All posts by Karen

I’m the main blogger, so you’ll hear more from me than you will from my writing partner, Sherylyn. Because of this you will get quite a skewed impression of how we work together. Can’t help that, unfortunately. I’m big into science fiction and fantasy, and also enjoy mysteries and technothrillers. Favourite authors change, obviously, depending on the mood I’m in, but they include—in no particular order—Diana Wynne Jones, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, C. J. Cherryh, Charles Sheffied, Vernor Vinge, Joan D. Vinge, Connie Willis and Robin Hobb (but funnily enough, I haven’t been able to read a Megan Linholm through yet).

Fishy facts

Did you know that when you catch snapper they sometimes have a bump on their head?

According to a fisherman I heard on the radio yesterday morning, he’s seen the bumps and he’s seen the fish banging their head against a reef to get the crustaceans out. (He was diving at the time, not fishing.)

The radio host talking with him added this fun fact.  In their search for said crustaceans, snapper can die from eating too much of the mud along the bottom of the sea,

How do I know this?

I’ve had my clock radio ten years now. It’s nothing fancy. It does the job.  I can see it when I wake in the night. Most important, it’s easy to reset if the power goes out.  The one I had before that was horrible. It had one button to reset the time.  You pressed it and the minutes would flick by, one second at a time.  Hold your finger down for a few seconds and the time speeds up.  But, take your finger off too late and you go past the time you wanted to set it to and had to go around the whole 24 hours again.

Back in those days, we had quite a few power problems, too.

So I like my (now ten years old) clock. The alarm wakes me in the morning with news and music and weather.  That’s all I want. I don’t need—don’t want—talkback radio first thing in the morning. Seriously, all I want to do is go back to sleep.

The alarm itself is an AM radio.  Who needs an alarm like this anyway when you’ve got a phone with an alarm on it?

I do, because I forget my phone if it’s in the bedroom.

I might need to start using my phone soon, however, because many of the radio stations have left the AM band. (And sometimes on the FM band too.)  Some of them are going digital. A lot are closing down.

The only thing that’s making money at the moment are the talkback stations, and you know what I think of them for waking up to.  I don’t mind them later in the day, just not first thing.

So this is the third radio station I’ve had to switch to in the last two years.  On weekdays they play music, but on Saturday morning they have a fishing show.

It’s kind of surreal.  Saturday mornings I wake up to little snippets of fishing trivia like the above. In between gale warnings, and ringing various fishermen around the bay, and on the rivers, to find out where the fish are biting and what type of fish are being caught in that area.

Goodbye Cassini. Thanks for all the data

So I watched the last minutes of Cassini on Friday night (Melbourne time).  Got a bit teary, I must admit.

The Cassini-Huygens mission ran for twenty-seven years. The module itself was launched into space on 15 October 1997.

The Huygens module broke away and went on to Titan, while Cassini spent 13 years orbiting Saturn.

The decision to destroy the probe has a lot to do with protecting Saturn’s fascinating moons from contamination. Thanks to [Cassini] we now know that some of these worlds hide liquid water and may have the potential to support life.

Eric Mack, CNET, How NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will dive-bomb Saturn and die

Well done, Cassini, and responsible science, too.

There’s this great cartoon by Erika Neskvold (@erikanesvold) going around the Twitterverse, which I think anyone who had an interest in Cassini might appreciate.

I’m not sure about copyright here, so I’m not reproducing it on my blog, but here’s the link.

Answers to last week’s quiz

So last week we asked you to name some characters from speculative fiction you thought you really shouldn’t like, but did.

This week we have some answers for you. If you haven’t done the quiz, go and do it now.

I used to be a hero, until I got tortured. Now I’m the torturer. I’m good at my job. I hurt people, I force them to confess (even if they didn’t do it). I am grumpy.

Oh, and I hate stairs.

A measure of how well readers love a character is at author talks, when lots of the audience ask specific questions about one character.

The first time I heard Joe Abercrombie talk was at GenreCon Australia.  Come question time, it seemed that all anyone wanted to talk about was Sand dan Glokta, from Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. You could tell, from the way the audience reacted to both the questions and the answers, that they loved Glokta.

And you have to admit, he is a great character. Even though he does torture people. You even make excuses for him. He’s in pain all the time, he was tortured himself.

 

I’m a convicted killer and a thief. I supposedly once gouged a man’s eyes out, just for fun.

I’m the last surviving member of a bikie gang that terrorized the Barbary Coast of California.

The government offers me a pardon if I take a shipment of drugs across country.

Here’s a perfect example of a character who has a reputation that doesn’t gel with who he is.

