Friday, August 31, 2012

Old stories

Recently I have, for whatever reason, gone back and re-read old stories I trunked a way back.  And I've been quite surprised by how good they are.

In fact, in the case of an old novel, I was so impressed, I wondered why I ever gave up on it.  I only queried it to about 28 agents, had a reasonable request rate, but for some reason decided to move on.  Probably because I was knee deep in another book and was so focused on that, I didn't find time to query any more widely.  Plus, all the responses I got from agents who read the MS were very similar and the problem they had with the book wasn't one I could fix through revision or rewriting.

In the case of another old book, I agree that it doesn't work as is.  But I have an idea how to make it work as a YA, and if I'm right, it's not going to take a whole lot of work to whip that one into shape.

I also read through a novella I wrote a couple of years back as part of a project with two other writers.  The whole project never came together, but my novella stands alone.  It's very different to anything else I've written.  It's very dark and gothic and grotesque and, I think, hysterically funny.  In an extremely black way.  Extremely black...  I haven't been tempted by self-publishing yet, but for this little baby, well, I think it may be the way to go.  Under a pseudonym, I think.  To protect the innocent.

So now I'm faced with a whole lot of old projects just begging to be resurrected.  Plus my new book, which is in that happy revision place now, where I know exactly what I'm doing and where I need to be.  I'm hoping to be done with this round within 2 weeks at the most.  Assuming I don't have kids home sick this week and all the other little distractions I've had to deal with this week.

Have you ever brought an old project back to life? Did it work?  And if you've self published, do you have any tips for someone who is still very on the fence about the whole idea?

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I love to read, and I read a lot.  I'm always in the middle of a book.  I freak out if I'm stuck somewhere without something to read.  Luckily, since I got an i-Phone I have a Kindle in my phone so I'm never stuck without a book.  Just don't look at my credit card bills....

At the beginning of the year, a bunch of my writing friends were pledging to read a certain number of books during the year.  One said 60, another said 80.  I thought about it and decided to keep tabs on all the books I read during 2012.  Not as any kind of challenge, but just out of curiosity.  I already keep tabs on how many films I see in the course of the year because I review everything I see.

So today I opened up my spreadsheet to enter the latest book I finished, and realized I'm already over 80.  And it's not even September yet.  I'll definitely get over 100 by December 31st.  How do I manage to read this much?  I'm a little baffled.  Sure, I read on the bus going to and from work.  I read in the bath before I go to bed.  I read in bed on Sunday mornings while my partner gets breakfast for the kids.

But that's about it.  Not a whole lot of hours.  My bus trips aren't hours long (although my baths sometimes are...).  I read fast, but over 80 books?  That seems quite insane!  Especially since I haven't included unpublished manuscripts in that tally and I've read at least 10 of those this year too, and critiqued them.

How many books do you think you've read this year?

Monday, August 27, 2012


Last night I went to a wine tasting event that was held at the observatory.  Pretty cool idea, huh?  I thought so...  I get invited to these things quite often, but rarely ever go because I have other things I'd rather be doing (like writing), but this one sounded great.  And it was!

After being herded into a kind of holding pen and given several white wines to sample, we got to go into the planetarium and shown a display about the universe.  It was quite mind blowing.  I can't get my head around how utterly vast the universe is and how insignificant a little speck we are in it.  It makes whatever is going on in my life feel really small.

But the most incredible part of the night (other than the 50 or so amazing reds there were to try) was looking through the big telescope at Saturn.  It looked just like a cartoon Saturn.  I stepped away and looked at the guy, certain this was some kind of joke.  They must have pasted a drawing or something over the end of the telescope.  No way does the real Saturn look just like it does in comics!

But you know what?  It does.  I went back to look again several times, and even though the planet had moved in the sky, it still looked like a drawing of Saturn.

Weird, huh???

Friday, August 24, 2012


Here's another thing I've been noticing a lot in my reviewing/critiquing of other writers' work.  The word 'that' is used way too much, and often in places it's not needed.

