Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting It Right.

As an ex-cop, I generally find it difficult to watch or read police dramas.

Not for any reason associated with trauma from my past, but simply because they rarely provide an accurate portrayal of police work. Some are better than others, a few I have tolerated, most I don't bother with because I get frustrated.

Yeah, I know, it's only a show/book/film, get over it and enjoy it, but I can't. If it doesn't ring true for me then I have trouble sticking with it.

I recently watched The Returned, a superb French drama that the producers of Resurrection claim not to have seen. OK, so the final episode was less than satisfying, leaving too many questions unanswered, and sometimes there were giant leaps in behaviour (character development?), but I was fine with that. I accepted it and enjoyed the drama, the darkness and the superb performances. The things that bugged me were the little details, the actions taken by characters that were not normal or logical.

Example: The power in the town goes out, and no-one is sure why. The electric company people simply decide to leave the town after deciding there's nothing they can do, and without speaking to the authorities. The power is out for several days, and the police don't seem too concerned by it. No one in authority goes to ask why the power is out and when it will be restored. No one asks why the power station is now unattended.

Minor bits like that annoyed me, but not enough to outweigh the parts I was loving. I chose to stay with the program.

I saw the first ten minutes of Resurrection. The lapses in logic there were so great I couldn't watch any more.

As writers we need to make sure our worlds are internally consistent, and that includes making sure people's actions and reactions ring true for our readers.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fandom Will Eat Itself.

The Hugo nominations have been announced, and I'm thrilled to see some friends, acquaintances, and people from my writing group on the list. Congratulations to all those shortlisted.

But already a brouhaha has erupted over some of the nominations.

I'm familiar with some of the so-called 'problems', less so with others. Some of those nominations I agree with, others I don't. And yes, there are a couple at which I took a second look and wondered what people were thinking.

But those are the nominations that have been made by fandom as a whole. And we need to simply accept that.

I must say, however, that on the back of a couple of other public brawls and 'controversies' in the SF world, I am wondering where fandom is headed.

Over the past few years I've been surprised to have had people tell me they were voting on awards with their decision based on a wide range of reasons often not connected with the actual writing. And that seems wrong.

Hey, I've got a novel idea. If you don't like values or themes a story contains, then don't vote for it.

But as for the people? Let's leave differing politics, beliefs, genders, sexual orientations, personalities and the like out of the awards, and vote for the best story/novel/zine/whatever from the shortlists.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Vale: Gabriel García Márquez.

One Hundred Years of Solitude wasn't the first magic realist book I'd ever read, but it was the first time I was aware I was reading that genre. The book was set as part of my university course, and while reading it I realised I'd encountered magic realism before - I simply hadn't known it.

I've since managed to read a few of Márquez's short stories, in anthologies such as Black Water 2, and although I've picked up a couple of other novels by Gabriel García Márquez, most notably Love in a Time of Cholera, I must admit  to not having read them yet. They're still in the TBR pile.

But magic realism is a genre I've fallen in love with, from the great South American movement through to writers like Haruki Murakami, Jonathan Carroll and Tea Obrecht, and it appears as though these writers owe a debt of gratitude to the South American movement that seemed to be spearheaded by Gabriel García Márquez.

He was 87.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Creative Space.

Several years ago I read the Charles Bukowski piece on the Ideal Conditions and Myths of Creativity. And then a year or so ago I found the illustrated version, which appears to have now been removed from its original website at Zen Pencils (at the request of Bukowski's publishers), which also ran the fantastic Bill Watterson piece on Creating a Life that Reflects Your Values and Satisfies Your Soul.

It covers a number of excuses people use to procrastinate, or never start creating - some of which I can certainly identify with. One of the lines refers to having the right space, the appropriately conducive surroundings in which to commence your masterpiece, and the piece concludes with:
“Air and light and time and space have nothing to do with it and don’t create anything except maybe a longer life to find new excuses for.”
It has been a dream of mine to set up my own writing space, and not just the study in the house. Now it's finally ready to go.

