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BOFF2 Australian Blog Hop: Stacey Larner

To celebrate the launch of Best of Friday Flash Vol. 2 (or BOFF2), the tiny Aussie contingent is doing a Blog Hop (otherwise known as “the blop”). I’m hosting S.G Larner, who talks about her melancholic offering, “The House Cemetery”.

If you hop (skip or jump) over to Jason Coggin’s site you can read about my story “She-Hero”. But more importantly, stop in on the way and buy BOFF2 here and join the Facebook online release party.

“House Cemetery” – S. G. Larner
(Brisbane)

“Some handle it better than others. I tend to dwell on things, to make them seem much worse than they really are. Harold is an eternal optimist; it irritates me how he’s so cheerful all the time. Always putting a positive spin on it. Like there’s some good in being cut in half and abandoned on the side of the road.”

My memory of the inspiration for House Cemetery is a bit like a dream, all muddled and incoherent. There are fragments of the truth in what I remember though.

There is a memory of forlorn looking houses for sale in a lot by the motorway, somewhere north of Brisbane. I once lived in a house that was destined to be cut in half and taken to a place very much like that. I’ve seen houses on the backs of wide trucks that drove slowly with lights flashing and WIDE LOAD displayed. Cars banked up behind them, frustrated by the delay.

And finally, my partner saying something like, “Imagine if the houses were alive, and it was like a graveyard for them.”

Sentient houses abandoned in a used house sales lot, slowly rotting. Wow, what kind of torture would that be?

Friday Flash

House Cemetery was actually my first #fridayflash story, prior to that I was doing [Fiction] Friday, and then I took a bit of a hiatus to concentrate on other writing. I have to credit Jodi Cleghorn with getting me over to [Fiction Friday], the forum which prodded me to start writing regularly. I resisted Twitter for a long time because I am time poor, but when I joined I jumped into #fridayflash. After a while I decided to prioritise submission pieces but I still like to participate in #fridayflash where I can.

S. G. Larner (@StaceySarasvati) is an overachieving mother-of-three. Her sleep deprived haze isn’t enough to keep her away from the delights of the written word. A denizen of sunny Brisbane, Australia, she revels in exploring the dark underbelly of the world in her works. She has several stories published, has been called a proofreading goddess and grammar juggernaut, and contributes to a collaborative sound/image/text project called The Included Middle with her partner.

Aussie Blog Hop participants:

Adam Byatt
Tim Collard
S.G. Larner
Jason Coggins

Fill The Empty Crate of Vinyl

p.22/365 | vinyl.

When I decided one of the locations for The 20 Year High School Reunion in Post Marked: Piper’s Reach–The Old McCracken Place–I immediately saw a record player and a stack of old vinyl there. An accumulation of more than 50 years service as a holiday home.

Music plays a major role influencing the narrative, as well as featuring in the letters. The reunion of Ella-Louise and Jude after twenty odd years was going to pivotal to the narrative. There needed to be a soundtrack attached to the house and to their meeting.

My intention had been to open up a crowd-sourcing style opportunity to the fans and readers (and generally anyone who wanted to throw something into the mix) to create the collection of vinyl in the beach house and then use that to influence what happened across the weekend.

But, it didn’t quite happened. Partly because I didn’t get motivated to launch it. Partly because “what happened at the reunion” fell to Adam and not me.

Now I’m faced with the need for those albums and I don’t want to rely solely on my ideas, or Adam’s ideas. As I discovered with ELYORA the richest ideas come from beyond.

This morning I opened it up on Facebook, for friends to suggest several albums that may have collected over half a century of service? And for a change, I’m opening it up here on my blog as an adjunct to the stream of suggestions coming in on Facebook.

Your suggestions will shape the soundtrack of the Sunday afternoon Ella-Louise and Jude spent in the house together (if you want to know what they got up to the night of the reunion I suggest you read the first, second, third and fourth letters of Season 2). Your suggestions will also influence the direction of several of Ella-Louise’s letters in early November.

I’ll start the suggestions with my two albums: Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” and The Stone’s “Exile on Main Street”.

Step up and drop your vinyl in the empty crate.

Image: Ryan Anthony Martin via Flickr

Crowd-Sourcing Fictional Details

(or how the peanut gallery became the brains trust)

When I sat down to complete ELYORA in June I was faced with a dilemma. The way the story concluded in the second draft required the retro-fitting of some specific details earlier on. I was so focused on getting the novella tidied up for submission (shoe-string timeline, looming deadline and all that), I didn’t have days at my disposal to brew up “the right” deets.

So I threw it open to my Facebook friends to furnish me with all manner of objects, imaginings and etchings.

A DETAILED DATE WITH FACEBOOK

My first foray into crowd-sourcing details for ELYORA was a call for dashboard adornments of Fauna Bate’s ancient Tarago. I gave a quick background of the characters and the situation and then threw it open to anyone on my friend list to offer up a suggestion.

