The Great Australian Novel. A pondering.

So, what exactly happened with the writing of my great Australian novel (and I use the term ‘great’ very loosely)?

I don’t have writer’s block*. I know a lot of writers suffer from this, and I am always sympathetic (did I say sympathetic. Sorry, I meant uncaring and sociopathically lacking empathy), but not me. Actually, I tell a lie—twenty years ago, in my first novel, I wrote my protagonists into a corner I couldn’t get them out of. It took about ten years to resolve (hey, it was a very tight corner). So, George R R Martin, I get where you’re coming from. But finish bloody Winds of Winter, already!

I’m not suffering from a paucity of time, although I assure everyone who’ll listen that I am. Don’t you realise how difficult life can be for a lazy, sociopathically uncaring, student? This morning I noticed my toenails had grown out to about an inch. The nail clippers were sitting on the table just out of reach. You can guess how that story ended. I think from now on my preferred footwear will be thongs (flip flops, not g-strings), rather than shoes. No reason. Loose rubber slip ons are just very stylish.

I’m still motivated to write. Admittedly, I tend to write more poems then anything else. I haven’t actually written any of my novel for about a month. Let me point out that I do have a very short attention span. If I was to have a competition with a gnat, the gnat would win. But as insects go, gnats are THE most attentive insects in the animal kingdom. Of course I may have read that while I was sleep-deprived and brain-addled at 3:00am. Or maybe I just made it up.

The ideas still flow—sometimes they don’t stop, streaming forth like water from a broken pipe neglected by council workers checking their Facebook timelinesI recently had to (yes, HAD to) get myself a new iPhone 8, ostensibly for the bigger storage capacity (I use my phone to store ideas and write on the run. And on the toilet). Oh, alright, I just wanted a shiny new phone. Yes, now I’m more broke than I was before. But: shiny new phone! (“My precious,” he says, stroking it adoringly in a disturbingly Gollum-like voice.)

My commitment is still strong, despite my ongoing depression. Did I tell you I suffer from depression? “Only about a thousand times,” says regular reader with not much better to do, rolling your eyes. I guess I better tell you again, then. I’m like a roller coaster: manic high days and abyssal troughs. High days, I can’t stop talking. Low days, I’m a puddle. Today, I’m marginally angstified. (Yes, I just made up that totally and awesomely significant new word. I’m waiting for my new urban slang dictionary prize in the mail.)

I’ve been thinking about writing other stories. The torrid and passionate affair I’ve had with my novel still burns bright, but I find myself drawn to shinier, prettier things (and chocolate). Is it a victim of mid-life crisis, my ravenously short attention span, or my ongoing sociopathic egomania? Or all three? I may have answered that question already, but I’ve forgotten what I wrote previously. (Damn you, short attention span!)

If I start writing another novel I know I’ll neglect the other**. But maybe that’s what I need to do. Maybe my current novel isn’t any good. (My only slightly bruised and sociopathically egomaniacal ego refuses to believe that. It’s currently screaming at the wall: “you’re too good for this place!” I think it might be a bit deluded, as well. Now it’s rubbing ice cream all over its face…)

My excuses (uni, dating, music, reading, working out, movies, blogging, D&D, laying about avoiding cutting toenails, etc.) have become my crutches. I can barely move without them.(Perhaps I could invest in a better metaphor—a wheelchair, maybe. Then I could pretend to motivate myself to move a little faster.)

In the end, I guess I could have been writing my novel if I hadn’t written this post. Am I just delusional? Or is that my sociopathic egomania talking? I’ll ponder it while I eat some of this delicious ice cream that somehow got smeared on my face. Mmmmmmm….now, what was I talking about again?

Cheers

Steve 🙂

*Unlike many writers, I’ve rarely suffered from this. If writer’s block was a cold, I’d be interminably hot and sweaty most of the time. 

**Like my previous unfinished novels: they wait politely and patiently, trying to catch my eye. Unfortunately, they don’t realise that I’m very short sighted—literally, not just figuratively. 

Fall for you. A poem.

The light is fading, you’re walking out;
she’s reclining luxuriantly.

The light in those magical eyes

is enough to blind a man,

before you question why.
That smile, combined with sylvan form,

is hot enough to melt a man

(raised on a diet of ‘avoid’).
Like a supernova sundae,
take him out at the knees,
leave him confused and dazed,
with thoughts, indiscreet.