'That' is one of those very useful words, but in many cases, the sentence reads just as well without it.  Better usually.  I find it helpful to search my MS for 'that's, read the sentences aloud with the 'that' in there, and then without.  If it still makes sense without the 'that', it's cut.

For example:  She wants you to know that she’s visiting her mother.

If you write that sentence without the 'that', it still makes sense and in fact reads more smoothly than with it there.  See?  

She wants you to know she’s visiting her mother.

There are, of course, places where you really need to use 'that' or the sentence doesn't make sense, so don't go cutting them all out just because you realize you've got 12 on one page.....

Do you overuse 'that'?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Weekly progress update

Okay, so I've really made no progress this week.  I'm still revising and rewriting the same five chapters because no matter what I do, I don't believe one or another character would act like that.  Essentially, I think I've written myself into a corner.  It's frustrating.  Very, very frustrating.

I'm going to move on and hopefully some fantastic idea will smite me while I'm working through the second half of the book.  I'm just afraid that I'll do that, and when (if) I get that fantastic idea, it will change what needs to happen ahead of it.

Sometimes I wonder why the hell I even bother doing all this....

How's your writing week been?

Monday, August 20, 2012


I haven't done this in a while, so I trawled my hard drive and found this little super-short story.  It was first published in Pill Hill Press's Daily Flash anthology.


By Kate Larkindale

Like a hot iron…a momentary sizzling with lingering pain.  Again and again the needle pierces the skin.  He winces, draws in breath, but refuses to allow the tears that burn behind his eyes to fall. The girl across the room, watching with a look of amused horror as her face is sketched into his flesh.  It is flattering sure, but she isn’t sure how much she’s going to like coming face to face with herself when they make love.

The pain is huge. Overwhelming.  He was not expecting this. The girl had told him it hurt less than having your hair bleached. As the tattooist draws lines across his collarbone he cringes.  The upper arm had not been bad, but anywhere there is bone, well, that’s a different story.  He has new respect for blondes.  He grits his teeth and smiles at the girl, assuring her that he’s fine.  Every breath tastes of alcohol, ink and fresh blood.

A commotion outside the tiny studio stops needle and hurt.  He glances up, heart leaping into his throat as he recognizes the strident voice on the other side of the graying curtain. 

His mother bursts in, fury evident in her red face and blazing eyes.  The receptionist stands behind her, the permission slip, on which he had forged his father’s signature, dangling from her hand.  Silently his mother drags him from the chair.  Her hands grip his shoulders painfully, fingers digging into freshly inked wounds as she steers him from the room.

He looks back once, rolling his eyes at the girl in the corner.  He is surprised to still see traces of amusement on her face.  She smiles and gives a small shrug as she watches the outline of her face leaving on his shoulder blade.

Let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My other writing...

Most of you who follow me here, follow me because of the creative writing I do.  The novels, short stories and such.  That's cool.  That's the writing I love and cherish and do even though nobody's paying me for it (yet).

But I write for my real jobs too.  The writing is different, but in many ways just as creative.  You see, I write film reviews.  And finding new and interesting ways to say "this sucks' or "I love this" is always a challenge.

So if you're at all interested in seeing what I do when I'm not here, or stuck somewhere in the middle of the plot of a novel, you can find my reviews here.

If you've seen any of the films I've been reviewing lately, let me know if you feel the same way I do.  I'm always up for a longwinded discussion/argument about film.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fighting my own words

Now that everything is back to normal (or as normal as things get around here), I'm back into my revisions.  And I've reached a point where things have become difficult.

When I first wrote this section I kind of floundered around, trying to get my characters from point A to point B and nothing seemed to work.  I thought I'd come up with a solution for the revision, but it still doesn't work.  I've rewritten the same 5 chapters three or four times now, and I'm still not getting it.  Any way I write it, one of the characters isn't behaving in a way that character would.

