Saturday, June 30, 2012

Unexpected second chance

I'm going to tell you a story today.  It's the one I pull out whenever someone asks me to describe a huge disappointment.

It happened a long time ago, in 1991.  I was seventeen.  I had just moved to London after leaving school in New Zealand.  As you know, I'm a huge music fan, and back then I was probably even more  fanatical about the bands I love than I am now.

So London was like a gigantic adventure playground for me.  Every day I could open the local paper, Time Out or gig guide and find ten bands I'd love to see play live.  Bands that would never even consider coming to New Zealand, and if they did, it would probably cost about $80 to go.  And here they were, playing for 7, 9, 10 pounds.

I went a little crazy that year.  I went to gigs almost every week and spent every spare cent I had in the wonderful underground record stores I discovered in back streets and alleys.  I saw Mudhoney, The Cramps, NIN, Wolfgang Press, The Ramones, supported by The Damned, Lush and so many more I've forgotten now.  It was awesome!

But this story is about the one that wasn't so awesome.

It was not long after I arrived in London and I saw in a gig guide that one of my all time favorite bands, Crime and the City Solution, were playing at a place called the Powerhaus.  I was SO excited!  I convinced my two new friends, Tony and Spencer to come with me.  They hadn't heard of the band, but we'd become friends based on our mutual admiration of each others musical tastes, so they trusted me that they were good.

We took the Tube up to this place and joined a long queue of people waiting to get in.  I was a little surprised at the number of people queueing.  I mean, this is a band that no one has ever heard of when I mention them. So we queued.  And waited.  And it was cold.  The line started moving and my excitement grew.  People filed in and the queue moved up.  Finally there was only one person in front of us.  I was practically leaping out of my skin, I was so excited.  The person in front of us went in.  I stepped forward with my money.

And the guy on the door said the venue was full.

He wouldn't let us in.  I begged and pleaded. I said I'd come all the way from NZ to see Crime.  He wouldn't let us in.  Tony and Spencer asked if I could go in on my own.  I mean, I'm 5"1 and in those days weighed about as much as a flea.  I wouldn't take a lot of space.


He wasn't going to let us in.  Or me.  I had to suck it up.

I was so disappointed I cried.  And cried.  Tony and Spencer tried to comfort me, reminding me I was in London and there would probably be another opportunity to see them very soon.  Multiple opportunities.  And I took a little comfort from that.  They were right.  I wasn't in New Zealand anymore.  There would be other chances.

But you know what?  There wasn't.

I don't know if that was the absolute last ever show Crime and the City Solution played, but they never played again in London in the time I was there.  I never got the chance to see them and it has remained one of the greatest disappointments of my life.

Until now....  You see, recently I discovered that Crime and the City Solution have reformed.  They've just finished recording a new album and have been raising money for a tour (you can help here, if you feel so inclined.) and what's even more exciting, the tour is going to include New Zealand.

I'm excited!  But I know I may end up disappointed, so I'm not going to get TOO excited this time.  But what an awesome second chance.

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

Friday, June 29, 2012


I did it!  I finished my new book, The Sidewalk's Regrets.  Well, of course finished is a relative terms.  I've completed a first draft, anyway.  I know it's sprawling and messy and sketchy and unfocused and I'll need to do a ton of revising, but I'm done.

I'm already bursting with revision ideas, but I'm not going to plunge right in and start working on it.  I know I need some time away from it to be able to gain perspective.  I also haven't read the whole thing in a sitting yet.

Sometime next week, I will sit down with a print out and read through, jotting down notes.  Then I will set it aside until after the Film Festival when I will have a reasonable stretch of time to focus on it.  I'll read it again and write myself a chapter by chapter outline.  Then I'll dive in, trying to pull out of the raw material I have, something that works.

Then I'll start letting my critique partners rip into it.

I know revising is a long and painful process, but I'm actually looking forward to it.  I know there's something in this story.  It's raw and brutal and often painful, but there are some moments of beauty too.  And I love the ending.  I'm sure it's going to get me grief from some of my readers, but I still love it.

So now I'm going to go and relax in a hot bath with a book someone else wrote and revised.

How do you celebrate finishing your books?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


My stories all tend to be pretty dark.  I was thinking about this the other day, and it made me wonder why.  I mean, I'm not a particularly dark person.  In fact, I'm generally fairly light hearted and silly.  I have a good, if slightly eccentric, sense of humor, and I think I'm mostly pretty fun to be around.

