New Things

I’ve got an email here from Heather Wood, the editor behind the Gods, Memes, and Monsters anthology, that the books is now out and available for sale at the book-purchasing options of your preference.

I’ve been looking forward to this one coming out. The brief, way back at the start of 2014 when Heather asked if I’d be interesting in taking part, was to create an entry for a 21st Century Bestiary that reinterpreted mythological beasts for the new millennium. And so I went off and wrote about the people who are looking for the Jinn, on the internet (’cause how else would you explain rule 34?), and had probably the most fun writing that out of anything I sat down and worked on last year.

 

And because I am terrible at email, this all came about the same point I heard from Sarah, the Shadow Minion of the Apocalypse (or, at least, of Apocalypse Ink, who has far better job titles than my workplace), that my guest post about the curse that lay on the Flotsam series is now live at M. Todd Gallowglas’ site.

The whole curse thing started as a joke, way back when I started putting the novellas together. It seemed a lot less funny by the end. I wasn’t really aware how many computers I went through, writing that series, until I sat down and started charting the destruction PC by PC.

And with that, I’m off to write things. Or quibble with co-workers about the final make-up of the GenreCon program, depending on which happens first.

7 Days of Scribbling

Small Brick of Writing NotebooksI really did intend, when writing my last blog post, to keep using my computer for writing purposes right up until I started my writing-in-notebooks experiment on September 1st. I figured I’d finish off the projects I’d started there, keep using the notebooks for notes, ease into the idea of doing everything longhand, you know?

Turns out, not so much. I shut off the computer after my last post and leapt into the notebook world whole hog, only turning the laptop on once in the last seven days (and that was to type up the story I’d written for a friend’s birthday, so I could post it on his Facebook wall).

And now it appears that I can hit 10 pages of handwriting a day – somewhere between 1,500 and 1,800 words, depending on the notebook and my handwriting – pretty consistently. Books are taking shape, stories are getting written, my hand is not hurting from the endless scribble. There’s something aesthetically pleasing about writing in notebooks and, well, the portability.

Oh, god, the portability.

Weekends are usually Kryptonite for me and regular writing processes. I wake up on Saturday morning wanting nothing to do with keyboards and computers, preferring to stay in bed and idle the hours away. Sunday is just like Saturday, except I’m even less inclined to work.

When I’m in that kind of mood, any distraction will do. And my house is full of neat distractions.

So, this morning, when I was tired and getting grumpy about how hard it was to write things and starting to consider how much I really didn’t want to spend the entire day in my flat, I picked up my notebooks and caught a train into the city and distracted myself by wandering around after every page or two of writing.

Four hours later I came back with my ten pages of writing done, a page of notes scribbled down about the project I’m going to kick off next, a belly full of Vietnamese take-away, and a substantially better mood (also, books. ‘Cause when you walk past a bunch of book stores…)

 

I took a bunch of photographs. ‘Cause you don’t notice that Brisbane has some very pretty bits, when you walk through it during the week and you’re primarily interested in dodging your fellow commuters.

Telegraph Newspaper Company

Photograph of a storm rolling in over Brisbane City

And for all that it was always possible to do that with a laptop, in practice it would never happen. The laptop was always heavy to cart around, battery power would be an issue, and it’s hard to be discrete about what you’re doing when you set up a computer in the corner of a cafe after ordering a flat white.

I’m still not sure I’m a permanent convert – I’m well aware that this burst of consistent productivity could just be the novelty – but it’s going well enough that I’m optimistic about the results.

Home. I sleep now.

Home again, after four days of traipsing around northern Queensland. Nowhere near as wrecked as I should be, given I just spent four days delivering workshops and travelling, which may well mean the post-teaching/travel exhaustion I’ve come to expect in recent years is another one of those things that connected to the apnoea.

Still, it is good to be home.

I’m putting serious thought, post-trip, into abandoning the computer as a first-draft tool. A few weeks back I made the decision to abandon all digital screens after ten PM, turning off the computer, the television, and my phone a good two hours before I finally went to bed. This started putting a serious crimp in my productivity, but there was no arguing the fact that I was sleeping better and it stopped bad habit of staying up past bedtime in order to mainline a TV series or play a marathon game of Civilization.

Instead of writing, I’d use those two hours to edit print-outs of existing manuscripts and brainstorming ideas for new work, which meant I started digging out notebooks for the first time in ages. And since I carried all those habits with me, when I went away, the notebooks came along for the ride. Since they were easier to use than the computer in airports and such, I’d occasionally dig them out and scribble away in my scratchy handwriting.

Then the fine folks at iWrite in Townsville gave me a seriously pretty notebook as a thank-you for doing the session. We’re talking hand-stitched binding, lovely paper, one of those things that’s a joy to write in. And then today, when I went to Write Club with Meg Vann, I found myself getting bogged down tinkering with things I’d already written instead of moving forward on the projects I was working on. Not exactly unproductively, but noticeable slow.

Well, I thought, that was all kinds of bullshit. And when I got home I hauled out the notebooks I used while travelling, and proceeded to write another ten pages of stuff in half the time I spent at the computer.

I have some theories about why this was easier than typing, and I clear all the work I owe people by the end of this month, so I think I’m going to test my hypothesis by spending September going analogue. All notebooks and pens, all the time, for thirty days, in what’s easily the most disruptive month of the year I have in terms of writing.

