Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And my perfect match is...

So there I was, happily tweeting away on twitter (Rossisawriter), when I noticed twitter's suggestions for who I could be following. I assume these suggestions are the product of some sort of algorithm which matches you against other tweeples with similar interests etc. But please, pray tell, what in the blue blazes of hell I am supposed to have in common with a bloody vacuum cleaner?? Yep, that's what twitter in it's wisdom thinks I am best matched with. No wonder I'm on my own.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 and what I learned from it

Well I have made it to the end of NaNoWriMo but could not have gotten there without my writing buddy, Lisa, cyber-whipping me there (sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me!). So what lessons have I learned this year?

  1. I reconfirmed that I am a plotter/planner and not able to just sit and the keyboard with a vague idea and the story comes flooding in as some people seem to be able to do
  2. Do not get too wedded to the original outline as the story may well want to be going in another direction entirely and that little person in the head pushing it in that direction may well be right
  3. For NaNoWriMo - plan and plot further ahead!
  4. I did not know my characters well enough and found myself regularly wondering "hold on, is this what they would really do in that situation?" so more character work in advance for future projects
  5. That having a writing partner egging you on is a great way to work
I also now find myself wondering whether I am telling the right story. Further back-story ideas came to me that I now wonder whether they would be a more compelling fantasy in the first place?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why exclude males?

I have been a fan of Portia De Rossi for a long time. And not just because she is gorgeous. I thought her character portrayal in Arrested Development was simply brilliant. I also admire her for continuing to push for equal rights for gays and lesbians. For the record, I am straight, but I believe in simply live and let live, provided nobody is hurting anyone else.

I am, however, entirely puzzled by Ms De Rossi's stance on her recent return to Australia when she apparently refused to speak to male journalists. Isn't excluding someone based on their gender in direct opposition to her beliefs? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to spread the word as far and wide as possible? Ms De Rossi is publicising her recently released book that targets helping other women address issues of body image and self-esteem that she herself has had to fight. Again, what is achieved by excluding males from this publicity?

This one really does puzzle me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What does the BBC know?

My Internet-friend, author Kim Falconer, brought this one to my attention. Apparently the good folk at the BBC in their wisdom have determined that few people will have read more than six on the following list of 100 'classic' books. Those that I have read are in bold font and those I have started and either given up on (Tolstoy and Joyce!) or put to one side to go back to sometime, are in italics. I suspect plenty of other people will pass the test and have read more than six of these as well.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (and I HATED it - sequel was even worse!)

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis -

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce (boooooring!)

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I was a bully

This entry is prompted by a piece about a little girl in the US being picked on for being different. http://tinyurl.com/22w6fzz

To my shame, I admit that when I was a young kid, I may well have been one of those bullies. There seems to be a degree of pack mentality among young males. In nature, the lame, injured, ill etc, particularly among prey animals, are often driven away from the rest of the herd because they attract predators. But that isn't much of an excuse for so-called civilised people. Get me one-on-one with those different kids and there probably wouldn't have been a problem.

One thing is for sure - if my parents had seen me pick on other kids along with the rest of the pack, I would have been in trouble. That was NOT how I was brought up. But even kids are smart enough not to do it in front of adults like teachers who could pass on the word at the next parent-teachers night.

In my second year of high school, for reasons unknown, other than he was possibly different in some way, I took a real dislike to a student a year behind me. And I picked on him. I recall one day giving him such a hard time that he lost it and lashed out, hitting me once. So, full of righteous indignation, I went after him and gave him a pounding. A teacher appeared on the scene, breaking things up. Still full of myself, I angrily claimed the other had hit me. Other students however quickly told the real story, that I had been the instigator. I wasn't exactly one of the popular crowd anyway (anyone seeing the irony?). So I was in trouble, my then less-than stellar reputation among the teaching staff dropped that much lower, the victim went on his way and I left him alone after that.

I did not give him much thought for several years until my younger sister commented one day that this young fellow had attempted to kill himself, partly because everyone 'hated' him.

That revelation really floored me. I was one of those arsewipes who had helped drive this kid towards suicide, even though I had left him alone for several years. By then I was at a senior high school and hadn't even seen the kid for more than a year. But, my God, did I feel guilty.

The next year, that same student now appeared at the same senior high school. So I made a point of saying 'g'day' to him. The look of mixed relief and gratitude on his face made me feel even worse. Out of a sense of guilt, I kept saying hello any time I saw him around the school. It eventually ceased being a thing of guilt and instead became just a natural thing to do. Did we become friends? Not really. But I think he appreciated knowing there was at least one person around who was going to at least make some sort of effort. And my greeting was always answered with a big, toothy smile.

