The Best Printer For A Writer

It’s that time again. Time for a new printer. My current one prints unevenly when the toner runs low, but now it does that even when the toner is new. Not to mention since it’s a colour laser printer it’s always yelling at me that some colour is running low.

I’m sticking with laser but will probably go with black/monochrome instead of colour this time. I’m looking for good quality and high ppm. Affordability is paramount – broke writers and all that jazz ;p

Anyone have any suggestions?

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Vision Writers At Brisbane Writers Festival 2014

me critiquing with my usual gesticulating gusto

me critiquing with my usual gesticulating gusto (far right at podium)

As I mentioned early last month my writers group, Vision Writers, were doing an open meeting at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival yesterday.

While it was quite different to the round table style meetings we usually have, we had to work with the auditorium we’d been assigned and the small stage did not have space for a table big enough to fit us all.

We still handed out our critiques, going to the podium when it was our turn to provide feedback, and even a few of our usual jokes and quirks (like Talitha Kalago’s refusal to fit into the two minute time limit(which she gets away with because her feedback is always so stellar and thorough) and my tendency to gesticulate) managed to slip through, giving everyone in the audience a real taste of our meetings.

Afterwards we fielded a few questions, like the definition of speculative fiction, and even sold a few copies of the paperback version of our anthology, 18.

It was a great session and lots of fun and who knows, if things go well we might be back for round two in 2015 ;p

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Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge 2014 – August Round-Up

kaleidoscopeFor the month of August I read Kaleidoscope.

I’ve been a fan of this anthology before I ever read it, before it was even compiled. I helped with the crowdfunding for Kaleidoscope – you can see my name on page 438 (second column near the bottom). What appealed to me about this anthology was the fact it would focus on a more diverse range of protagonists, both from the perspective of race, sexual preference and (my favourite) neurodiversity.

The anthology did not let me down at all. While there was one story that just didn’t fully click with me (the idea was awesome but the characters and the story didn’t move me), it was only one out of twenty, and it wasn’t bad, just not exactly my cup of tea. I really liked a lot of them, and really, really liked the rest.

Tansy Rayner Roberts’ ‘Cookie-Cutter Superhero’ had wonderful characters and an amazing concept, but the ending felt much more like the end of a chapter than the end of a tale – not that I didn’t enjoy it, and I would read the hell out of that book if/when she releases it.

Vanilla was definitely one of my favourites. I loved the hairies and her relationship with them, and her background was wonderfully detailed. The ending was certainly a surprise too :)

The Chupacabra’s Song was probably my most favourite. The mixture of magic and the nuerologically diverse character and then add a legendary animal – you had me at hello ;p

Walkdog was really something different, and certainly impressed me – despite a regular desire to backhand the POV character.

I could keep going (and maybe I’ll come back and fill this up later) but I have a lot of stuff to prepare for my appearance at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival today so I’m pressed for time.

I really enjoyed the diversity of characters and very rarely did it feel like their gender preference or colour had just been painted on for the appearance of diversity. I NEVER felt that the neuro diversity was painted on – every single time it was integral to the plot and character both and I really loved that.

However I was mildly disappointed that nearly all of the homosexual characters were female. I’ve noticed a distinct tendency for lesbians to be more accepted than gay men. I’ve literally stood in the presence of a bigot (not entirely willingly) who went from whinging his fears about a rumour one of the men on his favourite sports team might be gay and how that ‘just wasn’t on, he should be kicked off the team’, and seconds later was commenting on how hot it would be if the two very attractive friends with me(both female) made out. While he’s clearly not the best example of a good person, he does effectively show my point. I’m now quite determined to write more gay men into my stories.

All up I absolutely adored the anthology and am so glad I donated during the crowdfunding phase. I recommend this anthology to anyone and everyone.

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First Camping Trip

This weekend just passed we(myself, my husband and my parents) took Xander on his first camping trip. He had a blast, but of course all he wanted to do was touch the campfire and run around exploring, so we parents are exhausted.

average quality, but the best I could do on a phone at a distance

average quality, but the best I could do on a phone at a distance

One very interesting thing also occurred. You may remember my many prattles about the Bush Stone-Curlew (here, here). Well at the camping spot we selected there was a wildlife sign announcing this area was one of the few places were you could find the rare and reclusive Beach Stone-Curlew.

I swear I didn’t know this until after we got there!

Only seven breeding pairs have been seen on the Northern Coast of New South Wales (where we were camping) but luckily we saw two, each on separate days. The first day we took Xander to the beach and saw one back in the dunes. I didn’t realise it was a stone-curlew but looking at it I thought it looked like a softer-hued bush stone-curlew. My father had the same suspicion.

the sign at the camping spot

the sign at the camping spot

So he read the wildlife sign later that day and we discovered we’d been right.

On the second day we were taking a walk back from the beach and spotted another one. Sadly, we only had our camera phones with it so the best picture I got was this one, but still, it was fun to spot a new type of stone-curlew. And to take Xander on his first camping trip :)

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Guest Post: Light My Spacefaring Cigarette Up

Today, I bring you a guest post by by Kenneth Mugi about coolness and where you might be able to locate some pointers on creating that coolness.

