Midwinter’s day celebrations Antarctic style

June 22, 2010

I was lucky enough to be at the Australian Antarctic Division’s headquarters, yesterday, to witness, via webcam, the midwinter celebrations at each of the Australian bases: Mawson, Davis, Macquarie Island and Casey.

These “overwinterers” are in permanent night and the temperatures are cold (as I write it is hovering around -23 degrees c at Davis). But, they are far from glum. Celebrations were planned, and I’m sure executed, with much bravado.

Events included comic skits, bands and a ten course feast. One guy was dressed as Scooby Doo (how on earth do you get a full bodied Scooby Doo outfit to such a remote place? Imagine the local wildlife getting a bit of a shock!) I hope you all had an absolute ball.

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Climate Change Research Links

June 16, 2010

US Environmental Protection Agency’s simple explanation of climate change, for adults and children:

Energetics’ climate change consultancy

Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers

Bill McKibben’s 350 campaign to reduce global carbon emissions

British Antarctic Survey on climate change induced sea level rise

Earth may be too hot for humans by 2300


Climate Change

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Jeanette Winterson on why she writes.

June 15, 2010

“My aim in writing is … always about trying to change people’s lives.”

Stuart Jeffries’ interview with Jeanette Winterson for The Guardian in February this year, was printed in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum this weekend. What struck me, apart from her warts-and-all refreshing honesty, was that she writes with a sense of purpose, not “just to give pleasure.” She believes that Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit did change people’s attitude to homosexuality.

I write with that same sense of purpose. Indeed, I am driven by it. But it is extremely important to me that first and foremost The Genesis Flaw is an exciting read. It’s a fast-paced thriller, designed to thrill. The genetic engineering brings about the potential global catastrophe, and that is all. I took great care to ensure that none of my characters preach, and there is no narrator’s voice lecturing the reader. Fiction is all about entertainment. I want readers of The Genesis Flaw to be taken on a rip-snorter of a rollercoaster ride and finish the book breathless, as if they have experienced Serena Swift’s dangerous journey with her.

However, by writing stories that enthrall, with many plot twists and intriguing characters, I aim to touch on social, political and environmental topics in a non-confrontational way. I would love my novels to prompt debate. My next thriller is about a climate change catastrophe set in Antarctica and includes some very dramatic scenes and an isolated hero who must save us all, but I hope that, after finishing it, some readers might ask, ‘Could this really happen?’.

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Writers’ Resources

June 7, 2010

The journey to becoming a published author can sometimes be quite daunting, no matter how good your writing skills. But there are resources out there to help you along your writing and publishing journey and here are just some of those I found helpful, not just in terms of advice, but also support. I believe there are two things a budding author needs to succeed – apart from the ability to write well – and these are: the discipline to write and re-write until the novel is the very best it can be, and someone who believes in you and encourages you. I am afraid I can’t help with the last two, but I can suggest some helpful resources and tips …

Writers’ resources

Sydney Writers’ Centre

The Writers’ Studio

Varuna The Writers’ House

The Australian Writer’s Marketplace

Australian Society of Authors

Sisters in Crime

International Thriller Authors

Some tips on preparing your novel for publication

Writing the novel:

  • Takes hard work, discipline and time.
  • Try to have a writing routine – Alexander McCall Smith and Stephen King believe in writing every day without fail
  • Read your genre and learn from the masters of your genre
  • Don’t write novels to make money – initially, you don’t. Most Australian authors have a second job
  • Get yourself an editor. But, make sure they know the rules of your genre
  • Join professional organisations that can help you. For example, The Australian Society of Authors, NSW Writers’ Centre
  • Be part of a writers group – for feedback and support

Some questions you should ask yourself before you go down the publishing path:

  • Is my manuscript the best it can be?
  • Does my opening sentence / paragraph / chapter hook the reader?
  • Is my story climax satisfying / rewarding?
  • Am I prepared for rejection?
  • What is my elevator pitch?

To whom should you send your submission?

  • Check the Australian Writers’ Marketplace
  • Don’t waste your time and their time by submitting your work to agents or publishers who don’t cater for your genre
  • Follow their submission guidelines
  • Don’t pester or rely on gimmicks, but do follow up if you don’t hear within the time stated by the manuscript recipient
  • I would advise you pitch to an agent, rather than a publisher, but other authors may advise differently.

How to write a pitch letter:

  • Keep it short and double check spelling, correct names etc. This is a demonstration of your writing skills, so make it powerful.
  • Think about who will be reading it and what they might be looking for
  • Read the book reviews sections of papers so you learn about publishers
  • Define your genre, who you compete with in book stores, and what makes your book different
  • Know who will buy your book
  • What qualifies you to write this book – does your background give you credibility?
  • Have a short bio, highlighting things that demonstrate your writing skills and knowledge of your subject
  • Write you back of book blurb – this sells the story. It will help you focus on the crux of your story, and your publisher may ask you for it later.

What I have found agents / publishers are looking for in thrillers:

  • Something that excites, captivates and emotionally engages
  • Something they think will sell
  • Longevity – have you already written your second book or do you have a synopsis for it? Are you more than a one book wonder?
  • Is the timing right? Is your story topical? Is an agent looking for a new thriller author to add to his / her list?
  • Are you personally marketable?

Learning from the masters

If, like me, you are writing thrillers, then there is nothing better than to learn your craft from the masters themselves. Here are a few of my favourite thriller / crime authors:

John Le Carre

Michael Robotham

John Grisham

Robert Ludlum (sadly no longer with us)

Lee Child

Michael Connelly

Mark Billingham

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