That was thirty years ago. I have no idea where that young man ended up or how he is doing. I hope he is doing alright. Chances are that he's actually doing better than me. But I like to think that I have never forgotten the lesson that he didn't ever realise he had taught me. I like to think I haven't picked on anyone since. Well apart from good-natured stirring. And when politicians engage in stupidity, as far as I am concerned, it's open season.

I have had a mental list in my head for years now of people that I wasn't nice to when I was younger, much stupider and full of my own bullshit. I like to think that eventually I will find them all and simply be nicer to them.

As for Katie, the little sweetheart in the original article, she now has 435 comments of support from people all around the world, with celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Eliza Dushku and Tara Moss getting behind her. It's a pretty damn good bet that the bullies don't have anything like that going for them.

PS a quick update - Katie's story has really gone viral and soooo many people expressing their support for her. Yayy.

PPS At 16:02 Australian Daylight Savings Time, November 22, there were now over 1,200 messages of support for Katie and her mother.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Right, we all know that da Vinci was a genius, don’t we. But to understand just what a genius he was, the believing is in the seeing.

I attended a touring exhibition of machines made from diagrams in da Vinci’s surviving notebooks. He made things like ball bearings. Now ball bearings are just an ordinary part of everyday life, in every motor vehicle for a start. But this was one heck of an innovation in da Vinci’s day. One of the things in this exhibition that really blew me away was what surely had to be the first self-powered vehicle: a vehicle powered by wooden springs!

So here is a gallery containing;
· Three different types of ball-bearing
· Two views of a seige machine allowing men to cross walls of a besieged castle in relative safety
· The exterior and interior of a tank powered by eight men with cannon facing all directions
· A cannon ship that fires in 360 degrees
· A robot!
· Water skis
· The framework for a human-powered glider
· A water-powered woodmill
· A spring-driven, self-propelled vehicle!

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Monday, November 8, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: The Blood Countess

My usual book reviewing haunt, www.awritergoesonajourney.com, is experiencing some technical difficulties. So for the time being, I shall post reviews on this blog and transfer them to AWGOAJ later.

When I first read of model, Tara Moss, becoming a writer, my initial reaction was 'yeah right - another celebrity wanting to play at being an author.' But unlike certain other celebs, Tara Moss is actually the real deal.

After realising this, I made a point of reading her crime novels and enjoyed them. After also seeing her in interview and even being on the receiving end of a tweet or two from her, I became quite the fan. Consequently I was quite interested in reading her new offering, The Blood Countess. That interest was pricked even more by learning of Moss's fascination with things Victorian gothic and being a little out of left field - how many other authors have their pet python, Thing, keeping them company while they attack the keyboard (the author that is, not the python)? And yes, I am honest enough to admit that I think Ms Moss is dead-set gawjus.

In all honesty I have mixed feelings about The Blood Countess. Don't get me wrong. I had no difficulties in becoming drawn into the story and read it in pretty quick time. That doesn't happen if I cannot get into a novel. However I was left a little puzzled by some of the naming conventions Moss has used. This is a novel with vampires, ghosts and general undeadishness. Pandora English has just moved to a darkly gothic mansion in New York, staying with her seemingly ageless great aunt with the mansion itself on Addams Ave (the Addams family?) The avenue is in the suburb of Spektor. Once you realise the presence of ghosts and undead, say that suburb name out loud just in case 'spectre' has passed you by. There is even a Morticia in the story although any resemblance to Morticia Addams ends with the name.

If this were a satire, that naming would have been a delight. But I do not get any sense of satire coming through, leaving me puzzled over why an author whose previous use of names complemented the story, would fall for this almost clumsy nomenclature this time.

I was also left with a sense that Pandora was not as well developed a character as Moss's previous protagonist, Makedde.

The influence of things like Bram Stoker's Dracula is apparent but that is hardly surprising given Moss's admitted fascination with that literary legend. And it certainly is not a crime to be influenced by something.

OK. Having expressed those reservations, the really important question was I sufficiently interested to to want to read the next Pandora English novel? Yes.

If you enjoy the gothic meeting the modern world, The Blood Countess is worth checking out. While different and perhaps not as strong a story that Moss's fans have seen in the past, I suspect they will like this one as well.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Well I am blowed if I know what is wrong with me.

It is NaNoWriMo time. I planned what I was going to be working on. I had chapters and scenes mapped out. My characters were developed. Everything was all set to go and make a real push to achieving the 50,000 words this year. Except for one thing. I have the worst case of writer’s block I have ever experienced.

Normally I argue that there isn’t any such thing as writer’s block. Sure, some days are a lot harder than others but I have discovered ways of helping the words to come. But for some reason, not one of them is working at the moment. Five days in and I am yet to even crack 4,000 words. I am becoming more than a bit frustrated.

Tomorrow I am supposed to be meeting with my writing partner for a writing session. Hopefully that will crack me into gear.