Hell Tanner, from Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. He’s the opposite of the unreliable narrator. It’s external people who say he’s one thing, he behaves in another way.  That is, we’re told he’s a monster, murder and rapist (and no doubt he is), but we see him as a someone who loves his brother, and tries to stop him going into danger.

 

One of us is a burglar, the other a hitman. We’re partners, and we help out a private investigator on occasion.

We’re on the side of angels, although the angels don’t necessarily believe this is an entirely positive thing.

Louis and Angel, from John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series of books.

These are two more characters popular with readers. I first heard about Louis and Angel when I went to a dinner organised by one of our bookstores, Dymock’s. John gave a talk. A member of the audience wanted to talk about Louis and Angel. You could hear from the response of the other people in the room that it was a popular question.

Sherylyn, who has since read some of the Charlie Parker books, agrees. Louis and Angel are great.

They even get their own book, in The Reapers.

 

I’m a seven-foot skeleton. I wear a black robe, and carry a scythe.

Easy? Duh? But which one am I?

I have a granddaughter, Susan, and an apprentice named Mort.

This one was easy, yes.

Death, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

What else can I say?

Except that Death is a great character.

 

 

 

I am a former lawyer. I lost my girlfriend to another man, and keep trying to get her back. I’m nice to my dog, I let him push the button to set off the explosives.

 

I sort of wish we could write characters like Jack Holloway, from John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. I don’t think a lot of Jack, and I still can’t work out if he’s deliberately written to be a decent man who hides the fact that he does a decent thing behind a facade wisecracking and moral unpleasantness, or whether I just didn’t like him much.

I sort of don’t wish we could write them, too, because Jack wasn’t a great person. The closest we’d get to someone like that is Jordan Rossi (in the unpublished Acquard stories, not in Linesman.)

Or maybe not.

Loved the book, didn’t know what to think about Jack, even after the story finished.

 

How did you go?

Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to hear either Joe Abercrombie or John Connolly talk, go along. They’re both great speakers.

Quiz: Characters you like, but feel you shouldn’t

We haven’t had a quiz for a while, so let’s talk about characters who really aren’t nice, but you like them anyway.

They’re all speculative fiction (and the fact that we used that word rather than fantasy and science fiction is a clue in itself, folks, as one is more a mystery with supernatural elements). Some of them are anti-heroes, some secondary characters in other books.

Also, your degree of ‘not nice’ may differ from ours, especially for the last one. It’s subjective.

 

   I used to be a hero, until I got tortured.  Now I’m the torturer.  I’m good at my job. I hurt people, I force them to confess (even if they didn’t do it). I am grumpy.

Oh, and I hate stairs.

 

I’m a convicted killer and a thief. I supposedly once gouged a man’s eyes out, just for fun.

I’m the last surviving member of a bikie gang that terrorized the Barbary Coast of California.

The government offers me a pardon if I take a shipment of drugs across country.

 

One of us is a burglar, the other a hitman. We’re partners, and we help out a private investigator on occasion.

We’re on the side of angels, although the angels don’t necessarily believe this is an entirely positive thing.

 

I’m a seven-foot skeleton. I wear a black robe, and carry a scythe.

Easy? Duh?  But which one am I?

I have a granddaughter, Susan, and an apprentice named Mort.

 

I am a former lawyer. I lost my girlfriend to another man, and keep trying to get her back. I’m nice to my dog, I let him push the button to set off the explosives.

You may not consider this guy unlikeable. We do, but we can’t work out if he’s deliberately meant to be an unpleasant man who turns out okay, or if he’s supposed to be an okay man who just doesn’t work for us as a character.

We’ve actually mentioned our ambivalence about him in another blog post (and that’s another clue). You decide.

 

How do you think you went?

Answers next week.

Why I’ll take Wonder Woman over Sarah Connor any day

“She’s an objectified icon … to me, it’s a step backwards.”

[Cameron] believes one of his popular protagonists, Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, sets a better example for female leading characters in movies.

“Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit,” he said. “And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”

News.com.au James Cameron Slams Wonder Woman: “It’s a step backwards.”

Sorry, James Cameron, but you talk about objectified icons.

I am sure Sarah Connor is everything you say she was. Plus, I suspect, you’re talking about the second and subsequent Terminator movies, too, not the first.

I don’t know. I only ever watched the first movie. I couldn’t watch the rest.

It’s not because I didn’t like most of the movie. It was okay. And Arnie’s terminator is certainly iconic, and goes down in history as one of the great movie characters of all time.

But we spend the whole movie having the Terminator chase Sarah, only to find out that he’s after her because she’s somebody’s mother.