I've never been this floored by a plotting problem before.  It is absolutely critical that Sacha gets to the city, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how.  If she doesn't get there, the whole rest of the book can't happen.  And that's another 22 chapters.

I have on last idea that might work, but it's going to involve changing several very major plot points that have already happened and moving various events around in time.  I'm not 100% convinced it's going to work, but I'll make this last ditch effort.  If this one doesn't get her there, I think I'm going to have to abandon this book.  And I really don't want to!

Have you ever become completely roadblocked like this?  How did you fix it?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Teen me vs Adult me

I've been battling a dilemma for the last 2 days and I've realized, the reason the decision is so difficult to make, is that the two sides of me are in conflict.

My favorite band ever, Einsturzende Neubauten,  is playing a show in Australia in February.  I've loved them since I first discovered them when I was 14 years old.  I own all their records.  I supported them financially when they decided to go out and make music without the support of a record label.  I even went to Berlin in 2003 to go to a party in their honor.  I've hung out in the studio with them.  I've eaten dinner with them.  I've drunk cocktails with them.

But I've never seen them play live.

And they haven't played in the Southern Hemisphere since 1991.  So this gig in Melbourne is probably my one and only chance to ever see them play live.

So on the one hand, I REALLY want to go.  I know if I don't, I'll regret it, like I've regretted not going to so many other things in my life.

But the tickets aren't cheap.  And I'll have to fly to Melbourne, which is also expensive.  And my passport expired last year, so I'll have to pay to get a new one before I go.  Not to mention my financial situation isn't that great right now.  I have a big pile of bills staring at me and the rates are due in two weeks, plus both my partner and my son have birthdays coming up in the next few weeks.

Hence my dilemma.

The teen me part of my brain says "just go for it.  You want to go?  You go."  But the responsible, adult part of me is screaming warnings in my ear.  "You can't afford it.  You're already in debt up to your eyeballs.  You'll wind up putting your kids out on the street."

What would you do????

Sunday, August 12, 2012

From one thing to the next

And yes, the Festival is over!  I'm still exhausted, but I'll come right.  I'm going to finish work early today and get a good night's sleep.  Then try to get back to normal from tomorrow.

Except this week is WriteOnCon, so not quite back to normal.  If you don't know about it, WriteOnCon is an online writing conference for all kinds of kidlit from picture books to YA.  This is my third year as a participant and I can't recommend it more highly.

Not only are there fantastic workshops to take part in (unfortunately most of them happen in the middle of my night, so I tend to miss them), but there are critique forums for queries, openings and first pages.  Ninja agents trawl these forums and you never know when one might request pages!

Oh, and it's free!  That's the best part.  And all the live sessions are archived so if, like me, you live on the other side of the world, it doesn't matter.

Are you taking part this year?  If so, let me know!  I'll look you up.  I'm there as Vampyr14....

Thursday, August 9, 2012


It's day 14 of the Film Festival...  Two more to go.  And I can tell you honestly, I am very, very tired.

It has been a busy year with a large number of sold-out sessions.  It may not sound bad, but our theatre seats 430 people, so a sell out means a lot of people.  And that means a lot of coffees, wine and ice-cream.

On top of serving all those people, I have had to see a lot of films.  It hasn't been a huge year in that respect.  I think I've seen 15 or 16 in the past 2 weeks.  Some years I've done over 70, but that was before I had children and when I was working for the Festival rather than running a venue.

I love the Festival.  I love the audiences who are all passionate film lovers.  But by this stage, I'm ready for it to end.

But by the end of next week, I can guarantee I'll be wishing it was happening again because it's really boring when there aren't so many customers...

But at least next week I can get back to revising my book without distraction.  Or at least, not so many distractions.

Do you have a film festival near you?  Is it awesome?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Don't be scared....