So why is my writing so bleak? Why do I like to explore the dark side of people and their experiences?

I don't know.

I think everyone has darkness in them.  Most people manage to keep it under control and don't go out and shoot up schools or post offices, or slit their wrists in abandoned warehouses.  Most people keep their light side on the outside, hiding the dark side in some gloomy pocket of their soul.

Perhaps exploring that dark side through writing is my way of keeping it where it belongs.  Maybe if I didn't write about these things, I'd act differently.

What do you think?  Do you explore darkness in your work?

Saturday, June 23, 2012


It has come to my attention that people these days don't know what to do when they are asked to RSVP.  Either that, or people are just plain rude.

I get this a lot with events at work.  We have a limited number of free seats to give away to important guests, so we ask the people we invite to RSVP.  Half the people don't bother responding, so we assume they're a no and give those extra seats to people who perhaps should have been on the original list, but didn't make it because of space issues.  Then on the night, all these people show up, often with partners even though there was no mention of a plus one on the invite, and people who did RSVP saying they would be there, don't.

It's annoying.

Today my son had his birthday party.  We invited 6 kids and asked their parents to RSVP so we'd know how many to expect.  I got two RSVPs.  No one else even bothered to call or text and say no, we can't make it.  If I'd known so few kids were going to come, I would have let my son invite more kids.  He hasn't said anything, but how sad must he be that only 2 kids came to his party?  And no one even bothered to say that they couldn't make it?


Is this something you've come across?  Is it acceptable not to respond these days, even when specifically asked?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Too much to do.....

I have way too much to do at the moment.  My self-imposed deadline for finishing the first draft of my new WIP is looming (next Saturday.  Eeeeek!).  I have a ton of stuff to do at work.  The kids are off school for two weeks after next week, and I know I won't get much writing time while they're home.

I have several people I've promised to beta read for, and a few of them I've been putting off for a few weeks now, which makes me feel bad.  But I really don't want to lose the momentum I have going with this book.  I'm so close to the end now, I can smell it.

If I get two good writing sessions next week, I should get it finished.  But finding time to get those sessions in may prove a challenge.  I swear, what I wouldn't give for an extra four or five hours a day.  As it is, I barely sleep. Five hours a night most nights.  It's a wonder I don't fall over on my feet more often.

So, if you're one of the people I offered to read for, I am still planning on it, promise!  It may just be another week or ten days before I get to it.  But once I've finished this draft, I'm giving myself until mid August before going back to revise.  So I should have plenty of time to do all the reading and critiquing in the world.

How do you fit everything in???

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A little sad

My youngest son turns five tomorrow and is off to school for the first time.  I'm a little sad about it, not to mention incredulous that I'm a) old enough to have two school aged kids, and b) that five years have gone by that fast!  It seems like only hours ago that he was born!

I know school will be good for him.  He's been ready for it for well over six months and I'm sure he'll thrive there (if he can learn to listen to what he's being told and act on it).  I hope he likes it as much as his brother does, and that he becomes the same avid reader.

It's funny how different my kids are.  We've brought them up the same way, but they have very distinct personalities.  All I can say is, it's good #1 came first!  #2 is much harder work.

All of a sudden I'll have that little bit more time to myself.  Writing time.  I wonder if it will make me more productive, or if I'll just have time to do more laundry and house cleaning....

Have your kids gone off to school?  Did it make you more or less productive?  And did you miss them?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Finding music

I was talking to one of my young staff members the other night about music.  He's really into obscure, offbeat bands in the same way I am and he told me that he discovered most of the music he likes by checking out what other people who bought the records he likes bought on Amazon.

I thought this was genius!  If Amazon had existed when I was growing up and discovering music, I'm sure I would have done the same thing.  He asked me how I discovered the music I loved and I explained the eccentricities of my music collection.

When I found a band I liked, I would then go and find out what other bands the members had been/were involved with and listened to those bands too.  And thenI found out if the members of that band had been in any other bands and listened to that.  So my music collection is kind of a series of interlocking spirals spinning outward from various starting points.

As a result, my partner despairs of ever understanding the way I shelve my CDs....  While his are all neatly alphabetized, I shelve mine the same way I pick what to buy.  When a thread peters out, I start a new one.  Anything that doesn't have a connection to anything else goes on the bottom.  Solo albums by band members go before the band ones.

