Talking When Nobody’s Listening

My mum has this habit of talking to people who aren’t in the same room.  Oh, they usually begin by being in the same room: after all, she’s not senile.  The conversation will begin perfectly normally: a discussion of whatever quilt she’s working on, the tv show she’s currently watching, the nifty little thing she’s making for sis, or dad . . .

Then will come the inevitable call of nature, or the desire for a cuppa, or a furtive look in the pantry to see what delicious something my sister has baked that day.  I’ll leave the room with a quick: “Hang on, I’ll be back,” and the conversation will continue just as if I was still there.  In the background will be mum, chuntering away happily about something I can’t quite hear, while I raid the fridge and occasionally yell out: “I can’t hear you!”

She’ll keep talking anyway.  And when I walk back into the room there I am in the conversation again, as if I was there the entire time.

Or she’ll walk up the other end of the house to her quilting room while she’s still talking.  From the bowels of the house I’ll hear snatches of the conversation as it moves from quilting room to bedroom, and eventually, back down the hall to me.  Then I’ll be inducted back into the conversation.  No worries.

It’s fascinating.  A motherhood talent along the same lines as having eyes in the back of your head.


Very well: to extrapolate.  Blogging feels something like that.  I spy hits on the counter with my beady and sometimes feverish little eye; maybe two or three a day.  (You in the back- I heard that snigger.)  But by and large, it feels kinda like talking when nobody’s listening.  And in just the same way that mum doesn’t seem to mind, I find that I don’t, either.  Sometimes you just have to talk, even if nobody’s listening.

To extrapolate even further . . .

Writing as a whole is a bit like talking when nobody’s listening.  Even the big authors had that at first.  You write what you write regardless of who sees it, or what they think about it, or if you’ll ever be published.  You write because you love it.  You craft, and you learn, and you grow.  And you keep going because you know that somewhere, sometime, someone will be listening again.

Readers will always be a big part of what we do: after all, we write for them as much as for ourselves.  Well, we’re readers ourselves.  But sometimes you just have to keep talking even when nobody’s listening.

Musings: Of Kids And Chainsaws

I saw this movie a while ago.  It was thriller/horror type thing, the name of which escapes me now, following the fortunes of a family who have moved into a house where a massacre once occurred.  The father is a true crime writer, blindly pursuing the goriest of crimes, even to the extent of moving into a house where an entire family (bar the youngest) was brutally murdered. The wife, needless to say, is less than impressed when she finds out that the house has ghosts (literally).  The two children, an early teen boy and a six year old girl, are variously affected by the strange goings on but seem to cope better than their parents.

The chills and thrills were really very good, and the movie had a good enough progression of mystery to make it worth watching.  I kinda expected the grand finale that saw the family chopped to bits by the six year-old daughter (off-screen, of course), but the sound of a chainsaw revving to life to the accompaniment of six-year-old footsteps was sufficiently chilling to remain with me for some time.

It wasn’t until a day or two ago that the thought occurred to me: how in the flamin’ heck did a six-year-old kid start a chainsaw?  Leaving aside the fact that the starter cord on a chainsaw is roughly twice as long as your average six-year-old’s arms, the start up process for every chainsaw I’ve ever met with involves pumping the choke three-and-a-half times (or something equally ridiculous) half-pulling the starter cord, a few more pumps to the button-choke, a few more pulls of the starter cord . . . You get the idea.  A kid, even a possessed kid, couldn’t possibly hope to start, let alone hold, a chainsaw.

This is where things get difficult.  I’m not sure if I have one point, multiple points, or no point at all.  It says a lot for the movie that the impossibility of the main kicker didn’t occur to me until many weeks after watching it.  So perhaps my point is that you can do what you like so long as you’ve managed to achieve suspension of disbelief.  But I did eventually notice, so perhaps my point is that you should always make sure to dot your ‘i’s’, etc . . .  Maybe my point is just that if you do everything else well, one mistake can be, if not forgiven, at least indulged.