 

Coolness.

Some folks got it, some people haven’t. They haven’t got the languid air, indifferent stare or wind-swept hair required. When a crisis comes their hearts pulse and they ask about the weather instead of keeping calm and calling the Doctor. They’re the wannabes, the should’ve-beens, the coolness-is-subjective-anyway citizens.

As a person, that’s fine. I don’t have to be cool. I don’t even have to be square. I can be a circle and make friends with a rhomboid. As a writer though, it’s not possible for me to toss aside the lounging, cynical detective with flat shoes and a disdain for her job. She exists, and when I write action and adventure, I need to have her saunter across my pages as if she belongs there.

Unlike warmed-up celebrities, I can’t egotistically aspire to redefine the word either, I need to know what ‘it’ is. And if my reading days tell me anything, then (some) other writers do too. They’ve forgotten Dean McCoppin, from The Iron Giant and Rick Blaine from Casablanca. Their characters have too many emotions, share too much about their histories, and when trouble hits the spinning space-station, they talk about their kids.

What those writers don’t know, what they can’t know, is that it’s at that point I roll my eyes. Right then, when the indifferent, husky-voiced, chain-smoker opens up about their life after a wild night of sex, I want to be reading another author’s work. I want to be watching something else.

I want to be watching Shinchiro Watanabe.

A couple of published auteurs have said that you shouldn’t start writing until you’ve read a 1,000 novels. I think people shouldn’t create cool characters until they’ve devoured all of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo…in Japanese. (English subtitles are permitted.)

First, there’s Spike. He’s a bounty hunter who eats instant ramen, smokes and wakes up terrified about his artificial eye. How did he get this thing? We’re not told. He wears a blue suit, fights people even while on the verge of death, and is constantly wondering if this time is going to be his last.

We learn he was a badass Yakuza, just. What he did though, we need to fill in the blanks.

When he’s threatened with imminent doom, he smiles, and pulls the trigger on his semi-automatic. Jazz plays as he does this. Jazz, man. Off-beat cuts that break through your psyche and make your fingers tap.

At the end, when he knows he’s about to go to his possible demise, he tells one of his travelling companions he has a robotic eye. That’s it.

She wishes he hadn’t told her.

Coolness.

He’s got it.

Then Shinchiro Watanabe reaches into his bag of characters and gives us Mugen and Jin. Samurai are inherently cool. They’re like ninjas in that regard, but they wear kimonos and speak in short, punctuated phrases. So you’ve got to dig deep if you intend to stand out in the sub-genre, Samurai Champloo does.

Jin wears glasses that are fake. He has an immense vocabulary; he barely says anything. When he grabs the hilt of his katana a little more tightly than last time, that’s him showing his emotion. He wants to be the strongest samurai in Edo, he’ll fight anyone for the title.

Coolness.

Mugen is a wild, self-trained fighter from the islands down south. He never shuts up. He talks in impolite Japanese, uses a form of break-dancing in his fighting style and is constantly taking risky jobs. He often gets tricked by female characters and acts on impulse.

He asks for no help, and Koza, the one woman he loved, betrayed him. Then he trusts her again, even though he knows better, and gets betrayed once more. He tries not to hate her, tries not to love her.

He’s Mugen, he wears red.

Coolness.

There’s a scene. Possibly one of the greatest scenes ever directed (in my humble opinion) where Mugen gets his revenge. Koza has just finished manipulating him, and is going to collect her ill-gotten treasure with her new partner. Mugen’s limping and wounded, but he heads to where the pair is traversing—the top of a cliff. The sun is setting, the three of them (Mugen and the duo) are simply silhouettes walking towards each other from opposite directions. Discordant music plays in the background.

The boyfriend runs to attack, Mugen kills him in a single stroke. He continues towards Koza. The music builds. He walks past her, doing nothing.

Coolness.

The same music is used again, later in the anime, for a fight between Jin and a blind, female assassin. We, the audience, expect a victory. Jin loses, badly.

Coolness.

Shinchiro Watanabe’s got it. His works are covered with it. Colours splash out of the screen, characters growl and mumble but don’t ask for mercy. They know fate has already decided their lives’ parameters, they know they’re traversing pre-destined paths yet they still fight. Revolver in one hand, sword in the other—Shinchiro’s characters shuffle through their existence and show us what it means to live on the other side of square.

One day, I might touch the hem of his flowing kimono with my writing. One day my characters might wink a little more knowingly, they might banter a little more angrily—but until then, you need to watch Shinchiro Watanabe’s works if you want to write cool. He’ll open the universe to you, and show you a world where indifference is an art form.

 

Kenneth

 

Promo Note

Kenneth A. Mugi doesn’t direct anime, but he writes fantasy tales with violence and swearing aplenty. You can find his latest work, The Salvation of Yellow, on Amazon.com or read his most recent short stories on his website: http://www.noshovelshere.com.

