Category Archives: writing

Confession of a Spec Fic Writer: Sometimes We’re Not Clever, We’re Just Plain A-Holes.

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In October of 2012 I started this blog as a budding Spec Fic writer. I wrote Doctor Who Horoscopes, I shared Fantasy excerpts and short stories that I had written. However, in March 2014 I went into a psychiatric hospital with postnatal depression. My blog focus shifted but strangely enough I still often identify myself as a Spec Fic writer. For the next couple of years I have Spec Fic slated to come out. A Historical Fantasy this year and a Paranormal Crime next year. As such I am having more Spec Fic focused conversations with fellow writers. We all think we’re pretty clever. We all like playing with reality. We all enjoy coming up with clever tricks…. But sometimes we fail. Sometimes we unintentionally write things that are harmful and bigoted. 

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of a concept that an ex came up with when we were in our early 20s, about 15 years ago. It was a vampire film (yeah, I used to do short film, I’ve even got an award, I’m quite the Jack) and he was so excited about it because it combined his two great loves, medical science and vampires. He had a medical science degree. He had honours. He was doing his PhD. In short, he knew his stuff. And as he told me his plans I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking interesting.” 

His premise was that vampires were a result of a blood mutation and that people with hemophilia were actually descendants from the original vampires. He had way more science behind it than that but that’s about the extent that this aging, arts-degree brain can remember. We hi5ed to good thinking and how solid the science was. We listened to Placebo’s Haemoglobin. We were sooooo cool. But then some thoughts started cropping up…

…. Hang on, are we saying that very real people who exist today are not entirely human? Are we saying that a group of real people are part parasite ready to suck the blood of others? Have we made out that they’re different and savage because of a medical condition? Have we seriously othered them? Oh shit, we had. But aren’t vampires cool? Doesn’t everyone want to be one? No. People who have been systematically excluded already probably don’t want to be further dehumanised. 

You know what we ended up doing? We set the idea aside. We decided not to run with it because there were too many issues. Sure the science was interesting, the play of ideas was interesting, but actually putting that dehumanisation of a group of people out into the world was not interesting. It wouldn’t be fun or cool. It would be actively othering and already misunderstood group. 

What did we do? We came up with other ideas that didn’t dehumanise a group of marginalised people. Just because and idea seems interesting on the surface doesn’t mean it’s actually a good concept to film or write about. We’re creative people. We can think of more things. We can do better. We can come up with equally exciting concepts with out dehumanising marginalised people. I believe in us. We’re thinkers. 

This was 16 years ago and I’m still having similar conversations. Let’s do better. I know we can do it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll all fuck up at times, I definitely do, but at least put it on our radar.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: I Love Eurovision

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I love Eurovision. In my opinion you’d be crazy(er) not to. In fact, I love Eurovision so much, that I talk about it in my memoir. Yep, I managed to work it into a memoir about postnatal depression. No regrets.
In honour of it being Eurovision season I’m sharing an entire chapter from my memoir with you now. And yes, it mentions Eurovision, repeatedly. Enjoy.

Carrots, Potatoes, and Broccoli

Okay, that last section got a little heavy with the artistic wankatude. I apologize. I did a BA, so can get a little theoretical and heady at times. Let’s bring it back down to reality with a chat about hospital food. I have spent extensive amounts of time in hospital. I have a dud pancreas, therefore from time to time, I end up in hospital on a cocktail of painkillers and NIL by mouth. When they ease you back onto food, to ensure you can eat without exploding from both ends and doubling over in pain, they put you on a clear-food diet. They tell you that this involves jelly, apple juice, and broth. This sounds kind of awesome. The only awesome part of this is the apple juice, which tastes like heaven after being denied food for sometimes weeks at a time. This desperation for food, unfortunately, cannot make hospital jelly or broth taste better. The jelly is vomitously sweet, and the broth isn’t so much broth as Bonox and water. It tastes like bitterness and the ashes of destroyed dreams. Once you graduate from apple juice and refusing to eat jelly and “broth,” you get “treated” to real hospital food. Just quietly, I’m fairly confident that hospitals save on money by serving up removed organs as protein. I’m pretty sure that I’ve had my own gallbladder served back to me and a few umbilical cords. When people say hospital food is bad, they’re not exaggerating. Always order the sandwiches for lunch and dinner until they ban you. Fortunately, food at the psychiatric hospital was markedly better. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t performing organ removals so have to actually source their protein from outside the hospital grounds.