It's been gradual, setting up the space. It's taken me a couple of years. A lot of it had to do with clearing the room, painting it, getting shelves in for my music and books. Then I purchased the furniture needed - a broad table rather than a desk and a chair that feels just right. There was no hurry - my writing wasn't reliant on this dedicated space.

But the final piece fell into place yesterday with the purchase of a 2nd hand computer. This computer is special - it has no internet connection and no games installed.

And so, as of this morning, I'll be in my new space and working on the story I commenced at my mini-retreat last week.

Bukowski might not be satisfied, but then again he'd be very, very drunk.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

One Week Down, One Week To Go.

Halfway through the school holidays, and it's been great so far.

I received my welcome pack from the SFWA - I'm now an official member (associate), although my goal is to become a full member as soon as I can. It's a nice step, and another goal crossed off my list.

Writing has been good. I just returned from three nights down the coast on a writing retreat with David McDonald. There's nothing like being with another writer to keep you accountable. Lots of words, discussions, ideas and plans made.  Yeah, David, that private yacht is only a few more sales away.

Waiting and waiting on a couple of responses. Hopefully I'll hear something soon, and hopefully they'll be positive.

Caught up with a couple of friends from my old school, I've only been gone a month but it was great just hanging out.

And I have plans for the rest of the holidays. More writing, more catching up with friends, going to see a film with my new colleagues, and at least one lunch.

And music. There will be loud music.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kicking Down Doors.

When I recently applied for a new job, someone told me that if I didn't get the job then it wasn't meant to be. I was successful in my application, and the job feels right for me. But there were many, many other applicants - probably quite a few who would have performed the role quite well. (Although I would like to think they wouldn't be doing it as well as I am.)

I've seen too many people not get the job they should have. I can recall many, many times when the wrong person was given the role and they screwed it up. Was that 'meant to be'? Surely if you don't get the job and it's 'meant to be', then getting the job must abide the same rule.

It's happened to me several times too.

And I usually end up hearing those pithy little sayings, such as 'If one door closes, another one opens.'  No, I don't see that at all. If one door closes, then it's up to you to open a door.

As a qualified careers advisor I've seen many students submit applications for jobs they were never going to get, but because they hadn't built an employment history, hadn't written an enticing application, or simply hadn't prepared. That had nothing to do with fate - only effort.

Many years ago I chased after a position. I prepared for the interview, did my research, practiced interviews and built an excellent case on why I should be employed. I was unsuccessful, and later I heard four different reasons why I didn't get the job. (I also heard I was the best interviewee, and that I was suited for the role, but they gave it to another person for ridiculous reasons). I decided not to wait for another door to open, and decided to kick that same door open.

It took me a year or so, and I was in while the other person, who had failed to perform, was out. Unfortunately, in the meantime, this person had done nothing, had destroyed rather than build, and debased the job to such an extent parts of the role had been farmed out to others and the position I inherited was a shadow of its former self - not only in duties, but in effectiveness.

My supervisor told me they should have originally given it to me, and apologised. I didn't stay long.

Don't be passive. Don't think things will happen around you. Make it happen. Write that story. Send it out. Pay attention to the rejections, but work on your craft and send out more.

Write. Submit. Repeat.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Some Time In Marrakesh.

My story, Some Time In Marrakesh, has just been published in Outposts of Beyond 4. It's currently only available in print, but the e-version should appear in the next few days.

I also appeared in issues 2 and 3, so I'm thrilled to have had three in a row. At this stage I have nothing slated for issue 5 so the run should end here.

I absolutely love the cover artwork for this issue. I have no idea who the artist is, but The artist is Laura Givens, and I'd like to congratulate her on her work. I'm pretty sure the editors at Alban Lake didn't commission the artwork just for my story, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't specially chosen just for this issue. It reflects my story so accurately it could easily have been commissioned art.

Some Time In Marrakesh was based on an incident that actually occurred to my wife and me when we were wandering around that great city. We were on our way to the souks when....

No, I'll leave you to read the story. The opening scene is very close to reality.

Thanks, Alban Lake, for publishing me again.