The post got more than 50 comments. Many of the friends commenting weren’t just offering up ideas, but interacting and building on the suggestions of others. It was like a mini community mobilising…all for the benefit of my novella.

A few days later, I opened up suggestions for what Hal had tattooed on his arm. Building on the earlier post and the general bonhomie it had generated, this also garnered more comments than I could have hoped for and all manner of crazy ink ideas (and associated story lines).

FROM PEANUT GALLERY TO BRAINS TRUST

My Facebook friends–a brilliant blending of old and new RL friends from home and across the globe, writing and publishing associates, online acquaintances and friends-of-friends–threw up the most vibrant (and bizarre) cornucopia of ideas. Such was the feast it was hard to pick just three items for the Tarago and choosing the tattoo was even harder. They offered up a plethora of suggestions that blew my mind.

The richness of diversity was testament to the rich diversity of my friends on Facebook. I ended up dubbing them “The Elyora Brains Trust”, a name they all loved.

The dashboard ended up adorned with a perfectly kitsch bobble-head Jesus (my high school friend Marion provided me with a picture in the comments), a KISS snow dome (an intensive search finally uncovered a photo of one for sale on eBay) and hanging from the rear vision mirror, a VeeDub badge. All these items generated stories of their own when they were inserted into the existing narrative, adding new layers and complexities at the micro level and very much honing the personae of the character of Benny.

Hal ended up with a kenji tattoo that said ‘hero’–hotly denied by Benny, who claimed it actually said ‘yak poo’ (just as it was suggested by a friend). Honestly, I could never have thought this stuff up.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

It worked so well because I knew exactly what I wanted.

  • The parameters were clear.
  • The instructions were clear.
  • I did my best to succinctly provide the background to situate the details.
  • I answered any additional questions people had.
  • I participated in a way that recognised individual contributions and facilitated additional discussion.
  • It was fun, simple and required little time to participate
  • It was an invitation to be part of something.

At the end, when I let people know what I had chosen for inclusion, I thanked people for their contribution, time and insights. When the novella is tidied up and finished I’ll ensure they all get a chance to at least see the parts they helped shape.

NO DENYING THE EDGE

ELYORA got an edge, in fact, it came alive in a quirky and three dimensional fashion, thanks to a bunch of people who had as much fun suggesting (if the comments were anything to go by) as I had in watching them come in (and later weaving them into the narrative).

For me as a writer, it felt a little less lonely pummeling words into submission, especially on a super tight timeline to completion. It provided an extensive database of ideas to plunder. And it was also an accidental way to grow interest and a small fan base for a piece of work.

With ELYORA sitting with my editor Lesley (and for all intents purposes “done” when it comes to facts and specific details), I’d like to think of The Elyora Brains Trust in hibernation, awaiting new opportunities to populate my next work of fiction with the weird and wonderful.

Of Endings…

Farm workers shoulder tools at end of day near Ripley, in the fertile Palo Verde Valley of the lower Colorado River region, May 1972My latest article, How Truancy Taught Me the Importance of Endings, is up at Write Anything (and for the pedants among you – yes it went up almost two weeks ago, but I was off on holidays at the time and I’m currently in catch up mode).

The September theme was endings and while I’m still miles from ending either of my projects nominated for completion this year, I thought it timely to reflect on the broader theme and also need for endings:

Being caught in an endless warp, of expending energy, for no real gain, is a slow insidious destruction of self, dreams, motivation, creativity and momentum. This is why we need endings in our lives; the more the merrier. We need a sense of completion, to give our endeavours, whatever they may be, sense and purpose.

The full article is here.

Ending FROM STAGE DOOR SHADOWS on the high note of an instore book launch followed by karaoke among kindred souls (even if none of us actually got up to sing) was the perfect way to bring closure to the final Literary Mix Tapes project for the year… as well as an ending to the backlog of 2011 projects!

I’m pleased to report the void created by the end of editing is not being filled by more publishing projects but the evolution of my novel Byrthed. But more on that later on in the week.

What ending do you have in your sights? How do you plan on celebrating it?

Image: (Original Caption) Farm workers shoulder tools at end of day near Ripley, in the fertile Palo Verde Valley of the lower Colorado River region, May 1972. Photographer: Charles O’Rear

Conflux 8 Round Up

(…or how I survived my first Con as participant by losing my car)

The Preamble

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I lost the carpark my car was parked in at the Canberra Centre the Friday night of Conflux and looking back it was the best thing that could possibly have happened.

In weather more befitting of penguins than humans, I walked through the middle of Canberra with my parking docket in one hand and my umbrella in the other, having left dinner early to ‘get in an early night’. I wandered lost round what seemed like block after block after block of identical shops, thwarted by locked doors, at later junctures there no shops and a bleak post-industrialism that appeared totally out of place in the centre of Canberra and at the end I was mocked by carparks that looked remarkably like the one across from where my car was parked, but weren’t.

After an hour of this I was cold, wet and ready to totally go to pieces. I started to believe someone was toying with me, shifting streets and urban landscapes just to get a rise out of me.

