Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Near Disater in the Continuity Stakes

I had a worried moment last night as I was working on my WIP.

As I have said I’ve been writing one POV at a time with the plan of assembling the units into a whole later.

I thought I had made a massive continuity error. Those of you who were reading my extracts featuring Valentina may remember Stepan. Stepan is a (possibly former)friend of Valentina’s who has been recruited into the Soviet NKVD. Like Valentina he provides ‘the voice’ for a number of sections of my narrative.

As I was tidying up a section of Stepan’s narrative on my way home on the train I had this sudden dread that I had Stepan at Murmansk in the Arctic and on the Don River in southern Russia at the exactly the same time. The two locations are literally thousands of kilometres apart!

I have a plot device to have him move from one place to the other but that requires months. Teleport devices are not in general use today, let alone in the 1940’s Soviet Union!

I got home late again last night and literally did not have the courage to look at my potential problem until today. With relief I found my panic of last night was exactly that, a panic! I have a time frame of nearly six months to work with. Last night I was thinking with a tired brain and my brain is not good when tired.

Now a few piccies from my night time excursions on the weekend.

My new camera gives me so much more control for night time shots.

A short exposure of mysterious lights.In a long exposure they become a brightly lit crane unloading an enormous container ship at Port of Melbourne.Further away these giant port cranes remind me of the ‘walker’ transport out of Star Wars.On the subject of mistakes. A real doozy was made in Melbourne’s Docklands.

Turning my camera in the general direction of the city you can see the ‘Southern Star’ observation wheel being rebuilt against the night skyline. Rebuilt because the original design was flawed and the whole thing began warping in the heat of an Aussie summer,

‘Psst guys let me tell you a secret. It gets hot in Oz!’

I thought I had made an error with my writing as big as that of the engineers who designed the Southern Star. Luckily my mistake was thinking I had made a mistake. Phew!
Have you ever made a terrible mistake with your writing (or otherwise)?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two (small) Mysteries Revealed

A quick post tonight because my long days are continuing. I am beginning my new job next Monday, so as you can imagine I have plenty of work to tie up loose ends where I am now.

As I said last post, on Friday night I was in town very late. Well I was asked by a friend for a favour. She was organising a Débutante Ball and needed someone to record the event for her.

Here is a sample of the 1300 (that is right, one thousand three hundred) piccies I took on Friday night.Not the best by any means but I don’t want to use any photos that could identify anyone without their permission.

And another as you can see the young folk were really getting into it (one face blanked out).I also posted this piccie I took on Saturday night and challenged you to guess what it was. Well Rosie C was bang on the money.

Rosie said “It looks like you're capturing a late night city and its lights, but the camera jiggled.”

I was high up on Mount Dandenong on Saturday night. I used a tripod to capture some night shots of southern Melbourne. Shots like these need a long exposure (some as long as 10 seconds) and it got so windy the camera moved several times during the exposure.

One final note, you should check out Rosie’s blog post from Monday, she posted a great review of my book Veiled in Shadows .

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A long week

A quick post just so you don't think I have fallen off the world. I haven't posted since Tuesday and I am usually (a little) more regular.

I have been home late every night this week. During the week it was largely during to work. Then last night I was in town late again but for a very different reason (I'll tell you why next post).

Now it is the wee small hours of Sunday so I won't chat any longer (please excuse any typos I'm not going to proof this before hitting the sack)

I will leave you with a piccie I have taken this weekend. It is one that 'failed'.
But I quite like it anyway.

Any guesses as to what is the subject of this piccie?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


My WIP crept over 100,000 words today. A couple of months ago I thought that I would have reached my estimated completion of about 120,000 by now. That is the down side of targets and deadlines; you can miss them.

However I am pretty much content with where I am. Things have been a little slow, because of a number of factors mostly about being tired and not writing as well as I could during my commute. But as I have said recently I’ve been distracted by thinking about some future writing projects.

But in the end my main reason has been the WIP itself. The novel begins in 1940 and finishes in 1952. I am writing it in multiple POV, one perspective at a time.
I ran into two problems. First, as I began to think about the process of patching the story together I began to worry I would end up with a bit of an anti-climax. I have moved away from sections of my original outline and I had this sudden dread that the new plot didn’t quite work. After a lot of thought I think it does, especially with a little tweaking. But in the end that is the sort of feedback I will be seeking from beta readers.

