Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

même chose

Plus ça change plus c’ést la même chose.
The more things change,
the more they stay the same.
History has a way of repeating itself.
Those who cannot remember the past,
are condemned to repeat it.

Could not sleep last night.
No camomile, no valerian,
no magnesium, no milk.
No Zolpidem.
Au natural,
Those who can remember the past,
are condemned to be sleepless.

The dream is always the same
The dream is always a nightmare.
etched on the brain
The dream is always the same.

Cold sweat.
Sense of dread.
Dark Strange Shadow.

Knife in the back
semi severed spine
year without sleep
years without sleep.

Memory drips and spills.
Bubbles to the surface.
Seeps through skin.
Slipping and sliding.
Desperate to not remember
Unable to forget.

Friday, March 25, 2011

story telling

I slept in this morning for the first time in months. I actually can't remember the last time I did not get out of bed before the dawn yet this morning I woke up from an intense dream with only fifteen minutes to get dressed and get to my regular fortnightly massage appointment in time. The touch therapy is an important part of my routine - healthy body, healthy mind - and I've always taken the first appointment for the day at 8am because I am so used to waking up with the birds.

Must have really needed the sleep. Starting personal training with a Bristish ex-marine probably played a small part in this need. I feel as good as I have felt in months with every muscle in my body aching from the three work outs in seven days. It is good to feel alive and at the mercy of the scary intense bundle of muscle that has told me we are only getting started and he has so far been very gentle with me. Oh boy.

After getting some feedback this week from a second agent to pass on the second book, I started playing around with the opening scenes of the book again and now draft four has the biggest shift so far in editorial change. There is now a whole new opening to the book. I'll continue editing today because it is such a fundamental change though one that I think may actually work better because it focusses on the protagonist that is the critical character across the entire trilogy.

It is such a long way from where I started with the idea for this book, which was based on a dream I had a long time ago now. The star of that dream is now only one player, and a minor one at that, in the story. My female lead shifted to a male lead somewhere between the first and second drafts and now, on my fourth draft, I've completed the transition.

If you're curious about the recent feedback that led me here, the agent said I started the story in the wrong place, that I needed to step back a day or two so that I would not need to slip into backtracking mode and tell of (rather than show) events that happened before the start of the story so soon in chapter one (too soon in this agent's mind). The agent was right in a way though it is difficult to get the balance right in choosing the perfect point to start a story. It can never be truly in the beginning because otherwise every story would start at the dawn of time. (Aside: which is where I will be starting the prequel...)

You have to start somewhere. And it needs to be somewhere that intrigues a reader enough to make them want to continue reading.

I get a bit annoyed by the cardinal rule for good writing, "show not tell", sometimes. More so given the phrase story telling not only exists but is used to sell the idea of the gift as it is, as in "he/she was a great story teller". You never hear the phrase "he/she was a great story shower".

I accept that some description is important to help a reader's imagination fill in a picture. I do not accept that readers need every minutae described because they are incapable of figuring out things for themselves. (And yet I have had editors and agents saying so and I am appalled that they should assume such a dreadful thing - it belittles the reader.) Somehow a back story has to be weaved into the plot in a way that doesn't mean you are writing another novel within the novel. Sometimes telling rather than showing is the only way.

Besides, half the fun of a good story is just how differently readers interpret events. Where would the study of literature be without some wriggle room?

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I dreamed about kittens this week. Not once, but twice.

Perhaps to the surprise of many folk, dreaming about kittens is not actually a gentle playful thing but symbolic of a fear of abandonment.

Just think about all the unwanted baby felines left in boxes, left to fend for themselves, left to become feral. Kittens are wonderful when they have a home that nurtures them into adulthood, but they can be mangy wild creatures, sad and lost when they are roaming without any mooring. Those that survive such a harsh start to life, unsheltered weathering can make them merely a shadow of what they might have been.

I suspect the dreams were triggered by feelings that bubbled away inside of me as a result of a failed coup attempt at my work - someone anonymous suggesting me and my team be moved to another division. Granted the potential move was vetoed in the end - restructure fatigue the stated reason - but I still lost sleep over the idea that it might have happened without any of the decision makers even bothering to ask me if it was the right thing to do. Me and my team have been moved five times in the last seven years. By some small mercy, a six move has been prevented.

It is fair to say that there are times when I feel like I am a foster child at work, unwanted and unloved, and moved about from one pretend parent to another. No one is really sure how to deal with the troubled child that doesn't seem to fit in anywhere, clearly scarred from the constant feeling of transience.

I suspect I may harbour much deeper abandonment issues. Sure, the momentary frenzy at work would have upset anyone, but my reactions when I first discovered by accident overhearing what was being proposed were far more emotive than 'normal'.

I recognised my response pattern immediately. I even know the exact moment in my far distant days of youth when the button inside of me was created. I was twelve years old the first time I felt abandoned. The first cut is the deepest.

A thousand paper cuts later, it was not surprising that, on the third night of intense dreaming this week, I dreamt of my ex-partner. He abandoned me for some eastern suburbs strumpet.