If it works – and by works, I mean clears 30,000 words without feeling unnecessarily arduous – then it may be time to look at making a big change to the way I’m writing stuff. If it doesn’t, well, I haven’t really lost much. September is destined to be a pants month for writing anyway 

 

 

 

On Tour

I’m writing this in a hotel room in Townsville, halfway through a regional tour where I do a series of four different writing workshops in three different cities. Yesterday I was out in Charters Towers, tomorrow I fly off to Cairns. I’ve been flooding my instagram feed with images, which I very rarely do, mostly because I’m in a position to photograph things I don’t ordinarily get to see.

Townsville is rather pretty. I didn’t expect that, flying in. Or when I caught the train out, yesterday. Or when I caught a bus back in, this morning.

I went for a walk this afternoon and kept seeing mountains pressed up against the city, real close, in a way we don’t really get in Brisbane.

Townsville, River

It doesn’t, however, compare the the venue of yesterday’s workshop. The Excelsior Library, in Charters Towers, is built in an old pub after it was burnt down. It’s got that awesome new-library feel once you get inside, but from the outside it still looks like a pub. So much so that I walked right past it a few times, when I first went looking.

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One of the Excelsior’s librarians, Joan, was nice enough to take me through the building and give me some details about its history and how it’s used. A lot of that got turned into notes, ’cause really, that’s the sort of thing that deserves to go into stories.

Today I was doing a short workshop-type thing for the Townsville Writers and Publishers centre iWrite program, which meant I got to talk through a bunch of stuff that it’s useful for writers to know with high school students in the local area. We talked plotting and submitting work and the magic of try-fail cycles, and somewhere in amongst all that there was sacrificing cheese to the dragon-god in order to get a paper-clip and save someone’s life.

School groups, it must be said, are invariably more interesting to talk to than adult writers.

(On the off chance that anyone from the workshop stumbles onto this post, a lot of the stuff I talked about has been previously covered on this blog before, here and here. Sorry we ran long and didn’t have time for questions, but my email is over here if you’ve got a question you got something you wanted to ask).

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It has to be said, this hotel room is perhaps my favourite of all the hotel rooms I’ve ever been in. I have this thing where I basically want my hotel rooms to either be awesomely strange, thoroughly comfortable, or slightly creepy. The current room delivers on all three fronts.

For starters, it was obviously not designed as a hotel room. There are all sorts of clues, like the giant air-vent that is just large enough that a slightly thinner man than me could crawl through it, or the set of wooden louvres set into the weird bench-thing underneath the window. Plus, there’s this:

Foorstool of Doom

I’m pretty sure it’s a footstool, intended to be used with the small chair in the corner of the hotel room, but generally people don’t make footstools heavy enough that your back whimpers when you try to move it. Near as I can tell, it’s a pretty solid hunk of wood that’s been polished up to serve as whatever it’s serving as, and while I can roll it pretty good, there’s no way in hell I can lift it.

The room itself is huge, the bed thoroughly comfortable, and the carpet significantly less disturbing than the carpeting in the hall. And I think this is the first time I’ve ever found the desk in a hotel room comfortable enough to work at.

Everything is Better After Paper Lanterns

I wrote a different post earlier today, but it appears that wordpress ate it and refuses to give it back, so you miss out on my moments of wit regarding the hazards of sleeping with a CPAP machine while you have a head cold (here’s a hint: ew).

Now it’s later in the day and instead of catching up on some pretty miserable stuff, I’m back from a quick trip into the city where I shopped at Pulp Fiction bookstore, perused the Night Noodle Markets at South Bank, ate Pumpkin Pie at the South Side Diner, and went to see Ant Man.

The Noodle Markets broke out the pretty for me. Case in point:

Hanging Lanterns

Ant-Man was far better than a movie about Ant-Man should have been, especially given the departure of Edgar Wright from the project. And while a lot of people talk about seeing the Wright-isms in the film, I think that takes a lot away from replacement director Petyon Reed’s contributions.

Reeds not as obviously stylized in his approach as Wright would have been, but he’s done some pretty solid work. You can see echoes of the man who delivered Bring It On in Ant-Man, and he’s not entirely without an aesthetic approach to cinema. Given a solid script, he produces good work. Given a not-so-solid script, he’ll at least produce something interesting.

I’m with pretty much everyone who would have liked to see Evangeline Lily’s Wasp a feature of the film, rather than a quiet extra that’s tagged at the end.

Back to writing now. One novelette draft finished and in need of editing, courtesy of a hardcore writing stint with Meg Vann earlier today. One novelette draft yet to be finished. A small pile of work for Altered standing by, waiting for a stretch of time where it can get my full focus. Four days until the end of the month, when I can finally collapse in a pile.

Reprints and Trusting the Process

Writing is a funny business.

Case in point: I signed a reprint contract for a short-story this morning. It’s not the first time this story has been reprinted (and, Gods willing, it won’t be the last), but this reprint means that a single story of around 7,000 words has earned me more money in the space of four years than all five novellas I’ve written put together.

There’s nothing surprising about this – it’s how writing works. You write things and you keep writing things and eventually some of the things you wrote a while back come around and start earning you money again.

But it’s timely, this coming through this week, ’cause I recently made the decision to cut back my hours at the Writers Centre a little in order to free up a second day each week that can be devoted to writing. Part of me – the part that frets about the mortgage – keeps looking at that decision and wondering if was going to come back and bite me.

In the short term? Almost certainly, yes. I’ve more-or-less forgotten all the financial habits I’d built up through years of contracting and freelance work, which means I need to re-learn them.

In the long term, well. I got a lot of things I wanna get written, and I have a fair idea how much that extra day a week is worth.

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Nine days left in the month of July. Three writing things that need to be done before the end of the month, which brings me to the end of my current writing commitments.

Time to figure out what comes next.