I don’t know.  Make of it what you will.  But if you have a six-year-old who can start a chainsaw, keep it away from me.  I have enough of my own nightmares.

Favourite Authors: Steven Brust

I discovered the novels of Steven Brust about four or five years ago.  The first I found was Dragon, and I found it in an op-shop.  It looked interesting, had a great opening few pages (which I skimmed, of course; knowing, as every good reader knows, Not To Judge A Book By It’s Cover), and was about 10 cents.  I don’t recall how many other books I bought that day, but judging from my usual book-buying habits, I would guess between two and three piles.  I got them home, and Dragon sank into the pile of to-be-read books.

A year later, I was pottering around in the book section of Shiploads, certain (as always) that somewhere in there was a positive treasure trove of good books.  I spotted a familiar author name.  Thought: ‘Oh yes, I meant to read that book Dragon.  Same bloke.  Wonder if it’s good?  Should I buy another when I don’t know if it’s good or not?’  And then, of course, I did buy it.  This one was Dzur, which I took home; and, surprise of all surprises, read immediately.

I’ve read a lot of books.  When I was kid, I read two to three books a day; and although that has slipped now that I’m older (and, *ahem*, more responsible), I still read a great many very good books.  I’m always delighted to read a Diana Wynne-Jones book, for example.  Or Patricia Wrede.  Or Terry Pratchett.  To name just a few.  But when I read Steven Brust’s Dzur, I found myself for the first time delighted with the structure of a book.  I hadn’t come across anything like it.  I hadn’t thought about structure before: I know, I know, I’m a writer.  But until I ready Dzur, the full potential and fascination of a cleverly put together structure just never occurred to me.

The structure is as follows: each chapter begins with a meal, lovingly and knowledgeably written.  Moreover, each chapter preface, despite being almost exclusively based on a meal eaten by Vlad (the main character), also serves to advance the main story.  Not to mention the huge boost it gives to character expansion, getting to know Vlad by his fine dining habits (when he can indulge them.)

The next day I pulled out Dragon.  Again, I was amazed and delighted to follow a story structure that I hadn’t ever seen used with this level of accomplishment and panache.  The chapters begin with an excerpt from the present: and smack-bang!we’re right in the middle of the action.  Then each chapter segues into the past, delving into how and why Vlad ended up where he is.  Ultimately, as you might expect, the two parts meet.  It’s fascinating.  And again, it’s something that I’ve never seen before.

Now, with all this talk about wonderful story structure, you might think that structure is all this author has going for him.  Not at all.  He’s also written two of the most enjoyable and compelling characters that I’ve read in quite some time: Vlad Taltos (an ex-assassin, though sometimes not quite so ex-) and his loyal but wisecracking familiar, Loiosh.  I can’t say how much I enjoy the humour and personality that these two exude.  Nor can I over-emphasise how well Steven Brust draws a plotline through his wonderful structures.  I do love a good story.


I had to scour the internets for more of Steven Brust’s books.  Those two lucky finds were my last luck as far as he was concerned.  Still, Amazon’s second-hand books proved fruitful, and I discovered to my delight that this newly favourite author of mine was not dead (as too many of my favourite authors are); and was, in fact, still writing!  It was nice to find that I could order quite a few of his titles on my Kindle.  I love my older covers of Teckla and Phoenix and all the rest of them, but it’s kinda nice to have Tiassa on my kindle, too.  And now there’s a new one coming out, so excuse me while I go and wait expectantly with my Kindle . . .

Seriously, guys.  If you’re in the mood for something new, try Steven Brust.  You won’t be sorry.


(Addendum: I have to modify my raptures slightly to mention that although I loved the idea of Steven Brust’s Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille, I had to stop reading it on account of the insanely high amount of bad language.  So if, like me, you don’t care to read the f-word five or six times per page, every page, stick to his Vlad Taltos novels.  There’s plenty there to enjoy.)