Second I have all but decided to remove one of the POVs. I like the character’s perspective, but all he really does is give a counter view of some scenes. The character will remain in the story, but the sections featuring his narration have fallen from the word count.

So to finish my first draft I have to finish one character’s perspective (probably around another 5,000 words) and write the majority of one of my antagonist’s perspective (I think about 12,000 words). Yes in my novels ‘the bad guys’ get to share their perspective. After all it is worth noting they think they are the ‘good guys’.

So finally a couple of questions.
Have you ever got most of the way through a project and realised part of it didn’t work?
When it comes to books how long is too long?

Now two piccies from Tassie.
Fungi Mount Field National ParkRainforest stream Mount Field National Park

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oh the hard work a Puppy has to do!

A quick post tonight. Most of the family are ill with typical winter colds. It has been cool to cold most days and wet on and off for weeks (months really). I’ve had the bug too and am busy trying to shake it off.

Lilli is growing rapidly. She’s been with us for two weeks tomorrow. Like most Labradors she is very clever and eager to please. She has already started learning the things she will need to know to keep her humans happy.

She has well and truly already got the idea of house training. She leaves a few puddles because she is still only a baby. But already she asks to go outside to do her business. Deb taught her to sit in about 20 seconds the other day and she now knows she has to sit before she gets her meals. Hard work for a puppy!

She has been for her first few walks on a lead. She already thinks going for a ride in the car is exciting and must be going somewhere interesting.

Like all puppies she is chewing everything she can get in her mouth. Io (our middle daughter took some shots the other day).

Lili says ‘I’ll just see if this planter needs a little adjustment.’‘This old garden border looks chewable.’‘Lies all lies, I don’t chew all the time! Would this face ever be naughty?’

Friday, June 17, 2011

Al goes nuts about POV

My post of the other day has got me thinking.

I talked about writing in a non-linear fashion. That is something that most people who commented did not generally do. It seems that people will generally swap POV as they go rather than jump around like I am at the moment.

That got me thinking about POV and how many I have in my current WIP. It’s quite a few. In fact my WIP Veiled in Storms has no less than five narrators.

But then I sat down and counted how many voices contribute to my first novel Veiled in Shadows. It is, wait for it… eleven.

That’s right no less than eleven characters contributing in some way to the narrative flow.

Now to be sure there are (only) six main narrators. Then there are…

Wait a minute it’s actually twelve voices. I went to count less important narrators and realised I’d missed one!

Six major narrators, all of whom narrate as if speaking. But then it gets a little more complex, two of the minor narrators also speak, but the third ‘talks’ through the medium of a record of interrogation. He is one of a few real historical persons in my book and his ‘voice’ is based in part on his actual interrogation as a prisoner in 1945.

One of the three extra voices speaks as a narrator, another takes the form a of a one page letter and the third is presented as a two page police report.

By now you must think I have a serious case of multiple personality disorder.
So what do you think, does it sound too complicated?

From my perspective it was a challenge to write, but an enjoyable challenge. Interestingly none of the people who have read or reviewed the book have said (at least to me) that it felt fractured or disjointed.

Two piccies from my archive. And given I am talking about writing I am going to feature libraries today. The first is a small rural library in the gold-rush era town of Clunes.The second is a suburban Melbourne library. The Fitzroy Library is in the suburb of Fitzroy. It is a grand structure built with gold-rush money in the nineteenth century.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Al Rambles

I mentioned the other day that I had plots worked out for a couple of extra novels, one of which was a YA piece. I find it very odd to be thinking about writing YA, I've never wanted to write anything for young people before. Although I must say when my girls bought books I always queued up to have my turn reading them. Sometimes my imagination gets even more active than usual and this is one of the things that popped out.

I don't dare do more than a rough outline or I might get carried away from what I am currently writing.

On the subject of the WIP, I've taken a slightly different tack with writing this one.
Both the WIP and my first book are written from multiple points of view. The narrative is broken up so we get differing perspectives on many of the events in the plot.

With Veiled in Shadows I began at the start and wrote to the end. Generally, I switched perspective as I came to the section I was writing. So I mainly wrote from start to finish for most drafts, although I did leave sections when I got ‘stuck’.

