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If, like me, you are often on-foot, in a hurry (in my case because time and I are not friends) and you live in a highly-populated area, you will regularly find yourself facing a thick stream of similarly-hurried people coming at you. This can make the journey from Point A to Point B seem like it takes a route through F, U, C and K.

Oncoming pedestrian crowds can often result in a number of collisions, shoulder glances and even the dreaded Failed Evasion Dance (you know the one, you both try to evade each other in the same direction 3 or 4 times until you both laugh uncomfortably, then start dancing again).

When I am truly in a hurry and have no time to dance, collide or slow down very much, I have found the most effective method for avoiding all of this palaver is simple: do not make eye contact. In fact do not even look at people’s faces, instead, as people get closer, keep your eyes at leg-level and focus your gaze at the gaps you see in the oncoming crowd.

Humans are instinctive creatures and if they recognise that something coming toward them is not looking at them, they will instinctively take it upon themselves to evade. People can also see where you are looking and instinctively assume that’s where you’re going. The crowd will open up before you.

I should advise, though that this technique really works best if you’re the only one doing it. I mean if everyone was just looking at gaps, collisions would probably increase. But hey – they might be nice and you two can live happily ever after.

Happy hurrying!

— IEK

Three things struck me this morning: 1) I am old 2) I tend to study my own behaviour 3) I have a lot of life experience not especially common in one person 4) I haven’t written a blog post in a month 5) Mathematics really isn’t my strong suit.

With all of these 3 things in mind, I am going to start a series of posts aimed at putting my own life observations out there. I am not a doctor, I am not a psychologist, I am not a woolly mammoth, but I will happily tell you what I have observed because, like all people who provide life observations or advice, I think they might help someone (and I love the sound of my own inner voice).

Well now I’ve gone and written too damn much and I’m going to have to write my first observation in a new post.

Well at least I’ve knocked point 4 on the head…

— IEK

Well, I’ve finally broken Chapter 18.

It’s been a horrid slog through 17 and 18, but I’ve finally broken its back thanks to some stellar work from alcohol and #5amWriteClub I have CONQUERED THIS SHIT.

I say shit and hey, it probably is because it’s a first draft, but at least it’s done. Our good friend (whom I have probably never mentioned before) the Witch has met the love of her life (so far) and has discovered something quite unique about herself.

It’s all downhill skiing from here, right? … RIGHT!?! Well sod it – bring on Chapter 14!!!

— IEK

It SOUNDS good, doesn’t it? All those wasted hours on the plane and in hotel rooms – now upgraded with WRITING! W00t! I’m gonna finish this book in a WEEK!

…and then reality sets in: we do not go overseas to get our books finished (well…those of us who aren’t filthy rich or full-time writers don’t anyway). Alas, no. We go overseas either to travel and enjoy the experience of another country and culture or to work in another country’s office which looks probably not a hell of a lot different from the one at home and where did all that free time go again?

This trip (almost 7 days) I managed to write exactly 1,221 words. A little more than I’ll get done during a single 5am Write Club.

Even now I’m shocked and more than a little disappointed. I thought I’d written a lot more before I’d synced the additions with my manuscript. It would be so much easier if we didn’t have to content with the social aspects of overseas travel – meeting and greeting, having dinners and lunches with your colleagues, family or travel partners and if you didn’t feel so exhausted at the end of the day that it’s all you can do to brush your teeth and get into your pyjamas.

And perhaps this is what sets writers who get their work done fast from the rest of us. I once heard a very famous and popular author say (I’m paraphrasing here from memory, but…): writing is not a social job. It is a very solitary and quite necessarily anti-social thing to do. I agree totally with this and if I wasn’t such a social animal, I might be able to tell my work colleagues “No, I’m sorry, I’m staying in” and write the hell out of a chapter or two…but unfortunately I am a social animal, so when they say “do you want to come to dinner?” I’m the “Of course – where are we going?” kind of person.

So…as I creep further and further past the other side of my self-imposed “deadline” (let us never speak of it again), I find myself buoyed by the fact that I am past half-way on the book, but somewhat defeated by the fact that it’s taken me THIS LONG.

