Tag Archives: John Birmingham

Spasmodic blogging

Yes, Thunder Road has been beckoning… but being drowned out amid the clamour of other goings on.

Firstly, the floods. As with the February 2009 bushfires, I’ve found it difficult to focus on other tasks with this disaster going on. The vast areas underwater in Queensland, New South Wales and now Victoria are almost impossible to comprehend. Lives and landscapes are being rewritten. The repercussions will be substantial and ongoing, long after the stories fade from front pages and current affairs bulletins.

I followed the flooding on Twitter, where citizen reporting came to the fore. As a journo, I know that covering a flood is exceedingly difficult. Once roads are closed you need air transport – and then it’s not always possible to find a safe landing site. Water takes out power supplies and telephone lines. Mobile phones have limited battery time. Making contact with witnesses (and newsrooms) becomes nigh on impossible. In this instance, Tweeting made everyone with a charged phone or web access a reporter. There were constant updates with the #qldfloods hashtag when media organisations couldn’t tell the whole story. It was compelling to watch.

I follow various authors on Twitter, several of whom are Queensland based. I watched as authors began auctioning their books, services or company for flood-charities and I’ve jumped on board the Queensland Writers’ Centre initiative, Writers on Rafts, to offer any support I can. It’s brilliant to see the writing community pitching in this way and a lesson in how things could have been done after the fires. (I know of several authors who did unpaid book tours after the fires but there was no co-ordinated charity effort like this that I know of.)

Shifting from floods, I’m on the cusp of entering a minimum six-month project at the website where I work as content manager. I’m reviewing job applications and doing other preparatory work and wondering if I’ll get to be an author at all in coming months.

That’s a bit of a bummer as the ideas have been coming thick and fast lately and I have several projects under way in one form or another. Maybe I need a renaissance-style patron to keep the wolves from the door. With a new year under way I do feel the (self-imposed) pressure to finish a new book. Realistically, that’s a long way off. And Five Parts Dead isn’t even six months old yet. Chillax, Tim.

For those of you that follow the saga of Mr Bump on these pages, the good news is that he’s still in one piece – touch wood – with one public holiday on the near horizon. Hmmmm. Better assume a crash-landing position.

Hopefully 2011 will find its rhythm and semi-regular blogging will resume soon.

Reading: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Listening to: The Jezabels, Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town and The Promise
Watching: Mad Men series 1, Man Vs Wild re-runs, Modern Family re-runs.
Mood: Pensive.

All hale for Halloween

I was a Halloween sceptic. Thought it was just another US-led commercially-driven faux tradition foisted upon the Aussie calendar in order to sell more stuff in the lead-up to Christmas. I was the Ebeneezer Scrooge saying, ‘bah, humbug’ to Halloween.

So what changed?

My sister-in-law is an American Australian and, together with other expat friends, started trick-or-treating with her kids. The Little Monkey and particularly the Little Dragon, with his long-held interest in all things monstrous and spooky, adored it.

I’ve heard the arguments about kids having too much sugar in their diets already and Stranger Danger messages being diluted or contradicted by letting the littlies ask unknown faces for lollies. I’ve also seen how much fun the kids have and the upsides of familiarising themselves with their local neighbourhood (with adult supervision).

But that’s not what got me to change teams.

It was researching the stories behind Halloween that sold me. I like that this is an ancient Celtic festival, celebrated in Ireland, the UK, North America and elsewhere. I really like the idea of the border between this world and the next thinning temporarily and allowing spirits to pass over. Apparently the horror masks and door decorations began as a way of persuading harmful spirits to pass by your home.

At the very least, it’s a fun way to acknowledge the shifting of the seasons, the transition (in our case) from cold to warm. In a time of global warming and extreme climatic events, I reckon reconnecting ourselves with Mother Nature’s moods and cycles is a good thing.

I read a lot of ghost stories before and during the writing of Five Parts Dead. I also consciously switched off my journalistic cynicism when friends and relatives told me of otherworldly encounters. Many ghost stories centre on the need to make peace with the past to smooth the pathway into the future. That’s an idea I’d like to sit with this weekend, too.

Imagine if every Halloween we consciously let go of / scared off any bad energy hovering around us, made peace with the past and reset ourselves for what comes next. That would truly be cause for celebration.

Anyway, I’m on board. I’ve even purchased a pumpkin to carve.

Here’s the indomitable John Birmingham explaining why he’s a fan. For other fast facts, check out Wikipedia’s Halloween page.

Putting ideas into action

Here’s a good piece from Aussie author and blogger John Birmingham on how to plan and write a novel.

The prevailing wisdom is that a full time author will need the best part of a year to write and rewrite a novel.

For part-timers like me, it’s a matter of taking every free moment and guarding it like gold bullion. Game as Ned was completed in an empty room over some friends’ garage so I could sandbag away the distractions that come with small children, the Internet, email and sundry domestic demands. Five Parts Dead has been part-written in a web-free upstairs living room supplied by other generous friends who knew my study wasn’t as author-friendly as it should be.

Venues aside, it takes discipline and sweat to write a novel. It’s not easy. It can steal your sleep and sap your confidence. But when the muse is singing, it’s magical.

Here are some other novel writing tips, coming via the Wall Street Journal.