Tag Archives: Deadwood

Winding up, winding down

How do you capture the flavour of 366 days in a few words? Issued the challenge, I’d have to go with: Work intense. Writing irregular. Friendships strong. Cycling legs good. A curveball (or wake-up call) to end the year…

But that doesn’t really cut the mustard, does it? If it means anything, it’s probably only to yours truly. The rest of you deserve better.

So, at the risk of boring any regular readers, let’s recap a tad. The tiny company I’ve worked with for over a decade, the same mob that’s given me the flexibility to be an author when the Muse sings and a public speaker when schools, libraries and festivals come calling, was taken over twice in 18 months. From my POV that involved adapting to approximately three successive sets of managers and a morass of policies, procedures and paperwork easily the equivalent of this. Or this.

There are definite upsides to working for a juggernaut entity but survival in a large organisation means striving harder to be seen. In the past two years I’ve taken on two massive and rewarding projects – but have had to wind back on being an author and speaker. I’m hoping to adjust the balance soon.

Work aside, this year has served up some considerable challenges. There was the phone call that let me know my parents had been hit head-on by a recidivist careless(!) driver, health scares for friends, the text message in the middle of the night that suggested other friends may be splitting up and the test result that delivered a personal wake-up call.

Daunting in far more positive ways have been the commitment to raise over $2500 and ride 200km plus for cancer research (mission accomplished – thank you all), finding the right secondary school for the Little Dragon (fingers crossed) and working on proposals for two new novels (in progress). I loved touring regional Victoria for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. Working with students studying Five Parts Dead was good fun, too. On the bike I’ve clocked up 4825 km in 2012 so far, which has to be a PB.

A particular 2012 highlight was the night I spent acting as a prompt for Impro Melbourne creativity. Over the course of the night I read three passages from my work and left the impro experts to run with whatever ideas occurred to them, based on my readings. The third passage I chose was from a speculative fiction manuscript I’m working on and, not only did the actors enjoy it, I had audience members approach me and ask where they could buy the book. That’s what you want to hear about an unfinished work. Confidence can be a fleeting thing and any boost is a bonus.

And so to my traditional end of year lists. Because work has dominated the year, I haven’t read, watched or listened as much as usual. I’ve probably forgotten favourites but here are those that sprang to mind as I prepared this post:

TV: It’s been a big year for Glee at my place, courtesy of the Little Dragon singing lead in his school rockband. Once the kids slide into sleep, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ABC productions such as Rake and back seasons of Deadwood and Friday Night Lights.

Movies: Apart from Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, which was great fun if a tad long, I haven’t had many magical cinema moments this year. The Dark Knight Rises was solid but didn’t quite deliver to the expectations of this Frank Miller fan. Take This Waltz lodged in my head for quite a while but my favourite films for 2012 were Paul Kelly: Stories of Me and the utterly wonderful Hugo (based on the prize-winning book).

Reading: I’m immersed in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) to the detriment of all other titles. Other reading highlights include: David Almond’s Skellig; the marvellously consistent Bob Graham’s A Bus Called Heaven; Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones; The Rider by Tim Krabbe; and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. There’s a few tears in that list.

Music: Apart from the aforementioned Glee, there’s been limited time for music this year, sadly. Albums that did strike a chord include: Metals by Feist; All the Little Lights by Passenger; Spring & Fall by Paul Kelly; and Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen. (Late arrivals I’m currently enjoying are Of Monsters & Men’s My Head is an Animal (very Arcade Fire) and Chet Faker’s Thinking in Textures).

Thank you to everyone who has visited this blog, read my books and supported me in 2012. Your faith and friendship is appreciated.

New Year’s Eve update: Having managed some downtime in the past few weeks and in the wake of a visit by the jolly bearded gent I am belatedly entering the universe of Chris Ware. This is storytelling on a whole new level, best tackled by emotionally resilient and visually adventurous readers. It’s jaw-droppingly good.

Finally, thank you to everyone who supported the National Year of Reading. From where I’m sitting it’s been such a success we should do it all again. Starting tomorrow.

Treasure trove of tips on writing

Buried within all the trash-squawking and self-promotion on Twitter are some absolute gems. One of the best Twitter feeds I’ve found if you have a creative bent, write or simply enjoy the beautiful and unusual, comes from @brainpicker.

Tweets from @brainpicker point to the Brain Pickings website edited/curated by Maria Popova, an “interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large”. What a brilliant job description. Every creative writer should aspire to something similar. If you’re not curious and actively seeking the interesting, you’re unlikely to be finding tales that people will want to read.

I’m late to the Brain Pickings party so you may have read their treasure trove of tips on writing already. Even if this is the case, they’re worth revisiting.

You can find 8 great tips from Kurt Vonnegut here. I particularly liked #5.

Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing can be found here. I have #1 covered but need to work on the rest.

Neil Gaiman’s 8 simple (but not easy) tips are here.

Incidentally, while I’m on writing tips, several wordly friends have referred me to Stephen King’s On Writing. I’d already downloaded the sample chapters but must get to the rest.

And if you’re cool with writing tips being as blunt and brutal as a Deadwood script (but funnier), check out Chuck Wendig’s 250 Things You Should Know About Writing.

After a prolonged word drought, I’m back to yarn spinning and telling tall tales. I’m at Neil Gaiman’s rule #2: “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.”

That feels like progress.

A new calendar cometh (Part 2)

2011 has been a tough year but not without highlights. Some of these include:

– Dawn over the wetlands at Kakadu
– Visiting Pascoe Vale Girls’ College for the Premiers’ Reading Challenge. Best crowd ever and I can proudly say all the library copies of my books had been stolen.
– Building friendships with other authors; I’m blessed to get to hang out with some truly fantastic people with wonderful, magical minds.
– Getting a short story published in The New Paper Trails
– Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France
– Lunchtime in the library at MacKillop College in Werribee, hanging out with the Book Clubbers and signing copies of Five Parts Dead for many more students than the teachers expected.
– A new bike
– Good friends and family
– Doing a masterclass in writing graphic novels and comics. (How cool is it that classes like this exist?)
– Clare Bowditch’s Eva Cassidy tribute show (made me cry)

Next year I’ll strive to avoid fulltime work and submerge myself in writing again.

Other favourites experienced during 2011:

TV: Deadwood; Friday Night Lights; season 5 of Skins; Bored to Death; 30 Rock reruns
Movies: Murundak: Songs of Freedom; Red Dog; Harry Potter finale; The Ides of March
Reading: Jeph Loeb’s Batman: Hush series; Glenda Millard’s beautiful The Naming of Tishkin Silk; Craig Thompson’s Habibi (Wow!); Derek Landy’s The Death Bringer; Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know
Music: Wilco’s The Whole Love; Bon Iver’s trippy self titled album; vintage Springsteen; the Jezabels generally.

To everyone who has visited and engaged with this irregular blog, read my books, followed me on Twitter or supported me in other ways, you have my profuse thanks. May the new year bring you adventure, love and laughter.