It's probably not logical, but it's the way I relate to music.  And I tend not to be very logical in my approach to most things.  I mean, I'm the one who generally starts writing a book from somewhere in the middle and works both toward the beginning and the end from there.

How do you choose what music to listen to?  Is your process as wacky as mine?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Progress report

I know, I've been slack about posting my progress.  But that's just because I've been racing along.  I had an awesome day's writing yesterday which has pushed me just over the 60K mark.  I figure I have about 20K to go, which is a little longer than I was hoping for, but I know there is space for cutting further back.  Especially since yesterday I had a brainwave about how to solve a plotting problem I had earlier on.  It's so simple, I can't believe I didn't think of it already.

Yeah, I'm a moron.  But sometimes you need to get out of a sticky spot to figure out the best way to deal with it.

I'm excited by this book.  I love my characters even though I keep getting frustrated by their stupid decisions.  But I know they're doing exactly what they need to do, exactly what would have done (and did) in their positions.  I have to let them go through with them, even though I now know how dumb they're being, and how reckless.  At 39 I know a lot more than I did at 17....

So I feel like I'm on track to finish this draft by the end of the month or a week or so into July, well before my deadline of July 27th.  I'm itching to revise already, but I'll hold off until after the Film Festival because once I dive in, I want to be able to give the revision process everything I can, and I won't have much to give while working 60+ hours per week.

How are your WIPs coming along?  Do your characters frustrate you with their dumb decisions too?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Okay, admit it.  You've Googled yourself.  Everyone does it.  But I haven't done it in a long time and when I did, I was amazed at how many places my name is stamped across the interwebs.  Like, seriously amazed!  I mean, I don't use Goodreads, have never been there until today, but I have an author page.  Weird!  I even have reviews....

Because my name is unique (the only 5 Larkindales in the world are my parents, my sister, me and one of my sons - the other has his Dad's last name, just to be confusing) Googling myself is easy.  Any mention of Larkindale is going to be someone in my family.  But what is interesting is how many places my name shows up.

Blog comments seem to be the most prevalent, and my film reviews.  Various interviews I've given about cinema related stuff, my published stories.  All these things pop up when I Google my name.  More disturbing are the people finding sites which appear to not only have my name, but my email addresses, a photo which I don't even recognize (where did they get it???) and numerous other pieces of personal information.  It's a little scary.

I live a lot of my life on the internet and always assume that while I'm not anonymous, there aren't people tracking my every move.  But it appears this is not the case.

Have you Googled yourself lately?  Found anything peculiar or scary?  What do you do about it?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


It has been super busy at the cinema the past couple of weeks.  We've had a festival on, and then tonight we ran the first of two special screenings of extreme sports films.  So there have been a lot of crowds spilling out of my foyer.

I'm fascinated by watching crowds and crowd behavior.  It's almost like people lose their sense of self once they find themselves in a large group of other people.  During the festival, there were three or four guys who seemed obsessed with getting exactly the same seats at every session they attended.  They would arrive at least half an hour before the doors would open to the cinema and hover by the entrance.  Of course, because they were there, other people who arrived thought it was essential to queue, and started queuing.  There was no need to, and their queuing blocked the top of the stairs and the way for other patrons to get to the box office.  I asked them several times to move, and assured them that there was no shortage of seats in the theatre (it fits almost 500), but would they listen?  No.  Did they move?  No.

So, by the time other patrons had struggled through this mass of people to reach the bar, they were, not surprisingly, a little grumpy.  And it only takes one grumpy person at the counter to set off other people.  They hear one person complaining about something and think maybe they might get into the act too and air their grievances.  And that kind of thing can really ruin your night.

But it does have its good sides too.  We chocolate dip our ice creams to order and it only takes one person to order one when the foyer is crowded, and everyone will start buying.  It looks SOOOOO good.  All that freshly melted chocolate clinging to the neat, round scoops of ice cream, hardening to a crisp shell.  And the smell....

Do you like being in a crowd?  Are you the one to start the trend or to follow it?

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Memory is a funny thing.  Have you ever had the experience of talking about an event with someone else and discovering you have completely different recollections?  Yeah...  Funny.  I guess it has to do with how you experience the event and what it means to you.  Something that may have been of huge significance to me, may not have even registered with say, my sister.  So I remember every detail vividly, while she doesn't even remember being there.

