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Welcome to the Talkative Writer. This is where I share news about my books and the writing life, my research travels, the books I’m reading – or have read and loved – and likewise the dramas to be found via tv and film.

It’s where I chat books and writing life and stuff with other writers and the readers who love story as much as we do. It’s also where I share various thoughts and experiences about the novel-writing process. Here is where you’ll find photo essays, written essays, podcasts and video entries.

Everyone’s welcome. All I ask is that discussions are kept civil. We can robustly disagree about things without descending into chaos.

So … thanks for stopping by. I hope you have fun.

Thoughts on writing, from me and Sarah Hoyt

Writing is a tough gig. It’s full of doubt, uncertainty and rejection. It takes courage, persistence and a willingness to be humble when you’re told your work needs work. The biggest barrier to success is when a writer clings to the sad belief that they’re some kind of special snowflake being denied their destiny of greatness by [insert convenient excuse here].

Guess what? Nobody is owed a publishing contract. Not for any reason, be it gender or age or ethnicity or eye colour or any external measure. And more often than not, work is rejected because it isn’t good enough, not because there’s some vast conspiracy to keep the author down because of [insert convenient excuse here].

Yes, sometimes other factors come into play. Various kinds of discrimination.  But that’s life. Some decisions suck. Some people suck. Things aren’t always fair. Problem is, get too cosy with that worldview and you will absolutely end up standing in your own way – especially since discrimination isn’t as pervasive and monolithic as some people believe.

Anyhow, that’s what I think. And here’s what Sarah Hoyt thinks, a writer who works in both traditional and non-traditional publishing modes. I think she talks a lot of sense.

Bottom line? The job of a writer is to tell the very best story in the very best style of which he or she is capable. That involves much self-criticism and the seeking of honest feedback on the work and the willingness to rewrite and rewrite until you’ve done your job. After that, you send the work out into the world and cross your fingers that someone thinks it’s a good fit for their publishing house. Or you publish it yourself, and hope the reading public thinks it’s a good fit for their enjoyment.

Beyond that? Nothing. Readers don’t owe writers a damn thing. And getting angry because readers don’t like the ‘right kind of books’ i.e. ‘the books I am writing’, and scolding them, and sneering at the books and writers that they do enjoy? That’s juvenile and counterproductive. It’s arrogant and elitist and frankly pathetic. Writers write. We don’t get to decide what readers want to read. But if we’re lucky, we find ourselves standing on that patch of ground where what we’re writing is what they want to read.

Spotlight on … Banshee

So, to celebrate the launch of Banshee‘s third season (in the US. With luck it will come to Foxtel. Otherwise I’ll have to wait for the dvd release. Sigh.) this blog post is about the show so far … just in case you’ve missed it, or passed on it. Hopefully after my burblings you’ll give it a go, because even though on the surface it might look like mindless high-violence tits-and-arse action, in fact the show is an interesting meditation on a whole lot of things.

But to be fair there is also sex and violence. Interest piqued? Then do read on …

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A sudden pause …

Sometimes I think the universe hates me. Just as I was crawling out from under a whole pile of crap and back to writing, I managed to herniate 2 discs in my neck. In the New Adventures Karen Has Had, that meant an MRI. Wow. Now I know I could probably survive 20 mins of torture. The noise the machine makes is actually really interesting. It started sounding like a kind of urban percussive classical music piece. But the position I had to maintain revved the ole neck up something severe. Sob. Whimper.

I have Serious Drugs. I have a chair I can sit in without screwing the neck or the back. I have an appointment with a specialist, who please God will tell me he can fix me without surgery. If I can get the pain to settle down, I might even have some writing because not doing that is starting to send me mad.

So, yeah. Not the news I wanted to share.

