Time and Space

School holidays here at the museum… Ug. And I am here in the only relative silence and wifi access I’m going to have all day to send a message out to the rest of the world.

Time is linear.

Argue if you want, but if I sell you a ticket to go to a show and you go to that show 2 hours early, please do not be surprised if they don’t let you in. Don’t be annoyed when they point out that you are, in fact, 2 hours early. Don’t treat that person as if they’re a Nazi, because they aren’t. They’re just not as dumb as you.

And don’t say “oh, is that how we do it” when the situation is explained to you. We’re going from left to right here, guys, top to bottom, A to Z, from midnight to midnight in the same direction as we did yesterday…

Hello Blog – you poor shunned thing

So, I admit it.  I ignore the blog.  Duh.  I’m going to make an effort NOT to, in future, but that’ll mean that blog posts will sometimes be short and lame and mean nothing to anyone who isn’t me.

In my internet wanderings, I found a letter written to Billy Joe of Green Day from the parent of a fan who said (in part) that she (the parent) didn’t approve of the language or content of some of their songs.  His response is pretty awesome.  I’ll quote my favorite part:

“I don’t write music for parents, grandparents, or eight year olds. I write for myself and I’ll say anything I damn well please. That’s the difference between you and me. I do what I want…. You do what you’re told. ”

You can read both sides of the snail mail conversation at Letters of Note.  Now, I can get back to a short story (the first I’ll have written in something like a year) full of support groups and devil boxes and a girl with a keyhole tattoo at the nape of her neck…

Tales from the “Door”

So here I am at Scienceworks, rostered at the “Door” for the next hour or so.

Imagine a place you want to go. Now put a person in front of you who wants you to already have a ticket in order to get in there. That’s the Door, and it’s about a third of my day. It’s as close to First Contact as I’m ever going to get, probably, and customers often play their part in my culture clash/alien life scenarios.

Encounter 1

Them: Do we need a ticket to come in here?

I: Yes you do.

Them: Is it this one? (Proceeds to show me the ticket that EVERY visitor gets upon general entry to the museum)

I: I’m sorry sir, that’s not the one. (Unspoken: Why would they pay me to take a ticket from you that everyone gets at a desk that is nine steps away from me? Why is it not clear that I am sitting here as a visual clue that SOME people will not be allowed access to this space?)

Encounter 2

Them: Is that an iPad?

I: Yes it is.

Them: Can I have it?

I: Has that ever worked on anyone before? And no.

Encounter 3

Them: Is this where the dinosaurs are?

I: (shouting over the roar of a 1/4 scale Apatosaurus that is plainly visible behind me) Yes.

Them: (Cupping their hand to their ear.) I’m sorry?

I: (Pointing at the beast and speaking louder still) The dinosaurs are in there, yes!

Them: Oh. Well we were looking for the Planetarium. (Wanders off…)

Something cool

Looks like my story “Jumbuck” from Aurealis has the honour of being named in the Recommended Reading List that Ticonderoga Press just put up on their website.  Cool, huh?  I’m particularly pleased to see so many friends on the list as well.  One big happy family…  🙂  Also, it warms my heart to see “Jumbuck” get a little attention.  It’s the only real Aussie thing I’ve ever written, and I’m quite proud of it!


A little bit of news

Firstly, chapter 28 is up and ready for readers over at www.arizonaafterwards.com – Have a look.  Moved beyond the halfway point last week, which is always nice.

Secondly, I’m up to page 135/262 on the YA novel, which is just past halfway there, too.  The end needs more work than the beginning, though, so the ratio of work done vs. work yet to be done will swing in the other direction.

Thirdly, got the Galleys for “Where We Go To Be Made Lighter” which will be included in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, which should be available soonish.

And, what are we up to, Fourthly, found out on Friday that my story “Letters of Love from the Once and Newly Dead”, which won last year’s Australian Horror Writers Short Story Contest has been selected for inclusion in the 2011 edition of Award Winning Australian Writng.  I’m really proud of this story, which (I think) looks at all this Zombie stuff from a different angle.  Chris, I say to myself, what would be more scary than a Zombie coming for you.  Well, I say back, what if they DON’T come for you.  How can I make that even more frightening?

Go here if you have a Kindle (or the Kindle app) and an extra $2.99 that you’d like to trade for this story and 13 others…

So, it turned out to be a big week…

Yep.  Put my first collection of short stories on the Amazon Kindle store and finalized the Table of Contents for the second one, which will be ready in a few weeks.  If you’re interested, feel free to have a gander over at Amazon and see if it sounds like something you’d be interested in reading…

Oh yeah, the dangers…

Clearly, part of the problem with blogging at 6:30 in the morning is that I am not capable of thought before approx. 1 in the afternoon.  That’s why I didn’t list any dangers in a post partially about the damgers of “knowing” where you’re going.  Here’s the main danger, at least for me.

