Friday, 19 August 2016

Australian Gothic

I have been having great fun reading old romance novels from Jennifer Blake. I’m talking 1970’s circa stuff. Her books have been re-released on Kindle and they are routinely offering them free to generate interest and sales.
I am a lifelong book hoarder. I will grab a free book that I think I might (one day) get around to reading.
The quality has been a little spotty, but the ones I am enjoying the most are the full on Louisiana Gothic romances. I know some of the story elements are problematic, especially the way it treats the slaves. Recently, I read the original Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho. It was a trip, I tell you. I wondered if anyone had re-written it; updated or modernised it, but I couldn’t find any evidence of it - other than Jane Austen writing her own satirical version in Northanger Abbey. Amongst the overwriting and the bad poetry is a great story. One that has been read since 1794 when it was published.
Some months ago I read a Dean Koontz writing book and Gothic was one of his categories. This is his recipe for writing a Gothic romance novel:
A young heroine, alone in the world and often an orphan, goes to an old and isolated house to live with her last living relatives. Everyone in the house is a stranger to her. At the house, the heroine meets a cast of suspicious characters (servants, the lady of the house, one or two sons) and soon finds herself plunged into some mystery—either of supernatural or more mundane origins, most often concerning the death of someone in the house. Inexplicably, she becomes the target of the supernatural or mundane killer's attacks. Concurrent with the development of this mystery plot is the growth of a romance between the heroine and one of the young men in the household. Either this man is her only safe haven in the dark events of the story—or he is as much a suspect as any of the other characters. The conclusion of a Gothic must always promise marriage or the development of genuine love between heroine and hero.
Louisiana Gothic adds in the environment, the bayou, as another thing against the heroine and the slaves provide the supernatural element.
After I finished the last Blake book, I went to bed and I had a revelation.
I could move the entire thing to Australia. The whole Gothic recipe would work in Australia. Isolated, dangerous, a family estate, sons fighting over inheritance, and the element of magic/supernatural could be from Aboriginal Australians.
‘I’ve invented a new genre,’ I told myself.
Next morning, I google it … curses. It’s existed forever. It was just that I hadn’t worked out that everything from ‘The term of his natural life’ to ‘Picnic at hanging Rock’ is categorised as Australian Gothic. Patrick White has won literary awards for this genre. Australians are particularly good at putting this into film. Mad Max and even Wolf Creek fit the style.
I’ll file that one away in the ‘nooo brain' box I made for ideas I can’t work on right now. Maybe it’s not an original idea, but I still reckon it’d work.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

One shot woes?

In the last few weeks I wrote a fanfiction one shot. A twilight one with Sam and Bella. It was a request from a long time reader.
It ends with them in a happy place, and a lot of the reviews ask for more. I do have a habit of extending a short story into a full blown one. Apologies, Hurt, I’ll be home for Christmas, and Swans mate for life, all started as one shots.
Some of my original fics are extensions of flash fiction written to writing prompts.
I guess if there is enough of an idea to write a short story, there might be more for a longer one?
But some reviewers just kept asking.
I spent a lot of my time and about a thousand words explaining to a couple of readers why it wouldn’t work. I explained about story structure and how you needed something to keep the reader turning the pages, otherwise it was a boring story.
So to extend this - I've already dealt with Jake and Emily. Sam and Bella are happy, they've agreed to go out ... so where's the story? She didn't cliff dive, so Alice doesn't come back and Ed doesn't try to kill himself. Victoria sent Laurent, but is she crazy enough to attack Bella anyway even if the Cullens aren't around? (I've written this too many times)
Is there some other threat to the lovers? Volturi? nope. Edward? maybe (written that, too). Charlie freaks about her dating a NA - unlikely
I could write pages of happy Sam Bella, but it's boring to read, nothing happens, there's no conflict, no threat. Great life, boring story.
But perhaps I should have said that it wouldn’t work for me.
One of the super neat things about fanfiction is that you could write ten years of happy chapters in Sam and Bella’s life with no conflict and people would read it. And they’d probably love it.
But it’s that it just doesn’t work for me to write. Not when my head is full of pushy characters, who want their conflicted, angsty, sexy stories told.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Smell and memory

I saw my gyno this week for a yearly check-up and he told me I had lost 10 kilograms since my last appointment. That’s equivalent to 22 pounds for my US readers.
It surprised me, not the amount, but I thought it was over two years. It’s not unsurprising for me to lose that amount in that time period. I’ve been gaining and losing the same 20 kg my whole life. I had been a chubby kid. That weight was probably gained over the year before. But now I walk every day and I am careful with what I eat.
But what got me thinking was scent. I bought some plain soap this week and the first time I used it… wham. I was back in time. I was fourteen and my mother was very ill with cancer. I got packed off to the farm to live with my aunt and uncle. I had nothing to do. I didn’t walk as much as I did in the city. And I was worried about my mum and no one made much of an effort to tell me how she was. I had to go to the local high school and it didn’t offer my subjects. I found the whole experience pretty bad. So I ate and I got fat again.
The farmhouse had a shower on the back veranda and that was the one you used if you were super dirty before you were allowed inside. My uncle always used it, and I did on the days when I had been riding horses or feeding pigs or whatever.
I couldn’t have told you what the farm soap smelt like if you asked me all these years later, but the second I smelt it, I knew. And the new soap I bought smelled exactly the same. I was, for a moment, that sad fat teen.
Given it’s such a strong trigger for an emotional response I have noticed that it’s rare to read it. Writers always describe what they see, less often what they touch and rarely what they smell. Maybe we should do more of that?
Don’t forget to describe all the senses when you’re writing.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Kobo… again