Given that I went into the psychiatric hospital on the back of two stays in regular hospital, the food was a welcome relief. It was real, it was hot, it wasn’t wet, and it tasted reasonable. I was also able to go and eat it at a table rather than in my bed. It was almost like being human again. However, there was an element to the menu that soon began to drain on me. It was the accompaniment to every meal. Potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle-cut carrots. My relief at edible food soon faded to boredom and then heightened to horror as the weeks wore on. By week three I simply couldn’t face another meal with potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle-cut carrots on the side. It got so bad that we all began joking that they must have put one of the OCD patients in the kitchen for some rehab. The head chef would walk in, all excited for the day. “Okay, guys, let’s do something different today. I’m thinking an Italian theme. How about a little lasagne, maybe a nice Italian salad on the side?” And of course, we’d end up with lasagne with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. The next day the head chef would come in and say, “Wooooohoooo, I’m coming down with Mexican fever today. Let’s do some tacos, some homemade guacamole. It’s going to be fantastic. You can do it, Frank.” In the end, they plate up tacos with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. “Time for Chinese food. Who doesn’t love sang choi bow? Come on Frank, you can do some Asian greens, even include some Chinese broccoli.” And so we crazies are served up sang choi bow with potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. “Seriously, Frank? You’ve shown no fucking progress; get your head out of your arse and serve something different.” Ladies, here are you potatoes, broccoli, and crinkle cut fucking carrots.

I shouldn’t be to hard on them. They’re dealing with a lot of crazy people. Maybe if they gave us too much variety for our sides, we’d start getting ideas. They’d find us sitting nude in a janitor’s cupboard reading poetry whilst smoking a kranjska. Can’t have us going all Dead Poets Society on them. Particularly because none of our group therapists were inspiring enough to have us clambering up onto tables and declaring them our captain. One of my group leaders actually told me to just quit writing until the kids were all older. Robin Williams would NEVER have said that. It just wouldn’t work at all.

Honestly, our biggest source of excitement was watching MKR and discussing the impending Eurovision finals. But even our enthusiasm over television shows was kept at bay by the rigid structure of our ward. The whole decor seemed to be designed to ensure we weren’t too stimulated.  The communal lounge room had square chairs, square coffee tables, rectangular rugs, and a giant rectangle flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. Very orderly. It’s like the structured furnishings would help keep us calm so that we wouldn’t go wild. Probably so that we wouldn’t start making crazy demands like having something other than potatoes, broccoli, and carrots with every damn meal. In fact, if we giggled too loudly whilst watching our guilty evening pleasure of MKR, the nurses stared at us and asked us if we’d like our evening medication. Couldn’t have us giggling too loudly; there’s trouble to be had there—better medicate us and ship us off to bed. But I’m proud to say we persisted in rebelling. I even got a couple of magazines with sexy sealed-sections and left them in the communal area. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone it was me.

But even with all this structure, the staff couldn’t diminish the untamed ecstasy that is Eurovision. Perhaps the hospital has better results further away from the finals. Because we tended to remain defiant and fobbed away our evening medication until we were told quite sternly that it was late, and the medication window would be closing, and if we didn’t take our freakin’ meds right now, we’d get reported to our psychiatrists. Given that mine was such a low talker that I wouldn’t have been able to understand any lecture I received, this was possibly not such a great threat to use on me. Unfortunately, my compadres quite liked their psychiatrists and could understand every word that they said, so I had no allies to fight the power with. But we still talked big.

And as for Eurovision 2014, what a spectacular winner. Conchita Wurst. An Austrian drag queen with exquisite eyes, the voice of an angel, and a beard. A real “stuff you” to the establishment. A celebration of being unique. It showed that you can be different and not deficient. Just like myself and my fellow mums were. We were anxious, we were guilt ridden, and we were gradually getting hairier ourselves because most of us assumed that we wouldn’t be allowed to bring in a razor, but we were great. We loved each other. We laughed with each other. We empowered each other in that “you’re weird and I’m weird, but that’s okay” kind of way. So as much as the food, the furniture, and the nurses wished we’d just mellow the fuck out a bit and follow an orderly life, it was the moments of joined rebellion that really helped get us through. It gave us a much needed sense of ourselves and let us know that we were still fun and good company. I still love those girls. I know you’re reading this. You’re possibly the only ones reading this. Big smooshy kisses to you all.