Get out of there before that brazen temptress
(Who doesn’t know her power over all that exists)

enthralls you with her siren voice;

makes you fumble, stumble,
makes the floor your only choice.

Escape while you can, before you

fall for her

again. And again. And again.

Place and Setting. A writing perspective.

Yet another of my long-overdue university out-takes. Following is an answer to a question about establishing place and setting for stories, that I wrote several months ago for one of my writing subjects.

I moved back to my parents’ house after being away for many (Read: MANY) years and I’m now living in the room I had as a teenager. Rather than get maudlin, as I did when I first moved in, I now like to see it as a new start—a fresh beginning. Or a stopover on the long, world-weary road of incomprehensible mid-life. Take your pick.

But it’s the nostalgia of the place that grabs me every time. I look out the window to see a family of rabbits picking amongst the emerald remains and hear the continual hum and click-clack-clicking of rail wheels on the tracks beyond. Every time my toes feel the knobbed woollen carpet that’s been here for so many years: still in good nick, just a little wear, but a bit flatter (like me); every time I look at my parent’s smiling faces, all wrinkles and sunshine (they obviously haven’t had to put up with me for long); every time I walk the old streets remembering handball at the bus stop and ducking swooping magpies in the spring, the scent of rain on the grass flats and long, sweat-soaked summers without a pool. Like the murky rooftops and telegraph poles marking time in the distance, it’s a wary combination of old and new, making me dream of yesterday, moan about today and hope for tomorrow.

It got me thinking about how place has such a dramatic impact on the stories we write. The story’s setting can become a character as much as the protagonist and antagonists. But it’s more than just atmosphere or setting specifics. It’s all in the way the setting evokes something that connects with the reader—maybe they can relate to it in the way something felt or looked, or smelt. Maybe they marked time for a while in a sunny backwater, too.

Recasting familiar settings for stories works. We take what we know and we forge it into something new. Authenticity is something I’ve discussed with a writer friend of mine. I always say (and I’m sure others have said this, too): “the reader knows when you fake it”. It doesn’t matter if the setting you’ve created is in the far future, your home town or a fantasy kingdom, it’s the feeling that you put into it, driven by your own experiences and emotions, that makes the difference. Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be the same if JRR Tolkien didn’t infuse the setting with not only his expansive research in languages and mythology, but also his love of the countryside he grew up in.

I find that I tend to rely more on recall than on visits to and notes about areas, but I’m lucky that I have a decent memory. And we all have an extensive lifetime of experiences—sights, smells, emotions, nostalgia—to build our settings with.

Every story we write, we build a place to call our own.

Cheers

Steve 😊

The Near-Empty Bottle. A poem.

I glanced drunkenly into the near-empty bottle.
In the viscous alcohol I saw 
my face,
rippled and twisted 
like a garish Mr. Hyde.

I laughed at the carnival mirror,
so accurately reflecting 
every facet
of my, oh, so petulant features.
Every flaw and misconception
brought to life in 
errant ripples
at the bottom of a pit,
too deep to reach.

I cast the bottle aside and hailed for another,
in the hopes that I
(eventually)
might see 
something
far, far better.

The Wait. A short tale.

She waited as he wasted away.

She watched and pined. He watched as well; sometimes TV, sometimes her.

She fed him hand-to-mouth. Eventually he refused to eat. As he grew thinner, the drip in his arm pulsed like a marathon runner, sucking exhausted breaths as it neared the finish line.

He smiled painfully. She did, too.

She cried when he slept–never when he was awake. Her tears fell gently on the back of his hand, where they ran off the edge in random segues before fading away with nary a whisper.

She knew when the day arrived. There was no announcement, no symbolic continuous beep on the machine, like on TV. She just knew. So did he.

They held hands.

She waited as he went away.

 

If you would like to read more of my flash fiction, click here.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Haiku Friday. Yep, it’s a thing, now.

 

Ahead. A Haiku Trilogy.

 

Mouth
The subversive grin
Making mellifluous voice
A love explosion

Eyes
Eyes of deep regret
Wash away your highest hopes
Rivers to the sea

Ears
What bitter sounds made
Cannot be unheard again
Forever doubting

.

It’s Haiku Friday. (Yeah, I made it a thing last week. I can do that. I think.)