Spotlight on … Dominion

So by now you shouldn’t be surprised to hear I’ll give any fantasy/supernatural film or drama a go. Of late, the only time I showed reticence was with Guardians of the Galaxy. Didn’t see it at the movies, but have just watched it on a borrowed blu-ray. My instinct after the trailer was pretty spot-on with that one: not entirely my thing. Very well done, but I’m not really the target demographic. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it – I think the work on Groot is astonishing, and on the racoon. (I really really want a pet racoon!) But it’s just a bit too rompish for me. I much prefer the darker, grittier style of Marvel storytelling as shown in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Guardians is just a bit too popcorn for my angst-loving heart. But like I say – entirely entertaining.

Which preamble leads me to nattering today about a SyFy channel offering: Dominion.

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Talking Grimdark …

The term ‘grimdark’ was coined a while ago to label darker, grittier kinds of fantasy fiction. Some of the authors known for this kind of storytelling are Joe Abercrombie, Richard Morgan, George RR Martin, Mark Lawrence — and me, apparently! Well, not the Mage books so much, but I’d agree that the Godspeaker trilogy isn’t what you’d call a carefree romp in a sunlit meadow.

Anyhow, there are some discussions being had about this particular sub-genre and its current state. Mark Lawrence asked me if I’d like to weigh in, and I did, along with a host of thoughtful writers.

You can read the conversation here. My thanks to Mark for asking me to join in!

Secrets of the Castle

Some of you might recall that I visited the amazing Guedelon project while on my research trip to France last year. I posted photos, which you can see if you scroll back through the entries in this blog.

Well, now you can visit it too, vicariously – via a new dvd release called Secrets of the Castle. The series was recently shown on the BBC in the UK, which is why dvds are so wonderful. I’d never have seen it without the release.

It’s rather odd watching this series, for me, because I was there so recently and the memories are amazingly vivid. I mean, those two geese in the opening sequence of episode one? The little buggers chased me! I know it’s them because this program was made last year. The status of the build that you see is pretty much identical to where it was when I was there.

I tell you, French geese are not to be trifled with!

Anyhow, if you have any interest in things medieval or castle-ish, this is a great dvd to get hold of. If you’re not in the UK you’ll need a multi-zone dvd player (Pioneer and Laser come to mind, plus older LG models).

I bought mine from Amazon UK.

Let’s hear it for Glenda Larke!

One of the most creative and innovative writers in the fantasy genre today is Australian author Glenda Larke. For those of you who want to see a story not based on medieval Europe, Glenda is the writer for you. And even if you do love the medieval backdrop (as I do, obviously!) she is still the writer for you. Glenda has led probably the most astonishing and unique life I ever heard of, and all of that amazing experience finds its way into her books.

The Daggers’s Path, the second book in her Forsaken Lands trilogy, is out on sale now. Below is the lovely cover. Here is a link to her blogsite where she talks some more about the story. Stay tuned for a guest blog post, as soon as she’s got a moment to herself!

Daggers Path

 

I count myself privileged to be Glenda’s friend, but that’s not why I’m celebrating the release of her new book. It’s a great story – and great stories should always be celebrated!

 

Spotlight on … Grey’s Anatomy

It’s hard to believe now that Shonda Rhimes, recent recipient of the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at The Hollywood Reporter’s  Women in Entertainment Breakfast*, started off in showbiz as humbly and nerve-wrackingly as anyone else. Her debut drama and breakout smash hit, Grey’s Anatomy, was only given a mid-season introductory episode order of 9. Yup. ABC had so little faith in the project that it only ordered 9 episodes.

Grey’s Anatomy is currently airing its 11th season. And since its debut Rhimes has gone on to create the hits Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, which started this year. However, my heart belongs to Grey’s.

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Yum: Ginger-poached chicken breast and veg

So, I love to cook. I love to feed people. But since this is a blog, I guess I’ll just have to enjoy cooking for you guys vicariously!

In keeping with the current focus on healthy eating and weight loss, I’m going to be posting my favourite ‘good food’ recipes. And to balance the scales I’ll also post my favourite ‘naughty but nice’ recipes, for the planned free meal that’s part of the program.

