Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas in Udaipur

Off to Agra again this weekend and then flying to Udaipur for Christmas. This city was featured in the Bond film Octopussy.

I'm trying the email updater feature of Blogger so - should be able to email blog updates on my travel. After Udaipur we head to the desert at Jaisalmer, then to the mountains in Darjeeling (in search of He-Man 9000 Super Strong Ultra Beer) and then to the beach at Orissa before returning to Delhi.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

FREE WRITING SOFTWARE - yWriter 5


yWriter 5 has just come out of Beta. This free novel writing software is fantastic. Support from the programmer is some of the best that I have seen with new features added on an almost daily basis. He is also a writer so he knows what he is talking about.

You can read all about it at: http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html

If you a writing Flash fiction then check out yEdit 2 from the same author.

Features include:

  • Organise your novel using a 'project'.
  • Add chapters to the project.
  • Add scenes, characters, items and locations.
  • Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
  • Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
  • Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
  • Allows multiple scenes within chapters
  • Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
  • Multiple characters per scene.
  • Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
  • Re-order scenes within chapters.
  • Drag and drop of chapters, scenes, characters, items and locations.
  • Automatic chapter renumbering.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

WRITER ON THE ROAD - India 2008


Bits and Pieces, some culture and unrelated drivel...

In an earlier post I discussed the meaning of names. Apparently "Such" in Hindi means truth - which i kinda like and it is certainly better than the anglo-saxon derivation which means "tree-stump."


There is a term used often over here - "This Is India" - often abbreviated to TII. It is used to explain everything and anything that does not work as you expect. Power shuts down in the national capital 6 times a day - TII.


Traffic lights are an interesting phenomena in India. The accepted wisdom is - "Green is compulsory, red is optional." TII.


I also think that I have decoded the traffic rules, if you get your nose in front of the other car then you have right of way. It doesn't matter how you do this but once you get a mm in front all rights revert to you!


It has been a fairly quiet weekend so I have managed to pen a couple of Flash pieces which I am trying to place. My current acceptance ratio is 74% - though it can take up to four attempts to find a market, I can usually tell now whether a piece is likely to get up (ultimately). By trial and error I am determining which markets are into the Such style. I think it may be an acquired taste.

I will also try and finish off "Lucky Penny" this weekend - it is a longer horror/suspense bit which was inspired by a trip to Brisbane a few months ago. I'm not saying Brisbane was horrific or the trip for that matter, it was actually quite nice, I got the idea from a few of the odd characters that populate the market adjacent to the Brisbane river.


Time for some more Indian culture ...


On March 30, 1699, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru founded the Khalsa - a brotherhood of saint-soldiers
. Khalsa is derived from a Persian term which means "pure." The Khalsa Sikh's can be identified by the "five K's." These are (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ks):
  1. Kesh - Uncut hair on any part of the body for men and women is considered sacred. It is mandatory for both Sikh men and women to wear a turban to protect and cover the hair and head, which is also a spiritual crown.
  2. Kanga - Wooden comb for hygiene and maintenance of the Kesh.
  3. Kara Iron bracelet: - Physical reminder that a Sikh is bound to the Guru.
  4. Kachera - Specially designed cotton underwear:- Naturally comfortable and dignified attire reflective of modesty and high moral character.
  5. Kirpan Strapped sword: - Worn to defend one's faith and protect the weak, reminding one of his or her duty as a Khalsa. It is worn to show bravery, not a mere weapon.All baptised Sikh's have the surname/middlename Singh (for men - means lion) or Kaur (for woman - means Princess or lioness).
The 10th Guru had an interesting recruitment strategy. He addressed the folks from his tent asking for people who were willing to lose their head for their Guru. He had to ask 3 times but eventually one fellow volunteered. He took him into his tent and then came out with blood on his sword and then asked for another volunteer. He did this 5 times. All five then emerged from the tent unscathed and apparently resurrected. These dudes are called the "five beloved ones" and were the first Khalsa Sikh's.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

OPENING MY THIRD EYE ...