With my WIP I am (mostly) writing one character's perspective at a time right through the whole stream of the book. Then I move back to the start for the next character. But it is all written in chunks that will be pasted together at the end.

I think this has a huge advantage in terms of keeping with the flow of each character.

But there is a downside. Because characters are not present in each scene writing the over arching narrative seems more disjointed. Also I will have to be extra careful about continuity when it comes to bringing it all back together.

What do you think - would you prefer to write from beginning to end, or would you prefer to explore characters one at a time?

Do you enjoy reading stories that are from multiple POV?

Finally two piccies from my archive. A snowy mountain road as a reminder it is winter down this way.And that relative of the platypus an echidna or spiny ant eater. These guys, like platypus, are egg-laying mammals.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Two Speed Al

This is a long weekend down in Oz. We have ‘the Queen’s Birthday Holliday’ tomorrow. Normally I see myself as a republican, but I guess I’ll celebrate the good Queen’s day if it means a day off from work :-)

For those of you who don’t know, Oz is still a monarchy! We have not entirely cut our ties with the British Empire and Queen Elizabeth II is still our queen Downunder.

Now on to the two speed Al.

Work on my WIP has slowed to a crawl over the past few days.
I’ve recently been knocking over around 500 – 1,000 words a day. Over the past week this has slowed to around 200 – 300 words. Two of my characters have been fencing with each other over romance and misunderstanding. To add to the complications the sister of one has been interfering, with best intentions of course!

But it has meant that I have been delicately feeling my way rather than powering ahead. So things are slow.

However, I suspect I may have solved a bottle neck with a bit of early hours insomnia. I think I have sorted the conflict and will be able to move ahead.

Now that said I am probably a little unfair with my characters as I’ve probably been distracting myself as well. Over the past few days I have worked through not one but two rough outlines for possible future writing projects!

One is a sci-fi/fantasy piece for adults that involves time travel and is set in both the ancient world and present day.
The second is a YA piece that is also sci-fi/fantasy that take place between our world and another.
Both have taken a lot of thought, particularly the YA book because I haven’t written with a YA audience in mind before.

I like both ideas a great deal. Oh for more time to write!

I mean that pretty seriously. I have a lot of writing planned out now!

As you may know my WIP is the second in a series that goes with my first book Veiled in Shadows. At the moment I have two more planned to go with those. Each is a stand alone story (I hate “to be continued” endings) but they all feature some of the same characters and explore the events of the 20th century from different perspectives.

So if I add these projects to my “To Be Written” list I have years of writing ahead of me!

Now in the spirit of being two speed, two photos with very different themes. First Lilli, who is already very much a member of our family. She has been with us for a week tomorrow and is a ball of energy.

Second, a rainforest stream in Mount Field National Park, Tasmania.I saw a wild platypus for only the second ever time in my whole life just downstream of these rocks. They are common, but very shy so hard to spot. Alas my camera was safely tucked in its bag so no photo (sorry Susan). A magical experience nonetheless.

So dear friends a question, does your imagination ever get in the way of the task you have at hand?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A New Job!

Well it is almost a month since I had the interview, but I have landed a new job!

You may remember I had an interview with the Victorian Public Service. One of the three person interview panel asked me to apply for another job the same day (I didn’t get that one).
Then about a month ago the chairperson of the panel had her PA ask me to apply for another job for which I was interviewed.

I thought I had done a reasonable interview, but hadn’t heard any more. Then last night one of my referees phoned and told me she had been contacted for a reference.

Naturally I was pretty excited last night and today I was phoned by the chair of the third panel and offered the third job! The delay was caused by an internal applicant appealing their decision.

To say I am relieved and happy to get the new job is somewhat of an understatement. The job is very different to my current one. At the moment I am managing a couple of charity services that support homeless people in Melbourne. My current job is very coal face, very stressful and exhausting. I love community service, but I am ready for a change.

The new job is very different, it is managing a policy team for the Department of Health. The link with my experience is that part of the role is oversight of programs that provide services to homeless and other marginalised people. Effectively my ‘clients’ in the new job will be charities and other NGOs that run services similar to the ones I am running now.

I won’t be starting for at least another three weeks because I have to give notice where I am now. The hardest part will be leaving the truly dedicated team of staff and volunteers that I manage now. It will also be strange moving away from the community sector and into a government job.