Well, I fixed some of the issues with my kobo reading app for Windows. But only after I had deleted it and reinstalled it. And re-started my PC. Only then did the books I had bought start to show up in the app. Prior to that, they were lost from both the PC app and my phone.
I still can’t work out how to find anything easily. It defaults to a search of the site when I want it to search my library.
There is also no way to tag things yourself.
My Kindle has a dozen categories: my star rating for GR reviews, the category, completed, etc. many titles are dual listed.
And I can easily find a title.
That makes me think twice about downloading on Kobo.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Frankie and Johnny

The movie came out in 1991. I saw it in the cinema.
What I didn’t realise until this week when Garry Marshall died, was that it was yet another of his amazing movies, may he rest in peace.
I just watched the trailer to remind myself, but it looks like a romantic comedy. Two people who work in a diner fall in love. He - Al Pacino - is the chef chasing the waitress - Michelle Pfeiffer. He says in the trailer that they should be married and that they definitely should have kids. They are fated to be together because of the Frankie and Johnny song. Nathan Lane is her BFF and he’s funny and adorable as always.
Garry Marshall made some of our favourite romances and this one sticks in my memory for another reason.
It was 1991. I was in my twenties.
There is a scene… spoilers for those who haven’t seen it… where Franky tells him she can’t have children because of something her abusive ex did to her.
But this scene… oh, my god this scene. It hit some woman in the audience in a way that she was not prepared for.
She … sobbed. Loud, heart rending sobs.
Her heart… oh, my god, her heart. I am a sympathy crier. And I’m crying now just remembering how distressed this woman was and it was a very long time ago.
And we all knew. It was her. She was seeing her story on that screen and she was not ready for it. It smacked her sideways.
Stories can do that. The best ones do. They resonate.
But I have always regretted that I was so paralysed; stuck in my seat when all I wanted to do was get up, find that woman and give her a hug because by God, she needed it.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016


I don’t own an e-reader but I do use several on my computer: I read books in pdf’s on adobe, Kobo and kindle apps. They also work on my phone. It’s a Samsung.
But… I keep forgetting I have Kobo. I find the app difficult to use, to search, to read on.
So when push comes to shove, I go for the kindle app.
I also listen to some books on audio as I walk my steps around the suburb. But again, this is Audible, an Amazon affiliate.  Plus, if I already own e-books, the audio books are much less to purchase.
Tonight I nearly purchased an audio three book deal that I already owned on Kobo.
I’m not sure why this is. They send me offers, they try so hard. Perhaps because I find the Kobo app less easy to use? I don’t know. If I had a Kobo reader, I’m sure I would have a different opinion. I don’t normally buy things in app, though.
As it was, it was Goodreads that saved me from paying twice for a book series I already owned. I really don’t have the funds to pay for the same thing twice.
But this week, I will be doing my walks to classic novels. With the Amazon whispersync option, if you already own a kindle book, they will sell you the audio book for $2.99 regardless of the original price. So I will be walking as people read me the Mysteries of Udolpho and the Bronte books.
And I can’t feel bad about that.

Friday, 10 June 2016

it's my sixth anniversary

I wrote this post back in 2013, but it still works. Except that 'What was she doing?' is now on the fave list of 1469 fanfiction readers and pushes it down to fifth place. It has over half a million hits.

June 9th. On this day back in 2010 I posted the first chapter of a little story called ‘What was she doing?’ My first attempt at writing fanfiction and the start of my obsession with putting the characters Paul and Bella from Twilight, together. It is little, too - just under 30,000 words. At least compared to some things I write now.
banner by lapushstarlight

The title is actually the first line of the story. I am utterly hopeless at thinking of fic titles. If you save a document in Microsoft Word it defaults to name it whatever the first line is. That was the rough draft name and it just stayed, then it spawned a whole set of W stories after that. It is on the favourite list of 999 people at fanfic. That puts it at fourth in that list. Not bad for such a little story.
Some days I look at it and think it begs to be rewritten, but if I started doing that with my old stories I would never write anything new. I’d be trapped in an endless cycle of rewrites. And in a way, it is a view of me back then; my style, my mistakes and things that I would write differently if I wrote them now. It’s historic MTR. I still get reviews from people who love it and take the time to tell me that, and I really appreciate that.

So I will pour myself a glass of wine tonight, toast that story and all the people who read it, and remember how it started my continuing obsession with writing.
Thank you all.