Last weekend I indulged in some Shirodhara. This involves trickling hot oil onto the forehead and is believed to awaken the third eye. Now I know that this sounds a bit like the Chinese water torture but it is actually very relaxing. I feel asleep 3 times and woke myself up with my snoring. Perhaps not quite the mystical effect that it is supposed to generate but nice nevertheless.

This trickling is followed by synchronised body massage - a terrifying prospect for the average Aussie male. It involves laying naked on a wooden table with raised edges (imagine a large baking tray), being lightly drizzled with baby oil and rubbed by two husky fellows. This episode will never be spoken of again.

Back to the third eye, this is the ajna chakra (sixth chakra) and is represented by a dot, mark or eye symbol on the forehead (called a Tilak or Tika depending where you are). According to followers of Tantrism, this chakra is the exit point for kundalini energy. The third eye is also called the "eye of wisdom."

In Hinduism, it is believed that the opening of Shiva's third eye causes the eventual destruction of the universe, so let's hope that he doesn't go to a Day Spa and have this treatment.

A variation of the Tilak is called the Bindi. Normally this represents a married woman (but can be just for decoration) and is often accompanied by a vermilion mark in the parting of the hair just above the forehead. The bindi is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck. Which can't be a bad thing.

There could be a link between the pineal gland and the mystical third eye. It is often referred to as "the atrophied third eye" and is in the right location. Interestingly, cells within the pineal gland are similar to photoreceptors in the eye. Amphibians and reptiles still sense light through a third parietal eye - which is associated with the pineal gland. The pineal gland excretes a hormone which induces dreams, near-death experiences, meditation, and hallucinations.

Some dudes believe that if you can switch on your third eye you will become clairvoyant and be able to see in the dark. Apart from massage, other techniques for opening your third eye include the application of an amethyst cleaned under flowing water or taking LSD.

Want to read more? Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_eye

Saturday, 29 November 2008

WRITER ON THE ROAD - India 2008

What is going on???

Last night we go out for a nice meal in Delhi only to find that no licensed premises are allowed to sell alcohol the night before an election (Delhi State elections are on today).

What a travesty. Apparently the logic goes like this: People drink, get pissed and then go and vote for the wrong type of candidate. What idiot comes up with this stuff? It all seems a bit condescending to me.

I'm not sure if this happens in all State elections but people of Delhi you need to rise up and vote for the more beer party.

... or at least exclude people that can't vote!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

He-Man 9000 Super Strong Ultra Beer!


Here it is in all its glory!

I give you ... He Man 9000 Super Strong Ultra Beer.

Pity it tastes so bad.

WRITER ON THE ROAD - India 2008

It is the end of week 5 in India and any country that has "He-Man 9000 Super Strong Ultra Beer" can't be all bad. I'm picking up lots of material (keep an eye out for He-Man 9000 in the next Blood story), but not having much time to write.

Last weekend the Team and I went white water rafting on the Ganges - which is a lot more attractive than it sounds. The picture in this blog is of the campsite called 5 Elements on the Ganges (or Ganga as it is called in India). Very nice.

The tents were described on the web site as Swiss luxury tents. It was only when we arrived that we worked out that they must have been called Swiss due to all the holes! The camp site is about 230 km's from Delhi, however the roads are a nightmare and it was a 9 hour drive each way. This makes for a fairly exhausting weekend but nevertheless it was nice to see some wilderness.

One thing that I find wearying in India is that there are always people everywhere - lots of people, making lots of noise. The actual rafting was fairly sedate (nothing over a grade 3) but still fun.

We were sharing the raft with an aspiring Bollywood actress called Bhairavi Goswami and her friend Youvan. They were good company.

I'm quite interested in the whole caste thingy they have going on here. Sounds like a rich seam of juicy writing goodness could be mined from this. I was under the impression that your job defined your caste (i.e. if you were a soldier you were in the soldier caste). Apparently that is not the case. Your caste is defined by your families caste. When a lady marries she becomes her husbands caste.

In Hindu society there are 4 main castes:
  1. Brahmins (intelligentsia, priests, scholars, teachers)
  2. Kshatriyas (warriors, nobility)
  3. Vaishyas (merchants, farmers),
  4. Sudras (tradesmen, artisans, craftsmen, workers, service providers)
You can read all about it in Wikipedia.

