My head hurts… no, really

I’ve been plagued by constant headaches for four weeks. My doctor assures me they are most likely “tension headaches”. What could I be tense about?

I have started both stories. I have planned the first few chapters of each, done a little research, and written an opening paragraph for each. Here are the first drafts (subject to change at whim):

Blood. It smelled like the promise of something thrilling, as much as it smelled like the thrumming end of the adventure. It smelled like her father when he came home from battle, even though he had bathed before he took her in his arms. Still the metal tang of it lingered in his hair and beard, and, as she smashed her skinny, child’s body against his thundering chest in welcome, he smelled to her only of good things.


Beattie Blaxland had dreams. Big dreams. Fashions and fabrics, riches and respect. In her bed, rolled out on the floor of her parents’ room in their finger-chilling tenement flat, she imagined in vivid, yearning detail a future version of herself: poised, proud, almost regal. She had never imagined—nor believed it possible—that she would find herself pregnant to her married lover at the age of only eighteen.

Apart from the fact that they both start with “B”, they don’t really have much in common, do they? So far it’s not hard work because I’m not really taking it seriously. My friend, writer Grace Dugan, who is studying medicine, showed me how to find my “blind spot”. You hold your index finger in front of you and look straight ahead. Then, as you move your finger outwards, you eventually hit an area that your eye can’t see. Your finger disappears. Well, that’s where all my writing problems are at the moment, safely tucked away in my blind spot. It’s quite nice; like being drunk on champagne. Quite nice except for the headaches, that is.

Santa doesn’t have a security camera

This is what my six-year-old son told me this afternoon, when I was warning him that Santa was taking notes on his behaviour. In that spirit, I’m staying up really late tonight… way past my bedtime… playing around on the computer (alas, not World of Warcraft as the server is down for maintenance).

People always ask me what my favourite books etc are, so I have been sitting here this evening devising lists of my top ten everythings. Just click on the tab at the top if you want to see. There are books, poems, music, films, all kinds of things. Leave a comment if you see something you like (or really dislike), or, indeed, if you were at some of the same concerts as me in the 80s.

The thing that struck me as I was doing this was that I had trouble coming up with ten favourite books: even though I would have called myself an avid reader. By contrast, limiting myself to ten favourite songs was practically impossible (and the list is likely to be much tinkered with in the coming weeks). Is it that I have loved so many books that it’s hard to pick the real stand-outs? I’d like to think that was the case, but I suspect that perhaps I became a writer because so few books really satisfied me.

As a child, reading and writing were the same pleasure for me; I barely made a distinction between them and would often respond to a book I particularly liked by writing an unofficial sequel to it (intellectual property law not being my forte as a seven-year-old). Now I find I read a great deal of non-fiction rather than fiction; mostly for research, but I also love to read social science stuff. I would say that becoming a writer changes your relationship with reading forever (so be warned all you book-loving would-be writers!!) When I read now, unless it’s entirely out of my genre/s, I find that it just makes me want to get back to my own story, or I’m second-guessing what the author will do, or analysing how she created this or that feeling.

Well, we shall see if Santa brings me anything to read (if, that is, he has checked his security camera at some stage and decided I’m worthy of presents). I wish you all the happiest Christmas you can have.


My poor sad feminist heart

This might only concern those of you who are Queenslanders, but our Premier, Anna Bligh, has admitted to using Botox. It’s “no big deal” she says: it’s just like colouring your hair.

Except it’s not. For starters, colouring your hair involves buying a box from the supermarket and whacking it on at home. Biggest danger: dripping it on an expensive bath mat (I suspect she has expensive bath mats; I certainly don’t). Botoxing thyself involves paying a professional to inject small amounts of muscle- and nerve-paralysing toxins into your face. No comparison.

But more importantly, Ms Erstwhile-hero-of-mine Bligh, it’s a “big deal” because you are telling us all that what we fear is true: even if you are a woman of incredible strength, intelligence, and power, you have to be worried about wrinkles. When men in power get older, society thinks of them as wise and experienced. When women do, they’d better cover it up in case somebody says they’re a tired old dog. Anna Bligh knows this, I am sure, as she is an ex-crazy-leftie-feminist, so her “big deal” stance is totally disingenuous.

Don’t get Botox, people. It makes your face look weird. Let life leave its tracks on you: it proves that you did stuff.

I’m sorry, I realise this has nothing to do with writing, but that’s why I created the “necessary vent” category. Also, covering up the fact that I’ve not written anything yet.

And now, for some Botox-related laffs, check out “Target Women: Botox”.