Interested? Read on …

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Spotlight on … Terry Pratchett

Of all my favourite fantasy series, I’m pretty sure I’ve re-read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series the most times. In fact, I’ve re-read my favourite Discworld novels so many times that some of the books are starting to fall apart. The bugger of that is not all of them are available to repurchase as hardcovers – but I keep my eyes peeled and I grab a backup copy whenever I can. Because one of these days one of his books will fall apart – and I’ll be heartbroken.

Want to know why I hold Terry Pratchett and his work in such high esteem? Then read on …

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A brilliant essay if you’re a Trek fan!

I love Star Trek. Always have, always will. Even when it’s not very good (which is sometimes) I still love it. Trek was my first grown-up experience of science fiction drama and I regularly rewatch my dvd sets. I also love the Abrams reboot, flawed as it is. (I will go to my grave unforgiving of Alice Eve in underwear. Shame, Abrams, shame.)

So I came across this fabulous essay about the future of Trek, and I want to share it with you.

Go read!

Let the Challenge begin!

I started Body for Life today. It’s not the first time I’ve looked at doing the program. The last time I tried it I was working outside the home and organising everything got to be too much hassle. Plus the job didn’t really allow for frequent meal breaks. This time is different, because I’m completely in charge of my own schedule.

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Should we believe everything we read?

So here’s a question for you. How likely is it, do you think, that either Anthony Hopkins or Mads Mikkelson (both of whom have portrayed serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter) actually approve of – or even yearn to – murder someone and eat their liver with some fava beans and a glass of chianti?

If you’re inclined to answer ‘Not terribly’, then we’re on the same page.

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Fitness bits, and a recipe! Yum!

Well, I’m crawling my way back to a routine. Got thrown by my stupid cervical spine being difficult. But after yet more physio (which is ongoing) and deep tissue massage (ow ow ow and also ongoing) plus chiro work (a never-ending saga) I’m back on the treadmill and able to think straight about food and cooking and all that stuff.

Here’s what is happening …

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Spotlight on … JD Robb

The best thing about JD Robb’s In Death series is that she neatly combines two of my favourite genres: romantic suspense and science fiction. Robb, better known as international romance phenomenon Nora Roberts, introduced her classic protagonist Eve Dallas  to readers way back in 1995. The fiftieth novel in the series will release next year … and if that’s not an achievement, I don’t know what is!

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Some favourite musicals on film

Continuing the theme of sharing stuff that I love, in the hope that you’ll give it a go (if you haven’t already)  and end up loving it too … welcome to a post about some of my favourite musicals. As usual, this is the edited highlights list, or we’d be here all day!

Interested in some viewing suggestions, or just want to compare notes? Read on!

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Interesting book trade article

So, real books are making a comeback, apparently.  Yay! Nothing against ebooks and the folks who swear by them, but I gotta say I’m a boring poky stick-in-the-mud traditionalist. I like me a real book that I can hold in my real hands. Also interesting in the article is the realisation that Hey! Every bookshop is different because every location and demographic is different! No, really? she said sarcastically. Sorry, guys. I adore Waterstones, I really do, they have been brilliantly supportive of me, but as a former bookseller and a current author, sometimes I do roll my eyes so hard they nearly roll out of my head.

I can’t believe the professionals need reminding about stuff like this. Bookshops are retail, but not all retail is the same. When was the last time a customer rushed into a supermarket demanding the newest Colgate toothpaste release????? Um, I think that would be never. Unless of course the customer is a dentist, in which case there is no hope for them. *g*

Of course managers should have the power to do their own ordering, based completely on what their regular customer base wants to buy. By all means make sure there’s other stuff to broaden the reading base, but core customers? They make the world go round. Also of course this means you must make sure to hire really good store managers, who love books and love readers and get their jollies interacting with them and talking books and reading  books which they then recommend and who encourage their staff to be the same way.

So hooray for Waterstones, who are getting back to good, old-fashioned basics. And let’s hear it for real books and the people who love them!

Best worst line in a movie, evah!