Of course it is not as simple as this - apparently there are actually thousands of castes which the British compressed down to 4 to make census taking easier. Marrying outside your caste in parts of India is very dangerous - every week people are killed because of this. A Hindu marrying a Muslim is also problematic, it is easier for a Hindu to marry a Christian.

I'm struggling with the whole servant thing. There are 3 house boys looking after the apartment. They cook, clean, wash, iron, go shopping, etc. I have a driver, there is a couple of Butlers in the office and I have a PA. You don't do anything for yourself and it is driving me crazy - It must be an Australian thing. The Brit's seem to cope much better.

Well it must be time for another He-Man 9000. Enjoy your weekend.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

REVIEW - The Solution

I came across this review of my story "The Solution" at Static Movement.

"First off, congrats again to Chris and Static Movement on another fine issue. In these times of change, chaos and monumental failure, Static Movement remains an oasis of dependability and steadfastness. Thank you Chris!

And on to the story...

Mainly I just wanted to say I enjoyed this piece of flash, even though horror isn't my cup of tea at all. The ending was very cute, and inventive. Perfect flash - good job David Such!

John Gilbert"

It always amazes me that people actually read my stories and getting positive feedback is great. In fact any feedback is great. I feel that if you write something that stimulates feelings (positive or negative) then you have achieved something. Thanks to John for taking the time to jot down a few words.

Now I'm off to try white water rafting on the Ganges. I think I may attempt to not fall in!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

WEBZINE - The Specusphere


Issue 5 is out now!

Editorial
The English Curriculum by Stephen Thompson
Editorial afterthought—The elephant in the room
by Stephen Thompson

Features
The quintessential speculative fiction album by Stephen Thompson
3 questions for The Specusphere by Stephen Thompson
Cyborg by Brendan David Carson


Writing and Publishing
The Serendipity of Publishing
by Astrid Cooper

Up and Coming
New Books from Gollancz for November-December 2008
New Releases from Orbit

People
Jaine Fenn in conversation with Maurie Breust
Marillier revisits Sevenwaters in latest release

Book Reviews
HEIR TO SEVENWATERS by Juliet Marillier
AWAKENING by Lara Morgan
THE BEAST WITHIN edited by Matt Hults
INFECTED by Scott Sigler
THE NINTH CIRCLE by Alex Bell
PRINCIPLES OF ANGELS by Jaine Fenn
THE BRIDE OF TIME by Dawn Thompson
THE LAST THEOREM by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl
NIGHT SHIFT by Lilith Saintcrow
FLOOD by Stephen Baxter
ALL-STAR SUPERMAN Volume One (Comic) by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
GHOST WALK by Brian Keene
BEFORE I WAKE by Kathryn Smith
A DISTANT MAGIC by Mary Jo Putney

Fiction
Nigel's Evening by David Schembri
Call Waiting by Bill Youatt-Pine
The forever-green by Ashley Hibbert

WRITER ON THE ROAD - India 2008



Received my first dose of Delhi Belly yesterday and it was a beauty. My diaphragm is still aching from all the action. Hopefully I have ticked that box and we can move on.


Another story of Indian life ...

There is a main highway here called NH8 and apparently there was a dispute between the local and state government about who would provide lighting for a new stretch of road. A local entrepreneur came along and offered to power the lights for a reasonable fee. His solution was to have a man sit on the medium strip and top up a diesel generator as required. This is the solution that they went with!

And another ...

Me "Do you know where you are going?"

Taxi Driver "Yes"

We arrive at a Hotel and I can't see the people that I am meeting, so I call them.

Me "Where are you?"

Them " We are here"

It turns out that I am at the wrong hotel. I say to the taxi driver, "I thought you knew where you were going?"

"I did," he replied. It turns out that I was asking the wrong question. It should have been. "Do you know where I am going?" He knew where he was going - it just wasn't the same place that I was going.

It seems that in India people don't like letting you down and saying no. I think this is a cultural aspect of some Asian countries as well.