Sometimes the dereliction is not so desolate. Sometimes a cut lances a wound and helps what festers within it to be released, to escape, to cleanse. I figure, ultimately that particular desertion was the right thing to have happened, especially given how I felt just before it did. The poem below, called Numb, written in 2003, was the perfect snapshot:

There is a stranger
living in my home,
who keeps me
in a straightjacket.
Ambivalent; impotent; sterile.
Cannot speak
for fear of offending.
Cannot breathe.
The lack of air is suffocating.

Am caught in limbo.
Do not know how to break
this sense of dread.

It is a living death.

Am trapped below thin ice.
Can see the light.
But do not have the strength
to break through.
Yet the warmth
that can give me life
is on the other side.

Too numb to move.

Still, I struggle with a fragile heart. One that beats to a singular drum, a need to be accepted.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

procrastination moment number 108

I'm now into the second day of a long weekend (technically not for me as I trodded off to work for several hours today to do work proper as the week ahead is looking like a bit of a bitch) and I haven't done any creative writing. Not because I have writers' block, as I have been waking up morning after morning this week with new ideas for trilogy plot development, but because I've felt a bit out of sorts for no apparent reason and this has led to several extended periods of procrastination.

I do not believe procrastination is a bad thing of itself. The process of my pottering around and doing nothing that even remotely resembles thinking seems to clear my head and I inevitably find the flow of words is so much better at the tail end of that empty mind period.

It has been a longer stretch than usual this week as every time I've thought to write something down, I've done something all together different instead. This week, I've:

(1) organised a holiday for July trekking from Broome to Darwin including Kakadu then home via Brisbane. Mostly want to be somewhere far away from coughing people who might infect me with yet another throat infection and it doesn't get any more remote than the Kimberleys.

(2) spent much of the week in an email exchange with the owner of a tornado chasing tour company anticipating the organising proper that I'll start early next year to bring together the last activity on my list of "must do before I die" holiday experiences...something for next July probably...and asking a few friends if they are interested in joining me knowing that I'll likely go irrespective of whether I have company or not. While most people I know are not really enamoured with the idea of getting that close to nature's fury, lucky for me, I know some people who are seriously into water and photography.

(3) been up and down an emotional rollercoaster at work with more organisational structure navel gazing occurring without the people potentially affected (myself included) being consulted...nothing new there...though I do get a bit more anxious about my own job security when such ideas are being bandied about above me (and I stumble upon the conversations I was not meant to hear)...

(4) my 'usual' response to such anxiety - embarked on a major dvd shopping exercise, all online. Can't even remember how many I ordered though spent no more than $13 for any one 'classic' acquired. Bargain shopping.

(5) watched season six of Weeds - that show is addictive.

(6) dipped my toe back into online social dating starting an email exchange with some green engineer who on paper at least appears as quirky as me...might even venture into face to face coffee territory in a week or so if I can muster the courage.

As you can see from the above list, there hasn't been a lot of writing. I did jot down some markers for a poem about the perfect day (not necessarily in this order) - movies, music, food, fucking, sleep - but never got around to actually writing the piece.

It IS a long weekend and I have one more whole day where I can procrastinate just a tad longer and then start writing!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

a fresh merry go round

Alas, I need to find a new agent. Alas, one of the things about being an artist is needing to accept a high level of rejection of your product. I got a surprisingly positive letter back from my prospective agent, complete with suggestions on who else I might contact to try and secure a new agent, but utlimately the message was my manuscript wasn't right for him to shop around. Agents have to be 100% committed to the product (perhaps even more than the writer) to successfully pitch a novel idea to conservative publishers. Without that commitment, everyone's time is wasted. Most publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts without an agent. Alas, agents play an almost indespensible middle man role if traditional publishing is what you seek.

I sometimes think that matching agents to writers is a little bit like trying to match two people in a speed dating process. The writer is the prospective suitor. The agent is the person choosing among thousands of wannabes, most with decent credentials, but only takes a few minutes to decide if there is enough in common explore a new relationship. Spoiled for choice. Not enough agents, too many writers. So little chance of finding a true lasting relationship given the absence of time dedicated to discover and nurture connections beyond the superficial.

Aside: I tried actual speed dating once and found it all so completely underwhelming that once was enough - too hard to choose - so was not surprised when I read this article today that suggested that too much choice leads to indecision:

I have plenty of other leads to follow. A few contacts to try locally is a start. I will also attend a speculative fiction convention mid-year as some of the smaller publishers have a presence there so it may offer some prospect of building new contacts. I will also send my work to agents in the UK and US - bigger reader market so always worth a try.

In anticipation of stepping again on the merry go round, I spent last night editing my synopsis and will have another look through my first three chapters as these will be the samples that will be shopped around.

Also have an idea for a new poem brewing around inside my head, inspired by a "dream job" comment from a friend of mine. The words are there ready to spill out so it will be a busy weekend of writing ahead of me. Viva le hermit.