Not having internet: the (few) pros and (many) cons

I expect I'll finish reading all these sometime around 2012

I still (still!) don’t have the internet connected at my new house.

Clearly, this is a dreadful predicament for someone who is addicted to the internet. Gmail is going unchecked. Tweets are vanishing into the ether. My Google Reader subscriptions are piling up. And I can’t even play around with Google Wave!

(I guess I could read Gmail/check Twitter/browse Reader/play with Wave when I’m at work, but unfortunately I have actual work to do there which gets in the way of fun stuff.)

On the bright side, the lack of internet at home means I’m getting some reading done. Pictured above is the section of my bookshelf specially dedicated to all the books I have to read (or in some cases, re-read). I have this thing where I constantly forbid myself from buying new books till I finish the unread books I already have, but then of course I always go and buy new books anyway to add to the pile.

Weirdly, my writing is less productive than ever at the moment, even though I don’t have the siren song of the internet calling to me. Theory: I’m not using the internet, so I’m not using my Macbook, so I’m not writing. Huh.


Book review: Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan(Apparently this month I am only reading books written by husband-and-wife duos. Huh.)

I picked up a copy of Leviathan when I was in the States last week; I started reading it on Sunday night and had polished it off by Wednesday morning, however, in that time I crossed the international date line so it actually took me even less time to finish than that. The reason I got through it so fast? It’s ace.

The only other book I’ve read by Scott Westerfeld is Uglies (which, to be honest, I didn’t finish), and I liked Leviathan a lot more. It’s loaded with all kinds of rad things: steampunk! Huge mechanical warships and equally huge genetically engineered warships! World War I alternate history! Girls disguised as boys! Heirs to the throne on the run from malevolent political forces!

So. Much. Awesome.

But if you’re awesome-greedy and demand yet more awesome, here it is: Keith Thompson’s illustrations are gawjus. The endpapers of the book alone are worth the cover price – they make me go all Homer Simpson drooly.

The only bad thing about Leviathan is that it’s the first part of a trilogy. This means that a lot of the plot is left hanging for the second instalment, which is released in 2010… but I want to find out what happens nooooow. I’m nerdishly excited about this series and where it’s headed! Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and stamp my feet for a bit in the hope that it’ll somehow make time go by faster.


Hating everything I’ve ever written

Love-Hate Baby

So my book is completed, and has been for almost a couple of months, but… I’ve now reached the stage where I completely and utterly loathe it.


I regard the entire thing with the sort of lip-curling contempt usually reserved for a dear friend you’ve travelled the world with and now despise. We simply know each other too well.  Every time I open it up on my Macbook, every line seems to stand out as awkward, pointless, simultaneously unbearably pretentious and boorishly mundane. The characters are irritatingly, the settings banal.

In my mind this book of mine has no redeeming features whatsoever. No one could ever enjoy it, let alone want to publish it. Which is not a good feeling to have about something you’ve dedicated approximately 7 billion years of your life to.

Rationally, I know this is a dumb attitude – I’m battling a nasty case of what Nathan Bransford terms the Am-I-Crazies. Putting a name to it is strangely reassuring, to know that other writers (particularly other published writers) have experienced this exact tumultous mix of emotions about the stuff that’s poured out of their head.

Bright side: today a friend of mine who’s read my whole book from start to finish offered some really great feedback about it. Yay! Hopefully that’ll give me the motivation to end my pity party and just get on with revising the thing.


J.J. Abrams, you’re my hero

J.J. Abrams

Image: Wired magazine

This week I was lucky enough to attend a Q&A with J.J. Abrams. J.J. Abrams! Geek royalty! He’s had a hand in some of my favourite TV shows and movies! (He also co-produced What About Brian, but let’s pretend it never existed.) The man is an A-grade genius.

During the Q&A J.J. touched on a storytelling concept near and dear to his heart, the idea of “the Mystery Box”. The Mystery Box is an actual box J.J. was given as a kid, which has some sort of cheapo magic trick inside. He doesn’t know what sort of magic trick, since he’s never opened the box – because the idea of what’s inside is much more compelling to him than whatever is actually in there.

(The Box itself made the cover of the issue of Wired that J.J. guest-edited in May ’09. It’s possibly the world’s most famous box.)

This concept is fascinating: at its most primal level it speaks, I think, to the possibilities of possibility. And imagination. And creativity. And all that cool stuff that writers should keep in mind when they’re trying to concoct ways to hook readers on their stories.

J.J elaborated on the Mystery Box at a TED lecture in 2007 (video embedded after the jump). He is sooooo cool, you guys. … 


Book review: Liar, Justine Larbalestier

Liar, Justine LarbalestierI just finished reading Justine Larbalestier‘s latest book Liar, and: wow. It was awesome.

The slippery story is narrated by Micah, a 17-year-old New Yorker and high-school student who’s a compulsive liar… or so it would seem. Her boyfriend has been brutally killed, and because you can’t trust anything Micah says it’s tricky to get a clear picture of the incidents that led up to the murder.

The first half of Liar is really compelling, but there’s a huge twist midway through that I did not see coming – one that totally shifts the tone of the whole story. It’s brilliantly done. I’m not going to reveal what it is, because uncovering it yourself will drop your jaw all over the floor. Suffice to say you should avoid all spoilers if you intend to read this book.

There’s tonnes of interesting stuff going on here about identity, sexuality and the nature of truth and lies. I’ve only read one of Justine’s other books (Magic or Madness; I started How to Ditch Your Fairy, but it was a bit young for me), but Liar was just on a whole different level.


The vampire conundrum

Count Chocula

The main character in my book is a vampire. I started writing said book in around 2005 (from an idea that first came to me in the late ’90s), back in the day when vampires weren’t totally off the cultural radar, but you probably had to be a Buffy fan to care much about them.

Fast-forward to 2009, when my book is finally done, and vampires are everywhere.

I kinda thought this might pose a dilemma. Like, I’d submit my book to an agent who’d be all, “Oh, jeez, another bloody vampire novel. Pass me a form rejection letter.” I was so concerned about this that when I wrote my first query letter, I tried to write around the fact that my book included a vampire by not mentioning the vampirism at all.

Yeah, that didn’t turn out so great.

Eventually I just laid out the vampire-ness of it all in the query’s first paragraph. So what if it’s yet another book about a vampire? My protag isn’t anything like the vampers dominating pop culture right now. Hopefully that’ll work in my favour when I’m ready to start querying.


Brave new website

Old Mac

Hey kids!

This is not my first blog. HOWEVER. It is my first blog with my very own domain! Seeing my name up there with a “.com” after it makes me feel both: weirdly professional; and less like a real person and more like an internet construct.