— IEK

Just sketched my first drawing on a tablet PC with my finger. Not easy (especially in a bus).

Had to be done, though because the scene I’m writing is set in a small town and has a lot of different people moving around (and shooting at each other).

First I found a neat little town in the USA which fit the description of this particular town on my planet, looked at it on Google Maps and suddenly had the whole layout in my head.

Next it was on to the sketch app.

Some say I spend too much time on this level of detail and yet I don’t know of any other way to get my details right. I mean if I didn’t make a drawing, I could have people spilling out of an alley beside the law court, then running across the road to the alley beside the law courts. Seriously, this happens (it’s why you’ll never read my first draft…I hope).

Some may say “fix it in the revisions”, but I’m of the opinion that I’m going to have enough to fix in the revisions without not knowing the layout of my cities and towns!

— IEK

I have written that many pages of Bifrost at the pub that my scenes set in a pub are probably my best.

My standard pub-writing pattern is: I’m walking somewhere with no urgency, I feel inspired to write a scene, I walk past a pub, I walk into said pub, order a beer and start writing.

This does not happen often given that having 3 kids does not leave a lot of room for “no urgency”, but the thing is that once you’re in the pub and in the zone, the word just flow.

I STRONGLY recommend the pub to any (particularly single) writers looking for a secluded haven to write (and have a delightful drink).

I’ve written on the bar, on a table, on a couch & have always managed to get good quality words down. Sure, some of those words toward to bottom-end of my 6th or so beer may have needed…um…polishing, but what you really get from a pub is solitude in the midst of action and if that’s not the definition of a 3rd person POV book, I don’t know what is.

— IEK

Recently, Co-Consul and I started reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 6yo. We figured we would read one book from the series every year until he’s ready to read them himself (hopefully some time next year).

The excitement levels in our house at bedtime have markedly increased.

6yo is SUPER excited every night when bedtime rolls around (unless he’s misbehaved and isn’t allowed to have a story) and myself and Co-Consul are almost fighting over who gets to read it to him because we’re both loving the return to Privet Drive, Platform 9 ¾ and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The other night I was reading to 6yo the scene when Harry first met Ron and Hermione. I couldn’t help getting the biggest smile on my face as I experienced again their introductions with the knowledge of how much these characters will experience together as the series goes on. Even now, I’m getting chills just thinking about it. 6yo asked what was wrong (because I was grinning like a loony as I was reading) and I just said that these characters were important to Harry. I tried not to give too much away, but it is hard to explain your own reactions. Not answering his 20 questions after each session is also difficult because, for the most part, we have the answer, we just want him to experience the books the way we did as they were released and not spoil them for him.

The Harry Potter books are just SUCH fun books and appeal to so many different ages it makes me wonder how people can claim that young adult fiction is a waste of adult time. In my opinion, if a book is good, it’s a good book and you should read it. If a book is drivel, stop reading it and move on to something decent. It shouldn’t matter if it’s young adult fiction, adult fiction, childrens’ fiction, non-fiction or fiction about erotic tacos*, everybody should enjoy as many good books as they can (and perhaps a few hundred pages of drivel, just to keep you on your toes).

— IEK

* That’s for you, @CantrellJason

Writing anything longer than a shopping list is hard. Writing it when you have an utterly unrelated full-time job and any number of young kids is even harder.

There is actually NO time during just about any average day in which I can write – there is work, drop-offs (Co-Consul does all the pickups because she is awesome), kids sports, housework, house renovations, repairs, shopping, family, friends and even frivilous things like eating and sleeping! In order to actually get anywhere, I have to steal time where I can.