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20 Questions Interview

One of my lovely friends from Vision writers is doing a series of interviews with 20 questions and here’s my interview with him :)

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White Noise

I hate silence. I am a chatter box (not a surprise to those who know me offline), and I love to sing in the car, I even prefer to do housework while listening to audiobooks. I like having a soundtrack to life.

But you need to focus when editing – no music, no audio books, no yammering with someone. A rock and a hard place (for me anyway ;p ).

Cue awesome rainy day soundtracks like Rainy Mood.com. White noise. Something nice to keep life’s sound track jogging along but uninvasive enough to give your full concentration to work.

Does anyone else suffer from a need for noise? What do you like to use?

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Vision Writers – An Open Meeting

bwf14

Brisbane Writers’ Festival 2014 – Our Stories Unfold

At the start of next month I will be attending the first writers’ festival in which I am a presenter.

As long time readers well know, I’m Vice President of Vision Writers, Brisbane’s speculative fiction writers’ group. Instead of having our usual meeting in a room in Brisbane Square library we will be having an open meeting at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, showing people how we run a meeting, how we critique, how we help each other grow as fellow writers.

On Saturday 6th September at 4pm you can come to the State Library Queensland and check out how our meetings run. We’ll be critiquing pieces just the same as we always do, giving people an insight into what it’s like to be critiqued. Attendance is free and you can find more information out here on the Brisbane Writer’s Festival homepage.

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Ego Boost

AAlogoJust the other day I learned the Aurealis Awards have changed their website location from AurealisAwards.com to AurealisAwards.org . Expecting the old page would go down soon I went through my posts linking to it to try and avoid any dead links.

While checking it out I came across a fantastic ego boost. The official judges’ report for the 2013 awards, which details what the judges thought of each individual piece. Curious, I checked out ‘Short Circuit’ (pg 13 if you want to look for yourself) and this is what I read:

This superhero-style short story was whimsical, playful, and delightfully more-ish. The panel was effectively unanimous in expressing the hope that there would be more stories forthcoming within this milieu.

Well, I’ll just strut around for a bit with my thumbs hooked under my (imaginary) suspenders.

It also makes me glad there are a lot more stories in this world. I’ve been wanting to find an artist and have them done as a comic, but perhaps I should write them instead? If you want to get more of a feel for the extended world, you can find out a little in the ‘For Fans’ page for Short Circuit and I’d love to know if you think it would be better as graphic novel or written word.

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Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge 2014 – July Round-Up

trouble twistersA few months back the lovely Shaheen at Speculating On Spec-Fic ran a competition giving away a set of four books. For ages I’ve been wanting to read a Garth Nix book, but always ended up reading other stuff. The give away was offering the first four books of the Troubletwisters series, written by Garth Nix and Sean Williams (a double dose of Aussie authors!) so I entered and won!

Unfortunately, I’m not the target market for this series. This series is aimed at middle grade readers and I’m in my thirties, but I figured there’s been more than a few YA titles I’ve loved, so I might as well read them.

Before I start in on what I didn’t like let me assure you, there was plenty I did like, the only problem was, I had to wade through approximately 100 pages of one of my fiction pet peeves: the trope of the protagonist being kept in the dark by others with no more of a reason than the plot isn’t ready to divulge it yet.

‘Not now,’ says Grandma X.

‘Here, drink some memory erasing hot chocolate,’ she says.

‘You’ll find out when you’re ready to know.’

Are you kidding me? Please tell me I’m not the only person who hates this particular literary device. At the end of the book the reader is given a bit more of an answer as to why secrets couldn’t be revealed earlier, but even that answer is not very satisfying and it reeks of  the author needing a reason to have done it so coming up with a reason.  The book even ends with the twins being told there will be more non-answers in the future for the same frigging reason and I wanted to beat my head against the wall. No. None of that for me please.

Because of these non-answer shenanigans the first hundred or so pages plodded along, then we even got a dose of the old ‘thinking the person obviously helping you is a bad guy’ move. This is all right in my opinion if the reader genuinely thinks they might be a bad guy, but when the character is blatantly helping (despite being a douche about answering questions) it feels rather cheap.

Now to the good stuff. Once the action kicks in things get good. The slow lack of plot becomes a quick moving river of action and a certain amount of velocity kicks in. I’m certain I read the last two thirds in half the time it took me to read the first third. The kids start actually taking action to look for answers since Grandma X is the weird queen of being evasive, then doing something question provoking right in front of them. Actual problems kick in and things get really quite fun.

There was also some nice set up for a few things in up-coming books(or what looks like it at least), which promises some fun and pain.

The powers of the various gifted in the story (I particularly love the father) and overall ideas in the story are really cool concepts, and I can see this being something the target audience could really get into. If they can get past the start – which I feel might be even more maddening to them since it’s kids being told no by adults. Or perhaps they’ll sympathise and things will go swimmingly.

For my August read I’ll be jumping headfirst into Kaleidoscope(I’ve raved about how much I wanted this book to exist in this post) since it just arrived in the mail today :)

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