Looking back, there seems to be an awfully high correlation between inmates and a love of Eurovision. I’m not saying you have to be crazy to like it, but apparently, it helps. If you, like me and my crazy-arsed friends, find yourself getting the tingles each year as the Eurovision final approaches, then maybe you should consider getting yourself checked out. Personally, I think you’re crazy if you don’t like it. What’s not to love? The wind, the glitter, the dancing, the miming. It’s champagne television. But what would I know? I’m nuts.

Love that excerpt? Grab my book here.

Toni Jordan on Character and Dialogue at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre

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Toni Jordan is actually more radiant in person

Once upon a time there was a writer locked in a tower. She did not grow her hair long, she did not dream of a knight so bold to rescue her. Instead she sat and thought about characters and dialogue and how she would like to declare war on adverbs. She didn’t want it to be a short and relatively peaceful war. No, she wanted all adverbs to be captured and interrogated and then inevitably executed. Maybe 2% of them would live, but the rest would die. And so one day, when she had escaped her tower, she came unto the Callan Park Centre of Writerly Deeds, and there she did enlist the help of peasant writers to join her in her war. The writer’s name was Toni Jordan, and this is the story of the day she taught a Character and Dialogue class at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre.

 

Toni Jordan strode through the doors of the Judith Wright room, drew her mighty whiteboard marker and declared, “Today we wage war, who is with me!”

 

A gentlemen opposite me adjusted his glasses and gulped. I dusted the biscuit crumbs off my woolly vest and stood up.

 

‘Ummm, okay…. Will we be back in time for morning tea?’

 

There was a murmur of agreement around the room. Morning tea was important.

 

‘What is food when our minds be starving?’ Toni stabbed her marker higher into the air.

 

‘What about lunch?’ a lady in the far corner managed to pop down a hot cuppa to say. ‘There’ll be lunch right.’

 

‘We’ll definitely need lunch,’ the woman sitting next to me managed to say around a mouthful of sugar snap peas. ‘I get super cranky if I don’t eat.’

 

‘Yeah, same.’ I nod knowingly at the green bean machine to my side. ‘I love a good literary war as much as the next person but could we perhaps declare it after lunch?’

 

Toni Jordan seemed to deflate on the spot, her marker sank to her side.

 

‘Why’s it always so fucking hard here?’ She’s not even looking at us, she’s staring at the ground as if hoping it will answer her. And truth be told it’s probably more sensible than the rest of us. ‘In Melbourne we have literary wars and cocktails more often then I change my underpants.’ An older gentleman at the back of the room begins to snigger a little. ‘WHICH IS A LOT! I change them very often, thank you very much. My underwear aren’t the problem. It’s not me, it’s you. You’re all so bloody interested in biscuits.’

 

‘Would you like one?’ I say.

 

Toni shrugs, I take it to mean yes, and pull out one of the seven packets I have brought. Our great lecturer sits down at her desk and begins to mournfully chew her way through a Belgian chocolate virtuoso.

 

‘Alright, let’s just do a workshop.’

 

And so began one of the best workshops of my life. Okay, part of the above may have been made up, but Toni Jordan did come to the New South Wales Writers’ Centre, she did teach us about character and dialogue, and she does hate adverbs. She really does.

 

I know at this point I am supposed to give you all the hot tips that she gave us, but quite frankly, I don’t want to because I just don’t think I would do the course justice. This was the best dialogue course I have ever done and for you to really get the benefit of it, you really should attend a workshop with Toni Jordan, or get a mentorship with her.

I’ll list a few things, but my mind is still going a mile a minute trying to process everything. It really was an extraordinary course. I think it was because we had the opportunity to do several writing tasks on the same thing, character, but focusing on different strategies each time. I guess that’s why you really had to be there. I’ll slap down a few general pointers for you, but, as I have said eleventy billion times, you really need to do a course with Toni Jordan yourself.