Sarah Connor is a victim.

Sure, she fights back. And I like it when a victim empowers her-or-himself to fight back against their oppressor. And I don’t mean to denigrate anyone who fights their way out of being victimised like that, for they are inspiring. Woman or man.

But if I want a hero—someone to hold up as an example, someone to emulate—I’ll take the woman who starts out with a conscience, and a determination to do right by the world. Someone who lives by that standard, and embodies it in everything they do and say.

Rather than someone who simply reacts to a situation they have been placed into.

So that I, and the Sarah Connor’s of this world, know we can live by those standards, too.

Wonder Woman is not about beauty. Hollywood objectifies everyone, male and female

Wonder Woman is encapsulated by the scene in No-Man’s land. Where a woman knows this is wrong, and says so, only to hear others say, “Sure, but we can’t do anything about it,” and she chooses to do something anyway.

Down in our little corner of the world

If you’re not part of the solution …

Right now the Australian government ministers are behaving like kids in a classroom, where the teacher has left the room, and been gone for a while. Calling each other names, doing stupid things, bullying, offending our nearest neighbor.

We’re waiting on an envelope in the mail to vote whether or not we want to allow same sex marriage, but even if we all vote yes (I’m voting yes), that doesn’t necessarily mean the government will allow it. It just means that that the government will introduce a bill to allow them to debate whether or not to allow same sex marriage. It also, I think, allows members of parliament to vote as per their own conscience, not along party lines.

Confused? So am I.

We haven’t even got problems, compared to other countries.

I don’t have to mention the United States, where it seems that the craziness has escaped the confines of the White House and infected the populace. We’re hurting for you.

It seems like whole of the democratic world has been infected by … I don’t know what you’d call it. The pendulum, having swung one way, is swinging madly the other way. It feels a lot like Galloping Gertie right now, ready for that final swing.

The new Anne Leckie

On a more positive note, Anne Leckie’s newsletter dropped into my email the other day. Provenance is out in just over a month.

I like the way Anne does her newsletters. Only when she really has news. And she put the first three chapters in the newsletter. Yes! (Lots of exclamation marks here.) We might try this ourselves.

Naturally, I read the excerpt immediately.

There are characters you take to immediately, and I love Captain Uisine. He’s not the protagonist, so I hope he’s in the book more than just two chapters.

Afterwards, I went straight to Amazon’s pre-order page. I’m looking forward to late September.

And lastly

Sydney turned on a nice weekend

Need I say what this is? Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I went up to Sydney last week for a work conference. (Excellent conference, by the way, and the closing keynote speaker, Mike Monteiro, gave an wonderful, thought-provoking speech about ethics and design, using the current US political state, along with examples from businesses. He deserved the standing ovation we gave him.)

Breakfast this morning. Criniti’s, Darling Harbour

I convinced Sherylyn to come up for the weekend, afterwards. Sydney turned on lovely weather for us.

We do find it difficult to write on these breaks, however. (Although we did get some accounting done, believe it or not.)

View from our hotel window

So here are some pictures of Sydney. Mostly around Darling Harbour, because the first thing we do when we get to Sydney is find a ferry.

 

Boats on Darling Harbour
Another food place. This one at the hotel. It’s a hard life.

Taking my work home

First round of sorting. More similar to our current site than we expected.

I try to leave work at work when I leave the office for the day, but how can I not use this technique from work (card sorting), when we’re redesigning our web site?

As you can see from the sorted topics in the image, above, it’s not a total redesign, just some tweaks to make things easier to find.

Incidentally, if you have any ideas or suggestions as to what should go on the site, let us know.

Leveling up as a writer

Leveling up in computer games is a process whereby a character gains enough points or experience to unlock a whole new level in the game.

Writers level up too.  The first time they finish a book, the first time they learn to take critiques properly, when they learn that writing is not just writing, it’s rewriting.

Here’s a fun diagram of a writer leveling up.  We’ve made some assumptions.

  • The writer is going the trad pub route, and they get an agent first, who then sells their book to an editor
  • Both editor and agent are legitimate and doing their best to sell/make the book as good as it can be. That is, the writer isn’t caught up by scammers.
  • A lot of these things loop. You can keep going around and around in circles, but we’re only doing it the once.

 

A couple of quick things

Giveaway finishes at the end of this month

We’re running a Goodreads giveaway. One lucky reader can win a copy of all three books. If you’re interested, head over to Goodreads to enter.

Competition closes midnight 31 July.

Linesman eBook reduced on

Linesman is $2.99 over at Amazon, and at Barnes and Noble. We don’t know for how long.