Archive for June, 2010

20 ideas

At the website Upstart Crow, Michael Stearns talks about the wonderful Bruce Coville and his theory that to come up with a truly original idea, you need to go through 19 other ideas first. He’s talking mainly about character names and places, but I think it’s relevant to writing the story itself as well.

At the moment, I’m struggling to find an ending for a story I’ve been working on for a couple of months. I just don’t know how to end it. I read Michael’s article, and yesterday sat down with a plan.

To write 20 different endings.

I wrote three while drinking my morning coffee.

Another one while picking up a few groceries (that one was in my head, scribbled down as soon as I got home).

I wrote two while waiting to get my driver’s license renewed.  And then…I saw my main character. There he was, all kindness and bluster, talking on the phone while having his truck license renewed. He said, “The lovely young girl here is being a gem.” His face was reddish, smooth, his hair short and almost combed over, he surveyed the room as if he owned it but in a confident, pleasant way, not an arrogant way.

This is my guy. This is my survivor.

I wrote another two endings now I knew exactly what he looked like.

I’ll probably do a couple more today, but I think I’ve cracked it.

I think it’s a good writing exercise, but I don’t neccessarily think that the final idea will be the best one. I don’t believe in surprise endings simply for the sake of surprise endings. I call it the Woman’s Day twist, because when that mag used to run fiction, every week it was “Oh, it was a boy not a girl!” or “Oh, he was dead all along!” or “Oh, it was actually a dog not a person!” or “Oh, it was a kid not an adult!” or “Oh, they were from another planet!”. Seriously, week after week these ridiculous twists.

I tend to avoid those!

My kids love Bruce Coville. At the World Fantasy Convention in 2007, I got so excited seeing Bruce at the mass book signings I ignored my heroes Ramsey Campbell and Peter Straub!

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I have a short blog post up at Dark Fiction Reviews, where guest bloggers are talking about their fave werewolf fiction.

The cover for Haunted Legends is out! It’s very chilling. Actually makes me think of the trees which inspired my story “The Hanging People.”

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With the anthology Baggage coming out soon, the contributors are running something of a blog tour. My first appearance is at Alan Baxter’s page, where he interviews me along with Deborah Biancotti, Laura E. Goodin and Gillian Polack.

In the process of the interview, Alan and I had the most amazing correspondence around my email header “Baxter Baggage Warren”. More on that soon, we hope!

Soon I’ll run a photo-interview with Monica Carroll.

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Peter Watts

I’m a supporter. Roll on Worldcon!

From Cat Sparks:

“Many of you will be familiar with this story already but for anyone who isn’t:

Last year Canadian marine biologist and science fiction writer Dr Peter Watts underwent a terrifying ordeal at the hands of over zealous border crossing guards in Port Huron, USA. While leaving the United States on December 8, 2009, he was subject to an exit search, then beaten, maced and arrested when he tried to find out what was going on.

A full account of the incident and what was to follow is up on Tor.com

Or hear him interviewed about his experience, podcast at Starship Sofa

Even though all he did was fail to promptly comply with border guards’ instructions, he narrowly escaped a prison sentence and is now officially a convicted felon and therefore no longer able to attend US conventions.

Peter’s short story ‘The Island’ from The New Space Opera 2, edited by Gardner Dozois and our own Jonathan Strahan has been nominated for a Hugo award. What with Worldcon being on Aussie soil in September this year, I thought it would be a good thing if he could fly out here for both the Hugos and Aussiecon itself.

To that end, with Peter’s permission, I’m conducting a raffle to raise money for his airfare and accommodation. First prize is tuckerisation in his next novelState of Grace. Peter says:
“make sure that all entrants realize that their namesakes will most likely come to a really painful and unpleasant end.  And they may not be especially cuddly as characters before then…”

The Aussiecon committee has very kindly donated Peter’s membership. The rest is up to us. If you think the guy deserves a break, how about taking part in the raffle or making a donation?
I’ve never met Peter face-to-face but we’ve been email buddies since I sent him a gushing fan letter after reading his first novel Starfish some years back.

He is well known as an excellent value panelist and would be a fantastic asset to the ‘hard science fiction’ end of the con’s literary stream. He has also consented to participating in Dudcon where he will hand out the Ditmars and generally partake of other silliness as required.
To participate in the State of Grace tuckerisation raffle send AUS $10 via Paypal to watts2aussiecon@gmail.com

Email me privately if you’d prefer to buy a ticket via some other medium: cat at catsparks.net

If you’re not into tuckerisation but would like to sling a few bucks into the pot, that’s awesome too.

Any funds raised surplus to requirements will be donated to a reputable charity of Peter’s choice.
Feel free to re-post this message on your own blog if you consider this to be a worthy project
Thank you!”

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Gathering Info

I sometimes find myself listening to a sad story someone is telling me and thinking, I can use that.

I don’t, though. My theory is that if someone I know personally tells me something, that’s their story, not mine. If I overhear it on the bus, or it’s on the news, or it’s some kind of common knowledge, then I can use it.

Some of the details of stories can be very useful in forming characters and stories though. One of my obsessions is how our possessions are dealt with after our death. Precious things that perhaps people fought over, sacrificed for; these things can become rubbish after a death. I’ll pick up little stories about how people’s relatives deal with the doling out of the goodies; do they fight, do they hate each other at the end of it, do they share nicely, do they think the whole house if full of junk and get rid of all of it?

You find these things at garage sales. Books with passionate inscriptions, tossed out. (To my darling, with love for always. Or, in Best New Horror 8: Happy 18th!! I think i remember you liking a scary story or two. Hope this scares the pants of you!! Have fun and B good!! I love that! A short story right there. Is it for a potential lover, or a friend? The exclamation marks are a bit eager for mine. And the B good is interesting.

I love the idea of how an item can change so drastically in its worth. Even a football. While it’s on the field, it might be worth a million dollars, depending on the game. But once the siren blows, it’s just a footy, and the kids can run on and kick it around.

All this gets my brain moving and makes my characters greedy to own the goodies.

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