Haven't had a chance to write a word since I have been here. I did pen a Flash piece at Hong Kong International airport but that was over 3 weeks ago.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

WRITER ON THE ROAD - India 2008



Hello from India!


I have just started a 3 month assignment in India which is very exciting. Over the next 3 months I plan to try and add some Indian spice to my works. We will see how that turns out.

I'm situated in Delhi (the capital) but I should get the opportunity to see quite a bit of the country. At the moment I am just trying to remember all the details that make another country different, for example there is dust every where and a kind of permanent grey haze (think Blade Runner) over the city. At night the haze turns into an eerie fog which make all the cars look like they are traveling under water (I have moved on to The Abyss) .

The traffic is mad. There are no rules and the horn is used more as an echo sounder than an instrument of anger. In fact all the drivers are remarkably relaxed given the chaos.

Another interesting thing - when you order a beer in a bar, the waiter will bring the bottle over and wait for you to feel that it is cold enough before they will pour it. This can lead to some awkward moments for the newcomer as you sit there looking at the beer bottle and wondering why he is showing it to you. "yes a very good year but do you have it in an 08?"

It would be great to work some of this stuff into a story.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

WEBZINE - Eclecticism


The first anniversary issue of Eclecticism is out now!

Featuring work from: Richard Butler, Peter Lingard, Mark McAuliffe, Amy Mackiewicz, Keith Nunes, Syd Monkhouse, Lawrence Salani, Ian C Smith, Les Wicks and Jessica Madden.

Click here to take the eclectic journey!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

WEBZINE - Static Movement


The October Edition of Static Movement is out now.

Check out "The Solution" and let me know what you think.

Friday, 5 September 2008

WRITING SOFTWARE - Name Generators

Names are interesting things. The meaning of names is even more interesting. For instance, David comes from Hebrew and means "Beloved". Such is from the Anglo-Saxon word for "Tree Stump." So altogether my name means "Beloved Tree Stump." Probably not the name you would choose for the next Galactic Emperor.

Speaking of names, I am hopeless at thinking up names for my characters. Consequently most of the time I use the names of our dogs (past and present).

This is probably doing a disservice to my works of art as a carefully crafted name can add to your story, providing a layer of resonance and meaning. A characters name is one way of providing clues about your protagonists nature. A character named Bozo or Jeeves comes with a pre-populated personality, which you should probably avoid because it is too obvious (although I guess you could play with this - how about an evil Bozo who becomes the next Galactic Emperor? Who voted for this clown? Yuk Yuk Yuk).

Moving right along ...

So if you want to avoid using clich├ęd names for the folks that populate your stories, how about using a name generator? There are stacks out there. For Fantasy names try:

- The Fantasy Name Generator

If you are interested in the history or etymology of names try:

- Behind the Name

They also have a random name generator.

For the mother of all naming sites try Seventh Sanctum. The have everything from evil name generators to pirate ship name generators.

Happy naming!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

WEBZINE - The Specusphere Issue 4


Issue 4 is out now!!

Pop over to www.specusphere.com and check it out.

It includes my new story, "Hell Hath No Fury." I'm always interested in feedback. Let me know if you liked it (or not) and why.







In this issue

Editorial
Where do I come from? by Stephen Thompson

Features
Irrealism and the Bizarro movement by Stephen Thompson
Ray-guns for Rocketeers by Jeff Harris

Up and Coming
Ford Street Makes Waves
The Wisdom of Water by John Archer
New Books from Gollancz for September–October 2008
New Books from Tor for September

People
Creating Memorable Characters: interview and discussion with Fiona McIntosh by Astrid Cooper

Writing and Publishing
Where do (writing) ideas come from? by Bill Youatt-Pine

Fiction
Hell Hath No Fury by David Such
Dolphin Dreaming by Ashley Hibbert
Chopped up Cut up by Damien Kane

Poetry
The Curse by Felix Calvino

Film Reviews
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, directed by Rob Cohen
Journey to the Center of the Earth, directed by Eric Brevig
The Happening, directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Hellboy II: The Golden Army, directed by Guillermo Del Toro