I had been worried all week about moving out of my comfort zone – but honestly, this was ridiculous! But I was determined to keep it together (even if I kept having flashes of ringing Alan Baxter to help me come find my car, through a torrent of tears and how that would make me feel better in the short term).

In the end, I turned a corner and there was the carpark I recognised, the dead end street and the ramp down into the carpark where my car was parked. And yes, when I went down into the bowels of the shopping centre, my car was gratefully exactly where I had parked it (unlike the bloody carpark!)

The Panels

After that… after the sinking awful fear of being stuck in the city, cold, wet, car-less, my family back in the hotel and me with a rapidly diminishing phone battery, stepping up to sit on my first panel was a breeze. After all, it was warm, I was dry, I had my favourite Galifrey t-shirt on, I knew which room I was due in and was sharing the panel with two of the loveliest and generous souls in spec-fic: Nicole Murphy and Tracey O’Hara. Oh, and on top of that, we were talking romance, sex and the apocalypse. And what a discussion it was!

Romance writers of the apocalypse
L-R Tracey O’Hara, Nicole R Murphy and moi
~Courtesy of Lily Mulholland

Then it was onto a lively discussion of trends in post-apocalyptic fiction with Cat Sparks (chair extraorindaire!), Gillian Pollack and Claire McKenna where I only had one moment of not knowing how the hell to answer one of Cat’s questions.

Sunday I was back to talk about indie publishing with Keith Stevenson (as chair), Keri Arthur, Simon Petrie and Bill Congreve. It was amazing to see just how wide and deep indie publishing is. One size fits all is definitely not a description of indie publishing here in Australia. To sit on a panel with the likes of Keith and Bill was a complete honour. For eMergent to be counted among the spec-fic small press here in Australia.

Which brings me to…

The Book Launch

This was only marginally less nerve wracking than losing the car. I say this for a number of reasons:

1. we were collectively launching five books in one hour – something everyone was pretty sure was a first.

2. And, we were largely playing it by ear with the brilliant Jack Dann leading as MC, huddled near the front counter throwing ideas on how to market, present and entertain on the ground, in the bookstore, minutes before we had to kick off.

3. And, we decided in our pre-launch pow wow with Jack Dann, that we’d each stand up and pitch our books to the audience in sixty seconds or less.

4. And, Smith’s just kept filling with people.

Jodi Cleghorn

Having already run through my 60 second pitch Jack asked me to go a second time while he found his running notes!
~ Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flicker

Again, the nerves were unfounded. Jack makes it easy to play side kick to. His enthusiasm, humour and showmanship is infectious. I’m so very grateful to have had him launch FROM STAGE DOOR SHADOWS.

Jodi and Jack

Thank the goddesses for a prop to keep the shaking hands busy.
~ Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flicker

Jack highlighted the unique nature of what we do (from the mission statement I’ve been developing – now found in the back of the books) and I was able to share how Literary Mix Tapes works and its focus on working with emerging writers. To my ears the audience response was thunderous and it was hard not to cry. Not only was the book launched by I publicly stepped out from beneath the rock I’ve been happily existing under.

Jodi CleghornAnd at the end I got to sit on a table and sign books!

Jodi and Greg

That’s the super talented Greg Mellor beside me.
~ Photo courtesty of Cat Sparks via Flickr

But the best bit of all, was I got to share it with my family. Both my Mr D’s were there to see the book launched, though the younger one was more interested in a book he found on the shelves at Smith’s.

Jodi & Dave

Dave and I post launch.
~Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flickr

Reading Elyora

Sunday afternoon I sat next to Janeen Webb to do my first author reading. After the success of the panels and the book launch, and having run through the extract I’d chosen multiple times (including subjecting Tiggy and Stacey to it during our luncheon at the start of the holidays) I was reasonably confident in pulling off a reading without turning into a bumbling idiot. And honestly, sitting next to Janeen who had been helpful and supportive and encouraging from the first email, I felt I could do it.

And thus, a small section of ELYORA came to life for a group of eager readers including multiple character voices. I remember looking up around page two and could see everyone sitting forward in their chairs and the last of my nerves dissolved and I let myself really enjoy it.

Janeen’s story was a cracker (I was very glad to have flipped and gone first!) As was Alan’s and Ian McHugh’s who followed Janeen and I. (Oh and did I mention how the first thing Alan said about his story, was that he’d decided after chatting to someone else not to read an extract but a stand alone story… and how I was grateful he said that after I’d read, not before!)

Thank You

Many thanks to Jane Virgo, Conflux 8’s convenor whose encouragement and support allowed me to keep saying yes to all the things she sent my way. Thank you to the Conflux 8 committee who worked hard to make everything run smoothly. Thanks to Jack Dann and Janeen Webb for their support and innovation. Final thanks to Alan Baxter who is an awesome wingman to have at one of these events and as always Lily Mulholland, who makes the trip worth while each year just for the joy of her company.

Counting down to next year now…