24 September, 2005

Yeah, so...

I'm 2 days into the revision. Still don't feel as if I've gone at it with a totally clear head, but I'm making progress, plugging along. It's totally absorbing, and I come out of it at the end of the day feeling blank and preoccupied. (And my eyesight gets perceptibly worse by the week, with this writing business, much worse than when I'm day-job working, on screens. So it's a choice between RSI and blindness. Snort.)

Went to see Howl's Moving Castle today. It was gorgeous to look at, and full of wonders, but not quite as full as Spirited Away. I was wanting to have my mind really blown open by it, but it wasn't, really. But, you know, if Miyazaki was interested in making one of my stories into a movie, I'd still hardly hum and haw at all...

As well as getting his driver's licence this week, our older son Jack graduated from high school. Only exams to go now and he's loosed on the world. Sheesh. One of those turning-point weeks that looks so ordinary and feels so strange.

I finished Rose Tremain's The Colour and broke my rule about not reading spec-fic while writing spec-fic by starting American Gods. Also got Garth Nix's Across the Wall and Margaret Atwood's Curious Pursuits out of the library, and resisted also borrowing Marina Warner's No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock.

Also BOUGHT Justine Larbalestier's Magic or Madness and Scott Westerfeld's Midnighters so I can look them in the eye when they get back at the end of the year. Weirdly enough, Midnighters was recommended to me by, among other people, a friend of Scott's mother-in-law. We had stopped to chat because we both used to have boys at the same school; turns out she used to work with Justine's mum. Tiny, tiny world.

Better go and rest my eyes now.

21 September, 2005

Nearly there

Well, the novel rewrite is technically done - and I don't appear to have lost any words in the process, which is good, because I was right on the nail (60,000 words) when I started.

And now I know what the book's about. Isn't that good!

Now I've got 2 pages worth of threads that need beefing up (if you can beef up a thread) and making consistent throughout. This is revision rather than rewriting.

I've got 6 working days to do this in, so all bacteria and viruses have been ordered OUT of my immediate vicinity and lower backs commanded to STAY STRONG.

In other news, my son Jack got his provisional driving licence on Monday. I taught him as well as I could - now it's up to the rest of you to be patient with him.

18 September, 2005


According to Deb, "Margo Lanagan's blog has been syndicated into LiveJournal (thanks to Pam McNew, I think)."

Apparently I'm known as margolanagan over there in LJ-land. I was in the middle of telling you this with all relevant links attached, when Blogger ate up half my message. I'm sure if you know what this means, you will find your way there. :)

And I guess, thanks Pam!

17 September, 2005

George Saunders

Go and read everything George Saunders has ever written or said. I did, after reading this post by Dave Schwartz at Mumble Herder.

Just my cup of tea.

I truly really was going to post about this anyway, even before Dave swore at my poem hereunder.

14 September, 2005

Body count

This is about the tsunami aftermath, but it pretty much works for New Orleans, too. 'Cept, of course, they're letting some of those bodies lie a while there.

As might any creature, coming home,
to a ransacked den,
to the reek of foreignness and fear,
to wreckage and wet,
this bulldozer pauses
in its slow investigation

and dips its chin in the puddle,
and lifts a form,
thinly silvered
with mud and the low light
of the end of the work-a-day.

The legs are crook’d
over the rim of the bucket.
They bounce a little, as metal doesn’t,
as wood or plastic, board and shard do not.
They give and recover, though they’re grey.
They have, I see now, feet,
pale, partly wiped of mud.

Cradling the thing, the machine
(the man in the machine, of course)
backs out of the puddle.
(All the way the legs continue
to be legs, of a person gathered up dead
of whom nobody knows
name, family, or even nation.)

Then the arm lowers
like a creature’s long neck.
It lays the full, silvered length of the body
gently in the shallows.
It withdraws its teeth.

I go elsewhere, where the journalist takes me.
He strides around a resort,
he talks,
he points to the greened swimming-pool,
he is full of griefly self-importance. But

the disaster is already told.
It lies between us in the putrid mud.
Its limbs, that shine, don’t move.
Its silver face, that could be anyone’s,
is not.

09 September, 2005


Angela Namoi of Allen & Unwin just sent me the Orion Publishing Group's Subscription Catalogue for February 2006. I have a spread to myself headed: Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke and now... Margo Lanagan Phoargh! The selling points go like this:

'The UK debut of one of the most exciting new writers of literary fantasy

'All lovers of literary fantasy will adore this

'A uniquely talented writer with a word-of-mouth momentum already building

'Winner of three major literary awards in Australia

'Major PR campaign including review coverage int he literary pages of the national press, and blanket review coverage in the genre press' [Those better not be wet blankets, people.]