 

Tips

  • Multiple protagonists makes your job harder and don’t often make the story better
  • A weakness in your writing is not an excuse to shove in more protagonists
  • Readers can relate to characters without them having to be the protagonist (Ron, Hermione)
  • Your protagonist should either be skilled, in jeopardy, elicit sympathy, or be likeable
  • Avoid having your character being still and alone where possible
  • Always have subtext
  • Every character matters
  • Inconsistencies in character can help bring them to life
  • Dialogue is to reveal character
  • Dialogue for each character needs to be so distinct that you can pick it without dialogue tags
  • Believability is more important than accuracy
  • BAN ADVERBS! (But #notalladverbs, you can keep some)

 

I’m writing historical fantasy at the moment, what are you working on right now?

Toni Jordan is the only author in Australia known to have a dedicated fan page to her socks on Pinterest.

Toni Jordan’s website can be found here.

Toni Jordan twitter account can be found here.

Toni Jordan Facebook page can be found here.

 

Find the New South Wales Writers’ Centre  here.

Find the New South Wales Writers’ Centre on Facebook here

Find the New South Wales Writers’ Centre on Twitter here.

 

 

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: the musical ( #bePNDaware )

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Quick confession, the title is a tad misleading. My blog posts on postnatal depression, which I always start with Confessions of a Mad Mooer, are not being converted into a musical… but I have used them as a basis for a book! That’s right, a book. I have written a book about my journey through postnatal depression mainly focused on my month long stay in a psychiatric hospital with my twins when they were newborns. My first blog entry on this can be found here. And the good news is, that you will be able to get it in both print and e format.

So in honour of Postnatal Depression Awareness Week, which starts today Sunday the 13th of November, I am doing a dramatic cover reveal even though my book is not due to be released until December. TADAH!

Look at her. Isn’t she magnificent? The art and cover design were done by Sally Walsh from Sillier than Sally Designs. I’ve never loved an image containing my own melon so much. I simply showed her the linked blog post, said that the picture in it represented my time in the psychiatric hospital, mentioned that I liked orange and birds, then asked if I gave her monies could she give me a cover. She said yes and managed to create this amazing piece of art.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer will be out in December. Talk about the perfect Cristmas gift for the  hot mammas in your life. 
Keep your eyes on this page for more information coming up about the release of my memoir about postnatal depression and my month long stay in a psychiatric hospital. Excerpts and giveaways are coming your way this week, I promise.

I will be doing a blog post about postnatal depression everyday this week as a nod to Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. Please do check in regularly or all the news.

For more information on Postnatal Depression Awareness Week please go here.

And as always, any women who suffer from any form of depression or anxiety are welcome to join my own FB girl-tribe group which is pro mystical troll but doesn’t allow any nasty trolling.

https://facebook.com/groups/563402577109194

If you or anyone you know is depressed, here are some great links:

PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/

PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/

Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

4 Things You Must Never Do in Blogging

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Today my humble blog turns 4, so I felt I’d celebrate by sharing with you the secrets I have learned through hosting this highly* successful blog.

1. Don’t vary your content too much.

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If you’re a spec fic writer stick to writing about spec fic and the writing process. Whatever you do don’t share short stories, then start doing horoscopes, then start covering writers festivals, then bitch about your codeine allergy, then start blogging about your journey through PND, then start doing TV recaps, then start doing stuff about your love of Australian writers… particularly if that stuff frequently involves references to wine and sticks rather than writers. That kind of jumping about would just confuse your audience. You have to remember that blog readers are vapid creatures that can only focus on one thing at a time. Count them, O N E. So make sure you just do the same shit every single day.

2. Don’t swear.

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You’ll look like a fucking idiot. Only people with a limited imagination swear. Don’t believe me, then fucking google it. Plenty of studies have been done into messy people who swear a lot and their intelligence. Pretty sure they all conclusively say that anal, sterile people, who never feel, and never show emotion are waaaayyyy more totes mega smart than foul mouthed fuckers.

3. Don’t get political.

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Sure, you saw this meme and thought it was the funniest thing ever. Don’t share it. Not even if you can find some tenuous link as to why you’d share it. Just don’t. Sure, you find the idea of men talking about women as if they’re a piece of meet deplorable, but somehow that doesn’t come across in ANYTHING you’ve published and you’ve got a shit load of supporters who love to grab that pussy. I’d suspect that the vast majority of the followers of this blog, written by a woman and a feminist, are lolling all day long about crazee ladeez and them wanting bodily autonomy. Because somehow my incredibly subtle profemale stance has passed them by. So if I posted that meme I’d lose 90% of my followers, so I sure won’t do something like that.

