Monthly Archives: October 2010

The agony and the ecstacy of writing …

My publishers have asked me to encapsulate my new trilogy, The Outcast Chronicles, in 100 to 150 words for each book. Gahhhh

They need this for the cover artist, for the book stores, or the back cover blurb etc. But these books are 100,ooo to 150,000 words. I know the characters intimately and all the twists and turns of the plots. Encapsulating the books in 150 words is so hard its painful.

This is an amusing irony, because I teach how to write a synopsis and how to pitch your books. When pitching your book you need to do the ‘elevator pitch’ that means you need to encapsulate the core of your book in 25 words or less.

Here goes:

This is a story about a tribe of mystics who are persecuted in their own land and banished. It’s about how they struggle to find a new home.

Terrible, I know. I have to talk about the people. Because we want to hear about someone we can care about. Another try:

Imoshen didn’t want to lead her people into exile. She didn’t want to battle the brotherhood leaders for this dubious honour but she needed to make sure her children were safe.

Not bad, could do better. Sigh.

Will keep trying.


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Filed under creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Genre, Writing craft

Drop by and say Hi …

Marianne, Trent, Kylie and I will be at the Victoria Point Angus and Robertson Bookstore on Saturday the 13th of November. Here’s the link.

It’ll be an informal chat about books and writing. Drop by and say Hi!

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Filed under Australian Writers, Promoting Friend's Books, Readers, Specialist Bookshops

Obssessive moi?

Something Trudi Canavan tweeted about trying to keep track of multiple narrative threads made me look at what I was doing. I’m in the middle of cleaning up The Outcast Chronicles trilogy. They are big FAT fantasy books with multiple narrative threads that weave in and out.

Because I work and have 6 kids, I’m constantly interrupted and the only way I can keep track of the story is to keep a document open on my second screen that covers the book chapter by chapter, scene by scene with a note of whose VP the scene is in and a sentence about each scene. To make sure I’m not neglecting a narrative thread I colour code the narratives.

This way I can see at a glance if a character is getting too much time on centre stage.

The thing is, when I devised this method I caught myself trying to colour code the narratives based on the personality of the characters, because colours have personalities don’t you know. (Synaesthesia, anyone?)

There, proof that writers are weird.


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Filed under creativity, Fantasy books, The World in all its Absurdity, Writing craft

Reading …

I LOVE books. I love reading…

I can just remember a time when I couldn’t read. I was about 2 and my mother had a decorative tile in the bathroom with a list of what should be done to clean the bathroom before you left it. I resented that tile because of the scribbles on it because they had power over me. By the time I started school at 4, I was reading. I don’t remembered the ‘Oh’ moment. I do remember being pages ahead of the rest of the class and getting trouble because I didn’t know where they were up to.

In his post on the development of reading as a tool and a skill, Changizi draws an analogy with language and music, both of which appear to be instinctive in that there are certain portions of our brain devoted to processing them. But:

‘Why is reading a problem for language and music instincts? Because, like language and music, our ability to read also has the hallmarks of design. …and yet we know we have no reading instinct.

We know there’s no reading instinct because writing is too recent, having been invented only several thousand years ago, and not taking hold among a large fraction of the population until just a few generations ago. There’s a good chance all or most of your great great great grandparents didn’t read.’

He goes on to argue that reading, rather than being instinctive, is a tool that we developed to fit in with the way our brains work.  In his post on Writing the Superpower. He says that we are so good at reading because the technology of writing is:

‘not simply some new untested technology, but one that has been honed over many centuries, even millenia, by cultural evolution. Writing systems and visual signs tended to change over time, the better variants surviving, the worse ones being given up. The resultant technology we have today allows meanings to flow almost effortlessly off the page and straight into our minds. Instead of seeing a morass of squiggles we see the thoughts of the writer, almost as if he or she is whispering directly into our ears.’

And he makes this point about readers (as listeners):

‘writing has allowed us to be much better listeners than speech ever did. That’s because readers can easily interact with the writer, no matter how non-present the writer may be. Readers can pause the communication, skim ahead, rewind back to something not understood, and delve deeper into certain parts.’

So this is why I love reading. It is effortless. It just flows, filling my mind with ideas and insights.  Conversely, I love writing because that is the other half of reading.

I love building the world and the people, layering it with rewrites, creating a story which the reader participates in by bringing their own life experience to it. For instance, I had to read Lord of the Flies for school when I was fourteen. I found it fascinating and I identified with Piggy. When I was twenty I read it again. This time I saw so much more and I identified with Simon, the mystic. When I was thirty-five I read it again. And again I saw so much more in it. This time I identified with Ralph, the reluctant leader.