Physician, heal thyself*

I have taught so many wonderful writing students over the years, and I always seem to know the answers to their problems (sometimes they don’t listen to my solutions… at first). So it embarrasses me greatly to admit that I’ve been struggling with my own writing for close to six months now. Dr Kim can’ t even diagnose herself, let alone write an appropriate prescription. I don’t know what brought it on. Perhaps it was publishing book #20 Gold Dust. A milestone–like those milestone birthdays–making me take stock.

The problem is, I have a surfeit of Really Good Ideas. And because I write across so many genres now, I don’t know quite where to throw my energy. Fab idea for children’s book time-travelling series. Cool idea for Brisbane goth YA novel. Desperate keen to write a chicklit all-girl band story. But I’ve narrowed it down to two:

An adult historical fantasy novel, working title “The Garden of the Mad King”, set in an alternative version of Anglo-Saxon England, about five daughters of a tribal warlord and the different paths they take when their father grows too ill to rule.


A Kimberley Freeman saga, working title “The Field of Clouds”, about a poor immigrant woman in Tasmania in the 1920s who goes about creating a fashion empire; and her grand-daughter in the present–fleeing a broken relationship and career in London–who inherits her grandmother’s house and all her hidden secrets.

I really can’t decide which one first. On the one hand, the fantasy novel speaks to my soul on so many levels. Get back to the magic, Kim, it says. But the work involved is huuuuge, and there’s 2 books in there I just know it (though trying to deny it to self). On the other hand, the Kimberley Freeman beckons like a crisp new beach-read novel. Let’s have fun, it says Let’s lie on the beach and get lost in it!  Frocks! Shoes! Glamour! (Though, admittedly, hard to type on the beach).

There are other pros and cons to both, some involving contractual obligations, some involving the ongoing viability of my membership to the SF community, some involving how tired I always am because my children wake before six every morning.

But the solution made itself clear to me just the other night. I know it sounds like madness, but listen to this.

I’m going to write… BOTH! Yes, I’m going to write the first chapter of each over the next few weeks. Then if I still can’t choose, I’ll write the second chapter of each. And so on. I’ve always sworn I couldn’t write two books at once, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And I do have the luxury of both a well-paying part-time job and a stay of execution on an imminent deadline.

Of course, it could all be a disaster and, if it is, you’ll hear it here first. But I think the most important thing of all is that I write something. I get very grumpy if I’m not writing and if that was you I shouted at when you took my spot at Toowong Village car park last week I’m very sorry. But I did have my blinker on first.

Wish me luck.


* my favourite version of this line is the one in the movie Barton Fink when two men come across the beheaded corpse of a doctor: “Physician, heal thyself.” “Good luck with no f**kin’ head.”

First Class B-Grade

Hands up anyone else who thinks Germaine Greer oughta just STFU. I wish she’d stop pretending she’s some kind of expert on Australian culcha when she hasn’t lived here since… what… 1915? Her latest target is the film Australia and I shan’t even bother to link to her nonsense as she doesn’t really deserve the time of day. But this film has divided the people around me, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I loved Australia. It was fantastic, good-ol’, craptacular cinema at its very best. It was first class b-grade art, which, I’ve come to realise, is my favourite kind of art.

In fact, I reckon my books are first class b-grade. At least, that’s what I intend for them and I kinda think that, most of the time, I hit the mark. I do get ribbed by those around me from time to time about my populist tastes and how I’m not interested in Tim Winton, and have taken a few accusations of being a philistine on the chin. But I’m not a philistine. I’ve read a lot, and very widely. For instance, when I was researching Angel of Ruin, I read Milton’s Paradise Lost three times. Hell, I even read his Areopagitica. But  I also read a lot of Stephen King. Hence: first class b-grade.

Better by far than being second class a-grade, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Anyway, I digress. Germaine Greer FTL. She spent a lot of time in her youth banging on about how everyone’s equal, but consumers of popular narrative clearly aren’t in her opinion. She has a crack at Australia for being a “Mills & Boon” romance. Excuse me, Prof. Greer, what do you mean specifically given that, last time I checked, M&B had nearly 30 subtly different imprints? That’s the problem with looking at everything from up on high, you tend to lose sight of the detail.

Still, Germaine’s not going to listen to me.  When Tolkien was voted author of the century she described it as a “nightmare”. If that’s what you have bad dreams about when you’re a cashed-up fully-tenured honorary adjunct professorial somethink-or-other, then life must be very nice indeed.  She’s gone so far left she’s come all the way around to the right. Elitists think they know everything. Let’s not tell them the truth.

Hello, welcome, come in…

This is my new website, and I have a New Website Resolution that I will maintain this blog regularly. I promise. So, go ahead, subscribe to it using either the RSS chiclet at the top (if you’re a feed-reader), or the email link on the right. This site will replace my website, blog, and forum: it’s all happening here! If you are waiting for a response to an email, I will get on to them very soon (part of the New Website Resolution). I look forward to spending some time with you over the coming years…