Book Reviews
The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Son et Lumiere by Ian Nichols
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross
Phantom Pleasures by Julie Leto
Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan
Black Ships by Jo Graham
Bewitched by Sandra Schwab
Incandescence by Greg Egan
Heart-shaped Box
by Joe Hill
Swiftly by Adam Roberts

Sunday, 31 August 2008

BUSINESS OF WRITING - Tax

IMPORTANT NOTE SO THAT I DON'T GET IN TROUBLE - I am not a financial advisor and this is NOT financial advice. You need to go and see your accountant about this stuff. The following is provided to provoke discussion on the topic only!

Would you like to offset your writing expenses against your primary income and reduce your tax bill?


It sounds great in theory and the good news is that there is case law which shows that being a full time employee in an unrelated field does not prevent you from doing this.

For any international readers, I apologise in advance, this Blog will be very Australian-centric.

So what can you potentially claim? Anything which contributes towards you producing a writing income. This could include:
  • Internet costs (ADSL fees, hosting and domain name fees, virius software, etc.)
  • Marketing and advertising costs.
  • Related travel costs - may be tricky.
  • Depreciation on your computer, printer, router, NAS, etc.
  • Other software costs like OS, and word processor.
  • Any accounting fees (you should have these - go and see an accountant, if they are any good you will recover their fees many times over!)
  • Depreciation of your home office furniture (assuming you do this from home)
  • Membership fees for relevant organisations (AHWA anyone?)
  • A proportion of home office expenses like: utilities (electricity, gas, phone, water); and depreciation on fittings (curtains, carpets and lights).
Note that you CAN NOT claim things like rent, mortgage interest, insurance and rates. Also note that if you do claim the office expenses detailed above, this may have capital gains tax implications when it comes time for you to sell your property. You need to weigh up the costs and benefits of this strategy.

How do you convince the ATO that these are legitimate tax deductions? Well this is what they look at:
  1. Is the purpose of the writing activity to make a profit? You need to intend to make a profit at some point (and hence pay tax) otherwise it is just another loss making hobby - anyone want to buy a vineyard? A business plan helps demonstrate your intentions here. If you send all of your pieces to magazines that don't pay - you may have a problem.
  2. The volume and regularity of the activities, particularly as it compares to similar businesses. Writing one short story a month is probably not going to cut the mustard.
  3. Running a P&L and balance sheet, having business premises, an agent, licences or qualifications, a registered business name and an ABN all helps.
  4. The level of annual turnover. If your revenue is $20 per annum it is difficult to argue that you are running a business.
  5. The amount of capital employed. You are unlikely to get the tick on this one as writing is not a capital intensive business. The ATO are looking for around $1M of capital invested. Please let me know if anyone has done this - I will be VERY impressed.
Another area that you need to consider is what sort of legal entity is the best for your arrangement (i.e. sole trader, partnership or company). This is another large subject which deserves a Blog of its own.

Want to know more? For anything that you will ever need to know about the business of writing go and check out the article by Ian Irvine on:

The Truth about Publishing at http://www.ian-irvine.com/

Sunday, 24 August 2008

WRITING QUOTES - Your Favourites

Do you have a favourite quote? Let me know and I will post it up. Our first contribution is from Antonio Barnes in Madrid.

"Ideas aren't innocent"
Antonio Barnes (http://forumnovum.blogspot.com/)

Saturday, 23 August 2008

WRITING QUOTES - From CS Weekly

A Collection of Writing Quotes from CS Weekly (www.creativescreenwriting.com):

Updated above ^^^^

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

WRITING - Character Generation

Interested in well rounded, fascinating characters that leap off the page? Then the following are some links to assist you in generating them. This was originally posted by prophet224 on the yWriter Google Group.

To quote the prophet:

"Here are a bunch of suggestions. There's a lot here. Go to the
bottom for a large pdf download of character questions and things to
know about your character. I hope this helps! :) Most of this stuff
is related to RPG character creation, but it should help and serve
double duty!

