Tuesday, 30 November 2010

How funny is this: Oprah wants a sleepover at a typical Australian home

As I sit in my cramped office that was once my stepson's bedroom, I wonder if it would suit Oprah Winfrey if she came to our house for a sleepover.

I'd need to tidy up the spare bed because Spanner's Dad slept in it last week when he was up from Melbourne and I haven't had time to change the sheets. No one likes old-man smell. Definitely a must-change.

The reason I'm considering this far-fetched idea is that the undisputed Queen of the USA is visiting Australia in mid-December and has expressed an interest in staying at a "typical Australian home".

This got me thinking, what is the 'typical' Australian home?

And does mine fall into that category?

Here's a typical day in my life in my typical Australian home:

5.30am alarm. Spanner goes downstairs and makes coffee.

6am. After showering and dressing I join Spanner, unpack dishwasher, feed dog, do a load of washing, hang out washing, make lunch for Miss Hissy and myself - VEGEMITE SANDWICHES. Spanner leaves and says goodbye to dog.

7.30am. I head off to work, but before I leave I attempt to wake Miss Hissy and Precious Princess.

8.30am. At work, I send Wake-Up text messages to both Miss Hiss and PP. Miss Hissy has a fit and abuses me for not waking her before I left. PP sleeps through text.

4pm or thereabouts. I catch the bus home. Miss Hissy greets me with homework that has to be proofread. She is having a panic attack. I change and walk dog. Spanner arrives and makes coffee. I feed dog, take the clothes off the line, make dinner - BANGERS AND MASH WITH THREE VEGE - and proofread homework. Miss Hissy complains that I have changed her work so it is no longer her work. I pack dishwasher. Dog goes berserk because there are POSSUMS scuttling around IN THE ROOF. Spanner watches arthouse-cinema DVD (tonight it was Spanish). Afterwards, Spanner says goodnight to dog and goes to bed.

11pm. Precious Princess arrives home - with boyfriend. Asks, can he sleep over? I face a dilemma and offer him the bed that might be Oprah's. I don't tell him about Spanner's Dad.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Bad sex in fiction award loses out on romance

The sex/love scene in a romance novel is of the utmost importance. It's what most readers wait for - that magic moment when the hero and heroine decide to do IT.

And the author has to make it memorable. She has an obligation to her readers to ensure they leave the book/bedroom feeling as satisfied as the two lovers.  

I know it's genre dependent, but usually the sex has to be meaningful because the hero and heroine have been fighting their attraction to each other for however-many chapters. The sex can't be over in 30 seconds. Even if it's frantic, it's got to be jam-packed with emotion and a vibrant energy that lifts everyone to a climax - if you know what I mean.  

Romance writers labour over the scenes in which the hero and heroine consummate their relationship. The challenge is to keep the writing fresh and avoid cliches, which takes a lot of work. Mop my beaded brow, Hugh!  

But in the literary world it seems this is not the case. For the past 18 years, a British publication has highlighted usually prominent authors' godawful sex scenes. 

The Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award for 2010 is being announced tomorrow (November 29) but I thought you might like a sample of two of the nominees' work. The prize rewards "poorly written, redundant or crude passages of a sexual nature" in literary works.  

Australian author Christos Tsiolkas' Booker-longlisted novel The Slap made it onto the bad sex shortlist. The Sydney Morning Herald's Susan Wyndham wrote of the nomination:

'The judges cited a passage in which two characters ''f---ed for ages'' in the family home of one, ''standing up, her skirt bunched around her ankles, his jeans pulled down to his knees, moaning into each other, the drug keeping him hard and allowing him to forestall climaxing''.

'Jonathan Beckman, the assistant editor of The Literary Review, which gives the annual award, said the sheer quantity of sex also weighed heavily in the judges' choice. ''It's very repetitive,'' he said. ''The sheer laziness of saying 'they f---ed for ages' is just one example of slack writing.'''

Good luck with it, Christos. 

American writer Jonathan Franzen topped the list with scenes from his latest novel, Freedom

Here's what The Guardian had to say:

'The judges were unmoved by the hype surrounding this autumn's standout fiction title, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, citing the bestselling account of the disintegration of an American family for a description of a "phone sex" encounter where words make "their own world. One afternoon, as Connie described it, her excited clitoris grew to be eight inches long, a protruding pencil of tenderness with which she gently parted the lips of his penis and drove herself down to the base of its shaft. Another day, at her urging, Joey described to her the sleek warm neatness of her turds as they slid from her anus and fell into his open mouth, where, since these were only words, they tasted like excellent dark chocolate."'

A pencil will never look the same. 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

My condolences to everyone in New Zealand

My grandparents on my dad's side were New Zealanders. But that has nothing to do with this post.

Australia and NZ are neighbours and friends. Tonight I feel a great weight for your loss. This should never have happened.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Let the ocean swimming season begin: Dawny Swim around Cockatoo Island

I love the Dawn Fraser Pool in Balmain because it feels like a step back in time to when the world was less complicated and everybody spent Sunday at the beach or on the harbour.

Nowadays, Sydneysiders scream around like mad ants and the weekend is a massive traffic jam that spills over to the weekdays.

That's life, I guess. But today I went to Dawny's to do my first ocean swim of the season. The sun shone in a blue sky as a couple of hundred swimmers assembled just outside the perimeter of the harbour pool to take on either the 1 km or 2.5 km swim.

Like last year, I chose the longer swim around Cockatoo Island, the location of a disused ship yard, which is now a tourist attraction. These days you can camp overnight in permanent tents on Cockatoo Island, which is something I've yet to to do because Spanner says, "Why would you want to do that?"

