good friends, has dropped off the face of the planet. No emails nor other response from her for months. Looks like that's worrying me more than I realised.
Meanwhile, work's suffering from the midweek slump when neither of my children is in school and writing's nigh on impossible, especially since the kids have discovered the long-term entertainment prospects to be found in just hitting each other. Things move along, nonetheless, with a couple of ideas I'm thinking about sharpening in focus. If I can't actually write about them I can still work them through in my head ... sibling smackdowns permitting.
Also received a copy of the Old Friends cover image, now coloured up.