****************************************************************

Burning Void's character questionnaire:
(http://www.burningvoid.com/rpg/2001/pcquestions.php)

Burning Void's pdf book, "365 Character Questions for Writers and
Roleplayers," under "Downloads":

http://www.burningvoid.com/rpg/plcharacter.php

Fiction Writer's Character Chart:
http://www.eclectics.com/articles/character.html

The 100 Most Important Things to Know About Your Character:
http://www.geocities.com/poetess47/100questions.html

Character Questions from WritingClasses.com:
http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/106

Proust's Character Questionnaire:
http://www.scripsit.com/questionnaire.html

(I'd like to acknowledge the blog "The Naked Truth" for some of these
links: http://nmallory.exit-23.net/ )


Another source of interesting questions is "The Book of Questions":

http://www.burningvoid.com/review/2001/thebookofquestions.php
(Example: Question #4: “If you could spend one year in perfect
happiness but afterward would remember nothing of the experience would
you do so? If not, why not?”

http://www.burningvoid.com/review/2005/bookofquestionsloveandsex.php

http://www.burningvoid.com/review/2005/boqbusinessethics.php

*******************************************************
Questions:
http://jtevans.kilnar.com/rpg/newchar.php

100 things to know about your character:
http://www.geocities.com/poetess47/100questions.html

More (maybe the same?) questions:
http://www.errantdreams.com/static/pc_questions

Various creation and design links:
http://zioth.com/roleplay/

Questions Download:
http://www.errantdreams.com/files/365charques.pdf

Saturday, 26 July 2008

WRITING QUOTES - From CS Weekly

Updated Above ^

USEFUL STUFF - Piclens


Not writing related but nevertheless you need to install PicLens for your browser! This is the first web 2 application that I have seen done well. In fact it is brilliant.

In the words of the website (www.piclens.com) "Transform your browser into a full-screen, 3D experience for online photos and videos." There is a version for all the major browsers.

It looks like something that Apple would develop, except it is free. If you are ever looking for images on the net then this little fella is a gotta have. You get the picture.

STORY BACKGROUND - The Long Green Goodbye


Issue 122 (July-August 2008) of AntipodeanSF is now available at www.antisf.com, so head on over and wallow in the trough of speculative goodness. While you are there make sure you check out Felicity's story "Windows to the Soul" and enjoy a Kodak moment. Now a bit about my story ...

ABOUT The Story

The Long Green Goodbye was inspired by an old Schweppes lemonade commercial that I loved. The advertisement was done in the style of the hard-boiled detective stories by Raymond Chandler - but funnier. One of the lines was something like, "a tall blonde walked past my window, I could tell that she was tall as my office was on the 2nd floor." *he he he*

The title is homage to the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. His 21 novels regarding this amateur sleuth all had a colour in the title and the first three novels in the series were published in the year that I was born. Respect.

BTW - You can read reviews of issue 122 here:

Hole in the page

Musings of an Aussie Writer


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

WRITING SOFTWARE - yEDIT








yEDIT from Spacejock Software.



SpaceJock Software (www.spacejock.com) has just released another handy little application. In my opinion this is good for writing short pieces (like FLASH fiction, 500 to 1000 words) and so complements yWriter which is better suited to organising longer works.

Its features include:
  • a plain text editor
  • a good autobackup system
  • a countdown word counter
  • an undo system
  • log folder of your daily word count.
The counter & autobackups update when you haven't typed for 2 or 3 seconds or so.

Note that it's NOT a word processor. Spacejock wont be adding spell checking, grammar checking, formatting, fonts or any of the other trappings of Word or OpenOffice.

Give it a try - did I mention it's free!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

WRITING BOOKS - Plot & Structure



Plot and Structure

By James Scott Bell









I enjoyed reading Plot and Structure, so I thought that I would jot down some of the key points that I picked up. In essence this book describes how to develop a road map for your story. Some may see this as a recipe for writing formulaic rubbish but just because every house has a plan doesn't mean that they all look the same. I have mixed my metaphors but you get the idea.