So a book grows with you and you grow. It isn’t static. Now isn’t that an amazing thing?

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Filed under creativity, Fun Stuff, Readers, The World in all its Absurdity, Writing craft

Let’s hear it for Terry Pratchett!

I just read that Terry Pratchett has won a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement award for outstanding service to the fantasy field. (His co-winners were Brian Lumley and Peter Straub).  Here’s the link.

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Filed under creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Genre, Nourish the Writer, The Writing Fraternity

Doing the fun stuff…

Much of a writer’s life is spent slogging away over a keyboard, fighting for inspiration and the time to get the story down.  But the last couple of days I’ve been doing the fun stuff. My publisher, Solaris, has asked me to come up with ideas for the covers of the new series called:

The Outcast Chronicles

This means I get to pull out my Resonance File and go through it, putting together a page of visuals for the setting, another one for the way people dress and a couple of pages on the main characters. Then I do a brief background on the series and the characters, and finally I do a page on my vision for the series’ covers.

Eventually, I’ll put together an inspiration page on The Outcast Chronicles, as I did for King Rolen’s Kin. For now, this is my collage of images:

I’m very lucky really.  Most writers don’t get this much input into their covers. Of course, once I hand the Resonance File over, it is in the lap of the publishers and the cover artist. Clint Langley did a wonderful job on the KRK book covers, so I’m hoping for him again.

Meanwhile, there’s a  give away of KRK book one The King’s Bastard on Dave Brendon’s blog.


Filed under Book Giveaway, Covers, creativity, Fun Stuff

Retro Serenity

I saw this and being an SF nerd, had to share it. Don’t know who came up with it, but Kudos to them. ‘Glorious Technicolour!’

Love  Firefly, I use it as an example for all sorts of things when I teach – dialogue, world building, interesting shots, etc.

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Filed under Covers, creativity, Fun Stuff, Genre, Movies & TV Shows, The World in all its Absurdity

I’ve done it!

I’ve bought something just for me, something completely self indulgent, something beautiful. I’ve never done this before.

I’ve bought Lord Leighton’s Flaming June (1896)

I saw it years ago and loved it. Forgot what it was called, searched catalogues for it and finally rediscovered it. Now I have it hanging on my wall. It is a strange feeling. I get a little thrill every time I look at it.


Filed under creativity, Fun Stuff, Nourish the Writer, The World in all its Absurdity

Why I love people …

I love people because they get so enthusiastic about the things they love. For instance, you’ll be watching a program on gardening and the presenter will happily sink their hands into a pile of manure while saying what wonderful it stuff it is for the garden!

Take a look at this. It is the annual Battle of Hastings re-enactment.

Just think of all the hours of work that go into those costumes, of the weapons practice and the massive organisation that this took. And they do it all for FUN.


Filed under Fun Stuff, The World in all its Absurdity

Currently working on …

The Homeless Mystics (working title for the trilogy).

I chose these pictures from my Resonance file on this series. The mystics have a sophisticated society which evolved to keep their powerful gifts under control. They value honour and beauty in all things. I based the concept of their home, Celestial City, on the Heavenly City in medieval Japan and on the capital city of the Aztec Empire.

This series follows the fate of a tribe of dispossessed mystics, the T’Enatuath. Vastly outnumbered by the Meiren (people without magical abilities), the mystics are persecuted because the Mieren fear their gifts. This persecution culminates in a bloody pogrom sanctioned by the Meiren King who lays siege to the Celestial City, last bastion of the T’Enatuath.

When the city falls at great cost to both sides, the T’En leader, Imoshen, negotiates their surrender and the mystics are exiled from their homeland.

Under Imoshen’s leadership, the T’Enatuath battle vindictive Meiren, storms at sea, pirates, and even betrayal from within their own ranks.


I’m currently polishing the three books to hand in to my publishers early next year. I thought book one was almost done, but when I went away to World Con I spent every spare moment in my room writing and I had an epiphany. I realised I’d ended book one in the wrong place, (which explained why the opening of book two felt wrong). So I had to end book one earlier. This meant I had the room to explore a couple of narrative threads that had been implicit before. The book is much stronger now.

Love, loyalty … betrayal – all the things I like to explore.

Now if I only had more hours in a day! (If only I didn’t have to sleep!).


Filed under creativity, Fantasy books, Genre, Resonance, Story Arc, Writing craft