It also has the Simon Spanton quote (omitting the 'However few copies this book sells' bit, which I think is a good idea), the 'genius (not too strong a word)' quote from Faren Miller, Garth Nix's cover quote, and a quote from 'Earthly Uses', the bit where Death comes and gathers up the grandmother. Plus cover pic and Margo-pic (snitched from the Locus cover, complete with extensive retouching (I really don't mind that I have a red nose and wrinkles, Charles) and elephant-hide in the background).

Hey, it's Friday - time for champagne, I think.

07 September, 2005

For colour and thoughtful women,

go over to Art Galleries Schubert and have a look at paintings by Kay Singleton Keller. For example, 'The Thought that Counts':

This seems like the right time...

...to pull out one of a bunch of quotes from an interview with Michael Cunningham in The Weekend Australian back in June, conducted by Murray Waldren:

'There's always a gap between aspiration and execution, he explains, and it's just a question of how wide it is. "You get to the point where the divergence is as small as you can make it, accepting that you will always have a bigger, brighter and darker novel in mind than what you were able to get down on paper."'

For the moment, though, I'm still trying for biggest, brightest, darkest.

Geez, aren't novels long?

I am hanging out very badly to write a short story. Any short story. I keep getting ideas for short stories. Whenever I get one, it blooms very suddenly and hugely in my head, stinking of atmosphere, interesting characters elbowing themselves forward, muttering fascinating things.

So I write a little, boring note to myself about it, and push it firmly to one side.

It was day-job day today. By the time I get to the next day-job day, I hope to have another 50 pages (re)written.

06 September, 2005

The end is nigh.

I now have a couch in my writing room, a cast-off from the Big House. (Well, it certainly looks a lot bigger without the couch in it.)

Fortunately, my deadline is too tight to allow me to lie on it. In two days, I've sat on it for maybe 30 seconds, once, while the jug boiled.

04 September, 2005

Words you reach for (too often...)

Holly MacDowell has put up the following list on her blog.

She asks, 'How many times in your approx 100K-word manuscript do you use the following words?'

1. eyes*
2. softly
3. gaze*
4. stood
5. walk
6. just***
7. carefully*
8. nod
9. raise
10. glance**
11. suddenly
12. dark**
13. sigh

Holly reckons, '...the easiest way to count is to move your 100K words into a fresh doc, then do a replace of each of the words you're counting, and see how many replacements were made for each.'

I haven't done this yet, but I know I'm a sinner with some of these words (asterisks indicate how badly). And I'm putting this here so that I'll remember to go back and check when I finish. I would add to this list:

14. 'look' and all its variants (trying to avoid which, of course, you get a lot of eyes, gazes and glances sneaking in) - I used 'look', 'looking' etc, so many times in the first draft of Little Peach that my editor started underlining them. The pages were speckled with lookings!
15. 'great' and its substitutes, 'vast' and 'huge'
16. 'little', both for size and quantity

17. 'slight' and 'slightly'
18. 'face'


A nice rewriting of the 'kill your darlings' advice, by James Buchan in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday (reviewing Paul Theroux's Blinding Light:

"Theroux has not learned the first law of writing, which is this: if you are particularly proud of a sentence, by all means enjoy it for a day or two, but then you must cross it out, for it is certainly a bad sentence and it will haunt you."

And a small piece of mindblowing stupidity from the letters section of Good Weekend:

"The 'I' in Christ means that without Christ I am nothing; the 'Me' in mercy highlights that showing mercy to those in need is completely up to me."

Hmm, now I'm really wondering about that "i" in "devil" and that "me" in "machine gun".

03 September, 2005

Happy Spring

Current reading:

The Colour, by Rose Tremain.
Also, Traumascapes still. I had to have a pause after Beslan.

I've got about 120 pages of novel rewrite done (although I widened the margins, so I'm kind of cheating) - I'd say I'm about a third of the way through. Its relationship to the previous draft is: flying above it in the same direction, occasionally touching down and running a few steps with it before taking off again. It's the weirdest process, watching it come together, hearing the warning bells and then realising, 'No, two pages back at that paragraph was where I went off track. Go back and delete from there and head off this way instead.' To only lose myself for 2 pages instead of chapters and chapters - that's progress.

Having the writing room makes a big difference. It seems to keep some space reserved in my head, as well as in the outside world, so that the book stays downloaded and ready to be worked on even when I'm not in the room. I'm carrying my big notebook full of rewrite notes around with me, which is a huge list of things to do and think about, and pages of scribble where I work out exactly how 'souls' are going to work, and exactly what the bird-hallucinations are going to mean, and having that nearby and taking it out and reading a few pages here and there also keeps the thing bubbling away.

My back has behaved nicely this week, although I haven't set it much in the way of challenges. I'm about to head off to a Pilates class at 8 this morning, which I'm very nervous about, but if I don't do some stretching soon, all sorts of other aches and pains will turn up. More bike riding is needed too - oxygenate that brain, girl!