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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.

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!

Podcast #8: Taking the plunge

Welcome to another podcast about writing! This time I talk about things to consider before sitting down to start the gruelling process of writing your book – with some particular commentary about the dreaded first draft.

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

Wash – rinse – repeat

So last Friday morning I had a fall while helping my mother move house. Ripped my thumb, wrenched my arm, my shoulder, did something to my knee, traumatised the lumbar discs that are just recovering from the recent prolapse, bunged up a rib and rattled my marbles good and proper. 4 days later and I’m on the mend … but it’s yet another physical smackeroo.

I swear, it’s maybe time I stopped leaving the house entirely!

So I’ll be getting back to work tomorrow, once I’m sure I can stand and/or sit without pain. Can’t use the kneel-sit chair because stupid knee means I can’t put any pressure on it.

It’s official. I am done done done with 2014.

In closing … doubtless you’ve heard about the catastrophic day we had in Sydney yesterday. Heartbreaking and infuriating. There’s no way that terrorist slime should have been out on bail. I hope this terrible event results in more protection for innocent people and less hand-wringing for human garbage like this man.

Please hold the families of the two victims especially in your thoughts and prayers – and send healing vibes to those hostages who didn’t lose their lives but are still gravely wounded in mind and spirit.

Australia is a great country. We can – and we will – rise above this assault.

Six favourite Shakespeare films

William Shakespeare was a phenomenon. A truly once-in-human-history kind of writer, I think. He transformed the English language – we quote him nearly every day without realising it. No writer before or since has captured the human condition so acutely, or impacted the society and culture around him so profoundly.

The big problem with Shakespeare’s work, though, is that too often we’re exposed only to the dry words on the pages of an annotated script which is inflicted upon us in the desert of a classroom. This is insane. Shakespeare’s work is meant to be experienced, lived, not studied at a dry distance. A great live production of a classic Shakespeare play is a joy. I’ll treasure for ever the memories of seeing David Tennant’s Hamlet and Richard Freeman’s Richard III. And I’ll forever regret not seeing other live performances, like James McAvoy’s Macbeth or Scott Wentworth’s Antony in Antony and Cleopatra.

Luckily, some really wonderful performances of Shakespeare’s plays have been created and captured on film … and I’d like to share some of my favourites with you.

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Favourite SF TV shows: part 1

TV has a long, rich history of supporting speculative fiction. Ever since Star Trek (the original series) and Lost In Space debuted way back in the 1960’s, there has been science fiction and fantasy on television. Ranging from the sublime (everything I’m about to mention, which is subjective, I know!) to the ridiculous (let’s hear it for It’s About Time, for starters!) tv producers and writers have thrown their hearts into the fabulous worlds of sword, sorcery and space ships.

Read on to find out which shows (in no particular order of merit) have left an indelible print on this fangirl’s heart … then chime in with comments about your favourite SF tv!

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New faces!

And it seems a veritable slew of new people have paid me the enormous compliment of signing up to follow my blog. Thank you, guys, and welcome. I hope you enjoy my various mutterings about this, that, and the other thing.

To that end, I’d really like to hear from readers what kind of posts you’re most interested in, what kind of things you’d find interesting for me to write about. I mean, I can natter on ’til the cows come home about all kinds of things – but that doesn’t mean you want to read it!

So please, drop me a line in the comments section and let me know how I can make this the kind of blog you think is worth following!

Ten favourite SF films

I could be wrong, but I think the first proper SF film I ever saw – certainly the first one I remember seeing, on tv – was the original version of The Fly. I don’t remember much of it now, because it was a long time ago, but the one scene that has stuck with me through the years was the very end, SPOILER ALERT HERE, AVERT YOUR EYES IF YOU NEED TO! with the teeny tiny part man, part fly, stuck in the spider web screaming Help me! Help me! in his teeny tiny voice as the giant hairy spider creeps closer and closer …

After that, my most vivid SF movie memory is turning on the tv and catching the end of the original (because in my world Tim Burton’s remake never happened) Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston  SPOILER ALERT HERE, AVERT YOUR EYES IF YOU NEED TO! stumbling across the half-buried Statue of Liberty.

My love affair with speculative fiction began when I was in fourth class primary school and the librarian handed me The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Once I fell through the wardrobe in Narnia I never looked back.

So in this post I’m going to share with you ten SF films that I love a lot, that I rewatch at least once a year, that cheer me up and help me recapture that feeling of being gloriously entertained … which is enormously helpful when the words are flowing like cold molasses.