Here are a few ideas for people like me with NO time in their lives and a desire to write (in no particular order):

  • 5am Write Club (Twitter: #5amWriteClub) : Yes – 5am. As many mornings a week as I can, I wake up at 5am, sit down and write as much as I can. I have to set a vibrate-only alarm so I don’t wake the house and yes, I do sleep through it sometimes (surely that means I was too tired to write?). Words of warning, though – if you have kids and they sleep close to the computer, make sure you gently close their door so you don’t wake them with the keyboard. There’s nothing worse than being interrupted in the middle of an intense scene by tired, hungry kids (well OK, perhaps the house catching fire or being eaten by bears would classify as worse, but there’s not much ELSE worse). Some keener folk even hit 4am, but I barely function at 5am, so 4am is beyond my capabilities.

 

  • Public transport : Oh how I love public transport. Most of my book has been written on a bus to or from work. Find your seat (you have to get on early in the route or avoid peak-hour), open up the laptop or tablet and get writing! I found typing on a tablet screen to be very easy after a little practice, but even easier on a bluetooth keyboard (Mine is an earlier model of these: Kensington Android Bluetooth Keyboards)..

 

  • Getting someone else to drive while you write : Not always possible, but AMAZING if you can do it. Imagine a couple of hours during which you can listen to music, write hard and actually TALK ABOUT what you’re writing to someone you trust. They may even pretend to be interested! If you can arrange this as part of a driving turn thing or whatever – do it. Wonderful things will happen. Oh yeah – you just need to get a bit of practice on public transport first or you may throw up from car sickness. I trained myself at Uni (College).

 

  • Voice -to-text apps : These have really matured in recent times and, though they do spell things almost exclusively using US spelling and often write the wrong things – if you drive a lot, this can be your chance to write even as your hands are otherwise occupied! I ONLY use this when I have a sudden need to record an idea, but given a little structure and patience, I’m certain I could use it for longer, more focussed writing.

 

  • Cloud applications such as Evernote : Wherever I am – I have my novel. Whichever device I have – I can write a note or scene for my novel. The other day, my tablet ran out of battery whilst Co-consul was being wonderful and driving so I could write, so I got out my phone and wrote on that instead. Don’t let anything minor like a small keyboard stop you getting those words written! Just remember that your work being in the cloud doesn’t prevent it being lost or corrupted, so always make sure you still back up your work locally and regularly.

 

  • Novlr : Being a large-scale computer nerd, I have also just recently engaged with the Novlr beta. Novlr is a cloud-based application specifically for writing novels.For me this is a bit of a writing holy grail, so I was VERY excited when I heard about it. So far the verdict is: it works. I think the Novlr team are still working on features and though I haven’t played with it too much, the interface is so clean it’s almost not there. Please be aware, though, that “it works” is a very important and sadly not entirely common thing to say about beta software. I already have a 1,000-word feedback review/feature request list for them.

 

  • Writing meta material when you’re not alone or doing other things (like watching bad TV) : By meta material I mean research stuff: “How far is it from this city to that city?”; “What kind of trucks do they use in this place?”; “How many people live in this area?”; “Goddammit, what was that character’s name again, I need a list of characters in each story arc!” The details which enhance your writing, but don’t really require you to focus fully should be left to times when you can’t focus fully.

 

  • Friday Night Writes (Twitter: @FriNightWrites / #WriteClub) : Run by a group of WONDERFUL people, the Write Club is a global Twitter community of writers who get online some time between early Friday night in Australia and late Friday night in the UK & western USA and write their arses off in sprints. GET ON BOARD. I find it hard to attend due to Friday night being a particularly busy one in my life, but you’ll see me there at least for a couple of sprints most weeks.

Well that’s about all I have for now. HAPPY WRITING!

 

— IEK

Having seen an article on the SMH which raised the obvious question about Marvel movies vs DC movies, I wrote the comment below in response.

Of all the other comments made on the article, I found the one regarding Marvel’s tactical decision to release films with individual superheros for Iron Man, Captain America and Thor prior to the release of Avengers most pertinent. It has to be said that hearing about a film which will feature multiple characters you have been watching and enjoying over several years generates a fair bit of excitement all by itself. It didn’t hurt in the end that Joss Whedon’s handling of Avengers was utterly superb.