My thoughts drift in the direction of an Arizona Afterwards sequel…

The Joys and Hazards of ‘Knowing’ where you’re going

I’m not an outliner.  That’s what I tell myself, at least.  I’d been saying the words with pride, as if the “organic” process I implied would allow me to charge more from my moral high ground (that’s the way it works in agriculture, right?  Maybe not.)  As I’ve started to write longer and longer stories, first 12k, then 65k, then a series of ~30k that are closely tied together and now what will become well over 100k with http://www.arizonaafterwards.com I;ve stopped being so smug and started outlines.  Nothing huge, mind you, but something.  The number of the chapter and the basic goals I want accomplished by it.

And it works.  So much so that I had to outlin chapters 1-12 of Arizona Afterwards before I could even begin.  I didn’t stick to it.  I didn’t have to.  The characters had far better ideas than I did, and I found some things happening in Chapter 4 which I hadn’t planned until Chapter 11, if I’d planned it at all, and that’s okay.  I don’t argue with my characters.  They’re smarter than me, and in most cases they could kick my ass.  Especially Hattie.  And, the novel built up enough momentum that I could let it flow without outlines of chapters 13 – 25…  If you’re reading Arizona Afterwards at the same time I’m writing it, feel free to go back to those chapters and compare them to the earlier ones and see if you notice a difference.

Anyway, outlines aren’t evil, and they won’t kill the creative process ANYWHERE NEAR AS MUCH AS NOT KNOWING WHAT THE HELL HAPPENS NEXT WILL WHEN YOU ARE WRITING ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND WORDS OF ZOMBIE NOVEL.  That is my way of saying that I have outlined the rest of Arizona Afterwards, and I know how it ends.  It may change, sure, but I know that I’ll be standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

It’s such a fine sight to see.

On making people who “don’t exist” as real as the ones who “do”

I don’t smoke. I don’t really care if you do or don’t, as long as A) I don’t have to breathe it in and B) when one of the numerous illnesses that come with the habit latch on to you my taxes don’t have to pay for your upkeep.

But this post isn’t about smoking. Smoking’s just an example. Stats vary by country and age and a million other demographics, but something around 20-25 percent of people on the first world smoke. The thing is though, I’ve written hundreds of fictional characters and I can’t remember making any of them (aside from the occasional bit player or two) into smokers.

And why is that?  I think it’s because I can’t pretend (in my head) that smoking is cool or worthwhile or any of the other stereotypes commonly associated with it.

So, there we have it. It isn’t as simple as “Chris doesn’t smoke therefore his characters don’t smoke either”. I don’t murder “do” most of the the things my characters do, except in my mind. Up there, though, in the dark and light places in everyone’s head where the stories come from, I guess I somehow can imagine murders, hauntings, FTL drives and everything else and not imagine a good reason for people to smoke.

It’s odd. So, here’s my challenge, to you and to me. Go through your fiction. If your good at what you do then I’m sure your characters aren’t always the same color as you are, nor are they always the same sexual orientation or income level. They don’t think like you and they don’t talk like you. But, unless it’s a plot point, do they lie? Smoke? Steal? Are they unfaithful? Do they chew their nails, or talk too loudly when they drink to much, or push a joke too far?

Do they do the things you don’t accept from yourself for reasons other than to push the plot along? If they don’t, maybe some of them should…

So, I have some words left over, and here they are…

Not many, mind you. The radio silence on the blog has been because, on the 22nd of April, my wife gave me an early anniversary present. Usually, because I have a tendency to A) overspend and B) not have a good knowledge of what things are worth, she and I sit down a little before the actual date and hash out a budget.

Well, that didn’t happen this year, because she bought me an iPad2 and blew the budget out of the water. With no money for me to get her anything, I gave her an iPad1 for our anniversary. 🙂

So, on the 23rd of April, I decided to use every spare moment at work, or waiting outside a train station for Susie to arrive, or time that would otherwise be gobbled up by Warcraft or Angry Birds or whatever to write a novella.

And I did. Finished the second draft of it about ten minutes ago, and it’s sitting pretty nicely at around 32,000 words. Soon, I’ll send it to some people to read, then a redraft and then we’ll see what happens next!

So, that’s me. What’s everybody else been doing while I’ve been slaving over an iPad?