Sunday, April 18, 2010

Romantically Challenged?

This is a very special blog post. Well, special to me at any rate.

There is a new romantic comedy being released in the US: Romantically Challenged. This features on of my favouritist (yes, I know that isn't a real word but this is my blog, so sod off) actors, Alyssa Milano. Part of me fell for that cheeky smile years ago. And yes, like a lot of men around the world, I was devastated when the lovely Ms Milano was taken off the market. Well, we're allowed to dream aren't we? ;)

Another interesting thing about Romantically Challenged is that it is being guided by James Burrows. He has a big list of credits already behind him and has a pretty big reputation in the television industry.

Milano recently tweeted that being directed by Burrows is like being taught by a Jedi Master. That begs the question: is Burrows actually only four feet tall, green, wrinkled, with pointy ears and has a strange way of talking? Or could it be that he is actually a dark Jedi Master, murming things like “something, something, daaark siiide” while referring to Milano as “my young apprentice?"

So why am I bothering to blog this? Well for one thing, I would have to be categorised as more than Romantically Challenged. Romantically Incapable? Romantically Disasterous? Romantically Screwed? For another thing, Romantically Challenged (RomChallenged) hs just started to follow me on Twitter (rossisawriter). Kewlies! So if I blog something about them, who knows – maybe, just maybe, I might get a hello from the delightful Ms Milano sometime.

As I said earlier, we are allowed to dream, aren't we? :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Research - exciting but terrifying

I am giving serious thought to returning to university from the second half of this year to undertake a Masters by Research.

It was one of the profs from the uni who put the idea into my head several months ago. At first I thought she meant returning to do the Masters in Creative Writing by course work. But my last lot of studies did roughly half the syllabus for that, only leaving what I thought was boring stuff still to be done. But no, she meant doing it by research.

Research is one of those things that I have a love-hate relationship with. If it is something interesting, I love getting buried in research, finding out ever so many fascinating and useful or even useless things. But then the research itself can take over from what I was originally intending. "Gosh, that's fascinating - I'll go read a bit more about that." Before you know it, you have wandered entirely away from where you were supposed to be going. Fascinating, interesting and entertaining, but far from a good use of my time if I am supposed to be doing something quite specific.

At present, my research project is going to be centreing on the Battle of Fromelles from World War 1. This first engagement of Australia troops on the Western Front in July, 1916, was practically forgotten until quite recent years. Yet in many respects, it was a far bigger disaster than the Gallipoli landings that every Australian schoolchild knows about. Fifteen months on from the original landings at Gallipoli, what did this combination of survivors from the Dardenelles and new recruits, think about going into action in France only days after their arrival at the front? Were they thinking about nationhood and all the rest of the mythology that has grown up around the Anzacs?

There is a staggering wealth of original material in the archives of the Australian War Memorial, that fortunately I live quite close to. The prospect of all the reading I have to do in histories, biographies, diaries, letters and more that faces me, is quite daunting.

The anticipated project would result in a large research paper that addresses my research question and a large piece of creative writing that further addresses the subject.

For now I have to focus on determining exactly what my precise research question will be as part of my research proposal. Already the reading in support of that is proving a combination of fascinating, thought provoking and challenging. And that is just fine tuning the actual point to be researched.

With all that in my head, I suspect that marching in this year's Anzac Day remembrances will be particularly poignant for me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


A question many writers are often asked is "where do you get your ideas from?" The answers are many and varied such as having a secret address they send $10 to and get an idea returned in the mail or secret assignations behind a kebab shop.

One place where I often find inspiration for story ideas is monitoring markets for short story anthologies. The editors of intending anthologies can come up with some weird, wonderful and interesting themes. One that has really caught my attention of late is Rock & Roll is Dead: Dark Tales Inspired by Music. It doesn't pay a lot, but a lot of anthologies aren't big paying markets. But they are great developmental markets all the same.

I have been having some fun trawling through my CD collection, looking for tracks that fire the imagination for a suitably dark story. Leading the pack at the moment is Dark Night by The Blasters that was used in the Tarantino film, From Dusk Till Dawn. It has a deliciously dark feel to it that has the inspiration neurons bouncing around although I have not settled on anything. But there are other tracks giving me ideas as well such as Killer by Queen, 57 Deathtrip (I cannot remember the band off the top of my head), Space Trucking (Deep Purple), Ghostriders (who hasn't recorded that) and more.

There are also a couple of werewolf and were-creature anthologies on the go as well, giving me food for thought. That has given me the excuse to have some interesting reading of a anthology of werewolf mythology etc. Unfortunately I keep getting sidetracked by this utterly ridiculous idea of trying to write something about a werefrog.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The perils of the freelancer

There are times when being a freelance absolutely blows chunks.

I was 'commissioned' to write a piece on a particular subject for a journal, by its Assistant Editor. I had submitted an example piece of my work to them and suggested a number of topics. It was that member of their editorial staff who selected one of those topics, asked me to write an a piece on it to a specific word count and source appropriate images. This was a historical piece. I had to do quite a bit of research that included quite a few dollars expended on photocopying particular sources for further research. I did extensive fact checking to make darned sure that I had not blundered anywhere. I also did an exhaustive search for historical images to support the piece. Finally, I delivered the finished product early.

This afternoon I received the unexpected advice from the same editorial assistant that the editorial board decided that the article is 'outside the scope' of their journal? Excuse me? You ask me to write a piece for you on that subject then tell me that it is not what you want? And ask me to in future send them material that is more in scope with your requirements? What a bloody cheek!

Having the piece ultimately rejected because they do not like the finished product is one thing. But when a publication's editorial staff request you to do a piece on a specific subject, within specific constraints and you deliver, only to have them can it for being 'out of scope' is another thing entirely. So I have wasted time, effort and money. Oh, and no kill fee either.

In fairness, said editorial person suggested two alternative markets which I have investigated. One would require a rewrite to extend the piece by another 800 words and is a non-paying market anyway. The other is for academic, refereed pieces and nothing like a market for the piece in question. So that advice was frankly rather useless anyway. And I am stuck with a white elephant.

As a freelancer, you lack the power to do anything about stunts like that. I am pretty damned sure that they would not like to be working for nothing.

Not happy, Jan. Not frigging happy at all.