4. Don’t ever put out anything with grammos, typos, spellos, or any kind of os.

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If you , like I do, make mistakes, people will quite rightly assume that you’re a pathetic waste of space and that you don’t deserve to communicate in writing with anyone, ever. Fuck all of us dyslexics. Fuck us in the left temporal lobe. If we want to be taken seriously we should hire a professional editor for every single blog entry. Not just published books, everything. Every tweet, every comment, even emojis. Because every rude, snob, who doesn’t have any sort of visual or translation issue is a better person than us, and what they have to communicate is more important and insightful than any of us have to communicate. It’s just simple science. Heck, it’s probably a “vaccine injury.” We did this shit to ourselves. I strongly recommend that we just don’t even blog at all because we’re such turds on the face of written communication. We should all just go into the woods and eat worms.

5. Don’t break promises to your audience.

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If you said you’d give them 4 secrets to effective blogging then you better deliver. It’s literally the lowest form of humour to do one more or less. Failing your audience not only makes you a failure as a human being, but also untrustworthy. If you’ve lied about unlocking the secrets to successful blogging then what else are you hiding? Mascara, pushup bras, your own private chocolate stash that you share with no one?

6. Most of all, don’t listen to blowhards like me on the Interwebs.

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Be yourself, do things your way. Let your audience appreciate you for who you are. After all, you want your audience, not a bunch of bots.

* The word I’m looking for was probably un.

My Son Pitched a Novel Idea to Three Writers and Not Me

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Today my youngest child, yes the youngest by a minute twin, child number 3, got my phone and tweeted. He went into a twitter conversation that I was not part of, god knows how he ended up there, and decided to join it. He tweeted the following message:

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So yeah, he tweeted award winning author Margo Lanagan, award winning author Deborah Biancotti, and Elijah who I am not familiar with but assume is a spec fic writer. Thanks Bubba, I already do enough “character building” stuff on my own without you adding to it. However, I’m pretty sure I’ve worked out what he was trying to say:

Hey Deborah, Elijah, and Margo,
Here’s my story idea which is so hot you’ll have to invent a new word like “settrfgaaszz” to describe it. You start with a love story. Like seriously in love, double the amount of kissing you’d normally have but then they get angy, and they’re like I can’t take this shit anymore, I’m not just fed up I’m fucking angry. So then this cow shows up, but the cow is like a metaphor for a bird, but the bird is really symbolic of a sheep dressed as a turtle. The turtle is the important bit. Don’t forget the turtle. Look, I’ll put it in twice so that you don’t forget. Trust me, turtles are going to be big! And then they get swallowed by a whale. Yeah it’s been done before, plenty before, but we’re bringing  it back with turtles! Now this whale is allergic to tomatoes. So in the dead of night he accidentally eats a tomato and spews the angry lovers and the turtle off of the planet Earth. It’s like biblical and Pinocchio and Hitch Hikers all at once. So then they get caught by an anchored monolith in space. A sacred monolithic statue in space. But inside there’s like a whole market and town and stuff. There’s even a statue inside the statue. How meta is that. Their main commerce is love so there’s a few love chapels, love factories, love hospitals. And so they go to the love hospital. Will they or won’t they find a cure? Awesome right? We’ll earn heaps of money on this. You’ll earn 6767% more money than you ever dreamed of. Pounds, Euros, you name it, we’ll earn it. Seriously, I cannot express how much money we’ll get. We’ll be bathing in money. Lots of bathing in money. Bathing and showering in money. All because of love hospitals and statutes within statues!!!

Firstly, I’m obviously impressed that he speaks Indonesia. He’s only two and he speaks twin, some English, and apparently Indonesian. Secondly, I’m slightly guilt ridden that I did not realise this before. Where has my head been at that I didn’t pick that up? No wonder he’s off sending tweets to people, I’m clearly not with it. But thirdly, and mostly, I’m hurt. I’m hurt that he didn’t pitch his idea to me first. Clearly we’ve got a lot of work to do on our relationship.

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