I’m not kidding myself, the new job will have a steep learning curve. It is going to have its own stresses. But in comparison to the real dangers we face in this work it will seem a refreshing change.

Now just a few piccies.

The Horseshoe Falls, Mount Field National Park, TasmaniaFungi, Mount Field National ParkFreycinet Peninsula, Tasmania in morning lightWave washed rocks Freycinet Peninsula

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Newest Little Russell

I’m a bit excited tonight.

Because we have a puppy!

We haven’t had a dog since our beloved Molly the Labrador died in 2008.

Anyway our girls E, Io and Lu picked up a gorgeous black Labrador puppy from her breeders while I was at work today.

Here she is little Lilli.I’ve only taken a few piccies tonight because I didn’t want to phase her with a flash and truth be known I was too busy playing with her.

I also got this piccie just after we fed her. Her little eyes are asking the typical Lab question of ‘Is that all I get?’

Saturday, June 4, 2011

In Which Al goes batty (again)

A few months ago I posted about a flying fox (fruit bat) colony on the outskirts of Melbourne.
I posted some piccies of very cute flying foxesThen I went back after dark and attempted to get some piccies of the bats leaving on their nightly fruit and nectar foraging missions.

Alas my old camera was not up to the task and the best I got was this.Those funny squiggles are bats flying past a long exposure.

Tonight, I went back again and waited until the sun setAnd the moon came out
And tried again
Now my new camera is light-years ahead of the older model. But it seems I am just asking too much of a stills camera because these are the best I got.At least they are now fuzzy bats rather than squiggles ;-)Having said that I am not at all disappointed.

Because I had fun and…

While I waited for the sun to set some of the other wild life in the area kept me entertained.

This Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes) landed right near my feet.
He/she looked at me and turned around and had another look and must have decided I wasn’t a tree and flew off in a panic!

Then this pair of rainbow lorikeets became very interested in this hollow branch.
One looked Then the other looked And the first looked again.
I guess but don’t know that they are scoping for hollows in which to nest (most Oz parrots nest in tree hollows).

Then in the last light I heard a mournful cry. Looking up I saw a flock of Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) flying high overhead, presumably looking for a roosting spot for the night. These birds are beautiful black cockies with yellow cheek patches and a flashing yellow tail. I’ve seen them many, many times but never managed to photograph them.

That is me for the night. Good night!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Two Part Post

No I don’t mean to say that I am going to present this post in two episodes.
Instead I am going to tackle two sides of the way I am feeling at the moment.

First I am going to be a whiny, snivelly Al.
As you know I had a wonderful holiday last week (by the way in Oz lingo holiday = vacation, not just the special days in the calendar).
Many of you will also know I have been hunting for a new job. I think I am seriously approaching burnout after (too) many years in coalface crisis services like my current job managing programs for homeless people.
Normally I come back to work after a break recharged and ready to go again.

This time I am just as tired as when I went away. I am ready for a change.

So why two parts?

As part of my Al managing Al’s mind strategy I am now going to share some thoughts about what helps keep me sane. Because I am not so far gone that I can’t recognise I am truly blessed as well.

First I went away last week with the love of my life Deb.
It was (as far as I recall) our second child free break in over 25 years of marriage. Just the two of us was wonderful and a real reminder of just how special this wonderful woman is to me. I hasten to add that I don’t exactly need reminding because my Deb is always amazing!

Second despite the fact that they are frequently demanding sods, our three beautiful girls are mostly a pleasure to have around.

Then I have distractions and hobbies which I pursue with a passion.

My writing is the best part of my working day. Commuting by train as I have been now for several months means I get a stress buster on the way to work and on the way home! And as a bonus my WIP continues to look more like a novel.

Then (as you know) I spend a lot of time out and about chasing photo opportunities.

So dear friends I hope you forgive my whingeing. Things are mostly okay with Al.

I haven’t had anything like enough time to sort my piccies from Tasmania, but I will include just a few.
As I am a bit boring I will include two of subjects I have already shared.

First another shot of the pademelon I posted last week. Isn’t she cute the way she holds the leaf she is eating in her little paws?The Russell Falls from another angle.And finally some tiny translucent bracket fungi - they are about the size of a 20 cent coin (roughly the size of an American Quarter or a British 10p, and exactly the same size as a Kiwi 20c)