Monday, July 26, 2010

Writer's retreat, software, hardware and spotting The Old School in the wild

How to make the best use of three plus hours in the car en route to a couple of weeks writing retreat? That was the question I considered as I was preparing to head out of town.

I’m prepared to experiment with different approaches to writing. Although, as I’ve said before, I’m pretty old school, I like my pen and notebook and the freedom it gives me to get out of the house, away from the tyranny of the screen, and most importantly away from the backspace and delete keys. It’s so much easier to turn off that internal editor when you write by longhand. Having now seen a text through to publication, I realise there are going to be plenty of opportunities for editing down the track.

For me, creating straight on to the screen provides too many temptations to second guess and edit as I go. I’m way more productive (and creative) if I just write and save the first edit for when I’m transferring the work from notebook to the computer.

Despite my love of pen and paper I’m no Luddite. In fact I’m a big fan of new technology – an unabashed if not always entirely successful geek. So when I picked up a reference to a software program called Scrivener from John Birmingham’s blog, I decided to give it a whirl and downloaded the trial version. They are smart folks those Scrivener folks. They let you have a good long trial period – one that works on how often you open the program rather than by dates. It took me about three weeks to get the hang of it, to see the potential of it and to realise that I wanted it in my life (in fact I've become embarrassingly fannish about it - first the conversion to Mac, now proselytising for software - the shame, the shame). However, the best news is that it is such an inexpensive program (under fifty bucks!) that you really don’t have to think twice about it when it comes to affordability.  

So, what does it do? Well for a start it doesn’t hang and crash like my word program does. But better than that is that it somehow manages to turn all those tactile creative processes I like to use, such as making notes about plot, about characters, pinning things up on a board, shuffling the order of chapters, of scenes within chapters, of having a great big pile of research that I sometimes want to have open at the same time that I’m working on the manuscript – well, Scrivener makes all of that possible. 

I’ve also invested in MacSpeech Dictate in order to rest a chronically sore shoulder I’ve developed from over use of the dreaded mouse. Unlike Scrivener, this is a software package that is going to take me a little longer to master. At this stage I’ve pretty much limited it to a dictation tool. I can read from my handwritten notebooks to get that precious first rough-as-guts draft into the computer. It’s taken a bit of time (and the necessity of privacy) to get used to saying my writing out loud but .... what it did do was plant the seed of an idea, which brings me back to making use of that driving time.

As I had the car to myself for the drive up I decided to try the dictation thing in the raw, so to speak. I bought a pretty basic inexpensive digital voice recorder and set off. I admit to feeling pretty self-conscious, not to say foolish, when I pulled it out and began to “write” but I found that as I went along I started to forget myself and I got stuck into the story. Although it’s certainly not “writing” I was surprised to find that it did begin to feel like I was “creating” and "talking" the dialogue was a something of a revelation.  Like writing in notebooks, dictating lent itself to “finding” the way (stumbling) into a scene, via false starts, digressions, intuitive leaps, realisations that something would need to happen before or after this particular scene. The time and the kilometres flashed past and I arrived at my destination with that sense of satisfaction that only a good writing session can deliver.

So now I’ve settled in, transcribed the first couple of files from yesterday's travel recording and discovered that I’ve had a 3,000 word day. It's rough, there's still much to tidy up – but I’m resisting the temptation to fiddle too much at this stage. I have a couple of weeks to really get stuck into building the scaffolding of this novel; the polishing, the refining, the embroidering and yes, the inevitable stripping out, will come through once the structure is there. 

I have a sensational work environment -

– my view from the computer desk is pure Australia Felix.

 And I have a companion who keeps watch over the word count.

Meanwhile, The Old School is still out and about, lurking in bookstores, sharing shelf space with some pretty fancy company as can be seen here.

Thanks to Sophie who spotted this at Tullarmarine...

... and thanks Barbara for a shot at Berkelouw's in Newtown. 

Both up front and cover out! 

So, tomorrow - another session transcribing from files made during the car journey. Then, I might take a walk, voice recorder in hand and try out a few scenes on the locals. There's a delightfully absurd bunch of alpacas living up the road who look like they might enjoy a spot of crime fiction.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Old School in airports, in the wild and in performance.

Thanks to the roving reporters out there - some more shots of The Old School snapped in the wild.

Snapped at Sydney Airport.

Thanks for snapping this Mark and Alison for sending it in. Though I'm still jealous that you were en route to Port Douglas at the time! Brrrrrrrrrrr, I'd swap Sydney for some warmth just at the minute.

Spotted in Shearers at Leichhardt.

Thanks Neerav! Though you may have caused consternation and head scratching by those what keep the shelves in order. :)

Looking good enough to eat at Melbourne Airport.

Thanks to JoAnne for snapping this despite no doubt shivering like an extra on the set of Dr Zhivago as she and Bronwyn took their Darwin acclimatized bodies south to Melbourne in mid-winter. Big Brrrrrrrrrr.

Spotted at The Constant Reader in Crows Nest.

My "local" - and spotted skulking very UC style between the shelves was Ethel, aided and abetted by David.  Cover out too! Wooo Hooo! Thanks to you both for your mission. And to Ethel for making sure the libraries of the Sutherland Shire will have access to The Old School.