I had this weird experience yesterday when I was researching something for my book.  I came across a site that listed chronologically all the shows a particular musician played over about a ten year period.  I know I was at one of his shows because I met him and ended up hanging out with him for a while afterward.

In my mind, this was either 1991 or 1992 and the period we were friends was around about six months.  When I saw the dates of the shows, I discovered the show I was at had to have been in 1993.  By 1993 I wasn't living in London anymore, but I did go there for 6 weeks or so over the university mid-year break and study leave. That would have been when I went to that show.  But that means the friendship I remember happening over 6 months or so, must have happened in a much shorter and more intense period of time.


But in a way it makes sense.  I've been thinking a lot about this period in my life because things that happened then are infusing what's happening in my WIP.  I've been surprised by how emotional it has made me because it was, I thought, I fairly casual friendship that didn't mean much.  Realizing that it happened over such a short period makes me recognize that maybe it was more charged and intense than I remember.  And that could explain why I've been feeling so much.

Have you ever had this experience?  Do you and your friends and family argue over things you think you remember?

Friday, June 8, 2012

True or False?

I've been thinking a lot recently about how to use real life people and events effectively in books.

You can fictionalize them, of course, give them new names to veil the identities and put them in new locations while still using the basic biographies and events.  Or you can be upfront about it and use the real names and real events within your fiction.  I think this second approach is probably more suited to historical fiction because if you're using real people and events which are still current, there will always be some reader who knows more than you and will point out what's wrong with your 'fictional' scenario.

Why have I been thinking about this, you ask?  It's to do with my new book.  While most of the characters in it are only loosely based on real life people, and in most cases a mixture of people at that, I feel like I need to use a real band to indicate how far the fictional band has climbed up the ladder of success.  But if I use a real band, I need my characters to interact with the band members in the real band and that may not work.  I have chosen a real band I've met myself, and that my partner has toured with in the past, but I'm still uncomfortable with writing those characters.

Have any of you dealt with a situation like this?  How did you deal with it?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I'm breathing again.  I managed to un-stick my MS last night.  I think I've written 5 chapters I don't need in the process, but I'll deal with that when I revise.  For now, I'm going to blaze ahead.  There are bad things coming for Sacha and Dylan.  Some good things too, of course, but from here the book's tone changes a lot, gets darker.

I can't wait to write it.  Thankfully I get a whole afternoon tomorrow to write.  The last time I had that luxury I knocked out 6000 words.  I hope I can do that again.

How are your projects going?  Stuck?  Flying through? Plodding along at a reasonable pace?

Monday, June 4, 2012


I read an interesting article about creativity and the way the brain makes connections over the weekend.  It got me thinking because so many of the examples given in the article were things I recognized from my own creative life.

Apparently there is a small part of your brain that activates when you are making connections between things in a less controlled way, almost subconsciously.  And that tiny part of your brain is where the flashes of genius come from.  And it only works if you let the more rational part of your brain rest.

For example, have you ever given up trying to nut out a plot problem and gone to take a shower or bath instead, only to have the answer to that problem crystalize in your head?  Yeah.  That.  That's what's happening.  It has something to do with letting go and doing something that you enjoy.

And it makes sense.  When you're doing something you enjoy (taking a long walk in the sunshine, lying in a hot bubble bath), you relax and your brain stops whirring at 95 miles an hour.  It's in this calm patch that the various threads of thought you've had, can synthesize and become something new and wonderful.

Have you ever had flashes of brilliance like this?

Friday, June 1, 2012


I knew I'd reach this point...  I even mentioned it when I started writing this new WIP.  Yes, I'm kind of stuck.  Not stuck in the sense I can't write, but stuck in that I can't seem to make the story move to the next place it needs to go.

I've written 45K, some of which I'm happy with, some of which I haven't gone back to look at, and some I'm sure will get cut in the next draft, but I'm also pretty sure I should be further into the story by this point than I am.  But I can't seem to make things move faster.

The book has two quite distinct parts, and where I am now, the first part is winding down, and the second part should be ramping up.  Yet I can't get to the second half.  I can't get Dylan and Sacha into the city alone.  Sacha's parents just won't let her go.  I've rewritten several scenes, trying to make them, but they are just good, protective parents who will not let their talented, innocent seventeen year old daughter go and live with her struggling rock musician boyfriend for the summer.

What's a writer to do?  I can't write the rest of the book if they don't get to the city.  Any ideas?  Usually I kill the parents off, but I need these ones later so I can't do that in this case.