Ready? Then go below the cut to be amused, annoyed, surprised or forced to abandon any respect you ever had for me …

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Spotlight on … Lois McMaster Bujold

When I think about my literary tastes with regards to science fiction (as opposed to fantasy) I realise that from the get-go I’ve always been attracted to more adventury, character focused, space-opera kind of stories. When I was at school I devoured all the Andre Norton I could lay my hands on – and I still have super fond memories of the Tom Swift novels in my high school library. The Norton was undeniably superior fare, but even so … for me it was all about the fun and the imagination and the characters. Hard science was never my thing. Ideas over people never floated my boat.

So I suppose that makes it pretty much inevitable that I would fall hook, line and sinker for Hugo and Nebula winner Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga novels.

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Podcast #6: Character part 2

Here is the next podcast on the craft of writing … in which I continue to talk about the elements of creating characters in fiction. It’s in 2 parts because I had a brain fade moment and left out an important element. Sorry about that!

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

 

 

City of Stars guest post, and other stuff

So I was very kindly asked to do a guest post for the great blog City of Stars. Shortly thereafter my stupid liver decided to knock me for six, and then a couple of lumbar discs slipped … so it’s been fun, fun, fun at Casa Karen. Not. And sigh. And moan. And grumble.

However, I’m on the mend and back on my feet and now playing crazy catch-up. To that end, here’s the link to that guest post!

 

Photo essay: Gargoyles

One of the great delights of Europe is the ubiquitous gargoyle. So much character, so much creativity. To me they’re the artisan’s finger given to the sometimes repressive conformity of the established church over what could and could not be portrayed in art. Almost pagan in their nature, I love the juxtaposition of that old belief literally grafted onto the great churches and cathedrals.

Enjoy!

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Photo essay: Daily Life

Another of the tantalising aspects of visiting wonderful museums in search of medieval inspiration is that so often only moments of those ancient lives have been preserved. A cup here, a coffer there, some jewellery, some glass. Little pieces of the jigsaw puzzle only, and never enough. But the pieces we do have are magnificent, and it is a miracle that so many have survived the centuries. Here are some for your perusal …

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Photo essay: Guedelon

Ah, Guedelon. What an extraordinary, visionary project. For more detailed info, you can visit the official website. Briefly, though, here’s an overview.

I first learned of Guedelon while watching research dvds. It’s the recreation of a medieval castle and village, built from scratch using only medieval tools and techniques. Most of the people involved are volunteers, and they come to work on the site from all around the world. Guedelon is located in the middle of nowhere, in beautiful French countryside roughly half way between Paris and Nevers. There’s no public transport, you must get there by car or with a coaching group. There were plenty of both when I visited. It started in the late ’90s, and the plan is to finish the entire project by 2023. I hope I can get back there to see it completed. I can only imagine it will be fantastic.

One thing that really amazed me was how fast the exterior of the building was weathering. It didn’t look brand new at all. Of course on the inside, protected from the elements and still under construction, the difference is quite marked.

Here is a selection of the photos I took …

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Old dogs, new tricks

I’ll try to keep these fitness posts to one a week or so, but something significant happened this morning.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m what you might call an all-or-nothing type. Feast or famine. Pedal-to-the-metal or sitting in the garage. In other words, the finding of moderation and balance continues to be an ongoing challenge.

But I think, at long last, I might be on the right track …

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Photo essay: Wood carving

So there’s me, wandering innocently through the Victoria and Albert, one of my favourite places in the world, when I round a corner and see … this. At which point I stopped and goggled, speechless, for some time. It’s a handcarved, three-dimensional depiction of the crucifixion updated to medieval times, sort of. You can spot other era stuff. For obvious reasons the piece is displayed inside a glass case (which explains the irritating bright spots) and stands about 4 foot high. The medium is pear wood. The result, for me, is utterly breathtaking. I took a whole bunch of photos, but here are a few. Plus one ring-in, with an explanation …

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Photo essay: Military matters

There wasn’t quite so much armour-gazing on this trip. Previously I’ve collected some great photos from the Tower of London, the Royal Armoury at Leeds and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, all of which house some wonderful armour and attendant equipment. But there were some amazing pieces in the Wallace Collection, in London, notably the horse armour, as well as the Yorkshire Museum. Here are some of the astonishing pieces I saw … some captioned, some not, but all telling a fabulous story!

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