Continuing in our series of common mistakes I see when critiquing, here's one I see a lot.  Writers get told not to use passive voice, and for many, that means avoiding the words 'was' or 'had'.  But sometimes, the sentence or phrase just doesn't work unless you use that form.

For example:  He probably forgot all about her by now. 

Doesn't sound right, does it? 

No.  It should be: He'd probably forgotten all about her by now. 

Don't be afraid to use 'was' or 'had' when it's needed.  It doesn't always signify passive voice, and even when it does, a little passive voice here and there isn't going to make your story unpublishable.  Writing weird sounding sentences to avoid using 'was' will.

Oh, and just because you write present tense, it doesn't mean you can't still fall into the passive voice trap.

Eg: He's standing there, staring at me with eyes that feel like razors scraping across my skin.

To get rid of the passive voice, change it to: He stands there, staring at me with eyes that feel like razors scraping across my skin.

Does this make sense?

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I don't know if the rest of you feel this way, but in almost every project I reach a point where I get totally discouraged.  I'm revising away, working my way through the ragged awful prose of my first draft, and I start to feel like there is no way I'll ever make the book work.  There's no conflict.  The characters are stereotypes.  The writing is cliche-ridden and just plain awful.  I'm starting to feel like there's no point in keeping on going with it.

But I love this story.  I loved writing it.  I threw my heart and soul onto the page and tore out pieces of myself I've never offered before.  While I was writing it, I loved it.  Why is it so crappy now?  Why is the pacing so languid?  Why can't I get my characters to the place they need to be?

My big problem is that I can't figure out where I've gone wrong, where I made the wrong choice and fell off the track.  I know I get back on it later, but right now, I feel like the book is wallowing around, directionless.  And it's making me depressed.

Is this where I give up on this one and move on?  Or do I keep throwing myself against the wall?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just like his mother....

My son just finished his first book.  Writing his first book.  He's seven.

It's actually quite good.  It's called Fish Guy and the Spine Sharks and follows the adventures of the titular character as he fights the enemy Spine Sharks.  There are ten chapters and each one involves Fish Guy trying a new tactic to defeat the enemy.  Usually an new weapon (or as he spells it, wepon).

He's taking it very seriously.  The draft he showed me was his first draft and he asked me to edit it for him before he types up a good copy.  I did, and last night he typed the first chapter.  It took him about an hour and the chapter doesn't even fill a page.

Today he asked me if I thought he could get published.  And if maybe they might make a movie of his book.  I just told him he was jumping the gun.  He should finish his good copy before he started thinking that far ahead.

When he's finished typing up his good copy I'll get it printed and bound for him so he can feel like his work is published.  Maybe we can do a few copies so he has something unique to give his grandparents for Christmas...

Do your kids try and follow in your footsteps?

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I love semi-colons.  I think they are one of the most useful pieces of punctuation there is.  But so many people mis-use them!  Or use way too many of them.

The semi-colon is a very precise piece of punctuation.  It's also a little odd, which is probably why I like it so much.  So, if I read a piece with semi-colons sprinkled liberally through it, I'm probably going to sit up and take notice.  And that's not a good thing.  Anything that draws attention to the writing as opposed to the story is not working.  The writing is a tool you use to tell the story.  Sometimes you can wow people with gorgeous prose or beautiful imagery, but you don't want your punctuation to stand out.  Punctuation should be invisible.

Multiple semi-colons are not invisible.
Badly used semi-colons are not invisible.

Semi-colons are used to join two ideas, but not the same way you'd use 'and' or a comma.  The two ideas are linked, but separate.  I know.  It sounds tricky.  And it is sometimes hard to get right.

Correct:  Mark and his brothers were damaged for sure; so were Rick and Alan in their own ways.

Incorrect: The sky was clear and blue; with cottony white puffs of cloud whisking across it.

If you're not certain whether a semi-colon is necessary, don't use it.  You probably don't need it.  And try to keep them to a minimum.  One per page is more than enough.

Is there any other punctuation you find draws attention to itself?