So, I’m still fighting cervical spine issues, which is a real drag. Hopefully, now that the holiday break is over and I’m back at the physio playing Traction Princess, I’ll be back to full speed by the end of the week.

In the meantime, I’m being careful. Playing catch-up with some things that don’t involve me writhing in pain. And watching a disaster flick here and there – my guilty pleasure! Which leads me to something that was in a film I caught on the SyFy channel yesterday. Truly, it was bad. So bad I’m not going to name it, because I don’t want to be mean. Only I have to share this priceless bit of dialogue, because I honestly think it’s the worst -and funniest – I’ve met in a long, long time.

‘This is beyond an extinction-level event! It’s the end of the world!’

Words fail me. Mainly because I’m still laughing myself sick.

What are some great bad lines you recall from the movies?

Some favourite fitness inspirations

I have to tell you (like you didn’t already know!) that this whole getting fit, losing weight thang is sometimes tedious and even overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like all we’re ever doing is denying ourselves, saying no, focusing on what we can’t have (often) even though we really want it. (Yes, Lindt chocolate balls, I’m looking at you … sob …)

Here’s what I do when I’m desperate need of inspiration …

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Here’s to a fabulous 2015!

If I have one wish for this brand new year, it’s that I can finally leave all the stupid health drama behind me once and for all. 2014 was a nightmare of things going wrong.  The start of the year was me finishing off with The Falcon Throne – and that had been an incredibly challenging task marred by stupid health drama. It’s true I got a brief respite during my trip to the UK and France, but as many of you know, what followed upon my return was a ridiculous litany of physical ailments that cut me off at the knees, writing progress-wise.

So let me draw a line under the woes of the past. It’s time to look forward to a new year, a new me, and new challenges met and conquered. 2015 will see me complete the next book in The Tarnished Crown series and hopefully tackle the next Rogue Agent adventure. Of course I’ll be keeping up with this blog, and my reading and TV watching, and with luck getting back to my sword-fighting classes! Plus I very much intend to forge ahead with the whole getting fit thang!

As much as I flail about moaning over the things that went wrong last year, I do have much to be grateful for: family, friends, and wonderful readers who support what I do. I live in a great country, and am most fortunate to do so.

So let me wish you and yours the most bountiful of new years. Let’s all of us make 2015 a year to remember for all the right reasons! And, if you care to, share with me some of your goals and aspirations!

Spotlight on … C.J. Sansom

In this edition of Spotlight on I want to heap praise upon the wonderful Matthew Shardlake historical mystery series, written by British author C.J. Sansom.

Writing really great historical fiction of any flavour is an enormous challenge. There’s the research, and the plotting, and the added burden of an intriguing mystery if you’re doubling up with a crime element. To my way of thinking, Sansom is one of the best in the business.

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Spotlight on … Person of Interest

Person of Interest is one the smartest, sneakiest SF tv series around. For the longest time you don’t even realise you’re watching SF … that truth sneaks up on you, as stealthy as any of the series’ shadowy characters. At its core,  Person of Interest is a show about artificial intelligence, and what happens when you wake up one day to find that the future is here now … and it’s not as cool as you thought it would be.

I have a confession. The first time I tried to watch the show, it didn’t click for me. I don’t know why, it just happens sometimes. With books, on occasion, as well as tv. But a good friend encouraged me to give it a second go … and wow, I am so glad I did.

Here’s why I love this show to pieces …

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Joss Whedon Avengers interview. No spoilers!

I’ve watched one trailer for the upcoming Avengers sequel film, and I won’t be watching any more. Trailers these days are crap. They always give away too much. I mean, I basically had the plot of Star Trek: Into Darkness figured after 2 trailers!

Having said that, here is an interview with Joss Whedon as he approaches the finishing line of his next Avengers film. I loved the first one and I’m really looking forward to the next one. The interview is full of interesting, insightful stuff. It’s what I’d call pretty much spoiler free and a great read.

Enjoy!