Here’s some Haiku I composed, just for you.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Nights. A poem.

Nights

staring into gloom.

A mirror to reason,
reflecting
all your fallibilities
and failing sensibilities.

All your new found
confidence,
blown away
like mist, before winds
of uncertainty.

Your moon is waning tonight.
You are a crescent shell, threatening
to pitch headlong into
the drifting, darkening tide.

Best sleep,

before you persuade yourself

otherwise.

As you slowly sink,
the ever-present gloom
drinks up your half empty cup,
all your remaining light,

and leaves you bathed in

Nights.

Blade Runner 2049. A movie review.

Spoilers? Don’t think so.

Okay, so you saw the trailers and it looked interesting. Maybe you were interested enough to stream the original 1982 Blade Runner (actually one of the four director’s cuts, because the original with the horrible Harrison Ford voiceover is long gone). Maybe you read the fauning reviews or glanced at the positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. Director Denis Villeneuve (who previously directed the brilliant Arrival) has made a methodical, smart, and visually spectacular film. Blade Runner 2049 is a superior sequel that stands on its own as a great movie.

A lot has happened in the 30 Years since the last film, and the old school tech has evolved along with the replicants, which are now used everywhere as slave labour (previously they were only used offworld). Ryan Gosling is K, a replicant blade runner who discovers a secret while hunting an old Nexus 8 (same as the ones in the first movie), a secret that could change the balance of power in the world and leads K to question his own reality. The first act is a noir-style detective story, as K slowly puts the pieces together. And that’s about as much as I can say without spoiling the movie. And this is one film you don’t want spoiled.

Blade Runner 2049 is dark and it’s looong. It’s a thinking person’s flick with some cool action sequences, but it’s a slow burn the rest of the way.

You know from the trailers that Harrison Ford is back as Rick Deckard, giving his best performance in years. Gosling is fantastic as K, and Jared Leto is a standout as Wallace, a blind and weirdly charismatic multi-billionaire who recreated replicant technology after the original Tyrell Corporation went bust. Robin Wright is K’s hard-nosed police captain, Sylvia Hoeks is Wallace’s violent right hand. Everyone in this film is good.

The script is layered, includes lots of throwbacks to the original movie, and no knowledge of the first Blade Runner is required to understand the story. Set design and an emphasis on practical effects really help to capture the feel of the original film. The music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is coolly reminiscent of Vangelis’ original soundtrack.

Who would have thought that a sequel to an 80’s movie could be so good (even if it does drag a little in parts). If you like an intelligent sci-fi movie that poses interesting philosophical questions about the nature of humanity, rock solid performances and a great story, then Blade Runner 2049 will be right up your blood and rain-soaked alley.

Rating: B+

Breath. A book review.

Tim Winton’s Breath is the kind of book that challenges your thinking about what it means to be a writer.

Winton’s prose flows like poetry, with immaculate meter and dialectal mastery. Breath makes me ashamed to say I’m a writer, because Winton is so good: I am not worthy. I have never been so profoundly affected by a book as I have by this one.

Bruce Pike is a paramedic who witnesses the aftermath of a boy who has suffocated. It brings back memories of his past, and he ruminates on his solitary life, his parents, his love of surfing and the sea, his friendships, his jealousies, his role models, his sexual coming of age, his breakdowns and how he finds himself again. Breath is a journey into a man’s scarred psyche: it’s about facing fear, the addictive adrenalin rush of near death experience, and the profound cost left in its wake when it fails. Breath is poignant, disturbing, and uplifting, all at the same time.

Breath is not for everyone. But I dare you to read it and not come away marveling at the writing. I will read Breath again; multiple times, no doubt.

And I’ll repeatedly wish I had one iota of Tim Winton’s talent.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

PS I’m not giving up writing. This book sets a worthy benchmark to aim for. “Damn you, Tim Winton and your glorious writing!” Steve cried.

Every Word. A poem and a thank you.

Every laboured keystroke,
every considered verb and noun.
Every gritted mental blank,
every meaning so profound.
Every silken metaphor,
every glorious turn of phrase.
Every underlying message,
every edit, every change.
Every keystroke, every line,
ever thankful every day.
Every joy I write that lies within,
that flowers on every page.

Thank you.
.

This poem is a thank you to all of my readers. Everything I do is for you.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

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