Bell acknowledges that there is a continuum of writers, from those that are capable of vomiting a stream of consciousness to those that can't get out of bed without a Gannt chart. I haven't worked out where I sit yet but I suspect that is just to the right of Genghis Kahn. No matter where you sit on that continuum, your writing will benefit from some structure and at the very least you should develop your LOCK before starting.

LOCK is a FLA (Four Letter Acronym). I guess he couldn't get it down to three.

L = Lead (who is your lead and why are they interesting?)
O = Objective (what does your lead want or want to get away from?)
C = Confrontation (what obstacles stop your lead from getting their objective?)
K = Knockout (what is the killer ending which ties up everything and resonates with the reader)

Bell argues that a strong ending can rescue a middling story. As part of the minimalist approach he recommends that you also whip up a back cover description of your story based on the LOCK. If this doesn't sound like something that you would want to read then it is time for a rethink.

By now I will have lost our less structured brethren so allow me to forge on with a bit more detail.

Bell points out that the three act structure has been in place for thousands of years which suggests that there may be something to it.

Act 1 introduces your lead and usually has an initial disturbance to get the reader interested. At or before about 1/5th the way through your word count a major disturbance occurs which thrusts your lead through a door way into Act 2. This door way is a one way trip. Once through your lead must have a reason to keep banging their head against all the obstacles you keep throwing up. This gives the story momentum and keeps people reading.

The door way to Act 3 should be at the 3/4 mark or further and is another one way trip. The trigger to crossing this threshold could be a major clue or setback, which sets you up for the final confrontation or choice in Act 3. The knockout.

Bell also talks about the rhythm of your story with the major chords being:
  • Action then obstacle; and
  • Reaction (how the lead responds and what choice is made)
And the minor chords:
  • setup; and
  • deepening
Which are added for spice.

Bell then speaks about the character arc, which editors tell me my stories don't manifest. His theory is that the arc looks something like:

Start -> Opinions -> Attitude -> Values -> Core Beliefs -> Self Image.

There is lots more in Plot and Structure, with plenty of examples from popular fiction, literary works , screenplays and comics.

I enjoyed it and will be giving some of his suggestions a go. I reckon it was well worth the $11.55 (plus postage). BTW - this is part of a series of books on Writing. There are other titles on Dialogue, Characters, Setting, etc. I have also purchased the one on Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint. Once I read that I will let you know what I think.

I bought this book on-line at www.amazon.com. Get it now while the Ozzie dollar is strong.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

WRITING TIPS - From George



George Orwell: "Politics and the English Language" published in 1946


1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

WRITING SOFTWARE - Sonar 2


Sonar 2 from Spacejock Software

As an engineer I just gotta have a process for everything and that includes writing. I used to keep track of my submissions using a word doc but then I discovered Sonar. It is fantastic. You can track all of your works, where you have sent them and it automatically calculates how long a story has been out (though this can be a bit disheartening).


It is also handy for keeping a list of publishers / editors / markets that you are targeting. By using the filters provided you can sort by title, whether it has been accepted/rejected, how much money you have made out of the story (or not), word count, and whether it has been published yet.

You can't argue with the price either - it's free!


So give it a try. You can find out more and download a copy from:
Sonar

A
Beta version 3 is also available for those who like to live dangerously.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

FLASH FICTION - Tristesse

Tristesse

Copyright (C) 2008 David C. Such

First published in AntipodeanSF (http://www.antisf.com/index.html), Issue 119, April 2008.

Bands of metal secured his hands and feet to what felt like a cold stone slab. Casey couldn't remember how he had ended up like this. One minute he had been taking his dogs for their nightly walk, and the next moment he was here, in the dark, lying naked on a slab.

Casey shivered. None of the scenarios that he could imagine ended well. They varied from horrific to, at best, embarrassing.

He stared vainly into the dark, trying to make out details, something, anything. All he saw were bright flashes of light. He had read somewhere that this was a phenomenon that had first been recorded by the Apollo 11 astronauts. It was thought to be caused by cosmic radiation, but that couldn't be what was happening to him, not unless he was no longer on Earth.

Casey sniffed and drew in the metallic tang of scrubbed stainless steel. While hot sweat pooled at his lower back he simultaneously shivered from the cold.