It does concern me that even I, as an avid comic reader had never heard of Martian Manhunter until Grant Morrison took over the reigns on JLA in 1997. I can only imagine what the viewing public will make of “all these second-string characters” like Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Especially if Aquaman is all nice and has two hands.

I will make a couple of apologies – first of all The Flash is one of my favourite characters of all time. I am most enamoured with the Mark Waid interpretation (as you can see in the article), but I have always found the basic “runs really fast” concept of the Barry Allen (and every other random speedster) to be a bit blah.

I will also apologise on behalf of the universe to anyone who reads the “Flash Gordon” posts. I have no idea what they’re about, when I read it the article did not mention Flash Gordon at all. I can only imagine some poor, confused baby boomer sitting at their computer trying to make sense of “all of this comics nonsense”, then posting something about the only comic they’ve actually read.

 


 

Short answer: No.

Long answer: DC comics have always been targeted at younger audiences – pre-teens. Marvel comics have always been targeted at teenage and young adult audiences (ie. the single largest movie-going demographic) and their characters have, respectively, been designed to appeal to those different demographics.

Think about Spider-man: a geeky orphan, raised by his aunt & uncle who is given amazing super powers, then confronted with the death of his uncle which he COULD have helped prevent! Angst factor: 10.

The X-Men: Mutants who do not fit in to society and are shunned, hated, hunted, but team up to prove themselves, do completely awesome stunts and save the world a lot.

Iron Man: “Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” with a weakness for women and booze.

Captain America: Honourable hero in a dishonourable time.

Superman: Stronger, faster & tougher than anything else in the world. Feels threatened by smart, bald men.

The Flash: Runs really fast (Dear Mark Waid, please write a goddamn film).

Hawk Man: Has wings. And a funny hat.

Actually regularly used DC Villains: Angle Man; Captain Boomerang; The Blue Snowman.

The only exception is Batman who has a backstory not a great deal different from Spider-man. It’s not a co-incidence that Batman movies have been the most popular DC movies.

Now…if DC could just find it in their apparently caged imaginations to come up with a solid story for Wonder Woman (not the best name either, but she is a BLOODY FANTASTIC character), then they would have a mega-hit on their hands to rival Twilight.

But of course Wonder Woman apparently “too hard”. Lose the cage, DC. Grow a pair of hips.

— IEK

So this morning 6yo awoke, as he usually does, at 6am (mercifully he has moved beyond 5am) and came to our room seeking someone to turn on the TV, as it was a weekend and, well that’s just part of the way we make weekends special in our house: TV before breakfast (no, really – that IS special here).

I groggily wandered downstairs, thankful that it was 6am and not 5, turned on the TV, quickly changed the channel from whatever we’d forgotten to change if from the previous night, then suddenly remembered: he had been banned from TV for being such an unrepentant horror the entire previous day, culminating in a 20-minute screaming session prior to sleep.

Being the stubborn mule that I am, I turned off the TV and reminded him that he was banned and that he would need to return to his bedroom. This, of course, was greeted with indignation that I “couldn’t do that”, but of course I could and I did and (thankfully) he went back to his bedroom with the promise that if he spent 10 minutes in his bedroom playing nicely, he could watch whichever younger-child shows his younger siblings chose to watch (ie. no Spider-man, no Ninja Turtles and no LEGO Chima).

Five minutes later, as his siblings awoke and wandered downstairs to watch some suitably terrible toddler TV, 6yo began to play the blues in his room on his harmonica.

Now, I know what you’re thinking “6 year olds cannot play the blues” and to an extent you’re right – he has no training, he is not a musical prodigy and this is probably just a parent hearing their child be wonderful rather than annoying (as I’m sure the neighbours saw it), but I have never heard a harmonica played with such raw sadness and so little melody. It was absolutely pure blues and I loved every minute of it (sorry, neighbours).

Suffice to say that after 5 minutes, 6yo was allowed to go and watch toddler shows with his siblings and I am very glad that he asked Santa for a harmonica a couple of years ago. Oh and that Santa built him a pretty bloody good harmonica too (Hohner Special 20 in the key of C).

Perhaps it’s time for some lessons…

— IEK

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