Had a grand old time over the weekend going to the official opening Mini Writers Fest at the new Dulwich Hill branch of Gleebooks.  On Saturday heard Georgia Blain read from her new work Darkwater - a young adult novel set in the early 70s and (in the slice we heard) reeking of those long hot summers of childhood, which were not always glorious but on occasion filled with the painful business of bad decisions. Charlotte Wood then gave us a sneak peek of a work in progress and had the room nodding and barracking for her character's attempts to silence the dreaded leaf blower.

On Sunday I joined a packed house to listen to David Marr and Annabel Crabb discuss what happened to Kevin. Then to Airlie Lawson give a peek inside the business of the book business via her novel Don't Tell Eve and Robyn Catchlove paint a picture of life up the top end before I took my spot in the window, and talked a little about what "place" in crime novels is all about and then read a little from The Old School about a place a little further up the road. Then I was relieved by Anne Summers and was able to dash outside and catch up with the Wake-Paljor family and promise to do bookclub with Kate's inner west bookclub gang. They meet in cafes - hopefully licensed ones.
For a good review of the weekend check out LizaBelle's blog

And I'll be doing another event with Gleebooks on Friday the 13th August back at the Glebe mothership - so come along and we can chat about crime. Check out the Gleebooks website for information and bookings.

Friday, July 16, 2010

THE OLD SCHOOL launched in old school style

The plan was for a very small, informal, family and friends style book launch.

But when you come from a large family the numbers pretty soon blow out, the room is full and 2/3rds of the people in it are blood relations.  It's part-reunion, part-launch, part good old style get together, with the added advantage of it not being a funeral.

So that's pretty much what it was at the Warringah Bowlo on Wednesday night.

After a last minute stress out when the small domestic sized oven refused to light, and the large intimidating industrial sized gas range had us all quaking in our boots, until we were rescued by a lady bowler, who was the only one in town who knew how to coax the big fella into action. The oven alight, 100 quiches, some spanakopita and samosas stowed away, room set up (thanks Camilla) and then it was drinking, eating, talking, launching and book signing.

Thanks to Sophie for being a great agent and and masterful MC, and to Jo Rosenberg my editor from Penguin who came up for the night, and to Jon Page, from Pages and Pages for doing the official launch business.

Jon Page Launching THE OLD SCHOOL, while Sophie, myself and Jo watch.

An old-school launch at an old-school bowlo beneath an old-school honour board listing the past presidents of the club.


Thank you to all who came a shared the night. I felt like I spoke to everyone and no one, as the faces kept flashing past. I wish you all an entertaining ride back to the early 90s in THE OLD SCHOOL.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More OLD SCHOOL snapped in the wild PLUS talking in the TARDIS

Nearly two weeks since P Day and it's been a lot of fun so far.

There have been some more sightings of THE OLD SCHOOL ...

Dechen, (displaying her clear potential for a big future as a weather wench) found (and pointed out) some copies at Shearers on Norton Street, Leichhardt. Thanks Kate Wake for sharing.

Meanwhile over in Chatswood, Juliette was restrained by David from removing THE OLD SCHOOL from the shelf and placing it in the Number 1 spot out near the front door. Juliette might have found herself in a spot of bother from Border(s) Security if she tried!

Me, I'm just happy to see it cover out ... wooo hooo!

Then last night, a sighting in Dymocks from my old university mate Nigel Bartlett (remember that name - a great crime novel is being brewed in that head as we speak).

I have also had the chance to talk to some great people across New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia over the past couple of weeks. Some for print interviews, some pre-recorded interviews and some LIVE. If any turn up as podcasts I'll link them up.

It's been interesting to respond to the range of questions - some focus on the past life in The Job, some on teasing out what we can of the book without blowing the twists and turns, some have been fascinated by the time in India, others by the time in Africa and the music. Just goes to show, live long enough, make enough career U-Turns and you too will have a rich tapestry to draw on.

Then on Monday my inner geek got a real thrill.

I did four interviews for various ABC Regional radio programs from the ABC TARDIS at Ultimo. Yes, that's what they have named their live radio booths, where you slide in and talk to the regions and the sound quality comes out as pure as if you were sitting in the same room.

And they call it the TARDIS.

This is why we love Aunty.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Any fly buys with that? THE OLD SCHOOL coming to an airport near you

Thanks to Y.A. Erskine for this very cool shot of THE OLD SCHOOL up in lights at Canberra airport.

Y.A. Erskine, Yvette, is another ex-cop who will be appearing in print next year. Random House will be publishing her first novel, THE BROTHERHOOD. File that name away for future reference.

And, if you are travelling this month then keep your eyes peeled - Penguin tell me that there are 11 of these lightboxes at airports around the country. See it, snap it and send it in!  

Saturday, July 3, 2010

THE OLD SCHOOL spied in the wild @ North Sydney

Thanks to David and Juliette for forwarding their photos of THE OLD SCHOOL. Captured in the wild at Dymocks North Sydney.

More to follow as they come to hand.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Talking about THE OLD SCHOOL

Radio 2CC have put up a link to my interview on Drive with Mike Welsh - so if you didn't happen to be driving through Canberra yesterday afternoon, you can listen to the podcast here.