A dry disembodied voice spoke, "This will go quicker if you relax number 64."

Casey looked from side to side but couldn't make out anyone or anything, "Who the hell are you? What do you want from me?" Casey hated not being in control of a situation.

"You may have heard that we only use 10% of our brains. This is, of course, rubbish, but there is an awful lot of redundancy. We are rewiring your synapses to remove this redundancy."

This was not one of the scenarios that Casey had imagined. "You need to stop this right now! I'm warning you — " Casey's voice tapered off as he fell into a dark well of unconsciousness.

***

Casey woke. He felt strangely light.

"You need to listen to me carefully, number 64. There are some side effects from the surgery that you need to be aware of." It was the same dry voice that had spoken to him before, this time coming from a hidden speaker.

Casey said, "You can go to Hell."

The voice spoke urgently, "Listen, you must be very careful what you wish for. Within a limited distance you have the ability to manifest new realities. You have been isolated for the safety of us and others. We will teach you meditation techniques to help manage your new ability but we need you to co-operate."

Casey laughed. He concentrated and imagined himself out of the room and free...

***

The Controller swore as Casey disappeared from the video monitor. He slammed his fist into the console. "God Damn it, not again!" he said. He shook himself to regain his composure. Turning to his companion, he said, "Ready candidate 65 for surgery."

***

Casey's frozen body floated gently away from the International Space Station's isolation lab.

He was free.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

FLASH FICTION - Immigration

Immigration

Copyright (C) 2008 David C. Such

First published in AntipodeanSF (http://www.antisf.com/index.html), Issue 116, January 2008.


The straps of the detention chair bit into his arms and his work shift was drenched with sweat. He jumped as the door to the holding cell slammed open. Two immigration officers strode in and stood looking at him. They weren't smiling. Apolyon tried to speak but his throat was so dry that it came out as a croak.

The male officer made a small gesture. The female nodded and snapped open a portable console. The male dragged a wooden chair across the bare fermcrete floor to the scarred table across from Apolyon. The wood on fermcrete screeched and made Apolyon wince.

"My name is Officer Dempsey. You have applied to become a citizen of the Australian territory of Synus V and as part of this process we need to ensure that you understand the Australian values of courage, endurance, mateship, and sacrifice. You will be asked a series of questions and your answers will be monitored by Officer Hynes," he nodded towards the female immigration officer. "We will know if you lie," he added.

"It is our policy not to detain females and offspring, consequently your family is being held in temporary accommodation modules within the DMZ. Should your application be unsuccessful you and your family will be returned to your territory of origin. Do you understand the situation?"

Apolyon looked Dempsey in the eye, trying to form a connection. "I just want to ensure the safety of my family. All native Synian's are being culled and I will do anything to keep them safe. I beg you to help me."

"True," said Hynes.

Dempsey looked away, "I am not responsible for setting foreign policy. If you answer the questions correctly you will become a citizen, if not you go back. I need you to confirm that you understand this."

"I understand."

"True," said Hynes.

"To earn the right of citizenship you will need to work in the Roentgenium Mines for a period of five standard years. Due to its remote location you will not be able to see your family for this period. Do you accept this condition?" Dempsey asked.

Apolyon bowed his head and whispered, "Country is not blood."

"What's that? You need to speak up."

"I understand."

"True," said Hynes.

"Good," said Dempsey. "One final question. Have you ever been involved in the Synian Resistance Movement?"

Apolyon frowned and replied, "No, I've never heard of such a group."

"False," said Hynes.

"What?? No there must be some mistake! The machine is mistaken!"

"The machine is never mistaken. This session is terminated at 14:52. Your questioning will be continued by Homeland Security."

Dempsey and Hynes left the room. The door remained inadvertently ajar. Apolyon stared at the fermcrete floor in disbelief, and strained his ears to listen.

"Bad luck for him that he arrived in an election year," said Hynes.

"What else are we going to do? If we don't fill our quota of rebels we become part of the problem."

Apolyon screamed as Dempsey returned to slam the door — no doubt to move on to the cell of the next unlucky immigration candidate.


*