This year the swim around the island was anti-clockwise and run a bit earlier at 9.05 am because the ferry timetable to the island has changed. Apparently, a clockwise swim interferes with ferry movements. This is a  bummer because the tide was running out of the harbour this morning, so going in an anti-clockwise direction meant swimming around the back of the island against the tide.

Dawny is a fun swim for me because everyone starts in the water and it's flat (no bloody big waves) except for chop caused by harbour craft and a bit of wind.

Another reason why it's such an excellent swim is I don't have to wait to start through about five waves of swimmers with three minute intervals between them. Today, there were three waves of swimmers, with a one minute interval between each group. That's the way to run a swim.

It was so well organised that I didn't have time to panic or even think about the coolish 18 degree water temperature. No sooner had the first wave gone, then the 46-to-really-old codgers wave was off.

I absolutely love this swim, though I'm sure my time today sucked. But those who follow this blog (thanks for persevering with my rants) will be aware that I'm no Libby Lenton. More like Eric the Eel. 

But today I didn't care. As I was dragged like an old turtle back onto the pontoon after the swim, I marvelled that I had cruised around Cockatoo Island, through jelly blubbers in the murky harbour water and narrowly avoiding the gaping jaws of lurking bull sharks (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

I'm all revved up, so it's on to the next swim around the eensy-teensy misnamed Wedding Cake island at Coogee next week.

See you at the swim.

PS: In the pic, you can see Cockatoo Island beyond the pool. All the industrial stuff is still there as the island is a heritage site.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Summer has finally arrived in Sydney and Venus of Bondi has got it

Summer is finally here. And it's a stinker.

Next week will be my first swim of the ocean-swims season, in the 2.5 km Dawny swim around Cockatoo Island at Balmain in Sydney's inner-west. I reckon the harbour water will still be chilly. Here's hoping it deters the bull sharks.

Am I ready? Nup.

I feel a bit like the sculpture in my pic that I snapped in Tamarama at Sculpture by the Sea, which ends today.

Isn't she gorgeous? Very well rounded.

She's made from recycled sandstone boulders, her name is Bondi Venus and her creator is Dennis Kalous.

In his statement from the Sculpture by the Sea catalogue, Kalous writes: 'Boulders are useless stones. When tooled and put into composition suddenly Bondi Venus emerges.'

I reckon I need a bit of tooling, if you know what I mean.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Ouch, the truth hurts: how criticism can make or break a writer

Because I'm a sensitive soul*, it took a lot of courage** to join a face-to-face writers' critique group.

I won't go into details about the group members, suffice to say they're a rowdy bunch of chickadees*** whose overriding goal is to get their work published.

Our styles are different and the genres include erotica, sweet, paranormal and historical, which has its advantages and disadvantages. At least it encourages a feisty exchange of ideas.  

On Saturday I went to my second meeting with the group, though it's been established for several months. This week it was my turn to have my WIP critiqued.

I quite like my story and have a fond affection for my hero and heroine. But after an hour of having my WIP verbally shredded and tossed into a dumpster, my feelings have changed. Now I look at my hero and see an insipid wimp that no girl with blood in her veins would want to jump. And my heroine is selfish, vacuous and two-dimensional.

My GMC sucksthe plot is ridiculous**** and I do too much TELL and not enough SHOW.

Shellshocked, I left the meeting and stumbled into the late afternoon drizzle. 

On the way home I stopped at a bottle shop and spent more than I usually do on a bottle of shiraz, and when I got back I bored Spanner into a coma with a self-pitying rant.

"My WIP sucks. I'll never be a writer. I'm shite. The world is shite. And you don't care about me. You don't understand me. I'm a tortured artist. Pour me another glass of wine, ya bastard." And so on and so forth until bedtime.

Now it's Monday, I've had time to reflect on the feedback - and to recover from a mild headache. I realise that all is not lost and, for the most part, my critique partners were right, though I wish they'd been a little more gentle and massaged my ego with a little more praise.

But now I know where I need to dig into my story to give it more guts. I've got to raise the stakes and not sit back and think: "Geez, I'm clever."

Writing is bloody hard work and so is the ability to accept well-intended criticism. You know how the saying goes - What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

*Unable to handle criticism
**The energy to get off my bum and do something
***Like me, they are barking mad (in the most complimentary sense) 
**** No one at the meeting said this, but being the sensitive creature that I am, I reinterpreted every comment (sociopathic maybe?)

Friday, 5 November 2010

When worlds collide: writing and swimming at the same time

It's all happening in November what with NaNoWriMo and the start of the ocean swimming season.

I've joined the RWAustralia camp for November writing month, with a goal of 20,000 words that I hope to add to my WIP. If I manage it, my WIP will leap to 30,000 words.

The problem is my writing is as slow as my swimming. We're five days into November and I've just managed to cough up 2000 words. You don't need to be a genius to figure out the maths. I won't reach my goal at the rate I'm going.

It's no different in the pool. And when you translate my pool times to a quixotic ocean it's fair to add a couple of minutes to the end result.

But I'm not about to sob into my beer. Life is pretty fan-friggin'-tastic. I've included a couple of pics from Sculpture by the Sea 2010 in this post - the artworks are displayed along the magnificent walk from Bondi to Tamarama beaches. You can't beat it - even on an overcast day.

Hey, did you know it rains more often in Sydney than it does in London? Ms Fivestar told me that, so blame her if it's wrong.